Monday, 28 September 2009


Troy Junior has always enjoyed playing football. One advantage of being retired is that after school TJ and I can go over to our local recreation ground ("The Rec") and have a fun kick-around with a football. Troy Junior has also played football in a school club (after school) as well as attending some junior sessions at Ipswich Town Football Club during the school holidays. He seems quite a natural, unlike his father who was always the last one to be picked to play at school.

A lot of his friends in our village played in the local village football team. Being a large village there are teams for each age group. They play in both friendlies and a competitive league as well as having training sessions one evening a week. TJ was keen to play for the village team but Mrs Troy did not like the idea of losing her Saturday mornings most weekends. Also the idea of trailing to away games and spending an hour on the touchline in cold and wet weather was not her idea of weekend fun.

One evening early this Summer Troy Junior and I set off after our evening meal to have a kick-around on The Rec. When we arrived there the children in the village team were having a training session and then a practice game. TJ wanted to watch them. He sat on his own football, chin in hands, watching the other children play. He looked a very sad sight sitting there just watching the others. I asked him if he wished he could join in - his eyes lit up. On returning home I explained to Mrs Troy how sad TJ had looked watching on but not being involved. It didn't take long to decide that we would let him join the village team. We got all the registration forms, paid the dues and subsequently turned up for the first training session of the new season.

The other players are all his friends from school, all are the same age and most are in his school class. He was welcomed with open arms. The coach said TJ was a natural player and would go straight into the A team. They play seven-a-side and there is an A and B team with about eighteen players making up the squad. During the training games Troy Junior played as a central striker.

The first competitive league game of the season was on the home ground on a warm and sunny Saturday morning. A complete contrast to the cold and miserable weather we had always envisaged for these "winter season" games. TJ had a couple of early touches and passes of the ball but these didn't amount to much. Then a cross came over from the left, TJ caught it cleanly on the volley - Back Of The Net. One-nil! The score by half-time (there are 20 minutes each half) remained the same. In the second half TJ scored again. Two-nil. The other team then got a goal back and we had a nerve-racking, clock watching, few minutes before the whistle blew for full time. TJ was name "Player of the Match" and was chosen to captain the team for the next game.

The second game, also played in warm sunshine again finished two-one to TJ's village team. By now both Mrs Troy and I were thoroughly enjoying our football. Last Saturday morning (26th), saw us arrive bright and early for the third game of the season. Yet again in warm and sunny conditions. Some parents make cake and buns and there is also a large urn for teas or coffees. There is a great atmosphere among the parents. They can however get quite vocal during the games! We've taken folding chairs to sit on but I'm too nervous to sit down - I like to stand and cheer. Troy Junior scored again "a natural poacher's finish" with the outside of his right boot and yet again the match finished with a two-one win. Three games, three wins (all 2-1), nine points out of nine and TJ as the leading goal scorer!

We have the cold, wet or freezing weather still to come but I for one can't wait for the next game.

If only it was this good down at Portman Road watching Ipswich Town! They, in contrast, have had a truly awful start to their season.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Mrs Troy and I are both not happy. Troy Junior's school have a 'policy' of having dress up days where they ask all the children in a particular year group to go to school dressed in a character costume. For Troy Junior's year group, last year it was as a superhero, this year it is as a character from a Roald Dahl book.

The problem is that neither Mrs Troy nor I have any skills at costume making. We are not being modest, our skill levels really are negligible. I'm the one who walks to school with Troy Junior and last year I told Mrs Troy point blank that I would not take him dressed in his school uniform when (virtually) all the other children would be in costume. We did finally send him to school wearing a Spiderman T-shirt but I must confess that my heart went out to him as the other children turned up in costumes that would have made Superman's girlfriend or Batman's butler do a double take before realising it was actually just a child dressed up rather than being the real superhero.

Some of the costumes were homemade but with obviously a great variety of materials purchased and then painstakingly made up. Other parents had obviously hired costumes from fancy dress shops. A couple of parents told me that they had paid £18-£20 to hire a costume for their child. They resented the fact that they had felt obliged to fork out this money but they didn't want their child to be the odd one out with no costume on the day.

So I'm wondering if Troy Junior's Primary School is the exception or the rule when it comes to these dress up days? If you have, or have had, children of school age have you experienced these school dress up days? Have you hired, at considerable expense, a costume for your child or have you taken the time to make a really good outfit from scratch? Do you approve of these school dress up days where parents have the pressure of hiring/making costumes for their children?

We are in a quandary. We really don't want our young child to suffer the trauma of being the only one in his year group not to have a Roald Dahl character costume on the day. However we feel it is wrong that parents are pressured into hiring expensive fancy dress costumes if they don't have the dress-making skills to improvise from scratch.

I'm really keen to hear other people's thoughts on this matter. (And, if you have any ideas how to meet the "dress as a character from a Roald Dahl book" easily and simply please, PLEASE, let us know!).

Friday, 4 September 2009


The heading may sound like a disaster but in fact this is a heartwarming story. The tornado in question is actually a steam locomotive pulling a very special train called "The Winton Train". The journey commemorated a series of eight train journeys that occurred seventy years ago at the outbreak of World War Two. Those trains carried hundreds of mainly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to new foster homes in Britain. They were organised by a 29 year old clerk called Nicholas Winton. The last leg of the four day route was from the port of Harwich in Essex to London's Liverpool Street Station. Today, a now 100 year old Sir Nicholas Winton was at the station in London to greet 22 of the original travellers who, along with their families ,had reinacted their earlier historic journey.

Although it is heartwarming to think that these children escaped to safety and went on to new lives in Britain it is also a sad tale as most, in not all, of these children waved farewell to their parents from the train as it departed and never saw them again. If you click on this link - here - you can read more about the 1939 journeys and today's 70th anniversary event.

I first became aware of this story when I heard that the steam locomotive "Tornado" was hauling a train from Harwich to London. This steam locomotive itself is actually a very interesting, unique engine. Rather than being a preserved and restored old engine it is actually brand new - the first steam locomotive to be built in Britain for nearly fifty years. There were 49 similar locomotives built in 1948/49 but the last one was scrapped in 1966 when the network went diesel and electric. Unlike many classes of engine not one saved - all went for scrap. Someone in 1990 had the ambitious idea to built an entirely new one from the original plans. Money was raised and over a eighteen year project the new loco 60163 "Tornado" was built. You can read about the project here.

This morning after dropping Troy Junior at school I drove to Marks Tey station in Essex. There, at 09.45, along with many other onlookers, I saw "The Winton Train" pulled by "Tornado" come through the station at speed. Here are two photos:-

It was a fantastic, albeit very brief, sight as the train hurtled passed, commemorating a very heartwarming story.