30 September 2009

Regulars

The English pub is a great leveller. There's a sense in which it doesn't matter one hoot what you do or have done outside those pub doors. Inside the pub, as you sup your chosen tipple and exchange banter, everybody is different but equal.

I must confess that for twenty years I have been a "regular" at my local. You will see me in there four nights a week drinking beer and colluding with the other regulars - by and large men. Who are they?

Well let's start with Big Dave - otherwise known as Uncle Festa. Nobody quite knows what he does for a living. He keeps his cards close to his chest but digs and fishes for titbits of information about other people's lives. Big Dave is obsessed with money and financial matters. When jawing with him, it isn't long before the conversation switches to pensions, acquisitions and investments. He lives alone in a suburban semi with his designer Italian leather suite and his forty two inch flatscreen TV. To my knowledge,this bloke never hurt anybody in his life.

Next there's Gibby - most regular of all regulars and thin as a lat. He's fifty and lives with his old arthritic mother. Two years ago he completed a degree course, achieving a BA in Modern History but he is one of the perpetually unemployed, beavering away at his "Guardian" crossword, supping his "Carling" lager and rocking home to toke on "reefers". To my knowledge this guy never consciously hurt anybody in his life.
Irish Joe came to England in 1961 where he has worked as a builder ever since. He has four children and a wife he fears. Once he confided in me that the reason he keeps working as a construction foreman is because he is afraid of a life at home with the "missus" in the kitchen day after day. "Twould kill me" he said in his County Dublin brogue - unchanged after forty eight years. Strong as an ox, this man has helped me in numerous ways but when he was younger I know that he did hurt a few other men with his JCB fists.

Leeds Mick is about forty and a talented chef but with a fury inside him that would make Gordon Ramsay look like a tame pussy cat. His name suggests he might be from the city of Leeds but he isn't - it was his father who was born there. He is an ardent Leeds United fan and just say the names "Manchester United", "Newcastle United" or "Liverpool" to him and he goes off alarming, spraying his listeners with saliva as the expletives and bitter memories burst out of him. Leeds Mick has hurt a lot of people with his brutal personal rebukes.

Bert is about seventy and hails from Northampton but he worked in concrete for forty five years. He has two sons but divorced his wife after thirty years of marriage. He sometimes smells of armpit odour and stale cigarette smoke but he is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met. He thinks well of everyone and has a cheerful disposition. When Old Alan leaves on a Friday night at 10.55pm prompt, it's always Bert who is up helping Alan to access the sleeves of his coat.

Then there's fifty something Yorkshire Pudding. He arrives late in the tap room, except on Saturday evenings when he's in the lounge with the wife. A generally miserable sod - he used to be a teacher but now he's taking time out. He drinks Tetley's bitter and supports Hull City. When there are factual issues to confirm or pass judgement on, all eyes turn to him. He has probably hurt a few people in his life but at least he's sorry about it.

There are twenty others for whom I could provide similar pen portraits.

"Regulars" - sounds like the title of a new sitcom and what I've written above could simply be the list of characters. Failing that they could be actors in a new episode of the hospital drama "Casualty". Time gentlemen please!

27 September 2009

Chavs

Chavs being chavvish.

Just the other day, I spotted a male "chav" down by the local Methodist church. He was wearing a Burberrry hat, a blue-white shellsuit, expensive trainers with the tongues hanging out and some golden bling. It was as if he had stepped out of a satirical cartoon.

Fashion means nothing to me. I scorn fashion magazines and the cult of the pretty model. Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and all the rest are empty headed nobodies in my book. In the developing world, people are starving or running from war but here in the west our media suggests that we should be obsessed with fashion and the dramatic lives that fashion models allegedly lead. I'm not. I despise all of that.

Back to the chav, lounging on the church wall like an urban lizard. Why would anyone consciously shop for a Burberry cap or the other items in the stereotypical costume that that chav was wearing? It defeats me. There were plenty of these chavs on the council estate where I was a teacher. I taught some of them. Having left school or outside school hours, they would sometimes approach me. "Hiya sir!" It felt like an invasion from the Planet Chav.
Can you tell me, do chavs have their own fashion magazines where they check out different caps and new shellsuit styles? Is there a section called "Bling" and is there another section devoted exclusively to branded trainers with big tongues? I picture chavs in urban living rooms weighing up the different merits of chavwear.

In Wikipedia they say this:- "The widespread use of the "chav" stereotype has come under criticism; some argue that it amounts to simple snobbery and elitism, and that serious social problems such as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, teenage pregnancy, delinquency and alcoholism in low-income areas are not subjects for derision. Critics of the term have argued that its users are "neo-snobs", and that its increasing popularity raises questions about how British society deals with social mobility and class. In a February 2005 article in The Times, Julie Burchill argued that use of the word is a form of "social racism", and that such "sneering" reveals more about the shortcomings of the "chav-haters" than those of their supposed victims. The writer John Harris argued along similar lines in a 2007 article in The Guardian."

How spiffing and right-on of Julie Burchill and John Harris to side with the chavs and call me a "neo-snob" if you wish but I hate chavism, hate the costumes and the attitudes, hate the herd-like way in which chavs stick together. I'd like to see Julie Burchill conforming with this dress code:-

25 September 2009

Peacefulness

No more yakking. No more work-related emails. No more interruptions and requests and no more yakking.No more jabbering. That's how a typical teacher's summer vacation might be described. Mine has extended into the autumn. I am becoming accustomed to the rhythm of the days, to having the licence to define my own waking hours - make them busy or lazy, depending on how I feel. Two mugs of tea in the morning remains a delightful luxury.

Shirley has a great job as a health centre practice nurse. Some days she's working with students at the university, other days she's leading on diabetes or visiting ne'er-do-well kids at a secure unit. There's so much variety. Start times are also variable but most days she's out of the house by eight fifteen. In the past I was always away by 7:52 - my Groundhog Day moment repeated over and over.

Some days I roll over and go back to sleep, surprised when the radio alarm's digital display reads 9:15. I don my dressing gown and stumble downstairs for cereal and my first mug of tea. I go out to feed the birds, scooping a beer mug of grain from the huge sack I keep near our back door. Then it's into the front room to check out the latest news on the TV. I might tarry to watch "Homes Under The Hammer" - a programme I rarely got to see in the past.

It's so peaceful. Today I was up the garden in another pleasant September morning, adding extra paving stones to the seating area under the apple trees. No one was bothering me. I grafted away till lunchtime and then ate some leftover stir fry and noodles while listening to The Radio 5 Live News. Lord knows why I am so obsessed with keeping abreast of world news. On Easter Island the only news you could access came from the lips of your fellow islanders and it was wholly about that island - the navel of the world.

Shirley asked if I had been lonely today. I said no - not lonely - just peaceful and quiet. It feels like a kind of healing after thirty two frenetic years in the blackboard jungle. I love to watch the hedge sparrows poking their little beaks out of the privet when I have spread their grain. Peacefulness - so terribly under-rated.

24 September 2009

Booked

Sometimes you have to strike while the iron is hot. After writing that last post, I checked out the two airline sites I had been visiting in relation to my Easter Island trip - Iberia and LAN. To my horror, the good prices I had spotted a few days earlier were now disappearing fast. However, there was one good value window of opportunity left before Christmas so I went for it - click upon click. I'll be flying off to Chile on October 22nd, two days in Santiago and then flying out to Easter Island on October 25th.

After consulting Trip Advisor, I had hoped to stay at the ten room Hotel Orongo but it was fully booked. Consequently, I was relieved to get a room at the tiny Hotel Tiare Pacific in the village of Hanga Roa which is the only settlement on Easter Island, just next to the island's miniature airport.
The idea of flying home from Buenos Aires was squashed when I saw how much two single flights would be - return flights to/from the same destination are so much cheaper. However, I am hoping to travel through the Andes by bus to visit Mendoza in Argentina for a couple of days. I have to remind myself that this adventure will not just be about Easter Island...

22 September 2009

Dreaming

I'm going to let you into a little secret. A few weeks ago I told my son Ian that I was planning on some travelling this autumn. I wasn't sure where I might go - perhaps just throw a tent and camping equipment in the car to revisit Cornwall or southern Wales. Maybe I'd go to Corsica or Crete. Ian said "What about Easter Island?"

He'd remembered my lifelong interest in the Pacific Ocean and its peoples and how years ago I would say how much I'd love to visit Easter Island - the most remote inhabited place on Earth. Cogs turned in my brain and I started to investigate the feasibility of such an adventure. Isn't it incredible that such a journey is of course eminently possible for anyone from the developed world who chooses to spend their money that way?

I haven't booked any flights or absolutely committed myself just yet but what was once a dream is gradually turning into a certainty. First I will fly from London to Madrid and then a longhaul flight to Santiago in Chile. Next it's a two thousand mile hop to Rapa Nui - a triangular island measuring ten miles across and famous for its enigmatic statues - the moai. Perhaps I will stay there four or five days and then spend time in central Chile. Maybe travelling on to Argentina and flying home from Buenos Aires.

The idea of this trip is already exciting me. I have read so much about Easter Island - not just about the statues but other archaeology, the craters and the Birdman cult whereby each spring young men would risk life and limb to dive from the highest cliffs, swimming out to a rocky islet to collect the first seabird eggs. Once Easter Island was sufficient in itself - so far from anywhere else that the outer world really did not matter and then as the last trees were felled the island's thriving society began to perish in what is often thought of as the world's first manmade environmental disaster.

What is life for? I'm going to go while I can, while I have the health, energy and money to make this dream come true. An adventure. I feel comfortable and grateful that my lovely wife, Shirley understands this wanderlust, encouraging me to go for it. One day we hope to visit New Zealand together but for now I have a date with the moai - all I have to do is click the keys on this keyboard and the tickets will be booked.

20 September 2009

Lawnmower

Would our Flymo Compact 350 lawnmower hold out till the autumn? Now there's a question. Forget the recession and this nation's tragic adventures in Afghanistan - what really mattered and still matters is/was our lawnmower. In our salubrious Sheffield suburban idyll, we have a lot of grass to cut. The garden is 43 metres long - being the sad git I am, I once measured it. Much of the garden is verdant and where there is grass there must be lawnmowers as the age of the scythe and the sickle is almost over in England.

Back in 1981, when Shirley and I tied the marital knot, my kindly sister-in-law Carolyn gave us a second hand basic Flymo lawnmower. At our first house, there was a tiny amount of lawn but I used it through the eight summers we lived there. No problem whatsoever. I brought it to this house with its vast prairie leading to distant savanna and I used that old mower for twelve further years and do you know - we never had it serviced once. The machine would still be working today if I could have sorted out its iffy wiring. Instead we opted for the modern world of lawnmowing and purchased with supermarket reward vouchers and a little cash a magnificent Flymo 350 Compact.

For eight years this sturdy machine did its job magnificently until the day my impatient wifelet decided to drag it from its resting place in our "underhouse". I was ill at the time. I had explained to her often before that it was like a hovercraft and did not have wheels beneath. The impatient dragging process dislocated the safety drive handle mechanism and in spite of my best efforts to rescue that orange and gorgeous piece of horticultural technology, it died.

But nothing lasts forever. Time to purchase the third lawnmower of my life. Research - that was the key. I checked out the various models available and their prices at different stores. This time I was going to go for a rotary mower so that the wifelet could wheel it out from the underhouse without attracting my best expletives. Finally I settled on the "Spear and Jackson" 37" bladed rotary mower from "Argos".

I tootled into the city centre and entered the Argos Extra store on Angel Street. I was not a little excited - after all a man's relationship with his lawnmower is arguably more fulfilling and pleasurable than any association he might form with a woman. No lawnmower ever objects when you lift its lid and it goes whenever and wherever you want it. When you're done with it you put it away until you are ready to use it again.

Upon returning home, I had the arduous task of assembling the new machine. There were the handles to screw in and the grass box to clip together. After forty minutes, the beast was ready. Out onto the hallowed turf - plug in and off we go! For ten long minutes she gobbled up our grass which had grown slightly long - but no more than four inches anywhere. After fifteen minutes, I noticed a little wisp of smoke rising from the motor. I switched off immediately but it was no use. My new Spear and Jackson in its stylish grey and black livery was kapput. I was looking forward to at least ten years of reliable service but I got little more than ten minutes.

The useless mower had to be dismantled, re-boxed and driven back to Angel Street where the customer services lady was slightly accusatory until she met a torrent of articulate stubbornness from yours truly. I felt like saying "Smile! You've been Yorkshire Puddinged!" She even tried to get me to give back the £5 voucher I had earned in the morning for spending more than £50 until I asked who would be paying for my parking ticket, extra petrol and time. What would have been nice was an apology for selling me a piece of junk but instead I had to settle for my money back. Perhaps I should go on the Internet to see if I might locate a better lawnmower in Thailand or The Philippines. Mind you - I noticed the one that broke down was made in China. The clue was obvious in those traditional Cantonese names - Spear and Jackson.

17 September 2009

Eyam

Last Thursday was such a beautiful late summer day - so deliciously warm under a clear blue sky. I decided to have a break from digging, path laying, planting and decorating. Instead I drove out to the nearby North Derbyshire village of Eyam. I parked up, tied on my boots and started walking - no map, no jacket, no knapsack or water. It was the sort of thing I could have never done during my teaching career. Many is the time I used to look out on glorious days and wish I was away tramping country paths, enjoying the sunshine, leaving behind all those words, those voices, those eyes that inhabited those humdrum classrooms.

I saw a footpath edging the village churchyard and followed it up the hill into the woods and the narrow road that leads to Mompesson's Well. Very strangely, halfway up the hill I came across four llamas in an isolated paddock. They looked at me as if to say, "Can you tell us the way to The Andes mate?"

Mompesson's Well is named after a local vicar who was the incumbent of Eyam church in the middle of the seventeenth century. Plague raged in London and through much of northern Europe but it hadn't worked its evil way as far as the northern counties of England - that is until August 1665 when it is said that some flea-infested bundles of cloth were brought to Eyam. Very soon The Plague spread through the village and in sixteen terrible months 260 out of an initial population of 350 were killed. The Reverend Mompesson allegedly urged his parishoners to create a self-imposed quarantine so that the disease wouldn't spread beyond their unfortunate parish. Just outside Eyam is a well which used to be used by packhorses, sheep and their drovers. During the time of The Plague, the story goes that supplies would be left there for the villagers to collect.

I went cross country to investigate an abandoned fluorspar mine and then on to the hillock which is now dominated by a Derbyshire police force radiomast, then down a long rutted limestone lane towards Abney, turning left past the trees where some New Age travellers have made an encampment, then down a very muddy path through old copses towards the stone quarry and a mile or so along the minor road that leads back into Eyam. Two and half hours had passed and I felt hot, thirsty and hungry but nicely invigorated. Time for "The Miners' Arms"!
After buying a "Guardian" at the village store I was soon sitting outside the pub with a pint of orange cordial and soda water waiting for my delicious BLT on fresh ciabatta bread.

Although I had been to Eyam several times before, I had never visited the Riley Graves on the outskirts of the village. After lunch I walked a further half mile eastwards to the strange miniature graveyard that is home to six members of the Hancock family who all succumbed to The Plague in 1666. If you would like to learn more about Eyam - The Plague Village please click on this photograph of The Riley Graves:-

14 September 2009

Dentophobia

Mostly, I am not afraid. I am not afraid of spiders or any other creepy crawlies. In fact, I would happily let them crawl on my skin and this would include cockroaches. I am not afraid of the dark and if there were a graveyard nearby, I would nonchalantly walk through it alone in the middle of the night. Horror films don't terrify me, nor do snakes or rats. However, I do have one fear - and this is a fear that has often caused me to break out into a cold sweat or grip the armrests of the chair so tightly that more than once I have literally had to be prised off. I'm thinking about dentists and yes I will come out and admit it folks - I am a dentophobic.

I have never had a dental "check up" in my entire adult life. Any visits I have ever made have been unavoidable - usually because of insufferable pain. Because of this there have been periods when I have gone five or six years without seeing one of these deranged sadists with their arrays of drills and pastes, their disconcerting conversations and their unpleasantly sour-sweet body odours. Why would any intelligent person actually choose to be a dentist? Spending your entire working life rooting around in people's mouths seems to me to be a very narrow and unappealing way in which to feather your nest. Mind you - even though they are little more than oral mechanics fixing your teeth - dentists are handsomely rewarded. As my old mother used to say - you won't see a poor dentist.

Until last Friday, I was not on an NHS dentist's list. Once or twice, I had half-heartedly tried to get on a list but the problem was they always wanted to begin with a "check up". Recently, I have had a dental issue which has now translated itself into a hamster cheek on my left side - all down to a developing root infection. On Sunday lunchtime, I travelled to an area of Sheffield called Fir Vale which is home to a large Pakistani community - I was seeing the emergency "out of hours" dentist. The guy reminded me of the "doc" in "Back to The Future" but his communication skills were even more limited. There were no social niceties and no advice about paracetamol or what do if the problem persisted. He spent no more than three minutes in my mouth. I even had to ask if it would be okay for me to rinse out with that pink antiseptic water that dentists favour.

I woke up on Monday morning with a big swollen cheek so the dentist's intervention appeared to have caused more harm than good. The emergency dental service gave me another appointment at Fir Vale. Aaaaargh! I just didn't want to see that pigman again but there he was! I had to wait for an hour and a half before finally getting into his torture chamber once again. This time, after prodding around my un-numbed jaws, he prescribed some antibiotic pills which left me wondering why he hadn't done that the first time. "A lot of pus coming out...suck on the tooth," made me realise that he did possess the power of speech after all.

This semi-mute has buggered the offending tooth so badly that it will definitely now have to be extracted - but not by him. Apparently, more by luck than judgement, I have managed to get on the patient list for one of the best NHS dental practices in Sheffield but I still can't understand why they couldn't see me instead of having to travel to Dr Death at Fir Vale. Dentophobia, like most phobias, is irrational I know but when you're dentophobic you just can't help it - no matter how much you convince yourself of the illogicality of your fear.

11 September 2009

Pinup

One of my favourite bloggers will occasionally post photos of what she calls "eye candy". To be politically correct, these photos are of both sexes though it is obvious she favours the male "eye candy". It seemed like such a good idea that I thought I would imitate it. So here's my first offering - the archetypal Yorkshire battleaxe of a wife - Nora Batty played by the Lancashire born actress - Kathy Staff who sadly departed this life last December at the age of eighty. For transatlantic visitors who may not be familiar with this character, Nora Batty was the female lead in a Yorkshire based BBC comedy series which followed the peculiar antics of a small group of retired men in "Last of The Summer Wine". The writer - Roy Clarke - was a master of irony and understatement crafting scripts that were tenderly humorous and psychologically observant.

Nora had a harsh and miserable disposition, pouring scorn on all menfolk as she got on with the serious business of housekeeping - scouring her step and hanging out the washing. She did not tolerate foolishness or foolish men and was the guardian of northern commonsense in her pinafore and crumpled stockings. For many men of my generation, Nora was a sex symbol who enriched our inner fantasy lives over many years. Who needed Marilyn Monroe, Cheryl Cole or Jennifer Aniston when you could have Nora Batty? Talk about eye candy, Nora was the sweetest of all.

Here's just one of her lines:- "The old ways are sometimes the best. Rug-beating is one of the older types of therapy. It's what housewives had to make do with before nervous breakdowns were invented."

10 September 2009

Speed

Nowadays, watching over the United Kingdom's roads there are zillions of speed cameras and even more signs warning us that cameras are in the vicinity. Councils fill their coffers with speeding fines and advertising warns us of the dangers of speeding. Let's be clear about it - the limit for cars in built up areas is 30mph, on single carriageways in non-urban areas it's 60mph and on dual carriageways and motorways it's 70mph. All very sensible. All very good. But...

The best selling car in the UK remains the Ford Fiesta. Surely as the highest speed limit is 70mph, that will be the maximum speed that this vehicle can travel at. Won't it? No way! The Ford Fiesta's top speed is 114mph - that's 44mph over the top limit.

I drive a Vauxhall Astra 1.6 and the top speed on the dial is 160mph though in actuality it can only get up to 142mph - more than double the motorway speed limit. Once I drove it at 120mph early one Sunday when the M18 from Doncaster to Hull was as quiet as a farm track. I could feel the possibility of higher speed but resisted the temptation. Still I admit I was guilty your honour.

Not that I will ever own or even drive one but the Bugatti Veyron has a top speed of 253mph which is a full 183mph above our 70mph limit. And what are media and sports stars thinking of when they buy their Ferraris, Aston Martins and Lamborghinis? Why, speed of course.

So here's the rub. How come governments allow car producers to manufacture cars that can massively surpass national speed limits? It's crazy - as stupid and hypocritical as the situation with tobacco smoking where on the one hand they warn us about the associated health dangers and on the other hand rake millions into the national coffers in excise duty. A big step to reducing speeding would be controlling cars' top speeds and creating an atmosphere in which speed is demonstrably seen as a bad thing.

The laddish car programme "Top Gear" seems to do all that it can to celebrate automotive speediness, contributing to the mischievous, adrenalin-pumping cult of the fast car. In my view no speedometer should be allowed to indicate potential speeds of any more than 100mph and "Top Gear" should occasionally and responsibly be reminding viewers of the 70mph limit and the obvious dangers of speeding.

6 September 2009

Missing

Tomorrow morning - Monday - England's roads will be doubly busy as children return to school after the long summer break but for the first time in thirty two years, I won't be there. I have hardly thought about my job all summer.

Clearing out our study ready for redecoration, I came across an old hold-all type schoolbag - still filled with various papers from five years back. I carried that particular bag to and from the school for at least ten years - it always seemed bottomless - containing never-ending evening jobs. Cursorily, I flicked through the papers, letters, lists, brochures, reports, minutes, agendas etc. before flinging them all into our blue recycling bin while the tormenting bag itself was jettisoned gleefully into the general waste wheelie bin.

There are lots of things I won't miss about my job which had two main strands - being a classroom teacher of English and leading and managing the progress of the English department. I won't miss:-
  1. Children who habitually arrive at school without pens to write with - the same children who - after being lent pens - conveniently "forget" to give them back and then appear at the very next lesson penless again.
  2. Parasitical "experts" who don't teach, probably never liked teaching and yet shake or nod their heads like sages as they pass judgement over other people's best efforts - OFSTED inspectors, National Challenge advisers, "critical friends" from "partner" schools, deputy headteachers in sharp suits spouting hollow words.
  3. Being expected to display lesson objectives for each and every lesson and having children write them in their books - even though some lessons may have been for the continuation of essays in progress or reading for pleasure.
  4. Being told - without justification or explanation - that the entire staff had to start marking in green pen.
  5. The lack of meaningful sanctions to combat unwelcome pupil behaviour. I mean... how ridiculous that in order to give a child a ten minute after school detention, we had to give them a detention slip, put the duplicate in our detention box, fill in the detention book and then write home, explaining the reasons for the detention. Then copies of this letter had to be lodged with the Head of Year and in school files. Very often the culprit wouldn't turn up so there'd be a whole lot of further rigmarole before the child might possibly be put in the headteacher's special detention. What a joke!
  6. Never ending marking demands - exercise books, assignments, exam papers, Assessing Pupil Progress tests. English teachers are expected to mark more than any other subject teachers and yet none of the parasites who pass judgement from the wings seem to recognise or applaud the fact that this marking mainly happens in teachers' homes late at night or at weekends. The "free" time you are given for marking and preparation in school is absolutely paltry.
  7. Lost holidays. This is the first summer vacation when I have not been into school. Some summer holidays I would have been in for two or three weeks of the six - making intricate action plans, building new schemes of work, making new classlists, ordering books, planning and generally playing catch-up.
  8. Eating my sandwiches at my desk while using lunchtime to keep on top of my work.
  9. Regular ten hour days and then coming home with more stuff to do.
  10. The self-obsessed headmistress who seemed high on amphetamines most of the time such was the staccato speed of her one-sided innovatory thinking aloud. In several ways, she seemed barmy to me - not least her crazy obsession with tidiness. One summer she ripped down an English colleague's personal corner display containing family photographs and other cherished items and I expect she was the one who trashed the old Swiss cheese plant that I had donated to the school library when it outgrew our home.
  11. Parents who didn't give a toss about their children or their parental responsibilities - even though many students were very well-supported.
  12. Change. Never ending change. No sooner had you got one initiative half-embedded than another would rear its head. New theories. New dictats. Why couldn't they just leave us alone to get on with the job?
  13. Targets. It got to a point where it was clear that the people who cared most about numerical targets cared least about the children that those figures represented. Bizarrely, some of the loudest commentators would have been totally unable to put faces to the pupils' names. They really didn't care. It was intellectual gameplay.
Obviously, there are things about it all that I will certainly miss - notably relationships with my immediate work colleagues, outlets for my creativity, the monthly salary cheque and of course the children who could surprise you with their good efforts, good humour and goodwill. I taught thousands of the little blighters and do you know every one was different from the next. Perhaps regretting will come but on the eve of a new academic year, I am just so relieved to be out of it.

3 September 2009

Derinkuyu


My Monday night pub quiz chum - Michael from Oldham - told me about a place in Turkey that I had previously never heard of - Derinkuyu in the Capadocia region. This vast and amazing underground city had been long forgotten until a local resident accidentally rediscovered it in 1963. It seems the city was first carved out of the bedrock between 800 and 700 B.C. for reasons of self-preservation in a time of tribal and religious instability. Archaeologists are still exploring Derinkuyu's eight levels of corridors, homes, kitchens, wells, meeting places, stables and ventilation shafts. They believe that the hand-carved warrens could easily have housed ten thousand people. In a way, it's a bit like JJ at "All Cobblers" ' story of the Terracotta Army in Xian, China - a vast archaeological treasure that had been buried by the sands of time.

What other mysterious treasures remain in a world where we seem to have striven to catalogue everything - photograph everything - as if through that process of recording we can demystify and master our planet? Perhaps I'm a romantic but in many respects I think the original Australian aborigines knew more than we know now. The urge to classify and demystify may be missing the point.

Derinkuyu