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!