Tuesday 31 December 2019

2019: Part 4

Now fully back into the swing of things at work, in spite of this, October had some nice events. The very first day was a trip to Drudle Door, in my new role as Head of Geog. And excellent reason to have that job.

Mr Z and I spent the second weekend of the month camping with the DofE crowd. My group gave me additional grey hairs; his were a dream, of course. It was fine all day but then rained all night, and it turns out that our silly festival tent from several years ago isn't waterproof, as we discovered at 3am. Mr Z considered going outside to put the gazebo up over the tent but I convinced him to just throw the tarp over our sleeping bag and we'd go back to sleep, a decision I regretted an hour later, when he turned over, disturbing the tarp, and I got a faceful of freezing rainwater. This whole drama played out to the accompaniment of a thumping drum'n'bass soundtrack, courtesy of some party somewhere distant, that went on until 8am. It wasn't what you'd call a relaxing night of camping, tbh.

The following weekend was much more pleasant, as I went off to Devon on Thursday night, spoke at an inset on Friday, spent two nights with my old friend Amanda and went to a party in honour of one of her friends, drove around Dartmoor for a bit getting lost and watching the rain and met my friend Caroline and saw her new house. A very pleasant time. Then it was back for an exam board meeting...less nice, but then less than a week to half term.

I spent the first weekend of half term in London, attending a nerdy teacher event on the Saturday, doing a nerdy history visit to Elizabeth I's lost dress at Hampton Court on the Sunday, and combining the two for a nerdy history teacher event on the Monday, which was a focus group, for which I was paid. A lovely little break, that was.

(Lost dress just about visible in the background)

At the end of half term I spent some time recording a new podcast I've launched with another nerdy history teacher. So far it seems popular.

I blogged so much in November, you must be bored of hearing about it. It was a relatively quiet month. There was knitting. There was working. I gave blood. I played Trump in the silly staff play. I went to Friday club a couple of times, for a change. I mostly worried about how I would make it through a busy December, and tried to prepare.

What a whirlwind the month has been! Even if I hadn't made the decision to gracefully fail to meet my target of 127 posts for the year, I don't think I would have made it.

The month started with the ubiquitous visit to the Bath Christmas markets with Caroline and Vikki. Mulled wine was quaffed. Puddings were bought. Dinner was eaten. Work was complained about. All pretty standard.

Also in this week I had a ski meeting and a hustings at school, and then at the weekend I flew off to see Jen in Edinburgh, where I promptly came down with a cold and spent most of the weekend wanting to be asleep. Not a good way to start yet another eye-wateringly busy week, this one ending in a mentor meeting at the uni on election day, the carol service, a sad, empty, post-election mood and a visit to Hampton Court with 50 lovely students...

(felt like this though)

...and then a catch up with Sib and Sib-in-law (so pregnant she almost couldn't walk), a hair cut, some Christmas shopping and a really fun party in Twickenham to celebrate Burhan's birthday, at which I took no pictures because there were too many interesting people to talk to. 

And then it was week 3 which was just as frantic but only filled with nice things, really. Monday night was Christmas evening in with Kath and Jo. Tuesday night was the work Christmas do...

...Caribbean buffet and all the rum punch we could drink. Winner. Then skiing!

With lots of cheese.

And then back for Christmas.

And since then it's just been sitting around, relaxing, trying not to think about the work I need to do. The new niece has been born and I'm off to Belfast for the first weekend of 2020, but then London for the second weekend, to meet her. Happy New Year, everyone!

(Yes, I fully cheated and wrote this after new year, but it's my blog, so...)

2019: Part 3

Time for the picture heavy months...

As per usual, I hurtled into the end of term feeling completely unprepared for the holiday. We appointed a new history teacher - my first choice, hurrah. We waved goodbye to some beloved colleagues; I did a song and dance to C'est La Vie by B*witched in front of the whole staff. A classic moment. I went to Leeds for the history conference as usual, but this year it didn't coincide with the end of term boat party, which meant I was able to go, drink and be merry.

Bye bye Naomi, you are missed.

The rest of the month involved a few fun things: a party at Naomi's to drink her leftover booze, a trip to Highclere for a picnic and a nose around Downton Abbey...

And we adopted this little pair of snuggers. So cute. They are so much bigger now, obvs. 

I also went back to London to finish off my teaching fellowship: it was great to catch up with the other people taking part. There was lots of exam work too, naturally.

Mr Z and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary at the Pig near Bath. A fantastic meal, definitely recommended.

I began the month with a birthday barbecue, on a Monday, not really considering that most of the people I'd invited (the family Z) were working the next day. Fun was had regardless. The next day, Mother Hand and I flew to Copenhagen for a little break. It was beautiful, expensive, not hot and very welcoming. I went and did yoga outside the hothouse in the botanic gardens. We ate lots of delicious Scandinavian-style breads and meatballs. I knitted and read a lot.

This was definitely my favourite Copenhagen statue. I mean...what one earth is going on?

This building houses the crown jewels but I put a picture of it on Facebook and said it was our AirBnB and some people believed me, awks.

No sooner had I returned from northern Europe, I flew to southern Europe with Zoe. That holiday could best be summed up with these pictures -

We swam in the sea, ordered cocktails on the private beach, went to the spa, explored the island a bit, went on some boat trips, jumped off the boat and generally had a very relaxing time. The weather was predictably glorious and I reflected that I hadn't spent time just sitting on a beach not doing anything for a number of years too large to remember. It was a tonic, even if I did have to do little bits of work while I was there. Already looking forward to our next one....hopefully Costa Rica in the summer.

August ended with the Downs festival. My friend Lizzy took my extra ticket and we went to see Neneh Cherry, Grace Jones and Lauryn Hill perform. We also went on the chair-o-planes. A fantastic end to the summer.

Grace Jones, bionic woman. She was incredible.

September began with a trip to Portsmouth to see Mother Hand getting baptised in the sea, and then school began again. I had to leave my school to do some training at our sister school for part of the first day, for which I had to wear formal dress - UGH. I am still bitter about it. In the end I just put a jacket and some heels with a playsuit and called it formal, I think I got away with it.

Then we were into the new term maelstrom so not much happened for the rest of the month. I went to see David Olusoga speak at the Gloucester History festival with Charlotte and Marianne...

Truth, he nearly fell on me coming around the desk to take this picture with me. So close.

There was another Flock gathering. Another nerdy history group meeting. I submitted some more papers to the exam board (I do NOT like it when this process is timed to coincide with the start of the school year). My pictures reveal that I fell over running for a bus, which I do remember but I can't remember why I was out late on a Monday night - very curious. I guess we'll never know.

2019: Part 2

April was lots of fun. It started in London with a teaching fellowship, at which I met lots of lovely people and was able to really immerse myself in the teaching of a particular topic. Loved the geeking out and the amazing input we had from academics, as well as the Caribbean food we were treated to.

From there I went to see Zoe, staying at her place for the first time (long story), going for a wander around the Tate Modern and booking a summer holiday to Malta. Then I had a few days at home before it was back up to London for flying away on a free teacher trip to Alabama - undoubtedly the freebie of the decade. The tour company who took us has launched a new trip there and wanted reviewers. It was just a quickie - Saturday to Tuesday - but we packed in loads of stuff around Birmingham and Montgomery, and I am desperate to get a school trip out there, if only I could convince the senior team that I'm not taking on too much. I knew two of the people on the trip already and the other two have become friends. It's become trite to say one is 'so blessed' but, really, I am.

I mean...this is Martin Luther King's pulpit, for crying out loud. For a history teacher, it rarely gets this good.

The month closed, as always, with another trip to Wonderwool, staying in a bunkhouse with fantastic views and hanging out with the usual lovely bunch of people, plus a few newbie lovely people.

The installation this year was gulls.

Yep, April was a good month.

The first few weeks of May were overtaken by the sprint to the exams. There were a few 'drinks after work' nights out and, in the last week of the term, some momentous news from some colleagues that they were moving on that has had a big impact on my working life this year. I waved goodbye to three teaching groups. We bought a new table and chairs at home. I managed to get somebody round to quote for building in the understairs furniture.

In half term, Mother Hand and I went back to the same spa hotel we visited the previous October, only this time I remembered to book the tour of the Bombay Sapphire distillery. It was a relaxing couple of days.

Then it was back to Bristol for a trip to the Caribbean restaurant and some cocktails. Naomi was an excellent events organiser and I miss her ability to pick a date and get everybody to agree to it. I've certainly had a lot more nights out since I started working in Bristol.

After the fun and laughter of April and May, June was a bit of a bump back down to earth, as the exam machine rolled into action. It was a lot better than 2018, I have to say, which is just as well - 2018 made me considerably greyer and I'm not convinced I could have coped with another summer like it. 2019 was my year to be completely slated by my peers on social media for asking questions they didn't like (of course they didn't know it was me, but I took to reading the comments with a large glass of wine as my evening's entertainment). I managed to get a hotel with a swimming pool for the meetings and went swimming first thing every morning, which certainly improved my mood. And I took all my assistants to see Six.

At the end of the month it was the usual school prom shenanigans and summer fayre. I invited some teachers for interview at the start of July. Naomi got a job and my role for this academic year changed accordingly - hello, head of geography. The term wound down. The year was half over.

2019: Part 1

The year began in Vegas, making a Boston Cream Pie for my step-sib Alex and hanging out with Max for what would be, as it turned out, the last time, since he sadly woofed his last in the autumn.

The rest of January seems to have been fairly uneventful. I went to London for the usual history meeting. We had the usual Bristol history meeting. There was a night out with Naomi, Rachael and Xanna for pho and cocktails which ended in Hotel du Vin with us sharing an enormous cigar - this seemed wise at the time but I felt like I'd been kicked in the chest the next day. Mr Z smoked things in his new smoker. I ran a successful history pub quiz with my friend Rich. We packed out the pub, even though we made it fiendishly difficult.

As all good Februarys do, this one began with a snow day - bliss - and I didn't have to spend the whole of it chained to my computer, writing a book - double bliss. I did have other jobs to do but they weren't quite so onerous. I am absolutely determined to stop saying yes to things next year. Even my line manager has suggested I should stop putting my hand up.

I went back to London for some training and at some point out for cocktails at Browns with Jo, Ali and Kath. Then it was time for SKIING again!

This year we stayed in St Martin am Tennengebirge and skied in the Gosau region. The town has its own, deserted nursery slope, were we spent the first and last day (the last day it rained so it was quite miserable). Notable moments included falling off the t-bar with Rachael and having to roll over the off-piste to get back; the bus breaking down and having to get the public bus; Ruby's Stella McCartney ski suit and losing her phone; the infamous swimming pool incident that almost led to a phone call to the police; having Carl and Rhys as our drivers again; getting stuck in a tunnel on the way back because there was a fire on top of it; Alex being too ill to ski one day; and the tubing. The tubing was amazing! So much fun.

I honestly cannot remember a time when I have ever screamed like that but it was definitely required.

February after skiing was a little flat, as usual.

March was a good month for parties. It started in the pub with an ex-colleague, Emily, back visiting from Canada. Then there was Rachael's house-warming party, which produced a 10-year drunk for me - I danced so much my skirt literally fell off; I was very sick; I fell asleep on the bathroom floor; I stumbled back to Naomi's and was sick there too; I had something approaching a hangover the next day (I don't really get hangovers). I also visited Sheffield and went to a Take That tribute band with Jen and her friends. Sadly did not drink enough to make that enjoyable.

I also presented at a big conference towards the end of the month, whilst in Sheffield, on the theme of diversity in the curriculum, which made me more nervous than I can ever remember being before. Plus I went to a superb lecture by Professor Hazel Carby and the Matthew Bourne production of Swan Lake, so it wasn't all raucous drinking.

A fair amount of raucous drinking was done, though. Go me.

Monday 30 December 2019

2019: The Year in Knitting

I have really rediscovered my knitting mojo this year. After a dismal showing last year (tbf I was really busy) and the year before (no excuse) I have managed to knit up more than both years combined in this year. Go me!

I have just FO'd the Volt, last Friday - pictures to come tomorrow, hopefully. I need to block it but I am putting it off.

More than half of my projects this year were for somebody else, which is a change. I have enjoyed new challenges like the picot beaded edging, steeking, colourwork socks and crochet. It was good to get the diatom shawl kit out of my stash, finally.

Much like this time last year, I am seeing the new year in with a stripey 4-ply Isabelle Kraemer jumper - this time I'm working on Ravello in some blue tweed I bought in Copenhagen in the summer, matched with some blue tweed I bought at Wonderwool coughcough years ago. Hopefully I will be able to beat my 2019 yardage in 2020. I'd really like to finish up some of the long-term projects I've been working on, too.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Sunday Selfie

I spent the weekend in Edinburgh with my friend Jen. Her older daughter, Abi, taught me how to use Tik Tok. Her younger daughter, Isla, kept me amused by being generally hilarious all weekend long.

She'd had reindeer facepaint but kept rubbing her face. Small person problems. 

Flying to Edinburgh and back was supereasy and I can see myself doing it lots more in the future. I have, however, got some horrible sinus cold to contend with now. Hoping this is my usual Christmas illness getting out of the way before I go skiing. 

Sunday 1 December 2019

Sunday Selfie

I got some new glasses. I wanted some this shape and sent Mr Z and Mother Hand pictures of the options; then I picked the pair they didn't prefer anyway, because I liked them better. Mr Z says I look very waspy. I am enjoying feeling like a 1950s office worker.

Weekend WIP

The Volt is starting to look close to finished!

It's the most 80s shape and design imaginable. I'm looking forward to the sleeves going on and seeing how this will change the neckline.

On Saturday I managed to finish the back, shape the back shoulders, three-needle-bind-off the front and backs together, and pick up and knit the neckband. Now I need to sew the side seams and pick up and knit the sleeves. I've got one full ball and a partial ball - maybe a quarter, maybe a third - left, so not loads and therefore, in theory, shouldn't take too long. The problem is that it is now quite bulky and difficult to tote around with me. I might not be able to drag it on the plane to Edinburgh next weekend.

Late in the day edit to say: I have now sewed the side seams and picked up for the sleeves. I'm taking the bus to work tomorrow so might drag it with me for the long journey to Bath after school for the Christmas markets but, as I said - bulky. We'll see.

Weeknote: 1/12

I've made some great progress on the Volt - see my WIP post, but here was me trying it on before I'd done the neckband, at Flock yesterday.

I have been plotting a new small cardigan for the new niece, using up some Lorna's Laces I've got, so it has been killer not casting it on this week because I reckon it will be really speedy.

Going to:
Not many places this week. Still trying to keep my head down before ultra-busy December.

I went to dinner at the Spaghetti Incident on Stokes Croft on Friday night - fantastic food and cocktails, though you'd likely walk past it without thinking much about it, as it doesn't show off from the outside. Then we went to 51 for a drink and I felt all nostalgic about going there with my old school friend Beccy, who I haven't seen for a couple of years now, thanks to her residence in Australia.

Yesterday was a knitting day and we went on the Flock afterwards, though I left early so we could pick up our Christmas tree. Sorry, not sorry. I don't care that it's early. It's sitting in the back garden for now but will be brought in and decorated soon.

I finally went back to a yoga class after school, on Tuesday. It has been a long time getting back on a weeknight and it may be a while before I can do it again, but I have done it once and that's once more than before.

Entertained by:
Similar to last week - continuing with the same books. Enjoying the Apprentice a bit more now that there are fewer candidates and they all get a bit more screentime to look inept. This week led to an idle conversation about a product to sell to Lord Sugar if one was to take part in a series and I managed to think of one, so perhaps that is my route to being on Strictly.

I've been listening to a podcast series from the BBC; the first one was Murder at the Lucky Holiday Hotel and it was put together and narrated by Carrie Gracie. The second series is Phillippe Sands on the Ratline. I think it's called Refinery 29; worth a look, as the episodes are only 20ish minutes long.

Accomplished - I moved along three trips (two abroad) at school this week and managed to get through a fair whack of my to do list - but also daunted by December. It's a fairly even balance of work and social things, so I shouldn't feel like this, but I do love a lazy weekend at home and there won't be one now for a long time.