Sunday, June 24, 2007

I know you from the internet!

It was exam time at of my jobs this week. Attendance was high and a couple of people came despite being sick with a heavy cold. I was very impressed.

I'm not so impressed now because I've caught whatever they had. Since work yesterday morning I've only made one brief mission out of the house to buy gluten-free chicken stock.

As I walked out of the supermarket, I saw two familiar faces. It took time to figure out who they were. They weren't people I know. They weren't celebrities (living in central London, I see someone D-list about once a month).

After a split-second it hit me. It was a couple I had seen in photos on the blog of an English teacher in Tokyo. I thought about stopping them, 'I've seen you on a blog! I remember you well because of your good looks, whiter than white teeth and silly beret'.

I decided not to. They were rushing towards Holborn Station.

I've done some thinking. I have been spending too much time reading blogs written by people I don't know. Actually, the most ridiculous thing is that the blogs I read most avidly are written by people who I would find too annoying to handle in real life! Why is that?

I've just been through my bookmarks and done a drastic cull.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I happen to cycle by

It must be the time of the year. Every time I ride to work there is something wacky going on. Either a road is closed down for soldiers in fancy dress on horses...

or a park is shut down for the above soldiers to wage war against an imaginary enemy approaching from Green Park Station.

There have been camels. Bactrian ones!

And tanks galore.

It seems a bit of a waste really but I guess that tourism justifies the excesses. And if the military need somewhere to gad about then better here than Iraq.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


DSD has been in Brighton for a week and we went down to visit today. I've never been there before and I liked it. I think it helped that I've been to Blackpool twice.

In a particularly large 2nd hand store I found this scented geranium. I've wanted one ever since I smelt them in the conservatory at Kew a few months ago. It's an unusual smell, more herby than flowery.

There was a London to Brighton bike ride today and the train home was pretty full. It got more crowded when we stopped at Gatwick Airport and a rowdy group of 10 returned English tourists got on.

A couple of them found seats and the others sat on their bags in the aisle. Once the train started moving someone got out a bottle of champagne and popped it next to my head. I uttered a mild profanity and champagne started spilling onto the carpet.

One of the group saw the look of disgust on my face and made a loud announcement, 'Oh! Some people aren't looking very happy. It's just champagne people!'.

Champagne was passed around and the girl on the suitcase next to me opened a can of beer. The man opposite me unzipped a suitcase and started rummaging through. 'That stinks'', the girl with the beer cried. 'Yeah, it's the rugby team's dirty washing' he replied.

He then got out a shirt and started waving it around. When beer girl screamed he procured a pair of smelly underpants and then some rancid socks. A man behind me asked them to put the clothes away. 'People are complaining', announced one of their party, sarcastically.

If they were teenaged or really drunk it mightn't have been so bad. But these were very normal looking English people in their 30s and 40s. Thank goodness I only catch public transport a couple of days a week. And thank goodness I have a blog to vent on!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


There are good and bad things about having two jobs. Getting a change of scene every couple of days is one of the best.

When I got off the tram this morning, I waited for all the students to walk ahead and then took this photo. I'd probably get bored of the views if I didn't only commute out there two days a week.

And speaking of changes of scene, I've booked flights to Delhi and HK/Sydney. And apparently I've started speaking in Hindi in my sleep.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I am in such a foul mood. I had a teaching observation this morning and it was terrible.

I've always thought that getting criticism on your teaching is much more personal than being criticised on a piece of work you've produced. I think it's more akin to an actor getting a bad review.

Everything seemed to go so well. Everyone attended and most arrived before the starting time. I had a progression of interesting activities planned and everyone was engaged throughout. Everyone was able to do things at the end that they couldn't do before. And they felt great about what they had acheived.

I'm so proud of the way I manage to make this particular class work. There is a 65 year age gap between the oldest and youngest students. Some have been in London over 35 years and others less than 2. One has university education and others only primary school.

Three students are over 75 and we have issues with mobility, memory, sight and hearing. Another student has a physical disability which makes writing difficult. But everyone seems to learn and enjoy themselves.

So when I got to the end of the lesson I was expecting some praise first and then a bit of constructive criticism. I've had enough observations before to know how these things should work.

Instead, I had half an hour of criticism of every aspect of the lesson:

- Your lesson was like an open learning session which wanted to be a real lesson but didn't make it

- You shouldn't be teaching such a beginner class to break words into syllables (they did it didn't they?)

- And if you insist on doing so, you should call them parts of the word (instead of saying both as I did?)

- You should move around the class more and correct students from behind (yeah cos that's so reassuring)

- You should introduce mingling activities and make the learners move around the class more (yeah cos old people love that)

If I went on, it would be very boring. After picking apart every aspect of the lesson she said 'If you changed all that you would turn what was a faaiirly good lesson into a very good lesson. Oh thank you.


Anyway, Shekerim texted last night to ask if I want to see Water with her at Notting Hill Gate tonight. I was delighted because it's usually me trying (and failing) to convince other people to see a Hindi film.

I've been waiting for the last part of Deepa Mehta's trilogy for years and was in India when the protests stopped her from filming Water in Varanasi.

And I'm just in time to talk about it tomorrow with special friends visiting from Hong Kong. I have a day off to hang out with them!

So I should recover :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Stuff I haven't done for a long time

Mogfa organised a fantastic tennis day yesterday at the courts opposite her house. I hadn't played tennis since I was quite young and I had a vague memory that I was never that good at it.

But I surprised myself. I took years of tennis lessons as a kid and after warming up yesterday, I could hit the ball reasonably well. I was a very competitive child and I suppose I was discouraged because other people in the tennis class were better than me.

After tennis we went out for dinner and then came home to watch the final of Any Dream Will Do, the talent show on BBC1, in which contestants have been competing for the lead role in a new production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat'.

I've loved the show. It's had even more tears and drama than last year's How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?. And it reminds me of a crucial time in my own singing career.

The primary schools of the Northern Beaches were combining their choirs for an annual concert. The combined choir was going to sing the songs of JATD and each school was asked to nominate a student to compete for the chance to sing solo.

I was my school's entry and I thought I had a good chance. I had the name and my 'Close Every Door to Me' was in tune and hauntingly high pitched. I'd already had the lead role in the infants school musical.

But, in front of several hundred children, I was beaten in the sing-off by a fat boy whose voice was even higher than mine. It was the end.

Not long after that, the choir teacher who had nominated me left the school. The new choir teacher put girls in all the leading roles (including the male ones) in the primary school musicals.

I remember being incensed when the smallest girl in the grade was cast in the lead role as a pirate captain. I guess the teacher thought the irony was hilarious.

Meanwhile, my friend Mty (pictured also at tennis yesterday), who was an incredibly talented actor and later went on to study at NIDA, was cast as a lesser pirate (possibly the only boy who got a significant speaking role). I knew that he had been robbed.

It's funny how these things stick with you. Several years ago the pirate captain was charged with armed robbery. I felt like justice had finally been done.

Did I mention that I was a competitive child?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Summer holidays

This week I managed to look past all the stuff I've got to do in the last month of term. And I realised that I have a huge holiday coming up. Almost two months. It's like being a uni student again!

I'll be in Sydney (via Hong Kong) in September for my sister's wedding. It won't be a long trip because the new term starts several weeks beforehand. I'll work the first two weeks of term and then fly off.

That still leaves a big space of nothing through July and August. I applied to teach at a university summer school but haven't heard back. Most of the other summer teaching work is too poorly paid to bother.

I could do a fun non-teaching summer job. I looked into riding a rickshaw. Companies hire them out at a fixed rate (and insure you) and then you get to keep all your fares and tips.

But as Jean pointed out, rickshaw drivers spend the majority of their time waiting on street corners trying to solicit business. I think I'd be a great driver but soliciting would not suit me at all.

I've been considering travel. There's nothing I want (or can afford) to do in Europe. I'd love to see mountains in India again but it will be monsoon season. So I'm considering Rajasthan. Hot but relatively dry.

I'd feel bad about doing so much flying in one summer. But a month on a vegetarian diet, living without electrical appliances and showering from cold buckets of water would make up for that, right?

And I'm dying for the chance to speak Hindi again. Hmm...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

People doing stuff

I've made slight changes to my links. Much to my delight, Adrian is writing again. His blog was the first that I read and he writes better than anyone I know.

And much to my dismay, White Silver, my colleague from Chungking Mansions, hasn't posted anything for months. Can't you please keep going? I loved your entries!

DSD has recently moved to London and it's so refreshing to see things through her eager eyes. Since we're joined at the hip now, you may notice some similarities in our entries.

And Jason has quit work and started on several months of travel before moving to Hong Kong. He's in Norway at the moment and I'm waiting for the photos to start appearing.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

To facebook?

Suddenly I seem to be the only person I know without a facebook profile. I like the idea of being able to catch up with friends who I've lost touch with. And I guess it would be a good way of letting them know about my blog.

But is facebook just another way of wasting a lot of time on the internet? I don't know if I can afford another addiction at the moment... maybe I should wait until the end of term.

And if I had an account with a link to my blog I'd need to go through my archives and do a little editing. I suppose that might be a good thing anyway.

Any advice? I know you people have profiles because I've snooped around and seen a few of them!

Friday, June 01, 2007


It's the mid-term holiday and most of my classes are suspended for the week. I decided not to give the old men a holiday because it just gets too confusing. Last term one student didn't come back for a month and when I asked where he'd been he said 'You say one week holiday'.

I had been saving a couple of medical appointments for the holiday. I saw a very friendly dietician from Brisbane on Tuesday, 'You're my first Australian patient in London!' and I went to the doctor for another round of blood tests. I'm going to have arms like a junkie soon.

After my appointments I took the train to Birmingham to stay with Nan for a couple of days. It rained and we spent a lot of time looking through old photos. I was left wondering about a few things:

- How did my parents look younger than me at my age, even after having kids?
- Did I really spend 70% of the time carrying my younger siblings around or was that just something I liked to do for photos?
- And how, in our healthy family, did my sister get so fat at such a young age?

I texted her: Nan and I are looking at photos where you are so fat you can hardly move.

And she replied: Ha. Are they recent?

Photos weren't the only old thing we got out. Nan found out a candle I had made when I was fourteen and we lit it during dinner. It's weird how something kept for years burns out in a couple of hours

I made the candle at school in Design and Technology. Our teacher had asked the class to split into groups and produce a product to sell at a market. I was very lucky that she was prepared to indulge my desire to become a chandler. Actually she was probably excited that someone was so eager.

Anyway, despite my teacher's concern about the the shape of some of the candles (too rude to repeat here), they were a huge success. We sold out on pre-orders and made a good profit. And thus ended my brief foray into the worlds of candlemaking and business.