31 July 2008

Suitcase

"Da-da-da-da da-da-da...
We are going on our summer holiday.
No more working for a week or two.
We are bound for sunny Turkey
Bet you wish you were coming too
Oo-oo Oo-oo!
We're going where the sun shines brightly
We're going where the sea is blue..."
SUITCASE CHECK:-
  1. Sun lotion
  2. Toothbrush
  3. Sandals and white ankle socks
  4. Superman beach towel
  5. Rubber ring
  6. Tetley's Teabags (180 pack)
  7. "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy (Thanks Alkelda)
  8. Binoculars for bikinis on beach survey (purely sociological)
  9. "The Complete History of Hull City A.F.C." in six volumes.
  10. "Islam Sucks!" T-shirt
  11. "Turkey isn't for life it's for Christmas" T-shirt
  12. "British Lager Lout on Tour" T-shirt.
  13. Homer Simpson swimming shorts.
  14. Flesh coloured "Speedo" thong.
  15. Swimming mask for bikinis under water survey (purely sociological)
  16. "Midnight Express" DVD
  17. Pet rat - Roland (starving) in case of customs search.
  18. Fart powder to slip in holiday rep's "welcome meeting" Sangria.
  19. After sun lotion.
  20. Map showing location of nearest medical centre.
  21. String vest x 2
  22. Y-Fronts (White) x 10
  23. Andrews Liver Salts
  24. Camera for bikini survey (purely sociological)
  25. Passport
  26. 200 new Turkish lira (Not old ones!)
  27. £10 note for entry visa.
  28. Box of ballpoint pens and small hand mirrors to give to the peasants.
  29. "Visit Sheffield" leaflets to give to waiters and housekeepers in lieu of tips.
  30. Jar of cranberry sauce ( after all we are visiting Turkey!)
  31. Oh and plane tickets... always very useful.

28 July 2008

Birmingham

Birmingham used to be a vast sprawling but unknown urban industrial jungle somewhere in the heart of England. However, since Frances started university there, Shirley and I have been getting to know the place. Co-incidentally we were at a wedding there on Saturday. Former work colleague Jonathan was marrying Denise.

After the service, we checked in at the Eaton Hotel on Hagley Road then with an A to Z in hand we walked through leafy Edgbaston down to Hornton Grange where the wedding reception was held. We passed some beautiful properties set in mature gardens. Sometimes it felt as if we were on a stroll in the country - not hiking through England's second city.

On Sunday morning we had a leisurely breakfast and then drove into the centre of the city to visit the Birmingham Back-to-Backs "exhibition". Just next to the Hippodrome and on the corner of Hurst and Inge Streets is the last remaining "back-to-backs" court in a city which once boasted thousands of these cheap housing solutions - home to many thousands of working class families for a hundred years beginning around 1830. How cramped and primitive conditions must have been.

Ironically, the National Trust has spent around a million pounds rescuing "Court 15", turning it into an important attraction which recognises and pays homage to the downtrodden masses who had to live in these tiny houses - which were literally "back to back" with only one door in and out of each three room/three storey house. In the shared courtyard there were privvies and a wash-house and - only towards the end of the nineteenth century - a tap which provided clean running water. Previously, water had had to be carried from a well about a hundred metres away.

The heritage industry seems to prefer to preserve and promote the homes of the rich and influential. Rarely does it even nod towards those who made empires and powered industry - the workers. In this city where I write this post - Sheffield - there also used to be hundreds of back-to-back courts and I have a friend who was born in one such "slum". We are pretty sure that there are absolutely no back-to-backs remaining in Sheffield. They were bulldozed away to make space for new roads, high rise flats and industrial estates. All of those songs, those rows, those mothers calling their children in as darkness fell, those rentmen knocking, those lamp-lighters and knockers-up, those drunken husbands squandering precious wages, that laughter, those neighbourly memories... not even an echo is left. But in Birmingham, the "Back-to-Backs" exhibition allows you to peep through a keyhole into the antithesis of Narnia.

24 July 2008

Mosaic

Well - I suppose it's a bit like a meme. I found it over at "Three Legged Cat". What you have to do is to make a Flikr photomosaic that kind of represents you via twelve questions listed below the mosaic.
1. First name 2. Favourite food 3. High school 4. Favourite colour 5. Celebrity crush 6. Favourite drink 7. Dream holiday 8. Favourite dessert 9. What do you want to be when you grow up? 10. What you love most in life. 11. One word to describe you. 12. Your blog name.
Link to Mosaic Maker

22 July 2008

Acclaim

In her end of term blogging awards, Hadriana, over at Hadriana's Treasures , has honoured this humble Yorkshire blog with a special "Knockout Read Award" plus an invitation to stay at her Northumberland mansion for an all expenses paid weekend at any time I wish. Thank you so much Hadriana! And so to my acceptance speech....

"Ladies and gentlemen, friends.... Jeez I don't know what to say.... I-I mean I just never expected anything like this. I'm overwhelmed. But in accepting this fantastic award I have to say that it wasn't just down to me... First of all I would like to thank my mother and father for making me one cold January night in the early nineteen fifties... without that beautiful secret moment I literally wouldn't be here today... and if you look up at the screen you can see that my father captured the conception on film... (three minute pause) ... beautiful... I would also like to thank my blog research team and the gnomes at Y. Pudding Enterprises Inc. who beaver away day and night to unearth suitable material to post on the old blog. It's all about teamwork. Thank you guys! I'd also like to thank the folks at "npower" for their electricity, Hewlett Packard for their temperamental home computer, Bulmers for their excellent chilled cider which has helped me through numerous blogging-blocks and last but not least my audience... I owe it all to you people!"
(Y.Pudding bows and leaves the stage to rapturous applause).

21 July 2008

Experience

I have not padded through the Taj Mahal,
barefoot, listening to the space between each footfall, picking up and putting down its print against the marble floor. But I
skimmed flat stones across Black Moss on a day so still I could hear each set of ripples as they crossed.


Above - Words from another Yorkshire "pudding" - the poet and broadcaster - Simon Armitage. They have been in my mind a while now. I think they say to us that what matters is not the headline things we do but how we experience things. Here's my variation...


I haven’t shaken hands with a President or a Prime Minister but I have seen a mother wren feeding her babies in the nesting box up our garden.
I haven’t scaled Everest with sherpas but I once found a bleached white sheep’s skull in a Derbyshire field.
I haven’t had a backstage pass for The Rolling Stones or Coldplay but I have marvelled at a canopy of silver stars from a pitch black Irish lane.
I haven’t surfed off Bondi Beach or Hawaii but I once saw the world’s sharpest rainbow arching over a Hebridean bay.
I haven’t been to The Derby, Wimbledon or a Grand Prix but I have held a clutch of home-grown new potatoes in my hands. I haven’t had my name splashed across national newspapers but I once bought the filthy beggar outside “Spar” a cheese sandwich and a can of beer.
I haven’t learnt to speak several languages fluently but just last Monday night I followed a wiggly hedgehog all the way home up our city street.
I haven’t dined with dukes or princesses nor have I ever swum with dolphins but once I saved myself from drowning in a distant ocean when there was no one there to hear my gulping cries for life... only those salty waves and the treacherous current...

18 July 2008

SATS

Below - Door to the classroom where I worked for twenty years.
Today was the last day of the school year. The week has been especially hectic for me - staying till after six each evening in order to pack twenty years of work into boxes with hundreds of sets of books - all to be delivered to the new school that has emerged phoenix-like behind the old main block built in the early sixties. And would you believe it - all week we had to continue working with our classes. Not one single day given to staff in order to prepare for the move. This evening I feel utterly drained.

And at around eleven o'clock today - surrounded by boxes and one and half hours before we had to vacate the old block - our KS3 English SATS results arrived from ETS Europe ( A Division of ETS Global BV). I scanned the A3 size lists which should have contained results for all 180 of our students but alas no! Any child with a surname beginning with A, B, M, N, O or P did not have a result. Quite bizarre. How could they even think of sending us incomplete results lists?

It's been in the news a lot this week. The incompetence of ETS and the buck passing of politicians and their officers. So many schools haven't received their long-awaited results and those that have - like mine - have discovered serious errors - such as no results provided for fifty children! ETS were given a £156 million contract in order to administer SATS tests in England and Wales for the next five years. You can research their chequered history very easily on the net. Why were they employed in the first place and why should our national school tests be farmed out to a slick profit-making organisation that make lots of promises and can't deliver. What is more - it is an American company! It isn't even rooted in our education system.

I feel quite disgusted and I know that when the damned scripts finally arrive from ETS, I will have to spend several hours checking them for marking errors before demanding a re-mark. It's all bollix! Anyway... now for six weeks holiday. Teachers' rest. Thanks to my fellow tax payers.
Perhaps they should change their strapline to - Promising. Procrastinating. Profiting.

15 July 2008

Blogopreneur

Tian Kian Ann (Aged 25) is a blog marketing coach based in Singapore. He seems to have this idea that businesses can utilise the medium of blogging to boost profits. On his Blogopreneur website he published the following "poem" ( and I use the term very loosely).

He pre-empts it with "Don’t ask me how and why I came up with this. I’m no poet. It comes when it just comes." Hey Tian - you were definitely right about not being a poet! Stick to money grabbing in future!

Professional Blogger's Poem

Hate your job? Start a blog.
Pick a good niche, whichever one you wish.
Learn how to write, with all your might.
Use your own voice, blogs give you that choice.
Write from your heart, and it’ll be an art.
Post everyday, posts builds your pay.
It may not be now, but it’ll happen somehow.
Publish good content, your readers will comment.
Avoid link farms, they’ll only cause harm.
Feed the spiders, treat them as insiders.
Spend some time on SEO, top rankings boost your ego.
Make some pingbacks, they’ll raise your paychecks.
Don’t you ever fear, you can be a Blogopreneur!


Now that's what I call poetry! Eat your heart out Keats! Emily Dickinson! Dylan Thomas! Make way for the great Tian Kian Ann! But what the hell does he mean by "link farms", "spiders", "SEO" and "pingbacks"? It's all mumbo-jumbo to me. However, although his business-oriented poem is unadulterated crap - perhaps it is useful in posing the question - Is it possible to write meritorious poems about blogging? I think I will try one or two soon so thanks Tian Kian Ann - although you seem plain daft to me you have stirred some creative juices. Any other bloggers fancy attempting poems that focus on blogging?

11 July 2008

Edale

Edale from Hollins Cross.
There is a secret green dale in the heart of the Pennines, nestled between the Kinder Plateau and Hope Valley. It is called Edale. Around three hundred people live there. In medieval times it was a royal cattle ranch where cows grew fat on its rich pastures. Nowadays it is popular with walkers, day trippers and mountain bikers.

There is a hostel in Edale called Champion House. I first went there twenty years ago with a school party. I returned on Wednesday with thirty six fourteen year olds and spent another three days indulging in "outdoor education".

Last night I was dog tired when I went to my little room at half past one in the morning, leaving the four other teachers to continue rabbiting whilst quaffing Sauvignon Blanc. I was the leader of the expedition so I was a bit peeved to discover that at three in the morning these selfsame "colleagues" had taken it into their heads to prowl round the perimeter of the hostel with a sweeping brush, giggling while they scraped it against the dorm windows and made ghostly noises in order to spook our young charges.

How embarraassing when Adrian - who is the local vicar and warden of Champion House told me that his sleep in the neighbouring vicarage had been disturbed by late night shenanigans. I couldn't bring myself to tell him that it wasn't the kids - it was the bloody staff! One of these late night rural revellers added to the original stupidity by putting frozen sausages in some of the kids' bags. When the "joke" was discovered, a gang of the fourteen year old victims grabbed their tormentor and covered his hair with shampoo. This chap is our wonderful and innovative new Head of Humanities - after a mere three years of teaching! Sorry to say it but he proved to me that he is little more than a kid himself. I am no sergeant major or killjoy. I wanted our urban youngsters to have a lovely time at the end of a long school year but disturbing them in the middle of the night and playing stupid practical jokes on them whilst inebriated was never meant to be part of it all.

I walked along with this young guy on Thursday asking numerous questions about his university days in Durham and his travelling experiences. In return, I got not one single question - even though my educational achievements happen to have been far greater than his and my travelling experiences have been far more numerous and more widespread than his. He just didn't want to know. I have met lots of people like that where I do all the running and the giving and they give nothing back. It'slike a game of table tennis in which the ball only bounces on one side of the net.

Most of the kids we took to Edale were really nice. They got on well together and showed some manners to the staff. When cleaning up the hostel ready for departure, they all muscled in. I had lots of laughs and it was great to be away from my workplace - the Monty Python Academy for young ladies and gentlemen where we are currently "decanting" ready to move into the new school. In other words, filling boxes and chucking out stuff we don't need. Pure chaos.
Entrance to Peak Cavern (The Devil's Arse), Castleton.

7 July 2008

Jock

We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
The Internet... a phenomenon that science fiction writers in the middle of the last century never anticipated. It's lke a window on the world, a portal to a vast treasure house of information and entertainment. We surf. We wander. We find. And there who should I encounter but my old mate John "Jock" Hornby. He was a brilliant lead guitarist but now in his fifties, I guess that any dreams of rock guitar stardom are long gone.
He works for the Forestry Commision now and lives in a Hansel and Gretel house near Burley in the New Forest. But I remember his fingers dancing on the fretboard as we practised in his father's barn or gigged around East Yorkshire so many years ago that I am loath to add them up. Jock played lead and I was the singer - belting out "Black Night", "Alright Now", "Summertime Blues" and some of our own compositions - including "Fieldhouse Rock" after the Hornby family's Fieldhouse Farm. It was long ago and far from here...though it seems like yesterday. And oddly, it now appears that one of his sons - Joshua - also sports his father's nickname - another Jock.
The Jock I knew was a great lad and we got on famously. I went to his wedding to Sally in Winchester and he came to mine to Shirley in Owston Ferry in the early eighties. In my life, I have had many friends but they are scattered far and wide. I sometimes think how lovely it would be if all the people I ever called friends could live within walking distance of this house. Better still, Jock would live next door so I could bang on the wall to tell him to turn his bloody music down!

2 July 2008

Irritation

Is it just me? Or does anyone else find certain media celebrities intensely irritating? Take the radio for example. I listen to it every day travelling to and from work. Also, while grafting in the kitchen while Shirley puts her feet up, I will often press the wireless button - usually it's Radio 4 for news or comedy. Sometimes Radio 5 Live for the sport.

Locally there's Radio Sheffield which I like to listen to in the morning for local news. Unfortunately, there's a big downside to that listening experience - namely the breakfast radio host - Toby Foster. His humour is so banal. He is full of himself, doesn't really listen to other people and makes light of sometimes serious issues. He derides cricket, buts in when songs are playing, has a very limited vocabulary and tries to come across as an opinionated man of the people. I have taken to switching radio stations when the news is over - such is the irritation he causes.

Similarly I despise Chris Evans and Steve Wright on Radio 2. They are equally banal, equally false and irritating, loving the sound of their own smarmy voices. Ever heard "Steve Wright's Sunday Love Songs" on a Sunday morning? This is sugar-coated yukky nonsense with moronic listeners pledging their love over the airwaves while Steve pretends to care. It might go something like this with romantic violin music playing in the background:-

STEVE WRIGHT ....And here's a message from Reginald in Cleckheaton "Dear Steve, I have lived with my wife Ethel for thirty eight years. We first met when she was a bus conductress in nearby Leeds. When she punched my ticket, I looked into her big brown eyes and fell in love. Yes it was love at first sight. Please play anything by Cliff Richard and tell her that I love her very much and she is still punching my ticket." So specially for you Reginald, here's Cliff. Enjoy...
(Plays "Living Doll" while Wrighty stuffs his face with a bacon sarnie.)
STEVE WRIGHT.... Kylie from Northampton phoned in.
KYLIE (Phone recording) "Hi Steve! Just wanted you to tell my boyfriend Reidski in New Cross that I had a lovely weekend and I love him loads! Bye Steve!"

Why anyone would feel the need to express their romantic leanings and personal affections over the radio is as mysterious to me as why the United Nations haven't invaded Zimbabwe to oust cruel and crazy dictator Robert Mugabe. They could always give him a slot on Radio 2. I'd rather listen to him at teatime than the comeback four-eyed twerp who is Chris Evans... or maybe "Sunday Love Songs with Robert Mugabe"? See you Wrighty!