Luxury Travel

For a short period, I travelled weekly by bus between Manchester and Hull. It took hours but cost next to nothing. I spent the time in quiet contemplation, either looking out of the window or watching people inside or outside the bus. (read full post on Blogger)

Leeds Wellington Street Coach Station, 1986

Interview Woes

A colleague told me in confidence he was desperate to leave the software company we were with. He was tired of having to spend so much time abroad. The week after he’d been to Venezuela they had sent him to Athens – talk about jetlag! Fortunately for me, he was away so much he couldn’t get to interviews. Had he escaped, I would have picked up all his travel. I decided to get out before he did. (read full post on Blogger)

In England They Eat Cat Food

“What do you eat in England?” Hugo’s dad asked me in English.

“Food,” I said, trying to be funny.

He translated for Hugo’s mother and sister. Horrified, I realised I might have implied that what we were eating now was not what I thought of as proper food.

I was there on a foreign language exchange trip. They had asked whether I would like beer, wine or water to drink, and not being sure how to reply I had said wine. Had I tried to stand up I would have fallen over. Was I red because of the wine or embarrassment?

(read full post on Blogger)

Selective Education

My true tale at the start of this month about being attacked by modern school boys touched upon some of the issues related to the the post-war selective education system we had in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (but not Scotland). Mostly, from age eleven, the academically most able 25% (assessed by intelligence tests) went to grammar schools while the rest went to secondary modern schools. I want to say more about my own experience of this, and what I’ve learned since. (read full post on Blogger)

Laid Up

We enjoyed decorating son’s bedroom together. It was like thirty years ago when we first moved in. Most of his stuff has gone to his flat. You would not think so from how much was left. The number of books is astonishing.

But how quickly things can change. One day you are decorating bedrooms, lifting furniture, washing cars and going for country walks, and the next you are crawling on your hands and knees to the bathroom…

(read full post on Blogger)

English (Mrs. Hird of Cowes)

A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger mentioned that as an English teacher he looked for innovative and creative ways to engage children and develop their language skills.

It brought to mind my own English teacher who, when we were about fourteen, hit upon the idea of using the school’s brand new reel-to-reel tape recorder to stimulate our creativity. Each of the two classes he taught in our year group would prepare and record a tape for the other to listen to. It would be like a radio programme. Each person or small group was allowed a slot in which to present something: perhaps read a poem or piece of writing, perform a short sketch or sing a song. Almost anything went. The content was not necessarily original.  

Ron and I said we would read the news – Two Ronnies Style (in fact I swear they stole the idea from us).

We began with the latest news about The Great Train Robbery – according to our latest reports the Great Train is still missing. Fighting off a small amount of corpsing we just about managed to keep going.  

We struggled on to the second item, about the winner of the Isle of Wight cattle show which was owned by a Mrs Hird of Cowes.

That did it. I am no longer sure who started it but the rest of our slot was filled entirely by painful, uncontrollable giggling, both from us and the rest of the class.  


I got out an old computer to photoshop the discoloured colour slides I mentioned recently. I haven’t made much progress. I was distracted by a set of railway signalling simulations also on that machine. Believe it or not, they’re great, they really are, not because of what you do or see but because of what you imagine. You pretend you are controlling all the trains through York, the noise and the power and the enormity of the things, and imagine being on board, remembering journeys once made. (read full post on Blogger)