Wednesday 30 November 2011

Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt: November

1. Inspiration

When I visited Nanny Hand last weekend she had some pictures of her wedding on the mantelpiece, which I had never seen before. This was (I think) 1949. This picture is inspiring for me in several ways.
Firstly, my grandparents had an amazing relationship that lasted from their early teens until he passed away at the age of 79. Definitely something to aspire to.
Secondly, I love the style! I love the sweetheart neckline and the peeptoe shoes, and the headpiece.
Finally, when I told Nanny Hand I liked the headpiece she told me somebody leant it to her and she didn't much care for it. This inspires me to let go of the fact I didn't like the shoes I wore for my own wedding. In 50 years, somebody might be picking them out as their favourite feature in the pictures.

2. Something I made

Here are all my yule tree cones so far.

They need felting, but I'm waiting until I have enough for three trees before I felt, so they all felt the same amount.

3. Motif: Stripes

Inspired by a post I read about boot socks, I have been rocking this look lately.

I bought three pairs of these stripey over-the-knee socks from a supermarket years ago, but always felt a bit too self-conscious to wear them. However, I am not loving tights this year for some reason and I still don't own a pair of work-appropriate trousers, so I was encouraged to try something new. To good effect, too, it seems - I wore a red/black pair last week to school and one of the gobbier year 11s said, "Miss, I like your socks" as I walked past. I replied with a sardonic thanks and a raised eyebrow, but she said, "I'm being serious!" And then her friend said, "Oh yes look, they sort of match your red and white stripey top!" Yes, it's almost like I planned my outfit...

I've always been a spots girl but stripes are slowly creeping into my wardrobe and I am becoming more and more fond of them.

4. Comfort

When it's cold, this is my favourite snug thing to wear.

The Central Park Hoody. This was the first garment I ever knitted. The sleeves are ever so slightly long and it is super warm and has a hood, so it's perfect for chilly days or for wrapping up at home. When I eventually got round to adding the button band (this took, no word of a lie, 2 and a half years) I put buttons right up into the hood, so I can button it up over my chin. This is just comfort in a sweater. I can't believe the designer didn't intend for there to be buttons on it: it's way better with the buttons.

5. Texture

I took this picture at the Great Ocean Road. I was rather taken with the different
textures in this rock. It had a twin which was missing its yellow sandstone top - evidently worn away by the crashing waves. There were round rocks and layers of rock and jagged rocks, and some very interesting weathering patterns. The 12 Apostles might have been more spectacular, but they didn't have the textural interest this rock had.

If you'd like to play, or see anybody else's pictures, please pop over to see Emma at the Gift Shed.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things I'd Quite Like To Do*

1. Dance the quickstep in a killer satin dress.
2. Knit a dress.
3. Do some wilderness camping, with bear-proof stuff.
4. Make a really good pie.
5. Enter a Scrabble tournament.
6. Complete a parachute jump.
7. Have a Bliss Fully Loaded Facial
8. Get a tattoo. I want one on the sole of my foot, though, and that doesn't seem logistically possible. I mean, I wouldn't be able to walk for several days.
9. Have a bouncy castle in the back garden. Maybe for a birthday party. I remember a playscheme party once that involved drinking on a bouncy castle. Good times.
10. Take tea at the Savoy, or Clardiges, or something.

* And I only mean quite like - this isn't a bucket list or anything. They're just whimsical things I think I'd enjoy.

Monday 28 November 2011

Today I wish I was....

...drinking this.

A delicious lychee martini, being sipped on a sultry street in Kuala Lumpur, sitting close to one of those misters which takes the killer humidity out of the air. The perfect antidote to the freezing cold rain we've had today, and this almost-headache I'm having trouble shifting. Mmmmmm. It looks good.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt: September (yes, I know it's November)

So. These were topics from SEPTEMBER. I got a little caught up in the business of life and forgot, but I had already created the post and rediscovered it when, in my slightly OCD way, I was going through my posts list checking for unpublished posts. And, since I had already picked things for all the topics and found some of the pictures, I decided I should finish it up.

1. Inspiration

Cheating a bit here - I'm not my own inspiration (well...sometimes I am but it feels a bit self-indulgent to use it in this context!); this picture was taken by Cara at the Harvey Nichols fashion show we went to with Phillipa in the middle of the month. Another aside here: I have realised I now just refer to my friends by their names, instead of explaining who they are each time. I wonder if this encourages people to read back, or puts them off coming back?

Anyway. The fashion show was very inspiring. Of course it was stuffed with clothes I couldn't even afford to dry clean, but it was full of ideas, especially on how to put an outfit together. We were all provided with a little notebook with the full outfit listings in it, and a Harvey Nics pencil to make notes. My notebook left full of sketches and notes about what I'd particularly liked. It made me think about my knitting and how I could play with texture a bit more. In my copious free time.

2. Something I have made

I really like this picture! This was the first of a series of five balaclavas I am knitting for my endlessly patient fellow ski trip staff. I am trying to forget that the ski teacher on my course said it was a bad idea to wear balaclavas with helmets because it might stop them fitting properly....

3. Motifs: Florals

I love the hibiscus, in spite of its overuse among various surfer chick brands. I currently have this decal on my phone, for example (what I especially love about these decals is that they come with the matching phone background). I was looking at the hibiscus a lot in September because I used it as a motif for balaclava number two.

4. Crafts on the go

Here is a selection of my project bags. The brown is Della Q via Jimmy Beans; the red and white spotty is Stitchy McYarnpants via Etsy (this is actually the inside of the bag, the reverse being a print of a burlesque woman with a red feather boa, but since it is a white background and would get dirty before I got out of the house, I use it inside out); the others are Baggus I picked up at Purl Soho when I visited in May.

5. Vintage

I was spoilt for vintage this month!

Needle case Kath bought me for my birthday. It's awesome - it has a twisty lid with a hole in it so you can select the right needle size.

Buckle Kath bought me at the Shepton mallet antiques fair. There is a trend here: can you spot it? I love a good piece of vintage haberdashery and this is just crying out to adorn a lovely soft white knitted headband, in the style of those all the cool kids are wearing this winter.

And this little haul was from Katy at Creating Misericordia. I won her draw from a Weekword she did and unwrapping this was so much fun! It was like a little treasure trove without a bottom. I think my favourite thing was the darner. I have no idea what to do with it but it looks really cool! Thanks Katy!

Saturday 26 November 2011

Weeknote: 26/11

This week I have been mostly...

More yule cones. I have almost enough for two trees now. I also have a list of things I want to knit for Christmas that is growing every day.

Going to:
Work, gym, home, repeat. Oh, I had a governors' meeting on Monday. SCORE.
Fate has conspired against me this week. I have had three sets of plans cancelled due to illness (thankfully not mine) - I reckon it's a sign that I must finish the book, or never be allowed out again.

Endlessly, chicken breast, green vegetables. With a Wispa Gold thrown in for good measure. I am feeling decidedly lumpy so the Bento has been a rather plain affair lately. Jenny the PT told me to swap some of the fruit in my lunches for veg. I can't say I love it, but then she can't agree that cherry tomatoes count as a fruit, so I guess we're even. It does seem to be working.

About Blabberize. Looks like a lot of fun - I feel a new swathe of homeworks coming on.

To check the state of my car before taking it to the garage. It needed some repairs after a small accident Mr Z had in it in August (totally not his fault) and so I took it in on Wednesday. In return I got a Clio, which felt like driving a tank by comparison. Anyway, I picked the Kia up again this morning, and after parking it to go shopping, I noticed there was a clearly visible and very poor sketch of a penis on the floor of the back seat. It was a note I confiscated from a child and then absent-mindedly wrote on the back of. Oh, teh shame. I did warn them it was full of rubbish when I dropped it off, but that might be stretching the point a bit.

Obsessed with:
Plotting Christmas presents. I am not usually a big present buyer, but I have been having some thoughts this year and I think it might actually be early enough to do something about it.
I might actually send CHRISTMAS CARDS this year. I feel excited. I think perhaps the Malaysia trip drained any energy I had to put in to Christmas prep for the last two years.

Entertained by:
I must admit to listening to a bit of Radio 4 this week. I caught the Book Show on Thursday afternoon and have bought a collection of short stories by Sarah Hall as a result. I'm still merrily ploughing through Shardlake the second, but I like to have options.

I've also been listening to Paul Simon's Graceland album a lot this week. Someone reminded me of it and when I downloaded it, I realised I remembered a lot more of the songs than I would have guessed from the track listing. This must have been one of those looped-play casettes we had in the car for long journies. I'm guessing Father Hand's choice.

Definitely more cheerful this week. Washing my pillow has helped me to sleep better: I think I am allergic to dust mites or something, because pillows always become an instrument of torture after a few months. It's not fun sneezing 17 times whilst trying to accurately and safely navigate the two-laned road up Tog Hill directly into the rising sun. It's like driving whilst being devoid of all senses. I can't recommend it.
So, a bit more sleep, and a bit more cheerful. And a bit closer to being finished with the book, and all done with KS3 assessments until the end of the year at least.

Friday 25 November 2011

Weekword: Content

Please go and read all the other weekwords posted this week:

Emma at The Gift Shed
Jennifer at Architette Studios
Rose at Rose's Year
Sally at Sow and Sew
Katy at Creating Misericordia
Jeneveve at Timballoo
Emily at Lobsterdance
John at The Healing Seed

I picked this word because it is one of those homonym things, or maybe a homograph: I can't really be sure which because I no longer have my big Reader's Digest book of grammar. I miss that book.
The first weekword I ever participated in was a homony...gra...pho.... one of those words that has several different meanings. I still remember reading all the different interpretations and how much I enjoyed it. This word had the double bonus of allowing me to read lots of reasons to be cheerful, which is perfect for a Friday. Coupled with the many "I'm thankful for..." posts coming from the other side of the pond, there has been a lot of positivity in blogland this week.

I've always thought of content, the adjective, as a really positive word. When you don't want any more, and you have enough, then you are content. It's something to aspire to. There was a thread about it once, though, on my favourite forum, and one response was along the lines of, "I hope I'm never content because then I will have settled."
For a while my perception of the word changed a little. Was it not a positive word, then? Was it like that word that makes every British teacher's bum clench in horror - "satisfactory"?
But after a while I decided that it was much better to be happy with one's lot than to constantly think all one has achieved is not enough.

I was pretty content here, swimming in Lake Tahoe. That doesn't mean my appetite for swimming in freshwater lakes had been whetted; but it's important to take the time to enjoy the moments when you have achieved exactly what you want, n'est ce pas? I wouldn't have wanted to spend my Tahoe time floating on my back, thinking about my next swimming experience. Contentment, I think, has to come from pausing for breath and thinking about all you've managed to achieve. Taking a picnic part way up that mountain so you can enjoy the view, so to speak. I don't think there's any shame in that.

Here's where I'd suggest you go and smell the roses but, well, it is November. Enjoy this picture of roses in my wedding bouquet instead. Definitely one of my most content days to date.

That's a Fee original :)

Who's doing next week? Shall I pick or does someone want to volunteer?

Thursday 24 November 2011

Blast from the Past

I hauled out an old diary tonight. My teenage years were spent scribbling in books, which I think accounts for my excellent memory and impossibly neat handwriting. I like reading back over them from time to time, although sometimes I really want a time machine so I can go back and give myself a good shake. Also sometimes I forget who the people I'm talking about are. Today I discovered a November 1993 scandal that Jodie Simmons was 5 months pregnant and moving to Wales. I have no idea who that is.

Here's my (very brief) entry for Wednesday, November 24th, 1993.

Did better in bowling today - came 3rd out of 4th (1). And I got a strike. Otherwise nothing interesting has really happened today (2), unless you count seeing Glyn (3) on the way home - I don't think I do anymore. Yesterday's snow has melted but it's still freezing cold.

(1) The previous week's entry confirms that this pathetic showing was indeed better - then, I'd failed to score even half of what the next lowest scorer had achieved. Bowling was our PE option in year 11. We used to walk to the bowling alley and back, which was around 40 minutes and much better exercise than standing around, sulky and blue-legged, on a lacrosse pitch. Crafty.

(2) Since I was regularly a bit behind in my diary writing, it's possible that this is code for, "I can't remember what happened today."

(3) THE crush of my teen years. Recently popped up again on Facebook, being just a little bit creepy. Diary entries suggest he was always a little bit creepy, but that I failed to notice at the time. I have, for example, an After Eight wrapper in my diary that he thrust down the front of my dress at a fancy dinner. I was 15; he was an undergrad. The teacher in me has alarm bells going off.
I know it seems weird keeping an After Eight wrapper, but I kept pretty much everything I could cram into my diary. It's full of receipts and tickets. I think my GCSE papers are probably in one of them somewhere.

This is the one problem with keeping a blog instead of a diary: since 2001, I haven't had anywhere to store all those bits and pieces and I've had to, shock, THROW THEM AWAY. But at least I don't have to worry about rescuing my blog if there was a house fire.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Today I wish I was...

...the proud owner of this sofa.

Not in leather, though (and it only comes in leather, so this really is a dream). And not in white. And not with that man, thanks anyway.

If I was the proud owner of this sofa, I would celebrate by having a Harry Potter marathon, knitting a load of Christmas Tree cones and drinking winter Pimms and winter warmer apple juice from a mug placed in the handy cup holders. And every time I was sleepy, I could just roll onto the bed bit and pull a big thick duvet over me and have a nap.

Mr Z and I have been looking for new sofas. I'm afraid this one might overpower our average sized living room. It does look amazing, though.

(No what-if today - I had inspiration but was in bed before I realised I hadn't posted yet today and it's too late to begin ruminating now!)

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten recent pieces of wisdom

1. You could only comment on my blog if you had a Blogger account....until today. I'm sorry. I never purposefully set it like that. I have changed it now and hopefully commenting will become easier. But not so easy I get spammers.

2. Sparkly shoes are the remedy to an awkward moment when the deputy head is hanging out in your classroom killing time. Actually, sparkly shoes may be the remedy to everything, especially when they're this sparkly. They are my matron of honour shoes for Jen's wedding and they arrived today. When they fit I was so happy I nearly cried. But it's been a bit of a cry-y week. Month.

3. I have some pretty strong childhood memories attached to Paul Simon's Graceland album, which I just downloaded and am listening to for the first time in decades. "My travelling companion is 9 years old..."

4. If genetics are anything to go by, I'm going to be still all kinds of awesome at the age of 86. Granny Hand is still in full possession of all her faculties and very sharp about it too. She doesn't appreciate Robbie Savage's thrusting on Strictly Come Dancing, though.

5. Some wisdom from a year 11: "I had pumpkin soup once. It tasted like soup." Yes, Shannon, and now let's talk about that C you're supposed to achieve in History by the end of this school year...

6. If you fancy trying some of the Starbucks Christmas drinks but you don't like milk and soy milk in a latte is not your cup, try a soy misto. It's half coffee, half soy milk, and the Christmas syrups can be added without it becoming something diabetes-inducing. This tip brought to you via The Fit Writer who contributed it to the forum and is therefore a winner in my eyes (and a lot of other people's, since she's a champion bodybuilder)

7. When I laugh too much, I get a head rush like I'm going to pass out. This was proved last week when I hid in my cupboard before Yakob's lesson in my room. Then 5 minutes into the lesson, Paul came down, told Yakob he was there for a meeting, knocked on the cupboard door and got in the cupboard with me. Yakob evicted us both quickly with an incredulous shout of, "Get out, you bad people!" while his class gaped. "Was she in there the whole time?!" they whispered. Yes, children. I heard all about 'Kieran's tits'.

8. The post-WW1 democracy in Germany had a system where a party was allowed one candidate per 60,000 votes. ANY candidate. They didn't have to nominate certain people to certain areas. This doesn't strike me as especially sensible. But, since this was the system that elected Hitler, I don't suppose it was. I wonder if there are any PR systems out there today that work this way.

9. I don't like writing about controversial history. It took me two days to write the first 22 pages of content for my book. 10 days have passed, and I have managed only 3 of the remaining pages. I have finally realised that I'm not just struggling to stay fair: I'm struggling to do it justice. Everything I write sounds trite.

10. But really, sparkly shoes do make everything better. They really do. Just wearing them puts me in a better mood.

Monday 21 November 2011

Weekword: CONTENT

So, my turn to host! I will be back with a word but am stuck at work, blogging from my phone, so please leave your comments if you want to take part and I'll be back with a word by the end of Monday.

ETA I have thought about this week's word all the way home and couldn't decide between two, so I flipped a coin. And then decided to ignore the coin flip and make it content.

Best blog efforts on the word content by Friday, please, or I'll have to ring home and talk about detentions :)

Sunday 20 November 2011


One thing I have to do, but don't want to:
1. Mark that last set of key stage three assessments tomorrow, ready for lesson on Tuesday. The one positive to doing it is that afterwards I will be (almost) marking-free until after Christmas.

Three things I have to do, that I don't mind doing:
1. Finish writing el booko. I may have a bit of writer's block, but I can sort of see the end.
2. Knit more green cones for the felted Christmas trees I'm making.
3. More reading for my sixth formers. I am in danger of falling a little behind, thanks to my new obsession with Shardlake.

Five things I am eagerly anticipating:
1. Christmas shopping. I finally decided today what to get Mother Hand and I am excited about sorting it out.
2. Spinning on those nice new bikes on Tuesday.
3. Decluttering a bit over the next few weeks. Sally wrote of a new decluttering book which has inspired her and she has inspired me: I remembered when I was trying to declutter. You wouldn't think it, to look at the house now.
4. Crystal Maze weekend with school, although we have less than 10 students signed up so far. This is a bit of a shame but will make the whole thing less stressful for me, admittedly.
5. School Christmas party. Always a social highlight.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Weeknote: 19/11

My life has been as dull as the weather this week. Sorry.

More Christmas tree cone. I need to wind my second skein of Cascade now and start in with a new colour. I am studiously ignoring the cow print balaclava in the mistaken hope that it will get easier the longer I leave it.

Going to:
Work, leisure centre, home, repeat. No time for socialising this week. Though I did have lunch at Jamie's in Bath today with some of the ladies of the Lushies forum and, as you read this post (assuming you do so on a Saturday evening) I will be driving to Redditch to see Granny Hand. I am embarrassed to say I cannot remember the last time I saw her. She doesn't live far away, but I am lazy and anyway, she's on Facebook. She's 87 next month. I use her as an example when the technophobes at work try and claim they're too old.

The usualy stuff. The chutney I made in September has finally matured, and I have been enjoying the spiced apple with walnuts version alongside my chicken for lunch this week. Very tasty, and the walnuts give it an interesting crunch.
I have also become reacquainted with Wispa Golds, following their re-release as the official snack of our Olympic team. I don't think that's going to help our medal chances.

About Commoncraft. My colleague Tony, who pipped me to the title of Geekiest Teacher in last year's leavers' book (something for which I have yet to forgive him), told me about it in a little chat we managed to shoehorn into the workday on Tuesday and I immediately put it into practice, with very positive results.
I love it and now want to do it all the time, with all my classes. Forget writing. This is way funner. I realise I am currently writing and therefore that's a bit ironic. Perhaps next week's Weeknote will be created in Commoncraft.

Obsessed with:
Trying to think of a new way to present the material contained in the last six pages of my book. It's about the conflict between the US government and the Plains Indians. I am not satisfied with any of the textbook spreads on it: they're all too wordy; but how do you do justice to the topic without being wordy? And then there's the added pressure of trying to write a fair account.

Entertained by:
I hoped, the new series of Grey's Anatomy, but I haven't got round to watching any of it yet. SO. BUSY. I am really loving Frozen Planet, though, which I am watching on Sunday nights because, as Parpy Jo pointed out, it is essential Sunday viewing, even if it's on on a Wednesday. Crabby said it's the sort of programme that makes you think, "Yep, that's why I pay my licence fee" and I'd have to agree (though Mr Z pays the licence fee, but it's the same general idea).
I'm also reading Dissolution by C.J.Sansom and really enjoying it. More historical fiction. I am reaching the end now and am convinced I know whodunnit.
Finally, I love this song this week. I pretty much love everything Calvin Harris does, but this is such a cheery song.

The black dog is upon me. Hoping I can shake the mood next week. I need to, really, or I'll never be motivated to get my first draft finished. It's so hard to work when I'm feeling all blergh.

Friday 18 November 2011

Weekword: Sunshine

This week's word breaks through the November dullness courtesy of John. As a result, I have been singing this song all week.

I am a fan of the cheesy pop when it is uplifting. I find myself asking myself, "What AM I going to do today?" much like when I listen to a bit of Simon Webbe and remind myself that all the good times are coming around again.

Anyway. It hasn't been the easiest of weeks. I have had to work really hard with myself to prevent angry-snappy-teacher coming out and, with just a few sarcastic comments, burning all those bridges I've been building with my students. I'm a bit run down healthwise and very tired, because every spare moment is going on textbook-writing and marking assessments.
Luckily there have been a few real highs which have helped. So here are five things that have been my sunshine this week.

1. My sixth formers made commoncraftesque videos about Hitler. I gave them about three sentences of instruction and sent them off to create. They did so well.

2. The last thing I did before leaving today was ring the dad of a very naughty boy and tell him his son had made amazing progress and I was really proud of him. I love the guarded tone when I introduce myself, followed by happy surprise. It's a nice way to end the week.

3. The leisure centre has new spin bikes to go with their new spin studio and I can actually do all the runs and climbs on them! All this time I thought it was just me, but nope - it turns out the bikes are partially to blame.

4. This new Phoenix Rising bath bomb from Lush is just amazing. It smells familiar, and delicious, and turns the bath water a really strong shade of purple, and it magically manages to dissolve from the inside out. Made for a very enjoyable bath last night, which was just what I needed as the week drew to a close.

5. New Knitscene, which Get Knitted were kind enough to post out to me. It has two knitted dresses in it! As if I'd ever have time to knit a dress. A girl can dream, though.

Go over to John and have a read of the other entries, won't you? I don't know who is hosting next week. I'm going to offer, though, so you might find a new word here on Monday.

Thursday 17 November 2011

The Rock Tour: part 2

Only two and a half months later than part 1...I hope you haven't been too despondent, waiting for me to finish it. Perhaps the holiday in Bali helped.

The campsite near King's Canyon was full of these birds again, and had many good showers and very few people. It was in a very peaceful spot, and after we'd cooked dinner on the fire (I say we...I mean, we hardly did the lion's share; but I think all the heavy hints and pobremios from Oggy had hit their mark with some of us, and we did all at least stir the mince a bit) and played some games and the German man had told me off for the British inefficiently having both cold and hot taps instead of just mixers (?!), we all settled round the campfire in our swags, in a big clockface. Except for the French people who disappeared for ages and then had to sleep in the neighbouring grassy field because there was no room. Oh well.

I think it was a fairly early night. I was conserving phone battery so I lost track of time. It was quite nice, tbh. It was definitely a very early morning, though. Oggy told us he'd do something special for us, by waking us up about 2 hours before dawn. Normally this kind of special treat would join the, "I'll give you a nice new filling in that tooth" and "I'll warm the speculum first" stable of treats, but actually I was about ready to get up and hadn't felt the cold at all, and had slept quite well thanks to that wine I'd drunk. I was ready for my pre-dawn hike. The same can't be said for the youngest of the German girls, who had to be physically tipped out of her sleeping bag into her swag by her unsympathetic father.

Unfortunately, the pre-dawn hike came with a crapload of rough cut stone steps at the beginning. This took me a while. I tried to be quick, and luckily we did manage to get where we wanted to, but not before I'd stopped for this picture -

...which is a matching pair with my friend Jonty's picture from the same place. It's kind of a steep drop. The girl taking my picture was a bit nervous for me.

We continued walking along the top of King's Canyon until we reached Cotterill's Bridge, a small bridge over a deep chasm that leads out onto a flat top, where apparently the view of the sunrise was awesome. Oggy was not wrong. This may have been my favourite bit of the entire tour. I filmed it on my camera: here is 14 minutes of sunrise, speeded up (can you guess when I got tired of holding the camera and balanced it on a rock?)

After this we hiked around the rest of the rim, crossing the bit where the water is; there was some great geeky geology here, because the canyon is made of two layers of sandstone with a layer of shale underneath it. So there's always water in the bottom, because although the sandstone is porous, the shale is impermeable, so the water can't get through. I was loving the geology. The whole canyon rim seemed to be formed of beehives of sandstone, where particles had blown in between them and worn them down.

Once we'd finished here, it was back to the bus and time for the long drive back to Alice. We stopped at a camel farm, where I declined to ride a camel - I rode one in Egypt and, really, how different was it likely to be? Humbug. Instead I observed the wildlife, including the dozens of galaas that inhabited the animal sanctuary -

And we saw some wild camels by the side of the road -

And we played a game called Oggy wants, which involved a competition between the three rows of the bus to see who could get the item Oggy required all the way to the back of the bus and then to the front again. This was a lot of fun. There was some good lateral thinking and a heavy dose of healthy competition. I don't think it was at all inappropriate that I ended up wrestling with one of the French guys to try and prevent his row from winning. Nor that Oggy pulled back into Alice with this on his rear-view mirror -

I did really enjoy this game, but my risk assessment nerve was twitching horribly. Damn risk assessment nerve. I didn't realise I'd grown it. This probably means I am older than I think.
We were lucky to make it back to Alice when we did. The road has been closed due to some fires which had got a bit out of control, despite Oggy's best efforts to put them out with a water pistol, so there was a pause while we all stood around on the side of the road. The group in the bus behind toasted marshmallows over a flaming stump. We took pictures of the sun through the smoke.

The next day, the tours were turned back because the fires were too out of control, so I felt pretty lucky, even though I ended up on an off-road tour to Palm Valley instead of going to the West Hamiltons. On that bus, seatbelts were mandatory, I lowered the average age by around 20 years, and when the air-conditioning briefly broke and the bus got a little warm, the woman behind me started hysterically squealing, "There's hot air just POURING OUT OF IT!!!!!"
But that's another story.

After The Best Shower Ever back at Toddy's, I went for dinner with the bus gang at the Rock Bar, and had my first kangaroo-based meal, and was mistaken for a spritely 27 year old, which was just icing on cake. The evening was a perfect end to a perfect trip.

I really cannot recommend this tour highly enough. I wrote a glowing review of it for Trip Advisor and if you found this blog post because you're thinking of booking, read that, but then book it (as long as you don't mind outdoor camping. That added to the experience for me, but may not be everybody's tin mug of warm white wine.)

I also can't believe this was nearly four months ago. I'm glad I have nearly a thousand photos of my trip, they are good memory-joggers.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

What If Wednesday

What if airlines charged passengers by their weight?

This horrible idea* was first suggested by my Latin teacher at school. She was four feet ten in shoes and I'm sure had to have her clothes specially made, since size 6 didn't really exist when I was at school. I could completely understand it from her point of view: she'd do better out of it.

So might the airlines. Lighter passengers require less fuel to transport, presumably. In those enormous A303s that carry nearly 1000 people, those few extra kilos a percentage of them are carrying are really going to make a difference. More cargo could be carried if the airline was clear on the weight of the passengers ahead of time, possibly leading to less flights and therefore a reduction in emissions.

How would it work, though? Would you be weighed when you booked your flight and have to pay extra then? Or would they charge everyone the same and then weigh you at check in and add a surcharge at that point? Since generally people try to lose weight for their holidays I think the second way would be fairer, though perhaps less useful if you want to know total passenger weight in time to add extra cargo.

How would it affect travel patterns? Fatter people would have to diet hard, save for longer or make do with staycations and cruises. Perhaps multinational countries would promote lighter people to positions that involve travel, whilst simultaneously looking at videoconferencing for their portlier employees.

I can see that weighing people and charging for extra pounds would cause enormous outcry. It's quite negative. The best way to introduce a new idea is to turn it on its head and look at the positive side: more incentive for people to lose weight. So perhaps lighter people could be allowed more baggage. Perhaps if you are a light couple, one of you gets to travel free (as long as you share your meal) since then that seat won't be taken up by a fatty who's weighing the plane down.

You know, I feel like I'm doing Stelios's job for him. How long before the bucket airlines adopt my policy? I want free flights for life, you know. And I won't be disclosing my weight, either.

* As an overweight lover of travel with family on three continents, I find it horrible.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten links that I have liked

(This post is ANCIENT. I started writing it 18 months ago and only just found it again. So, some of the links are a little old now. But still cool.)

1. Whales hunting squid
2. Darfur in the rainy season - well, lots of Darfur pictures. The rainy season one was my favourite.
3. Plastic ship - must go and see how he got on!
4. Yosemite Nature Notes - Wildflowers - a video. Beautiful flowers!
5. Northern Lights
6. Freestyle skiing at the winter Olympics - endless time suck!
7. BBC drops climate change episode of Frozen Planet for overseas market - this series is just amazing, and having one less episode is their loss
8. Ten Rules for Fat Girls - some excellent advice here for the more corpulent among us
9. Pink Gin Marmalade
10. Tim Minchin singing White Wine In The Sun. He sang this live on Radio 1 on the drive home yesterday and I was really taken with it.

Monday 14 November 2011

Today I wished I was...

Here, staying in a beach hut by the Great Southern Ocean, and getting up to walk on the beach and paddle in the water and spot migrating whales, before going back to bed with my Kindle and a massive mug of ginger and lemon tea with Manuka honey to soothe my tetchy throat.

Monday totally kicked my arse. Only four more work Mondays left in 2011!

Sunday 13 November 2011

Sunday baking: Banana Blondies

I made banana blondies today out of Short and Sweet. For those not in the know, blondies appear to be brownies made with white chocolate. These also contained bananas and a painstakingly home made brazil nut caramel.

You'd be forgiven for thinking these don't look anything like brownies. Actually, this is what they look like when you forget to put the sugar in.


Saturday 12 November 2011

Weeknote: 12/11

This week, I have been mostly....

As predicted last week, I spent this week knitting cones for yule trees out of Cascade. Buying six skeins of Cascade might have been a bit ambitious, but I am certainly going to get a variety of colours so I can mix and match. My intention is to have enough cones for six trees, which is 18. I would like to have a variety of knitted seasonal items for decoration at home: pumpkins, knitted fairy lights, maybe something Easter themed....but this is a bit of a pipe dream because I don't even have time to make a proper list of things. Maybe one day. The yule trees are a start.

Going to:
On Monday I had a course in Clifton and got to do a bit of shopping up there (after being called a gorgeous young lady by an evidently blind man at the bus stop). I went into Kitchens looking for a brownie tin and was amazed to find it a veritable cavern of baking and cooking supplies. In fact, I was in there for so long I had to put down the items I'd selected, leave the shop and find a loo before I could finish my browsing and make my purchases.

On Tuesday I whimpered my way through the first spinning class I've attended in three weeks. I barely made it. The final songs were painfully loud; afterwards the intructor told us she had been medically diagnosed as a bit deaf, which gave her an excuse to turn the music up loud. I have to wonder whether she caused this problem for herself.

And on Friday, I had dinner at grounded with my lovely Bristol ladyfriends, Aliboo, Parpy Jo and Crabby. I may have drunk too much wine. It was nice.

More Bento, more overnight oats, and rather a lot of cake. Nothing out of the ordinary. I had a new recipe for the slow cooker to try but then completely forgot to set it up.

We did have ostrich stir fry for dinner tonight, though. My butcher has taken to keeping a small stock of exotic meats and one little packet of ostrich goes a long way. It's very tasty, too.

More about the American West. And more. And more. This is the topic of my revision text book and I am up to my eyes in the problems of the homesteaders. I have decided to bin the plan put forward by the publisher lady and write all the content first, before going back and adding in all the revision activities and the stuff that actually takes all the time to devise. It's going well so far, as you can probably tell by this rather chatty blog entry; my house is looking tidier by the hour.

What I'm finding frustrating about this task is that all my AmWest textbooks say the same thing. All the information has come from the research of whoever wrote the first textbook, I'm sure of it. I don't, therefore, like using these as sources of information; there may be four books, but if the original had a mistake or left out a fact because they didn't think it was important, then the others will too. That feels like bad writing to me. Hence, I am probably overegging it, but I am doing quite a lot of reading from tinternet to supplement what's in the textbooks.

Obsessed by:
The old theme from my final year uni course on travel writing, about how identities and beliefs can be created by the writings of a very small number of people. It's not just this book I'm writing that's brought this into focus for tme this week, either. Is it laziness or ignorance that stops historians from rummaging through primary documents and making their own conclusions? If they're looking at a country where a different language is spoken, I could understand it, but otherwise there doesn't seem to be an excuse.
I've been doing a lot of doomy thinking about the ramifications of this kind of lazy researching.

Entertained by:
I've spent all this week desperately trying to get on top of my marking so the weekend would be free for writing, so I haven't had a great deal of time to be entertained by anything, though I have enjoyed catching up with Dancing With The Stars. That Maks is a total butthead. Every series he loses his temper and his partner stands there simpering as he rants, all like "Oh my partner is such a bad boy, what can I do, eh?" I'll tell you what you can do - turn around and tell him to stop being such a butthead.
But then I saw how he basically slapped Hope Solo and tossed her around like a ragdoll in the preparation for the first team dance and I wondered if I'd be brave enough to tell it like it is. At least on live TV I'd have plenty of witnesses.

Ever-so-slightly out of my depth. It'll pass though, I'm sure.

Friday 11 November 2011

Weekword: Tea

Emma at the Gift Shed offered this week's word.

When people ask, I usually say I don't like tea. That's not strictly true. I don't like black tea made with milk - so, tea in the traditional sense. Apparently there was a time when I was small that I did, and I did go through a phase at uni where I drank it at work because I had a leetle crush on the man who checked in the deliveries and used it as an excuse to go and hang out with him; but I won't drink it for preference. This is probably because I don't like milk, and if I have black tea, well, black, then it makes me feel a bit sick.

However, I do like other tea. I like white tea, green tea, fruit tea, nettle tea, mint tea....and when I visited the tea plantation in Malaysia I realised I really liked their orange pekoe tea, too. Perhaps it's a freshness thing. I prefer tea like that brewed lightly and drunk while it's still really hot; unlike coffee, which I often leave until almost cold before drinking. I still drink coffee over tea all the time though.

The problem is, I like all the tea paraphernalia. I love tea pots, tea cosies, strainers and infusers in interesting shapes, cake stands, scones with cream, dainty sandwiches with no crusts, pretty tea cups and saucers (which will always remind me of my nanna) and, of course, cake. I like the ritual of making and serving tea and how it takes time to do tea properly, and therefore you have time for chatting.

Here's a good Flickr group called A Cup Of Tea, which I like to look at from time to time; and here is a song I love, all about tea. It's by Zoe Lewis, and unfortunately it's not on YouTube, but you can listen to a little sample on Amazon and I urge you to buy it, because she's great and this song is lovely. I was introduced to her music when I was living in the US and I can relate to this one particularly, which is a little bit about being an ex-pat and longing for homely things.

Be sure to visit Emma for a look at what everyone else had to say about tea this week!

Thursday 10 November 2011

Revolting fruits

I opened the fridge to find this.

It was worrying. I was afraid. The squash had turned bad. It seemed I wasn't the only one who had noticed.

Turned out, the squash had been evicted from the fruit and veg cupboard, for some very good reasons.

There had to be some restorative justice, but luckily I managed to fix the issues and everybody is happy now. As you see, luckily, the mango got better.

The moral of this story is, don't feed your husband cupcakes which have squash in without telling him.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

What If Wednesday

What if skinny had never become the fashion industry standard?

(A brief disclaimer here: this is not a dig at the fashion industry. It makes sense that fashion designers would prefer skinny people to model their clothes, since it's easier to create the illusion of, say, breasts and hips than it is to disguise one: ergo skinny models are more versatile, and work out cheaper in terms of sample sizes.)

The in-vogue body shape has changed over time. Sometimes thin has been in - I'm thinking of the 20s and the flapper - and sometimes curvy has been in, like in the 50s and the days of Ursula Andress and Marilyn Monroe; and then thin came back in the 60s with Twiggy. But then it sort of became stuck at thin. Maybe the fashion industry got a bit lazy, or maybe this was when it cottoned on to the fact that thin women make better models.

So, here is my crackpot theory for the day. The 80s saw the start of the age of the supermodel. Thin and tall women became the icons. I can still name most of the famous supermodels of the early 90s, so often were they featured in the magazines I chose to read. Supermodels were paid megabucks, featured on front covers, in ad campaigns and music videos. They started popping up in films. I think if I'd been an aspiring actress back then, I would have felt a little bit sick about this.

So, instead of haughtily rising above the clothes horses, the actresses did what they thought was necessary: they conformed to the fashion industry standard. They got thin. If they didn't get thin, they put up with a lot of pressure and missed out on the best jobs. For those who got thin, the rewards were rich. Now ad campaigns and front covers are more likely to be not-a-model (I actually saw an editorial complaining about this) as the real talent returns to centre stage. Women prefer to read about women who do stuff, not women who wear stuff. The age of the supermodel is dead; the savvy ones are designing capsule collections for the high street, or have buggered off to be a muse, or got behind the camera instead.

Now for the impact. Where fashion and the famous lead, the rest of us follow, especially as the number of healthy, non-skinny role models dwindle. In spite of not needing to be superskinny in order to get parts/modelling jobs, superskinny became the thing to aspire to - and there's gold in them there hills. Diet pills, fitness DVDs, meal-replacement shakes, motiviational books - the works.

It is my theory that this has in part led to the obesity crisis we're facing. This unhealthy obsession with being thinner and thinner has pushed people in the opposite direction. An entire generation, or three, has lost its ability to relate healthily to food and diet. So, perhaps if there hadn't been the meteoric rise of the supermodel, the pendulum would have swung back, we'd all have a normal relationship with food, and the NHS would be a lot better off, and the weekly gossips would have features on how to copy Beyonce's moves instead of her diet.

I know, I know, there are millions of things that can be blamed for obesity: fast food, sedentary lifestyles, video games, blah blah. This is my what if, you know. I get to make up whatever crazy shizzle I like.

Are you telling me that Ursula Andress, the woman who, when questioned about why she posed nude for Playboy, replied, "Because I'm beautiful" (beautiful, mind you, not "worth it"), would be caught dead doing the cereal diet?

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Reasons Why I Like Lady Gaga's song, You and I
(Yes, I do feel I have to justify it, not previously having been Gaga's biggest fan)

1. Nobody else seems to (at least not in the UK).
2. Due to (1), it hasn't been massively overplayed on the radio, like every other Gaga hit.
3. I'm a little bit country.
4. It's a good slow beat and I reckon it would be good for doing sit ups to.
5. I never would have known it was Gaga if I hadn't been looking it up. In fact, I thought it was Shania Twain. The first time I heard it on the radio, the DJ said it was Shania Twain: hence my confusion.
6. Brian May did the guitar. This man is a good judge of music. I don't want to disagree with him.
7. I like how she said she drank some whiskey, smoked some cigarettes and then just laid the track down in one go.
8. Perhaps due to (7), it is pitched low enough that I can proper belt it out in the car on the way home and not make myself wince with all the missed notes.
9. This is me overthinking it. I really like that she wrote a song completely out of her usual style* for her boyfriend, though I realise he is not her boyfriend now. Still: she wrote it, and recorded it, and then released it, though surely her record label must have realised it would sail right past her usual market and into oblivion? I know it did better in other countries, but it's hardly Born This Way. She did that for him. He must have meant a lot to her.
10. That last part really comes across for me in the song, and I'm a bit of a romantic sometimes, so it gets me that way too.

* My disclaimer here is that I don't own any Gaga albums and am therefore only familiar with what she releases as a single.

Monday 7 November 2011

Weekend FO

Only a month after I FO'd it, may I present, The Rara.

Pattern: Antifreeze from Knitty
Yarn: King Cole Merino Blend DK, about 2 balls; Manos Silk Blend for the contrasting pink
Needle: Various, from 3.25mm to 4mm
Mods: Many, though less than The Jonty. It took less rows to reach 7 inches for the face hole (though again, less than the Jonty - which makes no sense at all) so that led to a few other tweaks. I went down needle sizes for the face hole, and then did an icord bind off instead of crocheting.

Oh, and I knitted a huge intarsia flower on the back, using a free hibiscus colourwork chart from this website.

It turned out even better than I anticipated, and though I'm not overjoyed with the intarsia and was afeared it would be all bunchy, my fears were not realised. I think she's going to love it.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Sunday baking: Tea Loaf, Ginger-squash cupcakes

I have had a bag of mixed fruit with peel in my cupboard since April, when Jonty suggested fruit cake might be a good bake to take skiing. I was a bit ambitious with my baking plans though, and ran out of time. This weekend I finally decided to bite the bullet and use it up - I'm so glad I did! What a simple recipe, and what a delicious cake.

1lb 12oz mixed dried fruit with peel (or 1lb 8oz mixed fruit and 4oz mixed peel)
8oz demerara sugar
10floz hot tea (made with a tea bag)
1 egg
2tblsp milk
1lb self-raising flour
4oz chopped walnuts

Begin the day before by dissolving the sugar in the hot tea, and then pouring it over the mixed fruit in a bowl. Cover and and leave overnight. One recipe I read called this part "allowing the fruit to macerate" which I love.

When you're ready to make the cake, beat the eggs with the milk in a bowl, and then stir in the fruit and all its accompanying syrup. Sift in the flour, fold through; then fold in the walnuts. Turn into two 1lb loaf tins and bake at 180 degrees C for about an hour, until springy to touch.

I lined my cake tins with loaf tin liners, which they sell at Asdal. Very handy, since lining the tin is my least favourite part. I'm going to take slices of this for breaktime at work, and I might even butter them, since there's almost no fat in the cake itself.

My other foray into baking this weekend is a recipe from Short and Sweet, in line with my goals for this month. I picked Pumpkin Ginger cupcakes, made with butternut squash because now Hallowe'en is gone, naturally there are no pumpkins to be had at any supermarket. They turned out extremely moist and very tasty - they have a rough look, like rock cakes, but the squash has completely melted into the sponge and I don't think anybody will be able to tell what's making them so moist. They're not too sweet either, which I like.

Definitely #bakingwin today!

Saturday 5 November 2011

Weeknote 5/11/11

This week I have been mostly....


Very little! I took my Christmas socks to Austria but then broke my Kindle at the airport (boo*) so had no pattern to follow. I am currently knitting The Louzle - balaclava #3 - but it is cow print which I am knitting freeform and I am not enjoying it very much. To demonstrate, today at knitting group I spent 15 minutes weaving in all the ends rather than continue knitting it. It's going to take some manning up.
Today I bought the yarn to knit some Yule Trees from Interweave Holiday Gifts, so I might sneakily start those. At least I can take them to work.

Going to:
Dinner with my now very-pregnant friend, Parpy Jo. She has a month to go, but I am struggling to see how she can get any bigger! She is insistent on going out as often as possible before the baby appears. I am enjoying calling her Fatty, while I still can.

Hoummus-themed Bento lunches. I wanted to put a picture in here, but close inspection of my camera revealed I didn't have any, so a description will have to do.
Top layer: Breakfast - Overnight Oats. Now almost always chocolate soy milk and pears.
Middle layer: Silicone cupcake cup of hoummus. Olives. Mini breadsticks. Cherry tomatoes.
Bottom layer: Dried figs, almonds and segments of satsuma. Very Christmas-come-early but having spent two weekends out of the country, supplies were low.
This little combo was surprisingly filling, and made a tub of hoummus last 3-4 days.

Excellent pumpkin soup, home-made by Mr Z. It is heavy on the thyme, and surprisingly filling. Mr Z says this is due to the sock he blended in with it, but I suspect he is having me on.

A new slow cooker dish we are loving. It's very simple. Slice an onion and layer over the bottom of the slow cooker; put two pork chops on top and pour over some chutney. Add a splash of water and cook all day. Delicious, and a good way of using up last year's leftover chutney.

More about American Foreign Policy. I am finding it really very interesting, so much so that I want to read about it all the time, and I don't really have the time. It helps that one of my upper 6th groups is almost exclusively gifted pupils, so they are really pushing me to be better read, so I can continue to challenge them.

Obsessed with:
Words With Friends. It may not be Scrabble, but it'll do.

Entertained by:
Educating Essex. I have really enjoyed this series because the main staff in it seem to espouse the same views on education as me; and it reminds me why I love my job, and why I do it; and it gives me ideas on how to be better!

Frustrated that this stupid tickly cough won't abate!

* Tom commiserated, and then pointed out Dixon's were selling them and they would be VAT free, so I replaced it immediately, before I could talk myself out of it. And bought a warranty.

Friday 4 November 2011

Fave Friday

Weekword seems to have met its end, which is sad. I found a lot of good blogs that way. Perhaps it will come back soon. Perhaps I will blog a word on Monday and see if anyone joins in.

For now though, I'm resurrecting Fave Friday.

Five Favourite Things About My Job This Week

1. Awesome student homeworks. I have taken to adding, "Present your findings in a creative way" to the end of my research tasks. This has produced some truly outstanding results. This week: a model trench with explosions THAT LIGHT UP WHEN YOU PRESS A BUTTON (still a bit over-excited about that) and a model treasure chest full of booty and a picture of Elizabeth I, for a task about Francis Drake. So. Creative.

2. When they really want to learn. It's assessment week so there's been a lot of keen interest in how to improve. There's some satisfaction among those students who go home knowing they've worked as hard as they can, I'm sure.

3. A good piece of wit. I set my sixth formers an essay where they had to argue for and against a theory I came up with. One of them began his essay with the words, "A famous historian once claimed..." He gets an A, clearly.

4. A carefree attitude. Example: "It's raining, but we only have half an hour for lunch, so we'll play football and just sit through afternoon lessons wet - who cares?" Helps to remind me not to sweat the small stuff.

5. The ducks. I know I have already bigged up the ducks this week, but they bring such joy into my mornings! In the rain today, they all hopped out of the pond in pairs and scavenged the bank, bringing real meaning to the phrase, "Nice weather for ducks." And then later, when I went back up to the staffroom for lunch, they were perched in shallow bits of pond looking all ruffled and snug.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Monthly Goals for November

I am surprised, looking back, that it has been a year since I set myself any monthly goals. I enjoyed doing them and reviewing them, so I'm not quite sure why I stopped; except that I stopped in December and that time last year was when I worked something stupid like 26 days without a day off, so I might give myself a break.

Here are my goals for this month.
  • Send out letters to parents that I usually send in term 1.
  • Analyse the Y7 data and identify the key group for which I'm responsible.
  • Write a development plan.
  • Review and set performance management targets.
  • Distribute new technologies questionnaire to staff.
  • Try three new recipes from my baking book, one involving yeast.
  • Finish knitting Louzle's ski mask.
  • Work methodically through the chapters of this text book I'm writing.
  • Read a book.
That's probably enough to be going on with....

Wednesday 2 November 2011

A "What if" for Wednesday

This week I read a blog post from Scott Adams, about good news, which contained as its first item the suggestion that America might be close to reaching fuel self-sufficiency.

This crossed over nicely with what I've been reading for work. Now in my fourth year of teaching 20th century US Foreign Policy to my oldest students, I am really getting into it, and have started reading a wider variety of books than Ian has provided. My favourite of these so far is the very readable Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938, by Stephen E Ambrose (helpfully available on my Kindle). In it, he posits that, in spite of winning the Cold War, America was more vulnerable by the 1990s because it was so dependent on the Middle East for its fuel needs. He suggested that, without this dependence, America might have returned to its isolationist ways of the early 20th century; and, indeed, was doing so until Iraq invaded Kuwait.

I have a few holes to pick there but let's ignore them for the purposes of this extended ramble. If America really did achieve fuel self-sufficiency, what impact would that have worldwide?
What impact would it have on the Middle East? And on petrol prices?
Would all US military overseas just pack up and go home, and what about the countries they are supposedly helping?
Would they maintain their alliances, and membership of things like NATO?
Would the miltary-industrial complex in the US allow America to reinstate isolationism? The defence budget pre-1939 was less than £500m, with 185,00 soldiers. Now it's £300b*, and countless personnel. That's an enormous number of jobs and businesses. Also, when you think of it like that, you can understand why people come up with conspiracy theories about 9/11.
Who would fill the power vacuum? China?
With America more reliant on natural energy, what would happen to global emissions? Would there be more effort made to develop alternative car/plane fuels? Unlikely, I think, as long as somebody's still making money from the oil.

Just thinking, you know. I like it when I've read enough on a subject to finally form an opinion. Teaching this last year, it was all about fear as a motivator, but now I've read more and concluded this is just a facade. I'll continue to read and eventually decide what's behind it, I suspect.

*My favourite way to think of big numbers like these is in seconds. 500m seconds is around 15 years. 300b is around 9,600 years.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Happy Things From My Life

1. Fantastic inversion from the top of the Stubai Glacier last week - it's just over 3000m (and watching all the jumpers go through the snowpark was a lot of fun too!)

2. My hotel room had a bath! I thought everyone's did, but upon further investigation, discovered I was the only one so blessed. I think I had three baths in the week we were there. Fab for the old achey muscles.

3. Neustift, the town where we stayed, looked very beautiful, particularly as the sun was setting.

4. I made it through the whole week without having to wimp out! Definitely fit enough to cope with the skiing, passed navigation and leadership with flying colours, scored 94% on the mountain hazards paper....unfortunately my skiing wasn't quite confident enough. So, I got a deferred pass, and that means I have to do more skiing. What a pity! - and then do a one day reassessment in spring, somewhere in the UK. Perfectly happy with that, considering I was afraid I wouldn't get through the first day.

5. There are now ten ducks on the school pond! I walk past them every morning and it makes me super-cheerful.

6. I am well on the way to writing my first official textbook. Chapter topics and planning just the content.

7. On Monday I have an exam board meeting in Bristol that doesn't start until 9.45am. LIE. IN. And then a bit of afternoon shopping round Cabot, FTW.

8. The fact that November is stretched out in front of me, devoid of a trip to Malaysia. This might sound a bit weird, but since the past two Novembers have been a frantic whirlwind of paperwork, setting cover, avoiding mosquitoes and recovering from jetlag, this feels like a bit of a luxury.

9. I got it right with the trick-or-treater. I use the singular, because we had only one, and she was halfway down the path by the time I managed to answer the door. I duly gave her a bag of iced gems, which I had selected for a change. Her eyes went big. "OOOOHH, my FAVOURITE!" she exclaimed. This may have beena ruse, since I nearly gave her another bag for being so grateful; but it was nice, nevertheless.

10. This great video!

It's November, so I am going to be attempting to post daily. I am suffering a crisis of confidence and think I am getting a bit dull, so don't feel you have to read it all.