Oy Cameron! Give me my job back.

Trafalgar Square at 8am before it was shut.

Being a dutiful daughter I escorted my monarchist mother to the royal wedding yesterday. Personally I would rather have been safe at home watching it on the telly and pottering around but needs must. We squashed into The Mall at a ridiculously early hour and killed time by watching a rather attractive NBC reporter clad in a smart suit and manky old trainers do his live to camera pieces. We then stood behind a French camera crew (this was the trick- they have so much equipment that you get a clearish view through them and I translated what they were saying for my mother. Hours of endless fun I don’t think.

The French TV crew film an interesting-looking tree

Trafalgar Square was shut so no chance of watching on the giant screens. We hightailed it to a little pub just off Pall Mall and sat on the beer-stained floor to watch the ceremony. The whole pub joined in the singing of Jerusalem much to the bewilderment of the French tourists. (PS three Hubert Parry pieces in one wedding ceremony? They must be keen. Or was that Charlie’s choice?)

I was quite ready to go home but my dear mother was re-energised with royal fervour so we trooped back to the Mall and wandered down where my mother made friends with a bloke in a top hat and feathers. The police were keeping people at arm’s length from Buck House itself (in fact the police did a good job in keeping everyone far away from pretty much everything) but we did get a vague glimpse of the happy couple revving off in that rather fine Aston. By this point my feet were killing me so we were wandering off in the direction of St James tube when we spied a small crowd and, lemming-like, decided to go and have a nosy. Who should emerge from the back of the Palace but the Prime Minister himself, his skin as eerily smooth in real life as on the telly.

Before I knew what I was doing I yelled, ‘Oy Cameron! Give me my job back,’ as he strode off towards his Range Rover with nary a ‘calm down, dear,’ to me. The crowd giggled and even a copper or two sniggered. With my mother in mind, I left it there not wanting her to see me being grappled to the ground by the PM’s security and carted off to the local nick.

But I can’t tell you how good it made me feel.

The thin blue line keeps the crowd at bay.

Travel card for one happy mother: £7.30

Policing: millions.

Shouting at the prime minster: priceless


Holocaust Memorial Day: Untold Stories

On this day in 1945 the hell that is Auschwitz- Birkenau camp was liberated by the Soviet Army and we remember all those who lost their lives during the Holocaust and other genocides and those who managed to survive.

 I visited the two camps that make up Auschwitz this summer. My mum and I make a trip together every year, our ‘adventures’ as she calls them. We’ve been to Egypt, Canada, Russia and most of Europe but she’s always wanted to visit Auschwitz. I wasn’t too sure but we booked a few days in Krakow and booked our day there.

 The visit was respectful. At the gates your guide reminds you that this is a memorial site and that we are to speak in quiet voices. There are no gift shops or restaurants and no one speaks loudly or laughs.

 The first part of the visit was to Auschwitz 1. We walked through the infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (work sets you free) gates and entered a corridor lined with photographs of women. The Nazis kept immaculate records and photos and these women stare into the camera lens, heads brutally shaved, eyes haunted with what has gone before and what is to come. The dates of their entry to the camp and their deaths are neatly typed below their faces. Some lasted for a year or two, some for a week or two but all died in this corner of rural Poland and who knows what they may have suffered. Every now and then a photo would be garlanded with flowers and you know that there are relatives and friends who remember.

 I thought I had a fair idea of the brutalities of the concentration camps but I struggled to take in the actual horrors of the huge gallows where prisoners were hanged in front of the whole camp, the tiny dark room where large groups were forced to stand all day and all night and the starvation cells where the door was locked for ever.

 A few kilometres away is Auschwitz 2, purpose built for large numbers who lived- if it can be called that- in prefabricated wooden stable blocks, compel with stalls and iron rings for tethering horses. You may have seen Auschwitz 2 in Schindler’s List. It’s the one where the train passes through the camp and their occupants are pulled blinking into the sun to be chosen for life or death.

Our guide showed us a photograph of a terrified old man stepping off the train. A Nazi doctor points to the right. ‘Imagine,’ said our guide, ‘that you are that old man.’ He then pointed to the ruins of the gas chambers which the Nazis blew up before fleeing at the end of the war. ‘Those four hundred metres is all that is left of your life.’ We walked down to the chambers trying but failing to imagine our last few moments.

 Touchingly, a large group of Israeli students were visiting the camps. Every now and then they’d sit on the grass and quietly pray. They then pulled out large Israeli flags and walked the length of the railway tracks, heads bowed.

 It was incredibly moving to see these teenagers respecting the dead of the camps, some of whom they were bound to be related to.

 I had nightmares for weeks after the visit but it’s a small price to pay. I’m glad I went and the images will stay with me always and will help me remember.

For more information visit the HMD website.


It’s all me, me me

I’ve decided that 2011 will be the year of me.

 I was brought up to always put others first and I’ve dutifully followed this credo all my life. As a teacher you’re always at the beck and call of others- the students, the parents, the local authority, the head teacher- and I’ve managed to carry this attitude over into my consultancy work. Of course I can come to your school/ meeting at ridiculous o’clock! And of course I’ll cancel my social life to run a last minute training session for cabinet members who don’t bother turning up! I think this is a particular problem for us gals, we want to please people and make them happy.

 I was once on leave out shopping in the summer when a school phoned me in a panic. They were printing their stationery for the year ahead and needed me to send them a logo that was only at my work computer and could I do it before 3 o’clock please? Did I put back the things I was going to buy at the shop, drive all the way to the office (which was luckily open), fire up my computer, find the logo, send it to the school, shut down my computer and drive home again having ruined my shopping trip? Hell, yeah.

 But no more, I cry. I’m putting myself first and my friends and family are up there too. I started today by not volunteering to train governors tomorrow evening. I shall be slumped in front of the telly in my slanket catching up rubbish programmes from Sky+ instead.

 So here are my new goals.

1)     Network, network, network.

In the public sector we’re a bit lazy at this but I’m learning how to do it. I’m actually pretty shy so this is way out of my comfort zone but I’m doing well so far. I’m not afraid to ask for help or contacts and people so far have been delighted to help.

2)     Just say no, kids.

No to extra work, no to evening work, no to too many meetings, no, non, nein. Unless you’re a school. In which case it’s yes.

3)     Take time to learn new stuff.

The other day I found myself buying lots of helpful tomes on the interwebulator. Not self-help books you understand, just books that can help with my new portfolio career. They arrived yesterday and I’ve already found out lots of useful information.

4)     Make more effort to widen my friendship circle.

That stupid shyness really restricts me but I’m making more of an effort. I’ve already contacted some friends I haven’t seen for a while to make dates to meet. I’m not going to be too tired from work to go out and have fun. Or to network.

5)     Take time to plan.

I need to spend time planning my new career and planning properly. It won’t happen unless I do.

6)     Stop whingeing.

Whingeing has been my default setting since the redundancy notice. I will try hard not to whinge about things I can’t change. But I reserve the right to still whinge about the government.

 So wish me luck on my journey and thank you supporting me via this blog, it’s very much appreciated.

What are your work resolutions for 2011?

Student power!

Today MPs will vote on whether to raise university tuition fees and Nick Clegg and his fellow lib dems are expected to vote in favour despite being vocal in their election campaign against this (did you see Sarah Teather being chased down the street by a Sky news reporter?). Students have not taken this lying down. They have been on marches and demonstrations for the last few weeks and another is planned for today. There are sit-ins and protests and banner-waving across the country from university students and school pupils.

 Yesterday it felt like I couldn’t listen to the radio or the TV news without a conservative student with an accent that could cut glass defending this decision. One young chap on the BBC news sputtered that some students didn’t even fully understand what they were protesting about. I don’t doubt it. I hazard a guess that many of the young people on marches don’t have a full understanding of the situation but what they do understand is that things are Not Fair and they’re going to do what teenagers do best and rebel.  

 Yes, there have been some idiots breaking stuff, graffiti-ing stuff and making a nuisance of themselves and they really haven’t done their cause any favours but the majority are there for what they believe to be a righteous cause. 

 It’s good to see teenagers involved in something that isn’t just vodka-flavoured and the girls who held hands around the police van to stop people attacking it were a joy to see. Proper Citizenship in action rather than a worksheet in a classroom.

 It will be interesting to see what happens later today.

 What do readers of this blog think about revolting students?

Andrew Marr and the case of the bad bloggers

I couldn’t let this one go without commenting. National journo treasure Andrew Marr has spoken out against bloggers. I’m guessing that keyboards across the country are on fire with ire as citizen journalists take online revenge (they are, I’ve just checked. Twitter too!).

Actually I think he’s a very clever man: who else has had so much coverage from the Cheltenham Literary festival, that most genteel of genteel festivals?

And his comments are really quite funny when you pull them apart. His words are below but the comments in brackets are entirely mine:

“A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate (gimme wine) pimpled (occasionally), single (fraid not), slightly seedy (ooh matron), bald (nope), cauliflower-nosed (how very dare you!) young (youngish) men (not one of those either) sitting in their mother’s basements (ooh matron) and ranting (a little. Maybe). They are very angry  (a bit annoyed sometimes) people. OK – the country is full of very angry people (grrrrrr). Many of us are angry people at times (ibid). Some of us are angry and drunk (see ‘socially inadequate’ for reference. Grrrr. Hic.)”

Come to think of it I did wake up today with a pimple on my chin. Maybe it’s the Pinocchio-like curse of blogging? If there are two pimples there tomorrow that’s it for me.

A design for loaf

I found my new mantra in a recipe for rosemary focaccia:

“Knock back and leave to rise again.”

PS the foccccia was lovely.

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