Saturday, 28 July 2007

4th Dimension

Sitting in car with S. Very old lady walks towards us, looks up and asks a boy climbing on some garage roofs: ' What time is it?' He tells her that it's one minute past seven. She ponders this for a moment. 'And what day is it?' she asks.
'Saturday.' he says backing away ever so slightly. She didn't go on to ask what year it was but her confidence and general lack of confusion suggested that this wasn't someone that should make me furrow my brow and purse my lips in that sad faced 'oh no she's lost' kind of way. My best guess is that moments later she pushed her way into the nearest pub, scanned the room for a similar sized human and said: ' I need your clothes, your slippers and your zimmer frame.'

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Heine Dude

I'm liking Heinrick. He also said:

"Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid. "

Schlaf gut

My mate 'taught' me this and it's one of the many things I can reel off in different Euro languages that don't help me at all but make me feel like a polyglot:

Gut ist der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser — freilich
Das beste wäre, nie geboren sein

it means, roughly: 'Sleep is good, death is better but the best is never to have been born in the first place'.

I wanted to track it down and discovered it's from 'Morphine' by a 19th C German romantic poet, Heinrich Heine. It turns out that he was born Jewish but converted to christianity and, as a consequence, recognition of him in Israel is split between the secular and the orthodox. All this fascinates me because I wasn't looking for links with my recent visit to Auschwitz but they seem to be everywhere. Also, Heine's books were burnt by the Nazis in the 1930s and his reference to the burning of the Qu'ran during the Spanish inquisition is very often cited as a prophecy of Nazi excesses as it was written in 1821. It also features on some of the displays at Auschwitz 1. "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." (German: "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen")

Back to Morphine... the poem in full is:
Groß ist die Ähnlichkeit der beiden schönen
Jünglingsgestalten, ob der eine gleich
Viel blässer als der andre, auch viel strenger,
Fast möcht ich sagen viel vornehmer aussieht
Als jener andre, welcher mich vertraulich
In seine Arme schloß -
Wie lieblich sanft
War dann sein Lächeln und sein Blick wie selig!
Dann mocht es wohl geschehn, daß seines Hauptes
Mohnblumenkranz auch meine Stirn berührte
Und seltsam duftend allen Schmerz verscheuchte
Aus meiner Seel - Doch solche Linderung,
Sie dauert kurze Zeit; genesen gänzlich
Kann ich nur dann, wenn seine Fackel senkt
Der andre Bruder, der so ernst und bleich. -
Gut ist der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser - freilichDas beste wäre, nie geboren sein.

Of course, as I said, my german just isn't up to this so I ran it through a translator- you may get some better idea but I'm guessing the subtelty and romance are lost somewhere:

The similarity of the two beautiful is large
Young man shapes whether the one directly
Many more blässer than the andre, also many more strictly,
Nearly möcht I say looks many more distinguished
As that andre, which me confidentialInto its arms closed - as lovely gently
Then its smile and its view were as blessed!
Then it probably mocht geschehn that its head
Poppy flower ring also my forehead affected
And strangely smelling all pain verscheuchte
From my Seel - nevertheless such Linderung,
It lasts short time; completely genesen
I can then only if its torch/flare lowers
The andre brother, who so seriously and bleach. -The sleep, death is good is better - certainly
The best would be never born, its.

Age and wisdom

Have Grandad staying with me and my boy this week. I have had a lot of tea and am being gradually dragged into that insidiuous addiction known as "Eastenders". I have noticed an odd phenomenon in the last couple of days though. Teenage boy still wears his hoodie and walks 5 yards ahead or behind me in the street but now when I ask him to do something he says 'Right you are!'. When I go to work he says 'Cheerio'.

Am just waiting for grandad to say: 'Yeah man, you're gay you are.'

Dart philosophy

Now this freaked me out a bit. Boy has been fiddling with some photo manipulation thing on my PC. The idea of putting his old man's face on a dart board I get. But the whole face on a dart board PICTURE on a dart board threw me into one of those existentialist ponderings that I get when I start to think about breathing dead people's air or where the universe finishes and so on.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Profound, Witty or Stupid?

Can't work out where the graffitier was coming from with this one. Made us all laugh mind.

sweets and nostalgia

Had the best time today in a traditional style sweet shop- bought chewing nuts, sherbert pips, space dust, sherbert lemons etc. etc. It was exciting not because I particularly like sweets but because of all the memories these sweets threw up (deliberate choice of phrasal verb). In fact when I tried them all they made my teeth hurt and didn't taste quite how I recalled them.
All nostalgic sentiment paled into insignificance when I noticed the following though:

How do you eat yours?


I am interviewing 5 people in fifteen minutes. Just enough time to eat my yoghurt at my desk and read a few e mails. I opened the yoghurt after shaking it and a blob landed square on the crotch of my trousers. Of course, instead of calmly wiping it off I panicked and rubbed at it vigorously so now I have a huge white stain on my trousers and my shirt isn't long enough to cover it. I will have to greet them with a stoop or a folder awkwardly placed in front of me and I'll be conscious of it throughout the interviews. Mr Grimsdale is not going to be happy.

Not me

In a world of misplaced apostrophes and confusion over where/ were, it's/ its, your/you're, etc/ect, it's refreshing to see one site revel in their (deliberate?) error. At least they acknowledge it. The copyright message at the bottom of the website looks like this: (c) 2006 Because it's Grammatically Incorrect.

I searched for my name and found that there were 22 of me. As a consequence I shall henceforth be known as Pineapple Crashhelmet (which , incidentally, was the literal translation of the name of a Spanish speaking student I taught once but at least I'll be the only one in the UK)


S told me last night that she had got lost near Victoria while on her way to meet me the other day. Apparently they stopped the tube before Victoria station and everyone got off. Now this is a very intelligent woman we're talking about here but her strategy for finding her way to the station was not:

  • get a taxi
  • get a bus
  • ask someone
  • look at a map

It was... look for someone with a suitcase, assume they're going to the station and follow them. She identified an Asian man as a likely candidate and, like a trainee spy, followed him through the streets of West London. Poor bloke must have felt her presence because he kept crossing the road and looking in shop windows.

Having said all that, I suffer from that supposedly male thing where I won't ask for directions or turn back. My reason for not asking for directions is rooted in bad experiences mind you. When I was 17 I drove to Harlow to meet someone (in my Mum's Singer Chamois- classy rear engined wheeled sewing machine). I asked a couple of blokes for directions and, before I knew it, they were in the car telling me they'd take me there. of course, by the time I reached Roydon I was beginning to realise that I was taxiing them for free. They got out, thanked me, laughed and I was more lost than ever.

Once in France I used my best french to ask if there was a bank nearby: 'Est ce qu'il ya une banque pres d'ici madame?'

'Banque?' ces't quoi banque?' she asked, total confusion clouding her rustic features.
'Banque, BANQUE, BANque, banQUE...'

As my frustration grew a growd gathered around my van, all the people were looking at each other with the same quizzical expression. no-one had any idea what the odd English bloke was after until suddenly a bloke right at the back of this crowd (in my mind's eye he wore beret and striped shirt but that must be a trick of the brain) said 'Ah BANQUE.' Suddenly everyone understood: 'Banque, oui banque'

Apparently my pronunciation was so far off they couldn't make the connection. There wasn't one, by the way.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Spot the ball

Tottenham's new signing, the ponytailed South Asian wunderkind Yaachi Chap, was spotted showing off some tasty ball skills and dribbling antics at a training session at White Hart Lane at the weekend. The 20 something year old pledged to score with passion this season. 'I am so much look forward to stick it in the Arsenal.'

To honour his arrival, 'North and South' are offering a place on the waiting list for a season ticket at WHL or, if you prefer, some cake and a piece of pie we have left.

Can you find the ball? mark the above picture with up to 10 Xs. If you get it right, you don't really win anything. If you think it's too hard , then the picture below contains a small visual clue.


The town of Osweicim is surprisingly large, considering its location, the associations and, above all, how much smaller it was in 1939. This observation is all the more pronounced and poignant when the realisation that over half the 1939 population never returned. I was shown round the last remaining Jewish building which is a synagogue/ school and is adjacent to the home of the Osweicim's 'last Jew'. He died in 2001 and his home will form part of the residue that many people are very keen to preserve. The other remnant is the cemetery: he is buried there along with people that died prior to 1939. After the war the graves were lifted upright and logged but the upside down Hebrew gives a clue to who took the time to undo the wrecking job done by the Nazis. When I was told that the cemetery remains locked now because of Nazi graffiti and further desecration in recent years, it seemed to suggest that the polarisation of Polish 'memory' is as extreme as it is incomprehensible. The idea of tracing some of the vibrancy of Jewish life in Osweicim prior to the war is to make real the 'life' that existed before the all too familiar horrors of the Holocaust. However, apart form the obvious very sobering lessons to be learnt by visiting places like Auschwitz, the overriding impression of ongoing squabbles, rewriting of the past and shifting the blame taints everything that bears witness to the brutality and futility of it all.

Saturday, 14 July 2007


The last thing I want to do is mock anyone because of any kind of physical problem. However, my girl caught this guy trying to conceal himself behind that tree. Unfortunately for him East London has few giant redwoods.

I'm flying to Poland on Monday so this sprightly fellow reminded me of the last time I flew. Ryan Air are not known for their spacious seats so I was more than a little upset when, on an early morning flight from Riga, I was forced to share a two seat space with a bloke of similar stature. When I strapped myself in I got my hand stuck between the arm of the seat and his right buttock. I was sweating and in not inconsiderable pain by the time I'd managed to extricate it. He was oblivious because he'd already started on his packed lunch. On the up side, I had the aisle seat so I was able to make up for some of the lost arm and leg room. In fact, as a very nervous flyer I figured that if the plane were to start plummeting to Earth in a ball of fire and twisted metal I may have had a slightly better chance of survival as he'd cushion some of the impact. The stewardess helpfully explained that the seats we were in (A1 and A2) are known in the trade as 'the death seats'. I'm not sure how true this was but apparently, when a plane goes down the door is often blown out and the people in those seats have no chance. At the time I wished I hadn't bothered listening to the safety announcement.

My other fear was using lifts. I'm not so worried now but for a long time I'd use the stairs wherever possible; even when I lived for a couple of weeks on the 24th floor. When I worked at Harrods I was in a lift in the warehouse in Trevor Square when the there was this almighty clang and the lift lilted to one side as we loaded some heavy stuff into it. "What the hell was that?" I asked the old boy who operated the motorised cart thing (called a 'blade'- the guys were known as 'blade runners') "The cable snapped." he said, calm as anything. Luckily, we were in the sub basement but after that I wouldn't use them at all.

I was also stuck in a lift in Spain when I was a kid. I was there for about an hour. the doors opened but the lift was too far up. A Spanish lady gave me a cake and some water through the gap.

Health and safety

Driving down to London yesterday I was listening to the athletics coverage on 5 live when they announced that a long jumper had been hit by a wayward javelin thrown way off course by some Finnish guy. Presumably he was the one I've seen this morning on the news wearing very thick glasses. I don't see how even the potential for this could be allowed to happen in this risk assessment led world.

When I was at school we were all trooped into the hall one day and we knew it was serious because it wasn't regular assembly. That was always bad enough for me because I did five years refusing to bow my head on the 'Let us pray' command. Usually I got away with it but whenever the headmaster was there I got hauled out and dressed down for being disrespectful, odious, slovenly and supercilious. (I still need to look that word up, but he was right about the others I'm sure). In the ad hoc assembly one of the PE teachers told us how a boy had not listened to his barked advice and had run to fetch his javelin after everyone had had their turn at chucking them. I don't know why he ran because we could only throw them about 20 yards at best. He ran into a javelin that was stuck into the ground and all but invisible to him. It impaled his neck and he nearly died. Inappropriate, nervous giggling broke out of course but after that I found running anywhere as fear inducing as I do flying now. What if someone had forgotten to collect their javelin? Unlikely in the High Street but fears are meant to be irrational a lot of the time I suppose.

My son's tech teacher has a catalogue of gory stories about kids who refused to adhere to health and safety advice on the machines in school. "Yeah, there was this one kid whose hand slipped and the drill went right through it and ripped two of his fingers off." If I believed for a moment that all those things had actually happened at his school he wouldn't be there any more. I do understand why the teacher is using this warning device but can't help feeling that there'll be kids that never go near a power tool again as a consequence.


Just talking to best mate and he was telling me about a B & B he was staying in recently. The girl serving breakfast asked him how he'd like his eggs. "Poached," he said, immediately giving away his middle class tendencies. She came back a few minutes later and said: "Sorry we don't have any poached egss; only scrambled or fried."

Thursday, 12 July 2007


I was looking at this the other day as I drifted out of a conversation with colleagues that didn't particularly grab me. It's such a recognisable symbol and I reckon pretty much everyone understands what it means. There's something about it though that makes me feel uncomfortable. I would like to ask wheelchair users how they feel about representing ALL disability in this way. I'd like to ask them if they mind their image looking like it has no arms , a single square boob and a squashed head. The thing is I know I won't; It would sound like I was taking the piss.

No doubt it's important to have this degree of ubiquitousness but, well, it just made me think. Still don't know what I'm thinking yet.

Oswiecim and Krakow

I'm going to Krakow on Monday for 5 days. It says here that it has great night life, casinos, clubs, bars and things to see in the day time. I'm not going for these things though. I'll be hanging out with a bunch of history teachers and the like doing some work on Auschwitz. I've been reading Filip Muller's account of being a prisoner and Robert Wistrich's book 'Hitler and the Holocaust' in prep for the visit and have also watched the BBC documentary on DVD. The books and archive footage are sobering enough. I have no idea how it will impact on me when I'm there.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Cow Cloud

Thinking about it now, it does seem to have been something of an unnecessary risk. Travelling back from London, dusk is settling in and I can feel my eyes getting heavy. My brain says in a fake chipper Dick Van Dyke kind of way 'Just close them for a few seconds... it'll be fine mate.' Luckily though I notice an amazing shape in one of the clouds- it's a cow!

Now, I'm not keen on cows really but I can see it like it was drawn by someone like Rolf Harris or Tony Hart- you know, where you know it's just blobs but man it really looks like the thing it's supposed to be. By the way, they may be pleb artists for the telly watching generation but I'd pay more for an original Harris or Hart than I would for a Hirst or anything by that bloke who put an elephant turd in a glass box at the Tate Modern. Better than leaving it on the floor though I spose.

Well, I was so impressed with the cloud I took a picture of it with my phone while I was driving. It wasn't like I had to put the camera up to my eye or anything- I just slid the back open, pointed it vaguely at the windscreen and clicked. Still, it would be a stupid thing to get points on my license for- I need all those for speeding tickets. I can kind of see the cow now- it's the cloud in the middle of the picture- the cow's head is sort of looking north west and away from the camera. Somehow it doesn't look as convincing today and definitely not worth the risk.

Reckon it's better than dung in a glass box or half a sheep mind you.

Postscript: it's so weird- I did a quick search to see if Damien Hirst was indeed HIRST and not HURST (like Geoff) and the first thing I come across is this: it's a picture of the "artist" alongside a cow's head! It also has a 'defence' of the man but I couldn't be bothered to read it- I'm def not recommending it (just thought i'd better be clear about that)

21st century boy

"Can I play Death Car Nitrous 4?" asks son with just a hint of the pleading puppy eyes.
"No, there's something I want to watch on DVD."
"Didn't you say you had work to do?"
"Well yes...but it's getting late and I really can't be..."
"Come on, just do it...and while you do I'll play...[whatever it's really called]"

Before I know it, I'm typing something up while he sits there getting his way. When I try the same sort of thing on him re: homework I don't see him busily tapping away at the PC while I do whatever it is I'd do if I was capable of relaxing.

It's funny actually: this whole playstation thing. When I was a kid- an elderly one granted but a kid all the same- I had an Atari 2600 (my grandparents bought it but I somehow managed to persuade them leave it at ours). Anyway...I had a similar relationship with it to the one my boy has with his DS, PSP, Gamecube, Playstation and Xbox. His is more of an electronic promiscuity whereas mine was old fashioned one console devotion but the obsessional aspect remains the same. Anyway (again) I went by my mum's yesterday and she'd found a box I had stored there at some point in the last century. In it was the old Atari console. I got back to Yorkshire at 12.30 am. but did I get some well earned rest after a tiring journey? Nope, I plugged the thing in and played Space Invaders til my eyes burned.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007


Just been down to the canteen to get something to eat. No word of a lie there was a notice pinned to the till 'Gone for Lunch'. How I laughed as I slipped into a hypoglycemic fit.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Last Season

The following link takes you to an overview of Spurs' 06-07 campaign. I know hardly anyone else is interested in that but it's there all the same.

This is actually a very clear and fair summary. Even the discussion board seems to have attracted the more articulate Spurs fans.

Can you see what's happening?

I've started talking about football again. The haitus was the post season blues but already I'm getting itchy for the new one to begin. Talk in the press about the mighty Spurs playing a couple of seasons at Wembley while WHL is rebuilt is too much to handle. Season tickets would be available (currently you have to pay to be put on a waiting list- it had 20,000 names on it last season!) so me and boy and my girl would all have to have one. Maybe I'd spend a bit of the £16M on travel and the tickets. There'd still be enough for blackjacks I think.


Talking of Charlton reminded me of that thing about the 'famous' back four that played a few games together a few years ago: Luke Young, Mark Fish, George Costa and John Fortune- surnames = Young Fish Costa Fortune.

I don't know how much Fish's transfer fee was or whether he was young when it happened. Should look it up really.

Darren Bent

Is he worth all that money? Doubt very much he'll be 6 million quid better than Berbatov. All I know is I could buy 1.6 billion blackjacks with that kind of cash. I would as well.

Plan Ahead

Was looking through my files for a picture I took a few years ago. Didn't find it but I did find these. I took these at my last place of work. The first shows where the maintenance team put the support for a data projector (in a very hot room). The second shows the thoughtful positioning of a tap in front of the board (just along the corridor).

When I contacted the team responsible I was told that they would be producing a sign advising people not to use the fan and that students would have to sit on the right hand side of the room or stand up if anything was written at the bottom of the board!

Monday, 2 July 2007


Saw this last year whilst walking along the South Bank near the NFT. I still regret not buying the paper.

Work on your style

One of the pieces of work I marked today included a frankly rubbish simile. It was as rubbish as some rubbish. It was like a get the idea. I won't mention it here just in case it comes back to me but it did remind me that I had a worksheet on similes where students had to change the crap ones to something more creative. it was always one of the things they found toughest. I got them originally from one of those joke e mails but truly believe they were weaned from students' essays somewhere or other. Here they are anyway:

· He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a man who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
· She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from shed doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.
· The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
· McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a plastic Bag filled with vegetable soup.
· Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.
· Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the centre.
· Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who means to access\aaakk/ch@ung but gets T:\flw.quidaaakk/ch@ung by mistake
· Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever. (this looks made up mind you)
· He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
· The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
· Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this bloke would be buried in the credits as something like "Second Tall Man."
· The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the full stop after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can. .
· John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
· The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.
· His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without a Bounce sheet

Hard as nails...

....but very weird. A lot of the blokes in Yorkshire call other blokes 'love'. The postman is a mountain of a man. he wears shorts all year round, has tattoos on his eyeballs (probably) and chews glass as he does his round. I walk into the colossus in the entrance hall: 'You number xxx? I got a parcel for you love.' Suddenly his ogre-like qualities melt before me and he seems, well, a bit gay. Soft gay, not body building gay. I didn't tell him that mind.

I spent the whole day marking!

It sounds like a treat to the uninitiated: working at home, doing some marking. I'm sure friends and family think it's a euphemism for relaxing or playing that other domestic euphemism: trouser Olympics. It's not. And you know what? I'd rather be at work.

How many assignments did I get done? 30, 40, 50?
OK, some of these top 4,000 words but it took me all day!
My son left at 8.20 and I started around 8.30. By 10.30 I'd done 4. I ploughed on to 6 before I rewarded myself with food. Sugar levels had dipped so drastically by then though that I think I marked the 6th one in a hallucinogenic haze: His marks of 20 and a half % for part one and 145% for part two seem to evidence this.
By number 9 my handwriting was so pants I could no longer write without hypocrisy: 'you need to tidy up your presentation.'
Later, the woman downstairs puts some 'thump thump' music on and I can no longer concentrate on what I'm reading. I put on Vivaldi! It has violins and stuff like that- crucially, it has no words and I can shut it out whilst it overrides the thumping from downstairs.
Now I have typed this and aired some of my agitation I need to mark two more.

The worst thing is that this needs to be finished because I have 27 more coming in on Wednesday and another 30-odd the Wednesday after that.

It's funny how my innocent days of driving for a living included a prophetic foreshadowing of how I feel at this moment: I always said I hated students- I didn't realise why properly until now.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Comedy Tombola

Time: Sunday 10.30 am ish
Place: Flea Market (10p entry- put your money in the bucket dear)
In attendance: Me, boy, several old people and a man in a smelly cardigan
Reason for being there: we saw a sign that said 'Flea MarkEt' (the big 'E' intrigued me.)
Typical fare: home recorded VHS tapes- £3 each!, Cakes, Stamps, some really crap junk.
We approach tombola. Like IKEA merchandisers, the canny flea marketeers have made it impossible to get to the exit without first passing every cack laden stall. Sweet old lady standing next to a sign saying she's collecting for disabled dogs persuades me to part with a pound. Son, playing the game, dutifully takes 5 tickets. As he unfurls the first I scan the 'prizes'. I don't know whether to laugh or cry- I see a half burnt candle, a chipped glass, something that looks like one of those things you pee in when stuck in a hospital bed... Each has a raffle ticket attached.

'You win a prize if your ticket has a 5 or a zero.'
Boy not only wins two prizes but he also bags '700': the star prize! Woo Hoo

It's a hand driven shredder that doesn't work but is a nice colour. I give the woman another quid for the box and we run before she foists another 5 tickets on us. Still haven't worked out what the other thing is. We think it may be some kind of anal probe.

We're just about to shred a baby and some paperclips when we notice the warning on the side: The fact that it won't even cut paper is immaterial- if I'd caught my hand or my tie in that machine, nothing would have stopped me winding the handle till I was strangled or had a mincemeat hand. Thank God for warning labels.