Sunday, April 30, 2006

Many Happy Returns

So today is my birthday and A and I are staying at my Mum and Dad’s for the Bank Holiday weekend. In the best tradition of birthday trips, we went out to the Zoological Museum at Tring. It was always a favourite of mine as a child and I haven’t dragged A here before.

Nothing’s changed really – the polar bear still dominates the view as you walk into the first gallery, the quagga’s still a bit moth-eaten, the seals have some terrible taxidermy scars, one of the leopards still has a slightly startled expression. But best of all, the fleas are still there!

These fleas are genuine fleas from cats or dogs, dating from about 1905 I think. Mexican women used to dress them in traditional costume. You have to look at them through a magnifying glass and I remember as a child really not believing they were fleas – after all, the fleas I’d encountered from our dog all had six legs and no sartorial elegance at all!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Re: pigs


On reflection, it seems I may know more about pigs than is seemly for someone that doesn't actually breed them...

And for those who are interested, most pigs we see around are probably these:

The Large White. Not pink at all...

Why are pigs pink?

Today was an INSET day at school, and it was really interesting. A whole section was on developing thinking skills particularly through using philosophy with young children which fascinates me. At one point we had to classify some questions according to whether they were factual (How was water made?) or more philosophical ones (Why do humans rule the earth?)

Now, me being me, I got a bit hung up on the pig question above. I am from farming stock, so think of myself as a bit of an expert (as only a second generation townie can really) although I'm not aware that anyone has farmed pigs commercially in my family for years. But that's as maybe ...

While the others were flagging this question as factual, I got a bit hot under the collar. After all, a Tamworth (L) isn't pink and neither is a Berkshire.

I'm sure you'll be stunned to find out that a Large Black isn't pink. Saddlebacks aren't either, although they do have a lighter bit on their shoulders.

And if you're going that far, then neither is an Oxford Sandy and Black or a lovely New Zealand pig called a Kune Kune.

So are we stereotyping pigs? You only ever see pink pigs in storybooks. Where are other colours of pig represented? Rights for pigs, that's what I say!!

I found these pictures on Pig Paradise Farm or Pigs Online if you're sad enough to find out more.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Begging for it

Your money, that is!

In a few short weeks, I'm going to plod my way round the grounds of Arley Hall to complete my third Race for Life. 5k may not be the London Marathon, but since I haven't really trained since last year, it could well feel like it. My total is modest, so if you can, please sponser me here.

What a day!

Charles Clarke has "lost" some potential deportees, John Prescott's admitted to an affair *shudder*, Patricia Hewitt gets heckled by nurses.

If I were Tony Blair, I'd be tempted to just let Gordon get on with it...let him sort the blaggards out...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cold Turkey

"I'm going to have a detox" A proudly announced on Sunday night. "No coffee, no tea, no beer, no fizzy pop. I'm going to drink only water and smoothies for a week."

Being a dutiful wife, I took the usual amount of notice one takes of these things and presented him with a cup of Kenco's finest at 6.30 yesterday morning. "Be gone, spawn of the devil" he said as he thrust it back at me. Or at least that's what it sounded like. I was still suffering from buzzing in the ears and a lack of sleep after all - a second cup of coffee within 5 minutes helped no end...

In the evening I luxuriated in being able to have some ginger beer - normally it's all gone by Monday, but not this week! Sean Bean and ginger beer - what more could a girl want?

This morning I remembered (well done Nic!) and presented him with a smoothie and a glass of water. See, I do listen to you, darling.

This evening he stomped into the house, muttered about feeling crap, cracked open a bottle of Stella and checked I had bought a new jar of coffee. Apparently his colleagues were begging him to take on board some caffeine before either they or he slashed his wrists in despair.

I'm guessing the detox is now officially over for this year...

Monday, April 24, 2006


So, term starts again, and the usual happens. I read through my planning, so I know exactly what I'm teaching. I laminate a few resources (how sad am I that have my own laminator?), while away a pleasant hour and half watching Sean Bean (phwoar!), go to bed yawning and fully rested.


Well, you can guess...

Ten minutes after turning the lights out - PING! Eyes wide open, brain racing like mad. I've forgotten something. I'm sure I have. No, it's no good, I can't lie here...

So midnight finds me downstairs again, flicking through the Sunday supplements, trying to bore myself to sleep reading about the nouveau riche Russians buying their way into Henley Regatta and the other key events in the Hooray social calendar.

The only thing that comforts me is that up and down the country there will be a multitude of teachers all in the same boat (I know because I can name several from my own school...)

Why oh why?

And then, to top it all, after less than 5 hours sleep, I am woken before 6 by a demented wasp trapped between curtain and window.

What the heck does it think it can sting that early in the morning? Even the starlings were muttering at it. (Just think about the birds in Roobarb and Custard to get the idea...)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Excuse me...

I think you are sat in my chair...

I think Lil is definitely letting A know he's in the wrong, don't you?

Satisfaction carefully digging around a dandelion and then tugging to find the whole tap root has come up. Bliss...

Does this mark the official start of middle-age?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What has happened to Morrissey?

Now, I was never into the Smiths when they were together. Much as I'd like to think that the fact I didn't appreciate the ironic lyrics and amazing melodies until 1992 demonstrates my unerring sense of cool - after all, I didn't feel the need to end my life when they ceased recording - I suspect it just indicates a deeper mid-80s fixation with really crap music (Nik Kershaw, anyone?)

Anyway, I was never really into them then, but you would have to have spent the 80s on Mars not to have an image of Morrissey on TOTP with flowers stuffed in the back pocket of his jeans somewhere in the memory banks. But I'm rambling...

Today, I watched the video of You Have Killed Me and was struck by a thought. He always looked about 6ft 4 then - so why now does he only look about 5ft 9? I guess it's the trick of the eye based around the fact that then, he probably weighed 8st dripping wet, and now he's a normal size.

Then I was struck by a second thought.

When did he nick Denis Healy's eyebrows?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


So how much does a sparrow weigh then? I only ask because the ones that are nesting in the loft and running up and down the eaves sound like they weigh at least 5 kilos each.

Since our house suffers from the ailment of all post 1990 houses (limited loft boarding, rafters only 4ft high and 3ft apart) I can't even begin to think about how I could encourage them to find a nice home in a tree and leave my loft insulation where it should be. I can definitely see something poking out of the hole in the brickwork where they fly in and out.

Answers on a postcard please...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Decline and Fall

Spotted by me at the local Tesco Express over the weekend:

A young lad (about 10?) posing for the CCTV, waving a smoked Bavarian cheese (the one wrapped in orange plastic like a liver sausage) in a strategic place...

What is the world coming to?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

In Memoriam

A beautiful day here, often seems to be on this date. It is 17 years since Hillsborough, nearly half my life ago now. RIP Sarah and the other 95.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Tired. Bed. Cat. Purr. Sleep. Bliss.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Musings from JFK

Well, here's a first - I'm blogging in a public place! We're at JFK nice and early (flight leaves in two and a half hours) so I'm making use of the wireless network. This morning I got up early and, anxious not to miss a thing, was in Starbucks by 7am, reading and soaking up the bustle. I finished A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka whilst I was there. There's some nice touches of satire in it, but an overwhelming poignancy in the family relationships. Not a bad read, though.

Later I fulfilled my last wish for this trip with a huge portion of Eggs Benedict, then we strolled along to the United Nations building for a nose around. You can take guided tours but we didn't, since a number of the rooms these tours take in were closed today.

On our way back, we got a slightly mad taxi driver, who wove from lane to lane as he tried to miss the traffic (fat chance!) I suspect New York Hack would not be impressed by the standard of driving, but I didn't snap a photo of him to post, since we were in an SUV and I felt (reasonably) safe up there.

And so... back to earth tomorrow. Be warned - I am dreadful at finding diversionary tactics - if there is a flurry of blog activity over the next few days, you'll know that the planning for next term is pressing and I'm finding any excuse to not knuckle down to it...

Another Route March

I never intended for this to happen, but we did another route march today (Tuesday) - 42nd Street to 97th through the Upper East Side to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, then onto the Guggenheim. However, the day was too glorious and I'm too much of a tight wad to pay $18 each when I know I don't want to be in there for more than an hour. Here is Theodore in the lobby, pretending he knows something about art.
I wish I could tell you who the artist was, but I suspect it's on a need to know basis, revealed only once you've paid admission.

We returned to Central Park to bask in the sunshine, then across to the Upper West Side. A quick diversion to Zabar's just for the experience of jostling with their "assertive" customers (their words, not mine; I'd have chosen downright rude for the ones who barged me out of the way!!), then onto the American Museum of Natural History which is an absolute gem. One of my boys is absolutely obsessed with dinosaurs (he has his heart set on being a palaeontologist - not bad for 6, huh?) so I think he might like these photos of Theodore with Triceratops and T-Rex:

It also has some amazing taxidermy exhibits, but A and I had an Eddie Izzard moment when we can across some cases of native North American mammals, such as beaver, bobcat and lynx. Instead of being artfully arranged into lifelike group poses in authentic habitats,as the African and Asian animals have been, these animals appeared to have been stapled to the wall, with their front paws together above their heads and their back paws hanging down below their tails. Did they run out of stuffing or what? Sadly A and I were so convulsed in hysterics by this time that we didn't think to take a photo...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


So, aside from Bloomingdales, what else today (Monday)? Central Park to start, glorious especially since today was warm enough to go without a coat (seems like a very long time since that happened). Went to the Central Park Zoo, part of me feels uncomfortable about animals in enclosures, particularly since these are a lot smaller than the enclosures in Chester Zoo, but it's heartening to see how much they try to keep the animals stimulated.

This polar bear was playing with the green toy because it's full of fish and if she shakes it about, she can get them out.

This evening, A grudgingly agreed to spend the best part of 2 hours in a queue for the 86th floor observatory of the Empire State Building. He hated every minute, but Theodore quite liked it. His favourite view was of the Chrysler building.
It was daylight when we started to queue...

After, we went to a brilliant Mexican, but it's been a very long time since I had frozen margaritas, so apologies if there are any mistakes in this post. When I stood up, it appeared someone had stolen my knees. As for Theodore... appears to be a case of "one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!"

I suspect that I won't be sharing these photos with the children...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Can cats do paper rounds?


A and I went to Bloomingdales this afternoon. He hit the Polo Ralph Lauren department, I found the cashmere sweaters...

I can't sing or dance, so busking is out. There's no way round it - Lil will have to get a paper round if she wants any more Whiskas...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Introducing Theodore

Theodore is my class bear and he likes to travel. The children take turns to take him home and so far this year he has attended a number of birthday parties, a weekend in Scotland and a skiing trip to Italy. This holiday, the children have graciously let me take Theodore to NY, so here he is, enjoying his breakfast this morning:

He particularly liked maple syrup on his bacon.

Armed with Theodore, A and I set out early to walk the streets of Manhattan, with a vague aim of Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty - good photo opportunities for Theodore, obviously! Unfortunately, even at 9.40am on a Sunday morning, the queue for the Empire State was outside the building, so A put his foot down. He doesn't do queues. On we went, and reached the Flat Iron building, where Broadway crosses 5th Avenue at 23rd. A market was setting up, so we stopped for a coffee prior to browsing. The view from the window was too good to miss:

I then charmed my way into the hearts of one of New York's finest:

It's amazing how far you can go on a smile and an English accent.

On we trekked, through SoHo, TriBeCa, past Ground Zero and into Battery Park. A's queue phobia hit again, so this is the closest we got to Lady Liberty:

We then strolled through Battery Park, past the Staten Island Ferry terminus and up to South Street Seaport. I can never understand why A is drawn to boats so much - he won't set foot on one (if there had been no queue for the Statue of Liberty ferry, I wonder how he would have coped?) but he loves to look at them in dock. We also went around the Bodies exhibition. It sounds really ghoulish, but some of the exhibits truly show what an amazing and beautiful piece of engineering the human body is. We then walked back to Midtown, through Chinatown, Little Italy, the East Village and Gramercy Park. I've worked out we only walked 8 miles or so, but my Docs let me down and I have a huge blister and my hips don't feel like they belong to me any more. This does not bode well for the Midnight Walk in June!

Travel tips

Well, I've finally arrived in New York, after what seems like an eternity. KLM doesn't seem to have the leg room of other transatlantic flights I've been on, or perhaps it's the fact that since I was travelling on my own, not with A, I had to try to stay in my own seat rather than sprawl over into his space too. Can't do that if you don't know the people on either side of you, really.

Some aspects of today have been a little trying. I have decided that there are certain criteria that everyone should adhere to, to make the travelling process so much nicer. Here are my top tips for ensuring those around you have a pleasant trip.

1. Don't take skis. They clutter up check in and breed resentment. If you live in the UK any further south than Glenshee you have absolutely no need of them and any resort you visit will be able to hire them to you. Unless you want to have them surgically removed at a later date, leave them at home.
2. No family unit should travel with a luggage to person ratio that exceeds 1:1. You're going on holiday for goodness sake, not emigrating. How much stuff do you need?
3. No family should travel with more than 2 children. If a family has more than 2 children, the parents should split the family into 2 smaller groups to ease the passage of all burocracy. On no account should any family travel with 4 boys between the ages of 6 and 11 unless each child has been sedated.
4. For pity's sake, have a wash. Planes get hot and clammy enough as it is. There is nothing worse than having to sit for 8 hours next to someone who had their annual bath at least 3 weeks ago.
5. Don't drink excessively prior to flying for the same reason. If you can't get on a flight without downing a six-pack and 3 double whiskies, you really should consider caravanning instead.

I am valiantly trying to stay awake until 10pm NY time, but that equates to 3am UK time - I got up at 5.30am and only snoozed for an hour or so, so it's probably a losing battle. In fact, delirium may well have set in already. I am here on the 37th floor of the New York Helmsleywith the windows open. It is 9.45pm and I can hear bagpipes outside. No, really.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Marian ROCKS???

What am I saying???

My body must have been taken over by a teenager who thinks studying A-level Lit is radical.


Marian is a hero, though. No apologies there.


Tonight I went to book group. It focuses predominantly on Victorian lit and I have recently finished Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. Nothing useful to say, really, apart from the fact that Laura is very wet, Fosco is probably one of the best villains I've ever met and that Marian ROCKS!


It's the end of term! NYC here I come!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Corrections and Amendments

Following an earlier post, entitled "I wonder if you could help me...", the Office for Blogging (OfBlog) received a complaint regarding the assertion that turning into the author's mother would be a bad thing. The author of this publication wishes to make it known that this is not a bad thing (just a shock) and wishes also to make it clear that the author loves her mother very much, and admires her dedication to learning how to surf the Internet. After consideration, OfBlog upheld the complaint, but accepted the author's assurances that she was very very sorry indeed and that it would never happen again.

"I wonder if you could help me..."

Today I made a traumatic discovery.

I phoned Norton Priory, to enquire about possible dates for a school trip in May, and realised as I was waiting to be transfered that I have developed a "telephone voice". I'm not just imagining it; a colleague in the room with me confirmed it.

It may not be anywhere near as pronounced as Hyacinth Bucket, but it's still a shock.

I am turning into my mother...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Vanity, thy name is woman

I may have mentioned before that I'm not massively girlie and anyone that knows me will attest that I really don't worry too much about my appearance. A night out calls for the full works, but on a day-to-day basis, provided my skirt isn't tucked into my knickers or my lunch isn't lurking on my chin for later, I don't have too many hang-ups. I am the epitome of low-maintenance.

It might be time to re-evaluate this.

I went for a coffee in the bottom-slapping supermarket in Runcorn on the way home today. Ever seen Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps? Runcorn really is that weird. And the customers in the coffee shop (in reality a bit of left-over space tucked behind a till) would fit right in down at the Archers.

Anyway, I was quietly minding my own business, sipping a pretend latte and flicking through the Radio Times to plan how much videotape I needed for CSI, Law & Order, etc. next week, when a slightly unkempt man across the way noticed the portrait of the Queen on the front cover. (William Dargie, 1954, as seen in the photo)

"Ooh," he said, "That's different from the one we've got, isn't it?" looking at the woman who was with him. Now, what I should have done was nod in agreement and leave there and then, but no. I took no notice of the grubby clothes, assortment of mismatched carrier bags, straggly hair and slightly wide-eyed stare and pointed out that RT had four different covers this week, to celebrate HM's upcoming 80th birthday. The chap then proceeded to test my royalist credentials, in the following manner:

Him: She ascended the throne in...?
Me: (humouring him)1952
Him: And was crowned in...?
Me: (warming to the theme) 1953
Him: Now she was 25 when she came to the throne, but 27 at the Coronation. How was that?
Me: (triumphantly) Because she ascended the throne February 6th,1952, but was crowned at the beginning of June 1953. Since her birthday is 21st April, she had celebrated 2 birthdays between these dates!

Now, if I could have left at that point, it would have been fine. I could have walked away feeling like I had passed the time of day pleasantly with a fellow human being (bear in mind A is away and I was expecting a frosty reception from the cat) and that would have been that.

But that wasn't that.

I was too slow leaving the table.

The killer blow came from the woman, completely unexpectedly.

"So how old were you at the Coronation?"


I was born in 1970.

Maybe it's time for the anti-ageing cream...


Lil deigned to sleep on the bed last night, but with her back to me, just out of reach. That was me put in my place.

Still got the cold shoulder at breakfast this morning, but this evening she has graciously allowed me to tickle her under the chin, although she is still withholding purring.

Forgiveness feels so good, I haven't found the courage to tell her that I'm jetting off to NYC to meet A on Saturday...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Big Sulks

Tonight after work I headed straight back to the Trafford Centre - not to feed my growing Radley habit, but for a haircut. Life's been so hectic recently (or I've been so lazy - take your pick) that I haven't got around to booking an appointment anywhere. On Saturday, I saw that the salon in TC had "walk-in" appointments during the week, so thought I'd chance my arm. I got there about 6, but there were no slots till 8. No bother - I can always while away a couple of hours in bookshops and Tampopo. Went for my cut, then went for a coffee and finally arrived home after 10. You can tell it's the last week of term!

Anyway, I arrived home to find Stella (baby cat, not keen on humans) pacing the floor - most unusual - but no sign of Lil (fat mum, full of cupboard love). Not like Lil, I thought. She's usually waiting by the door, nagging me to feed her the moment I get in. I pottered about a bit, Stella continued to pace (what is she trying to tell me?), still no Lil. It was only as I was about to go upstairs that I noticed the office door was shut. Uh oh. I didn't shut it this morning...

A very disgruntled cat stalked out and she is still refusing to speak to me. I am definitely in her bad books - first A goes away; then I clear off for a night to see my Mum & Dad; disturb her sleep on Sunday night by prowling around and to round it off forget to shut the office door before going to work, even though I know my cleaning lady is coming round and that that's where Lil will hide from the manic vacuuming if she gets the chance! Of course, Alex always shuts that door when she leaves, but Lil hides so well, she wouldn't see her...

The bad vibes are palpable. I have been well and truly reprimanded by a cat who has been physically prevented from accessing food, litter tray and cat flap for the best part of seven hours. That'll teach me to gad about of a weekday evening...

Monday, April 03, 2006


The trouble with A being away is my sleep patterns go to pot. I don't know why this should be - I lived on my own perfectly well before we married - but now, when he is away for more than a night, my ability to go to bed on time goes out of the window. Much like a teenager's the first time they're left in the house alone, I suppose. The trouble is, once I get up there, I really can't drop off anyway, so prowl the house off and on all night. In the wee small hours of this morning, however, I was compensated by this sight:
Lilly and her daughter Stella.

Cute huh?

And in case you were wondering, the sofa has no cover on it at the moment due to the acrobatics of Lil (on the left) who decided to leap from the arm of the sofa to the occasional table close by (another idiosyncracy - what is it when it's not being a table?), lost her footing on the TV pages and somehow knocked a glass of red wine backwards onto the sofa. Luckily we were quick enough to stop any staining, but with A not here, I don't have enough arms to stretch the covers while I iron them before putting them back on. That's my excuse, anyway...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Travel Trials

A phoned me last night after he landed in NY enroute to Detroit for a riveting automotive industry conference. Everything was tickety-boo and he assures me that I will have plenty of time for the transfer in Amsterdam when I take the same flight next Saturday.


It's all gone pear-shaped since then. His and his colleague C's luggage has gone missing, leaving him in Detroit with no toiletries, spare clothes or books to read and a computer that is resolutely refusing to boot up, so he can't even console himself with his favourite on-line pasttime, reading air crash websites (yes, he is morbidly obsessed). Add to this a fire alarm at 4am - after walking down 19 flights of stairs, he's told that it's a false alarm and he can go back to bed. Of course, that would work if the jet lag hadn't kicked in and left him wide awake. Ho hum.

He's just rung now to tell me that, having taken a trip back to the airport after lunch, everyone's "pretty certain" that their luggage is "most likely" already in Detroit. However, C's now lost his mobile phone...

And these men are the future of the British chemical industry... God love 'em.

April Showers

Friday's weather forcast was for rain at intervals - yet, due to a simple calendar change, Saturday's was for April showers. Now, rain is rain, and a shower is a shower whatever the time of year, but this little quirk is so quintessentially British, that I had to smile. The fact that as I drove down south to visit Mum & Dad I chased or was chased by several of these showers, just added to the fun. Well, not really, but the rainbows I kept seeing were absolutely beautiful... can't ask for more in life, really.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fool

I like it when April Fool's Day is at the weekend - lots of time to browse the papers to spot the hoaxes. My favourites this year are Cherie Blair getting the door to Number 10 painted red (to match the pillar box mouth, perhaps?) and the Chip and Sing - by 2009, all tills, telesales and secure internet sites will have microphones fitted so instead of entering a PIN when paying by card, customers sing a line of a well-known song and voice recognition software confirms the identity. In a way, it's a shame it won't come true , as it would save me a lot of money. My singing voice is so awful, I would never go shopping!

Talking of shopping, today I dropped A off at the airport and then found myself at the Trafford Centre (oops, how did I manage that wrong turn?) I finally succumbed to the Siren call of a Radley Bag although having perused the website, mine must be (shock horror!!!) autumn/winter 05/06! Passé already (that is so me...) It is lovely though, and I love the way it comes with the leather cream to keep it in good condition. My friends will never believe it, but I'm turning girlie!