Archive for February, 2013

Love is in the Little Things

February 23, 2013

I am writing about The God of Small Things this morning – getting my notes organised for my exploration about shame and guilt and the damage that the revelation of secrets wreaks in many stories. In The God of Small Things the love between Velutha, an untouchable and Ammu, from a respectable family, knocks the whole world off its orbit in 1960s Kerala. People drown, people die, people are damaged and banished. A small love that made two lonely people happy reverberated in the world and instead of making lives better made lives worse.

Ammu and Velutha loved for a little while and lost everything. I am reminded this morning of how love is in the little things. In the glances, and touches, in the knowing each other and remembering those things that matter to the other. Love should embrace us and keep us safe against the world, especially when the world crumbles around us.

GOST

Did Vicky Pryce take Chris Huhn’s points as an act of love – as a wife helping defend her husband against a malevolent world? Or did he use his love to bully her into doing something she knew was wrong? Did he have the right to turn to her in his hour of need and expect her to help him out? Would you have done the same for your partner?

Many of us do not rattle the (fictional) world as Ammu and Velutha did, nor upset the legal world as Vicky and Chris. We live and love quietly, rubbing along together, falling out, forgiving; staying the course. Sometimes we go our separate ways…

Today, remember the little things of your love. Remember why you fell in love in the first place, why you stay together. Do something kind, show you care today and tomorrow and next week too.

love the littel things

 

Some little things to do for your partner that will make a big difference:

Make a cup of tea or coffee

Make lunch or dinner – something special or something ordinary, it matters not, it is the action that matters, the doing

Make the bed!

bed

Clean the bathroom

Compliment them – but something simple and genuine

Give them a hug, or a kiss

Buy a bottle of champagne with a red ribbon tied in a bow (it worked a treat for me this Valentine’s Day)

champers & ribbon

Buy them their favourite treat

Take them out for a meal – even offering to go out will make an impact

Chat about a time when you were happy together

Laugh together

Have sex – the more the better – some things always matter no matter how old or battered your body gets

Make plans for the weekend or the summer

Tell them you still love them

lions & tigers

Forgive them their sillinesses and faults – remember you have a truck-load yourself! (Images courtesy Google Images)

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6 Things to Give Up (as a sensible adult)

February 21, 2013

I’ve long since given up giving things up for New Year or for Lent, which is now upon the believers amongst us. But, as I contemplate life now, methinks it is timely to give up some parts of life and move on…

So, this is my list

1. Cheeseballs and such like evil snacks. There is nothing redeeming about these abominations – there is no cheese, only starch and salt and fattening addictive substances. Just like Twisties from the homeland (missing them too, friends who will be here in Sumer…) they are evil and belong to times gone past. No adult should snack on Cheeseballs or Twisties.

cheeseballs

 

2. Blogging and Tweeting – simple time wasters that take away from the real writing – just bits of ephemera and nonsense that don’t really add anything to the world. So I should stop and concentrate on being a better ‘real’ writer. (And finish my bloody PhD!!)

twitter

 

3. Working where I’m not wanted. I’ve done this before and should know better by now. It’s no good working where your face doesn’t fit – even if it once did. You don’t have the power to influence matters; you’re not what management wants, so move on. But find a place that fits you!! This time I’m going to take the time and find something that suits me. Like Paddington Bear, who was Not Wanted on Voyage but went onto find a loving place to be, I will too.

PaddigtonB

 

4. Hoping for a slimmer me without actually paying consistent closer attention to what is going into my mouth. I need to be thinner, if only for my health and self esteem. But to think I am going to ever fit into my wedding dress again is pure nonsense!

wedding me

 

5. Worrying about what others think about me. At my age and with my hair colour you would think I was past this bit of nonsense. But I still want people to think well of me. And, this is the stupid thing, those people I do NOT think well of. It’s silly. I need to worry about what the people I care about think of me, not troublesome others.

Polar B-think

 

6. Fantasies about life that are too far fetched. It’s no good dreaming your life away planning a life that can never be. It’s time to bring the fantasies to earth, to find a future that is within reach, to make plans that will bear fruit. It’s time to stop thinking I can be Fay Weldon or John Irving, or buying a brand new Jag XK. It’s time to plan a happy future in the not too distant future!

jagxk

So, dear friends and followers, what should you be giving up? What needs to be excised from your existence to make it better for you? (Images courtesy Google Images & Private Collection)

 

6 Ways to Feel Better When the World Turns Against You – once more!!

February 16, 2013

When things fall apart, as they inevitably do, you have essentially two choices, fall apart with those ‘things’ or find a way to get up again. Today is about ways to help you get up again – six (possibly the number of the beast) easy things that will make you feel better.

1.Find a soothing space and just be there – a beach is good, a bed is nice, so is a park. Be in the space and do nothing else, just enjoy it.

short beach

 

2.Turn to the stars, or the Tarot; the Runes or I Ching. Go the full fortune telling hog. There’s always something bright just around the corner in the mystical world – it can be enough to hang onto while you wait for the world to complete its turn of nastiness.

stars & moon

 

3.Plan – but do not execute – the vilest demise for your enemy. Luxuriate in evil plans of suffering, their pain exquisite to you. Imagine, enjoy – sometimes it is enough to just think it. A bit of ill-wishing doesn’t go astray.

defeat the enemy

 

4.Feel sorry for yourself – hide away from it all, hunker down in a safe space and let the misery and self pity engulf you. Then get over yourself – do not drown in the unfairness or injustice of it all. Get up and get on with your life.

sad Pbear

 

5.Don’t blame yourself – unless it is your fault!! Sometimes it isn’t about you, it’s just an unfortunate set of circumstances. Sometimes it is about them. Seek to know the difference.

elephant & rowers

 

6.Make plans for a new future, a future that better suits you. Sometimes the turn for the worst can become a turn for the better. We don’t always see things correctly at the time, the distance is not enough. Consider why things have gone pear shaped this time: can you make sure it doesn’t happen again?

Sirocco2

And remember, you are a good person: you are loved, you will be missed from this planet when you pass. From time to time bad things happen to good people, and sadly much worse happens to others and may happen to you again. It doesn’t mean the end of the world. (Images courtesy Google Images)

A Homesick Ozzie-girl

February 9, 2013

I have been living away from my homeland for five years now. According to Dylan Moran I should count myself lucky as it’s full of things waiting to kill us and it is after all a jail, especially the bit I originally come from. And at the moment, all bits of it are suffering the wrath of Gaia and her evil climate-tantrums.

dylan moran

But, dear friends there are some things I am really starting to miss, things that you just can’t get here, or are just not the same. So, indulge me a while.

 

Food – oh boy, the list could go on forever but…

Thin beef barbeque sausages – can’t find anything remotely close here – everything is pork and short and fat – not suitable for bread and sauce at all.

Weiner schnitzel – pork or beef, supermarket or pub. What’s the issue, why doesn’t this exist here – Europe’s only a stone throw away?? Anyway, ‘twas my favourite counter meal and I miss them!

Lamingtons – I wasn’t a huge fan at home but when you can’t find some when you want them you miss them.

Gaiety biscuits – wafer chocolate treats, twice as yummy as Tim Tams but not as well known or popular but well missed. Pink panther wafers are an OK substitute but not the same, sadly. Very nice with strong coffee and champagne.

gaiety bix

 

Summer – I really miss Australian summers – a surprise, I know.

And it’s not winter here that sets me off: no, it’s the pathetic attempt at summer that happens here. Seriously it is about 3 days of proper heat, hardly time to get outside, let alone set up the BBQ or catch a spot of sun. So, it’s the beach, the sky, the heat, the smells; being outside most of the day – that’s what I miss.

I miss the Sydney-Hobart yacht race – watching it on Boxing Day, usually with my dad, but with a glass of bubbles and cold left overs from the big day before.

Consequentially I miss Christmas in Summer – it’s cheerful and positive, not stuck inside in small rooms, claustrophobically stuffing food in your face all day.

sydney-hobart

 

Australian politics – truly!!

I can’t abide the tossers here. Ours seem real, more like us. I love Julia, even though she’s probably a rubbish PM. And where else in the world would you find someone like Tony Abbot still in politics. Oh, and the fact that we voted out the second longest serving PM, out of office and out of his seat. That was one of those wonderfully blissful moments. Here, politicians make you reach for the sick bag, not laugh out loud like our lot tend to.

Thus I miss Kerry O’Brien – the best interviewer in the world. I miss his subtle sabre questions, his ginger top and sly smile and blue eyes. I could come home just for Kezza alone.

kerry o'b

 

My house on the river. It’s too long since I sat on the verandah watching the river. I miss my kitchen, my en-suite with spa, the wood fired heater in winter; the space so we can do our own thing without falling over each other all the time. I miss the boat-shed, the roses, the lawn – the colours, the brightness and freshness of it all – the light. The space – yes I miss the space inside and outside and the river, watching the river, being on the river.

home

 

Driving fast every day. Indeed I drove to and from work at speed nearly every day for nearly every year of my Oz working life. Now I only drive in France. The traffic and bizarre road behaviour in and around London would do my head in – especially a certain intersection at Borough Market, which I still cannot work out, despite passing through it every working day these past five years.

cars

 

And finally – Glad Wrap. I find this unbelievable actually, but I have come to miss this humble kitchen necessity more than all else. I cannot abide the Tesco cling film that I now have to buy – there are no choices in my supermarket. Here it is a weak, flimsy thing, pulling apart in awkward and annoying ways, seeming to collapse in your hand whenever you use it, unwilling to do what it must. Glad Wrap is strong, robust, co-operative and I would sell my soul for it!!!

glad wrap

Of course, when I do go home – eventually, whenever, someday – I will miss things from here. But that’s a blog for then, isn’t it?? (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)

 

But Miss, I Don’t Have a Pen

February 3, 2013

Sadly I hear this all too often – still. Not daily, it’s true but too much and I still boggle at children who rock up to class without their equipment – to wit complete devoid of pens, pencils and the various accoutrements needed to function in a classroom. And then offer a load of rubbish excuses.

Why is this so? I have pondered this mystery frequently over the last five years, because, dear reader, it was not something I heard that often in the Old Country. In Oz students by and large have a well stocked pencil case, they look after their own books, they have lockers they (mostly) look after. No, they are not paragons of virtue and pictures of perfection in a classroom. But there is a different culture in terms of student responsibility.

nice pens

As a secondary school teacher I’d not come across book tubs – they were for primary schools and not part of the secondary scene at home. In my London school they were everywhere. Why was the teacher looking after student books; why did that responsibility lie with the teacher? I found the same with pens. Nothing to write with was commonplace. Students expected teachers to provide pens virtually every lesson. No pens meant they didn’t need to work; they had the best excuse. And in this place of constant inspection, of teacher-fear and teacher-responsible-for-all the teacher readily hands over pen after pen after pen. We, the responsible teachers, can’t allow something as trivial as a pen to stop their learning. And so we have boxes of pens in our rooms so there are no excuses and they can write. The same is true of books in boxes – here is your book, here is your pen, so now learn. (Heaven forbid we set homework to be completed in the books – they’ll never come back! Ah, so we have two books…)

Actually, this lack of basic responsibility in the classroom is a major issue and I think lies at the heart of the lack of progress of some sectors of society. It is part of the Welfare State mentality and while I support aspects of the Welfare system (a compassionate society must care for those less able, less fortunate) too many of the elements of expectation, of entitlement have crept into areas they should not. The classroom being one. It’s reminiscent of Nirvana’s ‘Here we are now, entertain us.’ As if teachers should be grateful that the child is in the classroom and should provide all parts of the entertainment – the equipment as well as the show.

Okay, so as adults we have to teach responsibility, we have to show children what is expected and be consistent in those expectations. We need routines and consequences to help them learn about how the world operates and as well as teach them subject content and skills, prepare them for work, for being decent socialised citizens.

Surely the parents/carers need to buy into this as well?

And t he student has to take these things on. They have to come with a readiness to learn, and that is shown in the small things, in their uniform, in being equipped for their day. PE kits fall into the same category.

Bill Gates’ list of 11 rules of life (which is actually from Charles Sykes’ book Dumbing Down Our Kids) is worth mentioning here. Teachers know that the world of school is an artificial bubble, that much of what happens there does not replicate the world of work or life. We know that a lot of what we do does not prepare students for anything much at all. The making too many allowances all the time, the constancy of re-takes, the massaging of egos without sufficient reason is not helping anyone; no child is helped by this and it does nothing for the much desired social mobility.

We know that handing over pens – even in exchange for phones (yes we have stepped up our expectations and standards) does not help the student. We should allow them to sit there doing nothing. Allow them to be bored rigid because they can’t write their assessment, to be shamed by their lack of preparedness, to be made to come back after school with their pen to do it then. We should allow them to sit there and be ‘consequenced’, let them be seen by a member of senior staff and read the riot act. But that won’t happen. Instead the teacher will be asked why this child isn’t learning, why haven’t they got a pen, what has the teacher done about it??

flamingo pens

I do not come from a middle class privileged background; I did not go to private schools: I went to the equivalent of a comprehensive. My parents were not particularly well off. But I went to school every day with my books and pens and locker key so I was able to do what I had to in school to get to Uni to become a teacher. Most of my schoolmates did the same thing. They’re now doctors, engineers, bankers, businessmen and teachers too. We didn’t go to school making excuses, we were expected to have our equipment and we did. Teachers were not held accountable for our carelessness, our slackness. The same was true for my children at their schools.

Is this the divide in the UK between those who succeed at school and in life and those who don’t: the students who know they need to bring their own pens to school and take care of their own equipment and not blame others for their lack of success?

Yes, we must increase our expectations for students from the inner cities and other failing schools across the country. This means we expect them to take some responsibility for their own progress. But while the system, to wit Gove and Ofsted, continue to lay the blame for all ills in education at the door of teachers then nothing will change.

A child needs to understand that learning is not all about fun or being entertained, that learning takes effort and commitment, that when it gets hard you keep going. That learning is what they do and they need to be prepared for, work at it, and make their achievements their own, not the teachers.

plain pens

A pen is a simple, cheap thing. A pencil case of equipment costs very little. It is not about poverty or privilege; it is about attitude, about children and their families taking some responsibility for their own way in life. About not making excuses: about being successful. (Images courtesy Google Images)

 

The Job Hunt – Shot down, get up, try again

February 1, 2013

You win, you lose: you try, you fail. This is life. Today I am a little bruised from my latest sortie into the world of professional advancement. I do this every once in a while when I get so fed up with where I am I know I have to leave or explode. But, given my considerable financial obligations there is a profound need not to end up destitute with dog and child and partner so, I cannot just walk out of the job. Thus, I need some place to go – preferably some place nicer, kinder, smarter: more rewarding, less dispiriting.

fighting roos

And so to the scouring of the TES, the Guardian, other websites; the completion of job application forms. All of which for some mysterious reason are different from the last, making copy and paste impossible and taking an age to complete. Then there’s the personal statement and while you can recycle that, you do need to make is somewhat bespoke. You do need to sound as if you are addressing this particular position in this particular organisation. You need to sound genuine and you need to sound like you.

prepare

Then off it goes, your careful, considered application taking with it your hopes and dreams and fantasies of a better work-life. Too often there is no reply. And not often enough there is the yes, come for the interview response.  This, my friends, as you know, can be a bit of a two edged sword. You’re really excited and pleased with yourself for getting the nod, a much needed bit of affirmation and a big shot of hope. But to get too excited at this stage is to court disappointment, even devastation when the interview does not translate into the job.

be prepared

So you must proceed cautiously. Prepare assiduously. Get your ducks in a row, as an old friend would say. Prepare your bits, your lesson, your presentation. Read up on the organisation, the school: the Ofsted. Actually – read the Ofsted report BEFORE you apply. You may not like what you read, so don’t waste time applying. Remember it’s oh so easy to make a school look sexy on a website – lovely shots of new facilities, shiny smiley kiddies, a lovely banner and motto and some cheesy grinning shot of the current head. Do not be sucked in, consider where you’re going and if it really suits who you are and your career aspirations. To leave a place in desperation can lead you to foolish choices, so take care.

richard brason chance & prepare

If you never try you never win and sometimes when you try you lose. But we have to be careful about what loss means. I’ve spent hours this week preparing for my interview, time that should have gone to my study, to work (and to the child’s creative writing story). I didn’t get the job and it looks as if I’ve wasted all that time, all my spare hours this week.

win:lose

But I feel stronger about myself. On paper I look the business so that’s something. It was enough to get me to interview. Preparation for these things is never wasted if you look to the next time and learn from this. And so I am. I am considering where things didn’t pan out and, as I am determined to find a better workplace, I will ensure that the next time I have covered my bases better.

win-lose advice

In the end, perseverance is the one thing that will win you the battle, the boy, or the job. Sometimes your face doesn’t fit; sometimes you stuff it up. But reflect, know yourself, take advice, try harder. You’ll get there. (Images courtesy Google Images)