Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Meditations On The Passing Of Time

Having been absent for some time, a Hebden Bridge weekend excursion forces my fingers to pound my keyboard once again. Perusing a vintage clothes shop, I came across a pair of black Dolcis shoes helpfully labelled “90s” for anyone not in the know. Recalling the brand made me feel my age and the sober walk home through a booze-drenched Leeds city centre did little to help. I returned home to a Kurt Cobain tribute show, marking the twentieth anniversary since his suicide.

Back in the 90s I was shopping in Dolcis and avidly listening to Nirvana, shocked and heartbroken by Kurt's death. At the time living in my teen bubble, the news seemed like the most important global story and I was sure my loyalty to my favourite band would remain strong throughout my adult life. Today, I still have magazine features published directly after the tragedy and continue to listen to their music but if you ask me what my favourite track is, I struggle to remember what songs come from which album.

Turning 35 this year is a depressing thought but an inevitable marking of time I'm going to have to resign myself to. I'm not sure I've visually aged as much as Krist Novoselic but my lifestyle has slowed in many ways and my outlook certainly altered. Just in the last few months, to a small degree, I've learnt to prioritise and with my exceedingly packed work schedule, have forced myself to limit on-line life. I'm now teaching kids born in the late nineties and surely this alone is enough to make me accept my age. With a wedding on the horizon, I'm gradually becoming the adult I perhaps should have been some time ago but taking the more mature OAP approach “Slowly, slowly...”

Sunday, 19 January 2014

No Neknominate

A new year and already more crazes I'm not quite ready to buy into. As someone who has been rather slow and reluctant to immerse myself in the huge variety of different social network mediums available, I'm dubious about what I'm willing to sign on to. I keep getting invites to link up with people on things like Google+ but as I'm already just about on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as managing two blogs and e-mail accounts, there's only a finite amount of on-line time I can manage per day if I want to actually have a life in the “real” world.

Once a reluctant mobile phone user, I'll begrudgingly admit having a Smartphone to check e-mails on the go is now hugely useful. I'm still, however, less sure about all these on-line fads, having recently read about the current “Property Porn” trend and even more mystifying “Neknominate”. With the ever-growing popularity of shows like Grand Designs, I can almost understand “Property Porn” browsing but “Neknominate” seems to be reviving scenes from films like Porky's and Animal House.

Originating in Australia “Neknominate” dares drinkers to find new ways of necking booze to then post evidence on-line before nominating a buddy to attempt to neck their drink in an equally inventive way. Facebook pages state the rules: “Neck your drink. Nominate another. Don’t break the chain, don’t be a d**k...” Swiftly descending into my mid-thirties, I'm more likely to become addicted to “Property Porn” than partake in a “Neknominate” challenge, although my New Year's resolution might just involve avoiding either.

Friday, 3 January 2014

All-Change At Christmas


This Christmas Day tradition was broken as I woke up in my default bedroom at my parent's house, rather than at my Nan's where this year's celebrations were being held. Every year my family (cousins, aunts etc) all descend on one house to stay for the duration of the festive season from Christmas Eve until the day after Boxing Day. I can barely remember a time when Christmas was not spent this way.

Over the years there's been talk of how things will change when things like babies arrive but I've generally brushed this aside, preferring to dwell in my safety bubble of routine. One year, I was slightly perturbed to spend Christmas away from my family in a whole other country during my year on the road. I, of course, rationalised this as unavoidable, a one-off and something to relish regardless but still tried to keep myself part of family tradition, dressing up on Boxing Day in fancy dress attire according to the chosen theme as is now customary and e-mailing over images of costumes.

This year, the “young ones” (my generation – the cousins and sis) were all apparently otherwise engaged on Christmas Eve so it had been decided to meet-up at church on the morning of Christmas Day to then move on to my Nan's where we'd stay for the next two nights. In addition to by-passing our traditional Christmas Eve meal, stockings were being over-looked.

Every year, regardless of age, members of my family open stockings together after church before lunch is served. Back in the day when we were wee ones, this was of course done before church. This year it was not part of the line-up so my mum, dad, sister, boyfriend and I were to open stockings together before driving over for church.

Naturally things didn't go according to plan and the elements intercepted. On Christmas Eve my sister announced she was stuck in Hereford due to flooding disrupting the rail network so would be spending Christmas alone; as she broke this news, my dad was ringing my mum to say he too was stranded in a flood zone. We spent Christmas Eve pointlessly waiting for the RAC's extremely shoddy service to never arrive and reschedule twice more days later.

As a result of these unexpected occurrences, we were one man down for stocking opening and my dad and I went to church alone while the others continued to rethink car loading. In addition to this, my cousin who's still in Australia was absent and another cousin controversially chose to spend much of Christmas with her extremely unpopular ex-husband, resulting in numbers being thin on the ground.

All being said, there were still fourteen of us for much of Christmas and the Port, Snowballs and Pudding Wine freely flowed. Aside from the Queen's speech, the no TV rule was vigorously applied with games played instead. There are preposterous photographs of us dressed as German characters, multiple black sacks of wrapping paper to show and my already worrying pre-Christmas paunch has grown considerably. Things change but it is all about what you make of it as this shockingly bad Christmas cracker joke, that divided the table, perfectly illustrates:  

Sunday, 22 December 2013

I'm All In A Fuddle

The last two and a half weeks have been such a mad frenzy of Ofsted, end of term string tying and festivities, I haven't managed to fit any time in to digest any fat. I've had my annual Christmas party in my flat and after accidentally ending up with 26 types of cheese, have been living off cheese ever since so already have my Christmas paunch before it's even begun! I've had The Boy's works do, two different departmental nights out and a whole school end of term shindig. On top of all of this, there have been various meet-ups, thirtieths and I've attended my first fuddle (at least, my first, knowing it is actually called this).

If, like me, the word “fuddle” is new to you, you'll find most definitions unhelpful as on-line reference sites generally define a “fuddle” as a “state of confusion or intoxication”. The intended meaning my department head had in mind for our lunchtime session was the dialectal word hailing from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Bedfordshire. In these places “fuddle” apparently refers to a picnic or party where attendees bring their own food. Food was certainly brought and consumed but sadly rather a lot of cheese still remains; it's once again ready to travel to yet more festivities elsewhere where I'm sure I'll end up in a bit of a fuddle... Happy Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

No Cat Walks But Plenty of Pretty Kitties

When I was a child, we had a Siamese tabby point cat. One year my mum decided he was such a character, he ought to be entered in a local cat show. Oscar was a pretty handsome boy and exceedingly good-natured so it was no surprise when he won a rosette. I can't remember much about the experience other than him being weighed and people cooing around him.

More than twenty years on, I re-lived the experience at the cat equivalent of Crufts: The Supreme Cat Show. Four of us ventured over to Birmingham for the night with pre-booked tickets, excited “Cat Day” had finally arrived and unsure of what to expect. Checking out impressive Comic-Con costumes on the way over, expectations were high.

We all hoped for some kind of cat assault course but unfortunately cats don't seem to be deemed suitable for such qualifiers. Instead, there was an enormous hall with a centre section of cat-related merchandise both for meows and their owners surrounded by cats of every breed imaginable and yet more stalls lining the walls.

There was very little to see or do, aside from judges inspecting cats and talks on how to treat cat diarrhoea. But it was still awesome because we got to go around meeting all sorts of dudey cats, gawp at comical fairytale-themed display cages and marvel at some rather eccentric owners, decked out in cat print clothes and jewellery.

On the whole the cats looked happy, despite some rather paranoid owners putting signs on cages warning against strokes and contact in fear of diseases being spread. Here are some favourite mementos from the day:

For fatty cats with balance who have VERY rich owners.
British Blues are awesome!
You can actually get four poster cat/dog beds too.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Cyber Monday Christmas “Must Haves”

Having browsed several different Christmas markets at the weekend and noted a strange pattern of stalls selling diamanté encrusted skulls, I thought I'd see what inspiration the web has to offer. Here are my favourite oddities and top trends:

1) Those keen to waste money can purchase “Nothing” .

2) For any South Park fans, you can buy your very own Mr Hanky.

3) Human moths can purchase from a weird selection of light-up novelties, ranging from show laces to laser fingers. And my personal favourite...

4) Anyone aiming for an erotic present that is more likely to be a laughable turn-off than prompt apres-dinner delight can opt for this pair of pudding nipple tassels.

5) For that hard-to-please relative, perhaps something from the extensive grow-your-own range is the answer. Think buddhas, yachts, pink convertibles, geeks, black taxis, London buses... pretty much anything!

6) For the truly awful, why not purchase a blue Justin Bieber teddy bear that has no real relevance to the Biebster, aside from having his name printed on its hoodie.
7) Finally, purchase an awful sign the recipient of your gift is likely to be too embarrassed to ever display.

If any of these take your fancy get in there before Cyber Monday on December 2.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Professional Misjudgement

Advancements in technology have resulted in weightier workloads as colleagues think nothing of sending multiple e-mails. In the past the necessity to create paper signs or hand-outs meant people were often more discerning, keen not to stretch restrictive photocopying budgets. These days, sending an e-mail is quick and cost effective, also ensuring there's always a point of reference if required. Unfortunately click happy colleagues significantly increase the amount of time I have to spend sifting through scores of e-mails to find information deemed important and relevant to me.

Each morning before my working day even technically begins, I have approximately twenty e-mails that multiply at an alarming rate throughout the day and this of course takes time to sort through - time I don't rally have. At the end of work this week, I'd failed to check my e-mails and again, had a daunting number of unread newbies awaiting my attention. A shocked colleague drew my attention to one e-mail someone had sent round to everyone in the wrong school. Intending to send this to staff in our partner school, “Jane The Pain”, seemed to judge the following to be perfectly acceptable to send out to colleagues and mark “For Females Only” in the subject box:

Whoever has pebble dashed the end toilet in the ladies staff room toilets please clean it up after yourself next time, instead of leaving it to the cleaners! iI you cant be bothered to clean the toilet seat and toilet I hate to think what your knickers must be like.”

As someone who carefully proofs and re-reads all my e-mails, I was just as shocked as my colleague to be sent the above and can't help but agree Jane is indeed a pain and a rather unprofessional one at that!