Monday, December 17, 2007

Gut feelings...

I have this intermittent problem with my digestion. Everything functions OK most of the time but from time to time I get this discomfort in my upper digestive tract. I woke up early this morning and was unable to get back to sleep. After eating, I get the old indigestion - bloating, acid reflux, heartburn. But I also get like a throbbing discomfort in the centre of my back. It is difficult to describe but it feels a bit like the pain you get from a raw open sore. That doesn't really describe it but it is the closest I get. My appetite is not affected - in fact sometimes eating gives me some relief. The discomfort comes and goes - I might be troubled for about a week or more and then it just goes for a few months. I am carrying an excess of weight at the moment and this seems to make it worse, leading me to think it might be a hiatus hernia or something. I suppose I ought to go to the doctor but I have difficulty motivating myself. You have to phone up at 8.00am on the dot to get an appointment that day, if you don't get through, tough. You can't make an appointment for a later date under this new system. They'd probably only send me to hospital to get tubes stuck down my throat and I don't fancy that. And if I am going to be looking for a job soon, the last thing I want is an active medical record. All things considered, I'll try to lose a bit of weight and put up with the discomfort.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

9 shopping days to go...

It's almost that time of year again. The season really starts with the purchase of the Christmas tree. We spent the evening 'trimming the tree'. This year 'L' took charge of the bauble arrangements and overall artistic design. Of course, a glass of sherry is de rigeur during this annual ritual, followed by at least one mince pie, whether you feel like it or not. This year the mince pies were Mr Kipling - a hurried and ill-advised purchase. The mincemeat lacked a certain moist fruitiness and took up residence in the roof of my mouth, being about as difficult to shift as Swampy the tree dweller. I shall be following up my festive feast with a couple of Tums and a milky drink. Still, worth it in the end...

Friday, December 07, 2007

PGCE Day 70 - Parting is such sweet sorrow Part 3...But WOO-HOO I'm finished for Christmas!!

Well, tis done. My first placement is over now. I felt quite sad at the end. The kids had made this lovely card for me. There were flowers and choccies as well. Yesterday was my last numeracy lesson with them and we had been looking at 3D figures. I wanted it to be a bit of an easy ride for them (and for me!) so I had printed out some nets of 3D shapes. This kept them entertained in every spare moment yesterday and today. But the thing is they were all wanting to give them to me as presents. I have more little cardboard boxes than I know what to do with, now! It's a shame I won't be seeing the children again. It is a super school and not only were the children a delight, the staff were superb, really helpful, supportive and friendly. Another one I would work at, given a chance. This has been a far cry from my Secondary PGCE first placement. This school has clearly been my nice school - what will they have in store for me next? I shudder to think! Well there is Seville to think about first.
Just a quick posting - I am off out this evening. My uni curriculum group are meeting for a Christmas meal/end of placement celebration. Should be good to compare notes.

Friday, November 30, 2007

PGCE Day 65 - It's almost over - so soon ????

Yeah, I know, I've been moaning about this placement and now that I'm a week away from finishing I'm getting ever so slightly sentimental about it. To be fair, it has been the most knackering time I can remember. But the kids are great, I fit in really well with the staff and it is a shame to be leaving that behind never to return.

This week has been a good week. I had two formal observations. The first was on Monday and it was Spanish. It went well. I am getting my pace sorted out and I am organising the lesson better (even if it does always take me an eternity to plan it out!) but the fact that it was the class teacher observing helped. He is a really sound, laid back guy and makes you feel as relaxed as you can, under the circumstances. I think he is also very kind and lenient!

The second observation was the biggie. It took place on Wednesday and was observed by the SBT (School based Tutor) and the CBT (a tutor from college). It is a bit weird because I had never met my college tutor. We had spoken on the phone briefly to arrange the date but that's all. Anyway, I was getting off the train on Wednesday morning and I spotted a woman getting off further down. I glanced at her and noticed she was wearing a badge which looked like my college logo. Sure enough it was. I thought "I bet you that's her." A closer inspection confirmed my suspicion so I just said to her as we walked down the platform, "Hello Barbara, I'm Carole!" So I got a chance to break the ice as we walked down to the school. She was lovely so that made me feel a bit better. Anyway, my SBT and CBT both waxed lyrical about my lesson, a poetry lesson about surprising, amusing and surreal imagery. Acting on the target to include more ICT in the lesson (we have to entertain children these days) I had a PowerPoint of surreal art - I figured Magritte had good strong images which the children would find easier to appreciate. I was running through what I was doing with Mr B. the class teacher. I was bemoaning the fact that I'd wanted to use the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" to run with it for the surreal feel to the lyrics but I don't have that on CD and that it is unavailable for download (unless you include cover versions by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy?!!!). MR B., bless him, reaches for his iPod and lo and behold rummages through for Sgt Pepper and promptly comes up with the goods! The previous evening His Lordship was cutting up lists of random nouns and adjectives for me and sticking them in envelopes - the idea being that the kids would randomly match up nouns and adjectives as a stimulus to write their own surreal poems. The kids were superb, I was so proud of them. Both observers were highly complimentary generally, so I've been on a bit of a high since.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

PGCE Day 60 - School placement halfway mark

Two weeks into the first block placement. It has felt like the longest two weeks of my life. Getting up at 6:10 and going to bed at midight or beyond is beginning to take its toll. The past two Fridays have consisted of me having a relax on the sofa in front of the TV but before the opening credits of Eastenders, I've been giving it Zs.

School is great. The kids are a delight and already I'm very fond of them. I've found Spanish (my 'specialism', you remember) a nightmare. This school is a centre of excellence for the teaching of Spanish and the specialist teacher who teaches them and the native speaker are superb. But the style is very much rapid fire questioning, games and songs. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don't do rapid fire - in any language. The cogs of my brain need time to grind around if I am so much as making a cup of tea. I can't do games, 'cos I always forget who had the last go, who scored the points etc. But I like the songs. I am getting there but it is heavy weather. The whole lesson is in target language and it is difficult knowing what Spanish they know in order to communicate with them. It is very much a a matter of learning the cues. The key is that it should be fun and not stressful for them in any way (it is allowed to be stressful for the teacher, though!)

One thing I have discovered is that you never get a proper lesson in primary. There are always kids going out for their peripatetic music lessons, choir, ad-hoc assemblies, hymn practice or transporting Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to the hall. On Wednesday I was supposed to be doing English and Maths but the 'Legs Akimbo Theatre Company' were in doing a Macbeth workshop. I was supposed to be getting observed doing Spanish yesterday but then I was told that the Fire Brigade were visiting so Year 6 would not be doing lessons before break and after break they were helping move Christmas Fair goods. Part of me was relieved because it took the pressure off. But part of me wanted it over, since it now means I have to do two observations next week and the week after. Also I had spent until 1:00am Friday preparing my Spanish lesson. I could have had an early night! Next Wednesday my tutor from college is coming in to observe me doing literacy.

I find it is best not to be phased by anything and to expect the unexpected. I have been in Facebook contact with a lot of my colleagues and we are all finding it enormously stressful. I think tiredness has a lot to do with it. Many have been in tears at some point. Thankfully I have not been that low. The worst thing is the lack of resources. The thing about teacher training is that you have not built up a bank of resources and lesson plans. There is an expectaction that you spend hours creating your own worksheets/PowerPoints/card games/whatever. There is actually a wealth of stuff on the internet but it takes hours trawling through and invariably it is crap or doesn't do exactly what you want it to. I am also required to do two displays before I finish on 7th December. It matters not that this is one of the 24 tasks that teachers are no longer required to do, we have to put our stamp on the classroom environment.

I feel a bit bad about wishing this time away, since there are actually so many positives regarding the school, the staff and the children, but I'm finding the whole experience so draining.

His Lordship is being an absolute tower of strength and has removed so much from my shoulders to enable me to concentrate on this. I cannot praise him highly enough.

Roll on 3:20 on 7th December.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Forgive my rather aggressive joy. I have finally handed in the first assignment. I had to generate 3500 words loosely connected with the topic of learning theory, evaluating it critically (yeah, right) and drawing on lots of other boring books written by saddos with nothing else to fill their otherwise meaningless lives with. Oh, and my own experience. So which experience would that be, exactly? I am training to be a teacher, that basically means I have very scant experience. But I do have lots of friends and acquaintances who are. With this in mind, I approached couple I know from church with, "So, tell me, as teaching professionals, how does learning theory impact on your practice in the classroom?" They just laughed. OK, so it was a bit of an odd opening gambit, but all in the name of research. The more I thought about it, the less I felt capable of producing anything approaching an argument, critical analysis or anything else, for that matter. Anyway it is handed in now, the heap of poo that it is.

The problem is, forgive me if I bore you, the PGCE now requires Masters Level writing. If you don't get Masters level for all three assignments, the most you can get is a 'Professional level' qualification. I have no problem with having a professional level qualification - that is what the PGCE was until September. What I object to is that if you have a two level qualification, why not let the standard level qualification keep the name PGCE and call the other one something different? The higher one should be optional, new and have a different name. It's like saying, "GCSEs now require A level standard writing. If you fail to achieve
this, we will award you a merit certificate." But what worries me is that in the work place they just won't understand it. They'll think you couldn't get your PGCE therefore you are a poorer quality 'product' than last year's PGCE when it is exactly the same. IT'S JUST NOT FAIR!!!

Anyway, I might have some time for lesson planning now. Next week I start my 4 week block and have to teach a 60% of the timetable, teaching all the core subjects and Spanish. A wee bit scary then, considering I haven't actually taught anything yet.

Anyway, I can't sit here blogging my time away...I have work to do!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

PGCE Day 39 - A brief foray into Assignment evasion

Wow! Is it really almost a month since my last hurried posting? Well, I haven't had a minute. That's probably not strictly true. I've just been messing about really, but I have felt duty bound to mess around only with stuff to do with the course. You know the sort of thing - check my college e-mail, check the date my library books are due back, check the college network to make sure nobody has posted any PowerPoints without telling me, check the course handbook to make sure I haven't missed anything, check the requirements for the serial attachment to see if I understand them any more clearly than the last time I checked them. But to be honest, not a vast amount of real work. I am off on reading week now, working on the 1st assignment. Or, more to the point, I'm doing anything I can to avoid working. It's not that I don't want to work, but I'm just not really sure where to start. You see, the problem is that they have re-jigged PGCE now. We have to write our essays at Masters level and I'm not really sure how to do that. You see, I've spent a lifetime training myself to listen to others' points of view. I read an article and in my head I'm muttering, "Good point, I've never thought of it like that before, I can see where you're coming from...". Now I'm told I have to question everything - who wrote it? What's his/her slant? Why did they write it? What can I read into the language they use? When was it written? Did publication coincide with a full moon? Fine if you are reading one boring little article ('cos let's face it, virtually all academic writing is mind-numbing) but they are asking for about a dozen sources. Chance!! I have trouble with all of this not least because I really just want to be a teacher. But apparently this will make me a more reflective teaching professional, up to date with current theory and well-versed with how it relates to practice. Hmmm...

So far I've really enjoyed myself. I've met a lot of really nice people and I like my tutors. I'm enjoying it so much more than my Secondary PGCE experience a while back. Initial suspicions and fears have been allayed. I've been sucked into Facebook, simply because I didn't want to be cut out of any loop. I'm still not 100% sure what the point of it is, though. My school is lovely and the class teacher and children are great. I'm going to be spending a full four weeks with them in a couple of weeks' time so I am a bit nervous about that.

My personal life hasn't been fully suspended in all of this frenetic activity. A few weeks back we had a big extended family weekend away in a centre just outside Lancaster. It was mad but great to catch up with everyone. And the weather was superb - it almost made up for the derisory summer we had.

Earlier this week we took advantage of non-contact college time to slip off to Tours to visit my eldest who is studying there at the moment. It is a lovely city and well worth paying a visit if you get the opportunity. We decided to take a direct flight from Stansted to save any Paris Metro-related stress. You know, it's amazing, we ordered flight tickets from Ryanair. The outward flights were £15 and the return flights were 1p. For 3 of us that is just a smidgin over £45. But by the time we'd paid the supplements for the little incidentals like foot space, oxygen, etc., it was just short of £200! Look Ryanair, if you had offered me return flights at about £70 per throw, I would have still booked - it's still a good deal. But to show a miniscule price but load it with hidden extras - well, I think that is a con.

We booked into a Travel Lodge near to Stansted. The room was filthy. I don't think they'd actually cleaned it. There was 'debris' in the bed, on the carpet, greasy marks on the mirror and the bathroom - the loo had somebody's recent calling card and the bowl under the water line looked as if it hadn't seen any loobrush/bleach action in weeks! There was some building work going on and two storey portakabins so I suspect it might have been used as a workers' digs. So that was a nice little job for the duty receptionist! By contrast, the hotel in Tours was lovely. We had a family room up on the 4th floor. The double bed was in a reasonably sized room and there were two single beds underneath the sloping roof on a corridor bit alongside the main room. It was like something from Heidi. The funny thing was that the Hotel Harmonie had a musical theme and the rooms had names, not numbers. Guess what our room was called? 'Do'. Any resemblence we may have to the Simpsons is purely coincidental.

The first night we ate pizza - yeah, I know it's not terribly French. But His Lordship and I went for the one with the local sausage on. Of course, we were assuming it was a bit like pepperoni or salami. After all, we had avoided the real nasties like snails and you have to take a bit of a risk. The local sausage is andouillette. Why did no-one warn me? It was filled with what looked like what I would expect sections of tapeworm to look like. I don't 'do' anything from an animal that looks tuby and rubbery. I tried not to smell anything and attempted some of the less rubbery contents. I felt let off when His Lordship declared that he couldn't eat any of it or he'd be sick. With that I moved all the andouillette off the pizza and to the edge of my plate and ate what was left of the pizza, all the time trying not to smell the pungent aroma which was emanating from my plate. According to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, it is made from, amongst other things, pig colon. That explains the smell, then.

Another thing worth a mention is Tours Inernational Airport. It is amazing. It's so small, there is only one carousel for baggage reclaim and it is about a third or a quarter of the size of those in larger airports. It was like role play corner in primary school. I think the daily Ryanair flight to/from Stansted is the only one they have. Being small, they are sharp on security. After we had checked in our luggage, His Lordship was called on the tannoy. They did a security check of his suitcase (they do it about every few suitcases). The man put his hand in the suitcase and went "aagh" and then said "just ma leetle joke - I do eet avry tam". Surreal! That's all you need, a French airport security guard with a warped sense of humour. Still, apparently it broke the tension.

Ah well, back to learning theory.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

PGCE Day 20 - Getting into the groove

The first week of proper College was quite fun. There seems to be a greater sense of camaraderie on this course than I recollect there being on the Secondary course. Of course, we spend more time together. Each week we have one lecture as a whole group. We have a seminar group which meets for a 2 hour block, a curriculum group which meets for 7 x 2-hour blocks per week and the special interest group which meets for a 2-hour block. This pattern continues from now until two weeks after half term so we will get to know lots of other people quite well. I wanted to keep myself very much to myself, since we will all be competing for the same jobs in a few months' time but already I have broken that vow to myself. I just like people (well, some, anyway).

I did say that people are mostly a bit older but there are one or two who have crept in direct from university. There is this one kid has that cocky self-assuredness. They are big on 'group work' here, so we were doing a little problem solving task in Maths. The problem was (now don't laugh, I'm not mathematically hard-wired so I find this hard!):

If everyone in the room shakes hands with everybody else, how many hand shakes would there be in total?
So, little Miss Cocky-Knickers immediately says "Everyone of us (25 in total) will shake hands with 24 people so (whips mobile phone out to calculate) 25 x 24 is 600. The rest of the group was happy to accept this like docile little sheep. I slowly said, "Is that right, though? Let's think it through - better, let's model it in our small group. I shake hands with the four of you, that's 4, the next person shakes hands with you three, but she has already shaken hands with me and so on, you see that each time the number of handshakes decreases by one...?" The bit we floundered on was turning it into an equation which always works but we finally managed it as a whole class. I can only gather that we didn't have anything vaguely resembling maths specialist among us!

The next day in Science, having established that newspaper rips differently depending on whether you rip it with or against the print, we had to check whether its weight bearing capability was different according to the direction of the stress. There was no guidance given but we were pointed in the direction of a load of equipment which we might find useful (this was apparently how not to do things). I had found myself, again, in the company of little Miss-cocky knickers. Earlier on, we had established that she was a Science (Biology) specialist. She came up with a super definition for Science to which I said, "Hey, she's not bad is she?". She responded with a smug little smile. (The tutor's definition was actually 'SCIENCE IS FUN' - funny really, apparently the definition for History is 'HISTORY IS FUN'. No doubt when Boot Camp starts next semester we will be told 'PE IS FUN', though I may need some convincing of that!) Back to the load bearing quality of newspaper. As far as learning styles go, yeah, I do a bit of kinaesthetic from time to time but I like to keep it as my very private pleasure, so at the instruction to set up apparatus, I decided to sneak off and have a play with the hand-held microscopes and offer advice if I felt it was needed. After all, things were in the safe hands of our Scientist friend. She wanted to use a bulldog clip to attach the paper to the stand. Unfortunately the bulldog clip slipped, so she wanted put sellotape on the paper to add some friction (why not just sellotape the paper to the stand and sellotape the weights to the paper? But then, I'm not a Scientist and you can have too many cooks...) I left them to it and went to look for some weights. When I looked back to the action, I noticed that the square of paper now had sellotape all around its perimiter. The others were standing around like, yeah, you've guessed it, docile sheep, so I was duty bound to say (gently, honest!), "Er, I don't think that's going to work 'cos you can't have the sellotape all around the paper..." Irritated at my interjection, she scowled at me, in a Who-exactly-is-the-Scientist-Around-Here kind of a way and carried on. Again, I interrupted, "Er, do you see that you'll actually just be measuring the strength of the sellotape and not the paper? You only need the sellotaper in the spots where the bulldog clip comes into contact with the paper. She looked up to the sky in just the way that my 14 year-old daughter does, snatched the paper off the stand, threw it down and stomped off to play with the hand-held microscopes leaving me feeling like a real mum!

I start at my first school on Wednesday. We just go in one day a week for the first few weeks. I'm going to be working in KS2 on this placement. It's a bit of a hike to get there but my own locality isn't big on Spanish. Apparently this school is a centre of excellence for the teaching of primary Spanish...PRESSURE!...Or alternatively it is a wonderful learning opportunity (that's my life coach head speaking).

But apart from all that fun, I have been busy reading children's books and swotting up on Piaget and his band of merry Constructivist chums. What with all of these stories of puppies and developmental theories I now have a mild craving for a bit of s*x and violence!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

PGCE Day 14 - The Return of Goat Woman

I am trying desperately hard not to like any of the people on this course. After all, we will all be competing for the same few jobs in a few months time. But I am a relational creature and I do find it incredibly hard to keep up the aloof pretence. I start off well enough but then my facade crumbles pretty rapidly. So despite my best efforts, I now know a few people and have exchanged pleasantries with a number of different people/groups. So there is 'T', an Irish girl with strong opinions and a good sense of humour. "I get the impression you might have a bit of a struggle on your hands playing the game here", I joked to her. She agreed but said she was going to try to put her best diplomatic foot forward. There was something about her that reminded me of me. We agreed it was a case of jumping through the hoops for a few months just to get through the course. I broke my vow to myself regarding telling anyone that I had been there before. In the end I thought, do I tell people about my 'chequered' PGCE past and give myself a bit of colour or do I just keep making knowing comments about how they do things at the 'university' and come across as a know-it-all smartass with no justification? I decided to go with the former.
We have been given homework for next week's seminar - we have been split into groups and charged with the task of researching a psychologist and his contribution to learning theory. We have to come up with five points to sell our man and his theory to the rest of the group via a PowerPoint presentation. We were told that our man is Piaget to which somebody threw up a cheer!?? When Alison listed the psychologists, sadly "none of the above because it's all psycho-babble-bollocks" was not an option. So we have dutifully exchanged emails - well, everyone else in the group did, I just said, "someone e-mail and copy everyone and I'll pick up the other addresses from the message". It was as if someone had switched on a light in a dark room! We have agreed to meet on two occasions before the next seminar to show what good collaborators we are.
I lunched with 'S' a lovely girl, a real sweetie. We were comparing notes on the interview process. I asked her when she'd had her interview and she said February or March. I said I'd had mine on February 14th - I remembered 'cos it was Valentine's Day. She said she'd hers then, too. I was chuckling about the surreal experience of the girl with the goat under her arm when she said, "That was me!" Oh, how we laughed! "So you are Goat Woman?". Seems she didn't have to pay for it on the bus! I just have to track down Rainbow Fish Woman now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahoy there! It be Esther McVey. Shiver me timbers.

Here be my token gesture to 'Talk like a pirate day'. Speaking of pirates, just had a visit from the Conservative Action Team on behalf of our local Tory party prospective parliamentary candidate, Esther McVey. You know Esther, she is the cutesy, blonde, former TV presenter turned politician. No I don't mean that to sound like some kind of a blonde joke, she is, I'm sure a higly intelligent and competent politician (she couldn't be any worse than the rest of 'em!) but she does have a slightly more glam appearance than say, for instance, Leon Britten. Anyhoo, her 'special envoy' was here to ask me (and everyone else on his round tonight) about what I felt were the big issues, politically speaking. So, ever eager to ensure that my interests were covered, I expressed my concern over the lack of NHS dentists. Dentists don't just blithely fill every tooth in your head with toxic mercury amalgam for nothing, you know, they also help spot early cases of cancers and other nasties in the mouth region. And as I am an impoverished student now and can't afford to pay monthly plans to private dentists, I need an NHS dentist.

I didn't want him to think he was going to get off lightly so I swiftly manoevred into my irritation at the state of the education system. Not missing an opportunity to slag off the egocentricities of politicians (no offence to the delightful Ms McVey!) I blamed them for using the education job as a stepping stone to greater things, implementing new stuff then flitting off to a new job leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces and not a thought for the poor little mites who should be being nurtured to fulfil their potential as well-rounded human beings! I could tell I was speaking his language now and we quickly used the conversation as a vehicle to slag off the whole of the public services. Our man from the Conservative Action Team instantly seized the opportunity to ask, if there were a general election tomorrow, could Esther be assured of my vote (here be dragons!). I couldn't say yes because my poor old, late-lamented dad would turn in his grave. So I muttered something about a general lack of confidence in politicians and categorised myself as 'undecided'.

PGCE - Day 12 in the Big Teacher House

I am really itching to get going but there is a real sense of 'the calm before the storm' at the moment. Turned up for a 10.00am lecture this morning on the theme of student services. The previous PGCE Secondary lecture overran, so we were subject to 3 rapid fire PowerPoint presentations. As the Pro-Vice Chancellor was finishing, the woman who was on next had whipped off the final slide of his presentation before any of us had even had a chance to jot down a vital phone number and web page. She was clearly in a hurry to be elsewhere because she spoke at a rate of knots and shot out as soon as she had finished her bit. I could barely follow what she was saying so Lord help any non-native English speakers among us. At the end, we impoverished and malnourished students were chivvied out quickly, past an appetising array of cream cakes and a plethora of tea cups which were awaiting a party of big wigs attending some sort of event in the lecture theatre after us. Presumably my £3070 fees were subsidising the catering! So, in all, I had struggled in for less than an hour (barely half an hour in real terms). Same thing yesterday - it took me less than 45 mins to have my qualifications verified and my student ID card issued. Tomorrow I am timetabled from 9.00am until 3.00pm with an hour for lunch. I have two-hour library induction (why? I know the library of old, it's rubbish - very pretty building and about 3 books!). The best is Friday - I am only there from 3.00 until 5.00 for an ICT induction. GET THIS GUYS, I DON'T EVEN WANT TO USE YOUR CRUDDY ICT - I PREFER TO USE MY OWN COMPUTER!! I have had a look at the Primary Strategy stuff on DVD-ROM that I was given on Monday. I can't figure out what we're supposed to do with them and didn't want to waste too much time. Hopefully our Seminar Tutor, Alison, will be able to offer some guidance on that one.

Already the rumour machine is in full swing - not only did one of the Seminar Tutors give everyone their preliminary attachment folders back and told them to redo them (these are the ones we are 'peer assessing' tomorrow) but apparently the PE sessions are like boot camp. I am just waiting for someone to hand me a marker pen, ask me to 'act as scribe for the group' and then 'feed back' to the class - I will have to use all my powers of self control to stop myself hitting them! But I shall try not to get carried along with mass hysteria - I keep telling myself "just play the game". The good bits of the day? I bumped into 'C' and 'L', two 'old boys' from my former workplace who are now training to be secondary school teachers. A couple of success stories, methinks.

Monday, September 17, 2007

PGCE Day 11 - The nightmare begins...

I spent Thursday and Friday of last week at my old place of work (which I left in July, if you recall) looking at Year 7 classes. It was very interesting to see some of the teachers in action. I have to say that I was very impressed - objectives shared, starters, plenaries, lots of ICT - anyone would think I was an OFSTED inspector! A huge thank you to all of the teachers who allowed me into their space, it was a privilege. What was really great was to see all of my friends. They gave me a very warm welcome and left me feeling very loved. There were one or two that I didn't get a chance to catch up with, which is a shame. Perhaps there will be another opportunity.
So today was the first day of college. I took in my Preliminary Attachment folder to submit, thinking "That should make a bit of room in my bag!" Of course, no surprises, I got rid of one thing and came away with lots of other things: Profile of Professional Development, Course Handbook, Professional Standards for Teachers booklet, phonics teacher's pack, Primary National Strategy Professional Development Resource Pack on DVD ROM and last but not least Primary Framework for Literacy and Mathematics DVD ROM!!!! I don't even manage to get rid of the Preliminary Attachment folder permanently - we get them back on Thursday when we do a bit of peer assessment (yawn!)
The most useful piece of information is the day by day breakdown of the course. It is useful to know when we are in college and when we are in school, especially since it is not as straightforward as the PGCE Secondary. The placements for primary seem to follow the pattern of serial attachments of 1 day per week in school followed by a block attachment of a number of weeks. Also I found out the dates of the Seville placement - we fly on 11th January (though school doesn't start until 14th - the flight to Seville is on the Friday) until 8th February. So at least now I can update the diary and calendar!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PGCE Day 8 - Parting is such sweet sorrow...yet again!!

Well today I finished my 6 day stint at the primary school. It is so sad to leave. The staff were sound, the kids were lovely...where will I ever find another school like it? God alone knows where the college will place me - well, technically the placement organiser knows, too, but that is not the point! I was even starting to get my head around all the Arabic names. Now the difficult part comes when I go to college on Monday. I do still have two days at my old workplace to look at Year 7 but I could virtually do the whole write up on that now. I am looking on that as a social excursion, seeing all my old mates.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

PGCE Day 3 - La Rentrée

Off to a primary school today. I had chosen it (a) because it was one of the only two schools which responded to my request and (b) I thought that being a downtown school it would be a nice contrast to anything I've experienced so far. But I was surprised in more ways than one. Firstly, it is actually a lovely school - a nice modern building. Secondly, the children were delightfully well-behaved. Thirdly, it is a very multi-cultural school with a large Bangladeshi contingent as well as a couple of Chinese children and one Polish boy. I have always thought of the Wirral as being peculiarly monocultural so it was really bizarre to hear the teachers saying to the class, "If you want to fast at Ramadan, you have to get your parents to sign this permission slip."

It was a good experience generally but being the first day back for the kids after the summer break, there was a lot of admin to sort out and not a great deal of teaching being done.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

PGCE Day2 Parting is such sweet sorrow...again!

Completed my first 2 days in the nursery and it was lovely. I didn't bother resisting the tiny ones clambering on my knee and felt much more relaxed. I was surprised to see little 'D' from church there. It was nice to have a little chat with him. But it is so sad to say 'bye-bye' even after a short time. The staff were lovely, too, and so welcoming. I just have to get my head around the paperwork now!

The quote which will stay with me from my time there is "Ella! Take your hands out of your knickers now and go and wash them!" I don't recall anyone making a deal out of such matters at the boys' secondary!

Monday, September 03, 2007

PGCE Day 1

Well I may not make it to college for another 2 weeks but today was the first day of my PGCE. The college, in their infinite wisdom, decided that we should fit in a 2-week placement , to take place in exactly the 2 weeks before attending college. Of course, they did not take into account the fact that virtually every school in this part of the world is doing INSET today (except, apparently some in Wigan, though not all - fine, just let me check into a Travel Lodge!) So I have two days in a private day nursery looking at Foundation Stage. Aah! Sweet little babes! I still feel very apprehensive about children getting too close to me - all this child protection only serves to make us paranoid and act in an unnatural way. But what can you do when a sweet little tot clambers on to your knee? Push them away? They are little darlings but I'm not sure I could work with them on a permanent basis. The nursery is local and is in a beautiful setting overlooking open farmland and a paddock with horses in it. Now all I have to do is fathom out exactly what the college is looking for from the observations, which is easier said than done. No surprises there, though.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Long time no write...

Quite some time since there was some keyboard tapping in these parts. Since then, we have spent some time with his Lordship's folks at their caravan just outside Llanberis in North Wales and we have been to Greenbelt. Busy, busy, busy! Llanberis was lovely - we have had just about the cruddiest summer on record but the sun shone for us in Wales. We didn't do anything particularly out of the ordinary there but just spent time together, which was lovely. My dad-in-law has bought a couple of inflatable kayaks so the men and my two girls had loads of fun just messing about on the lake. It was lovely to see them all just having a laugh. Mum-in-law has armchair kayaking off to a fine art and shouted instructions from the bank, between pouring cups of hot tea. I do not do fun things. I am still traumatised from being crap at anything sporty when I was at school and the response it got from mildly sadistic PE teachers and thick but sporty fellow pupils. But I love to watch people enjoying themselves in sporting pursuits. I told my girls that I do not betray the ideal mother circa 1950 - I do nothing physical, instead I stand at the bank and call "Oh, do be careful!" like the lady who does the voiceover on Andy Pandy. We had some lovely food, the highlight of which was the food at the Peak Restaurant in Llanberis. Well recommended if you are in those parts. Excellent food and warm, hospitable service.

We were home a day and then off to Greenbelt. We had a fab time, as always. It didn't start so well with my eldest (21 years) being ill. She had left us early on Friday evening saying she didn't feel brilliant. At about 10.30 we were soaking up the atmosphere watching Fuse Factory when we got a call to say she had been sick. We hurried back to find two inflatable mattresses, one sleeping bag, a pillow and various other items covered in puke! I just looked and wondered how the hell we were going to sort it out with no electricity and no running water! How we managed to restore it to any semblence of normality with a roll of Andrex and a few litres of cold water, I don't know. Despite initial ranting like "We're just going to have to go home tonight!" we managed to put it behind us and enjoy the weekend. I'm afraid I wasn't as sympathetic as I could have been to my girl but I think she forgives me now! Highlights for me were Matt Redman, Mark Yaconelli, Greenbelt Communion and Delirious? And the weather was glorious!

Back home now and the new bunny is in residence - she is called Rosie (at least we think it's a 'she')

Thanks to Dave Walker over at the Cartoon Church for his wonderful witty cartoons.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The holiday starts here...

Check out this lovely piccy. We went to look at the bunnies yesterday and my littl'un has chosen this little beauty. Of course when you see them, you could take them all but you have to be practical. We will collect her after the bank holiday as we are off to Greenbelt and we don't want to leave her, being so little.

Well, bunny shopping was a nice way to end the week. I organised the annual art exhibition at church last week so I was there every day, virtually all day. It is worth it, though, because although you don't get knocked down in the rush, there are lots of blessings in the week. As the church doors are open, people drop in to light a candle, on an ad hoc basis. People pop in on the way to or from the shops. This year the highlight was that so many artists came in and worked in house. It was great on Friday because at one point I counted 6 people doing different things and although I had wanted to sell refreshments in aid of my pet project, it would end up just being tea and coffee all round for the workers. Also the number of cars in the car park attracted more visitors. It was lovely to stand back and see people interacting, visitors encouraging the artists, artists comparing notes in what is normally such a solitary pursuit. I got a real buzz from the sense of community.

I hope we can do it again next year. I am a bit fearful that the new priest won't be up for it but here's hoping. It is actually the only outreach type project that we do so I think it benefits the whole community.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Can't help acting on impulse...

An e-mail discussion with a friend about whether to go and see La Vie en Rose (the Edith Piaf biopic) put me in a French mood this morning, so to speak. I went downstairs (What? Doesn't everyone check their e-mails as soon as they get up?) and dug out my cheapo collection of French café songs on CD and started to play them. It's a hotch potch collection of Edith, Charles Trenet, Maurice Chevalier - you know the sort of thing. As I sang along with the bits I know, I said to his Lordship "Pity we haven't got any croissants, we could have had a French themed breakfast." With that, he grabs his car keys and trots off to Tesco for some 'authentic' French croissants. We shunned instant coffee for the proper stuff and had croissants, pain au chocolat and jam. I suppose the jam should have been Bonne Maman but it was damson with Lindisfarne mead - all I could find in the cupboard but it did the job. Very nice...

Later we were at the local shops, the sun was shining (first time this year, I think!) and we were on our way back to the car when we spotted some people sitting outside a pub. I said "Ooh, d'you know, I could just drink a nice cold glass of cider..." Enough said, the genie of the croissants again responded to my whim. Even better since we felt naughty 'cos the kids were at home and didn't have a clue. Two impulsive acts in one day. Can't be bad. Still shouldn't these things happen in threes? Hmm...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bored, bored, bored...

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way...

Also sprach Pink Floyd...You know it's amazing how you crave time off and when you get it you just fritter it away. I am absolutely bored senseless but it isn't that I haven't got anything to do, I just can't be bothered picking myself up off my big fat behind and doing anything. I have lived on chocolate, biscuits and Pot Noodle all week. I am eating myself into oblivion. And that's before I even start on feeding my internet addiction. I have set up yet another blog - this time for the local Christians to post ecumenical stuff of interest. Actually, I think this one will be reasonably popular. It is called sinnergize - no, it's not a spelling mistake, it's just me trying to be clever!

We did get to see the delightful, delovely 'P' and 'S' the other night at the rambling mansion that is the local vicarage. We only intended to stay for an hour, since 'P' was still poorly but we were greedy and stayed until gone midnight. Well, we had a year's worth of chat to get through and we won't see them for at least another year.

I am currently trying to paint a picture. Of course, I can't paint and this is my first attempt so it is pretty crap but I want to exhibit it in the church art festival, if only to serve as an encouragement to others to have a go ("Blimey, that's rubbish, even I could do better than that!") I may or may not post a photo of it here when it is finished - depends how strong I am feeling.

I keep having dreams about my old job. Last night I dreamt that they took me back on, evenings only! The previous night I dreamt that I was feeling sad 'cos I would be leaving at the end of the week. When I woke up I thought I still had my last week to go. Strange...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

First days of the hols...

Here's a piccy of a lovely little rose which is currently residing in a pot on my kitchen window sill. How very cheery it looks! Well, we are a few days into the summer hols (or my unemployment, whichever way you look at it). Not done much as yet. I'm still going through my typical post year end torpor. Everything is still a bit unreal after leaving work. Yesterday I did venture out to the local town centre. I thought it would be a good idea to spend my Waterstones vouchers so I have ordered all of the recommended reading for my course. I also had some vouchers which my parents-in-law gave me for my birthday so I have bought some novels to balance out the compulsory reading. While I was in there, who did I bump into but 'M' (Head of Drama) and 'B' (her mate and a former colleague). Seems you can't get away from them (only joking!) That is the thing about this peninsula (and particularly educational circles) -it's very close knit (some might describe it as 'incestuous'!)

'M's' sister was also there and she has some baby bunnies to find homes for. I was tempted. Well we still have a barely used hutch in our garden so I have asked 'his Lordship' if we ought to get one. He was actually well up for it so we are using the opportunity to challenge our youngest to sort her attitude out. She doesn't know what the reward is, yet, as he has put it in a sealed envelope (the 'prize notification', not the rabbit!).
'P' and 'S' are very good friends of ours. The friendship goes back to 2000 when I first met them and attended a short introductory Christianity course at their house. He was actually a local vicar at the time. Given their role in my spiritual journey, I place them in my Premier League as friends go. They are now living and working in Kenya but are currently visiting the UK. We had planned to go for a meal with them last night at a South African restaurant but sadly 'P' has taken really poorly. I'm not surprised, they run themselves into the ground. Anyway, rather that cancel completely, his Lordship and I decided not to cancel the table but to go ourselves. Super food! To be recommended. We both had crocodile for starter and I had ostrich for a main course. His Lordship had kudu which I gather is some kind of antelopey creature. Anyhow, it was beautifully cooked the staff were delightfully warm and hospitable and I am recommending it to anyone in the area. It is the Jabula and it is on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Ellesmere Port, just by the Boat Museum. Will see 'P' and 'S' tonight for coffee and cake...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

I finished my job today at the end of the summer term. Guess that makes me officially unemployed. I felt a bit shaky all day. Leaving some really good mates is such a wrench. When you spend best part of your life, over a number of years, with the same group of people you naturally become very attached to some. I've always managed to keep my distance to a certain extent but I think the whole faith thing makes me care about people far more than I used to and in so doing I make myself vulnerable. I suppose that is a good thing. At least it puts me in touch with my full emotional range. Yesterday Languages had cake and sparkling wine to say bye bye to myself and to P who is also leaving and also for E who has had a promotion. In English they had a full blown buffet lunch to send me off, complete with Buck's Fizz, table cloth and everything. I wanted to love them all.

All day today I felt as if I would burst into tears if anyone said anything nice to me and we had this 'valediction' thing at a local rugby club. You know, speeches, presentations, that sort of stuff. I was a bit nervous about it but there were loads of people going today so there was time to acquire some dutch courage, thankfully. My boss J did a lovely tribute to me which was all the more poignant since she herself was leaving today. The staff bought me some lovely gifts and cards and said such nice things that I feel quite unworthy of their kindness.

When I got home I felt edgy and obviously had some surplus adrenalin in my system so I was pacing up and down a bit. A pizza and mammoth dose of Big Brother has relaxed me a bit now, though so I might have a milky drink and to bed. I'm glad Nicky went - she did moan a lot but I felt for her as she left. She looked so uncomfortable.

I must remember it is my turn for church cleaning tomorrow at 9.30 and I've a hairdressing appointment at 11:00. Will probably visit Mum in the afternoon.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

5 Fave hymns

Well, I've been tagged by Brother James Hayes f.i.c. for my 5 favourite hymns. You don't make it easy, do you Bro James? I have agonised for days over my choices and have probably left some good ones out. The original tag was for the 5 favourite Latin hymns and 5 favourite English hymns. Well, I have to say 'Latin hymns' is somewhat problematic for me since, apart from Ave Maria, I've never sung any Latin in church. However, I love sacred music and can at least summon up some favourite pieces as follows (in no particular order):

1. Miserere Mei by Allegri - achingly beautiful and has me floating in the rafters every time.

2. Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis. I love a bit of melancholy, within reason, and this whole series of pieces lets me know I'm still alive by taking me to the lower reaches of my emotional spectrum.

3. Crux Fidelis by John IV, King of Portugal. More sweet melancholy.

4. Stabat Mater by Palestrina. I just can't get enough of those minor keys.

5. Jubilate, Servite (Taizé) Not sure if Taizé counts as Latin hymns but I'm getting desperate now. The words are Latin, anyway. And I needed to prove that I can do joy, as well.

Favourite English Hymns:

1. Amazing Grace - I did an Alpha course in 2000. I wasn't going to church at that time but when I decided to come back to Mass, the opening hymn was Amazing Grace and how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like coin a phrase. I had been nervous coming throught the door but when I heard this, I felt as though it was just for me.

2. O Sacred Head Ill-uséd - We used to sing this around Easter time at primary school. Before I understood the words, the music spoke its meaning to me.

3. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross - I love this one. Again it is a primary school memory like No.2. I think the words are beautiful and I love each one of the 3 or 4 settings that I have heard.

4. How Great Thou Art - When I hear this the desire to worship is uncontrollable. I have, on occasion, gone all charismatic and lifted my arms up with this one. Wonderful stuff!

5. The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended - I love Abide with Me but it all goes pear-shaped for me with the phrase 'point me to the sky'. It makes me think of those human cannon balls. I have trouble not bursting into laughter when I hear it and since this hymn is sung mainly at funerals and the FA Cup Final, this is not always an appropriate response. So my alternative funeral hymn (or indeed end of day) is this one.

I will rise to the Brother James' challenge and try for the contemporary worship and contemporary Christian music offerings (although I sometimes have difficulty knowing where one ends and the other begins, so be patient with me.)

Contemporary Worship

1. Befriended by Matt Redman - Our God is, indeed, an awesome God but it is in intimate moments such as this that I really feel loved.

2. Lost in Wonder by Martin Layzell - As above.

3. Pour Over Me by Stuart Townend - As above.

4. Be Still, for the Presence of the Lord - Really listened to this for the first time at a 'Life in the Spirit' seminar at our church. I sometimes think that the Holy Spirit is the all too often neglected aspect of the Trinity and yet what would we achieve without the Spirit? Does you good to remember God's presence in the world 'cos sometimes we forget and think it all depends on our feeble clay.

5. How Deep the Father's Love for Us - Stuart Townend is one of the great writers of contemporary worship songs and this is his finest, in my humble opinion. Modern and yet drawing on the great traditions.

Contemporary Christian Music

1. Carry Me by Sabio. Full of contemporary angst and vulnerability but strong in the knowledge that Jesus is the best friend we have.

2. Thank you by the Katinas. I think we're talking the modern Gospel stable here. Some might find it cheesy and boy bandish but I like the sentiments. I like it and it is my list, so there...

3. All Because of You by Tree 63 - A love song to God and I love it.

4. Did You Hear the Mountains Tremble by Delirious? Great song. I have fond memories of singing it at the top of my voice in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral at a Delirious? gig. Great stuff.

5. What a Friend I've Found by Delirious? More reflective than the last and has more in common with the previous category. What a Friend We Have in Jesus for the postmodern age. By the way Delirious? are at Greenbelt Festival this year...

I am going to tag Dirty Catholic and Mark...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The aftermath...

Well, it is just over a week since the bombshell was dropped on the parish so we have had an opportunity to chew over the idea of losing our priest. I suppose things will settle into a kind of normality again until the end of August when he finally goes. I hosted a house group last night. At the request of one of our group, we gave over a bit of time to discuss our reactions and where we think we go from here. The thing is, Father is great with the young families. He spends loads of time in the primary school (he's actually just a big soft kid himself!) and has attracted lots of young families back into church. Some of them are not even living in our parish but news of how 'family-friendly' we are has travelled and people have left their own parishes to come to us. He also says the mass like he means it (that's 'cos he does!) and gives a homily from the heart. That's so refreshing when so many priests are jaded and basically - well, let's not mince words - crap at all the people stuff. That is great, but when your leader is so charismatic, people will follow him to his new place and in our case that is not the other side of the diocese, it is barely 5 mins in a car! I don't know what the bishop is playing at - this is going to be so de-stabilising. I hope this new guy is good because if he is not we could see a mass (if you'll pardon the pun) exodus. Maybe that is the idea - you kind of get the impression they've been trying to find an excuse to close us for a while. Maybe I'm just being sensationalist. Anyway, it was good to have the opportunity to clear the air last night.

Workwise, I am leaving at the end of term. I am at that stage where what enthusiasm I had for the job is rapidly diminishing. I feel a bit flat, too, because I have really enjoyed working with the people. There are one or two people I'm going to really miss. Still, onwards and upwards, eh?

Sunday, June 10, 2007


We are losing our parish priest. I am totally gutted. I should be grateful that, against all the odds, we are getting a new priest. I know I should be grateful...but I feel as though I've been kicked in the belly...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shop 'til you drop (dead from boredom!)

What is it about shopping? You don't have a brass farthing to spend and yet you see all kinds of things you'd like to buy, yet when you are out to spend money you see naff all! I spent whole afternoon perusing the delights of the local shops (all two and a half of them!) in a vain bid to get something for Assisi. Nothing fancy, just some linen trousers and a couple of t-shirty tops, a lightweight jacket and some comfortable shoes. Net result - nada! That's not strictly true, I did manage a linen look jacket from New Look. I tried on some trousers in Miss Selfridge. I felt a bit apprehensive about going in there as I wondered if I was a bit old for it but I found some trousers that fitted but I wasn't 100% sure. I will probably pick them up later in the week. I spent what seemed like a vast sum on Lancome cosmetics (Hypnose mascara and Teint Rénergie Lift). I don't use them that much so I felt I could justify it.

Last night I thought it was time I watched Captain Corelli's Mandolin. My sister lent it to us years ago and I figured it was time she got it back! It was an enjoyable enough film but it was rather spoiled by the casting. I would not have put Nicholas Cage in the starring role. I have never seen such a wooden performance. There was no chemistry at all between him and Penelope Cruz. In fact he displayed marginally less passion than a frozen chicken! Shame.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Feeling knackered (with a capital 'N'!)

I'm feeling utterly done in at the moment. All last week I was on supervision duty for the GCSE speaking exams. This meant that I was limited in what I could do in terms of my general work. But my general work consisted of the admin for the Year 8 reports and the paperwork for Strasbourg and also 3 day trips to Boulogne aside from the day to day routine stuff. I shall not be sad to wave goodbye to all of this at the end of term. Next week we have an activities week in school. The teachers are all moaning because they have had a really busy time of late and yesterday the Year 11s took their leave of us - exam leave, that is. Some of the 6th form have already gone and next week the Year 10s are on Work Ex. placements. Traditionally next week is the lightest week of the year for anyone who teaches above Year 9. But instead an intensive schedule of activities is planned. So, they are all seeing their arses about it and dragging everyone else into a downward spiral! God bless H who is bright and enthusiastic about the whole project otherwise I might be tempted to seriously maim someone. Hopefully the weekend will revive my drooping spirits!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Busy, busy, busy...

This is the first post for a while. I have been SO busy. The work in the kitchen has been moving on and now we are almost done. Our fitter and mate, A, is away for a couple of weeks now but we are almost done. He still needs to fit the under-cupboard lights, do the tiling and finish the trims for the floor. We need to get our act together and paint the woodwork, remove all the kitcheny stuff from the dining room and restore it to its proper place, buy and fit a blind and some art work, I think to break the monotony of the walls. Well, when I say art work, nothing too fancy in a kitchen - just nice posters in clip frames, I think.

For the past two weeks, I have been frantically catching up on some reading. I had been asked to join a group to decide on some books which could be recommended to people who might wish to explore Christianity without stepping over the threshold of a church. Of course, me being me, I couldn't pace myself over it, I had to cram all nine books into the fortnight! All this and the other little incidentals like work, family, life eating, drinking and other bodily functions! It was like being a student again, an insurmountable task with only a short time in which to do it. There's nothing quite like that surge of adrenalin. Anyway, the meeting was this morning and I managed to finish the last book by about 11.40 last night. I enjoyed it, though, and I've learned so much. It was all very Late Review. Can't decide if I was more Tom Paulin or Germaine Greer.
In the midst of all this, I went to a superb concert at the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral featuring music from the Sistine Chapel sung by the Sixteen (heavenly!) followed by drinks at the Cafe deli Fratelli to celebrate E's birthday; went shopping with the family; went for a Chinese in Liverpool with some old friends; said 'Au Revoir' to my firstborn as she returned to Uni (the train which spirited her away is shown above) and had my birthday ( 2(7x3)+3 if you are interested!). Lovely pressies including everyday earrings (not a big jewellery freak but needed something to keep the ears open), a little gerbera in a vase ornament for my new study (when it happens!), a fragranced candle, 2 CDs (Corinne Bayley Rae & Ray Lamontagne), Betty Blue DVD and new trainers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Identity theft...

No, I'm not talking about someone stealing your personal info to apply for loads of loans in your name. This is the twighlight zone type of theft. I saw a film, years ago. It starred, I think, Roger Moore. I can't remember the details too well but the theme made a deep and lasting impression on me. The protagonist nearly lost his life in a car accident. All was well until a little while after the accident when people seemed to be seeing him all over the place when in fact he was elsewhere. Somehow or other when he had had the accident, he split into two people. The worst thing was that his 'doppelganger' was a pretty nasty piece of work and was out to completely eliminate the real guy from his own life.
Well that's a bit how I feel from time to time. I have an associate. A little while back this associate hoodwinked me out of a particular role that I held. Not content to rest with this particular role, this person then went and pushed their way into various other subsidiary roles that I had happily been performing for a number of years. On and off I have struggled with this, but just recently they have been really getting my back up. When they adopted the original role, they enlisted me for 'holiday cover' but in over two years they have carefully avoided taking up the offer, preferring instead that the job goes undone. Difficult circumstances in this person's life led to me overcoming my own reticence and offering them a short sabbatical simply as a supportive gesture - I couldn't do more as I have other commitments now. Again they have not taken the offer in spite of the declining quality to the work that they are doing. So I have kind of grown accustomed to the territorial approach of this person. Just recently, though, everywhere I go, this person is there, too. I had learned to deal with them acting as my own personal haemorrhoid in our own community. But now they are invading all my other places and wheedling in with my other friends. It is truly horrible. My only consolation is that they are not an attractive person in any way. They lack any semblence of personality. They cannot make eye contact with people. They lack any interest in people other than themselves. They go all out to promote themselves in any way they can (well, no-one else would). They are so colourless that they are forced to live their life vicariously through their children in a vain bid to try to make themselves interesting. They cling like a limpet to those that might be useful to them. They elbow into conversation and situations without any regard for protocol.
So part of me wants to say, just give them enough rope to hang themselves. But part of me feels pity for them. They don't have much going for them and their marriage seems pretty lacklustre. There is also an unhappy past, a long stint in a mental hospital as a teenager. So actually they are quite unhappy. And, of course, as a Christian all of this negativity comes between me and the big guy and that grieves me. Life is not such a straightforward game to play sometimes, is it?
Apologies for the pluralised neutral state of this individual. I couldn't think of any other way to maintain 'their' anonymity. But at least it has got it off my chest...until next time.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The outcome...

I finally came off the phone at 10:35 having been on since about 9:15. I finally got through to the 'other' department at 10:15 though thankfully the awful music stopped at 9:59. The chappy here said "Sorry you're having trouble, unfortunately I don't have the facility to process orders so I'm going to put you through to the Sales department." I protested "NO! I've just come from there, I've been on the phone since 9:15. Sales said they can't process online offers. Can't you put me through to someone who can authorise this?" This flummoxed him a bit and he put me on hold. This time the music was 'Morning' from the Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg - soothing music to calm angry customers, presumably. At 9:15 he put me through to Customer Options. At last someone who seemed to know what they were talking about. Lynn gave me the deal I wanted for £3 less per month than I am currently paying (have I been overpaying all this time? How much more could they give?) The only sticking point was the wireless router which had been offered for £30 but she could only do for £50. In the end, she managed to come down so everybody's happy now.

Let's just see if promises are fulfilled...


The trials and tribulations of telephone enquiries

I have been putting this off for about a week now in the vain hope that the order would actually be fulfilled. A minor upgrade to my existing BT Broadband order. The offer arrived inoccuously enough by email - promises of increased connection speeds, monthly download quotas and an optional wireless router. I dutifully followed the links and ordered but two weeks later, nowt! Before venturing onto the phone I tracked the order via the website - no sign, the only option was to phone. I navigated the labyrinth of menus until I finally got through to a human voice. "No," she confirmed, "no sign of your order. I'll put you through to our sales department" So I gave the usual, name, rank and serial number info to the next department. "We can't help with online orders because the offers are different, I'll put you through to another department to see if they can help you." So here I am, multitasking, a phone wedged between head and shoulder and blogging, having been listening to the same awful tune for over 20 mins. Obviously they are very busy today in the "This'll teach the buggers to phone up with an enquiry" department.

What a way to spend the first day of the Easter hols!

Signing off now.


Listening to: Some absolutely dire 80's sax digi-muzak loop - for what seems like a day - nearer 25 mins, actually!

Thursday, March 29, 2007


We have been awaiting the arrival of a couple of new sofas - remember from an earlier post, this necessitated a hasty facelift to the back lounge. Well the phone call came through to tell us on Tuesday afternoon that they would be delivered today. We had exhausted all but one possibility for taking delivery of them. Yes, it fell to me to take a day off work. Fortunately I had some scope; technically my holidays fall in the school holidays, having a term time only contract. However, I am not required to work all INSET days. We do have an INSET coming up the day after the Easter break so I said I would work that and take today as a day in lieu. We were unable to pin them down as to a time, even so far as morning or afternoon. Eventually they arrived at 4.30 - half an hour after my normal finish time! The delivery men enlightened me as to the fact that this was the last drop of the day. Funny how they didn't know this yesterday or even this morning. I think I would have preferred to be the first drop of tomorrow's round! Ah well, at least they're here, as you can see.
And how is the kitchen getting on? Well, as you can see, it is looking a bit better, having been plastered and painted. But we have considerably less in the way of furniture. The cooker is kind of, stand alone, which makes cooking a challenge. No handy bits of worktop to rest a spoon or a plate on. It's worse than camping. All the food, including the fridge/freezer is in the dining room next to the kitchen. The cutlery and crockery is all out there too. The pans are in the garage. The other night I was meticulously measuring boiling water into a pan. Only after I'd almost finished did I discover a dead silverfish. Well, I expect he was alive until I immersed him in boiling water!
We have had all the wiring done now so having de-constructed, we will hopefully soon be re-constructing.

See ya!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring has sprung.

Funny how nature seems to be in on the secret about the clocks going forward. Yesterday I took this photo on my way to work. OK, granted, the sun was not greatly in evidence, but there was something lovely about the morning mist and the bed of naturalised daffodils on the grass verge by the bus stop. I love daffodils, and the way that they grow in this particular location make it one of my favourite spots. There are prettier places in the world, sure, but it is the fact that this spectacle is totally gratis, a pure act of grace, in this mundane spot, make it very special to me. In the same place this morning, I spent a good two or three minutes watching a humble earthworm make the arduous journey from the rough tarmac pavement onto the soft grass. What a superb start to the day!

On the way home I was walking down the road when I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. I turned around and spied a little mouse. Oblivious to me, he trotted along in an unhurried manner, stopped to investigate some potential food source, then scampered up a little sandstone wall into a garden. I got such a good view of his world. He was a very healthy looking little mouse and for a moment I wanted to pick him up and take him home! Of course I wouldn't but I did take with me the blessing of having briefly made his acquaintance. As I travelled onwards toward home the birds competed against each other with their joyous song to a benevolent creator.

Spring has sprung.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Longing to belong...

There is nothing that I want more than to feel that I belong. But I am not part of the crowd. Forever on the outside looking in. All the time wanting to be at the centre and yet desperate to run away once I get there. Nowhere is this more evident than in a church setting. It is hard to 'belong' in the Catholic church as, like the Anglican churches, we have such large congregations in comparison to many of the free churches. If you've a congregation of thirty, it is easy to get to know everyone. In a Catholic church you are extremely lucky if you know thirty people. I want a nice ready-made community - I don't want to have to work for it. And yet here I am, drawn to irrevocably into trying to build community when it is patently obvious that most don't actually want community - they just want to fulfil the weekly obligation and go home. I don't even have the skills or personality to build community but I feel I have to give it a go. I talk the talk a lot. I try to walk the walk but only manage to stagger about aimlessly. I've been making a concerted effort to do this for 7 years now and it's depressing me. I really try to love people, you know, the old agape business, but I get bugger all back. I know it isn't about what you get out of it but the truth is, I need the encouragement. I know some wonderful people who really care, but I still don't really feel I belong.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Yoga and Haworth

I experienced yoga for the first time on Wednesday. I have always fancied having a go, but in recent years I have been slightly put off by the attitude of some of my Christian friends towards it. Frankly, as far as I am concerned, you get out of it what you want to. I am interested in the physical benefits of deep exercise and perhaps even the meditational focus. I believe that if you want to meditate, you can do this with yoga and with a focus on the one true God. To my eyes, approached in this way it is not a million miles away from contemplative prayer in the Christian sense. I am a wee bit bemused by the tendency of some Christians to totally demonise it (and I mean that they do actually believe it is demonic!). But on the other hand, I don't want my friends to think that I might be 'possessèd of a demon'

I felt more comfortable that it was an after work thing at the school and that it was my dear friend K's dad, Mr D, who was taking the class. K is a delight and may I stress, not in the slightest bit demonic! I was honest with her and we discussed it together. She found it really strange. I was encouraged by the fact that C was also going and she is a practising Methodist/URC hybrid. She thought the whole thing was hogwash and made the jolly good point that all goodness has its source in God anyway. So I went and I enjoyed it - except maybe when the Year 9 footy team traipsed in to the hall to get their bags. We were in the process of doing this pushing your abdomen in and out thing while your lungs are emptied of air. Mr D showed his belly to demonstrate this. There was a visible movement for him. My own experience, and I believe, that of many of my classmates, was a mild sensation of quivering belly blubber! Thankfully no bare flesh was on show from us but we made a curious sight to the lads!
Today I went on a trip with the Head of English and some 6th Form English Literature students to Bronte country. This was to enrich their study of the novel Wuthering Heights. A trip to the parsonage, a short talk on the novel and a walk on the moor has hopefully given them a sense of the brooding and often bleak environment in which Emily concocted her famous novel. The story of the Brontes is fascinating. For 3 sisters (ie WOMEN) to all be published novelists, of such a high standard, given their sheltered upbringing and lack of formal education in those times is an astounding achievement. How such creativity could flourish in Haworth, which was as impoverished and unhealthy as some of the poorer districts of London of that time, is nothing short of miraculous.

The quote of the day goes to one likely lad who was looking at posters advertising the showing of the film, Jane Eyre, and commented, "Jane Eyre - did she live round here as well?" I managed to stifle my guffaws which is more than can be said for some of his pals!

It's the way they tell 'em!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Getting plastered...

Well, we are finally getting our kitchen sorted out. We got an extension to Chéz H about four years ago and our kitchen, with its authentic 1980's chic was in serious need of a facelift. It wasn't until our kitchen fitter's wife, a long term employee of M&S commented that the wallpaper looked like such and such a range that Marksie's used to stock, that the awful realisation dawned on me. It was, indeed, the same design that was on a pair of tea trays that I bought when we first married - some 25 years ago! Later that evening I began to tear bits of the paper off the wall to ensure that there was no going back.

The job is not wildly straightforward. The kitchen was once two small rooms, a kitchen and a breakfast room, on two levels. The floor had been levelled off but the ceilings were still different heights and there was a dip in the corner for the stairwell. Added to this, when the extension was built, we moved the boiler into the garage. This meant that we had horrendous piping (à la ship's boiler room) over the dining room door which had to be boxed in, leading to a somewhat pig's ear appearance. All of these different levels on the ceilings and walls tended to cast a lot of shadows and darken the appearance of the room. This has all been levelled off properly now and so even now it looks brighter.

We also, rather impulsively, decided to renew our sofas in the back lounge. But if you are going to do that, you might as well freshen the room up a bit. So we are going to give it a lick of paint. Hopefully we can manage this before the sofas arrive! To dull the effort and monotony of such chores His Lordship likes to treat himself to the occasional little gift. This time it was a disposable boiler suit. On Saturday he merrily donned himself in his new acquisition. I naturally thought he had intentions to do some work in the lounge but there was not a great deal of evidence of this. This morning I asked him, "So, when you got changed into your paper boiler suit, what did you do, exactly?" "You mean workwise?" I nodded and he mumbled something about the loft and lots of dust. "So, you were just poncing about in it?" His embarrassed laugh said it all. Well, if you can't dress up in a paper suit and pretend to be a forensic investigator in the comfort of you own home...

Of course, what usually happens when you are up to your eyes in muck and bullets? The boiler packs in. We spent a week with no boiler, the front door open all day, holes in the ceiling of the (uninsulated) kitchen ceiling and arctic winds. And £200 for the pleasure of it!

Busy and expensive times.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Take that, you brutes!

I cannot believe the hyperbole surrounding Take That. I mean, they threw in the towel years back to "pursue solo projects" so it was hardly a marriage made in Heaven, was it? They all had a go at something - Gary Barlow had a crack at a solo career, as did Mark Owen, Jason Orange had a bash at acting and I don't know about the ugly one. I guess the royalties must have been running a bit low and Gary needed the cash for a bit of roofing at his impressive home in Delamere. When I heard they were getting back together I thought it might be a one-off novelty concert for Comic Relief or something rather than full blown tours and recording. But no, there were thousands of women of a certain age, who should know better, clamouring for tickets. I was amazed that Beverley Knight was supporting them on tour - surely it should have been the other way around. Anyway, they are a far cry from the fresh-faced boy band they once were (they started that whole awful awful boy band thing - they have a lot to answer for!) They are four, slightly worse for wear looking blokes now. I have to take my hat off to them though, what a clever comment for the postmodern age! They are their own dodgy tribute band! Fake That.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In a confused mood...

The past few days I've been in a confused mood. When I am feeling disgruntled with events in the local church, I go seeking reassurance elsewhere. I don't mean I try a bit of hinduism or wicca or even other churches; I seek to find solace in the greater Catholic church. That is possibly the worst thing you can do in these situations. In 2007 it should be easier than ever to sample the great expanse of Catholic wisdom with the plethora of bloggers out there. So, I'm like, looking for a Catholic blogger who might speak words of comfort to me. Believe me, I have trawled through tons of them in the past few days and it has, at best, been boring and, at worst, an alarming experience. I am sure these people cannot be reflective of the whole church. Where are all the reasonable Catholics? Catholicism may have more rules and regulations than all the other churches put together but we also have conscience. The trouble is that the reasonable Catholics have problems exercising that conscience for fear of the the fascists out there. We have a crisis in vocations at the moment so it is good to see, via the blog medium, that there are a number of young men who are willing to take up the baton and if they are not already in seminary, they are actively engaged in the discernment process. What is scary is the extremist nature in which they choose to express their faith through their blogs. Actually a lot of the more mature priest bloggers are no better. I shudder to think of the damage, actual and potential, which is being done to congregations in the western world. Is this the latest ploy to adjust the priest/lay person ratio? We are having no luck in the vocations department so let's decimate the church-going public. I feel very little of God's extravagent grace once it has been filtered through the medium of these men in black and the church's answer to the Hitler youth.

If you want to avoid fascist Catholic blogs (or find them, if you are a fascist Catholic!) a fairly good rule of thumb is to avoid anything with a Latin name. Other warning signs are ones which have cheesy representations of the Virgin Mary - you know the type. What is it about Roman Catholics? We have always championed art and creativity as a suitable way to glorify God and have a tremendous wealth of Christian art but we still prefer mass produced kitsch. The latest to take up residence in the Catholic psyche is the appalling 'Divine Mercy" image shown above. There are a few variations on this theme doing the rounds but this seems to be the VHS to the others' Betamax and Philips 2000, to use a technological analogy. It follows a basic specification revealed by God to St Faustina. Personally I can't stand the thing. There is something in the almond shaped eyes that reminds me of those grotesque Japanese animé characters.
I blame Mel Gibson for popularising a nostalgic image of the pre-Vatican 2 church. He should stick to acting.
The good thing is that I come out feeling the better the "devil" you know than the "devil" you don't. I'm quite lucky really - at least I don't encounter many fascists in my congregation.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Well waddya know?

Guess what? I'm in. I have been offered a place on the PGCE and I've accepted it. So just a few more months in my job now until I leave to go back to college.
So may I introduce you to my hand picked project team who will assist me in this next stage of my life. Meet Classy the Beanie Bear. She upholds all standards in teaching, professional and moral, and will work closely with me as my mentor next year (she may only be a soft toy but believe me she will prove to be an infinitely superior mentor to the one I had in my first teaching practice five years ago!) Classy was a gift to me from my nearest and dearest when I got on my last PGCE which, as you recall, ended up being an aborted mission. Shame-faced, I have had to pass her each day sitting on my shelf. At last Classy can once again take up her rightful place at the helm of the good ship 'Initial Teacher Training'. At Classy's right (as we look at her) you will see Alien. Alien was a great moral support to me last time round. As you can see, he is armed with a pink gun. He may look a bit camp but don't be deceived, he is the champion of behaviour management and will once again be acting as my guru in this particular area. He's never had to use that gun but...

Does anyone know where I might be able to pick up a Rainbow fish story sack...?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Interview

Well I went for the interview. I was a bit apprehensive about the speaking Spanish, as I said in an earlier post. You know what it is like at these things.

"Yah, my name's Jocasta. I haven't spoken Spanish for ages - it's six months since I was travelling through Ecuador and Chile. Though I did spend two years working in an orphanage in Nicaragua - but that was back in 2003. Amazing!!"

With this in mind I did have three lessons with a lovely lady from Colombia - one of the major advantages of living in a multicultural society! Anyhow, having tackled a ton of mock interview questions and learned important vocabulary like didáctica, metodología and pedagógico the conversation consisted of little more than 'hello, how are you, where did you do your degree?' in Spanish, of course. It was a bit like speed dating as they raced to get through about 5 of us in half a minute.

The written test was a piece of cake.

Then we had to read a story, or at least a passage to a small group. This was the funny bit. The invitation letter had said that you could use visual aids but not OHP transparencies. I made a conscious effort not to go in for any gimmicry so just went with book in hand. Everyone else took it as read that visual aids were de rigeur and at the very least had a cardboard fish or a few bits of A4 to waft around at appropriate points. What did we do before clipart? One girl was obviously working as a classroom assistant and had clearly raided the resource cupboard before the interview because she brought 'a story sack' containing all manner of goodly things to make one boring story a cross-curricular fest to last at least two terms! The main item was, of course, the Literacy Hour big book "This is Rainbow fish. See how his scales shimmer as he moves through the water..." Yawn!!! There was even a glove puppet for Rainbow Fish. She had a lever arch file bursting under the strain of all of the lessons she had done with good old Rainbow Fish and his cronies! In years to come some kid will, no doubt, do Post-Doctoral research in Nuclear Physics in reference to Rainbow-bloody-Fish! I did wonder at one point whether I should have said, "Normally I use a ventriloquist's dummy called Kyle to present this story" but thought better of it. Best laugh of the day was the girl who arrived with a goat under her arm - not a real one, I hasten to add, but a large cardboard cut-out. I wondered if she had brought it on public transport and whether she would have to pay a fare for it! Utterly surreal.

The interview went oddly, really. There was I, prepared to talk about the Primary Languages Strategy, Accelerated Learning, Assessment for Learning, Every Child Matters and other such DFES goodies and they kept asking me crappy questions about working with other adults in the classroom. It was hard to try to get the conversation round to what I wanted to talk about. Ah well, in the words of Doris Day, que será, será.

Let's just play the waiting game now. I should know by Friday.