Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Leaplings and knot tying

A very happy birthday to all those leaplings celebrating their birthdays for the first time in four years.  I hope the pressies are huge and the fizz flowing in spectacular style!

Did you know that February 29th is known as an intercalarity day? It is also meant to be the day that women can propose to eligible potential mates.

Speaking of proposals, him-at-home and I will be celebrating our nuptials on March 10th. It will be very low key with all my stress and angst kept for my coursework and essay deadlines.

Kate came up from West Sussex on Sunday to sort me out with a suitable outfit and I swear she has turned into a fearsome honey badger!

First she supervised my makeover in a large department store. She issued the following instructions:
“Make sure that  Mum doesn’t end up looking like:  
  •  it’s been trowelled on”.
  • orange
  • Amy Winehouse”

She took extensive notes and a multitude of photos so she could replicate the look on the day.

We then headed off for my ‘fashion consultation’.  Everyone knows that jeans and boots are my default outfit complimented by my biker jacket and helmet. You can imagine how apprehensive I felt as Geraldine, the fashion consultant, showed us into a fitting room with plush curtains and cushions, a chaise lounge and floor to ceiling mirrors.

I had decided not to be particularly bothered – if I couldn’t find anything, I still had my Christmas dress which I had only worn twice.  However after, after being mistaken for the mother-of-the- bride and presented with an outfit in black and white polka dots, with cream jacket suitable for attending a local race meeting, I was ready to run screaming for my familiar territory - the skinny jeans section in M&S.  However Honey Badger calmed me down, and after giving poor Geraldine the full list of nos...

  • No big fat fluffy meringues
  • No tiaras
  • No sparkles
  • No frills and flounces
  • No white or cream
  • No tiny floral prints
  • No cleavage

...marched off with her.  They returned 10 minutes later with the perfect dress – a lovely above the knee Spring number that will be perfect for lots of different occasions.  As a poor student, I was delighted to discover it was 25% off the original price – quite a bionus!  Then it was time for the shoes – another problem area, so we had to fortify ourselves with coffee and cake first.  My feet are size 8 and I don’t know why shoe shops have to treat anyone taking over a size 7 as a freak or a giant. It was bad enough growing up with a big sister, serenading me with “Your feet’s too big”!  

Five minutes into my rant to an unsuspecting shop assistant half my height blessed with minute feet, Kate dragged me out, calmed me down and apologised to the poor woman.  As we entered the next shop, she sat me down, banned me from talking to anyone and went to sort things out.  We ended up finding THE shoes and happily headed home to a wonderful roast dinner cooked by a serene him –at-home very glad to have had nothing to do with our big adventure. – there we are – my entire outfit sorted in an afternoon.  Now for the food!  Wanting quite a low key event, we thought the easiest thing would be to pop next door from the registry office and enjoy the economical delights of the local hospital canteen with its lovely views over the local park.  Unfortunately honey badger put the dampeners on that so we are having to go a bit more upmarket!
Anyway that’s enough of frivolities - 10 days to go now but only six to get my case study finished and submitted!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Orchids, Etymology, Essays and Other Essentials

Last weekend I travelled to my daughter Kate’s place in West Sussex on Sunday to celebrate Jack’s and my birthdays which fall 5 days apart.  We were thoroughly spoilt with wonderful food, and my love of flowers and plants was completely indulged by a stroll in the local Petworth Park and lots of floral gifts. My kitchen now resembles a flower shop with a corner filled with beautiful orchids, spring narcissi and a bright red amaryllis in all its overblown glory.  The bright yellow cheery Daffodils and Narcissi are very special to me as they remind me of Jack and Kate’s births in February and March and herald the end of the greyness of winter.

My birthday corner

We amused ourselves on the drive down by my reading extracts from my birthday book that has become my new addiction.  The Etymologicon is subtitled ‘A circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English Language’. Written by Mark Forsyth, it is based on his wonderful blog The Inky Fool.  The preface to his book sets the tone where he recounts his experience with an unsuspecting victim who, while eating a biscuit, happened to wonder out loud about the origins of the word biscuit.  After regaling his victim with his etymological findings, the poor man was left begging for mercy and Mark’s family began to investigate the financial implications of his admission to a secure unit.  A blog was a far cheaper option and so The Inky Fool was born.
If you have ever been kept awake at night pondering such weighty questions as:
  •  What is an antanaclasis and is it catching? 
  •  Why does the proof lie in the pudding or the worm turns?
  • How serious is it to be affected by wamblecropt?
 …then this book and blog is for you.
I am lucky that Cherie is nearby so that I have a fellow enthusiast to wax lyrical with.  Everyone else just glazes over and consigns us to the Enquiry Unit’s pedants’ corner.

Consigned to the Pedants’ corner

I have now had my first piece of third year work back and I am pleased with my mark and feedback.  This was my first submission since my final second year submission in May 2010 so I felt rather rusty with my academic writing.  A master’s programme is very different to an undergraduate degree where there are lots of essays to submit regularly throughout the year.  Our course includes clinical work and case presentations.  In third year we have two case studies to submit. We need several weeks of clinical work on a case within that year so our first case study is due in early March and the second in April. In one of my placements clients can be seen for up to twenty four weeks and in the other, up to twelve. With cancellations, illness and holidays, it can take several more weeks to complete the required number of sessions with a client. Having started my placements in late September, I am now beginning to discharge clients and to be able to step back and look at the cases as a completed piece of work.  I find that really interesting and quite satisfying.  I had one client who came for the first session and then rang the charity to say s/he did not want to come again.  I found it quite difficult and frustrating not to know any more and I had to remind myself not to take it personally.  Other clinets have difficulty with ending the work and will stop attending before the final sessions, leaving me with a feeling of work incompleted.  These are only two of the many issues important to explore and is the reason we have supervision.  We spend an hour for every eight clinical hours sitting with the supervisor, going through our case work discussing any difficulties and exploring different ways of working.  It is an incredibly useful time and I really look forward to it. I find my clinical work absolutely fascinating in the same way I loved my clinical midwifery work . There is always so much to learn and all counsellors working ethically will have regular supervision.  Even our tutors, who all carry clinical caseloads, have supervision and talk with great enthusiasm of the insights and support gained during this precious time.

…as my mother would say “Two heads are better than on, even if they’re sheep’s heads” – but… she is Australian.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Wolves, Arrows and an Important 30th

It’s a very busy week for festivals.  While you are busy practising your pancake making in preparation for Shrove Tuesday, and now you have finished posting your ‘Be My Valentine’ cards you can buck the trend and catch the tail end of the Festival of Lupercalia.


Celebrated from February 13 to 15, this ancient pastoral festival is thought to have originated in Ancient Greece and was meant to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. The name comes from the Greek word Lukos and the Latin Lupus meaning wolf.   It superseded the festival of Februa, an even more ancient spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gave the month of February its name.  It was celebrated up to the 5th century although less and less until the Christian Pope Gelasius finally abolished it as a pagan abomination.  Wikipedia credits  Plutarch with describing it thus:

Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
In Ancient Rome the festival started outside the cave where the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus lived with the she-wolf who suckled them until they could fend for themselves – hence the wolf connection.

Some believe that Valentine’s day was turned into a festival to replace the Lupercalia but others dismiss this idea totally.  Originally known as St Valentine’s Day, it was a religious festival with various contenders for the saint until the 14th century poet Chaucer published his poems about courtly love and by the 15th century it was well established in its present form.  Then in 1969  the Catholic church removed it as a saint’s day from the church calendar because there was no clear contender for the honour.  

...actually I wonder whether it would be such a good idea to resurrect the tradition  of Lupercalia around our uni campus after all.  The rugby club does not need any more ideas for rowdy behaviour!

...and to end this blog I have to say Happy Birthday to my son Jack who turned 30 on Valentine’s day.  It was bad enough when my youngest sister turned 30 but it is completely outrageous when my son does it!  It seems only yesterday he was a tiny 3lb bundle who arrived ten weeks early.  He was in a rush to be an Aquarian rather than a bullish Taurean.  He rang me saying how none of his friends were interested in his birthday as they were all too busy being romantic and that it was very inconvenient that I had arranged things in this way.  I had to remind him that he has disrupted my Valentine Days for the last thirty years!

*...and to those sharp eyed readers – yes I did make a mistake and think it was this Tuesday but – heh - it does mean that you have an extra week to practise your tossing!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Of Pancakes and Apostrophes

It’s time to hone those pancake making skills ready for Pancake Day on Tuesday!  I have a special recipe for little drop pancakes that are delicious all year round.  You can keep the mixture in the fridge for a few days and just make them as you need.

I am not very good with too much dairy so this is a milk and butter free recipe – still very yummy so have a go!

*2 cups of plain flour
*3 teaspoons of baking powder
#1 ¾ cups orange juice
#1/3 cup olive oil
#1 egg

Step 1 

Sift * ingredients in one bowl.  Put # ingredients in another and mix together

Step 2 

Combine the two and mix well

Step 3

In a frying pan put a small amount of oil just to grease the bottom of the pan and heat up until it is quite hot but not enough to have it smoking.
Put dessert spoon - size blobs  of  the mixture into the oil and  wait until the bubbles rise to the surface  and then pop.
Turn them over - they should be a lovely golden brown colour.  Briefly cook them on the second side then remove with a spatula onto a plate.

Step 4 

Serve with either jam, honey, golden syrup maple syrup (if you are feeling rich!), marmalade or whatever else you fancy.

You can do all sorts of variations:
Add chopped up dried cranberries or other dried fruit, use wholemeal flour instead of white or add bran for texture.  I’ve tried different fruit juices but orange seems to be the best.

Then – eat and enjoy!  If you don’t want to cook all of the mixture immediately, just store it in a sealed container in the fridge.  It seems to be fine for up to three days.

…and while you are sitting there enjoying your pancakes you can ponder on the great Greengrocer Apostrophe problem endemic in our society today.

Cherie, my Enquiry Unit buddy, and I get rather upset when written English is mangled by an excess of apostrophes.  You could only imagine our horror when we found a document on the university internal portal system advising us about ‘diploma’s’!.  As I read through the document I was shocked to find three more unnecessary apostrophes.  After being sufficiently revived by Cherie, I set out to draw this to our supervisor’s ( I will refer to him as Steve) attention. It resulted in the following email exchange:

 Cherie and I are very upset about the excessive and incorrect use of apostrophes in this document - especially as it is about literacy!

Thank’s for bringing this mistake’s to my attention.

Oh dear Steve - I now need smelling salts and an early lengthy lunch to re-establish my composure......
 ...and Cherie does too!!

sent from Alice's email ( note correct use of apostrophe)

I have hi lighted you’re mistake’s below:

Oh dear Jo - I now need smelling salts and an early lengthy lunch to re-establish my composure......

...and Cherie does too!!

sent from Alice's email ( note correct use of apostrophe)

....aaahhhhhhh.  That is not a mistake!!!!!

This is silly. I am joking. I do know when to use apostrophe’s.

I really think your best course of action may be to avoid  's' at the end of any word and be done with it.....
Luckily your  's' is the beginning of your name!
You could start by pluralising everything with an i!

Thank’s for the advise.

You are - or to abbreviate in a grammatically correct manner, you're - very welcome!

Okay, now your just splitting heirs.

Not only are you continuing to mangle our splendid English language but you now want me to harm my children.  What next?

…and don’t even get us started about the use of American spellings of such words as programme, colour, recognise, apologise, grey, centre, plough and honour.  We live in England for goodness sake and English came first!

Monday, 6 February 2012

A Magical Time!

With all the snow around from last weekend, we came in today through all the slush wondering about any timetabling issues.  The only course cancelled was the Witchcraft course run by the Humanities department.  A tweet went out to notify students and we had some interesting responses – enjoy ...we certainly did in the office!

 UniofGreenwich: Witchcraft at 9am in QA239 has been cancelled today..Otherwise all other classes are running fine!

Sarah_Cunnane 9:10am via Twitterrific
Oh ok. Wait, hang on, WHAT?! RT @UniofGreenwich Witchcraft at 9am in QA239 has been cancelled today.. (HT @smitajamdar)

mikecurryphotos 9:32am via Twitter for iPhone
@UniofGreenwich witchcraft cancelled? would have thought broomsticks would have been the one thing not affected by snow!

SurrealAnarchy 9:58am via Twitter for iPhone
“@UniofGreenwich: Witchcraft at 9am in QA239 has been called off today, all other classes are running fine!" The dark arts off due to snow!

SurrealAnarchy 10:00am via Twitter for iPhone
BA Hons in Witchcraft or is it a vocational course? @UniofGreenwich

SurrealAnarchy 10:03am via Twitter for iPhone
You would think that witches could just get on their brooms to get to UniofGreenwich or does that comes tee on in the course!?

SurrealAnarchy 10:04am via Twitter for iPhone
Perhaps you should look at making being able to fly a broom part of the entrance criteria?

Explanation tweet, sent later

UniofGreenwich: There have been some funny tweets about our witchcraft course being cancelled..Witchcraft in the Early Modern World is the exact title :)

bigsocietyis 10:33am via Web
@UniofGreenwich - Is the early modern world the same as the late old world ? Does witchcraft worry about time ?

andreasESC 11:54am via Twitter for iPhone
Are we collaborating with Hogwarts?

jillmcph 12:51pm via Web
@UniofGreenwich 9 am on Monday is always a curse-d slot!

calamityjane65 9:18am via Web
@UniofGreenwich if the witchcraft class works, surely you can expelliamus all hindrances?