Overthinking Otter
– this is a clip of an otter overthinking things -and pretty much what was happening in mind!

This is an accurate representation of what happened in my brain the evening before and morning of my first time teaching in a university.

I received a mass emails sent out by our course leader saying that there was an opportunity for a person with an animal/equine/flora background to go and do a few hours placement on the Animal Studies course. I leaped at eh chance.

So after meeting with the Animals Studies course leader a few times and going for a wonder around the campus and class rooms the day had come to go an actually deliver a lecture.

I was to go and do an hour’s lecture on ‘how to write a good essay introduction’. Academic skills had never been my strong point, having had a couple of referrals with my essays way back in my own uni days, I didn’t feel hugely confident on my own abilities on this one.
But there was no turning back now, I had adapted a PowerPoint presentation from the one I was given and wrote my own example to an exercise I had planned….and was actually quite pleases with it….sort of wanted to write the essay to go with it afterwards.

I began with a little icebreaker, to be honest more for my own benefit than the students as they all knew each other, I was the stranger in the room.
the icebreaker was inspired by one my tutor had done a couple of day previous,
I handed out post-its with random (yet very important) questions such as – ‘what’s your favourite cake?’, which Hogwarts house would you be in?’ and ‘what was your favourite kids TV show growing up?’, – I accidentally dropped a spoiler on this one in reference to Netfilx’s new remake to ‘ Sabrina the teenage witch’ -oops!
And then the most contentious and hard hitting question of all…..’Cat or Dog?’ I hadn’t prepared myself for the very heated debate this brought about and the complete disregard for the season of good will…..though just for the record, Dogs all the way!

So quickly I pushed onto the actual teaching bit….and to my own surprise it went pretty well, I imparted wisdom!

At the end I had included a little exercise, shoehorning in a YouTube clip of one of my favourite beasties, Reindeer – because these animals are all kinds of wonderful!
Though I wasn’t solely pushing my own agenda here, this was their last lecture before breaking for Christmas, so it was an all-round easy choice. It has also inadvertently lead me to my current book choice, ‘Being Caribou’ by Karsten Heuer, that reaffirms just how awesome these animals really are….no, really they are!

Anyway, moving on from Reindeer and their awesome-ness, I somehow came to the conclusion that I would be a good idea to have my mentor observe me on my first lesson just a side not to any would be PGCE students out there – don’t think this is a good idea on your’ first time teaching…… I refer you back to the otter.
Despite this it worked out ok and I passed and had some good feedback and will be taking more sessions in the future.
I am also lined up to take another class in a couple of months for another lecturer, something about dissection theory from what I gather, well I’m game now!
Then things took an unexpected turn, and I’m not just talking about the spontaneous carol concert in the lobby. I was introduced to a third yeas student who is interested in going on to do his PGCE next year, he seemed familiar.
He would acting as a ‘teaching assistant’ with a few future lectures, so we stood chatting, mostly about badgers (another top-notch animal, maybe not quite as good as reindeer, but we’ll let it slide) and I could tell he was thinking the same about me, that he had seen me somewhere before.
Finally, the penny dropped when I mentioned where I used to work
‘Oh! I did work experience there a few years back.’ – That was it, that’s where I knew him from, he was one of my former work experience students.
He then went on to say ‘Yeah I really liked the place, though I remember a goat died on my first day’…..ah.
‘Now I remember’, he added, ‘I remember clearing a pond. You and another woman were in wetsuits chest deep in a stagnant pond and covered in pond weed. A dead frog got stuck in someone’s hair.’
yep, just another day in the Valley, and another story for another time.

This is the problem of having worked in a public place, people recognise you, but they have no idea why…then they remember, and very often it’s a result of some bizarre and unpredictable circumstances. One Christmas while at work, I was manning the door to Father Christmas’ grotto, a member of the public approached me and said…’You’re the Viking that sold me a broken tea-light!’….Yes. Yes I was.

After getting my feedback and a well needed brew, I headed to my Dads house to take him shopping. At that point little did I know that the teaching day was not yet done.
As we headed to the shop, he quizzed me over how and what BACS transfers are. I explained, but he wasn’t quite grasping it. Now here, I thought, was an opportunity to exercise some teaching strategies, so I explained again in a different way, but he still wasn’t grasping it.

Now in his defence, my dad is having a few problems with his memory of late, however he’s usually alright with this sort of thing. It’s usually more like if you hold up a lemon and ask him what it is he can’t remember the correct word for it and ends up described it in other terms such as, ‘small melon’ or ‘sharp yellow thing’ or ‘it’s like a lime but not’…honestly it keeps us entertained for hours!
– just a side note here, we are a family who very much try to find humour in these types of situations….Recently at my Aunty Betty’s funeral we walked out of the crematorium with the song ‘Black Betty’ blasting out, its just who we are.

So again, I tried to simplify things even more….still nothing, to the point I was now getting confused.
This continued for quite a long time, and being a trainee teacher, I thought I could handle it but no teaching approaches or theories or cunning plans that I’ve learned so far could help me with this one!
Now, I like to think of myself as being quite a patient person, but in the end after exhausting every avenue I just went with, ‘It’s witchcraft’.
My Dad found this amusing and likened himself to Baldrick from ‘Blackadder’, and you know what, he’s not wrong!


Advanced Maths
– above is the link to this particular clip


Observation of an experienced Teacher or ‘Sarah’s afternoon in Hell’

Where do I start?

‘Observation of an experienced teacher’, that was the assignment. Go and watch someone teach.

I was discussing this with my friend over breakfast one morning, I was a little stuck on who to go and watch teach. My step sister is a primary school teacher, so that was an option. I could have gone and sat in on of my mentor’s classes or gone along to a workshop in Bodfari, but they all felt a bit safe, and we were advised to go and watch something outside of our own area of teaching.
Then my friend said she had been meaning to do an exercise session for some of the new recruits in her workplace- she is the Health and Safety Officer for a very large manufacturing company and the head of the onside fire team – yep, that what sort of place it is…it needs its own fire team!

This seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up, and so arrangements were made for me to go in and view the exercise.
I was passed off as a photographer as this was realistically the only way to get me on site as saying I was there to watch so that I could write an assignments was not really going to cut it – and I do take an OK photograph every now and again, even if I do say so myself.

I arrived onsite, and walking around like a rabbit in headlights. This was a completely different world and looked like a scene from a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film!

So as my friend bundled me into a series of high-vis jackets and a hard hat we headed off to the fire station. The fire team where already there changing into their kit, my friend plonked me in a corner and told me to ‘stay there and don’t get run over’ then went off to get into her own fire kit.

The exercise itself was to test the onsite emergency response in relation to the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH). Testing the newer team members and giving them the opportunity to learn from the more experienced fire fighters, while also testing the emergency response system of the site highlight any flaws in the plan.
This led to my friend mullite-tasking to the max and arranging the fire team to be on the same shift, writing the exercise, organising the reception and the auditing staff, clearing it with the big bosses, evacuating the neighbouring building, getting me onsite…oh and getting a methanol tanker.
I can barely organise my sock draw.

The call was made, and the exercise began. It was treated as a real emergency, so all the procedures were followed which also involved the fire engine…and I got to ride in the front of it with the flashy blue lights and all that!

Arriving ‘on scene’ we all disembarked, fire fighters off in one direction me in another. As they kitted up with BA (breathing Apparatus) I stood a little bewildered to one side.
Around me were huge silos, multiple vats of unknown liquid, tankers and industrial towers and all completely foreign to me.

My friend walked up to me and clipped a gas monitor onto my chest – ‘don’t worry, it goes *bleep* a lot, best to just ignore it…. unless you see me running, in which case run like hell.’ This filled me with confidence.
‘Stand there and don’t explode’, this was the safety advice given to me by my BFF – the safety officer who has her own fire team. However, I am happy to report back that I manged to do as I was told and did not explode.

Hoses were run out and soon huge jets of water covered the tanker. This was the exercise; to cover the parked methanol tanker with a ‘water curtain’ to supress any hazardous and yes, explosive vapours. It was quite an awesome sight.

I found my stride after a bit and happily snapped away with my camera as both me and it got covered in water and got some pretty good shots, though in the back of my mind still slightly aware that the ‘click’ from my camera could in fact set of an explosion.

We walked back to the fire truck down a road lined with the large vats full of what I now know to be acid and other equally alarming substances – apparently if they mix, they will explode too.
After the exercise was complete and we were all safely back in a non-explosive atmosphere my BFF told me ‘well done, that was probably the most dangerous place you will ever take a photo in’ – sometime ignorance really is bliss.

The one thing my BFF didn’t mention to the company or the team was that the exercise had been tailored somewhat to accommodate slightly more structured learning elements…perhaps even a lesson or too to fulfil a couple of criteria for a certain assignment. *ahem*

Its nice to have friends who go above and beyond and will organise an entire fire crew and methanol tanker for you.
Except now I owe her one, big time….this could cost me a bison (I’m not even going to attempt to explain that one, just know that it’s usually the price at stake…or rather, steak)

Writing the evaluation was, ermm shall we say, a challenge. In hindsight I may have gone a bit too big and obscure with this one, it was a bit of a head-pickler when it came to type it up in reference to teaching theories, although they were definitely there.
There was a lot to write about and all of it was completely alien to me.

My old friend anxiety raised its head the night after I handed it in and hit me quite hard….I spent most of that night thinking of all the things I could of and should have wrote about instead of what I actually did write about. But I had already submitted it and couldn’t do anything about it. I’m happy to pass but know that this wasn’t my finest work.

Lesson learned for the future, maybe stick to keeping things a little simpler and don’t try and stray too far from the task in hand just to test your own limits, there will be plenty of time for that in the future, small steps.

And remember…..Don’t explode.

I’m going to be an Art Teacher?

It suddenly clicked…I don’t want to teach art!
I have no interest in teaching art, especially not to adults. I have no formal art training and so don’t feel like I have the authority to teach someone ‘how to do art’ when I’m not entirely sure myself.

Yes I did an art degree – Model Design and Special Effects- but that was practical art, art with a function, art with a job at the end and not a lot of art involved really.
But I left that life long ago and chose to do it all my own way concentrating on illustration and wildlife paintings, things that are so close to my heart that I feel a little lost without.
But did I want to teach that? Could I teach that?
I’ve always been a little private with my artwork, its only really in the last few years that I’ve began submitting it to societies and exhibitions, but I still haven’t plucked up the courage to send a portfolio to illustration houses…that just seems a little daunting for now, I guess I’m still a afraid of the critique.
But its my subject, I have always been known as ‘the arty girl’, right through school, all friends and family know me as that and so it made complete sense to continue being that person.

When the idea came to go off and do my PGCE I fully intended it go and peruse teaching an art subject, this is also what everyone around expected me to do. I had mixed feeling about it, I love creating art, I love making, I love painting and drawing, but usually for myself, it’s my go to thing when I want to escape, but did I really want to let people invade that calm space?
I mean I have an art degree so it seemed like the likely thing to do, I recent years I’ve actually began to put myself out there as a wildlife artist, I sell my work and run kids drawing workshops…but I’d been working in Environment and Conservation for the past eight years and it had woven its way into my heart, I’d also gained quite a hefty working knowledge of it too. I’d miss it, but I was going off to become an art teacher because that’s what everyone expected of me…that’s what I expected of me! It was almost like it was set in stone, written in the stars, my path was laid out in front of me – that is until the open evening when one of my would-be, now-is tutors said there’s a chance of a work placement in an animal studies setting…..

I decided there and then to stray off that path and head off into the woods.

Out with the old and in with the new.

What am I doing!?

I graduated 10 years ago with, now that I’ve moved back up to North Wales, a pretty useless Degree – Model Design and Special Effects, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood it is not! I’ve been working for the past 8 years then suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, I decide to go off and do a PGCE. I had mulled it over during the past couple years but not seriously enough to really looked into it all that much.
I naively thought a PGCE (Postgraduate certificate in Education) was solely to go off an become a high school teacher, and that takes a special and very patient kind of person. I am not that sort of special or patient kind of person. But then I came across the PcET (Post-compulsory Education and Training) and it suddenly all clicked, the planets aligned, and I rays of light emulated for the words on the screen! Yes! this is it, this is what I want to go and do!

So off I went, blindly, walking in to fulltime education once again and on reflection not quite knowing what I was heading into.
I stupidly thought I could do it all. That I could still work my day job and study…and keep up the artwork, and run workshops, and run my online shop and go off and paint scenery…..its fine I won’t need sleep!
No surprises, it turns out I was wrong. Something had to give….and yes, I do need sleep.

So after that maelstrom of a first day of inductions and back into university I had some decision making to do, something had to give if I was going to make this worth my while and more importantly do well at it!

It was the job! The day job had to go. I’d been looking for a way out for a long time and this finally gave me the excuse to leave. That’s not to say it was an easy decision, I loved that place, I’d poured my heart and soul into it over the years and it had shaped me somewhat and I was proud of that. But the place was changing and not for the better. I wasn’t getting on with my work colleague’s…in fact the tensions and atmosphere in the workplace was so bad it was slowly making me ill. So that was that, it was time to go.
Then I did it, I finally did it. I wrote the letter, quite a damning letter, I didn’t hold back either, I’d had a rough couple of years with some colleagues and I need that to be known.
It was emotional.
I went in handed over my resignation, and it was done and I cried, a lot.
Then I took myself off to sit in costa in a quiet corner on my own with lemon tart and a cup of ‘Bonfire spiced hot chocolate – starbucks you can stick your pumpkin spiced latte this is the good stuff! – and mused over life. Then I got up, went home and drew a line under that chapter of my life. And oh, what a chapter it has been with many many stories to tell…but they are for another time.

And so here I am a full-time student once again, with my new school bag in hand and an open mind and armed with the helpful words of my BFF – ‘don’t let the big kids pick on you or steal your lunch money’ – I open a new chapter and begin to fill it…..I’m off and not looking back!

How to paint a Hare

For some reason I have always found painting my work a daunting task, it usual involved staring at the sketch for a while before biting the bullet and committing it to paint and never being fully sure of the outcome.
So more for my own purpose I think, here’s how I use watercolour, my favorite medium.

all sketched out and waiting for some colour.

next a quick undercoat of the main colours and high-lights/low-lights…kinda like sketching with paint, it gives you an idea of what your aiming for.

Again add more low-light ares

then its just a case of layering up the details
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nearly there….
I like to add the fine details with dark browns and sometimes black for the sharper bits like eyes and around the darker shaded areas…and there you have it, a Hare
hare colourv


Well, the last week has been spent in Budapest, a much anticipated trip with good food, good sights and good company.
I will admit, I had my reservations over the last few weeks with refugee crossing Hungary, not that I was nervous, not by any mean it was more the guilt of walking around frivolously enjoying myself whiles somewhere in the city thousands of people where fleeing for their lives and unwanted by the world. Though as suspected, we didn’t encounter any of this, it was as if nothing had ever happened.

I haven’t been abroad for a good number of years and though I’m fine with flying (in fact I rather enjoy it) its the getting through the airport bit I don’t like, and after a couple of rather stressful and unpleasant couple of hours we where on our way.
We landed early evening when the sun was setting so no time to see much other than the hotel, which once upon a time was a an art nouveau theater with a beautiful high class ceiling and gardens.
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The next morning we where up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to explore the city, so we hopped on the sightseeing bus and headed to wherever it took us. After crossing over the Victoria to Buda (we were staying on the Pest side) we passed the palace and headed up the hill to the highest point and stopped to admire the view…and what a view!
The day was as clear and warm as anyone could ask and so the views where, in a word breathtaking.

We stopped and had a drink beside these spectacular views and as the others sat and enjoyed the sun I went to watch a pair of hooded crows bickering with a jay, the crows won.
We also encouraged by the bar owner to try some Palinka, Hungarian fruit brandy…it was strong!
We were then joined by one of the local shield bugs (one of many)

Next we hopped on to a sightseeing boat and headed down the Danube.

One thing I’ve learned is Hungarians are extremely good architects and like high buildings.

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Every night we headed to somewhere new and found a handful of wonderful and bars and eateries that Camden would be jealous of, sadly my camera doesn’t like talking pictures in low light so I didn’t get many picture of these magical places,
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The next morning we headed back to explore the Palace, the sun was out and not a cloud in the sky as we hopped on the funicular ( the hill was very steep) and got some more wonderful vies of the Pest side o the City.WP_20150923_11_39_50_Pro WP_20150923_12_27_58_Pro WP_20150923_12_28_29_Pro

At the top guarding the city perches the Turul bird, a key figure in Hungarian creation stories its a divine messenger siting atop the tree of life and has become a symbol of power, strength and nobility.
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The Palace, now divided into national gallery, museum and national Library is an impressive sight and one of the biggest and most imposing seats of power I’ve ever seen…and the Hungarian monarchy had the ultimate room with a view.
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The last night was again spent on the Danube as we did a night time river cruse and passed the city illuminated in its full glory, a fitting end to a wonderful few days to a city I will one day most definitely return to, with its outstandingly rich history and culture, its vibrant and wonderful people and truly delicious food!

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The Magpie and the Moor

Well the weeks are flying by, July came and went and now August is marching on and the sun if finally here. Its been quite a busy few weeks with their ups and downs which hasn’t given me much of an opportunity to get much painting done, but I ceased the chance to catch up on a few arty things over the last couple of days as well as take time out to spend with the dogs.

Firstly a painting that has been sitting on my desk for about 2 weeks now, watching me with is beady eye beckoning me to paint it. Yesterday I gave in.

The magpie King, not quite finished yet, but well under way.



And today was glorious so the dogs were loaded into the car…Moss was less than keen bu enjoyed it when he got out the other end.
We headed for the moor, climbed to the highest point and wandered amongst  the gorse where I lost a tennis ball, much to the annoyance of the dogs but found some Harebell’s.
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and finally popped my head over the fence to say hello to Candy, who didn’t seem to impressed I was there with out her bucket.