Home schooling and Zoom classes have been a regular part of our home life for many weeks during the coronavirus lockdown, but yesterday I had the new experience of actually teaching a primary school lesson from our dining room table by video call.
Going into schools as a Salvation Army Officer is something I’ve always enjoyed; either leading an assembly, taking a class, or simply attending an event. Fortunately, it’s something I can continue now I’m retired. So I was pleased to be invited by a friend to teach a Reception Class at Morgans Primary School, Hertford.
I spoke about the Salvation Army and Easter, answering questions such as: Is it a real fighting army? Why are there so many celebrations and holidays around Easter? Is the Easter bunny a Christian thing?
It seemed to go well and I look forward to further opportunities in the future, and hopefully in person at Freddy and Matilda’s school when life returns to normal.
Note: It was the first time I’d used Google Meet and I preferred it to Zoom.
On longer evenings, Light, chill and yellow, Bathes the serene Foreheads of houses. A thrush sings, Laurel-surrounded In the deep bare garden, Its fresh-peeled voice Astonishing the brickwork. It will be spring soon, It will be spring soon — And I, whose childhood Is a forgotten boredom, Feel like a child Who comes on a scene Of adult reconciling, And can understand nothing But the unusual laughter, And starts to be happy.
Since moving to Teesside (strictly speaking back to Teesside) I’ve been making a list of places to visit, and this wood was somewhere I discovered recently. Naomi is out with Pollyanna today, so I decided to take Freddy and Matilda. We only had time to see a small part of the wood, so we’re sure to visit again.
Visit this vibrant woodland habitat, bursting with wildlife for you to discover. Coatham Wood, found near Stockton, is a newly planted community woodland, with the first trees planted in 1999. The mosaic of broadleaved and conifer trees, as well as ponds and meadows makes Coatham a great habitat for all kinds of wildlife. Look out for newts and dragonflies around the ponds, or you may spot a deer grazing in one of the open areas. All 5 native species of owl have been spotted around the woodland.Forestry England.
Whilst acknowledging the need to tread carefully and sensitively in any comparisons between the Second World War and the current coronavirus pandemic, I believe there are some useful ones we can make to help us in our thought processes and thereby benefit our collective mental health.
VE Day in 1945 reflected a victory over a visible enemy, although also an invisible enemy of evil thoughts and ideas. The enemy we face now is totally invisible and does not care one iota for those it harms. Fake news is not new, they faced it back then; had they had social media, that would simply have been another front on which the war would have been fought. Today, not only in the coronavirus pandemic, we face a war against those who would deceive us. We need to guard our way of life against those who would lie to us, who seek to destroy the freedoms won for us then.
The Second World War was marked by terrible suffering, the like of which is hard to process, along with the inhumanity of it all. Today, many have been devastated by an invisible enemy, and we pause to remember the lives lost and the families and friends grieving.
Back then the world faced life-treatening jeopardy and, for many today, this is the first time we have faced real jeopardy. Yes, I remember the Cold War, but that’s the only threat that comes anywhere near what we face today. There’s fear and anxiety everywhere, and so we need to affirm, encourage and support each like never before. It’s the same for everyone, yet we all have unique circumstances and all react individually.
Back then, not everyone was celebrating, and for those who were it was only a brief celebration. The world faced an uncertain future and there was much rebuilding to be done, it was many years until food rationing was eased for example. In our own time, we might celebrate relaxations to the lockdown, but we still face the reality of an uncertain future and the prospect of rebuilding society. Then it was a collective experience, so it is today and will be for us. I’m neither being optimistic nor pessimistic; just realistically reflecting that there’ll be much to do in the coming weeks, months and years.
Today we celebrate the heroes of yesterday’s battles, but we also celebrate the new heroes in the NHS and all the key workers fighting a very different battle today. Come to think about it, the creation of the NHS was one of the great rebuilding efforts after WWII, and we are reaping its benefits today.
Who are you celebrating today? What can you do to help and support someone today and in the uncertain future?
Postscript: Today is ‘Victory IN Europe Day’, not ‘Victory OVER Europe Day’ as some history revisionists are suggesting for their own agendas.
Note: I chose the photo for this post because it reminds me of my two youngest girls, Pollyanna (2) and Matilda (3).
A change from nature photos today. Freddy decided he wanted to stay at home with Naomi, so off I went for a walk with Matilda and Pollyanna. Even though there’s a coronavirus pandemic lockdown, we had a great time. Much needed exercise and natural therapy.
As parts of South America witness a total solar eclipse, I’m reminded of the day in August 1999 when I fulfilled a boyhood ambition of witnessing one.
As I travelled down to Devon from South Wales (the eclipse was only going to be total in parts of Cornwall and Devon) I really started to capture the excitement when I stopped at a Service Area on the M5, as there was something of a party atmosphere.
I eventually parked on the waterfront at Kingsbridge, near some good public conveniences that were open 24 hours, and attempted to get some sleep in the car. Waking soon after 4.00 am I decided to make my way the coast, heading for Slapton Sands. I arrived at about 5.00 am and was totally unprepared for the level of traffic and activity going on.
There were some quite large car parks, and I managed to get one of the last spaces. It was right next to the beach, people were sleeping in cars and vans, in tents, and in sleeping bags on the beach itself. As it started to get light, there was no way I was going to get any more sleep, so I decided to get the bike out and go for an early morning cycle ride. There was a great buzz in the air; it was one of those occasions when people were drawn together by a shared experience, strangers found it easy to talk to each other. Telescopes, cameras and the like were being set up on the vantage points, and the smell of cooking was hanging in the air. By this time the authorities had closed off the car park entrances, and the refreshment vans were doing brisk business.
By about 8.00 am the traffic had become even busier, but there was nowhere to go, no sooner had people parked half on the road, half on the grass verges, they were moved on. Fields were opened up for the cars, but these eventually filled up, and still the cars were coming, causing chaos in the narrow country lanes.
I managed to see the eclipse at various stages, up to about 70% covered, but then the threatening darker clouds came and obscured the view, but nothing can prepare you for the experience of totality, and it’s impossible to adequately describe in words.
the approach of darkness the drop in temperature the quietness that descended on the crowds the expectation the moment of totality the darkness during the day the birds flying off the applause of the crowd
Because of the cloud cover, I saw nothing more of the eclipse as the Moon finished travelling across the Sun, although the Sun did break through later on.
And that’s my experience of the eclipse, something I will never forget. I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t actually see the full eclipse, but I experienced something equally unique; it was moody, eerie, and atmospheric, to be under cloudy skies when the shadow of the Moon travelled overhead at nearly 2000 mph, a very British eclipse.
Having children is a huge joy, but it’s also a sacred responsibility. Sometimes, though, it’s just the simple things that make a great difference in a child’s life. I saw this poster in my local surgery and it really speaks for itself.
The exclamation ‘Eureka!’ was allegedly uttered by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes as he got into a bath and noticed the water level rise, suddenly realising the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body submerged. Consequently, Eureka (Greek: Εύρηκα) has become an interjection used to celebrate a discovery or invention.
It’s also the name of The National Children’s Museum in Halifax which I visited with my family today. We first visited earlier in the year, but thought it was about time for a return visit; especially because you ‘pay once, then play for a year’ with an annual pass. There’s lots of interactive fun for all ages of children, and adults are not admitted unless accompanied by a child – so it’s a safe space.
The focus is on learning through play. It’s run as an educational charity and not-for-profit organisation. It’s aimed at families with children aged 0–11 and encourages hands-on inter-generational learning.
We had a great day, even though it was a long drive, and can wholeheartedly recommend it. No doubt we’ll be there again before our passes expire.
We discovered this adventure playground today through a friend, who we met there today with her children. Obviously, this is of interest only to those in and around North Tyneside, but it’s such a great place I thought it worth writing about.
Not only is it a great adventure playground with something for all ages, it’s FREE – let me repeat that, it’s FREE! Not only THAT, but the food in the cafe is very good value for money; I bought two cheese, ham & salad wraps and two hot dogs for £2.40 in total – let me repeat (no, I’ve just done that). The staff and volunteers (including children) are also very friendly. Apart from all the usual things you’d expect to find, there’s also chickens, pigs and rabbits.
Children need to be in the open air; enjoying themselves, mixing with others, developing mental and physical skills, and understanding risk-taking in a controlled environment. All in all, well worth a visit – and it won’t be long before we’re there again!
Information about the adventure playground can be found here.