Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Oh dear...I'm sorry....I've been gone nearly a year. Except, of course, I didn't actually go anywhere and I'm feeling a bit shame faced about my lack of blogging. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier just to start again but I don't want to be one of those people with a trail of abandoned blogs behind me so I'm just going to pick up where I left off and try and keep up with this blog.

So, what's been going on? Well, I'm still a supply teacher, still have two cats, still share with The Girl (although that's soon to change), still live in Hull, still single. Some things are different. My Dad's cancer spread and he died in April so now I spend a lot of time in Oxfordshire with my mum. It's not been an easy year but we've managed.

I've got lots of things I want to blog about over the coming weeks. I'd love it if you'd pop back sometime.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Yesterday was an odd day. I heard some brilliant news that I'll pass on when the plans have come to fruition as I'm very superstitious and I don't want to jinx anything; I once told everyone about a fab new job that fell through at the last minute. And then I spoke to my parents and found that the tumour on my Dad's bowel has responded well to treatment but that he now has metastatic liver cancer. That means that the cancer has spread and, whilst the lesions are very small and he says his oncologist is very positive, I cannot find much to be hopeful about on any of the reputable websites.

Unlike my mother, my dad has never suffered from ill-health before and it's like seeing something strong and enduring like Nelson's Column melt in the rain like sugar cubes. I don't quite know how to cope and there seems to be absolutely nothing I can do to help.

I can't do nothing though so I'm thinking of having a a sponsored stitch-in at my local coffee shop. I thought I'd ask them if they'd mind me sitting with my crochet and embroidery one Saturday. I wouldn't bother their customers, I'd just have a bucket in front of me and I'd collect for Macmillan. Maybe some of my friends could drop by and say hello now and again but it would be a solo effort. I'm busy coming up to Christmas but I'm free on Saturday 18th December. Do you think this is too close to Christmas or do you think that people will be in a giving mood? I was in there last weekend and reckoned there were fifty people in their at a time so even if only a proportion of people donated I could collect a fair amount over a full day.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

O.O.M.A. Part 2

Subtitled: How I finally stopped stalking and talked to him...

It's amazing how many things you can think of to buy at The Range when you put your mind to it. I'm thinking of lining my bedroom walls with lolly sticks, or maybe not.

Oh my god he just walked past when I was writing about him.

Sorry, stream of consciousness there! I should explain that I'm sitting at a window seat in a coffee shop using their t'interwebs and making myself available should he choose to come in, which he clearly hasn't. Bah!!

Anyhooo, so I decided that getting totally over-excited whenever our eyes met over a cut-price crafting display and hyper-ventilating in the coffee shop was stupid, immature and more suited to an eleven-year-old than a forty-one-year-old who's like, you know, even like kissed a boy before. So I called in the troops, in this case my friend Dee who used to work with him and who was enthusiastic and prepared to give up her Saturday to going to a shop with me so that I could be casually introduced. Her partner offered to look after their twin boys and drive us there and we went on Operation Git Me Ah Man.

It was his day off.

We had a lovely time though. We looked at all the Christmas Decorations, had a coffee, did a bit of shopping and I was even able to buy cat food and cat litter without worrying about looking like a mad cat lady. Dee asked one of his colleagues when he was working next and even asked to be remembered to him and I was so crap I had to turn away because I started to blush.

On returning home I went out to get the papers and to have a coffee. He was in the coffee shop. Did I speak to him? No, of course not. I made sure I sat in his line of vision though. And read my papers in an attempt to look clever and cultured, and used my phone in an attempt to look popular and cool.

Of course the fact that he hadn't been at work meant I didn't have to wait my customary two weeks before returning to The Range and last week I went back to buy some crap or other(to those of you worrying about my bank balance I should say that I tend to buy things I genuinely need for school and can claim back from the tax man but that I wouldn't normally walk two miles to shop for). This time he was working and what's more he was on Customer Services so saw me arriving. When I queued up he offered to serve me and made a comment about how I'd be busy (it's those lolly sticks). I told him I was a teacher and we talked about what age I taught, how cold it was and how I was planning to have a coffee on my way home to ward off the cold. So imagine my delight when I was sitting in the coffee shop later and saw him there. He passed me when he left and did a double-take. And now here comes the embarrassing admission. I followed him.

He went to the greengrocers which was handy as I needed vegetables and as we finished our shopping and went to leave at the same time I smiled up at him and said,

"I hope you're going in a different direction now because I'd hate you to think I'm following you!"

To which he replied,

"Oh, I wouldn't think that."

That was last week and I haven't managed to speak to him again but I feel that a channel has been opened and I'd be able to start a proper conversation. And I'm delighted that he's noticed me without realising quite how ridiculous I am.

I see stupid people.

I watched an item on Breakfast News earlier this month about a little American boy who went to school on Hallowe'en dressed as Daphne from Scooby Doo. Apparently other mothers from the school had something to say about that and there's been a backlash against his parents for letting him "cross dress".

How utterly ridiculous. And how deeply sad that there are people so scared of anything different that they won't let children play normally. I was working in the Nursery Class today and we had a circle time about our favourite dressing-up clothes. One little boy said he wanted to dress as a princess and later put on some purple gauzy number. Will that cause him to grow up as a transvestite or make him gay?

Of course not. Just like I never became a hairdresser despite that being my favourite game at four (though I do remember my funky 70's hairdryer with fondness). Just like my friend's son who played with a toy vacuum aged 3 and ten years later can barely raise himself from the sofa long enough to turn the TV off. The child in our classroom will grow up normal, whatever his own particular normal is. Whether the child in America will be as lucky, given the bigots who surround him, remains to be seen.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Intelligent Design

Sometimes I think I’m ridiculously naive. I presume that most people in the world believe the same things I do; that they value honesty, hard work, kindness and intelligence. I think that everyone wants a fair society where the vulnerable are cared for and everyone believes they have a responsibility to their families, their community and the world. All too often I realise that I’m making ridiculous assumptions and though the majority of my friends have the same values I have (after all, I've chosen them to be my friends) these things are far from universal.
A lot of what I believe stems from my faith. I think the basic ideas that Christ taught (or people say he taught if you prefer) are good ones to live your life by. Where I start to disagree with my fellow Christians is when they start to believe every word in the Old Testament is the absolute literal truth. It feels like their world view and mine collides and I get annoyed at what I see as the hijacking of Christ’s name to support ignorance and intolerance. No doubt they would think I was subverting the message but you know what? They’re wrong and I’m right!
I’m used to having to defend my liberal stance on contraception, divorce, gay rights and other social issues but yesterday I was totally dumbfounded when I met two creationists.
As you know, I’m tutoring in a local school. One of the other tutors is a new father and yesterday we were discussing his new baby with a parent. He mentioned how strong his week-old baby’s grip was and I mentioned the theory that back in the days when we were tree-dwellers babies needed to be able to hang on to their mothers. At this point the mother said
“I don’t believe in evolution, I’m a Christian.”
I managed to reply,
“I am too, but I do believe in it.”
before the other tutor said,
“I don’t believe in it either.
I was dumfounded. I literally did not know what to say. Fortunately she then said,
“If we’re descended from monkeys how come we can’t use their blood for transfusions?”
So I was able to reply with a bit of common sense and say,
“We’re not actually descended from present day primates. It’s more that we’re distant cousins descended from a common ancestor. Our DNAs have changed so much over the millennia that we’re not compatible with each other.”
At this point another teacher raised the issue of the fossil record and the mother said it was too early for a debate and we moved on but I was left amazed. I’m also a little horrified that a man who believes that the world was created exactly as it is now and that fossils are a trick by God to test our faith is teaching science to primary school children.
I’m in favour of being open-minded about people’s beliefs but I’m clearly not a relativist and I’m also very confident that the scientific proof is there. It might be called The Theory of Evolution but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have huge amounts of evidence supporting it. I don’t understand why people’s faith isn’t strong enough to survive scientific ideas that counter the literal interpretation of the Old Testament.
I realise I’ve ranged over a few different ideas here but I want to end with a little scene from this morning. Imagine me and (yet) another tutor being presented with a child who refused to believe in the existence of wolves...
Photos, video, internet articles, eye-witness accounts and books; none of them were enough to convince him. I think there’s a message in there somewhere!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Half Term

It's been difficult to blog recently. I seem to have been visited by at least one of the plagues of Egypt and my lymph nodes have swollen up to cope with it, the result is an unhappy, uncomfortable me!
The by-product of this is that I find it difficult to get enthusiastic about anything and though I'm physically able to blog there's nothing much I want to say.
It's half term and all over the country teachers and support staff are enjoying some well-earned rest. Many are away (we once went to Venice in half term and the place was lousy with teachers. We spent a lot of time guessing their subjects, the particularly up-tight and annoying woman in our hotel was without a doubt a Domestic Science teacher...).
As a supply teacher I get horribly stressed by the holidays and become obsessed by the fact that I'm not earning anything, not because I'm a materialistic madam but because I like to pay the bills and would like to heat the house this winter. This always seems horribly ungrateful as The Girl and other people in "normal" jobs don't have the weeks off that I do. Mind you, they probably wouldn't want a quite as much unpaid leave as I have.
There is a myth that Supply Teachers get paid loads but in fact even if I worked every day that schools are open (which I would) I'd still earn at least a third less that I would if I was a classroom teacher on a proper contract and I'm not even very high up the salary scale. I haven’t helped the situation as I've recently agreed to work at a school for £15 less a day than my actual rate because I decided it was worth it for the better quality of life this particular placement affords. I am aware that this is going to put more pressure on the old finances so I was delighted when the agency offered me one-to-one tuition at a (very) local school. The pay isn't wonderful (once the agency takes their substantial cut) but it beats sitting on the sofa watching repeats of The Gilmore Girls.

I'm teaching two Year 6 girls. W is Polish and an absolute delight. Imaginative and enthusiastic she needs help with vocabulary and with verb tenses but has wonderful English given that she’s only been in the country three years and hears no English at home. She thinks I’m amazing, which is gratifying, and keeps telling everyone how funny I am, though sometimes I’m not actually trying to be funny. T is from the Traveller Community though she lives in a house now. She is very bright but lacks confidence. She was telling me yesterday about her love of Mozart and “Beet”hoven.
The school has organised it really cleverly. There are five tutors and ten children. We meet from 8.15 to have breakfast together and work for two two-hour sessions. Whilst one of your children is with you the other is baking, or drawing or having some kind of game in the hall. Mostly what I am loving about this is the chance to talk and listen. We have so many pressures on our time during term time and so much we try to fit in the curriculum. We have so many children and not enough time to have pleasant, non-work conversations. It’s so nice to be able to sit down at the table and have breakfast or a mid-morning snack and with a group of children. To have time to laugh at their jokes, listen to what they did the evening before or talk about things that interest them. It’s what I imagined teaching would be like and what it so rarely is like.
I’m having a happy week.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

John Barrowman

I've always been a bit of a lover of all things kitsch and camp. I loved The Eurovision Song Contest long before it was fashionable and 22 years ago I made all my University friends crowd into my room for my first Eurovision Party (they thought I was mad). I collect kitsch religious souvenirs (though they do need to be real, I'm not interested in contrived gift-shop gubbins) and just wait for Christmas...

I'm also a massive Doctor Who fan. And I mean massive. Honestly, I'm obsessed. Ask anyone, ask the children I teach. I love it. Go on, test me, ask me anything...

So, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be spending Monday night in Hull City Hall watching John Barrowman sing a selection af songs from the shoes and other favourites. I was almost put off by the £30 price tag (seriously, how much?) but after the very first song (Get this Party Started- natch) as he moved round the stage with his dancers in his sequin-trimmed suit and the adoring audience of menopausal women shouted and cheered, I turned to my friend and said,
"This is worth the money alone!"

The band was great, he was note-perfect and, my god, what a showman. He told stories, camped it up for the crowd and showed us photos from his life. At one point during a song in tribute to his parents we all realised that they'd joined him on stage and were waltzing together. NOT A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE!
By the time he reached a finale with "I Am What I Am" I was on my feet (despite the vertiginous heights of the upper gallery) cheering and stamping and singing along and proclaiming it the best night ever.

I'm so glad I went. It wasn't cool, it wasn't intellectual. It was total, unmitigated fun. And obviously I'll get him to sing at my wedding when I marry David Tennant. Oh, did I say that out loud...?