Small Planet

Still in shock at the result of last week’s referendum. So sad. Especially sad following the global excitment at Tim Peake’s adventures in space. And seeing those photos of the beauty of the Earth. Hope the politicians can untangle the mess.

Gosh, wow, what a week…

Well, at risk of duplication the week has been one roller coaster of highs and higher highs and music. Last Saturday we enjoyed the superb performance of the Gondoliers by the Southampton University Gilbert and Sullivan Society. They have expert actors, comic and serious, singers, designers…and lighting designers (my own son!). There was more music yesterday evening as we enjoyed a Mozartfest of beautiful singing by the Cathedral Choir plus some professional soloists. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to say hello to Iryna Illynska but she knew I was there and it is always a pleasure to hear her faultless mezzosoprano voice. She is also a very nice, kind lady who is very clever – fluent in several languages – as well as musically gifted. She also likes cake and extolled the virtues of healthy eating while indulging in a great big Danish pastry.
Today we took my parents to an Afternoon Summer Organ Recital with Afternoon Tea featuring John Draisey, an organist who is part of the Mint commmunity. It was a treat for Fathers’ Day which they both enjoyed. The music and singing were a delightful selection with an organ-related theme. Again, it was all of a very high standard. A particular piece I had looked forward to was The Lost Chord which was something I studied as part of the Arts Foundation Course at the beginning of my Open University degree studies. It is haunting both in words and tune.
Amidst the musical week was an astronomy talk I gave to a group of Year 5 children from the local primary school. They loved it and I had one or two interactive activities which went down very well. I began with a display of fruit to the scale of the universe.Fruit bowl solar system Real photo of fruit to be substituted once I upload it! It was a jaw-dropping moment though at the end when a teacher came over (he had just arrived to collect them) and mentioned, questioningly, ‘Whitegrove Primary?’ – he said his name and I just said “Gosh”, “Wow”, “Gosh”…it was 15 years ago back in Bracknell back several lifetimes…and I simply said to him that my life has changed so much since then. Then it was back to “Gosh”, “Wow”, etc.
And if that was not enough excitement, my son texted me to say he has achieved a First in his Maths Masters degree. Wow indeed. And he has been involved in theatre, amateur radio, enjoying life, enjoying gigs, and taking part in national coding competitions. Wow. And so to calm down…

Higher and higher…

What a week this has been! So full of nice surprises and excitement. Last Saturday we enjoyed a train ride to Southampton where we had a rest before meeting son for a meal. This was followed by another superb production of a Gilbert and Sullivan show, this time The Gondoliers. My son’s lighting was sympathetic to the set and we clapped loudly to him at the end. The characters were just great; expertly interpreted with great singing voices to match.

On Wednesday morning I gave a talk to a class of Year 5 children from the local primary school. This was very well received and I enjoyed doing it. I had been very nervous beforehand but once I got going I was fine. I took along a selection of fruit to represent the scale of the planets. And a ball of string to show the relative distance from Earth to Moon…and asked them to show me whereabouts the space station is.

And, there was a jaw-dropping moment at the end when a teacher approached me and said the name of a primary school followed by his name. He was a trainee teacher back in Bracknell at a school where I was working as a Specialist Teaching Assistant working with groups for extra maths and English support.

What a surprise! I think my jaw is still on the floor…seems a lifetime ago I was a TA in Bracknell. My life has changed so much since then and I said as much to the teacher.

And my son texted me on Thursday with news that he had achieved a First in MMaths. Looking forward to the Graduation next month – a huge celebration…and maybe some photos together.

I have still yet to come down from the ceiling.

A starry morning…

What an exciting morning! The Year 5 class from local primary were enraptured with the facts they learnt from my talk about the solar system and space generally. What was amazing was that the teacher who came to collect them was one I had worked with in Another Life back in Berkshire. At the time he was a trainee teacher and I was a teaching assistant working with small groups for numeracy and literacy.

The children loved the display of fruit representing the sizes of the planets to scale and the ball and string activity to illustrate the distance between the Moon and the Earth and, as a finale, the distance to the space station.

Well worth the effort involved.

Birds

Hanging out washing
busy, hopeful.
Busy birds feeding
Blue Tit exhausted
Grey
Haggard
Babies flying, first to line
then to trees.
How fine a sight!

30 springs pass
heartache and joy
laughter and tears

Another spring
another nest
Baby birds feeding
Shouting fit to burst
Hanging out washing,
busy, peaceful.
Baby birds feeding
Great Tits this time
in a flower filled garden.

Seeing stars

Last Friday evening the sun was shinging and the birds were singing as I pulled into the NLO carpark for the Friday Astroscouts session. The group arrived, full of excitement and anticipation as usual. They were not disappointed. We went outside to view the sun – a bright disc with a hairy surround – through a member’s telescope. It was a special telescope designed to view the sun carefully and safelly through solar lenses. Everyone, children and adults, were entralled. I was even more thrilled to see a tiny dot or two and helped the group locate them. I had taught them about sun spots last week and this week told them some interesting pieces of information about the sun. It is so nice when the weather plays ball with my sessions! The group drew diagrams of the sun and were able to include the ‘hair’ just as they had seen.

The Bird Watcher

The Bird Watcher

“It’s there again”, her daughter shouted through from her vantage point at the front room window.
She joined her and watched as a seagull cocked its head on one side, looking to the left and right as it did so.
“I’m scared, Mum.”
“Don’t be silly, it’s just scavenging for food, that’s all.”
“Then why is it just looking at the rubbish and not pecking at it like usual?”
Elaine was just glad not to have to go around after the dustmen had been with a plastic bag picking up all the detritus after the birds had pecked open the well-wrapped rubbish in the black plastic sacks.
“It does look as though it’s listening and looking straight at us and…”, she stopped as a council van pulled up and a smartly dressed official got out, looked at the seagull before proceeding to walk up to their front door. Even so, the sudden sharp knock made them jump. She opened the door and was handed an envelope by the suited man.
“A warning letter”, he said, “next time it’s a £1000 fine and then jail.”
“But what for?” she managed to ask.
“Too many bags out, luv. New regs, didn’t you read the notice? Only allowed one black sack per week per household.”
The seagull put back his head and let out an almighty screech.
“Well, I must be off,” said the official suddenly, before running down the path and across the road to a nice old couple who had just moved in.
Closing the door she rejoined her daughter at the window.
“Look”, her daughter pointed at the bird, head cocked on one side, definitely eyeing up the rubbish outside their next door neighbour’s house. Meanwhile the old couple had opened their door to the council official who was handing them a brown envelope too.
“Oh, but that’s so not fair”, she muttered, “there’s always a lot of rubbish when you move.”
Eeeoooweeeow screeched the seagull as it was now outside their house again and eyeing the house unblinkingly. Head cocked again, listening – or was it reporting what it saw to the council. How else would the official have arrived so swiftly?

Help is at hand…

Just waiting for a picture of a scary squid to go on the front cover and the manuscript is ready to send out to agents. A friend has offered to forward it to someone they know in the publishing world. Someone from the Short Stories Facebook group has sent me a database of agents currently seeking new work. Here goes!