Tuesday 31 July 2012

Bom Dia!

I'm back!  I honestly hadn't realised how much I needed this holiday until I got out there.  But it really was just what the doctor ordered.  It's so nice to just sit in the sun and do nothing, and the only meal planning you need to do is decide which restaurant to eat in that evening.  I've read 3 books and taken many photos, filled in a few Scavenger Hunt gaps and just relaxed.  Friends of ours overlapped with our visit for the last day of our stay (they were staying in my sister's apartment, just below the town house) and it was lovely to meet up with them and have a leisurely meal and bottle of wine on our last night.
But for now, I need to unpack those suitcases, get the washing machine going, restock the kitchen cupboards, check up on everyone's blogs and hope that this doesn't become a distant memory too soon ...

Sunday 22 July 2012

Fingers crossed

Those who follow my blog will know that there's been a few ups and downs in the last year.  The latest 'down' being my recent trips back and forth to hospital.  I had a private consultation with the ENT specialist on Thursday and he did a very thorough examination and has said I am healing well.  When he said he was going to do an endoscopy of my nose and sinuses, I sat back in my chair and asked what would happen if the camera triggered another nose bleed.  At which point he smiled, and said 'let's just say Deborah, that if that happens, you are in the right room with the right man.' 
So he pronounced me 'fit to fly' which means that I should be ok to travel out to Portugal on Monday.  We booked our flights back in December as we desperately needed something to look forward to (we had to cancel our holiday last year on the day we were due to travel as my father in law died) and when I was in hospital, I saw all hopes of getting there disappearing before my eyes.  
But of course, I had convinced myself I wouldn't be going so have done no planning for the holiday at all.  Which explains why today has been a whirl of washing, ironing, shopping and getting cases out of the loft.  Normally I am in holiday list making mode for weeks leading up to the big day.  We will be staying at my sister's holiday home in the Algarve.  They own a townhouse which is kept for family but they also have an apartment on the same small complex which they rent out.  Anyone looking for a lovely holiday rental in a beautiful area of Portugal, check out the link here !
I am hoping to be able to get a few more of my scavenger hunt photos crossed off the list, there is a beautiful church in the village and in the evenings, roadside stalls selling things like handmade jewellery sometimes appear.  Who knows what other uncaptured photos there may be that I will find?
Keep your fingers crossed for me! 

Friday 20 July 2012

Staff entertainment

Today was the last day of Summer term.  And that means two things.
1 - I won't be back in the office until September 5th {happy dance}
2 - The morning ended with all the students in the hall watching staff entertainment. 
This is where the teachers make fun of themselves in front of the students, 'in' jokes are put in for good measure and there is always a theme.  This year, naturally, the theme was the Olympics, and our school's contribution to the event.  Teachers' un-synchronised swimming which involved a blue sheet draped across the stage at waist height and teachers almost looking like they were swimming behind it was quite a memorable one but the highlight of the assembly was a video of our gold medal winning event 'Teachers dancing behind students'.  Inspiration came from the following Youtube video which was awarded Silver

The twist in the tale was that students had been told they were being filmed for a dvd to be handed out at the next Open Evening for prospective students.  Now, anyone who works in a school will tell you that there are always a fair share of 'characters' in any given year group.  Girls who like to be well known and keen to express their opinion.  So let's just say that this was an opportunity to give those students their 15 minutes of fame.  It was absolutely hilarious, none of them guessed what was going on and in some cases the teachers got really close to them.  The kids took it in good spirits and the hall erupted in laughter.  A great way to end the academic year.  I wish I could share it but have a feeling there are many data protection and student privacy issues involved! 

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Every picture tells a story

I was busy getting ready for work this morning when I heard my daughter exclaim 'Oh my goodness, whatever is he doing?'.  The kind of comment that rouses you from early morning grogginess and makes you wonder who she's talking about and what, indeed, they are doing.  Of course it related to her brother and that wonderful news factory - Facebook.  Someone has posted a photo of my son, holding hands with a Masaii man, jumping about 2 feet in the air with a circle of Masaii warriors behind them.  I do hope that his knowledge of Swahili was enough to understand what ritual he was taking part in.  
It is great to unexpectedly see photos of him getting involved in African life and customs but equally frustrating to not know the full story behind them.  I can't believe he's half way through his trip now, in some ways it is flying by, in others it feels like he's been gone for months.  All I know is, I can't wait to see him again and hear all about it.  In the meantime, we will have to rely on Facebook to see what he is getting up to!

Monday 16 July 2012

Hello Monday

  • Mondays rock...Anyone who doesn't like mondays, must not just work 3 days a week like I do.   {unknown - quote from google}
  • Hello Monday - this is the last Monday I will have to work until September 10
  • Hello Monday - even though I only work half a day, I still have to fit in a whole day's work
  • Hello Monday - I see someone forgot to turn off the rain again
  • Hello Monday - Jon is now officially half way through his trip to Africa.  Which means he's half way towards coming home again :-)
  • Hello Monday - someone came in and stole all my energy, I need an afternoon power nap
  • Hello Monday - I just checked Facebook and saw a picture of Jon at the Hot Springs near Arusha, I have a broad grin on my face now.  How I miss that boy.
  • Hello Monday - it's only 3 days now until I see the hospital consultant and find out if I'm allowed to fly out on holiday next week
  • Hello Monday - I just had to completely empty my wardrobe searching for a short sleeved black shrug to wear tomorrow - only to find out that I had worn it last week and it had been left downstairs.  So now I have heaps of clothes on my bed needing to be hung up again.  
  • Hello Monday - this week the '28 days of sketches' class starts over here  and I will never have an excuse for not having inspiration again.  Anyone else signed up for this?

Sunday 15 July 2012

Ah, the sound of leather on willow

Or to put it another way Number 14 - A person playing with a ball.
I live practically next to the local cricket pitch and it's quite relaxing to hear the sound of cricket balls being hit and a polite round of applause from the spectators on a Sunday afternoon.  Not quite so nice when someone hits the ball so hard it clears the boundary and comes flying over the hedge at the end of our cul-de-sac.  Sometimes there are a few lucky escapes for any cars parked on driveways!  The family whose house is literally sideways onto the pitch once had a cricket ball come flying in through their bathroom window - that was a bit of a surprise. 
When I saw Number 14 on Rinda's list I was quite expecting to have to engineer a game of football in the garden to get a photo, but on my early morning walk today I suddenly realised that there was already somewhere close to home where men play with balls every Sunday!  I've been amazed how many of the categories this year are actually available without leaving town, you just have to open your eyes a little.  I was going to try and zoom in for a close up but thought that it might be nice to see the whole scenario to put it into context.  It feels like a 'spot the ball' competition and so to help you out, the ball is actually in flight and I've given you a clue in this edited version! 

Saturday 14 July 2012

Two more to tick off the list

When I did my post about school uniform on Thursday, it had totally slipped my mind that things may be different outside the UK!  Over here, it is the norm to have a uniform at school, even in the 6th form (age 16 – 18) and I have to say, it does speed up the morning routine when you don’t have to think about what you are going to wear!

So I have ticked off another two scavenger hunt photos.  In a brief period when it wasn’t raining, I took Coco for a walk and noticed that the border between grass and driveway at home would fit the category Number 3 – A border.

3 A border This morning I went into town and noticed this whilst waiting for the traffic lights to turn from red to green.  Number 19 – An outdoor stairway

19 outdoor stairwayI have to say that if this had not been a rainy Saturday morning, there is no way I would have been able to take a photo of this stairway with no people cluttering up the photo.  It leads to what is undoubtedly the most popular outdoor terrace in town.  On a sunny day, this place is heaving with customers and every table full of people enjoying a glass of wine and a plate of tapas or a cappuccino and a pastry.   This building is what used to be the Corn Exchange in town and as one of the more important historical buildings which dates back to the early 1800s, could double as a ‘historical landmark’!  When driving home, I noticed what may be a better outdoor stairway but by then it was pouring with rain, so I may return there at a later date and see which picture I prefer. 

Exciting news – one of the reasons we went into town this morning was for my husband to buy a new camera!  A digital SLR which I have been hoping he would buy for some time now.  He used to be such a keen photographer back in the 70s when cameras used film and was a regular member of the local camera club.  At that time I was happy to let him have control of the ‘proper’ camera while I used my little compact one, but I have plans to share this one!  I really want to learn how to take better pictures and I am determined to ‘get out of manual settings’ and take control of the final picture.  At the moment the battery is charging and he is busy taking it all out of the box and setting it up but as soon as it is up and ready I intend to get my hands on it as often as I can.  For those with an interest it is a Nikon D5100.  Be prepared for more photos per blog post …

Thursday 12 July 2012


Today was secondary transfer day for schools in our area.  The day when all the girls coming to our school in September come for a taster day.  They look so small {even to me, but by Christmas they will all be taller than me I bet} and nervous and excited.  The routines of secondary school that we take for granted are all so new.  Having to change rooms for each lesson instead of staying in the same desk all day is a big surprise.  Our school is over 100 years old so has many buildings that have been built on over the years so for some lessons you can have quite a trek going from indoors to outdoors, across a tennis court, round the back of the gym, past the swimming pool and dance studio...  A map of the school is one of the first things they are given.  I've worked there for over ten years and there are still some parts of the school I've never been to!
Very soon, their parents will be spending vast quantities of money on new uniform.  Several sizes too big, because they will grow into them - we've all been there haven't we?  There were some pieces of PE equipment I bought for my daughter that were never, ever worn (like mother like daughter)!  Our uniform is not particularly appealing.  It's brown.  Brown skirt and blazer with a brown and white striped blouse.  Brown socks, brown shoes, brown hair accessories.  We considered changing it a few years ago and asked for students' opinions.  Strangely enough, Facebook groups were started from ex-students calling for us to 'save our brown uniform'.  The same girls who moaned about it for 7 years while they were there!  I think that complaining about your uniform and trying to rebel by not wearing it properly is all part of the rite of passage.  Our skirts used to be calf length pleated kilts.  So the girls started wearing them longer and longer until they were floor length.  We changed to knee length as safety was becoming an issue, and now they roll them up as short as they can.  Do they not realise that by turning over the waistband half a dozen times, they are actually adding about 6" to their waistlines?  We also have to smile at the orange fake tans of the Year 10 girls.  One day they will look back on their school photos and say 'what was I thinking?'.   Our reception desk looks like a counter of Boots the Chemist as we regularly have girls sent down to remove nail varnish or makeup.  'But I'm hardly wearing any' they cry as the cotton wool pad soaked in make up remover turns from pristine white to a muddy brown.  'These are my natural eyelashes' they insist - I don't think so!  No extremes of hairstyle the home/school agreement says.  Extreme is obviously a matter of opinion.  The latest thing here is 'dip dying' where the top of your head is brown/blonde and the ends are coloured.  I don't think anyone could successfully argue the case that purple tips to the end of your hair is 'natural'.
Yes, you look at those little girls, aged 11, keen to move onto High School.  Desperate to fit in, and promising to follow the rules.  Yet you know that in a few years time they will be pushing boundaries and no matter how much we chuckle about it in the office, we all know were were EXACTLY the same.  Do you remember 'adapting' your school uniform? 
Can you believe that me and my three friends here are all wearing the same school uniform?

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Quiet please

I’ve found Number 13 – A Library.
13 library
I had a look at the local library in town as I drove past it a couple of days ago and it’s very uninspiring, and then I had a brainwave.  Where do I work?  A school.  Where do students go to borrow books?  The library.  It was just a few steps down the hall from my office all this time and I hadn’t thought to use it.  Now, the only problem is that because this library is in a school, there are always students using it and data protection means that I can’t take a photo that shows a student.  So, I’ve had to make do with a  book display on the Olympics (very topical) which is just inside the foyer.  You’ll just have to believe me that it is in the entrance to the library! 
When I was little I used to love the idea of working in a library.  I loved the little brown card pockets that they would put the library card into, but most of all I loved that stamp they used to print the date that you had to return the book on the front sheet.  Of course, this is now showing my age, when I last went to the public library it was very high tech.  Not to mention ‘do it yourself’.  You scanned your bar code on the book, pressed a button to say if you were taking the book out or returning it, things flashed up on screens, machines bleeped and you’re good to go.  Walking through a security gate that would pick up if you were trying to escape with an unscanned book.  The atmosphere in libraries is different too.  Gone are the days of silence.  Just a feeling of people browsing, and relaxing, and discovering.  Our school librarian says that most of the many girls who have joined her after school book club come mainly for the chocolate chip cookies and orange squash, but I beg to differ.  They’re there to discover the absolute pleasure of absorbing yourself into a book.  Of discovering new worlds of imagination.  Of knowing that if you have a good book in your hand, you’ll never  be bored.  The choc chip cookie is just an added bonus. 

Monday 9 July 2012

Hello Monday

Joining in the theme that Alison mentions in her blog today!

  • Hello Monday - it's a shame the expiry date has passed on this voucher!
  • Hello Monday - isn't it great that I only have to work 8.30 - 12.30 for the first day of the week
  • Hello Monday - how nice of you to stop raining for a few hours today
  • Hello Monday - I still don't feel well enough to go to my Rosemary Conley class but in my mind I'm exercising
  • Hello Monday - all my ironing is up to date; that won't last long
  • Hello Monday - and now you are almost over, I only have one more Monday to go until the summer holidays begin

Sunday 8 July 2012

Hunting down a poster

I don't often go to the cinema.  Even though every time I do go I say that I really ought to go more often!  We do have a cinema in town, but it's in a badly thought out area, right on the edge of town, right by the railway station and there's no easy parking as the closest car park is always full of commuters' cars.  But yesterday as I was walking back to our car after seeing the Olympic torch relay, we had to go past the cinema.  So as Number 18 on Rinda's Scavenger Hunt is A movie poster, I had to make a detour!
Outside the cinema were not one, but four posters
As I was taking the photo, something caught my eye inside the foyer ...
An 'interactive' poster.  You can stand by the side of Ted and 'take a tinkle with Ted' and upload it to their Facebook page.  However, I wasn't sure that was the kind of photo I wanted in my Scavenger Hunt album!  Which picture do you think I should choose as my official Number 18?

Saturday 7 July 2012

Olympic Torch comes to town

Our town became part of the route that the Olympic torch is taking on it’s way round the country today.  I couldn’t decide whether or not to go and queue up to see it but at the last minute decided that if we could park up easily and find a space along the route, then we would and if not we would turn back and go home.  So we found a side road to park in for free, walked down into town (popping into the Portuguese deli on the way to stock up on ‘Nata’ custard tarts and a coffee to take away) and easily found a space which was a good vantage point.  30 mins before it was due to arrive, the skies darkened and the cagoules came out just as the first heavy drops of rain started! 

Nevertheless, it was a good atmosphere and the crowds were not put off staying.  The flag sellers and people selling fake gold medals were doing a roaring trade around us.  The rain stopped, the sun came back out and we then discovered that quite by accident, we had positioned ourselves exactly at a point where a handover was going to take place!  I think there may well be a layout made from these photos in the near future …

flag seller mascot P1030659 handover2 relay 2 handover3 torch 2

I’m so pleased we decided to go as it really was a once in a lifetime experience and we were just so lucky with the photos we were able to get.  Has anyone else had the flame go through their town yet? 

Thursday 5 July 2012

An A-maze-ing discovery

Yes, you guessed it, I’ve found Scavenger Hunt Number 12 – A maze, labyrinth or trail.
12 Maze
I hope it is clear that it is a maze, but it’s hard to take a picture at ground level that shows it to it’s best effect.  When they designed the Country Park which is close to where I live, they allocated a large square area that was to be a dog-free zone and has been left as a pasture, except they cut a maze into the grass over the summer period.   At the centre of the maze is a picnic table and benches.   A month ago you could barely see the difference between the pathway and the grass, but now it is starting to show.  As the grass grows I may be able to get a better picture but in the meantime, this is my maze.
Had a text from my intrepid explorer son this lunchtime.  A man of few words, but apparently he’s started his teaching now.  The children are really cute and love him apparently.  I can understand that!  Seems hard to imagine what he’s doing and what his average day is like.  Also hard to believe that it is almost a week since he left.  Needless to say, I spent the afternoon with a happy smile on my face after reading his message.  
The Olympic Flame is coming through our town on Saturday.  For about 10 minutes I think!  I’d like to go and see it on it’s journey but I suspect that it’ll be pretty crowded and at 5’ 1”, I’m hardly likely to be able to see much.  So please don’t expect to see any close up photos on my blog, it’s more likely to be the back of someone’s head.  Has anyone else seen it on it’s travels?

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Come in Number 10

10 A horse

Scavenger Hunt picture of ‘A Horse’.  Done.  I drive past a local stable every day on my way to work and so knew I would be able to tick this one off fairly easily.  However, this horse was determined to make an easy photo as difficult as it possibly could.  It’s pretty marshy down by the entrance to the paddock because of all the rain we’ve had recently and I’m only 5’ 1” so I had to be on tippy toes anyway to get a photo with no gate railings in the way.  The minute I had the horse in my view finder, it gave a whinny, shook it’s mane and did a circuit of the field.   We played this little game a few times and just as I thought I was going to have to give up and go home, it got bored and came close enough and stayed still enough for a photo.  The other wildlife was far more cooperative.


Talking of wildlife, my daughter took the dog for a birthday treat of a walk in the forest last night.  We live pretty close to Hatfield Forest and it’s lovely to go for long walks over there.  I knew something had happened when I had a phone call asking me to run a bath for when they got home.  Someone had got rather over excited rolling around in the field where the cows had been grazing.  I’ll say no more.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

In praise of Facebook

See that young man in the red shorts in the middle of the river that runs through the Tanzanian jungle on the way up to Mt Meru?  That's my boy.  Wading across slippery stones in the middle of nowhere.  There's probably snakes in that undergrowth.  Does he look like he's wearing sensible shoes? I'm not even sure he took sensible shoes.  And where's his hat?  
There are times when I love Facebook.  It's such a great way to keep in touch and to feel like you are included in things going on across the other side of the world.  I love it when I log on and see that J is tagged in someone's photo and I can click on it and see what he is up to.  There were quite a few other photos which I have also copied but don't like showing other people's faces without their permission.  Let's just say they look a happy bunch of volunteers.  And that makes me a reassured mum. 

Monday 2 July 2012

Back to normal - or trying to

Well, it is now a whole week since I returned from hospital and I think it's time to try and resume normal day to day routine.  Which kind of includes going back to work.  Never thought I would hear myself say it but I can't wait to get back!  ~ remind me about that next time I moan about it ~
Hopefully, leaving the confines of my home will mean I can crack on with some more scavenger photos - there's only so much you can find inside the house or outside in the garden!  But Number 2 A Clothesline was clearly destined to be found at home: 

Five minutes after this was taken, every line was full of clothes that J had put out to be washed after he had done his packing before leaving for Africa.  Boys!
Now, a bit of a technical question for you all.  Is anyone else having problems with Blogger turning their photos sideways?  Any picture I take in a portrait orientation is being displayed sideways - unless I write my post via Windows Live Writer.  I upload them - as normal.  I rotate them and save them - as normal. Then I write a post - as normal.  Click on insert image - as normal.  But it displays it sideways and it is driving me mad!  Is it happening to anyone else and if so, how do I get it to behave itself?   
Received a message from my boy yesterday afternoon: "Today we went up a mountain on motorbikes which was very scary, then we trekked through the jungle with the help of a few tiny boys who dragged us across rivers, up rocks and through bushes!  Everyone here is very nice and we are all looking forward to starting teaching."  Motorbikes?  Did I not put motorbikes on my list of things he shouldn't be doing while he is out there?!

Sunday 1 July 2012

Storytelling Sunday - An unwanted passenger.

It's September 1979.  My niece, Kirsty, is coming up for four and knows exactly what she wants for her birthday.  A shopping bag on wheels.  Like Nanny has.  It has to have 2 wheels at the back and it has to have a cover that comes right up over the top to make a lid.  And it has to have plenty of room in it to put all the kind of shopping that a four year old needs to buy. 

Aunty Deb sets off to the shops with one aim in mind.  To locate that toy trolley and buy it.  1979 Britain does not have Toys r Us.  It doesn't have Early Learning Centre.  It doesn't have internet shopping.  Tracking down a shopping trolley demands much walking around and searching.  If I'd chosen the easier option of a Barbie doll there would have been no problem.  I tried Woolworths, Debenhams and the toy section of a smaller department store.  Nothing.  I went off the main shopping trail and ended up on the outskirts of town where there was a really old fashioned toy shop.  It was musty and dusty and the shelves were full to overflowing so that you were scared to look round too much in case you knocked something over and an avalanche would begin.  Still no sign of the shopping bag.  When the shopkeeper asked if he could help, I sighed and said 'I don't suppose you have a toy shopping bag on wheels do you?' and he sighed and gave me a thoughtful look.  'I think I might have one, not on the shop floor but in the stock room' and off he went.  He was gone some time.
But when he returned he had just the thing I had been searching for, it was even the same colour as Nanny's.  I think he was surprised by how happy I was, clearly this had been in the stock room for some time and he must have thought he would never sell it!  I carried it back to the car, put it on the back seat and happily returned home.  Took it out of the car, and left it in the hallway while I went to have my dinner.  After dinner I went to go upstairs to get ready to go out and noticed the bag had been knocked over and the dog was playing with something in the hallway.  Something, small.  Something furry.  Something that was squeaking. 
It would appear that I had inadvertently been given a free gift with the bag, and that a little mouse had stowed away inside it.  Can you imagine what would have happened if that little creature had escaped in the inside of my car?  I still get shivers when I try to imagine what I would have done if I had suddenly had a mouse crawl over me while driving!  Moral to this story.  Always put your shopping in the boot - just in case!