Flash: Our little boat


Flash is our little sailing dinghy. She was built from raw materials over the summer of 2003. A wonderful project – and a great way to forget the stresses of the working day! The design and the bits came from an outfit called Flounder Bay in Anacortes, Washington. They are no longer there, as far as I can see – apparently the owners have retired. The prototype was called Clancy, named after the designer’s dog, I believe. There’s a book about the design – in fact it contains the building instructions. It’s called A Boat Named Clancy.

Flash was built from marine plywood, using stitch and glue techniques. This results in a light boat if you use thin ply, but Flash is almost too heavy for one person to lift onto the car. I really need a trailer – and that would be fun, so Caelean and I could go sailing more often.

Cornwall pictures up


I just posted the pictures of our visit to Cornwall. This was a birthday present from Marina – a big secret, well kept. We dropped the boys off with my parents, and took off westwards. It was a real thrill to find ourselves right out on the point of St. Andrews, finding our way down a narrow path on a windy night, and arriving at a beautiful lighthouse, with fantastic views out over Falmouth Harbour and towards Brittany.

We also spent time in Padstow (yes, we did eat at a couple of Rick Stein’s places, and in fact we stayed at a hotel he owns: the St. Petroc’s). We also visited the Eden Project, as well as spending a few hours enjoying a cup of coffee and a snack at an excellent coffee / antique shop in Exeter down by the river.

Marina found the lighthouse through Rural Retreats. If you haven’t stayed in a lighthouse and you love the sea – you must.

China and France pictures in the gallery


Just re-posted the pictures of my trip to China and Hong King in 1986, and our 2006 trip to France: Paris for the marathon and Disney World, and a taste of Brittany and Normandy – our first visit.

The trip to China took place just before I moved from England to California – it was part of a round-the-world trip that began in England, and continued to California, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong/China, and finally back to England.

I enjoyed Hong Kong – especially all the water, and the opportunity to explore some of the islands around Hong Kong. I really liked Lantau, but I am afraid it must be very much changed now that there’s a road bridge and of course the new airport on the west side.

So far I can’t find any pictures from that part of the trip. I have a lot of negatives and slides filed in boxes somewhere…

Paris, Brittany and Normandy

A spring trip to France, taking in the Paris Marathon, Euro-Disney (yuk!), and a few days exploring Brittany and Omaha Beach and Bayeux in Normandy.

Paris by Eurostar


I love Eurostar. It’s so much more convenient than flying. We can take the train in to Waterloo Station in London, and walk across to the Eurostar terminal in the same building. Through security, and then onto the train, which whisks us into the centre of Paris – the Gare du Nord – from where the Metro quickly takes us to our hotel. It’s not quite that easy – because we’re using public transport we end up with a taxi from home to the train, and then a bit of a walk between Gare du Nord and the Metro because of the line we’ve chosen – but still, we get it done with kids and luggage and no disasters. Continue reading “Paris, Brittany and Normandy”

How do we know it’s working?

Home schooling is a bit tricky. We have adopted a curriculum from Oak Meadow School in the US – it’s a popular school – to the point they seem too busy to talk to us! But it’s not straightforward. Here are some of our first questions:

  • How many hours to spend?
  • How much discipline is right (for us and the boys)?
  • How much to invest in preparation each day?
  • How important to stay on track with the curriculum?
  • How to know if it’s working?

I guess we’ll find out as we go along. We’re in a couple of weeks now, and it’s fun and daunting at the same time. I expect that most parents new to home schooling have a lot of questions. One resource that is helpful is the Yahoo discussion group associated with the Oak Meadow School – it’s populated by parents who are enrolled, or interested in enrolling at the school. The group is called [OM_HS]. You have to enrol and it’s all done by e-mail – much less fashionable than blogs and RSS!
More observations as they come to us!

Lots of new photos

Africa and Scandinavia: I’ve finished the galleries for these two trips.


You can access them from the links at the top of the screen, or go there directly.Our trip to Scandinavia took place early in 2006, right in the middle of winter, and we expected everything to be very dark. In fact, we found that with the snow reflecting any bit of light there was, we could see quite well, even very late at night.

We especially enjoyed Oslo. It sits in a perfect location, well inland, but on the top of a fjord. Hills around, a safe harbour, and quick access to sailing, skiing, and tobogganing (in winter). The town centre is quite small and seemed friendly. I’d spend a lot of time there, but it is a very expensive place to visit.

More tech: building a computer

Along the same theme as the previous post, Caelean and I are building a computer. Actually it’s one I built a while a go and have now taken apart.

Caelean reads about it first, and makes some notes and draws the critical things, then we sit down with the bits and look at them to understand their roles and how they fit together.

Actually building a PC is really easy, as all the interfaces are standardized, and you mostly have to simply plug things in. But there are some ways to get it wrong (blow up chips with static, bend pins on plugs etc.), so we have to be careful.

In any case Caelean likes building – but this is rather different from Lego, where you can work visually and by feel. For this project one has to understand the parts and what they do to some extent. There is some configuration (jumpers, location in the case etc.), and without care it won’t behave as expected.

We won’t be booting up for a while, but so far it’s been interesting and a good experience for both of us, I think.

Starting to teach: fixing a bike

I really enjoy teaching – it’s interesting to see people learn, and fun to work out how to create the conditions in which it can happen.

Jeremy and I are dismantling a bike. Today we took apart a wheel bearing and cleaned and re-packed it. So we discussed grease and oil, how adjustable spanners work, and why we need closed and open spanners, and the difference between metric and imperial sizes. We got our fingers dirty and clean again, and the next step is for Jeremy to illustrate the bearing, so we can remember where the ball bearings go, and how it all fits together.

So the one topic gives us some engineering, some observation, some writing and some drawing. And it’s supposed to be good for dads to spend time with their kids, so who’s complaining?

Home schooling

We’ve started a programme of teaching our kids at home this year. Properly we should call it distance learning, as we’re actually enrolled in a school called Oak Meadow – they provide us with curriculum and guidance so we won’t stray too far from the straight and narrow.

I’ll try to keep a sort of diary of our experiences with this – so far it’s proving to be a lot of work, but very interesting and rewarding. And the kids don’t seem to mind!