Saturday, April 26, 2008


The girls attended cheerleading classes today. Well, only one took part, but the other had to watch for 'moral support'.

So now Dolly is a signed-up member of the Junior 'G Crew', official cheerleading squad to the Belfast Giants Ice Hockey team. We don't even like ice hockey.

And of course, she has to practice, hence the new blog music. If you have to have the sound on, I advise the use of earplugs. Industrial strength ones if you have access to them.

Friday, April 25, 2008

More on the concept we call the pyjama mama

Cosmo, please take note:

I have made a further discovery regarding the life of the frequently-spotted pyjama mama. Previous to this current exposure to the breed, I believed that they only delivered their children to school wearing their night attire.

After further study in recent times, I am able to confirm that they also collect their children from school at 1.30pm, still sporting their night attire. Even in the rain.

The other, more distressing discovery I made this week is that I am now teaching my pupils kids :-(

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Irish weather

Irish weather has been declared Muslim:

It's partly Sunni, but mostly Shi'ite

Waiting on the fatwa!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New blog alert

Much in the way my sister-in-law encouraged me to start blogging many moons ago, I have been working on a friend to do the same.

Of course, my sister-in-law had the advantage of being a psychiatrist. So, if she'd recommended that I stood on my head in the middle of the street to make me feel better, I'd have done it. I am on the other hand, just your ordinary nutter who nobody takes too seriously, so my job has been more difficult.

But hey, my efforts must have worked because look!

I'm not going to say too much about my friend or her blog - you'll just have to pop over, say 'hi' and find it all out for yourself, but I can promise this; this is going to be a blog to watch!

(No pressure Wils!!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

100 random things about me

Wallace at Irish Rain encouraged me to try this after I made comment on his list on his blog. It is not as easy as it looks. It has taken days! So here it is, not in any particular order, my list:

  1. politics bore me rigid
  2. I am jealous of my daughter's eyelashes and my son's hair colour
  3. summer and Christmas are my favourite times of year
  4. I can be a bit of a tidy freak
  5. as a rule, I don't vomit
  6. I have a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award
  7. my hair is probably officially grey
  8. I play the bodhran
  9. sand is better than snow in my opinion
  10. I have fired a gun, I'm a pretty good shot
  11. my only piercings are in my ears
  12. gardening is not my thing
  13. I want to visit the islands of the South Pacific, all of them
  14. don't ask me to get on a horse ever again
  15. I am not a morning person
  16. my cup's generally half full
  17. I hate feet
  18. geocaching is my current 'sport' of choice
  19. I went to school with Ian Paisley Jnr
  20. the first car I had was an old mini
  21. my mum does my ironing
  22. I had half my hair cut off once for a show. The left half.
  23. every plant I touch dies
  24. I know how to get incriminating photos of Pluto
  25. quilting, cake decorating and scrapbooking have all been hobbies
  26. if I had one wish it would be to die before my children
  27. my hair is 100% naturally curly
  28. thanks to Jaws, I'm scared of fish
  29. if you need a wall plastered, I'm your girl!
  30. the only sport I watch is rugby
  31. I have eaten rat
  32. David Soul was my hero even before I met him in a hotel lift in Dublin
  33. I could eat Turkish Delight all day, and sometimes do
  34. when I can, I buy Fairtrade
  35. organisation is my strong point
  36. coffee goes straight through me
  37. my sister-in-law turned me into a Desperate Housewives addict
  38. I have never had a ticket or points on my license
  39. The Beatles, The Who and The Stones - no thanks
  40. I taught English in Poland
  41. the tonsils are gone, but the appendix is still there
  42. I am terrified of heights
  43. baking and cooking over cleaning any day
  44. my current ringtone is Girl from Belfast City
  45. I honestly do like camping
  46. Ben & Jerry's phish food is the best icecream in the world
  47. I've never broken a limb
  48. the best book I ever read was Brian Keenan's An Evil Cradling
  49. given a chance, I'd spend all my money on holidays
  50. I won a prize every year at school
  51. Cancer Research is my charity of choice
  52. I have a wee job that nobody knows about
  53. Songs of Praise rejected me
  54. anaesthetics don't agree with me
  55. I lived in a mud hut in Africa for a while
  56. my home was wrecked in an IRA bomb
  57. crisps are my weakness
  58. I wear a lot of black
  59. for a year I paid money to a gym, but I never went
  60. I've worked in a pharmacy
  61. once I was Brethren, now I'm non-denominational
  62. filling in forms drives me nuts
  63. I have travelled pretty extensively
  64. purple is my favourite colour
  65. I worked alongside UNHCR in Croatia during the Balkan war
  66. Martini with lemonade is my tipple
  67. I have osteoarthritis
  68. my 1st teaching job should have been in the Bahamas, but I turned it down
  69. best concert I attended was the Eagles, Dublin 1996
  70. I hate, hate, hate football
  71. Top Gear makes me laugh out loud
  72. I have been to several garden parties at Buckingham Palace
  73. sometimes I write for a satirical website
  74. I can waterski
  75. secretly, I've always wanted a go at being an air hostess
  76. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most moving place I have ever visited
  77. I have had a mental illness
  78. I always leave the coconut ones in liquorice allsorts
  79. freesia are my favourite flower
  80. we had kids from Chernobyl stay with us for re-hab
  81. I'd rather be rich than famous
  82. my pet peeve is finding used teabags in the sink
  83. you can't beat Karen Carpenter's voice, or Michael Buble's, or Bryan Adams ...
  84. scrabble and yahtzee are my games of choice
  85. I once bought my husband half a grave for Christmas. He bought me the other half
  86. I'm in a book club
  87. I don't do sleep deprivation
  88. what's a screwdriver? what's a hammer?
  89. benefit makeup works miracles
  90. I have a head like a sieve
  91. my perfect pizza is mushroom and pineapple
  92. I love the smell of honeysuckle, suntan lotion and fresh cut grass
  93. culturally, more Irish than British
  94. I generally only swear when I'm watching rugby
  95. my old art teacher begged me not to do 'O' level Art
  96. apparently, I always order the pasta
  97. I support a child in Kenya through Tear Fund
  98. shhhh, I'm not supposed to tell you this; I was a Samaritan
  99. unfortunately I know all the words to High School Musical
  100. I've just discovered I don't like writing lists

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gee, thanks!

I made chicken korma for dinner last night. I mean I didn't order it from a takeaway or buy it prepared in Tescos, I made it from scratch.

I knew by the look on her face when she sat down at the table :-(

She put a forkful in her mouth, and pronounced:

'You know, this actually tastes quite good!'

Everyone's a critic

My little one was playing in a rugby tournament today. Luckily, despite having an inch of hailstones for the Ulster Magners League match last night, today was a splendiferous day (I apparently, have a bit of a tan about my face!) so I was able to go and watch without suffering the risk of a further chest infection or a bout of hypothermia.

I don't mind doing the touchline thing, apart from one factor: other parents. And unfortunately, today was no different.

My little one plays for the P3 team, that's 6-7 year olds. IRFU say you have to be 6 years old to play mini-rugby (though a few always creep in under the wire) so this is their first year of playing. IRFU also state that at that age they are to play tag rugby with no contact. All good sensible stuff.

The reality of the situation is that 6-7 years olds are kids who don't always remember to pass the ball behind them, don't understand the 'offside rule' and sometimes enthusiastically run in touch in their desire to get to the try line. I've even seen them run down the wrong end of the pitch in their efforts to get over a line. So, they're only wee, and it's only a game, and you want to encourage them and make sure they enjoy it.

As ever, there are two type of parents at these events; the winning parents and the losing parents. Let's start with the winning parents today. I had one standing beside me during the first game who really should have been on the pitch refereeing the game himself. Some of his mantras included
  1. touch, referee, touch
  2. referee, they're offside
  3. get in their (by this he meant the oppositions) face
  4. referee, are you watching the run of play?
  5. we got that tag 5 yards up the pitch ref

Now, I'm not one for listening to this kind of piffle at a 6-7 years olds tag rugby match. At an Ulster match, definitely - in fact I've been known to be quite vociferous myself. But there's a time and a place. And this was not the time or the place. So I gave him a look. Which, I have to say, he manfully ignored, but his wife caught it and started to say things like, 'it's only a game dear' and 'I think you're maybe taking this a nit too seriously'. You think, eh?

Then there's the losing parents, of which, today, I was one. All sweetness and light when the coaches are standing chatting with them, but as soon as the losing starts they are criticising 'selection procedures for teams' and 'coach involvement on the pitch', taking a pop at 'the way the team have been trained throughout the year' ... I could go on.

I have a husband who is a mini rugby coach. They are at the ground first every Saturday morning for 9am, and they leave last when all is tidied up. Or when all the kids are collected, which sometimes can be up to an hour after the session is over. They also have mid-week training and matches on occasions and frequently have organisational/planning meetings during the week, particularly in the run up to events like todays. This morning, the coaches were at the grounds from 7am to set up. They were there until 5pm this evening. And they are, of course, all volunteers. In fact, they have to pay membership to the club for the privilege of coaching other peoples kids, whereas the majority of parents just turn up and show no financial allegiance whatsoever. And yes, if coaches have kids, their kids still pay full wack mini rugby fees as well.

So, if you are a parent with issues, be a coach I say. Or get married to one. Then come and criticise with impunity.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

10 years old today

The Good Friday Agreement,


'The Peace'

Plan for your future

I had occasion to be in an old peoples residential home recently.

I noticed that about five minutes after we arrived the residents seemed to be getting up and vacating the lounge to form an orderly queue at the office. Well of course, nosy me, I had to go see if I could find out what was going on.

They seemed to be returning with little plastic beakers. Ah! Medication I think. Obviously I was staring a little too hard, because one of the care assistants winked my direction and explained that it was 'tipple time'. Whiskey and sherry to be precise, and its administered three times a day.

Well, I guess it must save then a fortune on anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

It's true what they say: be nice to your kids, they choose your residential home.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


  1. I have noticed that when the couple next door take their dog for a drive, it sits in the front on a cushion and the wife sits in the back seat
  2. The family on the other side of us are moving to Austin, Texas in June for two years because of work committments

Friday, April 04, 2008

Turn your sound on

What's that then?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


It was with a knot in my stomach that I read this report on Steve's blog today.

To summarise, teacher David Buckley, writing in the Guardian's education supplement, tells the sad story of how he visited the Facebook site called 'The Dave Buckley Appreciation Society' and got a bit of a shock. He found himself described as patronising and disorganised with ill-fitting shirts and coffee stains on his clothes. He's had the site closed down, arguing rightly, that he signed up for scrutiny from a small audience not an international one.

As I commented over on Mustard Seed Shavings, I think this piece is absolutely horrendous. Personal attacks and incidents like this are why good people are leaving the teaching profession in their droves, and why the government are finding it so difficult to recruit others to the job.

There are, in teaching as in most other jobs, proper structures in place to evaluate the effectiveness of staff, and procedures for correction where appropriate. These include OFSTED (or DENI locally) inspections, the reports of which are published on the appropriate body's website for public consumption.

Then there's PRSD, the Performance Review and Staff Development scheme, were teachers are reviewed annually 'on the job' by their Principal or a member of Senior staff designated by the Principal. This involves monitoring of performance and classroom observation. (The outcome of these reviews is actually linked to pay, so they are not insignificant!)

Let's not forget about League Tables, a document published that showed the results for each exam class in each subject at every level in every school. You could use these documents to see, for example, what grades the class of a colleague who taught the same subject in another school got.

It's one thing to be judged by other professionals in your field. It's something completely different to be judged by those who are neither working in your field, nor professionals.

For years I taught students who didn't want to be there, didn't want to listen, didn't want to learn, didn't want to do any work and didn't want a job because they knew they could live very nicely on Government handouts thankyou. So, because I persisted in teaching the syllabus, because I expected them to listen to me instead of their MP3 players, because I pushed for coursework (and coursework of what I considered an acceptable standard for each individual pupil), because I expected a level of behaviour above 'riotous' in my classroom, and because I pushed them to be the best they could be, do the best they could do, improve themselves and their opportunities, I was judged. I was the bitch. Actually, I was the f**king bitch.

Of course, I wasn't the best teacher in the world, but I'd had my fair share of positive reports from DENI Inspectors and my exam results were always above average both in my own school and across other schools. I wasn't a greenhorn or a soft touch either - I held a fairly senior position within the school. However, where some of my students were concerned, because I didn't let them listen to their music, chew gum, swear at each other or me, do colouring in all day, talk about (or even to) the oppostie sex, beat each other up, write paramilitary graffiti and smoke or drink in class, I was a rubbish teacher.

People in some other professions just wouldn't take the abuse that a minority of students who act as judge, jury and executioner deal out to their so-called 'rubbish' teachers. Mine were rude; personal and hurtful. They told me they hated me. Frequently. I was sworn at and threatened. They made up ficticious stories. I was man handled (I was pushed off a bus when I was five months pregnant). They went out of their way to try and make life hell in the classroom. Will I go on? I'm thinking you're getting the picture.

And today, it's on a whole new level because they do it in the public domain of the internet. Go see 'Rate my Teacher' dot com.

It's bullying. And it's hateful, and it's hurtful, and it gets you down.

But, let it be said that, as in the story of the 10 lepers, there was generally one student who came back at the end of it all to say thankyou, and that in itself made it all worthwhile and maintained my sanity for many a year.

Just for the record, this wasn't the main reason for my breakdown, which led to me resigning my full-time job. However, who's to say if the constant wearing thin of my elephantine hide by such behaviour wasn't a contributory factor to it. One thing was for certain, life had got to the stage were I had to stop raising other peoples kids and start enjoying raising my own while I still had the mental capacity to do it.

PS. I think I need to finish off by saying that I love teaching, which is why I'm still doing it instead of working the till at Tesco!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dopey, dopey mummy

The stupid thing here is that all schools had different holidays, with as much as a week between them starting, so although the schools I work in, my brother works in and my niece goes to all finished for Easter on the 14th March, my kids school didn't finish until the 20th March. With the result that we had to take our kids out of school for four days so we could all go to Stowe at the same time.

Now everyone else is back to school, and my kids have another week off. Of course, the great advantage of being a sub teacher is that I can pencil out this week to look after them. Of course, the great disadvantage is that when I don't work, I don't get paid!

Anyway, they had been given some work to do over the holidays to make up for what they missed on those last four days and yesterday we (reluctantly) started it. We have a few jobs that need to be done as well, and this morning we set off to buy the new music book Michael needed for returning to school.

We had just set off when my mobile rang. My end of the conversation went something like this:

'Hello' pause 'Oh hello Mrs McClure'.

Shocked faces in the back seat of the car, Mrs McClure is the kids school secretary.

Giggles 'Oh good grief, I don't believe you!' pause 'I'm so sorry, I just didn't realise'

Scared faces in the back seat.

'OK Mrs McClure, thanks for letting me know' pause 'OK, bye!'

Immediately from the back seat 'I told you we had to go back to school today Mummy!' At this point they first worked out how Mrs McClure had known they weren't at school and then they worked on a plan for not getting into trouble with their respective teachers. Michael phoned his dad to tell him the bad news.

'OK' I say 'do you want me to turn back and take you in now, or will we wait until we've done our message?'

Silence, and then in panic 'But we've not finished our homework yet! ' A quick glance in the rear view mirror showed that tears were welling up in eyes.

'Never worry' I said, 'you don't have to go back today, we can go home and finish off the work and then you can go back tomorrow with it done.'

Pause 'Oh, and April Fools!'