Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occluded Front

I've been neglecting my duties. Work has had such an impact on my life that it has thrown my carefully balanced existence of the last three years completely out of synch. I am again experiencing what it is like to not have enough hours in the day. Makes me slightly angry that I didn't (or never) make use of the free time I had.

Yet, even if I came home feeling like I could sit down and write for England, I don't really have anything that has tweaked the old inspiration lobe. I'm sure had I been sitting at home thinking about some of the crap that has happened in and around the world I would have had bags of time to pontificate about it; but I get home; stare at Pointless with a dog on my lap; contemplate food and struggle to keep myself from falling asleep.

Last weekend I was full of it; this weekend I ache, I slept funny last night and I just want to do as little as possible today. I can't quite shake the feeling that today is going to go horribly wrong; but that might be psionic resonance - at least twice during the week I spoke to colleagues who had gut feelings that everything was going to kick off, but it never did. The worst incident of the week was a food fight and the realisation that I might actually be in a hallucinogenic coma reliving my youth mixed with a bit of St Trinian's, Grange Hill and Waterloo Road thrown in for good measure.

Trust me though, at some point in the future, maybe when I retire I'm going to write a book about my new life (and I've only been doing it for 2 weeks).


I'm on strike on Wednesday. I had a choice because I wasn't balloted as an unemployed member of UNISON and if I'd decided to go into work I wouldn't have been labelled a scab or a traitor. The thing is a lot of my colleagues are out and you just have to show some solidarity, don't you?

I had an interesting discussion with a colleague about the strike and put across what has become my simple argument about why they are important and the unions must fight the government's raping of the poor.

I have analysed the big picture about pensions and it boils down to something quite simple. The civil service and the public sector employees were offered their jobs with the benefits; they did not singularly or as a whole demand the pensions they were offered. Accountants worked out what these employees pensions should be and they were written into a contract of employment. The attempts to change these peoples' pensions is exactly the same as your boss coming to see you on Monday morning and telling you that your job has changed and you are now responsible for cleaning the toilets. He gives you your new job description and expects you to take the change. Employment law would be backing you 101%, the courts would be punishing your employer and you would be supported because the original deal offered you is, in most cases, not negotiable. For the government and councils to back track and penalise their staff is appalling and I don't care if they can't afford it now; these people spend enough money on analysts, futures and people predicting the future to have realised that perhaps they were being a tad optimistic about the benefits they were offering should the world economy slow down. Do the people who set things like pensions actually consider that share prices might go down as well as up?

Don't be pissed off about the strike on Wednesday, especially if it affects you. It might be a pain, but trust me if the government get away with this everyone will ultimately be screwed and you might just find yourself cleaning the toilets by the time the Olympics has become a costly memory.


One of my new colleagues told me a story about his early teaching days in Birmingham. It was 1999 and he was fresh out of TTC having come to teaching after doing a host of weird jobs until he was in his thirties. The school he was working at was notorious for being violent and problematic. He'd been at the school about a month when he had to take his first mass detention; he had 12 kids in a classroom for an hour after school.

Now this guy is a behaviourist; it's his speciality and he has a great rapport with his classes and is one of those teachers that you remember from your youth; the kind you always liked being taught by, the guy who actually let you use your brains rather than expecting you to sit there like a sponge. He had brought some of his ideas to the school and had a great relationship with the headmaster and most of his colleagues; however, like most of the rest of the staff, the head included, he had a real problem with the deputy head; an officious little man who made Hitler seem like a reasonable guy (his words, not mine). He demanded respect therefore got none and had a habit of interfering in other teacher's business, therefore undermining any good work being done.

My colleague's slightly laid back style grated on the deputy really badly, so on this period of detention he was hovering close by; almost sensing that he would have an opportunity to waltz into the detention class, undermine my new colleague and assert his iron will, especially if it looked like the teacher was not in control.

About half way through the hour, two of the lads in detention stood up and appeared to be arguing, the new teacher was standing, passive and almost disinterested, prompting the deputy head to barge into the lesson screaming at the two boys. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT OF YOUR SEATS? He screamed at them, oblivious to the teacher or what he was doing. What was happening was a role play session he had learnt at uni that involved two people acting out a scene and getting the rest of the class to theorise what the consequences of this little act would have on the people affected. It's pretty much a standard behavioural exercise and one that is recognised to get results. However Mr Deputy Head was old skool and not really interested in the whys and wherefores of this new approach to teaching.

The two standing boys shuffled around mumbling. "ANSWER ME BOY!" Screamed the deputy.
"We're doing a role play, sir," said one of them. My colleague attempted to interject and the deputy stopped him in his tracks saying quite loudly that he obviously had no control over his class and they obviously needed more discipline. The situation was fraying at the edges and heading down Getting Much Worse Alley. The deputy seemed to only half hear what was said to him, but heard enough to realise that perhaps he was a bit premature. "Why are you even here, boy?" He says to one of the two boys, who mumbled something back that the class teacher couldn't hear. "And what about you?" He says to the other lad involved in the role play. He also mumbled something. "Speak up boy. What are you doing in detention?"
"You sent me here because I called you a fucking prick, sir!" The deputy now completely flustered, bright red from the neck upwards, turns on his heels, stares at the teacher and stomps off suggesting the new teacher learns how to control his class better.

I'm sure there's going to be someone like that at my new job. I think it's a prerequisite for schools nowadays.


26 November and I'm still picking raspberries! I now have no doubt that I will be picking summer fruit on December 1st, with little or no frost forecast, more mild weather and some sunshine I'd hazard a guess and say we've had almost half as many raspberries this late autumn as we had during the summer and we had enough to freeze two bags full!

One of the long range weather forecasting sites I visit reckons Britain is going to be plunged into a really cold spell by the middle of next week. This is the website that forecast Arctic conditions by the middle of November and was quoted in the Daily Mail story about another ice age about to hit the UK. Other websites I look at reckon the coldest it's going to get is about 8 degrees - roughly normal for the first week in December.

How about this for a forecast? We won't see snow south of North Yorkshire before the end of February and then it won't be much. It will obviously still cause chaos, but what else could it cause?


I'm finding the new Kate Bush album slightly impenetrable. I accept it is probably a work of genius, but I've only managed to get halfway through track 3 before losing the will to live. I need to listen to it when I'm in the mood I think.

The problem I'm having is there are some other albums out that I can't stop playing - top of the list being M83's new album, which, as I already said, looks like it's going to run away with my favourite album of the year award.


I said to the wife last night, as we sat down to watch an excellent copy of a film that's being released in cinemas next week. It's not often something appears in DVD quality before it actually gets released, so finding a copy of the 2011 The Thing was a bonus. However, I commented to the wife that I found it slightly worrying that DVDs of it are circulating; this usually happens when a film is a pile of crap.

The Guardian this morning was in full praise of the film, despite suggesting that it borrowed heavily on themes from John Carpenter's classic 1982 film of the same name. This The Thing is a direct prequel to that film and manages to mesh the two films together exceptionally well. The writer and the director must have poured over the footage of Kurt Russell and co investigating the Norwegian Science Station to ensure that the two matched and that is one of the points that makes the idea so fun. It's just a shame they decided to remake the 1982 film rather than actually explore the genesis of the story. It's just almost a carbon copy in places, although there are some nice nods to the original 1950s film directed by Christian Nyby. It attempts to out gore the original and pretty much fails; it also attempts to turn on the paranoia and suspense generated in the brilliant Carpenter film and fails because we've seen it all before. There was nothing new in this prequel and it went for an action packed approach rather than a psychological one, which might have been a better direction. I found myself waiting for the ending and that isn't a sign of a good film.

I got hold of two films that I have massively fond memories of from the 1980s. I'm hoping they have held up to the test of time because one of them has always been in my top ten films of all time and I haven't watched it for nearly 20 years.

Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension was something I saw on video, thought it was utterly bonkers and consigned it to the watched but never again pile; but recently the film has been reappraised and I decided to give it another go. Oddly enough, I can still quote bits of the film, which isn't bad considering I saw it nearly 30 years ago. I struggle to remember lines from my favourite films.

The other and the film I'm hoping has stood the test of time is The World According to Garp - an early Robin Williams film directed by the wonderfully bonkers George Roy Hill. It has a totally memorable performance by John Lithgow as a transsexual - just one of many brilliant performances in all kinds of films by this genius of modern cinema - and is one of the most funny and tragic films I have ever seen. I was so impressed, I bought the video. The wife has never been able to understand why I'm so enamoured by it; it's a meh film for her. I just remember it being a movie that makes me laugh, feel sad and allowed me to reflect on stuff.

It hasn't escaped my notice that these two films have really long titles.


I actually started on another short story last week. I managed to get about 200 words down when I fell asleep at the keyboard. I hope it doesn't reflect in the story.


There was another point to my piece about spam last time and that was the fact that some of spam appears to be directly targeted at me, using names and subjects that *might* make me open it. Now I have more protection on my PC than Fort Knox, yet somehow I'll get spam from or about things that may have appeared in a Facebook update or from a Google search. Yes, I might have a trojan or some such hidden away that I'm not aware of or has beaten my army of firewalls or major established web icons are actively selling this data to the spammers, or maybe are even controlling them. It's just plain weird when I get a spam email with a word in it that seems to relate to me or what I've been talking about.


I have housework to do; hoovering, cooking and general tidying up. I keep looking at the Dyson and thinking, "I'll do it in a while." I'm running out of procrastinations.


  1. Nothing I've read or seen about the new The Thing makes me want to see it. It seems even more pointless than a bog-standard remake. Oh well.

    I watched Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension again recently, and it didn't hold up too well for me. It's still full of good ideas, but the execution isn't as well done as I remembered.

  2. Their is no connection between the volability of share prices and Govt pensions, and unlike those of us unfortunate enough to have private pensions, Govt employees pensions are immune from such pressures as they are funded by taxes not investments.
    I can quite understand why Govt employeees are pissed off about changes to what was agreed when they took their jobs, and I'm sure I'd be on strike in flash if I was a teacher or whatever, but spare a thought for those of us not fortunate enough to be cushioned by pensions subsidised by every taxpayer.

  3. That'll be me then. Didn't work in the PS long enough to get anything like a pension. The fact it is paid out of taxes rather than index linked is immaterial to me; they were offered this deal, they didn't demand it. The responsibility has to lie with the people who offered it and if they can't be held liable then the govt has to deal with it. You can't change someone's contract because you cocked up. They want to save money? Get it from the richest 10%.