Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh, how they've changed

For four days over the Christmas break we're staying in a Youth Hostel with extended family. We have the whole thing to ourselves - all 29 beds and massive kitchen, real fire augmented by recently installed central heating. All supplemented nicely by a real ale pub in the village. Youth Hostels have changed a bit since my youth. More than a bit, really. Many a summer's morning I had to clean out the toilet block before being allowed to collect my card and head off. I ALWAYS got the toilets.

Anyway, now is the time to say Pete and Dud would say. See you after Christmas. Hope you all have a fabulous time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A bit of shameless self-promotion, or...

...I sold a story! Yippee!

I don't want to be uncool about this, but it seems to have been so long!! - well, to be fair, I haven't been sending off much in the last eighteen months but still, lovely to sell just before Christmas. And even nicer to sell to the lovely Jill Finlay at The Weekly News.

A while ago, in a discussion on writerly etiquette, someone more experienced than me said they didn't thank editors for buying their stuff, as it was a 'professional transaction'. Or words to that effect. With this in mind - and I can't quite bring myself not to say thanks at all - I limited myself to a very prim 'Thanks very much' when what I wanted to say was: 'Yay, you're such a sweetheart!' Or something like that. Still, don't want to scare her off, do I, so probably best I didn't.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oh what a tangled web...

I'm useless at lying, but for the last two or three years I've been blogging without the knowledge of my family and friends. Well, apart from the friends I've met through the blog, obviously. Now, it's getting to the stage where, as soon as a conversation turns to things technological, I get prickly heat just trying to remember what camp someone's in - do they know? do they not? does it matter?

It was never meant to be like this...I started the transition blog anonymously because Buster would've hated me writing about him. And probably Barney might have too. So it was kind of a discretion/respect kind of thing. And then when I started this one it seemed sensible to stick with Honeysuckle. And now I'm in a pickle because home and virtual lives are interlinking and the people who know me best are excluded from one whole area of my life and...

Time to come clean?

Anyone else living a double life?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Being watched

My first observation today since I've been fully-fledged. This is how it went:

...well actually, just don't ask. There were elements of :

*lateness (we started the class on time with just one student)

*poor communication (I was expecting him for the more endearing morning class; he arrived for the unenthusiastic afternoon class)

*unwarranted cannine visitations (two students arrived with a dog in tow - huh??)

*cannabis (by the time I got my verbal feedback at 3pm the observer was complaining of feeling woozy, having spent an hour breathing in the druggy fumes coming off the two boys opposite him).

So, apparently I'm just satisfactory with good aspects.
'But I wanted to be totally good!' I wailed pathetically. He just breathed the cannabis right back at me and stumbled out into the rain.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fully-fledged what?

Fully-fledged teacher, that's me. Yes, indeedy. Much to my surprise.
And hff was meant to be a blog on teaching and writing, altho' so far there's precious little of either in evidence...

A letter in this month's Writing Magazine tho' really brought out the newly-trained teacher in me. Jacquie Seddon from London wrote to the mag to say that, having taken up writing after years of drug addiction and other difficult stuff, her first assignment 'came back marked poor'.
POOR? Who marks someone's first assignment as poor? What happened to medals and missions? Things to work on? Areas for development? First rule: don't tell someone they're crap at something; suggest ways they might improve their performance.

Well, okay, she went on to get three 'excellents' (it's all very black and white with this tutor, isn't it?) and has been on an upward path ever since. And I'm glad because a lesser person could well have thrown the towel in after that first assignment. Good on you, Jacquie. Poor indeed!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Just go to the doctor, why don't you?

Bo gleefully told me, now that The Sex Education Show has come to an end, she's found another programme for us to watch: Embarrassing Teenage Bodies. Now, don't get the wrong idea, but I really liked TSES. It was non-salacious; the presenter was cheerful, non-judgmental and willing to undergo intimate procedures on our behalf; it allowed Bo and me to watch together, affording her the chance to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

But have you seen ETB? What is going on there exactly? - gurning presenters; pus-filled tongue piercings; too-sudden-switches to close-ups of fat-reducing surgery. Oh, yucky! Give me a break, do.

And the question I'm left with is this: what is it with teenagers who are too embarrassed one minute to even consult their GP over their condition, but the next minute are willing to undress and display their bits for the entire nation to gawp at?
Just don't get it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Me Me Me Me Me...

Thanks, Womag, for passing on this meme. (And wow, look at that, I even uploaded the image!)

Just one word answers tho'...I can't go for that, no can do. (Okay, if you don't remember the song, that would sound really iffy. Maybe it would anyway.)

1. Where is your cell phone? In my bag - switched off, as usual.

2. Where is your significant other? Car.

3. Your hair colour? Red, at the moment.

4. Your mother? Sadly dear departed.

5. Your father? Also sadly dear departed - way too long ago.

6. Your favourite thing? Daydreaming.

7. Your dream last night? Forgotten.

8. Your dream/goal? Happiness.

9. The room you're in? In turmoil - being decorated.

10. Your hobby? Writing! (I'll just stick with Womag here, I think.)

11. Your fear? Being required to do something brave in order to save someone dear to me, and the likely failure on my part to succeed.

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here.

13. Where were you last night? Here, mostly.

14. What you're not? Clever, interesting, oh, don't get me started...

15. One of your wish-list items? Can't think of anything very material but a lovely holiday would be...lovely.

16. Where you grew up? Spen Valley.

17. The last thing you did? Planned a literacy lesson.

18. What are you wearing? Dressing gown and pyjamas.

19. Your TV? Portable.

20. Your pets? Rabbit and two guinea pigs.

21. Your computer? Working, thanks.

22. Your mood? Guilty.

23. Missing someone? Yes.

24. Your car? About to be sold.

25. Something you're not wearing? Top hat.

26.Favourite store? Junk shop.

27. Your summer? Stressful.

28. Love someone? Yes.

29. Your favourite colour? Yellow.

30. When is the last time you laughed? Possibly yesterday.

31. Last time you cried? Friday - I made the mistake of playing Slipping Through My Fingers on Youtube.

I can't believe there's anyone left who hasn't done this already. Will have to have a think...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Quiz time

This is a quiz to assess your Asperger's leanings - it's been on loads of blogs in the past but if you haven't already tried it, have a go. My family and friends all turned out to be gloriously normal whereas Barney had a range of Aspie and neurotypical traits, and I was 'very likely an Aspie'. So, he's weird, but I'm weirder. Yah boo.

I started filling in online self-tests on Buster's behalf, altho' it wasn't very helpful once-removed - I don't know how Buster thinks all the time - but meantime I kept coming across questions that made me go: 'What? That's me! How did they know that?' or, in Johnny Cash's words: 'You been reading my mail.'

If you've ever felt like you've just dropped in from Mars or Lithuania, and you don't know the local customs and appropriate responses, have a look.

Just look anyway. It's interesting. It's fun. Just do it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Foot - mouth: mouth - foot... Tommy Cooper could've said, but probably didn't.

At the Centre, we have a wide variety of students with an equally wide variety of problems. Some just haven't fared well in mainstream; some have had too many family issues to deal with too young; some have specific learning difficulties; some have mental health problems. Bearing the latter in mind, it was probably unwise of me to murmur "nutter!" affectionately at one young lad -a lad I like a lot - when he said something funny and unexpected.

I realised about half a second too late that he'd been referred that very morning to the local mental health facility, and stuttered a retraction gormlessly while he grinned at me.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ho hum and avoiding demands

September 26th, that last post was dated. Over a week since, and what's been happening in the meantime? Well, little bits of nothing here and there really. Barney has taken to being home like anyone who's hated his work for the past ten years or so would. He makes meals; he ferries us here and there; he sweeps up. The other day I realised he'd cleaned the kettle. I didn't even know kettles were meant to be cleaned.

At work, we assessed a young man with PDA for a place on the course. What do you mean you've never heard of it? It stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance. One careers advisor described it as being 'an awkward so and so'. It's related to autism and Asperger's, but unfortunately doesn't respond to the techniques that usually work with young people with those conditions. (I questioned him closely about how we could help but didn't get much information. If there's anyone out there knows anything about teaching students with!)

I don't really know what to make of far can we go giving names to collections of symptoms that are only collectively experienced by a very small number of people? And PDA is really pretty rare. On the other hand, if this young man and his family experience real difficulties because of these symptoms, and if there are ways of enabling him to learn despite them, then we should make whatever allowances are possible and reasonable to accommodate him.

I think the problem that might arise with this situation is that the allowances we'll have to make will mean him maybe not having to do stuff which other students are already doing very reluctantly anyway. We could end up with a whole class of them claiming PDA and telling us how difficult they find the demands of life's routines and rules. I think I might have a touch of it myself.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Shay moments

Barney, not knowing I've seen it before, has just forwarded to me the email that's been doing the rounds for a few years now about the disabled boy, Shay, and the baseball game incident.

We've had one or two little Shay moments of our own. Probably anyone with a disabled child has.

I always thought if I ever wrote a book I'd dedicate it to the lovely, elderly man in Linton who, years ago, took the trouble to come over to our table as I waited for Barney and four-year-old Buster to return from the toilets. The pub we were in, empty when we arrived, was by now heaving with blue rinse ladies trailing expensive scents and self-important attitudes, and I'd been feeling stressed about Buster in this company and the real possibility of a glass going flying or the table over-turning or sausage fat ending up on an alien tweed coat.
Anyway this gentleman came across. 'Do you mind me asking how old your little boy is?' he started, and then went on to detail quietly how much he'd enjoyed seeing Buster eating his meal (he's always eaten with gusto), how well-behaved he'd been and how the whole experience had 'made his day'. It was unfortunate that, recognising this as an unexpected act of kindness, I then found myself unable to speak for a few minutes and I hope he realised that what I really wanted to do, rather than just force out a choked 'thank you', was to kiss him.

It's not just adults tho'. I've probably mentioned before that Buster's Junior School teacher told us about him being allowed, in a one-off inter-school soccer match, to take a penalty. Normally Buster wouldn't even be invited to play football due to his slowness and lack of skill. Anyway, he took the penalty and when he scored, both sides - his schoolfriends and those who didn't know him from Adam - cheered. Aw.

There are probably lots of these tiny incidents happening every day. Lovely things that strangers do through an instinct to help or support or something. It's not linked to class or intelligence or age. It just is. And when you come across it, it's heartwarming.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Making a lot of feetmark, as my mum would've said

I think it would be true to say I make heavy weather of life. I make heavy weather of all its constituent parts (driving, say, or travelling on trains, going up stepladders, ringing people up, you name it...) and of life as a whole - sometimes you think: what for?

Just recently the buggeration factor has staged a take-over. I'm caught, it seems anyway - maybe I'm overstating (how would I know?) - in the middle of two or three arguments that are not at all of my making; they landed slap bang on top of me like poo from a pigeon. Homed in on me, even. Now is that fair or not? Not, I'd say. And buggeration on top of heavy weather is, well, y'know, a bit depressing.

There's stuff at work, there's stuff at Buster's home, there's stuff elsewhere. What am I? - Argument Central? Am I sending some subconscious cosmic message that I love a good scrap? I don't. I really must start checking out that meditation stuff. If ever a body was in need of a good meditate, it's me, now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Recovery Position

So, the situation is this:

For a while I've been thinking it odd that my new colleague was making small. unilateral decisions; that she'd appointed herself spokesperson in certain situations; that our admin assistant treated her slightly differently. But it was all stuff so little that I convinced myself that I was imagining it. You know what writers are like for imagining things? At the same time, I've been giving my all to the job, working in rubbish conditions and thinking that it'd all get sorted if I just hung on.

And then yesterday she told me that, although it was 'meant nothing really', she'd actually been appointed Team Manager! Last straw. Red rag. Cue one very angry email to management detailing my grievances. Did they really think I'd have spent so much of my own time on the job if I'd known? Did they think they'd acted professionally over this? On and on and on. Oh, it was proper shouty - capital letters, the lot.

Five minutes later, I got a reply email - no, it was all a mistake. There was no Team Manager's job, someone on management had made an honest mistake. A big, honest mistake.

So, now. Will there be one person in this situation who doesn't feel a fool? My colleague has been told she's the boss and therefore acting the part, and now she'll be told she's not. The management team just look incompetent. And me, well, I lost my temper over something that turned out to be wrong, so all that prima donna huffing and puffing was in vain. Oh, woe is all of us; Monday will be interesting as we try to rearrange ourselves and jiggle our way back to normality, each of us struggling to retain as much dignity as possible.

In another incident, tho', a newish student, one of the more civilised ones, after witnessing me fielding a lengthy verbal abuse situation earlier in the morning, asked to speak to me in the office.
'I know the students give you a hard time in this job,' he said, 'but I want you to know, I think you're really nice for doing it.'

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Oh, calamity

What are these scientists up to? Just re-creating the Big Bang so we can all disappear in a black hole of our own making, that's all! Madness. It's fine, of course, they're not really expecting that to happen. Well, there's only a very small chance...y'know, not enough to worry about.

I'm telling you this is a bad idea. Circumspection would be a very, very good thing here. Scientists aren't circumspect - they make bombs, and drugs that have devastating side effects, and stuff that causes pollution, and it'll all turn round and bite us on the bum one day.
We don't advance through science, we just create a different set of problems. Wipe out one devastating disease and you get another in its place. Like the police trying to stay one step ahead of the criminals, we try to get the better of nature - and we do for a brief moment - but then she hits us with something else because she's cleverer than us.

It's not knowledge we need, it's kindness.

Anyway, this experiment. Today one of the critics is quoted as saying that if it has the effect they fear then nothing will happen for four years and then stuff will start going catastrophically awry. So, let's see, four years - that'll be 2012. The very year that the ancient civilisations always said the world would end.

Rain-lashed Tod

Well, I had a great time on Friday morning sharing coffees and writing tales with a couple of lovely, local writers - Pat and Shirley. And yup, next time we'll make it to the pub. And we'll order some sunshine in advance...
Of course, in some ways I'm a fraud as I've written so little this year (a PGCE takes up about 98% of the week!) but I'm going to get back to it, really I am.
Pat, I'm enjoying Sunlight on Shadows - thanks very much. I particularly appreciated it in the station waiting room, when I'd arrived to find my train just disappearing down the track...your story offered a lovely way to while away a spare half-hour.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A cunning plan

Not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to start decorating the living room three days before I started a new job, but it was probably the totally correct feeling that if I didn't start at that point then I probably wouldn't start at all until I retire in a few years' time. So now, two weeks later, we have one and a half stripped walls, one newly painted section of ceiling and a bit of plaster patching completed on the windowsill. Everything else still awaiting attention: very many small items dumped in boxes and carriers, very many shelves upturned along corridor, table dumped in hallway, settees covered in loose bubble wrap (nearest thing to hand at the time). I'm not a tidy or a speedy worker. And the chimney breast turns out to be damp - huge surprise there, as you can imagine. As this means that the wallpaper strips off with very little help from me I'm taking it as a positive.

Have been advised to sell the house with outline planning permission for conversion into two dwellings - one ground floor, one first floor - which would allow a builder to totally block off the staircase area, which is the most badly affected by damp. This should cover all the angles - we could sell without feeling we were foisting a dodgy house onto some unsuspecting innocent, and both we and the buyer/developer might possibly get a reasonable deal. It might work!

Whoops, don't go getting optimistic - you know what happens when you get optimistic...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Happy (Bank Holiday) Mondays

My new job is nuts! Students who turn up apparently stoned, very little in the way of resources and scruffy, isolated accommodation which seems to suggest to already disadvantaged young people that that's all they deserve or can be trusted with (that latter bit might be true - we'll have to work on it). Wonder whether I'll beat the last tutor's few short months in the post?

Anyway, Bank Holiday weekend so I'm going to try and find time to enter the Words Mag union members' comp - closing date is 30th August, so I'll have to get my skates on. Not much writing, reading or well, anything much, getting done lately.

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend in the sunshine.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cobwebs, jobs and hot chocolate

Now that I'm a fully fledged, bona fide teacher I've had to get a job, so I start Monday teaching basic skills to young people who've offended. I suspect this might not be a terrifically easy gaffe - it won't be all sweetness and charm (on their part anyway, I'm sweetness personnified...) or even the benign stoicism you often get with adult groups - but it's similar to what I did on part of my teaching practice and I'm looking forward to it in a 'what was I thinking of - I can't do this!' kind of way.

The school holidays rumble on with Sweetie Pie rising at noon most days and then, if she has sufficient energy, arranging to meet a friend for hot chocolate in town towards the end of the afternoon. Meanwhile, I'm doing a little painting in my last remnants of spare time, disturbing cobwebs that would be awarded squatters' rights if they lingered any longer on the picture rail and bravely dealing with spiders who think it's already September. We've put so many outside these last few days I'm hoping they don't have a homing instinct.

See ya when I'm not only fully fledged, but practising too...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The best laid plans

Well, last week didn't go quite as well as we'd hoped. Family dynamics, dismal weather (thick fog, lashings of rain) and illness all played their part. Buster requires more attention than is fair to Sweetie Pie, who's fourteen and therefore unlikely in any case to enjoy a family holiday at all, let alone one on a caravan site in the rain-soaked UK. I did what I could to alleviate the situation for her - I paid inordinate amounts of money for a week's internet access from her laptop and for a couple of spa treatments, but what cheered her up most was getting her bum squeezed by a passing lad in the entertainment centre.

Me: You should've turned round and slapped him.

Sweetie: Are you mad? I liked it!

I think maybe there was a mix-up at the hospital...


What do the following have in common?

Barry White Line

Porter Waggon-er

50 (per) Cent

They're all my (ingenious, I think you'll agree) attempts at concocting names of celebs from things we passed on the holiday car journey. Barney's, Buster's and Sweetie Pie's contributions obviously weren't quite as high-class as mine but oh, how we laughed, as they say. See, it really doesn't take much to make us happy.

The high point of the week tho' came the day we walked on the beach to Embleton and lunched at the pub. Usually when we go to a pub we're the worst family there - the family that everyone else looks at thinking, why did they come along spoiling our peace with their bad vibes and truculence? On this particular day tho' there was a family even more snarly and scratchy than us. They had the two best behaved little boys ever, but kept telling them off for misdemeanors indiscernible to other diners. Finally, grumpy dad stood up and yelled very loudly at mum:
'Stop sitting there like flippin' Winston Churchill, barking out your orders! Go and sit in the corner!'
Sweetie Pie and I exchanged glances and what started as muffled giggling ended up as something a bit rowdier. Not sure what Winston Churchill thought of us but for once we were very, very proud to seem almost normal by comparison...

Friday, August 1, 2008

We're all going on a...

...Summer Holiday.

No pressure, no waiting for flights, no claustrophobia on the car deck, just a few moderate walks and a few good pub lunches.

See you in a week or so...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

And I'd like to thank...

...the wonderful and very kind Casdok, for the lovely award. I understand (thanks for the help, Maddie Moon!) that tradition deems I should now pass this on to someone else but at present I'm still tangling with actually copying it to my page. I'm such a dummy, but I will get there, I will, I will....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wet, wet, wet (or 'damp and blast')

If you're ever inclined to buy an old house which is built into the hillside on three sides, don't do it. Unless it's our house. In which case, do.

'Why is the wall wet?' That was Sweetie Pie on her way upstairs, unwittingly presenting to us the news that the stairs wall is - well, not just damp. Damper than that. If it were any damper it'd be a river. And in the middle of this vertical marshland is the light switch. Now turned off for the foreseeable future.

Yikes. I foresee a visit from the builder and a very big bill. Another one.

Houses? On hillsides? Nope. Avoid them.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Summertime and the living is easy

For fourteen year old Sweetie Pie at least. She's still snoozing and may well still be when I return from my now voluntary stint at the centre. Six weeks of late nights and late mornings. Her main problem at the moment seems to be that, as oldish parents, we can't stay up late enough for her and she's not yet that keen on staying up on her own when all is dark, so she stomps off grumpily to her bedroom with her laptop and her cup of tea.

Buster, meanwhile, has finished school. We went along to the very touching Leavers' Assembly last Friday. He'd been dreading the day as he feels (and he's probably right) that he'll lose touch with a lot of his friends. All the young people at his school are moderately to severely disabled and their parents don't always know each other so getting the young people together outside school is difficult. Invitations to birthday parties go unacknowledged. Tricky. We'll see what the future holds when he starts at the local college in September - a college I'm also hoping to get some hours at...

Hope you all have a brilliant summer.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A very little tale of a very small amount of woe

As Womagwriter has mentioned the My Weekly guidelines recently I thought I'd share my own tiny tale about submitting Christmas stories to them from last year.

Well, basically, the nutshell version is that having sent a Christmas story to them in May or some such ridiculously early month, I was finally told in November, after they'd been requesting timely tales and when it was too late to send elsewhere, that they'd been inundated and so they'd have to return it. Hmmm.

Now, I can take a rejection as well as the next person. Probably better than the next person - I get lots and lots of practice. But I just don't believe they'd been overrun with red-breasted robins and tinsel-garlanded reindeer since the early part of the year. So I suppose what I'm saying is I'm not entirely convinced that they read the stories last year in the order in which they arrived. And well, I like to think that's how it works: that we wait forever for a reply, but that never mind, because everyone else is waiting forever for a reply as well and we're all in the same boat.

It probably wasn't a topnotch story. I could've taken a straight 'no'. Honest I could. (Ideally in July or August.)

PS The rider to this is that I won't have a word said against the lovely Sarah Proctor who has never bought a single thing of mine, but is consistently friendly and approachable. And - news flash - not all eds are like that.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Me and Paul Simon

Paul Simon and I have something in common: a short little span of attention. Oh yes.

Y'know how hard it is to get going, and keep focussed, sometimes? Especially when you've shelves full of old photograph albums that you could just flick through for several hours - sure to spark some inspiration - and then all the newspapers are on the net, and..well, everybody suffers from those distractions, yeah? But me tho' - I watch the lads with ADHD in the centre and think: that's me! I'm like them!

In desperation I now set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes at a time and I see how much I can get written (or planned if it's a lesson-planning day) before it shrieks at me. Tick, tick, tick, on and on it goes while I write, geeing me up, getting on my nerves and (almost) wiping out any inclination I might have to check the BB live feed or water the herbs currently in a state of collapse on the worktop.

Ok, the other day I found a half-written article on short attention spans in my Someday I'll Do Something With This Lot file. Wonder if I can finish it in 3 x 20 minute bursts before Sweetie Pie gets home?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wimbledon v Big Brother

Some people book a fortnight's holiday for the duration of Wimbledon. Sadly, this isn't possible for the duration of Big Brother, seeing as it lasts half a lifetime. But, if I had a job at the moment to take holiday from, and if Big Brother lasted a strictly limited number of days or weeks, then I might be tempted.

I'm a Big Brother virgin (not many of those around) - I've never watched it before. Indeed, I've avoided it on purpose, declaring the house a Big Brother Free Zone and anyone idiotic to go on the programme an attention seeking div. So what happened? A mid-life thingy? Too much time on my hands? Or am I - as I'll tell anyone who reacts with enough horror to my BB confession - subconsciously immersing myself in the direst kind of popular culture in order to garner themes for literacy lessons?

In the meantime, just excuse me, it's at least ten minutes since I checked the Sun's (I ask you!) 24/7 rolling news update. Yup, I've got it bad.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I got tagged!!

I got tagged by Maddie! OK...

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was working weekends in the library, doing other odd hours in other jobs here and there when I could around school hours and Barney's shifts, not yet writing to any great extent and doing the full-on parenting thing with children of 8 and 4 years old.

Five things on your to-do list for today:
It was my birthday during the week so we're planning a day out - local house and garden, meal out early evening, etc. But erm, well, I'll also clean out the guinea pigs and I've just written a thank you letter. What could number five be...? Four's enough for a weekend day surely? Or maybe I'll have time to write to the taxman about a small refund I suspect they owe me.

What are three of your bad habits?
Moderate, inelegant swearing.
Watching Big Brother (definitely qualifies as a bad habit)
Jumping to terrible conclusions when anything just mildly dodgy happens.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
I really don't want to be a billionaire, so I'd give away all except £500,000, probably to the hospice movement as it's a national scandal that hospices don't get funding directly from government.
I've also always fancied setting up a little music promotion operation - the kind of thing where you arrange for acts to appear in back street pubs and little places - low key. Could I do that with £500,000?
And I'd like to visit a few places - maybe starting with Copenhagen and Barcelona.

What are some snacks you enjoy?
Lemon curd sandwiches

What were the last five books you read?
Two tractors
Shopaholic ties the knot
Getting the buggers to behave
Teaching today: a practical guide (in progress)
Wannabe a writer? (just started - a birthday present)

What are five jobs you have had?
Editor (yes! and they paid me! and I loved it!)
National Travel office assistant
Census enumerator

Five places that you have lived?

Thanks, Maddie! Not sure anyone reads this who I could tag, so maybe I'll leave that bit till later...but just as a general question - who would you choose to play you in a film of your life? I'm nabbing Diane Keaton.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A story earning its keep

Yippee, sold a story this week - haven't done that in ages, altho' I'm down from my usual (last year) average of 20+ out at once to maybe 5. I have others out there but it's so long since I waved them off that I've given up all hope of them finally triumphing - more likely they'll return at some point, shoulders slumped and tails between their legs.

But anyway, this story - I think it's the first time I've sent a story on its way only twice and it's sold to both magazines it's been offered to.

Now, where else can I send it?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A bit of a do

Barney's joint 60th and retirement party tonight - his birthday was last month and his retirement (he hopes) is next month so we're somewhere between the two. We've booked the band (Bob Dylan tribute band), organised the food and venue, and sent out the invitations. But for me the big thing was remembering I'd have to plan Monday's lesson sometime last week rather than this weekend. At the moment I'm averaging seven hours preparation for a 90 minute lesson - that'll have to change, won't it?

Blow up beds have been found and positioned for guests, extra pillows and bedding have been purchased, full English breakfast foods have been added to this morning's shopping list. I've even dusted! But do I know what to wear? Nope. Not yet feeling grown up enough for anything smart, I'm idling through middle age with a selection of casual and sometimes vaguely ethnic clothes, none of which are remotely suitable for Barney's big night. I think it might have to be the newer pair of cropped jeans. They'll do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Well, would you??

'Would you have sex on the beach?'
Sandra, who's 18 and desperately trying to entertain herself in a class where she's by far the most able, looks up at me with mischievous, puppy dog eyes.
'Absolutely not, ' I answer. 'Too much sand - it gets everywhere.'
She laughs and goes back to her chatting.
'I really like you,' she says later, with the usual slight mocking edge. It's another distraction technique.
'Thank you, I like you too. Now, you need to start your writing on...'

I choose who to approach next: Candy, with the sulky face who gives off Don't Mess With Me vibes?; hyperactive and dyslexic Drew who's bright as a button with an unmatched ability to go off at a conversational tangent?; equally hyperactive and dyslexic Ahmed, who has an alleged penchant for knife collecting? They all have their own quirks, problems and charms. And sometimes, just when you think you've had the rubbishest lesson in history, one of them will say something that makes you think it's worthwhile after all.

Yesterday that didn't happen. After an averagely bad lesson, sweet Saffron, she of the dry stone wall face and the giggly manner, (I know, I know, unusual combination), came by. Seemingly, the place she moved to a few weeks ago 'isn't for her' and she's coming back to us. Oh joy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Adding a few links

I'm hoping no one minds if I add links to their blogs. I read quite a few regularly. Very regularly. Voraciously, even.

Hmmm, Add a Page Element and Maddie Moon seem to be incompatible - will add you later, Maddie.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Filin' groovy

A quiet day in Honeysuckle House so I'm sorting out my growing collection of teaching resources - well, the paper ones anyway. The previous system - cardboard files, stacked horizontally - has its limits.

I'm aiming to fit it all into a series of Lever Arch files and A4 pockets. Don't you just love A4 pockets? Me too. Unfortunately I'm starting to think there aren't enough A4 pockets in the world for the amount of stuff I've amassed in eight months of teaching just six hours a week. How did it happen? And what should I do with it all?

Should I shove it all in together and sift through the whole lot every time I need something? Should I just keep copies on disk? Should I come over all alphabetical and attempt some rudimentary order? If so, supplementary question coming up: do 'synonyms and antonyms' come under 'dictionary use' or are they separate?

Can you see how I'm struggling? It's going to be a long night.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Who's bad?

In the observation report I collected from the college office today, my kindly mentor has highlighted the good parts of Monday's lesson and downplayed the lack of discipline. Okay, she's mentioned discipline a couple of times but seeing as bad behaviour was the main feature of the morning, that's not too bad.

Meanwhile, there are big changes happening at home which put greater pressure on me to find a job pronto. Am no good with pressure. Or change. So now is not a very good time for me.

A fellow student has passed on details of a job locally, teaching basic skills to vulnerable people - not sure I even qualify to apply, but I may give it a whirl. Anyway, I like vulnerable people much more than cocky, successful, confident, competent, happy ones, so I may even be able to summon up some enthusiasm for it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Well almost...

Raucous hyperactivity marked the (belated) last of my observed teaching practice sessions yesterday. An over-exuberant, over-large class of huge, late-teen boys and giggling, mobile-phone-wielding girls ran rings round me and guffawed in the face of my attempts to bring order to the lesson. Oh and there were a couple of quiet ones in there too. At one point the department manager was also in there demanding quiet - the effect of that lasted about a minute in noise terms but probably forever in relation to the undermining of my authority. (I know! - what authority?)

Maybe I'm not cut out to be a teacher.

And yet...every other observed lesson has been okay, if not excellent. And those big, laughing, noisy lads quite enjoyed the activities I'd devised. And they all learned something. Most of them learned quite a lot. And there was a good atmosphere in the room.

Think I'll just lick my wounds for a few days before I consider my options.