It’s Lucy’s birthday and she was so excited that she woke us all up at 0530, not quite dawn because it was fully daylight. We had a pretty full on day, and there were an awful lot of pictures.
It’s Lucy’s birthday and she was so excited that she woke us all up at 0530, not quite dawn because it was fully daylight. We had a pretty full on day, and there were an awful lot of pictures.
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.
I also spent most of Saturday in the front garden, weeding the border, planting some plants and cutting the grass.
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.
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.
On Sunday morning we encouraged Lucy to microwave some marshmallows so she could see what happened.
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.
Another rainy day, and the forecast is for a couple of weeks of rain, although we had some sunny spells over the course of the day.
I was off today, and Tracy was at work. We played a bit with zoom backgrounds, did school work and took a breadmaker apart.
We’ve seen many people with fancy backgrounds in the zoom meetings we’ve done. However I couldn’t work out how to enable it. What I realised recently was that you can’t do it on a phone, nor on the Linux client. Out of the 11 devices we have that could run zoom only two aren’t android or Linux.
So we got a Windows 10 machine and turned on a single person zoom meeting so we could try them out. I was wearing a green t-shirt, and it became the zoom background!
We then worked out how to spot the colour, and made it blue like a room divider we had. Both Alexander and Lucy were wearing blue and they also blended in.
Disembodied heads and hands were a strong draw and made us all laugh a bit. We also tried a number of other things, like Lego marvel models, Alexander’s shield and a mug.
Once we’d had enough fun I hung a blanket so we’d get a full background next time we’ve got a zoom meeting.
For writing practice Lucy chose the option to write a poem with Hello as the first word. She did a plan, thought of all the rhyming words she could and wrote them in a circle. Then she decided that she’d pick a form. Once she’d done that she practiced it out loud and then wrote it on the computer because she didn’t want to keep copying it out when she changed it. You can read Hello on the earlier post today.
While she was doing that I also wrote a poem. Mine was a villanelle, a format I quite like, and which has a standardised rhyme scheme. Mine is titled Hello, Hullo, Hallo.
On Monday the breadmaker stopped spinning the paddle about ten seconds after we switched it on. The motor was still going, so it wasn’t completely dead. However I couldn’t get into it because I couldn’t find the U shaped screwdriver head.
Today the replacement U shaped head arrived. So Lucy and I undid all the screws on the bottom of the breadmaker (a Morphy Richards fastbake breadmaker model 48280 for the record).
It was clear from our initial attempt that the manufacturer didn’t intend for people to fix this themself. It was particularly awkward to take apart. We took five screws off the base, and used a screwdriver to separate the base from the body, but it wouldn’t come off.
At that point we were able to dislodge the control panel from the front plate. I also took the lid off, which was super easy. I guess they expected that we might want to wash the lid!
With the front panel off we could see more screws inside. Five more screws later, which were unscrewed through the hole in the fascia, and the front part lifted. It wasn’t free yet, but we could see that the drive belt had disintegrated. We could also see two more screws at the back of the breadmaker. They were behind the oven compartment and completely inaccessible.
Lucy decided that she’d seen enough and went off to build Lego. I watched a couple of YouTube videos. This included one that said the easiest way was just to take a Stanley knife to the bottom cover! I think that’s true.
I found another site that said to remove the seal round the main compartment. Once that was off the top cover just lifted off. This gave access to the last two screws. With both covers off I removed the fragments of the old belt. Then came the job of finding a replacement. All the branded ones were very expensive, about five times the price of the generic ones. However I couldn’t really tell from the online pictures whether or not they were compatible. Usually I’d have gone to a shop and had a look. But I couldn’t, so I bit the bullet and ordered the cheapest that would arrive in the next week or two.
We had another scout meeting on zoom. There were 14 scouts and 4 leaders online. Like last week I found the zoom connection unstable. Afterwards I realised that Alexander was playing an online game.
I ran a bit of it, questions on a segment of an OS map. I’d wanted to put the scouts into breakout rooms, but we didn’t set them up in advance. So instead we put them all on mute and let them find the answers individually. We then used the annotate function to identify the places on the map that answered the questions.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Being Tuesday I spent most of the day working while Tracy was off. Apart from me everyone else slept in until after eight o’clock. I was a bit slow to rise too, but was first up and made coffee and wrote in my work notebook about yesterday.
Work was slightly fragmented, but more broken up with meetings than anything else. I did manage to spend some time thinking about our roadmap to the end of the current emergency and being ready for whatever comes next.
In my lunch break I managed to email the parents of the ten new scouts that will be joining Woodhouse Troop of 5th Reigate Scouts. We were originally supposed to be starting on Thursday, which is St George’s Day. However we’re not allowed to meet face to face.
Our other scout troop has been using zoom to meet weekly for the last few weeks. So I had a couple of chats with Graham, the other scout leader, and we’re going to run some joint zoom sessions, starting tomorrow evening.
I’ve got an outline plan for face to face sessions. So if the lockdown lifts we can meet up face to face and do some traditional scout things, like having a campfire. I’m also thinking about planning a weekend so that if there’s an opportunity we can camp too.
I’m not entirely convinced that Lucy did much school work today. Her project seems to have been all about looking after people, she helped Tracy with some food bank collection.
As well as that Lucy built a fab wedding scene for her Lego people, including making a dress for one of her Lego mini-dolls with scraps of fabric. She also spent some time negotiating with Alexander to borrow some specific lego minifigures to play the parts at the wedding. These weren’t randomly assigned people, they were all carefully chosen!
As you can see from the pictures there’s an aisle, a celebrant and a congregation. There are some fab details in there!
Tracy made a fantastic gingerbread with lemon icing on it. I tried some of the plain gingerbread for my dessert after dinner.
We also had a fab dinner of Chicken kebabs with feta, Greek salad, piri piri rice, and couscous. There were also some wholemeal pitta breads.
We followed a usual pattern this evening. We all walked round the green in front of the house three times. Then Lucy went indoors to tidy away some of her Lego before starting her wind down for bed.
While we were out our neighbour spotted us and came to ask if we knew what the rules were about garden fires. Like us he’s got a huge pile of garden waste than won’t compost. We decided that if it’s done late enough that people won’t be sitting out in the garden and will likely have the house windows closed then it ought to be okay.
After our chat Alexander and I went for a longer walk round Merstham to get our ten thousand steps in. We managed 6km.
We were all off today. We didn’t do a whole lot, some shopping, sorting out school for next week, and watching movies. Breakfast for me was the spelt loaf with cheese.
We took a visit to Caterham for 11 today. Tracy had booked us a slot to visit Pedrick’s which is in the High Street. Pedrick’s is a new old-fashioned food shop. You label all your boxes with what you want in them and then the staff fill them. So we got some pasta, some wholemeal bread flour, plain flour, yeast, and some eco-friendly handwash and fabric conditioner. We also got some pick’n’mix and some fresh vegetables from local suppliers.
While Tracy waited for the Pedrick’s order to be filled I took a walk along to Waitrose with Lucy. We didn’t have a big shopping list, just some head and shoulders shampoo, and skimmed milk. While we were waiting in the queue outside I spotted some rosemary in the plants section, so I added that into the trolley. We also bought a Lego Friends magazine for Lucy, a couple of reduced smarties chocolate bunnies, and some chocolate mini-egg nest cakes.
No hats involved in sort out out what we’re doing about school for next week. Monday is the start of the summer term. So we had a chat with the kids about how we would go back to school work. We’re all going to sit at the dinner table during school time unless we’re doing practical stuff that’s best done elsewhere.
Alexander will keep on getting his work from the Go4schools app. He’s got RE and Computing to do for Monday, plus whatever English and Maths gets set on the day. One good thing is that he no longer has to do subjects that he’s not doing the GCSE for. So from Monday he only had English, Maths, Triple Science, Computing, Art and RE. We’ve also asked him to help Lucy with some of the science experiments that she’d like to do (for example making some home made vegetable dyes).
We also decided that since we’re not teachers, and we have our own jobs to do, that we aren’t going to try and work to a timetable or curriculum. The main concern is that Lucy continues to learn new things, reads, and is happy. So we’ve packaged up several things that the teachers have sent us into work for a day. We’ve also found all the educational books, and lined them up on the table. I’ve installed Scratch and a painting app on Lucy’s laptop.
Tracy made Lucy a cloak for her dressing up this afternoon. I thought it looked awesome.
Alexander made us Chicken Paprikash from the Binging with Babish book, and we also watched Civil War while we ate.
Tracy spent the day at work, and I had an annual leave day. This is the last day of the Easter school holidays and it rained just at the point when we were going to go out for a walk to get some exercise. Lucy also had a bit of a meltdown at that point and she had an afternoon nap while she calmed down. I suspect she’s been staying up a little too late and then waking up when it gets light in her bedroom.
As with most of the last week Lucy built and rebuilt rooms in a Lego friends bungalow. She also played out some scenarios in the bungalow between the building.
Today she talked me through the bedrooms for the family members. There were three, one for the parents with a double bed. One for their son, and a third for twin girls who had bunk beds.
Alexander and I finished off a two stage bread. Yesterday we mixed some self-raising flour with water and oil. Separately we made a loose dough of spelt flour and the sourdough starter. Today we mixed it all together, kneaded it for a bit and put it aside to prove.
At lunchtime Alexander made some flatbreads in a frying pan using some of the mixture. Afterwards he used most of it to make some pizza bases. We had pizza for dinner, and the remainder went in a loaf tin for later.
During the afternoon Mrs E dropped by with Lucy’s new green belt. She did testing over zoom earlier in the week, and is now the proud owner of a green belt.
We’ve had three broken spindles at the top of our stairs for some time. We’ve been meaning to go and get some from a DIY place but not quite got round to it. With the lockdown Tracy ordered some online and we’ve been waiting for a rainy day before putting them in.
So it rained this afternoon. While it did I got the tools out from the garage, measured up the spindles and cut them to size. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Once they were all in place, I dragged the vacuum cleaner upstairs to clean up all the sawdust.
The third book in John Scalzi’s latest trilogy got released earlier this week. So between all the other things going on I got stuck in to reading it. It’s pretty good, if you like science fiction I’d recommend it to you.
Today it was my turn to work and Tracy was off with the children. I spent most of the day on my work computer or on video and phone calls. Some of them were quite interesting, but I can’t tell you about them.
Tracy went out on a big shop today with Lucy. We’ve decided that Sainsbury’s in Redhill is clearly awful. Tracy went to Morrisons and it had plenty of everything that we wanted. There weren’t significant gaps in stock like the Sainsbury’s has, and it was much cheaper because Morrisons give NHS staff a 10% discount.
The other feature of today were a number of deliveries. Over the course of the day we had several parcels delivered
After dinner Alexander and I went on a long walk to burn off all the calories we’d eaten. We covered 4.5 miles and walked most of the way he went to school to the bottom of Frenches Road, and then back up along the A23 to Merstham station. When we were at the station a 12 carriage train pulled in. None of the doors opened, and when it pulled away we saw only three people in the whole train.
When we got in Tracy suggested Alexander try on his PPE.
The four day weekend is over, although the kids are still off school. Tracy was back on the ward, and I rolled out of bed and logged into my work laptop to catch up on what happened over the weekend before Lucy woke up.
Last night Lucy had decided to sleep under her bed, which I only realised this morning when she told me. She wanted a change and built herself a nest in the area under the bed. If you look closely you can see her bedtime reading, Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls. She’s gone to sleep in there again this evening.
My work was in three distinct phases. From 0700 until just after ten, and then from 11 until after half two, and then three until just before five. Lucy had a martial arts grading by zoom and a birthday party. In between those I read a lot of emails, and spent some time on the phone and video. Over the weekend I found an attachment to hold a mobile phone on a camera tripod. I fitted that to my mini gorilla tripod and am now using that for video conferencing.
Lucy’s friend Amalie, who lives round the corner, turned 8 today. Because of the lockdown she couldn’t have a proper party, so her mum organised one on houseparty. Lucy wrote the card out, and wrapped the present (Lego dots – a flexible wrist band with Lego studs on it that you can decorate with Lego pieces). Then we decided to go and deliver it in person just before the party.
We met another of Lucy’s friends on the way out. Lola and her mum had the same idea as us, and their car was parked in front of our house. So we waved and said hello for a minute. Then Lucy and I went round to Amalie’s house and left the present and card by the door. We waited at the end of the drive and had a chat with Amalie and her mum for a few minutes before going back home.
Once I’d got Lucy logged into the houseparty app on Tracy’s phone I hid in my bedroom so that I could carry on working. From the excited shouting coming from downstairs I’m pretty certain Lucy enjoyed the party. I only had to intervene once!
It’s Lucy’s birthday in a few weeks, and I needed to go to the Argos at the back of Sainsbury’s in Redhill to collect the present I’d ordered. We also needed a few things, including cheese, diet cola, pasta, flour, cotton buds and any cheap Easter Eggs that might be left over. Immediately after dinner I took Alexander with me to help carry it all.
We did OK on the Easter egg front, scoring four medium and one large egg for £5. I also found the pasta aisle had been restocked, although only with penne and fusilli. There still wasn’t any flour, but I found the paprika that we hadn’t been able to get last time, and everything else that was on our list, plus half price grass seed for outside my hut. We also got a video that Tracy said she wanted to watch and some sweets as small treats.
With the shopping done we collected Lucy’s present. It was rather larger than I’d expected!
Having spent most of the day behind my work laptop I needed some exercise. So I took the kids on four laps of the green in front of the house, and we had some fun with a ‘magic’ stick. Alexander pretended to be Boblin the Goblin and did a character voice and walk. Lucy turned herself into Vikki the Fighter from Carmena. I was Dad the Bad, and we each took a turn wielding the stick to chase the other two round the green. There was an extended roleplay story going on as we raced round at a fast walk.
Once Lucy had done four laps I took Alexander on a longer walk over the railway and back down through the rec to home. We got in about three miles. That gave Lucy enough time to be in bed so that we could stash her present in the garage.
The last thing I did, before writing this and going to bed, was to try to fix a couple of issues Alexander has been having with his laptop. His school uses Microsoft office 365 for the schoolwork, and go4schools to allocate homework. Alexander hasn’t been able to print to our printer and couldn’t open PDF files or PowerPoints from the browser. Each time he tries to open one (from a link in Firefox) it causes a cascade of new tabs. You need to kill Firefox to make it stop.
I installed a PDF reader to solve that issue and it was straightforward. I tried the same with a PowerPoint viewer but that didn’t work. It garbled the presentation. But I did discover that saving the file locally and then uploading to open in the PowerPoint web all worked fine.
Alexander’s printing issue from Office 365 is a feature, not a bug. The web versions are not as good at layout as the native apps. So they produce a pdf instead. You are then supposed to print the PDF from your preferred PDF viewer app.