Sunday, 30 December 2007

My last visit of the year to Wisley




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 last day of classes! It's the holidays!

I hope that my title gives you the impression that I am excited that today is the last day of school. In fact I am writing this at home at 8:45 in the evening and the last day of school is over. We have had our dreadful 'We mustn't mention Christmas' assembly. To be fair, parts of it were quite entertaining. There was a great instrumental piece by the Jazz Messengers, a student-teacher-parent ensemble. There was a tragi-comic moment when a grade 1 student forgot his part and was fine about it until the head of school tried to console him. Suddenly, he seemed to realize that he had made a mistake and burst in to tears. She's obviously better at balancing books than dealing with children.

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

Christmas Tree finally up!


Last year we didn't have a Christmas tree. I was just too sick to put it up. This year we have bought a new tree. It is smaller and thinner and fits nicely on our dining room table.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Are you planning your pilgramage to Lourdes yet?

This year, or is it next, you can get time off from purgatory if you make a pilgrimage to Lourdes during its anniversary year. I don't know if there is anything else to say about that!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Christmas is coming...and there's a shortage of goose fat!

One of the celebrity chefs (Nigella, I think) talked on their cooking show about goose fat and how it makes the best roast potatoes in the world! Now, there's a shortage in the supermarkets. Alas! I suppose I'll have to use duck fat instead or return to the olive oil of my past. Do you have a favorite method for making roast potatoes or any other part of the Christmas feast?

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

John Stuart Mills

I was listening to a radio programme this afternoon about John Stuart Mills. I have heard of him but knew little about his life and work. Very interesting. At the end of the programme they quoted something he said: "Ask yourself if you are happy and you cease to be so." Interesting and I wonder how true it is. I suppose that if you start questioning your happiness, then you must have done so because you doubted it in the first place. Does this actually matter? I'm not sure. Mills statement might lead us to Socrates and 'The unexamined life if not worth living".

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

More Musings

I've just reread my last posting and I realize that though I said that I don't feel lonely, I do have the need to feel part of a community. Writing the blog gives me a sense of being part of an on-line community. I'm never really sure if any one is reading this other than those I have already mentioned but I have a sense that their is some sort of an audience and that together we are community.

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

Why does one blog or write in a journal

As you know I have been musing over the purpose of this blog now that I am no longer very sick and undergoing treatment. I decided that I would like to continue to keep a journal but that it need not be an on-line one. I ordered a Moleskine notebook (I love writing in them!) and on Sunday made my first entry. I wrote about writing journals, especially blogs, and why some people might have the need to do so. I explored my needs when I started the blog (share with others what was happening with me through an easily accessible format, explore how I was feeling through the treatment and recovery period, and write on a regular basis to get back into form) and tried to come up with an answer to the question: why do I do it and do I still need to.

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

Just read my previous post

I've fallen back into my life so easily after coming back from Dorset. I suppose that is to be expected. It's rather like New year's resolutions. You have great resolve at the time but quickly forget about them. However, I still have change in my mind and have tweaked my life in some ways. (More of that later.)

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

Sorry that it's been so long!

I've just been back a few days from a trip to the Dorset coast and a stay at a retreat. It was a time for rest and meditation and I do feel changed by it. It allowed me to think about various things without the distractions of modern life - television, radio, papers, the ringing of the phone and the temptation to shop! Instead they were replaced by conversation, meditation (or just time to allow thoughts to ramble), walks, a little writing and simple activities done as part of a community. Cliff even started to play guitar which he hasn't done for a very long time.

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

Bye, bye bird seed!

I wasn't wrong. All bird seed with peanuts is now banned. Apparently, toxic gases from peanuts could come from the bird feeders and effect those who are allergic. Does this strike you as odd? Could it actually be the case?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Peanuts and the birds

Is it possible that my school has banned bird food with peanuts in it? If it's true, I wonder what they envision? Students shimmying up the poles or climbing trees to eat it. The lunch lines are long but surely not. I think we can all imagine a number of cartoons based on this. Perhaps you can share some ideas.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Nearing the end

I've returned to the thought that perhaps I am nearing the end of this blog. As you have probably noticed, I am writing less and less frequently. I still have a need to write but it is taking on different formats. I also find that there are things I can't talk about here and so I should probably go back to writing a journal. I had wanted to say something about Naomi's miscarriage but I didn't want to cause her any upset. I also need to explore certain aspects of relationships I have. That would also be difficult to do in this format. So, I think that in the next month or so, you will see the end of me writing on line. Do I have an inflated view of what I have been writing to think that anyone other than a few friends and family members will even notice that the blog has gone?

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

What a day!

I've never mentioned it here but Naomi discovered she was pregnant back in mid-August. Today she discovered that she was miscarrying. It's been an emotional day. I also had my three month checkup for the cancer today. That went well and though the results of the blood tests aren't back yet, the consultant was pleased. I feel shell shocked after all this. I imagine that I'll need a few days to take it all in. So, you'll have to excuse me but I'll have to write more later.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Bad Dreams

I've been very anxious for the last few weeks. I thought that it had something to do with going back to school. I have been very tired as well, brought on by the effort of teaching, and lack of sleep. Then I realized that I was dreaming about dying. It all came to a head early Thursday morning when I woke up from a dream in which my doctor was telling me that he always knew that I was going to die from the tumor but didn't want to upset me.

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:

Dear All,

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’ve 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

A baby and an anniversary!

What a week! Yes, we have a baby on the way! Not mine of course, since I don't have anything left inside for that sort of thing. Naomi is expecting a baby next April. However, it has been a bit of a roller coaster. Having been told that she was pregnant, Naomi was then told that she might be about to have a miscarriage. All seems well and we can now get excited about a new member of the family!

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

Sheep's poo

I thought that title might get you interested. It was Cliff's birthday yesterday and he received a birthday card from Naomi which was made from sheep's poo by a company in Wales. If you are interested in learning more, their web address is: http://www.CreativePaperWales.co.uk. I was particularly interested in the post cards.

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?'

Some Pictures from our visit to Naomi and James


Cliff, Naomi and James on the Gower Penninsula just outside Swansea.

Naomi and James's new house in Swansea.

Back at School

I have just finished my first three days back at school. I've been feeling so good over the holidays that I thought working full time would be a breeze. Not so, I discovered and I suppose that's understandable. Over the summer, I have been able to have a rest, sleep even, whenever I overdid it a bit. This is not the case at school and so, by the second day, I had to go to my room and have a nap because I was worn out by 9:30. I paced myself better after that and felt better on Friday.

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

Home from Travels

We've been home from our travels for two weeks now and I've had some time to digest and muse on various aspects of the trip. The beginning was into uncharted territory. Neither of us had been on an ocean liner in years (over 30 come to think of it) and though I had visited New York, I hadn't been there since the 60's. Cliff had never been there. Both the ship and New York were a revelation. The ship was more luxurious than I expected and there was so much to do that we were often torn between activities. And everyone was happy - the crew and the passengers. The food...oh the food was wonderful and there was so much of it and available nearly all day. New York was so alive. I had not expected to like it more than London or Paris but I did. Now admittedly, we were only there for two days but it was enough to make me sure that I had to go back. What New York has over the other two cities for me is the people. They are so...I'm not sure of the adjective...so alive (to go back to one already used). I'll have to think on this and write more.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

More pictures from the trip!



Cliff's nephews Andrew (on top) and Geoff (on the bottom).

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Soon we'll be home!

It's hard to believe that this holiday is nearly over! I've looked forward to it for so long. I am excited about going home because I have so many things that I want to get going on. That must be the sign of a good holiday. You're refreshed and inspired to go in new directions.

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

The Back Forty

Hi all! Sorry that you haven't heard from me in a while but I have been up in Marmora and haven't really had the time to spend on the Internet. It's rather nice, in fact, being away from the computer. We are having a wonderful time here and the weather has been good. It has rained and it has been hot but that is to be expected. It has also been cold. However, best of all, we haven't encountered too many mosquitoes. I have read one wonderful book, The Shadow of the Wind, and am reading another, 'The Athenian Murders'. I encourage you to read both!

More another day!

Friday, 6 July 2007

Today's photos



These were taken at dinner down by the St. Lawrence Centre (for those who know Toronto).

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Toronto, here we are!

We have arrived and another portion of our trip is over. I'm a little sad about that because it all seems to be rushing by. However, we still have Toronto and two weeks at the cottage to look forward to. This is beginning to sound like 'the glass half full or half empty'. I hope you understand what I mean.

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

Love those newspaper headlines!

Pictures from the ship and New York






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

We are in the most bizarre hotel!

We certainly are in the most bizarre hotel! The Gershwin in New York. I read about it in the Guardian and thought it sounded interesting. It is but it's perhaps a little too interesting! I will explain more later! We arrived in New York early this morning. Cliff and I got up around 4:30 so that we could watch the ship come into port. It was great. I have lots of good pictures which I will post at a later date. We got off the ship around 10:30 and got through customs and immigration much more quickly than I would ever have imagined. I did have my finger prints taken (index finger of both hands). They didn't take Cliff's. I wonder why? We took a taxi in to the city and got to our hotel just before noon. Of course, the room wasn't ready so we left our luggage and went to Penn station to sort out our train tickets for Wednesday. What an experience walking through the streets of New York. Such a buzz. It's a far more multi-cultural than London. The section we went through on the way to the station reminded me of Aleppo. We are not far from the Empire State Building and Maceys. I don't think we'll go up the Empire State Building but we will visit Maceys. We're also going to try and walk up to Central Park. We had lots of plans but I realize now that we need more time. We wanted to go to Coney Island before it closed next year but I don't think that will happen. Ah well! And Emma, I haven't seen any Statue of Liberty statues yet. Would a t-shirt do? With the statue on, I mean. Actually, I haven't seen any of them either! We've found a diner for dinner tonight so at least we'll be able to check that off the list.

New York, New York!

It's 6:30 am and we are slowly moving towards our docking area in New York harbour. It has been an amazing morning. I wish I could send pictures but I packed my phone, my only way of taking digital pictures. I'll post more later today. Perhaps with pictures once we reach the hotel. Wish us luck with US immigration. It's rather daunting, just thinking about it.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Happy Canada Day to All!

And that is about all I have to say. Hope everyone has had or is having a great day. We have beautiful sunshine on our last day on board. However, it's still very breezy! I'll write more once I get to New York!

Saturday, 30 June 2007

It was a dark and stormy night


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

Thursday and heading for gale force winds!



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!

Thursday morning

I'm in the dining room which is one of the wifi hotspots, having a tea and some fruit. I'll write more for the blog later, off line, because it costs so much to be on line. It will probably be up by late this afternoon. Thanks for all the messages.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

First Day on Board!



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 morning of the day before the day

Yes, tomorrow we leave on the QM2 for New York. I think that I'm becoming excited! I'm hoping to figure out today how to send pictures from my phone to my laptop so that I can post some pictures while we are on board. I don't have a digital camera but my regular camera takes exceptional pictures so I don't want to get rid of it.

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?

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Monday, 18 June 2007

Absolutely exhausted

We're off on the Queen Mary 2 a week tomorrow! I can't wait! I'll really need the rest be the time it rolls around. I'm trying to get the house sorted out, take the bunk beds down (they're going to friends at work), and make sure that the garden is sorted out before we leave. I have courgettes!! (zucchinis for our North American friends) and beans growing. I suppose that I won't be the first to eat the veggies from my garden this year but that's alright. The joy has been in the growing.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Pictures of cancer run




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

Winnie the Pooh returns, again!

Yes, the author of Winnie the Pooh, ACS style has returned, inspired by the performance related pay awards which were announced on Friday. I think I mentioned that my efforts were rewarded with £142 for the year. I would have felt better if I hadn't received anything. At least then I could have blamed it on my illness and sued!

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

Mike and James



I posted pictures of Naomi and Emma this weekend but not of James and Mike so there they are! Well, actually James is hiding behind Naomi. I must get one of him on his own next time! Mike is enjoying the cricket club tea before continuing the match.

I'll bore you one more time with my garden!



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

A Busy Weekend



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.

My Garden
















I've been working hard on my garden. Probably one of the reasons why I haven't been posting all that much. I don't know if you can get much of an idea of what it is really like. It's very small but it gives me a great deal of pleasure.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

How strange people are!

You must read this news article. In Devon a zoo has culled a number of peacocks because a neighbour was upset about the noise they made during mating season (which lasts about 6 weeks a year). What is the world coming to?

Monday, 4 June 2007

Fingerprinting Revisited

I received a comment to my posting about fingerprinting our students for buying lunch. I was shocked to discover what an issue it was in the UK. I've heard nothing much about it in the press. Apparently, many schools are using fingerprints or considering using them. Why aren't more parents concerned. Perhaps they are but don't think that they can do anything about it. My children are grown up now but I do have a concern for the students I teach. I will fight the school to ensure that they don't introduce such an intrusive and potentially dangerous measure. If you are interested in looking at the website Leavethemkidsalone, click here or on the link to the left.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

No fingerprinting after all!

Yes, they've backed down. It probably had to do with finance and not civil rights but hey, at least it's not going to happen for the time being. Emma discovered yesterday that if there were a crime in the area of the school and the school had biometric information on anyone, the police would have the right to take it and add it to their data base. I don't think that our parents would go for that.

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

Fingerprinting our children!

I've just read a memo from the head of school in which she discusses the possibility of requiring a thumb print from our children in order to buy lunch. Have we gone mad? Is this not an over reaction to some children sharing their lunch cards with others. What do you think about this? Comments please!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Gardens up walls!

You must look at this site. It is unbelievable. I've just seen a programme about these walls on the Chelsea Flower Show television show. I must go to Paris this year and see his work...gardens...whatever you call them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The end draws nigh, again.

I'm back to wondering if I am coming to the end of this blog. You have probably noticed that I haven't written much of late. Now that my energy is returning, I seem to be involved in all sorts (when I have the energy) and I don't seem to need to write the way I did when I first became ill. I will warn you when I completely pack it in. For the time being I'll write occasionally so that you can keep up with my .... whatever! Cliff and I are off on the Queen Mary 2 in 5 weeks so I imagine that I'll have a lot to write about that trip, especially the train trip through the US on July 4th.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Elderflowers

Mary Jane and I were talking about the book, 'Stalking the wild asparagus' yesterday and one of us mentioned elder flowers. Today on the way home from work I saw elders in bloom and just coming into bloom. I have always wanted to try elderflower fritters. I've found a recipe and may try on the weekend. Does anyone have recipes for anything else with the flowers. I know you can make cordial but it would require too many flowers. Email me or post here if you have any ideas.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

More on my plants



As you can see, I did get some pictures and right from my garden. The plant in the flower box is a pelargonium and the one on my garden table is a yet to be planted geranium. It's pink but I do have two blue ones (Johnson's Blue).

Geraniums and Pelargoniums

Continuing on the plant theme, Mary Jane also asked if I could give the difference between geraniums and pelargoniums. All I could do was go to the bbc website and find examples in the gardening section. So if you are interested too, click here and input the name of the plant. I wonder if I can find pictures!

I'm back with pictures. Follow this link and you shall see.

Monday, 14 May 2007

The Colour of Pumpkin flowers? asks Mary Jane

I'm not sure what colour pumpkin flowers are. Not only are the buds on mine very small but the sudden cold weather has sent them scurrying in on themselves! We'll have to wait and see. They may even fall off. Heaven forbid! And do you eat them, as you can courgette (zucchini) flowers? I don't know that either! However, in early June (I think) the Elder flowers will be out and we do deep fry those in the UK. I've never had them but I hear that they are wonderful. I imagine that they probably do other things with them as well.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Goodbye Bagdad!

I don't know if any of you have been reading the 'Riverbend' blog, for which I have a link on mine. Today, the Guardian published an extract from a recent post in which the author talks about finally deciding to leave Iraq. How brave she has been to stay so long, how brave she is to make the decision to go from the 'safety' of the the known to the 'fearful' unknown of a future in another country, with an uncertain future. I'm reminded of how lucky I am and how many more choices I have had in my life and still have.

On a lighter note, my pumpkins have little flower buds on them. I'm so excited! Sad, isn't it!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Should we still put evil doers in the stocks?

I had intended to talk about how I felt that I was coming to the end of this blog, when I noticed an article in the Guardian newspaper open on the table next to me. It was called, 'Humiliation - the latest weapon in America's war on crime. If you'd like to read it in its entirety, click here. Otherwise, you can just read my rant.

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

It's age, isn't it!

I've been focusing so hard on getting better and surviving the treatment that I've neglected the rest of my body. I went to the doctor today with a list of problems and concerns and we worked through it. My blood pressure is still high even on the pills. Now I have to buy a blood pressure taking machine (whatever that is called) and keep track of my blood pressure on a regular basis. I had my ears checked and oh no! I have ear wax build-up and have to have it sorted out but not for two weeks since one of the nurses is on holiday. Well, it's not life-threatening, is it! Finally, I may have two small patches of possible skin cancer. I'm to take some skin medication for two weeks and then go back and have it checked out. Why couldn't my body have given me a short vacation between problems. It's age, isn't it!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

May already!

It's hard to believe that it's May already! The year seems to be slipping by so quickly.

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

My website

I've been planning on creating a website to assist my students in learning French, for some time. Mike, Emma's partner, has arranged for me to have my site on the server his friend has bought space on, in the U.S. Today Emma and I did some brainstorming and came up with the domain name which will be 'speakeasy.org.uk'. Now comes the hard part. We have to decide everything else: graphics, colours, organization, content and lots more, I'm sure! I'll let you all know when it's up and ready to go.

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

Yesterday's meeting

I didn't go in the end. I was so tired I had to go to bed instead. However, it seems that the meeting went well. The head is having a hard time getting to grips with the idea that she intimidates people, but she may (and I only say 'may') be getting the hint!

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

Tomorrow

I forgot to mention in the previous post that I've been asked to go to a meeting tomorrow to support one of the teachers in the lower school. The entire lower school has made a formal complaint against the head of school. Tomorrow all of the lower school teachers are attending a meeting with the head and a member of human resources. Each of the lower school teachers has decided to invite someone to support them. That is why I'm going. Should be interesting. Should be a lot of people present. Somehow I don't think the head is expecting this.

The French election

Anyone following the French election. The following is an editorial from the Guardian. An interesting view point. Sorry if you don't understand some of the British references to politicians.

Whether Sarko or Ségo wins the French election, let's give the Anglo-Saxon condescension a miss

Peter Preston
Monday April 23, 2007
The Guardian


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.

· peter.preston@guardian.co.uk

Saturday, 21 April 2007

And now for something completely different!


Yes, I have finished my treatments! I still have consultant visits and scans but at least I don't have the daily trek to Guildford. To celebrate, here is a picture from the gardens at school.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Yesterday's rant!

I really did go on yesterday. Well you may be happy to hear that only two people turned up at the head's meeting this morning. We are hoping for a 100% boycott next time. To add to all our merriment, there was a cartoon circulated that I think you will appreciate. There is also a fairy tale making the rounds and here it is:

Winnie the Pooh and the lost plot.

The animals were gathered together again by the Meeting Tree in the middle of the Hundred ACS-wood. They were a patient group, and had waited for the results of the new SIRVAY since the last Haycorn Season, but for reasons which were not clear, even to wise old Owl, delay and followed delay. "I'm so excited," squeaked Piglet, "that my tail has uncurled." Tigger agreed that it had. Little Roo jumped up and down, desperate to hear the news. Eeyore grumbled that if nothing happened soon, he would be too senile to benefit from any changes. "At least I've got my long service bonus to look forward to," he muttered, "they can't take that away from me."

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

The Vortex of Unspeakable Evil

I suppose you might be wondering what I'm talking about. What is a vortex of unspeakable evil? Anyone who works with me or has known me for a while realizes that it probably has something to do with the place I work and the woman (aka 'she who must be obeyed') who runs the place. Yes, you are right. It's the new name for the place she dwells while on campus.

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!

Treatment

Sorry, I shouldn't have left you hanging, about the treatment I had on Tuesday. It was fine! A little uncomfortable at first but over in 10 minutes. First I lay on a table with my bottom over a hole for the x-ray. Then the consultant did an internal...always a joy! Next he put 2 cylinders on a metal rod, inserted them (yuk) and attached the end of the rod (hanging out I suppose) to a line that went to the box with the radioactive material in. They took an x-ray to make sure all was in place, left the room and I was fed radiation internally for 5 minutes. Funnily enough, I was so tired from worry by this point that I nearly fell asleep. The next and last one is tomorrow. Around 2:45 British Summer Time it will be all finished!

Monday, 16 April 2007

Seeds, seeds and more seeds!

I can't believe how well my seeds are growing. I've already potted on quite a few. The weather encourages you to want to put the new plants out. However, it is only April so I will resist the temptation!

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

Wow and I only planted this on Wednesday afternoon!

It's a courgette and there are some tomato plants up as well. I'm so excited. Little things please me these days.

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!

Seeds germinate!

Goodness, some of my seeds are up already. I think they are the courgette seeds! A picture later when they are a little further up.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Seeds

I was asked what kind of seeds I was planting. I decided this year to capitalize on the sunniest part of my property, the small front garden. And when I say small, I mean small. It probably isn't much bigger than my living room (also not large). However, it is the sunniest spot and the best place to grow vegetables. In the past, a standard rose was planted in the centre and the rest of the area was graveled. It would be too much work to remove the gravel so I'm going to go for growing the veggies in containers. I've started off seeds for sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, courgettes, runner beans and 2 pumpkin plants. I'm also going to grow sunflowers, and salad greens. The sunflowers are being planted today and I'll wait till the beginning of May for the salad. I'm also going to plant some annual flower seeds.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Gardens, nuns and termites.

I went to hospital as usual today and came home hoping that I would have lots of energy. I did but it only got me through planting some seeds. I then had to pass out for 3 hours. Not fair! I did rally in the afternoon and managed to return to my back garden. I used to have a rock garden but since I've been unable to keep up with the weeding it has been overtaken by weeds. This afternoon, I tore them out and now need to replant. Any ideas on rock garden plants? Any suggestions would be appreciated. I'm going to have a look on the BBC gardening website and see what they suggest but it's nice to have recommendations from friends.

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?

Protesters hunt nuns on the run with holy statues

Now you must admit that there is a funny side to this story!! I especially like the part about the termites.

Susan

Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Tuesday April 10, 2007

Guardian

The 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.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Sunday, 8 April 2007

My Bird Feeder

I have birds round my feeder but I have no sensible way of getting a photograph. If I don't scare off the birds, me carrying a laptop and aiming the monitor at them, will! I must get my camera back from Naomi or borrow one from school.

Mary Jane's Finches

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Lampeter hits the news

Naomi and Emma went to university in Lampeter and we owned a house there for 4 years. It's a wonderful town. Now it's hit the Guardian, page 11. Not bad. And for good reasons. The headline is: Pioneering Welsh town begins the transition to a life without oil. You may like to read it.

Bird Feeder photographs



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

Easter Weekend

It's been a wonderful start to the weekend. The weather is sunny and warm. I've been out doing more work on my front garden. I don't get a lot accomplished because I tire very quickly but it doesn't matter. I've put up some suet balls in the trees outside the front window. They have been visited by great tits and blue tits. Today, I decided to move one of the bird feeders from the back to the front trees. I'm sitting here on the sofa now waiting for some activity out there. So far, nothing. I hope I haven't frightened them away.

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 now know more than I want to!

Don't read this paragraph if you're squeamish.
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

Still tired!!

I'm so tired! I do nothing all day other than visit the hospital and sleep. There are now only 5 treatments of the kind I have had since the start and 2 of the 'other' left. I can't wait for this all to be over but at the same time I'm very nervous about the final 2 treatments and wish that the time would pass slowly.

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

Rather low but I'll get over it!

I went to my treatment today and was told about even more fun and games to come with my body. I don't want to even think about it but visions of my whithering insides keep dancing before my eyes. (Well, not quite!) I am very tired so that I can't do much more than lie about and think about unthinkables. Alas!

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

Yes, I am out from behind the couch / sofa

I couldn't decide which to say - sofa or couch in my original post about Doctor Who. It's interesting that there are so many words for the same piece of furniture. I think your choice depends on where you grew up and when. I am more inclined towards 'couch' but since 'sofa' is more commonly used here, I use it. What word do you use?

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.