OK, so I'm sure many people haven't had any choice but to have been up for hours already this Saturday morning, but it feels a bit unnatural for me - though I couldn't sleep any more so decided I may as well just get up at a leisurely pace and hope I've got the energy when I may well need it later!
But anyway, what of these last few days? Well the journey over to Ali's on Tuesday afternoon was straightforward enough - I didn't even get lost - and the crack in my windscreen presented no problems, though I was glad it was going to be seen to. Apart from unloading the various computer boxes from my car, we didn't do anything more in that regard, and it was lovely just to spend some quality time with my sister and family, without too many other distractions.
Wednesday, Ali and I set up the computer as planned, with me mainly guiding and Ali doing the actual plugging in, since she needs to be modestly familiar with it - even with the help of the excellent set-up poster supplied, and the undoubted assistance of Holly and Jed in particular. We temporarily "plumbed" it onto the internet via my unmetered dial-up account and my spare telephone extension cable, but they're going to sort out something more permanent very soon in both regards. The location of the computer isn't ideal at the moment for various reasons, but there wasn't a lot of choice in the matter really. With all but Raf at school, it was a good opportunity to take Ali through some of the basics of using the computer, though it was a lot for her to take in and I am not a particularly good teacher when it comes to starting from absolutely no assumed prior knowledge. So in many ways it was more a case of showing her what the computer could do, so she can be inspired to learn through practice.
In the afternoon we went to pick up the younger children from school, which was expected to be a fairly quick and easy manoeuvre but that turned out to take rather longer! We were just about to leave the school when a car came rather fast and wide round a steep corner in the car park, and ploughed into the back of another car, just about to reverse out. It was only after the crash that we noticed that apart from a somewhat traumatised dog on the back seat, the first car was empty, and it seems that whoever had parked it had lazily decided the handbrake was just for show - a common failing I have noticed over the years in various scenarios and with various drivers. Thankfully no-one was hurt - it could have been so much worse, especially given the number of children around - but hopefully some valuable lessons have been learned, though I doubt it...
When we arrived home, Holly had already got back from college and was happily doing assignment research on the computer without any prompting, though we quickly switched over to my unmetered internet account once I realised she was using the local-rate one! Needless to say, that was the calm before the storm.
I just hope that the computer will prove to be a little bit of a novelty with the younger ones, because it was bought primarily with Holly and Jed's needs in mind, and their use will need to take priority. Holly is actually quite adept at seeking out computers at college, in the library and at friends' houses, but it's not an ideal - or always terribly cheap - way of doing things, so having facilities easily to hand at home will be a boon. Unlike Holly, Jed is rather inclined to give up rather if faced with hurdles like that, though, so it is the hope that having an easily accessible computer will encourage him in his schoolwork. There is the complication that Jed lives with his dad so won't get more than a couple of hours' access a day, so his use must take priority if it's for homework, and those are of course the least convenient couple of hours in terms of "compatibility" with the younger children in the family. None of the younger children have any requirement to present their schoolwork via the computer, but obviously its colourful graphics and fun sounds are an attraction to them nonetheless. The Waldorf school philosophy indeed would tend to actively discourage such things, but at the same time they have to live in the real world. I just felt quite despondent about the whole thing, witnessing seemingly endless squabbling, children asking if they could use the computer when they probably should have been in bed, and so on, and Ali's words of reassurance weren't always quite enough. I guess I've seen the same kinds of issues before, with half the number of children involved, and know they don't necessarily go away overnight. I am sure there will be at least some element of initial novelty to it all, but Ali will have to be quite strict in enforcing whatever kind of rota may be necessary to ensure the most constructive use.
Thursday I didn't really get to see a lot of Ali, with her out for much of the day, and it was also when the man called to replace my cracked windscreen. He had originally been coming on Wednesday, then there was a problem sourcing the glass needed, so it was delayed until Thursday morning. But the man phoned me first thing on Thursday to check if the afternoon would be all right, because they were short-staffed. That was fine, and he ended up arriving rather sooner than expected. He did a generally good job, but unfortunately didn't replace the windscreen wipers quite properly and consequently the new windscreen has - thanks to the rain that chucked it down all the way home yesterday - already got marked. It's probably nothing to get too worried about, but I will mention it on the warranty registration feedback card because they might cover it.
More arguments about the computer in the evening, of course, and all attempts at a dinner-table moratorium failed miserably. Perhaps in retrospect it wasn't a good idea to have connected the computer up to the internet immediately, because it's given them all a taste that they might find hard to shake - Spider Solitaire is one thing, designing a Barbie doll quite another. Of course, I couldn't leave them with my unmetered connection details; they can be used from anywhere in the UK, but only from one location at a time. So until they sort something else out they will be paying at least a penny a minute for their access, and I hope that is made very clear to those who understand. The little ones need and want supervision when using the computer anyway, so I guess that so long as Ali can face the initial tantrums and tears, "no" may be enough.
When I got up on Friday I didn't really know how the day was going to work out. I was intending to head home during the day at some point, so I made sure I was up in time to see all the children off to school. As it turned out, Ali needed to go out fairly early in the morning to view a possible replacement minibus, so it worked out best that I left when she did. As I said, it was a pretty foul journey all the way home, and I had to stop a couple of times to sort out my poorly-fitted windscreen wipers - hence my mention yesterday of windswept A40 laybys! I came home via Bletchley though, to grab a late lunch at Burger King, and more importantly to get some new windscreen wipers at Halfords. The old ones were on their way out and would have needed replacing anyway, but the problems experienced on the journey home made that all the more urgent!