Sunday, 31 July 2011

Hive Five

You remember at the beginning of the year we had uno hive? A thankfully healthy hive, having come safely though a horribly long and cold winter. And then at the beginning of May we had dos hives, because we THOUGHT we were one step ahead in the outsmarting of Queen Philibert by performing an artificial swarm.

And then at the end of May we had quatros hive, because we actually weren't ahead of the Minxy Philibert who sent out two casts which we caught and set up in a wild and frantic fashion in two more hives. On checking this morning, Queen Philibert's hive was full and needs a second super and cast hive two (the smallest) was three-quarters full and should be okay for Winter.

Well. Yesterday, I went into town to take the grand-daughter shoe shopping, and whilst we we there, Andy, who had stayed home to do some 'computer learning' as he calls it (he is currently learning some intricate computer programming d00-dah in order to develop some phone apps that will become highly profitable and make us a fortune) appeared and said, 'I have two pieces of good news, except one of them may have a possible piece of bad news attached.'

'Okay,' I said. 'What's the good news?'

'One,' said Andy, 'is this rather lovely tax rebate cheque from the Inland Revenue.'

And it was.

'And the second,' said Andy, 'is that we appear to have a bee colony in the roof.'

And thus is looks. There are honeybees flying in and out 'neath a roof tile near the chimney stack. And if you stand in the room at that corner of the house, you can hear a very teeny-tiny scrit-scrit-scritty sound.

These are the theories:

1) That the top-bar hive (cast hive one) at the bottom of the garden, which is full to overspill, has sent off a swarm which has been drawn to the eau-de-lemongrass bait we put on the flat roof and thought, 'Hmmm, this smells nice, let's stay here.'

2) That when Philibert's hive swarmed it sent off not two, but three casts, and one of them decided to evade capture by heading for the chimney.

3) That last year's original Queen, who vanished (hence the late-in-the-season purchase of Queen Philibert) didn't actually vanish at all, she just chose to move next door and up a bit to the penthouse suite.

4) That a random passing swarm has sniffed the eau-de-lemongrass and thought, 'Hmmm...this smells nice, let's stay here.'

Whichever way, we now have a fifth bee colony living in the roof. Even if it's quite likely very small and totally inaccessible.

I don't mind. It's quite nice seeing bees dip in and out of the eaves. It's like they have recognised as as bee-friendly people who have the wherewithall to look after them.

I may have overdone the 'Prayers for Happy Bees' this season, though. Just a tad.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Happiness is a Chicken, a Courgette and a Taste of Adam Ant

It is said that God won't send anything your way that you won't be able to cope with. It is said that what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. It is also said that Maltesers are the lighter chocolatey treat, implying that, at ONLY 11 calories a sweet, they will not make you fat.

One of these is a lie. (Especially if you buy the bumper bags.)

I think it's safe to say it's been a trying and anxious week for a reason I cannot go into in depth. Suffice to say that this morning I am full of motherly pride and admiration for my children. And that no matter what life throws at them, they will tackle it and cope with it and come through the other side stronger, maturer and with just the tiniest of a life-battle scar which will be there to remind them, when the next crisis happens, that they got through the last one and so the next challenge will hold no fears.

My role has been limited to the usual Mum worrying, trying to maintain an air of calm and a full cake tin, and saying little prayers at odd moments during the day when I feel the Universe has a vacant phone-line to 'Life Crisis Dept ext. H.E.L.P!

And on a lighter note, I am thrilled to discover that chickens eat courgette!

Yes, it's Harvest Galore at the allotment, and I have a kitchen full of beetroot, courgettes and beans. And a fair few cherry tomatoes, but I can deal with those because they are like Nature's Maltesers only they are red and have barely 1 calorie each and probably won't make me fat(ter) no matter how many I eat.

So yesterday I am staring at this massive pile of courgettes. I have earmarked some for courgette soup supplies to go in the freezer for Winter, and touchwood, no-one has yet said, 'Oh, courgettes again,' at dinner time, so I can get away with presenting many variations on 'Courgette Surprise' and hiding them in veggie bolognaise, veggie curry, veggie pies, veggie pizzas for a while yet. Andy has said that if push comes to shove he can make some courgette wine. And then I thought, I wonder if chickens like courgettes?

Actually, I don't know why the thought hadn't occurred before given we've been allotmenteering for nearly six years and had hens for more than four of those. It seemed an obvious solution to coping with a vegetable glut. So I took a courgette - okay, let's be honest, it was more a marrow - cut it in half, and presented it to les madames. Les madames regarded it with suspicion and paced around it warily for, oh, about five minutes, and then they mooched off to the tent for a game of Cluedo and jug of sangria.

Ah well, I thought. Worth a try.

But then I looked through the window about ten minutes later and there was Mrs Pumphrey up to her shoulders in the middle of the marrow! I can't tell you how ridiculously happy this made me feel! I can only excuse my delight as a disproportionate reaction to the stress of the week, which just goes to show that if you are in the midst of a mucky life mire, all you need to lift the spirits is a chicken and a courgette.

Another spirit-raising moment this week came when my friend, Sarah, procured us two tickets to go and see Adam Ant in concert in December! Being the oldest by 6 weeks, I shall be in charge of making sure no pants are flung onto the stage, because, yes, the seats are close enough to be able to achieve successful pant-flinging without the aid of a catapult and Sarah can get very excitable when confronted by leather trousers and a pair of pert buttocks. We are very much hoping that Adam Ant still has pert buttocks, although the main reason we are going to the concert is, of course, to hear fine music and see creative artistic interpretation.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is sunshine. Good. I think a bit of sunshine is very much what is needed here at the Manor. May your weekend be light and sunny, too.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


'Interlopers!' yells Mrs Slocombe.
'Attackers!' shrieks Mrs Pumphrey.
'Magpies,' says I.

This morning, two magpies arrived in the back garden. I declared them to be youngsters as they had a look of teenage arrogance about them. You know, the kind of surly glance you get when you are driving down a busy street and a group of youngsters just stroll across the road in front of your car without so much as a tip and a wink to the Green Cross Code or Tufty the Squirrel, God bless his fat 'n' fluffy tail. The kind of look that says, 'Who the effin' eff d' yoo fink you are, driving a car down a road that I want to cross over NOW.' The kind of look that makes you want to wind down your window and yell, 'GET OUT OF THE ROAD, YOU MORONS,' but you don't because a) you are an adult and have to be grown-up about such stupidity and b) you don't want to get your headlights kicked in.

Anyway, these two jack-the-lad-pies pitched up this morning and hopped about on the fence swinging their tails with attitude and picking bugs out of the woodwork. Mrs P and Mrs S immediately stood stock-still by the herb garden and fixed them with their beady eyes.

'They were on our turf,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Well, they would be if we hadn't scratched it all up,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Quite,' says I.

And then these two magpies hopped from the fence onto the bird table - well, one hopped, the other hopped on and fell off - and then they hopped into the living willow arch (which is HUGE now - well impressed with the willow arch, we are), and then they hopped onto the little fence that surrounds the herb garden, thus putting them on a beady eye-level with the hens.

Well! What happened next I can only describe as 'hen-rage.'
'We were henraged,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'And very hengry, too,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'And apopl-hentic?' I suggest.
'Too tenuous,' says Mrs P.

Generally, the Misses Pumphrey and Slocombe will tolerate intrusion of birds of a size, say, smaller than a grapefruit, or 'pamplemousse' as they say most amusingly en France. They will happily allow sparrows and their ilk to dust bath and hop about in a sparrowy way without giving them a second glance. And they will also put up with the wood pigeons that come into the garden to chance their wing at nicking a few pellets of chicken food. (I, however, do not tolerate the wood pigeons, but then I have to pay for the chicken food. I often rush headlong into the back garden flapping a tea-towel in order to discourage wood pigeon thievery, which I suspect only serves to make them laugh at my mis-comprehension of the whole 'we've-got-wings-and-you-haven't' thing.)

But this morning, there was no such toleration of the magpies. Every time one landed on the ground, either Mrs Pumphrey or Mrs Slocombe (or sometimes both) RUSHED at them like loons, feathers poofed out and up and eyes blazing, beaks ready for action. This subtle display of body language suggested our girls were not happy about the magpies.

'No, we were not,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'But there were two of them,' says I. 'And you know the saying, 'One for sorrow, two for joy...'
'Oh, that's all very well in human terms,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Totally different in chicken parlance, though.'
'You do surprise me,' says I.
'Do you want to hear the chicken magpie rhyme?' says Mrs S.
'Do I have a choice?' I say.
'No,' says Mrs S.
'And be aware it may not rhyme very well, either,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'On account of some of the language nuances being lost in translation.'
'Okay,' I say. 'Carry on.'

Mrs Slocombe clears her throat.

'One for red mite, two for lice
Three for scaly leg, four for mice,
Five for dangle comb, six for moult
Seven for a fly strike and a case of bananas...'

'What?' says I.
'I did warn you,' says Mrs Pumphrey.

'Eight for sour crop and nine for weevils,
Ten for a hen-house cursed with evil,' finishes Mrs Slocombe.
'Blimey,' I say, 'that's a bit heavy, isn't it?'
'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And because there were 'two for lice' this morning, I've now got to douse Mrs Slocombe with a good shake of 'Mrs Malarkey's Miracle Lotion for the Effective Treatment of Lice, Louses, Looses and Lizards.'
'Not going to do yourself at the same time?' I say.
'Certainly not!' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I am way too sophisticated to attract parasites of any kind.'
'Are you implying that Mrs Slocombe is common?' I say.

Mrs Pumphrey fixes me with her usual 'stupid woman' stare. 'I don't think I have to imply at all,' she says.

(P.S I have, after much huffing 'n' puffing, located MMM followers again (something to do with downloading GoogleChrome and then thinking I had and then thinking I hadn't and then getting cross and then Andy saying, 'Look! There it is! You did it!' and me thinking, 'Cor, p'raps I'm not such a techno-twit after all', and as such it is my delight to discover and welcome new visitor, Diana! Of course, a new visitor now means we shall have to apply for planning permission to extend at the Manor. I'm thinking either a) a two bedroom, one bathroom and a snug extension over the library and armoury wing b) a purpose built studio cottage next to Cluckinghen Palace or c) pitching the tent in the front garden. I think a shake of the piggy bank may determine the answer...)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Good Camping, Bad Camping

Things I like about camping:
1) cooking tea and toast outside on a ridiculous stove. In fact, it would have been quicker to cook toast and boil a kettle on a tepid stone. But a stone doesn't make the same hissing noise that a gas cylinder does.
2) the frisson of excitement knowing that there is only a thin layer of nylon between me and marauding animals at night.
3) being able to sit outside in a sleeping bag and nobody thinking it's weird.
4) the 'zuuuuuuuuuuuuppppp' sound of all the zips going up and down and up and down as one enters and exits one's cmping palace.
5) discovering what all those little bits of velcro strapping attached to the inside of the tent are used for and finding a very useful floor-to-ceiling fabric pocket storage doo-dah which I filled with all sort of camping tat for easy access. 'Darling, where are the extra-long matches?' 'In the pocket doo-dah thing, dear.' 

Things I don't like about camping:
1) screaming children
2) the air-bed collapsing during Night One in a 'ship-going-down-slowly-then-very-quickly' kind of way
3) having food poisoning on the last night and spending all night running up and down to the loos, swinging my solar lamp and avoiding marauding wild animals. The loos at the site we stayed at were about 300 metres from our pitch. And believe me, 300 meters is a LOOOOOONG way when you need to use the loo NOW!

So, the Great Camping Trip was a mostly success. The weather was good, the outings and explorations were fun and educational. It was odd being without TV and radio and newspapers for a couple of days, but I read most of 'Sense and Sensibility' by the lovely Jane Austen and sniggered in a very juvenile way over phrases like 'and in winter his private balls were numerous enough for any young lady who was not suffering under the insatiable appetite of fifteen.'

And whilst we were away, Chris proposed to Leane, so now they are engaged! And also whilst we were away, the courgettes at the allotment grew like maniacs and which meant we picked a good 30kg of them yesterday and they are now staring at me from the corner of the kitchen as if to say, 'C'mon then - whotcha gonna do about us, eh? Eh??'

More about camping later. Well, mostly stuff about an enormous flowery pot and a very exciting find of 'Limonade de Pamplemousse'. But now I have to a) decide the fate of the courgettes, and b) find out what has happened to the pictures of you, my tres bonne followers, who have disappeared for some inexplicable reason, thus requiring from me some in-depth technical expertise to get you back, or possibly a spot of shouting  'Andeeeeeeeeeeyyyyy!! Can you get my followers back for me PLEEEEEEEEEEEEAASEEEEEE???? Mwah, mwah!'

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Rice and Cat in the Bag

Excitement is mounting for the Great Camping Trip which begins tomorrow!

Okay, a frisson of anticipation is mounting for the Great Camping Trip - excitement would entail the promise of slighty better weather than we've been experiencing of late, but hey, we've got wellies on the list, and the forecast looks hopeful.

Into town today, then, to amass 'supplies'. Last night, we made a list of what we thought we'd need to take with us. But once you get mooching around the shops, you start thinking, 'Oooh, shall we need one of those?' and 'Perhaps I'd better get one of these, just to be on the safe side.'
Top of the list were long matches and kindling wood. The camping pitch has a fire pit, and Andy is very keen to be lighting fires and, in his words, 'toasting crumpets.' I am making sure the blow-torch is staying at home.

And I've gone off crumpets, so we're having muffins instead. Not the giant fairy-cake bun-style muffin, but the flat, looks-like-a-roll-that's-been-sat-on type English muffin.

And I also got a plastic chopping board, a slotted spoon (I'm thinking - that'll double as a colander), a saucepan, a washing up bowl and a set of very cheap cooking knives. Actually, all these items were very cheap. No point spending a fortune on items that will likely be used only a few times a year. I'm particularly pleased with the washing up bowl because it's exactly the same shade of aubergine as the new sofas, so if I should ever need to do any washing up in the living room, I'll be perfectly co-ordinated!

Andy has been fretting about bedding. We've got an airbed, and I was planning to top it with a fitted sheet, a duvet and a couple of blankets. Andy is worried that July, although proving damp, is also going to develop sub-Arctic temperatures and that we'll get cold.

'Not a chance with my hot flushes,' says I. But because I know he is worried, I also purchased two sleeping bags.

At home I hummed and ahhhed about taking one from its packing to test it out for size and comfortability. My reticence was based memories of the many sleeping bag wrestling matches I encountered with Chris's sleeping bag on his return from camping trips with the Scouts. Oh, sleeping bags look all very neat and compact in their little carry bags when you first buy them, but once you release them - 'POOF! - they increase in size tenfold and you never get them back to their original packed size. Sleeping bags, I've learned, are deceitful items.

Well, I decided to let one free and 'POOF' it went. I got inside. It was very warm, but that's possibly because it had been toasting in my little blue car for a couple of hours in a rare burst of July sunshine. It was also quite snug. 'Hmmm,' I thought, 'no danger of waking up with a stray badger in here. ' (If Sarah is reading this, she will be laughing now - we've had a mini-banter across the interwebbly today concerning Adam Ant, leather trousers and badgers). Pandora immediately climbed aboard the bag and settled down.

'You can't stay there,' I said. 'I'm getting out now I've performed a preliminary test drive.'
'It's very comfy,' said Pandora, stretching out across my legs in a very proprietorial way.
'Yes,' I said. 'And also very hot. Get off now.'
'I don't think so,' said Pandora. 'I think I'm here for the afternoon.'

And so the sleeping bag is still spread out over the living room floor with a tiny cat lolloping across it with legs akimbo and half an eye open in case I try to turf her off in a surprise attack. So I can't tell you if it will go back into its bag or not. I suspect not. And if it does, there will likely be a cat attached.

I have discovered, however, that when one is considering cooking a la camping, one views the aisles of a supermarket in a different light. The main question to ask is, 'Can I cook this in a pan of boiling water with the minimum of mess?' and if the answer is 'YES!' then you buy it. Hence, I have stocked up on pasta, noodles, boil-in-the-bag rice and eggs. And tins of beans, jars of passatta, bags of crips and packets of bicuits. Obviously, the crisps and biscuits are not going into a pan of boiling water, but they do tick the 'mimimum of mess' box. As do apples, strawberries, peaches and cereal.

I'm in a bit of a quandary about bread. Yes, I have muffins, yes I have oatcakes, but toast is a goes-without-saying camping requirement so must be given thought. Now, since we bought our bread-maker oooh, what, four years ago now, we've baked all our own bread. Which emerges as a whole loaf, and not neatly sliced as in the supermarket offerings. And having perused the bread aisle today after a long absence, I am appalled at the prices. It seems you can either have cheapish floppy flimsy bread or expensive bread the quality of which we bake for half the price at home. My quandary is in the sliced element. Do we a) buy floppy flimsy pre-sliced bread b) make our own and take the only bread knife we own with us which means Heather will be without bread slicing equipment for four days c) take our own bread and just karate chop it with our razor sharp hands into a vague approximation of a slice for toasting and sandwiching d) pre-slice a homemade loaf and risk it drying out or e) have the faff of going into town tomorrow to purchase another bread knife?

It is all, as Lady Catherine de Bourgh would say, most vexing.

And there was me thinking camping was going to be a simple and relaxing way to holiday!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Best Laid Plans of Aubergine and A Level

Yesterday, the new sofas arrived. They are aubergine in colour. Tybalt is VERY keen on the new sofas and spent most of yesterday testing them out using various poses - cutely curled, languidly stretched, suave recline, cheeky perch, semi-buried, Zen-focused. Tybalt is a black and white cat. Which means half his fur is white. Which shows up beautifully against aubergine.

Didn't think that one through very well, did I? Investment in a hand-held vacuum for instant cat fur removal is required. Ah well. It is a LOVELY aubergine colour.

I've spent the last two days completing the schemes of work for A level literature.
'What's a scheme of work?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'It's a detailed plan of teaching and learning for each year group and topic a department teaches,' I say. 'In three phases - long term, medium term and short term.'
'Don't you just wing it?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'You know, make it up as you go along?'
'Aaah,' I say, 'you're thinking of the good old days. The days when teachers were trusted to approach their teaching with freedom and creativity. It's all prescribed now.'
'Like penicillin?' says Mrs S.
'If you like',' I say. 'Of course, a very recent training day I attended featured a key note speaker who said it was important not to plan too closely. That a teacher should be prepared to change the course and focus of their lesson at a moment's notice if a student develops an interesting point for discussion, for example.'
'So winging it, then?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'That was the implication,' I say.
'So you've spent hours and hours planning these schemes for A level, and you may end up not following them?' says Mrs S, who is starting to look a bit bug-eyed.
'Possibly,' I say. 'Education is in a constant state of flux. Fluxed up good and proper on some levels.'
'But Pride and Prejudice has remained the same for 200 years,' says Mrs S.
'Indeed,' I say. 'Which reminds me - I'm going to have a DVD day today watching Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in a wet blouse and tight trousers.'
'Is that wise, given the size of your backside?' says Mrs S.
'Not me, you fool,' I say. 'Colin Firth. Besides, I can hardly sit on the new sofas wearing wet trousers, can I? The aubergine will run.'
'It might pick up the cat fur,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'True,' I say.
'Shall I get the popcorn and Maltesers?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Absolutely,' I say.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Henprentice

Parallel to the BBC series 'The Apprentice' which was deservedly won last night by Tom, the HBC (Hen Broadcasting Corporation) has been running an equivalent series called 'The Henprentice'. This year was the first series - whether there will be another next year remains to be seen. Audience figures have been promising (63 in the first week, a steady 38-42 for the remaining weeks) and the winner was popular enough to earn several column inches in the international poultry business and finance magazine 'The Nest Egg - News for the Hens on the Job.'

And the winner? Well, not as you might expect either Mrs Pumphrey or Mrs Slocombe. Mrs Slocombe did enter the competition, but her business plan to set up a company that made emergency biscuits for chickens called 'Bicks for Chicks' was deemed too stupid for words by the organiser of the programme, Sir Alhen Bant-Hen. (Blimey, that was laboured...) Of course, Mrs Slocombe intends to set up her company regardless of not winning the prize offered by Sir Alhen, namely £142 plus stationery expenses and an electric bicycle. She's in the kitchen as I write, experimenting with a variety of ingredients, in manic search of a combination that is likely to break all but the most steel-like of beaks. I am thinking that I'll need a new cooker by the time she's finished.

No, the winner was actually a distant cousin of Mrs Pumphrey's. Called Mrs Bumphrey. And Mrs Pumphrey is very excited because Mrs Bumphrey has asked her to go into business with her.
'It's just what I need,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'With my egg-laying days beginning to fizzle out, I could do with an interesting project to occupy my time.'
'Sounds like a good idea,' I say. 'So, what's this business Mrs Bumphrey wants you to join?'
'Camping for Hens,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Only posher.'
'Oh,' I say. 'Like glamping, you mean?'
'Glamping?' says Mrs P.
'Yes,' says I. 'A cross between glamour and camping. Glamping.'
'That's the badger!' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Apparently, Mrs Bumphrey got the idea for her business when she came to stay a few weeks ago and slept in our tent.'
'Ah,' I say. I remembered that weekend. A fine looking hen arrived at the Manor, carrying a sequinned suitcase and looking even more glam than Mrs Pumphrey, if that is at all possible. She declined, politely, the offer of bunking up with the other two in the Eglu, mostly because Mrs Slocombe was mid-way through a detox which involved hefty consumption of lentils, pulses and cabbage. Instead, she seemed quite happy to use the tent that Andy made for the girls for use during the Winter daytimes.

'And whilst she liked the outdoorsy camping aspect,' says Mrs Pumphrey, butting into my reminiscence, 'she thought the facilities were a tad, well, basic.'
'Well, yes,' I say. 'It's a length of waterproof fabric stretched over an arc of flexible fencing and lined with straw.'
'So Mrs Bumphrey had a vision,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'A vision of canopies and silk drapes, of wood-burning stoves, and camp beds with eight inch feather mattresses, and proper flush toilets and an electric hook-up for the chandelier...'
'It was a vision...'
'Carry on...'
'And underfloor heating and a mini-bar filled with Bacardi and a delicious supply of emergency biscuits for hens from a company called 'Bicks for Chicks'...'
'Has Mrs Bumphrey met the managing director of Bicks for Chicks?' I say.
'I don't know,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I strongly advise that she does,' I say. 'So how long will it take to get the company up and running?'
'We're discussing names at the moment,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'My favourite so far is Bumphrey and Pumphrey Happy Glam-Camping Company.'
'Sounds fun,' I say.
'I think you should call it The Bump 'n Pump Mighty Pitch-Up,' says Mrs Slocombe, appearing from the kitchen covered in flour, raisins and golden syrup.
'Shut up,' says Mrs Pumphrey.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Food and Fotos

Popped into school yesterday to pick up my new timetable for September.

'Go into the Hall NOW!' shrieked Yvonne, the Head's PA. 'The photographer's in there! Now! QUICK!!'

Yvonne looked stressed which is unlike her. I could only assume she was having trouble coralling staff into the Hall to have photos done and had adopted the line of least tolerance and maximum determination in order to get the job done. I scuttled into the Hall. I was very aware my hair is due for a cut 'n' colour. I did some frantic sans mirror grooming. I thought, does this bright pink cardi compliment my pink, sun-kissed face?

'So,' said the photographer, after asking my name, rank and file, 'you're an English teacher?'
'Yes,' I said.
'Good,' he said. 'We like English teachers. Smile!'

And he took a photo.

'Course, they don't do Literature in schools now, do they?' he said. 'Smile again. You look a bit wild and squinty in that last one.'
'I certainly do teach English Literature,' I said. 'It's my favourite thing.'

He took a second photo, declared it delightful, and I was allowed to go, taking my mad hair and my squinty wild eye with me.

My timetable is packed with Years 9, 10, 11 and 12. Not a tiddler 7 or 8 in sight. This means lots of coursework to mark, but less general noise and wildness. And less tripping over tiddlers fresh from primary who still think it's all right to hide underneath desks and play with Lego.

On to the pet emporium to stock up on cat litter, filters for the cat water fountain and a new brand of cat food. VERY EXPENSIVE cat food. This is because old lady Phoebe has developed chronic diarrhoea and the Chief Cat Pooper Scooper, i.e me, is getting fed up with the yuk 'n' niff. However, a change in food to Iams Senior seems to be gelling things together, so to speak. Unfortunately for my purse, Tybalt has also decided he likes the Iams Senior. But he is entitled to eat it as he is now a senior cat himself, being 8 and a half years old. Pandora, at two, is not supposed to eat it.

'But it tastes really nice,' she says. 'I lurve it mucho!'
'I'd rather you carried on with the Whiskas,' I say.
'No,' says Pandora, who always uses one word where half a dozen mught be a little less harsh.
'Good job I'm working full-time in September then,' I say, 'to cover the massive increase in cat food bills.'
'No-one made you have three cats,' says Pandora.
'True,' I say. 'I admit my weakness for a pair of large liquid eyes and cute furry choochy-face cheeks.'
'Alpacas?' says Pandora.
'Shush! I said.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Invisible Woman

Rather disturbed to read in the paper a couple of weeks ago that women feel they become invisible at the age of 46. Which leaves me about 3 and a half months before something I have oft suspected to be true about myself actually happens for real.

When walking in our local town, I regularly find myself becoming invisible, so I can only assume that the disappearing process has already begun. I am starting to fade in and out of visibility rather like Kenneth Williams as Orlando in 'Carry On Screaming' when his battery runs out and he has to plug himself into the mains electricity to recharge himself. People stop suddenly without warning so I have to swerve around them. People barge in front of me in queues; they reach across me to get something off a shelf. They drop doors in my face, and if I hold a door open for them, they breeze through without so much as a 'ta very much'. Oh, hang on a that me being invisible or people being VERY RUDE??!!

Then there's school. As a teacher you are often invisible to students especially when you are asking them where their coursework/ homework is, or to stop throwing shards of rulers or blunt pencils at each other. You become viewed as another boring, moany weirdo with odd taste in clothes who's 'JUST LIKE MY MUM.' However, if you make an error of any sort, then you suddenly become VERY visible. 'Guess what Miss thought Justin Bieber was called? Justin Beeble!! Ahahahahahahaaaaaa!!!! What a loser!!'

But then I got to thinking. What if the invisibility doesn't relate at all to the fading talents and beauty of the female form, to the growing inadequacies of the mid-life crisis menopausal depression that inflicts us all, to the empty-nest-family-needs-us-no-more-syndrome? What if it means that we ACTUALLY develop the ability to become physically INVISIBLE??


Now that IS something to look forward to. Just imagine...

'Where's Mum?'
'I don't know...she must be around somewhere because the kitchen bin has been emptied and there's a fresh loo roll on the holder.'
'Yeah, and someone's been shopping but got the wrong crisp AGAIN...'
'Can't smell any dinner being cooked though...'
'P'raps we're having takeaway....Mum!!!! Are we having takeaway???? Mum????'

Meanwhile, woman, aged 46, is curled up in the corner of the sofa with a Jane Austen, a mug of tea and packet of all-butter shortbread biscuits. She has upon her person the TV remote control, having previously taken the precaution of 'disabling' the manual TV controls and blaming their malfunction on a cat running wild with a screwdriver.

Of course, I have no intention of succumbing to invisibilty on my 46th birthday. That would be crazy. On rare occasions when I try foster an air of invisibility, usually by having what I call a 'quiet' day, people assume I am ill or something is wrong.

'What's the matter?' they say. 'Why are you being so quiet? Why aren't you ranting about something? Why aren't you entertaining us with witty stories and endless cake?'

'Nothing is wrong,' I say. 'I'm just being quiet,' I say. 'Reflective. At one with the Universe. In the zone.'

These excuses are usually met with looks of confusion, then uncertain laughter, like I am having a joke or something.

Is being invisible such a bad thing? Sometimes I think it has its advantages. Sometimes it's important to be able to vanish into your own world, do a bit of mind dusting, re-arrange the creative furniture. And surreptitiously hide the remote control.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


I have made two discoveries this week - one is called GreenMetropolis and the other is called David Sederis. (Actually, I made a third discovery this morning as I cleaned out the cat litter tray, but you probably don't want to hear about that one, especially is you haven't yet had your breakfast.)

So, GreenMetropolis is an interwebbly site that deals with recycling books. For an average of £3.75 each, you can buy second hand books with free post and packaging. Your purchase generates a donation to charity, plus the seller gets about a pound back for their unwanted book. Thusly, I have purchased 5 as-brand-new books which otherwise would have set me back £34 rather than the £18 they actually cost. Charities have benefitted, sellers have benefitted, the environment has benefitted and I have benefitted! The postman is a bit huffy, though, at having to tote books around.

David Sederis is a...well...I suppose you could say he's a comedian, but I think he's more a highly intelligent and witty observer of life, and he tells a darn good yarn to boot. He's American, but I think now lives in Paris. Anyway, he's been featuring on Radio 4 Extra (which I found out a while ago is the new name for Radio 7. No-one told me they were changing the station's name - I spent AGES going up and down the radio dial trying to find Radio 7 and muttering about how typical it is that when you really like a product, the powers-that-be see fit to remove it from production, like the Body Shop Dewberry Shampoo and Sainsbugs Lemon Couscous Seasoning, but that's a different story altogether).

So I've been hooked into David Sederis. He's written a lot of books and recorded at lot of CDs, so that's my birthday pressies sorted for this year. Yesterday, he told a fable concerning a bear whose mother had died. It was very funny to start with (you have to hear it to understand I am not being a complete cow in laughing at the misfortunes of an orphan bear), but as it went on it got sadder and sadder until by the end my tears of laughter had turned to tears of sorrow and rage at the injustice of humans towards their fellow creatures. 'This,' I thought, wiping away the tears and indulging in a spot of comfort eating involving a lemon bun to cheer myself up, 'would be a good story to tell students during form time.' I think Mr Sederis has done a selection of likewise fables, so mission for this week is to do a spot of research and see if I can find the relevant CD.

I've been doing a lot of research and reading this week, mostly to do with preparing to teach A level in September. One of the plays I'm teaching is 'The Rover' by Aphra Behn, who by all the scanty accounts of her life was a bit of a minxy bohemian opinionated Spice Girl (GIRL POWER - YEAH!!). So I got a bit distracted into researching other Restoration dramas and how England went a bit loose-morals crazy after the restoration of Charles II to the throne following years of rule by Puritan party-pooper Oliver ' ban-everything-that's-fun-and-call-me-grumpy-boots' Cromwell.

And I tell you what - I know we complain that society seems to be going down the pan in the 21st century but I reckon we've got nothing on the shenanigins of the late-17th century! Cor, they got up to some mischief then! The Earl of Rochester and his gang were lads and a half for a start. Some of his poetry was so fruity it would put Carmen Miranda's hat to shame! He'd drunk himself to death by the age of 33 but from all the accounts of tributes folllwing his death, he was very much admired and mourned. I bet he'd have looked at the likes of Pete Doherty and called him a light-weight. And if the sixth formers are thinking that studying old plays if going to be 'boring' - they've got another think coming!

Preparations continue apace for the Grand Camping Trip next week. We now have a two-ring-n-grill cooker combination doo-dah, along with exciting explosive stuff like a camping gas bottle and a regulator. We have a gas lamp with extra mantles (don't ask - but it involved Andy getting out the blow-torch and setting fire to something to 'get it ready to use' or something), a solar-powered electric lamp, a flat-pack water carrier and a bottle of lime shower gel.

All we need now is a washing up bowl and a gallon of insect repellent and we are ready to roll!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Copper or Wool?

Wedding Anniversary Number 7 is fast approaching and, as usual, I am on the look-out for a gift for Andy that links to the appropriate symbolic representation.

In desperation, I consult Mrs Pumphrey.

'Well, 'she says, 'the seventh wedding anniversary is either copper or wool.'
'Or aubergine,' says Mrs Slocombe, who has the hearing skills of a radar.
'Aubergine?' I say. 'Are you sure?'
'Absolutely,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'There's a rhyme...

Seven years wed,
Copper can be cool,
And not as hot as
The other option wool.
But if you want to be
Top of the scene,
Then seven's celebrated best
With a big fat aubergine.'

'You do talk a load of rubbish,' snorts Mrs Pumphrey.
'It's true!' says Mrs Slocombe. 'You ask my Granny. She'll tell you.'
'Is this the Granny with the hereditary insanity genes?' I say.
'Possibly,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'She did wear some pretty flamboyant trousers sometimes.'

'So, 'says Mrs Pumphrey, 'back to copper and wool.'
'Brillo pad!' says Mrs Slocombe. 'You could combine both ideas in one - cheap and practical. Add an aubergine and I think you can safely say no-one in the world has given their husband such an unusual anniversary gift.'
'Do you think?' I say.
'Or,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'you could present him with a pair of golden fleas!'
'A golden fleece,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And there was only one of it. Not a pair.'
'You're right,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Something to do with Jason the Astronaut, wasn't it? Bought it from Argos?'
'If you like,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Ooooh, look! What's that? Is it a magic butterfly?' and she points her wing towards the far end of the garden.
'Where? Where?' shouts Mrs Slocombe, and goes chasing off in pursuit of the magic butterfly because, yes, she is that gullible.

'Thank goodness,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Now we can get down to some proper thinking. How about a sheep?'
'Where am I am going to keep a sheep?' I say, looking around our crammed to capacity back garden.
'Good point,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'What about a copper kettle? Or some Duracell batteries? With the copper-coloured tops?'
'I'm not being inspired,' I say.
'Scarf?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Jumper? Tank top? Blanket? Throw? Socks? Knitted tea cosy? Knitted egg cosy?'
'Nope, nope, nope and nope,' I say.
'Knitted bobble hat?'
'Knitted nothing,' I say firmly.

'There are no magic butterflies at the bottom of the garden,' says Mrs Slocombe, returning from her temporary diversion looking a little cross. 'How about some copper piping? I can get some cheap for you, if you know what I mean?' and she taps the side of her beak.

I am beginning to lose hope. I sidle away as the hens start an argument about whether they could contruct a full-sized knitted police officer within a month.

I think that I am going to have to be far more cunning than a chicken to come up with something original for this anniversary.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Big School

Yesterday, I led the English taster sessions for the Year 6s who are coming to the school in September. This involved coralling over 100 students through activities with exciting names like 'Attention!' and 'Frankenstein's Monster' and 'Desert Island Dinners' and 'One At a Time', in boiling hot weather, whilst trying to balance a smiley 'welcome-to-the-school' demeanour with an ever-so-slightly-kind-but-stands- no-nonsense glint in my eye.

Oh, and trying not to scratch the vicious insect bite I sustained on my thigh at the allotment the previous evening which grew from the size of a gooseberry to the size of a grapefruit in the space of 3 hours. (I kid you not - it's a whopper! In fact, I don't think it was an insect that bit me at all - more like a vampire bat, or killer frog).

And what struck me during the day was that as the years come and go, they bring with them children that may have different faces, but who all fall into the same sort of categories.

Without fail, every year you see:

1) Tuggers - these are students who have no awareness of personal body space and will attract your attention by bopping you on the arm or yanking at your sleeve. You have to resist the urge to leap backwards shouting 'Don't touch me!' when they do this.

2) Class clowns - generally boys with hair that dangles on their shoulders in wavy, blonde locks, or is styled hedgehog-fashion. Think they can get away with shouting comments, making fart noises and telling extremely bad jokes as long as they accompany them with a beaming dimpled smile. Note them down as potentials for the drama club and do not be sucked into their apparent charm. Class clowns ALWAYS need chasing for coursework. They're not so funny, then.

3) Keeny-beanies - usually girls erring on the slightly plumpish size and with hair/clothes/ shoes rigidly chosen by their mums. They stare at you intently whilst you are talking to them, and smile wildly, and complete everything you ask them to do in VERY neat handwriting with VERY detailed drawings. They can always be relied upon to tidy up everything that they use, and everything everyone else uses for that matter. And they will hang around after the session to tell you all about the latest book they are reading. Usually Jacqueline Wilson or Harry Potter.

4) Oooh-oohs! - the students who are there, at the front of the class, their arms shooting rigidly into the air, and almost up your nose, in response to questions, accompanied by a loud 'OOOOOOH!' and often a spot of subsidiary grunting with the effort of it all. You learn to divert their attention by giving them other 'important' jobs to do, like writing ideas on the whiteboard, or giving out exercise books.

5) Jack 'n' Jills the lads 'n' girls - thankfully few on the ground, but these are the students who are too cool for school and have been for the last 4 years. These are the ones you just know are going to resist you every step of the way for the next 5 years of their English education. They look at you dismissively from 'neath scowly brows. They grunt and shrug. They think they look hard; what they don't realise is that they are nothing new, nothing original. They just make us teachers sigh wearily.

6) The Needies - worry permanently etched on their brows. Most likely to burst into tears at the slighest suggestion of criticism. I saw the saddest example of a Needy yesterday - a little boy, sobbing non-stop - and his mother clinging to him and sobbing non-stop, too. You kind of expect it at the start of primary school, but secondary????

7) The Avoid Eye Contacts - students who have blended into the wallpaper for their entire school life so far and are determined to continue so at their next school. They will force a smile, they will shrug in response to questions, they will look like rabbits caught in the headlights, they will not say boo to a goose. They're nice children, but oooooh, sometimes you just want to shake a bit of energy and enthusiasm into 'em!

8) The Born Forties - although only eleven years old, they will tut at the silliness of their peers and take life very seriously. However, they will ALWAYS do their homework, ALWAYS remember their pencil cases and planners and ALWAYS do their best. On the downside, they can be overly honest e.g 'Are you SURE that skirt suits you, Miss? Isn't it a bit 'young' for you?'

9) Tell-tales - very keen to snitch on classmates. Good sources of information if you are trying to get to the bottom of who punched who in the corridor, but experience has shown that tell-tales never really grow out of their habit and thus make many enemies along the way and never get invited to work dos when they're adults.

Yesterday's bunch were just the same. But then, when they went home at the end of the day, and their parents said, 'So, how was the new school? What were the teachers like?' they probably said, 'Well, there was one who was funny, one who smelled of coffee and cigarettes, one who shouted a lot and one who kept looking at us over the top of her glasses in a smiley firm-but-will - stand- no-nonsense kind of way...'

Monday, 4 July 2011

Baby Talk

'Tat! Tat!'

'It's a 'cat,' I say to Kayleigh, 'not a 'tat.' But 'tat' will do as you're only 15 months old.'

Kayleigh looks at me as if to say, 'You're still calling them 'cats?' That is soooooo last year.' She gallops off to the kitchen (Kayleigh does a lot of galloping these days, unless she is wearing her new wellies that I bought her, in which case she gallumphs.)

'Biggle-ooo-ee-shash-inna-wanna-go barbo?' she says, lifting up her arms. I pick her up and she gives me a big grin and stares towards the back door. She wants to go and see the chickens.

Out we go, then.

'Ababa goog abba we-ag,' says Kayleigh.
'Aren't they just,' I say, as the hens dash over to us.
'Dadoo, dada, bee-oop?' says Kayleigh.
'Sunflower seeds,' I say. 'And apples. But grapes are their favourite.'
'Mimm oo,' says Kayleigh.
'I know,' I say. 'So,' I continue, 'what have you been up to recently?'
'Ummpo,' says Kayleigh, 'igo atta imbo er burblool tatta dada yappa.'
'Oh really?' I say. 'That sounds fascinating.'
'Ess,' says Kayleigh.
'Why are you pretending you understand every word she is saying?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Why not?' I say. 'I understand everything that you say. Well, mostly. I'm multi-lingual, me. Chicken, cat, bee, toddler - speak 'em all fluently.'
'I think it's nice,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'One should encourage clear use of language in the young.'
'I agree,' I say. And I do, because I am becoming concerned that the quality of the spoken word seems to be declining. I'd like to say that I blame social networking sites, personal music players, mobile phones and the chronic state of TV these I shall.

It breaks my heart to see toddlers being bustled through town in their pushchairs, trying to communicate with their mums who are too busy talking on their mobile phones to talk back. 'Listen to your child!' I want to shout. 'They are trying to tell you something. Unclamp that phone from your ear and talk to your child.'

The number of students at school who've never been read to; the number of students who've never been told nursery rhymes or fairy tales; the number of students who are afraid of their own voices because they are always being told to 'Shut up' at home. The number of students who shout and interrupt and argue because it's the only way they know how to make themselves heard.

The human voice can be such a beautiful thing. It's the purest form of communication. I've been reading a book called 'The Warmth of Your Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting.' Part of it talks about elderly people going into care homes. A study has shown that if the carers have neither the time nor the inclination to talk to the elderly people, then they tend to go into silent decline. But when carers look into the eyes of those they are caring for, and talk to them, even if they do not understand because of dementia maybe, then those elderly people tend to retain an air of youth and vibrancy for longer.

Communication, you see.

So whilst my blog-before-last bemoaned an excess of noise, I should like today to champion the sound of the human voice. Reading out loud, sharing chats over meals, telling jokes, telling stories, singing, humming, buzzing with the bees, clucking with the hens, prrrping with the cats and chatting in baby talk to your grand-child.

'What do you think, Kayleigh?'

'Ik inkafing,' says Kayleigh, 'etts um gooby idabababa!'

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Saturday Sunday

Warm, calm weather today - perfect for checking bees.

The smallest colony is filling out nicely; saw Queen Enigma and plenty of capped brood. Queen Philibert, who must be the most prolific Queen in the Northern Hemisphere, continues to lay in abundance and has nearly filled her brood box. In fact, we decided we'd give her a brood and a half by moving the queen excluder up a floor. No obvious sign of any swarming but as we've discovered, you can never get too many steps ahead of a bee colony.

Queen April the 21st remains invisible to the naked eye, but she MUST be there because there was masses of brood, masses of larvae, masses of bees and we're going to have to put on super number three next week because they are storing honey like it's going out of fashion. Her colony was very tranquil today - barely a hum as they went about their business. Also, her girls have decided to free form quite a bit of comb, including filling one massive space that should have been filled with a frame but wasn't (our fault). The comb stretches all the way down from the first super through to the bottom of the brood box. We need to do something with, but haven't the heart. So we won't. A thing of beauty should be left alone.

As for Queen Olga of the top bar - well! She's almost filled it up! The free form comb looks absolutely beautiful but it does make for tricky checking.

On the camping front, we have booked space on a site in a woodland glade for the end of July. We tried to put the tent up in the back garden so we wouldn't look complete struggling novices when we got to the site, but found the tent was too big for the space we had. In fact, it's a lot bigger than we anticipated. But we kind of put it upish as best we could, and then we put it away, and to be honest it was a mini-miracle we managed to get the whole thing back in its bag. And, of course, we've had to buy a gas lamp, and a two ring grilly cooker thingy, and a water carrier and a fold-away table. It's all very exciting!!

Yesterday, Andy and I went to a vegetarian eatery in town for lunch, as a change from our usual haunt. Apart from the slow service, the food was gorgeous, plus we got a discount because I belong to the Vegetarian Society.

Today, I did a load of school work; in a scarily odd moment on Thursday, two Year 8 girls actually came to see me to ask if I could put together some ideas for them to improve their English over the summer holidays in preparation for Year 9. I was so surprised I said that of course I could. And then I planned a series of fun, fun, fun activities for Year 6 when they come for their Induction Day on Tuesday. Well, I think they're fun. If I was 10 years old, I'd be delirious with happiness.

And that was Saturday, Sunday. Nothing exciting. But lots done.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


On Thursday, the deputy head said, 'Fancy a day out tomorrow?' and I said 'Where?' and he said, 'Thorpe Park with the sixth formers,' and I said, 'Okay.'

What he omitted to say was, 'Oh, and several of the less savoury characters from Years 9 and 10, too,' but it was too late because yesterday morning I found myself in the school canteen at 7.50, rucksack on back, counting up the less savoury characters from Years 9 and 10 and reaching a tally of lucky 13.

'Ah well,' I thought, 'could be worse. Could be taking them somewhere educational.'

Anyway, we were supposed to be leaving at 8.30. The coach duly arrived and duly broke down on the school drive. Fan belt, apparently. Calls were made to the coach company, who said they would send out a replacement fan belt. Replacement fan belt arrived about three quarters of an hour later - wrong size. Students mutter a bit, but generally still caught up in the thrill of not having to be in class that day and the opportunity to wear some quite frankly obnoxious looking short 'n' t-shirt combos.

Attempt is made to refit old fan belt. I start having premonitions of getting half way around M25, old fan belt coming off again, and being stuck in sweltering conditions on hard shoulder with 52 students who haven't got food/ drink/ patience because by now, an hour and half after official kick off time, they have eaten and quaffed all their supplies.

At 10.10 we receive news that a replacement coach is on its way and will be with us in twenty minutes. Ten minutes before arrival time, we herd the students outside. They have all of a sudden become very time aware, and every minute past the magic 20 we go, they declare very loudly that the coach is late and where is the coach and we're never going to get to Thorpe Park at this rate and it isn't fair, and will they get their money back and where is the coach?

At 11.00 a cheer goes up! The replacement coach is here!! Except it isn't a coach. It's a double decker bus. Oh, great!

There is a mass scramble for the top deck, which in hindsight proves to be a stupid example of herd mentality because the top deck is roasting and the bottom deck is cool, so hahahahahahahaha!! to those pushy top-deckers!!

The bus driver has no sense of humour and no teeth. He also has no taste in music because we are treated to heavy metal rock ballads player at 100 decibels for the entire hour and half trip. I end up sitting on one of the pull down seats at the front of the bus (students have to be belted in - teachers are left free to be flung around and killed in an accident) so view the journey going sideways. But it is now I make an amazing discovery! Facing this way, I can actually read without feeling travel-sick! I dig out the copy of 'The Great Gatsby' I've brought with me and get a good third of the way through it. Upstairs, someone has a nosebleed, but she's the only casualty of the day.

We arrive at Thorpe Park It is full of school parties.

'Are you going on any of the rides, Miss?' asks one of the girls.
I look at her. 'Are you MAD?????' I say. 'Of course I'm not going on the rides. See this?' I say, stamping the ground with my foot. 'I love this. It is firm and solid and free from danger. Except snakes. But we aren't in Australia so I think I'll be okay.'

Tickets are handed out, the students dash off and that's the last we see of them for the next five hours.

Have you ever tried to spend five hours killing time in a theme park? A noisy theme park? A theme park that pumps out clubbing music everywhere, even outside?? It was constant noise, noise, noise wherever I went. I found a sandwich place for a spot of lunch and read for a bit. Then I thought, right, go for a wander. See what all the fuss is about. Keep taking right turns and you won't get lost. Hopefully.

I saw MASSIVE rides - loud, industrial-strength, scary rides. I saw people climbing on the rides looking anxious/ nervous/terrified. I saw people getting off the rides looking anxious/ nervous/ terrified. And green. I thought, why??

I saw people queueing for over an hour for a ride that lasted 12 seconds. 12 seconds!! I thought, why???

I saw people getting drenched on a massive water ride, then spend another £2 in a hot air booth drying themselves off. I thought, why??? I also thought, maybe I should open a theme park. This is clearly where all the money is being made.

I saw every branch of fast food outlet dotted hither and thither. I saw a traditional fairground with throwing-balls-at-targets-to-win-a-prize games. Except each ball cost £2 a throw. I thought, give me a tenner and I'll make you a soft toy that's a lot classier that the one you might win.

I played, 'Spot the Teacher,' which actually wasn't a difficult game because we were the ones sitting on benches in the shade reading books and grimacing with the noise. We shared a lot of knowing looks and eyes-raised-to-heaven moments, and one or two conversations, which was nice. Well, shouty conversations, because of the noise.

I had an ice cream. Did some more reading. Found three ducks. Looking stunned and hard of hearing. I had a cup of tea. I finished 'The Great Gatsby.'

We told the students to be back at the coach at 5.30. And to give them their due, two thirds of them were back around that time. And by ten to six, we were all present and correct and ready to roll. They were no better educated than when we left in the morning, but they were soggily cheerful, armed with soft toys and tales to tell and all thoughts of the disasterous start to the day forgotten. Maybe they had learned a bit of patience. Hmmmm....

Arrived back at school at 7.45, after another two hours of loud bus music, this time accompanied by screams from girls who played the time-old coach game of waving-to-motorists-and-see-how-many-wave-back.

I arrived home at 8. I felt stunned, a bit sun-burned , a bit tinnitusy but it was an okay day.

And can you hear that? The sound of silence??? Today I can't even bear to put on the radio or washing machine.


Do I really have to tell you?