Friday, March 31, 2006

Real, real skerd

Dude, seriously. Don't make me go to Yorkshire.

Every single time we go there, it is pissing it down. Every time. And what is the weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday in Leeds? Rain. Wait, what's the forecast in Ilkley, the Boy says. (It's where Fil lives and it's 20 miles from Leeds.) Rain, you patronising motherfucker.

Today, I went to TK Maxx for the express purpose of purchasing myself some waterproof trousers. It's only taken me like 20,000 times of trudging across the Yorkshire moors in the rain to figure this one out. And trust me, there are loads of walks they have planned for my unoutdoor-liking ass. I mean, it will be raining and they still will go for a walk. For hours!

Boy doesn't think I'm giving a good impression of Yorkshire. He wants me to publish a picture of Samantha on Ilkley Moor from Christmas -- "it doesn't always rain," he said, slightly huffily.

He is right. Lovely, isn't it?

It was raining.

My weekend, AKA My in-laws

Will be out of communication until Tuesday or Wednesday and the earliest I'll be able to post is probably Monday, via audioblogger -- maybe that's a good thing, if I regard the poll. (And I know that you voted Boy, probably both the votes.) I'm off for an extended weekend to see the Boy's family in Yorkshire. His family stays just south of the Yorkshire Dales -- a gorgeous area of England.

Please don't make me go.

I didn't really have an impression of what I wanted my in-laws to be, not that I was conscious of, anyway. I actually like my mother-in-law (Mil) and my father-in-law (Fil), but I still feel a barrier between us. It just feels weird that Mil and Fil (and Boy's brothers) are my family, but they aren't as well. We don't have the history, the stories, the pictures. We just have a certificate. As a result, I feel like I can never be relaxed with them or casual.

There is one other problem: they are hard, bloody work. I have a feeling that this is not my own exclusive problem, but it sure as hell feels like it. Mil and Fil divorced years ago and have remarried to Fillee and Millee, respectively. We have to divide our time between them, else one feels slighted than the other. We usually do a good job, particularly at the holidays, save one thing: we usually stay with Mil and Fillee. Why? Now you've opened up a can of worms.

A little background: Fil is rich. Stinkin', filthy rich. He lives in a mansion. Ok, technically, he lives in half a mansion -- the other half is occupied by other people -- but still, it's a mansion. A mansion filled with antiques and fancy schmancy pictures that the Duke of Whateveryoucallitshire wanted to purchase, but Fil wouldn't sell. Rich. What did Ferris Bueller say of his pal's Cameron's house? "The place is like a museum. It's very beautiful and very cold, and you're not allowed to touch anything." Yup, that would be about right with Fil and Millee's place. You can't put your feet up or have a kip on the couch or watch TV. Oh, that's a big no-no, wanting to watch the telly. We spend our nights huddled around the coal fire, looking up from our reading to make the occasional comment to each other. It's like being transported back to the friggin' Victorian era. I'll need to take up cross-stitch, won't I, Mr Bennett?

Despite being wealthy, Fil is very frugal. He wasn't born rich, he's earned every bit of it with scrimping and saving, which I totally admire. But our meals have a lot to be desired. Mil is a fantastic cook and every meal, so goes all out, cooking great vegetarian meals for Boy. At Fil's, you're getting a bit of luxury if you get cheese on your beans on toast. You're also getting luxury if you have the heating on in your room. And don't think Mil's is better. It reminds me of my mum's house: too small to accommodate all those people and messy as hell.

So, for this visit, I've agreed that we could stay with Fil and Millee, though I'm scared shitless to do so. I'm doing this for Boy, who really gets on with Fil and hates disappointing him. And I'm doing it cos I know we'll be seeing Grandma on this trip. Boy's Grandma will be 93 this year and she is so fucking cool. The coolest old person I have ever met. I would have killed someone to have the relationship Boy has with his grandma with my grandma. I love my father's mother deeply, but she was a busy farmer's wife. And my amah's ma is just mad. She would steal my underpants and wear them. Then my amah would find them and try to give them back to me. Fun to share your drawers with your incontinent granny. But I don't think Grandma Nina (pronounced Nine-ah) would ever do anything so vile. She still has her senses and wit about her, which is extra cool.

She sent Boy a birthday card a few years back (she still gives Christmas and birthday money -- isn't that cute?) and it just so happened to be the birthday before we got married. She actually advised me and Boy to live together before we married, cos "maybe we wouldn't want to do it" and because, in her opinion, marriage is a bit overrated, though she had many a happy years with her Charles -- funny. Anyway, in the card, she wrote:
    Happy birthday. Your last birthday as a single man before you get married.
And then she added in her cute little old person chicken-scratch handwriting (don't all old people have the same handwriting?):
    You fool.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pure dead chuffed

Check out the flyer advert for the Plate final my volleyball team is in -- we're the 12.00 game, Jets v Orkney (or visa versa)! We're going to be playing in Kelvin Hall in Glasgow -- a well-known sports-hall. And people are going to PAY to see us play (ok, maybe not my team, but still!). Tickets still available... am I going to see a contingent from the US to cheer me on? Well, I can always hope.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Upheaval in Scotland

Just in case you were wondering, my lovely, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy day was not ruined. I even got to leave my surrogate school 15 minutes early.

On the way to the school, I walked past two lines of strikers. The American tourist in me took a picture. "Look ma, we ain't got this at home, people on strike! Take a picture of me wif 'um!" Yes, it was a bit of a novelty, as unions = communism in the US. I really liked the people standing in the second picture, all determined while it was spitting down, so I asked to take their picture.

"What newspaper are you with?" the guy in the hi-vis jacket asked after I snapped. Dude, doesn't camera-phone give away that I'm no journalist? But I didn't want them to think that the picture was in vain or I was taking the piss out of them, so I admitted it was for my blog, but it would get out on the internet and share their message. You can find more info about why they are striking (over changes in their pensions) here.

This section is rated PG-13 by mother. It includes strong language right from the beginning. Sorry, but talking about the smoking ban winds me up, as does talking about the English media.
After two days of ignoring the smoking ban, the media (all based in England -- twats) is starting to run stories. Mostly about how much people hate it, which is bollocks. Everyone I know really loves the idea, even the smokers. Some are being inspired to quit. Some like not being surrounded by smoke. One guy, in the paper, even said that going outside to smoke enabled him to meet a lot of women. So it's wins for everyone!

But I won't deny there have been people whinging on about it. One person said that it made them feel like an outsider, cos when they went out for a fag, he missed the gossip. Oh, shit! Forget the ban, RIGHT NOW, cos Dude is missing the goss. And be a man, dammit -- get the gossip from your woman. Unless you're some kind of government informant or MI5 secret agent, then I say a very strong, 'Get over your damn self!' Wah-wah, you selfish wanker.

Another moaner, the artist David Hockney said,
    'This is a very, very mean-spirited act by people who think I don't know what they're doing. Pubs aren't health clubs. I've smoked for 50 years and now I'm told I can't be social anywhere at all.' (The Guardian, 27/04)
This is comment is funny on so many different levels that I don't know where to begin. Okay, how about this: your home doesn't have a smoking ban, so go be social there. Or, like many smokers, does Mr Hockney not smoke in the home cos he doesn't like the smell of it? And how mean-spirited is it to protect the health of people who do not make the choice to smoke. According to the same Guardian article that included Mr Hockney's ridiculous comments, "up to 2,000 people die of passive smoking" each year, along with the 13,000 Scottish smokers. Which brings me to my last point. Yeh, he's right about pubs not being health clubs. But I didn't realise that they were supposed to be lethal gas chambers either.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My predicament

While I am thankful to have the permanent teaching position I have, especially in Edinburgh (v tough), there are drawbacks. First, I'm only employed part-time -- major pain. Second, and biggest of all, it's a long commute. We don't have a car here (no valid driver's licenses, the both of us), so I take two buses to get to work, or have to walk 10 minutes then catch a bus. Door-to-door, it can take me 35-50 minutes in the morning, 45-60 minutes coming home. Thankfully, I have no qualms about sleeping on the bus.

A third problem with my job has just recently sprung up and appears only to be a problem tomorrow: strike. Yes, over 200,000 workers across Scotland will be picketing against changes in the pension scheme. Teachers will not be affected (different union), and so are required to be at work, while the dinner ladies, janitors, nursery nurses (nursery assistants) will not.

I have no way to get there. I am not paying for a taxi to and from work -- I'll pay more for the taxi than I would earn that day. Plus, with the Boy being from Yorkshire (i.e., mean), 'taxi' is a curse word (along with the words 'full price'). No-one who I work with lives anywhere near me -- the school's in the south-west of the city; I live in the north-east. (Thanks to Mapquest for the map, obviously)

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I sent an email to all staff at the seven or so schools that are reasonably close to me, asking for a lift. No answers. And it ain't like I can call in a sick day on this one. Bottom line: if I don't work, I don't get paid, even if I'm permanent.

There's only one solution. The council has a policy if teachers cannot make it to their school because of inclement weather: they go to their nearest school and work. Yeh, there ain't no way you's gettin' something for nuttin' over here! I know people who have actually had to do this; they found themselves making copies all day, which they found really aggravating.

I'm actually pleased about the whole thing. I mean, what's there not to like? I'm waking up an hour later than normal, getting home hours earlier, and, what, I'm going to make copies? Oooo, sounds so hard. I've got all my fingers -- and toes -- cross that no-one calls early tomorrow morning to offer me a lift and ruin my beautiful day.

Learn to talk British!

Mean - tight with money; stingy

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A day of treble significance

Sorry if this is a bit disenjambled. I've just got home from my second volleyball game in as many days and I have two days of training to look forward to. I'm sore, dehydrated and knackered. Great time to do this...

The clocks went forward here early this morning. Yes, they always go forward the last weekend in March. Yes, I realise that the clocks in the US won't go forward until next weekend. I'm actually not sure who's the awkward bugger in this case. Apparently next year, the US will be springing ahead the second Sunday in March and falling back the first Sunday in November. So I guess it's you's lots who's the awkward ones. But for now, I'm six hours ahead of you's if you're on the East Coast. Learn more about the time change in the US here, a page that includes a stroppy message about appropriate DST grammar -- it's not Daylight SavingS Time, you numpties.

It's also Mother's Day. Yes, I realise that Mother's Day is the second Sunday in May. No, I don't think the Brits will change their's anytime soon. The date of Mother's Day (the correct name actually being Mothering Sunday) varies each year, as it falls on the fourth Sunday during Lent. If it makes you feel better, I think the US one has been around the longest and has been the most influential one (leading to other countries having Mother's Day). So, in this case, the Brits are the awkward ones, leaving the score 1-1.

But those are not even today's most significant events. At least not here in my bonny Scotland-land. My friends, today, Sunday, the 26th of March, is the day that the smoking ban comes into effect. People are no longer allowed to smoke in public places. Yippy! And yikes! How they expect to regulate this (without widos going completely mad), I don't know. I remember when I first arrived here. I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore cos when I first entered the airport terminal after exiting the plane, I was hit with the stench of ciggies. For me, that would always be the smell of Scotland.

People are seriously attached to their fags here (many people in the US are especially attached to their fags as well!) and many people believe that it will be impossible to enforce this ban. I personally don't think so. First of all, Ireland has had a smoking ban for a few years now and, apparently, it really hasn't been a problem to enforce. I mean, if the Irish can do it, why not the Scots?

Second, big chain pubs and bars will regulate themselves mainly to protect their bottom line: money. Pubs get a fine every time someone lights up in their establishment and there is no way in hell some pub attached to a conglomerate is ever going to compomise profits. And if the authorities are clever, they will post their enforcers not in these big chain pubs, but rather in small, independently-owned pubs. But I think that I'm assuming something that won't ever be the case -- the cleverness of authorities.

Well, driving through the city tonight, I saw many a people standing outside -- in the pouring rain -- to have their fag. It was delightful to see, truly. I even saw people standing outside what I would call 'old man pubs' (one at the Foot of Leith Walk in particular). I would have thought those would have been the most defiant of the order, but the pub goers were happily embracing it.

This day marks the day that Scotland has decided to shrug off the 'Sick Man of Europe' title they deservedly had been given. Why is Scotland known in this way? People in Scotland average less than a portion of vegetables a day (and that is only because they probably counted the potato as a veg -- you're supposed to have 5 a day, y'know). And some parts of Scotland, men can live only to 54 years. And yet, this is the Scotland that has banned smoking in public places, before Wales and before England. Today's the day I'm proud to say I live in Scotland. Let March 26, 2005 be forever known as Scotland's first day of independence.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Nope, no difference -- still not the same

One more, one more!

So I'm doing this multiple-session workshop until June having to do with assessing pupils mathematics levels. I have to film myself giving the assessment to the pupils, suggested so that pupils aren't put off by you furious scribbling, repeated underlining, pounding of fists, and general hair-pulling when they say, "Oh, 2+2=17." With the filming, you can appear natural to them, smiling when they give their crazy answers and you're able to go wail loudly and mournfully at the results in the comfort of your own home.

In our sessions, we watch segments of the other participants' videos. WE DO NOT CRITIQUE. That's left to the workshop leader, not us. Why? We are British and therefore much too polite to do such a thing as criticise others (unless it's our children -- that's just a universal right, no matter the culture). And anyway, we don't know very much either, do we? (Ever humble are the Brits, even when they don't want to be.)

But sometimes in our workshops, we see something a little crazy happening on the videos and I can see the others want to say something. So me, how would I point out that something was executed incorrectly? A matter-of-fact "I think you were supposed to... not... " would do. That would never do here.

Too direct.

Too American.

So you want to be British, huh? This is what you's do. You say -- not to the participant -- but to the workshop leader, "I'm just wondering... should we say it like that?" The questioner knows the answer, but posed in this way, it looks like a query, not a criticism. I have learned that criticism based in a question is just about kosher. "Should she have put those two hideous colours together and called that fashion?" -- that will work.

This is not an exclusively British thing. Some Americans do it. I even do it, in certain contexts, but a lot more since coming here. It's a generally passive-aggressive thing to do, which is why it is thoroughly embraced by the British. Assertiveness is seen as American, and is sneered at, particularly by posh people and many English. (Although I've had many posh people find that 'quaint' little quality of mine 'charming'.) That is one reason why I like working-class people here: direct and no pretensions. Unfortunately, the people in my workshop are not working-class.

But this is not about class distinctions. I'll need another 10 entries to talk about the British and class. That, my friends, is another difference between our cultures, and very weird.

Friday, March 24, 2006

... But then, maybe not

I might have stuck the proverbial foot in my mouth with this idea that things aren't so different over here. Trust me, it's pretty bloody strange.

Today, I went to one of the teaching assistants to ask her where I could find a binder. Before I continue my story, you must know this: there are no 3-ring binders in this country. They have two rings in their binders. Wait, it gets weirder. And you can't force the rings open on a 2-ring by circumventing the redundant lever found on the outer edge of a 3-ring one and pulling on the rings. Oh no, my friend, here, the level plays an integral part and must be used.

See, I should have never said that. You'll never come over here for a visit now. What, you say, no 3-ring binders? British heathens! Neanderthals!

So when I asked for a binder, she gave me a plastic book binder, cos on top of all the unnecessary structural differences, I guess they don't call these things binders either. I wasn't sure how to clarify my request -- I mean this is a basic thing, y'know. Like water. "Uuuuhhh... uuuuhh. You know, uuuuhhh... with the... with the rings?" I said. Ah! She took me in to a cupboard with loads of them, but the were all too small. "A bigger one?" There was an A3-sized one (one that would hold a sheet of paper double the size of a regular sheet -- why you would need one of them, I have no idea). "Eh... no. Maybe... maybe, uh... thicker?" Oh, so she takes me to another set of binders. Man, I was back in Japan and sadly trying to speak the Nihonjin. Eh-to...

I met Trondell's dad last night at Parents' Night for the first time. As he was leaving our mercifully short meeting, I said, "It's been nice to meet you. I think all the other times it's just been Trondell's mum." He nodded and said, "Yes. Well, we've just broke up, so I thought I might come by to finally meet you... "

Eh? What is this? Broken up? I didn't get it. Why was Trondell's dad telling me this? To warn me about his son's future behaviour? Because he himself was upset about the break up of his marriage? Well, he was hardly broken up about the whole thing. In fact, he seemed content enough with the concept, so any condolences could be inappropriate. Plus he was British, he would hate that and would sneer, undoubtedly. But what the hell was he doing telling me such a heavy thing on the way out of the door? Is that what people do here? "Drive safely home mum. Oh, and by the way, I've got terminal cancer. Ta!" And what about Trondell? He already had ISSUES. A divorce would push him waaaaayyy over the edge...

"... and I won't go back until the 18th," Trondell's father continued. Wait a minute, what? "From school?" he prompted. "I don't have to go back until April 18th." Then I remembered he was a teacher. And his school had just dismissed -- broken up -- for their Easter holiday.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Deep down, we're all the same

So I know I devote an enormous amount of blog space to moaning about how weird life is here in our GB. Okay, I devote a large amount talking about myself, and sometimes get around to talking about my UK life. But some days, I am reminded that things aren't really that different.

One of my co-workers was telling us in the staff-room about how her mother used to think it was a good thing that her and her siblings were regularly 'cleaned out' and she gave them some sort of liquid made of figs. They all stood in a queue and took their share -- only on a weekend, so as not to embarrass themselves at school. What is this? Suddenly my mad Black American father is a mad Scottish mother. At one point it was monthly doses of Ex-Lax to 'clean us out'. And we all stood in a line for it. Deep down, we're all the same: we want our children to be regular.

Tonight was Parents' Night, the dreaded evening. It was terrible, all the dancing about outside the classroom door, not wanting to go in, wishing they were sick, or looking for a way to break their leg or something, becoming ill with the idea of being in the hot seat -- and these were the parents and teachers.

Jequanti's parents were a particularly odd lot, a real-life Jack Sprat and wife. She was totally into what I was saying, nodding her head, repeating my words. He appeared as if he had eaten too much dinner or was in a particularly hot room and couldn't... keep his... eyes open... then startled, cos HE KNEW HE SHOULD. When he did manage to meet my eyes, his look let me know that he thought the whole thing was bullshit. Thankfully, I only had to talk for 10 minutes.

Jequanti is having trouble with sounds. Part of it might have to do with his odd pronunciation of words. He received speech therapy in kindergarten, but that was two years ago. Could he need more? I put the question back to the parents: what do you think? The wife turned to the husband, giving the pleading look a desperate wife gives a husband: "Yes, this is all bullshit. But could you please say something and not embarrass me so damn much?"

Sighing, Jequanti's father says, not very seriously, "Well, I would like it if he didn't watch so many cartoons." To which, she replied light-heartedly, "Well, fine. You can get rid of the TV tomorrow!" So I laugh appreciatively at this banter. And then there was silence. I wait for more of this banter, something in the vein of "Ha ha. I wish I could, but then you'd go mental if you missed Trisha!" But no. It all ended there.

As my brain is working into overdrive trying to figure out what happened, it dawned on me that this was no light-hearted banter. As I replayed the exchange, I could see that their words were said with underlying tension and bitterness. So what was my final tip-off that these were embittered, pissy people?

Well, it had to be when they stared each other down after their last words. He looked away, in defeat. And she sucked her teeth and cocked her head to the side. It was if I was suddendly transported back to the US to my little inter-city school and Jequanti's mum had become some big Black mama. "Oh, I know you did NOT, motherfucker! Call me out in FRONT of the teacher. You is TRIPPIN'!"

Hmm. Guess who's going to be in therapy for years to come about his parents staying together when they clearly hated each other and stayed together for the sake of the kids? I guess, deep down, we're all the same: we've all got a little bit of Black inside of us, and in the right context, we WILL go ca-razy on yo' ass.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

CGI snow

And so the shit weather returns. Yesterday I said, "Wish you were here"? Be glad you's not here, more like it.

It's snowing again, but with yesterday's warm weather, it's not sticking. It's like CGI snow -- you know, snow in films. You see it falling, but it doesn't go anywhere and there's no accumulation. Even when I was walking outside this afternoon with the snow swirling around me, it felt incredibly unreal and fake.

I'm turning bloody British. All I write about is the weather.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wish you were here...

It's a gorgeous day in Edinburgh. I write only of this cos we haven't had one in a long, LONG time. Right before we moved here, we had a jumble sale at our place on Lawndale Avenue. A woman who just so happened to have lived in our Edinburgh for six months pulled up for a browse. When the Boy found this out, he excitedly asked her to tell me how it was, hoping to reassure me. "Grim," she said, equally grim.

Well, I've never accepted that assessment of my city. It's a glorious place. Well, except for this month. Grim is definitively how I would categorise life here this March. There are spells of crap weather dotted through the year and some runs of it. But this has, by far, been the worst in my nearly three years.

Living in Edinburgh (Scotland, really) is like one big psychological experiment on conditioning. Our Sco'ish lives can be equated to a slot machine. When you stick ya money in, you don't get nuttin' back. But then there's that one time... and it keeps bring you back for more. Today was jackpot -- beautifully sunny. Warm! In fact, I was walking to my second job thinking it the sun was little too strong. That is was TOO HOT! That tells me I belong here: it was like 40 or 45 degrees and I'm hot.

Anyway, this would have been the perfect day for a visit. And now you've missed it.

Learn to talk British!

Jumble sale: yard sale, garage sale

Monday, March 20, 2006

3 years on

It's been 3 years since the US (and laterly, its pallies) invaded Iraq. What a depressing day to commemorate.

The funny thing is, the US are still all up in it, which is not what they said they would do. And there's no end in sight, no matter what the fuckers say. I mean, HOW are they going end it? Say it with me people: Vietnam.

The other amusing thing with this anniversary is Dr John Reid's (GB's secretary of defence) declaration that Iraq is NOT in the throes of civil war. Wait, wait, wait, excuse me. Is not when peeps from the same place, culture, what have you, fight each other? I mean, who's zoomin' who here? This whole exercise has been misnamed from the beginning: 'war on terror', 'bringing democracy to the Iraqi people', 'the conflict in Iraq'. But 'civil war' is definitely the term that has been spot-on.

(One of) My pet peeve(s)

There used to be a woman who wrote a little flippant, throw-away column for the Guardian's weekend magazine. The column was one of two on the page. The other one was written by an older man and was supposed to be an older person's view on life. As she was apparently young, she was giving the younger generation's take on the world.

Thing was she was a really rubbish writer. How do I know this? Well, I can read. Secondly, all she could talk about was how shit the Sugababes were. I mean, c'mon, what a fucking easy target. This is one reason why I have no respect for Hadley Freeman, the woman who write the fashion "advice" column. Other reasons I have no respect for HF: the mumsy blouse she wears in her picture, while lecturing us for still wanting to wear flared trousers; how she can take 150 words to answer the simplest of questions. Anyway, I digress. I was speaking of Priscilla Kwateng, the poor writer. And the last way I knew she was crap is that now that her column is no longer in the magazine, she works as a stylist for the fashion shoots.

There were many, much too many many to go into this short forum, things she did as she wrote that would irk me, but the worst -- the ABSOLUTE WORST -- was her excessive use of full-stops. Now, how, pray tell, can one excessively use a full-stop. It goes at the end of a sentence and we speak in sentences, correct? Not Priscilla Kwateng. She. Never. Met. A. Statement. She. Couldn't. Break. Into. Annoying. And. Illogical. Sentences.

Look, I know it's unfair of me to target her. She is certainly not the only one who does it. See what caught my eye on the way to training tonight:
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What is this supposed to mean? I just wanted to rip down this advertisement, screaming and stamping my feet.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ageing disgracefully

How sad. I don't mean the film.

Sharon Stone is, what, about 46, 47, right? And I'm pretty sure she's not ashamed of her age. It's not a secret that she's no spring chicken. But then, what's the deal with this?

No wrinkles or crow's feet? C'mon. It's like someone took a rubber to her face. Ridiculous.

But I'm gonna take a page from Shazzer's book. I am going to age disgracefully. I have been thinking a lot about my 30th (October 22nd -- and I am looking for prezzies). I'm pretty sure I want a ceilidh and a blow-out. I want a big deal.

I was talking to a friend is also turning 30 this year. It does seem weird. Who sees themselves at this age? But silently we have worked our way up here. So now let's have a huge shout: I am 30! I am going to work hard until October not to freak out about the whole thing, y'know. I am not ashamed about my age, but I have a feeling that I could freak out with the enormity of the whole thing. Slap me over the head if I do. I mean, there are people all over the world who don't even make it to 30... who don't have clean water... who are starving... who live in room with 23 other people and their goats... and on and on.

Learn to talk British!

Rubber: eraser
Ceilidh: Scottish line dancing; can be used as a noun or verb

Sunday lunch

A most delicious dim sum lunch with the Boy and two friends. Got much too much food -- the usual case when it comes to dim sum, but it managed to all be eaten. Then sat around, chatting. Since we were with an Italian, we went to a coffee shop for a latte afterwards.

We all parted company and I walked with the Italian, who had to go to HMV (a CD shop). We took a short cut to get to the shopping centre through "The Walk". The Walk is home to all of the posh, expensive shops in Edinburgh -- Harvey Nics (UK version of Bloomingdale's; when Beyonce was in town, she went shopping there), Louis Vuitton, etc. We walked by a shop that only sold white shirts. What in the world? Only in the world of rich folk would we need a shop solely dedicated to the white shirt.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Weegie Comedy Festival

Tonight, after a blazin' row about being on the computer too much (he's right), we went through to Glasgow on the train to take in a show at the Comedy Festival. We did this last year, same venue. It was a 2 for 1 tickets with multiple acts. Last year, we saw a really funny young guy, "the UK's only deaf comedian", and a guy hilariously talking about his depression, only to skulk off the stage to drink and stare at the wall moodily. All in all, a good time and a good value.

O'Neill's is a really obnoxious place cos it has room to hold about a hundred fifty people, but only about 15 chairs. So I had to stand, really aggravating my back. The three acts (less value for money this year, as we saw at least four guys) were all women, which was disappointing to the Boy. He usually does not have the typically male idea that anything women do that men can do is inherently rubbish and of lesser value ('Women's football? Shite.'), but he did seem to about these comedians. They were alright -- Frances Healy, Viv Gee and Janey Goldey, with Viv Gee being the agreed best. Save the compere (emcee), who was a man and alright by the Boy.

This year, all the performers were Scottish with rather broad accents which made for difficult night for me. I could only understand about every other word and only every fourth word of the compere. He was really killing me. I made a recording to see if you had the same difficulty. Sorry, the recording is a bit rubbish -- didn't hold the phone properly. The second one is Janey Goldey, but she's a bit clearer.

Of course, Boy could understand just about everything they all were saying and found it surprising that I couldn't. The Edinburgh accent is very mild and posh Edinburghers can sound very English. So all other Scottish accents are very broad to my ear and hard for me to get. The Boy had the same problem in the States, though. We went to see Bruce Bruce (black comedian, if you've never heard of the guy). I spent the whole of the night translating for Boy.

this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

The Commonwealth row

Just so you know, I'm not the only person with beef about the Commonwealth Games. There were about four or five comments published in the Guardian just yesterday, people agreeing with me. One person pointed out that the whole thing seemed like a way for England to continue imperialism. Essentially it was like saying, "Oh, ok you little countries. You can come play, but I'll squash you."

There is even an anti-Games movement in Australia called the Stolenwealth Games. The organisation behind it appears to be highlighting the plight of Australia's aboriginal people, which as been largely ignored by the monarch and Commonwealth. And it ain't just aboriginals that the Commonwealth has shat on.

That being said, I have watched some events.

Well, the Boy is mad at me. He has been since last night when I called the Commonwealth Games 'pointless'. He'll probably be mad at me for writing about this, but it's being done. He gets irritated at me for being on the computer too much. He says that he has to learn about things that have happened to me from the blog. (Not always true, though it has been a couple of times.) This is even more irksome since we should be spending time together, as we did do that crazy declaring our love for each other and wanting to spend the rest of our lives together thing nearly three years ago.

Well, I've had a wee think about it. He is right, I do spend a lot of time blogging. One reason is cos I'm a super-crazy perfectionist. I want everything to look right and I spend a lot of time tidying up the blog, adding little bells and whistles, blah, blah. The main reason, though, is and isn't about that.

Sometimes, some thing, which I think is amusing, happens. I want to tell people. But then people want to GUESS the punchline instead of waiting for it, listening to the story carefully, enjoying the journey there. This way, no one can interrupt me to the punchline. Also, I can write, reread, edit or even rewrite as much as I need to. Conversations demand that you say what you want ASAP, or you've lost your chance. Conversations move on. Sometimes when I talk to people, I feel like I haven't contributed anything useful, cos I'm just trying to keep the conversation going. I'm treading water. But with the blog, I can reread something, realise I didn't really say what I wanted, or it didn't have the comic effect that I was going for, and go back and change it. You can make the words in your blog match the sentiment of your heart. It's hard to do that in a conversation.

That last sentence was a surprise -- an epiphany. For me, the blog is about control. You can't control others in conversation. They might not respond to you in the way you think they should. They could have their own agenda/topics they want to discuss. They can misinterpret you. All these variables and others make conversing a complex experience. Rewarding in most occasions, but nonetheless complex. But I have some control over those wonky variables on the blog, more than I would in a regular conversation. I can say my peace and wait for your comments. Then I can comment back, having thought about what you've said.

Mind you, this is still not a good excuse to be on the computer for ages.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games are currently being held in Melbourne from the 15th to the 26th of March. What, pray tell, are the Commonwealth Games, and what is the purpose of them?

Well, I'm trying to figure that out myself. It's very similar to the Olympics, but the competitors can only come from Commonwealth countries. There are up to 15 disciplines that participants battle in, many from summer Olympic sports, some distinctly British-interest activities (such as 7-man rugby, netball, and lawn bowling), to win medals. The Games began in 1891 and is held every four years. The Commonwealth Games even has its own version of the Olympic flame -- the Queen's Baton.

There was obviously a purpose in having these Games when they first were held. It helped instill pride in the Commonwealth and reminded people of how great it was. 'The sun never set on the British empire' -- isn't that what they said? But, as I see it, now that the Commonwealth does not have the same power it once had and the majority of the countries have their independence and association with the Commonwealth is really in name only, is there a point to all of this? In addition, according to the Guardian, £500 million ($878 million) is being spent on these Games and there are 250,000 unsold tickets. Not only is there no clear purpose to it all, but little economic vitality in it.

Many Brits and others from the Commonwealth would say, rather huffily, that real purpose is pride. But let's be honest. Save a few names (like many Australian swimmers, some African runners, etc), most of these competitors will not be major players when it comes to the Olympics, let alone win any Olympic medals. This is the chance for small countries like Mauritius and Fiji to accomplish a like task. But let's not exclude the larger of the Commonwealth countries in that number.

The UK has a vested interest in keeping the Commonwealth Games going. Currently, competing in international competition, the countries compete as Great Britain (totally excluding Northern Ireland?). This really irks the Scottish (and probably the Welsh and Northern Irish). The Commonwealth provides the UK with a way to placate Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. In this past Olympics in Turin, the whole of the Great Britain men's curling team came from Scotland (as well the women's team, I believe). I'm pretty sure it was killing them to have to compete as GB. And this won't change any time soon. Why? Cos we've been doing it like this for years, they say. Tradition wins over all here.

Currently, the Boy is in the living room watching half-nekkid women competing in the triathlon. When I said how pointless I found this whole endeavour, and asked him to name the Commonwealth countries (he got England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, with some thought), he got really annoyed. "Go bang on your blog," he said, tersely. So here I am.

And by the way, there are 71 Commonwealth countries. So there, Boy.


A St Paddy's Day message from the land of St Andy

Happy St Patrick's Day, fools! Y'all know y'all ain't Irish, so why you up in the piece wearin' green and pinchin' each other?

Well, my St Paddy's Day 2006 has been uneventful. Wore not a smidge of green and not pinched once. I am ever so grateful. I hate that tradition and I am willing to fight anyone who tries it on. No one hasn't even mentioned it either, not once. Now I work in a primary school and kids go nuts about holidays. But not a peep from the kids. It is well below the radar.

St Patrick is the patron saint, obviously, of Ireland and each of the countries of the UK have their own patron saint. Here's a list for you and more info:
  • Wales: St David (celebrated the 1st day of March; click the hyperlink to learn more)

  • England: St George (his day: 23rd April).

  • Scotland: none other than St Andrew (same name as the "home of golf"; celebrated here on November 30.) Strangely, St Andrew's Day is celebrated only slightly; small potatoes compared to Burns' Day (see January 2006 entries on Burns' Day).

St Patrick's Day is a real holiday, no doubt. But I have this theory that its popularity in the US is down to the fact that it gives Americans a chance to behave like drunken louts without being looked down upon. It's the only holiday in the US where, I think, people expected you to get pissed. This is the reason why it has little recognition here -- that is life here everyday. They don't need no friggin' excuse to drink. 'What? It's Tuesday? Let's drink!'

I did see some people wearing some very obnoxious Irish flag and Guinness hats. I have a sneaking suspection they were American. Those hats were too ostentatious for the British.

Now that being said, I have a feeling that St Patrick's Day will be making more of an impact over here in the near future. It's the Americanisation of Britain, which Boy goes on (and on... and on) about. His example is Hallow'een. It was a very low-level holiday when he was a child. Not really celebrated, no trick-or-treating. The big holiday was Bonfire Night, which was a week later. To celebrate, a person, as you can guess, lights a fire. Well, nowadays, Bonfire Night has little impact and Hallow'een is quite popular. All the teachers dressed up at our school and they had all these games and candy. I did not dress, cos I find the whole thing a bit ridiculous. A waste of instructional time, I say. (Look at me, I'm hardcore teacher!) That all down to the influence of the US. Could eventually affect the status of St Patrick's Day here in the UK?

It hasn't happened yet, which is fine by me. I'm just lovin' being here on the 17th of March. Betta wear yo' green dudes, or somebody's gonna pinch the hell outta ya!

And who's got their "Kiss me, I'm Irish" button on? It's the modern-day mistletoe!

And if you want to hear me repeat myself, sounding ever so like my sister, here you go with an audioblog:
this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Oh, I don't know

Sorry about the short posts. Not that anyone's complaining in the deluge of comments. And not that you's give a toss, but I've been feeling pretty drained and wrecked. A bit... I don't know. I guess I'm feeling like everything I know isn't really making any sense.

The season is quickly coming to an end. One game this weekend and two next, and it's all over. I'm feeling funny about it. I'm pretty sure I won't be setting next year, which is all I ever wanted to do, even when I was in high school. So I'm just not sure what the future holds. Training on Monday and Tuesday has been really intense and mentally tiring, so it's made for a bad Wedensday and today.

I desperately need a holiday. I'm getting into the British way of thinking when it comes to these holidays. The British react as if Americans are heathens when I say standard holiday time is two weeks a year. And I know some people who don't even take that. Four to five weeks is the norm here, and they love their holidays. As the weather has been incredibly grim and cheer-sapping of late, I can see why.

I just want to be some place warm. Some place where I can regain my brownieness. A place where I don't have to wear woolly tights. And I have a week off in about three. However, travel companies and airlines have cottoned on that all British people feel similarly and outrageously hike up their prices when schools get out for Easter, Christmas, summer -- all school holidays. It's a king's ransome to leave this sun-forsaken, bloody island. The newspaper said that it was £89 return to go to Malta. V good price. But when I put in my available dates, it's shot up to £369.10. Yeh, I know it's like that in the States. But if you really wanted to, you could get in your car, take Greyhound, even get in a really expensive train to some place sunny. That is just a pipe dream here.

Looks like we're off to Yorkshire, which is a wee bit disappointing. It's not wholly disappointing, as we will see the Boy's lot. Boy's grandma is v cool -- the coolest old person I have ever known and we don't see her or talk to her enough. But I've been there a thousand times and weather-wise, it's grimmer than Edinburgh. (Can this be so? Aye, indeed it is.)

Well, at least it's not getting dark at 3.30 anymore.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Results are back...

We got Samantha-Dog's test results back. She's not got chlamydia.

And she's tested negative for lymphoma. Apparently it's benign. The Boy is relieved, but we're not completely out of the woods. The sample might have only got the benign bit and there could be malignant bits that were not captured. But overall, the vet is happy, so we are too.

Thanks all for the well wishes. We have our Pa'ffy-Dog for a little while longer.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

This grown folk stuff

So today, the Boy and I went to talk to Rory the Mortgage Guy about remortgaging.

Who am I?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Yeh, I sure be Chinese

So I was lamenting the fact that I didn't know Chinese to my amah. She said I should learn, get a tutor or something. Great idea, except I'd only be able to talk the tutor. She then suggested that me, her and my sister learn together and then speak to each other.

Not that our conversations were loud enough already.

Actually, I think it's a great idea. Now I've got to get my ma's on Skype. And if you're not on it, shame on you.

As I was leaving volleyball training, we were talking about our Christmas night out. We went to this Chinese restaurant which served us the worst Chinese food I've ever had. And that is saying something because the Chinese food in Edinburgh is right shitty. Honestly, the worst Chinese food in Durham or anywhere else in the States is better than the best over here. This place we went at Christmas had burnt egg drop soup and dried marinated ribs -- how you can do the latter, I don't know. I said that the people who cooked and served the food were a shame to the race, and that I should know, cos I'm Chinese.

Everyone looked at me as if I were mad and didn't say anything. Maybe they assume that all Americans call themselves Chinese, even when they clearly weren't.

My amah thinks that I look like a cute little Asian girl in all my snow pictures. Ma, I said, you and the family are the only ones who think I look Chinese. NOOOOOObody else does. But now that I've gotten all scarily pale, you can see the yellow come out. No, look closely.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Okay, just go away now

It was bitter yesterday, necessitating the wear of ridiculous, yet warm, woolly hats while walking the dogs.

You actually should see the whole of the Boy's ensemble. According to a friend, he rockin' the 'Russian dock worker' look.

And now it's snowing today, yet again. Been doing so all morning. I'm tired of it and I want it to go away.

Look, I know what I said before. But that was then and this is now. The Met (the weather service over here) designates spring to start 1 March. Yeh, yeh, that's wrong, it's supposed to be 21 March, blah, blah, blah. Well, they make it the 1st cos it helps them have a clear 3-month period. So get over it people.

Thinking about that, our first snow happened on the first day of spring. And it wasn't a one-off. It is continuing right through, which is a wee bit disheartening. Plus, this is going to mess up all the flowers and trees. The trees are beginning to flower and flowers are beginning to bloom.

Yeh, I know they are snowdrops, but the daffodils are out. They are now all going to get fucked up. Cheers, you stupid, mixed up weather.

My distinct and utter lack of sophistication

On Friday, we were invited to a dinner party at one of the Boy's co-workers. That is the second dinner party we were invited to in as many weeks, with the second being several weeks ago, hosted by one of my volleyball friends. I decided to bring some Green & Black's Organic Vanilla Ice Cream. It was 2 for £5. It's already nearly £4 for one container, so this was a result. I would bring one for the dinner, and, I thought, keep the other for home. There ended up being more people coming to the party, so we dipped into the second container -- my container, much to my chagrin and it ended up staying with the hostess. How slack is my mentality? How am I going to bring some food to a dinner party, ask the hostess to bring hold it for me -- you can't have any -- and take it home for myself?

Boy showed up late, yet again. Thirty minutes! While waiting on him, I had seconds on the starter, as I was starving. No-one else did. When he arrived, he had brought about eight bottles of things to drink. Well, the beer was 4 bottles for £5. What is with us? Why can't me and the Boy buy sensible amounts of things? At least at this dinner party, we didn't finish our food hours ahead of everyone else, as at my volleyball pal's party. The Boy though had seconds on the curry, which was v tasty admittedly, when no one did. I had thirds on the ice cream when everyone took a discreet amount and went "Mmmm-mmm." Me: "Gimme more." At the end, we dipped into the pot of won-tons to get one more, both scolded by the hostess.

We are uncouth people. You can't take us anywhere.

One cool thing: the party's hostess lives very close to the Castle. So this was our few as we left. (Sorry, shitty picture.)

Despite our unsophisticated behaviour, it was one of the nicest dinner parties I had been to for a while. Along with me, the Boy and the Italian hostess, a Chinese couple, a Scottish woman, and a man from Benin were also there -- v international. (That is actually one thing I like about Edinburgh, how it attracts different cultures; it's not always like that in other Scottish cities) At one point, the Chinese woman turned to me. She knew my grandmother is Chinese, so she asked if I knew any Chinese. I explained my situation -- that my grandmother had limited Chinese knowledge of which she passed to my mother, and my mother tried to pass to me. By the time it got to me, I was only able to manage the phrase "Go to the bathroom," and to count in Cantonese. (Don't ask me to do it; I can't remember.) "Don't you wish you knew Chinese?" my Chinese friend asked.

To be honest, I hadn't really thought about it. My mother and grandmother know so little, so it wouldn't help me to communicate with them. But now thinking about my serious lack of knowledge of Chinese language and culture, I feel sad. It would be nice to know Chinese because that would be my only way into my Chinese culture. I mean, if you look at me, you wouldn't think of me as Chinese. You could see the Hawaiian bit and the Black bit (well, I don't know about now -- I'm scarily pale now), but Chinese? When I tell other Chinese people, they look at me dubiously. But if I could break out into some Cantonese, I could make a connection with them. It would make me a better person, I think.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ginger, and other American stories

No game this Saturday and the Boy was off on a biking trip, so I went over the nearby gym hall to watch my club's two men's teams play. I love watching proper volleyball and when you watch the first men's team, that's what you get. The second? Well... they try.

During the second game, I sat next to the scorer, a guy I knew, generally being a nuisance and chatting. The girlfriend of one the players joined us. The three of us, while trying to watch the game and keep accurate score, had been discussing the fact that the head referee had red hair. I hadn't realised it until he grew a beard and I could see it.

Necessary tangent: Americans love red hair. Redheaded people are always thought of as feisty, sassy, hot-blooded and fiery -- for some reason, all good traits. Redheads are a necessary component to any TV female foursome (think Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives). Television viewers in the US appreciate what the redhead brings to whitey-white show about white people's issues: diversity.

Now here's the thing about red hair here: it is not well thought of. What! you cry. What about Ginger Spice from the Spice Girls? She was a great redhead from Britain. Well... notice the use of 'was'. Plus British people didn't take the Spice Girls nearly as seriously as Americans. Ginger is what British people call redheads, as you might know. Now why, as the ginger root is yellowish, I don't know. It can be considered an insult to call someone ginger, or ginge.

The thing is is that I can't figure out what the discrimination is all about. You might think that it is the Scottish insulting the Irish, but it isn't really. Scotland's got its fair share of redheads and they take the piss out of them just the same. People who discriminate against minority cultures usually have their mixed and irrational reasons for doing so. There is honestly no reason that I can ascertain for picking on redheads. They've just done it for so long here -- it's what you do.

So now I'll drop you in the conversation between me, the Girlfriend, and Scoring Guy. As we left it, we were discussing the redheadness of the referee:

    Scoring Guy: Well, you know we all have one in the family.

    Me: I don't.

    SG: Ok, yeh, well... you're not included.

    Me: You know, there are some redheaded Black people.

    Girlfriend: Really?

    Me: Yeh, my sister used to date a black guy with red hair.

    Both of them: Hmm.

    Me: And... and... hmm... (trying to think of other Blacks with red hair) you know Malcolm X, he was ginger. (looking at the Girlfriend.) You know who Malcolm X is, right?

    Girlfriend: Yeh, I've heard of him.

    Me: Well... he was redheaded.

    Girlfriend: Well, I've only heard of him. I don't really know who he is.

    Me: How have you heard of him?

    Girlfriend: 'Your mama's so black, when she wears a Malcolm X shirt, a helicopter tries to land on her.'

At this point, I start laughing hysterically in shock, amazement and a wee bit of horror. People, do you not realise what you have done? We spread the name of one of America's most famous Black men across the world, tell of his achievements, THROUGH THE DOZENS. Not good.


Scoring Guy told me this story about when he visited the States four years ago.

He was travelling with some Scottish friends to visit some other Scottish pals in Chicago. While there, they decided to go bowling. They booked a place at the bowling alley earlier that day. When they showed up, they told the person working at till about their booking.

    "What name is it under, sir?" she asked.

    "Hay," he replied. (A Scottish name)

    She says, "Hello to you too, sir. Now what name is the booking under?"

Apparently, this went on for two more minutes.


In the Metro newspaper (the free paper that you can get on the bus or train), they have a "gossip"-type column called 'The Green Room'. Last Thursday, they printed this. See if you can figure what makes this report full of shit:

    Christina Aguilera has spilled the beans on Tony Blair, with whom she appeared on Parkinson (a TV-chat show, somewhat in the vein of Barbara Walters) 'He is really sexy in an authoritarian type of way,' she said. 'He's very full on.'
Ok, ignoring the fact that you might think that Christina Aguilera wouldn't even know the word 'authoritarian', what's the give-away that this is all made up?

'Full on'? C'mon. What American uses that phrase? That is typically British.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Gettin' into trouble

So... pulled aside by the depute head-teacher today. She's got a list. Uh-oh. I hate, hate, HATE to be confronted. Why can't people send a text or email these days? I do much better in those mediums. I can't handle people confronting me with loads of things, demanding answers. My instinctive response is flight, even when I have no reason to flee. But I know I can't flee, so I want to get emotional, and I can't do that. So I just nod, seeming passive and unknowledgeable.

Back to the head: Have you done this? Yeh. And this? Yes. And what about this? Actually, yes. Oooo, things not too bad. Might be able to handle this confrontation, make it out with out any wounds, guilty feelings or resentment. But haven't got to the end of the list, mind. When she sees me reading over her shoulder, she skips the second to last and saves it.

Eating While Teaching, it said. And? I thought. Saw me with a yoghurt the other day. Yes, you're busy during the break, but that is when you should eat, not while teaching. It's not... professional. And I thought I would be able to exit this confrontation, I mean, conversation without feeling like a moron. How naive.

After she left, I realised what made me feel so annoyed. She has come to confront me about being unprofessional because I was eating a yoghurt while my pupil was reading. But she was the one that had all the teachers holed up in the gym hall for twenty minutes to take an unwanted group teachers' photo with NO-ONE MINDING THE CHILDREN. That is not only unprofessional, but a child protection issue, don't you think? And all my other colleagues come back five, or even ten, minutes late from their break, leaving their pupil alone in the classroom with no direct supervision. Interesting how that is a preferable thing to do than to eat my yoghurt and teach because I want to have the maximum amount of teaching time with my pupils.

But of course, I'm too stupid to come out with a way to say this that would be... professional.

And she has pulled me to the side to talk to me about this WHILE I AM TEACHING! Can you see what is important here? I really need to find another position. I am getting increasingly angry at myself. I was duped. I didn't even want this job, but I thought I would go to the interview. The head-teacher won me over with his conscientiousness. He seemed on the same page with me. I said inquiry based learning, he said yes. I said authentic learning experiences, he said indeed. But I don't work with him and I never see him. I work with her... and she wasn't in on the interview.

So I skulked into the staffroom. Two chairs: one next to teachers that I know would ignore me, one completely pulled away. I went for the latter because of my mood. And not one teacher encouraged me to join the group.

I used to believe that this school wasn't for me, but I know that isn't the case. Now I know that I am not for this school.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sound divisions

this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My poor baby

Samantha-Dog was taken to the vet today. Last week on a routine visit (though her first in more than a year), the vet found that she had two enlarged lymph nodes. Apparently, that is usually a sign of lymphoma in dogs. So she went to the vet today in order to get cells extracted from her lymph nodes to be tested. Poor thing wasn't allowed to have anything to eat before she went, just in case she had to be given an anaesthetic (she didn't need it). I had to put her in the living room as I fed Sarah-Dog. You could hear her scratching the door, as she could hear me giving Sarah her food. And she was going to be there all day, put in a cage after the procedure. She hates cages. When she was transported her from the US, she apparently barked through the entire 8-hour flight.

The Boy, in his usual efficiency, asked if I would pick Samantha up after the procedure just yesterday. I had already made plans and wouldn't be able to do it. I could have dropped her off, if only he had given me some notice. The vets were connected with the university, so we were able to get a discount; downside, it was way out on the edge of the city. Only one bus went out there and only every hour. So he woke up at 7 this morning in order to get the bus and be there before 9 am. If any of you know my hu'bands, you know the Boy ain't a morning person. Thankfully, he made it, and they did him a favour by doing the procedure while he waited. However, he didn't get into work until 11.

We won't know until next week the results of the test. I'm a bit worried... for the Boy. He's terribly attached to Samantha-Dog. He's had her since she was a puppy and picked her himself. I mean, we brought her and Sarah over here with us. And it wasn't like I was asked or anything. It was like, "Yeh, so, I'm going over in February to get the dogs." He will be devastated if anything happens to her, as will I. Samantha's my dog. She loves the Boy, but she will follow me everywhere. Actually, she listens to me before him. (Sarah is his dog; she has little regard for me, the little bugger) But this will really hurt. I mean, he wants to cryogenically freeze her when its her time to go. And how much is that gonna be?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I am who I am

I love teaching. Honestly. It makes me laugh all the time. And being the resource teacher, I always get the funny ones anyway. One thing I miss about the States and teaching is the fucked up names. Everyone has sensible names, like Verity, or great Scottish names. I do love the Scottish Gaelic names, like Eilidh (pronounced ay-lee) and Niamh (neev). But usually, they have very normal names. I mean, you would be surprised at what they think is a funny name here. I get loads of compliments on my name. Nearly everyday someone appreciates the name. It's getting quite common in the States, but over here, not a one. I think it's more appreciated here than in the US because the British use the word 'autumn' instead of 'fall', so it has some real, almost tangible quality to them. Obviously, when I receive a compliment, I say that I'll tell my amah. I mean, how much of a say did I get in it?

So, thinking about pupils reminds me of an episode that happened early in the school year. I had crouched down next to Montana as he sat at a table to help him with this work. I moved in closer to talk him softly and not disturb the others. Montana pointed at me, right below my nose, and said, "What's that?" I thought, especially since he didn't know me well, he was trying to be cheeky. That used to really bother me when kids did that, but now I just roll with the punches and give it back. So I said, "I don't know. A bogey?" He laughed and so did I. I looked back down at his work to continue to help him. Montana looked at me again. "No, really," he said, "What is that?" At this point, I didn't think he was being cheeky any longer, but I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. "I don't know," I replied. I then pointed to the same spot he pointed at on my face, right below his nose. "What's that?" "My beard," he answered. The worst part of that is that when I turned to look at the rest of the pupils at the table, they all sort of gave a nod, as if to say, "Yeh, you got a moustache."

The other day, Shondae came over to give me a hug. "Hi," she said, "You know, you always wear black and dark green." Heh, heh... oh, I don't think so. But she's right! Here's yesterday's purchases:
My wardrobe is scarily filled with greys and blacks. I'm going back to her for more fashion advice -- what colour should I be wearing Shondae? My current fashion guru, the Boy, didn't even pick up on the monochromicity. Yes, I said it. The Boy. Actually, he usually picks most of my new clothes, as my best friend isn't around to go shopping with me. Sadly, I trust his judgment over mine most of the time.

Cropped trousers and shorts are very hot this season and I am embracing it fully. I did not truly appreciate the cropped trouser when I lived in the States -- in fact, I loathed them. Mostly because women over there wore really ugly cropped trousers. I now have 7 pairs, (Wow! I'm even startled) including the new pair in the picture. The key is the cropped trouser should not be flared. Not at all. In fact, they should be tapered. This is the only time I can get away with wearing tapered trousers, which is the other hot style this season. After years of embracing the flared trousers, women here are revolting and moving toward the extreme to the full-length tapered trouser. I, my friends, can not wear a full-length tapered trouser. I can't even begin to describe the awfulness of the sight. But the tapered cropped trouser lets me imagine that I'm some glamorous supermodel with long legs, wearing the tightest of tapered trousers.

So, what I am wearing these days to keep me warm? I want you to know that, really, it's not that cold here. Okay, it's colder than where you are, but it could be worse. I could be in friggin' Poland. Now that is cold. If you remember last year, I was embracing the camisole over the three-quarter-length top look. I am still wearing things over the three-quarter shirt; now it's the short sleeved button down shirt. This year, though, is the year of the cardigan. A must-have for warmth. The camisole is still worn, just under the three-quarter shirt. Still loving the woolly tights that I mentioned from last year. With my Christmas money, I went crazy and bought a pair of brown wool and cashmere tights. A steal at £35 ($60) -- that's a joke, as I nearly spent all my Christmas money. Sadly, the large ain't large enough and I have the uncomfortable, yet familiar crotch gap. However, still will rock the tights when needed.

How the hell did I get from telling you about the crazy things my pupils do to talking about tights? Well, I am who I am... the most random talker in the world. I try to keep myself straight when I type these entries to you, but sometimes, the real me has to bus' out.

Learn to talk British!

Cheeky - smart-alecky; can be used in the noun form, cheek, as in He's got a lot of cheek, asking me if I'm preggers.
Bogey - booger

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Water of Leith

Near where we live in Leith is a waterway, a small river. It flows from the Pentland Hills in the south out to the Firth of Forth, the sea, to the north. It's an odd thing. There was once a railway that followed the Water of Leith, but now it's a footpath. This wooded footpath now snakes through the heart of the city, through densely populated urban areas. It's a strange oasis. When you're on one of the Water of Leith footpaths, you feel like you're a million miles away from the city -- until you hear the honking of a bus horn.

The Boy and I take the dogs for a walk on these paths on the weekend. The Water of Leith makes us feel less guilty for 'bringing up' our dogs right in the city centre, for we can walk them off the lead with no issue. Back in the US, we had loads of woodland paths and state parks around us, and we were able to take walks in so many cool places. I do miss that about North Carolina, and the Water of Leith is not even in the same ballpark, but it helps a little.

Today, Boy took Samantha on a jog and I was to meet him with Sarah further on a Water of Leith path. We were both feeling poorly (Sarah woke up with a limp -- she has two false hips, so she does that ocassionally after a hard day previous -- and my shoulder was killing me), so we didn't get too much of a hassle when we met Samantha and the Boy late at our destination. On the way to meet Boy, I spotted signs of wildlife about me. In the snow are fox footprints.
I know this because these footprints were on a parapet beside a bridge, about a 6-foot drop. No sane dog would do such a thing. A thin layer of ice still (!) existed on the water and duck foot prints were dotted about in it, much to my amusement. Maybe you will see them better in the close up.
We feel an odd sense of pride about the Water of Leith, as if we discovered it. So it makes it all the more sad when people litter about there. I've seen enough trashed bikes, Christmas trees, shopping trolleys, and dog turds to fill a landfill. I've even seen a burnt out car, right in the middle of the path. The funniest (or most pathetic) thing was that two cops in a car drove by it -- a car being a rare event indeed -- without batting an eyelash.

So the Boy has this amazing plan, if he ever was incredibly wealthy. He would hire people, from the myraid homeless around the city, to pick up rubbish from the Water of Leith, paying them by the bag. But his plan doesn't stop there. The second layer is very odd: he would hire only the most trusted of his homeless litter pickers to be followers. The followers would be very discreet and covertly watch for people to litter. If they spied such a thing, they would pick up the litter and follow the person who did it. Throughout the day, the follower would pick up every bit of litter that person dropped. When that person got home, the follower would then dump the rubbish in their garden, on their front door, or even push it through their letter box. Although innovative, this militant idea is sadly fraught with flaws and illegalities, and thankfully, we are not incredibly wealthy. Otherwise, I'd be bailing my cutely misguided husband out of jail with the wealth.

Since the day was so nice, the boy wanted the mark the day with a picture of me with the dogs. Sarah (in the red collar and smooth, short hair) hates pictures. With a passion. She always knows when a picture of her is being taken and turns her head away. She's like someone's grandma -- cos ever'body's gramma hates to have her picture taken. I had to wrestle with the dog just to get this one taken.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

New features

British word of the week - I've included on the Message Board a British word, commonly used here. Leave your guesses in the message board. I'll tell you the answer next week. I'm planning to do this every week.

Blog poll - I'm changing it tomorrow or Monday, after the Oscars. I only have two votes. And one of them was from me! What's the deal wit' dat?

My tidy flat

Snow pictures are now up! Thanks v(-_-)v for noticing that I hadn't actually loaded them.

Promised pictures of my tidy flat. At least these rooms. Don't open the door to the spare bedroom!

Friday, March 03, 2006

My snow dreams -- TRUE, true, TRUE!

It has finally happened. At 10.15 this morning, as I was preparing some work, I saw it. Beautifully fallnig from the sky. This time, it was proper snow! The last snow I showed you, it was like sad little snow-wanna-be pellets. These were plump, fat flakes, like juicy mikans falling from the sky. I took a few pictures as you can see (nice having a cameraphone) and I made an album. Click the Photos link to the right to see them all.

The funniest one to me was the decapitated snowman, which I hope you can see. As I was going to take a picture of this snowman, then intact, this little girl went up to it and whacked its head off. Her parents, standing behind me, were just as surprised by this violent action. She had made it and everything. She said, "Somebody else is going to come by and just do it anyway, so I figured I might as well do it instead."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Random things...

I've not been doing well since Christmas. I'm not a sickly person, in the least, but I've been hit with two stomach bugs and two colds. And I think I'm coming on to my third cold. My throat hurts and I'm all bunged up. The kicker is that my back hurts -- as I might have mentioned before, any time that happens, I'm ill.

I hope my co-workers don't think that I'm some sort of skiver. I have been off a large number of days, more than I have ever been when I was at any other school in the US. I guess the thing is that the older I get, the more unwilling I am to go into work, barely breathing. I've learned, the hard way, that my health is the most important thing and it must be protected. The other thing is that since I'm resource, it's easier for me to be away. I probably wouldn't have taken half the days if I was a classroom teacher.


I'm living side-by-side with irony right now. It's hil-air-ee-ous!

As I've expressed to you, this volleyball season has been tough going on me. This is mostly due to being the captain. I don't really have any power. I'm there for the coin toss, that's it, at least in the mind of my coach. Now, if he was off playing a game, I would be the one making the substitutions, calling time-outs, giving pep talks, etc. But I have no say with the girls. They never listen to me. Really. It's like the things I say are just to make noise. Yak-yak-yak, hoo-wee!

Anyway, that whole issues been getting me down. Subsequently, I haven't been as vocal, with criticism or praise. I mean, what's the bloody point if they are just gonna do whatever the hell they want to, y'know? I get frustrated in the games because it seems the girls lose concentration easily and need someone to always pick them up, give them reminders that they are playing a GAME. Pick ya damn self up, cos nobody picks me up when I'm down. I get five shite passes in a row and nobody says a damn word. No 'Sorry', no nod of the head, nothing. But I'm still supposed to go, 'It's ok girls! We can do it!' while I'm still out of breath from running for their sliced pass and wiping blood off my knee from when I fell. So, yeh, I'm quiet, cos if I say anything, I might go off.

So Saturday, a girl on the bench said that she noticed that when my head went down, so did the other girls. Some of the other girls echoed in: when I stopped making noise, the other girls did also. This was said to be during Tuesday's training, in which I was having a bad time (mostly because my coach let another, non-setter set most of the training and everyone was giving her props for her great sets -- grrrr): when you get down, so do the other girls.

Super. No pressure, right?

Right in the middle of Ironyville, eh?

Learn to talk British!

Bunged up - congested, as in with a head cold
Skiver - a person who skives; from the verb 'to skive', meaning to try to avoid (used when talking about avoiding work, school, etc.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Snow?! (said in a slightly hysterical voice)

Everywhere in the bloody county it is snowing. Save here. Everywhere. Not here. Other places, yes. Edinburgh, no. Not here.

Well, I am going to have to rephrase that. It snowed this afternoon. But really, it hasn't snowed. This is what we got: Blizzards across the country, and this is what we get. We got bigger snows in Durham! This snow is the equivalent of a 13-year old's first moustache: we got the peachfuzz of snow.


Myspace is now taking over the world. Two new friends (ones that I legitimately had before signing up to myspace) have now joined! It's getting crazy. I now have eight friends -- what! Of course, that still includes Tom, the founder of myspace. And it also includes the singer Crystal Waters (you know, 100% Pure Love). And my best friend's brother and all we do is exchange the eversoocassional "What's up nigga?" (he's not black, and really, neither am I; I believe we discussed this previoiusly). So, I have five friends. Yay!


Ok, I'm procrastinating. A friend's coming over to my house for dinner tomorrow for the first time and I have yet to tidy up. The flat is right minging, but the Boy and I sadly don't mind wallowing in filth. Everything needs to be cleaned or straighted up, as you can see.

I forsee the Boy will be mad with me showing you this pictures. It is kinda slack that most of you's first images of my flat are of it in such of minging state. Just so you know, on the bedroom wall is where I have painted different samples that I'm considering. Great idea, but I did it a year ago and I still haven't gotten around to painting over it. The fun of homeownership. (Is that a single word?)I promise that I will take more pictures after the cleaning blitz I have tonight! It is really lovely. I always clean well when people come over. I even painted when my best friend and her husband came for a visit from Durham. Be assured, if you ever visit, it was be tidy. At least superficially.

When the flat gets in this kind of condition, the Boy and I joking bandy about the idea of hiring a cleaner. It's all a bit silly. I mean, we're in a flat. We got this idea when we went to visit his brother in the Lake District. Younger Brother 1 is a medic and makes the wages; in a word, way loaded. The room we stayed in at their place was the size of our entire flat. They have a woman coming in for three hours on Saturdays. The worse bit of it? The pay the woman £5/hr. That is below minimum wage! And she works for an agency and, as I know because I did it for more than a year, they take a cut of what is paid. So that means she's making under £5/hr. I doubt she's able to hire someone to clean her place, let alone get enough food on the table. It's this millenium's slave trade.