Saturday, 31 December 2011

Bird Brain

I did try very hard not to over analyse the significance of this...

Every morning, since the beginning of my Christmas break I essentially go through the same routine. Cassie Cat wakes me fairly early-ish and I ease down from my little sky-bed, feed her, climb back up into my little nest and try to get a few more hours of sleep. I say try because Cassie is not fond of that. In her mind I'm meant to make myself available for after feeding cuddles or leave the house and go to work. So, she sits either in my room staring up at my loft or just outside the door mewing pathetically. If I don't come down she will then start to tear at the carpet. Usually, she'll give up and be quiet for about an hour so I can sleep a bit...usually.

This morning was a little different. I got up and fed Cassie, as is the demand of my household position, climbed back into my cozy little nest and looked out my skylight at the changing colours on the horizon as the sun rose while I drifted back asleep. Cassie did not immediately come back upstairs to insist that I rise and give her affection. It was very silent in our house, too silent.

It was about two hours after the return to my roost that I heard that familiar whiney mew, which I summarily ignored. Cassie mewed again and instantly began to tear at the carpet. I rolled over to tell her to stop when suddenly there was long, blood-curdling screech as a bird flew into my room, up to the skylight, smacked into the window pane and fell landing upon the pile of laundry on my futon sofa.

I don't think I've ever descended from my loft at such speed. Heart racing, I grabbed the pole that opens the skylight and used it to do just that. Then I looked at the black bird, which was now sprawled out in a rather unnatural position on the pile of laundry I had yet to put away. "Oh great, dead bird on my clean clothes," I selfishly thought, but when I saw that amount of feathers strewn across the floor of my room, over the threshold and into the corridor, it occurred to me that there was absolutely no blood from this bird anywhere to be found. Cassie sat just outside my bedroom door looking at me with a confused look, completely unaware of where the bird had gone. I quickly glanced back at the bird. It was no longer in an unnatural sprawling position but sat among my clothes, staring at me with terror. "Fly, be free," I said to it as I stepped out of my bedroom, closing the door behind me.

I stood in the hall surrounded by feathers and looked at Cassie, who had now taken her place at the top of the stairs keeping watch for the bird. A breeze from the open skylight blew under the door and some of the feathers floated about in a ghostly manner. I waited. Then, I cautiously opened my bedroom door hoping our guest would have been healthy and intelligent enough to make its exit through the window. Oh, it was healthy enough.

The bird again gave out a blood-curdling screech, flew up to the open window and again bumped into the pane. Instead of falling into a lump on my laundry, however, it perched itself on the open bit of the window and looked outside. Carefully, but quickly, I took the pole and opened my skylight a little more. "Freedom is that way!" I directed the bird and closed my bedroom door again.

I only waited a few seconds this time before I peeked back into my room. The bird was gone, having made its way back into the world with significantly less feathers than it had earlier. Grabbing the pole, I closed my skylight and the feathers, which had once again taken to wafting about in a ghostly manner, settled. So, I grabbed the hoover and got to work.

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that I'm a tad bit obsessive and neurotic. Not about cleanliness mind you, but obsessive and neurotic all the same. My brain was going 100 miles an hour filling itself up with all types of metaphors and symbolism and assigning nonsensical meaning to this event, which had it occurred on any other day would have had little effect on my overactive imagination, but today isn't just any other day. Today is New Year's Eve.

Now really New Year's Eve is just another day in the greater scheme of things. The significance of New Year's Eve is created by society. It means not a damn thing to the normal operations of the universe. The moon sets and the sun rises just like any other day. Still as I vacuumed them up, I couldn't help but think of the feathers as mistakes and lessons I had learnt from over the year. I also thought of the bird's escape with far fewer feathers as being symbolic of me flying off into the start of 2012, leaving all my regrets behind. However, that same bird could be dead just a few feet away from our house, so what would be the symbolism in that?

Regardless, the event struck me. After de-feathering my room and our corridor, I turned on my computer and deleted the last two silly blog posts reviewing 2011 through my FB status updates. It was a stupid idea anyway.

And so, after not writing for quite some time, this incident has given me something slightly entertaining to journal. Somehow it seems fitting that my 2011 should end with this.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Out of the mouths of babes...and it's not even noon

My students are on fire today. Well, not literally. Actually, we did have just have a fire drill that went very well, but I'm referring more to what they've said so far today and it's not even noon.

This morning in homeroom a student said to me in a very exasperated tone, "Tests and assessments are the demons of learning!" Frankly, I couldn't agree with her more.

We were notified this week that we will have our initial ISI inspection Tuesday and Wednesday of next week and the in-depth one in November. All students were told that 'visitors' from ISI would be here next week and asked to be on their very best behaviour. So in my first class of the day this conversation occurred,

Student: What does ISI stand for?
Me: Independent Schools Inspectorate
Student: Oh, so they're like food critics but for schools, not restaurants.

Finally, as the co-head of year, I had to have a serious talk with a student who has now had two behaviour transgressions within the quarter, which means we need to contact his parents. The serious talk was going well and I was instilling the fear of God in him when this happened...

Me: Now we have to contact your parents due your misbehaviour, so what can you do to make it easier for yourself at home?
Student: Hide?

I couldn't help it, I burst out laughing.

And now I return to my regularly scheduled teaching. Who knows what will come out of their mouths as the day continues.

- Posted using mobile magic

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Reasonable Punishment for Looters

As a teacher of pre-adolescents I have to dole out consequences for misbehaviour on consistent basis. In order for the offender to learn any sort of lesson to keep them repeating the misbehaviour, the 'punishment' must suit the 'crime'. In other words if a student is repeat gum chewer, the consequence would be to scrape off all the gum under the desks in the school during their free time, not give them a week of detention. It's all just common sense really.

In these weeks following the riots I've read about some of the sentences being handed to the convicted offenders and been appalled, to put it mildly, at how disproportionate and arbitrary the punishments seem to be in relation to the crimes that didn't involve physical violence. Then when thinking about the court and jail costs borne by the tax payers, these heavy-handed punishments seem even more ludicrous.

Oh and let's not forget the petition signed by over 100,000 people to take away benefits from anyone convicted of looting, as if that will really solve the issues at the root of the problem. Let's take a population of young people who have little opportunities, little to do and even less hope and who also have a wealth of disaffected anger and take away what little they do have. That will solve everything if those who have almost nothing are released from their prison terms to come back into society with even less.

What I haven't yet heard suggested is that the convicted looters are made to work to pay for the damage they caused or stole. This is just logical and reasonable to me. First, many of the youth who were involved in the looting have little in the ways of a skill set and not much available for them to do that's beneficial or interesting. So, making them work off the cost of the damage they have done would provide them with both a usable skill set and something useful. Plus, it suits the crime. You break it; you fix it. You cause damage; you pay for it. If you don't fulfil the guidelines and work mandated by the courts, then you go to jail and serve your sentence.

Perhaps this consequence may seem a little too simple, but that's the beauty of it. Surely if the courts have enough evidence to convict people for looting, then they have enough evidence to calculate how much damage each individual did, so the guilty looters could be put to work in the communities where they caused the damage instead of being thrown into overcrowded prison cells. Yes, tensions might be high between the victims of the rioting and the looters who will have to work off their debts at first. However, the end result will be that the looters will truly understand the extent of their damage, receive some training and skills and quite possibly feel more connected to their communities. And, all of this is much preferable than the type of humans that would eventually emerge from the prisons after being locked up for years for vandalism and theft.

I've not read a single word about a program where looters are being made to work off the damage they caused. Surely, I'm not the only person who has had this idea. There must be something somewhere!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Breaking up is hard to do

Breaking up is my least favourite thing to do next to toilet cleaning. Even if I've only been out with someone once or twice, I can never bring myself to say, "I'm sorry. I'm just not interested." To me, that just seems so mean. Somehow in my head it's better to make up a story. Note: I did not say lie. I said story. A story is much better than a lie.

The story that's worked the best for me when I've only been out with someone once or twice is:
-I really like you, but you remind me too much of my brother and I can't seem to get past that. It's weird. I'm sorry.

Some stories I have wanted to tell but have kept in reserve are:
- The term is ending, so I'm going to be super busy doing grades and writing reports for the next 10 weeks.
- I met someone else. Yes, that is fast since we just went out for the first time yesterday, but I'm fast. In fact you probably wouldn't want to date me because I'm so fast. No, I'm not going home with you now.
- I'm really ill and the doctor seems to think it's something I've picked up on my travels in Asia. Apparently it's highly contagious, so I'm going to have to live in a plastic bubble for a while.
- My ex just got out of jail so I'm going into hiding. You should too.

Even after having a significant long-term relationship go pear-shaped, I can never seem to end it properly, but I will eventually end it. There's usually an "It's not you; it's me," message involved- that is unless the guy was a complete twat. Then it's a "Fuck you and fuck off!" message. In the end I suppose it's the delivery of the message that's important. When breaking up with someone you want to do it in a kind, sensitive manner to save face and end up not looking like a horrid person, even if it's to tell your partner what they can stick up their lying, cheating ass.

Ways I've broken up with people that I really regret are:
-By text
-By email
-By messenger
-By standing up in the middle of my local and screaming at the person for being a shit.

Ways I've broken up with people that I've done reasonably well are:
-Over dinner
-Over a drink
-On the phone
-While on a walk in a scenic location
-By text
-By email
-By messenger

This summer had been absolutely fabulous with no need for me to break up with anyone until today. Today I had to end a seven year relationship with a man who has always been there for me. He always listened to me and provided me with comforting wise advice. And, he did all this while making me look and feel fabulous. That's right. Today I had to break up with my hair stylist.

Kevin (not his real name) is amazing with scissors. After every appointment I walked away with perfect hair that was easy to style. Plus, he only ever used Aveda products on my hair and I always got a glass (or two) of white wine and a neck massage. Why would I end such a fulfilling relationship? Kevin works in Surrey and over a year ago I moved to East London. He's just too far away and frankly too expensive.

Like every long-term relationship that I eventually end, I've been planning to do this for quite some time. I really didn't know how to tell him the truth. The "It's not you; it's me," message just doesn't work in this situation because it's not me. It's his prices and the fact he's inconvenient to travel to. That somehow seemed just to mean to admit. So, I launched a plot. I would simply cancel my upcoming appointment, play it like I was still in the US and that I wasn't certain when I could reschedule. This would probably be done with the receptionist and not Kevin anyway, so it wouldn't be so bad. Very passive aggressive of me, I know.

Every day since last week I woke thinking, "I need to remember to call the salon today and cancel." And, every evening I would go to bed thinking, "I need to remember to call the salon in the morning and cancel." Then finally today I got a text asking me to confirm my appointment on Friday. Fuck!

'Okay, this is it,' I thought and I picked up my phone and dialled the salon number prepared to hear the receptionist's voice. Alas, the voice on the other end of the phone wasn't hers. It was male. It was Kevin. Fuck!

I greeted him in a very breezy manner and asked how he was, etc. Then I told him that I was afraid I had to cancel and that I wasn't quite sure when I could reschedule. I could hear the disappointment in his voice. He knew I was ending it. No. No. I couldn't hurt him, not my dear sweet Kevin, so I asked him what he had available in the next few weeks. Fuck me, this wasn't going well. I was about to reschedule out of guilt, but then a miracle occurred.

Kevin told me he was off work for two weeks starting Tuesday. Hoorah! I tried to hide my glee while telling him a story about how I wouldn't be able to come in for the next five days, so I'd have to call back and reschedule when he returned. Somehow I managed to tell this story without giving a specific reason as to why I couldn't come in and slipping in a joke that made him laugh. Thus, it all ended on a good note. Phew!

So, now I just need to go somewhere else and get my hair, which is turning into a shaggy mess, done. My friend, Kim, has a fantastic stylist who is closer to me, charges less and serves champagne instead of white wine. I am not certain about the Aveda products or neck massage, but I'll trade the neck massage and white wine for champagne any day of the week and my Aveda addiction means that my bathroom is already similar to an Aveda spa. I just simply won't call Kevin to reschedule and if he does call me, I'll explain that I've met someone new.

Breaking up is hard to do, but at least I've done it...kinda.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Riot Banana Bread

In case you've been in a cave, London has been overwhelmed by riots for the last three days. Last night was definitely the worst of it and as a result constant sounds of sirens (some a bit too close for my comfort) kept me from sleeping well.

Today I woke up determined to help with the clean-up. I walked around my neighbourhood to nearby areas that I heard were affected, but they were already clean. I heard through Twitter that people were meeting at Hackney Town Hall, so I walked up there. It was already tidied and those of us on the clean-up crew ended up being more props in a photo opp than anything else. Then, I heard that they needed help in Clapham, so I hopped on a train and went down there. I waited with people for several hours for forensics to finish and apparently also for Boris Johnson to show up and have his little photo opp before we could begin. (As a side note we got heckle Boris, which was satisfying) I was able to help clean for about half an hour when I heard rumours that things were starting to be dodgy around my neighbourhood tube stop, so I decided I should head home. When I arrived I discovered that the rumours were in fact just rumours and that all was fine, although shops were closing early. However, as I walked down the street to my flat complex, I saw a police car enter the carpark. This disturbed me a bit until I discovered they were there because one of my neighbours had called the police on the neighbourhood kids who were playing in our carpark. They always do that.

I fell on the sofa, exhausted, had a think and decided that the day called for a bit of baking. Carolina, my housemate, had some bananas and suggested I make banana bread. I agreed. But alas, as I rummaged through the cupboards for ingredients, I discovered we didn't have a few items. Since the shops all around us closed early, I had to improvise. The result was quite yummy, so I've decided to post my recipe for what I'm calling "London Riot Banana Bread". You should know that the original recipe came from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and I have made some...ahem...notes of my modifications.

-217g dark brown sugar
-53g caster sugar
(note: Original recipe calls for 270g light brown sugar, which I didn't have)
-2 eggs
(note: These were my last eggs)
-2 bananas peeled and mashed
(note: Original recipe calls for 200g, but who the hell weighs their bananas for this?)
-280g of plain flour
-slightly more than 1 teaspoon of baking powder
(note: I spilled some over the measuring spoon as I was chatting with Carolina)
-1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
-about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
-slightly less than 1 teaspoon of ginger
(note: Yes, you guessed it. I didn't have enough ginger or cinnamon. This should have been 1 teaspoon each)
-140g light margarine
(note: The original recipe calls for unsalted butter, but I'm on a diet)
-95g white chocolate chips
(note: The original recipe doesn't call for white chocolate chips, but I had this 100g bag and needed to justify eating 5g of them)

Preheat the oven to 170C 325F or Gas Mark 4
(note: It's actually Gas 3 in the book, but my gas oven is weird so I go to 4)

Put the dark brown sugar in a bowl and use a mixer to smoosh them together so you can pretend you have light brown sugar. (Yes I made this part up)

Add the eggs to your fake light brown sugar and use a mixer to beat until well incorporated. Then beat in the mashed bananas.

Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger into the sugar and egg mixture. Stir it with a wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated (The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook uses the word "incorporated" a lot) into the sugar and egg mixture. Pour in the melted butter and beat until all ingredients are well mixed.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin (I prepared mine with low calorie sunflower oil spray. I'm on a diet, remember) and bake in the preheated oven for about an hour. Bread should be firm to the touch and toothpick inserted should come out clean. Leave this to cool slightly in the tin on a wire rack before turning out completely.

Eat, enjoy and be happy that tonight in London is nowhere near like it was last night, but spare a thought to those in Manchester and other areas where the unrest continues.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Has TSA lightened it's security measures or is Logan just crap?

I've got airport security down to a science now. It's a shame that there aren't time trials on how quickly one can get their little plastic baggie of liquids and lotions out, take out the laptop, take off any jackets or jumpers, take off shoes and arrange these items along with whatever is left in the carry-on bag on the conveyor belt. I'm quite speedy at this required ritual.

This morning I only had half a brain when I was packing up my overnight bag, as the other half of my brain had been eaten by several drinks the night before. I gathered all the lotions and liquids that I wanted for freshening up on the plane before it lands in Heathrow tomorrow and threw it in the little plastic baggie, which I then placed in my handbag. Then Khrisslyn suggested I take the complimentary hotel lotion with me since I liked it so much, so I tossed that in my handbag with the intention of putting it in the little plastic baggie later. Just before leaving we did a quick sweep of the room and found my shampoo, conditioner and razor in the shower, so I tossed them into my handbag along with the lotion and out of the room we went.

I said my goodbyes, got in the rental car and drove to Salem where I had lovely day shopping, sitting by the shore and basically recharging my spiritual battery. I bought a small votive candle while there and in it went to my handbag.

From Salem I returned the car, checked in and did my security disrobe ritual in record time. It was while I was waiting my turn for the delightful body scan that I remembered everything in my handbag that wasn't in the little plastic baggie and also worried that they would throw away my razor (it's a nice razor).

But none of that happened. My bags came out the other side with no issues. I reassembled everything (I did that in record time as well) and made my way to the gate.

And so, I got through security without properly packaging shampoo, conditioner and lotion in the little plastic baggie. I had a razor in my handbag, which could have been made into a weapon. I also had candle that could have very been a bomb of some sort and to top it all off I later discovered that I had a lighter.

I suppose I could take a relaxing candle-lit bath on the plane if I fancied, but I'd have to use the little sink in the toilet.

Friday, 20 May 2011

May 21, 2011: I'm looking forward to tomorrow because...

1. I may wake up to a world inhabited by nothing but Godless heathens like myself. If that's the case then I shall enjoy my last five months on earth despite the horrid suffering I'm meant to endure. If there is a God and s/he would treat the diversity of the human race with such disdain and only allow a small minority of closed minded people into heaven, then heaven isn't a place I want to be anyway. So I'll just remain on the planet with all the cool party people, jam on my ukulele and we'll have a great time.

2. I may wake up to discover that I'm one of the chosen to fall into a pit and then be taken up to heaven. If that's the case then I know God is cool, has good taste in people and that all my friends, family and loved ones would be there. In fact if that's the case, then I'm willing to bet that heaven would be filled with fantastic people from all over the world, almost to the point of over crowding, but we'd all love it. Plus, there would be a special place for those of us to strum ukuleles instead of silly harps.

3. I may wake up to a day just like any other day. Frankly, those days aren't so bad. I rather like them. Bring 'em on! I think we should all live our days as if they are our last anyway.

Plus, tomorrow will be extra fun because Rapture or no, it's my friend, Jules's hen-do.

Yes indeed, I'm looking forward to May 21, 2011.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

I'm Too Competitive for My Own Good

For those of you who have been reading me for a while, you'll remember when I took part in (and won) The Biggest Loser contest at work. I wasn't extremely overweight to start with, but by the end of it I was nice and thin and felt good about how I looked. Of course since I saw myself as being pitted against another highly competitive colleague (who was so competitive he would put candy bars in our mail trays), I didn't lose the weight appropriately. In fact I was losing more than 2 pounds a week some weeks, which isn't good. But I won. I won. I won. And, it's winning that's important, right?

Well, the weight came back. And without the competition to spur me on, I wasn't so determined to lose it. I lost some of it, but I wasn't happy, nor was I consistent with my diet and exercise. Finally, I got disgusted with myself and decided I needed something to put me back on track, so I joined (gasp) Weight Watchers online.

So far it's been great. It's manageable and easy, the site has great recipes and advice and I was finally losing weight the right way. I lost 3 kilos in 4 weeks and was very near my goal. I was feeling good and had more energy and everything seemed rosy...until today.

Today people at work have decided to do another Biggest Loser contest again. Only £5 to enter this time, so the prize isn't as high. But my competitive side went nuts. "This isn't fair!" it screamed. "I've already lost weight. Now I won't be able to lose as much weight. I'm at a distinct disadvantage. I'll never be able to win now!!" I begged my friend and colleague, Em, who is organising all of this, to allow me to use my last weigh in weight but she refused. Grrrr...

And so, I marched myself down to our cafeteria and bought the most fattening thing I could find, pasta carbonara, plus a chocolate chip cookie. Then upon discovering that there were cup cakes in our faculty lounge, I ate two. Now I feel sick, but I won't let that stop me.

Tonight I'm going out for pizza and leaving drinks for my friend, Marianne, who is off to do her Free Range Human thing for a few months. I will eat loads of pizza. I will eat a fattening dessert. I will drink high calorie fru fru cocktails. And tomorrow I will continue to eat and eat and eat. So hopefully by Friday I will have put back on those 3 kilos and can start over. I am a sick sick puppy. Move over Monica Geller-Bing, your competitive streak pales in comparison to mine!

But this time I will keep the weight off. I plan on staying on Weight Watchers until Jan 2012. This will be my last Biggest Loser challenge. No matter what happens in this competition, I will be a healthy winner by this time next year.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Death of Two Friendships

As a teacher of adolescents I often end up teaching pastoral lessons about choosing healthy friendships over unhealthy ones, peer pressure and the like. However, those lessons all are so simple and black-and-white in comparison with the complexities that seem to be the reality of adult friendships. I’m not talking about the easily identifiable dysfunctional friendships. I’m speaking of the healthy ones that just seem to go wrong, have run their course and die.

I was prompted to write this blog because I’ve had two friends discuss friendship difficulties with me in the last few days. A good friend got in touch with me this morning and told me about how he had just discovered that one of his friends had been lying to him for the past six months. And another friend complained to me last week about how she feels like she is receiving a brush off from a mutual friend of ours in what seems to be an almost rude and very deliberate manner. So, in the first case the friendship ending was pretty clear-cut, but in the other case it’s a bit nebulous.

However a friendship ends, in my opinion, it’s worse than a romantic break-up. You expect friends to be there for you and stand by you a bit more than you might expect romantic relationships to…well at least I do. So, when a friendship ends that sense of betrayal and wondering if it was something you did that caused it to die is even more intense. When you realise it’s all gone wrong, how do you end a friendship?

When I have a non-responsive friend, I tend to operate on the “three strikes and you’re out” rule. I’ll make the effort to suggest we meet up and if I get no definitive response after my third attempt, I do my best to not take it personally and just stop trying. Usually said person will get in touch with me eventually and all will be well again. However, in the case of my friend who felt like she was being ignored, she has not just given our mutual friend three strikes; she has given her six. So my friend will not be contacting our mutual friend at all any more and I can’t really say that I blame her. They have had issues in the past and it’s plain that the one who is doing the ignoring has not really gotten past their prior difficulties. So, in that case it might be best to just let that friendship die a natural death. Perhaps it’s just run its course.

When you discover a friend’s been lying to you or has been dishonest in some way that is when you feel the deepest sense of betrayal. There’s nothing much to do but confront that person about what they’ve done and hope that they can offer a reasonable explanation for their behaviour. That is exactly what the first friend I mentioned had to do today. Sadly the explanation wasn’t sufficient and so now he says that friendship is over. What he went through this morning must have been awful. Then again, I hate confrontation and he’s much better at that than I am. Sometimes certain friendships need to be killed quickly and as painlessly as possible.

So perhaps those two friendships are dead, but perhaps not. There’s a great quote by Bronwyn Polson which says, “Whoever says friendship is easy has obviously never had a true friend!” Thus, I remain an eternal optimist about the immortality of friendships, because frankly true friendships are immortal. Those that aren’t true will die when their time has come in whatever manner that is. But, true friends are like the mythical phoenix. They may have their difficulties causing them to burn-up in flames but they are always reborn even more beautiful than they were before.

And it is here that I would like to say that I think I’m the luckiest woman in the world due to the true friendships I am fortunate enough to have.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Remember when...

"Remember when teachers, public employees, planned Parenthood, NPR, and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out our 401ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither."

I saw this on a friend's Facebook status and felt compelled to post it here. When I read things like this, I'm quite pleased I no longer live in the US. Not to say that Great Britain is a whole lot better than the US, with the Tories in power running wild destroying essential services with their budget cutting scissors. However, there doesn't seem to be th outrageous hate filled lies used to attack people and services that work for the public good. Instead, the government here unapologetically states it simply must be done.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Who Nose?

So if you came to my class today, you would have thought my students were perhaps a little odd. Here are some phrases I heard more than once today:
"Whose nose is this?"
"There's a nose alone on that table and I think it's Tom's"
"Has anyone seen my nose? It's a monster one."
"Watch out! That's my nose on the floor; don't step on it!"
"May I use some sellotape? My nose tore and I'm trying to fix it."
"Miss, he took my nose."
"Miss, I lost my nose. Have you seen it? It's a nerd one."

And you might have also thought that perhaps I was a little odd, as I said the following things today:
"Who threw that nose? Please return it to its proper owner."
"If your noses are going to disrupt this lesson, I will have to put them in the 'Drawer of No-Return.' Don't worry. No noses were harmed in the teaching of my lessons.

Yes today was Red Nose Day and my school took part in various fund raising activities for Comic Relief, including selling and wearing red noses.

I'm proud to say that the middle school raised £742.31, €7.00, 1 US quarter and 1 Canadian penny. We are an international school based in London, after all.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Political Commentary from Mom and Dad

Tonight was the first time I had spoken with my parents in weeks. Actually to be honest, I think it was more than a month. Anyway, I asked them about all the union busting and general nastiness happening in Wisconsin as well as other states. We spoke about that for a while and then they summed up the workings of the Republicans and the Democrats in the following manner:

My dad: The problem is that Republicans really don't have a voice of their own. They are lead by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and are too afraid to do anything that might go against them. So, they wind up behaving like idiots.

My mom: And the Democrats don't have a strong singular voice because they're like cats...or Unitarians.

We all laughed.

My parents are Unitarians...and generally vote Democrat.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Pear and Raspberry Loaf Cake

Life's been a bit topsy turvy and I've been a bit distracted and perhaps not really myself, but I'm still baking. Last week I took a recipe I found online and modified it. It was quite yummy. Here is the result:

Pear and Raspberry Loaf Cake


  • Filling
  • 2 medium pears, peeled and cored, chopped
  • 1/4 raspberries (preferably frozen and thawed so that there is a bit of juice to accompany them)
  • Crumble
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 ounces butter, cold, cut in small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • Cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk, whole or low fat
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 ounces butter, melted


Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350°. (Gas mark 4)

Toss chopped pears with lemon juice in a bowl; set aside.

In another bowl, combine crumble ingredients, except pecans, with a fork or whisk until crumbly (of course because it's a crumble), or pulse with food processor. You can also pulse with a hand held mixer. Stir in pecans, if using.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; stir to blend.

Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl until blended; stir in milk, vanilla, and butter. Add to flour mixture and fold with a wooden spoon or spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix. Spoon half of the batter into prepared loaf pan; spread out to cover the bottom. Sprinkle batter with half of the pears and half of the crumble. Spoon remaining batter evenly over crumble, spreading carefully to cover. Sprinkle with half of the remaining crumble, the remaining chopped pears and then the remaining crumble.

Bake for 70 to 90 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife carefully around sides; invert the cake onto plate. Turn the cake, crumble side up, onto a rack and let cool on a rack completely.

It makes a yummy (and one could argue slight nutritious) least that was my justification to eat it every morning.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

So lately I've found myself wondering...

…what if I stood just a little too far over the yellow line? What if I stumbled and fell in front of the train on the Central Line as it came barrelling down the track to scoop up all of us who are shuffling off to the daily grind? Would it hurt very much or would it just be over in a painless second? Aside from the yellow line, there isn't much to separate humans from being insects on the windscreen of a car at the end of the day… or in this case at the beginning

I think this is where I should probably reassure you that I am not pondering throwing myself in front of a train. First, I’ve all too often had my commute fucked up by someone who decided that his/her life wasn’t worth living so they edged out over that yellow line. Second, I have had one too many people I care about choose to voluntarily end their lives, so I know how horrible it feels to wonder if there’s something I could have done to prevent that. Third, I can’t bear to think about how my students would feel about me choosing to end my life prematurely. How many ‘inspirational’ speeches/stories have I made encouraging them to be successful and happy beings by their own definition? So, I don’t push myself over the edge. However, is it only guilt of how my deliberate stumble would affect others that keeps me on the right side of the yellow line?

There’s nothing in my life I can really moan about to be fair. I have a group of great friends. I do interesting things. I have a good job and make decent money. I am in good health (as far as I know). I may be thousands of miles away from my family, but we remain quite close. I see the good and humour in everything and I laugh a lot… a lot. I’m forever making jokes when I probably shouldn’t. But, it makes other people laugh too, or at least smile, so I carry on.

My love life has not been the best, but it’s nothing for me to despair over. I am not attached to anyone presently and in all honesty, I’ve only ever been in love twice. The first time happened over twenty years ago and ended rather tragically with his death and me thinking I could never love again. The second time was much more recent but didn’t work out. We’re now good friends. Neither of these men felt the same way towards me as I did towards them, but they did (and one still does) care about me quite deeply, just not enough to stay with me romantically. Somehow that doesn’t really feel like I’ve loved and lost. More like I loved and drew.

I’m probably too old to have biological children, which is something I do regret quite a bit. I’ve always loved children, thus my choice of career, and have always wanted to have my own. However, that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards, but it is certainly not worth throwing myself in front of a train.

So, I’m not certain why but a strangely macabre thought has danced through my brain as I stand and wait to be carried away each morning. Just as I feel the breath of the train just before the shadow of its lights oozes out of the darkness of the tunnel, I find myself wondering, “What if I stood just a little too far over the yellow line? What if I stumbled and fell in front of the train?"

Don’t worry. I plan on staying firmly put. I’m just curious how much it would hurt if I didn't.