Friday last was pure week-before-end-of-half-term misery. Skool sags beneath an accumulation of assessment marking feeding into immediate report writing, and it’s all compounded by interminable lessons with grumpy kids not listening to shattered staff. And – AND!! – it’s scorchio out, so literally no one cares.

Added in to that febrile melange, Friday also brought the realisation that a trio of e-cigarette vendors stand within 100m of each other on Knareborough High Street.

Across the road.

With empty shops sat between! The heat, the insanity, the Vapours… It all looked set to see an end to the equilibrium of sobriety that had ruled for so long.

Well, maybe in old money. Waking up Saturday morning the wallowing was truncated directly, blues batted hence in a blur of house sprucing, which made everyone feel better. I also made a loaf, which has become a pleasant habit of a weekend morning.

Here’s a little recipe tribute to Warren Ellis.

Bread

  • 500g flour (one of these ones, usually)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300ml water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Yeast tends to be either 1 tsp quick yeast in with the flour, or 1tbsp of the reactivated sort you need to mix with warm water first. Given that I’ve been doing this with partially closed eyes around 5am the last few weeks, it’s been the considerably less fiddly quick yeast.

Everything dry gets mixed with a spoon, then I tip in the water and mix that, then add the oil, at which point it miraculously switches from “craggy” and dry to something more moist and resembling dough.

10 minutes kneading. Don’t stint. It will give in at some point to become smooth, elastic and pliable. Make a ball shape.

Leave it covered in a bowl somewhere warm for 40 minutes. The books all say “until doubled in size”, but it must be a factor of my eyes being only partially open that it never looks that different.

Read stories and give bananas to youngest, who’s got up demanding bananas and stories.

“Knock it back.” Give the now risen dough a thwack to remove air. Sometimes I like to grunt “Yer name’s not down, yer not coming in,” at the point of impact. That’s not actually true, but I might start. Re-knead, make a loaf shape and leave it to rise for about 80 minutes.

Play 4000 games of Top Trumps with eldest who’s also now up.

Our electric oven goes on at 180°, and the loaf cooks for about 45-50 mins, depending on how long the oven was on prior to opening.

Slice, slap on approx. 3cm layers of Isigny Sainte-Mère butter (the ponce factor here is low, in fact: it’s in Sainsbury’s and the same price as Lurpak) and gronff with coffee.

That was fun, anyway.

What else? Oh yes, the Ukrainian dolphins. (Hums Sylvanian Families jingle, substituting words in head) Pop “Ukraine dolphins” in your search engine.

The Guardian offered a moderated tone to their report, with a nod to the idea that there is “a lot of disinformation floating around” (one of the more understated aquatic puns related to this news item). However, many outlets went long on “diabolical Russkies” even when filtering out the more outlandish claims of cetacean patriotism.

Meanwhile, my five-year old was engrossed in our reading of this tale, where ninja-skilled princesses work to find buried treasure and save a wounded dolphin from ill-treatment by a greedy prince.

No prizes for guessing which was the more realistic story.

From “The Filth”, by Morrison/Weston/Erskine, 2002

This morning we went for a bit of sunshine and tat browsing at Pannal at boot. Got a nice tape-and-cd player for a fiver – spent the afternoon doing reports while listening to a T. Rex best of and 4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

See if you can follow the riffs and work out which song prompted the title for this week’s Bath chunterings.

Other than that, it remains only to trail a forthcoming album Visions of Africa, which contains a selection of the hundreds of Toto covers proliferating…

… I seek to cure what’s deep inside.

Q3: Analyse how the writer uses language and structure to interest and engage the reader. (15)

In this text, an examination board is stating a task for candidates to complete. The question begins with an attempt to engage the reader directly with an imperative (“Analyse”), which leaves no doubt as to the action required.

Two pairs of components then offer further detail of the task to the reader. First, the reader is informed that they must discuss how the writer uses “language and structure”. The conjunction “and” in this noun phrase is perhaps intended as a signal to the reader that they must address both linguistic, and structural, features of the text in their response. There is an implicit point made here that failure to mention one or the other may be important, but why this might be is not made clear.

Furthermore, the terms used are themselves quite vague, which may also impact the engagement of the reader. It could be argued that the terms offer open-ended scope for reader interpretation, which is potentially engaging. However, students unfamiliar with the exam format may not be entirely sure what aspects of language or structure they are supposed to discuss, unless explicitly coached on what they will have to discuss in the exam.

Given the wide parameters suggested by the vague terms of “language” and “structure”, different readers may respond more generally, for example, commenting on the use of English and the question format, rather than specific technical details of the content.

Following this, the writer has provided another pairing, this time in a verb phrase (“to interest and engage”). This offers a range of actions to complete. The conjunction here could also be important, although the use of near-synonymous words may lead to some confusion, hence causing disengagement. It is possible that a reader may interpret this phrase to mean they should not address ideas that fail to be both interesting and engaging, and in not doing so lose further marks.

The question closes with a reference to “the reader”, which in this text clearly refers to an examination candidate. Although the word “engage” can mean “occupy”, which the simple of act of reading the question achieves, the idea of a “reader” being interested by the bland terminology is not particularly convincing.

In addition, there is an implication from the wording employed that the student is expected to know how to respond to a question phrased in such a generalised way in the exam. This suggests that such knowledge is presupposed by the exam board (“the writer”), with a logical inference from that perhaps being that teachers are expected to make this mechanical awareness the point of their lessons, rather than, say, making words and reading fun activities.

The number “15” appearing at the close of the text, isolated in parentheses for emphasis, may be a mocking final note reflecting the idea that the only truly important outcome of any interest to the reader is how many marks they need to get.

The five parts of this passage are in the wrong order. What is the correct order?

A. Fortunately, he does not have to convert raw scores to quotients.

B. Tonight, the teacher is marking reading tests.

C. Not only that, but the mark scheme runs to 32 pages also.

D. Each answer is multiple choice, and the sheets have been photocopied so it’s quite hard to make out the answers.

E. He is thinking about drinking gin on a school night.

Answers are available on the Scorer/Profiler CD-ROM, but we won’t tell you whereabouts.

Busy tonight fending off an end-of-school-tomorrow tutor reports deadline.

Faced with an Eiger of commentary to generate, and with the view that parents have enough text to wade through with up to 11 course content and individual progress updates, I lapse into fantasias of form tutor comments being something brief yet expressive. Haiku, say:

A mixed view for Sean:
Articulates ideas well,
Yet forgets his pen.

or semi-gnomic aphorism:

Sinéad’s approach to school is a Facebook riddle wrapped in a Snapchat mystery inside an Instagram enigma.

Regrettably, though, such brevity is frowned on. There is consequently a lot of paraphrase of already euphemistic analysis, finding ways to spin positively a recalcitrant student’s impending examination disasters, owing to their tendency to fanny about all the livelong day.

Tutor reports at least give one a chance to rehumanise the youth a bit. Stuff like the award for tidiest room, or the predilection for building mini robots, or the swimming trophies, or the surprise knack for a riffle shuffle executed exquisitely, or the prize essay based on ‘Nighthawks’, from the point of view of the window… these are worth mentioning far more than their granularly-graded hoop- jumping capacity.

One might go on. Regrettably, also, though… these things won’t write themselves.

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Hey! Teacher!