Saturday, September 13, 2008

This Worship Malarkey (1)

Preamble (or is that pre-ramble?):

I have been intrigued by a discussion that has been taking place over on Jonny Baker's blog about worship. I find, on my travels through the blogosphere that the is a significant amount of discontent around the whole issue of worship, though I think what we are really talking about is communal worship. I can engage up to a point with this debate, as a bog-standard worshipper ... but the debate is largely based in protestant circles, and well, I'm ... a Catholic. I am very conscious of the fact that whenever I interact with blogs my comments tend to have me saying in almost apologetic tones, "I'm a Roman Catholic". No, I'm not embarrassed about it, I have had many opportunities to jump ship, I've even had invitations to do just that, but in spite of my own personal frustrations I remain, for the time at least, at home. I'm also aware that I started this blog to share the trials and tribulations of being an average worshipper in the Catholic church and I rarely, if ever mention it here. So today, I am going to look at 'The State of Worship in the Universal Church from an Offbeat Catholic's Perspective.

Disclaimer: I ain't no scholar and these are just rambling personal opinions, many of which are in a constant state of flux anyhow. So don't expect much in the way of wisdom here, more a working through of thoughts.

Big bones of contention 1: Singing as the main focus of worship

My exploration of the Protestant denominations will largely be based upon my forays into Anglicanism as that is where most of my journeying has taken me but brief excursions into the Methodist church and free Evangelical setups have also influenced me. I remember first attending an Anglican church in 2000. I was amazed by the use of such things as electric guitars and microphones in the service. They had songs which, OK, a fair proportion of them were embarrassingly sh*te, but some of them wouldn't have sounded out of place in the pop charts. And when I listened, they were like love songs - WOW! love songs to God, now there's a novelty. These are now spoken of somewhat disparagingly as 'Jesus is my boyfriend' songs, but for someone like me who had spent all her teen years listening to soppy soul classics in her bedroom, yearning for something other than unrequited love from the spotty lad on the No. 11 bus, it seriously spoke my language. And as an added bonus, it added a more spiritual flavour to my shower repertoire of Memories (Gladys Knight) and the theme from Mahogany (Diana Ross). But it seems that the church's reliance upon the sugary worship song is beginning to wear a bit and some folk (good Anglican word) are becoming quite vocal in their desire for a change in direction, worship-wise. Charges of cosiness and lack of engagement with pain abound.

The Catholic church can be categorised into 3 main types: The real progressives who sing 'modern' folk hymns from such recent times as the 1970s, though a rogue one or two Graham Kendrick numbers may have crept in there; the traditional hymn lovers to whom the accoustic guitar is anathema and only the good ole organ will do; those who don't like any music at all. These three groups can be accommodated in most parishes by just having a mass in each of the styles. The mass is the mass, that is a non-negotiable but we can mess about with the music bit. As we can be a bit insular, we haven't yet discovered modern worship songs so haven't had the opportunity to tire of them. Perhaps I am being a little unfair - I gather there are one or two Catholic churches in the country where the modern worship genre is the way but I have yet to encounter one myself. They are the stuff of legend, like the unicorn and the Holy Grail. If there is one thing that bugs me, it's that we have some really fantastic stuff going on in our Catholic secondary schools and yet none of it filters through to the churches. And we wonder why the teens lose interest. A lot of the adults lost interest long ago but are too set in their ways to do anything about it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The LHC all rapped up...

Could someone please explain to me what this LHC thing is?

No sooner said than done...

Huge thanks to Dadube from the Sanctuary crew for enlightening me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Altruism back in vogue...

Most TV these days is complete dross (she says in complete sweeping generalisation). But one programme I am loving at the moment is Channel 4's The Secret Millionaire. For those who haven't seen it, the premise is that a millionaire goes undercover into some of Britain's most deprived areas and lives in the community for about 10 days. During that time they blend in, do a bit of voluntary work and seek out people/groups to be the recipients of sums of money from their own personal fortune.

What I love about the programme is that it highlights some of the fantastic work which is being done by ordinary people all over the UK for the benefit of others in the community. The programme manages to avoid becoming all about the wonderful yet patronising deeds of some rich bloke/woman. What I really love is the symbiosis that takes place. I am just as touched by the way in which the millionaire is affected by their time with others less fortunate as by the handover of a cheque. I have heard a number of the 'philanthopists' who admit to something lacking in their own lives, whether it is lack of time to spend with loved ones or a lack of a sense of belonging in their own neighbourhood (easier on a council estate than a vast estate, I suppose). Every week without fail, I cry, well not exactly cry, but my eyes overflow a bit on account of the feelgood factor.

It is fairly easy to put your hand in your pocket for a 'good cause' but the best kind of giving is based on a relationship. The fact that the millionaires have worked alongside many of those they help and formed a relationship seems to make it a much more fulfilling transaction for both parties. I would like to think that many of the millionaires gain personally from the experience and continue to be involved in their communities in some capacity or another. Whatever, it makes great TV!

Check out some of the clips here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The family continues to grow...

On Saturday we visited my newest great-nephew (God, that makes me sound old!). Little Michael Craig was 6 days old. I even got to feed him his bottle. I'm a bit out of practice but it soon came back. This is actually a big thing for me as babies do scare me a bit. I am not the kind of woman who instantly grabs a new baby and does all the coochy-coo bit. I politely say how lovely the child is, let it practise its grasp reflex on my finger and then make my excuses to leave. That's me holding the baby with his nana, my big sis looking on.

There is something so good about being part of an expanding family. It gives me a sense of being part of something that will continue long after I'm pushing up daisies. And it is good to know that even when it seems the world is conspiring against you, there is a whole bunch of people who would gladly fight your corner for you. Since my mum died, we have been really close as a family, not that we weren't close before but it has somehow been strengthened. That is the legacy that she left us with. I feel very privileged.

Friday, September 05, 2008


I am feeling in a generally disgruntled mood today. The incessant rain does not help as my mood is very much affected by the kind of weather we have. But I think the General Teaching Council (GTC) is the major cause of my being cheesed off. The GTC didn't even exist until a few years ago. It is supposed to be a professional body/register for teachers, something along the lines of the British Medical Association. In reality it is just another bureaucratic thorn in the side of teachers. I could go on about how, if you want to create a professional body you might actually pay teachers something in line with other 'professionals' instead of the equivalent of an average business graduate trainee starting salary. But that is not today's particular gripe. I was awarded 'Qualified Teacher Status' at the start of July. But to prove it, I need, not my graduation certificate as you might think, but another certificate from the GTC. These are sent out in August. Upon receipt of this, I was required to cough up £33 for membership of this Mickey Mouse body. Here's where I show myself to be a great, humungous plonker - I put the wrong bank sort code on the Direct Debit form, without which, they will not register me. D'oh! I received the letter giving me the good news this morning. It has taken them a fortnight to discover this. Why is the whole process so unwieldy? There should be enough slack in the system to even accommodate dopes like me. Now it will be another 2 weeks before I can even hope to have any work. Why does it take so long? Have they done no processing of my application at all in the past fortnight? Surely it should be a fast track process now? I am not allowed to work without this. Perhaps I should apply for any old job. I'm just being picky expecting to get a job in teaching after spending over £3000 of my own cash to train. A bit selfish of me really...

I do shudder at the chronic lack of strategic organisation in cowboy outfits like the GTC. Come the revolution, they will be the first against the wall...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Greenbelt '08 - the Rising Sun

Boo- hoo!!! Just back from Greenbelt '08. A fab time was had by all, as always. There was a significant amount of mud. Well the theme of this year's event was 'the Rising sun' so what do you expect? The Greenbelt communion service was at 3pm this year and the heavens opened right on cue. Oh, the irony!

The big memory of this year's event was the people. Having spent the year virtually connecting with a bunch of people at ASBOJesus it was great to have the opportunity meet up with a few of them at Greenbelt. Top of the list was creative genius, Jon Birch, who gave life to ASBOJesus. His blog of quirky little cartoons has grown into something of a community. I have known, for a long time (well, not that long in the grand scheme of things), that Jon has an enormous generosity of spirit, but to see him in action, the authentic enthusiasm and love for people was amazing. What a beautiful man! I was equally bowled over by the warmth and friendliness of Jon's wife Clare and good friends Sonia and Iain from the Sanctuary community in Bath. It was great to finally meet Robb and Dr Ruth who consistently contribute so much good sense and humour to the ASBO debates and Janetp who has more recently brought a new insight to the blog with her thoughtful and intelligent commenting. Caroline Too, I did enjoy meeting you - embrace your 'poshness', it's part of who you are. I was also privileged to briefly meet the ultra-cool (I am seriously not worthy) Jonny Baker, Jon's creative partner in crime with Proost. Far less scary was the introduction to Dubb aka Harry Baker. A fresh talent with a great future.

There wasn't much on the music programme which tickled my fancy but I did enjoy Emmanuel Jal. I forgot all about Daby Touré. I missed a few things that I wanted to see - damn Greenbelt programme! When are they going to come up with an online personal programme planner, which you can log into and input all of the things you want to see and the system generates a best fit before you arrive on site? I wanted to see Brian McLaren but only managed one talk which I wasn't particularly inspired by. I gave John Bell a miss this year. Best talk treat was Philip Yancey, whose books I love. I also went to Jenny Baker's talk on gender difference/similiarity with particular reference to church leadership. It was entertaining. I remember going to a workshop session on prayer which Jenny did with Pete Greig at Spring Harvest in 2002. This was a different set up, of course but she seemed a lot more feisty than I recalled from back then. Or was it just a different approach for the mainstream Spring Harvest punters? Best discovery was Pete Rollins. I went to his talk on Monday afternoon simply because I'd heard of him and there was nothing else on. I don't know how I got the impression, but I'd kind of thought of him as some cool, academic type (there is nothing I've read to reinforce this false impression). He looked about 15, and talked too fast. I figure if he had a fag in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other, it might have stopped him playing with his hair so much. I have met pub philosophers a bit like him before but he has clearly developed the style to a fine art. I'm not altogether sure my brain had the time to process everything he said, but he said enough to stimulate my brain cells and stave off Alzheimer's for a week or so...or possibly advance it. It was a lively and entertaining performance. I sense that he is a work in progress and his ideas may be a bit more intelligible a few years down the line. I liked him.

Well, the tickets for Greenbelt 09 are already on sale. Things to do before next year:
(a) Grow a third arm - invaluable when you are trying to balance paper plate of food, paper cup of drink, bag of essential items, programme and folding stool.
(b) Contact Greenbelt organisers with a view to setting up a new venue - a tent where you can go to catch up on lost sleep. Suggested name for venue : Rest in the Spirit.

Island in the Sun....

This year, for the first time in donkey's years, we decided to take ourselves off for a fortnight in the sun. It's been a bit of a stressful year, with one thing and another and I just needed the excuse to work hard at doing naff all! So we booked ourselves a holiday in Menorca, in the quiet resort of Santo Tomas. We'd actually been to Santo Tomas before - in about 1991! There's a bit more to the resort now but it is far from overdeveloped and still peaceful. Menorca is the shy, retiring younger sister to the more extrovert Majorca and Ibiza (though I love Ibiza, too. She is not a bad girl, just misunderstood!) We spent rather more on our break than we could probably afford - our youngest being 15, we had to pay for 4 adults, whereas most of the other families were clearly taking advantage of free child places. The resort was quite expensive (the days of a 'cheap' package to Spain long since gone, bargain-hunters now flocking to Turkey in their droves) and this wasn't helped by the strength of the Euro. The hotel was pleasant and even though it was a family oriented hotel, it wasn't noisy. We just did our own thing. The hotel was right on the beach and the sea was shallow. The best bit was the evening walks along the paseo which ran along the shoreline. We saw some fabulous sunsets and it was a lovely opportunity to just talk about 'stuff'. It was horrible having to come home. I'll have to save up my pennies for next year...maybe I should think about getting a job.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Well the last week of the course went by in the blink of an eye. I shall miss the kiddie winkies, they made me laugh. And I even got pressies - lovely bath stuff, Ferrero Rocher and a case for my iPod! Not forgetting a lovely card - can't show a photo of it as it has a photo of all their gorgeous little faces on it. The staff were great, too. I shall particularly miss Miss J., the Teaching Assistant for my class. We made a good team and had some laughs. I was not looking forward to the final sign off, sure that my evidence would be found wanting. But it came and went without incident. As anticipated, I had no energy for celebrations and slept a lot in the ensuing few days. Even the final profiling went smoothly along with the discussions for 'Transition Point 1', stage one of the Career Entry Development Profile (CEPD) - blimey! I've only just got rid of the Profile for Professional Development (PPD). More standards, more form filling...

Last Thursday saw the long-awaited and much envisioned graduation ceremony. It has to be said, the weather was - how can I put this - crap! It peed down all day. I spent ages straightening my disobedient hair and as soon as I got out into the air, it was a mad fuzz! I am considering patenting a business idea - offering a hair straightener service at graduations at universities all around the country. Let's face it, even the 'blokes' straighten their hair these days - the same type who wax and pluck their eyebrows. In the pre-PC era I would have called them 'tarts!'

The ceremony itself was fabulous. It was held at the magnificent Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool and the pomp was well up to standard. It was mainly teachers graduating on that day - BAs and PGCE. It was a shame that so many of the Post Grads had declined to attend. Generally speaking they'd done it all before and didn't see the point of paying out for the fancy dress. I think they really missed out. My first graduation was at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. Now I am very attached to that building but the cathedral is in another league. The sound of the trumpet fanfares and organ music echoing around the cathedral and the solemnity of the procession made for an electrifying ambience. Not to mention that, with the loss of my mum still fairly fresh and a previous aborted attempt at a PGCE, I personally had an awful lot of emotion tied up in the occasion. We joined the end of the procession leaving the cathedral and when we got onto the cathedral steps, the 'big wigs' had formed a 'guard of honour' on the steps and were applauding us as we came out of the door. Amazing!

We went for a lovely meal at the Jabula in the evening. Now all I need is a job but there are none at the moment. I've registered with a couple of supply agencies so I will have to wait and see what comes up. I need at least term-long placements so I can complete my induction year. I can only do 4 terms worth of supply without that. But for now, let's have a bit of a holiday!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

PGCE Final placement - Week 8 of 9

Well it's a funny time. Most of my PGCE colleagues have finished their placements now and had all their files and standards signed off and I have another week to go. This week has been quite nice really. I was doing a few more fun things with the kids and the good Lord has smiled on me a bit, too. Tuesday we had an African drumming workshop in the morning. I have this strange compulsion to get myself a djembe now. In the afternoon, about 10 of the class were out playing in a football tournament, so we did some more fun activities. Wednesday was my planning day so no contact with kids all day. Thursday I had to go into college in the afternoon for the final meeting and Friday was INSET and all the staff were doing tasks at home so school wasn't open. This was wonderful for me, not only because it was an unexpected oasis of peace before the final push, but also because I had my daughter's confirmation on Thursday night and it was my 27th Wedding Anniversary on Friday. Thank you God - it is so wonderful that you can operate outside of linear time and organise things like that!

The confirmation was lovely, actually. I may sound surprised at that but it is because it was done on a pastoral area basis. For administrative purposes we now have to do things with two neighbouring parishes which means it can lack the intimacy that doing stuff in your own church has. We had to trek out to St Winefride's in Neston. It's a lovely sandstone church - very picturesque but with the weirdest layout on the inside. We were OK as we were facing the altar. But a large section looks sideways on so it is not the most inclusive layout I've seen. The big downside of this pastoral area arrangement is that you can't invite your family as there is no room. As his Lordship was with us, he had to sit in the cheap seats at the side and didn't really see that much. The church was full so there was no chance of inviting grandparents. The pianist was excellent which assisted greatly in encouraging a bit of singing. We didn't hang around to say hello to the bishop as St Winefride's church hall was straining a bit to cope with the numbers and I was getting claustrophobic. We escaped to the calmer ambience of Pizza Express in Heswall.

Friday morning meant a much deserved lie-in and lunch at the Hinderton Arms in Neston. His Lordship and I then went to Ness Gardens to walk off the worst excesses of lunch before replacing them with a slice of home baked cake. Even Ness is not a safe haven from the recent infestation of superlambananas. Now, just time to replenish my energies, do a bit of planning and into the final push for week 9 of 9!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

PGCE final placement - Week 6 of 9 -What a corker!

Well, this week was a bit more upbeat for me. But I must admit to being completely knackered. I am desperately trying to figure out how you can do a decent job and still have a life! 3 more weeks to go and I am counting down in every way possible - pairs of daily disposable contact lenses I need, marking off days on the calendar. By the time I have my next hair appointment I will have finished. I have purchased my last monthly travel season ticket. I have 15 more days in school, of which 10.5 are teaching days. If I could put as much imagination into my lesson planning it would be great!

Humour spot of the week this week:

Me: Can anybody tell me what this is? (holding up a champagne cork)
Pupil A: A cork!
Me : That's right, it's a cork! What is it made from?
Pupil B: Cork.
Me: Yes, well done, it's made from cork. But where does 'cork' come from?
Whole class (in chorus): From wine bottles!

From the mouths of babes, eh?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

PGCE Final placement - week 5 of 9 Numeracy across the curriculum...

'Here I am' is the deadly boring and uninspiring RE scheme of work used by, I think, all of the Catholic Primary Schools in England and Wales. Whoever devised it wants shooting, seriously. What is even worse is that, considering so many teachers must have to use it, there is absolutely nothing on t'internet in terms of resources/ideas of how to deliver the scheme. But anyhow, we were looking at 'Building Bridges' which is essentially about relationships and reconciliation. I happened to tell the kids the story of when Jesus was asked by Peter how many times we should forgive someone, should it be seven times. Jesus responded with seventy times seven (according to some translations). I was so bored that I decided to use this as an opportunity for some cross curricular maths. I unashamedly picked on a young chap by the name of John. He is the maths star of the class. I cannot keep up with him workwise. He just eats up everything that you put in front of him (metaphorically speaking!). I gave it to him as a mental maths challenge. He had a little think about it and tells me its 490. OK, to an adult of average intelligence, this is no great shakes. But this little guy is seven years old. His classmates splutter their way through the 2, 5 and 10 times tables. Many struggle to mentally calculate something like 15-6. Suffice it to say I was well-impressed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Silly Season..

Well, in a bid to recover from a fraught few weeks, there was nothing else for it but to take ourselves out on a good old fashioned family day out. Chester Zoo was earmarked as the ideal way to spend the Tuesday after Bank Holiday Monday. It's a long time since I've been to the zoo so I was interested to see how the place has changed. I was struck to see how the drop in moral standards visible in modern society has contaminated even this most wholesome of family activities. I was shocked to see the apparently respectable families standing in line to observe captive chimps engaging in sexual activity. What is worse is that, as you can see from the notice, these poor chimps are not simply engaged in relationships with their own kind but are not safe from the abuses of any passing bear.

I was impressed by the high quality of habitats provided for Chester's residents. The healthy elephant population is fortunate to have sheltered accommodation, an extensive enclosure, replete with ample bathing pool and shower. So it seems that all that is lacking for a romantic evening of elephant foreplay is the 'Best of Barry White'. It's just a shame that the final act doesn't live up to the expectations...

It's hardly surprising, given the constant thrill-seeking of contemporary society, that even the zoo has to broaden its appeal. Those hoping to find 'exotic dancers' may, however find themselves disappointed, all you will find here is a couple of wild dogs....what? WHAT?

Seriously, Chester Zoo, a super day out for all the family. Loads of improvements since my last visit including fab quarters for the orang utans. The Twilight Zone, a fab free flying bat house was there last time I visited but it was still a great thrill to have Rodrigues fruit bats flying past my ears! The Spirit of the Jaguar was a little disappointing - again a fab building but we only spotted one jaguar tucked away in a corner of the extensive accommodation. All of the animals seem well cared for and are housed comfortably and as closely to the natural habitat as is possible. And of course, Chester do great conservation work with many species whose natural habitats are under threat.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

PGCE Final placement Week 4 of 9: Into the valley of death

I've just had the worst week so far. A crap observation impacted severely on my mood and led to a crap week. I have seldom felt so low. It brought back all of the horrible memories of my PGCE Secondary course (1st placement) which ultimately led to my jibbing the course. Please, God, the only way is up now. I can't express how much is tied up in this course for me and how desperately I need to succeed. The low point was midweek and admittedly it did improve before the end of the week. But I don't think I've ever felt so tired and added to this, the grief of losing Mum managed to surface - I'm having a little bit of difficulty putting that away again. Ever tried to get a tent back into its original container - then you'll get some kind of a handle on what I mean. As for the tiredness, I slept 12 hours on Friday night and 12 hours on Saturday night. I'm feeling a bit more human now.

Thankfully we have a week off now so I hope to get as much work done as I can to try to alleviate some of the stress over the final 5 weeks. As I missed 2 weeks from the Spain placement, I have to add these on to the end, which means I don't finish until 2 weeks after all my colleagues. I really don't understand how this will fit in to my infamous Profile of Professional Development. Am I supposed to meet the same standards as everyone else for the 3rd and 4th review points? And then slip back and only meet the standards for review point 2 at the end? It's all so messy!

Don't know if anyone else does this, I subconsciously sing songs which fit in with my mood at any given time. When I was going through my aborted attempt at secondary teacher training, my mantra was 'Gotta get thru this' by Daniel Bedingfield, which was a hit at the time. Last week I was apparently heard singing 'Every day is like survival' from Culture Club's Kharma Chameleon. This morning I was singing in the shower Labi Siffre's 'Somethin' inside so strong'. I'll try to harness the power of that one for the next few weeks. Will keep you updated as to any changes to the soundtrack of my life...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

PGCE Final placement - Week 3 of 9

Well, 3 weeks down, now, 6 to go. I have never felt so tired in all my life and I'm not yet on full timetable. I ought to be job hunting but frankly I ain't got the time to fill in an application form! I am beginning to wonder if I want a post in September. If I were to get a job now it would mean spending virtually all summer planning and I'm not sure I want to do that! If I knew I could get some regular supply work for the first term, I might feel a bit more comfortable. Oh, I don't know...

The week did not have the most wonderful start. The school was under a bit of a cloud because a former pupil died in tragic circumstances at the weekend. I actually met the lad a few weeks back during my planning week. He and a couple of his mates were off, as their school had an INSET day, and they came in to help out at their old primary school. He struck me as a lovely lad, very bubbly, clever, likeable. It is quite unbelievable to think that a young chap so full of life and promise is no more. The staff in particular were very upset.

It's been a fab week weatherwise, really warm and sunny. Today, of course, it is peeing down! I am getting a bit cheesed off with the centre of town. It's like a building site. If anyone is considering coming to see what Liverpool has to offer as the city of culture, don't bother, it's a mess. I'd leave it for a year or two until the road works are finished and all of the 'regeneration ' is sorted. We are going to have more shops and apartments than we know what to do with. Personally, I can't see what shops have to do with culture. I would have flattened one of the big tatty areas and created a wonderful urban open space with snazzy fountains and benches. All the great cities have these spaces. As for 2008, I would have just cleaned up what we have, organised street entertainments, concerts and the like and done the building works next year. As for the organisation of the whole city of culture thing - well, the words 'p*ss up' and 'brewery' spring to mind...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

PGCE final placement - Week 2 of 9.

Week 2 is over. Not without its ups and downs. It should have been a great week given that we had a bank holiday Monday but I had to still put a full teaching week in (full according to the requirements of my course so far, anyway). I had an observation on Wednesday which was not the most brilliant, I have to say. Not a good way to ease myself into my college tutor's observation on Thursday. The co-ordinating mentor at the school was fab. I had a bit of difficulty judging where I stood with her, as we hadn't had much contact. But she talked me through the shortcomings of my performance on Wednesday and gave me loads of great tips for how to improve things for Thursday. Thursday, as a result, went well.

The kids really take advantage when I am the only adult in the room, but there are a few who are clearly starting to get keen to please me. I am hoping that this will improve in the next few weeks. I do think they are lovely but I need to tame them a bit for me. They are fine with their class teacher. I am going to try to put a bit more order on morning routines. Every morning they are fighting to (a) give out the fruit, (b) collect the milk and (c) take the register back. I'm going to draw up a rota so that there is no fussing over these items and no charges of favouritism. I'm also going to abandon the traditional roll call type register in favour of going around the tables, chatting to the children and marking them in informally. At some point we will have some soft music to enhance the ambience. The next routines to tackle after that will be over drinking bottles and ad hoc toilet visits. But first things first.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

PGCE Final placement - Week 1 of 9 Star of the Week!

Week 1 in the new placement school is thankfully out of the way. The children are a delight, I am growing quite fond of them but naturally, while the cat is away, the mice will play and they do take advantage of the fact that their own teacher is not there. I had to give them a bit of a talking to last week as they really were taking the mickey. But I want really to cultivate the approach of a teacher we can have a bit of fun with but we know that there are boundaries that we mustn't cross. My mentor is encouraging me to go for the positive approach to behaviour management, ie praising good behaviour rather than nagging about bad behaviour. She says that it probably takes longer to win them over in this way but that ultimately the children want to please you.

The high note of this week was that I had to get up and give the merit awards to three children in our class at the assembly on Friday. All of the class teachers have to do this. I got a lot of praise for my first 'performance' in front of the school and before I sat down, the Head Teacher gave me a sticker! I wore it with pride all day Friday!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paco Peña and Nishat Khan

Spent a very pleasant evening last night in the company of a friend at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (affectionately known locally as 'the Phil'). We were there to see Flamenco guitar legend Paco Peña. I first saw Paco Peña in 1992 at an open air gala concert at the Kings Dock in Liverpool. He appeared with other luminaries, namely soprano Montserrat Caballe, tenor Alfredo Kraus and Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the presence of the King and Queen of Spain. It was a good night and thankfully the August weather was kind.

Last night was a less grand affair but very enjoyable nonetheless. I find the subculture thing quite amusing. There is definitely a Hispanic subculture in the Merseyside region. As we sat, we noticed prominent persons with involvement in the teaching of languages in Liverpool Authority, Wirral Authority and my Spanish tutor from college. You get the impression that anything with a vaguely Spanish theme attracts an audience of Spanish teachers, ex-patriot Spanish speakers and nobody else.

What I hadn't quite grasped about this concert is that it was a double header, Paco Peña and Nishat Khan, an Indian sitar player. I'm afraid my knowledge of music doesn't extend to the sitar with the exception of knowing that Ravi Shankar was much beloved of 60s pop/rock bands going through their mystical/psychadelic phases. Well, it seems Nishat Khan is no slouch either. He has worked with such big names as B.B.King, Pat Metheny and Carlos Santana. Initially the collaboration between Khan and Peña seemed a bit of an unholy marriage. But this particular brand of east/west fusion is not as unnatural as it at first seems. Apparently, Flamenco has its roots in the music of nomadic peoples of Rajasthan some of whom, in the 15th Century, found themselves in Spain. Apparently.

It was great to see two people who clearly are very passionate about their music yet are able to share a mutual respect. This was also evident in their respective ensembles. Their percussionists were each given the opportunity to shine in a friendly duel of the tabla vs the cajon. The cajon was interesting. At first I thought the player was just sitting on a speaker tapping casually, but apparently it is an instrument and boy could he play it!

A most pleasant evening!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Parting is such sweet sorrow - Part 4

Oh I do so hate goodbyes! Today, we finished the college component of our course and this is a photo of my curriculum studies buddies. There are six other similarly sized groups doing the PGCE. I started the course with no intention of connecting with anyone. After all, I wanted to get a teaching qualification, not make friends. But, well, I've kinda grown to love these guys. We've been through stuff together. There is nothing like a bit of solidarity in shared adversity to bond people. We've had so many laughs and now it is the end of an era. We will of course be in contact through Facebook/email and what have you, but it just ain't gonna be the same - boo-hoo!

On Monday, we're all off to school to start the final teaching block. God willing, we will all meet up again at the graduations in July, if not before for some celebratory night out.

(I'm the old, fat hag in the blue jacket. Diet tomorrow, defo!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Treasures of Tudor England

I love music...anykind of spake the O'Jays. And I do love virtually any kind of music. Some jazz is just a bit too inaccessible for me and I struggle greatly with a lot of country music, though BBC4 is helping me combat some of my more sweeping musical prejudices. I was brought up on the Beatles (no surprises there!). As a teen I was a big Queen fan and my big sis took me to see them live at the Liverpool Empire before they started playing aircraft hangars (which they always said they never would). Hormones took me into the realms of sweet soul music - which has little to do with the bland, thin gruel that they now call R&B. I shook my rump to the funk with the best of them in the 80s. If a butterfly's wings can cause a tidal wave on the other side of the world, I dread to think what shaking my 45 year old rump (46 next week) would do! I endured a lengthy desert period during the 90s when I was too busy bringing up family to listen to the radio and have more recently developed a penchant for what I believe they call 'indie' bands. In a lot of regards, this correlates with the musical journey of many of my contemporaries and does not surprise those who know me.
But you have to know me pretty well to know that, in addition to the likes of Snow Patrol, the Kooks and the Killers, my iPod contains a goodly proportion of Sacred music from the Renaissance. This is my very private passion. So it was a particular treat for me to attend a concert of the Sixteen under the expert direction of Harry Christophers. It took place at the Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral, a treat in itself and was part of their Choral Pilgrimage. This is the second year that I have been to a Choral Pilgrimage Concert - last year it was my favourite- the Music of the Sistine Chapel - which was an utterly sublime performance. This year the theme was the Treasures of Tudor England, showcasing the works of Parsons, White and Tye who wrote during the times of great religious turbulence between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. As always the performance of the Sixteen was utterly captivating.
The Sixteen were involved in the recent excellent series on BBC4 called Sacred Music. During the interval, Harry Christophers was walking past us and Him Indoors went to compliment him on the series. Him Indoors can get away with that kind of stuff, he's such a lovely bloke. But I must say, Harry Christophers is a lovely, gracious chap, too. The thing I love about the Sixteen is the fact that they are not just performers, they are also part of a scholarly tradition. They are clearly passionate about what they do. I love passion in people. I don't care if it is about train spotting or music or football; passion is the key. I don't mean fanaticism, I think there is a subtle distinction to be drawn there. Passion has a transcendent quality that fanaticism doesn't.
During the interval, we went for a drink and I left my programme on the pew, " It'll be OK, we're in a Cathedral, no-one would take it". But of course, we returned and it was gone. Awful! OK it was only a 3 quid programme, but it was the principle of the thing. Him indoors, ever the attentive darling that he is, went and got another one and told me not to let it spoil the evening. But I could feel the ball of bitter gall in my stomach. "These snobby so-and-sos - all from Hoylake and Formby and the likes, but not above nicking someone else's programme to save £3! " Spotting the fact that the elderly chap that was in front of us wasn't there in the second half I had him down as the prime suspect in this heinous crime. Anyway, we settled down and enjoyed the rest of the concert. At the end, the lady next to me utters, "Oh, this isn't my programme, mine's here. I'm awfully sorry, I seem to have picked yours up by mistake." Gulp! I felt a bit small but I'm glad that my faith in human nature was restored.
I shall definitely be keeping my eye on the website to see what the Sixteen are doing in the future. They play in some fabulous cathedrals at home and abroad. A perfect excuse for an occasional weekend away, methinks...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shift Happens

We were shown this video as part of a presentation in a Professional Studies lecture this morning on global citizenship. It was preceded by the question, "Why do you want to teach?"

Actually, after watching it I feel that the teaching qualification that I don't yet have is pretty well obsolete.

On the bright side, after scraping the lowest professional level pass that you can get in my first assignment, I found out that I got a B at Masters level in my second. WOO-HOO!!! Suppose I'd better get started on the third now since it is due in on Monday...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hilbre Odyssey

We've lived on the Wirral Peninsula for 19 years now. In that time, we haven't once taken a walk out to Hilbre, the tidal island and nature reserve in the middle of the Dee Estuary. When his Lordship was opening mail for our eldest daughter who is currently 'studying' in Spain, he came across an invitation to celebrate the 25th anniversary of A Rocha, the Christian environmentalist organisation. The day was to consist of a walk to Hilbre followed by presentations in the afternoon. We decided to gatecrash! We wrapped up warm and drove the 10 minute journey to West Kirby. We bought sandwiches en route. I would normally make them but we had nothing in to make them with. I felt uneasy about opening a plastic sandwich pack amongst Christian environmentalists, so in order to not cause offence, I took a roll of tin foil with me. This way, on the car journey I could remove the sandwiches from the offending packs and wrap them in foil. The weather was overcast with rain forecast. Still, off we trudged across the sand, taking a turn at Little Eye. After about 50 mins we reached Hilbre. We saw some grey seals on a sandbank in the distance. We saw some Brent geese and some other purple something something or others. This I know because a very kind man let me look through his binoculars. We had stupidly forgotten to take ours. There were lots of wintering waders for those with eyes (or binoculars) to see and the knowledge to recognise them. I liked the wonderful sandstone which forms the base for the island. The wonderful rich red colour is not captured in the photo above. Finally the bad weather caught up with us and we had to head back. Walking towards Little Eye we found ourselves walking into a strong headwind and sand. As we turned in to the coast of West Kirby and the welcoming sight of Morrisons (?) the rain started in earnest. We got sopping wet, but only down one side. We decided to head home to dry clothes, warmth and food. We got so cosy that sadly we didn't make it back to the presentations. Sorry A Rocha!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Portraits, pole dancing and chocolate shredded wheat cakes.

Almost Easter. I can't believe it. We have only just handed the second assignment in and I've got the third one hovering over me like the Grim Reaper. The only one which has been marked was crap. I got a P2 for it which is like the lowest grade you can get. So God alone knows how I will do in the other two. I really can't be arsed with academic writing - I am too much of a creative (don't laugh, now!). I just hate the artificiality of academic writing and I can't stay awake long enough to do the academic reading. A girl on my course has just, in her mid twenties, had herself deemed dyslexic and is taking all the freebies going, including automatic extension rights. I asked her what her 'symptoms' were. She said she reads things but has forgotten the beginning of a sentence by the time she gets to the end. I'm seriously considering having myself assessed.

We have changed our foundation subject courses in the curriculum studies part of the course. I now do PE, Art and Music instead of Geography, History and RE. I have to grudgingly say that PE isn't as bad as I thought it would be. The PE tutor is off his head, which is fine by me, though I do still find myself doing what I did at school, ie find a corner to stand in and try to look invisible. Sadly, you can't sneak off to the loos for a smoke these days! I wasn't in last week, but the week before I fell over and really hurt my knee playing 'tiger tag'. You shouldn't have to undergo such indignities at my age! I had to sit all evening with a veritable plethora of ice packs on my knee, courtesy of his Lordship, which helped a lot. But the following week, I bent down to clean Alice the hamster's cage and felt a burning sensation go right up the front of my thigh. The next day the same thing happened to my other leg when I was bending down to put my nose in a hula hoop on the floor...don't was cross curricular Spanish in PE. I could barely walk afterwards!

In Art we have been doing portraits of our classmates. The picture here is the lovely Sarah's interpretation of me. I don't think it is bad for a first attempt. My one of her was OK, too. We also did abstract collage portraits of each other. She was off for an interview in her hometown yesterday. Everyone is panicking and applying for jobs at the moment but I just don't feel ready at all. I wonder whether a short stint doing supply would be a bad thing. I refuse to get caught up in the hysteria.

I've just done my third attachment Wednesday at my new school. Another student was doing a session on healthy lifestyles with our Year 2 class today. She was doing a brainstorm of types of exercise (yeah, I know the PC brigade don't like the term 'brainstorm' but who cares what they think?) We had all the usual suggestions. Then this little boy puts his hand up and says, "pole dancing". From the mouths of babes, eh? She looked surprised but they do actually do pole dance exercise classes in some places now so it went up on the board. Apparently another of our 7 year-olds (another boy) was able to enlighten the ignorant that, "that's when you swing around a pole in your knickers and bra." I wondered if we were all a bit confused. Just a few minutes before a boy had asked me if there was any such thing as Polish dancing. I said yes and he asked what it was like. I said I didn't know and he'd have to ask a Polish person. At this he seemed less than enthusiastic, saying that all the Polish people in his school could only say one word of English, that being 'Lewis'. Minutes later, we had the pole dancing suggestion. Surreal.

I decided to stay behind for the healthy club after school. There was a slight oversight on the healthy front in that we were making chocolate shredded wheat nests with mini eggs. Well, they do say that a little of what you fancy does you good!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Long time no write...

Such a long time since writing. Well, a lot has happened since my last posting. Then I was in the middle of my Seville adventure (well, adventure my my standards, anyway!) Halfway through I was called home. My dear old Mum's health had taken a sharp downturn and it was thought best that I cut my Spanish sojourn short. At 83, Mum wasn't in the best of health, though being of good strong stock, she stoically carried on as best as she could. She is pictured at our house on Christmas Day 2007, a month before she died. I arrived home around midnight on the Friday and was able to be with Mum when she breathed her last on the Sunday evening. There were nine of us around her bed when she died, and a tenth , a tangible presence called Love, was there too. In spite of our sadness, there has been a subtle joy to be had, too. A family, too long busy with their own lives, has been rediscovered. We have been learning how to love each other all over again. Not that we didn't love each other, but it is so easy to take each other for granted. Mum has brought us all closer.

So, a rather surreal few weeks and, of course, I have the problem of my course. College has been very supportive. Indeed, I cannot speak highly enough of my tutors both here and in Seville. I will be able to make up my lost days at the end of the course and, God willing, I will be able to graduate with my friends. I have been deeply touched by the support from friends and colleagues.

With an eye to the future, I start the attachment days at my new school. I am looking forward to it, as it is a contrasting experience. It is in the city centre, it has a high representation of children from minority ethnic groups. It received an outstanding report from its last OFSTED inspection and it comes highly recommended. I hope and pray that I can do it justice. I have a Year 2 class which, I hope, will be a lot of fun.

That's me, caught up...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reign in Spain 3

Well week 1 is out of the way now. On Friday at 2.00pm, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and took the bus into the heart of Seville. The weather definitely took a significant turn for the better temperature-wise on Friday. I trudged on foot to the Plaza de España, around the beautiful Parque de María Luisa and on over to the Cathedral Quarter. The cathedral has the world famous Giralda bell tower. This is an interesting relic of the Moorish period in Spain's history. The main part of the Giralda and the Patio de los Naranjos (the orange tree patio) are all that remains of Seville's mosque. I went up the Giralda. I normally steer clear of towers in cathedrals because I have a bit of a fear of stairs/heights and claustrophobia. I don't like flights of winding stairs. It's not so much the climbing up but the coming down. I remember going to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Gaudi's great unfinished masterpiece. Being a modern cathedral, you can go up most of the way in a lift. Feeling confident in the newness of the building I thought I was able to go down using the stairs. I was OK until I reached a point where the stairs just became a basic spiral and very little to hang on to. His Lordship tried to coax me down but I was having nothing of it. I RAN back up as fast as my little legs could carry me and took the lift. Well on Friday I thought I would give the Giralda a go and discovered to my surprise that it is ramps all the way up. I wouldn't describe it as accessible to the disabled but it was a darn sight easier than stairs. Seems legend has it that the Moors rode up there on horseback. Once up on the balcony, you have wonderful panoramic views of Seville.

Back at the Colegio Mayor, we have developed something of a tradition, coming together for tea most afternoons. Thankfully, one smart cookie thought to bring a cheapo kettle with her - well, I don't think the Spanish know what a kettle is! The Colegio is a wonderful house. On Sunday we discovered that off the main patio is a door which leads out to a beautiful garden. Well, I say garden, it is really a fully fledged park. Seems the house was the ancestral seat of the Conde de Guzman.

Back into school today and I discover that, not only is the teacher off again but there is another student from the University of Seville who has been placed in my class. Not wildly impressed by that. Especially since she insisted on yapping to me all the way through the morning, even though the teacher was trying to take the lesson. This afternoon in English, it was a laugh. There was the teacher, the language assistant, me, the new student and my buddy in the one class. Mad...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reign in Spain 2

Well, things have settled down here a little bit now. After the initial excitement, we are mostly tucked up in bed by 11pm. Being outside of Seville, we generally have to get a bus into town and another to our schools. So this means departure by 7.30am for most of us. This is a big deal for a lot, but it is actually a bit easier for me, since I was getting a bus at 7.10 when I was on my first placement. Monday was a university day - well we had a presentation on Seville University and refreshments. We met our compañeros again and mine was recovered from her illness. Lovely girl, but insisted on speaking English to me the whole time. Not sure what I get from the deal, really. But it was a buddy task to accompany us to the school. We were walking along this road in the town to our bus stop when I became aware of a terrible smell. I looked down to my feet to see what I rather suspect was raw sewage running down the pavement. A woman in a shop was brushing what seemed like gallons of the stuff out of her shop door onto the pavement. I felt for her but I felt for myself more. Suffice it to say my trousers were put into soak when I got back in case they had trailed through the stuff. Only in Spain! Thank God it wasn't the height of the Andalucian summer! Anyway, my buddy and I made our initial visits to the school and found out what bus I needed to get in to school. I won't see her again until Monday when she starts her placement at the school - she only does three weeks and then comes to the UK for a month

The lingo is so difficult to understand. The Andaluz accent drops 's' sounds all over the place and also the odd consonant when it feels like. I'd really love to know which bright spark with a warped sense of humour decided to partner up Andalucia with Merseyside in this project. Still, at least the challenge is equally weighted! I find myself nodding and saying "Sí, sí, vale.." all the time when I haven't got a clue what people are on about. It is bound to get me into trouble at some point! Mind you, my tongue is completely tied, too. One rather quaint thing which I remember from my time in Málaga is the tendency to add the diminutive ending 'ito/ita' to everything, so whatever you talk about translates as a 'little something'. So I am nurturing the habit of foregoing a cervecita (a little beer) in favour of a cafelito (a little coffee) and taking my toast golden brown with the butter blandita (a little bit soft - just like me!).

I haven't met my teacher yet as she is off with the flu. My school is a bilingual school. This means that certain lessons are delivered in English. I have yet to see how this works in practice. I saw an English lesson when the exercise was all about saying "I am going to do something". The class had to think up an example. One rather confused lad questioned why he had to do this, "Por qué? Es mas facile en español!" (Why? It's easier in Spanish!) Nice to know the Spanish come out with the same stuff as our, eh? I caught two boys throwing a ball to each other while the teacher's back was turned. Being a bit reticent to do anything and really not sure of what language to use, I looked at one of the boys and shook my head disapprovingly. The cheeky little bugger looked at me and put his finger on his lips, signalling to me to not let on to the teacher as if I was complicit in his little game! When they did it again, I confiscated the ball from the other boy (having rehearsed the Spanish for 'give it to me' in my head!) This has been an amazing culture shock for all of us. Our combined findings are that nobody really does dynamic and interesting lessons here. Everything is done from the book, to the extent that some teachers just read straight from the book. We haven't seen any evidence of stating lesson objectives. We have to fill in a log book during our visit including lesson observations. These ask things like, what sort of transitions do you see from one part of the lesson to another?, how does the teacher start the lesson?, how does the teacher end the lesson? The short answer is dunno. Does standing up and looking authoritative count as a lesson starter? Does the bell going and the children just putting their books away and going out count? It is all very laid back. I'm tempted to say that I don't think that is all bad. See, they don't sweat the small stuff - the kind of stuff that we in the UK can get embroiled in the name of discipline and end up blowing up out of proportion. The children call the teachers by their first name (saves them playing guessing games). They may or may not ask if they can hacer pis when they need the loo. There is always a toilet roll at the front of the class which they randomly just come out and use if they have a snotty nose. I haven't seen anyone told off yet. They certainly don't seem to fuss as much as our children. It is generally agreed that the schools are not as bright and colourful as our schools. There are displays but there is not as much effort put into making the environment look pretty. They're clean but spartan. They are years behind British schools in terms of investment in technology and mostly use good old fashioned blackboards. I think they spend money on books instead - perhaps we can learn from them in this! For all that the lessons are a little lacklustre in comparison to what we are used to, the general consensus was that the children still seem to learn. But unlike our kids they are not expecting to be entertained.

In terms of the teachers, they really do not arrive until dead on 9.00am and they are shooing you out of the door at home time. My school day, like many of the others, is from 9.00am until 2.00pm with a half hour break at midday. Other schools go on until 1.00 and have a 2-hour break, returning at 3.oopm for another couple of hours. The staff room, oddly enough, has the same motley collection of education journals, notices for staff training and union notices as the average UK staffroom. BUT NO KETTLE!!! Sorry, the kettle is the heart of community in a staff room. We haven't seen much marking done and nobody seems to take work home. I find the 3 hour morning a long time to go without a break but at least the work is over early and you can still do something with the day.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The reign in Spain

I had quite forgotten just how dull Sundays were. I mean real Sundays, the kind that busy people hanker nostalgically after. The Sundays we used to have when I was a child before 24-7 became the byword that we all live our lives by. Well I'm having a taste of that now. Castelleja de Guzman is a small village on the other side of the River Guadalquivir from Seville. It has been quite an overcast day, threatening rain for some time. This is a place where the Sabbath is still kept holy - at least the shops do not open, anyway. My group has been rattling around the Colegio Mayor Santa Maria del Buen Aire wondering what to do with themselves. Well, that is not strictly true, since most of them didn't see their beds until about 5am! Most made it for lunch at 2pm and many have taken themselves off to Seville. Two days in and a combination of hangover, lack of sleep and boredom has caused an outbreak of homesickness. "What's the matter with you?" I said, " I was hoping you seasoned travellers would be well used to this. I was hoping you could teach me a thing or two about survival away from home?" I am, nevertheless, enjoying being able to fulfil the function of team mum, providing a shoulder to cry on and hugs on demand. Well, most are barely older than my eldest.

So, the story so far. We arrived ahead of time on Friday. We had a cold dinner ready for us when we arrived. Then we went straight out into the village to a local bar, which was very nice. I just went along for one and was back by midnight. Some others arrived back about 1.30 and the hardened drinkers came in about 4am and woke the whole place up. Apparently they were reprimanded for it! Good start, but at least Babe, my cuddly pig companion and I were tucked up in bed. Saturday we were up early in the morning as we had to be showered, dressed, breakfasted and out by 9.30. We went to the Fine Arts Museum and were given a talk by some professor of Art History from the university. Sadly we couldn't enthuse too wildly as everyone was knackered. We then had to walk across town to the Real Alcazar. That was a bit like the Alhambra. Actually, I think the Alhambra has it won in terms of its location; the views of the city of Granada are breathtaking but I would say that the interior of the Alcazar is more impressive than the Alhambra.

Then it was off to meet your buddy. Except mi compañera couldn't come because she was sick - or had the idea of an old biddy buddy frightened her off? Anyway it was all a very convivial al freso affair but there wasn't quite enough warmth to take the edge off the temperature! Lovely and sunny but really quite chilly. I was glad of my scarf and gloves. Coming home was a faff and a half. We got on this bus, which was a circular bus route. There were two we could have chosen from - same route, circular but opposite directions. Suffice it to say we took the one which must have been furthest from our stop as it took forever to get there. We had been told to get off at a certain stop where we would be able to get our second bus. But no-one had told us we had to catch it from the indoor bus station just behind the stop we'd just got off at. There were three of us , including one recovering from a broken leg and walking with the aid of crutches . She had done brilliantly with all the walking but was feeling it by now. My head was pounding and when we finally got back I slept (as did most others!) After dinner the others went out on the town but I stayed here. Clubbing in Seville city centre is not for me! Two of us stayed behind and we watched an episode of Curb your Enthusiasm and one from the Office. My laptop is going to be a real lifeline and it was worth making room for it in my suitcase (although those thieving bar stewards, Ryanair charged me £11 for the benefit of carrying 2.7 kilos over the measly 15kg limit!).

Seville is a very beautiful city with lots of open spaces. But it is cold in the shade though it does warm up as the day progresses. The thing that has struck me so far? The oranges. Everywhere you go, walking through little squares or even just along the road, there are orange trees and occasionally lemon trees laden with well ripened fruit. I think I will stay in tonight and get my head around the paperwork for tomorrow.

Click here for flickr photos.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Back to school...

Well, technically not back to school but at least back to college for me. I didn't want to go. I have thoroughly enjoyed my sloth-like status of the past few weeks. Now it is time to think about all of the stuff I should have been doing, but haven't. The hols were good. Managed to find time to catch up with a few friends which I really enjoyed. Once you get into the throws of a new term, it is impossible to stay up to date with what everyone is up to.

So, back to the grind, back to the 6am starts (nearer 6.20 when I'm at college). But, to make things a little more bearable, his Lordship bought me an iPod for Christmas. Both our girls were getting the new iPod nano but I am a practical sort, so I instructed him to seek out the old iPod nano which would be cheaper now. This he dutifully did, so after years of my constant whining on about those pains in the butt who sit on buses irritating the hell out of you with the "tss tss tss" from their personal music, I have decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Last night I got on the bus, spent 5 minutes trying to fix the earplugs in my ears in such a position that they would (a) stay in, (b) would direct the sound into my ear and (c) wouldn't cause me excruciating pain around my delicate little shell-likes. Now to the important business of listening to a bit of classic rock from Pink Floyd. My peace didn't last long though. Some brainless wonder with a GNVQ in 'Applied Prat Studies' decided that personal music playing actually means any method by which you can blast the creative output from some talentless hip-hop 'artist' into the eardrums of a bus load of commuters. Still, being very British, we sat motionless and put up with it!

Spain on Friday...I'm feeling a bit nauseous...