Sunday, 19 December 2010

Christmas is coming.....

.....and the goose is getting fat.  Which is more than I am, having succumbed to one of those nasty 24 hour winter bugs at the start of this week.  Still, at least that means I have some catching up to do on the eating front!

Today is the first day that I've felt truly Christmassy.  We travelled to the Forest of Dean this morning for my husband to take part in a 5 mile canicross race.  For those who don't know, that basically means attaching yourself, by way of a waist belt and elasticated lead, to an extremely feisty dog (insert the name of your particular breed) and then running full pelt over the required distance hoping that you don't get pulled over.  Except that today, our usually mad Alaskan Malamute decided that whilst she would pull down the hills, my husband would have to pull her up the hills.  I like her thinking.

It was a steady drive to the Forest as the roads were so icy and it was -5 when we left Bristol.  But it was a beautiful journey.  White fields, trees that looked like they had been sprinkled with icing sugar and sheep huddled in the snow.

Our little boy Corey and I watched as all the canicross competitors set off and then we enjoyed a walk in the snow as the "normal" runners assembled for their start.  Steve finished in a respectable time and looked remarkably fresh as he crossed the line.  After a short break for a shower and a cup of tea we then set off for the second part of our day.  A brief drive found us at the Dean Forest Railway and even I was excited.

We stood on the platform to await the train, which unfortunately was running late due to the cold weather.  We listened to the festive tunes emanating from the various loud speakers around the station and Corey amused himself by jumping in muddy puddles.  In the end we had to put a stop to his fun as he got himself so wet I was worried he might end up with icicles hanging from his jeans.

Eventually the train arrived and Corey's face lit up.  We all got on and found our allocated seats.  Corey sat patiently looking out of the window waiting for the train to start.  A magician began doing the rounds with a few little tricks to keep people amused and then we started to move.  Us grown ups were served with a mince pie and a miniature bottle of port, whiskey, Baileys or Tia Maria.  We shared the mince pies with Corey but had to distract him with an orange juice when he made a grab for the alcohol.  Twenty five minutes later we arrived at the end of the line and alighted the train to watch as the steam engine de-coupled from our carriage and then moved to the front ready to begin the journey back.

We had promised Corey that he would see Father Christmas on the train, but on the outward journey he hadn't made it to our carriage.  So on the way back we got ready with the camera and waited as the jolly white-bearded man in the red suit accompanied by some very young elves started at the back of our carriage.  Corey jumped up on the seat excitedly pointing and say Farver Chrishmush or words to that effect!  When Father Christmas came to speak to Corey, our normally talkative little boy became completely dumbstruck.  However, he still received his present which he took a little tentatively, and then spent the next ten minutes opening.  Once back at the station we said goodbye to the steam engine and trooped back to the car to head home.

Corey kept talking about his encounter with Father Christmas and getting a present and I'm now feeling very excited about the prospect of seeing his face on Christmas morning when he sees that the very same man he saw on the train (allegedly) paid a visit in the night to leave yet more presents for him.

Before that happens however, we have a lovely trip to visit my niece who turns four tomorrow.  We have Corey's nursery Christmas party on Wednesday afternoon and in the evening I'm hoping that my husband and I can get a night off to have some Christmas drinks together.

Christmas is coming.......and I wish everyone a very merry time.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Finding The Balance

It's been a while since I've blogged, mainly because I don't seem to have had the time.  Finding the balance between work, home, fun, study and the numerous other elements that fill the days is not an easy task.

I am lucky enough to have a career that I enjoy but it's not without its stresses.  Being a freelance television production manager means that I'm usually looking for the next job before I've even started the current one.  Contracts are short and if they are extended you are lucky to have that confirmed the day before you are due to walk out of the door.  Television work is also very unpredictable and you feel obliged to take whatever work is available in case nothing else comes along.

Home is obviously extremely important to me.  I miss my little boy every day that I work and I treasure the time that I am able to spend with him.  My husband works long hours, has usually left the house before we're up and quite often comes home when bath time has already happened.  But he usually manages to be waiting downstairs with a warm drink of bed time milk and a big hug for our son.  We then get a couple of hours to enjoy dinner and the odd glass of wine and have a chat about our respective days.

Weekends are spent making the most of the two days away from work.  We go on long walks with our energetic dog, attend Rugby Tots, visit places that we know will delight our little boy (and for him that includes running round the aisles of supermarkets) and generally have a nice time.  We also each do the odd sporting event and whilst one of us is competing the other is with our son (and sometimes also the dog) being the support crew.

On top of that I have embarked on a writing course, which I am already way behind on.  It's something that I enjoy doing and will hopefully be another skill that I can use to earn some additional pennies.  But finding that all important time to sit down and concentrate on learning something new can be difficult.

Life really is all about juggling priorities and in this economical climate it has not been easy.  However, by making sure we throw in some fun and laughter along the way and enjoying the time we have together, that balance can be found - most of the time.

Monday, 15 November 2010

How Time Flies

I can't believe that I am already in my third week of being a reading buddy.  I went with a feeling of slight trepidation for my second session last week.  Would I recognise my buddy in a sea of children's faces, would he be enthusiastic or would he really not be that bothered whether I turned up or not?

I entered the school, walked up to the classroom and was confronted by two boys who were messing about around the desks.  One of them cheekily asked, "who are you?"  "I'm here as a reading buddy" I answered.  "Who with?"  "Careem"  "Well" he said pointing at his partner in crime, "that's Careem." 

I have to say I was slightly confused.  Really?  This was the boy that I had read with last week?  He didn't look quite as I had remembered, but then as we had been outside he had mostly had his hood up covering part of his face.  Ah well, my memory isn't what it was.  I smiled, "well, I'm really sorry I didn't recognise you, you had your hood up last time...."  The boys fell about laughing and I could feel my face turning pink and glowing with embarrassment.  I'd been well and truly taken for a mug.  "Thank you" I said curtly.  "That's really mean."

With that I could hear a cacophony of voices as the rest of the children piled up the stairs.  I saw with relief their teacher heading towards me.  She looked at me quizzically.  "Hi, I'm here to read with Careem..."  "Oh yes" she said quickly, "he's on his way up so just grab him."  Great I thought, but as I looked up I saw him ferreting in his bag and pulling out a book.  Thank goodness, I did recognise him after all.

I grinned as he approached with book in hand.  It turned out that he had researched tube trains in Birmingham as we had discussed the previous week but understandably couldn't find any reference to an underground in that particular city.  True to my word I had also looked it up and could reliably tell him that there were four underground systems in the UK; the London Undergound, London Dockland Light Railway, Tyne and Wear and Glasgow. 

This time we read all about space and how astronauts shower and poo in zero gravity.   What did I say before about learning something new....!  We even used the school's computer to google some answers to questions that had been raised whilst reading the book and Careem showed enthusiam and enjoyment.  I think tomorrow I'll be a little more relaxed and won't be taken in so easily by cheeky schoolboys!

On a more domestic front, this last week we have celebrated our little boy turning two.  It seems like only yesterday that he was a tiny babe in arms, weighing hardly anything and not able to do much other than eat, sleep and poo.  Now he is a tough little toddler, who runs everywhere, learns a new word everyday, grins cheekily when he knows he's about to do something wrong and weighs seemingly a ton.  Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, but when I'm carrying him in our baby backpack he is heavy!

He's had a terrific few days, playing with his cousins, receiving birthday gifts and generally having a lot of time and attention lavished upon him.  I'm just trying to take in every moment and really enjoy every stage he goes through.  It won't be long before he's ready to leave home so I don't want to miss anything.

Time really does fly.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

You Learn Something New...

Yesterday was my first session as a Reading Buddy.  I turned up at the inner city primary school, which nestles between some university buildings and a church and had to buzz an intercom to be let through the gates.  Some of the children were still playing outside and as I walked into the playground I was overcome by feelings of nostalgia and nervousness.  As I trekked to the school office I felt like it was my first day back at school.

Inside the school it appeared to be a little chaotic and somewhat cosy.  The corridors were filled with pictures and fairy lights and I could hear a choir of young voices from somewhere down the hall.  I was shown upstairs to the year 6 classroom and waited for the arrival of the teacher. 

When she breezed in she quickly told me that my reading buddy was of dual nationality and although a competent reader, he sometimes didn't actually understand the meaning of the words.  It was suggested that we read some non-fiction and that I concentrate on building up his comprehension of the English language.

When Careem* arrived, he had chosen two books.  One on tunnels and the other on continents.  I followed him back to the playground where we found a bench to sit at.  His interest in these subjects was obvious and he immediately started to read the book about tunnels.  I was very impressed as he read fluently and with ease and when I asked him various questions he really seemed to know the meaning of the words.

Then he picked up the book on continents.  "Do you know the continents?" I asked before he opened the book.  "Oh yes" he said and began to reel them off.  My mind was already racing ahead with thoughts about what else I could ask him as he seemed so knowledgeable.  So when Careem said "North America and South America" I nodded and replied "Yes the Americas are all one."  I noticed that he looked at me a little strangely but he didn't say anything.

So we opened the book and he began to read.  We went through Europe and Australia and Asia.  There was a brief paragraph about Mount Everest and a line which mentioned the word "summit".  "Do you know what summit means?" I asked.  "Oh yeah, it's like when we're doing summit" he said.  I tried not to laugh and asked him to read the sentence again.  As he did he eyes widened and he said "oh I know, it means the top of the mountain."  His understanding is actually very good, he just hadn't concentrated when he looked at the sentence the first time.

Then we got to the page with the title North America.  He read that through, turned to the next page and I saw, with much embarrassment that it said South America.  There was nothing for it, I turned to him and said "Careem I apologise.  You were right and I was wrong.  North America and South America are two different continents."  He glanced across and then said "I thought so."  Then he pointed to the map and said "They are joined together though" and then looked at me.  I really think he was trying to make me feel better.

All too soon our thirty minutes came to an end.  I had discovered a little about him during our reading time, such as the fact that he had been to Somalia when he was three and so missed out on nursery and went straight to primary school.  I know he has a bike and loves to ride.  I also know that he is a very intelligent boy with an excellent grasp of the English language and an articulate reader.  He also knows a lot more about continents than I do.

You learn something new every day.

*I have changed my reading buddy's name for the purposes of privacy.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Reading Buddies

How many times have you thought, all things considered, my life is pretty good?  How many times have you then thought, you know what, I would really like to give something back?  It's something that has been on my mind for a while.

The question then is, what do I give back, how do I give it back and to whom should this giving back go?

Well luckily for me, the answer came in a BBC email via the Children in Need office several weeks ago.  They were on the hunt for volunteers to be Reading Buddies.  This is a scheme run by a charity called Ablaze, who through various organisations recruit volunteers to spend one lunchtime a week or a fortnight to visit a school, buddy up with a child and help them with their reading and literacy skills.  Well how could I refuse such an exciting and worthwhile request.

Reading has always been a passion for me and I spend a lot of time with my son looking at books, describing pictures, reading the stories to him, asking him questions about what we are looking at.  I had stories read to me as a child and my weekly treat was being given a brand new Ladybird Book which I treasured.

There are children out there who don't have these things.  Books don't even feature in their homes.  Television and computer games rule the day.  Some parents don't always have the time or inclination to read with their children.  Some children's situations are such that they don't get one to one time with anyone.  If I can help just one child gain the enthusiasm for reading that I had, get their imaginations fired, give them some precious time to make them feel important, help them on their way to achieving their aspirations then I will be priviliged.

You have to be fully CRB checked and attend a training course.  Well I attended the short course this morning covering all aspects of being a Reading Buddy.  There were 29 of us, mainly women, but I'm pleased to say a few men had turned up.  It was the biggest group they had had and the course leader was positively beaming.  It was reiterated that we would be making a real difference and I admit to feeling a little choked up.  We were told how to approach the sessions in terms of communication with the children.  How to impart our knowledge and help them learn.  How not to interrupt when they first make a mistake and importantly to relate to them as individuals.  Make sure we show an interest in them, find out what they like, praise them and help raise their confidence.  Also, most significantly to make it fun.

I came out of the course feeling truly excited and a little nervous.  My CRB check has come back and I'm pleased, and a little relieved, to say that nothing untoward has shown up.  So, I am ready to go.  I hope I can live up to expectations and I hope that I can really make a difference.  I'm waiting to hear when my first session will be and when I will actually meet my Reading Buddy. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


I am currently sitting in a little basement office, looking out of the window and contemplating life, Australia and what to have for lunch.

Life has been a challenge in many ways over the last couple of years.  Keeping the work life balance with a baby is tough at the best of times and a little more difficult when you are freelance and don't always have a steady income.  However, things have a way of working themselves out and at the moment I have two jobs which are bringing in the pennies.  It does mean that I'm pretty much full time, but in a flexible way that still allows me to spend time with my son before and after work and of course during the weekends.

Australia is occupying my thoughts as I have a forthcoming shoot to prepare for.  I'm not actually travelling there myself, but I am organising the logistics and managing the budget.  I still don't know why it happens, but however prepared you think you are there are always last minute issues that crop up in the final hours before departure.  I have a crew travelling to Indonesia today, one of whom was only able to pick up his all important visa yesterday just hours before his flight.

Lunch is very much on my mind simply because it is that time of day and I'm hungry.

This is my very first blog.  Short and to the point.  It's my test to see how easily the words flow.  I have been inspired by a Facebook friend to turn my hand to writing and to see where it might take me.