Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Are we real?

After reading MG's post this morning I thought a long while about how real I am in this blogging world. Is this really me? In a sense, it would be quite possible to be whoever we chose to be, I suppose, but that thought never occurred to me at all. I don't see the point of pretending to be something or someone I am clearly not. People who know me in "real" life say I write here just as I speak.It sounds like me. This is good.

Like so many of you, I started blogging when my daughter did. I wanted to be part of this new world, and speak to her specifically, and then I started looking for people my own age and found a world of women I am coming to know well, whose lives I share in print and cyberspace, and who are real to me, at least. I trust my instincts here.

Because we are usually alone when we write, I think we tend to speak about things that we may not verbalise easily in company at times. I write for myself, not to try to impress anyone. There is no-one to impress here late at night. I am talking about what I do and think and feel. Well, some of it. One of my old friends has been known to say that 99% of me is kept hidden from the general public. I don't think it is quite that high a percentage, but yes, I have a part of me I tend not to share easily. With anyone. Those who know me a little better can read between the lines now and then and sense the things I choose not to say, and there are one or 2 who I have emailed privately to fill in some of the blanks. I do edit out some of the tough stuff, and I may never share that, or I may wait a few months to say anything, when it is no longer raw. This is not my life story. It is simply a reflection of who I am today and of my rollercoaster ride through life in my middle years. No. My prime. Of course.

I am just an ordinary woman. With 52 years of experience of life. There have been successes and failures. Triumphs and tragedies. Laughter and tears. Wars and peace. Good decisions and catastrophic ones. Choices and consequences learnt the hard way. Nothing spectacular. I do not lead a charmed life. I have mountains of challenges to face. However, I have been blessed with a healthy dose of optimism, and a "can do" rather than a "can't do" philosophy of life.

You know, one of the greatest things about all of this is that age plays no part in the blogging world. Some of you could be my daughters. And I read about your trials with your babes, and it triggers memories buried in time of my own babes, that perhaps I would have forgotten. It is such fun to read that some things never change, and I love it all. I just want to yell loudly now and then to tell you all to savour every moment. It is gone so quickly. They grow up overnight. I love the fact that I can join in the celebrations when babies are born, when journeys are completed, when prayers are answered. I love the fact that we can share and support each other through laughter and tears. And tears of laughter.

I like to think you would recognise me in real life.

A new teacher

Tomorrow I start my new career as a teacher. Today, I confess, I had a major "throw the rattle out of the pram" rage. I ran out of patience in a big way. Not with the kids, but with the management, who had made all sorts of assumptions about what I would do, and never had time to discuss anything with me. Endless meetings, and yet only throwaway comments about bits and pieces to me. So today I went to see the business manager, and told her I was thoroughly ticked off. Not upset. Mad. I think she had quite a shock. I have always done far more than I have been asked to do, and so already it is assumed I will be able to manage everything.

I am terrified I won't get it right. I really have no idea whether I will fall flat on my face. That would be excessively humbling, and is not out of the question. But I need to know that there is a firm foundation in place that I can rely on for advice or help, and if everyone has been too busy to talk to me in the past 2 weeks, it does not bode well for times of crisis. For example, I have not been given my teacher's laptop computer yet. I have no idea how to take the register electronically. It would only take a few minutes for someone to show me and do an idiot's guide, but that is what I need. And asked for 2 weeks ago. It could all have been done by now. Sigh.

Essentially, I just want to talk to the people who are above me in the chain, and to make sure what they are expecting of me, and how quickly, and to voice my reservations and doubts, so that they understand that this is really daunting for me. I am SO fallible. I have not got a clue what I am doing half the time. I have a suspicion that they think I can do it all. I have no idea. And it does not help at all to keep saying "you will be fine" because I won't be many times. I need to talk about the "won't be" times and what to do then. So, the end result is that they were all having MORE meetings this afternoon and tomorrow morning, and yes, I will teach. They did ask if I was going to. I suppose that is something.

I have said that I am okay with challenges before, haven't I? I am. I also know I have those hands guiding me. Without them, I might as well pull the duvet over my head at 6am tomorrow and stay in my nice cosy bed and pretend the world does not exist. I am so far out of my safety zone it is ridiculous. I am indeed walking on water. I mustn't look down. I mustn't look down.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Another day at the coalface

Schools. Kids. Parents. Teachers. Where did we all get so complacent? When did kids start thinking it was fine to misbehave and when did their education become something they dismiss without a thought? How have we reached a stage where they have no aspirations? Who is to blame? Is it because we have a benefits system that means that they think that they will never have to work? Or is it more because they all seem to know their "rights", and teachers are powerless? How many excuses do we make for their behaviour? And how many labels do we have to stick on them? They all seem to think they will be millionaires and be able to buy (there we are on the acquisition trail again) anything their little hearts desire. It is their right. To have everything they want. And with little or no effort.

Our united nations of teachers at our school are all of the same mind when we discuss the complete lack of respect or appreciation of the wonderful gift that a good education can be. Those who come from the Bahamas or Africa, or the Eastern block countries can speak of children who just dream of getting an education. Who walk for miles to school with no shoes. How children sit down and obey instructions and work hard to make something of their lives. They don't have any safety net there. If you don't work, you don't eat. Education is prized above just about anything. So how did one of the most advanced of the 1st world countries end up with children who think they call the shots roaming the corridors of schools? And what does this mean for the future of the nation? Or the world, come to that.

I am constantly amazed by the determination and dedication of the core of excellent teachers, who never give up trying, or hoping. Other teachers come and go, just marking time until they can move to "good" schools, where teaching is not a daily ordeal. And the kids? I keep believing that if I can make a difference to even one child, it will have been worth it. Not easy at times.

The scary thing is that they speak to everyone like this. Their parents. Their teachers. Authority figures. Anyone. And there is almost nothing we can do to stop it. Then there are the good kids in every class, who try so hard to get on with things, in the middle of open anarchy at times. They deserve so much more. Homework? Why bother? Bring equipment? What is that?

Sometimes it is more crowd control than teaching. There is a whole world out there that had never been part of my experience of life. Parents who back their children and not the teachers. Parents who seem to encourage their children to misbehave or to push limits. Parents who spend fortunes on things like ipods and the latest game equipment, but who don't provide pencils and pens. Parents who just never do anything to control their kids, and kids who do not know the meaning of choices and consequences. Children who simply cannot see where they are heading. And children who simply do not care.

There are many kids at this school who are special needs kids. That means they may have social, physical, mental, behavioural or learning disabilities. For any number of reasons. What they need is consistency, security and stability. I sound like a crusader. I suppose in a way I am one. I probably always will be. But it is hard at times. And so incredibly sad too.

Monday, January 29, 2007


All my comments are now anonymous too.

Ok, so I switched

Reluctantly, might I add. I was GIVEN NO OPTION. I will throw myself on the floor and have a right royal tantrum if I have lost anything. Then I will squeeze into the computer cable and emerge at blogger and do some head bashing. You may be able to tell that I do NOT like having no options.

I was sitting here staring at the screen, wondering what on earth I could write about tonight. Is anyone out there in the same boat as me? The moment I was nominated in a category as daunting as "most inspiring", I lost all inspiration. As in I could not string 2 words together. So you get the rant about having to switch instead. Inspiration it is not. But I did change the font colour. To indicate rage. Of course.

Coffee has calmed me down. I am rational again. I had a visit from a friend this evening, who has invited me to a 60th birthday party. In the Dordogne, France. In June. For a weekend. Now I know some of you (hello Barb) really struggle hearing about places you dream of visiting one day, which happen to be close by and accessible for us in Europe. We are lucky, if you forget the global warming issue, to be able to fly round Europe very cheaply, and so popping over to Bordeaux for the weekend, is possible. In fact, I have flown return to Switzerland for half the price of a train ticket to London, which is 45 mins away by rail. If you consider coming to Europe, check out the budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair, and BMIbaby for European travel.

After Barb's comment, I was thinking what fun it would be to show you all around Britain. And how much I want to come to the States one day to see everything I have read about. Part of my History degree course focussed on American history, and I especially loved the frontier history. I want to see strange places. Not the touristy ones, necessarily. Of course I want to stand in New York and feel the energy that everyone talks about. And to go to the Smithsonian in Washington. And I want to wander round the Northeast visiting small towns and exploring fabric and antique shops. But I also want to go to Alaska, and to Montana, and to see the Rocky Mountains, and to see Mt St Helens. I want to visit churches I have read about, and meet people. Sigh. One day.

I have been so lucky to have been able to see so much of Europe. As a child, my parents brought our family on holiday for 3 months, and we went everywhere. It is such a weird fact that if you live somewhere, you seldom see the country, but as tourists you see it all in a short space of time. I have seen far more of Britain than most of my British friends, and my father planned our "grand tour" meticulously. Holland was perfectly timed to see the tulips in bloom. Vienna was timed so we could go to see the Vienna Boys Choir, and the Spanish Riding school. London meant the State opening of parliament. Paris was La Traviata at the opera house. And it is amazing how clear all those memories are.

Since we moved back here, I have been to France and Switzerland mainly. And Scotland, of course. But we also visited Holland, Germany and Belgium when we travelled with Geoff on the ship. Now I have friends with homes all over the place. One has recently bought an apartment in Bulgaria, and one day I would love to see the former Eastern Bloc countries. As a child I never thought that would be possible. I would love to see the Aurora Borealis. I have not been to Scandinavia, except for Denmark. I have seen Austria, Italy , Gibraltar and Spain though. This is not meant to make you wail, Barb. There are so many places I still want to see! But top of the list right now is New Zealand. I want to go and see where my daughter lives. I wish I had the time and wherewithall to rotate around the globe. Australia is waiting too. And Prague. I have always wanted to go there. While the Music festival is on, of course.

My friends Tess and Russ are about to go off on an adventure round Europe. They intend spending a year travelling all over the place. In a strange way, after Geoff died so unexpectedly, so many people re-evaluated their lives, and did things like rewrite wills, check on insurance etc, but so many also decided not to put off the things they would love to do one day. They are making conscious plans to do those things now. I applaud this wholeheartedly. One day is right now. It is the only certainty there is. The irony is that, as the months go by, it becomes so easy to slip back into that lethargy, where we put things off once again. It is so easy to find endless reasons why we can't do things. Dreams are good, and if I really try, some will become reality too.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday reflections

Coming home on Saturday morning to this lovely bouquet of flowers was such a wonderful surprise. My daughter sent them to me. No, it is not a special event, she just sent me flowers. She is a gem. I grin every time I walk past them.

This has been a lovely weekend. David and I went to London yesterday to stay with Andrew and Ann, and it was great to get away. It was so nice to do nothing..... just relax and enjoy being with my boys. And daughter-in-law too! Diana called us and spoke to everyone as well, so that made it even better. Ann is a teacher, so we could compare notes and talk about work.

I sat and watched the tennis final this morning, and Roger produced the goods yet again. I do love watching him play. He has such elegance about the court. So, the weekend has been good, as I said. Different.

So... a new week awaits. What will this one bring, I wonder?

It seems that I am a nominee in the Share the Love awards. Thank you VERY much to whoever nominated me! This is the first time I have ever been nominated for anything, and I am very touched. I took a look at the lists, and there are some amazing women there, so go and have a look and make sure you visit their blogs too. I am honoured to creep in among them. Now if I could just work out how to put that button thing on my blog, it would be perfect. It seems that everyone knows how to do these things except me. Sigh.

(UPDATE 15 mins later)

Don't you just love daughters? I am talking to Diana in NZ, and was moaning on messenger re my lack of talent, and she went and did the button thing for me. Flowers and a button. What more can I ask for?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Opening doors

Right. I said I would tell you what is happening on the work front, so here we go. Those of you who know me or read my blog, know that I need to work. In September, I was offered a post at the school I am working at now, as a learning support assistant, but I had to turn it down, because it did not pay enough to live on. Anyway, in November, a friend who works at the school took me aside at a party and said that I should phone the school, as there were lots of different roles coming up, and if I was there, they would find a way to maximise my skills etc. So I did. I had made the decision to go through any door that opened, and this seemed good. I called and left a message at the school, and had no reply for a day. Oh well, I thought, this was the wrong door.

They called the following day and suggested I go in for a chat. I went, and the result was that I started work the next day. As a learning support assistant. On low pay. That lasted about a week, and then I was moved to DT (Design Technology) and ended up supporting a whole department, as they had lost teachers, got new ones, and had no head of department. That lasted till December.

This year, I started the year knowing that I was going to be supporting the department, and also teaching small classes of girls textiles. Well, last week, I was called out of the class I was teaching, and told that the only textile teacher had resigned as of the end of January, and how did I feel about taking on all the Year 10 classes. I was shell-shocked, and said I would have to think about it, as it was a huge committment, and would take an enormous amount of work. Ok, they said, while you are thinking about it, think about taking on the years 7, 8, and 9 too. My jaw was hanging open at this stage. What, I squeaked, you want me to teach ALL the textiles? Think about it they said. As I was leaving, I turned round and asked the acting head of dept if she really thought I could do this. Yes, she said. I really do.

I came home and sat in the rocker thinking about the crazy road my life was zooming down. I remembered my impatience the week before, when I actually said that I know that God has a plan for my life, I just wish I knew what it was. I said, "Not that I am impatient or anything". Hah. Enter God. She wants fast she gets fast. Standing up there. Dusting his hands together.... now let's just see what she does with this. I can see it all. Remember what I said about never wanting to teach? And remember that idea that I would go through any doors that open? BIIIIIIIG doors.

I went to talk to friends who are professional educators. I asked what they thought. I also asked if they honestly thought I was capable of doing this. Then I spoke to my dear friends, who have been such a support over the past few months, and asked if they thought I was ready emotionally to cope with this. Then I sat back in the rocker and thought more. I considered the kids I teach, whose first question is always, "How long are you staying?" They need stability. I wrote out a list of what I would need, in terms of training and support. I thought about faith and trust and leaps into the void. I thought of challenges, and growth, and not being in this crazy place if I was not meant to be here. I thought about what God was telling me about myself. The fear, the uncertainties and the confusion. The not knowing if doing my best would be enough. I am going to make mistakes. Probably many. Could I cope? Would I go where I was asked to go?

Finally, I thought of the paragliding analogy. It all looked different then, so I went to school the next day, kept out of the way of senior staff, and took apart the textile teacher's timetable, and worked out exactly what would be required of me. That afternoon, at the end of school I gave them my list of necessities, requests and concerns.

I heard nothing for days. They kept saying they were having meetings and more meetings, and it was so frustrating not actually knowing. I was given a new timetable and sent for some of the training I asked for, and to observe excellent teaching. All the staff seemed to know I would be teaching. Just not me. Today, I decided I had to know, so I asked. Oh, we have your new teaching timetable, they said. What? I have had no discussions, been at none of the meetings, and no-one has talked to me about anything. I pointed this out, and said that there was a great deal that still needed to be discussed, not least my salary. Yes yes, but you start teaching on Thursday next week. Hmmm. Open doors are good. Opportunities are good. I am, however, not an idiot. I did not ask for this, or volunteer. I don't know how it will work out. But I am not going to do any of it without first discussing the implications with the powers that be. Their expectations might be unrealistic. I will find out about that on Monday. My deadline, not theirs. I can't just drift into this. But I do think this is what I am supposed to do.

So there you have it. It looks as though I am going to be a teacher. This seems to be where all those doors are leading me. There is no way this was in the plans. My plans. God's? Probably. I just know I can't do any of it alone. Next Thursday I could be on that tandem paragliding flight. Heaven only knows what He has planned for me next.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Half asleep

You know you are getting old when you fall asleep in the rocking chair for the second night in a row. Around 8.30pm. Still wearing the jacket you came home from work in, and still with boots on. Sigh. All of a sudden 29 seems a long time ago. Who am I kidding.... it WAS a long time ago. Maybe it is because I work with people my kids' ages. My sentance construction seems a bit discombobulated tonight too. You know what? Too bad. I am not being graded here.

It has been crisp and very cold today. And there is actually snow in Switzerland, you will be relieved to hear, especially if you are contemplating a ski trip in half-term, which is just 2 weeks away. I am not contemplating anything. I wish I was. I am tired, but I have already mentioned this ad nauseum. All I seem to have the energy for is work at the moment. This is not how I want to be. I suppose it does take a great deal of adjustment, and while I love what I do, I do not want it to consume me. I need to still be me, and have time for my friends and family. So many new things to adjust to. New job. New people. New church. New is good. I just don't want to lose the old. There we are, back to the old word again. Groan.

I phoned the Coroner a couple of days ago to see if by any remote chance he had an idea of when the inquest was likely to be. My optimism knows no bounds. No. He is still waiting for 2 or 3 more doctors' reports, and only after all the papers are in will he put it on the list. I asked, with considerable restraint, if it was likely to be this year. "I hope so" he replied. It is January. I am not holding my breath. And am I the only one wondering how reports written over 6 months after the event can be in any way accurate? The inquest will be interesting. I have the right to ask questions. Oh yes, I will be asking questions.

On a lighter note, Roger Federer played the match of his life today in the Australian Open.... I wish I could have watched it. I do like Roger. And tennis. The weekend is nearly here. February will soon arrive, and then spring won't be far away. Now that is a good thought.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It actually snowed

Oh yes it did. All of about 2 centimetres of it. Real snow. We woke to a white world, but it was gone soon enough. It is still a novelty in a way, and I gather that everyone waiting for the school bus had a snowball fight this morning. Snow and kids, whether they are 17 or not, always = fun.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cobwebs and crumbs

The vicar and his wife came to tea, and the dust was fine. It helped that the sun was not shining. The cobwebs were not so visible. I was to be seen grovelling on the floor picking up the biggest crumbs just as the bell rang, to my son's amusement, but then I just tossed them onto the floor again. I mean, how can you greet visitors with a handful of crumbs, I ask? Just feeding the birds as you toss them into the garden before closing the door? No, I don't think so. I would have had them thinking I was decidely odd. In true blogging fashion, I feel it necessary to announce that I will be doing the housework. Soon. If nothing more interesting comes up. Maybe. You will be the first to know.

Today I did an "assertive discipline in the classroon" training course. Tomorrow I am on an observation timetable, observing excellent teachers in the classroom. Nothing has been confirmed yet re work, but I seem to be on a crazy meteoric rise up the educational ladder. Completely unexpectedly. I will tell all as soon as I can, but at this rate I will be Chief Inspector of Schools by September. Or Education Secretary. Quite ridiculous. And very amusing too. I walked into a textile class today, and so help me, the kids were being taught to sew zippers in using zigzag stitching. What???? On chiffon. WHAT???? Where was the calico? Not a zipper foot in sight. My muttering became quite distinct at that stage. Good grief. The mind boggles.

So, apart from iced up cars this morning, work, supermarket dash on the way home, vicar to tea, cooking supper, and house group this evening, it has been an uneventful day. According to the news, yesterday was supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. I have no idea why. It does seem a little random, but apparently it is fact. Certainly there seemed to be a lot of foul moods about. Isn't it amazing how one person in a bad mood can change the entire atmosphere in a department? Maybe there is some truth there. Just as well yesterday is gone then. It is out of the way for the rest of the year.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Why cleaning can wait

Let me just get this out of the way:
  1. No news yet re the development at work
  2. No snow yet
  3. I hate computer antivirus packages that decide to update every 2 minutes freezing the computer. Which is fully protected, thank you very much.

I had great plans for cleaning the house this evening. The vicar from my new church and his wife are coming to visit tomorrow when I get home from work, and I thought it would be a great idea to have a reasonably tidy house. One does not want him to think I am a slovenly parishoner. But then I had a surprise visitor.

Let me tell you about Jo.

10 weeks ago, her husband was killed on the way home from work. His car was run off the road and he died instantly. The other driver died too. I did not know her at all, but she lives around the corner from me and has 2 sons. In this village news spreads fast, and I think I mentioned that I heard about her older son at housegroup. David helps at the youth group he goes to, and I wondered if that perhaps, was the reason David was there. They are nearly the same age. Who better to help than someone in the same place.

Anyway, the morning after that housegroup a week after the accident, I woke just knowing I had to go and speak to her. I came downstairs, and told my mother I had to go and visit. You don't know her, she said. I know, but I have to go I replied. A few minutes later, Mum saw her walking along the road with her dog, and called me, and I barrelled out of the door like the road runner, and ran after her. She must have thought I was demented. I introduced myself, told her that I had been coming to see her, because I needed to tell her that I knew what she was going through. I explained that I was in the same place that she was, only a couple of months ahead, and that I knew that while she would be surrounded by many friends and family, she might find that no-one actually knew what she was going through. I did. She cried. I cried. We stood there in the street together, with her dog sitting at our feet, and I held her while she sobbed.

Anyway, we have kept in touch. Our sons have derived considerable amusement from the vision of one mother chasing another down the road. It has helped that they have someone in the same boat. This is good. I had told her that I would not intrude, but that she was welcome to pop in any time she felt like it.

Tonight was the first time she had visited. Anyone walking in would have thought we had known each other since the start of time. We could talk about things without holding back. She said how lonely she was. We talked about reactions and stepping forward and stepping back. We giggled about her freezer smelling like dead bodies after she accidently switched it off. Now you see, that is something anyone else would have seen as bad taste near us, and edited it out, and yet we laughed till we nearly cried about it. We talked about yelling at the heavens when things broke around the house. Like I did the day after Geoff died when the toilet handle broke. I was less than reasonable about it. We talked about our boys and their reactions. She talked of her young son whose hands were black and blue from beating the wall in his room in his anguish. We talked about counselling. We talked about making quilts with the shirts we have kept. We talked about inquests, and insurance, and doctors, and death certificates. She talked about how the silence mattered when she went to bed. We talked about when birthdays and anniversaries were. We talked, and we laughed too. We reminded ourselves that we wanted our sons to be young, and not to feel as though they need to look out for their doddering mothers. We talked about how we need to encourage them to grow and fly. We talked about the effort it took for her to drive again. And to be able to drive past the accident site. And how we cope with the sudden troughs. It was okay to say anything. And not wonder if we were making friends uncomfortable. It was okay to talk about what the future might bring. It was okay to remind her she needed to appoint guardians for her kids. It was just really okay.

A few days before I met her, I had written a list of things I need to remember. This is a list of things I need to remind me of how I felt and to ensure I don't make the mistakes that were made with me after Geoff died. The things that really do matter. The things that it is all too easy to forget once those early days pass. There is absolutely no blame attached to this list. No-one knew what to do. Now I have been through, or am going through this storm, which I would not wish on anyone, I have learnt things that just may help the next person, because it is a certainty that someone will need help going through it sometime. Everyone does. How ironic that I met Jo just days later. And how perfect that the rawness I felt could also help her.

So Jo came. And stayed a while. My son was ready to gnaw the kitchen table leg off as dinner was slightly delayed. We ate, and then in a truely helpful fashion, I fell asleep in the rocking chair, reflecting. I underestimated the effect having this sort of conversation would have. I am wiped out. So the vicar and his wife will have to ignore the dust and crumbs. Real people live here, with real lives. I am fine with this. They will be too. I had something way more important than cleaning to do.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Winter is almost here

We could have snow tonight. Or tomorrow. Or the next day. Well, that is what the weatherman says. But then, the weathermen are notoriously wrong. It certainly feels cold enough. Here in England everything grinds to a halt when it snows. Even the trains. There was once a hilarious response from a rail company, saying that it was "the wrong kind of snow". What is the right kind then? I thought snow was snow. We will see.

I was flipping through some new blogs this morning, and I can't remember where I read about combined cultures, but it struck a chord with me. I was born in South Africa. 3 of my grandparents were born in England, and one in Scotland. My husband was English, as was his father, and his mother was Irish. My children have grown up in South Africa and England. We spend a great deal of time in Switzerland with my sister, whose husband was born in Germany. Now my daughter lives in New Zealand. So what I am wondering is whether children who move countries when they are young, tend to move countries again, possibly more than once, when they are adults. I know that I have never ruled out the possibility of moving again. I have done it once, and lived to tell the tale, and I always saw it as not leaving a life, but gaining a new one, while keeping the things that really mattered from the old one. Like friends. Nowadays that is so much simpler, because of technological advances in communication. Like blogs.

My youngest son was just 1 when we moved to England, and he is, to all intents and purposes, British. He sounds British. This is all he knows. But he also knows he was born in South Africa, and that makes him different too. He has been back and it is a part of him as well. My older 2 sound South African to the British and British to South Africans. Weird. They have been to school in both countries, and adapted well to the changes. My sister sounds Swiss. Her english is now a translation of german, which is hysterical. Most people think I am from somewhere foreign, but they never get it right. We have a mixture of traditions from 3 countries, and I see this as wonderful. If I moved again one day, there would be more new ones to add as well.

The generation I grew up with scattered to the 4 corners of the earth after we graduated from university. My best friend lives in New Zealand, and I have friends and family in Canada, the States, Australia, Europe, Britain, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and heaven knows where else. My children have godparents in Scotland, England, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, South Africa. We are a real mixture, and that has to be good.

I do BBQs like South Africans, I cook porridge like the Scots. I make raclette like the Swiss. I make scones like the English. (And stir fry like Chinese, and pasta like Italians etc etc ) I go barefoot as much as possible - African. I don't stand on ceremony - colonial. I think I take what I like from all the combined cultures and make my own in a way. Unique. We are all unique, and a sum of all our experiences and heritages, aren't we. I think that this is what makes communities so interesting. In this village, there are French, Indian, Sinaporean, Irish, Dutch, Thai, Canadian, and South African families that I know of. Not to mention the 4 home nations. Probably lots more nations represented too. I work with German, French, Polish, Rumanian, Jamaican, Zimbabwean, Ghanaian, and British people. Those are just the ones I have met so far from a staff of over 200. The world has changed. And it is all getting very interesting. When my oldest son was at school in South Africa, I remember doing BBQs for his friends, and we had 3 sections divided up on the BBQ. There was ordinary food, kosher food, and halaal food, each with its own fork and tinfoil separating it all. It all seemed quite normal to me.

South Africa is called the rainbow nation. Maybe there are a whole lot of countries who could claim the same name. We are a rainbow people. I like the sound of that.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Just a thought

Leaping into the void. There is an alternative way of looking at it. I can see it as a paragliding jump. Now that I may consider. With someone in control who is clearly not me. Me alone? No, that would be a very rapid one way plummet. Messy too. But in tandem? With someone controlling the ropes and canopy? Who knows what He is doing, and is a professional? All I have to do is run when He yells run and not freeze at the edge of the cliff. Or go into reverse or cling on with my finger nails. Look up, not down. Then, oh then, I can be lifted up to soar over the valley, and see what a bird sees and fly. He knows the ropes.

Friday, January 19, 2007

End of another week

It was only last Thursday when I made the suggestion that, while I wasn't impatient or anything, I wished that God would hurry up. And let me know what this great plan He had for me actually was. I have always known that there was a plan. It just remained shrouded in mystery. If I am honest, it is more likely that I just didn't want to actually do whatever it was, or it didn't suit. Or I preferred to make the decisions. Anyway. I have been reminded with a vengeance, that He does actually answer prayers. I wanted fast. He moves fast. I will be a little more careful about what I ask for next time. Fast can be too fast. Now He is standing there, dusting off His hands, just waiting to see what I will do next.

This is what a giant leap of faith is all about. There is no way on earth I can meet the challenge, unless I have His help. I am not good at leaping into voids. The thought of bungee jumping leaves me cold. Not in this life time. No way. And giant leaps of faith don't even have those rope things. This is all about having to actually step into the water before it parted. I could really do with a long chat with Moses right now. He must have felt even more trepidation than I am feeling. I still can't tell you exactly what the challenge is. I have to wait. Sigh. I know. It is driving me crazy too.

Enough of cryptic musings. It is the weekend, and I can relax. The winds have died down, and Andrew's fence is being repaired, I gather. Thanks, Ginny! You are a star. And just round the corner too. Katherine, our Kluge scholar, is settling down in Washington, and please, someone, tell me why that is pronounced in a way that rhymes with boogie? Diana is in a tent somewhere in New Zealand, and I have the house to myself for a couple of hours. This is a very rare event.

Did I ever mention the incident at school which involved me chasing 2 girls around the site? I caught them skipping classes and when they took off at top speed to evade being frogmarched to student services, I followed. Up and down stairs etc, till they hid in the toilets. Hmmm. Well, they were excluded for 4 days, and when I looked at my class list for today, one was due to be in it. I waited till half way through the lesson, when she was engrossed in the embroidery machine fun, and I mentioned casually that we had met before, hadn't we. She mumbled. Yes. It appears that I will never have any trouble with her again. I control the access to the embroidery machine. She even offered to stay late. She would probably have carried my bags to the car too. She likes embroidery machines. Whatever works, I say!

Have a lovely weekend, wherever you are.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wind and more wind

So we don't have any snow or ice. Yet. But oh boy, do we have wind. Planes grounded, trains stopped, trucks blown over, trees down, power out, structural damage across the country, and it is revolting. The house is fine, but my garden bench/gazebo thing ended up in my roses. It weighs a ton, and was almost impossible to lift alone, so heaven knows how strong the wind was that knocked it down. My son's fence is down too. At least we have power and warmth. And apparently winter is due to arrive this weekend, with snow as well.

School was a marathon of crowd control today. Heaven knows what causes the change, but it could be the wind. They were off the wall all day. When I was asked what should go on the agenda for the departmental meeting tomorrow, I suggested compulsory boot camp. Especially for the 15 year olds. Or employing a few marines with full battle gear to patrol the corridors. As long as I keep expecting the tomorrows to be better, I can cope. This week's trick is to crawl under the desks in the computer rooms and switch the mouse and keyboard cables. Just perfect. 25 kids all yelling that the computers don't work. At the same time. Shriek. Then we ran out of coffee in the staffroom. Now that is a real emergency. If my caffeine levels drop I become slightly unreasonable. Interpret that as meaning "Do. Not. Cross.Me."

I have just been to supper with 2 friends, and it was lovely sitting in front of an open fire chatting after eating far too much. Now I am so full I need to go and run somewhere. Or just go and fall into bed. But my sense of humour is restored at last. David has finished his exams, and today's was dire. The only good thing is that everyone agreed it was awful, from all the schools around here. Including teachers. At least they are over for a few months now.

I am now going to waddle off upstairs. Waddle is a perfectly apt description. I do believe I have eaten enough to keep me going for a couple of weeks. Groan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Music and doors

In our village we have a wonderful music tradition. Twice or three times a year, we meet to sing something. It could be Gilbert and Sullivan, an original work by our local composers, folk or classical. Anything really. There are no auditions. You just have to love singing. Happily, we can all sing. And the orchestra is made up of local musicians, who just happen to include one of the world's leading trumpeters, if he is not touring, and exceptionally talented others, from 15 to those more mature. They are amazing. They have just a few rehearsals and are ready to go. So are we. The singers. The chorus can be anything from 40-80. The soloists are often local, but at times we have professionals as well. Enough background. We sound good. Morning Glory, your husband would have fun here!

Tonight we started rehearsals of some Bach Cantatas. In German. My friend/ local composer/musician extrodinaire/assistant head teacher/superb conductor keeps us rolling with laughter, insults us, and coaxes the most amazing sounds out of us. While telling us how Bach composed. I don't know when he had time to sleep. There must have been about 60 there tonight, and more will be there by next week. We are doing 2 performances in 2 churches, and it will be stunning. I can't tell you how much my spirit is lifted by singing with my friends. And the music is sublime of course. I nearly didn't go tonight. But I am so glad I made the effort.

Work took a very unexpected and interesting turn today. I have some big decisions to make tonight. Do I stay in a safe and tiny space, or creep through that door? I wonder. I think I will be creeping. I need challenges. Do you remember how I said I would go through any doors that opened? Oh boy, this one is cathedral sized. You could drive a double-decker bus through it. I have asked for, and listened to wise counsel. I have to decide. I will let you know when I have made the decision. As one friend told me via text tonight, everything has been leading me to this place right now. I know it has. But suddenly that speed is warp speed, after years of trundling. Someone is in a hurry. I just hope I can keep up.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Making a difference

Today I am thankful for:
  1. Bloggityville
  2. Kate, who has a birthday today and who is on her way to Washington in the morning
  3. Friends who just pop in
  4. Hot water
  5. Progress at school

I stumbled on a world of blogging friends a while back, and oh, how they have all enriched my life. That is not to say that my real, as opposed to cyber, friends are not still the wonderful, special people they all are, but there are moments when I am alone, where it is so lovely to be able to log on and be a part of another community too. Today, the blogging world made a huge difference to the life of one special lady. Even though they are cyber friends, they are all real people with real lives, and, it appears huge hearts. I wish they lived close by.

The down side of blogging for me is that I know some of my real friends read this, so they know what I am doing and how I am, and then there is no need to call and ask, or speak to me. It is as though they know me, but I don't get to find out what they are doing. When we see each other, they already know my news. Sometimes it feels like they are watching my life, and then I miss out on theirs. I make it easy by writing. So I should have no reason to complain, I know. It is just an observation.

I started this blog when Diana went to live in New Zealand, after she started hers, but it took a good few months to get into the whole idea of writing a blog, and then it just grew. (Well, actually, she set the whole thing up and told me to get on with it.) At first I just knew her and her friends, and when I started looking for new people to talk to, I sort of had this explosion of amazing people right there on my screen. It has been an wonderful blessing in so many ways, and I have learnt so much in the past months. Laughed too. And cried as well. But then, that is life, isn't it?

I, like all of you, am on a journey. In a runaway train. Every day brings new challenges, temptations (oh heavens, those chocolate biscuits are calling....again), joys and heartbreak. Inconsequential amusement. My emotions soar and plummet without warning, and sometimes I long for a quiet safe harbour or life. However, I am destined to be on a rollercoaster, I have discovered. It took a while. Like 52 years. There are no half measures in my life. This is a post that is nauseatingly full of cliches. I know that. Tough. They seemed applicable at the moment, so you will have to put up with them. I am speaking. Where was I..... no half measures. But you know what, every night I go to sleep thinking of all I am so thankful for. And every morning I lie there warm and cosy, and my waking thoughts are about how much I have been blessed. At least until there is another roar that the hot water is off or that there is no milk for breakfast.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Things can get better!

Today we got a supply teacher who has actually at some stage of her life, taught graphics. This is a major miracle. A meeting I was not looking forward to was cancelled. My classes today went really well. Tori and I are going on a new textiles course for 4 days soon, and this afternoon, at a meeting of the textile department with an outside expert, we divided up our top year into 3 separate classes which we will rotate in 3 sections to cover all the work. So there is progress at last. We are all focussing on our individual strengths, and that will be really good. We managed to use the laser cutter to engrave denim without setting fire to it, and the girls were impressed. So many little things, and they all combined to make a good day.

Right then.... I am off to see if the hot water is working. It was not this morning. I cannot tell you how much I dislike being woken at dawn to hear things don't work. Especially as I have no idea how to fix them. I am used to having someone around who can fix things. Groan. But , in the greater scheme of things, this is a minor. The chocolate biscuits at the Co-op were on spectacular offer, so I have a stash. Hidden. I have chocolate. Life is just fine.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Slow weekend

I have taken it easy this weekend. Very easy. I can't begin to tell you how weary I was last Friday. But, there has been 2 days now of rest and snoozing in the rocking chair, reflecting a lot, watching a bit of TV, reading now and then and very little else. Apart from church this morning, and lunch with a dear friend. That meant not having to cook either. And an outing to try to take a family photos of the babes. You try getting 3 year old twins and a 5 year old to sit still.

Church this morning was wonderful. I have decided to join a church in a neighbouring village, where the welcome is warm, the services varied, and the teaching quite brilliant. We sang something today that was new to me, and I have no idea how to listen to it on the web, but if you can, go and listen to "King of Kings, Majesty", by Jarrod Cooper. Here are the words:

King of Kings, Majesty
God of heaven, living in me
Gentle Saviour, closest Friend
Strong Deliverer, Beginning and End
All within me falls at Your throne

Your majesty, I can but bow
I lay my all before You now
In royal robes I don't deserve
I live to serve Your majesty

Earth and heaven worship You
Love eternal, faithful and true
Who bought the nations, ransomed souls
Brought this sinner near to Your throne
All within me cries out in praise.

Our young friend, Katherine, (owner of Morgan, the amazing flying dog) is off this week to the States for a 3 month placement at the Library of Congress in Washington as part of her PhD. How exciting that will be for her! She and Diana have grown up together, and are closer than sisters, and she is part of our family, as are her parents and brother. So another of our "chicks" is off on an adventure. At the end of the 3 months, she is going to see Diana in NZ as well, so that is just lovely. I want to go too! Her father, Peter, had a birthday on Friday and has now caught up with me. Hah! We have known each other since first year at university back in the dark ages, and so I am allowed to be rude. Happy Birthday, Peter...... you now qualify for all the age related insults I get from you for the rest of the year. At least for the next 5 months.

Winter is not really here yet. I don't know if it will come at all. I read about the snow and ice in the States, and then here it is round 10 degrees C if not warmer, and windy and wet. I have not worn a coat more than a couple of times, and then just early in the morning at that. There is no snow in Europe, and this is very bad for the winter season. They are hoping for some later this month, but I look at the webcams, and it looks green to me. Green. It should be white. Climate change is real and is going to be devastating.

Throughout a really difficult week, I have had so many texts and messages and calls of encouragement, support and love, and they have meant the world to me. Thanks, everyone. Tomorrow is another new day.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


It is de-lurking week, I gather, so please de-lurk and say hi and tell me who you are. I am even later than Barb at realising things. And I need something to make me grin please.

I am still here

But have blogger block. As in nothing to say really. This has been a draining week. I loathe and detest inter-departmental politics. I am caught in the middle with 2 departments thinking I am working exclusively for each. It is impossible to please both. So no matter what I do, I will still have someone snarling. I came close to resigning this week. Very close. And who knows what I will do in the next few days. Bad timing. I have also hit the "6th month low". Just perfect.

I will take another deep breath and keep crawling out of the trough, still believing that God has a plan. I just wish He would hurry up and let me see what it is. Not that I am impatient or anything.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday mutterings

I walked out of the classroom this afternoon, and the floor was absolutely covered with bits of thread. And a few sequins. The cleaning ladies will not have been thrilled. I cannot tell you how time flew with a really lovely class of 20 girls, all of whom wanted to know more, try things, and get things right. It was a hive of activity. Sewing machines, embroidery machines, cutting boards, groups trying various hand stitching, some using embellishments like buttons and sequins, and some doing those wordsearches I made with textile words. They had fun. I had fun. One asked me how long I would be at the school, and I said as long as it took to teach them how to sew. You will be here years she said. Hmmm. We will see.

I have just been to bookclub, and as always, that was good. Next month is our 150th book club meeting. We were going to go away for a weekend together, but now have decided to go out for a celebratory meal. I will give you the stats next month. And the list of the top 10 books so far. We will also need some photos too of course.

Reading has always been a great love of mine. I need to have books in a pile waiting to be read. I must work out how to put a list in my sidebar. I will have to go to blogging basics101 and see if they can help. Shannon and friends are wonderful. I wish it had been around when I started up. Having said that, I have not managed to do much so far. I can do hyperlinks and photos. I want to know how to cross out words with a line. I can't work that one out. And how do I contract my family friendly blogroll to a click-able box. Sigh. Can't work that out either. Or how to put 100 things about me in a sidebar. Groan. Maybe I should start again. With the basics. And Mr Linky thing? Hah. No chance. I feel like a toddler in the techy world.

BUT....... I can make coffee. I have made endless cups this afternoon since I have been home. Tessa arrived, followed by Julia. Lots of coffee. Lots. I am rambling. Too much caffeine. Obviously. I have nothing exciting to report. Maybe tomorrow.


I have been meaning to mention to the few of you who are widowed, that there is an excellent website called merrywidow with a lot of really useful information. It is a British website, and I heard the lady who set it up being interviewed on the radio as we drove back from Scotland. Maybe there is something there that will help you. The British Medical Association highly commends the book she wrote.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Time flies

Today it is 6 months. And I have had friends hovering around me all day. I have said many times that I am truely blessed. I am indeed.

I was sent this, and I have no idea where it originated or who the wise soul was who wrote it, but I think it is worth sharing. Whoever you are, you have written something which says everything I wish I could have found the words for, but so much better. Thank you.


Turn off your TV
Know your neighbours
Look up when you are walking
Greet people
Sit on your front step
Plant flowers
Use your library
Play together
Buy from local shops
Share what you have
Help a lost dog
Take children to the park
Garden together
Support neighbourhood schools
Fix it even if you didn't break it
Honor old people
Pick up litter
Read stories aloud
Dance in the street
Talk to the postman
Listen to the birds
Put up a swing
Help someone carry something heavy
Barter for your goods
Start a tradition
Ask a question
Hire young people for odd jobs
Organize a street party
Bake extra and share
Ask for help when you need it
Sing together
Share your skills
Take back the night
Turn up the music
Turn down the music
Listen before you react to anger
Mediate a conflict
Seek to understand
Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
Know that no one is silent though many are not heard....
Work to change this.

I have been doing some preparation for school, and a friend suggested I use this amazing puzzlemaker website to create puzzles. I don't know if any of you are teachers, but it is such fun!
So, after church with friends, then the babes for tea, followed by more coffee with friends, and getting ready for tomorrow, the day has flown by. I am appreciating weekends a lot more these days. Trying to work out how to fit everything into a normal week is somewhat challenging though. Warp speed doesn't suit me.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Still swimming

I survived. And if the fact that the kids stayed in at lunch break to keep on working, and then 3 stayed for 35 mins after school because they wanted to do more means that it went well, then it went well. The senior management representataive, who was there at the start and stayed close by to see if I could cope, actually came in near the end to take photos of them all engrossed in the embroidery machine, and also of their work, as he was so impressed with them. So. I think I swam. I think. The kids want an afterschool club to learn how to make other things. I, on the other hand, am crawling with exhaustion.

Today we had 2 teachers in the department. 2 still not there. More chaos, and more frantic scrambling for work for the kids to do. More running between classes. But we coped. Hopefully we will be back to normal next week.

Tomorrow, after a slow start (well, that is the plan), I will take down the Christmas things. And do something about the tip. Like clean and vacuum. Maybe I will wear my glasses so at least I can see what actually needs to be done, and not rely on my imagination. Ginny gave me a basket of hyacinth bulbs for Christmas, and they are all in full bloom and smell wonderful. Like spring. She also made me the most amazing fruit cake, with glazed nuts on the top. Ginny is family. She is my daughter-in-law's Mum, and absolutely super.

I have just dropped David at youth club and popped in to Tesco on the way home. (The biggest supermarket chain in the UK). I went to buy some cheese. That cost £1.44. So how did I manage to spend £46???????????????????? This is why I don't go shopping if I can humanly avoid it. I felt the need to buy cut price Christmas tags and ribbon. Baskets and notebooks. Colouring books and crayons for the babes. My life is incomplete without a striped notebook. Of course. Some puzzle books for mum, and a couple of books for me. 2 bud vases. Good grief. I must have lost my mind somewhere. And did I mention the extra box of chocs? CSI is on... I am off to watch and relax.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I need sleep

Tomorrow I teach. This will be interesting. Today was mayhem. Of 4 teachers in the department, 3 were not there. That meant 15 lessons with no proper teacher, or lesson plans for the cover staff. No time to sort things for tomorrow, just running to catch up all day. Keeping the little cherubs from doing actual bodily harm. By 4pm we were all contemplating illness as an option.

So I still don't know who I am teaching, but I have spent the last 4 hours working on the lesson plans here at home. Not quite what I had planned for the evening. And I should be in bed but here I am. Too many interesting things to read about out there in cyberspace! I will be back to report about whether I swam or sank tomorrow. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

So it's off to work we go

Training day today. That was a first. I think there are 5 teacher training days a school year, when the staff all go in, with no kids at school, for meetings, training and to listen to the focus for the next school term. I was told at the end of last term, that I would be teaching 7 hours a week from now, but they did not tell the other faculty members till today, and happily, they were pleased rather than aghast. I have only been there 5 weeks, and somehow it seems like I have been there forever. Do I have a clue what I am doing? Um.... well.... no, not really. BUT.... I will make a plan. I have yet to be given the teaching scheme, or find out what the kids have been doing, or find out where I am actually going to be doing the classes, or in fact who are in the classes, but I am sure I will discover all tomorrow. Shriek. I had better find out all tomorrow. I have lessons to plan for Friday. Oh heavens, that is just a day away. Calm, girl, calm.

I got to play with the new laser cutter today. Oh what joy. It is a large piece of new machinery, and not only can you design and cut or engrave wood, plastic, etc, but it even cuts and engraves FABRIC. I hauled out some fleece and it is amazing. Just super. I can see that I will be staying late to experiment a lot. It was installed today, and the man was there to demonstrate all. The kids will also really enjoy all the options it provides. So, what with sublimation printers, laser cutters, embroidery machines etc, I will have plenty to try out.

January. I have been reading what all of you are saying about the start of a new year, and it is wonderful to see so many hopes, dreams and such determination to grow and become "more". In the best sense of the word. The "more" is focussed on personal growth, and this is so important. We can't stand still. We have to keep growing, don't we. Putting the past behind is so much easier in January, when we say goodbye to the old and ring in the new. And so many of us are saying the same things. I loved what Tonia at Intent had to say about her family's new year plans. The idea of listing something each member of the family hopes to achieve on the calendar at the start of the year is wonderful. And writing down ideas and plans for the year, and dreams. Such a simple idea, but one I will certianly be using each year from now.

I wrote a few days ago (last year, actually), that I bear no resemblance to the woman I was at the start of 2006. I hope to be able to say that again at the end of this year. I don't want to be the same. I want to be continually growing, evolving, becoming the woman I am supposed to be. Every person I meet has the potential to change something in me. Every place I go. Every experience I have has the same. Both good and bad. The temptation to cling to the old and familiar is the worst thing any of us could give in to.

On the subject of change. I actually did my make-up wearing my reading glasses this morning.(I fell asleep with them on, and woke with a particularly attractive dent in my nose, so had to keep wearing them.) It was not a happy event. I need an urgent appointment to have the highlights done. I can't remember when last I saw the hairdresser, but I suspect it was nearly a year ago. They will never remember me. There is no earthly way the grey could be considered a highlight. My hair is long, and I wear it up. Maybe I need to have it all cut off. Or a complete makeover. Or plastic surgery. Or something. Gulp. Or maybe I should just resolve never ever to wear my reading glasses when I look in a mirror again.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

And so the New Year is here, and the sun is actually shining as I speak. What will 2007 bring I wonder.....

More challenges, and more laughter. More adventures, and more steep learning curves, without a doubt. More memories to be treasured, and more refining by fire too, I suspect. My resolutions? Well, I should be listing thousands. I need thousands. But I am not going down that road. My hope is that I will manage to simplify my life, and focus on the things that are important. Really important. My children, my family and my friends. People, not things. And that I will be able to meet whatever challenges I have to face with grace, dignity and faith.

Last night, David and I stayed home here, and did not go to the party we were invited to. It was really nice to just sit in front of the TV and watch the amazing spectacle from the London Eye. The fireworks were simply stunning. I don't think they have ever been as amazing. It was a wild and stormy night, and cosy is good. We had been to the babes for lunch, and that was perfect. Lots of noise and excitement, and Chris is so funny..... if there is a "boy" in the house, then he is, of course, just there to play with the boy. That means my 6ft 4in son was attacked around the kneecap and dragged off to play cars with a 3 year old. Hysterical. He loved every minute of it. And Mims is clearly destined for Broadway. Drama queen does not begin to describe her. I considered getting her autograph then and there, just in case. I was instructed to take her photo at the dinner table. She looked mournful. I asked why and she raised that little eyebrow, and said "The ice cweam is all finished and so I am vewy vewy sad", and produced an even more mournful face. Watch this space. The child has a future. Bekah was on top form too, and it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. I cannot tell you how much those babes have brightened my life. They are my "practice" grandchildren, and the babes of my heart.

I have 2 days left till I go back to school on Wednesday for a training day then the kids are all back on Thursday. I intend being a slug. I may get dressed in a while. I may read a book. I may cook something. I may not. There is always chocolate. Oh, and by the way, here in England, there is no way you take the Christmas decorations down until the 12th day, which is the 6th. So all our homes are still very festive. Europe is the same. I suppose our decorations all go up much later than in the States though, so it is good to still have them around.

Now I am off to make more coffee........... have a very Happy New Year, all of you!