Friday, 20 October 2017

Fave Friday

Something extremely simple today - when your alarm goes off and you can turn it off and go back to sleep.

This has been an exceptionally busy week, beginning with a tramp through the Cotswolds as a Duke of Edinburgh helper (I was a last minute replacement). Thursday began at 6am and ended at midnight. So, I can be applauded for remembering to turn off one alarm, and forgiven for forgetting the other one.

Another fave: when we break up from school before the end of a week. Delightful. I have spent most of today doing other jobs, but still...I got to turn my alarm off and go back to sleep until 9am. And I'm going to go and have a nap now. Winning.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Blue Monday

This amazing reflection of the sky is courtesy of the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, an art museum and gallery in Quito.

Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find the way in and I don't feel like I saw much of the inside, though I did wander around the art gallery, which included an eerily lifelike, life-sized model of a clown. In the end I had to leave because I got so freaked out by it. I was the only person in there and I started to envisage a horror-movie scenario in which it came to life and chased me around, to a murderous conclusion.

There are some definite drawbacks to travelling alone.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Strictly: My Dance of the Night

I watched the new series of SCD for the first time tonight. I liked a lot of the dances but the one by Alexandra Burke and Gorka was just amazing. I think she had a very fortunate choice of song, though. Part of the reason I loved it was because you can see the band bopping away in the background too, and even the judges get in on it during her first pass past the table. It is an infectiously joyful piece of music.


I wished Gorka had included Tina's signature dance move that surely everyone does when they hear this song (just me?) but perhaps it would have been a bit obvious.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Fave Friday

You might know that I'm a fan of the gin. I have quite a lot of gins in my little stockpile now, so I have to be quite impressed to add more.

This gin was being offered at the gin festival I went to in May. I went to a gin school to hear about how it was made and it was very wittily sold by an ex-teacher who kept us laughing throughout his explanation of what makes this gin delicious and special. It was indeed delicious and special, so I bought a bottle. It's quite citrussy in flavour. You're meant to serve it with a slice of pear, but who has time for that?

It's quite a nice business story, too, since it was crowdfunded and they're based in Leeds, and I think they're the people who run the gin festival too so good people to support. You can buy it here. I shouldn't have looked, there's a three-for-two offer on.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Scenes from the Classroom #34

I've got a very confident girl in my year 7 class.

Today, someone asked me how to spell abattoir. I couldn't remember if it was one b or two, so I wrote them both on the board and selected the one that looked correct. I think this is an important modelling thing to do with students. Also, I don't use the word abattoir very often.

K: *hand straight up*
Me: (momentarily doubts the spelling, but only momentarily)
Me: Yes, K?
K: Miss, as somebody who very rarely makes spelling mistakes, I can confirm that that is correct.
Me: Thank you very much, K!
Class: *snigger*

She does delight in showing off her excellent literacy skills, but I had to bite back from saying, "As somebody who always uses full sentences, remind me to show you how."

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Travel Tuesday: Salzburg

When Zoe and I skied in April, we went to spend a day roaming Salzburg and soaking up the culture.

It's quite a compact little city with the river running alongside the old town, so we walked everywhere we wanted to go. By the time we'd managed the public transport from our ski area it was lunchtime, and pouring with rain, so we stopped in a little courtyard Italian restaurant before going on to the castle.

They are obsessed with Mozart, and ducks (there's some kind of sports team that explains the latter). So, this display of Mozart eyeing a rubber duck doppelganger of himself nervously whilst holding a selfie stick is not that odd.

The castle had the best views across the city and we enjoyed the funicular.

The cathedral was also very picturesque.

We came back to Salzburg at the end of the trip; the railway station has luggage lockers so we stashed everything and went off to see a couple of things we'd missed the first time round - namely, the bridge they used in the Sound of Music, and the Augustiner Brau, a brewery and monastery with a huge food court that came highly recommended by a fellow history teacher friend.

I gather we missed a few key things out, particularly the Sound of Music tour and some kind of local salt mine which gives the city its name. Good reasons to return.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Blue Monday

A break from the Galapagos this week.

This is from the Basilica del Voto Nacional, a splendid church with some lovely terraces one one side. This is a gate I came across on those terraces.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Selfie Sunday

Something up-to-date this week. I've been roaming around Hampshire learning all the things and spending time with Mother Hand.

Here I am posing in the Great Hall in Winchester, where I went to a lecture on Saturday night. It was the BBC History Magazine weekender. Great lecture, absolutely crammed with geeky facts and figures about the Restoration period.

The next day I returned with Mother Hand, for a National Trust visit to Winchester City Mill, and another History lecture.

Such weekend behaviour. Can you believe I'm not even 40 yet?

Friday, 6 October 2017

Fave Friday

I had been on the hunt for a good navy eyeliner for years. I was very picky. It had to be the right shade of navy - not too blue, not too dark. There could be no hint of shimmer to it. It had to have really good staying power - no smudging, to avoid that half moon on the upper lid. It had to apply smoothly - I was really only looking for a liquid. Shu Uemura nailed it with their gel eyeliner and I used it heavily until it dried up, whereupon I discovered to my horror that the colour had been discontinued. That was a couple of years ago and I've been on the hunt ever since.

I have looked at dozens, in all price ranges, but found they all had a bit of shimmer (I prefer to have the option of adding my own shimmer, ta) or were the wrong blue.

However, I am happy to report that I have found something that is nearly perfect. I'm back to wearing eyeliner at school again, which is a bit of a shock to my students since I don't think I bothered once last year.

The liner in question is by Urban Decay. It was a lot more than I would normally pay for an eyeliner pencil, but the colour, matte finish and consistency were too good to pass up. It goes on like a liquid, sets almost immediately and lasts through all the early morning eye-watering, and all day long, until it dissolves effortlessly during my evening face-washing. It even made it through a Bikram class this week.

The colour is Sabbath. There are some dreamy colours available, but the list of colour names does make me chuckle. I mean, really. Asphyxia? Does their creative team sit around thinking up the most depressing and dystopian words they can when they're naming products? Yes, I realise I sound about a hundred years old, but it would be helpful to have some indication of the colour in the name.

My only issue with it is that it's very difficult to sharpen. The colour stick doesn't seem to quite meet its wooden surroundings, so if it is sharp it is precariously long. A great trick to ensure I use it up quickly. Perhaps I need to buy one of their sharpeners. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Travel Tuesday: St Johann im Pongau

Zoe and I went skiing in St Johann im Pongau this Easter.

It's a nice little town, less than an hour on the train from Salzburg and with good transport links - buses and so on - if, like us, you're not going to bother hiring a car when you're spending most of the week on the piste.

We stayed just outside the town in a place called Alpendorf, in the very charming and very lovely Bergkristall apartments. There were epic views across the valley from our balcony and, because it was spring, we were able to spend some time sunning ourselves out there.

It was a very quiet place (I was pleased, Zoe less so) and the space was big and comfortable, with plenty of hot water and good heating. The only drawback was that it was up a long and steep hill, but there was a free ski bus down and up, which was good.

The skiing was quite good, also.

There were lots of smallish slopes that we could bash around on for most of the day and the snow was holding quite well, although best in the morning, as usual. I think my ski triumph of the week was really going for it down a black run, catching an edge, falling over and losing a ski and then skidding a further 40m or so on my back with my feet in the air. A couple of small children picked up my lost equipment and brought it down for me. Humbling. I did check my Snowtracks though and I had apparently been doing 70km/hour when I stacked it, so I am not too unhappy about being shamed by a couple of small children when I could have ended up in traction.

This ski area links up across a massive cross-valley cable car. We went over one day. It took us until lunchtime to get to the top of the opposite mountain, and then a very long time to get back, in the heavy spring snow. Zoe was a real trooper but I think I nearly broke her that day.

Still smiling here so that must have not been the day of the cross-valley cable car. Or it must have been before it. Getting down there was horrible.

This was my favourite piste, but I didn't find it until the last day. It was a black run but only little and the chairlift over the top was short, which meant I could keep going round and round. 

Happy times. Did I mention I love skiing?

I would go back to this resort, but I think it would be better earlier in the season. There's quite a lot to ski that we couldn't ski because it was so late in April and so warm. We only ended up skiing for four days out of the six (Zoe three - I toughed it out on a zero visibility day so I could ski with my former colleagues, who just happened to be there with my old school, Deirdre-Chambers-what-a-coincidence) but there were lots of other things to do locally. More on that at a later date.

Weekend WIP (sort of FO)

It's exciting! I've finally done it!

These are the last hexagons-from-single-skeins and they are finally done! I'm now up to 40 pinwheels with an estimated 90 to go, so I am almost a third of the way through. Well, plus sewing up and edging and stuff.

(Yes, I know it is Tuesday. Having stubbornly not worked for the first three weekends of term, I binged like a fat girl on a diet and worked Friday night, Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, and I'm not even sorry about it. So not much knitting happened apart from at knitting group and I had to finish the last one during the Dr Foster finale tonight.)

Monday, 2 October 2017

Blue Monday

Another blue Monday, another Galapagos shot. 

This one features several frigate birds, who can grow very large. The males have big red pouches in their throats that they use for attracting lady birds at mating time. I tried to capture one in its nest but was not completely successful. Still, you'll get the gist.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Fave Friday

Ah, Sephora. It's such a comforting place. I swing between wishing there was one in Bristol and being glad there isn't: I would spend calamitously.

Luckily, they are dotted all over Europe, particularly, it seems, in cities where I happen to be. I've been able to visit a couple of branches this summer and, in Lucca, picked up some masks. Lots of lovely sheet masks, obvs, but also a couple of these to try:

I got one in avocado and one in rose. They were about 3 euros each. I popped them in my hand luggage to Durham, thinking I might use one overnight, but then didn't, so it took until the return to work to get trying.

Firstly, I'm glad I didn't open one in Durham. They don't close again, and there is a good four nights' application in here. I ruminated on what might happen if I was to slap on the entire mask in one go, and concluded that I would need to buy a new pillow and that this would get expensive very quickly.

Secondly, they are very cooling and soothing. They would be very good in the summer when your skin is a bit parched, or a bit sun burned; or after a windy day of skiing. They dry after a few minutes to a slightly tacky layer, and in the morning just rinse off.

Do they work? Don't know, really. What are they meant to do? I put it on over serum and my skin did feel baby soft and look very even when I got up in the morning, and for the equivalent of about 60p a night, I think that is a very reasonable win.

I'm trying to work out how this product might fit into the Korean 10-step skincare routine I've been reading about. These 10 Korean steps boggle my mind, tbh. I think my skin would give up. Also I would. They sound like terribly hard work and I think it's too late for my skin, anyway.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Travel Tuesday: Honfleur

Tutt and I went to France last summer for a long weekend, camping. The camping part wasn't wildly successful but we both enjoyed France enough to repeat it this weekend. We stayed somewhere in southeast Normandy and visited the pretty town of Honfleur on our way back to the ferry at the end of the trip.

The tall houses by the harbour made me think of Bristol, although the awnings were in citrus brights instead of the pastels favoured in this neck of the woods.

Just there for a day, we didn't do much at all except wander around looking for a cafe that sold nice cakes. On the way back, though, I went on the big wheel, which was a great way of appreciating views over the Seine estuary.

It was also blisteringly hot, so it was nice to be on something moving at speed and mostly in the shade, because it very effectively cooled me down.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Blue Monday

The Galapagos wasn't all sea and sky (though there are a large number of sea and sky pictures coming up). There was also a lot of epic wildlife, including a huge number of blue-footed boobies (not to be confused with the red-footed booby or the... other kind of booby. Cliff dwelling, maybe?) They were very handsome creatures who felt so safe they just nested right on the ground, often right on the trail, and we were forced to edge gently around them, a few feet off the path to stay within the 2 metre rule imposed by the national park.

Such feet! If I recall correctly, it's to do with their diet. We watched them diving into the sea in some places. Apparently they live for quite some time and only die when they become too weak to effectively break the surface of the water, whereupon they starve to death. Nice.

This picture, in that vein, made me sad. Though they often lay more than one egg, most of the time only one baby survives because they can't manage to feed more than that one.

So, in this picture is a fat and healthy chick who is slowly starving the weaker chick to death, next to one that is long gone. Ah, nature.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Selfie Sunday

Something from Southsea beach with Mother Hand, from a few years ago -

It's hard to beat an ice cream van cone in the sunshine on the beach!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Fave Friday

I'm not very good at washing my face. I don't usually wear make up to school (although I have been trying to do this more this year, now that I'm not getting the bus to work); I don't like tissue-off cleansers because they never feel very clean and my skin is a bit dry for wash off ones. I loved Lush's Babyface but they discontinued it and, although I have a stash, using it does require me to run hot water to get it off. I am not usually patient enough to do this before bed. Then I don't put any cream on my face at night because I think my skin isn't clean...and so on. I am a bit too vain for this to be OK but it is difficult to be vain and lazy.

Then I saw this on a favoured blog I read.
I picked up a tube whilst in France last month, where I could pretend that the Euro price actually made it quite reasonable when it's really just 1-to-1 now and therefore probably cheaper to buy here. I've been using it for a month and it really is as good as it reckons itself to be, and there's still two-thirds of the tube left.

It is a gel when it comes out but then becomes an oil on the skin, until you rinse, when it just melts off your face like a milky soap. This is what Clarins claim it does and, you know, they're not lying. My face feels delightful afterwards: very smooth and soft, and not at all tight. It doesn't feel greasy either, which it sometimes does after Babyface. I can do that advert-style splashing of water and it gets it all gone without the need for a flannel. Finally, it sees off make up with surprising zeal. Even waterproof stuff.

I started using a Clarins moisturiser earlier this year when I had to finally admit to myself that my favourite Lush Gorgeous is just a bit light for my aging skin, and I really like that too. I think spending a bit more on these products is just insurance against the future, right? I remember my university dentist telling me that now I was out of my "pig adolescent years" I could finally start taking care of my teeth and maybe the same is now true of my skin.

Now I need to be able to get it in a travel size and I will be 100% happy.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Scenes from the Classroom #33

I am having a blinder of a start to the term. Lessons are going well, SLT seem pleased with me (indicating my results were at least acceptable...I thought they were, but it's hard to tell in a new context), I have taken over the running of the ski trip, I love my new tutor group, all my classes seem reasonable (cautious), and I have managed two work-free weekends in a row, in line with my new year's resolution.

Then there's the little icing here and there. Today I handed out the textbooks to my year 10 class. They're the ones I wrote. I don't tell them this because it's a bit awkward to just announce it, isn't it? Then this...

M: Um, Miss...
Me: ...yes?
M: Well,'s just there's...well, there's a name on the front of this textbook...
Me: ....
M: Well, it's the same as your name.
Me: Yes.
M: Did you write this book?
Me: Yes, I wrote this book.
Whole class: WHAT?! Really? Where? Where does it say that? Did you really? Did you write the whole thing? How long did it take? How did you get to do that?
L: What do you have to read to write a book? (Best historian question: she will go far)
Me: I read lots of things. So many things. You know that book I gave you readings from the other day? That was one of the things.
L: Wow!
L2: I'm so proud to have this book!

These moments are very nice. I spend a lot of time in my non-school jobs with people who have written loads of textbooks and are far more accomplished, so sometimes I forget that it was actually quite an achievement.

The other class were nice about it, but not quite so effusive (today's class are complete geeks who genuinely laugh at my awful jokes) and T, of last week's SftC, said, "Why would anyone want to do that?" and then, when I said I'd given copies to my parents, "If someone gave me a textbook, yknow, I wouldn't read it."

It's good to remain humble.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Travel Tuesday: Italy: Milano

Tutt and I visited Milan back in 2014 as part of our Italian adventures. We took the train from Verona on a Sunday and had a day trip. The city was really quiet; we took an open topped bus tour: we nearly fell out over it as we waited ages and, when it arrived, it seemed over-priced to me and I didn't want to take it - I still don't know if I can recommend it, but we did see a lot of stuff; and we went to see the Last Supper, of course, of which there are no pictures. It was a marvellous piece of art but I couldn't quite get over that it was painted essentially as a canteen mural. I think da Vinci would be tickled if he realised how famous it has become.

The most imposing structure in Milan is, unsurprisingly, its cathedral, which dominates an enormous main square like a twiddly, twirly, sugar-crafted palace.

The detailing on it is incredible. Here are a few gems I found.

We wandered through the world's oldest shopping centre, the beautiful glass Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which has all the fancy shops in it and is near to the only McDonald's in the world with a non-yellow sign: the arches are white to fit in with local regulations. You can still see it from the middle of the galleria, though. I didn't take a picture.

During the bus trip we were also told a lot about how Mussolini had done a lot of building in Milan, and some of this was pointed out. It's modernist in style but with overtones of Ancient Rome, because the Fascists used it as another tool to promote their ideals. I'd taught a lot about this so it was nice to see some of it in the flesh....stone.

The train station, too, was clearly completed in this era; it had carved fasces on the walls and "Anno IX" which suggested it was completed in 1932, 9 years after Mussolini seized power. The walls are carved with the names of famous scientists of the day, as well as pictures of all forms of transport.

We had a wander in the park after the bus trip, and then went to sit in a pavement cafe, drink Aperol Spritz and eat ice cream sundaes (both just me, I should say). The table next to us had one Asian gentleman, his young daughter, and five women all wearing niqab. I was interested to see that they were all wearing designer glasses or sunglasses, and on some the arms of the glasses went inside the niqab, while on others they were on the outside. It was really interesting to see people dressed like this: I don't see many people in the niqab in Britain (although a parent came to parents' evening with one on last year) and, when Tutt and I chatted about it, she pointed out that religious head coverings like this would be even less welcome in Paris. This made me think that perhaps wealthy Muslim women who favour the full face covering come to shop and peruse the designer collections in Milan rather than any other European capital of fashion because it is more accepting of such things. I don't know why that might be; but it's sort of borne out by the existence, at the station, of a refugee help point for Syrians. I tried to take a picture of the sign but the lady sitting at the desk got quite defensive and sent me off, and then glared at me suspiciously when I tried to take pictures of the architecture of the station, until I went away completely. I wonder why there was a refugee point in Milan?

I think Milan might be better visited on a weekday. It felt a bit like a ghost town on a Sunday, although everything seemed to be open. Probably if we'd planned to do a lot of shopping, it would have been paradise, but it was surprisingly underwhelming for just wandering. There were also some people at the train station 'helping' tourists to buy underground tickets and robbing them at the same time - stealing the change from the machine, sort of thing - which made us both a little jumpy.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Blue Monday

Another perfect Galapagos sea view.

Here's a picture of us on that very boat. My new Canadian friends, Kristina and Diana, and our guide. I have forgotten his name.