Sunday, 4 January 2015

New Year, Same Old Brand New You...

Shit. Forgot to Blog since July.

So it’s now January, 2015.  What has happened? It’s time for my New Year Recap: 2014 In A Nutshell.

We went to Amsterdam, and spent all our money and all our time in a Eurovision Bar that played Take Me To Your Heaven once every hour.

I have spent more on my car than ever before, in A Series OF Unfortunate Events, but now it is fine and I am convalescing from Open-Wallet-Surgery.

I have a minor promotion/pay award at school (good), pushing me further into the scary tax bracket (bad) and realms of further responsibility (ugly).

I have co-ordinated 2 gay trips to Birmingham with some homosexual friends of mine, for booze, food, shopping and dancing, and we had amazing fun.

We took a family trip to Eastbourne (I know, right) for my mummy’s 60th birthday, to stay in a surreal hotel stuck in the 1980s and watch to the Air Show.


We holidayed in Barcelona, surrounded by The Gays, where it was far too hot, but also amazing fun because everyone was frankly so beautiful.


We took a mini-break to Edinburgh, and had a wonderful time up to the point where we almost froze to death.


We went to see the diving again, because it’s a fascinating sport and because the competitors wear tiny speedos.


There are possibly other events that occurred as well, pride- as ever –was super fun, work is actually fairly enjoyable at the moment, and I have experimented with DIY in an attempt to fix those things about my house that aren’t quite as they should be without spending any money.

But wait – what about the top 10? Well, top 7. What about my favourite picks of the year…

Best Movie of 2014
X-Men Days of Future Past. Probably not most people’s top pick, but I LOVE X-Men so much, it was always going to be this, and it is a truly fabulous film. And true to the original material, and exciting and dramatic and well-performed by a truly great cast. Amazing fun. Added to which, I don’t go to the cinema much, so the choice of recent films I actually saw upon release is rather restricted, and limited to favourite franchises and those that are worth sitting amongst other human beings to view.

Best DVD Movie of 2014
Philomena. Lent to me by my TA, and I was very unsure, but it was wonderful. I like it when someone sort of… makes you borrow something, and you accept it to be polite, then absolutely love it. A beautiful, moving and very powerful film. Again, great cast. And those nuns? They were BASTARDS, weren’t they! I love a good church-bash…

Best Song of 2014
Chandelier. Following the cliché, as hordes of gays declared their online love, and very late to the party, but this is totally my song of the year… A bit unexpected, a weird but very engaging video, an amazing voice and such a fab chorus. Brilliant work.

Best Book of 2014
Lost at Sea- Jon Ronson. Cheating a bit I know, as this was released in 2013, but I didn’t get around to reading it until early in 2014. Also, I read a lot of old books, so this is the newest I read that I really devoured and want to massively recommend. I always love his stuff, but this one is different as it is comprised of many shorter investigations and bizarre situations, rather than one long, ongoing one. Essentially, a collection of off-beat, journalistic investigations into the weird and unusual, but absolutely fascinating at every turn.

Best Comic of 2014
Magneto: Infamous. After the debacle of AvX, the Marvel writers are finally getting their shit together and fixing the mess that was left across their major franchises. X-Men: Revolution made a very good start, and now Magneto is going all-out amazing once again to right some wrongs in a hugely entertaining and well-written piece, but turning a bit darker than we’ve seen lately, which I always enjoy.

Best Game of 2014
The Last of Us. I’m pretty late to this party, as I’ve just bought my PS4, and this is my first game, but it is what everyone promised: Stunning, polished and clever. I’m so impressed with the level of detail and the clever little effects. I wasn’t very convinced PS3 would be easily left behind, but this is a work of art and I can’t wait to get further into it…

Best TV Show of 2014
AHS. I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones, to the point where I grieve a bit every time an episode comes to an end. I totally love it. Same for Orange is the New Black, and even Bake Off -  a show finishes and I am unable to cope with the wait for the next one. But American Horror Story hit all these spots and a few more. It is very up my street, with nods to lots of great, established horror classics, and some very inventive ways of weaving them all in to one story. And it can be genuinely scary, can make you squirm and make you really REALLY hate some of the characters. But it is amazingly good fun, very entertaining and really hooks you from the start. Should be made compulsory viewing.

So there we have it, my low-brow hit list for 2014. And a low-brow rundown of my low-brow year.

Way to challenge myself…

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Triumph.

If I were asked to recount a particular triumph from the dim recesses of my mind, there is only one occasion that speaks to me.

I’ve done okay in life in general. I have three degrees, I’ve had some amazing exam results, I’ve won LOADS of competitions (oddly – I don’t know why, but I’ve won almost every competition I’ve entered). But one particular triumph sticks in my mind above all these.

It was a day of triumph over adversity, of persevering over insurmountable odds. A day of trying, failing, rethinking, retrying, then retrying again.

It was Coat Hanger Day.

When university finished, our student house was locked up, room by room, as each resident left. @superlative and I were the last men standing, and planned to stay for the summer -  a relatively inexpensive way of living in a large house for a whole summer in sunny Brighton with little responsibility.

And we invited some guests to stay. But we wanted to provide them with a room of their own in this large house – it seemed only reasonable. Our first gambit to leave the rooms open had failed. Whilst our departing housemates had told the university that it was all locked up when they left, in fact it wasn’t. Sadly they came and checked each room for reasons of deposit and soundly locked each room before leaving. We were left with a challenge...

A door that didn’t quite fit its frame, with a large crack at the top and a large gap at the bottom. On the other side, a simple latch lock. It would prove impossible to pick, but we set about breaking in by other means.

It took about 5 hours, but it remains the most satisfying episode of my life and the greatest triumph I have ever achieved or am ever likely to achieve.

Our first attempts at lock picking proved fruitless, but we were not deterred.

We then unwound a coat hanger and tried to create an L-shaped arm extension to grab the latch from the large crack at the bottom, but it was too stiff and the metal loop at the end simple slipped off again and again. After a couple of hours of unsuccessful picking and arm construction, we were getting frustrated, but we could tell we were in the right area, you could feel it hooking onto the latch, and hear it making the beginnings of a noise that sounded like the latch turning, but then the flimsy wire arm slipped off, and the latch would flick back to its original position without being drawn down sufficiently.

The arm was too long, and could not be controlled with any precision once downward force was required.
After more deliberation, we redesigned our robot arm. It had a long string attached to the end loop, and we lowered the whole device over the door this time, not underneath, and held onto the string at the crack at the top. When the metal arm hit the floor we grabbed it, slid it out under the door, and resumed out attack, but this time, with the robot arm held taught by a string that looped back over the top of the door. We had encircled the door, and the loop could now we manipulated with far greater accuracy.

Just getting it over the door and in position took far too long, but you have to understand; having committed so much time to the endeavour already, we could never just quit.

So in hour 4, we began realigning the metal arm, with its wire loop over the latch as before, but this time we had a firm grip on its position, it no longer wavered due to its length. It took about another 40 minutes, but we could already tell we were close; the loop would connect with the latch, hook around it, and instead of sliding off and wobbling randomly, it would hold its position, and we could drag it down directly, without a lurch to the left or right.

We must have tried another 50 or 60 times, sliding it on, pulling down and wanging the string in the opposite direction to force the latch down. Another slide, another slip, another clatter. Then, without warning, on attempt 61 of test session 12, nearing the end of the fourth hour...


We knew right away, though we couldn’t believe it. It swung open, revealing the room within in all its glory.

I have never been so happy.

I have never been so proud.

This was indubitably the moment of my greatest triumph.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Write a short story

Standing in a pub having a terrible time. A series of questionable decisions have brought us this far, to that irretrievable point where you are incapable of having a good time, but where something drives you on to make a success of it. Not to pretend; nothing so contrived. Self-delusion maybe.

We buy more drinks, drown the swell of irritation in a numbing fizz of spirits and make small talk, but it feels stilted and unnatural. The sensible thing to do would be to cut our losses and leave. Convince ourselves and each other that we’ve had a wonderful time, part company with a half-hearted, embarrassed hug and send a reassuring text the following morning about how enjoyable the evening was, how we simply must do it again sometime soon.

But that doesn’t fit the pattern. Surely the obvious answer would be to pump more money into the problem, buy more drinks we guzzle too fast, stand around bobbing awkwardly to the music, and get more and more tired and more and more frustrated. The drink doesn’t work either. Any fool can drink all night and talk nonsense, but it takes a special kind of aggravation to immunise you so completely against the effects of alcohol that you stand resolutely sober amid the thumping of the music and the hum of the crowd.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work. A change of drinks maybe? A dependable measure for greasing the wheels and slipping seamlessly back into sociality. The hard stuff will usually subdue that self-conscious echo in the otherwise crowded room. Usually; but not today. Change to whiskey. Change to gin. Nothing will work when you’re in this mood.

It could have been avoided, of course. Long-standing plans always carry that element of risk. How excited we were when we arranged it! How enjoyable it was going to be! How we were looking forward to it; until tonight at any rate. Then the night arrives and it’s a bit chilly out, and I’m still a bit hungover from yesterday, and television and a bag of kettle chips and a glass of wine seems too tempting. But a plan is a plan, so here we are.

Here I was anyway. Waiting is part of the process, but it never used to be this way. Five minutes either side was standard operating procedure, and everyone turned up more or less on time. Mobile phones have a lot to answer for, and I get the text – you know the one – that text at the time we’re supposed to meet saying that you’re just leaving.

Just leaving? Surely you knew half an hour ago when you should have been leaving that you weren’t ready to walk out of the door. So I wait, and order a drink, and play with my phone. Then I play with my phone a bit more and prop myself up in a corner. Winning a table would be difficult. I could get one, but could I sustain my occupation? Jealously guarding your stake in a table is always a challenge, but guarding it single-handedly against large groups is difficult to justify. And the drink makes you want to go to the toilet just slightly less than the drive to occupy yourself with something to do for three minutes other than play with your phone. So the table doesn’t happen; something else to add later to the mounting list of regrets.

It is not difficult to disguise my annoyance when you arrive, you are full of apologies, naturally, but I deflect them amiably and pretend I have just got here too, whilst making a point of sucking the last, noisy dregs of my melted ice through a straw I’ve been strategically chewing for twenty-five minutes. You don’t appear to notice, which is slightly more annoying than your lateness, but the flicker of annoyance I feel is more directed at myself for letting you get away with it.

The queue for the bar does nothing to recover the situation. It takes about six minutes to elicit a short sparkle of recognition from the ridiculously attractive barman, then a further two minutes to get served once my presence is acknowledged. I pay three pounds sixty-five for a single squirt of vodka that comes from a high-end brand bottle I didn’t ask for, dribbled over a tiny glass full of enormous ice cubes, then topped up with coke from a tap which is clearly running low on syrup. I am not pleased, but who could complain once the attractive man has moved on to other patrons? The moment has already passed, and no-one wants to look cheap in front of  the attractive man.

So here we stand, music I don’t recognise playing in the foreground. Background music is a thing of the past, and our stilted conversation comes a distant second to the indistinct, generic and highly sanitised commercial R’n’B that bleeds out of the speakers and swamps my breezy humour about how alright it is here. It is impossible to talk normally, discourse becomes limited to bland, general statements in simple language; humour, nuance and delivery are lost. Given effective booze or a better disposition, you could crash through this barrier and find comedy therein, but neither is forthcoming. It’s just not happening; you try to make it happen, but it just isn’t going to work.

How much longer can we endure this? Can an early escape be enacted without causing offense? Don’t feel too guilty however, the thirty minute wait absolves you of some of that culpability. Use the hangover card; it’s an easy, convenient and jovial conversation and gives you carte blanche to leave whenever the hell you like. Plus there’s the added bonus that it’s actually true.

Plant the seed, drop the idea in the percolator and let it dissolve for a while. Let it soften the blow when you check out early. It does the trick- after one more drink, one more trip to the toilet, I’ve played the ‘maybe one more’ card and I’m on the home stretch. Ironically, once reaching this point we seem to achieve some kind of synchronicity; the conversation starts to flow and the music improves. We find humour in the general crappiness of our surroundings and relate it to other various disappointing dives we’ve haunted in the past. It doesn’t salvage the evening, but it is nice to part on a high note. We save that last trickle of our drinks for an inordinate length of time, and down them only when we decide it’s time to go.

Our departure is not awkward, and we go our separate ways with a joke and a hug that conveys genuine affection. It’s only as you drift off to the bus stop and I start my long walk home that I realise the last of my tactical errors. Rather than walking home later, in relative peace, I now have to pick my way through the dilapidated town centre besieged by the eleven thirty drinking crowds. It’s that awful time of night when people are thinking of moving on elsewhere, getting out additional cash, getting rejected from cocktail bars and clubs and congregating on the streets rowing and working out what to do next. It is the in-between time.

I navigate my way through several minor swarms, keeping my head down and cursing myself for needless anxiety. They’re just people, after all; out for drinks, having a good time, laughing and joking with their friends. Why does it have to be so intimidating? Why that low, heavy feeling of suppressed fear and self-reproach. It burns away inside me as I scurry past, trying to look busy, or late or trying, against hope, to look like I’m not frightened and on my own.

I get asked if I have a spare cigarette. I unaccountably apologise for not smoking and shrug hopelessly. Does anyone ever have a spare cigarette? Here we go young man, I never planned on smoking this one. Help yourself...

Across the street, outside a questionable fried chicken outlet selling dubious fried chicken, a group stands illuminated in the dazzling glare of fluorescent lights, screaming at one another. A young woman is shouting and swearing at what I can only assume is her boyfriend, calling him a fucking bell-end, and punching his arm. He laughs at her and appeals to his friends with a derisive smile, which enrages her further. Her friend tries to steer her away and reminds her that he’s not worth it. I remember where I am and turn my head away, lest I become involved, and continue to hurry forward. Their altercation continues to echo down the street as the woman fires off a few final salvoes about his size and sexual performance as her friends drag her away. The boys all openly laugh at her as they saunter away in the same direction as me. I quicken my pace.

Despite the busyness of the high street at night, there is a period of relative calm. Couples and small groups drift past, people walking and texting despite the late hour – I hate to have my phone out in this part of town, especially when walking alone. I am nearly out of the woods, as the takeaways and pubs start to thin out and give way to closed shops and residential buildings. Only one hurdle remains, up ahead. A similar gang of young people walking between one pub and another pub, stopping to piss in someone’s doorway and struggling to light their fags in the breeze. My first flicker of concern surges as I imagine the troupe behind me crossing paths with the mob ahead of me. I imagine all the highbrow fun their exchanges will no doubt entail, and hope I am not caught in the crossfire. So lost in this fantasy am I that I am quite taken aback when, as I draw near, I hear an enthusiastic shout of

“Alright gay boyyyyyy!” in a cheery, self-congratulatory tone.


Here it is, the panic. And the decision; what to do?

Well, obviously, say nothing. Head down, ignore, pretend nothing happened. Then endure as it burns inside you and you curse yourself for your weakness as you shuffle past and silently condone their disdain. But what else is there? A snappy, sassy remark? A clever comeback?

That will take a while to stoke. And will possibly result in a broken nose and three fractured ribs. How do they even know? I’m only wearing jeans, trainers, coat -  I’ve left my rainbow cape at home. How do they tell? What would a straight person do? How would they respond to a mislabelling?

Shout fuck off, probably. Can’t really do that- will probably result in two broken noses and five fractured ribs. Oh shit, I’m drawing level, they’ve moved out from the side of the pavement to directly in front of me. They are laughing and subjecting me to mock affection. It could be worse, then.

“Give us a hug, gayboy. Aww- go on!”

I pretend smile and pretend laugh as if I’m in on the joke, when actually, I’m screaming inside. The forcible hugger has his arms outstretched as I approach and braces himself for the bizarre street cuddle, much to the amusement of his friends. I keep myself calm and still the terrified teenager within, fix my faux amused smile rigidly to my face and step to one side and say with a laugh:

“No, you’re fine. Carry on.” And keep walking. His friends explode in laughter at his rejection and I don’t slow my pace. He shouts out to me as I speed up, something indistinct asking why I don’t fancy him. More laughs, but I have got away with it.

The tension drains out of me, leaving me with the nasty, hot feeling borne of being made a victim. I despise them for being so horrible, for not caring how they make people feel, and for being so in control of the situation, then I experience the hollow, dull ache of despising myself for letting it happen. For not challenging it.

It is impossible to leave alone, and I ruminate endlessly, rehearsing what happened, replaying the events and fantasising clever, quick responses which eluded me at the time. It should be easy to move on, but as soon as one rehearsal draws to a close, I hit replay and relive it afresh. It shouldn’t be like this. I tell myself I handled it well. It could have been worse, and given the situation, I played it sufficiently well to avoid a beating.

I tell myself I was lucky. It could have been worse. It was booze-fuelled jocularity, not aggression, not confrontation, and I was lucky. But deep down I know I shouldn’t consider this lucky. It shouldn’t have to happen at all. I shouldn’t have to feel threatened and I shouldn’t be cast as victim for the entertainment of street drinkers.

I shouldn’t have to avoid a beating.

The walk home is long and slow and cold, but the shame stings in rising cycles as I remind myself to keep thinking about it. I want it out of my head, but can’t leave it alone. I want to tell people what happened, and rid myself of it by talking, but I never want to tell anyone. Telling people makes it real and gives it power.

I hide it away and forget about it. Keep it as a horrible, poisonous secret. Add it to the others. Bury it and pretend it’s not there.

Until next time.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Why is the freezer always full?

A short while ago I wrote about the contents of my fridge, and how my fixation with efficiency prompts the purchase of a very precise amount of food each week which runs out on schedule just before I shop again. No waste, no spoilage, no running out early. I also described the shift from cans and tins and frozen products to proper, sensible, grown up cooking with actual food and real ingredients.

So this will echo some of those sentiments.

The freezer is never full. We don’t eat a lot of frozen food though there is always THE EMERGENCY PIZZA, which is there JUST IN CASE. There is also THE BIG BAG OF ICE for the making of cocktails as well. Beyond that, the freezer sits bare, sometimes for weeks. We usually have some chips knocking around (as back up for THE EMERGENCY PIZZA, probably) but that’s really about it. Our shopping is ridiculously efficient and planned. We buy everything we need for the week, it all gets used accordingly, then we restock and start the merry-go-round again.

This is basically how our freezer looks all the time

The food shopping is conducted with military precision. We have THE LIST. THE LIST is divided into lunch items which we will use to make food for work, and dinners – our main meal each evening.  There is also a small section for drinks and a small section for household. All this relevant information fits onto a small square post-it note and is taken to the supermarket for the world’s fastest speed-shop. We divide our efforts and meet at regular intervals, checking off items and making our way to the bread aisle (always the back of the shop) in amazing time, getting more and more frustrated at the sketchy, gormless and blissfully unaware patrons blocking aisles with their trolleys, stopping to chat on every corner or staring in endless confusion at the choice of different pasta options on offer.

But however painful and unpleasant this frustrating experience might be, we get through it with astonishing speed. We aren’t given to much impulse buying either.  Occasionally, but it’s rare. Then we get to the checkout and pack our bags for life, which we remember every week, with remarkable haste.

And we spend so little.

Compared to our friends who apparently spend 70 to 100 pounds on their food bill every week, we spend more like 40. I don’t know why -  probably because we stick to the list and don’t impulse buy. That could be why – we end up with no additional items and no waste.

Personally, I think it’s because we don’t buy meat.  That saves a fortune.
Well, @superlative has some for his sandwiches, but we don’t buy it to cook for dinners and things, because of THE INCIDENT. But more on that another time.

Consequently, we are not very reliant on the freezer. It’s a bit of a back-up, but nothing sits there languishing within for months on end.

If it’s not part of the plan, it doesn’t get bought. If it IS part of the plan, it gets eaten within a couple of days.

Poor freezer. Like our toaster, he will never be allowed to reach his full potential.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Why is life so painfully monotonous and dull?

It isn’t.  Not at all. Not remotely.

Granted, there are parts of the day you have to go through the motions; I’ll give you that. There are parts of the day, routine related, which are kind of depressing. Making my lunch for the following day at school is always a bit sad.  A short, repetitive chore that carries the additional benefit that it signals it’s almost time to go to bed and start the merry-go-round of going to work again.

But generally speaking, life is not dull, it’s not monotonous, it’s not repetitive and it certainly isn’t painful. My job, despite the ups and downs and the occasional scariness, is EXCITING.

There is drama every day. Not always a good thing, obviously, but it certainly isn’t dull. And there is inherent comedy in every day because some of the things we do and that they do are JUST SO DAMN FUNNY.

But never monotonous.

Let’s take an example -  I’ve been on half term this week (again, not monotonous and dull. A magnificent cycle of lying in, internet, TV, Playstation, porn and booze) – but on my final working day before this, last Friday, ANYTHING but dull...

A boy, let’s call him Mark, wanted to get into a room he wasn’t allowed in, because he was just being too dangerous. He wanted to get back into a classroom so he could clobber one of the children within.  Obviously we weren’t going to let him.

A few vain attempts to shove past us and sidle his way between us (he’s a slippery, agile thing) as we stood in front of the door trying to talk him down did not meet with success.  He became more and more frustrated, shouting and swearing and screaming as if being murdered. He slides quite quickly into what I can only call psychosis, flailing around, screaming and rasping, trying to run into or jump over fixtures, fitting and furniture. We prevented him doing himself any serious harm, but in his attempt to jump over a stair well 20ft to the floor below, he banged his knee.

Poor boy. Hah.

He really lost the plot at this point. He lay on the floor and screamed. And I mean really screamed. I will find it hard to articulate in writing -  it would be much easier to do an impression -  but imagine that girl from the exorcist. That screaming, raspy, guttural, wild, savage growling. Like a long, drawn out wildcat roar, but punctuated with word-fragments and odd, out-of-context swear words.

It was sort of terrifying, but actually quite funny too. All the adults made eye contact and it made you want to laugh a bit, because it was frankly so ridiculous.

So there he was, laying on the floor, screaming and growling and swearing in this savage, wild, demonic way, flailing around on the floor, making these horrendous sounds and I thought:

Yes – no wonder people used to believe in possession. That is exactly what this looks like.  A tiny young boy hurting himself, flailing wildly, screaming obscenities you’re surprised he knows, in this frankly terrifying demon-creature voice. It was textbook possession material. No wonder people with special needs were once under the purview of the church.

I didn't get my own way so now I'm going to do THIS! 

But as this rather unnecessary display unfolded, and I remarked to a colleague about possession and how this once would have been perceived, I remember thinking to myself- it IS exciting though, it is dramatic and scary. What was going to happen?  How could we prevent it escalating, how could we prevent him hurting himself seriously? How long would it last?  Were the rest of my class alright in the meantime?

It was more than likely he would simply burn himself out within a couple of minutes. Throwing yourself on the floor and screaming is fairly exhausting and he never usually lasts that long, so it was a fairly safe bet it would happen again.  But it was one of those situations where you walk away, back to your maths group (who haven’t batted an eyelid -  their capacity to accept and ignore complete insanity unfolding just outside never ceases to amaze me) and think – wow, my days are never dull.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

5 reasons you get out of bed...

I generally get up without too much complaint. It’s hard some days, because my bed is too damn comfy and I am warm and cosy and have a hard-on I need to re-organise.

But I don’t really struggle to get up.  I just leave it to the last possible second before I do.

But in that fuzzy little bit of time where I fantasise unrealistically about phoning in sick, or going back under the covers and hiding – in that strange 10 minutes that feels like 10 seconds, I wonder about what it would be like if I stayed in bed, and then I immediately leap out of bed and get ready for school.

And here are 5 reasons why...

You may have read fairly recently, about what happens when I don’t go to work. I have my class pretty much under the thumb now, though there are always surprises in special needs. But when I’m not there, they turn into animals. They are abusive, they are violent, they are obnoxious. And my staff will have a shocking day, and the children will have a shocking day, and their parents will have a shocking night...  all because I didn’t go to work. I am the glue that holds the class together, and without me it will be a disaster and I really can’t do that to my staff. Also, I will have to pick up the pieces when I return and it’s really just much easier if I go in and make the day work.

I should add, I’m not blowing my own trumpet.  I’m not especially skilled or amazing. It’s just the way it works in my class.  That is the pattern and always has been. I am their consistent, trusted adult, and no-one else will do. They will punish the other staff if I’m not there... as they did last week.

It’s not just a case of phoning in sick. It’s getting up, calling in sick, then firing up my laptop, then spending probably an hour writing cover plans for my lessons that day, then emailing them. Then contacting my staff to warn them. By the time I’ve done all that I could be at work, at my desk, listening to Radio 4 and doing something useful. It’s not practical to skip school unless you really have to.

I’m pretty well paid these days. Everything you hear about teachers’ pay and teachers’ pensions being poor is a bit of a myth really. My pay goes up all the time, and it’s pretty generous. And the pension is REALLY generous. Don’t get me wrong, I work extremely hard. It is not an easy job most days, and we get ignored, we get abused, we get spat at... we get hurt! Often, in fact. But the pay really is pretty reasonable.  Especially for the hours I do... it’s not like mainstream where the kids are lovely but you lose every weekend and evening. The days in special are hard and scary, but you don’t have the same level paperwork of waiting for you afterwards.

I find money quite motivating. When I’m having a particularly hard day, and they’ve pushed me a little too far, I calculate my hourly rate. Then my half hourly, then how much money I’ve actually earned in the time I’ve been being verbally abused and I think “Ooh, actually, this is a bargain!” and it really helps me endure it professionally.

When I am struggling to get up in the morning (usually at the end of term when I have cumulative exhaustion) I burn myself a new CD. So excited am I at the prospect of playing my new CD in the car, that I happily leap out of bed and hurry to work so I can hear it. The same can be said for sunny weather and roof-down days. There is no greater pleasure than driving to work on a morning warm enough to have the roof down.

I actually kind of love my job.  Yes, when you get right down to it, they’re completely mad, but it is immensely satisfying and I’m GOOD AT IT. The reason the days (usually) go well for me is because I am getting very, very good at steering my charges through their various frustrations and misapprehensions, especially at this point in the year when I know them so well. They’re good fun, they’re endlessly amusing and I manage to build quite a lot of fun into most days. I need them to enjoy it, so on top of the maths and English and science and RE, we always find time to do something fun.

And consequently, I have fun too.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

What annoys you every day?

Since my new school’s opening, certain things have changed. 

We are lucky enough to have a fresh, state-of-the-art special needs school, with first rate facilities and everything within shiny and brand new.  

We are lucky enough to have beautiful new classrooms, with individual gardens or –in my case – a gorgeous roof terrace.

We are lucky enough to have a new staffing structure, with the odd little promotion and pleasing pay-rise thrown in, for some of us.

But then there is the parking. The new building has been constructed on what was once a school field for the large secondary comprehensive next door, and now lies between said comprehensive and the large primary school on the other side. Slap bang in the middle of a residential area.

Our car park can only accommodate about one third of the staff, the pressure upon residential roads for parking, between the drop-offs and pick-ups for 3 schools in immense, and we have a polite cold-war stand-off over parking with the school next door.

We have a peace treaty with the other, however -  and they have allowed us to have a third of their rather large car park, which they have painted up with green bays for our usage.

Very gratifying.

This means however, that every morning I have to drive to the wrong school, park up, and begin the long walk to my building. Through THE GATES OF HELL.

Welcome to another week in Special Education. 

It is about 4, maybe 5 minutes walk from my car to my school now, which is annoying, but made more aggravating by the sequence of electronic gates that bar entry at regular intervals. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. They have padlocks on them for when the electronic fobs fail, which are even more annoying to access.

If you are carrying anything, you cannot get through the gate.

If you are in a hurry, you cannot get through the gate.

It is always raining. And you cannot get through the gate.

It takes a ridiculously long time, is extremely inconvenient and makes me angry every day.

And the best part? If I am ever running late, I have to run this ludicrous gauntlet, bags, umbrellas, keys and fobs in hand, through a million squawking, screeching, mainstream secondary students, shouting, swearing, making out, laughing, as I pick my way through their immovable crowd.

No, they never get out of the way.

I hate the gate. I hate the walk. I hate the fact it’s just so inefficient and wastes my time every day. I hate the fact I have to put everything down on the wet ground just to get in. I hate the fact that one third of the staff can park at the front in our own car park and avoid this daily aggravation. I hate the fact that I was honest and said I didn’t need a pass for our car park because I only work on the one site, and I hate the fact that half the people who do park there don’t have a pass but just park there anyway, and I’m too honest to do the same.

I hate the car park and I hate the gate.