Thursday, 29 August 2013

School Uniform

We went shopping for school uniform today. First up was Thomas who was easily sorted with a trip to Sainsburys. 2 pairs of grey trousers, 2 x 3pk of blue polo shirts and a pack of socks. Total cost: £21.00.

The only item school insists on with a logo is a jumper/cardigan so the children are easily recognisable on any trips. These are sold direct from school and cost £10. I'll only buy one of these because he refuses to wear it apart from when it's officially necessary.

He had new shoes last term and these still fit, so no cost there at the moment. His PE kit and pumps still fit him as well.

Amy is slightly more expensive. There is an official school uniform shop in town and one store in the shopping centre that sells uniform at a slightly lower cost, maybe £1-£2 per item.

We bought socks, 2 skirts and 3 white shirts which cost £47, (she likes a fresh shirt on every day and already has 3 that were new last term). 

Still going strong from our initial Year 7 purchases are her school tie, school blazer, trainers, football boots, football socks, rugby top, PE shirt and shorts.

She will need a new pair of shoes though. She chooses to go to Shoe Zone for these because she prefers a fashion shoe, even though they can only be black. She gets through about 3 pairs every year. She's not particularly light on her feet and walks 2 miles home each day.

So, to send them back to school has so far cost me £68. On top of this I have to buy Thomas' jumper and Amy's shoes - another £30 max.

Next term winter coats will be purchased.

Even though we haven't had to buy too much it's still cost just under £100. I can see how this could easily be more expensive if children have grown, (especially boys with their shoes, football boots and trainers) and also if schools insist on branded uniforms from a specific retailer. There is also a definite gap between kitting out a child at primary school than one who is at high school.

It looks like Amy has finished growing but no doubt Thomas will shoot up over the next year so I expect I'll have to buy more uniform at some point.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

45 seconds & counting

Amy has joined a drama group that starts in September. It's at a theatre which has produced many well known actors and actresses, quite a few of whom seem to end up on Coronation Street.                 
She's done drama classes on and off since she was 5 and really enjoys them. The last one she went to didn't push her enough though, (her words), so we've been looking for a more suitable one for a while.

Anyway, after picking her up from camp today (she had a fantastic time and only felt a teeny bit homesick on the second day), I was checking through my e-mails and found one from the theatre.

When I opened it, it was to find they'd set her a piece of work to do for her first lesson. She had to choose a remarkable person who has made a difference to the world and do a 45 second presentation to the group, around 20-25 people in total.

At first panic set in. The group is aged 13-25 so she is going to be one of the youngest there. However, she quickly got over the initial 'I can't do that' and after searching the internet came up with Florence Nightingale.
It's been a lot harder than I thought to be honest. 45 seconds isn't a huge amount of time to get a life story across, it's actually 127 words in this case, and there has been a lot of deleting, editing and practice runs with a stopwatch. To reach that 45 seconds, 127 word presentation has taken her just under an hour!
But she got there in the end and I'm very proud of her.


Monday, 26 August 2013

Traffic Jam or DIY?

No Bank Holiday is really complete unless you've sat in a traffic jam or visited a DIY store. We didn't fancy a traffic jam today, so instead we made a trip to B&Q.                        
I've mentioned before that Mark breaks out in a cold sweat when anything of the DIY nature needs doing, so I've been building him up to this over a number of weeks by gently mentioning it every couple of days or so. Today, he begrudgingly agreed, would be the day. So off we set.

As he frog-marched me to the required aisle I couldn't help but notice there were couples and families who were  more than happy to be there, thoroughly enjoying filling up their trolleys with DIY goodies and having a leisurely browse.

Not us, we were in and out quicker than doing the 'okey cokey' and if I was asked to describe Mark's face I'd say it had something of a 'smacked arse' look about it!

However, he bravely rose to the challenge and threw a piece of wood and a packet of heavy duty refuse sacks into the trolley for the job in hand. 

Back home a touch of Dutch courage was obviously needed as the first thing he did was open a can of Fosters. He then set about the arduous task of taping the sacks to the wood.

10 minutes later the job was complete and we now have a new roof for the guinea pig cage.

From getting in the car to go to B&Q to the the roof going on the cage took 55 minutes and we didn't argue once!

My hero!


Friday, 23 August 2013

A 'little' Heart Attack

Stumbled across this today while having a mooch around t'internet which made me laugh out loud.

It's specifically aimed at women who tend to 'carry on regardless'. 

Have a look, it gets a serious message across in a very light-hearted way. It's American, but a heart attack is a heart attack wherever you live.


Taken from the British Heart Foundation website these are the symptoms of a heart attack.

  • chest pain or discomfort, which may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, stomach or back
  • dull painache or 'heavy' feeling in your chest
  • chest pain or discomfort which feels like indigestion but makes you feel generally unwell
  • feeling sicksweatybreathlesslightheadeddizzy or generally unwell as well as pain or discomfort in your chest.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Capital of the Cotswolds

Cirencester, also known as the Capital of the Cotswolds. This is where my sister and her family live and where we went at the weekend. It's also where Dad's job took us in 1982 and where I lived for 10 years. We moved from Oldham and I think my parents thought they'd arrived in heaven!                      
I, on the other hand, was distraught. I turned 15 the week before we moved and only had a few weeks of Year 4 left. The thought of leaving all my friends and having to go to a new school seemed nothing short of cruel. I can remember begging to go and live with my Nanna & Grandad, but Mum & Dad were having none of that. They'd made their decision. It was to be a better life for us and of course a better salary was never to be sniffed at.

I never really did fit into the new school and although I did make a few friends, groups had already been formed. It didn't help that the curriculum was completely different and that I had to do 2 O'level subjects by correspondence course with my old school. I had to sit in the Headmaster's study to do these and sometimes, horror of horrors, he would sit in there with me if he had work to do. Back in Oldham I'd had my own group of friends and I'd mapped my life out. I was going to the new sixth form at school, then Uni, then I was going to become a teacher. 

Instead, I ended up at Deer Park School in Cirencester counting the days to the end of Year 5. I left as soon as I'd done my O'levels and enrolled to study shorthand and typing at the small secretarial college in the town. I fared better here and made some good friends. It's a cute little college isn't it. I think it's an adult learning centre now.
After 7 years my Dad's job took him back up North. Of course by this time 3 of us were in our late teens/early twenties. All settled down with jobs, boyfriends and in mine and my sister's case, properties. So after taking 4 of us down there they moved back with only my youngest brother who was 14 at the time. 

Anyway, this is where my sister has lived for the past 31 years. She was only 12 when we moved and slotted in a lot easier than I ever did. Her life now is that of a southerner and mine is that of a northerner and neither of us would really want to swap places with the other.        
I'm glad she stayed there actually. It's lovely to go back and visit them, the town is beautiful and the villages are lovely.  It's not uncommon to bump into a 'Royal' or two either which is always exciting. Back in my day, Princess Di would often be seen in town enjoying a bit of retail therapy with bodyguards in tow. And of course Wills & Harry are regulars at Cirencester Park playing polo.
However nice it is though, there's no place quite like home and I'm always glad to cross that Northern border again until next time!


Tuesday, 20 August 2013


No visit to the Cotswolds is complete for us unless we've visited Bibury. Bibury really is a chocolate box village and according to William Morris the most picturesque place in the whole of Great Britain. I was lucky enough to live here for a couple of years in my early 20's.                        Bibury Cottages
Unfortunately, 25 years ago it didn't always feel like this. In fact after a couple of months of village life I felt that my rental property choice had actually been a bad idea. In reality, a village that boasted a sparsely stocked shop, a trout farm, a gift shop, and an influx of at least 3 coachloads of Japanese visitors every day didn't really cover a 21 year old girl's needs.     
I think if my memory serves me right I stuck it out for just over 18 months, but more to prove a point that my decision to move there had been the right one.

I have to admit though that while we were sauntering around at the weekend I kind of wished I'd hung in there for a couple of decades! Now in my mid-40's I can see myself slotting into village life and the W.I. quite easily, spending my days making delicious jam and homemade cakes and polishing the church silverware.

Anyway, no longer being a 'villager' but a mere tourist, we did what every visitor to Bibury does. We walked along the river looking for the trout. 
We strolled up Arlington Row which is now owned by the National Trust. Built in 1380 as a monastic wool store it was converted into weavers cottages in the 17th century. To bring us more up to date it has been used as a film location several times and featured in Bridget Jones's Diary.    
We fed the fish at the trout farm.
And we would have normally visited the tea shop, but we were still stuffed from breakfast.    
And just in case you thought I was stretching the truth about the Japanese tourists, this sign on the gate says 'Private Gardens' which is also written in Japanese underneath. 

It has been known for residents to open their curtains in the morning to find their gardens full of tourists who aren't adverse to having a stroll around and peeping through windows!


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

What's for supper!

It was sausages for tea tonight. A simple evening meal, or so you would think. Not here at Number 38.

Mark wanted chips & beans with his. Amy wanted mash & beans, I don't eat 'proper' sausage so had to cook a veggie one and although sausages are one of the very limited foods Thomas will eat they have to be a certain brand. 

I'd like to say this is a one off occurrence, but I find myself making a couple of different variations of our evening meal most days to cater for different tastes.  

I've only myself to blame I suppose. But being a fussy eater (mainly regarding meat), I just cannot bring myself to inflict the 'it's either that or nothing' speech on the family.

I wouldn't choose to eat burgers, sausages, nuggets or any form of meat, that I hadn't prepared myself, so I have some empathy with requests for slightly altered meals. (It's not meat so much that I struggle with but I have to know there's absolutely no way any fat or gristle will find it's way into my mouth).

I have to say though, I really wish we were a family that could just eat anything that was put in front of them. It would be a lot easier.

The other thing I have to deal with at every meal is Mark wondering what to have for his next meal. So tonight whilst chomping on his sausages we had to listen to his musings on what he might have for supper. 

Now that I don't get at. Eating one meal whilst deciding what to have for the next. It would send my taste buds and brainwaves all skew whiff.


Monday, 12 August 2013

M.H.T.P. Part 2

Today was the final hat making session for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party which takes place this Saturday.

We did Amy's first. I bought a plastic tea set for £3. To make the tablecloth we covered the box that it came in with pink serviettes that I already had. Then we stuck the tea set on top to make a 'tea party table'. I can see one of the cups looks a bit wobbly but apart from that it's pretty secure and should do the job. 
For mine, I bought a cardboard cake stand from the £1 shop and I'm going to stick some french fancies on top. It's more secure than it probably looks as long as the ribbon is tied tight, although it makes my double chin look even bigger than usual!
I'm quite pleased with the final results and even more pleased with the total cost. £1 for the cake stand, £3 for the tea set and £2.50 for the ribbon - total spent £6.50 for 3 hats, plus whatever the cakes cost.

Just hope it doesn't rain or I'll end up with icing running down my face!

Oh and I've managed to post another loss on my weight loss page. It's going veeery slowly but surely. xxx

Friday, 9 August 2013

BP & Chronic Pain

I went to the Docs today to have my BP checked. Actually, the GP's don't do these run of the mill tests anymore so I saw the nurse, Caroline, who is lovely. It was 110/80. A little low on the top number but OK otherwise. 

I'm not due to have it checked again now until November when she'll also take some blood so a full range of tests can be run. Ugh! Not my favourite sort of visit as they really struggle to get blood and usually have to have 2 or 3 goes.

I had really chronic indigestion yesterday. In fact at one point it was so bad I thought it might be the beginnings of another heart attack and considered phoning an ambulance. It started as a sharp pain between my shoulders which then sort of radiated out through my chest. Thankfully, although it was constant it didn't turn into anything like what happened on New Years Day. It's a worry though, especially as I hadn't eaten anything different that I could put it down to.

Anyway, I'm feeling much better today. I had a friend round for coffee this morning with her 2 boys and my mum came for a brew this afternoon. A day of doing not very much is probably just what I needed.


Wednesday, 7 August 2013


We went to Manchester Donkey Sanctuary today. It's about 10 miles from where we live. I only found out about it last year when a friend took her grandson there for a visit. 

It's in a very strange place, right bang in the middle of a built up area of Openshaw/Gorton. Not where you'd expect 25 donkeys to be living at all. Anybody can go and visit the donkeys but it's main use is for disabled children to go riding there.
It's a very different set up from the donkey sanctuary Amy has volunteered at in Nerja. The donkeys/horses there have been terribly mis-treated and are in quite a bad way when they arrive. The ones in Manchester have been well looked after but end up there because their owners can no longer physically or financially look after them. If I remember rightly, the horse below is called Pedro and he looked a lot better than this when we last saw him.      
We weren't allowed to feed the donkeys but we could leave food in a bucket for the disabled children to give them at the end of the day. I was a bit disappointed really and I could tell that Thomas was as well, but rules are rules.

Amy was disappointed as well.  She's volunteered at the sanctuary in Spain since she was 9 and has done all sorts from mucking out, feeding, grooming, walking them out etc.  Here you have to be 16 to be a volunteer.

I'm not sure why, but I wasn't allowed to take any photos either. What we could do though was adopt a donkey, buy a drink or purchase a gift from their little shop. I choose a pack of Christmas cards and Thomas picked a notebook.

It was a nice visit but the one in Spain is much more interactive and more fun. Manchester Donkey Sanctuary is a very well run organisation and I'm sure the children who ride there really enjoy themselves. 

But in all honestly what's a visit to a donkey sanctuary if you can't give them a carrot. 


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Local Library

We walked to the library yesterday. It was pouring down but I just felt the need to be out of the house and get some fresh air. 

Thomas rode his bike and Amy walked the dog. Which meant that when we got there we had to take turns standing outside with him. Luckily, there's a shelter, not that it mattered at that point as we were already soaked. 

It's only a small library but it serves its purpose and there is always something going on there. In the past they've had creepy crawly shows, puppet shows, reading circles and arts & crafts mornings. We've been to all of these over the years and really enjoyed them.   
As usual they are running their summer reading challenge for primary school children. For every 2 books they read the children get stickers and if they read the required 6 books they get a medal. There's also a website with games and the children can write reviews about the books they've read. 
This sort of thing really appeals to Thomas so he came home armed with all the details and full of self importance. He gave himself a head start and put 2 books on that he's recently read. He surprised me with what he wrote for his reviews. He obviously takes in what he reads and has a great understanding of what the stories are about.

Mine have been library members since they were about 1 year old. I must admit we use our library in fits and starts. We can go every week for months then not bother for weeks on end. Usually after I've lost yet another book and had to pay for it!
Amy only found one book, I think this was because she was either looking after Thomas or outside looking after the dog. But she's able to walk up there on her own if she wants to and have a browse. A teenager's life is a hard one isn't it! Still in her PJ's gone dinner time.
Thomas choose a Harry Potter book (he always takes a big book out that he can't read, I think to make him feel older), then 3 others that were more his age. The best bit for him is standing at the desk on his own with his card having them stamped out. It makes him feel so grown up.
We spent a good 1.5 hours out of the house with the walk there and back and the time spent in the library. Then they both spent an hour reading what they'd chosen.  

Not a bad way to pass an afternoon out for nothing.


Monday, 5 August 2013

My Ironing Elf

A very quick post today. Not because I'm short of something to say, (as if), but because I've fallen out with the computer.

I spent well over an hour on it this morning filling in an on-line form for summer camp which I then couldn't return via e-mail for some reason. I kept losing the information every time I tried. And boy did I try, 4 times in total, each try several pages long.

I ended up printing it outand filling it in by hand, then walking to the post office to send it by recorded delivery.

The very very best thing about today was my ironing fairy, or in my case, ironing elf had paid me a visit. He comes quite regularly while I'm sleeping. He's a very early riser and quite often I wake up to piles of lovely ironed clothes. His only rule is that if he does the ironing I have to put it in the wardrobes. I can live with that. I really love my ironing elf and wouldn't want to upset him.
My other good thing of the day is I am back under that 12 stone barrier. I've posted my update on the weight loss page if you want to have a look.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Summer Camp

Whilst Thomas is very happily entertaining himself at home and causing me no bother, Amy really seems to be struggling to settle to anything this year. 

Yesterday, I became so bored of listening to her saying 'I'm bored' that in an attempt to shock her I said, 'well you won't be soon because I'm booking you into summer camp'. My plan backfired though because instead of sheer horror at the thought she actually jumped up and down on the spot squealing 'yes please'.
Now, if I'd been thinking straight I'd have realised this would be right up her street.  Ever since the age of 8 she's always wanted to go to boarding school. Her cousin boards during the week and he loves it, (his choice/bullying issues). 

I try not to think of her yearning to live in a dorm with strangers rather than being at home with us as a reflection on our parenting skills, but more that our encouragement for her to be independent and integrate socially has worked!

Anyway, after much pleading she is now booked in at a summer camp for 4 nights/5 days doing multi-activities. Although she is a little bit nervous her excitement at going far outweighs this.
I'm beginning to think that rather than having to kick her out of the nest when she's older, she'll have her bags packed and she'll be ready to go as soon as she can. She has plans already. She would love a Saturday job because she wants to save to go to Spain when she's 18 and work as a volunteer at the donkey sanctuary, (something she's done for the past few years when we've been on holiday there).
And whilst we all know life doesn't always go according to plan I like the fact that her horizons are much broader than mine ever were.

She certainly doesn't get this sense of adventure from me. I'd have been mortified at the thought of being away from home on my own and having to make friends, but it doesn't seem a big deal for her. She's very much a free spirit and I find myself envious of her confidence and sense of adventure. 

I suppose though, that as sad as I'll be to see her go, knowing she is confident and independent enough to want to do this, even at the tender age of 13, I can console myself with a 'job well done' pat on the back.

Friday, 2 August 2013


I don't know what is is about this weather but for the past couple of days I really seem to be struggling to get a proper breath and my chest feels tight. I think if I was just sat doing nothing I'd be OK but that's not possible and it's not how I want to be. I don't think it's anything untoward, (touch wood) but I'll see how I go on over the next couple of days. Apparently angina can be as bad in hot weather as in cold so I'm putting it down to that.

Amy decided to make ice-lollies today. I don't have lolly moulds so she improvised with plastic shot glasses.
And cocktail sticks that were in the cupboard.
She made orange, lemonade and a combination of both.
Just about ready to go ...
... in the freezer.
They were actually very refreshing and very popular. Everyone wanted one.

We went for a walk in Heaton Park this evening. I took a 'few' photos that I was going to share with you. But when I downloaded them there were over 70! I must have been a bit snap happy tonight so I'll have to go through them tomorrow. 


Thursday, 1 August 2013

21st Century Adventure

I prized Thomas off the x-box this afternoon and took him on a 21st century adventure to Grandma's. Instead of jumping in the car and arriving there in 5 minutes we took the bus. 

This is something of a novelty for Thomas. I think he's only been on a bus a couple of times in his life so he was really excited. Bless him.                        
The other part of the adventure was to actually walk to the bus stop! He's not a bad walker but he's slow so we set off in plenty of time. Either we were slower than we should have been or the bus was early because we ended up having to run to catch it which Thomas thought was great. 

I don't recall when I last ran for anything but I think my legs bent at the knees when I did. Not so today. It was like I had 2 planks of wood strapped to them. 

The trip cost us £2.50 one way and we got off after 5 stops. I'm old enough to remember paying 2p bus fare back in 70's and inspectors getting on to check your tickets. When I went to secondary school I used to walk and save the 10p to spend on sweets and the magazines Blue Jeans and Jackie (remember Cathy & Claire?).

Anyway, we arrived at Grandma's house and had a lovely couple of hours with her before Mark came and picked us up. Thomas was a bit put out we weren't going home on the bus so we treated him to a McD's drive thru of a chicken nugget happy meal which made his day.

I find it funny that something as simple as a bus ride can create such excitement.