Sunday, 27 January 2008

Zoom Zoom

I like bookshops. I've said a few times that I could spend all day browsing a bookshop. Except, now I know its not true...

We've just had a highly successful weekend in the Welsh Marches, staying in the Baskerville Arms at Clyro, just a stone's throw from Hay on Wye.

Highlight of the weekend, of course, was to pick up Jacqueline's new car. Very impressive, lots of gadgets, but ultimately just a newer version of her old car. But the new car feels nice and solid, and the engine is more powerful and a lot quieter than the old car, and most importantly, Jacqueline seems to like it!
Poor old Jacqueline has felt crappy all weekend, just this cold thats going around (still) but nevertheless quite debilitating. Had it not been that the trip was so important I think she'd just as soon have stayed at home. But she perked up when we picked the car up, and we had a nice time visiting Brecon and later Hay on Wye. Brecon was pleasant enough, Hay very twee.

Hay, so our hotel said, has some 38 book shops at last count. Clearly a selling point, since the town was quite busy for a cold Saturday in January. I managed three bookshops, then to be honest the musty smell eventually got to me and I couldn't face any more. Just as well there was an ice cream parlour too (excellent waffle!)
Back to the hotel for an excellent meal of liver and bacon, we then gatecrashed a 50th birthday party in the pub - Alice loved the live band before finally crashing out at about ten o'clock.

As we ate the meal, the only other group was one containing a guy who said he was a vicar. We didn't speak to them, but of course in the small restaurant it is impossible not to overhear... I'm sorry but this guy was saying things so incredibly intolerant, I have to say it fitted in totally with my own experiences with the Church of England. In fairness to him, the other guy in the party (the xenophobe) was even worse. Ignorant, and so rude to the staff.

Made the most of our stay by having a lovely cooked breakfast before checking out. A brisk walk on Hay Bluff. Though it was quite bright in the valley, we were literally up in the clouds when we parked the car, but what a view down into the valley! Wonderful, being up on this great grassy, gorsey hillside whose main populace was dressed in wool! Not a bad idea either, since it was really blowing a gale up there.
Homeward, via a quick pit-stop in Abergavenny, and following the three-hour journey Jacqueline is still impressed (although I got home first by a good fifteen minutes!)

Monday, 14 January 2008

On the scrapheap, aged eight

I've not been happy with Alice's progress at school. I've written about it before. Her current school is statistically very good, the ideal village school. The trouble with statistics is that you have individual "blips", and unfortunately Alice appears to be one of those blips. Her current teacher left us under no illusion that Alice was there to make up the numbers, and not a whole lot more.

It was a very difficult call, I'm not sure I support private education, not least because I have paid for one education already, I don't particularly want to pay through the nose for a second. Also, surely a state-provided education should be good enough? But, when it comes to your own? At the end of the day, there's only one chance with an education - there's not much point saying "oops, got it wrong", because at the age of eighteen she's basically got zero prospects for the life ahead.

So, having got over the psychological hurdles, we set about looking for a private school for Alice to attend, one with smaller classes and hopefully better teachers, and just before christmas went to visit a school which appeared ideal. All very friendly, good facilities, they didn't even seem to have a problem when I described Alice's limited academic ability. So we set Alice up to have a Taster Day there, hoping against all hope that - albeit at significant cost - we might be able to turn the corner with Alice.

The Taster Day was Friday, and speaking to Alice it seemed like it had gone well. However, not so from the school's perspective, as Jacqueline got a call this morning saying that the school thought she was just too behind to be able to fit in. Clearly despite their overtones they do care about abilities, and spotted Alice as a poor statistic and therefore a liability. And they're obviously sufficiently well-funded to turn away poor prospects.

So, basically, where does that leave us? Sadly, the state education she is getting is leading her nowhere. And I can't even dip into my pocket and buy her something better - why should any other prep school take any different an attitude?

What the fuck do we do?

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


Well and truly down to earth this morning, as the alarm went off shortly before 6am and I'm now sitting on the train, first day back into London.

Busy day yesterday, catching up on a load of paperwork, getting everything that has arrived in the last few months scanned, shredded then (the hard bit) filed.

New Year's Eve was fairly quiet, we cracked open a bottle of Laurent Perrier Rosé, even Alice was allowed a small glass, as we all saw in the New Year, watching the London fireworks on TV.

The only downer in all of this was that my laptop started exhibiting problems with the hard disk. I've seen this before, a while ago, and in fact it isn't the disk but the controller. Scant consolation, though, since I needed to access all the accounts to get a VAT return filled out. In the event the VAT return got postponed for a day in deference to a full HDD backup, which took hours. Anyway, the admin stuff is now done and the VAT people will get their cheque just a couple of days late.

More misbehaviour from Alice yesterday. Her social skills are being severely stretched, she sees everything as either "you're my friend" or "you're not my friend", and consequentially after she's been naughty the only response she's able to give is to wait ten minutes, then say "can we be friends again?" And of course none of it has anything to do with friendship. God knows what the dynamics are between her and her schoolfriends. At this rate I'm surprised she has any.

Lastly, I emailed about 40 dealers to price quotes on a new car. At least half a dozen of them have come back to me and said, "Tell us your lowest price, and we'll beat it". How lazy is that? Do they really think they'll get my business by saying this? Anyway, I've had something like fifteen or so serious responses, so we'll at least be in a position tonight to review all the responses and make a decision. Its at times like this that the internet comes into its own - an hour's worth of leg-work to find out the email addresses of all of these dealerships (and again, they're all official Mazda dealers so the addresses are plain to see on their site), half a minute to send the messages, and this hour's work has saved me something over £2000 on the price offered by our local dealership.

Ahhhhhhh.......anyway, this is still way too early for me. I'm outa here for a snooze.