Thursday, December 28, 2006

Back Home...

Just for a few days, at least. I love Christmas, I love seeing my family, I'd love to see more of family friends that live near my parents, but I can't deny how great it feels to be back in my own bed. I sleep badly enough as it is - add a bed that is much narrower than our own and it's a recipe for me and Mr Grumpy to really fall out. (Well, he falls out, I've got my nose pressed against the wall...)

Following several blog links through (as you do), I stumbled across Library Thing, an on-line cataloging system. I've listed some books I've read during the last year or so down the side. Eclectic mix, isn't it? But then, that's me all over. If you think this combination's weird, don't look on my iPod.

We are away again at the weekend, so if I don't get the chance to, Happy New Year to you!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It worked!

Hats off to Nigella!

The turkey was lovely and moist, the cranberry sauce was tart, the maple roasted parsnips were beautiful (and I don't like parsnips!) and the stuffing was lovely (although very citrussy and no taste of gingerbread - next time I won't put as much clementine zest in).

Was so replete, couldn't blog for 48 hours!

Have now travelled to my parents', complete with a well-developed throat/ear infection - don't know which, but both hurt. Ah well, you can tell it's the holidays!

Merry Christmas everyone, may you all get what you wish for.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Preparations

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I am not a "girly" girl.

Neither am I Susie Homemaker. Life is too damn short to stuff a mushroom.

But this year...

I've come over all Nigella.

I have spent the best part of 2 hours scouring Northwich for cloves (not a sniff - good job I have half a jiffy bag of the little blighters left over from a Tudor history project c.1999 that still have a strong aroma. Thank you Cathy at Schwartz, for your overwhelming generosity - 7 years later and I still haven't found the bottom of the bag), star anise and whole allspice(finally tracked down in the Health food shop), maple syrup (last bottle retreived from the back of a 6 ft high, 4 ft deep shelf by a gangly youth at Sainsbury's), chestnuts (scraped from the bottom of the last basket at Tesco) and semolina (none left at all anywhere). Anyone who knows Northwich will know that 2 hours usually gives you a chance to explore every nook and cranny, so it's a sign of how far the fragrant Nigella has invaded our consciousness this Christmas.

Saying that, I've just made my own cranberry sauce and it took no time at all. No, really... by the time I'd got the packet of mince pies open, they were ready to pour into a bowl!

I also have everything I need for the gingerbread stuffing and a brand new bucket to give the turkey its spicy brine bath tonight, in readiness for our own Christmas dinner tomorrow (we always have one on our own before we set out visiting).

Now if only I could look as gorgeous as Nigella in my dressing gown, I'll have cracked it. I'm not sure blue toweling covered in cat hair quite creates the impression I'm after, but heigh-ho...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One More Get Up!

And then it's the holidays!!!!!

Friday was the Carol Service in church, with the whole school attending - 240 children walking through pouring rain - nice...

Yesterday was the panto and the party - no profesional disco this year, so no need for L and I to have half of the Infants playing Dead Lions to help calm them down, thank goodness!

Today was Christmas dinner, a slightly raucous affair, with an extended playtime. Staff also got their Secret Santa pressies. Mine was BRILL - a note-pad and pen, a packet of instant latte and, best of all, an earthenware mug wide enough to dunk biscuits in (there's nothing worse than a wedged Rich Tea swivelling on the brim of your mug as the bottom disintegrates) with a special shelf underneath it to stash several biscuits safely while I eat the first one. Top banana! Thank you, Secret Santa!

Tomorrow finishes with a candlelit service in the hall, which sounds like a lovely end to the term...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's all over!

Well, after some last minute changes first thing on Monday morning, the Christmas productions have been and gone - hurrah!

I think the changes foxed some of the children, but the parents loved it, which is all that really matters!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dress Rehearsal Update

Well, J, S and I all thought it went okay. The only problem was a missing Wise Man (a new baby brother born at 6 o'clock that morning) who stands slightly in front of the one who has now decided in full costume that he won't sing or dance when he's on the stage. That and the fact that he and the other one kept taking their crowns off on stage. Grr.

However, I was then told that all 75 of them looked like they were going to a funeral because they weren't smiling, they needed to sing up, Mary was hiding behind her headress and a lot of them they needed to speak up because they couldn't be heard.

I do keep trying to tell people that the performing arts aren't my thing (good at appreciation, no talent whatsoever), but no one seems to be listening...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gibbering Wreck

That's me, that is.

My head is permanently aching at the moment and I've developed a twitching eyelid that just won't keep still. I crawl home shattered, collapsing on the sofa and sleeping instead of doing my marking, but then lie awake half the night staring at the ceiling, with songs running through my head.

Deep joy.

There are a number of reasons, but the major one is probably the one that causes most Infant teachers to become faintly homicidal when faced with tinsel, a tea-towel and a grubby child-sized toweling dressing gown.

The Christmas Production.

Tomorrow is the dress rehearsal in front of the rest of the school, and we're nowhere near ready. It's not a total disaster - they know the songs, they know their words (well, most of them do, anyway), it's just that they can't remember when to stand up or move around. Joseph keeps turning his back on the audience. The kindly innkeeper has clean forgotten his words and now clutches a "Welcome to Bethlehem" visitors' guide with his words pasted on them. The donkey forgets to go on the stage. The angel choir have learnt their song beautifully (and the little Y1 angels have learnt a dance at very short notice) but they haven't learnt their cue, so there is an undignified scramble to get on the stage and deliver God's message to the shepherds. Herod is trying to set the world record for Fastest Delivery of Two Lines. One Wise Man works on his own timescale, so the camels keep setting off to travel around the hall without him. When the shepherds and the Wise Men arrive at the stable at the same time (I know, I know, but for this production they just DO), the shepherds keep having an argy-bargy as they try to get back on the stage (is there such a thing as an Alpha Shepherd?) Meanwhile, their sheep keep wondering past their masking tape line in front of the stage and getting mixed up with the Wise Men's camels, which wouldn't be a problem if they weren't supposed to be facing each other, singing a song to each other about how they are different.

And then half of my Year 2s told me confidently they didn't need another rehearsal, they were pretty good...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Children's work

After some discussion with a reader who contacted me about how I embedded Hedgehog's Breakfast (v easy BTW - follow the oh-so-easy upload procedure on YouTube then just copy the embedding code in) I spent a little bit of time looking at the work they have been doing with the Digiblue with children. It's great! Check out the work on White Oak Primary School's website.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rehearsals haven't started yet

...and we've already hit the slightly sticky point of the Virgin Mary having the collywobbles. She's "very proud to have been chosen", her mother tells me, but has balked at the idea of standing in the centre of the stage with everyone looking at her.

Back to the drawing board, then...

Do you think this ever happens to Trevor Nunn?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

T -15 days and counting

At half term, I posted a little about the Infant Christmas Production. Well, it's now two weeks tomorrow until the first full performance - we've been learning the songs but things are beginning to get a bit hectic.

In the end, I squeezed about 27 speaking parts out of it. Two boys who will either miss the rehearsals or miss the main performances due to holidays are in the percussion band and the remaining girls are in seventh heaven as part of the Angel Choir. However, now I think I should have given the children their words to learn before this week, since the rehearsals start next Friday (dress rehearsals 8th Dec). I know the Head thinks Infant productions shouldn't be over rehearsed, but perhaps I've taken that too literally.

But I have other worries.

My Angel Choir are mutinous since I won't let them wear wings - our parents are lovely but can suffer greatly from "wing envy" and they are likely to try to produce the biggest wings possible if they get have a chance.

I have a Wise Man who would much rather be Herod and had told his Dad he would be Herod. He tells me Dad has made him a wooden knife and a wooden sword to enable him to kill the babies (I kid you not) and having consigned himself to being a mere Wise Man has kindly offered Herod the knife ("I'll need the sword myself, you see. A King needs a sword"). Can't wait to deal with that one when the costume comes in.

Several Narrators have the hump at being asked to dress as angels or shepherds because they would rather wear their party clothes - I found myself in a reasonably heated debate with one little cherub who was finally silenced when I told her in no uncertain terms that in our version, the angels would wear white, not pink, whether her mother was ironing that best frock right at this moment (as said cherub claimed) or not.

To top it all, there is a small contingent who can't understand why L, who taught them last year, won't let them have Anna (who would be 3 weeks old by the time of the production) as the Baby Jesus...

Balance that however, with the lullaby they sang so beautifully this week that they had me in tears...

I love my job!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christmas Shopping...

This time every year I travel down south to hit Milton Keynes on a Christmas Shopping weekend with my mother. I go with a large wad of dosh saved up during the year and try to get as many presents as possible.

This year I got precisely... none.



Yikes!! I had NO inspiration! This means I will have to fight my way round the Trafford Centre, Cheshire Oaks or Manchester sometime around December and I will probably still have NO inspiration then, either.

There is a strong case this year for going to PresentAid or Oxfam Unwrapped for the family presents. Sadly, although I think this is an amazing gesture and would be more than happy to receive a gift like this from people, I suspect that some of them would be rather non-plussed... and some might think I was trying to say something in particular if I got them a goat or a bag of fertiliser. Hey ho...

On a much happier note, L had her baby yesterday. Hurrah! Welcome to the world, Anna!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Normal Service Has Resumed...

The self-pity has been put back in the box, the tears have been dried, and life is as was.

Which is to say, hectic. Obviously.

Friday, November 10, 2006


John Barrowman is gay.


And to finish it off...

A has just walked in with a bunch of flowers to cheer me up.

Cue the tears...

Feeling Low

It seems odd to follow an "upbeat" post almost immediately with one called "Feeling Low", but I do. The trip was great, but the surrounding paperwork (even when they have done the risk assessment) is mindblowing. It's the medical forms that get me - the parents don't feel the need to let you know when the child first moved to the school that they have an allergy to several different foods including peanuts - Eek! Is the child anaphylactic? Should they have an epipen?. They leave it to the medical form, but then don't fill it in completely (see note on epipen) Grrr.

Of course, the aftermath of the trip involved total brain meltdown on my part. I've spent the whole day (and half the night) beforehand trying to second guess every possible thing that could go wrong (Do we have enough pencils? What if one of my parental helpers can't come and there's no other CRB checked volunteer available? What if one of the two relatively new boys takes it into their head to wander off? etc etc). I think back of the days 10 years ago when a bus full of us rolled up to the zoo and disgorged two classes full of Y3/4 pupils. Everyone went off with their helper and I waved them off with a cheery "See you back here at 2 o'clock!" (Because of course, none of our parents could ever be a child-molester, could they?) Very different from these days where there has to be a member of school staff with the children at all times. We were too blase in the past, but it does make it very tricky when one child needs an extra loo stop...

On top of the post-trip slump, I'm worried about a whole set of family and friends who for various reasons are not well, stressed out or going through a bereavement and then to top it all, a comment this morning after a writing moderation exercise has just made me feel like a failure. I'm trying so hard to keep on top of hearing my readers and identifying maths problems and keeping up with the assessments and marking with any degree of quality and trying to give the kids a new set of targets that I feel like I'm failing my kids in regards to moving their writing on. I've told you before, dear reader, of the highs of teaching. These, then, are the lows (or at least the lows of those teachers like me whose self-esteem can be wobbly). Trying to keep up with everything at the moment is a bit like trying to rollerskate up the Gladiators' Travelator and I haven't even addressed what needs to be done for my curriculum co-ordination role. I really miss L, she could always help me see the funny side and shore up my self-confidence at times like this.

Stephen Fry recently talked about how he self-medicated his bi-polar disorder with cocaine. In this spirit, I am off to self-medicate my Friday Despondancy with a bar of Toblerone and a bottle of White Zinfandel.

Walker Art Gallery

Yesterday, I went to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool with 75 Year 1 and 2 children and we had a whale of a time! I've never visited an art gallery with children of any age, let alone Infants, so was interested to see how they took it. We split up into 4 groups (17-20) in each group to visit the Gallery itself, following some of their orientation trails, and looking in detail at 3 pictures. It was following up work we'd been doing on portraits, so it was great. The other part of the visit involved going to Big Art for Little Artists, which I would heartily recommend visiting with young children. They loved dressing up as some of the people they had seen in the portraits earlier in the day.

If you are in the North West, the Walker is a great resource. It's free and they do lots of INSET sessions that allow you to get more out of specific pictures when you lead your own group round. Get there if you can!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hedgehog's Breakfast

Back in June, we had an INSET during a staff meeting on how to use the DigiBlue, a simple video camera designed for use by children. It was led by Y, another former colleague of mine from the Advisory Service, so it was good to catch up with her. During the staff meeting, I worked with a group to make a short film using Stop-Go animation techniques. The DigiBlue was connected to Y's laptop, so I didn't have a copy, but last week she sent me one, so I thought I'd load it up here - you know, just to add to the image that we teachers just doss about after the children have gone home...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hangin' on the Telephone

"Where are you?"

"Still on the M6, why?"

"I don't feel great, can you get me something nice on the way home?"

"Might do, but I'm not speaking to you at the moment."

"Why not?"

"I'm going backwards! I checked the Fantasy Football League and I've now dropped below 260,000th, while you've broken into the top 40,000. I don't understand why..."

"Oh love I'm so sorry..."


"I think I've found out why you're not doing as well as you think you should be in the Footie."


"Well, you know when you made your first transfers at the beginning of September?"


"And you transfered Andy Johnson in?"


"Well, you didn't."

"Didn't what?"

"Transfer Johnson in."

"I did!"

"No, you didn't. I've just found your team's history. You started with Shevchenko, Bellamy and Ashton, then swapped Ashton for Saha in September. Last week you swapped Shevchenko and Bellamy for Drogba and McCarthy. You've never had Johnson in your squad."

"No, I have, I did, I transfered him in in September..." silence "... oh no, it must have been when I tried to transfer too many players - you have to confirm the transfers... I mustn't have clicked on Confirm... Noooooooooo!"

Phone goes dead.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fantasy Football Update

I haven't mentioned Fantasy Football for a while. Not because I'm doing badly, you understand, but out of sensitivity for A's feelings. Over the last few weeks, he has languished at around the same point, and is currently 259,147th with 183 points. I, on the other hand, have risen to the heady heights of 45,884th with 303 points. I am now beating Alan Hanson (291 points, 69,290th place) and Richard Branson (296 points and 58,924th place)

Largely I think this may be due to my (no longer misplaced) faith in Thierry Henry. A hooted with laughter at the start of the season (since Henry was playing with all the finesse of a three-legged donkey). "That'll teach you to pick players just 'cos you fancy them", he jeered. Now however, he is the second highest point scoring striker with 54 points. Only Everton's Johnson (on A's team) beats him, with 57 points - the rest are miles behind.

Smug? Me? Whatever makes you think that?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


That was a bit of a rant, wasn't it? Sorry about that, it wasn't meant to be really, I just hadn't realised how much I thought the Government has got this a**e about t*t. Those of you who, like me are actually interested in this subject would do well to keep an eye on Primary Teacher UK and this entry in particular.


I attended a Primary Modern foreign Languages course on Friday - most interesting. I went because the HT couldn't attend, having broken her foot, but I do wonder if PMFL may end up being my bag as well as maths since I seem to be (semi) enthusiastic about languages. During the brief discussion on PMFL regarding what we would declare as our language of choice, the other staff's combined responses were to look at their feet and not catch anyone's eye. I've trotted my French out for three weekends in Paris in the last 20 years - I've got by, but I'd hardly say I'm a whizz...

Don't get me wrong, I think the perceived English attitude to foreign languages (say it again, more slowly and louder but still in English, accompanied by a bit of hand-waving) is poor, to say the least. Relatives of A moved to Spain a number of years ago to buy a bar. They have since sold it, but still live out there and as far as I'm aware have made no effort whatsoever to learn the language. This just makes me die inside. I also think that to make it easier for our children to learn a language, leaving it to 11 is leaving it too late.

However I am concerned by the mixed messages given by the Government. I quote from the Standards site:

The centrepiece of the National Languages Strategy - Languages for All Languages for Life - is our commitment to give every child between the ages of 7 and 11 the entitlement to learn a new language. This marks a fundamental shift in our approach to language learning in this country and, by 2010 will transform the shape of language learning in our schools.


But it's not really followed through, is it? This comes from a QCA document published in 2004:

From September 2004, modern foreign languages (MFL) will no longer be a compulsory national curriculum subject, but will become one of the entitlement areas that all schools must offer within their key stage 4 curriculum. The new requirements are intended not to discourage students from studying MFL, but to provide greater flexibility and choice for learners.

And thereby lies the crux - it might not be discouraging students from studying MFL to exam standard, but it sure as hell isn't encouraging them to, either.

Maybe I'm being a cynic - perhaps if we engender a sense that languages are fun in primary, the students will carry it on through KS3 and KS4. But all I can see is that we have to shoe-horn in another subject - one that challenges music for making non-specialist teachers feel vulnerable - while our secondary colleagues work out who to make redundant in ever diminishing departments.

And then cap it all with this bit of gossip I picked up on the course. Over half of the primaries in our authority have made a start on rolling PMFL out in Y3 and some have actually been doing it for a number of years. Pupils are arriving at one high school in the authority with a grounding in Spanish - they can't just recite numbers, colours and body parts, they can have conversations, which is surely the aim of any language? Is the high school happy? Is it buffalo. It's thrown a strop because this part of the intake already knows what would be covered in Year 7 and part of Year 8 and it therefore is "having to teach them another language".

God forbid they should put those kids into a set and adapt the curriculum to take their Spanish on...

The Joys of October Half-term

As well as just trying to get the planning for next half term sorted out (half done but not yet complete), one of the joys of October half-term is planning the Chritmas production. I've found a nice Sheila Wilson prodution (Rock the Baby) that has 16 named characters including narrators. Somehow I have to convert this so there are speaking parts for all 42 Year 2 pupils...

As well as that I need to work out how I can fit 76 children dressed as nativity characters, sheep, stars, etc into a performing space little larger than that taken up by a Mini Cooper...

Oh the joys of Infant teaching...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Useful Resources

Conscious that the tagline of this blog proclaims that it is the ramblings of a teacher, I thought I'd just include a nice site I stumbled over via Little Miss Teacher. The Nicola Flanagan site has nice number cards and dominoes for printing out and laminating - and they are all free! (Can't be bad).

TOGs United

People who know me well have already realised that I am terminally bewildered and therefore well qualified to be a TOG. I find myself shrieking "Is it me?" at the drop of a hat, regularly get fed up with hearing teenagers moan ("They don't know they're born") and even yesterday responded to an enquiry about my health with "Mustn't grumble". The holidays are normally a blissful time when I can chuckle along with Terry for the full two hours, but today is tinged with sadness after the death at the weekend of Paul Walters, the show's producer.

TOGS the world over are united in mourning the Mid-Herts Maestro. RIP Dr Wally.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

You have to watch this!

Last night I caught a bit of Graham Norton before crawling off to bed. He showed a clip of a panda cub which is so cool, you have to watch it!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dog's Dinners and Dad-Dancing

I have been admonished by a reader for not updating my blog. Abject apologies, but time has run away with me (again).

Actually, it doesn't feel like much has happened since my last entry - it's been a round of keeping up with hearing readers (always a challenge) and trying to get ahead of myself in terms of planning for next half term (failed again).

In between it all though, I went to a Virgin Vie party and a joint 40th/wedding party in a barn.

The Virgin Vie party was interesting... K invited me along and I was rather ashamed to find that the 9 women there who were complaining that now they had children they had no social life or time to themselves were far more social and infinitely better groomed than I. With hand on heart I do have to say that I felt like a dog's dinner tied up in a potato sack next to them all. K has a similar outlook to me regarding girlie thigs like make-up (yeah, would be nice, look great with it on but it's just not worth the additional 40 minutes required in the morning) but she is slender and therefore looks good in pretty much anything, including tracksuit and motorbike leathers. Me on the other hand...

Ah well. Got some smashing nail varnish though.

The following night was a party in a barn complete with doors coming off their hinges, naff carpet to trip on and a hog roast. One of my cousins went to Sri Lanka in August to get married (half-way between UK and NZ where her husband comes from, so siblings from both sides could attend) and the party was on her 40th to celebrate the two events. She was wearing her wedding dress (always easy to maneovere strappy sandals and a full train around a farm yard I find) and having a high old time. The band were great, although a little loud and it was good to see a load of my Dad's family again.

During the evening I spotted my one of my cousins dancing on the other side of the barn. Now, he's only 9 years older than me, so I don't think he's that old. After all, in my head I'm still only 17, so that would make him 26, a mere spring chicken. But then I realised something horrific was happening. He was having a whale of a time - Dad-dancing! After pointing it out to A and having a chuckle, I was then mortified to realise that I was dancing in a similar fashion, but not actually moving my feet...

So there you go. Consider the evidence:

1. I obtain deep satisfaction from pulling dandelions up with tap root intact;
2. I have my osteopath on speed-dial;
3. The best way to spend Friday night is with a Chinese take away and Gardeners' World;
4. I dance like somebody's Mum.

I am now offically middle-aged.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

... and how to break them.

I'm not a great one for New Year's Resolutions in January, partly I suspect because I don't like being the same as everyone else (baaa!! Who am I trying to kid?) Anyway, I tend to leave them for September, for obvious reasons. This year, I decided I was fed up of being frazzled of a Sunday evening and I would do my damnedest to have my planning in to the Head on a Friday morning so as to reclaim my weekends. Last week I got a text from Phil (who we met on our holiday), asking about the usual Sunday night ritual, to which I smugly replied that all my planning was in, thank you very much and I was sitting down getting ready for Jane Eyre.

Oh, pride comes before a fall...

An extra staff-meeting for training, coupled with coming home Thursday night without my memory stick (I could have cried with frustration) has put the kybosh on my good intentions well and truly. So here I am, cursing myself and still wasting time by blogging instead of planning my guided writing...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lovely Smells


Today, a former colleague of mine from the Education Advisory Service came in to lead a follow up staff meeting on Challenging the More Able. There was a lot of focus on ways to promote higher order thinking, based on Bloom's Taxonomy, plus a consideration of other tools and techniques such as Philosophy for Children and De Bono's Thinking Hats. It was a refresher of what we looked at in April (remember the Pigs?) and she lead us through a review by way of a game of Bingo.

Right near the end, I managed a line and had a root around in her bag of prizes, pulling out some shower gel and a pair of "Funky Dice" - leopard print fake fur dice (although they have no spots, so they're cubes really) that are actually car air fresheners. I got really excited for about 5 minutes, until I realised how overpowering the perfume was. I don't have those horrible cardboard pine trees for exactly that reason.

However, never having had a pair of fluffy dice (or similar), and being obsessed with leopard print (Jackie Collins eat your heart out) I duly rigged them up in the car - after all, they are really quite small.

Small, but unfortunately, not discrete in the scent department.

After driving 18 miles with both front windows down, they were still making me feel naseous, so are currently hanging from the back door, putting the cats off their tea.

Ho hum.

Huff Personified

Here is Lil Cat, demonstrating her oh-so-helpful pose whenever I need to get to work on the computer...

The body language says it all...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Experiences

I'm always one for new experiences (and indeed, repeats of previously enjoyed ones). Yesterday involved both, combining a trip to the theatre, a plateful of raw lamb mince and Gordon Brown.


A and I haven't seen our friends V & C for far too long, so we arranged to go to see the fabulous Lip Service at the Quays Theatre at The Lowry. We've seen them a couple of times before, and they are hilarious. Yesterday, it was Withering Looks, their quirky look at the lives of the Brontes. Tears streaming and howls of laughter can be generated simply by a look from Maggie. She has one of the most expressive faces in theatre. If you get a chance to see them, do so, even if you have to haul yourself to Buxton Opera House (which is a lovely venue). You won't regret it.

Anyway, we started with the matinee there, then made our way back into Manchester. That was tricky enough, as the metro wasn't running all the way through due to a Peace/Anti-War demo timed to coincide with the start of the Labour Party conference. Seeing the assorted banners of the Socialist Workers, Communists and Stop the War Coalition branches from various London Boroughs managed to rattle A (aka to V, C and myself as Tory Boy) "Don't they have better things to do with their Saturdays?" he fumed, much to our glee. V, C and I are all left of A to a greater or lesser extent, so took great delight in goading him throughout our post-show drinking - much to his chagrin as he sipped his water glumly (I did suggest the train, but that's too green an option for Tory Boy - ever heard Fatima Mansions' Only Losers Take the Bus? I'm sure it was written with him in mind...)

Anyway, as well as the disruption to the metro, all around G-Mex was cordoned off in readiness for the Conference. Concrete road blocks mean it's difficult for vehicles to travel around the G-Mex/St Peter's Square/Peter Street area and therefore it was very easy to continue walking into town from the Briton's Protection - no dodging traffic, only protesters drifting off to the pub...

We hadn't got far from the pub though when we saw a convoy of vehicles approach G-Mex. They had to grind to a halt though, since the drivers didn't have a clue how to get to the Midland Hotel now the front of it was actually fenced off... leaving the Rt Hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer rather exposed as his Landrover Discovery sat impatiently behind the leading car. Oh for a bag of tomatoes (or failing that my camera...)

So that's covered the theatre trip and Gordon. What about the raw lamb mince? Well, since I'd organised the theatre, V & C organised the meal at the Cedar Tree, a Lebanese restaurant near Afflecks Palace. It looks a hole, but the food is fab! They also allow you to bring your own wine, so sadly V, C & I got progressively more tiddled and I was pretty blotto by 8.30. I am SOOO out of practice!

We had about 9 starters beteen us, then 2 main meals. It's loads of things I love, like grilled chicken, lamb, hummus, tabuleh, broadbeans, halloumi - gorgeous! The raw lamb mince had been marinaded in some spices and did have a nice flavour, but I think my favourite starters were the baby stuffed aubergine and the stuffed vine leaves. Yummy! The desserts are ace as well, but very sweet - lots of honey and nuts. The baklava was the best I've had in the UK. We ordered coffee too, which came as a shock to A, since you could almost slice it with a knife and it was heavily flavoured with cardamom. Sounds disgusting, and the first sip tasted it too, but then, after I'd eaten the sweet, it really worked, honest. It cut through the sweetness and really cleansed your mouth. Since A can't stand cardamom though, he pulled the kind of face that you normally see when a toddler eats brussels sprouts.

Poor lamb...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The march of time...

A returned from the States yesterday, slightly jetlagged. Today he popped in to the pharmacy to pick up this month's blood pressure medication, only to discover they had pinned a note to it: don't forget your flu' jab. I know he looks bleary-eyed, but certainly not that old...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fancy a pint?

As A has been away, I obviously haven't been getting through as much milk as usual, so every few days I stick a note out cancelling that day's pint. Last night, after seeing 2 ½ pints in the fridge, I decided I could cancel both pints that were due to come today (Wednesday is his day off). After writing a hasty note (No milk, today, please), I realised that A will be home about 9am on Wednesday and he'll probably want some for tea or coffee through the day. Thus I changed the note: One pint today please.

Imagine my joy at going out to collect three pints this morning.

I'm off to make like Cleopatra...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Musings on the M40

I nipped to see Mum and Dad today (there's nothing sadder than a Sunday roast for one and Dad makes ace gravy) and on the way back I saw 4 hot air balloons. That got me thinking about riding in a hot air balloon - someting I'd love to do. I remember a list I wrote when I was a teenager, of all the things I'd like to do in the future. I think I actually stipulated that I had to do them before 30, but then I suspect that as a young teenager, "30" might as well have been "dead".

Ah, the folly of youth. If I'd known then, what I know now, blah blah blah...

Anyway, this list. I'm not sure if I've remembered them all, but these are the ones I can recall:

Fly in a hot air balloon (not yet)

Do a parachute jump (tick: 19 years ago next week)

Get a degree (tick: 1991)

Walk along the Great Wall of China (not yet)

Visit Ayers Rock (ditto)

Visit Hong Kong before it's handed back to China (mmm - left that one too late!)

Fly a plane (this one was a bit of a no-brainer really, since I was counting down the days until I joined the air cadets at school!)

Go gliding (yep, see above, although I gave up my place for getting my glider wings since it was the week before my A levels. What's that smell? Oh yes, the whiff of burning martyr...)

Fly a helicopter (well, does a ride in a Sea King after cleaning it count?)

Rollerskate from Land's End to John O'Groats (that is SO not going to happen. One has to ask why?!)

Own a python (gone off this one now - too much specialist care needed...)

Rather eclectic, really. And it's rather sad to see that I've only knocked a few off the list!

The only consolation is that I have done things I'd never thought of at that time, such as walk from one side of the country to the other, record a song at Abbey Road for the B-side of a number 9 hit, walk across a live volcano and see a solar eclipse (even if it was overcast)

So... where's that number for the hot air ballooon company?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

He shoots...he scores!

10 days ago, A transfered Dean Ashton for Andrew Johnson into his Fantasy football Team. Johnson scored 2 goals for Everton last week and another one today. At the same time, I got rid of Solskjaer and brought on Kanu, who's given Portsmouth a cracking start to the season. Needless to say, he's not scored a goal since...
Let's hope the big games tomorrow garner me some points!

Au Revoir ... and Goodbye

So it's au revoir to L, who went on maternity yesterday. We started at the same time last September. How will I cope without her? She is my Key Stage 1 and Literacy bible!! Good job I have her email address ;-)

And it's goodbye to Raymond Baxter*. I don't really associate him with Tomorrow's World; to me he was, and always will be, the voice of Farnborough Air Show. What a lovely voice he had. I didn't realise until today that he'd been a Spitfire pilot in WWII.

*I can hear A now,on the other side of the Atlantic: "I didn't realise he was still alive..."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Repossession Averted

Faithful readers who have been worrying about my financial trauma of yesterday can rest assured - I got to the petrol station within the 24 hour period and will not now be receiving a visit from a big burly bloke called Dave. Phew.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How to avoid excrutiating embarrassment...

Realise you don't have your purse before filling your car with £37.25 worth of unleaded.

Nuff said.

Fantasy Football (again)

In our house there was a flurry of transfer activity last week, as A jettisoned a lot of dross from his team (I also had a little reshuffle). Both of us benefitted as we've scored a few more points this week than we would have done from our starting XI. however, I'm still ahead, with 102 points to A's 59. Sorry love! If it's any consolation, though, he has climbed to 231,898th in the league, whilst I've dropped to 108,627th!


Yesterday morning I got up to find the cat had knocked an envelope of the dining table, where A had left the superfluous contents of his laptop case before leaving for the US. I picked it up to find it had over $200 in beautiful crisp notes. Duh...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Alone Again Or

So A has jetted off to the States again this morning. No shopping trips for me this time though, just straight off to work after a quick sprint to the airport.

Am I worried that he's flying out on 9/11? Not as worried as I am about him getting behind a wheel for the first time ever abroad. If he manages to keep to 55 mph on the interstate, I will be gobsmacked...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Love My Job

It's just occured to me that the little spiel about me that's on my profile makes me sound like a sad old git wondering why I'm in teaching. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, although I wish I had the energy I had 10 years ago when I first started teaching. Last year was the first year I had taught infants and I didn't get it right straight away. This year I have Year 2 again, and I've got a smashing class. I use Sousa's Liberty March as tidying-up music and last year, I usually had to play it through twice. So far, in the first 4 days of term, 5 times that I've put it on, the classroom is spotless and all 28 children are on the carpet before the track has finished! Thank you, L and G, I have inherited what could be my dream Y2 class!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Done it. First day's over and I haven't killed any of them...

Monday, September 04, 2006


The kids are back in tomorrow, I'm not ready and the cat keeps sitting on my papers with her tail dangling over the keyboard!


Where's my anorak?

Heck, that last post was a little detailed, wasn't it?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Morris Masterclass

Haven't sorted out the root problem, but have circumvented it for now! So, as promised, here are some photos and clips from Towersey Festival, and a brief bit of explanation.

This is Gog Magog Molly, molly dancers from Cambridge.

Molly dancing is a form of traditional dancing from the fens, with a very distinctive style of step and clothing. It's believed it was danced by the ploughboys in the winter, going up to the big house to earn some money. I do have a deep love of folk dancing and would dearly love to be involved in some way. Due to my dreadful co-ordination, A believes I would have to undergo an inspection by Health & Safety before I was allowed to dance waving a wooden stick around. The video gives some idea of the molly dance style:

Sorted! I turned to A and asked him if he'd cope if I was seen in an outfit similar to the colourful ones on display. He then pointed out to me that I could rustle up a suitably garish unco-ordinating outfit and ridiculous hat quite easily out of the clothes I have lurking in the back of my wardrobe. Thanks for that...

This is Dogrose Morris from Yorkshire. They dance in the Cotswold style, which is the style most people think of when they think of Morris dancing (all in white with bells and baldrics). They leap higher than any Morris dancers I've ever seen, but they are a lot younger than most!

When I went back on Monday, they danced a tray dance, which I've never seen before. I can't imagine ever living anywhere else in the world - how can you be downhearted when you can spend a damp Bank holiday watching two blokes beat each other over the head with tea-trays?

This clip is of Chiltern Hundreds Morris, who dance North West Clog Morris. As you can see, it is a different style and has its roots in the industrial mill towns of the North West. The dancers used to process through the streets behind the rush carts. The chapel in Macclesfield Forest still has a rush bearing service every summer, even though there are no mills, but I've never seen dancers there.

These two clips are both of Black Adder Rapper and Step. As the name suggests, they dance percussive (step) and Rapper dances.

The first clip shows a percussive dance:

The second is a Rapper dance. Rapper is a style of dance that originated in the mining communities of Northumberland and Durham. The Rapper itself is a short sword that was probably originally adapted from a pit tool.

Sadly, since these were recorded on my camera, they look better viewed in a smaller window than they are in here.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

At last!

Haven't sorted out the root problem, but have circumvented it for now! Just as a taster, here are some new additions to my classroom that I found at Towersey: I got the sheep and the giraffe on Sunday with A, and Mr Wolf is a present from my Dad. The giraffe is definitely a Geraldine, I just can't decide on a name for the sheep. I already have a Larry the Lamb (and indeed a Larry the Lizard), so it could be Sean, or Sharon. Any suggestions?
I'm so enamoured of Geraldine, she's become my profile pic! I'd like to think a giraffe is emblematic of me because I am tall and graceful with very long limbs, but in reality it's more likely to be because I too find it nigh on impossible to get up when I fall down...

Technical Problems

I did promise photos from last week and of some new arrivals I got when I was at Towersey. Due to some technical difficulties, I can't upload my photos at the moment - bear with me!

Salt in the wound

We've just checked the Fantasy Football website to see how many points the leaders have got (177 if you're interested). What has freaked A out though, is that we looked at the Bottom 100 as well as the top. At the bottom of the table are a bunch of people with -4 points, who are all tied for 264,490th place. A is distraught to be so close to this end of the table...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Hee Hee...

Just logged on the PC to collect some stuff I need for school today (yes, it's time to set my classroom up again!!) and found this email from A last night:
Just noticed blog entry, am going to spend the rest of the autumn/winter and spring on mainland Europe, see u round about mid May!
Does that sound a little like wounded pride?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!


I've just checked our Fantasy Football teams' scores, which were published for the first time yesterday. A, who is the (self-appointed) expert in the house, has scored 40 points so far, and is currently 253,873rd in the league. My team, chosen mainly, it has to be said, to allow me to spend £9m on the incredibly sexy Thierry Henry (in my dreams!) has scored 80 points and is in the heady position of 96,908th in the league.


Welcomed with open paws?

Well, I'd like to think so, but no... I've been welcomed by two very huffy cats, who've had about 16 hours of human contact in the last 6 days. A went to Belgium on Tuesday and isn't due back until tomorrow.

Today I got back after a 5 hour journey - oh, the joys of J12-16 on the M6 again! Although this time, I gave up on the motorway after one junction in the queue and explored rural Staffordshire and Market Drayton.

Will sort out some photos from Towersey soon, especially the new additions, which I haven't told you about yet!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Things Mum and I have been contemplating today:

Where do gulls roost if they are inland?

How far can a gull travel in one day's flight?

Since we are currently about as far away from the sea as one can get in the UK, could a gull get from Oxfordshire to the coast in one day under its own power?

Why do you never find copies of "Ultimate Carp"* magazine in waiting rooms?

Why do I always get hungry at the hospital even though Dad's appointment is less than 90 minutes after my breakfast?

* Please feel free to sustitute the title of any other publication that is not full of skinny C list celebs...

Monday, August 28, 2006


This weekend, A and I have been chillin', firstly on Saturday night with some of my cousins, then yesterday at Towersey Festival (are my folk roots showing?) More details on this to follow - Mum and Dad only have a 56k modem, so I'll die before I can manage to upload my photos!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Torn between two lovers...

Well, not really, but I bet that got your pulse racing, dear reader!

Today, Northwich Victoria played away at Oxford United. My current footie team, versus my first one. I was hoping to go with A and Dad, but A was too late coming down, so we didn't go. Maybe it was for the best, since the Vics were whopped by The U's. Divided loyalties in this case again! (When United played Macc Town in the FA Cup several years ago when we lived in Macc, A stood in the home end of the Moss Rose whilst I stood with the Oxford supporters in the away end...)

BTW, Dad's now had his first two sessions of radiotherapy. He seems to be bouncing since he's started on the hormone treatment, so I'm really pleased.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How I love the M6...

Today I went to stay with Mum and Dad. Of course, the glorious sunshine of this morning had disappeared into the mother of all thunderstorms by the time I was ready to set out, but that’s just typical! Actually, the M6 wasn't too bad, it was the M42 that was swimming today. Lovely.

Dad has had a month of hormone treatment and starts his radiotherapy tomorrow, so I wanted to be with him and Mum for the first few slots, before term starts. This round of trips to hospital will be without marking though!


Our garden isn’t huge, but has lots of trees and shrubs – very green, but not much else in terms of colour! But I’m very lucky, because there are lots of little nooks and crannies for birds to nest in. We have had wrens nest behind the elder near the dining room window for several years (although they’re very shy and I don’t see them often), at least three different blackbird nests, several blue tit and sparrow families and a robin nest. There are also goldfinches nesting in the vicinity, although I don’t know if they’re in our garden or nearby. Since March this year, we have had three different sets of goldfinch youngsters coming to feed outside the kitchen window. Sparrows are in abundance here, even if they are in decline elsewhere in the country – at one point this summer, I saw a group of 23 sparrows on the patio. Last weekend I also saw two male robins fighting for territory – not a pretty sight.

And the best thing? Watching them laugh at Lilly and Stella, who have a very low success rate!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Time to stop for a beer and finish the fine detail filing tomorrow, I think...

Mmm... best laid plans, and all that. We had another bash on Sunday, then yesterday I sorted through drawers stuffed full of photos, my baptism record and health visitor record cards, old pens, enough ink cartridges to open a stationers' and this morning I put the vacuum round, but now....

(cue drum roll...)

It's done!! The office is tidy!! Hurrah!!!

So that's the ecstasy dealt with. Obviously.

The agony?

Oh, more than you could possibly imagine.

The last two days have been spent with Barry Gibb's voice running through my head, warbling "You're a Bunbury... I'm a Bunbury too..." over and over and over again...


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Part way there

Well, we haven't finished the office yet, but we have chucked a whole load of paper for recycling and A's had fun playing a load of old 7" and 12" singles he found once he got close enough to the stereo to find them. There's nothing like the crackle of vinyl, is there? I was quite impressed with his 12" of FGTH's "Two Tribes", since it was very warped - played really well! (and sounded better than his Bunburys single, too!)
Time to stop for a beer and finish the fine detail filing tomorrow, I think...


Yes I know I should be sorting the office out, and I have made a start, honest, but A's just got back from the supermarket, and he's very confused:

Wet Weekend

Well, this could describe the weather today, or it could just as equally describe me! It's too wet to go to see the Vics play and I feel a bit "urgh" anyway. There's nothing for it really, I'm going to have to sort out the office.

Now A found it very funny at the wedding to discover from some of my colleagues that the school caretaker has been giving them guided tours of my cupboard ever since I tidied it the day after we came home from the Walk (not something that I felt merited a blog entry really, even if I did turn a health hazard into a safe working environment). So he has decided that we need to build on this success and "sort out the Office". He makes it sound so easy. Actually, it will be a little easier because yesterday I gathered most of the papers up that were on the floor and put them into piles so I could actually walk across the room on carpet. But never the less, it is one of those jobs that you know needs to be done, that will give you a lot of satisfaction once you've done it, but doing it will be cack.

I will keep you posted. If you don't hear anything over the next few days, I have been buried under an avalanche of papers, old bills and schoolwork...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wedding Bells

Yesterday I went to K's wedding and, torrential rain notwithstanding, I think it was one of the nicest weddings I've been to in a long while. There was no noisy disco to get in the way of converation (I'm SOOO middle-aged!) and there were games to play outside. Sadly, the rain was still going strong, so no-one was able to play before dinner, but afterwards, the bride and groom had a quick go on the Swingball.

I would have loved to have a go at the Croquet, but, knowing my prowess at physical activity (not) A heaved a sigh of relief that I wasn't given the opportunity to swing a croquet mallet around my head. Then a few of us checked out the Bouncy Castle. It was absolutely soaking and I made the discovery that although theoretically there is no upper weight limit on a Bouncy Castle designed for adults, in practise, I exceeded it, since I really couldn't bounce - I left that to the bride and bridesmaid, whilst I just stood there and wobbled. My hat never came off, though!! (I'm the figure in black lurking to the left).

Best wishes to K and R, may they have many happy years together.


Looking back at the photos I've posted, the seem to be rather cow-oriented. To balance things out somewhat, here is a short clip of some sheep we saw just outside of Haytongate on the Saturday morning on our walk. You might need to turn the sound up on your monitor, because I recorded it purely for the low level noise they were making, under the bleating!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Holiday Snaps

Thought I'd put some photos up that we took on our walk. Doesn't really do anything to dispell this idea of me being a bit livestock obsessed, does it?

This little herd had appointed themselves guardians of the gate a mile or so outside Heddon on Wednesday morning. A got quite nervous passing through them!

As we got to the gate, this young calf appeared very interested in my camera!

In the interest of livestock balance, here is a sheep two fields later!

We walked past this herd of cows and their calves as we approached Turret 41a, just after Caw Gap early on Friday morning. We hadn't gone far past them when they began to follow us. A was convinced they meant us harm (townie!) but actually, the couple who were walking behind us had just disturbed them more than we had.

Looking back over the crags from Walltown crags. Over the Thursday and Friday, we walked over all the crags in this shot!

More calves - Cumbrian ones this time, about a mile after Haytongate on the Saturday morning.

The trouble with keeping free range chickens is that they sometimes choose really stupid places to lay eggs - like on the farm track outside your property! We counted three, plus any she might actually be sitting on as we passed this farm at Wall Head, just outside Crosby on-Eden on Saturday.

I'm rather pleased with this shot of a Peacock butterfly near the River Eden just outside Carlisle early on the Sunday morning.

This is Joe, the Kune Kune at the King's Arms in Bowness-on-Solway. If you ask nicely, the landlord will show him to you!

After all the misty rain on the Sunday afternoon, it was rather nice to see the view across the Solway Firth to Scotland in the evening as the sun began to set.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Holiday Diary

Well, as promised, here are details of our walk. It hasn’t actually taken this long to get the washing done, I’m just not sure where the last week has gone!

Sunday 30th August: Windermere

A little “mini-break” in Windermere, to see A’s sister and her family before we start. They’ve hired a cottage here, not far from the B&B we stay in when we come up for walking. We haven’t seen them since Christmas, they’re doing well. Bowness-on-Windermere is heaving more than I remember in high season, but it turns out that it’s the Windermere Air Show today, so we get an ace display by the Red Arrows!

Monday 31st July: Tynemouth to Wallsend (6 miles)

Just a little stroll of 6 miles, from the coast to the official start. A and I set out, with A’s parents in tow. A was thrilled that it started to rain as we were walking through some of the less savoury parts of North Tyneside, as you can imagine.


R: A and I about to set out!

Oh, and my £12, 1000 mile, no blisters guaranteed socks were so good, I got a blister. Great start!

Tuesday 1st August: Wallsend to Heddon-on-the Wall (14.5 miles)

The first section proper! The vast majority of this was along the banks of the Tyne and therefore on Tarmac, which is a bit unforgiving. Here is the Baltic Gallery and the Sage Theatre in Gateshead, from the Newcastle Quayside:

There were a couple of showers, but nothing too soggy, thankfully. About lunchtime, I realised I’d left my walking poles at my in-laws. I could live to regret this…The section between Newburn and Wylam was lovely though. This is where we turned away from the Tyne and began to climb to Heddon. We finished this section at the pub with another couple, Phil & Cooky, doing the walk with their two border terriers, Cassie and Buster. Walking this distance was fine, but I was a bit stiff this evening. The Compeed I put on my blister is great, it’s not changed at all. Compeed is amazing stuff.

Wednesday 2nd August: Heddon-on-the-Wall to Wall (14.5 miles)

Today we started off by finding the first section of Wall proper, at Heddon (see photo). How exciting! The first 2 miles today were breezy but clear. Unfortunately, the remaining 12.5 miles were in driving rain, with the final 6 miles or so battling against 40 mph winds too. Deep joy. Most of it was following the path of the Military Road, so it was fairly straight but quite up and down. A and I kept bumping into Phil and Cooky today, and by the end, it really was only Cassie and Buster who had any spring left in their step. It’s sounds dramatic, but I now understand how hypothermia victims feel when they decide to lie down in the snow. My brain was convinced that if I curled up in the Vallum (the ditch that is often the only part of the wall left in this section) I would get warm really quickly. Scary stuff.

An interesting aside here - the Military road was built at the time of the Jacobean Rebellion. The message came for it to follow the route of Hadrian's Wall, but it was taken so literally, that in many places, they built it almost on top of it, using the stone as hardcore. Oops.

The highlight of today was the Bothy we stayed in. The landlady is younger than me I think, and an absolute star. She showed us how to turn the heating up to full to dry our things out, gave us a lift down to the pub that night (having booked us a table) and told us to ring her anytime to come and collect us. Lisa Burrows of Kiln Rigg, we salute you!

A enjoying walking in the rain. Not.

Thursday 3rd August: Wall to Steel Rigg (Once Brewed) (13.5 miles)

The Wall stretching away from us, just outside Chollerford

I got out of bed like a little old man today! Nothing hurts whilst I’m actually walking; the stiffness kicks in when I stop! After yesterday’s downpour, today was glorious. Like a fool though, I didn’t put on enough sunscreen and ended up with the worst sunburn I’ve had in 20 years. My lower left leg is as tight as a sausage about to burst under the grill. This section was magnificent walking, but hard going, over crags. By the time we got to Sycamore Gap, after 12 or so miles, I had to crawl on my hands and knees up the steps to get back out!

Sycamore Gap - yes we did walk down to the tree then back up the other side!

Met up with Phil, Cooky and the dogs again today and we all stayed at Saughy Rigg Farm. This farm is really in the middle of nowhere, but it’s brilliant for walkers, as Kath the owner comes out to pick you up from the Wall and drops you off again, and offers a very nice meal!

Friday 4th August: Steel Rigg to Haytongate (15 miles)

Because we didn’t go for a walk to find food last evening, I woke up pretty stiff this morning and took about 20 minutes to be able to walk without a “sailor’s roll”. Today started off with another 6 miles of stunning crags as we walked over the Whin Sill. The photo shows the view of Saughy Rigg from the top, on a zoom lens. I had a low point at Gilsland, after 8.5 miles, when I wasn’t quite sure how I’d do the next 6.5 miles, but I rallied after I’d had lunch. Possibly it was knowing that we were going on when Phil and Cooky were taking 4 days to do the second half of the walk while we were only taking 3 days. They were really good company and we’ll miss them. Weather was dry but a bit overcast. We spent the night in Brampton, having crossed the border into Cumbria. There was a bath in our en-suite tonight – bliss! A complained about the noises my knees made today. There’s no pain, but a most horrible crunching noise when I walk up or down hill. The right one in particular has made noises like this for a while, but even I winced when I heard them today. A’s knees are silent, but painful, and his feet are a bit of a mess…

Saturday 5th August: Haytongate to Carlisle (13 miles)

Back to lower level walking today. A little bit of drizzle, but not too much. There’s no real stone parts of the wall left here; the Romans had obviously had enough by the time they hit Cumbria, since a lot of the wall was covered in turf here. There is a section of wall that was uncovered last century, but since it was made of sandstone, it was eroding quite quickly, so they covered it up again. The Vallum is often in evidence though, so you still feel that you are following the line of the wall. We arrived in Carlisle fairly early in the afternoon, but without the energy to go and explore. We were picked up from the Sands Centre leisure centre, which doesn’t look like it’s changed much at all since I left Cumbria back in 1995! I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Sands Centre, it’s where I fell in love with Shakespeare the first time I ever saw it performed live: Simon Russell Beale as Richard III.

Sunday 6th August: Carlisle to Bowness-on Solway (14.5 miles)

The final section today, starting with a nice stretch along the banks of the River Eden, the only river in England that flows north – now there’s a pub quiz question if ever I heard one! A has now discovered what the muscle on the inside of the knee does – it keeps the lower leg facing in the right direction. And his isn’t! Well, really, it’s only his right foot. It’s waggling about on the end of his leg like something not right, and he’s walking a little like a penguin. We got to Burgh-by Sands (6.5 miles) by 11.15am, so too early for the pub, to A’s dismay. It also started to rain here, the kind of rain that the Irish call “soft” that doesn’t pelt you but soaks you pretty quickly. There is a three mile section from Dykesfield to Drumbrugh that follows a dead flat, dead straight road that I found pretty soul destroying – I don’t know why but I would guess it was the rain – the mist was down low on this stretch, which is very open as it goes along the salt marshes. On a clear day, you would be able to see Dumfries and Galloway across the estuary and Skiddaw to the south, but the mist put paid to that! We stopped for a lunch break after 12 miles, at the Highland Laddie pub in Glasson. The mushroom soup is to be recommended (A says the same about the Stilton and Broccoli!) and we timed it so that we were able to see most of the Grand Prix. Well done Jensen! The final stretch was quickly covered and we were at the end in Bowness-on-Solway! And the pub was a Jennings pub!! Sadly, my personal favourite, Cocker Hoop wasn’t available, but you can’t have everything. They did have a beautiful Kune Kune called Joe, though!

So there it is – we finished it. We covered about 91 miles in about 33.5 hours walking time over a week, with the bulk of it (85 miles or so) in 6 days and 31.5 hours walking time). Something to be proud of, I feel. My feet were fine after that first blister, but my ankles took a battering and swelled up the day after we finished. A's knees are jiggered and his feet are a mess of blisters. He spent most of last week creaking around the house in much the same way as I did! So, the Ridgeway next?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We Did It!!!

A and I have just got back from our jollidays, during which we spent 6 days walking the Hadrian's Wall Walk (84 miles from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway). The day before we walked the 6 miles from Tynemouth to Wallsend, so we have actually walked from one side of the country to the other. OK, it was across the thinnest bit, but you've got to start somewhere!

More details later, once I've sorted the photos out and done the washing...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It's the holidays! Hurrah!

Term finished on Friday, so since then I have done nothing apart from read 3 girlie novels (great for putting the brain into neutral) and look piteously at A to get him to put the kettle on again.

Loads has happened since my last post and I'm not quite sure where to start, but here goes.

A couple of days after my last posting, A and I went to see Jasper Fforde at a talk and book signing in Manchester. He really does have a sense of humour that resonates with mine (when it can surface) and A found him funny enough to pick up The Big Over Easy. He's not read any fiction since our holiday to Lefkas 15 months ago, so that's no mean feat.

A couple of days after that, A frightened the life out of me by fainting at bedtime (I wish I could say it was my sexual allure, but sadly, no...) One minute he's having a wazz in the dark, the next there's an almighty crash, then silence. I shot out of bed and turned the main light on, to find he had fallen backwards perfectly and was lying across the en-suite threshold, looking at me as if I was a loon. As far as he was concerned, he was very tired and horizontal, so therefore he was in bed - why on earth would I be asking if he was alright?

Last weekend we went to a wedding in Wigan, with the reception venue the JJB Stadium (the bride's a rugby league fan). The groom's father is related to A's mother and sometimes says very funny things entirely unintentionally. This time it was a comment to the Catholic priest who officiated the ceremony: "Very nice service, Father, and not too religious..."Cue much coughing as I try not to laugh out loud.
During the reception, A and I took time out to admire the silverware and A discovered a hideous error, he thinks. Whatever this trophy was (and I'm fairly certain it wasn't the Challenge Cup, because Wigan won it for several consecutive seasons in the 80s and 90s an the plaques don't match), the one for the 1987-88 season proudly declared the winners to be Wigan RLFC and the captain to be E Henley.


Even I know that the king of Rugby League at that time was one of the best ever players the world has seen - Ellory Hanley of Wigan.

For the price of a replacement plaque...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Doctor Who v. His Dark Materials???

What a fab finale in last night's Doctor Who. I loved it. But today, I was struck by something startling. I was trying to re-tell it to my Mum - the void, the parallel worlds, the "void stuff", the final separation (including that heart-wrenching part when the Doctor and Rose both put their hands on the wall where the breach was) and I was suddenly struck by all the similarities to parts of The Amber Spyglass, the final book in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (fantastic, if you haven't read it. A great story and beautiful prose)

Now it's about four years since I read it and I'm too lazy to crawl over the tip that is the office to check finer details, but this is how I see it.

The Doctor used the 3-D specs to see the "void stuff", which was a bit like energy from the void that attached itself to anyone or anything that had crossed it. The woman (Mary? I think so anyway) used the Amber Spyglass to see lots of gold coloured particles that were invisible to the naked eye - I can't remember if it was coming from the holes between the worlds or disappearing into them, but the holes needed to be sealed, because everytime someone traveled between world it weakened the whole fabric of the worlds. (sounds familiar?)

The Doctor was the only one who could seal the breach forever, but to do so, he had to do it from Earth and therefore needed to separate himself permanently from Rose (okay, she had other ideas, but you know what I mean!) In HDM, Will was the only one who could seal the holes, but he could only do it from his world and had to leave Lyra behind in hers.

After the breach was sealed, the Doctor and Rose each stood on their side of the wall, trying to feel the connection still. Meanwhile, Will and Lyra try to keep their connection alive (to themselves at least) by sitting on the same bench in their own Oxfords.

Am I imagining all this?

Doesn't detract from either Doctor Who or His Dark Materials though - both were utterly brilliant and I sobbed piteously at the end of both of them...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Friday Night Movies

A and I watched The Breakfast Club last night. A loves it, he went through a real phase of Brat Pack movies, but I've never seen it. Not even a trailer! How sad is that - here I am, a bona fide child of the Eighties and I've never seen The Breakfast Club. Needless to say, I really enjoyed it - much more depth than I was expecting!

Relaxed Felines

There has been a noticeable difference in Lilly and Stella over the last two days. I hadn't realised how much the catflap issue was traumatising them until it got resolved and the pair of them are back to their usual selves.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Vortex is Open

...or something.

Having ascertained earlier this week that there was indeed a problem with the catflap (magnet clicked, lock didn't actually unlock, therefore flap wouldn't flap), A and I resorted to high end technology to fix it.

Yep, we taped the snicket down with parcel tape.

I then spent an undignified ten minutes with Lil and a tin of tuna, finally posting her through the catflap back into the house to convince her that it worked.

Have you ever tried to post a 6 kilo cat, in fact a reluctant 6 kilo cat, actually a downright hostile 6 kilo cat through a small space?

Wouldn't recommend it.

Dignity is lost by all involved.

And the hot weather slows the healing process down...

Anyway, she and Stella have carried on behaving as if it's still only available to go out. Psychological warfare on their part?

Maybe, but who cares? In the last 12 hours, they have both gone out, then come back in, through the catflap.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lost in a Good Book

Really, this is a misnomer for this post, because it's about 3 years since I read Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. I love his Thursday Next books and when I discovered them, I read the first three (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots) in quick succession then kicked my heels, waiting for Something Rotten to be published in July 2004. They are very quirky and Fforde treats his readers as intelligent, well-read beings (without being condescending at all) which makes me feel great when I get the jokes. I went to a talk and book signing he gave in Manchester in July 2004 when Something Rotten was published and his sense of humour tickled me no end.

However, in all the fuss of changing jobs last year, I completely missed the publication of The Big Over Easy, his first book in the Nursery Crime series. But I found it last weekend and I finished it yesterday. Cracking (excuse the pun!) Another great read, although Jack Spratt's Reading is not as different from our world as Thursday Next's Swindon. As a Thames Valley girl, I love the fact that he uses Swindon and Reading as locations, showing how dreadful they are, but with great love and respect.

If you have a chance, read one if his books. They are probably unlike anything you have ever read before...

Flap Update

I think we are being taken for a ride.

Over the weekend, Stella has successfully got in through the catflap, thereby proving that it still works. Lil, however, has singularly failed, although she did make a half-hearted attempt yesterday. It could be that she has a problem with her jowls and they obscure her magnetic mouse somewhat, but I'm not convinced.

Grand ideas for retraining have failed due to despondency over yesterday's footie and lethargy due to today's extreme weather. Sadly, a thunderstorm wasn't enough to make Lil try to get in since the elderflower provided a more than adequate shelter.

Ho hum.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Cat Problems

After the best part of nine years with us, both of our cats have suddenly stopped using the cat flap to come in the house. Going out is fine, but neither appear to be able (willing?) to use it to come in. If we hold it open, they come in no problem and you can hear the magnetic lock click open.

So is it a phobia? Do they not like the cleaning fluid Alex uses when she cleans the tunnel part? Or are we being taken for fools, particularly by Lil? I ask because this morning she came and sat back on the back door step and miowed at me from the other side of the cat flap. She fixed me with her gimlet stare, then looked up pointedly at the door handle, looked again at me and again at the door handle as if to say "Well, get on with it then!"

So I did.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Strange Brew

My Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer last week so today he went for a series of scans to see if it has spread. Of course, being Dad, nothing is ever straight forward, as he couldn't have an MRI due to his pace maker (Do you know, I'm almost convinced he enjoys being an awkward so and so :-) )

His first scan was at 8am this morning, but his second wasn't until 2.15. This one required him to be injected three hours before, so his bones would show up nicely.

"So what did you do then, hang around the coffee bar?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "They said I could go into Oxford to stroll around if I wanted, but I had to stay away from pregnant women and children, so I thought it was easier to stay there."

Pregnant women and children? Turns out it wasn't a dye he was being injected with (silly me), and he had to stay way from vulnerable groups as he would be fairly radioactive for some hours before and after the scan...


Apparently, he also had to keep his fluids up during the wait to ensure the marker had circulated sufficiently into his marrow, so this makes the patients pee quite a bit. Everynight, the nurses have to sweep through the patient toilets with a Geiger counter to sure it's safe enough for the cleaners to enter them. Sometimes it's not. Perhaps that's the explosive result of having a vindaloo the night before one of these scans ... radioactive poo!

It reminded me of something that happened to me about 12 years ago, when I was still working at Sellafield (before I had my Damascene conversion to teaching). I was on a placement to the R&D labs and whilst there, I cut my finger on a cable tie inside a glovebox when I was taking samples for analysis. The lab did handle plutonium (although the glovebox I was working in at the time wasn't a plute glovebox) so I needed to report this cut and get monitored. This took the form of a full body sweep by Health Physics and then urine analysis over a period of time.

I assumed this would be once a shift for a period of time, e.g. 2 weeks, to ensure no plute had entered my system (damn near impossible, but neverthless...) I cursed the awkwardness of having to drop a sample bottle off every day.

Oh silly me.

I was presented with large plastic bottle like the ones we diluted batch samples in in the lab (now can't remember if it was 1 or 2 litres, but it was huge!). The protocol was to put my labelled bottle on the shelf in the sample toilets in the change room, and every shift, pee into it whenever I needed to go. It wasn't to go back to Health Physics for analysis until it was full...

It took me over a week to fill it. You can't imagine how nice those loos smelt, with over 50 different people's bottles on the shelves, gradually being filled...

It only occured to me some time later that, should I have been internally contaminated with plutonium, my (very radioactive) pee would have had a phenominally long half-life...

Thursday, June 22, 2006


... the total on my reports spreadsheet. I handed them in yesterday. I would cheer, if I had the energy...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Starbucks, Widnes style

At the end of a particularly fraught week, a mate from work and I decided to go for a coffee. Having been told earlier this week that Halton Borough Council had become the first council in Britain to get a Starbucks franchise, I was really pleased. I have to go out of my way for a Starbucks, or engineer a shopping trip to Manchester. I know many people hate the fact that most Starbucks stores look and feel the same, but I'm a small town girl - comfy chairs, ambient jazz and lemon zest & poppy seed muffins really do it for me. I love Starbucks. Love it.

So anyway, K and I set off for Victoria Park with glee. Grande Skinny Latte here we come!

Ah well.

It's located in a refurbished sports pavilion just behind the crown green bowls rinks, which has had the front walls replaced with plate glass. Now in cities, I guess they protect this with roller shutters, but this being Widnes, there is a metal cage on runners around all the glass. Obviously, it can only be slid back so far. If you sit at one end, the view will, I can only imagine, be similar to the one seen by the tigers in Chester Zoo when they gaze out at the visitors.


So much for outside. Surely the inside will be reassuringly familiar?

Well, yes, it is familiar - if you frequent the cafe in Widnes Library. Where are the chessboard tables? The chocolate coloured upholstery? The mind-blowing choice of beverages on the board above the tills? (You know, the one that floors K and always makes her say..."cup of tea, please...") The recommendations from your barista? Where, oh where are the lemon zest & poppy seed muffins?

Not in Widnes, that's for sure. I've just learned the difference between a Starbucks store and a Starbucks franchise. The coffee is Starbucks', as are the wrapped biscuits and the serviettes. The Eccles cakes, melting moments and rock buns are pure council catering, as are the slightly tacky homemade laminated table menus offering "Panini's" (Argh! It's Italian! It's already a plural, you don't need and "s", let alone an "s" with an apostrophe!)

The bare concrete floor is a nice touch too. I hope someone soon tells them that they'll drive away less customers if they lift the chairs when placing them back under the table. K and I weren't entirely sure if the decor was post-ironic construction chic, or it just wasn't finished. The view from the window (not the caged end) will probably be lovely too, when the landscaping is finished. Today, we had a nice view of a digger, security fencing (more cages!), Portaloos and builder's bum. Nice.

Coffee was good though.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Joy of Cat

Discovering small corpses in the house is an inevitable part of sharing your life with cats. It's not pleasant, but there it is.

One day this week, I came in to find the remains of what was probably a blue tit at the foot of the stairs. A little heart, a colon, some wheat grains and a piece of skin with feathers attached (sorry, is this too graphic for you?).

It wasn't the visual (visceral?) remains of a massacre in my hallway that upset me even though it was the first thing I saw as I opened the door. No. It was the fact that, at 7.40pm, I was the second human to come home...

"I thought you'd like to do your CSI thing on it", was the feeble excuse A offered. He'd actually gone upstairs to get changed, so must have stepped over it twice.


Blog Frustration

There have been a number of times I've wanted to blog this week and haven't been able too, due to Blogger malfunctions. They were pertinent at the time, maybe the moment is lost, but I'll tell you them anyway, I think.

By Wednesday I had completed 38.15% of my reports (hurrah!) although I haven't looked at them since... How sad am I that I've got a little spreadsheet running tracking my progress?!! It does help me deal with breaking a big job into something manageable.

It's not been easy, though. Every time I sit down at the computer to work, Lilly keeps coming to sit on the desk, usually with her weight across my mouse hand. This is what I have to put up with as she prowls back and forth before settling down:

World Cup fever continues to creep into the lives of those who surround me (although the interesting thing about working in Widnes is that the kids like football but are far more interested in Rugby League, even if the Vikings have dropped out of Super League.) I do want England to do well, but I'm not convinced about flags on cars - and what did David Cameron look like? I have this theory that the number of flags on the car is in inverse proportion to how good the driver is.

This week I was cut up by an old Rover with 4 flags. Say no more.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Home Sweet Home - part 2

Well, I made it home yesterday. Half term is now effectively over. I have caught up with a load of marking (hurrah!) I've only completed one report (uh-oh!) and I don't feel at all ready for tomorrow (yikes!)

However, there are compensations. When I should have been hightailing it up back to get on with the work, I was bird-watching in Mum and Dad's back garden. I saw a pair of birds that I'm pretty certain are Linnets (look v. similar to a sparrow) and then the Red Kites put on their acrobatic display:

It doesn't get much better than this...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Home Sweet Home - part 1

Dad's back home - hurrah!

Mum and I arrived at the hospital (me armed with my file of marking, of course) to find Dad fully dressed with his bag packed on the bed. I'm so pleased, because the other chaps who were due to go home yesterday didn't because they couldn't empty their bladders sufficiently and I thought Dad would be the same. However, as he proudly boasted to my Aunt and Uncle earlier this afternoon (to Mum's horror), "I'm going better now than I've been in ages - in fact, I could write my name in the snow!"

Do you know, I was really pleased it was sunny...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

My Wonderful Dad

I have been staying with my Mum this week since my Dad had an operation yesterday. She doesn't drive, so I've been playing taxi cabs. We took him in yesterday and it looks like everything's going ok. We visited again today and he's bobbing along nicely, but I think he's itching to come home. They're hoping to let him home tomorrow, so fingers crossed. Not to share too many intimate details, but his op is prostate-linked and going home will depend on his ability to empty his bladder completely.

I did smile when Dad was in pre-op yesterday, talking to the anaethetist. He was explaining how he would sedate Dad, then give a spinal anaesthetic to deaden all feeling. Dad (who has diabetes, a pacemaker medicated with beta-blockers and wicked water-retention) obviously looked a bit squeamish, since he asked Dad what the matter was.

"I was hoping I'd be having a general"
"Well sir, you do have rather a lot wrong with you, so we'd rather not..."

All the sitting around before his op and the visiting have been great for helping me clear a lot of marking - funny how the homework piles up when you start turning your mind to administering KS1 SATs! All the chaps in Dad's ward smile when they see me toddle up with my purple sparkly file full of paper. Glad to know I'm of some use...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Journey from hell?

Today I travelled down to my parents for a few days. It's a journey of some 150 miles and today, with a brief diversion into town for an abortive trip to a framing shop, it took five and a half hours. Arghhh!!!

Compensation however, took the form of several Red Kites swirling above the M40 - who needs Bill Oddie and Spring Watch?

Monday, May 29, 2006


I think I've mentioned before that Stella, our younger cat is not very keen on human contact. Lilly has always been a fusspot and a lap cat but Stella is far more reserved. We've always put it down to the treatment she received before she and Lilly were rescued. About 5 or 6 years ago she began to jump up and walk across my lap quickly, but never settled. Since we moved into this house 4 years ago, she has become more relaxed and spends more time downstairs with us in the evenings. Within the last year she has been content to spend extended periods of time on the arm of the sofa or chair where I am sitting and within recent weeks has also been known to lean against my head if I'm lying on the sofa.

But this evening...

This evening, she jumped up onto the sofa where I was stretched out, climbed onto my lap and then lay for a full 5 minutes along the length of my legs, purring loudly and letting me stroke her head.

It's taken 9 years to get to this point and I wanted to freeze time, to keep that moment for ever... I know it's stupid and "it's only a cat" (as a number of people I know would say), but it was truly a momentous occasion and ranked with the big declarations of love in my life (even if, as I suspect, it was just her desperation to get me to feed her...)

Friday, May 26, 2006

You can tell it's half term...

... cos I woke up with a migraine today. Yuk.

Dosed myself up, got through the day (although lunch time was a bit flaky), remembered to give all the homework out, and managed to avoid the traffic on the bridge (thanks for the warning K!)

I'd like to say I'm looking for a relaxing week, but it is report time, after all...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Thanks a bunch...

A has just collapsed in paroxysms of laughter behind me. I have just made out, between the guffaws, the immortal phrase "She's actually got your wonky ears right..."


Vanity, thy name is woman - part 2


"When Will I Ever Learn?"

A child in my class is reknown for drawing beautiful pictures of other children. They have a cartoon like quality, but usually capture the essence of the subject. When a member of staff retired at Christmas, this child's portrait was framed and presented to her, it was so lovely.

Today was wet play all day (oh, my favourite!) and during dinner, I saw that she was stuck for something to do. "Why don't you draw a picture of someone?" I suggested. "Who?" she replied. I had a brainwave - "Me!" I replied. After all, I don't have a photo on my profile, it would be great.

Wanna see it?

Thought so...

Wait for it...


Ye Gads.

It's the teeth that really get me.

How much do you think a set of porcelain veneers will cost?