Monday 8 April 2024

2024 Weeknote 14

So, as it turned out, writing a personal blog post was not something I had time to do last weekend and it has been a busy week indeed. Ski trip number 14 was not beset with the same extreme delays as number 13 - far from it, we got an earlier crossing in both directions - but it had its own issues. We were one staff member down as one of us fell really sick the day before we were due to leave. On Monday, it rained heavily for the whole day and we had to cut our skiing short and go bowling instead, or risk a mutiny from the students. I came down with a horrible cough/throat thing and had to avoid skiing for a day and cut the next day short so I could go back to the hotel to sleep. Our instructors were quite old and struggled to keep up with the students, and refused to take us to the glacier to ski. I was woken up near midnight two nights in a row, first by one of the drivers (drunk) bringing women into the hotel and giggling with them in the corridor; then by a woman coming to knock on the rep's door at nearly midnight, and then going inside to have some noisy sex with him. Cue me lying awake until well past 2am, panicking about how she got into the hotel and who else might therefore be able to get in. I penned a stiff email to the tour operator and the next day, the woman (it turned out she was on the hotel staff) was fired, the rep was forced to switch rooms with one of the drivers and the hotelier had a permanent scowl. He made a point of coming to chat with me about how angry he was with the rep. 

The rep asked me to ask the hotelier to give the woman her job back. She wasn't a professional, he insisted, as the hotelier had suggested. She was a single mother of two. This was a small valley and she would struggle to find another job. She was young and a bit stupid. As the rep was neither young nor stupid, I had to bite back my instant reply which was, 'I'm very much over men making awful choices and women suffering the lion's share of the consequences, why don't you clean up your own mess by inviting her to live with you in Vienna, if you feel that bad?'

I did plan to have a word but the hotelier was notably absent for the rest of the trip. A shame indeed. Not that I think I could have made a difference. My main issue was strangers in the hotel so the fact that she worked there mitigated that. But once I'd complained there was no going back.

Anyway.

There were some really good bits too. Beating my top time down the mountain and finally breaking 80kph, after years of trying - Rachael said that she was stood near two people on the side of the piste when I did this and they broke their conversation to marvel at my speed. I bought new goggles and then the driver took them back for me to get the magnetic tag removed, what a nice thing to do. Kaiserschmarrn and those Austrian ski wafers. Sipping coffee in a Guess-sponsored mountain hotel whilst watching a hardcore Austrian walk up the mountain in front of us. Fun with the drivers who were Irish and generally lovely although very fond of a beer (not before driving, obvs). They took us to the wrong hotel to start with, two hours away from ours, and then we got stuck in a traffic jam getting back to the main road, but even that was fun. 

The students decided this was how we wore our hair for the slopes. I didn't hate it. 

I finished the book I was reading, The Ottoman Secret. It improved as it went on. I felt like it was a bit of a moral defence of western democracy which, given the current state of western democracy, did not thrill me, but it was a good yarn. I've started a new one, Lone Women by Victor LaValle. It is a horror set in homesteading Montana at the start of the 20th century. It's making me want to reread Annie Proulx's short stories. 

Naturally not much else happened in terms of leisure. I did finish knitting the front panels for my nephew's Presto Chango and managed to adequately reproduce the Notts Forest logo, as that is Sib's team.  

It's a bit pointier than I'd like but tough to do a big rounded tree over such a small number of stitches. 

Off to London tomorrow for some museums and a play. Very exciting. 

Sunday 24 March 2024

2024 Weeknote 12

I began the week with a spectacularly early start so I could get to Birmingham for a meeting. It is really very easy to get the train anywhere from Bristol Parkway, what with the large and reasonable car park, and if you're on the train at 6.45am, the traffic is non-existent too. The meeting was interesting and finished predictably early, which meant I say around at Birmingham New Street for an hour, in spite of walking the half hour back to the station and then having a shop in Selfridges, because school told me that the Trainline had 'run out' of flexible tickets. A shameless lie, but of course they had already booked the advanced ticket by the time they told me this. When I tried to get it changed, the man at the station told me it was £30, which considering the singles there and back totalled £52, was a rip off. 

I've got to go again in June. I will be driving. Parkway is easy enough but as for the rest of it...bleuch. 

That said, on my way home from the station, I stopped for petrol and thought my front tyres looked a bit bald, and upon closer inspection, found a nail driven into one of them. We have a neighbour who has form for this but I don't think I've done anything to upset him recently. Mr Z took my car in the next day so I had to get the bus in to work, meaning I arrived at 6.59am, which is too early for anyone to be to work tbh. When I got home, Mr Z said there was also a nail in one of my rear tyres (he tried to make this sound like it could have been an unhappy accident but my money is definitely on the neighbour). I'm saving those for when I am away skiing next week. I can't do any more pre-6am get ups this close to a holiday. 

We interviewed for staff for my department this week and got two really good ones, so that was nice. One of them is already working with us on a temp contract and I really thought he was a shoo-in but, on the day, someone else did a stronger interview. Luckily I came up with a solution so we could have both. The stronger candidate, as it turned out, had been in to do some pre-teaching observations with me in my first year at the school and liked it enough to want to come back. I used to say yes to absolutely anybody who asked back in those days, when it was a bit easier (no escorting to the toilet), because I was so lonely as the sole subject teacher. It's nice to know that it bears fruit. 

We are reaching the end of Better Call Saul - three episodes left. We speeded up a bit so we could get it in before I go away on Friday. It really is exceptional TV and it makes me want to visit Albuquerque again, even though Albuquerque isn't the sort of place one goes on holiday. I bet there's a Better Call Saul locations tour though. And there's skiing only a few hours away. Maybe one day...in my copious free time. 

I am continuing to make good progress on Topolino and am about four inches into the body now. 

As always, the blue isn't quite right in this picture - it is a little more turquoise. The yarn is 10% linen which gives it a lovely rustic look. I'm supposed to knit to 7 inches and then start the lace section, but I think I'm going to knit to 5 inches instead. I'm finding that a lot of my 4-ply sweaters are just a smidge too long these days and I'm not sure if this is because I've knitted them a bit long or because they've grown. The Ravelry notes on this yarn (Madelinetosh Dandelion) say it grows with blocking so I am going for a scant 12 inches instead of the recommended 14. I can always make the bottom longer. 

I do love a boatneck and an Isabell Kraemer pattern but I am already thinking about how I'm going to finish the collar on this. One round of purl and bind off is not going to be the one. I already have one Isabell Kramer 4-ply jumper that slides off the shoulder and nobody needs to be looking like they're in an 80s dance movie that often. 

It was a very relaxing weekend, tbh. I drove into town and bought pastry treats and some hot cross buns from Farro. I packed for skiing and made some granola, as is my ritual. I finished work on the two exam papers I had left so they are all ready to go. I didn't do any school work, which may turn out to be a mistake - more interviews tomorrow. 

Next weekend I will attempt to weeknote from Austria...we will see. I don't want to take a laptop and the Blogger app really isn't friendly. I'll give it a go. 


Tuesday 19 March 2024

2024 Weeknote 11

I am getting later and later with these but I am determined!

I went to Birmingham on Friday night with Rachael and we had a nice brief hotel stay before going to an education conference on Saturday. I've been a few times before but it was interesting to go now that I am preparing for/doing a senior role. The sessions are largely generic, whereas the vast majority of the training I attend is subject-specific, so it had lost its shine for me. But it's very shiny now! Loads of ideas to come away with and it was lovely to go with someone as well, because we got to natter about the sessions with each other afterwards. And then we got to go to Gloucester Services on the way home as well. 

I made good progress on the Topolino sweater and divided for the armholes on Sunday. This indicates that progress will now slow right down but I have been picking away at it this week. I need to go back to my nephew's toddler cardigan but I am sort of saving that for the ski trip.

Books and TV series continued as last week. There was a busy parents evening and an attempt at yoga, which my still-poorly hamstring....I know it's not surprising to anybody that being older makes healing such a long process, least of all me (lest we forget the time when I fell off a paddleboard in summer 2020 and my coccyx hurt until roughly January 2022) but that doesn't make it any less damn frustrating....complained about, so I had to do a lot of weird, made-up poses. Skiing again in under two weeks so I am hoping I don't make it any worse. 

I've had two crack-of-dawn starts in a row but I'll tell you all about that next weekend, or else these weeknotes are going to become a mixture of fortnight notes and day notes. 

All my pictures last week are screenshots of social media because I didn't really do anything. My magnolia did finally flower though. Four years it's been in the ground and it finally got there. I have some pictures of that but I am not sure where they are. Something for next week's post. 

Tuesday 12 March 2024

2024 Weeknote 10

It was a busy old week. I drove to Walsall on Thursday night for a trust meeting on Friday, then drove straight on to Wales to join the bunkhouse sprucing volunteer party. I spent all day Saturday cleaning and this was more blissful than it sounds. The meals were all cooked for me, the woodburner kept stoked and there was barely any internet so it was delightfully peaceful. The rest of the work party were mostly decades older, mostly male and mostly retired teachers with a heavy predilection for outward bound - hence their love of the bunkhouse - and it was sort of nice to be back in this quaint time where it's perfectly acceptable to say that, since it's international women's day, perhaps the international women should wash up? Cute. Woman clean. Man fix things with drill. All know their place. I didn't mind it for a weekend and I dutifully donned the marigolds...someone else had cooked, after all. Also I am shockingly bad at DIY. I don't care enough to do it well. 

In solidarity, I invited the other woman from the volunteer party to come along with us to Wonderwool next month. 

I drove home earlyish on Sunday because I had an interview on Monday, for an internal role, the one I am currently doing. I got the job. Both pleased and disappointed, as this means I will definitely be working and doing a Masters at the same time next year. I guess we'll suck it and see. 

I finished Prisoners of Geography on the drive home from Wales. In the end, I didn't like it much. It was very interesting but, having now listened to quite a lot of non-fiction about the continent of Africa, I found what he had to say to be quite narrow-minded. This was not helped by the narrator who had quite the public school accent. I'm sure a lot of well-educated people will take comfort from the narrative that Africa is underdeveloped because of its unlucky geography but I don't buy it. When he referred to Jared Diamond as 'that most lucid of writers', I realised this was not really the book for me. 

I've moved on to one from my favourite genre of audiobook, women escaping from religious cults: Uncultured by Daniella Mestyanek Young. The Children of God sound like a particularly unpleasant bunch of people, or at least they were in the 1990s, but it has given me some fodder to discuss with my students when it comes to the limits that should (or should not) be placed on personal freedoms for adults. 

I've been knitting away at a new jumper, Topolino, that I cast on just before the Great Hexagon Knit, and I'm about 16 rows off dividing the sleeves and body. I have creeping dread about not having finished my nephew's latest Presto Chango, but I am afraid it will be too big and it will go into the black hole of knitwear that my sister-in-law doesn't want to put on her children. Trying not to feel aggrieved about this, they are her kids after all. 

I feel like other things must have happened last week. There were two leaving parties on Monday, one for some school colleagues and one, on Zoom, for an exam board colleague. On Tuesday I had another exam board meeting after school but it didn't go on too long. I watched a lot of Better Call Saul and Game of Thrones...now into the epic sixth season of GoT which I probably think is the best. 

And nobody pulled my hair last week so that is a definite win. 

Sunday 3 March 2024

2024 Weeknote 9

Another quite quiet week. I brought very little work home and found that I had plenty of time to finish my blanket hexagons (all done now and ends sewn in on over half of them, hurrah!) and continue with Better Call Saul and Game of Thrones. I had a sports massage on the dodgy hamstring - defo a hamstring, it seems, and not the ACL, which has felt better since though still a little twingey. I gave blood, my 22nd donation, completed in 7 mins 48sec, which is quite slow for me but I probably haven't been drinking enough water this week.

I had a bad school day on Friday with some students who were verbally quite abusive and then one of them ever so slightly pulled my hair. This sounds like a small thing but it is a big thing when it happens. The idea that a student could cross a line and make physical contact with me does not make me feel particularly safe, so I'll be following that up robustly next week. At the same time, I'm writing my application letter for the permanent senior role and, once again, considering whether I really want to be in a job where children think this is an acceptable way to behave towards other human beings, let alone their teachers. 

Timehop reminds me, though, that this term is always the worst for my personal morale. In this term, over the past 20 years, I was passed over for a pay rise, passed over for a promotion, shouted at by a colleague for doing things differently to how she would have done them and put on a support plan because of a single lesson observation. But this is also the term when I've got new jobs, run the ever-popular murder mystery weekend and prepared for lots of ski trips. A hinge point in the year, clearly. Lows but lots of highs.

I finished An Inspector Calls on audiobook and started Prisoners of Geography, which begins with a chapter on why Russia thinks it has to control Ukraine - particularly interesting as this is a few years old now and pre-dates the current conflict. 

I'm off to Bristol Lido now for a spa and a massage. This is sponsored by a generous voucher from the parents of last year's ski trippers: another positive to dwell on. 

Sunday 25 February 2024

2024 Weeknote 8

It's been a bit of a nothing week. Term started but I found myself a bit listless and struggled to get much done, partly because I was quite literally listless - everything on my list was either massive and unstartable without taking some time to break it down, or tiny and over in a flash. I had a ski meeting on Monday night and an exam board meeting on Wednesday, and took my hurty leg (which I now think might be an over-extended ACL, following a conversation with someone at work) to a gym session at which we just did upper body. I'm actually missing my usual gym routine, even though it wasn't particularly often, so I've got a physio session booked in next week. 

I did resign from my permanent job. This isn't quite the news that is seems to be, because I will apply for a senior role when it's advertised internally and I am about 70/30 sure I'll get it. For various reasons, though, it was sensible to quit what I no longer have any desire to return to and the thought that I might not get the senior role and then I might have next year off is as comforting as thinking that I will get it. I can't lose. I was also approached about being involved in a bid to do some work across the region over the next three years, led by a woman I have wanted to work with for a while, and the head is happy to support me in this so that was an exciting whiff of the future as well.

I finished The Vanishing Witch and started a new book called The Ottoman Secret, which is set in an alternative reality where the Ottoman Empire defeated Vienna and went on to conquer Europe. It's OK but I realised when I started it that the main recommender, on the front cover, is Lee Child - I wouldn't normally read this genre. But it might be good to branch out.

I finished the outstanding How the Word is Passed and liked it so much that I ordered a physical copy as well. It's World Book Day soon and we've been asked to read to all our classes that day from a favourite book, so I will choose that one. I've got a couple of new audiobooks in the wings but think I will next be listening to An Inspector Calls because that's the team dress-up for World Book Day and I should probably know what it's about.

I am really, really close to finishing the hexagon blanket - just two more hexagons to go. And then the sewing in, and the blocking, and the sewing up. It is too big to lay out on the sitting room floor, I can't imagine how big it will be once they're all blocked. 


The different colours down the right-hand side are piles of hexagons in the colourways where I didn't have two full skeins of yarn - mostly these are piles of 4; I'm not totally sure how to incorporate them yet. I think it's interesting how similar the two colourways in the middle look, both quite pale grey. They are not the same, the upper one being Winter is Coming, which is the one I still need to finish (hence the gaps) and the lower one being A River Runs Through It. 

Lenin came to do his inspection and he found it passable. 

This weekend was the last chance I had to get out in my kayak if I wanted to meet my resolution, so yesterday I duly strapped it onto the roof of my car and set off in search of water. They turned out to be ill omens that I got the ratchets ratchetting first time and that the sun came out as I set off. My first attempt, down by Hanham Mills, would certainly have resulted in the loss of my kayak and/or my death as the water was very high (the pier was higher than the bank) and flowing at considerable speed. I nearly went home but then decided it was too nice a day to waste, so I headed to Bristol harbour, as I thought the water would be calmer. Probably it was but I never found out because the road to my usual spot was closed. I probably could have reached it via another route, but by that point I had been driving around for the better part of an hour and I would have probably managed 20 minutes on the water before I needed to reload to make it home before dark.

So I have failed in my resolution, but not for want of trying. There was a huge puddle in the Hanham car park, maybe I should have put it in there. My PT suggested that such a choice might help me become an internet sensation, though, and I think that's best avoided. 

Sunday 18 February 2024

2024 Weeknote 7

To France this week, for the now-annual ski holiday to Les Carroz. Rachael and I found ourselves back in the large apartment we stayed in during our first visit, in 2019, which was a treat as there were only three of us this time, so we had a room each. It snowed the day before we arrived so I was treated to snowy trees, which is one of my favourite ski views - normally all the snow has melted off them by the time I get to a resort.

Generally, there was glumness about the lack of snow from the locals but we found enough to ski on; it was a bit hairy towards the bottom of the slopes where they'd been making the fake snow, but on day 3 we got all the way over to Flaine for a view of Mont Blanc and the snow was really good. The skiers less so...I swear a lot of those blues are not really blue, but there were still dozens of people attempting to get down them when they didn't have enough skill to be able to both navigate the increasingly mogully terrain at the same time as showing some awareness of anyone else on the slope. It was a bit scary at times. 

I decided, once, to cut across some very tame-looking off-piste and join a quieter slope, and then fell over just as I was about to join it. I felt what I assume was a hamstring twang right across the back of my leg, as naturally my ski stayed put and my body had to accommodate the fall. I skied on for the rest of the day but by the evening, my leg was sore and giving way periodically, so I took Thursday off skiing and got a pastry in town instead, followed by a long visit to the spa. It was adults-only night which, as it turns out, means 'definitely bring your 16-year-old children' and 'publicly shag in the little pods in the spa pool', neither of which we expected. But it was better than Tuesday, which is apparently the perfect day to bring your children into the fairly small spa pool so they can practice swimming between your legs and/or endlessly splash everyone.

In all, it was a bit childrenny for me all week, but I suppose they have to go on holiday too. 

I enjoyed the new ski trousers. It was nice skiing in white as this seemed a bit cooler, although they were not particularly wicking. Hella comfy, though. Very high-waisted and I loved the braces as it meant there was no tugging up or being pinched by a belt. 

This is astonishingly good matching of the bottom of my jacket to the edge of the cliff behind me, considering I took it by propping my phone up on a ski holder. Also - new helmet. 

Whilst away, Zoe and I booked our summer holiday to Italy: a couple of days in Rome, followed by 10 days in Sorrento and Amalfi. I secretly booked a seaview room with a balcony jacuzzi for Amalfi as I know this will go down well. I fear it might be too hot for a hot tub, but the thought is there. I can't wait to return to my spiritual home and eat all the pasta. 

I continued with my hexagon efforts all week long and I'm now slightly ahead of myself, having completed 22 so far this month, even though it's only the 18th. Go me! Eight more and the whole project will be knitted. Just 200-odd ends to sew in and then I have to somehow join it together. 

I've continued reading The Vanishing Witch - 100 pages to go so I might finish it this week - and watching Better Call Saul, as well as Game of Thrones. I'm into series 3 of GoT already. There's that eagerness when you've seen it before, isn't there? I couldn't wait for Daenerys to get to the Unsullied; now that's past, I can't wait for the Red Wedding. Since the leg is still quite stiff, it's the perfect excuse to prop it up and watch another one. 

Sunday 11 February 2024

2024 Weeknote 6

The last week of term hurtled past with all the grace of a juggernaut with boy-racer twin exhaust pipes and a rave going on in the cockpit. By mid-week I was drafting my letter of resignation, no longer able to remember any of the reasons why I wanted to do the job at the same time as undertaking a Masters. But I managed to remind myself that we shouldn't make any hasty decisions during the last week of term and things did pick up a bit towards the end of the week. 

I went to see Wicked with my friend E on Wednesday night. I last saw it in London with Mother Hand a good number of years ago, so it was great to get a refresher. I love the soundtrack and the cast were marvellous. I've got a couple of other musicals booked in for later in the year, something to look forward to. 

I continue with the same books and TV as last week because there hasn't been a great deal of time for either. I have, however, kept up with my goal of knitting a hexagon every day and, though I fell behind with the midweek theatre trip happening, I caught up and even got a little ahead of myself, starting hexagon number 11 of the month yesterday. I am not sure what will happen if I miss several days in a row, because catching up will be daunting, but I will keep my efforts going as long as I can. I have 19 hexagons left to knit. This month marked its 10th birthday as a project. Liking that it might be finished by its 11th birthday. 

I'm off skiing today and, yesterday, something really and truly momentous happened. For the first time in my adult life, I walked into a shop and bought a pair of women's ski trousers, in my size, off the rack. If you've ever had the misfortune to get me started on the topic of size inclusive skiwear, you may be aware that this is the grindiest of all my axes. I currently have two pairs of ski trousers - one is plus-sized men's snowboard trousers - baggy enough that the hip-to-waist ratio isn't unmanageable; the other pair I ordered from Columbia USA to be delivered to Father Hand's house during a visit there, because Columbia USA won't ship their products to Europe and Columbia EU considers XL to be as far as it needs to go to be size inclusive. I once wrote a long and detailed email to a British skiwear company, OOSC, when I sent them back something I'd ordered and they contacted me for feedback; the response was about one line, explaining that they might consider it in the future. Disappointed was not the word, though it wasn't unexpected. 

(I have just been to look at their website and see that they have extended their size range to XXL and they do actually have a Curve range now too. The sizing stops at a UK20, so no good for me, but this is progress. My dream of owning an all-in-one continues.)

I concluded - fat, European women are not allowed to ski. Fat men - yes. Fat American women - yes. But if you're in Europe, you'd better find another hobby, eating maybe, or staying out of sight where nobody has to see you. Fat women are not welcome here. 

Grindiest of axes.

Anyway, I walked into Mountain Warehouse last night just to browse, they are newly opened nearby and I wanted to see what sort of range they had. And they had women's ski trousers up to a size 24 and in more than one colour. Granted those options were black or white, but even the existence of one pair marks a milestone. I tried on the white pair, convinced they were not going to fit - the last time I ordered plus size online from a British company I was left feeling utterly disheartened because I ordered a size 26 and they didn't fit...I am not, have never been, a 26 in any other type of garment. But they did fit! So I bought them. They were better than half price so even though I am not someone who can wear white, as a spiller, I felt this was a good deal. 

I know this is a long old story for a pair of ski trousers but, seriously, you don't know how amazing it feels to finally be able to go and buy off the rack. One year I accidentally gave my ski trousers away to charity and had to beg a rental pair off the place we use for school - they didn't fit and I spent my ski holiday with the flies and button undone because they were the only option available. I've given up wearing men's jackets, which make me look like an upside-down triangle, and will ski in a cagoule if I can't get a proper jacket. I idly consider investing in my own start-up to make women's skiwear in extended size ranges, until I remember that this is something I know almost nothing about. So, it was an exciting day. 

I took a picture in the fitting room but it is deeply unflattering as I didn't bother to remove my skirt first, so convinced was I that it wouldn't fit. But I reserve the right to come back and add a picture of myself skiing in them.

Happy trails, everyone. 

Sunday 4 February 2024

2024 Weeknote 5

An exciting work week, because I actually managed to get on top of my workload. I know it's folly to say it out loud but, yey. The A-level marking was hugely burdensome and I finished it very late: it was hanging over me right up until Friday and that made every evening quite miserable, as I tried to force myself to finish it late into the evening. I'm not very good at making myself do late-night marking but I no longer see this as a failing.

The term started crazy busy and hasn't really improved, but this week is (I say with caution) potentially quieter and then it is half term and I'll be in France, skiing. Almost close enough to touch. 

On Tuesday, I went to a lecture from Sathnam Sanghera on his new book, Empireworld. Lizzy and I went together and managed to snag a comfy sofa for the hour, which was a definite win. It was an interesting talk but a powerful reminder that he is a journalist, not a historian: the political commentary was strong. Looking forward to reading the book, though. 

On Saturday I presented at an online history conference, which meant I got a free pass to the lecture from Corinne Fowler in the afternoon, which I shared with Lenin and a delicious pastry from Farro. More aspects of British Empire, I am just lapping this stuff up this year. 

I wound some yarn this weekend for two sweater projects and ultimately cast on the Madelinetosh Dandelion I bought at Jimmy Beans nearly a decade ago, for an Isabelle Kramer sweater, Topolino. I want to knit a Confetti sweater striped in red and grey, but then I wound the red and saw it by the blue...hmm, maybe I want a nice red and bright blue stripe instead. Enough unsurety to pause starting it, anyway. 

Having wound it and cast on, I then spent the weekend knitting hexagons for the blanket. I now have the end in sight, having made a start on all of the different shades I had amassed (I think...I almost fear to look in the stash) and I think I have 26 left to go. It has struck me that if I can manage one per day through the month of February, I will be nearly done. This seems like an impossible goal but, we will see what I manage. 

I finished the audiobook version of Fearing the Black Body, which was good but (as mentioned last week) quite high brow and, if I'm honest, I think she made a better case for fatphobia having its roots in class over race. I started a new audiobook looking at the legacy of slavery in America, called How the Word is Passed, which is a tour of key sites in the USA and how they commemorate the legacy of slavery. I've also been plugging away with The Vanishing Witch which was hard-going to start with, but I've got quite into it now. 

We continue with Better Call Saul and, over the weekend, I started my rewatch of Game of Thrones. I love the difference in production value in the first series - series 1, looking up at that Weirdwood tree which is clearly made of fake leaves, plastic veins at all. By the end of the programme - CGI zombie dragons and Ed Sheeran. 

I keep coming across snippets and bits of information about ultra-processed foods and the advice to aim to eat 30 plants a week, so I thought I would see how I got on this week, without really trying. I'm not sure lemon really counts as it was just the peel, but I was quite pleased with my list. I could have added wheat but I'm not sure that's quite in the spirit of the game. I've also started drinking a daily greens powder, boost up the vits a bit with the ski holidays coming up. 

Saturday 27 January 2024

2024 Weeknote 4

The best news of this week was that I got a place on the Masters course at Oxford. I don't know which college yet but I have signed the paperwork and submitted requests for my transcripts to be sent directly to them...something else that has to be paid for. Higher education is not cheap, is it? Certainly not as cheap as I got it first time round. 

I've decided that I will ask for a sabbatical from work. I have come up with dozens of reasons why this is a good idea, but am resigned to going into line management with the head this week and come out having been talked into doing both. Maybe not...it is a lot of days out of school I'll be needing. We will see. My beloved history colleague announced her intention to leave this week so I am in a quandary, panicking that it will be a whole new history team next year and all of my empire building will be reworked. But that's as it needs to be, I guess. Just because I've got it perfect for me (and, imo, the students) doesn't mean it will be perfect for anyone else. 

I dragged my weary carcass to yoga midweek for once this week. I still miss hot yoga a lot but am trying to make myself love regular yoga. Plus I was mega stiff from over-exertion at the gym on Sunday, 35kg bench press don't you know, and didn't my pecs know for the following three days. Yoga helped and I was pleasantly aching through my back muscles for a couple of days. I've got this yoga headstand stool now that I am quite good at using, though I can never be bothered to warm up so don't touch it at home - doing a bit of home yoga would be a good addition to daily life, along with the greens powder I impulse-purchased this week. 

This morning I got up and went to Gloucestershire to do some kayaking. I meant to do this a fortnight ago but managed to talk myself out of it. Today I just drank my coffee, ate my breakfast, dressed in a mishmash of warming clothes and dragged the kayak out of the garage without trying to think too hard about it. I went to the Sharpness canal by Purton Ships Graveyard and found a great place to park right next to one of the swing bridges, with a handy little dock for putting in. 

This is an important place in the History of the Kayak, because it's where I decided I was going to get it. I went here for a Betwixtmas walk with Mother Hand in 2020 and spotted this little pond off the canal from the path on the other side. There were a couple of kayakers in the canal that day and I was so envious, wanting to go and explore the little pond that was clearly only accessible from the water. I convinced myself a kayak was what I needed and I bought mine the following June. I think today was maybe only its 9th or 10th use so I really need to start making more use of it. This year I have made a NY resolution to get out in it at least once per month, hence this morning's dash. Next time I think I might go back to Bristol harbour before my licence expires. 

Anyway, the pond was a lovely little place. I didn't explore too much though, as I disturbed a heron and what looked like a black goose, which flew off, and there were the swans in there as you can see in the picture. This was not a place for humans, really. 

I finished The Witness Wore Red and started the audiobook of Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings, which is on the racial origins of fatphobia. It's quite a highbrow listen but happily it's not very long so I anticipate finishing it this week (I have a bad habit of just giving up on audiobooks that I have to concentrate on too much). I've started the Karen Maitland book I got out of the library but it is a hefty old hardback and I am not sure I can finish it before going on holiday in two weeks...we'll see. Otherwise I'll have to find another book to read as this one would seriously cut into my luggage allowance. 

I'm a few stripes off finishing the second baby jumper sleeve, aided by episodes of Better Call Saul which we have finally started watching. It makes me nostalgic for the summer I spent with Father Hand in Albuquerque. He had an old blue clunker, similar to Saul's yellow car, that one day we had to coast down the mountain from a lecture we'd been to because he couldn't get it to start. He coasted it all the way back to his apartment, where he fixed it. Later we drove it all the way back to Florida together. I ran over a dead skunk; he told me to 'give it some welly' when I was overtaking something (a phrase I often repeat to myself if I need to gee myself up); we heard about Princess Diana's death in it, in the middle of the night, in Texas. Albuquerque is a kind climate for old clunkers. 


Friday 26 January 2024

Scenes from the Classroom #42

Two in two days...my students are killing it this week.

It was last period on Friday. My energy and patience were both low. I had Year 7, in a computer room (we were not using the computers, that's just our room) and that is the worst because they are constantly swivelling on the chairs until I want to scream. Student A in this class is adorable and enthusiastic and has ADHD, which makes her shout out a lot and swivel an awful lot. I know she can't help it and I like her a lot which helps me maintain my temper. But today...

Me: (in the middle of another glorious explanation)

A: (shouts out loudly, over me, with a very tangential question)

Me: (grits) A, you know we've talked about this before, you really need to raise your hand and not shout out, particularly because it's Friday afternoon and I've only got about this much [indicates about an inch with finger and thumb] patience left. 

A: Oh OK, yes Miss, sorry.

*Time passes*

Me: (explaining a task)

A: (shouts out another question)

Me: (double grits) A, remember what I just said...

A: Oh yes Miss, sorry, but you know how you said you only had this much patience? Well on a Friday afternoon I only have this much not shouting outness. 


This was not funny at the time but, thirty minutes later when the day was over, I almost cried with laughter retelling it to my colleagues. Bless her. 

Thursday 25 January 2024

Scenes from the Classroom #41

I am Very Important at work now and have to go round collecting misbehaving students when they are not able to be in lessons. On Tuesday, I found a high-profile student sitting outside her Maths lesson, refusing to go in. She wouldn't move anywhere else or go back inside, so I sat and talked with her...at her...for 40 minutes. I got to the point where I offered to show her pictures of my pets, which was apparently the last straw because she finally, at that point, asked if she could go to the behaviour hub. A small victory on my part. 

Today I asked her to move along from somewhere she was standing with her friends, which she took quiet exception to, but in a very Mean Girls way. She was a bit critical of my outfit and when I said I was wearing all black so I could wear my favourite bright shiny necklace (a rainbow, mirror affair from Tatty Devine) she responded with, 'Is it homemade Miss? It looks pretty DIY.'

Touche, mean girl. 

Luckily this was offset by a lovely student who approached me in a corridor yesterday to tell me how much she'd enjoyed my Holocaust Memorial Day assembly. 

Sunday 21 January 2024

2024 Weeknote 3

It's been really cold all week, proper January weather with bright skies, hazy streets in the morning and lots of scraping required to get into the car. On one day this had to occur both inside and outside. I think I have probably spoiled the seal on my car with the roof bars I added for toting my kayak around.

Still, the afternoons are starting to get lighter and it's made for some colourful sunrises and sunsets, including this one from the back garden on Friday when I made it home before it got dark - a rarity at this time of year. 

It was my busier work week this week and there was a parents' evening, the briefing I give every other week and a staff meeting, on top of all the usual. So work was a bit of a grind but I have very much enjoyed hanging out with my team. The office is busier now that we have a trainee teacher and a new staff member, and on Friday we were all there and it was lovely to debrief and tell funny stories about the week. 

I had an online interview for the Masters I applied for which turned out to be considerably less formal than I was expecting; I hadn't really done any prep for it until the night before, which also happened to be post-parents evening and so I was a bit nervous that I might show myself up. It is Oxford, after all. But the interviewers were very friendly and asked lots of questions that proved quite easy to answer, so I am feeling quite hopeful. I should know by the time next week. It works out as 20 days out of school and, on top of the exam work and another project that may or may not be in the works, I am realising that this is not conducive to working in school full time. I am in such a dither about taking some time out because I like so much about my current job and I know I'll be able to drop the things I don't like; perhaps this is a little message to me from the universe that I don't have to hate something to stop doing it; that I can leave on a high note; that doors stay open even when we choose to walk through others. 

Fully leaning into my midlife crisis BTW. 

I've continued listening to The Witness Wore Red on audiobook this week, I am really enjoying it. I've carried on reading the short ghost stories in Winter Spirits and have about four left to go, but I've just checked a Karen Maitland out of the library so I might dig into that and save the other ghost stories for next winter. I finished the front and collar of the garter stitch jumper I'm making for my friend Char whose partner has just had their baby - two weeks early, so this is good timing on my part. Just the sleeves to go. 

I went to a really thought-provoking lecture by Ilan Pappe who was speaking about Palestine and its history, or (more specifically and controversially) the abuse of its history for the purposes of colonisers, over hundreds of years. This lecture was booked over a year ago and it is pure serendipity that it should come at this time of such rage and horror in that part of the world. There were lots of Opinions. The woman behind me at one point literally started clawing the desk. He wasn't what you'd call balanced, but then he didn't even pretend to be. The most interesting thing for me was the link he drew between the situation and both migration and the British Empire. This is what I love about a history lecture - I'll go and they will spin out a thread unknown to me, and yet when I pull on it I can see how it links to all of these other threads that I do know about. It's like spending a long time inspecting a spider web close up and then slowly realising that the web is connected to others that stretch as far as the eye can see. Something like that.

Today I went to the gym, then to do my marking at Starbucks, where I got to fuss a big softy of a labrador who flumped against my legs to allow for more fussing. So it has been a good day. 

Sunday 14 January 2024

2024 Weeknote 2

 It's been a weird week this week. My dad died on Wednesday afternoon.


I think this is probably the last picture taken of us together, back in December 2018. I hadn't been out to visit since, until the week before Christmas when I flew out because he was very ill. He had Stage 4 cancer and was attempting to die quietly at home without any fuss - something he almost achieved. 

I took a day off work but still went on a planned trip to Hampton Court on Friday. It's interesting to navigate other people's expectations of how I should be feeling and acting. Father Hand moved to the USA when I was about 12 and, though we had a good relationship, it was a very sporadic one. We weren't in each other's lives a lot, most of the time. So I don't feel his loss too keenly at present. I expect I will feel it when I read a book I think he'd really like or something happens that I think he'd want to hear about, and I don't have anybody to tell. He really liked blues and guitar music so I anticipate getting tearful when I hear music like that being played. For now, though, I'm relieved that he was spared losing his mind or his sight, both things he was really concerned would happen. 

In spite of this, a lot of people have been encouraging me to be off work and looking after myself. Work is my self-care at the moment though. Even when I took the day off I spent half of it cleaning (what a horrible nightmare). He was a workaholic who, even when I saw him in Christmas and he needed a nap after transferring from his bed to the sofa, was talking about when he could get back to work, so the irony of this is not lost on me. But it's also not the time to address it. 

Other things have obviously happened this week but nothing particularly noteworthy. Generally I've been looking after myself and trying to have early nights. As he was dying I was having to crawl into bed really early under a wave of exhaustion, which isn't like me in the second week of term; I used to know when he was upset or he'd call me out of the blue when I was, so maybe it was connected to that. Who knows. 

This week I've got an online interview for a Masters I applied for. I'm insistent I will go to circuits tomorrow, as I'm only four weeks away from my next skiing holiday and last Monday, I talked myself out of it because it snowed. There's a good history lecture on Wednesday which might turn out to be a bit controversial, as it's focused on the history of the holy land. So there are good and interesting things planned to keep my spirits up. 

Sunday 7 January 2024

2024 Weeknote 1

Giving this another whirl with a slightly less structured approach, to see if I can manage to write something every week. I did an online interview with someone yesterday for their PhD, which made me realise how much I miss writing a blog, even when it's about the most trivial topics. I don't know what's stopping me, though.

This week began with a fairly lazy Monday, during which I finished planning my session for the inset day and then went to look round the local David Lloyd, who reeled me in by advertising a 3-month contract. I can report that the 3-month contract results in access for 3 months whilst paying for 4, compared to the 12-month contract. Their facilities are insanely lush and it's very tempting, but I would need to be going every other day for me to feel I was getting my money's worth and I can't even read a book every other day at the moment, so I decided no. As usual, telling the person who showed me around was the most difficult part of the decision. 

We started term on Tuesday and I thus spent the rest of the week exhausted, peaking on Wednesday afternoon when I fell asleep in my car at a traffic light. Thankfully the handbrake was on and I woke up before anybody needed to beep at me, but I was full-on dreaming. 

As a result, there hasn't been much in the way of non-work but, between knitting group on Saturday morning and feeling inspired to get things done that afternoon, I did manage a few bits. I sewed buttons and added embroidery to the baby cardigan I've been knitting for my friend Rich, and reblocked - I finished all the knitting on this about 10 days ago but then, when I looked at it in daylight, realised the yarn I'd used for the sleeves and the button band must have been a different dyelot and was a slightly yellower shade of Natural. In daylight, this looked like nicotine staining. Not what anyone would choose for a baby cardigan. So, I ripped back and reknit - thankfully I had one more ball of Natural in a less 20-a-day shade. 

I worked on sewing up my giant bluetit which has been almost finished for nearly four years (and I bought the kit in 2016); finished the back of a striped garter stitch jumper for my friend Charlotte's impending baby; and started the front panel for a new Presto Chango for my nephew. Much small-person knitting. I am ruminating about my next project, between two jumper options for me, a crochet blanket or a concerted effort to finish the hexagons. 

I had a clear out of the knitting crate; Lenin helped. Eyeroll.

I've started a new audiobook, The Witness Wore Red, which is my favourite genre of audiobook (women escaping religious cults) and is proving really compelling. I've been attempting to continue reading Winter Spirits, short ghost stories, but this hasn't mixed well with the aforementioned exhaustion. 

I went to yoga on Wednesday (fell asleep in savasana) and took the headstand stool I impulse-purchased on black Friday. The instructor gave me some tips for using it. I had some more practice when I went to see my PT on Thursday. My whole body feels quite stiff and immobile at the moment so moving around more is definitely on the agenda for the coming week. 

We've been playing some Super Luigi, as this wasn't finished during the Chirstmas holidays (it is tradition); we tried watching The Rings of Power but it was a slow start. I feel like I need to keep trying but, meh. Instead I switched to The Undoing, which has proved a good mystery. I'm onto the final episode now but I can't quite see what the answer will be. I think maybe Nicole Kidman did it, but there was a question asked and left unanswered in an earlier episode that might be the key. We'll see. 

Work has been pretty tough. I'm setting cover for a member of staff teaching outside of my specialism and there is a limit to how long I can continue to do this and remain mentally healthy, I reckon. This has encouraged me even more strongly to step away from my teaching job next year, but after conversations with the headteacher, I think this is going to be tricky to do. I can see myself doing a new role and trying to manage the part-time Masters I'm applying for alongside it. This does not seem like it would help me achieve my aim of having choices about what I do with my time. But it might be fun. We'll see.