May 31, 2007


I spent three days away with N at a Spa in County Durham called 'Seaham Hall'. This is an old stately home that is now a fancy boutique hotel with a view of the sea and gorgeous grounds. This is also the place where Lord Byron got married, although I couldn't be bothered to read the information and find out why or how he was linked to Seaham Hall in the first place.

We relaxed to the point of exhaustion and spent our days floating in one of the five pools, steam rooms, saunas or sanariums. I like to think that is is the aquarius in me, but I feel at my happiest near the water. We wandered around in our bathrobes and even watched a star of Coronation Street fawn over a young blonde girl with much amusement. It was a perfect few days, a time when nothing from the outside existed and we could forget what day to day life is like. There was no stress apart from what to eat in a morning for breakfast.

The problem is that you have to go there to come back and reality always seems to poke you in the eye after some time away. Seaham Hall is still recent enough that if I close my eyes and inhale I can smell the lavender and feel the calm wash over me. If you are ever in the North East, this is one that I would recommend.

May 28, 2007

Four seasons in one day

There is a definate spring feeling in the air as the weather changes from hailstones to sunshine in a matter of minutes. As we have a weeks holiday, I am now off again for a few days with N, to a spa by the coast.I need the time away, but am also knotted in my stomach as I have lots of things to sort out here too. I want to feel relaxed, but feel the time slipping past between now and Budapest. I like to be organised, but can't seem to find the time.

I will be back on Wednesday in time for bank appointments and phone calls on Thursday. Hopefully I will get round to loosening the knot before we go back to school.

May 26, 2007

Other poeple houses

I am house sitting for L for a week to look after her cat while she in in Greece getting some sun. I got there last night and spent the first two hours worried that I had lost the cat already as she shot out of the house as soon as I got there. She is back in now and I am going out for the evening so I hope it is all OK when I get back there.

I have never been a fan of sleeping at other peoples houses, I got out of that phase in my early twenties. I just prefer to sleep in my own bed at the end of the day. Sleeping in other peoples houses when they are not there is even wierder. Being sat in Ls house without her there is just plain strange. I only go round maybe once a week for a coffee and a chat and have never stayed there. Yet, there I was this morning in my pyjamas wandering around bleary eyed with a hot cup of tea to wake me up.

There is something about mornings that I find quite intimate. Being seen as soon as you are awake, before you gather the armour that you use to face the world shows something about a person and being in another home while you get yourself ready to face the day can be bizarre. After 5 months with my noisy family, the silence is very welcome. I just pray that nothings happens to the cat.

May 25, 2007

Thats so emo

14 year old girl: 'God, Miss, you are so emo!'
Me: Sorry? How did you get to that conclusion?
14 year old girl: 'Cos you're wearing a scarf and have black toenails'
Me: I thought that emo was a type of music?
14 year old girl: 'Yeah, whatever, Miss, emo is all about what you wear and stuff'
Me: 'Oh, like skull and crossbone things?'
14 year old girl: 'Whatever, emo'
Me:'er, OK'
14 year old turns to her friend and says 'God, Miss is like a 40 year old emo, or whatever'

May 24, 2007

Things on the 'to do' list

Things that I have to do before I go to Budapest...
1) Open a bank account.
2) Learn Hungarian (more words than nem and igen at least).
3) Find an apartment.
4) Book flights.
5) Get a wedding outfit that will do for two weddings.
6) Work out what I am taking with me, and then go shopping to plug the gaps.
7) Sort out my laptop so that I can carry on writing while I am there.
8) Send some resources to new work.
9) Get through the next 7 weeks at work.
10) Get some Hungarian Forints.
11) Read the Irmre Kertesz and Arthur Koestler books that arrived yesterday.
12) Actually look at the three maps and four guidebooks that I bought.

I think that list is quite long enough, I am not feeling incredibly organised I have to say. Mind you, I seem to recall that as soon as you get the apartment, pretty much everything else falls into place.Come back in six weeks when the list better be smaller or I will start to panic.

Fantasy land

I have always been fascinated by fantasy in books and films. When I was younger one of my favourite films was Labyrinth with David Bowie and I remember wanting to find the worlds that hid behind secret walls, or under the floorboards in a house somewhere. I was a huge fan of films like Legend and Dark Crystal, watching them over and over again.

All it took was for me to see a short review of Pans Labyrinth to know that I had to see it. I mix of realism and fantasy that slaps you round the face at times, it is the classix story of good and evil that the fantasy genre lends itself to so beautifully. I have to say that this was a film that particularly captured my imagination and I turned off the DVD player with scenes still swirling in my head, this is one that I would definately recommend.

May 23, 2007

Your Personality is Very Rare (INTP)

Your personality type is goofy, imaginative, relaxed, and brilliant.

Only about 4% of all people have your personality, including 2% of all women and 6% of all men
You are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving.

Ink on my fingers

I finished reading the Lollipop shoes and loved it even more than I thought I would. It was darker than some of her other books and I liked the way that magic was presented in the story. Next, I have picked a book off the shelf that N gave me for Christmas. It is called 'Monsoon rains and Icicle drops', and is the true story of a woman who travels the world after she loses her fiance. I am nearly finished and before the book is done I have decided that summer 2008 will herald my first trip to India, Tibet or Nepal. I am secretly rooting for Tibet, but it all depends on what I can afford.

I spoke to K and N last night in Warsaw and me and K talked while I looked on amazon for contemporary Hungarian writers. I have found a few and ordered a load of books for me to read over the next few weeks before I leave. If anyone knows of any good Hungarian authors that I should be reading, please leave a comment. I liked watching Polish films, listening to the radio and finding out from K what was happening in Polish politics and I would like to get to know about contemporary Hungarian culture too. In the meantime I am just reading and reading, anything and everything.

May 22, 2007

Alone in a crowd

I love being around people, I come from a big noisy family. This weekend there were 12 of us spread over two houses and that means time spent with people is all the time. I am used to being on my own these days, I like the silence and I never get lonely. Noise and company make me go the other way and each day that I was away I had to get a few minutes a day when there was silence and I was alone.

When it comes to M, J and H, one of the things that bonded us was living together in a variety of combinations on and off for years during University and afterwards. But that was all a long time ago and while we remember those days fondly, things are different for all of us now. Living alone makes me happy, but it also makes me selfish. Sometimes, being in a situation where there is lots to do and lots to talk about can be amazing. For me, that was the real holiday this weekend, one that took me out of my own head and pushed me back into the real world.

May 21, 2007

Wilderness Tips

I am 31 years old and I should know better. I should know better than to wear Converse all stars and imagine that I am as cool as the sulky girls with hair over one eye. I should know better than to eat so much food that I feel sick, hand on my round stomach while I sit with my new forest based housemates moaning about how we can never say no. I should know better than to think that I can function on 5 hours sleep a night. I should know better, but I did all these things anyway, and now I am suffering on this humid, Yorkshire Monday afternoon.

This weekend, I felt like I really was away. We went to a holiday village that is in the middle of Sherwood Forest and spent the weekend watching squirrels and moorhens, swans, and ducks. We barbecued and went for bike rides, we walked and then sat and watched DVDs together, and through it all, we ate and ate and ate. There were new people and people that I already knew. It was relaxed and it was full of laughter and it was just what I needed. There were lots of conversations that have given me food for thought, more about that another time.

May 17, 2007

Something wicked this way comes

Everyone has books that they love and books that they read over and over again. One of the authors that I adore is Joanne Harris, based in deepest Yorkshire and with a tendancy to set her stories in France, she has the gift of a true story teller. She weaves the characters in and out of each place, at the same time making the reader desperate to know where they will end up.

I have all of her books and I have read most of them several times. Reading a story you have already discovered is like sinking into a hot bath or putting on fluffy pyjamas. My absolute favourite is Blackberry Wine, but I like the others too. Now there is a sequel to Chocolate, perhaps her most famous book, and it arrived yesterday in an amazon package. It is called 'The Lollipop Shoes', and I am already a bit obsessed.

The cover is the deepest purple and shows a girl in a red coat walking in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.The book is heavy and the cover totally smooth, it smells new and has the regal look of a hradback. I have read 100 pages already and am sitting here wondering if I could nip home and get it, read until my next class. In reading, as in all things, I am compulsive, I won't stop until I get to the end. The book only arrived yesterday and it was supposed to be read during my time away this weekend. To be honest, I am not sure that it will last that long.

May 15, 2007

Chinese Supermarket

This weekend for Ns birthday she decided that she wanted a traditional Chinese meal cooking for her. As my sister in law is Chinese and my brother lived there for years, I enlisted their help to make things authentic. The first part of being able to do this was to go to Chinatown in Leeds to get proper ingredients. We parked in a car park that is in the middle of about four different supermarkets and set off to the biggest and shiniest one first.

Once inside we gazed in wonder at the 30 different types of noodles, freshly made dumplings and jar upon jar of sauces. Powders, meat, fish, and every concievable implement that one could need or want in Chinese cooking. It made me realise that what I was viewing as exotic was what my brother was viewing as familiar. In the same way as I feel safe when I smell pierogi, or see the Palace of Culture, he feels safe when he sees the gold and red decorations that herald good luck.

On Saturday night I made pork and ginger dumplings, we ate coriander and spinach, fish balls, bean curd and tofu, all done in a traditional chinese hot pot. We all sat around and poked the pot with out chopsticks while eating so much that we felt full beyond measure. Who needs to travel when you have different cultures on your doorstep?

May 14, 2007

Weather with you

Sometimes I think that this really should be a weather blog, as I am aware that I can become obsessed by the sky outside. Today there are masses of grey-white clouds and they seem to be moving really fast across the sky. I truly believe that the weather affects us and children in ways that we can't really understand. I remember living in Warsaw and every headache or bad mood was greeted with heads nodding sagely whilst telling me that the air pressure was falling or rising.

I am tired and I just want it to be Friday, just want to be in my car. I am watching the grey clouds move fast when I should be working and getting stuff done, at the very least I should be looking over my Hungarian vowels and trying to learn the sounds again. No, still looking at the clouds float past fast. Anyone else in a grey mood today?

May 13, 2007

Busy bee

I am happy when I am busy and I have been hopping around all day getting bits and bobs for next weekend. I am getting excited now about my weekend in the wilderness with the girls. Much as I do consider myself a city girl all the way, I do love the country. Last night we spent a couple of hours outside at Ns house with her new chimenea crackling with big fat logs smoking away. When I got home I spelt of cooking and burning wood and I fell asleep with woody hair smells in my nose.

The boot of my car is full of food already, a little barbecue, huge packets of crisps, coffee, tea, chocolate and I can't even remember what else. There is more shopping to be done with J when we are on our way down to Sherwood Forest to meet the other 10 intrepid adventurers that we will spend the weekend with. Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes these days, in our case it will come in the shape of a cabin in the woods, lots of tea and chocolate and laughing until tears stream down your face. Roll on Friday...

May 11, 2007

Destiny Calling

There is a stillness in my classroom and the faint noise of last lesson on a Friday is wafting through the wall as I sit and type. I am free now, free to be part of the weekend and let the weekend be a part of me. There is much to come and with Ns 40th birthday celebrations come food, wine and song. Now is the time to let social intercations wash over me, to talk, to wonder to relax and sigh.

I am ready for the weekend. Some-how, despite all the bitching of the last few months, I have found the routine that I craved in this temporary supply job. I am in school 5 days a week, I have the same classes, I am beginning to understand and like the students. I am tired every Friday, tired because of standing on my feet, tired because I work, earn my money. It is a beautiful tired that comes from knowing that a days work has been done. It is a tired that will grow boring pretty soon, but I can enjoy it for a while.

Only four more days of work before I am off on my road trip. I cannot wait now, car engine revving, bags loaded, food packed and J and I will be driving and singing along. I need that break, I need to be with J, H and M. Desperate for time in Pyjamas, laid on our beds fighting over who makes cups of tea. I cannot wait for this time away, it will come at the right time. As for this weekend, my destiny is calling...

May 10, 2007


I am spending lots of time looking over my Hungarian language books. So far I have only gotten to the phonics section and am still learning to read Hungarian. This is what I did before I moved to Poland and it worked well really. It meant that for the first few months, while I couldn't understand much, I could read signs and so ask directly for what it was I wanted.

When I started to learn Polish I could not discern single words, it all sounded like one mass of noise to me, and I have to say that Hungarian is the same. I never had proper lessons while I was in Poland, but I did when I was in France and I think that I would like to leave at least one of these places with a really good level of the local language. With that in mind I will be signing on to a two week course in Hungarian in the summer I hope.

I think out of everything that scares and excites at the same time with moving to Budapest the language is the thing that I know will take work. I was at the point in Poland where I could do most things and understood a lot more than I was able to articulate. In french I can have a chat and understand most of what goes on whilst watching TV or reading a newspaper. When living abroad I loved the fact that I was speaking another language everyday, sometimes switching within the same conversation. This is another reason to move, to change the culture you are linking with within a couple of hours.

May 08, 2007


For some reason I am in the middle of arguing today. I just cannot seem to keep my mouth shut and for some reason I am seeing things that annoy me all over the place. With two people already on the 'who has Anne offended list' I am hoping to avoid any further conflict and keep out of trouble. What is the matter with me? I am feeling stressed and am taking it out on others. I need to make some apologies, at least to those that need it.

I don't think I realised how out of control I would feel once I actually had the job I wanted. I spent so long dreaming of the security that would come with knowing where I was in September that I never stopped to consider that I have to get the end of term here first. In addition to this I have to learn a enw language and worry about my new colleagues and workplace. Will I be happy there? Will I settle? Will I love Budapest as much as I hope I will. Again I am putting pressure on myself, and it is coming out in all the wrong ways.

May 07, 2007

Lessons I learned from the Freedom Writers

After hanging out with N yesterday she gave me a book to read. When I arrived at her house her cheeks were pufy and her eyes red and she told me that she has wept and wept while reading 'Lessons I learned from the Freedom Writers' by Erin Gruwell. This is a story that has been made into a film staring Hilary Swank and is about a teacher who works in one of the toughest classrooms in California.

The patience and committment that this woman has is nothing short of inspirational. I have to admit that it is all a little bit 'Oprah' for me, but the fact is that I picked up the book at 9.00 this morning and finished it a couple of minutes ago. It did make me cry, but is made me think so much about my own choices as an educator. Sometimes you do wonder how much actual impact you have on childrens lives.

It was just a brilliant book and an amazing story. There is nothing I wanted to do more than lose a few hours reading a book cover to cover while the grey clouds outside float over my head. Whether you are involved in teaching or not, this gives us all something to think about when it comes to how much we put into what we do.

May 05, 2007

One enchanted evening

After school yesterday I was knackered. It has seemed like a long week, but we had made plans to go for Thai food as it is N's 40th birthday next week. What T, R and L didn't tell me was that we were going to eat at the home of a friend of T's who is actually Thai herself and caters for home dinner parties. The food was exquisite, as was the company. Having not worked at the school for three years while I was abroad, I forgot just how much I enjoyed the company of my co-workers.

The evening took me by surprise really. We laughed and I ate so much that I am still full now, the morning after. We talked about all sorts of stuff and it was one of those enchanted evenings when the time just flew by. I have not enjoyed a night out so much in a long time. Maybe we will all go again before I leave to go to Budapest, any excuse to eat A's amazing Thai food,(deep fried quails eggs anyone?).

There are some pictures of the evening to follow, but for now I am content to feel settled and happy that a simple evening with colleagues and friends can turn into something so relaxed and warm.

May 02, 2007

Something on the inside

I have not been at work today, I have been elsewhere. I have begun to realise that there is something on the inside that makes me love travel. At a basic level, cars, buses, trains and planes, I adore that sense of movement. It doesn't have to be travel for hundreds of miles. I drove for about 40 minutes today and still ended up with a lightness to my breathing and weight released from my shoulders. I know it would be easy to get addicted to being away from home, to constant movement.

I ordered my books from amazon and today I recieved Hungarian language books, maps and guidebooks so that me M and J can plan next summers grown up version of backpacking. Croatia, Slovak Republic, Romania, I am going to try and sneak Transylvania onto the itinerary too. I wonder if this is a part of my personality that I was born with, this desire to live a life less ordinary without ever having realised what ordinary is.