Thursday, 30 December 2010

A faraway Christmas

A Christmas Eve journey:
We were supposed to be staying at my ‘ancestral home’ (a cottage in a tiny out of the way village, clinging to the coast of Cornwall) during Christmas week.  However, my lovely Mum had a few problems earlier on in the month, which meant the letting agency had double booked us with some paying guests... The phrase ‘no room at the inn’ soon sprang to mind as my daughter, Twilight Kitten and myself were already on our way to Cornwall with all of our worldly possessions squashed into my box like, dilapidated car. Poor Mum, she was really upset, but luckily some friends of hers with a spare barn stepped into the breach. It hadn’t been occupied for a while and although it was beautiful, it was soooo cold ! We spent our first night sleeping in our clothes with two hot water bottles and the kitten for initial warmth, followed by : A double duvet; woollen blanket; single duvet; fleece blanket and bedspread! I admit I did let out a few mild expletives during the night, but I did pay for this, as it involved a lengthy explanation of what ‘godforsaken’ meant.
The following morning, things had warmed up a little... My daughter bounced out of bed early to open her presents, while I chose to stay under the bed layers a little bit longer !

Christmas day:
My daughter’s three favourite Christmas presents were her roller skates, ‘Cowboy Woody’ and’ Buzz Lightyear’ characters.  So of course, we had to spend quite a bit of time roller skating... I only wish they had them in my size! My favourite present was the one she gave me, a little gingerbread house tin filled with ‘Lush’ bath bombs.
The highlight of my day was each of us went for a cruise in my step-dad’s open top car, it did nothing to warm me up, but boy did it blow the cobwebs away...
All of my family are vegetarian, so rather than the traditional Christmas dinner we had my mum’s excellent nut roast, plus trimmings – it was heavenly !

The rest of the week?

On Boxing Day we had a bright and breezy walk on the banks of the Helford River in the sunshine, stopping to collect sea glass and a huge scallop shell (with both valves intact) on the shore.  We also found a fisherman’s shed which looked just like the ‘shrieking shack’ from Harry Potter. Our walk was followed by warming drinks at the Shipwright’s Arms.

Hopefully we’ve got a nice evening ahead on the 29th. We’ll be back in the ‘ancestral home’ by then, plus more family are coming down from London to visit.
Each year we usually have a talent show, everyone has to join in (no exceptions, not even for curmudgeonly octogenarians). There should be nine of us taking part this year. Highlights from previous years include: A knot tying demonstration; re-enactment of a scene from ‘The thief of Bagdad’ and a rendition of ‘Best of both worlds’ by Hannah Montana.
I wonder what will be on the programme this year? Who knows ? Although I reckon ‘S’ and me have got it covered with our duet version of ‘Scarborough Fair.’
 J’s Record of the week:
Rock Lobster


The B-52’s

Rock Lobster, written by Ricky Wilson and Fred Schneider was released in 1979 as part of the B-52’s first album. It had only moderate chart success in the USA, but did manage to reach number one in Canada.
I know it’s not particularly Christmassy, but we did have a fantastic journey down to Cornwall... The majority of which was spent singing along to this song (at full volume), which is a particular favourite of my daughter’s. Some may say she has good music taste, just like her mum!    Jerushah X  

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Thrills and spills in the snow :

It was early morning on Saturday and at about 8am my daughter and I set off to her music lesson. I was concerned about getting there on time and I think my brain didn’t register the frosty conditions on the road. To get back to civilisation,
there is a very steep lane (we call it ‘Fairyland
Lane’ because it looks as if the trees are
dusted with icing sugar) which has a sharp left
 turn at the bottom. I turned, then realised that
 the car was not responding at all... In fact we
were skidding out of control towards the hedge on the
other side of the road ! I just had time to say
‘Ok we’re going to crash !’ before impact...

My daughter hurt her elbow on the seatbelt
lock and I jarred my shoulder. Although we
were otherwise unhurt, our poor car sustained
a cracked bumper.
My Canadian Dad says there are always huge numbers of car accidents accompanying the first snow fall each year, after which the levels tail off throughout the winter season. 
What does that tell us ? Possibly that foolish people like me do not learn from their mistakes ?
We’ll have to wait and see ! 

Pizza keys:
Now here’s a funny thing... Have you ever lost something and have absolutely no explanation as to how it got lost? It happened to me last Friday ! It was a cold, dark night and we had been shopping to Tesco’s (this fact will be important later). We pulled up outside our cottage, I got out, grabbing my house keys and the shopping bags simultaneously. I got to the front door, set my bags down to open it, then realised that the keys had somehow vanished from my hand. I searched everywhere on the ground and turned out the car until my torch batteries died ! Finally I decided to admit defeat and ask my landlord, let’s call him ‘Farmer H’ for the spare set he was very good about it and suggested that perhaps I should check my shopping bags.    
When we got in, my daughter searched the bags, while putting the shopping away (she’s great like that)... and did they turn up ? No ! By Saturday we had given up and got a new set of keys cut. As far as I was concerned the matter was closed... That was until I went to cook a pizza last night ! I opened the pizza box to find... Guess what? The keys had somehow got inside... all very strange !

Goodbye to Research Methods :
It is with a little bit of sadness that I completed my research methods course last week. Here are some of the highlights:
*      In the first lecture we found out what Hermeneutical meant – Thanks ‘MJG’
*      The endlessly patient lecturer ‘CC’ who endured all sorts of silly questions from yours truly and friend ‘K’ even though we did not need to incorporate any qualitative data in our research projects.
*      The sense of humour of ‘E’ thanks for giving us a lot of laughs!
*      In the fourth lecture ‘DG’ gave us a useful format for the structure of our projects.
*      ‘K’ constructed an excellent pro forma for questioning diatoms and bog men just in case there were any opportunities for qualitative research.
*      The many layers of ‘R.’
*      The fun we had during our coffee breaks – thanks Pilkington !
*      The endlessly surreal input of ‘KJ’ which included ‘Jerushah, now I know how old you are I will have to talk to you in a completely different way!’
*      Brave ‘K’ who wore shorts just to honour a bet (see previous blog post)!
*      Our statistics lecturer ‘SY’ who was always approachable, even for statistics dummies like me.
*      Last, but by no means least ‘PJAB,’ the one who made it all possible!

J’s record of the week :

‘Agua de coco’
by Marcos Valle

Silly me! I had been racking my brain to think of an appropriate song for Christmas this week. After many vacillations, and I might add, questionable suggestions from friend ‘S’ and a not so questionable suggestion from friend ‘N,’  I finally came up with ‘Agua de coco’ by Marcos Valle.
Why did I choose this song? Mainly due to my very poor understanding of the Portuguese language! I thought the title translated as ‘Hot chocolate.’ Great, I thought just the right sort of warming drink for the snowy weather of Christmas week. However it actually means ‘Coconut juice!’
Never mind, it’s a good song and having translated the lyrics I quite like them so I’m going to stick with it anyway. It was released on Marcos Valle’s 2003 album ‘Contrasts,’ though I first discovered it this summer on the ‘Brazilian lounge’ album produced by the Putomayo label.
At least my Portuguese friend ‘E’ will be happy... Natal feliz everyone! Jerushah x

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Sweets for my sweet !

Sweet love :
With most of our stuff packed away, we’ve had to get a little bit imaginative with our homemade Christmas presents this year( we don’t go in for Christmas shopping in a big way, it’s far too stressful!).  It’s all good though as we’ve decided to make large amounts of different kinds of... CHOCOLATE !
So far we have made chocolate & butterscotch hearts and white & dark chocolate almond petit fours. Later on in the week we plan to make chocolate & marzipan stars and chocolate & ginger brazils.  Hopefully our friends will love them as much as we do...
...and yes, we did try one of each... Purely for quality control purposes only!

Cake Monday :
Since moving to our new ‘ovenless’ temporary place, everyone has been suffering from the effects...
At the beginning of the week my daughter was quite pleased that I’d bought a box of six pre-wrapped chocolate muffins for her lunch box, however by Wednesday she said ‘Oh no, not those again I’m fed up with them ! Can’t I have your nice cake instead mum?’
Also, I used to take cakes into work every Monday morning and there were some sad faces in the office this week when I arrived ‘cakeless.’  As for the friend I sit next to each Monday (I love Mondays  - me and her always have such a laugh while devouring my cakes), her cake withdrawal symptoms had progressed so far that she was looking at ‘Baby Belling’ ovens on ebay by the end of the day– I live in hope !
Presentation blues :
I’ve tried to be cheerful  (the chocolate helped)for the first part of my blog, but I’m afraid to say I suffered a complete disaster in my academic life this week... I was very proud of my research methods presentation. It was on the topic of my own research, chock full of information about my project - I’d even done a special lab photo shoot with my research supervisor and a colleague for the methodology section. I had experienced a few problems with my formatting earlier in the day, but thought it had all been sorted. Everything was ready and twenty minutes before the presentation session I decided to sneak up to the room and have a quick run through... Alas though it looked just as bad as it had earlier in the day, with huge fonts and pictures in the wrong places – and as for the layout of my reference list ... don’t even go there! In the twenty minutes between 1.40 and 2.00 I continued to try and fix it, and so did my lovely friend ‘K’ but to no avail ! It was with horror that I realised it was 2pm and nothing more could be done. Despite the reassurances of my understanding research supervisor ‘A’ (you can see him in my photo’s) and very kind course coordinator ‘P,’ I was already shaking by the time I stood up to give my presentation. I managed to fumble through it while simultaneously apologising for the appearance of the slides. By the time the questions came at the end of the presentation, I could barely think or talk and was in no condition to give sensible answers. I’m sure I should have learnt some sort of lesson from this, but at the moment I’m still trying to work out what it is...  All I can say is that my friends are amazing and were a great comfort to a very troubled Jerushah late yesterday afternoon.


J’s record of the week :

‘You’ve made so very happy’
by Brenda Holloway

This song was recorded in 1967 and reached number 39 in the US Billboard charts. It was not released in the UK until later on.  I only discovered it earlier this year when I bought the ‘Big hits and hard to find classics’ album. Listening to this song is like having an immense, comforting hug and I certainly needed a hug this week!  Jerushah X

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Great weather for shorts !

Woman flu (much worse than man flu):
I have to admit that I am not my usual bouncy bubbly self this week as I have a rotten cold! It is so awful that my office colleagues have been standing a bit further away from me than usual and I have been sitting in self imposed isolation in a forgotten corner of the office! Despite my best efforts, I am sure I must have passed on a germ or two here and there this week...

So apologies in advance anyone who caught my cold!!!

After effects of the snow ?

I feel the need to report that there has been some very strange behaviour around the Medway campus this week...

Firstly, I came out of the Pilkington to see a guy run screaming down the steps from Central Avenue. Fire?  I thought... Flood? No, that happened in Blake Building. The poor (t-shirt clad) guy was being pelted from above with snowballs by his friends (I use that term very loosely). He made a break for the Pilkington door, only to virtually slip over on a patch of ice he hadn’t noticed...  

Secondly, my friend ‘K’ was coerced into wearing shorts to our Research Methods lecture on Wednesday... and the reason? She had the ill fortune to make (and lose) a bet about Frankenstein’s monster with our distinguished course coordinator ‘P.’

I made a future mental note not to make any wagers with academic staff... Take this as a cautionary tale and remember, they know an awful lot about an awful lot and not always what you’d expect!

J’s record of the week :
‘Last Christmas’
by Wham

It is with great reluctance and considerable embarrassment that I have chosen this song for my record of the week.

My friend (or fiend? Not sure!) ‘S’ gave me a great suggestion to solve our housing crisis temporarily. In fact his idea worked out so well that it truly made the best of what could have been a bad situation, and we are now happily enjoying our cottage as a result! Jokingly I said ‘I owe you a big favour S_ _  after supplying an idea of such brilliance!’ to which he replied ‘Actually Jerushah, there is something you can do for me....’

Yes you’ve guessed correctly he asked for his own request for ‘J’s record of the week.’ I am a woman of my word... though you know what the worst of it is? I do really have this record on real vinyl somewhere in a ‘cupboard of shame’ at my mum’s house where all my embarrassing teenage music choices of the 1980’s came to rest.

I didn’t tell my friend though, I’ll just let him read my blog! Jerushah x

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Moving on up - Whatever the weather !

Research methods:

It can safely be said that last week’s research methods lecture created more questions in my mind than it answered!
In order to do my PGCE a few years ago, I took my GCSE maths when I was 29 and got a fantastic (not bragging, you’ll read why in a minute) grade. As a result, I’ve been suffering from a bit of over confidence where maths in concerned ever since! In fact I’d be thinking that having slayed the evil maths monster of my childhood, I could cope with pretty much anything in that department...
How wrong I was - I certainly had my comeuppance!
In fact, I felt so at a loss I was even too afraid to tell our nice lecturer  ‘S’  lest I display my total, absolute and entire ignorance of statistics! ‘That’s fine’ I thought. No problem I can just put it all into Excel and let the software take the strain... That was until I realised that it had all changed with the advent of Windows 7 and that all those nice ‘right click’ short cuts had gone.
Only my friend ‘K’ knows the horrible truth...
I was left wondering:
‘What is a binominal distribution?’
 ‘How on earth do you perform a t-test?’
‘Is the central limit theorem important?’ and ‘Do I need to worry about p-values yet?’
Now, after a bit of worrying and some surfing on the internet, I think I’ve found the answer... Here is a photo of me reading ‘Statistics Essentials for Dummies.’
I’ll let you know how I get on!
Moving on out :
I know I’d mentioned in my previous blogs that we were waiting to move house, it seemed to take forever, but finally at the end of last week it happened. They say that moving house is one of the most stressful experiences and I would definitely agree.
For three days preceding the move it had been snowing, and by Friday there was over a foot of snow outside the house. We kept thinking that it would be postponed as it seemed sheer stupidity to even drive a car down our street, let alone a removal lorry. Never the less, at 12am on Thursday night some very earnest removal men (who had arrived seven hours early in preparation for the morning) knocked on my door just to let me know that it was all go for the next morning.

A restless night, then an early start and the full force and chaos of the move was upon us! There were a few events that really summed up the day including:
- My fantastic friend ‘N’ and her little girl ‘A’ who invited my daughter to play all day to remove her
  from the pandemonium.
- The friendly, endlessly patient, uncomplaining, hard working, careful and reasonably priced  
   removal men.
- The whole street of neighbours who came out with their shovels to clear the road of snow and help
   the stranded removal lorry... Thanks guys!
Well...  On to pastures new,  our new place isn’t ready yet so we’ve put all our stuff in storage and have rented somewhere until after Christmas (really makes one wonder how much of the house clutter we need, as at the moment we are just fine with a suitcase each, plus the kitten’s things).
 It is lovely and very remote in deepest Kent.  There were a few thrills and spills trying to get there through the snow on Friday evening (including walking the final quarter of a mile with our bags and a poor frozen Twilight kitten in a basket), but the sheer joy of arriving at a cosy, warm cottage after that is indescribable !
J’s record of the week :
‘My heart cries’
by Harvey Fuqua
and Etta James.
I first discovered this song as a bonus album track
when I downloaded the re-released 1961 Etta
James album ‘At Last.’
Harvey Fuqua (who passed away earlier this year)
was a founder member of ‘The Moonglows’ and
mentor to Marvin Gaye amongst other Motown
legends. This beautiful song consists of soaring
harmonies between Etta and Harvey and reminds
me of starlit nights on snowy fields - very fitting
for the weather this week!  Jerushah x