Monday, 31 December 2012


The next person to view this blog will be the 2,000th. Not a lot, I know, but all interest is much appreciated. Welcome and thank you.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Cupcakes in pictures

Cup cakes decorated yesterday. I made the cakes but I can't decorate so the worst ones are the ones I did. Others done by TSH, his son and daughter and their partners.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Almost ready

All rooms done for visitors, trees up, presents wrapped, food lists made, cards up, all our cards sent.
Meal ready for those arriving today. Totally frazzled.

I thought I was a student. Not a party organiser. Or a cook. Or a cleaner.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Cake done

The cake - baked in September and fed many times with brandy  - now has marzipan on and a layer of marzipan stars on top. Silver ribbon with stars wrapped tightly all round. It looks OK but I think the cake will be better than the decoration. Trying to devise meals for the holiday period (yes, I know the shops only close for one day) and its difficult when I don't know who will be here. So I'm overbuying, like everybody else, but I'll use the freezer - before and afterwards - to cut the waste. Not much gets thrown away here.

I've got writer's block on the assignment - probably because all I can think about is vegan cake recipes and ham glazes.

My toe nails are done - signature purple and silver glitter - but my hands are still in a bad state after the gel nails for the wedding so they will probably stay as they are. Can't decide what to wear for each day.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Getting organised

I have printed out the texts for my assignment. The Shipman and Norfolk trial extracts have been divided into questioners and defendants and analysed into clauses. Then I've calculated lots of metrics, such as lexical words and how the speakers' 'turn-taking' is organised. I've pinned all the spreadsheets round our office, which does not look good but means I can see everything at a glance. TSH is not happy with this and keeps asking when they are coming down.

Monday, 10 December 2012


So the back is bearable now. But it hasn't gone away, even though I can now do most things again. But at least I've been able to get on with the essay - I'm about half way there with it. I'm looking at politeness now. If you say to someone 'Get your hair cut', that's quite rude but 'I think you should get your hair cut' is better and 'Have you thought of getting your hair cut?' quite polite. So I'll look to see if the lawyers are helping to 'save face' for the defendants or whether they are just rude.
We are also planning Christmas - we have most presents now but the food is still vague. We are not sure who will be here when or for how long. The Christmas cake has now been fed with brandy over many weeks so it should be rich and moist. The Amazon boycott did not last. There is nowhere else to get things as conveniently or cheaply. But I now buy with great resentment.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A bit better

At its worst, my back was so bad I couldn't even turn over in bed. I had to get out and then get in from a different angle - taking about ten minutes. But the last couple of days it has loosened up through the day and by evening its bearable. But bad again in the mornings.

I walked into town again today for the first time for over a week because I has a hair appointment. Old Faithful has done me another good cut and said 'its really better choppy on top'. I always ask for 'choppy on top' - complicated bits of longer hair were always his idea done without consultation. The salon was like Clapham junction. Lots of people arriving and clattering about. He kept starting conversations with me and then deciding someone else's conversation was more interesting. Probably true but so rude! When I have my hair done, it should be all about me.

Made some progress on the trial transcripts yesterday - I'm really enjoying this one. The Shipman trial asks really precise questions but the Duke of Norfolk one asks him about four things at once and then lets him give long answers which I don't think would be allowed in a modern trial.

We're thinking of boycotting Amazon this year because they don't pay their tax. But I'm shocked at how few other outlets with a wide range there are now. And one CD costs around £10 at Amazon and around £20 elsewhere. So people would get less in their parcels! Its a tough one - why don't they just announce they will pay up?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bad back

This is not fair. I have felt so well since the eye appointment. And I felt my back go when I emptied the dishwasher. And I can hardly move. I have had this before but not for many years. I don't remember it this bad - I usually managed to go to work and walk round regularly to keep it moving. Maybe I'm just a wimp now.

I really wanted to get on with my History of English assessment but I can't concentrate at all. I've analysed the speeches into clauses and I've got spreadsheets where I'm counting number of clauses, number of speech acts and how much  the defendant, as opposed to the questioner, speaks. That close work is not good for a back which needs to be kept supple. Except it isn't supple at all just now. Everything is agony. No walk into town this morning and no Tai Chi.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Busy social life

This week we have been out four nights running - twice to the opera, once to the local History Group and once to the launch of my sister's new novel ( ) . We saw Don Giovanni and Faust, both of which were enjoyable for us but neither of which had good reviews. But it is difficult to judge when you have not seen either of them before. Now we are looking forward to a quieter time.

I am composing a note for my tutor about my analysis. Do I carry it out manually or do I use a concordance, which does some of the work for you but probably gives a less accurate result? And how many words do I analyse - 500? 1000? And which methodology do I use? At MA level, you have to be a lot more specific than just 'compare and contrast'. Am I looking at causative subordination? Or wh - relative clauses? I need a 5,000 word essay out of this.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Back to normal

I've just realised the extent to which the wedding has taken over this blog (and my life!!). But really we're back to normal now - walks into our local town, Tai Chi practice or class in the mornings and study in the afternoons. And TSH is in the middle of booking holidays for 2014 - next year is all fixed already.

For my History of English assignment, I am thinking of a linguistic comparison of the trial transcript of the Duke of Norfolk's trial for high treason and that of Harold Shipman. Two high status males accused of serious crimes.

I'm wondering whether to sell the hat!!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Yesterday was my first appointment at Manchester Eye Hospital - just a vision test so in itself not scary. But I needed to find out about what was to happen next week, when I was expecting the dreaded probe. I contacted Patient Support and the woman from there helpfully smoothed the way for me to see the person who would be carrying out my tests next week. We had a long discussion and he said he would do the 'contact testing' immediately so that I would not have to worry for another week. Which was very nice of him but I explained it would be impossible for me to take the test without being sedated or strapped down. He began to understand - he had originally said that my doctor's words about acute anxiety were not unusual and did not bother him.

But he was a really really nice person and give up his morning to arrange for me to have a battery of tests using non-contact equipment. So it is possible. And the eureka moment came when he discovered that I have thick corneas and will always have high pressure readings The normal referral level is about 22 - mine is over 30!! I definitely do not have glaucoma or any particular risk of it and he cannot justify annual NHS checkups so I am back to 2-yearly checks at the opticians.

All that worry for nothing. Do they know what they are doing with these vague screening tests? I have lost several nights' sleep.

But it was a good hospital encounter - good people and a beautiful new building.

My nails are still on and my hair is still good but I haven't MA'd for about a week. I was ahead but I need to work hard next week.

Wedding picture

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Wedding haiku

White turquoise sparkle
Heritage and autumn moor;
Joyous earth journey 

Monday, 29 October 2012


Well, they are married and it all went well. Beautiful bride, handsome and charming groom, 12 hours of partying, happy guests and my gel nails survived. Oh, and TSH's speech (which I was not allowed to see or hear in advance) was brilliant! What more could we want?

I think my hat was just right but it felt very hot after five hours. And then I had the ceremony of taking it off and fluffing up the hair. And it worked!! Old Faithful played a blinder this time.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Nails done - biogel in a mushroom shade. Hair to be done tomorrow - hope Old Faithful will do something simple that I can cope with myself. Haiku written - my sister says I'm the family Poet Laureate.

Have spent part of the afternoon listening to a lecture about historical pragmatics, which dealt with how meaning changes over time. Like 'in deed' which was originally two words meaning as opposed to 'in thought' and is now one word used for emphasis or sometimes just to mean 'yes'. One of the most interesting lectures since I started the MA!

Still dreading the whole eyes scenario.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Eye nightmare

I read in the paper (so it's true) that there is now an imaging device called Optos which can be used to map the eye and show any problems. It sounded like all my dreams had come true and I won't have to have anyone actually touch my eye. But then I found a hair-raising account of a journalist who tried out the imaging and they saw a potential problem. So she had to come back the next day and they used the probe (which I refused from my optician). And it is indeed a rod which is pushed hard against the eye. And then they did not find anything so she had all the anxiety for nothing. I feel physically sick.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Nails and Higgins

Did I mention I had gel nails for the holiday? A mushroomy colour, so quite subtle, not like me at all. They lasted flawlessly for ten days, which is less than they advertise but more than I've ever managed with normal varnish. So I'm having them done again for the wedding, in a different colour, but I could not spare time (or money) to have them in-filled every two or three weeks.

Its difficult to tune back in to the course, but I've listened to the audio lecture on morpho-syntactic change over hundreds of years. I was so impressed with my tutor. I sent in some phonetic representations of my own speech and my parents' and he said 'Perhaps you are from East Lancashire', which is true. Its like Higgins in 'My Fair Lady'

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Back from holiday

Yesterday we returned from a cruise Venice to Barcelona. Highlights included Venice itself, Gaudi's spectacular unfinished cathedral at Barcelona, the attractive port of Zadar in Croatia and the majestic Valetta in Malta. Low point of the trip was a visit to the archaeology of Barumini - I was really looking forward to it and it turned out a disaster.

There is no warning about how difficult it is to visit this site. Access to the middle is via a series of modern staircases which ascend the outside of the tower, followed by a couple of very narrow low tunnels with steep stone uneven steps leading into the interior. On the day I went, there were several cruise ships running excursions to the site. Many people were elderly, some with walking sticks. All were taken into these tunnels - I was behind a man who was having severe difficulty and edging forward a centimetre at a time. Other people were behind me so I was stuck in a small space for a long time. When we reached the centre of the structure, I was appalled to discover that we had to renegotiate the tunnels to get out. Meanwhile more and more people - a few hundred, I think - were pouring into the small space. To get out, I had to climb a wall of rock as tall as myself, with only a few foot and hand holds. Then back into the narrow tunnel.

Normally I am really interested in such sites - if I had stayed outside I would have enjoyed it more. This site is not suitable for large numbers of people and it is only a matter of time before someone is injured and there is no easy way of getting them out. If someone is stuck in the tunnel between two people with difficulties, there could be an awful situation.

I didn't even attempt any MA work, as I was ahead when we went and I will catch up this week. Meanwhile, there's the washing and the post.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Wrong contract?

I'm getting the hang of the smartphone - I've been into my moodle learning environment and looked at my course successfully. And I've found some maps - its almost a satnav. But overseas use is not allowed against the contract, so everything, including receiving texts, will be extra. I like the smartphone but I should have stayed on Pay as you go.
My campaign for clean hotels goes on. I always check for dust and in this week's there was lots. So they took us to another room, which was the same. The receptionist had to clean the room but the manager gave us 30% off. I would have preferred a clean room in the first place. Why are people so filthy? Is it just me?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I'm so busy!!

Term has started and I need to get on with my 'History of English'. The face-to-face day was good but it is clear that we will be studying in great depth and ignoring myths about how the language developed.
Yesterday I had a manicure and a pedicure  - bright purple with an overlay of silver sparkle on my feet and a subtle mushroom colour on my hands. This latter is 'biogel', not varnish, so it should last longer. It's really a try-out for the wedding.
But I'm still worried about my eyes - my GP insists I need to see a specialist but he's going to tell them about my anxiety. I think I will need serious sedation.
Great excitement in the family - the publication date for my sister's novel has been set and its available on Amazon. . The cover looks amazing.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


Today I unpacked my first smart phone. How do I use it? Why did I buy it? What is it for? I am completely baffled. And I worked in IT for 30 years.

I hope I can copy my contacts onto it. But I fear I will have to re-key them. And get input errors.

Yesterday I bought my shoes and bag for the wedding. I found a pair of heels I can wear without worrying all the time about falling over. And they have crystal bling on the front. I feel like they are my first grown-up shoes. Maybe they are - for years I have worn flats or very low heels.

And I got my mark for the corpus linguistics assignment comparing the speeches of Miliband and Cameron. Same mark as last time, so I'm not getting worse. But I 'failed to engage with the literature'. They say this every time and I keep saying I don't know how to and they never properly answer the question and I still don't know how to do it. Its probably obvious to all the A level teachers. But not to this IT nerd. Who doesn't know how to use a smartphone.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Leonard Cohen - nearly 78 years old

Last night we went to the Leonard Cohen concert at Wembley Arena. His songs, music and performance are outstanding. And he is so funny (in spite of his dreary image). The audience gave him a magnificent reception. I had expected people to sing all the songs but he was so compelling that we just listened. Except for the chorus of 'So Long, Marianne', of course. All the reviews in the media are excellent.

But the Arena is a dump and the ladies toilets inadequate. I thought the days of spending all the interval queuing were over - they are for those of us who go to the Lowry in Salford.

I think 'Bird on a wire' is my new signature song.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Custom Hat

Choosing the hat was very exciting - select a brim size/shape, then the crown height, then the trimmings. The designers were excellent in choosing colours and materials which looked right with my outfit. But I'm glad I took a friend who supported me when we (occasionally) didn't agree with them. It's going to have bright blue feathers and sparkly bits!! And look good from all directions for the pics. I've never had anything custom made before.

Tomorrow its Leonard Cohen.

And next Saturday term starts.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Another year starts

I've just done the online registration for the next academic year, so I guess I also owe them another tranche of fees. I have also printed out the pre-reading which needs to be done in the next week or so. Its History of English this time, so a lot of information will come from David Crystal's 'The stories of English', which is a really enjoyable book.

Meantime, I go for my bespoke wedding hat consultation this week, which should be fun.

And I intend to make the Christmas cake before our next cruise. I use a recipe from a 'Basic Cookbook', slightly adapted, which I have been using for years and is always very well received. The next few weeks will be very busy.

Friday, 31 August 2012

I was brave

45 minutes root canal treatment today and then another 50 minutes in a couple of weeks. And I just lay there (all tensed up and blood pressure probably doubled) and let him get on with it. It didn't hurt at the time but it was very uncomfortable. But now the injections (two!!)  have worn off and its all sore.

I'm too miserable to work this afternoon but its nearly time to think about the preliminary reading for the September seminar. And I've only written a few hundred words of my book - but I've done some research. The book won't really get going until after the MA. But its all in my head.

I'll be more cheerful next weekend when we go to the Wembley Leonard Cohen concert.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

61 today

Cards and presents. TSH made me a card with pictures of our holidays. The centre spread is a photoshop job of a line of cruise crew carrying letters which spell out 'Happy Birthday'. In fact, they were spelling out 'Welcome Back' after our two day excursion to Beijing. Brilliant!
But I have had a sore swollen gum this weekend and needed an emergency dental appointment. Antibiotics start today. Root canal treatment on Friday. I am not happy. But no mention of no booze on tablets so I can still party. Thai meal out tonight.

I am not going to rename the blog.

Friday, 24 August 2012

What a week!

A week ago, we discovered that TSH's daughter's wedding venue had closed down. A team effort started up to identify venues, phone them and produce a short list for visits. Both families worked really hard. So after much worry and work, there is a new (splendid) venue. Relief all round!!

We were lucky - we have a couple of months to rearrange. Some people had four days!! When you ask wedding coordinators for availability, they all say 'this year?' in a tone of great incredulity.

This is my 'summer holiday' from my MA course. I thought I was going to make inroads into my novel. But I haven't got far, except for some background research.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

It's my eyes

Went to the opticians for check-up after last year's issues with my eyes. The pressure was high when she did the 'puff test' so she decided she wanted to put a 'probe' into my eye. I had hysterics at the very thought and agreed to go back after diazepam the next day. Well, I took 2 tablets and that meant she got the drops in after only a minor tussle. She had shown me the 'probe' and I thought I could do it. But then she produced something that looked like a tissue which she wanted to touch against my eye to put orange dye in (did I say that orange is NOT my colour? I am 'summer', which means blue, red, purple). Well, I can't keep still whilst this happens - when I go for a professional makeup I always do my own mascara. I told her it was torture and not going to happen.

But I have raised eye pressure and all the standard tests involve touching the eye. They are sadists. It is a human instinct to protect the eyes. I have to be referred and I refused to go to the local hospital where I was traumatised last year. She suggested I might find someone more sympathetic on the net (!!!).

Linguistic notes - 1. 'probe' has negative semantic prosody and sounds like something aliens use after an abduction. 'Sensor' would be better.
2. 'I would understand if it hurt' means 'I don't understand you'.
3. 'It is weaker' meant to her that the prescription was weaker as my vision had marginally improved. To me, this first sounded like bad news and then made me realise she was viewing this from the perspective of the prescription. She is a technician not someone who should deal with real people.

My optic nerve and peripheral vision are both good, so no need for total panic.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Have we missed out?

Our house is pretty well an Olympic-free zone but there is so much hype now that I am wondering if it was the right decision. Everyone else is so enthused by it and I know the GB athletes (including the brilliant Northerners) have done really well. But TSH didn't want to watch it and I was totally put off all sport at school so it didn't seem worth starting. I was always the one left behind after they'd picked the teams! And I still can't swim, in spite of it being the only course of private lessons my parents ever arranged for me. I rode a bicycle for a few yards once but I never really mastered it and I'm sure I've totally forgotten it now. So the Olympics is not a natural interest. I would much rather have been part of the team which just put the Rover on Mars.

It's odd at the moment to have no reading and no assignments. So I've resumed work on my novel.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


Managed to get my essay in with two days to spare. Not sure its brilliant but it should pass. I rather lost focus because of the cruise. And then we went to look at TSH's daughter's wedding venue. Really very nice. It will look very elegant when we are all scrubbed up with our new outfits. I still need a hat and shoes.

But now I've got a month's breathing space before the course gets going again. Lots of things to do, though.

This is the haiku I wrote on holiday:

Blue gold domes glinting
Grey rain mist cloud obscuring
Northern water land

Saturday, 28 July 2012

I'm back

Home after 16 day cruise around Baltic. I saw the tombs of the last Romanovs! Tsar, with his wife and five children who were murdered in 1918. This has been a sad but fascinating story I have known for most of my life. It was all a mystery but they found the remains and I have seen the actual tomb! I also saw the gold and amber rooms in large palaces which were part of the reason the Revolution happened and the royal family were hated so much.

I'm exhausted - we did a lot of sight-seeing and then did not catch up with sleep before Olympics ceremony. We did not intend to stay til the end but it was so good we had to. Only fell asleep during the parade - I saw all the rest. So I'm shattered and very near the deadline for an essay.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

I'm addicted

We have just had 36 hours without phone or broadband because of a line fault. Even now, it only works intermittently. And I can't cope without the net. I can't check my social emails or my course emails or Facebook or this blog. And TSH can't pay the bills. Life on hold.

I may be at the end of the line with Old Faithful. Yesterday he cut my hair, ignoring the instruction I gave him a couple of sessions ago to leave some width at the sides, which I can cope with. He said it would be 'choppy' on top but really its just short. Maybe I'm unrealistic but I think my hair can do better than this.

My essay is nearly finished. Round about the word limit and much more organised.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A hotel

Hotels are never clean enough for me. But a crack in the wash-basin? When the manager appeared, I said I had had to anti-bac it. 'Why?' he asked innocently. 'Was it dirty?'  'You can't see germs', I informed him. And the conversation went downhill from there.

Have I said I'm asthmatic? So everywhere has to be dust-free. But hotels never are, and I just have to get over it. But a teddy bear on the bed? (I think they were trying to sell it to me). So by now I was wound up and I hurled it across the room. Knocked our bottle of red wine over. The manager had left the room in terror by now, thank goodness. But the high moral ground had just sunk beneath my feet. But TSH is great with tissues and they had used an excellent carpet protector.

I have always been on a short fuse. Known for it.

Friday, 29 June 2012


I got 63 for my grammar, which is at the higher end of average, so that's fine by me. Some of the comments were a bit scathing - I called the passive a tense when its a voice, which actually I know perfectly well. So there are a lot of improvements I could make to my next effort. I made some progress on that yesterday afternoon and I now have 4,200 words which are probably worth handing in. Some way to go, though - there must be some marks in the last 800 words.

Went to M&S this morning for a pair of shoes I saw on the net. But in real life, the trim was not quite the right colour for my dress for the wedding. But then I impulse bought a summer jacket - crease-proof and with a vibrant floral print. So the trip was worth-while and we did not waste the petrol. And I drove there and back without anyone hooting or flashing or making rude signs!! (My confidence at driving is very low these days).

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


It's very difficult to motivate yourself when the University aren't doing their bit. We have been told that the results are imminent for over a week and still no results and no announcement. Also one of the tutors did not understand the timetable. So the two weeks at the beginning when I was waiting for something to happen were a mistake. And now we have loads of work to do at the end of the module and I've just lost two weeks for being on holiday and I have other commitments and I still haven't written the last 1,000 words.

Time to decide on toe nail colour for Summer (if it happens). Purple? Red? Glitter?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

I'm getting really annoyed

The timetable says the result for the grammar assessment should have been returned at the end of last week. They have already told us that this means that the tutor returns it to the course administrator, who then processes it. So I asked her which day she would be able to return the results to us. And she hasn't got them yet. They are still marking. Busy with exams and undergraduates, who seem to take priority over us. Why are we always at the bottom of the heap? I really need to know how I am doing. I need to approach the Course Director and suggest a serious Service Level Agreement for this course. What we do. What they do. Timescales. Penalties.

Out of sight. Out of mind.

Saturday, 16 June 2012


Thanks to my followers - I hope I'm not putting off anyone thinking of studying at a later age than usual. Its all worthwhile really, honest!!
I am nervous about my grammar result, which should appear early next week.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Do I get a summer holiday?

I just need a rest. I am still working on the Cameron/Miliband speech comparison. But sometimes I feel de-mob happy and want to play all day. But just this one and then I get August and a bit of September off. Coming back to the speeches .... I am looking for political ideology but to be honest if you swapped the speeches over I'm not sure you'd notice the difference. Maybe that's the point.

And another thing. We are analysing using a piece of software that looks for words used in one speech but not in the other. So if they were both just talking about the economy, that wouldn't show up as a difference, even if they were suggesting totally different ways of dealing with it. So I'm unconvinced about this as a method. But maybe all will become apparent in the next teaching module, due on Saturday.

And the results of the grammar book comparison are due out early next week.

Meanwhile my first summer foot nail varnish - pale pink - is looking good and Old Faithful has done a good job on my hair this time. I wish I could wear summer clothes but its too cold and too wet.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

There are a lot of us

Yesterday the Guardian had an article about people over 60 who drastically changed their lives by learning something new. Mostly something completely different from what they had done so far. There were impressive stories in the article and then people added comments on their own experiences. Its really good to see positive (and not patronizing) stories about people who are still in their prime.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

We're all partied out

Yesterday we went to an open-air lunch, which was very enjoyable. But I've never been to two parties in two days before. And both times we toasted the Queen, which very few people of my generation have ever done before - we weren't even quite sure how to. And then we stayed up late to watch the end of the Jubilee concert. I know McCartney is not what he was but he still has amazing presence. Now I'm exhausted. But I need to get on with the essay. 5,000 words before early August but I've got two holidays before then.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee

We're ready for our flotilla party. Coronation chicken and posh fish paste made. Quiches turned out and ham cooked. TSH has made two good salads. Blue marble table dressed with red napkins and white plates. Flags in vases. I'm wearing blue trousers, white T shirt, red and blue jewellery. And a black cardigan because its freezing cold. And silver sparkly nail polish.

No essay today but its taking shape. I just need to understand more about what ideology is. In linguistics, its not just about politics, its also about power and how the speaker positions herself in the world.

Monday, 28 May 2012

What is distance learning?

Distance learning is not a totally easy concept. The OU model is quite different from the model at the University where I am studying for my MA. The OU provided all materials (all top-quality reference books), apart from a few commercially available books which they asked you to buy from the start. So you could sit at home and get on with it.

I have been a bit shocked by the University model - probably because I'm naive, but they should probably spell it out a bit more, because I can't be the only one. The materials are different for each taught module - sometimes there is audio and sometimes not. It even differs within a module. What we get is a set of slides or lecturer's notes so there is no indexing for later use. They are obviously recycyled from other courses because they make references to material we have not actually seen.  And they expect you to have access to an academic library. Not impossible, but not easy either, and not what I was expecting. But they are very vague about what the references to all these extra materials is supposed to achieve. I expected it for the dissertation but not for the taught modules.

Friday, 18 May 2012

I've lost it

Secret Housewife - has written to me to say she is impressed with my 50,000 word essay, as well she might be, since its actually 5,000 and an extra nought crept in. Embarrassing or what? For someone who has a degree in Maths (but not arithmetic, obviously).

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

I didn't know I'm a hat lover

I've rarely worn a hat - that's the same for most people my age. Our mothers and grandmothers wore hats and we ditched all that in the 60s. But I have enjoyed looking for a hat for TSH's daughter's wedding. And yesterday we went to an actual hat shop - they still exist!! I could not keep my eyes off these perfect works of art. But the owner put them on for you whilst wearing gloves (her, not me). That was fair enough because they are precious. I wanted them all, even the ones in colours I don't like.
No decision yet, but I'm looking forward to making it at great length.

The course has gone quiet - no feedback on last week's task and no new task or reading yet. Only about four of us seem to be doing anything on the forums (fora?) at the moment - they're like the Marie Celeste. For my next 50,000 word assignment, I will compare Party Conference speeches by Cameron and Milliband.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

This module is better

I am getting on with the Corpus Linguistics and have just completed a task. This was to compare speeches made by Archbishop George Carey and Pope John Paul II. The software we are using (Antconc) indicated their very diffeent styles of rhetoric - I am keen to see what the tutor thinks of my assessment. GC seems to be using much more informal, almost conversational language, whereas PJP is much more foormal, almost like an academic. The latter is also much more classically religious, and the former speaks more about every day life.

I am still studying hats and shoes. A neighbour has lent me a hat - black with a brim and lots of ostrich feathers. I want some blue flowers for it but they have to match the dress exactly and I can't find any at the moment. The shoes will wait til the Autumn when there should be a wider choice of black patents.

TSH's daughter has seen the dress and seems to approve.

Only a few weeks til our holiday tour of Southern England. Holiday wardrobe planning time. Will Summer have arrived by then?

Thursday, 3 May 2012


The grammar book assignment has been submitted. I enjoyed it but I'm glad its gone. I've now started on corpus linguistics and have just read one account of how male language is different from female language (quite possibly) but he (I think its a he) claims that women's swearing is less extreme than men's (not round here it isn't) and that women don't use abstract entities like 'opinion' or 'theory' (we CAN do abstract  thinking, he mustn't have looked for the right words). He finishes by saying that men's and women's language is complementary, based on that fact that men go out to work and women stay at home (OMG!!) and that their interaction (wait for it .....) is best represented by a pair of entwined wedding rings. I need to lie down in a darkened room with my smelling salts. Maybe even loosen my stays.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Almost finished!

The essay comparing the grammar books is almost finished - I have enjoyed it but will be glad to see it go now. I don't feel I have done myself justice but I have no real fears about failing this time. Corpus Linguistics here we come!!

A neighbour has lent me a hat to try for the wedding - black and very dramatic with ostrich feathers all around. I like it a lot but maybe it also needs a row of blue somewhere. Or should I go and buy (or hire) anyway? My shoes are not decided - I can't walk in high heels but would love something a bit glamorous. Nobody is designing shoes for me!!

TSH is feeling very left out - no decisions yet about what the men are wearing.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Really bad hair day

Used a new product - Tresemme plumping powder, after which I could not even get a comb through my hair. Even after a second wash with deep clean shampoo, it still feels bad and looks bad. How can they take Funky Chunky off the market and put this on? (Yes, I know, they're different manufacturers but it looks like a trend.)

Still haven't finished the essay on grammar books but its getting there.

I am not giving up the MA course, but at least one person has because of the way the course is (not) being run. She got a full refund, as well, so they are certainly feeling guilty!!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Next module

Went to University for the start of the new module. Wore my striped asymmetric jacket and felt good. This one was on corpus linguistics - studying large bodies of text using computers - so I was OK with it. They used as an example looking for how people greet each other - 'hi', 'hello' or 'good morning'. The results showed that people over 60 rarely use 'hi' and everyone agreed that 'old people' were more formal. I kept my mouth shut (for once!) but wanted to explain that 60 is not old, that many of my friends are over 60 and that most of us say 'hi'. It turned out that the data was 30 years old, so they were talking about a previous generation of 'over 60s'. Whereas we are all children of the flower-power 60s, man. It makes you wonder whether a lot of age-related research is out-of date.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

I've got to get down to it

I am trying to write a 5,000 word essay which compares and contrasts two grammar books. I have put in many hours and have produced about 4,700 words and a few colour graphs but am still some way from something intelligent enough to hand in. Its such a massive topic that I keep getting side-tracked onto issues I did not intend to include. I need to steer a course between being too superficial and including so much detail that there is no clear argument. I really need to focus!!

Another problem is that last time they told me I could not cite lecture notes and had to find a reference from an academic source such as a text book. I have on-line access to the library catalogue but not to the books themselves. And I can't very well order a book every time I think a couple of lines might be useful. They have not thought this through for distance learners.

Next week is the face-to-face day for the next module. Another outfit to plan. I've already had my hair done - Old Faithful did really well with it last time, so I hope this one looks as good by next weekend.

This course is so much harder than I dreamed possible. And I've understood and enjoyed all the material in the grammar module!!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Got it!!

I bought the dress for TSH's daughter's wedding. Deep blue long dress and matching jacket. Do I accessorise with black, as advised? Or do I go for purple - so much more dramatic, and my favourite colour?

Cooking for Easter weekend all went well  in the end and most things have been eaten. But I forgot one of the simnel cakes and left it in the oven for hours - it was a bit dry round the edges but the bulk of it was fine. The other one should have been made a bit earlier - it was too crumbly. And one day, I actually burnt the carrots!! Am I losing the plot?  But the quiche was the best ever!!

I have used up a lot of nervous energy this weekend and I'm very stressed. And I haven't written ANY of the essay.

Friday, 30 March 2012

We're looking after ourselves

Went on an 'every day first aid course' with the Red Cross. We learned how to deal with choking, bleeding, heart attack, stroke etc. It was really good and practical and we both feel more confident about what to do if we had an emergency at home. You can't be too careful at our age.

I'm struggling with finding the time to write the Grammar essay - what with first aid and computer support. TSH upgraded to Windows 7 and Chrome. He reinstalled all his software and then he lost the network etc etc. Not to mention Windows 7 Service Pack 1 won't install at all. Then I asked McAfee to change our licence so that all 3 machines are paid together to save money. So I had to uninstall and reinstall on all 3 of them, which took all afternoon. Today I'm making Simnel cake for Easter.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


I don't blog twice in a day. But I just got the assignment result. Its at the top end of 'good pass' - just a few marks short of a distinction. I am amazed, relieved and grateful.

Onto the grammar book comparison, I'm on a roll!!

Not the best weekend away

Travelled to London and went to British Museum to see much acclaimed Hajj exhibition but all tickets were sold out for period we were in London. What a disappointment - this was the major reason for the weekend away.

On Sunday morning, hotel had no hot water, so we had cold bath/shower. After major tantrum from me and cold determination from TSH, they agreed to give us complimentary dinner with wine, which turned out rather good. BUT during cold water period, TSH boiled kettle for shaving and poured boiling water on his arm. Our improvisation included cutting up a sock to make a sleeve to hold clean wet wipe in place to protect skin.

When getting out of taxi at Euston, I banged my head and then dropped my glasses and bent them.

Sunday at Kew Gardens was great, as ever.

I had a dream that my first MA assignment came back in  an envelope (its all on-line) but that the envelope, whilst containing lots of paper, did not include my actuial mark. Anxiety dream or what?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Titanic haiku

This one is from the perspective of the iceberg - it was not intended as a joke, but once I had the last line in my head, it wouldn't go away.

Icy blue massive

Floating in deep grey water

Metal hull in face

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Everyone will think I'm mad

They have published the assignment options for the English Grammar module. The one I really want to do is to compare and contrast two grammar text books. The more I think about it, the more exciting it seems. You see, there are lots of theories about grammar and how it works and none of them are comprehensive. So all the different text books emphasise different things, and sometimes leave out whole aspects, which do not quite fit in with their viewpoint. Many of the older ones don't even touch on the grammar of speech. But speech was here first, and written English is trying, with grammar, to convey all the the nuances of face-to-face language, with intonation and gestures. This blog is not written in Standard English, because it is informal and its digital. So its somewhere between spoken and written English, with grammar to match. (Note: I can write formal standard English when its appropriate)

One of the books I compare will be the standard course text book, which I already have a copy of. I haven't chosen the other one, but I have emailed a suggestion to the tutor for his approval. I am so looking forward to writing this one!!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Tuesday again

And its Tai Chi. But just for an hour, thank goodness. The problem is that I have no Plan B for keeping fit(ish), so this is really important.

I have finished the podcast on the passive tense and sent in my exercises for comment by the tutor, so I'm ahead. Still waiting to see what the 5,000 word assignment will be. And waiting for the mark for the last one - I am really hoping, with no confidence, for a bare pass.

We've had a good few days. Fabulous night at the Opera - Norma (Bellini) sung brilliantly by Opera North. And a day out in Liverpool - bacon butties at Hard Days Night hotel and a few hours at the new Liverpool Museum. The waterfront looks really good now that the building is finished and they have opened up a lot of new vistas. I hope they get the new cruise terminal, which I think will be out of the way of the Liver Buildings.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Looking for an outfit

I have had my first serious attempt to try on outfits for TSH's daughter's wedding. I didn't find 'the one' but I spoke to a boutique owner who said she favoured 'eccentric' clothes. She is very stylish but am I ready for 'eccentric'?  But 'eccentric' is perhaps more me than pastel lace. She said she is waiting for an outfit that would be ideal for me - navy and a long skirt. Could be OK.

We now have the next three weeks worth of work available so I can get on with things. I am really enjoying studying grammar and the way the classic models (noun, verb etc) are inadequate and we need something more flexible and expressive, linked to meaning.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Nothing's resolved

The latest MA session is still not loaded because the tutor is sick. The Head of Department has  apologised to us all but this is really not good enough.

And Tai Chi has become totally beyond me. I am still learning the first new move from last Autumn - since then he has made what seems like dozens of changes. I am totally lost and getting through the lessons by having an 'out of body experience'. I do this sometimes - just pretend I am not there and it is nothing to do with me and it can't affect me. I'm not sure how long this can go on - when I get like this, sooner ot later I explode.

Monday, 20 February 2012

We've got our new room

We went to IKEA today and bought two small leather arm-chairs and an acrylic desk chair. The room is now complete and minimally beautiful.

My MA has come to a halt. I completed the last activity but the new session, due the weekend just gone, is not yet available. I think its because some people have got behind, but they really have to stick to the timetable, even if they let people hand in work late. What if I go on a cruise towards the end of the course? No-one will be bothered about that.

My hair is a good shape but too short. Old Faithful tries to 'do it different every time' but I just want a good, consistent cut. Pedicure on Wednesday. Silver glitter? Or purple?

Still thinking a lot about outfit for TSH's daughter's weddding.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Henry V

We saw a Propeller production of Henry V yesterday and were so impressed by the way they brought it to life. They stuck to the script but in a very physical way - running around the theatre as well as the stage itself. It was interspersed with singing and chanting - they are all very talented in lots of ways. There were smells too - incense, beer and the leek one of them ate (raw!) on stage. Shakespeare would have approved.

I have eventually drawn a line under my correspondence with the OU about my bad project result. They refuse to supply any meaningful feedback or to allow me to pay a tutor to do so. Their teaching materials and teaching methods are brilliant but it is a sausage machine and if you need to be treated like an individual you should go elsewhere.

My hair needs cutting - booked in with Old Faithful in a few days time.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Cultured this week

Last night we went to see 'A Winters Tale' performed by the all-male Propeller group. It was excellent - they did the tragic parts in a very dramatic way but the comic part was more like a pantomime set at a rock concert (you had to be there). It is touring at the moment - much to be recommended. On Saturday, we are going to see them do Henry V.

I have been wondering why the next part of my distance learning course has not been made available - it was due to be on the web-site last weekend. It turns out that some people have got behind, communicated privately with the tutor and as a result it has been held back. But I like to get ahead, to accommodate our holidays, and I am sure that they won't be sympathetic about that when it comes to the time for handing in the next assignment. So I am more than a little miffed about it.

But now that its appeared, it is interesting - all about different sentence constructions (declarative, interrogative, imperative etc) and the task is to transcribe a few minutes of speech and label the clauses with the categories. This is not as trivial as it might sound, as we have to look at the real intention of the sentence. For example, 'Could you close the door' is structured like a question but really its a command. I love that kind of analysis - its why I'm doing the course.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

They've gone!

The room is now a beautiful white on white - so clean and airy compared to the way it was before. The floor will be dark, but that has not been laid yet. We have cleaned up most of the dust and it feels like our house again, instead of the building site it turned into last week.

TSH's daughter has ordered her stunning wedding dress and he thinks that most things are now organised (venue and dress). He has no idea about veils, tiaras, shoes, napkins etc etc. Well, neither have I, really. Even though I've been married twice, I never had that kind of wedding. When I married TSH, we took along a Beatles compilation album. We had no plan about when it would be played. They played it throughout and we said 'I do' to the strains of 'I'm a Loser'. When we got outside, we - and several of our guests - had been clamped. It was a memorable day.

I keep looking at web sites for what I'm going to wear. I want a big hat!!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Workmen in

I am not good at being invaded, even when its because I want some lovely new fitted furniture. We thought that they would be confined to an upstairs bedroom, with the occasional foray to the fuse-box in the utility room. But they are everywhere! Both front and back doors are often wide open and its only about 3 degrees C out there. When we came back from Tai Chi, there was a small light on in the kitchen and some paper-work on the work-top. They see a (previously) clean and empty space and think they can use it. They are not even supposed to be in the kitchen! I had to anti-bac everything, even the wrapper on the outside of the bread which was sitting there waiting for our lunch. I know I'm OCD but it is our kitchen and there are a lot of germs out there.

They say they will be here for another three days!!!!!! Its only a wardrobe and a desk really.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

I had such a good time

This week we went to Nottingham. TSH is celebrating his 65th year by visiting as many steam train events as possible. I booked a John Lewis pamper session, which was great. Two hours with fashion advisor James, who was excellent, so helpful and no pressure to buy and then a 45 minute make-up lesson at Clarins. If you factor in free tea, coffee, bubbly and a scone (not in that order!), vouchers and some free products, the whole session was free. I learned about some new facial products and tried on clothes I would not have thought off (some of them were great).

I tried to do some MA work whilst we were there - it is really interesting trying to look at word classes from first principles instead of just saying 'its a past participle'. But I don't have good definitions for all the terms and I am waiting for some tutor guidance. But I love this part of the course!!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Grammar's much better

I have just started the first weekly activity. It concerns dividing words up into classes. Like nouns, verbs and adjectives, but these are old-fashioned. So we are working on semantic and pragmatic classes, as prescribed by Cognitive Linguistics. I know. I still haven't finished sorting it all out but I'll get there. This is fascinating. A bit like Maths. Did I say I used to be a Mathematician? In another life and I don't remember much but my mind still works that way.

Having a good hair week - good cut and I have used a serum on it for a few days so its really shiny.

Had a manicure on Monday - fabulous dark pink with glitter. But lots of it came off! Not chipped, but coming off in chunks in the bath! The manicurist took it all off properly, put a plain polish on and gave me a credit towards my next treatment. And I invested so much time into not chipping it. And TSH made the meal when it wasn't his turn.

I'm worrying about what to wear on Friday. I'm having a make-up lesson and seeing a fashion consultant, so I need a good image. At the moment its my pale purple knitted dress.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Nearly finished Spoken English for ever

I will be so glad when this part of the course is over - nearly there now.
OU is still refusing to explain my bad result - I cannot understand why they are so secretive about it.

Yesterday went to really sad funeral - only 62 and having such a good life.

Monday TSH is 65 - manicure (for me) in morning and smart meal out in evening. Outfit not fixed but probably purple velvet dress with the velvet jacket I wore on New Years Eve.

Friday, 13 January 2012

It's getting better

The second face-to-face day for my course was last week and it was infinitely better! I understood it all and the tutor seems much more committed.

I still have to finish the Spoken English assignment and I've had a worry about that this week. The course director said that for the prosody option he would expect analysis of 2 minutes of conversation. I have been working on 10. How do you write 5,000 words about 2 minutes of speech? I wrote to him and he agreed to look at my work. I then spent a few days thinking I might have to start again completely. 5,000 words on the role of the larynx suddenly seemed more atytractive. Better than recording, transcribing and analysing anoither conversation, anyway. But he said my analysis was 'great' and I am on the right lines. Things are improving. I'm not stupid or past it.

Oh, and TSH's daughter has asked me to help choose the wedding dress! A true honour.

But what will I wear? For the shopping, as well as the wedding?