Thursday, September 30, 2004

Fatso's death hasn't really sunk in yet. I still look in his cage when I walk into my sitting room, expecting to see him scampering about, or at least snuggled up in his purple bedding. It seems strange to think that he's not there. I'll never forget the special experiment to ascertain exactly how many chewy-bar-thing he could get in his cheek pouches* nor the fact that he used to squeak along to the Beach Boys** He would also provide great amusement during my nights on duty, where he would venture up to visit the girls and would get fussed more in twenty minutes that I would manage in a week. He even went on holiday***, had such a fan club that he was sent hamster porn by email**** and was brought presents from afar.

Fatso 3 has a lot to live up to.

* Answer: six. He might have managed more but he got stuck in the doorway of his house and was reluctant to eat more.
** Proving what a cool and culcha'd ham he really was
***To the Biology Department, where he got to play with gerbils, stick insects and tarantulas
**** To his own email address, of course: I might be a luddite but he wasn't

There are days when the internet seems full of junk. This video means that today is not one of them.

Found at Geekward Ho

I feel calmer now. I was discovered weeping and wailing by my line manager, who hugged me and fed me strong hot chocolate, which was much appreciated. By "strong" I mean "practically liquid Diary Milk", so there goes any chance of healthy eating for today. (To be fair, pudding at lunch was jam roly-poly and custard, so I was probably well over my points allowance anyway. Hey ho)

The upshot of our discussion is that she's managed to find me some time off tomorrow so I can get some sense of personal space and equilibrium. I feel guilty that I won't be doing the things that I'm meant to be doing, but I reckon that I'll be worse than useless if I don't take some time out.

What a stupid situation to be in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I can't do this any longer. I'm not doing a good job, not at school, not at Guides, not at anything. I hate feeling so out of control. There has to be a better way of living. Why do I feel so crap?

Fatso 2: running the eternal hamster wheel in the sky

Today has been a day governed by To Do lists and hour-by-hour plans. Sometimes I long for a 9 'til 5 job: at least you know when the working day is due to end.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Have dyslexed well and feel happy with my lot. Am contemplating cooking a big, garlicky, mushroomy, courgettey accompaniment for my pasta. This thought pleases me: will ponder it for a while longer because of the pleasure I'm getting from my imagination.

Teaching this morning was blurry-squinty-eyed and woolly-headed. I now have that sort of wide-eyed stare caused by too much caffeine, and I'm off to Nottingham to dyslex for a couple of hours: I just hope I stay awake during the course else I'm bound to dribble, which is always a bad move when surrounded by those who don't know you. Pish.

Proving the little box o'er there is still useful:

Typo in the new links, Martin\'s page should start http:// not hptt://

Duly corrected. Cheers!

This weekend was one of double bookings and last-minute panic, not to mention confusion and general head-slapping imbecility. Saturday involved teaching, a smattering of marking, schmoozing with parents at lunch in the House and an afternoon/evening on duty. This was all fairly straightforward, apart from the fact that I was also meant to be a) getting ready for a committee meeting on Sunday; and b) getting ready for a D of E expedition on Sunday. Those of you who are astute, or even merely awake, will notice a bit of a clash.

What made this clash worse was the fact that I'd noticed it in my diary several weeks ago but forgot to send apologies. I only remembered this when I was sitting on a coach at some ungodly hour on Sunday morning heading off to the Peak District, at which point I looked through my mobile's contact list to discover that I had no-one's mobile number to let them know. I did send a text to someone, but I now know that they didn't receive it until 7pm on Sunday, by which point I had long missed the meeting and was instead sitting in a campsite to the north of Chatsworth cooking goats' cheese and pesto tortelloni with a tomato and basil sauce. After all, when camping, you might as well do it in style! To make matters even worse, after texting I then got off the coach and left my mobile on the seat: it's a good job there were no accidents while walking as I was the emergency contact! Whoops!

Yesterday was more walking, finishing in a tea-shop in Eyam. The groups were great: well-prepared (in general) and committed to their walk. There are one or two aspects to work on - such as tent pitching and cooking - but a lot of the basic skills are in place.

Yesterday evening, after strings, I chose to go for beer and a curry in Lichfield instead of going to bed early. It was great at the time, but I'm paying for it now. Better go and teach...

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Have played about with it, and mebbe have worked out comments too. Who knows?

I think perhaps it's time for me to do some pruning and arranging: have found many good things recently that I ought to get linked from here. This means that I'll have to play around with my blog template. That's quite a scary prospect!

Warning: Guiding-related post. It's not exciting, unless you're that way inclined.

Before I took over my Guide unit in June, the Guider in charge was a lady of more mature years called Sheila. Sheila was a hoarder. Anything she found that could be potentially used at Guides went straight into the cupboard. All of the games and resources she made were also filed there. On second thoughts, "filed" implies that there was a logical system to it: if there was such a system, I couldn't find it. As a result, when Jen and I took over last term, our first job was to sort through the equipment.

Our first night of Guides without Sheila was an eye-opener. Jen took the two Young Leaders off into the room with the cupboard and spent two hours throwing things out. She used the YL's reactions to decide if things should be thrown or kept: "What's that? I've never seen one of those" "I'd never play that game" "Why on earth have we got that?!?" By the end of the evening, the cupboard was far emptier.

Last night we had another go at it. Three more bin-bags of rubbish came out of the room with the cupboard. Treasures now lost forever include a 1972 map of the area (used for walking round the area during last year's night hike: eeek!), several school hymn books and twenty bazillion felt-tip pens. Copies of The Brownie magazine from the 1950s and 60s were unearthed, then promptly binned; likewise a set of Your Patrol magazines from the early 90s. We also found a box full of Guide badges and cards (surprisingly up-to-date) and some thank-you cards from a party held way back in June: we'd not given them out becasue we didn't know that they existed!

I offer a big apology to those who are wincing at the wanton destruction of valuable archive material, but - and trust me on this - I feel far better about it all. I've still got the camping store to finish off, with its collection of 1950s canvas and mismatching tent poles, but that can wait for a sunnier day.

Friday, September 24, 2004

I have much to write about my Guide cupboards, but I'm running out of Ribena and awakeness. Got to sleep instead.

I'm on duty tomorrow, so will be stuck in the House: I'll write it then. Brace yourselves...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

There's a flying beastie out there that's determined to feast on my blood. I'm just going to have to slather myself in Mosi-Guard and Anthisan before sleeping. Bah!

Caz writes...

But Mad how can you have Big Hair when its so short? I on the other hand have perfected messy/wind blown hair on site (although this time tomorrow it'll be 6inches shorter :)). Caz

...proving quite how long it's been since I saw her last. My hair is far longer that it's been for a while (i.e. since it was first cut off when I was 20) and is more than capable of being big, as this picture shows:

Far longer than it was!

As a bonus bit of extra coverage, as it were, here's a photo of my eyes that I took by accident, but liked too much to delete:

I've been having a bit of a duff time recently. Not duff as in 'really, really, EXTREMELY crappy' but duff as in over-committed and failing to do any job well because I don't have enough time. I've begun to feel guilty when I stop working to take some time out, because I know there's a huge pile of marking waiting to be done. I feel generally over-stretched and stressed, and it's making me short-tempered and snappy with the kids. This weekend coming is Duke of Edinburgh expedition - my first as the D of E co-ordinator - and there's been shitloads of tents, waterproofs and rucksacks to sort out. It's been rubbish.

Today, though, I got to escape from school to go to Brum for a D of E conference. I came back feeling far more positive about the whole thang, and then found this lovely message in my inbox:

Diss highlights: Workplace let down: 1; Lecturer insulted: 1 Words over: 1,500 New undergraduates scared in the library: 3 (scary big hair has a lot to answer for) Terrors over inaccurate representation of archive: 2.5 Friend's website current record for stress busting: 100%!! Have fun with your course! Charl

It's good to know we bring pleasure to some! In fact, Auntie Charl has obviously got quite a lot of work to avoid, because she's also written this:

Mark iii charl wisdom (also known as avoiding dissertation supremo) re viola playing: you need to purchase some 'self deluding earphones' available from selected stores: like their equivalent, the 'self deluding specs', apparently excellent results can be achieved with the minimum of work / self flagellation for crapness/ mediocrity [nb: not for communal use. May cause long term allergies - patch test before use]

Seems I'm not the only one having a work crisis!

World, be warned: I've managed to buy an 80s disco 4 CD compilation in an HMV sale. Bad singing and dancing, not to mention big hair, are looking pretty essential right now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I was contemplating doing marking this evening, but was sidetracked by a friend's party. We drank lots of wine and then admired his music system. This man has the most phenomenal CD collection (a result, I suspect, of being a long-standing music reviewer in his spare time) and I found a recording of Max Reger's suites for solo viola. I've had a book of this music for a number of years and have dipped in and out of the pieces. Needless to say, they're all very difficult and depend upon absolutely accurate intonation (always a challenge for the viola player!). As I burble this bloggage, suite number one is playing in the background.

I'm sure it didn't sound like this when I played it.

My favourite tipple of a monday morning is at least 2 mugs of black coffee and a bottle of Pepsi Max (or similar caffiene containing drink as approved by the engineer) ... usually works! However I find the ultimate pick me up is going home early .. after feeling tired all day at work, I go home and wake up ?!??! Caz

Sadly, no such luxury as bunking off early here, although I feel quite invig'd after dyslexing. Besides, Caz has a good incentive to get home early nowadays!

I like wendy's suggestion best, but ta for the recipe! Will report on success... - Mal.

Let's hope they go down well. I didn't get many complaints on Sunday (we took them to the races) and I've had no reports of poisoning since, so I reckon that's a fairly healty endorsement! Talking of endorsement, here's Auntie Charl recommending her favourite way to acquire biscuit-snacky-goodness:

re ginger biscuits: or go to shop, find biscuit counter, get mcvities Charl

She is so wise.

Pick-me-up suggestions flooding in:

Best pick me up is a TVR - Tequila, Vodka and Red Bull... Pinky
speed? wendy
I hear ginger biscuits are a good pick-me-up. Speaking of which, want to share the recipe? I need a good biscuit recipe to impress my colleagues. - Mal. :)

Me ma's basic cutter-biscuit recipe:
8 oz self-raising flour
5 oz butter or marg
4 oz sugar
1 egg
1 dessert spoon of golden syrup

(For ginger biscuits, replace 1 oz of flour with 1 oz of ground ginger; replace 1 oz flour with 1 oz cocoa for choccie biccies; and so on)

Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and the golden syrup, mix in the flour, roll out the dough then cut it into shapes. Place the biscuits on a baking tray in the oven at 200 deg C for about 10/15 minutes, loosen while soft, then cool on a wire rack. Eat.

Just checking your country code thingy still works... Back in the UK Friday. F.

That'll be Fraser, then, wending his way home from foreign climes. Welcome back!

Today is the first session of my dyslexia teacher course. Am very excited, but also very nervous: I hate the first day of college feeling.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The weekend just gone involved (in chronological order) Guides, train station, curry, sleep, school, schmoozing with potential school parents, passing out on the sofa, making ginger biscuits, driving to Het and Andy's, pizza, a filum, driving home, sleep, Sainsbury's, racing, cooking, lounging, sleep.

The racing in particular was good fun - I've not been to watch the gee-gees before, but I have read the entire collected works of Dick Francis, so spent the whole day looking out for doping scandals, thrown races, murderous vets and unethical owners. Sadly there wasn't much evidence of these, but it might be worth going back for a closer investigation!

Despite a relatively relaxed weekend, I'm exhausted. I have no energy to do anything and I'm struggling to be my normal, enthusiastic self. Any suggestions for a pick-me-up?!

Friday, September 17, 2004

In a dream last night, I picked up a pair of hair straighteners and ran them through my hair.

This morning half of my hair is noticeably lacking in the curl department.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Am having a bit of a crisis: have lost my keys. This means that I can't open my classroom tomorrow morning, nor can I open up my colleague's classroom to clear up the mess I left there today. I am in poo. Waaah!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Today's discovery of the day is spaghetti squash - it's yummy!

I thought I was confused about time: looking at the time stamp on my last past, obviously the pooter is too. Waah!

At a party on a school night, when the wine has been popping out of the fridge with alarming rapidity, it is always a bad mistake to look at your watch. If you do, your exclamation will go as follows:

"Fuck, it's quarter to one, look - 12.47"

Your friends will then look at their time-pieces and shake their heads slightly. You then look more closely at your watch and discover that it's been switched to display the time in a city abbreviated as BER: Berlin, maybe. Or Beruit. Or Bermingham. Or somewhere, but not the time in sunny Derbyshire, and it will take several attempts at button-pressing to switch it back to home time. Even then, at 11.47pm, it's time to head off to bed, so that's where I'm going. Tarra.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Marking work from kids who have just started their A-level course is always difficult - they have no idea of style or technique. I think my brain's about to blow up. Will have to go and appease it by eating lots of food at Ian's party instead. Hurrah for drinking on a school night!

It rained in torrents at break time and the water flowing down the street was probably two foot wide and 5 inches deep. It hit the wall at the bottom of the hill and actually formed into a whirlpool as it rushed down the drain. In the middle of walking to my classroom, my right shoe filled with water. I think I'm developing Trench Foot.

Monday, September 13, 2004

My brain is shrivelling up and dying. *And* my fingers hurt. The marking's building up already. Pah, pah and thrice pah.

My weekend (chronologically):
School, Faff, lunch in House, faff, Sainsbury's, drive, Phil and Linda's wedding, drive, sleep, drive, Cheltenham, eat, lounge, cinema, drive, sleep.

Phil and Linda's wedding reception was great, not least because one group of five guests knew me from 4 different directions: one had been staff on GaSCiT last year; I'd been to a SSAGO rally with another; I'd stuck photos into a wedding album with a third; and the other two knew me by repuation alone - "Oh, so you're THAT Mad!" Scouting and Guiding have a lot to answer for!

My entire journey back from seeing the Boy yesterday was spent on the phone to Charlotte - hurrah for hands-free kits! It took well over an hour, but we finally managed to piece together all the things that have happened since we last saw each other. I feel shockingly aware that there are friends I've hardly spoken to recently: this term's resolution is to be better at keeping in touch.

I have my interview this afternoon for the dyslexia course - better go and organise the cover for my lessons!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

First up, cucumbers:

1 cucumber should serve 15 people, according to camp catering experts!! Love CMT

And she's a woman who'd know! It's probably a good job then that the other 14 people weren't very hungry. Moving swiftly on...

Good idea on the jelly babies, something good to use as I am starting a PGCE specialising in that dreaded subject on Monday.

That comment there from Martin, I do believe. Good luck! I had really mixed feeling about my PGCE, but it all came in useful eventually, as will this:

when I come to cover maths lessons for absent colleagues. Talking of teaching, better go and do some!

Friday, September 10, 2004

So many things to write about, such little time...

School continues apace. My interview for the dyslexia course is on Monday afternoon; my lessons have been moderately well planned; most marking has been completed and returned on time. All in all, it's not going too badly. This year's main change has been the introduction of tutorial time, where tutors can meet with their tutees to monitor academic progress and encourage the wee ones to develop good study skills. Somehow, during the summer holidays, someone decided that this tutor time could also be used to deliver citizenship, which is the government's latest attempt to produce teenagers who know something about the world in which they live.

(Herein lies the opportunity to zoom off down a tangent to whitter on about the increasing pressures of examinations/league tables forcing teachers to stick far more closely to the exam syllabi and therefore ignore the wider aspects of education that people got in the good old days, but I'll restrain myself. For once.)

The topics we have to cover range from the environment to refugees, calling at parliament and voting en route. The only training we have been given for this is a folder of various resources, plus access to some videos and textbooks. I'm lucky: my tutees are girls, they're malleable, and they're going to try their hardest in the weekly session (if only because I live with them and they've seen what I'm like when I get irate!). However, the last thing they want is another didactic, chalk'n'talk lesson inflicted upon them, so I'm currently spending a lot of time deciding how to make our sessions on government and the cabinet more interesting. So far, I've decided that we're going to make cocktail stick puppets of the cabinet (using photos downloaded from the net) and then re-enact key parliamentary debates using haribo and jelly babies. I know that I can then spin this into a "how many jelly babies can you eat?" competition whilst I run a plenary session recapping the key educational points (which is always a useful skill if you can do it) but how do I ensure that the kids realise that not all politicians are small, rounded and made of gelatine?!

Guides started back unofficially last week, but we didn't get the full complement until tonight. It's probably a good job that we had a gentle easing into the term: we have 5 new girls, plus all of them bar one from last year - it was a tad manic! That said, there was a real buzz about them as they planned this half term's programme - if they can keep this up all term it's going to be a real pleasure. Even the naughty ones weren't as naughty as last year: maybe they're eventually growing up!

Other news - my friend discovered today that she's going to have a baby boy early next year, and she's obviously hormonal and delusional enough to be tricked into thinking that I'm sound enough to be morally responsible for her child. This means that I'm going to be his godmother - how scary! For a time I was hoping that I could be the wicked godmother, but then I realised that the role is actully the wicked stepmother, which wasn't what I was planning; seems I'll have to dust off the fairy wings instead. Pah. Just so long as I can wear them with my docs I'll be ok!

Finally, the Boy (for those who were wondering): all good. :-) (I can't write any more for fear that it will cause spontaneous vomiting, which is never good for one's computer keyboard. Be thankful!)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

There's one thing worse than having to catch a spider in a glass and remove it from your bath, and that's realising that you forgot to wash the glass before filling it with Ribena.

I thought it tasted stringy.

Simpering and handshaking never got a look-in tonight as I did my duty rounds, because it's the dreaded UCAS Personal Statement time of year. The kids get a limit of 47 lines of type (or that's what they seemed to remember that they had, based on their very vague memories of a VERY IMPORTANT meeting about such things, which took place all of 24 hours ago. But hey, such is life) One girl has written too much, another too little: my job is to prune, encourage and basically bonsai their rambling into something succinct but memorable. Given my tendancy to waffle on in a circumwobbulating sort of way, this is a tad ironic. (Ms Bennett, my English teacher, would be proud to note that I have resisted the temptation to use the adjective "ironical". I tried for a long time to persuade her that it really was a word. Alas, unbeknownst to me, she and Mr Chambers were in collaboration and she used a specially-doctored dictionary to prove me wrong. Gah!) (However, she would be most displeased to note the use of 'circumwobbulating', which is a word that must be used with extreme caution: don't try this at home, children!)

Anyway, moving swifly onwards.

Except I can't: my brain appears to have exploded. All I seem to be able to write is trite phrases about my enduring passion for all of my A-level subjects and my desire to read some extremely relevant subject - such as toe-nail curling for beginners - at university. Better go and make some tea to help me recover.

This year I'm hoping to take a diploma course about teaching dyslexic pupils - it's all part of my master-plan to develop new skills but stay in the classroom, rather than having to face the stress and faff of being a middle manager. I emailed my CV and application letter this morning; I've now been called for interview. I'm scared! I reckon that I'll have to use my usual technique of flippant answers and blase attitude - after all, it got me my job here (when I told the deputy head that my only experience of boarding school was reading Enid Blytyon's Mallory Towers series - whoops!). Off to work on my simpering smile and polite handshake...

you can never eat too much cucumber! It's my preferred PH late night nibble .. besides its about 90% water! Caz

All of this bodes well: after all, I did consume an entire cucumber, which I worried might be a tad excessive. Phew!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Is there a recommended maximum amount of cucumber that should be eaten in one sitting? If so, I think I've just exceeded it. Whoops.

So, which were better: mushrooms bathed in melted butter? Or mushrooms bathed in bed?

Mushroom bed-baths are always a mistake: they splash so much that it makes a real mess of the sheets. Butter's the way to go, and very tasty they were too!

This afternoon, I shall be mostly looking for D of E campsites in the White Peak near to Chatsworth. Thrilling, eh?!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Off now to eat mushrooms bathed in melted butter. Then bed. Sleep well.

String orchestra this evening: the first time I've opened my viola case since tour to Italy in July. My fingers don't know what's hit them, nor do my strings, which had to be hiked up by about three-quarters of a tone. Whoops!

Yesterday I got to leave the delights of the House, the school and the school disco behind me, and headed off to the wide open countryside to join friends on a canalboat. It was lovely and, even better, I was able to return home with some muffins, a present and a man: all good things (certainly in my eyes).

Today has been teaching (on and off) plus netball - twenty minutes of running around and I'm a tad on the worn-out side. Mind you, this time last year, I only managed 5 minutes, so I reckon that's not bad going.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

After lunch, I thought I'd have a five minute lie down. I've only just woken up. Hurrah for siestas!

This morning malarky is more than I can cope with. Not even succulent, juicy nectarines can make up for my tiredness. Hey ho. Off to put on my happy face, then to teach.

Friday, September 03, 2004

This afternoon's work was good too, as was this evening's Guides. Now, however, my brain cell's reached saturation point again, not helped by my unwitting involvement in a game of text consequences. At least I can sleep tomorrow afternoon!

Why is it that now I have the option to set up a gmail account (ta Mally) I can't think of anything amusing to have as my email name? Pah!!

hurrah! You're back - and I'm kinda working. .. or would be if this ***** computer had radio access. mutter mutter Charl

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound of a woman writing a dissertation. Be alert to this phenomenon: if you see manic looking women loitering in libraries muttering under their breath then go up and make polite conversation, throw books at them, or at least offer them your body - they're only seeking distraction from their academic studies. :-)

School has been great today - hurrah for work! Off now to eat something healthy for lunch...

Thursday, September 02, 2004

It's just gone 10.30pm and my braincell's finally gone on strike. I was told today that I need to send a CV and covering letter to apply for a course that I want to do; I've been trying in vain to write it all day. I suspect I'm going to have to give up now or it will just get too cheesy to believe. Hey ho, off to the land of pillows, duvets and starfish-sleeping. G'night.

Start of term nerves - restless sleep, momentary panics, outbreaks of the biggest spots ever seen on one person - hits me every time. This is my eighteenth start of term as a proper teacher and it's still not getting any better. What's making it worse is the realisation that I am just about to start my fourth year at this school: I've been here longer than I was at university. I feel old. At the same time, I feel very excited, and I can't wait to get back to the chalkface (as it were). I suspect I'll sleep soundly tonight!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I've not even taught any lessons so far, but already my kitchen table looks like this:


We now have all the new first years and new lower sixth in school, along with various prefects and juniors who have been helping to unload cars and show parents through to the tea and coffee. It's bringing back memories of going off to university, and the worries caused by a new routine. I didn't cope very well with meeting with parents last year, but this year I've been far more relaxed: I'm working on the principle that these people are going to realise soon enough that I'm a nutter, so they might as well discover it now!