Friday, November 30, 2012

The long slog to Christmas

So, as is usually the way, I find myself in front of a class typing because I am too self-conscious to read openly!

I have not done very much teaching as, surprise, surprise this is an Examination Period in this school!  Who would have thought it!  So my timetable is taken up with revision periods and invigilation.  Invigilation may be easy money, but it does produce marking which I think that I am expected to do with enthusiasm and a closed mouth!

I have been somewhat hampered by my totally understandable reluctance to accept that today is Friday as it feels like a Monday to me.  If you have not taught for the rest of the week then there is no reason to suppose that a sudden day of institutionalized repression will produce anything other than dour Monday blues!

I suppose that everyone should return to a past school at some point in their professional career to get the sort of response that I have been treated to.  Little squeaks of delight and chanted choruses of my name as well as effusive hugs and kisses from the colleagues I left a comparatively short time ago are just some of the demonstrations of glee at my return.  It can’t last, of course, but I will make the most of it while it happens.

Significantly I have had the headteacher breathe, “Thank you!” into my ear which was accompanied by a significant look and I certainly intend to build upon that implied debt!

The first repayment will take the form of my departure this afternoon when my timetable is blank.  The second repayment will be not going to a meeting on Saturday morning which occurs tomorrow!  There is another afternoon when there is a timetabled space and yours truly will not stay around in school to sit sulking when there are OU units of work to be completed.

The only remaining question on my first day is whether or not I will have lunch.  As most of the kids now know that I am back in the school the excitement will have abated a little and I will be able to take my lunch in relative peace.  This will probably be more possible because the staff dining room is hidden away around a corner from the pupils and what for them is not immediately visible does not really exist.

By Monday my reappearance will be old news and I will be accepted as if I had never left.  Even as I walked between one building and another this morning kids were stopping and asking me questions as if I had been with them since the beginning of term.  I suppose all kids look for stability and they are able to go back a few years in my memories.  Even if their names still do and ever will escape me!

Visible changes are few and inconsequential to my view.  Apart from the subtle rearrangement of the front office and the addition of a few more lockers for staff everything seems very much as normal.  It will take another couple of working days before I note anything worth noting about the differences between what was and what is.

I don’t think that the full effect of what I have let myself in for has really struck me yet.  I can kid myself that there are only about twenty days of teaching but that does work out to being more than three full weeks in school – and I have not done more than a week of teaching since I retired again!  It should be interesting if nothing else – and I should never forget that favour thought this might be it is, after all a paid favour!

Getting up at 6.30 am was not as horrific as I expected it to be – though it was full darkness and there is something inherently wrong about such an approach to mere work!  The roads were clear, but it was clear also that if I had delayed my departure by anything more than a few minutes I would have been caught up in delays.  It is a harsh reality of working in Barcelona that prompt departure and indecently early arrival is essential if one does not want to waste one’s life by sitting and fuming in an interminable traffic jam.

My arrival is now old news and it is rapidly seeming that I have never left.  Monday sees the start of a full week though, in a reversion to my school days it seems as if I will have two afternoons off!  Ironically enough the meeting tomorrow (to which I am not going) would be the final touch of my normal school week when I was a schoolboy!  Throughout my time in school from the age of 11 to 18 we had four lessons on a Saturday morning and then either Tuesday or Thursday afternoon off!  One is tempted to say it ends as it began with a school career in which I am not in school for a full week!  How poetic!

Meanwhile the decision time for the OU task is immanent and should be made by tomorrow.  I want to get started on this and get it done long before Christmas.  Such enthusiasm!

Now, after a long half day in school, the relaxation of the weekend and catching up on my OU studies!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rain again!

My well-deserved rest after a whole day in school was rudely broken up by a telephone call from my last head of department who is feeling somewhat stressed after a fortnight without a teacher and no clear idea of when he will return.  It has been suggested that I take the place of the ill one.  That is an on-going concern and nothing has been decided yet.  The question of time and how long I might be expected to be there is of primary concern and I am waiting for clarification either tonight or perhaps tomorrow.

Today has been a time for the buying of essentials and restocking the fridge and muttering imprecations against the foul weather which seems to have followed me to Spain.

My OU work has not been foremost in my mind over the past few days and it is just as well that I got well ahead of myself before my little jaunt to Wales – but tomorrow must see me at my books again.

After the “tutorial” on Saturday we have been set into groups, I for example am now a proud member of Team Green and we have the task of creating a Wiki utilizing a couple of designated texts to produce a page for an audience of arts students.  This is all fine and wonderful, but the work that has to be done needs us, as a group, to decide on which two of the five texts that are on offer to use.  So far, since the tutorial, only three of our group of seven have actually written anything on our Wiki Forum and only two of us have come close to suggesting texts.  This is one of the frustrating elements of working with a group which is scattered around Europe!

We have five days left to decide.  I will panic on day four.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I will resist!

The clouds in the adverse weather in the United Kingdom were only matched in their potency by those of alcohol which surrounded my nine-day sojourn in Wales - and it all started with an innocent pint of bitter.

I had been looking forward to my pint for a number of months and the interval in the Mozart concert seemed like an ideal time for me to partake of a beverage which used to be as mother’s milk to me.  Having purchased an ice-cold pint (over priced admittedly, but cold and to hand) I was not even allowed to enjoy that in peace before I saw a couple of people whom I knew and was being whisked away, pint in hand down a flight of steps to view one of Ceri’s paintings.

When I got home, Friday Night Club was in full flow in every sense of the word and I was swept along on the river of alcohol and I made the cardinal mistake of the sober while drowning and opened my mouth!

The next day after a night of pontificating with increasing authority (is that a device where I am needless repeating a word’s sense by using another one – and yes, I have forgotten the technical word for it, but I am sure it will all come to me in a flash when I am not expecting it) [Tautology (Ed.)] as the unnatural quantities of wine slipped down my throat was one of pain and increasing tiredness.

And The Party – the reason for my being in Wales in the first place was in the evening.  The evening seem to gallop towards us, casting aside the hours as if they were minutes which meant that the perceived amount of time available for recovery from the last excess was illusory.

And so into the party with more alcohol as glasses were constantly topped up for flitting waiters and then back to Louise’s sister’s house for more drinks.  And I had been in Cardiff for less than thirty hours!

The Light Supper with Hadyn was gratifyingly un-light and was accompanied by bottles of wine whose numbers were well into the teens – between four of us!

The meal with Ceri and Dianne was wonderful with a tasty start, a melt in the mouth main course and a bought-in splendour for dessert.  All of which was accompanied by wine which flowed like water – except for the fact that I do not think that I drank that quantity of water during my stay!

The final delight (or horror depending on your abstemious point of view) was an evening with friends and colleagues.  This was in Skellini’s (sp?) an Italian restaurant whose chef and I used to play at squash.  The two Pauls and I were early and so had virtually drunk a bottle of wine before our lady guests arrived.  They were much appreciative of their corsages but we went through the usual rigmarole of trying to fit them to some part of the female attire to show them off in all their restrained splendour!

It was only when the bill arrived that we realized just how much a bottle of wine had cost and which went some way to explaining the eye wateringly large amount that it had cost us to “eat” there.  It gives you some idea of how much we spent that the restaurant actually gave us a bottle while we were waiting for the non-arriving taxi – on a night when Wales were being thrashed by the All Blacks and patriotic Welshmen were drowning their sorrows

The boys did not really surface until the afternoon and by then I had had my much anticipated “Tutorial” with the Open University via the Elluminate site.  Our tutorial was, to put it mildly, a somewhat cumbersome affair with a lot of time spent getting on to the system and finding out just how to use it.

One person, of course, had major problems and was like a lorne, lorst soul bleating about his inability to be heard like some second hand Dickensian minor character in one of the more irritating minor novels.

On this system only one voice can be heard at a time and to speak you have to click on a “hand up” button and are then given a number which indicates the order in which you can contribute.  As we were also reading text messages, mostly from the lone-lorst, trying to keep the thread of what was happening was difficult.  Add to that the fact that I would rather have been in my bed, Paul Squared appearing like a zombie and the telephone going off while I was reading out a portion of Buddhist scripture in a low and thrilling voice and you have an event which was not the most intellectually satisfying I have ever had! But it was a start and gave me at least some idea of the calibre of the characters who I am going to have to deal with in the next element of the course.

I could look back on two aged relatives visited; friends partied with; friends eaten with; friends visited; friends shopped with; old friends looked up: one Lady of the Front Desk of Eastern Leisure seen; shop workers sweet talked; Indian food enjoyed; next seasons clothes bought; inexplicable purchases packed safely away; two umbrellas lost; one umbrella found; a British bank account considerably lightened, and a general feeling that I had “been somewhere”!

And then it was Sunday and the day of my return.

The experience at Bristol Airport was awful.  The flight was called in good time, but we were directed to the furthest gate where we formed a long, hot, sticky queue until we were passed into another holding pen where we were simply left to fume.  Well, I fumed.  As usual there was a delay and as is even more usual (and yes, I know that is not conventional English but it help me keep calm) no one told us anything until we finally moved over the cold, wet, windy tarmac to the plane.

In spite of the delay we made good time to Barcelona and arrived a little ahead of schedule and the baggage handling was reasonable as well.

Unpacking has been done in the usual resentful way that I use at both ends of the process, but this time I feel that I am justified because I am typing this at the end of a day when I have been called back to our local school to spend a mind-numbingly tedious day supervising exams.  At least I do not have to mark them!  And I am paid!

I positively ran out of school at the end of the day just in case I happened to pass the path of the lady who asked me to come in and found out that there were people who would be out of school the next day and they might be needing a hapless supply person!

This evening, after a “welcome back swim” in the pool next door, I will contemplate the final unpacking of the case with all the washing and putting away that it entails.

I think that we will go out for tapas.  And I will drink fizzy water!

Well, that didn’t happen!  Toni is not well and couldn’t go out and, more interestingly I found messages waiting for me from the School on the Hill asking me to return to replace a replacement who has now, most inconveniently developed pneumonia – just at the height of the examination season!

The story develops!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Old times!

The weather has now taken on a form of malevolent vindictiveness that I can only call personal in the way that it has assaulted me throughout my stay in Wales.  The freezing drizzle that greeted me in Bristol Airport has now developed into driving rain lashing against the house with all the gusto that near gale force winds can give it.  Flood warnings abound and Toni cackles with maniacal laughter as he regales me with descriptions of the balmy conditions in Castelldefels!

I have to console myself with the compulsive buying of anything I can get my hands on to compensate for the helio-debt that is being racked up as I continue my stay in this sodden country.

So far I have been relatively modest in my gadget acquisitions with only a pair of Wi-Fi headphones, four coat hooks, a mini umbrella, a pair of zoom binoculars and a pair of braces making up my haul!

I have discovered that in purely Tesco point’s terms I am rich beyond the dreams of avarice.  Whenever I come to the UK and whenever I shop in the larger stores I always tender my points cards in spite of the fact that I rarely get to see any indication of what benefits might accrue to me.  Today the full extent of my spending in Tesco and my consequent gains in points was graphically exhibited by the astonishment of the salesperson as she gasped out the information that had a stored total of 4,300 points!

The bother of getting these five-year’s worth of points translated into something spendable was a little complicated by the realization of head office that my points “scheme” was woefully out of date and would have to be translated into something more contemporary for me to gain.  Two telephone calls (courtesy of the information desk in Tesco Pengam) later I was informed that my newly discovered gains would be sent to my British “address” in Rumney and therefore fall into the grasping hands of the Pauls who have been sworn to respect the sanctity of any riches-laden envelope from Tesco addressed to me at their house!

Yesterday we had a “light supper” with Haydn – whose concept of “light” certainly does not match my own – which was absolutely delicious.  We were given a masterly version of one of his mother’s recipes for a chicken dish which was distinctly Moroccan and he has promised to give me the recipe and I think that I will hold him to that!

As Paul had school the next day they left before midnight, but Haydn and I continued talking about the finer points of Anglican theology.  Ah, such things I miss!

This evening is a night in – and I must say that we need it!  If only to allow our kidneys to re-group and prepare themselves for the rigors of two more dinners on Friday and Saturday!

Toni’s umbrella is now safely bought and already packed so I can enjoy the rest of my time in the UK!

Paul Squared has prepared a spaghetti Bolognese which I am going to try and eat without red wine.  Fat chance!