Monday, 30 May 2016

I Ran Out of Words for the Final Stanza (But At Least I Kept the Metre Going)

You said you had no need of friendship –
until those big boys came along,
then you were all, like, ‘Save me, save me!’
   It really was pathetic.

You said that things are never real –
until they repossessed your house,
and you were all, like, ‘That’s my house!’
   You’re such a hypocrite. 

You said that arguments were futile –
until you won one (quite by chance)
and you were all, like, ‘Ar-Gu-MENT!’
   That way you turn the charm on.

Blah BLAH Blah BLAH blah BLAH blah BLAH blah –
Blah BLAH Blah BLAH blah BLAH blah BLAH,
BLAH blah blah BLAH Blah BLAH Blah BLAH.
   Blah BLAH blah BLAH blah BLAH blah


Since nineteen-fourteen, (yes, you're right; it's quite
significant), we’ve only fought in two
world wars. Just two. That’s hardly anything.
Our nation barely fights at all these days,
and ‘Peace Throughout Our Land’ should be graffiti-ed
on every wall, on every street, on every heart.

Since  nineteen-fourteen, (yes, you're right; it's quite
significant), we’ve only had one year
of peace. Just one. That’s hardly anything.
Our nation barely rests for peace at all,
and ‘War is Still at Large’ should be graffiti-ed
on every wall, on every street, on every heart.

‘Shlist List

socialist – someone who refuses to acknowledge the history of the 20th Century.

fauxcialist – middle-class Labour voter, usu. privately educated.

foecialist – a socialist who disagrees with another socialist/foecialist on one arcane point of ideology and who is therefore deemed more of an enemy than Hitler, Thatcher, and the People’s Front of Judea combined.

gauchealist – a socially awkward socialist (see also ‘socialist’)

poshialist (pronounced à la infra dig, i.e. ‘poshe’) – Viscount Tony Benn, and others of that ilk.

nocialist – someone who used to be socialist but no longer is (usu. former university undergraduate, pronounced ‘shtooodent’).

slowcialist – a particularly dim-witted socialist (see also ‘socialist’)

brocialist – meaning unknown but bound to be highly embarrassing.

Quocialist – like a socialist, but in Latin/denims.

Hothousing Idiots

You can ban television until they leave home,
You can set them assignments, both written and read,
You can take them on cultural visits to Rome,
And cram lots of extra facts into each head:
Profound and arcane, from A through to Z.
But something you shouldn’t attempt, even once,
Is this sort of stuff with a child who’s a dunce.

You can make them learn violin, piano, bassoon,
The harpsichord, clarinet, organ and flute,
Insist that they know every classical tune:
Each plucked pizzicato, each whistling toot,
Each oompah-pah, cowbell, and honketty-hoot!
But, really, you shouldn’t attempt all this lot,
With a child who is clearly a bit of a clot.

You can make them learn Latin and Greek ‘for a laugh’,
Make linear equations ‘a rare, special treat’,
For ‘fun’ they can symbolise π on a graph,
While ‘break-time’ means ‘work which you have to repeat’,
As you turn up the dial which is marked ‘hothouse heat’.
But I wouldn’t expect any scholarly wins,
From a child who will one day be emptying bins.

You may showcase your offspring with no self-awareness,
We’ll sit there eyes glazed and quite unimpressed,
For stealing a childhood’s the height of unfairness;
Already we see that they’re properly stressed,
Neurotically blinking and likely depressed.
And I wouldn’t expect any filial love,
From a child who’s been ruined by all the above.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Giving Youth Its Voice

Register to vote stall, UEA campus.

Student 1 (at Stall): Have you registered to vote yet, for the Referendum?

Student 2 (a passing student): I didn’t even know it was on the 23rd of June, so you have, you have told me that and I know. May just rush and think about it. Erm, so, did... with this vote, does it.. do we determine?... the decision?

1: Yes.

2: So, with this vote... with this vote... we determine the decision.

1: Yes.

2: The public? Oh great. Okay.

Nick Robinson (of BBC Radio 4 Today fame): What is the decision?

2: For me it’s definitely to stay in Europe because I think it would be daft not to. Erm, I don’t know, like, yeah I just think... I don’t.. it shouldn’t even be an option that we should leave... The other night, like, on TV I was watching Gogglebox or something and they mentioned it then, and then I, um, like, no we shouldn’t leave the EU because like I just think with travel and stuff it’s easier like to travel when you’re in the EU.

NR: So, what would stop you voting?

2: Nothing, I guess, it’s just I’ve got a million other things on my mind and it’s just like one of the things I’ve pushed to the back of my mind. It’s like with the voting the um, er, yeah the government and stuff I always think,  ‘Oh yeah, I’ll vote,’ and then I never get round to doing it.

(much giggling)

 NR: Now most students, as all the polls show, are in favour of remaining. 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

MasterChef, or, 'Are Words Really That Important?'

*Spoiler alert: winner’s identity revealed in final Paragraph*

As another year of MasterChef comes to a close, I’d like to offer a couple of observations.

1. The title.

Has anyone at the BBC has ever been to school? MasterChef? If I called any of my former colleagues Headmaster or referred to myself as a schoolmaster, I would be regarded as a villainous misogynist who didn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘connotation’. ‘You’re not an EL James fantasy, you know!’ they would shriek. This is how it works on the right-on world of education.

I don’t mind this a bit. It’s very easy to avoid words with loaded connotations, like master and mistress, and I’ve been doing it all my life. Sort of a habit. Like wearing socks. However, I do think that the stupidest people on planet earth – teacher trainers – ought to try harder to understand that words sometimes have more than one meaning, and that if someone says ‘Headmistress’ it doesn’t mean they think that the person running the school is an uber-dominatrix. Mind you, the threat of being sent to the Uber-dominatrix would be a far more effective deterrent in our schools than the threat of being sent to the Headteacher, don’t you think? Perhaps it’s time to consider a change.

A more accurate title for MasterChef might be ‘Dismembered Animals on a Plate’. In the utopian future which I envisioned as an earnest/pissed/stoned teenager, eating meat was a thing of the past and men and women were on an equal footing. Like everything else in my utopian vision, it didn’t come to pass, and the official title of Dismembered Animals on a Plate would suggest that Nothing Has Changed. I’d just like to point out, though: you’re the one calling it MasterChef, and I’m the one who’s being an agent of change for a less patriarchal society. Put that in your Guardian and misspell it.

2. The finalists.

Chap Who Probably Should Have Won but Fell at the Final Hurdle, Chap Who Was in the Final by Mistake, and I Don’t Want to Be Seen as Just a Mum So I’ll Mention It Every Time They Give Me a Speaking Head Shot.

Chap Who Probably Should Have Won but Fell at the Final Hurdle is only twenty-seven and still has his whole life ahead of him, so he can dry his own tears. Furthermore, he plays the folk violin. Chap Who Was in the Final by Mistake was in the final by mistake and should therefore be counting his lucky stars. He presented the witless buffoons (who judge this farce) a pile of mashed potato for his final main course. Well, they chose him over Smiley Woman with Unidentifiable Possibly West Country Accent but At Least She Can Cook (which is evidence enough of their witless buffoonery). Which, by deduction, etc. means that I Don’t Want to Be Seen as Just a Mum So I’ll Mention It Every Time They Give Me a Speaking Head Shot won this year’s ‘Dismembered Animals on a Plate’. Over the weeks, she uttered the phrase ‘just a mum’ repeatedly, so, whatever else she’s achieved in life, rather sadly, one can assume that she hasn’t yet fully appreciated the unique importance of motherhood (and by extension, the unique importance of herself as a mother). I hope she realises this before it’s too late. In the meantime, I hope she enjoys being just a chef.

(Dozens of animals were killed in the process of filming this programme.)