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.