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!