Saturday, 28 June 2008


Both the state of my flat and a conversation with best mate yesterday got me thinking about this. I don't feel guilty about a lot of things and they tend not to be big things like global conflict, destruction of the world's ecosystems or selling off a country's social housing for the price of a few votes. No, my guilt is either a niggling 'not-up-to-scratch-as-a-human' type guilt or profound and rooted in a single decision I made years ago.

Today, the guilt I have felt growing in small but steady increments, correlating exactly and proportionately to the ever increasing clutter and chaos of my flat erupted like a very small volcano or a bloody huge spot. Deciding to tidy is not a decision that I can take lightly. It means for certain at least a day of moving piles of paper from one part of the room to another or from one room to another. It means tidying a small surface in the kitchen and, defying logic and logistics, then moving to clean that grubby bit on the shower before coming back and doing another bit of the kitchen. I know some people self-therapise with cleaning; I need therapy after cleaning. I reckon I am just about there. All day, I have underestimated the time it'd take me to finish.

It's not like I live in a stately home or anything. I guess I'm just not very good at it. I also have mini disasters that prolong the process. Just now, I was hoovering and trying to disentangle the 3 billion wires someone dumped behind my PC. Then the side fell of the computer and it tipped. I had to fix it with the hoover blaring in my ear because I couldn't switch it off. Then I dropped a tin of poker chips on the floor. These are back in the tin but not in appropriately colour co-ordinated stacks. I know this is fluff and trivia compared to what a lot of people have to deal with just to stay alive. I'm not moaning. AND the process assuages guilt. All I have to do is give it two or three months before I have to relieve the pressure again.

The other guilt is not so easy remedy. In fact, I doubt it's fixable. This guilt is like the chewing gum we used to swallow as kids. 'It'll stay in your stomach forever', we were warned but didn't comprehend how it would gradually eat away not only at our stomachs but also our very souls.

In brief, when I was about eight I was sent to the shops to get my mum some fags. If that sounds unlikely then you are very young. On the way I found a pound note. I was that excited I ran home to report my good fortune and forgot the fags. Mum was and remains a very honest person but, thank God, didn't have that 'let's take it to the police station to see if someone claims it' thing that helped line corrupt coppers' already bulging pockets in the 1970s. I was sent back to enjoy my good fortune and get the bloody fags. As I walked to the shop I noticed a cluster of girls aged about ten consoling a girl who was in tears. They were searching exactly where I had found the money. This wouldn't be a post about guilt if I'd stepped forward, pound in outstretched arm and said: 'fear not damsel, for I have in my hand...' No, I walked round the corner to the alluringly named 'Maunds Hatch' corner shop and bought a matchbox car and a ten penny mix. I probably had change left for a new set of clothes and tea at the Ritz; a quid was worth that much in those days.

Best mate suggested I write about it to see if it helps. Have to report that so far it doesn't seem to be working. I think there are four possibilities, two of which are very very unlikely:

1. Unlikely- person I describe recognises herself- declares herself well adjusted and happy and that, in fact, the experience helped shape her into the well-rounded, charity-giving, Mother Theresa wannabe she is today. (I hope it's this one)
2. Unlikely (I hope) - father of person contacts me to advise me that around that time his daughter lost his last pound which he'd sent her to the shops with to buy fags and booze and on her empty handed return he had smacked her but by some quirk she had got a blood clot or something and died. Sentenced to life, he has only just been released from prison and is making it his life's work to track me down and punish me in vile ways for ruining his life. (I really hope it's not this one)
3. The chances of her or anyone she knows reading this are so remote as to be incalculable and the status quo will be maintained.
4. I will actually feel better without any of the above. I still don't yet though.

Monday, 23 June 2008

guest starring...

I get that nagging feeling like I left the gas on (but don't have any gas) or I haven't paid a bill (I have lots of bills) when I don't post anything here. I like the catharsis but it's also become something of a necessity which in turn makes it a bit of a burden when I'm very busy. I do wonder how someone with a memory as flawed as mine could ever become a history teacher. Even skimming back a few months I see a phrase or an image that jolts the dynamo that powers the dimmming bulb of my long term memory. I wish I'd done this since I was about 5. In order to assuage the guilt that works on behalf of my memory I sometimes ask my girl to write something. Usually I get excuses but today I'm lucky that she's bored at work. YEY! Her inspiration comes from a telephone conversation we had this morning. Thinking about it, most of our conversations are like this. Prepare for a profound journey into our respective psyches, Dr. Freud!

‘The bus journey to work felt so long today..’
‘So I started thinking about the different types of bus drivers you get..’
‘Yep, you get white ones, Chinese ones…’
‘NO! NO! NO!’
‘anyway, there’s the bus driver who doesn’t like stopping at traffic lights, there’s the bus driver who doesn’t like stopping at bus stops – that’s the one we had today..’
‘…then there’s the bus driver who thinks he’s a racing driver, the bus driver who growls when you get onto the bus and then the overly friendly bus driver who stares and smiles like a pervert and then winks as you swipe your oyster card….’
‘…have you ever had a dream where you’re at work, you’ve finished everything you had on your to do list and then you wake up and realise that it was a dream and it’s time to go to work??’
‘Yep not nice…I dreamt that you got kidnapped by these people and they circumcised you…’
‘..what the?...wha…(quickly change subject) so the window cleaner woke me up really early and then the maid came in at 7..’
‘You have a maid?!’
‘Yep, she’s 19 and she likes to work naked’ (talks to maid in the background – ‘leave that for now. Come and sit and have a cup of tea’)

Incidentally, I can't write stuff like this becuase I do not have that female brain function which is to recall conversations verbatim. When I say I have spoken to friend X, it's as much as I can do to recall what it was about let alone be able to answer the questions like ';so what did she say? what did you think?'

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


Part of my end of term resolution is to have lunch every day and, instead of eating it whilst working (dropping crumbs into my keyboard as I go), I have decided to take half hour actual break. The problem is what to actually do with the break. There is a staff room but it's like going to the kind of waiting room you might expect when waiting for bad news from a doctor or lawyer. If it's busy you just have to sit there and do your best to avoid colleague's spit on your lunch while they blither on about something you are trying to get a break from. Walking and eating are out as that's bad manners apparently. The 'refectory', with its plastic seats and fixed tables, has all the charm of a hospital cafeteria. Also it's full of screeching students, awful food and really annoying signs that overuse quotation marks. We hope you enjoy your "food" and "have a nice day". The quotation marks around "food" make me wonder what the hell it actually is. At least they seem to realise that naming it thus is quite possibly an infringement of the trades description act. It's funny how often i and other people invoke the trades description act. To be honest I only have the vaguest of notions about what it says.

My desk, then, is the only reasonable place to eat lunch so I have tried to get a paper, listen to the radio or do a similar diverting thing that's not work while I eat. Today I watched part of 'Child of our time' the BBC 'experiment which charts the lives of kids from various backgrounds then layers on a bit of real and a lot of pseudo sociology and psychology. (Link to BBC site). The bit I found interesting was how since 1987 the zone within which we allow our children to play has shrunk by 90%. The graphic they used really did the trick. i found it quite shocking. It's easy to recall my childhood and ramble on about how I used to go out in the morning and come back only when it was time for my tea. What really struck me though was explanations offered for this. Of course the perception of danger in the form of paedophiles or cars or, even worse, paedophiles in cars was there and the contrast between this perception and the reality. The more subtle explanations though was about how there is a self perpetuating cycle exacerbated by smaller family sizes. Perceived danger = some parents getting panicky. Some parents getting panicky= fewer kids on the streets. Fewer kids on the streets= perception of isolation which in turn = even fewer kids on the street. Hardly any kids on the street= remaining kids have nothing to do on the street so don't want to go on it any more.

Best mate is looking for a project. Granted he is interested in human rights and 'big' stuff but a 'reclaim the streets' for kids campaign could be something that got swift, tangible and life changing results. When I was watching it it made me want to get all the kids in my block outside, give them a football or something and see how they got on (locking the doors so they couldn't get in until they'd had a fight or something). However a 40 + bloke knocking on doors and inviting kids out to play may not be the best way to go about this.

There is a counter view that says that although kids sit in front of TV and PC screens a lot that this is nevertheless simply another way of preparing them for the big wide world. They still discover, they still play, they still interact. As much as I'm an enthusiast for technology and enjoy a slovenly evening in front of the footy, I can't help thinking that the loss of rough and tumble real world discovery could be having a big impact. If nothing else we're turning our kids into a bunch of nerdy jessies.

Friday, 13 June 2008

In Bruges

Just this second got in from a one night only showing of 'In Bruges' at Hebden Bridge's quirky old local cinema. Everything about the experience was mind blowing. No big buckets of pop corn; instead you can take a mug of fair trade cocoa in. I know it sounds a bit fluffy and middle class but it beats the hell out of having to tolerate crunching, rustling, muttering, whispering youth.

That top film has just bumped whatever was top of my all time top ten off the top of the list. (Not often I get to use the word 'top' 4 times in one sentence)It's impossible to describe without making it sound pretty crap so I won't bother but, to paraphrase Shrek, it's layered like an onion and a sodding big one at that. The trailer gives a tiny flavour but don't watch it if you haven't seen it and you're the kind of person who doesn't read the blurb on books because you spend the first 150 pages waiting for the bit alluded to.

totally addictive

Games at - Scribble

Help the Ink Blots get to the finish flags.

Play this free game now!!

I could play this all night. You have to use the mouse to draw the little guys out of trouble. By the way, this one is brilliant too. I'm stuck on level 13. You only need to use arrow keys- (Rog, I think this could keep you awake at night mate!).

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


Another lazy post. This is my mate Doug's band The Capris. They played at the thing I had when I left my last job. They were first rate. Available for weddings and other corporate functions. Rockin' baby.

This is their website. I believe they employed the "unflattering photography studio" for their portrait. Actually they are as old as they look but that means they are contemporaries of the music they play. Doug's wife also makes a very good chicken stew.


No pens as yet in Euro 2008 but whatever happens I have my fingers crossed that they turn out like one of these two.

Ar5ena1 arrongance:

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Exam Stress

I'm doing a presentation this evening on alternative assessment methods. Basically it's looking at how we use exams and academic essays too much in Higher Education. When I was doing my research I came across this article which says, "The British Dental Association (BDA) is warning that stressed pupils who grind their teeth, bite their fingernails and chew pencils could damage their jaws."

Forget all the pedagogic arguments I say- this is a clincher


I'm having a bad day. We have the external verifier in today. I wonder if he has heard the phrase 'little Hitler'? Grrrr... for this reason and because I have loads of other stuff on I haven't been able to vent my spleen (wherever that is) or any of my other organs through the blog medium. Colleagues have had it both barrells a few times already today. This video cheered me up no end though. I am not alone.