Friday, June 30, 2006


I’m feeling restless. My mind doesn’t stay on one topic for long, I stand up and walk around the office, I break off mid conversation and start a new one. I flick from thought to thought without finishing any. It’s leaving me feeling frustrated and twitchy.

I would like to be able to say “I long to…” and whatever it would be, would fill me with calm and peace. But I don’t know what I long to do. It changes from minute to minute, hour to hour and moves so fast I cannot focus.

I feel like a ball of tightly bound energy. Every nerve ending is electric, ready to jump at the slightest provocation. There are butterflies in my stomach and tingling in my fingertips. I have spent the week flitting between thoughts, what I want to do next, what I want to read, what I want to watch, where I want to sit, or to eat, or to drink. I cannot settle on any decision without an almost instantaneous opposite popping up in my head.

At a time when a large proportion of the stable things in my life are changing, it is ironic that I look for more to change. Instead of sitting back and dealing with what I already have to face, I find myself looking for more “improvements” to make. It’s almost like “buy one, get one free”: if I’m doing this now, I might as well get this and this out of the way at the same time. And so I find myself re-evaluating everything, looking at what I want to be different and trying to tackle it all at once.

However I have made no decisions, and this leaves me feeling adrift, restless and frustrated. Perhaps it’s time to take a break and come back to “me” with fresh eyes.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

on sam

A couple of weeks ago I spent an afternoon with Katharine and my godson Sam, who had just been diagnosed as autistic. We caught up on recent events and wandered to Preston Park to gossip with a beer, enjoy the sunshine and let Sam have a run about. It was only a brief stay, but one which opened my eyes to one of the many difficulties that Katharine, Rich and Sam face.

Sam loves gates, and doors, and anything else that opens and closes. Whilst sitting in his pushchair on trips to the library, he will watch the automatic doors open and close. This causes great excitement, his arms flap, his hands clasp and his legs wiggle in joy.

He also loves to open and close the gate that leads to the play area in the park. Unlike other small boys, the swings and slide hold no interest for him. He only has eyes for the gate, which he opens and watches with glee as it bangs closed.

Unfortunately the problem arises when other people want to use this gate, and quite naturally, don't understand why the lovely blue-eyed boy is trying to push them out of the way, or slowly crumbling into tears, or worse still, screaming in obvious distress. Most people move through the gate, look bemused and carry on, forgetting the incident within seconds. But there are the odd one or two who simply want to stand it front of it, or lean against it.

It is an effort to explain why it would be appreciated if they could move, they looked confused and in the end there is the inevitable disclosure of Sam's autism. It is traumatic for all, especially if people still don't understand. Sam, who doesn't either, begins to cry and then to scream.

These little things, a simple trip to the park, are in fact not simple at all. Instead a battle to be fought, to communicate that Sam simply wants to open and close the gate. There will be many more battles as Sam grows up, but I'm proud to know that Katharine and Rich will continue to fight them, whether big or small, with the same love and devotion for Sam. He is, after all, the best godson in the world.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The results are out, the final year students have been and gone, finishing their three years at University with, on most accounts, the degree they expected. It was a good week, a mixture of excitement and hard work that kept our adrenaline up until the end, when we all collapsed exhausted but happy to have been a part of it.

Now we have a breather, of sorts, whilst the marks for our second year students come in. Once that is done we go through the whole process again, although without the same excitement. By the middle of July it will all be over for another year.

After spending Friday afternoon napping in recovering, and a quiet evening regaining my brain, on Saturday it was back to work. Although this time it was work on the house. Mum, Dad & I built new banisters for the steps in the garden, one of the final bits of work needing to be done before the house goes on the market. Today Mum is going about visiting estate agents and the scaffolding that has been cutting out all the light into my house will finally be removed.

In a way I feel as if I've just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Last week is the most stressful week of the year at work, and now starts the most stressful time at home. Although I would love the move to go smoothly, I am fully aware that happens very rarely. There will be problems, there will be issues that need to be ironed out, and there will be inevitable delays. I just hope that there aren't too many.

It is exciting though, to be on the edge of another adventure. There have been so many adventures recently, but I'm not complaining. A good adventure stirs the soul, and that is a fabulous feeling.

Friday, June 16, 2006

long grass

Today is a day for lying around in tall grasses on picnic blankets. I want to sip champagne and nibble sun-warmed strawberries, leaving sticky fingers to wipe. I want to lie in the grass so all I can see is the blue sky above me and the tops of the grasses, waving in the breeze.

I'll never forget spending one spring under the daffodils. I was small enough that I could lie amongst them and look up under the bright yellow trumpets. They would fill my vision, I'd watch bees fly from flower to flower and time didn't seem to pass at all. I was so upset when, a year later, I was too big to fit under the daffodils. I'd grown so much that I could only flatten them.

I remember making circles of flattened grass on the Downs, little islands to sit in hidden from view. And rolling down the hills, bump after bump, until I lay panting at the bottom, covered in bits of grass and twig and giggling.

Tomorrow I think I'll go in search of tall grasses, I'll tumble down hills until I'm covered in bruises and come home giggling. But first I must sort out my passport, for as lovely as tall grasses are, Paris is beckoning.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


And so it begins, the busiest working week of the year. This morning has been a wonderful rush of questions, with paper flying from printers and copiers, people dashing from office to office, urgent phone calls and emails and everywhere there are marks.

It is my favourite time of year, I love the panic and the urgency, the constant deadlines and hurried meetings, but only because it lasts for a comparatively short time. If life was like this every day I would have burnt out rather quickly a while ago.

Most of all I love the day of the classification meeting. I rush from printer to computer, meeting to meeting, taking endless phone calls and making copious notes. Then there is the quiet of the classification, before the most nerve racking part of the whole process - where I write the pass list. It gets checked, and checked, and checked again, before I walk out into the sunshine, mafia style flanked by my assistants, list in hand. The mass of students before me supercharge the air with emotions, those few minutes pass in slow motion.

Nothing beats the shouts, the grins, the smiles and hugs and kisses, those gloriously happy faces. It fills your heart and all the stresses and the strains of the previous week wash away. Those smiles, they more than make it worth the effort.

Monday, June 12, 2006

bournemouth bound

Although more solid looking than Brighton's piers, Bournemouth pier doesn't have quite the same beauty. I decided this whilst sitting on the deck of West Beach restaurant, glass of wine in hand and gazing out across the glorious sandy beach and blue sea on Saturday evening. It was the perfect place to be sitting, sunshine beating down on my burnt nose and forehead, whilst I looked over the menu.

In the end I decided on white mushroom soup to start, followed by halibut cooked in a red wine sauce with mash and asparagus. By this time we had moved in from the deck to get away from the sudden and raucous chants of those inescapable football fans; drenched in Stella and swaying.

The food was delicious and made the perfect stop gap between Monkey World and the Pier Theatre. I suspect, however, that our later plan of cocktails at Hot Rocks was a mistake. Sickly and far too sweet, they cloyed to our tastebuds like toffee to teeth. Of course, that didn't stop us from having a second, just to make sure they didn't improve with time. Again, a mistake. They most definitely did not. But a small price to pay for such a splendid day.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


The news that the assessment boycott has been suspended whilst members of the UCU vote on the pay deal means that my workload is now at full tilt, exam scripts piling up left, right and centre and marks flying in at rapid rates. Despite this sudden influx I find myself severely distracted this week, something not helped by the bug I seem to have picked up.

I spent yesterday curled up in a small and sorry state, trying hard to swallow orange juice and all things good, whilst my throat burnt as if I had swallowed acid. I am, even now, dosed up on aspirin, sucking on plums and guzzling down vitamin-c laden drink to keep the germs at bay. But I know that it is not the germs that are distracting me.

Out of my office window the sky is a perfect duck egg blue. The sky light dapples through the leaves, which gently wave in the breeze; dancing on the end of their supple branches. There is that glorious smell of cut grass, the distant hum of conversation and the occasional lobster-red shoulders of sun worshippers. Of course, as lovely as it is to finally have summer here, it isn't that which is distracting me.

I know what it is that makes me smile through the day, what makes my heart sing and my spine tingle with excitement. And I know that, in my heart of hearts, I don't really mind being distracted at all because, you see, it's wonderful to be me; I am quite ridiculously happy.

Monday, June 05, 2006

brighton frocks

On Saturday, Katharine and I downed glasses of white wine and headed out, in true Ab Fab style, to the Brighton Frocks Show at the Concorde. Despite having a 7pm start on the ticket, we found the place remarkably empty when we arrived, and having refilled our glasses a number of times, easily managed to get a front row spot overlooking the catwalk.

Just over an hour, and much wine later, the show started. An array of Brighton based designers showing off their new creations, with the majority being exciting designs. I was greatly impressed by the fabulously frilly knickers of Ophelia Fancy, who brought ballet and tap dancers to the catwalk. Fetique put on a fabulous show, with the most uncomfortable pair of shoes I've ever seen and a lovely blonde writhing for the cameras.

Two hours passed remarkably quickly, as we were shown a wide range of designs to suit any taste. At the introduction it was mentioned that within two years, Brighton Frocks hope to run a Brighton Fashion Weekend. With so many exciting designers I can see this as a possibility, and look forward to next year.

We finished off the evening with dinner at Zafferelli's and, naturally, another bottle of wine. After all, these things have to be done properly!