It feels like spring. Which is odd, inasfar as March is normally the month when we expect the last big dump of snow. In fact there have been no big dumps of snow this winter, and it’s all a bit unnerving, especially since there hasn’t been very much rain either. Our water-collecting equipment, which to begin with was fairly Heath Robinson-ish, is starting to get a little more sophisticated, but that doesn’t make a lot of difference when there’s no water to be had. So in effect we’re languishing under the Coldhome equivalent of a Hosepipe Ban: plenty of cooking and drinking water, adequate amounts for washing-up, though it’s better if you just lick your plate; but as for washing, of self or clothes, forget it mate, you’re living in the Post-Apocalypse now….
But hell, who needs to be clean? We had some pretty perfect days before the drought kicked in, though as it got really dry the winds got more biting, especially south winds for some reason (the Cairngorms, maybe). What’s more, the hens, undeterred, have started laying again (considering their advanced age, we get a fair amount of eggs, though Maddy is determined we are going to have chicks this year, even if it means nailing the selected mothers down to their nests). Also, I have sold our first trees from our mini-nursery, which has put a proper spring into my step, though it does mean that, apart from a handful of rowans, hawthorns, junipers, and a few scots pines, our selling stock is now at seedling rather than sapling stage: too tiny to be allowed to leave home.
I did mean to get working in my little Study earlier than this, but the spring in my blood has only this week finally led to my broaching this particular barrel, opening this particular can of worms….
The Mulhollands bequeathed us their old touring caravan, seeing how they don’t tour so much en famille any more, and after Dru had had it for a couple of winters (when we get on top of the technology I’ll put in a picture of Dru’s Caravan in Winter), I got the use of it for my own nefarious. Finally – a study of my own! No-one comes nigh and lives. All Mine.
It leaks. So – this was last summer – I slung a wooden frame over the top of it, got some straw and thick rubber onto the frame, battened down the hatches for winter, and then whenever possible started barrowing earth and grass up and plonking it on whatever rubber the gales had left intact. The rotting walls of the interior I shored up with our favourite building material, cobb (Coldhome’s stony clay mixed to mud with straw and water), and put in plenteous shelves. A table installed, I was then supposed to get on with the business of writing – there and only there.
First problem: cobb walls make for a very damp atmosphere till they’ve dried. I would nibble at the little kale seedlings that sprouted out of the walls to greet me. Second problem: I decided I ought to line the little cupboard with wool, for insulation, and store our seed potatoes there, a job which took up a lot of early December (last winter, half the seed potatoes got killed by frost, but we had no frost this year, apart from one night, and on that sole night I somehow left the door wide open – but the seeds still suffered no harm). Then Santa Claus got the lease of the caravan to store his stuff in. Then, after Christmas, the sub-arctic darkness had really got into my soul and it seemed much nicer to snuggle up in bed to write rather than having to trail outside into the cold dark and the empty desolation of the caravan. Then in the Christmas holidays Annie and Rachel decided it was finally time to clear out the himalayan pile of “stuff” stored in the top end of the big shed, and guess who most of it belonged to – and guess where it had to be taken off to?
So, finally, in this spring-like March, I’m getting round to organising my caravan, which still leaks a bit, seeing the rubber on the roof is a bit skimpy, and whose mounds of “stuff” are so, well, sub-himalayan in proportion that I don’t envisage much more than a paragraph being produced in here before the autumn.
But it has to be done. On day one, I attacked the various folders of stuff I’m supposed to use in my part of our home-educating deal with the kids. Many folders, many loose sheets, many poly-pockets, all bursting with fine educational fillings. What great ambitions I had – and how paltry what we actually get done, and with how much effort and slithering-out-of-the-inevitable on the part of the young ‘uns…. Here’s a volume of – no, I’ll write about that in my next blog, when I finally (I hope) get round to including a Story. If I go off on that particular tangent this time I really shall be in trouble with the ever-watchful Anna.
Here, more to the point, a list of words I’ve been looking for for Ellie.
Ellie, at six, still shows every sign of being the real academic type. Very articulate, very sharp, picks up and remembers everything she’s told. But reading and writing and numbers….. Well, Annie says she’s still very young. Boring, that’s what it is: getting into the nitty gritty of learning how to put a word together, why should she bother, when she’s surrounded by a constant stream of interesting information, always someone on hand to tell her stuff or read her a story, or DVDs for the odd hour when she finally acknowledges that her tongue needs a rest.
This word-list means that phonics (they sounded like the latest educational flavour-of-the-month anyway) have been firmly chucked out of the window (Ellie still doesn’t acknowledge any difference between a letter and a number), and out have come the old vowel-stories I did six or seven years ago for Maddy. They were designed to help guide her through the vagaries of vowels in the English language. They might have been successful in that, who knows? Maddy has never answered a teacher-style question in her life, or made any comment, critical or otherwise, about anything like a story, but as she’s one of those who read to Ellie nowadays, I suppose she must have picked something up from somewhere….
The vowel stories essentially mean, from Ellie’s point of view, a whole load of story that imparts a very small chunk of serious information, which is right up Ellie’s street of course. And in fact right up mine too, because the words of the titles have actually become the basis for her to learn to read some words. She’s even analysing them herself now, breaking them down into phonic components.
So, like everything else in home education, doting parent can claim no credit. If Ellie is idiosyncratic, then you should see Gwyn, whose self-taught reading skills date from when he decided he was going to read the Bible from cover to cover – an edition with the tiniest possible lettering on its close-packed pages. We finally realised it had to be the Bible because no other work of literature could possibly have scandalised his mother quite so deeply.
But back to the vowel stories – which, because they’ve never been properly written up, we’re going to try and present in audio form. Rather low production values, I fear, but, well, this is the Internet – and it’s free. There are five stories in the initial flight, The Ape and the Apple, The Eagle and the Egg, The Island of the Imp, The Old Man and the Ostrich, and the Unicorn and the Ugly. They got longer as I warmed to my task, all those years ago, so the first, The Ape and the Apple, is quite short.