Saturday 30 December 2017

2016 in Review

I know this post is wildly out of date, but it is just sitting in my drafts and I do enjoy reading back over them, so I am going to publish it. Some of it is note form because, yknow, it was a long time ago.


Exam board job interview. I was very nervous, it being my first non-teaching job interview since 2001, but it went well, although it was weird that it was only an hour long.

I had terrible back problems. I couldn't get comfortable lying, sitting or standing, and walking was a problem. Lots of Deep Heat. It might have been related to the bad ankle twist I gave myself, falling over on my way out of the gym at the start of the month. Curiously, I also twisted my ankle badly in January this year. Must take extra good care of my ankles over the following month.

Tutt and I went to London for afternoon tea at the Egerton House Hotel in Mayfair, and booked a holiday in Vietnam.


Back problems persisted but my amazing trainer managed to put me back together just in time for the school trip the Berlin.

It might have been my favourite school trip ever. Such a good bunch of students, who coped admirably with the rain and the cold and the fact that I'd scheduled three hours of shopping for Sunday, when all the shops were closed.

I also took them to a cabaret that involved near-total nudity. I didn't really cotton onto this until we were sitting in the theatre and I read the flyer, which described the show as 'sexy'. I had to go round and warn them all that the show probably had a more European attitude towards clothing than they might be expecting. Tom had come along as my senior staff representative and there were some awkward eye-meets across the room at times. Luckily they were all mature enough to cope with it, but oops. But it was very Berlinny.

I heard that I got the exam board job.


Angry with my school job, I applied for a new one and interviewed for it right at the end of the month. Terrible omens around the interview - there was a big thunder storm...

...and I was within seconds of being late, but I made it, and I got the job!

It was World Book Day and our department was assigned Dickens. I was Madam Defarge, but everyone assumed I was a pirate. Ian dressed up as Miss Havisham and Sarah went as Stella. It was great fun.

Ski trip number 9, but also the last one at this school. We went to Saalbach in Austria.


Less than 48 hours after we'd arrived back from the ski trip, Tom and I were back together with another bunch of students, on a trip to Naples. We'd done this trip before, in 2013, but in February, when it was fairly chilly. It was NOT chilly in April. I got a bit of sunburn. We made it all the way to the top of Vesuvius; I had some sandals made for me by a cobbler on Capri; we explored some bits of Pompeii we didn't see last time.

I had a room with the most spectacular view over the Bay of Naples.

A complete winner of a trip. Also my last with Tom. We did 13 together, all told. Running a trip without him now is going to be weird.


We went clay pigeon shooting for Gaz's leaving do. One of the teaching assistants offers it on her farm nearby. A lovely day of tramping around the cows and shooting at tiny clay discs. 


John Arbon open day. I went to stay with my friend Amanda who runs a gorgeous B&B nearby, on the edge of Exmoor. I can highly recommend it.

That's not the B&B but it is nearby. So many noisy sheep!

Gin festival. It was the same day as John Arbon.

I went to Sheffield for a conference that turned out to be mostly about primary schools, but I stayed in a lovely hotel, patronised their spa and had a good mooch around Sheffield town centre.

Mum visited in half term; we went to Dyrham Park.


I achieved a life goal by speaking at the British Museum...only about the new GCSE, but still.

My old school friend Beccy visited and Zoe came down too, so we had a good weekend of fun between the three of us. Like old times only more fun because we're no longer young and spiteful.

I ran a preparing to teach event. I think this was the last event I did for the new exams before my new job kicked in and I couldn't do anything for it anymore. I wasn't that sorry, to be honest. There's nothing more sweaty than running those courses. I just know I've become somebody's bad inset story.


I went back to Portsmouth for the first part of my school reunion, which involved drinking in a bar. Zoe forgot to bring ID and couldn't get in, it was just like old times. Luckily one of the other girls, instead of sneering and laughing from inside, managed to talk the bouncer round.

It was good weather, sort of, and I managed a nice long seafront walk with Mother Hand.

I went to the usual geeky history conference in Leeds and did another workshop.

The end of my time at my first school began to approach. I took more and more pictures of the view from my mobile. Here's one from the last day -

I had a couple of leaving dos - firstly wine tasting.

And, of course, the last night of term.

Four out of six of the original ski crew.

Don't really know what was happening here. I just had the urge to dive on them.

It was all quite emotional, really. I was sad to say goodbye to a lot of these people.

I went to Italy with Mr Z for our 10th wedding anniversary.

I took him to my favourite hotel from the trip that Tutt and I took to Italy in 2014. It was as lovely as I remembered - lovelier, really, because it had a brand new bathroom with a double shower. I will be going back there some time, I'm sure of it. There was a curious plague of flying ants one night, which we watched with horrified interest from the inside of the glass door; we were lucky enough to be standing on the balcony when it started, though, so we only had a few indoors. Judging by the screams from upstairs, others were not as lucky.


Vietnam. We travelled north to south - Hanoi, Hoi An/ Danang, Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon, for older people like me).

I celebrated my birthday in Hoi An. The hotel provided me with these. Very lovely.

We moved onto Singapore. We stayed at Raffles. They also provided me with a birthday cake, presented by a singing butler. Exceptionally good service.

There were otters in Singapore.

It was breathtakingly hot. I caught up with my old colleague Rachel, who had just started working in Singapore. We went to the Raffles bar for a Singapore sling. Tutt and I had Raffles afternoon tea. It was all very posh.

I went to see Labyrinth at the open air cinema in Bristol, with Tutt and Liz.

I popped down to Portsmouth and mooched around the Mary Rose. It was epic. I can highly recommend going, now all the spraying has finally finished and you can actually see the thing properly.

From there, Tutt and I popped over the France. We went camping....I couldn't believe it, either. The campsite was great - it has its own pool and bakery, so we had basically everything required. We went on day trips to Bayeux and Rouen, where I saw the tomb of Richard the Lionheart's heart.

My new book was published. Hurrah, hurrah!


I started my new job, with a bang. It was quite full on from the word go but I settled in quite well and found myself feeling very at home in a short space of time, though I didn't go to the staffroom to eat lunch until June, I don't think. A significant change for me. I was a permanent lunchtime fixture in the staffroom at my last school. I was also getting the bus to school, which meant more interaction with Bristol and it's very funny graffiti artists.

The official school reunion took place. We had tours of the upper and lower school. Couldn't get over how small the lower school was, of course.

Fun to find books in the cupboards that had our names in.

We attended Mr Z's cousin's 25th wedding anniversary near Chessington. We saw Sian and Simon for breakfast the morning after, next door to our palatial Premier Inn.


(I must have started this blog post in October. It's quite detailed.)

Tutt and I went to hear some classical music: St George's hall, Bristol Classical Players: Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture, Mozart' concerto for flute and harp and Beethoven's 7th symphony.

I went to Portsmouth, and then Southampton for a teaching conference, and stayed over with my Uncle and Aunt in their new flat.

This was the view from the train, not their flat.

The week before half term I went to see Akram Khan's Giselle with Parpy Jo. We had a lovely sushi dinner. The ballet was surreal, but fantastic. We didn't really know what was going on but that didn't really matter.

In half term, I lounged around quite a lot. At the start of the week Mr Z and I made it to Westonbirt to see the autumn foliage - gorgeous and worth every penny.

In the middle of the week, I went to Devizes to see Jen and her family who were glamping. I took her daughters out to Avebury for the day, with Vikki and her daughters. I now know how to use a collapsible potty (not personally, of course).

At the end of the week, Mr Z caught noro virus, so I went to the Hallowe'en party at Ben and Kirsty's without him, and stayed in the Premier Inn we'd booked, without him. This was only partially because I'd pre-paid it.

I dressed as an Ofsted inspector. I had a clipboard and stickers saying "Outstanding", "Requires Improvement" and so on. It was a bit of a flat joke because nobody else there was a teacher, but oh well.


I started the month leaning over the toilet in the early hours of the 1st, dealing with my first brush with noro virus. Urgh. I had to have two days off work, then the Thursday was an odd day with lots of school traditional events going on ahead of founder's day on the Friday. So this week was a bit of a write off.

However, I was then able to hotfoot it up to London early on Friday and get my hair cut, then have a long dinner with my new exam board boss ahead of our kick start meeting for the new qualification on the Saturday. In the evening I saw my old school friends Zoe and Leila, for fireworks, dinner and cocktails.

At the end of the month I went to Bath Christmas markets on opening night, a now obligatory tradition. If you like the idea of the markets but hate the crush, I recommend opening night, when it's fairly quiet and you can slurp your mulled wine in peace.

As usual, I went with work friends, but unlike them I did not have an inset day the next day, so having just wine for dinner was a slight error.


I am having a bit of a memory blank. I know there was Stourhead with Mother Hand after Christmas.

There were some very good sunrises.

...but if I ruminate on it any more, it will be 2018 before I get this published, so that's that. I'll leave you with a couple of videos. Vikki introduced me to Dubsmash and I introduced her to Snapchat, and I enjoyed our little shares and conversations, before she deleted both apps.

This filter made whining about school positively fun. 

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