26 Mar 2010

Social Pariah...Moi?

It appears that I have become the scourge of society. Not me personally - I'm not currently living in a hollowed out volcano planning to unleash my super-mega death ray on an incredulous and totally deserving society. Not until I get that bank loan at any rate.

No, what makes me the social equivalent to a Pol Pot memorial awards dinner is that I'm a smoker.

The current societal view of a smoker is that we are nefarious outcasts bent on polluting the whole of society with our tobacco based addictions. Scuttling around in hastily constructed 'smoking areas' outside of pubs planning the overthrow of the Government. If there is a child in the surrounding area we will no doubt chain said child to the ground before forcing them to name every county in the country and laughing when they forget Rutland.

We are the new hate figures. Wreathed in the gray-blue smoke of pure, unadulterated evil.

This is clearly absurd. Yet smokers are increasingly penalised through this country's obsession with criminalising every possible sector of population.

This has come to a head this week with the proposal that smoking should be banned in every car. I could understand if this was for safety reasons. Using a mobile is rightly banned due to the distraction it creates. Eating is a bit of a gray area but I assume popping a sweet into your mouth when behind the wheel is kind of okay whereas consuming a roasted boar in the style of Astrix the Gaul would most likely end up in a humorous yet ultimately punitive court case. Likewise, playing squash, performing major heart surgery on a stoat, receiving oral sex, fishing, whittling, constructing Airfix models, dancing the Gay Gordon, watching cheap Dutch porn, and reading Dr Faustus are all banned when driving.

The thing is safety isn't the cited reason. No, it's to protect children from breathing in smoke.

Now this I don't really get. If this proposal ever becomes law (which I admit is unlikely) I will be banned from smoking in my car because I may cause a child to breath in second hand smoke. Ignoring for the moment the fact that I never drive children in my car, don't have children and don't plan on ever having any children I would be barred from making a personal choice in my own private space.


The justification for this was that police may not be able to see if there was a child in the car so it's best to just ban it all together.

Now I respect the police. They do a tough job and get a lot of stick. But what utter cretins must they be employing if they can't see a person in a car. I mean, are there only boss-eyed coppers on patrol now? Do they struggle to differentiate between a child and, oh I don't know, a seat with no one sat in it? Do they have to actually be certified blind to get called up to the force?

That's not to say that I don't think that children should be protected from the smoke of an adult. I do - I smoke as a choice, I don't have the right to inflict potential illness on another person, especially a child.

Likewise, I shouldn't be told where and when I can and can't consume a perfectly legal substance. It's just not cricket.

To this end I propose a radical rethink on this issue. Don't ban smoking in cars, ban children in cars.

Lets look at the pros and cons.

Pro - children are sticky and will infect your plush new car seats with a cocktail of snot, sweets, saliva, Farley's Rusks, milk, juice and extreme cases excrement.
Con - children have to get places to do children stuff.
Pro - children are really noisy and can distract even the best of drivers.
Con - people get funny about leaving their children by the side of the road.
Pro - you won't have to listen to 'are we there yet', 'I'm bored' or that fucking 'wheels on the bus' song again.
Con - no longer will you have an excuse for playing DVDs in the car.
Pro - fat children will be forced to walk their pudgy arses to school thereby loosing weight.
Con - car seat manufacturers will go bankrupt.
Pro - we will never have to see one of those self-indulgent 'Baby on Board' stickers again (yeah, well fucking done - you managed to procreate).
Con - ...nope, can't think of any more cons.
Pro - less inner city mums will feel compelled to drive what can only be described a scale version of the Challenger 2 main battle tank the 0.5 of a mile from their house to the school that their insufferable offspring attend.
Pro - I don't have to change my behaviour to conform to a frankly ridiculous and unenforceable law.

If smoking is this much of an issue just ban it. Totally. Make it a class A substance. Really. Force the whole of the nation to go cold turkey.

Can you imagine the consequences...

A whole nation shaking with withdrawal symptoms, licking the shelves in Boots for the trace remains of the nicotine replacement therapy patches. Perhaps we'll all make illicit trips to Amsterdam to smoke in cafes. Soon HM Revenue and Customs will be uncovering a Marlboro Mule trafficking system where large quantities of tobacco is smuggled into the country wrapped in condoms in an Eastern European's stomach.

Of course this is never going to happen. The Government makes far too much money on the duty from the sale of tobacco products.

But if they did bring in a total ban, everyone would know where they stand.

At the very least it won't be outside in the rain.

20 Mar 2010

Oh Fuck STED

On Monday we had the call. The call that strikes fear and untold panic into the hearts of every teacher in the land. The one that loosens bowels and compresses bladders.

OFSTED were coming in.

OFSTED is a portmanteau of Office for Standards in Education. They are the government's inspectors. They give you notice two days before they are due to arrive and then descend - in flash cars I might add - like a biblical plague.

They operate like the SS at the start of Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. They come in all smiles 'yes we're here to help you improve' before whipping out the MP42s and shooting at the floorboards.

No stone is left unturned. They will scour your school for any hint of something not quite right. This could be on any one of the 15 billion initiatives that have come into force over the last ten years. "What do you mean you haven't included a policy on creative development in lower school with a focus on community cohesion and its application across the Every Child Matters agenda? That is a 'Focus 12' priority and as such should have picto-implementation by now you twat" to someone who spluttering between sobs mummers "I just want to teach kids how to play hockey".

But that's an issue for the people with much larger pay-cheques than I. What I care about is when they just saunter casually into your classroom and stony faced ask for your 'Lesson plan, data sheets and motorcycle'.

I had this happen to me first period on Wednesday...

I was midway through my lesson. The kids were working well and I was circling the room checking the pupils' work. There was a thud on the steps leading to my classroom. I knew what was outside of the door. The handle slowly turned. The glass on the window was misted by the breath of the unspeakable horror that lay beyond it. The door opened with a sickening and somewhat cliched creak.

"Is this Year 9" the thing said, reptilian sibilance rasping in its voice.

"Er...yes. Yes it is." I stuttered with terror forcing my speech to quiver.

"Good...I will require a lesson plan and a data sheet". Its words inflicted primordial terror, my flight or fight response was coming into the fore. "Don't look into the eyes" I reminded myself aloud. She looked at me quizzically. "At the back" I squeaked, pointing to the chair I'd put everything on.

She sat. I had to do everything I could to be normal. I realised after three minutes that I had marched around my room thirteen times. I needed to calm down. A deep breath and a sip of water. Better.

The troll moved towards me.

"Lovely atmosphere in here"

"Well, I think that's unfair I jus...what!?"

"I said it's a lovely atmosphere in here - are you alright?"

"Yes - I've never had a compliment mid-lesson from an HMI before."

"Well, we're not monsters you know."


And then it dawned on me. This wasn't a hideous creature sent from the bowels of hell to torture my yet still living soul. This was a middle aged lady in a skirt suit. Now there is one thing that I know I do better than anything else on this Earth...

Charming middle-aged ladies.

So I cracked a few jokes. Talked about what I was doing with the kids and why I was doing it. How the kids were being loyal and working so well because they knew I was being assessed. She smiled and made notes.

At the end of the lesson I dismissed my pupils and stood awaiting my fate.

"That was fantastic" she said "I'm grading you as '1s' across the board. As an English specialist myself I'm very impressed by the quality of the learning that took place in a class that is quite low ability. Well done."

She left me shaking with relief.

I've worked 18 hours a day for the majority of this week. I've lost sleep. I've panicked like nothing else. The Duchess has had to put up with a gibbering wreck of a man slumped over a laptop - something she did with aplomb and great kindness.

But to be officially graded as an 'Outstanding' teacher made it all worth it - there is no higher accolade in the profession.

Next week we'll be watching videos. Outstanding be damned - I'm exhausted.

13 Mar 2010

I Say Gerald, This Shit Just Got Real...

I'm really fucking excited!

I've just had through the accommodation spec for China.

How this may seem like a small thing to get worked up about. Some facts about how big the rooms are and how many bathrooms there are? This should be enough to send any sane person into a catatonic state only surfacing to take on some more ale.

What it does for me is make me put the hood of my hoodie over my head and run around the room like Superman.

It has been a week of excitement in this regard (not running around like Superman - that's next week) as my current job was advertised and has been filled.


This means one of two things:

1) I'm like a messiah when it comes to the teaching profession and my Jedi-like understanding of pedagogy is so vast that the only way to compensate for my leaving is to get two people to do my job.

2) I've fucked up so much that the only way the school will be able to unravel the matted, unwashed and infested rug of my mistakes is to get two people working on it full time.

I'm going with number one (although I suspect I may be wrong).

It's a strange feeling being involved with the interview process for your own job. I have to say I was also frustrated by my workplace's lack of imagination when it came to possible interview techniques. None of my suggestions were taken up. These included:

§ Wrestling on the field (yes Seb, it was muddy and yes Seb, they were all female),

§ Asking the candidates to hum the Brazilian national anthem,

§ Getting the candidates to demonstrate how a cat would perform star jumps,

§ Holding up a red card and asking 'if this card wasn't red, what colour would it be?'

§ Requesting that the candidates say 'penile dysfunction' without giggling.

In the end though the people who got the (my) job are both fantastic teachers and they will do exceptionally well.

What all these little things do is make it all seem very real. I only have fifteen weeks of teaching before I bugger off on the biggest adventure of my life.

I do however foresee a problem with my current levels of excitement. In that I still have to do my job. I have to do it well. Or I'll be letting the school, the department and the kids down.

There are only so many times that I can be asked 'Duke, have you done this?' and I reply with:


I suspect once. On my last day.

There is another slightly more sobering side effect of this unbridled joy that I feel. The more excited I get about it the more 'real' (in a hippity-hop kind of way) it seems to the Duchess. The more I skip about singing 'I'm Going to China' to the tune of 'La Cucarachia' the more she realises that I'm feking off 8,000 miles away in a few months. That's not to say she isn't excited for me, or that she doesn't understand why I'm going but that she knows that it will be really hard for her to be alone. She is scared of the possibilities. The what ifs. The maybes.

So I have a bit of a dilemma. Either, I can be a proper boyfriend, go a bit low-key on the whole 'YIP-A-FUCK-A-DO' and acknowledge all the support that she has given me in getting this far in my career; or I get t-shirts made up with a photo of my face hovering over China and a massive shit-eating grin slapped on my chops.

Nah, I'm not that much of a cunt.

5 Mar 2010

Open Letter To Women

It has oft been said that communication between men and women is about as easy as playing tennis blindfolded. In a tar pit. With no legs. Under the sea. Whilst riding a dragon.

Or really fucking difficult.

Having had recent experience of this, I feel it's fitting that I add my rather profane views on the matter.

Open letter time!

Dear 50% of the population,

Why do you have to toy with our simple minds? Why do you feel compelled to confuse our basic jar-opening, heavy-stuff carrying, beer drinking, barbecuing, flat-pack making brains with your complex and frankly unnecessary mind twisting illogicality?

For example, if the Duchess is upset I will approach her with the logical reasoning that her situation is but a trifle in the grand scheme of things and that she should be happy with the good things in her life.


What you all actually want us to do is just nod, say 'it's going to be okay' and give you a hug.


There is one small problem. We don't fucking think like that. When you say 'I hate it all, I'm going to decapitate everyone who crosses my path' we're on the phone to the police saying 'sorry to bother you but I've got a Grade-A nutter in my house...yeah, very excitable, incoherent really. If I'm honest, I'm concerned for my safety. Okay, see you in five.'

Obviously you don't really think the things you say but the only way you seem to be able to communicate your emotions is through a verbalised version of the enigma machine. The only way we can decipher this code would be through the employment of a team of highly trained scientists, the world's most powerful computer and the combined back catalogue of Sex In The City and Desperate Housewives on DVD.

However, I feel that there are a number of ways that we can work together to create a better, brighter, future:

§ When you are having a 'crisis' I will listen patiently to what you have to say without interjecting. At key points in your tear fueled tirade I will hold up a number of flash cards with 'True', 'False' and 'Fuck Off' written on them. Merely nod when the appropriate card is shown.

§ If your bad day coincides with your menstrual cycle you will push the emergency button that will sound the alarm 'WOAH, BODYFORM!. I will bring chocolate and tissues before hiding myself in the 'Man Zone Bunker' (otherwise known as the pub).

§ You will promise not to be angry through the use of text messages. I feel that getting yelled at for 10 pence a pop isn't cost effective and makes me feel like shit FOR SOMETHING I DIDN'T DO! Please wait until I see you so I can hold up my flash cards.

§ You look funny when you're crying (and kind of cute). Don't take my grin as a sign that I don't give a fuck. I do. But to be honest your mascara and snot has made a vision of the Virgin Mary appear on your face.

§ Please put on your special 'Anything I Say Should Be Taken As A Cruel Joke' stetson when you are about to unleash the spoken equivalent of the Waffen SS. Otherwise I will take what you say as literal truth (and notify the appropriate authorities).

§ Please don't compound the misery of feeling bad by feeling bad about making ME feel bad because you were feeling bad. It's too confusing and makes me want to cry. Which will then set you off again and the whole horrific cycle starts over.

§ If it's only a small issue, can we jump to the bit where you get horny because to be honest we'll both enjoy that more.

§ Please understand that everything I do is to try and make things better. It may be clumsy. It may not be what you want to hear right at that moment. It may well be like trying to put out a forest fire with Napalm. But it is sincere.

If we can do these things then I truly believe that everyone will be prepared for, and in a much better position to deal with, your pendulum-esque emotional states.

Yours Sincerely,

Duke Fandango

3 Mar 2010

The End of Days

Many people believe that the world will end fairly soon. There are a number of ways in which it is believed to happen.

Firstly, we could keep using Earth as our collective bitch, abusing her sweet ass until she gives up the ghost and then tips us all into a nightmarish maelstrom of ecological disaster that will throw the survivors back to the stone age.

Secondly, a rogue state (North Korea - I'm looking at you) goes 'ah, fuck it' and pushes the big shiny red button that delivers hell on toast.

Thirdly, bankers decide that they will take the combined economic output of the planet and put it all on red. When the ball of inevitability lands on black they will act surprised before downing another bottle of Hennessy, wiping the swan grease from their jowls and paying themselves a huge bonus. The rest of the world collapses into a fight for the last packet of Pringles which, due to inflation, now costs Thirteen Billion Pounds.

Finally, Jesus does actually come back and, to be fair, he's going to be pretty pissed off.

I have a different theory. I believe civilisation as we know it will cripple itself through over bureaucracy. We will come to a shuddering halt, unable to actually get anything done.

The reason?


Forms are the bane of my existence. Everything I do in my life is dictated by a fucking form that I have to fill out. For every hour I teach I must spend around 20 minutes filling out paper work. That adds up over a week to be seven hours.

Seven soul-crushingly dull hours of writing neatly in little boxes so I can report on this or file that or access whatever.

To give you some idea of the amount of paper work that is involved. I have to, on a regular basis, complete:

Behaviour incident forms,
Continuing Professional Development Tracking Sheet,
Key Stage 3 Departmental Tracking,
Key Stage 3 School Central Tracking,
Key Stage 4 Departmental Tracking,
Key Stage 4 Follow Up Tracking,
ITT (Initial Teacher Training) Mentor Sheets,
NQT Observation Sheets,
NQT Evidence Tracking Sheets,
Teaching and Learning Audit,
Year 10 Pupil Mentoring Minutes,
Year 11 Pupil Mentoring Minutes,
Year 9 Choices Recommendation Forms,

Are these forms simple to complete? No, of course they sodding well aren't.

And that's just for your regular, run of the mill teacher. Woe betide anyone who wants to take a pupil off site!

However, it isn't just limited to my job. Oh no. The endless amount of forms consumes my life like Amy Winehouse consumes class-A drugs. From registering at the doctors to getting a fucking Tesco clubcard I have to spill my details in increasingly complex ways.

As such this is how I predict the 'End of Days' will actually happen:

Deep in the bowels of hell - just off the A33, near Basingstoke:

Beelzebub: At last, the forces of Heaven cannot stop me now!

Minion: Oh, master. What hast thou created?

Beelzebub: The most devilish (if I do say so myself) of bureaucratic nightmares! A change of address form for the DVLA - mwahahahahahahah...ha.

Three weeks later:

Jesus: For fuck's sake - why has it been returned this time?

Angel: I'll just check the supporting notes. Have you filled out the former address?

Jesus: Yes.

Angel: Have you put your mother's maiden name down.

Jesus: Yes.

Angel: In section 14 box Q did you cross reference the registration with the post code using the Fibonacci sequence.

Jesus: I thought I had to use Pi for that?

Angel: No, I think that's section 14 box R.

Jesus: I thought I only completed that if I'd had the car before 1987 or if I had ever been convicted of using a goat to lure killer whales onto the beach?

Angel: Er...hang on, I'm not sure if...

Gabriel: Er...chaps, has anyone checked on Earth recently?

Jesus: Fuck off Gabriel you wanker, I'm busy - did I sign in all five hundred and eight places?

Angel: I'm sure we checked that before...

Gabriel: I only ask because there are four tall lads on horses at the gates and they want a word. Apparently it's Armageddon?

Jesus: What? Oh, shithouse!

Angel: Ah! Got it - we didn't attach a colour photo of you in the car smoking a pipe and wearing a dearstalker.

Jesus: Twat.


So there we go. It's not mankind's obsession with power or resources that will lead to our end. It'll be the fact that we can't seem to function as a society without block capitals, a black or blue ballpoint pen (NOT felt tip) and a series of small boxes on a page.

And that is a crying shame.

If you've enjoyed this, or any of my other posts please leave a comment by filling out the form...bollocks...