31st March


Today we went to a Applicant day at the University of Hertfordshire which is one of the universities our daughter is considering for the next step in quest to become an engineer. We came once before when they had an open day but this was meant to be specific for the people who had applied for the course. The agenda showed there was a campus tour first and suggested that if we didn’t want to go on that we should arrive in time for the light refreshments at 13:15.

So we decided to go into Hatfield and have a look around. I’d never been before but knew about the Galleria that spans the A1. We headed into town and had a look at the main shopping centre which, apart from Asda, had very little going for it – I half expected to see tumbleweed blowing down the street. So we drove over to the Galleria as it seemed just that little bit too far away from the rest of the town to make sense, no wonder it’s such a mess. The carpark was awkward and expensive and once inside it didn’t, on first glance seem worth the effort. I couldn’t help but notice that all of the cashpoints in the mall were one’s that charged for withdrawals – just seemed to be a bit nasty that! Anyway we decided to have something to eat and ended up in Burger King.


Once at the university we were less than impressed with the organisation which meant there were no signs or people to point us to the registration area. I dropped them off and went to park the car and while I was parking Sarah found out that the “light refreshments” were in fact a buffet lunch! In any case all the sandwiches were either vegetarian or seafood so I was glad we’d already eaten. She also found out that we’d missed our chance to see the accommodation as this had been included in the campus tour – not that she’d been told that when she’d e-mailed yesterday.

Anyway we went off to some talks (most of which we’d already heard at the open day) during which I was highly amused by the senior lecturer’s inability to control a powerpoint presentation. After this we were separated into parent groups and student groups and taken on a tour of the department (all of which we’d seen at the open day!) There didn’t seem to be any differentiation between the talks for students and the one for parents and as exciting as the tensile strength of bamboo is and it’s potential as a future material for racing cars or aeroplanes we had heard that last time we were here. And yes we know you’ve got a F1 simulator!

So anyway the main objective of the day was to decide between Herts and Sussex and even though Herts may have a superb course it just lost out on the overall package – really Brighton vs Hatfied? No contest really!

One of the other exciting things of the day was that as we had then to go and pick up the other childroids from the Mother-in-law’s house it meant that we ended up doing an entire loop of the M25. We’d started at J2 that morning and travelled round to J23 for Hatfield. Afterwards we went back to the M25 and at that point we could have gone either way as the junction we needed to get to was equidistant from J23 which ever way we went so we decided to continue anti-clockwise to avoid the bridge. We came off at J6 to collect the kids before returning to the motorway and going back round to J2 to head home. Curiously we didn’t get stuck in traffic once all day but I still wish I’d had the rocket car (below and above) we’d seen at the uni to do the journey in!



30th March

WooHoo! Pay day – been a five week month so seems like a long time! Survived to the end with 73p in my pocket and a fiver in the bank that I couldn’t get out of a cashpoint machine! It didn’t help having to find £100 on train fares into London for work over the past week either! Still I paid the phone bill this morning so we shouldn’t get cut off and my mobile phone bill too as they sent me a snotty text on Wednesday!

It’s weird coming into work on a Friday after 2 days off – it felt like a Monday but if all Mondays were Fridays wouldn’t that be grand? And only 4 days next week before we’re off to Devon on holiday (Petrol shortage permitting!)

I did actually need some petrol and as we were going to Sarah’s nan’s after work I thought I’d fill up after we’d left there figuring that the queues may have died down by then. As it happened I spotted a petrol station that not only had short queues but was also selling it for a sub £1.40 price per litre so I joined the queue. The first pump I went to was empty – don’t think I’ve had that happen before but it didn’t take long to get my tank filled up for the long journey tomorrow.

28th March

Students still getting me down! You think a room is empty and then they enter it and it feels even emptier!

Weird thing this morning – went out and got into car – Radio 4 was on and the guy I’d filmed yesterday was being interviewed on the Today program!

First day of Headteacher interviews at the school.

Highlight of the day was something I wasn’t really looking forward to – lunch with the kids. I went in first and sat with the last few reception kids and chatted to them as they finished their lunches. One of them asked me to help her put her things back in her lunchbox. They were all so cute, asked me my name and how old I was.

Then I had my lunch with year 1. I had baked potato and pudding and custard. This was the first time I’d had school lunch since the one and only time I stayed at secondary school after rugby practise! Sarah came in ad told the kids that they had to make sure I ate everything! The girl I was at next to even asked her friend to make sure I did if she had to leave before I finished! Afterwards I got a sticker for eating all my lunch!

So tonight the one of the students asked if she could go to the post office. We told her it was closed and that we were about to have dinner. After dinner she asked again and then slipped out of the door. Although we were annoyed as she wasn’t meant to go out alone at night we waited for her to come back as there is a post office at either end of the road. When she didn’t come back Sarah got me to go to the end of the road and look for her but she was nowhere to be seen. I then jumped in the car and wizzed around the area trying to find her. After 10-15 minutes Sarah came with me but we still couldn’t find her.

Sarah rang the co-ordinator and she rang the French teacher. I continued to drive around in ever increasing circles looking for her. The French teacher tried to talk to the other student but as Lissi found earlier when she tried the other student had no idea where she had gone. In fact the other student showed absolutely no signs of even being remotely worried about what had happened to her classmate. We even went ontoour PC to look at the history to see if there were any clues. She had spent ages watching music videos and I was starting to panic that maybe she had jumped on a train to London in some teenage “Let’s go to London because that’s where all the music stars are!” sort of moment. As I drove around I started to worry that she’d been grabbed, there were 2 dodgy looking blokes standing outside a house near the post box – had they enticed her in or even grabbed her?

As time went on we were getting more and more frantic and as it approached 2 hours the decision was made by the French teacher to phone the Police. In a matter of minutes a Police car had turned up outside out house with the dippy student in it! Apparently they had picked her up an hour earlier and had been driving around hoping she would recognise something. They were starting to despair about what to do with her when the call came through.

The leisure centre is about a ten minute walk from our house and is in a direct straight line. There’s the occasional twist and turn but no left turns or right turns to confuse you. I’m pretty sure that if our 6 year old was to wander down there then he could simply turn around and find his way back. But not this 13 year old…… I’ve no idea why she was so far away, she must have passed 3 post boxes on route, unless she really did think she would find an open Post Office at 8pm. Apparently they had been given a card with our address on in case of emergencies but she didn’t have it with her – her teachers were furious!

The thing that concerned us the most is that she didn’t seemed to be fazed by it at all, nor did she show any remorse. To get to the leisure centre she would have passed the train station at the end of the road but didn’t think to mention Le Gare to the Police as being near the house. We are seriously convinced that both students had some sort of learning difficulties that we hadn’t been informed of. The certainly didn’t seem capable of anything but the simplest of social interaction which makes us wonder why it was felt acceptable to place them with a strange family in a foreign country.

Les lumières sont allumées mais il n’y a personne à la maison

27th March


Day 3 Camera 3 – this is a Sony X3 which records HD to memory card instead of tape – it had a 22Gb memory card in it! I was filming a brief piece to camera and had set up in the board room of an office in a posh bit of London. It was so posh that when I was offered a coffee it was brought by a member of the catering team, on a tray with proper cups and saucers and a plate of biscuits (including chocolate ones!!!!!!) – but no sugar! I went out to find sugar and a bloke was standing outside the door (hopefully a coincidence) with a box of the stuff! He almost fell over himself to give me some!

I then noticed that the air conditioning was a bit noisy and was being picked up by the microphones so I asked if it could be turned off. Several minutes later two men arrived with a step ladder. They removed a ceiling tile and then one of them, standing on an upturned chair balanced on the boardroom table reached up and switched it off! I didn’t mention the other humming noise coming from a piece of equipment behind me! The guy I was filming was obviously quite important judging by all this rushing about. At one point he complained that he’d sent someone an e-mail at 5am that morning as as yet (9am) hadn’t got a reply. He muttered that he was sure that even I checked my e-mail when I got up in the morning……….er no!

Well not my work e-mails anyway!

I saw something on Facebook the other week about a collective called Clock Operation who were going to make a track from sounds submitted by other Soundcloud users – so I uploaded one of my sounds and today I got an e-mail saying there was a preview online. I think I can hear my sound in there!

26th March


Another day, another camera – today it’s a Sony Z1 to film the Future Chef competition in Westminster. Last year humping a full size camera round a hot kitchen for 3 hours almost killed me so this year a much smaller one was requested!

I really enjoy this event and always feel sorry for the kids (they’re aged between 12 and 16) when it goes wrong for them on the day. This year the top 3 were all girls which I don’t remember happening before. The winner from a couple of years ago was there – I remembered filming him – he’s just opened his own restaurant at 17!!!!! The event is presented by Celeb Chef Brian Turner with help from the irrepressible Ainsley Harriott


Picked up our two French students tonight – they are weird they didn’t say a word to each other the whole way back to the house!