Saturday, 26 July 2014

One down...

I received an email yesterday, telling me I'd passed the RE course. (It was a pass or fail thing, but I'm still disappointed I didn't get a merit.) And now I've got an essay for the counselling course to be finished. I'm lucky that I've got a wonderful tutor for this one, who told me exactly where I lost points in my last piece of work. She is, it seems, a stickler for introductions. Not that I don't write them, she just wants 'proper' ones that say things like, 'This essay will consider...' and so on. In four years with the OU, it's the first time I've had to do that, and it feels very clunky. So I've written it (the intro, that is, had you expected more?) and am so embarrassed by it that I've come on here to recover and do some normal writing. Okay, so I've also done the hoovering and re-sorted the bookshelves - I just really, really don't feel like writing about existential therapy (or is it that I'm putting things off that cause anxiety? Maybe I should face this feeling of being hemmed in and decide where I want to go with my life? Maybe I should challenge my own assumptions about the world and how people view me? Maybe I should stop taking counselling courses.).

And I have books to read. The Bookworm (one of our former year 6 girls) bought me a present when she learnt it was my birthday next month. It was a second-hand book by Adriana Trigiani, which she said 'looked like my sort of thing'. It was - I already own it, but it's made me want to read the series it was from again, starting with Big Stone Gap. I'd forgotten how good the books are, so thank you, Bookworm, I'm very grateful. (And that reminds me, I have to buy the holiday book on Monday, when I go into town for Son Number Two's eye test.) 

Plus, the garden is looking nice in the sunshine. Well, that's not actually true. It looks awful, with weeds and a big pile of earth that's going to become part of a new lawn 'eventually', but there's a lot of wildlife, probably because of the weeds, etc. We have damsel flies chasing each other about, numerous butterflies, bumble bees, a kingfisher flitting down the stream, and frogs aplenty, much to the delight of the cats, who think these bouncy creatures are there just to amuse them. I have had to rescue a record number of frogs from the cats this year. I hadn't realised that frogs play dead when they're threatened. The first one looked all 'bleah' and floppy, so I carried it to the stream, whereupon it miraculously came to life and leapt of my hands into the water. After that heart attack, I'm now prepared.  

Sigh... It can't be put off any longer. I will drag myself over to Word and try to add to the 82 words I've already written. Actually, I've just read through them again. It looks completely wrong: how can an essay 'consider' anything? It's me that's doing the considering, but we're not allowed to write in the first person. Why didn't I take creative writing? I could have written any old rubbish for that...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Courses, goodbyes and young criminals.

I have finished my RE course.  I've not got my results back yet, but, heck, who cares? It's not going to count for anything. We only do RE for half a term a year, and very little of it has anything to do with me. The whole course thing was, I think, a 'ticking-a-box' exercise for the school. I have to admit that I've learnt an awful lot, though - mainly through clicking on links from research I was meant to be doing. For example, I have learnt I am a Pagan with Pantheist leanings (or is it the other way around?), that the worst thing about a website on Satanism is their continual use of the phrase 'very unique', and that actually, religious labelling is pretty much a waste of time as most people do things their own way, anyway. From research for my 'Is there unity in diversity?' essay, it seems there are no two people who believe in the same thing. We may choose a label that defines us the most accurately, but then we pick up extra bits or discard the practices we disagree with. Thus we end up with people saying things like, 'I am a committed Christian/Jew/insert religion here, but I support gay marriage/the Dignity in Dying campaign/the teaching of evolution in schools/another potentially controversial idea....' So that makes me a Pantheist-Pagan with a smattering of Taoism, believing in Karma, quality books and good whisky. I'll name that religion in... um... a while. 

Take a spoonful of each, mix well and 
stop arguing.

We said goodbye to most of our year 6 children last week. Every year, I promise myself that I won't get upset, but yet again I did. We've had a morning in which we welcomed (hmmm... is that the right word? I'm not sure...) our new students. Some were nervous (our reputation precedes us), and some were over-confident know-it-alls (not for long). They had to fill in a question sheet, writing about favourite subjects and best friends. It also gave us a chance to suss out who shouldn't be sitting next to each other, and who had neat writing. 'You're going to get sick of me nagging you,' I told one boy, 'so you may as well sort your handwriting out now,' and he gave a resigned sigh, rubbed out his work and started again. Good lad. I think we've got another 'moving on' morning tomorrow. I bet they're really looking forward to it. 

Earlier this week, a girl and her mother sought me out and gave me a story the girl had written for our school book blog. 'She spent such a long time on it,' said Proud Mother. 'We tried to find you yesterday, but we couldn't, and she was devastated.' (I really hate the over-use of that word. She wasn't devastated, she was probably just a bit put-out because I had seen her coming and was hiding in the stock cupboard.) Anyway, I started typing it out on the school blog this morning and thought how good the punctuation was. Naturally, that made me rather suspicious, so I pasted the first paragraph into Google. It turned out that the whole thing had been lifted from a rather sickly children's book about sisters. Plagiarism at such a young age... and aided and abetted by Proud Mother, too. Hopefully, they will log on to the school blog today (I told them it would be typed up over the weekend) and see my 'by the way' notice instead. I will hand back the child's story tomorrow and do my best not to smirk at Proud Mother. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Study and swearing

I am trying to get back on track by starting my RE assignment. It's been put on hold for a couple of weeks, with the permission of my very patient tutor. (She's probably just relieved she won't have to read my dire offerings for a while.) I worked for several hours and had three full pages of notes, plus a huge great list of useful websites. 'Brilliant,' I thought, 'I'm finally getting somewhere.' 'Do you want to save changes to the document?' Word kindly asked. Of course I did. And I clicked on 'Don't save' (Why??!!!!). After a frantic Google search and advice from a teenager, I was unable to retrieve my notes. I was very well behaved. I swore like mad in my head, but outwardly I just sighed and started again. 

I've used my internet history to retrieve the website addresses, but will probably never recover the brilliant insights within my notes (gives hollow laugh). At least I know roughly what I want to write about, which I will start on tomorrow as an excuse not to join in with the family yard sale. 

Other news: the Brother-in-law's operation went well and he's now back home. Complaints are about to be registered against his GP who refused to even consider that his health problems were physical, not mental. Apparently, the resulting month's delay in his treatment nearly killed him. 

The Father-in-law is extremely unlikely to recover from his stroke. He has made no improvement and the doctors are now talking about palliative care. 
The Daughter came up from Cornwall to visit him, which was a much-needed highlight for us. Son Number One is playing cricket at the moment, and has a job working a few hours a week with the local river warden, which he's really enjoying, and Son Number Two has just returned from an Eminem concert in London. The Husband is raiding the shed and occasionally appearing to ask, 'Do we want this?' before adding the rusting junk things to the yard sale pile. 

And me? I've given up studying for the day and am going to make a very strong cup of coffee. I think we have one day about mid-August when there's nothing planned, so I may book my nervous breakdown for then. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014


An update from yesterday's post (and this is going to take some typing, as I've had a fair amount of wine - a huge thanks to my Dad). 

The Father-in-law has had a huge stroke - it has affected half his brain. He is paralysed on his right side and almost blind in that eye. We were allowed to visit him this afternoon, and he recognised us but was unable to talk. The doctors are saying he will not be able to lead a normal life again. 

The Brother-in-law was sent to a different hospital this morning, after having a fall and being unable to get up. The Husband pleaded with the doctors to give him a scan. (B-in L's doctor still insisting it is a mental health problem.) Result? He had a brain scan, had fluid on his brain and is now undergoing emergency surgery. 

We have never been part of the 'Sue them!' movement, but will definitely be making a complaint against that doctor, who set back B-in-L's treatment by a month, arguing with mental health teams and treating everyone with massive arrogance and condescension. (I apologise if this doesn't make sense, it was a very nice bottle of Shiraz...). 

It's been 'a funny sort of day' as they say. Oh, and the cat brought a rabbit home. A live, baby one, carrying it gently by the scruff of the neck, as if to say, 'Look what I found, wandering around in the field.' Hysterics and mad chasing followed, and the rabbit escaped unharmed. 

This is why I read a lot. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

From 'Sesame Street' to 'Casualty'

Two more assignments are looming. One is the last module for my school RE course. Again, I chose an essay instead of lesson plans, as the class is concentrating on play practice, and RE and pirates don't really go together. Although... no, I don't think my tutor would go for that. Anyway, I had a list of questions to choose from. Loads appealed; I could have written pages on 'Is the world sacred?' but Pantheism and Paganism are not part of the RE curriculum, unfortunately, and I think I'd struggle to write much, having to stick to Judaism and Hinduism. So I chose 'Is there unity in diversity?', to which I shall write, 'There could be, if people were a bit more open-minded,' and include lots of quotes from Sesame Street

Okay, I wrote that paragraph a few hours ago, and since then, my life has been more Casualty than Sesame Street. The Husband got a call from someone who checks on his dad - he does a bit of shopping for him and takes him his morning paper. Apparently, my Father-in-law didn't answer the door, so he was worried. We tried phoning: no response, so we drove round there (he lives about 20 minutes away). He didn't answer, and the neighbour hadn't seen him that day, so we broke in. The Husband went first, and the relief when I heard him say, 'Hi Dad, it's only us,' (because you say that if you don't want to get shot by an ex-poacher) was huge. F-in-L was lying on the sofa, having had, we thought, a stroke. An ambulance was called and he was taken to a local hospital for assessment. (We're not allowed to see him yet, which is why I'm on here - I don't want you to think I'm that callous that I'd go home and blog about something instead of taking care of a family member.)

This caps a 'bit of a week', as The Husband calls it. His brother has a history of mental health problems, but has started wandering off and falling down a lot. Numerous doctor's appointments later, the GP is arguing with the mental health team, who say it is a neurological problem and that he needs a brain scan. The GP is arguing back that she knows best, and is refusing to refer him. Meanwhile, B-in-L is walking for miles, falling in rivers and losing his car. 

So now we are making endless phone calls and packing hospital bags. Sorry, boys, you'll be making your own teas tonight. I have emailed my RE tutor to say, despite what I said about getting my assignment done asap, actually, I won't be. 

I'm looking forward to getting back to work for a break. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

First aid, last resort

Ms Fab and I are now qualified first aiders. But don't call us if there's a problem, as we both managed to kill people in our exam. I killed myself, and Ms Fab killed the first aid instructor - both 'electrocuted' during an early nineteenth century train robbery, which was a bit of a puzzler. 

I have to admit I was dreading the three-day first aid course. It was held at our school, and was yet another one of those things I'd volunteered for.... Luckily, I also managed to volunteer Ms Fab for it (misery loves company and all that). I wasn't looking forward to it because I always feel such an idiot on first aid courses - there you are, bandaging non-existent wounds, breathing life into truncated plastic people and generally doing stupid things whilst others watch you to see how many mistakes you make. Thankfully, things looked up when trainees from other schools turned up. One was a woman I had done a reading course with and with whom, it turned out, I shared an aversion to infants. 'I'll help any child in any way,' she said at the course, 'but I ain't singing songs with a fuckin' toy frog on my head.' She gained instant approval from me. 

Over three days we learnt about breaks, bleeding, asthma attacks, poisoning, CPR, choking, bleeding and how men shouldn't do naked ironing (a true story from our instructor, used to illustrate (not literally) the lesson on burns). We got used to looking like idiots and regularly killed our casualties, but it was actually a hugely enjoyable course, made so by the other trainees and a particularly good instructor.

Forgot to check for danger. Dammit, 
another casualty. 

Other stuff: my RE assignment was submitted and has just been marked. The tutor said it was very good and a joy to mark, and then proceeded to tell me all the things I'd done wrong and how I should have done it. She criticised my referencing, by writing 'mostly' in the box next to: 'The student uses correct Harvard referencing.' Mostly? Mostly??! I've spent the past four year agonising over bloody references. I sent her three pages of meticulously checked references. I know I shall put a lot less effort into the next assignment, anyway. I wonder if I can put it on hold for the next decade? (Reading back through this, it becomes evident that I don't take criticism that well.) 

I also submitted my OU assignment on how the media portrays mental health. I'd been reading loads of complaints on the forum about how difficult it was to write, but I found it quite easy. So I've probably completely misinterpreted the question. Oh well, I only need 40% for a rather dodgy pass. 

And now I need to pick a focus for my second RE assignment. I think I'll just write: 'I see no point in doing this, as you so obviously hate me (Eyres, 2014)'. 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Getting side-tracked

Why does 'using the internet for research' so easily turn into two hours of following links, checking emails, watching random videos on Youtube, ordering CDs from Amazon and being nosy on Facebook? I have found that the internet does not speed things up, it adds up to a whole lot of distraction. I know I have no willpower, so I have to bribe myself. When my assignment's handed in, I can order a new paperback, for example. I know I'm not alone in this. One girl on an OU Facebook group says she buys a huge bag of sweets when an assignment's due. Every time she completes a paragraph, she allows herself a handful of sweets. She admits that her paragraphs get very short towards the end of her essays. I read about her methods when I should have been researching Hinduism. 

 Something I found when I should have been looking
up information on religious guidance.  

I've not had any feedback on my RE assignment yet. The tutor probably has an awful lot to write and may have had several quiet moments, rocking in the corner. Meanwhile, I have started writing notes for my counselling course (on how mental health is represented in the media). Only 1500 words, I aim to get finished this week (well, I better had - it's due in next Monday). 

It's going to be a strange week at work. The class I usually work with are going to the Lake District early tomorrow morning, and Ms Fab and I have to do a three day first aid course. With a test at the end. Auntie Mo was meant to do the course, but got out of it due to a school trip with the infants. She's helping to take 30 children to the seaside on a steam train. Hopefully, she'll leave the right ones behind. Then I've got two days of supporting a member of staff who's already told me she won't need supporting, so maybe I can get some library work done, or make play props. The two oldest classes are putting on a school play next month. Thankfully, the props are fairly simple this year. In the past, we've made animal masks, a giant bird's nest, a time machine, a cardboard cow and the houses for the three pigs, amongst other things. This year, the play's about pirates, so that's fairly easily dealt with. Swords, beer barrels and fish, I think, are the main things. The cast can provide their own eye-patches and stripy t-shirts. 

Well, roll on tomorrow. Three days of first aid. With Ms Fab. I can't see that an awful lot of work is going to get done, somehow...

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Must stop volunteering for things

It couldn't be put off any longer. I have started the next RE assignment. There are three 'tasks' to be done for the course. The first was an easy form-filling and research exercise, and I could choose from a variety of options for the second. Most of those options entailed planning a series of RE lessons, either on paper or as a 25 slide-long power point (I don't know any child who would be awake at the end of that sort of lesson). As our RE-centred half term has been and gone, I went for the essay option. So I have to write 2500 words on 'Where do people look for guidance on how to live their lives?' Not too bad a focus, but it has to relate to Hinduism and Humanism. I know that the Open University has a '10% either way' policy on word-counts, but don't know the policy for the RE course. I have a feeling that 183 words won't cut it, though. 

I have plundered my bookshelves and found a surprising amount of relevant material. (I'd forgotten that I was given a copy of the Bhagavad Gita by a random guy in town - he obviously knew which path I would follow better than I did...) I have read chunks of The God Delusion and managed not to hurl it across the room. I have been mightily side-tracked on the internet and got caught up in a discussion on 'Do people only do good things because of religion?' on a Humanist website. 'You don't have to be religious to be a good person,' said someone. 'In the absence of a god to please, would you become a thief or murderer?' I know one boy who probably would be. Actually, he manages to believe in God and still pilfer anything lying around in the classroom, so I'm not sure how he's going to square that with Him Upstairs. 

Anyway, I have made a start. The first paragraph's been written, and I always find that the most difficult. I am surrounded by piles of books with post-it notes sticking out of them. I have various bits of paper with pink highlighting. So, really, I should be working. I have a counselling assignment due on June 16th, which is about relating two newspaper articles on depression to our text books. (As one article is from The Mirror, I've kind of written that off as deeply suspect already.) 

Tomorrow (which never comes, I know) I will carry on. They say that if you get stuck, you should just write anything and it'll get you in the right frame of mind for working. I will start by typing 'I will never volunteer for anything, ever again.' 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Don't mention the war

Because I am meant to be doing an RE assignment, I am spending far too much time on Facebook on things totally unrelated to study. I now know that I will spend my first half million from my best-sellers on a watch which shows the planets' orbits in real-time (see here). I also know that yesterday was, apparently, World Turtle Day. The 'What career should you actually have?' quiz on BuzzFeed says I should be a humanitarian, so that's okay. I obviously chose the correct things to take to a desert island, and the right city to live in (even though I've never been to Cape Town). 

Scrolling through pages of facts and opinions, the one thing that stands out is that some people really are offended by an awful lot of stuff. And they like to tell everyone about it. There was a newspaper article this morning about a church near here, which had to remove a sign because it offended one person. The sign said, 'If you think there is no God, you’d better be right,' with flames underneath the message. I would have been more affected if hell was represented by pages of quadratic equations, but I actually thought it was quite amusing and in no way offensive, even from the point of view of a practising sinner. 

There are too many things that we're afraid to say or write in fear of offending someone. I don't mean deliberate racism / homophobia etc, but remarks that someone will skew to make offensive. 

It's probably wrong of me, but I get a bit of satisfaction when the 'That's offensive,' comments start bringing out the inner teenager in people. I like a page on Facebook called 'I f*cking love science' (yes, I can see the irony in what I've typed...), and it's full of amazing science-related stuff which has actually taught me quite a bit and has added an extra bit of wonder to things, but there are lots of whines about the 'offensive' title of the page. Here's a copy of one example:
  • 'I really do wish you folks would eliminate "f*cking" in your site. It just sounds too sophomoric and gratuitously crude for me to re-post.  
  • 'Get over yourself.   
  •  'Don't look then, you precious snowflake.'
  • 'That's too bad then.' 
  • 'I agree. I have wanted to post a few items but I did not because of this.' 
  • 'Copy and paste, people. Copy and paste.'  
  • 'Feel free to feel smugly superior for not swearing if that is your pinnacle of human achievement, but many others disagree ~ considering a rich and full spectrum of emotion represented by various intensifiers to be a useful linguistic tool, and the discovery of new insights into how the universe functions to be closer to the pinnacle of human accomplishments.'
  •  'In other words, f*cking deal with it u absolute bender.' 
Forgive me if that made me snigger. 

I know we shouldn't go around purposefully upsetting people and being thoughtless, but when some deliberately go out looking for things to be outraged by, I have little sympathy. Be outraged by starvation and famine, child brides and war, not the way someone has said something. 

After having probably wound up a few people with that, I'm now off to not do any work. Like Son Number Two, who is upstairs shooting zombies, I will be starting my homework 'tomorrow'. Or sometime.  

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Suffering And Trauma over for another year

The SATs tests have finished, and the year 6s are as high as kites. The children have spent each morning this week sighing and groaning over maths and English tests that are used to put them in the correct streams in high school and, incredibly, to predict their GCSE results in 5 years' time. 

Early on Monday, some of the children realised that, although they've been doing practice papers for the past few weeks, they didn't actually know what 'SATs' stood for. They sat there, staring at each other and saying, 'Ummm... errrmm... what about... no, I don't know.' 'I bet it's got the word "test" in it,' suggested one, eventually. It didn't give me great hopes for spectacular test results. 

Ms Fab, Mrs GSOH and I had to read maths test questions for some strugglers, which is something I really hate doing. I feel so mean, just reading the questions out and having to answer all of the children's panicky queries with, 'I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to tell you that.' I try very hard to use telepathy: 'B is 45...' I think, hard. 'It's 45, write 45... oh, dammit....' I really must work on my psychic abilities. 

Actually, what I should be working hard at is my OU course, but it's not happening yet. I've registered for my October module (religion and controversy - yes, I really did make a decision), but I keep thinking about that week off at half term and how I'll catch up then. I'm sure the enthusiasm will return once I make a proper start. Hmmmm........