22 Jul 2010

I'm leaving...

...and moving here:

It's a non-anonymous blog about my adventures in China.

Thanks for all the comments, nudges and nonsensical conversations. See you on the other side (where I promise to write more often...)


Duke Fandango

4 May 2010

Doctor, doctor...I'm a lazy bastard.

As a completely untrained medical practitioner (although I do quite like Scrubs), I feel it is my prerogative, nay, my duty, to alert the general public of a new and destructive infection.

Sloped Shoulderitus.

'But how will I be able to accurately recognise this horrific condition?' I hear you wail like a stuck pig.

Welcome to the Dr Fandango medical advice line...

General Comments:

Sloped Shoulderitus is a condition found in any number of medium to large sized organisations. It often collects in the abdominal cavity of middle to senior management or anyone who has a modicum of responsibility but lacks the motivation, wherewithal or ability to perform what should be their job thereby forcing the unlucky surrounding workforce to do not only their own job, but pick up the slack from suffers. Basically, feckless cunts.


The main symptom of Sloped Shoulderitus in sufferers, is a complete inability to take responsibility for what is ostensibly their job. When asked to give some vital information or work they will exhibit the primary symptoms - shoulders raised into the 'up' position, hands outspread and a roll of the eyes. This will often be followed by a 'tut', often used to imply that it isn't that person's job and they are 'extremely sorry mate, no it hasn't been done'. You are supposed to infer this as 'someone else has fucked up'. This will strike a non-sufferer as somewhat odd. Primarily because you will have irrefutable evidence that you are in fact asking exactly the right person. These symptoms will probably make a non-sufferer want to ram a ball point pen into the victim's pseudo-sympathetic right eye. This is a natural, evolutionary, reflex action created to prevent the spread of the disease.


People infected with Sloped Shoulderitus will undoubtedly be seen by those in senior management as streamlined and efficient. This is because they spend the vast majority of their time picking fluff from their genital region, arranging Post-It notes into scale models of the Reichstag and downloading CCTV footage of attractive interviewees onto their hard drive, only shifting their pathologically lazy arses to do work given from above. They will ultimately be promoted, creating a cascade effect as the tasks given slide effortlessly off of their sloped shoulders. If we could harness the energy created by fast flowing work, we'd be off oil in a week.


There is no known cure for Sloped Shoulderitus. As such, preventing the spread to the disease is the only course of action. I recommend a double tap to the forehead. If circumstance prevents you having access to a firearm then do your best with a Sellotape dispenser or failing that, a paperclip.

30 Apr 2010

Beaten, never broken.

It was a hot day. The sun beat down on me as I walked across the hard, barely green, ground. My right hand was taped to support my weak fingers. I brought my forearm across my brow to sweep the sweat before it slipped into my eyes. My bare knees showed the cuts and scrapes of last time. My left ankle creaked as I walked. No matter; the pain would soon be replaced by adrenaline.

I looked over the field and took stock of what was about to happen. Fourteen men looked back - grim determination etched deep into their faces. I knew that this was going to be hell but my brothers in arms were there. They would sacrifice their bodies for me. I would do the same for every single one of them. As one we turned and looked at the enemy. Rage, aggression and fury took us. We would fail today - we all knew it - but by all that we were, all that we could be, we would fight until we could fight no more. We were determined to show that no matter the odds, no matter the outcome, we would be proud to call ourselves a team.

The ball went up. We chased. I pumped my legs to get there, to stop the play, to prevent an early shaming. I drew close and watched their receiver brought to the ground. I joined the pile of bodies that surrounded the break down, forcing my weight over the ball, feeling the rough embrace of my team bind on and drive. Every fibre of my being willing the opposition back. The smell of musk, dust and Deep-Heat filled my nostrils.

Later, there was a break by the terrible opposition. I ran, feeling the turf pound the soles of my feet, towards him barely considering his huge physical advantage. I flung my body towards the giant. My hope was that the contact would be good. I smashed my shoulder into his stomach and started to club my feet into the solid earth. He caved, dropping into touch as he went down. We won the ball.

A lineout. I leapt clear towards the hot sun, reaching for the most precious thing on the pitch. The lifters in front and behind held me suspended. I was in their trust. One wrong foot and they would let me crash back down, thudding my fragile body against the ground. I leaned, caught and passed, relieved that I had won the contest and that I wasn't lying mangled on the floor.

One of us tackled one of them. He dropped the ball forwards in the contact as he crumpled like a rag-doll. We scrummed down, sixteen men locked together in our own private battle. We didn't have the weight or power to compete. We lost the ball back to them. The ball was picked out and passed to their fly-half spinning gently through the air as it was caught. I detached myself from the scrum and ran as hard as I could. The ball carrier set his body into the curious half-sit, half-crouch position he adopted to kick. His kicking had been sound all day and we were growing weary of his ability to push us back deep into our own territory. I knew I was the only player chasing; knew that if I didn't get there fast enough we would be back the other side of our ten-metre line. His boot struck the ball as I leapt into the air, arms outstreatched, looking like a bedraggled Superman. The white flash of the ball struck my wrist and tumbled sideways into the awaiting arms of our full-back. Safety for now.

On our try line desperate not to concede any more points. Everyone knew that we were beaten. Hammered by try after try being scored against us, we had very little left to give and even less to play for, the result already decided. But yet, tackle after tackle went in. Bodies were given up to prevent another score. Nobody took a step back. Everybody fought.

This was my last match for the team. I was disapponted by the huge loss we took but proud to have represented the club. Proud to wear the black, gold and green.

Proud to be a man amongst men.

24 Apr 2010

Duke, Stop Fucking Around and Pay Attention!

I've never been diagnosed as having ADHD but working with a number of pupils who have I find myself coming to the conclusion that I show many of the symptoms.

It affects me in a variety of ways. I get bored quickly and often find myself being distracted by anything other than what I should actually be doing.

I have great plans for my blog. I think of running jokes or thematic posts that I feel would be hilarious. Look at the manifesto post. Sure, it's a bit overlong and somewhat wordy but I thought it was quite funny. I then thought I'd run a series of posts based on a fictional parliamentary candidate getting into all kinds of amusing scrapes. Once again, plenty of room for cringe-worthy humour. Then I got bored writing about it. After ONE post.

I've done it before. I wrote a political profile on Lord Mandelson which I thought would turn into a series of satirical pokes at major British politicians. Didn't do it. How about the teaching advice posts that you promised us, Duke? Meh, other stuff happened.

How about my grand scheme to report the news in the style of a 1920s old time imperialist ("Today in the colonies there was some shooting. No white people were hurt.")? Or my plan to use literary critical theories to deconstruct the lyrics of modern pop songs (a Marxist reading of 'Single Ladies [Put A Ring On It]' anyone?) None of it happened. None of it will happen. As such my blog drifts aimlessly between personal mewlings and social commentary without any form of overall structure.

And it's not just on my blog. I can pretty much get any class I teach to be absolutely silent and working away like happy little things. That's great. Some teachers can't. The trouble is that I get bored so quickly that I start to wind the kids up. Stealing their pencil cases and hiding them. Pulling faces. Singing a nice song (currently my number one choice is 'Free Nelson Mandela' - I know not why). The other day I made a shadow puppet of a dog on the projector screen and pretended that it was throwing up the words on the PowerPoint I was using (yes, with sound effects). The kids generally ignore it or tell me to go away. One pupil once told me to 'grow up man-child'. Fair play.

This mucking around can occasionally turn a peaceful classroom into something approaching Brixton circa 1981. I then have to battle to get them quiet again.

Why do I do this? What possible use could it serve?

And when I have to complete work on my own I procrastinate like a mother fucker. If I have an 'absolute-must-finish' job I will spend twenty minutes working for every forty-five minutes of fucking about. This could be checking my blog, walking to the other side of the school to tell someone something (rather than send an email), try to improve my juggling, researching technical rugby moves that I will never pull off or even just staring at the light reflecting off the white board onto my ceiling. Sure, it looks pretty but I don't need it in my life.

It means that I'm 'okay' at a number of things (playing guitar, cooking, writing) but don't have the attention span to learn properly. Most of the computer games I buy are half finished. I listen to a CD non-stop for a week then put it away for the next twelve months.

There are however, some advantages. For instance, I have a knowledge about a lot of things. You could ask me a question on Roman civilisation, Russian literature or science and I'm usually pretty good at giving a half-decent response. I know, for example, that light can function as both a particle and a wave, that it is based on probability and can be in two places at once. That sounds impressive but that is the limit for me. I can't draw the equation that shows this for two reasons - I suck at maths and if I sat down, determined to get better, I would get distracted by a bee or something.

Anyway, I'm getting bored writing this. I'm off to play in my last match of the season. Have I told you about rugby?

Oh man rugby's great! So are 'Tool'! Dude, you've gotta listen to 'Tool'. They rock! Oh, have you ever eaten scallops? What about proper homemade jam? Do you watch 'Lost'? Yeah, I got bored too. How about 'The Wire'? It's great!

Ooh, look. A bee.

16 Apr 2010

Call the Election Off...Volcanic Death Cloud Wins By Default

At least that's what the news would have you believe.

I was working the other day (that's right bitches, I work in my holidays) and had BBC News 24 on as I marked some work. During this time the whole of UK airspace was closed due to the eruptions of an Icelandic volcano and the subsequent ash cloud it created.

I have just recounted the entire story for you in one sentence.

What the BBC decided to do was devote and entire day's worth of coverage to this very simple item.

To this end, they sent every available member of their reporting staff to what seemed like every single airport up and down the land in a desperate attempt to squeeze some kind of newsworthiness out of the dead, swollen corpse of an idea it actually was.

From the studio we were flung hyperactively to Stansted airport where surely there would be some kind of riot in place as disgruntled passengers demanded the blood of whomsoever was in charge.

Quite the opposite - "well, it's a nuisance but it can't be helped" quoted the generally genial British public.

Clearly this wasn't dramatic enough for the hard-nosed editors. So we instantly cut to Glasgow where another reporter was desperately trying to think of something to say. I can understand their thinking. Glasgow, full of angry Scottish people who will probably blame the lack of flights on 'poofy Englishmen who won't fly through a bit of cloud'. Surely the good people of Glasgow would be enragedly throwing concrete bollards through plate glass windows to show their displeasure?

Nope. It was very quiet. No one around.

And that was the story for the entire country. We went from city airport to city airport looking at banks of empty check-in desks and silent terminals to prove the no one was able to fly. In fact the only sound to break the cloister-like silence was the noise of waxy-faced failed actors trying to make the cleaning lady walking past sound like groundbreaking stuff.

There is of course a sure fire way of milking a story like the fucking cash cow it isn't and that is the rolling out of a collection of experts.

One even brought some volcanic ash with him to show what it was like. We had to sit through a full fifteen minutes of the reporter rubbing it between forefinger and thumb next to the microphone just to give us poor non-volcanic ash owning plebeians a sense of just how abrasive it was.

"Can you hear the rasping?" she spluttered like she'd just discovered the female orgasm.

She then, for reasons best know to herself, smeared it over the sleeve of her coat and held it to the camera as if she'd managed to do a poo in her training potty. "Look I'm so fucking clever, I can defaecate like a grown up".

After that almost sexually exciting period of reporting the whole hideous cycle started again. No airport was left unseen. There must have been a competition to see how many different ways the journalists could say 'usually this airport is really busy but now there is no one around'. Well, no shit. All the flights have been canceled.

My favourite quote had to be "it's no longer an airport, more like a shopping centre that you aren't allowed to leave". What a simile! What imagery! What bollocks!

In any case it made me realise that rolling news is at best an amusing way of spending an afternoon if you have nothing more productive to do with your life.

I say this because watching highly paid telly types attempt to make 30 seconds of news last for twenty minutes was like watching The Office.

Cringing, uncomfortable but ultimately one of the funniest things you'll see.