Sunday, 15 December 2013

Things Which Are Just Plain Wrong

Here are just a few personal favourites which spring to mind. I'm sure you can think of your own to add to the list.

1. Grown women wearing items of clothing with cartoon characters or animals on them.

2. People who use 'The Daily Mail' to inform their social and political conscience.

3. Michael Gove. No more need be said.

4. Radio phone-ins, or more precisely the kind of individual who has the time and inclination to ring in with their ill-thought-out, bigoted and often not-terribly-eloquent contributions. Haven't they got better things to do like polish their golf caddies?

5. Golf. What is right about it? The outfits, the 'networking', the sexism, the elitism...?

6. Having Christmas items in the shops in September. I LOVE Christmas but not until about December 19th.

7. Women who don't go out to work (that bit's fine - if you've found a rich husband you make the most of it sister!) but who then spend all their time complaining to the rest of us (who work and have a family) about how busy they are. Unless you have small infants at home or do masses of voluntary work then you have no claim to the phrase 'things are so manic at present'!

8. Porridge boiling over in the microwave. It's a conspiracy. The moment you stop watching it and turn your back, there it goes erupting over the edge. When I'm feeling reckless, however, I do like to play a game which I call 'porridge roulette' where you set the timer, watch it rising and see if you can stop yourself intervening to switch it off. This is not an activity for those of a nervous disposition.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Being Insulted by your Children

My son has unfortunately inherited my rather wicked sense of humour. I say 'unfortunately' as I am often on the receiving end of it.
Today on the way home from school we were playing the game where you say what sort of animal, fruit etc. you would be. I foolishly asked him what type of vehicle I would be. Quick as a flash he replied, "A rust-bucket 1971".
This is the same child who decided he was going to sell his dad on e-bay (he'd obviously run out of old toys to flog) and said that the listing would have to be in the 'faulty, for parts only' category.
I would like to tell him that before he came along we were both young, beautiful and wild, but the truth is... I can't remember that far back!

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Harrison Theory of Mediocrity

It would appear that the 'Harrison Theory of Mediocrity' is gathering momentum, with my own colleagues starting to pass my advice on to their own friends. I shall soon be running seminars on it at this rate, but that would rather defeat the object of the whole philosophy. For those of you who missed my post on it earlier in the year it goes something like this.

I am going to let you into the secret of a peaceful existence; mediocrity. I have spent much of my adult life perfecting the art of mediocrity and I like to think I am fairly good at it. Let me explain why being mediocre is the key to happiness, taking your working life as an example. I am sure you will agree that if you are bad at your job then you are in line for all manner of grief, although not if your first name is Michael and your surname Gove. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of complaints from line managers, stern emails from the boss and uncomfortable appraisal meetings, so it doesn't pay to be too shabby.
This reminds me of a story I heard about a colleague of a friend who was having their annual performance management interview. He came out of the meeting fairly pleased with the way it had gone, saying that his manager had complimented him on the improvement in his work. The others in the office were mildly surprised as this individual was renowned for being lazy and incompetent. "So, what exactly did he say then?", one co-worker asked. "He said I used to be f****** sh*t, but now I'm just sh*t", came the reply.
However, if you are too good at what you do then people expect a lot of you and give you more to do. Some of my colleagues are constantly snowed under by requests to run a course, go to a meeting, organise an event. Why? Because they are too good at their job. I do try to give them the benefit of my wisdom but they are too busy answering the 150 emails they have received that morning to listen to me.
So, for now I shall endeavour to tread the line of least resistance and happily continue in my own little world with my delusions of adequacy.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Keeping up with the Grandparents

Letting your child spend too long with their grandparents can have its downsides I have discovered. I have just been told by no.1 son that he expects £2 rather than the customary £1 next time a tooth comes out, as this is what he received from the tooth-fairy at Mamgu (Welsh for Granny) and Granfer's house. He has also just asked me to put his pyjamas to warm on the towel rail so they are ready for when he gets out of the bath! This indulgence has also been instigated by my mum. How come I didn't get that kind of treatment from them when I was a child?!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

10 Strange Facts About Me

1. I am not sure if I am left or right handed. I can't totally use either interchangeably so am not a true ambidexter, but I have different tasks for my right and left hands.

2. I like those crisps which have folded over on themselves the best.

3. I once appeared on Pebble Mill with a group of friends and met Richard Stilgoe in the corridor. I like to think I haven't let fame change me though.

4. I know all the lyrics to every Wham song ever released. When I finally lose my mind you will find me in the care home unable to remember my own name but singing Young Guns and possibly conjugating Spanish verbs.

5. I took 7 driving tests. People have got their own TV series based on a lot less than that.

6. I actually enjoy ironing but no, I don't want to do yours too.

7. When I was at school my nick name was 'Piglet' and somewhere I still have a collection of about 200 pigs. Think that could be one for e-bay unless the V&A wants them?

8. I am a Marmite hater married to a Marmite lover.

9. I have a body piercing but no tattoos.

10. I lose the will to live in winter. Is there not a job which you can just do from March - October so I could hibernate the rest of the year?

Friday, 6 September 2013

A Day In The Life Of ... Ronnie Harrison

My name is Ronnie Harrison apparently and, for a cat, I have a remarkably fine command of the English language. If you don't agree then please keep your opinions to yourself. I'm a cat. I don't engage in pointless argument. It's such a waste of energy and usually involves a loss of dignity, both of which I abhor.
So, last August I was born in Somerset and was happily enjoying life with my mum and siblings when SOMEONE decides it would be a good plan to put cute photos of us on facebook. The next thing I know I'm being stuffed in a box and driven all the way to a place called Norfolk. My new 'owner' (ha ha, that always makes me laugh - as if anyone could OWN a cat) had seen the aforementioned pictures of me and, after a few glasses of something called 'wine', had decided to adopt me as a pet.
Anyway, life here isn't too bad I suppose. There are three two-legged animals in the house; I think they're called humans or maybe slaves, I'm not sure. Two are fairly big and weary looking and the other one is small and quite frankly a bit too noisy at times. I don't do noise. I'm rather finely-tuned you understand, and also it interferes with my sleep. The small one always wants to cuddle me but his lap is too small and not awfully comfortable, and if you can't be comfortable what's the point? The older lady one has a nice squishy lap and a fluffy dressing gown so I tend to go to her most of the time. She is also the one who feeds me so I need to keep in her good books.
I normally start my day around 5 am when I go upstairs, meow a lot, scratch the carpet (works every time) and jump up on the lady's face. I can tell she's really pleased to see me because she always uses the same greeting, "Bugger off, Ronnie".
Once I've been fed I go outside to go to the loo. I'm a martyr to my bowels, I don't mind telling you, but find that a nice bit of grass from time to time helps keeps things regular in that department. The slaves tend to disappear during the day so I spend my time lying under bushes, annoying the hedgehog Rocket and catching flies. Our neighbours are nice too and one of them has even built a lovely little house up in a tree for me to sleep in. Nice touch guys!
Sometime during the day I go back inside and sit on the dining room table for a bit. I get a great view of the bird-table from here and also like to make sure that the rest of the family gets a fair crack at sharing my toxoplasma gondii. It's good to give something back I always think.
Later on, depending on the weather, I might come back in and see the humans and then it's time to think about settling down for a well-earned rest before the whole hectic business starts again the next day. It really is a cat's life.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like or just click on the label 'Ronnie' below for more feline frolicks!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

New Year's Resolutions: 24 Hours In

For those of you who didn't see yesterday's resolutions please see
This is how I am doing so far.

1. I haven't got too wound up on the journey into work though today was touch and go. The 15 miles to the outskirts of Norwich was OK but it then took me at least as long again to get to the centre. This was mainly due to the parents of pupils at a certain private school who feel duty bound to drop their little darlings at the door with no regard for the other motorists they are holding up. Surely Tristan and Olivia can get the damn bus like everyone else?

2. The not swearing is going pretty well so far. I have managed to stop myself most times so can be heard going 'fff....' or 'shhhhh'. At present I probably have enough in the swear box for a fun size bottle of Blue Nun.

3. My Mark Book looks beautiful but that's because it hasn't been written in yet. I have purchased a special little folder to keep it in, along with pens, stickers and a stamp saying 'Mrs Harrison says where the **** is your homework'.

4. I thought I was doing so well. Ok, it's only September 4th but tonight I prepared a lovely little seafood pasta dish and sat with Geof when he came home and ate together, discussing how our days had gone like a proper family. Then, at 6.30 Bryn said to me "Mummy, I haven't had any tea." It's not quite as bad as it sounds. He'd had lunch at a friend's house so a sandwich was enough. Phew!

5. Full marks here. Not threatened to resign yet but then I haven't had direct contact with any children yet!

6. I don't think I'll live long enough to get my pension so I might as well stop worrying about it.

7. I managed to stay up until gone 9 last night but it is only September. I don't fancy my chances once it's dark at 4.00.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Many of you will already know or will have worked out that I am a teacher and I so I have always treated September as my New Year rather than the traditional January 1st. As the new term begins I thought I would share a few of my resolutions with you.

1. I will not get wound up by slow drivers on the way into work. 42 miles per hour is a perfectly reasonable speed on a straight open road in perfect weather conditions. Tractors have every right to be on the road during the morning rush hour without pulling over to let people pass and the mobile speed camera van going at 15 miles an hour below the speed limit ALL the way from North Walsham to Norwich is absolutely fine by me.

2. I am not going to swear, at least not much, unless it really is necessary. I think I'll have a 'swear box' and put a pound into my Sancerre fund every time I use a profanity.

3. I am going to keep my Mark Book beautiful. This has been one of my resolutions for the last 17 years and I still haven't achieved it. There will be no crossings out, no gaps, no use of multi-coloured pens. If a new pupil joins my class late in the term they will have to change their surname to something beginning with 'Y' or 'Z' so I can put them on the end without ruining the alphabetical list. For example 'Jack Cooke' would be offered the choice of 'Jack Yooke' or 'Jack Zooke'.

4. I will not get half way through September and start feeding my family ready meals, pizza or Weetabix for tea.

5. I will not even once threaten to resign and go and work in Tesco. However, Waitrose might be a different matter altogether.

6. I will not get depressed about the fact that I probably have another 24 years teaching ahead of me and that my pension is currently something like £26.78 lump sum and £1.54 a month.

7. I won't hit November and start going to bed at 8.30 just so I can survive the next day. Sad lamp and vitamin D instead.

To see how I am getting on visit

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Legal Highs

How about a nice mug of cocoa?
So-called 'Legal Highs' have been in the news a lot recently, with deaths associated with taking these substances soaring. I have to confess to being very boring/sensible, depending on your perspective, when it comes to drugs, and little has passed my lips other than the odd Marlborough Light in my teens/twenties and rather more than the odd glass of Chardonnay in my thirties/forties.

As a teacher, pupils often ask if you've ever done drugs, and I am rather relieved to be able to answer honestly that I haven't. They do know about my Haribo habit though! I remember one girl commenting how young I looked for my age - it was my 40th birthday and I'd taken some cake in for my favourite group of delinquents. Another pupil butted in "Yeah, that's because all she does at the weekend is stay at home and drink water". Sad, but oh so very true!

The whole Legal High thing got me thinking about what I have in my life to give me a much needed lift from time to time. I know I am opening myself up to derision from those younger than me, but I may raise a wry smile of recognition in some of my middle-aged readers out there?

1. Getting into bed with freshly laundered sheets and pillow cases, with a cup of tea and a good book, especially if you know you haven't got to get up early the next day.

2. Watching the hedgehogs in the garden on a summer evening - glass of wine optional (or in my case obligatory)

3. Snuggling up with a sleeping baby - preferably someone else's so you can hand it back when it wakes up.

4. Looking back at old photos and laughing at how awful you looked in 70s/80s fashions.

5. Having a good sing. Usually Thine be the Glory! For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about see

6. Watching The Inbetweeners and laughing until you cry.

7. Learning to be content with what you have. I'm still working on this but the very old system of 'counting your blessings' works oh so well.

8. Listening to an amazing piece of music on your own in the dark.

9. Looking at the moon. (I said looking, not howling)

10. Being kind to someone you really don't like much. If nothing else it will make them paranoid!

I'm sure these will not be everyone's cup of tea but I hope you've found one or two you can identify with. Do leave your own comments below if you'd like to share your own Legal Highs.

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Optician

I am obscenely excited at the moment and all because of one simple fact. For the first time in my 30+ years of wearing glasses I am actually sporting some proper, grown-up, adult frames. Never let it be said that I am hard to please.
This rollercoaster ride of dizzy highs and stomach churning lows began a couple of weeks back when I went for my regular sight test. A young, male 'para-optician' (not sure what the proper job title is as you may have surmised - you know, the person who does all the tests before you see the proper qualified person earning lots of money) approached me with the words "I'd love to measure the distance between your pupils." Well, I've heard a few chat-up lines in my time (actually, not that many thinking about it) but that one had to be amongst the strangest. Clearly he wasn't trying to chat me up but simply do his job, and anyway I was just about old enough to be his mother.
I don't like to be a tease, so he got his way and measured the distance between my pupils. I also let him blindfold me (well, cover one eye) and do that little test where you say how many dots you can see. Then he pushed his luck a bit too far and asked if he could take a picture. I said no. It was an extra £10 for goodness sake and who needs a photo of the back of their eye? Not exactly one to hang over the mantelpiece or send to aunties at Christmas.
After having my sight test it turned out that I needed a slightly stronger prescription. The lovely young woman explained that I had a stigmatism in one eye, a slight squint in the other and that my sight had deteriorated a bit. If it gets much worse I should think I could qualify for a nice Labrador, but that's middle-age for you. Perhaps I could get a hearing dog at the same time, or maybe they could train one to do both jobs and possibly teach a bit of Spanish too?
So, back to the nice young para-optician who, I must say, had just my kind of sense of humour. He looked at my pupil measurement, at my prescription, did some calculations and then sucked his breath in through his teeth à la dodgy plumber about to give you an extortionate quote.
"That's a very small measurement and quite a chunky prescription", he offered by way of explanation. He got his 'chunky chart' out to work out what size frames we could get away with. "We can't go past a 50", he said. I wasn't quite sure what this meant, but felt fairly certain that we were talking Disney Princess again. My face must have fallen as he said "This is going to be a challenge but I think I can do it". He set off round the shop picking up frames, checking codes on the sides and putting the ones which passed muster into a little box. We weren't quite there yet. We had to go back to the 'chunky chart' a few more times and decided I needed to have 'ultra thin plus' to make it work.
So I am now the proud owner of some nice glasses. They do have something of 'Nana Mouskouri' about them but I am pleased with them and glad to have been spared the humiliation of the kids' section for once.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A Nice Bit of DIY

...and so the bathroom, which was started at the beginning of the summer holidays, is pretty much complete. I have never had such a posh new room in any house, and it makes me feel quite nervous. It also makes the rest of the house look even more shabby!
Yesterday saw the final painting spree. I had done the walls a couple of weeks ago but kept looking up at the bare plaster of the ceiling and finding some excuse, any excuse, to put it off for another day. The iron needed de-scaling, my books had to be put into alphabetical order, the sofa needed sitting on...However, yesterday, spurred on by the fact that the summer holidays are fast drawing to a close, I armed myself with the necessary items and set to work. Step ladder, emulsion, brushes, dust sheet and beautiful new bathroom ready to be splattered with paint. Oh, and Ronnie of course, who is always happy to help just when you'd rather he wouldn't. The new bathroom is black, white and grey which, I have since realised, is great camouflage for our little tabby friend. He practically disappears when he goes in there, especially if he stands on the stripy bath mat. Perhaps I should paint him a vivid shade of pink so we don't lose him?
So, I spent several happy hours working away and to be honest the ceiling was nowhere near as difficult as I had feared. It is quite a modest sized space which helps in one way but hinders in others, and at one point I found myself having to stand the ladder in the bath to reach the difficult bits. One thing we used to have on our old step ladder which I miss (see post on 'Ladders I have Loved and Lost' - no I'm joking) is one of those shelves to put your paint on. I spent much of my time going up and down the ladder and by evening my legs as well as my arms were aching. My glutes have never had such a good workout, and I now quite fancy my chances of being called upon to be Kylie's bum double at some point. Thank goodness I never got that tattoo of Jason Donovan done!

Monday, 26 August 2013

An Old Norfolk Proverb

Having just travelled the familiar road from North Walsham to Fakenham on a Bank Holiday Monday, I have come up with my very own Norfolk Proverb.
'Caravan behind you, happiness. Caravan in front of you, misery.'
This would also apply if you are towing a caravan (or thought you were), so I like to think there is something for everyone here.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Fussy Eaters

I write this sitting alone, Bryn having stormed off in an impressive 8 year old flounce, muttering incantations and the usual stuff about this being the worst day of his life etc, etc. What could possibly have happened to cause such an outburst? Has a close relative died, the cat been told he has a incurable disease? Are we moving home and forcing him to leave all his friends behind? Perhaps I have banned TV, football and ipods for a year? No, my crime, dear reader is this. I put a tiny sliver of cucumber and a morsel of tomato on the plate next to his cheese sandwich. NEXT TO, you understand. Not IN. Not even TOUCHING.
I really don't know how I ended up with such a fussy eater but no doubt it is my fault. As someone who will try any food and enjoy 99% of it, it just doesn't really cross my mind to not like something. OK, I prefer some things to others, and the time I tried sheep's brains was not my finest gastronomic moment to date, but I survived and apparently it's very good for you.
When Bryn was tiny I did all the right things. I slaved over Annabelle Bloody Karmel's toddler cookery book and rustled up fish pies, fruit compotes, rice puddings and the like. He ate most things as long as they were fairly mushed up as babies do. Then, one tea time when he was about 18 months old I was happily spooning homemade food into him when he turned to me and uttered his first phrase. "Broccoli, off!" Stupidly, I took the broccoli off and never put it back on again and that, I suppose, marked the beginning of the end of my wholesome eating regime and also the start of my son trying to boss me around!
The thing is, as a busy mum, you just want to make sure they eat...something...anything. Fill them up so they sleep through and you don't get any calls from social services. I can remember being very reassured by a friend whose first born ate anything. She told me she would look on in disgust at the parents feeding crisps and chocolate to their toddlers as she smugly thought to herself "Well, Sam has just eaten shepherd's pie with cabbage and carrots followed by fruit salad." A few years on she had another child, a girl, and soon found that she became one of the crisps and chocolate brigade, just desperate to get something into her daughter.
Anyway, my eight year old appears to be fit and healthy. He would cheerfully eat nothing but cheese sandwiches, on white bread of course, but I do manage to get chicken, carrots, parsnips and fruit smoothies into him too. I do hope that one day he will eat a more varied diet, but if not at least he could get himself a place on 'Freaky Eaters' long with those poor souls who eat only potato-based products or jam sandwiches.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

GCSE Results

I have been a nervous wreck for the past few days waiting for GCSE results. Not my own, you understand, or even a nephew or niece this year. No, I have been waiting, as a teacher, for my Spanish class' results. You teenagers and parents have it easy you see. You may get this terrifying, stomach churning, nail biting wait two or three times in a lifetime. I have had it just about every August for the last 17 years, and the experience only gets worse as the responsibility for results gets placed more and more on teachers, and less on less on pupils.
On the whole I am pleased with the results my pupils have achieved this year. They range from a grade B to F. This time around I had a middle ability group, all lovely kids, all received the same teaching, encouragement, support, feedback over the two year course. How then can the results vary so much? In Mr Gove's world, they should all have achieved a B/C grade. I'll tell you how. The pupil with the F grade did the minimum of work. He did not submit a single piece of coursework of any consequence. The same applies to the E and D grades. I can teach to the very best of my ability but I cannot do the work for them That would be illegal and disciplinary action for fraud is something I could do without to be honest.
So now I wait to see what my 'residuals' are. This I how much I am deemed to have improved or not on the grades the pupils SHOULD have achieved. This is worked out by some ridiculous system called the FFT - Fisher Family Trust, or Fisher Price as most of my colleagues prefer to call it. From what I can tell this is an entirely random calculation based on where you live, what you ate for breakfast and what newspaper your parents read. For example Lowestoft/Quavers and Red Bull/The Mirror = E
Burnham Market/Homemade Muesli and Fresh Orange Juice/The Guardian = A*. OK, it is based loosely around how a child is doing at Key Stage 2, when they are aged 8-11. Now, I could be going out on a pedagogical limb here, but I would guess that at this age most children are a) fairly amenable to doing what their teachers and parents say  b) not full of hormones and interested only in their social life and the opposite sex  c) not experimenting with alcohol and recreational drugs. How a child is performing at 9 can surely not determine how they should do at 16 and yet this is what we are all judged on.
I have my own system for working out what grade they should get called the Sian Harrison Indicator Test. It goes like this. Take the average grade the pupil achieves aged 13. Divide by the number of piercings they have. Take away the amount of time they spend on a games console. Add the amount of time they spend doing homework. Take away the number of units of alcohol they consumed the night before the exam. Divide by the number of times they say 'Why do we have to learn Spanish anyway'. Based on the above system I would say I am outstanding and deserve a pay rise!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Questions I Would Like Answers To
There are areas of life which, along with some of the finer points of thermo-dynamics, remain a mystery to me. Here are a few of them.

1. Where are the lids for my Tupperware boxes? Or looking at it from a different angle, where are the boxes for my Tupperware lids? I have a plentiful supply of both but they don't fit each other. I feel reasonably confident that when I purchased the said items they had matching tops so what has happened to them?

2.  Why do the men in my life suffer from a complete inability to close things? Cupboard doors are left ajar and drawers wide open. The back gate is never shut - we might as well have just left a big gap in the fence. This handicap also seems to extend to leaving the tops off toothpaste and the caps off pens. I really don't understand this affliction. Is it a recognised medical condition and if so is there any cure?

3. After weeks of playing silly buggers, why does my hair always look really nice on the day I have an appointment for a cut booked? Perhaps I should try making multiple appointments in the hope of confusing it into submission?

4. What happened to my Adam Ant mug? It was last seen circa 1982 in the Melton Constable area. I'd quite like it back even after all these years, and despite the fact that Adam is now a fat, middle-aged bloke with quite a lot of issues who is rubbish live.

5. Why, in all the houses I have lived in, have I never been up to the loft? Is there some 11th commandment that women are not allowed into this area of the house? I have stood at the bottom of the ladder passing things up to Geof to put in the loft but have never got any further than that. Even Bryn has been up there and he is 8. What is up there that they are hiding from me? Perhaps the Adam Ant mug and Tupperware lids are up there?

I am sure there are other questions which I haven't included here, leaving the door wide open for a sequel. Do leave comments with your own un-answered mysteries too and perhaps together we can come up with answers to some of life's conundrums.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Happy Birthday Ronnie!

I have just found myself singing Happy Birthday to our cat Ronnie who is a year old today. This was at Bryn's insistence, you understand, and not something I would have freely engaged in otherwise.
Ronnie as a cute kitten
So, what has our little feline friend managed to accomplish in his first year of life? Here are a few of the highlights for you.

  • He is pretty good at playing the piano and is often heard tinkling on the ivories late at night. Whilst this can be disconcerting it is not as alarming as his sister Coco who has learnt to turn the TV on and is apparently partial to a bit of late night viewing.

  • He has managed to clock up 8 visits to the vet's including two anaesthetics, an operation, an endoscopy, several shots of steroids and two courses of antibiotics. Sounds like a normal night out in North Walsham to me.

  • He has eaten approximately 30 kg of dried food and 600 pouches of meat but still prefers to chomp on rotting sparrow entrails and flies or to steal leftovers from the hedgehog.

  • He is very helpful when it comes to wrapping presents, as I found out at Christmas. Even though it is August we are also still finding stray baubles which he knocked off the tree and rolled under sofas or behind furniture. They are currently sitting on the mantelpiece and will probably stay there until we decorate again in December.

  • His best trick to date was jumping in a bowl of pea and ham soup and then proceeding to re-decorate the lounge with it.

  • He is a handsome, affectionate, funny little chap and I hope he will be with us for many years to come just with fewer visits to the vet's.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Home Sweet Home

...and so, having spent a week exploring out west we are now back on home turf. The car still doesn't start unless you roll it down a hill, which was great in Wales but not so much in Norfolk, and I have a mobile phone which makes me look like I've just stepped out of 'Murder She Wrote', but apart from that we had a great time.
The journey home was uneventful but tedious, especially once we hit King's Lynn. That winning combination of a dearth of decent roads and a plentiful supply of caravans conspired to make the last 40 miles slow and frustrating. I worried at one point that I might not make it back in time for the start of term, reminding me of the situation a couple of years ago when several colleagues were absent at the beginning of the Easter term due to the volcanic ash fiasco. Somehow I don't think the Head would accept the excuse that I was stuck in East Rudham behind a Ford Ka trying to tow a five berth caravan.
For Bryn and I our first priority on arrival was to find Ronnie. He seemed reasonably pleased to see us in that inimitable nonchalant feline way, but distinctly more underwhelmed by the reunion than we were. Then, after a quick check of the post to make sure there wasn't anything exciting like an inheritance from a long-lost great aunt or a flyer about a new offer at Lidl, it was time to tackle the washing. What you need to know at this point is that before we went away there was already a massive mountain of ironing sitting there staring at me. I did what was absolutely necessary for the holiday and left the rest. As the laundry fairy doesn't seem to have made an appearance this week it is, as you would expect, still sitting there. The trouble is now there are three loads of washing at various stages of dampness waiting to join that pile.
Then, about an hour ago people began to say they were hungry. I'd forgotten about the whole meal thing to be honest. I would love to say that I managed to produce a delicious pasta dish in seven minutes from scratch, or that I got a nutritious fish pie which I'd prepared last week out of the freezer and had it on the table within half an hour, along with fresh runner beans from the garden. What actually happened was that I began searching through the cupboards and fridge, desperately looking for something I could feed to my family which didn't come ready prepared with its own penicillin. I didn't have much luck to be honest. Meringue nest, kidney bean and marmite surprise anyone?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Nev, Iwan and Bassong

From left to right: Nev, Iwan and Bassong
Introducing Nev the RAF bear, Iwan the Welsh bear and Bassong the Norwich bear. This is them after spending the night in a rather seedy B&B in Llandudno. They want to know when the room was last cleaned and why the shower didn't work. Nev tried to plug his phone in to charge and nearly got electrocuted and Iwan asked how the fat, middle aged Lancashire owner managed to get a pretty young Thai wife, when all he could manage was Gwen from the valleys. I explained that all he needed was a computer, lots of cash and a rather warped view of matrimony.

Apparently the three of them are coming up Snowdon with us today, although Bassong really should be in training for Saturday's match against Everton!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Safari Park: Three Out Of Five Aint Bad

"I'd get back in the car now", said the friendly ranger to me from the relative safety of her land-rover, adding helpfully, "...just in case the rhinos decide to charge".
This was yesterday, three days into our holiday. On the way to Bewdley Safari Park I had been musing about my five holiday predictions ( and thinking how badly I had done. None of them had come to fruition so far. Geof was in disgustingly good health, Bryn was enjoying himself despite having said that the highlight of the holiday so far had been driving past Daventry on the M6, and my moderate wine consumption could have put me in the running for Band of Hope Queen. Little did I know that the holiday gremlin was just round the corner and that everything was about to change.
The day began happily enough as we set off on our trip round the safari park, looking at the lions and giraffes from the comfort of our vehicle. After a while the traffic slowed to a standstill whilst people ahead stopped to take photos of the animals. At this point I did what I thought was the sensible thing and turned off the ignition. When I tried to re-start a few moments later it was dead. Nothing. I tried a few more times. Same result. By now Bryn was starting to get agitated in the back of the car. We were stuck in the 'fast lane' at the safari park and could not budge. I stuck my hazard lights on and people started to undertake us and go past us on the grass to the right. This went on for some 20 minutes or so until we finally managed to attract the attention of a passing ranger. From the back seat I distinctly heard the words 'This is the worst holiday EVER', from number one son. Result! Numbers 1 and 3 of my list covered without so much as breaking a sweat. Jump leads were radioed for but by now Geof had managed to roll the car down the hill and get it to start. Later on in the day I managed to smash my beloved phone out of existence and was told a new handset would be over £300! I could probably get a small property in Albania for that. How can something so small cost that much? 
My car doesn't start unless it's running down a hill, I have a £10 phone which doesn't even have a camera and have lost all my contacts and my 8 year old is mutinying ...and so prediction no.5 came to pass...

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Five Predictions About Our Holiday

So, today we are off on holiday to Shropshire also calling in on the Land of my Fathers (or in my case mother) at some point. Based on previous experience I should like to make the following predictions. When we get back next weekend I shall let you know how many were correct.

1. Something will go wrong with the car - previous mishaps have included a puncture, car refusing to start and scraping it against a pillar.

2. Geof will be ill.

3. We will have an argument over directions. I drive, Geof navigates and likes what he calls 'short cuts'. I prefer to call it 'getting lost'.

4. At some point Bryn will say 'This is the worst holiday EVER'.

5. I will get through a lot of wine.

There will be very little internet access most of the time we are away so this may be it for a week or so. In the meantime do keep looking over my old posts. I am sure the holiday will provide me with plenty of new material for my return!

Saturday, 10 August 2013


By rights I should not be writing this post. It goes against all the rules of what is decent and proper because I haven't got it on my 'to do list'. The things which are currently on my list are;

I am an inveterate list maker. I have lists of things to do, lists of stuff to pack for the holiday, shopping lists, ideas for blog list. The list is almost literally endless. Up in my bedroom I even have a list of hymns I might like at my funeral. I'm hoping that one will not be put to use in the near future, but you never know.
I can't speak for other people but I have my own fairly rigid view of 'list etiquette'.

1) Lists have to be written by hand on a piece of scruffy paper - an envelope, a page torn out of a diary. It has to be a stand alone piece of paper. Writing a list in a notebook is not acceptable. I have even tried writing a list on my phone on a special app I got but I can't do it. It just doesn't feel right.
2) You have to cross things off the list once you've done them. This is necessary for that sense of smug satisfaction. If you do something 'extra' (such as writing this blog) it has to be added to the list and crossed off anyway.
3) You are allowed to add sub-sections. For example, if I am writing reports and have 60 to do I can have reports a, reports b and reports c and cross off one for every 20 reports I complete.
4) I am not strict about doing my lists in order but I am sure that some people reading this have just started screaming at the very thought of doing lists randomly. These people are 'extreme listers'.

Anyway I had better stop now and add this blog post to my list so I can have the joy of crossing it off. Then I am going to phone the repeat prescription line and go and pay for my bathroom. Hooray! Only just gone 9 o'clock and three things pretty much done!

Friday, 9 August 2013

The North Walsham Mafia

I don't like to talk about this much in public for fear of waking up one morning to find a horse's head in my bed, but my husband is a member of a big North Walsham gang. I blame his friend Dennis for getting him into it. He came home one day a few years ago and told me he was going to a Rotary meeting. I thought this seemed harmless enough at the time but how wrong I was. It has taken over his life and is much more than the innocent fund-raising jamboree which it presents itself as. That is the acceptable face of Rotary. I am going to take you into an underworld of politics, back-biting and pavlovas that you never knew existed.
To begin with I managed  to keep out of it but then the phone calls started. These mainly came during the afternoon at about 3.30 when the advert break during Countdown was on. Sometimes I was home from work by this time and would see the 01692 area code on my caller display and know it was one of them. "Oh hello my dear, Cedric here. Is Geof in? No? Oh, you're his secretary are you? Ha ha. Could you just take down this message for him please." On other occasions I would be out, but pick up a message.  It is worth mentioning at this point that many Rotarians are ex services and old habits die hard. "Geof! Reg here.Thursday 3.01 pm. Just phoning with some figures for you to look at so maybe you could get back to me. Message ends Thursday 3.02"
Next came Geof's involvement in various events, with pieces of paper blu-tacked to the kitchen cupboards. My personal favourite was in the early months of his membership when he was called upon to help put up a stall for the Rotary stand at the Christmas Fair in town. When he joined he was 50 and managed overnight to halve the average age of members. Therefore, being a 'youngster' he would get called upon for any jobs which involved physical activity. As I glanced up at my kitchen cupboard I could not believe what I saw. There in bold font were instructions for the Christmas Fair under the heading 'ERECTION TEAM'. Perhaps this was going to end up being one of North Walsham's more memorable events?
Anyway, the years passed, the Rotary Chairmen died and were replaced. Then in December last year things took a nasty turn. The new Waitrose had opened here and it was time for the Christmas collection.  Naturally our Rotary wanted to collect outside Waitrose but the Bure Valley branch had already bagged that spot, and so the Turf War began. By now I was the North Walsham Treasurer's Bitch and was worried that I might start getting death threats from the Inner Wheel (that's the one they let the little ladies join apparently). How would I meet my end? By eating ricin-laced lemon curd? Maybe I would be found with crochet needles in my eyes or get bundled into the boot of a Honda and driven off Cromer Pier?
However, there's not much that a change of name and identity and a bit of help from the witness protection programme can't resolve. They still haven't caught up with us and I even managed to make a public appearance at the Lord Mayor's Banquet earlier this year. I nearly gave the game away what with being about the only person there who could walk un-aided but I think I got away with it ...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Match of the Day

Having spent what seems like an awful long time yesterday watching 'A Decade of Great Goals' with my son and his friend, and listening to them talk football incessantly I have the following Breaking News for you.


The BBC have announced that, due to cost cutting, Match of the Day is no longer going to be broadcast from Salford Quays but from the less well known Millfield Road studios in North Walsham. Further savings will be made by replacing the regular presenters with Bryn 'they think it's all over' Harrison and Josh 'it's a game of 2 halves' Parker with guest appearances from Ronnie 'which one is Iniesta?' Harrison. Concerns have been raised about the relative lack of experience of these two unknown pundits, but fears have been laid to rest given that they are 8 years old and therefore know everything.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Unwanted Hair

 As a three year old, Bryn turned to me and asked very seriously, "Mummy, if you could have one wish what would it be?" I was just weighing up in my mind the relative merits of world peace and an end to child poverty when he piped up, "I bet it would be hair-free legs wouldn't it?" At the time I laughed, but if he asked me the same question today then a lack of body hair would feature fairly high on my wish list.
You see, I am rather more hirsute than I feel comfortable with at present, due to not really having had a proper bathroom for 10 days (see post 'The Bathroom' for further details). As a general rule, and to spare the sensitivities of the rest of the population, I tend not to be one for baring too much flesh. It is thanks to the law of sod that the only spell of adulthood where I have not had ready access to soap, water and shaving foam, has coincided with one of the longest spells of warm weather I can remember. A dilemma then. Do I go for comfort and risk tendrils of under-arm fuzz escaping for public viewing and stubbly white legs being on show, or wrap myself in leggings and a long-sleeved top?
Fortunately the bathroom should be finished today. I can get out all my depilatory accoutrement and even if it snows tomorrow I shall be out there in my shorts and vest top.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Great Yarmouth: New and Improved

Nothing has stirred up as much strength of feeling so far on Normal for Norfolk as my previous post on Great Yarmouth ( I must confess to having written the piece based on experiences from my childhood and hearsay. Much of this has come from pupils at the school where I teach, many of whom come from Yarmouth themselves and it was a former pupil who first introduced me to the nick name 'Not so Great Yarmouth'.
Apparently the rather nightmarish seaside resort of my childhood (we used to get dragged there on Sunday School outings) has cleaned up its act a lot. So, in order to do justice to the 'New and Improved' Great Yarmouth, I felt I should produce a 'New and Improved' review.
Some of my ramblings would remain the same, even in the light of glowing reports from friends and family. I still maintain, for example, that 'premier' is a bad choice of word to use in any attempt at positive marketing and that we cannot possibly claim to have dry and sunny weather all year round.
However, I have been urged to visit Yarmouth to sample the delights of greyhound racing (literally rather than metaphorically going to the dogs for a change; at least it wasn't going to pot), riding on the snails (much like getting a Sanders bus to work I should imagine) and visiting the Nelson museum. Apart from Stephen Fry and 'Alan Partridge' I suppose Nelson is the only famous Norfolk person we can boast.
So, maybe Norfolk's Premier Beach Resort is worth a sneaky visit after all. By the way, no one has come forward in support of the Merrivale Model Village so I assume that is just as I described it in my last post?

A Tour Round Norfolk: Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth (or as it is more accurately known 'Not So Great Yarmouth') is situated on the east coast of Norfolk and is allegedly a popular holiday destination, though with whom I dread to think.
In the interests of accuracy, and not having visited Yarmouth myself since I was a child, I felt I should do some research before blogging, and so checked on the tourist board website. Never again shall I believe a word I read on the web. It is billed as 'Norfolk's Premier Beach Resort'. Now, I don't know what it is about the word 'premier', but for me it manages to convey the complete polar opposite of what it is meant to. Anything with 'premier' in its name conjures up images of mediocrity and tackiness and if you are fooled by it then you deserve everything you get ... or don't get.
Next it says (and I quote) "Norfolk is known for dry and sunny weather throughout the year."?? OK, so Norfolk may get slightly more sun than some places, let's say Siberia, and is drier than parts of Sri Lanka during monsoon season, but I don't think we can claim to have dry and sunny weather all year.
I realise I'm not selling it so far (Norfolk Tourist Board won't be advertising on my site) but what of Great Yarmouth's attractions? Well, there is the Merrivale Model Village bearing the slogan 'The Same Sh*t But Smaller'. You can go to the Marina Leisure centre and spend a few blissful hours surrounded by hoards of screaming children. Best of all though is Britannia Pier, which I think was called the 'Pleasure Beach' in my day and consisted of an over-priced helter-skelter and a death-trap of a roller-coaster, all topped off nicely with candy floss and salmonella hot dogs. Now, far be it for me to put you off, but when Dante wrote his 'Inferno' and described the 9 levels of hell, he clearly hadn't been to this particular Norfolk attraction which would surely be level 10. Interestingly, level 6 is called 'The city of Dis'. Now we have the town of 'Diss' in South Norfolk so maybe Dante had visited these parts after all...?

A Tour Round Norfolk: Holt

Holt, home to Gresham's School and the over-priced boutique, is situated a few miles inland from the North Norfolk coast. Holt appears to have been spared the fate of other 'market towns' in Norfolk (i.e. rapid decline) due to two factors. First, it doesn't appear to actually have a market, although I could be wrong on this point and am sure someone will gently correct me if I am. Second, as I mentioned earlier, it boasts 'Norfolk's 'Premier' Private School', and thus attracts quite a posh clientele both in terms of inhabitants and visitors.
Although I like Holt, it also fills me with an instant sense of impending doom. This is due more to associations I have with it than to the town itself.
As a young child I travelled through Holt every week day on the way to school. It represented that half way marker between home and school when you realised that you hadn't managed to convince your mum that you had stomach ache, and had reached the point of no return and death by spelling test.
Many years later I had my first driving lessons in Holt which were also cause for stomach churning fear, mainly on the part of other road users and pedestrians. I wasn't a naturally observant driver and frequently used to fail to stop at the pedestrian crossing in the centre of the town. There is always an added frisson of danger when driving in Holt as it is pretty much devoid of pavements but plentiful in its supply of ambling tourists, elderly residents and Boden-bedecked yummy mummies just popping into Larners for some Vignotte.
More recently it was the venue for our wedding and, although I felt very little in the way of nerves that day, I shall never forget driving down the road parallel to the church and seeing the rows of cars parked there. I experienced that moment of it all becoming 'real'. People had actually turned up for it and were in the church waiting for me including, I hoped, my future husband.
As far as I am aware there are few actual tourist attractions in Holt. It's more a case of the whole town being an attraction it itself. There are lots of quirky shops and boutiques, an Art Gallery and of course Byfords which does fantastic cakes. If you have a mid-morning snack there you won't need to eat for the rest of the day, but then, if you've spent the day in Holt you probably won't be able to afford to eat for the rest of the day!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Having Workmen In

I mentioned the other day that we are currently having our bathroom done. Apart from small things like having a new carpet laid or getting the fence fixed this is the first time I have had lots of workmen in over a longish period of time. At last count we had had five different tradesmen here, all fantastic at their jobs and really pleasant to have around. I was a little disappointed though, that none of them has any form of sweetener in their hot drinks. There is very little comic mileage in "I'll 'ave a cup of Earl Grey love, no sugar".
I have also been pleasantly surprised at how little mess there is though it has been very noisy. Ronnie the cat has pretty much been living in the garden the past week, coming into the house only to grab a mouthful of food and take a quick glance at what the strange men are doing to his home. Rocket the hedgehog is also looking a bit shaky and is quite possibly now deaf as well as blind, bless him.
...and so, we are enjoying a quiet, workman free weekend. No drilling, no hammering and above all no having to listen to the tiler singing along with great enthusiasm but little musical skill to Kiss FM.


There appears to be a Twitter trend at present to tweet a list of the things you love.
This is a lot more positive and healthier than some of the things trending on twitter at present, such as Simon Cowell or Jay Z, so I thought I would add to it by doing my very own Norfolk version - only 10 for now ...

1) My traaactor
2) My friend's traaactor
3) My parents
4) My in-laws (whoops already said that in no.3)
5) Driving at 42 mph when the speed limit is 60
6) Driving at 42 mph when the speed limit is 30
7) Watching Naarch City
8) Gooun up Yaarmuth
9) Crooma Crabs
10) Living in such a bootiful part of the country.

Friday, 2 August 2013


"There's no need for that kind of outburst", came a stern voice from the back seat of the car. "Sorry Bryn", I replied to my eight year old. What had prompted this telling off was my reaction to an elderly driver who had changed lanes right in front of me without any indication whatsoever.
"What the fff....flip", I had said, remembering just in time that I was not alone in the car.
In the old days when I was a good Baptist, my speech was as clean as an obsessive compulsive's house, but as my moral compass came apart at the seams, so too did my language.
Now, I don't particularly like to hear swearing, especially if it is the kind of coarse, meaningless, every other word is an obscenity, which you find all too often these days. Apparently swearing is harder to give up than smoking, and for many it simply becomes a way of life. However, neither do I subscribe to the much bandied about school-of-thought which says that only the uneducated swear because they don't have the eloquence to express themselves in any other way. Enjoying comedy as I do, I believe that a well-placed swear word can add to the humour of a piece whether written or spoken. I also quite like the freedom afforded by the kind of  'text speech acronym' swearing such as the title of this post. I would not have dreamt of actually calling the post by it's full name, but the acronym somehow seems acceptable. A bit like 'Obscenities Lite'.
So, what to do about children and swearing? However good you are as a parent about your language they are bound to pick things up from an early age. I remember Bryn aged 2 and scarcely able to talk coming home from the child-minder one day and saying 'You bar-smudge'. It was so hilarious that he'd got it wrong, so I ignored it and after a couple of days he didn't do it again. A couple of years ago, when I was clearing out his bedroom, I found a piece of paper in his bedside drawer. Written on it, in his best writing and with his favourite gold pen, was every obscenity he knew - quite an impressive list for a 6 year old including the word 'fuke'. Again, I didn't want to make a big thing of it, so I put it back where I found it. However, being a teacher I just couldn't help myself, and a couple of days later felt I had to say something. "You know the naughty word that begins with 'F', Bryn? It has a curly c and a kicking k at the end ok? Bless him, he got it right after that.

My favourite post: How to tell if you are in Norfolk

My blog is 4 weeks old today! So, to celebrate I am re-publishing my favourite post so far.

Many people do actually come to Norfolk on purpose, to live or for a holiday, but there are special training courses to go on before you take this step. However, there are stories of folk ending up here by accident, without following any previous acclimatisation programme or learning the language. All it takes is one wrong turn on the M11... (M - that's a motorway for any real Norfolk readers).
Here are a few ways for the un-trained to tell if they have ended up in Norfolk.

1. The surrounding terrain will become flatter than a Latvian gymnast's chest. (sorry Svetlana)

2. You will be able to see nothing but rows of cabbages or possibly sugar-beet for miles. We like growing things round here. It's what we do best. In fact, it's the only thing we do.

3. The people around you will begin to look a bit strange. Don't worry. This is not you starting to lose your mind and hallucinate (yet), this is due to centuries of in-breeding. Our 'Family Trees' don't fork much here. 'Family Trunks' would be more accurate.

4. You may witness some odd behaviour too. Again, this is due to in-breeding and is a well documented affliction known by the acronym NFN - Normal for Norfolk.

5. People will stare at you and point, especially if you are in a motorised vehicle which has not been designed for farming purposes. We are not really used to foreigners round these parts.

6. You will hear what sounds like a foreign language being spoken. This might be 'Naarfak' but it could equally be Polish.

7. You will drive through lots of towns with 'markets', especially if it is a Thursday (or thuuursdee). They are not worth getting out of the car for selling only cheap clothing, pet supplies and flimsy wrapping paper.

8. People will be dressed predominantly in green and yellow. Do not be alarmed. These are simple, harmless individuals known as 'Norwich City Supporters'. They should be treated with kindness.
N.B. If people are wearing blue and white then you are probably still in Suffolk. It is safe to leave your vehicle and seek help.

Above all, if you think you may have strayed into Norfolk DO NOT PANIC. A good rule of thumb is not to follow signs to places you can't pronounce like Guist, Happisburgh or Costessey. Do not be fooled if you see directions to 'Little London'. It has three houses and a post box. If you are in the north of the county you could see signs for 'New York' and 'Boston'. Turn your car around. You are in danger of going into Lincolnshire and may never be heard of again.

Buying Bling Norfolk Style

I have recently been thinking about jewellery quite a bit. This is not some strange obsessive affliction I have developed but rather can be put down to the fact that I am going to be a god-mother in September and want to get something nice for my beautiful god-daughter, something a bit more up-market than a vajazzle from the pound shop.
All this rumination on things blingy reminded me of a tale my dad told me about a Norfolk jeweller friend of his. A woman had come into his shop and said she wanted to buy a crucifix for her niece. The jeweller got out various pieces he thought might fit the bill, gold ones, silver ones, a variety of sizes and a range of prices. The customer looked through them for a bit and then said "There ookay I spoose, but hint you got none with the little fella on?"
I don't know how the jeweller kept a straight face, but I bet the Almighty had a good chortle at that one.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Norwich City

Today I had the rare pleasure of going to watch the Norwich City football team doing a training session.
I am a real novice when it comes to football and have only been lured in by virtue of being married to a Norwich supporter and having given birth to one too. I'm surprised he didn't make his entrance into the world wearing the distinctive green and yellow of the Canaries' strip but, as he was born in Leeds that may not have been the most sensible move. I don't know how the green and yellow came about, but it is not the most attractive of colour combinations and there was definitely no female input in that particular decision making process.
So, Bryn and I settled down in our seats at Carrow Road, trying to keep out of the direct sun on the hottest day of the year so far. We were far too early but the place was filling up quite quickly,  a sea of mainly young boys proudly sporting their outrageously priced Norwich strips, the sacrifice you have to make for supporting a club in the Premier League I suppose. (I just thought I'd drop that in in case there are any Ipswich Town fans reading. I'll be getting hate mail soon; I've already managed to upset most of Yarmouth.)
Nothing much was happening, just a few goalies doing some saving practice - that's the technical term you know- one of whom is quite new and called Carlo Nash apparently. So, all was fairly peaceful, a touching scene of mother and son bonding in a special Norfolk way, when 'The Family Behind' arrived. Clearly this was not their actual name, but as they installed themselves in the seats to the rear of us us it seems like a good label for the time being. So mum, dad and 3 boys under 7 squeezed their way in with much banging of seats (those foldy-up ones), discussion about who was sitting where and knees banging into the back of my head as they got comfortable. Fine, you expect a bit of movement as people arrive, and this is Norwich football stadium on a hot Thursday morning in the school holidays, not Glyndebourne, so stop being a middle-class, middle-aged grump.
But then they opened the picnic. More kicks in the neck as the fruit shoots were handed around and cries from the dad of "Luca! Do you want a sweet? Hey, Luca. I said do you want a sweet? What colour? Does Mum want one? Hey, Lynn, do you want one of these? How about some crisps then..." I'm sure he was a very nice man but he had what can only be described as verbal diarrhoea. Next we got a run down in broad Norfolk of every match they had been to, who had scored, what they had eaten at half time. Then, the smallest child started banging the empty seat next to me and singing "scaredy cat, scaredy cat, sitting on the doormat" ad nauseam. He had clearly inherited his father's talent for making scintillating conversation and penchant for repetition.
In the end we moved, mainly to get out of the sun, which by now had made its way round to us, but also to stop me appearing on the front page of the EDP and quite possibly the national dailies too, for committing some unspeakable act of violence against a whole family of Norwich City supporters.
Anyway, I just hope that the newbie in the squad, Mr Nash, isn't too attached to his birth name because if  'The Family Behind' dad is anything to go by he will soon be answering not to 'Carlo' but to 'Carloo'.

My Haribo Habit

Now, I know that I am not alone in adult circles in being a bit partial to the odd packet of Haribo and I have found that the more open I have been, the more people I have found over the age of 25 who share my gelatine addiction. I'm sure there are support groups out there somewhere for the real hard-core users, and a twelve-step plan to wean you off the gummy bears.
Normally when I am at home I am ok, as we tend not to have Haribo in the house, but my real downfall is when I'm at school. I  keep a big stash of this type of sweet in my desk as prizes/bribes/danger money for the kids I teach. I'm sure this goes against all guidelines on good practice, what with our being a healthy eating school and all that, but I find that fresh fruit doesn't keep so well and is nowhere near as effective. "Come on Tyler, just finish this piece of work and you can have some grapes".
Normally I can resist. The Haribo are in a tin in a locked drawer, otherwise they do tend to 'disappear', so I have to make an effort to get to them - but after a particularly challenging day I do sometimes find myself reaching into the pupils' sweet tin for a little something. The trouble is once you've had some it is hard to stop. I guess the combination of sugar, e numbers and chewiness is meant to be addictive otherwise they wouldn't sell so many.
I have sometimes toyed with the idea of buying sweets which I don't like, such as toffees or mints, but the trouble is the kids don't like them either. One 13 year old girl asked "Miss. Why don't you buy us chocolate instead?". I found myself in one of those painful situations where you can hear yourself saying something, know it's stupid, but it's too late to stop yourself. "They wouldn't last too well in a stuffy classroom, and there's nothing worse than a sticky mess in your drawers", was what I said. I hate it when that happens. She might have a point though? I'm sure melted, congealed and re-set chocolate would be much easier for me to say no to.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Morris Dancing

Apparently it was Sir Thomas Beecham who said "Try everything once except incest and Morris Dancing" and I would suggest that you can't go far wrong if you follow his advice. Perhaps it is wrong of me, and terribly British too, to mock one of our country's oldest traditions, but we must not lose sight of the reality here.
Let's start by looking at the traditional dances of other countries and see how we measure up in comparison. Brazil has the Samba, a carnival dance full of rhythm, colour and exuberance. It speaks of nights spent partying, of dancing on the warm sands at Copacabana, of mischief and merriment.
Spain has Flamenco, an old gypsy dance full of pain and passion as it recounts the centuries of oppression experienced by the 'gitanos'. Austria lays claim to the Viennese Waltz (at least I presume it does - if not it needs renaming)  full of elegance, poise and romance, with suavely dressed men and the beautiful swishing skirts of the ladies. And of course, my personal favourite, the Argentine Tango, sultry and seductive danced by stunningly beautiful couples.
So, that's what we're up against England. What have you got to offer? Oh, let's see what we can come up with. How about a bunch of men (mainly men, and anyway most women who morris dance could easily pass as male) who could all do with a good wash, haircut and shave, dressed in white boiler suits? We can throw in a few props too, maybe some bells (for maximum annoyance), sticks and handkerchiefs? They can prance on the spot with no discernible moves involved, making a god-awful noise and throwing around bits of Kleenex.
Now I'm sure someone is going to set me straight, pointing out that the dance dates back to 1483 and depicts the anguish of the lowly peasant in feudal England, with the handkerchiefs symbolising the shrouds used during the time of the plague, and the sticks bring used to ward off evil spirits (I made all that up, please don't quote me as a leading authority on folk dancing if you are writing a dissertation for your Phd). I think we need a new national dance. Perhaps we could have a spin-off of Eurovision but a dancing version instead? My prediction? Le Royaume-Uni, nul points.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


A few weeks ago I really wasn't entirely sure what a blog was. Until a year ago I didn't even have a facebook page, mainly on account of hearing horror stories about teachers being sacked for inappropriate posts which their pupils had somehow got hold of.
A couple of close friends and family members had suggested I should start a blog and, being the sort who is easily flattered, I decided to give it a go, hoping that I wouldn't become the blogosphere equivalent of those poor souls you see in the early auditions for The X Factor. You know the ones; their Auntie Jean once told them they had a nice voice so they decided that going on national TV to face certain humiliation would be a good move.
I have learned so much in the last fortnight, all about URLs, HTML, SEO and many more exciting acronyms, as well as link-backs, hits out and kicks in the teeth (OK I made that last one up). I have been obsessively refreshing my STATS, waking up in the morning and the first thing I think about is checking my page-views. I know a lot of readers are friends and family, but I wonder about the fairly large following I have in Russia and hope it's not the KGB; and what of those other places, Turkey, Honduras, Greece, Serbia, South Africa? How have people there stumbled across my little blog?
Then there was the process of getting approved for advertising on my site which was a steep learning curve too. I keep checking what are hilariously called my 'earnings', at time of writing the princely sum of £1.54. One of my friends is due a cut of 30% for suggesting a post title so I reckon I'm left with about a pound. I also now worry about 'illegal clicking'. It sounds like the sort of thing which might go on in a contortionists' sex club, but apparently it is clicking on your own adverts or getting friends to do so.
So, for now I shan't be giving up the day job, but my nearest and dearest had better be careful not to do anything even remotely funny or you may end up as Normal for Norfolk blog fodder.

The Bathroom

Well, Ronnie the cat was back in action again this morning, my own personal but somewhat arbitrary alarm clock. I wondered downstairs bleary eyed, trying not to tread on Ronnie as he clowned around between the banisters, and did what every 40 something woman does on waking, headed for the bathroom. Morning routine of the middle aged. Have a wee, make sure all vital parts of anatomy functioning at least at basic level, have a cup of tea. With my parents it is have a wee, have a cup of tea, check the obituary pages of the local newspaper.
Anyway, back to this morning. As I opened the bathroom door I remembered that we don't have one at present. A couple of very nice men called Gary and Shane ripped it out yesterday. This was by prior arrangement you understand, and not the latest in some bizarre Norfolk craze whereby you go into people's homes in broad daylight and make off with an entire room. So Gary and Shane (not their real names) abandoned me at about 4.00pm yesterday with a cheery 'We'll be back in the morning love', leaving me with an empty shell where the peach bath, toilet and sink once stood. Don't get me wrong, I bore no emotional attachment to my old bathroom (who actually likes peach, the colour of nightmarish 80s bridesmaid dresses?) but I am quite keen on the concept of being able to go to the toilet and wash.
Fortunately we have a very old and not entirely functional toilet and wash basin upstairs so until the new bathroom is complete (anything up to 2 weeks apparently - where are DIY SOS when you need them?) that is what we shall have to use. We'll do our best in the hygiene department, but just to be on the safe side I wouldn't stand down-wind of the Harrison family for now.

Monday, 29 July 2013

5:2 Feast Days

I have been following the 5:2 eating plan for a while now though nowadays it is more 6:1. For those of you not familiar with this strange mathematical diet the idea is that you 'fast' on 2 days a week and 'feast' on the other 5. Now, by 'feast' they mean 'eat normally' which is where confusion and self delusion can creep in. I can't speak for fellow 5:2ers, but I find that my willpower is just fine on fast days, in fact I almost enjoy them. Must be all that Baptist self-denial I used to indulge in rearing its ugly head. No, it is the feast days where I have to be careful, as I try to convince myself that 'eating normally' involves a Full English (for readers abroad that is a cooked breakfast and not some excruciating waxing technique), 6 Big Macs washed down with full fat coke, plenty of chocolately snacks and an evening meal of takeaway and a bottle of wine. I am exaggerating a bit but nevertheless the temptation is to over-indulge on feast days, thereby undoing all your good work.
Last week, when Prince George was born I was on a feast day and had been into town to buy gifts for my son's teachers as an end-of-year thank-you. Here are extracts from the cards we sent to school.

Dear Mr Brooklyn,
Thank-you very much for all your hard work this year. Bryn has really enjoyed being in your class. You are lucky that I decided to buy you some red wine as a gift. I don't much like this particular alcoholic beverage and therefore the bottle is still intact.
Best wishes etc ...

Dear Mrs Pottersby,
You really are the best classroom assistant ever and Bryn loves it when you work with them. I have to apologise about the poor gift offering this year. You were meant to have a bottle of Prosecco but it looked so tempting yesterday evening that I just had to open it - needed to wet the baby's head and all that. Also, sorry about the champagne truffles. I think you'll find there are only a couple missing.
Enjoy the holidays etc ...

It's true. I can resist everything except temptation!