On Babushka and the curse of the holey sock

Babushka, for anyone who doesn’t know, was the lady who wanted to go with the wise men to see baby Jesus (and bring him presents and toys), but who hadn’t finished tidying her house yet, so she stayed behind, promising to follow them as soon as she was finished. The thing is, when she was finally satisfied everything was tidy eough to leave, the snow had covered their trail, and she didn’t know where to go.. Legend has it, she went from house to house, asking if the inhabitants knew where Jesus was (they didn’t) and sometimes leaving the children one of the presents she’d been meaning to give him.


I, like the heroine of the story, almost always end up running late… Mostly it’s due to trying to do too much before I can leave the house, but sometimes it’s because I have to try on a handful of socks before finding one with no hole(s).

From now on, as I pair my socks up*, I will get rid of the holey ones instead of putting them in the drawer. I expect I will need to buy quite a lot of new ones, but that’s quite exciting – nothing like wearing new socks for the first time πŸ™‚

Also, and this is unlikely to ever happen for more than a few days at a time, I am aiming to get my house to the stage where I could leave it if I needed to πŸ˜‰ (Or invite people in without handing out obligatory eye-patches at the door)


* I don’t match my socks in the traditional sense… I think it’s far more satisfying to wear socks which go together imaginatively, and not identically… like green-and-black-stripes and blue with miniature pandas.. Or blue-with-light-blue-hearts and light-pink-with-dark-pink-hearts.. Or rainbow-stripes and grey-and-black-stripes. That kind of thing. It’s easy when you know how πŸ™‚

Quote: dreams

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you”

Marsha Norman

(If this is true, mine’s going to be a very odd book..)

On priorities

I have a problem with priorities.

Take today for example.

I came home cold, tired and hungry. Also my hair was skanky and my house was a mess.

The Mental To-Do List said:

  • Sleep
  • hot bath (+wash hair)
  • cook+eat
  • tidy up.


The main problem with this list was the order. If I went directly to bed, I would not only forfeit Β£200, I would also not achieve any of the other things on the list. The same risk hung over the bath.

Besides. I was hungry.

So I braved the kitchen.

Actually that’s a lie. First of all I sat in a heap on the sofa for almost an hour until I could work up the energy to brave the kitchen. If I’d had any milk I would have eaten muesli and ignored the rest, probably falling asleep on the sofa. As it was I emptied and filled the dishwasher and made the best easy-dinner I’ve made for a long time – not that I’ve really cooked anything in ages: Onions, Mince, Vap* and Fresh Tagliatelle. Frying onions has to be one of the best smells ever :).

Now that I’ve eaten (at the computer :S) I suppose I’d better tackle the rest of the things on my list.

But I don’t wanna.

I have 37 ideas for interesting writings in my head. And the computer’s on, and the keyboard’s warmed up. And my computer-blanket is good for snuggling into. And tidying up is dull.

Except I know I’ll regret not-doing-it tomorrow.

So I’d better peel myself off my rocking stool and get my cleaning hat on.



I don’t really have a cleaning hat.


* short for ‘evaporated milk’

On great expectations and disapointment

I am a glassblower.

More accurately a scientific glassblower.

I have just been on a course to learn what it takes to pass the exams which entitle me to become a master-glassblower. Or glassblowing master. Or glassblowing mistress I suppose.

Whatever. The point is that I was there. And now I’m back.

And I’m not verily impressed.

I like learning.

That’s probably not a cool thing to say, but since very little of what I do or wear or am is particularly cool in the popular sense, I shall say it anyway.

I actually really do like learning things. New things, interesting things, exciting things. I’m not that big on learning what it feels like to have your bed collapse under you, or how to break up with people, or just how much it hurts to have people cut you up without properly anethetising you first (yup, all things I learnt at one time or another (or am learning ;))) but those are things you learn because you have to and not because you want to..

I like learning the things I WANT to learn.

And some of the things life wants me to learn and which I wouldn’t’ve thought about learning by myself.


I CHOSE to sit on a train across Germany for 8 hours*, in order to drag the ankle-biting-suitcase across town and up a hill, in order to sleep in a semi-beaten-up-room in semi-beaten-up-halls, in order to be within walking distance of the glass-school, in order to sit in a classroom, in order to be taught things that with be useful to me, and therefore also useful to the people I make Glass Things for.

I CHOSE to willingly pay someone (some oneS) to share their knowledge with me.

What I didn’t choose, is for the teachers to be useless, unprepared or absent. I didn’t choose to learn about irrelevant things that will very likely never benefit me. Ever. I didn’t choose to have to transcribe hours and hours of dull teacher-talk to save him having to type it up and print it out for me. I didn’t choose to be taught/told the same things I learned while becoming a glassblower the first time round.

[Side Note: I am even more incredibly grateful to the-teachers-that-taught-me-the-first-time-round, than I was the first time round ;). It made translating the complicated jumble of chaos I was fed least week marginally easier…]

I didn’t choose to pay for people-more-chaotic-than-I-am to tell me they didn’t have time to go though the-maths-problems-they-wanted-us-to-solve BEFORE writing them on the board. I didn’t choose for metal workers to teach me about gear changes or about how fast cogs turn. I didn’t choose to learn how the 57 varieties of glass-melting ovens are built or exchanged. I think I am beyond needing to learn how to calculate the area of squares and rectangles and even circles for that matter. Despite, or maybe because of, already being capable of working out the hypotenuse of a triangle given the length of both the other sides, I don’t see why it should be skipped because of being ‘far too complicated’. If anything it should be skipped because there’s no need to dwell on things people can already do. Having decided not to skip it after all, I would have been more forgiving if they’d explained it CORRECTLY to the few people who needed the explanation. If they’d also labelled the sides and corners properly I would have been tempted to give them a bonus gold star. I would have also appreciated it if they’d had any understanding of what brackets mean when written in mathematical equations. It is probably better to be momentarily confused by a textbook which uses a different letter for the same thing, than to try and work out why you need both terms in one equation [for anyone wondering what I mean, try this for size:Β  “a x b x c(h)”Β Β  where c is the side that make a square into a cube and is referred to as height in some literature..].


I am a scientific glassblower.

I work with ready-made tubing and a super-snazzy bunsen burner. Or I would if mine was less than 40 years old. Let’s stick with snazzy. (I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard that used by anyone under about 50 and not at all in the last 15 years. Told you I wasn’t all that cool ;))

Anyway. What I mean is I don’t have anything to do with melting-ovens. Or gears. Or cogs.

I admit that it’s interesting to know all these things. I could be thankful for knowing them if I wasn’t so aware that knowing them means I spend time not learning about the things I actually wanted to know. The course is a total of 4 weeks spread over 9 months. Last week was the second week. So far we have learned

  • how to get iron out of rocks and how to recycle it when you don’t need it anymore
  • how to calculate the area of very simple shapes (triangles are way too hard) and the volume of only slightly less simple ones
  • how not to work out the speed of cogs going round and making other cogs turn
  • how not to work out the volume of glass in a wineglass (“the answersheet is 100% right!” “um.. the question said 4 mm on each side… the answers assume 4mm total” “oh..”)
  • the history of glass from 7000 BC to now, including a lot of names of people who did incredible things which unfortunately have nothing to do with scientific apparatus
  • how glass is melted (from scratch), what the ovens look like, how they are replaced, what the advantages of oven X over oven Y are (except if you have to cope with problem A or B in which case oven Z would be better)
  • how not to translate Pascals into deciPascals
  • and gone over some of what we learnedΒ at baby-glasblower-school about what glass is made of and what it’s good at

None of which was particularly well taught.

On a positive note, and to stay on the fair side of the truth, we did learn what to do after getting hydrofluoric acid on your skinΒ (No panic, none of us did πŸ™‚ It was just the only really useful thing we learned).

I would have liked to have learned about vacuum. Not vacuum cleaners, but the sort of vacuum chemistry students need in order to carry out experiments with things that explode if they make contact with air. I would have liked to learn about ventiles and taps and the methods of making them vacuum tight. I would have liked to learn about how pressure works, and how to work out how to make Glass Things that withstand 9 Bar pressure without breaking. I would like to know who’s responsible for things if/when they break, and how to protect oneself if They place the blame on one. I would have liked to learn about what the apparatus are used for and how to better advise my customers what’s possible and what’s just fantastical. I would like to know about how to place orders and calculate how much my finished Glass Things should cost. I would like to know about air-conditioning units and how to work out how strong they need to be in order not to gas oneself while working. I would have liked to learn how to handle the reflective silver coating used on/in evacuated Glass Things and the brown coating used to protect the contents of the Glass Things from UV rays. I would have liked to learn about joining metal to glass. I would have liked to have watched a video about how glass-tubing is made (okay so I know a little bit of theory, but we’ve seen so many videos of ovens it would be nice to see one about something relevant ;)). I would like to know about electrodes and glass-glue and making glass frit and Glass-welding and grinding and polishing and …

There are so many things I want to know I won’t continue with this list, because I want to get some sleep tonight.. Also, not having been taught all the things a master glassblower is supposed to know, I don’t know what else there is out there.

More than all the separate things on that list though, I think I would have liked to have teachers who cared about what they taught and about their students. I would have liked them to be prepared for their lessons and to have correct workings and answers to their questions. I would have liked them to know what they were talking about and be able to explain it to the people who don’t. Knowing that the teachers write the exams and that they are likely to be easy since we haven’t done anything hard yet isn’t really adequate compensation. I wasn’t there [just] for the title, I was there for the knowledge.

I had great expectations.

I was disappointed.

I still am disappointed.

I wasn’t sure where to go with my disappointment, and to be honest, I’m still not sure where to go with my disappointment.

I’m working on it.


In the meantime I went skiing. But that will have to wait for a new post.

* actually, I chose to sit on one for 6 hours, the powers-that-be chose to make it longer.

On going away

I’m going to be away for a week.

I’m going back to school to become incredibly clever (I hope), and to catch up on sleep, and to get out of the workshop :).

If anyone had told me 10 years ago, that I would one day rate going to school equal to something like freedom, I would have thought them crazy and wondered if I should worry about them… These days I can hardly wait to get back behind a desk πŸ˜›

Anyway. I won’t be writing for a week.

Have fun dear people πŸ™‚

On ski-jumping

I’m learning to jump



And by jumping I mean riding over foot high snow ramps with a 5-10 metre glide up..

(Oh yeah, and the 2 foot snowpile on the slopiest part of the slope…)

Didn’t break anything though πŸ™‚

I even got half a second or so of air time on the 5th or 6th attempt πŸ™‚


On 40 boxes of Lent

“40 days, 40 boxes” – Flylady’s idea.

I’m not going to be home for 2 of the 7 weeks, so that’s a little tricky, but I think it’s not a bad idea… as long as they’re small boxes!

On skiing and looking elegant

– though admittedly not at the same time!

On Saturday I went skiing. I also went skiing on Sunday, but I’ve already written about that here. This is going to mess up the chronology of my posts, but hey… deal with it.

After 3 weeks of thawing and piffling about snowing-but-not-settling, it finally snowed properly again :). My Ski-Partner (D) wrote (on Friday – spontaneity is of the essence :)) to tell me it had snowed and to ask whether Saturday or Sunday suited me better. I had nothing planned for either day (except revision, church, dancing and a phone call to a really-good-friend-I-don’t-talk-to-nearly-often-enough) so we agreed to spend Saturday afternoon on the hill we’d been to before.

A late night of last-minute planning and faffing about was followed 8 hours later by a longer-than-expected phonecall. Turning the computer on to look up the bus/train timetable meant a skypecall with my grandfather ensued, and by the time my pizza was finished and I was dressed for the snow, I’d phoned D twice to change the time he was supposed to meet me and missed yet another bus. I ended up walking to the trainstation (via my workshop, because my ski stuff’s there), practically having to drag myself up the steps behind my house. If I hadn’t been so intent on not-having-to-phone-and-say-I-was-going-to-be-even-later, carting my ski kit across the carpark to the station would’ve been the last thing I felt like doing. The journey was uneventful and I was there before D which made me feel slightly less bad for the late start. He also reassured me that being late wasn’t a problem – he’d finally done all the things he’d been putting off doing for weeks and would have started on filing receipts if I hadn’t finally managed to catch a train :).

In short, although I was looking forward to it, I felt exhausted before we began. Despite having had a good night’s sleep, I hadn’t slept enough during the week to be really awake, everything ached, I was stiff, and grouchy and just generally not on top form. Putting my ski-boots on was painfull and lifting up the hill more so (uh, riding the lifts is known as lifting, I wasn’t trying to move mountains by hand). Getting off the lift at the top of the hill and thinking about skiing down it, or anything involving moving or putting pressure on my feet or my shins (the boots come up to about halfway) was bordering on masochism.

I moaned and whinged and asked if we could go home now. His answer? “It’ll wear off once you’ve got started – I give you 3 runs before you’re fine…” ARGH. Thanks for the sympathy vote then!

He grinned at me and off we went.

It was better than expected. 2 runs later I’d stopped hobbling, the run after that started being fun, and the rest of the evening was super.

It isn’t fair that other people get to be right so often!


We had thirty-something runs on the card to use up, so we skiied until we ran out (2 or 3 hours).

When we did run out, I wasn’t really ready to stop, but I was willing to agree that it was late and D’s hands were cold and overdoing things is silly. Also, I was promised hot chocolate and cake. That, if nothing else, was a good incentive.

We stomped back to the car (try doing anything else in ski boots) and found it iced shut. There was no way the key was going to turn in the driver’s door and no way it was even going to go in to the keyhole in the passenger’s. I suggested we try the boot. After a lot of huffing and puffing, he got it open. Then we had to re-thaw our hands to get the string off the fiddly little hooks so we could take the parcel shelf out. The boot doesn’t stay open by itself, so we took it in turns to hold it up, breathe on our hands and mess about with the hooks. After a longish while, all was ready for my big moment. Round about then I figured I could hardly keep my skiboots on in the car, so I continued the breathe-on-hands, moan, whinge, breathe-on-hands routine, this time replacing the shelf hooks with boot buckles.. To be fair though, I don’t think I’ve ever taken my boots off quicker. Especially the second one. Once the first one was off, my foot was very exposed. The comparative warmth of a frozen car was incredibly appealing.

With my feet steaming/freezing merrily behind me, I clambered into the boot and slithered, courtesy of my slithery waterproof ski-trousers, headfirst over the backseat, just about rescuing my nose from the end of the handbrake, and hauled myself through the gap in the seats and into the driver’s seat. YEAH! Now to open the door..

It did, just about, agree to my light persuasion tactics, though the passenger door didn’t, and my shoulder forgave me pretty quickly.

As I sat in the front seat, thoughtfully putting my normal boots on, I wondered why the whole thing had been so much less spectacular than when other people talk of doing it. D, busy with getting the skis and boots and helmets and gloves arranged into a well-known phrase or saying (anyone apart from my family say that?) on the back seat, paused to thank me for opening the doors and declared I was a very elegant slitherer.

Then we went back to the cafe and ate cake πŸ™‚ and frothy hot chocolate.

And that was the end* of another good day.


*except it wasn’t really the end because I still had the drive to the station, the ride to the stop next to my workhop, the half hour skis-and-boots drying rigmarole and the walk home to look forward to :). I think I deserved my sleep when I finally got into bed

On being better than you think you are…

I skiied down my first black run today. I didn’t know it was black at the time.

It was 4:30 pm. We’d skiied for just over 2 hours on a new (for us) resort. We’d finished skiing on the ‘little lifts’ at the top of the hill/mountain and were on our way back to the car. They were closing the lifts and getting the piste-basher out. It wasn’t dark, but the sun was setting and it was cold.


We skiied down the first bit, which was basically the same slope as we’d been playing on previously but finishing at the other corner.. From this vantage point we could see the hut and the car at the bottom. We were faced with 2 sleep slopes and very little idea which was most likely to be skiable. They both looked steep and scary. It’s a very small ski ‘resort’ with 3 lifts and something like 5km of piste … and there are no signposts. There are also no paper plans/maps with pretty coloured squiggles. There was a cluster of trees between the 2 slopes. I said we should go to the right of the trees, my ski-partner said left. We asked a bloke who was skiing with a small child (maybe 7 years old). He told us right was better, said “follow me” and shot off, the kid going on in front, yelling at his dad to hurry up (and being ignored). I followed him and he showed me where to turn and how to put my ski back on after I fell over and lost one and was patient when I didn’t understand what he was on about. I got to the bottom without falling over too often, and more importantly without breaking anything or having a panic attack πŸ™‚ My ski-partner, not being within earshot of the helpful man, got left behind. We waited for him at the bottom, where he found us celebrating the small boy’s safe arrival at the bottom of the hill. He’d reached the hut, got bored of waiting for his dad, and gone back up on the lift…by himself. And then skiied down again…by himself.

My ski-partner was quite down about not being able to turn as well as he’d like to, and for having fallen over more often than he wanted to talk about and for being slow and pff.. just generally not impressed at purely making it down alive..

We headed back to the car and decided to go to the floodlit ‘easy’ runs we know and love in order to give ourselves the impression of being successful skiiers, capable of getting down hills without falling over. 3 hours later we’d gathered another 20 runs each and he was in much better spirits.

Arriving home, he looked up the plan online. He just text me to say it was a black run. Made it seem a lot less embarrassing not to have found it easy πŸ™‚