Archive for September, 2014

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)

In the Zone

September 13, 2014

Are you in the zone? I was hoping to be in the zone to go hard on my study this weekend but life being the fun thing she is I have a hideously sore throat and serious snuffles. Yes, germs already from the unwashed teenage beast. Not happy…

Being in the zone is one of those phrases we toss around with gay (old meaning of the word) abandon. We use it to mean being ready, being in the right place to do something. Being in the zone is a state of mind, of preparedness and we mostly know it from sport. But being in the zone is more than that. It’s actually about being fully immersed in your activity, your work, or your sport – no it’s not about being fully immersed in the pleasure of your bath.

Being in the Zone or Flow is about being so immersed in the activity you feel energized, fully involved and find it enjoyable. Think running, think swimming – once you get over the initial pain of getting fit, you find the experience up-lifting and highly pleasurable. Flow – being in the Zone – has been explored by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (and others) and is connected to a wide range of fields. He first stumbled upon the concept through noting how artists would essentially get lost in their work, to such an extent that the need for food, water and rest was ignored.


6 factors equal the experience of flow, or being in the zone

*intense and focused concentration on the present moment

*merging of action and awareness

*loss of reflective self-consciousness

*a sense of personal control over the situation or activity

*a distortion of temporal experience – to wit, you lose all sense of time

*experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding


Do you recognize yourself in certain activities? If you are into fitness or artistic pursuits you should see yourself there. I also see something that would be most useful in a classroom – if we could get the little darlings there, into the zone of learning, how successful they would be!


But getting into the zone is the hardest thing. I need to be in the zone for a range of things:

To mark my books

To write

To work on my study

To regain fitness (oh, yes & diet)


In case you were wondering, there are agreed to conditions that need to be met to be successful in the zone, to find your flow:

1.Your activity needs clearly set goals and progress points – how many kilos off this week, how many chapters written?

2.The task needs clear & immediate feedback so we know how to adjust performance and stay in the zone – the mirror, your clothes, your readers, editor, supervisor

3.You need to have enough confidence in your ability to complete the task at hand – do you have the skills and the desire to complete your task – or when you falter can you get back on the horse?


Can I manage to get into the zone this weekend? Is there a zone you need to be in? Hopefully I can be so fully immersed in my zone that the annoyance and discomfort of my throat is magically spirited away. (Images from Private Collection)

Why FB Quizzes Are Good for You

September 6, 2014

I am:

Samantha from Bewitched

My Spirit Animal is a Wolf

Athena, Goddess of Wisdom & War

72% Right Brain

My Aura is Purple

My famous boyfriend is Robert Downey Jr


Can you guess what I’ve been doing?

It’s a no brainer: oodles of Face-Book quizzes, like many others of you out there, because I get them from you. That list of results only scratches the surface! I have become addicted to them – not all, I hasten to add, but too many, it’s true. It’s not a good FB session if I haven’t had a go at at least one quiz.

But FB isn’t the only place for quizzes. I do the Brain Teasers in the Metro every morning as I psyche up for work; the Literary Quiz, Word Watch and Two Brains in Saturday’s Times and just to be even handed, I had a spell where I was addicted to The Guardian’s on-line quizzes, where I got scores ranging from 2/10 – 9/10! High scores were usually related to utter trivia… I never miss Pop Master on BBC2 when I’m home and I have managed a couple of good scores – 27/39 last time. Of course, there are pub-quizzes and all sorts of other places where you can team up with mates and pit your wits against others at quiz nights. Love them too – even when I don’t win.

There’s also a whole swag of quizzes on TV too. The old faithful reliable likes of University Challenge, Mastermind, Jeopardy and others like Only Connect or Eggheads, but that’s a bit slow.


You could spend most of your waking hours playing quizzes. There is a quiz for every sort of person in the world. If you move onto Sudoku and crosswords and other puzzles there’d be no room for anything else in your life.

Downsides to quizzes:

They waste a great deal of your time

Many of them are excessively trivial

They mostly tell you nothing useful about yourself or the world

They can be addictive

They can make you anti-social

They can make you feel more of an idiot than you already are


But there is a significant and important up-side to doing quizzes and puzzles and it should console those of us who are starting to feel guilty about how much of our lives is disappearing in a fug of on-line quizzes and vegetative states in front of a TV screen.


Quizzes (and puzzles):

Keep your brain moving

Keep all its synapses and neurons firing

keep you sharp

Give you new insights into yourself

Give you new information

Keep dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay


So, ditch the guilt, do your quiz, keep your brain moving. Remember it’s like the rest of your body, if you keep exercising it you get to keep it longer. And in this era of increasing dementia anything that fires up your grey matter has to be a good thing. (Images courtesy Private Collection and Non-commercial reuse from Google)