Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ball of procrastination

I have my reports to hand in tomorrow -- a summary of the year's progress. I have an infinite number of pupils and I have only done infinity minus 5 reports. I will be here forever!

Thus, everything else is very important. Writing to you, listening to every story in a series about one-room school houses in the US on NPR (go to it by clicking here, if you'd like), leaving silly comments to other people on MySpace (Or would it be TheirSpace? Others'Space?), reading Oh... if you'll excuse me...

I'm back. Britney's fat (again), Jude and Sienna are back together, and Halle goes to the drugstore like the rest of us. A very necessary stop to Soon enough, I will be defrosting the fridge and cleaning the windows.

This is obviously a problem and I need your help. You can help the procrastination in several ways:
  1. Email me so I will have respond.
  2. Leave a comment on the thousands of blogs that I have (moblog, this one, etc.)
  3. Ring me up with Skype. What, you don't have it? Funny you should say that. It's the perfect time for me to help you get it.
  4. Leave me a message with Odeo. You can be the first person to do it. How do you do this?
    • Go the the bubble on the sidebar that says 'Send me Odeo'.
    • Click it.
    • Record an audio message that I can hear later. Or now, preferably.
  1. Leave a comment or message for me MySpace. What, you're not on MySpace? Funny you should say that...
  2. Get in contact the old fashion way: call. (But only to the mobile. The home phone is fucked up due to some dodgy batteries I bought.)
Did you think this was going to be a list on how to help me past the procrastination? I need your help to maintain this level disinterest in my work. You silly, silly people.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ball of confusion

I'm totally feeling this Temptations song. The serious words hit me when I'm in a pensive mood; the up tempo beat calls to me when I'm feeling good. Today, the words roll about in my head, on and on and on...
    People moving out, people moving in... Run, run, run but you sure can't hide...

    An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth... Rap on brother, rap on...

    Well the only person talking about love thy brother is a preacher and nobody is interested in learning but the teacher

    Segregation, domination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, obligation...

    Ball of confusion
    That's what your world is today...

    Round and around and around we go
    Where ever we're standing nobody knows...

    See it in the air
    Tension everywhere...

    Ball of confusion
    That's what your world is today...

This song reminds me of a Boondocks strip I saw a while ago. (Unfortunately, Aaron McGruder's cartoon is increasingly losing its edge and slightly trippin'. Hope he gets his mojo back soon.)

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Monday, May 29, 2006

God's property

Heard about this hilarious video from listening to an episode of the NPR show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

Pat Robertson (of The 700 Club) claims that he has the ability to push 2000 pounds of weight with his legs, more than anyone in the world has even claimed to do. And this man is in his 70s. I don't know what's funnier: the woman on the video, watching Robertson in horror and appallation; or his very interesting vocal projections. A protein shake that Robertson has developed is supposedly giving him this strength. As someone on Wait, Wait said, upon hearing the video, "Sounds more like he's swapping protein."

To hear and see what he means click here to see the video.

My weekend in Perth

This weekend was spent in Perth, an hour or so north of Edinburgh, at a volleyball tournament. I went last year and had a miserable time. This year was, as they say in Spanish, asi-asi, so-so.

For my accommodations, I reluctantly decided camped outside. All my team-mates (Volleyball Best Pal, Pet, Turtle) were camping and so I would miss out on the camaraderie if I stayed in a B&B. But mostly, I did it to save money. The rates at B&Bs were jacked up for the weekend; the people of Perth certainly know how to get paid. All in all, it was nothing to moan about. The weather held up, though it was fucking freezing the second night, so cold I couldn't actually sleep. Rain was forecasted for the weekend, so I was looking for a pair of wellies to keep my feet dry. I managed to snag a stylish pair in good nick from a guy on Freecycle and I got mad compliments on how I looked in them all weekend, including from my own Boy before I even left.

The camping itself was great. VBP had the site kitted out and I wanted for nothing. We all bought along food galore and even went out shopping for more. VBP brought along a lilo for me to sleep on, in addition to a sleeping bag. We also set up a gazebo that she brought, along with some folding chairs, which turned our 3-tent site into party central, home to some serious boozing and hooking up. (None for me, thanks -- hooking up, that is.) I actually enjoyed the camping more than I thought I would, but I'm not sure it would always be that good. I hope it is, though, as Boy and I agreed to a summer camping weekend with VBP and her boyfriend.

As fun as it was, the weekend was draining in so many ways, mostly because of people. On the first night, our tent kept getting kicked because there was a fight going on right outside our tent. Some dudes were doing some sectarian chanting and some others, rightly so, decided a beat down was in order. And people decided to pump their seriously slack British music into the wee hours of the morning. I felt overwhelmed by being around so many people. I could literally hear everything, whether I wanted to or not. It was like being a clairvoyant, or schizophrenic, and hearing all these voices in your head. The back of my neck is incredibly sore from the weekend from carrying the strain of being surrounded by people. The tension was made even more unbearable by two things: 1) the inappropriate actions of two friends that I will no longer refer to heretofore and; 2) the clear divide among the teams. A little history needed probably about the latter point.

My volleyball club currently consists of four clubs: 2 men's teams and 2 women's teams, one team clearly better than the other among the genders. The two women's teams don't really get along. Most on the 1st women's team look down on the second team and actually won't talk to them. I had one girl totally blank me every time I passed her this weekend, as if I were a stranger. Why would they do that? I'm not sure; I put it down to arrogance and fear. The arrogance bit is pretty straightforward: they think they are better than us. I think they are fearful of us because if they get to know us and hang out with us, they might turn shite like us. Ha ha. Anyway, they don't like us and we don't like them. So it's pretty draining being around people for a whole weekend who consider you a stranger, but you have to pretend as if you like them. Draining.

Plus, as much camaraderie was there was with my team, I hate playing outside. Obviously, getting dirty sucks. But as well, everyone's standard of play decreases exponentially with the weather conditions: the sunnier and brighter it is, the faster play deteriorates. Everyone just wants to enjoy the sun. With drink. There were some teams boozing between games! Our own team got completely wasted on the Saturday night and stayed up late and played like shite the next day. Turtle continually moaned about her (self-inflicted) state and was ready to forfeit our last game. Suck it up, I told the girl.

I was glad to get home to my little Boy and my little puppies. I always thought it was bullshit when people said it, but in this case, it was certainly true: absence did make my heart grow fonder.

Learn to speak British

wellies waterproof, or rain, boots; origin: Wellington boots
lilo air mattress

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Ah the familiar sounds of spring: the chirping of birds in their nests, the trickle of creeks in shady woods, the phlegmy sniffs of stuffed up noses. Throughout my childhood that sound signaled the start of spring, as my father had the allergies from hell. Anything and everything a person could be allergic to my father appeared to be. Now I'm hearing that mucousy sound again -- from me. Thought they were just sinus drips but after being hit for a third time with headaches, a runny nose and sneezing, I have to accept the envitable.

Me 1, them 1

Today Trondell solved a page of subtraction problems only counting back. I've been at it for months. On the same day, my group of girls couldn't count by tens despite going over this for months. What is it with clueless girls? Why do we let girls think it's ok to be stupid? I told them not to give me the answer, only how they got their answer. Silence. We are doing a disservice to these lies when we got teach and encourage them to think. Just as I write this, I had a kid yell in my face when I rebuked her friend for his behaviour toward me. Kids here: no ability to problem solve but sure as hell can be a fucking pain in the arse.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

We just don't know when to stop

Puns are amusing, but not funny to me. Oh, hmm, I think when I read one, but usually I don't even crack a smile. I read and hear a lot because that is British humour -- all puns and double-entendres and one-liners. A classic one:
    Hello! Didn't you hear me calling you? You must be going deaf!

Or told to me today at work:
    Would you like chicken for dinner tonight?

    No, cos it's foul.
That's the thing about British humour: it's very subtle. A British person is content to make a witty comment and only he (cos most practitioners of true British humour are men) know that he made it. His own amusement and merriment is gift enough, although sharing it with one other person is the cherry on top.

Boy told me this joke today, first told to him by a co-worker:
    Question: What's the connection between a cordless drill and the Premiership (top division of football)?
    Answer: They don't have leads. (Leads are what they call extension cords here; Leeds lost their match on Sunday and did not make it to the Premiership)
So then, I came up with this one:
    Q: What's the connection between the Championship (second division of football; the Triple A of football, so to speak) and the world of soul music?
    A: They don't have Redding. (As in Otis; Reading, pronounced the same as the singer's surname though spelled differently, is a team that has moved up to the Premiership from the Championship)
Not to be outdone, Boy told this one:
    Q: What's the connection between the Championship and someone with long hair?
    A: They don't have a crew.
    (Crewe, being a name of a team that dropped out of the Championship and into First Division -- Double A of football)
Okay... pulling at straws, but you can see the pattern, yes? I was beginning to enjoy this little game, so my next offerings came thick and fast:
    Q: What's the connection between the Premiership and a president?
    A: They both have Chelsea.
    (Chelsea, a team; Chelsea Clinton)

    Q: What's the connection between the Premiership and the army?
    A: They both have an arsenal.

    Q: What's the connection between the Premiership and Mississippi?
    A: They both don't have Birmingham.
Just stop, said Boy. Apparently, I had missed another point of British humour: brevity.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Perhaps things going my way?

I saw my boss earlier today ask for three weeks off next session -- a session is what they call the school year here. At least he didn't laugh at me in my face, then point to the door and tell me to "Get te steppin'!" Oh, wait, that's Martin Lawrence.

powered by ODEO

Ah, good times.

My parents are renewing their wedding vows in November, the day they got married. Unfortunately, the day they got married was a school day. Probably not 30 years ago, but it is this year. Me and my brother in particular, who is an assistant principal (aka, depute headteacher), are having problems with the date. I know what my amah would say: "You don't have to come." She's an unsentimental one, isn't she?

I'm keen to go because I haven't been to Hawaii in 6 years. Boy has never visited and I really wanted to take him around, tour the islands, do all the touristy stuff cos we'll probably never get another chance to go back. Plus, conversion rates are good and getting better. Soon enough, it will be $2 = £1. Shit for anyone thinking of visiting me, but gold to us going to the US for a holiday.

Still, I need to be realistic. He's just stalling me to be nice, not wanting to say no straight out -- the British don't do that very well. Plus, if I go to Hawaii, we won't be able to make the trip to Barcelona and France that I was hoping to make this summer. I've been here going on three years and I've only been to Rome. Really pathetic.

Anyway, I should know in a few days.

And, by the way, for the those beating down my door to know (read: no-one), Leeds lost their match 3-0. Still stuck in Triple A (the Championship) for another year. I hope that's not going to foreshadow my result for the Hawaii trip.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Technology's one hell of a drug

Newest obsession: funky ways to use technology. I am loving some of the stuff I can do with it.

When I first got my mobile phone, I was told distainfully that I should have got an "easier" phone, cos mine was too advanced for a novice like me. The phone has email and internet capabilities, an mp3 player, a 2-megapixel camera and video recorder, as well as an audio recorder and I didn't have a clue how to use it, save the camera. How happy I am that I didn't listen to that downer idiot. Yeh, she was right, but I have learned how to use mostly everything with the help of my friends. The last piece of the puzzle was the email, but after several weeks of trying to get it work, chronicled on this here blog, it's up and running -- announced as well in a joyous email to all friends. Now the cool thing is how I can use it. It's all a progression, innit?

My earlier blog entry today (Football mad...) was actually written yesterday, in a pub in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. All typed out on my phone and sent, via email, to my blog. That's why there are no paragraph breaks, which really annoys me. It actually would have gotten here on the blog on Sunday had I sent it to the correct email address. But once I typed in the appropriate address, it was there for you. Now, there is no need for me to be out of blog communication with you! And I know you've had sleepless nights about that. Now have sleepless nights about the lack of paragraphs in an emailed blog entry.

Another way I am using my pictures, videos, and audio recordings is in a moblog. You might have heard of this: it's a blog, but most of the content is entered with a mobile phone rather than on the computer. It's very spur of the moment. For example, if I see some strange thing, like a man dressed up as Scooby Doo (and I did yesterday), or something beautiful, like a wood filled with bluebells (which I saw on Monday), I could take a picture, send it to my moblog via email and you could see it a minute later. The url to my moblog is or you could just click here. A link to the moblog is on the sidebar.

I hope you don't feel like that another thing of mine that you have to check out. You don't have to at all. It's just sometimes the blog is a bit manufactured, you know? Like I want it to look really good, have (relatively) correct grammar, be expressive. The moblog is just raw. It's an imagine, a sound, a small video clip. Nothing to major. Nothing to really think about. Something to just enjoy. To smile about. I know sometimes I get a bit heavy with the blog; think of the moblog an antonym, in a way. Plus, I couldn't figure out how to combine the two, or I would have. Maybe eventually they can and will be combined.

Football mad, plus hot World Cup

It's 3 pm and we should be on the train heading back home. Instead we're in a smoky pub (come on English, get with a smoking ban) in Ilkley. We even paid an extra £20 for the privilege. Now what in the world would make a Yorkshireman spend more money than necessary? Two words: Leeds United.
Today's Leeds's biggest game of the season, determining whether or not they will be promoted back into the Premiership. Think of football like American baseball: there's a major league, Triple A, Double A, etc. Now imagine if teams could be promoted or demoted, depending how well they did in the season. Okay, two years ago, Leeds was in the major league. But they had a shite season and were demoted to Triple A. Now they are in a play-off game to see if they can go back up to the major leagues - the Premiership. We were originally supposed to head back to Edinburgh at the same time as kick-off. I didn't book the tickets!
While I had a kip on the train, Boy overheard this random blonde talking to her friend about the World Cup. As we've been repeatedly denied tickets when we applied, this was intriguing. Apparently this bird's friend is dating a member of the England team - we think Stuart Downing. And considering there's only one Stuart on the team, I don't think we're far off.
According to Stuart Downing's bird's friend, the players are travelling by private jet, courtesy of the FA - no surprise there. But the wives and girlfriends of the players were only going to be given coach travel. David (as in Beckham) was going to have a word to get the women a jet. Yeh, because a bus is completely unacceptable to the likes of Nancy Dell'Olio and Victoria. And speaking of Posh, she's having her World Cup party today. Honey, we've got nearly three weeks to go, aren't you being a bit premature? Or maybe she's a Leeds fan and she's watching the big match too. C'mon lads, Victoria says.
Update: Leeds are down 1-0 and it's nearly half-time. They really haven't been in the game and things aren't looking good.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Some things don't change

The weather for this weekend in our area of Yorkshire.

Weekend away, or Why I hate to travel

We are heading off to Yorkshire again for the weekend, so, obviously, don't expect much in terms of the blog for Saturday and possibly Sunday. I actually get fewer hits on the weekend, so maybe this disclaimer really doesn't matter. It's funny how I make going to Yorkshire sound like heading off to the African jungle. There will be no broadband there. The heathens. We are staying with Fil and MIlee's mansion again. All that money and they don't have broadband. They just have a very old and slow laptop from her work and an even slower dial-up connection. There's no hope, none at all.

I know, we were just down there. But Grandma has gone into a home to recuperate because she broke her knee. As delightful as she is, she doesn't deal well with new people. I think having gone from living rather independently to now living with others might be a shock and I hope she's not depressed or anything. So we're going down to call in on her.

But I'm pissed off. Not about visit Grandma. She's a fab person, as I might have told you previously (refer to 31/03/06 post called My weekend, AKA My in-laws). I'm pissed off about travelling there.

I know I'm getting really old because I don't travel well these days. I'm almost getting like my father in the fact that I'm beginning not to like to travel. I like being here (at home) and I like being there (wherever I go), but I hate the journey a lot of times. Hellish. For example, Christmas trip to Roma was fantastic, but flying a low budget carrier right before New Year's is crazy. And, you might remember, Boy and I don't have the best track record when it comes to travelling. We tend to miss trains and planes and such.

The thing is, I actually really love to travel and have rad memories of travelling when I was a child. We did loads of car trips to visit my grandparents and other family members and my sister and I had a very bizarre game that involved overpasses and "getting ready" for them with our dollies when we were little. When we got a bit older, it was the only time my parents let us get horribly sugary and wretched processed foods, of which I was very thankful. In uni, I once took my friend a.t.w. on an impromptu trip to Athens, GA, after we were reminiscing of our high school love of REM (no, we did not manage to see them, though we were hoping to). And there was a routine I had when I was leaving my parents' house to head back to uni or home: leisurely wake up; have lunch with my ma; fill the car's tank (she'd usually pay for it -- yay!); get some snacks or stop off at McDonald's or Chick-Fil-A (cos you don't normally do it, but hey, you're travelling and you're entitled to some crappy food); listen to some jams, singing along. All in all, a great time.

There is no such freedom when travelling by train, which is the only way we travel long distances these days since renouncing the automobile (well, more like not having enough money to have an automobile and less like renouncing it altogether). You have to be there at a certain time or you miss it. And if you miss it, you're more than likely to have to spend more money in order to make it. Travelling by car obviously has no such conditions. I remember yet another a.t.w. visit in which I left at midnight in order to make a 8 AM class. Crazy, but made it.

So now I have to prepare so much more because so much more outwith my control. I could not control the icing of the wings to our flight to Rome, nor could I control that our flight was an hour and a half late on the return trip. I can't control construction on the rail lines that hold me up for hours. That can cause stress, so I don't want to experience any additionally undue stress. Because for me, travel is about fun and freedom. It's special and different from my mundane, day-to-day existence and I don't want the stress of my everyday life infusing this lovely time. But when you're with another person, especially who does not subscribe to your perfect idea of travel, it can be fucking irritating.

Boy is clearly in the "all's well that ends well" camp -- a very Yorkshire mindset. In essence, "We got here but with no shampoo, toothbrush or clean kacks cos we were too busy to pack. But we're here!" I, myself, can very forgetful about the little details of travel and I might not remember each and every fucked up thing that has happened since we have started to travel together. But I do remember the feelings I have -- anger, stress, sadness, anguish, worry, anxiety. And it clouds all my journeys, and, ultimately, my visit. Once again, we will be meeting at the station; he's coming from work. And he doesn't leave work very well. Let's hope this time I won't be standing on the platform waving to him as he's on the train heading away. And yes, that did really happen once.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Head lice and funny accents

Trondell has head lice. Yuck. And gross. And EEEWWW! When I went to pick him up for his lesson, I found him frantically scratching his head like some feral child. The learning assistant whispered his little secret to me yesterday after I mentioned his new buzz cut. Stop scratching your head, I told him. I have head lice, he replied (actually, quite a reasonable reply). Well, said his eavesdropping teacher, let's... not advertise it.

Head lice policy over here is as such: well, there is no head lice policy. Pupils should be treated at home and are allowed to still attend school. The school do not do head checks and they do not notify parents if there is an outbreak at school. They will find out when their darling Tarquin comes home, madly scratching like a crack addict.

I'm scratching my head as I speak, even though it is highly unlikely that I have acquired the lice. That being said, I'm going be squirting a lot of extra oil in my hair so that those buggers don't have anything to latch onto. I'll be leaving smudges on the bus windows for weeks!

The children often make comments about my funny speech. Most recently, the P1 (kindergarten) pupils were spelling the word water. Now. We say wa-terrr. Up in the north, some people say funny and they say WAAH-er, the teacher said. That's how Ms says it! they said. I have never said WAAH-er in my life, children, I thought, slightly indignant. And to prove it, I said water, in my normal voice. They all looked at me disbelievingly. That's not how you really say it, said the teacher, That sounds English. Aren't I supposed to be speaking English here?

It's amazing how unconscious the acquisition of a new accent can be. I love listening to others accents and trying to mimic them. I used to do that to this girl at uni to the point of frustration, but she had the best NC mountain accent ever. Boy even says that he notices how I repeat everything people say here in their accent. And wishes I would stop. I think I must have sounded really judgmental when I was telling you about the Poet in the last entry, the American living over here. But it's only natural to pick up some sort of accent when you're living among the natives, as it were. I do it quite consciously at times, as I teach in schools here. I'm very aware of how I'm going to ruin them forever with my bloody American accent, so I do try to adopt some odd sort of slightly British-y accent. Which means I sound mad.

I've begun to teach phonics to a struggling group of P1 pupils. They are the poorest in their classes, so let's think about this. Is the American with the fucked up accent the answer to helping them with their problems with phonics? Rule of thumb for acquiring a Scottish accent: make every long vowel a short vowel. Easy to say, bloody hard to do. My typical lesson with the word bang:
    All right pupils, let's write this word: bāng. No, wait, I mean, băng. You băng a drum. Let's say the sounds, ready? Buh-ā... no, wait, sorry. Let's try that again: Buh... um... ă-ng. Băng. Now write bāng in your book -- I mean băng. Just write whatever you think it's supposed to be.

Anyways, apologies to the Poet. Hope she wasn't too offended and comes back to read the blog. And be's my friend. Be's... that's an American word, isn't it?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Can't keep a good American down

Every culture has certain rules, codes of conduct. We Americans are very good at ignoring these codes everywhere we go. Wanting everyone to speak in English. Loudly talking on the bus. Demanding Ranch dressing on your food (please understand that Ranch dressing is a strictly American phenomenon). Wanting turkeys a month earlier than normal in order to celebrate a stupid holiday that no-one else in the world celebrates.

I was this American when I lived in Okinawa, incredibly obnoxious. I can now understand why Okinawans are protesting mightily to get those damned gaijin off their lovely island. I've made a concerted effort to not be as ignorant and indifferent to my surrounding culture this time around. One, because I'm married to a Brit and it would embarrass him terribly. Two, and more importantly, because I realise how much I missed. I lived in Okinawa for almost ten years, but I might has well have been in California or Michigan. I lived only around other Americans, ate mostly American food from American fast food places and shopped at American shops on the American base. Occasionally, I heard someone speaking in Japanese, but I didn't understand a word they say and didn't care to. All those years of living there and I experienced so little by hardly integrating into the culture. Really, I was cheating. Well, this time, I'm learning Scottish!

That being said, it's damned hard to integrate into a foreign culture, and in some ways I feel like I'm losing myself. It feels like its harder for an American. You are really only accepted when you're ashamed of being from the States. Considering what the hell is going on in the world, most of the time I am, so that works. I'm a baby, learning how to speak, walk and understand this new, Scottish world around me. I'm like the kid in school who keeps getting in trouble because I don't know what is going on. The teacher keeps yelling at me and I don't know what I did wrong. But I have picked up some rules:
  • don't speak until spoken to;
  • the only acceptable topic of conversation to have with a stranger (usually an elderly person) is a discussion of weather changes;
  • never introduce yourself to others (what, are you assuming that you will be someone that they will want to even bother knowing? How foolish of you);
  • don't talk about too many personal things -- this list includes, but is not limited to:
    • your recent divorce
    • your recent colonic irrigation and any praises of the procedure
    • how amazing your children are
    • how terrible your children are
    • what your therapist thinks
So it was a breath of fresh air when my friend Bee came for a 21-hour visit from the US. To Bee, most people are "Super!", including that girl at the till, who is "the best!" Enthusiastic, most people would say -- a girl who loves life. Very American, I said. At times when I was with her, I was cringing and hiding behind my hands. We just don't do that here, I wanted to say. But everyone here ate it up! She made friends with two drunk women missing their hen party -- she has photos of the night that she'll need to email them. She joined the conversation of two random guys, ingratiating herself so well that when we all got off the bus, they invited us to a party. Despite initially feeling a bit wary and over our heads when we set off with "Dave" and "Scott" (as this was Scotland, we did not introduce ourselves), we ended up meeting a lot of interesting people. One included a poet, a fellow American, who performed all of her limited aikido repertoire on a mildly impressed Boy.

The poet had a story similar to mine: fell in love with a Brit and ended up over here. She also had a funny pseudo-British accent (despite being from Noo Joisey), slightly better than mine. After my day with Bee, I wanted to tell her to drop it. Maybe by trying to be so British, we're holding ourselves back. And not really enjoying our time here. I guess the whole thing is about balance -- being respectful of others' culture , but still loving your own. Now if we can just get that message out to the President.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

My sophistication

Last night, we had a dinner party. VBP and partner came over. Boy was late. I had to clean the house and cook all by myself. I was angry. We had vegetarian shepherd's pie. We had rhubarb and apple crumble. It was a little bit overcooked, but it was yummy. We had nice chat. We talked about evolution, antiques, and DIY. We watched 'Chappelle Show'. We had some lovely wine. And then they went home. I am very sophisticated.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My naïvety

At work: we are going through a review. Essentially, a team of people come to critique us. Getting a good review is essential, as we are a "good" school and a poor review would look very bad. Management (the headteacher and depute headteachers) is shitting themselves and that's all they can talk about.

Yesterday, we got the schedule for observations. Just do what you normally do, we were told. Then why are our schedules so fucked up -- people having to teach literacy in their maths period and visa versa? People having to teach a science lesson when they aren't even doing any science? We'll be spending the rest of the week coaching the children -- "Remember on Wednesday, we're pretending that we are very happy people and that we have inquiry-based, child-centred, hands-on lessons every day!"

I, however, wasn't at all on the scheduled to be observed. I don't know how they got away with the resource teacher not being observed, but what do I know? Talking with a colleague, I made a remark about the omission. "You know why you aren't getting observed?" she asked. No time in the schedule? I ventured. "You're a rogue element. They don't know if you'll 'say the right thing.' You haven't been trained yet."

We chuckled, but her comment got me thinking. And got me steamed. Here I am thinking that I'm actually making a contribution to this school, to these pupils, but my bosses don't seem to think so. I have to be trained in what to say to observers? Good practice is good practice anywhere, transcending cultures.

I interviewed for this job with the idea that I didn't want it, so I didn't have to particularly impress. Meaning I didn't have to try and figure out what they wanted me to say, from their body language or what they said to me, because I didn't even want the job. But I took it because I was impressed with the headteacher. He seemed like he read my CV (he quoted it back to me on many occasions in the interview!). It seemed like he dug what I was saying about my teaching style and even implied that is how the school was too! What a fool I was. If I was willing to say what people wanted to hear to be hired, why can't it work the other way around? Looking back, I have to assume that I was probably the best of a bad lot and that's what got me hired.

But substantiation of unworldliness continues. Within the same conversation with my colleague about the review, she revealled a secret. It was somewhat relevant to the discussion, but not really; I could see she was getting a bit of joy in sharing this with someone finally. Yes, it was that kind of secret -- two of our colleagues are having an affair. I know this sounds mad, but the devastation I feel is only short of finding out it was my own husband. I held one of the two in such high esteem (I barely know the other), almost like kindred spirits in a way and now, this.

Is this what adults do? Cos if so, I don't want to be an adult. I'd like to be like my dear Trondell, completely clueless and simple about things. But unfortunately, this happens and I have to know. There's a serious culture of nepotism and it's not even considered inappropriate. I have to know these kinds of things so I know who to keep on my good side, else I get the shitty assignments and the constant cold shoulder. At least I'm not totally naive.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Surprise, surprise, surprise

It's AB-solutely glorious here. It's a wonderful 64°F, sunny and gorgeous. It's been a loverly week, but I've been pushing it wearing open-toe sandals and my hands were freezing. But not today. Wherever you are is a miserable hell-hole compared to our fair and sunny Edinburgh today! I mean, a great temperature, no humidity, the sun shining. How about them apples, Americans? Everything is great in the world -- until Monday, when the temperature plunges to 50° and it's pissing it down. But until then, we rock over here!

I've been busting my ass cos I've had to get some assessment reports finished for yesterday. I stayed until five on Monday trying to get it done. I won't go into my usual rant, but suffice to say all three pupils I tested have have dyslexia! Yippee! Anyway, handed the reports in -- ON TIME, mind you. Today, my boss comes to me. Got the reports and they're good. Very good. In this voice as if I were some "dyslexic" kid who suddenly read a book correctly for the first time. You know, the raising of the voice at the end? I was a little insulted. I am a professional, dammit. And a writer. Just read the friggin' blog!

But that episode highlights another element of my personality that I've just been realising: I'm better writing my thoughts out. To be honest, I was rather enjoying working on those reports, and I have never said anything like that in my life. In all my years of teaching, I, along with the children, dreaded report card time. When you had 15 or 25 of them to do, there is no joy. There is no finessing of wording. There's no editing. It's just getting it done. The kid's called Neil and it's been spelled Nail on the report card? Oh well, you know who I be talkin' 'bout. But I enjoyed the process of sitting back and just working on the wording, making sure it expressed everything that needed to be said and, more importantly, what didn't need to be shared.

That brings me to another disclosure: I've been thinking about post-graduate studies -- for a while. But that's actually no stunner to the people who know me. Actually, when my brother got his Master's, my father turned to me and said, "Now it's your turn," as if I had drawn the short straw. Boy's definitely supportive of the whole thing; I think he's hoping that one day, I'll be bring home the majority of the tofrutti. Unfortunately, I'm just incredibly flaky. I'm interested in too many things: mathematics education; literacy education; science education; curriculum; educational psychology and testing. Then a few weeks ago, it suddenly hit me. I like to write. I even prefer it over speaking in many cases (and that's a shocker, cos I'm a serious yakker). So I've been thinking about liberating that writer in me. But not creative writing, though -- I've been afflicted with the most amazing case of writer's block that would make Harper Lee or JD Salinger look like they've been on a holiday. (It was so much easier when I young and carefree. Sigh.) But maybe something with a journalistic edge? Maybe writing for a magazine or newspaper features? Anyway, I don't know how to get into things, especially here, so I'm putting it on the shelf. Maybe I shouldn't leave it too long, though. After all, with that beb-by thing swirling around in my head, I better get a move on before word becomes flesh. No, I'm not preggers. Shit, that would be the biggest surprise of all.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Baby, hit me one more time

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, May 08, 2006

One step behind

I woke up yesterday with so many plans... all of them to be dashed. I really don't know what happened, but I just found myself one step behind, even today.

Wake up at nine yesterday morning, I thought that would be enough time to see my pal in the Capital City Challenge 10K. Maybe I should have realised that I needed to leave earlier. Maybe I shouldn't have stopped for the bacon and egg roll (man, those ones at renroc are banging!). Maybe I should have planned to meet her in an agreed location. Maybe I shouldn't have assumed her time based on how long I would take to run a 10K.

Well, I did all those things and found me and my doggies sitting on the 22, passing the race route and seeing not one runner. And missing her finish. I felt like a complete dick. I consoled myself with the thought that she was having a little get-together at lunch time. If I brought along a nice bottle of something, maybe she'd forgive me. Now that I had the time, I figured I would run down to the O2 shop.

Here's the thing: I've been trying to email on my phone. More narcissism on my part, cos if I can email, I can send stuff to the blog from my phone, keeping you, dear reader, constantly in the know. Seeing that I've received zero comments for my last two entries, maybe this email plan is a bit optimistic. Or far-reaching. Or hubristic. You decide. Anyway, although I apparently have the capability to email, I have, despite two phone calls to and an email from 02, yet to be able to do so. I figured if I headed down to my mobile service provider's shop on Princes Street, I would get some help.

No. Yeh, I received help. If that's what you call being stuck in the shop with Ash, who just read the online instructions (which I had already done before, and I eventually had to start helping him help me) before eventually being fobbed me off to some woman on the phone. "Just wait a minute," the O2 girl said,"This is my first time setting this up." Instantly instilling confidence in me that this process would work this time. "That should be you," she said.

No, no it wasn't dearie. But nice try. So now I'm late to my pal's. By the time I get back to the flat to drop the dogs off and head back, I get a text from my pal. Don't bother in coming just now cos I'm heading out until 3. Well, I was half-way to her's. So I trudge back home, tired and hungry. And when I do eventually get there, I missed all the food and only had crisps to tide me over for the night. That and champagne, of which I engaged in loads. Hey, it was a celebration!

So I woke this morning up, steaming. So, so unlike me. I don't know how to handle this! I don't do this! I'm now turning Scottish! And I spent today, yet again, one step behind. But this time, I know the reason why. Those sweet, sweet bubbles.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

North Berwick

The Boy insisted on getting out of town, much to my annoyance. I woke up, keen to tidy the flat. But we went, and I'm glad I did.

We headed out to North Berwick, about 20 miles east of Edinburgh. (If you read and listened to blog entry Say and Play you'll know how to pronounce North Berwick.) As we rode along on the train, we went through Musselburgh, Prestonpas, Wallyford, Longniddry. We both wished aloud that we could live there as we past wee cottages and detached houses. I like the convenience of living in the city and we practically live in the city centre. And as much as I like our flat, it doesn't seem right. I want a home, a place with a garden where I could grow some vegetables and hang out my washing and attach solar panels to the roof. As pokey little place that's terribly awkward. But there's so many ramifications to making the choice of living outside the city -- how to get to Boy's work, needing a car -- and we just don't want to face them now.

We first climbed North Berwick Law, which had settlements on it as far back as the Roman times and the Iron Age. There was loads of stinging nettles around -- it's the right time of year. Stinging nettles do exactly what they say on the tin: touch them and you're stinging and itching.

I have this recipe for stinging nettle soup that I've been dying to try. It calls for young nettles, but I figured that the ones on the hill would be good enough. I just couldn't convince Boy to pick them for me! There was also lots of what we thought was, after rubbing it between our fingers, mint.

Could Iron Age people have planted that mint on the hillside of North Berwick Law? Wild.

Going away from the law, we chanced upon these in a farmer's field: an enclosure enclosing nothing and a tree in jail. Someone take the nail gun and boards away from that man!

As North Berwick is a seaside town, we wanted to walk along the beach to get back to the station. Boy and I would kill to live by the sea. Hmmm, maybe we could sell up? we thought, as we past the estate agents. No chance. All the property was really dear and we'd only be able to get a flat in North Berwick. No point. But the thought of our little swimmy dogs being able to have a paddle every day, that would be great.

Here's a little slideshow of our day. I would have posted these on Shutterfly, my usual step, but these pictures a bit shitty. I think the low light (a pretty dull day) didn't help things.

Our trip to North Berwick isn't the only indicator that we are living in the wrong place. Although yesterday's temperatures were a toasty 18°C (64°F) in Edinburgh, it was 24° (75°) in Keswick, close to wear BIL2, SIL, Zebedee, Dougal and Dylan live; Leeds, where Grandma lives, was 23° (73°); and London was 28° (82°)! I'm an American southerner, get me out of here!

Friday, May 05, 2006

It's Friday and I'm ready to swing

It's been a helluva long week. That's what happens when a teacher gets a day off -- the week increases exponentially. I've been working four days for the past three weeks and I feel like I've been at it for years! Man, work sucks!

Trondell comes to me yesterday for his session and says,
    "Mummy's gone away."
Now you must understand the significance of this statement, in regard to Trondell. Everyday, he gets three minutes to talk about whatever the hell he wants to talk about. Everyday, he wants to talk about marine animals. Some days, he'll be feeling a bit wild and want to venture out, so he'll talk about dinosaurs, but usually the topic of his monologue is marine animals. Yes, three minutes straight of him telling me every fact about marine life, sometimes repeating the same one again and again, and I can't get a word in edgeways. He's also obsessed with measuring them in some way. ("The blue whale is, like, 7 metres long." "I don't think it is Trondell." "Okay, 8.") If he talks about his parents, it is because I initiate the conversation. Just want to see if someone is still taking care of this meathead. But yesterday, he began to talk about Mummy.
    "Where did she go?" I say.
    "I don't know."
    "She's not at home?"
    "Did she go on a trip?"
    "No, I don't think so."
    "Did she go to the shops?"
    "I don't know."
    "And she's not at home?"
    "Did she go to the doctor's?"
    "Look Miss, I said, I don't know."
Well, that's me told.

As it is a random Friday, I head off to my on-going maths workshop. I finally got to videotape Trondell for this and I should find some way to put the sound on it. It's hilarious.
    Me: "Take your finger out of your nose. Now, focus. Focus. What comes before 7?"
    Trondell: "Uh, uh, uh, uh." Finger in the nose. Massaging cheeks. "Uh, uh. Uh. Eeeeeee." Pulling odd face. Sucking in cheeks. All this continues for, easily, two minutes. Turns quickly to me. "Uh, what did you say?"
We were learning about another step in this assessment. Our instructor tells us that we have to show a strip of four dots, then show a strip of 10 and have the pupil add it up. Instantly, hands come up. Can't do that, the other teachers moan. We add the tens first, then the ones. Yeh, but with this one, it's going to be the other way around, says the instructor. Shaking of heads, sucking of teeth.

This is the conclusion I have come to about education here: you have to be correct. We don't care how you came to the answer or what you think. In fact, what you think is stupid. But as long as you get the correct answer and shut up, we will tolerate you.

There is this technique that my colleague has introduced to me that perfectly illustrates this point (well, not the shutting up bit). So, as you know if you have read this blog for any length of time, the number cases of dyslexia in the greater Edinburgh area is like 75 times the world average. Actually, every dyslexic, save the two who emigrated to Australia, lives in the UK. So, with dyslexic kids, they rely on too much picture clues and the story content to read stories and, apparently, not enough on the words. My colleague suggested that kids read a page BACKWARDS, so that aren't using picture, syntax or meaning cues to figure out words. Right. But aren't we supposed to be getting the story? Like, understanding the motives the character, the plot, the moral, the theme of the story, the setting. So we are supposed to be trying to obtain the story content and meaning. So if a child uses those things to figure out an unknown word, then isn't that a good thing? Aren't they getting the point of reading then? No. If a child can say every word perfectly on the page, they are then reading. Well, that's me told, again.

It reminds me of rows I have with the Boy. I'm mad at him. Like, crazy mad. And I am ranting. Cos I'm mad. And crazy. And so I say something like, "Your snide little philosophy is really annoying!" And he'll say, "Philosophy?" Okay, it's not really making sense, but what I'm saying is that I have this meaning I'm trying to convey. And all the response I can get back is that my word choice isn't right. I say tell this shitty little example (not at all true, but still to the chagrin of the Boy) because I always thought it was a Boy quirk. But maybe it's not only him. It's them. And they're all around me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

It's time you learned some facts

Ladies (and men, if you're like that), would you sleep with this man?

He's John Prescott (or you can call him Ed Kingdom -- ha ha), the deputy prime minister, and recently, it's become well-known that someone else other than his wife has been sleeping with him. Actually, two other people than his wife. Here's a lesson that you all need learn: UK politicians get a whole lotta play. And I'm not talking about the even mildly attractive ones. What am I talking about -- none of them are even remotely hot. I mean, if I had to choose, I'd go obviously for Tony Blair. I know I am going to get a lot of heat for that, but I mean, look who else there is choose from. Shudder.

The list of nobbing British politicians seems endless: Robin Cook, who looks like Niles Crane's very stressed father; John Major, the former Prime Minister; Alan Bennett; David Blunkett (he's blind and not even hot, of what were you thinking Mrs Kimberly Fortier!); Edwina Currie (though that was with the aforementioned Mr Major) -- these are only the ones I can think of. What was it Chris Rock (oracle of our times) said of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal? Some thing to the effect that he should always be getting head, some person permanently on his dick to make him happy, as he's the most powerful man in the world. Well, being that Mr Prescott is the second most powerful man in Britain (being he's the deputy PM), they appear to have created a cock-sucking post in the civil service. Yes, Minister, indeed.

And which leads me to the second fact: they are much too busy doing other things to do their jobs. It could be nobbing other people, but usually it boils down to appearing on stupid television shows. MP George Galloway recently appeared on Celebrity Big Brother with Dennis Rodman and the dude who sang the song "You spin me right round baby, right round like a record baby, right round". Ann Widdecombe had her own series in which she went around the country, solving people's problems, like what to do with a messy roommate. I mean, for real people. Amateurs, just amateurs.

Monday, May 01, 2006

This is what they think of us!

Shit American accent attempted by a Scottish friend. She's saying, "I, like, totally dig your purse." Sorry, the recording is shite as well, as I recorded it from the original recording.

Weird Leith

I love living in Leith. It's like living on the other side of the tracks. The south and West End of the city are too posh; you would be able to live in the City Centre for the prices; you'd only live in the north and wester bits if you wanted to get killed. No, eastside is where it's at.

That being said, it's a funny little place. It's a definitely known for being run-down. And if anyone's seen Trainspotting (and I haven't even) then all the shady drugs places were in Leith. But it's going through a regeneration and with lots of trendy bars, shops and nice places to live.

So this shop is on Leith Walk, the main thoroughfare to get from the City Centre to Leith. This shop, in my opinion, is typical old-timey Leith:

Darts and televisions! That's where the money is! Why would anyone EVER think of that combination? If the telly side is having a bad week's takings, you'll always have the darts' takings to tide you over.

So just a block up the walk is Clive Christiansen, completely different from Borlands in every way. I've always wanted to go in the shop, cos what could be seen in the window is really nice. But when I dragged the Boy through, it completely blew us away.

It was like we had walked into someone's house! I guess it's a showroom for home furnishings, but we couldn't tell. It's was really bizarre too how the guy there let us just walk about for ten minutes, taking pictures! Just so you know, real people don't have shit like that in their homes here. This Clive Christiansen must have got really cheap rent for locating his store in Leith and hopes like hell that his clients from Morningside and Bruntsfield (southern parts of the city) are willing to slum it and check out his wares on the wrong side of town.