Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reasons to be cheerful

Goodness me, waiting for pictures to load on to my blog is like watching someone give birth. Come on, Blogger, just one more little push - you can do it. And the green worm thing painfully squeezes the photo out - Done!

Look at this petunia that Daughter 1 and SIL bought me months ago. Wouldn't that just gladden your heart? Nearly October and it's still shouting pinkly "Look at me!"

A few weeks ago I bought some bulbs and this morning I thought that it was about time I planted them. I'd forgotten that among these were two autumn crocuses, which I've never bought before because the leaves are enormous later in the year. However, I succumbed this year. When I opened the brown paper bag that the bulbs were in, one of the autumn crocuses looked like this.

But the other looked like this.

The poor thing had decided that it was time to flower and had just gone ahead, in its net prison, in the dark. And it was lovely! - actually pale pink, though it doesn't show up on my photo.

Isn't nature wonderful? I've now planted it in the garden.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Trying to look on the bright side

Thursday seems to be my blogging evening, since I don’t have any classes on Friday mornings and therefore have no urgent marking to do the night before. Though I do have the girlies at lunch time… but actually they’re beginning to grow on me. Last week they actually asked for more punctuation lessons; well, that’s an easy request.

Life is rather stressful at the moment and I’m not quite sure what to worry about first. There’s the Daughter 1 problem – she’s between jobs, or at least she’s temping as a secretary, but hasn’t got another archivist contract yet. And then her husband is always liable to be depressed if things go wrong, or indeed often if they don’t. Daughter 2’s aspiring-actor boyfriend is another great source of anxiety. I don’t know whether to hope that he makes it as an actor, in which case he’ll undoubtedly spirit her off down to London, or that he doesn’t, in which case he’ll be disappointed. I don’t imagine that he actually will make it, because most don’t seem to. But how long will it take him to accept this? And Daughter 2 isn’t terribly well in a sort of undefined way: tired, pale, occasionally dizzy. She’s been to the doctor and had all sorts of tests, all negative, so I suppose she’s maybe just stressed too.

And now my dad’s in hospital. He’s 86 and ill in various ways, such as having a lot of sarcomas – tumours of the muscle and such like – and arthritis, and he’s deaf and very grumpy and getting a bit confused. On Sunday evening at 8, he suddenly couldn’t get up out of his chair in the kitchen. We just couldn’t get him moved because it caused him so much pain, and – to cut a long story short – we eventually persuaded the health service to send an ambulance, and my son and I accompanied him to hospital, where he was finally admitted to a ward at about 3.30 am. He’s had various tests and these seem to indicate so far that he has a fracture of the pelvis. And it seems possible that this is a result of the cancer. Meanwhile my mum, who’s 84 and not in fantastic health, though much more able to get around and much better-tempered, is worrying about how she’ll cope if they send him home. Sigh.

And today some bright spark in our marketing department decided to hand out helium balloons with the college name on them to the students. Well, what would you do with a free helium balloon if you were 18? That’s right. I had lots of students having enormous fun talking in cartoon voices right outside the windows of the room I was trying to teach in.

Okay, yes, it was quite funny.

And it’s lovely weather for autumn and there’s still lots of colour in the garden. So life's not all bad.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A day out

Monday was an Edinburgh holiday and the Husband and I decided to go for a little day trip. Not far: just to Fife, which is over the River Forth to the north. Our offspring are now 27, 25 and newly 22, and though I find it very hard to part with them, they do, naturally, have lives of their own. So he and I sometimes find ourselves doing things together without any of them.

Which is quite strange and really quite new. And it’s nice that we still like each other, 32 and a half years into our marriage. We actually met in about 1964 – 42 years ago – if you can call it meeting. We went to the same church and just gradually became aware of each other, though I would have to say that I think I became aware of him before he became aware of me… . I actually precipitated things by asking him to my school Christmas dance.

He claims that he would have eventually got round to asking me out but just needed a bit of encouragement. Anyway, we started going out when I was 17 and he was 19, which was 39 years ago, and here we are. I certainly didn’t think at the time that I was finding myself a husband. You just don’t imagine that far ahead at 17.

We were married for 6 years before we had Daughter 1, but it’s hard to think in detail of what those 6 years were like. Actually, they must be documented in the diaries that I’ve kept since I was 15, but I can hardly remember not knowing the children. What did we talk about? Once children arrive they’re an all-consuming interest, and even now they’re grown-up, they still tend to be the topic of our conversation. It’s so interesting following their careers and interests, and – pathetic though this sounds – living vicariously through them. Daughter 1 is a trainee archivist, Daughter 2 a junior architect and Son a medical student, and through them we kind of feel experts in all of those fields. Would you care for us to delve into your cupboards, design you a house or diagnose your diabetes?

We’re a very close family and feel so lucky to have had the young ones living at home so long. However, Daughter 1 has flown the nest and I need to face up to the fact that the others can’t be all that far behind. So Husband I need to start redeveloping our lives; hence the Darby and Joan day trip . We wandered around Pittenweem (above and below), a fishing village which has various galleries showing the work of local artists, and we bought a framed print for our sitting room. We had a leisurely lunch – and how cheap it is, paying for just two of us!

Then we visited Kellie Castle (below) which was built between the fourteenth and the seventeenth centuries, repaired various times, lived in by the Lorimer family during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – Sir Robert Lorimer was a famous architect - and is now open to the public. It was pleasant to wander round and imagine living there, and even more pleasant not to have to worry about the state of the roof and so on.

It has a lovely garden round the other side, which I covet. But I'll make do with mine for the moment.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

You can tell that I teach Communication

Earlier in the week, I decided to invite my Aunt Jean for a meal at the weekend. She’s a widow in her eighties, though she has quite an active social life, and we quite often have her at the house for family get-togethers. Since she’s quite deaf and also goes out a lot, I usually email her instead of phoning.

So this is what I did. My email said:


Feel we haven’t seen you much for ages. Would you be free to come to tea on Sat or Sun, or indeed lunch on Sun if that were more convenient?

Lots of love, Isabelle

A few days passed and I was a bit surprised not to hear back. Slightly concerned, I decided to phone my aunt, but just before I did so, checked my email.

To my puzzlement, there was an email from some cousins of my father, which said:

Wouldn't that be nice, however we don't have a rocket ship at the moment.

We will be off to Linda's wee cottage for some work in her yard and then I suppose she will give us some dinner before we head back to Spring
Thanks for the invite, maybe another time.

Love to all, Jewel and Alex

Yup, that’s right. I had typed Je (for Jean) into my “To” box, and the computer had helpfully filled in Jewel’s email address. And I hadn’t noticed.

Since Jewel and Alex, who are also in their 80s, live in Spring, Texas, and we live in Edinburgh in Scotland, they must have thought that I had gone completely mad. But didn’t they answer politely?

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Well, as you possibly expected, we didn’t crash and we got home safely. I was glad we went. The bride’s mum and I have been friends since she came to my school in 1960 – which seems a fairly long time ago, even to me. We were best friends all through school and university, and then she went south to teacher training college in London, to be with her then fiancĂ©, later (though not for long) husband. She then remarried. The wedding was of the daughter of the second marriage.

It was a slightly unusual wedding. Both the bride and the groom are born-again Christians, so there was a lot of amplified guitar playing and much waving of hands in the air. The young couple were very pleased with each other, which was sweet. Their minister-type-person isn’t actually allowed to marry people, so they were married in a civil ceremony the day before and this service was really a blessing, I suppose, though it was conducted like a marriage. Or sort of. The minister chap – oh dear, how to write this without sounding really unkind? – was perhaps more of an enthusiast than an intellectual. His thoughts weren’t always expressed entirely grammatically. For example, they did the bit about vowing to love each other “till death do us part”, and he was later trying to refer to this. He said that they had “promised to love each other till…” and then you could see him trying to work it out – and then he plumped for “… till death do they part”. Hmm. Not quite.

My husband and I aren’t always perfect either, and spent quite a lot of Saturday getting lost in the wilds of the Somerset or Gloucestershire countryside. We hired a car at the airport and decided that we just had time before the wedding to drive to our Bed and Breakfast, which for some unaccountable reason we had booked from the list supplied in the wedding invitation even though it was in the middle of nowhere. Our actual reasoning had been that it wasn’t far from the reception venue. The trouble was that it was really quite a long way from the church. We got slightly lost on the way from the airport to the B and B, which meant that we were then a bit pressed for time. And Husband wasn’t taking the situation all that calmly.

The next part of the journey featured quite a lot of one-car-width country lanes with hardly any passing places and with high hedges on either side so that you had no idea where you were – except that it certainly didn’t look in reality like it looked on the map. At one point I persuaded my beloved that we should stop at a cottage and ask directions, and that helped till we got stuck going up a hill behind a tractor pulling a trailer full of stones which fell gently off the back and bounced down the road towards us.

Still, we made it to the church with quarter of an hour to spare and we’re still married.

Since then it’s been a rather frantic week with hardly any blog-reading time. We spent Sunday seeing the sights of Bristol and didn’t get home till late. Then on Mondays I have a full six hours teaching, followed this week by a meeting at the church in the evening. I teach till 9 pm on Tuesdays and then last night I took Daughter 1 to the supermarket. Tonight has featured a visit to my parents and now I must do some preparation for my “girlies” class tomorrow: 23 rather raucous school leavers who think they want to work with children. They are on the whole the 23 people you would least want to leave your children with, and I get them from 12.15 to 1.15 on a Friday, a time when their natural disinclination to do English is exacerbated by their need for their lunch. And I'm a bit the same. Still, the thing to do is to keep them busy with reasonably simple, but fairly time-consuming tasks. A couple of hours of preparation this evening ought to produce about an hour’s worth of things for them to do. Or fifty minutes’-worth, anyway.

Not saying there will necessarily be much educational value in it, but you can’t have everything.

Friday, September 08, 2006


We're off to Bristol tomorrow at some horribly early hour, and thence to Bath, where the daughter of my best friend from school - from the age of 10 - is getting married. We have to fly, since (being a teacher) I couldn't take time off work, and I'm TERRIFIED of planes. I won't be at all surprised to crash in flames. So if you never hear from me again...

On a more cheerful note, people looked at my blog on 59 occasions last week, and hardly any of them were me. I still haven't had time to respond, but - well, hello and (I hope) not goodbye. Keep your fingers crossed for us (does that help, I wonder?)

Thursday, September 07, 2006


This time, I resisted the temptation to look at my blog after writing it, until this afternoon, so as not to skew the stats counter, but then did, and was so pleased to find such lovely comments in response to what I suppose was my rather shameless request for them…. Thanks so much. Scottish greetings to you all!

I will respond, but just now must go and make a plum cake. My neighbour, once a year, arrives with a huge carrier bag full of delicious, but very ripe, Victoria plums from her tree, and it’s a race against decomposition to do things with them before they become woolly little squashy blobs. I made a cake the other day, and we’ve been eating lots of actual plums (extremely good for the digestion…) and Daughter 2 is stewing some to freeze, but I do feel it’s my duty to make a further cake (the first one is in the freezer).

I’m just back from trying to explain to my 84-year-old mum how to use her new mobile phone. She’s very together for her age, but technology’s not really her thing and she doesn’t learn as easily as she used to. And I felt a bit wappit (Scottish word for “tired”) after a day’s teaching even before this. Bath and bed are more what I feel like. Still, can’t waste plums.

To the kitchen!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Speaking to strangers

Daughter 1 has got me a stats counter. I can’t claim that the world as a whole is clamouring to read my wise words – in fact, really not many are at all – but still, I was a bit encouraged to see that my blog was looked at 69 times last week. Now, granted, some of these occasions were when I myself, rather pathetically, looked to see if anyone had commented. And not many had. But even if I looked twice some days (which I probably did, I fear; how sad – but then I was back at work and checking one’s blog does function as convenient work-avoidance) then this still leaves 55 other – is the word “hits”?

Again, I have to take into account that some of these were probably Daughter 1, with similar boredom-induced motives. But they can’t all be.

Life is so busy that it sometimes seems rather silly and pointless to go on blogging, when there are so many really good blogs around. But I’ll continue for a bit. The statistics seem to suggest that there are some people who read but don’t comment. Hello there, whoever you are.

I got an email from a colleague the other day saying that a student in her tutor group, who was also in my Higher English class, was very anxious in case I should ask her to read aloud in class. She was very embarrassed if she had to speak out in front of others. I replied that I never do ask students to do this, for this very sort of reason; but that actually she didn’t seem to be in my Higher English class.

Colleague, emailing back: No actually, you’re right. She’s elected to be in your Oral Presentation Skills optional class.

Me: Umm. Well, I’m afraid she will have to speak in front of others, then… Maybe she should change her option?

Colleague: I’ve just checked with her but she still wants to do it. She’s hoping to become a teacher.