Sunday, 29 April 2012

On followers.. and other things

Yesterday morning I opened my eyes and looked across at the clock on the dressing table.  What I saw didn't make sense.  Given that I didn't have my glasses on, I tried swapping the short hand with the long hand.  What I saw made even less sense....!  I rolled over to Mark's side of the bed and checked the alarm clock.  It confirmed the situation.... I had gone to bed at 10.15 on Friday evening and woke up at 10.30 on Saturday morning!  It has to be said that I feel immensely better for sleeping the clock round. 

Yesterday we made the most of the fact that it wasn't raining to squeeze in some walking.  All up, we probably walked about six miles - all on tarmac round the lanes.  Today it's so dreadful I'm not even considering a short walk.  We'd just get completely drenched.  It's a nice chance to catch back on some blogging and reading everyone's recent posts.

Yesterday I read Mrs Thrify's post at New Beginnings about followers and the comments that people sometimes leave on other people's blogs.  Her post has clearly struck a chord with many bloggers and there a several extensive comments on her post that make interesting reading.  It certainly made me reflect a little on how I feel about following and being a follower. 

You see it's important to me that I do my best to be a good follower.  I want to read people's posts, remember the context that they are written in and be able to write something that shows I can remember all of this when I comment.  That takes time.  I love the fact that there are 39 of you out there who take the time to read my waffles... but I worry that I will struggle to keep track of you all if the number grows.  I used to love having penpals when I was at school.  I see blogging as a sort of 21st Century version of all those letters I wrote as a teenager!

At the same time it seems to me that some people judge the success of a blog by the number of people who are following it.  It's easy to get dragged into a kind of 'play-ground' psychology on the internet.... "Why has she got more friends than me?" "What is she doing that I'm not?" etc...  On top of all of this I'm worrying that I'm going to cause offence.  On a couple of occasions people have found me and left really nice comments.  When I've tried to find their blogs to respond I can't find any link.  Some time later I've found their blogs and responded - but by this time they think that I'm unfriendly and unresponsive.  This upsets me.

The bottom line is that I love reading all your blogs.  I feel honoured to be given an insight into so many people's lives and I love the connectivity of the blogging world.  Nevertheless, I am also in awe of the well-established blogs with a huge number of followers. I don't know how you manage the situation so well.

As for 'Stand and Stare'..I'm hoping that this blog will gently potter away in the quieter lanes of 'blog-land'. 

I sincerely hope that this post hasn't caused any offence. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

It's been a strange sort of a week...

This week has been rather emotional and challenging in several different ways...

My Lovely Pregnant Colleague has finally gone on Maternity Leave. She has decided to take the full 12 months off.  As a close friend AND half the Music Department staff she will be sorely missed.  I have been lucky enough to find a very capable Music Teacher to replace her for the year through an agency.  After a few initial reservations, I have found myself warming to her and I hope that we will develop a close working relationship as the year progresses.  Nevertheless, I have spent all my admin time this week making sure that she is OK and settling her into the department.

My timetable has changed significantly due to the Maternity Leave.  I have lost classes that I had worked hard to build relationships with, and have gained groups where I will have to do the work all over again.  It's not a disaster, but it has changed the rhythm of my weeks and significantly increased my workload.

My beloved Year 11 pupils are also coming to the end of their course.  I'm in the process of awarding their final grades (it's a Btec course so we don't have to wait until the summer) and I am immensely proud of them.  I always get emotional when the oldest pupils leave.  We always do one final 'Leavers Concert' just a few days before Study Leave starts and I sit with their proud parents and sob!

On top of this we have had difficulties with our commute.  At one stage this week I seriously thought that I would have to drive on my own every day.  This is not viable because, to be honest, we can only afford the commute when we share the lift and put the miles on a company car.  I was distraught on Monday night because I thought that I may have to look for another job.... or spend two and half hours every day in the car AND lose loads of pre and post-school admin time.

It's felt like a very long time since our lovely relaxing holiday - but most of these problems are in the process of being solved.  Mark has found a temporary solution to our commuting difficulties and I'm chipping away at the school issues.  I'm really looking forward to the weekend though!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Hidden Gems - Part 2

We continued our journey home on Friday by driving slowly up the narrow lanes to Llanthony Abbey.  There's a small hotel in the ruins and we stopped for a coffee before exploring the site..

The ruins are completely free to wander around.  There were some wonderful opportunities for photography and I wished that we weren't quite so rushed. 

There's a small church facing the ruins of the Abbey.  We were amazed to read that it had been built over a 6th Century Monastic Cell of St David - the Patron Saint of Wales!

The whole building was incredibly simple but there was loads of atmosphere..

We then continued up the really narrow lanes onto the Gospel Pass.  This is the top of the Pass, looking back toward Llanthony.  The skies were incredible - it felt like you could reach out and touch the clouds....!

This was the view over Hay-on-Wye and the Borders as we started to drive down the other side of the Pass.  It's really difficult to capture the size of the view with one little picture.  We could practically see to the Welsh coast in one direction, while we could see the top of the Malverns in the other.  Fabulous...

Back to school today... GRRRRR.!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Hidden Gems - Part 1

During our stay at the cottage we picked up some information about an area called 'The Holy Valley'.  This is 16 miles of over-grown single track roads from Crickhowell to Hay on Wye.  It passes a number of ancient churches, Llanthony Priory, then climbs through 'Gospel Pass' before descending to Hay.  Mark and I decided to travel home this way on Friday, rather than taking the busy roads past Abergavenny, Monmouth and Ross.  It took us almost four hours to complete the trip - but it was worth every minute..

I am fascinated by old churches. I love the way that the exterior rarely gives you any clue about the interior. The first church we visited on Friday was a perfect example. We had to make a slight detour from the valley bottom and drove up even more hair-raising tracks to find this gem...  Patricio Church - about 5 1/2 miles from Crickhowell.  This little church is 1000 years old.

The view from the porch, back down the valley to Crickhowell....

The interior - unchanged since the 15th Century.  The remote position of this little church ment that it's retained wall paintings and a fabulous rood screen...

A close up of the detail on the screen.  I couldn't get over just how fine the carving is...

And a medieval painting of death - in the north-west corner... 

After this amazing find we worked our way back down the lanes and on to Cwmyoy Church.  This church is worth visiting because of it's leaning tower...

Information inside the church explained that this tower leans by 5.7 degrees.  Apparently this is a more significant angle than the 'Leaning Tower of Pisa'.....!  The tower is so far out of vertical that only two of the bells can now be rung.  The chancel also leans downhill, away from the rest of the church.  The interior is fairly plain.

I'm going to post some pictures of Llanthony and our journey over the Gospel Pass tomorrow.  I hope that you've enjoyed these 'Hidden Gems' in the Black Mountains....

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Back Again!

Those of your who are familiar with my posting patterns may have realised that I've been a little quiet for the last eight days.  This is because Mark and I have been on holidays.

However, before I post some pictures from our lovely break, the winner of my Giveaway is Jo from Through the Keyhole.  Congratulations!  Also a warm welcome to everyone who has stopped by and decided to become a follower recently.

Mark and I have just come back from a weeks walking in our beloved Brecon Beacons.  It's really only 'down the road' from Worcester but the area is seriously gorgeous.  This time we rented a little cottage halfway up a hillside.  The cottage was so tucked away from the real world that you had to drive the final 400 metres in a golf buggy! 

The view from every window was superb.  We stopped watching TV because it was far more interesting watching the clouds and sunlight on the hills!  This was the view from the loo....

The cottage was surrounded by lanes and tracks, while the Brecon and Monmouth canal passed below the cottage if we fancied some 'flatter' walks.  Whenever we climbed up onto the hill behind the cottage the views were superb.  It was worth the effort...

When we took a break from all this exercise I discovered a fantastic little wool shop in the arcade that leads to Brecon's Covered Market. The owner very kindly let me take a couple of pictures. The wool really was stacked to the roof on three sides of this tiny unit!

Mark and I have come home seriously chilled and feeling much fitter after all that walking.  My "new term's resolution" is to keep the walking going in the evenings after work.  Hopefully it should be easier to achieve now that the days are getting longer. 

Friday, 13 April 2012


This is a little giveaway to celebrate the sunny spring weather and to 'spread a little happiness' in the blogging world..  I've called it "A Little Bit of Me Time" and I hope that you decide to enter.

First of all there's a pretty box that I've filled with a selection of eight tea-lights.  Three are Lavender-scented from the Yankee Candle Company.  The rest are a mixture of scents from Party-Lite.  All of the candles are on the blue/purple/white spectrum.

Next there's a 'crackle glass' tealight holder.   This has a pretty bead string so that you could hang it somewhere out of the way of small people..  Finally there's a 75ml hand cream.  It's La Maison de Senteurs from M&S, described on the pot as "A nourishing hand cream blended with essential oil of lemon and a green floral fragrance to uplift and rejuvenate".   I hope that it will be perfect for 'post gardening' hands

For 3 chances to enter all you have to do is

1. Leave me a comment on my blog asking to be entered into the draw.

2.Become a follower (people who already follow my blog will be entered twice if they leave me a comment!)

3. Link back to my post on your blog about my giveaway!

I am more than happy to post worldwide but obviously wouldnt be able to say how long it's going to take to reach you!

I will make the draw on Friday 20th April at 6.00 pm.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Cloud Chasing..

For the last couple of days the cloud formations over Worcestershire have been amazing.  I drove to Pershore this morning with one eye on the road and one eye on the rapidly changing sky.  Fortunately something prompted me to pop my camera in the car. Once I'd picked up the few bits and pieces that I wanted from the shops I took myself over to Croome Park.  Croome is a landscape park that was set out by 'Capability' Brown.  It was a perfect day to enjoy his vision of open spaces, water, temples and trees.  I walked round in a happy haze for about two hours and took a ridiculous number of photos (the joys of digital technology!).  Here are a few that I particularly like...

The church near the entrance to the park.. 

Reflections in the river that 'Capability' Brown re-routed across the park to provide water for his Oriental garden...

Dramatic clouds behind one of the 'Sphinx' monuments at the back of the house..

Reflections in the Oriental Garden...

A statue and the Orangery..

Sunlight on the floor of the Orangery...

There were a few showers but the sun soon dried everything up again.  I even manged to have a late lunch sat outside the tearooms.  Extremely blissful!!!!!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Easter Sunday Reflections

Things have been a bit busy in 'Stand and Stare Land' over the Easter weekend.  School finished last Thursday then my Mother in Law arrived shortly after lunch on Friday.  Fortunately she is the perfect house guest and she politely ignored any dust that I missed during my frantic tidy up on Friday morning... 

I'm very fond of Mark's Mum because she is a very easy person to have around.  She's very happy to 'muck in' with whatever we're doing and never demands any special treatment or entertaining.  She keeps herself very fit and joined in all our walks over the weekend.  We've had a lot of fun.

On Easter Sunday we had a family day out with my parents, my sister and her family.  We went up to the Severn Valley - calling in at the Visitor Centre above Highley and then going to Dudmaston House for some walks round the grounds and a picnic. 

The trains were steaming up and down the Severn Valley Railway. We watched them from the Visitor centre with a cup of coffee and a piece of home-made cake...

We spotted a few early bluebells during our walk.  I'm sure the woods by the river will have a huge carpet of blue fairly soon...

The house at Dudmaston is quite difficult to photograph.  The ground drops away very steeply toward the 'big pool'..

We walked all the way through the woods and round the 'big pool'.  I tried to take pictures of the reflections.  It would have looked a lot more impressive with blue skies.  I must take Mark back there again when the weather is a bit more decent.

This is my youngest niece outside the coach house. 

We all wrapped up warm and enjoyed a 'bring and share' picnic. I did savouries for myself, Mark and the parents; my sister did savouries for her family (because they have all sorts of allergies) then Mum did sweet things for everyone. We each provided our own flasks of coffee - ranging from decaff for my Sister, through milky and weak for my parents to full on black Columbian for me!!!!

It all worked out very well.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Planning a Giveaway

Tomorrow is finally the last day of school before the Easter holidays.  My cat can't wait for a more civilised wake up time... neither can I!!!

In the meanwhile I'm in the process of planning a Giveaway to mark the 80th Post on this blog.  This is my first one and I thought that I'd share what I wanted to do before it goes 'live' in the week after Easter...

Firstly, I've decided to have a theme.  This Giveaway is called "A Little bit of Me Time".  I hope that the person who wins it will feel rested and relaxed as she (or he!) enjoys the contents of my parcel.

Secondly, I'm going to follow Anne at Marmalade and Catmint's example and double enter anyone who follows my blog before the Giveaway starts.  If you are just calling by and like the idea of pampering treats.. become a follower NOW!

I will post the details of my Giveaway properly on Thursday 12th April.  The lucky name will be pulled out of a hat on Friday 20th April.

I also owe a huge thanks to Anne for posting about Picnik.  I've had hours of fun creating collages for my blog.  If you haven't had a play on it yet, the site is live (and free to use) until 19th April. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Our Sunday Walk..

Thank you to everyone who wrote such lovely comments on my previous post.  I was really 'made up' when I read them all!  This post is a few photos from our walk on Sunday afternoon.  We decided that we were going to really stretch our legs and plotted a route of about 7 - 8 miles round the north side of the city.  This was the section alongside the Birmingham to Worcester canal.

We then left the canal, picked our way through a few streets of Victorian houses and crossed into Gheluvelt park.  This sweet little park was created as a memorial to the men of Worcester Regiment who were killed in the battle of Gheluvelt during WW1.  The bandstand is surrounded by a pond and was incredibly photogenic in the sunlight.  I thought that I'd go back and take some more photos of the Memorial Gate when the trees are in full leaf.

We stopped for a quick orange juice at the Environment Centre then picked up the riverbank path by the Severn.  We walked for about 3 miles back up the river to the locks and weir at Bevere.  The water level seems to have dropped significantly in the last couple of weeks and the river banks looked really dry.

By the time we got to Bevere my feet were starting to complain a bit!  (Basically they aren't used to partying late in high heels then walking distances in warm weather the following day.)  Anyway, we left the riverbank and headed back across the fields.  I couldn't resist this picture of our local church - even though its a bit hazy and the power lines have got in the way.

It's a shame that this lovely weather is going to disappear for a bit.  I just hope that it's dry over the Easter weekend as we have plans for a family picnic!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Here I am!

This is me... wearing my new dress that I bought in Malvern a few weeks ago.  I don't like having my picture taken - I'd rather be the person behind the camera - and it usually shows in my face.  This is a very rare picture where I actually look OK.

Here's a full-length view of all my ruffles!  Once I'd got used to having so much material around my legs it was actually very comfortable to wear. 

Here I am with my Mum (the lady on the right of the picture) and our friends.  I had to wear my highest heels so that the ruffles moved freely.  As a result, I think I was about 6 feet tall last night.  I certainly look very tall here!

The event was a formal meal at a local hotel.  After the meal and all the speeches the ladies each received a present.  These boxes contained a glass pendant made by a local craftsman.  I discovered later that my immediate neighbour on the Close had made all the boxes and tied every ribbon.  I'm glad that I took a picture before I opened it. 

After all the formalities there was dancing until midnight.  We didn't get home until almost 1.00 o'clock.  My cat always waits up until we come home.  He sits on a bedroom windowsill and looks increasingly anxious.  He was very unimpressed with last night and got his revenge with "Wake up - I want breakfast" miaows this morning!