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 ''. 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


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.


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!


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


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.


Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Tuesday April 10, 2007


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.