Friday, November 27, 2015

Teaching and other matters

Well, it's quiet around Life Towers at the moment. Mr L had a cataract removed from his right eye on Tuesday and while it has improved his vision, it seems to have left him feeling a bit weary. In addition, the other grandmother is staying at Daughter 1's and so I've not been needed so much to entertain the little ones. Which is fine - quite restful - but I find it interesting how, when I haven't had so many commitments as usual, I somehow haven't achieved great things either. Hmm. Laziness spawns further laziness, I suppose.

Not that I've been totally lazy: the usual cooking, ironing, Zumba, coffee with friends, piano lesson, piano practice and so on have been going on. And it's been church magazine week, which is always quite time-consuming (I edit it). 

I'm slightly surprised that I'm still going to Zumba. I think I started four years ago and I'm definitely not an athletic, bendy or extrovert person. But I'm reasonably energetic and might well have taken up aerobics in retirement (after a lapse of 30 years) if a friend hadn't been going to Zumba - she immediately dropped out because it hurt her knees but I stayed on. The great thing about being in a class is that no one is looking at anyone else, since they're all watching the teacher and following his moves, so I don't need to be embarrassed at my lack of grace.

Before we got this teacher, I quite liked the class but did it mainly for the exercise (and the chat with other class members beforehand). But the chap we've had for the past year is somehow so much better than the various girls we had before. For one thing, he's reliable - we had teachers before who didn't last long or who kept being off. But it's not just that, and as a former teacher myself I always find it interesting to analyse what makes good teaching.

He's great to watch - he's also a ballet, tap and ballroom teacher - because he's very bouncy, flexible and graceful. Of course, not all of this would be easy to transfer to teaching maths, for example. Bouncing opportunities are a bit limited for academic subjects. But I find his attitude towards the class very interesting. About half of them are about my age - though some are considerably younger - and you might expect his heart to sink at the thought of teaching a bunch of old ladies. But he always seems to be enjoying himself tremendously. I imagine it's very pleasurable to dance when you're really good at it. It's more than that, though: he manages to give the impression that he enjoys showing us the steps and seeing us give them a go. He's good fun and very encouraging but also not at all patronising. He laughs a lot with (apparent) delight. Obviously it's possible that it's all an act, but if so, it's an excellent act.

To a woman, we all think he's wonderful and look forward to the class.

I think back on various teachers I had at school and university, and the ones who seemed to enjoy teaching were usually the most effective. I myself enjoyed teaching - most of the time - and hope that this came across.

An hour of energetic dancing is absolutely exhausting, though, so I'm hoping it's also extremely good for us.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Still here

Yesterday we walked in the Riccarton estate and it was cold.  Winter has arrived. The sun shone beautifully on the mostly bare trees, though, and the company was good.

Some swans and ducks flocked hopefully towards us. Alas, we didn't bring anything except our sandwiches and everyone knows that bread isn't really very good for birds. That was one reason for our not sacrificing our lunch. This swan, which was just as near to me as it looks, did everything short of unzipping my rucksack to get at my peanut butter sandwiches. If swans had opposable thumbs, my lunch would have been a goner. We felt mean.

And then we plodded on, chatting so much...

... that I hardly noticed how pretty everything was until I looked at the photos.

The bloggy world, or at least my corner of it, has gone very quiet. Possibly lots of new people have taken up blogging but I don't come across them; or maybe it's just gone out of fashion. Some (I know) now favour Facebook, but that's a different animal: lots of short bursts of here-today-gone-tomorrow communications - though I do like Facebook too. I've never really got the hang of Twitter. Many of my bloggy friends still post on their blogs, but only intermittently; and so I've stopped checking so regularly. I miss them.

However, times change. I shall probably continue blogging because I like making this little record of our family life and I'm a bit of a compulsive writer. I keep thinking I might print it out and then I think: more stuff for the children to wonder what to do with, once I'm permanently silenced.

Friday, November 20, 2015


I am exhausted. Part of the reason is that I have a cold and sore throat, but the main reasons are above and below. Why is it so tiring looking after small children who amuse themselves much of the time with unflagging play? It's hard to say, except that I suppose the bits of the day when I don't take photos are when they're constantly talking, asking questions or asking me to do things. Or, particularly in Granddaughter's case, asking to be read to. I like reading to them but - as I remember well from my own children's childhoods - it can be soporific. It must be something to do with using up more oxygen than usual. I'm sure there's some medical explanation.

But they are such fun.

Many of the toys they're playing with here are left over from our own children.

I should probably have given the toys away years ago,

but it's good to see them being played with again.

Grandson: I've got a hundred and four cuddles in my tummy.
Me: Ooh, can I have one?
Grandson: Yes, I'll give you and Grandpa a cuddle each and then I'll have a hundred and two left. I've got a cuddle for everyone I know. [Pause.] I might have to give some people more than one because I don't think I know a hundred and two people. [Another pause.] And I'll give lots to Nanny for her cuddle store.

(Nanny, his Daddy's mother, lives in Worcester and needs to store up cuddles in between visits.  )


Saturday, November 14, 2015


Children are a great distraction from the sad news and one's own sad feelings. Granddaughter, for example, had great fun with Playdoh (goodness me, how I disapprove of that spelling).

We also enjoyed our walk in the park. She insisted on wearing her sunhat, though it didn't really go with her outfit of warm tights and winter jacket. She's a hat person, like her mother and my mother - you wouldn't think there would be a gene for hat-wearing, but there appears to be. It kept blowing off in the brisk wind, but at least her appearance, and my frequent gallops to retrieve the headgear, made for some amusement among the dog walkers.

We've seen a lot of the children this week. Here, Grandson has made use of the wooden railway for some purpose which I now forget, but it wasn't railway-related.

And here he uses my measuring cups to investigate how many half-cups go into a whole one, and so on. Or that was the idea. I think he mainly enjoyed getting wet.

So no, nothing much has happened, and for that I'm grateful. What wickedness there is in the world.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Now you see her...

Daughter 2 was here for the weekend. Her nephew decided she was a mountain. He stood on the top of the mountain.

Then he stood slightly further down.

She is a tolerant aunt; which is why she also agreed to read quite a long Noddy book (about somewhat quarrelsome toys) to her niece.

But now she's gone. London's gain; our loss.

Friday, November 06, 2015

They're growing up.

It's such a serious business...

... selecting a sticker to put on one's picture.

But it's fun playing with Granny and Grandpa's thirty-six-year-old toys.

I think I can do it.

 I've done it!
I'm a big girl now, but after all that playing I suddenly needed my fluffy and a little rest.

He was here too.

Granny also needed a rest.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

It can't last...

This autumn has been ridiculously beautiful: warm, windless and glowing with colour. I was thinking yesterday, slightly morbidly, that if this were my very last year - or indeed my very last day - I couldn't really complain. I doubt if I'll ever experience a lovelier autumn. It's impossible not to wonder how many more I will see... .
Yesterday we got the new Borders train line to Tweedbank and walked from there to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. He was tremendously famous in his day but now very few people read him: his plots are exciting enough but he's extremely longwinded.

There were photo opportunities wherever we looked.

Scott built this beturreted mansion and people still visit it, so... what does that tell us about the power of literature versus the power of architecture? There are also pleasant gardens and lovely walks through the woods.

There's something magical about that slanting light, isn't there? It was early afternoon but already the sun was sinking in the sky. It makes you feel that you have to go out and enjoy it before it's too late. (Like life... .)

We crunched through the russet leaves.

On the return journey, the path ran alongside the River Tweed. I don't know whether Sir Walter did a spot of fishing, but if so, this would be a good place.

The way back to the station runs past Gunknowe Loch, which is actually man-made;

but the swans didn't seem to mind and neither did we.

Winter's going to come as a bit of a shock.