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The music teacher and the parent, part 3

October 10, 2010

All I’m doing these days is sitting at my desk, working and teeheeing at Kenny Letham’s videos.

Felicity will be getting a new cornet…

The music teacher and the parent, part 2

October 8, 2010

The uplift continues.

This is actually my life.

The music teacher and the parent

October 6, 2010

Work is heavy right now. I’m getting tired of having to sit marking and doing lesson preparation all the time that I’m at home. But my mood was lightened considerably yesterday by the following:

This is not an unprecedented interaction! Apologies to those of you who feel you have a special, talented child….

Yay for Rapidlash!

September 26, 2010

Ok, so I’m quite OCD when it comes to the colour-coordination of the drawing pins in my department, and this is not a good thing. But the more positive side of this sort of attitude is that I’m supremely careful and reliable about anything that I’m supposed to do on a regular basis. I never forget to take medicine or clean my teeth or get out of my pyjamas before going to the corner shop to buy a paper. And I’ve been super-reliable about using my Rapidlash every evening since the start of August.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my hair is kind of pitiful – fine and disobedient. My eyelashes have always been short and scanty and have done very little for me. So when Rapidlash appeared in the UK in the summer, I forked out the £40 it costs with great hope and faith that I’d soon have the equivalent of two tarantulas on my eyes. I’m guessing that Rapidlash is just a watered down version of Latisse – it doesn’t require a prescription, but as far as I can see it’s used in exactly the same way.

And it’s working. My eyelashes are definitely longer and more spidery. Bizarrely, some individual hairs are quite a lot longer than others, but this is quite a nice effect overall.

Here are my right eyelashes in Georgia in early August, frightening bags and wrinkles included:

And here are the same eyelashes this morning, in the cold light of Rain City:

And slightly less frightening, with makeup:

I can definitely see a difference. Rapidlash is not paying me to say this, since I am way too unmodelish, but I’m loving this stuff.

Inspection madness: a control freak speaks

September 24, 2010

My school is having an inspection next week. I don’t know how it works for you all in the US, but here in Rain City, UK, we get a few weeks’ notice. Then a team of about a dozen inspectors descend for a week and watch whatever lessons they choose to see, usually with no notice. Some departments are chosen for focused inspection – thankfully, mine wasn’t. But they’ll poke around a bit, ask students about the work they’ve done, and generally use every possible cunning ruse to catch us out.

In theory, we all teach pretty well, care about the students and do our best for them. Our paperwork is good enough and the school is run efficiently. And in practice this does happen – but it’s impossible for us just to accept this and carry on as normal. Maybe teaching attracts more than its fair share of perfectionists. But we’ve all gone mad with the inspection preparation over the last few weeks.

As the lovely reprographics technician said, “Stand still too long and somebody will laminate you”. Yeah – laminating something is very fulfilling and definitely makes you feel that you have done it better. I love to laminate, especially when under pressure.

This morning I walked past a noticeboard in my department which features music tutors’ names on coloured (laminated) labels above their timetables. I was unhappy with the colours of drawing pins that had been used on them, so I spent ten minutes replacing them so that the pins matched each other but contrasted with the background colours. Like yellow pins on a turquoise label and white pins on a red one. I didn’t use the same colour of pins on two labels next to each other. It looks very lovely now. But would any inspector care or notice? Ummm, I’m thinking no. And I’m thinking that I may be even control-freakier than I realised.

When I tell AB that I’ve done something like that, he laughs his legs off. He’s a teacher too, and he has a much better attitude. If he had an inspection to prepare for, he’d be thinking about what exactly he wanted to teach in those lessons and how he could best achieve that. He’d make sure that he had a good range of interesting activities and was ready to sum up clearly at the end. It’s not that I don’t do that. But as sure as anything, AB has never colour-co-ordinated a drawing pin in his life and is probably the better teacher – and certainly the easier human being to get along with – for it.

I need to loosen up a little. At the moment I can explain it away as me displacing my nerves before the inspection by completely OCD-ing every item in my department. But all my dozens of colour-coded lever arch files (which I buy from a special shop 37 miles drive away) in my office kind of give the game away. I do this all the time. I am such a control freak. I guess I need help. Pity the guy best qualified to do that is 3,000 miles away.

What is up with all this hair?

September 15, 2010

I was standing in the middle of Boots the Chemist the other day with a full basket of products, when I realised that every single one of them was devoted to some type of hair or other – head, body, whatever. And every type of hair seemed to be becoming increasingly problematic as, and I can’t really avoid saying it, I seem to have become a little bit middle-aged.

My actual hair used to be a pretty, shiny brown, and there was a reasonable amount of it. Now it would be a wild white mop if it didn’t have £80 a month of professional cutting and colouring, special shampoos for coloured hair, heat-protective sprays, serums to stop the ends looking like I stuck my fingers in the electrical socket, a special “hair lipstick” for colouring in the badger roots just before a colouring appointment, and so forth. And at the same time as it’s got wilder, it’s also got finer and thinner and I have to blow-dry it very carefully to make it sit in a reasonably balanced semblance of order.

Working downwards, my eyebrows (at least they’re not white, I suppose) need regular threading. And tweezing every day. And my eyebrow lady recently told me that I’d look a lot more attractive if my brows came in a little more in the middle. About 5mm. It seems I have a horrifying, boss-eyed stare at present. I expect AB would propose forthwith if I sorted that out.

My lashes are fine – as in there isn’t very much to them.  Again, at least they’re not white. But I’ve started using Rapidlash (a sort of non-prescription Latisse-lite) on them – and I swear that it’s working. They’re definitely, noticeably longer. Weirdly, some are quite a lot longer than others. Maybe I’ll have to start having them professionally trimmed soon – but this is shaping up to be the one nice big expensive triumph in my body-hair life.

Without going into vomit-inducing detail, there seems to be more, and a greater variety of, body hair to deal with these days. Some needs professional attention. I’m not going to wax myself – although my lovely beautician, Alice, got so fierce at last week’s appointment that I may have to rethink that one. She was giving off about how some people have children without thinking about the responsibilities involved, and as her ire grew, the wax seemed to be whipped off with a fast increasing ouch factor. But even then there’s also a lot of frequent shaving, with all the attendant products, going on. How can I have hairs on my TOES now? What is that about?

Overall, my body seems to have instituted a policy of making the hair I’d like to have more pathetic and difficult to deal with – and superboosting all the hair I could well do without. I might as well have my salary paid directly to Boots plc and invite my various professional lovelies to take up residence. It’s fast getting to that point.

Thrust your fat into a more appealing shape

September 8, 2010

Shamelessly lifted from The Onion, and therefore inappropriate and unsuitable as all get out:

Thrust your fat into a more appealing shape

But, somewhat worryingly, forwarded to me by the loving AB. Is he trying to tell me something?

I’m such a failure

September 6, 2010

I put something into the “me” page on this blog about being distracted by passing fancies. Yeah, a lot. Taking a good hard look at the scales this morning reminds me that I’ve been “trying” to lose some weight since April . And I’ve lost precisely four pounds. This is completely pitiful.

I tell myself that I shouldn’t really worry, since I’m not such a dreadful sort of a weight to start with and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I looked like this forever. I think of all of you who are considerably heavier than me at this point and who would probably be delighted with my scales tally.

I blame it on my third form Domestic Science syllabus in 1979, where the theme for the year was Cooking with Cream (yes, really, and it was sponsored by the Northern Ireland Milk Marketing Board). I rationalise that I’ve spent a month in America during that time, and it’s so hard to eat in a disciplined way while staying with other people.

I think that AB quite likes a curvaceous figure, and that some extra pounds are certainly good for your bust and your face. I can have some fun buying lots of clothes in a bigger size, rather than lamenting the lovely favourites hanging forlornly on the clothes-rail, since there’s not a chance they’d currently be hanging on myself.

I think that I’ll have to change the name of my blog. Maybe “Random woman with absolutely no sense of personal discipline” would encapsulate my unique personality.

But what the heck. This is ridiculous. All around me in blogland, women are well on their way to losing actual hundreds of pounds. I’d be fitter, healthier, prettier and have a way much larger wardrobe if I could just get my act together. Ten pounds would be a good start, though, to be honest, twenty would be better. Surely I can manage more than a measly four?

I need a strategic planning meeting with myself. Dear only knows when I’ll fit that in, but I’m drawing up the agenda now. Suggestions for items?

Being Daddy’s girlfriend: when the going gets tough

September 3, 2010

AB and I recently spent a few days visiting his teenage daughters in the faraway state and town where they now live. Before the trip I was quite apprehensive about how to maintain a good relationship with the girls – how to set the right tone with them, how to react, or not react, if things weren’t always perfectly smooth with their dad. I got some good advice from you all. In the end, I thought we had a good time together – not fairytale heavenly, but a nice time, with small issues dealt with as they arose.

AB and I had been talking fondly since then about the many positive aspects of the trip. But now it appears that we were mistaken.

Both girls have decided that, for various reasons which I won’t go into into here, they are not speaking to AB and will not be visiting him and his family at Christmas as had been planned. To me, the reasons sound completely fabricated. I’m not dumb. I have a masters degree in psychology and I’ve taught teenage girls for 22 years. I think I might have noticed. We’re not talking anything abusive here, by the way. It’s all terribly, exremely low-level. But yet they hold all the cards, and they can withdraw their affection, their communication and their contact, and AB can’t do a thing about it.

Things like this have happened before. He used to consider legal action, but realised very quickly that it would be counterproductive. You don’t want someone to come to visit because the court has decreed it. And it’s too expensive.

He has to sit patiently and wait it out. Draw a fine line between respecting their wishes and allowing them to think that he might not want to communicate with them either.

I’m so angry. My heart bleeds for him, and there’s not a thing I can do, and I’m 3,000 miles away. This is very hard.

Creative September 1: blackberry icecream

September 1, 2010
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…in which I’m aiming to get the psychological year off to a positive start by doing something creative every day. 

The plus side of it being annoyingly autumnal here for a person who just got back from Florida and wants to show off her tan is that the blackberries are great. Janey and I got a fantastic haul at the weekend, so my first Creative September act has been to make a batch of blackberry icecream. 

It tastes gorgeous. I don’t recommend it for anyone wishing to keep their fat intake down, but I’d give it a big thumbs up for everyone else. The recipe is an adaptation of Delia Smith’s blackcurrant one (it’s in the big, old, fat book where she’s wearing something red on the cover). I just substituted the blackberries and put a good few berries through the icecream at the final mix as well, to give it a more interesting texture.


  • Squish the berries through a sieve with the back of a spoon.
  • Dissolve 6oz sugar in 5 fl oz water, heating as you go.
  • Let the water and sugar boil for exactly three minutes.
  • Pour the water and sugar into the sieved berries.
  • Lightly whip 10 fl oz double cream.
  • Fold the cream into the berry mixture.
  • Freeze it in a box for three hours.
  • Take it out of the freezer, stir it round thoroughly (put some extra whole berries in here too if you like) and return it to the freezer.
  • It’s ready after three hours, but it benefits from sitting in the fridge for an hour before serving.

Mine’s going out for dinner with me tonight so that I don’t eat it all myself.