Monthly Archives: October 2010

Playing with time

Have we have been given an extra hour this morning, or we have had an unwanted hour imposed on the chronology of this day. How do you see the clocks going back? I feel it is an imposition, but then I feel the measurement of time by clocks and a Pope’s calendar as a deep constriction on my soul. I cannot deny the passing of “time”, the moon waxes and wanes, the tides rise and fall, the seasons change, night follows day and so on but surely the word time is too limited to encapsulate all these concepts?

On a side note, it is strange to me that English has so many, many words and so many of them useless to most of us. Words that name words if you are linguist or grammarian (I’m not) or words that set others apart from the run of the mill of us: academic words, scientific words, specialist words that we have no cause to employ. All useful in their own way I am sure for a very few people. What about a wider range of words for the human condition: a choice of words for time, and birth and love. We have such a tragically limited choice to describe the huge range of concepts and feelings we experience.

Back to time. There is the time most of us are bound to live our lives by but we are all aware there are other types of time that we experience: when time does something else. The middle of the night, the way time passes when your child is ill or someone is dying, the way time hangs when we travel. The Greeks divided time into two concepts: kronos and kairos. Kronos is the sequential, linear time we measure with our clocks and calendars; that time we live, work and die by.

Kairos cannot be defined exactly by one word in English – it is a concept – those moments of opportunity that place us only in the now without measurement. Kronos is defined as quantative, kairos as qualitative. Kairos is something to not merely note, but to participate in. I experience this when I look at certain paintings, listen to music, stand under a tree in the wind. This is personal to me, everyone will have their own kairos moments. Sometimes the opportunity offered to humans through participating in this kind of time, not just marking it off, changes the course of history. Even if that is not for you today, kairos still offers each of us the opportunity to now and then transcend the limitations of the clockface.

On Sheep

Everyone knows they are a bit lacking in the brain department, so if I told you that there was a sheep with it’s head stuck in the fence nearly every day I was away this week you might not be surprised.

We arrived in Herefordshire too late on Monday afternoon to see the sheep that got its head stuck in the electric fence to receive continuous electro convulsive therapy: I am sure it feels much less depressed now. Whether that was the same sheep that got its head stuck the following day in the gate, I’m not sure and again which sheep it was that got all tangled up in barbed wire early the following morning is a moot point. On Thursday we had no sheep stuck anywhere at all – they had been moved into a big field nearby – bliss. Then on Friday we had a double whammy: one sheep stuck on its back with its legs waving in the air like a beetle and, a bit sadly, one dead sheep. The dead one had had a cough for a day or two, the vet had been called that morning and given it some medication and it had died in the afternoon. You don’t get your money back in these instances. Fortunately, the overturned sheep was righted by one of the children.

I tell you, next time you enjoy a lamb chop just consider how much manpower has gone into producing that meal. By my reckoning each beast will have had to be rescued at least a hundred times by some poor farmer before he or she turns a measly profit on the animal. Buy from your farmer direct if you can because it sure as hell isn’t Mr Sainsbury who treks out day after day to free the thicko sheep for your plate.

One that got stuck earlier

A sensible shepherd

Another year ticks over

on my neon ageometer, so I am going where there is no internet to have a rest. This is my theme tune for life normally, but sometimes I need a break from my usual self.

I’ll be back when I’m 41.

This is not a goldfish

It is a molly. Mollies are notable in the world of fish for being livebearers: the females pop out sprogs not eggs.

This one was rehomed in our tank for being an old rogue who constantly fathered molly babies, he came with his equally rampant son (who is not gold). They’ve chilled out a lot since they arrived, but that’s because there are no females (that I know of) in their new abode. He looks like he’s got no eyes to me but he’s ok in a freaky kind of way. I don’t know why, but in his new celibate state he puts me in a mind of a wizened old midget monk I met in a monastery in the Troodos mountains…

That’s another story.


That’s what’s in most shops as far as I am concerned. Tat, crap and rubbish. And what I can’t understand is why there are so many people wandering around them looking so happy to be diverted from life by all this shit piled high. I tell you, that really is one of life’s complete mysteries to me.

Christian Boltanski and "No Man's Land"

More on Boltanski here

“Worn to a ravelling”

The moment you have a child your future possibilities for sleep are completely in the lap of the Gods. Every parent knows this, but you don’t really know it until it is actually too late.

I crawled through the first years of motherhood on my hands and knees in utter exhaustion and I can’t say it hasn’t improved because it has. The eldest is a paragon of virtue remaining neatly arranged in her own bed all night, every night. She even has the decency to lie-in a bit. The youngest however is a different matter. Since a babe in arms she signed some kind of secret hideous lifetime timeshare to occupy the parental bed and although she starts every night in her own pit she invariably makes her way into mine 75% of the time.

At 6 she is too big. She is too elbowy and sharp-kneeed, she is too leg-drapey and hair-tickly and she keeps me awake. She ignores requests to vacate and just burrows further into the mattress like a mite. Worst of all she clutches items of desire in her sleep and brings them with her. It turns out last night I was not sleeping with luminous green slime called Halloween Goo. I am stubborn though. As much as she disturbs my sleep, I refuse to play musical beds. If I go down that road I end up in a narrow single with a dog, and a cat and then she often follows me back and gets in there too. It is a nightmare.

So this is how I was listening to Radio 4 this morning before Farming Today was even on. There was some programme that went like this.

This woman with a rather saccharine lilt was saying how it was miracle that she was no longer crippled by her back. She had been on Incapacity Benefit for 12 years. That’s not working for 12 years you know, because your back hurts. Then she had had this miracle. Someone had suggested she remove her piercing. They surely said whereabouts on her body this piercing was located, but because I was trying to sleep I must have missed it. A piercing that crippples you for 12 years? Where the hell was it? I’m thinking a bolt in her neck. Anyway, let that be a lesson to you all. Metal junk in your body is unnecessary and evil.

Then thank goodness that was over and I had Clare Balding and her Ramblings round Glasgow’s Necropolis with a load of women history detectives. Rather unkindly I admit, it has crossed my mind that the wee small hours are the time programme schedulers let women on the radio because no-one is bloody listening. The theory is flawed because Ramblings is on during the day and rightly so because Clare is still excellent, even when I would rather be in the Land of Nod than wandering around a cemetery in Glasgow. Then I had to suffer the actual Farming Today, but I hung on long enough for the Today without the farming, wherein the great John Humphrys was caught out reading a piece on “peasants and phartridges” which turned out to be a typo from Simon Barnes’ article in today’s Times. Tut, tut.

By the time we got to torture in Iraq and Rooney as the greediest man alive (you’d never guess it to look at his face would you?) I was comatose. So no song lyrics in my head this morning, just a bit of a headache, a stiff back (no piercings, STUPID woman) and a distinct affinity with the Tailor of Gloucester.

Simpkin, alack I am undone. No more twist.

Pity our cat can't make tea

*These are the ramblings of a sleep-starved person so if they make no sense (nonsense) what else did you expect. I might be pulling myself together to predict the loser of the Pacing Rost Trophy at Donny later…

A bit of peace & quiet…

…after a hectic week. Image courtesy of Mary Russell, Withindale Mill, Suffolk. It’s Constable’s River Stour but further upstream than Flatford Mill and without the pesky tourists.

The actual water meadow

A Series of Alarming Events

Yesterday started ok. Cold, but not as icy as the day before, although that could have been because I put on a ridiculous striped woolly hat for the morning trot with the dog. Said dog behaved impeccably until he found himself left near a shrubbery into which he vanished. Somehow he ended up on the even more impeccable bowling green where snipping and manicuring was taking place. I had to climb over the fence, walk across the green with a fake sense of purpose and have him pointedly ignore me before vanishing off again. My friend was smart enough to position herself around a corner at an exit point onto the road into the park. He eventually hoved into view thundering past me with his finessed bollocks to you sort of look, but then stopped dead in shame when he met her round the corner. Better than being stopped dead by a car. Git.

This partially conspired to make me 10 minutes late for my first meeting in one place, which morphed into 15 minutes late for the next in another. Behind by a whopping 30 minutes when I finally got to work, the snowballing time lag ended up added another 30 minutes to my own deficit. Losing a whole hour is pretty slack – I’m hoping to retrieve it the weekend after next.

Having lost an hour, I had a pile of stuff to do workwise at home after the school run, so I was pretty annoyed when this loud car or house alarm started going off and broke my concentration. I got the youngest to turn down the tv to see where it might be coming from; we decided it was down the road. In the end it went on so long I told her to turn the tv up and I put my headphones in. Lucky then I heard the doorbell. I went to the door in a bit of a huff and said to my neighbour who had summoned me that this alarm going off for so long was a sodding nuisance.

And, this I am afraid is completely true, he said to me: it’s your alarm.

Whereupon I think he was expecting me to say something along the lines of oh silly me, I’ll turn it off. What I said was: well it shouldn’t be going off because it doesn’t work. He clearly thought I was crazy, so he came in to check that the control pad was indeed dead, which it is because having never had the alarm code the executive decision was taken to snip the wires to it ages ago.

So like Rudi being caught in shame round the corner by one neighbour this morning, I was now trapped in my own yard in total humiliation because it turns out my house alarm is the worst noise known to man, I didn’t twig it was mine until someone came round to tell me and, even then, I couldn’t turn it off.

I suggested smashing it up with a big stick, but the neighbour is a proper tradesman and he fetched a long ladder which he went up. He then came back down and fetched a screwdriver with which he might have felt like rapping me over the knuckles at the very least for useless articleness, but being gracious he went back up the ladder and managed to make the noise stop. A pity he couldn’t do the same for the usual cacophony in my head, some of which ends up here. There’s loads that don’t!

A nice genteel spot for a tear-up innit

Gamblers Anonymous

I’ve been thinking about our Chancellor. Imagining him as this great gambler that the opposition suggest he is. He doesn’t fit though. I can’t see him round the paddock. I can’t see him chucking a few quid on a favourite as the money pours in for it as they go down. I can’t see him siding with an outsider at a huge price in the manner of the great speculators. I’ve looked at the dog track too. Is George hanging around with a big pie and bag of money? No, I look hard, he’s just not there. If he does fit a gambling profile it would only be one of those who do the football sheets the bookies print up for a Saturday. Playing the long game, looking at everything in the round. Waiting for a whole afternoon to see where you stand. That’s pretty bloodless (but probably smart) stuff to me. Our George is no gambler.

Anyway, that’s enough thinking about him. What I was going to say was: one of the upsides of never sticking at anything for more than five minutes before now is that I have managed to work in most job sectors: voluntary, now snazzily titled The Third Sector, the private and now the public. On the way, I have managed to pick up at least three pension policies (one of which I have lost, but after yesterday I’m not going there) and I wonder if what I am saying is that with experience of working for charities, investment banks and education (whilst also having a whirl in retail, administration and dog-walking) can I see all sides of the Spending Review? Certainly I have no final salary pension to cloud my vision and when I do the maths of half a million public sector jobs to go against many more to potentially be created in the private sector I wonder if it is all as bad as I feel it might be.

I hate to admit it, but there is undoubtedly waste somewhere in the state. It’s just I’ve never seen it or delivered it. My neighbour over the road works in the Youth Service. The next-door neighbour has left a trade to teach the trade, in my own house we work in education and social housing. None of us are larging it. When I worked in the investment banks it was hard work, it was long hours, but the fiscal rewards were considerable and when you left the office you could switch off. The work I do now cannot be left at the door, although you have to try. I can honestly say that the hardest work I have ever done has been in the public sector. Everything is target driven, quantified, quality assured, value-added. I cannot just point to all the students that always pass their qualifications as evidence of achievement, I have to measure their onward progression, their destinations, the signposting and support along the way. This isn’t peculiar to me, it is expected. Demanded. Bring the outside in say OFSTED, knowing full well this is the way to make learning stick but also aware it takes a lot more planning than a few worksheets, and don’t just do it – prove to us you do it. Evidence you’re doing it. Track you’re doing it and then measure your success and retention against targets (87% if anyone’s interested). All this in your hourly teaching rate. Oh yes. My colleagues and I are nothing if not value for money.

I’m not moaning (much). I like my job. I like it when people move on to jobs they thought would never be for them because we worked with them at some point in their journey. I like working with people who say they can’t do something and then find, actually, they can. Education can play part of the endless transformations people can have in their lives; it’s a bit addictive.

But I’m still thinking of becoming an entrepreneur. In the wake of these cuts, there will be job losses and if you stay in adult education what’s the point in walking with people down a road to a dead-end? Perhaps it won’t be that bad, perhaps the increase in funding for apprenticeships will help create jobs. I don’t know. What I do know is that the creativity and development skills you need to deliver against the skills for life curriculum for individual learners are exactly what you would need to create businesses and employ people. The advantage being the only boss of you is your profit and loss sheet. Maybe in the shorter term of predicted higher unemployment that’s what society needs. To survive the capitalist way (albeit with the pitiful 0.1% levy on banks’ balance sheets) maybe I’ll have to pretend to be one for a while.

Winston maybe, and probably a Dave

Say hello to Uncle Fester (via On wishes and horses)

Reblog alert: two MOBOs and counting…

I really like this track. There's some honesty in them there lyrics: Now I drive pass the bus I used to run for I'll leave her in the club; I'll never ever walk her home DJ won't you give me one more track Pass Out … Read More

via On wishes and horses