A couple of days

With agreement from my boss, I took an couple of days holiday at the begriming of the week. Three reasons:

  1. My knee was really giving me gyp but not sufficiently so for me to justify taking sick leave;
  2. My eldest daughter was due to register for 6th form college on the Monday and I wanted to be certain that there were no problems and she was able to get the courses expected (even though these things are all agreed ahead of time, there is always room for problems and I thought it best to be around just in case);
  3. A chance to spend a day with my wife without the kids around (both back to school on the Tuesday).

Knee

Well, my knee did benefit from some more rest. Physiotherapy has continued but does not seem to be getting anywhere. I suspect I will need to be referred for more investigation.

6th form

Registration for my daughter went ahead without any problems. She is in fact in 6th form at the same school (a selective state grammar school) she has attended since starting her secondary (senior?) education. She is not a great one for change, so this is probably for the best. Girls from other schools have joined the 6th form so there will be some variety – several of these girls were already known to my daughter. They get a lot more freedom on 6th form than in the lower years, which has got to be a good thing at this age.

Some of the new girls will no doubt struggle at the school. They have come from schools with lower results overall and themselves are unlikely in most cases to have matched the averages at their new school where GCSE failure is measured in terms of having anything below an A grade and too few A* grades!

My daughter has already noted some differences in learning styles. At her school, all pupils/students are expected to write detailed notes and mindmaps from their first year there. They are not given a lot of handouts to rely on. It seems many of the other schools do provide a lot of handouts and many of the girls are not used to taking detailed notes during lessons. Wonder if this is a sign of the times, with most people using computers for recording and preparing information – most people do not expect to write much anymore and never expect to have to recreate anything that already exists. It is well proven though that the act of writing things down in your own words aids understanding. learning and retention hugely. I wonder if this is one of the problems in education?

Time for ourselves

I was expecting a reasonably frantic rush for back-to-school day but was disappointed. The kids sorted themselves out and waited for the arrival of friends to join in the mile-or-so walk to school.

We had a leisurely breakfast in bed before heading off to Stafford for some shopping. The best bit was buying a few books in Waterstones and settling down to start reading and chatting with a nice coffee/tea (for my wife) in hand at a nearby Starbucks. Very pleasant.

I made a fantastic soup for lunch and then we went to see a local photographer we had come across online. She is in her 60s, retired a few years ago and took to photography. She is very good. Her landscapes are incredible – full of colour, drama, life. She also does a lot of macro work including both still life and bugs and the like. She had some brilliant photos of bees. She is a member of the local photography club – as are we (I have not been for over a year though because of work commitments) – and has entered (and won) many competitions there so she has a lot of material printed out and nicely mounted.

One of the reasons we had gone to see her was because she has a small studio. This is build into her modest double-garage. We plan to construct a studio as well (firstly in one of the "spare" rooms in the house and later in our huge double (at least) pitched-roof blessed garage. We wanted to see what was involved, how things worked, and get some tips. I even got a chance to use her studio lights for a while. The most surprising discovery was to find how strong the effect is of using coloured gels on lights shown onto a black background. Much stronger than I expected. It is strange changing a black background to blue!

I am very happy with the small battery operated flash-strobes I use, but the power and quick recycling of the studio lights was impressive. Well worth investing in. She had blacked out pretty much all of her garage using black curtaining all-round and  black floor mating. For backdrops though she used a couple of paper-rolls (one black, one white) and a white vinyl backdrop – the latter is because she does a lot of portraiture of dogs so needed something that could be wiped clean. All of the backdrops are permanently fixed to the wall on rollers.

She had a large selection of lenses and let me try many of them out from her living room. I want new high-end zoom lens good enough to replace my 50mm prime lens. She had a good 17-55mm that I liked but I hear that there is a new 24-70 out from Nikon in its professional range. The smaller lens costs around £850 new, the larger around £1100. I need to try them out more.

We headed off after cup-of-tea-and-cakes, a quick meeting with her husband (who is not into photography), and a mild panic about the survival of the kids walking home in the absolutely torrential rain.

After a catching up with the kids on their first day back at school while eating a fine meal, I packed up and headed for my hotel down south ready to recommence work the following day. (Well, that night in the hotel in reality of course.)

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