Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Guess where

Not some central European city but Halifax. The one in England. A lot of my London friends ask me whimsically what it's like up north. I'm often surprised but not nearly as much as they'd be if they ever came up this way.

London Parking

Went to the South Bank with my girl on my birthday. We drove around a bit until I spotted a metered parking space. I pulled over to the other side of the road only to see a bloke 'park' his suitcase there. 'Kindly remove your luggage good sir!' I said.
' I saw first, big van come, you not park here.' I deduced from the frailties of his vocabulary that he was not from these shores. Resorting to stiff upper lip I hurriedly reported him to the Home Office, anti terrorist squad and the home guard.

Eventually we came to a car park that charged a mere £8 p.h. Later, on the way out, I had to photograph this sign. You can imagine the trouble I had following the signs to the exit with my car facing backwards. I know I don't need to say it but, How is it possible that someone can come up with sign like this? It's not like they're short of money: They could spend the 24 quid I gave them for a start.


My mum usually leaves the price on stuff but her card to me this year was a bit special. I know I am valued. Finally I have a specific price though and that helps.


Lidl and the like are cheap supermarkets because (it is said) they stick two fingers up to merchandising and simply bung the stuff they got from some bloke in a warehouse in Germany directly on the shelves without all that dressing up. No carefully sculpted stacks of beans for them. There are always limits though and the laziness of this sign must surely put people off picking up this item. The boy spotted this one. Chip off the old block.

The true meaning of Christmas

When I was a kid I never understood how Jesus managed to get so much done seeing as he was born at Christmas but then died at Easter (thinking about it, Easter is resurrection time isn't it?). As an adult, I still don't get how come Easter moves. Anyhow, Western decadence means that for most people Christmas is a time to shout at your family and fill your house with crap. This frenzied and illogical behaviour surely suggests that Armageddon is just around the corner. I think that Wizzard's wish of 'Christmas every day' would bring us that much closer to judgement day. I doubt very much you'd find kids willing to start singing and bands beginning to play 24/7, 365 days of the year. More likely would be economic collapse due to excessive borrowing and people never going to work. Turkey shortages would lead to riots outside Bernard Matthews battery farm in Norfolk and rapid deforestation due to demand for Christmas trees would increase levels of CO2 and accelerate global warming to the point where most of the UK would be under water within a couple of years as the ice caps melted. Roy Wood may have considered these possibilities but I have to acknowledge that they don't scan nearly so well and what the hell rhymes with 'excessive borrowing'? And another thing: Santa would need time off for stress due to a massive increase in workload. No doubt he'd have to get Parcelforce to take on some of his deliveries and, as a consequence, stockings would be found limp and empty each morning as countless thousands of posties' sat navs misdirected them from one chimney to the next. Or they just nicked the stuff or threw it away or whatever else it is they do.

Having said all that, I had Christmas dinner yesterday with all the trimmings (except Turkey or the pudding) with best mate and my girl. It was great. Also, I got a Powermonkey. How did I ever get along without one of those?

yey for counting

The hit counter at the top of this blog has topped 1,000. I know that doesn't mean avid readership or anything but it does mean that by some quirk of virtual fate people are happening across these pages, even if it is with tut and 'what the...?' before navigating away to something much more interesting. The World Map thing also shows that, like bird flu or bubonic plague, I am gradually spreading worldwide.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

we've only got ten men

Eastlands is a bit cartoony. It's OK on the inside but outside it has all these spiral ramps and neon lights announcing 'MANCHESTER CITY' and looks like something a 9 year old boy would draw. You still get a feel for the wasteland I'm guessing it was built on as the car parks are rubble and the surrounding area is inhospitable to say the least. The unfinished feel is certainly reflected in the lack of thought that's gone into road and transport infrastructure and could even act as an analogy for Sven's team. Ten home victories on the trot did not bode well for the stuttering Spurs but it was like someone had slipped Juande a slip of paper (written in Spanish) which explained very clearly Sven's secret. Even after Zokora was (harshly I'm told) sent off Spurs controlled most of the game, albeit from a defensive position. Defoe's goal after 5 or 6 minutes shocked even the most optimistic Spurs supporter. In fact I had the most pessimistic supporter behind me. As the packed Spurs end gleefully taunted the City fans with 'We've only got ten men!' he was singing 'We've only got one goal' whilst tutting and shaking his head.

The passing movement when we did go on the offensive was startling and only impeded by something of a tendency to go one pass too many and by Steve Bennet's (the Ref) whistle blowing and poor decision making. The harsh sending off and a number of decisions that went against Spurs led to some pretty vitriolic anti-Bennet chants which accused him of being female genitalia and in the habit of playing on his home turf a lot. When he failed to award City what looked like a clear penalty in the second half the chants instantly became: " We love you Bennet, we do!" proving that Londoners have a fine sense of humour when they're winning.

Malbranque's goal around 8 minutes from time was the best. I got hugged by a lot of people. I didn't need reminding how important it all is but if I did, that emotional explosion would have done it.

I have to say that as I made my way back to the car park on the other side of the stadium, I began to regret some of the taunting chants and the bloody grin on my face (oh and the Spurs shirt and the clean and bright- and now officially lucky- bar scarf). It was OK though. I made it to the car just in time to sit in it for a full 90 minutes waiting for the traffic to get moving. It's funny how time works; those 90 minutes went much faster than the ones where we were waiting for the final whistle to blow.

vive la difference

We got this e mail at work from our diversity manager reminding us about Eid. This is useful and relevant as I'm teaching today and it may have an impact on turnout- as it was I had everyone there so either the course really floats everyone's boats or they used it as an excuse to get away from their relatives and a mountain of samosas.

The reminder about Christmas did seem to be a little superfluous. I myself will be preparing for the festivities on 22nd December. I have to nip out now and buy an inflatable sun child.

"Eid al Adha will be celebrated over 3 days starting from tomorrow Wednesday 19 December until the 21st December 2007.

A reminder of the other religious celebrations taking place this month: 5-12 December : Hanukkah was celebrated by our Jewish students and colleagues marking the festival of lights.
22 December: Winter Solstice- Yule will be celebrated by Pagans to mark when the Sun child is reborn; regarded as the New Year in the Northern Tradition Yule.
24 December Christmas Eve: Celebrated by Christians to mark the preparations of the birth of Jesus.
25 December Christmas Day: Celebrated by Christians to mark the birth of Jesus.
26 December Boxing Day: Celebrated by Christians, traditionally the opening of church poor boxes.
26 December: Zarathost Diso, marks the birth of the prophet Zarathushtra within the Zoroastrian religion.

May I take this opportunity to wish you Eid Mubarak a Merry Christmas, Best Wishes for Yuletide and Zarathost a peaceful break and a Very Happy New Year."

I'll also be sending a complaint in after the holidays that there is no mention here of the festival of Z'AAGHTH which, as some will know, is on the 23rd December this year (Terran Calendar) and is the Klingon festival of baby stabbing.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way...

...oh what fun it is to see Tottenham win away. It's rare that you hear that chant these days. I don't believe it. Pompey 11 unbeaten, Spurs without Dawson and most of the rest of the defence. Zakora plays out of his skin, a new boy bosses the midfield and Berba gets on the score sheet. things are looking up. A*****l at the Emirates next week and a trip to Man City in the Carling Cup. Hmmmm.... can feel my confidence waning.


Friday, 14 December 2007

on the plus side

I have made some inroads with the tidying and as a reward for my efforts I have found £2.62 in loose change, 12 Zloty, 25 American Cents and a sherbert fountain.

I was there

Still I haven't tidied up. Instead I have been looking to see what happened to Anderlecht after the lighter and metal rod throwing incidents in the UEFA cup last week (they were fined £12,000 which'll be a real deterrent). This led me to start looking nostalgically at stuff about the 1984 run. I still have my ticket from the away leg of the final and a scarf I got from an Anderlecht fan is hanging up in this room.

1984 UEFA Cup final
From a BBC report:

After beating Yugoslavian side Hajduk Split to reach the Final, Spurs travelled to Belgium to face the legendary Anderlecht, who were also the reigning holders.
The first leg was a strange affair, with the visitors standing firm against a side unbeaten at home in European competitions for ten years, much to the surprise of many who thought Tottenham's defensive frailties would surface from the beginning.
On the hour, the English side took the lead, Paul Miller rising above the defence to thunder a header home from Micky Hazard's corner.
Tony Parks was the hero of Tottenham's 1984 UEFA Cup success. A Morton Olsen goal five minutes from time gave Anderlecht parity, although Spurs had grabbed the crucial away goal.
A booking for Steve Perryman meant that the Spurs skipper missed the second leg, and manager Keith Burkinshaw was without the services of Glenn Hoddle and Ray Clemence while Argentine Ossie Ardilles was on the bench.
Clemence's replacement between the posts was an unknown by the name of Tony Parks. Neither he nor the Spurs faithful could imagine the fate that awaited him.
The Belgians took the lead after sixty minutes through Alex Czerniatinski. For the next fifteen minutes it looked as if Spurs were to lose, but things changed when Ardilles replaced Miller.
He instigated the move which led to Hazard crossing the ball to the centre and Graham Roberts emerging from nowhere to score the equaliser.
A goaless extra-time followed, and so it went to penalties. Parks saved from Olsen to give Spurs a lead in the shootout and after six straight successes, it was left to Danny Thomas to win Spurs the Cup, but he saw his kick saved.
The last of the ten penalties was taken by the Icelandic international, Gudjohnsen and Parks flung himself to the right to push the ball away and etch his name permanently in Spurs' history.


Actual mess seems to coincide with mental and financial mess in my world. I 'worked from home' today. The work I have to do will be done tomorrow though because I had to get my car serviced and wander around the shops buying things for Christmas. Neither of these things was either free or cheap. My to do list for work has been competing admirably in the World's longest list competition with my Christmas list. Of course neither of them are actual, tangible lists as such; they're more a swirling mass of vague and nagging imperatives in my head. When I have something on my mind it usually results in an inability to sleep. At those times the storm in mybrain is so disordered that I lay awake trying to think about what I need to think about. As Christmas approaches and I try to organise my visiting itinerary alongside the work and other stuff I get a kind of anxiety that stops me from efficiently doing any of those things and being able to cross them off my many lists. Nevertheless, one look at harangued faces on the other frozen people in Halifax today made me realise I am not alone. A quick chat with the woman selling 'Big Issue' did the whole salutary lesson thing too. I also saw Tiny Tim hobbling forlornly past the baker's window.

The flat is the biggest mess. I have spent the last two hours wandering from room to room picking things up in one place then putting them down somewhere else. If tidying meant doing that a lot I'd be the tidiest bloke on the planet. The boy's room isn't the worst but it is a bit of a tip. There are sweet wrappers all over the place, sometimes concealed by a stiff parody of a sock but more usually strewn in such a way that I imagine him discarding them like Henry VIII lobbing chicken bones over his shoulder. I considered venting a bit of steam over the phone but, luckily for him and for me, my sister phoned and reminded me of my would-be hypocrisy. As a (it has to be said) somewhat grubby teenager I got used to the distinctly malodorous fug in my bedroom and resented the complaints from sister and mum. I eventually found the energy (time wasn't exactly an issue then) to tidy properly. Under some paper which itself was stuck to the carpet under the bed I found some still soft centred crap (literal crap, not rubbish) that my dog must have left for me a couple a months before.

Time moved on and I now live in a worse world: I appreciate tidiness. I function well in an ordered environment. I can relax when everything is in its place. BUT... I don't have the tidy gene. My brain is wired in such a way that if it registers an empty surface, it will find a way to cover it with crap (the metaphorical stuff though so a small blessing). From where I'm sat now I can see loads of covered surfaces just by glancing over my shoulder. Actually, there's barely room for this keyboard on the desk upon which I am typing this tidy-avoidance post. Pens and some unpaid bills I understand but why is there hair gel, some plasters, some little stacking blokes, a banana and a three pairs of boxer shorts?

I sometimes wonder how I manage to hold down a job; You'd think the boxer shorts, plasters and little stackable blokes that are cluttering the surfaces of my brain would prevent me from even finding my way to work in the mornings.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


It's rare that I receive anything in the post that doesn't make me wince. Like a lot of people I know I pick up mobile phone bills, gas bills and bank statements with little trepidation. The shock that hits me when I open them though -first with a quick double jab to my guts then floors me as 'my gorge riseth'- never lacks novelty, yet I have experienced it a thousand times. That eye widening moment when I read £576 on my phone bill or some similar stupid amount for heating when I never have it on and am hardly here is akin to those moments in my life when I have realised that I have done something very very stupid or bum clenchingly embarrassing. Why I haven't developed a keener sense of impending horror is beyond me. If natural selection processes are surreptitiously filtering out those ill equipped to deal with the lives we lead in the 21st century then I fear I'll be the first to go the way of the neanderthals.

Of course I have had a few pleasant things in the post: letters from my girl; packages with stuff I ordered off e-bay; a pack of stickers and a broken pen from the children with mortal illnesses campaign. You can imagine the lifting of spirits I felt when I received what was obviously a Christmas card yesterday when I got in from work. I savoured the hint of glitter on the envelope; I studied the post mark and wondered who I knew down there; I opened it carefully and appreciated the cartoon donkey on the front. I was a little disappointed when I read the greeting: "From everyone at your Hyundai servicing centre."

I shouldn't be churlish though. I don't do cards myself. It's as much as I can do to sort it for family birthdays. My colleague makes a charity donation equivalent to x number of cards and stamps. If I did that for all my friends it'd cost me nearly 2 quid. If anyone I know is reading this: Happy Christmas OK. In fact, happy Christmas and Eid to everyone. a robin yesterday

Monday, 10 December 2007


It seems to me after much shower and car time rumination that the amount of time I have available to blog is inversely proportionate to the amount of interesting things I do and would like to write about. The distinct lack of December entries has left me with that nagging feeling like I have forgotten to lock the front door or turn the gas off. Actually that reminds me of when I was working for a delivery company in London. One of the blokes that worked there (so I was told after his sudden departure into HM custody) was asked to work late and he said: 'Sure- Oh no- I forgot, I can't, I have to let my wife out.' Anyway, the suspicions were raised and police got involved and they discovered that he was in the habit of locking his wife in a cupboard before he went to work each day. How the hell she was sposed to get all the cleaning and cooking done from there I'll never know.

So, this last week:

1.I have driven fast round Silverstone in a Lotus Exige
2.been driven pant stainingly fast round same
3.worked a lot, putting in three evenings and forgetting to take off proportionate mornings
3a.marked two lots of assignments
4.dictated loads of stuff to my girl who typed it all up (OK, not so tough or time consuming that one)
5.been to a conference
6.been xmas shopping
7.seen Spurs win against Man City (yey)
8.sighed a very big sigh of relief
9.chuckled at the thought of A*****l losing to Boro
10.realised my brakes were dodgy and got them fixed just before the drive to London
11.did various things like food shopping, clothes washing, shirt ironing and tidying.

Some great stuff in there mixed with the not so great. I'd gladly do all the humdrum again if I could find a way to NEVER go xmas shopping again.

Monday, 3 December 2007

a day's work

In 7 minutes I am taking a class. They are presenting work that they have been preparing since last week. I will then sum up and give them a quiz. All pretty straightforward. However the rest of the day sums up what my job is really about. this morning I was wandering around a primary school playground looking for the classroom that an observation would be in. Interestingly, although I got some concerned stares, no-one actually came up to me and asked what the hell I was doing. The class itself was small and all the women responded to my presence by speaking in hushed tones and eyeing me nervously which must have really got up the teacher's nose. I came back and printed a billion things that I had been working on last week only to find that printer 1 was broken, printer 2 was occupied by an angry and flustered colleague covered in paper and printer 3 would only print one item before logging me out. Between that and photocopying reams of unnecessary bureaucracy I saw a student punched and dragged off by her 'boyfriend' so I followed him and challenged him, got subjected to abuse and in the end to rely on other students' support before he let her go. There was no way I was going to physically intervene having recently read up on what I am and am not allowed to do in conflict situations. I got two e mails from former students telling me about success in MAs and doctorates which cheered me up no end then another one from a student who i can't even remember which spooked me out cos it was so creepy. I taught an IT class that went well and had a meeting about re-structuring that i didn't understand. I then helped a colleague with an IT problem and quickly printed the stuff I needed for this evening. Now I am typing this. I need a cup of tea.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Misplaced anger

Most of the shouting I did at the TV last night was not directed at players misplacing passes or Spurs' defensive ineptitude. Instead I reserved my biggest frustrations for the 'expert' asides during the commentary by David Pleat. I know he's famous for mispronunciation but last night he stepped up to a new level. Chimbonda and Jenas are not exactly tough names to get to grips with so why does he insist on saying CHIMBUMBA and JAYNAS? And why were they the only players he ever seemed to mention?

Maybe I shouldn't get angry. This guy is obviously not the full shilling. Here are a couple of things he has said in the past:
'He's got a brain under his hair.'
'If there are any managers out there with a bottomless pit, I'm sure that they would be interested in these two Russians.'
'He wasn't really trying to score with that shot.'
'He hits it into the corner of the net as straight as a nut'
'This is a real cat and carrot situation.'
'Eighty per cent of teams who score first in matches go on to win them. But they may draw some. Or occasionally.'

2-0 and they... err...messed it up

Half time and Spurs are 2-0 down to the rank outsiders in their UEFA cup group. Their whole team was free apart from one bloke who cost £100k! Me and the boy watched mouths open as the defence was pulled apart with Dawson playing like he was a Danish 5th columnist. He has had a few bad games of late but after his goal against the irons (rhyming slang permitted here) on Sunday I thought his confidence might have had a bit of a boost. Granted, there was no Rocha or Kaboul to fill King's long empty boots nor even towering Gardner's giant shiny head to lumber about alongside Dawson. Chimbonda stepped in somewhat reluctantly and Lee played out right. He was particularly poor and Ramos was right to take him off at half time. I hope that his post match debrief included something on the lines of 'Ole, Juande say you play malo. Donde the hell were you? Vamos a showers si?' Failing that I hope Poyet was allowed to boot his arse. The switch around and substitutions had an immediate impact. I still maintained my usual pessimism even when we went 3-2 up but the difference was very clear. Huddelstone had an immediate impact and the shift of Zakora to a sweeping role just in front of the 3 man defensive wholly pregnable Maginot line stopped the Danes from having any real solid chances. Spurs mucked about at the end, giving the ball away and flailing at the ball so that shots hit the corner flag and the opponents regained possession. However, I think this was a deliberate tactic to remind us of from whence we have come. A two goal margin would have meant I could have gone to the toilet or forced the boy to make me some tea. As it was we sat there til the final whistle cursing the time slowing device their manager had brought along with him.

latvian cultural tour

Low quality video clips as befits the seedy location, these were taken in some former KGB bunker in Riga a year or so ago. We went down into this basement area on the outskirts of the city and were asked by a Russian in a thick cold war accent: 'you vant fire Uzi? Kalshnikov?' Of course, the temptation was too great: our empathy with Latvian history only recently reinforced with a visit to the museum of the Soviet occupation dissapated as the urge to get hold of very dangerous looking weapons took hold. The AK47 was surprisingly easy to get to grips with; all my bullets hit the target. The Uzi was less successful. 25 rounds in 2.5 seconds led to only a couple of hits. The only nod to safety was the ear protectors and the fact that we had to use the stock on the Uzi rather than spraying from the hip LA style.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007


in response to claims that this blog has degenrated into a lazy collection of less than pithy comment, images and videos I'm posting this clip from the well know quiz for the erudite.
Thanks S for spotting this though why you'd even understand why it is worthy of note shocks me.


Click on the picture to see it animated.

The joke that goes with this is about how this represents a woman's mind whilst men only have two balls that they ever worry about. What I like though is the Where's Wally intricacy of it. It's an exec toy for the digital age; I could look at it for hours.

Monday, 26 November 2007


My pledge to eat more green stuff isn't working. Despite their best efforts, the smiles on the faces of these barely edible lumps of spud just depress me. My girl said I had to eat though so I obliged. It's not that I have food issues or anything but I have had a day and a bit and got in at half 9 and couldn't really be arsed to cook owt. (Aye, the dialect's contagious)

In fact the more I look at them, the more I get the sense that these are not happy faces at all but 'grimacing awkwardly' faces. They're embarrased about their high salt and sugar content and, frankly, are hoping that I get at least a little something from the beans and fish. Although one of them is giving mea bit of a look in this picture. I ate that bastard first.

Philharmonic in Liverpool (the pub not the music)

Attracted by the promise of the only grade 1 listed toilets in a pub in the country, this pub didn't disappoint. I managed to take a couple of photos: the warmth of the decor was reflected in the blokes that didn't beat me to a pulp for being a weird southerner. They smiled at the camera instead whilst washing their gnarled scouse hands. I had been a bit surprised by the brusqueness of some of the people I had spoken to but this pub (and later in the somewhat more downmarket and undecorative Ye Crack [there's not a joke anyone could do that hasn't been done already is my guess] where John Lennon used to drink with his first wife) buoyed my spirits and re-assured my inate sense of the 'right' kind of liverpudlian stereotype.

Sorry about the brackets. Am a bit tired.


Auschwitz Birkenau + snow

These pictures feel somehow so much more haunting and dramatic- felt shockingly guilty when I realised that I was 'enjoying' the harshness of the cold and the aesthetic effect of the snow. When I was here in the summer I was surprised by the colour, especially at Auschwitz 1- there were trees and grass and it was hard to reconcile what was in front of my eyes with the reality of 60 years ago. Birkenau still had the scale and austerity about it even in the sun. Classic images of both are monochrome so I guess it was always going to be difficult to perceive it in colour for the first time. As one of the kids on the trip said: 'you forget that they had colour in the olden days.' This time though appreciation of the severity that nature layered on top of that imposed by the SS was that much easier to grasp.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Straight outta...

Must get one of these caps. No-one would mess with me. I know this is sposed to be a nails district and these chaps go around killing each other using hoes or hoods or something but somehow this look doesn't strike fear. Maybe the pink one would scare me; but only if I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror when I was bending down to pick up the soap in the prison shower.

Friday, 23 November 2007

English Class

I am teaching some pretty dry stuff next week about learning theories. I thought I'd spice things up a little with a few video clips from which my students need to establish which of the theories are being applied. In this Japanese video designed to support English language learning I am finding it hard to identify exactly which principles drove the designers. Nevertheless I can see a lot of potential and may yet apply this technique to this very module. Bikinis on! And everyone...1,2,3...'Cognitivism emphasises principles over facts, cognitivism emphasises principles over facts'

Monday, 19 November 2007

Role reversal

“Look, I told you it would be cold and you should wear a thick coat and a hat so I don’t want to hear any more of your complaints.”
“Look, you are shattered, why don’t you just accept it and go to bed?”
“Can you stop playing with that a minute and get ready.”
“I told you that you’d need to sleep late if you went to bed late.”
“Can you PLEASE get out of the kitchen before I spill boiling gravy over you.”

Yep, had mum and partner up this weekend to stay. It doesn’t matter how much other people warn you, looking after parents is a 24/7 job.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Memory trigger

Not the original but a heck of a cover and...much more importantly my girl loves this. Reminds her of a nice time. Better to have this in our heads than duh duh de le de du le de der de (that circus music)

Friday, 16 November 2007

Vorsprung Durch Technic

My son made this when he got his phone last year. When I was a boy we had flick books.

Kung Shite

This is one of my boy's favourite videos.

I Hope You Like Pain - The most amazing videos are a click away

Lessons from Auschwitz visit photos

Click on the picture to go to the gallery

So unfair

My boy was selected to represent his school in a regional chemistry competition this week. I checked: he wasn't lying and they do exist. I was very proud of this achievement. He was a little gutted afterwards because his team came third. "The winning teams cheated," he said.
"How? My God!" I shouted, "that's outrageous." I planned my complaint letter to the chemistry authorities when the boy said: "Yeah, they chose all the intelligent kids from their schools."

Arsenal fans

Just to prove they're not all mindless idiots. Read here
Not sure I agree with the article writer's conclusion though I have to say I feel discomfort with the whole 'yid' thing. I shall continue to ponder. Maybe we should go back to the days when the typical shout was "Come on you Lillywhites!"

Thursday, 15 November 2007


I had to go to merseyside yesterday. I was expecting the city of culture to look a little less tatty I have to say. I was last there in the early eighties and the bit I saw didn't look like it had changed that much. The radio tower and the area around Lime Street are grotty and the buildings are grubby despite echoes of former grandeur.

What appealed to me though was that Knotty Ash is actually a place. Until yesterday I thought it was a place made up by Ken Dodd. I nearly crashed when I saw this sign. I also nearly crashed again when I attempted to take this photo.

you'll be a man my son

There are moments in a young man's life that are defining. These may or may not tally with the moments that his parents hold on to as defining ones but I hope that when my boy looks back he'll identify his first curry house ruby as one that stands out. This is the moment that he tucked in. The boy who claimed not to like curry only a few months ago is now keen to repeat the experience. It won't be long before he's travelling the path towards 'ring of fire' as he orders ever hotter dishes in order to impress his mates or some bonnie northern lass. I remember my first curry. It was in the Star of India in Sawbridgeworth. I think I was a little awestruck by the coloured lights and tasteful water feature in the centre of the room cos I mistook the hot flannels as some kind of free exotic dessert.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

My head is the wrong shape

I learnt this in a 'microteach' session last night from one of the hairdressing students. He was doing his bit about how it is important to take head shape into account when helping punters decide on which style would suit them best. This is fair enough and it was a revealing and interesting session. However, he made it clear that anything but an oval face is undesirable. Apparently I have a round face and am a bit jowly which means that I should have big hair on top apparently. The other students took it quite well, especially those that were deemed to be blockheads because they have square or oblong.

I was OK till I got home and started to think about a weird eugenic experiment our science teacher did once where we all had to line up according to head size. I was right at the big end of the line. Of course teasing ensued and I can't say what aspect of the curriculum we were addressing either.It was worse for Andrew 'pinhead' Jones* mind you. This memory and the whole head shape thing has got me paranoid. Already I stand behind people I am being photographed with, especially if they seem a bit on the small headed side. I'm now going to have to take shape into consideration. Big hair on top is just not an option.

It's hard to believe I had a fight with a kid when I was about 8 because his head was too big. I guess I am being punished according to my crime.

When my son was first born we took him to an elderly relative's house. Everyone else had been doing the cooing and aaahing that you expect but this woman came up and said: 'eeh, ain't he got a nice shaped head though.' Needless to say the 'though' disturbed me for weeks. After that she didn't say anything about the boy but she did go into the kitchen and re-appear moments later with a dustbin bag full of packets of stale crisps from her nephew's shop from which we were allowed to choose our own packet. I had salt and vinegar.

* name changed because a) I am more sensitive than my colleague and b) I can't remember the pea head's name.

spurs 4 wigan 0

Worth watching for the Brazilian style passing that led to a near miss by Jenas. Of course I am not getting carried away but compared to some of the abject performances I have seen this season, this certainly lifted the spirits. Just seeing Berba smile (and do the baby celebration thing) would have been enough.


dammit dammit dammit. I just typed a really long post about science and stuff and I lost it. the window has gone along with the inspiration. It had something to do with sulphuric acid.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Without wanting to seem trivial...

Spurs won 4-0
Jenas had a good game
Berbatov looked interested
We didn't concede
We put some sweet passes together (notice the use of 'we' rather than 'they' there, like I was somehow responsible and deserving of credit)

Of course I and S and the boy had to give up our tickets because of my work. The whole lot of us are starting to look like seriously unlucky mascots (that's not the right word I know). If Ramos gets wind of this he'll be preventing us from taking up our seats at the next game. If Jol hears about it, he might have a case for compensation from us. We are sorry.

"I saw a Mountain"

I saw a mountain higher than Mt. Blanc
And more holy than the Mountain of Sinai
Not in a dream. It was real.
On this world this mountain stood,
Such a mountain I saw--of Jewish shoes in Majdanek.
Such a mountain--such a mountain I saw.
And suddenly, a strange thing happened…
The mountain moved…
And the thousands of shoes arranged themselves
By size--by pairs--and in rows--and moved.
Hear! Hear the march.
Hear the shuffle of shoes left behind--that which Remained.
From small, from large, from each and every one.
Make way for the rows--for the pairs--
For the generations—for the years.
The shoe army--it moves and moves.
"We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are the shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers,
From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam,
And because we are only made of stuff and leather
And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.
We shoes--that used to go strolling in the market
Or with the bride and groom the chuppah
We shoes from simple Jews, from butchers and Carpenters
From crocheted booties of babies just beginning to walk and go
On happy occasions, weddings and even until the time
Of giving birth, to a dance, to exciting places in life…
Or quietly--to a funeral.
Unceasingly we go. We tramp.
The hangman never had the chance to snatch us into his
Sack of loot--now we go to him.
Let everyone hear the steps, which flow as tears,
The steps that measure out the judgment."
I saw a mountain
Higher than Mt. Blanc
And more holy then the Mountain of Sinai.

Moshe Shulstein.
This was used in the plenary session after our recent visit to Auschwitz. If there's one thing that haunts me more than anything, it's one particular child's shoe amongst the thousands that you can see. I can see it in my head still.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Lessons from Auschwitz

Along with the sixth formers we took to Poland on Tuesday there were a number of 'VIPs' including schools minister, Jim Knight, and several journalists. Here's an extract from one of the articles. This one is from the TES. http://www.tes.co.uk/2456680

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Teen Spirit

Despite repeated media frenzies about ASBO collecting hooded youths prowling the streets of Britain and common reinforcing oft-repeated complaints on the lines of:

  • young people have no respect
  • the youth of today don't know how lucky they are
  • I never had X, Y or Z in my day
  • kids are so rude
  • this sentence is too damn long and complex

I was proud of the kids that we took to Poland on Tuesday: Two hundred 17-18 year olds on planes & coaches and on their feet for much of the day in sub zero temperatures and driving rain. Of course you'd expect anyone visiting Auschwitz to be decorous but that wasn't my experience when I was there before. Some of the American visitors were the most noticable; complaining about the toilets and the lack of refreshments available in the camp and totally oblivious to the irony at the heart of their complaints. In their defence, maybe I only noticed the Americans because I could understand what they were saying. Perhaps there's a World wide irony reduction agreement that the UK have decided to abstain from.

It didn't take long for these young people to make the link between their own discomfort and the relative inconsequence of it when compared to the people they were learning about. These weren't a bunch of posh kids either: many of them were 'proper cockney' kids from the most deprived areas of London. They asked intelligent questions and listened intently to their guides. Some (re-assuringly) reverted to type on the plane on the way home but must were subdued and reflective. It's a shame that our common perceptions can't be redressed a little somehow. I know mine have by being a part of this but I also know that stories about young people making us proud don't sell papers.

Monday, 5 November 2007

World view

The little world map that I linked to in mid Oct tells me that 225 different IP addresses have found their way to this blog. I'm guessing that for most people it's just an unlucky accident: 'Mon dieu, what iz zees 'North and South', I av come to ze wrong place'.

Actually, the likelihood of anyone uttering the above, especially in allo allo English is virtually zero as most of the hits are from the UK. I like the idea of people randomly happening upon me; I do the same by clicking 'next blog' from time to time. Too often I get some dodgy porno blog which ruins the whole thing but I can get totally engrossed in what my boy would almost certainly call 'random err stuff'.

The best thing about the world map though is that it shows me that at least 1 person from Greece and another from Poland has, at least for the briefest of moments, had my blog on their screens. The best one though is that little dot right in the middle of Brazil. No doubt this is a long lost tribe using crystal skulls to access the outside world's data in readiness for the return of Eric von Daniken's Space gods. Or something.

(The actual link and map are in the column on the right)

Boro 1, Juan de la Cruz Ramos Cano's blue and white army 1

New manager.
Radical team selection.
Dressing room shake up.
New life.
New hope.

Same result.
Surprise surprise, the less than mighty Spurs take the lead then lose it again and only get one point. Middlesborough was eerily sunny as we drove in on Saturday. My boy was telling me as we drove in that it is rated as one of (if not THE) bleakest town's in the UK. Best mate, who is from that neck of the woods confirmed that it's famous for its permanent grey, industrial fug.

Already I have forgotten much of the game except our big named boss' decision to drop Berba and Keane to the bench and Bent's well taken goal. We still showed defensive frailty but Dawson looked more commanding and the back line was a heck of a lot straighter than at Newcastle. Midfield still lacking something; not least a spark from Jenas. Nevertheless, Lennon was lively with his mincing little runs down the right and Malbranque was penetrative until he went limp in the second half.

Like last year, there was something sad about the empty seats in the ground. Especially sad was the fact that the most noise in the ground (apart from the Spurs fans) was from a cluster of about 100 kids in little red Boro caps. They squaked 'Red army' throughout the second half. I thought the Spurs response of 'Your support is f*****g s**t' was mean and wholly uncalled for. 'Your support is jolly young' would have been more in keeping with the age profile and mood.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Sis Army!

As you can see, my sister felt the long arm of the law even before she got into WHL on Sunday. She said: ' The law does indeed have a long arm but that holds no long term interest for me. At best a short arm will do. Or no arm at all.'

A week is a long time in football (I hope)

So...my Blackburn prediction was cruelly misjudged though, thank the lord of football, I got the Carling Cup right. Took my sis to the Blackburn game. It was her first ever game and she cried when the players came out. To prove to her nephew that she did know about football she helpfully outlined her version of the basic rules in the car on the way up:

' One team tries to get the ball in the goal and the goal player catches it then the other team have a go. Some players aren't allowed to score I think. Oh...and the referee isn't allowed to kick it.'

I'm not joking about this either. Despite this woeful ignorance she enjoyed it immensely which is a real shame because she's clearly an unlucky mascot and we're not taking her again.

Going to Boro tomorrow...

Juande we will win again (that is not a prediction)

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Tolerance and perspective

Holocaust survivor Josef Perl spoke at an event I was working at during the week. I have read several books over the last few months in prep for and subsequent to my visit to Auschwitz. However, neither visiting the camps nor reading about them is as moving and powerful as hearing the testimony from someone who was there; especially someone who suffered so much. 250 people, mostly teenagers, listened intently to his story: In fact the way he held the audience and its collective intensity was a measure of the power that came from the story itself and from the man. He was born in 1930 so was only 8 when Czecoslovakia was overrun and 10 when the deportations began. His message was filled with tragedy; not least the cicumstances of the death of his mother and some of his sisters. The matter of factness of the re-telling of this part of his experience contrasted uncomfortably with story of the death of his dog at the hands of a soldier and the loss of the horse that used to take him to school. No doubt that this is the only way the story can be told at all. Despite this acute discomfort and desperate sadness, his message was one of faith, tolerance and hope.

Some responses from children he has spoken to can be found here: Jo Perl/ Amazon

Sticking my neck out

Since Monday I have seen Spurs lose twice and lose their manager, assistant manager and goalkeeping coach. The first of these defeats was in Newcastle- a long way to go to see such a poor performance (even when you live in Yorkshire) and the second was Spurs' only second defeat ever in European football at home ever. Tomorrow we play Blackburn who are on the crest of a wave. We have no manager. We have dissent in the dressing room. Our star player, Dimitar Toysoutofpramov, is stropping around like a prima ballerina whose changing room was decorated with the wrong type of lillies. BUT... I refuse to believe that I am about to see them lose three times within the space of a week. We will win.

p.s. this kind of blind optimism makes disappointments all the more intense. I do know that. I am trying to encourage my boy to be more pragmatic so he can avoid some of the pain!

Amore de mis amores

This song was one of those ever present tunes that define some summers. It was 86 or 87 and I was working in France. I bought the single but, seeing as I haven't had the capability of playing vynil since about 1992 I hadn't heard it anywhere other than in my head since then. I recalled the video 'clip' was inspired and realised just this morning that it might be on Youtube.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Scary chin

The title of my previous post 'Inter spem et metum' translates as 'between hope and fear'. I had remembered seeing it in a book or newspaper some time back but couldn't recall exactly what it was until I found it on a website. I used it then worried that I hadn't doubled checked it. It's lucky I did. I originally posted 'inter spem et mentum' - Mentum apparently is the bit of your chin that sticks out.

Inter spem et metum

It’s amazing how many of the things I don’t like in people I see in myself from time to time. I do at least two of these:

*Leap to conclusions
*Make generalisations and base action on stereotype
*Blame other people for one’s own mistakes
*Neglect hand washing after going to the toilet
*Demand paper evidence trails that no-one will read
*Sneer and/ or be aloof
*Eat with mouth open
*Eschew debate
*Impose dogma on those too young or uneducated to think for themselves
*Drive like an idiot
*Get involved in a multi million pound people and drug trafficking ring
I could go on but one last one for now is:
*Go on about stuff ad nauseum

It’s funny too that out of all of these the one I’d least like anyone to think of me is the not washing hands one. Just to make things clear: I wash my hands almost compulsively. This includes after I have shaken hands or received something from someone who ‘looks the type’ to not wash his hands (and it’s usually a bloke).

So, I happily chastised myself as I approached Valley Parade yesterday for my first visit to the home of Bradford City. I only realised I had assumed a bastion of white working class fat blokes in ill fitting club shirts when I saw one of those mini caravans of children snaking its way along the road to the football ground. All the kids were asian and they were being led (and marshalled from the back) by a group of youthful lads from a range of ethnic backgrounds. I shared their smiles as I drove to within 400 yards of the ground and still managed to park.

I got in cheap because I was lucky enough to bump into a guy that wanted to offload his daughter’s ticket. Stupidly, I didn’t make a note of the seat number so had to hang around the bars and pie shops until kick off when, I thought, I’d be able to spot an empty seat and park myself there. This extended period under the stands enabled me to engage in a bit of amateur anthropology and, yet again, I was delighted to see my prejudice shattered by frequent clusters of mixed groups: Asian and white men chatting about the Liverpool/ Everton game and black guys with thick Bradfordian accents spitting pie crumbs over mates as they talked about the likelihood of a City win. Of course, the crowd was nowhere near as diverse as the local demographic but it’s a start and all seemed positive.

At kick off I took a seat but then had to move when its season ticket holder arrived. He needed extra space for his armful of pies so I shifted a few rows back rather than along. This happened twice more until I settled on a seat which was still empty 15 minutes into the game. An obviously pissed bloke arrived at about half three and sat next to me. I was in his son’s seat but that didn’t matter as his son was doing something else. This bloke was chatty and liked the fact that it was my first game there and that I wasn’t ‘too fucking stuck up like most cockney bastards’. Things were going OK til he said to me: ‘you chose the right stand mate- all the pakis sit over there.’ In an instant he shattered my new found faith in common decency, brotherly love etc. and simultaneously (as I merely muttered ‘Dunno what you’re talking about’ and turned my back on him) made me feel crap for not standing up and smashing his beer soaked and pie filled face in.

One thing is for sure though: top of my list of things I don’t like is that kind of bigotry, especially when it’s coupled with an assumption that I want to buy into it because I’m white.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Plain English

Don't want to get myself into trouble but I had to share this. This is the sort of thing we get via e mail. Is it some kind of newspeak? Managerial mumbo jumbo? Bad English? I'm really not sure. Maybe I'm just behind the times, speaking as I do like an Edwardian gentleman, don't you know.

"The collection of our former printer fleet will commence next week, starting with the earliest areas that had access to the campus managed solution and finishing with the latest areas (some of our admin poeple who had the most complex needs). The process should be non-intrusive as staff are working from the site inventory that the printers generated when we carried out the first geographic discovery - and they should simply need to disconnect and remove printers that the College has allocated to each area."

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Punctuation Pedantry

Here's a blogger after my own heart http://quotation-marks.blogspot.com/. I think I'll send him/ her my collection of misplaced "apostrophes".

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

John Apu Smith

I picked up the phone just now and in one of the strongest Indian accents a voice asked ' May I be speaking to M....?' He sounded like someone doing one of those embarrassing impersonations of an Indian that drifts into welsh from time to time. He was an uber Apu (from Simpsons).
'Who is it?' I asked abruptly, certain that it wasn't a friend since hardly anyone uses this number and it definitely wasn't my sister or my girl.
'John Smith sir.' he said without a trace of irony. I laughed so much and amidst my laughter told him to sod off (in a friendly way) that he must have realised I wasn't going to buy whatever it was he was flogging. Poor bloke just hung up. Maybe his name is John Smith and I seriously offended him. More likely it's just another daft manifestation of the call centre phone sell thing that remorselessly bedevils our existence these days.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Chaiya Chaiya

The last time I got a train to London it was just like this. This is an ace song and video


I downloaded a screen saver programme the other day that randomly pics photos from my folders. I hoped that when I looked up I'd see my boy, some nice holiday scenery or my girl doing her sultry 'smiling-is-for-losers' face. But no, these are the sort of pictures I get. Odd signs, comedy Swedish chocolate bars and a very very ugly woman (no offence if it is your mum)

wot a bargin

running bloke in clouds

I do know that no-one else can see the things I can see in clouds, especially bovine stuff. However, this running man cluster of whispy clouds looks more like a bloke running than a bunch of whispy clouds. Well to me it does.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

I thought I was being conned

My mum sent me this with some spiel about whether you could see the woman turning clockwise or counter clockwise. Supposedly it indicates whether you're a left or right brained person. I replied dismissively (as usual) but she insisted. So I tried and tried and sure enough she does go both ways (the woman in the picture, not my mum). This is one heck of an animation. I find it hard to get her to go the other way once I switch her mind you. All the chat about it being a sign of genius is nonsense of course though the person that made this is a bit of a bright spark that's for sure.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Time off for good grammar

Just been sent an e mail which states:

"All students should notify there tutors in advance if there are going to be absent from College for Eid celebrations."

The way I see it is that there are three homonyms available here: their, there and they're. If they're aware of the three then at each stage their chances of getting it right are 1 in 3 even if their understanding of the difference is zero. So I suppose the odds have worked against them twice within 6 words. I have little doubt that some colleague who is even more pedantic than me will point it out (directly I mean rather than on some random blog that no-one reads). Whether they are shamed by this or see it as inconsequential may well be determined by a range of factors such as age and innate defensiveness. All I know is that I get embarrassed by my 'typos' but I'm glad when S and C and mum (and my boy) point them out.

This reminded me of one of those supposedly genuine collections of letters full of mistakes and ambiguities. I used to use these with English GCSE students: I'd get them to re-write them and eradicate all the nonsense. The worrying thing was that half the time they'd say: " There's nothing wrong with this one."

1. Dear School: Please excuse John from being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31,32, and also 33.
2. Please excuse Dianne from being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.
3. Please excuse Johnnie for being. It was his father's fault.
4. Chris will not be in school because he has an acre in his side.
5. John has been absent because he had two teeth taken off his face.
6. Excuse Gloria. She has been under the doctor.
7. Lillie was absent from school yesterday because she had a going over.
8. My son is under the doctor's care and should not take fizical ed. Please execute him.
9. Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hit in the growing part.
10. My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent this weekend with the Marines.
11. Please excuse Joyce from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday she fell off a tree and misplaced her hip.


Me and S went to a restaurant the other day and arrived just before Iftar. I acknowledged the manager who I’d known in another capacity several years ago. He greeted me by name but all I could manage was ‘Alright mate?’ After we sat down I tried first to run through all the typical Bengali names but nothing rang any bells: Ahmed, Abul, Abdul, Ali, Albert…

Cunningly I called one of the waiters over:
“What’s your boss’s name?” I asked, pointing him out at the bar.
“I don’t know but will find,” he replied with a conspiratorial grin. He returned about five minutes later with a double conspiratorial grin (but no food):
“His name YAKVADAD.”
“What? I’m sure he wasn’t called that when I knew him, how do you spell it?”

Eventually I found out his actual name and learnt a salutary lesson: When you forget someone’s name don’t ask one of his employees that doesn’t speak very good English.

Talking of names, S noticed the other day that the pool of names seems to be getting smaller. We both have ‘best’ friends with the same name even though they are different sexes. My son shares a name with one of the blokes renting my flat and so on. Maybe it’s time to do that seventies thing again where people started to make up names like ‘Sky’. The new ones could reflect the zeitgeist: Bluetongue, Baghdad, Eco, WMD, Suicidebomber, Microsoft or even Zeitgeist.

That wouldn’t work in Switzerland mind you. Apparently, you can’t call your kid anything weird as all names have to be from an approved list. That’s probably why they’re a bunch of boring squares who never have wars and have a high standard of living.

Monday, 8 October 2007


When a button comes off one of my shirts it's invariably the one at the bottom. I could tuck my shirt in but there's enough for my waistband to contend with already, so if I want to avoid the impression that I am wearing a nappy or some other kind of anti-incontinence aid I have to staple or pin the bottom of my shirt. The result is, in part, the cause of my scruffiness. I also seem to have something of a big neck. I'm no goitered rugby player but I don't think I possess a shirt that does up at the collar. Wedding photos have me as the only one with an apparently loose tie even though at the time I felt choked.

It's hard to determine all the other factors that contribute to my inability to look smart but it's something I have been aware of since a very young age: even in my school photos I am the only one without his tie done up properly. My mum won't thank me for saying this but it may in part be due to the budgetary limitations that were par for the course in the 1970s. Many of my clothes were hand-me-downs or, if they were shop bought, had to last a lot longer than the stuff kids have in their wardrobes now. I recall complaining bitterly that the trousers my mum or nan had made for me (out of this weird 'bobbly' blue material) didn't have flies in them. Instead they had an elasticated waistband which necessitated pulling the trousers down every visit to the toilet. I think that's one of the reasons why I don't drink enough water today. I have recently got out of the habit of getting my arse out in urinals though.

Underwear was always a big problem. My son wouldn't even entertain the idea of wearing 'pants' and he would laugh in my face if I presented him with underwear that had some kind of childish motif on them. I didn't get much choice it has to be said. I tried not to make it an issue until, aged 11, I asked my mum if I could have some new underwear. "They'll do you for another couple of years," she said as I waved some moth eaten, nylon yellow cacks with a little blue anchor on the front. "But it says age 3-5 in the label."

Don't get me wrong: I'm not going for a hard done by sympathy vote here. It's how it was back then. The necessary prudence had a two-fold effect on me as I got older. With my son I tend to buy him everything he wants: clothes are cheaper by a long way- not only relatively but also in many instances pound for pound. If I had a time machine I'd take dozens of pairs of Primark socks and pants back to the 70s and make a killing. Actually, that might not be my priority but it'd be worth having up my tattered sleeve. With me, though, I tend to baulk at spending more than a fiver for a T shirt and 40 quid for a pair of trousers still feels extortionate (I am assured by many that this is cheap but still can't believe it).

The other weird thing is that people who were my current age then were always impeccably smart. My grandad wore a tie out to picnics and I doubt he ever got so much as a drop of salad cream on it.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Too busy and distracted...

Have been so busy that I even ate at McDonald's yesterday. It was rubbish and gave me heartburn and I feel guilty because even my son boycotts them more effectively than me. Am nervous about today's game though I don't know why; I should already be used to the idea of a thumping- whatever the press say about Liverpool not firing on all cylinders.

This is a slideshow of all the photos on here. It cheered me up even though it starts with a grave stone.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

I knew it 2

Obviously he's taken Arses' rejection worse than most people realise. Either that or Mr Henry was some kind of 5th columnist, planted at Highbury to wreak havoc and give goals away at the last minute etc. If so, he was bloody rubbish at that.

I knew it

Once again empiricism turns a long held hunch into fact. Best mate is always worried about my heart when I watch Spurs. Last night was no exception. 4-4 from 1-4 down. As they say on the BBC discussion forum where swearing is naughty: W T F????!!!

I am not an avid Daily Mail reader of course but this article will give my doctor a strong case if she decides my heart needs me to switch allegiance.


Monday, 1 October 2007

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Carling Cup Draw (w/b Oct 29th)

My predictions in brackets:

Luton v Everton (2-3)
Portsmouth v Blackburn (3-1)
Chelsea v Leicester (1-1, Leicester win replay)
Sheffield Utd v Arsenal (0-1, flukey goal goes in off ref's arse in 91st min. Sheff Utd have four perfectly good goals disallowed. Everyone bangs on about how great Arses' kids are. I puke)
Bolton v Manchester City (0-2)
Coventry v West Ham (2-2, Irons scrape through in replay)
Liverpool v Cardiff (5-0, too easy for 'pool)

Public prayer: If I get one right, please let it be Spurs' result. Failing that, a stonking for the arrogant SOBs from the Emirates at the hands of Sheffield would compensate quite well, thank you.

How not to deal with problems

It strikes me that I and (probably) the rest of the world utilise a number of coping strategies when confronted with difficulties in their lives. People who appear carefree do no doubt have problems but I guess they confront their problems in a way that I have yet to discover. These are the various ways that I have sought to cope with things over the last [ahem] years. Rather than exemplify these with personal things I have tried to draw comparisons with Spurs’ current malaise.

- bury it under the carpet and hope it goes away. All that I’m left with is a carpet with a huge lump in the middle of it that’s so big I can’t even get my Hoover over it, let alone ensure it is clean. Of course if I did illustrate this one with one of my problems then I wouldn’t be able to keep it under the carpet. I’d have a slightly less lumpy rug but it’d be out there: acknowledged and demanding resolution. Thinking about that makes my head spin almost to the point of it being something that I could label a problem. Martin Jol says all the Spurs strikers are competing on an equal footing for their places in the starting line up. He denies that there is a rift between him and Jermaine Defoe. His nice guy status means that we can only take him on his word which means that this is a classic case of denial. Where will it end up? No doubt one or the other of them will no longer be in the employ of Spurs. The most likely scenario is that JD ends up at Everton or Aston Villa and puts three past Robinson in his first game against his old club. This, of course, is an unsatisfactory resolution. 30,000 voices chanting ‘Jermaine Defoe, he’s a yiddo’ seem incapable of encouraging the big man to even accept that he has a carpet, let alone accept that there’s anything underneath it. (I think that taking analogies too far is another problem for me but luckily I don’t errr…brush that one etc. etc.)

Putting it into a global perspective- This is the classic that we learn from our parents and swear we will never impose on our own offspring: “ It could be worse”, “People are starving in Africa”, “Worse things happen at sea”. It may be that perspective is everything but it really does only work from the outside. Any kind of physical or emotional attachment to the problem and an attempt to put it into the wider picture does not, as is anticipated, make you realise the relative insignificance of your problem; all it does is leave you with a bitter self loathing on the lines of “ God, look at me, I’m getting in a stew about this, how pathetic am I?” Spurs, for example, are languishing in 18th position in the Premier league. The ‘glass-is-half-full’ types may well argue that this makes them the 18th best club in the country at this moment in time. They may remind me that for two years running we have been fifth best. They may try to argue that since the Premier league is one of the best in the world that this actually makes Spurs one of the World’s top clubs. They will also implore me to consider the plight of Notts Forest or Leeds (actually that does make me feel a bit better). Ultimately though I’m left feeling like a spoilt brat a) because, yeah, it is only football and a lot of teams have it a lot worse and b) it still really, really matters.

Talking to someone about it but not really- this is my favourite. I get to pretend that I am being mature and sensible by saying ‘yes, x and y are troubling me; these things make me feel a, b and c.” This may be the way in to those intense counselling sessions you read about or see Tony Soprano engage in, but it’s nothing more than a limp parody. Nothing is resolved. By ‘getting it off my chest’ I have merely shifted the discomfort from heart to brain. By sharing it I have not halved it; at worst I have doubled it by making someone else stress about me. Martin Jol does this every week on Match of the Day. He hints to Spurs supporters that he is aware of a defensive frailty or an issue with strikers scoring goals. We wait for him to go deeper, to explore the realistic and perhaps revolutionary remedy but what does he do? He goes with the same line up and shares the problem again the following week.

Blame someone else. I don’t have referees to blame but I do shout at people who don’t deserve it when I do something wrong. I think it goes without saying that this is ultimately self destructive. Having said that, Sunderland’s goal on the first day of the season was clearly over time and we should definitely have had a penalty against the Arses to put us two up etc etc….

Here’s one problem I am willing to come clean about: I have boring work to do. Instead I have typed this. Engaging in displacement activity makes my stomach churn with anxiety. Phew, that feels better, and I guess a lot of people have it worse and, anyway, it’s not my fault this work is so boring…

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Martin Jol no longer loves me

Bolton 1 Spurs 1. Just got back from the game. Son and I agree that Jol has gone too far leaving out Defoe. The love affair may be over. I am not happy. Also Jenas is rubbish.

Play oop Shaymen

Took the boy to see Halifax Town yesterday. We did actually go out to see Bradford City but somehow we misread the fixtures and it turned out they were playing away. They lost to Hereford (4-2) so maybe it's just a s well. Anyway, we went to the Shay to see a team that evoked a lot of memories: When I was at school I had a certain affection for Halifax because it was either them or Crewe that sought re-election at the end of each season. When we played football after school, I usually said I was Halifax because I knew I was likely to lose and didn't want that associated with Spurs. We stood on the terraces at the Shay with 1,362 other people and paid 15 quid for the pleasure. This seems (relatively) pricey when compared to White Hart Lane (where I can see a third rate opposition play Spurs' fourth rate team for 29 quid). The main thing, of course, is that I enjoyed it and so did the boy. Rushden and Diamonds sent a loyal away following of about 30 (you can just see them in this picture). The best thing though (apart from their goalie who made some fine saves despite being about 65) was the way all the players clumped in areas of the pitch. This shot shows how they all massed in one quarter of the pitch when the Halifax Town keeper hoofed the ball up the pitch. The game ended 1-1. Town had led from a well struck free kick in the first half but were pulled back from the penalty spot in the last minute. this was a very dodgy decision to say the least and the manager let the ref know in no uncertain terms at the end of the game. This was also amusing.

Hair cut

Within about two weeks of getting a hair cut I am already fed up with the way my hair has grown back. It doesn't grow uniformly and it is fuzzy and lumpy if I don't moderate its waywardness with gel or soap (I used butter once when I couldn't find anything else). I suppose I shouldn't complain being as the signs of receding and thinning are there for all to see; especially my son who points it out whenever he can. On Friday I finished work early and drove home round the edge of Bradford looking for a barber's. I saw the common red/white shop fascia and spiral sign before I could read the words 'Men's hairdresser' on the window. I guessed that the shop was run by people whose first language wasn't English because the shop was called ' Top Men!'. (and it was in the heart of an almost entirely Pakistani area of Bradford.) None of your crummy cut/trim/hair plays on words there, just a slightly unusual choice of phrasing with a hint of campness about it. It reminds me of the fags you can buy in Brazil. Even the really shitty ones are called things that are supposed to resonate of European (especially English) sophistication but all too often they get it slightly wrong so you end up smoking fags called 'Brighton' or ' Buckingham Palace'.

Anyway, I went in and waited a bit till the barber had finished some other guy's hair. Eventually I went and sat in the chair while the barber fiddled around a bit. He looked nervous actually and it wasn't long before I realised it was because he hardly spoke any English and, presumably, wasn't used to non Pakistani clients. He grinned at my reflection in the mirror and asked :'Haircut?' I smiled and replied: 'err no, two pounds of potatoes please.' He looked totally bemused, not least because he knew the word potatoes but didn't really get the rest of the sentence. I decided that stupid jokes were going to get me nowhere and tried to explain what I wanted. He nodded enthusiastically throughout my explanation but it was clear that it was a bit of an effort. In the end he just cut a bit off, put my glasses back on my face, showed me and said 'cut more?' to which I replied 'Yes.' We continued like that til I got (roughly) what I wanted. It's as good as pretty much any cut I have had recently. I asked him how much and he said '£3.50' I couldn't believe it: I gave him a 2 quid tip and was still 5 quid better off than if I'd had it done at my regular place in London.

Afterwards I did worry that maybe the only price he could say in English was £3.50 but dismissed this. I will definitely go there again.

(By the way, I waffled a bit here so that I wouldn't have to see that diabolical picture of Berbatov when I logged on.)

Friday, 21 September 2007

Guess who

Believe it or not that's the one and only - not-trying-very-hard-and-resting-on-his-laurels Dimitar Berbatov. How gay is that photo?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

6-1 to Spurs 1-0 to Ball boy

Good win, good goals and Defoe and Bent on the scoresheet. Please Martin, let Defoe have a run out on Sunday. Alongside Zokora's usual comedy shots, the most amusing moment of the match was on you tube before the game ended:Ball boy indeed.

Adeus Jose

Jose managed to get up a lot of people's noses since he started at Chelski. I think the worst he said of Spurs though was that we had parked the team bus in front of the goal when we managed to squeeze a draw out at Stamford Bridge. Maybe Jol took that comment to heart and leaves the bus in the car park these days because we seem to be leaking goals like Bon Accord. My favourite Jose moment was when he had a go at Wenger for being a peeping Tom. These are his words:

"Wenger has a real problem with us and I think he is what you call in England a voyeur. He is someone who likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, have this big telescope to look into the homes of other people and see what is happening. Wenger must be one of them - and it is a sickness."

Shocking, for sure but a whole lot more articulate than the Spurs chant to Wenger : 'Sit down you Paedophile'. it's a wonder Wenger doesn't try to sue the entire crowd after a derby game at WHL. Mourinho will no doubt be missed by Chelski fans; some of them have already said to me 'good riddance', 'he wasn't going anywhere this season with us.' But, as we all know, they are sick to their stomachs. So soon the glory days are over. How long before they are just like Spurs again? Not long I think.


Just as I was about put my audacious plan to steal the crown jewels into action and, on the way, stab a few old ladies whilst doing an evil laugh, I saw this sign. It spoke to me in a way no person has ever been able to. So THANK YOU anonymous sign writer; I, the Queen, and several old ladies will forever be in your debt.
Now, if only someone were to quickly put up a sign about the wickedness of split infinitives then this sentence might read better.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Balloon Sofa

I have found myself becoming quite jaded over the last few years when it comes to ice breakers, team building exercises and warmers. Of course, people who are new to a group need to get to know their colleagues but some of the painful games and activities I have been press ganged into facilitating still make me wince when I think about them years down the line. The cheesiest one is the ‘ball of truth’ that people have to throw around a room or the ‘untangle the knot’ game where wool is passed through people’s legs. My view has always been that if it makes even one person in the group feel uneasy on their first day then the wrong activity has been chosen. When I am the master of my own ice breaking destiny, I always go for something simple with room for people to say a lot or a little and with a guarantee that all will speak.

So… it was with some trepidation that I ventured to a colleague’s room to help police his ‘make a sofa out of balloons’ team building activity. I could feel myself tensing up at the thought of burly blokes (there are several, all outspoken, in this group) giving it ‘What the bloody ‘ell do you want us to do that for?’

But…man, it was excellent. Not only did they laugh but they learnt a lot about the importance of following instructions to the letter, mechanisms for collaboration and economies of scale and, in fact, optimum design for a balloon sofa that will support the weight of a human for 30 seconds. I admit that I didn’t think it’d work but for two of the three groups it did. The one group where it didn’t work were at a slight disadvantage as they didn’t have a ‘lighter’ member of the group to be the person to sit on the chair.

I also learned that from time to time I need to stop being so damned cynical and give things a chance. Apart from that I had a shit day cos I still have a headache that started yesterday and it’s my girl’s birthday and we’re on different sides of the country.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Teacher Training

There I was planning a class on managing behaviour and I find that it's already been done for me. 50 years ago! Now that I have watched this I realise that there are several things I must do myself and recommend to all my trainee teachers:

-get suited up. That teacher looks the business.
-make students wear tanktops with diamond shapes on them and other nerdy clothes. Even if they flick stuff at each other we can mock their sartorial inelegance.
-give mutiple detentions: 'seven detentions!'
-recognise that when someone blows their nose it's a sympton of the whole group's disaffection.
-sit students in rows.
-use mother's cooking to illustrate things that need explaining.

This teacher training lark is a cinch. I demand a pay cut.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Brown Derby

This is how we both felt yesterday after the match. I can't really bring myself to say anything else. I know why footy managers are mocked for their cliches though, cos I really am 'gutted' and 'sick as a parrot Brian'.

Saturday, 8 September 2007


Although pretty, you have to wonder about a place where they still openly sell gollywogs and people form queues to buy gingerbread. I knew when we got there that the locals suspected me and the boy of harbouring independent or (worse) liberal thoughts. We managed to escape but I swear I caught a glimpse of a flaming torch weilding mob in my rear view mirror chanting "burn 'em, they be witches!"