Tuesday 31 March 2009

Tuesday Ten

The next ten days hold..

1. Happy Wednesday! I'll be at work, of course, and then watching Ali's kids for an hour in the evening. I need to finish inputting all the info for the ski trip and pass it on.

2. Thursday. Last teaching day. I have to spend the first hour trying to convince my rug-on-valium tutor group that they really should start revising for their exams now and giving them practical tips on doing so; then in the evening I'm running a key stage 3 disco, which I'm slightly gutted about because I have to miss knitting group and, let's face it, it won't be fun, watching 11-14 year olds gyrating around in not enough clothes.

3. Friday. TD day! Not a proper day at all. We're moderating coursework, joy. This means I have to at some point MARK some coursework between now and then....looks like that's what I'll be doing at the disco, then. In the evening I will start packing, or at least making lists of what to pack.

4. Saturday. SO. EXCITING! Morning is knitting group at GK, and then I have an appointment at the salon and will spend the afternoon catching up on this week's TV and putting the finishing touches to my packing, until the evening when it is time to GO SKIING!

5. Sunday. This will be a bit of a nothing day, since we get off the ferry at 2am and arrive in resort at 2pm - well, so the ski company reckons but I predict we'll reach the hotel around 5.30pm, once everybody's been kitted out with boots and skis. There'll be a brief stop for some muddy coffee and stale rolls at a French service station, and then another couple of refuelling stops in the hazy sunshine of late morning, by which point, in spite of my eye mask and toothbrush and clean knickers, I will be feeling decidedly strange. Early night Sunday. So pleased I managed to swing a private room again - third year running.

6-10. SKIING! Four hours of piste a day, and hopefully the weather will be lush and I'll be skiing in my lovely new unpadded jacket and trousers, and for once I won't be steaming hot and pouring sweat and falling over just to get a snow coating and cool myself down. I got an amazing pink t-shirt made of that special wicking fabric for a bargainous £2.50 on Saturday (it was in the till wrong but the chap in Millets was, I think, so grateful somebody had gone in and asked for his advice that he didn't make a fuss) and then a similar, slightly dearer one from M&S, and some new sunnies, and some factor 40 spray on sun block, so I am all set.

Shoop, shoop shoop! And then a YARRRGGHHHHH as I barrel roll for 100 feet and watch my skis disappearing down the slopes in front of me, and have to shuffle down on my bum to get them.

And possibly the best part is that Benny the Bison has some skis. Some custom made (by some bloke Mr Z works with), red acrylic skis, and a little bobble hat (requisitioned from an Innocent Smoothie bottle) which matches. I fear, by getting him skis, I have crossed the line from slightly-eccentric-with-her-stuffed-toy to downright-irritatingingly-twee-and-lame, but they look so good I just can't help myself.

(Slightly cheating on the Tuesday 10 here, and there won't be one next week either unless by some amazing coincidence the hotel has wireless, which it doesn't advertise on its website, but oh well. It's the last week of term, I'm lucky to be this coherent).

Monday 30 March 2009

Weekend FO

Pattern: Calorimetry from Knitty - I've been on the bandwagon again
Needles: 4mm straights
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Silky Wool, and Kidsilk Haze, held together.
Mods: None required. I tried to wrap the short rows to avoid the holes but it was a bit confusing doing this took, what with all the passing stitches around, so I fudged it and ended up with holes in some places and not others.

I bound off with my new favourite k2tbl method, which was a mistake in hindsight, since the cast off edge is now way TOO loose and longer than the cast on edge - it's the bottom edge in the picture. But, that edge can just be at the back, I think.

It's a present for Cara who is one of the other teachers on the ski trip; however, it was painful giving it away, since it is so soft and fluffy and warm that I wanted to keep it for myself, and I can hardly knit one for me in the same colours. I am thinking of making a variation on a panta instead, with cables instead of ridges.

However, April may well be the month for finishing, so I might not make myself anything new at all. Though, I have some lovely teal bamboo which is calling to me, and a pattern all ready for it....so we'll see.

Sunday 29 March 2009

A Glut of Spring

I've taken to having a bit of brunch with Parpy Jo on Sundays if we're both free, at Grounded, a very lovely cafe on the main road through Redfield. We've become quite adept at getting the nice squashy leather sofas by the front door and are slowly working our way through the breakfast menu - today I had smoked salmon and spinach scrambled eggs on focaccia bread with rocket, which was delicious, though mext time I might ask them to make it without the salmon which I found a bit overpowering (probably mostly because I don't love smoked salmon).

Anyway. Opposite Grounded is a florist called the Red Flower Barrow, and today they had some bargainous flowers. Apparently their Dutch supplier can't go home with any flowers and this week he had a lot which neede dgetting rid of, so they had a shedload of various blooms, each for a pound. Hence, my house is filled -

These are on the hall table.

And these are on the dining table - though I put them outside for the picture because otherwise it would have had Mr Z in the background.

All those fleurs for a measly £6! What a bargain.

Having fresh greenery around motivated me to try and tidy up downstairs a bit and just put things out of the way, so it is looking a bit less cluttered down there - though there's definitely room for improvement.

I just googled Grounded to see if they had a website, and while they don't, this fun picture on Flickr came up - made even more fun by the fact that, like the woman in it, I too sit on that exact sofa, and knit.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Happy Wednesday

OK, now this video isn't exactly funny...

But it does make me happy, something about the beat...and if you could see me bouncing around in a towel, straight out of the shower, trying to emulate the 80s grooving of those backing dancers, you would be laughing yourselves silly.

Wednesday was quite happy. I was a bit pissed off with some lazy lazy students, but the kid who said I had a carrot brain came and said sorry, and my year 12s were in good spirits, and I managed to convince the head to be our senior teacher for the horrible KS3 disco I'm running next week to part-fund the ski trip.

Also, even though it was Horribleday, I have just figured out that I only have THREE MORE HORRIBLEDAYS EVER! Thanks to year 12 leaving for a while, then year 11 go, and then year 10 are on work experience....so that's made me feel much more cheerful. This year has proper flown by, it seems like only yesterday I was looking at my timetable and realising, hey, on Thursdays after year 13 and year 11 leave, I won't have any lessons at all....

Interesting situation unfolding at school. We have a couple of teachers in the same department (the colouring in one) who are both going for the same HoD at a different school - both got interviews. One is 3 years into his career, and breathtakingly arrogant (though he's a nice guy....just a complete stranger to humility). I'd rather he left. The other has been acting HoD for a year and is currently a pastoral head. I'd rather he got it, since it might knock Mr Amazing down a peg or two. What a dilemma! Thank goodness I'm not deciding.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Tuesday Ten

Ten Movies I Could Watch Again and Again

(Not necessarily the top ten movies of all time, because sometimes great movies aren't the ones you want to watch over and over)

1. Mean Girls. I love a bit of La Lohan before she went completely mental. I love the way those characters are written, especially the creepy mother with the video camera. It's like chewing gum for the brain, this film.

2. X Men Trilogy. It makes me laugh. And it always leads to daydreaming about what my mutant power would be if I got to have one.

3. Romy & Michele's High School Reunion. So good. I regularly quote lines from this at kids I am teaching to amuse myself, not that they realise. "THAT'S Sandy Frink?! What the hell was I thinking?"

4. Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I am lucky enough not to notice the over-reliance on CGI and so it's just all very exciting. I like being able to quote whole passages because they're the same as the tape version my parents listened to on long drives throughout my childhood.

5. Magnolia. So clever, how it all fits together, and I love love love the soundtrack. It's kind of bleak, too, and it reminds me of my last days living in London and going to the Prince Charles Cinema on my own for random matinees.

6. Chocolat. In large part, because of how beautifully Juliette Binoche is turned out throughout it - I covet her navy nightgown. And in slightly larger part, because Jonny Depp is heartbreakingly lovely in it. And the mayor reminds me of Renee from Allo allo.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean. And you might think this is another Depp thing, but no, this is an obsession that has me far deeper in its clutches - I love pirates and all things piratey. There is a big argument going on at the moment, on the teacher forum I go on, about how they were really absolute gits and shouldn't be romanticised in any way, but I'm sorry - they are cool. Yarrr. Fetch me the rum, and very bad eggs.

8. The Devil Wears Prada. Mostly for Meryl Streep being so chilly, and the Emily character being such a perfect British bitch, and the outfits of course.

9. Rita, Sue and Bob Too. It's such a complete and utter tack fest, from start to finish. I remember watching it in the dark on my bedroom TV when Mother Hand told me I couldn't. I like how, as the years passed, the TV magazine gave it more and more stars, as though it improved with age - perhaps it was a bit too close to the bone to start with. It makes me cringe, honestly, all the way through, but I love it anyway.

10. Snatch. It's sharp, funny, cringey, fast-paced and fun. I like its British cliches, and Vinny Jones, and Bricktop.

There, I thought that would be difficult to complete because I wouldn't think of 10 - but as it ended, I had trouble keeping it down to ten.

Had a really awful lesson with a year 8 group today. They had mostly forgotten their homework and they came in with no discipline and then sat around doing nothing but complain about the heat, all in their school jumpers. I told them, do task 1 and I'll open the windows. Several decided to try and bully me into opening them anyway - I was almost pushed out of the way of the door, sworn at, and told I had the brain of a carrot - or, no, this last one wasn't spoken at me, but rather about me, loudly, in that way children do when they're being especially rude. I almost cried at the end - it must be nearly holiday time. I set two after schools and emailed the parent of the worst offender, who wrote back and told me I should have opened the windows as it's hard to concentrate when you're hot. Er, thanks for the advice on doing my job. She was geneally supportive of me, though.

Not a great day today. Roll on happy Wednesday - all 6 bloody lessons of it.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Weekend FO

It's nice to have something to show for the weekend!

Pattern: Garter Stitch Baby Jumper from the latest Debbie Bliss magazine (I have called it Orangina on Rav though, the name is so dull!)
Yarn: Rowan All Seasons Cotton, orange, a bit more than 3 balls
Needles: 3.75mm and 3.5mm DPNs
Mods: I knitted the sleeves in the round, did a 3 needle bind off on the shoulder seams, and then picked up the collar and knit in the round. I slipped the first stitch of each row for the front and back pieces and boy, am I glad I did - seaming was a dream, and you can barely see the join. I am crap at seaming, too.

Knitting the collar in the round led to a few mistakes, where stitches dropped off the ends of the DPNs and I picked them up again, but in all purl or all knit. This would be OK, were it not for the fact that the collar is turned down, like a fisherman's gansy....and dead centre of the turned down collar at the front is one of my mistakes.

I noticed right after I BO, but I was so happy with my BO edge (I reversed the round and bound off with a k2tbl all the way round so the bound off edge is on the outside of the folded down collar, and I did a great job of covering the resulting gap at the end of the row) that I decided it's just going to have to go as it is. Once it's on Jen's baby nobody will notice anyway - they'll just be looking at how cute Jen's baby is.

She hasn't had it yet.

I am kind of annoyed with Debbie Bliss for 2 reasons - firstly, they recommended a Debbie Bliss cotton yarn for this (of course) but it is a hand wash only fibre....for a BABY sweater?! We're not all 50s housewives....and secondly, the pattern said 4 balls for newborn, 5 balls for 3-6 months and I intended to knit newborn, so bought 4, and ended up knitting the next size up, and I easily have enough left over for some Saartje's bootees. If I had bought 5 balls, I would be pretty peeved. The yardage on the Rowan is exactly the same, too, so I can't even let them off for that.

Still, it was a quick knit - it would have been done in a week if I hadn't had to wait to buy some right-sized DPNs, and I was knitting a cardigan at the same time, so not bad going.

There are some lovely patterns in the latest Debbie Bliss magazine. I wasn't overjoyed with the first issue, and there are an awful lot of things knit in Prima in this issue (must be her worst-selling line), but I am about to cast on for the asymmetric wrap top (without the asymmetric bit, it just looks like it's not tied properly to me, and with some sort of nice edging) and I might consider knitting some of the coat hanger covers for Christmas, and I love the silk sweater and the blousy t-shirt.

The lovely weather has continued all weekend and we cut the grass yesterday, and today Mr Z washed the car. I also examined the lily which flowered so beautifully last summer, and once I'd picked all the moss off the top of the pot I realised it is shooting very healthily indeed - in 3 different places, no less. Mr Z says it needs repotting and I have begged him to do it for me, since when I repot anything I seem to remove its will to live in the process and withering and dying soon follow.

Horrible week coming up. Horrible timetable week, AND I'm a bloody travelling teacher, for the entire week. Must try and stay positive. Perhaps I will get my year 11s to mark my year 10 mocks tomorrow, that might cheer me up, as well as giving them some of this wonderful Assessment for Learning I keep hearing about.

Friday 20 March 2009

Loving the spring

It's been gorgeous weather here all week, and it's starting to put everybody at work in a better mood. I maintain it's because it feels like June and so we all think the end of the year is just around the corner...

Here is a glimpse from my classroom, of the catkins which populate the History Swamp between the two mobiles -

Unfortunately, thanks to the pleasure/pain principle, there has also been an explosion in litter all over the place, and year 12 seem to be spending most of their time out on the field sun bathing and playing football - which, if my year 12s are anything to go by, is not going to do them any favours. I am making a note to set masses of homework for them next week.

Thanks to the year 10 exams, I haven't had to teach yet today - first lesson for me (and also last) is in 10 minutes. It's going to be tough to get going. I've got lots done, though - managed to write my year 8 reports and get all the packs out for the year 9 conference which I seem to be organising. I can't remember whether I already mentioned it. It happens every year and I've attended the past 3, but thanks to the co-ordinator (my friend Jane) going on maternity, it's been passed on this year - first to somebody who didn't have a clue and then left, and now to somebody who's much better organised but even more time deprived.

Since my head is the lead head for our federation for G&T, he's taken a great interest in it, without actually knowing anything about it, so it has fallen to me to get everybody up to speed and this has resulted in me actually doing most of it so far, since it's easier. I don't mind, but I talked my friend Katie out of taking it on last year on the grounds that it shouldn't be a teacher because we're too busy and it's out of our remit. So I have spent some time feeling guilty about it, but talked it through with her and she's OK about it.

This means that, out of the 3 G&T events for our Federation this year, I am organising....3. Not bad going. I'd better get a nice big gold star at the end of it all, and maybe an assistant headship. Ha ha.

What a lovely weekend I'm going to have - hanging out with my ladyfriends tonight, knitting group in the morning, gardening in the afternoon, maybe Mr Z will take me to the pictures in the evening, and then....well, let's not talk about Sunday and planning a week's worth of lessons to be taught in foreign rooms, or all the marking...

I am loving Googles Spring logo today. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an amazing book.

Nom nom nom.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Some things don't change

In my reasons to be cheerful on Tuesday I mentioned my astonishing wealth and how surprised I was by it.

Today I was reminded about being a teenager, living in a big old house with massive bills and no spare cash floating around, and how there always seemed to be just enough - never more than we needed, but just enough...so if some unexpected money appeared, so did an unexpected expense, but it worked both ways so there wasn't much to complain about (though, being a teenager, I did, a lot).

I had an email from Sib today, in desperation (poor thing, he must have agonised a long time before asking me, I know how much he hates doing it), requiring a loan of sum of money next week so he can move into the house share he has set up. The sum of money is moreorless what is sitting in my current account, added together with the remainder of the money from the ebooks, minus a tank of petrol and a food shop.

The defence rests.

It's so nice to be able to help :)

Wednesday 18 March 2009

An unprecedented third post in one day

I just had to share this, it has made me laugh for a goodly long time now - either through the pronking glowing sheep, or the "Extreme shepherding" title, or through the sheer silliness of it.

A Post Script to Happy Wednesday...

I got to the staffroom for lunch, with my bag of happy Wednesday chocolate to share, and I'd not long been sitting there when the head of MFL asked me what number my mobile is, and I told her, and then she said, "We're using your room all week next week for mock orals."

Not so much as a sorry.

And I'll be all over the school, because of course, the languages classes can't possibly be the ones to be moved around all over the place, so I can't have one of their rooms.

My face dropped. My friends around the lunch table started shouting, "Happy Wednesday!" at me in a sarcastic tone.

I truly do wonder why I bother.

Happy Wednesday!

We're trying to implement happy Wednesdays at school, since everybody is all miserable at the moment and it seems to have a negative impact on behaviour. I was away last Wednesday when Lou and Jon put up posters advertising happy Wednesday, and asking people to refrain from negative comments for the day. When I came back the next day, they told me they had realised it wasn't going to be successful when both posters were ripped down by lunchtime.

Mmmm...that's the spirit.

I have been Happy Wednesdaying it up all day and had such a good lesson with year 11 first thing that we actually ran out of time and none of us even noticed. So here's a joke, so you can have a happy Wednesday too.

What's the fastest cake?

(This only works if you pronounce scone to rhyme with "on" and not to rhyme with "stone" (or indeed to rhyme with "done" which is the pronounciation I am trying to get off the ground)).

And here's a funny YouTube video from Comic Relief. Bless those footballers, they're all great sports.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Tuesday Ten

Ten Reasons to be cheerful (one, two, three!)

1. It's so definitely spring. There are daffodils everywhere. I wore my birkis to school today, and a summer outfit with just a little cardigan over it. It was too warm in my classroom this afternoon - and the gardeners were out cutting the grass so I couldn't open windows. Spring is here!

2. I get to send out 16 letters tomorrow, offering sixth form pupils places on the trip to Malaysia. They are going to be over the moon.

3. The Murder Mystery was so successful that we have had a record number of thank yous from parents and pupils, and the head mentioned it in governors tonight (even though it was a premises meeting and completely irrelevant).

4. We've got a new mattress. It's amazing. I love it. I didn't think bedtime could get any better.

5. I get to see my lady friends on Friday night, for the first time since December. I'm very excited about it, and I have Egyptian gifts for them.

6. The ski trip hoodies arrived and not only is the logo (impeccably designed by the head of art) really fitting, and the names really nicely stitched, but they are also TURQUOISE! My favourite. I wanted purple or jade green but the boys said they were too "gay" (tisk). Little did I realise I'd actually be ending up with a better colour.

7. I am extremely wealthy for this point in the month. Mysteriously. But I haven't forgotten to pay anything. I keep checking my balance and holding my breath, but it's not going down.

8. I'm being extremely efficient and motivated at work at the moment, and have managed to complete more tasks in the past two days than I have in the past three weeks, or so it feels.

9. I have a big tin of chocolate biscuits sitting here that were a present from the guy who came round and took our old fridge off our hands (we were using it to store plates in while the kitchen was being done so I put a card up in Asda offering it for free). They are perfect biscuits - two is enough.

10. I have two knitting groups this week so I will hopefully manage to finish a baby item for Jen and maybe even some booties or something, plus I get to see all the lovely people at the knitting groups.

Woo hoo! Life is good. Hopefully it will stay this way.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Successful Murder Mystery weekend

Spent the weekend on the annual murder mystery with 23 lovely kids and I think it was the most successful I have ever attended. We swashed buckles and pillaged and went wenching and killed the head, and none of the kids solved it, which is good. Here is some evidence I made to show the pirate captain was secretly a woman. Well, it made me laugh anyway.

Posted by ShoZu

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Yarrr! Avast ye, FOs!

Pattern: Pirate Hat by Knit Like A Pirate
Needle: 9mm Knitpicks circ; I wish I had some 9mm DPNs, it would have made the top so much easier. As it was I magic looped it, bitching the whole time.
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, in Galaxy, under 3 balls
Mods: None for this one.

It was a fun and quick knit. I cast it on with one strand of Lamb's Pride Bulky in January, hoping to use the yarn up, but was concerned the fabric was too loose, so I set it aside and then finally bit the bullet, ordered some different yarn and started again last Monday. It was done by the end of knitting group on Saturday morning. It was HOOOGE! Like a poncho I'd forgotten to put the head hole in, according to one of my knitclub friends.
It went through the washing machine twice, on a quick wash at 60 degrees, no spin, with some jeans. That got it good and felted; then I dried it over a bowl and pinned the brim to wear I wanted it. It's kind of rustic looking but I think that adds to it.

I have discovered the cabled cast on with this pattern. I LOVE it - makes such a pretty edge. Unfortunately, when I cast on my 150 stithces, I failed to follow the pattern instruction, "Be damn sure not to twist" because I realised it was, indeed, twisted after 10 rows. I was knitting this to a deadline and couldn't face ripping it back, so I cut through the knitting, untwisted, and then tied the ends of the yarn back together and oversewed it. It was quite messy and felt so wrong cutting the stitches, but the felting has hidden all of it Hurrah.

I have been doing lots of Yarring and calling people scurvy dawgs since it was finished. I love pirates. I can't wait for the murder mystery this weekend.

And now for something completely different....

Pattern: The ubiquitous Eowyn. These are the 6th pair I've knitted.
Needle: 6mm DPNs
Yarn: Total stashbuster these - I used Rowan Kid Classic in blue, Calmer in lilac, and Kidsilk Haze or Night in a pale silvery grey. Didn't actually use any of them up, but got some way towards it and loved what came out of the three together - very soft and warm, with a fluffy halo and a bit of sparkle.
Mods: I knitted the body of the mitts in the round, and added an extra repeat of the cable pattern.

These were a charity knit for a lady who lives in a unit for people with head injuries. Shani, whose idea it was to knit everybody a pair, was very complimentary and said they matched the lady they were made for perfectly. I might have to leave the Selfish Knitters group soon because knitting and giving them gave me the warm fuzzies.

It's not snowy outside now - I knitted these during the snow-in in February.

Had a training day today - well, a county G&T co-ordinators meeting at a local golf club. I had a blissful extra hour of kip this morning and a bacon and egg breakfast, it was lush. The meeting was great and I got loads of ideas, and we got a lot done in our cluster group in the afternoon, towards the year 9 conference we're having in the summer. I like training courses, they sort of recharge me and reinvigorate me for work again. I am feeling quite low about my job lately, and like I am making a hamfisted attempt of everything; but now I feel a bit better.

A final bizarre anecdote. I went to Corsham this afternoon to set up an orienteering exercise for the weekend, and on the way home I saw a peacock waddling down the pavement. No common pigeons for Corsham!

Tuesday Ten

I really wish I blogged more. I like reading back over it. I also like to read blogs that are regularly updated, because there's something fresh to look at often. I discovered this blog, written by a knitter who seems to be even more obsessed with shades of blue than I am, and she has a variety of tricks up her sleeve to help her post more regularly, so I am going to develop some of my own. The first one is less of a development and more of a direct theft - every Tuesday, a new list of ten somethings. Surely I will have time to write ten somethings every Tuesday?

We'll see.

Ten things I'm looking forward to
1. The Murder Mystery, this weekend. I'm a pirate captain. I have knitted a hat for the purpose.
2. SKIING! Three and a half weeks to go.
3. Having a weekend in which I can do some gardening. I want to do something spectacular in the garden this year. I bought a book on growing vegetables. I'll probably end up planting a lily in a pot.
4. My friend Beccy's wedding in June.
5. Sending out nice congratulatory letters to all the students we select for the Malaysia trip in the autumn. They're going to be so happy.
6. The Malaysia trip in the autumn.
7. Summer holidays to America, and hopefully getting to meet a long lost friend somewhere along the way, and visit Jimmy Beans Wool shop, and go white water rafting.
8. Jen having her baby, so I know what sex I'm knitting for.
9. My next lie in.
10. Reading my new knitting book....actually, I'm going to go and do that now.

Monday 9 March 2009

Benny's report from Egypt - part 2

By Friday, the sunburn had abated a bit, thanks to plenty of slathering with something called Badger Bali Balm, and some spray on aftersun stuff. There was no blistering but Sally still reckons she's going to peel. Still, she was out in the pool this morning doing the aquafit with the very enthusiastic entertainments guy who keeps pushing people into the pool. The wind had picked up again - yesterday, predictably, was the nicest day of the holiday for weather: plenty of sun but very little wind. Typical.

Friday afternoon was the time for another trip. This time we went into the eastern desert in a very clunky jeep and visited a Bedouin village. The driver of the jeep spent most of the time fiddling around with his radio, and not looking at the road, which made for quite a white knuckle ride. It was even scarier when the two cameramen filming the experience were riding on top of the jeeps in the convoy to the edge of the desert - crazy fools.

We stopped to see a mirage that wasn't there, and again to see some rocks (and a lot of empty water bottles). Then we arrived at the Bedouin village and were given tea, and a tour. We went on a camel ride, too. I was quite enjoying the
experience of being carried around by another animal until Sally decided she wanted a picture of me with MH and THREW me across the gap between them - it's enough to turn my horns white, it really is.

We also observed some women weaving, and another making a big flat bread, and we had a look at the mosque (Sally and MH weren't allowed in, being women, so I observed through a window rather than leave them alone outside). And we saw this big dung pile, it was camel dung which was being dried ready for burning as fuel by the Bedouins. My grandad told me once that the Native Americans used to do this with our dung, back in America.

All the while, this crazy loud youth was racing around filming our every move. He was truly tenacious - running up to the top of hills and filming us, and then running past and putting the camera on the ground for a new angle, and dancing around trying to make us laugh and play up to the camera. Turns out, he videos the experience and then sells the DVDs to the visitors, and that's his job. He was certainly very good at it, but unfortunately nobody in the group bought the DVD at the end, which must have been quite depressing for him.

After a visit to a Bedouin shop (not the one labelled Tesco, you can just see it in the background here)

we had a quick Bedouin dinner and a short Bedouin show, and then we got back in the jeeps and drove back to civilisation. I was ready for a nap by this point so Sally and MH left me in the room while they went into town to do some bartering. They came back with lots of scarves, and some sort of mysterious furry thing which Sally quickly hid, whispering something about me not approving.

Sally was laughing after the experience. She said she'd had a very long conversation with one Egyptian trader who evidently wanted more than just to sell her some scarves. Here's what she said happened...

Shopkeeper: So, what are you doing now?

Sally: Waiting for my mum to pick a scarf...

SK: Ah ha ha ha...I mean, can we maybe go for a coffee now, and we'll talk?
S: Er, no, I have to catch the bus back to my hotel.

SK: Which hotel are you staying at?

S: The Pearl (this was a lie, which Sally had concocted, having heard that guests from the Marriott were more likely to get ripped off)

SK: Oh. The Pearl. Yes, this hotel is not very good, I think. Ah, so. Maybe, when you go back to the UK, we can communicate, via email?

S: No, sorry.


S: No! I don't think my husband would like that very much, he's the jealous type, ha ha ha.

SK: Ha ha ha! Well, then, we just won't tell him, ha ha ha!

S: No, I can't do that! There should be no secrets between a man and his wife!

SK: Ha ha ha!
At this point MH picked her scarf and thankfully interrupted this awkward tete a tete)

SK: Well, Sally, do you have any children?

S: No, I'm a teacher! I have enough children!
K: Ha ha ha! You're so funny, Sally! Can I SMS you when you're back in the UK?

S: Er, no. We're leaving. Bye.

She also said that a few times she told the shopkeepers she was from the UK and they tried to tempt her inside by saying, "Asda price! BOGOF! Lovely jubbly!" which was quite disconcerting.
They also had some authentic Egyptian food whilst out....well, MH did.

Sally and MH were approached by a lot of men who wanted to write their names in Arabic for them, and finally consented to the last man, who approached them by the bus back to the hotel. They were both a bit suspicious but MH was very pleased when she showed her postcard to the guard at the hotel and he was able to accurately read her name from it. I guess they're not all full of it.

Saturday had arrived all too quickly. I felt good about having visited a new continent, but didn't feel much like I'd seen the real Egypt - more just a sanitised, carefully vetted version, produced just for tourists, down the carefully raked, imported sand on the private beach, and the signs written everywhere in English, then Russian, the Arabic. I suppose that's the sort of holiday you get when you want just a beach and a sun lounger - it's a bit like staying at home, but with nicer weather. People were certainly incredibly helpful: MH had a black wrap she didn't want, and left in the hotel room. The porter came running down with it in a bag (with Sally's precious Boden coat which she'd almost left behind) and so MH trid to leave it on the table in the hotel, only to have another porter chase the bus with it. Finally she lost it in the airport toilet.

And now we're back in the UK, and Benny's Egyptian adventures are over. Look out for Benny's adventures in snowland, coming soon....apparently Sally's getting some skis made for me this time.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Benny's report from Egypt - part 1

Hi bison fans, it's Benny here. Those of you who are friends with Sally on Facebook might recognise me from such adventures as, Benny goes traveling around America, and Benny goes skiing. There was no Benny goes to Prague, WAS THERE? Yes, bit of a sore point there, sorry.

This week, it's Benny goes to Hurghada, on the Red Sea. The flight over was quite uneventful, although delayed, and Sally insisted I travel upside down in her handbag and kept putting her socks on my belly, so I was mildly annoyed by the time we got to Cairo. Then things seemed to get very busy. We stood in a queue for a long time while Sally chatted to someone she told me afterwards was her PGCE lecturer, in Cairo on History business. Small world! Then the Egyptian dude with the stamp got quite irate and made Sally go back to the bank desk to get a visa. She was wittering on about how she wished the rep had told her but I think she was just being her usual feckless self and hoping everything would fall neatly into her lap.

Anyway, once we'd got the visas (I don't need one apparently) we were rushed at top speed through to the other terminal by a couple of sweating reps who thought we were going to Sharm al Sheikh and were on the point of missing our flight. When they realised we had an hour to spare it all got a bit calmer and I had a nap, and by the time I woke up again we were in the hotel room.

And very swish it is too! I thought Sally had been stiffing me on accommodation and staying in swanky places like this before, but she seemed as awestruck as me. We'd not been in the room long enough to pick room service food when a very eager young man showed up with a bowl of fruit, a kettle, a big bottle of water, a bottle of wine (no corkscrew, but I offered to get the cork out with my horn) and a plate of cakes. Here I am trying to graze on them, but as you can see the plate has already been massacred.

The beds were very comfy with very soft linens and there's air conditioning and a lovely sea view. Consequently, we all slept very well overnight. Sally and Mother Hand got up around 10 and went for breakfast – Sally said she had something called babba ganoosh, whatever that is, and French toast, and was very impressed by the number of sparrows holding their own against the big black and grey raven type birds. Meanwhile I had a bit of a stamp around the room and a room cleaning guy came in to make the beds and played with me for a bit, finally leaving me on the bed like this. Sally thought that was very funny.

Then it was time for the pool. Mother Hand has a great bison-carrying bag. Sally set me to graze under this palm tree for a while and one of the big ravenny things came over, all interested like. We tried to have a chat but the bison-bird language barrier quickly became a problem, and he went back to bathing in the shallow end of the pool and rolling around on the grass. Then a small child came over and started playing with me. Sally didn't look very happy but I think she must be a bit scared of children because she didn't say anything. The child tried to force me to graze and said I was a cow, in German. We had a couple of shepherd dogs from Germany back in Yellowstone so I understood enough to be offended. I tried stamping my hooves and huffing a bit but it had no effect. Once the child had gone Sally put me on the end of her sun lounger and we napped in the sun all afternoon.

And that was about it for day 1. Sally and Mother Hand went to dinner at some Italian place and then came back and did some more reading. I wish I could read, it must be fascinating – neither of them have really stopped doing it since we arrived.

In fact, day 2 passed in much the same way – reading, and sunbathing. Today we went to the private beach owned by the hotel and both of them went in the sea for a bit, leaving me to relax. Sally had a go with a snorkel, it makes her look really funny, and there was a bit of a commotion at one point when a big school of white fish came very close to the shore and Sally wanted her camera to take underwater pictures of them. Big deal, they’re only fish.

Some extremely pumped up guy came over, I’d noticed him yesterday wandering around carrying a clipboard, and it seems he sells massages at the spa attached to the hotel. Sally and MH decided they were going to go for a Cleopatra massage that very evening and then went back to their hotel room and promptly fell asleep for most of the afternoon, as if to prepare. Sally was trying to read a book on the Great Wall of China, but she’s frowning most of the time so I don’t think it can be very good. She said it was a present from her headmaster, who forgot to come to a lesson observation that had been calendared, and she thought she had better try and read it just in case he ever asks her about it. She’s such a brown noser, that girl.

Anyway, by the time they’d woken up from extended nap time it was time for their Cleopatra massages. Bison not welcome. Humph! There’s a surprise. They both looked very relaxed when they came back, and smelled of coconut. Apparently when the two meassage therapists were helping them to undress, they asked what their names were. “I’m Sally,” replied….well, Sally. “An Egyptian name!” said one of the ladies. “Well, Sara really,” said MH (who always has to complicate things). “Another Egyptian name!” replied the lady. Sally said it reminded her of the Indian man from Goodness Gracious Me. I think she forgets that I haven’t been living in the UK long enough to get these little references of hers.

It seems that the massage consisted of a sauna, a rub down with some coconut and a facemask, a shower, a steam, a plunge in the cold pool, a whirly spa bath, and a full body massage. Phew! It sounds exhausting. I’d settle of having my horns polished and my back fur fluffed up a bit, but apparently humans like their comforts.

Sally had a bit of a sore forehead when she came back and it quickly became obvious that something had noshed on it, because it swelled right up and she looked a bit like Eddy Munster – though only on one side. This effect lasted until the end of Tuesday, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at her a bit.

It was also on Monday that the pair of them tried to go shopping, which left Sally in an extremely poor temper, thanks to all the taxis honking their horns at them as they walked down the street, and the men running out of shops to try and sell them things. In the end they returned with some milk and water, and some snacks to keep them going through the effort of being massages (ha ha) and a tin of tuna, which had to be opened by the hotel kitchen. Sally was put in an even worse mood than this (she’s so mardy sometimes) because she imagined the room would be charged. Everything here seems to incur a charge. Don’t they realize that she’s spent all her money on the holiday?!

Tuesday passed without much event, mainly because Sally gave up with the China book and started the next installment in that historical fiction series she’s become obsessed with. She finished the last one at Christmas but said the end of it annoyed her so much she didn’t want to find out what happened next. Evidently, that problem is passed because she was motoring through it. In the evening they went out and left me (again) and came back looking very cheerful, having had a very nice meal in a very nice fish restaurant.

Wednesday was trip day. They had an early breakfast and then we got onto this very lovely minibus, which had been decorated in many interesting and colourful ways. Here I am having a look at it all. Evidently the driver took great pride in it. We picked up loads of other people, mainly from a place called Holland, and then we arrived at a marina and everyone got snorkels and flippers. Sally said they had none to fit me, and I was quite relieved because I’m not a very good swimmer. I spent the day on the boat and tanning on the beach while Sally spent the day snorkeling around, taking pictures of the fish underwater and getting very annoyed with her snorkel, which, it seems, would only allow her three of four breaths before filling with water. Even Mother Hand had a go – very brave of her, since she told me privately beforehand that she didn’t like putting her face in the water. The man on the boat was very helpful to her, though, and stayed with her the whole time. She was particularly courageous because she skipped snorkeling off the beach and instead went off the boat, into deep water. Sally said she much preferred this, even though she has a bit of a phobia of swimming in deep water.

When we got back to the hotel it was clear that Sally had been very foolish with her suncream – ie, she had not applied any until lunchtime, by which point she’d been snorkeling face down in the water for an hour and a half. She was a very bright shade of red, and looking quite sorry for herself. She never learns, that girl. She is headed for skin cancer if she’s not careful.

This sunburn put pay to almost any activity on Thursday, because she couldn’t go outside in the sun, so she just stayed in with her head in that book she was obsessed with. Mother Hand did some water aerobics and managed to score herself some milk for her tea, and then in the evening they went back to the fish restaurant for dinner. I still didn’t get to go. It’s lucky I’m a stuffed toy, or I’d have died of starvation by now.

Look out for the second installment - coming soon!