Warning: Biohazard in the office

Work can seem a little glum. You slug your guts out to make sure everything goes smoothly and the days just roll into one long day before your maternity leave starts. Then someone does something unexpected.

It all started with a phone call. Someone in the office has come down with hand, foot and mouth disease. There is an infinitesimal chance that this could cause a pregnant woman to miscarry so they gave me the option of working from home. As I can get the same amount of work done at home as in work, I agreed.

I arrived in work two days later and was told to have a look at someone’s desk. It was brilliant, someone (I’m not saying who to protect the guilty) put together a biohazard barrier around the ill fated employee’s desk for a joke. All I can say that he or she must have spent a long time doing it (after work hours of course).

The poor hand, foot and mouth victim let out peals of laughter when she arrived back in the office so all was well.

Harry Windsor and the half-naked Prince

Oops sorry, reeaally couldn’t resist that title, and technically he was a bit more than half naked!

The biggest news going around the interwebs at the moment is Prince Harry and his manic partying. Normally I don’t give a hoot what the Royal Family does, after all they really are a complete irrelevance to my life but I am fascinated by how the newspapers and media are handling it.

So what do I think? Not much, I thought he was a lot younger than he was and for someone so famous you’d think he would be a little more careful about the company he keeps. Seriously though, who cares? It’s not like he’s the Prime Minister or anything. He hasn’t achieved much either in the scheme of things. He’s just an ordinary bloke having the time of his life.

Now as a celebrity, he is an idiot. Everyone knows, even a nobody like me, that if you are that famous that every Tom, Dick, cough, Harry and his dog will try to make a fast buck out of your situation. It’s only natural. OK he has never actively sought out the fame like say a contestant on Big Brother or some other reality show. He has had to suffer that fate just from the family he was born into. You could argue that this is not fair and therefore not his fault. You could also argue that he’s known about this sort of pressure his whole life, in fact his mother suffered a particularly bad form of harassment for being who she was. What I am saying is he should have learned by now.

Maybe now he is approaching his thirties, it would be a good idea to reflect on where his life his heading. It’s fun laughing at his antics but is this what he wants to be remembered for? Who knows? I’m ambivalent, I’ll just enjoy the show while it lasts. This is one case where he could help himself and there is no guilt in sitting back and enjoying what comes next. America had George W Bush, we have Prince Harry…

The Clarklet Saga – Why the NHS is the most stressful part of expecting

I’m really looking forward to the little Clarklet, and even with all the little niggles that come with being pregnant, I’m starting to enjoy the process. No hubby, don’t worry, he will still be the one and only addition to our family!

Today’s little drama involved a Midwife visit. For most people this isn’t the most stressful thing one has to deal with during a pregnancy but if you are partially-sighted with an overactive imagination this is the worst part of the experience.

Our doctor’s is the nearest to where we live but is still 25 minutes walk with two ‘busy’ roads to cross and no pedestrian crossings or traffic lights as far as I know. Don’t forget I am short-sighted!

So I set off at 11.45, knowing the appointment is at 12.30. I stress if I am late and am usually early for everything. I was 3 minutes early for the last appointment two days before and I felt unsettled, even though they were late in seeing me!

I go up an incline and then turn a sharp corner to go up a steep hill. I have to stop every few minutes to massage my back as my belly is pulling me forward and I haven’t got used to the extra weight yet. At the top of the hill is a main road. I go to the curb, hold my breath, cross my fingers and put one foot out on the tarmac. Oops, what;s that moving thing? B*****, it’s a grey car. The only clue I have to the purveyor of encroaching death is the surroundings appear to be moving, Nope it is not the trees turning into triffids but a car the same colour as the bleeding road. I quickly step back.

It was raining today by the way, thought I would just mention that. Luckily I found an umbrella while going through some old clothes bag a few days ago so I was relatively dry – swearing under my breath – but dry.

Second times the charm, I psyche myself up, hold my breath, cross my fingers and lurch across the road as fast as my stumpy legs will take me. I used to have nice legs by the way. I received a lot of compliments in my teens and early twenties, now they just look like transplanted tree trunks, but I digress.

I’m safe across the road, now and am half-way. I have a pleasant-ish couple of minutes walking by the park and have to cross the road again to go down the never-ending hill. It wouldn’t be so bad if said hill wasn’t going to have to be climbed at the end of the appointment. Just call me Prometheus.

I crossed the road without incident and proceeded to go down the impossibly long hill (and to my eyes, mountain). You might think I am exaggerating slightly. In fact I am prone to this, but consider for a moment walking with my eyes. I can’t see the end of the road, my sense of time is hazy so it literally feels like a road that goes for ever until you hit the bottom. The doctor’s is that last house on the hill so I can’t miss it.

The bit going down is fun until the world tilted and I had to fling my arms out. I had slipped in to some dog mess. Yes, Newport, Wales has a doggy doodoo problem and today it was also my problem. What was worse is that my maternity trousers are slightly too long for me so my trouser leg also had a nice brown coating at the bottom. Lovely. So I’m stopping to rub my shoe against passing vegetation every few seconds with a new explosion of vocabulary I didn’t even know I knew.

I arrived about ten minutes early, so I was happy about that. The Midwife was already there and she greeted me. Trouble is I didn’t know it was her until I heard her voice and as I have only heard it a couple of times I haven’t quite associated it yet plus I was hyper-grumpy over the journey + doggy poo incident.

In case you are wondering there is no direct buses there and a taxi would cost around £12 total which we can’t really justify at the moment.

So I sit down on the ripped seats in the waiting room and wait for the call. About ten minutes later I hear a disembodied voice, “Ceri, Ceri”. the ghost of NHS past? Nope it is the Midwife calling from across the room where I can’t see her. I don’t know if she is motioning me or pointing at something or what. So I say, “What do you want me to do?” in the general direction the voice is coming from. She says to come over so I wander over to the ‘voice’.

…and the appointment began. It went well, Baby appears to be fine although shy of the ultrasound. Every time she found him, he squirmed away! I found some secret delight with that. I have a feeling I was supposed to be impressed that I could hear a heartbeat but as I have my own doppler at home, I am not so easily impressed.

Anyway, after trekking doggie doodoo all over the Midwife’s office floor, I felt slightly guilty but also slightly consoled after having to mount an expedition to get to the place and deal with being treated like I can see when I obviously can’t. I don’t know why they bother to keep records, I really don’t. It’s not as if they read them.

The upshot is, now the community midwife is venturing into the community and seeing me at my home next time!

Oh and I put my trainers and trousers straight into the washing machine when I got back!

THE Carnegie Event

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. Posts may be edited from the original blog. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

Carnegie Medal time has arrived again. While this does enable me to have two days out of the library it also means a small amount of stress organising the trip.

I should explain what we do to shadow the Carnegie Awards here. Well as you know there are seven books on the shortlist this year. We have to select seven pupils – one for each book and take them over to a school where each kid designs (with 12 other kids from other schools) a play based on the books. The next day they perform it at a local theatre with authors and dignitaries judging.

This year is easier and yet harder at the same time for me. The event cincidentally occurs in Activities week in our school so most of the children are on other school trips abroad. The ones that stay behind have to help with ecoschools and from what I gather it basically means cleaning the school up!

Anyway so I have a finite group to choose from (some I won’t touch with a barge pole but some are great) Unfortunately I may have to choose some of the first group to go with me. Woe is me.

The budget is also a bit of a problem at the moment. It’s at the end of the year and the accounts department get a bit ancy about spending money (even though I have enough in my budget!

The other librarians I’m told usually buy three books of each of the shortlisted titles. They then get the children to write reviews on each one and choose the best. I can’t afford to do this so I’ve got them telling me their first, second and third choice and pulling their names out of a hat so I only have to buy one of each.

Then it’s actually getting them to want to go. A couple were like “yeah yeah, I really want to go. Can I go? please, please, I’ll be good!” Others were like “um, I’ll have to tink about it, what else is going on that week?”

Interestingly enough when I mention that the alternative is to pick up litter in the school, they become strangely interested…

Hysterical teenager

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. Posts may be edited from the original blog. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

I have to admit I’m not proud of myself. The problem with being short-sighted is that you don’t get all the information that everyone else does and you can interpret what you see to things that aren’t actually there!

A few days ago, one of the 12 year-old girls came in to the library just after lunch. I was alone and slightly distracted as I was beginning to write the end of term report.

She comes in sobbing her little heart out.

“Miss, I don’t know where to go. I can’t talk to anyone else.”

Aww sweet, that meant I began to actually really listen and look at her. I could hear she was crying from the noises she was making but what I saw shocked me. It looked like someone had punched her and ripped off some of her skin on her right side just under her eye. Unthinking I just said:

“Jesus, are you alright?”

Suitably justified by my reaction she starts telling me how the kids are mean to her and that she has been to the Deputy Head but nothing can be done. It’s at this point I realise she’s not been in a fight but just has pink make-up on her face. Oh well, it just looks like I am a very understanding Librarian. My bad eye-sight secret is still safe….

In case you are wondering, the girl went back to lessons, she just wanted to have a rant in to a sumpathetic ear. It all blew over in a couple of days.

 

Don’t mention the Olymp***

We live in a capitalist society in the middle of the worst recession in 50 years yet officials are stopping small and medium sized businesses from profiting from one of the biggest events to hit Britain in donkey’s years. One that is supposed to promote fair play, gamesmanship and achievement.

If you work in an Olymp** area (which probably is classed by the whole of the UK now!) then you are not allowed to advertise your wares while mentioning the games. You are forbidden to say certain words or show related symbols. A ludicrous example is the baker who placed six bagels in a well known ring formation. A pub also was told to stop advertising a competition for tickets.

Don’t get me wrong I like living in a capitalist society, it allows me to create and sell books but when a centuries old symbol is hijacked by big business (when they don’t really need the help small busineses do) then something is wrong. If you are going to go capitalist on that sort of thing – go capitalist. Let the market do its thang.

I would be happy if the official sponsrs had the rule that they could only put official sponsor on their products or that they would be the only companies allowed to advertise on television but what is happening just beggars belief.

I for one, during the Olym**** will be boycotting all official Olym**** sponsors between the starting and ending ceremonies, then I’ll go stuffing my face full of unhealthy goodies sold by official sponsors (fizzy drinks, chocolate and burgers). Water is healthier than my favourite black elixihir and I’ve always preferred Burger King anyway.

I will return to my favourite purchases when the Games end – that is if the alternatives I find are not more to my liking. Silver lining and all that.

My most embarrassing moment of 2008

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. Posts may be edited from the original blog. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

My most embarrassing moment of 2008 so far happened today…

Lunchtime came early as it always done when I start woek at 8.30. I saunter down to the shared ktchen in the staff room, potter around while sorting out all the stuff I have to put in teachers’ pidgeon holes. I put the kettle on, make myself a nice cup of tea and say hello to a couple of teachers who are leaving to go to their assemblies.

I sit down with a gasp of relief, straighten out the newspaper and go to pick up the cup of tea. Standing opposite me facing the wall is the chemistry teacher, deeply engrossed in the duty roster.

I twist the cup to move it and spill some tea on the table. The bottom of the cup is rubber which interacted with the tea, which in turn interacted against the wood to make an almighty fart sound!

I was mortified. The teacher turns around and asks if I am alright!

Of course I try to explain myself “It’s the cup! It’s got a rubber bottom!” You can tell he’s not sure if he believes me though.

I think I will have my lunch in the cupboard tomorrow…

 

Recognition at last – pay rise!

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. Posts may be edited from the original blog. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

One of the major problems working in a school library is you don’t get the recognition for what you’ve achieved which can get a bit demoralising. My way round this is to write reports to the senior management telling them how great I am with examples.

It seems this has paid off along with some persistance from my colleague. My assistant is paid appallingly and she really needed a pay rise. She’s a great worker, really intelligent, goes over and above the call of duty and can keep the kids in line. What more could a school ask for!

Anyway she put a package together putting her strengths in, the recommended wages for an assistant librarian and a spectacular performance review from me. Turns out they are going to pay us BOTH more in September. Yeeha for the Librarians.

Another note, how do other librarians out there advertise their book fairs? I have spent the morning stuffing 100s of envelopes with an invitation, competition entry, World Book Day voucher and other blurb. My assistant created a poster for the competition – to be honest she created the competition too (I did one last year) and we’ve put up book fair posters as well. On the plus side I am going to be really muscular in my arms from filling envelopes by the time this thing is finished!

 

Current day note: Here’s something to think about, in my eleven year career in library and information, I have worked equally for public and private empoyers. I have always received pay rises from private employers but not public…

Job hunting in Rhyl – a past experience I would rather forget .. but one must learn from mistakes…

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. Posts may be edited from the original blog. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

That’s it, i’ve decided to go for another job. In fact I’ve got an interview next week which got me thinking about other interviews I’ve done in the past. One of the funniest I thought I would share with you. its a bit long though, so make sure you have time to read it!

Rhyl Interview

I had an interview in Rhyl at Rhyl Community College a few years ago. After arriving in London Euston, I discovered utter chaos – a train was late. Luckily and unusually for me the train arrived the same time as I did – and it was going my way. So far so good…

I arrive in Rhyl surrounded by a mixture of Liverpudlians and Welsh. Strange I thought, there seems to be a lot of Liverpudlians for a Welsh town…

Getting off the train late I followed the crowds over the small internal bridge towards the exit. As I passed a bin, I paused to put my rubbish in. When I look up everyone is gone. This is the largest platform I have ever seen. In fact it stretches for as far as I can see and no-one in sight – Panic begins to set in when I realise I don’t where the exit is!

Hmm, I calm myself down and start walking down the platform, first I try the door to the Ticket Office – locked. I continue down the platform, but there doesn’t seem to be another exit. I start to walk back thinking that perhaps I didn’t try all the doors to the Ticket Office after all.

A man comes up to talk to me. He is tall, slim with a strong Welsh accent. He asks me if I was looking for the exit. I reply in the yes feeling quite stressed at this point. He leans close and points the way out to the far end of the platform. He seems to lean slightly too close for comfort … and then I realise – he’s looking down my top!

He does however tell me the right way to get out. I thank him hurriedly and continue on my way.

My first impressions of Rhyl I have to admit are not good. It seems a small town, slightly dingy but I can live with that _ or so I hoped.

Using a map I downloaded from the internet, I try to fathom the way to the Guest House which I had booked the week earlier.

The nearer I get to the guest house the dirtier the streets appear. Oh, MY GOD, what have I got myself into! Crisp packets, chip wrappers and cans line the street. Shops are boarded up, yet I bravely soldier on.

Finally I reach the guest house. I had booked this for the bargain price of £18 for the night. Disconcertingly, it says ‘look before you book’ on the sign by the door.
Are things that bad here then?

I knocked apprehensively on the door and the door all but instantly opens. A nice middle aged lady stands before me (I find out she is nice later), at the moment she is brusque.

Please sign in’ she says, so I shrug and do. Looking around the guest house, I thought, Okay. Not the four star Bude Haven Hotel I had been in a few weeks before but I can live with this (well for the requisite night anyway).

She indicates for me to follow her and with trepidation I follow her up the stark narrow staircase. She takes me to a shoe box known as the single room I booked. It is furnished simply but thankfully it IS clean. I take the opportunity to ask her what it is like to live in Rhyl. I mentioned that I had felt disappointed when walking to the B&B.

Her reply was not quite what I was expecting. She said that while the B&B was in the nice part of the road, (the road led to the sea front), it was quite a bad area at the end.

I wasn’t going to go out by myself that night was I? she asked. Thinking well I wasn’t going to now, I asked why. She replied that it was nice where she was and her daughter managed the B&B next door but nearer the sea front, all the flats had been bought by absent landlords and that it was known to have drug problems. Suitably warned I replied I had no plans to go out that night.

I think she then realised that at this point I was quite freaked out. She offered me a lift to the college in the morning. I quickly took her up on the offer before she changed her mind.

I was really getting quite hungry at this point, I had last eaten lunch that afternoon in London and it was now getting dark. For food she gave me directions to the local chippie at the right end of the road, so I set off.

Ten minutes later I arrived at the chippie where there was a queue of four. Normally this a good sign, (it shows that people like it), but as I had not seen an open chippie on the way to the guest house, this was probably the only one available.

A few minutes later one of the customers asked for a kebab. The boy said he was very sorry but he didn’t have any in, did he want anything else? They got pie and chips. The next people asked for chicken and chips. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any chicken either. The customer left with pie and chips. The next asked for sausage and chips, again “Sorry, how about pie and chips?” I was next.

‘Could I have some fish and chips please?’ thinking they were bound to have that. In a broad Liverpool accent I was told they didn’t have any but they could put it on. At first I couldn’t understand him, so I said ‘sorry, you don’t have any?’

He then stepped towards the freezer and I worked out from that, what he meant. I replied ‘Yes please!’

What a palaver!! Leaving fifteen minutes later with my prize, I escape to the privacy of my room at the guest house. In case you are wondering. It was the worst fish and chips I had ever eaten. It was rank and the chips tasted like they were cooked in fat several days old.

Feeling disheartened, I have a moan to my friends back in London about Rhyl and then go to sleep setting my watch and phone as alarm clocks – after all I had an interview in the morning!

I woke at seven, pick up my clothes and go in search of the shower. I should point out that I was the only one staying at the hotel the night previously, well me and the workmen anyway.

I stripped down and stepped into the shower cubicle, (don’t worry, I won’t go into too much detail here!)

I press a button and wait for the expected torrent. Nothing. Ok, I press another button. Nothing happened. With mounting anxiety I pressed the last button, again nothing. I looked around the cubicle, turned the heart knob, then the valve, also nothing. I have approximately 45 minutes to get ready before this poxy interview and I can’t even get the bleeding shower to work.

I put on the dress I wore the night before and head downstairs to where I knew the Manageress lived. Several knocks on the door with no response send me climbing up the stairs swearing under my breath.

I should mention again here that I am partially sighted. My eye-sight has a lot to be desired. In a tantrum born off desperation I stalk into the shower room again, stomp right to the end of the room where a string knocks me on the head. I grab it and the shower starts – EUREKA!!

Having made myself barely presentable with a shirt, skirt, make-up and freshly dried hair, I hear the bell for breakfast. Great, I’m starving, I head back downstairs in my bare feet.

Mmm, lovely – there’s nothing like tinned sausages, mushrooms and runny egg to get you going first thing in the morning. Well at least the toast was nice.

Luckily the Manageress had offered me a lift with her husband, so after getting ready I packed my bag and got into a car with a complete stranger.

Considering the family had only lived there for several years I was quite surprised that we got lost. Although there were hardly any people out that early in the morning, we asked two people for directions. However, neither knew where the local college was. Each had a Liverpudlian accent.

Arriving at the interview in a relatively calm state of mind, (I was fifteen minutes early), I was told to sit down in the corner and wait for the interviewer.

There was one other person apart from myself already there We quickly got to know each other. Her name was S— and she originally came from Ireland. She lived with her soon-to-be-husband who was Welsh and a policeman.

Shortly, the rest of the motley crew (interviewees) joined us. There was a lady who lived in America but wanted to return to Wales, S— obviously and two internal candidates. One Z—, was a slightly larger lady who seemed really nervous, standing beside her was D—, smartly dressed in a suit.

Once we had all got acquainted the interviewers came to greet and give us the grand tour of the building. This didn’t take long.

After visiting the library which was a lot smaller than I had imagined, we were all shown into a classroom which was a make-shift camp for the day. Tea and coffee was provided but to our horror – no biscuits!

The format of the interview was for there to be individual presentations given by us to the panel of three and then we were to be short-listed again for a more in-depth interview.

I had spent 2 hours on my presentation – with beautiful diagrams on the hand-outs. I had also made cards the night before. I felt the presentation went well and indeed I was short-listed for the actual interview. One step closer!

With me, S— and D— also offered the interview, the other two left. We hung around the classroom chatting, surfing the internet and generally killing time. After a short wait, my name (closest to A) was called first. …the fun began.

Thirty-forty minutes later, I left the room to join who I fast was starting to think were friends.

For lunch D— who was the internal candidate showed me where the canteen was. I had a runny egg sandwich, an apple and a diet coke – mmm, delicious, NOT!

At the designated time, we trooped back into the classroom and then the main interviewer entered the room.

‘D—, please could you follow me?’ she asked, then ‘You two stay there!’ Charming – we know who got the job then. I could be called cynical (and it wouldn’t be the first time) but I wonder if it was completely a coincidence that D—‘s line manager was on the panel. So this was my second interview for my plan to return to Wales.

Ironically – I am now trying to go back to England. A traitor to my home country? maybe, but I go where the work and the prospects are.

Friday blues…

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. Posts may be edited from the original blog. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

 

Well, Friday was quite fun. I had to do the late shift as my assistant needed to do something that night. To be honest I don’t mind its usually quiet on a Friday (relatively speaking that is!) Well, this Friday was no different.

I got in the requuisite half an hour early (I hate public transport), actually 33 minutes early this time. Then again I suppose its better than being late.

First I went to check to see if the food had arrived in the kitchen, it hadn’t so I toddled up to the library and thought I’d spend a quiet few minutes in the cupboard reading a book until my shift starts. I only get paid for working part-time hours and I tend to do more hours than that anyway so I get rebellious now and again and want to do the hours they pay me for. Foiled again, it’s locked.

So I trundle along to the desk and my assistant waves her keys at me asking if I want to borrow them. At this point my rebelliousness wears off and I decide it won’t kill me to give the school yet another 20 minutes of my time for free.

So the day goes pretty quickly, I’m still sorting out the careers section of the library. It’s been neglected for several years. It’s great if you want to find out what courses to study in Science in 1999 or what university was like in 1987 but some of the newer books are fewer and far between. Don’t get me wrong there was the Student book 2006 and The big guide 2007 and 2008. The previous Librarian had bought some new books, but just never weeded the old stock.

So this is the task I set myself for this month, try to sort out the mess known as the careers library. [I always said I liked a challenge.] I managed to catalogue about 6 books by 4pm when the first influx of kids trickle in. I’m really proud of myself at this point!

First I had to stop and settle them down as soon as they came in. The boys go to one side of the room and the girls the other. Mainly because I had to split up the boys as soon as they came in but we won’t go into that.

I was doing the usual, “Please girls shush, you need to work quietly now.” When one of the girls spots its me.

Each of us ‘Librarians’ has our favourites among the pupils and this girl is one of mine although we don’t like to show it. She’s cheeky but in a nice way. There’s no malice and she is usually really funny if a little random.

Today, she spots me and goes “oh Librarian, it’s you, High Five.” and she lifts her hand up.

I shrug and lift my hand and she smacks mine in a high five movement. ..and before I can go back to the desk she gives me a great big bear hug. I freeze. This was really embarrassing for me. I usually have a personal space boundary of about a foot. I’m shy and I like to keep my distance.

This time I didn’t have time to react so I just stood there with my arms to my side until she let go. I gave a quick nervous grin and scarpered back to the relative safety of my desk and shouted again at the boys who were chatting nearby.

At this point I’ll revise my former statement in another post. I don’t shout usually in the day time, but after school baby-sitting sessions are quite another matter.

A more cynical person could say this was a ploy. Now could it be that she gave me a hug so I would be nonplussed and wouldn’t tell her off for talking or is she just a sweet girl with a lovable nature? You decide!

Living Social: The case of the Devilled Egg

Regular readers of my blog might have noticed that I have been on a few Living Social Events during my time. I’ve taken to blogging a few of these, Fat Attack, CSI weekend and a Newquay weekend. These blog posts were noticed by the guys at Living Social and they offered me a free Bloggers Breakfast event to showcase one of there cookery deals they do.

The cookery event was run by the Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy. Don’t worry it wasn’t all about eggs but they did feature prominantly! Bear in mind that I am only a Foodie in that I like to eat food. I have been known to burn beans on toast although I can make a wicked fairy cake.

Location: Bristol. A quiet residential street where all you can hear when you arrive is birdsong!

Verdict: Brilliant. The course was basic enough for me with clear explanantions while detailed enough for my husband who has been on a residential cookery course before.

Value for Money: Great. well it was free. Seriously though, the price I think for what we had is £135 from the Devilled Kitchen website so if you take into account Living Social discounts I think you could keep your eye out for a bargain here.

The Course:

When we arrived we were shown into the dining room while the rest of the party arrived. The house was gorgeous with large chandeliers and high ceilings – I wouldn’t mind living there!

We had time to chat and find out a little about each other before we started. The lady in charge was Barbora Stiess. Normally she would have had an assistant but she had been in an accident that morning so she couldn’t make it, I hope she is better now! No offense to the assistant though but the course went wonderfully and I didn’t realise there was supposed to be help until the end!

We all had to wash our hands or use the gel in the little dispenser as shown in the picture. I was paranoid about spreading germs because I was suffering from hay fever so I used more than my fair share of the gel. We would all be eating each other’s food so I wanted to make sure that no one would be grossed out.

There were a number of recipes but I won’t put them on here out of respect for the owner although she said it would be alright … except for one. We adored the bread rolls we made so this is going on here so I can find it again later (I tend to lose bits of paper).

Bread Rolls

This was the first recipe we followed and when volunteers were asked for, my husband stepped up to the plate (well bowl actually) and started the measurements. Here’s what was needed:

  • 500g strong white flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  •  300ml water
  1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl
  2. Make a well in the centre, then add the oil and water, and mix well
  3. If the dough seems a little stiff add 1-2 tbsp water, mix well then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead.
  4. Once the dough is satin-smooth, place it in a lightly-oiled bowl and leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size or place in the fridge overnight.
  5. When risen, gently mould the dough into small buns and fill with olives and feta
  6. Place the buns on a baking sheet to prove for a further hour until doubled in size (cover with a clean tea towel).
  7. Heat oven to 220C, glaze bread with egg wash (beaten egg with a pinch of salt) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped underneath.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

We ate these later with ham, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. I, of course, had non-dairy hollandaise sauce because of my allergy to milk. On its own it wasn’t very nice but mixed together with the egg, ham and bread – it was like heaven on a roll.

By the way if you are allergic to gluten or dairy products the Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy does do courses which cater for these. Cool huh?

Anyways, after this was the soda bread and guess who volnteered for this? Oi, it was me. Ironic really, the only person who couldn’t eat the soda bread was the person making it! She gave a great tip. If you don’t happen to have buttermilk in your fridge, but let’s face it who doesn’t these days, then all you need to do is put a bit of vinegar in milk and voila, homemade buttermilk.

I could go into great detail about all the amazing food we created but really you would need to go on the course to get the benefit, by which of course I mean you get to eat it!

Here’s a quick list of the things we made:

Blinis with beetroot and salmon
Soda Bread
Profiteroles
White Bread
Shortcrust pastry
Scrambled eggs
Eggs Benedict
Scotch Egg (the highlight of the course)

We got eat most of the things we made, the only proviso was that we were stuffed by the end so some people took their scotch eggs home.

Would I go again? I always ask this question at the end of a blog post and I would say yes. I learnt an awful lot and it wa a good laugh too. I highly recommend this course for novices and experienced cooks alike.

Here are a few pictures from the day to round this post off:

How to not advertise making homemade tea bags

 

The funniest things happen at work, especially when you are not expecting it.

I have a colleague, the nicest, friendliest person you could possibly meet, who is very active in her local community. She is in her fifties and is very into homemade products. In fact she was selling some very nice homemade jams the other day.

The lady was organising a ‘how to make homemade tea bags’ demonstration. Apparently you fold a bit of paper…. but I digress. In full voice she announced the date to a community meeting and made a very nice poster promising a wait for it …  teabagging demonstration!

Of course the next day there was a gasp in the office when she mentioned this. She was surprised, and even more surprised when one helpful colleague described with glee – in detail – another possible definition of a teabagging demonstration. The lady left work a little early that day, I would bet on her way to removing a certain poster in a local Community Centre?

…the moral of the tale? Always, I can’t stress this enough, ALWAYS have the Urban Dictionary on you – just in case.

I do have a slight confession. I didn’t at first know what it meant but knew it was rude. I was actually quite shocked when I looked it up. There are some things I would rather not know – but then knowing means I am unlikely to make my colleague’s mistake.

Betraying the people of the Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands were settled around two centuries ago by British people. Argentina was invaded by other Europeans  in the sixteenth century. So both places were settled by Europeans. The people of the Falklands therefore have a long history of residency on the islands.

The Dutch were in the Falklands first, then the French followed by the English. The Spanish then took over by war and then left. The English then settled from then on. There was a permanent colony since 1840.

In the eighties, Argentina decided they wanted to EXTEND their territories by starting a war to claim it as their own.

It should be noted that the people want to be British, the Argentinians have no more right to the place than the British but the residents who have been there for generations shouldn’t lose their homes because new powers would like to try out being Imperialist. Just because the British, French and Spanish countries did it centuries ago does not make it right to do it now.

No country should extend their territory in the 21st century. Democracy should be the rule of thumb. No country should impose their rule on another by force. I don’t agree with Iraq either but if the people wanted it, then I don’t see how other countries should interfere. I don’t know enough to comment on that. If the people are British, have always been British and want to be British they should have that right.

One of the arguements for Argentina forcing itself on the Falkland Islands is its proximity to Argentina. Going by the distance that means that Canada should belong to the USA and France should own Britain. France would love that but I wouldn’t be so keen.

I’m not saying that oil has no bearing on why Britain would like to keep the Falkland Isles and if there was no oil then the people from the Falklands would probably be betrayed by the British government. I am saying that it doesn’t matter, it gives the people of the Falkland Isles the opportunity to get what they want. It is their country. They can’t go home. That is their home. They shouldn’t have to pay because another country is sabre rattling.

I’m for the little guy. I just want to point out that I am Welsh. We were one of the first countries to be colonised by the English Government. I have a weird perspective. There has been a call for independence for centuries in Wales but it would be a mistake to be independent. Then again if we really pushed for it now we would get it. The Scottish are getting a referendum. My point is the British Government for the most part listen to the people it governs. It gave back Hong Kong because the people wanted it. The people of the Falkland Islands want to to British so they shouldn’t have old movie stars telling them that their and their ancestor’s lives are irrelevant. By that logic, Sean Penn should go back to the country where his ancestors came from which was most definitely European and leave the country to the Native Americans. What, you don’t want to? I thought not.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Christmas Office Indulgence

I’m not sure if this happens in other organisations and businesses such as in the private sector (I’ve worked in two companies and it didn’t) but the public sector staff are just too generous to each other. I’m not talking public money because we’re far too conscientious for that. I’m talking biscuits and cakes, usually home-made brought in for the delectation of colleagues.

Why am I complaining you’re probably thinking. Free cakes? Are you mad? Go for it, you whining public sector worker you. Well, I’m just as guilty as the rest of my colleagues, a couple of weeks ago I brought in two trays of delicious chocolate and white iced doughnuts in, 24 in all, for our floor.

The trouble is two-fold, one is I’m on a permanent diet. I’m fluctuating from size 14-16 at the moment (going down I hope) and the other is I am allergic to anything that is remotely interesting, which translates to cakes, compounded with terrible willpower when doughnuts are in smell range.

I’m moaning because it is Christmas and everyone has gone slightly batty this year. Mince pies abound and I narrowly avoided a close encounter with chocolate crispy cakes yesterday.

As I’m writing this as some sort of cake therapy, a senior manager is wafting biscuit smells at me from across the desk with an evil glint in his eyes (probably making that last bit up about the eyes – I have a slightly over active imagination).

What to do? I am on what I call an eczema diet at the moment. This means nothing I am allergic to can pass my lips before Christmas Eve. This is great because it cuts out anything made with dairy products, (including butter and milk), lemon, oranges. citric acid,  all fattening stuff. It however leaves me with all meat, potatoes and most veg. I’m not eating parsnips, I don’t care if I am not allergic to it! I draw the line at that.

So enjoy your mince pies, lemon drizzle cake and biscuits, just stop offering me any – well, until after Christmas anyway!

Lessons to be learnt from sci-fi

I have enjoyed sci-fi ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper.  From Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Doctor Who to Star Trek, there are a lot of lessons one can learn from in these tales of derring-do. Today there are still classics being made from Moon to Minority Report.

I’ve compiled a list of 10 of the lessons that can be learnt from my (well spent?) years of watching science-fiction movies. What do you think? Please vote for your favourite lesson(s).

[poll id=”2″]

The horror of Halloween, Mwhahaha

Now, the problem with me is that although I like children big groups of them scare the living daylights out of me so with the best intentions of avoiding the usual hordes this halloween, i and my husband decided to head out for a curry tonight.

Before we could do this we needed to unpack the car as our road trip had exhausted us the night before. With military precision we opened the doors, did a brief reccy, and dropped off the DIY gear as if our house was on fire and the gear was water.

The problem with curry is that you can only draw out eating for so long. With heavy hearts and full stomachs we clambered back into our car and drove to and then past our home.

Disaster! There was a gang stood outside our garden on the corner. What to do?

We drove around the block and parked up on the opposite corner. Indecision racked our overfull bodies. Then a plan was formed. We would walk down our street and if the kids were still there carry on walking as if we were out on a normal stroll.

The night was warm and my hearing sharp. There were still a few trick-or-treaters at the far corner and I am ashamed to say I lost my nerve. I broke off before I reached the end of our road and dashed behind a hedge in our garden and ran down the grass verge to our front door. I was joined moments later by an out of breath husband, key already in hand. We tumbled through the door and stumbled our separate ways. I went upstairs, ahem, i did just have a curry, and hubby went to make a couple of drinks – in the dark.

So here we are sitting in the dark. I’m on my phone and hubby on his laptop, jumping at any noise at the front door.

We’re not in… honest…

The danger of going to the gym

I’m not the most active of people, I’m probably going to end up like the Mikon when I’m older. If you’ve ever read Dan Dare you’ll know what I mean. A couple of night’s ago I decided to go to the gym again.

I know what you are thinking. What again? Yes again. This time I had already stashed some gym clothes, shower stuff and towels so i knew if the notion took me I would have no excuses.

The notion grabbed me at around 4.15 Tuesday. I skipped (read shuffled) down to the changing rooms, opened my locker and took out my gym clothes. Bearing in mind these were stowed about 3 months ago it shouldn’t be any surprise when they were a tad tight. Oops.

Still I poured myself into my kit with a bit of wriggling and pushed my day clothes into the locker. Thermal t-shirt, check, normal t-shirt, long sleeved shirt and jumper check, trousers check etc etc. Disaster struck, while pushing the clothes I didn’t see that at the bottom of the locker there were two small holes which I believe were made in the construction of the locker (see picture).

As I shoved the jeans further in, I yelped as my thumb slid against the holes in the metal. Seconds later blood was streaming from the flap of skin that the metal sliced off – ow!

So there you have it, damaged before i even got into the gym proper.

Gyms are dangerous places!

My thumb hurts 🙁

I might stick to writing on the laptop. I might get RSI but at least there’s less blood.

My name is…

Not wanting to sound like an alcoholics anonymous meeting but I would like to introduce myself. My name is Ceri Clark and I adore writing.

Now the reason for this introduction is not just for self promotion because I’m rubbish at that but because I hung out with a few friends who I’ve never met in person in the hang out feature on Google Plus yesterday. These were the excellent writers Connie J Jasperson and Alison DeLuca who are published through Fantasy Island Book Publishing (books available at the publisher’s website http://fantasyislandbookpublishing.com/).

Why would that make me blog today you may ask. Well, I am proud of where I come from but it can cause a few problems with the way my name is pronounced. These are my friends and I love them to bits in a non-homicidal way but I kept being called Seri as I do around England and sometimes while travelling.

I’m just interjectimg a paragraph break while I process that. My name is pronounced Kerry. Now this is where my Welsh heritage is so annoying. My full first name is Ceridwen. I am named after the Welsh goddess of wisdom. It’s an old name and firmly embedded in Welsh culture. If you are wondering it’s pronounced Keridwen.

So why the weird spelling you may think. Well it’s not weird if you are Welsh. The Welsh language is completely separate from the English and one of the oldest in Europe. It has a few extra letters and crucially a few missing. Until recently it did not have the letter J but to my horror they added it since I was in school.

Now back to my point, there is no letter K in the welsh language but the sound is done always through a hard sounding C.

So  if you spot me wandering around like a lost sheep, shout out Kerry and I just might respond.

Hwyl!

Soldiers, War and Europe


This is going to be somewhat of a rambling post. I was between the state of dreaming and awake this morning and I started thinking about soldiers and the cost of having them.

I even thought, do we even need to have them in this day and age? Sure we need some sort of deterrent for foreign powers who may want to increase their land but really a European army would be better than just a British one.

I was thinking about the old wars in the past against France, Germany etc and if we are one big happy family there is no need to fight. It would be like Florida having a go at California.

We could institute a European ‘national’ service. Young people would mix with others which would give an insight into other cultures some might miss out on. Imagine spending a couple of years barracked with a mix of Italian, French and German soldiers in your late teens/early twenties. If it was ensured that there was an equal mix so no nationality was in the majority in a particular unit this could be a great way to foster good relations.

Europe is a lot bigger than just one  constituant country and a European army made out of all those countries would be larger but spread the cost out between the countries.

I believe Europe promotes stability with checks and balances meaning one Head of State couldn’t take unilateral action. If it wasn’t for the Euro, I would give total support for Europe. A European army I think is a better idea.

Rambling over. 🙂

Modern Slavery

Britain was shocked by slavery news we had thought/hoped confined to history. It came out of the blue and was the talk I suspect of offices and in homes up and down the country.

There are two types of modern day slavery as far as I can see in the UK. There is the type which was blasted across the news over the last couple of weeks, where travellers had enticed migrants and English men alike to live in their camp with promises to be looked after only to be forced to work for free and live in squalor, treated little better than animals.

The other appears to be run by gang masters and involves migrants enticed or abducted to this country on (again) false promises and used in various industries from the oldest profession to restaurants and agriculture. A lady from BBC news mentioned that young people were put into foster? homes after arriving in airports only to disappear the next day. Some of these are found working as slaves in other European countries

This is truly sickening and to be honest I can’t understand why this is still happening in the 21st century!