Questions I dare not ask

A boy called Mekon warned the class today 'I tell you man, I will shoe anyone who sells me some lame goods, man'.

I'm unsure whether 'to shoe' a trader selling shoddy mechandise is a milder version of 'putting the boot in' or a reference to legal action, but aside from clarifying this, I do have to ask myself how Mekon came to share his name with an alien in a 1950s British comic.

Were his parents aware of the name's connotation in pop-culture?

Or did the writers of the Dan Dare stories choose the name 'Mekon' from a random foreign book, liking the sound of it and not expecting there would ever be real, live Mekons resident in the UK?

Or is it pure co-incidence?

At least I will have these questions to raise at parents' evening if conversation dries up.

Looking at my class list for this afternoon I see I'm also teaching Dalek and Klingon.* Still, I imagine there are comics and books in distant lands with aliens called Mr Socks, John, and so on.

*Made this bit up.


Stamp Out The Squander Bug #2

We have seen how the mobile phone can be used more prudently to reduce expenditure in this cash-strapped climate. Now Wholesome Socks presents the second in our series suggesting ways to cut spending.

● Don’t come to school.

The World War 2 poster sums up my message: Is your journey really necessary?

I would venture that since a caveperson first scratched something on the cave wall about hunting techniques or how to make a fire, cavechildren will have been finding more enjoyable and less environmentally damaging things to do than travelling to that cave.

Whether you're on the staff or you're a pupil, if you’re serious about saving money then you'll want to follow the example of these truants and avoid frittering away your capital on travelling to school unless you absolutely must.

Even the costs of apparently free modes of transport such as walking and cycling mount up over time, with needless wear to shoes and tyres. Total abstinence from school is the only sure-fire way to save.

Examples of necessary journeys would be to attend induction days, public examinations, and school fundraising events.

With the advent of the internet and distance learning, many of the other services schools offer can already be delivered without students or staff leaving the home.

Many teachers are already following the examples of their more sophisticated non-attending pupils and are travelling to school only when unavoidable. Teachers co-operate as team members and are always happy to cover absent colleague's lessons, knowing they are helping to reduce costs and that the favour will be returned without the slightest resentment.

Stamp Out The Squander Bug part #1 and part #3 - please recycle them.

Revolting socks for peasants

An army of bulldozers advanced from London and halted outside the local town.

Yellow-helmeted troops set up temporary wooden fortifications enclosing the finest land in the manor.

The townspeople came out to see the chipboard hoardings, taking furtive peeks through gaps in the fence, hoping to glimpse the mighty army that had descended on the municipality.

The townsdogs sought new territory in which to exercise.

Soon the yellow-helmet troops raised their coat-of-arms outside the camp. The coat-of-arms was taller than three of our sturdiest yeomen, and broader than the longest pikestaff.

I studied their shield’s design with growing disbelief.

The emblem of the invading army appeared to be an impressionistic etching of a house, not unlike the Manor House from which the local Lord carried out his executive duties.

This representation of a house appeared to be a mischievous and base fantasy, for despite the grandeur of the building’s façade, the coat-of-arms clearly depicted nothing less than uncouth peasants happily living within its iron gates.

As I stood with the other Aldermen of the town, pondering what this new development could mean for our centuries-old way of life, a filthy peasant – an illiterate and one of my former students – set his grubby paw on my arm, jabbed his other dirty finger at the coat-of-arms and asked me ‘What’s that say, Sir? What’s that say on coat-of-arms of invading army, Sir?’

There was indeed an inscription below the fantastical image of the world turned upside down.

‘It says …’ I paused to build the gravitas befitting one of the town’s few men of letters, using these moments to decide which lie I should tell to keep the peasant from realising the intentions of this yellow-helmet host. And then I resolved that it would be futile for me to hold the terrible truth from the stinking, rag-encrusted man.

‘It says, my dear peasant…that this army is planning to build “Executive Homes”… that means more homes for Lords of the Manor.’

The miserable peasant fixed his gaze on me, momentarily paralysed while his brain gave itself over to the interpretation of my words, and he attempted what I remembered from my experience of teaching the odious devil to be his equivalent of ‘thought’.

I took advantage of the peasant’s stupor to tug my cloak free of his grip and leave the encampment behind me, but as I paced back to the school I again felt my former student hanging on my sleeve.

‘But Sir, picture on coat-of-arms is like picture of me, it can’t be homes only for Lords of the Manor, Sir! Lord of Manor’s already got finest Manor House in the Manor, Sir! Why does army now come to build more for him and his sort? What about you that teaches little ‘uns and me that ploughs field? And those that guard town from villains when town sleeps, and those that tend townsfolk during times of plague and pestilence? And…’

I was taken aback by the peasant’s innovative and unprecedented grasp our town's socio-political circumstances.

‘I know!’ I lost my composure. ‘Stop reminding me!’

I returned to my teacher’s cottage where I scribed this account in the fervent hope of redress to our town's grievances.

To those who find this I am and remain - Your humble chronicler, William Sockkes Esq.

I've transcribed the above from some parchment I discovered, a yellowed scroll which had been hidden and forgotten long ago under a loose paving slab in my cottage. It's quite a co-incidence that it was a teacher living here all those centuries ago - perhaps an ancestor of mine!


He's got the whole world in his... frying pan? Huh?

Those Evolution Nuts will stop at nothing.

Not content with claiming we all evolved from fish or something, scientists are saying the entire world was cooked like a fish – billions of years before God even created it!

‘Earth’s early battering revealed’

Video of creationists putting the world - and everything in it - to rights.

Stamp Out The Squander Bug #1

It occurs to me that in these times of economic strife Wholesome Socks should ‘do our bit’ to help the nation – just as we did during the war, when our Public Information unit asked the country to ‘Put A Sock In The Squander Bug’ (historians might like to peruse our 1940s archives*).

Luckily the staff and students at school have already implemented a few smart money-saving tricks. I will be collecting and sharing their tips here as they come to my attention.

To start you off:

● If you have a mobile phone don’t charge its battery at home - the electricity could be billed to you or your parents. Just bring the phone charger with you to school and plug it into one of the many mobile-charging sockets generously provided by the school for your use. This technique has been put into practice by dozens of expert cash-saving students already.

● Although very few young people can survive without the life-support system that is the mobile phone, those able to wrench themselves away from this modern essential will discover that our friendly reception staff will allow pupils to use their free-telephone. The accepted form of request is ‘I have to ring home for a lift’ (or similar) and you will be able to chat away as long as you please – and it won’t cost you a dime.

I have just spied a penny laying across the street - please excuse me a moment.

Stamp Out The Squander Bug #2 and Stamp Out The Squander Bug #3

*Coming soon.


Cheering me up

Mr Socks: We’re nearly ready for our class debate, but first, who knows what a chairman does? Erm… I mean chairperson. Or something.

Prize pupil: Yeah, it’s like a chairleader, isn’t it?

Mr Socks: Yes, that’s right. I have taught you well.

And the teacher saw that it was good.

Another Prize Pupil.

Don't call me, I'll call you (something rude, probably)

The contact email on this site may soon be superfluous – your humble correspondent’s home address could be available to all! (News - CD with teachers' details goes missing - I'll be under ‘Socks, W’ if the disk happens to have fallen into your hands and you feel like popping round for tea).

This appears to be just another overzealous interpretation of ‘putting information in the public domain’. Maybe next week it will be MI5 employees’ personal details strewn from helicopters over suburbia.

I have just finished compiling the CD with names and addresses of senior staff at the General Teaching Council and Parcelforce, ready to be left in a convenient public place this week. I am sure a responsible member of the public will find and return it immediately.

(I assume MI5 will monitor this so can I just say hello, thank-you for your sterling work, and I am joking about the CD with the General Teaching Council and Parcelforce bosses' details. Thank-you again).

Teacher puts downer on ecstasy plans

There may soon be a change in how the drug ‘ecstasy’ is classified in the UK.

(BBC News report).

Excluding for a moment the dealers and users of brain-altering substances, and the thousands of nurses, doctors, paramedics, EMTs, police officers, social workers, friends, families, teachers etc. who help ‘pick up the pieces’, the main groups concerned with the proposed change are:

● The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which is considering downgrading ecstasy from Class A (very dangerous) to Class B (rather dangerous).

● The Association of Chief Police Officers – they are warning that a downgrade would mislead people into thinking ecstasy is OK.

● The UK government, which has to decide to accept or reject the re-classification. (They recently moved cannabis up from Class C to Class B, against the Advisory Council’s wishes).

I believe I can offer a solution satisfying the police bosses, the government, and the drugs advisors (it will still, unfortunately, leave the dealers dealing and the users using, and the thousands of nurses, doctors, paramedics, EMTs, police officers, social workers, friends, families, teachers etc. picking up pieces, as before).

The people who decide how unhealthy each drug is just need to look at what was done with the grading of GCSE and A-level exams.

When it was realised that some candidates were simply too brilliant to only get an ‘A’ grade, they created the higher A* grade (spoken as 'A star') to mark out the sheer excellence of those students.

It appears from the Oxford Professor quoted in the BBC article that the issue at stake is "the relative damage associated with ecstasy compared with crack cocaine and heroin". In other words - ecstasy is bad for you, but heroin and crack cocaine are worse, so they can't all be Class A.

So, re-classify heroin and cocaine as A* drugs, and ecstasy can stay an ‘A'. That should:

● Satisfy the Chief Police Officers by emphasising the danger of the A* drugs, without making an ecstasy tablet look like a mug of cocoa at bedtime.

● Satisfy the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by showing how ectasy is bad but not as bad as the A* substances.

● And satisfy the UK government - they won't have to make any further decisions, and the status-quo won't have changed too much.

Anyone from the Home Office reading this? Anyone reading this, for that matter? It's all just ideas.


Storm in a teacup (stolen from the staffroom)

What were the main points of the Treaty of Versailles? Brainstorm.

How does photosynthesis work? Brainstorm that.

How many countries can you think of? Brainstorm them!

Which Prime Ministers wore glasses? Brainstorm a few!

Class, how can you raise money for charity? Brainstorm a few ideas!

Staff, the school is going downhill and we need to fix it. How? Brainstorm!

Kids, remember your top 500 brainstorms from the last week? Well, start brainstorming!

I need ideas to keep you lot busy while I drink mugs of tea. Would you have a brainstorm?

Lots of pens! Huge sheets of paper! Clueless children! Action!

Brainstorms: A humane alternative to caning.

Next week: The Mind Map


Mr. Watson - don't come here - I don't want to see you

Another demonstration of the legitimacy of delivering professional services over the telephone.

Freud's IQ

More fun with pastoral form period activities: 15 year old boy shows me a crudely adapted bus pass and asks "Sir, can I buy alcohol with my false IQ?"

So that's more rubbish to be consigned to my desk drawer-archive of recrement, where it will never be seen again.

If people learn from their mistakes this chap should be a veritable oracle by now.

Even higher false IQ.


99 Flakes

It was a sunny day in the Land of Socks. People swarmed into the parks. Ice cream vans sang out their siren song. Adults were enchanted like sailors crashing their vessels on unforgiving rocks. Children were enraptured as though following the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

With these diversions I seized the opportunity to celebrate the 99th Wholesome Socks post by stealing* away with 99 Cadbury’s 99 Flake ice creams and eating them with the vigour of purpose you would only expect of a hapless drugs courier swallowing packages of cocaine**, sweating at the approach of the sniffer dog of destiny.

Please raise your ice cream with me in a toast to another 99 flaky posts.

*And I mean ‘stealing away’ in the sense of withdrawing covertly, not in the legal sense of theft.
** I have never done this, either.

Idea for would-be speed camera entrepreneur

Speed-limit breaking drivers – slow down or you’ll miss this. I have a plan and I wanted to warn you - unless you’ve already got a gadget in your car that bleeps at you when I’m blogging (it wouldn’t surprise me).

Here is my modest proposal:

Drivers are allowed to have equipment to warn them when they approach a speed camera or radar gun, so they know where it’s OK to drive as fast as they like (collisions permitting).

So what about drivers who don’t break the speed limits? Aren’t they being left out by not having detection gadgets of their own?

But whatever could they be wanting to detect, if they have no need to look out for Gatso cameras or police officers with radar guns?

With so many people flouting the law, surely those drivers who somehow manage not to break the speed limits should have an opportunity to support the law.

To this end I propose the design, production and installation of cheap, easily operated, dashboard mounted speed cameras for recording and reporting your fellow motorists.

If we can make $100 laptops for Third World children, wind-up radios for villages without electricity, and bagless vacuum-cleaners, then I don’t imagine it beyond the capabilities of our finest inventors to invent a kind of mini-Gatso for public use.

(I'm calling it Grasso™ until I think of something better)

I’m happy to leave the technicalities of the project to others. I’m too busy working on my other proposed ‘speed trap’, which is basically a gigantic mousetrap I am building in my shed. It will be set in the road, and the powerful springs released to trap your car if you try driving over it too fast.

Original speeding post from The Magistrate's Blog.

Prequel to this post.

Sequel to this post, where I swap Tom and Jerry antics for Ben and Jerry's (or similar).


News FLASH! Gotcha.

The Magistrate has expressed his displeasure at a website peddling law-evasion gadgets, namely a device which can allegedly warn speeding drivers of the whereabouts of mobile police speed cameras so they don’t get caught in the act. I share the Magistrate’s ire at speeders being helped to break the law (and generally make the roads less safe, not just for other motorists but also cyclists, your granny when she goes to the shops, and everyone else).

I’ve long marvelled at the situation in Holland, where at least one national radio station invites its listeners to phone in the positions of mobile police speed cameras, and broadcasts these as part of its news bullet-ins.

It appears this is perfectly legal in the Netherlands, but I fail to understand why… it’s like Radio 4 finishing the news with ‘… and the serial killer who is currently murdering random innocent people throughout the Home Counties would be best advised to keep a low profile in the *insert any road or area* tonight, where police murder squad officers have been spotted. Our thanks to the listener who phoned that in. And now the shipping forecast…’

Slow down, everyone! Please!


No credit for His Master's Voice

If you are a young person, you are probably talking to someone on your mobile phone as you read this.

Young people love mobile phones. You love them more than your family. More than you love your country. More than you love the Queen, I’d venture.

(Say you’ll ring ‘em back, would you? You’ve got a long text message from me, OK?)

If it helps you to follow this post, we could make it into a ringtone for you. The ringtone will be to the tune of the British National Anthem and it’ll go like this:

I love my wondrous phone
More than I love the Queen
I love my phone
Liz, you’re also a marvel
We’ll chat, just give me a bell
When I’m a hundred
You’ll send me a text

Alright, I know that’s more of a ‘bad poem’ than a ‘ringtone’, but I am not in touch, you know. Never mind ‘having my finger on the pulse’, I hardly have a pulse.

In fact, you young people are so attached to your mobiles that during a recent ‘pastoral’ activity where you had to write down what you believed most important in life to make you happy, some of you girls wrote ‘my phone’ at the top of your list. Lads - move with the times, will you? Most of you are still writing ‘money’ at the top of your list. Money alone won’t make you happy, money's worth nothing unless you use it to buy the latest phone, is that clear?

It’s good that I know how to communicate with you, now. A lot of you won't get off your phones during lessons, so I’ve been asking your mates for your numbers, and now I won’t actually need to come to the classroom. I’ll just ring you up and try to teach you like that.

I believe the Universities and institutions of Higher Education do something similar to this, involving the internet and letters, and they like to call this ‘distance learning’.

What they don’t realise is that you kids have been innovating and perfecting methods of ‘distance learning’ since schools were invented. I have even been out at lunchtime with wire cutters to make a few holes in the fence and give you a head start.

Let’s create as much distance as possible. Then we might all find happiness.

University of Wholesome Socks - new term examinations

“Jethro Tull has never been deformed, on the contrary, they are still performing after 40 years.”
(A 21 Year Old Female, September 2008).

Consider and compare this assertion with the 21 Year Old Female’s claim that ‘In 1980 Led Zeppelin was dismembered’.

(17 marks).


Will b l8 iv crst

Driving makes texting on your mobile phone more hazardous than either alcohol or drug use, according to research by the RAC Foundation. The researchers haven't yet investigated the effects of fasting on the ability to read and send text messages safely, but I will be continuing my own observations.


Had a few things to eat this evening, have we? Blow into this, please, madam

Quite recently at a place where your children are educated in a galaxy not so far away:

The staffroom. Teacher A (male, atheist) is sitting comfortably in a well-worn armchair, feasting on some fruit salad while awaiting the bell to signal ‘action-stations’.

Teacher M (female, muslim) stumbles into the staffroom looking dazed and sits down near Teacher A, accidentally knocking another chair over in the process.

Teacher A: What’s up? You look exhausted, not your usual self.

Teacher M: Damn this headache, I can’t concentrate on anything. I’m fasting, you know.

Teacher A: Oh, it’s Ramadan isn’t it, I forgot.

Teacher M: Yes, I can’t eat anything until it gets dark, that will be hours.

Teacher A: Can you take something for your headache?

Teacher M: No!

Teacher A: Oh dear, I’m sorry. But what about your blood sugar levels? They’re probably low, that’s probably why you can’t concentrate.

Teacher M: Yes, but I’m fasting.

Teacher M fumbles through her lesson plans, hopelessly unable to find what she's looking for, and dropping papers out of her folder.

Teacher A: You come to work by car don’t you? So you’ll be driving home?

Teacher M: Erm, yeah?

Teacher A: Well, that can’t be safe, can it? You can hardly walk in a straight line, you shouldn’t be driving in your state.

Teacher M looks aghast.

Teacher A: I go your way, I could drop you off.

Teacher M reflexively pulls her Hijab further over her forehead.

Teacher M: I said I’ve been fasting, not drinking. What’s your problem?

Teacher A: Nothing, I just don't want you having an accident, that's all. And I think you should eat something, actually.

Teacher M: Yeah, but I’m not going to have an accident, am I? And I'm fasting.

Not wishing to whip up religious strife, Teacher A retreats into his copy of The Times, and doesn't make any silent to prayer to any non-existent God, he just hopes Teacher M gets home without killing herself or anyone else.

In the beginning was the Word, and it was open to misinterpretation

Professor Michael Reiss, who was recently reported as proposing that Creationism should be given air-time in school science lessons, has resigned from his post as director of education at the Royal Society. BBC News says he quit because the Royal Society believed the professor’s comments were “open to misinterpretation".

Well blow me, if everyone who got excited and then blurted out something unusual had to resign because such an ejaculation was "open to misinterpretation" then I don’t think many people would still be on the job.

Although I can think of a few teachers who come out with some ideas which wouldn’t be open to misinterpretation, but only because they defy all attempts at interpretation.

One of our uberteachers giving a PowerPoint presentation on the latest educational theories recently ambled through the pronouncement that follows. During this utterance she held her hands with palms towards the audience of teachers and nodded at a steady rate of 30 nods per minute, clearly indicating her extreme sincerity, openness, and perspicacity:

"I want us to stay where we are so we can find new directions and keep moving forwards".

Fear not, her job is safe.


Nihilistic about Creationists

I declared a ceasefire in my personal battle against so-called 'Creationists' on Friday afternoon, but now it is Monday morning and the British Creationists have fired their opening salvo for the week.

The Creationists and Darwinists must make their peace and quickly, so humanity can move forwards to the real task they must accomplish to ensure its continued survival.

I have said it before and I will repeat it:

We must start making moves to repair the giant invisible VHS video cassette on which our world exists, or face not just extinction, but the erasure of the entire universe.

Theologians, scientists and technicians will have to work together.


Painting the town institutional creamy yellow

Who paints the schools?

I don’t mean a modern-day Constable who comes and creates some beautiful landscapes featuring the best of our 1970s school architecture.

And don’t be glib and tell me ‘painters paint the schools, who else?’

I don’t believe for a moment that it can be painters, whether of the artistic or decorative variety. Psychopaths, yes. Painters, no.

I want to know who it is that actually comes and slaps the paint on school buildings when the staff aren’t there.

Because I’d really like to be able to open some windows.

They’ve had a go at a few of the doors, too.

Once I knew a teacher who apparently went into school at some point in the summer holidays to put up classroom displays.

We found him in his classroom on the first day of term, his body petrified like a citizen of ancient Pompeii, his arm for eternity reaching out to defend himself with the staple gun in his hand, but he had not been quick enough. He was moulded into the wall under several coats of the usual creamy yellow paint.

I haven’t been able to watch Goldfinger since, and I feel quite queasy when I see those street performers who paint themselves and pretend to be statues.

I hope the same cowboys don’t get the contract to paint Eurofighter jets. It would be terrible if one of the pilots needed to use the ejection seat and everyone could hear over the radio as he realised the window had been painted shut.

Apparently the computers in these modern warplanes can actually talk to the pilot, and I hope they're programmed with swearwords.

Neither King nor Country would be pleased.

The only thing I miss is Hema (when I'm throwing up everywhere)

Holland’s biggest* department store is affectionately saluted in ‘The only thing I miss is Hema’** a book telling the stories of various Dutch expats around the world.

Now Hema (the Netherlands’ equivalent of Debenhams or Macy’s, I suppose) has introduced a system whereby employees who wish to report sick for duty must crawl from their beds, get their computer started up, log-in to a secure Hema website and answer up to 60 questions about their condition.

Apparently employee absence due to sickness has fallen by 50% since the poorly shop assistants were given the choice of undergoing this online operation or showing up to cough and wretch through their day at the cash register.

Although I shift uncomfortably in my chair at the thought of our beloved internet being used for extra control of people, as opposed to promoting their liberty, I predict certain useful applications of the Orwellian technology.

For example, Hema’s sickness questionnaire could be adapted into a Microsoft-style ‘help’ section. A little paper clip (wearing a white coat and with a stethoscope) could come tapping on the screen and say ‘It looks like you’re throwing up! Would you like some help?’

If NHS Direct could be brought into the partnership, and some powerful corporation found to sponsor the scheme (that is, put the workforce in a financial thumbscrew) we could have sick employees logging in and then being guided through medical procedures they need to perform on themselves to get fit for work and back to whatever coalface the economy needs them to be scraping at.

I am also developing some ideas for using the internet to help keeping track of our pupils. Our school is full of wonderful people and it hurts me personally if even one student or teacher cannot come into school.

* Or that might be Vroom en Dreesmann. Never mind.
**= ‘Ik mis alleen de Hema’


Casting light on the past and losing the way in a Routemaster

Exploring my parent’s attic I found a number of old super-8 style cine films (or at any rate, some old film spools with square holes down the side) and it took me a while, but I finally got hold of the right type of projector and I had the chance to see what was locked up in these tin cans since an inch of dust had settled on them.

One night I took the phone off the hook, pulled the curtains tight, and fired up the old projector. The smell of something burning quickly filled the room as the projector reels started whirring, but I just banged a few windows open and decided to risk pressing on with the impromptu film screening. ‘At the first sign of flames I’ll just pull the plug, that should do it’, I muttered to myself. I mutter a lot when tinkering with machines. Pulling the plug when my computer has started burning has stood me in good stead over the years. Plug pulling is the computer nerd’s version of a fighter jet’s ejector seat.

As the projector’s light powered up from candle power to searchlight power the yellow beam revealed the pretty display of dancing dust that always hangs in the air, but usually invisible to the human eye.

Just a few small adjustments and the light was focussed on the living room wall, the film ready to premier. The wall became a bustling city centre scene. Judging from the car designs and clothes, it looked to be some time in the 19…well, I’ll just call it the year 19-when-I-were-young (the words ‘when I were young’ should be imagined with a Yorkshire accent, if you can).

At the centre of the wall I saw a double-decker Routemaster-style bus. The bus was stopped and passengers were getting on and off. Whoever was holding the camera was walking towards the bus (I don’t think the camera would have had a zoom function). The camera was then pointed upwards and I saw a boy looking down from an upstairs window of the bus. He looked down directly at the camera, looking at me from my living room wall.

I didn’t need to see any more of the film. The window was dirty and scratched and my shorts made of itchy material. We had just been to the London museum of big dinosaur skeletons and were on our way home. Or to meet up with my mother. Or was it my grandparents? I can’t remember.

The camera was held by an earnest looking man wearing a suit which must have been out of fashion at least a decade, even in 19-when-I-were-young. The wearer of the suit had not wanted to use the camera that day – no matter how big the dinosaurs had been - but now he had started shooting and pointed the lens firmly at me, as I sat, confused, there on the top deck of the bus.

‘You get on, I’ll get on in a moment,’ he had told me.

I had climbed aboard, hesitantly.

‘Upstairs!’ he snarled. I went up, my itchy shorts rubbing as I mounted each step.

Philip Larkin was right, they really do make you cross, your mum and dad.

And so it had come to be, that I was sitting there, looking at him filming me, down there.

The bus pulled off from the bus stop and drove off my wall. The camera nodded down to the pavement and the picture vanished.

A strange man started walking fast, having just recorded one of his bizarre attempts to get rid of his young son.


What schools and naughty scientists don't want your children to know

Recently I wrote about how our world, life, the universe and all of existence could have come to an end as the result of a foolish scientific experiment in Switzerland.

With the failure of the world to end as predicted (that doesn’t actually happen until 2015, by the way – but more of that in a moment) all of this begs the question of Well, How Was The World Actually Created, Then?

I am privy to a great deal of arcane knowledge, and now I will share with the world the story of how it happened that the universe was brought into existence.

112 years ago, in 1896, a divine omnipotent film director used a 1980s Philips camcorder - which he had obviously transported back in time - to create the universe.

The divine film director did this by creating a metaphysical VHS video cassette (just like the ones you had before DVDs) and on this video cassette he recorded his creation – that is, the universe and everything we experience in it.

On the video cassette tape is recorded all the world’s history, every person who has ever lived, every idea that has ever been thought, every last thing that has ever happened in human experience.

Using his divine powers, the film director started this video playing, thus creating the universe from scratch in 1896.

(It should be noted that all years before 1896 are no more than an illusion stemming from human folly and hubris. An intelligent person will realise that it is impossible for the world to have existed longer than 112 years, because before that time there would have been no films to entertain people, so how could people have existed?).

The divine film director’s creation will continue until 2015, when the tape abruptly runs out, and the world will end (albeit only temporarily).

Then the video will be re-wound. The re-winding will last for 2 of our human years, and will take us back to the start of the universe in 1896. These 2 years of re-winding will be a time of great strife, ushering in the regression of humankind to late Victorian technological and social standards.

I can tell you that not only is this re-winding of the universe inevitable, but that it has already happened. In fact, it has happened millions of times already.

Of course a VHS video cassette cannot be played and re-wound millions of times without some damage and wear to the very fabric of the tape on which the universe is recorded.

As the creases, rips, and general damage to the video tape worsen, each incarnation of the universe is subject to increasingly severe natural disasters, wars and diseases. (This is obvious to anyone reviewing world history).

Where there is only slight damage to the tape, this results in social movements such as ‘retro looks’ in fashion, and the resurgence of musical styles which had previously fallen from public favour. This is due to some parts of the tape being ‘smudged’, and historical epochs merging with each other.

The divine film maker, previously omnipotent, has since lost some of his power, and is now, unfortunately, only a little bit omnipotent and semi-retired. It will be up to humans to find ways to repair the tape that is the foundation of their existence - or face oblivion.

I would now like to call for the Philips camcorder story to be discussed in school science lessons, because some children obviously have strong family-held beliefs in the divine film director. (Family-held beliefs, of course, take precedence over their own beliefs). It is imperative that science is not allowed to pollute these children's minds without them having the chance to learn alternative truths about the nature of reality.

Douglas Adams and Stanley Kubrick emerge from their graves

BBC News Magazine discussed the effects on children of the Black Hole scare and the 'end of the world' hoo-har.

Educational psychologist Alex Griffiths, advising parents on how to assuage their child's angst during the closing moments of the universe's existence, compounded by anger at the possible waste of public funds, is quoted thus:

"Experimentation is a good thing."

I'm with him on that point. Experimentation keeps children occupied during science lessons. Experimentation is the only way I can find out how to do something on my computer when the 'Help' menu doesn't and the technicians are too busy. Experimentation is how the Wright Brothers got to fly. Experimentation is how people 'discover themselves' (I experiment and I suggest you do, too).

Experimentation is A Good Thing.

The educational psychologist continues, and I don't care if the Beeb 'phoned him while he was sleeping or took his words out of context:

"Government and scientists are not going to spend large amounts of money on something that could harm us. Lots of thought will have gone into it and what is likely to come out of it."

Cleaners keeping a cheap, harmless nuclear bomb spic and span.


No amnesty for teachers

An ordinary classroom. The tables have been stacked up by the wall and the children are sitting in a big half circle. Facing them is a visitor from Amnesty International. He has come to speak to these 15 year olds about human rights issues in Britain and abroad.

Among the 15 year olds is a girl with long blonde hair in pigtails, bearing an uncanny resemblance to this poster which is reproduced in many books about the Nazi era, although the girl probably does not know this and almost certainly does not wish to associate herself with the Nazi movement.

She has at her feet a pink rucksack with a picture of My Little Pony (or some similarly girlish merchandise). Her school uniform is immaculate, in contrast to many of her classmates.

The human rights presentation has been running for 2 minutes and the kids are listening respectfully but with little real interest.

The representative from the human rights organisation is a softly spoken gentleman in his 40s who says he will be talking about torture, arms exports, political prisoners, freedom of expression.

He asks the class:

‘Right, who likes ice cream?’

I am sorry, he doesn’t ask if anyone likes ice cream, he says:


He leans forward in his chair, signifying weighty words.

‘ Who here … supports having the death … penalty?’

The pigtailed girl shoots her arm into the air at an angle of about 45º, her hand grasping at the air.

She screeches:

‘Meee, meee!’

I am not sure if she looks more like someone in a montage by Nazi cinema propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, or an adoring concert goer standing by the stage where her favourite band is playing.

Lunchtime. I receive a message from His Headmastership requesting my presence in the hall.

The caretaker at our school is a wizard at carpentry. In just a few hours, the stage where generations of pupils have stood to receive awards, to perform plays, to give presentations, has been transformed forever.

‘Careful, that’s the trapdoor’, warns the caretaker as I tread across the boards. I look up at where the stage lighting had been mounted. In the shadows there now hangs a noose, woven in what looks to be the strongest hemp.

Standing in the wings is the pigtailed girl, her pink My Little Pony rucksack slung over her shoulder, the purest childish delight radiating from her face, and her small hands reached out before her, firmly clasping an enormous lever, similar to the kind of lever I believe was used on old steam railways to change the points.

‘Remind me what your name was’, I order her.

‘Albertyna’ the girl giggles.

‘Albertyna what?’ I demand with uncharacteristic impatience. Then I realise that, with a deftness of hand that only the finest craftsman can master, the caretaker has fastened the noose around my neck.

Pulling the lever with all her might, the last sound I hear is the girl's voice echoing around the old school hall, accompanied by the cruel cheering of a thousand unseen children.

‘My name… is Albertyna Pierrepoint!’

‘Oi, give it a rest! It’ll end up gory!’ Not Wilfred Owen

I submit for your consideration this poem inspired by Wilfred Owen's anti-war verse Dulce Et Decorum Est and my own experiences of modern Yoof Culture (or: a poem about why I prefer a night at home wearing a cardigan and slippers to a night within 2 miles of practically any British town centre).

Drank doubles, us old slappers with big racks,
Bare-kneed, cussing like slags, we coughed up sludge,
Till on the boozing ground we turned our backs
And towards our distant beds we tried to nudge.
Birds danced asleep. Many had lost their shoes
But danced on, downed shots. All looked lame; all blind;
Pissed up on booze; deaf even to the woes
Of tired blokes on the pull that rubbed up behind.

Cab! Cab! Quick, girls! – No XTC, just running,
Catching the dirty taxi just in time;
But some bird still was screaming loud and stumbling,
And looking like a bird in shit and grime . . .
Dim, through the filthy panes and sodium light,
As under a neon sea, I saw her frowning.

In all my hangovers, I hear her chatting shite,
She lunges at me, muttering, choking, frowning.

If in some smothering hangover you too could face
The doors of the Police van they flung her in,
And watch the blood-shot eyes rolling in her face,
Her ugly face, like a haddock's, or something;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the crud
Come gargling from the fag-corrupted lungs,
(Probably got cancer) and the bitter sounding thud
Of vile, sweary words, or was she speaking in tongues?
Well mate, you would say, and not in jest
When you see kids who can’t hold their drink, usual story
Warn the deluded fools: ‘Oi, give it a rest!
It’ll end up gory!'

I am actually a bit of a Wilfred Owen fan, and I respect the stoicism of the soldiers who were tangled up in the mess of The Great War - I suspect 'Tommy Atkins' had a lot more mettle than the chavs I'm dedicating this poem to.

See also: Poems not by Philip Larkin and not by Siegfried Sassoon.


Battling against rotten behaviour since 1940

The Dutch newspaper ‘Algemeen Dagblad’ reports:

“Brothers break into police station”

Rough translation follows:

“2 brothers aged 13 and 24 were arrested on Saturday evening when they were caught breaking into a police station in Rotterdam’s Maashavan district.

The police station was closed at the time.

According to the police, the 13 year old explained that his elder brother carried out the break-in because he didn’t agree with a fine.

The suspects have damaged an entry door, windows in other doors, and some pipes. The brothers have been detained and their father has been informed.”

I once read about a UK police officer who tried (unsuccessfully) to revoke his own speeding fine by some clandestine late night paperwork, and I think it would be quite a long shot for these lads to cancel the ticket by smashing up the nick.

I’m wondering if some of our pupils have been chatting online with these Dutch brothers and getting a few ideas about ‘the right to roam’. I know I’m getting old so of course I’m going to think everything is going downhill faster than Jill can tumble after Jack, but if I’m not completely senile then I’ll tell you there’s diminishing respect among pupils for the hallowed chamber that is The Staffroom.

The Staffroom is where we teachers sit, like Battle of Britain fighter pilots waiting for the bell signalling us to 'scramble' when lunchtime is over and battle rejoined. But it's a different type of bandit that's been intercepted recently.

Over the past year I’ve caught (and then released) a good two dozen kids who floated through the magic portal uninvited, and were unable to offer any good reason for their intrusion (well, to be fair, I didn’t ask for any excuses or listen to their protests - from the way some of them screamed and gesticulated as I assisted them on their way, well, anyone would think there had been some terrible accident or the building was on fire).

Next time I'm going to make it clear that the only acceptable reason for a child to enter the staffroom without permission is to report an emergency which urgently requires an adult’s presence. And while I'm at it, I'll tell them to stop getting bad influences from their online pals.

Excuse me now, I think my copy of The Times, my pipe, and my favourite moth-eaten armchair are waiting for me.


Enterprising Americans put the ‘vice’ into ‘Vice-Chancellor’

I had barely finished delivering this cynical thesis – which includes a swipe at the value of someone’s qualification – when BBC News submitted an essay which I could very well put in my footnotes.

This time it’s the woeful tale of suckers victims who have paid good money for bad qualifications – a fake ‘St Regis’ university which was not based in Washington state has sold degrees which you could have made yourself on Photoshop, or even with some Pritt Stick and careful photocopying - including PhDs for £700.

The fraudsters (although I prefer to think of them as businesspeople who were exploiting a market niche) netted a total student debt of £4,000,000 from nearly 10,000 photocopy-alumni.

Most Uni students I’ve had the pleasure of knowing – being so cash-strapped and all – are too smart to squander such a large sum like the victims of this scam. Given £700 they would make a sound investment like buying 350 subsidised pints in the Union bar. You would not catch a real student frittering £700 away on such ephemera as degree certificates.

Of course I can't be sure just from reading the BBC article, but I have the impression that the former students who were 'totally unaware that the University of St Regis was not a legitimate academic body' have as little credibility as the 'University' itself.

Still, I'm sure a lot of the students at my school are fake, too - they put on these fancy uniforms with badges and ties and Latin mottos and call us 'Sir' or 'Miss' or 'prick', and they think that's enough to call themselves schoolboys and schoolgirls. One of our boys was arrested (not for fraud) and I later saw a social services form listing his occupation as 'schoolboy' - why not 'criminal'?

Well, I can’t sit around here all day giving you this one-to-one tuition - I’ve just had a new order come in – the school wants about 200 sets of GCSEs, A-Levels and SATs and I have to deliver them by next summer. I’d best get the photocopier warmed up. Next thing you know, teachers will be expected to do pupils' coursework for them.

Footnote: I have Googled ‘St Regis’ because I wondered if there actually is a Saint by that name. The closest I’ve found is a Saint John Francis Regis (patron saint of lace makers – thank goodness for him) but most alarmingly I am seeing hotels, a ski-resort, a ‘Mohawk tribe’ and a Catholic University in Colorado all going by the name ‘St Regis’. How will we ever be able to trust what we read on the internet again? Even if it says ‘BBC’ at the top? Even if it says ‘University of Wholesome Socks’?

Next week: serialisation of Hitler's dog's diary.


Wholesome Socks goes 'Walkabout'

Harper Collins was grossly irresponsible to print a book aimed at girls and suggesting the fairer sex could learn to play the didgeridoo.

How could the writers not have realised that a girl can expect, at the least, to become infertile if she is so foolhardy as to even touch a didgeridoo?

Obviously traditional Aboriginal beliefs are the only reliable guide to survival in the present age, as we all know the so-called ‘evidence’ offered by modern science is shown to be false every single day.

Thank goodness for Dr Mark Rose of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Indigenous Education, who has alerted the world to the risks posed by the Australian edition of The Daring Book For Girls (well, at least it lived up to its name!)

I understand that the UK edition of this book recommends that adventure-seeking girls can easily stop trains with just one finger.

Because Dr Rose has a PhD we know we can trust what he says, and that such mischievous nonsense must never be printed again.

From now on I shall be telling my female students ONLY to play with razor blades, and possibly to inject drugs, and imploring them to never go anywhere near a didgeridoo, and that if they really MUST blow on something, then they should buy a Dog Annoyer™.

By the way, Dr Rose looks like a combination of Rolf Harris and Richard Griffiths.


Cat-Spider Annoyance

I dreamed that I was awoken by a soot-black cat walking up my body and standing on my face, the cat then ascending to the ceiling by means of a web-like thread coming out of its back, exactly like a spider. The expression of the cat's face was of comical bemusement, as the winding mechanism could hoist it only very slowly, and I, recovering from my initial surprise at this innovation of a Cat-cum-Spider, found that with the gentlest of blowing I could cause the cat to rotate a full 360°, first clockwise, and then anti-clockwise.

This was to my immense satisfaction.

The feline intruder then fell and sprinted for the fireplace, presumably hoping to escape that way. The chimney had previously been bricked-up to deter unwanted visitors tempted to enter via that route.

I awoke (I believe, into 'reality', unless I am still asleep as I write this) basking in the warmth of the purest happiness.

The only meaningful symbolistic interpretation of this dream - so far as I can discern - is that it is high time I invented a Cat Annoyer™ to be sold as an accompaniment to Dog Annoyer™ and I must have it ready for Christmas.

Hate Christmas

Do you hate Christmas? Think Xmas should be X-Rated? Dislike it a bit? Have ideas for improvment?

Or do you wonder how anyone could not love that Season of Goodwill and selfless giving?

Over at Hate Christmas you are invited to share any views on the subject. is the address to send your comments.


Up to 10 thoughts about Tesco

1. It doesn’t matter what Tesco puts on its signs. ‘Less than…’, ‘Fewer than…’, or ‘Up to 10 items’, they still haven’t done anything about this sign.

2. Tesco staff are trying to breed new customers just as a farmer breeds new livestock (probably to be slaughtered for Tesco).

3. Their automated checkout systems are better than the ones in Asda. (In Asda the machine tells you off if you twitch a muscle while using it).

4. Some Tesco car parks - like many such car parks – are sometimes invaded by ‘boy racer’ types for ritual inspection of their white Ford Fiestas and much screeching of tyres.

5. When I look at the line of identical checkouts stretching into the distance, each operated by some poor sod (or a happy sod), it reminds me of battery hens and I wonder why no-one has yet protested for free-range checkout workers (they would roam freely and you catch one to process your shopping. That would be much more fun for both employees and customers than this so-called civilised queuing).

6. Despite their treatment, the staff generally seem quite nice.

7. Some of my clothes are from Tesco Extra.

8. I knew someone who was a teacher for 20 years, then stopped being a teacher and took a job as a Tesco trolley-rounder-upper person (I don't know if that's the official job title, but that's what the job was).

9. One day, all the lost, stolen and abandoned Tesco trolleys in this country will come alive and arise from the canals and scrap heaps, and start making their way back to Tesco like invincible zombies. I've been writing a screenplay about it, in fact. (Hollywood screenwriters - hands off my idea! Offers of financial remuneration will be considered, of course).

10. Please push your trolley firmly at the end of the conveyor.
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