Sunday 26 February 2012

Pancakes and seventeenth-century music

Supermarkets and today’s secular culture make much of Pancake Day and it was doubtless celebrated with higher sales of sugar and lemon in the commercial world, and an array of experimental toppings in households up and down the country. I would like to think that lots of the pancake eaters know that they are really celebrating Shrove Tuesday, and that the pancakes offer them a simple way to use up foodstuffs which would not form part of the Christian’s Lenten fast that starts the following day.

Ash Wednesday now appears to be the poor relation of Pancake Day, even though there are people who continue to choose to give something up – often luxuries such as chocolate, cake or alcohol – between then and Easter in lieu of Jesus’ forty days’ fasting in the Wilderness. However, when all of the self-righteous abstemiousness is forgotten and the religious celebration of Ash Wednesday is considered, there is only one name on the lips of anyone who knows anything about cathedral music.

Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) was a singer in the Papal Chapel for the final twenty or so years of his life, but he is only remembered for his setting of Psalm 51, the Miserere, which people know for containing a top C (two octaves above middle C) for a treble or soprano soloist. The composition is surrounded by mystique as rumour tells it was only performed in the Sistine Chapel and the ornamentation of the soloist’s part (in which the top C occurs), or abbellimenti, was never written down but passed from generation to generation of soloists. The other famous story that frequently accompanies the work is that Mozart supposedly wrote down the entire piece from memory having heard it sung at its annual performance in Rome; there is, apparently, no copy surviving in his hand though.

Although the top C is unlikely ever to have been written by Allegri, it is now firmly part of the piece’s mythology, and every year top Cs flood out of cathedral services up and down the country on Ash Wednesday. While those who know will expect to hear the Miserere sung, few are likely to give much of a thought to the soloist.

In the majority of the cathedral choirs, the top C will be sung by a young boy, probably aged around 11 or 12. Their chorister colleagues – probably numbering a further 17 at most – will speak about him doing the solo in reverent whispers, but his other contemporaries at school will have little idea what pressure has been placed upon him. The solo is technically and physically demanding and cannot readily be performed well by just anyone. To the soloist, this is equivalent to shooting the deciding penalty in a football match or a Masterchef contestant cooking a dish for a roomful or Michelin-starred chefs. But the soloist has to do it five times during the course of the piece.

A recent sound snippet of a rehearsal at Truro Cathedral indicates that their performance included a top E, and the edition we used at Lichfield Cathedral extended to a top D. The recording and I can testify that both instances were, respectively, achieved gracefully by the young singers.

Two hours before the service, the soloists would appear typical carefree youngsters, possibly out playing football, or stuck in lessons at school, but in the services they are living up to the demands of continuing a tradition and upholding the Miserere’s mystique some 400 years after it was written.

As a postscript, I must add that I know many other performances will have been given in which the soloist was a soprano. There is no way in which I want to undermine the work they will have had to put into their rendition, but I do feel there is a marked difference between a professional soprano (who has probably been an Oxbridge choral scholar and studied singing at music collage) and an eleven year old living up to the demands of the piece, and this should not be forgotten.

For people interested more detail about the Miserere, an excellent essay can be found at There is also a variety of performances available on YouTube for anyone who does not know the work.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Visiting Granada (in Spain, not the motorway services)

I wrote this blog post last summer after returning from Granada but never published it. Having just been asked by a friend about what to do in Granada, I felt I could do worse than sharing it in case anyone else is planning a trip there soon. Unlike TripAdvisor, these are all my own genuine and trustworthy opinions.

Rather than keeping receipts and scraps of paper, I thought a blog entry about Granada would be a helpful – for me at least – means of keeping the information about a visit which we certainly hope to repeat and which we would encourage anyone else to try too.

Having flown to Malaga we had a car booked with, for whom it was necessary to take sterling to pay in cash, which worked out smoothly and only felt slightly dodgy. The drive to Granada took about 90 minutes, and it was only in the single-car’s-width one way streets that navigation and driving became a little more hectic.

However, we located our hotel - - and its car park, and found a delightful family run hotel. The husband could speak very little English, but tried very hard and was very helpful, and the wife spoke less English than I do Spanish. Despite this, they could not have been more helpful throughout our stay and the room, costing just €50 (plus €14 for car parking) per night, was lovely; our booking was apparently upgraded, meaning we had a terrace.

As a self-confessed foodie, discovering Tapas bars was high on the agenda. However, it soon transpired that finding bars which serve free tapas with drinks (as is traditional) is not as easy as it should be. The only way in which it seemed possible to find out whether free tapas would be served is to go into the bar, order drinks and see what happens. Sadly, this makes for a dangerous game when you don’t strike lucky.

On the same road as Hotel Almenas, we found Casa Enrique which is a lovely old bar, but where, sadly, the tapas (and a super range of hams were on offer) is only sold. Nevertheless, the range of sherries and watching the barman work out our bill by writing the cost of each drink and the tapas we ordered in chalk on the bar and totalling it up (all upside down) helped make this an entertaining bar and worthy of a visit.

In our couple of nights there, the tapas bars we found which did serve free tapas (and I would suggest going in and sitting at the bar where you will find air-conditioned, smoke-free environments, unlike outside where you will be charged more for the privilege of sitting in the smoggy sun with other tourists) include Restaurante El Deseo (forget their menu, especially the daily specials), and Restaurante Oliver which are both close to the Cathedral; however, do not be taken in by the establishment a couple of doors down from Oliver offering the ‘finest homemade traditional tapas’: we could not leave there quickly enough.

The Cathedral is worth a quick visit even if just to marvel at the large print sixteenth century part books, or the head of John the Baptist sculpture. However, in the Cathedral’s environs, avoid the old women trying to thrust springs of rosemary into your hands: they are fortune tellers and should you not cross their palms with enough euros they will curse you. Knowing this made it quite cruelly entertaining to sit for a while watching people get accosted...

One tradition worth exploring is the teterías, or tea shops, in the El Albaicín area of the city. While wholly unlike the English tea shops, the Moorish tea shops offer a variety of aromatic herbal teas (the Pakistani tea with milk is the closest to an English cup of tea, and I use ‘close’ in the most generous sense of the word), and hookahs for their patrons’ delight.

Continuing the Arabic theme is the Hamman Baths ( which offer a very pleasant couple of hours’ soaking in your choice of hot, warm and cold water, a cooking in a steam room, and – should you choose the ‘Anadalus Ritual’ – a thorough exfoliation and massage given by people for whom the employer’s insurance liability (considering the range of water-related health and safety issues) must be gigantic.

A visit to the Alhambra is included as a must in all the guidebooks and while it is clearly a worthy attraction it is, by its very nature, very touristy. However, lots of the queuing can be avoided by booking tickets in advance at where, for a general daytime visit, you pick morning or afternoon and within that specify a time to visit the Nasrid’s Palace. However, make sure you pick your tickets up at a la Caixa terminal (cash point) in town before you head to the Alhambra. It is simply a case of inserting the card with which you booked tickets and following the instructions. It is possible to walk to the Alhambra from town and going through the El Albaicin area of the city lets you discover some lovely churches and plazas, Spanish guitar players busking, and the mosque (if you time your arrival with their siesta driven opening times), but it is quite a long and uphill trek! There are some lovely views on the way, but the 30 or 32 bus from the Cathedral area at just €1.20 for a single felt the much more relaxed option.

The areas of the city we visited all had a lovely atmosphere; the people we spoke to were all friendly, the places we visited were all good, and we are already looking forward to facing the narrow one way streets with more confidence next time.

Sunday 12 February 2012

A Week in the Life: Saturday

Waking at 7.30am is a sure sign of it being half term. While my internal body clock seems to think six and a half hours' sleep is sufficient my brain does not want to agree. Nevertheless, after trying to get back to sleep I give up and have a pot of tea at 8.15am.

Sorting out the washing, checking e-mails, setting the video timer for the next week, eating a bowl of cereal, and generally pottering around takes me until 10.00am.

I seem to fill the morning with odd little bits of faffing until our friends arrive at 12.10pm. We have coffee and then at about 1.45pm we go out shopping for comestibles (including a sneaky lunchtime scotch egg from the butcher's) while our wives go to enjoy a massage in town.

We are home by 3.00pm having shopped leisurely at the butcher's and Waitrose, and duly spend a pleasant hour chatting about our lives, current affairs and some of those things that keep us pre-occupied in our working lives. Wives duly arrive home shortly before 4.00pm, and my wife then dives out to the Cathedral to sing as the Cathedral School's half term means that her choir is on duty.

We start preparing dinner at about 4.20pm and then leave home to walk down to the Cathedral to listen to Evensong shortly after 5.00pm. I always find it a little odd to be in the congregation for any act of worship, but there is also something more relaxing about feeling no responsibility for any part of the service.

Home after the service for gin, and a relatively simple supper of scallops with celeriac purée and black pudding, rack of lamb with dauphinois potatoes, and sticky toffee pudding.

A lovely evening of conversation, conviviality and cookery ensues, and as 12.30am rolls around, it is generally decided that it is bedtime. It is at this moment that I realise that I have to write today's blog.

1.00am appears and I have written and checked today's post; considering the five bottles that I put in the recycling bin a couple of hours ago, I acknowledge that it might still not be completely error free. While I know it is a shorter entry that the past few days, today has been a quieter, and more relaxed day, and I go to bed hoping not to wake before 9.00am.

Friday 10 February 2012

A Week in the Life: Friday

After having turned my light off at 12.05am, it was somewhat annoying to wake at 6.06am and not be able to enjoy returning to any form of sleep before Jim Naughtie started discussing snow and football. The alarm duly went off and the morning routine fell into its usual pattern. Strange snow/ice combination on the car needed scraping, but relatively light traffic meant an 8.15am arrival at school.

8.50am - Registration: Year 12 Tutor Group. No notices today, but lovely to be able to congratulate a handful of students whose teachers felt that they had made an improvement since their report at the end of last term; thanks go to colleagues who did not just delete my e-mails asking for an update on my tutees' progress.

9.15am - Period 1: Year 11 English. The second of two lessons re-attempting another controlled assessment. During the hour I managed to mark three from last week and then collect in a further 27 to mark. I made it very clear that there was no way in which the essays would be marked by next week as my posthuman essay hangs in a Damoclean manner.

10.35am - Period 2: Year 8 English. In a moment of weakness, I had booked the hall for this lesson and the students have the opportunity to recreate an updated version of the Mechanicals' first appearance in A Midsummer Night's Dream. There were some fantastic performances (and my opinion was seconded by the Drama teacher who came in towards the end of the lesson to prepare for his next lesson).

11.35am - Period 3: Free. Marking another small sample of last week's controlled assessments. Also check with friends whether they will be arriving tonight (as was the original plan) or whether the weather has changed anything; they will now be with us for coffee tomorrow.

I manage to have lunch at 12.40pm and at 1.00pm I return to my room in an unsuccessful bid to tidy my desk. I do not refuse when offered a slice of birthday cake by one of the friends of a form member lunching there.

1.35pm - Period 4: Year 10 English Literature. We discuss a Vernon Scannell's Nettles which the group had been reviewing for homework and then spend time making connections between it and Simon Armitage's Nettles.

2.35pm - Period 5: NQT Meeting. We usually bring cakes to help us through our meeting, but my mentee is not in school this afternoon, so I take advantage of the staff (and sixth form) privilege of being able to leave at the end of period 4 and head home.

I arrive home at 3.10pm having had the second of the bi-weekly hands-free parental conversations and sit down with a cup of tea, Facebook, e-mails and little blog writing until 4.30pm when I feel compelled to open my posthuman essay and consider the next section.

I quickly realise that a Friday afternoon after work is not the best time to be trying to write. I therefore read through what I have written so far, making corrections and developing a couple of ideas which now seem to be presented in a somewhat brusque manner. My wife arrives home at 5.15pm; we have a cup of tea and then I return to the proofreading at 5.30pm.

At 5.45pm it is time to get ready to head to the Cathedral for tonight's recording instalment and I am charged with picking up fish and chips on the way home at 9.00pm.

The recording session is hard work and by 8.20pm everyone is flagging. Nevertheless, we somehow manage to get through to 9.00pm by which time we have apparently recorded enough to make a CD.

I eventually escape from the Cathedral and stop on the way home to pick up food, encountering an eight minute delay while the fish is cooked for us, and arrive home shortly before 9.30pm.

We enjoy supper and a bottle of wine to the accompaniment of some more television from weeks ago.

Washing up completed, bed calls at 11.30pm, with the tacet reminder that friends will be arriving in eleven hours' time.

Thursday 9 February 2012

A Week in the Life: Thursday

Radio. Alarm. Routine. At school at 8.05am.

In a manner not dissimilar to Tuesday, this morning's timings are all slightly altered to allow for this term's extended lunch during which a range of charity events will be held.

8.50am - Registration: Year 12 Tutor Group. Two notices this morning and then catching up with a couple of people before the bell.

9.00am - Period 1: Year 10 English. I model the planning process for their creative writing controlled assessment and speak to every student about their ideas for their piece. Official planning sheets all completed in preparation for the hour's writing straight after half-term..

10.15am - Period 2: Year 13 English Literature. Continuing work with the poetry collection and we hear mini-presentations on Browning, Dickinson and Rossetti.

Thursdays are the days on which I have all my frees timetabled in order to allow me to go to Cambridge for PhD seminars. However, because of tonight's recording I am obliged to save myself driving a two hundred mile round trip, and I have the opportunity to do some reading and add a few words to my posthumanism essay.

By 4.30pm my essay stands at some 2,740 words and my brain feels as if it has been clubbed with a hard club-shaped clubby thing (even helpful similes escape me), so it is clearly time for a break and a cup of tea. And the first bit of blog writing today.

Back to the computer at 4.55pm until my wife arrives home at 5.20pm. We get to catch up for a few minutes before I have to head out to the Cathedral for the recording session at 6.00pm.

From 6.00pm to 9.00pm we are in the Cathedral recording the first half of a CD that is intended to be a fund-raiser when it is released. It all seems to go well, but recording it a tiring process, both mentally and physically.

As the recording finishes, the Directors of Music kindly invite people to their house for food: having not eaten this evening, I gratefully receive a ladleful of beef stew and a glass of red wine.

I am back home at 9.55pm at which point I finish today's blog, check Facebook and e-mails and decide that I have finished for the day.

Bed and a book beckon at 10.10pm.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

A Week in the Life: Wednesday

Today programme. Alarm. Usual morning routine. No ice and lighter traffic so at school at 8.10am enabling me to photocopy some bits and pieces for the next couple of days.

8.50am - Registration: Year 12 Tutor Group. Just one notice today and then Year 12 assembly. The headteacher surprises the assembled crowd by apparently eating cat food in a bid to make them consider the fact it is not what the outside looks like, but what is inside that counts. Doubtless the detail that they will remember is that the headteacher ate cat food and then wonder why.

9.15am - Period 1: Year 12 English Language and Literature. Finish reading The History Boys and start exploring character. Due to the smallness of the group, I find myself completing the sheet for the character I was reading in which will be photocopied along with all the students' for their notes.

10.35am - Period 2: Year 7 English. We finish the section in the text book (see yesterday) and then assess leaflets that Year 8 have created for which the target audience was Year 7; a range of marks and critical comments duly awarded to their seniors.

11.35am - Period 3: Year 11 English. The first of two lessons in which students have the opportunity to re-try writing the second of their controlled assessments. I watch in the sad knowledge that it will result in a further 27 essays for me to mark.

Lunch starts promptly at 12.35pm and sandwiches and chatting abound (as it is preferable to marking the controlled assessments which I am still carrying around with me and probably will continue to do so).

1.35pm - Period 4: Year 10 English Literature. We continue working on essay writing technique and looking at how to approach the comparative examination question. Lots of good feedback and practice paragraphs fill me with some confidence.

2.35pm - Period 5: Year 9 English. A quick round of You Say, We Pay (courtesy of Richard and Judy) starts the lesson in a fun way before we return to Romeo and Juliet's initial sonnet and consider the physicality of their words; from there we look at Juliet's prophetic closing lines. Five headlines to summarise the events of each scene in Act I and character profiles show that everyone has taken something away from the past three lessons.

At 3.35pm I leave school promptly and remember I need to get some petrol on the way home. Some £70 later, I get home, wade through the post, manage a cup of tea, and check e-mails and Facebook.

Evensong tonight is replaced by a rehearsal for the forthcoming recording, so I head to the Cathedral for 5.00pm and we have a 75 minute session dealing with some of the minutiae that is usually forgotten in the daily routine of having to sing a service.

After the rehearsal, mention of a quick drink is made. Having been very organised this week, I accept and enjoy a pint with three colleagues. Back home for 7.30pm, cook supper, wash up and at the computer for 8.45pm.

I download and print a work-in-progress paper by a member of the PhD group which I may end up critiquing tomorrow and turn to writing the bulk of today's blog. Then, before reading the paper, I sort out books in preparation for writing some more posthuman essay tomorrow afternoon and remember I agreed to copy a few tracks from a recording of a concert for someone. Sadly, the CD is not where I expect to find it. Nevertheless, I eventually find it and set about ripping the relevant tracks and creating a new CD.

At 10.05pm, when the CD is burnt, books organised, papers in slightly more organised piles and today's blog finished and checked, I decide it is time for a fractionally earlier night (or at least opportunity to read for a little longer in bed tonight).

Tuesday 7 February 2012

A Week in the Life: Tuesday

Radio 4 at 6.37am. Alarm at 6.55am. Usual morning routine, but ice on the car and more traffic en route means arrival time at school is 8.25am.

Today's school timings are all slightly out of kilter as we have a meeting during period 5; rather than cancelling a single lesson, all five are curtailed.

8.50am - Registration: Year 12 Tutor Group. Notices and quick mention of Charles Dickens's anniversary as a colleague has sent an e-mail saying how to work out your Dickensian name (a grandparent's name and the name of the road on which you grew up). We are still playing with names when the bell rings.

9.00am - Period 1: Year 9 English. Exploring Romeo and Juliet and use the Zeffirelli film version to recap the story for five minutes before reading Act 1 Scene 5. The sonnet is duly identified and the question of whether Romeo and Juliet are really in love addressed by looking at the language used and making links to Romeo's first appearance.

10.15am - Period 2: Free. A couple of administrative minutes at e-mail, and then marking controlled assessments.

11.10am - Period 3: Year 12 English Language and Literature. Continuing reading through The History Boys and I am slightly surprised to get no reaction to the various uses of the f-word and the single c-bomb which was read as if it was an item in the TV listings.

Lunch at 12.05pm, and for the first time in three weeks I am able to sit down to my sandwiches (including homemade apple and chilli chutney) without having Year 11 repeat speaking and listening tasks hanging over me. I am so bored by 12.40pm that I mark another controlled assessment and gossip to colleagues who are also pretending to do something constructive.

1.05pm - Period 4: Year 7 English. Return to a section in the text book on presentational devices and organisation of texts after yesterday's foray into moral issues. I decide that I need to see how this can be made more engaging for next time.

1.50pm - Period 5: Year 10 English. Introducing the first of their creative writing controlled assessments which has to be inspired by a film's title or line of dialogue. Use the opening of Great Expectations (please note the Dickens link) to consider how a young person getting accosted by a stranger could be a starting point for a piece of writing. Set my favourite GCSE homework: raid your DVD collection and pick a film to use as your starting point.

It is 2.45pm and time for the staff meeting. We have opportunity to air concerns about any aspects of life at school and then good practice is shared by members of several departments. Sadly, time-keeping is not seen as good practice, so the meeting ends nearly 30 minutes late.

4.10pm and I jump in the car to try and get home for a cup of tea before Evensong. I telephone my parents for our bi-weekly hands-free catchup and mention the engine fault light; I subsequently prove that the car is running normally by using the kickdown to take the engine to somewhere around 7500rpm and a few miles an hour.

I reach the Cathedral Close at 4.40pm and realise that I can make it home in time for a very quick cup of tea. I manage half a mug of tea as my interest is taken by a Fever Tree bottle opener I have been sent for buying their tonic water and entering an online competition. I am, nevertheless, convinced I ticked the 'no further correspondence' box.

At 4.52pm I leave home to get to the Cathedral for the rehearsal, and notice as I start the car that the engine fault light is no longer on.

The 5.00pm rehearsal, and 5.30pm Evensong which is followed by a pep talk in preparation for the recording sessions scheduled for this Thursday and Friday evenings.

Home at 6.40pm (noticing that fault light remains satisfyingly off), supper, washing up, and then lesson planning by 8.00pm.

By 9.25pm lessons until Friday are organised, the bulk of today's blog written and there is just the ironing left on my list of jobs for tonight before tiredness overtakes me. An episode of The Saint and the ironing takes me to 10.30pm and bed.

Monday 6 February 2012

A Week in the Life: Monday

Awake at 5.15am and dozing until getting up at 6.55am. Usual term time morning routine and arrive at school at around 8.15am. Worried that the car's engine error light came on during the commute, but as it still seems to drive as normal, I will endeavour not to panic and check it with the diagnostic gadget when I am at home in daylight at some point in the week.

The mouse for the computer in my classroom is not working, but helpful techy solves this so when I get back for registration after daily briefing and catching up with colleagues, it is working. Who needs a wireless mouse, anyway?

8.50am - Registration: Year 12 Tutor Group. Usual notices and quick glance at uniform to check for blatant contraventions of the the dress code (complicated by the fact that as there is snow on the ground, boots are permitted today) and then write e-mails to colleagues on form tutorly matters.

9.15am - Period 1: Year 8 English. Exploring A Midsummer Night's Dream and read the scene of the first appearance of the Mechanicals. Compare their characters to the lovers and Theseus and Hippolyta; show a short DVD about staging the scene and chaos ensues as groups consider and practise their own interpretations and characterisations.

10.35am - Period 2: Year 13 English Literate. We have reached Victorian poets in our chronological ranging through the Literature of Love from 1500 to the present and three students present their ideas about poems in the collection.

11.35am - Period 3: Free. Administrative bits and pieces, catching up with odd bits of marking, GCSE speaking and listening write ups, dealing with responses to earlier form tutor e-mails, and start today's blog (once I have launched my stand alone copy of Chrome as blogger no longer supports IE8).

Lunch is meant to start at 12.35pm, but it was closer to 12.50pm by the time I managed to sit down with a sandwich. 1.15pm and back to the classroom to listen to a Year 11 student give another individual presentation in an attempt to improve on their last attempt.

1.35pm - Period 4: Year 12 English Language and Literature. Starting to look at Alan Bennett's The History Boys so we share background details and information before making a start reading through the play.

2.35pm - Period 5: Year 7 English. We begin with something as old-fashioned as a spelling test and then discuss the final chapter of Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful, the morality of shooting soldiers for cowardice, and whether there are any lessons we can learn from Tommo and Charlie's actions and behaviour or the book in general. One student asks whether Private Peaceful is a children's book and I ask what she means by a "children's book": she is sated when her neighbour points out the age range printed above the barcode.

3.45pm is meant to be the end of school, but I choose to stay in school to save an hour driving to and from home and hopefully make profitable use of time before Year 9 parents descend at 7.00pm to help their children choose their GCSE options.

By 4.30pm I have finished the speaking and listening administration, checked a lesson for tomorrow, and written a little more blog before turning to marking GCSE controlled assessments. I realise I have forgotten to see a colleague at the end of school as we agreed, so I belatedly go to see her. We complete the short task and then spend the next twenty minutes chatting.

At 7.00pm, we start waiting for parents to arrive to discuss options for their children for next year and I have marked three controlled assessments. By 9.00pm I have spoken to a handful of parents and endeavoured to explain the differences between English, English Language and English Literature GCSEs. Repeatedly.

Arrive home at 9.25pm and decide to try reading the car's error code. Ironically, the diagnostic tool reports its own error thereby leaving me no better off than earlier. Switching it on and off several times and pressing buttons randomly to try and improve matters all takes about twenty minutes and makes no difference.

Go into the house at 9.45pm and have a couple of slices of toast and do the washing up.

10.00pm, onto the computer to check e-mails, Facebook and Twitter and complete today's blog and at 10.35pm it has to be time to go to bed.

Sunday 5 February 2012

A Week in the Life: Sunday

For this week only, I thought I would try returning to the idea behind the blogs from the early 1990s. Blogs (or web logs) were initially used as a type of online diary - or journal, to use the seemingly favoured American term - in which details of people's personal lives were recorded. Coupling this with the fact I always find myself desperately searching for time to do things, I thought I would try to find out where my time went by cataloguing this week a little more carefully.

Up at 8.00am, despite not being needed at the morning service at the Cathedral today, and spend an hour drinking tea, tidying the kitchen, sorting the washing, and doing a couple of administrative tasks on the computer.

By 9.00am, my posthuman essay is on the screen as I once again try to find the details of the creation of Talos in Greek mythology. Dinello's book Technophobia! tells me it is in Homer's Iliad, but I can find no reference in any online translation. I message a couple of Classics teachers on Facebook asking for help.

At 9.45am, I give up (again) on Talos, shower, and then pop to the supermarket to get the weekly staples. Back by 10.30am and find a very helpful reply on Facebook which gives me a link to a website which unfortunately appears to be down today. Out of frustration, I also post a status update asking for help from anyone.

Receive a phone call at 10.45am from my wife asking me to pick her up as she stayed in the Cathedral Close last night to avoid having to carry her costume and bits and pieces up the road while trying to maintain her balance in the snow, after the charity performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe.

Back to the essay by 11.15am and manage to piece together bits and pieces from the suggestions offered on Facebook and some original texts: none of which is anything to do with the Iliad.

A lunch break of coffee and croissants at 12.15pm and then return to the essay at about 1.00pm. Tidy up and finish the section about Talos and rue the fact that some three hundred words have taken all morning to put together as a result of the poorly referenced comments in the original book I was using.

Having finished the section, I turn to start writing today's blog as I think it will be easier to try and do it in small chunks rather than a mammoth task before bed. 1.30pm and the next short section of the essay on Frankenstein's monster beckons.

At 2.50pm it is time to head to the Cathedral for a short rehearsal followed by Evensong at 3.30pm.

Home at just after 4.30pm, cup of tea and try to sort out lessons for Tuesday as I had forgotten that tomorrow evening will be taken up with a Year 9 Options Evening until 9.00pm at school.

Lessons for Tuesday and some school administration bits and pieces completed by 5.30pm. Return to the posthuman essay to clarify how to reference ancient Greek texts, and revisit and extend earlier notes on Frankenstein.

Finish the first draft of the Frankenstein section and synced my USB drive for school tomorrow by 6.50pm, and hope that my wife has also finished preparing lessons for tomorrow so that we can spend the evening together over food and catching up on a couple of hours' of television that is still waiting from mid-January.

Bed finally calls at 10.20pm.