Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Last night I dreamt I was in bed with Dane Bowers

Which is kind of unsettling. 

If you'll excuse me, I'm just going to find a claw hammer, so that I can keep hitting myself in the head until the nasty image goes away...

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas to all - especially my heroes!

With all the snow over the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about those people who we all depend on - our heroes.  There are the obvious ones - the armed forces, the police, fire and ambulance services, and down here in Seasidetown, we also depend on the Pilot boat service, and the coastguard.  But, it's the other heroes that I've been thinking of, in no particular order:
  • RNLI - amazing people who put their own lives at risk in all weathers to save those in trouble at sea.
  • Any member of the public who risks their life for another - people who help at the scenes of accident, thinking not of their own danger.
  • Our binmen and women.  In Seasidetown they collect every week, very efficiently, and without complaint.  Without them, our little town would be a hazardous place.  While we're about it, also the people at the local recycling centre (we used to call it the tip when I were a lass...), who are cheerful and helpful.
  • The local undertakers.  In the last few years, I've had dealings with two local firms, and I have to say they were both absolutely superb and made a very difficult time a lot easier.  
  • The volunteers who work with the emergency services - the Special Constables, the volunteer firefighters, the custody visitors, victims' support and all the others,  all of whom do amazing work for no recompense.
  • And while Gadget's readers (amongst others) may have issues with the ways in which the legal system is run in this country, let's also hear it for the Magistrates and the lawyers who make the system work.  Imperfect as it is...
  • The Samaritans and all the other 'listening' services, and anyone who provides friendship for those who need it at times of crisis.
  • Anyone who works to ensure the safety of others, so here let's spare a thought for Environmental Health Officers, for engineers of many kinds, and even the dreaded Health and Safety Officer.
  • And, at this particular time of year, I'd like to honour the Asda delivery man who battled through the blizzard conditions earlier this week to make sure that my aged mother and I had the groceries we need.  That is true heroism!
I'm sure that there are many others in my life, and in yours - including our families and our friends.

Merry Christmas to all - I hope that yours is a good one.


Monday, 13 December 2010

It's a wonderful time of the year - isn't it?

It's a strange time of year to be single.

Shops are full of bonhomie and good cheer (so long as you can afford it), the television adverts try and prise our money out of our pockets, magazines are full of suggestions for wildly glamorous outfits so that you can cut a dash at the myriad Christmas parties that we will all be attending.  Or will we?

I've tried so hard this year to avoid self-pity, but the tinsel, the bells, the shiny paper, the adverts and general flummery of the season make it difficult.  I've just written the obligatory christmas letter for those of my friends who aren't on Facebook or who don't read my blog, and once again I've had to address the disaster that was my life in February and March.  How can you say "Merry Christmas.  I had my heart ripped out this year, and it wasn't my fault" in a festive fashion?

So, it's time to look at that glass in front of me, and focus on the fact that it is half-full, not half-empty.  Yes, I'm single.  But I have family who live in the same building that I do - I'm rarely truly alone.  I may feel that life is passing me by, but I have my health, I have my strength, I have my friends, and I truly wouldn't have survived this year without my friends and family.  There are things in this little Seasidetown that make me smile - like the local tramp who told me last week that he liked the hat that I was wearing.  I like being called "young lady" by the butcher.  I like the fact that the baker always asks after my mother's health.  I like the new shoe shop that's opened, and I like the way that the girls who run the fancy goods store always wave and smile at me as I go past.

No, I shan't be attending Christmas parties.  I shan't be loitering under the mistletoe in the forlorn hope that there will be someone desperate enough to snog me.  I shan't be mulling wine, and I shan't be singing along in a drunken fashion to all those old Christmas records.  But I also shan't be worrying about what I'm going to wear, or whether my makeup makes me look sexy or like a drag-queen.

What I shall be doing is enjoying a quiet Christmas at home with my mother, B and C (who live in the flat upstairs), and my mother's friend A.  I shall be focussing on my blessings, and sending out good thoughts to those who are sad this year.  I'll be thinking of the people who are working over the period, and I shall be hoping that their time is easy.  I shall be thinking of those who are truly alone and who are lonely, and I shall remind myself how lucky I am. 

Better go and see if the tree lights are still working....

Thursday, 9 December 2010

It's all change for the Floppy Haired Boy

FHB has not appeared often in this blog this academic year.  That doesn't mean that he's not been around, just that the dynamics of our group have changed a bit.  At the moment FHB is a Teaching Assistant (TA), which means that he gets his fees paid and a small maintenance allowance from the university in return for 4 hours teaching per week.   Now, in the case of FHB, that is a very good deal for the University.  He is extremely expert in his field, totally enthusiastic, and the only person in our year more fitted to be an academic is Metella.  Academia really is his calling.  In fact, he's so much of an embryonic academic that he already looks like one - in his late 20s.  Tonsorially speaking, he doesn't get his hair cut very often.  His clothes, while immaculate, aren't necessarily what you might call 'on-trend', and his old Adidas clam shell trainers had no tread left on the soles, and holes where holes should not be. 

So, I got a bit of a shock this week when I discovered that
  1. he has had his hair cut,
  2. he has updated his wardrobe and most surprisingly
  3. he has bought new trainers.
What has happened?  Who is he and what has he done with FHB?  The vagaries of Foucault were nothing compared to the confusion that I felt when I beheld this apparition.  My first conclusion was that he has a new girlfriend - but no, that was not it.  That he might have come into money?  Apparently not.  A text on Saturday evening told all.

FHB had applied for the post of lecturer at our University, without telling any of us.  And, I am delighted to say, that they had the good sense to give him the job.  This is great news.  It gives him security of tenure, and the University gets to keep a real academic star of the future. 

I am so pleased for him!  It really is his destiny.

Monday, 6 December 2010

I love the smell of new textbooks...

... especially when I haven't paid for them.

That sounds bad - I should explain.

I start teaching next term (I may have mentioned this...), and because of this fact, bounty has fallen my way.  As a seminar leader, I apply to publishers to be given an 'inspection copy' of a particular textbook, and they send it to me for nothing.  Fantastic.  Worth it for me (obviously), and worth it for the publishers as they know that their texts will continue to be used at a particular university.  With the number of law students that we have every year, that is a considerable source of income for there.

But, it doesn't stop there, I get other benefits as a seminar leader.  For a start, there's the office.  As I shall be available to undergrads for consultation during a set 'office hour' next term, I am allocated a share in an office.  And, I have really landed on my feet here.  I am sharing with two other members of staff, who between them use the office for 3 hours per week.  So, for the majority of the time, I am here in splendid isolation.  It's not particularly posh - it used to be a study bedroom - but I have everything that I need, including desk space, computer, a white board, a phone, and joy of joys, a printer with toner and paper provided.  The window has a lovely view over the campus and Unitown, and there is an easy chair should I fancy a snooze.  So, I save on carrel fees, and get a much nicer billet for the rest of the year.

The other interesting factor is the change in the ways in which I am treated by the admin staff.  I've been here for over four years now, as a student, and while the admin staff have been perfectly pleasant to me, now I see a difference.  For example, I wanted to do something slightly off-page with the computer network.  For a student, this would probably have been forbidden; as a member of staff I was told not only how to do it, and politely asked if I would let the IT department know when I'd done it, but I was also offered help to do it should I need it.

But, it's not all beer and skittles.  I shall be teaching a 'core module', one that students have to take in order to qualify as either a solicitor or barrister, and I shall be teaching students in their 2nd or 3rd year.  This means that the results that they get really matter for the class of their degree, and for their future.  I feel that this is a heavy responsibility.  I must do the best job that I possibly can.

But, I am looking forward to it!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Oldgirl Flu



I'm not well. 

I ache, I've got rampaging queegles round the shoulders and neck and I'm feeling miserable.  I've cracked open the (medicinal) whisky and have mixed it with hot water, lemon juice and honey, and I feel no better.

I suspect that it's nothing more than a cold or short term virus, but I'm indulging myself in feeling miserable, wrapped up in a blanket, next to the radiator, listening to Verdi Religious Pieces (the chorus concert is next week, and I still can't get the hang of the 8 part section of the Te Deum).

Just wanted to share.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Something to aspire to...

I went out in the snow today - I couldn't resist it.  In Seasidetown it's still coming down, all powdery and perfect - it's crisp and crunchy under foot, and not too slippy.  Yet.  So, like the middle aged child that I am, I wrapped up warm, and went for a walk round one of the bays near us.

It was magical.  Blizzard conditions, dark sky, cold but not too cold, and the beach had as much snow as sand.   You can hardly see out to sea - the clouds are too heavy and too low.   Hardly anyone else out and about, so of course, we all hailed each other with mutual recognition and appreciation of our hardiness.  Very little traffic, which is good as with  the wind whipping the snow into weird shapes and drifts, it's almost impossible to tell where the pavement ends and the road begins.

On my way home, I stopped at the Post Office round the corner to get some stamps, and the Post Master told me about one of his other customers, who had announced that she knew she was now getting old, as this is the first year that she hasn't enjoyed the snow.

She's 92.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

"Are you wearing a vest?"... mother asked accusingly as I left the house on Tuesday.

"A vest?  I'm 45 years old, and I think I should know by now whether or not I should be wearing a vest,"  I responded as I swept through the hall in high dudgeon. 

Of course I was wearing a vest.  It would have been foolhardy to go out into that weather without one, I just didn't want her to think that I needed to be reminded to dress sensibly at my age.  As a student I retain the vestiges of a need for rebellion and this includes the fantasy of wearing unsuitable clothes; I just can't summon up the energy any more, and comfort is a more important driver than anything else.  So, thermal underwear and Dr Martens are the order of the day - even if I don't like to admit it.  I console myself with a selection of hats that are as stupid as they are warm.

As with most of the rest of the country, the weather has had a significant impact on this part of the world.  As Seasidetown hadn't had any snow whatsoever on Tuesday, I thought that I really ought to go into Unitown to pick up some books in case the nasty white stuff arrived later in the week, and to go to a Postgrad study group, for which I had done the reading.  In full.  And had made notes and had some intelligent questions to ask.  All to be wasted as it turned out.

As I drove further from the coast, the snow increased, and the car became increasingly nervous about the conditions under tyre.  In fact, the most nerve wracking part of the journey was parking in the student car park.  I wasn't sure if the car would stop when I put my foot on the brake, but stop he did albeit with a nasty crunching sound of snow under the wheels.  I scooted into the Law School, gave my apologies to Metella, who was doing the presentation, grabbed my books, skittered over to the dining hall to have lunch with a friend who wanted to look at my Kindle (the e-book reader (other e-book readers are available...), not a euphemism), and hurtled carefully back to the car park.  In the time that I'd been gone, an inch of snow had accumulated on the roof of the car.

We (the car and I) slithered out of the car park, and at the mini roundabout at the edge of campus, I put my foot on the brake - nothing happened, so I offered up a quick, fervent prayer to the patron saint of all drivers, and skidded gently round onto the main road.  Luckily, nothing was coming the other way.  The journey back to Seasidetown was slow, and cautious.  The car is back in his hutch, and I have retired to my flat, and here I am staying until Friday, at least.

I have enough books to be getting on with, and plenty of work to do.  Actually, it's amazing how much you can get done when it's too cold to go outside.  I went out for a walk earlier - there is still no snow as such in Seasidetown, but the wind is so cold that it feels as though you're being stabbed in the face by chilled stainless steel knives.  I'm staying inside for as long as possible!

Stay warm all.