Sunday, 22 March 2015

He who would cross the Bridge of Death...

We have a field at the back of our house, separated from our garden by a stream. The field seems to be the stamping ground for every neighbourhood cat. Almost every house along our row has a plank going from their garden to the field but, typically, the right cats never use the right bridges. There was obviously some cat function going on this morning. From my kitchen window, I could see five of them, secretly watching each other, then doing that slow walk which they think makes them invisible to other cats. Then one cat sat on the end of our bridge. Panic and confusion all round, as they all suddenly wanted to cross the bridge, but without getting beaten-up. I imagined a kind of cat Holy Grail situation: 'Tell me, young Scroggins, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?' 

Our biggest cat, Merlin, has recently started bringing home young rabbits from the field. The first one was alive; he was carrying it like a kitten and it hung from his jaws without protest until we persuaded Merlin to let it go. But the next two didn't fare so well. He brought them both home and dumped them by the back door. There's nothing that puts you off your breakfast as much as a cat ripping the innards out of a rabbit, I can tell you. 

A cat we had a few years ago used to be an expert rat-catcher. When my daughter was ill and drowsing on our sofa-bad, the cat came in and gently laid a dead rat next to her pillow. He really didn't understand the commotion it caused. Such a generous act, so cruelly scorned....

Looking for a picture for this post, I found the one above, which reminded me of when we moved a cupboard from our kitchen (someone had given us a big bookshelf, and no-one argues with me over bookshelves...). We recovered numerous biros, bits of screwed-up foil, pilfered Halloween sweets, a highlighter we'd been looking for for ages, a felt mouse and a pad of post-its. One Christmas, I'd been given some bits and pieces by the school-children, and I decided to save a Lindt chocolate teddy for the next day. When I came downstairs in the morning, it was lying on the floor with cat teeth-marks in it. Merlin didn't like chocolate, it was just sitting there and had to be destroyed. My fault for leaving it in the open, I know, but... grrrrrrr!

(This post was meant to be about honesty, but that'll have to wait for another day. Yet again, the cats have taken over something that was not meant to be theirs.)

Friday, 13 March 2015

Would you rather...?

Family crises, a school trip, a non-uniform day and a week that seemed to be a fortnight long - and no alcohol in the house. I may be British, but tea does not do the job. 

The Father-in-law, you may remember, had a serious stroke last June. After breaking into his house, we got him to hospital, but he made no improvement and so was moved to a nursing home in Lincoln (where The Sister-in-law lives). He's been unable to speak, eat or move much for nearly nine months; despite having been wonderfully cared for by the staff at the nursing home, he's in pain. Now things are finally coming to an end and I hope he's soon at peace. This is the second family member who has had to 'live' and suffer after a bad stroke; I hope the Assisted Dying Bill gets passed before long, as the thought of having no control over the end of my life is frightening. My children know my thoughts on the matter, and I think they're practical and caring enough to know when to pull the plug on me. 

At the same time the Father-in-law had his stroke, the Brother-in-law was having a scary time with hydrocephalus. He was falling over, walking miles at crazy hours of the night and was almost sectioned by an incompetent doctor who thought he was mentally ill. And now the problem's coming back. Thankfully, he's recognised the symptoms and is booked in at Addenbrookes hospital to have a shunt inserted in his brain. 

So that's the family stuff. But as if that wasn't enough to turn me into an alcoholic, we had a school trip this week. (Actually, having no alcohol in the house may be a good thing, but how the heck am I meant to get my assignment written?) It was only a half-day trip, to a child-safety... umm... thing. Held in a rather gorgeous manor house, which will be mine when I have written my best-seller, there were activities provided by the police, fire-services, St John ambulance etc. As ever, the worst part was the bus journey. I was asked by a girl without a partner if I would sit with her, which I did. Big mistake. After a bit of polite conversation, I found myself listening in to a game the children called 'Would you rather...?' It started off innocently enough. Would you rather go shopping with your mum or have extra homework? Then we got to would you rather eat a rat or lick a pig's nose? By the end of the journey, it was would you rather kiss a particular boy or jump off a high building? (To which the answer was, 'No offence, and I do like you, but I'd rather die.') Obviously, for the return journey, I elected to sit on my own and read a book. 

Today, everyone wore red to school, for Comic Relief. We started the day with a talent show (I use the word 'talent' very loosely here, although there were good moments). For the rest of the day, the children were sky-high, just like the staff stress-levels. Our last lesson was on creating blogs. The eldest class were given access to a 'behind the scenes' level on the school website, where they could start blogs on any subject that interested them. Last week, I'd shown them how I edit and generally mess about with the school book blog, and they thought of things they'd like to blog about. Cars, caring for rabbits, horse-riding and fashion were all popular. One boy wanted to write about how to get a girlfriend, but thankfully changed his mind and is now writing about Minecraft. A couple of children had to be told by Ms Fab, 'No, you can't write about that creepy computer game that you play even though you're nowhere near being 16.' 

All school staff have agreed - it's been a long week. 

So, tell me: would you rather take a coach-full of year 5s on a school trip or be cast into the pits of hell? Oh, hang on, that's kind of the same thing... 

Monday, 9 March 2015

A thank you

I work at a Church of England school, but we do have a couple of Jehovah's Witness children in the eldest class. They don't take part in our school assemblies, so the teaching assistants take turns in supervising them during these periods. 

The boys have started to have their own mini 'meetings' during these assembly times, complete with songs, Bible readings and question times, and they always make the TA with them feel very much a part of things. I have to admit that, although I'm not a Christian in any shape or form, I hugely enjoy sharing their worship time. And it's funny really, because I absolutely hate our Monday school assemblies - they're very 'everybody stand up and do actions' and I will do anything to get out of them (and I know I'm not the only one. It's uncanny how many people suddenly find jobs that must be taken care of immediately.).

The meetings that our JWs have are more my idea of religious meetings: let's listen to a story, then ask questions, and take turns in talking and discussing things. No clapping and air-guitars; it's peaceful and thoughtful and something I don't mind being a part of. And one thing that impresses me greatly, is that these boys (who can be... lively... in class) are showing such a different side of themselves. They're only 10 and 11, but when I didn't quite understand what a Bible story was getting at, and I thought dammit, I'll give them a chance to laugh at me, they didn't do that at all. They took the time to give me a considered answer and thanked me for being interested. And I am interested. I think that religion, in all its different shapes, is fascinating. They know that I'm not trying to have a go at them when I ask about their lives as Jehovah's Witnesses and I've basically been told 'ask us anything'. Which is great. I can show my utter ignorance and they revel in educating me. It's brilliant role reversal. 

I have to say those boys know their Bible inside out. When answering my question this morning of why they call God 'Jehovah', they were able to go straight to verses that explained it. And, probably because they're children, they're doing it with very little agenda, just an enjoyment of sharing what's important to them. 

I think we could all do with seeing what other people do. What's the point of 'I'm right, so I'm not even going to consider your view'? Surely life is far more interesting if it's more 'I have my beliefs (or not), but I'd like to hear your opinion, too.' (Ever since reading Notes From an Exhibition, by Patrick Gale, I've wanted to go to a Quaker meeting, but haven't had the courage.)

So, I think I've learnt a lot from two boys who are usually expected to learn things from me. And that's another thing: so many adults think they know better than children. Couldn't we all do with opening our minds a bit more?

Thanks, boys, for including me in your worship time. I know where I'm going to be spending my Monday assembly times from now on. 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

On being weighed and measured

Since I last wrote, my dad's radiotherapy for prostate cancer has come to an end. The good folks at Addenbrookes hospital are pleased with how he's doing, so he's on hormone treatment for the next three years, with regular check-ups along the way. Thankfully, he didn't suffer from too many side-effects - tiredness was the main one, although he's now pretty much back to normal. During his treatment, he was asked if he wanted to take part in a medical trial which is trying to make radiotherapy more accurate. Apparently, they control everything by computer and can target areas that are a couple of pixels across. A far cry from the prostate cancer treatment my grandfather got, where they had to lay lead plates across his stomach to stop his internal organs getting fried. I know I've said it before but, guys, please go and get your PSI levels checked. There were 30 year olds on my dad's ward with advanced cancer. It's only a blood test - go and get it done. 

Other stuff: The Daughter and her boyfriend are currently in Iceland (am I jealous? You bet.), and will be taking an extended break in October, spending six months travelling around Thailand, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and various other amazing places. What a way to miss our British winter...

Son Number One's job with the Forestry Commission is going well. He's planted several thousand trees, got on nodding terms with strange people who live in the forest, and has warned me which forest tracks to avoid unless I'm after dodgy requests. 

Son Number Two has been doing a tour of UK universities. So far, Hull is topping the list for its music department, but he has a trip to Leeds this coming week before he makes his final pick. 

My OU course is going pretty well. My tutor, possibly having skipped his medication, gave me 98% for my assignment on animism. It was a score that I didn't believe when I saw it on my phone, so I had to check it on my computer in case of strange glitches. The feedback said that most people chose the option on the Scopes Trial, but I found animism far more interesting. The assignment was about how two anthropologists defined the term, but the subject itself made a lot of sense in my head. I mean, who wouldn't talk to a hedgehog that wanders through the garden, for example? Really? Oh well, at least I now know which indigenous communities I need to go and live with...

School-wise, it's been a week of hard-thinking and kicking things (not children, I promise). Reasons that teachers are leaving in droves are now, it seems, being brought into teaching assistant jobs. I know that self-evaluation and professional development are important, but it seems we now have to judge things like our planning and assessment skills. So many teachers on forums complain that 'unqualified' TAs should not be allowed to plan or assess lessons; that we're there purely to support teaching and learning. There's a new set of official standards especially for teaching assistants, which comes out later this term, but we can't self-asses using those; we have to shoe-horn ourselves into teaching standards. The majority of our TAs don't do any planning, and some have been told, 'Is there anything kind of like planning, that you do, so you can tick that box?' Seriously? And many important things that TAs actually do are not taken into account. There's nothing on application of Special Educational Needs skills, for example. A TA that works one-to-one with a challenging pupil is going to be 'inadequate' at just about everything in those standards, even though she may go home with bite-marks up her arms and bruises up her shins. Pupil well-being is a huge part of what we do, but because a child has spent the lesson crying all over you and discussing their parents' arguments, they won't have achieved that lesson's learning objective, and so will have made no progress. They may be happier, but you can't record that in the mark book. 

Ms Fab and I are meant to be using these standards as 'self improvement tools'; that was one of our Personal Development targets from The Boss Lady, but we were told to concentrate on particular sections that were relevant and that all made sense. But now all TAs are having to assess ourselves on things that rarely form part of our job. It's supposed to help us move forward, I know. So how do I move forward from my score as a third-rate teacher to that of a first-rate teaching assistant? Or do I move on to Waterstones? It's looking increasingly attractive. 

Which reminds me, I've not watched this for years...

Rant over, as they say. I'm off to watch A Knight's Tale

Friday, 20 February 2015

Hearing tests and blood spatter patterns

Part of today was spent in the nearby town of Bury St Edmunds (when she was little, my cousin thought it was called 'Berries and Lemons' - cute, but totally irrelevant to this post). The Husband was having a hearing test at the hospital and I was there for support (that's the official version. Actually, I was starting to suffer from Cabin Fever and wanted to avoid all the housework that's been left since my assignment was due). He had two appointments: the first for the test, and the second with the hearing aid department, in case he needed one. There was an hour between the appointments; we mooched around the hospital shop so The Husband could get a newspaper. I was not getting on with Douglas Adams, who I had brought with me in my bag, so I rummaged through the paperbacks on offer. For a tiny little hospital shop, they had a good selection of books, so I bought Val McDermid's non-fiction Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime. £8.99! I always buy books from Amazon, or that are on offer, so £8.99 was a bit yikes, but it had to be done; I couldn't sit there for 45 minutes being sociable. Luckily, the guy at the till only asked for £4.50, so I paid up and made a quick exit. 

I am fascinated by forensic science and if I had several thousand pounds (and was a bit more maths-savvy) I would love to do a degree in the subject. As it is, I have a ridiculous amount of books on it, plus an unhealthy knowledge of the time it takes for flesh to rot under different circumstances. Did you know the life-cycle of the blowfly is incredibly interesting? Bet you didn't. Perhaps that can be my project for when I finish with the OU. Not strewing dead bodies around the garden, but learning more about forensics. I think the main difference between being interested in a subject and learning about it, is the writing you have to do. So I'll have to set myself assignments. 'In no more than 2500 words, discuss the way in which Eduard Piotrowski's work on bloodstain pattern analysis was important to the field of forensic science.' To be worked on whenever you want to ignore the ironing. Actually, could I write about the way in which he bludgeoned live rabbits to death so he could study the way their blood shot up the walls? Harlow's work with monkeys for his attachment theory was enough to give me nightmares. 

I know I'm really going to miss the OU. This time next year, I'll be working on my last couple of assignments, and then what? When I started in 2010, it was because there was rubbish on television and I was bored. 'I'll only do one course,' I said. 'No, you won't,' said those who were already with the OU, 'learning's addictive.' And they were right. The more I learn, the less I seem to know about all the stuff that's out there. But it's all so expensive. The cost of OU courses has really gone up and I am so envious of the people that started in the 1980s and are on their 6th degree. Anyway, I have another year and a bit to go, so I'll save my moaning until then. 

As for our hospital visit, The Husband is on the border-line for needing / not needing a hearing aid, so he's going to get one for times when he really needs to listen. And then he'll leave it out when his mother phones. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

VD and the death of the complex sentence

As I waded through rubbish on Facebook this morning, putting off another assignment, I was puzzled by the amount of people wishing others 'Happy VD'. What a strange thing to be happy about, I thought. Perhaps it was to do with the release of the 50 Shades of Grey film? (And, no, I won't be watching it. Come on, you should know me better than that by now...). Of course, as my coffee started to work, I realised such posts were by people too lazy or too bad at spelling to write 'Valentine's Day.' 'And Merry STD to you, too,' I was tempted to type, but was too much of a coward.

I have started to write my new assignment, as it's due in by midday on Thursday. That's to say, I have opened a Word document. There it is, minimised at the bottom of my screen, occasionally calling out, 'Excuse me!' and being ignored in favour of... everything else. I have a pile of books and journal articles in front of me, which shows everyone my obvious eagerness to get writing. One is a book that arrived this morning (look, it's the half-term holiday this week; I have plenty of time to do this. She says.). The book's called Kissed by a Fox and is honestly about animism, although the title may have taken your imagination briefly along another path. When I looked up the title on Google Images, so I could include a photo on here, my computer started sweating unpleasantly; I have decided to use something grammar-related and far less interesting. 

That leads very clumsily to the grammar course which 3 of us went to this week. I've not mentioned Mrs GSOH for a while, but she now works at the school every morning and lunch-time, adding her little touches of insanity to the place. Anyway, she came with one of the reception-class TAs and me to be updated on grammar-lesson changes to the National Curriculum. Now, I love writing, and can hopefully write coherently most of the time, but I don't always know what the different bits of writing are called. When we got to the course, we started looking through the handouts that had been left on the table. One was a glossary. Cohesive devices...? Was that to do with grammar? We started wondering if we were on the right course. Maybe this was car maintenance, because that sounded like a kind of spanner. Fronted adverbials...? Perhaps this was biology. Passive, possessive, being stressed and subordinate?? What had we got ourselves into?

The tutor arrived before we could escape. 'Every school has a grammar snob,' she began, and the three of us looked at each other and nodded, while knowing it definitely wasn't one of us, because we had never heard of modal verbs. Anyway, we muddled our way through, and nodded sagely at all of the slides on her power-point. The coffee break was spent eating biscuits and worriedly sharing our lack of knowledge. 'I know semi-colons,' I said, relieved that I understood something, 'because we did them last week with the year 6s.' 'That's good,' replied Mrs GSOH, who then pointed out that I had chocolate on my face. Bloody hell - why can't I go somewhere and at least look intelligent?

So, what did we get out of the course? There is now no such thing as a 'complex' sentence, apparently. And this is because 'simple' sentences can be very complex (like grammar courses). We now have to talk about how many clauses the sentence has. And 'connectives' are now known as 'conjunctions'. We learnt that little children are very good at using passive sentences to get themselves out of trouble. I learnt that I know very little about grammar, and must take more care when eating. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Comic Sans, you're so patronising

Watching the breakfast news over the top of Harlan Coben this morning, there was an article on a man who has been searching the River Thames for tiny bits of metal - the Doves Type font. Robert Green, the man on a mission, was explaining how he thought that each font had a personality, and I thought here's someone I could have an interesting conversation with. Obviously, I should have thought: here's someone with whom I could have an interesting conversation, but it was early and I'd only had two cups of coffee, so I didn't. 'Mr Green,' I would say, 'don't you agree that Bauhaus 93 is so 1980s nightclub? And that Harlow Solid Italic should only ever be used by hairdressers?' 

But it did get me thinking about the fonts I use. Blogger gives you a very limited choice, (unless you know how to change html codes, which I don't) so I use Verdana, only because I don't like the others. The OU likes you to use Times New Roman, but my assignments are bad enough without that, so I rebel and use Calibri. On the school interactive whiteboards, I opt for Century Gothic (in bold for the added 'and quietly, thank you.') Comic Sans should not be allowed out of the reception class. Anyone who uses it when writing for adults should be taken to one side and given a talking-to. 

(And only one exclamation mark, thank you)

Whilst hunting on-line for links to the Doves Font story, I realised it wasn't big news. More space was given to the fact that supermarkets have been asked to move daffodils away from the fruit and veg sections, in case people eat them. See here if you really need reminding that the stupid gene seems to be taking over. 

What I did find, however, was a great time-waster - ideal for whiling away those hours when you should be writing assignments (in the font of your choice): is on the 'Psychology of Type'. There are several font-based quizzes, which form part of a research project and have stolen my Saturday morning. (Apparently, I should date a Futura font, as it's stylish, open and gives a well-considered opinion.)

Finally, if you are into fonts and the like, I recommend the brilliantly bonkers book Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. 

And... having just read through this, it's becoming more apparent that the essay on animism was the right choice... 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

On world wars and joining your handwriting

Every morning in class, we spend 10 minutes doing handwriting. The children, that is. I am trying to cultivate scruffier handwriting as I always get the 'You know you've got nice handwriting...?' appeals when someone needs 150 certificates writing out. Anyway, a couple of mornings ago, I noticed one child frowning at his work (I couldn't read it either), so I asked him if he was okay. 'I'm a bit worried,' he said. I was about to launch into my 'you just need to keep practising' spiel, when he added '...about World War Three.' Hmm. I had missed the news that morning. Should we actually be at school today? 'Only,' he said, 'we live right next door to Lakenheath, so obviously we're going to die.' A nearby child piped up with 'at least you'd get out of maths,' which was pretty similar to what I was going to say. I do hate it when children steal your best lines. 'I was just wondering what to do when a bomb falls on the school,' continued Morbid Child. I thought back to those useful and informative leaflets that had been handed out during the 80s, but didn't think he'd be convinced when I suggested he close all windows and sit under a table. 'If a bomb fell on the school, you'd definitely die,' said someone, helpfully, 'because all the roof would fall on you.' 'Oh,' said Morbid Child, 'do you think someone would feed my cats?' 'My Mum'll do it. I'll ask her,' Helpful Girl offered. And so the conversation turned to pets, and that's why we got very little handwriting done that morning. 

I did sympathise with Morbid Child's worries. I can remember being about 12 years old and sitting with my back to the television as the newscasters told us how close to a nuclear war we were. I know I silently cried into the book I was pretending to read because, if there was going to be a war, my guinea-pigs would die. I knew we humans would be fine, because we had a strong dining-room table, but what about the pets? I remember my friends and I getting all righteous about the appalling attitudes our parents had to our animals. 'When I asked about my rabbits,' one friend told me, 'my dad said we'd probably have to eat them.' Another friend said she was going to write to Margaret Thatcher and order her to make gas masks for horses. 

And while I'm writing this, Son Number One has just come in to ask how long it should take to run three miles. Well, if it was me, I'd have to do it in stages, so maybe a couple of days? And only if there were pubs at regular intervals. And the promise of steak and chips at the end. He tells me he's thinking of joining the RAF reserves. The Husband was in the Territorial Army for 12 years, so he can't really object, and I passed the selection tests for the RAF, but they didn't have jobs available for cartographers, which was what I wanted to do. (I chose the RAF because I felt it was classier, and their uniform was nicer than the Army's. Yes, I did used to be a total idiot.) 

So if World War Three could not happen just yet, I'd be most grateful. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

On good music and talking to ducks

With Son Number Two being a music student, we had booked tickets for a concert featuring Tommy Emmanuel. I have to admit I had not heard of him, but Son Number Two told me he was one of the best guitarists in the world, so why not? Last Thursday, we battled our way through cycling students in Cambridge and I did my best to look educated and guitar-savvy. We had pretty good seats, and I enjoyed some people-watching as the place filled up. We'd been to the Corn Exchange a few times, and it was strange to see the downstairs bit (sorry, I don't know theatre-speak) filled with seats rather than loads of sweaty 20-somethings jumping about and throwing plastic cups of beer. The tickets had said there was a support act, but not who it was. All that Son Number Two knew was that it was 'some Australian guy'. That guy turned out to be Anthony Snape who, in my opinion, was worth the ticket price himself. So, a good night with lots of music to be added to the 'to buy' list, and tickets to be bought when Anthony Snape returns later in the year. 

OU-wise, I have had the marks back for my last assignment. Feeling that I had taken huge liberties with the question, I was not expecting a good mark and shut my eyes as I clicked the link for my results. 50 would be acceptable, I thought, as long as I didn't get any sarcastic feedback (it wouldn't have been the first time). Less than that, and there could be tears. I got 86. I refreshed the page a couple of times and checked that a dirty computer screen wasn't turning a 3 into an 8, but no. So now it's on to the next one. Animism or the Scopes Trial? (Thanks go to Paul, for the book and film suggestions that helped me get my head around the Scopes Trial.) The chapter on animism started with a 'light-hearted quiz'; the first question being 'Have you ever sworn at your computer?' (Not personally, but the school's photocopier has taken a fair bit of verbal abuse.) 'Do you talk to animals?' it went on. Obviously not. Well, apart from the cats. And we did rescue two abandoned ducks which would quack back at you when you chatted to them. But I don't talk to animals in a Dr Doolittle kind of way. I have implored frogs to come back to life, after the cats have been playing with them, but that's different. 

Ducks... Can't live with 'em...

 Son Number One many years ago, with Duck 1

By the end of the quiz, I had answered 'yes' to an alarming amount of questions. I blame books. When you spend your childhood (and beyond) reading that rabbits can wear blue velvet jackets, that dormice sleep in teapots and that most wolves are on the side of the White Witch, there's no hope of believing in rational things. 

The next course book looks interesting - bring on the apocalypse! Not literally, you understand. I have things to do, and animals to talk to...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

And on to Book 3

I made a good choice with this course on religion and controversy. Obviously, my feelings may change when I get the marks back for my assignment. Sadly, the news this week has been reinforcing just how many sides there are to 'religion' or what is done in the name of religion. The issue of religion vs. free speech was one that was covered in my assignment, and yet again, it's in the news in such a shocking and bloody horrible way. I suppose it's kind of good that I can understand such issues a bit better than I did? It does make me really sad, though, when some students on the course still show deliberate ignorance. They act in the way a couple of our Year 5 children have done: 'So, if you're a Muslim you kill people.' It seems the children I've spoken to are more open-minded and willing to listen, though. Oh well, 'haters are gonna hate', as Son Number One says to me (along with 'Stop living in your little rainbow-coloured world, Mother.')

So, onwards to Book 3 of the course, which is about controversial ideas: science, new atheism, cognitive theory of religion, and animism, followed by an assignment on either the Scopes Trial or debates on animism. Both look appealing for a change. I usually have to pick an option depending on which I hate least. Apparently, the assignment is 'double-weighted', which I think could also relate to me, post-Christmas. Actually, looking at the Scopes Trial stuff (I had never heard of it before now), it has highlighted my ignorance at how we'd teach the origins of life at the school where I work. We are a Church of England school, but children don't have to be church-goers to attend. Basically, we're just the nearest primary school for most of our pupils, with a handful coming from out of our catchment area because of our C of E status. I don't recall going into creation in any of our lessons, but I'd like to think we'd do it in a kind of science-y way, with a 'some people think this...' added, and let them make their own minds up, rather than forcing some kind of view on them. (It would only be an introduction, anyway, as it's more of a high school subject.) And then they could learn creation myths from all around the world, and if they like the idea of Chaos and Gaia, then fine. I love the stories of the Thunderbirds, myself (no, not the puppets...). 

Anyway, I should really be getting back to the subject, myself. Today, my target is to read:
  • Revolution and the rejection of Christianity
  • From persecution to 'culture wars'
  • Atheists and fundamentalists: the Scopes Trial
  • The 1960s and after: religious crisis and resurgence.
Sigh. Or I may just eat biscuits and finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows