Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Review of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Before I read this book, I knew very little about Ernest Hemingway and even less about his wives.  That had changed by the time I reached the end.
Paula Mclain’s book tells the story of Ernest and his first wife, Hadley. It is told from her point of view and chronicles their initial meeting, subsequent courtship, marriage and ultimate heartbreak. 
Much of the story is set in Paris during the time of prohibition, although alcohol flows freely throughout (including the then illegal absinthe!). It follows Ernest’s struggle for recognition as an author and Hadley’s unfaltering adoration and support of him through a succession of breakdowns, occasional highs and many lows.
McLain’s writing totally draws you into Hadley’s world and you can’t help but feel an emotional connection as the story of their marriage unfolds. However, Hadley’s passiveness became increasingly frustrating and I found myself less and less sympathetic towards her as the story unfolded. She almost completely loses her identity as she devotes herself entirely to Ernest and accepts his outrageous actions towards their marriage even though it is ripping her apart.   The book becomes more and more difficult to read as their marriage crumbles and their once so beautiful relationship becomes ugly, fuelled by copious drinking.  All their relationships seem superficial- perhaps that is what they were like and I just didn’t like them much!
 McLain stresses in the end notes that her work is fictional and I did find the Hemingways became increasingly caricature like as the story progressed; was Hadley really that passive and did Ernest really act so appallingly? Their pet name for each other, “Tatie”, along with other pet names given to their friends added to my exasperation.  I am undecided whether or not to read his memoirs of his time in Paris (A Moveable Feast) to see how that compares.
That said, the love story of their early relationship and marriage was beautifully written and the descriptions of life at the time obviously well researched; the images conjured up of the many parties, the skiing and the cafes were, at times, breathtaking.
As a historical romance the story ticks the boxes, for readers who are fans of Hemingway or want to know more about his life I wonder whether this would meet their expectations.



100 words for grown ups





 Here's mine: 


“It’s no good, I can’t go through with it. “
“Yes you can, love, this time it’ll be different, it will work out.”
“But I’m so scared, what if it doesn’t? What if it turns out like before? I just can’t go through that all again.”
“No one knows what the future holds darling, but he’s not the same. He’s one of the good guys- he adores you, you light up when you’re together; I’ve never known you so happy. “
“Really?”
“Of course. Believe me, this is the right thing to do. Come on, it’s time.”




I know that lady...

Book reviews

I have always been a keen reader. Since my early childhood reading has been one of my favourite past times; my hubby and I often chat about winning the lottery (who doesn't!?) and how we would have our own library/reading room with floor to ceiling book shelves, an open fireplace, great big comfy chairs...Bliss!
In the meantime, I sit curled up on the sofa reading. I have kept a log of the books I read for the last 7 years so that I can make a note of favoured authors or books that I particularly enjoyed.

When I spotted a tweet from WHSmiths asking for people interested in reviewing books to contact them, I leapt at the opportunity.
It has been a very interesting pursuit and one that I intend to continue; I shall use my blog to share reviews that I do.
As with the weekly writing challenges I am hoping that regular practise of writing reviews will improve them; I have been reading reviews in various papers and see that I have some way to go.

Here's my review of the latest Stephen King novel, 11.22.63
Having been an avid fan since my teenage years, it was with much anticipation that I read this latest offering from the prolific writer, Stephen King. 11.22.63 takes the reader on a journey back in time through a portal found in the most inauspicious of places. The plot soon draws you in and it doesn't take long for the reader to be turning pages at breakneck speed to find out if Jake's mission will be successful or not. Time travel stories can all too often become unbelievable but King's writing is so well researched that this never becomes the case with this book. As the story progresses you find yourself willing him on against a multitude of barriers. This novel, although not a patch on "The Stand" (in my opinion one of his greatest), is well worth a read. Gritty, pacey and well researched. It isn't a horror story at all; so don't be put off by that thought- it is a mixture of thriller, both crime and psychological, love, action and history

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Oliver's lizard ...the next day (Part 3)

The second part of this story can be found at SJB writing http://sjbwriting.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/olivers-lizard/ It was continued from the start written by her niece. You can read that at http://sjbteachingkids.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/a-day-at-the-zoo/

I loved the idea so much that I couldn't resist continuing it. I've left it open ended...


Oliver had, at least for the time being, managed to keep the lizard’s presence a secret from his parents. After what had happened last time, he had been told that he would NEVER be able to keep a pet again. His protestations of, “It wasn’t my fault!” had fallen on deaf ears.
He gently stroked the lizard’s smooth scaly skin, “Now then lizard, when shall we start?”
Oliver, an enthusiastic “BGT” follower had been wracking his brains to come up with an original idea. His Gran’s magazine had given him the idea. He just knew he was onto a winner,
“Oliver and his amazing problem solving lizard.”
The lizard would soon wish he was back in the confines of the tank.

This article
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/4513/clever-lizards-surpass-expectations
just had to be used in a prompt somewhere.

I suppose there is a (very) tenuous link to this week’s prompt- flip side...out of the frying pan into the fire... but I just thought it was fun.

100 words for grown ups week 31

This week's prompt is "the flip-side." http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/100-word-for-grown-ups-week31/

This is my interpretation :

The intercom’s shrill, incessant tone cut through her slumbers like a knife. Groggily she pressed the button.
“Open up! Let me in, it’s pouring.”
“Um, what day is it?” she mumbled .
“What does that matter? It’s raining, I’m wet through. Let. Me. In...Please...She knows. She’s kicked me out”
Sitting bolt upright now, “How?”
“I told her. Let’s talk.”
“I can’t, I’m not alone.
He staggered back, rain mixed with his tears as he slumped into the car. Now what?
She muted the intercom as the baby beside her cried softly.
He hadn’t been the only one with secrets.


You can find the rest at http://www.linkytools.com/wordpress_list.aspx?id=132005&type=basic

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Teacher training...some thoughts

Yesterday I spent the day with a group of GTP trainees. ( http://www.dorsetforyou.com/15791 )
The purpose of the day- to raise confidence in planning/assessing/teaching Science at primary level, increase understanding of pitch and expectation, continuity and progression.

In a day!

I have run a similar day as part of the Dorset GTP programme for the past four years. Evaluations at the end of the day are always welcomed and enable me to make alterations/improvements for the following year.
The day went well ( even though it was the Friday before half term !)

I will embed the powerpoints I used at the end of this post- I made a concerted effort to minimise the amount used to enable as much time for reflection and discussion between the participants- too often this is overlooked (by myself on previous GTP days also) and I was particularly pleased with this aspect of the day.
I left feeling energised (even on a Friday afternoon) following energetic, stimulating and challenging discussions.

I have been interested in ITT since qualifying back in 1991 and have been lucky to be involved with B.Ed and PGCE students from Plymouth University when I worked in Cornwall. Now I am a school based tutor with the Dorset SCITT ( http://www.dttpscitt.co.uk/ ) where I also have the opportunity to tutor a DT at KS2 session (coming up in March this year!)

I have blogged previously about the positive impact working with trainee teachers can have
http://mrshalford.blogspot.com/2011/06/mentoring-trainees.html )

At the end of the day, I read through the evaluations  and noted how many had commented on the positive impact of having input from a currently employed teacher. I thought back to my own training and remembered how few of the lecturers had any recent teaching experience. It seems as though this is still the case. The Dorset SCITT has a part time teacher in the Deputy Director role ( a colleague and friend of mine :) ) and I know that she is hugely respected for many reasons; not least for the fact that she teaches ,so is able to talk about up to date classroom practice.

So, what it the point of this blog post? To ask if there are opportunities for teachers to be involved in ITT through secondment . Once you are out of the classroom you can't possibly have the same impact as someone who is doing the job or has had recent experience. (In my opinion) Of course you can keep up to date with changes and have a clear idea of what makes an effective lesson.
(Of course this can also be applied to Ofsted inspectors, but that's a whole new can of worms)

I LOVE being a teacher- but I would like to combine this role with ITT . I could , of course, leave teaching and get a job doing this- but that goes against what I have been saying about teachers with current experience having greater impact on trainees.

With the move to more "training schools" and teacher training "on the job " surely there is a need to give teachers greater opportunity to work with trainees as part of their own CPD?

Trainees need to be given support from a range of teachers during their training and early years. They need quality training for subject knowledge, child development, safeguarding, planning, assessment et al
They need to observe a range of teachers in different schools at different stages in their careers.
They need input from experts in education; head teachers, consultants, teachers, other trainees

I would be most interested to hear from anyone who has been involved in ITT on a basis which has enabled them to maintain their teaching role too. I would also be pleased  to hear from trainees and teachers as to what aspects of their training they found had particular impact on their teaching.

Maybe there are wider opportunities for teachers in larger schools or who are in close proximity to ITT providers. Maybe I am not looking in the right places. What I know is that I enjoy working with trainees. Feedback received indicates that I can do it effectively; so what next steps can I take?

Here are my presentation slides.
Thanks for taking the time to read; if you have any comments at all please share.


Introduction to Primary Science Session 1


Experimental and Investigative Science Session 2

Planning, Differentiation and Cross Curricular Links Session 3

Assessment and Record Keeping Session 4

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

100 word challenge week 30

This week, Julia has opened the challenge up both to adults and children. Yippee- I have done one for the class blog and am very much hoping this will inspire lots more of the children to take part. I don't believe in MAKING the children do it  and wont have time to do it in class time . Rewarding and encouraging those who take part and giving them time in school to go on the blog is the approach I am taking.
 Working part time, it is certainly more difficult to keep the blog high profile, but there has been a steady growth in children's and parent's interest. To be honest, even if just one child benefited from it I would do it. Many more than that use the blog so I will keep plodding away!
Anyway, I was a bit nervous about sharing this blog with my class - as a teacher I am always careful about what I write, but after talking to several people whose opinion I value, I decided to do a separate one on the class blog.
It's such a fab prompt though that I'm doing one here too :D

 The shared prompt is …it wasn’t my fault… All the details are on Julia's page at http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week-30/

If you're interested in having a look at my class blog it is www.classash.primaryblogger.co.uk My entry can be found at http://classash.primaryblogger.co.uk/2012/02/07/100-word-challenge-5/

All the ones the class do will be linked to the children's 100WC page.

Anyway, enough digression.
Here is my post for the challenge:

"Mama, it hurts!" wailed Charles.
“Let me see my dear."
Gingerly, he opened his hand revealing an angry blister.  Trembling slightly, she kissed away his tears marvelling at his impossibly long eyelashes. “MARTHA!”
“Yes Ma'am, how...” Martha  stopped. “I was watching him, he was quick as an eel, slipped into the fireplace, it wasn't my fault.”
“Enough!” scolded Mama, “Take him to nurse and have her bandage his hand. We shall talk anon.”
As she swept out of the room, Charles looked triumphantly at Martha. In his other hand was what he’d plucked from the fire. Her face blanched when she saw it.


Book review

I was recently sent a copy of, "MY DEAR, I WANTED TO TELL YOU." by Louisa Young, to review for WH Smith.

I finished it late last night, so , hot off the press, here is my review.
If you read it I would love to know what you think of it too!

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young – review



This book promises much: “This is the most powerful book you will read all year. You will want to tell everyone what happens in it. Please don’t.” So, it was with great anticipation that I began to read.

 The first half tells how the central characters, Riley and Nadine meet. However, the description of life in pre war London and the differences in class don’t draw the reader in. The characters were likeable at best and bland at worst.

As the war takes hold, the contrast between the life for the soldiers in the trenches in France and their waiting families in England is stark, but you are left wondering where it is all going.

However, the pace and intensity of the story increase towards the middle when it reaches a fast boil; from then the story becomes utterly captivating.

Riley is wounded and sent to the Queen’s hospital in Sidcup to recover. Here he is treated by the (non-fictional) surgeon , Major Harold Gillies. The surgery is absolutely fascinating (graphic and shocking at times). The contrast between the personal battles fought by the characters and the war is powerfully and sensitively written.  The title comes from the standard issue postcard wounded soldiers sent to their families; the “slight injury” indicated by Riley becomes the first of several lies told.

Much of the remaining story is told through the correspondence between characters in London and France, and it is these letters that make you desperate to know more.

Throughout the second half of the book I found myself reaching for the tissues; and as the book came to a close I was left wanting more- to know how their lives turned out, if they triumphed over their inner demons.

So, would I recommend it? Most definitely. A complex love story set against the horrors of the first world war, a story of personal battles and hopelessness. A story of friendship, loyalty and hope. I shall certainly look out for more books by this author.