Archive for October, 2014

It’s Two Months to Christmas Day…

October 25, 2014

Today it’s two months to Christmas Day. Already the mince pies and Christmas cakes are in the supermarkets. Other Christmas paraphernalia will appear as soon as Halloween zips on by and then there’ll be Christmas every-bloody-where.

Once the shops are festooned with temptations and shiny sparkly things we’ll all feel the pull to buy-buy-buy. Parents will be nagged every time they step on the high street and will indulge outlandish requests from their off-spring and put themselves into silly debt for no real reason. The rest of us will stress and worry about getting the right gift for the right person, being fair in the value and/or amount of presents for family and friends, and invariably over-spend too.

pinky & the tree

This year as you begin the journey to the festive season I want you to pause and consider a few things. I don’t care about the Christianity thing, it’s a celebration that was appropriated from the pagans anyway, so Jesus is almost moot. But if church and carols and the nativity make you happy, then off you go. But that’s my point – do what makes you happy.

Think about Christmas more as the Festive season, as a holiday, time to gather together as family and friends, to embrace the Western Christian tradition of Christmas, but to make it your own. Make Christmas something special for you and yours.

xmas kinder

Remember, Christmas can be very hard for some. Those who are alone, who have lost someone recently: those who are ill, or frail or poor find this time of year very difficult. Christmas can be a time of loneliness and sadness and, sadly, it is renown for family bust ups and violence. The forced jollity can be too much for some of us. Not to mention the copious amounts of alcohol we imbibe and the residual resentments that bubble to the surface as we gather together to try to be a happy family.

So, this year, before you go crazy with presents and tinsel, lights and decorations, excessive amounts of food and wine –– think about what this time of the year really means to you.

xmas pres

Ask yourself a few hard questions about Christmas:

Is it about showing off your wealth through extravagant presents?

Is it about showing off your cooking prowess with a spread to rival a Michelin chef?

Is it about eating and drinking yourself into a stupor?

Do you organize Christmas for your family’s enjoyment or for their appreciation?

Is it about gifts that mean something?

Is it about enjoying being together, spending time with those who matter most?

Is it about laughter and joy?

Is your Christmas about generosity and love?

xmas love P&T

This year think wisely my friends. Start planning now by all means, but carefully consider the sort of Festive Season you really want. Make it a celebration to remember and cherish, one you look back on fondly, not with regret or sadness. And do your best to do something for those less fortunate than yourself. (Images courtesy of Private Collection)

Celebrate… because life is short

October 18, 2014

Life is over in a flash. It’s made of wonderful moments and terrible times. The trick is to make the most of the good times, so that we can survive the shit that comes around all too often. So this week, think about the things in your life that you can celebrate. Celebrate the small things and the bigger things – they all matter, they all help us live our lives to the full.

Some small things…

Losing 5 kilos in a month – the pain is worth it!

Getting fit and strong – living better and longer is also worth it

Passing your driving theory test – no matter how many goes

Surviving the week at work – no mean feat for many of us

Making it to the end of term – utter bliss

Not opening your mouth and speaking!!

Making new friends

graduation

The big bits…

Getting married

Having a baby, having lots of babies

Buying your own house

Graduation – completing any qualification is a big deal, so stick with it

The Prom – the chance to be utterly beautiful and happy

Getting that job, being promoted

Getting published

Getting engaged

Birthdays are most important – because you’re still alive, because getting older is something to be pleased about, because you should celebrate life – yours and others.

Christmas – because family and being together matters, every year

 

These lists have many possibilities. What would your list look like?

If we don’t celebrate the small wins, the special little moments and the small personal victories, if we don’t count them up and remember them it makes the bad times all the harder to survive. So, find something to celebrate this weekend, and smile, life is good, especially here as we gather to celebrate the baby girl’s birthday – the last of the teenage years. (Images courtesy Private Collection)

Comfort Food

October 11, 2014

As I write this it’s raining – which is fine as I like the rain and it hasn’t rained for a while. But rain keeps you indoors and makes you think of fires and being snuggled up safe and warm inside, or a day watching movies, or in bed reading, ignoring the world. You can watch the weather beat and moan and whip the world, while you’re all nice and snug in your own little cocoon. And it makes you think of food – food that comforts and nourishes your soul as well as your spirit. So I got to thinking about comfort food and compiled this little list. A list of simple, every day foodstuffs that can make you feel so much better.

 

Bread type products

Peanut butter and fresh bread

Vegemite and toast – at all times of the day

Honey and toast

Tomatoes on toast – with butter and salt and pepper

Toasted ham and cheese sandwich – perhaps with tomatoes

Toast, just with butter, just the smell of toast is enough really

And of course, fresh bread which always smells divine, always makes you feel better – especially warm and buttered

 

Hot and savoury

Soup – in a mug or a bowl, packet or home made, as long as it’s thick and hot, but preferably Pumpkin or Tomato

Sausages – I do like a thin BBQ beef snag or 3, in bread with sauce; or a thick pork English sausage with Bramley apples

Sausage rolls with tomato sauce

Eggs and bacon – simple and wonderful

Scrambled eggs – with thickly cut toast

Roast chook – what is better, other than a leg of lamb on the Weber?

Fish and chips – wrapped in white paper, oozing with moist heat

Baked beans on toast (does this belong above?)

 

Sweet Treats

Wagon wheels – a childhood favourite, guaranteed to make you feel better

Hot chocolate – made with warm milk

Marshmallows – out of the pack, in your hot chocolate or melted in the fire

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate

Any sort of chocolate really…

Scones – all sorts, must be homemade – plain with jam and cream, date, cheese, and pumpkin

Cup-cakes – I’ll settle for store bought but the best cup-cakes I’ve ever had were made by my wonderful big girl when she was better than anything on telly!

 

Comfort foods are simple things, often from childhood, often reminiscent of gentler, kinder times – certainly times when we felt loved and protected. So, what are your comfort foods, what treat fills you with pleasure and happiness every time – just the thought of it makes you smile?

Oh, and quite possibly wine too – red wine in front of the fire, with your marshmallows and toast! (Images courtesy Private Collection)

The Fish Rots From the Head

October 4, 2014

The saying goes that the fish rots from the head. Now, even though I’ve been a fishing girl all my life I cannot attest to the veracity of this statement but I like it and it has a certain ring of truth. It makes sense that the rot would set in from the head, given the brain and eyes and liquidy, mushy things reside there. I’m sure we rot from the head too, given the right circumstances.

But if we take the saying metaphorically, which is how it is meant most of the time, we can see the truth of the matter. Most organizations don’t fall apart from the bottom. No, businesses, companies and countries founder on the decisions and errors of those at the top, those with the big salaries, the big responsibilities, who are supposedly paid these astronomical figures to not fall apart.

When the banks went bust a few years ago, it wasn’t because of the tellers, or even your personal manager at the Commonwealth or Barclays. It was the traders, the CEO’s, the guys who deal in numbers not people, who earn ridiculous salaries for playing all day with other people’s money. Yes, a few got sacked, but we all know their bonuses are as robust as ever, while we, the innocent pay for their excesses with this endless English Narnia winter of austerity. When Greece and Ireland went bust a few years ago it wasn’t because of the normal taxpaying worker. No it was greedy governments, corrupt businessmen, grasping corporations. And now people can’t pay their bills or feed their families.

This unpleasant truth can also be applied to families. We learn everything first from the home. We learn how to behave, how to treat others, how to learn, how to take responsibility for ourselves. You name it, it all starts at home. And if the head of the family – the parents – are useless, absent, negligent, abusive, casual, unloving, uncaring (you get the picture), you can hardly blame the poor children for not knowing what’s what. A family is a little business, a little company all of its own making and parents shouldn’t even begin to start their own ‘company’ if they’re not going to ensure they do the job properly, with some integrity and consistency.

My good friend, Sir Michael Wilshaw has also noted that schools rot from the head. He’s on the record about the importance of good leadership, of good governance, of accountability and holding head-teachers to account more rigorously.

leadership

But what is good, effective leadership? There are tomes out there about it, the qualities you need: there are endless training courses to become an effective leader. Education has its own special training for aspiring leaders – Future Leaders. But I will not dwell there, not even for a nano-second.

Based on a meager 30 years in Education at a mere 11 schools across the planet, this is what I think good educational leadership looks like.

1.Vision – personal, true and realizable, that people understand and go with

2.Energy – drive and passion about education and children – that inspires others

3.Intellect – a clear understanding about what education is, how it works and what is needed to make it work

4.Integrity – personal integrity, and for the organization – follow the maxim that if you can’t tell your partner about what you did today then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it

5.People skills – a clear ability to understand your staff, what they need, how to support them and take them with you – not in a matey over-familiar way but in a ‘we’re in this together, making it better together’ authentic way. Key to this is the ability to listen to your staff and students – to accept their views, giving them serious consideration, after all the school does not belong to the head-teacher alone

6.Courage – to do what is right, to stand up to external forces of darkness and do the right thing by the students, the staff and the parents of the school

 

leadership2

Whereas this is crap leadership

1.Bullying and intimidation – despite schools supposedly being ‘bully free zones’

2.Telling people what to do – are we all in the army now?

3.Changing procedures and requirements all the time – never giving anything time to bed in, be reviewed or improved or allowing the TIME for things

4.Not listening to anyone, because as you’re HT, you know it all – especially not allowing staff meetings where matters are discussed

5.Not understanding that education is a human endeavour – it’s about people not numbers and data, and teachers aren’t machines, nor are students

6.Constantly monitoring everything teachers do – because clearly having a university education means we are incapable of thinking for ourselves or doing our job if someone isn’t there to make sure we are!

This is the cascading shit model of leadership, shit decisions made at the top, cascaded down to the minions at the bottom who simply have to do, not question, no matter how non-sensical or counter-productive, who end up in shit up to their knees, because they can’t shovel it away quickly enough before the next wave comes down. This is the epitome of crap leadership, and a lot of it’s to do with fear, fear of the masses, who might actually know something, so at all costs they cannot be allowed to speak or question. Just do.

The sad fact, as observed by Douglas Adams amongst others, is that all too often the exact people who shouldn’t be in leadership positions are often the ones who are! Think about your average psychotic leader – Hitler, Idi Amin, Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Abbot, etc and I think you get my drift.

Perhaps we need more dolphins in charge – thoughtful, intelligent, sociable creatures? But didn’t they leave the planet just before the Vogons struck… (Images courtesy Private Collection)