Tis the Season to Cough and Splutter

November 22, 2014

It’s dark and dismal outside and inside it’s germ infested misery. The only consolation I take from my current bout of coughing and hacking is that I am very far from alone. I am surrounded by sickness. I am struggling on at work, having already had a couple of days off, not enough to shake this beast off, but enough to rest and return to the fray.

Because, dear friends, as most of you know, Teaching is not one of those professions you can’t just leave be for a few days while you lie prone fighting off the latest infection or ailment. No, children still have to be taught, or at the very least, supervised. They won’t wait patiently, silently on your desk for you to get back and so you minimize your days off, knowing you will return to chaos and that you aren’t really well enough.


Teachers famously do not take off enough time when they are ill. It is the guilt monster – the knowledge that someone else has to do your job in your absence, and that the kiddies just won’t learn as much when you’re there. Regardless of your prowess in the classroom, someone else will not manage the darlings and little of worth will happen and most likely your room and resources will be trashed. Not to mention the likelihood of extra relief lessons when you get back, in that sweet way that cover-supervisors make sure you ‘pay’ for your day(s) off. Thus my workplace is festooned with teachers who can hardly speak for coughing, hardly move for pain, and plough on, not allowing themselves to get better.

No, it’s better all round to struggle in, be sick, prolong your recovery, and spread your germs around. After all, you probably picked your latest bout of flu from the darlings. And your migraine was probably caused by them, and your back or neck or other pain is exacerbated by hours on your feet, and your chronic tiredness is certainly caused by trying to contain and control the teenage beast and force some learning down them, while they cough and sneeze all over you, expecting you to give them a tissue!!


Here’s what you should do.

1.Get a flu shot – governments should give them to teachers free – in fact I worked at a very sensible school (in this regard) who provided free flu shots for all staff every year.

2.Dose yourself with Echinacea and Vitamin C as soon as the snuffle or cough starts. Get medicine into you. Get cough lollies and suck hard and often.

3.Keep hydrated – water especially, tea, coffee and lovely hot lemon drinks

3.Rest if and when you can – do not push yourself and prolong the suffering. Sleep as much as you can.

4.Take time off and get properly well before rushing back – no-one thanks you for it and you do make yourself iller for longer. You also don’t function properly when you are ill or in pain. You make mistakes and get things wrong – you can cost your work-place a great deal through stuff-ups when you’re sick.

5.Eat chocolate – as much as you like, it is medically proven that chocolate in all its forms makes people better. I think toast does too.


So, go to bed. Stay there. Settle in to sleep for as long as you need. Get a nice book, have someone make you a hot drink and bring you a treat of your choice and just stay in bed. Ignore the world. It will still be there when you finally emerge – recovered and able to cope with it all again. (Images courtesy Private Collection)

Education: Stupid talk is back

November 15, 2014

Just when you thought the pollies had run out of stupid pills and were edging towards some sort of sense, Nicky Morgan opens her stupid fat mouth and says stupid ignorant things and instead of wooing teachers back to the fold, she fucks it right up again. I was starting to think the Tories were really getting the wood on Ed and his lot, especially with Nicky’s understanding of the work-load issue, her compassion for the ludicrous hours we work; she’d even gone soft on her anti-gay stance.

She was looking promising, especially when Tristan Hunt had managed to piss us off with his ‘licensing’ of teachers and his latest beaut idea about firing us if we can’t control 30 15 year olds forced to read Dickens cover to cover. (Bring it on, Tris, you come and have a go!)

But Ms Morgan couldn’t help herself, she couldn’t keep it in, couldn’t stay nice and away from the stupid pills. No, she announced that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) subjects were the only choice, that Arts subjects “hold them back for the rest of their lives”. She also says that Maths is the subject employers value the most. I wonder where that came from – it hasn’t washed into my halls of learning.


It’s inconceivable isn’t it in one of the world’s leading producers of culture and Arts that the Education secretary says it holds you back – limits your career choices. Possibly it does in other parts of the world, but here, in London, where the money made from theatre, galleries and stadiums is excessive, where one of the biggest draws for tourists is the West End and the museums and galleries, what is she on about?

This type of subject-ism is already damaging students’ futures. We’ve already seen the downgrading of subjects such as DT and Food Tech. Music and Drama have been disenfranchised in the government sector, as has Art. These subjects are being culled from school curriculums and are increasingly only on offer in exclusive, expensive educational enclaves. The Arts are in danger of becoming the province of the rich and well to do. Actors are increasingly coming from the posh lot, not the working classes – no more Michael Caines. And what of music? Will it all be Mumford and Sons and X-factor desperadoes? No more Keef and Mick, or Sting?

Why publically value one set of subjects – and therefore students – over another? Why say these people are better because they can do this? Do I look at my children and say my Physics degree child is more valuable than my Fine Arts degree child? Morgan has been as damaging in her pro-STEM comments as previous commentary about the value of other subjects, in perpetuating the erroneous belief that one stream is better than the other, that choices made at 11 or 15 damage you for the rest of your life. Limit is not the same as damage, and the world is full of people who chance job, make choices as they grow older.

Society needs all sorts of people. It needs the builders and makers, the thinkers and doers, the outside-the-bloody-boxers.  Importantly, Arts and Sciences are not separate beings: they are compatible and complimentary. An engineer or architect making bridges and buildings is as much about aesthetics (Art) as it is about numbers and science (STEM).


Think about Brian May – guitarist extraordinaire with Queen, who has a PhD in Astrophysics. Everyone’s scientific darling Brian Cox also played in a chart topping band and Richard Dawkins is married to an actress. Nicky Morgan might like to consider Brian May’s career choices. His A levels were awash with Physics and Maths, yet he chose music and I hate to think how much money he’s made. More than as an astrophysicist, wouldn’t you reckon?


A child should have a rounded education in all areas, be able to make intelligent choices about their future based on their skills, their abilities, what they can contribute to society and not just on what their earning capacity might be.

A society bereft of Music or Art, or Theatre and Dance is an impoverished place to be. It lacks heart and soul and we may as well be under the rule of ISIS or any hard-line Communist regime. The Arts breed thinkers, dissenters, those that can see the world as it really is and then make it into what it should be. Ah, that’s the problem – this government doesn’t want thinkers or dissenters, it wants sheep and cannon fodder. Silly me…


This is a stupid question, but I’ll ask it anyway. Has Nicky Morgan sat in a class with students who hate Maths, who don’t get it and just want to be free from the subject as soon as they can? No, she hasn’t. And she hasn’t taught 18 year olds still attempting to struggle through their GCSE in English because someone says they have to have that too!

Can we get a grip on what Education is and what it should be and shut the fucking politicians up before they do any more damage to an already broken and shattered part of society? Now would be good. (Images courtesy Private Collection)

My Family – nearly all grown up now

November 8, 2014

This morning I am alone. This is an unusual occurrence given I am married with three children and a full time job. But this weekend, with my beloved ensconced in France and my big two long flown, the youngest has spread her wings and gone to Holland for the weekend – her first solo OS trip.

I am left to think about this situation. She won’t be here for much longer – tis really a matter of months now until she leaves home to finally become an independent adult. It is as it should be. The other two have been long gone – nine years and six years. I thought at the time that they left too soon – 17 and 18 – and was somewhat bereft, but consoled with my fluff bucket full of cuteness and energy, who also thought he ruled the house.


But I would feel a failure as a parent if my grown children were still at home, still tied to us, unable to function in the world. Yes, I know there are mitigating financial issues for some, especially in the UK, and from time to time, when the situation arises, they should come home to re-charge batteries, recover from life’s bruises. But for all concerned, children need to leave home. They need to live their own lives.

My three have gone far and wide and from much younger ages. They are braver and stronger, fiercer and smarter than I was at their ages. But that’s as it should be, isn’t it? Don’t we want our children to have more opportunities, better lives? Don’t we want children we are proud of – who we can skite about, as well as love and cherish?

But in order to have adult children who can do things, who you like as well as love, you have to put in the work from the start. I don’t think it matters how many children you have – one or a dozen – as long as you do the right thing by them, as long as you take care of them and I don’t just mean physical, material things. It is about time and tough love; it is about sleepless nights, school concerts, parent-teacher evenings (oh yes, they’re fun on the other side of the table!), birthday parties, smacks and tears, stories and homework, fairness and consequences.

Good parenting also about rejecting any ideas about perfection. Banish stupid shit about what good mothers do, that working damages children, that childcare is the devil’s playground. Ignore people who tell you staying home is not needed for you or your child. Ignore those who say single parents can’t cope, that all boys must have their fathers around. Parenting is a highly contested, visible area, and just like Education, seemingly everybody has an opinion on how it should be done. You need to trust yourself, ask for help when you need it, but make decisions for you and yours based on what is best for you, not anyone else. It can be hard, but it’s your family and you can make it any way you want. But make it good – we need decent people, well brought up and properly loved.

I have epically failed as a parent. There were days when mine were young when I did wish them away. When I wondered what the other life would have been like – where I was thin and not always worried about money. I was chronically unable to say no to my baby. She never seemed to need it, being such an easy child, but her causal easiness evolved into a casual refusal that became intransigent stubbornness that perhaps should have been addressed earlier. I broke promised to all of them at some time, didn’t do things I said I would, didn’t see lots of movies; borrowed pocket money from my boy but mostly paid him back. I passed the too hard stuff with my big girl over to her father, who really did save her life. Thank God he did, as she’s now one of the best things in my life.

But I knew when I’d stuffed up. I apologized to them. I was human and real. I lost my temper and swore in the car when they were in the back seat – glossing over it by saying it was okay to swear in the Murray car (we had a blue Subaru and a red XJS Jag, which became Wiggles coloured cars, thanks to the young pad-wan). Now they are real with me and confide in me and ask for help or advice when they need it. I ask them too!

But a very wise woman, who worked and had six children of her own, offered a life-saving piece of advice – if you’re getting it right eighty per cent of the time, then you’re doing well. She reminded us that doing the best you could, that stuffing up things with your children was what happened. At the end of the day, it would be all right. And you know, she was right.

Having a child is the ultimate experience. If you have a child with someone you love the intensity of the experience is overwhelming. It blows you away. You made this amazing tiny thing, that hopefully will be the best of both of you. You watch it grow, look after it, love it the best you can and, if most things go right, you end up with amazing young things that you adore, that you could not imagine your life without.

I am a lucky woman. Is luck the word? I work at being a mum. I know how I felt about my own mum and I want mine to feel the same about me. My father had failed as a parent. Sadly he ended up with both of his children estranged from him at his death, not a good place to be. Not a place I intend to be.

So, mine are grown and almost all gone, soon spread across the world, but my family is strong – we like being together, we enjoy each other’s company, we take care over birthdays and Christmas, we keep in regular contact. My big two are hilariously funny when together. My children like each other and that’s a triumph too.

The next phase is upon us – my beloved and I will be alone again, just us. It will be very strange, but good too. Weddings loom and I guess grandchildren will appear in due course. As it should be. We will gather together again to laugh, take the piss, and enjoy our family as it grows and changes. And my beloved and I will indulge in our favourite topic of conversation: our wonderful and utterly lovely three. (Images from Private Collection)

Friendship – it always matters

November 1, 2014

When we’re young we need our family, whilst begrudging them a great deal, but we enjoyed and cherished our friends. We seemed to find more comfort with our friends. Remember the old saying, ‘at least you can choose your friends’.

But really, how much choosing happens? Your first friends occur mostly due to proximity and age – the other kids in the street and the kids in your class at school. Did you actively decide between one person or another in acquiring friends, especially in the back-yard? Didn’t you just get out there in the dusky haze of daylight savings and play all sorts of games until your parents called you in?

Pal's pals@GCSE

I know school days and torturous memories tell us finding and keeping friends at school could be a highly fraught experience. It seemed once you found your set, your little group you were fine. Your problems came if you ended up on the outer for some reason, or your little set was too small and when the others were away it was just you and no-one else would let you play. Yes, we’ve all been rejected, had days when we wished the school playground would swallow us whole. We’ve all been chosen last for the teams at school.

And sometimes that happens in life too. Once we leave school and move into the wonders and dangers of the world it can be hard to find your place again. How do you make friends when you’re older, how do you connect with others once the familiar and forced nature of childhood friendships evaporate?

I can think of a range of situations where making new friends is part of the scene and no matter how we may affect cool we all need to connect and belong, we all need friends.


Think back, how did you make friends -

At school – if you moved around a lot

At university or college

At work – in your first job

At work – in every subsequent job

At home – when you moved as a child, or when you left home and then got a place of your own – do you know your neighbours, are they your friends?

In clubs, or groups, sporting teams


I remember standing on the outside, watching people connect and make friends, be drawn easily and readily into an established group. I remember that from uni, from work, from various clubs and activities. I wondered, and I don’t think I ever knew, why some people just seemed to belong, while others struggled to make connections, even though there was nothing obvious in why one and not the other.

Now, I am a person with many friends, from most stages of my life and for that I am thankful and appreciative. I don’t struggle to make new connections but I think that is because I know myself very well, can suss out the sort of person I will find more likely to be my friend, make the necessary investment, but am in no hurry or desperate need to have friends, because, like many people my age, I have enough friends. Perhaps its one of those logical impasses, the more friends you have, the more you can have.

Pal's pals @prom


Some simple tips

Smile at people – it shows you’re open to friendship

Take an interest in others, talk to them, listen – remember key things about them

Take others up on their offer of friendship – to do something together

Get involved in activities – simply doing things with others can get the friendship ball rolling

Being prepared to take risks – the person you wouldn’t normally talk to might be the friend you need

Not needing friends – just being part of the scene

Being patient – others want to make friends too

Having friends is important. Having friends means people like you, want to be with you, value you because they want to, not, like your family, because they have to. Friends affirm us in ways that our family can’t, even if they want to, and that’s why friends matter. They tell us we are worthwhile, they want to spend time with us, make an effort to stay in contact, keep our secrets, set us straight on things, love us unconditionally but tell us when we’re being fools. Think of Bridget Jones and her mates, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Elle in Legally Blonde had friends who got her through her darkest hours, The Lord of the Rings centres on friendship, not to mention Friends itself. Yes, the celluloid world confirms the importance of friendship.

Friendship takes time; it grows slowly and needs care and attention. There are often false starts and breakages along the way. It can be a risky business. The loss of a friend can be as shattering as the loss of a lover. Friendship means patience, kindness, resilience, acceptance: working at it. All relationships need work and not necessarily the same amount at the same time – as long as you’re happy, that’s what matters. It’s a lot like love. In fact, it’s more like love than not – just as love is a many coloured, dangerous, terrible and wonderful thing, so is friendship.

It also does not matter for one moment how many friends you have, as long as they are true and real friends. I am not a better or worse person because I have more or less FB friends than you – in fact I might be in a better place because every one of them is someone I know and am happy to call friend. Remember too, you can find friends in your family – sisters seem very good at being best friends and husbands and wives get very fond of saying their other half is their best friend.


It seems it easier to keep friends once you’ve made them than to make new ones, so perhaps we should take as much care of our friends as our family. After all, we know that friends – real friends – are as important and special as our family. So, cherish your friends, get in touch today and see how they are. Show them you still care, remind them you’re still here, still their friend. (Images from Private Collection)

It’s Two Months to Christmas Day…

October 25, 2014

Today it’s two months to Christmas Day. Already the mince pies and Christmas cakes are in the supermarkets. Other Christmas paraphernalia will appear as soon as Halloween zips on by and then there’ll be Christmas every-bloody-where.

Once the shops are festooned with temptations and shiny sparkly things we’ll all feel the pull to buy-buy-buy. Parents will be nagged every time they step on the high street and will indulge outlandish requests from their off-spring and put themselves into silly debt for no real reason. The rest of us will stress and worry about getting the right gift for the right person, being fair in the value and/or amount of presents for family and friends, and invariably over-spend too.

pinky & the tree

This year as you begin the journey to the festive season I want you to pause and consider a few things. I don’t care about the Christianity thing, it’s a celebration that was appropriated from the pagans anyway, so Jesus is almost moot. But if church and carols and the nativity make you happy, then off you go. But that’s my point – do what makes you happy.

Think about Christmas more as the Festive season, as a holiday, time to gather together as family and friends, to embrace the Western Christian tradition of Christmas, but to make it your own. Make Christmas something special for you and yours.

xmas kinder

Remember, Christmas can be very hard for some. Those who are alone, who have lost someone recently: those who are ill, or frail or poor find this time of year very difficult. Christmas can be a time of loneliness and sadness and, sadly, it is renown for family bust ups and violence. The forced jollity can be too much for some of us. Not to mention the copious amounts of alcohol we imbibe and the residual resentments that bubble to the surface as we gather together to try to be a happy family.

So, this year, before you go crazy with presents and tinsel, lights and decorations, excessive amounts of food and wine –– think about what this time of the year really means to you.

xmas pres

Ask yourself a few hard questions about Christmas:

Is it about showing off your wealth through extravagant presents?

Is it about showing off your cooking prowess with a spread to rival a Michelin chef?

Is it about eating and drinking yourself into a stupor?

Do you organize Christmas for your family’s enjoyment or for their appreciation?

Is it about gifts that mean something?

Is it about enjoying being together, spending time with those who matter most?

Is it about laughter and joy?

Is your Christmas about generosity and love?

xmas love P&T

This year think wisely my friends. Start planning now by all means, but carefully consider the sort of Festive Season you really want. Make it a celebration to remember and cherish, one you look back on fondly, not with regret or sadness. And do your best to do something for those less fortunate than yourself. (Images courtesy of Private Collection)

Celebrate… because life is short

October 18, 2014

Life is over in a flash. It’s made of wonderful moments and terrible times. The trick is to make the most of the good times, so that we can survive the shit that comes around all too often. So this week, think about the things in your life that you can celebrate. Celebrate the small things and the bigger things – they all matter, they all help us live our lives to the full.

Some small things…

Losing 5 kilos in a month – the pain is worth it!

Getting fit and strong – living better and longer is also worth it

Passing your driving theory test – no matter how many goes

Surviving the week at work – no mean feat for many of us

Making it to the end of term – utter bliss

Not opening your mouth and speaking!!

Making new friends


The big bits…

Getting married

Having a baby, having lots of babies

Buying your own house

Graduation – completing any qualification is a big deal, so stick with it

The Prom – the chance to be utterly beautiful and happy

Getting that job, being promoted

Getting published

Getting engaged

Birthdays are most important – because you’re still alive, because getting older is something to be pleased about, because you should celebrate life – yours and others.

Christmas – because family and being together matters, every year


These lists have many possibilities. What would your list look like?

If we don’t celebrate the small wins, the special little moments and the small personal victories, if we don’t count them up and remember them it makes the bad times all the harder to survive. So, find something to celebrate this weekend, and smile, life is good, especially here as we gather to celebrate the baby girl’s birthday – the last of the teenage years. (Images courtesy Private Collection)

Comfort Food

October 11, 2014

As I write this it’s raining – which is fine as I like the rain and it hasn’t rained for a while. But rain keeps you indoors and makes you think of fires and being snuggled up safe and warm inside, or a day watching movies, or in bed reading, ignoring the world. You can watch the weather beat and moan and whip the world, while you’re all nice and snug in your own little cocoon. And it makes you think of food – food that comforts and nourishes your soul as well as your spirit. So I got to thinking about comfort food and compiled this little list. A list of simple, every day foodstuffs that can make you feel so much better.


Bread type products

Peanut butter and fresh bread

Vegemite and toast – at all times of the day

Honey and toast

Tomatoes on toast – with butter and salt and pepper

Toasted ham and cheese sandwich – perhaps with tomatoes

Toast, just with butter, just the smell of toast is enough really

And of course, fresh bread which always smells divine, always makes you feel better – especially warm and buttered


Hot and savoury

Soup – in a mug or a bowl, packet or home made, as long as it’s thick and hot, but preferably Pumpkin or Tomato

Sausages – I do like a thin BBQ beef snag or 3, in bread with sauce; or a thick pork English sausage with Bramley apples

Sausage rolls with tomato sauce

Eggs and bacon – simple and wonderful

Scrambled eggs – with thickly cut toast

Roast chook – what is better, other than a leg of lamb on the Weber?

Fish and chips – wrapped in white paper, oozing with moist heat

Baked beans on toast (does this belong above?)


Sweet Treats

Wagon wheels – a childhood favourite, guaranteed to make you feel better

Hot chocolate – made with warm milk

Marshmallows – out of the pack, in your hot chocolate or melted in the fire

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate

Any sort of chocolate really…

Scones – all sorts, must be homemade – plain with jam and cream, date, cheese, and pumpkin

Cup-cakes – I’ll settle for store bought but the best cup-cakes I’ve ever had were made by my wonderful big girl when she was better than anything on telly!


Comfort foods are simple things, often from childhood, often reminiscent of gentler, kinder times – certainly times when we felt loved and protected. So, what are your comfort foods, what treat fills you with pleasure and happiness every time – just the thought of it makes you smile?

Oh, and quite possibly wine too – red wine in front of the fire, with your marshmallows and toast! (Images courtesy Private Collection)

The Fish Rots From the Head

October 4, 2014

The saying goes that the fish rots from the head. Now, even though I’ve been a fishing girl all my life I cannot attest to the veracity of this statement but I like it and it has a certain ring of truth. It makes sense that the rot would set in from the head, given the brain and eyes and liquidy, mushy things reside there. I’m sure we rot from the head too, given the right circumstances.

But if we take the saying metaphorically, which is how it is meant most of the time, we can see the truth of the matter. Most organizations don’t fall apart from the bottom. No, businesses, companies and countries founder on the decisions and errors of those at the top, those with the big salaries, the big responsibilities, who are supposedly paid these astronomical figures to not fall apart.

When the banks went bust a few years ago, it wasn’t because of the tellers, or even your personal manager at the Commonwealth or Barclays. It was the traders, the CEO’s, the guys who deal in numbers not people, who earn ridiculous salaries for playing all day with other people’s money. Yes, a few got sacked, but we all know their bonuses are as robust as ever, while we, the innocent pay for their excesses with this endless English Narnia winter of austerity. When Greece and Ireland went bust a few years ago it wasn’t because of the normal taxpaying worker. No it was greedy governments, corrupt businessmen, grasping corporations. And now people can’t pay their bills or feed their families.

This unpleasant truth can also be applied to families. We learn everything first from the home. We learn how to behave, how to treat others, how to learn, how to take responsibility for ourselves. You name it, it all starts at home. And if the head of the family – the parents – are useless, absent, negligent, abusive, casual, unloving, uncaring (you get the picture), you can hardly blame the poor children for not knowing what’s what. A family is a little business, a little company all of its own making and parents shouldn’t even begin to start their own ‘company’ if they’re not going to ensure they do the job properly, with some integrity and consistency.

My good friend, Sir Michael Wilshaw has also noted that schools rot from the head. He’s on the record about the importance of good leadership, of good governance, of accountability and holding head-teachers to account more rigorously.


But what is good, effective leadership? There are tomes out there about it, the qualities you need: there are endless training courses to become an effective leader. Education has its own special training for aspiring leaders – Future Leaders. But I will not dwell there, not even for a nano-second.

Based on a meager 30 years in Education at a mere 11 schools across the planet, this is what I think good educational leadership looks like.

1.Vision – personal, true and realizable, that people understand and go with

2.Energy – drive and passion about education and children – that inspires others

3.Intellect – a clear understanding about what education is, how it works and what is needed to make it work

4.Integrity – personal integrity, and for the organization – follow the maxim that if you can’t tell your partner about what you did today then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it

5.People skills – a clear ability to understand your staff, what they need, how to support them and take them with you – not in a matey over-familiar way but in a ‘we’re in this together, making it better together’ authentic way. Key to this is the ability to listen to your staff and students – to accept their views, giving them serious consideration, after all the school does not belong to the head-teacher alone

6.Courage – to do what is right, to stand up to external forces of darkness and do the right thing by the students, the staff and the parents of the school



Whereas this is crap leadership

1.Bullying and intimidation – despite schools supposedly being ‘bully free zones’

2.Telling people what to do – are we all in the army now?

3.Changing procedures and requirements all the time – never giving anything time to bed in, be reviewed or improved or allowing the TIME for things

4.Not listening to anyone, because as you’re HT, you know it all – especially not allowing staff meetings where matters are discussed

5.Not understanding that education is a human endeavour – it’s about people not numbers and data, and teachers aren’t machines, nor are students

6.Constantly monitoring everything teachers do – because clearly having a university education means we are incapable of thinking for ourselves or doing our job if someone isn’t there to make sure we are!

This is the cascading shit model of leadership, shit decisions made at the top, cascaded down to the minions at the bottom who simply have to do, not question, no matter how non-sensical or counter-productive, who end up in shit up to their knees, because they can’t shovel it away quickly enough before the next wave comes down. This is the epitome of crap leadership, and a lot of it’s to do with fear, fear of the masses, who might actually know something, so at all costs they cannot be allowed to speak or question. Just do.

The sad fact, as observed by Douglas Adams amongst others, is that all too often the exact people who shouldn’t be in leadership positions are often the ones who are! Think about your average psychotic leader – Hitler, Idi Amin, Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Abbot, etc and I think you get my drift.

Perhaps we need more dolphins in charge – thoughtful, intelligent, sociable creatures? But didn’t they leave the planet just before the Vogons struck… (Images courtesy Private Collection)

Not My Finest Week…

September 27, 2014

In all honesty it’s been a shit of a week. I know bad things happen all the time and we’re all quite used to life not being sunshine and thorn-free roses, but some weeks are more full of shit than others. This is such a week.

I know there are, as ever, horrendous things happening, and there are a great many parts of the planet that you do not want to live in no matter what. But this week, this particular week I’d rather not be in my part of London, but in a cave somewhere, preferably by a beach, where I can be simply left alone.

deviot jetty

I have had worse weeks, and I know others have had a rough week too, and while that’s no real comfort, it is a reminder that life spends its time going up and down. If you follow the Tarot, or subscribe to Shakespeare you are familiar with the Wheel of Fortune. It is ever rolling on, and you’re always stuck to the wheel, either moving up, or moving down. It is that inevitability of the down that sucks. Oh, if only we could keep going up, or perhaps be on a small wheel, where the gaps between the apex and the pit are kinder, less extreme. Oh, for a kinder life!

So, following that line next week should see a movement upwards. But, dear reader, I am not holding my breath. Instead I am going to make some counter moves of my own and do a bit of shit-removing from my life.


Try these on for size

1.Keep my own mouth shut more often – think it but don’t say it

2.Ignore the idiots and the fools that populate my life, knowing most of them are only temporary visitors in my soap-opera

3.Take some advice from someone who knows more about certain things than I do – yes, take professional advice when needed

4.Firm up my escape plans, ensure they will enable a stress free move to the next chapter – perhaps sooner than anticipated…

5.Be with people I love – and hopefully laugh, feel some joy and stop feeling sorry for myself!

6.Go for a walk, get some fresh air in my lungs and endorphins in my brain

7.Drink wine, because no matter what’s gone down, everything looks better once you’ve had a glass or two (all right bottle or two) of your favourite wine.

I’m sure you have your own solutions to add to my meager list. Just remember: shit happens, sometimes all at once, but perhaps that means we get it out of the way for a while? You can only hope… (Images courtesy Private Collection)

Dear Parents – you need to do so much more…

September 20, 2014

We’re three weeks into the new school year and once more, dear friends, I wonder what parents actually think being a parent is all about. Let me share with you the letter I’d like to send to many of them…

Dear Parent

I am using that term loosely, perhaps essentially biologically because the rest of the parent-child deal you seem to have entirely ignored. Perhaps accidentally because you don’t really know any better, or perhaps because you don’t really care, and like the rest of the country believe it’s up to teachers to, well, teach your child about everything.

I must inform you that already your child is miles behind. They’re so far behind, they’ll probably never catch up. And you know what, it’s nothing to do with me. By the time they get to me in secondary school so much damage has been done that it is virtually impossible to correct. Yet, we are expected to. We’re expected to do your job as well as ours. We’re expected to devote our lives to your children. I wonder why you aren’t expected to do that?

And, luckily for your child, I will do my best to be their mother, their teacher, their confessor, their therapist, their social worker and anything else Ofsted, or senior management think I need to be to do my job. Fortunately for you, it’s not just me but a plethora of equally devoted, hard working teachers, whom you simply take for granted or complain about.


Do you want to help your child? Do you really want them to learn at school and become decent, thoughtful, functioning citizens, instead of the ignorant young lumps they are now?


Listen well, then, because here are some practical, straight forward and useful things you can do for your child, regardless of your income or social status.

1.Buy a map of the world and stick it on your walls. If you manage to have dinner together then look at it and discuss it. Your children need to know where places are, what oceans are, how far away New Zealand is.

2.Buy a dictionary and a thesaurus – don’t just rely on computers for everything. Reading a dictionary helps your word power, your ability to spell. A thesaurus will also help word power.

3.Read to your children when they are young. They will love it and it will do wonders for your relationship with them. Read fairy stories, myths, legends, classic children’s stories. Don’t let them know the world only through movies and screens. Reading helps them in everything – spelling, grammar, expression, empathy, understanding the world and people in it. Oh, and reading helps you learn to concentrate and concentration spans still matter. And those who run the world are readers.

4.Get an atlas too – look through it, read it together, talk about the world – it’s an interesting place.



5.Take your children out – not just to Thorpe Park. Living in the UK, especially around London means history and Art and Culture are but a train/bus ride away. It’s scandalous that children living in London do not know there is a river running through it, or haven’t been to the Globe theatre or a gallery. Lots of things are cheap or free. Take your children out and let them learn about their city, their world.




6.Eat together. Have meals at the table, eat with knives and forks from plates. Eat healthy food – meat, fish and vegetables. Talk to each other. Leave all electronic equipment turned off.

7.Teach your child manners and respect for others. This means tolerance too.


8.Teach your child to take responsibility for themselves – give them chores and expect them to do more than sit on their increasingly fat arses doing nothing, being waited on by all and sundry. Expecting others to give them a bloody pen!

9.Check that they’re doing homework. Challenge them, help them, expect more from them. This lets you know what they know, if they’re coping or not, when you should get more involved.

10.Talk to your child, and, very importantly, listen to them.

11.Finally, be prepared to say NO to them. Give them limits, give them rules. Don’t let them be brats. No-body likes a brat, or a bitch.

Is that too hard? Is it too much to expect that you take some responsibility for your child becoming a decent adult, someone people like, admire, want to employ and spend time with?

But you need to start at the start. When they’re young and pliable, and love you no matter what. If you leave proper parenting until they meet me it’s too late for you too. They’ll be rude, argumentative, horrible, sulky, aggressive chunks of uncoordinated hormone driven, pimple infested teen monsters.

out tog

Perhaps you need to think harder about what being a parent really means? Perhaps you need to take your job as seriously as I take mine?


Ms Pink (Images from Private Collection)


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