Monday, 25 July 2016

Clare’s Knee

Blue, purple, green and yellow – just some of the colours my knee has turned.  
Every summer, I seem to do violence to my knee, right at the start of the holidays.
I have knapped my kneecap on a boulder in Cappadocia and  plonked my patella on a rock at Kaikoura. 
Two years ago was the most spectacular: on our first day in Cornwall I fell down down a step going into a pub.  (“Into”, I tell you.) I landed on both knees on concrete and was writhing on the ground with agony.  
The children tell me I wasn’t very polite to people trying to help me up.   A kind bystander disappeared and returned with plasters from her house, but I had skinned my knees so thoroughly that there was nothing left for the sticky bit of the plaster to adhere to.
This year we were in a wood in Languedoc.  We had just climbed a hill by means of a track slippery with smooth limestone.  The ascent was arduous in the heat and the descent treacherous.  As it levelled out at the bottom, I relaxed, took my eye off the ball and slipped over.

However, it could be worse – and at least now I have a grazed knee, I know that it is truly the summer holiday.

Saturday, 16 July 2016


I have quit my job.  I am moving on to become a freelance Latin teacher offering twilight sessions at four state-maintained secondary schools locally.
It is an exciting prospect to offer Latin to a new set of students who have not previously had the chance to study it and I am already working on plans to make the lessons interesting and varied.
It’s been a bit nerve-wracking – the date by which I had to hand in my notice at school raced up before I had secured my work for next year. 
I asked friends their advice.  And I prayed.  Then I took the step of faith and certainly, now, next year looks bright.
Plus, when I quit my job, I also quit a very congested and very early commute.
The new work should suit my biorhythms better.
I am not a morning person.
The question that colleagues most frequently ask me in the mornings is “Are you all right?”
I think I must present as rather silent and stary, early in the day.
For me to drive a long distance in the mornings is tempting fate and has not been without incident (see 2015 posts, Speed Awareness & The Mummy Car).
Hopefully the pupils whom I teach in the late afternoon will see me at my finest.
And maybe I can even cycle to my new schools.

But let’s not get carried away.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

House Wine

Sadly, Helen’s elderly father died.  As we all shall, he left some things unfinished.  Every so often, Helen comes across a batch of his wine which still needs some work.
When this happens, she passes it on to Nigel for completion and we share the result.
The latest was a batch of cherry wine which she handed over in church on Sunday.
After the service, everybody crowded into the church hall for coffee and Nigel was just looking at the bottles of wine when he noticed a lump in the bottom of one.  He brought it close to his specs.
When I arrived with my coffee, he showed it to me.
“How did a large mouse like that, get in through the tiny bottle neck?”
“At least it must have died happy.”
Then Nigel said; “I’ll go and show Helen.”
“Don’t! Don’t!” I cried, “She’ll be so embarrassed she gave you wine with a mouse in it.”
“It’s a bit late for that,” he said – I’ve already shown William.  (William is her brother-in-law who attends the same church.)
I looked across the crowded hall – William was talking to Helen.  Would she be upset?
I could see her shoulders shaking.
Oh dear.
But then she turned and called across to us,
“I just told William it must be a mistake – I said I ordered a bottle of the House Wine – not a bottle of the Mouse Wine!”

Nice one, Helen.

Sunday, 3 July 2016


On Friday 24th June, Nigel and I were sitting in the acute admissions waiting room of the hospital.  It was Nigel who was waiting to be acutely admitted. 
We had thought that by exercise and a largely vegetarian diet he might have outrun his family’s long-running flirtation with angina.
 But finally the condition had caught up with him.  As we sat in the waiting room we didn’t know whether Nigel would be facing the insertion of a stent, a life-saving operation which is undertaken under local anaesthetic, or whether he would need full bypass surgery.
There was a TV there.  It was the morning after the referendum and it looked as if it was not only Nigel, but our country itself whose heart was in danger.
A young couple were being interviewed in Manchester.
The guy said, “I’m studying economics, so I voted to stay in.”
His partner said, “I voted to leave.  I don’t know why really.  And now I wish I hadn’t.”
 I can only draw a veil over Nigel’s  response to this.
On Monday, they examined Nigel  and inserted a stent into his coronary artery there and then.  The threat had been grave but the process of recovery is now straight forward.

Can our country be fixed with some straightforward procedure, or do we need bypass surgery?  And if so, just who should we be bypassing?