More ravages of time

In prep for the school trip, I am taking my camera with me and so clearing off some old memory cards ready for use.

On it were some unflattering photos the world has come to call “selfies” since I took them. These were arms-length SLR shots on a day I had a nasty cold, but when I think I had to provide ID photos for a conference pass at short notice.

Reviewing them again, and looking at the date stamp, I realised it was almost exactly two years ago. And I didn’t look at all grey.

2011 no grey

Just for interest I took up position in front of the wallpaper to take a comparable contemporary shot. And at least half to check I still know how to work the camera. Yup. Point, half-depress, click.

2013 mucho grey

When teaching hair and eye colour I make a big joke out of being blond, and being offended when students correct me to grey, but in fact normally I am delighted if they can remember the word for grey, which doesn’t feature on support sheets for 11 year olds describing themselves.

Further self-absorbed “passage of time” posts that established bloggers get to do:


Cupcake decorating workshop

Off to Ilkeston this morning to learn how to decorate cupcakes. I made the purple and green ones, P coloured his sugar paste blue and yellow. The last photo is the flyer, in case you would like to decorate your own cupcakes.

Cupcake decorating workshop

Cupcake decorating workshop

Cupcake decorating workshop

I’ll be taking mine with me on the coach to Germany to share with the other teachers 🙂

School trip(s) to Germany

Next week I head off with school to the Rheinland in the valley of the Loreley, to a town that has seen both flooding (Hochwasser) and heatwave (Hitzewelle) in the last few weeks. I’m looking forward to it immensely and it’s hard to remember I have a full week’s worth of teaching to get through first.

I have always found German harder than French. Although I love the language very much, speaking German accurately and getting the ton of inflected endings anywhere near correct is a bit of a challenge. In class, when people ask me for a French phrase I can almost always do it off the top of my head, checking later in the dictionary to see if my instinct was right. In German I just don’t have anything like the range of language immediately to mind.

Part of this is just that I have not been to Germany nearly as often as France. If (and it’s a big if) you count my six months on my year abroad in Magdeburg as a single trip, you can count my trips over there more or less on the fingers of a single hand.

I was fortunate enough to do two school trips to Germany with school. (Interestingly, never did a French trip with school and as a family we only ever went once.) I was on exchange with a boy in Nürnberg in 1992 or 1993. I have only dim recollections now of most of my school years and the people in them, but can still remember my Austauschpartner’s name. I was probably rude and sullen during the trip and spent a lot of it learning my lines for the Crucible. He spent a lot of time playing on his computer. The exchange was the first time I had been on a plane, and it messed with my ears something chronic. The first stop on arrival was the loo, where I encountered for the first time German inspection platforms, continental hot/cold swivel taps, and where it took me aaaages to figure out how to turn on the water or flush the toilet, and I didn’t anything like the language skills to ask for help. The only food I can remember was a very exciting night when we all sat round some sort of table top stove called a Raclette and grilled our own cheese. On the return trip, we all went to the cinema to see Jurassic Park, newly released, and I found it more than a little scary and had to have time shortly (spoiler alert) after the lawyer got eaten.

The following year school took a drama trip to Germany. We learned a play about a disastrous mediaeval crusade of children, performed it in school, then the entire company got on a bus, drove to Germany, had a bit of a stay in a hotel somewhere and performed the play again to a German audience, whose thoughts on the show are lost in the mists of time. I don’t remember where in Germany this was, and the most memorable bit of the whole trip was the very exciting purchase of a six foot inflatable dinosaur. Somewhere in the house I still have the very simple, and now quite rusty, beer bottle opener we bought over there. Why on earth did I need that at 15? It was long before I learned to like beer.

A family friend helped us organise another semi-exchange during my sixth form years when I went, alone this time, to stay with a family with a daughter my age in the Ruhrgebiet, in response to my concern that my German was far below my French and my fear for my A Level result. Although we cast it as an exchange, it was pretty clear from the get-go that my Partnerin was not going to be unduly concerned if she didn’t get to come back to the UK.

During my university years I spent half of my year abroad at the Otto von Guericke Universität Magdeburg, where I wasted rather too much of my time doing internet stuff in English in the computer lab rather than making any real effort to improve my German. I beat Civilisation II on my laptop in my room whilst drinking home made margheritas in preference to socialising with the other foreign students on my corridor. (If Germany was a bust, my year abroad time in Paris was, however, awesome.)

Here’s a couple of photos to show what Magdeburg was like in 1999, ten years into what many appeared to consider West German occupation of the former glorious Socialist East Germany:


This is Breiter Weg (wide street) – which had been Karl Marx Allee until very recently.


This was the Hotel am Theater. I’ve no idea why it was in this state.

After 1999, I didn’t go to Germany again for nearly a decade, when an opportunity presented itself to leave P at home and go on a weekend for like-minded gentleman in the beautiful city of Munich. I stayed in a gay B&B thanks to EBAB and had a fantastic time. Photos here. This was in the period when I tweeted and when my blog archived my tweets, so my days are documented. 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8. There are also subsequent posts on Lederhosen (I tried some on in C&A, but didn’t buy, which I now regret) and travelling my sleeper train – my plans and my experience.

My final day there I spent at Dachau concentration camp, which was a really moving experience that I have never really managed to process or write about.

And really, that’s it.

I really need to spend more time in Germany.

Perhaps next summer, WWOOF Deutschland?

C25K – use it or lose it!

As I have previously written, I’ve been giving the Couch to 5K running programme a go since the start of the year, mostly doing a weekly run on the treadmill after a session with my PT. I was really psyched to get so far through it and see the visible improvement in my physical fitness. Enthusing about it publicly even inspired friends to take it up and give it a go.

And then I sort of stopped. It’s been three weeks or more since I last did a longer stint on the treadmill and so while I am still being pushed through hellish aerobic interval training, I’m not really running. My knees have been hurting a little but I have no idea whether that is from the running or squats by the thousand, or maybe even from having stopped running.

This evening I had the bright idea after a house and chore filled morning and a desk and marking filled afternoon, that it would be nice to take advantage of the late evening sun and pop around the park to the tune of an iPod filled with Excess Baggage.

I didn’t get far. The first run phase happened upon a steep hill which knackered me enormously and while I did get some running done it was mostly wheeze filled staggering, flashing my pasty white legs to the late night golfers and a score of caravan-dwelling fairmen setting up rides. And this despite going back to the lighter Week 5 runs rather than the week 6 ones.

Maybe it’s time to start over with the C25K only this time, with a stronger focus on the regular running, not leaving weekly gaps, and trying outdoors rather than treadmill. But then again this is me. Grand plans, not enough follow through.