Friday, 30 July 2010

The End of the Week Blues

Poor Andy. He wasn't a happy bunny when he got home this evening. Busy day at work, which meant he didn't get his morning or afternoon break. And then he was having to go back out again to a leaving do.
'You don't have to go,' I said, watching him power cleaning, I mean, watering the fruit and veg in the back garden. ( We have a new hosepipe - it's either dribble or Niagara Falls). 'You can always stay home. Text everyone with an apology; tell them you're married to a right cow who'll make your life a misery if you go out this evening.'
'I'm giving Tim a lift,' said Andy, turning his attention to the greenhouse, where a couple of chilli peppers are making remarkably good progress given how neglected they were in their early days.
'Well, at least you get to eat some junk food,' I say. I feel a bit guilty at the lack of junk food chez the Manor. Since becoming vegetarian, I've become a bit puritanical about what we eat, and as I do most of the cooking, nobody else gets a say unless they utter the magic words 'I'll cook dinner tonight.'
Andy seemed slightly cheered at the thought of unlimited chips and something from a dead animal served in a bap.
I think he's also worried about Phoebe, who has been losing weight recently, and is starting to show her age by looking a bit raddled. She's been drinking quite a bit of water, too, so is going for a blood test next week to see if anything sinister is occuring. However, she did spend a considerable amount of time wrestling with one of the cat toys on the kitchen floor this morning. This confused Pandora somewhat, as she often tries to engage Phoebs in a spot of gallivanting, only to be rejected with a hiss and a spit, and a swipe of a paw if she can summon the energy or enthusiam.

Heather's had a rubbish week, too. Moany management who complain when she uses her initiative, colleagues who don't pull their weight, or go off work with 'stress.' She's covered in bumps and bruises from toting masses of stock boxes around. She is, as she so eloquently put it the other day, 'going to punch someones lights out soon.'

I'm glad I'm not teaching. I'm glad I'm at home, feeling calm and relaxed, enjoying my writing, keeping the house homely, being able to provide a sympathetic ear and chocolate chip and banana cake for the ones I love in the hope that it brings some cheer to the ends of their horrid days. Just think what it would have been like this week if I was still going to school. Actually, don't think about it - it's too horrendous to contemplate.

So wherever you are this weekend, and whatever you are doing, I wish you lightness in your heart, contentment in your mind, happiness with your loved ones, and the courage and humour to deal with anything that doesn't go quite according to plan, as some things are wont to do in this mad condition we call life.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

That Writing Malarkey

It's a quarter to four in the afternoon. I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open. Go on, ask me why. Because I was up at 5.30 this morning, writing. Oh yes, the writing rhythm is back again! I did a load of writing yesterday, well, an afternoon's worth, because Mum and Auntie Pollie have got a whiff that I am once more available for post-swim hot chocolate and biscuits, so they visited during the morning. And then I pootled about doing some more turfing out of stuff, and then, after lunch, I thought, 'Get on with some writing,' so I did.

And whilst I was having the morning turf out, I discovered the beginning of a novel which I started as a companion project to Indigo Antfarm. It's called 'Merrily, Kissed By An Angel' and instead of mermaids, it's got faeries. And on re-reading it, I rather like it. It's got legs, as they say, and this is good coming from me who is very critical of her work and regards most of it as pants on a par with Martine McCutcheon's offering. Tell me again, how did she get published? Oh yes, that's right, because she's famous.

So, at just after five this morning, I was wide awake, head buzzing with the need to write. Blimey but it was good! Haven't had that feeling for MONTHS! All in all I've put in 7 and a half hours writing today. So I thought I'd have a break and do a blog, a sudoku and possibly a jammy flapjack.

Yesterday, I also did a lot of research about Harry Edwards, the spiritual healer whose book I am re-reading at the moment. He was a fascinating character. Packed his life with all sorts of malarkey, and gave unflinching effort and determination towards developing the acceptance of spiritual healing as a holistic health therapy. A true inspiration, and now I'm even more excited that we are going to visit his place in Surrey on Saturday. Something special is in the air, I am sure of it. I've been getting back into meditating mode, following the suggestions Mr Edwards makes in his book, and yesterday I got the name 'Clementine' as clear as a bell. I, therefore, believe Clementine to be one of the spirit guides who is connecting to work with me. I am refraining from singing the song because I get the distinct impression she doesn't like it. I suspect it was she who woke me at 5 this morning, with the words, 'Get up and write. No singing.'

Exercise today has come in the form of hourly five minute jogging on the spot, and chasing collared doves from the garden. For some unknown reason, the local population have suddenly decided they like chicken food. We've had chickens living in the garden for well over two years now, and the doves have never bothered before. And as I'm not paying to feed the bloomin' things, I have to do an occasional rush into the garden to scare them off, which is slightly aggravating, so production of a scarecrow maybe in order.

And now I really must go and have a 'zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz'. Before my head crashes into the keyboarnhhdslaf;;l'am4832bt gri0=zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......................

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Mrs Slocombe Makes Spanakopita

'Good morning, fellow cuisinaires! Mrs Slocombe here, speaking today from the kitchen at Much Malarkey Manor. I would be speaking from the kitchen at Cluckinghen Palace but for an unfortunate accident involving Mrs Pumphrey and the heating up of a leg-waxing kit in the Aga, resulting in a spot of emergency re-enamelling work. However, her Ladyship at the Manor has requested I blog a cookery spot today, so here I am, with my very simple-recipe-for-simple-hens called Spanakopita. (The recipe, not the hens. Spanakopita would be a silly name for a hen...or would it??? Hmmmmm....Betty Spanakopita has a certain ring to it. 'Yes,' says Mrs Miggins. 'A stupid one.')'

'I didn't actually request you do a cookery blog today,' I interrupt. 'You just muscled your way in here with your pecky beak and told me you were cooking, so shift my ar...'
'Okay,' says Slocombe. 'Perhaps I did. Perhaps I didn't. But I'm here now, so can I just get on with it?'
'Yes, if you must,' I say. 'But make sure you clear up after yourself.'
'Has she washed her hands?' says Mrs Miggins, who co-incidentally has come to the Manor this morning for me to practise a Tarot reading on.
'Yes,' I say. 'And I've made her put on an apron, too. Look, it's a novelty one with human beings all over it.'
'Oh yes,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Lovely!'

Mrs Slocombe is seething. She has a very short attention span and even shorter temper. She has come to share her recipe for Spanokopita, and she's getting fed up with the delay in progress.

'Carry on,' I say, for fear that her angry vibrations will penetrate my newly calm spiritual aura.
'Yes,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Don't mind us. You don't usually.'

'Firstly,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'gather together your ingredients. For spanakopita, you will need some spanners...'
'Oh woah up there,' I say. 'If you're going to do a cookery spot, there's to be no messing about. I'm not having complaints from Much Malarkey visitors about how they've suffered broken teeth and irritable bowel from eating one of your more abstract interpretations of a perfectly good recipe. Do it properly or not at all.'
'That's exactly what I said to Tango Pete last night,' sighs Mrs Pumphrey, who has popped in because she doesn't like to be at the Palace alone because of the noisy plumbing.
'I don't wish to know,' I say.

Mrs Slocombe sighs. 'You spoil all my fun,' she says. 'But if you insist...ahem, you will need 1 large onion, finely chopped, some oil for frying, 1lb of baby spinach, 12oz feta cheese, a handful of pine nuts, some grated fresh nutmeg, a couple of ozzes of melted butter and a packet of filo pastry. Oh, and some crushed garlic if you like crushed garlic, but I don't so I'm leaving it out.'

'That's better,' I say, and decide it is safe to step back and concentrate on my spiritual development for the day. Mrs Slocombe continues.

'Preheat your oven to Gas 8 after checking first for the presence of leg-waxing kits and stray lambs. Cook onion, and garlic (if you're mad) in large pan for 5 mins. Add spinach. Wilt. (The spinach, not you, although in this weather I wouldn't blame you if you did.) After about 4 mins, drain and squeeze mixture and add to bowl with feta, pine nuts, nutmeg and seasoning. Pause to nibble a few pine nuts, because they are, quite frankly, one of the THE most delicious things ever. Oh, and if you find you haven't got quite enough spinach, you could do half spinach mixed with other green veggies like finely sliced runner beans, and peas and courgettes, whatever combo tickles your trout.

Brush a 9 inch loose bottomed tart.... ('That's not a nice way to talk about Mrs Pumphrey,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Concentrate,' I say. 'The Wheel of Fortune has appeared.)...tin with butter. Lay a sheet of filo across it, draping it over the edges. Brush with butter. Add a second sheet across the first at an angle. Brush with butter again. Continue to layer the filo at different angles until 6-8 sheets have been used and the base and sides of the tin are covered. Add filling.

Now, repeat the sequence of filo 'n' butter layering across the top of the pie, then roll the edges down, tucking them in to seal the pie. Remove rim from the tin. DO NOT BE AFRAID. I thought it would collapse the first time I did this, but it didn't. HURRAH!!

Sit pie on base onto a baking tray. Brush top with butter and add sesame and or poppy seeds if you don't mind flossing after dinner.

Bake for 20 minutes until crisp and golden. Eat hot, warm or cold depending on when you've cooked it and when your family arrive home from work or whether you are taking it on a picnic or using it for lunch boxes. YUM!!

'It sounds lovely,' I say.

'It is,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'But it'd taste a lot better if it had spanners in it.'

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Goodbye Queen Mildred, Hello Queen Stella!

You may have been wondering what the Malarkey bees have been up to recently. I'll tell you what they've been up to. Causing us ANGST, that's what. ANGST!! With a capital A...N...G...S...T!

And I haven't been able to discuss the ANGST because I've been feeling like a big fat bee-keeping failure for the last three weeks, even though I know, deep down, what happened was mostly beyond our control. BUT...and here's the good seems like all is well again. Touch wood. Lots of wood. Especially a nice piece of oak. And that we have come through our first bee-keeping crisis having gained some valuable bee-keeping experience.

What's happened? I hear you ask.

('Yes,' says Mrs Miggins, who had a rather disappointing visit to Lakeland Plastics yesterday, and is feeling a bit narky. 'Just get on with it, will you?)

You will remember that when we brought the nuc home in May, there was a sealed queen cell attached. That's not good, we thought. We took it down.
'You've got a Queen,' we told the bees. 'Queen Mildred. That's her over there. The one with the corks swinging from her hat. She's Australian.'
'We know,' said the bees. 'She ain't our mum and we don't like her. Mildred out! Mildred out! MILDRED OUT!!' they chanted, and set about marching up and down, waving placards with 'MILDRED OUT!' painted on them, and building more Queen cells.

Well, they continued to build Queen cells for the next four weeks. Every inspection we were knocking 'em down.
'You didn't apply for planning permission,' we told the bees.
'We're going to apply retrospectively,' said the bees. 'Once we've got our new Queen.' One of them gave QM a kick as she passed by. Another stole her can of Fosters.

'No,' we said. 'You'll put up with Mildred. We are unanimous in that. Have an extension to your hive, in case you're feeling a bit hot and crowded.'

Of course, there came an inspection day when we couldn't find QM.
'She might be skulking in the bottom of the hive,' I said, optimistically.
'There are still eggs and larvae,' said Andy, even more optimistically. 'But not many.'

A week later. Still no sight of Mildred.

'She's buggered off, hasn't she?' I said, the nasty realisation slowly dawning that we now had a queenless colony on our hands.
'Looks like it,' said Andy.
'Poo,' I said. 'What do we do now?'

We went indoors and had a cup of tea, that's what we did. And then we panicked and made many phone calls to bee-keeping people along the lines of 'HEEEEEEEEEELP!!!!!!!!!'

However, it soon became clear that the various bee-keeping people were unavailable to 'HEEEEEEEEEEELP!!!!'

We were going to have to handle this ourselves.

So, braced with conviction that we could HANDLE this, NO PROBLEM, we re-entered the hive. We chose our queen cell. We marked the frame with a star. 'When she hatches, we shall call her Queen Stella,' said Andy.

We knocked out the other queen cells. We took out ANYTHING that looked remotely like it could become a queen cell. And then we said a prayer and shut up the hive and prepared to sit tight for at least two weeks.

Today, we could bear it no longer. According to our highly mathematical calculations, Queen Stella, if she was viable, would have hatched about a week ago. By hanging on an extra week, we hoped she'd have gone on a mating flight or three, and that we wouldn't be inspecting the hive whilst she was on a mating flight and confuse her by having her home in several different pieces when she returned.

Through the frames we went. Many, many bees. No sign of a Queen. No sign of eggs. Oh dear.

And the...

'THERE SHE IS!!!' I shouted. 'LOOK! THERE'S THE QUEEN!!!!!'
'Where?' said Andy.
'THERE!!!' I said, waving the hive tool with excitement. It was definitely a Queen. I homed in on her straight away. She was scuttling to get away from the light, in all her pointy bottomed glory. We replaced the frame she was on quickly, checked the other frames and reassembled the hive.

We are saying another little prayer that when we inspect the hive next week, there will be eggs.

But for now, we have hatched a new Queen. And that, as new bee-keepers, when everyone kept telling us we wouldn't have problems of this ilk in our first year, is the best we can hope for.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Time Store

The hens are sitting in the middle of the formal rose garden at Cluckinghen Palace, staring at each other around the Henry Moore statue. It's a statue they acquired a couple of years ago, Lord knows from where; all Miggins will say, when pressed on the subject, is that she's got 'contacts in the trade, right?', and then she gives me a menacing look and I don't like to probe further.

'All right, girls?' I call over the fence, for despite their best horticultural efforts with a honeysuckle, I can still see inside the grounds if I stand on a footstool, on a ladder, on a coffee table, on the heap of soil I dug up recently whilst trying to extricate the last of the roots from the eucalyptus tree. (Which, annoyingly, is starting to sprout again. I think the darn thing has Terminator tendencies.)

'We're fine,' says Mrs Miggins. 'We're having a board meeting.'
'Oh, really?' I say. 'Which board meeting would that be then? The Associated Chicken Society? The Peckham Ladies' Cluster? The All Feather and No Pants Guild?'
'No,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Not that kind of board. The other kind. B...O...R...E...D....bored meeting. Because we are bored.'

Well, as my children will both testify, mentioning the word 'bored' to me is like waving a red rag to a bull that isn't, unlike its compatriots, colour-blind.

I have two stock answers to the 'I'm bored...' thing. They are 1) go and tidy your bedroom and 2) go outside and play.

Neither of which suffice for the chickens because a) they have a woman that does to tidy their bedroom (i.e me) and b) they are already outside, although they aren't playing. Unless you count the game Mrs Miggins and Mrs Pumphrey play every day in trying to keep Mrs Slocombe at beak's length.

'I wish I could suggest something for you to do,' I say.
'Oh, we'll be okay this afternoon,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'This afternoon we are going on a mystery tour. On a coach. Tango Pete's arranged it.'
'How exciting,' I say. 'Any idea where?'

Mrs Miggins gives me a bit of a stare. 'It wouldn't be a mystery tour if we knew where we were going, would it?' she says.
'Lakeland Plastics,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Oooooh, I LOVE Lakeland Plastics!' says Mrs Slocombe, waking suddenly from her bored meeting meditation. Well, she's approaching that age, I suppose, where retractable feather dusters and banana holders become suddenly fascinating must-have objects.
'WHAT?' says Mrs Miggins. 'How do you know we're going to Lakeland Plastics?'
'Tango Pete asked me where I'd like to go if I was to go on a mystery tour and didn't want to be too surprised,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And I've always fancied getting one of those Ramoushka pots, you know, for those evenings when I'm on my own and want a pot-for-one-prepare-ahead-and- slow-cook-supper.'

Mrs Miggins sighs. 'He's so unimaginative,' she says.

I, on the other hand, have been anything but bored this morning. I have been to the dentist for a check-up. All tickety-boo and good for another year. I have purchased seven rolls of wallpaper for the hall, landing and stairs. There was a spot of wild shenanigins yesterday when I waved a tape measure around for a while, adding up very approximate numbers as I went, and guessing a bit in difficult places to reach like the top of the ceiling and the recess into the stairwell. And then I abandoned the tape measure and consulted my instinct who said seven rolls would be ample. And if it's not, I shall know who to blame, shan't I?

Then I came home with my wallpaper. I unravelled a roll, held it up the wall, and said, 'Oooh, lovely.'

Then I did a spot of interwebbly property surfing, hoping that 'THE HOUSE' would leap from the screen and make itself known, then I remembered I'd just spent a fair packet on some wallpaper, so best reign in that 'let's move' malarkey feeling toute suite.

This afternoon I have to meditate on a conundrum. You know how I am planning to do my Reiki degree? And that I've contacted a tutor? Well, whilst having a book tidy out the other day, I came upon a copy of a book I acquired many, many years ago written by the healer Harry Edwards. It was one of the initial motivators that got me into the whole psychic reading and healing thing. My Mum's nanny was a friend of his; I think that's how I came by the book in the first place. So, being a curious type, I typed Harry Edwards' name into Google, and to my delight, his healing sanctuary still operates today! It's about an hour's drive away, in Surrey. And they run courses and retreats where one can gain a formal and recognised qualification in healing! And they have an Open Day this Saturday!!

Well!! Suddenly, I'm all fired up about something that happened nearly thirty years ago, that, although not forgotten, had slipped to the back of my mind. Suddenly, I feel like this could be the continuation of a journey that I began back in the summer of 1982, 8 months after my grandad died and I heard him telling me the runner beans were going to be good that year. And they were.

I have suddenly realised that Time doesn't work. Time is a human concept attached to the motion of the Universe, which the Universe roundly ignores. The Universe puts elements of our life in place, knowing we'll be back for them sometime next week, next month, in five years, ten years, a lifetime, it doesn't matter when. All that matters is that we do return, and continue along the way that is meant for us, no matter how far we've drifted off to pursue other interests.

As Helen Keller said : 'When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.'

So - Reiki or Harry Edwards? Or neither or both?

Let the dance-off begin!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Grottoes, Scallops and Dancing With the Devil

Today, if today is 25th July (you see, I've lost track of time already), is St. James' Day, Grotto Day and St Christopher's Day. It is also the day, back in 1688, when a Richard Dugdale, whilst attending Lancashire's Whalley Rushbearing feast, decided to sell his soul to the Devil.

(I hope this isn't typical Lancashire behaviour, given I am myself married to a Lancashire lad. Andy assures me it isn't, but then he is very easily distracted and we all know what an opportunist the Devil can be.)

Anyway, in exchange for his soul, Dugdale got to be the most terrific dancer this side of the Great Dancing Kingdom of Dancedom, in the Universe of Dancelot. He performed his dance before an amazed crowd; I suspect they were more amazed at the fits, talking in tongues and vomiting of stones that accompanied the dancing rather than the dancing itself. And the fact that as Dugdale danced, a boil travelled from his leg up to his chest where it began to supperate in quite magnificent fashion. The Devil drives a hard bargain, methinks.

Dugdale was duly exorcised by a group of men who went about their task by ridiculing the Devil with such pithy and cutting witticisms as 'Canst thou dance no better, Satan? Is this the top of skill and pride, to shuffle feet and brandish knees thus, and trip like a doe, and skip like a squirrel? And wherein differs thy leapings fromt the hoppings of a frog, or bounces of a goat, or friskings of a dog, or gesticulations of a monkey? Dost thou not twirl like a calf that has had a turn, and twitch up thy houghs like a spring-haught tit?'

Well, such insults would have had me crying in my boots, that's for sure.

St James, on the other hand, who had been dead a few days, managed, whilst being transported to his funeral, to rescue a man from drowning by covering him with scallops. No mean feat for a dead dude, don't you think? In honour of St James, pilgrims collect a scallop shell from his resting place in Compostella in Spain. Possession of a scallop shell means favourable treatment on Judgement Day. Who'd have thought it, eh?

Failing a trip to Compostella, one can collect a scallop shell from a shell grotto with the rhyme 'Please to remember the Grotto, it's only once a year; Father's gone to sea, Mother's gone to fetch him back, so please remember me.'

No, I wasn't sure either. But I think I'll manage a trip to Whistable next oyster festival and see if I can pick up a shell or two there. Just to be on the safe side.

Tomorrow is St Anne's Day, which is not for the faint-hearted apaprently. I wouldn't know, because tomorrow I am going to the dentist for a check-up, and then I'm going into Laura Ashley to get some wallpaper for the stairs. It's in eau-de-nil, don't you know, which will be quite a change from the roasted red pepper shade that currently dons the walls.

All I need after that is to find a good painter and decorator. I am having enormous problems securing the services of one at the moment, which is partly why I refuse to believe the recession is as bad as people are making out.

It's going to be a busy week: I can feel it in my aura.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Music and Movement

We're in a bit of a quandary about what to do with the piano. The piano whose key bed has sagged beyond economic-sense repair. Andy reckons we could put it on e-bay for 99p and someone, somewhere would come and take it away. I don't share his e-bayers-will-buy-anything enthusiasm. Even though I suspect they will, because Andy has occasional flirtations with e-bay and buys some quite inexplicable stuff sometimes, generally to do with ancient...oops, sorry....classic video games, I still feel that, given the number of pianos on e-bay at the moment, come Christmas, ours will still be taking up what is now valuable space in my writing room.

I say 'valuable' because my writing room is looking likely to be transformed into a therapy room at some point in the next year. Already I am looking at the space thinking, 'Right...therapy couch there, towel storage space there, filing cabinet in the corner....' etc etc. And a dud piano, although still lovely to look at, does not fit in with the plans.

'What else are we supposed to do with it?' said Andy.
'I don't know,' I said, although secretly I think putting it out on the driveway and hoping someone steals it would probably do it for me.

I've taken to sitting cross-legged on a huge cushion in the middle of my writing room, and snatching moments of meditation whenever I can. Pandora, who seems to find my sitting still and thinking moments most entertaining, still insists on attracting my attention by biting me. I am thinking that if I can sit through a meditation with Pandora clamped to my thumb and not break my concentration, I'll be making good progress. Pandora, I suspect, has other ideas.

Today has been good in that a) I got loads of housework done b) I made a birthday cake for Leane even though I had a struggle getting the fudge icing to stick to the sides because the weather was too hot for it to set, so I added way to much icing sugar and then it went too stiff and c) we all went out for a meal to celebrate Leane's birthday and Kayleigh pulled some very entertaining 'brain-freeze' faces when she woke up just in time for pudding and had some ice-cream.

And tomorrow I am meeting my pal Janet (also a teacher and a damn good one at that) for lunch, where we shall have a fabulous natter about life, put the world to rights, and have a jolly productive afternoon vis a vis the forward development of the art of gossip.

And I've also got to stand in a shopping centre outside a photo-booth whilst Heather is inside the photo-booth getting passport photos done. She wouldn't get them done today because she was on her own and the instructions were too loud. Apparently.

I know. Don't ask.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Goodbye Existing, Hello Living

As I walked away from school today for the last time, a little voice said, 'Now the really hard work begins,' and I thought, 'Oh, oh,' and had to stop on the way home in a little tea shop in town to have a pot of tea, a slice of cranberry and orange cake and a bit of a think. And to dry off, because, for the first time in over a week, at the very moment I started to walk home, it chucked it down with rain. (I like to think I was getting a symbolic washing away of what was the past and a welcome into a new aspect of my life. It was bloomin' cold, anyway.)

I toted a large garden plant with me, from the school, as a 'thank you and good-bye' present. Variously during the week I have also received a bottle of wine, a pot of honey, some honey flavoured handcream, a few well wishing cards, and a hand-made notebook from my now ex-Head of Department. 'My sister hand-makes them,' she said, 'and I told her about you and she made one especially to suit.'

And it did. Its design included cats and flowers and musical notes. Old-fashioned writing and a Victorian photograph. The musical notes and old-fashioned writing reminded me that I need to get 'Indigo Antfarm, Violet and Blue' finished and sent off to some agents. In fact, last weekend, I made a list of around 30 agents to whom I can send the script for perusal.

The card that came with the notebook was also hand-made - a sort of padded, embroidered postcard creation, with bees and a bee-hive on it. It's really beautiful, and reminded me that I need to finish the embroidery I started to mark the birth of Kayleigh. And to finish turning a pair of old, but favourite curtains into cushion covers for the cushions on the chairs at the kitchen table. They have chickens on them. The curtains, not the kitchen chairs, although, dear readers, you know what liberties my hens sometimes take when it comes to dropping in for cocoa and a chocolate chip shortbread.

It has been a difficult few months. There have been tears and frustrations, along with some laughs and the occasional glimmer that I had made a difference to someone's life, if only for a day (God Bless Grace!). But, as with all difficult passages in a life worth living, positive momentum comes along and nudges the drifting soul in the right direction. By going back to teaching, I discovered I did not want to teach any more. Not in the traditional, mainstream secondary education sense of the word anyway. There are other means of teaching, other routes to explore.

I also discovered I missed writing - a lot. I have writing projects to tackle; I understand now that it's important to have the time to do these things properly. Teaching is time-hungry. Writing is time-hungry, too, but writing, unlike teaching, does much to satisfy the appetite of creativity.

Last year I was lucky enough to have a Tarot reading from a very gifted psychic whom I met almost by accident (if you believe that accidents happen and are not actually Fate wrapped up in a surprise). He told me that my life is lived in circles, but after each circle I complete I move off at a slightly different tangent onto another circle. I was concerned this meant that I'd never learn, that I'd keep going round and round and get nowhere, making the same errors over and over. No, he said. What you do is jump off the circle before you start making the same mistakes again. You travel full circle to cover all aspects of what you need to learn. And then you take your learning with you onto the next circle, expanding your life as you go. And this is good, he said.

And typing that rememberance has given me an idea for a design for a business card. Which I must go and put in the book of ideas I've started to help me as I work towards becoming a Holistic Health Practitioner.

A girl in my tutor group asked me today if I was retiring.
'No,' I replied. 'That's something I think I shall never do.'

Monday, 19 July 2010

What Shall I Write About Today?

I said to Andy, 'What shall I blog about today?'
He said, 'I don't know,' which was VERY unhelpful, because sometimes I need a bit of blog shove to get me going, especially when my brain is on a creative go slow, as it is at the moment.

So I went into the garden, to speak to the hens, for they are wise in all manner of the arts, their version of Rodin's 'The Kiss' still drawing visitors from as far apart as Japan and Hull, to wonder at its glory.

'What you need is an inspirational break,' said Mrs Miggins.
'I'll give her one,' said Mrs Slocombe, already sharpening her beak on a shaving strap and fixing her gimlet eye on my open-toed sandalled feet.
'Just you try it,' I said.
'You're such a spoilsport,' said Slocombe, and she shuffled off to the South Gardens to see if there were any stray feathers to be had.
'As it happens,' I said, 'we are off on an inspirational break soon, to celebrate our wedding anniversary. To Stratford -upon-Avon.'
'You always go there,' said Mrs Miggins.
'It has become a bit of a tradition,' I admitted. 'We're going to see 'As You Like It' whilst we are there.'
'And how do you like it?' asked Mrs Miggins.
'White, no sugar and considerably stronger than gnat's wee,' I said. 'With a digestive or possibly Hobnob on the side.'
'Hmmmm,' said Miggins. 'That could be the root of your problem.'
'What problem?' I said.
'Your lack of blog inspiration,' said Miggins. 'You see, you were totally non-creative in your response to a potentially cheeky-making question. So, I'll ask you do you like it?'

I stared at her blankly.

'I'm sorry. I don't get you,' I said.

Mrs Miggins sighed.
'Mrs Pumphrey, would you join me for a demonstration, please?' she shouted.
'Is it urgent?' called Mrs Pumphrey from the penthouse. 'Only I'm doing my roots.'
'Wrap a towel round your head, they'll keep,' said Miggins.

Mrs Pumphrey duly appeared, turban-headed and with a suspicious-looking cerise streak dripping down her face and off the end of her beak.
'Is that one of my best Christy's?' I asked, eyeing the towel she carried atop her pin-head.
'I found it in the garden,' said Mrs P hotly. 'It blew in with the wind. Finders keepers, losers can't look after their property.'

'Mrs Pumphrey,' said Mrs Miggins. 'I am going to ask you a question and I want the first response that comes into your chicken brain, okay?'
'Oh, goody!' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'I love games like this. Fire away.'

Mrs Miggins coughed.
'How do you like it?' she said.
'Topped up with gin, served in a pineapple with Lionel Blair on the side,' said Pumphrey, without missing a beat.
'You see!' said Miggins. 'Creativity in bucketloads. You're thinking too much, that's your problem. See what Pumphrey came out with straight away. She doesn't think about it, she just says.'
'I tried that once,' I said, 'and almost got punched for my troubles.'
'Learn to duck quicker,' advised Miggins.
'Try again, try again!' said Mrs Pumphrey.
' do you like it again?' said Miggins, keen to prove her point.
'With a chintz half-curtain, a parlour palm and a barely warm waffle iron,' said Mrs Pumphrey, triumphantly.

Well, of course, it was all too much for me. I left them to it. I mean, I only popped out for a quick bit of inspiration for a blog. And where did it leave me? Back at square one.

I'll let you know if anything worth writing about happens before today drifts into the past.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Any Old Iron

In less than three weeks it will be our 6th wedding anniversary. And the symbolic gift for 6 years is, rather unimaginatively, iron.

'So,' said Andy, 'would you like an iron for an anniversary present?'

Was my answer a) no thank you, I've already got one b) you do remember what happened to Trevor at the hands of Little Mo in 'Eastenders' all those years ago, don't you? or c) not if you want me to still be around for our seventh anniversary.

Of course, I declined the offer of an iron. I mean, a girl can have too many laundry items, right? In fact, I know some people who think one iron is too many. And that goes for cookery items, too, especially cast-iron casserole dishes from a certain French cookware company. We have two, plus a frying pan, and I can barely manage to lift them now, so Lord knows how I'm going to cope with them when I'm 85 and need one of those weird grippy things to get the lids off jam jars.

But it's a tricky thing trying to be original in the gift giving department when iron is the only medium one has to work with. And I say this as one who has been giving this conundrum serious thought over the last week or three.

Mostly, the ideas I've come up with for Andy have involved fire and /or cutting things/ hitting things/ squishing things. All of these give me a sense of impending doom, I don't know why, but since I've been getting back to meditating on a regular basis and heightening my psychic sensitivity I feel I need to take notice of my developing instinct and not brush it to one side with my previous laissez faire 'It'll be okay,' attitude. So a bit of 'thinking out side the box' is required, a shift away from the literal interpretation. Like last year, when, for our wooden anniversary, I got Andy a year's subscription to 'The Woodland Trust.'

My wildest moment this week vis a vis anniversary present thinking, has been the potential purchase of an Iron Age pig. But I've been lead to understand they grow quite big, and have very wiry hair, so perhaps not a good idea given the back garden is crammed to full with a pumpkin plant that seems to have some kind of triffid for an ancestor, and we aren't allowed livestock at the allotment.

And then I thought about a year's supply of Irn Bru, but that could set back in one fell swoop all the good work I've done over the last nearly nine years since Andy and I met of getting him to eat vegetables without retching.

And a set of weights a la 'Iron Man' would be pointless because there's already a set under the bed. I know this because I bang my feet/ hoover on them on a regular basis.

Still, I have nearly three weeks in which to exercise my lateral thinking muscles. And in three days I shall be no longer a teacher so will be able to think straight for the first time in ages.

But any ideas would be gratefully received. Just in case the temptation of an Iron Age pig becomes too much.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Restorative Justice...PAH!!

Hello, loyal fans!!

This is Mrs Miggins, speaking to you through the interwebbly ether. I have taken charge of the keyboard today 1) because I have finally passed my Pitman typing course (68 worms per minutes) and 2) because Denise has had a bit of a week and is currently lying motionless on the sofa, a copy of The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook splayed across her face and a mug of ground-up paracetemol and codeine dissolved in neat vodka in her hand. We're not going to disturb her for an hour or four at least. And then I might send Mrs Slocombe in with a pointy stick to see what kind of a mood she's in once the drugs and alcohol have taken hold.

So, the subject for today is 'restorative justice'. No, I've never heard of it either. But apparently it means something along the lines of if someone does something nasty/ bad/ illegal to you/ your property/ your collection of novelty egg cosies, then, instead of that bad, bad person being sent to prison/ beaten roundly with a stick/ fined a huge wodge of cash, you both - victim and perpetrator - get together over a cuppa and cake and a police officer/ headteacher/ other random mediator-type person, and the victim tells the bad, bad person how their bad, bad behaviour made them feel, then the bad, bad person says 'sorry', and the victim says, 'that's okay, just don't do it again, would you like another fairy cake?'

Personally, if Mrs Slocombe pecks me in the head, I find a good peck back twice as hard does the trick and a) is more satisfying b) delivers instant karma and c) saves wasting a lot of cake on a chicken who, quite frankly, should know better than to mess with her elder and better.

But that makes me a vicious despot with not an ounce of compassion in her tastes-like-chicken body. (According to the woolly-minded libertarian pom-pom hat, tank top wearing people who run our schools these days - bring back the Victorians, that's what I say.)

Ah, so now we see where you are heading, I hear you cry. Denise is having another school rant through a poulty-related medium. No, I say. Mrs Pumphrey is the poulty-related medium; I am Mrs Miggins. Pay attention, please.

But you're right about the school theme. Denise came home on, well, even she can't remember what day it was now (but she thinks probably Thursday). One of her Year 8 boys had sworn at her teaching assistant in the lesson previous to the one she was about to teach. The Year 8's arrived, along with the swearee, who, since half way through primary school has been plaguing teachers with his ADHD, ADD, ODD and general refusal to behave in a civilised manner. Even a special needs Womble would be able to see that this lad needs to be educated someone other than mainstream school. He just can't cope with it.

Denise was surprised to see the lad arrive in her class. She thought, because of the swearing, that he'd be being dealt with by someone from the Senior Leader Team. But no. Despite a rumour abounding that he would be collected at some point during the lesson, and despite the fact the teaching assistant was still with the class and feeling very frazzled and understandably upset, the lad remained in the class for the whole lesson, using his mobile phone, swearing, refusing to work, arguing the toss about EVERYTHING. Understandably, the other Year 8's, who are no angels themselves, felt this was unfair. 'If one of us had done that, we'd be sent out,' they said. Denise agreed.

Later, fuelled by the distress from her TA and the whole inappropriateness of it all, Denise fired off a strong and determined e-mail. She used words like 'disappointed' and ' professional' and 'consistency.' She also used the phrase 'P****d off with the whole pathetic set-up,' but deleted it when she edited the draft before sending it off.

Almost immediately came an apology from the Deputy, saying that the lad would not be back in school for the rest of term. Within an hour, the decision was overturned by the Head, with the message that we must make a bigger effort to 'understand' this lad's needs, and employ 'restorative justice.'

Well, that sounds like a load of rubbish to me, and I'm just a chicken.

Oh, hang on, she's stirring. What's that? More vodka? Is that wise? You do remember you don't drink, don't you?

Mrs Pumphreeeeeeeeeeeeey!!!! Top her up, will you? On second thoughts, just leave her the whole bottle and a drinking straw. Shut the door, and we'll come back to check on her later...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Am I in the Way?


Excuse me, but am I in the way? I ask this only because whilst I was in the MIDDLE of teaching a Year 7 lesson this morning, a caretaker burst into my classroom wielding a sack barrow, onto which he proceeded to load a filing cabinet, before dragging it noisily from the vicinity, leaving a gaping hole, an old biro, a crisp packet and two dead spiders in its wake.

I stared, the children stared, our books poised mid-air. Casey, who was reading out loud at the time, paused. The caretaker disappeared. I looked at the children, they looked at me. I marched across the classroom, SLAMMED the door. Casey took this as her cue to continue reading.

This has been happening since last Friday. Last Friday, being the day OFSTED were officially off our backs for another three years, all sense of professional decorum flew from the window. I was informed I needed to clear my classroom by THIS Friday, as Modern Foreign Languages were moving onto my territory. 'Empty your cupboards, filing cabinets, shelves and walls,' I was told. 'And your desk. Here are some bin-bags.'

'Where will I be based for the last three days of term?' I asked.

Shrugged shoulders met my question. And, with three days to eviction, I still don't know.

I mean, I know I'm leaving the school. I know I've been there only two terms. But I do have standards, and I intended to maintain them until the last minute. But now I feel like saying 'Sod you all; if I'm in your way, I'll leave NOW shall I?'

I won't, though, because I am practising being Reiki about it all. ('Ha!' says Andy, who has been living with the fall-out for the last few days.) And, to be fair, the two MFL teachers are very embarrassed about the whole thing, feeling that the whole shift around could have waited until the afternoon of the last day when all the kiddiwinks had left for the summer.


I had a haircut at the weekend. A radical haircut. This was following on from Friday, when I got home from work, looked at myself in the mirror and was appalled to discover I had actually walked through town looking like a deranged and sweaty spaniel.
'Chop it all off!' I declared to my hairdresser the next morning, who lives for moments when I say things like that because there is nothing he likes better than giving someone a good cropping.

So Monday, I was met with comments like,' Oooooh, Tinkerbell!!' and 'Love the pixie look!' and 'Very elfin. Nice do!' If I had a pound for every time a child said, 'Have you had a haircut, ma'am?' (talk about stating the obvious), I would have £58. And once I had got over the shock of seeing my cropped reflection every time I passed a mirror/ shop window/ back of a spoon, and convinced myself my head didn't really look like a pea on a drum, I quite like it, too.

Of course, it's done nothing but rain every since. Trust me to miss the heatwave zeitgeist.

We have two pumpkins expanding in the garden. One is the size of a marble. One is the size of a fifty pence piece. On Saturday, the one that is the size of a fifty pence piece was only the size of a marble. I reckon that's doubling its size in 3 days. So by October, when we are destitute because I am not earning and Andy is still part time, at least we shall be able to camp in a pumpkin when the house is repossessed! Heather can have the slightly smaller one.

That's all for today. I am off to cultivate my elfin Tinkerbell look by attempting to shrink by five feet and loose 95% of my total bodyweight.

And please, whatever you do, keep on believing in fairies...

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Lavender Hill Mob

We are officially 'good with outstanding features'. Well, hurrah for that, is all I can say. Having spent most of this week in a state of either manic hyperactivity or overwhelming tiredness thanks to the presence of OFSTED Inspectors lurking hither and thither, jumping out of corners and asking awkward questions about community co-hesion and differentiation, and assessment for learning and assessment for pupil progress (YAAAAAAAAAAAAWN - sorry, don't know quite how that one slipped out), I struggled home from work through the heat of Friday, had a shower, and lay on the bed, motionless, unless I felt less frazzled and fried and more human, and then I went into the front garden with my little camera and took photos of the Malarkey bees playing on the Malarkey lavendar.
Oh, I know they were working, but they looked like they were having fun in their work.

'Beatrice! Beatrice! Look at this gorgeous spot of lavender! Isn't it just marvellous, darling? Do come and have a forage!'
'Oh, but the choice is soooooo great in this garden, Beelinda! I fancy a bit of penstemon myself. The colours are divine. This red one tastes just like a strawberry daquiri. Or what about those poppies? Or the hollyhocks?'
'I've heard tell there's iris in the back garden...'
'Who's she?
'Shut up, Beatrice...'
Bees, I have discovered, are tricky things to photograph. And my little digital camera, whilst good at taking photos in general, is a bit slow off the mark when it comes to shutter speed. At least, it is slower than a bee. There was I, spread-eagled on the driveway, crawling commando-style through the borders, framing bees beautifully in the view-finder, and thinking, now there's a lovely photo. And clicking the take-a-picture-button. But by the time the camera had taken its time to think about it, the bee had flown out of frame and I ended up with various shots of the back end of a bee's bum.
Working with my camera is a bit like working with a particularly 'special' child at school.
'So, Stacey, what is it called when we FREEZE a character in drama so we can find out what that character is thinking?'
'No...listen carefully. We've done this lots of times before. If we have a FRAME of action, and we FREEZE that action, so all the characters stop moving, what's it called?'
'Stop the moving?'
'Well, yes, that's what happens. But there's a special word for it in drama, isn't there?'
'Is there?'
'Yes...we FREEZE the FRAME, so it's called a....?'
'Please don't shout, Stacey. You're making my head hurt.'

Anyway, I have discovered the best way to photograph bees is to do away with any pretentions that involve setting up a frame, getting the lighting just right, waiting for the moment etc, and just click, click, click away in a truly random fashion because the law of averages and the God of Good Fortune both dictate you'll catch something worthwhile eventually.

And what I caught has, as you can see, been scattered liberally about this post, like the Malarkey bees amongst the Malarkey lavender on Friday evening.
(But the zooming and cropping was ALL my own work!! And a couple of bumbles got in on the act too - now that IS what I call community cohesion!)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Skep Ahoy!

What's this then? A waste paper basket with a handy carry handle? A cat-scratching pod?
'YES!' says Pandora, who has already tried to christen it thus.
'NO!' says I, who has already threatened to get out the kitten mittens and attach them to aforesaid cat if any more of this scratching pod identity crisis malarkey goes on.

Or is it what the Man in the Iron Mask would have worn before the Iron Age?

Noooo! It's a skep. A bee skep. For catching bee swarms in. And before you think 'Oh, oh, have the Malarkey Manor bees done a bunk, they haven't. I can report that when I arrived home today there was much activity outside the hive, and the usual gathering of pollen etc etc. They are still in situ and not hanging around a local tree like a bunch of bee yobbos with no place to go.

But, in case they do decide to jump ship, and we see them a-jumping, and can follow them and keep up with them, we now have a receptacle for bringing them home. The top-bar hive is now complete, too, so if we should be lucky enough to get a different swarm (not now, of course, because a swarm in July isn't worth a fly - apparently) but next year, then we are prepared.

Skeps were the original beehive, you know - well, I suppose tree trunks were the original originals, but skeps are the original man made hive. Many societies still use them today, in fact, and on my interwebbly search for a skep whilst I was in bee panic mode on Sunday, I found a beekeeper who keeps his bees in nothing else. Of course, you need a whopping great skep to keep a full colony in, not a dinky wee one like this one, but on further research, I discovered that whopping skeps are suitable for use by 'experienced keepers only' which I am not, so I opted for the small option that was 'ideal for the beginner,' which I am.

Also, I thought the whopper looked a little too like an Ali Baba laundry basket and didn't want to run the risk of it becoming full of pants and socks before bees.

And who is this? This is my adorable grand-daughter, Kayleigh, aged almost four months.
What a star, eh?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Very Off -STED

Hark! Can you hear the sound of a chicken running around with it's head cut off? Hmmm??

That'll be the noise of the pre-Ofsted panic then.

Two weeks before the end of term and HM Inspectors have decided to pay a visit tomorrow and Thursday, just as everyone is going off the boil, but the weather is boiling up. Personally, I think they've missed the zeitgeist. But hey-ho. You know the saying 'Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach become Ofsted Inspectors.'

('That's you stuffed on the karmic spectrum for the next two days,' says Mrs Miggins, who has come to see exactly which chicken it is who is careless enough to be running around with their head cut off. She suspects it's Mrs Slocombe. Again.)

And so, since THE CALL came in yesterday morning, everyone has been running around shouting 'DO THIS, DO THAT, DO THE OTHER, PUT THIS HERE, CHANGE THAT, EXCLUDE THAT CHILD WE DON'T WANT HIM RUNNING AROUND WITH HIS POTTY MOUTH AND ADHD/ODD/ADD/EBSD/ whilst the Inspectors are in etc...'

And when I say 'everyone', I mean Senior Management, who, to be fair, probably have more to panic about than those of us who had the foresight to resign ages ago, never more to darken the doors of teaching with our carefree and incompetent ways.

I have not been panicking. I see little point. Perhaps the Reiki training is digging into my spirit more quickly than I anticipated. 'Just for today, don't worry.' Good advice. What's the point in worrying? I'll do my best, of course, which as you know, hasn't been quite good enough for this school. I have submitted my detailed lesson plans. I have put together resources galore. I have gee-upped the children - 'C'mon, we're great! Let's show those Inspectors how much we have learned about 'Holes'/ 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas'/ Blood Brothers.'

I am awaiting to embrace the end of my teaching career with open arms.

Today, I've had various people arrive in my classroom, all starting their conversations with 'Could you do a favour for me?' One of these people asked me if my marking was up to date.
'Yes it is,' I said.
'I don't suppose you could help me with mine could you?' came the reply.

Ah, so that's how it works! People who do their jobs conscientiously, and keep on top of their work are rewarded by being expected to help other, less conscientious people, out of the sh*t.

Luckily, because I am in 'just say no' mode at the mo, I just said no.

Besides, I had enough of my own work to do, having been supplied with a shed-load of bin-bags and told to 'clear out the cupboards' in my room. Blimey, I thought, as they carted away one of my cupboards, 'I'm not even cold in my grave yet.

And as I was working on my lesson plans this evening, another member of staff appeared in my class,
'Ooh, this looks a nice quiet corner,' she said.
'Mmmmm,' I agreed, trying not to lose the thread of what I was writing, which was a particularly good bit of box-ticking jargon.
And this person promptly sat down, spread her papers across the desk next to me and spent the next twenty minutes talking to herself as she sorted out what she needed to do for the next couple of days.
I gritted my teeth. My classroom IS quiet. That's what I like about it. No noise. Plenty of peaceful atmosphere conducive to good lesson planning. Generally devoid of people making rambling, out-loud thoughts.

Luckily, just as I was about to ask her to 'SHUT UP I'M TRYING TO CONCENTRATE HERE,' she finished what she was doing, gathered up her papers and disappeared, presumably back the chaos. And then we had another after school meeting during which the FOUR assorted head teachers (count 'em - 4! Too many chiefs...?) forced out what I assume they thought to be encouraging grins but looked more like the Cheshire cat trying to pass a basketball, and the rest of the staff scowled back with a look of pure hatred in their eyes. Me? I doodled some flowers on a piece of paper and thought how nice it was that two Reiki teachers have contacted me
with a view to starting my training proper. And that I've already got a paying client waiting for me to set up business.

So there we go. I suspect there will be many exploded heads by the time Thursday afternoon comes.

One of them, God willing, will not be mine.

For I've done all I can. My mind is elsewhere. I was awake at 4.30 this morning so I got up and meditated for a while and then I wrote a poem.

Now that WAS a worthwhile use of time...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Learning a Lesson

The principles of Reiki, a healing energy process for those of you who are unaware, states this:

Just for today...
...don't be angry
...don't worry appreciative hard on yourself kind to others

So today, as the kick start to my Holistic Therapist goal, I was up at 5.45 a.m to do a meditation based on this principle.

It was a bit of challenge because Pandora thought it highly entertaining to wait until I was 'in the zone' and then bite me for some attention. So the meditation was a bit stop - ouch - start- stop-ouch -start but I managed to maintain the principles before me, including not getting angry at said cat.

However, knowing the Universal Force as I do, I knew I was going to face a day of being challenged on these principles. And by ten o'clock I was out in the garden swearing at the bindweed that was becoming way too familiar with my lavender which, I have to say, has been LUSCIOUS this year! Bad bindweed! Angry Denise.

And by twelve o'clock I was thrown into a worrisome panic when, on performing a hive inspection, we found 2 sealed Queen cells. Oh blimey, that wasn't good.
'I missed them too,' said Andy. 'And given how many bees there are and how good bees are at hiding things, we have to accept that no matter how careful we are, these things do happen and that's how we learn.'

Which I knew to be true, but because I am a perfectionist who is very hard on herself sometimes, I felt an immediate bee-keeping failure. And now a Reiki failure because I immediately started to worry aboubt our colony deciding to swarm.

Still, we went inside, consulted various book, phoned a few people and the decision was taken to cut out the Queen cells which would buy us some time to prepare for an artificial swarm if need be, which we don't really want to do. But, after a very anxious and sweaty hour and a half we are very much at the state of having to sit and wait until next weekend. As an extra precautionary measure we've removed the Queen excluder from between the brood box and the super we added last week (which the bees ignored as a good space to use), as it seems the excluder may have deterred the workers expanding upwards. This means we are creating a brood and a half - again, not a great solution, but a solution nonetheless.

Will we have a swarm by next weekend? Blowed if I know, but I'm trying not to worry, and am talking myself into the theory that the bees are doing what is right for them and not deliberately trying to annoy us.

Andy, sensing my angst, took me into town for lunch, so I was able to demostrate an act of appreciativeness, because it's always very lovely to be taken out for lunch. I was also appreciative that Andy tolerated a visit to a ceramics fayre at the local Priory, which happens every year and is a mini-highlight of my summer, but not Andy's.

Principle Number 4 - working hard on myself. Probably not as well executed as it could have been although I've been giving a lot of thought to my future. I should have done some study, but I fell asleep on the sofa for an hour instead. But the night is still young so time for study after blogging.

And being kind to people? Well, I always try to do that, although sometimes I am not very kind in my thoughts. I have made a conscious effort to avoid uncharitable thoughts today, even when I saw one of those four wheeled motorbikes being driven wildely and noisily along the road topped by a couple of morons sans crash helmets...see...I just can't help it. Sorry about the 'morons' bit.

So what has happened today? Humility, I think, in the face of a potential bee-keeping cock-up. And simple enjoyment of a quiet lunch with my very tolerant and indulgent husband. And learning to be calm and stand back and let all things natural just be.

Except the bindweed. I ripped that out straight away.

Little steps to start along the Reiki pathway, I think. Little steps. Just for today.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

No thank you!

I'm not a very sociable person when it comes to work do's. I have always tried to avoid them where possible, prefering to keep work at work, and home at home. When I've finished work for the day, I want to go home and be with family and friends, and do things that have nothing to do with work whatsoever. I find it's a good way to keep depression at bay.

At work, one of the art teachers is trying to organise an 'end-of-term-hurrah-aren't-we-a-fantastic-team' celebration thingy, which she has chosen to call a Fiesta. And for weeks she has been trying to drum up support for the event, which is £7.50 a ticket and , if the advertising posters are anything to go by, will be a rip-roaring, rollicking extravaganza - with raffle prizes.

Just up my street then...

But as I've never felt a part of this particular school 'team' and have been treated quite unprofessionally in the last few months (even my line manager has admitted this, without hint, bribery or physical prompt from myself), I was never going to be inclined to go to the 'do' anyway, let alone pay for the privilege of watching people getting drunk, flirting with each other and/or hovering around in cliquey groups slagging each other off. (Pardon the colloquialism - I've spent far too much time in the company of Year 7 girls who have been having a 'Slag Each Other Off ' week. Reaction to the hot weather, maybe? Or hormones? I know not, I care not...)

So on Thursday, an e-mail was issued to the whole staff from Art Teacher saying that she was making a final push for ticket sales (aka 'I've hardly sold any and this event is in danger of becoming a big fat flop'), and if anyone wanted a ticket, they were to e-mail her back IMMEDIATELY. She also said that she DID NOT want to hear ANY pathetic excuses from people who DIDN'T want to go because , as she put it, 'at my age - I'll be 27 next birthday (HA! thought I) - life is too short to listen to people trying to tell me why they don't want to come.'

Fair enough, I thought, and deleted the e-mail.

Art Teacher arrived in my classroom yesterday.

'Are you coming to the Fiesta?' she asked, waving her rather devoid-of-ticks staff list at me.
'No thank you,' I said.

Art Teacher looked at me. She seemed rather taken aback.
'Why not?' she said.
'Because I don't want to,' I said. Because that was the truth.

Another stunned silence.

'That's a bit miserable of you,' she said.
'Yup,' I agreed. 'But then when you get to my age - and I shall be 45 next birthday - life it too short to waste time doing things you don't want to.'

At this point, Art Teacher retreated. She was muttering something under her breath, but I couldn't quite hear what. Probably something to do with crabby, middle-aged misery-guts English teacher types spoiling her Fiesta fun.

Well, I thought, she did say she didn't want to waste her life listening to pathetic excuses. I mean, if she wanted excuses, she should have said so and I'd have concocted one especially for her, to make her feel better.

Or would I?

Probably not, actually. It was rather refreshing to be blatant and honest. I'm not going to a Fiesta because I don't want to. Simples!

And in three weeks I shall no longer be a misery-guts English teacher - I shall be an embryonic Happy Holistic Therapist!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Holistic Hens

The hens have got wind of my plans to develop a career in holistic therapy.

'We can help!' they said, when I went out to greet the sun with them yesterday morning.
'Oh really?' I said, filling their water bowls and topping up their food, as yet another heatwave day presented itself over the horizon.
'And what are you wearing exactly?' asked Mrs Miggins. 'They're very distracting.'
'They are my new jimjams,' I said. 'Do you like them?'
'You look ridiculous,' said Miggins.
'Oh, I don't know,' said Mrs Pumphrey, who lives, as you know, at the cutting edge of fashion. 'I rather like the huge pink and blue dots on the trousers. And the massive bow on the left bosom is rather fetching in a Danny La Rue kind of way.'
'More like Coco the Clown,' snorted Miggins. 'Aren't you afraid you're going to choke on it in the middle of the night?'
'No,' I said, hotly. But secretly I was.

'Anyway,' said Mrs Miggins, once she had partaken of a handful of breakfast cereal followed by a goodly pile of dandelion leaves (good for the bladder, don't you know), 'about our holistic therapy
'Our holistic therapy business?' I said.
'Good, I'm glad we've got that settled,' said Miggins.
'You have a blob of dandelion leaf on your beak; shall I peck it off?' said Mrs Slocombe, helpfully.
'Come near me with that beak and I'll break your wings,' said Mrs Miggins, 'but do tell our holistic therapy partner about your beak related therapy.'

'Well, 'said Mrs Slocombe, 'it's quite revolutionary...'
'I'll bet it is,' I said.
'It's called Pecku-puncture,' said Mrs Slocombe.
'Don't tell me,' I said, 'you get to peck people silly with that naughty feather pecking beak of yours.'
'Oh, you've already heard of it?' said Mrs Slocombe, somewhat surprised.
'Lucky guess,' I said. 'And I'm not so sure it's going to be very relaxing or therapeutic for my clients to be pecked to within an inch of their sanity by a chicken.'
'Well, there's always the slightly gentler form - acupeckture,' said Slocombe.

'I want to tell her about my ideas,' said Mrs Pumphrey, who was already wandering around in a mystical way in her Madame Arcarti outfit.
'Tarot?' I said.
'Yes,' said Mrs Pumphrey, 'but with a subtle twist.'
'And that twist would be?' I said.
'Gin and tonic,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Very relaxing, and I should know.'

'Right, I'm going in for breakfast,' I said. 'And I'm taking my pyjamas with me.'
'But wait!' called Mrs Miggins, as I beat a hasty retreat. 'We haven't told you about the special herbs we're growing behind the South Wing gazebo.'
'I don't want to hear anything about special herbs,' I said, sticking my fingers in my ears. 'Tra-la-la-la-LA!!!!!!!!'

Anyway, I have located courses on aromatherapy, reflexology, diet and nutrition, Indian head massage and Reiki. I think that will do for starters.

Chickens not included.