Monthly Archives: June 2016

No turning back

Bit late, but hey. Thank your lucky stars you have anything of me at all given the marking pile that sits in front of me.

What is Monday without a bit of thunder?

Given the disaster of Fat Axl taking over, I think it’s time AC/DC called it a day. I would, however, like to propose a suggestion. All AC/DC tracks should be covered by a variety of musicians once in their life. The same is true of The Who. I mean, My Generation doesn’t really cut it when you’re as old as dirt. The same for punk. 60-year-old punk doesn’t quite wash.

Thunderstruck is a great tune. One of the best. But you can’t beat a bit of flame-throwing bagpiping punkage.

Or a bit of hillybilly redneck thunder with an anvil and a banjo.

It’s the kind of week where we all need a bit of tenderness – I was watching the stormclouds on Thursday and it all felt a bit prophetic. The lesson finished with the news of the shooting of Batley MP Jo Cox. It really does feel that there’s an awful lot of stirred-up emotion globally, when it’s probably a good time to put down words and weapons and give in to a musical interlude.

Much love this Monday for the lovely people who took on a dog called Edith. Though she may have only had three weeks in her home before her health gave way, she was certainly loved. Anyone who takes on an oldie and doesn’t care how long they’ll have gets an A-plus in the world if you ask me.

Much love as well to the local vets. When you spend as much time as I do at the vets, you get to know how fantastic they are. Anyone who takes care of animals is also an A-plus in my book.

Much love to all the people in the world who realise how infinite our possibilities are, despite the restraints of the human condition. To the altruists, the kind, the neighbourly, the generous of spirit, those who give you a hug and put the world to rights. More please!

Have a great rest-of-Monday ❤

A change of scenery

Bit late, but hey, that’s Monday

It’s Monday and it’s a miserable Manchester. James just couldn’t be more fitting. Funny, this track always reminds me of sailing back from St Malo in 1995 with a Walkman and four cassettes. James was on one side and Depeche Mode on the other. I miss making mix tapes.

I’ve Much Love for Manchester, of course. Who wouldn’t? These streets are in my blood. It’s a bit like looking at someone after a facelift, remembering what was once where. It’s not the gritty city that it used to be. I think you need to be old to appreciate stuff. You need to remember those stinky, smoky seats on the Bury-Manchester line, the pawnbrokers and jewellers in the tiny shops as you left Victoria… I was in a hotel near Piccadilly, a building that has risen from the ashes of the Manchester Employment Exchange, which you can see photos of here. It really was a horribly grim building, but I think it very much speaks to Manchester’s resurrection. I love this post about it on the Skyliner.

Other than rainy Manchester, spending hours in Waterstones and passing the hours uncovering the murky Christmas Present of some of my school friends, Much Love also to catching up with my Nana, who looked more marvellous than the Queen, even if she didn’t have a hat on.

I confess it’s strange to feel lots of anniversaries weighing in. I’ve been marking GCSE papers for 20 years. We didn’t spend our time in marker meetings in the Piccadilly Basin in those days. Canal Street was just reaching its sticky glory days and it’s strange to think that the age of consent was only equalised in 2001. We’ve come a long way in those twenty years. Even so, walking back down Minshull Street and Canal Street yesterday, it really did make me realise that there is still a long way to go. Whilst we debate how Canal St should move forward, the Orlando shootings make it perfectly clear that there’s a lot of ground to cover. The flags lowered, the sombre atmosphere…. it’s hard even so to think of freedom and safety when you’re in the relative security of a cosmopolitan city.

Coming home on the tram, I accidentally got onto a tram past Heaton Park, where it was Parklife 2016. The tram was packed, but there was a fantastic atmosphere. It might have been wet, but nobody in Manchester cared. It might have been loud and lairy, there might have been more people on the tram than I’ve ever seen before, but it felt like Manchester. Nobody even cared that the tram was stuck for twenty minutes. It made me really, really miss that magnificent melting pot that is Manchester. Funnily, I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers about how circumstances conspire to make fertile grounds for genius and growth. Manchester definitely had all of that. I do love you Manchester.

As for the rest of the week, it’s a short sharp shock of high-speed catch-up and lessons, then standardising before marking starts. Not quite sure I’m ready for it, but I’ve had my Starbucks fill to top up my caffeine levels in preparation.


Comes in like the flood

A bit of the Eurythmics for you this fine Monday morning.

Annie Lennox has one of those voices that are just too good for us mere mortals.

Last week and the weeks before have been ‘can of worms’ weeks – you know where you think you’re going to do something simple and it turns into a full saga? I hate that. I wish I knew things would be a full saga from the beginning. There’s not a day at the moment where the refuge isn’t taking complaints about the treatment of animals. I went last week to look at a donkey’s feet and ended up uncovering a village full of pregnant stray dogs, kittens everywhere and a good number of other animals whose care is negligible. This week it’s not much different… three complaints on the list for Tuesday.

I passed on one family of kittens last Sunday to a very lovely family who are fostering… and a second lot are going tomorrow to another fosterer. I’m picking up some that have been at another fosterer’s…. it’s feline pass-the-parcel. Luckily, there are not huge numbers at the refuge, and the number of deaths has been very small. Sadly, one of those was Miss Pitty, my pitbull-a-like kitten. She came in at 173g and I just couldn’t keep the weight on her. It’s touch and go for one of the other sisters too. Fingers crossed. Mocha also went back to the refuge – she has an infinitely better chance of finding a home there than she does in foster. Once you get to the chip-and-vaccination stage, they’re more robust and you can also know for sure that their health is good or not – so you know what condition the kittens are in that you are putting them in with.

One of our dogs went on a trial adoption on Friday… and it put me in a frame of mind of school once more. There are sometimes students who I call “Stringer Bell” students, after the Idris Elba character in The Wire… Brighter than you could ever fathom, sharp as a tack, born on the wrong side of the tracks and faced with a world that they navigate in the best way they know how. These are the students you try so hard through school to keep on the straight and narrow, knowing just how much potential they have, fighting desperately against the circumstances that surround them. You hope against hope that you can do your best for them and can’t help but feel disappointed if they drop out of the system and end up in a job that in no way supports their potential…

I felt a bit like this about this adoption this week. You have such great expectations for some, hoping that some amazing home will present itself, equal to the dog’s needs and requirements, and accepting a second-best home because it’s better than 23 and a half hours a day of refuge life, especially when you’ve had a trial adoption already that didn’t work and you’re a dog that’s hard to handle. Nanou said it best – better to try  in a home prepared to take him than wait forever for the right home at the refuge. It’s still hard though. It’s that same pang of disappointment when your Stringer Bell students drop out of school and take a job that is way beneath them. Better that than the alternative. But even so… And it also makes me sad because then I realise that I’ve thought that child deserved something more than others did, that I value smarts rather than any of the other amazing qualities other students have. I feel that way about the dogs – I hate that I don’t feel the same for all of our dogs, that I have thought some dogs have deserved some amazing dog trainer person and I’m happy that others just have a garden and a walk and owners who love them. They ALL deserve the best homes. I know I might have been tempted to turn the offer of a home down, to recommend a “lesser” dog, and that makes me sad, because they aren’t “lesser” dogs in any way, shape or form. I’ve been working with Jack and Hagrid – two other smart males at the refuge. Well, Jack’s biddable. Not quite so sharp. Hagrid is like Tobby in a young body. I think this is why I like him so much. These two have a hard enough job finding a home – they are anti-social and unruly. Hopefully I will be glad and supportive when they find a home, instead of being a bit disappointed that they won’t be the sole focus of their new owner’s life (as if my own dogs get my attention 16 hours a day!)

This is the amazing Hagrid. I call him Tobby about twenty times during our walks. He mouths my arms in the same way Tobby does, double taps on the doors in the same way, looks round to check on me in the same way … has that wily Malinois about him. He is a joy to be with. But am I wrong to want a home where he will be the only dog, where he will be walked twice a day, where someone will continue his education, maybe try a little agility with him, a little tracking? Why do I expect this super-duper unrealistic home for Hagrid, for Jack, for Helboy?

And when I think about it, it’s not just the Stringer Bell kids, or the Stringer Bell dogs. It’s all of them. All I want for any of the students in my care is that they find a path in life that brings them happiness. And all I want for the dogs are homes that meet the needs of each and every one of them… gentle, loving homes with kind hands, huge comfy sofas and big hearts for our scaredy hounds… homes with kids prepared to throw ball after ball for our labradors… homes for our puppies where they are allowed to be puppies and learn about the world rather than expected to just “know” how to behave?

Anyway, here’s to the homes prepared to take on our super-smart Stringer Bell dogs. God knows we need as many of those homes as we can find. The more I see of the world beyond the refuge, how so many animals live in real life, I know my expectations are ridiculously high. I’m not changing that for anything though. We see so often adoptants who take on dogs with enormous challenges and they help those dogs rise to the challenge – so often I find the homes offered by our adoptants far surpass my expectations, when I think of dogs who’ve gone on to be adopted from the refuge and find enormous happiness after a life of misery and misfortune.

Much love to all those homes. Much love to all the people who help care for the dogs and cats in the interim. Much love to those people who help our animals find homes, who help raise standards of animal care, who battle endlessly for animal welfare. Much love to all my colleagues on the conseil at the refuge who find energy from nowhere, who are tireless. I should add here that a guy came to the refuge on Saturday to explain how we need a Facebook page rather than a group. He’s both right and he’s wrong. But when I told him that it’s a full time job for Corinne and Clara, who deal with enquiries, complaints and posts, who keep up-to-date photos for each and every one of the three hundred animals in our care, who post post-adoption stories and share our animals’ profiles far and wide, who know which animals to share, what details to share, where they came from, where they end up… I think he realised that what he sees is just the tip of the iceberg, and the real work lurks deep beneath the surface. Much Monday Love to the staff too. I have no idea how they keep going so often. The average Joe has no idea how much shit (literally and metaphorically!) they have to deal with on a daily basis, and the average Joe would crumble before they’d completed the first hour.

Not Much Love to the GCSE exam board who have given me an enormous GCSE marker team. That’s my June and July gone!

Right… last minute revision classes to prepare and kittens to deliver. Best get a move on!