Fireworks

We headed last night to one of Amy’s sisters houses to watch fireworks. Alice had good fun chasing cousins in the dark.

Alice claimed her cousins phone.

Alice was interested in the first few sparkling fireworks, then the first loud bang led to tears and us retreating inside.

By this point she was too tired and just wanted to hang onto me.

All still a bit much for Alice this year. Maybe by next year she might be ready for the later night and loud explosions, but she had a nice time until tiredness crept in.

School garden

Over the Summer the allotment section of my outdoor area had become quite overgrown. I’d been working gradually to weed it with the kids, but it needed  a decent chunk of time in one go. So on Thursday I got into school during the holiday to get the garden back on track.

The garden is overlooked by magnificent trees, which I’m grateful to have, but means a lot of time is spent on clearing leaves. Luckily the kids quite like doing this and I’ve set up a leaf box, so next year we should have some lovely leaf mould. Monty Don would be pleased. This was the garden at the start of Thursday.

The first allotment section I’ve dug over and put weed matting down. Then going to use the tyres as planters. These are going to be used for fruit and veg. It’s important to show the kids where our food comes from and they’ll enjoy eating something they’ve grown.

The middle section I’ve moved around the existing plants. The plan for this section is to have a garden section of shrubs and flowers requiring little maintenance. So I’m adding shrubs and flowers that will suppress weeds and will gradually fill the space. We had several patches of rosemary that have been doing well. I’ve put the three together to hopefully grow into a bush. Then lavender next to these. I dug in plenty of grit for drainage. These should be fine with the Summer holiday where they will be neglected of watering everyday.

Along the back I’ve got four conifers to give us some greenery through the year. There only meant to be small varieties, but have plenty of space to move them if they get too big. Then in front of them a number of hebes, again to give us some greenery through the year and the flowers are beloved by many insects. Mainly small varieties, so we can still see across the two playgrounds.

The front I’d planted daffodils with the children. I like doing a few bulbs with the children as they learn to wait for that long term pay off next year.

The third section I’ve just dug over for now apart from the dwarf apple tree I planted earlier in the year. This has established well. This last allotment section I’d like as an orchard, so I’m going to look at a few more dwarf fruit trees. I reckon I can fit four in. Again this will teach the children more about where our food comes from. Again once it’s set it won’t involve too much maintenance. As it was four large allotment sections is too much work to do with the children. Hopefully how I’ve set it now the children should be able to be involved in the upkeep and see some rewards for their work later next year.

The water butt has some willow cuttings I’d taken earlier in the term. Their starting to root now. We have a number of willow tunnels and structures, but some are looking the worse for wear. Hopefully the cuttings can help build them up again or be used to extend the structures.


Not a bad days work. While it may not look like much now. Give it a year and it should be looking more like an area the children can be proud of. While I’ve been busy working Alice had a nice day out at the deep in her Halloween costume. She loved the fishes, running from tank to tank in excitement. She’s that little bit older than last time, so could enjoy it better.

Folklore Thursday: Jack o’ Lanterns

Halloween has been and gone. Our Halloween efforts were a little lack lustre, just the traditional pumpkin.

Alice was quite interested in it though. She kept coming back to check it out.

The Halloween Jack O’ Lantern is thought to have originated in Ireland where a face was carved from a turnip or mangel wurzel. Traditionally they were carved into grotesque faces, but now people have made it an art form with intricate pictures being carved into their pumpkins. The face would be placed to ward off evil spirits at Samhain. Samhain being the festival that brings in the darker part of the year. Samhain is a liminal time. A time when the boundary between worlds is weaker. A time the spirits of fairies can return.

Settlers to America changed to using pumpkins as a bigger, easier substitute to carve than turnips. If you’ve ever tried to hollow a turnip in the traditional way it isn’t easy. The Jack o’ Lantern being immortalised as a pumpkin in literature by the headless horsemen of Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow.

The name Jack o’ Lantern has several associated stories. My favourite is Stingy Jack. Jack was a miser. Never paid for anything. He invited the devil for a drink. True to form when it came time to pay he asked the devil to transform into a coin to pay for the round. Jack changed his mind and put the devil coin back in his wallet with a silver cross stopping the devil changing back.

Jack only agreed to release the devil on the condition that he wouldn’t take his soul to hell when he died. The tale goes on with Jack tricking the devil several more times.

When Jack eventually dies he can’t go to hell where he belongs and heaven won’t accept such an unscrupulous individual as Jack. So the tale ends with the devil giving Jack a lit coal to light his way in limbo. Jack places the ember in a carved turnip and has wandered the world since.

The tale has much in common with my favourite Jim Henson storyteller episode the soldier and death. In this story a soldier tricks devils and death ends his days unable to access heaven or hell. Again he is forced to walk the world for evermore. Well worth watching or reading up the folk tale. Maybe one for another Folklore Thursday. For now I’ll leave you with one of the best intros to a TV series.