For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Have Faith, Have Fun

I think this is going to be the longest blog I’ve written up to now. But there’s so much to tell.
Well, where do I start?
The church’s decision to chuck us out - because that’s what it boils down to - has started an immense surge of powerful energy. So many fabulous and wonderful things have happened in these past few days and there’s such a tremendous amount of support coming our way from all different directions, I just can’t stop smiling and grinning.
I almost - almost - feel guilty when friends phone up, genuinely concerned after reading my previous blog or having heard the news in other ways. So it’s time to let everybody know that we are fine, absolutely fine!!
First of all, in spite of the initial little and very understandable hiccup that first night, the family did pull together and we pledged a vow that we were going to put everything we had into finding the perfect place for all of us.
The support of my family, and especially my sister and soulmate M, is essential for me. She helps me believe in my own powers and strength, and in her own very special way she helps me stay in touch with the Guides on my Path.
The last thing I did before I went to sleep that night was post an email on the FOC list. By the next morning I had so many positive responses with practical and heartfelt support, it brought tears to my eyes. I really made me feel that I belong here.
It was only later that day that I realised that the idea of going back to Holland had only crossed my mind briefly, but never developed into an option. Now that’s special, because until recently I’ve had my doubts about whether or not to go back, especially since AL announced that she was. But it’s quite clear, to all of us, that we’re meant to be here and we do honestly want to stay here.

So on goes the story.
On Friday I phoned JC, our contact person in the estate agent’s, to thank her for taking the trouble to forewarn us about the notice. She did not have to do that, it was her personal decision. We’ve got to know her over the past couple of years and she’s a really nice person. I explained that we would do everything we could to be out of here asap, but that I couldn’t guarantee that it would be before the 27th of June, as the church wants. If we haven’t got a suitable place by then, we’ll let it go to court to see if we can get some extra time. I can’t see that being a major problem.
JC said that the whole thing had really troubled her and that she’d been trying to think if she knew any good houses for us. She’d thought of this one house where she’d been a while back, halfway Carlisle and Penrith, that in her mind would be ideal for us, only there was somebody in it. But then she came back into the office and she found this letter in her in-box, telling her that this very house would come empty soon and would she go and value it and then try and find new tenants for it!! She was practically breathless and couldn’t believe such a coincidence and I told her I’d stopped believing in coincidence a long, long time ago...
JC gave me the details on the house and said it needed rewiring and some structural work before it would be available. Also, she had no idea what the rent was going to be, but she would let us know as soon as she’d been there. And she would definitely recommend us as tenants to the owner...
Owen and Ken were away in Kielder and AL was still on campus, or I would have jumped in the car to go and see, of course. As it was, we (minus Owen) went to pick AL up from campus yesterday (Saturday) and the idea was to drive past the house - it’s reasonably close to campus - and just have a look at the outside and the area.
But when we got there - off the main road, onto a narrow country lane, onto a single track - we saw a couple of cars and vans on the yard of this absolutely lovely looking house. It was obvious that people were moving out. Ken and I looked at each other and the two of us got out the car. Ken went ahead and boldly asked if we’d come to the right house and yes, we had. My usually so (outwardly) unemotional husband then went on and told these people in a few words about our situation, that we’d heard this house was coming up for rent and that we’d just come to have a look where it was.
An ever so nice elderly lady came forward, introduced herself as the present tenant and invited us to come and have a look inside. I ran back to the car to get the girls while Ken chatted to her.

I cannot really describe the feeling that hit me when I saw the house, but I knew one thing: This has our name written all over it. To begin with the two blossoming trees (!!) in the garden. A huge garden, by the way, big enough to have the trampoline and a polytunnel, with enough space left to put up a few tents. It’s fenced all the way around, so the dogs can run free in it. At not even a hundred yards from the house runs the river Petteril and on the side of the house there’s another stream that comes out into the Petteril. There’s even the remains of an old privy alongside that stream, but I’m not sure if Owen would use that as the basis for a hut ;).
The house itself is spacious, with a large and sunny living room, a small study, a good sized kitchen, a big pantry and even a small cellar, three huge bedrooms and a smaller one upstairs, an upstairs bathroom with bath, washbasin and toilet. Then the lady showed us a bit that was added on the house for her husband when he became disabled. It was a utility room behind the kitchen with a door leading to a beautiful modern bathroom, with a real and very good shower!!
That was my one definite condition for a new house: a proper shower in good working order.
I’d already figured out that we could have one fitted in the bathroom upstairs, but this is so much better!
The house has Calor Gas for central heating, cooking and hot water. We will maybe miss the pleasant warmth of our Rayburn, but certainly not the smell and dust of coal all through the house. And gas is just so much more environmental friendly than oil and coal.

We walked around the house - ah, the view on the Lake District and Blencathra in particular !! - and talked to the lady and her family for ages. It turned out she’d lived there for 38 years and her husband had worked for the estate that it’s on. The house came with the job, and she’d been allowed to stay in it after he died just over a year ago. But it was too big for her, she said, so she was moving to a smaller house close to her children, who live locally.
She showed us the minor points of the house, too. Such as the huge cracks in the wall closest to the river, that had badly sagged and needed major structural work to it. That must be what they want to do before they put it up for rent again. And when Carlisle was flooded in 2005 this house was flooded too (not surprising with the river so close) and you can still see that in places. So all in all, it might technically not be a ‘beautiful’ house, but it suits us down to the ground. Maybe the fact that it’s in not such a good state - but still much better than the house we live in now! - will work to our advantage.
Eventhough in our way of thinking it’s close to both Carlisle and Penrith, it’s still off the beaten track and can only be reached by this rather long, single track that might get rough in winter. I’d imagine a family with schoolgoing children would think twice before moving there. And a couple without children would probably not so easily choose that spot either...
Even after the work to the walls has been done it’ll not be an easy house to sell (I don’t think even we would buy it, unless we had an extra 100.000 to spare on renovating) so the risk of having to go through another repossession is fairly small, I’d say.

All that’s between us and living in that house now is money. As I said, we don’t know the rent price yet. The son of the lady who lived there said he’d heard an amount mentioned that was twice as much as the rent we pay now. We couldn’t possibly afford to pay that, but... we might be able to solve that in another way. This household has two able bodied men, who aren’t afraid to do whatever work presents itself. Owen and Ken do lots of jobs on a voluntary basis for the Birds of Prey Centre, for Mr D and for other people. They like to do physical work, be it building, digging, fencing, chopping wood, or shifting heavy material. Labouring. Owen loves working together with his Dad and it’s the best possible outlet for everything that sometimes just doesn’t fit into his body.
The estate this house belongs to is absolutely huge and I’m sure there’s lots of work that needs doing. So first thing tomorrow morning we’re going to phone JC, tell us we went to see the house, fell in love with it and are available with more than just money to negotiate about living there.
If you haven’t got money, use magic and manpower. It’s an excellent combination and we have plenty of it available in our family.

It’s a bit scary to just put this all in writing and blog it. It’s tempting to wait and see IF we’re going to get it and IF we’re going to be able to pay for it, one way or another. But the times in my life when I’ve felt as good about something as I now feel about this house, things have always turned out really, really well for us. Sometimes not exactly in the way I’d envisaged, but always very positive and enriching.
Besides that, I really do believe in miracles and abundance.
They’re there for us to enjoy, if only we have Faith.
Have Faith, have Fun.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Never a dull moment, indeed

What have I created with my previous post?
I mean, writing about learning in motion doesn't mean that I want to be on the move again...
And yet, that's what's going to happen, and sooner than I possibly could have expected.
While I was in Newcastle hospital today, visiting Ken's dad who's still hanging on bravely, Ken got a telephone call from the agent of our landlord, the Diocese of Carlisle, giving us two months notice to vacate our house.
They want to sell it and they want it on the market empty.
According to the contract we signed over four years ago they have the right to do this.
So I suppose we have not much choice but to start - as from tomorrow - to look for an other place to live. Because of the short term we decided to tell the children straight away. Well, we don't usually keep things from them, but in this case I would've liked to be able to present it to them, and especially to Owen, at a moment where I could at least give a slight idea of what the future was going to look like. But now I haven't got the faintest...
All three of them - we phoned AL at campus - were in tears. Owen lost all control over the volume of his voice and was stampeding through the house like an enraged bull.
AL seemed to take the news rather well, but panicked and phoned back a few minutes later when it had dawned upon her that she would leave for her six week work experience in Holland in the last week of June and she wouldn't be coming back to this house...
Myrna had a good cry and was very upset about Owen's reaction, but then cuddled up to me and started making a list of all the things we would be looking for in a new house...
Ken seems to be totally paralysed, closed down. After taking the call he hasn't been able to do anything, he just sat and waited for me to come home. He had started repairing the damaged wall in the kitchen and had planned to do some repairs to the gutter in the yard, but has decided he'll not lift a finger towards improvement of the house anymore.
When Owen lost it, Ken lost it too and started yelling back at Owen. Of course I intervened and suggested he'd instead put his arms around his son... and a few minutes later he did... But it's so confusing for Owen...
They're so much alike in so many ways. Ken's never been diagnosed, but I'm sure Owen's Asperger Syndrome didn't come from the milkman. Anyway, my dreams of us as a family, pulling together and supporting each other through difficult times, tend to fall to pieces at moments like that. And I realise with such intensity that it's going to be mainly me who has to be strong and keep it all together. I can't help the feeling that I'm the only adult in the house at moments of crisis and this definitely qualifies as such.
At the same time I know we'll get through this. I am going to face it as yet another challenge, a process of learning. One way or another it'll make us stronger again, I'm sure.
But to be honest, I really, really would be just as happy without lessons like this. I wouldn't mind the odd dull moment.
Anyway, anybody out there knows a house for rent, for a family with three children who all need their own space very much, with two cats and two dogs? Preferably not in a built up area? And actually, both Myrna and Owen would really like to stay close to their newfound friends and their much loved activities, here in Cumbria... and AL loves her little job here...
I am reinstating the mantra that my sister wrote for me in beautiful handwriting and that I had next to my PC in Holland, the year before we left:
I am open to Miracles.
And the other one, too: I deserve Abundance.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Learning from a life in motion

As promised, some pictures of Myrna jumping on the trampoline. One of her many favourite pastimes. Quite a few of her friends go to trampolining lessons, and we’ve suggested that Myrna joins one of these clubs. But no, she much rather teaches herself by trying things out (after thinking about it carefully) and watching and asking her friends. She’ll never do anything rash or take unnecessary risks. I did hear and read all the warnings that go with a trampoline, and certainly with a big one like ours, but I’ve never felt I should install a safety net or limit her movements and exercises. We did however read through the safety instructions together, discuss and practice the different ways of breaking your fall, and try out what happens when there’s more people on at the same time. We also have a set of rules for when we have other (and especially younger) children visiting, but to be honest most of the visiting children are quite sensible about it, too. More often than not it’s the parents that know about all the horrible things that could possibly happen and they worry, so for their peace of mind we cite the rules before their children go on the trampoline.

A large part of education, in my mind, is observation. Only because I observe my children - with eyes and mind directed by my heart and soul - I have an idea of how to support their educational processes. What to offer them, what to ask them, what to say and what not to say, what to do and what not to do. That makes it as much a process of learning for me as it is for them.
Observing what the trampoline means in Myrna’s life and how it supports her learning process is like watching a good documentary. I could go on for hours and hours describing it all, but I’m afraid I’m the only one fascinated enough to read that. So I’ll just share the observations of the past few days.
Myrna can get really engrossed by her computer activities. Whether it’s dress designing, the Simms, talking to her friends on MSN, or some of the Manga sites she goes onto, once she’s into it, she finds it difficult to stop. But sometimes she has to, because she doesn’t want to spend all her computertime in one go - they have a Watchdog account with nine hours a week on it. She’s discovered that going on the trampoline helps her shift her thoughts.
She’ll start off jumping as hard and as high as she can, really tiring herself out. Then she usually sits on the trampoline for a bit, catching her breath and when I’m there talking to me about what she’s been doing on the computer.
The other day she didn’t want to go on the computer at all, because of the nice weather, and she spent ages trying out this new thing on the trampoline. Being a perfectionist she will not stop until she manages to do what she’s set out to do. This time it was bouncing forwards, which she hadn’t done up to now because she found it really scary. But she’d watched her friends do it, asked them about techniques and all that, and was now ready to give it a go. Because of the nice weather I was sitting in the garden, knitting, and I was treated to a running comment. She started on her knees, then went to a crouching position, then she went forward from standstill and finally from small and later on bigger bounces. She discovered that it was scary because ‘her eyes reached the trampoline before her body, so she could see this big black surface all the time’ and also because ‘it’s much softer and easier to fall on your bum than to have to land on your hands’. But: ‘I have to go through that fear and let my brain tell my body that it’s safe to do’.
It all went fairly painless, and after an hour (!!) she mastered it and was very pleased with herself. The next day, however, she had pains in muscles that she didn’t know had been involved, especially her diaphragm and stomach. So she got the “Body Book” out and we looked at how muscles and tendons were connected to each other, and how the shocks she thought she’d absorbed with her hands and elbows could have had an effect on these other parts of her body.
Another thing she’s been doing is jumping with a long pink ribbon and trying to work out how to make it go in circles and other patterns while she was doing summersaults and other jumps. She pondered on the difference in speed between the ribbon and her body and she figured out how to make the ribbon make the figures she wanted it to make. But mostly, she enjoyed it immensely. And so did I.

Our life is in motion in other ways, too.
Ken’s dad is in hospital and the doctors have told us that it would take no less than a miracle for him to come out alive. They said the same in November, yet he was home again for Christmas. He went back in in February, but was back home after a few days. But this time we all have the feeling that it’s much more severe. He seems so much harder to reach and sometimes he doesn’t recognise his wife J or Ken or his grandchildren. Then they found out he had some sort of infection in his brain, they changed his medication and yesterday he was sitting up when Ken came in and they had a good natter. So who knows what the outcome will be this time. We are just making the most of every moment he’s still around.
AL has spent her Easter Break at her granddad’s house to look after J, make sure she eats and has somebody to talk to and cry with when needed. Ken’s been driving up and down every other day, going in to see his dad, talking to the specialist, making sure AL and J are alright. Owen joins him every now and then, although it’s most definitely not easy for him to be in that hospital, if only because of all the smells and disturbing noises.
Myrna has decided she wants to think of her granddad the way he was when he was at home, before he got ill, and we cherish the memories of his visit to our house last November. Myrna writes him cards, makes beautiful drawings and poems for him and gives Ken lots of kisses to pass on to granddad.
Obviously this all takes priority over everything else. But we try and arrange things around it, continue the usual activities as much as possible.
Here again, I find it important to observe and to try and provide what’s needed per child. All three of them are very fond of their granddad and they love him as much as he loves them. He’s not been a very good dad to Ken, divorcing Ken’s mum when Ken was twelve and not making much effort to stay in touch after that. For many years Ken and he had a very strained and unloving relationship. We even lost track of him completely when he moved to Spain with J and their daughter A. But he came back to England after having had a heart attack. And then an old friend, who knew both Ken’s mum and his dad, told him he had two (at that time) grandchildren in Holland. Having been so close to the end of life then, he realised that he’d nearly died without even knowing his grandchildren. So he came over to see us in Holland and that was the start of the slow rebuilding of a relationship.
Our children, not burdened with the knowledge of all this history, loved him from day one. They stole his heart and melted the last bits of ice away. Since we’ve moved to England things have only improved and it feels as if he’s been trying to make up for not being such a good father by being the best possible grandfather.
It just goes to show you’re never too old to learn and to change your ways.
Life is always in motion.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Schools out, forever

It's just so nice to read a good, positive newspaper story on home education.
I highly recommend this article in today’s Guardian to bring a smile on your face!
Thank you and well done, Newstead family!

Friday, April 13, 2007

What a mess!

I’ve managed not to get involved for a long, long time.
I tried to keep to myself, do my own things, turn a blind eye.
But honestly, I couldn’t bear just standing by and watching things go totally wrong, so I finally gave in to this lingering and ever increasing urge and stepped in.
After all, my sanity and peace of mind is at stake here. And that of my children.
So, eventhough there’s a deadline coming up, I put my work on hold and went out there to do what had to be done.
After all, one has to get ones priorities right.

We made a start with tidying up the yard, the porch, the garage, the boiler room and the utility room.
For months and months now, Ken’s been meaning to do it - or so he says. The idea was to create more storage space by throwing away all the unwanted and/or broken stuff and tidying up the rest. But every time it looks as if the moment is right, something else pops up that just can’t wait and has to be done at that particular moment.
The problem is that if any member of this family - except me, of course - has something they have no immediate use or need for, but don’t want to throw away - because, oh no, we don’t throw things away, you never know when it might come in handy - they’ll dump it in either one of the abovementioned places. Isn’t it wonderful that we have this huge place with so much storage room?
Yes, wonderful. But our family - and especially Ken - have this special talent to fill any space in no time. Because Ken’s mainly in charge of the household I make a genuine effort not to let it bother me. But last week even Ken thought it was getting to a point where ridiculous was the only way to describe the state of our storage rooms. I think that was after he’d spent hours searching for a particular attachment for the hosepipe that he was sure should be in the garage... or in the boiler room... or had he seen it in the utility room?

So with the help of Owen and Myrna he made a start. And because of my deadline I was excused from this Mission Impossible. But I couldn’t help noticing that within no time the children were doing their own things again. And every time I went in to see how Ken was doing, this huge pile of undefined stuff would be in another place and Ken would be engrossed in something totally irrelevant in my eyes. I’ve been told that that’s a man thing, but the only other man I’ve ever lived in the same house with was my dad, and he was the most tidy and organised person you could ever meet.
Anyway, yesterday, I couldn’t bear it anymore and I rolled up my sleeves - and later took of my fleece altogether - and starting doing what I’m good at. Ordering people around and putting together a plan of what had to be done first and what could be left until later. And within a very short time the yard was filled with carefully sorted heaps, and that was only half the contents of the garage and porch, and the things that were packed on top of the fridge and the cupboard in the utility room. Then I got the dreaded black bags out and committed a great crime in the eyes of Ken by throwing away everything that was too filthy to even consider cleaning up, too eaten up by the mice, too far beyond recognition even for Ken to know what it was and several other items that came apart as soon as I picked them up.

The Mess Master Amazed

The rest was put in mouse-proof boxes or returned to the place where it should be living. Needless to say we retrieved quite a few missing items... At the end of the day even Ken agreed that 'de-cluttering' is a good thing to do and he could see the advantage of being able to move around in the garage. Also, the porch and the utility room looked so much lighter and brighter now. Luckily it was rubbish collection day today, and the other good thing is that we haven't got a limitation on the amount of rubbish we can put outside (yet).

Here's Old Faithful, contently grinning at the results of a day's hard work

I'm sure at least some members of the FOC Washing Line Fanclub will agree with me that this is a far prettier sight than a yard full of rubbish... eventhough I'm way beyond the point of nappies...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Intentional lurking

For those of you who wonder about my new welcoming message, here’s a brief explanation.
My knowledge of the English language has recently been extended with the term ‘lurkers’. I think it sounds like a dirty word, and that does seem to concur with the overall association. Personally, I don’t mind at all if people read my blog without leaving a comment. In my very first post I’ve shared my intentions about my reasons to start this blog. Up to now I’ve only had very positive response and I’m quite enjoying the whole thing. It works for me as I hoped it would work.
Now it has been brought to my attention that some of these lurkers are people who spend time - and some of them even taxpayer’s money! - reading home educators’ blogs in an attempt to find ways to approach our children without the parents being present.
If that is true, I think it’s sick. I really find it very hard to believe that any sane or well meaning person would do such a thing. Anybody who would stoop to such methods could not possibly have even the slightest bit of positive intentions and I’m convinced that justice and/or the law will catch up with them, one way or another.
I don’t intend to give this phenomenon any more attention than it deserves, but I also think it’s not a bad idea to be aware of the fact that there are some confused people wondering around on this planet. So we’ve discussed it with the children, we’ve made sure that they know what to look out for and what to do in case anybody asks them anything else than the way back to the civilized world (which happens occasionally around here...). Just as we teach them other useful things to help them get by in the world in a sensible, healthy way.
Oh, and just in case there’s anybody lurking out there who wants to find out more about me or us than this blog tells them, please do not hesitate to let me know! I’m always happy to meet new people and to share thoughts and ideas.
In the meantime I’ll happily continue blogging as before, with the most powerful of protections in place!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bunnies and Hares

Maybe one day, one year, I'll do an extensive blog about the symbolisms surrounding Easter. There are so many and they tell such interesting stories about different cultures, different beliefs, different people.
But this post is only about our personal Easter symbolisms. It takes a bit of explaining, so if you'll bear with me...
In Holland there is no such thing as an Easter Bunny. We have an Easter Hare. For different reasons, that I'll not go into now.
About thirty years ago (waah, yes, that long!) I met Ken in a pub in Arnhem, where I used to work weekends and holidays at that time. The pub was called Café 't Haasje, which means as much as 'The Hare' (no hounds involved). It was an English style pub, residence of the Storyville Jazzclub.
In March 1979 Ken and I got married in a free registry-office wedding, no special wedding dress, no big reception, no big crowds. But we did want to throw a big party and the owner of 't Haasje kindly offered us the use of his pub.
It was wonderful and very special to celebrate our wedding in the place where we'd met.

The invitation we sent out for this party had a beautiful drawing of a hare on it, and we were given quite a few hares in different forms and shapes as wedding presents. One of them was a mould of a hare, and I'm sure it was meant to make the traditional Dutch 'speculaas', a type of spiced biscuit. But although it has been a centre piece in our kitchen for all those years, I've never used it.
So now you know what special role the (Easter) Bunny/Hare plays in our lives...

For the past couple of years Owen has been trying to use the mould to make a chocolate Easter Bunny/Hare. He didn't want any help with it, he had his own ideas about how to do it. Somehow they never came out as he wanted them too, but luckily he'd find comfort in eating the results...
Last year he took the mould to a chocolate making workshop and tried to make a one with milk, black and white chocolate at the same time. The person who gave the workshop tried to instruct him, but he said he'd rather do it 'his own way'. We had a very interesting chocolate jigsaw bunny/hare for Easter.
This year Owen decided to do it differently. He phoned his Granny and asked her advice. Then he melted milk chocolate only, made sure the mould was in a stable position, closed the bottom end with alufoil and then carefully poured the melted chocolate in.
He left it overnight in a cool place and made sure it had set the next morning. Then he poured steaming water in the ovendish that he'd used to stabilize the mould, held the mould over it for a few seconds and - lo and behold! - a perfectly shaped milk chocolate Easter Bunny/Hare came out! In one piece!
He's every so proud and asked me to take photo's. So I did. And as I now know how to blog them, I'll share them:).

The master at work. The melted chocolate has been poured into the mould and is being straightened.

The fantastic result and the mould it was made in.

The problem now obviously is: What next? As much as Owen likes chocolate, he can't really bring himself to eating this Easter Bunny/Hare. But somehow, I'm sure his love for chocolate will win. After all, he's got these beautiful photo's as a reminder.

Oh, and the educational value of all this? Well... clearly that would be that learning through trial and error is all very well, but sometimes there's nothing wrong with asking the expert help of someone who's done it before... ;;.)))

But we don't need to tell Owen. He's found that out all by himself.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Down by the riverside

Today's HE was all about how to make the most of a good moment. Of a good day, really. We did the same yesterday and everybody thoroughly enjoyed it, so in true autonomous learning spirit we decided to do it again.
After the early morning household chores, reading, maths, biology and music we opened front and back doors and went out into the sunny garden. The past couple of days we've been busy raking and burning leafs and trying to get the garden back into some state of presentableness.
Last Thursday Granny brought one of these leaf-blowers and all the sudden there were these huge piles of dry leafs, that burned really well.

Here's my boys (Ken on the right and Owen) creating a magical atmosphere in our garden. Myrna helped a bit too, but was on the trampoline most of the time. Next time she goes on I'll try and get a good picture of her jumping, because I didn't get a one today. When the girls (AL and her friend M and Myrna) came back from their walk with two dirty dogs, we went to the river, as I wrote in my previous Old Faithful post.

The dogs really love it down there, as you can see in this picture:

The only problem with taking both dogs is that Lagsi, our Icelandic Shepherd, barks incessantly. Well, it's not barking really. It's a nerve racking high pitched yapping. He can't help it apparently, it's a trait of the breed. But it drives everybody including Bobby (the black dog - not a Labrador but a mix between a Belgian shepherd and a Dutch Spaniel type dog) absolutely bonkers, so after they'd had a good run and swim I drove Lagsi back home to Ken, so they could watch the fires together, and then I quickly went back to the river. Bobby had stayed with the children and guarded them with his life, of course.

AL and M had brought a mat to sit on, the box with colouring pencils and sheets with mandala's, so they sat in the sun doing that, while Owen climbed trees and dug up treetrunks together with Bobby. Myrna went scouting down the river for nice looking stones and discovered the remains of a little lamb, that probably long ago had got lost and drowned in the river. When Myrna reported her finding in great detail a discussion started about whether it was or wasn't a skeleton, because you could still see the wool on it. They came to the conclusion that it could only be a skeleton when there was no meat on it, so Owen and Myrna went to prod the lamb with a stick to find out... Yuk!

This autonomous learning can sometimes get really disgusting, because the smell of the dead lamb started Myrna off developing this theory about why farts smell the way they do... and you know what, she was dead serious about it too! I wouldn't be at all surprised if that girl is going to be a pathologist or something like that one day. She just loves to dissect little dead beasties (plants too) to study them under the microscope.

When Owen climbed in one of the trees, he found a fishing hook with some wire attached, stuck in one of the branches. Another addition to the treasure chest. Luckily the tree wasn't very high, because when Owen hung on the lowest branch it broke off... the tree was quite dead... but Owen landed on his feet and Bobby was so happy with the dead branch that we took it home with us.

All in all we had a wonderful feel good day. The rest of the family is watching a film together now, giving me a chance to do some work... and blogging...

Old Faithful

Yeah! I just discovered how I can blog photo's and I'm going to give it a try today.
And the first picture can only be of Old Faithful, who's been with our family for nearly eleven years now, right from birth. He's never ever let us down. Only when there was a slight chance that he was going to be left in Holland. Then he went on strike, refusing to continue his services for us. I pleaded with him, but not until I promised him that of course we would take him to England with us and of course I would ask Ken to treat him gently - Ken tends to have a very heavy left foot - only then did he get himself into gear again and carried on as if nothing had ever been wrong.
The dogs love him to bits. When I take the dogs to Old Faithful they know we're going to have fun. Like today. Today Old Faithful took us all to the river Liddel, about two miles down the road from here, the border between England and Scotland. It was such a beautiful day and the girls had already taken the dogs for a long walk. But Bobby had found a ditch full with frogspawn and jumped into it. He stank so badly that I didn't want him in the house like that. Good Old Faithful had no hesitations about taking the dogs to the river and didn't seem to mind the smell - he smells quite badly himself when he gets started, to be honest - so off we went.

Well? What do you think? He doesn't look his age, does he? He sounds it, though. There's something not really well with his clutch plates, so every time we change gear he wheezes like the old man he really is. But Malcolm, our wonderful local mechanic, has promised to have a look at it. He thinks he can fix it. We're just keeping our fingers crossed that it's not going to be too expensive. But if we do have to decide to not have him repaired we have promised we will not part with him. We've booked him an old git's slot in our own yard, where he can stay and undoubtely be used as sleepover place or birdfood storage or whatever else we can think of. After all he's seen and done with us - his counter is nearly on 300.000 kilometers - we just couldn't bring ourselves to dumping him.

So here's to Old Faithful and all the adventures we've been through with him! May we enjoy him for many more kilometers and a long, long time!