Thursday, 31 March 2011

No future without history

Ooh, hark at her. Did I hit a nerve..?

You're so right. Best do nothing at all. Because protest never changed anything, did it?*

* for those too overcome with passivity & apathy to click: "The Equal Pay Act 1970 is an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament which prohibits any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. It was passed by Parliament in the aftermath of the Ford Sewing Machinists Strike of 1968...

just one example from this country's looooong history of workers' struggles...

State of Play

There is nothing, literally nothing, I want to watch on TV these days.

But aha! What's this? I'd forgotten that I downloaded State of Play a while ago . How did I miss it the first time around?

If you've never seen it, it's genius. You can even watch it again and get new things out of it, and understand it in the light of the twists and turns. Paul Abbott had written Clocking Off, then a producer asked him to try writing 'something bigger' and he delivered in spades.

Also I really like David Morrissey - that is, I don't like him, he always plays very unsympathetic characters brilliantly. Which is brave and unusual for actors. John Simm is the opposite, always engaging. He's everyman, with a million dollar smile. And Bill Nighy, Kelly MacDonald, James McEvoy... a quality cast all around.

Trouble is I've watched it all in one go now. I wish I could wipe my memory and watch it over again.

Monday, 28 March 2011


I would go into details, but I can't. I can't be bothered, it makes me depressed, it will bore the pants off you & it's probably not politic (ha!) to do it in this public place, however semi-anonymous this blog is.

Suffice to say, I am getting tangled up in politics at work and it's very frustrating. Some people love this shit, this Machiavellian, scheming, strategic, spin-doctor stuff. (They tend to be the ones with the big salaries who call the shots.) I can't stand it. I just want to do the right thing and am naively surprised when you get slapped on the wrist for it.

Shouldn't be surprised by now, that's the nature of this job. You see all these "Be A Teacher! It's Great! We Need Teachers! They do such a Vital Job!" propaganda before, then as soon as you start actually working as one you magically turn into the Anti-Christ, responsible for all the ills of society.

It doesn't matter, I just need to make a swift exit. But this past 12 months has really brought home the shit side of being single. Because there's no one to talk to about all this. When I went on a 2 day union rep's course recently (all lovely people, had a great time though it was all about more scary things we'd have to deal with) I realised talking to people that most of them had someone to go home to, to talk it over with. Or even just to watch a stupid film with and forget about it. There's really no fun to be had watching stupid films by yourself.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


How could I turn moving images from a video into separate jpegs? Is there software that can do this or do I have to freeze, capture, paste images? (I'm after a kind of Muybridge effect that breaks down movements.)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The cuts ( a response)

Knowing how much you enjoy my usual 'political' posts I thought I'd mix it up by responding to my old friend and polar opposite LC, and his cuts post. I hope you don't mind LC.

From my perspective it’s been a bit of a Phony War so far. The only tangible difference for us is that the Baby Rhyme Time sessions at our local library are under threat if they close the place down, but that’s not really the end of the world.

That may be because you live in a relatively wealthy part of London. The cuts are harshest in the poorest boroughs. They're gunning for the poor, the vulnerable and the weak. (Because they're Tories, and selfish greedy cowardly cunts.)

Apart from that, it’s business as usual at the moment, despite all the doom and gloom in the press about how everything’s going horribly wrong. Wife’s deciding whether or not she wants to go back to work and she’s found no shortage of nursing jobs on offer, even though the NHS is supposed to be cost-cutting.

Well, I'm glad for you and Mrs LC. Again, it depends on your area. But then, no one said there won't still be a need for nurses, or teachers, or any other public sector employee - we still need schools and hospitals, right, but the conditions staff will be working under will just get more and more pressurised as the budgets get slashed. And wages & pensions will go down.

I’m not sure whether we’ve just been lucky enough to avoid getting stung, or the cuts generally aren’t as bad as people expected, or if they just haven’t started to bite yet and things are likely to get a lot worse.

Are you joking? This is just the beginning! We haven't even had the budget yet. We're still living on the remnants of the Labour administration - that's our budget for the next year in school. Next year it will start to sink in. Don't be short term in your thinking. Why did they make changes so quickly? Because they're thinking long-term. Don't be complacent, I'm begging you...

And to return to your original question...

How many of you have actually been hit by the public spending cuts in any significant way?

Pay freeze for the next two years (with inflation going up, this is a pay cut.) Friends and colleagues losing their jobs. Academies schools undercutting us (they will legally be able to employ unqualified teachers at smaller salaries.) An attempt to drain my pension away (with retrospective change from RPI to CPI and proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 68 (!) - effectively, working longer for less money. )

But most of all, worst of all, in Tower Hamlets they are cutting special needs services, children's centres, behaviour support, school sports co-ordinators, ICT support centre, after school clubs, sports clubs, the Junior Youth Service, speech and language services - which as well as being unbelievably unjust to the deprived kids that we work with, seriously affecting their already reduced life chances , is going to make mine and my colleagues' jobs day to day pretty impossible to do.

For now, we still have support staff, and staff to work one on one with special needs children. You can have no idea what it will be like when we lose them, the special schools will close down (because they are expensive to run, and let's face it, those kids are never going to contribute to the economy, why bother throwing good money at them?) and we have to cater for complex special needs in our mainstream classes, without support. It is a shocking, cynical and terrible way to destroy a society. Out of nothing but greed.

I'm Alright, Jack got us into this trouble in the first place. Don't be one of them.

Monday, 21 March 2011


On radio 4, discussing some article in the Times about the optimum conditions for ultimate happiness, apparently they've found the happiest person in the country. She is

  • a woman
  • married
  • with kids
  • self employed
  • in a job where she makes her own schedule
  • living in East Anglia*
Happiness FAIL.

Are you happy? If you are, tell us your secret.

*East Anglia, who knew? To be fair I was happy when I lived there, but that was probably because I was also young, stupid, carefree, surrounded by new friends and doing something I passionately loved.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

March for the alternative

On Friday we went to see Theatre Uncut.

Playwrights like Dennis Kelly (who wrote Pulling) and Mark Ravenshill donated their work rights-free and the actors & directors all gave up their time for free, to make short plays about the cuts. They made the scripts available for free online for theatre groups and anyone else who wanted to put the plays on, as a way of encouraging debate & action around the cuts.

It was in the Southwark Playhouse, little theatre deep under the railway arches, freezing cold with trains rumbling overhead, sitting on hard folding chairs... classic fringe theatre.

But it was all stirring stuff, brilliantly written & acted. Especially Syrus Lowe in David Greig's play Fragile (the audience said the lines of the character's mental health worker, projected onto the back wall, which made it funny and brought the point home, that people are going to be fucked when their services are taken away. He decides to set fire to himself in protest and his mental health worker talks him down - she promises to start a campaign, and a march.) You know my problems with writing criticism anyway, you can read Lyn Gardners' review here.

The main point we took from it though is that resistance is NOT useless. And if you don't like what's happening, you can do something about it, something between total apathy and setting fire to yourself in protest.

Join us on the March for the Alternative! Get out on the streets and make some noise! (The wonderful UK Uncut will also be holding actions on the same day.)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Looking at men

Doing this exhibition has taught me that I've got a long long way to go - everybody else's contributions to the catalogue explaining their work was much more thoughtful, in depth, intellectual and considered than mine. Beccause they're real artists. They have ideas. They have CONCEPTS. They have their own aesthetic (as well as, um, talent and skill.)

But even if I don't have much to say right now, a sort of theme is emerging in what I do.

Can you spot the theme?


Yes. Girls, girls, girls.

Why is that?

I like men. I like looking at men. But I draw women. Is that because we're more used to looking at women? Or because women are more interesting and attractive to draw? Or just because I don't know any men?

Men, want to model for me?

Saturday, 12 March 2011


My workplace is haunted, apparently. I don't believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I'm an atheist and a skeptic, I think there's a rational explanation for things that we just haven't worked out yet.

But the caretaker, J, has worked there for years and has a long list of tales. Footsteps behind him in the corridors, and nobody there when he turns around, doors opening and closing by themselves, lights turning themselves back on. Plates sliding across tables by themselves. In one classroom he sees the door open and shut and hears a woman's voice say 'Who are you?' Shadows of children in the gymnasium.

And not just late at night when he's locking up - a few summers ago workmen are in the building, it's about 10.00 in the morning when they all see what looks like a ball of light moving down the stairs. It resolves itself into a woman holding up her long skirts walking downstairs, the door opens by itself and she vanishes. 'What the FUCK was that?' says one of them. The electrician picks up his tools, walks out the school and refuses point blank to come back in.

Another unlucky electrician, working in the loft, runs screaming from the building. When J calms him down, he tells him that he'd turned to see a fireman standing behind him 'as real as you standing in front of me.' 'Alright?' said the electrician. The fireman just smiles at him and fades away. (The school was used as a fire station during WWII.)

Now J is an ex-marine, hard as nails and I don't imagine he's superstitious or given to making things up. And now more of my colleagues have admitted to hearing voices and footsteps and even the head teacher, working late by himself, has seen doors opening and closing themselves.

It is a building with a long history - it used to be the hunting lodge of James I, it housed a fire station in the war, it was bombed (with people in it) and built and rebuilt over the years. I still don't believe in ghosts but this puts you in an interesting position - because I believe my colleagues too, they're all honest people.

And what I want to know is, I've worked there for 6 years, why haven't they come and haunted me?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Red Shoes

I think this is the best thing I've ever ever seen in the theatre. Especially Patrycja Kujawska, a beautiful musician, dancer and actress. Go and see it!

Dance you shall. Dance you must!