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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...in India.

Posted on: Monday, 12 December 2011

In case you missed it, my sister and the lovely Krish recently got married in a Hindu-Catholic Fusion extravanganza. T'was a beautiful day at Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland.

She looked a stunner in the morning...

...and as much of a stunner in the afternoon.

(I mega-love this photo. I love the pride radiating from my ma and pa's faces)

So we are going to India for part two. On Friday. For Christmas and New Year (although we leave at 4:30am on New Years Day, so no all-night-raving for me. Dammit. Ahem).

"Oh, how WONDERFUL!" gushes everyone when I tell them. Jane in the canteen. Pam in Admin Support. My camp hairdresser. "You must be so EXCITED!"

"Oh, yes, I am," I respond, nodding wildly. Inside I'm screaming. ARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHH. Who would have thought a holiday would be such an ordeal?

For a start, there was the most unhelpful website in the world: Indian Visas R Us. Gah. Trying to navigate around it was an absolute bloody nightmare. My sister had to hold me back from dashing my brains out against the screen whilst screaming, "I have a degreeee! This shouldn't be so haaaard!"

Although it was almost worth it for photos like this:

And you thought Movember was over. I have nightmares about the fella in the top left. Look at his eyes. Actually, don't. Ugh.

But now I have a visa. Hurrah. A tourist one, for three months should the fancy take me to go a-wandering. Damn you, mortgage, Damn you, job.

So far, so good. I then had to put up with insane numbers of emails at ungodly hours from my mum. Scanned photocopies of her passport. And my dad's and brother's. Could I book in online for them? Queries about currency and how much we were bringing and oh-my-god-you're-not-allowed-to-bring-rupees-in-what're-we-going-to-dooo? I had to meticulously plan my escape from work on Friday so I could go West (life is peaceful there) and get to Manchestaaarr Airport on time. I have to write Christmas cards BEFORE Christmas Eve. Like, sober. All this correspondence. It's like the wedding all over again

Work! Argh! Erm, know any teachers? Always got a massive backlog of marking that they're always whinging about? Counting down the days to the next holiday/marking marathon? That's me. Except I will be leaving in four days time with every mortal task DONE. Every piece of work marked. 

And I'm not there yet. Double-gaaaaah.

But the greatest challenge thus far hasn't been any of this. Oh no.

It's been trying to find summery clothes in the UK in December.  

I trekked Leeds and found boots and woolies. Nothing that resembles a sandal. I am left to rely on my summer of 2011 wardrobe (err, so that would be my I heart York t-shirt and a hoody. If you remember, reader, we didn't HAVE a summer this year. That day in July we got married? The only hot day of the year. FACT. Well, with the exception of that random hottest 1st October which was, like, 75 degrees and I bought the aforementioned I Heart York t-shirt). 

I tell a lie. I made two summer purchases. Now, I dislike clothes shopping generally. It stresses me reet oot. So step up, Joules. You need to be commended for keeping me just on this side of sane. I know you are stupidly-expensive but you are so very pretty.

When you're not overdone. That's a bit twee.

Bedders always whinges that i don't wear enough colour. What can I say? My default position is navy blue. And grey. I like school uniform colours. So I was well pleased when I worked up the guts to buy this.

And then I worried that it looked a bit, well, mental.

So I did what any sensible girl would do. I asked my mum.

"Mum, do you like this?"

Mum, looking me up and down.

"Oh, lovely. Aunty Bridey used to have a pair of curtains like that. I made an apron out of them." 

Great. So I'm off to India in a pair of curtains. Thanks, mum.

A book that will make your heart stop.

Posted on: Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I was offering an trainee teacher some advice on interview questions today.

"What did they ask you? he asked. "In your first teaching interview?"

So I thought back. And I thought. And I stroked my chin and thought some more.

And I really couldn't remember.

I remember my interview for the PGCE. I remember the man who would become my lecturer entering into an impromptu role play about behaviour management and acting out the part of a 15 year old boy. A fifteen year old boy who hates poetry.

He scrumpled up a piece of paper on his desk and threw it at me.

"That's what I think of your fucking handout," he said. "What are you going to do?"

Ah. Rightio.

But that's another story.

Thinking about it now, at my first school interview, they must have asked me about classroom management. About assessment. About what makes a good lesson. About what makes a crap lesson. They must have asked, 'Why THIS school?'

But there's only one question I can actually remember.

"So, Laura. What are you reading at the minute?"

The words couldn't tumble out quickly enough. "Oh my God. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Have you read it?"

The Head shook his head.

And I started blethering on about it. About Maurice and Sarah and their torrid affair. About its post-War bleakness. About what a desolate read it was, and how fierce. About the tug of war between Catholic morals and the wartime spirit of "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!" About Sarah's death, and Maurice's terrible realisation that his love is shabby and shallow. Maybe not just his love - maybe all love. What the hell is love, anyway? About Greene's wider messages about transience and human selfishness and dishonesty. I imagine I didn't tell him that I'd dropped it in the bath. Or that it appealed to my highly-developed sense of morbidity.

Or how I was scrawling quotations from it in my little book of the time.

The Church offers privileges, Mr. Miles, as well as responsibilities. There are special Masses for our dead. Prayers are regularly said. We remember our dead,” he added, and I thought angrily, how do you remember them? Your theories are all right. You preach the importance of the individual. Our hairs are all numbered, you say, but I can feel her hair on the back of my hand; I can remember the fine dust of hair at the base of the spine as she lay face down on my bed. We remember our dead too, in our way.

What outrage. How dare you claim your cool pious grasp on my love was greater than my physical knowledge of her? I knew every inch of her. She was mine. Powerful, eh?

But that fire doesn't last. Time gets us all in the end. Greene tells us so, the miserable bugger.

Oh, she doesn’t belong to anybody now,” he said, and suddenly I saw her for what she was—a piece of refuse waiting to be cleared away; if you needed a bit of hair you could take it, or trim her nails if nail trimmings had value to you. Like a saint’s her bones could be divided up—if anybody required them. She was going to be burned soon, so why shouldn’t everybody have what he wanted first? What a fool I had been during three years to imagine that in any way I had possessed her. We are possessed by nobody, not even by ourselves.

Oh, and this. It's beautiful.

"...but when I tried to remember her voice saying 'don't worry,' I found I had no memory for sounds. I couldn't imitate her voice. I couldn't even caricature it: when I tried to remember it, it was anonymous – just a woman's voice. The process of forgetting her had set in."

It's absolutely stuffed to the gills with hit-the-nail-on-the-head writing. Note the indiscriminate, crazed quoting. I wolfed this book down, I tell you.



Sometimes I don’t recognise my own thoughts.

OK, so perhaps you don't want to kill yourself over Christmas. But when you're feeling like you want to indulge your maudlin side (just me, then?) I thoroughly recommend this gritty beauty.

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