Saturday, September 30, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

Morning Thoughts

I've been waking up at 5 or 5.30 all this week.
Given that the alarm is set for 6.30 because we're on Ramadan hours, this is disappointing.

Given that I'm ready to go back to bed by 8.30 and consequently spend my entire working day in overdrive to compensate, this is dispiriting.
Given that I'm a physical wreck by the time I reach home - at 4 p.m. - and crash on the sofa for two hours with no apparent benefit, and then cannot sleep before 11 this is frustrating.
Given that I was almost incoherent with fatigue and nervous energy by yesterday morning, this is embarrassing.
Given that today is Friday and I was going to have a lie-in before going into work to do the preparation for next week that I've been too tired to do this week, and I still woke up at 5.30, I could spit!
And this is just the first week.

I always find Ramadan hours a killer, as do several of my colleagues, and I'm not fasting. In fact, it's the colleagues who are fasting who seem to handle it best. They may droop a little, and have permanent shadows under their eyes, but they do their jobs without getting stressed or crabby. I have no idea how they do it.

The irony is that I know it's counter-productive to operate this way, but every year I do exactly the same thing.
Out of bed- into school - Go! ................
Come home. Stop...... and how...
Pathetic really.

So I'm going to get a grip this coming week and the rest of the month. I'm going to pace myself. The signs are good for some serious grip-getting!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More chickens! (The ones I missed before)



New Hampshire





and Sebright

I have to say I love the look of the traditional birds - the ones that look like proper chickens - especially the Sussex.

The Orpington gives me the willies - how can a thing like that live?

And as for the Houdans, the Silky and the Frizzle - surely these were invented for Star Trek or The Muppets?

Apparently, the Naked Necks are ideally suited for hot, dry conditions because their very nakedness helps them to keep cool. So, ideal for here, or Central and Southern Spain, but I dunno..... a bit too weird for me, I think.

Betcha can't wait for a taste of my duck book, can you?

Giles, Dad & Jin again

So he said: Love jin icon. I'm in the opposite chair.

And she said: So which character is yer dad then mamaduck?

And my first thought was that My Dad is far too ruggedly handsome to figure in Giles's Family.

But then I found this

and I thought...... Maybe?



Here’s what my chicken book has to say about the different kinds of chicken:

‘a breed is a group of related chickens having the same general size, shape, and carriage………All the birds within a given breed share the same skin color, number of toes, and plumage style.

Skin color can be yellow – like the skin of Cornish, New Hampshires, and Wyandottes – or white – like that of Australorps, Orpingtons, and Sussex. (Note: I'll put their pics in a separate entry: this one appears to be full, or else Blogger's gone backto bed. They're gorgeous so I must get them in here!)

They may have four toes, as most breeds do, or five toes, as Dorkings,

and Houdans do.

Plumage style is more varied. Roosters are likely to have pointed neck and saddle feathers, but if they’re Sebrights (No pic- Shame.)
or Campines, the cocks will be hen-feathered………

Naked Necks have no feathers on their necks at all.

Other breeds have…… beards (Faverolles for example)……

boots (Brahmas),

puffy top knots (Polish),

or long flowing tails (Yokahamas).

..most…have smooth, satinlike feathers….
Silkies, though, ……look as if they’re covered with fur.
The feathers of Frizzles curl at the ends, giving the birds a permed look.

Breeds divide into two groups: bantam and large.
And then there are classes.
And then there are varieties.

This summer, though, I found that there are also individuals. In this case: Bess and Maggie, the two black ones, snowy-white Hayley, Bernice the classic brown hen of nursery tale (I think she's a Sussex), and the two grey ladies, Blossom and Audrey. The hombre of the gallinero was handsome Spike, and there were two young fellows – one white, one brown – first identifiable as males when their baby combs started to lengthen, and beginning to develop the colours and shapes of adult plumage as I left.

Of the girls, I soon learnt that Maggie and Blossom were fairly easy going individuals. Maggie’s plump form, glossy black feathers and general air of slightly fussy well-being made her an advert for hen happiness.

Blossom was equally plump, with grey feathers which darkened half-way down her body. At first I thought this was a tide mark – the girls absolutely adore a dust bath, and will scrape a shallow hollow in dry soil, then sit themselves down and have a really good wriggle; fluttering and fluffing to get the dust under every feather – but no, Blossom was simply a two-tone hen. She was also rather sensitive, and easily intimidated. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but early on, Blossom had suffered a common poultry suppliers’ practice; which is to ‘clip’ birds’ beaks to prevent them pecking each other – thus reducing their value – when caged in shops. Since chickens use their beaks for foraging, grooming and self-defence, this is no trivial matter, plus, as Kath pointed out, if the sellers did not put so many birds in the cages in the first place, the problem wouldn’t arise. As it was, poor Blossom did the best she could.

Audrey, (I've got a funny feeling that I've mis-remembered her name, but Audrey seems to fit.....?) the other grey was another case entirely. Beak intact, she was quite aggressive, but a good layer, though clearly short on short-term memory. Almost every day, sometime between eleven and one, an eruption of raucous squawking would tell us that, once again, an astonished Audrey had just laid the first egg in the history of the universe. Over that would come Spike’s ‘¡¡¡Quiquiriqui!!!’ (Of course you knew that a Spanish cockerel crows in español?). That was one of his girls, that was.

Hayley was the only white hen, and always looked as if she’d just staggered out of bed, with the poultry equivalent of bed hair – comb askew, wing feathers poking out at all angles, and pink skin peeking. Poor Hayley had a tragic past. Her mate had been killed by a fox about two years before, and Hayley, overwhelmed with grief, had gone into a depression which took months to lift. Chickens don’t usually mate for life – but it seems this one had. Add to this the arrival of a new cockerel and Hayley’s displacement from First Wife to the very bottom of the pecking order, and you have a very sad tale.

The other black was Bess, a vicious piece of work, jealous as hell of Hayley, and battle-scarred new leader of the peck. Bess would attack anyone, avian or human, and was I thought, a prime candidate for place of honour in a chicken casserole (too tough for a pie). Kath wasn’t having this, however, because Bess, at five years old, and still laying, was an aging queen who was only doing what she had to do to preserve her place – in the pecking order.

And then there was Bernice, contented and healthy, but somehow always somewhere else when there was fresh mash, or summer treats like watermelon or almond on offer. Apparently, Bernice was just a bit….thick…

So those were the girls. The young fellows were too young to have developed much personality when I was there, and as soon as they did, would have to move on. This was Spike’s territory. Actually, I think there were plans afoot as I left to take the young white cockerel, and a maturing male pigeon too, down to the coast, where their own personal harems were waiting for them. Kath had some concerns about how the young pigeon would cope with four or six ladies requiring his services, but Andy seemed to think that he’d be fine. Sometimes you need a male perspective. ¿Si?

As for Señor Spike, he was a handsome fellow, and really looked after his girls.

Por ejemplo, one afternoon we’d been shelling nueces y almendras - walnuts and almonds - sitting on blankets in the relative cool of the stonewalled millhouse, smacking each nut smartly on its seam with a hammer so that – after some practice! – most fell smartly open.

The whole almonds were set aside for Andy’s more-ish albóndigas con salsa de almendras - meatballs with almond sauce (This is not his recipe, if you're reading, Habibi or HMHB, but you'll get the idea.) – and Kath’s yummy orange and almond fudge cake, and sensational chocolate almond cake made entirely with ground almonds instead of flour……. Ooooh get me on the next plane to Granada……

The not-entirely-crushed walnuts - (Just try dislodging the two perfect halves of a walnut from that perfectly sculpted case! Sheesh! Habibi says that the big commercial walnut growers send their crops to China, where people open each nut individually, with a hammer, because that is the most efficient way to extract the halves intact. Think about that next time you’re in the fruit and nut section of the supermarket!) - er - (Where was I? Oh yeah - the walnuts!) .....were saved for – um - really good food made with walnuts….

And the broken almonds – getting back to Señor Spike – were set aside for the chickens.

The first time I took a handful out to where the birds were going about their business, I rather nervously extended a couple of bits towards Spike on a flat palm, while keeping a wary eye on Bess, who was quickest to appreciate that something was on offer. Spike stepped forward, cocked his head, briefly examined the goods, and pecked up a piece from my hand. No pain. No blood. Of course I hadn’t really been nervous. Then he did just what Kath had said he would: dropped the treat on the ground in front of one of the girls, who promptly grabbed it. The others started crowding a little, but knew their traditions: Spike duly collected the rest of the almond pieces, and dropped some in front of each bird. He never ate a single piece until the others had had enough – not even when it was 37º and the something was ripe pear or dripping watermelon - this meant that sometimes he got nothing. I was well impressed.

Fascinating creatures, chickens.

One other thing. Kath would bring me a handful of fresh eggs whenever I ran out. (Granada's best-fed Wwoofer!) Some would be large, some medium, some small. Some brown, some pinky-beige, some white. And she could tell me which bird had laid which egg! White Hayley laid white eggs; black Maggie laid big brown ones; someone else the smaller brown; someone else the beige. Kath knew the history, personality and foibles of every one of those birds, from tender Blossom to Bess the Bitch, and loved every one. Don’t ever expect to see home-grown chicken on the table at Molino La Ratonera, but you can count on eating the very best organically produced eggs!

P.S. Ode to Bess:

Hickety, pickety, my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
Gentlemen come every day,
To see what my black hen doth lay.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A bit of a rant, I suppose. (Blogging again!)

Did I ever mention that I'm a literature snob?

Well, I am.

Not that I have any grounds for supercilious glances over my prescription lorgnette. If something has won the Booker or a Pullitzer Prize, it's more than likely that I haven't read it. Mine is not a subtle mind: I can discuss theme, metaphor and analogy, but I prefer a good story with characters I can care about, and I read with my feelings as much as my intellect. Give me troubles faced, solutions found, and an ending that's a resolution and a new beginning. But don't patronise me. I may not be subtle. I may be lazy. But I'm not stupid.

From the classic cannon I love Henry Fielding, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell. I loathe D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy with a passion born of having my nose rubbed in their misery at school. Everyone told me that Tess of the D'Urbevilles dies in the end, but so transfixed was I by her character and predicament that I read on willing it to be different in my copy. Needless to say, I was disgusted with Thomas Hardy, the sanctimonious git, and have never read another of his books. Now that I'm grown up and sensible, with a handle on his purpose in writing what he did, I know I ought to set aside my seventeen-year-old self and try his other works. Jude the Obscure looks interesting. However, I can't get past his basic premise, which appears to be that life's a bitch and then you die. Is this really where I want to spend my weekend? Hardy fans, please recommend your favourite, and I'll go get myself a copy.

However, I draw the line at D.H. Bloody Lawrence. What possesses exam boards to inflict 'Sons & Lovers' on unwary yoof? Grim, grim, grindingly grim. So he had a miserable childhood: if he'd been American, he'd have got therapy, but being English he had to grim and bare it, so he wrote the book. Ok if it made him feel better. You go, David. But why put thousands of adolescent English Lit students through it? Volcanic acne, looming exam pressure, tumultous hormones, and D. H. Lawrence too? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghghghghgh....... noooooooooooo.... please.....

I've heard the mutterings about the dumbing down of exams and courses, and the need to expose yoof to Great Literature, but for goodness sake, has it got to be miserable to be worthwhile? Welcome to adult life, boys and girls, and this term we're studying blood and circuses, or the married state; next term focuses on sexual repression and social hypocrisy; and we'll finish with existentialism, maybe even a little nihilism if you're really good. Good grief! Compassion please!

Now that I think about it, they ought to make 'It's Grim Up North' a sub-genre. Lawrence reigns supreme on the literary front, but Emily Bronte must come a close second. But what about the British films of the 90s? Raining Stones (1993) Brassed Off (1996), The Full Monty (1997), even Billy Elliott (2000). Interestingly, the late twentieth century film market being rather different from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century literary market, all of these portraits of the 80s death throes of British industry and the communities it sustained are full of humour. Funny, that.

BIG TANGENT: There are many people who hold that Margaret Thatcher's premiership (1979 to 1990) was a good thing. I believe that she started well, having the nerve to take on a network of unions which, decades after their establishment as the foundation of dignity in the workplace, were complacent, greedy, out of control. I also believe that, had she known when to stop, Margaret Thatcher might have saved Britain's industrial base, but of course that's not how things turned out.

In a 1987 interview, when England was giddy with consumerism and the cult of the designer kettle, Margaret Thatcher famously said of society, 'there's no such thing! Only individuals and families'. Having lived most of my life in the north of England, where the towns that had developed, and the cities that had flourished, around steelmaking, coalmining and related trades and commerce, were by this time on their knees, I heard this with great bitterness, as her personal legacy. I include the speech, which includes several home truths about a culture of dependence which needed to be addressed - but what I still don't see how killing the patient counts as a cure.

There, aren't we glad I got that off my chest? Better out than in, as my warty old wet nurse used to cackle, while warming my 'andful of 'ot gravel over a dung fire. Eeeh Ugly Aggie, where are ye now, ye cracked cow? Bless. (You never forget Nursie.)

End of Tangent.

Books? Some other time.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Giles again (One for Dad & Jin)

"Tell them to forget about the ladies at the Commonwealth Arts Festival dancing in their birthday suits - on jumpers at once!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What I did on my holiday. (Apart from taking the photos)

If you're going to build a shed, you need a good foundation.

Take one wheelbarrow, 8 parts cement to 2 parts aggregate, add water, take a Spanish hoe, and mix with a good flowing movement - quick, before it dries in all that glorious Andalucian sunshine.
Tip the lot into the wood frame you constructed earlier, on the ground you cleared earlier-earlier. Spread for even coverage.

Repeat 11 times - quick - before anything dries out!

You want a vertical shed? You'll need a horizontal foundation. All together now- skim.

While your shed base is drying, clamp one of those handy iron bars you've been saving onto a workbench, put on your safety gear, take up your angle grinder, and cut to length.

Driven into the ground to support your recycled window grille, your cut bars will make a fine frame for the compost heap. Line with cardboard, and layer old compost and newly cleared grass and leaves with fruit and veg peelings fromthe kitchen, sawdust and chicken poo from the henhouse, freshly dug soil, and several handfuls of compost activator.

(You will need to compress all this wonderful springy stuff, so put on your dancing wellies and climb up every so often for a good stomp, preferably while someone runs the hose. Wild! Go wild! Go wild in the country!)

When you're done, water thoroughly, stand back to admire, then cover all this magnificence in a plastic sheet, weighted down with a recycled pallet. Come back in 24 hours to put your hand on the plastic. Feel the heat. Whoo! It's working! Pull back the cover, watch the steam rise, inhale that glorious smell of composting matter, give it another shower, and put it back to bed.

There is something deeply satisfying about a well-made compost heap; largely because this year's compost (compost) is the secret ingredient for next year's calabacines, cebollas, zanahorias, judias, pimientos, tomates y berenjenas (courgettes, onions, carrots, beans, peppers, tomatoes and aubergines! Did I mention that I bought El Huerto Familiar Ecologico, by Mariano Bueno: gorgeous book, and he's not bad either......wonder if he wants a Wwoofer next year.....?)

Special thanks to Habibibaba for demonstrating our new skills while modelling the traditional blue trousers of the campesino, and to Andy, who taught us everything we know about mixing cement, and maintaining a nice clean concrete mixer!

Monday, September 11, 2006

....and 30 seconds later...

- and now the sidebar's back to normal but the board's gone again! On the other hand, the 'now visiting' table's back: that wasn't there a minute ago. (Hello visitor from America!).

Double doh!

I give up!

Skewiff again

Buggerrit. Got the visitor board back, and screwed up the sidebar again. Doh!

My first blog email

Well! Who would have thought it? I set up a Gmail account for my blog, hoping for no more than the good will of a kind-hearted WelshPERSON. Imagine my joy at receiving this only a few hours later:

"Donation of my Wealth Through You to Charity Organization

Goodday and Hello Friend,

My name is Mrs.A. G., I am a dying woman who has decided to donate what I have to charity through you.You may be wondering why I chose you. But someone has to be chosen. I am 59 years old and was diagnosed for cancer about 2 years ago,immediately after the death of my husband who had left me everything he worked for.I have been touched by the lord to donate from what I have inherited from my late husband to charity through you for the good work of humanity,rather than allow my relatives to use my husband's hard earned funds inappropriately.

I have asked the lord to forgive me all my sins and I believe he has,because He is merciful. I will be going in for an operation,and I pray that I survive the operation.I have decided to WILL/Donate the sum of $5.5 Million (Five Million five Hundred thousand Dollars) to charity through you for the good work of the lord, and to help the motherless,less privileged and also for the assistance of the widows. At the moment I cannot take any telephone calls, due to the fact that my relatives are around me and I have been restricted by my doctor from taking telephone calls because I deserve all the rest I can get.

Presently,I have informed my lawyer about my decision in WILLING this fund to charity through you. I wish you all the best and may the good Lord bless you abundantly, and please use the funds well and always extend the good work to others. If you are interested in carrying out this task,i will inform my Family Lawyer so that he can arrange the release of the funds to you.I know i have never met you but my mind tells me to do this,and I hope you act sincerely.Please i will like you to mention your reward for carrying out these task for as my last wishes. I am now too weak and frigile to do things myself because of my cancer.NB: I will appreciate your utmost confidentiality in this matter until the task is accomplished,as I don't want anything that will Jeopardize my last wish, due to the fact that I do not want relatives or family members standing in the way of my last wish.

Love,A. G."

Does it not stir your world-weary heart to read such a letter?

I confess that I cannot adequately express the overwhelming emotions which beset me as I read this moving epistle. You will note that I have respected Mrs G's desire for confidentiality by abbreviating her name to initials.

However, you must forgive me for acknowledging the hand of One Above in guiding her parents to name their precious daughter after one of Heaven's Bright Spirits; little knowing that she would grow up to be a Philanthropist of such breathtaking Vision and Generosity. To think that, had it not been for my petty desire for an encounter with a WelshPERSON, I might never have known of this Magnificent Woman; never have had the opportunity to put my bank account at the service of her Great Endeavour, and fulfil her Dying Wish to 'WILL/Donate the sum of $5.5 Million (Five Million five Hundred thousand Dollars)' to charity for the relief of human suffering.

Unfortunately, it grieves me to admit that I am unable to assist at this time. Thus, if it should come to pass that you receive a letter from a stranger named Angela Goldmineman, please remember that the dear woman has already sustained one grievous disappointment in her efforts to find a suitable Vessel for her beneficence. Look to your heart for your response.


Our kids are back at school today, and rehearsals begin for the school play on Tuesday. One of the characters is Welsh, and the actor needs help with the accent, so I posted this on the UAE Community Blog last night. I'm not looking for a dialogue coach, just someone with an hour to spare, to chat about anything you like so that we can record a sample of your speech, as a key for developing a stage accent. No big recording contract, but two complimentary tickets, and the knowledge that you're a recording star!

You can contact me directly on

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Missing them already

Here's the inimitable cartoonist Giles, and his offering in The Daily Express, on September 7th, 1965.

"I believe mine is glad we're going backto school - he's been singing Glory Hallelujah ever since he got up."

(In case you can't read this, even with your glasses.)

Paper Dresses

Yes really.

I'm researching costume for The Merry Wives of Windsor, which I want dressed in a cross-over between English fashions of the late 1600s and the 1950s (1590s meets 1950s). This is not as nuts as it sounds.

No really!

And surely not as nuts as paper dresses? It seems that Scott Paper (now Kimberly Clark) came up with the idea as a sales giggle gimmick in 1966, and the crowd went wild!

Here we have their charming little Op Art number, 'The Paper Caper'. "created to make you the conversation piece at parties. Smashingly different at dances or perfectly packaged at picnics. Wear it anytime...anywhere. Won't last forever...who cares? Wear it for kicks -- then give it the air."

Interested? Get a pattern here.

And how about a matching mother and daughter set? Ladies, you'll look gorgeous!

And Gentlemen, with a little ingenuity you too could have that perfect garment for Bolognese Night, practising your chopstick technique, or the Satwa Sommeliers' initiation soirée.

So, hardly crazy at all really. Not really.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Habibi and I have one decent set of eyes between us.

Downside: he needs glasses for distance, and I can't read a thing without my specs.

Upside: he doesn't worry about the big picture, and I don't sweat the small stuff.

Way to go.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Another good day! (Looking for gut-wrenching, heart-breaking soap opera, all quivering lips, bosoms and loins? Boy, are you reading the wrong blog!)

Software training this morning: brief,to the point, useful,and it didn't make me feel like an idiot. My kind of IT experience. (No we weren't learning how to programme the microwave.)

We have a new teacher in our department, who impressed me big time yesterday, by coming straight to school from the airport after a flight from Australia across 12 hours's worth of time zones. She was coherent too, but weakly relieved when offered a lift home. I ticked stamina and grace under pressure off the Good Drama Teacher Check List. More ticks today. It's going to be a good year.

I've put up my NT and RSC posters in my classroom, and Stanislavski's 'Magic If' checklist (All the best people have checklists: just think of your mum!). They balance the array of puppets, masks, giant heads ranged behind my desk where I can't see them, all staring blankly at the students' desks. Small pleasures!

I seem to be winning on admin, but I want to go in tomorrow to do the stuff I didn't finish this week. It will all be worth it next week, and anyway, I like being in my newly spring-cleaned and redecorated classroom.

So tonight, I'm heading out for salsa at the gym, followed by bed at a sensible time and no late night blogging! Habibi's been invited to a party (with BetterArf) but I cannot do party and getting up in the morning. And if I don't get up in the morning, I shall be sorry all next week. When did I get so sensible?

Of course, if I did go to the party, I'd probably talk about filing and fall asleep before midnight, thus destroying my cred and still screwing next week up.

So I'm staying home. And I've heard there's an eclipse of the moon at 10.25 tonight, so there'll be something to watch too.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Almost back at the chalkface

I like teachers. Non-teachers often regard us as curiosities or downright scary, but it's hard to beat the mix of personalities and backgrounds, not to mention warmth and intelligence, that you find in any staff room. We probably get it from the kids! I only wish I had more time to socialise - and a gift for small talk would help.

Anyway- two very good days. We're in the thick of preparations for next week: classlists, classrooms, admin-admin-admin; books, materials, displays; software training; induction of new staff; updates for 'returning teachers' (not old teachers!); meetings for subject teachers, form teachers, department heads, year heads, everyone; meetings about exams and coursework, the International Award and extracurricular activities; and, in the midst of all this, a workshop on aspects of internal policy. And it was a good one.

The workshop was spread over two days; involved teachers, management and pastoral staff, both new and returning; and was, I think an inspired start to the year. Everyone mixed, spoke, was listened to. The crustiest cynic was as engaged and energised as the freshest graduate (well, almost....); and people who rarely have time to do more than nod and smile in passing (100 teachers working with 800 kids) discovered one another's names and opinions!

We look forward to feedback and follow-up: that, after all, was the point of the exercise; but to be brought together like this to debate and determine the policy which we will be implementing; to be listened to courteously and intelligently, and invited to consider other perspectives; to have colleagues and line managers brought into focus; and to round it all off with a relaxed pot-luck lunch (an intimate gathering of a hundred people you're going to spend a year with) - yeah - I think it was inspired.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Quintessential Yellow Duck

I didn't realise that your Blogger profile carries through however many blogs you may set up in a cluster. I put in a new pic for Decoy Duck, and was rather alarmed to find it on here when the problem - whatever it was - passed. Unable to find my original pic, I went looking for a new one in Google Image Search - I do like looking at the pictures - and found all sorts of informative, tacky, entertaining, bland, gross and funny sites and pics.

When I came across this image, I thought about building a narrative of Duckie's adventures before her triumphant return.

But I'm just not feeling pretentious tonight; sorry.

Instead, here are the pics that I particularly liked, and the source sites. I leave it to you to match image to site. (I know. How hard can it be?)

Well I mean........

I'll take one of each.

That guy on the far left of the back row looks a lot like a friend of ours!

John Darwell says of his work,
"Due to the nature of the projects I undertake I am often described/categorised as an ‘independent photographer’ (though perhaps ‘dependent photographer’ would be nearer the mark!). I work with museums, galleries and arts agencies on projects, either commissioned or self initiated, that reflect my interest in social and industrial change, concern for the environment, and more recently issues around the depiction of mental health."

Not what I expected when I set out on my 'yellow duck' search. I flicked through his current projects without proper attention, but found some of the images from his books compelling. I might even ask some of my senior students to look through his Garden of Earthly Delights and Melancholy Objects as potential starting points for, or visual commentary on, a piece of drama. I don't think they'd relate to the images from Britain's industrial past, though the entertainingly titled Jimmy Jock, Albert and the Six Sided Clock might pique their interest!

Marcia Talley won an Anthony Award for "Too Many Cooks," Best Short Story 2002 at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. And she writes a blog.

Roberts Hot Tubs has a retail gift section with character plastic ducks. Yes it's silly! But Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin and The Blues Brothers really do work!

It keeps me amused.

Oh, and my new Little Yellow Duck comes from a whopping great Wikipedia entry on Rubber Ducks.

11.41. (TS please note.) Beddy-byes. After the day's excitement, I'm completely quackered.

Where's Duckie?

Arg. Blank white page all day. No Little Yellow Duck. Unless she's buried in the snow?

So I made myself a new blog just in case. (Remember that addicts and the classically insane (i.e. the Frank Capra variety, as in virtually every character in 'Arsenic & Old Lace') have a logic all their own.......)

So she's back now, but I posted some bits on Decoy Duck, if you'd care to visit. You can see the new image, which was retired after one appearance on my profile, cos I'm not like that really!

(The duck! I mean the duck!)

I think I'll keep Decoy Duck for backup, just in case I fill LYD one day.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Picasso, Salsa & WWF (pointless title - Pozuuuurrr)

It's been a good day.

Back to school, starting in the heaving staffroom before transferring to the canteen for coffee and hot croissants. The croissants arrived fashionably late, just as the babble of dozens of catch-up conversations was reaching the point where no-one could actually hear what anyone else was saying. Relief all round, and yes, I had two soft and steamy zaatar croissants - this was breakfast after all, since I couldn't face food when the alarm went off at seven. Next week it will be going off at six, so I've got a week to get my act together. Urk.

Meetings, timetables, all the usual first day stuff. Heavy on the admin, but that's part of what what this week is for, so I have no complaints. I stayed a couple of hours extra to tie in with Habibi driving back from a meeting. My husband looks after me. He was well impressed with the wild new colours in our corridor. The Arts building is the most vivid I've seen so far - citrus green walls with lilac doors and purple door-frames. We grown-ups are not quite sure about this yet, but the kids are going to love it. I've heard that the Maths & Science corridors are something to behold, but I'm saving them as a pick-me-up for later in the week, when I've had one meeting too many. I shall let you know.

So what did I do when I got home? The usual. Crashed on the sofa for an hour or so, undisturbed by Habibi working on. He's resigned to this by now. When we were young and beautiful and falling in loooooooove, I used to get to his place at the end of a day and crash out in any available space. He called me 'the incredible sleeping woman' and has photos to prove his point. At least it also confirmed that sometimes I do go quiet, and a man needs to know that about the woman in his life. Oh okay! - this man, this woman....

But what can I do? I never sleep properly the night before we go back; I'm too full of anticipation. Last night was so hopeless that I got up some time after two, made myself a sandwich and a cup of tea, and watched 'Surviving Picasso' on ONE. Natascha McElhone and Anthony Hopkins. That woman is ravishing.

I have a theory that great artists are more likely than those of us in the middle of the graph to be bloody-minded, self-absorbed gits, just because they only perceive normal stuff like food, sleep, relationships and personal hygiene as a waste of precious time, and of hard-earned cash that ought to be be spent on the really important stuff like oil paints, manuscript paper and The Violin. Or because the unsung genius goes gaga from malnutrition (ok, drink!) while the critics' darling starts believing his own publicity. Picasso appears to have matched at least some of that particular sweeping generalisation!

(I think I may have said this before. If so, I promise not to say it again.)

So what on earth am I blogging after midnight for again? Well I've been to the gym again, haven't I? Sooooo I am floating along on my own salsa-induced endorphin cushion, and good for another half hour and a glass of red wine. (You have to get your anti-oxidants, don't you?)

I went down yesterday for the first time since June, and did a circuit that took in the treadmill and the cross-trainer (I still don't get it, but at least I don't fall off anymore.) plus assorted instruments of sit-down designer-torture. Great! After an hour and a half, I was thinking about heading home when they announced a Bodybalance class in half an hour. Ooh yeah. I liiiiike the gym. (And toniiiiiiiiight I liiiiiiiike playing with vooooooooooooowels. Don't worry. It will pass.)

And on the way out I picked up the new timetable, and saw that Salsa was due to start tonight. Yay! A very dear and vivacious friend has been doing salsa for a couple of years now, and loves it. I love the idea, but not enough to cross town around bedtime(!)

SO..... Salsa at 8.30 tonight, with Seif: an engaging teacher who got all umpty-twelve of us stepping and swaying through the basic forward, back and side movements, right and left turns, and fifth position (I've just cut my attempt to explain fifth - easier just to do it.), plus a good demo from a couple who teach elsewhere. I have to say, though, that I found the woman very mechanical.

(Tangent Alert) I think some dancers pay a price for years of ballet training through the grade exams. I've known devoted dancers who work so hard at their technique, that they are never fully 'there' in the simple joy of dancing. Tthe conscious exercising of technique, the demonstration of a 'routine', always shows. Of course, for others, graded classes and exams represent those hours when they are most supremely alive, a framework that enables them to dance, and dance their whole lives. (Have you seen Billy Elliott? Think of his audition, when he has to articulate what dance means to him. There.) Systems and individuals.

Still, to return to the demonstration dance, a bunch of strangers in sweats and trainers, in a brightly lit studio that has just emptied of dozens of sweaty Bodypumpers is hardly the ultimate 'invitation to the dance'. It's hardly surprising if the 'moment' you're in is that one an hour hence, when you're all meeting for a drink and a laugh after class. Still, these guys showed us some serious moves. Fun!

I had a really good time wiggling my ample tush in a humanely baggy teeshirt, and as long as I didn't pay too much attention to that woman in the mirror (who follows me into lifts and bathrooms all over Dubai - no consideration) I was completely in my dancing moment!

Bonus (FYI Mme. Cyn) Reggie was there, looking good, too! Of course, he always did...

Reggie played the alternative hero in a panto I wrote and directed for Dubai Drama Group some five years ago. In my version it was a WWF wrestler who woke Sleeping Beauty with a kiss, though he was much more interested in the pantomime dame, Signora Peperoni, than in some well-preserved nymphette. (It's got my prints all over it, hasn't it?) Anyway, Reggie was absolutely fab as
the Monarch of the Mat,
the Khan of the Canvas,
the Sultan of Slam,

(cue song)
He's got the muscles of the desert puma.
We love the big guy. Give him a satsuma!
Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey, Montezuma!

I shall be emailing cyber-lollies to anyone who can Name That Tune.
(Not you Mme. Cyn! Though you will always be The Most Fabulous Fairy of Them All.)


Bloody hell, it's 1.27! Crepe.Crepe.Crepe!

Plenty of link opportunities on this one, but you know about Billy Elliott, Salsa and Fitness First. If you don't know about Dubai Drama Group, they're doing one of my favourite farces, Run For Your Wife, at Dubai Community Theatre, very soon. I'll check and get back to you. (Mme Cyn? Grumpy Old Goat? Adventures in Dubai? Any other thespians in the know? When are DDG doing Run For Your Wife?)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Wifie gets WiFi

Yay! We applied for Internet access from my desk in the bedroom. That was last November*. You know when you keep trying to get something sorted, and it just doesn't happen?

So today, Habibi went out and bought a small technical doodad that means we can have both laptops online at the same time. I'm still not sure what WiFi is (which will come as no surprise if you've read any other entries regarding me and IT) but I do know that it means we don't have to take turns for Internet access any more, which is both convenient and cosy. I might finish my blog entries before bedtime, too!

*To be fair, the guy at the Jebel Ali Etisalat office did say there might be a delay......

Friday, September 01, 2006

One for nzm

How about some Catalan? (I think it's Catalan!) Don't worry, he translates. Count this as a postscript to Bloggers' Day. A newsy, philosophical, humorous site. And check out his survival links!

And while I'm here (3.10 a.m. OMG) I've been meaning to mention that ever since I started Spanish, I have had interference from the French I learnt at school, and the Italian from a course of evening classes that Habibi and I took when we got married - for da honeymoon in Sorrento. And I mean interference, just like the mess between radio channels.

The first Spanish phrase I learnt was 'Vamos a España'. 'Let's go to Spain.' It could hardly be any simpler, could it? But I'd open my mouth to say this, and out would come 'Andiamo a España.' Which is fine. If you're Italian. I wouldn't mind, but the Italian course lasted a couple of months, twenty years ago - which was also the last time I was in Italy. I get French, too, in more demanding situations, though when I've been in France, it has generally taken three days for my French to kick in.

I've talked to other foreign language learners, including our head of French, who speaks French, English, Russian, Italian and Spanish (!!!!!) and they all recognise the experience. Habibi never realised how much Italian he knew until he started Spanish!

My theory is that there's a file in our brains labelled 'Native Language' and another labelled 'Foreign', and until you get really fluent in a second (or third) language, they stay in a jumbled heap in the 'Foreign' file, which is opened by adrenaline. The only comfort is that in addition to 'Speech' this file also contains 'Loud Voice', 'Wild Gesticulation', 'Funny Faces' and 'Embarrassment Bypass'. It's good fun, actually, in a mentally exhausting sort of way. :D

I once met a man who spoke twelve languages fluently. His grandparents and parents had married foreigners, and yet were a close family who spent a great deal of time together, so he grew up speaking one language to one, another to another, and so on, and then expanded his range at school and university. I had a waitressing job at Heathrow, and remember a Swiss family: the wife and children told the father what they wanted in French and German, he gave me their order in English, and they evidently all understood all three languages. I have a friend who speaks Arabic, Armenian, English, Turkish and Spanish. Wow. But don't most people out here speak two languages? It's too easy to be lazy if you're a native English speaker.

The reason I got anxious about retaining my Spanish now that I'm no longer in a Spanish environment, was that for three mornings after I got to England, I would wake up thinking in Spanish. It was very slow, sleepy Spanish, but of course it meant that I was really beginning to assimilate the new language. However, by the end of the week, all I had left was 'muy bien'; and any attempt to speak Spanish produced French! 'Foreign'. Damn.

In our family, my maternal grandmother was a Bretonne, my grandfather was English, and my mother spoke only French until she was five, when the family decided to speak only English at home, to help her and her sisters progress at their London school. So that was that, until, in her 70s, with a French daughter-in-law and grandchildren, Mother went to classes in French Conversation, to enable her to converse with her new and lovely extended family-in-law. All her French came back - with the phrasing and idoms of seventy years ago! She's going to France for a visit this month. Great anticipation!

4.20! Bed!

Doomed, I tell you, doooooooomed!

In the course of an insanely late night catching up on my favourite blogs, I have just got to Cosmos Daily News, which has one of those funny-as-long-as-it's-not me stories:

"Without pens, we had nothing with which to fill out the immigrations and customs forms required for international flights arriving at their first port of entry to the United States. We ended up -- all 172 of us -- sharing the chief flight attendant's pen, passing it from row to row."

The headline was UK airports declare war on ink, but I can't tell you which paper it's from cos the site's deemed inconsistent with.... well, you know.

Also blocked is the link to World will end on 9 September 2006, but I thought you might like to know anyway, just in case you're making sure you have cash in the bank for your loan repayment/mortgage/credit card payment due on September 10th. You might wish to reconsider this fiscally responsible attitude and blow the lot on deluxe ice cream and some cute shoes to eat it in. On the other hand, it appears that the world was also supposed to end on August 22nd. Did I miss something? Or, as Mme Tucats asks,

So, what are you going to do with your "last" 12 days, this time?

Sceptics everywhere.

Believers may go to the bizarre Signs of Witness site set up by horror/sc-fi writer John Shirley. I don't read either genre, but there's an Amazon link if you want to check his titles. Better order Super-Expedite........