What a weekend! I have spent the last four days up north at one of my Join Meets (I've written about Join Me before - best collective / cult / group ever. Google Join Me for further details :)). This one happens every year in Liverpool and is called, cunningly, Loverpool. And it was amazing. The team behind it (Jamie, Amanda, Laura, Sean and Kieran) are all wonderful and so clever, and run the meet in such a way that it's both fun and organised, while still being ridiculously chilled. Awesome.

More on that later, I'd better start at the start.

Friday, 1 pm. All the children are gone. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy (the goldfish) are safely dispatched with one of the yummy mummies. Classroom, if not tidy, safe to abandon. And off to my first commitment of the weekend - my friend Fi's baby shower (my first proper baby shower!). It was lovely - food and wine and chat and loveliness, and great to get together and see the mother-to-be off in style. Fi's one of my closest colleagues here (we started at the same time), so it's going to be strange without her here. But I am very excited to meet her new wee person. We all had a great time.

Then I packed the car up (which took far longer than I'd thought it would), and set off north-west to Liverpool. This also took a fair while as it was the start of a three day weekend. Finally I arrived in Liverpool just shy of 11, and met some of the others. Then we all drank far too much (purple cocktails? What was I thinking?) and various japes, adventures and sorts of tomfoolery ensued.

Saturday morning I awoke on a giant beanbag, surrounded by lots of my friends sleeping too, at six-thirty am. My friend Phil woke up at the same time. Why? Well, we're the two teachers in the group, and our pesky bodyclocks do that! A morning of tea and chat and queueing for showers and fry ups and awesome cable television followed. Then we all headed into Liverpool city centre to meet everyone else for the challenge.

At Loverpool, one of the main events is the Random Act of Kindness (RAoK) challenge. We split into three teams and then we have to go round the city on a scavenger hunt of sorts - some of the challenges are silly and fun (find a construction worker and get them to help you recreate the YMCA pose), but many of them involve RAoKing (give flowers to a little old lady), and others combine the two (do some busking, and use any money you make to do another RAoK).

I was on team 1 (woot!) and we had the most fun. We even adopted a band who we found outside their hotel (they are called Sincerely Calvin - go check out their myspace!) and we convinced to help us busk. They were lovely, and after the RAoKing we went to their midafternoon gig. Brilliant. We gave flowers to travel agents, sweeties to traffic wardens, serenaded random people.... so much fun.

After we'd done the RAoKing and enjoyed the Sincerely Calvin gig, we headed to the pub to meet the other Joinees. There we played all sorts of games (all of which raised money for a charity) - Joinee Bingo! Who's Knees (I really had to struggle to identify my own...)! How much money in Rich's jar! And then Eurovision began! We had a sweepstake for Eurovision (I was Finland, who were kind of awful, but were rock, which meant I could mosh pit it up, and the flag did go perfectly with my outfit!). And there was lots of cake (nyom!). And then we had a title auction for new titles on our forum. And then the RAoK challenge winners were announced, and it was the team I was on! I won a gold gnome! Great night. So great in fact that when we headed home and the party continued, I headed straight to bed for fear of jinxing what had already been a great night.

Sunday started hilariously (at 5.15) with someone in our room trying to get up to go to the loo in their sleeping bag and looking like a giant worm. Then another lazy, relaxed morning. And I decided to stay for another day, and offered to drive some of the London contingent home too if they wanted to stay. I also drove to York and back (four hour round trip) to catch up with Kat, Tom and their boys and to have a lovely early dinner with them and their friends Steve and Martin. Then back to Liverpool for more chat and food and drink and being given thirteen beany kitties and becoming crazy cat lady and snuggling up to watch Enchanted. Then sleepytime.

Monday, those of us who were left managed to sleep in to the decadent time of eight-thirty, and after another chilled morning we all headed to the Docks for sightseeing, tea, cakes, and a go on the Duckbus. Then, after a hearty tea of Spag Bol (nyom!), Toby, Steve, Siobhan and I set off home to the south. I dropped them all off in London at 1, and got home myself at 3 am.

I was shattered.

So, all in all, a busy weekend. I didn't take any pics, but my friends have plenty...will endeavour to snaffle some to put up here. I had some great conversations, some interesting chats, and have an awful lot of stuff to mull over. And I am just bowled over once again by the generosity and largesse of people I am lucky enough to have as friends :-).

How was your weekend?

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I don't quite know where that title came from...probably the fact that my class think I look like a sailor today. But it also fits with what I have to write about today...body image and getting used to your own looks.
There's a great French phrase that goes along the lines of bien dans sa peau (I guarentee I've misquoted that. I swear, you don't speak a language for more-or-less a decade and decade and suddenly you can't fathom it....), which I love. It's about acceptance and self-worth and feeling comfortable with who you are and how you are.

It's also something I have a HUGE issue with.

You see, for so much of my early life (hmmmm, make that up until I was in my early twenties), the overwhelming message I got from the people around me (whether overtly or covertly) was that I was ugly. Fat. Weird-looking. So naturally, when you hear this enough, you start to believe it. You get so good at being horrible about yourself, so quick on the draw with the poisonous jibe (always self-directed, natch), so filled with self-loathing that you feel (and are?) all the things you're told.

Gradually, in my early-to-mid-twenties, I realised that I wasn't ugly. Few people truly are. And yes, I was (and am) fat, but that's no crime. And it's something I can change. It's something I am changing. As for weird looking? Some things are just genetic :-).

So I'm gradually learning to accept myself for how I look. I could write an essay on what I don't like....but I'm starting to leave that behind and looking at what I DO like instead. It's a big shift. And it's a learning curve. It also brings new challenges. If you're not ugly anymore, then people might like you, and all those other messages you were sent (worthless, stupid, a waste of space) reel straight to the front and centre. Demanding attention.

Growing up is freaking hard sometimes.

Anyhow, in the spirit of acceptance, I'm doing a mini project, where I'm going to attempt to take some self-potrait shots which I feel reflect me and I don't hate. Wish me luck I guess! Above is the first batch, just me and the camera, after yet another long day at school. More will follow if and when the moment takes me...

PS Thanks for all the song feedback on the last post - it's a Bonnie-Aretha fight at the mo.
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Rocking the vote!

So, I have a random audition next week....and I don't know what to sing. So I thought I'd ask you guys to help me choose. The three top contenders are:

I Say A Little Prayer For You - Aretha Franklin (classic song, classic artist, a song I'd never song till last year when I had to for band, and discovered I could!)

To Be With You - Mr Big (90s cheeeeeeeese! Great song though, and fun to sing)

Holding Out For A Hero - Bonnie Tyler (just awesome! I love singing this song, not least because it has about the most cliched lyrics ever!)

So gang. Which should I do? I've got a strongish mezzo-soprano / alto voice, and have sung two of these three in public before, so I know it's in range and all that good stuff. It's only a wee audition, but I'd appreciate the input! My fate is in your hands, hee!

Ooooh, and if you can think of any other songs that should be in the running (I dread to think what Wiwille might suggest ;)), let me know!

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Counting blessings....

It has been, in many ways, a long, frustrating, tiring, confusing and upsetting week. It's exam season (also known as hello stress and late nights; goodbye social life and sleep), I'm totally homesick for Scotland, my professional life has been rocked by some incredibly political manouvreing elsewhere, I've upset a friend by doing something foolish rather than malicious, I am freaking tired,  I've hit a weight plateau (again????), and as for my boy-related-life? I seriously have no no NO clue what I want / need / think / feel / am doing.

Oh yeah, it's a banner week round here.

However, I'm me.

Depressed and stressed and angry is not a look I've ever been able to sustain for long. The handle, I fly off, and then I regroup and am back to my default (happy/smiley/fairly inane).

So, let's count some are some things I am grateful for, right here right now....some things that are making me smile....come on, Claire, think....

* I have a large box of chocolates and a lovely note from a mummy here at school, because I helped her out this week. I am by nature a helpful wee thing, and gosh darn it rocks my socks when I can help someone out. And when they say thank you, it's even better!
* Because it can't be said enough, my friends, both near and far, are awesome. Whether they are sending me CDs or tissues or candy; talking on the phone or texting random nonsense; planning fun or writing letters, in this realm of life I am a blessed young lady.
* I'm lucky enough to live in a democracy in the first world. And be healthy. Sometimes I think it pays to remember this.
* I really do love my job. Parts of it make me want to rip off my ears and toes just so I'd have something to throw, but the actual time with the kids I love. I had a professor on my postgrad who said that certain people had an 'innate' teacher thing, and the more time I spend in this job, the more I think I may have it (Ooooh, I hope so. It'd be like a really normal superpower!). I just love being part of these kid's lives, and hope that the stuff I teach them is going to help them in life - whether it's addition or a dance move or how to eat pasta or how to help someone who's having a tough time.
* I have found an awesome song for the staff band. Guess who's contemplating breaking out the old school Whitney Houston?
* This weekend is (apart from a small window on Sunday) going to suck. Fair enough. But next weekend? It's Loverpool.

Man, I already feel better. I'm such a cheesey geek!

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I sigh a lot when I'm happy. I sigh a lot when I'm stressed. I sigh a lot when I'm thinking. I sigh a lot when I'm tired.
Maybe I just sigh a lot?

The weekend was full of loveliness and goodness and fab company, and plans for good times to come. After a stressful work week, it was just what I needed. I sang in a gig on Saturday night (for about 150 of my pupil's parents???? Heh), which went really well - I hadn't sung pop stuff in public for ages and was under the weather with a cold for most of last week, so I was glad when it all came together. We do all kinds of stuff, but my personal faves are 'I Say A Little Prayer' (Aretha, baby!) and 'Holding Out For A Hero'. Both tough to sing, but I think we do them justice....

After the gig it was straight into little green car to head down to London for Jixie's leaving bash - I got there just shy of midnight! Champagne and cocktails and cake and hugs and music videos on youtube and good friends and new friends and smooches and plans and chat and allsorts. Lovely. Then far too little sleep - John, Vixie, Elliot and I all woke up chez Jixie at about 8 am. We went to bed around 5! But no matter, we chatted and drank tea and generally had a marvo time.

Then we all headed in to Hyde Park and had a lovely picnic. I was tired and spent most of my time lying in the grass, a little like this:

But in between the napping I managed to have some good chattage, eat some yummy food, and even catch a few rays. So many lovely folk in one place... I chatted girls plans with Jo & Siobhan & Kate; general banter with Elliot, Toby, Phil, Dan et al.; and planned some MaraDance awesomeness with Kate Boo. Genius.

Then Vixie and I headed off to Kaz's for our second picnic of the day and another lovely chat. We had a proper girly catch up, then Jo and Elliot joined us and the fun times continued. We also worked out between us that I had given Elliot the black eye he was sporting - with an inflatable parrot, no less! Let that be a warning - never randomly ping Claire's bra open from behind with a flick of the wrist when she's mid conversation at a party!

And then, back into little green car and to the north(ish). And now work is crazy busy (exam season), and I'm trying to get my gym on too. Plus sort through the havoc wreaked by last week.




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Because sometimes angsty teens have the right idea....

I've always loved collecting quotes and sayings and lyrics. I especially racked up pages of them during those delightfully angsty years we call the teens. And in the current random time- and head- space I'm currently inhabiting, certain phrases are sticking with me, through the thinks and the sleepless nights and the general feeling-as-though-I've-been-shaken. Here are a few of the current faves (with a little linky goodness added in for good measure!):

"Right here, right now, I don't know how,
To tell what's right from what is wrong,
And I don't know how I got here,
And I don't know where I'm coming from."

Polly Paulusma - Where I'm Coming From (see a video of this song here:

This song is so sweet and lovely. But it makes me sigh too, mainly because I just feel a bit lost at the moment. It'll be find, no doubt, and I'm blessed in so many ways, but I just feel topsy turvy and alone and confused most of the time. I sort of just want the gravity to flip back on!

"Love tears me up like a demon.
Opens the wounds and fills them with lead,
And I'm having some trouble just breathing,
If we weren't such good friends I think that I'd hate you.
If we weren't such good friends I'd wish you were dead.

Oh it's so embarrasing,
I'm this awkward and uncomfortable thing,
And I'm running out of places to hide..."

Jenny Owens Young - F*** Was I (see the video here: This girl rocks)

I love this song. It's so raw and angsty. The lyrics don't really apply directly to any situation I'm in but it's that killer description of an "awkward and uncomfortable thing"....that's exactly how I feel about myself, most of the time, recently. Something's changed and I don't now what, and I'm trying to deal with it with grace and kindness, but it's challenging, to say the very least.

"Stand in the mirror, you look the same,
Just looking for shelter from the cold and the pain,
Someone to cover, safe from the rain,
And all I want, is to be home"

Foo Fighters - Home ( Tada!)

This song makes me cry and sigh in equal measure. I guess that's what it's meant to do.

"I love I love I love
This dream of going upstream
I love I love I love
The trouble that you give me
I know I know I know
That only I can save me
I'll go I'll go I'll go
Right down the road"

Feist - The Limit To Your Love ( I *love* the air piano she plays)

This song is just gorgeous....and it also reminds me of a very specific time. Last month, as I drove back down south from my parents, I was listening to the Feist album and I got caught in a mini-traffic jam in the Highlands. Stuck on a slow moving road (stop-start, stop-start), surrounded by huge, impressive, striking, fabulous mountains, the sun beating down, this playing loud. And that really feels like a different world in so many ways. So much has happened since then that I never would have predicted....some good things, some bad things, some things still in transition. I guess that's how life goes.

"Can you hear me calling
Out your name
You know that I'm falling
And I don't know what to say
I'll speak a little louder
I'll even shout
You know that I'm proud
And I can't get the words out"

Fleetwood Mac - Everywhere ( How awesomely eighties is this video?)

Again, this lyric speaks to me, not so much about a particular situation, but more life in general! I just don't know where or what or who or why or how just now. I guess I need someone to sit me down and say "Claire, this is what you need to do". As that only happens in movies or Flight of the Conchords (where *is* David Bowie when you need him?), I guess instead I'll have to be patient, go with my instincts, and hope life returns to a more even keel soon.

I hope you have enjoyed the random music fest and that you all have a lovely weekend! I'm off to buy the last few bits of my costume and practice my songs for the gig.


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Oh. My. Life. The past few days have been more tumultuous than I can even explain. There have been amazing highs and terrific lows, long conversations and short shrift, new opportunities and old worries....and now I have a cold.

Suffice to say, I'm totally exhausted today, and feel totally like I'm on autopilot. You know those days where you go through the motions, feeling slightly detached, small and insignificant and sad? Yeah, it's one of those days. The people who know the whole story of what's going on are being supportive and kind and lovely, but now more than ever I feel like I've been turned upside down and shaken!

Eh. I'll live.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the weekend, where I get to have a good old sing, then dress up as a pirate and catch the underground across London to hang out with a bunch of people I adore. Lovely people rock my tiny planet.



PS Oh, and I almost forgot! On the Austen quiz thing from my last post? I came out as Jane Bennett, one point off Elizabeth I'm a pretty even split between those two, according to the delightfully trashy book!
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Deep thoughts....(with a little cheesey quiz at the end)

I've been having lots of conversations lately. I've been in some strange situations lately. And now I've had a weekend alone in which to think about it all. Which is always useful!

Over the last fortnight or so I feel a little bit like my life has been turned upside down, in a variety of ways. I've learned some really nice, flattering, interesting things about myself and the people around me. I've also learned some not so nice, less than flattering, and at times hurtful things about myself and the people around me too...

So a weekend to clarify has been just what I needed. And now I know what I want to happen in the three main situations I'm involved one I'm hoping for the best. In one I'm cutting my losses. And in the other I'm totally open to whatever transpires. I would write more here, but until other people have shown their hands, I can't.

But I've learned some things, and that is always the main thing. I've learned that while it's OK to be strong and self-reliant, sometimes you need to be able to step back and admit you need something. Admit you need someone, maybe. And I think (think being the operative. Trust me) that I'm ready to do that. I've learned that I am a loyal friend, and I intend to stay that way. I've learned that sometimes fear makes people do things you wish they wouldn't, but you have to let them do what they have to do. I've learned that you have to appreciate the even keel when you have it, because you never know when a wave is going to hit. Or in this case, three in a good, one notsogood, and one hmmmmmm, intruiging.

Hahahahahahaha, are you still with me?

Apart from that is has been a lovely chilled weekend here - lots of reading (am halfway through 'Lolita') and I watched 3 films in a 12 hour window (haven't done that since uni!) - Music and Lyrics (such a cheesefest!), Shortbus (controversial doesn't even begin to touch on this....) and the newer Pride and Prejudice (I love the girl who plays Caroline Bingley in this version. She gives *such* good bitchface).

Which gives me a question for the end (please post your guesses in the comments)! While I was in Madrid I borrowed a book from my friend Hannah with a highbrow title along the lines of "The Jane Austen Guide To Dating" (what can I say? It was a holiday read!). Anyways, at the end of the book was a quiz to work out which Austen heroine you were most like. So, dearest readers, which one was I (for the non-Austenites, I've done a brief characterisation for each as well!)?

a) Elizabeth Bennett - independent, witty, bright and strongwilled.
b) Marianne Dashwood - flighty, impetuous, lively and fragile.
c) Elinor Dashwood - loyal, sensible, polite and bright.
d) Jane Bennett - sweet, kind, loving and giving.
e) Lydia Bennett - naughty, high-spirited, a little dim and undecorous.

Answer to be revealed soon! Bear in mind, all the questions were to do with dating / flirting / love, so it's just my persona for that. Apparently.

Heh, what a post. You see what happens when I have time to think?

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Mmmmm, stolen goodness...

I've really been very good lately with the whole postiness. Go me! Today, however, I'm leaving the baffling sports analogies and random allusions behind and settling down to a good old meme, all in the name of recycling - I've nabbed this from Riot Kitty, who took it from Foster Communications and JLee, who stole it from WIGSF, who snaffled it from someone else entirely, no doubt.

Now it's my turn - let the rambling commence! And feel free to nick this after me, of course!

My roommate and I once: Well currently I am sans roommates, but I've had some awesome ones in the past. I'm thinking of drinking vodka and throwing potatoes with the Flat 69 girls, making terrible cakes, tapdancing to make Colum stop playing that infernal instrument, the genius catchphrase that was "Get Some!". Or the fun of Rosemount with Euan and the stupid ass conversations we used to have and the fruit bowl in the cupboard and Christmas Scooby Doo. Or my fellow Gilesgate girlies, with the watching of Sex and the City in our grad robes, and the formals, and the Vagina Monologue scarves conversation ("St Chaaaaaaaads"). Good times :-).

Never in my life have I: burped properly. It's my cross to bear, I'm sure ;-)

High school was: quite a while ago, now!

When I am nervous I: talk even more!

My hair is: Brown and wavy-curly and independent!

When I was 5: I was cute as a button. I know, what the heck happened, right?

By this time next year: I will be 28. Hopefully.

I have a hard time understanding: Cruelty. It gets me very upset.

You know I like you if: I'm nice and friendly and open and smiley. I'm like that with most people, because I like most people. If I don't like you, it's really obvious. I was on the phone with Hannah yesterday talking about a girl I don't like (she's one of about three people I know, total, who I don't like...) and Hannah was quite shocked by what I had to say. She was very much "Wow, if you feel that way about her, what about the rest of the world? You love everyone!" Heh. I sort of do :-).

My ideal breakfast is: big and lazy and shared with someone I like, or a bunch of friends, or snuggled up under the covers in front of somethng suitably brainless.

If you visit my hometown: you would be impressed by the banter, if not the size!

If you spend the night at my house: I would be the perfect hostess, of course ;-)

My favorite blonde is: 1980s-1990s Madonna.

My favorite brunette is: David Tennant!

The animal I would like to see flying is: A duck billed platypus. Ooooh, or a llama!

I shouldn’t: worry so much. Sometimes I really beat myself up.

Last night I: bailed on a girls' curry night, opting instead for a monster boxercise (needed to vent), a few phone calls I'd left too long, and a sloppy Guiseppe pizza in front of 'Gossip Girl'.

If I could have any car it would be: a VW Beetle.

I’ve been told I look like: Piper Perabo (but only the smile)? Anna Chlumsky (from 'My Girl')? Emma Watson? I think what we get from this straw poll is that I don't look like anyone!

Right, time to head - three day weekend starts here :-).

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...Is it May already? Where on earth is this year going?

Woke up this morning and had the traditional face wash in the May dew - I love little traditions like that. And now just one and a half manic days of work, and then it's a three-and-a-half-day weekend. You have no idea how much I need that! Mlle Wilson has a vague idea though, as she is my go-to girl with gossip and chat :-).

So May started well - woke up, called mum, bathed in the dew, had a proper bath because work would frown on my turning up covered in grass and flowers, I'm sure, discovered on my wee mail shelf a postcard from the ever lovely Shona.... and relaxation is on the horizon. Yayness all round. After the stressed post of yesterday, I am feeling far more me today!

How's your May shaping up?

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