Sunday, 30 December 2007
It wasn't a beautiful day when I got up. Nor was it the best of days for a walk but at least it wasn't raining. Wisley came to mind. It's the Royal Horticultural Society garden just 12 miles from us. I became hooked on the gardens earlier this year when my mother and I were passing them each day to go to and from the radiotherapy treatments in Guildford. At first we stopped off there to have a coffee or tea on the way home most days. Then we started to visit on the weekends. I would go there every Saturday if I could. Today we walked down to the Glass House, wandered around there, had lunch in the conservatory restaurant and then came home. Not a very exciting time but good for the soul.
Thursday, 20 December 2007
The rest of the day was taken up with eating (in the staff room, in the classroom, in the library), watching French videos and listening to Christmas music. I can't believe how tiring that can be!
Monday, 10 December 2007
Friday, 7 December 2007
Thursday, 6 December 2007
We're spending Christmas in Swansea with Naomi, James and Emma. We've decided that all presents will be kept to a £20-30 maximum and they must be bought on sale, at a charity shop or be made by the giver. It is less of a challenge than I thought and, with the exception of Cliff I seems to have finished.
Today, I sent off some presents to my sister's children in Cyprus and bought stamps for some of my cards. This is the area I want to work on nest year. I don't send many cards, and only to people I don't see often. However, there seem to be a lot nonetheless. I was wondering if it might be better to make contact with people throughout the year instead of only at Christmas. Would this be better? Would we develop a better relationship? Then again, there is the question as to whether or not people I don't see all that often care to keep in touch with me.
I have friends from my past who I try to keep in touch with. I write, I phone on occasion and they always seem happy to hear from me but never make contact themselves. What does this tell me? They're lazy? They don't really care? Keeping in contact is not such a big deal for them.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
As I said in a previous blog, I am starting to put this blog together in chronological order. This has also led me to start re-reading it. It has been interesting reading and I have discovered some things I want to revisit. It has been rather like discovering your list of New Year's resolutions 8 months after you wrote them. I have discovered things that I have forgotten and realized that I don't want that to have happened. So, after all, I am not going to stop blogging, even if I'm the only one who reads the blog.
Saturday, 17 November 2007
I became aware of this need for community when I went to Othona for my retreat. Perhaps, I wouldn't want the intensity of that kind of community for a prolonged period of time, but I will revisit from time to time through the coming year. The blog forms another part of the jig-saw of community.
In the suburbs of the south of England, community is hard to find. You must reach out for it and even create it for yourself. I tried in the year before my cancer was diagnosed to become part of a group, which was the Runnymede Town Twinning Association. That didn't work. The people were...not inclusive. I was there to act as their secretary for a town twinning trip to somewhere in Virginia. Ah well, I'll have to try again.
Yesterday, I decided that I wanted to have a copy of this blog. It seems to be much more vulnerable than paper and I don't want to loose it. I would also like to reread it in chronological order which is more difficult on-line. There is no easy way to do this so I've had to cut and paste it from the blog, starting last November. Once I have finished, I'll print off a few copies.
It's Saturday, our house is looking wonderful after its paint job and I am going to spend the weekend sorting it out, including taking lots to the Oxfam charity shop. Emma leaves for New York for a week's holiday on Monday and I have to do some sewing for her. Sewing is obviously an area of her education that I forgot. (I don't mind though Emma, if you are reading this!) I also have quite a bit of school work to do. I have been so tired of late that I have let a lot slide. I don't feel unwell but I do feel so very tired at times.
A good weekend to all!
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
So here I am still writing on line. I can't help but wonder if blogging also meets the need that some may have to share their thoughts with others, a social need. How egocentric that is, to think that others would be interested in what we have to say. I must admit that I enjoy the opportunity to share with others, especially to share things that I have found on the web that they might also be interested in as well. However, the question returns to haunt me. Is anyone out there reading this (other than my good friend Mary Jane, my sister-in-law and my daughters) and does that really matter. Surely, it must. Would I continue even if no one were reading?
My mother says that we write all journals with an audience in mind and therefore only share a part of our reality. Yes, that has been the case from time to time. There are things that I will only put down on paper. She would also say that I would only put down on paper that which I want to have read. I say yes again to that since there are moments in my life that I will never share with anyone so I certainly won't write about them.
Considering the fact that there are so many people blogging, there must be many who have the need to share their thoughts and lives. Does it make one feel less alone? I don't feel alone but others might!
Lots of questions to consider on a Tuesday afternoon.
Any comments from the outside world? Norma, you could always email me since you don't seem to be able to comment.
Best wishes to all!
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
We were back for just a few days when Mr. Egloff, who does various work around the house for us, dropped by to say that he would start painting the dining room and kitchen, and the stairwell on the following Monday. We knew that he would be coming in the fall sometime but I had almost forgotten about it. We are now into the second week and the house has been transformed. It is a chaos but beneath the chaos is emerging a beautiful house. I can't quite believe that a coat of paint (expertly applied!) could make such a difference. We now know that we do want to buy the house and we also want him to continue upstairs and also into the living room.
(I'll post more later today!)
Saturday, 27 October 2007
It felt both as if we had been there forever and that the time was going too quickly. I started there wondering what I would do, realized that I didn't have to do anything (other than the simple activities) and left feeling that I had lost something very important. It was something that I knew I couldn't recapture back in my regular life. However, I did find a direction for life in Surrey. It will take discipline and time to get there but I'm going to try. More of this later!
Wednesday, 10 October 2007
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
Saturday, 22 September 2007
Now that I think of it, it is somewhat strange writing, not knowing if there is an audience or not. Does it matter? I'm not sure. I just have this strange feeling every once in awhile when I have the thought that I am probably writing only for myself but at the same time, writing as if there is an audience. Yes, I know Mary Jane that you are reading this. Has it become our conversation on-line? I'll have to think about that too. You are the only one who writes comments on a regular basis. So, are we alone? With a few eaves droppers?
I'm of now. We are going out shortly to a steam run fun fair in Englefield Green. It comes at the end of a strange day which started with the discovery that a friend had been hit by foot and mouth on her farm. I sat in the car looking at her locked gate, wondering why, when suddenly my eyes and brain took in the official message on the gate: Foot and Mouth. I got out of the car to look closer at the sign because I couldn't quite believe what it said and was met a a DEFRA employee. "Tell me, it's not true," I said hoping that I was reading it incorrectly. "Sorry," he replied. She's lost 40 dairy cattle, her horse livery is closed, as is her farm shop. It brings a lot into perspective.
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Friday, 7 September 2007
When I think about it, I suppose that it is natural to be worried about becoming ill again. Treatment was so difficult that you can't imagine having to face it once more. Next week is the anniversary of my operation and also my 3-month check up. I'm probably worried about that as well. After the dream, I was very upset and went off to school on the verge of tears. I knew that once I had students I would be alright and that was the case. However, I also forced myself to talk about how I was feeling and the dreams with a few people at work and that has helped a great deal. I shared how I was feeling with one of my colleagues who has had breast cancer and is coming up to her third anniversary. She has been feeling very anxious as well and was glad to know that someone else was in the same situation.
Being ill can be a very isolating situation. It's not often you meet and talk to people who are going through the same. In fact I found that I didn't want to talk to others about being ill. It seemed more than enough just to go through it yourself. To talk to someone else who was ill, to take on someone else's illness as well was just too much. Probably talking would have helped but I didn't realize it at the time.
Yesterday, a man a work who has prostate cancer came to talk to me about government assistance to cancer patients. He has looked so strong and healthy. Now he appears so tired and fragile. He was talking about taking the train to get to his treatment. I was so lucky to have my mum around to drive me. I could never have taken the train. I'm not sure that he will be able to either. He has no idea what it will be like. Cliff tells me that he isn't married. I wonder if he has family around to support him.
Last night I posted a letter on the school website. I've decided that we have to do something at school to support staff who are suffering from long term illness. This is what I said:
I am coming up to the first anniversary of the diagnosis of my cancer and my 3-month check up. For weeks now I have been very anxious and plagued by dreams of dying from my illness. It was only when I started to talk to others that I realized that I was not along in these fears. Moreover, talking about how I was feeling has made me feel so much better.
There are a number of staff members who are recovering from cancer or who are involved in treatment. I‚Äôve come to realise that we should be supporting each other through these times. I had such encouragement from family, friends and colleagues over the last 12 months that I am sure this played a major role in helping me maintaining a positive attitude through good times and bad.
I wonder if a support group would be helpful to those who have a long-term illness or who have a member of the family in such a situation. I don't know what format it might take but I would like to throw the idea out to our community. Perhaps this group would offer people the chance to talk to others in a similar situation. Perhaps, we could accumulate information that would help people cope with long term sick leave issues, disability rights, services within the wider community, and more. There are those who may need help with getting to treatment and some members of the community who would be willing to offer assistance. I don't see the involvement in this group as restricted to those who are ill or who have sick family members. It seems to me that as a community we could all reach out to others and offer some sort of support.
Any ideas would be appreciated and you know where to find me."
I hope that people will be interested. We get so wrapped up in what we are doing and in our own problems that we often can't face involving ourselves in those of others. I'll let you know how it goes.
Monday, 27 August 2007
And then there's the anniversary. Just over a year ago I became very ill and then discovered that I had cancer. I keep flashing back to those days and remembering how I was. Three days after I returned to school was the day it started. I lost an incredible amount of blood and was admitted to hospital. I was so weak, I could barely move without help. How different things are this year! I seem to have boundless energy (though I must admit that I've overdone things a bit this weekend!). How grateful I am for the way I feel now. However, I am still aware that this may not be over.
Saturday, 18 August 2007
And a note for Mary Jane: I just found this quote from Homer Simpson: 'Kill my boss. Do I dare live out the American Dream?'
School is as mad as ever! The new teachers must be on melt down by now. I know I am. Every year the admin team overloads people, every year we complain, and every year they promise not to do it again. So much for learning from history!
I'm back to writing my novel after coming to the decision that I needed to move to 3rd person narrative. (Have I already mentioned this? If so, sorry.) I'm not sure where any of this will take me since the original idea was to write the blog of a character involved in a murder.
It's going to be wet, windy and horrible (words of the weather man just now) so I should be able to get some work done on 'Greatly Improved by Death' (working title) instead of being in the garden (where I really need to be as well).
I joined a health club with Emma this week. She wants to work in the gym on various painful looking machines. I am going to swim to start with, take some lessons to improve my front crawl, do a swim exercise class and a Pilates class. I have stomach muscle issues after last years operation. Later I may wander into the gym to investigate the machines. We've been twice this week since joining and have swum both times. There's a wonderful Jacuzzi in the pool area where we spent some time after our lengths. I did manage 20 lengths yesterday but I was exhausted at the end. Hopefully my endurance will increase. I'm hoping to go again today for a while.
Friday, 27 July 2007
Sunday, 22 July 2007
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
It has been an interesting visit to Canada, one that I will have to go home and ponder. Canada is both the country I left and not. I suppose that is to be expected. However, I'm not sure about how I feel about the changes. Again, I will have to think a while about them.
Cliff is very relaxed and much more positive about life. What a relief! Emma has plans for him to work on some bluegrass tunes with her when he gets back. I hope that he decides to do that since it would be good for both of them.
I have lots of pictures to post when I get back to England so I will sign off here and return on the weekend.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
More another day!
Friday, 6 July 2007
Thursday, 5 July 2007
The train trip was great! Amtrak is great! The only down part of the trip was the hour and a half wait at Niagara Falls, Ontario for immigration and customs. We had business class seats which only cost $24 more. They were so comfortable, with leg rests and enough room that the seats could go nearly all the way down so that you could sleep. The snack car was in our carriage so that it was easy to get food and drinks. Moreover, since we were in Business, the tea, coffee and soft drinks were free!
We sat on the riverside of the train (Hudson and then Mohawk) as suggested by the porter in New York. It really was beautiful in spots but I couldn't get any photographs because the train went so fast. A shame! (If I had been on a British train, that wouldn't have been so much of a problem!)
They had electrical outlets on the train! Wow! I could use my laptop to play some games (I forgot to buy a deck of cards!!) and just play around in general!
We are staying in a B & B in Toronto called Banting House. I stayed here two years ago and loved it. Unfortunately my chemo brain have been at work again and though I was sure that I had booked a second night, they only had record of the first. Luckily the B & B next door has room for us for Thursday. This has been our only glitch so far so not bad, I suppose.
I'm looking forward to breakfast. I can smell the coffee from the third floor. It's calling me down (not that I like coffee other than the smell) but I should wait since Cliff is still asleep!
More later! Pictures too, perhaps!
Tuesday, 3 July 2007
Hi all. Today I'm just going to post some pictures from our visit to New York. There's also one of me at the pool in my new bathing suit. Probably of more interest to my immediate family. At the top there are pictures of Macey's Department story from the outside and the ground floor. The picture of Cliff was taken in a great little diner we've found. The picture of me is on the boat at the swimming pool.
We've had a wonderful time today. We went to breakfast at our local diner and later set out to walk up 5th Avenue to Central Park. What a walk! We've seem people of all shapes and sizes, and some strange and amazing stores. Imagine a store just for girls called, The All American Girl Store. There's even one called 'Build Your Own Bear'. We didn't go and check but I actually think you can in some way design your own bear.
The most amazing place was the Apple store. The store was below ground level and the entrance to the level was a huge glass box. It's rather like the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre in Paris. The place was buzzing with people trying out the new I-phone. Of course, I had to try it to. Wow! But I'll never bring myself to spend that much money. There's a great article about the I-phone in the New York Times (July 2). I'll try and find the link to it in case you're interested. I decided to by a small speaker system for my I-pod. It was half the price of the UK equivalent.
After the Apple store, we went to Central Park and had a carriage ride. It is a wonderful park...much more than a park. Certainly there is nothing like it in the UK. However, it was inspired by a park up near Birkenhead. (I learned that on Gardener's World.)
Tomorrow morning we leave the hotel at 6 for our 7:15 train. The station is a few short blocks away but we need to go through checks for the US/Canada boarder crossing. Tonight, we're off to find some drinks and food, just in case.
Monday, 2 July 2007
Sunday, 1 July 2007
Saturday, 30 June 2007
Friday June 29
Hi all! And yes it was a stormy night though I don’t think that either of us really noticed it. When we woke up the ship was really rocking back and forth. In fact, the flowers in the vase on the desk slid right off and into the rubbish bin. Lucky it was there! After that, we put everything away so that nothing else went flying! Cliff tells we that the wind was a force 10 gale. I took sea sick pills to ensure that I didn’t get sick and spent most of the day wanting to fall asleep.
This morning we went to a lecture about Warner Brothers during the war years and at the beginning of television. Tonight after dinner we are going to a RADA performance of two one-act plays. Should be good. After that, it’s a big band concert. I still haven’t swum. I intended to this morning but the wind was too bad. Perhaps tomorrow.
Today’s picture is of the waves. They were very impressive! Thanks to Emma for the info on the restaurant. An even greater thanks to GB for watering and feeding the plants.
Saturday June 30th
It's just gone 6:30 am and I've come up to the dining room to have a little something to eat, finish a book I was reading and post on the blog. Sorry that I didn't get to it yesterday but I was knocked out most of the day by the motion sickness pill. That's the last time I take one of those!
Last night Cliff and I had dinner again in the lovely restaurant where it's quiet and there are no stuffy table companions. Afterwards we went and saw two plays by Alan Acheborne. (I know I've spelled his name incorrectly! He wrote 'The Norman Conquests'. Do you remember Emma and Naomi, we saw the garden play from that trilogy at Foley's.
The only picture I have to add at the moment is of the seas yesterday, taken from the safety of inside on deck 2.
PS Cliff is eating his way across the Atlantic!
Thursday, 28 June 2007
Oh dear, we were up round the pool at noon when the captain came on the PA with his daily announcements. Apparently, we will have fair weather till later this evening and then we will sail near a low depression which will bring gale force winds and 25 foot high waves. Needles to say, the boat will be subject to some movement and we've been advised to put everything away in our cabins and take motion sickness pills if we need them.
So far Cliff has not ventured out on deck except to take my photo. When I hear this announcement, I dragged him out to have a walk before the bad weather hit. That was a mistake! The wind was so strong that I'm sure he'll never venture forth again! So, no shuffle board for me!
This morning we went to a talk by a fiction writer, Salley Vickers. Has anyone heard of her? She had some interesting things to say about her development as a writer and the themes which have predominated her writing. Tomorrow (weather permitting), we're listening to a talk by a man who worked for Warner Bros. in the old days.
Last night we changed restaurants and at at the Carvery. I had the most amazing piece of prime rib. It would have done a Texas restaurant proud but it was definitely too big for me.
After dinner we went to a show at the Royal court Theatre (Rock@the Opera). It was very well done and there were excellent special effects. After that we went for a drink in an English pub and got caught up in a musical pub quiz.
This afternoon, I'm going to take some pictures of the library for Emma. (Does she secretly want to be a librarian on a cruise ship?) They have chairs that look out over the Atlantic (facing what will be North America). It's a wonderful place to read!
Hope all is well with everyone. I am picking up email on my acs email account and hotmail so please drop us a line.
As to the pictures, Cliff's was taken at breakfast. He is eating his way across the Atlantic and should need new trousers by the time we get to New York. Mine was taken on deck, by Cliff so it will be the last!
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
Hello all! Yes, we are out at sea and it’s wonderful. So far the main impression has been of wonderful service and lots of food! I imagine that you could eat 24 hours a day if you wanted to! And it all looks so good!
When we arrived on board we discovered two bottle of champagne in our cabin. There isn’t any left now! No, we didn’t drink it all at once but it was all gone by bed time! We had life boat drill at 4. It isn’t really life boat drill anymore because they don’t expect you to end up in one so all they want you to know how do is put on your life jacket.
There was a champagne reception afterwards but we had had quite a lot by then so instead we watched as the boat left port. Dinner was at 8:30. I think that was a mistake since all the shows are either on at 8:45 or 10:45. I certainly couldn’t make it to the 10:45 so we will probably eat in one of the other restaurants so that we can catch early movies or shows. The people at our table were ‘home county’ or trying to be and deadly boring. Another reason for eating elsewhere.
Today it’s rather cloudy and the sun has only come out a few times. I decided at 7:30 to take a brisk walk round deck 7. Three laps equal a mile! It was more like a brisk shove as the wind pushed me one way and on the other side of the boat, tried to blow me off. I made 1/3rd of a mile only and retired for tea.
We went up to the library a short while ago. It’s amazing! Bigger than the ACS library and so beautiful. The shelving was polished mahogany! I have a book now and will return later this afternoon to sit in the big, comfy chairs facing out to sea.
Bye for now!
Monday, 25 June 2007
The MacMillan nurse phoned me on the weekend. They have been wonderful through my entire illness. They have made a substantial difference in my life! This fall I'm going to start some fund raising activities for them.
Today is our 30th wedding anniversary. Funnily enough we received two 25th wedding anniversary cards on Saturday. It was really funny, especially since both the senders had been at my original wedding. 25th anniversary is silver. I wonder what 30th is?
Monday, 18 June 2007
Sunday, 17 June 2007
Sorry that it has taken so long to post these photographs from the run that Emma did with some of the people I work with. She managed to raise over £200! On Saturday she received a commemorative key chain from the sponsors of the run and that reminded me of the photographs. So here they are!
Thursday, 14 June 2007
Back to Winnie the Pooh! The writer was much angrier than ever before and the tale ended with Baby Roo telling the Forest Management Committee to sit and swivel, all the while holding up his little middle finger.
Oh dear, things go from bad to worse. I'll keep you posted!
Monday, 11 June 2007
My front garden is very small and completely graveled. However it is the sunniest spot on our property. I decided to grow vegetables in pots. We have tomatoes, green beans, courgettes, pumpkins, peppers, flowers (such as sunflowers, pelargoniums and lavender) and an assortment of herbs. It really looks spectacular. I wish I had thought of it sooner!
Saturday, 9 June 2007
It's 10pm and I'm exhausted. Naomi and James arrived last night for a short visit (they leave tomorrow at 11 am). We go up, went to the farm shop and butcher's, came home, went to the hairdressers (Naomi looks great!), came home, went out immediately to the village fête, walked home and then went immediately to watch Mike play cricket. I'm feeling even more tired just writing about it. At four we came back home and I set to doing some work in the garden until Doctor Who started at 7. It was a very scary episode and nearly all of us wished that we had a sofa to hide behind. Ah, this was traditional Doctor Who stuff! Some pictures of the day! Naomi at the fête and Emma at cricket.
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
Monday, 4 June 2007
Saturday, 2 June 2007
The weather is beautiful this weekend. I've been out in the garden again and again, I've exhausted myself. I must stop for the rest of today. Both my courgettes and my pumpkins have flowers and the tomatoes are covered in them. I hope I don't miss to much while I'm away. I will try and get Michael to take photographs of the garden tomorrow at Emma's birthday party...oh yes I forgot to say that it's her party tomorrow. Her actual birthday is on Monday.
Emma is off watching Mike's team playing cricket at the moment. Mike's team fielded first and Mike caught one person out and took 4 wickets when he bowled. This is quite impressive to cricket people.
Tomorrow I'm hoping that my website will go live. So if it does happen, I'll post the site address.
I'm off to watch Dr. Who now and don't ask, 'Who's that!'
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Thursday, 24 May 2007
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Wednesday, 16 May 2007
Tuesday, 15 May 2007
I'm back with pictures. Follow this link and you shall see.
Monday, 14 May 2007
Friday, 11 May 2007
On a lighter note, my pumpkins have little flower buds on them. I'm so excited! Sad, isn't it!
Wednesday, 9 May 2007
Apparently, in some states (have we guessed the country yet?) sex offenders and drunk drivers have different coloured license plates to the rest of us, so we will know then immediately. If you have shop lifted, you may be made to carry a sign outside a store, proclaiming your guilt. And of course we, the public, are expected to be complicit in this punishment by berating the guilty. Why not just put them in stocks and then we could buy rotten tomatoes (or even shoplift them) and bombard them. I wonder if that would be considered assault or 'just desserts'! Branding! We could bring that back as well. Why set up a site listing and giving the pictures of convicted prostitutes! (Would that not be advertising?) We could just brand them instead! I'm warming to this topic! (I hope you realize that I'm being ironic!)
(Cliff has just suggested that we could use cream pies instead of tomatoes so that they really did get their 'just desserts'!)
Oh no, could Tony Blair be about to suggest the same in the UK? If he does, I'm moving to Norway!
I want to be angry about this but instead I feel somewhat depressed!
Friday, 4 May 2007
Thursday, 3 May 2007
I've been having some doubts about continuing this blog. It seems to me that it might be somewhat self-indulgent now and be cluttering up the internet. It served a purpose for me when I first started. I could communicate with friends at a time when I was sick and unable to contact people individually. It also allowed me to explore how I was feeling and thinking during my treatment. I could have done that through a journal. However, journals don't seem as immediate and I also wouldn't get feed back from others. Should I continue now that the treatment is over? I've been asking myself that question today. I've also had a very definite reminder this week that though the treatment is over, I'm still not well. I am so tired and still having various side-effects from the radiation therapy. Perhaps it's not yet time to stop but it will come soon enough.
Thursday, 26 April 2007
The other meeting with 'she who must be obeyed' took place this afternoon. I'll have to wait till tomorrow to find out what happened since I don't know anyone on the committee.
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
Apparently, when the lower school teachers got to the statement in the grievance about the intimidation, the head warned everyone in no uncertain terms that they had better reconsider the word 'intimidate'. She thought that it was rather strong. Then she asked for examples of intimidation. The teachers were all so intimidated by her statement, that for a few moments no one spoke. Then someone had the courage to point out the the staff felt so intimidated that no one had wanted to act as spokesperson. That was why everyone had come instead of just a few. Furthermore, at that very moment they were all feeling intimidated and for that reason no one had spoken initially. That opened the floodgates.
There's another meeting next Tuesday after she has had time to consider the matter. Frankly, I don't trust her and I don't think that the lower school should let down their guard.
Now tomorrow there is another meeting. When the management committee realized how bad the results of the staff survey were last year, they suggested (in an intimidating manner probably) that we set up committees to discuss three of the most serious areas - work and life balance/appreciation by those above of what we do/pay and benefits. This was reduced to first two since admin decided that really only they could deal with pay and benefits. So we met (after school of course - which really helped with our work/life balance!!) and decided to only have one committee. We surveyed the staff, had lots of discussions and finally came up with a list of suggestions to deal with work/life balance and appreciation issues. At a now infamous meeting, all of our suggestions were deemed impossible. So this Thursday, we get to discuss the situation all over again. Nothing has changed. All the things that need to change are still unchanged. However, no one in admin can see that they need to compromise for us all to move forward. It could be funny. Someone has suggested a sit-com but no one would believe it.
Monday, 23 April 2007
Whether Sarko or Ségo wins the French election, let's give the Anglo-Saxon condescension a miss
Monday April 23, 2007
The myth of democracy, ritually parroted from left and right, takes progress as a given. There's always nirvana on offer just over the next valley, if only you'll vote for me one more time. In fact, once such rhetoric stops, the magic of the ballot box usually provides something different. Duck, weave, stutter, squeeze: a lifetime of making course corrections along a winding road that may not end in progress at all.
So, after neocon Bush, the new centrists gather in America: Barack Obama, decking midwest Blairism in soothing adjectives; Rudy Giuliani, espousing a woman's right to choose from inside the Republican den. So, after Margaret Thatcher, there is David Cameron, at last a wet that Willie Whitelaw might have embraced. So Angela Merkel shows Christian Democrats reverting to emollient, coalescent type in Germany. So Romano Prodi succeeds Silvio Berlusconi. And then there is France, poised now (on the exit polls) for its essential choice: Nicolas Sarkozy or Ségolène Royal?
The worst trap for British commentators, when French elections come around, lies in peddling Anglo-Saxon condescension. Our economy is booming; theirs is an arthritic shambles. Our model brings prosperity, flexibility, jobs; theirs inflicts only waste, disillusion and despair. We are sons of honest toil; they are irredeemably duplicitous.
It's self-serving rubbish, of course. Try to build an equivalent list the other way round. They have a transport infrastructure to be proud of, a health service to goggle over, an appetite for technology that makes them European leaders in broad and many other bands, a bureaucracy of professionals fit for modern purpose, a sense of history and continuing nationhood. They play great national football, eat healthily, run a unique film industry, still mass manufacture cars and possess a pretty independent deterrent. Plus they were right about Iraq. And we?
Of course France has its stagnations and disappointments. Of course, in disappointment, there are always angry questions to be asked. But the choice that defined itself yesterday is no party in a last-chance saloon. Here is a country evolving inside an evolving Europe. It has its problems - and a political system that initially tends to highlight extremes. But the next generation is taking charge now in terms that the previous generation understands.
Sarkozy is not some new kid on the block. He is Mr Continuity from the Chirac years, an abrasive interior minister going up in the world (rather as though John Reid were Blair's successor). He may hint at profound change on immigration when he talks tough on Jean-Marie Le Pen's southern flank and seem to offer even tougher action when he talks to public-service unions, but in reality the name of his game is more transition than revolution, just as it has been for Royal throughout her own wavering campaign - full of style yet curiously traditional in substance, old socialism in designer clothing.
Here, in part, is the myth of "progress" again. France since De Gaulle has mostly been led from the centre-right but embraced the centre-left beneficences Mitterrand bestowed on it. Royal may berate Sarkozy's "politics of brutality", just as he may jeer at her soft-centred blankness on hard-edged issues, but neither of them in power will be able to make huge course corrections. Some problems, like youth unemployment, will have to be addressed. Some questions, like France's place in Europe, will have to be answered afresh. But, at the end of the next presidential term, there will still be a recognisable France following well-trodden French routes.
Of course politicians jeer at the mush in the middle. Nico and Ségo have battered François Bayrou as some kind of Gallic Roy Jenkins, proffering harmony for the sake of harmony. But the fact of Bayrou's candidacy has been a powerful hint to both of them. This isn't (to use David Miliband's formulation of non leadership interest) part of some essential, everlasting battle between Labour and Tory. This is a matter of what happens after the electioneering is over.
Put away your pat Brit handbooks, then. Can a socialist without much of a programme provide change and success? Absolutely. That's why José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the symbol of such success, rode over the Spanish border to stand side by side with Royal. Can French society cope in a globalised world? That's the next question. But, locked into Europe as well as its history, the results, whatever they are, won't win much Westminster applause. We're all victims of our own enduring myths.
Saturday, 21 April 2007
Friday, 20 April 2007
Winnie the Pooh introduced a speaker from the Forest Committee, and the animals heard how the meeting would go. First, a long talk, then a short break when they were encouraged to leave, then another talk, and finally, at the very end of the day as darkness fell, a chance to ask a question. A special MAGIC LANTERN show had been set up by Christopher Robin to show the animals the numbers. They gasped as the results were explained, but none understood what was going on. Even Christopher Robein, who had some PRIVAT EDUKASHUN, and knew a little about SUMS, was baffled. Large numbers had become smaller, and they were told this was "A GOOD THING'. Low numbers changed to high ones before their eyes - another "GOOD THING". Other results had just disappeared, and nothing was said about them. "That's why it's called a MAGIC LANTERN", hooted Owl. "It changes numbers around, like magic."
The speaker then told the animals that their opinions were so important they could do another SIRVAY next Haycorn season. The animals gasped in amazement at this. "We value your opinions, and we are listening", continued the speaker. The younger animals clapped and applauded. The Forest Committee really cared about them.
"What a load of BOLLOX", muttered Eeyore, grateful that he had his personal index-linked private medical insurance, guaranteed against inflation.
Finally the speaker stopped. A polite ripple of applause came from the older animals, hoping to leave early, but then another one started to talk. This one mumbled something, but none of them could hear, so a MIKE ROWFONE was used to make the voice louder.
"Hrrmhgyyyy....thergdswill....smorfer..." it said. "Hmmphhh oplot." What strange language was this? Even wise Owl, who knew some LATIN, was confused. "What is he saying?", asked Tigger.
He says 'thank you for coming, as he knows you are busy", said Owl.
"Yes, I am", said Tigger, "Very busy", and he bounced off to assess his work-life balance and smoke some Haycorns.
All this time, Winnie the Pooh was pondering, and a little song began to form in his tiny bear brain: "I know what I know and I don't know a lot, but someone round here has lost the plot...tiddly pom", and he waddled off into the forest.
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Yesterday afternoon, there was a meeting attended by the head of school, the superintendent (head of all three schools), the head of the management committee (former managing director of a brewery) and the head of HR. We were all there as well, every member of the faculty and non-teaching staff. Why had we all gathered, you may wonder. It was to be the unveiling of the results of the staff survey (taken last October) and a presentation on the pay and benefits for non-teaching staff. Were we excited? I'm afraid not. We've become too cynical over the years to believe there was much point being there. In fact 45 percent of the staff couldn't even bring themselves to fill out the survey in the first place.
We weren't given a copy of the results of the survey before the meeting. We were given it the morning after the meeting. The management group decided what elements of the survey they would discuss with us. Admittedly they did turn out to be some of the ones with the worst response percentages:
I feel the school appreciates the need for a good work/life balance. (13% agreed)
I feel that my contribution to the school is valued and recognized. (34% agreed)
I believe the school recognises hard work and commitment. (27%)
Amazingly, despite the fact that those figures were down from last year, the head of school managed to take a positive view of them. However, she did say that she was disappointed ('with you' was left hanging in the air) that only 13% felt that ACS appreciated the need for a good work life balance. She had done so much for us this year to make things better. She had put more whiteboards in classrooms. There was more computer training. There were going to be more whiteboards this year and more computer training. No one was entirely sure how the whiteboards and computer training would improve our work/life balance. Someone since has suggested that we should ask her for her definition of work/life balance. Hers doesn't seem to match ours.
We were talked down to, insulted, told that we could find another job if we didn't like our pay or terms of employment and lied to. And I truly believe that they thought they had gotten away with it.
The Insurrection/revolution started that day at 5:00 with the end of the meeting.
How many of us felt that action would be taken as a result of the survey - only 25%. How many of us would let it rest there. I can't say yet but there is a boycott of the head's Friday get-together meeting. We may know better after that!
And as to the 'vortex of unspeakable evil'? It's where 'she who has hurt so many people' hangs out.
And what about the pay and benefits for the non-teaching staff, you may also ask. Well, nothing will happen till 2008-9. In the meanwhile, 'they' will decide if each person is paid above, below or at market rate. And who will get an increase? Only those below market rate. After years without a pay increase, the majority still won't get one.
Yes, and why do we stay? The head of HR said we should leave if we weren't happy. It's a shame that it isn't as simple as that!
Monday, 16 April 2007
It was back to school today. Monday is my longest day and I came home exhausted. I took me about 3 hours to recover. Thankfully, my IB exam students finish school this week to go on study leave. That will mean that Mondays will be much easier. In fact, I will only teach 15 periods a week. That should help with the fatigue.
Tomorrow, I have the first of my two internal treatments. I'm really not looking forward to it. However, once it is over, I will only have one left and then it will be all over. I was thinking of a party next Friday but I don't know how I'll feel so I'll just and see.
Friday, 13 April 2007
I finished my radiotherapy today. I thought I'd be excited and instead I was depressed. I'll have to think about why that would be. I have two internal treatments left next week and then it is all over. I'm thinking of having a party next Friday but I don't know how I will be feeling physically. I'll probably go for the party regardless!
Wednesday, 11 April 2007
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
I don't imagine that the Guardian will bother to do a follow up story about the nuns and the statues. You can't help but wonder what the judge will decide. Will he order them back to the monks? Will the nuns refuse? Will the police invade the carmelite convent and take them by force? And what of their justification that because they dusted the statues, they belonged to them. I would imagine that a number of Spanish museums and art galleries will be a little nervous about that. He (or she in this case) who dusts, owns. The final question is this: just how trustworthy is a termite?
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Tuesday April 10, 2007
GuardianThe disappearance from a Spanish church of three statues dating back to the 16th century has led to a group of nuns being accused of theft.
The three carved wooden statues were taken from a church in the north-western Spanish town of Grajal de Campos several months ago.
They included a 16th century carving of Jesus Christ, a 17th century Virgin Mary and a later piece depicting St Joseph.
The three had stood together in the town's Antigua church for more than two centuries and had been paraded around the town every Easter, followed by devout villagers. But this Easter was the first in almost 500 years in which the townsfolk were unable to parade their figure of Jesus through the streets.
The Grajal de Campos brotherhood that normally carries the statue had to replace it with photographs of the real thing after a local convent closed down and the last remaining nuns decided to take the statues with them to their new home in Toledo.
The wooden figures now reside in the new Toledo convent the Carmelite nuns have been sent to.
The nuns claimed that, as they had been responsible for dusting and shining the statues, they belonged to them.
But the local mayor has unearthed documents proving that the statues were there well before a Carmelite convent was set up in the town in 1881.
"We have documents that show they were there in at least 1728," said Francisco Espinosa.
The townsfolk have taken their protests to Toledo, hiring a coach to take them to the new convent so that they could demonstrate outside.
"Termites are more trustworthy than Carmelites!" read one of their banners.
A judge has called the two parties to appear before him next week to decide who the statues really belong to.
Sunday, 8 April 2007
Saturday, 7 April 2007
Mary Jane has suggested bird feeder photographs. I'm game if others are. You can email me any photos taken with a digital camera and I will put them on the blog. As you can see, my first picture doesn't have any birds in it. I've loaned Naomi my camera and so I tried to use the camera on my phone. It took a nice photo but wouldn't download to my laptop. So, I decided to use the I-photo software on my laptop and try that. Of course, it meant me aiming the camera on the laptop at the bird feeder. Imagine me in my pyjamas in my front garden, carrying my laptop and aiming it towards a tree. Luckily no one was around to see but neither were there any birds!
Friday, 6 April 2007
Cliff and I went to Savill Gardens for lunch. it's not the best of food to be found around here but the view over the gardens as you eat is great. There's a new visitor centre at the gardens and it's quite interesting. Cliff says that 'interesting' is the word to use when you don't want to commit yourself one way or another. I think it's great, Cliff thinks it's interesting. A lot of people hate it. Why don't you decide for yourselves. (Still no birds!)
Now there are birds! Yes! There are even eating from the feeder. I'm just hoping that the pigeons don't find out.
Thursday, 5 April 2007
I had my 21st treatment today and then had an appointment with a nurse about looking after myself after all treatment is finished. Oh dear! I was dreading this! I was right to do so. Apparently, after this kind of radiotherapy, your vagina closes up. This can be very painful and somewhat inconvenient, I should think. So, to stop this from happening, (do you really want to know this) I was given my own set of pink dilators which I have to insert 2 to 3 times a week. They come in 4 sizes and I guess I have to find the one which suits me best. I even have a CD-ROM to help me but I just can't bring myself to look at it. When the nurse and I had nearly finished our conversation, I asked how long I would have to continue to do this. The rest of my life, she said. Wow! I'm still try to come to terms with that.
Start here if you are squeamish!
Today was beautiful, warm and sunny. I had some energy as well so I helped mum as she worked on our front garden. There is a standard rose in the centre and it is on its last legs. I'm going to take it out and put containers with various vegetables and flowers. We found a maple tree growing there. It's about 70cm high. Obviously it can't stay in our garden. However, I did think that Naomi might like it in Swansea. For some unknown (to me) reason there are very few trees in Swansea. I thought that it might have something to do with the weather there. However, if a maple can cope in Canada, it should be fine in Wales. I'm going to pot it up and take it down the next time we go.
The reason I am growing my veggies at the front of the house is that there is very little sun at the back. I'm sure that growing the veggies in pots will mean that they are more expensive than those at our local farm shop but I don't care! I'm going to plant courgettes (zucchinis), peppers, runner beans, lettuce, rocket, tomatoes and perhaps, cucumbers. I forgot the potatoes! I may also put in some sunflowers, oh and a pumpkin. That would be fun! I'm going to start tomorrow by finding out what containers I already have, buying some compost, and any seeds I don't already have.
Wednesday, 4 April 2007
We have been blessed with good weather. It is supposed to get even better in the lead up to Easter but I'm not counting on it. One should never count on the weather in England. However, if it is nice, Cliff and I are going to Wisley on Saturday for a walk and lunch (if I can manage all that). On Sunday we are going with Emma and Mike and two of their friends to a Greek restaurant down by the Thames for lunch. They have been known to do spit roasted meats, so here's hoping!
I now have two microphones for my pod casting! The problem is that I don't know what I want to say. Well, I'd better figure that out soon so that I can get it finished before school starts again. This is something I can do when I'm tired but I probably can't think of what to say because my mind is in a fog.
Tuesday, 3 April 2007
I've decided to spend some of my time this holiday creating a podcast. I want to do podcasts with my students so I need to know how to do it before I start. Last night, I discovered 'garage band' on my computer and had a great deal of fun recording myself and taking pictures with my i-photo go go along with it. How easily I'm seduced by gadgets. So look out. Once I finish I will find a way to post it on the blog.
Monday, 2 April 2007
I have a couple of things to share tonight. Emma showed me a funny comedy routine about emergency vehicle sirens. Part of it is in French and really good.
The other matter of interest is an article in the Guardian about the origins of depression. The article is called 'How We Learned to Stop Having Fun'. Well worth the read. And worth a discussion when you've read it.
Doctor Who was great. Frightening, funny, cute guy, ugly monsters. Who could ask for anything more! You should be able to get in on BBC America at some point in the future. The last two seasons should be on DVD and if you really get into Doctor Who you could watch Torchwood, the adult spin-off from Doctor Who and certainly not suitable for children. Notice that Torchwood is an anagram for Doctor Who.