All posts by Tara

Because we need regular checkpoints for reflection…

Yesterday afternoon, Dan had one of his internet global news channel things on to watch the fireworks in other parts of the world and we noted that the Chinese display was pretty pathetic. Of course, why should they be particularly impressive? It’s not their new year, is it? The Chinese NY this year is actually on Valentine’s Day. Do the Chinese make new year’s resolutions? Whenever one celebrates the dawning of the new year, however, one is expected to reflect on the year (or decade) just gone and plan for self-improvement. We like to feel chivvied into collective self-evaluation by a date. If you work in education, it would make more sense to use 1st September, rather than 1st January.

Education these days is all about getting children to evaluate their own progress and to set themselves targets. They must know what their minimum target grades are according to the assessment data and what they should be doing to achieve them all the time, not just once a year. Checking this is part of the school inspection process. Continuous reflection is considered an essential part of making children effective learners.

So, what use are annual targets? When writing your little list of resolutions, do you decide what the success criteria are going to be? Do you focus on what’s achievable based on your abilities and the limits of the possible? Do you have someone comment on them and suggest others? Probably not, because we’d feel like we were being examined. Vagueness and idealism are much less stressful.

So, I shall resolve in 2010 to get married, cook lots of lovely things and see friends more often. Which, ironically, are quite specific and achievable.

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The Roman Credit Crunch AD 33

Translation by the Internet Classics Archive:

Meanwhile, a powerful host of accusers fell with sudden fury on the class which systematically increased its wealth by usury in defiance of a law passed by Caesar the Dictator defining the terms of lending money and of holding estates in Italy, a law long obsolete because the public good is sacrificed to private interest. The curse of usury was indeed of old standing in Rome and a most frequent cause of sedition and discord, and it was therefore repressed even in the early days of a less corrupt morality. First, the Twelve Tables prohibited any one from exacting more than 10 per cent, when, previously, the rate had depended on the caprice of the wealthy. Subsequently, by a bill brought in by the tribunes, interest was reduced to half that amount, and finally compound interest was wholly forbidden. A check too was put by several enactments of the people on evasions which, though continually put down, still, through strange artifices, reappeared. On this occasion, however, Gracchus, the praetor, to whose jurisdiction the inquiry had fallen, felt himself compelled by the number of persons endangered to refer the matter to the Senate. In their dismay the senators, not one of whom was free from similar guilt, threw themselves on the emperor’s indulgence. He yielded, and a year and six months were granted, within which every one was to settle his private accounts conformably to the requirements of the law.

Hence followed a scarcity of money, a great shock being given to all credit, the current coin too, in consequence of the conviction of so many persons and the sale of their property, being locked up in the imperial treasury or the public exchequer. To meet this, the Senate had directed that every creditor should have two-thirds his capital secured on estates in Italy. Creditors however were suing for payment in full, and it was not respectable for persons when sued to break faith. So, at first, there were clamorous meetings and importunate entreaties; then noisy applications to the praetor’s court. And the very device intended as a remedy, the sale and purchase of estates, proved the contrary, as the usurers had hoarded up all their money for buying land. The facilities for selling were followed by a fall of prices, and the deeper a man was in debt, the more reluctantly did he part with his property, and many were utterly ruined. The destruction of private wealth precipitated the fall of rank and reputation, till at last the emperor interposed his aid by distributing throughout the banks a hundred million sesterces, and allowing freedom to borrow without interest for three years, provided the borrower gave security to the State in land to double the amount. Credit was thus restored, and gradually private lenders were found. The purchase too of estates was not carried out according to the letter of the Senate’s decree, rigour at the outset, as usual with such matters, becoming negligence in the end.

Tacitus, Annals VI

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Wedding#3: Starting the dress hunt

The dress. Yet another thing governed by hideous tradition… almost all of which I’m tempted to reject and go dressed in something Roman and flame-coloured. Possibly with matching Converses. It was so much more sensible in the days when one just wore a really expensive dress and could then wear it again to other things. In fairness, I could do that now, but I have a nagging feeling that later on I might feel that I’d cheated myself out of something unique. There’s always ivory as an alternative to white.

Now, I can’t go mad on dress hunting this week, as my mother’s in Rome and will kill me if I start without her. Having said that, there’s no harm browsing on the internet and thinking “I am NOT wearing THAT!” and “How the hell am I supposed to cost this if they don’t give price estimates?”.

This particular designer is stocked locally and even has price estimates. But they all look the same, no? Or they do to me, anyway. The fashion seems to be paper cornet, strapless with(out) embroidery.

Sigh.

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Bookedy-booked

We were in a rush yesterday. The hamster’s been a bit ill this week, so we took her into the vet’s to make sure she was fighting fit again. Vet waiting rooms – with ill rabbits and whining dogs – aren’t the jolliest of places, and they were running 40 minutes late. Also, some selfish person had already done the crossword in the BBC History magazine and got one of the answers spectacularly wrong (there was never a king of Spain called ‘Fransciscii’ (sic), as far as I can recall).

By the time we left (complete with clean bill of hamster health and less £16), and tracked down my parents (or chauffeurs, if you will), we were running ten minutes behind. Having got to the venue and deposited my dad in the bar, we then sat waiting for the wedding co-ordinator for another five minutes.

The long and the short of it is that we’ve now booked the wedding properly, including buffet (easier for picky eaters), string quartet and bridal suite. This despite the distraction of student-aged people outside on the lawn practising historical drama in strange, inflatable hats.  Pleased that everything should be relatively stress free. The only thing we’ll have that’s not provided by the hotel on the day will be the evening band. I assume the registrar is reliable.

We’re on the hunt for a contemporary ceilidh band. Can anyone recommend one?

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Planning the wedding of the year – the fun begins…

So, now we’ve moved house, time to get on with planning the wedding.

Initially, we were going to go for December, but our preferred venue was booked up, so we’re now on for August, all being fine and dandy after we see the wedding co-ordinator on Saturday. This means we have around 10 months to go and a million and one things to do.

For your amusement, I’ll be keeping you up to date with all the wedding shenanigans from now until August.

We went up to the venue today for their bridal (why always bridal, not groomal?) fair and picked up a whole load of leaflets (except from the wedding video guy, who was give short shrift). Most of the core things are covered by their platinum package, including food, flowers and a string quartet, which makes things a bit easier. We, quite fortunately, came across the registrars and had a momentary panic when we found their diary said they had someone else booked in that day. Turned out to be one of those situations where people have booked things, then not cancelled them when they changed their arrangements, so all was well. Bit of a heart in mouth moment, though.

Very firmly decided against a few things: chair covers, toastmasters and wedding videos. We’re operating on the basis that we really don’t need to stick rigidly to all those little traditions that are followed because they are, rather than for any sensible reason. It’s quite liberating and I highly recommend it.

More next week.

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Final post from Dara Cottage…

Well, it’s moving day tomorrow and we’re off to Dara Towers in Rickmansworth. At 8am tomorrow the Aussie Man with a Van team will be round to pack everything up and cart it up two or three flights of stairs at the other end. Full packing is the best thing since sliced cheese. photo4

We’ve had a tough week painting the new flat ready for occupation. I had a crazy fool idea to paint three of the walls in the living room with stripes in the manner of the decor at Delisserie in Hatch End (one finds inspiration in the strangest of places). While Dan and his parents attended to the rest of the flat (three shades of coffee in the bedroom, green hall and bathroom), masking tape and careful edges were my territory for three days. Provided you use decent masking tape (the blue stuff from Homebase is good) and have a reasonably steady hand for the touching-up, it’s not too difficult.

It’s a bit sad to be leaving Pinner with its snickets and strange assortment of people, but semi-rural Ricky awaits with the promise of lakes and a lovely Waitrose!

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The snickets of Pinner (Pt 2)

On to numbers 8 and 9, which are both marked on maps, so should be easy to find. Number 10 is a bit special, and will feature in a future post.

8. Church Lane to Moss Lane

I’ve found this one to be the most used snicket of the selection I’ve shown you. It can get a bit muddy in the winter as a result of the through-traffic.

As you walk past the lovely Pinner House (built in the 17-18th centuries, now a nursing home) on Church Lane, which leads off the top of the High Street, you’ll see to your left a small road called Ingle Close. The footpath is signposted clearly and is made even more obvious by the pavement vanishing after this point. There are often conkers to collect around the entrance in the Autumn.

Continue reading

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The snickets of Pinner (Pt 1)

According to the Urban Dictionary, a snicket is defined as a “partially vegetated alleyway or cut-through in the north of England, usually with bollards at both ends and is poorly lit”. I suppose, in the leafy suburb of Pinner, we just call them alleys – and our mothers usually forbid us to go down them alone at night.

With that warning vaguely in mind, I consider the snickets of Pinner are by far the best way to walk around quickly and they’re absolutely all over the place. Quite a few are on the map, or at least identified by a footbridge over Woodridings Brooks or the Pinn, but there are several that aren’t marked at all. My plan is to take you on a tour of the top ten or so, so that no longer will you stare down a fence-lined path and wonder where it leads. All paths are paved and lit unless stated otherwise.

Today’s route:

snicket1

1. The Dell to Elm Park Road

If I’d known about this earlier, this would have been a very useful little cut-through. The Dell itself proclaims loudly that it’s a private road and do be aware that there are three deliberately tucked-away little cottages at the beginning of the snicket. As you proceed, you’ll find the dainty path becoming more genuinely snickety as you go along. You reach a t-junction a few minutes in where a fenced and formerly gated path takes you left into Little Common, which is a smallish park with a children’s playground. If you wanted, you could continue through the park on to Elm Park Road, which connects Bridge Street with the Uxbridge Road.

More interestingly, however, if you continue along the snicket proper, you eventually come out right by Haywood Close (off Elm Park Road), which would have, for us, made getting to Tesco and the vet’s a whole lot easier.  You live and learn.

Snicket 1: Entrance to The Dell
Snicket 1: Entrance to The Dell

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