Monday, March 29, 2004

Sir Peter Ustinov presented me with my degree. His speech was intelligent, eloquent and, as you would expect, very funny. James writes far better than I could about his death, so I recommend you get there and read his thoughts.

Today has been one of my thrice-yearly cleaning days, where furniture gets shifted, paperwork gets filed and lost items are found. It's been productive but quite dull; I keep being distracted by glimpses of my new hair, which is a very red shade of red. I've tried to capture it on camera to share the redness, but my phonecam's not good enough to get the magnificence of it all. In retrospect this is probably a good thing. Anyway, back to the cleaning...

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Things I learned on my holidays about the Classical world
* The word 'arena' comes from the Latin for sand ('harena'). This sand was imported from Egypt to cover the floor of the Colusseum.
* Pliny likened the eruption of Vesuvius to an Umbrella Pine.
* The Romans built bath houses with curved, ridged roofs: this made the condensation run down the walls, rather than drip on the bathers.
* In Ancient Greece, Olympic champions were immortalised in statues; those who won three times were entitled to have their genitals shown at full size rather than scaled down.

Things I learned about the world of viticulture, alcohol and wine-tasting (The other teacher has a wine-tasting exam on Tuesday and I had to help him revise. It was fascinating)
* There are four ways of making sparkling wines, and if a French wine is an appellation controlee sparkling wine then it must have been made using the traditional (or 'champagne') method.
* Most countries have a quality grading based upon the regions of production, but the German system is based upon the quality of the grapes rather than where they are grown.
* A cider press is technically known as a 'cheese' and cider apple pulp gives up about 80% of its weight in juice.

Things that I discovered I knew but had forgotten
*The eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 was a Plinian eruption that destroyed the entire top of the cone and caused pyroclastic flows; my inner-geographer was very satisfied by our jaunt up the volcano.
* The role played by remuage and degorgement in the traditional production of sparkling wine; Charl and I saw this in action in Vouvray last summer.
*School trips can be hard work (especially when you have a hotel full of Essex schoolgirls who are determined to get some snog-action with your boys at silly o'clock in the morning, when you're equally as determined that they won't) but can also be great fun.

I got back from Italy this evening when the big hand was pointing at the 6 and the little hand was pointing to the 10. Far more on the week's exploits will follow, but not now because.... BOING..... "Time for bed!" (as said by Zebeddee, the only man with a coil fitted).

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Going offline now. Have fun; I know I will.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Kids (mostly) gone - good
Reports all with Headmaster - good
E1-11 completed and stamped at post office - good
Three loads of the epic laundry disaster washed - good

Departure for Italy - 8am tomorrow.
Packing - non-existent
Head - exploding

You will notice that this is a fairly symmetrical post. I don't know why but I find it aesthetically pleasing. I don't think I'm able to spell aesthetically though. Hey ho.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Who says ooop? Presumably rhying with hoop as everyone knows u and oo are normally homophonic.

Me. I say it. And yes, rhyming with hoop. It's the opposite to "dahn", which is pronounced in such a way that it rhymes with... well.... something, I'm sure, but I can't think of anything right now.

Anyhoo, I haven't time to discuss the intricacies of the English language, because today I shall be mostly writing reports. Again. I'll be glad when this term's over.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Two messages arrive from that box o'er there which make me suspect that my mum's finally got her new computer fastened up to the internet so she can indulge in late-night spodding.

Mother's watching!

which I think is a warning to tidy up my act and write less about my alcohol consumption, and

mother's passed database!

which means that her computer course is going well. Hi mummy!


Hey! You scared me! You might be having a late-night essay crisis (it was posted from some academic institution ooop north at nearly 2.30am) but I was quite happily sitting here, minding my own businss, writing reports until they came out of my ears. Pah! Young people today! ;-)

Monday, March 15, 2004

I'm losing the plot very quickly. I think my head's turning into a tadpole. Why isn't it the end of term yet?

I've spent the last hour and a half on the netball courts. It's grey, breezy and starting to get dark, but - for the first time, possibly, ever - it's been good to be out doing sport. I took the seniors: we had a bit of a match, more than a smattering of silliness and lots of laughter. The exercise makes up for the fact that I stuffed my face with chocolate for much of the afternoon. It almost feels like life as normal, although I suspect that illusion's not going to last long. Off for tea now... more food: hurrah!! :-)

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Today is the age of comments and so here is some commentage, arranged from random to not-quite-so-random...

can your brain do 720 degrees of rotation and stay in one piece?

Not normally, no, although after this last week I'd believe anything's possible.

Patron Saint of the Luddites? Ned Lud is the closest you'll get, I think. (see Brewer Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, online here: ) --Katie W, coming out of anonymity...

Good, that's answered a long-puzzling question of mine. Next!

Apropos of your recent, ahem, entries, about XXX Furniture: I recall a website, back in the dim-distant web-past which featured just that. Furniture porn

Bwah-ha-ha!! We like! These next two refer, I think, to the internet-dating saga and the danger of accountants:

I've only ever met one person who described themselves as an accountant who knows more about balance sheets than I do.

I don't think you should admit this in public, dear boy, I really don't.

Oh! And I know a non-boring accountant! Only young yet though, so give him time... KatieW, again; can you tell I'm at work? ;)

Tooth Fairies...

I only got 20p. Sob! (yikes, perhaps this is age reflective?)

Re: phonecam photo of my recycling (which is still growing at an exponential rate)

Where are the bottles of Port in that recycling pile? Mind you, I've not had any more since you introduced me to it at summer camp last year! TTFN Dave.
P.S. I meant to say that it looks mostly like beer and Wine, where are the port bottles....?

Port? Me?! Shurely Shome Mishtake. Moving quickly onwards: school...

Mock A-level marking advice: Choose a less popular subject. Tom

Perhaps there's sense in that suggestion. Any ideas? Lastly

Do any of your students read your blog?

Some find it by accident, I suspect, and some of my colleagues have been known to drop in occasionally. I don't have reader stats on purpose, though, so I have no idea. In fact, I have no idea about many things, so I'm off to make pancakes. Hurrah!

Saturday, March 13, 2004

On Monday my Housemistress' husband died unexpectedly. He was a colleague: he taught history, coached games and used to be a Housemaster. His death stunned the school community, not least the girls in the House. Since then I've been running the House with support from colleagues: it's been made even more stressful by the proximity of the end of term and the associated report deadlines. The last five days have been horrible; no other word can describe the situation. I am very appreciative of all the supportive emails and messages - it's been hard going, not least because of the need to hide my emotions and to be strong for the girls' sake.

People's response to death is a bizarre thing: I was totally numb, calm and collected when I first heard; I cried when we had to tell the girls and then in the chapel service; I went through a phase of total, all-consuming anger. The girls have responded in very different ways and at different times, but we've talked and cried and hugged and laughed together a lot, and in a perverse way I think this has brought the community together. Jen the matron and I have had girls round to our flats at all hours of the day and night: we've all discovered so much more about each other than we knew before; we've probably learned something about ourselves too.

I was unable to think for the first twenty four hours. The only sentences I managed to write were straight from the "Here is John. He has a ball. He likes to run" school of simplicity, although they made less sense. I knew that blogging would be a bad idea, for although I write primarily for myself and I may have emotionally benefitted from writing my way through the raw pain of the situation, I know enough about discretion and corporate loyalty to recognise a bad idea when I think it.

We have six days of term left to go. There are forms to fill, lists to compile and print, reports to write. The final few days of term will be full of tidying, sorting, packing, leaving. In seven days' time I will be in Italy on a school trip. It's going to be busy and blog updates will be few and far between. Until we meet again...

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Death is a great leveller. For now, words refuse to come. I'll be offline for most of the next three weeks. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

It's been a computer go-slow day, causing worry, delay and very rude words that I wouldn't normally say with such vemon except during the report season. Luckily the patron saint of the luddites was smiling down on me, and the first set of reports (deadline: 13 hours' time) is complete. I'm now eating vegetable curry, drinking beer and wondering what happened to my early night.

The questions begs: Why did you even think an accountant would be a fun person to go out with?

He just described his profession as "finance" and I thought he might be able to give me handy hints about interpreting Balance Sheets that I could then pass on to my kiddiwinkles here in school. Alas no. Besides, not all accountants are boring (she says, racking her brain to think of more than one person who falls in that category...)

I've been at a dinner party this evening, and should by rights now be at Jeremy's flat, drinking whisky and listening to contrapuntal music from the Baroque era. However, he's gone out, leaving me alone to do that most dangerous of pastimes: late-night blogging. There are many things I could write about - how much I'm enjoying the CD currently playing; how badly I'm singing along to the aforementioned CD; the glass of bourbon sitting next to my keyboard - but instead I'm going to write installment three in the whole internet dating saga. This ranks as number three on the list of "Ill-advised Actions Carried Out in 2004"; I shall probably have to edit this severely in the morning after school chapel. However, not being one to choose the sensible option, I shall press on regardless...

The problem with internet dating is that at some point it has to move off the screen and become a face-to-face meeting. This is - to say the least - nerve-wracking. Exchanging emails is harmless fun, but eventually one of you makes that first move towards a rendezvous, normally disguised as a throw-away comment that can be ignored without serious loss of face. You agree a time and location and then... well... Robert's your father's sibling, as they say.

If only.

In my case, you discuss the theoretical meeting over email ("Mmm, that would be lovely"), then are forced to make decisions about when and where. You then prevaricate, spend some time researching the options, looking up locations on streemap, faff, and eventually talk on the phone. This is the moment when you realise that their accent is wrong, or they sound like an accountant (which, to be fair, he was). Nonetheless, you agree to meet, in a "well, it's better than a night by myself and maybe he's not a bunny boiler" sort of way.

The first trauma is what to wear. For a bloke, this might be less of an issue, but it's pretty near impossible for me. Should it be normal casual clothes, or something a bit more, well, special? Personally, the first option involves jeans and Doc Martens, which are often enough to put a bloke off before I even speak. On the other hand, my next smartest set of clothes is more accurately described as a suit. The compromise was my smartest pair of jeans, a girlie-ish top, and no docs: close, but no banana.

The drive to the date's location is a time to worry about everything from appearance to conversation gambits. It's like a job interview: you've done your background research by re-reading their emails, so you plan questions that might be relevant; you prepare answers that you think are witty, yet reveal further depths; you decide what you're *not* going to reveal. What makes it worse is the fact that you've only ever seen a couple of photos of them, if that: how will you recognise them? Luckily, the Madmobile's a good way of being found - none of that "I shall be wearing a blue top, holding a rose and carrying a copy of The Economist"; instead, telling them to look for the blue beetle is an easy option.

When (if?!) you manage to meet up, you then have to make the decision about what to drink. Is a pint too manly? G and T too expensive? J2O too girlie? And then, the conversation....

On Tuesday evening, I was lucky enough to discover that he'd done his degree where I'd done my teacher training. An innocent university-related question turned into a 20 minute saga of how he found his house in his second year. At that moment I realised with certainty that it was not to be. It was a pleasant evening, but not one with any sparkle or chemistry; I cut my losses and went home.

The evening, however, was not a dead loss: I spent most of the journey home, and much time afterwards, talking to Mr Pancake Party. I've never mentioned the internet once to him, and perhaps that's the way it should stay....

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Pish! Forgot to put the "www" bit in the HTML. What a fool! :-) However, now it's working, there is no hope: you're going to be inundated with pictures as well as words from Planet Mad. There is no escape! Mua-ha-ha!!!

I *so* should be an evil dictator.

Ah. Broken it. Better get back to the ftp manual...

I have blue teeth and a dongle. Most attractive.

It does, however, mean that I am (hopefully) ready to show you the first picture I took with my new phone. That is, provided I've not had a Luddite attack. Ladies and gentlemen, I present... my recycling!

Not just from the last week, I hasten to add

Friday, March 05, 2004

Guides tonight: manic. My nerves: frazzled. Until...

Guide A: Mad - have you got a ruler?
Me: Yup - here you are: my special dinosaur ruler, with centimetres on one side, and a timeline of dinosaurs on the other.
Guide A: Cool. What's this one?
Me: That's a Trilobite.
Guide B: Oh - I've got one of those...
Me: Really?
Guide B: Yes, with Kings and Queens down one side.
Me: What - a trilobite?! With kings and queens?!

It turn out that she meant a ruler. Shame. I got quite excited for a moment.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

After marking what feels like several hundred mock A-level exam papers, and finally getting all of my district's census paperwork finished, I decided that it was time to tidy up. Nestling in amongst the piles of paperwork,* I've found four cheques, and countless adverts for courses that look very interesting but took place in 2003.

I'm fed up with being so badly organised. I hate being so rubbish with paperwork. It's time for a change.

"Mountains" is a more accurate term for these piles, as is "Bloody loads of it".

WHHEEeeeeeeeeeee... splut.

That is the sound of my brain exploding. A-level mock exams seem such a good idea, but they involve sooooo much marking. Bah!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Comments a-plenty! First up, teeth:

I was shocked by inflation of tooth fairy money. I used to get 50p. Amy
50p from the tooth fairy round our way. Except when she hasn't got any change, then it's a quid (grumble grumble)

Then, furniture:

When you think about it, all furniture shops must deal in XXX furniture. AKA beds. Oh yes. ..Yes! Ye-you get the idea I'm sure..!

Ahem! Moving swiftly onwards to... ah... dating

damnit, I thought at least one of my friends had resisted beep beep internet dating. Hope lurve (or its more suitable stable mate - is in the air or perhaps somewhere more tangible? Happy St Davids so smug, so single, Charlx
hmmm, new thing doesn't let me review these things. Spelling pants this time of night (and don't even start me on the punctuation). Please don't set Lynn Truss on me Charl

Mua-ha-ha!! I have a tale and a half to tell about the whole dating thang, but that's going to have to wait until later when I'm not officially on duty. Finally, for now:

Walk faster!
Still on TWENTY NINE - Si J

And on 29 I shall have to stay, for my walking-partner is now offically signed off games/sport/exercise: I was hoping that he'd recover enough to have a manic week of walking, but his doctor has intervened and the whole thing's off. Given that the report-writing season is just about to begin, this is probably a good thing.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

1.50 is loads. Are these rich rainbows?

Not particularly; it's just inflation, I think. Certainly it's not 20p per tooth any more.

what about the hogfather? The weakest Discworld book dont you think?

Mebbe, although I'm fond of all of them, in their own way. I was contemplating opening a whole squirmy worm-filled can of a discussion by saying that I'm less fond of the early Discworld books than I am of the more recent, more intellectually-humorous novels, but I don't think I dare. Instead I'm off shopping.... ooh, the big wide world beckons!

Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy then?

Absolutely. The going rate is £1.50 for a front tooth, or so my Rainbow informant tells me. Although, I think you'll find it's a franchised operation: a Tooth Fairy may be more accurate. Thank you, Terry P.

Monday, March 01, 2004

I was going to do some tidying up, and then have an early night. There I was, happily sitting at my computer, when suddenly the Time Fairy came and stole all of my evening. Yaaargh!

This evening I discovered a new use for Cadbury's Roses chocolates. They are in fact an excellent way of teaching finance, accounts and ratio analysis. They were used for demonstrating the different types of profit, for calcuating the amount of working capital and for analysing the gearing of a business. They also make handy brainfood when your grey matter's had enough. Hurrah!

GCSE coursework; deadline zooming closer very quickly.

"Please Miss, will you read my questionnaire?"
"Of course. Let me look."
"Eurm, what's this in your list of businesses?"
"Ah, I don't know its name, but it's the furniture shop on the corner."
"Well, you'd better find out. You can't refer to it as the XXX Furniture Shop."

A reader asks:

How's thunderbird?
I mean firebox. I have thunderbird on the brain. FAB

Firefox is great; even better than the Thunderbirds, if such a thing is possible!