Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Here We Go!

Lots of teachers return to work tomorrow and no Head can resist making a little speech to start the new term. A few will be inspirational, creating a warm feeling of comradeship and making every teacher feel wanted, appreciated and keen to do their very best. Most however will be dreadful, filled with cliches and wild new ideas which make no sense, but are greeted with wise nods by the SMT. They also include desperate pleas to work harder, interspersed with complaints about 'under-performance' which make everyone want to look for a job elsewhere.

However, you need to stay alert because at some stage during the day (usually morning break) you will hear someone utter Chalk's Teachers' Moan No 1:

"It doesn't seem like we've been away!"

Do us all a favour and shoot this person.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Home and Away

For those of you who haven't been to France for a while, here's my views on the place:

Their motorways are much better than ours with hardly any traffic jams. So they should be, as you have to pay to use them. Every so often you pass through a line of booths where you are charged an amount based on your mileage, the ambient temperature and a random multiple dreamt up by the booth operator. As far as actual driving is concerned, there are a number of differences that you need to be aware of.

When changing lanes on the motorway, French law requires drivers to signal and move at exactly the same time. It is illegal to give any notice of your intentions to other road users, presumably to ensure that every driver remains fully alert. If you wish to repeatedly change lanes for no reason other than to test the reflexes of your fellow travellers, then the signal can be dispensed with. Lorry drivers should remember that the same overtaking rule applies as in the UK; ie only do it on a hill so that you can block up two lanes for miles on end.

When approaching a roundabout it is important not to disrupt the flow of traffic by reducing your speed at all. Simply treat it as a bend in the road. When you wish to leave the roundabout, just do so regardless of which lane you are in. Note: if several drivers are on the roundabout simultaneously then priority is given to the one chattering on his mobile phone. Whatever purpose Zebra crossings might have was never revealed to me. If you pass a cyclist struggling up a hill, then you have to give them room and shout "Bravo!" which is a nice touch.

If any readers have ever complained about the prices at British motorway service stations then stop what you are doing, write to them now and apologise. French prices will make your eyes water. (In fact I challenge you to find anything that is cheaper in France than Britain apart from supermarket beer and wine and the house wine in a restaurant) Beer in a bar or restaurant is now 5 Euros a half litre absolutely everywhere!

French meals consist of a cold starter of greasy things followed by a warm main course of greasy things. It is the most over rated food on Earth and no Frenchy under the age of thirty will touch it. Italian restaurants have taken over and are invariably excellent. (Does anybody know why we never get Italian restaurants with wood burning ovens in the UK? Is it our smoke regulations? If you can get round it, then open one and make your fortune). One thing the French are good at though is croissants and pain au chocolat. (Their women are slimmer than ours too, probably because they don't eat sugary snacks all the time- the Tabac isn't piled high with confectionery like our newsagents are)

French wine is even more over rated than their food. Buy a random bottle of French wine in the supermarket and it will be terrible. As they steadfastly refuse to label bottles with the grape then you have absolutely no idea what you are getting. Bizarrely (with reds and rose anyway) the cheaper you go, the better it tastes. The stuff that comes in a plastic bottle for one Euro is the best of all.

The weather makes up for all of this though, in my opinion. After three weeks, I could cheerfully spend the rest of my life camping in the South of France. We camped near Embrun, an old town with a beautiful cobbled centre at the southern end of the French Alps which has an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. Such conditions make living in a tent a completely hassle free existence, with no hoovering or DIY to feel bad about not doing. Also there is very little cleaning needed and when you only have half a dozen items the washing up doesn't take long at all. This easy routine leaves plenty of time for bike riding and quiet contemplation by the swimming pool (campsites in France are about a million times better than English ones and get much quieter after August 15th)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Best things in life are Free

It is of course true that the best things in life are free and examples abound. A friend of mine was complaining to me recently that his 4 year old son had already forgotten about the birthday present that they had carefully chosen for him, but had been playing non stop for days with the large cardboard box that it came in. The boy's active imagination had made it into half a dozen different items, including a train (which was in fact the present that was originally wrapped inside it!)

It's the same with summer activities- a small child will still be poking about in a rock pool or happily demonstrating how they can skim a stone on the sea, long after a computer game is forgotten. Your bank manager will also be delighted, especially if you remember the 'Kids Eat Free' offer from Pizza Hut which has just been extended until Jan 9th 2011. For every adult main course or adult lunchtime buffet purchased, an accompanying child can choose from either a FREE 2 course kids meal (includes a drink) or a FREE kids lunchtime buffet (includes pizza, pasta and salad).

to get great deals on a wide range of family activities and adventures including holidays, theme parks, zoos and more.There's nothing better than pizza to keep kids happy and you can find more details about the offer at http://bit.ly/a1DhgJ Also don't forget that on the bottom of any Pizza Hut Restaurant receipt you will find an offer code. Enter this code at http://www.pizzahut.co.uk/familyadventures

This post is sponsored by Pizza Hut
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Friday, August 06, 2010


We're off to France avec les velos tout terains so posts for the next couple of weeks will be sporadic at best. (No cheering please)

My advice whilst I'm away is to read inspector gadget's blog (see the link on my sidebar as I can't work out how to do them from my portable telephone)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Hand Car Wash

There are many things that I am not very good at and looking after my car is one of them. Yesterday, on impulse I called in at a newly opened Hand Car Wash, to see what would happen.

A dozen Eastern European men immediately descended on my vehicle; spraying, wiping, waxing and furiously polishing until it took on a completely different appearance. I was amazed at the results and now proudly display my car for all to marvel at, rather than hiding it round the corner in shame.

Why do we pay our own youth to sit around on the Rock 'n Roll all day and bring in foreigners to work?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Creative Thinking

There is a craze in state education at the moment for 'creativity', 'critical thinking' and even 'entrepreneurial skills'.

I heard a science teacher recently explain how they were moving away from what he called 'factually based learning' towards the concept of 'broadening the learners' imaginations and encouraging them to...' I can't remember the rest as I stopped listening, started drinking furiously and immediately labelled him as a fool.

People who invent things invariably have a huge in depth knowledge of their subject (self taught in many cases). Creativity is hugely over rated (the vast majority of inventions are simply clever modifications of existing devices and new scientific theories tend to be incremental advances by people tinkering with the current rules and equations. Most successful businesses also just copy an existing idea and do it better).

People are best persuaded to become entrepreneurs when they feel they might benefit from the results, rather than having to pay all their profits in taxes to fund an army of public sector box tickers. (Actually we shouldn't be trying to persuade people to risk everything in their own business venture when the vast majority would be better off working for someone else. I think entrepreneurs are more born than made.)

As for critical thinking- well, I'm afraid that the opinion of someone who does not know about their subject is utterly worthless. (But don't let that put you off reading my blog)

Ian Huntley

Whilst I haven't got the slightest concern for Ian Huntley's wellbeing, the fact is that prison inmates should not be able to slash each other with home made weapons.

Rather than giving him a large sum of money, we should perhaps do something to stop prisoners from getting their hands on razor blades, knives, drugs etc. by taking the obvious step of not allowing them to receive parcels or have any contact with visitors.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Theo Albrecht

Theo Albrecht, long term recluse and recently deceased cofounder of Aldi is my new hero. After being kidnapped in 1971, he haggled down his own ransom and then tried to claim it back off the taxman as a business expense!

Gyms and Health Clubs

Driving back from B&Q the other day, I passed a newly opened gym advertising for new members. One of the walls was glass fronted but I couldn't decide whether this was so that passers-by could ogle, or to allow those inside to look out on the beautiful vista of a busy roundabout, second hand furniture shop and garage.

It was a lovely sunny day (just before the school holidays started and everything went grey), perfect for a nice walk or maybe getting out on your bike along any of the nearby canal towpaths or heading to the countryside, yet inside were a couple of dozen brightly clad people busily walking on treadmills (wearing earphones), using a stair climbing machine similar to those installed in 19th century workhouses, or cycling on stationary bikes whilst watching the television (seriously!)

What attracts people to these overheated places? Ok you can lift weights, but then you can buy a couple of dumbbells for about 50p nowadays and if you want to get fit, why not just go out for a run? Is it the social aspect? If you know the answer then please enlighten me, otherwise it will just get added to the list of things I don't understand.