In Concert

April 17, 2011

We’ve been singing again, and I’ve blogged on the Choir’s blog, which I recently set up along with a proper website for them.



March 27, 2011

That’s a real American word for the title, nice.

Ella is definitely undergoing transition, from toddler to little child. There’s still plenty of proper toddler behaviour: the occasional tantrum or stubborn episode, weird application of logic, disregard for safety. I suspect, though, that some of those traits will continue long into childhood.

These days there aren’t a great many tasks that she needs help with. Her ablutions are one set, and eating is kind of another, with that she is mostly able to eat with cutlery but can be slow and so gets sped up by a grown-up stepping in. Therefore she has much more independence. She can even turn the television on!

Today contained a first, the sign of the developing school kid: she had her friend, Christabel, from school over for a play, and a trip to see a local amateur production of Alice in Wonderland. The girls had fun playing together and having lunch. I didn’t join them for Alice, and apparently is wasn’t much of a hit with them, so they had some milkshakes instead. For Hannah and I it was the weirdness of meeting other people who you have previously only known as ‘Christabel’s Mummy’ or ‘Christabel’s Daddy’. I’m sure all parents have to do that at some stage. It’s odd thinking of the people who your daughter is getting to know that you don’t. When I walk Ella to school she frequently points out other adults and says “that’s Eleanor’s Mummy” etc.

She makes the usual cute mistakes with some words or phrases, some of which stick. Examples of that include ‘water crystal’ for water pistol, and something else I meant to blog but neither Hannah nor I can remember. We’re working on trying to stop her saying ‘f’ instead of ‘th’ as well.

Also she has a lot more physicality now. There are her dancing lessons once a week, which help her with her balance etc. She will spontaneously break into dance at home, or when we’re out, such as Friday evening having dinner in The Pier View, a pub in Cowes, where she was dancing along to the music. She’s jumping across the sofas in the living room quite a lot, or doing frog jumps in her bedroom, and runs or skips quite a bit on the way to school. At one point she was trying to do somersaults.

So, as you’d expect (and I must have said in the past), changes continue.

Trials and Tribulations

March 15, 2011

It’s been a tough start to 2011 for Hannah and I, I believe. For both of us at work there have been some tough times; for me handling various management things that come around at IBM at the start of every year plus a good deal of what we call ‘plan churn’ over the past two months has been quite draining; for Hannah there have been a number of things at school that have been stressful. Add to all of this Hannah’s big operation that she had last week.

Back at Christmas Hannah had a big bleed in her right eye. It’s been a long time since I’ve covered Hannah’s eyes on this blog, but the problems related to diabetic retinopathy have never been far from our lives. Her right eye is not the best one, but the bleed made it nearly useless, and therefore judging distances became harder and reading etc was far more tiring. We had a couple of visits to hospital over the Christmas period, including Christmas Day itself, when the only option to have the eye properly checked was an air amublance to Southampton (the only reason that didn’t happen was because Southampton General wouldn’t have been able to fire up their diagnostic equipment). The long and short of that period was a big bleed that lasted pretty much until three weeks ago, so Hannah managed half a term at school with basically one eye. A while ago the consultant had diagnosed a cataract in Hannah’s right eye, and so she was put on the waiting list for the surgery and Hannah had pretty much chosen to have it scheduled this coming Easter. Events at Christmas brought this forward to last week.

I could describe in a lot of detail what has happened in the past week since the operation, but I won’t. The op itself took 2 hours, and was a combination of the planned cataract removal and lens replacement, and (warning on the next link, it’s pretty gruesome) vitrectomy and an unplanned freezing of a retinal tear. Hannah has had a lot of pain since then, as you might expect, with a hefty cocktail of drugs. She should have been out of hospital the same day, but had a faint in the afternoon after the op, and so they kept her in overnight, itself not an enjoyable experience for Hannah. After that she stayed with her Mum, Barbara, until the weekend, and my Mum, Clare, was here looking after Ella, so I could get off to work. Then on Sunday, Hannah had another faint, and so we spent a few hours waiting in hospital for a fairly thorough check that proved inconclusive. Therefore she’s been back with Barbara to make sure there’s a watching brief on her.

Today Hannah was much brighter than she has been, and is finding her vision improving lots, which is really good news. We’re expecting it to take 4-6 weeks for the after-effects of the operation to clear, so the progress Hannah is reporting so far is a real boon.

I’ve had Ella over the past couple of days, when not at work, and she’s been great. In the morning she does ask where Mummy is, but is happy enough with the explanation that she’s having a sleepover at Gan-gan’s. Ella has been fine going to school, and her usual self around the house when at home. When we were hanging around the hospital on Sunday she was very good, hardly complaining and playing with some kids in the toy area of the waiting room.


February 6, 2011

In a complete turnaround from my last post, we’ve had a great week of Ella going to school. On Monday, when Ma, a former childminder, takes Ella at lunchtime, she texted Hannah to say Ella had skipped to school. On Tuesday, we changed the morning routine, so that Ella got up of her own accord, about half an hour later than we’d been getting her up; we said there’d be no television before school, unless she went without crying; and to ease the trip to school (in case I’ve been force-marching her up the road and hill too quickly), I drove. This seemed to have great results, as she again skipped from the car into school, and apart from a wee bit of clinging at the door, she was fine when I escorted her into class. On Friday, again we let her get up at her own time (which does give enough time to get ready), she did television (because she’d been good) but I did have to walk, because on a Friday I go into work, and I don’t have time to drive home, park and catch the ferry. Nevertheless, she was very good again, even remarking when I was putting her shoes on at home: ‘I don’t want to be late for class’. The other change we’ve made, which Ella calls ‘lesser lunch’, is to put less in her lunch bag, with the aim of reducing the pressure to finish it all off at lunchtime, and increase the chances of reward from the teachers.

So a spectacular turnaround in behaviour, and a hattrick of good trips to school. I hope it continues, and Ella develops a more positive attitude to school and sees it as a happy place to go. There will be enough stresses and strains during her school career in the coming years, without the relaxed early years being difficult.

The Trial of Pre-School

January 30, 2011

Ella goes to pre-school 2 and a half days a week. I take her twice, for the two whole days she goes. As I mentioned in the previous post, she’s been quite resistant to going to school on many occasions. What is most strange is that once at school, she’s fine and enjoys it and plays with the other kids, doesn’t have any problems with the activities; it just seems to be the prospect of school and going there she doesn’t like.

This week has been a case in point. Monday was bad, I don’t know the details because Ma, who has often babysat for Ella, takes her on that day. Then on Tuesday she put on a right performance. Last week she wasn’t well, so she was trying to use this as an excuse on Tuesday, pretending to cough. She started crying when we left the house, and all the way on the 15 minute walk to school. She got worse when we arrived, and while I took off her coat and hat. Then, just as we were going to the door from the hallway into the main classroom, she pulled out a big fake cough, while crying, and choked and vomited. Very embarrassing, quite worrying, but I knew it was entirely because she was winding herself up. Fortunately I had a change of clothes, so got her changed, and wiped her face. There wasn’t a lot of ‘product’. I felt I had to persist, or she’d use the same behaviour in future. So I handed her over to her keyworker and legged it. I rang up the school later in the morning, and they said she was just fine, outside playing happily away with the other kids. Nice. I had been confident that this would be the case when I left her, because it always is.

Friday wasn’t dissimilar – crying when we left the house and all the way along the walk. This time I kind of gave in and gave her a carry. At least during that she stopped crying, but started again when we arrived in school. I also changed routine here, and rather than fighting to hang up her coat and bags while she stood by sobbing, I just chucked them on the floor and took her through to her keyworker, who Ella loves and calms her down quickly and gets her involved in something she enjoys. This was to avoid another chunder event, and it did work in avoiding a repeat of Tuesday’s horror. Again, once there she was fine and came home at the end of the day with a ‘Good Girl’ sticker, showing that she’d done well at school.

So it remains a mystery why she gets so emotional about going. Hopefully this isn’t a 400 evidence sheet on why we’re bad parents. We feel that now she’s going to school (even just pre-school), to stop now would give a bad message about real school. So we’re hoping something finally gives and Ella realises she likes school, and is happy to go.

Half a Year

January 23, 2011

I’ve been very quiet on here, apart from the toilet story (Ella still won’t go back to The Anchor), since summer. I’d like to say there was a particular reason, but there hasn’t, just the usual reasons of work, more interesting leisure and less interesting chores. A lot has changed though, and I thought I’d run through the headlines. If you’re reading this, then thanks for that, but the primary motivation is a reference for Hannah and I (and Ella one day). With Hannah’s little sister, Miriam, having had a baby back in September (an event missing from this blog), we get the questions of ‘when did Ella do this?’, ‘when did Ella do that?’. If pushed, we can refer back to this tome and get a feeling for an answer. So I’m filling in the last six months for our benefit, as much as for my readers’.


Ella has now done a term and bit of the top year of pre-school. She’s going more than before last summer, two and a half days a week. Two of those days are ‘Rising Fours’, for the kids in the year before Reception, where they do some words and numbers and games more about learning. School, while Ella enjoys the time she’s there and is developing well, is a real trial. Really that means getting Ella to school is a pain. She says ‘I don’t like school’, she cries on the way there, needs to be peeled off when we arrive (I take her two of the three days a week). This was at its worst during November and December, and has improved in the past week or so. I hope it continues to. Earlier this week we had our first report from her key worker, Lissie, and she was very complimentary, and happy with Ella’s progress and confirmed she was quite okay during school, so it’s something of a mystery why she’s unhappy going up there of a morning.

At Christmas Ella had an important role in the nativity play. She sang Away in a Manger as a solo, having done it the night before with the Choir. It was a cute nativity, very traditional, and all the kids had impressive costumes. Ella was a chief angel. Both of her performances of Away in a Manger were very good, considering her age. I’m afraid, that inline with several other kids, that she got quite upset after the play, and had to come home early.

In terms of her reading she recognises quite a lot of letters, and she’ll spot her name when written down, or any of the letters from it in other words. She can count at least to twelve, and into the teens and recognise a lot of numbers, as exercised with the advent calendar.

Terrible Twos Threes

She has developed a much more stubborn streak, and we’ve deployed the naughty step and used it quite a bit. Usually counting to three does the trick, and we go a while without needing the step, but eventually it builds and Ella ends up there, remembers she really doesn’t like it, and then it’s a while before the step is needed again. We get the stamping of the feet when she doesn’t like something, thankfully usually dispelled with a stern word. There have been incidences of rolling on the floor, but not recently. Christmas Day was quite bad when she refused to come for the meal, and sulked first in the living room and then her bedroom, and eventually came down when she was promised some potatoes to eat. Overall eating can be the trickiest. She often doesn’t want to eat much, and this is a problem at school where she takes too long at lunchtime and gets chivved along, which she doesn’t like. Breakfast is the worst, as I don’t think she is a morning person, and sometimes she basically has two mouthfuls of cereal or toast and that’s it.

Growing Up

Before Christmas we ditched night-time pull-up nappies. We do have a bed liner in the bed, because she does have accidents occasionally (indeed I had to stop writing this post to go and change the bed as she’d had an accident, but she’s not very well at the moment). Mostly at night she’s dry and uses her potty if she wakes up and needs a wee. She’s getting big enough that she can get on and off a grown-up loo, so she can self-propel herself to the toilet without any help, which is a nice development to not have to be changing nappies, or emptying potties.

Her eating habits still have a way to go. She’s stubborn about using cutlery, not quite having the co-ordination yet to reliably scoop without dropping food between plate and mouth. Therefore she often resorts to picking up food with her hands, unless is messy food, when she does use her cutlery.

She’s fully mobile. Back in summer we didn’t take a buggy to France, so that’s been a while when she walks everywhere when out. When I take her to school we almost always walk, and it’s rare that she wants a carry at any point, and it’s been a while since that’s happened. She is a bit careless, often tripping up, but mostly because she doesn’t look where she’s going.

In September she started a ballet class in Shanklin on a Saturday. She loves it, and comes out skipping and showing off new moves. It’ll help her co-ordination somewhat. Usually I take here, as Hannah is teaching singing, and before the town shutdown for winter we had a couple of pleasant Saturdays enjoying the seaside facilities.

Her current favourite TV programme is Fireman Sam, and she’s just started to sing the theme tune to it. While last birthday she was really fixed on Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), her plans for this year’s birthday are a Fireman Sam cake with all the firefighters on there.


As mentioned earlier, Ella got a new cousin, called Henry, back at the end of August (nearly September). She’s met him a couple of times, and was very good with him. He’s her first boy first cousin (confusingly my cousin has a son called Henry, who is older than Ella, who is also ‘cousin Henry’). Hannah’s older sister, Rachel, is expecting her first child later this year, so Ella will have five cousins soon. We had a weekend away with my folks and my younger brother, Douglas and his family, and Ella had great fun with her other three cousins. There was a disturbing point when we found Ella, Aliya and Lucy playing at ‘hanging’, which was quickly put a stop to. Other than that, they all played well together, and Ella is very much looking forward to seeing them again.

Granny (my Mum) still comes to visit often, and Ella stays with her Gan-gan (Hannah’s Mum) overnight once a week. Hannah and I went to Bath during the October week (part of Hannah’s birthday present), and Ella stayed in Granny’s campervan on the Island. There have been mixed tales from Ella about that, which is often the case with her, ranging from it being most fun and she wants to do it again, to it being boring.

I reckon that’s about enough for now. I’ll try to post more often to get Ella’s life story into more bite-sized chunks, and maybe add in some other topics too.

Solo Work

December 26, 2010

One of the original concepts of weblogs was for people to post their favourite websites and links, so I’m going make a post which is really just a link to a Youtube video. Earlier this month, the Medina High Community Choir had its Christmas concert (a sell out at Medina Theatre) and Ella had her first ever solo, singing the first verse in Away in a Manger. You can see the footage of it on Youtube.

Enjoy, it was certainly a proud moment for Hannah and I.


Time to Post

December 19, 2010

It’s taken a mildly traumatic event to get me back on the blog, which I thought readers might want to hear about. Fortunately it’s all done and dusted and sorted now, so nothing to really worry about.

Today Hannah wanted to pop out to the new M&Co shop in Cowes to do a bit of clothes shopping for the Choir Christmas meal tomorrow, so we all trooped out into the snow. Once she finished that she suggested stopping off in The Anchor for a drink, and then we decided to have dinner there. As we finished off our food Ella said she wanted the loo, so Hannah took her. A few minutes later Hannah returned and quietly said to me ‘Come and see this’. I expected to find something amusing had happened, but not sure what. In the Ladies toilet, one of the two cubicle doors was shut, and Ella was locked inside. Yikes. She wasn’t too upset, and for a couple of minutes we tried to explain to her how to unlock the bolt on the door, which was one of the traditional kind. Looking at the other cubicle, it was also of traditional stout build, which was worrying. These were proper cubicles too, fully closed off, so there was no going over the top or under the door.

Ella started to get upset, so I went out to ask the staff for some help because basically the only option was to knock the door down, which wouldn’t have been good without some ‘official’ involvement. Two lads came to help, and possibly this sort of event wasn’t a first in the pub. We told Ella to move to the back of the cubicle and sit on the loo, which she said she had done (we had no way of telling). She was doing a fair amount of sobbing, but certainly was far from being out of control. I had the first go at trying to kick the door, and it turned out to be quite tough. One of the lads apparently had prior experience of kicking down doors and also had a number of goes, but nothing was budging, except the door frame and the surrounding wall. Ella really didn’t like the noise so we were not very persistent.

One of the lads had the idea of a battering ram and they went off and returned with an empty gas cannister. This certainly gave the door a right good thumping but still it held firm. Ella didn’t like the noise of that at all, so it didn’t last long. At this point we decided to call in the professionals, and the staff called the fire brigade. One of Ella’s current loves in Fireman Sam, and I hoped the thought of being rescued by some firemen might help calm her down, but it didn’t really. We had decided to stop trying the door until the firemen arrived, and Hannah had a sing with Ella, which was actually quite upsetting in some respects with her little voice coming from behind the door.

So the firemen turned up, about four of them piling into the small toilet. They had a couple of meaty crowbars. The initial exploratory jemmying of the door wasn’t too successful, so two of them got involved and eventually the bolt popped and the door sprung open. Ella was obviously out like a shot to have hugs with Mummy, and it was quite emotional. Ella was sufficiently upset that she didn’t take particular notice of any of the Fireman Sams. She got some free ice cream and a round of applause from the patrons in the back room who’d heard all the banging and knew our little girl was stuck. Interestingly several people either said they’d got stuck in loos or had a sibling who had.

So in the end, we got her out. I never doubted we would, it was just a matter of time, but quite upsetting for all involved, and hopefully Ella won’t play with door bolts again before she works out how to unlock them.

Hannah’s Tour Round-Up

August 16, 2010

Hannah, as Medina High Community Choir Director, submitted a write up of the tour to the Ventnorblog, and you can read it here.

Last Day – Benodet

August 10, 2010

Well, at least the last day that properly counts. In order to give time to folks to pack and do some shopping, the departure for Benodet was set in the early afternoon. Hannah and I were travelling separately because we were going to bring back Ella from staying with her grandparents in readiness for the early departure on Sunday morning, as well as loading up her baggage. I spent the morning, as I think most people in the choir did, packing up our stuff. On Hannah’s behalf, I have to confess that we brought back an enormous suitcase of clothes that were unworn. To give the magnitude of the amount of clothes, it was the suitcase I took to the USA when I went there on 3 months assignment, so I’m talking lots of clothes. Hannah has many good excuses why she needed them, without actually using them. While I packed, Hannah shopped, getting presents for taking home as well as the last supply of water for the choir (something that was a daily run round the corner to Geant to collect in the car).

After that was done and the car was loaded, Hannah got stuck into writing the notes for her speeches before each of the songs at the evening’s concert. This needed a new set because Saturday night was our only Abba and Beatles concert. This did take quite a while, and we were off to Benodet an hour later than planned. When we arrived, Hannah went to talk to the owner of the campsite (Camping du Letty) where we were performing, and I went to my parents’ pitch. The choir arrived just before 2, by which time both Hannah and I were up at the L’Amiral bar where the concert would take place. Everyone unloaded the gear, and Simon and I considered the possibility of using the sound system in the bar. Unfortunately there were one or two sockets that we needed that were absent, or converters we needed that we didn’t have, so we used our own PA, as we had all week.

The rehearsal that followed was the hardest and longest of the week, I think. We must have started just after 2, and continued until about 4:45. ‘Does Your Mother Know’ took particularly long to choreograph and practice, and was most embarrassing. There were several new solo songs that needed run-throughs, and Finlay Lockhart and Cyrus (our young basses) were being very brave with their performance of ‘Something’, which was their first time singing. Chris Heath, another bass (and ‘slightly’ older than Cyrus and Finlay) was also going for a first, with his debut solo piece, with a rendition of ‘Michelle’. So there was a lot to sort out, as well as the PA setup, which was a lot different to the previous concerts because of the very different venue.

The point at which our lovely keyboards went crashing to the ground, narrowly avoiding crushing Richard Wiseman’s feet (our pianist), was about the only time there was silence. For some reason the keyboard stand gave way while Rich was playing (an Am chord, apparently). Everyone froze, I’ve no idea why, given we all knew what happen. I think it was to admire the shocked look on Rich’s face. Finally Simon and I move to help put the stand back up and make sure the keyboard was okay, which thankfully it was.

After the mammoth rehearsal there was time for dinner, which Hannah and I had back at my parents’ pitch, along with Hannah’s Mum, Barbara Holmes (soprano); her partner, Brian Wells (bass); Rachel; and also my littlest brother, Hamish and his wife, Christine, who’d flown in that day to start their holiday. Other choir members went to the campsite’s bar, took the walk into Benodet itself, or down to the beach at the campsite.

At 8pm, Hannah had arranged for the choir to assemble at the bar, with a drink provided by the choir fund, for the prize-giving. I’ve no idea what prize titles Hannah gave out, with such as ‘Bloody Good Bloke Award’, but she gave something to everyone and had some remarks for everyone on the tour, including the partners and groupies that were along with us. Everyone enjoyed this, as there was much laughter and clapping.

Finally we headed up to L’Amiral for the last hurrah of the tour, the Abba and Beatles concert. This really wasn’t a concert, because we were providing entertainment in a bar, so the atmosphere was quite different, with the audience chatting away, playing pool and buying drinks. Nevertheless, the performance was well received, with plenty of clapping, including along to some of the songs, such as ‘Ob-La-Di’ and ‘Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie’, which was reprised, complete with costumes, from its original outing back in the Choir’s concert in July 2009. Chris’s performance of ‘Michelle’ was particularly special, and Hannah had lots of people in floods of tears with her rendition of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’. Finlay and Cyrus successfully pulled off ‘Something’, in what was probably a seat of their pants performance.

Overall, as with the very first concert of the tour, this one had rough edges, but nothing that showed through to the audience, and it went very well, with the venue filling up throughout and being packed by the end. The campsite owner said it was the busiest it had ever been when they’d had entertainment in, and said that if we were back next year, then he’d book us for a straight week. Nice.

The final pack up was aided by free drinks for everyone in the choir from the owner. This time we were loading up a local bus, as Dave couldn’t do this one, in order to do the early run to St Malo the next morning. This driver wasn’t as confident as Dave, and needed some persuading before leaving Benodet to take his bus into the B&B car park. As I was driving Hannah and I’s car, I was back in Quimper before the bus, along with Rachel. Hannah and Ella went on the bus, with Ella requesting that the choir singing what she calls Inganyama, ie ‘Circle of Life’, this they did, and as they sang, she fell asleep, which must one of the best lullabies any kid can have. 🙂

All that remained before everyone could head off to bed (or if they prefered, a four hour drinking session before the 4:30am bus departure), was to transfer the equipment from one bus to the other, and it was goodnight Quimper.