Care of Laura, here is our fifth (kind of) weekly update. It is, quite obviously, at least a week late making its way here, but finally it arrived:
Hi everyone! How are you all? Thanks for all the emails (I even got some photos this time.)
I have been counting down the days until these next two weeks. Simon and I are off to Germany for the Easter weekend with three other couples: Dave and Sue (our housemates) Ollie and Miriam from Adelaide and Matt and Jen from Sydney. Mims and Jen have done all the organising and we’re just along for the autobahn-castle-rhine-river-ride. We’ve never been to Germany and are so excited. We’ll be there for Easter, so hopefully the chocolate can come close to Begium’s offerings. The itinerary, as far as we’ve been told (we’ve really contributed nothing) includes Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hanover, Koblenz, etc.
We arrive back very late on Easter Monday and will head straight to a hotel in London where my poor parents will be sleeping off their jetlag. How terrible are we? They fly for thirty hours to not even be met at the airport by their own daughter and son-in-law. Mum made the mistake of asking, offhand, if there might be anything I’d like her to throw in at the last minute? Silly dear. A list ensued with numerous desired products ranging from the unattainable over here (cherry ripes for Sue, kitchen tongs, bonds singlets) to the “better in Aus” items (Cadbury chocolate over here is stangely inferior.)
This week Simon and I have been trudging through London looking for a place to live. We were originally going to get a two bedroom for us and Dave and Susan, but they had an offer of a room in a flat with friends right near Sue’s new job that was too good to pass up. So now we’ve been searching an oddly addictive site, Gumtree.com, for a one-bedroom flat in London. We’ve actually only ever lived just the two of us for one year out of our eight years together, and know it will be great. We want to get as central and as nice as our budget allows.
Having never seen a real studio before we had a go at one last week, and realised we would literally have guests walking into our bedroom. And knowing how many visitors we’re going to have, it needs to be as big as we can afford too. There are some gorgeous areas close to Hyde Park or Regents Park and, importantly, near the underground tube stations. A couple of viewings on Thursday weren’t too inspiring so hopefully the two we’ll look at today will fit us nicely. Ideally, we’d like to move in before mum and dad arrive. We’ve allowed ourselves a decent budget by London standards. If you want to make yourself feel ill (or alternatively more optimistic about “soaring Queensland property prices”) try converting 300 pounds per week rent into Aussie dollars.
On the job front, I sent out my CV to four or five agencies this week. I met a really nice girl last week who wanted me to work at her company in recruitment with her. I considered what is obviously a job that she loves, but I imagine it to be a bit too sales target-oriented for me. And from my experience, recruitment agents have to talk a lot of rubbish too. So I think I’ll hold out and keep looking for a PA job. I have heard it’s hard to get into without experience, but I think I’d really enjoy a position like that for a while and there’s no real rush yet.
I had a very eye-opening learning experience last week at school when Her Majesty’s external school inspectors came to visit. It’s called Ofsted (not sure what it means) and it is scarier, completely nonsensical and with more hoop-jumping than I could have imagined. A school will get audited every few years and our school knew it was coming (I thought I might just beat it.) On the Friday before, the headteacher received a phone call saying they would be in on the Wednesday (one day only) to assess the school and give it a rating that would determine its status, funding and staffing for another few years.
Of course Wednesday is one of two days for me when I teach five periods straight. Hooray for the tens having whole school exams in the morning, so it was just four classes for which I had to create show-stopping two-page lesson plans on the off chance that of the one-hundred staff at the school, Mr and Mrs Ofsted would be looming at the back of the room. It is just so stressful wondering whether the “secret agents”, as the kids put it, would burst into the room mid-Bruce blowing raspberries into his hands. Hmmm. How to prove Bruce is making progress and reaching his personal targets?
As something would have it, Mr and Mrs Ofsted’s entire opinion of the English department was formed on the basis of a thirty minute observation of another Aussie teacher covering an absent teacher’s class. That’s it. They didn’t even observe the “master classes” set up to help “improve selected children’s reading skills” (read: get them out of my class so no one sees them.) It is just absurd and pointless. There are three main ratings a school may receive: outstanding, good, satisfactory, as well as uh oh and bulldoze the place. The school needed to maintain its good status and, after much, much worrying, they did. And they deserved to.
Our department had a post-Ofsted pudding party last night where I tried to recreate mini pavlovas for everyone. It was really good to spend some time with people from my staffroom, have some dessert and glasses of wine. I am really going to miss everyone from my department and sincerely hope I’ll still be able to socialise with them throughout the year. They go for drinks and out to the theatre a few times a year and I would love to keep in touch. A lot of people at school know I’m leaving and have been so great about it. Lovely Irish Hugh, the pastoral support man who found me blubbering in my supply cupboard, caught up with me yesterday and was so very supportive of my decision to leave. So, with five teaching days to go, all is well.
I hope the weather is treating you all nicely. We’ve had some really windy days here and boy, the British love talking about their weather! A really funny newspaper article I read the other day said, “Some bins, apparently, have been turned over. Worse, trampolines have been overturned. We don’t have to take their word for it – emailed pictures reveal the full extent of the devastation. We haven’t heard of anything this bad since the earthquake last month, when some chimney pots came down in the Midlands.”
Happy Easter to everyone next week. Love to you all, Laura and Simon.