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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Ghosts appear and fade away........

One of the great things about working in education is the term time only working pattern. Its a long story but my disenfranchised soul is realising that I'm done with education but at present I am still enjoying the 'perks'. A lovely evening spent watching football, drinking wine, catching up on recorded programmes, spent with the love of my life safe in the knowledge I don't have to get up for work..marvellous...who'd have thought a silly email could shatter my shiney mood this morning. It did and this is what this post is about.

Coffee poured, fag rolled I sat in the conservatory, smug, thinking it doesn't get better than this.....when, scrolling across the top of my phone I catch sight of my Dad's name and something to do with portraits...or something. That's odd, so I went into my inbox...

Hi Laura,

Michael McLachlan is a member of The Portrait House VIP club and has passed on your details......hang on, what the fuck?

Deep in my stomach I felt something I had not experienced before, a strange aching emotional pain....after reading it again I started to shake. For those who read regularly, bless you, will know that my lovely, gorgeous, groovy Dad died nearly 20 years ago, his name was Michael McLachlan.

Had he been in hiding, faked his own death and come back just join the VIP club? Did they ask him for my info through a medium, did they do a Ouija board?....I joke now but I did not find it funny, supressing my tears was a mistake, it just made me don't get me wrong I know the score, spam shit goes through my inbox on a daily basis, more intriguing though is that this particular account, used only for Twitter, does not get any spam as it is a spare account and I never use it on the internet for anything other than receiving messages..not implicating Twitter here but seems odd...was it a coincidence that they found/bought my email address and randomnly picked Michael as the name I might know and convince me to sign up to their precious deal? Whatever it was I care not, I cried. I wanted to cry like a baby....I held it in....flashing through my mind all but briefly my lovely Dad, no longer in my life, taken from me too early, I wanted him back.

It never really goes, you know the pain, hurt, anger of losing someone so precious, it doesn't take much to bring it to the's a delicate door clinging on with rusting hinges that I am too scared to close in case the memories, the pictures, the essence of my Dad crumbles to receive this speculative email threw me, hurt me, made me angry.

I'm pretty sure this must be a coincidence, but fuck me a very unfortunate one....I rang The Portrait House, still a bit wobbly, the guy responsible for emails and mailing lists etc is not in until Thursday, lucky basterd, boy oh boy was he going to get it. On further investigation this shit is peddled by 'Impact Data' an Australian marketing company....certainly made an impact on me. I have read their privacy policy, I'm not sure who it relates to....the people they represent or me as a would be consumer either way it boils down to no 'privacy' at all as all data, interests, hobbies blah blah will be shared with whoever the fuck asks for it, obviously at a cost and obviously without shame.

Where did they get my email address? I am naive to be honest and I guess it would be easy for Gmail to sell off a load of email addys....I thought I ticked a box for that but maybe not. Regardless of all of this it has made, what started as a beautiful day, into a sour, tearful and grumpy day.

It's done, I will be ringing the establishment, I will also be emailing the marketing company....will it change things? Nah, course not but it will make me feel better....a bit.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

To die by your side, well the pleasure the privilege is mine

Dear Stephen,

This is the hardest letter I have ever written. I never thought it would happen, but here I am putting fingers to keyboard.

What happened to you? The moment I first heard your voice I knew, you would be the one, the who would speak to me as a dark confused teenager, the one whose lyrics would resonate, the one who would forever be my superstar. The shy gangly uncomfortable man, you were so different, so intriguing, so talented. My bedroom was an homage to you and your band, you actually really meant something to me. I tried to scratch your name in my arm with a fountain pen, thankfully it didn't work, though when I get a bit of a tan the anarchy sign I scraped into my arm with a compass is vaguely visible, the ink didn't work though, for that I'm grateful!

Today, in moments of sadness I still look to you for inspiration, your music still lifts me, makes me smile. The irony of your poetry still fills me with joy but somethings missing, somethings wrong. Your recent comments regarding the Olympics didn't surprise me, I too had a lot to say about the Olympics,well certainly the run up, the advertising, the fuck up regarding London's streets, but I always maintained that I would support our athletes, which I did. It seems that your anger, your lonelieness, your hankering to be the grumpiest man alive overtook you, again. You have forgotten the basics dear friend, it's not about jingoism it's about working hard and achieving, something you did all those years ago, and my didn't you do well. I wish I had the platform that you have, imagine what good could be done, the issues of the world could be brought to the fore and world might just listen...but no. No good comes from your wild ranting, most of what you say is valid but the vitriolic way you present those rants won't ever be heard, which is a crying shame.

Your passions used to be my passions, a longing to break free, a longing to put a middle finger up to the world, a longing to be wanted. I guess I'm the lucky one. I sit here happy, comfortable at last with myself, no longer yearning to be wanted. Love, peace and harmony Stephen, it can be done, doesn't have to be an unreachable goal. Allow yourself to be loved, you might just like it.

When you have time just have a little think about how your words can affect people...I care not anymore what you say, I haven't bought any of your solo stuff, I was given your first solo album, it was ok, but something was missing.

As I type this Stephen I am listening to Talk Sport, Spurs are playing. You wouldn't know anything about belonging, community or passion though would you.........the more removed you become from reality my friend the more I despise you. Step out from your ivory tower, talk to some people, listen to them.

So I write this letter as a farewell, your words no longer sing to me, your awkwardness no longer soothes me, your attitude saddens me.

There was a has gone out.....

Goodbye Morrissey, I will miss you x

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

It's easier to build a child than repair an adult.......

So I was going to write about sport and the youth again.....but I've done that. The sad news of Tia Sharp found dead in her grandmother's attic has been playing on my mind.

It is unusual in that this poor girl was found dead, unfortunately what she has endured, and I suspect she has suffered, is not unusual. Nearly 7 years in education has taught me that I know nothing. Nothing of how people live, how they 'parent', how cruel they can be. I didn't really want this to be a miserable post but it's looking that way.

When I first started working in a school I was handed a load of files and asked to read them, to get to know the kids I would be working with. One lad, so badly abused, needed to wear 'protective' pants so he didn't mess himself, one lad so damaged needed protecting from himself, one lad, whose mother continuously rang social services to have him taken away refused to speak, one lad cut himself with whatever he could get hold of, one lad starved himself because his mother told him he was fat, plenty more but I will spare that you know this is in leafy Kent an Ofsted outstanding mainstream boys school.

As ordinary members of the public we have no idea. I had no idea. Some of these kids suffer, really suffer, they go to school to get away from the mental/physical pain they receive at home. Many young lads were carers, in fact in a school of just under 900 boys over 40 were young carers alone. Thats a lot. Managing the house, siblings, parents and then going to school. Many boys were under the child protection umbrella, at risk, factor in autism, ADHD, Aspergers and many other mental and physical disabilities and at least half of the schools students are affected. Back in my day, many of these young men would have been in children's homes or borstal.

I'm not sure we, society, really know what some of our young people go through only when a tragedy occurs do we mull over what that childs life might have been like. What can we do? Very little if I'm honest all the time the kids attend school there is hope, if they disappear then there is very little anyone can do.

There should never be a built in excuse for these kids, they will be the ones down the park this summer, shouting, smoking, fighting. Try not to judge, I dare you to smile at them, give them a nod of acknowledgement, ask them nicely if you want your toddler to go on the swing they're hogging. You may just be surprised.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Anxious, don't they know it is makes me anxious.

So a couple of days after writing about inspiration, commitment and pride it seems that compulsory PE is going to be scrapped. It's all the fault of PE teachers and schools not bothering, apparently. Oh dear.

I never thought I would defend PE teachers but I am going to. They're a weird bunch, vain, loud and attention seeking. I would never choose to spend any excessive time with them but one thing's for sure they love sport. I am of course making sweeping statements there, I refer only to the ones I have worked with and even then there was only one exception but anyway I'll move on. Each has their own favoured sport, hockey, basketball, rugby amazing talent and enthusiasm wasted on a captive audience that can't be bothered.

I worked in an outstanding sports academy, the good sort of academy not the failing sort of academy. Our sports equipment was provided by MacDonalds and Coca Cola, shame. As a specialist sports school you would think it would attract a lot of young sporting men keen to follow in the footsteps of their sporting heroes. It has a state of the art 3G all weather pitch, running track, dance studio, sports hall, you get the picture. The reality is very different. The young men who arrive in year 7 from the surrounding primary schools are generally unfit, fat, football supporting wannabes with a bling mentality. Harsh but mainly true a very few of the new intake in September will  be sporty. Why is this you ask? It's not that PE teachers in secondary schools don't care, can't be bothered or even lack equipment its the lack of sport these kids have had access to in primary schools. No sports fields, no dedicated PE teachers, no inspiration and no time. More time is spent on training the kids with potential to pass the 11+ than on any healthy competetive sport. Secondary school PE teachers are fighting a losing battle.

Parents have a massive role in this. Tonbridge has a diverse mix of very wealthy families and 'ordinary' families. With schools in the area ranging from one of the top ten in the country, private school, to a 'failing' mixed comp. I guess its easy to forget that not all parents have either the money or the motivation to guide their children toward sport, where, let's be honest it often requires parents to taxi their kids around and in the winter get the grumpy child up in the morning to go to training....been there! But with a free skate park, acres of fields, a swimming pool available on the doorstep all parents have to do is kick their kids off the playstation or xbox and get them outside. Kids have a natural way of coming together, organising a game and managing it quite well, all they need is a space and a ball, bat or even a frisbee.

(With Usain Bolt doing his thing this is the moment.......while I'm talking about it anyone remember David Rudisha? A world record run and does he make it on the front pages of the rags?? Possibly the greatest 800 metre runner ever, a lovely man, quietly going about his business almost completely ignored by the media. Don't get me wrong Usain Bolt is a talented guy, I love him, but there could be a young person out there, not able to run fast over a short distance who might just read David's story and be inspired....anyway I digress)

It's all about opportunity. I can't lay the full blame on primary schools, all the time funding is taken away what hope do they have? My son's primary school playing/sports field has gone, a new estate of 2 bedroomed boxes now sits there. The feeder primary school to one of the top ten sporting schools in England doesn't even have a playing field.....I say no more.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Always believe in your soul......

Mo Farah. Everything about this country that makes me proud is embodied in Mo Farah's gold medal. You probably all know his story, arriving here from Somalia when he was 8 years old, unable to speak English, lost and bullied.

His talent for running saved him.

In my time working in education I have seen many young men who could have been saved by their sporting talent, sadly slip through the net, choosing to pick an easier path. A naturally gifted basketball player, year 9 lad, was asked to join the school team, come to training after school. He chose not to, instead preferring to 'train surf' at weekends and impress his mates. He is now in an alternative education setting, with no access to sport and with lads who find his extra curricular activities thrilling and exciting. Sport could have saved him, he may not have become successful basketballer but just that belonging to something, that feeling of success, the discipline of training. Another lad, terrible background, father in prison mother a drug dealer, was a talented footballer. We spoke a lot about what he would do when he left school, he was bright, funny and warm. When I asked him about maybe joining a local football team his response was frightening. 'Come on Miss, there is no point in me getting involved in anything like that, it's clear where my future lies, look at my family, how can I fight against that?' Resigned to a life of......well who knows but he's not gone to college and he is often seen down in the park with a can of lager....what a shame.

The London Olympics have shown, particularly in cycling, that if you invest you get results. Sport within education is now just a tick box activity 2 compulsory hours a week squeezed into a very tight timetable. Is it any wonder that most of the athletes excelling in London are privately/grammar school educated? It's not about money it's about a pride and a will to win, something long forgotten in our state schools. My youngest son's sports days at primary school consisted of everyones a winner activities, not a whiff of healthy competition,, sadly many secondary schools are the same. Don't get me wrong taking part is good but how can we enthuse the youth when winning is almost ignored because the plaudits go to the fat kid because he 'had a go'.

It's ok to win, it's ok to wave a union flag, it's ok to lose too. Bobby Robson once said to got to be a good loser to be a good winner, something Roger Federer displayed yesterday, Louis Smith, who lost on a count back technicality in the pommel horse showed and while she was upset Christine Ohuruogu displayed grace in defeat. They all wanted to win, something our young people don't quite get. They see footballers tweeting, arguing, engaging in casual racism and they want in....little do they realise that to be even a half decent footballer you have to commit, something many young people can't be bothered to do.. Football, love it pal texted me when Team GB lost on penalties....'All those amazing sports that bring us so much joy: underfunded. The one that gets all the money, all the coverage, all the hype, consistently disappoints......What's wrong with football??' I'll leave that to people who are far more qualified to answer that question....

Tonbridge is home to Dame Kelly Holmes, who was an inspirational athlete. I met her briefly when she came to unveil our new 'house' system....named after sporting legends, decided by the pupils. MacArthur, Thompson, Redgrave and Pele...was she excited? Did she feel that sport was important to our young people? Well, she was more put out by the fact a 'house' hadn't been named after her....bearing in mind that the school she attended, half a mile up the road is dripping in Holmes pride.....I was left a bit disappointed. That probably says more about me than her I guess.....

 So London 2012....I have cried, shouted and frankly spent a lot of time on my arse watching our amazing athletes. Committed and proud to represent our country. Star of the show so far? Well obviously Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Bradley Wiggins blah blah blah.....but for me Adam Gemili 18 years old a former Dageneham and Redbridge player is my superstar, he took up running full time in January, his smile on the starting line when the crowd cheered his name said more than any interview could express, he's obviously talented and he's young enough to inspire, hopefully.....lets celebrate that.