Friday, 8 April 2011

Bitter sweet

The day started off rather bitterly as I had to go for a smear test. This is a godawful thing for any woman to go through as an instrument resembling eyelash curlers is shoved up your privates and then the shover has a root around to get a good look at your cervix. It's so undignified but it must be done as regular screening ensures that any changes can be detected earlier. I was mildly curious to see that the instrument of torture has now been changed to some plastic contraption (which must be more hygienic I hope than the previous, re-usable thing). Before I was subjected to torture, the nurse noticed that I had been called in for high cholesterol last year and went on about my need to change my diet. I was weighed and despite joining a Zumba class, had lost sod all weight. The advice is to cut out: Cheese, chocolate, biscuits, bread, carbohydrates, crisps and ICE CREAM. She didn't mention cake but I'm sure that's on the banned list. I almost feel that I might as well be dead but having a child soon puts an end to such selfish melodrama.
Afterwards I trundled off home and sadly told Mr Plummy that it best we give our plan to visit the London 2011 Chocolate Festival a miss. One of the reasons I love my husband is that he is able to say "Pah" to nonsense and so after lunch off we all went to the South Bank.
Wasn't it gloriously hot today in beautiful London? Probably not the best weather to be hanging around a choccy festival, no matter how pretty the decorated items were. We tried a bit of salted caramel (nice) and tot had some vanilla choc all the way from Italy. There were only a few stalls and my best one had a chocolate raspberry ladybird for £5. Luckily for our wallets, heat put us off carrying anything around so we looked but didn't buy.
It was a nice surprise to see Greenwich Meantime Brewery with a stall here. I didn't notice if they had any chocolate beers but I'm sure tomorrow when the crowds really get going, they will do great business. The pose the young man held as I quickly took a photo was very funny.
A nice stroll past the Eye and back towards Cannon Street lifted my mood no end. Along the way, I took a few more photos with my little phone. The silt/sand sculptures were particularly impressive but I did worry about the man spending so much time in Thames Water - is that safe?
And of course, like on any sunny day, we had to stop by the ice cream van. Don't worry - I was good and had a cone of Lemon Sorbet. Please don't tell me this is on the banned list too.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Proper pukka education

The start of this week was pre-occupied with primary school selections. While we wait another year to apply as litte one's birthday is just after the cut off date, a lot of our friends have had their emails/letters telling them where their kids are going to be placed. Some were happy to have got their choices, and some were very unhappy and will be going along the appeals / waiting list route. Anyway, this mood had me tuning into Jamie's Dream School. I am not a fan of reality TV and think most of is shockingly bad. However, out of curiosity I had recorded the whole series to date but just not been in the mood to watch it as the Cheeky Chef annoys the bloody hell out of me.
This show is not about the reality of teaching, the state of our education system or the problems of disenfranchised youth. It's ENTERTAINMENT, car-crash gawping enhanced by the clever use of editing to make us see how awful some kids are and to feel huge amounts of pity for the quiet ones who want to get ahead but don't have a chance as their classes are constantly, continually disrupted. When a teacher is faced with 30 kids I can see why they have to exclude some for the good of the majority.
As far as I can tell, the only person with any expertise in secondary education is the head teacher "Dabbs" and he ends up in tears by episode 4 out of sheer frustration. I have heard many teachers leave the profession due to bad behaviour, but surely this head teacher has had to deal with difficult pupils before and even if it's not so concentrated, it only been a few weeks. Sheesh - what, if anything he is bringing to the process? (Have to say too, a head master who calls himself "Dabbs" is not really going to get much respect - in my day it was "Mr Edwards" (not his real name)). Oh god, I sound like David Starkey now :(
I have toyed with the idea of being a teacher but my goodness; I'm having second thoughts now.
That old adage "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" was shown to be bollocks - it used to be deregatory towards teachers as they were people who couldn't succeed in a given career and were reduced to teaching instead. But a teacher who is not good at a subject is never going to be a good teacher.
People Jamie found inspirational (but the kids didn't know mostly) struggled as they were not given one iota of secondary school teacher training. Even David Starkey and Mary Beard who are used to teaching undergrads struggled.
One thread that has come up again and again is the short attention span of the children, esp. when they are not in a hands-on creative class. This is often blamed on portable technology – however, being able to text/chat/surf whilst being in a meeting is a valuable skill enabling participants to be present in multiple locations at any one given moment - a fantastic skill that we shouldn't know huh ;)
I'm going to keep watching (and blogging and tweeting) until Jamie's irritating personality drives me to throw my mobile at the TV. It's pandering to my fears as a parent especially the fear that feral wildchildren will be waiting to lure my daughter away from her studies and woes betide me if I let them succeed in turning her to the dark, dumb side.
This show is not going to come up with any solutions that the brightest and best teachers, heads or educators in the UK haven't already thought. It's just going to tell that us what we know - give the resources the show has to each school in the UK, give the decent teachers some respect and support (get rid of the shite ones), change the size of classrooms, help the people who fall outside of the system and then we can all marvel as our kids are engaged with real life A&E, biodomes, the beauty of poetry and power of photography.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

English Curry Awards

I really should not read the Greenwich Curry Club's excellent posts when I am hungry. We've ordered a take out but after reading the GCC's latest post, I am now RAVENOUS.
To take my mind off things I just googled Curry Awards. Those North of the Border have had the Scottish Curry Award for a few years (nomination forms can be downloaded here) and for the last 5 years there are the Welsh Curry award (top 30 restaurants list here). Now, a new English Curry Award has been set up with the final being held later this year in Manchester.
Personally I felt Manccy restaurants were poor compared to the ones in Bradford/Leeds (Aagrah for instance)- but neither city's offering were a patch on the Birmingham Balti restaurants from my student days that provided much needed manna for this little round indian gal.
If you are interested in nominating a restaurant follow this link: English Curry Awards
For the more swanky among you there is the well established British Curry Award which features Shampan 2 in Bromley. This is a sister restaurant to Shampan 3 that StuMayhew recently told me about and one I shall be checking out soon.
Did have a giggle that the Chief Guest at the 2010 British Curry Awards was Rt Hon Eric Pickles...pickles, Indian restaurant geddit???
Finally, if you want to put in your tuppence worth then send your recommendations into the Cobra Good Curry Guide - they are compiling the 2011 edition now.
Argh I'm really hungry now. Must resist temptation to eat a chocolate bar while I wait

Another Hallmark Day

Thanks to the advertising power of the card, flower, chocolate and gift companies we seem to lurch from one holiday to another. Christmas followed by Valentines, then Mothers day, then Easter, then Fathers day then Halloween, then Christmas. I am sure I've missed a few. I've left out Hindu holidays too like Holi (festival of colour) and Diwali (festival of light).
Cynical me thinks the meaning of these days is somewhat watered down. And also as the domestic servant in this house, having a day off to be with the family is probably the last thing I need ;)
I have told my husband that I don't want a Mother's day card until our daughter is old enough to choose one. This year, I got a handmade card from her made in school, which features an origami tulip - my new passion so all the more special. It makes my heart go Ahhhhhhhhh as does the fact that she keeps wishing me a happy Mothers day. Sweet.

Does make me think though and here are my advert free greetings:
Happy Mother's day to all the mums out there.
Happy Mother's day to all the nans and grans out there.

And special good thoughts go to:
Happy Mother's day to all those women who have lost kids
Happy Mother's day to all those who are desperately trying to be mums. This day may be shite for you but I hope one day it will be a reason for joy.
And finally, Happy Mother's day to all those who have lost their Mums. I know exactly how you feel and wish I could hug the pain away.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Crafty cafe

A mate and I took our kids along to the playground next to Lesnes Abbey - very exciting to see the addition of more playground parts including a cool looking castle.
After a little walk around the Abbey ruins during which my tot decided to test her echo rather loudly, we made our way to the new Crafty Cafe on McLeod Road in Abbey Road.
This is a bright cafe with plenty of space between tables making it ideal for parents with pushchairs. The menu had a lot of options (inc an all day veggie brekkie!!) and a long children's menu.
We sat by the windows and watched the world go by while we waited for our order. Unfortunately, it was a long wait as the service was slow even though they were not overrun with customers. When the drinks and food arrived, my friend's brownie with ice cream was enjoyable but I was not impressed with the thick, unnatural tasting milkshake for my daughter, her dense cupcake and my cappuccino that tasted like a normal filter coffee. My simple cheese on toast took nearly 20 mins to arrive and when it did, one side was not cooked. There was another delay when paying took a long time as the server struggled to find out how much to charge us.
The cafe runs craft sessions for children on Tue and Thurs from 3.30 to 5pm - which costs £2.50 per child. For this, the child is given a drink and allowed to take home what they create which the waitress assured us would not be the normal crafts.
You know what though - I am going to put today's experience down to teething issues (and as the waitress explained a problem with their grill). There is a woeful lack of cafes in this area (and none in Plumstead) let alone those catering to children and with the aim of being a community cafe - next time I'll just take some yarn and hooks along so I can crochet while I wait and I'll be sure to order a normal coffee and something simple to eat like cake.

106 McLeod Road
, Abbey Wood, London, SE2 0BS
Currently open Mon to Sat 9am to 5pm. Closed Sundays except for specially pre-booked children's parties.

Local honey

I've got that familiar itch in my nose and on the roof of my mouth which signals the annual arrival of hay fever for me. I suffer quite badly and without a steady supply of pills and nasal sprays, will end up a snotty, miserable wreck with red swollen eyes and nose. I have the ability to sneeze louder than a Boeing 747 usually achieving about 6 or 7 outbursts in a row. Sound like I'm proud of this but I'm not - I love the outdoors but on high pollen doors I'm confined to my house like some sad Howard Hughes type recluse.
I've been that locally produced honey can help so I was excited to read about the kids at the Charlton Manor Primary School who have a hive in their gardens. Unfortunately, the school has just told me the bees are now hibernating and they will not be producing honey until July. That's wonderful for the kids but unfortunately, not great for me.
So my question to you all - have any you ever tried locally produced honey and where did you get it?