Saturday, 29 October 2016

An outdoor life beckons

I take Squirrel to King's Cross station and put her on a train to North Yorks. She never was going to be an indoors girl, so I may as well offer her up to the moors.

She's managed to find herself a volunteer weekend on a conservation site, digging holes for butterflies. I ask as we wait for the train, Do butterflies live in holes? She tells me wearily that butterflies rest on the ground. Prickles and thorns and sticky jack stuff tangle up their heavenly glory, so they sometimes need a five-minute sit down - and a hole in the ground is a great place to have a rest.

I know how they feel. I wave her off after our gruelling journey to get here of trespassed train lines and halted hours, and I have to face the same on my lone return home.

This is the first time Squirrel has travelled by herself for such a distance. I tell myself, don't worry, she'll be back in a few days. As I watch her pass through the ticket barriers, I look at the commuters, eyes ahead, in a direct line to Platform 2, marching at double speed like a spine with a single aim: get to the door of Carriage 3 and your best window seat as quick as you can, and ahead of the rival next to you.

Squirrel is oblivious to them. She turns to wave. She turns to wave again in a few paces, or I think she does, because she may have inclined her head to look at the arches and the spans of light criss-crossing above her, then perhaps she caught my eye, so waves again, as if she'd remembered about me all along.

She meanders at the side of that human road, dipping right to left to look at some new distraction. She gives a final wave and a distant smile. Then out of sight. Those butterflies are lucky to have her on their side.

Friday, 28 October 2016

I might keep a diary if it would keep me

Managed to get in on a wine-and-nibbles do from the Society of Authors. I note in passing that Dig has probably written about ten million worrds less than me, and most of his wrords were written in the twentieth century, but such is life. He is the author, and it's his name as Member and mine as Guest.

Truly, I do not envy the job. Blogging is my level. Blogging has no plot strands to stitch together. I don't have to think too much and I can wander off to stitch a real book. I can pick up and drop worrdrs when I like. And I have no contract with any reader. I can tell you details of what's on the office desk and I remain untouched as to whether you are delighted or bored. I guess the characters wander about in my world as much as in any wrordy thing, exhibiting all the usual human madnesses of sulk, anger, tenderness, mischief, resentment, regret. But I don't have to fashion their lives and spend hours picking the right expression to make you like them.

Anyway, I went hoping I would get much caustic humour at someone else's expense: meeting a room filled with Ed Reardon types, the average age of which is 60 and the coffee table book Love Your Goldfish the career highlight seemed like promising territory.

There was a bit of that, it is true. I met THE DUCHESS who said I AM A DUCHESS, DID I TELL YOU? I AM A DUCHESS. And then I met the lady who hadn't written as much as an address on an envelope for the last 15 years, and the very elderly lady with poor eyesight who confused me with someone who worked at the British Library.

Wandering about the room again I also met someone who lived in Thailand where it's cheap and, after meeting again with THE DUCHESS, I INHERITED 10,000 IT WASN'T MUCH, I looked about hoping I could quietly watch someone properly triggered off by meeting someone else who was fantastically successful. Because if it's any world like the academic world, underneath the smiles about the contract for My Little Book of Kittens, there are knives. And I know exactly the type of format to bring them out - it's a small room filled with Ed Reardon types who've been sat at a computer keyboard all day long before coming out blinking into the world where they are fed two large glasses of wine and a mini-pizza.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Hurrah! End of Rice Rule at Shakespeare's Globe!

The best news I've had all year. Rice's tenure is coming to an end. Hopefully, the Globe will be restored to the original vision that Sam Wanamaker aspired to, yet never saw completed.

Shakespeare's Globe was an integrated brand, sent all around this world with the wonderful Hamlet. The whole lot cohered - the theatre, the exhibition, the message, the workshops, the education, the products, the shop. The whole worked beautifully.

And someone comes along and smashes it all up. Without respect for the ambitious vision that made this place possible; without respect for the talents who built Shakespeare's Globe to a global brand; without respect for the scripts or even for the audience, who were told they didn't really want all that inaccessible crap they'd grown to love and, if they said they wanted it, then they must either be pretending or stupid. So Rice went about on the grand mission to cover up the space, lose the unique acting force required on the Globe stage, erect barriers to the audience, put out sets cribbed from the National, turn the show to a musical, cut the language, and then belt out sound through a booming amplifier so that the last bit of nuance and delicacy of voice is smashed up and gone.

Thank you, to the Board of the Globe, for bringing the experiment to an end.

More than I can say, I'm looking forward to seeing the actors back on the simplest of wooden stages, stripped of props and lights and electronic noise, showing us great stories, ripping the heart from these lines with no more than their own voices, their physicalities, and their shared construction of great drama with the audience in front of them. That's Shakespeare's Globe. Nowhere else in the world can do that.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

All in love with Emily Portman

One of the bestest things about having children is the range of music they bring to your house.

Thank God it's not Slipknot, but Emily Portman's Tongue Tied from the Glamoury. Beautiful dark storytelling for October. Inspiration indeed.

I recommend to my daughters in turn, Angela Carter's Bloody Chamber.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Half-term! Yippee!

Hallelujah, I get all my children back. They get me out of bed before dawn to drive everyone to a wood to go deer stalking. Ahh, the good old days.

Friday, 21 October 2016

and another thing...

Yes, there's more. Not only are we finding out how skool makes every student, parent, and teacher accountable by requiring them to produce pointless pieces of paper on demand - and thus keep pointless paperwork travelling back and forth across everyone's desk - we are now finding out how much detailed surveillance and monitoring goes on in Shark's world.

And I had no idea how much information I can gather on my Student Shark daily without her participation in that process. Thanks skool, for suggesting that I creep about the internet, stalking my own daughter.

It is downright sinister. What is this assumption skool makes about our relationships? That I can't just ask Shark, and I can't just talk to her? No. I have to use databases and digitised record sheets to find out her movements between 2.00pm and 2.05pm. And if I miss that target window, then I can just check her learning level stage (subdivided into 4 sections).

Frankly, keeping a beady eye on my daughter's hourly movement as regulated by and connected to her learning stage should not, in my opinion, be a normal state of my parenthood. This level of surveillance on a 16-year old kid from twin guns of school and parent is stomach-churningly wrong. It's like we're all living in some horrible database.

Stupidly, I want us all to feel like we're not being watched every minute of the day and our movements reported on. But I'm obviously out of step with the modern world. Maybe they could sell me a Readjustment App for my condition.

People, are you happy with this? Are you all feeling that spying on your own kid is normal?

I had no idea what a weird world you were abusy building while we were making cake and calling it Geology.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Let off steam, otherwise explode

I've been extraordinarily tight-lipped over the last few weeks, but really I want to say, School? It's all shit, shit, shit. It's brought about such huge changes in the way we have to see life and live our days, that I think it's possibly the crappiest idea you people ever had. Except maybe nuclear war and Isis/ Is/ Isil/ Daesh. They could be worse.

But I am doing this for Shark. She is sticking to it, this thing called School - thing that makes me get out of bed at 6.30am and not start work until 11am - even though they have thrown every bit of their crap at her. Which she then brings home, in various states, for our evening's supper pleasure.

For me, on my part, I am trying hard to control my urge to smash things up, set fire to someone's car, shove dogshit through letterboxes and go and live in a hut made of sticks like a proper hippy.

On that latter point, I have done some research, like a good capitalist hippy, and researched buying woodland in South Bucks, on the basis I could go and live in it, like Captain Fantastic. (Do not tell me that is a film. It is a documentary.) But Dig made me figure out how long it would take to save up to buy 1 acre (9 years by my income stream, assuming I don't eat). So what? I am not giving in, and have opened a jam jar to fill with 50p pieces.

Here, I am confining myself to one complaint only. On odd moments when I am at a wit's end. Perhaps it is a question. WHY oh WHY is there so much pointless admin at your invention called School? The staff shove mountains of paper on students who have to shove it back at them.

Like the 'Assessment Folder'. No-one knows what is this idea, 'Assessment Folder'. We managed to raise kids over 16 years without it, but now, apparently, 'Assessment Folder' is essential. What goes in it? 'Assessment'. We do not know what that is. We are told, the results of pop tests. What? What are Pop tests? What? Who was the lead singer of Bay City Rollers in 1979? That sort of pop test? Or maybe the results of tests given in weeks 1,2,3,4, of any subject, at any moment. Because now there is no difference between teaching and testing. You just deliver the subject and deliver the test and mark the test like you are some fecking robot. Then you put the test into your 'Assessment Folder'. Jeez. Pass me the bastard matches.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

First days at School, age 16

Observations from Shark:

They say we have to spend 20 minutes with a tutor and it's for our benefit. No it isn't. We do nothing in that period apart from sit around. They hold some of us back for 20 minutes so they can moderate the numbers of people going in and out the dining hall.

Why do they call all the women teachers Miss? It is patronising. I mean, you can say Sir in a patronising tone, but it's a lot easier to sound demeaning with Miss.

They tell me it's my choice and then they tell me what they want me to choose.

It has taken me ages to work out what she wants when she says, 'Look at X,Y,Z for homework'. And now they've moved me into a different group. I don't want to go.

He says I have to do the English Language Resit class. It's not helpful. It's not what I want. I enjoy English and I want to do it in my own time. They will teach to the exam. Lessons will be all exam focused and that will put me off it. And I'm not a resit student.

He said all this stuff and I thought, 'You just don't want to say it's for the convenience of my Administration System'.

Tomorrow I'm going in dressed as a Goth, just to unsettle them.

I know the best way to disrupt everything. It's to put up your hand and ask questions they don't want to answer. It really messes up the flow.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Three hours well spent

Imagine ... you are walking one day through a wood. There on the ground, right in front of an old hawthorn, is a battered and tattered book, bound in worn leather, the colour of dusky orange earth.

You pick up this old book, glancing this way and that, to see who might have dropped it. How strange!
The back of the book is skewered with a thick red pencil made from a hewn tree branch, its centre carefully hollowed and stuffed with what look like dried juices of ripe holly berry. And the cover! It’s like no ordinary cover you’ve ever seen before.

As you turn the gnarled book in your hands, the shape speaks softly to you - here are a pair of stiff pointed ears, sticking right out the top of the book! And there! From the inside, a tuft of white beard!

You glance over your shoulder, and stuff the book quickly into your woodsman’s bag, because - you know it now for sure - this book belongs to one who lives close by. This book is a book dropped in haste. Someone scurrying with the urgency of escape - perhaps to the bundle of roots they call home - let this book fall from their grasp. This is their book! And soon, very soon, they’ll return quietly in search of it, because between its precious pages are the spells that whisper to the reader where to seek the tendrils of Gold that coil within the earth.

This is the most precious book of the wood. For this is the Book of the Troll.

Story notebook range for anyone who ever loved a fairy tale at Number 38. But only for October. Hie thee hither!