Day 61 – Finishing the Shed and Other Things

It’s been a pretty busy week, non-stop since Lucy’s birthday. I’ve only got to writing the blog posts this morning, following a review of the photos I’ve been taking last night. You may have noticed a flurry of catch-up posts, and there’s still a gap. I expect the rest will follow over the next couple of days.

This weekend has been one of finishing off things, largely as parts arrive. On Friday the new garden shed arrived and we started building it yesterday. Today we finished it off.

Lucy eating breakfast on the sofa while watching Lego Friends videos. (Photo: James Kemp)

We had a pretty slow start to the day. With no alarms and no pressure we all slept late. I spent the morning writing captions on the pictures and starting the backdated blog posts while Lucy sat on the sofa watching YouTube videos of Lego Friends builds.

Garden Shed pt.2

Lucy holding the electric screwdriver while she was helping fit the windows in our new garden shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Yesterday we left the shed with four walls attached to the floor. We still had the windows, door and roof to do today, as well as painting it.

Windows

The first thing we did today was to fix the covers over the gaps between the panels. Once we’d done that we fitted the windows.

Lucy gives the thumbs up to the newly installed windows from inside the new shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

The windows are moulded plastic, which only fitted one way, so we didn’t need to worry about putting them in the wrong way. They’re held in place with a three strips of wood.

Lucy screwing in the windows on the new shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Lucy helped by screwing in the bottom screws on each bar with the electric screwdriver. She also helped by passing the screws, until she got bored.

Door

We found the door a bit trickier, mostly because of the hinges. The instructions just had a single vague image, and it took a bit of experimenting and thinking about before we were sure enough to screw the hinges on.

Tracy peering through the window after we’d fitted the door to the shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Before that we had to put the slam strip and weather strips on the doorframe to fit it for the way we wanted the door to open.

Proving that the door actually opens! (Photo: James Kemp)

Once we’d done that it was time to start painting, and both kids spent some time painting the front of the shed and the door while Tracy and I worked out how to do the roof. I also had a small repair to do to the shed. One of the planks in the side of the roof got cracked in transit, and when I was inside the hut with Lucy after we put the door on we noticed that it was a really wide hole.

One of the shiplap boards in the side of the shed split in transit. (Photo: James Kemp)

It wasn’t the only hole we noticed though. Lucy also spotted that there was a knot on the other side that had fallen out, and we could see through it. She made me go out to the other side so that she could wiggle her finger through the hole and I could catch it. Once she’d done that we had to trade places so that she could do it from the other side. It was a shame to plug the hole with the knot again.

A spare board from one of the old fence panels was pressed into service to cover the gap. (Photo: James Kemp)

The cracked board wouldn’t sit together, so I got a long board from one of the fence panels we’d taken down and sawed it to fit either side of the join. I initially intended to nail it in, like the way the rest of the boards are attached. However without the roof on it bounced too much and the nails wouldn’t go in. So I gave up and screwed it in place with some of the spare screws.

Roof

This was by far the most time consuming part of the build, and I’m glad that we left it until after lunch. When we’d finished the leftovers from last night’s dinner we assembled the roof on the grass.

Three sheets of OSB, which I’m not sure what it is, and four 30x30mm strips of wood made a rather flexible roof. Tracy and I hoisted it onto the top of the hut with some difficulty. The individual boards flexed and caught on the supports as we tried to slide it across. It got there eventually, although I realised when we did that the supports weren’t quite in the right place as the overhang wasn’t equal on both sides. Alexander commented on this at some length, but then realised that his friend was running a D&D game shortly and asked to be allowed to go play. Which we did.

The OSB base for the roof on top of the hut, with some overhanging branches. (Photo: James Kemp)

That was just the start. What I realised when I was screwing the roof onto the shed was that I’d not cleared the tree branches enough. So I took some time to get the loppers and cut all the branches that I could reach that went over the shed.

Tracy and Lucy dividing labour while painting the hut, Tracy did the parts Lucy couldn’t reach. (Photo: James Kemp)

With the shed roof screwed on the whole shed was a lot less wobbly than it had been. Once I’d got most of the screws in it felt stable enough for me to crawl in top, which made the next stage much easier.

Lucy helped me measure the shed, and the overhang so that I knew how long the felt had to be. Then we unrolled the felt and measured it with the tape measure. Lucy was quite surprised by the small stones on the outside of the roofing material. We cut out a piece and then Tracy helped me drag it onto the roof. While I crawled on top of the shed Lucy helped Tracy fetch nails, hammers and anything else we needed to get it in the right place. She also played with the tape measure and measured several things while we were hammering in the felt.

It was time for a break about then, and while we had a cheeky ice-cream, Tracy ordered in pizza for 1830. We didn’t stop for long, just enough to eat the ice-cream.

While I finished off getting the felt  Tracy resumed painting the outside of the hut. She managed to get most of it painted while I sorted out the rest of the felt with Lucy, and then dragged it onto the top of the hut. We had another spell of working together to get it in the right place, and then Tracy did more painting while I hammered in tacks.

The roof with the felt in place and the last fascia screwed in place. (Photo: James Kemp)

Once the felt was secured to our satisfaction I did the fascias while Tracy did even more painting. Lucy went off to play, and Alexander re-appeared briefly, but only to collect his music box before returning to playing games with his friends. At this point the build was more or less complete.

Build complete, and Tracy is almost done painting the shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Tracy finished painting it while I collected up the spare screws, instructions and tools we’d been using. I also tidied away all the power and other tools into the shed, because it isn’t complete as a shed until you are using it.

This isn’t really the end of the shed build, just phase 1. We’ve got to add in some shelves to put things on. Brackets for the spades and forks etc to hang from. Maybe a work surface on the side of the base for when we need to do things. There also needs to be a better tidy up and a small ramp built to make it easy to get the wheelbarrow and lawnmower in and out of the shed.

Dinner

As a reward for getting the shed built Tracy had promised us a delivery from pizza hut. We shared two large pizzas between three of us. Lucy had almost half of one which had Margherita on one side and American Hot on the other. Alexander had the American Hot half and also 3/8 of the Texas BBQ that I finished off.

As if a load of pizza wasn’t enough the deal also came with a tub of Caramel Chew Chew. One of my favourite ice creams. I interrupted Alexander’s attempt to serve it up by cutting the tub in half with a knife. He was aggrieved that he felt he was getting less than Lucy and I, but accepted in the end that we all had an equal portion.

After dinner Tracy and I put some of Lucy’s toys in the garage. We had her barbie dolls, including the house, and her baby dolls with their pram and cradle.¬† Lucy had suggested putting them away yesterday when she was tidying her room. They’d been blocking the hallway since then. It took a bit of tetris like stacking to get them neatly into the garage in a way that didn’t stop us getting to the other things we might need.

After that it was back out into the garden to get the kids to jump on the trampoline to burn off some of the ice-cream and pizza before bed. While they were jumping I finished the tidy up and also found a large bag of rubble hiding in a bush at the back of the garden. I offered this to my neighbour over the hedge for the ballast he’s looking for to fill the base of the chicken enclosure he’s building.

Working shed. All the tools at the back end of the garden got put in the shed overnight. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

Day 53 – Clearing the Back of the Garden

After two days of celebrations we needed to get working to burn off the birthday cake!

We had rainbow cake for Lucy’s birthday, and now Tracy has made an awesome harlequin cake! (Photo: James Kemp)
Gloves and tools ready on the bench for the family to get involved in clearing the back before the new shed arrives. (Photo: James Kemp)
The ‘before’ photo. The back of the garden is rather unruly, and we need to put a shed in there on the right. (Photo: James Kemp)
Two and a half hours of effort from us all and it’s looking a lot more under control! (Photo: James Kemp)
The shed base is clearer than it was, bit it still needs some work to liberate it fully. (Photo: James Kemp)
There was a spot of drama up the street, with police, fire and multiple ambulances at an incident in the woods. (Photo: James Kemp)
The evening ‘after’ photo. We’ve collected more things to burn, swept the shed base and stacked a lot of spare bricks. (Photo: James Kemp)
The raised beds aren’t quite ready for planting, although Tracy spent time trying to clear them. (Photo: James Kemp)
A slightly clearer view of the back of the garden, after the lawnmower and hedge trimmers have worked their magic. (Photo: James Kemp)
We could put a shed here. The base after the bricks were moved and the debris swept off it. (Photo: James Kemp)
We found some concrete slabs behind some of the bushes! (Photo: James Kemp)
After lots of hard work a plate of ribs! (Photo: James Kemp)

Day 49 – Evening Gardening

It being Tuesday I spent most of the day at the desk in out bedroom while Tracy did things downstairs with Lucy. Alexander mostly just did his schoolwork without input.

Probably the most interesting thing that happened all day was that when Tracy got up there was a police officer speaking to two young women on the green outside. They wandered off down the side of the street about half eight. The police care stayed there for about another two hours or so. No idea what was going on.

Work

Work was lot of reading about international comparisons on coming out of lockdown and analysing the UK stats to work out how long it might last given the tests announced. It took almost all day, and a handful of meetings and a tidy up of my inbox before my five day weekend kept me busy until six.

Evening Gardening

Today’s exercise was working in the garden after dinner. Alexander came out with me and between us we planted half a dozen plants in the front garden. Alexander dug the holes and I put the plants in.

When we finished that we went round the back garden. Alexander used the loppers and a rather blunt handsaw to make some stakes from a tree we cut down a couple of months ago.

While he did that I moved some bricks and some very clay heavy soil. I also walked a couple of concrete slabs to the very back corner of the garden.

Once I got them up there I put the slabs against the fence to protect it from the composting vegetation. I used some of the lumps of clay to make a level line for the bricks. There was a noticeable slope over the couple of metres from the fence to the front of the area selected.

The old shed door was repurposed as the side wall for the new compost heap. I used the two slabs to determine the width, and the door for the depth. The door rested on a line of bricks just to make it a bit taller and relatively horizontal.

Once I got it all in place the stakes that Alexander made were driven in using a 3lb hammer. They’re all about a foot into the ground. I doubt they’ll last a long time, being green wood. But all I need is a couple of years.

Last step was to put the remaining clay on the floor of the compost heap and flatten it down.

Days 46 & 47 – Weekend

I didn’t write yesterday evening because I was trying to write a short story for the Merstham Write Club. The . challenge was to write a short story of up to 2,000 words based on a picture. I wrote 3,128 words last night and didn’t quite finish the story.

We’ve had a fairly relaxed weekend. Lots of TV and a movie and also a trip out for essential items, including posting some things.

A very empty Belfry shopping centre on Saturday 2/5/20 (Photo: James Kemp)

I also spent most of Saturday in the front garden, weeding the border, planting some plants and cutting the grass.

My front garden on one of my breaks from tidying it up on Saturday 2 May. (Photo: James Kemp)

On Saturday afternoon we had a zoom session with our friends, the Lows, and played a picture quiz of our joint family photos in Kahoots. It was a lot of fun and we’re planning to repeat it next week.

We also tidied up bedrooms, took down the blanket fort, washed all the sheets, and put clothes away. In short getting the laundry done and tidying up. It was all done in short bursts and between episodes of Doctor Who. We started with the Impossible Astronaut and we’re working through that season.

Lego House

Lucy built an awesome Lego house, which is her best one yet. So I took a series of photos.

It has a tall front door because it is supposed to be in a desert, and according to Lucy it needs to let the wind through to cool it down.

The kitchen was one of the most awesome parts. It had drawers with utensils in. The cupboard had a cup and teapot inside, and the oven a cupcake.

There was also a coffee machine on the counter, a smoothy maker and a box of food. Best of all was the large picture window above the sink, so you could see out when doing the dishes!

Downstairs also had a living room area with a TV, sofa and a hamster cage.

In between the kitchen and the living room was a waterfall, which doubled as the shower.

Upstairs was the bedroom, complete with bed, dressing table and storage for accessories.

Along the corridor was the toilet.

Experimental Food

On Sunday morning we encouraged Lucy to microwave some marshmallows so she could see what happened.

Two microwaved marshmallows on a pancake (Photo: James Kemp)

Repairing my bergen

Part of the tidying up included a repair to my Berghaus Roc. It was moved out of the way for the blanket fort into the hallway. During the night I stood on one of the quick release buckles and there was an ominous crunching sound. To be fair the bergen is over thirty years old, I bought it in 1989 when I joined the TA. It’s seen a lot of action over the years.

Given its age it was impossible to acquire replacement buckles of the same style. They haven’t made them for over a decade. However there were a couple of helpful suggestions on the web. It seems that the Berghaus Roc is a very durable bergen and many people are still using them 30 years on. A few have even had the same issue as me.

So there was a no sewing solution. I took a spare 25mm quick release buckle from a repair kit I had in the cupboard. I then used a hacksaw to cut a slot in the middle of the bar that went onto the lid. It needed two cuts to get a wide enough slot. The plastic was easy to cut. I then filed the edges to make sure they weren’t sharp.

I then prized off the old clip, which was already cracked. It took some brute force, but it came off clean. I then pushed the loop of webbing through the slot I’d cut and worked it all through. This was the trickiest bit of the repair. I ended up folding it by rolling it after it was through the slot. Once I’d got it in I just straightened it out.

The other end was much easier, although I needed to remove the stitching on the very end of the webbing that stopped it rolling off. It was triple folded, and I left it double folded, so there’s still some protection from the webbing sliding through accidentally.

The broken buckle (green) on my venerable Berghaus Roc that I stood on, and the replacement (black) buckle fitted without sewing. (photo: James Kemp)

Day 42 – Rainy Tuesday

For the first time in weeks it rained all day. It also felt noticeably colder, although that night just have been psychological because the sun wasn’t out.

A slighty soggy garden at about 7 this morning (Photo: James Kemp)

The first thing Lucy said to me his morning was the number of days it was to her birthday. I spent a big chunk of the day working while hiding away from everyone else. Tracy had the day off and went out shopping with Lucy after her schooling was done.

Lego

Lucy adding extensions onto Mia’s house (Photo: James Kemp)

Lucy has been ‘renovating’ Mia’s Lego house. It now has a two floor extension on the side and at the back of the the main part. If only real builders worked this fast!

Painting

Tracy took the opportunity of not being able to do things outside to do things inside. One of these was to paint (or rather stain) the spindles at the top of the stairs. Now the three that I replaced a couple of weeks ago don’t stand out against the rest.

She also made some scones and we had an excellent cream tea when she came back from shopping.

Sheds

Sketch plan for the back end of our garden where the vegetables get grown (sometimes). (Image: James Kemp)

After work I did a sketch of my plan for the back end of the garden. We’ve got most of the stuff already, although the one thing I need is a replacement for the hut we took down a couple of years ago. So we spent some time finding a new shed and a supplier that can deliver it. Not sure if we’ll actually get one before the lockdown ends.

I also need some timber and glass (or a substitute) to fix up the potting shed. A couple of the window supports have rotted and the glass fell out during the high winds.

The potting shed with a jury-rigged replacement for the lost windows. (Photo: James Kemp)

Day 40 – Sunshine, Trampoline Fun, Party Prep, and Marshmallows

The original meaning of quarantine was forty days. So I’ve been not going to work for longer than an old fashioned quarantine period.We’ve had a great day today. Most of it spent outdoors enjoying the sunshine, apart from a bit after lunch when we stayed indoors because it was too warm to do more digging. We’ve also eaten well.

Clean Trampoline Fun

While I was digging the patch in front of the hut in a search for the old concrete path, Alexander and Lucy decided to clean the trampoline. Armed with a bottle of washing up liquid, a couple of brushes and the garden hose they bounced and scrubbed the trampoline. As always it quickly turned into a water fight. Tracy and I threw buckets of water at the kids and they sprayed us with the hose.Lots and lots of fun on a lovely warm day.

Food

We had croissants with raspberry jam for breakfast. These came from yesterday’s shopping trip and made a nice change from cereal.Lunch was a home made quesadilla. We also had nachos as a small starter. Tracy made it all while the kids were getting dried and changed from their time on the trampoline.Dinner was even more special. Tracy cooked steak with a blue cheese dressing. It was really good, melting in your mouth and pink in the middle. There was no real need for chewing.

Party Preparation

After lunch we stayed in for a bit to organise things for Lucy’s birthday party. Although it isn’t for a couple of weeks we need to lost things to people so they’ll have part bags, prizes for the games and also some other things.Lucy helped us both sort it out. She enjoyed loading the laminator with the bingo cards. She got pretty efficient with it after she’d done a couple. She also decorated the party bags and helped Tracy sort out the contents.

Garden

After dinner I went back out into the garden. I delivered another wheelbarrow load of topsoil to the furthest raised bed. Then, with the wheelbarrow empty I took a layer of clay soil off the first bed and carted it up to the back of the garden. This was step 1 of the plan to establish a new compost heap on the left side of the garden.I then daisy chained both the garden extension cables so that the hedge trimmer reached the back corner of the garden. Then I cut and raked up the brambles and all the other weeds until the light failed. It took two or three passes, raking up in between each one, to clear the area. I think I completely cleared about a dozen square metres. Here’s the after photo that matches the before photo above.I saved a half dozen nettle plants for an experiment I want to do with Lucy and Alexander later in the week. I’d like to use the leaves to make nettle tea, and the stems to make string.Once I’d cleared enough space I decided to start prep for the new compost heap. This started with a bringing an old rug to throw over the fence to stop things growing through it, and also to contain the compost on this side. I then dumped the wheelbarrow load of clay soil and used it to flatten out the slight slope at the very back.

Marshmallows

We’ve got several piles of woody garden rubbish, and of brambles, that I don’t want to compost. The larger one has been building on our burning circle since the end of last year. The other piles only exist because we’ve tried to avoid burning garden rubbish.Tonight we decided to give in and have a fire. Alexander started it by flicking a lit match at the pile. It caught really quickly.While I was keeping an eye on it Tracy and Lucy came out to watch, and they brought marshmallows with them. The fire was a bit too hot to start with, but it soon died down. We spent a happy half hour watching the flames and toasting marshmallows.Eventually it was time to go in, and I turned the garden hose on it.

Day 39 – Sleepy Saturday

Lucy rocking a fabric head band. (Photo: James Kemp)

I didn’t get out of bed until 11am this morning! So for me it was a very sleep Saturday. Tracy went into work to catch up on some of the paperwork that she was just too busy to do when she’s working. Lucy played with her lego and watched episodes of Gravity Falls, which is a really cool carton. I’d say it’s one of the best things that we’ve been watching with Lucy on TV recently.

When Tracy got back in one of the packets that had arrived was a set of headbands for her to wear under her PPE. Lucy tried one of them on and looked good in it. I think Lucy liked that it kept her hair off her face.

Technology

Oh no! Something has gone wrong. – an unusual screen on an ubuntu machine, but one I saw this morning. (Photo: James Kemp)

While trying to work out what was wrong with my computer I spotted a link about Ubuntu 02.04 having been released. So I decided that the path of least resistance might be an upgrade. This worked quite well, and my laptop is now running Focal Fossa. All I need to do now is work out when is the right time to migrate the cloud server to 20.04 LTS and how to do that over SSH.

Garden

A leggy tomato plant re-potted in a tub outside, along with a jalapeno and a rosemary plant. (Photo: James Kemp)

I’ve had a couple of pots with chilli plants growing in them since about Christmas. One of the seeds was a rogue tomato, so the pot in the spare room has had a four foot tomato plant over-shadowing a couple of jalapeno plants. Now that the weather seems to be past heavy frosts I decided that today would be a good day to re-pot the plants and put the tomato outside where it should get more light.

I put the smallest of the two jalapeno plants back into the pot they’d all come out. It is staying in the spare room on the windowsill. It will be warmer there and in a few weeks it should be big enough to go outside in a bed.

Temporary greenhouse on the patio with seed potatoes and trays of seedlings. (Photo: James Kemp)

Once I’d done the re-potting Lucy and I moved the seedlings she’d planted into a portable greenhouse that Tracy had built. We’ve put some seed potatoes in the top shelf, and we got the four trays of seedlings on the next two shelves. We’ve got room for some more, and I expect that we’ll plant some more seeds tomorrow.

After that I spent an hour or so out the front with a pick axe trying to dig out the roots of the ash tree we’ve cut down. The whole area though is a mass of roots and runners just under the surface of the soil. It’s criss-crossed with ivy, and there are bramble and ash tree roots too. So while I worked hard enough to sweat it didn’t look like I’d made a whole lot of progress.

Shopping

The queuing system at Tesco Gatwick. We were near the front when I took this. (Photo: James Kemp)

Tracy has just been paid, and the car needed petrol, so we went to the Gatwick Tesco about four. We thought that it would be a relatively quiet time. There was a well organised queuing system in place, and we were in the store about fifteen minutes after we arrived. Alexander and I had a trolley for shopping for a neighbour that couldn’t get out because he has covid-19, and Tracy and Lucy had a trolley for our shopping.

The Tesco was pretty well stocked, including a more impressive array of types of pasta than I recall seeing before. I was focussed on our neighbour’s list, so didn’t spend too much time wondering about other things, although I did get a few extra bits for us.

After Dinner

Rather than go for a walk for exercise I went down the back of the garden after dinner with a pair of loppers, a shovel and the wheelbarrow. I spent a fair amount the time cutting brambles and stacking them in a pile to burn at some point. I cut my way into the corner of the compost heap, so I should be able to start taking some of the compost and putting it in the beds when we’re ready to put the seedlings into them in a week or three.

I also moved a load of soil from a couple of the raised beds into the one at the back. This is a temporay move. The raised bed nearest the house had a load of clay soil dumped in it last year when we had the fence re-done. It’s pretty heavy soil and hard to dig. It also sets hard on the surface when it’s sunny. So my plan is to take a couple of wheelbarrows off the top and put it in the bottom of a couple of the other beds. Then I can cover it with the soil in the one at the back, and some of the compost from the compost heap.

Day 38 – TGIF

I’m so glad that today is Friday, and that there are two days of no work ahead. I’ve been feeling tired for a couple of days and it’s been getting harder to get up and go. I’m not the only one, the rest of the family have been later to rise too. We’re all finding it hard, and the lockdown meant that the Easter holidays didn’t feel like time off. Not least of which both Tracy and I worked days on and off rather than taking a week each like we’d originally planned.

Work & School

I started at 0700 this morning, and tried to get my emails under control, there were over 400 unread in the inbox, which I cleared back to almost none at the beginning of the month, and kept it under control for a couple of weeks. Mostly though I was trying to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything important in the last few days. I’m feeling a little out of the loop.

The fridge stocked with drinks for the weekend. (photo: James Kemp)

After Tracy went to work, and the kids had woken up, I organised the children to stock the fridge up with fizzy drinks from the coal shed. We were allowed three cans each, one each day of the weekend, starting with Friday night. We picked them from the selection on the shelf and stacked them all into the top shelf of the fridge. We also got some sausages and burgers out of the freezer so we could have barbecue for dinner.

After we’d organised that it was back to school work. Lucy started with some reading, and also did art and computing. Alexander did his best to complete all of his homework, and covered off a computing project, English, RE, and maths. The maths confused him, there were questions that didn’t make sense, and the answer bore no relation to what it looked like it should be. I couldn’t see how it worked either, and so Alexander emailed his maths teacher. It turned out that they hadn’t been taught about something that they needed to be able to do that question effectively.

Lucy’s sunflower plants doing well on the patio. (Photo: James Kemp)

I spent most of the morning on phone calls or zoom meetings. I set up on the patio for the zoom meetings and enjoyed sitting in the sunshine, but it was a little hard to see the screen. When we got to lunchtime I took an extended break to do things with Lucy. We did some botany and also got things out for the barbecue. I put the shade on the patio table, and we collected sticks for kindling. Lucy helped me to build a fire and put the charcoal on top. It was pretty hot though, and so we went back inside. Lucy did some more reading and Alexander finished off his homework.

The barbecue lit with a single match. (Photo: James Kemp)

I sat on the patio with a computer and sorted out the work planning for the team on trello. I then bribed the kids with two CBGs each if they would tidy away everything in the back part of the living room. I wanted the table cleared so that we could put things for dinner on it, and the floor cleared so that we could move around without worrying about standing on things. They did a really good job at it, and when they realised that they were faster co-operating it was cleared remarkably quickly. This gave me time to write four pages of guidance on using our trello boards for the team. I also got my work inbox down to under 100 unread emails.

Getting the burgers on the grill, halloumi and sausageskeeping warm on the right. (Photo: James Kemp)

With all that complete we finally lit the barbecue and started cooking dinner at about 6pm.

Bingo Cards

Most of my evening, after I’d tidied up, was taken up with pasting pictures over the words on the bingo cards we’ve got for Lucy’s birthday. It was a pretty straightforward process, but it wasn’t that speedy. So it was well after midnight when I finally got to bed. Some of that was down to trying to fix some technical issues with the computer, which I eventually gave up on.

Day 36 – Stories, Sunshine and Scouts

My turn to be off work today, while Tracy toiled saving people from the pandemic at the hospital. We had a morning of Lucy writing a story, and building the scene to go with it. Then we sat in the sunshine and had a picnic in the back garden. Afterwards we went for an afternoon walk, and when we got home we looked for pictures for the bingo cards we’re making for Lucy’s birthday party.

Stories

The first thing on this morning’s school timetable for Lucy was writing. Her class teacher sent us a writing activity to do this week, which was to think about a picture prompt, with an accompanying paragraph. There were two tasks, one to draw the scene, and the second to write a detailed description of it.The setting was some odd circles of creepers in a wood. The person saw a deer walk through and disappear.

Lucy decided that she would find a unicorn through the portal and looked for a picture to copy. She found a YouTube video of how to draw a unicorn and sat down to draw. However she wasn’t happy with her attempts and thought the unicorns looked too chubby. Her frustration at not being able to draw what she had in her head made her quite upset.

The compromise we eventually came to was that she could build the scene with her Lego. Alexander broke off from his biology homework to help, for which I rewarded him with a CBG. We all had some of they fabulous gingerbread that Tracy made yesterday for a midmorning snack.

Once the scene was built Lucy wrote some description, but wasn’t up for continuous writing for 20 minutes. She really just wanted to tell me about it. So I decided that it would be okay if I typed what she told me to, provided that she wrote it out later to practice her handwriting.

Once I’ve checked that it is to her satisfaction I’ll post her story to her teacher. It’s definitely a real brain twister…

EDIT: The Mysterious Forest, by Lucy Kemp

Sunshine

We managed to spend a couple of hours outside in the sunshine. The first part was in the back garden. While I was sorting out some of the birthday party preparation Lucy had taken a bag into the kitchen. She quizzed me about what I wanted for lunch and then disappeared.

Just as I finished printing out the bingo cards Lucy reappeared to drag me into the garden. We went out and she shook out a blanket on the grass, and emptied her bag. We had a plate each, and she’d packed me a chopping board, sharp knife, ham, a block of cheese and a punnet of cherry tomatoes, as well as a loaf. This was so that I could make myself a sandwich.

We had a very pleasant lunch outside, talking about what we could do for Lucy’s party. When it was done we packed up and went back in to get Alexander to come for a walk with us. We had to wait for him to get out of the shower, because he’d forgotten that I’d told him we were going for a walk.

We took a different route than usual and went round Spynes Mere. It was busier than I’d expected, we met several groups of people out for walks. Bearing in mind it was Wednesday late lunchtime, there were more people than we’d usually see on a Saturday afternoon when we’d walked it last year.

The sun made it look idyllic, and it certainly was warm enough to be okay in a t-shirt. We played eye spy for the walk to the lake, and then the alphabet game on the way round it and for some of the return trip. All in we walked 1.7 miles in about an hour.

Scouts

I joined in the local scouts weekly zoom this week. It was my first meeting as Scout Leader and Woodhouse Troop’s first meeting too. We did it jointly with Battlebridge Troop, who have only just adopted that name because until tonight they were our only scout troop.Woodhouse Troop is named after one of the early leaders in Merstham. Miss Woodhouse helped scouting during and after WW1. Her father was the local rector at St Katharine’s non Merstham, and her brother was killed in Mesopotamia in 1916. He’s commemorated both in the church and the scout hut.We had 14 scouts on zoom, 5 of whom were new members of Woodhouse Troop. I was formally invested as the Scout Leader and then I invested one of the Woodhouse scouts. He was so keen to start that he joined in a few weeks early. It was also the first time that I’ve invested anyone using an alternative promise, our first scout is Muslim, so we used that version.The zoom session was pretty chaotic. We played pictionary, with a random word generator. Each scout took it in turn to draw, and their patrol had to guess. It sort of worked, but my connection was rather iffy and I had to join back in a few times.

Day 34 – Summer (term) is here!

It was the start of the new term today, although we were still all at home, except Tracy who was at work. I rolled out of bed very early and got in about an hour of work before the children surfaced, in fact I had to wake them. They were both breakfasted and dressed by 0840 when I started their school day with checking they were ready and knew what they were doing.

Back to School

Alexander had five new tasks set for him on his homework app, as well as four from before the holidays. He was really good at getting on with it and planning his own workload, I only had to check a couple of times over the day that he was actually working!

For morning break Alexander made bread dough and left it to rise until lunchtime. He’s been doing this frequently over the last couple of weeks. So he had flatbreads for lunch, and then used the remaining dough to make a small loaf.

Alexander made a small loaf at lunchtime. (Photo: James Kemp)

Lucy was following the timetable we did for her before the Easter holidays. She stuck to it across the morning while I was on a number of work calls. She read a book (Captain Underpants), did Purple Mash maths, and also the PE challenge where she has a sheet to do a set of exercises every day and record how many she can do of each in 45 seconds (per rep).

Rotten Romans

After lunch I spent two hours with her for two lessons, one on her topic (Romans) and the other on botany (AKA gardening). She had to write three questions to research, and she was really quick, they were:

  • When were the romans around?
  • How many Roman emperors were there?
  • Were the Romans involved in democracy?

She then decided to eschew the pile of books that I have on the table and look for her horrible histories Rotten Romans. She realised when it wasn’t on the shelf that she’d taken it to school and left it there. So she fired up the laptop and hit a search engine. She found the answers to the first two questions easily (from 753BC) and about 70 emperors (although she wasn’t impressed when Alexander asked if that was Eastern or Western). The third question was a bit trickier, and we ended up with a philosophical point about absence of evidence not being the same as evidence of absence, and how hard it is to prove a negative.

Lucy then did a timeline of the first eight emperors on a piece of paper, having decided that it was possibly too tricky for her to do in a slide show on the computer. Next time we have topic on the timetable we’ll be doing a Roman timeline, and Alexander and I have already suggested that while it might start at 753 BC it ought to include the three Roman Empires and go up to the 19th century.

Botany (AKA Gardening)

With the Romans played out we put our shoes on and went into the garden. The first stop was into the shed to see the seedlings that have sprouted since we planted them about two weeks ago. At the time we forgot to label them, mostly because I couldn’t find the jar with all the labels. So we had a look at them and tried to identify them. The onions and the lettuce were easy to identify, the former had one round leaf, and the lettuce had a pair of rounded leaves. The peppers and tomatoes are very similar looking, so we weren’t quite sure which were which, although it’ll be easier in a week or so when the tomatoes start to develop their distinctive leaf shape.

Lucy writing the labels for the seedlings we planted a couple of weeks ago (Photo: James Kemp)

Lucy decided that the plants needed some more water. So while the watering can was filling up from the almost empty rain barrel, she wrote the names on the plant labels. Once we’d finished watering the seedlings, not forgetting the sunflowers on the patio, we put the labels in.

There was only one more thing that Lucy wanted to do. She wanted to write on the patio doors with her new chalk pens. So I showed her how to do mirror writing so that what she wrote could be read from the other side of the window. I gave her a quick demo and she got stuck in.

Lucy practices mirror writing on the patio door so that we can read it from inside the house. (Photo: James Kemp)

It was three o’clock by then, and Lucy informed me that school was over. I went back to work for a couple of hours while Lucy played with the lego bungalow that she’d built.