Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Weather

A very British past-time, I'm very good when commenting on the weather - too hot, too cold, too wet.

Sat guarding lunch boxes in the mud of an outdoor pursuits centre today, I did indulge in a grumble about the odd spots of rain. By the time we left, I was moaning that I'd put on a long-sleeved top and the sun was shining.

I felt quite humbled when I got home and saw the news - a metre of rain in a day in Bombay and a mini-tornado in Birmingham.

I'm not going to mention the weather for at least a week.

Except on the farm visit next week.

And the seaside.

Beware when Blogging!

I quite understand that some people really do not like to spend too much time with teachers complete with their endless stories about the children in their care but sometimes the urge to share the hilarities of the day is just so great – especially when you work in a school as mad as mine. The playscheme I am supervising for the first four weeks of the holidays takes children referred by social services – again, there are some adorable and truly mad characters around.

However, as much as I regale my friends with tales, I have always refrained from mentioning any of these larger than life episodes in a blog. (I’m not entirely sure why as very few people read it). Morally, even without identifying the kids, it makes me squirm a little so I have always avoided it.

I felt quite justified in my stance when I read today that in the States bloggers are in danger of losing their jobs. In a ‘cautionary tale for the internet age’ in the Independent, I discovered that ‘according to most legal experts in the US, there is almost no protection for those who love to scribble indiscretions on the internet, never mind what the US Constitution says about the right to free expression’.

This was mentioned in article about Nadine Haobsh who had spilt the beans on the beauty scene in New York in her blog The world according to Jolie in NYC. A victim of her success, she was ‘outed’ and was ‘let go’. One of the luckier ones, she looks likely to go on to bigger and brighter things (and buckets full of money).

Google, Microsoft and Delta Airlines have all sacked workers for internet goings-on and IBM has recently issued strict guidelines.

Personally, I think you should be able to post what you think about your boss on the internet and not lose your job but that seems to be increasingly an unrealistic proposition. Not that I have to worry – my boss is just moving on, a fantastic bloke (funny, warm-hearted and amazingly good at his job) he referred to himself in his leaving speech as having progressed from a total wanker 11 years ago to an arrogant bastard now. He’s done all the work for us!

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Clicking through other blogs I happened across pictues of Popemobiles. I found them very naff and very funny.

The second Popemobile featured reminded me of a propagator. My dad used them to grow seeds; my sister, friends and I tried to house a slow worm in one but it escaped after someone left the lid ajar. Both more useful than the Pope.

Fast Food

Waiting for a friend at a pub in the shadow of Canary Wharf on Thursday I took great interest in an article in the Independent detailing the British love affair with convenience food. So what's for TV dinner tonight? Sales of convenience food are up 63% on 1994.

I am very happy (read smug) to discover I'm apparently in the 30% of the population who don't admit to eating convenience food, the 20% who don't eat chips that are "pre-sliced and frozen" and the much larger majority who don't consume pot noodles - wonderfully described as "that toxic aberration...No other race in Europe joins in our enthusiaism for chicken and noodle dust irrigated by boiling water".

Convenience food may be just that convenient and quick but it also tastes false, bland and plastic-like. No, I don't have children but yes, I do work relatively long hours and yes, I do cook 'from scratch' most evenings. A decent pasta dish or stir fry needn't take long.

I really do think this goes back to the culture of food - the British have long seen food and cooking as necessities rather than pleasures. Until that changes those sales will continue to rocket.


Been slightly quiet recently as my computer had all but given up the ghost. I now have a new one, delivered by a lovely man last night, and it's fab. Much faster, much clearer and nicer looking. Not that anyone really needed to know any of that.

Saturday 9 July

Last Saturday, London was the place to be - Live 8, Gay Pride, cricket at Lords and tennis at Wimbledon. On Wednesday, we found out we'd won the bid to hold the Olympics in 2012. Reading the coverage in the newspapers Thursday morning on the tube into work, my indifference and slightly bah-humbug approach had started melting. (mostly on a personal level - increased council tax, no hopes of buying a house now, the gardener losing his allotments). I smiled knowing that by the time they come round I'll be joining in the excitement. Within a couple of hours everything had changed.

This morning we decided it was important to go to London. To be in the streets. Over the past two days I haven't felt shock or anger . Being subject to a terrorist attack was inevitable. There was a deep heart-felt despair, a realisation that something terrible had eventually happened, the recognition that people can commit such mind-numbingly awful atrocities. Pervading everthing is a strong sense that we as a city, a fantastic cosmopolitan city, have to carry on as normal. To take back our city from the terrorists.

I wasn't scared or nervous. I think I felt stragely defiant. Colin and I did, however, exchange slightly nervous smiles as the train suddenly lurched, popped and hissed.

Leaving Fenchurch Street station we crossed Tower Bridge. We wanted to be where there were people. We wanted to show our solidarity, our togetherness.

I was gladdened by the sight of toursits thronging the edges of the Tower; blocking the Bridge taking photos of loved ones from every angle.

In the summer sunshine, two violinists and a cellist were busking near the Egg. The cornetto tune.

The volume of the river traffic was high. Thames Clippers. Party boats. Lightermen. Boats on which you can dine in luxury. Private boats with onboard barbecues. Harbour Patrol.

The stretch of the river from the Hay's Galleria to the Millennium Bridge was teeming with life. Tourists. Families. Young couples making their weekly pilgrimage to Borough Market. All eyes were on the bride at Southwark Cathedral. She'd arrived in a red convertible. Smart car filled with mimosa. Curiously eccentric and British.

Before we could see the Golden Hind we could hear a children's party in full swing. Shouts and cries, a high-pitched "ahoy, me mates!".

The crowds milling around the Globe, the Tate, across the Bridge and circling St Paul's.

The pavements of Oxford Street were taking a pounding. Colin became impatient and scornful of the ditherers. Feelings reminiscent of Christmas shopping or January sales. With the exception of the hightened sense of camaraderie and the occasional comment, there was nothing to suggest that just two days before we'd been hit by a terrorist attack. Everything was calm. No panic, no hysteria, no outpourings of grief.

The crowds on the South Bank.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Thursday 7 July

The last of my journals started in Traflagar Square. An effigy of George Bush being toppled. A response to the Iraq war.

Today saw a new response to the war. A response which chose to ignore the way ordinary Londoners had reclaimed their streets to voice their opposition to an un just and immoral war. A response that has indiscriminatley killed Londoners of all backgrounds, colours and religions.

The first I knew about the events of today was Barbara telling us in the office that power surges gad shut down the London Undergrounf. Danny, her husband, had called her. I didn't really say much. Thought she was exaggerating, over-reacting. Clicked onto the BBC website. The 'phone rang. Barbara answered. It was Isaac's mum. She wanted to know if the trip to the London Eye had gone ahead. She wanted to know exactly where her son was. As she spoke I could hear the tv news in the background. I heard news of a bus exploding. I heard the word bombs.

The 'phone lines were laready jamming; the networls experiencing problems. We eventually got through to Jon and the transition group. Made the situation clear. Told him to come back. Dawn rang. Should they walk back from the Learning Barge? Yes.

The plans for what would happen during the day at school were thought out calmly and collectively. The pupils were spoken tho over the tannoy and in their classes. There was no panic, no hysteria. 7J suggested the French were behind the bombs. Sore losers. London had the 2012 Olympics.

Parents started to turn up to take thei children away. "I remember the last time. We lost all the windahs. We're taking no precuautions. We're evacuatin' the Island. The boys won'r be back until I know fings are safe." Mrs Smith seemes unconcerned that one of her sons was alleging assualt against a member of staff.

The children who were left at the end of the day were instructed to walk straight home. Staff met in the staffroom. Members of my department were all offering me a bed for the night. Ramon had already started a car share list on the whiteboard. Name. Spaces. Destination.

Sana brought me home. "This is not the Islam I was brought up with. This is not done inthe name of my God or any other god". The A13 was clear.

K. said she thought she's have to walk to Ilford where the overground trains were starting.

Barking to Bow to Romford to Barking.

I got in and held Colin tight.

I found out Friday that big boss Jon, who'd said "come stay", had not made it to Lewisham in all that time.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

When is an umbrella not an umbrella?

I picked up a copy of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy in Fopp – not because I’d ever heard of him at the time but because the book was cheap and I quite liked the look of the cover. That was a while ago. I’ve gone through a phase of re-reading some of the many books on my shelves recently. This was one of them.

I am going to have to quote at length from Auster because I just couldn’t do the Professor’s idea justice in my own words. It’s appealing, unworkable and absurd and I love it:

Consider a word that refers to a thing – “umbrella” for example. When I say the word “umbrella”, you see the object in your mind. You see a kind of stick, with collapsible metal spokes on top that form an armature for a waterproof material which, when opened, will protect you from the rain. This last detail is important. Not only is an umbrella a thing it is a thing that performs a function – in other words, expresses the will of man. When you stop to think about it, every object is similar to the umbrella, in that it serves a function. A pencil is for writing, a shoe is for wearing, a car is for driving. Now, my question is this. What happens when a thing no longer performs its function? Is it still the thing or has it become something else? When you rip the cloth off the umbrella, is the umbrella still an umbrella? You open the spokes, walk out into the rain and get drenched. Is it possible to go on calling this object an umbrella? In general, people do. AT the very limit, they will say the umbrella is broken. To me this is a serious error, the source of all our troubles. Because it can no longer perform its function, the umbrella has ceased to be an umbrella. It might resemble an umbrella, it might once have been an umbrella, but now it has changed into something else. The word, however, has remained the same. Therefore, it can no longer express the thing. It is imprecise; it is false; it hides the thing it is supposed to reveal.

I have to admit jealousy – my thoughts and ideas are rarely very original and even if they were I wouldn’t be able to articulate them in such a pleasing way.

I think one of the reasons this appeals to me so much, though, is the use of the word umbrella as the example. When I lived in both France and Germany I had an absolute mental block when it came to using the word umbrella. For some unknown reason I always said ‘banana’. The people around me used to find it highly amusing. I was actually quite alarmed and scared by it. It wasn’t conscious; it wasn’t done for laughs; it just came out. It was freakish.

Anyone like to suggest what an umbrella that is no longer an umbrella might be called?


I succeeded in running over a verminous, mangy pigeon today and squished it dead. How many points do I get for that?

Make Poverty History

I am a kind, caring and generous person. I easliy get worked up into rants about the injustices of the world. I always do my bit. Which is why I'm a little confused about the fact I marked 'Make Poverty History' day in London by splurging out over £200 on three items of clothing - a beautiful skirt, a divine pair of shoes and a top. I'm even more puzzled by the fact that when I realised what I'd done I didn't even feel guilty but mildly amused in a naughty kind of way. Even stranger is the fact that Colin colluded in the purchase of these goods - I don't even have to hide the receipt. The world is changing. I'm scared.