Saturday, 11 July 2020

Not travelling...

So this is conference season and this week I should be a GECCO, which was to be in Cancun, Mexico. I have a couple of things to help run at the conference, as well as all the usual networking and catching up with people who do similar research to me. Alas, it's all virtual, but still on Mexican time. So instead of this...

My conference looks like this...

The biggest thing is just the lack of people - often we don't see who else is in the same "session" - and you can't easily lean to the person next to you to ask if they understood what was just said... On top of that it's all on Mexican time, so the days run from about 3pm to 1:30am. My other conference in a couple of weeks (WCCI) is at least in Glasgow, but for some reason it's not quite on local time and runs from 11am to 10pm each day. I do have a paper to present at that one but I expect I'll not be the most coherent by then!

Of course, on the plus side, I've not lost two days to travel time, nor am I away from home, so the girls can put notes like this under my door:


The food is definitely better than conference provisions, I can get a decent sleep in a non-hotel-bed, and I can see all the family in my breaks.

In short - virtual conferences aren't as good from the work perspective - but personally they are pretty good.

Saturday, 27 June 2020


One of our learning activities was to get some caterpillars and watch them grow. Overall a pretty successful exercise, though I think parents got more out of it than children! Having now released them, the girls see a butterfly on many of our walks that must be one of ours...

Summer holidays, and sports day

Well, I was thinking it's be hard to tell when the summer holidays started, but right on cue, day 1 of "no school" had some serious rain!

Nevertheless, this was most welcome for those of us still working at home as my office is on the southern side of the house and gets very warm in the sunshine. (I'm averaging about 6 meetings a day on Microsoft Teams - and a bit of fresh air really helps with the concentration too)

So, home schooling is more or less over, unless we do this all again in August! It's looking promising that won't happen though. We'll catch up on some more home school activities in a while, but on of the last things in the year was sports day. The school did a really good job of providing some potted sports for the children to do at home, and we submitted their scores so winning classes could be determined (Lydia's P1 class were the winners in P1-3)

Normally I'd take the morning off work to see the girls doing their sports, so I did the same thing this time...

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Lockdown Fun

Time for a catch up on all things lockdown for us...

Lydia is missing her P1 class and teacher. We've run in to her teacher a couple of times when we've been out walking, but as she's a probationer she won't be in the school when school resumes after the summer. Meanwhile, she is reading a story for the class each week - here is Lydia enjoying that.

We have been enormously thankful for the garden and the good weather the past few weeks!

We still get to jump in muddy puddles sometimes though. (Esther LOVES her dinosaur coat!)

As well as exciting indoor challenges like making the tallest Lego tower.

This is what church look like just now

And this was Easter Sunday's egg rolling. The slide was most helpful.

I couldn't find Lydia one morning. It turns out she was looking for clothes!

The girls get sent Sunday School activities each week. Here they are learning about Goliath. 

Of course, without a physical school to go to the girls often play schools. (yes, we do schoolwork with them in the mornings too - but they are much less willing to do that!)

...and why not just go the full distance and wear our school uniforms too? (this was genuinely one of the days that Lydia say her teacher out on the walk)

More wholesome games include hospitals - this is the sheet written up for one of the patients.

Our house has rainbows in every window of course, but also this to welcome the postman every day.

Work, of course, involves a lot of video calls for me. Sadly one of the meetings usually has bacon sandwiches provided, so I had to bring my own this time. Still good!

The lack of groups and activities means we can do a lot more with our weekends, including clearing some odd jobs. Lydia and Esther needed some new under-bed storage, so I got a chance to make some decent boxes. Great!

The older two have been promised more colours in their bedroom for months. So, here we go!

Sleepovers are limited to just staying in your sisters' bedroom. Still fun though.

Wednesday evening Kids Club is still on, but the crafts and dances are all a bit in-house.

The girls have enjoyed a couple of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals on YouTube. Joseph was the best! This is them enjoying Cats.

Naomi took it upon herself to make dinner last weekend. Jay provided instructions, then she took care of it all herself. Great job!

Last week we saw ducks in the school playground when we were out for our walk.

Saturday, 18 April 2020


In the name of entertaining things to do while cooped up in the house, we are trying some science experiments. The most recent (and I thought most impressive) was extracting DNA from an onion: you break down the onion's cells and, when poured into an alcohol-based solution, the strands of DNA combine into threads that you can see with just your naked eye. I heard about this one from one of my work chums who had successfully done it with his children: he sent me scans of the book he used but the gist of the experiment can also be found here.

Needless to say I think the girls were a bit underwhelmed with this one: not as good as the water rocket anyway. Plenty more stuff to try yet though!

Those whispy dark bits are the DNA 

Sunday, 29 March 2020


A nice day today, and some much-needed time outside. Jay managed to get to the garden centre before the lock-down began, so we had a load of seeds and plants to get out. All the girls pitched in!

Not long and we'll have peas, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, sweet peas, nasturtiums, sunflowers, pansies and petunias (as well as courgettes and butternut squash - we'll see how they turn out).

"Lydia, count me out four piles of potatoes"

Monday, 23 March 2020


As you might guess, virus-related things have rather overtaken most other stuff the past few weeks. Gradually the messages from work sounded more and more like the university would be closing, and eventually this is what happened. The girls' teachers at school have been sending work home in preparation for a closure there, and gradually more and more activities were getting cancelled. Even Church is off! As a family of six, all our shopping looks like panic buying, so it has proved a little harder than usual there too.

Where are we? Well, everyone in the house is healthy (praise God). All groups and activities are off; it looks like Brownie camp won't go ahead; Esther won't be starting nursery in a few weeks; the girls are at home every day and Jay has the job of looking after them and providing some kind of structure in which they can keep learning (their teachers are helping remotely with this but it is most definitely sill hard work!) I have set up a temporary office so I can work from home: teaching was nearly finished but it now involves a lot of talking to cameras, Skype calls and emails; research is much the same but already the GECCO conference in Cancun (in July) is going to be web-only. We had our first home school+work day today and it went pretty well but it's hard to imagine this being how it is right up to the summer... We won't be visiting grandparents at Easter. Church is off, so we are doing our own worship (joint with various Brownlees via Skype) and joining in with things like prayer meetings with others in Cornton on the webcam too. It's going to be a very hard few weeks, possibly months ahead - yet through it all we have much to be thankful for.

Technology means we are still in touch with everyone (including the girls' friends) and my job can almost completely be done remotely: in some ways it's easier without the interruptions (I'm one of those with their office door always open, which is just inviting visitors really...). We also have a decent garden and a good house to do all this in. All the more so then, God is good!

Church on Sunday. We did some singing to YouTube videos, then while the adults listened to the recorded message our pastor had provided (and prayed via Skype), Naomi took on the role of Sunday School teacher for her sisters. Jay had provided some craft activities and they did an excellent job of these.

My bike on the last day before shutdown. Normally at this time of year the rack is full. 
Our spare bedroom is snug...

...just enough room for the bed and nothing else. (There is - literally - 1mm of clearance to get the last screws in/out, with the bed up on bricks so it's above the skirting boards)

One bed dismantling later and it makes a reasonably good home office.


The timetable for school today. We all went for a pre-school walk, then the girls got stuck in to a good mixture of learning and play.

We're adding to this every day - a list of all the things we are thankful for in the midst of the challenges.
This is down to my lovely wife, who is far more wise than she'll ever admit to.
(and a huge blessing to the rest of us too)