Thursday, 30 June 2011

Two go....?


The opportunity of a long weekend away has arisen towards the end of July. I think, right, get somewhere booked up. Have a bit of a holiday. I set a budget and went about research on the interwebbly. But could I find anything for my budget? Could I cocoa.

Well, the offers were there. But when you actually investigate the offer, you suddenly find yourself caught up in the world of 'having to buy additional extras' or 'all the offers have mysteriously gone, but here's another break exactly the same but twice the price.'

Anyway, after a particularly extensive and headache-making search yesterday lunchtime(in between trying to read a bit of The French Lieutenant's Woman and sorting out the A level poetry choices from an extremely hefty anthology called The Rattle Bag) I suddenly thought, or perhaps my naughty Guardian Angel put the thought in my mind, why not buy a tent and go camping???

I mean, it's got to be a better experience than when I last went camping thirty-plus years ago, surely? Surely it's all high-tech light-weight breathable fabrics and electric hook-ups nowadays? No half-tonne stiff 'n' stinky canvas monstrosity that smells of wet cow if you don't air it regularly and toilet blocks that involve industrial concrete and a hole in the ground. Yes, I thought. That's the thing. For the budget, we could purchase a jolly decent tent AND have a few days away AND still have a tent at the end of it ergo perpetuating a new Much Malarkey Manor Camping History - a tragi-comedy in the making if ever I heard one.

So I said to Andy when he got home from work, 'Let's buy a tent and go camping!' and he said 'Yes!!' because he is very keen on camping and the only tent he's convinced me to enter in the last 7 years has been the marquee we had at our wedding.

Thus we spent a very excitable evening on the interwebbly exploring and evaluating a variety of tents. Little pod ones that you throw into the air and they 'POP' themselves into shape and land on the grass, voila! Or plummet over a cliff if the wind is high, I guess. HUGE twelve people jobbies that probably require their own erection team (no sniggering at the back please). Green ones, orange ones, some as big as your head. So many to choose from. I had only one stipulation - that it had two sleeping spaces or 'bedrooms' as they are known in camping parlance. Andy had only one stipulation - that he could stand up inside it without the top rubbing his head and incurring comedy static. We measured the inflatable airbed to make sure it would fit. Some manufacturers have very odd ideas about how much space is reasonable sleeping space.

And finally we whittled it down to the Outwell Winnipeg 600, which sounds like a motorbike but isn't. It's a 3 room tunnel tent and comes in a smart striped pattern (blue). It has a rain safe door and Sealed Ground System which is ESSENTIAL for keeping bugs and dirt at bay - apparently. It has large panorama windows and a hydrostatic head of 3,000mm which means it can withstand a lot of rain. Well, hurrah for that! Also, there is a You-tube clip which shows you how to put it up. And even better still, it was £130 off in the sale!

The tent is now in our possession. We are about to have a go at putting it up in the back garden. I expect the chickens will help...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lazy Teachers and Mercenary Vets

Teachers and vets have come in for a lot of stick in the press over the past few weeks. According to the Daily Rant, vets are money-grabbing insurance scammers, who prey on the sensitivities of distraught pet owners in order to rack up huge profits to fund their luxury lifestyles. They are painted as being unfeeling and uncaring. And teachers are spoilt public servants who don't know how lucky they are with their short hours, long holidays, privileged pension schemes and in-school benefits.

Well, I expect, as in any walk of life, in some cases this might be true. But here's a snapshot of a week in the life of a teacher (moi) and a vet (Andy)...

Andy, in his work as a charity vet, reached a cap on his salary several years ago, as he has reached the top of the pay-scale and can go no further unless he goes into private practice. Which he won't, because he wants to work for a charity. On Tuesday, he arrived home from work at 9 pm, having worked 2 and a half hours past his finish time operating on a dog that had decided, for whatever mad doggy reason, to eat 2 kilos of grass. Will Andy get paid for his overtime? No. He'll get lieu-time at some point, whenever it's convenient to the practice and if he remembers to record it in the lieu-time book, which sometimes he doesn't. He frequently works through his coffee breaks and returns from lunchbreaks early to help get the waiting list down. He spends many an evening reading up on veterinary procedures if he has a tricky op coming up. And it's not unknown for him to fret so much about a patient that he makes phone calls or trips to the practice in the evenings or weekends just to check-up on them personally.

I, a teacher, have pretty much finished my tutoring now, which means I am no longer being paid. However, in the last week I have written a scheme of work for 'A' level English literature which has taken about 3 solid days because although I am being paid to be in charge of it from September, the scheme is needed by Friday for an inspection by the new Academy bods. Also, I am running the Year 6 Induction Day next Tuesday. I shall be teaching three groups of 40 students each in three consecutive sessions. I don't know if I am being paid for this yet although someone mentioned something about some money being found from somewhere. It's all very vague. I have to write a 'fun, fun, fun' lesson plan full of 'fun, fun, fun' ideas (that'll be Drama, then!), gather and prepare resources and hope I have another adult in the class with me as I don't fancy the odds of me versus 120 11 year olds.

Over my unpaid summer, I am going to be reading and researching all the texts I am teaching for A level in September. I've been warned I'm unlikely to get my timetable before 1st September, so I've got to get to grips with all the other year groups, too, even though I might not be teaching them.

And no, I'm not going on strike tomorrow. I don't believe in strikes. I have one student to tutor first thing in the morning, and if the school want me to stay on and provide some cover for the rest of the day, then I shall.

Lazy teachers and mercenary vets? Absolutely.

This blog was brought to you by 'Tongue-As-Sharp-As-A-Knife-Dot-Com' - for all your sarcastic, get-it-off-your-chest ranting needs.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Hilter and the Thrussian Offensive

You'll remember Hilter? The black and white cat that lives a few doors down from us, and has a little black moustache 'neath his nose that makes him look a bit like Hitler, but because it's ever-so-slightly off-set, not exactly like Hitler, hence his name 'Hilter.' (I have since learned his name is actually 'Smudge' but he answers to Hilter when he comes into our garden.)

Well. Last night, there was a FRACAS of ENORMOUS PROPORTION and VOLUME in the front garden. A fracas that sounded like many angry birds giving it large.

Indeed, that's exactly what it was. There, in the middle of the grass, was Daddy BB. Daddy BB is a young blackbird who, with his wife, Mummy BB, moved into the tree bordering our garden with next door in early Spring, and have entertained us with their nest-building malarkey and comings and goings with beakfuls of unfortunate insect life when their babies hatched about three weeks ago.

And there was Mummy BB, too, and she and Daddy BB were cackling and bouncing and screeching in a very agitated way.

I opened the window.
'What's up?' I said. They eyed me beadily, but continued to cackle and bounce.

And then I happened to glance down and see a black and white furry cat body directly below the window sill. It was Hilter. And he appeared to be wrestling with one of our flower pots. Except what he was really doing was trying to get at a Baby BB who was stuck behind the aforesaid flower pot and was screeching in its own I-can't-get-away-coz-I've-only-just-learned-to-fly-or-rather-plummet-which-is-why-I'm- in-this-mess.

Action stations!! Operation 'Save the Baby Birdie' swung into action.

Andy and I launched ourselves into the front garden, (we used the front door, not the open window) and lunged at Hilter who in turn flung himself into the hedge. This allowed Baby BB to fly (and I use that word in the loosest possible sense) away to safety. Except Baby BB decided that the safest place to fly would be into the hedge, too, where Hilter lay in wait.

Mummy and Daddy BB were going absolutely mental at this point. All four of us needed to locate Hilter and see him off the premises. Andy rushed around the other side of the hedge, I rushed into the hedge. The Parent BBs flew around mounting an aerial assault. We were all shrieking.

Hilter shot out of the hedge, across our drive and into the road. He was pursued by Andy and Mummy BB. Andy gave up the chase first. He reported that Hilter appeared to have suffered some kind of injury to his back leg.

Mummy BB inflicted? We don't know. But cor, did those parent birds defend their baby!! It was quite, quite spectacular!!

I left for work this morning with some trepidation, anticipating finding the remains of a Baby BB all over the path. But no. All seems well in the nest, and Mummy and Daddy BB are popping in and out of the tree with beakfuls of bugs as usual. And I know that one is supposed to let Nature take her course and not interfere with these things, but I regard myself as part of Nature and if I am in a position to lend a hand without causing damage to either party, then that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Bloggin' heck

Has anyone else been having trouble with Blogger? Has anyone else lost the lovely pictures of their followers, only to have them replaced by a big blank space of blankiness? Has anyone else tried to publish a comment on a friend's blog only to find they are requested to 'sign in' when they are already 'signed in' and when they send off the comment they find they are recognised as 'anonymous' and not the person with a cat on her shoulder. Me, anonymous?? Ridiculous!

Not to mention the weird spacey paragraph thing, and the sudden loss of Blogger just as you've written a blog and pressed the 'Publish' button and a red message appears saying that Blogger cannot be contacted and it's also doubtful whether your writing endeavours have even been saved to the edit page?

Cor, it's causing me consternation, this current shoddy Blogger hoo-ha. I've been blogging with them for, what, well over three years, nay, nearly four, and I'm beginning to think that if they don't get their act together and sort out these annoying little annoyances I may have to find another you call it....machine/ company/ doo-da.

Anyway, bloggin' hecks aside, this post was going to be called 'The Eyes of a Child,' but then I realised I wasn't in a particularly sentimental frame of mind and therefore wouldn't be able to do the occasion of taking the grand-daughter out for the day yesterday the appropriate 'Aaaaah factor' justice.

'What about doing one called 'The Eyes of a Chicken,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Hmmmm...' I say. 'Well, that'll be worms, grass, digging and kneecaps, won't it? Not wholly inspiring, is it?'
'Aaah,' says Mrs S, 'but it all depends on whether you are reporting what you THINK the world looks like through a chicken's eyes, or whether you KNOW what the world looks like through a chicken's eyes.'
'Good point,' I say. 'I apologise for jumping to a hasty, narrow-minded and imperceptive conclusion.'
'Apology accepted,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Are they chocolate-covered caramels you've got there?'
'Yes,' I say. 'Would you like one?'
'I'd like three,' says Mrs Slocombe, and because I feel slightly guilty about assuming what a chicken can see, I let her take the rest of the packet.
'So,' I say, 'tell me - what is it like to see the world through the eyes of a chicken?'
Mrs Slocombe holds up a wing whilst she finishes her first chocolate caramel. She swallows.
'Well, ' she says, 'worms, grass, digging and kneecaps, basically.'
'But that's what I said,' I say, indignant because a) I was right all along and b) that crafty hen has had a good half packet of chocolate caramels from me.
'Ah, yes,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'But the sin was in the assumption.'
'Which was a correct assumption...'
'Even so....'

I sigh. I find I am feeling even less sentimental.
'Where's Mrs Pumphrey?' I say.
'Wimbledon,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Got a call last night. They're short of ball girls.'
'Isn't she a bit old to be running around on a tennis court?' I say.
'Maybe,' says Mrs Slocombe, ' but she's got the necessary selection of frilly pants and she can double up as a line judge if her legs give out.'
'Well, that's all right then,' I say.

Wimbledon through the eyes of a hen, I think. Watch this space! (Providing there's no more bloggin' heck!)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Just Because...

On Friday, a colleague appeared in my little work room at lunch time carrying a large box.
'This arrived for you in Reception,' she said. 'Open it now! I want to see what it is!'
She is very demanding, this colleague.
So I opened the box, and out floated a silver 'n' red balloon with hugs 'n' kisses on it. Attached was a bar of chocolate and a packet of chocolate caramels.
'Oooooh!' said the demanding colleague. 'Is it your birthday?'
'No,' said I.
'Any other anniversary?'
'Nope,' I said.
'Who's it from?'
'My hubbie,' said I.

The demanding colleague looked at me suspiciously.
'What's he done that he needs to apologise for?' she said, sniffing for a spot of gossip and/or scandal.
'Nothing,' I said. 'He sent them just because.'

The demanding colleague didn't seem to get this concept. She pottered off, muttering about having to mention this spontaneous act of loveliness to her own obviously lacking partner.

Another colleague appeared. 'Oooh,' she said. 'Is it your birthday?'
'No,' I said. 'It's from my husband.'
'Why?' she said.
'Just because,' I said.

And so it went on. Three more people asked exactly the same questions about birthdays, anniversaries, guilt-trips, apologies.
'No,' I said. 'The reason is just because.'

Well, everyone was duly impressed by Andy's balloony chocolatey declaration. They all said how they wished their partners would do something similar.
'How long have you been together?' asked the Receptionist.
'Almost ten years,' I said.
'Wow,' she said.

Andy has sent me other surprising stuff through the post to my workplaces over the years. Flowers on several occasions. A pink Lady Penelope Rolls Royce toy. A sachet of carrot and coriander soup. That took some explaining.

I send him stuff too. It's not a regular occurence. It happens just irregularly enough to make it a surprise.

Go on. Try it. Send something through the post to your loved one - partner, parent, child, mad aunt, grandpa. It'll make them smile.

You don't need a reason. Just because.

Friday, 17 June 2011

A Big Job

Firstly, I have a job for September! It is a teaching job, which is okay, and it is a teaching job with 'responsibilities' which is also okay but with extra money! The school I am at now asked if I'd be interested in staying on to cover a year of maternity leave, and that it was very likely that this time next year, when Maternity Leaver returns (providing she doesn't give birth to quadruplets, because no-one in their right mind should even think about going back to teaching if they've just had quadruplets unless they are considering starting their own free-school catering from nursery to 6th form) there would be a permanent position for me to stay as long as I liked.

Well, I am oddly thrilled about this opportunity because...

1) it means that I know the school and the children, they know me and I shan't have to go through the stressy faff of getting to know a whole new set of people and buildings (which is a bonus given my appalling sense of direction and tendency to turn right out of every door which generally leads to the PE department which is bad because of the Lynx effect)

2) I'll be earning a darn good salary, which means either a) the mortgage can be paid off more quickly in keeping with the new Grand Plan or b) I can blow it all on fripperies if I've had a particularly challenging day/week/ term/ experience with recalcitrant Year 8s.

3) I am going to be teaching more 6th form, which is something that has passed me by, save a brief encounter teaching the Jacobean revenge tragedy 'Tis Pity She's a Whore' to some oddly shy and speechless Year 12s about 5 years ago. Teaching 6th form is good. The groups are smaller and generally speaking the tantrums and idleness are over and you're actually working with students who want to learn.

4) I get to gather evidence to go through what is called 'Threshold' which will put me on an upper pay scale which means extra money which will fund my 'Doing a Masters' plan. Actually, the school have hinted there may be some money in the budget to assist me with this as part of my continued professional development, but they were more interested in my ideas to take a TEFL course, which is Teaching English as a Foreign Language and not, as Mrs Slocombe would have it, Tossing Eggs For Laughs. The TEFL course idea is because, being in Kent, we are getting more and more immigrant children in our schools, and I thought it might help me help them to learn English better.

So, I am all in excitement about September. The school is becoming an Academy faith school, and a chaplain who wears Doc Martens has been employed. I like this also. There are going to be Chapters, like in a university. They are going to be called Faith, Hope and Charity. I think the English Department is in Faith. Each Chapter has its own colour of tie - purple, turquoise or lime green. The older girls are worried about the lime green option. Something about it clashing with their foundation, or their hair or sumfing or nuffing or sumfing. (And those of you who work with teenage girls, and know the method with which they apply their foundation, will be laughing like drains at this point. Thick 'n' orange for those of you who remain mystified.)

'Will we have to pray?' said a Year Nine, when we got chatting about the imminent changes.
'You think that as a teacher I don't do that already?' I said.
She didn't quite get what I was saying.
'I like the new uniform,' she said, by way of distracting me from any potential religious talk.
'It's very smart, isn't it?' I said.
'Especially the dress jacket with the bright pink lining...'

Yes, indeed. Dress jackets. Like proper business suit jobbies. No boxy, polyester static-inducing blazers here. It's a very sleek and smart looking combination. And it's not often you find a group of students who are actually looking forward to wearing a uniform. I almost feel I need to revamp my own image, so I don't let the side down. In fact, I think I shall. (Change my image, not let the side down, I mean).

This weekend looks set for rain. I don't mind. I'm settling down with the Duchess of Malfi, The Great Gatsby, Antony and Cleopatra and A Brave New World (which, oddly enough, I have just re-read and been suitably appalled by).

And somewhere in the background, Captain Corelli will be playing his Mandolin.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Lost and Found and Ker-nockers and Fish

'I have lost my ker-nockers,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Your what?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'My ker-nockers,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'You know, my little hard balls on strings that you ker-nock together. They make a ker-nocking noise.'
'You're telling me,' says Mrs Pumphrey, who has oft wanted to grab them and wrap them securely around Mrs S's neck.
'But I need them!' says Mrs Slocombe, who is starting to sound a tad hysterical, which isn't difficult giving she is a highly strung chicken and spends a majority of her life on the edge of hysterics. 'It's the National Ker-nocker Championships in three weeks' time and I need to practise.'

Before I continue, I think I should explain to the uninitiated and bemused exactly what ker-nockers are. Back in the Seventies, when I was at primary school, a craze arrived, as they do. The craze of ker-nockers. Ker-nockers were two little, rock hard balls made, it seemed, from some concrete/ iron amalgam, attached each to its own string which were in turn connected at the top to a small plastic hoop with a diameter just big enough to fit a chubby primary school finger through. What you had to do was set the balls knocking against each other in a Newton's Cradle kind of way, so that they banged inwards and outwards in a loud and rhythmic way. Once you'd mastered the basic ker-nock, you could go on to perform various ker-nocking tricks. You had to have your wits about you along with hands and face of steel. Health and Safety would have had a pink fit if they'd known about the playground shenanigins of many sets of ker-nockers ker-nocking about in the hands of an excitable and often fiercely competitive gang of eight year old girls. Boys didn't play with ker-nockers. I think it set off some deep-seated fear of de-masculisation within them.

You can get something similar these days. Only they are called 'Klackers' and they are made of plastic. Light-weights!

And since Mrs Slocombe found my ker-nockers in the loft, when she was up there looking for back-dated issues of 'The Crocheted Egg and Other Mythical Socks,' she's been ker-nocking mad.

'What you need,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'is to send a prayer to Saint Antony of Padua. And today just happens to be Saint Antony of Padua's Day.'
'Is it?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Now there's a co-incidence!'
'Would you like me to tell you the story of Saint Antony?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'If you must,' says Mrs Slocombe.

'Saint Antony is the patron saint of lost things,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'He died in 1231, but in 1991 thieves stole his relics from Rome.'
'Did they?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'So who did the Romans pray to return the relics?'
'The Mafia, I expect,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Anyway, back in the 1200s, after Saint Antony died his body returned to dust all except his tongue and lower jaw which remained fleshy and intact.'
'Eeuch!' says Mrs Slocombe. 'That's gross!'
'It was testament to Saint Antony's verbal eloquence,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Once, he managed to shame a lakeful of irreligious fish into repenting their sins.'
'That's quite impressive,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Pointless, by impressive.'
'Souls of fish need saving as much as anyone else's,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Was that meant to be some kind of pun?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'It's been a long day,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Anyway, Saint Antony wasn't the only one able to talk to fish and find lost things...'
'Shouldn't that be 'lost soles?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Ahahahahahahahahahhaha!'
'Do you want to find your ker-nockers?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
Mrs Slocombe nods and shushes.
'The Celtic god, Nodons, often used to commune with the Salmon of Knowledge,' continues Mrs Pumphrey.
'You're having me on,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'The Salmon of Knowledge??'
'Uhuh,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'He knew all the secrets of the Universe and gained his wise learnings from eating hazelnuts that had been left as offerings at his well.'
'Hazelnut stuffed salmon,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Sounds delicious. So, will this Salmon of Knowledge know where my ker-nockers have got to?'
'He might,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'He is, after all, the fount of all Universal wisdom. Got any nuts?'
'As it happens I do,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'You'll need to drop them down a well and make an incantation,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I don't have a well,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Will the lavatory do?'
'I suppose,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'You drop and incant, I'll flush.'

And so that is how I came to find two hens in the downstairs loo, dropping hazelnuts in the pan and chanting thusly:

'Oh Nodon, Nodon, Wise Fish of Lost and Found,
Find my Ker-nockers Please,
Have Some Nuts
Half a Pound.
And If You Are Very Busy
Can You Ask Saint Antony Too?
Only Someone's Ker-nocking at the Door
Wanting to Use the Loo.'

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Pandora Kitten has taken to yowling. She has taken to shouting at me in weird ways for no apparent reason other than she can.

'Yeeeeeaaaaoooowwwww.....eeeeeeoooooo.....oooowwwwwww....' she goes, staring at me in a yowly way. She follows me about the house, yowling. She sits on the front door mat, yowling. She sits on the stairs, on the landing, in doorways, yowling. Every time I emerge from the bathroom after paying a visit (like you do), she is sitting outside. And she yowls at me. Like she is telling me off for going into the bathroom in the first place. (Occasionally, she adds a 'grrrr', so the yowling becomes growling. A signal to put on my bee-keeping gauntlets, just in case.)

'You're a vet,' I say to Andy, when the yowling becomes especially loud. 'Why is Pandora yowling at me?'
'She loves you,' says Andy.
'Oh, like sometimes she bites me because she loves me?' I say.
'Exactly,' says Andy.

His other theory is that, although he has spayed her, he may have left a teeny-tiny bit of uterine material behind (this happens sometimes) and Pandora is experiencing a minor effect of being on heat.
'So she's calling for a mate?' I say.
'Yes,' says Andy.
'When I'm calling yooooooo-oo-oo-oo-o-oooooooooooooooo!' yowls Pandora. (She is yowling now - can you hear her?)

Okay, it's not a health problem. Other than for me who may suffer perforated eardrums, the occasional lightly chewed finger and near-death-by-falling-downstairs-over-a-crazy-yowling-cat. But it's weird to live with and it's quite funny sometimes, and of course, like when a child is having a hissy fit, I laugh, which probably doesn't help matters.

Sometimes I feel like yowling. Sometimes I do actually yowl, which takes Pandora by surprise. (I think she believes she owns the Much Malarkey Manor rights to yowling. Any other yowling by a third party is therefore unauthorised and likely to be clamped.) Yowling can be very therapeutic, and is something I recommend to alleviate moments of deep stress and frustration, but make sure you close the curtains first. Maybe put on some opera.

Something else I am finding therapeutic at the moment is reading the works of Deepak Chopra. Have you read him? I've just started his book about developing one's inner leadership, and it makes a lot of sense. In fact, in light of all the yowling going on at the moment and my disinclination to compete with Pandora Kitten on this front, I am going to retire to the chaise and have an hour quiet reading whilst I wait for the jacket potatoes to finish baking. Cold, windy and rainy here today. Very much the weather for a nice cheesy jacket potato.

And, it seems, yowling.

Saturday, 11 June 2011


Following on from the 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. Then give up. No sense being a damn fool about it,' malarkey, it appears that by adopting this approach the Universe has loosened up a few things here at MMM (including Andy's poor shoulder) and new ideas and choices have leapt to the fore which have caused me to feel what I can only describe as bloomin' happy and positive about the future!

I have a job interview on Wednesday. I was requested to 'put in an application form' by a head teacher, and then the deputy head said the interview was more like a 'chat' and that 'everything would be fine' and he was 'very happy I would be joining the school.'

It was all very reassuring in a 'BINGO!' kind of way.

The salary means an opportunity to pay off the mortgage more quickly. Being mortgage free means freedom to move anywhere we like without the hassle of having to find jobs to go to first because you need jobs to continue a mortgage in that crazy mortgage-job-mortgage vicious circle. We can still follow our dream of having a smallholding or a cottage in the country with a massive sod-off garden, or a build-our-own plot or a find-a-wreck-and-renovate-it; we've just suddenly found ourselves going about it in a slighty different way to the way. A more secure, positive, hopeful way. And all through letting go of the stubborn way we were trying to go about it before.


We discussed this change of route to our dream, my lovely Andy and I, on a trip to Canterbury for a spot of shopping, a spot of walking and a spot of lunch. It's been a difficult couple of weeks. Andy has been in pain with his shoulder and when he hasn't been in pain he has been doped up to his eyeballs on painkillers that are massive enough to zombify a horse. I've been feeling horrid because I couldn't do anything about his injury save make sympathetic noises and channel a bit of healing plus one of the younger teachers at school has been having troubles and I've been acting as adopted mummy to her.

But now Andy is upstairs sorting out his office and digging out bank statements because he's been told he can actually reclaim from the Inland Revenue quite a large wodge of his professional membership fees from the last seven years, and he is singing as he works! And I am deep in happy planning for September, most of which involves reading children' s books, and who wouldn't enjoy that kind of preparation??

Letting go (or 'quitting' as some might have it) has given us the freedom to move forward. It's been like travelling on a road that might go somewhere, then jumping off a bridge onto a road that has a definite destination.

Who'd have thought it, eh?

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Useful Philosophy

I read this somewhere sometime last week. I wish I could remember who said it - I think it might have been an American stateman. Anyway, what he said was, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again. And then give up. No sense being a damn fool about it.'

I thought these very wise words indeed. How often do we start something, and keep going, going, going at it because it's what we were brought up to do? Even though we reach a point when our heart is telling us 'STOP!' but is being marginally out-shouted by our head?

Giving up smacks of failure, that's the thing. Giving up means having to explain yourself to people, who, when they are used to you succeeding, get flummoxed and confused, and look at you like you're no longer the person they thought you were.

'Don't give up!' people say, thinking they are sounding encouraging when all they are (inadvertently) doing is piling on the pressure even more, the pressure that would be so easily alleviated by 'giving up.' Okay, I know a certain amount of stress is supposed to be good for you - keeps the old 'fight or flight' mechanism up to scratch, but really, who needs stress beyond that certain amount? Heroes and martyrs, maybe, but not us, not people like you and me.

Admittedly, some people do give up too quickly, too easily. I know this because I'm a teacher and I work with young people, and I won't tolerate giving up until they've at least 'had a go and then another just for luck.' Or picked up a pen. There's a fine line between trying too hard and not trying enough. I call it 'trying your best.'

Before I discovered the wise words above, my favourite saying about giving up was 'Don't give up - just lose interest.' I think it works. Sometimes you start something and you think, 'This is a good idea. I'll give this a go.' And as you progress, and learn and circumstances gather or disperse, you may suddenly think, 'Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all.' Of course, you then have to make sure you tell yourself (and others) that you were wrong about your original idea/crazy plan to conquer the world. Which can be a bummer if you thought it was really WAS great idea, and you banged on about it a bit too much. But all this is good. This means you are human. And not Mary Poppins.

Ultimately, it is okay to give up. Giving up means you haven't failed. Au contraire, mon brave, it means you were feisty enough to take a plunge into the unknown in the first place and you've probably learnt something into the bargain, which is always a good thing and definitely a transferable skill.

But please ignore these words if they apply to moving a sofa through a door way and you are stuck on one side, and the toilet facilities are stuck on the other. Giving up then would just be plain crazy.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


It's been a funny old week. Full of beginnings and endings, of moments when the Life Police pull you over to the side of the road and ask you if a) you know where you are going because your driving has been a bit erratic, b) have you been drinking because you don't seem wholly in control of your brain at the moment and c) did you know there is a speed limit in life and it's not a race to get to the next one.

One of my students died on Monday. He was out with his mates, down by the river, playing on a rope swing. The rope swing snapped and into the river he went. According to reports, he resurfaced once, but he couldn't swim and that was that. I heard about it on the local lunchtime news on Tuesday. I was stopped in my tracks. He was twelve years old.

On Tuesday, I met an old friend and colleague for dinner. Haven't seen her for ages but it was a good evening - lots of chat about family and work, and wonderings about what the future might hold. And how much control we actually have over our future, given we both have families and homes and jobs which occupy our time to a greater degree. We have to factor these people and houses and jobs into the equation. We made them happen, we have responsibilities to them. But what if our rope swing snaps tomorrow?

On Wednesday I finally completed my job applications. There's nothing like revamping your CV to make you realise how much you've actually done with your life and how much of it is irrelevant to potential employers. But then I think if someone is going to employ you, then you should tell them as much good stuff as possible. After all, it's all about transferable skills these days, isn't it? And if I can stay calm amidst a swarm of bees, and get them resettled into new hives with no obvious ill-effects, then doesn't that hint I can be calm in a classroom crisis - swarm of bees, swarm of children, it's all becoming the same to me.

And as I looked at various jobs and their application forms and what schools expect these days, it put me in mind that as I love English and I'm good at English and English is my passion, then I should think about doing a Masters Degree. I have the requisite Honours Degree. I looked at a couple of syllabi on-line and spent yesterday studying Byron's 'Don Juan' as it seems a poem that is popular at post-graduate level. Initial investigations of aforesaid and mammothly epically ENORMOUS poem suggest a certain barkingess to Byron's character, but I was hooked! Also, the Masters idea was initiated by the friend I had dinner with on Tuesday, who is part way through hers and seemed unsure about what to do with it, given various time constraints. And my message is, 'You know who you are, M! Just get on with it!!! It will 'open doors'!

Thursday, Andy tore a muscle in his shoulder. He is in big pain. He can't sleep. He is living on painkillers. He can do nothing but rest his shoulder until it has repaired itself. He even succumbed to me doing some healing on it, so it must be bad. He thought he could do a Masters, too, and we could open a cats only veterinary practice with cattery attached.

'Then we could do doctorates,' I said, getting caught up in the lunacy of the moment. 'And in the morning I could say, 'Good morning, Doctor Hunt, and you'd reply 'Good Morning to you, too, Doctor Hunt, and my how we'd laugh!'
'You reckon?' said Andy.
'Probably not,' said I.

And now, here I sit, with a grand-daughter on my lap, a grand-daughter who is very keen to learn about typing and blogging and who is trying to wrestle the kepboard from me.

I'll let her have the last say...

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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Done and Done

Why can't employers be happy with a CV? Why do they all have to have their own application forms which want to know useless bit of information like how many 'O' levels I got in 1982? Or how many CPD courses I've been on in the last 5 years? Well, that one was easy actually, because the answer is none, because I've been too busy teaching to go on courses that tell you drinking lots of water will keep your brain hydrated and let you juggle more balls, and besides, every time I'm away from school for some reason, the staff who cover lessons leave things in such a state of disarray I'd rather not go on CPD courses if I can help it. Of course, it's my fault for wanting to keep my classroom neat and tidy, and if I was an untidy scruff bag instead of a control freak it wouldn't bother me. But I am and it does.

Anyway, I reckon I do enough CPD during twilight sessions in school, and if I want to learn anything new to do with my subject, I'll find out myself and in my own time, which also has the added bonus of avoiding the incessant coffee breaks and feed-back sessions that external CPD
are so fond of including in their programmes.

That's my excuse. Two application forms sent off today. To use a fishing analogy, I've baited the hook and am now waiting for a bite.

The living room is decorated! There has been much moving of furniture and squishing of cats who seem oddly attracted to heavy sofas in locomotion. Only one door had to be removed, and it went back on its hinges okay with the minimum amount of swearage. The room looks lovely and I've given strict instructions that people can only stand at the door and admire it. No performing Wii-Fit on the new carpet and treading down the pile and dripping sweat everywhere. No kitty claws near the new oak sideboard and the new oak TV unit. No leaning against the wallpaper. And when the new sofa 'n' cuddle chair combo arrive, no sitting on them. I think that's about covered it all.

Of course, when you start spending money on things you like, things that make your life more aesthetically pleasing, then sod's law says you'll have to spend money on something you don't want to. Ergo, yesterday evening, the boiler started started playing up. Try as I might, I cannot get as excited about spending money on a boiler as I can about spending money on lovely wallpaper. Strange, I know, but true.

In keeping with the North/ South divide, Andy immediately announced we'd probably need a new boiler and I went for the tiny gizmo not working properly and costing £20 to put right - 'I've got one on the van, won't take a minute to fix, missus' - option. It seems that when you turn on a hot water tap, and the boiler fires up to heat the water as it comes off the mains, it then doesn't switch off again when you turn off the tap which suggests to me some loose thermostatic connection thingummy. It also suggests incredibly hot water very quickly so you have to be careful when you put your fingers. It's not an immediate problem - just means you have to switch the whole boiler off at source. But it will need fixing and therefore is a pain - expensive or cheap.

Ah well, at least I can go and stand in the living room and meditate upon the lovely wisteria wallpaper. And you never know, soon I may have a new job and we can get a new boiler anyway.