School holidays and working conditions

Aren’t school holidays wonderful? I am enjoying a week off from being a government sponsored child minder. So far I’ve been ill, done some tidying and random housework and marked four boxes of students’ work.

It’s quite a change of work style going from “normal” work conditions to teaching. Previously I was used to working in a shop five days a week with a token amount of holidays per year. The two days I was entitled to could have been together, or spaced out depending on the week and situation. The holidays had to be booked in advance and negotiated with other people to make sure it all fitted. And before that I used to work twelve hour days and get one day off a week with no holidays whatsoever because it was seasonal work so we had the entire winter “off”. Before that I used to work in an office doing whatever hours we needed, with the only guaranteed holiday being at Christmas.

Go into a school and suddenly there’s all these laws and regulations about how and when work is done. If you’re not a teacher, here’s how life goes:
Continue reading School holidays and working conditions

Nearer to home

So, I am sat in Philly airport (gate A2 for the interested) waiting for my connecting flight to Frankfurt. Why Frankfurt? Because it’s the only flight going that way which has spare seats. Then we get a flight to Birmingham, and I pay more money for the extra day of parking.

Yes, about that extra day… Originally my flight from Philly to Birmingham direct was going to get in at 6:25am UK time. According to the new itinerary that someone invented for me, my Frankfurt to Birmingham flight would get me in at 9:20 on the same day. Despite me setting off a whole day later.

Last night I was sat in bed trying to work this out, and it made no sense. It made even less sense to the checkin desk people who found it quite amusing. The automated checkin machine printed to parts of my journey off and then shut down, evidently thinking I was insane. It seems that whoever invented my new flight schedule forgot the small fact that days are 24 hours long, and at some point you need to go onto the next one. So yeah, I would be flying to Philly at 6:45am US time, and five hours earlier at the same time I would be flying from Frankfurt to Birmingham. Then, later today I would catch another flight from Philly to Frankfurt.

I don’t think they managed to mess the space-time continuum up that badly in Star Trek.

Only pain in the arse is that I don’t have an European travel adaptor for my laptop, so when I arrive in Frankfurt I’ll have nothing to do. Maybe then would be a good time to go insane? I will get home at some point…

A hard day’s touristing

Montpelier, VT
Montpelier, VT

Armed with my DSLR camera dangling from my neck, and a VISA card that has to be full by now, I and my cousin, aunt, uncle and two interesting family friends set out for some hardcore sight seeing. I needed to get my sister and mum a birthday present too, so I was trying to buy any interesting looking tourist tat I could find.

We first went out to the Cabot cheese place just up the road, which had lots of free samples to stuff your face taste. I decided the 50% fat and other lighter cheeses were quite tasteless, but once we got around to the aged cheddar and the one with the habanero chillis in the cheese became tasty and much more pleasant to eat.

After that we went to the Ben & Jerry’s factory down the road, which claims to be the first of their factories ever built, and where it all started. The tour was the usual corporate cattle-hearding, but it was cheap and the tour guide had a suitably sarcastic sense of humour – “I’ll leave you to watch this video. Sorry, it’s just corporate brainwashing, but you know, sit back and go woo”, “In this section you’re not allowed to take photos. No idea what’ll happen if you do, maybe you’ll go to Guantanamo or something”. The free sample at the end was nice and proved you can have a fairly nice free meal if cheese and ice cream are your thing.

Montpelier state house
Montpelier state house

After that we drove into Montpelier, the capital of Vermont (and pronounced in a totally different way to the French place of the same name). This is a nice traditional looking town, full of traditional American town buildings and streets. The capital building was interesting to walk around, and that in itself was surprising, that you could just open the door, wander in and so long as you stayed your side of the red velvet barrier, and didn’t open any doors, everything was fine. I don’t think you can wander about our government buildings so easily.

For dinner we had crepes, but not the French style ones, these were savoury and pretty good. I might try and make some when I go home.

On the way back from parading around Montpelier taking photos of everything we stopped off at Morse Farm maple sugarworks where I discovered I like the B-grade dark syrup more than the best quality stuff. According to some more tourist video we consumed, the B-grade stuff is mostly used for cooking, but there you go 🙂 it takes 40 gallons of maple tree juice to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, which explained why the 1 gallon bottles of it cost over $60.

I can’t decide now whether to sit around and read, or to go and lie in the hot tub outside. It’s such a hard life being on holiday 😉

Wedding at the lake

Dan and Mira
Dan and Mira

Saturday was the wedding of Dan, my cousin and Mira. It was held at Mira’s parents’ house which is a massive place amongst the forest on the banks of the Waterbury reservoir, Waterbury, VT.

As the unofficial photographer I took many photos and also recorded a video of the ceremony. Later when I get home I’ll sort through the pictures, videos and create a video of the whole thing.

After the ceremony we all went to the local fish and game club for the reception. It was a large wedding, with around 150 people attending, being a mixture of family and friends. This part of the US is known for growing corn, and the wedding meal was a giant chicken and corn BBQ. The corn on the cob was so sweet and unlike anything available in the UK.

Dan outside the house
Dan outside the house

Sunday was spent tidying up and returning various guests to the local airport to catch their flights home. People had visited from all over the US plus my other aunt and uncle who had come from the UK.

On Monday Me, Rob and remaining friends went out to a local microbrewery for drinks and a meal. American microbreweries produce excellent beer, completely unlike the crap we buy in the UK. It’s every bit as good as our UK beer. We especially liked the porter.

Today me and Rob are going into Burlington to visit the shops, I need to buy some birthday presents for various people.

Final holiday preparations

The three important things you need on holiday
The three important things you need on holiday

I’m off to the US to attend my cousin Dan’s wedding, and also to go for a bit of a holiday. I’ve got my tickets, found my passport, and even completed the daft “are you a terrorist?” questionnaire/visa waiver form.

The flight’s tomorrow morning at 8am, so like normal I’ll have to get there for 6am. Fortunately I’m not travelling alone, my other cousin, Rob is also going so at least I’ll have someone to talk to during the long flight. I’ve also got my iPod Touch charged and full of music and games.

Let’s hope tomorrow goes to plan, and that there’s something interesting to do in Philadelphia International Airport since we have a four hour stay there between flights. Maybe there’ll be a quiet corner to plug my laptop in.

Drowning in the marking and paperwork

Our office at work
Our office at work

It’s that special time of the school year, just before the Easter holidays where coursework needs handing in, the year 11s are going crazy and everyone is a little burnt out. Working in a normal job for six weeks straight is neither extrordinary or particularly difficult, but teaching is different. Now that I’ve got them working rather than messing around I’ve got to concentrate on the difficult thing of forcing information into unwilling brains.

The image you see here is of our office, in its natural state. It looked like this five minutes after we moved into it and gets neither any messier, nor any tidier. Well, the box on my desk moves occasionally and usually I can see my keyboard. God knows what’s in those in trays, probably important stuff I should have responded to a month ago.

What you can’t see is three plastic boxes full of year 11 coursework that I need to sort, check and then mark. Yes, I will be spending the Easter holiday marking kids’ work (or looking at their work and thinking “you have been in my lessons for two years and you have produced nothing…”).

Deck the halls

tree-lightsIt’s Christmas again, the time of year when we get to put up bright sparkly things, consume large amounts of food and do not a lot. And every year there’s the same routine of putting up the decorations.

First they need to be found, probably in the darkest, dustiest corner of the house. Once found and the spiders evicted it’s time for the untangling of the lights. This ritual can take hours, with the less patient people uttering the phrase “ahhbuggrit let’s buy some new ones”. During December the binmen must throw away miles of tangled Christmas lights that have only ever been used once.

Then there’s the problem of knowing where to put the tree. Does it go by the TV? On the windowsill? No, it can’t go there because there’s no socket for the lights, and if it goes near the TV will it suddenly set on fire? Let’s just stuff it on the table in the corner. With the tree up, weighed down with more tinsel and baubles than the tree in Harrods and the lights working it’s almost time to take it back down again.

And that’s a whole different story.

Musings of a MAME cabinet

Got my hair cut, it no longer looks like a bush and after a quick (but expensive) spin round Asda I have some new shoes, a new t-shirt (with cool Space Invaders logo on) and a bit of food.

This holiday has been good, I’ve been off to France on holiday, sorted out my website, seen friends and generally had time off. It would have been good to have completed a project that I’ve been meaning to do for years which is build a MAME cabinet, however I lack the space in my house to put one.

I have all the parts, I just need the wood and space to put one. I’m getting rid of a big TV to my sister’s so maybe I could put one in its’ place.

Chamonix Photos 2 – Le Tour

One of the walks we went on started from Le Tour and went over the Aiguillette des Possettes after a brief wander into Switzerland. The weather was excellent, being neither too hot nor too cold, clear and sunny all day. The terrain was fairly easy to walk over too. Here’s today’s selection from a much larger set.

The summit
Mont Blanc through the trees
Mont Blanc through the trees
A cairn
A cairn
The Swiss border
The Swiss border
Mont Blanc from Le Tour
Mont Blanc from Le Tour