Sunday, 29 May 2022

Wonderwool 2022

Look, we had a good run of weekly posts, I lasted nearly 3 months, but it's just not me, is it? Who would I be if I kept you regularly updated, rather than disappearing for months at a time, leaving you wondering if the work pile finally fell on me and crushed me to death, or if I won the Euromillions jackpot and am off living a life of luxury?

So anyway, yes, lots of things have happened in the past two months, but I'm here to talk about Wonderwool. This was my 10th visit to Wonderwool and the 8th spending the whole weekend there. It was both epically exciting and very nerve-wracking to be back in those great halls with what felt like half of the nation's fibre enthusiasts. Old friends were seen and masks were worn. Favourite stalls were visited (fivemoons, Birdstreet, Brimstone buttons) and others much missed (especially Triskelion) - there were some significant holes in the programme this time and I fear they weren't all last-minute covid cancellations. There was no scotch egg man and the fancy pastry place AND the ice cream van both sold out of my favourites before I could get to them. 

But still, it happened. It finally happened. We stayed in the 2018 bunkhouse in Brecon Forest, a booking that we had made back in 2019 for the 2020 show that was cancelled. It was particularly lovely that the weekend fell at the end of the Easter break this year, so we managed to squeeze in a walk around the Four Waterfalls trail on the way there. Hilly but glorious. 


Now to the yarn. I tried very hard to be restrained, I really did. I just kept thinking about all the yarn I had at home and how I have now been knitting the same 4-ply jumper for 5 months and it's still not finished. But...pretty. So much pretty. 


Clockwise from the top red:
  • Two skeins of Woolly Wumpkins (new to me) merino 4-ply in Bouquet for Mummy. The colour has a bit more variegation in it than can be seen in the picture, it's a really banging red. 
  • Ten skeins of fivemoons Luna 4-ply in Drizzle. This as in the sale bin, expertly pointed out to me by Jenny, and will do at least two jumpers. Maybe three, if I stripe it. It will go so well with that red. I'm thinking it will also work with the rainbow gradient I bought back in 2018. I sense a lot of stripes in my future. 
  • Four skeins of fivemoons Chandra in Black Cat. To go with...
  • Sealy McWheely (also new to me) Silver Linings minis. There are eight different colours blended with grey. The dyer explained that she had done it to represent coming out of covid - a bit of bright in the grey. I couldn't decide which colour I liked best, so I bought the minis. I have a pattern picked out already - Tiny Dancer
  • Two skeins of yellowish, one from Urth Yarns and one from Riverknits. I have some dark red 4-ply from Bristol Wool Fair and I'd like to knit a Hinterland in it, with the colourwork in yellow. I bought the Urth first and then saw the Riverknits. Hopefully one will work. Maybe even both. 
It didn't seem too bad until I input it into Ravelry and realised it is 5,500m odd. Essentially four or five more sweaters. I really had better retire.

Of course there were a few buttons -


I'm obsessed with that MoP star, I need to find something really special to put that on. The ladybirds are for my niece, they will do a great cardigan for her. Yknow, in my copious free time. 

I'll leave you with the obligatory wool bunny picture. 






Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Weeknote 10? 11? 12?

I jinxed myself, didn't I, by saying that last week I wrote about wasn't busy. Two days after that last post, the inspectors called, but we successfully put them off due to covid absences, which seemed good but actually just meant a prolonged stress period, where we knew they were coming but not when. I found myself in the happy position of having everything marked that needed to be marked and thus dropped that resolution like a hot potato, something I am now deeply regretting. So here's the bumper edition...

Working:

Isn't it funny how an inspector visit can sharpen the focus? Displays I've had waiting in the wings for years went up. Curriculum documents that had been open tabs on my work laptop since November suddenly found themselves well and truly spruced. Student profiles left dusty since September found themselves squinting into the light. Line management meetings moved from cosy chats to laser focus. 

Alongside this, I started the online modules and buddy meetings for the professional qualification I'm undertaking, which almost seemed like a nice break. 

They came last week for two days but didn't scrutinise anything on my line, so it was a fairly quiet couple of days for me. Actually a fairly pleasant couple of days, because my lessons were far more meticulously planned than usual and so I wasn't scrabbling around at lunchtime for a starter activity or a bunch of photocopies. I had a good conversation about curriculum with one for 45 minutes, which was interesting and positive for me. Now I guess we will just wait to see what happens. 

In other work news, I've been finishing the third drafts of my papers, ready for our committee meetings; gently worrying about the status of my two quite abstract big jobs that I am struggling to get started with; doing some reading around for them; preparing for the summer exam series from an examiner point of view; fighting with the exam board about their demands on my time, and winning. I actually said no to them this week, even though I feel terrible about it. 

Exercising:

I have been to the gym and lifted as heavy as I can. Twice. Twice!

I've been to my trainer sessions, obviously, and to a yoga session which was much needed after a particularly heavy glute session. 

And last weekend, I went swimming in the quarry. The quarry looked gorgeous; it was a bright and sunny day. The quarry water was 8.5 degrees. The outward swim was fine, with the wind behind me, but I did not enjoy the return swim, with the wind slapping the water into my face. It was so cold that I started to get intrusive doom thoughts - supposing a huge monster is lurking down there and is about the come up and grab me (I was the only one in the water); supposing my toes are getting frost-bitten and when I get out of the water they are black; should my fingers be tingling like this? I'm sure I've been in the water for too long; I must stop this swim immediately right now (not a possibility at the quarry, where there is only one entrance/exit point). 


Trust me when I say - the hat was not overkill. 

Still, I made it back. When I got out, I actually felt pretty warm, but after drying and dressing, my body felt cold for a couple of hours (body, not limbs...weird). I was wearing my wetsuit, which has no legs, so this seemed to be odd. 

Hobbying:

Yeah, that just hasn't really happened. I'm reading a book I'm not really enjoying and for some reason, I'm not interested in picking up my jumper to knit. I finally watched series 1 of The Outlaws, filmed in Bristol, which I enjoyed hugely, although I found it quite heavy to watch. 

This past weekend I went on a little jolly, something combining work with the hobby of travel. I went to Manchester for a teaching event. I spoke at said event a few years ago. I have to admit (this makes me feel like a huge snob) that I don't get masses of professional development out of it; I am at that jaded point in my career now where almost everything people share at this particular event feels like a reminder of something good that I have been forgetting to do, or something I already do, or something I don't think is worth doing. Still, I like hanging out with the folks that go and so I booked myself a tres fancy hotel in the centre of Manchester, with a spa, and had very good breakfasts and a sauna and swim on Saturday morning. And some of the speakers were very good; I just could have seen them from the comfort of my hotel bed, if I'd thought about it. 

Going back to Manchester is always weird. I'm always trying to figure out if I remember anything about my surroundings from my visits in the 90s. It's like I expect to turn a corner and be confronted by something that sparks a memory. I doubt I ever go anywhere that I went back then; indeed, I'm pretty sure the only place I ever went in actual Manchester was the station, which looks similar but different. In spite of that, I do find myself getting a little overwhelmed with memories of turn-of-the-century Sally. Turn-of-the-century Sally would have been overwhelmed to be staying at the Midland though, tbf, so we're probably even. 

If we're counting travelling as hobbying then there have been some good developments on that front. I've got a weekend in Portsmouth coming up this weekend, then a week of skiing, then a weekend in Wales (finally WONDERWOOL!), then another weekend in Wales, camping in Snowdonia. Mother Hand has booked us something nice for May half term and I've just booked flight to Edinburgh for June, so I can see for myself how late it stays light around the solstice. Zoe has booked us some travel to Spain in August: we're getting the ferry to Santander, driving the pilgrim route and then flying home from Porto. I'm quite giddy at the thought of it all. 

Feeling:

All very springlike, tbh. My mood has lifted. I feel upbeat and positive. I've got much to be thankful for and much to look forward to. Hibernation is no longer the order of the day; today I actually cleaned something. Bring on the warmer weather and the good vibes. 

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Weeknote 9

Working:

It has not been the busiest of weeks, I must say. The 20 minutes of marking a day had to cease at the end of the week because, incredibly, I ran out of marking. I know. How? It's amazing. The marking has, of course, started to come in again and the discipline requirement will shift slightly to focus on doing it without an imminent deadline, but that's a problem for next week. 

I did some paper redrafting and a very small amount of reading for other projects - not enough, but at least some. I have these two meaty projects needing my attention that I just keep parking because I am not yet sure how to break them down into stages. I've never considered this as a cause of procrastination before, either because my projects are usually broken down into stages for me or because I've never been willing to examine the procrastination properly. I suppose that when I was writing the teaching book, it took me over 12 months just to write the chapter outline - probably longer than it took to write the whole thing - and that was mainly because I was the one who had to make the decisions, rather than writing to someone else's plan. 

What to do? It would be easy to pass it off as imposter syndrome but it's not. Nor is it a lack of productivity. It's more a lack of experience in formulating a plan, I guess. Something for me to consider in the coming week, when those plans really better get done or I am going to start to feel stressed and agitated. 

Exercising:

I had a day at Tamworth snowdome which was some pretty hefty exercise (and also comes under the category of Working, because it was a refresher for a ski course). I haven't been to Tamworth on a weekday before and it was refreshing to find it almost empty and with plenty of space for doing the necessary training and picking up some tips from the coach. 

The day left me a bit stiff for my visit to the trainer on Thursday but it was good to get back into the gym and I had high hopes of a weekend visit as well, but then came down with a minging cold that has kept me in bed most of the weekend. It's not covid - I tested and it isn't similar to what I had before - but it has floored me. Either it's a particularly virulent strain or my immune system is completely wrecked from two years of isolating. 

Hobbying:

Basically no hobbying occurred this week. I did some reading, of Alison Weir's Six Wives: Katherine of Aragon. It's good but I should probably have read it before I taught the Tudors at A-level for six years, because the story is super-detailed but they're mostly details I already know, so it feels a bit wordy for me. There are some interesting asides in there that I wasn't aware of, to be fair. I just wish I was reading something else.

Something else did arrive this weekend in the form of Jerry Brotton's This Orient Isle, looking at the relationship between Elizabethan England and the Islamic world, which I am looking forward to getting my teeth into, but it's hardly bedtime reading. 

I've been playing around with my new phone but it's a bit half-hearted. I really miss my old phone. I'm still considering getting a new battery and reverting to it, but that would be a chronic waste of a brand new fancy phone. 

We finally finished Super Mario for the Switch so have started all over again, naturally. 

Entertained by:

I haven't done much TV watching, either. Today I binged the series Close To Me, that I had saved on the TV box, which was OK but probably would have been better spread out over a few weeks (or viewed when not feeling like a phlegm-producing sawmill). 

Feeling:

Fine, until I was overcome by the cold of doom. Thankfully it does seem to be lifting. 


Sunday, 27 February 2022

Weeknote 8

I'm amazed I forgot to weeknote last weekend. I had so many witty things to say, after school got cancelled on Friday because of Storm Eunice and our senior team told us to set only distance work involving revision; I only had exam classes to teach that day anyway, so it was a speedy process. I spent Friday tying up loose ends and finishing my paper setting, so I had the whole weekend free. But here we are, a week later. I was pretty fixated on the intricacies of the ski holiday, to be fair. It was weirdly stressful going away for the first time in such a long, long time. Two years since the last skiing and the last time out of the country! Unbelievable. 

I won't go back and recreate, because the last week of term was a predictable whirlwind, even with one day fewer. I did catch a second wind, happily, so it wasn't as grim as the previous week, and I managed to get quite a lot done, in terms of work. I had my mid-year appraisal and my LM was very lovely to me. Winner. 

This week..

Working:

Barely a dot of it. I came into half term with my lowest marking load ever, thanks to the 20 minutes resolution. I had intended to get it all finished in my Friday frees but, since Friday was all free, naturally I did not. So, this weekend I have finished off some Y12 essays and done some revisions on my papers, ready for round 2. A bit of non-school admin work; check the school emails for anything important; do some planning for the biggish jobs that are coming up this term. In the past week I have done a little A-level reading, though not really enough. It's been very lazy. Bliss.

Exercising:

Three solid days of skiing counts as pretty good exercise to me!

Hobbying:

I finished Cloud Atlas which very quickly went from being a bit of a slog to something I couldn't stop reading. It wasn't an easy read: I couldn't speed through much before bedtime and some of it gave me nightmares, but I loved it. I watched the film version last night, because I was interested to see how they managed to wrap it into a film-length chunk. The answer - not well, but they shifted the main focus of the book to be about love and relationships. Everything ends up the same way, just with different routes there. Still, I am very glad I read the book before seeing the film, as it would have ruined it. 

I took hexagons away to knit, but did not knit any. Very little crafting happened this week. 

Holidaying:

We spent Monday-Friday in Les Carroz. It's the same place I went skiing with Rachael and a few others from school in December 2019. This time there was a lot more snow and so everything was open. The other two were complete beginner and very inexperienced, respectively, so I spent the week bombing around the trails on the Villages lift pass rather than venture over to Flaine. It was lovely. I love a trail and it was so pretty and relaxing to ski about, taking pictures, listening to the snow melt out of the trees, enjoying the sunshine and not feel pressure to cover x amount of pistes or go as fast as possible. I attempted to relax a bit about timings: I'm so used to getting out for the first lift that it felt weird to hang back, but had to keep reminding myself that it was a holiday and not a time to force myself to do anything I didn't want to. I extended that to the final day, when I didn't ski but instead, had a nice breakfast and sat in the sun with my book. Blissful. 

We also went to the Aquacime for a much-needed spa and swim halfway through the week, coincidentally on the day of the ski show, so we were treated to a firework display through the steam of the outdoor pool, which we had entirely to ourselves. Just amazing. What a week. 

Six weeks until the next one...

Feeling:

Very relaxed and looking forward to the next term. I've got a few interesting things happening and the term ends a day early, thanks to the extra day for the Jubilee, so it is likely to feel very short after the 7-week whopper we've just dragged ourselves through. 

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Weeknote 6

Working:

Honestly, this week has been really hard. It's the slightly harder timetable week and then there was a parents' evening - my busiest since pre-covid, fully booked with a waiting list of 12 - on Thursday. I went in on Friday having had to talk myself into it, because I was not sure I had three lessons in me, and got clobbered by a cover. I had to go to the reflection space and just be alone so I could smooth my emotions. It was messy. The post-Friday planning of the ski holiday and catch up with friends not seen in a long time was happily a tonic. 

On top of that there's the setting, which is going OK, just a bit left to do. 

On the plus side, the 20 minutes of marking a day has put me in a really good position for half term. I have two class sets of things left to clear, with another class set coming in on Wednesday, and that seems doable in the week ahead, along with the odds and ends on my list. This might mean I go into half term with no marking left to do! An absolutely unheard-of situation. It doesn't bode well for my resolution but it will be a treat not to have to take any marking away with me, assuming I actually get to France, please covid. 

Exercising:

I did my usual PT session, plus yoga on Wednesday which I weirdly enjoyed a lot (I don't really like yoga much unless it's bikram, is the sad fact of the matter) and then went to the gym yesterday. I was having my post-leg raise stretch in front of the machine and some kid on the machine next to me decided to come and ask me to move so he could use the machine I'd been on. I was incredulous. I was 10 seconds away from being finished. He was on the same type of machine I'd just vacated. Bad gym etiquette. I wish I had told him to wait. 

No gym or walk today because the weather is utterly dismal. 

Hobbying:

Some more Milou, though not much. Knitting is not happening very much because of all the Switch we're still playing, but the Luigi version is now almost complete so that might change soon.

Cloud Atlas has now got really good so I am going to sleep too late due to reading it, something that is likely contributing to my low mood and general malaise. I am about halfway through. It took a while to get into it but I am really curious to see how it now works backwards from the end. 

Entertained by:

I finished watching Maid on Netflix - again, something else that might have contributed to feeling a bit sad this week. It was pretty harrowing stuff. 

I went for tea and cake with my friends Kate and Rich on Friday after school, which was great. I see Kate most weeks when she comes to do a bit of teaching at my school but I haven't seen Rich since May last year. Normally we meet at 7am for breakfast but, post-pandemic, none of the cafes near school open before 8 now. So, tea and cake it was. 

We also did a little ski trip planning in the pub on Friday, getting everything ready for the alleged trip next week. Everything is now booked and Kate and Rach went to their dry slope lesson after the pub, so get some practice in. I am just praying and crossing everything that I get that negative test next Sunday. It would be devastating to get this close and have it disappear. But on the plus side, the next trip is planned for the first week of the Easter break and at least if I got covid now, I would be very unlikely to get it again 6 weeks later. So all would not be lost.

I will keep telling myself that. 

Baking:

I found this jar of cherry curd in Whole Foods when I was in London in October. Today I have combined it with Dan Lepard's chocolate custard muffins, a recipe I had completely forgotten about. 


So good. Like some kind of Black Forest dream. I will add chocolate ganache and a fresh cherry dipped in chocolate. Winner. 

Feeling:

It has not been an easy week. I have felt weirdly low and struggled to stay positive, which is most unlike me. The weekend of sleeping and doing very little seems to have helped, though. One more week until we get a break, and next term is shorter and will be lighter, and has four weeks where, for various reasons, I am not in every day. So, bring it all on. 

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Weeknote 5

Working:

We're entering into a period of strategic planning at school, now that we have data for our exam classes. So this week has been about scrutinising, analysing and deciding on interventions, but also about picking up colleagues, looking out for people doing well and being encouraging. I've had some great work wins: a few lessons that went really well (so nice to be able to vary activities now that covid regulations are lifting) and some lovely feedback comments from other staff members. I've made a start on my next big piece of training, a course that will last a year. Things feel quite positive. 

The 20 minutes of marking is still going well and I have it down now: a few essays here and there and it all adds up. I've got my marking list down from a dizzying 13 items in the first week of term to 3 for next week. Naturally, more marking arrives and the list is never completed, but it feels a lot more manageable. I think this might be the first time in my career that I have not felt swamped by the marking. 

I've also been working on the next round of papers, still: two down, one to go. 

Exercising:

A small win today when I finally managed to get myself back to the gym for a session. I went heavy on quads as skiing is (theoretically, I am still unconvinced) two weeks away! That plus the PT session made it two for this week. I'm aiming for 3 next week. 

Hobbying:

I've finished the decreases on Milou so I am about a third of the way through the body. She goes quick when I pick her up. 

I'm still plugging away with Cloud Atlas, but keep spying books I'd like to read that I think would go quicker; Rachael leant me Thursday Night Murder Club and I know that will be a tonic when I make a start on it, but I am being strict with myself for now. Half term is coming, there may be more reading time available then. 

The most common hobbying this week has been, of course, Super Mario, or specifically Luigi U. A lot of other things would be happening if I wasn't doing this but it is fun, a good distraction from work and something Mr Z and I can do together, so I am going to write that off as time well-spent.

Entertained by:

I went to the ballet with Rachael on Friday night, to see Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker. It was short for a ballet - less than two hours including interval - and not my favourite of his. I think I know the music too well and the dances did not quite fit with my perception of them: I still envisage plants and flowers, a la Fantasia, which I watched far too many times as a kid. But, it was colourful, well danced and the set was fantastic. Also it's just nice to be back at the theatre. 

This weekend I have watched a few more episodes of Maid on Netflix, which is enjoyable if a little depressing: the crushing difficulties people face when getting out of poverty are sobering. It jars quite painfully with the stories of parties and excess coming out about the government at the moment. 

I am still studiously ignoring Wordle...once I start, I will be hooked. I can't have another streak to protect. On Tuesday I left my phone at work and keeping my streaks alive was definitely a factor in my decision to drive back to school and get it. One of my streaks is over 3 years long: how depressing that I have not been parted from my phone service for that whole length of time. I cannot wait until we can start travelling properly again. 

I had breakfast with Phillipa this morning so that was fun. Always nice to catch up with old friends. 

Feeling:

A bit up and down, truth be told. I've had some really good days this week but also some really grumpy parts to days. I think I need to be spending more time outside, weirdly, because that always seems to perk me up these days. 


Sunday, 30 January 2022

Weeknote 4

 Working:

It has sure been a busy week of school work, and not a great deal else. I've spent a bit of time writing the next round of exam papers; this is very hard because they're not due for another few weeks, but I don't like having to spend a whole weekend straight on it, so I am trying to spread it out. I'm about halfway through. 

Schoolwork wise, I have managed to stay on the marking wagon, keeping up with 20 minutes a day, and this has helped me get through a couple of bigger jobs quicker than usual. 

Exercising:

I have not managed to get back on this wagon. I went to the usual PT session on Tuesday night but that was it, until today, when I forced myself to go out for a tramp around Warmley Forest Park in the last hour of sunlight. It was a gorgeous day and I was sad that I let it slip away while I worked, so I went for my usual 20 minute tramp and felt all the better for it. 

It made me reflect that I let the slip from 20 minutes a day last week continue: I myself made it an all-or-nothing thing, deciding to not bother at all anymore rather than just admitting I was overwhelmed and giving myself a few days of rest. So, next time I am gritting my teeth, trying not to break a streak, I am going to remember this (hopefully) and give myself a set number of days off.

Hence, this week I will be attempting to get back to the 20 minute a day habit. 

Hobbying:

A bit more Milou has been knitted. It's going quite slowly, but that is mainly because Mr Z and I have still been playing a lot of Super Mario (the Luigi version) on the Switch. That is a lot of fun and I have the option to play as Toadette when it gets hard - she swims better and you get double the amount of time on the Luigi game, so it is just more fun. 

I've also had to stay in a bit more this week because Rachael, my friend, that I spent the weekend in belfast with, that I went to dinner with on Monday, tested positive first thing on Tuesday. So, it's been daily tests and a waiting game for me this week. I just keep going back to that dinner, where we both sat on the bench seat, turned towards each other, talking right into each other's faces. I can only pray that the antibodies from October, combined with the triple vax, will continue to hold out. So far it's staying negative.

This did mean I had to forego going to Flock this month, though, so a bit less knitting has been happening as a result. 

Having finished The Drowned City I have struggled to get in to something new, so I'm reading about three books now, to see which one wins. I've started Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I've had for so long unread that the pages are yellowing; What is History, Now? by Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb (editors) which is in nice, comfortable, shorter essays; and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, recommended to me on Twitter and picked up from the library because his The Book of Night Women is one of the best books I've ever read. If I can't get into Cloud Atlas this time then I might have to give it up and donate it. 

Entertained by:

On Monday I went to the theatre to watch Semmelweiss. I've had the ticket since January 2020, so it was a joy to finally get to see it - a premiere, no less. I was familiar with the story but it was told in the context of the thousands of women who were dying of childbed fever and being told it was their fault for thinking impure thoughts or being too happy or any amount of similar nonsense.  There was also a four-piece string quartet on the stage, wandering around (even the cellist) and some portions of dance, plus actors coming into the audience to participate. Oh and Mark Rylance was the lead. I've never seen anything like it before. They didn't pull their punches and I found myself on the edge of tears for much of it. I also think it had gained a certain edge being shown partway through a pandemic, that it wouldn't have had if it had gone ahead in June 2020 with no pandemic: the idea of handwashing; the division between scientific and anecdotal evidence; the bullish refusal to accept any responsibility. Just awesome. 

Feeling:

Generally just very tired this week. It was a late return from Belfast and then a late night on Monday, followed by two more late nights, staying up trying to plan and mark and get everything ready for the next day. The weekend has been extremely welcome and I've managed to spend some time cleaning the house, which has made me feel a lot calmer today, even though it took up a lot of time yesterday. But, lunches are prepped, a cake has been baked, all the washing is done and all the floors are clean, so at least I can feel calm in my surroundings this coming week. 

Plus I booked a travel antigen test, ready for going to France, and had a drink with my friend Kate after school one evening to chat about our impending ski trip...I can't actually believe it might be happening. Three weeks tomorrow! I might actually get to go skiing! Too exciting.