Tuesday, 30 December 2008

New Year Resolutions? and some new year plans

I don't actually do New Year resolutions, I never have, I think they are a total waste of time! I gave up smoking a couple of years ago, but not at new year - I did that in February (still going well). I tend to do things when I want to rather than on some society imposed day. I know that a lot of people will have resolutions, but I wonder how many of them will carry them out?

I do, of course have things that I will be doing in the new year (not least of which is looking for a new job!). For instance, in January I have got a week in Paris - three teachers (me and two others) are taking a group of kids on a trip to EuroDisney to study maths! Good eh! It'll be cold, but I am looking forward to that. Then in February I am going to a teacher recruitment fair in London. Mrs DB is coming with me to that so we will have a weekend away (you never know we might win the lottery whilst we are there). Added to that I have an application in for a school in Hong Kong and I will be applying later today to a school in Shangai. Things are really quite exciting!

And what about New Year's Eve, I hear you ask. I'm not really a New Year's Eve type of person - we are going out, we are going to spend NYE with our friends Ted and Alice (and lots of other people), but to be honest I don't care about it and, if we weren't going out I wouldn't be bothered staying up until midnight.

Other than all that, the only thing I want to do is continue with the diet. Mrs DB and I went on the Atkins diet a few weeks ago and the weight was going down quite well. I lapsed a bit over Christmas - had a lot of carbs and the weight went back on. So I shall be cutting the carbs out in order to get rid of a few kilo's - I only want to lose 4 or 5 kilo's and then get my weight steady, it isn't that much but it will make a difference to me and the way I feel so I will be a bit more strict with myself in the new year - but that isn't a resolution!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas Day

Christmas Day started quite early for Mrs DB and I - we were up and working at about 7:30 or so. We had 7 guests arriving at 3 pm and we were going to feed them. With both a ham and a goose to roast before then (we only have a small oven so there is no way we could do them both together), all the veggies to prepare, a trifle to make, not to mention finding some time to have breakfast in all the preparation.. we rather had our work cut out!

Dinner was planned for 4 pm with our guests arriving at 3. I don't know how we did it, but Mrs DB and I had just about finished everything when our first guests rang the doorbell. To be honest we were knackered! But a glass of champagne soon picked us up.

From then on we had a lovely time eating, drinking and being merry.

About 7 pm saw the arrival of an eighth guest who had been elsewhere for Christmas dinner, she was just in time to sample our Christmas cake.

We all had a wonderful time - the hard work was well worth it, as was the hangover the next morning!

The Christmas Group

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The weekend before Christmas

Apart from failing to copy Christmas albums, Mrs DB and I did some nice things this weekend.

Way back in September, we made the Christmas cake. We have been adding brandy to it on a regular basis - only a little at a time and just once every two weeks to give it time to mature - that way the alcohol will bring out the best flavour in the cake rather than dominate all the other flavours (which I believe it does if you put loads of brandy in all at one go). So the cake is nicely matured and ready for the table. We put the marzipan on it last weekend and then we did the icing this weekend.

The Christmas Cake

That having been done, we spent a good portion of yesterday afternoon decorating the tree.

The Christmas Tree

As always I just couldn't resist doing an available light photograph of it and as you can see it turned out... well, maybe OK. I never really manage to get a good available light photo of the tree even though I always try, I dunno why I just don't seem to be able to manage it.

So we have now started the countdown to the big day - we have seven friends coming round to join us for Christmas Dinner and we are really looking forward to that. Two years ago we had friends round for Christmas Dinner and we had a great time, so we are hoping to repeat that. We are going to have stilton and broccoli soup to start, followed by roast goose, roast ham, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, sprouts with pancetta and shallots, and ginger and orange glazed carrots. Then we will finish with trifle, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, and of course, cheese and biscuits with port! Lush.

Mrs DB and I have been on a bit of a diet for a few weeks - I think that little lot should undo all the good work, don't you!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Bloody Mac's

There are times when I get totally pissed off with this bloody iMac of ours!

We've had for ages now (at least 2 years) and you would think I would be used to it by now - but no - not a bit of it! Every now amd then it decides to bite me in the ass and really piss me off! Today was one of those days!

It all started three days ago - Mrs DB came home with three Christmas albums... "copy these for me", she asked. "OK", I replied, all the time thinking "oh, shit, why don't you just ask me to make a compilation album from all the Christmas music we already have."

I kept putting it off.

Today arrived... and went - we went shopping, we played crib, I watched Bolton win against Portsmouth and move up to 9th in the Premier league. We got ready for bed... "Have you copied those CD's?" asked Mrs DB. "No, I'll go and do it now."

2 hours later, one of the CD's is lying on the floor where it bounced after it hit the wall - one is copied and the other?... well, it ain't gonna get copied - not tonight and certainly not by me.

You see, with an iMac, copying a music CD is not as easy as it may seem - you can't just open the CD and copy it onto another CD - unfortunately you have to copy it into iTunes first. Now the first CD I somehow managed to copy into iTunes without putting it into my main music catalogue - I don't know how, but I opened a separate folder for it - copying it was then easy, I just copied the folder onto a blank CD.

The second one was not quite as easy - it point blank refused to be copied into its own folder and insisted on being put in my main music catalogue - to the point where I now have 3 versions of the same CD in my main music catalogue and I don't want any of them. It would not go into a folder by itself and I got so angry with it that it is now lying on the floor as I mentioned earlier - but it isn't the CD that is at fault, it is the bloody Mac. Why one should work perfectly and the other be so intransigent I just don't know, what I do know is that it is a bloody site easier with windows - at least with that if it doesn't work you can throw the damned thing out of one!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Camping in Oman - Day 3

The previous night was a lot quieter because the wind had dropped and everyone had a good night's sleep. Just as well because day 3 was a busy one!

We had breakfast early and set off at about 10 am for Jebel Shams, which is over 3000 metres high. The road is absolutely spectacular - steep gradients and hairpin bends all the way. It was a great drive and at times I didn't think our car would get up some of the gradients! But at last we reached the top and we were treated to a breathtaking site that I hadn't anticipated - the truth is my photograph doesn't do it justice at all.

The Grand Canyon of Oman

It is known as "The Grand Canyon of Oman" - I've never been to the one in Arizona but this was a fantastic sight. I believe that it is an example of amphitheatre -ended canyons. I was at 3000 metres here and I have no idea how deep the canyon was but it was truly beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Eventually we dragged ourselves away and headed back down Jebel Shams (which apparently means "The Mountain of the Sun"). Heading for Misfit Al Abreen - about which a little more later - we stopped twice, once for lunch where we were joined by a very friendly goat who seemed to think that our lunch was as much for him as it was for us. This is Alice feeding our adopted goat.

Alice feeds the goat

The second place we stopped was between Jebel Shams and Al Hamra. There were houses built into the hillside - they were fascinating and I just had to get a photo.

An abandoned village built into the hillside

Eventually we reached our second destination, Misfit Al Abreen and again we had a road full of hairpin bends to climb to get there - but it was well worth it. Misfit Al Abreen is a village high on a hillside with a terraced plantation below it with many date palms, but also with orange and lemon trees, banana spikes and many other plants. The village is a working village but is also a living museum and attracts many tourists - we were luck that it was fairly quiet when we arrived so we were able to walk around without too many other people getting in the way - yes, I know that is selfish of me, but there you go! I took lots of photographs whilst we were there, these are just three of them

Misfit Al Abreen

Misfit Al Abreen

Misfit Al Abreen

It was a long drive back to the campsite and it was completely dark when we got there - everyone's nerves were a little on edge, but a couple of glasses of wine made everything better. It had been a fantastic day and we all enjoyed ourselves. The next morning we broke camp and set off on the 400 km or so journey back to Dubai. Before we knew it we were back in 'civilisation'. But as I took the final photograph of the trip, I couldn't help wondering if this place will last as long as some of the places I had seen in Oman and, indeed, if it was as impressive as some of them. I thought the answer to both was 'NO' - you might well think differently.

The Burj Dubai

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Camping in Oman - Day 2

It had been a very windy night - the wind didn't penetrate the tents at all and everyone was warm enough, but it made for a noisy night, tent fabric flapping all over the place, the morning came and everyone was knackered!

We started late - the sun was well up before we surfaced and then we dossed around for a while drinking tea and trying to get enough energy going to make breakfast - eventually we got there!

We decided not to have a particularly busy day, but we didn't want to just sit around at the campsite all day, wasting the day doing nothing. We decided on a fairly short trip to Wadi Damm. We took a drive to the wadi and drove part of the way up it and then hiked up to the dam.

A hike through Wadi Damm

Before the dam there was just the occasional little pool, but after it, things got considerably better - though it was fairly obvious that it had not rained in quite some time. Nevertheless there were some lovely little waterfalls,

A little waterfall at Wadi Damm

and some reasonably sized pools.

One of the pools at Wadi Damm

We spent a little while by the water and then hiked back down the wadi and stopped to have lunch in the shade of a lovely big tree where we had parked the cars.

Lunch in the shade at Wadi Damm

Just behind the tree was a falaj running from the pools and down the whole length of the wadi to an oasis at the bottom. The running water attracted all manner of insect life including some beautiful dragonflies. In addition to the red ones, there were also some that were a beautiful shade of powder blue - but the red ones made the better photograph.

A dragonfly at Wadi Damm

After lunch we drove back to the campsite, getting back round about 4 pm. As the sun dropped behind the mountains the cold set in quite quickly, so we lit the fire early and got on with the dinner. Mrs DB (being a South African) is a remarkable outdoors cook! That night she made beans bredie in the potjie. Beans bredie is a stew made with neck of lamb, runner beans, potatoes and onions and it is delicious! A potjie is pronounced poikee and is a South African three legged cast iron cooking pot which is just like a witches caulron. So the components of the stew were put in the potjie and then it was cooked on the campfire. It was delicious! If you have been a long time reader, you will know how much I enjoy available light photography - this is the potjie bubbling away on the camp fire.

Dinner cooks on the camp fire

And so we reached the end of the day, but before turning in, just look at those stars - I just can't resist the opportunity of trying to get them - you should be able to see orion and the plough and isn't that cassiopea down near the bottom?

The sky at night

I'll tell you about the next day later.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Camping in Oman

Mrs Dubaibilly and I and two of our very good friends, Ted and Alice, have just got back from a three night camp in Oman. What a super time we had! (those of you who have been reading this blog since the start will remember that the four of us went camping at this time last year, that time for a two night camp in Liwa).

I am ashamed to say it, but after 12 years in the UAE this is the first time I have ever been to Oman - well apart from passing through Omani enclaves within the UAE. I am well pleased that I went and so is Mrs. DB.

We left at about 5 am to avoid queues at the border (which worked) and we crossed the border at Jebel Hafeet - I didn't even know there was a border post there! I thought the only border in the Al Ain area was at Al Baraimi - clearly not, there is Hafeet and also another one at Hili. We chose Hafeet and went through the border with minimum fuss and delay. Just over the border we stopped at a beautiful Omani fort and had some breakfast.

Omani Fort

After breakfast we continued on our journey heading for the Hajar Mountains (which, in Oman, can reach up to 3000 metres). A lot of the scenery was fairly bland, but once we reached the mountains it suddenly became quite spectacular! This mountain was a central feature of the area in which we camped and explored.

Omani Mountain

On our way to finding our camp site, we stopped at the Beehive tombs at Al Ayn (no, not Al Ain, that is in the UAE). There are two sets of these tombs in this area of Oman, they date back to 3000 years BC!

The Beehive Tombs at Al Ayn

Eventually we decided to move on and found ourselves a nice little camp site about an hour further on into the mountains. It might look nice a bright - but when the sun went down it was bitterly cold - especially with the wind blowing which it was on the first night!

Our camp site

Keeping well wrapped up was definitely the order of the day (or night), Mrs Dubaibilly here demonstrates camping sartorial elegance!

What the well dressed camper wears

Right, at this stage I am going to stop for a while. The first day of the camp is over and I'll tell you the rest and put some more pictures up later.


It has been a while...

since I last blogged - September the 25th to be exact and I have had a few people asking me when I was going to start again and if anything was wrong. Thank you for your concern kind people.

So, where have I been?

Well, pretty much since starting back at school in August I have been working 11 and 12 hour days and seven days a week - not much time in that for blogging. Somewhere in the middle of that lot the school had a holiday for a week and I was in every day of the holidays trying to catch up with the amount of work put on me by my boss. School teachers have an easy life? Being a Deputy Principal at our school seems to mean giving up your life completely and working ludicrous hours to satisfy the demands of a boss who doesn't seem to understand that people have families that they ned to devote some time to!

Anyway, things have eased up a little recently - on December 1st I was called into his office to be told that I do not fit in with the way the school is headed and given the option of either resigning or being 'terminated' at the end of the school year. To be fair, I was looking for a new job anyway, but I would have preferred to leave on my terms rather than his.

The upshot of this is, of course, no more 12 hour days, no more seven days a week and no more working through the holidays.

So I have got time to start blogging again.

And time to start looking at other people's blogs again. I haven't even looked at blogs for a long time now, so I have a lot of catching up to do with friends in the blogosphere.

And I am looking forward to it - as I am also looking forward to the job hunt - anybody know of an international school that could do with a good Head or Deputy?