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 ... !

Chinese shadow play

I have to say that I was not at all surprised at the news from the BBC that the little girl in the red dress with the pretty bunches who sang was miming. At the time I thought that the noise was so pure and easy to hear among all the other noises, that it must have been pre-recorded. I also commented to H that a few years ago, she would have had short hair, curving my hand round my face to demonstrate. So it was interesting to read that not only was she miming, but she was miming to another little girl's voice! The actual singer was deemed by a member of the politburo to have buck teeth, whereas the first little girl looked more perfect - together, the girls made the perfect package.

Secondly, the fireworks travelling through Beijing were also pre-recorded. Again, I assumed at first that they were computer simulated, but then the BBC started talking about the fireworks outside, and I realised that they were live. Or at least, supposed to be. Reading between the lines, it sounds as if there were live fireworks on the night, but the footage was pre-recorded (from rehearsals, presumably) and enhanced - which is what gave it the CGI effect, I would think. Anyway, who can blame them? The whole show was fantastic, with so many things that looked computer generated actually having people behind them, for example the ceramic typewriter, out of which came cherry blossom then waving dancers.

I do think it's a real shame that in this day and age the appearance of a nine year old still matters so much - and the seven year old singing girl also looks very cute! - but at least she has been given the praise now, rather than it trying to be hidden forever. Hopefully she will be given the credit in China too and not just in foreign press. Of course many people are understandably angry, and really both girls could be insulted by the decision, one not pretty enough, the other not harmonious enough. Hopefully though they will both be able to show off their talents, as much or as little as they want to, and make good memories out of the experience rather than being bitter. After all, one little girl made people smile in her little red dress, and the other made people marvel at her beautiful voice.

Otherwise, the whole show was a spectacle, and of course China wanted to present everything to the highest standard. Can anyone watching at home on TV really feel let down to know that the fireworks we saw were not necessarily those going off at the time? I don't. I really enjoyed the whole shabbang. What would be really disappointing is if the athletes were shown to be fakes. That's where reality has to be all important. What do you think?

A Productive Day

I have been indoors all day - we both have - although I have gone outside for some fresh air on the balcony, but it was wet and overcast, so there was no real pull to go any further - anyway, I have been inside and very productive! It's been my most productive day so far. Not too much surfing, mostly very focused. Also made spaghetti bolognese, and the studio isn't too messy, but mostly I worked on finishing my essay, and I did, and I'm happy with it. So that's good. Have a couple more to do tomorrow, if I can keep up this focus. And so, to bed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Paperback Pleasers

I am writing this as a response to a meme prompter on Meme Express. Apparently I can use this prompt, along with the images and music of the Beatles' Paperback Writer in order to inspire a poem, song, photo, or other entry ... Well, I do actually have a lot of other work to do, so I'm not feeling particularly creative at the moment! (Although many ideas of photos of my many paperbacks come to mind ... Maybe some other time.) So, because I do want to write something just now before getting back to my essay, I am simply going to answer the questions. Because they are about one of my favourite ways of spending time ...

Do you love to read?

I love to read. Apparently I was a real pain when I was young because I used to stay awake until I had been read to. I was finally able to get to sleep by myself when I was able to read for myself. Although my eyesight has never been quite the same! All those Famous Fives and Agatha Christies read either under the duvet cover, trying to keep the light from alerting my parents to the fact that I was still awake, or even straining to read in the darkness, simply by the light of the moon through the cracks between the curtains. I still devour books, in fact I devour words. It's the only way to describe it. From the ingredients on the side of a cereal packet, through the text messages sent to the free newspapers that I pick up and read on the tube, to novels and biographies with a bit of internet stumbling added in for good measure ... I am constantly reading. Fortunately H is the same, so if we go to a restaurant and happen to have a paper to hand ... well, he can read one section while I read another, and although we might look as if we are miserable in each other's company and are rudely reading instead of making small talk, in fact, we are both happy to quietly read and just be in the presence of the other, and in the presence of words. So, yes, I love reading.

How many paperbacks do you have going at one time?

Hmm. This is a tricky one. I have just finished Fearless Fighter by Vera Chirwa, and have also recently finished a couple of other books as well - I write my reviews on my other blog, Louisa's Library. I have read 20 books this year so far, and most of them have been paperbacks. I have two paperbacks by my bed at the moment - When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin and Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka. Normally I have some others lying around as well, and may have a larger book for at home and a smaller one in my handbag for the tube.

What is your favorite genre of books?

(Is it adventure, biography, history, mystery, romance or another?)

Hmmm. I read a lot of very different genres. At the moment I have been reading a lot of autobiography - this year has included works by Russell Brand, three sisters who grew up in a cult, Henry Hemming, Roald Dahl, Ishmael Beah, Peter Godwin, Alexandra Fuller, Erin Gruwell and Vera Chirwa. So that's almost half my books ... and one of the books by my bedside is also biography. Well, autobiography, or memoir, to be precise. The year before that I read 28 books, five of which were biographical. That year I read a lot of more literary fiction, because I was trying to get through a few of the books in the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. I also quite like a good old detective novel - I suppose the Famous Five and Agatha Christie reference from my childhood indicates that that love has been around for a while! They do seem a bit trashier when compared to Coatzee, Camus and Carter, who were all on my 2007 reading list, but they are fun and necessary at times for some light reading! I also love a bit of Jane Austen, but haven't read that much romance recently.

Do you consider paperback books a scholarly pursuit or a guilty pleasure?

A bit of both, I suppose ... I studied English, and don't feel guilty about gaining pleasure from reading. I also gain a lot of knowledge - especially if it's biographical, I suppose - and find it very relaxing. Much better for me that being on the computer all evening, which is how I more and more frequently find myself spending the evening. So it engages my brain while relaxing me ... It's all good.

Have you ever written a book?

I've written a short story at secondary school! Very hifalutin' (that's what comes up on the spell checker - it's not a word I've ever written before - I hope you know what I mean!), sentimental, quite silly and romantic, but I enjoyed it very much! I tried to write a novel during NaNoWriMo last year, and managed about 20,000 words, but it was hard to do that and work at the same time! I have no great ambitions to write a book, but I do love writing, and, as I said, I love words, so it was fun experimenting during November. I do know someone who has written a book though, so I have seen the experience at close hand. I don't know if I would have the stamina!

If you could write a book, what would it be about?

That's a hard one! The book I started before involved banking, shopping and driving. Very mundane. So I suppose it would probably be an observational book based on everyday life. I'd need to think of a more exciting plot though! I love words, but planning and following through ... well, that's where I would let myself down!

And that's it ... thank you, Meme Express, for that inspiration! Hope it's livened up my blog a bit for my readers (my parents and overseas friend, I think, but possibly other people passing by!)

(PS Not sure why the choo choo image doesn't show up unless you click on it ... May get round to fixing it later, but I really do have work to do now!)

My Weekly Summer Update

So, what exciting things have happened this week?

Monday 4 August - Discovered a few more interesting websites and computer applications. Played around with those, did some writing, generally inside, tidying up etc.

Tuesday 5 August - More computer stuff, practiced animating cartoons on the internet, went to the shops. Up really late surfing around on the internet. Mostly stumbling around using the StumbleUpon button, which you click and it takes you anywhere on the internet! Very addictive. Also updated most of the phone numbers etc on H's new mobile phone. Which means he can't phone anyone, because whenever someone changed their number, he added it as a new person, whereas I'm putting them all in one place, then he doesn't know which one is the correct number! Oh dear.

Wednesday 6 August - More working from home and surfing. Had a lovely evening though. We walked to Canary Wharf again and went to the Cafe Rouge for a drink, and ended up sharing a plate of bread, pate and cheese. Delicious! And very continental, sitting by the Thames. Relaxing. Watched the world go by ... I had a citron presse, which comes with a very concentrated bitter lemon juice, a jug of water, and a decanter of sugared water, which you make to taste. Felt very adult-like and grown up! (Which I suppose I am, really, although the older I get the younger I feel, I think! Or at least the younger I act!) I think we managed to have an earlyish night this night ...

Thursday 7 August - Did some work, but too much stumbling around again. Think it was tonight we watched No Country for Old Men, a film set near the Mexico border, with a ruthless killer to uses an air gun pellet thing that is used for killing cattle to murder people and to blow out locks. Very dark, but fairly gripping. Then went back on the computer ...

Friday 8 August - Had a long lie in, but got up in time to watch the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony; stayed on the couch from 11:45am to 5:15pm or something like that ... It was fantastic, really eye catching. I loved the scroll effects, and the way the painting started with dancing, continued with children and was completed with the feet of the athletes. The ceramic typewriter with the dancing keys, the thousands of disciples of Confucius in long robes and paintbrush-like headgear, the swirling dove people, the giant globe, the long, almost infinite-like, procession of athletes, the military precision of the Chinese police as the received the Olympic flag, the little boy, survivor of the earthquake, walking alongside the tall Chinese basketball player, and finally the delivery and lighting of the huge Olympic torch, as the Chinese gymnast floated then ran through the air, running behind the unveiling scroll revealing scenes from Athens to Beijing ... And I haven't even mentioned the fireworks. Well. What a start. Having watched to the very end meant that we didn't go into town, as planned. However, in the evening H decided to head to the O2 with his work to write his proposal, and I decided to stay at home and tidy up. I stuck on some nice African music - couldn't find the kwassa kwassa though - and that perked me up, and within the hour the studio had gone from being messy, dirty and a hindrance to clear thought, to being tidy, clean and a pleasure to be in. Made me feel like dancing. But I had some work to do, and with a nice clean studio, I could finally get on with it, and managed to write about 3000 words or so and still was in bed by midnight. (I read until about 1am.) However, when H came home, he was very excited with some news, which kept us both up for a while!

Saturday 9 August - Got up bright and early (ish!) in order to go to the bank, the mobile phone shop, and the bookshop. When I was in the Orange store, the shop assistant went to get another assistant because it was very busy. It's a small shop. He opened the door, and said, "Come out now, what are you doing in here? You need to come and help with the customers now. That's not important - don't waste your time on that now," or something like that. The other person behind the door was not happy. "What are you talking to me like that for? You don't need to talk to me like that." "I'm talking to you like this because there are lots of customers. You need to come and help." The first man was quite rude, and the second man wasn't very happy about it. A bit embarrassing really. It was very busy. But the first man could probably have gone into the back room and spoken to the second man quietly. Anyway. Then I came home, put on the washing, and made lunch. Planned to have lunch, then go to the shops before heading back for an afternoon nap and working all evening, and felt really good because I'd been out for fresh air and was half way through my essay. Then a friend turned up just before lunch was ready. So I divided it between three rather than two, and we sat and talked for a long time. Around 3pm I suggested that I go for shopping, and see them when I get back, but the friend said he'd be going soon, so I decided to wait and go shopping after he left. He left around 7pm ... by which time H was hungry, and I was tired and a bit frustrated that I hadn't managed to get any work done, although it was nice to see him. We eventually decided to go to the Orange Tree for dinner, then I dropped off H and went shopping. Came home ready for sleep! Just before I went to bed H decided he wanted to get a video uploaded to YouTube. The video was on my computer, so I started editing it, but I have new iMovies software, and it's really complicated (when you are used to the old software), and seemed to take forever. Got it eventually, but another late night.

Sunday 10 August - Got up bright and early for church. A different priest was there, talking about the Africa Missionary Society. It was very interesting and informative - he was telling us about the history of Liberia. Came home, made lunch - liver and onions with mashed potatoes - and moved the washing into the sun. Then pottered on and off the computer for a while throughout the day. Suddenly realised just before starting this post that the rain was bucketing down - such a contrast to earlier - and all my clothes are soaked once again. They were practically dry before. Ah well, these things happen. Now I'm going to go and try and finish this essay so I can get on with my lesson plans!

26 Things

I am intrigued by the concept of memes, and have just discovered a one-off meme called 26 Things. The idea is that you take 26 photos of objects, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet, ie an apple, ball, cup etc. Of course, I would have to try to make them a bit arty. Could be fun ... might try it.

Lots more to write, but it's way passed my bedtime, so I'll love you and leave you. Hope to do my weekly round up tomorrow though! (Had planned on doing it today, but a visitor arrived and stayed about four hours longer than expected, so I got nothing done, although it was very nice to see them!)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

One Word Meme

With thanks to

1. Where is your cell phone? Desk
2. Your significant other? Drunk!
3. Your hair? Brown
4. Your mother? Home
5. Your father? Retired
6. Your favorite thing? Reading
7. Your dream last night? Clock?
8. Your favorite drink? Water
9. Your dream/goal? Family
10. The room you’re in? Only
11. Your church? Catholic
12. Your fear? Cockroaches?
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Mother
14. Where were you last night? Computer
15. What you’re not? Sleeping
16. Muffins? Waist
17. One of your wish list items? Rest
18. Where you grew up? Scotland
19. The last thing you did? This
20. What are you wearing? Pyjamas
21. Your TV? Off
22. Your pets? None
23. Your computer? MacBook
24. Your life? Wonderful
25. Your mood? Tired
26. Missing someone? No
27. Your car? Outside
28. Something you’re not wearing?
29. Favorite store? Bookshop
30. Your summer? Holidays
31. Like(love) someone? H
32. Your favorite color? Orange
33. Last time you laughed? Earlier
34. Last time you cried? BucketList
35. Who will re post this? No-one!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Busy, busy week!

Wow, what a busy week! And with so many late nights! I have had a wee sleep, which was much needed, and I hope to have a lazy day tomorrow to catch up on my rest - but also on the tidying up, washing etc! So, what have I been up to this week?

Monday 28 July - Celebrated our anniversary by staying in for once! H was very busy getting ready for some shows, so I did some shopping for him and went to Ikea to buy a new bed, since we were having lots of guests this week.

Tuesday 29 July - My cousin arrived to look at flats in London. It was really nice to see her. She and another friend will be starting work in September. H continued to work on his preparation and I was able to help him. Think we were getting a bit high on the glue he had to use!

Wednesday 30 July - I dropped my cousin and her friend off at an estate agent. At least, that was the plan. Turns out the road she was on was so long, the numbers repeated themselves in different parts, so she was dropped off about a mile or two from her destination! Later, Mum and Dad arrived with my sister and her husband. I went to meet them, then later they met my cousin (who had found a flat - sounds nice!) who then left. After a short rest, we drove to their hotel and had dinner there.

Thursday 31 July - The highlight of the week! Really enjoyed the evening event, which was a great success. Loads of people there, friends, old, new and just met. During the day we had to prepare - it was SO hot, and I stupidly didn't get dressed up in the morning, choosing to come home, get changed, then go back. Silly idea! Anyway, an old school friend of mine had come down in the morning, and he was able to stay and help H get set up. I think everyone seemed to enjoy it. We stayed until we were eventually kicked out, drove home via the Orange Tree for some delicious Lebanese cooking, then stayed up chatting until about 3am, H, F and I.

Friday 1 August - Arranged to meet M&D at Camden Market. Wandered around for a bit, had some lunch, then took the tube to Waterloo, where we had a coffee. It was a cooler and wetter day, although the rain tended to be a drizzle, so it made a nice change. Then we took the Thames Cruiser - wonderful! - from Waterloo to the O2, where we met up with S&B. Kylie was playing, so there were loads of crowds, and the queues were long, but we got a good round table at Nandos, where we had lovely lot of food. It was funny when we got there; S, B, F and I followed the waitress up a flight of stairs to the table, then turned round to discover that H, M and D had continued up the staircase - which turned out to end up with the toilets! Fortunately they eventually found us! We had a really lovely evening, lots of chat and laughter, and all too soon it was time to go home. We took the tube, although H, F and I went to the supermarket before going home, had a nice walk, then stayed up talking again until about 3am once again.

Saturday 2 August - This is the day everyone had to leave and go home. So it was an early start in order to catch the lunchtime train. However, everyone managed to get there with plenty of time to spare. H and I had a wedding to go to in the evening, so after waving off the train we went to Oxford Street to get a present. They do excellent gift wrapping in John Lewis! Also got a new SIM card, and H got a new phone, which I have been playing with since. Quite jealous! We both had an afternoon nap once we got home, then had to rush to get ready to head across London. We decided to drive, and H managed to get through the lights as they changed to amber on Tower Bridge - just before the bridge went up! So that was lucky, or we would have been even later in arriving. It was a nice evening; H met up with some old school friends and I was able to chat to an old friend as well. Then we drove back with a couple of friends which was a good laugh, reminiscing. Another late night for H and I again, as we chatted about the wedding reception.

Sunday 3 August - So tired getting up for church, but made it. Hope my closed eyes looked like I was being particularly prayerful rather than sleeping! Came back and tried to sleep for a bit, but the noise of the Red Bull planes outside alerted us to the fact that the Air Race was on, so we decided to try to get a closer view and went to the O2. When we got there, we learnt that the tickets for the seats were £50 a go, so we decided to forego that and just stand and look up for a few minutes, before taking the tube to meet up with yet another friend at the Serpentine Gallery. Took a while to meet up, since the rain meant we changed our plans and first of all met her at her borrowed apartment, but we got there eventually and saw Richard Prince's work before heading home. For a much needed (and hopefully deserved!) afternoon nap. And then I got up, made some dinner, and here I am catching up with my blog. Hopefully this coming week will be a bit quieter! (Although, somehow I doubt it!)

See you next Sunday - if not before!