Monday, October 23, 2006

Mad Cows in Brighton

Yesterday, two cows named Ryan and Kathy were spotted riding in the pouring rain. Apparently they rode all the way from London to Brighton in an epic eight hour journey to raise money for their ultimate frisbee team, the Thundering Herd, which is going to the World's in Australia in 17 days.

Ryan, the crazy Bear, would of course make it even more of a challenge by taking his single-speed bicycle. There is this hill right before Brighton which is such a killer that I crashed out on my 21speed the first time I did it, and had to stop to rest twice the second time around. I can only imagine how fit Ryan must be to make it up on his single-speed! He said, "I got to the top and was thinking, cool I can coast, then I get hit by this 30mph coastal headwind which was soo strong we had to pedal down the hill to keep moving"

The best part? "Mooing at joggers as we passed."

Oh those mad, mad cows.

For more photos of their journey go here.

La Maison du Jour

et, Vola! un petite peek dans notre maison de divine

The Backyard... perfect for bbqs and gatherings on warm days
(of which there are still a few!) Here's a photo of the Smook clan san papa, over for a Sunday roast.

The Living Room....

A comfy, cozy den where you can always find a friendly ear (attached to an equally friendly Roomie or one of their many posse) who'll invite you to join them in enjoying a glass of wine.

The Kitchen (door leads to the backyard patio)

Note the very full fridge. I've never had so much space in a London fridge before and so quickly filled it with the fruits of a massive grocery shopping spree and a home-cooking binge.

NB. My first home in London, back in 2004, my fridge space was considerably smaller: I shared the top shelf of the fridge with another Canadian teacher, Caley for three whole months.

And of course, there's my bedroom!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Thinking about the Czech Republic

This morning the Travelling Broad is suffering the first twitches of restlessness... travel is in her blood and she hasn't been anywhere in over a month. Well, anywhere exotic... like the Czech Republic. She has always wanted to visit Prague - deemed one of the most beautiful cities in Europe - as her mother's mother hails from the area, but she hasn't made it over in her two years abroad, as there was no one for her to visit (and stay with) there.

Well, my friend Jeremy, whom many of you will remember from my cycling adventures in the Pyrenees, just bought a house in the Czech Republic!

It's a bit of a fixer-upper, structurally sound though, which is always a good thing, right Dad (*wink*) and it has a stunning view. You can bet your bottom farthing that I'll be heading over, hammer and screwdriver in my stow-away, before the year's end.

Jeremy used to live in Pau in the south of France (close to Lourdes) until one incident finally exasperated all his patience with the French beaurocy, and he decided he wouldn't buy his Pau house after all.

Here's his story:

July 12th 2006: On a recent trip to Lithuania Jeremy lost his 'carte vitale' (the green card which enables you to get 70% of your medical bills paid for by the French government). This morning he went to the social services to get a new one. The receptionist was friendly and it seemed it wouldn't be a problem until... she told him he was dead. 'Dead?' 'Yes, dead. You died on the 24th of January 2005.' As a result, his card was then blocked. Jeremy explained that he wasn't dead, which she admitted was true and called someone else to ask what to do. Apparently Jeremy needs to get a new birth certificate, dated after the 24th of January 2005, to prove that he is not dead. And if he can get that, it will still take another 3 months for him to get another carte vitale. The only thing that is certain in life is death and taxes. Jeremy is in the strange position of having died, yet still paying tax.

Quel est cette merde ?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rest in Peace, Old Boy

Jake the rottweiler went peacefully to sleep for the final time last week, after living a surprisingly long and healthy life for dog declared a-goner by the vet several years ago. He lived happily and unhindered on my father's farm out at Stanger, with Sandy, his sister and, er- daughter for company.

Jake was such a smiley, goofy dog who was just a little slow (arthritic mostly, but also a bit slow in the head) and who was great fun to play with. His remarkable feat was weighing an impressive 130 lbs at his prime. That, an his ability to annoy Sandy to no end.

He will be remembered fondly by all who met him.

Sandy, who was pregnant but sadly miscarried, has now gone to live with that little toothy min-pin and apparently they're getting along just fine.

Lunch Break Ramblings

I'm back! After almost a week of no blog posts, I've gotten to a place where work, health and internet have all aligned and I'm on top of my game again.

I've got forty minutes to chat; I wolfed my lunch, as we supply teachers are apt to do, and escaped to the sanctity of the computer room.

Going to share some unfiltered/unorganised thoughts on the integration of EFL/ESL children into the British school systems.

Okay, it came as a huge shock when I found out that 40 - 60% of the children entering into Year One will not be able to speak English. Teachers just aren't equipped (with supplies, aides, materials or funds) to deal with such an large number of non-English students when the curriculum and administrative pressures dictate a learning environment that is completely English-centred. The curriculum is so teacher-directed, so lecture-based that no wonder these children struggle!

It took me a long time to realise that when a certain selection of my nursery or year one children were acting out while I was instructing, or if they wouldn't do the task as described, chances are they weren't able to understand much of what I was telling them. They are learn to be good imitators - following the lead of other children in other situations so that I, as a supply teacher, wouldn't know they couldn't understand unless I talked to them one-on-one. Even then, they were quick to use "yes" and "no" and "sorry!" without hearing what I was asking or saying. What a frustrating experience - for everyone.

More than that, 40 - 60% of all the children in a British school will not have English as their native language. There has been this huge influx of immigrants, drastically changing the demographic of London, yet in many of the 50+ schools I've been at, there doesn't seem to be an acknowledge of this fact. It seems to be swept under the classroom carpet.

Something has got to change.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

and finally, the photos!

My Bedroom....

Over the course of several weeks, and through the generous assistance from my good friend Ryan, I battled the issue of getting me and all my stuff into a room that was sorely lacking in size, furniture and shelving.

Through careful planning which involved consulting Feng Shui manuals, drafting detailed floorplans, and holding considerable and lengthy consternations deep in the vast isles of Ikea, my room finally began to take form.

It was a full evening's work to put together the furniture; me dutifully consulting the manuals each step along the way - a vision of deep and skilled concentration, occasionally marred by curses (and a few irate bangs of the hammer) at the doodles on paper that were blocking my creative building process. Ryan, on the other hand, went and tossed the manual out the window and got at it armed with screwdriver in hand and a healthy dose of practical know-how and 'motorcycle maintenance' Zen. I won't say if he was faster but it certainly was more a more impressive tactic.
One challenge was dealing with the rather 'blah' view out my window. Something to block out the neighbour's rubbish and noise, something to create a screen of privacy and yet would allow the southern sunshine to pour in, whenever it feels inclined. What would do the trick?
On Monday, I found the perfect solution... give it a month and there'll be ivy and pothos and spider plants crawling all down the window pane.

So now I am able to play and rest in my very own space: a room full of my energy, my present and past, my beloved possessions and memories - cozy and stuffed full of personality - warm and inviting - and distinctly mine.

I love coming home to my room! Which is a fine n' dandy thing too, as I have all reason to believe I'll be here for the next five months... my lengthiest stay in one place in over three years.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Socks? I like socks

... mostly coz that's one of the 'extravagances' I can afford over here. There are so many different types of socks here - whole stores devoted to socks, fashions that specialise in up-to-the-moment sock trends - that I go quite overboard, as this picture will attest.

But seriously, I've always liked having new socks and always liked having the right socks for the right occasion. To the discerning eye, my sports socks are easily divided into sub-categories: cycling, running, gym, hiking, skiing, and cold-weather camping (Three pairs of hand-made mohair socks from Lesquite island - deeeeevine.)

Mmmm.... socks!

Most exotic socks? Have to be the hand-knitted sandal-socks improrted from India that make my feet look like green ninja turtles' (thanks Nicholas!)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Thanks be Given

Tonight was spent talking to my family, and what a joy that was! As always, my family was celebrating Thanksgiving as they know best: by getting together. The last time I got to eat turkey and cranberries and pumpkin pie with them was in 2003, but I still feel part of the whole celebration through our lively phone calls.

I called too early, when it was just my father and Frank in the kitchen, dutifully finishing up the last touches on the feast for twenty-plus. So I went back to putting together my Ikea furniture and before long, Dad called me back, then phone was passed from aunt to cousins to grandmother to Frank and I got to hear their news and to share mine. A few phone calls later and I caught my brother, Jay and his wife Christine on the phone (a rare treat!) They came up from Invemere and I'm sure they will leave with at least three turkey dinners fueling their tummies for the 8hr drive back.

It was a gorgeous day in Alberta- all sunny and crisp, as it was here in London, oddly enough. Sandy, our rotteweiler is birthing today and that added to the general excitement. (I forgot to ask: Save me a puppy please!!) I could hear laughter, loud conversation in the background and the clinking of silverware and those joyful familiar family sounds lifted my spirits.
Here's a Thanksgiving photo from 2003 (that's the back of Frank's head illuminated there). Funny I had no idea here that I would be oceans away for the next three years. Makes my heart ache a bit...

An even sweeter treat was that I caught my mom online, and chatted over messenger. I realised today that I've only talked to her once by phone since moving here, and that msn and blogspace has been a great buffer from loneliness and disconnection for Mom, Michael and me. But tonight that wasn't enough so we had a delightfully long phone conversation afterwards, followed by a much-needed call to my mum's mom, my Babki, who was busy making her own Thanksgiving dinner for her friends. And after that, I was able to message Mom to let her know that I was in touch with Babki. Ahhh... teachnology, it's simply fantastic sometimes. Just wait til I get skype!

So with happy thoughts of my family, I'm off to bed. I can't wait to see my lovely people again, but I know they'll be patient for me and wait while "I do what I gotta do." Thanks folks! Love you.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Happy Birthday Michael!

On your birthday I listened to your album Big Changes as I was setting up my new Ikea furniture and it was like you were there with me, keeping me sane and upbeat whilst I struggled with screws and parts. Thanks!

Big Love from your grateful step-daughter, Jodie

Revisions and Editions

According to Nicholas, my blog was beginning to resemble a crazy cat lady's so I've decided to delete a few posts and try to refocus. Perhaps my random and odd blogging is best diagnosed as extreme cabin fever (whooping cough rattling my brain) but I'll give myself two more days to indulge, and them Monday, it's back to work (and good heath) for me.

(On a completely different note: if you read something here that doesn't flow, chances are I don't like how it slogs along either. I actually treat this blog as a bit of an on-going essay of myself and give it frequent revisions - botox injection, lunch-hour nip/tuck specials, the likes... If the format, the punctuation or grammar is not quite right, I go back and fix it. I'm a bit fussy that way, but it's something I actually enjoy. Funnily enough, all my former (and current) partners - excluding one - are notoriously terrible at grammar & spelling. A yin/yang thing?

Dance for me Bananas!So, if you're also a keen grammerists, and you'd admit (under pressure, of course) that you actually enjoyed reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves (the link is to a game based on the book - yehaw!) , feel free to check back on some old posts, to put your niggling unease to rest - to breath a sign of relief, akin to one breathed at the sight of a closing bracket on the end of a long, and perhaps completely random and pointless aside.)

Oh no! I did it again! Random, completely random... what is wrong with me?!

P.S. People in bananas are funny.

Random Art Attack III

October 28, 2005
I took this photo in the Musee d'Orsay, Paris nearly a year ago. My diary entry from that date reads,

"I find the inspiration to write my first Art Journal entry in a small gang of petite enfants, perhaps six or seven years of age, seated in front of a large (1.7 x 2.5 m) Thédore Chassériau painting of a salle où les femmes de Pompéi. The interpretation I get from my audioguide is that the salle combines the atmosphere of a harlem: abandoned bodies, languid poses and the direct gaze of the viewer, all to create a painting of large-scale, heavily-charged eroticism. And here are my young innocent viewers, looking wide-eyed at the naked female forms, and in all earnesty, attempting to draw them under the bold tutelage of their Madame.

Ahhh... les Français!"

I see now that it is I, with my life experience, who interprets the painting as erotic. The children will see none of it, unless they have learned to associate bodies with erotic love early on. What I marvel at here, is that erotic art is taught to children without fear of backlash. To the French, the human form is beautiful and shouldn't be seen as shameful. That is why their galeries are full of nude sculptures & painting, their billboards covered with barely-clothed models, their cinematography full of sex, love and erotic scenes. The French are very sexually open and don't suffer from the same private and public shame/guilt/obsession complex surrounding sex as the English or North Americans suffer from.

Perhaps, if only we were allowed to teach our own art students how to draw the female form...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

To the Mums out There...

An interesting comment from a Yummy Mummy who doesn't suffer post-baby weight issues! (Unlike all the celeb Mums who seem to want to make all evidence of their motherhood disappear.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Discovering the Joys of being Sick (or... how to make Chai-Stand Quality Chai)

Suffering cabin fever, I ventured out of the house today; boldly breaking my dependency bond with the loo and so discovered this outrageous superstore just five minutes from my door: Deepack Food + Wine (wine made in India?!) They seem to carry the largest selection of Indian foodstuff I've seen in London to date, plus a lot of European wines. Feeling adventurous (and 'independent') I bought all the ingredients for Chai, refreshed my memory by consulting Nicholas' friend and chef de jour Kent, who makes the best Chai, in our opinion, and spent an enjoyable afternoon experimenting in the kitchen, trying to achieve "Chai-Stand quality chai."

Chai is much better homemade, and way more fun to make than getting at Starbucks as you'’re able to tweak it with
a little less sugar or light milk, or a bit more cinnamon, and for the same price of one 'from-the-carton, syrupped-out franchise souless chai', you'll be able to make enough for the whole winter. The best part, though, is sharing your new talent with your friends... What a warm thoughtful gift on a cold autumn's day.

Chai Ingredients: (in order of appearance)
Enough for 1 cup

1 cup water, boiling
1 tbs black tea
2 cardamom seeds, cracked open
1 'loonie' or '10p' - sized slice of ginger, julienned
2 cloves
2 dashes of cinnamon
2 tbs sugar

Add ingredients to boiling water, allow to simmer for a few minutes, then pour in approx. 1/4 cup milk. Bring to a boil again, lifting pot off stove as to avoid the whole thing from foaming over. Do this for a few minutes, really allowing the tea to 'steep.' Then strain into cup. Enjoy!

Or, if you want a more enjoyable recipe and further insights into the elusive chai techniques, watch Kent make it live here.

But seriously, it isn't the ingredients that make this chai so good... it's all in the technique, as Nicholas will attest to in his "Chai Talk" series. I served my chai to Ryan and Mandy who both agreed it had potential but lacked delivery in the punch. I think the problem was I used skim milk and forgot the cloves... will try again tomorrow.

I think I've developed another joy of being sick (at least it's a more social activity than my new online quiz-taking habit)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nothing falls like London Rain

It's been raining for days now, and Heather Nova's got it right when she sings "Nothing falls like London Rain."

(Espeically through the opened skylight window in the bathroom when you've just stepped out of a hot morning shower.)

London Rain...
And where l'm home, curled in your arms
And I'm safe again
I'll close my eyes and sleep
To the sound of London Rain

Sometimes I really love this country.

Update on the Kitten issue

Okay, so I was wanting a kitten last week and this week I got not one, but two - albeit two very large versions of the furballs when I moved into 110 Fountain Rd. They came with the previous tenant (who were moving out on Friday.)

For three days I got to enjoy their precarious and temperamental moods (they escaped from the yard once when I was the only one home and I didn't even know their names to call them back. I panicked a bit but they came skulking back when it stated raining heavily); as well as all the other ubiquitous cat characteristics: fur that adhered to everything, including my food (and the computer monitor - I just typed over a hair!) - and the best part - the repugnant litter box perfume.

Thanks to the Powers that Be, I'm over my cat lust.

I'm still alive

Wow - does life ever pick up the pace when you're already busy. I can't believe that I haven't posted in nearly a week! I'm a wee bit anxious, as I've wanted to keep this blog going on a daily basis, so please don't give up on me - I will be back to my usual blogger-happy self in no time at all.

Some of my immediate thoughts that I want to share right this moment: (I've given myself five minutes to type before I send myself off to bed.)

1. Birthday parties galore! Melissa celebrated her 23rd in Covent Gardens on Friday and it was great to be in the company of other Canadians teachers. They are so very very nice! They had a great group of friends along and we got to dance to some terribly 80s music (which we all agreed was truly terrible, and not just 80s terrible.)

2. At the party I told the girls that it was my birthday was last week and there was a lot of fuss made about me not telling them before. So Melissa, Michele and Melanie came over to my new place tonight, bringing salmon and salads and dip and Nanimo bars (imported from Canada, thanks to Mel's parents) and I prepared a buffet spread of salads and beet soup and Scottish bread and it was truly homely and warm having dinner together. Melanie provided the entertainment by showing pictures of her month-long trip through Europe. Norway is now on my list of places to visit, for sure. So is Denmark. It was funny, though, when she started sharing her photos of Berlin, how Melissa and Michele recognised the progression of the photos and realised they all took the same tour.

3. Flu still hanging on, although I don't feel as if I'll die like I did last night. Thank goodness the hospital is within crawling distance, as I felt as if my old nemesis entamobea histolytica had come back to fight me with a hundred times the strength. But I slept it out and today had enough energy to make food and prepare for the dinner, although I did it all doubled-over and at a snail's pace. Already feeling better, sleep will do me good. Will take tomorrow off work.

Whoop, there goes my five minutes. Alrighty, bed is calling me. Kleenex is calling me. Head-ache decongestant tablets calling me. Cuppa earl grey tea is calling me. Alas, my Prince Charming is across the pond, and although he sent me chicken soup via an e-card, the alternatives here are much, much less soothing, and I will not be calling on them.

Good night.