"Are you sure?" asked the vets receptionist "No names yet" I said- it was a tough job, 2 fluffy grey kittens arrived on Al's birthday, his birthday present I told him.
Tiny as in fit 2 of them in one hand to take up to their bedroom at night, He is the greyest cat I have ever seen, grey nose, grey whiskers and She is so timid she hisses at a pouch of cat food because she is so scared.
One last chance, only a couple of years left in the old sofa so time to get kittens whilst the furniture is getting old and the whole house isnt carpeted yet. I actually bought them from Gumtree, a departure for me, I usually adopt adult cats but I had a yearning for kittens even if they had no names.
Then driving to Heathrow early in the morning it dawned on me.........
Meet Jason and Kylie !
growing up at lightning speed - far to fast
And thats how we came to have smileyest, purryest, happiest, friendliest kittens in the world.
Part way into the school year, the academy trust announced it was going to give up its schools, the first one to do so in the country, a bit of a surprise but not altogether bad news.
Shortly after the news came the retirement of the lady head, she appointed me and I always liked her, I was fairly nervous about a new head, particularly after the experience with the last male head I worked under.
Then it was announced that my department would move faculties and be under a new line manager, my original one was a nice chap, always enthusiastic and hands on, listening and always a good bet if you needed someone to shout at a miscreant!
The kitchens were being refitted over the summer so that was one piece of good news, in the event they took a couple of weeks into the new term to be finished and they arent as good quality as we all hoped but new kitchens is new kitchens and they do look good and inspire the students a bit more than the old ones.
My lovely colleague found a job at a private school and left at Christmas, leaving me on my own teaching the whole of the KS4 classes and working more days a week than I really wanted to for a couple of terms.
see- its all gone crazy
It is hard work under the new management, there is something every week that needs work doing for it, a constant CPD programme that wears you down by the end of the session, it doesnt look like ending soon either, No text book for the course so I had to spend 16 hours a day for 4 months writing one. I feel constantly tired and frazzled, if it wasnt for a couple of people I doubt I would even remember what day it was! The one big thing I cling to in all of this is- I am not afraid, I am not belittled, I am not suffering chest pains on the way to work, I am not hiding away trying to be an unseen ghost. I am in a school where I work hard, very hard, but I dont feel like I am fighting a losing battle against impossible expectations, and not facing a daily struggle. I dont have the confidence to hold my head up yet but maybe one day I will.
Pulling into Santee the night before the eclipse and the place was rammed, people everywhere, litter bins full, tents set up, hotels with hand written signs saying "sorry full" . It seems that despite all the years warnings , half the population of the US had still been taken by surprise by the eclipse or decided last minute to go and see it.
Later I found out that Santee state park was one of the places recommended for a good view and surroundings to observe the eclipse - I chose right, and booked right ie in January.
The queues to get into the state park and the blazing sun was tiring enough without waiting the next few hours for the eclipse. I looked like a real American with my collapsible chair and my coolbox, There was a scientist with a special camera to look at the sun flares, the local British car club who were surprisingly unfriendly considering I was an actual British person !! People with massive telescopes, set ups with gazebos, barbeques all waiting it out to see the eclipse.
After a few hours sitting in the forest I moved back to a clearing just as the sun was beginning to get shadowed and half an hour later the eerie feeling started, like dusk but not like dusk, strange shadows cast by leaves on the ground, a rising excitement.
Camera shots through eclipse glasses arent the easiest but you get the drift...
And finally- it happened
A ghostly dark, quiet and cool, you could still feel the sun glowing round you and a brief moment to look at the sun without the glasses on
and seemingly in a heartbeat it was gone.....
Driving back in the 7 hour tailback that followed, I saw cars and vehicles from as far North as Canada all driven down to see the eclipse- no wonder it was crowded in Santee!
A massive eclipse, covering a large part of the US, it would be rude not to go and see it.
Having pondered where to go I ended up chosing South Carolina as a likely spot for the 21st August 2017, booked a hotel in January in plenty of time but forgot one thing....
quite how hot hadn't crossed my mind, silly really because its right down near Florida and Florida is in the "dont visit in the summer" category Even New Jersey is in that category because of the humidity !
It wasnt the eclipse glasses I forgot by the way, I was well prepared and even though they had sold out weeks before in the US I bought some online and had no trouble with that.
so: a few highlights before eclipse day
Abbeville - not the French one obviously
The place I had actually booked 20 miles away turned out to e an empty house fraud but to chance upon this lovely little town with its hotel of chaotic eccentricity more than made up for it .
Spanish moss that hangs from the trees isnt Spanish and isnt a moss, its more like the airplants that we get here, they cling to the trees to form a sort of summertime Christmas decoration.
I like Savannah immensely, I think its one of the places on my visit again list- only not in the summer next time.
The trees just sort of lean over to meet each other in a tunnel, all you have to do is plant them and they do it by themselves apparently.
Even the trip to the beach to cool off was so hot that I spent a whole hour their getting hotter and grumpier before retreating to the car and the air conditioning