Archive for October, 2013

Smells that do you good

October 26, 2013

A brief discussion of an oft overlooked sensual pleasure that’s actually guilt free and essentially free – it’s the smells, the aromas of life, all around us that make us feel good. You know when you sometimes get that sudden unexpected lift in your day and you look around and realize you’ve just walked by a café or a bakery, or sniffed someone damn fine strolling by. Yes, that sort of thing- smells that do you good.


Food related smells – freshly brewed coffee, fresh bread, toast (you cannot over-rate the pleasure that toast wafting on the breeze, or air-con brings, a comfort and simple reassurance that the world is okay), a ripe tomato, blue cheese, roast meats, eggs and bacon, frying onions (a favourite in my house), garlic and ginger, a good home made curry, warm soup and a Bundy and Coke – the only way to drink rum.


Outdoors, the nature bits – newly mown grass (that’s usually one to take you back to some of your happier childhood days); roses and other fragrant flowers; being surrounded by trees in an old growth forest if you’re in Oz – the world smells both fresh and old all at the same time; the beach, especially the smell of salt on the spray from the sea; newly baled hay in fields and barns.



Tropics – a specific topic because the smells there are so specific and over-whelming – tropical gardens with frangipani and ginger; a Dry morning where you can smell the crispness and coolness in the air; a Build Up day where the smell of oppression and heat smothers you; the rain smells different here, strong rain, rain bouncing off the asphalt, rain cleaning and cooling everything so you can breath again and smell the freshness and wonder of the tropics.

darwin heliconias


Other smells – this is where your own chemistry and preferences come into play- things like your baby, especially their head when they’re new, your partner – it was their smell that rang your chemical bells and made them so madly attractive (does it still?). Perfumes – for me it’s Estee Lauder Youth Dew, Channel No 4, Opium (showing my age!). Clean shampooed hair, aromatic candles, sandalwood incense, clean sheets, the smell of the Laundromat and finally for me, my dog – his doggy aroma pervades the house and my senses and makes me feel the world is a good place, be he dry or wet, or bit extra fragrant his is the smell that does me most good.


So, over to you – what smells herein do you accord with and what are your own specials sensations that tickle your schnozz and make you feel better?  (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)

Go On – Treat Yourself

October 10, 2013

Restraint is a wonderful thing, as is Delayed Gratification – I’m exceptionally good at that – and Control. You need these qualities to get on in life, to succeed, to cope, to make changes to your life, to get the things you want. Think about your job, studying for (further) qualifications, saving for a deposit on a house, dieting, giving up all sorts of things. It’s all about the bigger picture isn’t it – today’s sacrifice for tomorrow’s reward.

Sadly so much of life seems to be about restraint and denying yourself the good things. Or if you do indulge then you feel so guilty (oh, what a Tim Tam can do to you) the pleasure was utterly lost. Even that uncontrolled rant about the latest nonsense at work didn’t make you feel any better because you unloaded at the wrong time to the wrong person and instead of feeling better you feel worse.

tim tams

But today I am talking about giving yourself permission to let go of the Good You, the Hard Working You, the Saving Up You, the Dieting You, the I-Am-No-Longer-Swearing You, or which ever You has been in control lately. We all need a treat, we all need something to look forward to, something little or something big. But something that keeps us going and gets us through the hard times, the times that make us want to scream and throw that towel down a deep dark pit from whence it cannot be retrieved.

What do you deserve? What will make you feel good? Have a think about this because what you’re going to do is give yourself permission to treat yourself, to stop the denial-restraint-control-suffering even if only for a little while. As a perennial dieter I know the only way I cope (when I am successful and that has happened once or twice in my life!) is by allowing myself treats from time to time. Not everyday, I hasten to say – otherwise you get nowhere. Saving money for a deposit means every day for a long time. Losing weight means self control and exercise every day for a long time.


So, step away from the denial, the hard work, the control – allow yourself time off.

me yesterday



Giving yourself permission is most important as it means you remain in control of your indulgence and can easily and happily step back into that zone – you want to be thin, you want to own your own house, you want to complete your study – don’t you?? Giving yourself permission also means you don’t get bogged down in guilt or give up on your grand plan.

A little of what you fancy doesn’t hurt – but a truck load does!




Diet Treats – chocolate – of course!! A day of eating what you want – just toast and tomatoes can be it! A meal out – have something you’ve denied yourself that you really love, even if it’s as simple and as naughty as Maccas or Hungry Jacks (Burger King, the rest of the world)

hungry jacks

Savings Treats – as simple as a bunch of flowers, or £100 to spend on anything or nothing. Perhaps a weekend away – one of those deals from Groupon, where everything is as cheap as chips, or a massage, or a theatre trip… the choices for something cheap and cheerful are endless

flowers & sun

Working Hard Treats – this is where you can let yourself go. Something as simple as a day in bed, a weekend in front of the telly; your favourite boxset, but you could be more imaginative. Back to Groupon or all those travel deals that trip into your in-box. A week in Egypt sounds good to me, not to mention hopping onto the Eurostar and a weekend in Paris or, better still Brussels with one of your best mates. Go to the theatre, spend a day doing the things you love that make you feel good, with the people that make you feel good. Hard work is good and necessary but you must take time out to re-charge your batteries.



Take time out from the grind of your life, from the extra bits of control you’re exerting. Choose carefully, making sure that your treat is worthwhile, that you do enjoy it, so that you won’t be beset with guilt or regret. Instead you’ll enjoy the buzz of indulgence during and the memory of it afterwards. Then return to what has to be done for your own greater good. Always knowing you can do it again in a while!! (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)

Why I love Jonathan Creek

October 5, 2013

or What we can learn from Jonathan Creek & other detective TV shows about Thinking, Problem Solving and Working Together

I love Jonathan Creek, moreso when Caroline Quentin was Alan Davies’ original side-kick, but the joy of the show remains years after it hit our screens as I re-watch my box-set. The off-beat crimes, the gothic horror, the mansions, the people who deserve something utterly nasty to happen to them and most of all, the quirky lateral way Jonathan the nerdy-grumpy-rumpledly-sexy-hero solves them all. Yes, the episodes are somewhat formulaic and the dialogue is often repeated and some days one crime/mystery does seems to blur into the next but what’s pricked my interest this time around is the way Jonathan solves the puzzles. The way we know and experience his thinking through the problems. Oh and Maddy (Caroline and then Julia Swahala and most recently Sheridan Smith) who as the not-as-insightful-or-clever partner, who actually does quite a bit to help solve the mysteries.


So Jonathan Creek is not a detective, nor is it a detective show, rather it is a problem solving show and to that end quite nicely relevant to good teaching. Quite often JC has to actually define the problem clearly before he can get started. He examines the scene intensely and often several times over, always seeing things that others, even the most seasoned police, do not. Maddy et al help him by making seemingly innocuous or sometimes dumb comments that manage to trigger something in Jonathan’s mind, somewhere in his sub consciousness that he can’t quite access just yet. He indulges in a bit of research, he worries the problem, making notes and calculations as need be but he also lets the problem drift away to somewhere in the back of his brain where the problem does what it needs to do and the solution pops up. Jonathan does not solve problems quickly but he solves them comprehensively and definitely leaving not one bit of the equation left out as he brings it all together, tying up all the loose threads at the end in a Tom Barnaby like summation at the conclusion of the episode.

A couple of things to note. He doesn’t do this alone. He asks for help, searches out clues, gets things a bit wrong, works closely with Maddy who has her own set of unique skills that contribute to the end result, just not perhaps as she might have intended. She asks stupid questions and isn’t afraid to indulge in outlandish speculations. They discuss their progress, review the situation, check their facts. Jonathan perseveres until the solution is found. He freely admits to being puzzled and tells us frequently that something has popped up, a light has gone on, there’s an echo of something. He tells us how he is thinking, how his brain is processing the problem. He is letting us into the elusive, intuitive part of his brain, the lateral part that supposedly is where he solves the mysteries of the world.


So, as learners and teachers what did you notice about what JC does?

1. Defines the problem – he makes sure he understands what the issue//task is

2. He makes tentative explorations – he makes notes, doodles, a bit of research, perhaps a plan of attack (usually that’s Maddy’s domain)

3. He’s collaborative – he works with others, letting their skills enhance his skills, or building on what others know

4. Asks stupid questions – Okay JC doesn’t do that but Maddy does and it is essential in getting to the heart of the problem and someone has to ask…

5. He reviews his progress, checks his information, consults with Maddy – are we clear, are we going in the right direction, and makes adjustments accordingly

6a. He thinks – more importantly he isn’t afraid to take the time to think, to allow the problem to find its shape(s), to let the connections come of their own accord

6b. He is intuitive – goes with how he thinks, how he feels – sometimes he doesn’t know how he knows or when he will know it, just that it will come

7. He does not share his findings until he is sure, until everything checks out

8. He takes his time to get it right – he is no rush, he wants it to be correct before he presents a neatly tied up package to the bewildered and confused


There’s much to be taken from this approach to problem solving or completing a task. To take it one step further into the darkened corners of Education, Jonathan knows his learning style – he knows how he solves problems and he feels no compunction to do other than he does.

Teachers planning lessons could look to JC and other detective shows, Midsomer Murders and New Tricks come to mind. Tom Barnaby is methodical but sharp: he sees things no-one else does and makes wonderful connections. Quite often his suspects under-estimate him in his plodding naïve way, but he is vastly experienced and always gets his killer. The New Tricks team is an odd assortment of ex-coppers but the secret is that they all have a set of unique skills that helps the team solve the crime. They are also committed to the job and justice.


What sort of detective-teacher are you? What sort of detectives-students do you have? Do you allow them time to do all that Jonathan Creek does? Do you appreciate the different strengths in the class, as per the New Tricks team? Are you astute and observant like Tom Barnaby, knowing all that’s going on in your class so that you end up with killer units of work that intrigue your students?

If you take only one thing from this blog take the matter of thinking – that thinking takes time, that it occurs in many different ways – that you cannot always see it and you cannot sensibly allocate a set amount of time for it as it must occur through and because of what the students are doing. Learning comes in many shapes, like TV detective shows and thinking comes in more shapes than that. What can you learn about learning from other TV detectives?  (Images courtesy Google Images)