A Chinchilla Dust Bath

14 Jul

The dust bath is an integral part of chinchilla care. It keeps their coats plush and, more importantly, they go mad for it! We often give our five chinchillas a dust bath just before we clean them out to a) minimise mess for us and b) leave them with a nice, clean cage afterwards. Ted, Giz And Zeb take it in turns jumping into their blue bowl, scratching and rolling in the sand.

Teddy, Gizmo and Zebady Have A Dust Bath

The Greater Good

10 Jul

I was out walking Kobi today, and bumped into a fellow dog walker. After I had rugby-tackled Kobi away from the cows and clapped his lead back on said dog walker struck up conversation. He told me he had booked a boating holiday – on the River Lea, so I assume he will be canal boating – asked me about the local area and spoke briefly about dogs. However the conversation soon took on a more serious tone; somehow, we got onto the education cuts.

As an aspiring teacher, these matters are quite close to my heart. Gove is systematically installing an exclusive, privatised education system that puts extra pressure on teachers – already the most overworked and stressed professionals around – and, in my humble opinion, one that will be detrimental to the eduction of future generations. My strolling companion, however, did not see it.

He said, and I quote, “We are in a bit of a mess…” As if this justified the sweeping cuts that the government has made. I also had to explain to him that a teacher’s job did not finish at 3:20pm and that they in fact work more hours than the average white collar worker in a year, despite their summer holiday. I was reading a TES article only yesterday about suicide rates amongst teaching professionals. The statistics made pretty grim reading; according to the Office of National Statistics, the suicide rate was up 80% between 2008 and 2009. It has since fallen slightly, but our suicide rate in the UK is still 40% higher than anywhere else.

So what am I getting at? Well, it seems that many simply do not appreciate teaching as a profession. They see it simply as one long battle with unruly children and their parents, with no real reward or career options. The average person seems to have the impression that ‘those that can, do; those that can’t teach’. The TES published an article on this some time ago, I do believe, but only recently has it really hit home. My family seem to think next year will be easy-peasey (when I start my PGCE), and even my hubby thought initially that my six hours of contact time would continue from my undergraduate degree; next year will be a doss! Ha. He had quite a shock when I told him most days would be eight ’til six, and I would be burning the midnight oil most nights.

I don’t really need other people to understand how difficult my job is (or rather, will be). I know. And that is all that matters. The real problem for me is the wider implications of this attitude – the public, the government; they seem to think putting more pressure on teachers is all well and good, because, y’know, their job has to be one of the easiest in the world! And it will be teachers again that take the brunt when the quality of education begins to suffer.

At least I can begin to change the attitude of my family… hopefully, as soon as they see the amount of work I have to put in, they will no longer think I’m copping out of a real career for the sake of waffling about History all the time.

Chinchilla Love

1 Jul

In this day and age, everyone is an amateur photographer thanks to free apps that can be accessed on iOs and Android. I love my chinchillas, so naturally… I had a go at being all instagram and scene. From top to bottom: Teddy, Gizmo and Zebedy. A father and two sons.

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Checking In!

1 Jul

Wow. It has been a long time.

I must admit, I actually forgot about this little gem. A lot has happened since I went to Egypt last summer. I have since spent one awesome year living with ‘the Crew’ (as they have so aptly named themselves, well, Sarah has named us) at Artillery Street, and I have finished University. I graduated with a First! I know, right? I’m clearly a genius! Ha. Actually, I feel this result to be more of a combination of fluke, hard graft and having a very engaging and motivated seminar supervisor for my final year (yes, I am looking at you, Dr. Don Leggett!)

My time at Enfield Grammar went extremely well! Do you remember I spent ages agonising over that letter to the head teacher? Well, by the time I left, I had been told be two different History teachers (one being the department head) that they thought I “had what it took” to be an awesome teacher, and that they knew I would do well. It made my heart swell! It was awesome. Nearly cried. Didn’t. But nearly.

I have also been accepted onto a one year PGCE with Canterbury Christ Church University, wooh! One step closer to achieving one of my main goals. They gave me a conditional offer informally on the day of my interview, which I was chuffed to bits about. The condition was a 2:1 in my degree, of course. But there was also the little matter of scoring only 3/12 on their numeracy test.

Yes, all right… I’ve always been pretty crap at Maths. My lack of confidence began (or rather, the destruction of my confidence happened) in Primary school, and I’ve never really got over the humiliation or the frustration I experienced there. So, yes… I’m not very good at it. But, perhaps I should explain?

In order to gain QTS (that is Qualified Teacher Status for the laymen), you need to pass two skills tests. This changed recently (thank you again for your crappy policies, Mr Gove) from having to pass three, including ICT, but being able to take them as many times as you liked. I now have two chances, and then I get chucked off my course and can’t retake them for two years… urgh.

The literacy one I can do with my eyes shut if I really apply myself to appropriate grammar and spelling (let’s just ignore the lack of such application in this blog…) but the numeracy, hmm. You have eighteen seconds to answer each question, and the first half of the test is verbally recited to you without any opportunity to see the question written down. I failed miserably at the first two practice tests I tried. So now I’m just trying to get quicker and quicker; it’s not that I can’t do it full stop, I just can’t do it quick enough.

Anyways! Enough moaning. I will pass. There is no other option. As Mike remarked only last week – ‘if you could become a teacher by walking across a floor of hot coals and broken lass, you would, wouldn’t you?’ Yes, yes I would. And numeracy is definitely comparable to hot coals and broken glass in its pain equivilancy. Speaking of pain… I spent a week in a Primary School!

Nah, it wasn’t that bad. It’s a necessary pre-requisite to starting your PGCE. The staff were lovely, and the children were fantastic fun. I was baffled by the sheer diversity in ability there. In one Year 2 class I spent two hours doing paired reading with each child individually.

With one, I read Spot the Dog – this is Spot, Spot is yellow – and with the next I was reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He wanted to know about everything he read – what’s a Poltergeist? Are basilisks real? What does ‘askew’ mean? – which was fantastic. I finished the week with many valuable experiences, a painted father’s day card, a greater understanding of the embalming process and a glowing report from the Deputy Head. Mission accomplished.

I also spent three days in Sawston Village College; a very high achieving, mixed secondary school. Mike went there, which was kind of weird. But Mr. Steve Mastin – the head of History – was very helpful and accommodating. I learned a lot about positive behaviour management, and how to teach History in an engaging and creative way. Many, many ideas that I can’t wait to put to use myself.

So, the end of my first post in an entire academic year. Graduation posts, and numeracy woes to follow!

Travels to Egypt

14 Sep

I realised yesterday that I had been neglecting my little blog despite the amount of important things going on in my life at the moment, and thought that I should probably give the e-world a little update on my activities. So, here goes…

I’ve been in Canterbury mostly, working at the library and enjoying life with my new house mates (as they slowly filter back to Canterbury from their respective towns and counties). The work at the library is rather mundane and laborious, but I’m not going to complain about the £9.54 an hour I’m getting for doing it! So, if all goes well, I may finish with money at the end of this academic year! I know, right? I’m looking forward to actually doing a few shifts on the Support Desk (my actual job), despite being slightly nervous; I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough.

In other news! I paid a little visit to Egypt with my family. No, not to see the pyramids, but I did get to snorkel in the Red Sea (around the Raas Mohammed) and spend a few days in the sun, making me a little less deathly-white and more living-human coloured. Always a good thing. I stayed in Sharm El Sheikh, a highly popularised and tourist-y part in the south.

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

I flew with Monarch. The baggage allowance as a generous 25kg, the flight was on time, the staff were helpful (although there was a bit of a delay both ways due to some kind of administrative error in the airport, but we didn’t mind much), and we arrived with all our baggage intact, which is always a bonus. The transfer from Sharm El Sheikh airport was quick in a nice, air-conditioned bus and the hotel staff at the Grand Hotel even carried our bags to our rooms for us (particularly awesome because there were four of them, and they were pretty damn heavy… especially Mum’s). The hotel itself was amazing. It had five to eight restaurants, six swimming pools and its own little private beach. The rooms were spotless, the hot water was always available and the inclusive food was pretty good. Mum and Emma were pretty damn picky, and Emma did get raw chicken once, but other than that it was definitely edible.

So what about the people? You hear a lot of stories about Arabic men harassing women. Uh… it’s not completely a stereotype. I had quite a few pushy, slightly creepy men flirting with me, even on the complex. One even approached my sister and said, quite plainly, “I need a visa. I need a passport.” At least he didn’t beat around the bush. Heh. So, moral of the story, if you don’t want to be harassed at all, try go with a male member of your family, or your partner. I know! But it would have made my stay a whole lot more comfortable if I’d had Mike there.

Despite the lack of pyramids involved in my visit, I did go on two excursions. The first was on the boat/submarine combo known as the Nautilus (I lol’d too). It took us out towards the Raas Mohammed to have a look at the coral reef, and oh my God. It’s very difficult to describe what you see down there to someone who has never been there. It was amazing. The corals were fantastic, and the fish were even more so. I only went snorkelling, but I’ve already looked into starting my diving license so that I can spend longer down there. It was truly out of this world.

Parrot Fish, possiblyA fish swimming amongst the corals

The crew on the Nautilus were great fun. The trained diver was a blonde, British bloke who swam with me and a couple of times helped me down to the bottom of the sea bed to take a closer look (he had weights strapped round his waist, where as I didn’t). He was pretty damn cool, and he swam like no human I’d ever seen before outside an Olympic swimming pool. Seriously. This guy was like a fish. Aaanyways…

My second excursion was out into the desert. And no, not on a Camel, but on a Quad bike! We had a brief tour of all the rocky mountains in the immediate area, and he took us over an assault course of uneven terrain. It was great fun, and the heat really wasn’t that much of a problem (considering we were in the desert, that is), but we did have to wear a head scarf arrangement over our heads and faces to keep the sand out – mine dropped away for about five minutes and I was spitting out sand afterwards. We stopped off at a small settlement in the middle of nowhere and took pictures of the sunset. It struck me just how empty everything was, but how beautiful at the same time. It was possibly one of the most barren landscapes I had ever seen, but there was a strange charm in its lack of human occupants.

Some of my tour group speeding through the desert

My sister and I working our head scarves and sunglasses

But there was certainly evidence of human contamination. At some of our stops – obviously used all the time by the tour guides – I found rubbish strewn everywhere. It made me angry that tourists felt it was fine to taint such an amazing landscape. I encountered similar frustration while on the beach one day; I watched one of the locals clean up the corals as the tide came in. With the crashing waves came empty water bottles, sanitary towels, crisp packets and sweet wrappers, amongst other things. This was the Red Sea! One of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural attractions, and someone felt obliged to use it as a rubbish tip. Urgh. People… I much preferred the company of the fishes.

So yeah, it was really good. I would have liked to have gone to Cairo, but I didn’t fancy the ten hour bus trip/short haul flight that it would have taken to get there. The Pyramids will have to wait a little longer! It was only meant to be a family holiday anyway; some sun before I come back to Canterbury where rain, sleet and snow reign supreme over all. At the moment, the sun seems to be clinging on as we get closer to Fresher’s week… rain on the Freshers! RAIN CANTERBURY!

Clean Up on Isle 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

11 Aug

And so the clean up begins! A very strong police presence on the streets of London prevented a fifth night of rioting. It looks like the idiocy is coming to an end! The latest figures are quite impressive – the BBC quoted 1300 in one of their visual reports for the Midlands, and over 800 for London alone. It’s hard to say whether these people will actually serve time. Personally, I would rather see them do community service than jail time. The jails are more like three star hotels these days. My opinion is that I’d rather be paying to have people watch them do things for the community, like helping to rebuild the shops they’ve destroyed, litter-picking, roadworks, decorating, than pay to have them fed three square meals a day without having to work in a cushty prison cell. The prisons were full after the fourth night of chaos, so the most logical thing would be to get these people in bright orange jump suits and give them a broom. I can think of quite a few members of the community who would volunteer to supervise this. I certainly would! I’m not the only one either, as is evident by this email;

Stacey in Canterbury emails: “I agree [with Claire from London], part of the punishment for people charged should be to learn what impact their actions had on their community. Make them rebuild local shops, clean up their streets and rebuild the homes of those they destroyed. Perhaps then they will feel remorse for what damage they have caused to this society.

Cameron finally allowed the use of water cannons and rubber bullets, as well as giving the police the power to force people to remove head-coverings if they’re acting suspiciously. I like this. I think this should stay for good. They were hiding their faces – even attacked a cameraman who was filming their vandalism – so, by removing their anonymity, I believe that it may prevent them from doing anything like this again. They’re cowards. All of them. And it also makes them less scary to the public. My nan finds nothing scarier than a chav in one of those dodgy caps with their hood pulled up, but take that same chav and pull their hood down, maybe take their cap off, and a lot of the fear is removed. These aren’t dangerous gangsters; these are naughty children who deserve a violent caning across the backside, and their PS3 taking away.

But what of the clean up operation? Cameron described the “broom army” which helped clean up streets in Clapham, South London, and elsewhere as “the best of British”. They are. These people give me hope in humanity again; it was refreshing to be lambasted with images of strangers helping each other clean up Sainsbury’s, and local shops, who in turn supplied tea and muffins a-plenty, rather than greedy youths still televisions. It is unfortunate that the international community will not take these images as an example of what the British community is really like as a whole. Instead, when preparing to visit for 2012, they will be haunted by the spectre of the masked, hooded vandal smashing up shops; too ignorant and uneducated to even know who was in power at the time, rioting through greed and getting their kicks out of needlessly smashing through windows and setting cars alight. It sucks.

According to the news, court proceedings have been running through the night like a conveyer belt system. Someone as young as eleven has already been charged. That’s no older than my littlest cousin, for God’s sake! There’s got to be something seriously wrong with the parents when an eleven year old is out smashing through shop windows rather than playing with dolls or watching Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel. Bah! I have to admit though, there is something strangely satisfying about watching people have their front door smashed in, and then observing them being hauled out by the armpits, followed closely behind by, not drugs, but bags of tagged up clothes from JD Sports and a 50″ LCD TV.

Well, I hope that frozen pizza and Xbox were worth it, muppets; justice is a-coming!

Edit: Just a quick thank you to all my casual readers; I have hit 100 views! Chuffed to bits.

This wasn’t an angry crowd, this was a greedy crowd.

9 Aug

Obligatory riot post incoming! If you are English then it would have been very hard for you to miss the rioting in our city-centres over the last few days. Five nights of looting and mindless violence. It all started when a young man by the name of Mark Duggan was shot by police, and a peaceful protest was started outside the police station. This peaceful protest culminated in the destruction of parts of London that some media sources have compared to the Blitz. But these riots didn’t stay in London, oh no, they spread to Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol as well. They came dangerously close to home for me as Cheshunt and Enfield became hotbeds of unrest as well. Over the last couple of days, my evenings have been filled with the frantic shrill of police, ambulance and fire engine sirens hurtling passed my house. I have yet to visit Cheshunt, and I’m too scared yet to head into Enfield. This is complete and utter madness.

I’ve been watching/listening to coverage while I work, and more and more stories are coming to light about acts of mindless vandilism, but also acts of bravery. Uncharacteristically, the Daily Mail published a story involving the heroics of some of our foreign residents: “The relative calm in Dalston was laid at the door of ‘heroic mobs’ of Turkish men standing guard in the high street, one resident said. In the busy shopping street of Green Street, in Forest Hill, there were reports that 400 young Asian men had chased off up to 150 rioters.” This made my heart swell with pride for humanity. Against this backdrop of chaos and violence, there are still people taking a stand to protect their homes. When I read the last part, my brain started conjuring up images of Jackie Chan laying some smack-down. Not PC? I don’t care. It’s brilliant imagery.

So what are the excuses? Disaffected youths. Poverty. Unemployment. Boredom. Is this disease of violence the result of our society? I can’t help but recall Norman Tebbit’s immortal words, “He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work.” When did this attitude to life disappear? Why are these children (because that’s what they are, really) in school? Why do they see rioting as an acceptable means to lash out for any cause? Personally, I don’t think there is any excuse for these people. Disaffected? Angry? So what. I’m their age, more or less, but am I rioting? No. I worked hard. I’m at University. I’m setting up my future.  I listened to one piece of coverage where reporters were questioning two female rioters drinking from a bottle of Rosé at 9am this morning. They said they were ‘punishing the rich’, showing the police they could ‘do whatever they wanted’, and that this was all the government’s fault. When the reporter asked why they were burning down their own communities, and the small businesses around them, again… they said they were ‘punishing the rich’. Rich?! These people have worked hard to build their businesses off the ground. Worked. Something those two little brats have probably never done in their life. That small corner shop? I bet he barely makes ends meet. I bet he drives a second hand car on its last legs. I bet he works hard to feed his family. And what have you done? Stolen his hard-earned goods, and then set fire to his home.

Many complaints have been made about the lack of response to police. I have to disagree. If the sirens constantly buzzing passed my house are anything to go by, then the police are obviously doing everything they can at short notice. There aren’t many of them. They’re overstretched, underpaid and restrained by political correctness and health and safety. If I were Cameron now, I would have Parliament declare a state of emergency, allow the use of water guns, tear gas and rubber bullets, and have the Army roll out a show of force. Tonight I would make sure no yob, or ‘disaffected youth’, would be left under any illusion that they could ‘do whatever they wanted’. Yet again it has been demonstrated that our police are too restricted in what they can and can’t do. It’s time to loosen the leash. It’s time for political correctness to take a step back and let the police police us. These people, who are destroying our community, they do not deserve a soft touch. At the moment the law is protecting them by restraining the police. They deserve an ass kicking. And I can only hope they get one.