Tag Archives: news

Tutoring Tales

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The very warmest of salutations to you, lovely reader, on this long-awaited day of Fri.  On an unrelated note, my brain is very fuzzy and I am in desperate need of coffee.  Would you like anything from the kettle?

To supplement my rock ‘n’ roll writer’s lifestyle (ahem), I tutor some kids in English and Maths.  The kids are aged between six and ten, and I love them all to bits.  Some of them have their “challenging” moments, and to be perfectly honest I’m not always in the mood to rehash the five times table, but there’s no question that I love my job.

I also love the bizarre (but usually fairly sound) wisdom that my students come out with.  Here are some of the funniest, sweetest and weirdest things my little ones have said during lessons.  (By the way, I put a couple of these on Facebook as and when they occurred, so apologies for the repetition.)

1) The would-be dinosaur owner

Child: did the dinosaurs go to heaven?
Me: oh, yeah, definitely.
Child: do people in heaven get to have dinosaur pets?
Me: probably.
Child: you’ll go to heaven before me, because I’m only six and you’re about a hundred. Will you save me a dinosaur?

Yes, you evil little legend. Yes I will.  Although I should point out that I am twenty-five, which is A LOT nearer to six than it is to a hundred.  I wouldn’t usually mind too much about something like that, but we were at the ends of a Maths lesson…

2) The future feminist

Me: So what kind of characters do you usually find in fairy stories?
Child: Baddies and witches and a Prince Charming.
Pause.
Child: Why isn’t there a Princess Charming?
Me: I don’t know. Why?
Child: Because us guys are sometimes stupid and we need girls to help us.

The cutest thing about this one is that the kid genuinely wanted to know.  It was obvious to him that men need saving as much as women do, and he was baffled by the notion that men didn’t get a chance to swoon and women to ride in and kill the dragon.  Feminists, rejoice and be glad: this kid is a winner.

3) The paranoid artist

Child: I can’t finish colouring this picture in.
Me: ‘Course you can.
Child: No.  No, I can’t.
Me: Why not?
Child: I’ve been poisoned.
Me: …with what?
Child: Poison.
Me: Ok.  Who poisoned you?
Pause.
Child: Robert Mugabe.

Either this kid has been watching too much evening news, or he is an incredibly well-disguised political enemy of Zimbabwe’s current government.  I sort of hope it’s the second one.

4) The sibling swapper

Child: My brother is so annoying.  Do you have a brother?
Me: Yep.
Child: Do you get annoyed with him?
Me: Nah.  We used to wind each other up when we were your age, but we’re very close friends now.
Child: Is he nice to you?
Me: Yeah, he’s very nice.
Child: Can I borrow him sometimes?  You can borrow mine.

Seems fair, doesn’t it?  No?  I’m not allowed to abduct a six year-old boy who can burp the alphabet in exchange for my twenty-three year-old brother (who is pretty busy with his degree but would totally be up for this because it’s an excuse to play with Lego)?  Well, I wish someone’d said.  

5) The one who won’t be fooled

Child: Mum says I need to know about Maths for when I’m a grown up.
Me: She’s absolutely right.
Child: She says if I don’t know Maths no one will talk to me and I’ll have to wear a big pink badge saying “I don’t know Maths” and people will laugh at me.
Me: …
Child: I don’t really believe that, though.  I think I just need it for looking after my money and stuff.

God bless that mother, trying so hard to capture her son’s imagination when all she had to do was tell him the truth.  Apparently, six year-olds are ok with their future financial responsibilities.  Who knew?

Have a glorious Friday, you lovely thing.

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Tripping Up the Kardashians

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Dear and lovely reader, I must start today’s blog with a bit of a confession: I’m really rubbish at keeping up with the news.  When I say “news”, what I actually mean is “the biggest trending stories on the internet”, which usually involve a jaw-dropping image, some hilarious video footage or an insane quotation from a celebrity.  There are three reasons for my lacklustre approach to the contagious caterwauling of online updates:

1) I think that celebrity culture is an inherently dreadful concept which encourages people to feel insecure about themselves, and to value notoriety over talent.
2) Wireless internet, as comedian Chris Addison very wisely pointed out, is an absolute miracle of modern living.  It should be used to educate our minds, widen channels of communication and bring joy to our lives, not as a harmful gossip machine of hatred.
3) Like you, dear reader, I’m actually too busy for any of this nonsense.

Sometimes when I’ve ignored the internet for a little while, I find that it’s rather like having left a toddler unsupervised in a zoo with a box of crayons: there is a HELL of a mess and a lot of random noise going.  Take yesterday morning, for example: Lily Allen’s comments about Band Aid 30 were going viral, Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen’s theme park closed after a day and people are still sounding off about Kim Kardashian’s ass photo.

Let’s focus on the Kardashian issue for a moment: lots of people are understandably very annoyed by her behaviour, and are saying that viral photos on the internet should be of woman like Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie and Sylvia Pankhurst, i.e. women who made a very obvious contribution to the world we live in today.  This is an absolutely understandable and excellent argument.  People are also making noises about nudity on the internet, offensive and anti-feminist notions, etcetera.  This is a complicated issue concerning censorship and freedom of speech (and freedom of ass, I guess).

If you’ll allow me to return to the toddler similie, the Kardashians and other like-minded ass exhibitionists are just like small kids making a mess in a zoo: why are we even paying attention to them?  Who gives a monkey’s if people want to “break the internet” with silly and superficial imagery?  Like most spoilt brats, they will be most likely to change their behaviour if we do not reinforce their sensationalist stunts with any publicity at all.

Do you know what else?  I don’t have the faintest notion why the Kardashians are famous in the first place.  And what is more, I cannot be bothered to Google it.  I will quite happily spend the rest of my life not knowing why those strange, sad people are in the public eye.

Don’t pay attention to the crap news.  Lily Allen’s opinion of Band Aid 30 will not change your future, and Kim Kardashian’s ass has no effect on your career.  Pay attention to the news that affects your life and the people you love.  Read up about what’s going on in Syria, sign a petition against the privatisation of our nation’s assets, or even write a heartfelt email to Putin telling him that we’ll still love him when he eventually comes out of the rainbow-painted closet.  Don’t waste your time sharing petty little pittances of “news” when there are so many fascinating, world-changing and historically significant things going on.

Could someone help me down off my soapbox, please?  Cheers.  Shall we go and get some brunch?

Mind-Altering Circumstances

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Hello, reader!  How are you?  Take a seat.  Don’t mind the mess, I’m still unpacking.  Would you like a coffee?

I recently discovered that many forms of urban wildlife like to visit my garden, and in my naive, not-a-real-Londoner state I was delighted.  “I’m living in The Animals of Farthing Wood!” I thought.  (Except that time I saw a squirrel eating a potato waffle – pictured above – which was just baffling.)

Well, waking up this morning to discover that said wildlife had seen fit to POO on the patio made me rethink my position.  I have spent the last hour Googling how to deter foxes, with mixed success.  According to this nice pest control man, “young male urine” will do the trick.  Excuse me, but a) gross and b) I live with my sister.  How on EARTH are we supposed to ask our next young male visitor to oblige us with that particular type of pesticide?  It’s just not happening.

Anyway, vulpine poo problems aside, this last week or so has demonstrated to me that changing your mind is an inevitable part of life.  It doesn’t even take an unwelcome surprise (as it were) to create the change: as we experience life, we discover that our feelings about the world change accordingly.  This is a good thing, because it shows that we are not closed-minded people, but it’s also a bit disorientating, because our opinions form an integral part of who we are.  Here are some of the things I think we worry about too much in terms of where we stand:

The Career Conundrum
I won’t lie to you: pursuing a writing career is hands down the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and this is coming from someone who’s been to Hackney at night time.  Sometimes our choice of job or pursuit of passion leaves us feeling a bit lost, and we start to wonder whether we’ve made the right decisions.  This week I genuinely started to panic about the writing thing, and even though it’s sort-of on the wane now, it was weird how unappealing my lifelong passion started to look.
I really don’t believe that it is ever too late to change your mind about what you want to do.  I have a friend who is doing a degree course at the age of 26 (and getting insanely high marks as well, the jammy madam).  A lot of people I know – especially those lovely creative types – are constantly turning their hands to all sorts of endeavours, and it makes them much more rounded and fascinating people.  Society tells us that we must introduce ourselves with our job titles, as though our careers defined us.  They don’t, even though they do take up a lot of our time.  It’s not worth wasting time worrying about what your job title sounds like when the main thing is to be happy.  If you change your mind about what you want to do, that’s your business.  As far as I’m concerned, you should be allowed to introduce yourself as Grand High Master of the Universe for all that your job title actually matters.

The Marriage and Kids Debate
“I definitely want to get married one day.”  “I want lots of kids, but not marriage.”  “I would never have a church wedding.”  We’ve all had these conversations, haven’t we?  Especially once you hit my age, lots of people start to seriously consider what the long-term landscape of their personal lives is going to be.  At this point, particularly if you have a serious boy/girlfriend, it becomes very important to be completely honest with yourself about what you really want.  You may have spent your entire life saying that you categorically MUST be married by a certain age or have a minimum number of children, but of all things your vision of familial happiness has to be allowed to change.  It’s nice to have a hypothetical idea of what you want, but you have to be able to adapt to what your heart tells you as you get older.  At sixteen you may have been adamant that marriage was not for you, but if you meet the man/woman of your dreams at twenty-six and you change your mind, don’t fight it.  Your past self had no idea what life had in store for you, so why does s/he get to dictate your decisions now?

The Really Big Issues
It is a truly excellent thing to have an informed opinion about Syria, Scottish independence, euthanasia and how we can persuade David Cameron’s home planet to take him back.  The key word in that sentence is “informed” – new information and updates about all of these issues appear on a daily basis, and if situations change we are supposed to readjust our views accordingly.  It takes a much more intelligent and honest person to change their mind about huge political problems than it does to stick to narrow-minded guns.  Consistency is all very well and good, but have you noticed that the news is not consistent?  It changes every day, in fact.  We need to keep up, otherwise we’ll end up like those eejits who think that gay marriage causes hurricanes or whatever.

The main thing to remember is that changing our minds once doesn’t mean we’ll never change them back, or that we won’t form a new opinion entirely.  My writing worries will go, I’m sure, as soon I get stuck into my next play.  If they don’t, I could always retrain as an accountant or something.

Ok, that will NEVER happen.  But the point is that we can and should keep our options (and minds) open.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Thursday.

A Life Without Bacon

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Hello reader!  How are you this morning?  Good weekend?

One day last week two friends and I were pootling towards central London on a Piccadilly line train, asking each other ridiculous questions and generally amusing ourselves.  One of these friends is a vegetarian who has decided that she will never eat meat again.  My other friend and I were impressed but perplexed: who can promise themselves that they’ll never eat bacon ever again?  Even if you could manage a few months or years, surely you’d crack eventually?  And if the bacon doesn’t get you, surely the burgers will.  No?  What about steak?  Pulled pork?  Chicken nuggets?? Apparently not.  Not to be put off by something as trivial as our friend’s important life decision, we started baiting her a bit:

“Would you rather eat meat or poo yourself in public?”
“Would you rather eat meat or have to sleep with your gay best friend?”
“Would you rather eat meat or have us follow you around asking these questions for the rest of our lives?”

I’m very proud to say that our silliness did not deter our veggie friend one bit: she will never eat meat again.  She was a bit taken aback by our fascination (partly, I think, because she has no idea what she’s missing – roast dinners, for crying out loud!) but mainly because in her head this topic has never even been up for debate.  She has never doubted her decision for a second, and no matter what we threatened her with – career failure, being single forever, bad hair – she was unmoveable.

I have an enormous amount of respect for her, and for her certainty about something that must inform quite a big part of her lifestyle.  I think that we all have things that we are fairly sure about without being absolute.  For example, I don’t think that I will ever watch a Keira Knightley film ever again, BUT if someone casts Christian Bale in a movie with that talentless ironing board of a human being, I will have to do some serious thinking.  I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it.  Ooh, coffee…

We all have opinions that we’re pretty sure of, and beliefs that we don’t think we could compromise on.  To a certain extent it’s more difficult in our generation to have any absolutes in our mindsets, because the internet, the news and the people who monitor equal opportunities can all throw us a curve ball at a moment’s notice.  New information, new opinions and new possibilities emerge all the time, and it can be a struggle to hold on to your beliefs in the wake of them.  I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to cling to an opinion that’s been proven wrong by science or what have you, just that if you’re a Christian (for example) and the Richard Dawkins brigade are throwing copies of his books at your house, it’s hard to keep resolution without becoming discouraged.

Well, let’s not be discouraged.  Let’s have some faith in ourselves and our beliefs.  Your instincts, thoughts and feelings are all valuable and worth hearing, and you mustn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  I might be incredibly sad for my vegetarian friend that the joy of a cooked breakfast is forever unavailable to her, but I am very proud of her conviction.

Have the best Monday that anyone has ever had in the history of Mondays.