Monday, 22 October 2007

with a whimper

There then followed an intense period of angst, depression, silver service, self doubt and house hunting. Many heart torn emails were sent homeward (I still can't read them), many hours were spent in tears on the pay phone in the stairwell of the hostel.

I worried about finding a job, a place to live and other things embarrassing to mention (okay, I'll mention - I became anxiously fixated on the idea that the Y2K was going to happen and it was too far to get home to mum). On the day I bought a ticket I got employment and I was offered a room to rent, and we all know that 1999 bowed out not with a bang, but a whimper...

I am a twit.

Friday, 19 October 2007

'k' for kicking king (just because I have left school, doesn’t mean I have to stop letterland)

Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 11:24:25 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'k' for kicking king (just because I have left school, doesn’t mean I have to stop letterland).

Well, I have arrived in Edinburgh. I spent a lovely couple of days in the peak district staying in the village where Charlotte Bronte stayed when she started writing Jane Eyre and where Little John is buried. And it snowed and snowed and snowed. And everything was beautiful and the people I was staying with kept feeding me and feeding me. I tried to explain to them that I had been really quite sick in the previous two weeks, but they were a bit deaf and just kept offering me food.

I have found some sort of cheapish email place, which is still pretty xpensive so I will type fast. I am staying in the High street Hostel at 8 Blackfriars Rd. I am in a room with seven other girls.

I am on the top bunk by the door and there is a narrow aisle slightly wider than the door between the two sets of bunks. There is nowhere to keep my stuff, so I am sleeping with most of it. I am warm enough; it is actually warmer in the hostel than it was in my room at school. I had a shower last night and suddenly felt shy, so I went to the shower fully dressed. I, I who have been skinny dipping at Wannon Falls, Point Lonsdale and oh, that place near Rosebud; I who have been on nudie runs through paddocks and cemeteries and football ovals was too shy to go to the showers in a towel.

I don't know what to do now as far as finding work. I don't don't don't want to waitress. I don't know whether I should go to Aberdeen. Most places here did their recruiting for Christmas last week (it figures); there is the opportunity to do more work with little kids (woo hoo); or at a new place called the Wok Bar. I don't know.

I want to find somewhere to live with a stronger Scottish accent. At the moment all the girls in my dorm are Australian. never mind. Something will work out. I will soon stop feeling paralysed with the terror of making a decision and get something sorted.

Well I have another three minutes on the internet. So I am off

I love you all very much

ceels ____________________________________________________________

Saturday, 13 October 2007

another day another nosebleed (‘j’ for jumping Jim)

Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 16:43:57 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: another day another nosebleed (‘j’ for jumping Jim).

Once more I am knackered and once more I am sick. I was planning an early night last night. I was horrible last night and put all the girls to bed five minutes early because I was so tired. I planned to go down stairs and watch ‘Wives and Daughters’ (new costume drama from the makers of P&P) with Jenny in the B’s common room then go to bed.

At two minutes to nine, as I argued with the last of the A1s about whether it was fair that I was turning out the lights, someone started wailing. I went to investigate and found the new matron in Charlotte Rottenberg’s dorm panicking. Just as she had panicked the night before during the fire alarm. Admittedly there was blood pouring down Rotter’s face and she was in some considerable pain. The long and the short of it is that the Head of Boarding and I got to go to the Dorset county hospital in Dorchester. I sat in the back and cradled Rotter’s head in my lap and Eleanor (the head of boarding) and I kept her talking. The story is that she bent down to pick up the curtain sash and whacked her head on the sharp edge of the radiator. And there was certainly blood all over the radiator. Anyway, Rotter is now covered in stitches and is the centre of attention and I am knackered.

Yesterday there was a roller disco and I was coaxed into strapping on a pair of roller skates. Mmmmm. I didn’t fall over. I also got to watch some of the BBC Pride and Prejudice (oh Lizzie, how unfortunate we all seem to be). It would have been very relaxing and all except that the girls insisted on watching it with us. And, no matter how well intentioned they are, you just can’t make twenty pre-adolescent girls sit quietly.

Oh, and today at lunch (I know I keep going on about the stuff, but it is such a part of my life) Molly has a cold and one stage she coughed and coughed and coughed. She went bright pink and tears poured down her face. I asked her if she was okay and she said yes. A minute later she said, ‘My nose feels all a bit gluey.’ I replied ‘Oh yes, do you want to blow it?’ and she said, ‘Yes, phhhhttghhh’ and blew a bucket load of snot straight down her chin. What could I do but cry ‘Molly’ and go and get a tissue? You will be pleased to hear that Jack M ate all his shepherd’s pie.

I was in the nursery today because Yasmin is sick. The nursery is not a good place to be when you are so tired you can’t see straight. You definitely need to be on the ball if you want to stay a step ahead of these kiddies. they were all doing poos today. And telling me. They take extraordinary pride in doing poos, and what can I say to them but ‘well done’.

Jen has joined me in the computer room. Us Aussies need our email to keep us sane. We are both being terribly wicked using the internet during the day, but I think I speak for both of us when I say ‘asparagus’.

It may surprise everybody to hear that it is raining. Dull November dark and nippy, making roads and pavements slippy.

The weather has been unseasonably mild this past week, but all that has changed. Hey, the nineties are nearly over. Sorry, only just realised. With all the rant about the end of the millennium I’d forgotten that the nineties are ending too. Goodbye nineties. Most of the kids at this school were born in the nineties. Scary thought. Scary Spice, a lasting icon of the nineties. One of the girls last night started singing ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ and I threatened to send her to bed early for a week if she didn’t stop. She stopped singing, but she didn’t think I was serious.

You can turn out the younger kids lights early because they can’t tell the time. All you need in a dorm is one irritating little kid with a watch and the ability to read it. ‘But we’ve got seven minutes’. The easiest way with little kids is to not answer, if you allow yourself to be drawn into a response you’ll be there for hours. I am going to miss them. Last night Aggie was telling me how she had sneezed seven times in a row. I raised an eyebrow and said ‘Serious?’ she said ‘Yeah... isn’t it funny how you go tingly all over when you sneeze lots of times’ and people, that was nearly the end of me.

I have a nasty suspicion that I have tonsillitis.

I have a nasty suspicion that I haven’t got the job at the national theatre, but I am too tired to care.

But I am off now to do break duty.
love you lots,
ceels ____________________________________________________________

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

'i' for impy ink

Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 11:22:48 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'i' for impy ink.

This is the email I meant to send last time, but the email god (in its wisdom) chose not to send it. So here goes:

Well folks. I conquered London. I stepped of the train at Waterloo with the deep conviction that London was going to conquer me. My brain was already overloaded with what I had seen from the train windows of the suburbs.

The bus I caught from Blandford to Salisbury goes to the Blandford army camp. A soldier gets on the bus at the gate and won’t let you on or off the bus unless you have the right passes. He has a gun to enforce this. And the way people lived there looked depressing as hell. London was worse. Line after line of ugly little houses. All exactly the same. All squashed in. Flat and dark and grubby.

Before I left, the Alpha girls piled me with advice about how not to get pick pocketed and who not to talk to and who to ask for directions. They are thirteen. They seem to know what they are taking about.

I had the good fortune of a lovely sunny day (no doubt thanks to Ed). Having just got over the whole big grotty London thing between Waterloo Station and the National Theatre (where I had my job interview) I went for a walk along the Thames. And was floored again by Big Ben and the whole caboodle. And by the woman sitting under the bridge with her baby, begging for money. I looked at her and she told me she was starving and I didn’t give her any money. I bought a book of Latin poems (Virgil Ovid Catullus Horace). I don’t know what my reasons were for not giving her money and I don’t know what they would have been if I had.

I went back to the theatre feeling nervous exhaustion and the desperate need for a good coffee. Instead I went and had a fifteen-minute tour of the theatre complex. Then an interview with Lisa and Tony. They said they wanted it to be a relaxed interview then grilled me for half an hour. I tottered out of the ugly grey building (it matched the rest of the grot) and gazed about dazedly, wondering what to do with my self for the two hours before my train went back to Salisbury.

I eventually found my way back to Waterloo (you would not believe how many times during the day I went up to somebody, smiled sweetly and asked in my politest voice for directions) and caught the tube to Tottenham court rd. one of the ladies in choir on Wednesday night said to go there and for lack of any idea at all (my brain had just packed it in) I went.

If I had had any sense at all I would have remembered that I have always wanted to go to Piccadilly Circus and gone there. At Waterloo I asked one of the information guides were to go to catch the tube and he pointed over my shoulder at the enormous glowing sign saying ‘UNDERGROUND’.

At this point I feel I should interrupt my narrative to thank Gubbi for teaching me not to fear escalators. (And she is right. You can’t get sucked into the bit where the escalator disappears). And also large shopping complexes. If not for you Gubbi. I would have collapsed on the spot.
I am afraid to say I got sucked straight in to a Virgin Megastore and after much deliberation bought two CDs. The only defence I have for buying the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack is that I also bought Tom Waits’ Small Change. I am listening to them as I write as the computer room is the only place I have access to a CD player.

Having made my purchase I walked straight out the door into the arms of a con artist. She made some comment like ‘You wouldn’t be from London would you?’ and I (foolish foolish naive foolish ceels) thought ‘Oh lovely, someone wants to talk to me.’

(I pause here, sigh, and shake my head).

And said ‘oh, no, actually I am from Australia’ and she said something trite. She was collecting for something that was never really made clear and had a little book with people’s first names and how much they had given. I started to back away but I was trapped by the flow of people behind me. She said, pencil poised, ‘If you’ll just tell me your name’ and I thought ‘The bollocks I will’ and said (yes I did) ‘If I give you my name, I’ll have to give you money.’ She sensed she was loosing me and attacked again. At which stage I was completely befuddled. I tried the ‘I’m on a tight budget routine’ and she countered it with something else. Finally I showed her the coin pocket in my wallet. 41p.
Now I'm still not sure if she brushed those 41p into her bag or if I tipped my hand. But I was stinking cross. It sort of spoiled my day a bit. Sort of. I was cross about it until I went to bed last night. The tube back was hell and involved more questions ‘Am I going the right way? Am I going the right way?’

When I got on the train I checked my bus timetables for Salisbury-Blandford and discovered that I would have an hour and twenty minute wait in Salisbury. I was so tired and shattered that I thought about crying. And it turned out to be fine. There was a jazz trio on one of the streets playing some truly good music, so I sat with them for a while. Then there was a Christmas parade with a brass band. Then I found a bookshop open late and browsed. I got back to school, phoned home, and collapsed into bed.

I was supposed to get a reply about the job this afternoon, but have heard nothing. So I wait. I am sure there are other things I meant to tell you about London but I can’t remember what they are. The tube really was like the tunnels they run rats through.

London was like all the buildings in Australia squashed into a really small place. I got attacks of claustrophobia walking down the streets. and it was all grubby, even in the sunshine. I think if I live there it will knock some of the corners off my innocence, if that is the right word. And I had a really nice cheese and pickle roll from ‘the upper crust’ on the way home on the train.

Tonight I felt my first stir of patriotism. We were having dinner and laughing about the confusion caused by Jenny’s and my use of the word ‘pants’. Which we understand to mean trousers and the English understand to mean ‘undies’. Then the French mistress (who is English) and the new matron (who is dumb as two short planks) started spouting off about how Australian English had been corrupted by Americanisms then started getting all up themselves (and there is no other way to put it) about how superior they were because they spoke the queen’s English. And I got so cross for so many reasons. And all the hackles of national pride I never knew I had stood on end. And I got het up and started arguing with them. Indicating that I was offended because I have been speaking English all my life and Australia has its own identity and use of language that has developed quite independently of America and England. And I how suspect my version of English is closer to the queen’s than theirs (actually I didn’t say that, but I sure as hell thought it.) then I realised my natural superiority and calmed down and tried to make a joke.

I suggested that the only reason I could never stay in England long-term was because they don’t have Tim-tams. ha ha ha. And the French mistress got all sniffy and said she was sure if she ever went to Australia she would not judge it by what products it did or did not have.

I left it at that.

love you all, it is time for bed.

ceels ____________________________________________________________

I just realised that I am running out of time to finish the alphabet. Today we have 'f' for fireman Fred, 'g' for golden girl and 'h' for hairy hat ma

Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 00:05:42 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: I just realised that I am running out of time to finish the alphabet. Today we have 'f' for fireman Fred, 'g' for golden girl and 'h' for hairy hat man.


Monday, 8 October 2007

'e' for eddy elephant (or 18 more days to go)

Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 20:08:00 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'e' for eddy elephant (or 18 more days to go).

Well, all the girls are back after exeat. I have to keep reminding myself how much I love them. they take it in turns, about three at a time, to be naughty.

Sometimes it is the same girl over and over and over, but mostly they seem to have a roster.

Today most of them have been quite vile, I have been lied to so many times that I splutter, just thinking about it. And the tantrums, let me tell you about the tantrums. I would like to make an open apology to my mum for any tantrum I have ever thrown. All of them. Even if I wasn’t over-reacting or was really really tired. I am sorry mum. I can’t remember how many there were, but one is enough. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a liar though.

Today I have heard every thing from ‘I can’t wear that jumper it doesn’t fit me’ to ‘no I haven’t had any biscuits’. Yes folks, earth stopping stuff. But if one more little girl tells me one more bare faced lie, I’ll I’ll I’ll do nothing because really, what can I do. I can’t thump them. I can’t swear at them and I can’t really send them up to bed early for stealing biscuits. The other day one of the year six girls was doing her best to convince one of the year three girls that Gemma Wilson had just been run over by a car. The year three girl was nearly hysterical that one of her best friends had just been squashed when I walked in.

I am reasonably confident that Sarah Brady will never again try and make the little girls cry.

I have my new fleece on. I love my new fleece. I can almost imagine I am somewhere warm when I am wearing it. Of course it makes me look like an enormous fluffy blue peach. And I think the answer to the question ‘does this jumper make me look like a pogga’ is 'Yes, yes it does'.

But at least I am a warm pogga. The line between vanity and warmth was left behind long ago. This damn frostbitten country.

Oh, can I tell you. They have here mandarins, tangerines, clementines and satsumas (they all bloody look like mandarins to me) but no Timtams. I have become quite addicted to the McVities chocolate coated digestives though. Not quite the same thing but strangely appealing. But I will never like the peas. And I do not understand why they take perfectly good fresh vegetables, boil them in heavily salted water until they could be strained then drown them in oil or butter (or both). What a waste. And no bloody wonder they eat so much gravy on meat. Every thing tastes like it has been cooked too long. Savages. I just hold up my hand and say ‘vegetarian’.

That is all my exciting news folks, except that it is Saint Cecilia’s day today. Pretty exciting. Oh and I have a job interview in London on Thursday (it was going to be tomorrow, but gear happened).

I am getting out of the school for a day. I am getting out of the school for a day.

love you lots
ceels ____________________________________________________________

Friday, 5 October 2007

'd' for dippy duck

Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1999 19:02:19 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'd' for dippy duck.

Finally. I have found the keys. Or rather, someone has put them back where they belong so I can once again steal them and sneak to the computer room when nobody is about. The school has had an inspection this past week. This is something that happens in England. I don’t think it happens in Australia. So all the teachers have been stressed out and really shitty. which of course has made our lives so much easier.

This last week has easily been the longest of my life, I have been working practically full time since Saturday last. And in the nursery this is no laughing matter. I collapsed into bed last night and slept for twelve hours straight. woke up. Then slept for another three hours.

This afternoon I went to Salisbury. Eleanor (the Maths and Latin teacher) was going with her fiancé to buy an engagement ring so Jenny and I got a ride. We went to see the Cathedral and I was suitably impressed. I got to see the Magna Carta (one of four existing copies).

We had to leave in a hurry because Jenny was meeting a friend at the bus station at eight past three. I have to admit that we went into Maccas and I had the chicken burger (and feel correspondingly shithouse now) and (the highlight of my day) I bought an enormous fleece. I am wearing it now and it just might keep me from freezing to death while I’m over here.

Did I complain about the cold earlier? Over this past week the temperature has plummeted and there is a bone biting wind. I didn’t know what I was complaining about before. I now fully understand what it is to have chapped hands and lips. And apparently it is going to get colder. I also can’t believe the dark. I see the dark at four o’clock in the afternoon, but I don’t believe it.

The weather over the last couple of days is working on convincing me not to go to Edinburgh for the winter. Ideally I’d like to go to Penzance, which is about as south as you can go. but have been advised against it because everybody leaves. Hmmmmmmmm. Salisbury is a pretty place. But it was raining and I don’t really want to go somewhere where it’s raining.... Bath has been suggested to me and Stratford on Avon and Cambridge. I don’t know. I am still too tired to make decisions like that. besides I still have twenty days (all the time in the world!).

I am all for writing down a few names, popping them in a hat and drawing one. I will wait and go to Edinburgh in March. Or maybe it would be a good thing to be able to say I’ve lived through a northern winter (assuming I lived through it). I don’t know (I wail).

I made another achievement on Friday. I took Jordan up to get his nappy changed, but Grace, one of the little pre-prep girls, vomited all over herself and up the corridor (you wouldn’t believe how much one of these little people can hold). As a result matron was a bit busy. So I gritted my teeth, and changed it myself.

Yay ceels I say.

Any way, I love you all but I have to leave before my fingers drop off with the cold.
ceels ____________________________________________________________

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

'c' for clever cat

Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 21:24:28 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'c' for clever cat.

Everyone at this school is paranoid. Yes they are. And they are all determined to send me on an enormous guilt trip. They are all convinced that I am constantly trying to shirk my work. They all think I am stupid. And they all think that I behave like the children (so my voice was a bit loud and the inspectors were in the next room). The inspectors are here this week so everybody has gone panic stations and have started flinging about the buckets of stress that they have been lugging for the last two months.

They got shirty with me today. They didn't say anything directly, like 'get off the phone' but made snide comments and said things like 'What! Are you still on the same phone call?' 'I hope the school isn't paying for that call', and generally belittled me. I didn't know that I was tying up the main line and nobody else could get through. They should have more than one line any way. They could have just said 'get off the phone.' but no, they are so blinking polite they could only give me withering stares and rude comments.

I am apparently not supposed to use the computers, but I figure they can't make me feel guilty about it if they don't catch me. So I sneak down here way late at night and let my self in.

On a brighter note, there are 25 days till I leave and the new nursery teacher is one of the acest people I have met since I came to England. So the rest of my days here are going to be pleasant.

I am getting along well with the girls and I will really miss them, I have promised to come back and visit before I return to Australia. The girls whom I do toe-by-toe (literacy program) with are improving in leaps and bounds. Last night I was sitting in one of the dorms chatting to Maddy and Aggie (Madeline and Agatha) just before lights out and Maddy made the connection between Ireland being and island and being called Ireland, and the two words sounding the same. It sounds pretty boring but it was quite something to see her face. It all lit up and looked like Christmas.

I did reading with the pre-prep today and Alice finished a whole book and was very proud of her self, she got a star. I read with Hector next and the last time we read together he finished a whole book and he was determined to do it again (and some times on the weekends he finishes two whole books). He did and also received a star.

I had another nasty snot experience. I am sorry to keep going on about the stuff, but it is a major part of my life. You wouldn't believe how blasé I have become about holding the tissue for the kids to blow their noses. Any way. You would imagine that kids who sneeze would be as cute as kittens who sneeze, or puppies. On Friday we were all sitting around for story time in the nursery and Lauren went 'hhuuh, huh huh.... (and her eyes were all scrunched up and cute)...hhhuhh, choooo.' and two long opaque candles of snot went shooting out of her face and landed in two bulgy lumps on the floor. Was I disturbed? I just stood, got a tissue and picked the little boogers up.

Bravo ceels I say.

But, I gotta sneak off again,
love you all
ceels ____________________________________________________________