Sunday 28 April 2024

2024 Weeknote 17

I'd like to say that work malaise has lifted this week but it hasn't, really. My motivation is so low that that it's able to limbo right underneath my work pile, which is going to become a problem if I can't find some this week. The crushing crescendo was Friday when I gave some students detention for being late to a cover lesson being taught next door to my own and they went to a colleague to complain about me all breaktime; 'I just don't want her to talk to me' was the main mood. Hey kid! I'd rather not talk to you either but this is in your power yknow - be on time! Wear the right uniform! Do what people are asking you to do!

Happily, the colleague that they chose to complain to is one of my work besties so that is always good. 

I need to stop fixating on the fact that I still have time to resign. 

It was a pretty quiet week socially, as I was away for the weekend. I went to yoga, because my leg is getting better, phew. But then I overstretched my hip and that hurt. Eyeroll. I watched the rest of True Detective 3 and I really liked it. I liked the fact it was mostly about human relationships but I didn't really notice that until the final episodes, because I was so fixated on the murder mystery. I liked the relationship between Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff. I thought Stephen Dorff's bald cap in the later scenes was a bit suspect (it didn't move when his forehead did) but it was a small thing. Mostly I like seeing the relationship unfold between Ali and Carmen Ejogo: it felt immensely human. 

Now I've started Baby Reindeer which feels like it's going to be excruciating to watch. 

I haven't made much progress on my books. I finished the Bourdain and started The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, but it was a bit heavy-going for me this week so I switched to music for my commutes instead. 

I had a lovely, lovely weekend away with knitting group at the end of this nothingy week. We went back to the bunkhouse and spent the weekend pottering, knitting, crocheting, spinning, basking in front of the fire, eating cake and chatting. I was looking back through old Wonderwool posts and divined that this was the tenth annual weekend trip we have made, our first being in 2013 but with two years lost to covid. I should maybe look back through my stash and work out how much yarn I have left from all these trips but, nah. 

The group helped me with my blanket construction. I have finished my 130 hexagons and was at a loss about how to connect them. So we laid them all out and they helped me divide into first three, then two piles and did the maths for me about how large it might be. I bought a blocking device today so now I just have to work out how to crochet them together. 

Full WW post to follow, with the new stash. Here I am, glorying in the layout for one of the planned blankets.

With thanks to Claire for the picture :D

Sunday 21 April 2024

2024 Weeknote 16

What a grind this week has been, going back to work. My leg has been sore and getting sorer (nine weeks, now, since that ill-advised bit of off-piste, ugh), the nasty throat thing I had while I was skiing this month has become the most irritating tiny persistent cough with accompanying gravel voice, I have just wanted to eat everything in sight and I've been so weary that every waddling movement has felt like an effort. I've been down to the cafe near school to get a coffee or a snack on more than one occasion, when I usually reserve this for just Tuesday breaktime when I teach sixth form. I keep forgetting to bring marking home (genuinely forgetting, too), so I cancelled my attendance at a history lecture I really wanted to see on Wednesday only to then realise I could have gone because I hadn't brought the work home to do anyway, and on Thursday after parents' evening, I lay on the bed for nearly an hour looking at my phone before finally giving up and going to bed. 

Once again I thought I must be ill but once again I must remind myself - it's the first week of a new term. 

Thankfully, Thursday's early night did me some good and Friday was better. I watched some interviewees teach. I've dealt with increasing levels of panic from my exam classes who all would prefer me to run extra sessions with them to revise - sorry kids, revision also has to happen at home you know. I've had a good idea to tackle a problem I've been wrestling with for most of the time I've been doing my current role. The sun has been out and I've been able to sit in the garden a bit. The front-garden camelia is looking glorious. 

I am making great progress on Topolino and think I might be done with the body of it, bar the lower edge. I think the pattern is going to suggest finishing it with four rounds of st-st but I am not about the roll so will need to adjust that. I am toying with adding another lace repeat but don't want it to be too long; I suppose it's a question of whether I'd rather rip back or add on. Definitely rip back, I think, so maybe another lace repeat is good. The reflection from the picture frame caught the knitting just perfectly yesterday to illuminate the colour, I love it. 

I made slow reading progress on Still Life but fast progress through Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential on audiobook, which is very entertaining. We finished Game of Thrones and started season 3 of True Detective; Mr Z does not remember watching the first two but I remember that we liked the first one by not the second. We had knitting group yesterday so I got some cheese (there is a great nearby cheese shop) and then went to a makers' market in Staple Hill on the way home, where I bought a stupidly frivolous gold sequinned cap with orange fringing. I have no use for such a garment but it was so lovely. I suppose I have got a festival ticket booked for Victorious, I can wear it for Fatboy Slim. 

And this morning I went cold swimming for the first time this year.

I don't think I've ever seen the water level this high; they were flooded earlier this year, apparently. It was 11.9 degrees. Rachael did not bring her wetsuit and I managed not to be horrified about this because I knew that, if I was, she wouldn't get in. Hats off to her, she got in and also convinced me to do a second (small) lap. She had a place for the marathon today and deferred it, so her mantra was 'it's not a marathon'. Funnily enough I did actually get used to the cold this time, which is a good indication that it is about warm enough to swim in, so I guess this marks the beginning of swim season. 


Sometimes, a name hangs around in your brain.

When I started teaching, the school I was at had a unit on slavery that focused on the local town hall, which by then housed a law firm and a takeaway, if I recall correctly. My HoD had done some research into the area and discovered that the town hall had been built by some Devon landowner in order to ingratiate himself to the locals after he had purchased the right to name both MPs in the district. His name was Manasseh Masseh Lopes and the name stuck in my head because I was never sure if the pronunciation was lopes as in 'He lopes across his family plantation, surveying the extent of their sugar holdings' or lopes as in 'Senor Lopes'. The unit students studied considered whether the area should acknowledge the slave trade connection of this building. He'd been born in Jamaica in 1755 so it was pretty clear where their family wealth had come from. 

Some years later I saw, probably during a particularly in-depth wiki rabbit hole on an evening when I should have been marking, that (now Queen) Camilla's daughter's surname was Lopes. How interesting! That name isn't very common. I ran down the next rabbit hole and found her new husband was also from the southwest. How interesting! Not much more digging needed to be done to find he was indeed descended from the Lopes of the town hall fame. I texted my HoD and he was flabbergasted that I'd even remembered the name, let alone made the connection. So the knowledge got filed somewhere in my brain.

But when one of the influencers I follow on Insta did an interview on her business podcast with Katie Lopes, one of the founders of a popular knicker brand, the name rang that bell in my head again.

Interestingly, this was a lot harder to bloodhound my way through. But I was motivated. Katie Lopes has done quite a lot of interviews now where she talks about the difficulties of being a female entrepreneur, that she has to do it as a single mum, that her vile-sounding ex-husband saddled her with £1.5m of debt that she didn't even know about because he was so toxic, how she was able to raise sponsorship for Stripe & Stare against the odds, and so on. This is all admirable. As the daughter of a single parent and one supportive of and interested in female entrepreneurs, I take my hat off to her, really. It is really impressive that she's managed to achieve this. 


That name. Hasn't that name helped?

I'm not really about the aristocracy talking about how success in business is '90% grit'. I think back to my single mother when I was a teenager and how the conversation might have gone if I'd told her, hey Mum, if you were just a bit tougher and had a bit more drive, you too could win millions in investment and start up a very successful knicker company. What an excessively cruel and crushing message that would have been for her to hear. Even with Mother Hand's endless patience, I fear homelessness would have been my next move. 

So, I started to try to find out more about Katie, to see if she was indeed connected to the Lopes family of which I was already aware. I think she's quite careful. There's not much about her online that you'd stumble across unless you were specifically trying to find a connection. The fact she was raised in Devon was a pretty big clue and thankfully The Peerage did not let me down: the Honourable Katie, to use the full title she was born with, is indeed the daughter of the Third Baron Roborough, making her the sister of the current one and the cousin-in-law of the king's stepdaughter. There are no pictures, so I couldn't be certain it was the same Katie Lopes, but then I found a Telegraph announcement of her marriage (this connection also listed on The Peerage and also that man's name, mate, did you not guess he was a wrongun from the start?) and then an interview with her in her married name, which does have pictures of her, looking like a younger version of the Katie Lopes doing the rounds of female-business-owner-friendly media. 

(Why yes, I do have marking to do, why do you ask?)

I'm just quite disappointed that I haven't found this background acknowledged in anything I've read or heard about her, if I'm honest. I'm not naive enough to think that every scion of a peerage is sitting on huge inherited wealth. I'm sure the family didn't just reach down the back of its sofas to pay her ex-husband's debts and fund her new business - sarcastic as that sounds, I mean it. I bet she has worked really hard and she should be really proud. 

But when people who move in circles of very privileged people then spend quite a lot of time chatting about how they've had to 'build everything back from scratch' and anyone can do it if they just 'fuck everything they've ever been told', it properly grates. It's disingenuous and not supportive of other women trying to make it in business that don't have the privilege of knowing people who know people, or knowing people who can vouch for them. If you're not acknowledging the privilege granted by your background in conversations like this, you're not doing it right. It doesn't undermine your success. Privilege does not equate to business success. But when it's unacknowledged, that does undermine it, in my opinion - what are you trying to hide? 

I read a story this week about a woman having to give up her beloved pet dog because she's being made homeless, through no fault of her own. It made me a bit tearful. Try telling her she just needs grit to build back from nothing, when what she really needs is a relative or close friend with a property big enough to have an empty summer house or a second home somewhere, or enough money in their own property to go guarantor for her. I bet Katie had a few of those. 

I wonder when the next Lopes will pop up in my life?

Sunday 14 April 2024

2024 Weeknote 15

I had a hermit's dream of a few days away in London this week. 

I stayed at a fabulous little historic pub in Greenwich, called the Prince of Greenwich, which provided a huge squashy bed with lots of pillows, lots of peace and quiet, a kitchenette for preparing one's own meals (I did not use it but it was a good space), a small black kitten boss and superb Italian food for dinner one night. I was a bit nervous about it being noisy because, yknow, pub, but it seems to no longer be a pub but more of a restaurant, so it was closed by 10pm every night. It was one of those classic British pubs which was stuffed full of every curio you can imagine and the sign for the ladies' toilet said, 'Women are always right' which I loved. 

I went to three exhibitions/museums while I was there, starting with the Entangled Pasts exhibition at the Royal Academy, which looks at how art played a part in shaping our perceptions of empire, enslavement and colonialism. It was full of historic art and contemporary pieces and it was very much up my alley. I am full of examples of how the British Empire has shaped pretty much every institution and aspect of British culture, so hearing from the RA about how their own existence owes much to this period was music to my ears. 

Then on Wednesday, I went to the National Maritime Museum and the Museum of London, Docklands, both places which have been on my list to visit for a very long time and both places which added a huge amount of context to the story of the British Empire that I've been teaching. I think the NMM just pipped the MoL to the favourite spot but I could easily have spent a whole day in either place. Woe that they are so far east, it makes it a tricky place to go to on a day trip. However, I am going to need to go back to NMM because there is a lot I didn't see and at least one other museum that I didn't go into, as part of the complex, so plenty more learning to do.

I think my favourite anecdote from across the museum exhibits was probably this -

The mind boggles at how a man might be so 'ill-used' in a brothel as to occasion his death. I can only assume they meant he caught syphilis. 

On Tuesday night I went to the National Theatre to see Underdog: The Other Other Bronte, which popped up in my Facebook ads while I was in Austria. It was a fantastic piece of theatre. Firstly, the stage/theatre itself was small and I was sat quite near the stage so it felt like I was almost a part of it; secondly, I think the three main actors must have put an incredible amount of time into rehearsing and getting comfortable with each other, because they played sisters really well. Charlotte was played by Gemma Whelan who is fresh in my mind from my rewatch of Game of Thrones and she began the play in the audience, asking people what their favourite of her books was. 'Harry Potter, what?!' she quipped at one point. 

Other notable points of the trip included catching the Uberboat from Greenwich to Embankment, feeling like Elizabeth I; a visit to Liberty for a scarf and some new Jones Road make up (their counter girls were so rude last time, I almost didn't go, but I really wanted to try a face pencil and needed matching. A much better experience this time, thankfully); a haircut; a lunch with Mother Hand and Sib to mark Father Hand's passing; and hanging out with the niblings. I also read two books, finishing Lone Women (creepy and wonderful) and Copper Sun by Sharon M Draper, which offered an interesting perspective on where runaway enslaved people might have journeyed in 18th century America. I've started The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla and Still Life by Sarah Winman. I caught up on lots of recorded TV - how is it already interviews week on The Apprentice and how did I miss a whole series of Sort Your Life Out? - and slept a lot too. 

Family snap.

Now, I suppose, I'm ready to go back to work. 

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.


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.