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 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