Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not the usual litany of whinges today, rather several things to feel decidedly chuffed about ...

a) fourteen lengths of the local pool & in to work before eight o'clock had struck
b) I find the horribly expensive David Crystal Language Lectures DVD that I had assumed was irretrievably lost/half-inched by a student/ 'borrowed' by an ex-colleague & never returned
c) fiddling with the pen I broke last week, I slam it down end first (just for the hell of it) & discover - miraculously - that it works again!
d) the revised text I drew up over the weekend from a dog's breakfast of a policy document takes barely 50 minutes to check through & we're done
e) out of curiosity I drop in to the new Nias art shop down the road & find the very fountain pen I'd been looking for
f) late last night's discovery as I lay in bed listening to Radio 4 Extra trying to ignore the winds raging outside ... Elastic Planet. (A strange 'pataphysical series of absurdities narrated by the late great Oliver Postgate).

Yes, the blossom is cherrying.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The tooth gets a for-the-time-being repair with a stern warning that next time it's likely to be a crown.

But for the Achilles' tendon niggle, the footsteps leaving are lighter than those arriving.

How visits to the dentists make our sense of time elastic.


Thinking, once more, about the concept of sympathetic resonance & its relevance to schools in an age of crippling uniformity & (dread word) "alignment".

Do Administrators look at trees? Not one grows the same way & yet each finds its form. (Apply this principle to students.)


The younger Wafflette turned 13 yesterday (thanks to all who sent cards & good wishes) & today appears in one of the national newspapers riding her Scout group's entry to the 24-hour cycle marathon that took place this weekend.

& this despite the tempestuous wind & rain.

Positively heroic.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Must be an issue with the iPad, works fine like this.

Cosmic symbolism in utility company access covers.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Just wasted ten minutes deleting & then reloading the Blogpress app. For some reason it has decided not to accept photos.

So you will have to imagine the picture I was trying to upload of the metal water hydrant cover that looks just like a medieval engraving of the cosmos.

Maybe tomorrow.


The blossom is out in the road.

Friday, March 27, 2015

I drop my biro (the good birthday present one that has lasted over a year) & - yes - the mechanism has gone. Useless now.

5 minutes later ...

I bite on a cheese sandwich & suddenly my tongue senses something sharp. The side of a back molar has gone.

This just when I'm feeling rather chipper after managing the third early morning pre-work swim & the prospect of the weekend ahead.

Look on the bright side etc..

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thinking today of the disappearance of the sense of shame in public life. How rare to hear of a politician, celebrity, sportsperson, director (you choose) admit yes, what I did was wrong & yes, I take full responsibility & yes, I will accept the consequences of my actions (which will include those of a financial nature proportional to my earnings). The kind of thing the Japanese still seem to do well.

Instead, there are the behind the scenes negotiations with lawyers & PR people & other 'contacts', a suitable period of lying low & then - surprise! - a reappearance & an even more lucrative deal. Maybe a little bit of consultancy work to tide you over (private contract rates, of course).

& I'm not only thinking of Jeremy Clarkson ...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Q: What have your belly button & Athens got in common?
A: They're both in the centre of Greece.

(A joke that requires some imagination & tolerance of French to English but certainly has the twelve year-old member of this family in hysterics).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Timely & sobering piece by Marina Warner in the current LRB on the betrayal of Higher Education. It doesn't take much imagination to see far wider applications for her argument.

& the phrase "cruel optimism" rings oh so horribly true.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The pool reopens. There's a group of the regulars standing at the door by 7:45 waiting to be let in. Handshakes, nods, a few kisses. When we do enter, the receptionist comes forward & embraces us each in turn. It might be a family reunion.

The changing area has been done up - a bright blue floor. The cubicles are much the same but the showers have been upgraded (although with a weaker jet).

As for the pool, the deep end is shallower & there's a kind of airtex feel to the floor. (Without my glasses more might have changed but I wouldn't know).

It's good to be back in the water & slowly a stroke & breathing rhythm returns. By the end I've done 30 lengths without too much effort. Leaving, there's that unbeatable feeling of having worked over all sorts of muscles other forms of exercise don't reach. The nostrils seem cleansed & the air fresher. & as for an appetite ...

So ... jogging must wait until the Achilles stops hurting (even out for a walk this evening it starts to twinge). Swimming is back on the menu.


Six Nations ... putting all partisanship aside, it is fair to say that if anyone won today it was rugby itself.

An extraordinary day of play by any standards & I'd assume the most points scored in a single afternoon's worth of games. The second half by Wales was truly heroic suggesting that Gatland might be correct in thinking they could take on any team in the World Cup. Well done to Ireland & it was also good to see a French team beginning to show the kind of flair we know they have in them.


Friday, March 20, 2015

No eclipse to be seen from my classroom this morning due to low cloud. Students come in saying yeah they'd seen it via BBC online. Whatever.


The Marcin Wasilewski CD (Spark of Life) arrives - finally. I'm listening to it right now. Yesterday it was the Carlos Kleiber Tristan. & I am slowly working my way into the Jan Swafford biography of Beethoven. Plenty to keep me going.


So let's get this right ... a tank is commandeered to drive through London & deliver a petition signed by near to one million people asking to have an overpaid bigot reinstated. Meanwhile ...


Wales v Italy tomorrow ... might they just pull it off? Could France suddenly find the inspiration to beat England? & a dejected Ireland crumple before a Scotland desperate for at least one win? Questions, questions ...


This really is a beautiful CD by the way ... (now track 3) ...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Discussion continues about the future of Top Gear.

Here are some suggestions I've overheard for a replacement presenter that would maintain the 'spirit' & 'quality' of the original programme:

1. a rusty old exhaust pipe

2. a pile of out of date copies of The Daily Mail, Telegraph, Sun, etc.

3. a presentation-size cheque of the amount the licence payer/taxpayer has paid & will pay out directly or indirectly

4. a life-size cardboard cut-out of the cheeky chappy with ventriloquist dummy-style mouth operated by one of the other two 'boys'

5. several filing cabinets of submitted proposals for interesting new series by innovative upcoming talents that have been declined due to insufficient funds being diverted into 'major earners'

6. a child's pedal car (with lunch box accessory containing crumbs of a beef sandwich) circa 1960

7. a large piece of turf from the Isle of Wight with a sign Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted stuck in it

8. a dusty shelf of VHS tapes containing the Best of Alan Whicker

9. a stretch of cycle lane with FAIR GAME written in large white letters

10. a draft document of the Tory government's policy for the privatisation/dismantling of the BBC

... don't say you weren't warned ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reading Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd having avoided it for a variety of silly reasons. Tess I'd had to read (& teach) Jude, too. This one, however, had slipped by.

Perhaps it's the R F Langley Journals acting as a lens but so many passages come into focus - on the constellations, flowers, the landscape, interiors of a house or barn ... Perhaps, too, it's a function of middle age - attention caught not so much by the rather too contrived romantic plots but all the other 'stuff' that Hardy includes. I find I'm even enjoying the heavy-handed philosophising or a phrase such as "his square-framed perpendicularity" which verges on the comical. It's a writing which has different grains to it. Satisfying in its textures - rough as often are.

It's interesting, too, to realise how time frittered in skimming websites on the iPad can be used to greater effect & reward absorbed in the pages of a novel.

It feels good to get back into the habit of dwelling in the page.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Apologies for the drop-off in posts (& I was doing so well since the New Year ...) but I had warned that this week was going to be busy. Bar one track, I have listened again to the Orals & made a few adjustments here & there to the points. First impressions, however, are more or less accurate. Although, as I have always maintained at conferences, the moment you listen to a recording the whole nature of the communicative 'event' alters.


The Clarkson farce/ fracas continues to smear itself across the media landscape. Wouldn't anyone with any decency just resign?

& here's another thing: it seems that media 'star' X can strike a contract with the BBC in which all the financial benefits accrue to their production company. However, if they step out of line & the programme is shelved it falls to the BBC to compensate buyers of the programme. Shouldn't there be something more like the Lloyds Names agreement - yes, you get the fat yearly payments but only on the understanding of the need to fork out as & when a major accident occurs. By this logic shouldn't Clarkson take at least some of the financial responsibility for the pulling of Top Gear? (Or am I so 'out of touch' with current thinking? A bit like sell-offs of public assets - if they don't reach a high enough price, the government will compensate the share buyers. Makes sense???)

(Enough Clarkson, Ed.)


Thursdays there's a most enjoyable lunchtime event - In The Groove - where an invited member of staff, student, or parent gets to play their selection of vinyl records. This week it fell to the music teacher who played us the last two movements of Beethoven's 5th Symphony. As he explained, the decision to play the last two sections was deliberate since so many people know the first & leave it at that. Looking out of the window - the bright March midday - listening to the performance & the crackle & pop of week-worn groves was nothing short of epiphanic. Bart's explanation of the way that Beethoven had taken symphonic form & reinvented it rather than dulling the experience with dry theory only served to enhance. Now I get it ...

The first thing I did on returning home that afternoon was dig out my Karjan box set (the 1960s remasters) & play the whole piece through full blast. Twice. Yesterday in Fnac I found the much-talked about Kleiber Vienna Philharmonic disc (on sale, too) & played that. Sensational! Never have I heard such a vivid performance of orchestral music. Obviously I have heard expert conversations on Radio 3 in which different recordings have been compared but never experienced for myself so viscerally (for want of a better word) such a total transformation of a composition from one conductor to another. Wow.

If you've never heard the Kleiber Beethoven 5 then I recommend you do. Nothing short of miraculous.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

.... trying to type this as Lily keeps pawing me & licking the iPad. ... We've just had a power cut which sank the entire road into darkness. Weirdly, cooking dinner earlier, I had an intimation that the electricity was going to go off. Spooky.


So Cameron publishes a statement in support of Jezza & then tweets on Terry Pratchett. You wonder whether either is correct behaviour by a Prime Minister.

On the subject of Terry Pratchett, I have never got round to reading him despite having a student every so many years who is major fan. If anyone could recommend a book to begin with I would be grateful - the whole Discworld back catalogue is rather forbidding.


JogBlog ... in case you were wondering ... Sunday was a pleasurable 3km skip around the Hippodrome but I should have recognised the warning signs walking down to the bakery afterwards. That old twinge ... Sure enough, out walking on Monday evening the Achilles pulls again - walking! & so I am once again taking it quietly. Tuesday & yesterday - nothing. Today, a tentative walk around the block. I just don't seem to be able to sustain anything at the moment. In a week's time the pool will reopen & so swimming will once again be on the agenda. Maybe that's how it has to be - swimming with a once a week jog. Better than nothing, I suppose ...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, it is possibly more scandalous that a BBC producer had not punched Jeremy Clarkson. Imagine the temptation.

My current theories on the whole Jezza 'fracas' story are:

1) he has already had an offer from Sky to front some other car show (a whole new meaning to the words 'exhaust' & 'vehicle') & this is a way to sever the contract.

2) he has an eye to politics & the upcoming election - whether front line or as a celeb crowd stirrer - & the BBC job might seem compromising (thus do something drastic to precipitate the exit). Question is which way would he go: Dave or Nigel?

3) he has such an inflated ego (aided by a similarly distended bank balance) that it seems he can flaunt basic decency & norms of behaviour - a syndrome shared by politicians, footballers, etc.. Of the thousands of fans voting for his being retained on Top Gear how many think he would even give them the time of day? The 'one of yer mates' image is a useful mask for a crafty media manipulator & insider to the Chipping Norton set. As to anyone else on less than several million a year: plebs & proles the lot of you.

While I wouldn't go so far as to liken him to Saville in terms of sexual proclivities, there is a nasty similarity in terms of someone who appears to have become a media 'untouchable'. Jimmy who seemed to be such a miracle worker; Jezza who seems to be such a popular naughty boy & bankable 'star'. Who dares pull the spark plug?

& only this morning there was talk of 'the talent' going elsewhere just as I've heard it said that Jezza has transformed popular journalism with his sardonic manner & heavily inflected delivery. In fact - & as he admits himself - his whole style is a rip off. Remember Alan Whicker? There you have it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Another day spent in the strange space of the oral examination room. Is this what dentists feel like all the time?


The good news ... just possibly Jeremy Clarkson has finally overstepped even the BBC's tolerance & will be pulled from the airways.


The bad news ... yet another reason to feel even greater ambivalence about Apple with the release of the Watch.

Really & truly who would want one? & is there a more perfect example of a technological manacle? The insidious power & subterfuge lies within the very name: Watch. Put it on & become a willing subject shackled to surveillance.

For 'branded' read 'banded'.

Monday, March 09, 2015

OK ... so here's a pretty tasty meatball recipe I tried out tonight (to general acclaim from the Trouble & Strife. Once in a while I get it right ... ).

Minced lamb - say, half a kilo.
Bulgur wheat (cooked & cooled).

Mix depending on the ratio you like. (Mine were more meat than wheat).

Season with - ground cumin, coriander, chilli (teaspoon of each)
Plus garlic (pressed); lemon zest; spring onions (sliced & chopped finely).

Roll the mixture into balls. Lay in a baking tray & place under a hot grill. Keep an eye on them - you want them browned on the outside & cooked through but not dried out.

Serve with pita breads & yoghurt & some kind of salad.

Surprisingly good.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Soundtrack to this weekend ...

Snuffling around in the Mediatheque as I do during a Saturday afternoon in search of audio truffles I hear something vaguely familiar ... Burial? No ... the vocals could be Julia Holter ... no, the rhythms are too insistent ... in fact: Andy Stott & the album Faith in Strangers. I get home, play the first two tracks & then hare back to borrow his previous CD Luxury Problems. That good.

Difficult as it is to imagine but I am not a paid up member of the Manchester House scene ... nevertheless this music is immediately affecting. Chasing up interviews with Andy S. it's intriguing to see his aesthetic - mistakes are the most interesting thing you can do; start without any idea & see what comes up; no rules; etc..

Another opening.

Yesterday morning ... I cycle up to the Tram Museum & pause on the bridge. How could I have not noticed these before?

Padlocks left in the wire mesh. Tokens of remembrance - but of what? A suicide plunge? A romantic tryst? A last gasp at what stage of a run? Fascinating & just a little disconcerting. The evident symbolism of the bridge with the steady stream of traffic below.

Trees against the Saturday morning sun. Or an ECM cover photo if you prefer.

This morning (Sunday) I opt for two circuits of the Hippodrome which makes 3km in all. Twenty one minutes - the first lap is the slower as I take time to ease into a stride. Whether this is 'good' or not is irrelevant. What matters most is to be out in the fresh air & moving.

Tomorrow the Oral exams begin - thirty one in all. It's a slog but if they go well a rewarding one.

Friday, March 06, 2015


However, we get there in the end: coursework delivered, oral exam schedule published, extracts selected & ready. Thunderbirds are go.

This week, next week & the one after are probably the most critical in the IB academic year. Get them out of the way & suddenly Spring is in the air, & thoughts turn again to things other than teaching.


The 5th March issue of the LRB is especially good - the article on the government's misguided sell-off of student loan debt, John Lanchester (as always), David Craig on the spirit of England, Will Self on typewriters ... plus Adam Phillips still to read ...


Wondering how to work a trip to London to see the Diebenkorn exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Stuck behind the dustmen this morning I have no option but to dawdle along in first as the bins are emptied & bags thrown into the crusher. Up near the junction, one of the dustmen (a dustwoman, to be exact) starts gesticulating for me to reverse - the lorry is going to back down into the adjacent road. I watch with admiration as the driver edges this great beast of a vehicle past parked cars, bollards & other hazards. A couple of inches on either side & all would be lost.

Truly impressive.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Tempting as it was to go for a jog this afternoon (sun shining etc.) I make a cup of tea & slowly work through this year's coursework submissions sitting at the kitchen table.

Bitter experience has taught me the value of applying the drop of oil to the right part at the right moment.

Keep the focus now & reap the benefits in July.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The annual trade book festival takes place here in Brussels this weekend but the really interesting stuff (as always) lies around the corner in the (virtually unadvertised) other building - the artist book works.

Walking in I feel immediately 'at home' which is a rare feeling for me. Such abundant evidence of a shared love & enthusiasm. I stop to chat with various people & whether in English or stilted French it's a pleasure to talk about papers, typography, decisions of various kinds. If only all the world were like this.

I buy a tea bag containing shreds of paper stating 'Oui' from a Japanese book artist (name?); an accordion volume 'Pied de Nez' from an Italian - Chloe Francisco; plus this just out from Editions Esperluete ...

A morning well spent.

. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...