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 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 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...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.