Friday, 30 December 2011

Still not resolved

It's all simmering at the back of my mind all the time.

But Christmas was great - lots of pleasant meals and time spent with TSH's children. Had a great purple sparkle polish on hands and feet but hands only lasted a few days becasue of cooking and handling food.

DVD presents included Killing Series 1 and Downton Abbey Series 2. CDs of Bruce Springsteen, Adele and Elbow.

Just laid out outfit for TSH's daughter's engagement party. Usual black top and trousers with purple velvet cut-out long jacket. Grey sweater and scarf for day after. Do I paint nails silver?

Hair has been good but needs attention now from Old Faithful.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Reasons why I should give up the MA:

1. I am totally discouraged by my final OU score. Not only is it so low but I don't understand the comments, they don't seem to relate to my work. It's a lottery and I am getting rebellious and resentful.

2. I don't like the way the MA course is structured. Lots of trivial activities and then a longer piece of work just a few times a year. I liked the OU structure where you are working on something all the time - I like writing and analysing more than I like reading.

3. Lots of the MA students are A level teachers, who are much more knowledgeable than I am.

4. It doesn't seem to be giving me any pleasure right now.

Reasons why I should carry on:

1. I want to keep my brain active.

2. I have enjoyed so many aspects of English Language in the past. There must be some good bits on this course.

3. I want an MA.

4. What would I do instead ( the answer to that is write my novel)?

4. I'm not a quitter.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Macca is amazing

He sang and played and joked around for almost three hours and we never even saw him take a drink of water. He's 69!! It was the most amazing evening - I think I enjoyed it even more than the exceellent concert he gave in about 2003. Of course, I saw him at the Apollo in Manchester in the 60s at the height of Beatlemania. This has to be the best, really.

His band are excellent and a real bunch of performers, especially the drummer. But Paul's ego and presence is much bigger than theirs (or anyone else's).

There were people of all ages and they all sang along and some danced. Some of the numbers were big productions with noise and fireworks and fast videos. My favourites are the quiter ones with Paul and guitar, keyboard or ukelele. He sang 'Something in the way you move' for George and one of his own songs for John. I've never seen him sing a Lennon song before but this time he led us all in a chant of 'Give Peace a Chance'.  I'm still high!!

Monday, 19 December 2011

An icon

I'm very excited about the Paul McCartney concert. He really is an icon. I know 'sound track of my life' is a cliche, but in this case it's true. No worries today!!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Its still not going too well

The MA course is really difficult and I'm worried I won't pass. It's a real possibility that I will give up - and that is so unlike me. The bad OU mark has really knocked my confidence. And I am worse at Tai Chi now than I was a year or two back - I just can't remember the sequence since he started changing it.
But if I give it all up it will seem like the end and then what will I do?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

TSH is playing Leonard Cohen to cheer me up

I just got the result of my latest OU course and I'm appalled. All year I had no score lower than 85. My project proposal - which was very specifiec and detailed - got 87. And they've given me only 61 for the actual project!! I worked really hard on a linguistic comparison of speeches by Pankhurst and Mandela and I thought I did it to the same standard as the rest of the course - and I really enjoyed doing it!! If I'd got the same sort of mark as for my other work I would have got a distinction. I genuinely thought that the worst outcome was a Class 2. And they've given me Class 3. I know its just one course and I already have my BA and I don't want a job. But everyone likes to be appreciated.

And Leonard is droning away in the background about 'sentenced to death by the blues' and 'garden of freshly cut tears'. I can always rely on TSH.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Its going well

I have written about 4,000 of my 5,000 words on prosody and I am really enjoying it. I have a recording of an over dinner conversation between me and TSH and the analysis is fascinating. How does turn-taking really work? How do you know that the other person has finished? Most of the time we speak in a rhythm which is as predicted but all of a sudden we get interested in a topic and all the parameters go non-standard. I will be shocked now if I don't manage to pass this part of the course.

Only a couple of weeks now until I get my course result from the OU. I've got great hopes for a good mark from that one.

We've been busy entertaining this weekend - a dinner party on Friday night and Sunday lunch today.

Christmas shopping partly done - hair and nails appointments booked - what will I wear?

Did I mention we're going to see the Paul McCartney tour?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

We went out in the evening

We don't go out much at night - even when we go to the theatre we mostly choose the matinee. But we went to see Opera North sing Gibert and Sullivan's Ruddigore. It is described as 'little performed' and the last time I saw it at an outdoor performance, I understood why. But this production was brilliant - excellent humour and comedy, even though some of it is a bit Gothic.

I received a voucher from East Midlands trains because of my letter of complaint about over-crowding. They call it over-crowding as if its the fault of the passengers. Really its under-provision. No apology or explanation or plan for improvement - I am keeping my MP in touch on this one.

Did I mention we have tickets for a Paul McCartney concert in December?

What will I wear for that? And for the wedding?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

This week has been better

Tai Chi was much more manageable as he has modified the new moves and is now introducing them more slowly. Thank goodness for that - Tai Chi is a very important part of my health and exercise regime.

I have made some progress with the prosody assignment but have hit a snag. Some of the technical terms in the question have not been covered by the course and are not going to be covered by the course so they are advising me to try another question. But that was the only one I felt able to do! And I've already done loads of work. So I'll stick with it and use some definitions acquired from elsewhere and hope for the best. The main issue is that every linguist seems to define terms slightly differently.

Bought some new big cardigans for layering so I feel ready for the colder weather. But some nights I still spend some of the time under my 1-tog duvet. In mid-November!!

Good news from TSH's daughter, who has got engaged. Wedding next year.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

He's messing with my head!

The Tai Chi class this morning was a total nightmare. There are four sections in the frame we do and I am pleased with myself about being quite confident about the first two (the easiest) and I'm keen to improve on the other two. The instructor has been to China to train and he has come back wanting us to learn the form in the exact way it is practised in the Chen village in China. Lots of details have changed. This might sound trivial but I have spent almost 7 years trying to get the details right - hand positions really matter. And now I am supposed to do something different. I have been changed from being confident to feeling like a beginner again in one hour. And he is teaching us this at a fast rate. I can't adjust the way I do something I have been doing almost every day for so long. And do I want to? If the hand positions mattered that much, there wouldn't be different ways of doing it.

I don't want to go to the class again but TSH wants me to try the new moves and stick with it.

This is the first physical activity I have ever taken part in and got to a reasonable standard in. And now I feel like I did in the gym at school when I was the worst performer at everything. I feel ill!!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

This is the first part I have enjoyed

They have published the assessment question for Spoken English. I have chosen the one about the prosody of a conversation (that means all the tone and the way it is broken up and stressed and whether the voice goes up or down). I still wasn't enthused but I set up the computer to record our ramblings over dinner last night and today I started to transcribe the result. It took me most of two hours to write out the basics of 6 minutes of conversation. And that was just the words! Well most of them - there are inaudible bits that I will need to work on. I haven't even started on the prosody bits yet.  But I like analysing real stretches of language and I think I might end up enjoying this.

There is no way I would have chosen the option of 5,000 words on the function of the larynx!!

I really was about to drop out and now I'm not.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Is it getting better?

We are now doing pitch and intonation. I am OK with some of it because I can understand stress and how the way we break up a spoken sentence can change the meaning. (eg 'He spoke to me honestly' can have the 'honestly' as a separate group to emphasise the truth of the statement, or it can be part of the previous group because it is telling how he spoke). I am not so good at rising and falling because my ear is not good enough to detect it unless it is really obvious. But this is the first part of the course where I broadly understand what is going on. With all the problems I have had so far it is difficult to remember that in my last OU course I didn't get a mark less than a first.

I went into the Government Gateway web-site to get information about how much my state pension will be. They think I have a different surname - my record has been altered in some way and there will need to be an investigation. Is nothing straightforward?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A day out

Went on the train to visit my sister for the day - I had no idea of the level of over-crowding that is now considered quite normal. I had booked a through train but when it arrived, it was completely full so that it was impossible to get through the doors. So I had to get a later train, which was almost as crowded, so that I had to stand and change at a busy station, which is what I had tried to avoid. I arrived an hour late. On the way back I had a seat, but for the last part of the journey it filled up again and I was worried about whether I would be able to make my way to the door. Passengers formed groups to force their way off - it was incredible.
All the regular travellers have been beaten (and worn out) into submission but all the time I was composing letters to David Cameron in my head. They would not allow animals to be transported like this!
I have complained to the train company and written to the Department of Transport and to my MP.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

No rail card yet

I expected to qualify for an older person's rail card when I was 60 - this is what happened to TSH a few years ago. But now they are putting  the age up gradually - I have no idea when it will happen for me.

People who are my age never 'came of age' - when we were 18, the age of majority was 21 and by the time we were 21, it had changed to 18. Now we are getting our bus passes and rail cards at 61 and a bit (or something like that). I wonder what it has done to us to miss out on TWO rites of passage.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Discount on bread

Our local baker's shop is offering 10% discount to students. They were polite enough not to show their surprise when I produced my student id. We don't buy the expensive cakes or the fancy coffees but a few pence off our daily multi-grain is worth having!!

TSH ran the Tai Chi class today as the instructor is training in China. He made a good effort but keeping track of where you are in the sequence whilst stopping and starting and moving around the room so that people can see is not easy.

Monday, 17 October 2011

This is the most difficult thing I have ever tried to learn

I really am beginning to think I have made a mistake. I have never before been confronted with this number of complicated new terms in such a short space of time. And I have no idea how to tell if a sound is 'voiced' or 'unvoiced'. It has something to do with your vocal cords but I have no idea what mine are doing. Or putting your finger in your ear and listening for a buzz. They all sound pretty much the same to me.

In the unlikley event that I get through this module and manage to scrape a pass, if anything else is this difficult I am leaving the course.

Last week I made the Christmas cake - I can still do something.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The most difficult subject I have ever studied

This course might be  beyond me. We are studying Spoken English and half the time I have no idea what they are trying to teach us. It is all about the International Phonetic Alphabet - which is not too difficult - but about the shapes the mouth makes when it makes the different consonant and vowel sounds. My mouth does not seem to do the right things. And there is a lot of stuff about 'release' and 'stops', which goes right over my head. I have seriously thought about giving up.

I am OK when they apply the concepts practically. For example, they pointed out that Northeners say 'bath' with a short 'a', Southerners say it with a long 'a', but people (like me) who have started off in the North of England and then either travelled about or mixed with a lot of different people seem to say it somewhere in between. We don't want to appear too Northern but the full-on long 'a' is a step too far. I'd never worked it out like that but that is exactly what I do. It's little gems like that which make me realise that I am interested after all.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

TSH calls me a p*****k

No, not when I got searched at airport security because they found the anti-bac gel I had forgotten I had in my camera case. At least it meant I was clean!

Not when I paid a car park fee and managed to lose the ticket in the two minutes before we arrived at the exit barrier.

Not when I put the 'Please Service my room' tag on the wrong way so that it read 'Do Not Disturb' and our room did not get cleaned.

It was when we were packing to come home and he was weighing the cases to check they were under 20K each. We had equalised and finalised and he had locked them and put the straps on. And then, in my hand luggage, I found my medical bag. Full of tablets and liquids. And a knife.

I wonder if I'll ever get my MA?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Back from Spain

Got back yesterday afternoon and now its washing machine time. Holiday was excellent - paradors in Spain offer good accommodation and Spanish food. Those at Jaen and Arcos de la Frontera also give stunning views as they are very high up. In the latter case, the view is at the expense of driving up through narrow alley ways, partially blocked by parked cars and tourists and local residents on foot. I got very stressed about it but TSH is very laid-back and managed it without scratching the hire car.

My pedicure lasted well but the varnish on my nails chipped as usual. But it was glittery so it looked better than a solid colour would have. My hair was low maintenance but didn't really look good - I'll be glad when it grows a bit.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Are we nearly there yet?

I hate this part. My clothes are in the suitcase - probably creased by now. Only the hand baggage to sort out - I have my plastic bag ready for lipstick and mascara, which are within the fluids allowance. Our weight limit is only 20 kg, less than I have ever had before so I have a minimum of light clothes, which I will need to rinse out. Also a few woollies, in case it gets cold. And Factor 40. No computer. My hair is too short.

And some phonetics notes on my Kindle.

The glittery nail polish looks great - just silver glitter on my hands and plain silver with a top coat of glitter on my feet.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Manicure and pedicure

Pre-holiday manicure and pedicure booked. Will stick with pink glitter for toes but can't decide about fingers. I am not doing anything for the rest of the day as my finger nails always chip and I need this to last for a two-week holiday. TSH will organise rest of dinner for us and his daughter and partner - I have prepared beef in Kentish Ale and mustard and put it in the oven on timer. There will also be salmon cooked in Ale.

The more I read, the more I have no idea of the difference between phonetics and phonology - the minute I think I have it straight I read something else which contradicts what I thought. Why aren't there proper definitions? Linguistics is supposed to be a science.

Yesterday I managed to transcribe a (very short) extract from 'Alice in Wonderland' using the International Phonetics Alphabet. Small victory!

Will silver glitter look tacky?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

I got away with it

Went back to Old Faithful to get my hair cut. He didn't say anything about someone else having cut my hair but I'm sure he knew. I asked him to cut it much shorter than usual so that I don't need to take my straighteners to Spain next week.

I have started to study phonics properly and I am beginning to get the idea. I wish I had done more reading for the session last Saturday - I might have got a bit more out of it. The tasks and the reading for the course have not been posted yet so I can't start - a pity, because I have a bit of time this week and then I'm going away without a computer for two weeks.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

I had no idea it would be so difficult

Yesterday was a 'face-to-face' day for my MA. TSH drove me there as I no longer do motorways (I can drive but I can't cope with other drivers driving too close at speed). I wore my long blue and green tunic over black trousers with a casual black jacket. Accessorised with a geen scarf and a long string of beads. I thought it looked OK but I wish I'd had my hair cut.

Everyone - staff and students - seemed friendly and I chatted to more people than I normally do in a whole week. The students are mostly female and there are a few who look as if they are in my age group, so I am not the oldest.

We went through a lot of admin and were shown how to use the course computer systems - no problem with any of that, as I worked in IT for all of my working life.

Then we started the phonics and phonetics for the 'Spoken English' module. It was so difficult, as I am only vaguely familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet and I think he was assuming much more detailed familiarity. We were supposed to know the difference between the 'p' in 'pit' and the 'p' in 'spit'. I really struggled and the only consolation is that I don't think I was the only one. I really wondered if I had made a dreadful mistake and it is all totally beyond me.

I need to understand the difference between phonics and phonetics.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

10th Anniversary

Its our 10th Wedding Anniversary today, so we are eating out tonight.

One of our memories of the wedding is being clamped - we parked outside the registry office, parking with gay abandon in the middle of an empty office car park on a Saturday. When we came out - married - we and some of our guests had been clamped. I am sure they were waiting there on purpose. I feel very strongly that clamping should be banned - I think that is already the case in Scotland.

This will never be a political rant but clamping (and maybe bankers) is different.

None of it was formal - we took a Beatles CD with us. There were no plans about when it would be played and they left it on at low volume the whole time. We made our vows to the strains of 'I'm a Loser'!

I bought a new handbag today - large and black. I need a large bag to go to University on Saturday to keep my notebook etc in. And my lovely huge bright pink one doesn't go with the outfit I have planned. I so have to create the right impression - they will only see me 3 times a year.

I haven't started reading 'Phonetics and Phonology' in earnest yet - I'll catch up next week.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

School's out for Summer!

I've finished my Pankhurst/Mandela comparison and sent it in to the OU. Now its fingers crossed til December.
So I'm free of deadlines.
I start my MA course with a face-to-face day on Saturday. And I should do some preliminary reading.
So I can still keep my mind active.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Why am I writing this?

Because I enjoy writing (always have - wanted to be a writer when a child - first detective novel - unpublished - written at 10).
Because I want a record of an exciting time in my life.

So that someone aged 60 might read it and say 'That's just like me'.
So that someone else aged 60 might read it and say 'That's not at all like me'.
So that someone aged 20 might read it and say 'That's not at all like me'.
So that someone else aged 20 might read it and say 'That's just like me'.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Back home

Can't decide if Eurostar is really easier than flying. No hassle with worrying abour luggage arriving - but you have to carry/pull it yourself. Very difficult to get it on and off train and no staff to help. Steps are higher than on a usual train in UK. I couldn't have managed to get my own bag on without TSH. I think if you live in SE England its probably better but I'm not sure for us Northerners.
I felt ignorant in Paris - I have only been there two or three times before (yes, I know, its so close!) and I don't know where anything is or much of the history. But we started with a boat tour and ended at the top of the Pompidou Centre looking at it all spread out in front of us. Two good ways to orientate! Bits of the language came back to me but my vocabulary is very limited.

We have some metro tickets left, so we're saving them for next  time.  We have agreed that in the absence of a better idea, we will go back for our 20th wedding anniversary in 10 years time.

Got the mark for my project proposal - another good mark, thank goodness.

Now back to the washing mountain.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

OK so far

My hair is OK this morning but I still needed to use my straightners, which I was hoping not to take to Paris next week. We are going on Eurostar so we need to minimise luggage. I already have a rail up in the spare room and I'm trying to coordinate outfits, jewellery etc. And which bag? I can probably only take one. Good job I have a Kindle so I need not carry books.

My Pankhurst/Mandela analysis is pretty well finished but I need feedback from my tutor before I can finalise it. That might take some time as I will need to copy some Excel sheets into Word tables, which is the only allowable format. I am sure it will take ages to reorganise them to look smart. But Excel is so much easier if you want to add and percentage, not to mention if you add or delete rows.

I am also trying to come to terms with phonetics - which parts of the mouth you use to make different sounds. Do they sound the same when you pinch your nose? Or put your fingers in your ears? The difference between b and p is so subtle, I have no idea how young children learn it so quickly.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I'm a traitor

I have betrayed Old Faithful.

I just had my hair cut by a new hairdresser. I have been going to Old Faithful for ten years but he is on holiday and I really needed a cut. Perhaps I was just looking for an excuse - he's  served me very well but recently I've been dissatisfied with the look. But is it his fault? Or has my hair changed? Or do I just not look young any more?

It looks fine but the big test comes tomorrow when I wash and style it myself.
And then its the big question. Do I go back to Old Faithful? Or not?

Sunday, 28 August 2011


It's today! I'm 60!

Lots of cards and presents. And e-mails and texts and Facebook greeting. As well as the 22-day cruise I had to the Far East and my holiday in England and my forthcoming trips to Paris and Spain.

Do I get a pension? Well, not yet. Bus pass? Not sure. Free prescriptions and eye tests from now on.

Day spent reading Paris guidebooks. No study or essay writing - no housework or cooking - can't remember the last time I had a day off from everything.

My 'Practical Phonetics and Phonology' textbook arrived yesterday. I need to have at least browsed it before I go to my first day at University.

Eat out at good restaurant tonight. What to wear?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Another day off

Didn't get any of my essay done today - a combination of clearing up after party yesterday and sitting in the sun just because it was there!
Yesterday's party was for my extended family - cousins, mainly. Our parents were a fairly tight-knit group and used to hold the family together but over the last few years, they have all died. So the onus is on us to keep in touch if we want to and so far quite a few people want to, which is nice. I hope they all come again next year.
Back to Mandela and Pankhurst tomorrow!

Friday, 19 August 2011

OU assignment

I've just submitted my latest assignment - a project proposal for a piece of work which counts for half the marks on my course. Now to get ahead with the project itself.

My latest mishap is an extremely painful and swollen wrist. I assumed it was some kind of sprain but there is a mark near it which makes me wonder if it is an insect bite. Cold compresses, ibuprofen and a compression sleeve are easing it a bit. Hope I can manage to sleep tonight - unlike last night.

TSH bought me some maltesers to cheer me up.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Its getting nearer!

The Guardian published its Guide to starting at University today. I know its written for undergraduates and I know I'm doing distance learning but its very exciting!!!!

I don't know what it says about me that the first bit I read was 'what to wear'. The outfits were all very casual and whilst they will look terrific on an 18-year old, I'm afraid I would just look like a bag lady. I think it might be a better image if I dress up properly - long skirt, sequins ..... only joking, but I might wear a jacket.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Keeping fit

Tai Chi class today. We are better than absolute beginners but not really very good yet. We are now refining the postures we have been learning for the last 6 years. That means unlearning the simple versions at the same time as mastering more complex moves. We are getting there but TSH doesn't like not knowing exactly what he is doing.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Working on my final project for my last undergraduate course - a linguistic comparison of a speech by Emmeline Pankhurst with one by Nelson Mandela. They look very similar at first but there are some amazing differences. She is quite chatty but he does not really address his immediate audience at all - he is speaking for the the world at large, not to those in the room.

Still trying to sort out what I need to do about my eyes. I have had a posterial vitreous detachment (use wiki), which is very common in people my age. Fortunately no retinal tear so no need for surgery. I now have floaters in my eye a lot of the time. I am told I now need eye tests every 12 months instead of the normal 2 years, but there is some red tape to deal with to arrange this. When I am 60 later this month, I qualify for free eye tests. Never thought this would come - I've always paid for everything.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Good news - my comparison of the two newspapers got me an 85% - I'm pleased with that!

University have sent me details of fresher's week but I think as a distance learner I don't get to attend. Shame!!

The day I do have to attend clashes with a general 60th birthday celebration for a few people who were in my class at school. I never go out and then they all come along at once!!

Friday, 29 July 2011

I've not finished my assignment and I've fallen over

The first time walking into town after flu, my foot slipped out of my Crocs and I tripped over the shoes and the feet and hit the pavement heavily with my face.The bruising and scabbing is awful - my sister thinks I should tell people I have had a face-lift. Why would I want that? But I might need one if the face does not recover.

I'm glad I had the photo for the library card taken last week when I was still beautiful (?).

Meanwhile I am writing a big assignment - comparing the language in a Daily Mail article with an article on the same subject from the Socialist Worker. They are obviously both biased but unpicking the technical ways they do this is fascinating. I am still short on word count, which is unusual for me.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Well - its started

The invitation to the face-to-face day has arrived. I'm nearly launched back on the campus scene. OMG!!

Needed to send in a pic for my university library card. Got TSH (Totally Supportive Husband) to take a few in the morning. Still reasonably awake, fresh make-up and hair etc. Didn't look too bad in the end, so sent one off.

Didn't do too well with my essay today - had flu and am still tired. I've taken on a lot to celebrate my 60th year - holidys to China, Oxford, Paris, Spain. Also an extra undergraduate course, which overlaps with MA course in September (when we're also going to Paris and Spain).