Sunday, December 24, 2006

#93 on wishing you a Merry Christmas

current mood - excited
current music - Wintersong by
Sarah McLachlan

Well I know it's been some time since my last post (in fact it was back in November when the 'last post' was being blown or bugled or whatever it is that bugulars do that I last posted.)

Anyway, I just wanted to wish all of you in your varied though always beautiful guises a very merry Christmas and a peaceful new year.

And why am I posting now when I should be tuicked up in bed waiting dreaming of Santa Claus and snow? Well I received this card from an old and wise guy at church and I think it sums up the Christmas spirit for me perfectly.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

#92 on how many bottles do you take to the shower

current music - 'Exodus' by Bob Marley & The Wailers
current mood - chuffed (internet been back for 8 hours!)

Just thought I'd let you see it here first - my new groovy hair do - or lack of it.

#91 on where the hell I've been

current music - 'Exodus' by Bob Marley & The Wailers
current mood - relief (for I have finally got an internet connection at home)

Now the more observant of you, my dear bloglings, will have noticed that I have note blogged since the last day of August; on that day I reported losing my internet connection and it is only today, the 12 November FFS, that I have finally be reconnected.

So expect many a post in the days ahead where the pointless banality of suburban life will be exposed for all it is and celebrated for all it is.

I've missed blogging and watching your blogs. I'll be in touch soon.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

#90 on wanting to blog

Current mood - nervous excitement
Current music - none

Am currently sitting in the staffroom of my new school typing this entry as I have no internet connection at home. It would appear as though my ISP have entered into a dispute with BT leaving the bills unpaid and me (and my mum and aunt who went with the same company on my recommendation) without internet access.

Never mind.

So I'm just about recovered from Greenbelt - my tummy is still a little churny but I've caught up with my sleep and have the fond memories to keep me company when I'm daydreaming. Among the most fond are hearing A sing with the sublime Steve as part of a beautiful triple bill with Julie McKee and Juliet Turner. A master stroke of planning and organisation in my opinion.

It was also fantastic to introduce Jude Simpson who, quite frankly, was on possibly the best form I have ever seen. Her poetry was delivered with exquisite timing and the in between banter played to the crowd magically. A treat to have been there.

I didn't catch much of the music programme but Weapons of Sound stand out as my most enjoyable musical experience. Being able to get right to the front of mainstage with two small children in complete safety was magic. I'm going to try and book a workshop for school.

I'm also going to try and get the mobile farm to come to school as well. That'll be a hoot.

So I sit here in anticipation waiting for my new job to kick in first with staff on Monday and then with kiddiwinks on Tuesday. I can't help but feeling homesick for my old job and I know there are friends who'll be going back there who'll miss me - heaven knows I'm going to miss them too but I have to say that there were some things about the way that school was being managed that made it impossible for me to stay and advance my career. I'm sad but not bitter. Put bluntly I'm putting more energy into the new challenges ahead of me than on the frustrations of the past.

So don't expect too many posts for the time being. i'll do what I can and let you know of prgress. By the way if Euro1net do fold, who would make a good replacement?

Friday, August 18, 2006

#89 on a fiendish and addictive game

current music - none (been listening to Big Brother in the other room)
current mood - frustrated (read on...)

So i get to the end of a successful day. Met an old friend and all our kids played together well. Wrote a whole bunch of Greenbelt emails that should hopefully wrap things up. (Like that's going to happen). The current toal of emails in my Greenbelt box is 879, more than last year. Phew.

So anyway, i've finished my emails. I've seen Pete win Big Brother. (I feel quite good about that and I'm looking to see how the mass media try to put a handle on him.) And now i sit down do play my current time waster - Hapland! Now let's be clear - this game is a bastard and what makes it worse is I know there are walkthrough guides available that will show me how to rescue those little stick men.

So why not click the link and give it a go. I guarantee that once started you will not be able to leave it alone.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

#88 on A level results and electricians

current music - 'Tubular Bells' by Mike Oldfield
current mood - frustrated (I am really getting into Linux but by golly it's a bugger to configure)

So we are greeted with the news today that most of the kids who stayed on for A levels have passed them and yet again the same old same old debate kicks off again - are they getting easier or are the kids getting smarter etc.

Rant number one is at non-lives who ring into radio chat shows and say 'well i did my A levels in 1962 and they were bloody hard then and only 3 people in the country who passed and we lived in a cardboard box and we had to lick it clean every morining and then work 25 hours a day down pit...' and so on and so on. Yeah A levels have changed and rightfully so in my view. Quite frankly anyone who, in my day, could cram two years work into their head and come up with the answers for a three hour exam was either lucky or slightly freakish.

Having said that I think the pendulum has swung a bit too far. Didn't the examining boards suspect that by allowing the pupils to do coursework at home, some over anxious parents might help (FFS). And I'm not talking about getting mum to colour in the bars on the graphs. In this age of communication when one pupil has worked it out (or got their uncle with a degree in physics to work it out) all the pupils are going to know about it.

My favoured option mirrors some (and looking back on it, not enough) of the courses I read at university. There we had 18 week semesters broken into study, revision and then exam phases. One essay mid way through the course to check we were on the ball and one exam at the end - three hours, three questions bosh. Harsh but fair. It made you revise but you knew you only had fifteen weeks to revise, not two years. And if you buggered up the exam your essay score would usually bump the average and if you buggered up the essay as well, well you probably deserved the fail. Harsh but fair. You are there to learn after all. Now if they applied that to A levels, maybe examiners would get a more satisfactory picture. A terms work and then an exam. Bosh. First year results to give a grade average and away you go on the second year. Bugger it up you have to repeat the year.

Actually my really favoured option is to do what we have been doing in Key Stage One for ages now. Just hand in the teacher assessment and forget about stupid bleedin' exams. Ask any teacher worth their salt and they will be able to tell you within a gnat's crotchet what level any pupil is on and what that pupil needs to do next to move on to the next level. That's what we do. That's why we are shit hot at our job. That's why we get paid so much?!

Broadly speaking I think the kids are getting smarter. For several reasons. Firstly we do get brighter as a nation as time goes by (academically that is, not morally). How long ago was it that most of the country was illiterate? When I went to school we did electric circuits with bulbs, batteries and wires in High Shcool. Now we teach it in Year 2. We are teaching more stuff in better ways to younger kids becausethey are ready to learn it. No wonder they can pass the top tier exams.

Secondly, the A level curriculum has changed very little over the past few years. Now this is a key point. When governments stop interfering in schools, teachers get on with what they are good at getting on with - teaching. Even if the system is a bit crap, they can still make it work. I tell you, when the goal posts have wheels on to make it easier to move them, when the only consistent thing is the amount of change, when the secretary of state states, 'change is here to stay', our jobs become very difficult, almost to the point of imposibility. That's what pisses teachers off. More than the money.

And thirdly, kids have wised up to the fact that if they want to get on in the world they need a degree. And the route to University is through A levels.

Well I say bollocks to that.

I failed all my A levels. I was immature and very unhappy. There was no pastoral support at school. Home was a mess and I wanted to be there less than I wanted to be at school. The teaching was pretty crap as I recall and looking back on it it was the biggest mistake of my life to date, especially as I already had a job in th bag which I backed out of to stay on at the advice of the careers teacher. I'm not trying to pass the buck - I deserved what I got and my only regret looking back was that no one, including me, had the balls to say this isn't working sooner, and let me sit through those awful exams knowing already what the outcome was.

To continue the autobiography, I went to wrok and eight years later, with a BTEC A level equivalent from night school under my belt, I went to university to study for my BEd in which I got a first, thus proving (to myself) that I wasn't thick because I couldn't get an A level.

Now University was great for me and so has been my career as a teacher since. Why? Because I had eight years from the University of Life to help me do my job. So many of the kids I studied with had never left school. And don't start talking to me about gap years. FFS. Back packing to Burma for a couple of months does not prepare you for the real world. One year is not enough.

Now my mate D is an electrician. I honestly don't know what his educational qualifications are but I tell you what, he is never out of work. Come to think of it have you ever met a sparks or a plumber or a tiler who is short of work or cash? Yes, they need a level of academic achievement, of course they do, but the middle class, so called, intelligensia peer down their noses at those who don't have letters after their name as if their job is menial and pointless whilst clapping our hands with joy because Johnny has got three A's which means he can go to the University of Nowhere to study Balderdash and Frisbee.

It seems to me that kids who study really hard for A levels and then go on to University believing they are guaranteed their passport to the real world are putting their ladders up against the wrong wall.

The debate should not be about how hard A levels are. It should be about what is the point of A levels. Should they simply be a route to University or should they be a means of preparing brighter pupils for a successful place among the workforce.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

#87 on checklists, wu wei and getting things done

current music - none (no reason just haven't configured amaroK properly yet)
current mood - resolute (determined to get to the bottom of my to do list before Greenbelt)

I sat in the bath today and tried to think through how I can stroll throu
gh this rainstorm called life avoiding the raindrops and yet manage to get all the things done that I need to get done without a nervous breakdown. My prcess of thought went roughly along the lines of ditching the unnecessary, doing the necessary a little and often, revere each minute and make space to relax.

Today was successful. Tomorrow is another day.

So now in my mind I have a checklist of all the things I ought to do each day. If I lived in the 100 Aker Wood, Rabbit would have got Christopher Robin to draw up a chart, Owl would have made crammed too many items in it and eeyore would tell me it's pointless and not to even bother. I'm going to emulate my good Pooh and just let all of the things take care of themselves.

Like blogging a bit more often.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

#86 on getting ready for greenbelt

Current mood - excited
Current music - 'Praise You' by Fat Boy Slim

Many of prepare for Greenbelt in different ways. Of that I am sure. Back in the Castle Ashby days I remember one mate decided to join us at the last minute and turned up in his cortina estate with a box of apples and no tent. He slept in the back of his car and swapped apples for bread etc. We have a fantastic photo of him standing in front of car one morning bedecked in his stripy dressing gown. He's a Salvation Army Officer now. Oh well.

As for me I am in the beautiful place between getting all my emails sent and replied to (well mostly) and actually pitching up at that beautiful thin place where you can stand on the ground and touch heaven.

So, having borrowed my sister's tent and pitched it in the garden to check that it is all there, me and the boys decided to eat our tea and then go to bed in the back garden.

It's a father to son thing.

So I am currently typing by torchlight (no backlit keyboard for me you smug macbook users) listening to ipod - one year they played 'praise you' incessantly between acts on the mainstage and it's sort of stuck with me now as my greenbelt song.

And now I am officially excited.

Friday, August 04, 2006

#85 on perseverance

Current mood - tired but satisfied
Current music - none (everyone's gone off to bed leaving me all alone)

So I'm at my mum and aunt's house right now typing this entry on their rather posh, it must be said, laptop that they invested in a few months ago. They also splashed out on a rather posh printer cum scanner and a digital camera. Their aim - to scan the zillions of old family photos that currently fill their spare room plus to photograph pretty much all they do as they share their well earned retirement in Suffolk and beyond.

The last time I was here I showed my aunt how to use the scanner and the lesson this time was transferring images from the digital camera. It took some time but my aunt showed great perseverance to get her head around not only the concept of transferring images but also how to store them too. I kept it simple and I think she understands fairly well. I'll type some instructions and we'll see how she gets in in the future.

It could have been so easy to type a patronising entry about how crap she is at all this technology stuff but I tell you what if I'm as open minded and patient as she is when I'm her age I will be very proud indeed.

So this entry is dedicated to your dear aunt. Now don't bugger it up.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

#84 on cars

Current mood - relaxed
current music - Saturn from The Planets Suite by Holst

Well last night's post didn't quite make it to blogger. Don't quite know why and stupidly I didn't save it elsewhere so we'll just put it down to experience. It was some self indulgent twaddle about having a bit more time to do stuff I should/need/want to do etc. And as if to prove a point, tonight's thought download refers to a trip to the cinema with A, S and N today to see Pixar/Disney new offering 'Cars'.

Much like my own car it took some time to get going; a long preface led our main caracter (sorry for the pun) into a small town on Route 66 of the main I-State where he has to pay penance for being brash and proud and self serving. So we get our tale of learning new values and friendship and, well you know pixar's style by now and it all turns out ok in the end. It reminded me somewhat of 'Doc Hollywood' where Michael J Fox gets stuck in small town America and has to work his punishment for some misdemenour and so on and so on.

On the up side the technical wizardry made the production completely believable. Pixar's reliance on non human characters means that we don't object to seeing solid and inanimate objects actually moving. A couple of set pieces were really enjoyable too - the scene in the field of tractors is very funny and the ending credits sequence where the cars go to a drive in to watch other Pixar movies with cars playing characters like Woody and Buzz and James P Sullivan, were inspired.

On the down side - and this frankly has been the problem with every single animated tale since Monsters Inc. - the story just wasn't inventive enough to capture the imagination of the kids, let alone the adults. It doesn't matter seamless the production is, if the story isn't good enough, the movie isn't good enough. Also my eco-alarm rang as I witnessed scenes of car racing with literally thousands of American cars in the spectator galleries and scenes of roads with literally thousands of American cars on them. The American (and ergo British) love affair with greenhouse emissions is really reinforced in this movie as cars are turned into cute creatures with feelings too.

Come to think of it I don't recall seeing any exhaust fumes at all.

Friday, July 21, 2006

#83 on the light at the end of the tunnel

current mood: stressed (so much to do so little time to do it in)
current music: none

Firstly may I welcome my new bloglings aboard the good ship mediocrity. At school today I dropped my blog title to the pupils so that they could keep in touch as both they and I head for pastures new. Some have already posted and others may choose to do so yet.

What a week. No time for details suffice it to say that the heady cocktail of meetings, parties, graduations, deadlines and heat that saps one of both mental and physical energy has left me an empty shell. A has just got in from work and I can barely cope with being in the same room with her. It's not her - I love A and cannot wait for her to get home each night. It's me and my inability to cope with just about anything at the moment - that's the problem.

But, as the title of tonight's download suggests, there could be some light peeping through at the end of the tunnel. School is done. Isle of Wight beckons. Greenbelt deadlines just about stuck to.

Now i just need to go and make my peace with A.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

#82 on cowardice

Current mood – bemused
Current music – ‘Die Another Day’ by Madonna

So I get to work and check my pigeon hole for paper work etc. only to find a page from my blog printed out – the last entry ‘#80 on meetings’ to be precise – and the words ‘YOU ARE SO OUT OF ORDER’ scratched across the top in biro. It’s the first page of seven in the print out and so I can only assume that someone has printed out my blog and decided to comment upon it in a not so hi-tech fashion as posting a comment on line.

Now I’m a glass half full guy. In fact I would say that the glass is twice the size it should be. I trawled around my friends on the staff who read my blog and none of them said they wrote it – not as an ironic comment nor as a serious criticism of my actions in bringing alleged misleading declarations by the head teacher to the attention of the Chair of Governors. So whoever it was – friend or foe – someone was trying o tell me something.

So my response takes two forms to cover all the bases…

(A) If you wrote the note and you were having a laugh (and I must confess my initial reaction was to laugh) then please let me know who you are and we can share the joke.

(B) If you were making a genuine comment please have the balls to post your comment publicly in the same way that I post my comments publicly to allow free and open debate. This, of course, assumes that this was your intention. Some of my friends think it is bullying and harassment.

I am not ‘so out of order’. Firstly, I did not betray any confidences in bringing to light the information that I did. Everything I told the Chair of Governors was information in the public domain; not a single jot of it was confidential. Secondly, I have not done anything illegal. I have not incriminated myself in this plot and claimed ‘I was only following orders.’ I had nothing to do with the Head Teacher’s actions. Thirdly, I had a moral and ethical duty to advise the Chair of Governors of what I did. Is it right that allegedly false declarations of interest are made for me to turn a blind eye if I happen to chance upon the information? And fourthly, I may even have had a legal responsibility to report what I did. I’m no lawyer but if you think something illegal has occurred am I not bound by the law to report it?

I have acted properly throughout the whole of this sorry business. I have no personal agenda, no axe to grind – I’ll not even be working for the school or the local authority beyond August 31.

All I want to see is a proper investigation carried out, the findings made public for the whole school community to see and the appropriate course of action taken so that the school is seen by the whole community to be publicly preserving it’s integrity. And if by my taking up this little piece of cyberspace I have made more people aware of the alleged wrongdoing at my workplace then so much the better. I do not force anyone to read this blog, and I certainly don’t demand that anyone believes a word of it. Free thinking people in a liberal society have the right to make that decision for themselves, they don’t have to scratch a comment on a print out and stuff it in a pigeon hole.

If I’m ‘so out of order’ you might want to reconsider your own motives for scrawling the note. What are you scared of? That the truth might actually come out? That people should be held to the highest professional standards of conduct especially when the education of children is at stake?

Post a reply if you dare or care. Or else shut the fuck up and go and look up integrity in a dictionary.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

#81 on meetings

Current mood – hot and tired
Current music – ‘Bird Land’ by Man Tran

I’ve had several meetings this week, some planned, some unplanned, some enjoyable and others not so. Here’s a digest of some of those comings together…

Readers of my spilling the beans on the Head Teacher at school and her alleged misleading of the Governors (I say ‘alleged’ because that’s what they say on Have I Got News For You to avoid legal actions in spite of what they may actually think) will be pleased to know I had an informal meeting with the Chair of Governors who told me it was all an administrative thing, not too worry, it’s all sorted now, don’t worry about, bullshit, bullshit, etcetera, etcetera. I’m still waiting for it all in writing and will let you know in due course dear readers. Later on a glance through the school diary to pick up some dates showed a meeting between the Head Teacher and Director of Children’s Services for tomorrow (Monday). I don’t know what it’s about but I can put 2 and 2 together.

I met with my new Head Teacher to sort out how my new job is going to work out. She seems like a lovely person (listens with fingers out of ears) and I’m so looking forward to starting in September.

A phone call from my big brother to say he was in town and wanted to stay over led to a nice meeting that included curry and wine and DVD’s and chat and more chat. It was a wonderful surprise and just what I needed after a shitty couple of days. Since then I’ve gone back to carry on repairing the fabric of my psyche as far as my Dad goes culminating in a very strange dream last night that started with my Dad taking me to football (something we only did a few times) through to me taking my sick uncle (now passed on) to football. Circe of life stuff. Sad but uplifting.

Saturday saw me meeting with the Greenbelt Programming group at Cheltenham that also included the wonderful Site Operations Group. It’s always exciting attending what will probably be the last programming group meeting before the big event itself and meeting with the site ops mob is always a special, if slightly odd experience. Given that most of my readers including one of people who inspired me to concoct this daily download of drivel are part of that very team, I should point out that by odd, I mean quirky in the most beautiful ‘northern exposuresque’ sense of the word. To be embraced by a group with such a close nit identity is strangely powerful. I’ve even learnt several nicknames.

Today I met with my church congregation to lead the service. It was hot, too hot and although I kept the service short and the liturgy simple, I also think (and this was the best meeting of all) that Jesus met with us too.

Monday, June 19, 2006

#80 on making poetry interesting for 12 year olds

current mood - weary but satisfied
current music - Sorge Infausta Una Procella by Georg Friedrich Händel sung by Bryn Terfel

so how does one improve the educational experience of the average year 7 pupil. well I certainly don't have the monopoly on wisdom here but I'm rather pleased with today's offering. I found this haiku based on the opening sequence of The Matrix. So armed with my DVD, a mute button (the children are not allowed to hear the words 'arse', 'dick' (as in juris-my-dick-tion) and 'shit' FFS) and a copy of the haiku, we all watched the opening sequence and compared it to the haiku.

Then the master stroke.

Hoping that the children would mention it (and they did) Trinity's kick to put one of the policemen's lights out is reprised in 'Shrek' by Fiona when she singlehandedly kicks the shit out Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Quick as a flash I pushed my copy of 'Shrek' into the drive and played the opening sequence for them to discuss and then put into haiku form.

We've not finished yet. (You know it's gone well when the children don't realise that home time has caught up with them and they don't want to go home.) But when we have I'll post some of their efforts. What I've read so far is pant wettingly funny.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

#79 on the verb to be

current mood - relaxed
current music - 'I am a Man of Constant Sorrow' by The Soggy Bottom Boys

I didn't choose this music so much as it chose me. I am currently connected to I put 'soundtrack' into the search box and have been played all sorts of film music that I have never heard of apart from 'AxelF' from Beverly Hills Cop (a classic) and 'May It Be' by Enya from Lord of the Rings. But there you go, as soon as I start typing, those good ol' Soggy Bottom Boys strike up the band, the countrified version - do they sing this version at the town hall meeting near the end of the film?

And I heard a rumour there's going to be a sing-a-long-a-O Brother Where Art Thou? at Greenbelt this year. I hope I haven't spoken out of turn here but if the event does go ahead I'll be there for one of the best films I've ever seen. Can the Coen brothers do anything bad?

Anyway, to the subject of tonight's confused rambling.

My friend John spoke movingly and powerfully today about relying on our own strength (see Judges 6:11-18) given that God is with us. And it got me thinking. So next week, when I preach I shall build on those ideas and somehow dovetail in my own personal fascination with toaism. Like water finding it's way around stones, let's not get too worked up.

So dear bloglings who may chance upon this post at the beginning of this week...

Don't be ll things to all people. Don't be your own worst enemy. In fact, just... be.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

#78 on who you should cheer for

Current mood – distracted
Current music – radio 5 live phone in on why kids need dads

I’m really enjoying the world cup it has to be said.  Even the matches that, under normal circumstances, I should have no interest in whatsoever find me glued to the screen when there are a million far more important things to be done.

To increase the excitement I have undertaken a couple of diversions.  Firstly, I have instituted a score predictor game in class.  Me and about fifteen of the children in the class predict the scores for the games coming up that day.  You score 3 points for getting the score correct and a single point if you correctly guess a win, lose or draw.  Currently I am languishing just above the relegation zone.  In fact if you exclude the children who have been away this week I think I am probably the worst in the class!  Still there’s 9 matches up for grabs this weekend and 27 points on offer.  I’ll post the league table soon.

The second diversion is a way of deciding who to cheer for in the matches that have no significance.  For this task I have turned to an excellent application from the World Development Agency.  

It does put things in perspective a bit more.

Come on Ghana.

Friday, June 16, 2006

#77 on whistle blowing

Current mood – apprehensive
Current music – ‘L’Exécution’ by Angelo Badalamenti

I think the strict definition of whistle blowing involves one incriminating oneself in the act of exposing the wrongdoings of one’s management.  Or having to have done something covert or underhand to expose that wrongdoing.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, I have done none of those things.  It appears as though my boss has made a factually incorrect declaration of interest to the Governing Body.  All I have done is brought to light publicly available information (including her own website FFS) which contradicts the statement she has made.

Worse are the implications of her actions.  We could be looking at something ranging from stupidity to incompetence right through to misappropriation of funds to fraud.  And that’s a sackable offence, even criminal.  Now I won’t be leading on any investigation.  I have passed that responsibility to others.  I can now let events take their course and allow my emotional roller coaster come to a halt and let me off.  

But nevertheless it still all feels a bit weird.  I’ve been rehearsing answers to questions for when I am carpeted on Monday morning as I expect to be.  I have rerun the events of the past few months over and over in my head and I keep coming back to the same place – I didn’t make her do what she did, people need to be held accountable for what they have done, I have no personal axe to grind here (I’ve resigned from the school) and how would I have felt if had done nothing at all.  What’s more, my child and my friend’s children attend the school and deserve the best possible school leadership.

So you toss that lot together and you can begin to understand how my emotions are a bit of a salad tonight.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

#76 on the mystery of youth

Current mood:  bedazzled and short of head space
Current music:  ‘Maroon’ – Barenecked Ladies

You know you’re getting old when…

You think you can easily replace the hard drive in your laptop only to waste the whole evening being unable to get the thing apart having removed every screw you can find and then when you finally give up and put the screws back in, you have about 6 left over and just cannot be arsed to put them back in.

And, you talk the computer techie at work to do the job for you only to find out that he hasn’t seen ‘Back to the Future’ (the DVD hastily removed from the drive as you hand it over) because, wait for it, he wasn’t even born when it came out.

My mid life crisis is predicated on the notion that a whole new generation knows nothing of the cultural values that I (and I hopefully speak for my generation) have used to construct my understanding of the world.  It’s not so much a case of ‘youngsters today know nothing’, it’s more case of  ‘youngsters today know loads of things that I don’t.’  No wonder I seem barely able to tiptoe through modern life and they seem to stride across it without even noticing.

I’m not too upset though.  I’ve got the ‘Back to the Future’ box set to keep me happy .

Monday, June 05, 2006

#75 on the continuing Linux journey

current mood - confused (being in between jobs is a curious sensation. The loyalty to my current class is mixed with the excitement of developing a new agenda at my new school and the cocktail of emotions is a heady mixture)
current music -
Project Pitchfork - 'Steelrose'

I had an interesting conversation with a friend. He, like I, is a bit of a an amateur computer geek knowing a little about a lot of things. When I told him of my transition to Linux he was quite interested and asked the usual questions about ease of use and compatibility. He seemed fairly unimpressed because Linux would not run all the applications that Windows can.

Fair point.

But actually I'm feeling quite released from the Micro$oft shackles. I don't need these applications and life is a whole lot less complicated when you use the computer for what you need to do rather than complicating life by trying to do all manner of things you don't really need to do but try any way because you can.

I'm enjoying Linux. It has it's ups and downs. But each challenge is overcome with a bit of ingenuity, the warm embrace off the Linux using community and sometimes the recognition that doing the easy way (if longer) way is a good thing. For example, I am typing this entry directly into blogger because I have not yet installed the plugin for Word. So blogger does not correct my spelling as I go along and does not auto correct my failure to put in capital letters, I can cope with being a more accurate typist.

Windows makes you lazy and dependent - a metaphor for wider society. Linux has put me back in charge of the computer and not the other way round.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

#74 on missing deadlines

Current mood – hassled (I hate letting people down)
Current music – ‘blue light’ by David Gilmour

I had it al planned – how I was going to have all my greenbelt programme booked up in good time for the 31 May deadline.  And then the finding a new job stuff intervened and pushed it all back.  And then I put some time aside this week and that got taken over by other work stuff including the dentist – I’ve got to have a filling – bugger.  And then I still had time tonight until I remembered I had agreed to baby-sit for some friends.

So I got home at 11:45 to send off a ¾ complete programme topped up with apologies.

And tomorrow more stuff is happening including an option to appear like a father.  But I’ll find some time and O and S at the greenbelt office are way too forgiving plus they are on holiday and (please don’t take this as a lackadaisical attitude on my part) I’m sure it’ll turn out ok in the end.

I need to go to bed now if I’m to get behind all this in the morning.  This nearly 40 year old frame can’t sustain a late finish and an early start.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

#73 on why we don't need Gates if there are no boundaries

Current mood: extreme pleasure
current mood: 'Flight of the Bumblebee' orig. Rimsykorsakov arr. Wynton Marsalis

For all of you who have been having good thoughts for me may I offer my thanks, for I am now the holder of a brand new position of work. In September I shall be Assistant Headteacher (Asshead for short) at Chalkhill Primary School in Wembley. I am over the moon about it all and just want you all to know (a) how happy I am to be starting there and (b) how happy I am to be leaving Marlborough. What started out as an exercise in 'keeping one's options box topped up' ended up becoming a realisation that however much I may have invested in an institution and however much loyalty I may have shown, there's not a lot of point in continuing to be treated like shit when there's other bosses out there who'll give you a chance.

And there's also the 10k salary increase too.

Second bit of news with a liberation motif concerns my fast sagging computer. Difford and Tilbrook wrote, 'my assets froze, while yours have dropped' and I think that pretty much sums up my PC. If I was this age in the 70's I'd have probably had my head under the bonnet of my Ford Cortina every weekend but for me it's the bonnet of my PC. But the truth is I'm too old and too grumpy to care that much anymore and what was once (though I say so myself) a damn good set up is now slowly falling into dishevellment and disrepair.

First my hard drive packed up. Not a big deal in itself the only thing not backed up was the tonnes of music from Napster that I couldn't burn to disc or play unless I resubscribed to Napster or wait for the hack to arrive that would let me burn it. 160 gigs down the pan. Bugger.

And then Microsoft had the brainwave to tell me that my copy of Windows might not be genuiine. Nice one Bill - like you are. So now I have to wait 5 seconds to start Windows and endure constant messages about how I can pay £95 to make the piece of shit aka Windows XP work.

Time for a change methinks. Now I have been thinking about a laptop lately. A sort of 'well done on fooling another head teacher into employing you' present to myself and the new Macbook Pro looks very inviting. But I still need a machine at home for the kids and A to hammer so some creative thinking was required. And then it hit me! Duh! After all these years of avoiding the brown rice and sandals of the OS worldIi suddenly brought Linux to mind. It's free (well mostly) andIi might be able to talk my remaining hard drive into becoming a dual boot system just to try it out.

So today has been spent finding out that the good idea of converting my drives to dynamic drives was a bad idea, finding an old 10gig bad boy in the attic that had some stuff onI'dd thought I'd lost to repartition, coming across Xandros which I installed before typing this very blog entry happilyy enveloped in the warm embrace of an Operating System that is neither Micro$oft nor paid for. Smiling.

I'm still working what it can do (most things) and what it can't (some things). I'm going to have to revert to an older version of Office and then pay for the right to modify those MSdocumentss in OpenOffice.Org but the cost is bundled up in upgrading the version of Xandros to include DVD burning and some other bits and bobs including, wait for it, anti virus software! I mean who the hell would want to clobber me and the other half a dozen Linux users in the world. But I'm not complaining. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the trojans and shit that are flying around a the moment are very discriminating about the OS they attack.

So here's to my new job, my new OS and my new improved outlook on life.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

#72 on late nights, triathlons and powerpoint

Current mood – tired but well satisfied
Current music – ‘Red Sky at Night’ by David Gilmour

Well I did it. I completed the Hatch End Triathlon in 1 hour 27 minutes this morning and I am very chuffed. With reference to a previous post, no I did not employ the service of St John’s Ambulance and yes I also came in well inside my target time of 90 minutes. So well done me.

Stiff as a board obviously. Supremely knackered. But satisfied.

could have prepared better by not getting to bed at 2:15 am but we got home rather late after A's final installment of her 40th birthday celebrations. it was great seeing her getting more and more pissed as her father and step-mum plied us and some of A's friends all with wonderful food and wonderful drink. i unfortunatley because of taxi dutoies and impending triathlon could not partake o the alcohol but nevertheless had a smashing eveing in the company of some smashing people.

This evening i've been working on a couple of presentations for the interviews coming up this week. I personally find PowerPoint presentations extremely annoying because they distract the listener away from the speaker by silly animations. So I have tried not to fall into that trap myself and have kept it all rather simple and consistent.

We’ll see.

I won’t deny I’m nervous about the interviews . But it’s an excited kind of nervous – the type you get when you know it’s achievable with a bit of hard work and commitment.

So do spare a good thought if you happen to have any spare this week.

Friday, May 19, 2006

#71 on being careful what you wish for

Current mood – daunted but pleased to be so
Current music - Die Zauberflöte: Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen

As the Queen of the Night tells us (albeit on a top f) that the vengeance of hell is in her heart, bless her heart I proudly blog tonight of being granted a couple of interviews.  Truth is I don’t really want to leave my current place of work and if these events help to focus my boss’s mind on retaining my services I will not accept (assuming I’m offered) a new position but I think that she may have painted herself into a corner and I may have succeeded in more than just keeping my options box topped up I may have actually forced myself to think that I can do better and desrve better than the constant stream of shit that I have been shovelling for too long now.

So we’ll see.

Problem is the mind shift and time commitment to search for a new job and then apply and then prepare or an interview is immense.  Other commitments such as organising the funny bits for a festival and giving a church a sense of vision and direction are not getting the time and head space they deserve so I for one will be very happy when the events of next week are over – whatever the outcome.

So be careful what you wish for… you might just get it.

#70 on a gig by a man the man who wrote ‘grace and gratitude’ and, in so doing, changed my world

Current music:  Crazy by Seal
Current Mood:  very relaxed

I went to see A sing at The Recycle Collective just the other night.  Not only was I treated to some music that was truly exquisite, I also bumped into some friends connected with the Greenbelt Festival and was able to sort a couple of bits out on that score.

A and I are very keen to explore the medium of music that we were treated to the other night – looping, where layers of sound are laid down in turns and then mixed and painted onto a aural canvas that teases the mind into imagining which layer is which and what is being played for the first time.  Eventually one’s brain gives up and lets go and allows the music to flow over and through and beyond and you are left feeling that you’ve been massaged by a whole symphony orchestra when in fact it was just the deft touch of a sublime bassist, opera singer and virtuoso violinist that were doing the damage all on their own.  So we are going to get our hands on some cheap looping kit and have a go ourselves.  I’m keen on the work of Steve Reich and feel that the creative ideas sparked by his work could lead to some interesting collaborations.

Steve you drag me from suburban mediocrity.

Monday, May 15, 2006

#69 on training for a triathlon

Current mood – upbeat (1 application form down 3 to go)
Current music – ‘And She Was’ by Talking Heads

What was I thinking?  Was it one of those desperate moments when I needed to prove my masculinity?  Had I been hypnotised or duped into thinking I really am some iron man trapped in this overweight body that’s in love with food in any guise?

Well whatever but I’m pretty excited (if a little knackered from the training) to have entered the Hatch End Triathlon 2006.  Suburban mediocrity in a single event.  Roll up, roll up, roll up.

400m swim, 17k cycle, 3k run – consecutively not all at the same time you understand.  The swim is my weakest event.  I seem to thrash the water to foam and succeed in moving backwards slowly.  The cycle is my best event and can probably knock out the 17k in about 35 minutes.  The run should be ok as long as I don’t go completely bananas on the bike and leave myself with nothing in the tank for the run.

My aim is firstly to finish without employing the services of St Johns Ambulance.  My second aim is to do it all in less than 90 minutes.  My third aim is to not look like a tit trying to prove he’s not 38.

I’ve been training hard – at the gym by 6:30 and out in the evening too.  It’s getting me fitter and lighter too (I’m 2 stone lighter than I used to be) and what with a tai chi work out to settle everything down I feel quite clear in the head too.

The only problem with it is timing. (Is there ever a good time?)  I’m currently applying for 4 jobs and the dead lines for the forms start hitting this week.  Plus I’ve got a church leadership team meeting on Wednesday night (so I’ll miss the football – bugger) and I’m going to see Andrea sing and Steve caress at the Recycle Collective on Thursday and then, double bugger, it’s Andrea’s birthday dinner party on Saturday night, the night before the bloody race so no alcohol for me.

The sacrifices an elite athlete has to make.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

#68 on how hopeless I am at keeping in touch

Current Mood – nervous (thinking about an awkward conversation I’m going to have with my boss tomorrow)
Current Music – Angel by The Eurythmics (beautiful song with sublime bass line)

Didn’t blog last night because I was pissed.  As a fart.  

Source of inebriation was a stag night for an old friend with whom I have managed only sporadic contact in the years since the heady days of Friday night Youth group meetings.  Also assembled was the gang from all those years ago.  Friends to whom I have barely spoken in the past few years, friends that I once held dear, friends who deserved better.

But we were all in the same boat and with a collective muttering of ‘bloody hell’ under our breaths we all putthe guilt of wasted years behind us and got into some serious catching up.  We swapped children’s names and photos of them on our mobile phones.  We swapped stories of house prices and percentage increases (viewers of grumpy old men last Friday will know exactly what I mean).  We swapped realisations of impending and actual mid-life crises and we swapped email addresses with firm commitments to keep in touch.

I think I will keep these commitments.  Maybe that’s my admission of my mid-life crisis.  

At least I know now that I am not unusual in turning out to be suburban and mediocre.

Friday, May 12, 2006

#67 on getting frigged about by the NHS

Current mood – relaxed if a little tired
Current music – overture from the marriage of Figaro by Mozart

Having just watched ‘Grumpy Old Men’ I should be saying how rotten our health service is and indeed… I shall.  Bugger it I was going to justify a line of ‘how lucky we are’ but I’m too knackered and frankly too cross to make an attempt at balance.

Spare a good thought for my mate K.  9 years old, took a tumble from a climbing frame, landed on his arm, snap.  So serious is the fracture they’re going to have to pin it.  Must have hurt to buggery.  You’d think he’d be seen quick.  

How long, do you reckon?

36 hours.

If it wasn’t for the fact that his mum works for the health service and knew the premed procedures she’d have to have cuddled him through the night in the A&E waiting room; as it was she took him home for the night.

He’s a good kid with a cheeky grin.  No one deserves this.  So spare a thought.

Worse still for K.  It’s his left arm and he’s right handed.  So no getting out of school work.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

#66 on nightmare deterrents

Current mood – coming down (just listened to Brentford get 1-1 draw in play-offs)
Current music – ‘Blackbird’ by Sarah Mclachan from the soundtrack ‘I am Sam’

N has been going to bed with his socks on lately.  This is the standard Romanian technique for ridding children of nightmares.  According to B, a native of Romania, it’s impossible to have bad dreams if you are wearing socks.  N went for it and we’ve not had a middle of the night visit for over week now.  I’ve started pulling them off when I kiss him goodnight – when he told me that he’d found them in the bed I told him that good dreams cause your socks to come off.  He went for that too.  There’s such beauty in that kind of gullibility.  

(By the way, is it me or is pulling off socks one of the most satisfying feelings going, not the sticky tug of war or the squash of the fold over method but the smooth swish of the toe end yank.)

Last night, N hurt his finger and cried for a plaster and I thought we would be in for a night of bad dreams – it’s the standard precursor.  So I reached for strategy number one – the brush off – I told him it was nothing.  Then he said his ears hurt and that he was falling apart and the sobs and the tears.  He really meant it.

Choosing strategy number two I scooped him into my arms and told him that it was all going to be fine and that I’d never let anything happen to him (oh if only I could really make that promise) and then it came, the silver bullet, straight to the heart…

Daddy I don’t want to die.

Can you remember the first time you considered your own mortality?

No wonder he wept.

No wonder I wept.

[subtext translator on]

Daddy I didn’t want you to die.  
Daddy I wanted you to make me extravagant promises you couldn’t possibly keep.

[subtext translator off]

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

#65 on owning up to not being able to do something

Current mood:  relief (at being back)
Current music:  none (I can’t type what I’m about to type with any distractions)

I find myself creeping back to this online outpouring of inner digestion following the death of my father.

You, my dear reader, are now sitting comfortably reading this and have no idea how long that previous sentence took to type.

I could baffle you with supercilious and condescending psychobabble about how I’m coping but the truth is I’m finding it hard – not hard to cope, God knows (literally) that I’ve been coping for years, no finding it hard to have any kind of emotional literacy with which to articulate the cloying emptiness that has filled my quiet moments and the dull hollow clang that sounds when I tap my heart.  I needed to take some time out – blogging about my Dad has been impossible and blogging about anything else would have seemed crass.

The fact is I don’t know how to grieve.

Now if that isn’t suburban mediocrity I truly don’t know what is.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

#64 on the innocence of youth

Current mood - pissed off (I’ve never been more pissed off)
Current music – Vertigo by U2 (very very loud)

I overheard a classic conversation between some 12 year old pupils today…

1     have you got it?
2     What?
1     Have you got it?  You know?
2     What?
[I fail to catch what was muttered.  I become involved.]
Me (to 2)     Well, have you got it?
2     I dunno
Me (to 1)     What has he got?
1     Mayfair.
Me     Mayfair?

Time out here.  I’m thinking porno.  Yes I was 12 once I and know what has currency in school.

2     Oh Mayfair.  No.
Me     Mayfair?
1     Mayfair.  It’s at McDonalds.  You know, Monopoly.
Me     No, but it doesn’t matter.
3     I thought he was talking about cigarettes.

I told my pal and we pissed ourselves laughing.  Given the shit that landed on me soon after I’m glad it happened otherwise this blog entry would have been about other people saying things that I might have later regretted.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

#63 on the half full/half empty cliché

Current music: Albinoni’s adagio
Current mood: up for it (work for work complete)

Yes I’m back for those who noticed (which cuts out most of the world’s population) and those who care (which cuts out most of them) from a particularly intense period of life in which I’ve pinned my colours to the mast of my school and applied for the position of Deputy Head Teacher.  Hopefully I’ll get an interview and I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes.

At church today my good friend confided in me his lack of confidence in his sermon and I said that it would speak to someone’s heart.  Who could of known it would have been me?

The gist of it was (remember it’s mothering Sunday) that we only develop the vocabulary for describing how well our parents tried to parent us later on in life.  It’s actually easier to recall times when our parents were pretty crap at it and not recognise the love they show(ed) for us in the mundane day to day existence.  Heaven knows I can think of reasons to recall when my parents (my dad in particular) was unbelievably crap at it.  I could make a list of the holes in my experience when he simply should have been there and could embark upon some deep psychological treatise on why that was and how it has so deeply affected me.  I could, honestly I could and indeed (usually to myself) I have, but hey, and this is the point of the sermon for me, fuck it, there were other times when he was doing his best and I just never realised.  He probably was bored and a bit shit at fatherhood by the time I came along but I turned out alright and my kids will do ok by me too.  

He’s dying of cancer now.  I’ll not see him again.  I want to make some sort of peace with him but the problem is I think he is at peace with himself, selfish cunt, and so I’ll just have to say that my glass is not half full, nor is it half empty; there is no glass, just a man who did his best and son who is doing his best too.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

#62 on failing to use new words in conversation

current mood - overwhelmed
current music - 'Toxygene' by The Orb (that's internet radio for you)

Well my use of ‘manse’ was forgotten today in the rush that is the crazy world of Year 7. We learned to paint with powder paints (a skill that I correctly guessed had not been taught adequately to this bunch of impatient end-gainers who have no time for laying down layers of paint when felt tips or poster paint straight out of the (expensive) bottle and slapped on to the paper will do for me thank you very much).

So please allow me to make amends by telling you that my dwelling could not possibly be described as a ‘manse’. Nor a hovel. Somewhere in between I suppose. Let’s call it 'home' for the sake of argument, complete with children, rooms in need of decoration and paperwork in piles large enough to call furniture.

Tomorrow I shall try with my new word of the day – ‘uxorius’. No you’ll just have to look it up for yourself.

Monday, March 13, 2006

#61 on using new words in conversation

I’ve decided to widen my vocabulary. So each day I shall try to introduce a new word in conversation. a going to send me a word a day.

Tomorrow I shall try to say the word ‘manse’ in the correct context.

I may even include these new words in my blog. In fact I shall and you can try and guess which word it was.

Reminds me of a drinking game – each player has a bottle of scotch to drink. Then one player leaves the room and the others have to guess who it was.

#60 on filling out application forms

Current music: ‘Iris’ by Goo Goo Dolls
Current Mood: daunted

The process for filling out an application form is immense. I can’t go into specifics about the job itself suffice it to say that I’m looking at a couple of hours each evening this week just to get the bastard typed. My supporting statement is looking like it will run into 1000+ words and I’ll need to design a CV from scratch. But some friends have each agreed to take a look at it this weekend and constructively criticise it. And there’s nothing like a deadline to motivate me!

All in a week when I’ve loads of Greenbelt stuff to sort and a house that needs to be see a hoover and duster raised against it in anger.

So there’s a little bit of excitement in there as well. I’ve gone through the ‘there’s no point in applying’ frame of mind and am now in the ‘I’m gonna make my application and interview performance good they’ll have no choice but to appoint me’ place.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

#59 on the use of technology in church services

current music - 'in constant sorrow' by the soggy bottom boys
current mood - cross (with self) because didn't get done all i'd planned and will have to get up early tomorrow.

Led worship at church today. Enjoyed the preparation and the delivery much more than preparing and delivering a sermon a couple of weeks ago. Hooked up with some resources from the Wild Goose Resource Group, rewrote some of the liturgy and made the whole service about the communion meal rather than letting the communion become a bolt-on at the end of the service.

The PA system didn’t work.

The laptop and projector worked just in the nick of time. By the way I think Songpro is a piece of shit.

The music for the band arrived just in the nick of time.

But the service went well nevertheless.

It made me wonder…

How on earth did the early church we so idolise and want to emulate (a futile mind set in my opinion by the way) ever survive without an overhead projector?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

#58 on the great year seven project

Work is fun at the moment.  Part of the great Year Seven project is to free up time to release teaching time for more topic based cross curricular stuff.  So at the moment the children are gathering stories for a school news magazine and plans are being drawn up for the children to present their work from the French Trip as a web site.

It’s really god fun seeing the children get into these activities and their improved behaviour (by and large) is a worthwhile trade off.  I’ll keep you posted as the results come through.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

#57 On having an electronic diary...

My latest train of thoughts and ideas has taken me from getting a new phone that incorporates a PDA as well so that I can ditch my diary and notebook, to running outlook on the PC at home and at work so that I could synchronise what’s going on with them and now I am mucking about with customisable desktops that raid bits of outlook and stick them in the corner of the desktop for me to keep an eye on.

I’ve tried a few programs tonight, DesktopX being my favourite so far. I’m told by people in the know that Windows Vista, if and when it ever arrives, will do all this automatically but who knows when that will be.

Kinda takes me back to the days when you’d get a floppy disk off of the front of a magazine and run a program that would animate all your icons in Windows 3. Course it drained every last drop of memory out of your system and nearly drove it into the ground but then life itself was slower back then. Come back 386, all is forgiven.

On a separate note, I finished ‘Dead Air’ last night. Brilliant. But with Iain Banks in the driving seat it’s what you’d expect. Can’t say too much for fear of spoiling it for readers who come along to The Reading Circle, but for those who have read it I have to say that Ken Nott, the central character is so like me in thought and word but so not like me in deed. Ken said what I think and believe so much it was uncanny but it did make for a great read.

Good plot, great climax, satisfying ending.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


An attack of diarrhoea has left me feeling low and a bit sorry for myself today so I decided to take it all out on some skeletons, goblins and some nasty looking things that look a bit like the great big monster Muppet whose name escapes me.

Yes, now and again (usually when one is too ill to do much else, a game of Diablo is required to cleanse one’s soul and remind oneself how good it feels to beat the brains out of baddies on the screen.

Long live computer gaming. Problem is to play these games requires a long life.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Through His Eyes

Spent two and a half hours travelling from central London to Kew Gardens today as engineering works closed a section of the District Line that I wanted to travel on. But the journey by train, bus and foot was worth it (and the £10 entry price) to see the most wonderful collection of orchids. Their beauty was matched only by their fragility and I felt as though I wanted to hold my breath as I wandered around the exhibition.

But my entry today, dear readers, is not about me but my beautiful, if not reckless, son S who ran up and down and in and out paying no heed to petty grown up rules at all. Rope barriers were to be swung on, dirt was to be grabbed, leaves were to be rubbed against a cheek. There was not a moment of vandalism or malicious intent but instead a careless abandon of any civil respect for stuffy, British behaviour. And as I charged around after him apologising to tourists as he slid down steps on his tummy, I wished that I could see the world through his eyes.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Two Hats

Current Mood:  brain-dead – not stopped working since 7:30 this morning
Current Music:  ‘Use Me (live)’ - Bill Withers

Went to see N in his debut role, Mr Gumpy in the Reception Players hilarious production of Mr Gumpy’s Outing.  I was so proud.  A was so proud.  N did so well.  But with his mother’s performer’s blood and my exhibitionist blood coursing through his veins it’s hardly surprising.

I also found myself mentally ticking boxes about his speaking and listening skills.

That’s what comes from wearing my teacher hat and parent hat at the same time I suppose.

‘Dead Air’ has been started and I’m quite enjoying it so far.  It’s quite an easy going first person narrative tale.  The cover and blurb made me feel that it would be more aloof but not so at all.

In fact I am now going to go to bed and read some more.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

When Intelligent People Gather to Discuss Intelligent Books

Current music: ‘On the Hunt’ – Lynard Skynard
Current mood: self satisfied (just done a super poo)

Another great ‘Reading Circle’ tonight. Readers of previous posts will know that I only managed to get my hands on to the book (‘The Time-Traveler’s wife) a few days ago so I had not read very much of it at all. But that did not spoil my enjoyment of the excellent discussion that went down tonight.

Next month is film night allowing us two months to read ‘Dead Air’ by Iain Banks. Looks pretty meaty but I quite fancy it.

Oh no, that looks and sounds like a food reference. Bugger.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Situation Vacant

Current music: ‘Between the Wars’ – Billy Bragg
Current mood: tired and hungry

Interesting experience tonight, short-listing applications for the post of leader of our church, after Jesus, that is.

I was brought up in a church tradition where leaders were not chosen by the membership; in fact we had no say at all in whom we had appointed to lead us and they had no choice in where they were sent. So it has been an eye opening experience wading through application forms deciding who is a yes, a no or a maybe.

I can’t say much more because the process is entirely confidential and whilst it is fair to say that it is not a small world we live in, it is a small church we worship in.

Never felt so much like I was on an edition of ‘Blind Date’ as I did tonight.

Monday, February 27, 2006

My son (wot I love)

Current music: ‘Someone to hi to’ by Sarah Bettens
Current mood: Contented

I mentioned yesterday that N has started to type on his own little laptop and it occurred to me that he should keep his own blog. It will be a great investment in recording his life through his own eyes as he grows.

When he (and his brother) were dedicated we bought an amphora for each of them and asked family and friends to post notes inside for them to read upon their coming of age. This is N’s chance to return the favour.

So a blog has been created and link on this site added. Sorry Liz and Steve and Danny, your links have got knocked orf and I don’t know why but I’ll put them back soon.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Napster, Laptops and the orgasm of Camden Market

Current music: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 5
Current mood: mellow – it’s Sunday afternoon

Just coming to the end of a crazyade bonkers month of unlimited downloading from Napster due to a free month courtesy of The Independent. Now I remember why we take the papers! I’m not sure if my ISP is best pleased about the goings on with the bandwidth but it’s all coming to a close now.

I’ve been pretty disappointed with Napster it has to be said. They were pretty good for the bulk record collection that has largely eluded me although of course I cannot listen to it anywhere apart from this computer. But as I have come across new names either on or as entries on other people’s blogs the results from Napster have been scarce to the point of non-existence.

Never mind. It’s better than nothing. And who knows, maybe one day the solution will be found to allow me to do more with what I found.

Now I could do with some advice. Conversation turned today at our church lunch to the whole laptop versus desktop and apple versus windows debate. My friend pointed out that since he installed a wireless point in his house and sorted his kids out with laptops they are now to be found in the living room and taking a slightly more active role in their family life. I cannot deny that I spend much of life in front of this enormous desktop system and wonder if it’s really quite worth it. It needs a bit of an upgrade and I wonder if now is the time to flog it to my mum who has been on about getting a computer for yonks and using the money on a laptop. And if do, should I get a Mac or PC. Thinking to do. Advice required please.

As for me and my household…

Talking of Apple laptops, N is currently playing with his new Apple laptop. Work were chucking out a load of redundant hardware including a couple of Apple Emate 300 machines. Any geeks among the readership, apple geeks at that, may know that the Emate 300 was Apple’s first foray (in partnership with Newton) into the world of laptops. Anyway these machines are now consigned to the league of PDA and are only good for basic word processing and drawing plus a few other applications downloadable from geek websites but it is perfect for young N. It also includes a stylus for drawing on the screen so he can do little drawings as well. Even as I type I can hear him tapping out ‘I want to be a rabbit in Mr Gumpy’s outing.’ It’s a reference, by the way to his school assembly on Thursday (in which he is already a rabbit) not some bizarre cloak and dagger plot to expose one of his teacher’s sexual preference. His own blog. Bless. So result there. The battery is shot but Ebay should be able to fix that one hopes.

S is watching Toy Story 2 in the other room. Always having been one to enjoy his own company, he is quite happily re-enacting the movie next door using his Woody and Buzz dolls to act it out. It’s really charming to see him at work. He is even mouthing along to some of the words which is very encouraging too.

A is in the kitchen cooking something which smells quite divine. Some of you will know that I am dieting once again as the previous effort only revealed that I am seriously overweight and need to sort it out before my health takes a nose dive, plus as I said in a previous post, whilst I don’t care that much about how I look or what size I am, I do care greatly about being fit and healthy for my children. So I shall not be tasting the wonderful smelling food, which is a bummer I do not deny it but is all in a good cause. For those who care I have just got my BMI down to under 30 and my target is 23. I’ll keep you posted on that.

B has just got home from a night spent at her sister’s place. She has been to Camden Market today and cannot tell me any more about her experience without her eyes going all flickery and her saying, ‘oh my God’ repeatedly. I’m going to take that as a positive sign.

And I am in front of my computer typing this post. The blogger plug-in for Word is an absolute godsend. Soon I shall begin typing my plans for school and then I shall retire early with ‘the time traveler’s wife’ which needs to be finished for Wednesday night when The Reading Circle comes around again.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Brown Stains

Now it needs to be said, up front, that our house is in a pretty good state of repair and décor apart from the lack of flooring in kitchen, loo and laundry and general state of bathroom. The flooring will be sorted hopefully after I’ve had another confrontation with Magnet. (One day I’ll blog the whole saga of our kitchen, suffice it to say, for now, that no one, absolutely no one, not even people who work for Magnet, not even their shareholders, not even people who are masochists, not even people who have been brainwashed by the ‘Magnet are Good’ religious sect should ever be so stupid as to think about selling you a kitchen let olone darkening their door.)

Anyway, the bathroom. It’s a bit of a shit hole, it has to be said. We chose not to have it renovated when the rest of the building work was done because we didn’t know if one day we would get a loft conversion; a fact that is still true today. It turns out that logic was mistaken. You see having been forced into doing a bit of investigative archaeology it turns out that the original tiling work was the usual 2 foot’s worth around the edge of the bath and that the rest (for those who don’t know our bathroom the whole room is covered in horrible white tiles) was done later. It would seen the original work was of a reasonable quality. It would also seem that the rest was put up by a person who cannot tile using flour and water as adhesive and grout.

The investigation was prompted by the fact that dirty great brown patches are appearing on our hall ceiling and they are spreading. So this afternoon A and I undertook an intricate scientific experiment. Our hypothesis – water from the shower was getting behind the tiles and soaking the floor under the bath. Method – I took off the board along the edge of the bath (watching carefully for spiders) and peered at the wall while A squirted water from the shower at the wall. Observations – water pissed all over the floor under the bath. Our conclusion – water from the shower was getting behind the tiles and soaking the floor under the bath. Bugger.

So I quickly nip to Homebase to pick up some grout and tools and some spare tiles rushing back in time for the rugby (great match, crap score) and then proceed to scrape what’s left of the grout away. Finding a tile that was held up by, well frankly nothing more than the power of prayer, I pull it away to see the plaster behind it absolutely soaking, having the consistency of damp sand than of hardened plaster. Bugger. A couple of other tiles shortly follow to reveal that, where the plaster is dry, it’s in an ok state.

So what to do? An insurance claim could be filed, FFS that’s what we pay £40 a month for but what should we do if they cough up? New bathroom in a place that will probably become the stairway to a new loft? New set of tiles around the shower zone? I dunno it’s all a bit too recent to have thought it through.

So for now we have decided to let the whole thing dry out and ban showers and exuberant bath play (by the kids). But I need some advice please. Is that a good plan or is the plaster shot and I’m just wasting my time hoping that drying out and then re-grouting is going to somehow work.

Comments on the back of a £50 note or by email please.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Best Laid Plans

I’d like to think I was a source of encouragement.  But today I was largely shite.

Firstly my friend and colleague was umming and ahhing about going to the gym.  So I used all of my persuasive charm to talk her into going.  Which she did.  And then she texted me to say that after having arrived and undressed, she discovered she’d left her kit at home.  And then she texted me to say she’d gone home and gone out for a run and hurt her leg.

Secondly, another friend and colleague who is dieting at the moment needed some encouragement to stop snacking on bad food.  Found out today she’d had 3 bags of crisps.  The logic being, well if I’m going to be bad and have one, I might as well have 3.

And thirdly, I finally caught up with my old pal R tonight.  Long time no see.  Played snooker at a local snooker hall and talked all around why his marriage is not so good at the moment, but that’s what men do.  By the way, R beat me 2 frames to 1.  I swear the balls are bigger than the pockets.  Oo-er missus.

All joking aside, all three of these chums are good people who I’m happy to be acquainted with.  Long may these friendships last.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Beyond belief

Whilst I thought that there was a dire and hysterical logic to the actions of Muslim extremists I find it incomprehensible that Sunni’s would stoop so low as to attack a Shia mosque.

Martyn Joseph sang, “do we really do these things to one another, do you see why now dolphins make me cry.”

I lower my head in shame and sorrow when I hear of another roadside bomb or suicide bomber and more troops killed but this act has upset me far more deeply. It’s the hatred, the pure, unrefined violence; the sacrilege, the scorn of any sort of respect.

I just don’t think I can take it anymore.

But I will, I suppose. I’ll get up tomorrow and hear of more reprisals, more killing, more shit.

I dedicate this psalm to all Muslims that this might be their prayer tonight

I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help.
Like servants, alert to their master's commands, like a maiden attending her lady,
We're watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting your word of mercy.
Mercy, GOD, mercy!
We've been kicked around long enough,
Kicked in the teeth by complacent rich men, kicked when we're down by arrogant brutes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Allez, allez, allez

One of the more enjoyable aspects of my job is leading the annual french trip to, er, France.

Each year we bung around 45 bright eyed 11 and 12 year olds on a coach and a ferry across Le Manche to enjoy the all the cultural delights that France has to offer.  And this year is no exception.

We are going to stay in a youth hostel kind of accommodation in Poissy on the outskirts of Paris to allow us to get to the city centre and Versailles with the minimum of fuss.  It’s going to be great.

And what’s more, the children have to set their own tables and do their own washing up!  They’re not going to know what has hit them.

So tonight it was my great honour to host a meeting of the 6 members of staff who are going to accompany these dear little children to France and back and not throttle them in the process.  We had a great meeting in which we planned the itinerary and discussed all the things we’ll need to pack in addition to 43 children and our own luggage.  Top of the list was snacks for teachers which included chocolate hobnobs (my personal choice), all manner of M&S snacks and (and this was my favourite addition) pickled onion monster munch.  You can keep your French cuisine, us Brits know how to party.

I’m feeling really excited about the trip now.  It’s not long until we go and as long as I have no more scares about the collective passport (the passport agency wrote a capital lettered request to call them – to sort out a date of birth) I’ll be in the starting blocks along with the rest of the staff team and pupils in April.

I’m also getting quite excited about Greenbelt too.  I Spent the rest of the evening (after the French trip meeting) sending off emails left, right and centre trying to organise a light entertainments programme and if (and boy that’s a big ‘if’) the programme comes off in the way that I’m planning, this year will turn out to be one hell of a shit kicker as far as light ents is concerned.

So book now while tickets last.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Truth is I’m knackered.

To work early to get some paperwork done.  At work all day then dash home to take No for swimming lesson.  En route a discover a colleague standing rather forlornly by the broken down car.  So I drop N off at pool, drive back to assist colleague and then dart back to pool to collect N.  Then it’s a dash home to do some extra work before dashing off to church for a music group rehearsal.  Then home to blog and kip.  Phew!

Suburban life ma be mediocre but it is sure as hell busy.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Phoned my big brother tonight for a chat.  You may recall from one of my first postings that my main reason for doing this exercise in introspection was to allow my middle brother into my head.  He’s been on wrong end of a very fuzzy lollipop but sounded pretty chipper tonight, though with the delay on the phone line to Melbourne it’s not always easy to have too deep or long conversation.  So to keep my half of a deal to stay in touch I decided to write this blog.

Communication does not come easily to my family.  We were brought up to keep the peace by shutting the fuck up – a strategy that was largely a monumental failure but this daily download of thoughts and experiences is helping me to tell him about my life and soul.

So if you’re reading this one, B, this smile is for you.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

mercy dash

I did not get to blog last night for as I was about to sit down to begin the phone rang.  The hour was 11.  It was A.  Euston was at a standstill.  She was stuck.

Unfortunately B had gone out for the evening so I had to pack the boys up in dressing gowns and duvets and head for London Town to rescue her.  It reminded me of the early days of our marriage where I often travelled up to the Opera House to pick Andrea up, days before we could afford a second car.  But for the boys it was a great adventure.  

Spent today at church and at home playing shops and other games with the boys.  Continued to soup up A’s new laptop with Norton anti-virus and other bits and bobs whilst trying to plan for school tomorrow.  I need a distraction from the thoughts of back to work so I shall sign off without further ado and indulge myself in a display of rippling biceps in a marvellous story by Philip K Dick.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Dedicated Followers of Fashion

Went to the Natural History Museum with A, N and S today.  Great day out made great for me by the breathtaking architecture.  The museum itself was packed, lunch cost 20 quid and the kids were mainly interested in pushing, pulling and twisting the interactive exhibits rather than taking in anything of educational value.  

But the investment in culture is of greater value.  A grew up in a house with regular trips on the train to all the galleries and museums going whereas I grew up in a household where a visit to the pantomime on ice was the big day out.  This is not to diss my folks, they did what they think was best in the same way that I do too, my point is that I and A want for our kids what she had and I didn’t.

Anyway that’s not my main subject for tonight’s delectation although the theme of culture and the world in which we want our kids to grow up still figures.

I was a bit pissed off when we were forced along Kensington High Street to get into the museum because the grassy area out front of the Natural History Museum had been cordoned off for London Fashion Week.  Huge temporary structures complete with air conditioning and hair dressers had been erected to house the hospitality suite for the big show.  As far as I could tell the main catwalks and studios were erected elsewhere.  This was one hell of a carnival with the performers were the wannabes and hangers on to the coat tales of the glitterazzi trying to look important whilst drinking champagne and eating tiger prawns.

And as I passed by the burly security boys my rational mind set switched on and played messages of ‘this is a world you do not inhabit – do not judge’ and ‘this is an industry creating wealth and work for loads of people across the world’ and then I came to a stop.  This is an industry were to be at the top is to influence how people should look, FFS.  This is an industry that is so self referential and narrow minded that they’ll design the same clothes as last year and sell it to us as ‘retro’.  This is an industry that fuels the exploitation of millions of workers so that we can all gorge ourselves at the feeding frenzy of wanting to look like a celebrity that we’ll never know beyond what the industry tells us.  

I’m so sick of it.  I feel contaminated.  I don’t care how I look as long as I’m clean enough to not smell.  I don’t care how much I weigh so long as I can be fit enough to chase my boys around the park for a long time to come.  I have no jewellery save my wedding ring, no cosmetics save my tin of Right Guard, no clothes save those from the charity shop and a posh waking jacket for enjoying the beautiful but wet British countryside.  

There’s still so much more I could do but at least I’m trying.  Check out The Year of Living Generously for some ideas of what you could do.

How do I cope?  I keep a couple of photos of child labourers on the cupboard door next to my desk.  And when it gets all too much I stare into their dark, hollow eyes for a while and then it all seems to fade away, for a while.

Friday, February 17, 2006

pant pisser

Having just blogged about some serious shit happening in the lives of some close friends it seemed churlish to blog this pant pisser of a sketch.  Ah but hey, what the heck.

You’ll have to believe me that this came up entirely coincidently.  I’d been trawling through some old papers and found a hard copy of this sketch given to me by my Religious Studies lecturer at university.  Anyway, I’ve had a root around on the old interweb and come up with an electronic version (which is a relief because my scanner would not have coped well with the old hard copy I’ve got) but unfortunately no author.  So I’m sorry I cannot give credit to the author but I have to say it wasn’t (more’s the pity) me.

This just has got to be performed at Greenbelt.

“I have a philosophical secret!”
The lowest-rated Jerry Springer show ever.
CROWD:     Jer-ry!  Jer-ry!  Jer-ry!
JERRY:     Today’s guests are here because they can’t agree on fundamental philosophical principles.  I’d like to welcome Todd to the show.
Todd enters from backstage.
JERRY:     Hello, Todd.
TODD:     Hi, Jerry.
JERRY:     (reading from card) So, Todd, you’re here to tell your girlfriend something.  What is it?
TODD:     Well, Jerry, my girlfriend Ursula and I have been going out for three years now.  We did everything together.  We were really inseparable.  But then she discovered post-Marxist political and literary theory, and it’s been nothing but fighting ever since.
JERRY:     Why is that?
TODD:     You see, Jerry, I’m a traditional Cartesian rationalist.  I believe that the individual self, the “I” or ego is the foundation of all metaphysics.  She, on the other hand, believes that the contemporary self is a socially constructed, multi-faceted subjectivity reflecting the political and economic realities of late capitalist consumerist discourse.
CROWD:     Ooooohhhh!
TODD:     I know!  I know!  Is that infantile, or what?
JERRY:     So what do you want to tell her today?
TODD:     I want to tell her that unless she ditches the post-modernism, we’re through.  I just can’t go on having a relationship with a woman who doesn’t believe I exist.
JERRY:     Well, you’re going to get your chance.  Here’s Ursula!
Ursula storms onstage and charges up to Todd.
URSULA:     Patriarchal colonizer!
She slaps him viciously.  Todd leaps up, but the security guys pull them apart before things can go any further.
URSULA:     Don’t listen to him!  Logic is a male hysteria!  Rationality equals oppression and the silencing of marginalized voices!
TODD:     The classical methodology of rational dialectic is our only road to truth!  Don’t try to deny it!
URSULA:     You and your dialectic!  That’s how it’s been through our whole relationship, Jerry.  Mindless repetition of the post-Enlightenment meta-narrative.  “You have to start with radical doubt, Ursula.” “Post-structuralism is just classical skeptical thought re-cast in the language of semiotics, Ursula.”
CROWD:     Booo!  Booo!
JERRY:     Well, Ursula, come on.  Don’t you agree that the roots of contemporary neo-Leftism simply have to be sought in Enlightenment political philosophy?
URSULA:     History is the discourse of powerful centrally located voices marginalizing and de-scribing the sub-altern!
TODD:     See what I have to put up with?  Do you know what it’s like living with someone who sees sex as a metaphoric demonstration of the anti-feminist violence implicit in the discourse of the dominant power structure?  It’s terrible.  She just lies there and thinks of Andrea Dworkin.  That’s why we never do it any more.
CROWD:     Wooooo!
URSULA:     You liar!  Why don’t you tell them how you haven’t been able to get it up for the past three months because you couldn’t decide if your penis truly had essential Being, or was simply a manifestation of Mind?
TODD:     Wait a minute!  Wait a minute!
URSULA:     It’s true!
JERRY:     Well, I don’t think we’re going to solve this one right away.  Our next guests are Louis and Tina.  And Tina has a little confession to make!
Louis and Tina come onstage.  Todd and Ursula continue bickering in the background.
JERRY:     Tina, you are…  (reads cards) …  an existentialist, is that right?
TINA:     That’s right, Jerry.  And Louis is, too.
JERRY:     And what did you want to tell Louis today?
TINA:     Jerry, today I want to tell him…
JERRY:     Talk to Louis.  Talk to him.
Crowd hushes.
TINA:     Louis…  I’ve loved you for a long time…
LOUIS:     I love you, too, Tina.
TINA:     Louis, you know I agree with you that existence precedes essence, but …well, I just want to tell you I’ve been reading Nietzsche lately, and I don’t think I can agree with your egalitarian politics any more.
CROWD:     Wooooo!  Woooooo!
LOUIS:     (shocked and disbelieving) Tina, this is crazy.  You know that Sartre clarified all this way back in the 40’s.
TINA:     But he didn’t take into account Nietzsche’s radical critique of democratic morality, Louis.  I’m sorry.  I can’t ignore the contradiction any longer!
LOUIS:     You got these ideas from Victor, didn’t you?  Didn’t you!?
TINA:     Don’t you bring up Victor!  I only turned to him when I saw you were seeing that dominatrix!  I needed a real man!  An Uber-man!
LOUIS:     (sobbing) I couldn’t help it.  It was my burden of freedom.  It was too much!
JERRY:     We’ve got someone here who might have something to add.  Bring out…Victor!
Victor enters.  He walks up to Louis and sticks a finger in his face.
VICTOR:     Louis, you’re a classic post-Christian intellectual.  Weak to the core!
LOUIS:     (through tears) You can kiss my Marxist ass, Reactionary Boy!
VICTOR:     Herd animal!
LOUIS:     Lackey!
Louis throws a chair at Victor; they lock horns and wrestle.  The crowd goes wild.  After a long struggle, the security guys pry them apart.
JERRY:     Okay, okay.  It’s time for questions from the audience.  Go ahead, sir.
AUDIENCE MEMBER:     Okay, this is for Tina.  Tina, I just wanna know how you can call yourself an existentialist, and still agree with Nietzsche’s doctrine of the Ubermensch.  Doesn’t that imply a belief in intrinsic essences that is in direct contradiction with the fundamental principles of existentialism?
TINA:     No!  No!  It doesn’t.  We can be equal in potential, without being equal in eventual personal quality.  It’s a question of Becoming, not Being.
AUDIENCE MEMBER:     That’s just disguised essentialism!  You’re no existentialist!
TINA:     I am so!
AUDIENCE MEMBER:     You’re no existentialist!
TINA:     I am so an existentialist, bitch!
Ursula stands and interjects.
URSULA:     What does it [bleep] matter?  Existentialism is just a cover for late capitalist anti-feminism!  Look at how Sartre treated Simone de Beauvoir!
Women in the crowd cheer and stomp.
TINA:     [Bleep] you!  Fat-ass Foucaultian ho!
URSULA:     You only wish you were smart enough to understand Foucault, bitch!
TINA:     You the bitch!
URSULA:     No, you the bitch!
TINA:     Whatever!  Whatever!
JERRY:     We’ll be right back with a final thought!  Stay with us!
Commercial break for debt-consolidation loans, ITT Technical Institute, and Psychic Alliance Hotline.
JERRY:     Hi!  Welcome back.  I just want to thank all our guests for being here, and say that I hope you’re able to work through your differences and find happiness, if indeed happiness can be extracted from the dismal miasma of warring primal hormonal impulses we call human relationship.
     (turns to the camera)
     Well, we all think philosophy is just fun and games.  Semiotics, deconstruction, Lacanian post-Freudian psychoanalysis, it all seems like good, clean fun.  But when the heart gets involved, all our painfully acquired metaphysical insights go right out the window, and we’re reduced to battling it out like rutting chimpanzees.  It’s not pretty.
     If you’re in a relationship, and differences over the fundamental principles of your respective subjectivities are making things difficult, maybe it’s time to move on.  Find someone new, someone who will accept you and the way your laughably limited human intelligence chooses to codify and rationalize the chaos of existence.  After all, in the absence of a clear, unquestionable revelation from God, that’s all we’re all doing anyway.  So remember:     take care of yourselves - and each other.
ANNOUNCER:     Be sure to tune in next time, when KKK strippers battle it out with transvestite omnisexual porn stars!  Tomorrow on Springer!