Monday, December 22, 2008

To Do before going back to school ...

  1. Mark Year 11 exams (2 sets plus one third of two other sets)
  2. Mark 2 sets of Year 11 books
  3. Mark 2 sets of Year 10 books
  4. Plan A level lessons on Sex and Relationships
  5. Write Year 11 reports
  6. Write revision notes for A level students
  7. Produce homework booklets for Years 7 to 11
  8. Enjoy Christmas!
Right. So I really ought to get cracking then ...

Added on Saturday 10 January: I didn't manage to get much done ... I am half way through marking the first set of Year 10 books, and I still have most of the Year 11 reports to get finished. They are due in on Monday. I have made homework booklets for Years 10 and 11.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Desert Island Discs

I thought that after the pictures yesterday, I should include some music, if possible, today. Also, I was inspired by listening to James Nesbitt on Radio 4 sharing his favourite music, and thought that I should try and think of what I would include. I have done some research, and see that I am allowed eight pieces of music. So, what would they be?

1. An Irish Lullaby (Too-ra loo-ra loo-ra). Preferably sung by my Mum or Dad, but I suppose I would have to go with Bing Crosby! This is probably one of the first songs I learnt (well, at least the chorus!), because one or other of my parents used to sing me to sleep with it. It's the lullaby I use if I'm ever faced with a child that needs to sleep. Although that's not often. Interestingly, my parents aren't Irish, and I'm not sure where they learnt it from ... The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen would make more sense, really ... another one of my favourites from childhood. Anyway, here's Bing ...

2. The Eighties were when I first started listening to contemporary music (along with a lot of older music from the forties, fifties and sixties, as well as Gilbert and Sullivan!) The first single I remember owning was probably KC and the Sunshine Band's Give It Up. I think it came as a sort of prize having bought a pair of Clarkes shoes or something like that. But then I think I would have to choose Uptown Girl by Billy Joel as the song that my friends across the road and I used to dance around to, and also one of the first music videos that I remember watching. However, the song I always used to dance around to at home was probably Madonna's Who's That Girl? (Strangely, the video on YouTube is not the one I remember watching ...). Then the two that I associate with singing and dancing to in the playground are Bananarama's Love in the First Degree and The Bangle's (original and best!) Eternal Flame. Hmmmmm. I think I'll go with ... Uptown Girl. (The only one I can't embed here!)

3. Now it gets more difficult. I have already decided on numbers 5 to 8, below, and only have two choices left. And I've just realised that I've been doing this for about three hours, which is a bit ridiculous really, especially since I have loads to do and have to tidy up before driving to Scotland! So ... two songs that will summarise my time at secondary school perhaps? Well, the one's that immediately came to mind were Del Amitri's The Last To Know and REM's Nightswimming. Or Everybody Hurts. Or The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight. (Hadn't really realised how much REM had impacted on my life!) Listening to them is a bit depressing actually!! I think I'll choose Nightswimming.

4. I think I'd like to choose something Scottish for this song (which is actually the last one I've chosen ...). After all, a large proportion of my time was spent fiddling! I've decided on the Bonnie Lass o' Bon Accord by James Scott Skinner. I have to say that I play it a lot more slowly (on purpose!) that you hear in this recording. I love the minor key. Could also have chosen an eightsome reel of some description. Or the Hen's March to the Midden, as played by Grandad!

5. Then I met my husband ... There are three songs that I could include here. First of all, Celine Dion's Tell Him, which we played (although with the other songs on that Let's Talk About Love album) over and over. Then there is the Beatles' Blackbird, which H played on the guitar, much to the annoyance of a friend of ours', and to my pleasure. Finally, there is Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine, which H also used to play to me on his guitar. This is the one I'm going to choose, since this was the first time I'd ever heard that song, so I think part of me thought that H had written it for me, which made it extra special!

6. For our wedding waltz, we had song that I grew up with when I was young. True Love, lyrics by Cole Porter, here sung by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly (ignore the printed lyrics, listen to the song). It was a song I had in my head, but we still hadn't chosen our first dance, which tradition dictates should be a waltz (unless of course there is something else that you really want!). So I asked my grandad, fount of all musical knowledge, and this is the one he suggested. Which, since I knew it and liked it already, seemed like a good suggestion.

7. Still on the wedding theme ... our wedding video featured a few songs. But the one that always stands out is Elton John's Your Song. Not only are the words ideal, since I married a creative person, but every time I hear it, I see the clip from the wedding video which features the best bits from the day and finishes with a slow-motion first dance, where we both look so happy.

8. For the final piece of music, I'll end with the song that I'd like played at my funeral: Be Still My Soul, with the music from Finlandia by Sibelius. Preferably with a full orchestra. I first came across this hymn when at church on the last day of one Scripture Union camp. I'd made some good friends, one of whom I would go on to share a flat with and still see now, and the words seemed particularly meaningful as we parted: "Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last." We didn't know if we'd meet again in this life, but we had faith that we would meet again in the next at any rate. Later, at uni, I played Finlandia in the University Orchestra, and loved its soaring cadences, its rousing interludes. (Sorry, the midi file I've linked to does not do the tune justice!! I see The Priests have it on their CD ...) (Wow, I've also just learnt from Wiki that it was the short-lived national anthem for Biafra as well!) Okay, now we're talking ... I've just found Finlandia on YouTube ...

So, the definitive list is:

1. An Irish Lullaby, Bing Crosby.
2. Uptown Girl, Billy Joel.
3. Nightswimming, REM.
4. The Bonnie Lass o' Bon-Accord, James Scott Skinner.
5. Ain't No Sunshine, Bill Withers.
6. True Love, Cole Porter.
7. Your Song, Elton John.
8. Be Still My Soul (Finlandia), Sibelius.

And if I could only take one disc? Oooh, that's hard. Think I'll go for Your Song. But, then again, tomorrow I might change my top eight altogether!

My book (along with the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, both of which would already give me a lot to get my teeth into) would be ... I think it would have to be the Complete Works of Jane Austen. I'm sure I could read Pride and Prejudice and Emma a few more times ...

My luxury ... well, that's a bit more difficult ... actually, no, it's not! A digital camera with a BIG memory card, so I could hone my photography skills taking pictures of all those lovely palm trees, monkeys, fish, sand dunes and whatever else I might find on the desert island.

Right. I'm off to my desert island now ... well, that would be much warmer than here, and there might not be as much tidying up to do! Actually, I really ought to start trying to get ready to head north for Christmas, so I have lots to do, and I might not update this blog for a day or two, so, just in case I don't call back for a bit - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fortnum & Mason's

It's become a bit of a Christmas tradition that I visit this well known and loved London department store and take photos of its famous Christmas window display. I've so far written about the Alice in Wonderland windows, and the Twelve Days of Christmas.

This year the theme is the Snow Queen. I went to the shops in daylight this year; this meant I could see the windows more clearly, but there was more of a reflection, so the quality isn't always as good! However, I hope you like them!

This magical mirror a sorcerer did curse
Where good looked bad, and bad looked worse.

The greatest of friends poor Gerda and Kay
Neath rose framed windows they loved to play.

A splinter of mirror glass pierced the heart of Kay
The Snow Queen flew down, bearing him away.

The Snow Queen's palace, so white and cold
To free her Kay, Gerda must be bold.

To find her friend Gerda soon set forth
The reindeer carrying her far to the north.

Her tears of love melt the ice in Kay's heart
And from this day on they will not part.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


We've just had a lovely evening with friends. Always great to chat to them - she is in the same line of work as H - and it's nice to extend our conversation beyond our usual!

Unfortunately I mucked up my timing a bit - leaving everything to the last minute isn't always the best idea! - but apart from cold lamb and roast potatoes, everything seemed to go down well!

Starter - Olive and sundried tomato hummus with gluten-free pitta bread, cucumber and cherries.

Main - lamb, roast potatoes, and a sort of roasted/stewed veg - carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, fennel, onion and beetroot cooked with chopped tinned tomatoes.

Sweet - fruit salad and cream (pineapple, pear, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, plum, nectarine).

Cheese dish - gluten-free savoury biscuits with 5 cheeses: brie, jarlsberg, danish blue, port salut and medium cheddar.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape was served, along with a Blossom Hill White Zinfandel rose wine. The driver and the cook were drinking freshly squeezed (although not by me!!) lemon juice.

Too full for tea and coffee, which was a shame because I had bought new coffee! Mum and Dad will need to return soon to drink it!

So, all in all, a lovely evening, and a day on which I have done very little else other than do the dishes, the shopping and the cooking.

This was because we were out rather late last night, first of all at the going away party of one of H's school friends who is travelling to Egypt then home, and then we went to the Double Club to celebrate the birthday of another dancing friend. Lots of lovely people at both events, it is nice to get out and about and meet new and interesting folk!

I do have quite a bit of marking to do tomorrow though:

* Finish Year 7 marking (this has been going on for the past three weeks, I think).
* Year 11 Mock Exams (2 and a half sets)
* Year 11 books
* Year 10 books
* Year 12 / 13 assessment booklets
* Year 9 assessments (2 sets; I set them the assessment for classwork to try to get them to do some work, which they haven't been doing recently. Not my class.)

Other things I need to do before the Christmas holiday on Thursday:

* Phone all the parents of the Year 7s who have not brought back their trip letters.
* Tidy up the office!! (A HUGE job ...)
* Write and send the Christmas cards.
* Return a document/booklet/resource to a teacher in another school.
* Write Year 11 and Year 13 reports.
* I'm sure there are many other things .... !!!

Off to bed now. It's after midnight and I have church tomorrow!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy St Andrew's Day!

No haggis for us tonight, unfortunately, but I hope you are all having a lovely St Andrew's Day!

Just thought I'd make a list, not of what I have to do, but what I have done since yesterday!

I got up around 10am yesterday morning.

I cleaned the bathroom, put the washing on, did the shopping, hung up the washing (grammar???), put the shopping away, made the lunch (spatchcock poussin) and washed the dishes. By noon.

For the rest of the day, I washed those dishes, made dinner (lamb steaks with rice and squash), washed those dishes and cleaned the kitchen. I also produced two and a half powerpoints (I have just finished the third now) for our big RE day. That was quite a big job.

Today, I have been to church, made lunch (beef stew), completed all the admin things for the RE day, including sending some emails, written my A Level mock exam paper, and made a GCSE revision checklist for my Year 11s. That has taken some time, but I'm pretty pleased with my progress.

I still need to do the dishes, make dinner, and mark three sets of books. Will see how I get on ...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wish List!

Around this time of year, sometimes people ask what I'd like for Christmas. So I thought I'd make a wish list!! Don't worry, I don't expect to get any of it really, but thought I'd think about some of the things I'd really like!!

A new mobile phone, that takes good pictures. Don't mind about music etc since I never listen to it on my mobile. I'm not an earphones type of girl. And that tinny sound annoys me.

A new pair of nice shoes that I can wear to school, so are not too high but not flat either.

New pair(s) of trousers, smart enough to wear during the evening but also suitable for school.

New tops that are not too revealing.

Casserole dish.

Richard Hammond autobiography.

The new Malorie Blackman book (Double Cross, I think).

Red pens! (Gel type flowing ink pens for marking.)

Hmm. May add more later - have to go and get some work done now!


Wii Fit

Digital camera that will fit in my handbag and may even record video. Good quality.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I spent all weekend planning an A Level lesson for an observation on Monday. Then I was told that the person who was supposed to be observing me was not in; however, it had also been arranged (inadvertently, mistakenly, I think) for another senior teacher to observe me later this week. The teacher who told me this then agreed to stay and watch my lesson, which I had prepared, as long as he was not needed elsewhere. Which turned out to be all but the final ten minutes.

Later, I asked if that would count as my observation. "Terrific lesson!" I was told. But, no, it would not count as an observation because he had not written anything down!! But it would be used to help write the report about the sixth form ...

Gee, thanks! Terrific!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Martin Creed

We went to Martin Creed's flat yesterday. A bit more crowded than that sounds, though! He is using his Brick Lane flat as a mini gallery, and the small front room was packed. I had arrived later than H, and was wondering where to find the flat. However, as I paused on a corner and looked around, I noticed a light going on and off just above me, and knew that I had reached my destination! Other than that infamous work, I could not see Creed's other painting - the works on display in the front room were all by other artists. However, the highlight of the evening was first of all recognising, and then talking to, Martin himself. I hadn't realised that H had met him before, although I am sure that he would have been just as pleasant, down to earth and friendly if we were only all meeting him for the first time. It was very tempting to tell him that he was one of my favourite conceptual artists, but I didn't, even though he is. I think that I particularly like his work since I discovered it first not in a gallery but in the house of a friend, before he won the Turner Prize. I remember trying to explain his work to other teachers at school when he won that! Nice to have finally met him.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Quantum of Solace - Warning: Possible Spoiler Alert!

First of all, I'm not sure if I'll give anything away, but my parents have been known to comment that I may have said more than necessary ... so read on at your own risk!

We have just arrived back from an enjoyable evening out at the O2. To begin with, we had a tasty and satisfying meal at Gaucho. We started with a rectangular glass plate of scallops. This time, the scallops arrived as a heap of white, tender and cold baby scallops, mixed with sweet little orange segments, chilli, coriander and thin circlets of roasted purple carrot. Very different from our warm, seared scallops at Cafe Des Amis, and perhaps not quite as delicious, but succulent and tasty nonetheless. The chilli in particular meant that although the dish was cold, my mouth was quite hot by the end of it. However, Gaucho is not best known for its fish dishes; its speciality is Argentinian beef, which is brought to the customer on a wooden board, so the waiter can explain the cuts and show the amount of beef you get for each weight. I decided to have a Bife de Ancho (ribeye steak), while H had sirloin (Bife de Chorizo). Both medium on the rare side. I had a Bearnaise sauce; H had peppercorn. We shared chips and spinach. Absolutely delicious. My steak melted at the slightest touch of my knife, with the barest of blood oozing from the barely pink insides. Succulent, tasty, mmmmm. I think I had the best deal, although H made short work of his, too. We finished by sharing a pancake with vanilla ice cream and a caramel sauce. Highly recommended.

Anyway, you are probably not reading this for my food review. (Well, maybe some of you are!) But my main reason for writing is the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

First of all, the theme tune. I saw the premiere on TV, and was disappointed then. I've grown a bit used to it since then, but I still think it sounds vaguely out of tune, although I'm sure it's supposed to sound that way. H says it's supposed to sound like that, and the reason I don't like it is because it's not the sort of music I listen to, and it's more R&B. Now, we listen, I think, to quite a bit of R'n'B, and I think I like most music we listen to. And I'm sure there are other Alicia Keys songs that I like, it's just that this is a bit, well, out of tune sounding. The credits were okay, though. Quite traditional, lots of women and sand and guns.

Next, the plot. Ahem. I wish I'd rewatched Casino Royale before going to see Quantum of Solace! I was able to remember bits and pieces, and occasionally I would think, aha, that is related to Casino Royale, but I was a bit at sea in places. For example, I can't quite remember the details about why and how Vesper Lynd died (I mean, I can remember how she died, but not the events surrounding it). However, that didn't really matter, the main plot was fairly straightforward to follow, and where it was a bit incomprehensible or bizarre, it was still followable. (I don't think that sounds quite as clear as it should be!)

Thirdly, the girl. The main weakness with Casino Royale, for me, was Vesper Lynd. I just couldn't believe the relationship. That the whole plot for this film rides on Bond's love for Vesper seems a bit unbelievable when taken in context with the lack of chemistry in Casino Royale. However, since we never see Vesper this time, that's okay. Instead, Bond has a good, strong relationship with ... excuse me while I go and find out what she was called ... Camille. I don't think it's too much of a flaw that I did not really take any notice of her name, since she is a strong enough character without one. The other "Bond girl", Fields, was very familiar (I have just looked her up and discovered that she is Gemma Arterton, who was recently in St Trinian's, which I haven't seen, but that has made me realise she reminded me of Tess in the BBC's Tess of the D'Urbervilles ... yes, that's who she was). Although not a big part, I thought she was very good. And in many ways, she was also a more typical Bond girl ...

Product placement was one of my main grips with Casino Royale. Omega this, Virgin that, Ford the other ... He kept on using his mobile phone in very conspicuous ways, and as for using a laptop on a boat in the middle of the sea with your girlfriend to check into work ... well. I was a bit worried when I heard Mark Kermode mention product placement on his radio podcast, so I wondered if there was going to be a lot of it, and if it would annoy me. However, this time round, I didn't really notice it as much, even though I was looking out for it (which I wasn't first time round). The first - and only - time I really noticed it was when Bond was drinking in a bar in an aeroplane. Someone asked what he was drinking - the opportunity, in Bond's of old, to say, "a martini, shaken not stirred" - but here he didn't really care so he asked the bartender, who replied precisely, "Two shots of Gordon's, a shot of vodka ... (or whatever the ingredients are) ... and a thin twist of lemon peel", or something like that. I think he said it was shaken, and I think he said it wasn't a vermouth or something. Anyway, Gordon's got their placement. Then when Bond moved out of the way, you could see he was in a Virgin Atlantic plane. So another Virgin placement. Other than that, the product placement was not obvious. In the car chase we were aware that there was an Aston Martin being chased by a ... oh well, I noticed at the time, but I'm afraid I've forgotten. Someone else will need to watch out for it and remind me! Later there was a Range Rover, and a Ford was driven at some point, but those were the main things I noticed. Bond did use his phone a lot, it's true, and I can just imagine that Orange executive saying, "Let's have him taking pictures of the villains with his mobile phone camera!", but when he used it, it made sense - we all use our phones for taking pictures these days, don't we?! - and I did not notice what make of phone it was, because it wasn't important. I have to say, it does seem like there may have been quite a few placements there, but that's only because I deliberately wanted to mention them, and they did not seem out of place, so it wasn't a problem.

Daniel Craig. Still great as Bond. Still either the best or number 2 after Sean Connery ... still tough to place them! Craig's Bond is tough, gritty, violent at times, focussed. He also has a tender side, seen in a couple of unexpected places, which makes him human and likeable. This film continues the theme of trust, started in Casino Royale. He is still working out who to trust. As is M. And possibly the British government ...

The chase scenes are great, real edge of the seat stuff, holding your breath for ages, finally able to breath out and then something else exciting happens. Lots of chasing, lots of fighting. Mostly this all seems very real. My only gripe would be that many of these scenes are so quick, with so much cutting, editing, on the move shots, that it is often difficult to work out exactly what is going on, who is doing what, where things are happening etc. This makes the film dynamic, but it would be interesting to compare it to a slightly slower, clearer cut.

Right. I've been back for an hour or two now, and it's definitely time for bed. So, my final, overall view? A very enjoyable and exciting film, one that made me feel happy, with just enough of a social conscience to raise issues in someone's mind without being at all preachy, Daniel Craig is excellent, and all is right with the world. Roll on 2010.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ladies Who Lunch

I joined that select group yesterday, meeting up with a couple of friends for a delicious lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant, in Little Venice.

We met up at Warwick Avenue tube station, then braced the chilly air (no blanket of clouds to keep us warm, once again!) to walk a short way along a road next to the canal. I would have missed the Boathouse if my friend had not been before, as it is built into the wall, but once inside, we were met with a beautiful view. We sat in the terraced section of the restaurant, next to the canal, and were warmed by the sun, sparkling in the water. As we waited for our order to arrive, we ate olives and french bread (only one and a third slices each, this time).

I ordered, after some debate, the duck confit with black pudding and dauphinoise potatoes. A lovely crunchy skin covered the melting duck flesh, with a succulent black pudding also resting on the plate of tasty gravy. The spiciness of the black pudding was nicely off set by the creamy potatoes. I also had a plate of rocket and parmesan, which made me feel healthy, as well as providing a sharpness to the meal. Delicious, and a good amount.

It is always nice to go out for a meal with friends who are prepared to share their food, especially with desserts as good as these. I think I had the most sublime dessert: roasted figs with lavender honey and vanilla pannacotta. Three different tastes, blended together so eat mouthful was fragrantly different and delectable. I scraped the golden seeds out of the plump, burgundy figs, before I realised I could eat the skins and got to enjoy the figs all over again. Small lavender flowers were sprinkled on the honey, exploding in the mouth along with the vanilla seeds in the pannacotta. The creaminess of the pannacotta was sigh enducing.

I have always had a suspicion of creme brulee. No longer. At least, not in posh French restaurants. Delicious, creamy, caramelly. Not plasticky or thick, but smooth like cream rather than like lumpy custard. And the pot of Valrhona chocolate was equally divine. Yum!

We finished our coffees - a macchiato, cafe latte and a cappuccino - then continued chatting and catching up for another hour, until the waiters had to politely kick us out! As we headed, full and happy, into the cold early evening air, we were able to reflect on how good it is to be ladies who lunch!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First snow and Toni Morrison

It's so cold!!! It snowed all the way home from the Southbank Centre, where we had been to see the great Toni Morrison. To be honest, I can hardly call her "the great", because I have only just started reading her first book, The Bluest Eye. However, the first couple of chapters have drawn me in and I am looking forward to continuing reading. Also, she is probably the author that has most inspired H, and he talks about her a lot, so I was delighted to get to see her in the flesh.

It was an interesting evening, particularly when the conversation touched on politics. Toni Morrison never mentioned Barack Obama's name, instead she spoke about "he", and tried not to say too much about the election - as if she did not want to jinx it.

Afterwards, we had dinner at Wagamama ... then stepped out into the snow and ran across the bridge to Embankment. Very, very cold.

On another note, some nice meals recently. These include pasta with pesto, poached egg and asparagus; lamb shanks in a red wine gravy full of root vegetables; chorizo and veg stir fry with noodles. Yum!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lots of random thoughts and filling ins

It's finally the holidays! I say finally, but that sort of suggests that I have been waiting for them, longing for them, and actually that's not entirely accurate. They more sort of crept up on me. I'm sure you noticed the lack of entries over the past six weeks or so. It has been a particularly busy time. I'm running the department again, as I may have mentioned, a bit earlier than expected, which has meant a few extra meetings, more admin to complete, more detentions to follow up (from other classes, not necessarily mine), more letters to write home.

However, I have managed to just about keep on top of all the departmental stuff, and still manage to find time to go to interesting events with H. I've also managed to get up earlier, arriving in later, and leave school earlier, getting home earlier, most nights any way. My marking has been a bit behind, and the office is a mess, but mostly the classes have been fairly productive and I am still enjoying myself. Let's see how long it lasts!

So, a few thoughts. Firstly, my cleaner (C). When I am a bit later in leaving, for example because I'm trying to catch up on a bit of marking, he will often arrive and have a short chat about religion before getting on with the hoovering. So it was interesting to learn that he is in the UK completing his Masters in Law, working constantly to fund the study. He's looking forward to going home where he should be able to get a good career as a lawyer, particularly since he will have a British qualification and speaks English. Recently I threw out a few pages of an old textbook, but the next day I discovered it on the table. Thinking that C had left it there in case I'd thrown it out accidentally, I put it back in the bin. At the end of the day, I was writing letters to parents when he arrived. He explained that in Islam, nothing with God's name on it could be put in the bin, it had either to be burnt or buried. That was particularly interesting, since a Jewish colleague had been talking about the same thing earlier with some students.

Secondly, my report on last night. We went out to the Housing Options Affordable New Homes Show, which was informative. Nice to hear a bit more about the options, which being a Key Worker are perhaps a more than for many people. Anyway, we stayed for a bit, then decided to head out for food. I knew roughly how to get to Wagamama at Covent Garden, so we were heading there, but H kept looking in the windows of nice looking French restaurants that we walked past. So I started keeping an eye out too, and just off Floral Street I looked up a little alley way, and could just make out the title, Cafe Des Amis - Restaurant. Let's try this one ...

Anyway, we had a delicious meal. Pretty extravagant, it's true, but every mouthful was a delight. We started with a selection of bread and olives. Three types of bread ... baguette, a wholemeal seeded bread, and a sweeter loaf with walnuts and raisins. Delicious. With lovely French butter. Then we shared a started of scallops with a chicory and chorizo fondue. The scallops were perfectly textured, firm and juicy, seared to bring out the flavour. The fondue, a large scone-sized pinky mound of chicory and chorizo, was also tasty, excellent. I then decided to have a traditional main course, which reminded me of meals at home, of good food, well cooked - poached smoked haddock, with salty crushed new potatoes and a fried egg, and a "pommery mustard beurre blanc". Every bite was heavenly. The haddock melted in my mouth, and came away from the skin with just the right consistency. H had beef fillet with mushrooms. The mushrooms tasted wild, natural and wonderful. Really, we ought to have stopped there (well, I ought to have ... H had a cup of tea, but left dessert for me ...) but I was intrigued to see what would be on the menu for dessert in such a restaurant. Well, the first item seemed so unusual that I eventually decided I just had to try it. Soupe au chocolat (indulgent soup, nonetheless - I'll say!) with black pepper ice cream. How could I not try such a sweet?! I expected a small amount of melted chocolate with a similar sized portion of ice cream. Instead I received a large, hot, soup bowl, full of melted chocolate with a thick blanket of thicker, cooling chocolate, and a small portion of vanilla-looking ice cream rapidly melting in the middle. Yum! Spoonful after spoonful, I engorged myself on this delicacy, enjoying the delicate taste of the black pepper amongst the vanillaness of the ice cream. But I couldn't finish it! I felt my heart beating faster as the chocolate coursed through my veins in overdrive. So, very nice, but only have it if you have a friend or three to share it with! Anyway, it was a wonderful evening, the waiters were lovely, the food was fantastic, and I'd definitely go back ... for a very special occasion!

Anyway, I'm hoping that I might be able to write more this week as I'm off, and it's nice to be back ... but don't worry if you don't hear anything, I'm just really busy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

It's blog action day and the topic is poverty.

Where to start?

Well, since, once again, I am very busy, it's going to be short, but the first thought must be to do with the financial crisis we find ourselves in.

In particular, I was interested to listen to a radio programme a couple of days ago which was talking about the possible impact on Edinburgh, home to the Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The discussion centred on the premise that if the headquarters of these banks were to be moved elsewhere, then Edinburgh would suffer. The reason I was interested was because I have had the privilege of working under the hallowed halls of one of these headquarters. Indeed, as a teller I had the opportunity to sit at the far end of the hall, under the expansive, highly decorated, rotund ceiling, and watch customers walk towards me, their voices echoing embarrassadly as if in a library. I could then try and help them out, take their money, or give them some. In the evenings I would try to balance my cash before heading home.

I did consider banking as a career, briefly, when I was finishing university, but decided I would not like to be a young whipper snapper telling older men like my father what to do and whether or not they could get loans etc. I made the decision that I would rather do a "social" job rather than one with a possibly better salary. It now seems I made the best decision on both accounts.

Anyway. While the world goes mad, my Year 11s are considering the topic of Evil and Suffering. One asked, why do we always think about people in developing countries? Why do we not think about the poor people in the UK? I think that we do, but it's true, many of our examples are based on developing countries. So we thought about the suffering faced by people in the UK. Young people. And we considered why that is a problem for many people when it comes to thinking about God.

I am afraid that my computer is running really slowly, so this is extremely hard to type out at the moment. So I will finish there for now and perhaps continue later.

Anyway, that is my contribution to Blog Action Day!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Busy Bee

What a busy week it has been - again! I've hardly had any time in school to think about anything other than teaching or admin, ie no marking, filing, chasing up minutes, phoning parents etc.

Fortunately most of my classes have been fairly straightforward and well behaved, other than one day when my Year 11 class was very poorly behaved, along with many other students from another class. I wrote a long email to their Head of Year, and we are giving them an after school detention this week. Their letters arrived today - so they were not too happy in this morning's lesson!

Other than that, my evenings have also been jam-packed, which has been enjoyable, but very tiring! For example, we had another open evening (the grand total of two parents visited the department), following which I went to the opening of a gallery fairly near the school. H joined me about an hour later, and since he knew people, we then got chatting and stayed until quite late, when we went next door for a Vietnamese/Chinese/Thai meal. Fortunately we had the car, so it was fairly easy to get home!

The next evening we were out late at a reading event, which again was fun and we met up with some friends and relatives. Another late night - we tried to go to Tayyab's for dinner, but by the time we got there, they were closed, as was the Orange Tree, so we settled for a kebab instead!

Friday I managed to stay in and watch Ugly Betty. How relaxing! Now that Doctor Who is off the air, it is the one show I love to watch regularly.

We visited the new Saatchi Gallery on Saturday. Some of the art seemed quite "vacant", like the eyes of so many of the figures on display, but a few pieces were more interesting. Unfortunately my wisdom teeth started playing up at the weekend so I wasn't able to enjoy the experience as much as I would have liked to! However, it was good to finally discover the King's Road, which had a lovely market selling lots of delicious looking food. We had a sausage on a roll each (yum!) and a box of healthy vegetable dishes, which were unfortunately cold, which was quite unexpected having stood for some time beside the (hot) pans. However, we would still like to go back some time.

Sunday seemed so busy from the start to the end of the day (and the beginning of the next ...). From church I went straight to the shops, then I came home, cooked, then marked lots of books (three out of four sets). In the evening we went out to the home of a new friend, and we stayed until midnight. A great evening, loads of good chat and plenty of good food! Arrived home after 1am, so I am pretty tired now.

I got back earlier from a meeting. Another busy day, but at least I have had the chance to catch up a bit on my blog and some admin stuff here at home. Must go to bed now, though - I think I deserve it! (I definitely need it ... !)

Sunday, October 05, 2008


I haven't posted anything from the Meme Express for a while! Today's idea is inspired by Bobby Hebb's gold record single, "Sunny".

Is today a sunny day in your spot on the globe?

No!!! It's pouring with rain, and it's cold and overcast. A dull, dark day!

Do you have a sunny disposition?

I think so ... I try to be positive, optimistic and encouraging. I love life, and love learning new things. When things are tough, I try to look for the the positive side, or at least simply say, "Oh well!"

Who is the sunniest person you know?

H is pretty sunny! Most of the time anyway.

What makes that person so sunny?

He tends to look at life in a sunny way, living life to enjoy it, probably because he has faced stormy times in life, so if he didn't look at life in a sunny way, then things would be quite tough.

To Do List ...

  1. Take back trousers to shop to replace - worn three times, hole in side hem already!
  2. Buy and replace brake light.
  3. Book car in for a service.
  4. Rearrange trip for next week and ensure risk assessment etc are all ready.
  5. Marking.
  6. Finish tidying up the flat.
  7. Lots of visits to people and art galleries etc coming up in the next few weekends.
  8. Post book to S.
  9. Make video for members of our department and for marketing evening.
  10. Write two (or three?) lesson plans on Confucius.
  11. Book myself onto two diocesan meetings.
  12. Arrange detentions for a number of children.
  13. Send letters to parents regarding their children's lack of attention.
So, as you can see, once again there is a LOT to do ... (and that's not actually everything ...)

Weekly Roundup

Well, I'm glad to report that there do not seem to have been any negative side effects after Wednesday's taxi ride home. Although I have not seen the boy in my form since. But that could be because he doesn't want to return his report card.

Other than that, I had a very positive meeting with our headteacher later in the week, and the department seems to be going well. We are all very busy, though. And I think one supply teacher might want to leave ... Anyway, we'll keep on going, trying to paddle away furiously to keep our heads above water.

Had a lovely afternoon yesterday with my B-i-L's stepsister and parents. She lives in a picturesque little village and we went to a tasty French restaurant for lunch, where we all laughed loads until we started getting looks from the waitress that she'd really appreciate it if we freed up the table. It was a pleasant afternoon, but as we left the rain started, and it doesn't seem to have stopped since. I drove to church today, which is a bit lazy, but at least it kept me warm and dry. Quite quiet at church today. I wonder if many of the parishioners were on pilgrimage to Lourdes, as at least one was, or whether our own life-giving water fresh from the sky was encouraging them to stay at home?

Lots of preparation to do now. I'm in the process of making a video, and it's taking a long time to download where I want it to go ... I think it should be finished now so I'm off to have a look.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I'm hoping I've not made an error of judgement. In every school there are some pupils that we might call the "hard nuts" or something similar. The ones that every teacher in the school can name, the ones that spring to mind if there's something going on, or rumours of something going on, the ones that like to give you attitude if you walk past them and wish them a nice day, the ones that are to be found wandering around the school site when everyone else is safely tucked up in a classroom. Well, maybe not every school. But surely it's not just mine?! Anyway, today I was walking around the school, making sure that things were running smoothly and removing anyone who was interfering in that educational bliss. And I came across such a group of boys. They ran away from me a couple of times, but eventually one of them had the wherewithall to speak to me slighltly more calmly and coherently, and it became clear that there was more than simply fear of learning that was causing them to behave in such a manner. There is obviously something else going on in their lives, in their community. I went to speak to our school police officer, but the boys did not want to spill any beans, so I took a note of their names and left it, since the day was about to end. They can be picked up tomorrow, and since they are all on report, it will be obvious that they were truanting.

Anyway, by the time I made my way past the office, some of the boys were there, trying to call for a taxi. I was asked to phone, so I did so, and the taxi duly arrived, taking away a group of our least desirables. However, it was while they were waiting, that something said by one teacher made me wonder whether this was such a good idea. I think I am filled with the milk of human kindness (!!!) and naively assume everyone else to be! I hope that the taxi driver and his charges all arrived safely, and that my trust in the boys - they may be toerags but I hope they have some sense - has been rewarded this time. And I hope that they may begin to have some trust in us at school, so that we might be able to help them a bit, or at least point them in the direction of some help, for whatever is going on in their community. I wouldn't like to be a young person today. It's such a shame.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

To do list ...

I can't believe how busy I am. I am now HoD but still teaching a full timetable. Hope that will change this week. The teacher that was driving me up the wall has now left and we have a new teacher ... he seems to be okay so far, we'll see how it goes.

Nice weekend planned this weekend. Brought home three sets of books, loads of good intentions to get lots done. My plan was to get up, do some tidying then spend most of the day marking etc, then out last night for dinner with cousin, then get up early today to do shopping, before heading north to our friends' son's baptism, where we would spend most of the day but arrive in good time to get things ready for tomorrow and have an early night.

Didn't quite work out that way.

H woke up in the middle of the night with some strange symptoms of tightness across the chest etc. Fortunately after taking painkillers it subsided, but we wondered if it was partly caused by the disorganised nature of our flat at the moment, so we decided to really spend time tidying the house the next day. Because our sleep was disturbed, we got up later than planned, then decided to start by doing the dishes. Well, the dishes turned into cleaning the kitchen, including clearing out a lot of food past its sell by date, and cleaning some very greasy items from the top of the cupboard. Pans, dishes, food everywhere. Until about 2pm or so, by which time we were hungry, and couldn't really cook because all the dishes were everywhere. So we went out for some light lunch, then went to do the shopping, then came back, got changed, and went to my cousin's. Great night! They have a nice flat with a good view, and we had a delicious lasagne. Came home on the late side and went to bed. No marking.

I woke up this morning earlier than H and marked some homework sheets. Didn't get started on the books. Managed to plan the homework for my GCSE classes, but no more. Headed up north for the baptism. We arrived an hour early for the baptism and drove into the pub car park to think about having a bite to eat. However, H had the tightness again, so I phoned NHS Direct, who advised phoning 999 to get checked out. So we called for an ambulance, who then took H to the A&E, with me following on behind. ECGs, blood tests, x-rays, temperature, heartbeat etc all checked, and all was fine, other than a bit of inflammation in the chest, so he just has to take painkillers for the next week and he should be fine. Not a heart attack, and not indigestion. But we missed the baptism! We were let out around 5pm, so had a quick meal before meeting up with our friends and going back to their house. We therefore stayed a bit longer than we might have done otherwise, which was lovely, but now that we are back - just - I am too tired to get all the homework done! And still have loads to do. So thought I'd write down my to-do list:

  1. Take back trousers to shop to replace - worn three times, hole in side hem already!
  2. Buy and replace brake light.
  3. Book car in for a service.
  4. Write wish list for department to take to my line manager.
  5. Prepare list of things to do for school trip on Tuesday.
  6. Complete risk assessment for that trip.
  7. Marking.
  8. Finish tidying up the flat.
  9. Lots of visits to people and art galleries etc coming up in the next few weekends.
  10. Post book to S.
Right. Wonder how long that will all take ...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hello dear world!

Wow, it's exhausting being a teacher! And difficult to find a few moments to write anything at all. Even now, I want to have a relaxing shower, and I need to cook dinner. I have brought a set of books home that I have not managed to mark for two weeks, despite it being the best class I have ever taught, ever, and I have a bunch of admin stuff to do as well. But I wanted to let you know I am still here and am doing okay! I'm going to break off now to do something for a bit ... Hope to be back later this evening!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hovis and other reflections

Saw the Hovis advert just now. Liked it. Very clever, and a good history starter, perhaps!

Ugly Betty is back - well, she was back last week, but I missed her - and as excellent as ever, with some good moral dilemmas thrown in for good measure. Could use some episodes in my ethics class, perhaps ... today we were discussing determinism ... did Claire Meade have free will in murdering Fey Sommers?

Most exciting thing was hearing about my sister's scan. How exciting to be able to see little hands and feet! Can't wait to see the picture! And the real thing, of course!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thank you ... and goodnight, Sir Cliff ...

Well, I've just seen Sir Cliff's latest offering, with which he hopes to get a number one in every decade for the last - six? - decades. Quite catchy, but also a bit sad ... If the curtain should fall, maybe even tonight, I may have given you a lifetime, but you've given me the time of my life ... (Or something like that.) And Sir Cliff still boogies and swings his stuff like he's seventeen, rather than seventy (or however old he is now). I just felt I had to write something. It would be nice ... sweet ... if all his fans bought his record to try to give him a chance of that number one, I'm just not sure that would be enough! And it is a bit self indulgent, really. Well, very personal. A message to his fans. Kind of him. However .... Anyway, the second, more pertinent, question is ... Sir Cliff, is hosting the lottery and wishing all those with tickets luck, compatible with your Christian beliefs?

Talking of which, Pupil B as mentioned yesterday has continued with excellent questions and comments. Today she has been asking about what happens to those who belong to other religions when they die. How do you know you're following the right religion? I have high hopes for her.

Other than that, a certain member of staff is continually winding me up. I will see how this goes. Could be a tough year!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Back to School

No blogs recently, since it's been a busy week, and an even busier weekend! I have met almost all of my classes now - two to go! So far, so good. A couple of interesting classes, to be sure.

Today's interesting exchange:

Pupil A: "Why do Muslims bomb planes?" (Perhaps he'd been listening to the court case on the news, although I didn't think that came through until later.)

Pupil B: "Not all Muslims bomb planes. The ones that did didn't understand the Qur'an properly."

She'll be after my job next!

There is one pupil in my class that can be a bit of a handful. However, he did very well in some exams, so it was nice to be able to phone home about that last week. Then he came in and we had an altercation on the first day about his mobile, so I made a short call about that. However, today he came in looking the smartest he's looked in a long time, with new shoes and a new black jacket. Very smart! In fact there was a long queue at the office this morning of pupils signing out to go home and get changed into the proper uniform. Black shoes, black jacket, blazers, ties etc. This may last ... we will see, and hope that it does.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The end of the holidays ...

Tomorrow, I go back to school. Last week I had a couple of dizzy spells, so I've been trying not to be on the computer too much. But I should really give an update!

Tuesday 19 August - Can't remember much! I think I was helping H with his work. Packed in the evening to go home. Went to the doctor about the dizzy spell I had yesterday. She didn't know what it was.

Wednesday 20 August - Took the train back to Scotland. Worked on the train. Arrived in time for a late dinner. Good to see Mum and Dad.

Thursday 21 August - Tried to get some more work done. Wrote a bit that I blogged yesterday. Enjoyed being home.

Friday 22 August - My Canadian cousins arrived! Lovely to see C again, and her daugher, D, is lovely! Had a short rest, then hit the town. I showed them the sights, and when we visited the main city church, we got an impromtu visit to the roof!

Saturday 23 August - Visited Discovery in Dundee. Took loads of photos! Another nice day. Visited my sister and her husband, then went to collect H from the station.

Sunday 24 August - Loads of relatives came round. I think C enjoyed seeing them again, and they were all delighted to finally meet D!

Monday 25 August - Went to Edinburgh. H realised he needed to get back to do some more work - exhibition next week - so he managed to get the last direct train to London. Mum took C and D to see the castle, while I visited my grandparents.

Tuesday 26 August - Busy day! First of all we went to the Deer Centre, which was great. We fed the deer - red, roe, fallow, St someone or other - and decided that the Highland Cow was stubborn. Then we went to St Andrews, and went down the mines at the castle, before heading along the pier and then to Janetta's for ice cream. Finally drove to Anstruther, for the best fish and chips in Scotland!

Wednesday 27 August - Took it easy. I got my hair chopped off and dyed, for the first time ever. Visited the castle where my sister got married, then came home and played some card games. Finally, went out for dinner, where we finished with a huge happy birthday ice cream sundae with a flaming sparkler.

Thursday 28 August - Took the train back down south. Sat beside a nice Dutch couple from Pittenweem.

Friday 29 August - Finished the essays I had to write - yeah! H got back late from the Midlands. I decided to lose weight.

Saturday 30 August - Diet started today! Breakfast - bacon, tomato and salad on a muffin. Lunch - Nando's chicken breast on pitta. With shared sides. Dinner - two poached eggs on a muffin with salad. Snacks - mini bag of carrots. Feel very good - until I realise how many calories are in a Nando's chicken pitta. And that's before the mayonnaise ... Went into the city in the evening to try to find a book. Had a really sore head and felt sick. This followed waking in the night with the room spinning round. Not good. Will need to see the doctor. Probably should try to use the computer less.

Sunday 31 August - Well, that's today. Because I felt so grotty yesterday, I switched off the alarms and slept until I woke up, then took it very easy all day. Had spatchcock poussin for lunch, then made a healthy beans and rice with avocado for dinner. When I was hungry I had a bowl of peas from the pod. Tasty. Have been good all day! But have also realised just how much I still have to do for school, that I have not done! And, it's already past my bedtime. So - goodnight!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Scottish Blog

Wednesday 21 August 2008

No blog at the moment since I am on holiday amongst the beautiful hills of Scotland. I came up by train yesterday and was able to get a bit of work done then - no internet access! I am sitting at my desk now looking out over gardens, trees, fields and distant hills, with a wide expanse of sky, filled with heavy foreboding clouds, bearing down on us. Not raining at the moment though. A lovely hotchpot of red and grey-green slate roofs in front of me, a tall tree with long, droopy, green leaves right in the middle of the scene - our next door neighbours’ - and, in the not too far distance, a Saltire fluttering proudly. What a difference from looking out over a block of dirty flats and a busy main road!

In the corner, the TV flutters - I still don’t want to miss a moment of the Olympics! I have really enjoyed following the Games this year. As I write, the rhythmic gymnastics are on, with girls in sequinned leotards leaping, pirhouetting and barhetting (?) around with ropes and hoops. I am looking forward to the ribbons and balls coming out! It never ceases me to be amazed at their agility, strength and precision. Philips Idowu has just missed out on getting the gold, which everyone (apart from the Portuguese, obviously!) is disappointed with. However, it is amazing that anyone can jump that far at all! Of course, Usain Bolt has been the talk of the Athletics recently, and I was glad to be able to see the race last night - sorry I missed it live when I was on the train. Quite a feat. Two world records. And what about Chris Hoy? Three gold medals ... and it’s possible that his father did my parents’ kitchen many years ago.

Anyway, I need to get my work finished now so I can get on with having a nice relaxing holiday!

7pm: Have finally received news of our exam results. The department seems to have done slightly better than the overall A*-C including English and Maths pass rate. However, it is a big drop on last year. I would be interested to know what our A*-C overall rate is, not including English and Maths, and I’d also like to be able to compare it to the English pass rate. Overall I think it’s possibly a bit better than we might have expected, although obviously we always hope the result will exceed our expectations. I wonder how my individual pupils have done, and also what my class results will be. I expect them to be very poor indeed. After all, a quarter of the students are in top sets and I teach the third set, so I doubt I’ll have any Cs. I just hope the majority have passed. I don’t know how many Us we got.

I have high hopes for next year. I am very tempted to start with the revision ... get the bare facts out of the way before working on the exam questions, the Bible quotes and the details. We’ll see. I am teaching a few members of my own form this coming year. Fingers crossed!

8pm: Having worked a bit and soaked my feet, I am looking round at the books in the study here. Memories of growing up! So I thought I’d record a few for posterity.

Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Poetry ... The opening poem is called “Firelight”, by Irene and Aubrey de Selincourt. It is beautifully illustrated over three pages, little fairies, gnomes, castles and forests of red, orange, golden flames. I realise that over the years whenever I’ve seen a fire, and watched it flicker and change before my eyes, I have thought of this poem ... although not in the words which I record below.

I like to sit by the fire and stare
At the curious things I can see in there;
It’s better than pictures in a picture book
To sit by the fire and look, and look.

I can’t see the things that Anne can see
(Anne, she’s seven, but I’m just three)
Faces, and rivers, and forest, and all -
(Anne’s enormous, but I’m quite small).

But the fire makes a nice sort of creaky song;
It popples, as it it were running along;
It talks quite soft, and it means to say,
“I know a nice quiet game to play.”

I don’t want to jump, and I don’t want to shout;
Mummy says, “What are you thinking about?”
But I’m not thinking; I just like to sit
Quite still by the fire, and stare at it.

Then there’s Edward Lear’s wonderful Jumblies - they went to sea in a sieve, they did! Each verse of their adventures once again illustrated in greens, reds, blues and yellows.

Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green and their hands are blue,
And they went to see in a Sieve.

Later is the first poem by William Blake that I learnt: Little lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? ... Later I learnt that not all Blake’s poems were songs of innocence, as this one is! And then there is the bittersweetness of The Lost Doll, by Charles Kingsley. The prettiest doll in the world ... lost, then found in the heath one day, her paint all washed away ... but still the prettiest doll in the world. That’s love!

Wynken, Blynken and Nod in their wooden shoe ... The Song of the Engine - “I think I can, I think I can ...” (this one is marked with a scrap of yellow paper - obviously a favourite, and I have just realised that this poem by Christine Weatherly is the one I was thinking of some time ago when all I could find was the Night Express (I think?) by Robert Louis Stevenson or someone or other). The Spider and the Fly, and another favourite of mine - The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies (O!). That poem I learnt one year as my Hallowe’en party piece. I was dressed up in a long gypsy skirt, with long hair and a scarf around my head, all in the style of the gypsies in my book. I look again at the ten verses ... this is why I always secretly, quietly, despair at the sorry excuse for guisers we used to get at our old house down south. If you were lucky, the prompting of, “And are you going to say something?” would elicit some half baked, murmured joke about snap, cackle and pop, whereas in my day, we prepared songs, poems, magic tricks, dances, duets ... we could not leave the house without a complete performance. We didn’t expect to make money, we did hope for an apple and some sweets if we were lucky, and it’s probably just as well we only visited each others’ parents, because with four or five of us travelling around together we must have been in each house for about twenty minutes at least! Ah, those were the days.

Anyway, that has been a nostalgic half an hour, and now I really need to complete my work before our visitors arrive tomorrow! So off I go again ...

The Warm Heart of Africa

I just found this video on the internet. I think the accent is South African, and it seems to be aimed at azungu tourists, but there are many familiar sights on it, which I enjoyed seeing again! Must get my bawo board out ... However, unless I missed them, I didn't see any sign of Zomba, Blantyre or Lilongwe ... Only lakeside tourist resorts and the national parks ... and no mention of the chips at Liwonde!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekly Update

Well, I think I have certainly blogged more than normal this week, but I am interested myself in adding an overview of the whole week, as a reflection on what has been achieved.

Monday 11 August - Looking back, I apparently had a very focused day and got lots done. I don't think I've quite managed to keep it up, though, unfortunately!

Tuesday 12 August - Took loads of photos throughout the day to make an animation of the changing skies. Also spent a lot of time online, posting memes, and thinking about, and enjoying, the Olympics. (Have done a LOT of that this week!)

Wednesday 13 August - Some more memes, surfing and stumbling around on the internet, and watching the Olympics. H was up north overnight, working. Took me hours to get to sleep. Was just dropping off when he phoned, then an hour later was still awake, so decided to switch on the light and read for a bit.

Thursday 14 August - Got up and went into school for a couple of hours. I managed to clear out one cupboard of stuff - I now have a huge pile of scrap paper for any pupil who forgets their book (not that that should happen, of course! I don't plan on letting them out of my sight too much!). Rushed home, worried that H's friend, arriving by plane, might have arrived when we were both out. He hadn't. Didn't arrive at all, in fact - turns out he was staying with someone else!

Friday 15 August - Was back in school again for a few hours this morning. A new colleague came in, and it was lovely to see her. She's really looking forward to starting, which is good. Hope she stays that way!! I now have three bin bags full of rubbish to be thrown out. Unfortunately I then had to come home so H could go out (he's lost his keys - again!), and just as he phoned me the door fell off my cupboard! Fortunately, with a little bit of help from the caretaker, I managed to get the door back on again. Hope it stays! My classroom door is still a bit wonky, and I forgot to check and see if the windows have been fixed (I doubt it). I noticed some new graffiti from during the holidays on the side of the cupboard. Annoying. I don't know who's been in. Came home, H went out, I got some work done. A bit. And some more surfing, I think. Eventually went to bed, no sign of H. He eventually arrived back quite late with his friend. Got up and chatted for a bit before heading back to bed for some much needed sleep and left them to it!

Saturday 16 August - Got up and went to the shops with a neighbour. Nice to sit and have a coffee while she finished her shopping before coming back. Then sat and watched a load of Olympic events for most of the afternoon. H made lunch, I made dinner. Chatted about the past. After taking H's friend back to the place where he was staying, we came back and thought we'd watch the overview of the Olympics, and the preparation for the women's marathon. Then we thought we'd watch the beginning of the marathon. Ended up getting so gripped we watched the whole thing! And ended up going to bed around 3.30am.

Sunday 17 August - So tired I slept in, and didn't make it to church. H got a text at around 11am that woke us up ... fortunately his friend was letting us know that he was running late, so that gave us time to get ready! We went to Brighton for the day, arriving in time for a late lunch. Not quite at Harry Ramsden's though ... we went a bit further, down the pier, then had fish and chips in the pier restaurant. We walked to the end of the pier, where we were amazed at the people who were spending £8 to go upside down and round and round on one of the rides. They seemed really close - it was quite motion-sickness-making watching them! H was almost tempted to have a go on the bucking bronco, but decided not to. I quite fancied getting one of the those getting dressed up photos, but we would have had to have waited, so we decided not to. Instead I had a huge candyfloss, which was good - but maybe a bit much! Then we walked down to the beach, where we took photos next to a giant doughnut, and H lost his hat (although he found it again, on the other side of the wall - he managed to jump over and get it before the wind carried it out to sea!).

The beach is full of pebbles, which are not that easy to walk on in the sort of shoes I had. I kept sinking in and getting little pebbley stones in my shoes, which wasn't very comfortable! However, I eventually made the sea, and walked into the water - I wasn't quite able to jump over the waves, the pebbles saw to that, but I enjoyed standing there with the water washing over my feet.

It was nice to go for a wander along the promenade, taking photos, remembering nights spent in the Grand Hotel, watching the seagulls flying overhead and generally talking and laughing. By now it was getting a bit later, so we began to head back to the car, past the Brighton Pavilion, stopping off at the Colonnade pub for a drink (they don't serve hot chocolate, but they do have muffins). We eventually found the car, which was no mean feat, and I drove home. At some point I deviated from my planned course, but that meant we had a detour under the Greenwich Meridian, so that was good.

Monday 18 August - I haven't managed to do all the things I wanted to do today. As I write this it's now after 6pm. I started writing this around lunchtime. I've had a dizzy spell earlier that has made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I have watched some Olympics and made lunch. I need to go and clear up. I haven't done too much computer stuff today, but I have done a bit. Mostly I've not done much at all, just sat around feeling a bit under the weather. We are going out in an hour. H is going off for a jog. I'll go and clear up. Hopefully tomorrow I can not go on the computer at all and just blitz my essays so we can head north on Wednesday with everything done so I can just relax. How quickly holidays come to an end!

Blog Action Day

Blog Action Day will be coming up soon ...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Looking back ...

I was just visiting another site called That's My Answer, and it asked the question,

How often do you take a trip down memory lane and read your own blog?

Well, that was a challenge for me! I do occasionally look back, but normally when there is something specific that I am looking for. So I decided to have a little look back at a few random posts, and see what I was getting up to. And where better than to start with my first post? As you can see, I've been blogging for almost two years now! I started on 15 October 2006 ... I must try to remember in a couple of months to write a special celebratory post! As far as my initial intentions went, I think H has definitely benefited from me writing about my days at school, rather than trying to tell him everything the moment I step through the door. I've felt better and been much calmer, I think, about work since I've started blogging. However, I don't think I've necessarily written much about my actual teaching and teaching methods, as I had originally planned to. I have other places for that. But instead this blog has, I think, become a much more personal blog, a place where I share my thoughts and ideas more generally, and a place where, specifically, my family can learn about all the exciting things that H and I get up to here in London.

A year later, without realising that it was the first anniversary of my blog, I wrote a post for Blog Action Day. I wonder if there will be another one this year? I had to write about the environment. But it sounds as if it had been a hectic day at work! And my car was lightly knocked ... it's been in worse scrapes since.

Some of the posts I have particularly enjoyed sharing have been those with photos, for example when we visited Fortnum and Mason's to enjoy the Alice in Wonderland window display. The following year we went to see the Twelve Days of Christmas in the window. These photos were taken with my mobile ... I still hope to get a new mobile that can take better pictures!

As for a completely random post about teaching ... this one, fortunately, looks at the more positive side of teaching - reading it brings back the memories very clearly! I should also confess that the island desks did not last ... I had to return to rows again to help keep everyone focused. A shame.

And I really ought to be getting on with some work rather than reminiscing! However, I hope you've enjoyed this little wander down memory lane with me. Maybe we'll do it again sometime!

Parents' Day

Another one from the Meme Express; apparently Sunday 27 July was Parents' Day, so, since I missed it, and it was Mum's birthday yesterday, and Dad's birthday is in just over a month, this can be the focus of my post today.

What special memories do you have of your own parents?

They're not finished yet! Lots of good memories. For example, I remember once being unwell in bed - I must have been coughing or something - and Dad got up to see how I was. (He probably did that lots, but I particularly remember that time, I must have been about thirteen or something, and I think it struck me at the time that I might have expected Mum to come through, but it was Dad.) I remember going to visit Mum in hospital when she'd just had my sister, and later taking a school friend to see her at home when she had flu and she wasn't too happy! (But I wasn't too happy when he told her that I'd poured paint everywhere at school ... not exactly my fault, I'd been blowing bubbles into watery paint, and putting the paper on top of the bubbles to make a pretty pattern, except my paintings weren't looking so good because the paint didn't seem to be sticking enough, so I did the obvious thing ... I put the paper on top of the bowl, then turned the bowl of paint upside down on the paper so that the bubbles would stick more ...) Anyway, enough of me! Back to my parents ...

How about posting a tribute to a parent?

As I said on their Silver Anniversary (I think) ... I always remember the quote that the greatest thing a father can do for his children is to keep on loving their mother. And we have been blessed with that! Mum has always been there for my sister and I; I always assumed that if I had children I would, like her, stay at home, being there for them, doing the housework, cooking, baking, looking after, playing games, teaching them how to do things, listening to them rehearse ... Now that I am older, and realise that may not be possible, I can understand much more the sacrifice that Mum must have made to be there for us, throughout my schooling, until my sister was in secondary school. We really took it for granted - maybe it was easier in those days, I don't know, but as I see more and more of my colleagues coming back to school when their children are six months old or so, I realise how special it must be to be able to stay at home. But then Mum impressed us all even more by beginning to study. An O Level in Biology, a Higher, and then, amazingly, an Open University degree! And this while still working, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, supporting daughters in uni and overseas, organising a wedding ... We were all so proud of her when she graduated! And if that wasn't enough, she changed careers, studied for that new pharmaceutical job, and has certainly made up for all that time she was at home looking after us.

As for Dad, he has always worked hard to provide for his family, and made sure none of us ever wanted for anything. He used to get up really early in the morning, and sometimes during the night if he was called out, without complaining. Despite this, he has always attended every event that my sister and I were in, always been there for any important occasion. He has always been proud of us both - in fact, all three of the women in his life! - and has encouraged us in every way. He has always been funny and game for a laugh, although it used to be a bit embarrassing when he called our friends by random boys' names! He's also a great cook - sprunglegunge! - and a great storyteller. I discovered that he's also a good writer when he wrote about a work based team building activity weekend, which was full of humorous asides and surprising innuendo, and I am looking forward to catching up with his memoirs!! One of the other things about Dad is that he has always been great at being involved in organising parties and events for other people. Whenever anyone left at work, he would write a funny speech and arrange balloons and things. He's also known for his kissograms, although I don't think he's done any recently! Finally, talking of speeches ... his Father of the Bride speech was truly awesome. Even though I thought a number of times that he was about to conclude, it really didn't seem that long at the time! He covered almost every key event in my life from birth until the drive to church ... He's had to put up with a lot of teasing about its length ever since, but I don't mind - it was great!

So, Mum and Dad - thanks for being such great parents! We couldn't have asked for better.

Why not recount a humorous anecdote from your own childhood?

Where to start?! There must be so many! Some quotes that might make sense to those that know me (because I've spent ages on this already and really ought to get on with some "proper" work!): "I do like your babies!", "Middle!" and "At least she lived a long and fruitful life."

Are you a parent?

Not yet! Maybe in a couple of years ...

Want to tell a funny story about your parenting experience?

Since I'm not a parent yet, I don't think I have any ... I've fortunately never had to do any serious babysitting or anything either.

Got any helpful advice for parents-to-be?

Not really! But what I hope I've learnt from my parents ... support your children in all they do, encourage them, don't worry if they want to do things differently from the way you would, love them, and let them believe that they can be whatever they want to be.

Would you like to share a funny family photo or two?

I'd love to ... but not on this blog! Sorry!

Right. So that's my views on parents for today ... Wonder what the Meme Express will suggest next?!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympics

Another set of questions from the Meme Express ...

How much do you know about the history of the Olympic Games?

Well, this is a tough one ... I am sure if I were reading a history of the Olympics it would be very familiar to me, but I am embarrassed to say that it doesn't just trip off the tongue!! It started in Athens, a LONG time ago ... Did it start as a response to the feat performed by the runner who ran to (from?) Marathon to tell the people that the Spartans were coming? (Or was he a Spartan??) Oh dear. Anyway, the athletes in those old classical times liked to show off their talents, eg naked wrestling in the gymnasium, and they were crowned with laurel wreathes. So that was the classical Olympic Games ... presumably on Mount Olympus ... ummm, is that a real place or just the mythological home of the gods? Oh dear, oh dear. My poor Classics teacher would not be too happy with me! Anyway, later on, in the 1800s, I think, the modern games were revived. Let's see ... it's the 29th games ... every 4 years ... possibly missed one during one of the wars ... so that's about 120 years ago or so? 1880s? (Just in case any poor students being set a research homework on the Olympics happens to pass by, please let me remind you that I am doing this off the top of my head so it's probably hideously wrong!!) Right. So, how many marks do I get for that?!

Have you ever participated in, or attended, the Olympics?

No, neither! Although I have been to the swimming pool that was used during the Edinburgh Commonwealth games a number of years ago. Does that count? I do hope to be able to make London 2012. I'll be really disappointed if I don't get to make those games! I also hope that some of my students might be able to participate in them - you never know. Some are very good athletes. I have met an Olympic athlete, a former student (not one of mine, though, he's about the same age as me!)

What is your favorite Olympic sport?

Partly, whichever one I can cheer a British athlete on in, or one where an underdog is competing, or if a story has built up around a particular event so there's a more general interest in it. But, mainly, athletics. It's amazing how fast some people can go, the stamina they can show, how far or high they can jump. Although, to be very specific, I think I like the races. I love watching them live, for example at school sports' day. It's like my heart stops beating and I stop breathing for a moment as I focus on the sprinters, holding my breath as they run the 9 seconds or so down the track. Although I can't actually be doing that, at least not during Sports' Day, because I'm always jumping up and down and screaming like a mad woman. My form are normally very embarrassed by me! (But I think they like it really ... ??!!)

Who is your favorite Olympic athlete?

Hmmm. If any of my pupils were taking part, it would be easier! At the moment in particular, I don't think there is anyone who stands out. But the names I remember from my youth would be Daley Thompson, Tessa Sanderson, Fatima Whitbread, Steve Cram, Steve Ovett, Seb Coe (am I giving away my age here?!). Liz McColgan. Later, I remember waiting up late to watch Jonathan Edwards perform his world record breaking triple jump. The Olympian I met told us about Bible studies with Jonathan. I was sad to hear that he seems to be going through a crisis of faith at the moment.

Can you think of any sport that you think OUGHT TO be added?

No, not really ... I feel as if I am running out of inspiration here! Perhaps they could add the egg and spoon race or the sack race ... that could be interesting. Or a dads' race? A mums' race? Go on, some of the old primary school favourites could add a touch of drama to the serious work of winning medals!

If you could compete in the Olympic Games, what would be your event?

Oh dear. Anyone who knows me will know what a silly question this is! I am not exactly the sportiest of people. The sportiest I get is occasionally dancing around the room. Perhaps if I'd stuck in at school, then I might have decided to try my hand at sprinting. Only having to run 100m very fast ... if it wasn't for all the training, sacrifices, keeping in shape etc then you never know!

So there you go. Choo choo over to the Meme Express now ... !