Tuesday 21 May 2024

2024 Weeknote 20

I had a very lovely weekend doing mainly middle-aged things, so much so that I didn't make it to my blog on time. I revelled in the activities of the old:
  • Went to knitting group
  • Went to two garden centres
  • Planted seeds and bedding plants in pots (has to be pots because the rabbit does not have a healthy sense of his own mortality)
  • Got up early to go and do old-lady breast stroke around the quarry
  • Sat in the garden with a glass of wine and a book
  • Baked a cake
  • And the piece de resistance - I went into Holland and Barrett and used my loyalty points to buy a new herbal tea I'd never tried before
Can't wait for my free bus pass. 

I did manage ice cream for breakfast on Saturday though, so perhaps that is one in the other direction. My joint-favourite bakery in town has reawoken its soft-serve machine for the summer and I couldn't pass up the chance to try this month's flavour. 

I continued to read Still Life and my goodness, that is a good book. I was reading it on the train today and it made me cry. I need to stop reading books that make me cry on trains. 

I finished watching the Tattooist of Auschwitz but didn't really watch anything else. I did a bit more sleeve knitting, but half-heartedly. 

On Thursday, I went out to dinner with the faculty as one of us, Sophie, is leaving - has now left, actually. We went to a vegan mezze place we've been to before and I was delighted to bump into one of my ex-students, who shyly informed me that she has a place at Cambridge next year, to read history with French. What amazing news! I'm so pleased for her. I always get a bit sad about students who've moved on and I never get to hear what they do next. I suppose they can't all stay in touch but I love these stories. One of my year 13s gave me a card saying I was an inspirational woman, as well, which got me right in the feels.

Work was a bit better, still on my high from the conference at the weekend. I had a trust meeting with someone on Tuesday, though, who told me that if I worked hard on the course he's running, I might one day be a senior at an exam board. Oh, the dizzy heights of a job I've been doing for eight years! What an incentive! It was hard to arrange my face, but I think I managed it (I don't know if he would have clocked it anyway, my call froze three times during our meeting and he didn't even notice). But yeah, nice bit of patronising, just to keep me humble. 

It's another middle-aged thing, isn't it, being less willing to put up with other people spouting rubbish? So yeah, add that to the list above. 

Monday 13 May 2024

2024 Weeknote 19

I have no excuse for not writing this yesterday, other than, yesterday, I agreed with myself that I could do as little as I liked. Consequently, there was some tidying and putting away of things that had been languishing in the wrong place since Christmas; there was a successful attempt as dismantling the floordrobe; there was a nap; and there was plenty of book-reading in the sun. Having said I would give up on Still Life, I decided to give it one last go and it suddenly got really good so now I can't put it down. I am rushing to get this finished so I can get through a bit more before bed. I do have a sneaking suspicion I should have read A Room With A View first, though. 

There was some TV watching last week - more Tattooist of Auschwitz - but not very much as I was busy trying to get a few little projects finished before the conference I went to over the weekend. One of those projects was the presentation I made on Friday so it was good that I managed to prioritise that. I might have finished my quiz round in the bar as we waited for the quiz to begin. However, it was all as successful as I wanted it to be. It's such a lovely event to hang out at: everyone is friendly and kind, people just start chatting to me out of nowhere and there's a good deal of very wholesome learning to be done as well. 

This year's historian was William Dalrymple who almost never speaks in the UK as he spends a large proportion of his time living in India. His talk was fascinating, even though I find he is a bit repetitive now I've read the books and listened to the podcasts. I suppose we can't expect everyone to come up with fresh material all the time, particularly when his was already a pretty fresh take on the history of the British in India. 

Naturally I made him take a picture with me for my wall of historians.

Other notable sessions included a scheme of work about why women are constantly accused of being mad when actually they're just being human beings, and an overview of student perceptions of the British Empire. Empire is my bag at the moment, I can't look away from it. I was quite stern with a very well-known history author and all-round legend during that session but this is the sort of thing that presses my buttons these days.

So, it was a very worky week, really. I didn't mind it. I feel like I'm emerging from my grouchy chrysalis. 

Rachael and I booked flights to Kazakhstan this week as well, which helped my motivation somewhat. The chance to ski outside of Europe, finally! Too exciting. 

The book is calling me. 

Monday 6 May 2024

2024 Weeknote 18

My work motivation picked up a bit this week. I listened to a teaching podcast and that reminded me of some revision strategies I used to use with exam groups but had forgotten, so I spent all week doing those and they went down well. Yey me, I can teach after all. I've also been reflecting on what my role is going to be next year and how different parts of it fit together, so I can really make the most of the scant downtime I have when the exam classes leave and get lots of things planned.

Subconscious me is laughing heartily right now. The final term is always a school write-off because of the exam work, I can't think why conscious me can't quite grasp this. What does help is that, thanks to exam classes going, internal assessments and the PGCE student, I think I have around 20 lessons in total for the whole term...surely this bodes well for productivity. 


I went to a cracking history lecture this week from the venerated Ron Hutton, who was speaking about the Tudors again. This lecture is a regular at this time of year as we approach the A-level exams and the audience was predictably full of students, including some of mine, which was pleasing as the topic is nothing to do with what we teach them, but as a lecturer he is exceptional. There were also lots of my ex-students in the crowd, who traitorously went off to study history elsewhere, but it was nice to see them anyway. Plus tonnes of colleagues and friends from the surrounding area. I haven't seen much of people this year but I didn't really notice until I was there and people were asking me where I'd been. Where have I been? Hard to say. Perhaps this is part of the transition from subject leader to senior leader. 

The lecture was, naturally, extremely entertaining and educational. There's something good about seeing lectures on topics that you know loads about: I find myself not scribbling down facts as if they were gospel but instead considering what facts have been left out and how well the historian makes his case. Hutton did refer to Boulogne as a third-rate port for the second year in a row, I wonder what they did to offend him. He also made an interesting point about Henry VIII conducting 330 political executions in 8 years - 'a possible record for peacetime England'. 

It was a very historical week as I also went to see Hamilton on Saturday, with a couple of knitting group friends and a couple of school friends, tied to a lunch at Pieminister. I had a bit of trouble getting in as I hadn't managed to get all the tickets to scan (a long story) but thankfully it was OK in the end and I missed barely any of it. The show was spectacular, as you might imagine. Seeing it live was much better than watching it on Disney+. I have to dissent from popular opinion here and say I didn't think it was a great musical: the songs are very fast so I struggled to follow some of it (maybe this is how it's meant to be though, like opera) and I am never a big fan of musicals that have no dialogues (Les Mis, I mean you). It's also the nichest bit of history to focus on, but then I guess that was kind of the point. 

I made basically no progress on Still Life and have decided I need to give it up for now and move onto a book I am actually interested in, or all of May will have passed with no reading. I have also moved onto a friendlier audiobook, Restless Republic by Anna Keay - an interesting listen so far. 

We watched all of Baby Reindeer and it was as excruciating as I'd expected; I'm left wondering where Richard Gadd as to go from here, and my colleagues have joined the 'real Martha' carnival and are reading all her posts online. We tried to watch Oppenheimer yesterday but in the end had to admit that neither of us were into it...it felt like a series of trailers, one after another. In general if a movie has music playing in the background almost all the time, I can tell it's not going to suit me. We started watching the Tattooist of Auschwitz and I was reminded to look up the second series of World on Fire because it's the same actor...I loved the first series but I assume the later ones have gone onto a streaming service. I also watched the first episode of Mary and George, on a recommendation from a student. I love Julianne Moore so this was a treat. 

I'm onto the sleeves of the Topolino I'm knitting. I'm not loving it - worries about it being too big, not long enough, the lace falling in the wrong place, the neckline being too baggy, not wanting to wear it and therefore wasting what it turning out to be some of the nicest yarn I've ever knitted with....all conspire to prevent me from finishing. But finish I will. I can always rip it out if I don't wear it, after all. 

And today I went for a swim. It was just over 13 degrees but felt colder. I managed two short laps before telling myself it was ok to stop; by that point I was acclimatised but it seemed sensible to get out as, naturally, I started to tell myself that if it no longer felt cold, I might be hypothermic. Hypochondria really is an age thing. 

It would have been nicer if it was sunny but I arrived just before the swim session started and the whole quarry was like a sheet of glass. It is definitely good for me, in many ways.