Monday, May 31, 2010

Note from candidate

This sort of thing is rare but always brings a smile...

90 scripts marked. 125 to go.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tempting day out?

See below for another conference that I think I might avoid. Though actually, it's probably very worthy and might be interesting. If it were only advertised in normal language, I'd be tempted. What's "learner engagement strategy"? (Getting them to listen to you...)

Focusing on key events driving student engagement and the wide range of strategies enjoying success in Scotland’s colleges, this three day event will examine the required foundations, pillars and apex of a learner engagement strategy and lead to:

* Sharing of engagement strategies in a range of settings including employers and the voluntary sector
* Creative ideas for college led forms and mechanisms of engagement
* Connections between learner engagement and self-evaluation systems.

Daren't visit any blogs. Back to marking. Getting through loads of tissues. Can't breathe through my nose and can't smell a thing. How unfair is that, at lilac and lily-of-the-valley time?

Cough cough.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

On the train

On the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh - cities which are traditional rivals:

Man with Glasgow accent to train attendant wheeling coffee and biscuits trolley: Have you got any cereal bars?
Attendant with Edinburgh accent: Yes - they're expensive, mind.
Man: Will it break the bank?
Attendant: 'Fraid so. £1.50.
Man: It better be good.
Attendant: It will be. It's from Edinburgh. That speaks volumes.

No, no, I'm just about to do my marking. Yes, I may have paused to make a banana cake but I had three over-ripe bananas. What could I do? And yes, I've just spent some time footering about with minor adjustments to the church magazine, of which I'm editor but you know - I have my standards. But marking's next. See me go!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


On Monday, I left Cassie Cat busy in the garden

and ignored that tempting chair in the sunshine

and the lilac, filling the air with the sweetest perfume in the world

and the clematis scrambling over the sitooterie

and the dicentra, nodding in the shade

and got on a train to Glasgow for a markers' meeting.

It was a pleasant journey.

The meeting was in a hotel beside the River Clyde, with its rather futuristic buildings.

BBC Scotland - how exciting to work there. (Or so one fancies.)

But then I had to go in. Crowne Plaza - why CrownE, I wonder? Is it a Ye Olde Shoppe sort of spoof archaism? And why Plaza? Not exactly a British word.

Some hours later, back on the train.

Cows grazed bucolically near fields of startlingly bright yellow rape.

A rural nook near a little town.

And home. A vase of lilac; and another of lily-of-the-valley, the most fragrant thug in our garden.

200 scripts, two and a half weeks to do them. And now it's raining and I have a cold.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Election thoughts

Of course, a British blogger with her finger on the pulse (don’t like throbbing-type pulses myself – too reminiscent of blood and veins… ugh…. - though as a vegetarian I'm fine with the bean-type pulses) would have been writing about the little election that we had on May 6. In case you’re not British and haven’t been watching the international news, we had a choice for Prime Minister between the chap in the job – the Labour Party’s Gordon Brown, a pugnacious-looking Scot (above) -

– and two lookalike posh English boys – Conservative David Cameron (above)

and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg. They all have good hair. (Though Cameron is a Scottish name. And “clegg” is the Scottish word for horse fly.)

I can’t really get myself interested in politics. I’m not proud of this, since I can see that it’s actually very important. So from time to time I pull myself together and read a few worthy articles to firm up my opinions. But my mind wanders, I must confess. The three of them had several television debates, which a serious person would have watched. I did watch the odd bit. But I got distracted by that funny twitchy thing that Gordon Brown does with his mouth and by the fact that the three of them all wore grey suits, white shirts and self-coloured ties and were the same height. I kept being struck by David Cameron's facial resemblance both to Nick Clegg and to an egg. (Or indeed half a bottom, as someone said on the radio. Oh no! I’ve used that word again.)

Scotland is a very small country where everybody knows everybody else or at least his cousin. Gordon Brown’s big brother was a friend of Mr Life's when they were small boys. It’s hard to take one’s husband's friend’s little brother seriously as Prime Minister. And my dad had dealings with GB when he (my dad) was on the University Court and GB was the student Rector. Dad thought GB was very arrogant – though it has to be admitted that Dad viewed himself as being invariably right about everything, so possibly he might not have been the best judge.

Anyway, GB and Labour got defeated, but not by much, as did NC and the Lib Dems, while DC’s Conservatives won but not by enough for an overall majority. So we have a coalition for the first time since the war. The Lib Dems threw in their lot with the Conservatives, but not immediately, so that I went off to work one morning to the news that the Lib Dems were entering negotiations with Labour and by the time I was driving home, the newsreaders were announcing David Cameron as the Conservative Prime Minister with young Clegg as Deputy PM. All very astonishing. Even I was mildly intrigued.

But really I’m much more interested in books, cats and flowers. Very shallow, I know, and if it makes it any better, I am ashamed of myself.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Random pictures from the last week

It was Mum's birthday and Daughter 1 knitted her a shawl.

She was 88 - you'd not have guessed, would you?

Our crab apple tree bloomed.

At a different family party, we celebrated that Son-in-Law was 30 and Mr Life was over twice as old. They shared a cake.

Daughter 2 played with Cassie (you can just see Cassie's ears).

Sirius got cuddled by the girls. Our son was also home but he doesn't seem to be in these pictures.
And now I must rush up to my mother's house for the night.

Fluff and slugs

I don't look at my statistics every day or even every week but I do keep a vague eye on them from time to time, and there have been two occasions recently when there's been a steep spike in the numbers reading my blog. Both times, I tracked back, curious to see which sparkling gems of literary usage had attracted unusual attention.

And both times I was initially baffled as to what in my inconsequential babblings could have caused people to find me. And eventually I decided that it must have been the following:

1) I wrote about Cassie Cat sitting on a nettle. I referred to her... blunt end... using the word which I will represent here as b-t-m, ie rhyming with "got 'em". (Can there really be people with nothing better to do than to Google this word? Urgh.)

2) I wrote about throwing slugs over a wall and referred to this as (first word) u-b-n (second word) t-r-o-i-m, ie (first word) a word for "city" followed by (second word) a near-rhyme with "heroism". (Argh.)

How disappointed these people must have been to find my silly blog. But it's a bit... unnerving ... don't you think?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I was listening at the weekend to a radio programme in which a presenter was visiting a beekeeper and his hives. It was clear from the presenter’s unenthusiastic tones that he was not a great fan of bees at close quarters.

“Will they sting me?” he asked anxiously.

“Oh no,” the beekeeper reassured him. Then honesty got the better of him. “Actually,” he went on, “they might. You do get stung from time to time. But, you know… it makes it exciting. It’s all part of the challenge of keeping bees. Otherwise you might as well keep flies.”

There was a pause and the presenter said meekly, “I quite fancy keeping flies.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

Best served cold

Our book group on Friday was at J’s. J lives opposite A in a very upmarket area of large, stone-built detached houses set in big gardens. We usually take a while to get around to discussing the actual book – we have to catch up on our holiday plans, our children’s and pets’ latest accomplishments or crises and how we’re feeling about the election, the weather, the road works and so on.

Which is how our hostess started telling us about the neighbours along the road who have built what J and A consider to be an inappropriate extension to their house. Quite apart from the eyesore factor, what really annoyed the rest of the inhabitants of the street was the mess the builders had left on the pavement, the obstruction caused by piles of bricks, the noise of machinery and the constant inning and outing of vans.

“I felt like doing something bad, like…” J considered ”… writing rude things on their car with lipstick.”

We shook our heads at such a wicked idea.

“Actually –" A leaned towards us, looked over her shoulder and raised her eyebrows dramatically, “M - she lives next door to the house with the extension - has taken revenge! Don’t tell anyone, though.”

We all nodded, trying to look at the same time curious and discreet.

“Last week –" dramatic pause – “she threw some of her slugs over the wall into their garden.”

Urban terrorism? Alive and well and living in the Grange.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Hospital visiting

We're coming up to the national exams in Scotland, the time of year when all the students who have been coasting along, thinking of education as something that’s just poured into their brains, have suddenly decided to do lots of work. They then give it to me to mark. So I’ve been rather busy.

My deaf, confused aunt is still in hospital. Her hip is mending but she seems to have some problem with low blood pressure or possibly her heart. The hospital's about half an hour from here so the round trip takes up a goodly portion of the evening, which doesn’t help the marking. When I visited her yesterday, one of her hearing aids was missing and as I rooted around looking for it, a nice young doctor appeared. Because my son is also a nice young doctor, I smiled warmly at this one. The only snag about him was that he was foreign – maybe Greek or something? – and so even I had some difficulty understanding him. Auntie Jean clearly couldn’t hear a word, though he decently bent over her and shouted in her ear, which helped a bit.

He knew that she too is a doctor. Indeed she can still talk impressively about doctorish matters even though she can’t tell you what she had for her tea. So he addressed to her in medical terms, which I’m sure she would have appreciated if she could have heard him. And of course I, who could hear him, found the accent quite challenging and didn’t know what he was talking about anyway.

Auntie Jean: I’m going home tomorrow.

Nice young doctor: Well, we’re just going to do a JPD test on your haematitis to check for any peridot. [This isn’t what he said at all, of course, but he made sounds approximating to these words.]

Auntie Jean: Very nice, thank you.

Me: What’s a JPD test?

NYD: It’s a [something I couldn’t make out] to make sure that she [something else I couldn’t make out]. And a bit of oxymoron [or whatever].

AJ: I’m going home tomorrow.

NYD: [Loudly] No, not tomorrow. We need to get you checked out first for PRD.

AJ: Yes, and it's wise to make sure there's no ultrapulmonary fusion [or words to that effect].

NYD: [nodding] Yes.

Me: PRD?

NYD: Postural random dentifrice [or something] – her blood and [something I couldn’t make out].

Me: Oh.

AJ: Is it tomorrow I’m going home?

The three of us smiled bemusedly at each other and after a bit more, he moved on to the next patient. However, I really appreciated his attempts to communicate and felt sure that his mum would have been proud of him.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Just asking

When our son persuaded us three years ago to get cats, we didn't expect that he would depart from the city quite so soon. But he did; and now we're cat-owners - devoted and doting ones. Cassie and Sirius bring us lots of furry joy, but holidays are a problem.

The major one is going to be at the beginning of July, when the whole family (doctoral shifts permitting) will be down in York for a long weekend to celebrate my Very Big Birthday. I have friends and a neighbour who're always willing to pop in and wield the Meaty Chunks, but we'd prefer to have someone living in the house to keep our furry friends company from time to time.

Anyone want a free cat-sitting holiday in Edinburgh? We leave on Friday July 2 and return on Tuesday July 6. Our house is about two miles from the city centre - in a quiet street but two minutes from a bus stop where there are various buses into town.

Then there are the two first weeks in August - actually Friday July 31-Sat August 14. Daughter 2 will probably be free to come and live in the house then - unless of course she's got a new job by then and it's in a distant location - sob - but on the other hand, if any bloggy friends would like to visit the city recently voted among the 25 best tourist destinations in the world (ie Edinburgh) then drop me a comment.
Coming for just part of either time would be fine.

This is what the view from our front door was like in December.

And this was it on Sunday. I'd hope it that in July / August it will resemble the lower one rather more than the upper one.
(Cassie is sitting on my knee as I type. Her fur is very very soft and she's purring gently. She's actually a strong personality who rules us all firmly - iron paw in fluffy glove - but she's doing her sweet-kitten-on-greetings-card act. Works every time. Sirius is more velvety than fluffy and he's a bit of a wimp - laid back and compliant. He's such a nice boy! )

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Courtesy of Daughter 2

“If I had a blog,” said Daughter 2 today, “I’d blog about a conversation I heard in the supermarket the other day.”

(Who could ignore this temptation?)

“There was a small girl of about two chatting away and she said to her mum, Does everyone have arms?

The mum said, Well no, some people don’t.

Why don’t they?

Well, soldiers - or civilians - in Afghanistan. Their arms might have got blown off.

This really wasn’t the answer I would have given so I looked at the little girl to see her reaction. She just considered for a while and then said, But do we know anyone without arms?

To which the mother replied, Well no, but we don’t know any soldiers."


They were, Daughter 2 said, quite posh people.

Also strange, also from Daughter 2 but on a more cheerful note: have you seen this Youtube video of the remarkable standing-up cat?