Friday, 6 October 2017

Is this the thoughtless response you wanted, Winifred?

'Out of School, Out of Sight?

Children not in school, eh? That's wrong, that is. Nobody sees these kids. No-one knows what they're learning. They're invisible. They could be doing anything.

Muslims! They're twisting our laws. You can't tell what they're up to behind closed doors! They look normal, but they're up to no good. 

Now he sounds alright. He's joining in, but that family who took their kids to Syria? An everyday British woman? She took her kids out of school and that's because she wanted to turn them into jihadists. 

Teaching kids at home is wrong. Those parents, of course they'll keep it hidden. Yup, out of school, out of sight. 

And it's legal? Disgusting. All you have to do is write a letter! That's it? Shouldn't be allowed. Obviously, if you want to hide your kids, then school is a problem, because kids are seen at school and they talk to each other. Out of school, they're not going to get that social contact, are they?

Councils! They don't know what's going on. Voluntary register? Is that it? Well those who want to duck the system will do just that! Councils can't catch 'em. 

Parents. Shouldn't be allowed. You can't just let parents do what they want. The law needs tightening up. Ideological? What's that then? Parents who think the council will take the kids away? Nuts. 

No monitoring of standards? That's wrong. Kids should reach a basic standard, and parents won't be doing that if they're not inspected. 

Those Bradford people. They've been inspected. They've set up a proper school. Desks, trolley, stuff. Then why don't they just send the kids to school? And how do I know they're not just teaching them religious stuff?

What's she say? You take your kids out because you don't want your little darlings to have a difficult time? You're not teaching them how to grow up in the real world. In the real world they have a face a few knocks. Now we're mollycoddling kids. They should go to school and learn how to toughen up.

Yeah, what about qualifications? Kids get a load of stuff in school. The kids don't get that if they're taken out of school. Kids'll miss out. And the parents don't even know how to teach!

Listen, she doesn't know what she's doing. She can't do GCSEs or A-Levels. What? Some people don't even believe in exams? Blimey, all this home schooling stuff is right off.

Eh? Home education? Home school? That's the same thing.

Schools are flippin' well encouraging it, and the parents are taking it up because they want to avoid the fine. Parents don't even speak English! They can't teach! No-one checks!

Homeschooling gone wrong. Too right. Parents don't do anything and the kids doss about. Look, the parents work. They're totally out of their depth. She just said it. They're trying to get out the system, that's all.

And the kids hate it. They're depressed. They don't have any friends. No-one cares about them. Their parents have let them down. They've destroyed their lives. Kids need proper teachers. They like school. They're happy at school. Home is boring for kids, everyone knows that! Hear that? That lad could have had a good education at school.

Home schoolers? They want to beat up their kids. They're neglecting them. Scurvy! Good God, they're backward, these weirdos.

Absolutely. It needs a change in the law. We need to know where these kids are, what they're up to, what goes on behind closed doors. There should be a compulsory register, a way of finding out. They should be inspected. Councils can't do anything. 

Thank God for that Labour Bloke. He's alright. He knows what he's doing. He's seen parents abuse kids, and how they hide kids, and hear that? Parents. They want to kill kids.

Home educator? Unregistered? What for? All the Council is doing is trying to help. And what's she doing in a field? Learning? They're not learning anything in a field. They're just playing. Book club? That doesn't sound very likely. Oh, right, she's breastfeeding. How long! She's probably still doing that till the kids are really old. What she say? Thirteen years! She just doesn't want her kids to grow up. Selfish.

Oh my God, they're hippies. They're trying to drop out. What age do they think they're living in?

Listen to that kid. He had no education from the age of 11? Thank God he got out of that. No exams? God, he says he's ignorant about everything. See? Parents who take their kids out of school should be put under the microscope. You need to get in there, look at what they're up to. 

In fact, nah, they should be stopped. Destroying their own kids. Fucking home schoolers. Hate 'em.'

Out of School, Out of Sight, programme presented on BBC Radio 4 by Winifred Robinson, 4/10/17.

The only hope we have, is people who think.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The brightest stars

I need to tell you about Squirrel. Someone attempted violence on her today. It was alright, she was unharmed. She was temporarily bewildered and aggravated, but now is back to normal somewhere in the solar system.

Their attempts at coercion won't work, of course they won't, because they should know that Squirrel lives in a different dimension from the rest of us. She is exempt from anyone's bargaining: she lives somewhere else, where she lives her effortlessly normal life, ignoring anything you try and do to haul her back down here to your annoying dimension.

But the connectors to our different Squirrel-Grit space-times turned briefly in sync (about 3.20pm), when Squirrel related the entire and strange incident which I report (nearly) faithfully, here.

At earthling lunchtime Squirrel was invited to sit down for a ten-minute 'chat' with her form tutor. This was so she could be 'appraised'. Only the tutor didn't call it that; the tutor said, 'Squirrel, let us have your appraisal'. Which is where it all started to go wrong.

Squirrel immediately appraised the school, offering the observation that she had thought better of their timetable, and she wasn't going to attend lessons allocated to her; she was going to different, more interesting lessons of her own making.

The form teacher then apparently changed tack, and attempted to prompt Squirrel into offering a few weaknesses she might possess that the school could help manage, and improve.

Squirrel observed this initial attempt to do violence to her identity, and told the form tutor that she hadn't any weaknesses that needed managing, or improving, thank you very much. Where she lived it was all fine: she was fine. The only weakness she could identify right now was the school administration procedure called 'appraisal'.

The tutor refused to write down Squirrel's appraisal and went for something else, suggesting that Squirrel might have a trait, as the form teacher said, 'you do not concentrate on things that do not interest you'. Squirrel immediately agreed. Temporarily triumphant, the form teacher wrote this down.

To which Squirrel exclaimed, You have written it in the wrong place! I have told you a Strength! Who wants to concentrate on things that do not interest them? WHAT IS THE POINT OF PAYING ATTENTION TO THINGS THAT ARE POINTLESS?

I could have told them, had they asked. This thing called appraisal, which is subjection and domination; describing to make regretful shortcomings and sorrowful subserviance. It is futile. You can try and do violence to Squirrel's mindset; to rearrange her identity; or attempt to present her character back to herself as one who, without autonomy, requires management and re-education - but you will fail.

Squirrel is not of your composition. She is a unique creation. She has her own dynamic force, possibly drawing on the strength of stardust.

Anyway, the upshot is, Squirrel remains unappraisable; the 10 minutes lasted 35, and we parent-units are due to see the form teacher on Wednesday.

I might do a little strewing for Squirrel to pick up on her fly-by: Managerialism: A Critique of an Ideology T. Klikauer

Saturday, 30 September 2017

'I just WANT the way you write... change the way I see the world.'


I yell my face off this morning at the sodding crappy Guardian. Usually, I yell that well-worn line at my husband, who now doesn't take any notice of it.

The fact that I am ignored does not change my opinion, not one jot.

Because, if you commit to writing, then you have amazing powers and awful responsibilities. As in:

a) have a bit of passion about stuff;
b) communicate your passion in a way that puts a spring in your word;
c) surprise me with a different point of view;
d) take me to a different landing place than the point we took off.

If odd bits of copy are shite, well I can forgive that, because we each have a living to earn: we need to forgive off-days. But GodHelpMe, don't make your full output a pile of vacuous buggerall nothingness.

Maybe I should blame the newspapers. I mean, look what happened to the Independent! It started out as a real voice and ended up as fuckall, simply helping to create the expectation that copy has no more duty than be off down the charity shop to wrap up broken glass destined for the tip.

Now, if I want to read vacuous empty piles of nothing, then I will read a load of ad copy.

I hope you're not reading, because I'm going to get personal. Incensed I was, that I spent two minutes of my precious life reading this.

What I wanted was some cut-and-bruise copy about student debt, financing, class, income, expectation, social responsibilities, the function of the state, you know, some real hard-nosed truth and understanding of how the world works. And what do I fucking get? An arse nugget of mother-to-daughter wisdom like 'shop like mama and buy a cheaper shampoo'.

Jeez, what I need to do is pass on wisdom like that, and get paid for it. Wisdom like that is why I left the shitty job in advertising. Actually, I got sacked. Because I couldn't write shitty crap like Buy this shampoo! It's cheap! It's exactly like expensive slop Fruit Tropical Mango Otter Fanny AND it's coloured green looking like pewk! Gorgeous eh? You'll stink like a dead badger's arse.

So here's a bit of real advice I take from today.

Grit. Never, ever, ever turn to the Family pages of the Guardian again. You'll waste your life. You'll get hot under the collar. You'll be driven mad by frustration at the way writers toss out crap, void of responsibility or even the wits to engage an intelligent readership. You'll hate the entire news industry and you'll likely never want to read a newspaper again. Then, after stewing on writer responsibility for half an hour, you'll bash out your vile bile to Planet Earth and press Publish before you even had the second, wiser, thought to remove the fucks. Fuckit. I just wanted the way you write to change the way I see the world. Fuck was it much to ask.

PS. What actually flipped me was the pathetic article on Hong Kong education.
PPS. The above requirement on the writtering crafters does not extend to me, obviously, due to the fact that no-one pays for my written wrods. On account of nothing, I can afford to be luxuriously selfish.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Home ed (the 5-minute drive version)

Grit catches sight of a printout of an anatomical drawing in Squirrel's art bag, while running out the house this morning at 8.14 for the drive to school.

Grit: Hey! Squirrel! Get in the car! Is that for your art? Brilliant! I'm interested in the history of anatomical illustration! It's one of my favourites! And bells. I like bells. And locks, keys, gates and doors in Clarissa. But anatomy! Let me tell you about anatomy.  

Yes I've got my lights on. Remember the Middle Ages? The Church sanctioned knowledge and said you couldn't just poke your nose in peoples' bodies. That is against God's law, but I can understand it in a way. Just think of the battles! Disfigurements, missing limbs, odd behaviours. I bet you got them all on the High Street.  

What's he doing? Idiot. I guess the church needed to provide comfort, and say Here's how to live with no legs, rather than Can I poke about in your neck. But then along comes the lens and they're stuffed. Remember Galileo? And what about the Renaissance? And Leonardo Da Vinci? Remember that exhibition in Hong Kong with all his art and science? And then we get the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  

Ha! Traffic lights. I knew we would make the green. Lenses. Lenses were everywhere. The whole medical inquiry thing blew up. Literally. They could see things they couldn't see before. Like the inside of your heart. And they started teaching it. Remember Newton's Optiks? In English? Now everyone knows about it and anatomy is everywhere. With pictures. Oh I want to go back and visit Wellcome.  

This is the bastard roundabout I hate. Anyway, then it goes sinister because we get the nineteenth century. Now a bunch of men start arranging dead women in poses with breasts exposed and legs akimbo, and they just say Pft It's Medicine, we can do what we like. Bastards. Which gives them a licence -so they think- to start getting their rocks off at dead women. And I put Over Her Dead Body on your feminist bookshelf. Look over it. It is excellent. And remember the woman who ran the marathon without tampon or pads? That was a brave thing to do!

Here's the turnoff. But it's like saying This is Blood and it's part of the deal if you want humans walking about this planet, so it's not something to be ashamed of or brush under the carpet. Menstrual blood you should celebrate. Why should we have to worship penises everywhere? Why do they get all the glory? They'd be stuffed without the menstrual cycle. So what I want you to do in your art -and here is your challenge- is produce a piece of work that references the history of anatomical drawings but gives it a woman's twist and places menstrual blood right at the heart. When you create it you should be empowered by that work, and so are people who look at it, because it changes the way we see the world.  

Right, are we here? Got it? Woman's anatomy. Power. Subvert history.

Squirrel (looking like she's been hit about the face with a cricket bat): I'm doing the theme of transport. But I'll bear it in mind.

For the further engagement of those who can endure a Grit lecture:
Over Her Dead Body

Thursday, 28 September 2017


As I walk through my days, conscious of pains, bruises, aches, I sometimes forget there is another half of life; it's the half that snaps and tingles like an effervescent sparkle on the tongue. It's a sudden surprise: a present given freely, without condition, from an unexpected place. It's the bright, bright light broke through the days of grey.

Today, I walk and photograph the colour yellow.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Loved Mother! (Hated IT)

One of the bestest presents I've ever given myself is a Cineworld pass.

I need to stop there. Because just writing that, I feel I am a proper sad git, spending lonesome evenings with the other single seaters, interspersed twixt couples and groups, me with my single cine-seat pressed against the wall so I don't spoil the atmosphere.

But it's not like that, not at all!

I have wrapped myself in the experience of the pictures since I discovered this wondrous art form along with the rest of the Bash Street Kids, aged five, at the Saturday morning ABC minors club at the Metropole.

Towed at the ragged edges of the kid crowd I learned how to flow into the cinema all arms and legs, past the ticket seller and into the musty dark.

If I made it that far, and wasn't collared on account of not having my tanner, I was in, and it was heaven. The place stank of sweat and damp. We had to find the route past the long red curtains hung with dead smoke and old scent, and into the close darkness choose a seat with an eye not to the screen but to the curl of the balcony over our heads. The kids up there would rain missiles down at any point of the drama, beginning, middle or end, and if it was a lighted match, be hopeful it wasn't coming your way.

But the ABC minors was safe, relatively speaking. I was surrounded by other kids, and we ran as a pack. We could, to some extent, look after each other, and pass on wise advice like, don't sit at the back row. But if you want to earn ten shillings, sit in the row just before the back, and wait to be tapped on the shoulder. Those were perils indeed, because what came next was bargaining, and I hadn't any confidence in that skill.

But from the pictures, I was never deterred. That wondrous screen was the best ever. Into my life it brought cowboys and Indians, magicians and talking cats, space rockets and submarines, death-defying acts, betrayals and double-crossings, loyalties and bravados.

I still keep hold of that moment of anticipation as the screen shows me the contract, the movie name, the BBFC rating, the signatures. Then, kapow! And what a film to love! Mother!

Mother! You give, and you give, and you give. The more you give, the more is demanded. The more you give, the less it is respected or valued or acknowleged. And the more you give, the more you simply become a stepping stone to something else and someone else. And to my thinking, that is a bastard song of truth of how male/female relationships can pass. Thank you to the man who made that film.

IT. The Goonies are now ruined forever.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Brussels. Pft.

Me and Dig go to Brussels. Dig goes to speak to a lot of translators and interpreters at the European Parliament about the English language in a post-Brexit world. I go to make sure he doesn't fall down stairs.

While he is being important, I am forced to hide from the torrential downpour by walking the 360 degrees round the European Parliament Exhibition. Experiencing a long dark tunnel of existential despair sounds preferable, and then I discover they actually have that tunnel as part of the introductory Euro-fun.

It doesn't get any better. I can harken to tales of Euro-joy in the next long gallery of pain, and then I can sit in an armchair to have nails driven into my face.

As far as I can see, Brexit isn't mentioned, unless you count the statement 'The UK is fully committed to Europe' at the end of another tunnel where they then gather my good wishes for the future of all Europe. Someone before me has typed the offering Penis and signed it Penisman. Make of that what you will.

The best bit was when two English speakers tried to leave the 360 degrees of Euro Fun by reversing out the entrance. The guard icily told them this was not the correct way out and they should walk the 360 degrees properly if they wanted to leave. In the end they just legged it.

I am sorry for the Pft. Take it as the sound of a whoopee cushion, deflated, without the whoopee (or the cushion), or much joy at all.

I am sure Brussels offers much, but I cannot say I had a whoop-de-doo time of it, although it is clearly WTF territory, with their penchant for giant plastic horses dressed up as zebras, enormous chunks of unfathomable kitch pretending to be sculptures, and people doing inexplicable and bewildering things in public.

I did quite enjoy seeing the angel though (no photograph, sadly). And car-free Sunday made me awful regretful that we don't do the same all over England.

If you are seriously interested in Brussels, with or without pft, there is only one place to go.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Geography, You have a Problem.

And your problem is Squirrel. She is going to take a bag of rocks to your next lesson.

She plans to lay out her rocks on the desk and suggest you all look at them, because rocks are interesting.

They might also serve as a reminder of what you are doing when you study erosion.

Dear Geography, might it also imply that your lessons are boring?

In Squirrel's (extensive) experience, a teacher who gives the instructions Make notes on page 130, then complete the exercise on the board falls somewhat short, of what Geography is, and should be, as a subject.

But worse. Geography then closes the window blinds. Presumably to prevent the fortunate students being distracted by the outdoors.

(I would be delighted to help Squirrel locate the perfect rock.)

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Let's be British

First days at school for Squirrel and Tiger. For Shark, it is her first ever experience of 'Back to School'.

The children have each, at their respective institutions, experienced the propaganda presentation of the school talk called British Values.

The anarchist parents suggest they should each shout at the end, I don't agree! as a concise demonstration of what we really should value about being British.

Monday, 4 September 2017

All Normal at the Asylum

Thank Goodness for the Asylum! The annual Steam of Punks, Post-Apocalyptics, Subversives, Ne'erDoWell's, Burlesques, Prop Makers, Theatre Costumiers, Alternative Reality Types, Tinkerers, and Grit With All the Grittylings, who each dress splendidly and made a show of being normal.

But so many other successes from the long weekend! The Knickers Empire did splendidly, and was invited to a Faery Festival to celebrate faeries. Definitely not the girly type who lose their handbags, but the type to dance you to death, steal your first born, then piss on your face. That sort of faery.

Then Shark bought her first corset and Mother Grit was Very Proud. Tiger projected a menacing image of latent violence and contemptuous disdain, as only the teen-steam can. She looked either like an assassin or a bodyguard, depending on where you stood. And to top it all, Squirrel won the Carroll award in the Grand Exhibition. The Carroll Award - thank you to Lewis Carroll - celebrates WTF in imaginative design. Squirrel proudly displayed her Cyborg Slug, which was common in the Cyborg Empire Wars of the 18thC. This one is looking for a new Cyborg Tamer, hence the false hand.

It all made sense in the Asylum.

Thursday, 24 August 2017


Well, I write to a friend, How did Tinkertop do? Are you in tears of rage or joy?

Everything is normal here. School A lost Shark's result in English Language and we had to wait 15 minutes while I suspect they printed off a copy.

Then we dashed to School B, late. You only get a 30-minute window to collect results, because the bastards want to keep the fantasy going that you only ever get one chance at anything in life, including picking up a sodding envelope.

When we arrived, I had an argument because the staff refused to give Identical Daughter Number 1 the results for Identical Daughter Number 2, even though Identical Daughter Number 1 was clutching a signed letter of permission.

I had a temper tantrum and stormed about looking like a Nazi. I should have lied. We all should have lied. This is what school institutions do: they turn me into a person without scruples, honesty, or dignity.

Then we go home and The Anxious Nervous Daughter discovers she got a C in English Literature. Which is not bad considering she has been yelling for the last 17 years how she hates English and she hates writing essays and she hates sentences, so there.

But at the discovery of the C, the world ends, and she has taken herself to a park bench with a bottle of Voddy because there is no bleedin' point to anything ever, ever, ever, again.

I hope your results day has been better than ours.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The countdown begins

Clacker: Operator of Analytic Engine / Spreader of rumour. Target engaged in espionage/military. Clacker's Note Book: Locate and Possess.

Jawrer; Chow Chiseler; Broth Chooker: Ad hominem slang for Restaurant critic; Chef; Food scrounger. Professions deemed honourable or disreputable according to local culture. Note books needed by all practitioners. One only note book available, on first-come first-served basis. (In keeping with Broth Chooker terms of trade, silverplate embelishment cutlery stolen from the Gentry.)

Bone Doxy: Lady Archaeologist. Bone Doxy's Note Book for field and river scrummaging, last night discovered, waiting collection. With bones.

Monday, 31 July 2017

The usual

Just in case you think we're dead. Or wandering about Northumberland moors, lost, contemplating eating raw sheep.

Yes, the holiday in Northumberland. Thank you. It rained. We sat around and glared at each other. Tiger did a jigsaw, Squirrel read a book, we watched The Full Monty, and then we all went out and got wet.

Northumberland is beautiful, and never disappoints, not even when you can barely see the hand in front of your face and the rain has made gutters of your face. Did all the routine things. Visited the tiny, Polly Pocket-sized Aunty M. (Not even a real Aunty.) This year, no-one dared say See you next year! Back at the holiday terrace, I hid and cried.

Dig. Wonderfully stitched together. Argumentative and behaviourally non-compliant, so is almost fully back to normal. Wobbles and weaknesses remain. Still on the 3-month recovery phase. The dietitian instructed him to eat crisps and biscuits, full fat milk and ice cream. (Me, I have a proper 3-month belly thanks to that.)

Tiger. Throwing herself twixt success and failure. Tries hard, often, to snatch failure from the jaws of success, then fails to do so, thus perversely bringing about a twin success. Panics in any case. But! Attended the Cambridge ASNC Department two-day masterclass and open day for Old Norse, Insular Latin, Ancient Greek, Welsh, Celtic. Which she would very much like to attend, maybe 2019. Dear Cambridge, for the mental health of Tiger and all us good folk living on this side of Britain, just take her. If you do not, she will reapply. Again and again and again. Until you give in. I am more pragmatic. I say, doesn't matter if they take you or not. Go anyway.

Squirrel. Reads a lot. Cuts up cloth. Gets distracted by air. Says things like, 'I'm terribly busy right now' while watching dust settle. Delightfully bonkers. Has demonstrated (astonishing, some might say) an ability to rattle out essays that are lucid, well-organised, spring a neat turn of phrase, and nearly make the deadline. (Shows all the hallmarks of a writer if you ask me.) Will probably try and make a career of sieving soil or stitching orange peel while I try and bribe her with biscuits to send off her first article to a national newspaper.

Shark. Heading your way on the Caledonian Sleeper. Soon she will be in the Highlands, saving Osprey by digging holes and slaying midges. Volunteering, huh? She thinks it is all excellent, this outdoorsy life, blown apart by sea spray, lashed by wind, trialled by earth-sea adventures. Bunked school in the last week of term to run off to sea on a ship courtesy of the Sea Cadets. Came home with instructions for diesel engines and tales of porpoises. We are not anticipating a desk-bound job in an office. For my part, I am glad that someone is up for it. Just as I fancy a sit-down with a good book and a cup of tea.

Grit. Condoning truancy by writing emails to Shark's school saying something better is on offer, so she's not coming in. Trying to scam a few quid here and there to pay for Tiger's Ancient Greek habit. Scavenging in bins for Squirrel to acquire well, anything, really. Being nice to Dig. Stitching books and looking forward to dressing up in plumbing gear and leather for this year's Steampunk Asylum. The usual.

Monday, 3 July 2017

After much winding of death sheets,

In short? The patient, he LIVES!

But I was very tempted to put the bastard under the patio. (Also I am now size 18.)

If you require the long version, read on.

Fecking hell, how do nurses cope? Dig, who shall hereafter be called the Patient, went through a very difficult period of spurning all my Nursey help, preferring actual Death to my ministering touch.

Now see here matey, I told him, I have watched American Western films c1973, and they have given me Nursey-know-how to deal with a clapped-out, bashed-up hero with a gut wound and a fever, who looks for dead upon the cabin bed.

As in, the devoted Nursey-wife-woman dresses meanly in worn clothes (done!) and mops the Hero's Brow (done!). Then she stirs nurturing broth and stares at cooking pans, determined (also done!).

Well I can tell you, dear reader, those techniques do not work, not at all. The Patient shows maximum annoyance at the brow-mopping, summoning his last remaining hero-breath to tell the devoted mopper to Get the hell off my face. Then, at the mere mention of sustaining broth, he vomits.

An extremely difficult week indeed.

The Patient declined all food and started shrinking, skeletal-wise. Nursey Grit started to threaten the Patient with Food, or the Patio. The Patient then looked at Nursey Grit as if he hated her. Nursey Grit's food offerings became desperate. The Patient wanted NOTHING. Water was an EFFORT.

Nursey Grit started to panic and weep and regret not forcing the Patient to make a Last Will and Testament.

Nursey Grit also started to wonder about getting the Patient to sign something she had writ, to the effect that Death was not by Nurse Gritty's hand, but the Patient would in fact like to leave her all his money. (This probably counts as Fraud, when actually it should be called Despair.)

Nurse Grit hit the bottle and came out in hives. The children hid. (It did not matter, because by then I had forgot about them anyway.)

But then! The patient demanded a tub of taramasalata and started spooning it into his mouth! Within a day he had eaten half a tub of taramasalata, and Nursey Grit cleared Tesco shelves of this fine sustaining broth before ordering 30 packs for online delivery. A corner had been turned.

Soon, we were surrounded by empty tubs of taramasalata and biscuit wrappers.

Nurse Grit started keeping records of what the Patient actually ate to wave in evidence at the dietician.
  1. Offered : milk, tea, hot chocolate, fruit juice, toast, egg, porridge, pate, probiotic drink, carrot, cucumber, mint drink, pomegranate, creme caramel, kangaroo steak, ostrich arse, puffin noses, anything you damn well want.
  2. Taken : One teaspoon porridge.
But now! Now! We have seen more of the hospital doctor; a further scan has been taken; Dig's innards have been declared a mess but not cancer, and he has been told by a lady dietitian to eat chocolate pudding, biscuits, crisps, high-fat foods, full-fat milk, ice cream, a daily slab of butter, and more chocolate Complan. Garnished with extra chocolate.

Hurrah! We are, after the false start and the plunge into despair, truly on the road to recovery!

We are all supporting The Patient, who shall hereafter be called Dig, in his new diet regime. (He has gained 5 ounces and we have gained 5 stone.)

Monday, 29 May 2017

It is a slow but steady process. For maybe 3 months.

Dig is home from hospital. He is weak, and feeble, and often makes whimpering noises. (That is my nursing lingo. Obviously, I have become a cracking good nurse! Pfft. I have picked up this nursing lark up in no time at all!)

He is still unable to do much, although some days he can stand up. Then he lies down again. Sometimes he sleeps.

He is also eating! Admittedly, teensy, tiny, weensy amounts of food. Possibly the same amount that Barbie would eat, if she could eat, and you had to serve it to her.

Now, I know a thing or two about food as well as How To Be A Nurse. Having passed through that marvellous teenage moment called, Let Us Starve Ourselves to Death (optimum weight, 6stone 1lb 5oz), I know that it is a start to place in front of the suffering one - who actually doesn't know they are starving - morsels of wondrous tenderness and beauty. Foods the patient may find irresistible. Even when they say things like, I have eaten plenty of water today. Dig's soft spots, in his present state of No Appetite At All, are for chocolate, smoked salmon, beef stock cube and kale juice. Strange one, huh? (And for him, all guilt-free!)

My other nursing duties are walking up and down the stairs a million times a day to tentatively ask, 'Are you alright? Do you want anything?'; disinfecting the bathrooms and doorhandles; taking a knife to paracetamol tablets because whole ones are too big; passing the injection thingy over to be done by the patient (I am not trusted on that manoeuvre); and embarking on missions to acquire any item, no matter how unlikely, that spark a flicker of life-force from my patient in any last hour. Such as creamed rice pudding, chocolate mousse, more paracetamol and a bowl with a handle.

But every doom-laden thunder-cloud, bearing extra-malevolent pixies with cyanide-tipped thunderbolts, has a silver lining, does it not? Then this is ours. (Or rather, mine.) He's not about to board a flight to Japan and South Korea! They're cancelled!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

'I need a brick in a plastic bag'

Dig's operation was yesterday, and it went okay, thank you. I shall keep you informed.

But I am learning a few things about life as I travel through a new beginning.

As in, the NHS is, from my tiny slice of view, working.

Nurses use an old-fashioned technology. This is called A Paper and Pen with A Folder.

Folder travels with the patient. And I'm glad of it. Because if every item of knowledge about the Inner Sanctum was entrusted to the NHS Babbage Calculating Engine, we'd all be stuffed, good 'n' proper. So please let us all hold onto Paper, Pen, and Folder for a bit longer.

The car park is bank-account-swallowing-expensive. By my reckoning, I need a daily ten pound note for car park, to-ing and fro-ing. I can manage a day, but ten days? Fifteen days? Just when our income reduces to zero? Thus I now park at a local housing estate and walk in. I shall probably vote Labour, even though I said I never would again.

Life seems more stressful when there is an emergency. Would I have yelled at the driver at any other time? Would I have politely got out of my car and helped them park? I did in the end, but it was no use. They couldn't park at all. They were trying to park outside my house, and they had just reversed into the little car we acquired last month for the daughters to drive, denting the bumper. Should I say the driver looked about age 80 and demonstrated zero road skills? Unconscious even they'd hit the Daughter Car while their own car was steadying from the impact.

But life carries on as normal! I learn this everytime I stare routine disasters in the face. I know normal because there is always the Family Trifle. Tiger is off to a nature reserve with her frog-bothering chums; Squirrel has joined the Air Cadets and is out marching around the universe with the Duke of Edinburgh, and Shark is propped outside right now on the doorstep with a Physics book. She is guarding the For Sale items we are displaying in the local community venture, Yard Sale!

Which, incidentally, explains the title to today's diary entry.

When Shark is bored, she will wander off, so I have set up an honesty box.

Actually, it is my snake box, the one with the eyeball. But someone will nick it, so I have placed a heavy weight inside. Thus I needed the brick.

Not, as Squirrel suggested, to launch through the window of Number 82. (Even though they deserve it.)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

One way is the right way

Duh, Stupid Grit. Of course you cannot use That Door to exit the hospital after 10pm.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Jollity all round.

The three household students are taking exams.

Sometimes this includes self-harm and sometimes this includes the sort of over-confidence that lands you in court.

It is also A Big Special Day for Dig, the husband who is preserved as mine. The doctors are letting him come home for the afternoon on the promise that he will return this evening and not take the advantage of freedom to do a runner.

Celebrations begin! I have made Dirty Trifle.

Recipe Ingredients
Anything resembling boudoir biscuits.
The remains of a bottle of sherry from Lidl.
Tin of custard. (The cheaper the better. Times are hard.)
Tin of sliced peaches in syrup. (Under no circumstances let standards slip and yield to the temptation of sliced peaches in fruit juice or sliced peaches in brine.)
Something white for the top. Preferably not shaving foam.
A banana.

Recipe Method
Break biscuits/stale bread into bowl. Pour in sherry. Pause to drain bottle directly into face. Ignore Squirrel who covers her eyes. Open can of peaches and tip into bowl. Add custard. Do not remark on strange beige colour. Add white stuff. (It came out in a lump, and was difficult to spread evenly. The decorative banana will sort it.) Time: 5 mins, max.

Recipe Conclusion
Leave Dirty Trifle on table while find bag, keys, credit card for hospital card park. Depart. Shout, There'd better be some of it left by the time I bring your father home.

And Happy Birthday.

UPDATE. Dig is not allowed out of the hospital.

Therefore the Grit and Dig family invent a new sport called Extreme Trifling.

This requires Squirrel to carry the Family Bowl of Trifle through the car park, past the building works and into the hospital onwards, until we find a suitable resting place in the canteen.

Here we demonstrate the thoroughly British Show of Bravado and Defiance in The Face of All Odds.

Next Week! Extreme Trifling sees The Family Trifle eaten in spirited defiance of disaster at the Bletchley roundabout on the A5.

Friday, 28 April 2017

'Jesus, help us. The duct tape has done all it can.'

Squirrel's words, as she learns the roads.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Thanks, but no thanks, Joan and Harold.

I have been puzzling over my utter failure to be turned on by Joan and Harold (BBC Radio 4).

In fact, I turned the pair decidedly off.

I wondered why. Surely a twisted tale of misery  with a few laughs to jolly along the dead is right up my street.

Perhaps I should make myself listen to it, because instinctively I don't want to.

And Eng. Lit students are supposed to thrill at the emotional rollercoasters of the great and good, are we not? Finding a juicy morsel about T. S. Eliot is supposed to keep us going for years. It works for Sylvia and Ted.

But I am old. I am past it. I don't want to wonder on the affairs of your heart.

And, pragmatically, realistically, affairs are shit. You are low-life if you have them. Yes indeed, affairs are all about betrayal. Destruction, loss, mayhem and heartbreak. With bomb blasts of trust. And you can't have your trust back once you broke it. You are the person whose word can't be trusted. Lying to your kids is the exit visa from your tribe.

Maybe I simply wanted better from Joan and Harold. As national treasures, surely they have to uphold certain moral values? They are meant to be better than me, better than the nation. They should lead by example and stand for something, right? Perhaps they're standing for the way that lies and deceit can be problematic, thrilling, and, um, noble?

And here, I think, is the start of my problem. Joan and Harold are just too damn self-absorbed to be problematic, thrilling, or noble.

Yes, of course the artist must tip into their work their experiences of life. Good, bad, worse and ugly, shit and horrible. It is essential. That moment of the artist - exploring their experiences, exposing their emotions, making themselves vulnerable through their materials, whether it is words, textile or paint - puts integrity and authenticity at the heart of their work.

Maybe this is a quaint old-fashioned idea. How I want art to be a bond between people. I want how art can create a sort of trust - perhaps the thought that yes, artist and audience, we do share common feelings; that we can see messages and know shared signs, even if I'm imagining those, or comforting myself by making them up in my own head. But at some level, I'm looking for commonality.

And it is a basis on which a buyer stumps up the cash, is it not?

As a buyer, I'm buying not just the art, but a bit of the artist too. I buy into their experience and the feeling they've had. Maybe I've had that same experience, or maybe I just want to tip my toe into the pool of what that experience brings to my imaginations for humanity.

That's where Joan and Harold fail. They're selling their feelings and ideas of untrustworthiness, lies, infidelity, and betrayal, then telling me: Trust in this. Maybe in the exploration of these ideas, they're still slugging it out with each other, looking at each other as their prime audiences. This is what I wanted to say. It doesn't matter that one of them is dead.

Then is it celebrity culture that I'm watching? Joan's spin-off books, chat shows, new contracts; Harold's hoisting material back on the best-seller lists. It's a market. We buyers need to buy the thrill of those words clandestine affair. (But how many years have the words been peddled?)

Joan and Harold. Sorry, but I won't be listening, not on the iplayer, and not even though my whiny Eng Lit voice tells me I really, really should, because your words are art.

Ultimately, I want to trust the artist. And when I do, I want to hand over my support for something more thought-provoking, elevating and invigorating and even more blasted funny than Trust me, I had a clandestine affair.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Science without school

From the networks:
''The issue of autodidactism, autonomous and self-organized learning is becoming more prevalent, and we see that it goes beyond homeschooling, unschooling and education without school, starting to be present in university or job selection processes for different companies.

In the National University of Colombia, supported by the Faculty of Human Sciences, we have done in previous years different events around this theme: International Congresses in the years: 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014 and five semester courses on Education without School among the Years 2011 and 2014. We were also part of the organizing team of the International Week of Alternative Education in 2015.

In addition, with the EnFamilia Network, through the accompaniment we have given to many families throughout the country in their process of deschooling, we have experienced and verified the capacities of children, youth and adults to learn in a self-organized way all types of knowledge and skills of different fields and levels of difficulty.

At the moment, we are also organizing a course at the National University of Colombia, this time working as a team with the Faculty of Engineering, in which we want to approach the processes of self-organization of learning in the fields of science, technology and engineering. We seek to show and analyze how, in a self-organized way and without schooling, we can acquire knowledge of university level or necessary in the professional and career world.
In this course we want to show, analyze and discuss testimonies of people who have lived and experienced this way of learning, contrasting them with more theoretical investigations or foundations on the subject.

That's why we write this message, to know if you have information about self-organization of learning in the sciences, technology or engineering that can share with us; could be books, research, articles, audiovisual material, documented experiences, etc. All this will help us to show how this phenomenon is current and growing not only in Colombia, but in other places of the world.

We thank you in advance for your cooperation.''
Contact: Coordinator of the research-action Project about Homeschooling-Unschooling, National University of Colombia.
Also see:

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Success! (Nearly)

By the turn of the fifth page of her sketchbook, Tiger is accepted on interview into college to study Art, Art, and More Art.

She doesn't have the Art GCSE, but it doesn't stop her taking the A Level, so take this as evidence that home ed kids can footle around with this'n'that and still be happy achieving what they want.

Actually, Tiger is only partly happy.

For a start, she does not seem able to believe that someone just said 'This is your offer if you want the place. Go home and fill in the Application Form.'

Nooooo. There's a catch, right? This is like someone wheels a barrow to your door filled with sweet fresh pineapple, perfect ripe mangos, juicy grapes and finger bananas. Free. You squeal No! There's a bag of sour lemons here! I've only got to find them! Then off you go, tossing the ripe fruit to the floor until you find the manky lemon. The one that sits there, in your imagination, stinking mouldy green.

For another thing, Tiger actually wants to go to Cambridge and study their Old Norse, Anglo Saxon, and Medieval Welsh. That ambition started when she taught herself Anglo Saxon, with the aid of half a dozen books and the ever-fragrant Mr Sweet.

Certainly, she's taking a long way round on her route to Cambridge. Mostly by indulging herself in Art, completing her Latin A Level at home, taking A level language as a private candidate, and planning an A Level in Geography in her non-scheduled time.

She is possibly a bit bonkers. At which the family chant, All the best people are.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Shy smile

I made a 7-year old smile. This was delightful to me. I gave her our Wombat (stuffed, not live), and she gave me a wide-eyed, shy smile, spreading slowly into delight. I felt that Wombat had found a good home. I hope that when she got home, after Wombat had been so safely tucked under her arm, Mama did not hoist him into the skip. (It would be poetic justice. He came from one.)

My first thought, was Blimey, I haven't seen a smile like that in while. Perhaps it's because my own children are aged 17.

Hmm, thinking it through, that is not quite right. One daughter is aged 17 going on 50 and is head of this family. She can knock out a mean sourdough loaf while advising you on strategy regarding finance, life goals, and assertion skills for women. I am not sure how I could induce a shy smile there. But she takes after her father.

Another, I can induce a shy smile but it must involve food, theatre tickets, or seats for live folk performances. The timing must be perfect.

The third, I could probably prompt a grin still with a bag of old rubber bands, toilet roll tubes, string, paint, and bottletops. True delight. (I may need to visit Scrapstore this very moment.)

Monday, 10 April 2017

I have no regrets in being a hippy

Because today I find out what is a 'Smash Cake'.

Madeira Sponge [Sugar, Fortified Wheat Flour, Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin (B3), Thiamin (B1)], Pasteurised Whole Egg, Rapeseed Oil, Water, Humectant (Glycerol), Dried Skimmed Milk, Raising Agents (Diphosphates, Sodium Carbonates), Maize Starch, Emulsifier (Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate), Dried Glucose Syrup, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Flavouring, Acidity Regulator (Citric Acid)] , Vanilla Flavour Frosting (29%) [Sugar, Butter (from Milk), Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Water, Rapeseed Oil, Dried Glucose Syrup, Palm Stearin, Humectant (Glycerol), Flavouring, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Emulsifier (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids), Colour (Carotenes)] , White Chocolate Dome (11%) [Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Dried Whole Milk, Dried Skimmed Milk, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins), Flavouring] , Multi Coloured Sugar Spheres (5.6%) [Sugar, Wheat Starch, Palm Oil, Coconut Oil, Water, Glucose Syrup, Colours (Curcumin, Beetroot Red, Anthocyanins), Glazing Agent (Beeswax), Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins)] , Plum and Raspberry Jam (3.8%) [Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Plums, Raspberries, Gelling Agent (Pectin), Acidity Regulators (Citric Acid, Sodium Citrates), Colour (Anthocyanins), Flavouring] , Chocolate Malt Balls (3.1%) [Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Fortified Wheat Flour [Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin (B3), Thiamin (B1)], Cocoa Mass, Dried Skimmed Milk, Maize Flour, Lactose (from Milk), Whey Powder (from Milk), Anhydrous Milk Fat, Barley Malt Extract, Emulsifiers (Soya Lecithins, Triphosphates, Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids), Water, Salt, Glazing Agent (Acacia Gum), Spray Dried Palm Fat, Honey] , Dolly Mixtures (3.1%) [Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Beef Gelatine, Coconut Oil, Modified Maize Starch, Palm Oil, Acidity Regulator (Citric Acid), Fat Reduced Cocoa Powder, Flavouring, Colours (Anthocyanins, Paprika Extract, Beetroot Red, Curcumin), Apple Extract, Hibiscus Extract, Nettle Extract, Spinach Extract, Gelling Agent (Pectins)] , Multi Coloured Chocolate Nibs (3.1%) [Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Colours (Titanium Dioxide, Curcumin, Carmine), Glazing Agents (Acacia Gum, Beeswax, Carnauba Wax, Shellac), Cocoa Butter, Maize Starch, Spirulina Concentrate, Flavouring, Safflower Concentrate, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins)] , Blue Icing Piping [Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Water, Maize Starch, Free Range Dried Egg White, Spirulina, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Humectant (Glycerol)] .

Home-made cake (dairy variety): butter, sugar, self-raising flour, eggs.
Slice a banana for the top.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Education is not the same as School

The language used by commenters after the Jon Platt case is utterly dispiriting.

As in, people who once had freedoms, and when those freedoms were taken from them, kindly ask the people who took those freedoms to put everyone in prison, because only that circumstance would be fair.

And neither am I hearing the voices of educational thinkers on the radio or in the media. Educational thinkers who work out ideas against the word Education. Like Paulo Freire or Ivan Illich. Thinkers. People who pose challenges to a culture, to its norms and beliefs.

We need someone thinking and shouting for sure, because all I hear now is blinkered crap. Like the assumptions I hear made are God-awful-horrible: they tell me something bad happened to the national brain.

Assumptions like 'you will never catch up', 'one day off school will have an impact'. 

Huh? It's now perfectly normal to think of education as something LINEAR that comes from a TEXT BOOK, so if you miss PAGE 42, you're in TROUBLE.

That's great for business. It's great for text book publishers too, and for teaching centres who need to plug in teachers quickly and easily along the conveyor belt it implies. 

A linear text-book based system is also very useful for examination, especially when you can have an online testing tick-box system, so expect that soon.

And it's the style of 'education' adopted by lovely child-friendly countries like China*, who slavishly force kids to slog away at text books day and night on a punishing system driven by national and international league tables.

Fortunately, it reinforces the idea that every parent must join in with this system if their child is to succeed

How I fondly recall the Hong Kong Kinder Interview Offer!* For $200 take your 2-year old to an intensive one-day course so they learn to sit up straight, write their name, and answer questions correctly. Then they can attend the real Nursery Interview Process, because the nursery school needs them reading and writing by age 4. 

Ah, Hong Kong! How the UK Loves You! Soon, we will be like you!*

This system has nothing to do with education. The politicians and members of the public who use the word education as a handy word meaning school do so because they are ignorant and unthinking. They should use the word SCHOOL, and leave the word EDUCATION out of their language.

In my life, in my reading, education raises issues such as learner autonomy, creativity, thinking for onseself, being able to play at the age of 3 in a way which is not being directed or controlled by the teacher. Education means reading material which is not under surveillance, control, marking and testing by another. It means challenging, asking difficult questions, questioning social structures, motives, economic drivers, and the language of politics. 

Education means thinking. And school means compliance.

* Sarcasm.
* More sarcasm.
* A lot of *Sarcasm.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

'A Day Off School Affects Your Child's Life Chances'

How many days have my kids missed school? Maybe 5,000. Imagine! 5,000 days my kids have been off school!

Shark still got an A* in Maths, so clearly she was disadvantaged. I'll send her off now to the park bench with a bottle of voddy.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

I'm with Jenni Murray

Because, in these miserable days, we need a wider and weirder pool of words to choose from.

If you're choosing the nuance of your sexuality, then surely you can find a lovely bag of words to fit. Woman won't cover it all, in the same way that man never covered it all either.

I want to hear more lovely, more interesting words. I want words that are wonderful and curious to say; words that throw consonants b and d together in unlikely correspondence.

I want words like slubridiscious and prescloibidly. That would surely be better than a misery trans or the reductive cis. What fun are these? Make some new words to describe nuances of states of being, please, not fight over tunnel-narrow definitions of single words.

Yes, man never did it for me. I still hear it and read it everywhere.

I remember in primary school the teacher explaining how a book called Man and Nature actually meant women too.

That word - man - was the only one I got. I didn't get to own my word in 32pt bold type.I had to do the work to interpret man in my own way.

But then, after the teacher taught us that when the word man was used, it actually meant all humanity, all women, everyone - it was just the word man, okay? - when I read that book, the story never had a woman in it, unless she was the mummy who waved off the conquering hero, then the nurse who tended to his wounds when he got home. So include yourself in that word, girl who is called a man, and yet not a man. Double-thinking words became a part of growing up.

Now, when we have more options to communicate than we did in 1963, we need more words, simple as that. And if they don't exist, then call them into being.

Monday, 6 March 2017

One for our guerilla art afternoon

Rachel Sussman repairs pavements with gold paint. Result: destruction and creation walk hand-in-hand.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Bullied. What's the worst that happens next?

I'm listening to a lot of terrifying stories this week on the radio, so I guess we're designated a mental health / kids / bullying awareness week?

Anyway, I'm not hearing, as any part of a strategic approach, the words Home Education.

Maybe I'm listening to the wrong channels. Or maybe I'm deeply out of touch with humans on Planet Earth. No-one here speaks my language. My language is mostly, I'll follow my own impulse, thank you very much. And I thought lots of people spoke that.

Hmm. Home education, then.

Now I've never got the idea I hear repeated again and again - that if you send a child into a miserable place, day after grinding day - that the brutality and unhappiness they meet will equip a child for adult life. It's the idea that a brusied and damaged child will be able to handle anything, because they've already been beaten up.

It doesn't sound like a very convincing argument. Maybe we should try institutionalising a different approach? One where we don't harm kids and, um, we don't go after each other in the workplace either. We work together like reasonable and respectful people, beginning to end, kid to adulthood.

But I can only tell you this story. That one day in our home ed play group, a child from school came to visit everyone; his mother was considering withdrawing him from school, where he was being bullied to hell and back.

Maybe she'd already moved schools, or tried to fix the system, I don't know. But the child sat on the swings and nothing bad happened. Except maybe some feral home ed kids came up and asked whether he wanted to build a space rocket, that sort of thing.

Then he went home happy, and his mother sent in the deregistration letter and he became one of us - the ones people like to call the invisible children, unseen and unschooled - and maybe he gained a couple of IGCSEs, with a full circle of strange friends, and a place at university, or a job, or setting up his own business. Something terrible like that. Because it's probably the worst that can happen, right?

Well, I know you didn't ask for it, but you read this far, so my advice is, find your local group, meet them, and talk to them.

Yes, you will meet the feral, the bonkers and the strange. And the awkward and the shy and the warm and the funny and the erudite and the clever. You'll meet people you still call friends, 15 years on, and you'll meet people you never want to see again. A bit like life. But bullying? I've only ever met that in schools.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

We have bookshelves of dirty words

In fact, we have a whole bookcase dedicated to them. Unsavoury, socially undesirable, rotten-to-the-core dirty words. I want my children to read them. ALL OF THEM.

Prompted - not by the recent kerfuffle over 'let's disappear the word woman on the grounds that it discriminates against intersex and transgender men' but by Daughter Number One's discovery of the gender stereotyping implicit in the English Department GCSE Language class.

In Daughter's English Language class - of all places - we discover that no-one bothers much about peddling ideas such as girls have good technical skills in painting their nails, adoring Barbie dolls, and putting ickle circles over their ickle letter i.

In this household, this woman-at-keyboard has long held the view that English departments should be about educating your critical thinking about language. Better than being an unquestioning purveyor of the worst kind of it.

Entirely co-incidental then, that I hear a kerfuffle today over whether we should be pregnant women or pregnant people.

Back to source, here is the paragraph in the British Medical Association's A guide to effective communication: inclusive language in the workplace

Pregnancy and maternity Gender inequality is reflected in traditional ideas about the roles of women and men. Though they have shifted over time, the assumptions and stereotypes that underpin those ideas are often deeply rooted. It is common to assume a woman will have children, look after them and take a break from paid work or work part-time to accommodate the family. If a woman is forgetful during pregnancy, this is often referred to as her ‘baby brain’. However, such assumption and stereotypes can and often do have the effect of seriously disadvantaging women. A large majority of people that have been pregnant or have given birth identify as women. We can include intersex men and transmen who may get pregnant by saying ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘expectant mothers’.

A bit of rag-bag paragraph with a tagged-on sentence which reads, 'Hey! We at the BMA are so on-trend, it hurts!' 

Quite right it hurts. The BMA can't talk here about the social or structural issues which give rise to our language, so it goes after the easier target, which is the language itself. There is naive thinking here, is there not? Train staff to say the right words. Because if we change the language, then we change the structural issues!
Me, I'm with Germaine Greer. We need more language, not less of it. Add some new words to the lexicon instead.

And to my own daughters, you choose whether you become a woman or a person. But your mother instructs you: Read the dirty books first.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Catalogue of disaster

The 6th form English resit class? It's like watching a car crash in slow motion.

1. English teacher number 1 is there for two weeks, then resigns and is not seen again.

2. Teachers number 2, 3, and 4 are cover teachers brought in for the emergency. Cover teachers are treated so badly I wonder what satisfaction can be had from the job. Some of them are not English teachers. Or secondary GCSE teachers. By now the students don't turn up much anyway.

3. After an endless stream of supply and cover staff, by October, no teacher has learned anything about Shark: not that she's not a resit candidate, not that she loves Shakespeare, not even her name. She still doesn't know how coursework is to be handled, not the texts she's to be examined on, or who to ask.

4. A teacher emerges! They are going to live in Asia, so they're only here until Christmas. But! A permanent teacher! Sort of. For two months.

5. I email the department head, suggesting (not for the first time) Shark is removed from these classes and she teaches herself at home. I ask for the exam information and use phrases such as, 'I need to secure an approach that will benefit her before it is too late'.

6. Shark is given an assignment: 'Imagine you are an elderly man reflecting on your years watching football'. I email the department head to quote the GCSE Edexcel specification for writing on 'situations or problems that are within [a student's] general experience'.

7. By December, it's not the exactly the first time I've emailed the department on this, yet I'm still pointing out that Shark is not a resit student, and I've had it up to here with assignments that don't make sense and bear no relation to a young woman's outlook on the world. I get a telephone call of a great feather-smoothing variety.

8. It's January, and a new assignment, Why is your family such a drag? As example, one of the English teachers hands out a magazine article they've pulled from an American site: Why you'd love to avoid educational excursions with your boring family, and instead stay at home to cruise your phone, but hey! It's as likely as that time you asked mommy for a Barbie Corvette.

And I suddenly understand why some parents go into schools and want to smash things up.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Give us your phone number, because that's what everyone does

How bad is that? says Dig as he reads aloud the School Online E-safety Policy.

The form, Tiger dutifully filled in. It's her application form for a set of conventional A-Levels. She has a minor malfunction at 'Date of Birth' when the form uses an American date format, so month and day are all arse-about-face.

Why the school's application form uses the American system - when we're located closer to Newport Pagnell than New York - I have no idea.

Tiger sends out another error message when she's instructed to enter all her contact details, including her phone number. So Dig goes to find the School Online E-safety Policy which reads,

'Tell children not to give out their personal details. If they want to subscribe to any services online, make up a family email address to receive the mail.'

Well, that is what we do with the email address. But we leave out the mobile phone number. When the form won't accept a blank space, we add 0!7928726252. We apologise if that's yours.

But we have no idea where these records go. Do you? If the school promises to delete your data, do they trust that to a third party? Is my daughter's mobile phone number sucked up and spat out in the USA, outside European restrictions, and sold on, and on, by companies who have no accountability to me, to you, and to any child?

But hey, maybe in 20 years time, a child's life will be run with a phone number. Then we parents will buy that teaching app, so conventional school won't even be necessary. Every child will be tracked, monitored, sold testing packages and accredited via their iphone.

But I was ever the pessimist.

Google Under Fire for Data-Mining Student Email Messages
As part of a potentially explosive lawsuit making its way through federal court, the giant online-services provider Google has acknowledged scanning the contents of millions of email messages sent and received by student users of the company’s Apps for Education tool suite for schools.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Happy Birthday, Milton Keynes!

To the ancient woodland, for a birthday walk.

 Spot the art project.

Along the roadway by the wood bank, marking the Anglo Saxon woodland boundary.

The walk leader tells us that a few swine have rights of pannage here, thanks to the Ultimate Norman Surveillance Document, aka Domesday Book.

Guardian of the Woods, Old Oak. Positioned at the junction of the path and the wood bank, serving as the eighteenth century noticeboard of ownership and access rights.

A baby elm! Part of the elm project.

Past the priory, dismantled, literally, in the Reformation. Earth work plan available.

But no-one lives in and around the fields and woods of MK without accepting development. But what  format should it take?

Friday, 20 January 2017

Wearing my Pink Pussy Hat with Pride

Because, Donald Trump, sexual assault is wrong. As is bragging about it afterwards.

A woman's body belongs to her, and it's no one else's property.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


An outing! In emergency mode, I book tickets for Passengers, ten minutes before it actually begins. This is how life is. We have an hour? Quick! Do something that sounds like an old life. Grab Squirrel and take her to sit at Cineworld.

Forget about the science! Who cares that you can hold the door open for a thermo-nuclear blast wearing not much more than a rubber-Neoprene combo and face mask? Sounds reasonable to me, especially if the girl of your dreams drowned already and magically revived, although her lungs must be filled with water, by having a cough and a splutter.

Go. It's fine. I enjoyed it. And so did Squirrel. Because there is one thing we ex-home edders like to do still, and it's live a teensy bit spontaneous.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

I'll match your iphone

I'm looking forward to my new goal of stunt protests while out walking ...

and the first one I'm pulling is a book. On encountering the phone-connected as they barely know they're heading towards me, I shall match them by pulling a book from my bag, reading the pages intently, and probably only narrowly avoiding bumping into them.

If I'm blind to everyone in the outside world while I'm in it, then I shall be comforted to be blind because of a book, and not an iphone.

Now go and have fun and join Triarchy Press Mythophilosophy.

Monday, 16 January 2017


Two hours spent in complete luxurious enjoyment in the Knicker Drawers Production Room.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Now wait 20 years

Squirrel, Shark, and Tiger spend the day digging turf to plant a vineyard. Not our vineyard. This one belongs to a man who makes pigs fly for the advertising industry.

In our relatively small garden, we have one grape vine. I planted it in 1994 at the bottom of the garden. These summers, it twines joyfully about the abandoned swing frame, sometimes producing grapes. We all look at it and go cooo! Then Dig gets in the car, drives to Waitrose, and buys a bottle of Chapel Down. (Which I can recommend as delicious.)

Saturday, 14 January 2017

And another thing schools prevent us from enjoying...

Museums, galleries, events, lectures, family stuff and, worst of all, theatre.

I see these events come round on the calender, glance at the diary, and think, pft, school.

We have this problem. Sunday to Thursday, watch the New Rule: No late nights with early mornings.

It's not my rule. I tried taking the tribe to the RSC on a Wednesday, with my lip curled and my teen face of Stuff you, we can do what we like. But watching my red-eyed Shark stagger up at 6.30am after a snatch of sleep is too cruel a blow for me to inflict.

So I look forward to the weekend! And don't count Friday evenings. Shark is off with her Sea Shanty Chums.

Then how much can we pack into Saturday and Sunday without everyone feeling miserably stressed, everyone missing something, yearning come Monday for the lost loafing time. What happened to lolling in a chair last weekend with a book?

School imposes a structure on our unstructured time. It eats into family life and stops us from taking a part in the cultural life around us. Then they have the nerve to lecture us about enrichment.

But this month we managed, at least, Two Noble Kinsmen at Stratford, Saturday matinee performance. That time comes with its own special disadvantages on a breezy, blowy summer day, so I'm grateful for the grey day and light drizzle outside. And the performance is good. I recommend it!

The casting is excellent: Palamon and Arcite are well played as two young men who are self-regarding slaves of a chivalric code to their obsession: their mutual, ultimately destructive love of Emilia. For her part, there's a hint of same-sex attraction to her maid, which makes me wonder if the time is right for a general airing and working of this play with its gender-exploring themes. Anyway, discussion to be wrangled in the car on the way home before Shark has to crack on with homework.

I can only look at the diary and hope we can squeeze in another performance in half-term.

But I'm still struggling. What can schools offer but a 9-5 mentality and a conveyor belt process?