Monthly Archives: October 2011

Comenius

We received confirmation this week of our funding from the British Council, followed by the funds themselves into our bank account. This will pay for our travels and activities over the next 18 months as we work together with our colleagues from Austria, Belgium and Spain in our EU twinning project. We kicked off with a Skype meeting where we introduced ourselves.

I arranged a “Doodle” poll where between us we identified a “window” of availability in the first week of December. Our first project planning meeting will be in Vienna. We will arrange our activities for the rest of the project and get to visit some of the nursery facilities and local places of interest. Mrs W will accompany myself on this first meeting after which we will invite other interested staff members to apply for a trip.

We look forward to our turn at hosting – with the opportunity to show our friends from Europe around the area. We are also excited about the opportunities for our children to learn about other cultures and to extend our skype activities to other countries.

As lead country, we are investigating web hosting facilities for us all to add our contributions on the project. Quotes so far seem quite expensive and probably beyond our budget so we will keep looking.

Now everything is confirmed, I am sure it will be a really positive and exciting opportunity for us all to participate in this experience.

 

Signs of Autumn

Bizarrely this year, many of the leaves are still on the trees at the end of October – much to my annoyance, as I have just invested in a new leaf sucker. It’s that man-and-machines-against-nature thing. It’s very satisfying to chop, suck, burn and generally master mother nature’s wilder endeavours. Come on leaves, do your worst. I’m ready for you – me and my leaf sucker!

Anyway, it’s started to finally turn a little cooler this week. And it seems that parents thoughts have turned to winter attire. I know this because every time I enter a nursery or preschool I am presented with a fashion show of jumpers, shoes and coats. Generally, boys shoes flash or have Ben 10 imprinted on them somewhere, or a dinosaur. Little girls shoes are often pink with maybe flowers, butterflies and sparkle.

One girl was so excited she ran into the room on arrival, announcing very excitedly – “I have a new coat. Mummy bought it.” She ran back to the coat peg to get it and brought it in to show me. It was the brightest pink, with flowers on.  “We mustn’t jump in muddy puddles in case we dirty it.” she whispered to me conspiratorially.  Like I’m the sort of person to entice anyone into jumping in muddy puddles!

We are coming to the end of the apple crop. We have been submerged in an avalanche of fruit this year. Apple crumble has been a staple of home and nursery menus for some time. We have had a constantly full fruit bowl as well.

It is turning into a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

Paint Pots 7

Comes a new year, comes another Paint Pots!   Yes, Paint Pots 7 will be opening its doors in January, as a preschool in St Marks School, Shirley. We are delighted to have won the tender after a prolonged and rigorous application process, including many pages of application form.

It’s very exciting to plan a new venture in the area to complement our existing settings. We already have a list of 26 families who have expressed an interest and 3 completed application forms.

We have staff raring to go and a lock-up full of little chairs, toys, books, scooters and other resources but there are a hundred jobs on the “set up a new preschool” list to get started on.

It was really helpful having the opportunity to test-run the site in the summer when the Howard Road preschool decamped there whilst we had our extension built. We got to know the staff who are really friendly and helpful.

We are eager to join the St Marks School community.

If you are looking for a preschool place in Shirley after Christmas, get your application in fast!

Car Boot Sales

We all love a bargain, especially nursery owners hunting books and toys!  Keeping 6 nurseries resourced is an ongoing challenge. Paying 10p for a book means I am not heartbroken if or when it gets torn.

Having many years’ experience of car boot sales, myself and Mrs PaintPots know where to go; which stalls to avoid and how to haggle.

So here are a few observations –

  • Choose your car boot sale area – head for “upmarket”
  • Seek out families rather than “professionals”
  • Look for someone who is fed up and looking to leave – they don’t want to take stuff home and are open to offers
  • Do a deal – prices are always cheaper if you buy a bundle of items rather than 1 or 2 (why? – who knows!)
  • Mention that you are buying for a pre-school (not a nursery), this even gets stuff thrown in for free!
  • Check out prices at different stalls first before buying. Prices vary wildly and for no apparent reason

Why are there always drinking games and foot spas on sale? – not to mention items of a personal nature that no one in their right mind would ever purchase second hand! And what about the pasting tables covered in rusty junk that looks like it has been swept up from a garage floor?

Car boot sales – you’ve got to love them!

Kenya Diaries – Day 12 (Part 2) **The End**

I could take or leave the elephant orphanage. They are cute and all but basically they drink a lot of milk and roll around in the mud – this is limited entertainment in my opinion! but a good photo opportunity nonetheless.

Part way through, a family of warthogs decided to run in have a drink and wander off into the bush again.  After elephants we had a quick lunch followed by the giraffe centre.

Similar to the elephants, the giraffes don’t do a great deal except eat the proffered feed out of your hand, or in the disgusting case of a loony American woman, lick the maize and molasses pellet from between your teeth! Spot Tessa Teddy – the Paintpots travel bear in the photo!

We drove back into Nairobi. Jacob dropped us off at New Life Homes where we spent a couple of hours feeding and cuddling babies. We walked back to our hotel, picked up our bags and waited for Francis to take us to the airport. Bags loaded into the taxi, we immediately drove straight into a traffic jam, 3 to 4 (sometimes 5) vehicles abreast. We were going nowhere.

Buses bumped across kerbs and the dirt tracks at the side of the road.  Francis manoeuvred his way through the mayhem then when the opportunity arose, he suddenly shot off down a side road which was more crater than road. He swerved round these. By the British High Commission he nearly grounded us as we clunked over road humps. Eventually we popped out onto the main airport road and arrived shortly afterwards at domestic arrivals.

Pippa’s flight was delayed by an hour due to the arrival of the President of Tanzania. An old friend of Pippa’s joined us as we waited. He hadn’t seen her for 6 years. When her plane finally arrived, they had a few moments of reunion before we crossed the road to international departures. The staff assured Pippa that she could check her bags in and come back out to talk to her friend. As usual, there was no system and it took over an hour to check in. Pippa was becoming understandably frustrated and upset. Having finally deposited our bags, she headed for the exit, only to be told she was not permitted to leave the building. All she could do was wave through the glass – a huge disappointment.

And that was it. After something to eat with our pooled kitty of remaining shillings we boarded the plane towards midnight. We were soon airborne. Several hours later, I woke up to the announcement that we were landing at Heathrow.

We had witnessed such poverty and sickness and heard tales of corruption, exploitation, greed and selfishness. This, as in so many other cultures, is the paradox, with flat screen tvs on sale for those driving Mercedes, a mile up the road from the utter poverty of those who have nothing and are dying.

And yet, a common strand in all the projects we encountered, was hope. Lives are being saved, children are being fed, nursed and educated, hopefully out of the cycle of poverty. Each one of these children is precious, each life significant and each act of kindness in the torrent of need and deprivation, is redemptive.

Kenya Diaries – Day 12 (Part 1) **Last Day**

It was the day of our departure and destined to be another long and eventful day.

Firstly we had all been invited to a breakfast meeting at ICRI, where I had visited the day before. We checked out of the hotel but left our bags. A taxi arrived and I showed the driver the directions I had been given.  The driver got lost! Fortunately I had Janet’s mobile number and we eventually managed to navigate to ICRI 20 minutes late, where there was a waiting reception of early years teachers.

Janet gave us a quick tour of the building outlining their plans for development. I loaded my teaching materials and videos from a memory stick onto their computer and was then summoned to the main room where everyone was seated ready for the teaching session from the British “experts”. This was news to us!

Once again we were given a printed schedule of events. There then followed the customary introductions and the floor was mine. The Kenyans sat with pens poised ready for the pearls of wisdom to drop from my lips. I ended up giving an impromptu shortened version of the talk I had given at New Life Homes in Kisumu, the previous week. This was followed by a Q&A session – Do we have child abuse in the UK? What can be done to improve the quality of teaching on a ratio of 1:45?

We then dashed for the door, stopping for a group photo, before jumping back in the taxi and heading off to the elephant orphanage in time for the show at 11 o’clock.

With the mix up over directions, we had decided to stick with the taxi driver who was actually there with us rather than Francis we had booked to pick us up and take us on to the elephants. We cancelled Francis and Jacob drove us for the rest of the morning. As I was in the front again, I struck up a conversation with him. He told us a remarkable story.

He had suffered a terrible road accident several years ago in a matatu (minibus) which had been hit by a bus. The doctors in the hospital told him that his leg would have to be amputated. Jacob asked the surgeon how many wheels he had on his car. The reply was  5, 4 and 1 spare. Jacob said this was the correct answer and that if the Japanese were intelligent enough to provide a spare then he was sure that his God would also have thought to provide him with a third leg in the event that one got damaged. According to Jacob, the surgeon referred him to a psychiatrist. He was found to be of sound mind. A few days later, on examination, X-rays of his injured leg showed that the breaks had all healed miraculously. His leg was saved and in time he was able to walk again unaided.  Not the usual sort of banter you have with a cabbie!