Why Study Books?

via Why Study Books?

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‘England is sick, and…English literature must save it. The Churches have failed, and social remedies being slow, English literature now has a triple function: still, I suppose, to delight and instruct us, but also, above all, to save our souls and to heal the State.’ 

George Gordon  Professor of Literature  Oxford University 1922

During the course of my life, I have always believed that to be the case. If God could no longer save souls, then books should. In thinking this, I was not the originator of this idea. Since the nineteenth century, when the influence of the church began to wane, it became obvious that something had to step in to save the day. And it was with a certain biblical irony that books became the vehicle of choice.

Life is a route-planner.

We start our journeys at some particular time and place and finish them at another. Life is similar to a time-out from the general tedium of the omnipresent tedium of not living. But, whatever journey we are on, is never going to be an easy one. Life is best with things that beset life, namely life and death and suffering and the Conservative Party. Without these things, it is difficult to claim that one has ever lived, especially if one is already dead meaning that ones opinion no longer counts as only a very few can hear it. It’s a shame because I think that the dead are possibly in possession of more wisdom than the not dead. If you knew how you were going to die, a wise person would probably do something else on that day. Simple wisdom for simple thinkers.

I honestly don’t know where my route-planner has got to, these days. I think that I can remember having it when I set off. Indeed, I think I can remember setting a destination, somewhere like ‘Contentment’, ‘Peace of Mind’, or ‘Moderately Successful With a Beautiful Wife, Wonderful Children, and a Volvo Estate’. The last one always seemed to accompany the ones that went before.  The problem with these destinations is that they cannot be found on traditional maps. The route-planner just instructed me to point my car in any direction of my whim and then set off to see where I could get to before I died.

At the moment, I am here.

Here is an existential crisis. It is a place betwixt and between. A campsite in a town that one never planned to visit. Sounds good, but I have been here before.

Each and every year (not quite as we sometimes decide to ‘staycate’), my wife and I take the girls on a family holiday. The holiday usually involves packing up lots of things: bikes, tents, sleeping bags, phrase books, and a selection of real books to read when we are not doing the activity ‘thing’.  We do tend to have a destination, but go out of our way to not plan the trip. We regard the journey to our destination as being just as potentially enjoyable as the end product.

We aim to be relatively aimless and land on campsites that we have never visited before in a bid to be random adventurers. What does happen, always happens, is that we pitch-up in a place that slowly reveals itself to be familiar. We are like frogs that have a road map implanted in their DNA. No matter how much time has elapsed since their last journey, no matter how many generations have passed, they still take the same route; inexplicably. And so it is with us.

Ah, Ah! Those knowing human beings would say. Man is not a frog. Man is a work of divine creation. Man needs guidance in the way that mere Anura do not. It would not be proper for many of us to get ‘squished on Life’s highways’. Ah, Ah! I respond. I agree. But then I would point out that I was using the biblical device of hiding a lesson within a story.

And that is my point. Literature is scripture with a number of letter changes. From both, we find out what we need and ought to know about the touring holiday that we like to call Life. As God probably no longer exists, as we can’t be bothered with him/her, we need a new type of route-planner, one that is fit for our cultural needs.

Here are a few suggestions:

             THESE                       OR                  THIS

Unknown              images-680

 

Read After Burnout. com

Check the link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?k=read+after+burnout.+com

 

And He Came Forth

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Fourth lesson of the day, I was requested to sit in on a trainee teacher’s lesson. I sat writing and watching the dysfunctional matter that passes for youthful humanity in these parts. 

One girl had been at the self-tan. For those of you who have not come across this product before, self-tan is a dye that is applied to the skin. It is supposed to render upon the wearer a deliciously golden shade of the Mediterranean. What it does is to turn the wearer orange. In doing so, it becomes an announcement to the world that the person who is now orange, a distinctly vivid orange, is wearing fake tan. Oh, and it leaves the wearers hands about four shades darker than anywhere else where it has been applied. Sort of like a, “Caught red-handed, but in orange.”

Anyway, the girl with the incredibly orange hands and orange-streaked skin, looked like her face had only just set about recovering from a flood of tears. With salty tides still apparent on her cheeks, she threw herself into the cradle of her cocked arms, collapsed on her desk, looking for the life of her that she was either ill or bereft, or both. Nobody else noticed.

It was one of those classes in which the kids don’t really listen. However, what the teacher wants and what the students want are strangely familiar. The teacher tells himself that what he wants to do is to teach the students something tangible; he wants learning to take place. What he really wants is to survive Period 4 of a Friday afternoon. He doesn’t want to shout. He doesn’t want to have to do battle. And he would rather not get too involved with the whole process of passing away the minutes. Likewise, the students have little interest in conflict. They wish to be left alone and not challenged. Their aim, like the teacher’s, is to get through the second to last lesson of the day without getting into too much trouble. With like minds such as this, what could possibly go wrong?

One lad, sitting directly in front of me is either sleeping or doing a very good impression of sleep. He is as close to sleep as any living thing that I have ever observed before. He knows I am there, but he doesn’t give a fig.

I once did this type of work. I was paid small fortunes to observe teachers and departments so that I could point out improvements. I did the coaching thing. Nowadays, coaching has been replaced with threatening. I can’t do threatening. I don’t really give a fig about a profession that has ceased to take itself serious; with a huge fistful of salt.

Poor student behaviour bores me. It is repetitive, moronic, and unoriginal. Indeed, it is the lowest form of life. Continuous low-level disruption frustrates me. It’s like swatting a mosquito in the dark. Kids answering back really boiled my sprouts.

Drumming has broken out on one table. The teacher circulates with a smile on his face; a fragile smile which could shatter at any minute. The orange girl has woken up and she no longer seems upset. Somebody has farted and are probably pleased with themselves. The creeping stench is just as effective as any other form of non-compliance.

Regardless of the unrelenting tide of moronic behaviour, the teacher does his best. By the end of the summer term, this teacher will have qualified as a professional and will probably be happy that that part of his life is done with.

And now the lesson is almost over. A boy on my right has launched into a string of unfunny one-liners. On the same table a girl has received her ultimate warning for not working. She too looks as if she has been sleeping. The teacher asks her if she has heard him.

“I heard you, but I don’t give a shit!”

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There endeth the lesson.  

Richard The Third And CarPark Tickets

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In 2012, archaeologists and researchers began excavating beneath a carpark in Leicester, hoping to find Richard’s final resting place. The search captured the public’s imagination and the remains subsequently found were confirmed as those of Richard.

Researches are now not only able to calculate the true extent of his deformity, but are also able to determine the true extent of his extended-stay penalties.

 

I have never been one to  over stay my welcome. So, it was with renewed belief in the innate sporting abilities of my fellow-man, and child, that I resumed my day of supply teaching with Period 3 Year 9 BTEC Sport.

My initial feeling was that a combination of Year 9, BTEC, and Sport would not be a recipe for a peaceful session. I was wrong. Apart from three likely lads who were seated on the furthest reaches of the known classroom, everyone else appeared to be reasonable. In this part of the world, reasonable means not overtly swearing, not storming out of the classroom as a response to some perceived insult, or not going out of ones way to completely ignore the reasonable requests and instructions of the teacher.

The reasonable class had been left reasonably engaging work in the form of the ubiquitous Powerpoint with accompanying video. Praise Be! I was impressed with how a youngish PE teacher led them through the objectives of the lesson and the tasks that they were to perform. There was quite a nice take on looking at success criteria which I was impressed to see coming from a teacher of Physical Education who, presumably, had only recently graduated into his shorts.

“Now, kids. We’ll write the questions down first and then we will view the video, then we will answer the questions.”

Simples.

In this instance, simples it almost universally was.

It would have been a raging success if the three lads seated on the edge of the Gamma Quadrant had not decided to open up cupboards in their immediate vicinity and throw the contents, therein, at each other.

I said a number of words and shrugged my shoulders with stoic strength of character and I thought of poor old Richard The Third (we used to call him Richard The Turd because of Shakespeare’s bad press for him) and realised that spending an eternity beneath a carpark in Leicester would have meant that he never got to sample supply teaching.

I dismissed the class and immediately heard the sound of a fire-alarm.

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One of the Borg at the back of the room had set it off as a parting gesture.

Blessed Be The Borg! 

Not Quite Reaching First Base…

wpid-20150824__150826ttd-watch_fieldofdreamsStraight from whatever passed for maths and straight onto the artificial sports pitch where a group of Year 7s had gathered under the watchful eye of nobody in particular. The group looked nothing like a group of sporty kids. They were in a veritable mishmash of sports-leisure wear that stood against the wire fencing in responce to their mundane punishment.

I knew a couple of faces and was able to attach names to them. This way a teacher establishes his/her credibility with the kids. I called one boy Kier.

“I’m Kaden, sir.”

Oh well, everyone is allowed one little mistake.

“I was just checking,” I replied, but the wasn’t convinced.

I spent the rest of the lesson praising his attempts until he finally got bored, wandered off the playing area and sat down to check his phone messages.

The game that I was instructed to instruct the group in was softball. I have played this game, it’s like baseball without the laser-fast pitching and potentially bone-breaking meteor of a ball. The rules are simple:

  • Throw the ball
  • Hit the ball
  • Run

Question:  It’s a simple rule of three. How simple could anything possible get?

Answer: It would have to be a whole lot simpler if the kids that I was going to teach were to understand it.

First up was team selection. That was reasonably straightforward. The teams were chosen – both teams appeared equally matched – both looked as if they would struggle – let the entertainment begin!

Entertain, they certainly did.

First up was the total misunderstanding of field positions. Have a man on each base. Cover the backstop position. Have somebody pitch the ball. Pitch underhand. Pitch so that the striker has a reasonable chance to reach and strike the ball. There are three chances to hit. When you think that you have hit it hard, or far enough, RUN.

Fielders were expected to stand up rather than sit down. They were asked to chase the ball and then throw it back to the bases of the pitcher or the backstop. Simple? Strangely not.

What followed was comic mayhem. Balls were thrown in the manner of a short-circuiting robot. Swing and miss, swing and miss. Swing and connect, but not realising the connection and remaining still until the teacher’s words of encouragement to run finally percolated through the miasma of confusion. A lack of appreciation that normal softball players run from one base to the next (in order: 1, 2, 3, 4.).

I  had not reckoned on the immutable realities of the universe not apply themselves here. But, hey, this was PE being led by an English Literature supply teacher. 

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Let the games begin!

Food For Thoughts…

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Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives.

Anthony Bourdain
Big decisions had to be made and I was not the man to make them. I was waking up to another morning of completing a profoundly profound post and then moving into a contemplation of my life from that moment on. It was set to be a long day conversing with myself.

Before I started my arduous toil, a cup of coffee was needed. Coffee, unlike tea, is not a domesticated drink. It is a drink to be consumed in public, amongst others who share the same addiction. My favourite place to upload caffeine is a cycle themed cafe, Cafe Velo.

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The coffee is sublime and there are cycle magazines in abundance. In the last week however, my choice of venue has received an unwanted complication. I visited another coffee shop, one that served amazing almond croissants as a morning freebie. It is unfortunately part of a chain, but I have been there.

I was in the midst of this internal dilemma when I saw myself in the mirror. My hair was wayward, suggesting that there was still some madness within. A shower was in order. Yesterday, I shaved and I had already completed any other toilet tasks earlier, so it was just a shower. The random mayhem of the night’s sojourn would soon be mended.

On my way into the bedroom, I noticed my phone sitting on the bedside table. As I went to uplug the charger, it lit up. The phone was on silent and it was not set to vibrate. There was a certain fortune about this as it would certainly have gone unheeded if I hadn’t noticed my lunatic follicles.

Unwanted phone calls have been plaguing my life recently. There are a number of companies who have my number. They hand it out to any trainee cold-caller who happens not to be able to get a job, and have declined the golden mitt of teaching, so call unknowns up to try to sell them things. There are tribes of these telephone tormentors in Glasgow, Manchester, and London. The ones from the Indian sub-continent, with spurious names such as Grant or Mitch, have fallen off the map of late. Anyway, I checked the number and recognised it to be local. It may have been that the tribes had invaded my region, but I sacrificed due caution for curiosity (the cat was safely out of doors at this point).

“Is that Mike, Mike Evans?”

“Speaking.”

“Could you possibly do a day’s supply work?”

“Yes. Where?” I was a little too enthusiastic for my own liking.”

“Could you do Darfield?”

“No, that’s one of the places I said that I would not do.” Darfield had been the place where my pot finally boiled over.

“Could you do Polaris?”

State controlled private schools seemed to be involved in a competition to have the most stupid of names. Polaris was a set of officially ‘Good’ academies. It did a half decent job of educating the offspring of an economically, and culturally, deprived area. I had spent almost six months there until the person I was covering for annoyingly reappeared.

“Yes, I’ll do it.” Again that overly enthusiastic tone.

“Good. Get there as soon as you can.”

I bounced in the shower, brushed my teeth, ironed a shirt, said goodbye to my bemused middle daughter (but wasn’t that the place you left on Monday?), patted the cat for good luck, took the car to the petrol station, bought a cheap sandwich and drove to the north star.

It was with a happy indifference that I walked into the reception to find that my details were still on the clocking-in system (data protection error) and received my lanyard, class lists, and temporary timetable.

It was with well acquainted irony that I discovered that my first class of the day was maths, but with a number of students who were collectively my least favourite.

It all added up; I didn’t particularly like maths, I didn’t particularly like a number of  those students, but I also didn’t like the prospect of sitting with my own company trying to reach a difficult decision.

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Life had become a smorgasbord of indifferent delights.

In memory of Anthony Bourdain

 

 

Why Study Books?

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‘England is sick, and…English literature must save it. The Churches have failed, and social remedies being slow, English literature now has a triple function: still, I suppose, to delight and instruct us, but also, above all, to save our souls and to heal the State.’ 

George Gordon  Professor of Literature  Oxford University 1922

During the course of my life, I have always believed that to be the case. If God could no longer save souls, then books should. In thinking this, I was not the originator of this idea. Since the nineteenth century, when the influence of the church began to wane, it became obvious that something had to step in to save the day. And it was with a certain biblical irony that books became the vehicle of choice.

Life is a route-planner.

We start our journeys at some particular time and place and finish them at another. Life is similar to a time-out from the general tedium of the omnipresent tedium of not living. But, whatever journey we are on, is never going to be an easy one. Life is best with things that beset life, namely life and death and suffering and the Conservative Party. Without these things, it is difficult to claim that one has ever lived, especially if one is already dead meaning that ones opinion no longer counts as only a very few can hear it. It’s a shame because I think that the dead are possibly in possession of more wisdom than the not dead. If you knew how you were going to die, a wise person would probably do something else on that day. Simple wisdom for simple thinkers.

I honestly don’t know where my route-planner has got to, these days. I think that I can remember having it when I set off. Indeed, I think I can remember setting a destination, somewhere like ‘Contentment’, ‘Peace of Mind’, or ‘Moderately Successful With a Beautiful Wife, Wonderful Children, and a Volvo Estate’. The last one always seemed to accompany the ones that went before.  The problem with these destinations is that they cannot be found on traditional maps. The route-planner just instructed me to point my car in any direction of my whim and then set off to see where I could get to before I died.

At the moment, I am here.

Here is an existential crisis. It is a place betwixt and between. A campsite in a town that one never planned to visit. Sounds good, but I have been here before.

Each and every year (not quite as we sometimes decide to ‘staycate’), my wife and I take the girls on a family holiday. The holiday usually involves packing up lots of things: bikes, tents, sleeping bags, phrase books, and a selection of real books to read when we are not doing the activity ‘thing’.  We do tend to have a destination, but go out of our way to not plan the trip. We regard the journey to our destination as being just as potentially enjoyable as the end product.

We aim to be relatively aimless and land on campsites that we have never visited before in a bid to be random adventurers. What does happen, always happens, is that we pitch-up in a place that slowly reveals itself to be familiar. We are like frogs that have a road map implanted in their DNA. No matter how much time has elapsed since their last journey, no matter how many generations have passed, they still take the same route; inexplicably. And so it is with us.

Ah, Ah! Those knowing human beings would say. Man is not a frog. Man is a work of divine creation. Man needs guidance in the way that mere Anura do not. It would not be proper for many of us to get ‘squished on Life’s highways’. Ah, Ah! I respond. I agree. But then I would point out that I was using the biblical device of hiding a lesson within a story.

And that is my point. Literature is scripture with a number of letter changes. From both, we find out what we need and ought to know about the touring holiday that we like to call Life. As God probably no longer exists, as we can’t be bothered with him/her, we need a new type of route-planner, one that is fit for our cultural needs.

Here are a few suggestions:

             These                       OR                  This

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