Sunday 23 June 2024

2024 Weeknote 25

Just in case you're wondering as to the state of my brain at the moment, here's an insight: I have been wondering, for the past two weeknotes, why I'm not closer to or yet at weeknote 26, when solstice was last week and the nights are once again going to start drawing in. I started to think I must have miscounted. Only this morning did it click that the end of June marks halfway through the year, not solstice. It's not like I've lived with this calendar for my entire life or anything. 

Work reaches its crescendo this week. Thankfully the side hustle is (currently) going very smoothly this year so is not needing too much of my attention, which is just as well because I have no more capacity. I'm not sleeping particularly well, having been haunted all last week with very vivid dreams that were not particularly nice - not the sort you wake screaming from, but the sort that create an uneasy feeling on waking that persists into the morning. Several of these dreams were about having to move. I'm not going to Google to find out what that might mean. 

I quite often come back to that adage that you can't have more than 10 productive hours in a day. I can't remember where I read it now and I don't know how it's evidenced, but it's something I use to make myself feel better when I realise I've been staring at the wall for an unknown amount of time, in a paralysis of indecision about how to move forward with my work. This week has been OK in terms of work rate but I have had to resort to finding a quiet classroom to work in, rather than staying in the shared office, because either they distract me or I distract them and then nothing gets done. I would have liked to have got more done whilst in my empty classroom, but enough was achieved and, when I'm doing 3+ hours of the side hustle before and after work, it's not unreasonable to expect my productivity in my main job to suffer a little. Most of the time, at this time of year, it's not too important as there's not much to do. This is most certainly not the case this year, though. Somehow I've got three working Saturdays in a row, amongst other things. I started listing my tasks but then remembered that this is not a work space...though I do write a lot about work, don't I. Sometimes there wouldn't be much to say if I didn't. 

Let's try. 

This week I wound the yarn to make a Tolsta Tank by Rebecca Clow. I am going to make the square neck version and stripe some linen I bought at Wonderwool. 

That fancypants little thing twinkling across the top doesn't match too well in terms of colour but it is extremely fine and I plan to carry it along on random stripes here and there for a bit of interest. I'm hoping that more of the twinkle shows up than the orange. I do like the orange tbf. 

Anyway, it would be nice to cast this on as I wanted to wear it this summer, but I am realistic about my chances of achieving that now. I am, it has to be said, powering through season 3 of Bridgerton and if I just had the mental capacity to lift a pair of needles then I might be able to get started. As it is, I have spent much of my free time doing quick crosswords on the Guardian app and fastidiously playing my three favourite NYT games (Wordle, Connections, Tiles), and this includes while Bridgerton is on. I do like Birdgerton but it's not something that takes a lot of concentration. I also find myself really wanting to look up spoilers online because I can't wait to find out what happens at the end of the series, but I have decided I would be happy with either of the possible outcomes and so I am holding off. 

Has anything else happened this week? I gave blood on Wednesday, donation number 23 in 7 mins and 41 seconds (I hadn't drunk enough on Wednesday, really). On Friday night we went out to celebrate Father Z's birthday. I don't see enough of the Zs, I hadn't seen them since Christmas which is embarrassing as they live very close, but I remain perennially bad at families, how does one do them? Sometimes I think I might just pop in but would that be weird? What if they're busy? 

My favourite thing about this week has been the honeysuckle. We have a ramshackle garage next to the house, which isn't fit for much at all, but has proved to be a very supportive space for some honeysuckle, that grows wildly across both the front and back of it and is currently in full bloom. It's nice when I brush against it in the morning and it releases a bit of scent, but it's best in the evening when it's been under the sun all day - the smell is incredible. It doesn't last too long, so I've spent more time than usual sitting outside, appreciating it. 

And now I'm off for a swim in a quarry. 

Sunday 16 June 2024

2024 Weeknote 24

A busy week of exam board meeting this week. I headed up to Birmingham on Monday and didn't come home until Thursday. On arriving at the hotel, the desk clerk offered me an upgrade to a family room. 'It's just got an extra bed in it,' he said, when I looked doubtful. 'OK,' I replied, 'as long as it has a desk - I need a desk.'

The desk:

I went back downstairs to ask them to put the extra bed away but he transferred me to another extra-bed room where the sofa bed was merely blocking the hairdryer/mirror, so I concluded that this was a hotel where a number of rooms had sofa beds that could not be folded away (I did try) and just got on with it. I did my usual ritual of eating takeaway in bed on the second night. I had nice, sociable dinners out on the other nights. The meetings went very smoothly (I'm almost suspicious) and I was able to spend time reading and napping - in fact, the desk was not used at all. I can only hope that the rest of the marking period passes as smoothly, though I have already had to fire someone and it's only the second day. Sigh.

Work has been predictably busy as a result of my absence; on Monday, the inspectors were in to observe the trainee as part of their inspection of the university (therefore this was not about me at all, but still felt sort of like it was) and then, in my only lesson of the day, two years 7s had a physical fight. I think that is the first time that has ever happened, in over 20 years. One of them was moved out of the class the very next day. Friday was spent catching up on all the things I should have done while I was in Birmingham and then feeling sad about the student now moved to a different class, because teaching them is not the same without her. But it is clearly in everyone's best interests. 

I've got well into a new book, Connor Iggulden's Stormbirds which was given to me by a tutee 9 years ago and which has resided in the plastic box of books that time forgot in the garage since I changed jobs in 2016. It is extremely readable and I like it a lot. I have also flounced my way through season 2 of Bridgerton, having been shamed by the release of the third season ... I am very behind on all the popular shows.

This morning I went for my first swim in the harbour of 2024. They reckoned it was 16 degrees but I think it was a little warmer. Still quite murky. There were hardly any people there but it was ludicrously difficult to find out how to book a ticket and I wonder if they're deliberately not advertising it too widely. I dropped in at the best bakery on the way home and picked up one of their apricot soft-serves. Ice cream for breakfast is required during marking season. 

Sunday 9 June 2024

2024 Weeknote 23

Very brief today, because I have spent all weekend sunning myself on the beach in Portsmouth: Mother Hand rented a beach hut for the week so the fam have been down there enjoying it. I visited my uncle and aunt on the way home and met my cousin's son for the first time. He's 7. So it's been a very peopley weekend and, around all of this, I have been juggling the start of the exam board tasks - possibly the busiest part of the schedule for me. 

Ergo, not much else has been happening, although I did finish my Topolino. One day there might even be pictures. For now, though, the sea - nothing makes me pine for my home town more than a sunny day on the seafront.

Pebble beaches are the best and I won't hear otherwise. As Sib said this weekend (without a hint of irony), Portsmouth girls are rough, so don't challenge me on this. 

I did also want to commemorate this because it was quite a nice moment - when Mother Hand was last in hospital, I went to Portsmouth every other weekend and survived exclusively on takeaway and breakfast at a nice nearby cafe. I got to know the lady serving quite well and introduced her to Mother Hand when she was feeling better. We went in for breakfast this week and I was sad to see she wasn't there, although to owner was, and remembered me. Towards the end of the meal, the lady herself showed up and came over. There was a great moment where we both thought we might hug each other, and then realised we didn't know each other that well. So she just sat by me instead and we had a little catch up. Nice to have those connections in life. 

Sunday 2 June 2024

2024 Weeknote 22

Yeah, I skipped a week. I was away last Sunday and I meant to catch up but then, who wants to read another entry where I whine about not enjoying my job? It's a bit entitled, isn't it. And boring. Happily things picked up a bit last week and on Thursday - one day before the half term holiday - I finally found my stride and made big headway on the projects I had been procrastinating all term. This makes me feel quite hopeful for the coming term, busy though it will be. 

I did have a trust meeting on Tuesday that enraged me. Lots of disagreeing, which I had to try to manage professionally, with not much success, leading to the comment of the day to me: 'I find your point uncomfortable, but I think you're probably right'. More patronising. I had to come clean about my experience with assessment at the start of the day because, when you're disagreeing with people, it helps that they know you do actually know what you're talking about. It helped a bit, anyway. However, it just highlighted to me again what a lovely bubble I live and work in and how different the status quo is out there. It's a bit depressing, as I move away from working exclusively in my subject community, but I expect I will still find ways of interfering. I love a bit of interfering.

Onto nice half term things. On Saturday there was a quarry swim and lunch. On Sunday, I drove down to see Sib, Sib-in-law and the niblings. We went to Horrible Histories at Hampton Court and then, on Monday, a walk around Richmond Park. All very lovely as long as you take out the long and uncomfortable argument Sib and SIL had for much of the time I was there. I'm always at a bit of a loss when this happens - should I wade in? (Undoubtedly no, this is not the interfering I like). Should I just pretend it's not happening? (This is what I do but it's really awkward). 
Anyway. The small ones are very cute and fun, so that's good, and we saw lots of cool things - ducklings and beetles and lots of deer. 

Sort of understanding why people have children now, if they can make them do amusing things like this. 

On Tuesday, I'd arranged to go for a walk in the Mendips with ex-colleagues and so of course, the weather was abysmal. At one point I put my foot on what looked like a solid piece of ground and sunk into it up to my knee. Thankfully my walking boots are, it turns out, really waterproof. We squelched around for about 3 hours and then ate our sandwiches under an oak tree, sheltering from the rain. The dog companions loved it and we saw lots of wild horses.I came home and fell asleep in the bath, then napped most of Wednesday as I fought off a cold, which thankfully has failed to materialise. 

On Thursday I went into work for a bit, which meant I could visit the good bakery, and then went to a book talk at Toppings in Bath in the evening. It was Marlon James, on the anniversary of him winning the Booker for A Brief History of Seven Killings, which I have not yet read and so of course bought. Marlon James wrote The Book of Night Women which I read a few years ago, while I was studying teaching about slavery. What a book. It really has stayed with me. The interviewer naturally asked about Miss Isabelle and I really wanted to ask James, Do white interviewers always ask you about Miss Isabelle? But of course that's not really a question. The book deals incredibly well with the multiple layers of racism that slavery created in the Caribbean and Miss Isabelle, white but born in the Caribbean, is a victim of this system - not to the extent that the enslaved characters are, but occupying an uncomfortable place in society. I've a theory that people who read this book latch onto her character because it's not often that you read something that indicates that some white people were also scorned for not being the right kind of white, and that many people won't have really known this before. There is a really notorious scene in the book that she is at the centre of, I suppose, so that might also be why. 

That book! Not for the faint-hearted but I can recommend it highly. 

My favourite thing about Marlon James is that he is a massive book nerd. He kept going off at a tangent to talk about the dozens of books he loves and reads. It made me feel quite underaccomplished with my 20-30 books a year, I get the impression he'd manage that in a week, but then he does sort of read for a living, as a literature professor. I wrote down some favourite quotes but I think this one was the best: 'If I have to read one more story about some mediocre white man who has a wife and two mistresses and can somehow still get it up...I mean, come on dude.' 


On Friday I did many errands. I went to Landrace bakery in Bath, finally, and bought All The Things. I took some clothes in to be altered and finally went to the dentist - our old dentist ditched us in January (this being partly our fault as we didn't read his letter carefully and missed the narrow window provided to avoid such a ditching) and I've had to wait eight weeks to get an initial appointment with another dentist, and I had to prepay over the phone when I made it, and that's as a private patient. NHS places are like hen's teeth, if you'll pardon the pun. Luckily the new dentist seemed nice. I've got to go in for a filling and a filling replacement (I am not lucky with my teeth, in spite of all my careful cleaning and flossing) so I guess we will see then how good she is. 

I finished Still Life - very glad I stuck with it. I haven't managed to pick up anything else yet. I read a bit of The Dice Man, after referring to it in conversation and remembering that, although I knew the premise well, I had never actually thumbed through it, thanks to Father Hand banning me from it as a child. I have read about a fifth of it but that's enough. It seems to be a 500-page wank. I'm sure plenty of people in their 30s have found themselves a bit bored and not resorted to handing all agency over to chance, with disastrous consequences for seemingly everyone except the narrator. I tried it, I understand why I wasn't allowed to read it aged 11 (I was a precocious reader as a child and he actually had to hide it from me but, on this one, I have to say I agree with Father Hand), I'm sorry I bothered to waste an hour on it. 

I've tried the start The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and of course I've got A Brief History of Seven Killings ready to go, but I did also pick up the new Thursday Night Murder Club yesterday and I think that seems the most realistic read for the month when marking begins. 

On The TV front, I have managed a lot. I finally finished The Crown. I finished Mary and George - enjoyable, I love Julianne Moore, but the swearing was so anachronistic I found it quite jarring. I binged the whole of season 4 of True Detective which had a deeply satisfying ending. I love Jodie Foster. I have made a start on season 2 of Bridgerton. 

So all this TV has supported the almost-finishing of Toplino, which is about two inches of sleeves away from being ready to wear. I still fear it's going to be a bit short so it needs a good blocking. Hopefully I can get those sleeves finished today.