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W/B November 30, 2020

2020, the year that keeps on giving!

It’s turned cold this week – winter is definately here.

So, we made the decision that we can’t risk going home for Christmas. It’s a horrible decision even if it’s the right one. The 3 families rule means we couldn’t see both sides of the family so we’d have to choose and, in all practicality, it would have had to be my side since that’s where we can stay. But, in that case we still wouldn’t be able to see everyone. Add to this the fear of the virus. I’ll admit, my forced self-isolation followed by having to carry out tracing for another student in a different one of my classes means I have been exposed to at least 2 positive cases in the last 2 weeks. The girls and I travel on public transport every day so have potential exposure there. They are both at school so have that whole exposure risk too. The self-isolation has scared me a little, how easy it is to put yourself at risk even though you follow the rules. The possibility that we might carry the virus down and pass it on to either set of parents is too much to contemplate. Some may think we’re being silly but I think we’ve taken the rules seriously all year, we’ve caused ourselves difficulties and distress by not seeing anyone so it would be silly to risk harming those we love for the sake of a few days when vaccines are realistically on the horizon. That’s our decision, we’re not happy with it but we think it’s the best.

Thursday I turned 50. Not the way I’d hoped to spend my half century anniversary. It was really icy in the morning and having cycled really carefully and kept on gritted parts of the roads I got into school and came off my bike on the ice. Landed on my knee, wrist and elbow. Knocked about and quite sore but no major damage thankfully. Lots of opportunities for my colleagues to make jokes about “having a fall” and reaching that age. Anyway, not my best birthday, not even any chance to go out for a drink and a meal in the evening because we’re in level 4 restrictions. Still, gifts and cards when I got home and loads of messages on Facebook so I feel loved.

Friday morning and the ice has gone but it’s been replaced by cold hard sleet. Cold, wet and windy!

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W/B November 23rd

A few months since I last posted, I lost momentum in September and started work in the middle of the month which ate into the time. I restarted posting on my Political Loser blog a few weeks ago and will try and restart this one from now on. We’ll see how it goes.

Today is my first day back after a week or so in self-isolation. I was in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid and had to quarantine myself until 14 days had passed. The 2 weeks were up yesterday and I re-enter the world today.

I’m working in Perth and am quite pleased with myself for keeping up the cycle/train regime despite the nasty weather. It was awful this morning- really wet. This afternoon is really windy so not nice going home either. Its about 6km each way (on the bike) so not too far and cycling makes the run to/from the station about 10 minutes. Not exactly tour de France but it’s every day so its definitely doing me some good.

I’m quite enjoying being back in state schools. There’s something noble about the struggle to get the best for children with such a diverse range of needs. I’m a much better teacher having worked internationally for so long than if I’d stayed here but I’ve lost the social worker instinct and have to reskill in the motivational areas. Still, all teachers lifelong learners so it’s a good challenge.

So, Wednesday morning and chance to have a good look at the lockdown rules for Christmas. Oh! 3 households for 5 days. Possibly worse than staying in lockdown. No mixing between extended household bubbles. This means we have to choose between sharing the time with one side of the family or the other. How can we choose? How can we avoid upsetting someone? It is simply impossible.

It’s been a tiring week, at least Friday is here at last. 1 day to go then a rest.

Scotland has placed an 8 person limit on Christmas gatherings. Doesn’t really affect us as we whatever happens it’ll just be us when we’re at home. The wider UK rules are really tough though. There’s no way we will be able to spend time with both sides of the family. My thinking is that we’d be best just staying home, waiting for the hoped for vaccine in the spring and go down for Easter for a full family blowout. I’m not sure how well that will go down with everyone else though! I have become aware of the effects of the varying levels of lockdown on my mental health. I am becoming much more insular and reliant solely on my immediate family. We’ve always been a very close family unit due to our years living abroad and having to rely so closely on one another but I was expecting to settle into a more normal routine when we came home with family, wider family and local friendships forming the usual rings if support and engagement. Circumstances have meant none of that has happened and I think I’m more dependent on my immediate family than ever. I don’t think that is a bad thing really, but I worry that I don’t see anything of pleasure outside of family just now.

First dog walk for me for a while because of self-isolation, work and shopping and it was cold but lovely.

But this is what the top of the dog’s outside water bowl was like.

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W/B September 7th, 2020

Another week of variable and unreliable weather, leading to a couple of days where the river had absolutely burst it banks again and had flowed over onto the footpath where we walk the dog.

September 7th, 2020
September 8th, 2020
September 8th, 2020
September 9th
September 11th, 2020
September 12th, 2020
September 12th, 2020
September 13th
September 13th
September 13th
September 13th

Had a frustrating week for getting out on the bike this week. My crank arm is wobbling again and there’s a crock in the chain guard so it really does need a full (and probvably expensive) service very soon. I have tidied “S”s bike up and am going to start using that. It was a good week for “E”, though, as we picked up her new bike from Halford’s on Wednesday. She’s very pleased with it.

New Bike Day

Overall I didn;t do too badly on my Virtual Land’s End to John O’Groats mission.

My Virtual Mission – Land’s End to John O’Groats
My Virtual Mission – Land’s End to John O’Groats

On Wednesday I received my PVG update so I am able to start work at Perth Grammar School covering for one of their Technology teachers who is off long-term. It’ll be a bit of a shock to the system being back in the classroom full-time but it will be important to be able to update myself on the new curriculum so I can start to apply for SLT positions if we want to stay here in Scotland (which at the moment we certainly do). Due to start on Monday. Working 4 days per week (Monday, Tuesday, TYhursday anf Friday). IN order to get there I’ll need to take the 6:23 train from Stirling which is going to be tiring.

On Friday we finally received the call that “I”s blazer is in. I’m still quite annoyed that they need a completely new blazer and tie uniform for their final year – espacially when they finish in March for the end of year assessments.

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W/B 31st August 2020

Another week waiting to be able to start work. Starting to get bored of this now. The weather has been all over the place as can be seen by the dog-walking photographs.

Monday August 31st
Tuesday September 1st
Wednesday September 2nd
Thursday September 3rd
Friday September 4th
Saturday September 5th
Sunday September 6th

Managed to get out on my bike 3 times this week. Doing a slightly elongated route but simpler due to the building work going on. I do our basic dog walkling route twice. It clocks me up to 8km and I’m pleased that I’m managing to improve my speed over this distance.

This is moving me on well with my Virtual Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge. I’m in Exeter now.

When I was out wioth the dog this afternoon there was a microlight flying above the river. Show’s how nice a day it was today.

Microlight

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Dessert Uncategorized

Chocolate Ice Cream

Heat 300ml double cream, 200ml milk, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 100g dark chocolate and a pinch of salt in a pan, without boiling, until the chocolate melts.

Seperate 3 eggs and whisk the yolks together before pouring over the liquid.

Refrigerate for up to 24 hours before finishing in an ice-cream maker.

Chocolate Ice Cream
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Mince Pasta Pork Uncategorized

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Our version. I make no promises to the authenticity and apologise in advance to our Italian friends.

Fry 2 finely chopped onions with a teaspoon of minced garlic in olive oil until the onions start to turn transparent.

Add 300g of pork mince and 100g of bacon lardons to the pan and fry until the meat is browned.

Add 8 tomatoes (quartered but with the skin on) to the pan along with a large cup full or chopped fresh parsley and a bunch of chopped fresh basil and oregano.

Add a table spoon of tomato puree then stir through 500ml of vegetable stock.

Bring to the boil then turn down to a very light simmer and leave for 2 hours.

About 45 minutes before you want to eat, turn the heat up and remove the lid on the pan to boil off excess liquid to leave a nice, rich meaty sauce.

We serve with wholewheat pasta and grated cheese. One of our family favourites and a simply go-to recipe.

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Pork & Apple Pie

Finely chop a large onion and fry, in olive oil in a saucepan until they start to turn clear. Add 3-400g of diced porka nd 125g of bacon lardons to the pan and brown the meat.

Core the apple then cut into bite-size segments. We use an apple slicer. Don’t bother to peel the apple. Add this to the pan along with a chopped celery stick, a teaspoon each of English mustard, whole0grain mustard and mustard powder. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a can of sweet cider.

Put the lid on the pan, bring to the boil then turn down and simmer lightly for 2 hours.

For a final 2o minutes, turn the heat up and reduce the liquid to a nice consistency.

Transfer to a casserole and allow to cool slightly before adding a puff pastry top and plaving an the oven at 180 celsius. cook until the top is a golden colour.

We serve with green vegetables and chips which we cook in an Air Fryer. When we put the pie in the oven we heat up the fryer and cook the chips in 3 to 4 10 minute bursts.

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Potatoes Uncategorized

Fondant Potatoes

This was a wonderful dicovery on the BBC website.

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/fondant-potatoes

Fondant Potatoes
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Breakfast Uncategorized

Eggs Florentine

Warm Aberdeen Butter Cakes in the oven while making Hollandaise Sauce (we use a packet to which we add 300ml of milk – no shame in making things easier).

Spread Philadelphia cheese on the butter cakes they layer on 2 basil leaves and a handful of spinach leaves.

Poach two eggs (we use Poaching Pods from Lakeland – they are amazing) and pour over the Hollandaise. Enjoy!

Eggs Florentine
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W/B 24thAugust 2020

Monday August 24th

Up for the start of another school week for the girls and another week where neither “S” nor I are back in work. Today is the day I should be flying out to Madrid but I’m not. 2 week quarantine if I choose to come home or if anyone comes to visit me makes it impossible for me to contemplate. I have another posisbility which I hope will come through this week otherwise I might have to revise my decision and look to head out nonetheless. I simply can’t contemplate the idea of living away from the family.

The crank arm on my bike has gone so I took a trip to Halfords for another. Quite a result, really, they didn’t have a new one in stock but they did have a used one in their workshop which I got for free. The bike is now working again but it’s late in the day so I’ll go out tomorrow.

This afternoon “S” made this week’s pudding (Marlborough Pie) which is absolutely delicious. It’s a recipe we got from the BBC History magazine and while it’s a bit of a faff it tastes delicious.

Before that I made some bread. Not our most successful loaf. We’re using wholemeal flour and it hasn’t risen nearly as well. It tastes good and is still a good texture it’s just not fill up in the tin and risen to a proper shape. Possibly need more yeast for wholemeal bread or start to do a 50/50 with white flour.

The third food prep we made today was chocolate icecream.

It was quite a pleasant walk this afternoon.

Dinner was Fresh Green Openm Lasagne. This is an Independent recipe and was absolutely gorgeous. Highly recommend it. Since it is Meat free Monday it is, of course, vegetarian but it uses soft goats cheese so it’s not vegan.

This evening we watched Ender’s Game. This is a really entertaining film. Considering the average age of the cast the actors do not come across as pretentious nor do you tire of watching them perform. It’s thoroughly entertaining and surprisingly well acted. Well worth a watch.

Tuesday August 25th.

Storm Francis has arrived! So much for going out on my bike today. I even relented and drove the girls to school! It is a miserable day.

When I got back from the school run I cleaned the kitchen so we’re all sparkly clean and fresh smelling in here again now. Not that it was unclean but it needed a decent wipe down.

So, this week is gong to be a nbit disjointed as I stopped trying to write daily and have left it to the weekend. Not sure how this is going to develkop over the coming weeks. During the lockdown I was writing every day – mostly about absolutely nothing and simply reporting on the weather or wildlife on the daily walk, the games we played in the afternoon, the meals we made and the films we watched in the evening. Now things are getting back to normal that isn’t going to work so I’ll try and reflact on the week past each weekend.

Obviously, the daily afternoon ‘Game Time’ has ended now the girls are back at school. I think this was rteally impoortant to keeping us going as a family unit during the lockdown. So much so, that we did play games on Saturday and Sunday afternoonsThe evening Film Club has to change too. We were adding our suggestions to a jar and drawing them to watch each evening. A film is often too long to watch on a school night so we’ve been watching Life on Mars and the ‘lost’ Dad’s Army episodes that they’ve re-recorded. These are episodes which the BBC wiped after broadcast and which have been re-filmed using the original script. Once you get overe the initial jar of the wrong people playing the parts, they’ve been really good. It’s strange because we are all fans of the recent Dad’s Army film and didn’t have a problem with the different actors in that. I think it’s to do with the writing. The scripts for these episodes will have been written for the original cast so will play on the spacific way those actors played them. So seeing someone else read the lines becomes somthing of a characature. Anyway, we enjoyed them. And have really liked watching Life on Mars again (or first time for the girls).

The dog walk has seen some variation in the weather this week. Tuesday was vile and we’ve had rain some of most every day but I’ve generally been lucky when it came to dog walking time and got out dry. It has turned cold though, back to having to wear a hoodie when I go out instead of being out in shirt-sleeves.

Tuesday August 25th
Wednesday August 26th
Thursday August 27th
Friday August 28th
Saturday August 29th
Saturday August 29th
Cormorant on the Forth

We took “E”s bike to Halford’s for a service inspectipon and, as expected, it needed a lot doing to it. She’s had it a good few years and we had nowhere to keep it out of the weather in Romania and are in the same position here. Since she’s only just started using it regularly it’s in urgent need of some TLC. The total estimate was around 180 to 200 so it seemed more cost effective to look at a new bike for her. This is now on order and should be here by September 7th. I’ve also had a look over her current bike and made some running repairs so it should last her, safely, for the next 2 weeks. I need to take mine in too at some point. I suspect miine will be about the same to repair but mine will be worth spending the money on as it is decent bike which I need to start looking after if I’m going to keep using it so much. I’me anjoying living somewhere where it is so easy to get out and about on it. My plan, once I’m back at work, is to cycle/train to work so I am using it every day. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep that enthusiasm up through the dark winter months! All being well, I should be working again in the next few days (or week at most). I chose to walk away from the leadership job in Madrid on a strong chance of a teaching job in Perth. The thought of being away from the family was too much tpo contemplate. I can see some benefit to me being back in the classroom. If we are wanting to be settled back here in Scotland I need to upskill myself on Curriculum for Excellence. Currently, I have extensive management experience but no curriculum experience so I am ineligible for any leadership roles withinthe State sector. If I can gain that experience over a year then I can start looking at leadership possibilities within the Scottish state sector. We’ll see how this works out – at least it is a plan which doesn’t involve me having to be away on my own. Right now I’m simply waiting on my PVG report being returned to Perth & Kinross council before I can start.

Cycling 3 days a week at the moment is keeping my Virtual Mission on target. I’ve been going for 2 weeks on this now and have covered 10% of the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I’m quite pleased with that!