Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas Card

Christmas Card

Click above for our family Christmas Card!

Sunday, 7 November 2010


One of the aspects of my life I recognize after my visit to Othona in October is a need for silence.  I do have times of silence in my day but often they are taken up by thoughts of work.  What I need to find is time for silent reflection.  I realized this immediately we arrived at Othona and have been thinking about it ever since.  Co-incidentally, a programme started on BBC on the Friday we returned, about 5 people who had gone into a silent retreat at a monastery in north Wales.  The 3 part series followed them through the time at the retreat and their re-entry into their daily lives.  If you live in the UK, you can watch the programme, which is called The Big Silence, on I-player.

So, have I found silence.  I came to realize that in fact I do have some silent times already.  One of them takes place when I swim.  I haven't swum regularly for nearly two weeks.  First it was because James and Naomi were visiting, then because I got a cold and either couldn't or didn't want to over do it.  I was very on edge and now I realize that it was not just because I missed the exercise but also because I missed the silent, reflection time.

(If you are reading this and the following comment is still here, it is because I haven't finished this post and will be back to it later.)

Friday, 5 November 2010

Having fun making movies!

I have been spending time at work looking at various websites to find the best, most interesting and most useful for our teachers.  Yesterday I was rather drawn in my and made two videos, one of my sister's wedding and one of our holiday in Wales this summer.  So now to show them to the world!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A relaxing week away

Last week was half term (6 weeks or so into a term we have a week's holiday) and Cliff and I went down to Othona, in Dorset to chill out and make chutneys, jams and breads.  What fun!  And what a lovely break from all media, including the Internet.  I highly recommend it to anyone.  Not knowing what is happening in the world and not being interrupted (by oneself or others) via various applications, is a heaven sent blessing.  Just alone with your thoughts and enjoying the simple conversation of others is a balm for the soul.

Sitting in silence.  I had forgotten how good that can be.  Each evening at Othona there is a chapel time.  On each occasion we sat for varying periods of time in silence.  There were moments when there were no thoughts going through my mind whatsoever.  No multi-tasking.  No trying so sort out several things at once.  Nothing!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Off on holiday for some reflection

It is interesting reading over what I have written recently. The first item I mentioned in my last posting - visiting Othona - is about to happen today. I am really looking forward to getting away! We were to have left yesterday but things came up and so we depart this morning. In that short time that we had at home yesterday instead of driving down to Dorset, I felt compelled to do work around the house. I really need a bit of a rest and I know I won't get it here. I also need some space to think and I always find that at Othona. So, more on the experience when I get back on Friday. In the meanwhile if you are interested in Othona, click here!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Where to go next?

Recently I reflected on what I had and had not done over the summer break. Since then I have been thinking about what I would like to accomplish over the time leading up to next summer's break. So, here goes!

1. I want to get back to visiting Othona on a regular basis. We haven't been in nearly two years and I miss it!

2. I want to write on a regular basis. This seems to be a re-occurring theme. I need to find at least an hour in every day to do so. I have some ideas on that.

3. I want to visit Naomi, James and Noah on a more regular basis. The coming weekend Cliff and I are going down on Friday afternoon and coming home Saturday evening, both ways by train. I find it hard to be away all weekend when I have school on the following morning. I'll see how this works and perhaps we will start doing it once a month.

4. I want to buy a bike and ride to work a few times a week. I don't think that it will happen because Cliff is so worried about me riding a bike in this country that he would sit a worry the whole time I was out. Alas!

(More to follow)

Monday, 30 August 2010

Back to the daily routine

Last Tuesday classes started in earnest and on the first morning I managed to nearly knock myself out. A good start for me! Let's hope that this isn't a sign of things to come. I don't think I'll go into how I did it, I feel rather foolish. Needless to say, my accident led to my line manager deciding that in deed, I did need a large monitor mounted on the wall in the library, as I had been asking for for nearly a year. I stayed home on the Tuesday and continued to have neck pains right through till Friday. As the high school secretary said, "No pain, no gain!"

The beginning of a new school year has prompted a certain amount of self examination and reflection. Did I manage to do all that I set out to do this summer? Well, yes, for the most part! I read a lot, I reorganzied the house, I gardened, I went to London on several occasions, and I swam almost everyday. However, I didn't write much at all, nor did I learn how to make a sour dough starter. I had hoped to do the Thames river trip from here to Hampton Court. I did go to the Hampton Court flower show but by rail, not boat. I had also wanted to paint the living room and my bedroom. Perhaps, I set myself too great a target.

Now that summer is almost over, what do I want to accomplish this fall and what do I want to avoid doing! Now that will be an interesting voyage of discovery.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A week later

So here I am again a week later. I have had a hard week since it was the first full week of pre-planning before school starts on Tuesday. I didn't get as much done as I should have for any number of reasons: lots of meeting, all day first aid training on Tuesday, a hospital appointment on Wednesday and two coffee mornings for staff in the library. I crawled home on Friday and went to bed at 8! Yesterday I should have gone into work but I just can't bring myself to do it until I have too. Instead I went to lunch with Emma at a lovely little Japanese restaurant in Staines and then went to see A-Team, a good time waster and just what I needed.

Today, I have a cake to make for Emma's last cricket game of the season. Chocolate Zucchini, I think. I made it for my coffee mornings and it was a huge success. At 1 Cliff and I are going out for lunch to celebrate his birthday, which was last Tuesday. At the moment, it is overcast and drizzling. Let's hope it passes!

I suppose there is a lot I could say about work, which is not all that positive. However, I will try to linger only on the good things. My goal for the year is not to end up on stress leave, so I must stay positive and not get too demoralized by what I can't do.

We have a new head of English who seems as determined as I am to get students reading more. I have spent a good portion of my budget on buying books for a Teen Book Week in October. All of the grade 9 and 10s will come in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the coming week to choose one of 26 titles to read. I bought 3 to 5 copies of each title but will get more if a student can't get the one he or she wants.

Tomorrow, I am taking part in a 'fair' in one of our gyms. Parents come to talk to various groups about the activities their children can participate in over the coming year. I have arranged for a librarian from the Surrey library system to be there with me and to hand out pre-ordered library cards and go give out information to anyone who might be interested. I will also have information from my library for parents. Something else to be excited about.

More another day!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

I know!

I know, I know. I still haven't written anything here. I can't say that I'm lazy because I have accomplished a lot this summer. I just haven't written very much. I am going to do so today but you will have to have a look at my cooking blog if you want to read it.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

It was pointed out to me today

It was pointed out to me today that I have been rather sporadic in my writing on this blog and it is true. I have had no difficulty achieving the majority of my goals or at least getting them well underway. However, that doesn't excuse not writing! I have been thinking about writing and working on some plot lines while swimming. I realize that just thinking isn't writing but I suppose it is a starting place. I should be writing every day, even if it's just a few hundred words here! I will try harder. Now, I'm off to bed!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

And here I am again!

Wednesday Morning

As promised, I have returned. I also wrote this morning in the cooking blog about my madeleine making. Yum! No wonder the French are so addicted to having them with morning coffee (or tea, I suppose).

I had an interesting visit to the Staines library yesterday. The two librarians I talked with were lovely, though somewhat stereotypical in appearance. If all goes well, one of them will come to the school on August 23rd to hand out cards (already applied for) and to give information to those parents who haven't been able to apply before the day. I am hoping that we can get at least 50% of the families signed up.

The weather has turned cloudy and windy but still no rain forecast. This will give me a chance to do some heavy slog in the garden that I wouldn't want to do in the hot weather. I'm also thinking about starting the painting I want to do. I can just see the summer escaping from me and I still won't have painted the living room, nor finished the trim in the dining room. And then there are the purple walls in my bedroom! Dear me!

For the next day or so, I have given up adolescent novels. Instead, I'm reading a detective novel by Andrea Camilleri, The Wings of the Sphinx. As I may have mentioned before, I really enjoy reading detective fiction which was originally written in a language other than English. Camilleri is Italian and sets his novels in Sicily. Good plots, great characterization and wonderful local colour!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

What I've been doing...other than writing

I may be back but I haven't been that regular at writing! I think in part that I have fallen out of the habit and so, just don't think about writing each day. That is a disaster considering that one of my goals for the holidays is to write regularly and continue with my novel!

What, in fact ,have I been doing since I started my holidays nearly 2 weeks ago! The weather has been glorious! Warm, sometimes hot! Sunny with little or no rain! So unlike a summer in England. It has been so wonderful that I haven't wanted to be in the house. I've done lots of work on my garden and it is finally starting to fall in to place. This week is the Hampton Court Flower Show and Emma and I are going on Saturday. It should be a perfect week for it, warm and sunny.

I have managed to get a lot of little jobs done, which have been waiting for me to attend for ages. The house is better organized; I have my new garden waste rubbish bin coming from the council; I have abandoned all hope of going to the local boot sale (rather like a garage sale) and taken everything to the Oxfam shop; and I'm in the process of reorganizing closets and the garden shed! I haven't mentioned the books I've read or the tennis matches I've watched, nor the daily visits to the pool. So, I have been busy but not with writing. I did re-read the first chapter and make some notes about changes but that's it!


I've been cooking as well but I will discuss that on my other blog. However, I can say that I have finally made madeleines and several loaves of Pain de Campagne. Today or tomorrow, I am trying some new recipes for sponge cakes.

In half an hour I'm off to the Staines public library to talk with the librarian about signing my students and their families up for library cards. I can't believe how many of them have never been into their local library.

So you see, though I'm not writing, I am very busy and I do feel good about what I have accomplished so far.

More tomorrow, I promise!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Day 5 of my holiday

Sigh! I am in love with my holidays! The weather is perfect, though my lawn is suffering from the lack of rain (Well, you can't have everything!); I am doing precisely what I want and there are weeks ahead of me to keep doing precisely what I want. Sigh again!

With the wonderful weather we are having, I have found it very difficult to spend much time in the house. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. I did do some projects around the house in the first few days I had off. It was still cool and I was probably suffering from post-work syndrome. I sorted out the kitchen cupboards, my drawers and Cliff's, vacuumed anything that didn't move and then stopped. I probably did more work than I've done for months and now, with luck, I have finished with household chores.

On a less strenuous note, I have started my summer reading. It is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill and Mockingbird and so I have started to re-read it. This afternoon I listened to an interesting programme on Radio 4 in which a number of writers and critics discussed the influence of the novel and its relevance today. I had no idea that it was such a popular book in secondary English courses in the UK. As I started to read it the other day, I remember thinking how challenging it would be for teen readers.

Off to bed now! More to come tomorrow and more reading too!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

I'm back!

Dear All, (Well there probably aren't that many of you!) I have decided to reopen my blog to anyone. I found that having it closed it to only certain readers, I was no longer posting. I have no idea why that as but it also meant that I got out of the habit of writing.

I am on holiday for the summer and looking forward to putting certain aspects of the last 6 months behind me. Nothing at work has been resolved. Instead I have learned how to get some of what I need in a back handed manner. This is no way to go on but sometimes you just have to accept the stupidity of a situation and use it to your advantage. So, though I knew that already, in the last 3 months I have taken it on board, rather than railing against fate!

What shall I do with all this time off? I have no definite plans other than a week in Pembrokeshire with Cliff, my mum, and Naomi, Noah and James. The rest of the time I will concentrate on reading, writing, gardening, cooking and baking! Sigh!

I have already started on my first book. Discovering that this year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, I have started to re-read it. This will be my 3rd time, I think. I first read it about 1962, not long after it came out. I was 12 and my English teacher phoned my mother, concerned that I should be reading such a book! It was the rape trial that concerned him, I imagine. My mother sensibly said that if she stopped my, I would only find some other way of getting hold of it. And anyway, I was probably too young to understand what rape was anyway. She was right. The rape went right over my head, but the injustice didn't. I re-read it when I had to teach it at the beginning of my teaching career. I have no memory of the classes, nor the book. I think that the experience was traumatic! Hopefully, this read won't be.

Enough for today or at least this part of today!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Still Home!

This time last week, I really thought that I would be back at school by Friday but it was not to be. I went to the doctor last Thursday, just so that I could say that I had. He signed me off work till Monday, March 8th and here I am, still at home.

I must admit that I was worse off than I realized at first and it has taken me a while to start to feel better. I am sleeping through the night finally, which is a real improvement. I don't think that I have done so since I was ill during the Christmas holidays. How silly of me to let this go on for so long!

I have found myself being quite anxious as well. I've tried a number of things to get rid of that feeling, including lots of swimming. Since Saturday, I have already swum 7 kilometers. And just when I think that I'm feeling alright, I start to feel anxious again. On Monday, I popped into school to drop off work for my IB students, and found myself anxious and nauseated. Oh dear! I do hope this passes soon!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lost it at the photocopier

Well, my plan to make life better at work, obviously hasn't worked! Today, I lost it at the photocopier in the main staff room and began to cry inconsolably. When I look back on it, I have snap shots in my mind of a lot a very shocked people. I can laugh about it now but at the time I couldn't stop crying and I didn't care where I was. I have no idea where it all came from. Oh yes you do, I hear someone say! And you are right! But I just want it all to go away. I hate confrontation and I know that that is where this is all leading. I will have to confront my line manager, the head of school and human resources about their treatment of me and I can't face going through it all!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Yes, I did! And no, I won't!

Yes, I did swim 10 kilometers. Someone was wondering. I tried to keep it up this week but it was just too difficult to swim 80 laps in the hour I have in the mornings. I takes me about 50 to 60 minutes so I would have no chance to shower and get changed. I did however do it again this morning. And I will again tomorrow. If I could spend a bit more time at the pool each day I could do it. I may try to go to the pool from 6:30 till 7:45. I think that would be enough time. Well, I'm sure that you are all glad that I have worked that out!

Now for other matters! I have had a really hard week at work. I thought that if I had a week off school I would go back more able to cope with it all but I was wrong. I am being abused by my administrators, both my direct line manager and hers. My contract sets out my hours for supervision and teaching and I am doing 10 hours a week more than I should. Furthermore, the work that I am expect to do in that time is at least 1/3rd to 1/2 more than I am able to do. I have the classic symptoms of stress: I feel constantly on edge, I am having problems sleeping, I have started having anxiety attacks again. How stupid am I to let this continue! I won't! This has been the last week of me being nice about it all. On Monday I am going to lay out to my line manager exactly what I will and will not do from now on.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

10 kilometers!

If I swim 80 lengths tomorrow, I will have swum 10 kilometer during this holiday. I'm rather proud of that!

Thursday, 11 February 2010


In England there are holidays about every 6 weeks during the school year. Right now we are on the half term holiday, almost 6 weeks from the Christmas and 6 weeks or so before Easter. I can't imagine going back to the North American way of having so few breaks during the school year. I know that we only have a short summer holiday but I would rather it this way.

I am enjoying my break even though I haven't done much of what I intended to. I have been swimming, I have read, and am painting my dining room. However, I haven't been to London yet and I don't think that Cliff and I will make it down to see our daughter, her husband and our grand-son in Swansea. Cliff is still having breathing difficulties and suffering from some side effects of his medication!

I have managed to redesign my library wiki and complete my library newsletter on the databases subscribed to by the school and websites of interest to teachers. It wasn't something that I set out to do but I found myself pottering with them both and finished today. I'm hoping to blow my line manager away with the wonderful things I do and persuade her that I should go to the ALA convention in Washington this summer!

Tomorrow I am going to try and finish the work I have started in the dining room. I'm hoping to completely finish the room before I go back to school on Monday. On Saturday, I would like to go to Kew Gardens or up to London. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Will Power or the lack thereof!

Recently I listened to a programme on Radio 4 about 'will power' and the the brain. It was interesting to discover that will power is something that you must exercise and develop, otherwise it will be weak.

And I just thought it was my lack of 'will power'!

Apparently, it is very difficult to maintain will power when your body is stressed in some way. Your brain works to break down your resistance so that you give up. For example, the reason people find it hard to diet when they are under stress in some aspect of their lives is that the brain can't cope with both going on so it fools you into quitting.

What a good excuse! I'm going to use that! My brain made me do it!

Though the programme explored the research into will power and the brain, I didn't take it all that seriously until I was swimming the other day. I am quite used to swimming a kilometer at a time but every once in a while I have to really talk myself into completing it. I suddenly find myself having an internal conversation in which I discuss the reasons why only doing 3/4 of a kilometer would be perfectly alright that day. At other times I find myself loosing track of the lengths I have done despite the various ways I use to count them (see previous post). My mind tells me that I have done more than I probably have. I have come to realize that my brain is trying to mislead me so that I will finish swimming sooner.

At the moment I am on a new method of keeping track. It came from my previous method, in which I counted each two laps as A and B. So, I do 1a and b and then 2a and b. I started to say to myself when I did 2b, the line from Hamlet, "To be or not to be..." Then I started to think of them as the Hamlet lenghts. Next, in an attempt to find a new way of keeping track, I named them all. First there were Claudius a and b, then Hamlet a and b, Ophelia a and b, Rosencrantz a and b and finally Guildenstern a and b. As I touch the side of the pool at the end of those 10 lengths, I finish off with "are dead"!

Does this all sound a little odd? I suppose it is really. However, it is all part of the game I have developed in order to stop my brain from tricking me. Alas, it doesn't always work. What a tricky brain I have but at least I don't have to blame my lack of will power!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Best laid plans

I need to get back into the swim as far as my exercise regime goes. I have had to reduce the number of times I swim over the last month because of a continuing ankle injury and a very bad cold through Christmas. I swam a kilometer on Saturday and again on Sunday and had intended going again this morning (Tuesday) before I went to school. However, I didn't sleep well after 4 and Cliff was so sound asleep that I couldn't bring myself to wake him up. I must admit that Cliff sleeping so soundly allowed me to do what I really wanted to...take it easy and swim tomorrow. My goal is 5 days a week minimum so if I swim tomorrow, Thursday and Friday I will have done that. I must admit that it does worry me a little that I am allowing myself to give in but then I remind myself that sometimes you have to listen to your body.

Does that sound like another excuse? It does, doesn't it!

For me swimming isn't just a form of exercise but also a way of meditating. I think that I have written about it before. So, if I don't swim it affects not only my physical but also my emotional health. When I used to swim in the evenings, it was a way of destressing at the end of the day. I could clear my mind of everything that had happened at work. In the mornings, I don't think of work at all if I can help it.

Instead, I sometimes count the laps. Now, that is a much more difficult task than you would imagine! I swim two lengths and call them A and B, for example 1A and 1B. First I swim 2 A/Bs on a flutter board (=4 laps) and then 5 A/Bs (=10 laps) of back stroke. That makes 14 lengths or 1/4 kilometer. If I do this 4 times, I have swum a kilometer. The problem is that once you start swimming you can easily loose track of how many lengths you have done. Mostly, I think, my body tries to convince me that I have done more than I really have. To overcome this, I have taken to saying A and B to myself over the course of the two lengths, and sometimes I have to say the number as well. I repeat it several times as I go down the pool. However as much as I try to concentrate on the number of lengths, my mind drifts off! Often, I have to add extra lengths just in case I really haven't swum as much as I thought I had.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Third Snow Day

It is truly amazing that in Southern England we had 3 snow days! Not everyone has been unable to go to work but our campus is inaccessible and the bus company decided that it was too dangerous to transport the students so here we are putting work on the school website for our students to do from the comfort and warmth of our houses and flats!

I must admit to being somewhat bored now. One snow day is wonderful, two is an added bonus, three is perhaps one too far! Yesterday, I was driven to considering painting the dining room due to this boredom. Today I dragged Cliff into Homebase and used my Nectar points to by brushes, paint, a roller and tray. My aim is to obliterate an orange wall a the end of the room, and leading into the kitchen. I will probably go on to paint the rest of the room because now that I have started, the rest of the room seems a little shabby too. Sorry Cliff!

Monday, 4 January 2010

First Day Back to Work and a New Book to Read!

Yes, it is my first day back after the holidays and it was somewhat of a relief! I had been sick for so long and completely inactive that I had become quite bored. School was just what I needed. There was a real buzz from the students and staff, along with lots of work to do! First of all, I had to tidy up the library which I had obviously deserted on the last day of school at 3:30. Looking back, I remember how anxious I was to leave and that when two students came in at 3:15 expecting to do some work on the computers I laughed! They were a little put out, I think. Nonetheless, I sent them packing, and locked up!

I managed to get a great many little jobs done...the minutia of my working life! As some may know, I am constantly complaining about my life being taken over by the minutia of the library. Today, however, I really enjoyed doing the little jobs. I managed to tick off so many and so quickly that it felt very satisfying!

Bed calls and I must go but on a final note, I have just started Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell, a Swedish detective fiction writer and creator of the character Wallander. His books are a great read if anyone is looking for something new!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Christmas presents and resolutions

We've never been a family who have spent large amounts on presents for Christmas so our decision this year to scale back even further was not difficult. We decided in the middle of the year to only make presents or buy them in a charity shop or on sale. On the whole I think that I stayed with that. My daughter Naomi made many of the presents she gave and I'm fairly certain that Emma bought hers on sale, except for her one indulgence, a car garage from Early Learning Centre for Noah.

I don't think that the choices I made of presents have changed all that much...books, DVDs, CDs and clothes. I did find it much more difficult to buy though. In the month leading up to Christmas, I read an article in the Guardian in which the writer questioned the whole notion of buying presents. Sometimes I am easily succeptible to that sort of thing and it did slow me down a bit. I began to question every likely purchase. Was I buying a certain book, DVD or CD in order to influence the tastes of the person it was meant for? Or might it even be a criticism of what I percieved their tastes to be? I think that this introspection must have happened in the lead up to my illness. I was tired and susceptible to both ideas and viruses! I almost returned the winter coat I had bought for Naomi, questioning both my choice of style and my decision that she needed a coat in the first place. See what I mean? I must have been very tired when I went through that line of thinking.

What I really wanted to do for Christmas this year was to finish the photo albums I had started for Naomi and Emma the Christmas I had cancer. I also wanted to finish off the book I had started to make of this blog and a family cook book. Out of my disappointment of not doing any of this comes my determination, one might even say, my resolution for the new year, to complete one or more of those activities. I suppose that it is a bit vain of me to think that they would like a copy of the blog but I'm certain they would like the photographs from their childhood. I had thought of scanning those but it really is nice to have a physical books and to sit some wintery Sunday afternoon and look at pictures from days gone by. Ah, there I go again making assumptions about what others would like and then imposing them! Cliff's mother (Naomi and Emma's grandmother) did that and we are now swamped with volumes of family history. Perhaps I will scan those one day!

And other resolutions, you may ask? On Facebook I said that I wanted to spend more times with friends. I will have to come up with some definite plan for that otherwise it will go the way of most resolutions. I shall start by inviting various people to Saturday or Sunday lunch or to dinner. I have other more obvious resolutions.
1. To sort out things at work so that I don't become as tired as I obviously was just before Christmas.
2. To finish one of my writing projects.
3. To write 500 to 1000 words per day.

Well those should do for a start!