- Champagne costs half as much.
- In the Socialist party split, the left (ok, -ish) won. Just. But still.
- The trains are twice as fast and half as expensive. And the price of a ticket is still calculated in relation to the cost of the journey (to an extent).
- Edith Piaf.
- The cost of cigarettes; although I should maybe think about moving to Belgium. Or Andorra.
- Skiing is not a sport reserved for the privileged few, but the domain of the fairly-privileged many.
- Everyone has a healthy disdain for all institutionalised power. You don't hear people here saying 'Well, they may have shot that Brazilian guy, but they're only trying to make the streets safe for decent people.' Distrust of institutions is good for you!
- Asterix and Obelix.
- Freshly baked bread.
- You can still have jokes with the people in the ticket booths at the station. They're in no hurry.
- Christmas markets with vin chaud at 80 centimes a gobelet.
- Gad Elmaleh.
- My council rates are one seventh of what they were in bloody Newham.
- Fresh vegetables are less likely to have been flown in from Paraguay.
- Thierry Henry.
- Students still live on a budget here, and therefore have some inkling of being careful with money... a Mac laptop is not an essential of life! Bière and clopes are!
- Because of this, no one wears heels and make-up to school!
- Verlan- c'est ouf!
- Proud to be part of Europe. And in French politics when people are proud, you can be damn sure they're getting something out of it as well
- Proper mountains, proper beaches, proper countryside, with appropriate climates, all within a couple of hours of each other.
- Recycling bins on the Paris metro.
- The French film industry is still making a token effort to make films that have not been made before.
- People are POLITE! (see post below)
- People in this country had actually heard of the last Nobel prize for literature winner. And even if they hadn't, they wouldn't have written a load of facetious articles in the weekend colour supplements boasting about it.
- There is only one weekend colour supplement per newspaper.
- Stupid little dogs.
- Stupid little dogs' hairdressers. I could look through the window for hours.
- Women (often the owners of said dogs) who don't let old age stop them dying their hair magenta.
- Traffic light systems that allow cyclists to proceed legally while cars in the same lane have to wait.
- Petanque- kicks bowls' arse.
- Marianne- kicks Britannia's arse.
- La Marseillaise- kicks God Save the Whatever's arse.
- Bugger the Etats-Unis!
- The 35 hour week.
- Free gynocologists for students.
- World news consists of more than American politics, African disasters and humourous stories about Arizonans getting their penises stuck in things.
- Condom machines outside every pharmacy.
- No one raises an eyebrow if you race up to said condom machines at 3am dressed in winter coat and slippers and ask SDFs and/or gendarmes for change for a 5€ note.
- Johnny Depp lives in Provence
- Almost free education
- Table mats and napkins as standard in every household, even student flats.
- Even French Cosmo is rather less heartbreakingly offensive than its English and American counterparts.
- Dom-Toms mean that in any government job you might be suddenly 'forced' to transfer to a tropical island with only a 40% salary increment.
- Libé instead of the bloody Guardian.
- Trams instead of bendy bloody buses.
- Nightclubs with chairs and tables, that stay open till 5, not 3.
- Bidets are fun.
- Decent coffee.
- Coffee as accepted part of every meal.
- No VAT on tampons.
- Wine in pichets- catering to people who like eating nice food in restaurants but couldn't give a crap what they're drinking, as long as it costs 7€ 50 for a litre.
- Le Tecktonik
- Louis and I are here.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Right, where is my folder? Oh man, I didn’t know I’d have to stand up. According to Scotland a new history - oh it was this book. What do you know about the history before this, the Jacobites and all that stuff? Where’s my list? Oh I guess we’ve got the history that dude gave us, the '45 that’s important, all about Bonnie Prince Charlie. In Waverley, that’s all about that. You have all of this in this essay. Do you want to put that onto my bibliography. We’re going to have lots of books, I don’t think we have to hand in our bibliography, not for weeks. Come on man. Stop it, I wish everyone would leave my computer alone. Come on. Fuck. Oh I’ve got Microsoft Office speech recognition. OK let’s do this again. Ah. It actually says the specific things that Walter Scott made to change Scottish identity. And it’s called the World Burns Club, the Robert Burns World Foundation. Ok I think I’ve got names for all your slides, shall we start with that. So there’s a title page, right.With thanks to my secretary, Sarah
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The matter is so trivial that we are letting it take its normal course.Kind of sums up the Post Office's answer to any problem- pay debates, lost parcels etc.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
In the 1976 film Maîtresse (English title: Mistress), a character looking at a Parisian map laments, "There are too many avenues named after Jean Jaurès."The next day we fell in love with Toulouse, with its grandiose red brick buildings, threaded through by the gorgeous Canal du Midi and the wide Garonne. I reckon it's the perfect size for a city, the fourth largest in France, with around a million people, and the one of those sweet underground systems with only three lines. And it was awfully Occitan, with the street names written in two languages and people talking with a twang in their accents. They do love their red brick!- even the churches- even the twelfth-century churches- everything. It looks lovely in the bright southern sun. I went to a wicked modern art gallery in an old -red brick- abattoir and saw some great drawings by Antonio Saura. Especially loved the illustrations for Don Quixote. (I have been thinking, and if I actually HAD to pick the greatest novel ever, it might well be Don Quixote. Picking Ulysses, which is what everyone always seems to do, is like picking Jaffa Cakes as the greatest biscuit ever.) In the evening we went to the oldest wine bar in Toulouse and sipped posh-arse wine out of playmobil-sized glasses. Then something amazing happened- we found a restaurant that sold Real Curry! Like you get in Britain! Awesome. I practically kissed the waitress when she brought the bill over. Do you know how long its been? Of course we did a little shopping, and saw the fruit markets and the brocantes on the Sunday morning, and the botanical gardens at great speed, and as we raced to the station on our last day we remembered a little bottle of wine for the guy who fed our cat. I had been pissed enough on the Saturday night that I happily slept all the way back to St Pierre des Couilles, the annoying suburban station that serves Tours. (Our main station is not big enough to take all the trains it needs, so they run a shuttle made out of recycled cans back and forth.) There is a moral to this story, children, and it is one of my mottos, so listen carefully:
Fed up? Raining? Don't like your life? Run away!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Time Magazine Top Hundred, 1923- 2005... this list is interesting because it starts around the point where I think of 20th century literature as really getting 20th century-like. Virginia Woolf's 'Night and Day', for example... already experimental but doesn't feel modern, unlike 'To The Lighthouse', a book I hate but which is indubitably modern as well as modernist. Some of these books are crap, and they've made the elementary mistake of putting children's literature on the list, which is never going to satisfy anyone. Agreed, 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' is a better book than half of these, but a.) there are different criteria for reading/judging a child's book, and b.) maybe if you haven't read C S Lewis by the time you're reading Time Magazine it's getting a bit too late?
I have a whole collection of these lists now, some better than others. The Waterstone's one includes cookbooks, which is incredibly annoying. This one is good because it's in alphabetical order- when they try to rank them they always put the most daunting at the top, usually either Joyce's 'Ulysses' or Danté's 'Divine Comedy', for no real reason except its weighty reputation.
I don't try to read everything on the lists but they always bring books to my attention which someone, somewhere thinks of as the best book ever- and I haven't read it; keeps me busy, and gives me even more stuff to buywithoneclick.
1 - Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
2 - A Death in the Family, James Agee
3 - Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
4 - Money, Martin Amis
5 - The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
6 - Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin
7 - The Sot-Weed Factor,John Barth.
8 - The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
9 - Herzog, Saul Bellow
10 - The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles
11 - The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen
12 - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Judy Blume
13 - A Clockwork
14 - Naked Lunch, William Burroughs
15 - Possession, A
16 - Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
17 - The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
18 - Falconer, John Cheever
19 - White Noise, Don DeLillo
20 - Ubik, Philip K Dick
21 - Deliverance, James Dickey
22 - Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion
23 - Ragtime, E L Doctorow
24 - An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
25 - Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
26 - Light in August, William Faulkner
27 - The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
28 - The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
29 - The Sportswriter, Richard Ford
30 - A Passage to
31 - The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
32 - The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
33 - The Recognitions, William Gaddis
34 - Neuromancer, William Gibson
35 - Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
36 - I, Claudius, Robert Graves
37 - Loving, Henry Green
38 - The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene
39 - The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
40 - Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
41 - Catch-22, Joseph Heller
42 - The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
43 - Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
44 - The
45 - Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
46 - On The Road, Jack Kerouac
47 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
48 - The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski
49 - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John le Carre
50 - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
51 - The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
52 - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis
53 - Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
54 - The Assistant, Bernard Malamud
55 - Blood
56 - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
57 - Atonement, Ian McEwan
58 - Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
59 - Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
60 - Watchmen, Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
61 - Beloved, Toni Morrison
62 - Under the Net, Iris Murdoch
63 - Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
64 - Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
65 - A House for Mr Biswas, V S Naipaul
66 - At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O'Brien
67 - Appointment in
68 - Animal Farm, George Orwell
69 - 1984, George Orwell
70 - The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
71 - A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell
72 - Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
73 - The Crying of
74 - Wide
75 - Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
76 - Call It Sleep, Henry Roth
77 - American Pastoral, Philip Roth
78 - Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth
79 - Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
80 - The Catcher In The
81 - White Teeth, Zadie Smith
82 - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
83 - The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead
84 - The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
85 - Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
86 - Dog Soldiers, Robert Stone
87 - The Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron
88 - The Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien
89 - Rabbit, Run, John Updike
90 - Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
91 - Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
92 - All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
93 - Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
94 - A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh
95 - The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West
96 - The
97 - Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf.
98 - To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
99 - Native Son, Richard Wright
(the blue authors mean I've read other books by them)
Thursday, October 16, 2008
“I’m sorry, but I’m PMS-ing at the moment,”and then a woman I KNOW asked ME if I was feeling “hormonal” , a dirty euphemism for a filthy, filthy word. (Luckily for her I set her straight.) If anyone ever asks you if you’re PMS-ing, feel free to punch him or her in the face, but please make sure you explain afterwards that you chose to do it of your own free will and were not forced to by either little green men or hormones. (Or me.) Credit Crunch namedropping As in October’s Cosmopolitan
In the current economic climate, it’s more important than ever to know you’re spending money on beauty products that work!Sorry, been reading too much Cosmo recently. Joe The Plumber He’s the reason people outside America don’t like Americans. He’s the kind of voter that makes you stop believing in democracy. He’s the guy who needs to have a tax-break- not so he can feed his family or take a holiday to the Grand Canyon despite the Whatever Crunch, but so that he can buy his business (why?) hire a bunch of Mexicans [who probably haven’t or can’t register to vote anyway so don’t count] to do the crappy work for minimum (why?) and ‘plough the profits back into the economy’ (can’t understand this either, since the economy is bankrupt and the argument is for a tax-break). And on top of all this, he’s a total smokescreen invented purely to mask a crooked decision to protect the super-rich. And he loves this role- that’s the American Dream, buddy! Sorry, been watching too many Presidential Candidate Debates recently too. Should have stuck to Cosmo. People who feel sorry for me Fuck off. Being of an age where I have spots and wrinkles at the same time OK, if you must feel sorry for me, make it for that. My keyboard The G and H keys stopped working. I asked a computer-savvy friend to sort it out, and he said ‘Shouldn’t be a problem, unless you spilled beer on your laptop,’ so I had to buy a new keyboard, and it’s French, and highly annoying. The Student Loans Company or Student Finance Direct, or Give Us Your Spare Kidney, or whatever they’re called these days. I have a lot of reasons, but at the moment the main one is that all the people on their ‘help’-line are Scottish. So they don’t pay fees. So they’re sitting up there in their loch-side call centre, looking out onto the glen, thinking ‘Och aye, Frances Grahl is tekkin oot a £3000 fees loan! Puir wee Sassenach!’ or something of that ilk, and then smirking. (Excuse racial stereotyping but I am now taking an extra credit course on Scottish Identity, so, you’re wrong.) Liking at the moment- Autumn leaves, carrottes rapées, telling people that Tours belonged to the English in the 12th century
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
I’m in France. The sun is not shining today, and I have a terrible hangover so I just ate two double chocolate magnums and drank two double espressos. I start work tonight at five and I’m hoping to pull my head together by then for our jolly salsa evening. Right now I’m sitting in the bar in my sunglasses with Lucille and Seb, my fave colleagues, watching the Tour de France with one eye and the hot new chef with the other. Luckily I woke up cross-eyed this morning. Adrien, the animateur (events organiser), has just come in from the petanque court as it’s started properly pouring. His customers appear not to mind having a little beer instead of carrying on with their boules tournament. The animateurs actually seem to spend most of their time in the bar here. We’re not allowed to give anyone free drinks this year, but what do I care? They can’t fire me- I got a proper French contract.
The season has properly started and there’s a million people in the bar every night, with their disgusting children waddling up to the counter at 11.45pm with twenty-euro notes clutched in their fat fists demanding ice-creams and pringles and a never-ending stream of change for the bubble-gum machines and the fussball table. Fucking parent work 48 fucking weeks in the year and then when they’re absolutely forced to spend two fucking weeks with their revolting offspring they find that giving them more money than I earn in a week every day is an adequate replacement for, say, games, conversation, spending time together, remaining sober enough to even recognise the brat... Anyway. Yesterday we had a bucking bronco machine thingy in the bar and I had a go. I was amazing. I have thighs like steel. Plus I had the best cowboy hat. Having seen me thrown off a mechanical bull in a mini-skirt, the customers gave me many many tips yesterday.
The season has properly started and yesterday after we finished work at 2am we went down to Cocos, the shabby and tacky night club that we grace with our presence pretty much every night. It was ‘saisonier’ night so we got free drinks, and danced to crap house in the company of every seasonal worker, English and French, in the St Jean de Monts region. I was still wearing my cowboy hat (red with sequins) as I am a classy lady. And Steve (my boss) drove me there in his ‘decapotable’ (convertible) at about 130km/p/h with music blasting and me waving my hat in the air. See, classy.
The season has properly started and I’m now sharing my luxury apartment in the pool-house with Julien, who is wonderful and came with a telly, a microwave and Pro Evo on the play station. Suddenly my room has transformed from an oasis of calm to the place everybody comes to party. We just got through 32 bottles of rose wine in a week. Plus several of whisky and vodka. The campsite manager passed by as I was putting the recycling in the bins and I gave her a feeble smile. She has instructed the campsite security guards to write down what time we come home every night. Me and Julien usually give them the slip though, we know their ways only well.
A parcel arrived from Joey yesterday to general excitement. All the girls (and Julien) now have aqua nails. Best of all, Marlene and Lucille are using proper Vaseline as lipsalve. Just after I turned up, Marlene asked me if it what true that English girls put Vaseline on their lips. When I said yes, to try it out she reached into her handbag, pulled out a tube of strawberry-flavoured Durex lube, and smeared it onto her own and Lucille’s mouth. ‘Bit sticky’ was the consensus. So I promised to get them some from England- Vaseline in French just means generic lubricant. The girls send gros bisoux to Joey and so do I.
Well, I have to have my shower and paint my face into the mask of a dedicated professional. I broke my umbrella and the five metre walk to the toilets is looking seriously unattractive. I love you all and miss you all. Any one who wants to visit is extremely welcome. Especially my darling Joshua Robert, who I miss passionately already. Many kisses. Keep in touch. F xxxx
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Just before I left... at three in the afternoon, drinking plastic jugs of Pimm’s in Wetherspoons, someone reminded me of my main ambition in life aged sixteen.
‘Francie, you always wanted to be the Great Gatsby when you grew up. Now you’ve come as close as you can without getting caught up in a mess of car-crashes and hopeless, obsessive love,’ (or words to that effect) ‘Don’t you think it’s time you got yourself a new role model?’
I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. There’s no shortage of heroes.
- Sydney Carton
- Magnus Pym
- Becky Sharpe
- Inspector Grant from Josephine Tey
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles
- Desdemona (but not Ophelia)
- Winnie the Pooh
- Don Quixote
- Toad of Toad Hall (actually Toad of Toad Hall is The Great Gatsby, just presented differently)
- Jo from Little Women
- Jo from The
- Ginny from the Marlowe stories
- Elsie from What Katy Did
- The protagonist in A Farewell to Arms
- Miss Jean Brodie
- Emma Bovary (but not Anna Karenina)
- Jude the Obscure
- Emma from Emma
- The protagonist in The Bell Jar (we need to reclaim this excellent book from the self-hating, self-harming, American teenage girls)
- Jane Eyre
- Kezia in various Katherine Mansfield stories
- Sally Bowles in Goodbye to
- Count Fosco
- Mr Majeika
- Stephen Dedalus
- Lucy and/or Jill from Narnia
- Dorian Gray
The problem is that most of them seem to be just as self-destructive as Jay Gatsby. Even Winnie the Pooh ends up lying down and taking it when his erstwhile ‘lifelong companion’ rejects him and the Hundred-Acre-Wood in favour of ‘school’ and conformism in the real world. Or else they’re cool while they’re young and then they turn down good-looking, rich charmers to marry elderly German professors, or boring English tuberculosis specialists, or pretentious, repressed homosexual dukes of crappy islands, and breed hundreds of moronic children. Of course since Bildungsromans about women, especially older ones, tend to have that anticlimactic feeling- the heroines grow up by discovering they have to stop doing whatever they want- you can’t really blame them for finishing their exciting youths off with a boring marriage.
I’m beginning to feel like Rimmer when he goes into Better Than Life, the computer game that makes all your dreams come true, and gradually realises that his sub-conscience has it in for him, and so all his dreams will always be nightmares. No, it’s not quite the same. But the problem with literary heroes is that an author can finish the story any time he likes, but you’ve got to live life until it’s over. (I just paid six grand to find that out.)
I may also be getting to old for an ambition that starts with the words ‘When I grow up...’
There’s a certain type of night-club that normal people don’t go to in
Delightfully, this discovery is a long way from having any effect on the way people party in rural
As we staggered out towards the Mistral in
I was taken aback by this place because by some strange accident it had hired a really good DJ, who seemed as surprised as us to find himself playing to a handful of drunk students in the provinces rather than to the coolest of the cool in some Parisian cellar. With music that good it didn’t matter that the dance-floor was only a quarter full. And when we got a bit hot we could stroll outside for a cigarette on the beach. (My friends had explained to me that this nightclub was unfortunately non-fumeur- I’m intrigued as to which clubs are still fumeur, despite the new law.) And of course as the smoking ban is still fresh to
Why can’t we bring back circular dancefloors dominated by massive disco-balls in
Friday, June 06, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Who needs all that expensive, time-consuming counselling when you have a blog?
1. Jacqui Smith- 'hounding' London youth with the 'Basildon plan'.
They tried it out on 'Problem Estates' (poor areas) in a suburban dormitory town and cowed local youths into submission by blatantly disregarding their human rights and shadowing the poor bastards day and nights. They had so many innocent teenagers on file that no one could write their name on a bus stop without the Stasi jumping out on them with their entire 13-year life history recorded on illegal CCTV tapes. They had a database that would run through an illegal list of anyone wearing a hoodie within the Essex area and spurt out ASBOs through a fully automated fingerprint-and-DNA-matching illegal database. You can't walk down the road to Blockbusters with your hands in your pockets in Basildon anymore without a member of the Essex Constabulary illegally following you with a video camera.
"So Essex is fucked up. So what? That's why we normal people don't live there."
Well, this plan has apparently been so successful that our beloved Home Secretary is going to scale it up! Basildon- pop. 99,876, to London, pop. 7,512,400. Jacqui Smith is going to 'hound' them? Maybe she could get our new mayor to help- he used to hound not only foxes but stags. What about making it a sport everyone can participate in? Maybe for the Olympics? We could chase delinquents through the streets! There could be horns! Toora loora!
2. The way Jacqui Smith chooses to spell her name- if you can end it with a 'y' and you choose to end it with an 'i' I hate you. Especially if you're called Rebecca and you call yourself Becci.
3. The English University System as explained by my teacher, K. Anderson.
K.A. 'Did you go to secondary school in England, Barbara?'4. The same teacher's opinion on commas.
K.A. 'Well you probably don't realise that in England, when you write an essay on your philosophy course, you don't give your own opinions- just make sure you demonstrate that you know what the philosopher has said'
B 'Like parrot learning?'
K.A. 'Well... I suppose you could say that.'
'Try to use more commas to make your sentences more readable,'What? I'm not writing for the 'Village with three corners' series! (Although sometimes I think Simone Weil thinks she is- at least there her social reform ideas might actually work.) Commas are a crutch for people too lame to get to the end of the sentence without a rest.
5. People who think that 'but that's just semantic' is a valid counter-argument. Show me something that isn't just semantic to me, baby. Everything you talk about is just semantic. I only leave the house to go to the pub these days. Words are everything. Don't sit in my house drinking my wine and trying to win a pretentious, over-intellectualised, irrelevant and pointless argument with me by criticising the way I frame my words. Until you put that bayonet in my hand words are all I've got and I'll drive them home any way I like. Real world? What fucking real world?
6. Other insults that make me laugh: 'bleeding heart liberal'- every night I pray to baby jesus that I will wake up and find I have become a 'bleeding heart liberal'. (Jussi: 'The bleeding heart liberal in me died for like five minutes when I read that').
'reformist' Oh God, I wish I was a reformist. Maybe then I could lie on my deathbed and feel like I had made the world a tiny little bit better.
7. My hair. It now only does two things- Ringo Starr in '64 or Paul McCartney in Wings. I don't even have any control over which one it will be on any given day.
8. The Guardian. It used to just happen with the free papers they give out on the tube, but now the Guardian has started to have the same effect. Every time I open it I want to kill myself. The feeling is intensified by the fact that I spend 80p to read the fatuous opinions of the gaggle of drivelling columnists they hire to sit at home prattling on about organic vegetables, in the peculiar hope that no one will notice they have no international news coverage whatsoever. (Apart from 'This week in the Democratic Candidate Big Brother House') And domestic news just makes me want to kill myself even harder. (Not you, Tim Dowling. You're a layabout but you make me laugh.)
9. Teresa Salmon. I've never even met you, but if you're googling your own name and read this, be assured that I seriously dislike you. Fat cow.
10. Solitaire. I know, it's completely self-inflicted, I have no right to your pity, and I certainly don't deserve treatment for it at an NHS hospital, but it's killing me. I need help. I dream about Solitaire. I can play a whole game in my head without any need for a computer. And I always win.
Things I still like:
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
- He's 'refreshing'
- Ken never represented the suburbs, where people don't see anything back for their council tax. He was just all about the inner city.
- The Congestion Charge
- He's 'a bit of a laugh'
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
- Then I was looking at Guardian Education this morning and they had a piece on these crazy Swedish schools where every pain has been taken to allow children to be educated without emulating the terrible world of work they will shortly find themselves flung into. So the children help plan their own goals, set their own timetables and review their own progress in weekly meetings with teachers and parents. Based more on the university system (if it had decent pedagogical support) than on the 'teacher-led factory method of education'. No bells ringing, no teacher at the front. They wanna bring it in in England- piloting a scheme for a handful of academies. Obviously this is an innovation aimed at the privileged children of a few middle-class families, beneficial chiefly to kids with full academic support outside of the classroom, parents who have the time and inclination to attend weekly meetings and push their fat lazy offspring to develop their own learning goals. If you're poor, or busy, or depressed, or all three, it's probably a help to have your kid sit in front of a stream of petty dictators all day being taught how to function as a near-useless cog in an oppressive society. But this did make pretty angry... as ever. We HAVE the methods. We have the skills. We have a host of teachers across the country who are shocked, demoralised and desperate to get out of education after two or three years, and might jump at the chance to make their and their pupils' learning experience slightly less like forced labour. When I did my CELTA teaching course there were a wide range of teaching aids and techniques to teach young people who were completely unfamiliar with the British education system- in this case Somali teenagers who had mostly never entered any kind of classroom in their lives. It is possible. So why don't we improve our schools completely? Why can a few lucky children learn in a way that's good for them while everyone else must take part in this horrific chaingang/conveyor belt of monotonous routine? Two reasons- 1. The education system cannot support any more intervention in children's lives. Teachers have little or no power to go against the all(?)-encompassing National Curriculum and when they wish to interact with their charges on any other level a host of problems arise. Referrals are the thing- refer the buggers on to the head, to Social services, best of all back to the bloody parents, who will find themselves in court if they mess with the system too much. You guys are there to get them through their SATS. You are a '5 A to Cs' machine- don't get any other ideas. And we'll give you a five grand sweetener if you don't leave to work in sales within the first four years. 2. Why the hell would you want children to think for themselves? What are we preparing them for? Life. In Society. Ring that fucking bell, make them wear a uniform from the age of three, stream them and give them merit points. When you think about it, it's perfect. OK, let a handful go to posh schools where they can make up their own rules- that kind will probably make up their own rules for the rest of their lives anyway. But for everyone else, it will save a lot of effort training them up when they hit the labour market if they have the system bashed into them from the first time they can toddle into an orderly line in the playground. What part of my school education was not restrictive propaganda aimed at making me see the world the way they wanted me to? Possibly the bits I bunked. I guess these Swedish schools are not some kind of fucking Utopia anyway, just the educational equivalent of those trendy offices in PR and shit where everyone wears jeans and there are free bagels in the fridge. You can participate freely in the monthly meetings, but don't kid yourself there isn't a hierarchy, or that you stand anywhere other than the bottom.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Happy now, Gloria?
- Robin Wales. Answer the email I sent you in December and we'll talk...
- Thames Water Advertising Campaign. Based entirely around how much less water they are pissing away than previously. What do you want, a round of applause? And so, you're 'replacing London's Victorian Water Mains'. Three cheers! It's 2008, for God's sake!
- Myself, for reading the London Paper's letter's page. In the Metro at least one knows they make them all up. In the London Paper it's not so sure.
- BT and TalkTalk. I know it's an old quarrel, but I'm still not over it.
- Institutionalised ageism. If you take a lot of the current debate about 'young people' and replace the words with 'black people' or 'gay people' or women... Stop telling them what to do and give them a vote, you bastards.
- American foreign policy
- Redbridge council
- Newham Council
- Mental health-care provision
- Virginia Woolf. Making a vague and elusive point in a roundabout fashion on behalf of educated middle-class women everywhere.
- The Department of Language, Linguistics and Film. That's not what I signed up for.
- The failure of pay-to-learn higher education to catch up with the way the rest of the market works. I am the consumer. If I don't like a part of my weekly shop I take it back and get my £1.98 refunded. I would then expect decent customer service from my friendly Tesco's representative. And BOGOF offers. If everything's for sale I would like an educational loyalty card- get the 18th year free, kind of thing. The customer is always right.
- The Mayoral elections. Ken's major policy is 'At least I'm not Boris'. Boris' is 'But hey, I'm not Ken'. Everyone else running on 'Well, you don't want to vote for either of those two monkeys'. [Evening Standard headline (I know, another one I should cut out of my life): "Ken steals Boris' plans for London"] I'm voting along the LePen/Chirac campaign lines- 'escroc, pas fasco'. More or less.
- The Eclipse Wine Bar, Islington. Ruining my life all the way across East London.
- People who contact me to tell me to update my blog but don't just come to my home and spend time with me. (Not you, Gloria)
- Supermarket products that are fair-trade but not recyclable. Or recyclable but not organic. Or organic but flown in from Guatemala. I've signed up to pay this premium on my weekly shopping bill as a stamp of my middle-class-guilt, now give me what I want.
- Google taking over blogger. And I personally would be the last person to tell another person not to be evil.
- Doctors with religious beliefs.
- People who know my e-mail address yet still message me on facebook. So I get an email informing me to check facebook. So maybe I'll just go back to writing letters.
- Royal Mail. Now making no attempt at all to get your post to you in the morning, in one piece, within one day, within two days, within a month.