Saturday 24 September 2022

Weeknote 38

It's been a minute. 


The start of term has hit me with the usual force of an oncoming train. This year I'm heading the Geography team while my (excellent and well-trained) colleague runs History. This is weird and not quite properly settled yet. I spent much of my school time this week scheduling field trips and completing risk assessments. 

Out of school, I managed to get a pause on the post-results exam board work because Mother Hand is not well and I asked for last weekend off, which they translated as the whole week. I'm not mad about it. I have enough else to do. A new round of papers has been commissioned; I'm finishing up work on chapters for two different books (one I'm not getting paid for, why do I keep doing this); and that scary job I was ignoring in the early spring is still hanging over me. 

In short: normally I get to half term with a strong feeling I want to quit basically everything and get a nice job in a library or something. I reached that point at the end of last week. Make it stoooooooppppp.


I saw the trainer as usual this week although my achilles is still bothering me after I hurt it on holiday by wearing a shoe...a trainer, at that. I didn't fall, or twist, or run. I simply wore the shoe for a day's walking and that was nearly 2 months ago. Problems of the old. Anyway - I am somewhat limited in what I can do (no shuttle runs, how sad). I bunked of yoga to go to a meeting I then bunked off. But I did go to the quarry for the nightlight swim on Thursday. It was chilly but this is rapidly becoming a bright spot of my week: what a shame that this coming week will probably be the last time I can make it this year. Picture from the swim a couple of weeks ago. It's even better now it's darker, but basically impossible to photograph, of course. 


I don't know if I can count it but I have found this ridiculously addictive game on my phone that has taken up a disturbing amount of my time this week. It's like Tetris but not. You have to fill a grid with different-sized pieces to get them in lines or blocks. I'm obsessed. I may have to delete it from my phone. It's not even an actual game - it's a side game within a logic problems game. 

I FINALLY finished rewatching all of ER - an epic marathon that has taken over a year. I am not sure where to go next. There's so much to watch that has built up all this time I've been watching it. And now Strictly is back too. 

I couldn't face reading anything serious so I've been rereading the teen fiction Alanna series. It is probably five years since the last time I reread it, so that's about right. I also finished listening to Akala's Natives on audiobook. In spite of his liberal overuse of the work literally, there was a lot to meditate on and I really enjoyed it. I always think audiobooks are better when they're narrated by their authors.

I baked some new-to-me cakes this week: redcurrant friands, for a colleague's birthday. They were interesting because they used only whipped egg whites as a rising agent. The method involved whipping up the egg whites and then bunging in a load of melted butter. I was convinced this would not work, but they came out beautifully. I should trust Lily Vanilli recipes more: I also thought her brownie recipe would not work but they come out perfect every time. 

A small amount of knitting was done. I am still working on the same jumper I cast on in December. I feel like I'm letting myself down. 


Generally just quite overwhelmed. I'm putting it down to the new term and Mother Hand being back in hospital, which is pretty awful but has afforded me two visits to Portsmouth and the beach so far this month, so has a silver lining. I even saw a seal during my first visit: the first one ever in Portsmouth (I'm telling everyone at least twice, I was so astonished). I went for a brief ramble around Farlington Marshes last weekend, inspired by reading Phillipa Gregory's Tidelands which is set in a similar environment just along the coast. 

It's hard to stay all in your own feelings when the world is out there being so beautiful all the time. 

Sunday 29 May 2022

Wonderwool 2022

Look, we had a good run of weekly posts, I lasted nearly 3 months, but it's just not me, is it? Who would I be if I kept you regularly updated, rather than disappearing for months at a time, leaving you wondering if the work pile finally fell on me and crushed me to death, or if I won the Euromillions jackpot and am off living a life of luxury?

So anyway, yes, lots of things have happened in the past two months, but I'm here to talk about Wonderwool. This was my 10th visit to Wonderwool and the 8th spending the whole weekend there. It was both epically exciting and very nerve-wracking to be back in those great halls with what felt like half of the nation's fibre enthusiasts. Old friends were seen and masks were worn. Favourite stalls were visited (fivemoons, Birdstreet, Brimstone buttons) and others much missed (especially Triskelion) - there were some significant holes in the programme this time and I fear they weren't all last-minute covid cancellations. There was no scotch egg man and the fancy pastry place AND the ice cream van both sold out of my favourites before I could get to them. 

But still, it happened. It finally happened. We stayed in the 2018 bunkhouse in Brecon Forest, a booking that we had made back in 2019 for the 2020 show that was cancelled. It was particularly lovely that the weekend fell at the end of the Easter break this year, so we managed to squeeze in a walk around the Four Waterfalls trail on the way there. Hilly but glorious. 

Now to the yarn. I tried very hard to be restrained, I really did. I just kept thinking about all the yarn I had at home and how I have now been knitting the same 4-ply jumper for 5 months and it's still not finished. But...pretty. So much pretty. 

Clockwise from the top red:
  • Two skeins of Woolly Wumpkins (new to me) merino 4-ply in Bouquet for Mummy. The colour has a bit more variegation in it than can be seen in the picture, it's a really banging red. 
  • Ten skeins of fivemoons Luna 4-ply in Drizzle. This as in the sale bin, expertly pointed out to me by Jenny, and will do at least two jumpers. Maybe three, if I stripe it. It will go so well with that red. I'm thinking it will also work with the rainbow gradient I bought back in 2018. I sense a lot of stripes in my future. 
  • Four skeins of fivemoons Chandra in Black Cat. To go with...
  • Sealy McWheely (also new to me) Silver Linings minis. There are eight different colours blended with grey. The dyer explained that she had done it to represent coming out of covid - a bit of bright in the grey. I couldn't decide which colour I liked best, so I bought the minis. I have a pattern picked out already - Tiny Dancer
  • Two skeins of yellowish, one from Urth Yarns and one from Riverknits. I have some dark red 4-ply from Bristol Wool Fair and I'd like to knit a Hinterland in it, with the colourwork in yellow. I bought the Urth first and then saw the Riverknits. Hopefully one will work. Maybe even both. 
It didn't seem too bad until I input it into Ravelry and realised it is 5,500m odd. Essentially four or five more sweaters. I really had better retire.

Of course there were a few buttons -

I'm obsessed with that MoP star, I need to find something really special to put that on. The ladybirds are for my niece, they will do a great cardigan for her. Yknow, in my copious free time. 

I'll leave you with the obligatory wool bunny picture. 

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Weeknote 10? 11? 12?

I jinxed myself, didn't I, by saying that last week I wrote about wasn't busy. Two days after that last post, the inspectors called, but we successfully put them off due to covid absences, which seemed good but actually just meant a prolonged stress period, where we knew they were coming but not when. I found myself in the happy position of having everything marked that needed to be marked and thus dropped that resolution like a hot potato, something I am now deeply regretting. So here's the bumper edition...


Isn't it funny how an inspector visit can sharpen the focus? Displays I've had waiting in the wings for years went up. Curriculum documents that had been open tabs on my work laptop since November suddenly found themselves well and truly spruced. Student profiles left dusty since September found themselves squinting into the light. Line management meetings moved from cosy chats to laser focus. 

Alongside this, I started the online modules and buddy meetings for the professional qualification I'm undertaking, which almost seemed like a nice break. 

They came last week for two days but didn't scrutinise anything on my line, so it was a fairly quiet couple of days for me. Actually a fairly pleasant couple of days, because my lessons were far more meticulously planned than usual and so I wasn't scrabbling around at lunchtime for a starter activity or a bunch of photocopies. I had a good conversation about curriculum with one for 45 minutes, which was interesting and positive for me. Now I guess we will just wait to see what happens. 

In other work news, I've been finishing the third drafts of my papers, ready for our committee meetings; gently worrying about the status of my two quite abstract big jobs that I am struggling to get started with; doing some reading around for them; preparing for the summer exam series from an examiner point of view; fighting with the exam board about their demands on my time, and winning. I actually said no to them this week, even though I feel terrible about it. 


I have been to the gym and lifted as heavy as I can. Twice. Twice!

I've been to my trainer sessions, obviously, and to a yoga session which was much needed after a particularly heavy glute session. 

And last weekend, I went swimming in the quarry. The quarry looked gorgeous; it was a bright and sunny day. The quarry water was 8.5 degrees. The outward swim was fine, with the wind behind me, but I did not enjoy the return swim, with the wind slapping the water into my face. It was so cold that I started to get intrusive doom thoughts - supposing a huge monster is lurking down there and is about the come up and grab me (I was the only one in the water); supposing my toes are getting frost-bitten and when I get out of the water they are black; should my fingers be tingling like this? I'm sure I've been in the water for too long; I must stop this swim immediately right now (not a possibility at the quarry, where there is only one entrance/exit point). 

Trust me when I say - the hat was not overkill. 

Still, I made it back. When I got out, I actually felt pretty warm, but after drying and dressing, my body felt cold for a couple of hours (body, not limbs...weird). I was wearing my wetsuit, which has no legs, so this seemed to be odd. 


Yeah, that just hasn't really happened. I'm reading a book I'm not really enjoying and for some reason, I'm not interested in picking up my jumper to knit. I finally watched series 1 of The Outlaws, filmed in Bristol, which I enjoyed hugely, although I found it quite heavy to watch. 

This past weekend I went on a little jolly, something combining work with the hobby of travel. I went to Manchester for a teaching event. I spoke at said event a few years ago. I have to admit (this makes me feel like a huge snob) that I don't get masses of professional development out of it; I am at that jaded point in my career now where almost everything people share at this particular event feels like a reminder of something good that I have been forgetting to do, or something I already do, or something I don't think is worth doing. Still, I like hanging out with the folks that go and so I booked myself a tres fancy hotel in the centre of Manchester, with a spa, and had very good breakfasts and a sauna and swim on Saturday morning. And some of the speakers were very good; I just could have seen them from the comfort of my hotel bed, if I'd thought about it. 

Going back to Manchester is always weird. I'm always trying to figure out if I remember anything about my surroundings from my visits in the 90s. It's like I expect to turn a corner and be confronted by something that sparks a memory. I doubt I ever go anywhere that I went back then; indeed, I'm pretty sure the only place I ever went in actual Manchester was the station, which looks similar but different. In spite of that, I do find myself getting a little overwhelmed with memories of turn-of-the-century Sally. Turn-of-the-century Sally would have been overwhelmed to be staying at the Midland though, tbf, so we're probably even. 

If we're counting travelling as hobbying then there have been some good developments on that front. I've got a weekend in Portsmouth coming up this weekend, then a week of skiing, then a weekend in Wales (finally WONDERWOOL!), then another weekend in Wales, camping in Snowdonia. Mother Hand has booked us something nice for May half term and I've just booked flight to Edinburgh for June, so I can see for myself how late it stays light around the solstice. Zoe has booked us some travel to Spain in August: we're getting the ferry to Santander, driving the pilgrim route and then flying home from Porto. I'm quite giddy at the thought of it all. 


All very springlike, tbh. My mood has lifted. I feel upbeat and positive. I've got much to be thankful for and much to look forward to. Hibernation is no longer the order of the day; today I actually cleaned something. Bring on the warmer weather and the good vibes. 

Sunday 6 March 2022

Weeknote 9


It has not been the busiest of weeks, I must say. The 20 minutes of marking a day had to cease at the end of the week because, incredibly, I ran out of marking. I know. How? It's amazing. The marking has, of course, started to come in again and the discipline requirement will shift slightly to focus on doing it without an imminent deadline, but that's a problem for next week. 

I did some paper redrafting and a very small amount of reading for other projects - not enough, but at least some. I have these two meaty projects needing my attention that I just keep parking because I am not yet sure how to break them down into stages. I've never considered this as a cause of procrastination before, either because my projects are usually broken down into stages for me or because I've never been willing to examine the procrastination properly. I suppose that when I was writing the teaching book, it took me over 12 months just to write the chapter outline - probably longer than it took to write the whole thing - and that was mainly because I was the one who had to make the decisions, rather than writing to someone else's plan. 

What to do? It would be easy to pass it off as imposter syndrome but it's not. Nor is it a lack of productivity. It's more a lack of experience in formulating a plan, I guess. Something for me to consider in the coming week, when those plans really better get done or I am going to start to feel stressed and agitated. 


I had a day at Tamworth snowdome which was some pretty hefty exercise (and also comes under the category of Working, because it was a refresher for a ski course). I haven't been to Tamworth on a weekday before and it was refreshing to find it almost empty and with plenty of space for doing the necessary training and picking up some tips from the coach. 

The day left me a bit stiff for my visit to the trainer on Thursday but it was good to get back into the gym and I had high hopes of a weekend visit as well, but then came down with a minging cold that has kept me in bed most of the weekend. It's not covid - I tested and it isn't similar to what I had before - but it has floored me. Either it's a particularly virulent strain or my immune system is completely wrecked from two years of isolating. 


Basically no hobbying occurred this week. I did some reading, of Alison Weir's Six Wives: Katherine of Aragon. It's good but I should probably have read it before I taught the Tudors at A-level for six years, because the story is super-detailed but they're mostly details I already know, so it feels a bit wordy for me. There are some interesting asides in there that I wasn't aware of, to be fair. I just wish I was reading something else.

Something else did arrive this weekend in the form of Jerry Brotton's This Orient Isle, looking at the relationship between Elizabethan England and the Islamic world, which I am looking forward to getting my teeth into, but it's hardly bedtime reading. 

I've been playing around with my new phone but it's a bit half-hearted. I really miss my old phone. I'm still considering getting a new battery and reverting to it, but that would be a chronic waste of a brand new fancy phone. 

We finally finished Super Mario for the Switch so have started all over again, naturally. 

Entertained by:

I haven't done much TV watching, either. Today I binged the series Close To Me, that I had saved on the TV box, which was OK but probably would have been better spread out over a few weeks (or viewed when not feeling like a phlegm-producing sawmill). 


Fine, until I was overcome by the cold of doom. Thankfully it does seem to be lifting. 

Sunday 27 February 2022

Weeknote 8

I'm amazed I forgot to weeknote last weekend. I had so many witty things to say, after school got cancelled on Friday because of Storm Eunice and our senior team told us to set only distance work involving revision; I only had exam classes to teach that day anyway, so it was a speedy process. I spent Friday tying up loose ends and finishing my paper setting, so I had the whole weekend free. But here we are, a week later. I was pretty fixated on the intricacies of the ski holiday, to be fair. It was weirdly stressful going away for the first time in such a long, long time. Two years since the last skiing and the last time out of the country! Unbelievable. 

I won't go back and recreate, because the last week of term was a predictable whirlwind, even with one day fewer. I did catch a second wind, happily, so it wasn't as grim as the previous week, and I managed to get quite a lot done, in terms of work. I had my mid-year appraisal and my LM was very lovely to me. Winner. 

This week..


Barely a dot of it. I came into half term with my lowest marking load ever, thanks to the 20 minutes resolution. I had intended to get it all finished in my Friday frees but, since Friday was all free, naturally I did not. So, this weekend I have finished off some Y12 essays and done some revisions on my papers, ready for round 2. A bit of non-school admin work; check the school emails for anything important; do some planning for the biggish jobs that are coming up this term. In the past week I have done a little A-level reading, though not really enough. It's been very lazy. Bliss.


Three solid days of skiing counts as pretty good exercise to me!


I finished Cloud Atlas which very quickly went from being a bit of a slog to something I couldn't stop reading. It wasn't an easy read: I couldn't speed through much before bedtime and some of it gave me nightmares, but I loved it. I watched the film version last night, because I was interested to see how they managed to wrap it into a film-length chunk. The answer - not well, but they shifted the main focus of the book to be about love and relationships. Everything ends up the same way, just with different routes there. Still, I am very glad I read the book before seeing the film, as it would have ruined it. 

I took hexagons away to knit, but did not knit any. Very little crafting happened this week. 


We spent Monday-Friday in Les Carroz. It's the same place I went skiing with Rachael and a few others from school in December 2019. This time there was a lot more snow and so everything was open. The other two were complete beginner and very inexperienced, respectively, so I spent the week bombing around the trails on the Villages lift pass rather than venture over to Flaine. It was lovely. I love a trail and it was so pretty and relaxing to ski about, taking pictures, listening to the snow melt out of the trees, enjoying the sunshine and not feel pressure to cover x amount of pistes or go as fast as possible. I attempted to relax a bit about timings: I'm so used to getting out for the first lift that it felt weird to hang back, but had to keep reminding myself that it was a holiday and not a time to force myself to do anything I didn't want to. I extended that to the final day, when I didn't ski but instead, had a nice breakfast and sat in the sun with my book. Blissful. 

We also went to the Aquacime for a much-needed spa and swim halfway through the week, coincidentally on the day of the ski show, so we were treated to a firework display through the steam of the outdoor pool, which we had entirely to ourselves. Just amazing. What a week. 

Six weeks until the next one...


Very relaxed and looking forward to the next term. I've got a few interesting things happening and the term ends a day early, thanks to the extra day for the Jubilee, so it is likely to feel very short after the 7-week whopper we've just dragged ourselves through. 

Sunday 13 February 2022

Weeknote 6


Honestly, this week has been really hard. It's the slightly harder timetable week and then there was a parents' evening - my busiest since pre-covid, fully booked with a waiting list of 12 - on Thursday. I went in on Friday having had to talk myself into it, because I was not sure I had three lessons in me, and got clobbered by a cover. I had to go to the reflection space and just be alone so I could smooth my emotions. It was messy. The post-Friday planning of the ski holiday and catch up with friends not seen in a long time was happily a tonic. 

On top of that there's the setting, which is going OK, just a bit left to do. 

On the plus side, the 20 minutes of marking a day has put me in a really good position for half term. I have two class sets of things left to clear, with another class set coming in on Wednesday, and that seems doable in the week ahead, along with the odds and ends on my list. This might mean I go into half term with no marking left to do! An absolutely unheard-of situation. It doesn't bode well for my resolution but it will be a treat not to have to take any marking away with me, assuming I actually get to France, please covid. 


I did my usual PT session, plus yoga on Wednesday which I weirdly enjoyed a lot (I don't really like yoga much unless it's bikram, is the sad fact of the matter) and then went to the gym yesterday. I was having my post-leg raise stretch in front of the machine and some kid on the machine next to me decided to come and ask me to move so he could use the machine I'd been on. I was incredulous. I was 10 seconds away from being finished. He was on the same type of machine I'd just vacated. Bad gym etiquette. I wish I had told him to wait. 

No gym or walk today because the weather is utterly dismal. 


Some more Milou, though not much. Knitting is not happening very much because of all the Switch we're still playing, but the Luigi version is now almost complete so that might change soon.

Cloud Atlas has now got really good so I am going to sleep too late due to reading it, something that is likely contributing to my low mood and general malaise. I am about halfway through. It took a while to get into it but I am really curious to see how it now works backwards from the end. 

Entertained by:

I finished watching Maid on Netflix - again, something else that might have contributed to feeling a bit sad this week. It was pretty harrowing stuff. 

I went for tea and cake with my friends Kate and Rich on Friday after school, which was great. I see Kate most weeks when she comes to do a bit of teaching at my school but I haven't seen Rich since May last year. Normally we meet at 7am for breakfast but, post-pandemic, none of the cafes near school open before 8 now. So, tea and cake it was. 

We also did a little ski trip planning in the pub on Friday, getting everything ready for the alleged trip next week. Everything is now booked and Kate and Rach went to their dry slope lesson after the pub, so get some practice in. I am just praying and crossing everything that I get that negative test next Sunday. It would be devastating to get this close and have it disappear. But on the plus side, the next trip is planned for the first week of the Easter break and at least if I got covid now, I would be very unlikely to get it again 6 weeks later. So all would not be lost.

I will keep telling myself that. 


I found this jar of cherry curd in Whole Foods when I was in London in October. Today I have combined it with Dan Lepard's chocolate custard muffins, a recipe I had completely forgotten about. 

So good. Like some kind of Black Forest dream. I will add chocolate ganache and a fresh cherry dipped in chocolate. Winner. 


It has not been an easy week. I have felt weirdly low and struggled to stay positive, which is most unlike me. The weekend of sleeping and doing very little seems to have helped, though. One more week until we get a break, and next term is shorter and will be lighter, and has four weeks where, for various reasons, I am not in every day. So, bring it all on. 

Sunday 6 February 2022

Weeknote 5


We're entering into a period of strategic planning at school, now that we have data for our exam classes. So this week has been about scrutinising, analysing and deciding on interventions, but also about picking up colleagues, looking out for people doing well and being encouraging. I've had some great work wins: a few lessons that went really well (so nice to be able to vary activities now that covid regulations are lifting) and some lovely feedback comments from other staff members. I've made a start on my next big piece of training, a course that will last a year. Things feel quite positive. 

The 20 minutes of marking is still going well and I have it down now: a few essays here and there and it all adds up. I've got my marking list down from a dizzying 13 items in the first week of term to 3 for next week. Naturally, more marking arrives and the list is never completed, but it feels a lot more manageable. I think this might be the first time in my career that I have not felt swamped by the marking. 

I've also been working on the next round of papers, still: two down, one to go. 


A small win today when I finally managed to get myself back to the gym for a session. I went heavy on quads as skiing is (theoretically, I am still unconvinced) two weeks away! That plus the PT session made it two for this week. I'm aiming for 3 next week. 


I've finished the decreases on Milou so I am about a third of the way through the body. She goes quick when I pick her up. 

I'm still plugging away with Cloud Atlas, but keep spying books I'd like to read that I think would go quicker; Rachael leant me Thursday Night Murder Club and I know that will be a tonic when I make a start on it, but I am being strict with myself for now. Half term is coming, there may be more reading time available then. 

The most common hobbying this week has been, of course, Super Mario, or specifically Luigi U. A lot of other things would be happening if I wasn't doing this but it is fun, a good distraction from work and something Mr Z and I can do together, so I am going to write that off as time well-spent.

Entertained by:

I went to the ballet with Rachael on Friday night, to see Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker. It was short for a ballet - less than two hours including interval - and not my favourite of his. I think I know the music too well and the dances did not quite fit with my perception of them: I still envisage plants and flowers, a la Fantasia, which I watched far too many times as a kid. But, it was colourful, well danced and the set was fantastic. Also it's just nice to be back at the theatre. 

This weekend I have watched a few more episodes of Maid on Netflix, which is enjoyable if a little depressing: the crushing difficulties people face when getting out of poverty are sobering. It jars quite painfully with the stories of parties and excess coming out about the government at the moment. 

I am still studiously ignoring Wordle...once I start, I will be hooked. I can't have another streak to protect. On Tuesday I left my phone at work and keeping my streaks alive was definitely a factor in my decision to drive back to school and get it. One of my streaks is over 3 years long: how depressing that I have not been parted from my phone service for that whole length of time. I cannot wait until we can start travelling properly again. 

I had breakfast with Phillipa this morning so that was fun. Always nice to catch up with old friends. 


A bit up and down, truth be told. I've had some really good days this week but also some really grumpy parts to days. I think I need to be spending more time outside, weirdly, because that always seems to perk me up these days. 

Sunday 30 January 2022

Weeknote 4


It has sure been a busy week of school work, and not a great deal else. I've spent a bit of time writing the next round of exam papers; this is very hard because they're not due for another few weeks, but I don't like having to spend a whole weekend straight on it, so I am trying to spread it out. I'm about halfway through. 

Schoolwork wise, I have managed to stay on the marking wagon, keeping up with 20 minutes a day, and this has helped me get through a couple of bigger jobs quicker than usual. 


I have not managed to get back on this wagon. I went to the usual PT session on Tuesday night but that was it, until today, when I forced myself to go out for a tramp around Warmley Forest Park in the last hour of sunlight. It was a gorgeous day and I was sad that I let it slip away while I worked, so I went for my usual 20 minute tramp and felt all the better for it. 

It made me reflect that I let the slip from 20 minutes a day last week continue: I myself made it an all-or-nothing thing, deciding to not bother at all anymore rather than just admitting I was overwhelmed and giving myself a few days of rest. So, next time I am gritting my teeth, trying not to break a streak, I am going to remember this (hopefully) and give myself a set number of days off.

Hence, this week I will be attempting to get back to the 20 minute a day habit. 


A bit more Milou has been knitted. It's going quite slowly, but that is mainly because Mr Z and I have still been playing a lot of Super Mario (the Luigi version) on the Switch. That is a lot of fun and I have the option to play as Toadette when it gets hard - she swims better and you get double the amount of time on the Luigi game, so it is just more fun. 

I've also had to stay in a bit more this week because Rachael, my friend, that I spent the weekend in belfast with, that I went to dinner with on Monday, tested positive first thing on Tuesday. So, it's been daily tests and a waiting game for me this week. I just keep going back to that dinner, where we both sat on the bench seat, turned towards each other, talking right into each other's faces. I can only pray that the antibodies from October, combined with the triple vax, will continue to hold out. So far it's staying negative.

This did mean I had to forego going to Flock this month, though, so a bit less knitting has been happening as a result. 

Having finished The Drowned City I have struggled to get in to something new, so I'm reading about three books now, to see which one wins. I've started Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I've had for so long unread that the pages are yellowing; What is History, Now? by Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb (editors) which is in nice, comfortable, shorter essays; and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, recommended to me on Twitter and picked up from the library because his The Book of Night Women is one of the best books I've ever read. If I can't get into Cloud Atlas this time then I might have to give it up and donate it. 

Entertained by:

On Monday I went to the theatre to watch Semmelweiss. I've had the ticket since January 2020, so it was a joy to finally get to see it - a premiere, no less. I was familiar with the story but it was told in the context of the thousands of women who were dying of childbed fever and being told it was their fault for thinking impure thoughts or being too happy or any amount of similar nonsense.  There was also a four-piece string quartet on the stage, wandering around (even the cellist) and some portions of dance, plus actors coming into the audience to participate. Oh and Mark Rylance was the lead. I've never seen anything like it before. They didn't pull their punches and I found myself on the edge of tears for much of it. I also think it had gained a certain edge being shown partway through a pandemic, that it wouldn't have had if it had gone ahead in June 2020 with no pandemic: the idea of handwashing; the division between scientific and anecdotal evidence; the bullish refusal to accept any responsibility. Just awesome. 


Generally just very tired this week. It was a late return from Belfast and then a late night on Monday, followed by two more late nights, staying up trying to plan and mark and get everything ready for the next day. The weekend has been extremely welcome and I've managed to spend some time cleaning the house, which has made me feel a lot calmer today, even though it took up a lot of time yesterday. But, lunches are prepped, a cake has been baked, all the washing is done and all the floors are clean, so at least I can feel calm in my surroundings this coming week. 

Plus I booked a travel antigen test, ready for going to France, and had a drink with my friend Kate after school one evening to chat about our impending ski trip...I can't actually believe it might be happening. Three weeks tomorrow! I might actually get to go skiing! Too exciting. 

Weeknote 3

The sharp-eyed among you will note that I did not publish this last weekend, but there was a lot going on, as you'll see if you keep reading. 


I had Monday at home for the usual exam board meeting that happens after the exams. Frustratingly, this was announced the previous Friday as starting at 2.30 and then pushed back to 3.45, so I could have potentially gone to school after all; but this is just how it is. The PGCE student taught all but one of my lessons and it meant that I got to spend a couple of hours in the morning interviewing next year's potential students alongside the university tutor, a new experience for me. It was fun. They were as hilariously naive as I was when I interviewed, when it came to presenting their lessons - oh, to be that uncynical now. 

On Friday I had an exciting email from the board, asking me to rework one of the units for which I am responsible, in response to the call for more diversity. This isn't an official project, yet, as there isn't any official change coming, but I think they're recognising that reacting only when change is announced and then racing to be the first to publish the new format does not result in a quality-first product. 

This will be a lot of work but it is essentially the reason why I wanted this exam board job in the first place, so it feels like a huge win. 

I almost kept up with the marking, but not quite. I did one short essay on Saturday and none on Friday or Sunday. I was away for the weekend, so Saturday and Sunday feel justified, but I am a bit annoyed at myself that I didn't make better use of my free lesson on Friday to do a bit then. 


I went to aquafit on Monday, found it boring; my PT on Tuesday; and then I let the resolution lapse. I was booked in to do a yoga on Wednesday but then it went Zoom only and I find online yoga classes pointless - I don't like having my camera on and inevitably find myself stopping for an illicit break and then spending the rest of the time staring at my phone. So I bunked that. Then cancelled aquafit on Thursday. Then was away all weekend. I don't feel bad about it. It was a necessary decision at the time. 


A little more Milou, though not much. 

I finished The Drowned City on the plane home. It was a slow starter but then drew me in: it employed that writing trope where the reader has most likely worked out the identity of the murderer but the main character, who is narrating the story in the first person, has not yet worked it out. So, then I had to keep reading until he figured it out too. I liked that it was set in Bristol and especially liked the descriptions of the marshy areas around the confluence of the two rivers, which are now lost until such a time as the earth decides to wrestle itself back from the concrete prison we created for it. 

Entertained by:

I finished The Coming Storm podcast and reflected that the divisions described in the Republican party sound a bit like those affecting the Labour party, although the politics is different. Some Republicans are appalled by the Q Anon crowd but they are more appalled by the though of the Democrats being in control. To those of us on the outside, it seems the right thing to do would be to fall on one's sword, split the party, spend a few years in the wilderness and come back with something better and closer to the original values. But I guess there is always the fear of which side will actually get to come back. Such is the bipartisan nature of our politics. Vive la democracy. 

I also took my first flight across the sea since December 2019 to visit Naomi in Belfast. She has a 9 month old daughter so we spent a lot of time hanging out with her, going on some walks and to some museums. We went to the Museum of Orange Heritage on Saturday and then the Museum of Ulster on Sunday, where I got to pose with an actual cannon from the actual Spanish Armada. 

The Museum of Orange Heritage was an interesting place, rich in lessons on how history is an interpretation and full of memorabilia from the Orange Order, which I had not realised grew out of Masonry but that now makes a lot of sense. 

We also went for a good walk up to Stormont and around the woodland nearby, had a roast, slept late, ate a couple of good Norn Iron breakfasts (three types of potato plus soda bread, total win for me) and generally had a very relaxing time. I appreciate anything that makes a weekend feel a week long and this was just the ticket. I was also very relieved to be able to go because I woke up on Friday with a blocked ear that felt very swollen and I was afraid I had an ear infection and shouldn't fly, but I think it must have just been wax. It's still a little blocked now but not sore. 


It was Maggie's birthday at work this week so I made a snickerdoodle cake. It was a huge hit and the whole thing was eaten in one day - this never happens, so that is high praise. 


Mostly just tired and unable to catch up with the sleep. A bit disappointed I failed in my resolutions when the going got even a little tough. I guess it is January and I should go easier on myself.

Sunday 16 January 2022

Weeknote 2


The 20 minutes of marking a day is, I can tentatively boast, a success so far. It means I have ended the week having cleared a couple of big marking jobs and in the mood to keep going because there is light at the end of the tunnel. I ticked 6 marking jobs off my list this week: this took longer than 20 minutes a day, but the expectation to do some marking every day rather than just leave it until I could do a batch at a time meant I got through it quicker; so, for example, I did some every morning when I got to work and I marked a set of quizzes while my year 12s were doing a mini mock. Both of these things have been in my plans before but haven't necessarily happened. 

The only trouble with doing some first thing is that I inevitably have to stop and move on to something else, but then find a real reluctance to do more later in the day. I'm interested to see how this plays out; it would be nice (and not impossible, I think) to get to the point where there is not really much marking left and I can get through it all in 20 minutes a day. Sixth form assessments have put paid to that for now but the day may come. There is always hope.

Other than at school, I have also marked in Starbucks and the library this week. The library generally seems to be inhabited by one older gentleman (not necessarily the same one each time) at one of the computers. Yesterday's came to talk to me, which was nice but annoying as I had to stop my timer. I realise how grumpy that sounds but you'd expect to be able to work in a library without somebody coming to talk to you. 

Other than that, I have been reading a lot of exams for  the exam board - final meeting for the November series is tomorrow - and ignoring everything else. I found the book I wanted for the next writing project but haven't made much headway with it yet. 


I have stuck with 20 minutes a day but it has been a bit dismal, apart from Tuesday when I saw the PT and today when I went to the gym. On Thursday I went for a walk around the neighbourhood, a 1 mile route I mapped out back when I used to do running. It was late, after parents evening, and cold enough that I was sorry I hadn't taken a hat, but I noticed all kinds of interesting things, like the frost beginning to form. Yesterday I walked around Kingswood park but struggled to make it to 20 minutes. I did get to fuss some dogs though, so it wasn't a dead loss. And there was an interesting log to look at.

The other days have been Ringfit. I figured out how to access the yoga and jogging games without playing the game, so I have done a bit of that. One night this didn't happen until 10pm and then I had to do my reading afterwards, so my sleep has definitely suffered. It is difficult to gauge whether it is worth sticking to the 20 minutes a day at the expense of everything else. My weight has gone up this week so I am going to try to get more sleep next week, see if that helps. 

On the plus side, I asked the leisure centre about lost property when I went to the gym today and they had my swimsuit, so no need to buy a new one. Yey!


Work continues on Milou. I am 22 rows into the 32 row repeat cable now - this motif will repeat three times, I think, and then finish. I am loving it and can't wait for it to be finished. 

I've been continuing to read The Drowned City although considering giving up because it's going pretty slow and not holding my attention. Maybe it's just because I am too tired. 

We have also continued to play Super Mario on the Switch. It's almost completed, just two levels left, so we have also been playing the Luigi version because the levels we've got left on Mario are so flipping difficult that they make us grumpy at each other when we inevitably die over and over again. 

Entertained by:

A bit more ER on the TV, plus the first episode of Maid on Netflix which might be a bit depressing for me to watch a lot of. 

I've been listening to a podcast, The Coming Storm, which looks at role of the internet, specifically 4chan, and the conspiracy theories around the Clintons/rise of Trump. Laughed a lot at episode 4 today, where the denizens of 4chan excitedly crow that they have memed Trump into office, that supporting and promoting a candidate has led to him being elected. So cute, these folks finding out what democracy is for the first time. 

I've also been listening to an audiobook, 4000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. It's sort of like a productivity book but an honest one, that says it's not possible to fulfil all the expectations you have of yourself. Depressing and refreshing in roughly equal measure. It has made me reflect that the thing I like to do most in life is travel, so I am not sure why I then took an exam board job that severely limits the amount of summer holiday I can spend pursuing this interest. Answers on a postcard. 

Looking forward, I've been trying to plan for the ski holiday we're booked to take in February. I plucked up the nerve to ask Sib's ex-girlfriend if we could borrow her family's chalet; long-time readers might remember that it is in Switzerland, which is accepting visitors, whereas we're booked for France, which is not. Was not. Once I had asked, France opened up to visitors with a negative PCR. So, fingers crossed we can keep the same plan, but if not, a few days in Switzerland would also be nice. Lake Geneva. Chocolate. Cuckoo clocks. That kind of thing. 


We got a take-home meal from Jafra last night. We had a couple of their Palestinian street food meals in lockdown and I was sad to hear they had to launch a crowdfunder in December to keep themselves afloat, but happy to contribute and get another meal from them. It's all good but the labne with butter beans, butter and savoury granola is something I would eat as part of a final meal. 


Mostly just very tired. I haven't been sleeping enough and have been trying to squeeze more work into my days, something I have managed but at a cost. I'm a bit less fed up than last week but still not back to full bliss. The idea of a little homestead in West Wales sounds more appealing by the day. 

This next week is a 4-day week, though, thanks to the exam board meeting; and the new PGCE student is taking a lot of my lessons this week, so perhaps I can keep on catching up and find the energy to do a few other non-work things. I'm meant to be in Belfast next weekend, so a first test of my 20-minutes-a-day resolution is pending. 

Sunday 9 January 2022

Weeknote 1


The first week back at school this week, and it has been just about as normally awful as it ever is. I thought I'd dodged the new-term insomnia when I slept easily and well on Monday night, before inset day, but then it returned on Tuesday night instead. I managed roughly four hours of sleep and so was like a zombie on Wednesday. Thank goodness it was a short week.

I helped to deliver a session at our cross-trust inset on Tuesday, wheeling out an old favourite planning method from a decade ago, which got some really positive feedback from the delegates. Outside of school, we have been finishing up the November series at the exam board - one week of work left on that - and I've been tentatively making a start on the current writing project, with some background reading. Naturally, the book I really need for this is currently awol, but luckily I have a lot of books so I can plug some gaps with that. 

My resolution to do 20 minutes of marking a day is turning out surprisingly well. I have discovered that (a) I can get more done in that time than I expected to, (b) it is much easier to get started when I know it's only 20 minutes (Friday afternoon marking, anyone? How did I manage that?!) and (c) I don't always feel like I want to stop dead after 20 minutes, even though I know I can. This week, I've managed to mark full sets of Y8 and Y10 assessments, plus the Y12 essays I have been putting off since I had covid. I am quite pleased with that and hoping that I can continue until the habit forms.


The 20 minutes of moving a day has also been going OK, though I think I need to take better care to stop after 20 minutes. I observe that it is is easier for me to achieve this by booking myself into a class, but that a class is usually an hour and this builds up. Consequently, I did aquafit on Tuesday, yoga on Wednesday and saw my trainer on Thursday; this was too much on consecutive days, particularly with the poor sleep. So, on Friday and Saturday, I did 20 minutes of Ringfit Adventure on the Switch (actually quite tough and not to be sniffed at) and this morning I went out for a squelch around Warmley Forest Park instead of going to the gym, as I had planned. It was a sunny morning and there was a bit of frost left on the ground and a lot of happy dogs to admire. A definite win. 

I lost my swimsuit when I went to aquafit. I must have dropped it on the way out. It was my last one-piece suit; I bought it almost a decade ago when I was at Center Parcs for a conference and wanted a new one. It was bobbly on the bum and I really couldn't face driving back to get it. Now I am not sure whether to splash out on a new suit or go all-bikinis for all-swims in the future. A bikini is fine on holiday but does feel a bit weird for aquafit. And, come to think of it, if I had to swim in front of any students. OK, that settles it. 


I managed to finish my first book of 2022, The Betrayals. It was a very engaging read and I even chose to carry on ploughing through it instead of napping on Wednesday when I got home from school. I've also managed to knit more of Milou, to the point where it is divided for the armholes now. 

I've moved on to reading Drowned World, a novel set in Bristol in 1607, just after there was a major flood from the Bristol Channel. Coincidentally this came up in a documentary I watched this week, on historic extreme weather, 

Entertained by:

I continue to watch ER, I'm almost to the end of season 12 but it all gets a bit sad from her on, iirc. Maybe it was all a bit sad. Either way, it has slowed me down somewhat, so I have also watched two films on Netflix - Don't Look Up and The Unforgiveable. The former was a pretty depressing satire on our current world and the latter was the same but with no satire. So, yeah. Maybe I need to find some nice comedy for the coming week, cheer myself up a bit. 

I'm pleased that The Apprentice is back, although, wow. Just wow. That guy who got fired had clearly had a slip with his razor or his cabin mates on the cruise gave him a little sleep trim: this hardly boosts my faith in the business future of this nation, although tbf, he was fired. I just keep reminding myself that the main reason to watch is for Karren's arch looks and Chanel accessories. Love her. 


Today's meal prep was sweet potato, ratatouille and cauliflower roasted with onions and chickpeas in ras el hanout. I also made Nigella's clementine cake to take to work (next time will boil a star anise and a cinnamon stick with the clementines) and my annual blueberry bread and butter pudding, which I never ended up making over Christmas because we had too much food to eat. This paid off in the long run because, when I ran out of leftovers for lunches last week, I had a very bougie lunch of cheese and crackers with chutney and fruit cake, thanks to still having too much cheese in the fridge. 


Pleased that I managed to stick to my 20 minutes marking/moving/reading resolution for the whole week, even Saturday. It has made me feel less anxious in my unstructured time - I have spent a lot of time playing Super Mario this week and haven't felt like this is a mistake or that I should be doing something more productive. 

I am maybe a bit less pleased about work, though. I do love my job, obvs, and I don't want to leave it, true, but I would rather not be there at the moment. I'd rather not be working full time. I am waiting for this feeling to go away but it doesn't seem to want to. I just keep circling back to my dissatisfaction with the way it is to be a teacher at the moment and I can't seem to get past it. I am hoping it is just a phase. 

Next week I've got not much on except work. I am hoping to see my friends Jo and Kath for late Christmas festivities. I'd like to make a start on some exam board work that isn't due until February, try to clear the decks a bit. I'd like to clear out one box or drawer or type of clothing from my wardrobe: this is the next thing to be tackling little and often, I think. 

Monday 3 January 2022

December round up

Books read: I didn't finish the history tome or the cook book (well, I mean, who actually reads cook books?) I was sure I had picked up and finished another novel but it seems I am kidding myself, because if I did, I can't remember it, nor find it. 

ETA I remembered! It was another junior fiction, recommended to me by a y7 student - Evie's Ghost by Helen Peters. And I got it from the library which explains why I can't find it in my house now.

I think that makes 15 books for 2021. Not too shabby. I think that is better than most previous years. Only in the month of May did I fail in my resolution. Some room for improvement, then. It's one of my resolutions to read for at least 20 minutes every day, so we will see how that works out.

Metres knitted: I finally, finally finished the Tegna, which I fear is actually too wide, after all that. Lenin is currently asleep on it though, so I can't try it on again. It will probably work well in the summer; I just still have this awkward 'wide woman, no wide clothes' hang up. 

I knitted two more hexagons, bringing my 2021 total to 35 (unprecedented) and cast on for the much-admired Milou, in my queue for over five years and very lovely. 

Not counting Milou, that brings my total for the year to around 6500m, which is a bit poor compared to 2020, but then that was predictable. I noticed that three of the four adult garments I knitted were oversize which probably explains the slowness and will not be repeated for 2022, because I have three oversize jumpers now. 

My knitting goals for this year are (a) more metres than 2021 and (b) finish the hexagons. I have eight more skeins earmarked - 36 hexagons - plus another four that might become hexagons but might be used for sewing up. If I can manage 35 just doing a skein between projects, I think I can manage 36 if it's a goal. Plus that would be 1500-2000m towards my goal. 

Pounds lost: I end the year at the same weight I was at the start of December: x-1 stone 10 pounds. That is a stone lighter than I was in January last year. I will take it. 

Sleep has been in abundant supply, being the holidays, though I still haven't managed much in the way of blogging. I had the usual grand plans for writing up my review of 2021 but, somehow, I didn't. I was very stubborn about avoiding anything that looked like work for a while and, anyway, I haven't backed up my phone pictures to my computer since the new one arrived so that would take a while. Excuses, you know.

Still, alongside my 20 minutes of reading a day, I also intend to do 20 minutes of moving and 20 minutes of marking. And, there could do with being some accountability for this, so I am aiming to do a weekly blog post of what I've been up to - resurrecting the weeknote, if you've been around long enough to remember those. I like reading back through my old blogs so that means, I need to continue writing them. And hopefully you'll continue to read them. My pet hate is blogs that go dead without warning so I will do my best not to let that happen for 2022. 

Happy New Year!