Monthly Archives: May 2010

Putain de merde!

It’s a gorgeous day, and I don’t even have my camera or my phone to document it, and I feel like someone’s removed something non-essential but fairly useful from me, like my little toes or my ears. It’s shit. I want to take loads of pictures and get giddy with the camera, but I can’t and I’m pissed off. What’s worst is that I’ve not heard anything about it and I really, really need to get my phone sorted before I go to France. The camera, too. I’m mega-pissed off!

Really, I wish I could smack that smarmy little lad in the face, with his quasimodo chin and his strange appearance. I WILL find him, no doubt about that. I don’t hold out much hope from the school who think ipods are an important learning accessory (gimmick!) and I can see that head teacher lasting about as long as bout of diarrhoea – he will either do something grossly stupid, like give 800 kids ipods, or he’ll be the new Asian Wunderkind and be poached by the Government. Seeing as we have a Con-Lib government, though, I can’t see it. On the one hand, being deprived of methods of communication and recording are irritating, believe me, there is some good news in the papers today…

My new favourite Government abolished several quangos yesterday, and, joy of joys, the QCDA was one of them, according to the Sunday Times. The QCDA, previously QCA – the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority – are the people who accused me of breaching security in a test they release into the public 4 weeks before its due to be taken – a test so profoundly difficult that I only ever scored 29/32, a group who employed an ex Met Police officer to head up security, and allowed him to ride roughshod through schools who quake because they cannot say anything. They acted with total impunity, as if they were above the law, and in a way, they were. They were policed by nobody. They answered to nobody. They could force schools to discipline members of staff with no evidence, whilst wasting £17,000,000 on tests that were largely useless at KS3. In the 15 years I taught, under a Labour government for 13 of them, the curriculum became more and more prescriptive, less and less engaging and less and less useful. Yes, teachers in English, Maths and Science had to teach set aspects (although Mr ex-Met seemed to be of the opinion we should not ‘teach to the tests’ despite all the pressure from league tables, Ofsted and schools to do so) and the other subjects carried on regardless. We have a set curriculum and it is monitored. Therefore the tests were redundant as a way of ensuring we had key-stage-stepping-stones. Still, they harped on about their accuracy. I marked Stratford-on-Avon Grammar School for  Boys’ papers in 2003 (?!)  – and what can you do to me now, Edexcel or QCA or DfSCF or NCA, for revealing this information online??! And despite the obvious talent of the boys, they still didn’t get 18/18 on the Shakespeare paper. How can this be? A fee-paying school in the town which is virtually ‘Shakespeare-World’ and even they can’t get 18/18??! I was an A grade marker. I marked according to the mark scheme. I was agreed with by the DMPL (deputy marking programme leader) and yet they still couldn’t reach the highest marks. And if they can’t, who can??

So… what felt horrendous at the time, walking out of a job because of the absolute lawlessness of QCA (who destroyed the evidence, by the way, that would exonerate me! It’s a bit hard NOT to notice if 280 kids have ‘cheated’, so let’s get rid of the papers so they can never be looked at and agreed they are fair assessments of individuality!) Answer me this, too: if 280 kids get all the answers right in a Singapore school on a maths paper, they’re seen as talented at maths. If 10 kids get most answers right in Wigan on an English paper, it must be ‘cheating’ – if indeed that’s what happened – who knows??! … yes, what felt horrendous at the time has now left me vindicated. They are a waste of taxpayers’ money and good on the Government for getting rid. Hurrah! In fact, now, I was questioned by two organisations who thought they were almighty, and now they don’t exist. “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair. Nothing besides remains.”

Becta will also go. Big pointless load of nonsense. I hope the Specialist Schools Trust also goes, after the colossal expense of that shite event I had the misfortune to present at. Aimless, objectiveless, pointless. 300 people wasted a day. At the time, I thought it was me – that I was out of touch. But looking at it, it was worse organised than a church fete organised by village idiots and hiring the Emirates Stadium as a big flashy venue was an utter waste of money. I know people will lose jobs, and that’s sad, but these are people who think its fine to take teachers out of school to tell them they’re shit and then subject them to three days of endless repetitive drivel. It was embarrassing.

So… here’s to Cam-Clegg and all the fat-trimming they may need to do!

L’agression des enfants

Yesterday, an horrendous event took place – no humour from me today, maybe – I was mugged on my own doorstep by a group of 100 teenagers. They were trying to wind up a Somali girl to fight an Asian girl on our street – there were about 50 to a 100 kids, all about 13 or 14, desperately trying to smash a girl’s face in. Not only was it very different from the aggression we faced as kids, where it’d be one or two girls having a bit of a yell at each other, or one or two lads – I never saw the Billy Casper/Kes kind of fight scenes, but this was horrific. As I stood, trying to call the police, calm things down and move them on, my phone and my camera were stolen from my hands by two Asian youths who sprinted off.

I was shoved about a bit and luckily the police found the boy who’d done that, but he could shed no light on who had done this to me. What sickens me is that I thought it could have ended so much worse, with me dead, not just with a couple of shoves and a stolen camera and phone. It also makes the kids of Essa Academy seem like lawless hooligans – a far cry from how they used to be. You give kids ipods to revise with, and they become savages. Re-branding has done nothing. It horrifies me that it could have ended more like this:

Cody Turner, a teenager stabbed in Bolton for confronting someone… how quickly it escalates

I can’t begin to describe how terrifying it is to be in the middle of a baying mob of kids who will stand around and watch whilst someone in the community is robbed in front of them, who will laugh, who will barge and jostle and steal. I can’t say how utterly terrifying it is to know how vulnerable you are and that they could do anything. The police were brilliant, but because it is a Level 1 robbery, involving minors, even if they were to be caught and sentenced, they would get 36 hours community service to do over 3 months.

And I know that this wouldn’t happen in rural France. Not yet. It’s a little piece of the world where gangs of children don’t mug local residents, where the world is safe still.

Ideas for the garden #1

I love this garden from Ma Maison & Mon Jardin

Mon Jardin & Ma Maison

I think this would look lovely with a swathe of meadow flowers/poppies etc and would be easy to do. I could plant bulbs into it for spring – a mix of crocus, snowdrops and so on. As with my lawn, I won’t have children on bicycles, though. Only Steve skipping.

A plutard, La France!

Well, it’s just over a week until our van will arrive to transport all our stuff to France. I’m desperately trying to raise the cash to pay for fuel – ebay-mental at the moment. I think there’s a kind of code in some of the questions, and you can see the tyre-kickers straight away. One person asked me how much to post a dress to Portugal and another to Greece. Well, I’m not having it. I could spend all day on the internet trying to sort out how much stuff costs for people who won’t even bid. And they fuss over the quality of the dresses I’ve put up.

The first is a beautiful broderie anglaise dress I’ve never worn. I bought it for Sophie and Andrew’s wedding and I didn’t wear it, which is just as well because another girl wore it – I think Dale had a crush on her and she’d been invited for that reason – and she was a size 6, so I would not only have committed the terrible faux-pas of wearing the same dress as someone else, but also of having been shamed by the thin-ness of the girl. As I recall, I spent most of the day in tears either of laughter or sadness, and it would just have added to my woes.

Karen Millen Broderie Anglaise Dress

Plus, as I recall, it was a bit see-through and I  could see the girl’s knickers. I think my ink would have been visible, so it was probably a good thing! Funny how clothes you didn’t even wear can have a memory attached to them. Pete, the bother-in-law, had me in stitches throughout the ceremony – S&A had decided to start with “All you need is love!” by the Beatles as the opening ‘hymn’, à la “Four Weddings and a Funeral” or something, but it didn’t wash. Firstly, a lot of the wedding was oldies, and that’s all about singing hymns for them. Secondly, it was a bad idea. It got worse when, because no-one was singing, Andrew tried to rally us with ‘Come on!’ and I nearly died of the cringeworthiness of it. Sorry, Andrew, but there it is.

It got worse because of my dead-pan bother-in-law looking very moved by the whole ceremony and asking me for a tissue. It was like those times in class when you don’t want to laugh, but you’re absolutely bursting to… and I nearly choked to death, especially when my Nana gave him a tissue and he dabbed his eyes with it. He’d make a great actor. S&A had also gone for a profiterole chocolate fountain instead of a wedding cake, which, again, very nouveau, very creative, but so out of keeping with what the majority of people want in a wedding. 80% of the people there expected cake. It’s okay to have a chocolate fountain if your target audience is a mid-20s posse of poncey Londoners, but this wasn’t. It was the world and his grandmother.

To make matters worse, there was nowhere to sit, so everyone ended up in separate rooms at separate ‘perches’ and I never really saw any of the people I wanted to see.

Plus, I do believe heinous James and the Giant Arse officiated. James is an odd-shaped man/woman. Steve speculates he is a bit of both. Either way, he’s weird and he’s a blagger of the highest order. When I was going to Brazil back in 2003, we had the following conversation.

me: I’m off to Brazil.

JatGA: You shouldn’t go there. You’re just supporting dictatorships and fascist regimes.

me: really? *sarcastic*

JatGA: Yes… the South American countries are notorious for dictatorships.

me: Really? *uber-sarcastic* like where?

JatGA: Well, Costa Rica….

me: REALLY? *exploding with sarcasm* Costa Rica hasn’t had an army since 1949 – it’s a bit like the Vatican City. How can they have a dictatorship when they don’t have an army? It’s a bit difficult to stage a coup without a Junta, isn’t it?

JatGA: Well, they do.

me: OK… so where else?

JatGA: Nicaragua.

me: Really??! I thought that ended in the early 80s??!

JatGA: No… it’ still going on.

me: Well, that will be news for the UN… better tell them immediately! So apart from Costa Rica without an army, and Nicaragua, a peaceful democracy, where else?

JatGA: well, Brazil.

me: Really??! Who’s the dictator in Brazil?

JatGA: Pinochet.

At this point I nearly choked on my cocktail.

me: Pinochet??! Are you having a laugh??!

JatGA: no… he’s the president of Brazil….

me: not the foxy Lula, the charismatic favela-boy done good who couldn’t read til he was 10 but worked his way up through the unions to secure the backing of the Brazilian party and usher in a new era of South American politics? So… you’re saying Pinochet is the current head of Brazil?

JatGA: yes.

me: Not Chile?

JatGA: no, definitely Brazil.

me: the Pinochet who was a ‘friend’ of Thatcher, who gave way to democracy in 1990?

JatGA: no.

me: James, I think I’ve got something for you…. there’s this guy – a freedom fighter called… something or other… he’s been locked up for 30 years in South Africa for political dissent…. God, I can’t remember his name… something like ‘Mandela’ – yes, that’s it… Nelson Mandela… maybe you should get in touch with Amnesty International and support his cause.

At this point, James looked at me with disgust. I hate arguing with know-it-all ‘political’ 20-somethings. They’re so retarded. Literally, in this case, about 20 years en retard. Then some middle-class gap-year child-of-yuppies said she was going ‘travelling’ – and when I asked where, she said Thailand. Ooooh, Brighton-in-the-East for kids who want to ‘do’ some dope and mushrooms and maybe grow some dreadlocks, smell of patchouli and get their nose pierced, maybe a little tattoo somewhere. How ridiculous. I despise ‘Thai’ travellers. They’re either smug-know-it-all gap-year brats being financed by Daddy or they’re serial paedophiles. I dread the day they pass over the border into Vietnam or Cambodia or so on, though they aren’t western enough and you can’t get by so easily without speaking a bit of the lingo. I despise Marrakech for the same reason – it’s where true travellers went back in the day, but it’s so westernised you might as well be in Peckham. Give me Fez any day!

It reminds me of those long roads to nowhere through the Ziz gorge in Morocco where you couldn’t see an Englisher for miles, and sitting on the bus with interesting people, watching this entirely alien environment unfurl, thinking ‘wow!’ and knowing it would be free of so-called gap-year kids.

Anyway, despite the beauty of the dress, it has to go. I hope it has a good home and that it doesn’t reveal the knickers of the person wearing it. I hope they don’t run across someone else wearing it at a wedding. I hope it gets worn. I can’t believe I had it sitting in my wardrobe so long!

Stuff for the house… beautiful treasures!

Just bid for and got this coffee-set from ebay. It’s just fabulous

My new coffee set

It doesn’t really go with my new wallpaper, but it’s still gorgeous and I’m elated. I broke one of my Wedgwood Viva cups yesterday, which I’ll have to replace, but this is beautiful. It’s 1930s Japanese Art Deco style, so everything in my taste, with a lustre glaze. The birds and the blossom are lovely! I can’t wait to get it!

I’m also loving this store. All the fabrics and porcelain is also right up my street.

Dining room ideas #2

I’ve decided on Mint Crisp to go with the wallpaper. Steve says he can see himself skipping round the dining room with that kind of wallpaper. He’s a sarcastic beggar. What even is the point of having conversations with men about wall colouring??!

B&Q paint colours

I’ve already bought some fabric bright pink orchids for the vase. It matches beautifully!

My design sheet

With mint-green or pink taffeta, kingfisher blue and gold ribbons sewn on to it, I think the curtains will look fabulous!

Not decided what to do with the fireplace yet… paint, strip or what?? I’m thinking a matt eggshell in some colour or other, but I haven’t decided yet. Possibly my two Hokusai prints will go above the fire – they’re beautiful! And then my lovely, lovely prints that I bought in the Imperial Gardens… they’ll go on the wall along from the window. Steve’s mum’s kindly donated her chairs and dining table, as well as a beautiful dresser. I may re-cover the chairs (Well, may ask my mum to!!!) in co-ordinating fabrics. But then, the dining room is complete!

We went to hire the van today. Yikes expensive. I was crying when my poor visa card came out!

Dining room ideas

I’ve got the total hots for Osborne and Little’s Tara ‘Grove Garden’ collection. All of them.

I’m loving the mint and orange one, the most.

Osborne and Little 'Tara' Grove Garden

It’s beautiful. Now, can I justify it to Steve? I think I can get away with 2 rolls, if I only do half the wall!

LJ’s political rantings continued…

Just a thought… if the country can’t decide who to vote for, isn’t it clear that the major parties aren’t saying what we want them to say…. therefore they don’t reflect the views of the public they are supposed to represent?

I would like to point out I made a joke on my facebook status about the ‘hung’ parliament already, but I can’t have been the only one with this spontaneous idea…

Peter Brookes - The Times

I think there needs to be some serious consultation with the public. After all, our MPs are supposed to represent our views. Labour represent some of my views, but there’s a lot I’m opposed to: I don’t believe they’re tough enough on poor standards of education and they don’t do enough to make it difficult for teachers to slip through the net. SATs aren’t the answer to that. I don’t believe in the SATs and I don’t like how education is run by people who have little idea of schools: having been in one isn’t satisfactory! That’s like having a cabbage run a farm, just because it grew up on one. I know of terrible teachers who drift from class to class, no discipline, not really doing anything that stimulates the kids, only ever teaching in a way they were taught and not thinking about what would interest the kids.

And all the tests do is make you teach to them. You’d be a fool not to. If you are hung, drawn and quartered by Ofsted on your results, then you better damn well make sure you put the ball through the hoop they’ve set. Football is judged on goals scored, not on how well they played, or ‘background info’ like how many footballers in the team are from deprived backgrounds, how many were present on the day. Alex Ferguson never says ‘well, we played fantastic, amazing football, but we didn’t score any goals,’ It’s not enough to satisfy the fans/owners/TV companies etc… and schools are in the same position: judged by goals scored, not football played.

Alex Ferguson would be classed a moron if he didn’t train Rooney et al on goal scoring skills. Jonny Wilkinson has a kicking coach. Yes you do all the other things to get you to your goal, but your goal is the end point, the be-all and end-all. So what’s the point of being able to execute a beautiful, balletic header if it isn’t by way of helping you score goals?

And then teachers are questioned about why they are teaching kids to score goals, rather than do ballet on the pitch. Grrrrrrr. If you don’t want us to teach to the goal, make other features of the game important, and then we’ll teach to them. We’d be morons if we didn’t.

And you wonder why we’re all experts at teaching to the test… well, we are symptoms, not the cause. We are a reaction, only. You can’t look at the goal scorers in football and say too much importance is placed on the goal. You need to go back to ‘why’ they need to score goals. And that is because it’s how we’re measured.

Don’t measure us at all, and it’ll no doubt end up like a Sunday afternoon kick-about in the park: you’ll have some competitive so-and-sos who’ll want to show off; you’ll have those who are naturally good; you’ll have those who try but are crap, and you’ll have those who hide behind a tree; you’ll have those who’ll want to play rugby instead, and those who bastardise the rules. That’s a bit of a crap system, and it certainly won’t make us a nation of footballers. But don’t be blaming us when you introduce our goalposts and you don’t like us trying to shoot for them.

I believe in equality. I believe in fairness. I believe in living where you want. I believe in education. I believe in policing. I believe every child is born with infinite potential to excel in areas they enjoy. I believe in freedom. I believe in freedom of speech. I’m Amnesty International and I’m Compassion in Farming. I believe in punishments fitting the crime, but I also believe after your punishment, you should be free. I believe in second chances. I don’t believe in third chances. I believe in talk and communication. I don’t believe in paperwork and endless accountability and meetings. I think the boss of every public sector should spend time doing what the people do: if you’re a head-teacher, teach. If you’re a nurse, practise medicine. I believe this country has too many Indian Chiefs and not enough Indians.

I’m bits of Labour: I believe in the 40% tax bracket, and a 50% and a 60%, even. If you’re rich, count your blessings and share the wealth. You can discount donations anyway…. so the rich can choose where it goes. I believe in equality in all things and I believe in fair immigration and real asylum. The trouble is, they’re too Harriet-Harperson-bound to be able to ask the right questions, and the officials are too out of touch with the cheats. There’s no personal responsibility or ability to make a judgement call. I believe we’re too soft on illegal immigrants and illegal asylum seekers: they thin the pot so that there’s not enough to go around. I believe in supporting Afghanistan: we used it for too long as a weapon between our historical enemies and it IS our mess to clean up. I believe in saying ‘no – that’s not we believe’ to countries with oppressive regimes and refusing to deal with them. I believe, too, in accepting we fought our way out of feudal society through work and industry, 16 hour days, slums, poverty, slavery, war and disease… and it’s unfair to judge others by our current standards. But it’s difficult to reconcile these beliefs with the Labour party, who should be the ones to endorse them and represent my view. They’re a colossal beast that has become unmanageable and unwieldy, a bureaucratic Hydra. We forget that there is much less homelessness, far fewer beggars, that old people don’t die of the cold because the papers are filled with council and PCT fat-cats who are soaking up salaries and doing nothing in return.

The worst part is that I read the Labour Party manifesto and I believe in it, but when it comes out of the mouths of Miliband and Harman and Balls, I don’t believe them. They have their own agendas and ambitions: no politician should seem ambitious, only self-effacing. And yet these Labour party idiots who symbolise everything I despise about Labour are three of the five mentioned as potential replacements for Brown, our unelected leader. Sickening. The ethos they breathe doesn’t sit right with the people I believe them to be. I believe in that ethos, but not them as people. And therein lies a problem. I’d vote Labour if I weren’t voting for Balls and Harman and Miliband and Brown. I’d vote Old Labour, for Kinnock and Smith, Beckett and even Prescott, but these Nu-Lab breeds speak with forked tongue.