Sunday, 23 September 2018

Selfie Sunday


I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A at the start of this month and was most taken with her braided and bescarfed hairstyles. A bit much for work, though, I feared. Then, this week, the PSHE slides were all about Frida, so I took the plunge and did this on Monday. It was stupidly easy and got me lots of compliments, except that when I got home, Mr Z said he was going to ask why I had a dishcloth on my head....

I wore it with a smarter scarf the next day, tied at the back, which worked better I think.

Happy Sunday, all.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Weeknote: 22/9

This week I have been...

Knitting:
The blue sleeve continues. I am nearly finished with the increases, which means I am nearly up to the cap. I got quite excited today, thinking that the end might be in sight. My FO count for the year is dismal, though, so giving 2018's form, I will probably finish it in December.

Going to:
On Wednesday I trekked north for five hours, after a very fraught journey to the train station in the rain that involved an Uber u-turning metres before picking us up, the heavens opening, a begging conversation with the behaviour manager who was just driving off for the day, some use of the knowledge of the backstreets around Temple Meads I've built up since knitting group moved to the vicinity, and a short run. We barely made it, but since it was the last train of the day that would have got us there on time, thankfully we did.

I was travelling, with my colleague C, to Llandudno to intern with an organisation doing some training in a school there. I did the course for this training in January and this is the final stage of that. The trainers were inspiring and the staff enthusiastic and energetic, so it was already off to a good start, but what I didn't anticipate was how outrageously beautiful the north Wales coast is. Looooooook....




We finish the training in November, so I have already booked to go back to the same B&B, in the same bedroom with the seaview, but for an extra night this time, since the training is on a Monday. I'm going up on the Saturday. The train away revealed a wealth of pretty places I could visit; I might have to actually go back for a holiday some time. Give me a pebbly beach in driving rain any day. Reminds me of basically my entire childhood.

Learning:
I've been reading a book about black people living in Tudor England, which is very interesting, both from a history point of view and thinking about how we construct history and what records we have available to us.

Entertained by:
There's some cracking TV on at the moment. I have mostly been enjoying Bodyguard (who hasn't?), Press (Ben Chaplin is so good and in general it is so darkly funny I wish it was on several times a week) and Killing Eve (Sandra Oh ordered a G&T for breakfast in tonight's episode, confirming that this is basically written for me). I've also been watching Bake Off and Black Earth Rising, though I'm behind with both, and I have episodes of Trust and the new Princess Margaret series waiting for me to get to them. And Strictly is back.

But the re-marks have continued to roll in, so there hasn't been too much time for TV watching. I was nostalgically remembering my former life this week as we cleared out the old CDs and DVDs and I came across a boot-legged copy of every season of Teachers. I remember binge-watching it across a series of holidays while I played Zoo Tycoon on my laptop, cuddled up in my armchair for days at a time. That never happens now. At best I can manage a couple of hours before a deadline levers me out of my bum groove and back to my desk.

Feeling:
Accomplished, but a bit jaded. I was asked to keynote at a well-established and popular history conference this week, which prompted a couple more people to ask me how I get asked to do such things. It's always awkward when people ask that because I don't think anybody wants to know the answer. It's at least ten years of never saying no, not missing deadlines even if it means working on holiday, taking work into hospital with you, doing certain jobs for much less than you think they're worth, doing other jobs that are mind-numbingly boring because you hope they'll lead to better things, being super-accommodating and basically giving up any semblance of work-life balance in favour of a work-work balance, where the first work is your teaching job and the second work is everything else. There was also, I think, a fair amount of being in the right place at the right time that helped me considerably. Do you think people want to hear that? I don't think they do, and I'm afraid to say it anyway, for fear of seeming to suggest that I work harder than they do.

It was also interesting to be in the position of intern trainer. I have run quite a lot of training now, but it's all been specific to my subject. It was interesting going back to the bottom again, and offering training that wasn't subject specific. I was quite out of my depth. The trainer I was shadowing wrote the entire training package and has been delivering it for at least a decade. It was humbling to watch him work and I'll never be as good as he is at it (unless they let me rewrite the training pack, anyway). However, he was very complimentary about the sections I delivered and that was nice to hear.

Incidentally, I had to pay all my own expenses to intern. Essentially I was paying to train other people (hence I stayed at the B&B with the sea view and not the Premier Inn with the rest of the trainers - if I'm paying, I'm getting a sea view). If I get picked to go out and deliver the training in the future, they will pay me back then. This is the sort of thing I mean: playing the long game. It's unpalatable.

Now I'm counting forward in weekends until the next time I don't have a deadline. I'm into December. The box sets might have to wait a bit longer.

A rare moment of reflection. Please expect the usual diet of selfies and knitting pictures to resume tomorrow. I've got a particularly good selfie to share.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Blue Monday

Guys, I might be in trouble. There are not enough days left in 2018 to get to 127 posts for the year; but I really don't want to miss it this year, because it would be 10 years of 127 posts a year and then that would be a thing. There might be some double post days coming up. I didn't really anticipate how busy I was going to be. I thought that the exam board work might pay enough for me to give up teaching, and I was right, but it never occurred to me that that was because it's basically a second full time job, even if it is only for part of the year. I think I managed 10 days clear of it over the summer, but I was away and couldn't blog.

But anyway, enough of that whinging, as the post it on my monitor reminds me daily - I wanted the job. In short, hopefully you will find me chatty over the next few months but hopefully not too chatty.

Here's a fruit of my summer holiday. Zoe and I went to Montpellier and visited Nimes. It has a sky the colour of jeans, which was fitting, because the city claims denim as its invention (de Nimes...). I loved this statue.


She actually had what looked like the Parthenon on her head, which, it turned out, is a representation of the Roman ruins of the town, since the figure is an allegory of Nimes. Pretty cool.


Thursday, 26 July 2018

Recipe: Grilled Salsa

One of the aforementioned Camp America friends that I am still in touch with on Facebook shared this way of making salsa a whole year ago, and I only remembered I was going to copy it when she reshared it from her memories this week. I did it the same day. No time to waste on forgetting it again.

It's ridiculously easy. You select your vegetables. This is five tomatoes, two chillis, one yellow pepper, one red onion and four cloves of garlic. Cut up the toughies but leave the garlic in its skin.


Put them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and I added salt here but I probably wouldn't bother next time. Put the whole lot under the grill for about 10 minutes. Turn the peppers and onions once. Don't bother with the tomatoes.


I was in such haste I almost forgot to take a picture of the grilled results.

Once everything is softened and grilled, slip the skins off the tomatoes and pop the garlic out of its skin. Bung the whole lot into a food processor with a big handful of chopped coriander (I used stalks as it was all we had).

Pulse briefly. I gave this five short pulses in my Kenwood and it was done. You'll know how chunky you like it, obvs. I did read one comment from someone who said they keep blending and eat it as a soup. I think that would work nicely.


I left the seeds in the chillis on this one and it has a nice kick to it, but not too strong. You can vary your veggies according to your taste. We made this to go with fajitas but then also ate it with lamb kebabs and in turkey wraps. So good. I recommend.

Throwback Thursday

Having the floor replaced has forced the Z household to do some significant clearing out of stuff. This is all very liberating. The poor charity shop won't know what's hit it, and today I have listed things on ebay for the first time in probably a decade. Excited to see that there are already eight bids on 15 items that have been gathering dust on my dressing table for years.

Anyway, with that spring-cleaning head on, I have photographed some things ahead of getting rid of them, so I will memorialise them in my blog, so they can live forever in memory.


Camp America was one of the best things I've done. I went to a Girl Scout camp, Camp Black Hawk, in Wisconsin for the summer of 1998. I learned a lot, particularly about how black attracts mosquitoes, how to dive a lake looking for a body (thankfully this was only ever a drill), how to use a campfire pie oven, how to make people feel happy and good, and how to hide a bottle of tequila and a pack of cigarettes just off-camp so that it wouldn't get wet or spoil. I swam with a giant turtle. I saw the Northern Lights. I learned all kinds of watercraft. I saw the Spice Girls in concert (Ginger had just left, devo'd). I went skinny dipping for the first time in my life (no kids on camp at the time, I hasten to add). I managed cut off from the world for two months, sleeping in a tent, with only actual paper letters and the very occasional email, when I could convince the senior to let me use the computer on site. I made friends for life. It was amazing.

When I signed up to Camp America and they sent me the welcome pack, this label was included. I didn't use it because it looked flimsy, but I have, nevertheless, kept it all this time. In fact, it might not have made it into the bin yet. How often can one thing so small bring back such a range of memories?


Yellow never was, and never will be, my colour.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Weekend WIP



I finished the first sleeve for this a couple of weeks ago, amid much lamenting and whinging and complaining, as is my wont. Nobody wants to be knitting angora in the biggest heatwave the country has seen since 1976. I promised myself a new linen cast on after the first sleeve was done.

Well, then we went and had the floor done in the living room, which accounts for roughly three quarters of the square footage of the ground floor of our house. The contents of said room are still stuffed into the spare room. Behind it is all my yarn. So, it was either cast on the second sleeve or not knit at all.

I put it off for two weeks, but the second sleeve is now on the go, as you see on the right of the picture. I wouldn't have time to finish a new linen for this summer anyway, although was I was wearing this yesterday and thinking how much I'd like another one.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Sunday selfie

When I started marking public exams and people told me I was crazy, I'd always shrug and say, 'Yeah, well...it's horrible for three weeks, but it's only three weeks, it's not part of the summer holidays and then you can spend the money.'

This week marks the start of the seventh week of this year's exam season. I have a post it note on my computer monitor that says, 'You wanted this job'. My resolve never to react to pressured situation by getting stressed has been tested to its absolute limit. Here was my reaction to a work friend sending pictures of him and our colleagues on a speed boat in Capri last week.