Sunday 3 March 2024

2024 Weeknote 9

Another quite quiet week. I brought very little work home and found that I had plenty of time to finish my blanket hexagons (all done now and ends sewn in on over half of them, hurrah!) and continue with Better Call Saul and Game of Thrones. I had a sports massage on the dodgy hamstring - defo a hamstring, it seems, and not the ACL, which has felt better since though still a little twingey. I gave blood, my 22nd donation, completed in 7 mins 48sec, which is quite slow for me but I probably haven't been drinking enough water this week.

I had a bad school day on Friday with some students who were verbally quite abusive and then one of them ever so slightly pulled my hair. This sounds like a small thing but it is a big thing when it happens. The idea that a student could cross a line and make physical contact with me does not make me feel particularly safe, so I'll be following that up robustly next week. At the same time, I'm writing my application letter for the permanent senior role and, once again, considering whether I really want to be in a job where children think this is an acceptable way to behave towards other human beings, let alone their teachers. 

Timehop reminds me, though, that this term is always the worst for my personal morale. In this term, over the past 20 years, I was passed over for a pay rise, passed over for a promotion, shouted at by a colleague for doing things differently to how she would have done them and put on a support plan because of a single lesson observation. But this is also the term when I've got new jobs, run the ever-popular murder mystery weekend and prepared for lots of ski trips. A hinge point in the year, clearly. Lows but lots of highs.

I finished An Inspector Calls on audiobook and started Prisoners of Geography, which begins with a chapter on why Russia thinks it has to control Ukraine - particularly interesting as this is a few years old now and pre-dates the current conflict. 

I'm off to Bristol Lido now for a spa and a massage. This is sponsored by a generous voucher from the parents of last year's ski trippers: another positive to dwell on. 

Sunday 25 February 2024

2024 Weeknote 8

It's been a bit of a nothing week. Term started but I found myself a bit listless and struggled to get much done, partly because I was quite literally listless - everything on my list was either massive and unstartable without taking some time to break it down, or tiny and over in a flash. I had a ski meeting on Monday night and an exam board meeting on Wednesday, and took my hurty leg (which I now think might be an over-extended ACL, following a conversation with someone at work) to a gym session at which we just did upper body. I'm actually missing my usual gym routine, even though it wasn't particularly often, so I've got a physio session booked in next week. 

I did resign from my permanent job. This isn't quite the news that is seems to be, because I will apply for a senior role when it's advertised internally and I am about 70/30 sure I'll get it. For various reasons, though, it was sensible to quit what I no longer have any desire to return to and the thought that I might not get the senior role and then I might have next year off is as comforting as thinking that I will get it. I can't lose. I was also approached about being involved in a bid to do some work across the region over the next three years, led by a woman I have wanted to work with for a while, and the head is happy to support me in this so that was an exciting whiff of the future as well.

I finished The Vanishing Witch and started a new book called The Ottoman Secret, which is set in an alternative reality where the Ottoman Empire defeated Vienna and went on to conquer Europe. It's OK but I realised when I started it that the main recommender, on the front cover, is Lee Child - I wouldn't normally read this genre. But it might be good to branch out.

I finished the outstanding How the Word is Passed and liked it so much that I ordered a physical copy as well. It's World Book Day soon and we've been asked to read to all our classes that day from a favourite book, so I will choose that one. I've got a couple of new audiobooks in the wings but think I will next be listening to An Inspector Calls because that's the team dress-up for World Book Day and I should probably know what it's about.

I am really, really close to finishing the hexagon blanket - just two more hexagons to go. And then the sewing in, and the blocking, and the sewing up. It is too big to lay out on the sitting room floor, I can't imagine how big it will be once they're all blocked. 


The different colours down the right-hand side are piles of hexagons in the colourways where I didn't have two full skeins of yarn - mostly these are piles of 4; I'm not totally sure how to incorporate them yet. I think it's interesting how similar the two colourways in the middle look, both quite pale grey. They are not the same, the upper one being Winter is Coming, which is the one I still need to finish (hence the gaps) and the lower one being A River Runs Through It. 

Lenin came to do his inspection and he found it passable. 

This weekend was the last chance I had to get out in my kayak if I wanted to meet my resolution, so yesterday I duly strapped it onto the roof of my car and set off in search of water. They turned out to be ill omens that I got the ratchets ratchetting first time and that the sun came out as I set off. My first attempt, down by Hanham Mills, would certainly have resulted in the loss of my kayak and/or my death as the water was very high (the pier was higher than the bank) and flowing at considerable speed. I nearly went home but then decided it was too nice a day to waste, so I headed to Bristol harbour, as I thought the water would be calmer. Probably it was but I never found out because the road to my usual spot was closed. I probably could have reached it via another route, but by that point I had been driving around for the better part of an hour and I would have probably managed 20 minutes on the water before I needed to reload to make it home before dark.

So I have failed in my resolution, but not for want of trying. There was a huge puddle in the Hanham car park, maybe I should have put it in there. My PT suggested that such a choice might help me become an internet sensation, though, and I think that's best avoided. 

Sunday 18 February 2024

2024 Weeknote 7

To France this week, for the now-annual ski holiday to Les Carroz. Rachael and I found ourselves back in the large apartment we stayed in during our first visit, in 2019, which was a treat as there were only three of us this time, so we had a room each. It snowed the day before we arrived so I was treated to snowy trees, which is one of my favourite ski views - normally all the snow has melted off them by the time I get to a resort.

Generally, there was glumness about the lack of snow from the locals but we found enough to ski on; it was a bit hairy towards the bottom of the slopes where they'd been making the fake snow, but on day 3 we got all the way over to Flaine for a view of Mont Blanc and the snow was really good. The skiers less so...I swear a lot of those blues are not really blue, but there were still dozens of people attempting to get down them when they didn't have enough skill to be able to both navigate the increasingly mogully terrain at the same time as showing some awareness of anyone else on the slope. It was a bit scary at times. 

I decided, once, to cut across some very tame-looking off-piste and join a quieter slope, and then fell over just as I was about to join it. I felt what I assume was a hamstring twang right across the back of my leg, as naturally my ski stayed put and my body had to accommodate the fall. I skied on for the rest of the day but by the evening, my leg was sore and giving way periodically, so I took Thursday off skiing and got a pastry in town instead, followed by a long visit to the spa. It was adults-only night which, as it turns out, means 'definitely bring your 16-year-old children' and 'publicly shag in the little pods in the spa pool', neither of which we expected. But it was better than Tuesday, which is apparently the perfect day to bring your children into the fairly small spa pool so they can practice swimming between your legs and/or endlessly splash everyone.

In all, it was a bit childrenny for me all week, but I suppose they have to go on holiday too. 

I enjoyed the new ski trousers. It was nice skiing in white as this seemed a bit cooler, although they were not particularly wicking. Hella comfy, though. Very high-waisted and I loved the braces as it meant there was no tugging up or being pinched by a belt. 

This is astonishingly good matching of the bottom of my jacket to the edge of the cliff behind me, considering I took it by propping my phone up on a ski holder. Also - new helmet. 

Whilst away, Zoe and I booked our summer holiday to Italy: a couple of days in Rome, followed by 10 days in Sorrento and Amalfi. I secretly booked a seaview room with a balcony jacuzzi for Amalfi as I know this will go down well. I fear it might be too hot for a hot tub, but the thought is there. I can't wait to return to my spiritual home and eat all the pasta. 

I continued with my hexagon efforts all week long and I'm now slightly ahead of myself, having completed 22 so far this month, even though it's only the 18th. Go me! Eight more and the whole project will be knitted. Just 200-odd ends to sew in and then I have to somehow join it together. 

I've continued reading The Vanishing Witch - 100 pages to go so I might finish it this week - and watching Better Call Saul, as well as Game of Thrones. I'm into series 3 of GoT already. There's that eagerness when you've seen it before, isn't there? I couldn't wait for Daenerys to get to the Unsullied; now that's past, I can't wait for the Red Wedding. Since the leg is still quite stiff, it's the perfect excuse to prop it up and watch another one. 

Sunday 11 February 2024

2024 Weeknote 6

The last week of term hurtled past with all the grace of a juggernaut with boy-racer twin exhaust pipes and a rave going on in the cockpit. By mid-week I was drafting my letter of resignation, no longer able to remember any of the reasons why I wanted to do the job at the same time as undertaking a Masters. But I managed to remind myself that we shouldn't make any hasty decisions during the last week of term and things did pick up a bit towards the end of the week. 

I went to see Wicked with my friend E on Wednesday night. I last saw it in London with Mother Hand a good number of years ago, so it was great to get a refresher. I love the soundtrack and the cast were marvellous. I've got a couple of other musicals booked in for later in the year, something to look forward to. 

I continue with the same books and TV as last week because there hasn't been a great deal of time for either. I have, however, kept up with my goal of knitting a hexagon every day and, though I fell behind with the midweek theatre trip happening, I caught up and even got a little ahead of myself, starting hexagon number 11 of the month yesterday. I am not sure what will happen if I miss several days in a row, because catching up will be daunting, but I will keep my efforts going as long as I can. I have 19 hexagons left to knit. This month marked its 10th birthday as a project. Liking that it might be finished by its 11th birthday. 

I'm off skiing today and, yesterday, something really and truly momentous happened. For the first time in my adult life, I walked into a shop and bought a pair of women's ski trousers, in my size, off the rack. If you've ever had the misfortune to get me started on the topic of size inclusive skiwear, you may be aware that this is the grindiest of all my axes. I currently have two pairs of ski trousers - one is plus-sized men's snowboard trousers - baggy enough that the hip-to-waist ratio isn't unmanageable; the other pair I ordered from Columbia USA to be delivered to Father Hand's house during a visit there, because Columbia USA won't ship their products to Europe and Columbia EU considers XL to be as far as it needs to go to be size inclusive. I once wrote a long and detailed email to a British skiwear company, OOSC, when I sent them back something I'd ordered and they contacted me for feedback; the response was about one line, explaining that they might consider it in the future. Disappointed was not the word, though it wasn't unexpected. 

(I have just been to look at their website and see that they have extended their size range to XXL and they do actually have a Curve range now too. The sizing stops at a UK20, so no good for me, but this is progress. My dream of owning an all-in-one continues.)

I concluded - fat, European women are not allowed to ski. Fat men - yes. Fat American women - yes. But if you're in Europe, you'd better find another hobby, eating maybe, or staying out of sight where nobody has to see you. Fat women are not welcome here. 

Grindiest of axes.

Anyway, I walked into Mountain Warehouse last night just to browse, they are newly opened nearby and I wanted to see what sort of range they had. And they had women's ski trousers up to a size 24 and in more than one colour. Granted those options were black or white, but even the existence of one pair marks a milestone. I tried on the white pair, convinced they were not going to fit - the last time I ordered plus size online from a British company I was left feeling utterly disheartened because I ordered a size 26 and they didn't fit...I am not, have never been, a 26 in any other type of garment. But they did fit! So I bought them. They were better than half price so even though I am not someone who can wear white, as a spiller, I felt this was a good deal. 

I know this is a long old story for a pair of ski trousers but, seriously, you don't know how amazing it feels to finally be able to go and buy off the rack. One year I accidentally gave my ski trousers away to charity and had to beg a rental pair off the place we use for school - they didn't fit and I spent my ski holiday with the flies and button undone because they were the only option available. I've given up wearing men's jackets, which make me look like an upside-down triangle, and will ski in a cagoule if I can't get a proper jacket. I idly consider investing in my own start-up to make women's skiwear in extended size ranges, until I remember that this is something I know almost nothing about. So, it was an exciting day. 

I took a picture in the fitting room but it is deeply unflattering as I didn't bother to remove my skirt first, so convinced was I that it wouldn't fit. But I reserve the right to come back and add a picture of myself skiing in them.

Happy trails, everyone. 

Sunday 4 February 2024

2024 Weeknote 5

An exciting work week, because I actually managed to get on top of my workload. I know it's folly to say it out loud but, yey. The A-level marking was hugely burdensome and I finished it very late: it was hanging over me right up until Friday and that made every evening quite miserable, as I tried to force myself to finish it late into the evening. I'm not very good at making myself do late-night marking but I no longer see this as a failing.

The term started crazy busy and hasn't really improved, but this week is (I say with caution) potentially quieter and then it is half term and I'll be in France, skiing. Almost close enough to touch. 

On Tuesday, I went to a lecture from Sathnam Sanghera on his new book, Empireworld. Lizzy and I went together and managed to snag a comfy sofa for the hour, which was a definite win. It was an interesting talk but a powerful reminder that he is a journalist, not a historian: the political commentary was strong. Looking forward to reading the book, though. 

On Saturday I presented at an online history conference, which meant I got a free pass to the lecture from Corinne Fowler in the afternoon, which I shared with Lenin and a delicious pastry from Farro. More aspects of British Empire, I am just lapping this stuff up this year. 

I wound some yarn this weekend for two sweater projects and ultimately cast on the Madelinetosh Dandelion I bought at Jimmy Beans nearly a decade ago, for an Isabelle Kramer sweater, Topolino. I want to knit a Confetti sweater striped in red and grey, but then I wound the red and saw it by the blue...hmm, maybe I want a nice red and bright blue stripe instead. Enough unsurety to pause starting it, anyway. 

Having wound it and cast on, I then spent the weekend knitting hexagons for the blanket. I now have the end in sight, having made a start on all of the different shades I had amassed (I think...I almost fear to look in the stash) and I think I have 26 left to go. It has struck me that if I can manage one per day through the month of February, I will be nearly done. This seems like an impossible goal but, we will see what I manage. 

I finished the audiobook version of Fearing the Black Body, which was good but (as mentioned last week) quite high brow and, if I'm honest, I think she made a better case for fatphobia having its roots in class over race. I started a new audiobook looking at the legacy of slavery in America, called How the Word is Passed, which is a tour of key sites in the USA and how they commemorate the legacy of slavery. I've also been plugging away with The Vanishing Witch which was hard-going to start with, but I've got quite into it now. 

We continue with Better Call Saul and, over the weekend, I started my rewatch of Game of Thrones. I love the difference in production value in the first series - series 1, looking up at that Weirdwood tree which is clearly made of fake leaves, plastic veins at all. By the end of the programme - CGI zombie dragons and Ed Sheeran. 

I keep coming across snippets and bits of information about ultra-processed foods and the advice to aim to eat 30 plants a week, so I thought I would see how I got on this week, without really trying. I'm not sure lemon really counts as it was just the peel, but I was quite pleased with my list. I could have added wheat but I'm not sure that's quite in the spirit of the game. I've also started drinking a daily greens powder, boost up the vits a bit with the ski holidays coming up. 

Saturday 27 January 2024

2024 Weeknote 4

The best news of this week was that I got a place on the Masters course at Oxford. I don't know which college yet but I have signed the paperwork and submitted requests for my transcripts to be sent directly to them...something else that has to be paid for. Higher education is not cheap, is it? Certainly not as cheap as I got it first time round. 

I've decided that I will ask for a sabbatical from work. I have come up with dozens of reasons why this is a good idea, but am resigned to going into line management with the head this week and come out having been talked into doing both. Maybe not...it is a lot of days out of school I'll be needing. We will see. My beloved history colleague announced her intention to leave this week so I am in a quandary, panicking that it will be a whole new history team next year and all of my empire building will be reworked. But that's as it needs to be, I guess. Just because I've got it perfect for me (and, imo, the students) doesn't mean it will be perfect for anyone else. 

I dragged my weary carcass to yoga midweek for once this week. I still miss hot yoga a lot but am trying to make myself love regular yoga. Plus I was mega stiff from over-exertion at the gym on Sunday, 35kg bench press don't you know, and didn't my pecs know for the following three days. Yoga helped and I was pleasantly aching through my back muscles for a couple of days. I've got this yoga headstand stool now that I am quite good at using, though I can never be bothered to warm up so don't touch it at home - doing a bit of home yoga would be a good addition to daily life, along with the greens powder I impulse-purchased this week. 

This morning I got up and went to Gloucestershire to do some kayaking. I meant to do this a fortnight ago but managed to talk myself out of it. Today I just drank my coffee, ate my breakfast, dressed in a mishmash of warming clothes and dragged the kayak out of the garage without trying to think too hard about it. I went to the Sharpness canal by Purton Ships Graveyard and found a great place to park right next to one of the swing bridges, with a handy little dock for putting in. 

This is an important place in the History of the Kayak, because it's where I decided I was going to get it. I went here for a Betwixtmas walk with Mother Hand in 2020 and spotted this little pond off the canal from the path on the other side. There were a couple of kayakers in the canal that day and I was so envious, wanting to go and explore the little pond that was clearly only accessible from the water. I convinced myself a kayak was what I needed and I bought mine the following June. I think today was maybe only its 9th or 10th use so I really need to start making more use of it. This year I have made a NY resolution to get out in it at least once per month, hence this morning's dash. Next time I think I might go back to Bristol harbour before my licence expires. 

Anyway, the pond was a lovely little place. I didn't explore too much though, as I disturbed a heron and what looked like a black goose, which flew off, and there were the swans in there as you can see in the picture. This was not a place for humans, really. 

I finished The Witness Wore Red and started the audiobook of Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings, which is on the racial origins of fatphobia. It's quite a highbrow listen but happily it's not very long so I anticipate finishing it this week (I have a bad habit of just giving up on audiobooks that I have to concentrate on too much). I've started the Karen Maitland book I got out of the library but it is a hefty old hardback and I am not sure I can finish it before going on holiday in two weeks...we'll see. Otherwise I'll have to find another book to read as this one would seriously cut into my luggage allowance. 

I'm a few stripes off finishing the second baby jumper sleeve, aided by episodes of Better Call Saul which we have finally started watching. It makes me nostalgic for the summer I spent with Father Hand in Albuquerque. He had an old blue clunker, similar to Saul's yellow car, that one day we had to coast down the mountain from a lecture we'd been to because he couldn't get it to start. He coasted it all the way back to his apartment, where he fixed it. Later we drove it all the way back to Florida together. I ran over a dead skunk; he told me to 'give it some welly' when I was overtaking something (a phrase I often repeat to myself if I need to gee myself up); we heard about Princess Diana's death in it, in the middle of the night, in Texas. Albuquerque is a kind climate for old clunkers. 


Friday 26 January 2024

Scenes from the Classroom #42

Two in two days...my students are killing it this week.

It was last period on Friday. My energy and patience were both low. I had Year 7, in a computer room (we were not using the computers, that's just our room) and that is the worst because they are constantly swivelling on the chairs until I want to scream. Student A in this class is adorable and enthusiastic and has ADHD, which makes her shout out a lot and swivel an awful lot. I know she can't help it and I like her a lot which helps me maintain my temper. But today...

Me: (in the middle of another glorious explanation)

A: (shouts out loudly, over me, with a very tangential question)

Me: (grits) A, you know we've talked about this before, you really need to raise your hand and not shout out, particularly because it's Friday afternoon and I've only got about this much [indicates about an inch with finger and thumb] patience left. 

A: Oh OK, yes Miss, sorry.

*Time passes*

Me: (explaining a task)

A: (shouts out another question)

Me: (double grits) A, remember what I just said...

A: Oh yes Miss, sorry, but you know how you said you only had this much patience? Well on a Friday afternoon I only have this much not shouting outness. 


This was not funny at the time but, thirty minutes later when the day was over, I almost cried with laughter retelling it to my colleagues. Bless her.