Soundtrack for reading (sorry the embed went wrong, will attempt to fix it) :

Blue Drag – The Hot Club Quintet

This week I have been occupied by being back to skool, back to work. It is about equal parts exam countdown (upper years), easy-peel units on poetry (lower school) and mordant commentary with colleagues about where work might be next year. Motivation is sketchy. Sometimes little moments can be a reminder of why teaching is such a lot of fun, but a great deal of it is just the same stupid job territory as every other stupid job.

Depends on how sunny it is, mostly. Maintaining a positive demeanour in the teeth of the things with teeth.

There are multiple projects having nothing to do with earning money with which I would be far happier to engage. However, on a day-to-day basis, they are all just partially-recalled dreams, forgotten in the waking to maintain the project of watching numbers apparently related to my worth appearing and disappearing from my bank account at the same time every month.

Some Gormenghastly ceremony, the meaning of which is long since lost, that participants go through with little enthusiasm.

That’s the teeth. Ach, it’s not all lugubrious pondering and late capitalist mope! Pretty sure I shouldn’t be keeping myself up late writing… Sweeping out the mind before turning in is a highly valuable process, though.

I’ll put the chin-stroking down to a definite post-holiday blue drag. Last week it was all frolicking in familiar precincts. I remembered there was a typewriter somewhere in the house and got that out. The four year old (just picking up on an interest in written letters and numbers) now asking if they can ‘get on with some paperwork’…

lore preschoolsum

I love the faint suggestion of millennial significance, that this is a cipher holding arcane truths about the underpinnings of things.

I also love that it means “today i helped put a tent up in the garden and then did some important paperwork on the typewriter’. Or something different but also fabulous, depending on how the light hits the runes.

Infinite monkeying about! There’s a career goal. Keeping that in mind should see the rest of it fall into place.

The possibilities for glorious rebirth from apparent disaster (and of course the reverse of that, and of course of course all the countless in-between positions) are always present, especially in football. Quite what took us from being 0-1 down and missing a penalty to winning the game 3-2 is beyond me. It was baffling, beautiful and entirely needed.

While Leeds were being the end of me once more, we were attending the birthday party of one of my nieces. Went for a walk along the river before afternoon tea and cake.

In the image here, you can just about see where the level of the river has dropped. The weir a bit further down stream collapsed late last year.

The narrator here says two-three feet; it’s at least six feet in places at the moment. There are no plans to fix the weir as far as I’m aware. It’s keeping the water much fresher than it was, with a faster current, and the banks will cover over again. Today, the air was rich with wild garlic, and there were wood anemones, late snowdrops, early bluebells, celandine.

Plus – keeping a group of 10 kids busy for a couple of hours – the water finding its lowest level has revealed a trove of stuff in the silt. Presumably items thrown off the old viaduct: sections of railway, telegraph ceramics, bits of pottery… as well as more contemporary pieces of junk, like crusty bike frames, an abandoned boom box, fishing rods, plastic bags full of nameless sodden items.

Along the river bank, and along the cycle path that now runs across the viaduct, the trees had made that switch from incipient new growth to plump, visible buds, the colours changing, spring blossom out or arriving. The clocks go forward tomorrow.

Something about all of this going on offers a reassurance that is also baffling, beautiful and entirely needed.

Passed a family-centred day today. Skate park, planting things in the garden. Then got taken with a sudden urge to burn all the dead wood that’s accumulated over winter.

The kids were delighted to help, finding various pieces they could chuck in the brazier.

This led to the toasting of marshmallows, which is always a sign of imminent improvement.

Having not been active in this space for (checks calendar) some time, what better opportunity than the hothouse spring schedule of A to Z blogging month to reconnect with online publishing?

The last post here was characteristic of this writer’s then mindset of disillusionment, cynicism and fatigue – which nest of deixis might be taken to indicate a certain kind of distancing. Such a reading would not be mistaken. The times they are always a-changing. Something about words I can’t quite shake off, though.

Yes, because words are very devils. Such was the sentiment guiding my abrupt abandonment of writing here. I was enjoying detailing movements in the garden, for example, but it became obvious that this was a process secondary to and less enjoyable than the actual gardening.

Broccoli, swedes, beans, rocket… Sort of autumn time.

… I’m conscious of sounding like I’m assuming some sort of horny-handed son of the soil pose of social superiority. I found I was drawing more enjoyment from the digging, and the words accompanying seemed superfluous. But, anyway, a toes in the mud sort of thing… and an equally obvious, trending, move away from being ‘online’ all the time. Not quite smashing the Spinning Jennies, but limiting my reliance on habitual info sources, turning off notifications, exploring other media. Writing, but longhand, and not for sharing. Reading and reflection. Kids to raise. Job to hold down; schemes of work to maintain. Tones to clip.

Yet, here we are, among the words again.

With that in mind, this A to Z is likely to follow a few threads on the lines of preoccupations, new and enduring. Tomorrow: Books.

Currently considering a more appropriate title for what I was calling ‘Sunday in the garden’, mostly because it sounds hopelessly boring and twee. Anyway, the point is the content, of course, and over the summer the content of the garden has changed enormously.

I mean, ‘enormous’ is often used glibly in such a context, but srsly, this garden has changed, man. Veg end went from this:

To this:

Eh? EH? Note the petunias. And at the other end, we introduced hens.

Chooks love green leaves and scratching about, so the girls got stuck right into the plants here. It’s now a twig-and-soil Mad Max-ish hen zone. Every day throws up some new excavated surprise – decades-old crisp bags, neolithic pottery shards, mouse burial complexes aligned with Mus Major in 10,500 BC… they are quite the archaeologists. 

I mean, this was August, so they’ve really gone at it even since this pic.  The troupe is Settled Right In. This is they having a dust bath ‘neath an acer.

So, yeah! Tending the fowl, weeding, holiday, toddlers… blog updates have been fairly low down the pecking order this summer.

Summer holidays having receded, a new year begun in the day job of teachery, the time comes to recommence Word Pressing.

I took what was going to be a couple of weeks off earlier, after a busy first half of the year. Now it’s been a couple and a bit months off writing. Well, I’ve still been writing, just not for this. Having begun the year aiming to write a post a day for January, then getting pretty much to June, I started to feel in a bit of a rut.

It was often enjoyable, but more frequently a chore. The main issue was that conversation I was having with myself more and more. ‘Hey, I’m posting something every day!’ ‘Yeah, but what are you saying?

When you’re having second person dialogue with yourself about something, it’s interval time.

Things occurring instead: 

  • kept a diary, stopped having an eye on speaking to the world and gave myself time and permission to consider things in more depth
  • revisited some key texts
  • dug the garden
  • a lot of colouring in

More on all that to follow. Now it’s time to press publish and set it all off again…

Oma brought round some bags of play sand today, very thoughtfully.

I’ll just put the little wooden sandpit back together, then, I thought confidently.

Some hours later…


Recently unearthed from a box and played in the car: Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, by Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny.

Two seconds into the album version of Sweet Tooth Bird, our three year old announced ‘I like this. I like this. I like this. Play it again. I like this.’ Talking over the track, obviously, but still.

Revisiting the album repeatedly after a year or so off, it is rather moreish.

Education news in the UK today is mostly about leaked SPaG SATs for primary school children. Test materials released controversially in advance of the controversial tests.

The leak has been blamed on a ‘rogue marker’, which is hilarious imagery. I can’t stop singing this to the tune of the old Transformers cartoon theme song. Rogue marker! (Teacher in disguise).

It has been suggested that the ‘rogue marker’ (teacher in disguise) may be working as part of an orchestrated campaign of sabotage against the unnecessary hoop jumping exercise reforms. Sabotage! I work on an ideological battleground. I love the smell of military metaphor in the morning. Well done, Rogue 3, tally ho, decent effort.

I teach secondary rather than primary, and the primacy of the test is perhaps even greater. So much assessment, so little time to learn anything between tests. Add in MIDYIS, ALIS and other data and it seems clear that education currently is dominated by people whose idea of a good time is spreadsheet wrangling.

Rather think I’m with writer, educationalist and good egg Michael Rosen on this:

Tuesday, 10 May 2016
The 8-point purpose of SPaG

1.Say summative testing necessary.
2.Reduce language to right/wrong.
3.Teachers have to teach it.
4.Children have to learn/don’t learn it.
5 Test them with dodgy tests
6. Call it ‘standards’.
7. Teachers measured on basis of how well children did in the dodgy tests.
8. If not high enough, convert school to academy.

Meanwhile, this is how I feel as an education professional today, again:


Hey! Teacher!

Bank Holiday Monday, and we went to enjoy the trad ents of Bilton Gala.

By a cruel twist of meteorology and planning, the event was held in a brighter-much-later muddy field, that had posed such problems for arriving stallholders that the beer tent guys just gave up and drove off.

How is a parent supposed to tolerate slipping about on soggy grass, periodically dispensing two pound coins to allow a child to ride round in circles (hanging chairs, fire engine, horsies) for three minutes, without the assistance of alcohol?

Fortunately, there was this stall, the Little Breads bakery, selling chocolate scotch eggs. Ganache, brownie and creme egg centre.

This is the best image I could find:


I didn’t have time to record the deliciousness myself. As I said to the baker who helpfully suggested microwaving it for 30 seconds, it was going to last about that long from the stall. I made it a bit further than that, but apparently my eyes were sparkling after I hoovered it down.

Sugar… Somehow, there’s always a way for it to save the day.

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