Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Anne Frank: An RE class

We're learning about characteristics of heroes in RE currently, and this week discussed Anne Frank. We read a short biography about her and in between paragraphs discussed World War II, racism, and the Nazi party.

"Did Christians get killed by the Nazis?"
"Woo!!! Go Christians!!"
No, no, no. This is a sad story, not a football game, no one won the Holocaust.

We discussed the gas chambers.

"They dug big pits and threw them in where they were eaten by crocodiles!"
"Well, the Nazis did kill people in lots of different ways, but I don't think they did that."
"I maybe am getting them mixed up with the Egyptians."

We looked at pictures of Anne Frank and the floor plan of the annex online. They wanted to hear some of the diary and one of the girls knew just where in the library it was, so she raced downstairs and back up again with the book in her hands. I read to them and they curled up on the floor listening.

"Is this a real story?"

Usually I answer that question like this: "Well, a lot of people believe it is true."

Today? "Yes."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What I Have Been Eating Recently

This doesn't have a good name, I mean, it doesn't have *a* name. I've been referring to it as "the lentil stuff" which I suppose is descriptive if not appetizing.

The Lentil Stuff

Chop an onion, sizzle it in a pot.
Crush a handfull of brazil nuts, pop in the pot.
Dump a bunch of puy lentils in, a mug's worth?
Open a can of chopped tomatoes, bung that in too.
Decide that that doesn't look like enough liquid- fill up the can with water and pour it in.
Cook covered for a while.
Remember that you were meant to put some bullion in, toss a vegetable stock cube in.
Oh yeah, and some sugar. Decide that honey is probably even better and spoon some in.
Look at it for a while.
You know what that could use? Some more tomatoes. Open another can and add those.
It's still really watery, take the lid off.
Get bored.
Discover that you have some fresh tomatoes, chop up a couple of those and throw them in.
Bet that some freshly chopped basil would be really nice on top...

Decide that the lentils are *cooked* and spoon it into a bowl. Add some basil.

Make the ultimate decision: spoon or fork?
Choose fork.
Regret that decision.

Num num num.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Nemo's funeral was today.

He was killed two weeks ago crossing the street on his way home from school.

This morning I got to school and went straight to the library (it's my safe place) to chat briefly with my favourite librarians and prepare for the day. I started reading "Someone has died in a road crash: a guide for professionals caring for bereaved children and their families" which is a booklet put out by a charity that does what the title suggests it might. It's full of good information and well written, but I had to go out into the garden for a minute to cry.

There's a condolences book on the table in the library for people to sign and leave messages. Nemo's parent's don't speak English, but seeing the book filled can only be good. (And really, it's more for us anyway. To share in one place.) One of my favourite mothers was there when I came back into the library. Her eldest was signing the book and her middle boy, who has been in my classes the entire time I've been teaching, saw me, flung his arms open, and ran over for a hug. Thank you sweetheart, that was exactly what I needed.

The funeral was at a church near the school, near his home. In the bulletin notice the church said, "Nemo had greatly endeared himself to the 9.30 congregation-- nearly always coming alone, demonstrating a deep faith, sense of curiosity and fun." It turns out he used to take himself to church, and rarely missed a Sunday. It was also clear from the service that he did a remarkable job of connecting with people of all ages and walks of life and built himself a community wherever he was. At one point during the service someone said, "I don't think Nemo knew how loved he was."

It's true. School was closed this afternoon not because the kids were all coming to the funeral, but because all of the teachers and staff wanted to. There weren't enough staff members left in school to be able to keep it open. There are very few children in the school that everyone knows, and Nemo was one of them. Frankly, he might have been the only one. The staff and students walked (with a police escort to direct traffic!) from the school to the church. It felt like a solemn pedestrianized funeral cortege. It felt appropriate.

Nemo was a cellist and loved music. He would frequently be chatting to people and absentmindedly blocking the hallway with his cello on his back like a giant, black, Nemo sized turtle shell. Last year during the Key Stage 2 musical I let him try out my bass, which he loved and always asked me about whenever I saw him.

The service was as lovely as a child's funeral could be. The students sang a song, the readings were translated for his parents, the church was full, and there were stories about Nemo that made us chuckle through our tears.

But still, lets not do that again soon, okay?

Highgate Cemetery

Saturday I took advantage of the sunshine and did something I've been meaning to do for the entire time I've lived in this city: visit Highgate Cemetery. I started on the wrong side of Hampstead Heath, so took the opportunity to wander across the heath in the sunshine and get a bit lost. Having taken a wrong turning out of the heath I turned around and walked towards highgate, marvelling at the beautiful houses and gardens, and then realizing that my “right turning” was actually the wrong one and now I was going to have to climb up the massive hill. Again. From the bottom.

I remembered a bicycle trip I'd taken when I was in middle school where we'd, for some reason, cycled up a mountain. I suspect it was a smallish mountain, but I was definitely the last person in the convoy and in order to help myself along I belted songs the entire way up. Finding that this was a useful tactic for me when faced with steep slopes, I sang to myself some more. I hope I didn't annoy any of the highgate residents. The houses were mostly set fairly far back from the road, and there wasn't really anyone on the road (the vertical slope of Highgate) so I think I was probably fine.

Once I got to Highgate Village I realized I still wasn't in the correct spot for the cemetery and tried to use a bus map to orient myself. When that didn't work I figured I'd just head down the other side of the hill. That didn't work either, but I did end up in a charming little park where I decided to take my sandals off and walk around barefoot. I was momentarily distracted by a very determined and upright toddler pushing a scooter just taller than her down the path. Her name was Ruby and she was heading away from the picnic, which I know because her mother was trailing her at a distance and calling to her.

Having reached an exit of the park I realized that the cemetery was on the other end of the park, so I wandered backwards and FINALLY- ended up in the correct place. Just in time to have a tour of the West Cemetery sold to me after what must have been the easiest sales job ever.

They made me put my sandals back on, but man that place is glorious. I had the mystery of the triple lined dollar signs explained (It's a J an H and an S, which has something to do with either translating 'Jesus Christ' from Greek or some other story that I don't quite remember.)(Okay, so it made *me* feel better about the weird but common Victorian symbol. I realize this doesn't really help you...) We went through the Egyptian wing, the Circle of Lebanon, past the giant sleeping lion of one of the UK's first successful Menagerists, heard stories about a handful of London's Victorian eccentrics and trailed through huge swaths of ivy. I spent a (possibly) embarrassing proportion of the tour chortling aloud to myself about how I loved the Victorians.

Our tour guide was from Inverness and had a delightful accent as well as a charmingly self deprecating demeanour. I thought she was great and when she pointed out that the cemetery always needs more volunteers I leapt at the chance to get a leaflet. (Who doesn't love leaflets??) She recommended a stack of books to read as well (while getting downright pissy about the Bloomsbury Group) and I'm hoping I get a chance to follow through on both things this summer. (Volunteering AND reading- in case that wasn't clear.)