This Is It

[Sam] This is it.

[Frodo] This is what?

[Sam] If I take one more step, it’ll be the furthest from home I’ve ever been.

Lord of the Rings

Tomorrow, we travel over the southern boarder of peninsula Malaysia, into Singapore.  As soon as we travel south of the airport, it will be the furthest from home Fergus & I have ever been.

And we’ve only been to Singapore once, to change planes, but it still counts I guess.

Of course, for the children, every step they’ve taken since we got off the plane in Nepal has been the furthest from home they’ve ever been.

And by the time we get back, we’ll have to go to Australia to get the same effect.

Why is it so tantalizingly exciting to be taking that one more step?

I’m not sure, all I do know is that it fills me with a sense of adventure and puts a smile on my face.


OK, to all friends who are primary school teachers, what else do we need to teach the kids in Year 4 maths?

We have done:

Whole numbers
– adding with column method
– subtracting with column method
– subtracting with ‘borrowing’ (saying ’30 exchanges for 20 and 10′) like they teach at school)
– multiplying with the grid method
– multiplying with the column method
– dividing using chunking
– long division
– long multiplication

– adding fractions
– subtracting fractions
– multiplying fractions
– dividing fractions
– simplifying fractions including top heavy
– converting fractions to decimals
– converting fractions, decimals, percentages (any to any)
– practical use e.g. 20% off sale! How much does the £10 toy cost now?

– adding decimals
– subtracting decimals
– multiplying decimals
– converting decimals (as above)

– stating if values are >, <, or = to each other (including decimals and fractions mixed up)
– 100 cm is 1m; 60 seconds so 1 minute etc

Other things
– calculating the perimeter of shapes
– starting to use algebra e.g. If the square's sides are y cm, the perimeter must be 4y cm
– reading data off a bar chart
– reading co-ordinates on a grid
– mapping points on a grid with co-ordinates
– lots of converting currencies!

I think we need to do some more geometry things, can anyone give me a clue or any good online resources to help with this?

We have been using but it's a USA curriculum, according to the dept of education website, there is currently no year 4 maths curriculum – surely this can't be right?

Any help would be appreciated.

Keeping Cool in KL

I’ve dreamed of visiting KL since I read about it while studying for my A Level Economics (many years ago).  At the time, Malaysia was the fastest growing economy in the world, with the Petronas towers under construction, set to be the tallest buildings in the world, and a symbol of growing wealth, ambition and progress for the nation.

We’re here at last, having arrived at the new, modern railway station by night train.  At 6.30am we heard the guard shouting ‘KL Sentral!’ which we assumed was the termination of the train, so were taking our time changing out of pyjama’s and gathering up our things, when he came back to hurrry us along as the train was about to leave again!  So we kind of fell off the train in a pile of laundry and rucksacks, matted hair and sleepy children.

No matter, our guest house were very welcoming, even at that hour.  It was a little early to check in, but we were given tea, coffee & hot chocolate, a big comfy sofa, and space to store our luggage.  It’s a lovely little place called Sabahat.  We’re taking 2 of the 8 rooms here, and have our own kitchenette in a lovely seating area, a great escape from the hustle and bustle outside.

We headed out again and saw the Bird Park.  Actually, we didn’t go in (it’s very pricey – about MYR 250 for all of us – £50) but we ate in the Hornbill cafe, which has an outside seating area in the birdpark, so you can see it for free!  We saw loads of hornbills, and even had some birds coming to eat our scraps.  The Lakeside Park is beautiful, we also saw the Orchid section, and of course, the playground, which is huge.

The next day was all about the Petronas Towers.  We’d bought tickets in advance so saved hours avoiding the enormous queue, and were wizzing up in the ultra fast lift before 9am.  The visit was in 2 parts:  a stop at the skybridge at about 180m, and a stop at the observation deck at 370m.  It really was memorable, being in such an iconic building looking down at the city below.  The highlight for the girls was spotting a huge playground with a paddling pool that we’d been told was nearby, so you can guess what we spent the rest of the day doing!

KL is very different to the other capital cities we’ve visited.  It’s much more modern, you can buy anything here:  we’ve seen H&M, M&S (we bought earl grey tea and rich tea biscuits), a Harrods tea room, Tiffany’s and many other famous western retailers.  It’s much calmer than Bangkok, much cleaner than Kathmandu, and much hotter than both of them put together.  The most popular way of keeping cool seems to be ducking into the city-sized shopping complexes that make the White Rose Centre in Leeds look like a small backwater from yesteryear.  It’s very dangerous on the pocket, Fergus seems to have accidentally spent £400 on camera accessories without meaning to.  And I bought a dress or 2.  Oops!

There’s also much more access to the outside world.  The internet speed is brilliant, and there are international newspapers, as well as BBC news on in many outlets.  Malaysia is big in the news at the moment, as the search continues for MH370 continues, and it’s the Grand Prix in KL this weekend, sponsored by Petronas, of course.

Fused with these modern conveniences though is the melee of sounds, smells and sights that signify South East Asia.  The cooking pots on the street are still here (although looking slightly more securely balanced than elsewhere); the inevitable Chinatown & Little India districts; the sudden change from ‘delicious noodle soup’ smell to ‘overheated blocked drain’ as you inhale; the honking of horns and the weaving motorbikes through the traffic; the touts trying to entice you, the tourist, to come buy their wares; and the tiny hovels inhabited by the city’s poor rub shoulders with the designer outlets.  What sets KL apart for me though is the parks, they rival London in the feeling of city centre getaway, and I think would make KL a very liveable in city for anyone, whatever their wealth.

Picturesque Penang

Penang Island has a bit of everything: diverse culture, heritage buildings, wildlife and beaches. We only had 3 days here but we packed them full. Here’s a few of our highlights.

There’s a clear favorite pastime on Penang: eating. Pack the elasticated waist trousers and feast from dawn till dusk. We have now had to make a healthy eating vow to undo the foodie paradise indulgence of the last 3 days.

Dim Sum for breakfast; Nasi Goreng Ayam (fried rice with deep fried chicken); Nasi Kandar (rice with a selection of mouthwatering curries); Roti Canai (a butter-filled puffy pancake served with a curry dip); all topped off with Cendol (shaved ice covered in sweet treats…and kidney beans, yes, really) and a sugary iced drink…it’s not exactly the picture of health. And it shows; there are almost as many overweight people here as in the UK.

The architecture is stunning, even the kids appreciated the Penang Museum, the Khoo Kongsi and the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. (It helps if you turn it into a game where we are the first British settlers on the island, and the mansion belongs to us…). Georgetown has a fascinating history, although it’s tough to read about some the shameful behavior of our ancestors. There are stunning buildings on every street, some British colonial, and a lot of early wealthy Chinese and Indian merchant family mansions.

We spent a day visiting Penang Hill, where I really wanted to look around some of the British colonial houses that were built by the wealthiest settlers to escape the heat and bustle of the city. However, we instead spent 4 hours in the Owl Museum painting plaster cast owls. We had a lot of fun though! And the funicular ride up and down was truly memorable.

I think the top highlight has to be the ‘blow the budget’ 350 Ringgit (£60) splash out that we indulged in today. We had afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. Founded in 1885, it’s everything you expect from a colonial high society hang out. From the perfect whitewash exterior to the valet’s starched shirts; the tiered cake stands to the delicate silver tea strainers; it was heavenly. The children were awed by the ‘poshness’ of everything (after some of the backpacker haunts they’ve endured, it’s no wonder).

The kids behaved perfectly. After many warnings and a herculean effort to arrive in clean clothing, we were delighted with how they sat up and took part like little ladies. Well, almost. At one point, Jemima dropped her knife on the floor. “It’s OK Mum,” she said, “I licked it first!”

You can take the girls out of Leeds…

NB – we are having trouble with our memory card reader…here’s a few pictures but more to follow

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Oh No!


Have just realised the England World Cup games will be at 5am, 3am and (mercifully) 11pm as we’ll be in Vietnam. That’s a lot of sleep to give up to watch us being thrashed by Italy.

Perhaps we should have gone to South America.

Food Glorious Food

Last night we arrived in Penang, the Pearl of the Orient, and, according to our Lonely Planet, home to the best street food in Asia.

We sampled a little last night, in Chinatown where we’re staying. The savoury dishes — Mee Goreng, Char Koay Tiaw, steamed ginger chicken, deep-fried crispy duck — were yummy, but the kids were less than impressed with the traditional Chinese desserts we bought. It seems that bowls of watery, sweetish soya milk with a sludge of tofu and pearl barley at the bottom just doesn’t cut it with British 8-year olds.

Today the epicurean adventure continues with breakfast at a locally-famous dim sum restaurant, then we’re going on a walking tour of the city to see the sights… and maybe check out a street food stall or two. Or ten.