Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Day 11, in which we revert to SatMum

The plan was to drive to Sarlat.  Now there's a quick way to do that (SatNav) or there's a slow way to do that (old school following maps).  Now when I visited the Dordogne with my parents we always had SatMum sat in the passenger seat with a Michelin map on her lap. We tried to recreate that today.

We had seen some beautiful towns on the banks of the Dordogne that were begging to be explored and we thought we could get to Sarlat via some of these picturesque tourist magnets.  In addition to these towns we wanted to travel along some specific roads which we knew to be scenic, because we'd bought ourselves a Michelin map.

I could have attempted to programme the SatNav with Sarlat as the final destination with numerous waypoints but it seemed easier to use the map.  So that's what we did.  We made the scenic drives and we made it to Beynac.  Beynac was sunny and steep and Hannah and Ethan were a bit hot and bothered so we cut the road trip short and headed straight for Sarlat and ice cream.

Walking around Sarlat had only one thing going for it as far as the children were concerned: ice cream.  After the ice cream we had trouble keeping their attention so we whizzed around the rest of the beautful, historic Sarlat and then programmed the SatNav for home sweet home, or holiday accommodation sweet holiday accommodation.

So, for part of the day at least, we recreated SatMum.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Day 10, in which we like what we don't have

Is it just me that likes looking around French hypermarkets?

I know what I'll find if I wander around a UK supermarket which is why I try to avoid the experience.  It's dull, boring and predictable.

French hypermarkets on the other hand are a wonderland of the new and interesting.

The food is an obvious difference, although for the life of me I couldn't find sour cream when I was looking.  But for me it's all the other stuff.

We're looking for a fuse (mini 20A) for the car, see Day 1 and a French hypermarket is just the kind of place that would have something like that.  Granted in the ones we've been in so far, that part of the display has been out of stock but we live in hope.

Today I saw a baguette cutting breadboard.  It was a slotted breadboard with a hinged, permanently attached bread knife.  Completely ridiculous, but amazing.

There were lovely china "things" which were the shape of a six inch high tumbler and which were intended for hot drinks I think even though they didn't have handles.  I thought they would be perfect for ice cream sundaes.

There was bag I could easily have bought, a jug that I could have slipped into the trolley, some table linen that I could have taken home and a bowl that would have been great to take camping.

There were many aisles I didn't get to explore because as soon as I suggest I want to wander and browse, Dave's eyes roll and I know he doesn't approve.  It's just not his thing so I just get away with a brief glimpse in the time it takes for Dave to get through the checkout.  It simply isn't long enough.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Day 9, in which the British really shouldn't

Today we took charge, as promised, and we took les enfants canoeing along the Dordogne.  We'd found a place that bussed us 14 km up river and gave us until 7pm to find our way back to the car.  We figured the 11:30 departure should give us plenty of time.

We hadn't figured on two children that can't manage a canoe paddle to save their respective lives.  Gah!  Two canoes may not have been the smartest choice and next time Dave and I are sharing a canoe and the kids can make their own way.

I jest, sort of, although it did take us until 5pm and we were the last of our group to make it.  I guess that means there might have been people who didn't make it, but who am I kidding?

Canoeing is a fabulous, relaxing way to see the country, and the views from the river were outstanding, not to mention the non-stop sunshine.

The only fly in the canoeing ointment, apart from the delightful damselflies that accompanied us, was an international incident.

There is a lot of macho bravado on the river.  There are men who "own" the paddle and who are "in charge" of the canoe ensuring their ladies are safe and reach their destination unharmed, there is the horseplay of young men tipping canoes over and generally larking around, and there is the football hooligan who is seemingly lost.

We came across a few canoes exchanging insults.  Effectively there were canoes containing British hooligans who were goading a group of French young men.  There were insults flying in French and English and the English guys were timing their insults such that they thought they could paddle their way out of danger if necessary.  I know this because I heard them discussing their escape strategy.

It escalated to the point when one English lad shouted up river to the French group "Come and 'av a go if you think you're 'ard enough!"

The French decided the English boys, with their all too obvious insecurities, weren't worth the trip.

I was embarrassed for our nation.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Day 8, in which we got it very wrong

Today we let the children run the show.

Hannah came with me to the bakery van and she asked for the pain au chocolat, pain au raisin, croissant and baguette.  It went a bit pear-shaped when there wasn't enough pain au raisin but we coped.

We encouraged the children to browse a leaflet promoting the various activities in the area designed to attract tourists.  We asked them which attractions they wanted to visit.

One of the places they chose was Les Jardins De L'Imaginaire, which seemed like a good choice.  The main image was of an area full of fountains emerging from the ground and the description was of six hectares of beautiful gardens and fountains.  Show me a child that doesn't like running around a garden and playing in fountains.

It was only open for a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon with a long siesta in between.  I guessed it was about an hour away so we planned to leave at one o'clock to arrive at two.

We loaded just one of the SatNavs with the postcode and I picked one of the random streets attached to that postcode as I couldn't find the exact one mentioned in the literature.

45 minutes later we arrived at the destination, except it wasn't.  We'd reached the autoroute which was the random road I'd selected earlier.  We pulled over and considered our position.  We used the internet and maps on our phones to find we were actually a further 45 minutes from our intended destination.

When we arrived we discovered we could only enter the gardens by joining a guided tour, in French.  We paid up and were presented with a English printout of the tour.  The children were unimpressed.

It was dull.  The gardens were OK but I couldn't help feeling that if the Royal Horticultural Society got their hands on it then it would be much much better.  We eventually, after much "I'm bored", "I'm thirsty" and "I'm hungry" noises (from Hannah but mainly Ethan), arrived at the fountain in the picture.  It wasn't a fountain for play.  It was just one stopping point on the guided tour.

Ethan and Hannah tried to enjoy the fountain but I knew we were simply annoying people who wanted to take arty photos with their large-lensed cameras.

We left as soon as was decently appropriate.  Tomorrow the adults are in charge.

Day 7, in which we learn about the hittopotamus

At dinner Ethan launched into his routine of "Did you know..." and today it was the little known fact that "...hedgehogs can have up to five million spines?"

No I hadn't known that.

Earlier in the day I'd received a text in which someone told me they'd sorted out Tom's birthday party and could I hold the date.  I have no idea who texted me and I had no idea which Tom was having the party.  I consulted the children to see f they could shed light on the situation.

Ethan named the two Tommy's in his class with their exact birthdays.  How did he remember that?

I told Ethan he must have a huge memory, a huge hippocampus and there then followed a discussion about the difference between a hippopotamus, a hippocampus and a hittopotamus (what Ethan used to call a hippopotamus and, if I'm honest, still does).

We talked about London cabbies and their extraordinary memories because they need to learn the Knowledge and experiments have shown this results in enlarged hippocampi (plural of hippocampus?)

Dave piped up about the Dichotomous which is a large, two-headed, plant-eating mammal that lives in water, and to round things off I told him about the Monotonous which is a large, boring, plant-eating mammal that lives in water.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Day 6, in which Ethan is funny

This was the day that Dave and I relived a part of our childhoods.

We'd both holidayed in the Dordogne as children and both remember visiting caves in the area, none more impressive than Le Gouffre de Padirac near Rocamadour.

It was ideal cave visiting weather: wet and cold-ish.  We set off on a two hour journey with children plugged into Wallace and Gromit and The Curse of the Were Rabbit via the DVD players.

The SatNavs (always used in pairs) made for an interesting journey.  Even when we were passing signs clearly indicating Le Gouffre de Padirac we followed the SatNav and whilst the roads we took weren't exactly farm tracks, they proved to be an excellent route to test suspension ride quality.

The caves were perhaps more impressive than I remember, but being there triggered a few things I'd forgotten. Like my Dad's vertigo which he struggled to overcome as we climbed the steps towards the top of the steepest and highest cliff face within the cave.  I didn't remember the boat ride being as long as it was and I'm pretty sure the souvenir photo didn't feature when I was last there.

When we emerged into the daylight the rain was still there.  We ate lunch and headed home, children watching Wallace and Gromit on the return journey too.

Hunger was on our minds when we returned and I knew that we'd booked an archery session which would delay the evening meal so I opened a family-sized bag of bolognese flavoured crisps.  Not the nicest flavour I've ever tasted but Ethan was a fan.

He said they were better than ready salted, better than salt 'n' vinegar and better than porn and cocktails.


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Day 5, in which Ethan was bored

As threatened, today was the day for exploring Bergerac.
For the record, it was quicker and easier to get to the Carrefour in Bergerac that it was to get to the one we went to on Day Three.  Not that we bothered to enter, but we passed it, twice.
Dave, being Dave, had printed off a list of walks in the local area before we left home.  One of these walks was around Bergerac.  So we used the trusty SatNavs (they should always be used in pairs) and they plonked us right near the old town.
Time to crack open the pain au chocolat from the bakery van.
We put Hannah in charge of navigating because she's good at it and Ethan wasn't interested.  And Ethan's lack of interest spilled out over everything for the rest of the morning.
He was bored.  Bergerac was boring.  The wine museum was boring.  The market was boring.  The churches were boring.  I was boring.
When it was time to stop and eat our lunch it was a blessed relief from the constant boredom spout that was my son.
I know you're thinking that there's some bad parenting going on here.  There must be a way to engage a small child and make a leisurely amble around an historic town interesting.  I tried, I really did.  When we got to the market we talked about the big fish on display and whether this was the biggest fish he'd ever seen.  Along the river bank we looked for boats and fish and rats (yes, there was a rat - what could be more exciting than a rat?  Was it a water rat or just a dirty rat?).  We looked for woodworm in the beams on the old buildings and talked about how how some of the new buildings were being built in the style of the old buildings.  We talked about cars and statues, dog poo and ice cream.  It was all boring.
So after lunch, eaten in sight of a crêperie and ice cream parlour (not sure what the french term for one of those is),  Ethan wanted an ice cream, or crêpe.  I wasn't sure that such an objectionable child was eligible for such a treat.  It was then that Ethan promised that if he were allowed such a treat he wouldn't be bored for the whole of the holiday.
We succumbed to ice cream because French ice cream is really quite nice.  But Ethan's was a hollow promise that lasted but a few hours.
Back at the ranch his mood improved while he was splashing around in the pool, but then he got cold (we didn't understand this as we were baking in the 30˚C plus heat).  And whilst he was recovering under a towel by the poolside, he declared he was "More bored than a bored person in Boredland."
I am clearly a failed mother, and boring to boot.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Day 4, in which we got our arses whooped

And the heavens opened.  It started with a bit of thunder and lightening and then came and went during the day.  It mainly went but when it came we were glad we stayed in.

We could have got up early and visited some impressive local caves or made it into Bergerac for a damp walk around the market, but we opted for less energetic activities, save for a late splash around in a pool.

After the obligatory visit to the bakery van, in time for pain au chocolat this time, we taught Hannah how to play cribbage.  We considered this a great bit of holiday homework.  To play well it is necessary to have grasp of probabilities, hone observational skills and be quick with mental arithmetic.

The first game was played with cards visible to aid learning.  This was won by Hannah.

Ethan had been observing the cribbage training and joined the next game, played with cards visible, and won by Ethan.

There were a few games that followed and, whilst Dave and I escaped complete humiliation by winning occasionally, we still had our arses whooped.

To further the children's tuition in educational gaming, we then moved on to Yahtzee, which also relies a knowledge of probabilities and quick mental arithmetic.  They beat us at that too.

I think we might treat them to a tour of Bergerac tomorrow


Day 3, in which we eventually had our daily pain au chocolat

The children woke at 7:30 which would normally be fine but this place is in the middle of nowhere.

The previous night I had looked across the fields and trees for a sign of civilisation.  I spotted two lights in the distance, close to the horizon.  In such peace and tranquility children can sound like a group of hyenas, and ours do, especially Ethan.  Dave tried gently to ask Ethan to use his quiet voice whereas I veer towards the "Shhhh!".  Neither has any impact for more than five seconds.

So at 7:30am I'm very conscious that the only noises I can hear come from my overly loud children.

We readied ourselves for a trip to the bakery van and, on the walk through the village, I prepare Ethan and Hannah to ask for "deux baguette et quatre pain au chocolat" and to say good morning with "Bonjour Madame." and to say thankyou with either a "Merci Madame" or a "Merci beaucoup".

She had no pain au chocolat.  We hadn't arrived in time.  We'd failed.  Brunch or "coffee time" as it's known in our house, was doomed.  The only thing that could save us was a trip to the shops.

The lady at reception, when asked, had explained that the best supermarket to head for was in Bergerac.  Being independent British people armed with technology we knew better.  Had I not specifically downloaded all Carrefour locations into my TomTom? It was obvious to one and all that we were equipped for this challenge.

I asked the in-car SatNav where the nearest Shopping Centre was.  I asked the TomTom where the nearest Carrefour was.  They agreed.  Off we went.

Except we didn't go anywhere near Bergerac.  In fact we went in the opposite direction.  For 46 kilometres.  Is anywhere in France further than 46 kilometres from the nearest Carrefour?  Really?

Once committed we couldn't admit that the lady, who lived locally and knew the area well, knew better than our technology, so we forged on knowing secretly that we were making a mistake.

Eventually we arrived, we shopped, we bought pain au chocolat and we ate pain au chocolat.  We have an inkling there may be a better way.  We might freestyle it next time and follow the signs saying Bergerac.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Day 2, in which we were not caught speeding

We had a leisurely start on Day 2 but at least we had in-car entertainment for the children because of our diligent efforts on Day 1.

The journey ahead of us was only about five hours plus stops but it's always nice to arrive early.

On a previous trip to France (skiing in Morzine) we'd been stopped for speeding.  I wasn't driving.

Being stopped by the French Gendarmerie was an unpleasant experience as we were escorted to an autoroute exit and Dave was extracted from the car and disappeared. For ages.  To be honest I thought they might be taking the opportunity for a bit of police brutality but actually they just wanted to hammer his credit card.

So Dave was sticking to the speed limit, or close to it.

On Day 1 I'd come up with a little ditty to keep Dave under the speed limit.  Every time I thought he was straying above the speed limit I'd say "Be bar be bar, nick nick nick." which I know sounds really stupid. Well let's dissect it.  The "Be bar be bar" bit it is my pathetic police car impression that Dave ridicules and the "Nick nick nick" bit is my little reminder that if he continues he'll be nicked.

Dave obviously has visual access to a speedometer because we didn't disconnect the speedo on Day 1.  We also have the satnav plugged in (yes, as well as the in-car nav) and the satnav shows the real speed of the car (I should put a disclaimer in here because it might not be 100% accurate) because it uses satellites.  And the satnav highlights the speed in red if it decides you're travelling too far over the speed limit.  This relies on it storing the right speed limit data but I had just updated map information so it was sort of accurate.

Well Ethan was looking out for the red speed and every time he saw it he said (in a loud and annoying voice) "Be bar be bar nick nick nick."  And he said it again, and again, and again.  Dave asked Ethan how long he wanted the journey to be and I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking that Dave said that because if Dave slowed down the journey would last longer but no....he was hinting that if Ethan carried on he'd be walking.

"Be bar be bar, nick nick nick."

Day 1, in which I am a genius

Day 1 looked promising.

We were out of bed, showered and breakfasted and we'd packing things in the car before I'd even remembered the first thing I'd forgotten.

Then I remembered Ethan hadn't written a Thank you card for his great Granny's birthday present, I remembered he hadn't done the one piece of homework he'd been given over the holidays (drawing a picture of our house), and I remembered I was going to try and find some architectural drawings, sign a contract and write a cheque.  It was all going so well.

One by one the items on the to-do list were eliminated (although frankly Ethan's effort at drawing our house was extremely pathetic and didn't even have a front door, but I was past caring) and we left on time, or would have done were it not for the fly in the ointment.

In preparation for driving across France (which, if you've not done it, is a long way) I'd bought a super duper DVD thing that attached to headrests and allows children to watch different DVDs.

We had one of these previously but it only played one DVD across two screens and we found the age and gender difference meant there were only two films Hannah and Ethan could ever agree on.  Then I mashed one of the leads in a Galaxy front seat height mechanism which was kindly replaced by Mr Argos without charge.  After some sterling service the 12V power lead lost it's metal end which, for the technically-minded among you, signals a problem as it's the metal bit that carries the electricity.   It still worked when plugged into the mains however which was a boon when Ford started producing cars with 3-pin sockets for rear seat passengers.  But eventually the discs stopped playing and we figured the player was destined for the great scrapheap in the sky, or at least the tip on Coxtie Green Road.

I'd tested the super duper player before our departure day because I knew there would be nothing more frustrating than the cries from the second row of seat "Mum, it won't play." or "Mum, how do I turn it on?" or "I can't hear anything." etc.  I knew how to attach it to the headrests using the stanchion mounts (even though I have no idea what stanchion means).  I could insert discs, get the audio coming through on the infra red speakers and adjust volume, pause the disc and anything else you could mention.  So it was a surprise on D-Day when it didn't work.

I married an engineer and, whilst I'm not an engineer, I do have a mind that works in a similar way.  We started the diagnosis and quickly hit upon issue with the 12V socket and suspected a fuse malfunction.

Five minutes late for our self-imposed departure target we headed off, mindful of the need to fix the fuse issue.  Dave drove and I assaulted the Owner's Handbook.

I suggested switching the instrument panel fuse for the faulty one as they shared the same current rating.  Dave thought we might need an instrument panel so I proffered the sunroof as an alternative swap.  The car didn't have a sunroof but I guessed the handbook was referring to the panoramic roof which is nice but not exactly essential. We opted for trying to find a new fuse.

A new fuse could come from a dealership except they all close on Sunday.  A quick tweet asking for advice resulted in several suggestions of Halfords but Dave was on a mission to make it to Eurotunnel.

In the AA shop at Eurotunnel Dave found fuses galore, both full-sized and mini.  At the same time I discovered the S-MAX had a rear power socket and plugged the DVD player into that.

So we had a temporary fix and the materials for a permanent fix. Or so we thought.

We drove to our overnight stop at Orléans and, while I cooked, Dave went to fix the car.  He'd seen and thought he'd bought mini fuses but had instead bought two sets of normal fuses and it was the mini ones he needed.  After much huffing and puffing and maybe a word or two in French, he swapped the sunroof and 12V power socket fuses.  Which I think is what I suggested earlier in the day.




Thursday, 11 August 2011

Watching, listening and learning

We were driving in the car today listening to the news on Radio 4.

We were listening to reports about the riots around the country.  There were words like violence, riots and criminality reaching our ears.  When we reached home Ethan wanted to tell me something.

"Mummy.  You know the riots?"


"You know the criminal stuff?"


"We don't do that do we?  It's something we don't do."

"That's right.  We don't.  And I hope you never will."

Monday, 8 August 2011

Media circus

I'm middle class, middle aged, read the Guardian (online) and watch C4 News.  My views are thus influenced.

I think the riots that have been taking place over the last few days have nothing, or very little, to do with the shooting of Mark Duggan.

Initially, in Tottenham, there was a peaceful protest.  Word spread, and people who weren't happy with police stop and search policy joined the protest but stepped it up a notch with violence and thuggery aimed predominantly at the police.

What happened next was that word spread further.  Something was happening and it was probably more exciting than Saturday night telly.  So people headed out onto the streets and the police represented authority.  Authority, the Government, was what had reduced benefits and screwed up the economy so that getting a job was nigh on impossible.  Making a big fuss about that seemed attractive.

Whilst the violent protests were happening the disaffected realised that they had power and could get away with pretty much anything.  The police were under-resourced, because of the Government cuts, and were outnumbered.  So the looting started.  If you don't have a job and your benefits have been cut then the opportunity to steal the stuff you can't afford to buy might have been tempting.

The media were all over this rioting and the social networking sites were awash with images and video.  Everyone was looking at Tottenham and, let's be honest, people normally don't care about Tottenham at all.  I'm not anti-Tottenham; I could equally say that people don't care about Newton Abbot.  The point was that nobody cared until people were misbehaving.

It's a bit like children being naughty to get attention.  The child that's being naughty (Tottenham) gets all of the attention and the previously good child (Hackney) is jealous.  The good child then resorts to bad behaviour because it knows that being bad results in attention.

So we now have Tottenham, Hackney, Lewisham, Stratford, Catford, Croydon, Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Enfield, Birmingham and so on, all competing to be on Sky News, BBC News, C4 News, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

And now Cameron is coming back to sort out the naughty children; but every parent knows that this sort of behaviour should have consequences without attention.  We need a metaphorical naughty step.

I'm not retweeting pictures of rioting because this behaviour should not be promoted and given air time.  I honestly believe that media, including social media, is making this situation worse.  But it's the people behind the cameras and the people retweeting the images that are helping to promote the riots.  So stop it.  Please.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The pros and cons of Twitter

Twitter can be great, but today was a day when perhaps I should only have looked at my twitter stream in the morning.

Today was the day we were taking Hannah and Ethan to stay with their aunt and uncle in Surrey.

This morning, as every morning, I turned my phone on to see what was happening in the Twitterverse and saw a handy little bit of information tweeted by @M25_Traffic:


I did some investigating and realised there was no easy way to get through the traffic caused by this closure.  We could have driven through London but I'm sure too many other people would have had that thought so we started to consider alternatives.  Friends (who clearly don't know me well) suggested taking the helicopter but Ethan suggested the train.

I had a look and the journey wasn't too long and the fare wasn't unreasonable.  I wanted to check the online fare would be the same as a fare bought in the station so called National Express and spoke to someone in an Indian call centre who confirmed it would be.  The Indian call centre features further on in the story but probably deserves a blog in its own right.

We drove to the station, parked in the £3.90 car park and bought our train tickets.  The earlier research into fares paid off as I was able to tell the person at the ticket desk that the first fare he quoted was too high and that there was a cheaper alternative.

No sooner had we made it to the right platform it became clear that we weren't going to be able to travel from Shenfield.  There had been a fatality at Brentwood and the location of the fatality was now a crime scene and no trains would be passing through.

This was confirmed by @NRE_NXEA:


We assessed our options and someone at the station suggested driving to West Horndon and catching a train from on the C2C line.

I went back to the ticket desk and asked whether we should get a refund on our tickets and start again, or whether the tickets we had bought would be valid on the C2C line.  I was told that a refund wasn't necessary and our tickets would be valid.

We realised the £3.90 car parking charge wouldn't be refundable which seemed wrong but got in the car and made our way to West Horndon.  En route I called National Express and had the most frustrating conversation with a woman in the same Indian call centre.  I wanted to know whether West Horndon was the most sensible alternative to Shenfield.  She failed to listen and comprehend the situation and she clearly had no idea about the geography of Essex and where Shenfield was in relation to anywhere.  It was when she finally suggested the best alternative was Brentwood (remember, the crime scene, the location of the fatality, all of which had been explained earlier in the call) that I nearly lost my patience.

At West Horndon, forking out more for another car park, we made it onto the right train, and platform.

We made our way with children and umpteen bags (containing amongst other things a Nintendo Wii and two child car seats) to Surrey and arrived in time for lunch.  And then it was time to say goodbye to the children and head back home.

As we travelled back towards Waterloo I checked my Twitter feed and saw this:


This worried me.  We had been told our tickets would be valid on C2C but this tweet said something different.  Our car was parked at a C2C station.  It seemed we had three choices: buy tickets back to West Horndon and the car, travel back to Shenfield and get a taxi to West Horndon to collect the car, or challenge the ticket validity change.

I tweeted back:


Somehow @nationalrailenq had been following events and decided to pitch in with their view


But their response was very similar @NRE_NXEA:


Help how exactly?:


And so it went on.  Now if I hadn't seen the tweet about tickets no longer being accepted on C2C services I would have been none the wiser.  We would have travelled back assuming our tickets were valid and we would have been fine.  So I pretended I hadn't seen the tweet, whilst continuing my dialogue with @NRE_NXEA on Twitter because I could, and it provided amusement for the return journey.

Our tickets weren't challenged, but I did have the evil notion that I should send a tweet like this:



Monday, 1 August 2011

The answer

Last week I blogged a blog about a maths problem that had been set for primary school homework.  I asked you how you'd solve the problem.

Here's how I solved it.  I thought like a child, which is how I solve a lot of problems.

A reminder of the problem: How do you work out which two whole numbers between 50 and 70 which, when multiplied together produce 4095?

I thought about what times tables a child should be expected to know at the age of nine and how those tables might relate to the question.

I realised that the number 4095 ended in a five which would mean that one of the numbers I was looking for (between 50 and 70) would have to be divisible by five but, because 4095 ends in a five, it would also have to end in a five.

This meant that one of the multipliers was either 55 or 65.  From here the maximum number of calculations the pupil has to do is two.  I did some long division (actually I cheated and used my calculator because it's decades since I've done any long division) and discovered that the multipliers are 65 and 63.

Ta da!

But I am in awe of the far more impressive calculations that many of you proffered.  I am not worthy (despite still having the scientific calculator that I had at school).  You can all have a sticker.