Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas has passed me by

I have been sick since the 23rd of December and am only just emerging. I remember very little about Christmas Day, nor Boxing Day come to think of it. This morning I had a look at the presents under the tree that I had been given by various members of the family and it was like having Christmas Day all over again. I have no memory of originally receiving them. Who had given me a box set of the Darling Buds of May for example? (I have since found out that it was Emma.) I must admit that The Darling Buds of May is the only present I remember from my look through this morning. That just shows you how affected my mind is! I will take another look through and it will be a matter of guessing who might the giver be!

Everything has been put in a lovely green shopping bag with the words "reuse and use again and again" repeated over and over again. In the bottom right-hand corner of one side in larger print are the words: Bags don't grow on trees. It is green and black and by its size, I think that I will be using it over and over again! The top item in the bag is a tea cosy. I remember this because my oldest daughter gave it to me on the evening I became ill so my mind hadn't yet become swamped in cold. It is handmade by oldest daughter from the most amazing wool she bought on eBay. I really should find out more about that. Imagine buying wool on eBay. I may have to photograph the cosy since it would be too difficult to describe. That makes it sound as if the cosy is somehow different than others. It isn't. It's the wool that is unusual. I have a cosy at home but not at school so I may take it there.
* * * *
I'm not sure why I have been rambling on about Christmas presents. I was sicker than I am now when I wrote the above so that might be in part an explanation! I think that I was wandering towards making some comments on the changing nature of Christmas presents. I shall do so at a later date!

(To be continued)

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Christmas Tree Decorating Day

We didn't have a Christmas tree last year, except in my classroom. The cats had just joined us and I was sure that any tree I put up would end up on the floor. This year, I have greater hope of keeping them off it. However, Noah, just over a year and just starting to walk, is coming to visit for a few days. I can see that the tree may have to be moved during his visit but I won't let that dull my enthusiasm today.

Emma and Michael are coming over this afternoon to help and so in advance of their arrival I am going to do some baking. I want to make shortbread and muffins. I will also make some dough so that we can have homemade pizza for dinner. Now if only I had the necessary items for mulled wine!

I will post any recipes on my baking blog:

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

How very odd!

I haven't written since November. Today, I thought that I should check to see if anyone had left any comments...usually, it will be Mary Jane. Instead, I found a message from someone unknown, perhaps from Japan, I'm not sure. Then I checked my site meter only to discover that 42 people had visited my blog this week alone! That has to be the most visits I have received in one week in all the years I have been writing. My goodness! What a surprise? If any of the 42 read this, perhaps you could tell me what brought you so unexpectedly to my blog. I really would like to know.

I suddenly feel discovered!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Not only does it languish!

Alas, not only did my novel languish, it hasn't progressed since the first week. I am going to blame the fact that I have been battling a cold and an ankle injury for not making much progress. I can say that at least I am further ahead than I had been with my 'comedy horror' cult novel. I have a feel for the main characters and a good idea of most of the minor ones.

My leg is feeling better, thank goodness! I was beginning to wonder if it ever would. I'm back to swimming and seem to be doing better having had a week off. That's interesting!

School! Our principal is still doing nothing about my time table and working conditions. Did I expect anything else? Probably not! However, I did manage to get something done about the lighting in my office and over my desk. Not in the rest of the library yet but that will happen later in the year.

Four weeks to Christmas! This year we can go all out because we have a new head of school who doesn't have a Christmas phobia. Yeah! I'm going to decorate the library next week and set up a Christmas tree. What fun!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Novel languishes!

My novel is languishing on my desktop. It hasn't helped that I fell and hurt my ankle the day before the month started and that it is still causing me problems, or that I now have a nasty cold and persistent cough! I did well the first week and have done absolutely nothing this week! I've been either too tired or had too much to do. I was at a conference last Friday in London and then another on Monday. Too much going on in my head for the novel to find room. I realize that these are but excuses. However, I have come to the decision that I will continue to work on the novel but that I won't beat myself up over not managing to keep up with the word count.

This weekend is Noah's 1st birthday. We are heading up to Swansea tomorrow morning, and taking GB with us to help them celebrate. James's family will be there as well. The forecast for the weekend is for torrential rain and gale force winds across the country. What fun the drive will be!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The 1st of November: Novel writing month has finally arrived!

I may not be writing here all that much during the month of November since I need to write nearly 1700 words a day just to stay ahead of myself in order to complete 50,000 words by the end of November. If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, I have joined the challenge to write a novel during the month of November. The link to the site if you are interested is: I will try to let you know about my progress from time to time and I think that you can set it up so that you receive a notification whenever I post. Wish me luck because at this point, I'm still not sure which novel I'm going to start. I have two possibilities. One is a children's book and the other a story about the dysfunctional relationship of a mother and daughter. I won't know till later today!

And of course, good luck to all my friends who are starting the journey as well!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Best laid plans

I was looking forward to a weekend of swimming, gardening, a bit of shopping and starting my novel tomorrow for novel writing month. Well, I went to the pool, fell at the edge on a patch of water and will now be spending my weekend on the sofa with my laptop. I suppose that will be good for the novel! How annoying!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Musings over!

Yes, yes, as someone has pointed out, I have been musing for a long time. I didn't write anything more during our Queen Mary voyage, firstly because I was working on my book and secondly, because a day out of Southampton, I found out that my mother had had a bad accident while staying at our house just after we left for New York. My months since the trip have been taken up with concern for my mum, starting my new job and getting our new house sorted out.

However, I am musing at the moment about starting the Write a Novel in a Month challenge on November 1st. You are discouraged from beginning to write before the 1st but there is no reason why you can't sort through your ideas. And so I am!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


Now we are on day 5 of our transatlantic crossing I thought that I would pull together some of my musings.

1. A lot of people exercise on board. They go to the gym, to one of the exercise classes or they walk or run the promenade deck. I haven’t had any chance to observe the people at the gym or in classes but I have become one of the walkers. Strangely, more people run or walk counter clockwise, than do clockwise. When I go out, I walk counter clockwise and it would seem wrong to do anything else. Now that is really strange. Does it have something to do with right or left-handedness? Who knows! However, I did observe to Cliff that a right-handed person draws a circle in a counter clockwise direction. Could it be that a left-handed person does the opposite and is there a link to the direction in which people walk.

2. There are a lot of people who don’t know how to use to a knife and fork. We went to dinner in the Chef’s Galley last night, an intimate restaurant for 20, where the chef cooks the meal in front of you and explains what he is doing as he goes. This was an environment where the dinners had a certain level of sophistication but even so some of them had difficulties. I’m not a table manners fanatic but it is interesting to note that, as with many aspects of manners, there has been a loosening of acceptability (to use a non-judgemental phrase). Goodness, I do sound like a prig!

3. Everyone is very ‘nice’! The crew is delightful and with only one exception has been smiling, happy and there to help with any needs. The passengers are ‘nice’ as well. Strangers talk to each other and there never seems to be any conflict among them. Though, I did hear today that the library had to stop providing Internet copies of daily newspapers because on a recent voyage two men almost came to fisticuffs over one of them. Does it have anything to do with stress or lack of it? Are people ‘nice’ because they aren’t stressed out? Do they get nicer as the voyage proceeds?

I’m off to an art auction now. More observations Friday after our visit to New York!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Three days out

Today is day three and we really are getting the hang of on-board living! Tea or coffee, juice and toast in our cabin at 7 and then something more substantial about 8:30. Then I do a mile around the deck at a fast pace. The pools are too small to do any meaningful swimming so at the moment I am trying 3 miles a day instead.

Yesterday morning I had a massage, my first ever! I followed it with some time in their aqua-therapy pool. That was amazing! So amazing in fact, that I went back again in the evening for an hour. When I came out of the water my entire body was tingling. It was the strangest sensation, but very pleasant nonetheless!

Today we are going to a lecture on New York skyscrapers. This is the third in the series. We’ve seen the other two on the shipboard television channel but would like to go to the final lecture. What we have seen so far has inspired us to do a self directed walking tour when we get to New York to look at various of the building highlighted.

This evening after dinner there will be a performance of The Importance of Being Ernest by the RADA group. Last year Emma and I saw Under Milkwood by another RADA group. It was wonderful so I imagine that this one will be as well.

After the performance there is a big bands ball so it’s just a matter of deciding which dress I will wear!

Some may be wondering about my writing! Yes, I have been working on one of my novels. I am going through it and making some adjustments. Then once I have re-read all 7 chapters, I will recommence. By then I should have a clearer idea of where I am going and how I am going to get there.

Now, enough of day-to-day goings on!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Finally on holiday!

(I know Cliff doesn't look particularly happy, but he is!)

Well, after everything (finishing school, reorganizing my new library, organizing for our move, moving, trying to unpack at the new house, and packing to go away) we have finally made it onto the Queen Mary 2 for almost two weeks of total relaxation. Unfortunately, we have already visited the medical centre because moments before we left home, Cliff grazed his arm and it keeps bleeding. I’ve never been to deck 1 in the bowels of the ship before so that was interesting but the $40.00 price tag of an adhesive suture was annoying!

The trip down by coach from Heathrow went without a hitch…other that the bus driver getting lost at Heathrow before he found us and the Terminal 5 bus station! I had spent the days and weeks of July full of energy but the moment I was on board and in my cabin, I was overwhelmed by fatigue. I had a short rest on the bed after the lifeboat drill, which set me up to go on deck and watch as we sailed out of Southampton. It is truly amazing how they managed to turn this ship around in such a small area.

Today, I’m still tired but isn’t it wonderful to know that they is absolutely nothing to do. I stayed in bed late, had some tea and toast delivered to our door for 7 (8 U.K. time as we have already changed the clocks back one hour). We’ve made reservations for dinner at the Chef’s Galley for two nights and for dinner in the Carvery tonight. The Chef’s Galley is a very small restaurant accommodating no more than 20 people, where the chef cooks the meal in front of you and explains it as he goes along. You are also given the recipes at the end of the meal. We’ll be going to the French cuisine meal and the steak dinner.

This afternoon, there is a matinee of a reduced Othello, entitled The Spotted Handkerchief, which is performed by RADA students. If I have the energy I’ll go but if not, it may be on again.

Well that’s it for now. Hope everyone is doing as well as we are!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Swimming and me

If I am very lucky, there is no one in the pool when I arrive and the water is like of mirror. If I am very lucky, there is no one in the jacuzzi either and the entire area is silent. I slip into the pool and the water ripples away from me. I do a few laps with my flutter board to loosen up and then I turn on to my back and start to swim. The first few strokes are liberating. I glide through the water. I'm not tired yet so each stroke is effortless. My mind clears and I only count the lengths. I am one with the water.

When I decided to join the health spa in the summer following the end of my cancer treatment, it was to use the swimming pool. I had thought that I might also use the gym from time to time and take some classes. To date, I have spent 15 minutes on a running machine (but only in walk mode) and I've attended one yoga class. However, I swim almost every day and when I haven't been able to swim, I really miss it.

I've always enjoyed swimming but I think that the attraction lies in more than the obvious health benefits. If it were only exercise, the novelty would have worn off by now. I told someone recently that I work on the characters of my novel while swimming and in that lies the other important element- isolation. When I get into the water and start my lengths, I turn off to every one and every thing else around me. This works particularly well when the pool is empty.

When I started swimming two years ago, I wasn't very good at it. I did so many lengths with a flutter board and so many of back stroke. Mostly, I used the flutter board. Sometimes, I managed 20 lengths, sometimes only 10. Why back stroke only? I have problems getting enough air when I do front crawl. I know that I just need to practice but by the time I've swum for 40 minutes, I don't really feel like practicing for a few more lengths.

Now that I am in better shape, I swim a kilometer a day. It isn't always as restful as I would like. Sometimes other swimmers make it difficult to swim and so I have to concentrate on just getting through the lengths. Other times, I can let my mind go and as I mentioned, I may think about what I am writing or something that I've read. I try not to think about the day I've just been through or the one ahead. This is a time to relax, and become one with the water.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

My Summer Reading List

Though I haven't really been reading much of late, I have been gathering in books and now I have finally started them. I have Andy Murray to thank. When I watch his matches, I get so nervous that I have to leave the living room and do something else. It is so warm here at the moment that I have been going out in the garden to read. Cliff brings me regular reports on the action so I don't get too anxious... and I read.

So, here's my list:

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Airman by Eoin Colfer
The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Black Money by Ross Macdonald
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Information Society: a study of continuity and change by John Feather
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
August Heat by Andrea Camilleri
A Cure for All Diseases by Reginald Hill (finished today)
Outcasts United by Warren St. John

A strange group of books, if I don't say so myself! I said earlier that I hadn't been reading of late but that isn't entirely true. I have been very tired and stressed out so my reading has tended towards escapist, recreational literature. Some who know me, know that I'm a detective fiction fan and so I have been working my way through the books of Andrea Camilleri, the most famous Italian fiction writer. The stories take place in Sicily and have a wonderful sense of place and equally wonderful descriptions of food!

Friday, 26 June 2009

A Week On

It has been a week since staff were no longer required to be in school, and I have been there every day except Wednesday when I went to Windsor with Chloe! Are you mad, someone said to me when I told them and no, I'm not. I have spent this week completely reorganizing the library and sorting through. It has been very hard work but the library is beginning to look really good. I will try to take photographs but since I don't have any before photos, it probably wouldn't mean anything to anyone but me...I may do it anyway!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The last day

The last day is not today, it's tomorrow. However, I thought I'd make some pre-event comments. For most of the staff tomorrow will be their last day with our head of school. You can already feel a loosening of the bonds. It's rather exciting but there is also an air of disbelief. Perhaps we will all get excited about this and she will will suddenly jump up and say, " Gottcha!" So, I don't imagine that people will be overly demonstrative until a lot later. They haven't found a replacement for her yet so isn't it conceivable that she will be asked to stay on for one more year. There is a president for this.

I have been organizing a tea for those staff members who were retiring this year: the school receptionist, a chemistry teacher, a special needs support teacher and one of the librarians. Within days of sending out the invitations, circulating cards to be signed and collecting money, the chemistry teacher had been asked to delay her retirement for one more year. What to do? Well I told her that this was it for retirement parties and that she wouldn't get one next year. That was fine with her and we went ahead with our plans. Today, just hours before the tea, I heard that the special needs teacher had also been asked to put off her retirement because her replacement had decided not to come. Do you see why I think that Moyra may still come back?

The anticipation that she might make such an announcement could almost convince me to go to the end of year barbecue. No, not really! Nothing could convince me to do that. While insincerity, hypocrisy and the smell of burnt burgers and chicken fill the air, I will be sipping pimms and eating lunch on the banks of the Thames with a few like-minded friends.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


My head of school is leaving. She is quite the most despicable person I have ever met. For whatever reason, she hurts people. So many people have been damaged by her that there must be a huge cloud of negative karma hanging over the school. Alas!

What is truly amazing in the lead up to her departure, is the number of people who, having openly talked about how much they dislike her, are now writing touching best wishes in her farewell card. So, my question for today is two-fold. Is this hypocrisy or or have they forgiven her. If forgiveness is involved, why do I find it so hard to believe?

I'm not going into a religious or philosophical discussion of forgiveness. However, I will say that I don't think I have forgiven her for what she has done to so many. Then again, perhaps I have, since I no longer feel angry towards her. It might have something to do with the writing of my murder mystery. In it I had a character based on her who I killed her off at the beginning and then spent the rest of the novel trying to decide who of many might have killed her. I certainly felt a lot better after the first 5 chapters. One day I might finish it off.

What does this say about me? I'm trying to work that one out!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A Victory of sorts!

Well, it has been decided! We are now the languages department! Not the World languages department! Now I would like to try and introduce Latin before I step down as head of department. It is a language...but unfortunately, MYP (Middle Years Programme of the IB) don't let you teach it because it is neither a language A (native languages) nor a language B (another language you are learning to speak). Alas!

Someone suggested that we consider text as a language. An interesting idea! Since we are trying to encourage students as mentors, we could have them mentor teachers. I am really warming to this idea.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

World Languages

I was walking with Naomi yesterday and told her about my department's impending name change.  We discussed 'World Languages' and she pointed out that some languages are not.  I hadn't thought that 'world' might suggest that a language was spoken all over the globe in which case that reduces the number of languages which might be taught in my department.  I hadn't considered introducing Icelandic but one never knows.  However, you couldn't consider it a language spoken world-wide.  The way things are going, French may be in that category one day, but not Spanish.   The rise in the Spanish speaking population in the United States for example is quite considerable.

Now this is something else to ponder and it will certainly become one of my arguments for leaving well enough alone!

Friday, 22 May 2009

A Week of Madness!

One of the lessons I have learned while working at my school is that some people have far too much time on their hands (obviously not the teachers) but that this time is in no way related to considered thought. If it were, no one would be able to come out with an email suggesting that we change the name of my department from modern languages to something else because they think that the word modern suggests that other languages may not be. Of course, it is true. Some languages are not. In fact, some are ancient or classical. Am I stating the obvious? I certainly feel that I am.

However, someone with too much time on their hands, thinks that because we only teach French and Spanish in grades 1 through 10 and that we call our department Modern languages that we are somehow suggesting that all the others aren't. Oh my! What sort of logic is that? Rather, we might want to consider why we only teach two of the thousands of modern languages that there are in the world.

So, what do they want to call the department? The World languages department, of course! Now, what I'm trying to work out is what non-world languages might there be? Do we have non-terrestrial languages? Klingon or Ferengi, perchance? Well, some say that math is a language and certainly, there are computer languages but is it likely that we will confuse French and Spanish with those if we don't use the word 'world'? Do I even need to answer that?

The silly season is upon us early this year and I expect more to come.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

A Truly Outstanding Performance!

What a weekend so far! It was a very rewarding Saturday! I swam, cleaned the house, sorted through CDs and books for the move this summer, did two loads of laundry, and watched football at the pub with Cliff (and prepared my writing exams for June on my laptop). To top it off, in the early evening I went to school to see a middle school (11-14 year olds) play set in a concentration camp during the war. It was one of the best (perhaps the best) plays I have ever seen from students of that age.

I'm struggling to find adjectives to describe it. In fact I cried at the end, and just thinking about it, brings the tears back. The play was shocking, surprising in so many ways, funny, and very moving. That young people of that age could carry such a play is truly amazing, but most especially amazing for our students who so often seem to lack the self discipline which is required. We gave them a standing ovation and they seemed truly surprised. I'm sure they knew that they had done well but I don't think they realized how much they had affected their audience.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A Long Time Since I Last Wrote...anything!

I am really enjoying all the work I'm doing at the moment for the library next year but I do regret that I haven't had the mental energy to write. I have lots of ideas, many of which I have been developing as I swim. In fact, today, I lost track of the number of laps I had done while working through a plot line. I'm sure that I did far more than a kilometer but by how much, I'm not sure.

The library plans are coming along in fits and starts. I have put together the plans for the physical layout and have made a request for assistance during the week after the end of school to carry out the changes. I have managed to forage for comfy furniture and have probably found a sofa and some arm chairs. Today, I think that I found a home for some of the wooden tables that I want to get rid of and found some small tables I need for individual work areas. I still haven't ordered any books but I'll get around to it eventually. I want to make sure that I don't make any mistakes. Well, I suppose one always makes mistakes but the fewer the better.

Back to my writing. I'm going to try and start to write for a half hour each day. About anything at all. It will get me back in the habit and then after a few weeks, perhaps I can extend it to an hour. Que sera, sera!

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Library work begins!

Have I mentioned that I am moving from the language department to the library in the new school year? The planning is starting now because there are a great deal of changes and developments which have to be made in order to move forward. My first challenge is to rearrange the layout of the library so that it works better for everyone. We have a number of difficulties to overcome, the largest being the small size of the library. How do we accommodate the various sizes of groups who need to use the library at the same time: individuals, small groups, native language tutorials, and whole classes.

My first step is to get more flexible furniture so that I can reconfigure the space whenever necessary. There is a very small budget and so I am going to try and find what I need from the furniture already on campus. There is a very, very large wooden table near the main entrance. That must go! I have found a place to put it where there are two light weight tables, which together are about the same size. They are never separated so my table could easily take their place and then I would have two tables and more flexibility. Now I just need to work out who I have to convince of the benefits of the exchange. Ah, I can see that this is going to take up a lot of my time and energy!

More later!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Almost over

Yes, the holidays are almost over. Did I accomplish what I wanted to? Well, for the most part, I suppose I did. I didn't do much writing but I did do a lot of planning. I'm not sure where I'm going with this story line but I will now try to put some of it on paper. I did go to Kew and had a wonderful day there with Emma. We visited two of the glasshouses, a palace (which is more of a large house), the pagoda, and had lunch. I also managed to read 3 books and I'm on my fourth. I swam 5000 metres this week, walked for miles and went to my first yoga class this afternoon. So, not too bad really. Tomorrow is my last day and I'm hoping to make some lemon desserts, work in my garden, swim, and get a bit of my next story down.

All in all, not a bad second week of my holidays!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Hols

Yes, I'm on my Easter hols and they are nearly half over. Alas! I say 'alas' for a number of reasons. Firstly, I haven't picked up my writing yet. I promised myself at some point that I would but so much else has happened that I really haven't had the chance. I also say 'alas' because after today I only have one week left, and I can't help wondering what I'll manage to accomplish in that time. What do I want to do, is another question. I would like to visit Kew and see the palace and go on the tree top walk. I would also like to go into London to the British Museum and a few book stores. I also have some books to read and a few things to get ready for the week back to school. So, rather a busy week then and who knows what else may come my way.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Another Update

It has been nearly a month since I last wrote and I thought that I should give a brief update on my challenge. I have done nothing! Other than start to re-read what I have already written. I suppose that's something! It was a bit silly choosing to take on such a task when I didn't know whether or not I would have the time, energy or even the inclination to take it up. I think that it would have helped if I had had some time just to concentrate on it, just to get me started. I will spend the beginning of the Easter holidays on the novel, hopefully that will kick start me into writing again.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

My challenge update

I have been asked what has happened to my challenge. I have printed off what I have written so far. I have started to re-read it so I can get a sense of where I am. However, that's it. Work has been crazy, I have been tired at night and I haven't been able to get any further. I think that I will have to delay it till the Easter holidays when I have some time off to rest and write. I am disappointed but there is no sense beating myself up over it.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

My Challange

I have set myself the challenge to finish my book in the next 42 days (the count started on Sunday morning, February 22nd). I have done a lot of thinking about where the story is going but as yet, I haven't written anything. I don't know whether to worry about that or not. Am I avoiding writing? In fact, is the very fact that I am worrying about this and writing about it, a form of avoidance. Now I have that to worry about to. I'm beginning to sound a bit neurotic! I have been very tired after work the last two days so I could use that as an excuse but considering the fact that I used to write a 1000 words after having chemo, I think that it is just an excuse. I am probably worried about not completing my challenge which of course now becomes a self-fulling prophecy! Shut up and write, Susan!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

42 Days revisited

I had forgotten about 42 days until I saw it listed in my Blog titles. So just to remind us of what Philip Pullman said in part:

"In six weeks, Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic and discovered the New World. Six weeks was enough time for Mozart to write three of his greatest symphonies. William Faulkner took six whole weeks to write his novel As I Lay Dying; John le Carré wrote The Spy Who Came In From the Cold in five. In six weeks, on average, each of the 2,710 Liberty ships were built in the United States during the second world war to supplement the Allied merchant fleets. Robert Louis Stevenson took three days to write Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but six weeks to revise and polish it. In six weeks the Wright brothers' mechanic, Charlie Taylor, built from scratch the light and powerful engine that powered their first flight. In one month in 1819 the poet Keats wrote his Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on a Grecian Urn, Ode on Melancholy, and Ode on Indolence."

And what have I done about this? Nothing! So now I will! On the weekend I am going to make a decision of when to start and exactly which project I am going to work on and I will finish it in 42 days!

Monday, 16 February 2009


Ever since I got the job of school librarian starting next school year, I've started to think about reading, about what I read, and how much time I spend on it, about how to encourage young people to read, to help them develop a passion for books. In this day and age of computers, internet and video games that could be a tall order. Tonight on BBC 4 Michael Rosen (UK poet) was talking about how children are reading less than ever before. I'm sure that is true to a certain extent but equally, I'm sure that people have been saying that same thing since visual media first came on the scene. Then again, how many years has it been since we had universal education in the west and books were readily available to everyone. Just a thought!

I have been examining my reading habits as a precursor to looking at reading at school. I read the Guardian each day but not cover to cover and sometimes not even entire articles. This last week I read 2 books but that is the exception. I want to start reading literature aimed at adolescent readers in order to catch up on all the reading I haven't done in that genre in the last 10 years. I have a lot of ground to catch up.

Where to start! I am taking advise from our lower school librarian who was a middle and high school librarian before coming to our school. We'll see after that.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Going to Windsor via the Long Walk

(Statue of William III at the top of the Long Walk!)

During this holiday I had certain plans. I was going to see at least 3 films and go up to London at least once. Well, I haven't see any films and the closest I got to London was Kew Gardens. I couldn't bring myself to spend time in doors when the sun was shining so on Tuesday I went to Kew and today I walked from Englefield Green to Windsor through Windsor Great Park. Above are some of the pictures from the day.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

More of 25 Things (Hope you aren't getting bored)

7. I always look up when visiting cities. We miss so much when we don't!

8. I love the water towers on the top of New York buildings and photograph them when I can.

9. I love train and ship journeys. Train journeys must be long and ship journey must take me from one place to another (no cruising!).

10. One day I want to do the train journeys from Aleppo to London via Istambul and Venice (the old Orient Express route) and the trans-Siberian with a side trip to Samarkand.

11. I love stationery, especially letter writing paper, note books and fountain pens.

12. My favorite places are the library at Othona, the beach below the Othona house in Burton Bradstock, Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, the Rialto Bridge early in the morning, the fields of Wisley when the daffodils are in bloom, any bluebell wood, the middle of the Atlantic, the impressionist section of the National Gallery, anywhere I can lie and watch the Perseus meteor shower in August, the Penbrokeshire coast, and Keith and Margot's garden.

13. I wear my father's watch, an Omega Seamaster, to continue the link! And so does James Bond! (Well, not to continue the link!)

14. When I sit in ancient churches, I hear the whisperings of the generations stretching back.

15. I have just discovered Sir John Betjemann, a first cousin three times removed, and his wonderful poetry, especially Summoned by Bells.

16. I hate stage musicals but I love them on film. Strange!

17. I loved opera as a child and then forgot it (blame it on the 60s) and now am rediscovering it!

18. The only thing I miss now that I'm diabetic is orange juice! Sigh!

19. One day I would like to walk the Pilgrims Way from Winchester to Canterbury.

20. I wish I had written the Dark is Rising. What a book!

21. My favorite sparkling wine is Prosecco, which I will drink on any occasion, especially sitting in the garden in a deckchair on a summer's afternoon.

And that's it for today!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

More 25 Things

Well, I have been considering this and have come up with a few more 'things' that I can share with others about myself.

3. I love detective fiction, especially that originally written in another language, such as books by Andrea Camilleri and Fred Vargas.

4. I love gardens and gardening, and am a member of the Royal Horticultural Society and Kew Gardens.

5. My two favorite books of the last five years are Shadow of the Wind and The Athenian Murders.

6. I wear a silver chain with a very small silver camel on it, made in Palestine, as a reminder of the conflict.

Monday, 9 February 2009

25 things about me

Naomi sent me something on Facebook that required me to write a list of 25 things about me that I wanted people to know. I was then to tag 25 people. Well, of course I don't know 25 people since (as I said in my last post) I am ignoring people's requests to make me one of their friends. I thought that instead, I would see if I could do it here. I still doubt that there are 25 things that I want people to know about me.

1. I love New York City almost as much as I love Paris...but not quite.

2. I wrote over 100,000 words last year but I still haven't got a book out of it!

3. ...

Well, I didn't get very far, did I! Perhaps I need to think a bit about this!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Television, Facebook and Rugby!

It's Six Nations Cup time again. For those who don't follow rugby, that's the competition between teams from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy. England and Italy are playing in the first match as I type. I've just looked up and noticed that England is winning. In the background I can here the gentle (though not always) snoring of my husband who had settled down on the sofa to watch. I could easily turn the sound off or change the channel but he might just wake up and would expect it still to be on. Instead, I find myself drifting into an altered state of reality, the sort you find yourself in while waiting for a bus (in England) or a bank teller at lunch time, or even a Greek ferry.

My mind seems to alight on the strangest of thoughts. Friends on Facebook is one of them. I joined Facebook to have a better understanding of why my students liked it. I just about get it. However, I don't get why I would want to accept an endless number of 'friend requests'. When I first got them, I thought why not and so I find myself with a small number. Just recently, I started questioning my acceptance of these requests. Did I really want to have former colleagues, who I didn't really know when they were my colleagues. Now that they have moved on, I am unlikely ever going to see them again...and I don't really care. And students! What student would want a teacher as a friend. I certainly never would have! And I certainly don't want to be friends with my students. Never. Not even 10 years from now.

I find that this whole question of Facebook friends is closely related to my Christmas card list. I send Christmas cards to a group of people, some are relatives, and I want to continue these links; some are friends, who I haven't seen recently but would like to meet again; and then there is the group I feel guilty about, the group I would like to drop but don't feel I can in case they think I have a terminal illness, or worse still don't care about them anymore. I wouldn't want to hurt any one's feelings.

If I gather all these Facebook friends, I will be in exactly the same position as I am with the Christmas card list, falsely pretending that I care in someway about these people. I just can't bring myself to do it. However, I am left with this niggling feeling that when I reject some one's attempt to make me their friend, that I have hurt their feelings anyway. Then again, perhaps they don't want to have me as a friend either. Having sent the request, they may suddenly think, oh no, why did I do that! I have to stop worrying about this. Instead I shall think of something else until the bus arrives.

I found myself thinking about television programmes the other night. For some inexplicable reason, I decided to change my profile on my blog, update it or something like that! It must have been late at night because as long as their is daylight, I don't stray off into such meaningless activities. Anyway, back to the point. I had a look at "My Favorite Television Programmes" and realized that none of them were on TV anymore and so I should change them. The problem was that I couldn't think of any. What did I watch that I enjoyed and would look out for another week. Alas, very little. However, I do watch television so what am I watching and why!

Television isn't structured quite the same way here as it is in North America. We don't have programmes that start in September and go onto the spring. At most our series are 12 weeks long. More likely they are on for 3 to 6 weeks. It adds variety but I always seem to discover a series in its second week and then forget about it in the 3rd, only to catch up with it for the end. I am left with the feeling that I haven't got the entire picture.

I have developed a serendipitous relationship with television. Having discovered channels that sometimes have the type of programme I like, I will try those first. Why don't you use a guide, I hear someone asked. Well, I never seem to be able to find all the channels laid out in a logical manner in one place. I usually end out spending so much time looking for something to watch that I miss the beginnings of programmes. Just as confusing as missing episodes!

While I'm on the question of television programming, I have noticed that the types of programmes on mainstream TV have changed over the last few years. When we first arrived in the UK, there were tons of house and garden makeover programmes, and cooking programmes were gathering a pace. Then we moved into the house redevelopment stage where people were trying to become property developers. Gardening returned to its more serious side and food programmes followed celebrity chefs through various food trends. From there we went to programmes helping people to move somewhere else and start a new life, usually in the country or even 'down-under'. Somewhere along the way, people became worried about what they ate, and we were treated to programmes about how our chickens and pigs lived before they came to our table. Funny, no vegetarian cooking programmes yet, though you'd think they would be popular after the chicken and pig shows. Several chefs have shown us how to cook frugally, and Jamie Oliver showed us how badly our children were fed at school and then he showed people who didn't know how to cook, how to cook.

I watch some of these programmes and once upon a time, when I went to work, we would carry on the conversation about what we had seen the night before. However, even that culture has changed. There are just too many channels for there to be some sort of conformity in what we watch. No conversation starters there!

So where does that leave me with updating my profile. I'm not sure. However, I have started to rethink the actual activity of watching. I think I have TV on just for the noise. If that is the case, why don't I just turn on the radio. Good question and food for thought tonight.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Monday, 2 February 2009

I'm a librarian again!

This is just a quick announcement (which I will comment on later!) but I have been offered the position of upper school librarian and have accepted. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into but I think it will be an interesting ride!

Snow Day - Three Cheers

Snow days in Southern England! It's hard to imagine but here are two photographs to prove it!

Friday, 16 January 2009

A change in direction

The upper school librarian is thinking of retiring. When she joined the school about 8 years ago, I had applied for the same position but didn't get it because they couldn't replace me as a drama and French teacher. I thought that I was set being a French teacher but lately I've been thinking of taking the same MA that Emma, my youngest, is doing in Information Management and Librarianship. As soon as I heard that the position may be available, I started to consider it again. At first I wasn't convinced that it was what I wanted to do. I enjoy being a classroom teacher but the truth is, that if I want to teach for another 8 to 10 years, I need to do something that isn't as physically demanding as classroom teaching. Now, I've let myself become a somewhat excited about the idea of this job. I have an interview next Wednesday and I'm going to spend the weekend getting a presentation ready, as well as a wiki to showcase my ideas. I guess I really am serious now!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Yesterday's post

My goodness, I did sound depressed yesterday but actually, I wasn't. I was being a realist. However, it does beg the question that if I don't believe that there is hope of change, what is the point. I'm going to have spend some time on this. Any thoughts?

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A New Year and it's still the same old story!

Why should one expect that the world would change simply because it's a new year? Though I suppose it's not an expectation that change will happen but more a hope that it will. And yet, the credit crunch continues with our desire for better times so that we can spend, spend, spend again. Will we never learn? Israel is invading Gaza as I type. People are still dying in Zimbabwe and our news media is now ignoring it. The problem for me is that I don't have an expectation of hope that anything will get better. People lack money so they find ways of reducing their expenditures but the moment better times come, they will jump right back into our wasteful ways. Alas!