Primary School Days

This morning I drove to Caversham Primary School - not to learn anything, but to be part of a live 3 hour BBC Berkshire broadcast about primary schools in Berkshire. Anne Diamond was interviewing a number of us who attended primary schools in the county. I was one of three who went to the school itself where the BBC had set up an outside broadcast. Others phoned in. All in all she managed to talk to at least one person from each era. (I related schoolboy stories from the forties when I was at Wescott Road School in Wokingham.) Others talked about their experiences leading right up to the seventies. During the broadcast we all sat in tiny little chairs in the maths classroom. The whole set up was completely different to the classrooms I sat in during my time. This is a corner of the classroom at Caversham.

And another view (taken by Nellie who apparently went to the same primary school as Anne Diamond.)

We all had a very interesting morning. Subjects ranged from girls 'big knickers' to sirens and spiders, and on to all female teachers during the war, glue pots, embarrassing little accidents at school plays, and pupils being lifted up by their ears as punishment! I took along a wartime gas mask which all of us children at the time had to keep under our desks for when the sirens sounded. We then had to dive down to the floor, put the gas masks on and curl up in a ball till the sirens sounded the 'all clear.'

Today is Tuesday and still no news about the Malaysian Airlines MH370 aircraft which vanished from radar screens five days ago. Having experienced an emergency on a Singapore Airlines flight just a few weeks ago I can readily empathise with the fear everyone on board must have felt when whatever happened to their aircraft occurred. Incidentally I received our first missive from the Accident Investigation Bureau of Singapore Ministry of Transport just the other day. In it they confirmed the door seal was worn and defective but not considered within technical limits. However when the cabin depressurised at 37,000 feet and oxygen masks were deployed, our aircraft had to rapidly descend to 18,000 feet until we were clear of the mountainous area. Then, as soon as we reached 10,000 feet we were able to remove the masks. The report stated that when the flight crew declared MAYDAY to Kabul Air Traffic Control during the descent there was no response. Another aircraft which was flying in the vicinity heard the MAYDAY call and relayed the message to Kabul ATC but still no response. The flight crew then intended to divert to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan but were informed that Ashgabat airport was not able to accommodate the aircraft, so we were then diverted to Baku in Azerbaijan. Upon landing, the report stated, the upper edge of the door was found to be damaged and the door skin along this edge had folded outwards which allowed cabin air to leak. It seems the aircraft is still (two months later) in Azerbaijan awaiting a new door to arrive from Germany,

So what else has been going on since I last wrote a blog. At least the rain has stopped and the river has gone down a lot. My young friend and I spent nearly an hour today scrubbing layers of thick mud off the landing stage. We could the see the damage the floods had done to the boat. It still has water in it - about an inch in the carpeted cabin and about six inches in the engine and central compartments. We'll spend time on Saturday bailing and sponging it out. If the sun comes out we might be able to start the drying out process.
I played 'Colours' - a fun game with snooker balls - at Phyllis Court on Tuesday. Surprisingly I played well and even made a few tricky shots and won my first game - but not enough to win the trophy. One day I'll make it. But then pigs might fly!
I'm working on three assignments at the same time at the moment - a large watercolour portrait for my cousin Paul which has a background of a fantastic cascade of lilac wisterias, two pencil drawings of children, and a large oil portrait of the headmaster. Being oil, I have to put the headmaster aside from time to time to allow it to dry, hence I'm able to alternate paintings.

Last weekend my young friend and I went to Suffolk to spend a couple of days with her parents. The weather was absolutely perfect - especially on Sunday when we basked in warm sunshine, so together with her mother we visited Kentwell Hall in Long Meltford. Lucy Norton, the author, described Kentwell Hall as "A little great house of great beauty - paradise on earth" And so it was. A beautiful moated Tudor home set in really lovely gardens and parkland.

Here's a row of fascinating examples of topiary.

And nearby someone has spent a lot of time making a work of art by carving into this tree.

As the house itself was not open on the day we visited, we could only spend time in the gardens and the outhouses. But what a surprise these turned out to be. Here are a few views from inside the moat house.

We found a sunny courtyard where we had scones, cream and cake. Helped by this very tame peacock who devoured the crumbs we dropped.

He gave me a bit of a stare when I finished my cake and had no more crumbs to give him.

Spring really seems to have suddenly burst upon us and as we left Kentwell Hall daffodils and blossom trees were everywhere.

Before leaving Suffolk we visited one of my favourite villages - Lavenham. It's described as England's finest medieval village. I just adore half-timbering.

And on the way back home we passed by a number of typical Suffolk houses - some painted in typical pink.

Back to the paintbrushes.