Supporting the underdog

via Daily Prompt: Underdog

Supporting the underdog isn’t an easy choice.  Sometimes it isn’t even a choice. Until the last few years generation after generation of Manchester City fans were faced with a lifetime of of supporting the underdog, in the shadow of their rivals Manchester United.  One City fan Colin Schindler even titled his book ‘Manchester United Ruined My Life’.  Not anymore, now the rivalry is between equals.

The previous entry on my blog is about another underdog.

Imagine a dance competition for celebrities.  Some have danced professionally. Some  have a background in light entertainment, some went to one of the many Stage Schools, such as Italia Conte. Then again let’s balance it up with some stars who have done none of these things. That popular vicar, who used to be in a band; the Television chef whose experience is limited to ‘dad dancing’ at birthdays and weddings. The diminutive Scottish comedienne whose fleetness of foot belies her rather rotund figure.

And then there is our underdog hero. He is a multi-gold medal winning athlete. Sportsmen and women from football, rugby, athletics, swimming and gymnastics have competed with varying degrees of success.

Our underdog hero is different. Two of his gold medals were at the Paralympics in London and Rio.  Step forward amputee Paralympic next, friend of “The Last Leg” and absolute legend Jonnie Peacock. His challenge was valiant, he reached the hallowed dance floor at Blackpool, before losing out in slightly controversial circumstances, to one of the favourites,  in a survival dance off.  As I say read more about it in my previous post.

Take a bow Jonnie Peacock, a truly heroic underdog.




Strictly Judge faux pas de deux

Strictly Judge faux pas de deux

Jonnie Peacock: what a absolute inspiration and class act.
Shirley Ballas: she may have retired from competitive dancing, but she is still flexible enough to repeatedly put her foot in her mouth.
In case you follow neither the Paralympics nor the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing, you might need a bit of background.
Jonnie is a sprinter. He won his second Paralympic gold in Rio clocking a time of 10:81 seconds, to go with his golds at London 2012 and World Championships. He is a below the knee amputee, a result of meningitis when he was five. He has made guest appearances on ‘The Last Leg’. This autumn he has been one of the stars of Strictly. (We are all on first name terms with the show). Paired with professional dancer Oti Mabuse, he has blazed a trail as the shows first amputee.
Shirley won the International Latin American Dance Championships twice and the Uk Open Championship for Professional Latin. She placed second in Professional World Latin Dance Championships on three occasions. She replaced Len Goodman as head judge on Strictly this year.
In the last few weeks she has proved to be a real show stopper, silencing the crowd by her repeated “did she really just say that to an amputee” comments on Jonnie’s performances. Every week she criticises his posture telling him that he “sticks his bum out” before saying that better balance would “make his legs (that’s correct, legs, plural) work better”.
She did it again this week before the least suspenseful dance off of all time, pitting Jonnie and Oti against judges favourite the ‘lovely’ Debbie McGee, as I understand we are obliged to describe her, and her professional partner, Giovanni. (As an aside she was once the subject of a line voted the second best one liner of all time – On a spoof chat show Caroline Aherne, in her role as pensioner Mrs Merton asked “so Debbie what was it that first attracted you to millionaire Paul Daniels?”)
Forgive me I digress.
Now I don’t know anything about the intricacies of how the marking works for ballroom dancing. On Strictly I am however, perturbed by the sight of the judges discussing, presumably, what mark they are going to give, so every time the voting follows the pattern, low, +1 or2, same or +1, same or +1.
So for instance 4, 6,6, 7, = 23 marks for a weaker performance or, 6,7,9,8 = 30 for something more polished, up to 9,10,10,10 = 39 for Debbie and Gio.
It may be my maths geekiness, but I want to know if it is marked to reflect the degree of difficulty, or if there is some weighting system. How does a faultless but easy routine compare to a difficult routine performed wth errors? I have no idea and I suspect not as one of the pros was suggesting it. So a trained dancer, who had danced with a national ballet company, would be marked more ‘Strictly’ than a total novice.
Then there is the telephone voting for the fans. These figures are not made public. The BBC say that this to maintain interest’ and the need to keep the public voting for their favourites, raising money for charity, even if they have no chance of winning. Is it a simple list where the order is all that matters.

Anyway back to Jonnie and Oti against Debbie and Gio. There have been muttering on social media that in the Dance off Jonnie made no mistakes whereas Debbie did. Since the decision is supposed to based purely on the dance-off, there are some fans saying Jonnie and Oti were robbed.
Others tell of the fact that the judges have been pressured in inflating the marks.

The decision made, it was time for Jonnie to show his absolute class. Now if it had been me, I would have been tempted to remove my prosthetic leg and either batter Shirl to a pulp with it or plonk it on the desk in front of her, telling Shirl how much it hurt just to stand sometimes.

Jonnie Peacock is a better man than I am. Movingly – and importantly – the athlete and amputee thanked the panel for judging him “as an equal” throughout the competition.
“I think it’s been an absolute honour to be the first disabled person, and I just want to thank each and every one of you for judging me as an equal,” he told the four judges. “That’s what I want. You can criticise me; I want that criticism. I think that’s fantastic and hopefully it’s paved the way for more people to come through – and I think they may be able to tuck their bum under a little bit better than me.”

In case Shirl is still judging then here are some useful phrases for her to learn.
1. What she said: your posture is all wrong you are sticking your bum out. What she should have said: I realise that lower limb amputees often find that since they can’t get sufficient drive from the knee, they use their hips more, hence a bottom that sticks out, so I won’t be crass enough to mention it every week.
2. What she said: you are still sticking your bum out. What she should have said: Jonnie, you are an inspiration, the precision and deftness of your footwork is just in-cred-ible.
3. What she said: you need to get your head directly above your hips and feet in a straight line, this will improve your balance and get your legs work better. What she should’ve said: Your willingness to overlook the fact that whilst I was once a good dancer I know absolutely nothing about the problems you face and couldn’t be arsed to do some research into biomechanics so I could have made genuinely helpful criticisms or at the very least not insulting banalities.

Interesting Shirl’s favourite Debbie is an injury doubt for tonight’s show. Debbie is worried about an injury sustained while practising for last week’s samba, which could hinder her performance this weekend. She is quoted as saying “The samba really pulled the muscles over my hip bones. It actually felt like a tendon had gone over my hip bone, and when I put my weight on my left foot it kept giving way and my leg was buckling.”
A pulled muscle?
Don’t make me laugh.
Either sequin-up, dance and stop being pathetic or pull out of the show… maybe there is an athlete who knows how to tackle real adversity and laugh in its face who could take your place!

Uisce – Super Substance

Those of you who know me are probably aware of my attitude towards alternative medication or natural supplements. If one of these supplements or treatments was really the panacea, a wonder drug which cured everything, medical science would have probably found out by now and we wouldn’t all be taking sinemet every few hours.
however I don’t wish to upset anyone, so my standard response is, “If it works for you then fine, I am pleased for you.”
I have found my own talismanic supplement. “Uisce” (pronounced Wee-ske) is the common name of this amazing 100% NATURAL chemical compound. Dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) or hydric acid. It is a colourless and odourless liquid and plays a part in the transportation of vital nutrients like minerals, vitamins and amino acids to cells and extract waste from every cell.
Uisce has been known for centuries to affect the efficiency of the nervous system and plays a role in the flow of blood in the brain. If you have sufficient Uisce in your diet, it is an indisputable fact that ones Parkinson’s medication works better.
Signs that you have insufficient Uisce in your diet…
Feeling thirsty is just one of the symptoms that you might feel if you’re lacking Uisce, but it is not the only one.
Warning signs of Uisce deficiency also include
* Fatigue or weakness
* Dizziness
* Headaches
* Muscle cramps
* Dry mouth, nose or skin
* Lack of sweating or tears
* Upper abdominal pain or lower back pain
* Constipation
Foods that are high in Uisce
watermelon, oranges, cantaloupe, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, cabbage and spinach
Things which reduce the effectiveness of Uisce
Consuming alcohol, caffeine, hot liquids, high protein drinks and other diuretics
i must add, for balance some points critics of Uisce make.
It has been found to be an integral part of the belief system of multiple world religions.
It has been connected to illlegal interrogation methods at Guantanamo Bay
In its liquid form it can be fatal if inhaled.
in its solid form a small amount will cause numbing coldness.
in its solid form in large amounts it can cause balance problems
some groups have even called for it to be banned read more here Arguments against Uisce or DHMO
I leave you to make your own minds up…

The Last Dance

It shouldn’t have been such a shock.

Having announced that their 2016 album “The Story” was to be their last studio album, Runrig fans everywhere clung to the faint hope that every two or three years there might be a tour , where the old favourites might get an airing.

It’s all over now. Runrig will make one final tour “The Final Mile”, ending up at Stirling for “The Last Dance”, a final open air gig. Having been at the 30th Anniversary concert at Stirling Castle, the idea of one last hurrah at the last ever Runrig concert, flickered briefly but even with my rosiest rose tinted spectacles I knew it wasn’t a realistic option.  Even if by some miracle I could last out at the gig and enjoy it, the fact that my much better half didna see any of the concert until we got the DVD, since she is a bit short for crowds, was the clincher.

The tickets went in a flash. It was reported that there was no accommodation available within a realistic distance of Stirling (not even the bus shelter just off the high street; Big Gordie and Tam have claimed that already and no amount of Special Brew will tempt them out.

Tickets were seen at inflated prices on the net. The miserable, slimy, scumbag, ticket touts were in action. To give as many fans a chance as possible Runrig announced a second final concert on the Friday.

Our hopes rest on the (as yet unannounced) English leg of the tour…

I have one pressing problem. When I am feeling a bit down I listen to Runrig, especially live versions that feature a soaring uplifting solo by Malcolm Jones. If I listen to it now it reminds why I am sad…

What I did this summer

If you or someone you know has Parkinson’s and prefer not to read about possible developments in their condition watch out for the warning and jump straight to the end.

It’s been a long time between posts this last couple of months.

Missed me? [1]

Does anybody even notice?
Does anybody even care? [2]

Where have you been, I hear you asking.
Have I been reclining on a sun bed, on the deck of a luxury yacht, moored in a secluded bay on the Isle of Capri, while negotiating an offer to turn this blog into a movie?
Have we been living in a mansion house on the Isle of Skye, exchanging witty comments with our specially invited guests. I won’t say who, not being one to name drop, just think of an episode of QI, with Stephen, Sandy, Alan, Victoria and David, (no not those two, think the wittiest, not the most famous!)? [3]
Was there a fire at the shop in London, on the Isle of Dogs, from which I, in common with many other bloggers, purchase ideas for blog posts wholesale, causing the Great Blog Writer’s Block crisis of 2017? [4]
The reason is so achingly prosaic, I am reluctant, even to mention it, let alone blog about it.


It is as dull as ditchwater. My Parkinson’s has been a total and utter, right royal pain in the ar.. neck.

Annoyingly I have been suffering from a doso situation (as nobody calls it). [5]
Delayed Onset, Sudden Off.
Perhaps due to my horrifically high levels of background stress (long and, as yet, unfinished story) or the fact that I have been on basically the same medication since 2006 and cannot really up the dosage any higher, I have for much of the summer, many times a day, been slumped, uncomfortably, unable to rise to a standing position from any seated position without help.
At this point I shall pause. Just think about things you do sitting down … yes that’s the one, and you can see how depressing and embarrassing this has been.
In my Off-state I need help doing anything you can think of. Dressing, undressing, moving.
Imagine lying in bed, in an uncomfortable position, knowing that if you could move your body just a centimetre one way, then you would be completely comfortable, but, instead, being totally unable to move…
Imagine a family meal in a busy restaurant, when you are in a delayed onset moment, unable to manipulate the knife and fork except v..e..r..y… s…l…o…w…l…y, so your lovely tasty meal will be cold by the time you eat it, so your much better half has to cut it up for you.
On the plus side of the DOSO, I have made my GP look like a miracle worker. Experiencing a sudden off my Parkinson’s Nurse fixed it for me to get an emergency appointment so my GP could see how bad I was, give me the once over and send off a blood test. I shuffled in barely able to raise each foot more than a nanometre off the ground.In the time I was in there my meds kicked in and I could have danced like Fred Astaire, but settled for striding purposefully through reception. In a film one patient in the waiting room would have turned to the person next to them and said “I want the medicine he is on.”
The second thing was my invention of a new extreme sport, especially for PwPs. If you take the definition of an extreme sport to be ‘an activity that provides an adrenaline rush and a frisson of danger’, then this activity fits the bill. Provisionally called SOStairDescent, it works like this. Stand on the upstairs landing. If you are playing the advanced level you have to carry a bag, weighted by the addition of a water bottle. Using the hand rail begin your descent of the 13 steps. Roughly halfway down you set of the house alarm. There is a delay before the alarm being activated and it going off – can you make it down the last six steps and key in the off code? If that doesn’t get your tremors tremoring I don’t know what will.

*********** End of spoilers alert

So if you are still wondering where I’ve been between posts this summer, I have been in the slough of despond, [6] near to the vale of tears [7] just take the A23 Croydon exit on the M25. [8] & [9]

Footnotes: how many quotes did you spot and how much of the trivia did you know
[1] Missed me?” Buffy in Season 2 ep1
[2] Does anybody even notice? Does anybody even care?” from “Once More With Feeling” the musical episode, the lyric comes from Dawn’s Lament.
[3] I refer to Victoria Coren Mitchell and her hubbie David Mitchell [wittiest] and not the more famous Victoria and David Beckham, although if they did pop round for a cuppa that wouldn’t be a problem.
[4] I can’t remember the author, I’m guessing Douglas Adams, who would tell fans who asked where he got his ideas, would tell them that he bought them.
[5] The Crystal Maze is back, which is nice. “DOSO situation” is a tribute to the new host Richard Ayoade and his ALIS.
[6]. Nothing to do with Slough, which I am sure is a lovely place. The slough of despond – was a deep muddy bog, It comes from The Pilgrim’s Progress, representing something difficult to get through.
[7] Vale of tears – life on earth before believers ascend into heaven. On Dave, the tv channel, there is a series where the comedian John Bishop has a conversation with a celebrity. Last week the guest was Jimmy Carr. If I remember right they were talking about Carr having been brought up as a catholic, but now he wasn’t. Then Carr said something very profound. He envied people with a faith, because it was comforting ~ no matter how bad things were here in the vale of tears, they would be rewarded in heaven.
[8] it is widely believed the M25 is the Road To Hell in the Chris Rea song. It might be, but it could be the A19 at Middlesbrough, in the part of the country he is from.
[9] Contrary to popular belief the M25 does not fully encircle London. At the Dartford Crossing both the northern tunnels and the southern bridge are designated as the A282, allowing vehicles prohibited from being on motorway to use the crossing.

Well what a mix of topics,all you have to do now is add Parkinson’s and shake well.
(That would make a good name for a blog…)

Yes, but could they… 2

‘Yes but could they do it on a cold, wet Wednesday in Stoke.” 2

In which I suggest a second alternative

Athletics: “Yes but could they do it on a cinder track on a stormy Saturday afternoon in the Southern League Division 5?”
A cinder track? The last time one of those was seen in the olympics was 1964, but I found a story about Crowborough Runners trying to get the local council to replace a cinder track with a modern synthetic track in 2014.
Here is how the fixtures worked. Five teams, two athletes per event (a and b) track (100m, 110m High Hurdles, 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, 1500m, 3000m steeplechase and 5000m, plus a 4 by 100m and a 4 by 400m) and field (long jump, triple jump, high jump, pole vault, javelin, discus, hammer and shot putt.)

There is a passage about the ‘race is not to the swift’. I had to google it. It’s a rule of thumb that about 45% of such half remembered quotes come from Shakespeare, 45% would come from the Bible and the rest from everyone else who ever said or wrote anything memorable.
As an aside this one came from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 9.11 and I found this modern translation.
‘I also saw other things in this life that were not fair. The fastest runner does not always win the race; the strongest soldier does not always win the battle; wise people don’t always get the food; smart people don’t always get the wealth; educated people don’t always get the praise they deserve. When the time comes, bad things can happen to anyone!’
Now I just need to remember the comedian who said “the fastest runner may not win the race, but that’s the way to bet!”

Back to the athletics. Had Usain Bolt and Mo Farah been members of the team you’d have heard conversations like this.
“I’m the fastest runner in the world, why haven’t you picked me for the first team in Division 1?”
“Well Usain, Fred may be a bit slower than you, but he drives a 7 seater people carrier and your sports car is only built for two. With Fred running instead of you we can get most of the team in his car. Can you get to the second team fixture in Tooting?”
“When did you last long jump?”
“Long jump? What are you on about?”
“Have you ever hurdled?…”

“Mo obviously you’re in the 5k, how about the 1500m or the ‘chase, maybe, have you ever tried jumping the barriers? No? Every thought of trying them? Or the hammer throw, if Ray is busy?”
“The hammer? I doubt I can lift it let alone throw it!”
“Should try eating some proper food…” mutters the disgruntled team manager as he walks away, “if you want something do it yourself.”

The club I belonged to South London Harriers had a cross country background so we never had any trouble covering 800m to 5k. Everything else was the problem. That is where Ray, his brother Dave and me came in. The secret to winning matches or at least not finishing 4th or 5th was to cover events.
Ray and I could both hurdle. Only rarely did all four of the other clubs have both a and b runners in both 110m and 400m: as an added bonus at this level we could even beat people! I was a half decent triple jumper, for this level and either one or other brother could ‘get a jump in’. So useful points gained. Some fixtures I actually won. Five points, Kerr-Ching! The high jump was my next ‘couple of points’ banker, because of the rules. Everyone was asked to nominate a starting height. Anything around 1m was a popular choice. The league rules stated that the second height must be 1m 50cm. The High hurdles are 3’6″ or about 1.07m so 1m50cm was beyond the capability of most of the ‘doing it for a point’ competitors? Ray had learned enough of the flop method that he could clear 1.5m.
My method was less orthodox. Instead of the curving run up high jumpers traditionally employ, I ran straight at the bar and hurdled it. At one fixture I had to repeat my jump as the judges didn’t realise what I was doing.
Another time the cinder run up for the long and triple jumps were in such poor condition, they track had a distinct hole just in front of the board. It screamed ‘possible broken ankle’. We pointed this out and they were abandoned.
I also at numerous fixtures took part in all the throws, achieving pathetic distances, but gaining one or two valuable points.
One final indignity happened in a 4 by 100m relay. Normally you are at danger of a faulty changeover, because the out-going runner sets off too fast for the incoming runner. I was so slow as the outgoing runner that the incoming runner had to stop and wait for me to catch him up!
I bet Usain has never been in a relay like that, at least not since his youth. Relay competitions are big in Jamaica. I can just imaging him taking the micky out of his teammate.
By the way, the official opening of the new track at Crowborough is this Saturday! Enjoy it athletes of Crowborough!


Yes but can they do it…

‘Yes but could they do it on a cold, wet Wednesday in Stoke.”
This or a variation of it, is the comment, used by football pundits and fans alike, to imply that a great footballing team such as Barcelona or Real Madrid, might be able to run rings about their opponents when the conditions are favourable and the opponents obliging. It’s also an insult to Stoke, dating back quite a few years now, to when their style of play was best described as route one, their most creative player was the bloke with the implausibly long throw. He could be on the halfway line and the visiting defenders would be donning tin helmets and air raid warning sirens would be wailing in warning of the impending aerial bombardment. Meanwhile the Stoke defenders would be sharpening their elbows and preparing to kick anything or anyone that moved. This was the background to the cliche.
I want to start some new ones.
Tennis “Yes but could he do it on a windy afternoon in the rec with a racquet from Woolworths?”
The courts at Wimbledon are like a pristine bowling green, flat and even. The courts provide protection from the elements, even a blooming roof. Yet one tiny bad bounce from the grass court, a living and therefore not entirely uniform surface and they get all prima donna-ish. Well let Roger, Serena et al try playing on the courts at my local rec (recreation ground).

Congratulations to Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian on the birth of their daughter. Apparently the baby is currently ranked just outside the top 100 in the WTA rankings. Also, during the birth, the midwife called out encouragingly, “the baby is out”, at which point Serena called for the umpire to challenge that on Hawkeye as she felt the baby was on the line.

I digress. The  uneven and totally unpredictable bounce of the grass courts is matched only by that of a sheet of corrugated iron. The ball from the courts either side of you may come flying over at any moment and instead of an endless supply of restrung racquets they had one from, Oh hang on, Woolworths went bust didn’t it, make it one of the shops where everything is £1. Add in the howling gale which at one end, playing into the wind, slows the ball so much your serve barely reaches the net, whilst from the other you are lucky to get the ball to land before it hits the chain link fence. Unless of course the gusting wind chooses that moment not to gust. Like profession golfers who find themselves on a links course in bad weather and start shooting plus scores, like mere mortals,the pampered tennis pros would find the conditions a great leveller. Speaking of bad weather I am frequently amused when we are told by the knowledgeable experts that cold, damp and drizzling rain will prove less of a problem for Andy Murray because he is Scottish.  Is this some kind of nature v nurture question? Or one of those logic puzzles. Andy is a Scot. It is cold and wet in Scotland. Therefore Andy is not worried by the cold and the damp.

Best wishes to Andy for a full recovery from the hip injury that has dogged him all season.

Anyway there is my Tennis ‘yes, but…’ cliche.

Yes but could they do it on a windy afternoon over at the rec, with a racquet from a £1 shop?

Room 101

Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, it is a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love in which the Party attempts to subject a prisoner to his or her own worst nightmare, fear or phobia.
We stayed in Room 101 at the Journeycabin (name changed). It is the “other” accessible room at the budget hotel (Room 1).
Unlike Room 1, Room 101 is not right by the hotel entrance where late arrivals come in late and manage to make more noise shhh-ing each other than they were making in the first place. On no, Room 101 is a relatively long walk or to be accurate, shuffle for an ambulatory disabled guest with Parkinson’s and one has to pass through a reassuringly heavy set of fire doors.
Both rooms have a similar layout. They have, what I assume they think is an accessible bath, i.e. a standard bath with grab rails all round it. Ho hum. I can’t use a bath, grab rails or not, without making a pre-booking with the local fire brigade to get me out of the bath. Whilst this may go down well with my much better half, it’s not my favoured option. I can shower, but not by stepping up into a bath.
On the right of the sink is a grab rail. I am right handed, a trait I share with about 88% of people and brush my teeth right handed. You don’t need a PhD in ergonomics to highlight the flaw in that scenario. If I hold on left handed my arm is in the way, coming between my mouth and the basin…
There is a problem with the room. When my meds are wearing off, I become acutely aware of sloping uneven floors. I become ‘Gradientman” a superhero who was scratched by a radioactive spirit-level. Not much of a super power, “Be careful Ironman, this floor slopes towards the left with a gradient of 1 in 10000!” I suspect Captain America and Thor would look down on Gradientman.
Any way the floor in the room has some interesting variations in gradient.
Not only am I ambulant, but I am also tall. I don’t consider myself to be excessively tall, but am over six feet tall. The stylish yet strangely uncomfortable chairs are too low for me to sit in and be sure of being able to stand unassisted. When I tell you that the bed is lower than the chairs and also soft, your sympathies for my much better half will be awakened. Awakened being the operative word as my two options, if I feel the need to get up in the wee small hours, are either
A: Struggle about trying to get out of bed, waking her in the process and then asking for her help
B: just wake her up straightaway and ask her for help.
You’ll notice that my long suffering, much better half gets woken up in either alternative. This is not a good thing…
One day we will finally find a perfect room, equipped with a chair, maybe a powered one that will launch me into an upright position or fold me into a comfortable position.
One day…

I have never been so insulted!

Another tale from my teaching days. It dates back to the late 80s or early 90s when, in an attempt to make it easier to become a teacher, the government decided anyone with a degree could be employed and they could learn on the job for a year.
Sadly they never rolled this idea out into other areas, I always fancied a crack at brain surgery (ironically enough). Anyway this particular year we ended up employing Will Lines (name changed). A former ‘captain of industry ‘ he had an opinion on everything and a very high opinion of himself. He had trained at another local school, which I’ll call Hillview. The minutes of our meetings were full of comments from him starting “at Hillview they …” followed by a statement praising Hillview or criticising our school or often both. One particular bee in his bonnet was Hillview’s extensive set of resources, worksheets linked to every topic, which he could use and save time by not having to write his own or see if a colleague had something suitable. He was reluctant to accept the Head of Faculty’ point that such a system took a while to set up and that for now we’d try having folders where we could leave a copy of any sheet we created. It didn’t work: either the sheet was not the right degree of difficulty, or it used the wrong method, etc, etc.
However this wasn’t his “greatest” moment. That was something he achieved in another meeting with to following statement.

“Of course as a good parent I made sure my children got a good education by sending them to a private school.”

How insulted was I? Let me count the ways.
1. We were teaching in a co-educational all-ability state school. By implication we were not providing a ‘good education’
2. By further implication we as individual teachers were not providing a good education.
3. Having attended a state school by his inference I had not received a good education.
4. My parents, who had been content to send me to the local school, where I had been in the selective stream, were bad parents for not sending me to a private school.

I was not happy. I was so not happy without a word I stood up, left the room and strode down the corridor. There I met an empty, black plastic dustbin. Off the top of my head as it’s not an Olympic event, I do not know the world record for kicking an empty, black plastic dustbin but I must have challenged the British record as I channeled every bit of anger this pompous, know-it-all, git, with an opinion of himself so over-inflated he was in danger of popping. I may well have screamed a very rude word to describe him as I kicked the bin, like a tennis player grunting as they seek maximum effort.

The empty, black plastic dustbin soared majestically through the air, until it remembered how intrinsically un-aerodynamic it was, when it flopped and fell to the ground where it bobbled along the corridor. I completed my circuit of the quadrangle and as wordlessly as I had left, I took my seat again. Will was just beginning a sentence “at Hillview they…”

Post script.
Will left at the end of the year, for a job at his beloved Hillview. He was last heard of by us when we heard on the grapevine that he was in trouble for refusing to attend the weekly worksheet writing meeting where they created and filed the resources of which he was so enamoured. He wasn’t going to use his valuable time writing worksheets for other people. Oh how we laughed, when the news was relayed to us.
Kicking the empty, black plastic bin, has not been made an Olympic event, so we will never know if I could have challenged for a medal.

Those who can…

As another year ends…
(What’s he talking about? it is July!)
Sorry, force of habit. In teaching you get used to an eleven month, year, September to July, with August acting as a weird buffer zone, where the past and future mingle.

My eye was caught by a letter in the Guardian. Responding to an article about “unqualified teachers”, the author of the letter lists her wide-ranging experience in independent schools, her Oxbridge degree, her MA and her PhD and the fact that she is also a published author.
However, lacking a teaching qualification, she would be described as an unqualified teacher. Now I am the last person to stick up for Ofsted and I have a rant about their box ticking, approach to lessons forming. My sympathies lie with the author of the letter. What nonsense that all her experience should go to waste.
Then she writes this.
… we learn that about “6,000 trainee teachers began courses after achieving a 2:2 or lower in their degree subject”. Just who do we want to teach our children?

My sympathy has just evaporated.
Just who do we want teaching our children?
Well certainly not her, that’s for sure.
I would have been one of the 6,000 when I trained.
Were my pupils disadvantaged by my “2:2 or lower” in my degree. As roughly 0.01% of the maths I had to teach at secondary school was from my degree, I would be confident in saying they were not. Instead they were , I hope, enthused by my love of the subject and my willingness to explain and be positive about my subject and their abilities.

For my music O-level our teacher found the aural paper, involving for example the transcription of a piece of 4-part harmony, very difficult to teach. He was gifted with perfect pitch and could just hear it and couldn’t explain it at all. Perhaps a teacher with a “2:2 or lower” could have helped us, understanding our difficulty.

I have observed lessons where very bright teachers gave their pupils a dull and uninspiring experience, where questions were discouraged and the method had to be followed, as if it were engraved on tablets of stone. This way, once The Method had been given, the class could tackle the exercise is silence: questions or observations were discouraged. This allowed the teacher to do her marking.
The question said ‘a car travels 15 miles in 20 minutes, what is the speed in mph?’
“So ,” I said, “20 minutes is one third of an hour so multiply 15 by 3 and we get 45 mph.”
There were a couple of blank faces. They were horrified. I wasn’t using The Method. You HAD to divide by 20 and then multiply by 60. No common sense, no feel for the context, but at least that teacher didn’t have a “2:2 or lower”.

I was constantly marking and preparing and I would love to hear how the author of the letter found time to write and become a published author, while teaching. I’m sure not one of her pupils was ever subjected to a less than perfect lesson, with a plethora of stimulating activities, because her mind was on her book.

From a different field, perhaps the letter-writer has heard of Arsene Wenger, who, as a professional footballer, had a less than stellar career. The Frenchman only made 64 appearances scoring 4 goals in the process.
Just who do we want managing our club?’
However he could read the game and now the Frenchman is the most successful manager in Arsenal history with 19 honours to his name.
Perhaps the name Jose Mourinho rings a bell. A playing career of about 100 games for four distinctly average Portuguese clubs.
‘Just who do we want managing our club?
As a manager in over 650 matches he has won 20 trophies.
One final football example: Sir Alex Ferguson. His playing career of 317 games and 171 goals sounds more impressive, but as he was playing for such giants of the game as Ayr United, Falkirk and Dunfermline for most of them, it isn’t a glittering CV.
‘Just who do we want managing our club?
With Aberdeen he broke the Celtic/Rangers duopoly with 3 Scottish Premier Division titles, 4 league cups and a UEFA Cup-Winners Cup
At Manchester United he notched 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA cups, 4 League cups and 2 UEFA Champions League titles.
Great players who made poor managers include Sir Bobby Charlton, Diego Maradona and Graeme Souness, who once as manager of Southampton, signed a player he’d never seen play, brought him on as a substitute but he was so poor he had to substitute the sub.
My point? Being gifted as a performer is no guarantee of being gifted as a teacher/manager. Equally, I suggest that having a “2:2 or lower” does not automatically mean you will be a great or a poor teacher.

Certainly one young lady who I first taught in year 9, wasn’t disadvantaged by our paths crossing. She had the reputation of being an able but unfocused student. She was doing enough work, but there was something missing.
I began to notice that once she felt confident that I would listen to her, she had a talent for asking very intelligent questions, often tangential to the lesson objective. “Up yours, Ofsted!” Her interest was rekindled. Having lit the fire, I watched it burn through the years, Oxbridge, a First, a distinction in her Masters, and currently a PhD. The young lady and her parents are convinced I made a difference.