School days

I’ve just started to read Clare Morrall’s ‘After the Bombing’. Set during the 1942 Baedeker raids on Exeter it is dedicated to all Maynard girls past and present. Now I’m not quite old enough to remember the blitz but was privileged enough to attend The Maynard School between 1966 and 1972. So Clare’s novel has set me thinking about my early school days.

My memory is not the best and although I’m only what I guess would be classified as ‘middle aged’, I now feel compelled to jot down what I do remember before it’s lost forever.

Sadly I didn’t keep in contact with any of my class mates. Primarily I think because I was moved to another school, Mount St Mary, in the autumn of 1972. This was down to a combination of lack of academic achievement on my part and my mother’s inability to stump up the high fees commanded for such a prestigious private school having been tragically widowed. My farther was just 57 when he died from a massive coronary whilst on the golf course.

Clearly I was either a spoilt brat, or my mother so terrified of further loss, that I was ferried to and from school in the realative safty of a taxi for the remainder of my time at The Maynard!

So what do I remember? Well funnily enough my clearest and best memories  were in fact the food! Yes we had the free school milk, for a while, but we also had pastries and buns at break and the most amazing school dinners ever. Lovely casseroles, liver and bacon (I’d been brought up on offal like tripe so was well up for these delicacies), and we had pudding too. Various tray-bake jam tarts with custard, semolina, lemon steamed sponge and Christmas, pudding with the obligatory sixpence buried deep within for one lucky diner (per table) to discover. No health and safety back in those days. Just simple pleasures. We survived and no one, to my knowledge, ever choked on a small silver coin.

Miss Sparkes was my ‘Kindergarten’ teacher and a lovely lady. Sadly I didn’t get on so well with many of the others. In particular Miss Saunders, who I felt for sure – had it in for me. Looking back she was probably just frustrated at my total lack of concentration ‘needs to work harder’. 

I participated in sport, which was never my forte. Netball I remember. Wing attack (or was it defence?) and I once won the 100 meter sprint on sports day. And the sack race but I had no stamina for longer runs or cross country. We used to join rubber bands together for French skipping.  One lunch break we decided to see how dizzy we could get by spinning around on the spot. Pretty sick actually. I was no stranger to the ‘rest room’. I seemed to be a sickly child.

What I did love was art and music. My parents paid for me to learn piano – right up until they were told I couldn’t master reading music but played by ear. Singing was what I liked to do. I was part of the choir in which I took enormous pleasure. The highlight was performing ‘Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo’ on the stage of the Barnfield Theatre. We even cut an LP.  Sadly I nolonger have it though.

Art was my favourite subject. My rearing Lipizzan horse painting once graced the walls of ‘Transition’. I felt Mrs Johnson our art teacher was the only one who really understood me. Dying and carding fleece to weave into fabulous woven creations. Sculpting, painting and drawing were all I seemed to have any aptitude for. Not academia.

Maths was my nemesis.

And so with my move to the ‘new school’ I lost contact with my ‘best friend’ Gillian, with Catherine, Susie, Raynu, Clare… sad really. I’m sure this would never happen today with mobile phones and social media.

Looking forward to reading ‘After the Bombing’ and perhaps it will resurface  further memories of my old school.



So I phoned 111 this evening as despite medication prescribed by our GP for my mother earlier this afternoon, she remaines in considerable pain.

Morphine based patches applied at 6 pm.  It is now 11.30 and still no sign of a doctor.  In fairness the ‘service’ has kept me updated as to progress but I fear we are unlikely to see anyone until after midnight now.

So poor ma continues to shout out in pain and I’m powerless to do anything. She couldn’t lie down so sat in her chair for a few hours until she slipped off on to the floor. I managed to heave her up with some difficulty but there is no respite nor relief.

At 93 she is a remarkably tough cookie and been through a lot but tonight her shouts and screams are too much to bear.

I have spoken to a NHS operative,  a paramedic,  a nurse, a doctor and a driver. Still no sign of medical assistance. I’m now beginning to wish I’d dialled 999, as although the prospect of several hours in A & E was not attractive, nor recommended by 111, at least I would have felt like something was being done.

And so we wait…

Toyota SLR4D Overlocker

I have just invested in an overlocker. Inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee, I’ve been doing a bit of sewing again. I’d sent for a couple of free patterns from Prima magazine and decided to give it a go. They were fairly basic patterns and I’m quite pleased with the results, especially as I’d not made clothing since the 80s, but I felt they could have had a better finish.
My sewing machine is pretty basic so
I started to research overlockers to see what was available. I shortlisted a Brother and Singer along with the Toyota all within my budget of about £200. In the end I chose the Toyota because it was the same make as my sewing machine AND because it had fairly good reviews from beginners. I was going to order online but read a few horror stories about unrepeatable traders so decided to buy locally from Argos.


I didn’t unpack it immediately as I was still unsure if I’d made the right choice. After a bit more browsing on the internet, today I took the plunge. I read through the quick guide and manual and tried to figure out if any of the pre-threading had come adrift in transit – it had. I moved the threads into what I thought were the correct hooks and took my first tentative steps in sewing.
All well to start with but then the stitches slipped off the fabric and all came to a halt. I cut the fabric from the machine and decide it would be best to start from scratch and thread it myself following in instructions.
The only bits that were fiddly, were the lower looper and the needles themselves. I blame my eyesight to be honest as it isn’t that difficult as long as you can see what you are doing! All the hooks are colour coded and it is clear from the instructions what order to thread up in. Anyway apart from not being 100% sure if the upper looper thread should cross the lower all turned out OK and I managed to produce my first bit of overlocking! I took a photo of the loopers for reference next time.  


The machine is fairly quiet in use and comes with a three year warranty.  The only cons are no free arm for doing sleeves and that you have to buy a separate foot and plate for rolled hems. Still a nice machine though and I hope it provide many years of service.


Web Science – week 1

So have completed week 1 of my MOOC. Didn’t score 100% in the quiz but at least there’s room for improvement.

The subject appears to be a combination of technology and sociology. The MOOC itself is pretty good, although I’m not sure that the discussion element is working well. People seem to want to put across their point of view but not discuss. Perhaps this will improve over the following weeks or it could simply be that it’s just too massive to have sensible discussions. I’m trying to respond to the comment below mine on each section.

The lectures are good though, short and to the point. 

Will see what next week brings.

Back to the blog!

OK I admit I’m a bad blogger!

Haven’t touched this for about twelve months again.

Now it’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, in fact I really enjoy it. But fitting blogging in around other work/family commitments is hard.

So you may ask, what am I doing back here after my long leave of absence? Well actually I thought it would be useful to capture my thoughts around a MOOC I’ve recently signed up for. What’s a MOOC I hear you ask? A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course – and many think this is how higher education may be delivered in the future. The course is hosted by FutureLearn, a private company owned by (my old friend) The Open University and at the moment we are all part of one big experiment, with participants (students) encouraged to feed back and help shape future learning via MOOCs.

The course I’ve signed up for is Web Science and the course aims to explore how the web is changing the world. This six week course is run by the University of Southampton and now for the best bit – it’s FREE!

So… although I’m just as busy as ever, more so in fact, I just couldn’t resist. Nothing to lose: no monies to pay upfront and you can work on the modules at your own pace – even skip them if need be. Obviously we are encouraged to complete as much as we can, join discussions, view lectures, contribute ideas, thoughts etc – but you don’t have to.

I’m just working my way through week 1, so will let you know how I get on once I’ve completed the ‘check your understanding quiz’!

Back soon (promise!)

Obsessed with food

Just noticed all the pictures coming up in my Flickr widget feature food. I’m not obsessed… really.

Having just had to ‘help’ my teenage daughter make dozens of lemon curd tarts for a charity stall she is running as part of her Arts Management course at Exeter College – I’ve gone off food completely. Well pastry anyway.

Now what’s for tea…

Marketing madness

Our household is now the proud owner of a Peugeot 206 sw (the sw stands for station wagon I believe). Anyway it’s essentially a small estate car, so station wagon sounds a bit pretentious for a car of such diminutive stature.

It’s a dear little thing though, which promises to deliver nearly 60mph with its 1.4 hdi diesel engine, and apparently we’re only going to have to pay 30 pounds a year to the government to drive on our roads.

I would like to report that the purchase of this fine vehicle was a pleasant experience… but I would be lying. The main dealer we bought it from did nothing to sell the car, in fact I can honestly say if it wasn’t for the fact we’d been looking out for one if these little motoring gems for some time, we’d have walked away as soon as Paul, the salesman first embarked on his mechanical sales dribble. But it looked like a keeper so we stayed with it.

We already knew more about the car than Paul anyway. With just 21,000 miles on the clock it looked an attractive package so we were going to buy.

At this point we should have placed our fingers firmly in our ears and sung la, la, la, la, la. This way we wouldn’t have had to endure all the nonsense about how the full stop after the price denoted no room for negotiation in the deal. Yeh right!

So we purchased the vehicle, and apparently also an hpi check which was slapped on to our final invoice at the grand price of £80. Luckily we managed to dodge all the other extras like additional warranties and protective paint treatments, which could have easily added a whopping extra £2k to our purchase price.

Moral of tale, avoid Evans Hallshaw, Plymouth like the plague.  Incidentally their 3 month warranty was just as useless and we must have wasted at least £100 worth of fuel driving up and down the A38 between Exeter and Plymouth in an effort to sort out a few annoying problems with the car.

Nuff said.