Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Drink 'n' drugs 'n' joggin' on

Today, a student told me to 'jog on,' after I said I would have to confiscate her jewellery if she didn't remove it.

'It ain't jewellery,' she said. 'It's rings. So you can jog on.'
Well, I didn't jog on. I told her, in my very quietest, intense voice that she needed to learn some manners, and that the word 'jewellery' was a generic term for necklaces, bracelets etc and therefore included rings. She looked slightly bemused at the word 'generic' so I deposited a dictionary on her desk and told her to look it up.

And then I jogged on.

I called Alcoholics Anonymous. Not for my personal use, you understand, but for the purpose of a speaker coming in to speak to Year 10 on Focus Day. They were very helpful and said the local co-ordinator would be in touch in the next day or two. I then spent a very dispiriting two hours after school scouring the internet for suitable clips, films, resources about teenagers and alcohol, and it seems to me the message is, 'Go ahead and drink yourself stupid because everyone else does; we can't stop you anyway. Just remember to keep your face out of your pool of vomit or you might suffocate.'

A child who regularly arrives in my class stoned up to his eyeballs has been out of class lately and I spent half an hour this morning putting together a package of lesson material for him on the request of a behaviour manager because 'every child matters' and his education must remain high on my list of priorities even though he can't focus on anything for more than 20 seconds and spends most of his time asking me if I want to buy some weed. Needless to say, the pack is still sitting on my desk.

A girl from the traveller community, who hasn't been in school for months, suddenly appeared today and spent all lesson talking to her mates "coz I ain't seen 'em for ages, and you can't stop me talking to 'em." She was right, I couldn't. I tried. But was ignored. It was like I was invisible. And I am, generally, a very difficult person to ignore. But then I remembered that in 5 weeks' time I shall be 46, which is the age women become invisible, so p'raps I'm already fading from view. Silly me.

I did a bit more jogging on during my free lesson today, to support a young colleague who is struggling with her very special year 7 class and no-one else seems to want to help. I stayed for 15 minutes and played 'bad cop' to her 'good cop' and I think that for as long as we are taller than these children, we'll be able to sustain the role play.

I paraded around the school grounds at break time, spooking Year 10 and 11 smokers from their hiding places. It's a great game and it makes them furious.
'Do you have to come all the way down here?' demanded one addict as I leapt around the corner of the sports hall.
'Yes,' I said. 'I've got ADHD; if I don't pace about I'll lose it in class. I'll be like a ping-pong ball. And did you know that if you carry on smoking you'll end up with a mouth like a cat's bottom by the time you're 30?'

And I jogged on.

At home I made a cake. I haven't made a cake for AGES because school has impinged on my cake-baking time. It was very therapeutic. My new bank continues to impress me by sending, tres pronto, a form I had requested AND a first class envelope in which to return it. And the water board dealt very efficiently and cheerfully with a query I had.

It's been a funny old day, but I'm here now, eating a jaffa cake, drinking a cuppa and thinking how fab my sixth formers have been this week. I've got 11 in the group now. They keep escaping from Maths, which shows great intelligence I think. Yesterday, Number 11 arrived. He said, 'I've tried Maths but it wasn't happening. I kept hearing from the others how good English Lit was, so is it okay if I join the group?'

Sometimes, just sometimes, teaching makes me smile.

Monday, 26 September 2011

It started at a low point and went downhill from there

It started off at a low point
And went downhill from there
Packed lunch went uneaten (again)
But for dinner, a chocolate eclair.
The children were generally horrid
And didn't want to know
About Gothic horror or Shakespeare,
Oh, the day it went so slow... fact, I'm surprised the poetic muse is with me, because if I were a poetic muse, I'd have left the Denise-building ages ago, and gone to live somewhere intelligent. Like Wayne Rooney.

Year 11 bottom set are objecting to having to do Romeo and Juliet. They said, 'Can't we do something different?'
I said, 'What, a different Shakespeare play? I think The Merchant of Venice is in the cupboard...' And they said, 'No, something different to Shakespeare.'
And I said, 'Well, no, not if you want to stand a snowball's hope in hell of answering the Shakespeare question in your exam.'

They are CONVINCED I'm making them do Romeo and Juliet out of sheer spite. They are CONVINCED the rest of Year 11 are doing something else. Like Teletubbies. Or Winnie the Pooh.

Year 9 persist in slinging insults at each other. Their favourite activity today was telling each other to 'SHU' UP! NO, YOU SHU'UP.' I'm doing 'The Gothic Novel' with Year 9. To be honest, I'd rather teach Frankenstein's monster, Dracula and as many Ravens Poe can summon than Year 9 the way they are at the moment. I never knew children could be so...well, spiteful towards each other.

Added to my 'To Do' list today were the following items:
1) get classroom ready for Open Evening - posters, displays, sample materials, my soul nailed to the wall...
2) fill in Connexions career applications with the Year 11s - 'So, what do you want to do when you leave school, Danielle?' 'Git a job at H & M coz they've got a wicked staff discount.'
3) give two detailed lesson plans to SLT for 'quality assurance' - so, that'll be 2 plans out of the 60+ I've wasted my life writing over the last 3 weeks that no-one (myself included) has bothered to look before now
4) prepare a Focus Day for Year 10 on the evils of alcohol consumption -'You could get someone in from AA,' said a helpful learning leader. I sat there thinking, 'They want me to book someone from a MOTORING organisation to talk to 15 year olds about Smirnoff Ice??' Well, it was the end of a two hour meeting and I hadn't eaten for 9 hours. A feeling of light-headedness had descended 'pon the mind.
5) hand out school photos, school trip letters and monitoring cards to the naughty children in mentor time tomorrow. I have a very naughty girl in my mentor group. She has a very stiff face. Too much make-up. Too much attitude. Too little humour.
6) fill in a grid of when I teach Year 11. This information is freely available to the requestee on my timetable which is on the staff area of the super-duper IT system. But it's easier for the requestee to ask me to fill in the grid and waste my time, than look up my timetable for themselves and waste their time
7) support a young teacher in her Year 7 Nuture group during my free lesson on Wednesday because she is starting to have murderous thoughts about them and she's not getting any support from people who are supposed to be supporting her and she's too nice a person to end up in prison
8) catch up on homework marking because my detention threat for non-production of homework has worked rather TOO well and I had a flurry of it appear today and mess up my tidy desk

Eventually, I came home to find Tybalt and Pandora eyeing up an open drawer in the kitchen.
'And what are you two up to?' I said.
'We're going to Banarnia,' said Tybalt. 'It's a country that can be reached through the back of the drawer.'
'Behind the colander and cheese grater,' added Pandora.
'Banarnia, eh?' I said. 'I might just come with you.'

Saturday, 24 September 2011


I had a conversation this morning which, given how much I am disgruntled with my current bank, shouldn't have really surprised me.

With the new mortgage in place and the new joint bank account activated, I decided to start the process of closing down my old bank account by moving money from it to the new account.

'Can I move some funds from this account to another account, please?' I said, after eventually making contact with a real person in customer services ( and I use that term very loosely).
'Yes,' said the real person. 'How much would you like to move?'

I told her.

'I'm afraid I can't do that,' said the real person.
'Oh,' I said. 'So, how much exactly CAN I move today?'
'I'm afraid I can't tell you that,' she said. 'It's confidential information.'
'So,' I said,' you are telling me that the money that is in my account, which is mine, cannot be moved into another account which is also mine.'
'Oh, it can be moved,' she said. 'I'm just not allowed to tell you how much you can move.'
'Oh,' I said, because I wasn't really sure how to proceed from here.
'But I can arrange for a call-back for you in the next six hours, so you can move the money later today,' she said.
'Right,' I said. 'Six hours is quite an inconvenient amount of time to be sitting indoors waiting for a phone call. Can you be more specific?'
'Yes,' said the person. 'It will be in the next six hours.'
I decided that if it would be a means to an end I would agree to the call back.

'What's your phone number?' said the real person.

I told her.

'No,' she said. 'That's not the number we have registered for you. I'm afraid the call-back facility will be unavailable.'
'Even though I've just given you this number?' I said.
'Yes,' she said. 'Because it's not the number we have registered for you.'

I was puzzled at this point. Because we've had the same number for 7 years which is exactly the same amount of time I've had my account with this bank.

'If you go into your local branch with some photo ID, they'll probably be able to move the money for you,' said the person.

I didn't like the use of the word 'probably.' I am already imagining that when I go to the branch they will say, 'Oh we can't do that in branch because we're too busy eating biscuits and planning our next Saturday night out on the lash. You'll have to call customer services.' At which point I shall end up causing a scene in public because this is the point I have reached and nothing will hold me back.

Instead, I sighed and said thank you and goodbye. And then I went into town and took my daily cash allowance from the bank's cash machine and if that's what I have to do for a few days to prise my money from their clutches, then that's what I'll do.

The new bank, on the other hand, has been a paragon of politeness, helpfulness and all-round organisational saintliness. Andy says it won't last, but for now I like the fact that they call me Mrs Hunt, and not Denise, like we're great pals, and they have real people in their branch who say please and thank you and and give you eye contact and ACTUALLY smile like they are pleased you are there, and treat you properly and not like you are intruding on their extended coffee break.

On a totally different non-banking note, today Andy and I shared our first Much Malarkey Manor melon! It was quite a small melon, but it was a good melon, and a tasty melon and we were ridiculously chuffed with the whole melonness of it!

And now I am on a mission to find Kayleigh some proper wooden imaginative play toys for when she visits because looking around the shops this morning I was wholly unimpressed with the array of plastic tat that abounded. I want something hand-crafted, preferably Made in Britain, something cheerful and durable that makes you feel all lovely when you look at it.

A bit like our new bank.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Monty Goose

Apparently, in 'Romeo and Juliet', that famous play what Shakespeare wrote, the Capulets were in an age-old feud with the Monty Goose. It must be true. I came across it a couple of times today when I was marking Year 11 notebooks.

'The Capulets and the Monty Goose had been fighting so long they couldn't remember what it was they were fighting about,' declared Sam. Sam had also drawn a picture of a willy in the margin, so I wouldn't wholly trust his literary knowledge.
'Well, ' I thought out-loud to myself, because when I'm fully into a new term, it's something I often do. I find it makes the children keep their distance, me talking to myself. My Year 9s already think I'm off my trolley because I keep changing their seating plan.
'Why do you keep changing our seating plan?' they said today.
'Because I am seeking the ultimate combination of bums on seats, because it's my classroom, and because I can,' I said. 'Take your pick.'
'She's off her rocker,' said Chloe. Chloe may be right.

Anyway, back to the Monty Goose. Romeo was a Monty Goose. And Mercutio was his best mate, and he wore a sequinned skirt and peddled drugs at the Capulet Ball. (I keep telling them - 'Stop writing about the film! Write about the play. I do not, repeat DO NOT wish to read anything whatsoever about guns, petrol stations, fish tanks or Romeo dying in the Titanic in your essays,' I say. But do they listen? Do they heck! God bless Baz Lehrmann for his production of the play, but he hasn't half caused some issues at GCSE level.)

I decide the Monty Goose must be a fabled Shakespearean bird that has somehow escaped my attention these last thirty odd years. I think, I know who'll know about the Monty Goose. Mrs Pumphrey!

'Oh yes,' said Mrs Pumphrey when I mentioned the Monty Goose as we sat at the kitchen table working on our latest joint sewing project of an applique shower curtain. 'The Monty Goose was very well-known in Shakespeare's day.'
'How come I've never heard of it?' I said.
'Well, mostly the Monty Goose was well-hidden,' said Mrs P. 'Only an avian Shakespeare specialist such as moi would know where to find it.'
'Oh, do share,' I said, coming over a bit Jane Austen.
'Well,' began Mrs Pumphrey, 'there was a Monty Goose behind the arras in Hamlet.'
'The one Polonius hid behind?' I said.
'Yes,' said Mrs P. 'And if Polonius had taken heed of the Monty Goose, he would never have got stabbed. And you know the bit in Richard III when he cries, 'A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse?'
'Yes,' I said.
'Literally two minutes before, a Monty Goose had passed by and offered its service to the King,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'But old Dickie said, 'No! I'm not hopping on a Monty Goose. It's a most unkingly thing.'
'Idiot,' I said.
'Quite,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'And Bottom never turned into an ass in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He turned into a Monty Goose. But the spelling was lost in translation.'
'I see,' I said.
'And King Lear's youngest daughter wasn't called Cordelia at all,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'Don't tell me,' I said. 'She was called Monty Goose.'
'No,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'She was called Maud, but she offered to give up her third share of the land for a Monty Goose.'

I thought at this point that I'd had my fill of Shakespeare Monty Goose information and managed to distract Mrs Pumphrey with a rather lovely scrap of midnight blue velvet.

But I shall share this new found knowledge with the Year 11s tomorrow. It'll go down a treat in their exam!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Winding Down

The allotment is winding down. We are letting it wind down permanently. Six years we have sown and nurtured and harvested, and weeded and planted and cleared up after the bloomin' foxes who seem to enjoy a nice Chinese takeaway and can of Coke on a Saturday night.

But it's time to stand down, to let someone else have a go. Our time has been taken over by other things, mostly work, and now we are a four hive family of bees, we have decided we would rather dedicate our weekend good life spot to them. The bees need us more than the courgettes do.

So we are planting no more. There is still some harvesting to do - tomatoes, courgettes, beans, parsnips and carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, scorzonera and salsify. And some greens. And some winter squash. And this weekend Andy brought home some grapes and a little melon!

But over Winter we shall dismantle the fruit cage and the polytunnel and store them ready for when we get our little cottage with a massive garden. We shall dig up some fruit canes, the grape vines and the herbs and bring them back home. Home will be our little veg plot from here on in. It's on our doorstep. We might not be able to grow the quantity, but we can still manage some quality. The back garden has delivered up unto us this year lettuce, tomato, cucumber, damsons, apples, beans, herbs and celery. Yes, celery! I am a big fan of celery so I am thrilled!

We are thinking that we shall manage quite nicely, growing produce from home. After all, we always grow more at the allotment than we can eat. We're going to plant a couple of cob nut trees. Have pots here and there. It'll be okay.

We shan't have to fret in dry spells about getting to the allotment to water it. Or fret about having to miss a weekend because it's tipping it down with rain. Home gardening will be more manageable, more time efficient. We'll be there, on the spot, to deal with problems when they arise, and potter about to pick produce at its peak.

And when we come to sell our house in three or four years' time, which is the plan, we shall have a lovely established garden that will show potential buyers exactly what can be achieved in a small space.

Part of me is sad because when we are at the allotment, we love it. And part of me is relieved that the sometimes pressure to keep on top of the weeds will be gone. And part of me thinks, 'We did it. We learned how to grow our own food, we have a skill and it's a skill we'll never forget.'

And when we get our enormous garden, we shall dive in and set up and grow and enjoy the whole full on veg experience again.

But now it's time to concentrate on other things.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Parrots and Pirates and Pedalling Backwards

Mrs Slocombe appears with a sheaf of paper.
'What's this?' I say, as she flings it at me in order to free both wings to dib into the jaffa cake supply.
'It's my script,' she says. 'For my musical - 'Parrots of Penzance'. I thought, with you being a writer and all that you could take a look at it and tell me what you think.'
'And are you likely to take any notice of my opinion?' I say.
Mrs Slocombe shrugs. 'Probably not,' she says, ' but I understand it is the artistic thing to do. You know, pay lip service to the professional, hope for some kind of endorsement.'
'Such as?' I say.
'Well, I was thinking, 'Celebrated author of Nearly King Jimbo says, 'Parrots of Penzance is the funniest thing I've ever seen. Go and see it yourself and tell me I'm wrong.'

I sigh. It's been a long day. I've had to tolerate a classful of Year 11 boys hooting like maniacs because they've suddenly understood the phallic imagery in Romeo and Juliet and now think Shakespeare is the filthiest thing since Rambling Sid Rumpo nadgered his cord-wangle. I've had no lunch (again) and came home with a stonking headache and by next Monday I have about 100 exercise books and 50 pieces of homework to mark, including progress stickers, summative and formative comments and SMART targets. (SMART stands for Silly Morons Are Rubbish Teachers - well, in my book it does.)

Do I really need to spend time reading a script for a dubious musical written by an even more dubious chicken? Who, I have to add, looks thoroughly ridiculous at the moment because she's moulting, has no tail feathers left ergo resembles a flabby, spotty rugby ball.

'Just give me a rough synopsis,' I sigh.

'Well,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'there's this parrot who lives in Penzance and he wants to be a pirate but the pirates won't let him because he gobbled their After Eights...'
'Pieces of Eight,' I say. 'After Eights are chocolate mints wrapped in individual envelopes.'
'That's a stupid idea,' says Mrs S. 'Chocolate in an envelope indeed. So the parrot decides to set up his own pirate gang and he calls it the gang of the Parrots of the Carry Ben Ann. Ann is the heroine. She is an honorary pirate because women shouldn't be pirates, they should be at home baking croquembouche and embroidering hose.'
'That's a bit sexist,' I say. 'Why can't a woman be a pirate?'
'Because of the dubloons,' says Mrs Slocombe, rather too mysteriously.

In fact, she is so mysterious I daren't question her further in case there is some double meaning to the word dubloon that I don't know about. It was bad enough with the Year 11 boys today, what with all the 'swords' and 'thrusting' and 'pricking' and 'heads of maids.'

'And who is Carry?' I ask.
'It's a verb, not a noun,' says Mrs S. 'The parrots get to carry Ben Ann around. She can't walk because of the dubloons.'
'And why is she called 'Ben Ann?' I ask.
'Well,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'it's like Ben Gunn. He was a famous pirate, wasn't he?'
'Probably,' I say. I am distracted by the fact that every time I glance down at the script I go cross-eyed and everything shifts out of focus.
'I could always change her name to Long John Sylvia, if you think it would aid comprehension,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'At this stage of the game I think it would be wise to stick with what you've got,' I say.
'So you'll read it through for me then?' says she.

'Yes,' I say, watching the last of my jaffa cakes disappear down the chicken hatch.
'Good,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Any time before breakfast tomorrow would be fine.'

I add it to my list of 'to-dos.' I'm busy going nowhere fast.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Ever Deficient Fools

Yes, yes, I know that EDF stands for Energy de France, but I am thinking they might need to rebrand and I am up for the task if they pay me enough. Actually, I'll do it for free...

Yesterday, I thought I'd pay the gas and electricity bill 'on-line'. You know, be 21st century trendy, go with the super-highway flow, deal with the task in the click of a button, hey presto, voila, all done, no standing in queues in the Post Office for me aha! After all, the whole 'manage you account on-line' malarkey has been developed for my consumer convenience. Hasn't it?

HA!! And double HA! HA!!!!!

Got an estimated bill a week ago. They always send estimated bills nowadays, despite their proclamation that they read a meter at least twice a year. So, because I REFUSE to let them have a penny more payment than we've used in fuel, I go on line to enter a proper set of readings for an accurate bill. This has always been easy. Not so now. I had to 'activate My Account - the new, improved service that will help me manage my doings with EDF easily, quickly and effectively.' So I did that. It involved giving them details I really didn't want to give because I know it will now generate a flood of unwanted marketing devices persuading me to do something else I don't want to do (generally sign up for Direct Debits/ Fixed Tariffs/ paying the national debt of France) because all I really want is for gas and electricity to turn up at the house and for me to pay for what we've used when we've used it.

So, having activated 'My Account' last week, and entered accurate readings, an accurate bill arrives and I go back on line to pay it.

I have to add more details. Then a pop-up from my bank wants me to create another secure password thingy so I can use my debit card. The debit card I've been using to pay bills on-line with for several years, but now they've decided they want to add more security and I can't continue to pay my bill until I've done so which entails giving more information which means more junk advertising mail coming my way.

So I do all that. The payment 'unfortunately' fails. 'Unfortunately???' Fortune has nothing to do with this, pal. It's incompetence, that's what it is. First they want my money, then they don't. And some how, it's all my fault for trying to do things their way.

I try ringing customer services. Apparently, they are experiencing a high call volume (Really? Never heard THAT one before), but a customer service advisor will be with me very soon. I pause now to sa 'HA!' again.

I give up with customer services when the feeling starts to go in my legs. In my mind, 'customer services' consists of some poor sixth form student holding the fort at the weekend, earning £3.25 an hour and longing for Monday morning when she can go back to college and study Double Applied Maths because it would be a darn sight easier than trying to answer 6,000 irate phone calls by herself.

I try the automated payment line. You know, the one where you have to shout account numbers at the phone and the automated lady-voice mishears them and you have to shout 'NO!' to stop her taking the entire contents of your bank account and she says, 'I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that - was it a second-class rail ticket to Wolverhampton you wanted, or two tickets to see 'Jane Eyre' at the Odeon, Leicester Square on the 52nd Fecktober?'

The automated payment line asks me to enter my account number. It then transfers me back to customer services where they are still experiencing a high call volume but it's okay, someone will be with me shortly.

I shout - 'DON'T CALL ME SHORTLY!' at the phone and hang up. Well, bang the receiver down. Andy prises the bill from my rigid fist; blood drips from my palms. A vein is throbbing in my forehead and someone far away is calling, 'It's okay - be calm - it's only a bill.'

Andy pays the bill through his debit card. His debit card, it seems, is acceptable to EDF, even though he is referred to on the bill as Mrs Andrew Hunt, which is something else I can't quite bring myself to waste a day of my life trying to get them to change.

This morning I check my e-mail. I have one from my bank. Thanking me for making a payment to EDF using their secure system, the password for which I have already forgotten because of the effects of the red mist, and it doesn't matter anyway because I'm never using it again because it's pants.

So I go to the EDF web-site to see if they have taken a payment from Andy AND a payment from me. But their web-site is currently closed for 'essential maintenance work' and won't open again until 8 a.m tomorrow, please try again then, thank you for your valuable custom.


Of course, you know what they're trying to do, don't you? They are trying to make my life so difficult that I will say, 'Sod it. I'll sign up for Direct Debit,' and then they'll gradually sneak up the payments each month so I end up paying for some new National Grid system in the back end of Bordeaux.

But I'm onto their plan. I'm not going to be caught out by their wily ways.

It's back to the Post Office for me. And Mrs Pumphrey is already working on a way to channel the wind from Mrs Slocombe as an eco-friendly gas supply, and the bees are building wax treadmills to run on during the Winter which will a) keep them warm, and b) power the generator for electricity.

I'm not giving in. I'm not.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Diets and Boilers and Another Blog

Word Verification of the Day: Gully - like, or appertaining to, a gull e.g 'That pigeon looks very gully.'

'Doesn't 'gully' mean, 'a channel cut by deep running water?' says Mrs Pumphrey who is consulting her large edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.
'Don't spoil my game,' I say.
'She just dropped that on my foot,' says Mrs Slocombe, who is hopping in pain and not Irish dancing, as I thought.

Anyway, this week I have discovered a new diet. It's called 'The Academy Diet.' Basically, the school you work in becomes an Academy and reduces its lunchtime to half an hour. By the time you've cleared up after pre-lunch class, and set up for post-lunch class, and dashed to the loo which is as far away from your classroom as you can possibly get, and been waylaid on the way by students wanting you to explain the homework AGAIN, or a member of staff wanting to know if you could possibly complete the data to do with the number of students who arrive at class every second Wednesday without a pencil, then there is simply no time left to eat.

As a consequence, I have this week lost three pounds.

So, that's 39 school weeks x 3lbs a week = 117lbs = 8st 5lbs lost = by next July I shall dead.

And whilst we are crunching numbers, the boiler man came to mend the boiler this week. In the blue corner was Andy - 'We'll have to have a new boiler. It'll cost a fortune.' In the red corner was me - 'It'll be a little gizmo that'll cost a few quid.'

And the winner was - ME!!!

The gizmo switch thingummy doo-dah was indeed a few pounds. The plumber, Matthew, was in the house for about half an hour and the bill came to £40! The plumber said that given its age, the boiler was doing well and had a few years left in her left yet. ('Was he talking about the boiler or was he talking about you?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'How rude,' I say.) We like the plumber. When the boiler does need replacing, Matthew will be our man.

Last week I set up a blog for my English Literature A level students. I've got a small group - seven girls and one boy - and they've got off to a flying start. I said, 'I'm going to set up a discussion and research blog for you. What do you want to call it?'

And after much deliberation, they decided 'Lit Geeks' was a good name. Hmmm...well, better than 'George and Lennie' which was one of the other short-listed runners. So I set up another e-mail account for them to use, used the new account to set up another blog, gave them completely the wrong log-in details on Monday, gave them the right log-in details on Tuesday using the excuse of a mush-for-brains moment, and they have taken their first steps into the land that is 'Blog.'

It may be a runaway success. It may fizzle like a...well, like a teacher on the Academy diet. But you have to try these things. Sometimes trying things works. And sometimes it doesn't.

That's life.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Bless You, Husband, Bless You, Grand-daughter

Horrid day today. Bright Year 11 followed by not so bright Year 11, followed by double Year 12, followed by nasty, self-possessed, egotistical, loud, rude and shouty Year 9. Thirty one of them. Didn't have time for lunch in the measly half an hour we now get, so by the time the horrid Year 9 had left my door, I was feeling like a rubbish teacher. No, a rubbish and hungry teacher.

I shut the door of my room. I looked at my sad and droopy lunch and tried to eat some of it. Then I did some of my classroom display which included hanging material to make curtains at the sides of my 'All the World's a Stage' Shakespeare display, and then I wrote my lesson plans for tomorrow because it has been decreed from on high that ALL lessons must have a full plan, but I'm thinking unless God invents the 35 hour day it ain't gonna happen, no way, no how unless they want me to go crazy though lack of sleep/ social life/ food.

At 4.45 I thought, I am going home now, I've had enough. On my way out I found a member of support staff on the verge of tears; so I stayed to chat with her, and I think she felt better when I said cheerio.

And then I found a fellow teacher on the verge of tears, so I stayed and had a chat to her.

So I didn't get home until way gone 6.


...the house smelled gorgeous because lovely Andy had cooked a Hugh F-W veggie recipe from his new veggie recipe book for dinner! He'd bought saffron and everything!

And then Andy said, 'Chris and Leane had to take Kayleigh to Casualty today.'

And I went, 'WHAT???' because I was thinking, oh no, is this going to be the perfect end to a perfect day in a wholly ironic way.

And Andy said, 'It's okay. She just got a raisin stuck up her nose and they couldn't get it out.'

And it made me laugh. With relief. With the whole silliness of the situation. With memories of the time Heather got a dice stuck up her nose on Christmas Day, but we didn't have to go to Casualty because I managed to get her to snuff it out herself.

But I suppose raisins are more sticky than dice. And the surface area is less forgiving.

So bless you both, for making the end of my day a good one! xx

Saturday, 10 September 2011

My Inner Gok Wan and Other Animals

Firstly, a big hello and welcome to new MMM resident, Elizabeth. Luckily, the library wing has been extended upwards so we have a fine selection of guest rooms available and with all the lavender I've harvested from the gardens this morning, a selection of relaxing pillows, soaps, pot pourri and those weird muslin bags of herbs you hang over the end of the bath tap whilst the water is running to release an aroma that is heaps better than the manky old flannel niff that usually eminates therein.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and go suit shopping this morning. I took my inner Gok Wan with me to insure against coming back with anything in the purple velvet dry-clean only knickerbock and waistcoat line.

I went into M & S first. Good old M & S, I thought. Bound to have something. They did. Row upon row upon row upon row of trousers. More trousers than you could shake a stick at. But not a matching suit jacket in sight. In fact, not any suit jacket, matching or otherwise. They had a nice teal overcoat. 'But you need a jacket,' said Inner-Gok. 'Not a coat. A jacket. That's the whole purpose. It's like going to Sainsbugs for a pint of milk and coming back with a litre of gin.'

So onto Next.

Next faired slightly better. Five suit sets. One black, two grey, two the colour of muddy puddles. But the fabric was nice. And they were tailored. However, I was slightly put off by the fact they started at a size 6 which I think is size 2 in American money, and I always think if adult clothes go that small then they will look bloomin' awful on a grown-up who will never ever in a gazzillion years be a size 6 unless she stops eating for the next three years.

So on to Evans. And out of Evans. Polyester city in Evans. Good job I don't have a pacemaker, the static was fair crackling. Mind you, that could be because Kent is currently experiencing what can only be described as weather that is more muggy than Mr Muggy the Mug Maker fulfilling an order for five thousand mugs for 'The Mug Shop' in Muggleton. Apparently, the tail end of Hurricane Katia is on its way across the Atlantic and pushing a very hot front ahead. 73 degrees today. Phew!

I didn't go into Ann Harvey. They arrange their clothes too high. Makes me feel claustrophobic.

Into BHS which has recently been revamped and not in a good way. Horrid flooring, unhelpful staff who get sniffy if you don't accept their offer to apply for a storecard, and, it turns out, a rubbish suit selection. Although there was one possibility, a navy blue number with a ruffle front jacket.
'Ruffles???' shrieked my inner-Gok. 'Are you mad? With your frontage??? Put it back. NOW!'

So back to Next.
Gathered a black suit and grey suit, struggled about in the changing rooms for fifteen minutes, being startled only once when I caught sight of my derriere in a cunningly positioned mirror. Felt marginally smug to get into the size 16. Consoled myself of the whole horror of having to wear a suit by buying a blouse with butterflies on it as well.

But do you know the best bit? The best bit was that the nice young chappie at the till put the suit in a suit bag! A proper, substantial hanging suit bag, which folded in half and had carry handles and a zip up doo-dah and EVERYTHING! 'Very handy if you go away and need to carry a suit with you,' he said.

Indeed! Not that I would ever go away with a suit. I mean, it hasn't happened in the last 45 years so is unlikely to happen in the next. But it made me feel all executive-like and actually now I WANT to go away with a suit in a suit bag, AND use the trouser press in the hotel room!

But instead I came home, harvested lavender, apples and beans, said hello to the top bar bees who are doing a mad dash in the sunshine to gather the last of the pollen, and decided that I'd quite like to go to Italy for my 50th birthday in 4 years' time so perhaps I should start saving now.

And then Mrs Slocombe appeared and said she was writing a play called 'Parrots of the Carribean,' which is all about parrots walking around with tiny humans perched on their shoulders and going 'Aarrrrrr!' a lot. The parrots not the humans. And I said perhaps she could have a go at writing a musical and call it 'Parrots of Penzance,' and she have me a withering stare and said that would be a really stupid idea and perhaps I should stick at what I'm best at and I said what's that? and she said keeping my mouth shut.

How rude!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Suits Me

The return to school brought a new uniform for the students, because we are a la Academy status now and as such everyone is required to look like they are working in an office.

Including, it seems, the staff.

Now, I didn't know this, because certain information that was handed out at the end of last term didn't reach me because I wasn't there. And that information included the notice that all staff were expected to wear a jacket 'when moving around the Academy.'

'When moving around the Academy?' I thought. But I always move when I'm teaching. It pays to scare the students sometimes by invading their space and looming over them. Keeps 'em on their toes. Am I expected to wear a jacket ALL THE TIME regardless of my hot flush moments and the fact my classroom sometimes likes to play 'Sauna' and roast me to a delicate pinkness even if I open ALL the windows and the skylights?

It transpires I am not. Jacket only to be worn when moving between buildings.

Now, I don't actually own a jacket because I am a cardi and coat person. Well, tell a lie, I have a little red velvety crop jacket which I bought from Monsoon about ten years ago. It has a rather snazzy floral lining and I bought it because a) it was red b) it was fuzzy and c) it doesn't really look like a jacket. Oh, and d) it was in the sale.

So I've been swanning around in this jacket all week and because it's red it's been clashing with some of my outfits something chronic. I've always gone for smart-casual at school because it's comfortable and colourful and the older you get the more comfort and colour you like. Also, as a one-time drama teacher you can get away with wearing odd combinations of clothes, in fact, it's almost expected of the arty type. You are forgiven fashion faux pas by the students because you have a brain that works in an odd way and can't be expected to be a la mode aware. I think 'eccentric' is the word. Well, I do have three cats...

But, to my chagrin I have noticed that almost ALL the staff are now dressed in suits. In various shades of black and grey and Occasionally brown. Or taupe. Cheerful, eh?

I DON'T DO SUITS!!!! I wore a suit in my first teaching job and it felt like trying to teach with a set of skis threaded up one sleeve, across the shoulders and down the other sleeve. It proved a very brief suit flirtation. I was soon onto the co-ordinated casual combination and when I got a drama studio I found I could even get away with no shoes. Heck, there were days when I didn't see another member of staff from morning 'til night and I could have worn jim-jams and fluffy socks for the ultimate in teaching comfort.

But now I feel I've got to go out this weekend and buy a suit because I feel like the Academy bag-lady. Do I go jacket 'n trouser or jacket 'n' skirt? Do I find a jacket that has both a matching trouser 'n' skirt in the range so I can ring the changes? And, oh, decisions about the or brown or grey or black or grey or beige or black or black? It'll have to be washable, of course, which means some horrid polyester blend monstrosity which will make me boil even more and probably meld to my skin in the Winter and cause static electric shocks in the Summer.

And I'll have to go to Canterbury if I want a decent choice because the shops in our home town are woefully inadequate on the work-suit front, and I know this because I checked out the possibilities last weekend and got very depressed, hence the digging out of the red crop jacket.

Never has the prospect of retail therapy filled me with more gloom.

It's all very stressful.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Out of My Tiny Tree

I must be MAD! It's been chaos at school - well, I say chaos, but what I really mean is there are not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. Like today. Up at 6, out the door at 7.30, arrive at work at 7.45, prepping lessons until 8.40. And wrestling with a computer system that still refuses to play ball.

Then registration, then assembly, then tutor time...I mean, mentor time, which is fast becoming known as 'mental' time.

Then lessons one and two, a double (2 hours) with 30 year nine students, half of whom have special needs, four of whom can barely speak English (Question from me - 'So, we're studying the Gothic novel this term - what do you know about the Gothic genre?' Response from EAL student - blank stare...), one of which who goes hormonally peculiar with a full moon, one who can't sit still for toffee and six who can't stop talking about boys, shopping, Facebook, boys, soap operas, boys and boys.

Then break - on duty in the playground dodging two footballs and being mown down by a group of Year 8s playing a game of British Bulldog.

Then lesson prepping for an hour, most of which was spent assisting an unqualified-straight-from-university teacher who has no idea what she is doing but can talk for England, and despite asking my advice chooses to ignore it and do her own thing anyway.

Then a snotty bunch of Year 11 who arrived noisy and smelly and ten minutes late from PE.

Then half an hour for lunch which involved five minutes clearing up after snotty Year 11, ten minutes prepping for after lunch Year 10, five minutes trekking across the school to visit the loo, and ten minutes trying to bolt down a bagel and a mixed salad and failing abysmally.

Then Year 10. Three quarters of whom have special needs. And the inability to stop talking for more than 30 seconds.

Then after school duty on the road, trying to stop students getting run over because they still think they're invincible in a car 'n' student fight.

Then more listening to unqualified teacher witter on and reject more of my advice...and so finally leaving work at 5 haibg looked at the remains of my lunch and thinking I couldn't really be bothered.

And an hour and a half later, I find myself searching the internet for a clip of Vincent Price or Christopher Lee reading something Gothicky in a spooky way, and a visual plot summary of Romeo and Juliet for the snotty Year 11 because I can't access anything at school from You Tube(which is an excellent resource for teachers) because You Tube has been blocked by the super-duper-doesn't-work-properly IT system!

Oh, and planning a blog for my sixth-formers to use as an on-line forum for their studies, but I don't mind that because 1) I like my sixth-formers and 2) I like blogging!

Oddly, four of my sixth formers came from my old school! I last taught them when they were in Year 8.

'Mrs Hunt!!' they all squealed happily when they found 'twas me delivering their course. Ah, it's nice to be wanted...

So I'm giving up on the school stuff today. I've had enough. The branches of my tiny tree of sanity are bending 'neath the strain. And if I had a doughnut, I'd eat it in two bites, but I don't, which is lucky because I don't think I could keep up with the sugar rush.

Thursday tomorrow. Which is one day before Friday which is one day before the weekend. Which I have allocated to sleep. And maybe some retail therapy.

And a doughnut...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

School's In!

Word Verification of the Day - 'subleab' - the level below 'leab'.

Well, it's proper Autumnal here. Lots of mist being burned off by the sun to reveal heatwave. Not this morning of course, because it's Saturday, I'm at home, and there are three lots of washing on the line attempting to dry. (And talking of washing - can you hear that? No? Well, that is the new washing machine, all plumbed in and doing its washing-machine thing. It's a hummer, not a shouter. A calmer, not a frazzler. We like the new washing machine.)

But the last two days, because I've been back to work, have been incredibly hot and gorgeous and summery. Never mind - it's only nine thirty. Plenty of time for heatwave to return and sizzle the pants.

I love the beginning of the new school year. So full of bright-eyed enthusiasm and shiny-faced optimism. And new stationery. And visions of well-ordered classrooms filled with eager, hard-working and smiley students all determined to get those A grades and set themselves up for a fulfilling career.

And then you arrive at Reception.

A new state-of-the-art super-duper-fast-as-you-like computer system has been installed at the cost of a decent-sized 3-bedroom semi in this neck of the woods. According to the IT staff it has high-res bibble snigwitz, a rapid boil acme wizit pog-bit, 1000 Gandodz of mikklegram and a hoofpot. Well, that's what I understood from the IT briefing, anyway. Apparently, this means that we will receive e-mail before it's been sent, we can access the Interwebbly before it's connected and we can store enough shoes in the hard-drive to last Imelda Marcos and all her little goblins three hundred years and then some.

Pity it has 'issues' and doesn't work. And that the English Department appears to be in a 'transmission bubble' which means the only thing the new laptops are worth using for are propping open the store cupboard whilst you arrange your text books.

The builders have been in, too. They have taken down walls and rebuilt them in different places. They have removed doors and put them in different places. They have added switches which, when pressed, appear to do nothing. They have put up new signs which are luminous green and therefore offensive to mine eye. But good for navigation in a power-cut I suppose.

Little pockets of dissent are starting to develop hither and thither because someone has got a new filing cabinet, someone has got someone else's nice class from last year and they've got a horrid class in return which seems VERY unfair, and some one has lost a door and a bit of a wall from their classroom thus making it 'open-plan' (a favourite academy trick to cram as many students in a class as possible) and they want their door 'n' wall back NOW! Preferably with a lock to keep the students out.

And me? Well, you remember when I had my photo taken for my new school badge, and I got caught by surprise with wild hair and a pink face? Well, the photo makes me look like a complete crazy woman who's escaped from a sauna through a thick hedge whilst running from a wolf/ bear/ Mrs Slocombe on an off day. Luckily, I have managed to twist the lanyard so the photo face inwards against my tummy, rather than outwards towards the world.

Ah, it's good to be back!