Tuesday, 3 December 2013

"Come out, come out, wherever you are..."

So this week, a super hot guy came out, in a manner of speaking. Not gay, not bi, not anything so specific.  But he does guys. At present, anyway.

It’s a win for the gays. Give us that much...

It’s odd. By rights we should hate him. He’s young, good looking, fit, rich, successful, famous, intelligent AND nice. People that perfect are just too annoying.  But he’s just so hot and lovable that somehow I manage to overlook these numerous imperfections.

But it got me thinking about coming out, growing up gay and the scurrying around, hiding it that precedes all this. I’ve had people say to me, even quite recently, how lucky my generation is that they didn’t have to grow up afraid or hiding their sexuality. 

I nearly fell off my chair. I was kind of angry... partially in response to the person who was saying all this perhaps, but they would NOT accept that when I was young, growing up in Essex, kids weren’t happily coming out and leading confident, well-adjusted lives, out ‘n’ proud.

I don’t know where she got this idea from, but it certainly was not the case.

There were no gays at my school. Not a one. But boys who were a bit quiet or a bit camp or not good at football were harassed for being gay with depressing regularity. I was generally quite safe- I was confident and escaped most of this, but still got called gay all the time. But it was true, so I couldn’t really object.

Nor at college. One boy came out at college, and was subsequently hounded ‘til he quit.

It just wasn’t something that happened.  I now realise there must have been loads of gays all over the place, but every one of us was hidden. But it WAS scary. Whilst no-one was looking to out anyone; it wasn’t a case of people being under suspicion or scrutinised or anything; you did feel that you could give yourself away at any moment.

All my friends were girls, I didn’t play sports, I never had a girlfriend. I felt like everyone must have worked it out and it was frightening in a very real way. And now I wonder quite what the scary, unspoken consequence of being found out might have been...

I suppose being disowned by family, rejected by friends, hounded out of school and essentially having nothing left.  Which is pretty scary. Unfounded as it turns out, but the only mentions of gayness growing up were negative references from kids or in television drama, or the odd celebrity being hounded. There was not much positive press about homosexuality. It was a scandal, a shame, a crime or some manner of death combining all three. Whether real life or drama, it wasn’t something people accepted or celebrated.

But you gather confidence, you learn more about the world, you leave school and can select friends more similar to yourself, and you eventually see a world where they might accept you. Certainly for me, a couple of years after leaving school I was living in a world where I could imagine being honest and not hiding. And I was surrounded by people I had more confidence in trusting not to reject me. Not that I was paranoid when I was at school- my anxiety wasn’t unfounded – but you grow up a bit and I suppose you can be a bit more realistic about people’s responses.

My family, for example, far from rejecting me, have never been anything but whole-heartedly supportive. But when you’re 12 and you see gayers on telly booted out for coming out, you kind of have to wonder, don’t you...

But this is why the Tom Daley event spoke to me so much.  I only came out because I met someone, and after a few weeks, I didn’t want to sneak around any more. I didn’t see why I should have to. But prior to meeting Simon, I had no reason to upset the apple cart. Or risk upsetting it for uncertain reward.

But as I say, in a similar situation, at a similar age, I felt the happiest I ever had. A year or so before, I had accepted I was gay, I was generally happy, I had good friends, a reasonable social life, a successful career at school and college and a loving family. I wasn’t doing badly, so I just resigned myself to being single forever and wanking my nights away alone, and got on with things.

I was fairly happy with that arrangement. It was enough...

But then we met, and I had a reason to do it. Everyone else went on dates. Everyone else had partners, everyone else’s parents knew about their relationships. Why shouldn’t I have a bit of that.

And whilst the sneaking around was sort of exciting and dramatic, it was also very scary and was not sustainable in the long term. It was growing close to the time when we would tell our friends and families...

And then Simon’s fucking mother comes home early from work one day and catches us – not AT it, but sort of... well, okay.  Interrupts us and everything goes to blazes for a few minutes, so we just bite the bullet and tell people.

And you know what?  Not a single bad reaction. Not really.  Not from anyone. A couple of friends who felt a bit hurt, and who, if I’m honest, I’m not sure will ever quite understand that it wasn’t keeping secrets.  Not in that respect- just something that HAS to happen when you’re ready.

But friends and family were supportive and loving, if a bit crazy and paranoid, but we were totally accepted. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’d ever feared rejection when nothing of the sort happened remotely.  But it was too scary. Too big a risk.

You have to do it when you’re ready. When you have judged it safe.

So yeah – it IS a big deal when people come out. It’s still a big deal because you never quite know what people’s response will be. People are crazy and unpredictable and you can’t take it back once you’ve said it.

So it is very brave, and it is important.

Sometimes I wonder about being a bit more open about it at school, though that’s another type of risk on another level.  And another story...

In the meantime, after all the heavy stuff that I’m not very happy I’ve articulated clearly, here are some gems from my mum after I told her I was gay:

“I don’t mind as long as you never go to a gay club. It’s not safe. People wait outside and write down your names...”

“I suppose it’s okay as long as you don’t actually do anything together...”

“It will be okay.  We can just tell everyone that you’re two bachelors that live together, and enjoy each other’s company. No-one will ever need to know...”

Dare you open... The Scary Door?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Next Generation (of Geeks)

So, for the last half hour of each school day, we have to run enrichment clubs. These have to be fun, but enriching.  That is to say- useful, or educational or of some value in terms of life skills, social skills or personal development. Movie club did not survive long. My school radio club is going great guns, animation club was just a huge stress, but the latest addition to our selection is GEEK GAMES.

It isn’t called that officially. But that’s what I call it, and consequently, what all the kids call it.

Officially, it’s called Games Workshop, or tabletop games, or other such mouthfuls.  But Geek Games describes it entirely accurately. And you know what?  It’s a hit.

I was sort of worried about introducing it. They are not especially tolerant or patient students. When they don’t get their own way they tend to shout, swear, attack you, smash things, or conjecture about your personal life and the legitimacy of your heritage. Geek games are not electronic, have no flashing lights or online multiplayer modes – I wasn’t sure they’d go for it, and then I’d be locked into MAKING them endure it every week for 6 weeks because we can’t change it just because no-one wants to do it.

You can’t let them use their behaviour to blackmail you and dictate terms. Which is why I try to present them with options of my own choosing that I know will work – that’s half my job really. So I was a bit worried they wouldn’t run with it.

Now all I hear is “Yessss! Geek games!  Sir, sir- can we play it again tomorrow?  Go on sir!!”

And I love it. Basically we get to play Hero-Quest! Only the best 80’s fantasy geeky board game EVER! My brother and I used to play this all the time, until he didn’t want to anymore and I could no longer persuade him. And now I get to do it all again. It’s just brilliant.  It’s like I’m 9 again.


And they SO LOVE IT. And they say things like. “Yeah – this is the best game EVER! You can’t even get it anymore!” And we basically roll crappy dice and run around killing skeletons and casting spells and talking utter bollocks for 30 minutes every Tuesday.

So I am cultivating the next generation of geeks and teaching them turn-taking and social skills and how to defeat undead wizards at the same time.

I’m so glad I took it into work with me. Some staff of approximately 30 are also starting to sniff round with excited, nostalgic looks on their faces too, which is quite amusing. I have also introduced my class to Fighting Fantasy books too, which they are kind of loving. Add to this our Ten Minute Marvel Super Movie Marathon we have whilst waiting for taxis at the end of each day and you can see why our class theme tune is...


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Dressing Down

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago. We had a Dead Celebrity Party.

It’s always kind of stressful labelling anything a party. It’s not like parties you see on television, with hundreds of people, disco lighting, red plastic cups everywhere and beautiful people dancing crazy all night.

That’s just not how it works in real life. Though it did end up a little like that, by the end...

But we had about 16 or so due, so with a couple of no-shows, we had a nice little crowd. Certainly enough to fill up the space, and you know what?  We had a FUCKING GOOD TIME.

And, as ever, Fancy Dress is a total win, and people made some amazing effort.

As is traditional now, my fancy dress involved wearing as little as possible, whilst simultaneously selecting an obscure but amusing celebrity who died in an undignified and amusing way.  That was sort of the point really. Anyone can dress as a dead guy- but finding someone whose death was particularly significant, unusual or untimely is the real skill.

I was Lolo Ferrari, of porn, modelling and Eurotrash fame- she died of a mix of drugs, suspected murder (for a time) and spinal collapse on account of her enormous rack.

There really is no better option for a Dead Celebrity for someone who enjoys getting it all out.

So that's what I did.

Gentlemen prefer slutty blondes...

 Our only miscalculation was that once dressed like that, we weren’t going out anywhere...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

“I need to play some bad songs first...”

Er... no you don’t.”

So we went out dancing the other day. We go fairly often. We’ve been a couple of times since. But this was different because we went a little off piste, away from the gays, out with some friends to a local 80s night.

Our guests were adamant they wanted 80s. It’s their thing. They like 80s when they go out, which isn’t as often as us, so we like to oblige.

We foolishly tried somewhere oh so Brighton-esque and a bit trendy and alternative.  And it was awful. They did that thing where, rather than just playing some nice songs that everyone will enjoy, they set out to educate you.

‘You may not know this. You may not like this, but THIS is what you should be listening to...’

That sort of thing.

And there may well be a time and a place for this, but this was an 80s night. It was advertised as amazing 80s, back to the future, dance your tits off, delicious, mozerellicious cheese.

And they were playing such weird stuff. Loosely 80s, granted, but not a song ANYONE there knew.

“Why?” I wondered to myself. There is no-one dancing. Everyone is doing that shuffling thing where they WANT to dance, but it’s just not good enough. And I felt a bit embarrassed. Our friends had travelled some distance to see us, and specifically asked for certain music when we went out, and we’d tried to oblige.

In the end, one of them went up to the DJ and said “Can you play something everyone’s heard of?”

And you know what he said?  He said he had to warm up the crowd and play some bad music first.

Why?  Why?  Why would anybody do this?  There is not a shortage of good music. You won’t run out at 11.30. You don’t need to save all the good music for the end.  You could just play it now and continue to play it all night, and everyone would dance all night and enjoy it.

Why do you need to deny everyone?  It’s not like people REALLY appreciate the good music, and feel saved from the early bad bit, and therefore enjoy it more because of this build up; this warm up. They just say things like – ‘the music was bad early on, but got much better.’

People would be happier if they just liked all of it.

Which is where it’s gone wrong in so many places.  People don’t want to be educated by their DJ. That’s not why they go out.  They want to hear some songs they know, some songs they like, with the odd predictable old favourite that you always hear, and the odd surprise where you say ‘Awesome – I’ve not heard this in AGES!’ and get all excited.

But they don’t want to be educated. They’ve paid to have a nice time and really, Mr DJ, you’re paid to entertain them, not tell them they’re wrong, or uncool, or that they require re-education according to your stringent and restricted definition.

So entertain them.

Give the people what they want, not what they need.

Be the sort of DJ about whom people say: “He played amazing music ALL night!”

Let them have the good music.

Thank you for the music...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Obsessive Compulsive Order

Why would you call it DISorder?  The order is built right in.

I am a bit uptight. Not ridiculously so, but enough to make my friends roll their eyes. I’m uptight about my house. White sofa, white furniture, white curtains... who wouldn’t be. I’m a bit protective.

But I can laugh it off (mostly) when people spill, and tone it down and make a good show of not caring and not being too fussy. I wouldn’t want to look that crazed.

But at school?

At school I am SO fussy about my classroom.


People are in awe. I have a reputation as craziest insanely tidy teacher in the building. In BOTH buildings. Even my class are in insanely tidy habits now.  Everything has to be reset at the end of each lesson. Everything returns to default ready for whatever’s next.

Basically because:

A) It’s an autistic class, and we’re supposed to be plain, low-arousal, distraction-free and spartan.

B) I don’t have ANY clutter on any surfaces. Everything has a draw or cupboard so there is no need to leave anything out.

C) I like the kids to know that whatever happens- it doesn’t matter. If they freak out and chuck a table over, or throw a chair or whatever, when they return it will look exactly as it looked before, and it’s no big deal. And if they trash it not because they’re distressed, but because they’re being an arse, then their tantrum has no effect. Everything remains the same- their sulk is irrelevant and pointless and futile.

D) I’m very obsessive.

And you know what?  It makes for a really orderly, successful classroom. When the Head comes round, she’s always really pleased that at least someone is keeping her shiny new school tidy, and best of all- it drives everyone else nuts.

And that’s really what it’s all about... isn’t it?

Friday, 30 August 2013

My Evil Twin

To be fair, he probably isn’t evil.

I have a twin. He is my beach twin. I see him on the beach, all the time, and it’s STARTING TO GET WEIRD!

Today was a perfect example, and adequately illustrates how our relationship continues to develop.

Today, I arrived on the beach at about 11.30. I love going to the beach. I spend a lot of time there in the Summer Holidays. It was a lovely day. I had music, a good book, it was a gorgeous day; I was very content. About midday, HE APPEARS. He wanders down the beach, he has a swim. He sits about 20 yards away, nearer the water, he remains there for about an hour. Then off he goes.

Nothing weird about that.


Later, after leaving the beach, wandering into town, etc, etc... I return to the beach. The seafront is essentially my walk home, so I tend to walk along the beach as it’s a pretty walk. I decide to sit down for a while, as it’s still so warm. I’m on a different bit of beach now, further up- so I sit down relax, look around me...

THERE HE IS AGAIN. He was there first, clearly. I just hadn’t noticed. A different bit of beach a few minutes away. But THERE HE IS.

Nothing weird about that though. A coincidence, that’s all.

But this happens ALL THE TIME. Different bits of beach, different times of day. In term time, I often nip to the beach late, sort of 4.30/5.00ish – he’s often there, irrespective of which bit of beach I’m on, and it does vary.

And now it’s the holidays, I’m camped out during the day- THERE HE IS AGAIN. Different bits of beach again.

How is this happening? It is too wild to be a coincidence. Superlativity has seen him too. It’s not just me being crazy. He’s my witness.

Anyway- so now it’s got to the point of being weird and frankly ridiculous, and I wonder ‘Does he recognise me when I clock him?’

Who knows... I sort of feel like I should talk to him now. I don’t know why precisely, it just seems like it would be the right thing to do in such an odd situation, where we continually run into eachother on such a random and regular basis.



“Fuck of you little freak.”


Perhaps... perhaps it IS just a coincidence, but none of it adds up. Sometimes I’m there first, sometimes he is. Sometimes it’s one bit of beach, sometimes a different bit, or a different bit again. Sometimes it’s 11 in the morning, sometimes it’s 5 in the afternoon.  Sometimes it’s 3 in the afternoon. 

It CAN’T be a coincidence.

Therefore he must be my evil beach twin.  He is kind of hot.  Sets of my gaydar just a tiny bit. Nice body, tasteful tattoo, bleached tips.

Great tan.

Maybe it’s the heat haze creating a mirror effect?

This is my BeachTwin. Not a normal twin. We don't look alike. We have a 
similar look, perhaps, but we are twins only on account of integrated beach use.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The day I stopped caring (about pants)

I like to make an effort. I have a couple of rules about going out and socialising. Well, not rules exactly – but a couple of habits that have endured for ages.

Number one: Never turn down an invitation unless you genuinely can’t make it.

Number two: Always wear something nice.

And this is the way it was for years.  Years and years. Number one was a symptom of growing up in a small town that was just a little bit far from almost all my friends- who lived in the next town. I was cut off by forest geography after about quarter past ten each night.  And I was always aware that, quite rightly, my friends met up without me because I just couldn’t always attend and I was that much further away.

But I was always a teensy bit jealous.

So I always went to everything. I never missed an opportunity to socialise and never made an excuse or avoided a situation. I lived for being sociable -  being slightly more cut off either drove this or made it more annoying. Who knows.

Recently I’ve become a tiny bit more picky. I will say no to the occasional invite, though it’s still pretty rare. Sometimes I get that feeling whereby, despite a longstanding plan with friends that you’ve been looking forward to for ages, and despite enthusiasm at the time of planning, it gets to the night itself and I think:


But this passes pretty quick. I have a third rule- never cancel on people at short notice.  People do it to me ALL THE TIME and, whilst I never mind, on one particular birthday I learned never to do it to others because it can be a fuck when it happens to you, all at once on the same night, one cancellation after the next.

And you make yourself go, have a drink, put on some Britney- get yourself enthused, and then you go and have a FUCKING GOOD TIME.

I just fancied a quiet night out.

Of course it’s fun! It was always going to be fun.  We just experience that lazy bit before hand.

We’re older now.

But now?  A new development. A new development pertaining to Number 2: Nice clothes.

 I’m a bit fussy about clothes. I like clothes. I like outfits and looking nice and making the effort. People generally conclude that I’m quite well dressed. I like that.

And the other day, I was getting ready to go out. I had some nice new jeans on. You know when they’re all new and tight. I had my amazing winged trainers on. Nice t-shirt. Nice belt. Nice outfit.

Then I noticed I was wearing horrible pants. 

Not horrible.  Boring maybe. Not a nice waistband. Not nice enough to be poking out from beneath my jeans a bit, and more importantly NOT MATCHING ANYTHING ELSE I WAS WEARING.

But my winged trainers take forever to do up. They’re really tall lace-up hi-tops. And my new jeans were so new and skinny and tight they were a battle to get on and off.

So I did nothing.

I left it, and went out in horrible pants.  And within a few minutes I didn’t even remember.

I’m sure no-one else would notice/care/give a fuck anyway.  But *I* do.

Until that day.

That was the day that I stopped caring.

That was the day I stopped caring about pants.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pride in Pictures

Less ramble.  More photos.


11.00 Morning booze and Parade through Brighton

     13.00 Chair-O-Planes and boy bands
     14.00 Naked fitties all around
17.00 Freemasons dance-off and skanky street booze preparation

00.00 Street Party and finally allowed to eat again

And that was (some of) Brighton Pride 2013...

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


Today I got paid for eating Domino’s Pizza and watching The Amazing Spider-man.

Jimmy came in in a foul mood and refused to do any work all morning (and it’s end of term, so for ‘work’, read maths games/colouring in/gentle, undemanding, semi-educational activities punctuated by treats and end of term reward events. Like DVDs. Or pizza).

To try and help him recover his day and get out of his foul mood, I tried to persuade him to come and choose his pizza toppings.

“Don’t want stupid pizza. It’s boring!”  (He’s been talking about nothing else for days)

“You’ll be sad if you miss having pizza.”  (He will)

“I hate pizza. It’s boring.”  (It’s not. It’s his favourite thing in the world)

“Well, you need to make a good choice now if you want pizza.” (He does)

“Don’t care. Don’t care. Don’t care. DON'T CARE. DON'T CARE!”  (He blatantly does)

“Okay then. I’ll have to order you a school dinner...”  (I do)

Time Passes.

Our pizzas arrive. Staff and students. It’s a pizza party and the mood is euphoric. Every pizza is labelled with the appropriate pupil’s name. They locate and collect their pizza and take it to their seat.

“Where’s my pizza?”

“You didn’t want one, remember? You said pizza is boring and you hate pizza, then you started shouting at me.”

“I was only joking. Can I have my pizza now?”

“There is no pizza for you.  I didn’t order one for you because you didn’t make good choices.”

“But I want it now.”

“It’s too late now. You need to be good when I say, otherwise you don’t get nice things.”

Jimmy sulks and refuses to eat his school dinner, which- to be fair- looks questionable, though he’ll literally eat anything. I saw him try to eat a shoe once. If I’m honest, he could stand to skip a meal or two, so I let him sulk and refuse to eat.

Perhaps meanly, I also make a point of saying to everyone as we eat our pizzas:
“Is everyone enjoying their pizza? Good!  Well done- you all made GOOD CHOICES so we get to have a pizza party. Mmm- delicious pizza!  Mmmmm!”

But we have to do that to make sure he connects the dots.

He totally does.

After about 20 minutes, once his school dinner is nice and cold and the baked beans are all disgusting and congealed, he sits down and starts sheepishly eating it.

It doesn't look very nice.

Maybe next time he won’t be such a little bitch about it...

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Stop or wave?  Stop or Wave? STOP OR WAVE?!

I just don’t know...

I’ve become a wave.

I’ve become a don’t stop walking, slow pace a little and wave a bit- and maybe say something weird and quick and rhetorical like “Heya- y’aright?” but never stop walking.

Which is odd because I was always, ALWAYS a stop. I’d beam from a distance, wave a bit, slow down, pull up (looking carefully behind me to avoid annoying any followers, as if driving, and pull in somewhere convenient for a proper conversation.

With anyone!

Well, not quite anyone. But anyone I sort of vaguely knew. I wouldn’t feel awkward, it wouldn’t be stilted, it would always be quite jocular and good-natured- a brief chat and then part company happily and be on my way.

And now?

Now I scope from a distance, keep walking, smile, say “Heya- y’aright?” or whatever, but DON’T STOP WALKING.  Don’t even slow down! Keep moving, don’t initiate or respond with anything likely to stimulate further discourse. NODON’TSLOWDOWNDON’TSLOWDOWNDON’TSLOWDOWN! Phew!

Made it.

I have no idea why this change has occurred. Granted I’m busier these days than I was as a student, and spend less time just trolling around town aimlessly- but that wouldn’t explain the complete lack of enthusiasm for engaging. I used to actually like irrelevant, off-the-cuff nonsense with people I loosely knew. It was nice feeling you knew lots of people and knowing a few faces as you wander about.

But now I’m not just less enthused, I’m actually avoidant. It feels like a hassle and I dismiss the value I once saw as needless effort for no benefit.

Sounds a bit mean-spirited now I think about it.

I should add, this is only for those fringey-friends of friends types that you know, but don’t know well.

I have two exceptions- people with whom I happily pause and gossip in the street...

Proper friends.

...And hot people.  People I don’t know too well but who are super fit.

I am a shallow, petty man....

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Activity Week

Such a funny term.  It really doesn’t describe what it is at all.

At the end of the year, we have Activity Week at school. A week where we go off timetable and do... well, activities. Fun things, trips, games, visits, etc- under the umbrella of ‘enrichment’.

Activity Week was last week.

And what a week it was.

I’m earning quite well these days. I got my nice promotion in September, I’ve gone through the pay threshold this year and I’m doing quite nicely at present. So it feels a bit bad that I’m paid a not insubstantial amount of money to spend my week basically playing.

On Monday we went to Knockhatch, an adventure park In Hailsham. I spent the day rowing on the boating lake, sliding down the avalanche slide, jumping off the demon drop, bouncing on the giant pillow, racing round the go-kart track and zipping down the zip-wire. It was amazing fun, and I got paid to do it. On Tuesday we went to the Sovereign Centre in Eastbourne- a long way to go for a swimming pool, but they have a wave machine. So another hard day’s labour.

Wednesday we did a scavenger hunt, an egg drop competition a quiz and giant Pictionary, followed by Laser Quest on Thursday, which is probably the most fun anyone has ever had. There is something immensely satisfying about spending the day running around in the dark, under UV lighting, shooting your colleagues in the back. Then on Friday we watched Despicable Me 2 at the cinema  and had Dominos Pizza.

All in all not a bad week.


Pretty well paid, too...

It does kind of make up for the verbal abuse, the kicks, the punching, the spitting and the general lack of respect we get the other 29 weeks a year.

I know.  It wasn’t a typo. THE OTHER TWENTY-NINE WEEKS...

Friday, 28 June 2013


Last weekend I went out for a birthday with lots of twenty-somethings.

I felt SO. OLD.

Some of them weren’t even that much younger than me.  Only a couple of years, but they seemed so much younger. We went to a bit of an impromptu house party for a friends birthday; just a little bunch of gays, none of whom I really knew.

But it was really fun.

But they just don’t get tired. And they can drink so much. They made questionable home-made horrorshow cocktails comprising whatever random nastiness they could find. Wine and beer and sambuca and vodka and whatever else they could lay their hands on.

I even drank it.

But they just appear to feel no effects at all. They just carried on. I was already hungover before I went to bed. It was awful.

But then I started thinking... ‘Hang on. I remember this.’ And I recalled when I first started working in schools and I socialised with the little school crowd and really started drinking properly, that’s what we did.  

We drank anything. Everything.

Even really horrible things we didn’t even want or like.

I’d forgotten. Or repressed it, maybe. But maybe it’s not that different.

Either way, they are hardcore. Or I’ve become really, really softcore.

Don’t get me wrong. We had a lovely time. An amazing time... I’ve never met such a warm, welcoming group of people in my life. They were great.

But so young.

And they party too hard.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Dissertation Complaints Service

I handed my MA dissertation in a month ago. A month before the deadline, I hasten to add. It has since been forgotten and life is good, calm and relaxing again. 

The Guilt is gone.

But now they write to me asking for my feedback on the dissertation supervision process. 

And what a can of worms they have opened.  This isn't, I should add, what I sent them.  This is what I wrote whilst writing my dissertation, every time I received any feedback for a chapter I'd just submitted to my supervisor. This is what I wrote in preparation for the day I would be asked to comment on the process. My actual response is a lot kinder...

10 problems with the dissertation supervision process.

1) Your sentences are too long:
You insist that 'mixed SEN classes' has to be changed to ‘classes of pupils with many different special needs diagnoses’. ASC pupils has to be changed to ‘pupils with a diagnosis of autism spectrum condition’.
If you make me write long sentences then ALL MY SENTENCES WILL BE LONG!

2) Canvas vs. Canvass. 
I want to canvass staff opinion.  Canvas is old sacking.  Please stop telling me to write about old sacking.

3) Avoid grouping pupils by SEN. Consider them as individuals.
THIS IS WHAT MY DISSERTATION IS ABOUT. In my teaching, of COURSE I consider pupils as individuals.  It’s not about diagnoses. But this dissertation is about a stereotype in labeling and in grouping of students. I am trying to explode a myth about pupils with autism and with EBSD.  It is VERY hard to do that if you aren’t allowed to a) USE THESE TERMS, and B) Consider the pupils as groups.

4) Your dissertation needs to be about that.
No. YOUR dissertation might be about that.  Mine is about this. Please stop trying to change what I’m actually investigating long after the research has taken place.  You agreed to the research at the very start.  You said it was interesting. You said it was brave. You said it was new. Now I’ve actually done it and I’m writing about it, stop telling me to change the focus and talk about pupil emotions and treating pupils as individuals, on the understanding that “this will be more interesting”.  That is NOT the focus of my research. A consideration, perhaps, but not what all the research is working towards.

5) Underlining terms used in school.
STOP UNDERLINING THINGS LIKE ‘SEN teachers’ and ‘ASC department’. The school has an ASC department.  I know in your out-of-touch, ideal, self-indulgent world of research, we don’t separate ASC pupils.  Sorry- pupils who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition. But this is a case study. In a school. Where I have been allowed to conduct research. They have a department for pupils with ASC.  It is called the ASC department.  I really can’t do anything about this when I’m writing about the school. Please stop underlining it and suggesting that I change the wording to something your dippy dreamland researchers like more.  That is what it is called.

6) Commas
Yes, I overuse commas sometimes. And many of your corrections are valid.  But once in your stride in removing excess commas, an excess of zeal has led to the obliteration of nearly all the commas in my meisterwerk. Seriously. You eliminated all the commas in an entire paragraph and now it reads like a children’s book.

7) Repetitious repetition
Constant comments about taking care not to repeat. Duly noted.
Followed by ENDLESS requests to reference a comment that was referenced in a previous section. “Use a reference to discuss pupil voice”. Terrific... I refer you to the ENTIRE CHAPTER I wrote on that, full of interesting, relevant references. Should I just repeat myself? Or would that be repetitive?

8) Trust your own judgement.  And then don’t.
I suffered prolonged conversations about how my view as a practitioner IS relevant, and how my own observations and views carry weight. Followed by constant requests to back up my views with documentary evidence and references.  There is no evidence. There are NO references. These are my views.  The ones you just asked for.

9) Anecdotal evidence that is widely published and scientifically validated.
My dissertation- as advised, is about exploding a myth. Or perhaps supporting it, depending on outcomes. This is based on ANECDOTAL evidence. On staffroom hearsay and even hyperbole. There is no material evidence for this. My dissertation is the first time this has been explored. As far as research shows, this has not been written about before. Please stop asking for evidence of this anecdotal evidence. I already told you it is anecdotal.

10) This will be more interesting.
This is a little repetitious of point 4, but we will proceed as it deserves some exploration in its own right. Having accepted, sanctioned and seemingly understood my dissertation project and the focus of my research, you now keep skewing it, pushing it in different directions and telling me to focus on something else that you prefer because “it will make it more interesting.” This is annoying and unreasonable. I can’t change the focus of my research now. It’s nearly March. There is no time, and the research is essentially finished. But what is more annoying is you saying that YOUR ideas are more interesting, and that YOUR research likes to focus on this, that and those. That is YOUR research, based upon YOUR interests.  I am interested in autism and EBSD, and how hard it is to co-educate these pupil groups. It’s fascinating, really! It really isn’t very helpful or professional to keep trying to push my investigation of pupil behaviour in different conditions into some fluffy, flowery rhapsodising over pupil emotions and individuality just because that is what YOU are interested in.  It doesn’t interest me remotely. Which is fine, but I haven’t burst into your office and ordered you to change your research into something more in-keeping with my own interests and preferences.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Kettering is...

Apparently nothing.

Even Google won’t auto-complete with anything interesting or amusing.


On Wednesday, I have to get up at 4.30am, pick up two colleagues, then drive for 3 hours to go to Kettering. There is nothing nice about Kettering. If you haven’t heard of it, there’s a reason; if you have heard of it, it’s because it somehow manages, simultaneously, to be both horrible and boring.

I am to go to a TEACCH course.  This is a course to teach you all about how to teach children with autism. Something I know a little bit about- I used to be an advisor on autism for mainstream schools one day a week. The other 4 days were spent teaching children with autism.

Not to say you can’t learn more... but looking at the programme- it doesn’t bode well.

“Did you know, some young people with autism don’t like changes to their routines?”

Well fuck me with a brick- I *did* know!

But I am being sent nevertheless. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t

a) Miles away

b) Starting at 8.30 in the morning

Also, some friends went and did the same course a while back- said it was good, but they were there in a little group. I’m going with two old ladies.

It is going to be BORING.

Three days!?! 

And after getting up so early and driving for 3 hours (which always wipes me) I’m so going to be zoned out for the first day anyway.

Why can’t they just run the course in London like normal people?

I’m going to have to take secret hotel booze and secret hotel porn with me to get me through the week. Then explain to my old lady colleagues as to why I have no interest in sitting in the dubious Holiday Inn lounge drinking tea because I have massive amounts of pornography to watch.

I don’t want to go to Kettering. 

I want to stay at home and sit on my massive sofa and watch Game of Thrones and drink cocktails.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Fuck the Insanity Workout.

Okay, so I’ve started doing the Insanity Workout. It’s like circuit training at home, doing a ridiculous amount of ridiculous exercises for a ridiculously long time.

It comes highly recommended. Lots of my friends at school are doing it. I can well imagine it does wonders, because if you do anything that intense for that amount of time every day, you can’t help but looks super fit.
Here’s the thing.  I exercise quite a bit anyway- I like to do it.  It feels healthy, it feels exhilarating, and I like to look fit as fuck when I take my clothes off.  So I’ve kept a fairly keen health regimen for the last few years, and kicked it up a gear this year.  I do roughly 200 press-ups and 200 sit-ups a day, most days. Then I sometimes do 8 minutes abs *after* that. Sometimes I do it *twice*...

I’m pretty keen.

But this was something else.  It’s SO FUCKING HARD. And I’m someone who isn’t averse to or unaccustomed to fairly thorough exercise routines.
45 minutes of non-stop, crazy, intense and unforgiving jumping around and pulling bits that shouldn’t be pulled. It really is insane.

And this morning I got out of bed and couldn’t walk. It must be doing me good.

Probably because, despite my good work in recent months, I probably neglect my legs.

I’m doing the next bit now... Wish me luck.

Friday, 7 June 2013

What do you do?

What do you do with a boy who hasn’t been to school in 8 months?

What do you do when he’s sent to your school, to your class, to get him back into school routine?

What do you do when he pretends to be sick, to be sent home, to avoid being in school?

What do you do when he has done this successively, for 8 months?

And what do you do when his mother colludes with him? When she is too soft, too weak, and allows him to be off school for so long? Ignores the faking, collects him from school, keeps him home for months on end, with one pretend illness after another? When she is afraid to challenge him?

What do you do when he starts crying, wailing and whimpering that he’s going to be sick, that he’s so unwell, that he has to go home, that you must ring his mum? When he’s been in your class for a day and a half?

Here’s what you do...


I didn’t accuse him of lying as such. Not initially anyway. He has used this as an avoidance tactic for months, years even, taking control of his home environment completely, and using feigned illness to completely opt out of school. He’s an anxious boy, and we need to build his confidence and make him happy and comfortable in my class.

But I’m not having that. Not after a day. A DAY!!

So I let him splutter, cry, wail and retch. I let him refuse to eat lunch. I let him moan and whimper and cry. I let him beg and plead to call his mum.

But he still stayed in school all day.

I even said I’d call his mum, but that I would be advising her that he was fine, that he was anxious and was making himself feel sick, and that we should see the day out.  He refused to eat a thing.

I said fine.

And then I spoke to mum. I said he was faking it. But I said it tactfully.... I said it was an avoidance tactic, and that he was anxious and that we really should not give him control of the situation so immediately, as this is where things went wrong in his previous school. I said that I advised we keep him in school, and that she collect him at the usual time, and that we would keep a close eye, but we should stay strong at this point and make the placement work.

And then she surprised me.

A parent actually took my advice.

So he stayed.  And you know what?  As soon as he knew the gambit had failed, and that he was staying right where he was, he settled down, his anxiety lowered, he joined in, he had a successful afternoon.  He even enjoyed himself, a little grudgingly.

It was a power struggle right from the start. One where he’d always won in the past, because the school and the parents had caved so quickly. All children look for control of the situation, lots of them find ways of getting it and keeping it.

But once we took back control- for him and for mum, he just got on with it.

Fuck me, what child wouldn’t rather be at home? I know I would.

But if you give them a tactic that works, they’ll use it to control everything.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


I love holidays. Holidays are awesome. I’ve just been on holiday. And it was awesome.

But there’s something pretty wonderful about not being on holiday too. After 5 days I was totally ready to go home. Don’t get me wrong – I had a great time, and I didn’t *want*to come home – but I was well ready to go home. I wasn’t sad.

7 days subsisting purely on Pringles and vodka really does me no favours at all. After 5 days, my body was screaming at me to stop drinking, eat normal food and stay in, have an early night and read a book. All I want is beans on toast.

It’s funny though- you could just take it easy whilst you’re away.  But it NEVER HAPPENS. You’ve paid all that money to stay somewhere exciting, where you can go nuts, drink like a fish and dress like a whore... so staying in your hotel for the evening, watching weird Euro TV just seems such a waste.

So we push our luck. Every night. Then feel horrible all day, every day, and struggle to crawl to the beach to lie in the unforgiving sun for the rest of the afternoon.

But here’s the thing. I like to go home because actually, my holiday routine and my home routine aren’t actually that different. I go and sit on the beach, I go out for scrummy dinners, I drink cocktails, then I go and have dirty drinks in some dirty gay bar, then maybe end up dancing in a binty outfit. It’s not that different at all. 

I’m never sad about going home because I like my life at home. It’s pretty much identical to my life on holiday. I kind of feel like some people go on holiday, then HATE coming home because they’re actually not that happy with their normal, day-to-day life.  

But yeah- it’s pretty much identical. With the exception that when I’m home, I can do all the same things, but have a night off and sit on the sofa watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race and eating pasta without feeling like I’m wasting my money.

Long live pasta.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Day 31: A vivid memory (#BEDM).

My Hag Do was one of my best days ever.

Stag + Hen = Hag.

I went to amazing trouble to provide something that was local, cheap, original and fun. Too many stag dos now are really ridiculous: Self-indulgent, expensive, unreasonable and unjustifiably over the top. Bridal couples seem to expect as a matter of course that now, rather than a night out or whatever, you have to go on a short holiday to an expensive foreign country, incurring hotel bills, flight costs without even considering the exorbitant fees for the go-karting, paintballing, food and booze. It’s painful and a little bit selfish.

I wanted none of it.

Hag Day 2008 was a day of fun in Brighton. We met on the beach, in teams of 5-8. I provided each team with a bottle of booze, a disposable camera and a list of 100 challenges. The premise?
Choose 30 challenges and record them on your camera. Easy challenges earn low points, hard challenges earn high points. Combining challenges in a single photograph can win you mega super points.

For example:
Re-enact Riverdance would be low scoring. Too easy...
Remove furniture from a house dressed as a burglar- high points. Much more challenging.
Kicking a cripple, then kidnapping their pet whilst dressed in newspaper clothes... mega points. You could practically win with one photograph if you achieved that.

Dressed as a monarch, stealing a dog.

Of course, no-one had to actually attack a cripple. You just had to get creative and courageous with your photographs, and simulate each challenge in a pleasing way.

But it was genius. I thought of everything... I even put our local, cheap and student-friendly photography development place on high alert for several rounds of bizarre photograph submissions, primed and ready, for the 4pm cut off.

Blagging their way into the doughnut shop.

Then teams got a text with submission instructions- to arrive on the beach at 5pm with their completed photo-assignment, dressed as... BACOFOIL ROBOTS!

Bacofoil robots convene on the beach.

It was the best day ever. Some people lamed out a bit, and some went completely fucking all out!
Then, to top it off, I hired a venue for a party, where we did an awards ceremony and drank and danced the night away. It was frickin’ awesome.

Collecting stamps and performing a 
sacrifice in a newspaper outfit.

I didn’t even get that wasted, because I was concentrating on seamless organisation and orchestration throughout the day. A bit sketchier in the evening, when i was made to drink beer (bleurgh!) and wear a bra (woop!), and do some challenges of my own.

But so the most awesome day ever.  I loved it and I really should organise another someday soon...

breaking into school in the holidays to make rude art.


The challenges? I won’t recount them all, but highlights include:

Re-enact the feeding of the 5000
Simulate sex in a public place
Celebrate Christmas (it was May)
Disgust me
Torture a cuddly toy
Be a gimp
Prick up your ears
Kiss a copper
Impersonate a monarch
Steal candy from a baby
Get a job
Sell something
Make doughnuts
Backstreet gambling den
Play a game with a pensioner
Carry more than 1 passenger
Organise a large-scale piggyback derby
Find your sinister evil twin
Food fight with strangers
Steal a pet
Take something back that costs less than 50p
Dress age-inappropriate
Dance off with a stranger
Food fight with a member of the public
Go dogging
Take something back that you’ve blatantly eaten
Dance with a very short man
Create some art
Pay child fare
Start a band
Dine out in fancy dress
Pour water over a stranger
Hold something dangerous
Eat something horrid
Old lady holding inappropriate sign

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Day 30: React to this term: Letting Go (#BEDM).

I have no sense of self-preservation at all when it comes to climbing. I’ve always been a climber.... I like climbing. I used to climb trees and walls and things as a child without hesitation. Then I grew out of it for a while. Then I took up climbing a few years ago as an adult, and – unsurprisingly I suppose –took to it straight away.

I went twice a week for a long time, and got pretty good pretty quick. I have tried to continue in that vein, but promotions and work commitments ate into my time and it dropped down to once a week, then once a fortnight. I pretty much keep to that, and still love it. I can do some pretty tricky moves and walls and climbs now- and the occasional thing that I think “Oooh, I must look way cool doing that!”

And I’ve done Go Ape! a couple of times too, with friends for birthdays and things. I love it, and am equally fearless. I didn’t see myself as fearless until this point - only when my friends commented that I have no sense of self-preservation did I notice.

It’s because I completely trust the equipment. Experience is part of it, definitely, but I suffer no concern at all that it’s high up or dangerous or I might fall. I can’t fall- I am tied to the top with string. Other people were in a state of shock when I leapt off of things in a crazy fashion, or ran full-pelt across tiny rope walkways, falling off and screeching along half way across, or when I let go and dangled off the side of a platform, or shouted down to the supervisors “Are we allowed to jump off, no hands?”

Apparently we were.  So I did.

And you know what?  It’s about letting go. If you jump off a few things, low down if need be, you learn that the rope holds you. It will catch you. You can’t fall because you are tied to the wall. But people don’t like to. But then they never learn how safe it is.

Let go. And trust in your equipment.

Let go. Then you learn how safe letting go is.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Day 29: Five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories (#BEDM).

5 songs, not necessarily good songs, that take me back to times past. Some of them in fact, are actually quite bad songs...

Dario G – Sunchyme.
My 16th birthday: My friends and I went to Leicester Square in London, to the Capital CafĂ©. I’d always been a bit worried that I didn’t really have ‘enough’ friends. I know better now, of course. But around 15/16, not only did I suddenly find myself with a nice circle of close friends growing around me, but I actually started to socialise with them, and go out doing exciting things for the first time. And I remember sitting in the restaurant with my friends, this song was playing, and I thought ‘You know what? I’m going to be alright. Life is good, and I am happy.’
And those best friends I had then?  They’re still my best friends now...

Britney Spears – Oops, I did it again.
University. My favourite club- the illustrious Dynamite Boogaloo. It was an amazing phenomenon that I am happy and glad to have been a part of. It was more than a night out- it was a bit special to the people who went there. And at the peak of my times there, before it moved, evolved, grew, then moved on, we used to do silly dance routines dressed in ridiculous outfits. Everyone did. It was that sort of place.
My favourite memory- a BAD homemade dance routine we drunkenly improvised whilst standing on the stairs queuing for coats, ready to leave as it was crazy-late and we were flagging. But Britney started. That instantly-recognisable first double strike- and we just made up this stupid, crazy, drunken dance there on the stairs.
And then? Everyone started doing it; copying our routine like some glittery workout video. It was the strangest thing, but SO much fun... It reminds me of uni, it reminds me of my best nights out, and it reminds me of everything I loved about Dynamite Boogaloo.

David Essex – A Winter’s tale
So yeah- when my dad left AGAIN, and my mum started perpetually crying AGAIN, mummy and I had to go and watch my brother in his school’s Christmas carol concert. And they sang this, and it made my mum cry. I think she’d been told that day that it was over, or she’d told us that day it was over, or something. And it was just horrible.
And then for years later, she always skipped it on our Christmas CD, or turned the radio off for that song. She said she couldn’t hear it again as it made her so sad. Which was a shame because I sort of like it in a melancholy way. Maybe because of all that?  I don’t know. And then when I had to sing it in my Christmas concert I think I lied and told her parents weren’t invited, or that all the tickets were gone so she wouldn’t come and have to hear it and feel sad. I told you I started taking care of her around this point, didn’t I...?
She can hear it now. She quite likes it now, which is a bit perverse, but she’s very much moved on and is a different person now.  Still gets me every time though.

Liberty X – Just a Little
For reasons unknown, we spent an ENTIRE YEAR singing this song in our final year of uni. All four of us had it stuck in our heads for the entire year, all through all 3 terms, all the holidays and right through finals. You’d walk down to the kitchen quietly murmuring to yourself:
“Sexyyyyyyyyyyyyy... Everything about you’s so sexyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...”
then as you walked in, you’d find one of the others making dinner, singing:
“Just a little bit moooooooooooooooore.... gimme just a little bit moooooorrrrre!”
At a completely different point in the song.
It was amazing, but so amusing. And that became my uni song, just because it was so impossible to shift. It reminds me of the girls- we were such a happy little group.

KISS – Crazy Nights
I was going to choose Do Your Thang- the best song ever and our first dance at our wedding, but I can bet Simon will choose it too, and I want to avoid being twee.  Crazy Nights was a song I learned of relatively late in life. It was at the last ever Dynamite Boogaloo in fact- the end of an era, and all the amazing hosts, hostesses and DJs were dressed as KISS, doing crazy stunts and games and the usual stuff. And they closed, after years and years of amazing nights, and years and years of attendance from us with this song, and I thought- Fuck- they WERE crazy nights, weren’t they. It was the end of an era, and so sad, but so much fun and such an amazing way to go out. It was like you were part of a special little select gang, and you’d all shared in something wacky that most people didn’t know about and it felt so special. A sad night, but a happy memory...