Sunday, July 29, 2007


Had a lovely day today - H's cousin was baptised, and it was a lovely celebration! Quite tired now though!

Our anniversary ... continued!

Having readjusted our eyes to the bright light, we made our way towards the big cats, following the arrows. First, though, our path took us past the big gift shop and the penguin enclosure. By the size of the crowd, and the sign referring to peckish penguins (or something), we realised that we were fifteen minutes into feeding time. We wandered over - but I have to say, they were not as exciting as the penguins in Edinburgh!

So we wandered on, past some interesting birds (did I mention the bright blue hyacinth maccaw last blog?) and towards the big cats. We saw a serval sunning itself, and wondered where the tiger was - then turned a corner and realised it was walking up and down next to the window where all the spectators were gathered. No one was going to move, so I got a bit fed up and wandered on - before pausing, looking up, and seeing a large reclining lion! I took a few pictures, then caught up with H, who complained that he hadn't seen any lions yet! So I pointed them out, and, as I did so, the male lion lifted his head and looked straight at us! I think he must have heard H.

Having seen the cats, we went passed a couple of donkeys; soon, though, we heard the announcement that the zoo was now closed and we had to make our way to the nearest exit.

So off we went, stopping to take a few sunny photos of each other, and soon we were on the street.

This meant to get home we had to walk through Regent's Park, and what a lovely walk that was! We sat on a bench in the sun for a while, and as it began to get cooler, we wandered through the beautiful gardens.

Having left Regent's Park, we travelled to Islington, where we had dinner at Gufaa, and Indian Restaurant. It was very nice, but I was a bit too greedy - I think I should have stopped before the ice cream! So we rolled home, stuffed and happy, having had a very lovely 6th anniversary!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Our anniversary!

Well, what a lovely day - and I don't just mean the weather, which has been glorious (at least until the walk back from the tube just now, when it has started raining).

We started off a bit later than I had hoped, but arrived at Camden Lock Market around 1.30pm or so, and found some Caribbean food for lunch - goat curry, jerk chicken, peas and rice, plantain, spinach. Very filling and tasty. Then we wandered briefly around the market, and I bought a few chocolates, since apparently the 6th anniversary is "candy and iron" - I bought a couple of cola flavoured balls, which I suppose is candy, but I haven't managed to find anything iron so far! Maybe later ....

We then walked along the canal in order to cross under the road and tried to get on a canal boat. Unfortunately the canal boats at that side only do tour cruises, not trips to the zoo, so we had to go back to the market side where we found the waterbus. Soon we were on our way!

It was great to arrive in the zoo grounds by boat. We stepped out, and very soon we were in the Africa section, and what a feast of animals we saw there, after being welcomed by the meerkats.

First up was the red river hog. Very pig like, and very big. Quite cute, and red, and stripey. We then wandered on to see the African Hunting Dogs, which looked very much like hyenas. They were golden, black and white and very speckled. Next in line were the warthogs, which reminded me of the family of warthogs I saw in Liwonde in Malawi.

The animals then began to get bigger. Hiding behind a tree we could see some white and black stripy legs, but they didn't look like they belonged to a zebra - in fact, it was an okapi, a strange looking horse like creature. Next door were the zebras, which looked all smooth and well toned, and were mostly enjoying a rest in the sun. Then were the most mentioned animals (or so it seemed to us) - the giraffes. They were both sitting down enjoying the sunshine as well, their long necks making them look proud and elegant. Unfortunately we couldn't see the tapir, since she was having a snooze in the shade.

We then went to visit the Biome, which had a sloth, a couple of giant rat but quite cute like creatures called "agouti", marmosets, some birds and other interesting creatures in a rainforest environment. It was fun watching them, especially when the two agoutis started chasing each other round in circles right beneath us! The sloth is well named indeed - he never moved the whole time we were there.

The next stop was downstairs to the Nightzone. This is where all the animals that move around at night are. Some great animals there. But my favourites, by far, were the bats. At first they all looked spooky enough, hanging upside down like mini Draculas, sleeping. Then one opened up his leathery wings to stretch, and then to flap around. That was quite a spectacle, his plasticy black claws still gripping the branch that he was dangling from. But then he began to pull himself up, with what would be his hands and arms. He held onto the wire mesh along the ceiling of the habitat, and then clambered along the way that any climber would if having to grip the underside of a rock and move forward to safety. He climbed right along to another bat at the edge, and they proceeded to have a conversation, of sorts. Later he hauled himself back, flung out his arms and leathery black cape, then drew his arms - and cape - back tightly around his body. Just like a miniature vampire! No wonder people have been inspired to think of them as blood sucking strange little people for so long!

Eventually we went back out into the daylight, and decided to go and see the big cats. More tomorrow! Goodnight!

Friday, July 27, 2007

A quiet day

How enjoyable, to sit and read a book all day. I have finished the trilogy, "His Dark Materials", by Philip Pullman. My reviews can be found on my other blog, Louisa's Library. Other than that, I baked a roasted butternut squash, and we had fajitas for dinner. And it's our anniversary tomorrow! Our plan is to go to the Zoo. We shall see - could be another good entry in a day or two!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Enjoying the Holidays

We headed towards Oxford Street yesterday. H bought a nice paisley patterned pink shirt and bright yellow shiny trainers, and I bought a black cardigan and a green jumper. Very seasonal! The tube was very hot and very crowded. Fortunately I had "Northern Lights" with me, which I started on the tube on the way into the city and finished this morning. Another good book.

Today, along with finishing "Northern Lights" and reading over half of "The Subtle Knife", the second in the trilogy (which I may well finish this evening), I have baked some banana bread, taken lots of photos of H for his author photo, typed out some KS3 Level Descriptors, worked on a SoW and made a seafood paella. Lots of enjoyable things to do - I do like the holidays! Still feel as if time is running out though - I've so much to do before I go back to school! Haven't even started on my dissertation yet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Tourist in London

It was a lovely day yesterday so we decided to visit some interesting tourist sites in London. We had a great time, and saw some historical sites, an exhibition, beautiful views, and an organic pub. Come with me as I take you on a tour of London!

We made sure we had a good start to the day with a delicious breakfast of fried egg and asparagus tips. I have to confess to slightly over cooking the egg, but the tips were succulent and just right.

We then headed on the tube to Monument. But would we be able to find the Monument when we left the tube station? I picked up a map of the area just before exiting, but before I could even look at it - there it was! All 311 steps and 202 feet of it. Right in front of us, huge, pointing high into the sky. We walked round it quickly, before paying our two pounds and beginning the ascent. It's very spirally, and just when you think you must be almost there - you look up, then down, and realise you're only about half way! Fortunately the steps are just about wide enough for two people to pass ech other comfortably without feeling at great risk of falling down. I did wonder what the effects of a Harry Potter spell that made the stairs become a slide would be - the ultimate helter skelter! But it was too frightening prospect at the top of the Monument, so I decided not to try it!

When we got to the top - what views! I tried to take a panoramic photo from between the bars. Starting at Tower Bridge, we could see the Thames, with a number of boats and ships, including HMS Belfast, either moored or whizzing down the river. There was Canary Wharf, with the new building with the blue tipped new skyscraping looking like a giant calligraphy pen. Further round were other interesting buildings, rooftops, cars, buses, minipeople, Monument tube station. Then we reached the other side of London - looking through the telescope we could see tiny people walking round the cupola of St Paul's. Next was the BT Tower, before we arrived back towards the river again, seeing the London Eye in the distance, then other landmarks and bridges sweeping along the Thames, including Tate Modern. What a beautiful view, and what an amazing city, with so much interesting architecture and history.

Soon, though, we decided we should go back downstairs, and thus began the long descent. As we left, we were presented with a certifacte to prove that we had climbed the 311 steps of the Monument - twice! When we left the building, we decided we would walk along the river to meet up with a friend near the Hayward Gallery. However, we were by now a bit disorientated. Which way was the river?! However, we found it, and crossed the bridge to the South Bank.

What a lovely walk, along the South Bank of the Thames in the sun. There is so much to look at, so much to listen to. We came across the Golden Hinde quite by accident. This replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship is moored near some upmarket buildings, and has sailed over 100,000 miles - more than the original. We decided we should get on board, and had a great time wandering over the decks, sitting on Sir Francis' bed and chair, and shuffling carefully under low beams. Highly recommended.

Another place of interest that caught our eye was The Clink, an old prison museum. We should visit it sometime, but since we were meeting someone, we decided to leave it for now. Instead we stopped for a bite of lunch at Wagamama, which is always pretty good. I had a salad for a change, and to be honest, I expected it to be a warm salad, since it had courgettes, sweet potato, mooli, and other such vegetables in it. But it was cold. So that was a bit strange. Nice to be able to eat some of H's noodles! Overall, good, though.

We then wandered along to Tate Modern, where we were a bit underwhelmed by their "Global Cities" exhibition - I have a Geography teacher friend who would have loved it though! Then we met up with our friend and headed to the Hayward Gallery, which is hosting the Anthony Gormley "Blind Light" exhibition. That was great. I enjoy Gormley's work anyway, but the experience of walking into a cloud room, like a cold steam room, that makes you cough, makes your nose run, and means that all you can see is whiteness, with dulled disembodied noises and voices floating to you from the cloud, is quite an experience. At first you can see the outline of your companions, but take another couple of steps, and it's just you in the cloud. Then occasionally a figure looms right by you. It's like being in a dream. Very strange, very good.

We also had fun trying to see as many of Gormley's Event Horizon figures as we could. They got smaller and smaller, as our eyes gazed along the horizon, trying to see these tiny figures standing on the tops of distant buildings, in corners of balconies, one standing on the street. All of them looking at us, the Event Horizon. And the visitors to the galleries coming out and pointing up, gazing towards the Event along the Horizon. Very intriguing.

After this event, we decided to head into Angel, where H's friend knew a good pub. After a short stop at The Tinder Box for cheesecake and a coffee milkshake (the milkshake was tasty, the cheesecake was an American-style cooked one, quite cloying and heavy, which wasn't what I had been expecting), we headed towards the only organic pub in the UK, the Duke of Cambridge, which was really nice and well worth another visit. I had an apple and ginger juice, which was delicious. The food all looked great, too, if a little on the more expensive side. However, I liked the rustic tables, the odd chairs and the homeliness of this local. We'll be back.

Then it was time for our friend to catch his train, so we headed home today. A lovely day!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

To do list

At Christmas it really helped me to have to do lists to help keep me on the straight and narrow. So here is my list for this holiday:

1. Literature Review
2. Methods and methodology review
3. Rewrite all KS3 SoW
4. Attainment Target levels for KS3
5. GCSE grade descriptors
6. Posters for form noticeboard

I'm sure there are many more things to do but Mum is on the phone so I can't think properly! Washing, tidying etc.

Nice walk

Walked home from church and shopping by the canal. Beautiful sunny day, the sky bright blue, the clouds white and fluffy. The water was high but calm. Listened to the chirping and calling of the moorhens. The slightly fishy sea smell reminded me of Scottish holidays by the beach. A cricketing chirrup drew my attention to the wildflowers and the grasshoppers. A very pleasant walk.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter - no spoilers!

I decided I didn't want to accidentally find out what happened - who died, if Harry died, what would happen to Voldemorte, what the Deathly Hallows were etc - before having read the book, and in this multimedia age it's very easy to do that by accident. So H and I made our way to the supermarket just after midnight (I had wanted to be there for midnight, but H had been out with a friend who phoned when he had arrived home while H was booking tickets for the England v Germany game, so in the end we left just after midnight), and there was a longish queue of people waiting to buy the book, which was being sold as quickly as the assistants could get the copies out of the boxes. We also got given a magic wand, which was great, and which I have been waving around as I've been reading it.

I read for about an hour or two after arriving home, reaching page 92 before giving in to sleep. Woke up around 8.30am, and I finished the book at 5pm, with only about half an hour or so off for washing my hair and eating lunch.

So now I know what happened!

Well, now I need to get on with the rest of things that need doing! But at least now I know!

Friday, July 20, 2007


The rest of the week has passed well, with some boys' "etiquette" and some more dance. We had an assembly today - and now I'm on holiday!!!!!

I'm going to have a snooze now, then I have some editing to do for H, then I may take a walk up to our local supermarket to purchase a book just after midnight ... Will let you know if I manage that or not!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Etiquette and Martial Arts

Today I learnt what a teacher should do if a pupil slaps another pupil in my class. Ignore it, and ignore the return slap that will follow. Mothers tell daughters to slap someone back if they are slapped first, and my sending someone to the referral room will make no difference. If the person who was slapped first does not retaliate in kind, then they may be thought of as weak, so they will lose face. Not good. As teachers, we are paid to teach, so we should ignore any of this kind of behaviour.

If a pupil who has been ignoring us all year comes to us a week or two before the exams asking for extra help in our own time, we should help them, rather than telling them that they should have concentrated all year then they'd understand - after all, that is what we are paid to do. If a pupil decides not to focus all year, they should still get our help. We don't have free time. We don't need time to mark, prepare or assess - we should be at every students' beck and call for whenever they need us.

If someone asks me which area I'm from, it's probably safe to tell them if I'm in my own area - otherwise tell them that I'm visiting my grandmother in that area, or say I'm from outside London (still best to be visiting my aunt or someone).

If my little brother or sister "borrows" my new shoes and returns them in an appalling state, then I should beat them.

Overall, the Etiquette session was an eye-opener. Very interesting ... it ended up being about conflict and assertiveness rather than etiquette, and would probably have benefitted from another session on the difference between agressiveness and assertiveness.

After the break, I decided to try out Ka-Zimba, an African form of martial arts. It was very interesting to watch the instructor demonstrate what this martial art can look like. One of the boys, whom I think does boxing, tried to fight with him, while the instructor glided around, avoiding any hits and showing how he could have got some fatal blows in, but doing this all fairly slowly and not hurting the pupil in any way. It was dance-like, and even funny at times, and you could see how effective it could be. We learnt some key moves - ngoma, stepping in and out, and another called spear and shield. Then we "freestyled" against each other in the ring. Fun!

More etiquette tomorrow, although I think I'll have a look and see if there is something else active that I could swap to do in the second session!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dance and Drama

My thighs, legs and bottom are all a bit sore after the African dance session today - lots of stamping and jumping. I even tried to wiggle a bit, but I'm not so good at that! Then we had drama, which was fun to watch - it was great to see such huge smiles across the faces of the Year 8 girls who can often look quite sullen in their attempts to be cool. We played "Port, Starboard", which I haven't played for years (probably since Guides), and it was much enjoyed by all - including me, who eventually joined in! I managed to stay in to the last four. Tomorrow I'm down to assist with etiquette ... I'm not sure what that will involve, but as I headed towards the canteen, a Year 7 boy took off his baseball cap and clutched it to his chest - it was only after we greeted him and walked on that the AHT and I realised that he must have been at etiquette classes! Perhaps we should have curtsied in reply!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

La Dolce Vita

We watched La Dolce Vita on DVD last night. Bizarre. Can't really understand why Anita Ekberg's name on the front in such big letters ... she was only in the film for about 5 minutes. And as for the famous scene in the Trevi Fountain ... ahem, blink and you'll miss it and nothing much happened! Very strange, a bit surreal, film. H says it was just about the empty decadence of life (or something). Very strange.


Two course breakfast.

Asparagus tips with fried egg, followed by half a papaya filled with fresh Perthshire raspberries.

Delicious and healthy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mixed bag ... Or: What a drag

Och, it's not too bad. An excellent first lesson, with a really nice class, then a very motivational assembly about attitude and focus. Then a really unfocused Year 7 group ("I'll cut off your cornrows and feed them to you" was one of the repeatable epithets banded around), and finally a Year 8 group with about 8 boys who had no intention of even pretending to work.

Tomorrow I'm on patrol for one period, then I'm teaching again for the final three. Looking forward to it being finished!

But I made banana bread last night, and it tastes good!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Doing drugs

Morphine, steroids, cannabis.

The main drugs that we discussed today. Obviously not exciting enough for one boy who decided to go straight to some porn the moment my back was turned. Have decided I will layout the classroom differently tomorrow morning so it's easier for me to move around while facing the board and the pupils.

Had one session with the army, but they said they didn't really need us, so we sat on the bench and watched, then wandered around a bit.

The first two sessions were pretty bad, the final one was quite good (a small year 7 group), but then the bell went 10 mins earlier by accident and they all ran out before I could find out if they were supposed to go or not, leaving all their good work behind them. Annoying!

Really nice to finish early, though, and be home about 4pm. Slept for a couple of hours again - it's tiring work, teaching all day!! H is making dinner, and it smells good!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Drugs and Sport

It's been a very busy day ... we've been talking about glue, marker pens, coke, tea, morphine and magic mushrooms ... Not exactly thrilling, but interesting and informative, I suppose! Then a couple of assemblies - it took one group half an hour to sit satisfactorily quiet and in the right seats before the assembly could start. Watched Coach Carter. Apparently it took another group almost an hour to be sufficiently well behaved to watch the video. Hopefully they'll co-operate more quickly next time ...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Busy week!

Can't believe that's the weekend almost over! I've been at a Christian festival with some students that has been fun. Met the Abbot from "The Monastery" (which I never saw, but he was very interesting and friendly), and heard Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Conner, who was quite funny. He had his little red cap on. Norman Kember was also there, so it was very interesting and insightful to hear about his kidnapping from him. I would have appreciated hearing more about how he felt about being rescued by the SAS though ... he did speak about it briefly, but it seemed to raise a few more questions that it might have been interesting to hear more about. I did have the opportunity to go to another seminar with him later, but instead I chose to go to a different seminar about justice.

The worship was great - a real variety of services, prayer times and music. There were lots of very interesting people, and I had some insightful and engaging conversations. Also loved the ropes course - I only fell off about three times, and I impressed myself by the fact that I managed to drag myself over the top of the tyre wall!

We went to see Die Hard 4.0 on Friday night. I enjoyed it, H wasn't so keen - it was completely implausible, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief more than H, I think!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Next week - plans

I now know the plans for next week. And I will be teaching non-stop. We all will be. Teaching every lesson. Drugs and Sport. Teaching about the connection, that is. Not taking them and doing some. Although by the looks of the timetable, that could be an interesting option.

Am annoyed with Sky and Virgin Media. Trying to change broadband providers. Very complicated, when I'm sure it shouldn't be. Will try again tomorrow.

Think I'm teaching all day tomorrow as well. Have offered to do lots of cover for a colleague who is out on subject business.

It's the little things that make teaching worthwhile. The Year 11 student, whom I only taught about once during a revision session in the holidays, who came to say thank you and that the session was really helpful. The Year 8 tutee, who looked really pleased when I agreed that I hoped to continue being his form tutor while he is at school. The Year 9 girl who had been a bit awkward during the lesson, and when I was still nice to her at the end of the lesson, got up, while I was outside shouting at pupils who had gone running outside, cleaned my board for me, which made my end of school routine much easier. The Year 10 boy who smiled in recognition of the fact that H and I went to see him play basketball at the weekend. The three Sixth Formers who are so happy at going away for a few days to a Youth Festival, and asked if there would be an iron there. The Year 7 girl who realises that the class isn't going to leave while the room is still untidy and goes around picking up the papers even though she had already tidied up her area.

The good pupils, the trying hard pupils, the grateful pupils, the wanting to learn pupils, the thoughtful pupils, the humorous pupils, the dedicated pupils, the polite pupils, the hardworking pupils ... I salute you!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


A thin thread of silver wire, spun across the grey black blanket of the upper sky, resting on the brighter blue duvet.

Amazing to watch the lightning on the drive home, so stark, so clear, long lines of silver white, sparkly, yet sharp. Beautiful.

We are allowed to go on our school trip tomorrow ... as long as the member of staff who is booked out to go is in.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rainy Monday!

It's been a strange sort of day. Sort of made up my lessons on the hoof - okay, no worse than normal, and the Year 7 was better. However, I've had a strange sort of feeling hanging over me, since I handed in the risk assessment form - it should have been handed in a while ago, but there have been so many changes to who is going etc that I've held off until now, and I wouldn't have expected that to be a problem before, but there seems to be a new, more responsible feeling around (perhaps also because of today's letter to schools re the security issue in the UK), and I'm concerned that I might be told that we can't go. Which would be very disappointing for the pupils. We'll see. Fingers crossed, etc.

Other than that, it's nice to be coming towards the end of "normal school". We have activities fortnight coming up. Or something. We're not really sure ...

Watched "Perfume" at the weekend. Very good film ... I wasn't sure how they would get across the aroma of the book, but they did it visually instead, very well. Highly recommended!