28 Days Later (no, not the movie!)

So, I set out to do 28 posts this month. One for every day of the month. And with this post, it will have been a success (yay!).

And I'm glad I've done it! This has been a busy month, and I really feel like it's stretched me a little and made me try things I haven't tried before (hello, videoblogging!) and also get round to things I'd been meaning to do for ages (book reviews). It's also made me a bit more disciplined about writing, even if it is just setting aside an hour (or in this case, a quarter of an hour...) to write something to share. Ahead of a summer where I'm hoping to write offline for two to three hours a day (I want to see, finally, if there's a book in there somewhere!), this discipline and desire to write can only be a positive thing.

Next month I'll try to write almost as many posts, but it will feel somewhat luxurious not to feel like I absolutely positively have to.

It's been a hectic February. How was yours?

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Book Review: Up The Creek Without A Mullet

Those of you who know me, know that I love to read. English is also my 'specialist area' at school (i.e. the one I teach the most. I do also love teaching maths, drama and the humanities :-)), so I also love to talk about books!

So this post is the first of many book reviews I am hoping to do here. And this one's a little special, because the book was actually written by a very talented friend of mine, Simon. Simon and I met through mutual friends with a love of being nice to people and then going to the pub, and I am an avid reader of his blog (brilliant photographs, thought provoking posts on religion and politics, and a fair bit of Apple love over there). So when I found out last year that he had written a book, I of course pre-ordered and awaited my copy with all the enthusiasm of a cat awaiting the opening of a can of tuna (one day, I will video our cat's reaction to this event. It's golden.).

So, I waited for my copy, and when it arrived I read it eagerly on my commutes to and from school. 'Up The Creek...' charts the first stages of Simon's quest to visit as many places as he can which have the word 'mullet' in their name. This whole quest is inspired by a spate of 'mullet spotting'. In this case, the awesome eighties haircut. You know, business at the front, party at the back? Feel free to google the word mullet for further elucidation. While he and his friend were on convoy in Eastern Europe they became fond of this 'mullet spotting', and before he knew it Simon, was a full on mullet-bagger.

Part Dave Gorman, part Bill Bryson, this book charts Simon's adventures in Albania, Ireland and Australia, visiting as many 'mullets' as he can. Simon's prose is very much like that you might find on his blog - conversational and witty, with a knack for a dead on observation and a real way with words. The whole book is also shot through with humour and lovely moments where our hero faces challenges or meets interesting folk. There's even a little bit of media darling-ism in there too!

We travel with Simon as he tries to complete his quest and prevent his mullet fascination taking over his life, and he gives lots of detail on all of the places he visits. Indeed, his observations on Ireland came in really handy as I read them just before I went there myself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's entertaining and well-researched, and has plenty of chuckles and thoughtful moments throughout. I would thouroughly recommend this book to you if you enjoy non-fiction, travel writing, or indeed any book where a man or woman sets off on a bit of a project (for example, the books of Danny Wallace or the aforementioned Gorman).

Simon, I cannot wait for the next part of your journey to be published!

If you would like a copy of Simon's book, it is available on amazon.co.uk, Borders Australia and at many other great retailers.

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This week over on Kelly's blog, it's time once again for 'Show Us Your Life'. And this week the theme is collections.

When I was younger I used to collect things quite passionately - badges, I recall, and 'shiny things' for a couple of years. That one really drove my family nuts, I think. But I've always been a magpie by nature!

Now, I tend to collect less (unless we count the usual grown up things such as DVDs, books, and CDs), but as I looked around my house there was only one thing I could now genuinely say I collect.

Mail. Or post. Depending where you are!

I have boxes stuffed full of postcards and notes, letters, invitations. Thank yous for gifts, congratulations card, new home cards. Hundreds of Christmas cards and birthday cards. Silly things that friends have seed and sent to me. One day I'd love to sort them all into folders (I've made a start on this, but it's a biiiiiiiiiiiiiig project), but for now they are stashed hither and thither, in bright flowered boxes*. And on quiet weekends, there's nothing I enjoy like pulling out one of my 'memory boxes' and going through it, often smiling and sometimes crying at memories of sweet times gone by.

I also love to send mail, so my home is likewise full of cards and gifts and trinkets I'm preparing to mail off!

So I collect mail. Post. Memories. Friendship. Love. :-)

I also seem to have started a collection of badger things in the last couple of years....but that's another story.

Have a great Friday, my dears!

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* I will pop back to add photos - but it's 6.30a.m. right now and I need to get to school! :-)

PS Anymore 'Ask Me Anything' questions?

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I *heart* Thursdays

Another I *heart* Thursday. I love this weekly reminder to focus on the good things!

I *heart* having a shower and heating that work!

I *heart* my class. They never fail to crack me up, they are hardworking and kind and I've just been hugely blessed to receive a class like this. They are super!

I *heart* the meal I just concocted for lunch - fusilli, broccoli and sweetcorn, topped with cold salmon and a smidgen of cheddar. Nyom!

I *heart* my colleagues. I'm so lucky to work alongside such talented people.

I *heart* making my house look a little lovelier, one task at a time. (The road is long....)

I *heart* weekends. It's been a week and a half here, and tomorrow looks like being no different. I am looking forward to some good girly catch ups, some proper sleep, and some quality time with my badger.

I *heart* unexpected post and letters. Snail mail for the win!

I *heart* the fact that as I walked to get the tube to school this morning...the sky was light! Come on spring!

I *heart* my new £6 ballerina flats from Matalan. Soooo cheap and utterly comfy!

I *heart* the fact that my badger ornament (a gift from a parent) has now been joined by a hedgehog and a snail. Quite quirky and fabulous.

How about you, lovelies?

(Oh, and if there are any more questions for 'ask me anything' please add them to the post below! :-))

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Ask me anything!

It's been a while....

...so I thought I would do an 'ask me anything' post in a few days time. These are usually good fun and always give me food for thought. I hope they prove entertaining also!

Please no physics or philosophical quandaries - this is more a sort of 'what's your favourite pizza topping?' kind of shebang!

So, my lovelies.

Any questions for me?

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Videoblog number 2

On lack of caffiene. Oh, and friends, and life, and school and stuff.

Behold the geekery (and excuse the weird camera angle - I'm learning!)

23 Feb from Claire Thornley on Vimeo.

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It's 8 p.m..

I'm typing this on my iphone as I close up my classroom.

I've just done a twelve and a half hour day.

It's definitely time for a big chicken salad at Nandos.


....some TAP WATER!

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Music meme (so, another semi-singalong-Sunday!)!

Well, I had written this whole other post...but then I deleted it, for reasons various. What I wrote was good for me to get out of my system, I guess, but just not that great to have out there. So instead, a musical meme, which is way more fun, don't you think?

So grab yourself a cup of tea / coffee / four-fifths hot water to one-fifth cold (my current fave), and let's play, shall we?


Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.
Step 2: Post the first line (or a few ;)) from the first 30 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing.
Step 3: Italicise the lyrics and post the details when someone guesses both artist and track correctly.
Step 4: For those who are guessing -- looking the lyrics up on a search engine is CHEATING!
Step 5: If you like the game post your own


1. I just shook the handshake / I just sealed the deal

2. I see your face in my mind as I drive away / 'Cause none of us thought it was gonna end that way

3. So far away and so alone / How could I ever take you home?

4. When I first held you I was cold / A melting snowman I was told
(guessed by the lovely Siobhán first! Flowers in the Window - Travis)

5. Let's go away for a while / You and I to a strange and distant land.
(Christy got it! Holiday by Weezer)

6. No walls / Can keep me protected /No sleep

7. Lay me down / Lay me down / Lay me down / Lay me down

8. Well you done done me and you bet I felt it
(Guessed by the lovely Stephanie - I'm Yours by Jason Mraz)

9. I keep looking for a place to fit in / Where I can speak my mind

10. Je suis enchanté / Ou est le bibliotheque?
(Foux De Fafa - Flight of the Conchords (also Stephanie))

11. Here we stand / Worlds apart / hearts broken in two (two) (two)

12. I will never bother you / I will never promise too / I will never follow you
(Sweet Annie got this one! You Know You're Right, by Nirvana)

13. Tell me now / If you came sneaking up behind / Would you know me

14. The grass is screaming long / midnight cars roll past / I've been chasing your room / while the summer lasts

15. I've been living to see you / Dying to see you / But it shouldn't be like this

16. I was never cool in school / I'm sure you don't remember me
(Christy got this one too...Underground by Ben Folds Five)

17. It isn't the way that you look / And it isn't the way that you talk / It isn't the things you say or do

18. We stay in / moving around / so low

19. I was waiting for a cross-town train in the London underground / When it struck me

20. There's a part of me you'll never know / the only thing I'll never show

21. Your butt is mine / Gonna take you right
(Matthew C got this one first. Bad, by Michael Jackson)

22. Those who are dead are not dead / They're just living in my head

23. I wanna be better than oxygen / So you can breathe when you're drowning and weak in the knees

24. I must go on standing / You can't break that which isn't yours

25. What, what would I do / If I can't have you / If I can't have you

26. Wake up, 7.32 am / Can't believe it's time to do it over again

27. I hitched a ride with my soul / By the side of the road
(Annie got this one too - Hey Now by Oasis)

28. Everywhere I go / Someone's trying to be my girlfriend's best friend
(Rawbean got the artist (Barenaked Ladies), but what's the song?)
(Stephanie got this one too - Get In Line was the song!)

29. The breath of the morning / I keep forgetting
(Matthew C also got this one - Subterranean Homesick Alien by Radiohead - one of my favourite Radiohead songs!)

30. You're on the phone with your girlfriend / She's upset
(Stephanie's fourth correct guess. You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift)

Have at it, my lovelies!

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Quick post.

Mainly because I'm blogging on an iPhone. On a train! As you do....

Matthew and I are whizzing back to London after a chilled few days up north. It's been lovely, but I'm ready to jump back in the deep end once more. It's been lovely to regroup and have some time together though - after the busy-ness of January and early February, it's been a delightful change of pace!

I had an additional treat today too! Due to a change in her flights, my good friend Jenna (who I bridesmaided for last year and who now lives in Texas) was in Edinburgh. And as all I had planned was shopping and a movie while Matthew caught the Newcastle match, I hopped on the train to see her!

Which sounds easier than it actually was!

You see today, there was a big anti-fascism rally in Edinburgh. Which, of course, loads of fascists felt the need to travel up to, in order to protest against it. Newcastle station was full of police and a gigantic mob (for want of a better phrase. Hey, if it fits!) of fascists, mainly from the 'English Defence League'. Because of their numbers, a train official asked me to cross over from platform 2 to platform 3, to catch a different service north.

Having already heard a few choice words, I was more than happy to do so! But then, the train at platform 2 whizzed off, with all the EDL aboard. Mine, however, had to wait so long it lost it's priority slots, turning our 90 minute journey in a 175 one! Irking, but I had fun waiting at the end!

Fun in the shape of a looong and lazy lunch with Jenna, and two other friends of ours, Rich and Burton. Just a lively, banterific wee afternoon. Ace. :-)

And now, the journey home. Then pizza. Then bed!

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Another Friday, another ‘show us your life’. Kelly, if by any chance you read this (I know how busy you are!), thank you so much for running this.

I love learning more about others in the blogosphere, and enjoy sharing about my little corner of the world too. There was something else planned for this week, but Kelly switched it so instead we can talk about ministry. What we feel is our ministry, how the ministry of others affects us, and all that wonderful stuff.

First things first, I don’t believe I have a Ministry with a capital M (yet), but more of a small ‘m’ ministry. I believe the best ways that I can serve and help are in the many many small things, the everyday. I try the best I can (although I am painfully aware that often my best is woefully short of enough!) to be a blessing to the people in my world, and the world in general.

So I’m kind, as kind as I can be. I’m (usually!) forgiving, and patient (most of the time!), and I try to listen and support and encourage those around me. I pray for my friends and family and want such blessings for them. I pray for those who call for prayer or for those who need my prayers – for the lonely, the hurting, the sad. I chose a career that I thought would help people.

Actually, I was at a major crossroads when I made the choice to teach, and a lot of thought and prayer went into my decision. I chose this path, because I believe teaching is a good thing. It helps people. That said, pretty much every job helps others, doesn’t it? I believe that every job has scope for improving the world around you, and holds the ability to glorify God.

Indeed, One of my favourite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. is where he evokes the message of 1 Corinthians 10:31, in his statement: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

So I believe that doing my job, or rather my jobs (teacher, friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend…), well ministers to those around me. When my classes are well looked after, or my friends know I will listen to their worries, or Matthew knows I’ll help him through a tough time.

As well as this, I try to put as much kindness out into the world as I can…I really do feel called to do so. Whether it’s a smile, or a gesture, or some kind words, or a gift, or a card, I love that my actions can bring joy and grace to others. I have to say raok365 has re-opened my eyes to the pleasure of being kind to others, of serving, of helping.

So that’s my little hill of beans. I just try to do my best to make the world a better place, and cheer on the big hearts and brains who do the big things. I cannot wait to read about the awesome things I’m sure everyone else has posted on!

Have a wonderful day!

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I "heart" Thursdays

Crystal is a sweet girl whose blog I've been reading for quite a while. You can find her blog here. She is a mommy to three gorgeous children, the youngest of whom, Bentley, had some pretty major heart issues and operations in her littlest months. Bentley is doing so well now, but she's one of the heart babies I still pray for often. Crystal and her family are just the sweetest ever.

Anyways, Crystal has started a new blog carnival, and it's one that's right up my street. It's called "I "heart" Thursdays" and it's just a time to count blessings and focus in on the things that make us happy and warm our hearts.

Here are mine:

I *heart* time together with my lovely Matthew, away from work stresses.

I *heart* my new cosy pyjamas (yeah, another pair. What can I say, it's an addiction?).

I *heart* spa baths. One of which Matthew's parents just so happen to have installed in their guest bathroom. Guess where I'll be in about an hours time?

I *heart* America's Next Top Model and America's Best Dance Crew. And when the two of them come together (as they did on Monday's ANTM) I squee more than can literally be healthy.

I *heart* the north. It's so lovely to be out of London this week - first Ireland, now Newcastle. I love (in fact, I *heart*) living in London, but it's always nice to get a break from city life and the mania.

I *heart* driving. I got to do a little burst yesterday and it was such fun to be behind the wheel again.

I *heart* mini eggs! My favourite Easter treat. :-)

I *heart* the Winter Olympics. The women's downhill yesterday was amazing. I keep missing the skating though, must remedy that.

How about you?

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40 Days of Water

Lent begins today, and for the last few weeks I've been trying to work out what to abstain from. What would challenge me. In the past I've given up many things (alcohol, meat, cakes, chocolate...), but this year I was really stuck for what to do. But then I heard about a project called 40 Days of Water.

It's quite a simple idea, really. And we all know that simple ideas are often genius.

Well, what 4o Days of Water (or, as I'm going to call it, 40DOW) focuses on is the fact that we in the world who have a supply of clean water quite literally on tap are incredibly lucky. So, if we join the project, we give up all drinks apart from tap water for the 40 days of Lent.

No coffee. No tea. No wine. No beer. No cocktails. No juice. Nada.

And the money we save from not buying those drinks? We tally up and donate it to well building projects in Africa.

This has really captured my imagination, and I'll be blogging about this as I go through Lent (I think the lack of tea and coffee may get interesting!). And to kick us off, I made my first video blog (please excuse the wild hair, pjs, and crazed camera angle....it was 1 am!).

40 days start from Claire Thornley on Vimeo.

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Fingal Finger-Badger!

I really wanted to take a few pics of our trip to Dublin, but Matthew hates being in photos. And I'm not so big on being in every single one alone. So we took a friend with us. May I introduce to you....Master Fingal Finger-Badger! I wanted to get some snaps to share here, and also some for my class - and what better way than through the medium of a teeny tiny badger?

Fingal takes the tube. Leyton to Heathrow takes aaaagggggeeeees.

Once we are all checked in at Heathrow, Fingal relaxes with a cooling pint.

Aboard our flight, Fingal peruses the flight information. he is confused as how to do the brace position, however - he has a very long face!

After we checked in at our hotel (which was beautiful, by the way! A castle that had been refurbed and done up gorgeously. I want to go to there.) Fingal unwound in his new "crib".

Matthew and Fingal getting ready for dinner.

Fingal and me.

After dinner, Fingal insisted on hitting the champagne...

...then unwound with a restorative cup of tea.

On Sunday we three headed out of the hotel and took a walk into Dublin. Which wound up being almost 5km away, lol!

In Dublin we explored the city. Fingal especially enjoyed St Stephen's Green.

So did Matthew!

After all our trekking we headed back to the hotel for a snack.

And Sunday evening was chilled, watching tv....

...and having a couple of glasses of wine in the bar.

Then we had to plan our route for Monday!

We took a bus tour around Dublin. It was a really great way to see the city, but this is pretty much the only photo I've got of the journey. It was SO windy and rainy!

One place we did get lots of photos was the Guiness Storehouse. Here's Fingal and I near the start of the tour.

At the storehouse you could sign up to become an apprentice brewer and have your picture taken to be emailed to you. Guess who we signed up?

Examining the machinery.

Watching a film about Guinness.

Fingal really seemed to like the Guiness.

Quite a lot, actually.

(So did Matthew! :-))

Fingal enjoying his pint. The view behind him is of Dublin - we were up in the 'Gravity Bar' where you can see all over the city!

Oh dear, Fingal!

Matthew worries about our slightly sozzled companion.

Party animal!

On one of the suits of armour at the hotel.

With his friend, Leo.

So there you have it - a few snapshots of our trip. I hope you like them!

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As I write this Matthew and I are splodged out checking email on our phones, quite blissfully relaxed after an evening of watching movies and chatting. Today during the day we were busy exploring the city. Dublin's great fun to visit, in my humble opinion, and we clocked up plenty of touristy goodness. We took a bus tour on one of those open topped buses, which was especially hilarious when the weather became typically Celtic - grey and windy with a dash of lashing rain! We went to the Guinness Storehouse, drank in the Temple Bar, walked round the city, and ate some of Dublin's best chips (allegedly!).

All in all, a lovely break. Tomorrow, back to London...

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Happy Valentine's Day!

From beautiful Dublin, to wherever you are, happy Valentine's day!

Matthew and I are thoroughly enjoying our stay in the castle, and have already had lots of fun exploring (and an epic steak dinner, too). As I type we are having our traditional Valentine's night of snacks, wine, chat and silly. Tomorrow a big day in Dublin beckons.

Lots of love to you all!

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Leaving on a jet plane

In two and a half hours, Matthew and I are off to Dublin.

Of course, if you looked at me now, you'd never know, because right now I am sat in my pyjamas, blogging, drinking tea and eating chocolate buttons (fear not, packing and actual clothes are both on the horizon soon!).

I'm looking forward to going away, I must say. The half-term of work we've just done is the one I always find hardest, personally. It's grey, it's dark, it's demanding, and I have worked off my socks. Matthew has been throwing everything he's got at work lately too, so a break away just the pair of us will be great. Less worry and stress and "what shall we have for dinner?" and more time for wine and walks and cuddles and just enjoying time together.

I'm excited for Dublin - I've never been and I've heard good-to-great things from everyone I've spoken too. Words and pictures to follow soon, no doubt.

Right. Where did I put my jeans / passport / wallet...?

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On Valentine's Day....

Show Us Your Life with Kelly's Korner

Hooray, it's (almost) Friday, and time for another of my posts inspired by Kelly's 'show us your life' series. Kelly asked mainly for our favourite gift and date, but as I'm quite new to this Valentine's-day-in-a-couple gig (woo! Number 2!), I thought I'd look at the whole darn thing.

I have had so many different Valentine's Days as a single girl (about a dozen from when I was dating age onwards). I used to often travel around this time of year, so my memories aren't so much of not getting cards and flowers, but more about eating tapas and drinking Sangria in Madrid with Hannah, one of my best girls....

...or packing up to head to Paris to see Naomi (another of my best girls) the day after Valentine's day another year.

It's going for a day of shopping and lunch and watching Titanic with girlfriends from school, relaxing and having far too good a time to get hung up about the holiday.

I've worked straight through the day some years. Just got my work on and barely noticed the day (except for that little twinge you get when you arrive back in the door and there's not a single card on the mat). I've also had that strange year when a handful of cards arrive and you're flattered and inquisitive, but mainly just quite confused.

I remember one thoroughly sad and upsetting year when I made myself a beautiful dinner with a lovely wine, and sat eating it, crying, knowing the boy I really wanted to share it with was a couple of miles away physically, but woefully out of my reach in reality. I literally felt like my heart was going to break.

And I've spent a fair few Valentine's Days on dancefloors or stages, giving up the idea of romance for a greater loves of mine....music, dancing, friends. :-)

Now, however, I'm lucky enough to have a boy worth celebrating Valentine's with, and I seem to be making it a tradition to take him away each year. It's the perfect time....close enough to Christmas that I can make a gift of it....past the end of the bleak month of January....usually after six manic workweeks for both of us, when some quality time is needed. Last year Matthew and I went to Brighton. This year, Dublin.

I think I shocked Matthew by saying I don't want to do gifts this year (cards, however, yes. I *heart* cards). Seriously, I am a girl who loves presents - especially buying them for other people. But I just think Valentine's is a step too far for me financially (romantic? No. True? No doubt!).

I buy Matthew big presents for the big three (birthday, Christmas, anniversary) and little gifts all the time (is there anything more fun than hiding chocolates in someone's sock drawer? Or giving a little gift for no other reason than it's Thursday and you love them?). And Matthew is always considerate and loving to me, even when I have bedhead, or I'm stressed, or I forget stuff. That means more to me than any necklace could (although Matthew knows me pretty well and would choose a beautiful one!).

So for me, the best date is quality time with my honey. And the best gift is....quality time with my honey. I think Valentine's can be great fun, but I hope that I let Matthew know that I love him far more frequently than once a year at a card company's behest. I can appreciate the romance and the fun of the day though, so wherever you are for Valentine's, and whatever you do, I hope you have a wonderful time.

And Matthew honey, I love you. Valentine's Day, today, yesterday and tomorrow. I am very very lucky to have you.

Happy V day, everybody!

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