Sunday, 27 May 2012

Where there's a Will...

A couple of weeks ago I was accosted by a lady in a shopping centre touting for business for a Will writing company. Well, it's something that has been on our 'List Of Things To Do,' for a while now, getting our Wills written, so I said, 'YES! We'd love to take you up on your kind introductory offer of one hundred English pounds; please come and write our Wills,' which surprised her a bit because I don't think her sales pitch had been going down too well and business was slow. And thus we found ourselves sitting at our kitchen table on Tuesday evening opposite a large red-faced man who looked like he'd be meeting his Maker way before we would, and another man who looked scarily like John Bird, from the old TV show 'Bremner, Bird and Fortune,' who was there for 'quality control.'

'A bit like Ofsted?' I joked, when the Will Writer Chap explained the John-Bird-look-a-like chap's presence.
'Yes,' said the Will Writer Chap. 'Ahahahaha!'

And then he launched straight into a story about his mad Grandpa who was always losing his Will, or accidentally throwing it away with old gas bills, and I tried to reign in the light-hearted chit-chat because of the levity of the situation, and the fact Will Writer Chap was, after all, a sales-man and I'd be putting him off his script if I diverted from the topic too far.

It was all very simple really. The first part. The actual Will making stuff. Andy and I, using our limited  knowledged of what happens to your money after you've gone, and the general agreement  that we couldn't do much about it anyway because we'd be dead, had already decided on executors - our friend Sian and daughter Heather. This decision was made purely on the basis that they are sensible women and therefore more likely to 'get things done properly' and not stuff important paperwork behind the clock on the mantlepiece 'to deal with later after I've been to the pub.'

And we'd already decided, via a fairly simple mathematical equation based on the whole divided by 4 people, and apportioned fractionally according to age and distance, the splitting of our assets after we're both gone. Of course, our main plan is to spend it all as far as is possible, and let the next generation fend for themselves because it would be character-building, but, as Will Writing Chap said, 'We advise people to make their Wills as if they had died yesterday.'

What? I thought. Like 'can't sign it properly because we've gone all stiff?'

Other little things, like personal bequests (of which I have one) could be dealt with via a 'Letter of Wishes.' At least, I think that's what he called it. I remember it sounded like it ought to be in a Peter Pan story. This would be attached to the Will, and the executors would deal with it accordingly ie dish out the goods properly or I'd come back to get 'em with all the ghostly wrath I could muster!

'And what do you want after you've died?' said Will Writing Chap. And then he realised, by our puzzled looks, that he'd been rather vague with his question, and I was already thinking about eating as much Eton Mess and cheese on toast as I wanted without putting on weight. 'I mean,' he continued, 'do you want to be buried or cremated?'

I said, 'I want to be buried.' I am very sure on this matter. I can't be doing with heat. I want to go into one of those natural burial sites and have a tree stuck on top.

Andy said, 'I don't care.'

I thought, is now a good time to mention to Will Writing Chap that I'd already planned, if Andy goes first, to build his coffin out of Doctor Who DVDs and shoot him into a black hole via some kind of vortex? Haven't decided quite how I'm going to achieve this just yet but I'm sure if the situation arises there will be some company somewhere in the world who will offer this service and take the matter from my hands.

So I mentioned it. I felt we needed a bit of humour. And then, because the Will Writing Chap didn't have a box to tick for 'Don't care' or 'Via Doctor Who theme,' and was pressing for an answer, Andy said, 'Oh, I'll be buried, too.'
'Don't you go muscling in on my tree,' I said. 'Ahahahaha!'
'I'll get my own tree, thanks,' said Andy. 'Ahahahahaha!'

The Will Writer Chap ticked his boxes and remained unmoved. I could tell he was getting ready for his BIG SELL. I could see we'd had our Introductory Offer's worth and he was bracing himself for the commission-laden extras.

'So, the next thing to consider is what would happen if one of you needed to go into a care-home after one of you has died,' he began. 'You don't want the local authority to force you to sell your house for care costs and thus deprive your beneficiaries of their inheritance, do you?'

No I don't, I thought. Especially as I didn't vote for them and their enormous expenses allowance.
I know Andy was thinking, I don't care, I'll be senile at best and dead at the worst. Or vice versa.

I shut off at this point. And the point when he started talking about the importance of KNOWING WHERE YOUR WILL IS AT ALL TIMES, and MAKING REGULAR UPDATES and HELPING YOUR EXECUTORS MANAGE THE PROCESS OF PROBATE.

I re-engaged long enough to say, 'So how much are these optional extras going to cost?'

Will Maker Chap looked rather startled, that me, a mere woman, should be so alert to the subtlety of his sales-pitch at half-past nine in the evening.

He coughed. He said, 'Fivehundredandfifteenpoundsforthefirstoptionplusanotherninehundredandninetyfivepoundsforourlifetimecarepackage.'

So, I thought, you've come out here to schmooze us with your £100 Introductory Offer and you are now expecting us to part with an extra £1510 just like that?

I said, 'Thank you; we'll think about it,' which is Denise-speak for 'HA! You must be joking!'

He's calling tomorrow night to see if we are going to take up any of the extra services. He offered us 0% finance to spread the costs over a year. So he's not expecting us to pop our clogs soon, then.

And when our Wills arrive, I am going to deliberately hide them somewhere obscure and make sure a game of 'Hunt For Mad Gran's Will' is in the funeral wake celebrations.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Not to be Recommended Combinations

On looking out of my upstairs classroom window which has a fine view of the playground, I saw a squirrel remove a half-chewed Cheese String from a waste bin and, on trying to run off with it, was accosted by a pigeon. Squirrel and pigeon engaged in Cheese String tug-o-war. I can't imagine the gastronomic meeting of a Cheese String with the digestive system of either a squirrel or a pigeon is a recommended combination, but it was very funny to watch. The squirrel won.

On thinking, 'Hmmmm...raspberries and garlic? I wonder....' I am now able to confirm from personal experience that this is definitely a not-to-be-recommended combination.

On taking Kayleigh on an outing to a Home and Country Fayre yesterday and meeting a labrador-size stuffed toy dog pedalling a remote control tricycle that stopped in its pedalling to talk to small children, and Kayleigh's reaction being to squeal in terror and fret about 'the doggie on the bicycle' for the next half an hour - this is not a recommended combination. I don't think psychotherapy will be needed - a tub of strawberry icecream seemed to do the trick of calming the nerves.

On being asked 'You know the English exam next week? Is it a real one?' by a Year 11 from my bottom set after I have spent the last month wittering parrot-fashion 'Your GCSE exam is happening very soon....your GCSE exam is happening very soon....' perhaps me and teaching is fast becoming an unrecommended combination, for my sanity if nothing else. In response to the aforesaid question, I rolled my eyes (a lot), sighed (even more) and  refrained from shouting, 'YES IT IT YOUR REAL EXAM YOU MORON HOW MANY MORE TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?????' (but only just.)

On the recent theory of eating chocolate can equal weight loss - BAD COMBINATION. You'll remember I mentioned trialling this theory last month? Trust me, it's a stupid theory. But tasted nice whilst it lasted.

On Phoebe and Tybalt trying to share the snuggly den space in the bottom of their new cat house - not recommended unless you want a kitchen full of cat spit and fur.

On the connecting of human flesh with the metal of a blow torch after blow torch has been used for a good twenty minutes to clean off some bee-hive bits and bobs - unrecommended. Ask Andy, He'll tell you. He knows all about it. Blisters and all.

But one definitely recommended combination I DID discover yesterday at the Home and Country Fayre is Cheddar Cheese and Ginger! Lovely!!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Study On

Ooh, well, I've done it now. I've just signed up to start studying a Masters Degree in English Literature.
'Are you out of your tiny mind?' says Tybalt, who has new trousers, thanks to my Mum who is very handy with gusset expansion.
'Clearly,' I say. 'It's what is called 'Spring Fever'. It happens every year when you are a teacher. You finish with all the exam classes, half your students are set to go on study leave, the pressure is easing a little and you start thinking, 'Ooh, what can I do to put a little of that pressure back into my life?'
'You know what will happen, don't you?' says Tybalt.
'Yes,' I say. 'I'll skip happily through summer, and lull myself into a sense of false security by reading all the set texts, and then I'll start a new school year with all the pressures that entails, and by the time I start the Masters course at the end of September, I'll be an exhausted, nervous wreck with onset Seasonal Affected Disorder because Winter will be on the way and I'll think, 'You bloody moron! what made you think you could cope with all this AND  be a teacher??'
'That's generally how it goes,' sighs Tybalt.
'The Masters course?' says Pandora, who has brought her ball in for me to throw for her. When Pandora was a likkle ikkle kitten, we taught her to play fetch. It can be really annnoying sometimes. Like now.
'Yes,' I say, picking up her ball. 'The Masters course.'
'You're going to learn all about DALEKS??' says Pandora.
'Not that kind of Master,' I say and I chuck her ball down the stairs because it will take her marginally longer than 10 seconds to retrieve it and spit it back into my lap.

'So what did the school say?' says Tybalt, as Pandora disappears over the top stair and thunders after her ball.
'They said they would support my application for a partial bursary,' I say. 'And they say that if I don't get the bursary, they may be able to help out with the cost themselves.'
'That sounds hopeful,' says Tybalt. 'Would they assist me in a trip to Borneo to see the orang-utans?'
'No,' I say. 'And I'm not really holding my breath about any financial assistance because it all sounds very vague, this bursary/ work-related support. Best to bite the bullet and fund it myself.'
'And anything else is a bonus,' says Tybalt.
'Quite,' I say.

I have to say I was quite shocked when I looked at the fees. No, not quite shocked. VERY shocked. In fact, if I wasn't already seated, I might have had to have a bit of a sit down. But it seems that academic qualification doesn't come cheap these days, and I am really looking forward to getting stuck into some more 'proper' learning.

'Shooo,' says Pandora, 'jissh Massshters coursshhhh....'
'Will you spit that ball out,' I say. 'I can't understand a word you are saying.'
'Ptui!' says Pandora. 'Better?'
'Yes,' I say.
'What does it involve exactly?' says Pandora. 'Throw the ball when you're ready...'
'It involves a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of trying to get my head around literary theories. Oh, and a considerable amount of hanging around the new library in town.'
'I see,' says Pandora. 'And when you've finished the course, what do you get?'
'I get to put the  letters 'MA' after my name,' I say, which, now I've said it, doesn't sound a lot considering the money I'll be paying. I think, I ought to at least get a badge of some sort. A hat, even.

Pandora considers this news. 'And what does MA stand for?'
'Master of Arts,' I say.
'Did you say 'Arts' or 'Arse,' says Pandora.
'Shut up,' I say.
'And you're sure it's nothing to do with Daleks?' she adds.
'Positive,' I say. 'Fetch your ball.'

'I suppose,' says Tybalt, 'that once you've completed your Masters, you'll be thinking about a Doctorate.'
'Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves,' I say. 'Cor, imagine me - a Doctor!'
' A Doctor?' says Pandora. 'I knew it! It HAS got something to do with Daleks!'

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Phew Week

It's been one of those weeks when a lot of 'phewing' has been occuring. 'Phew' that the GCSE coursework has been gathered, moderated, checked, double checked, and sent off for another year. And 'phew' that the A level coursework has been dealt with likewise.

'Phew' too, that Andy liked his birthday present. For 'twas his birthday yesterday and I got him a day-as-a-baker advanced baking course experience for a pressie, and although I was initially very excited about it, I had last-minute reservations as I handed him the envelope. Luckily, he is very excited about doing the course, which will be in June, so that's all right then, and 'phew'!

There was a minor 'phew' over the final decision about tiles for the downstairs bathroom, too, because as regular readers will know, there was a bit of a kerfuffle regarding the tiles for the upstairs bathroom a few months ago, and quite frankly I didn't want to go through the whole malarkey again. But tiles have been found quickly and easily by the process of me giving very little thought to them - basically, skimming a few web-sites, typing in the words 'large', 'blue' and 'green', looking at the results and going 'they'll do.'

Another 'phew' has been regarding my mini-chaise. Firstly the fabric I wanted was out of stock. Did I want to wait until it came back into stock, said the supplier. Have you got the same design (floral - what else?) but in maybe purple or pink, said I. Purple we can do, said supplier. Go for it, said I. Well, I'd paid for it, and I wanted it, because when one is in possession of a huge sheepskin rug that one likes to sink one's bare toes into at the end of a busy day, one also requires to have a chaise to flollop on, and when one wants a flollop, one wants it now, not however many weeks down the line it takes to get a fresh stock of fabric.

The chaise is arriving on Tuesday. I shall report on the rate of flollop success thereafter.

I have pretty much also 99.99999999% recurring decided to sign up to do a Masters degree, too. I am trying to get my school to support me, but they are being a bit quiet on the subject even though I had another lesson observation this week with my mad bonkers Year 9s and the observer declared it (and I quote) ' be the most superb example of teaching he had seen in a very long time.' The head teacher was very complimentary when he found out and I nearly said to him, 'Well give me a permanent contract then, you swine!' but I didn't think it would be a prudent move at that point so I dropped a curtsey instead and ran off up the corridor blushing a bit.

Or it could have been a hot flush. Difficult to tell these days.

And this morning I got my best Auntie Pollie (hello, Auntie Pollie!!) a birthday gift, because next Sunday she is going to be 21 degrees celsius of age (I can't say what it is in Farenheit or she'll smack my legs, so you'll have to work that one out for yourselves...okay, she'll be 70....ouch!!) and I was very pleased with what I got, and I hope she likes it, but if she doesn't I have the receipt and exchanges can be made.

And the final 'phew' is that Andy has continued with his baking frenzy this week and NO MORE tea-towels have been set on fire!


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Moral Dilemma

Oh, but I am glad my membership to the Vegetarian Society has lapsed, for today I have committed a most heinous sin. A sin, if discovered by the bigwigs at the Society, that would have me expelled quicker than a greased pig through the greased hands of the competitors of a 'Catch the Greased Pig Jamboree' event.

No, I haven't eaten a bacon sandwich. No, I haven't inadvertently chewed on a jelly baby. And no, I haven't used the meat-frying pan to cook up a chilli con veggie.

I have purchased a...a...(oooh, I can barely admit it)...a....(c'mon, Denise...own up....)...a....


There! I've said it. I've done it. It is here, in all its glorious, deeply softly, snuggly warmthness, on the floor behind me. And it's not just a single rug. It's a double rug. It is bluey-grey. There are two very happy cats spread out on it, padding in the fleece which almost reaches their armpits....

'....leg pits,' says Tybalt. 'Cats don't have arms. We have legs.'
'I have arms,' says Pandora Kitten. 'If I didn't have arms I wouldn't be able to wear my pink sequin T-shirt, would I?'

Anyway, since I started decorating my arty-crafty writing room, I've had a vision of what I want it to look like. Pale pink walls. Slightly darker pink carpet. White floaty curtains. Shaker-style oak desk. Purple chaise longue. And in the midst of this vision floated a bluey-grey sheepskin rug.

I argued with my Conscience. My Conscience is called Scarlett Daisy, by the way. She's a bit of a mix. Sometimes she advises me goodly, sometimes she leads me so far astray it makes me cringe.
'I can't have a sheepskin rug!' I said. 'I am a vegetarian.'
'But it's the vision,' said Scarlett Daisy. 'You have to have one. The vision was sent. If you don't fulfil it, the Director of Vision Fulfilment will be very cross.'
'There's a Director of Vision Fulfilment?' I said.
'Yes,' said Scarlett Daisy. 'His name is Terry.'
I thought about this. 'Terry Vision?' I said.
'Yup!' said Scarlett Daisy. 'Patience as long as a very short piece of string.'

I have battled with this dilemma all week. Scarlett Daisy kept leading me to various on-line rug retailers whilst whispering 'Go on, no-one will know' in my ear. I tried to look at the 'faux sheepskin' sections. But they just didn't seem right.'

'It's a natural product,' said Scarlett Daisy. 'Not like that synthetic tat. Think of the production impact. Think of the planet. Think of the static you'll produce if you go faux.'
'But an animal has to die...' I said.
'It died for meat,' said Scarlett Daisy. 'Hundreds of people have chomped their way through bits of that animal. The skin is a by-product.'
'You'd be supporting the British economy. You're very keen on buying British products, aren't you?'
'Yes, but...'

But it was no good. The vision remained strong. Every time I shut my eyes, there is was. And when I went into town today to stock up on nuts, I passed a rug shop and there, hanging in the window, was a double bluey-grey sheepskin, and before I knew it Scarlett Daisy had pushed me into the shop and handed over my credit card and now here it is, behind me, on the floor, covered in cats.

And I love it.

I am at the mercy of the God of Hypocrisy. I am hoping I shall not be smite by a thunderbolt. Nor mowed down by a flock of crazed sheep in an act of instant karma. I have hugged the rug. I have said a 'thank you, bless you' prayer to the two little sheep who once lived inside the rug. I have assured them that they will be loved more through their legacy in death than when they were alive, knowing how badly a lot of sheep are treated these days. Especially as I heard on the news this morning that about 25% of animals killed for meat are no longer stunned unconscious before slaughter because of the requirements of some religions. That is bad. And I accept I may now be regarded as a two-faced veggie who might just as well roll out the roast beef tomorrow for lunch for all the good I have done for the welfare of animals on the planet today. And I know I am just making excuses for letting Scarlett Daisy win the battle.

I am sorry.

But oooh, it's a lovely rug...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Innovation and Enthusiasm

'Yeah, well, right,' began Ayesha, after I'd spent a gruelling hour trying to lever some Macbeth into some spectacularly resistant Year 10 brains. 'How do you know that Shakespeare was actually, like REAL?'

Oh good grief, I thought. I took a deep breath, but tried to make it look like I needed a deep breath rather than give away the fact it was really a deep breath of academic frustration.

'Because,' I said, 'you can go to Stratford-upon-Avon and see his baptism record and his grave.'
'Oh,' said Ayesha.
'Of course he's real, 'chipped in Rob. 'No imaginary person would have bothered to make up all that stuff, would they?'

What???? I thought.

I suspect Rob thinks Shakespeare is a hoax, too, but he is also deeply in love with Ayesha and shows his undying affection for her by baiting her as much as possible during lessons and disagreeing with everything she says.

'Why's he so annoying?' wailed Ayesha a couple of weeks ago after Rob had made some particularly scathing comment about her fake tan (well-brewed tea tone) and enormous fake eyelashes (two tarantula spiders scrabbling for safety).
'He loves you,' I said.
'Yuk!' squealed Ayesha. 'Eurgh, that's just GROSS!'

But I think she was secretly pleased.

Anyway, I had a particularly enjoyable day yesterday. I hadn't really had time to plan properly for my Year 9s as we are mid-coursework marking frenzy with Year 11 and 12, and I was thinking 'What the heck am I going to do with 28 14 year olds for two hours?' for yea verily I did have the pleasure of their company for that length of time and yea verily again it did fill mine heart with a cold and icy dread. For not only am I doing Macbeth with Year 10, I am doing Romeo and Juliet with Year 9, a play of which I am heartily sick, having spent the last few months teaching it eight times a week to two separate Year 11 groups.

Standing in my store cupboard and wondering if inspiration lay therein, I spotted two large cardboard boxes and two empty sweet tins (prizes my form won for being best attendance). Aha, thought I, we can make Elizabethan puppet theatres! I added some coloured cards and paper, glue sticks, scissors, did a demonstration of how to make a variety of finger puppets, told them to get into two teams and away they went!

100% of students focused and involved for 100% of the time! Luckily, two members of senior management happened to pass by during the session, and this morning I received a congratulatory e-mail praising my innovation, enthusiasm and all-round marvellousness. If only they knew, I thought.

By the afternoon, Year 10 were back for more Macbething. Rob was full of helpful suggestions like making Ayesha play the role of Lady Macbeth, but she wasn't having it.
'Tell you what, Rob,' said I. 'As you are so full of helpful suggestions, why don't you teach the rest of the lesson?'
'Can I? he said, suddenly looking very lively.
'Yes,' I said. 'I'll sit up the back in the horizontal position, on my mobile phone and pretend to be you.'

Now Rob, although only 15, is well over six feet tall, and is living proof that smoking does not stunt your growth. So he rose to the challenge, striding forward and telling everyone to shut up and do as he told them. I slouched to the back of the class, but not before retrieving my phone from my bag and switching it on.

'Right,' said Rob, 'we're going to carry on reading Act 3 scene 1...'
A text came through on my mobile, making a satisfying 'chirrup.'
'Put your phone away,' snapped Rob.
'No,' I said. 'It's my husband. He's sent me a text.'
'Give me your phone,' said Rob.
'Nooo!' I screeched. 'You can't make me. You can't touch me! I know my rights.'
Rob seemed flummoxed, but backed off, leaving me to balance my phone on my knee and read the text in a surreptitious way.

The other kids thought this is all very hilarious.
'Well, if she's on her phone, I'm going to use mine,' said Ayesha, which is odd because she'd never needed an excuse to use it in class before.
Rob moved bravely on. He strode around the class, giving commands and stomping loudly because, he said, that is what teachers do. Stomp.

'Shut up!' said Rob.
'But it IS!' I protested. 'I can't read this.'
'Shut up or go out,' said Rob.

By now I was into my stride. My classmates were agog with excitement and joy.

'You can't tell me to shut up!' I screeched.
'Go and stand in the corridor!' shouted Rob. 'Go on! You are causing a disruption!'

So up I stood, and, as I flouncded...yes, flounced from the classroom, I put out my hand and swept an exercise book onto the floor in my best stroppy and theatrical manner. Ooooh, it was all very liberating!

My classroom assistant was joining in. 'I've just farted!' she announced loudly.

Banished to the corridor I skipped up and down and pulled faces through the open door until Rob, who by this time had sent two more students out to join me, shut the door in our faces. He didn't look very happy, bless him.

He lasted 15 minutes.

He opened the door. 'I think you'd better come back and finish the lesson,' he said. 'I need a sit down.'

And the last half an hour was spent in studious application of brain cells to the joys of Shakespeare's verse.

But I'm quite glad senior management didn't see THAT display of innovation and enthusiasm!