Archive for the ‘achievements’ Category

Birthday celebration: parts 1, 2 & 3

Eliza

Eliza became a teen two weeks ago, but has continued the celebrations. We had a family meal out on her birthday night. She had a visit to Manchester’s new trampoline centre and a sleepover with her best friend a few days later. Last Saturday she had a joint birthday meal and cinema trip with school friends. A further sleepover with school friends may yet occur.

The joint birthday event had a dramatic start. Lucy, whose birthday was also being celebrated, set her own hair on fire at the table in the restaurant by leaning too close to a small candle. L made ready to douse her in water, but Lucy’s Dad patted out the flames with his hands. He’s an anaesthetist and apparently quite used to doing this in theatre. Lucy, Eliza and their friends continued the evening, although Eliza did say the smell of burnt hair was horrible.

Robin

From YouTube clips, Robin has developed an interest in basketball and, more specifically, the NBA. He knows the names of a few of the stars and a few more of the teams. A primary school tournament has given him the chance to play competitively for the first time. Undefeated in their first afternoon’s games, his team qualified for the final. There they came out on top, completing a double of school football and basketball champions. Robin’s role was in defence, allowing him to take long-shots. ‘3-pointers,’ as he said, ‘even though they only count as 2 points.’

Gabe

Gabe has completed two important elements of his music GCSE: recorded performance and composition. His performance piece was Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. On the appointed day, he played the piece twice, while his music teacher recorded it for the examiner. Each rendition included one mistake, so he was given another chance, early in the morning the following week. I dropped him at school to make sure he was there in time. Ten minutes later, it was wrapped up, with a faultless performance recorded and sent to the examiner.

Smashed it

Robin

Robin’s preparation for the 11+ exam, begun in earnest around Christmas, has not been smooth. He often resents practice sessions, slumping on the table when asked to attempt some questions, and he has shown no real breakthrough with his results. He sat a practice exam at a local tutorial college. When I picked him up he had his fixed, stony look. He walked past me and headed towards the stairs out of the college. On the stairs, he turned fist clasped, “Smashed it!” he said with great satisfaction. 

His results arrived later that week and he had indeed performed well, exceeding the average and scoring in the ‘likely to pass’ range. Since then, propelled by this confidence boost, his attitude at home has improved, but he’s still prone to sighs of complaint when summoned for a little practice and can dash off his answers to hurry back to screen or ball. 

Gabe

Gabe sat his first GCSEs – part one of his science qualification. He finally engaged in some revision activity, although only with any real commitment if he was being quizzed by L or I. He felt he did OK in the exams. Interestingly, he spoke enthusiastically of the ceremony of exams, the build-up and formality of taking a public test. He had found that exciting – which bodes well given how many times he’ll be doing it in the coming years. 

Eliza

Eliza has finally got her way: she no longer walks to school with Gabe. Her release has come about because she has come to an arrangement where her friend walks an indirect route to school, a mirror image of which Eliza follows, so they can meet outside the park and from there make their way, chatting, to school. 

Spider in the corner house

Robin

Robin has developed a particular taste in buildings and houses. New or recently built homes find his favour. He has a specific dislike for exposed brickwork. Of two identical houses next to each other, he’ll praise the one with rendered exterior, but not the one with its bricks left open to the world. He has no fondness for old houses. Our own home almost comes into that category, although he likes the dining room and living room. Asked what he has against old houses and he will explain that they are ‘spider in the corner’ homes.

Eliza

Eliza came second in the French spelling bee competition, representing her form in front of the whole of year seven. She practised assiduously for weeks, moving to races against the clock to see how many words (numbers, days, countries, animals, adjectives about personality) she could pronounce and spell correctly in 6o seconds: “lundi, el oo en day ee” etc. She managed 17 at the contest, losing to a twin with a multinational background, and presumably an advantage in all foreign language activity.

Gabe

Gabe still spends a significant chunk of his time at home playing on his Xbox. He has lobbied furiously to be allowed to play Call of Duty like all his friends – and responded furiously when time and again, L and I have refused. He alleges that our intransigence is making him unpopular.

He is allowed to play Halo, another shooting game, but which has a 16 rating, not 18. It has displaced FIFA as his preferred game. We can usually hear him playing as he’s communicating – laughing and chatting – with his friends on multi-player mode, not sounding unpopular at all.

Referee (in training)

Gabe

As part of his PE GCSE, Gabe has been doing a refereeing course. Three whole weekend days – one forcing him to miss a club football match. The draw, as well fulfilling his course, is the prospect of money: £15 per game refereed. His view on the course, though, is uncomplimentary. Slow, boring, obvious has been his assessment. Having watched about an hour of the instruction, I sympathise. They seemed to be spending that amount of time practising shaking hands with the captains and tossing the coin. Later on, Gabe got to do some practice match refereeing. He reports that he did well, but couldn’t blow his whistle properly – at the right times, he clarified, just not blown properly. He has to complete five observed matches, before his qualification is complete. 

Eliza

Eliza has had two trips away from home in the space of a week. Firstly, the final days of her first half-term at grammar school was spent on a residential course in North Wales. Two days and nights with new friends didn’t faze her. She enjoyed the outdoor activities, the evening games and the dorm room chat. 

The highlight of her half-term holiday was an overnight trip to Blackpool for her friend E’s birthday. Fish and chips, roller-coaster, the illuminations, hotel swimming pool all featured, but having three beds to choose from in the hotel room was appreciated the most. 

Robin

Robin completed a six week Cheshire cricket coaching course. He has picked up and retained technique tips that might have been offered at the club but tend to drift by in the noise there. He is particularly pleased with understanding how to grip the ball and flex his wrist to bowl faster. The coaches nominated him for the advanced course that follows, but Robin didn’t feel the need for another course. 

Camp

Gabe

Gabe joined 90% of his school year on a five day camping trip that rounded off his term. We heard nothing from him for the whole week and didn’t know what to expect when he came back from his first ever experience of camping. 

He was tired, but generally positive about the camp when he got back. The worst point had been sleeping one night, not under canvas, but shelters that they had made themselves. Gabe said he didn’t sleep at all. He was also unimpressed at his friends’ lack of cleanliness. Unlike them, he had changed his socks and pants daily. The food was also disappointing. Still, though, he had enjoyed the week. Would he like to go camping again, I wondered. “No”, was the clear answer. 

Eliza

Eliza’s final weeks of junior school were occupied by play rehearsals, shows, a school disco, talent show, spelling bee and various other activities that are part of the rounding up of a pupil’s education before they head to secondary school. 

Come the day of the talent show, Eliza turned to L at the school gate and said, “I’ve forgotten my costume.” 

“What costume?”

But before, L needed to rush home to find this costume, Eliza’s best friend appeared: “Don’t worry. I brought a spare costume, in case Eliza forgot hers.” 

Eliza sat and passed her grade 3 violin exam and at the leavers’ assembly, she was awarded the school music prize for her contribution to the school orchestra and recorder Group. 

Robin

Robin was awarded the coaches’ player of the season award at his football team’s presentation evening. He tried to look nonchalant, jaw jutting and unsmiling, but L was aware that he was nervous beforehand, betraying a hope or expectation that he might be a trophy winner. The coaches gave each player marks out of ten for various skills and likened each player to a professional footballer. Robin, they said, is like Edin Hazard for his ability to “tear opposing defenders to bits.”

Summer term

Gabe

Gabe had a late birthday party, go-karting. Each of his five friends was at least as tall as I am. They filled the dining room and garden. At the race track they were installed in adult karts, unlike the birthday boy, who had a relatively under-powered junior vehicle.

Gabe has been doing food technology this term and it is one of his GCSE choices. Each Sunday evening, he announces that he must find his ingredients. Each Sunday evening, he is told it is too late and that he has had all week to sort out his shopping. We seem stuck in this cycle. I hope his GCSE lesson won’t take place on a Monday.

Eliza

Eliza had her induction day at the Grammar School. It went well. She liked her teacher; the same teacher as Gabe had in his first year at the school. She was also pleased to note that she wasn’t the shortest in her class.

Eliza’s year six play is a musical spoof of Robin Hood. She plays a village-idiot type character, with lots of jokey lines. But she knows almost the entire play, having a real facility for memorising dialogue. She has also taken to the catchy tunes which she has been singing around the house for weeks. The first performance went very well and she carried of her role successfully, speaking clearly and winning lots of laughs.

Robin

Robin has been doing swimming lessons at school, which he has been very keen on. He has learnt new strokes, had to swim in pyjamas and finished by completing a distance swim, although he couldn’t remember how many lengths were involved.

3 Finals, 2 extra-times and 1 penalty shoot-out

Gabe

Gabe’s football season ended with three finals – two with school and one with his club. The first was entirely one-sided affair in all respects except the score. Despite oodles of possession and pressure his side couldn’t conjure a goal. Mid way through the second half, the opposition broke away and took the lead. There was an equaliser and then two periods of extra time when both sides struggled with fatigue. Onto penalties, and Gabe was one of the cool-headed players, tucking his penalty away to the keeper’s right, to contribute to a 5-4 victory. 

A week later, Gabe played in school finals on the Monday and Friday – both at Man United’s training ground. The first was a comfortable victory. The second saw Gabe’s school go 3-0 behind in the first 10 minutes; then 4-3 up at half-time; 4-4 at full time, with his school getting the winner three minutes from the end of extra time. 

Gabe has won every game of football he has played this season. 

Robin

Robin played three cricket matches in six days, including his hard-ball debut. He managed the distinction of taking wickets for three different age group teams in one week. He has decided that hard-ball cricket is the way to go. 

Eliza

Eliza and L have an act, based on a Little Britain sketch where a shopkeeper shouts up the stairs to his wife whenever a customer asks a question. “Margaret” he shouts shrilly, and she responds in a similar high pitch. And this is exactly how L and Eliza negotiate any downstairs to upstairs communication. Eliza doesn’t need to put on an act to get the squeaky high pitch response.