Heaven, Hell and ESL – The First Job pt.2

In most of my working experiences I have been welcomed quite warmly by the boss. In the first couple of weeks of my job the boss would typically offer a reassuring smile and enquire as to how I was settling in. I believe this is standard practice in most civilised work places; it’s certainly something that I have always done with the new employees who have joined me. The Curriculum Manager at Manchester Adult Education Service (MAES) was a towering, upright, scruffy, Northern Irishman who for all the world looked like an old, bitter, greying version of Beaker from the Muppets. He was as welcoming as herpes. If being dour was an Olympic sport then this man would be the Usain Bolt of dourness; but it isn’t, and it shouldn’t be an attribute of anyone in a management position whose role should be to not only effectively organise, but also to motivate and inspire. This man was the antithesis of both of those things. This man could deflate the enthusiasm of a children’s TV presenter on MDMA.

Beaker_(Muppet)

Mr. Motivator or just a muppet?

Having worked for local authorities before in one capacity or another I do understand how bureaucratic and frustrating those organisations can be to work in. I also understood that under the austerity conditions imposed during a recession due to the greed of banks and the failings of government, it was even more difficult for those heading departments within the public sector. However my understanding comes from what I like to think of as the capacity to empathise. This capacity to empathise is something that helps engender good relations with staff in difficult working situations – any half decent leader would know this. So whilst I don’t really want to just slag off the boss, as that is all too easy, I can’t help but resent a man who offers not a jot of motivational support to a new employee who is new to a profession and has just been thrown – neigh, tossed, like some cheap cut of meat – into a meat grinder of a working environment without an induction or formal easing in period of any sort. A man who instead just highlights understandable deficiencies in what he well knows to be a very difficult and thankless task. The closest utterance of any note that would constitute ‘understanding’ was, “Look, it is what it is and we [you] just have to deal with it”. So with those wonderful words of support I proceeded to go from confident, enthusiastic, graduate teacher, to exhausted, insecure, failure.

Not a great deal worked at MAES. We had four photocopiers between two floors servicing approximately 35 staff. These photocopiers were also used as printers and fax machines. With the voracious appetite of a teaching department for copying, these machines frequently broke. There were another two printers in the teacher’s room, but only one of those was in use – when it wasn’t broken. The other printer spent the entire six months of my employment sat on top of a cabinet, unplugged. I started to see this printer as an ornament of mockery, smiling at me as I panicked and scrambled around when its overworked colleagues failed to perform. To make things even more difficult, when the copier ran out of paper, teachers were required to walk the 50 or so metres down the corridor to ask for a key and fill in a form to get a refresh from the stock room.

Modern teaching relies quite a lot on I.T. The computers at MAES were as old as the teaching materials and just as shit. They took almost ten minutes to boot up and then would often not connect to the network or the external devices. We shared an office where teachers would ‘hot seat’ – which sounds exciting, but really just means you have to grab whatever space was available because there isn’t enough room for people to have their own desk. This meant that you never really had too many options if the computer you were using wasn’t working properly. There were computers in all of the classrooms, but for some reason these were not connected to printers – that would have made too much logical sense I guess. Our technical support consisted of two people who were expected to service all the old computers and other technical equipment in five centres spread around the city. These technicians also had to be booked in advance! It was a joke.

State of the art council tech.

State of the art council tech.

Everything in the teaching department at MAES was set up like an obstacle course to make the job just that little bit harder. For example, there were two floors of classrooms and those that were on the upper floor were easily accessible by a flight of stairs that were right outside of the teacher’s room. However that would have been too easy, so those stairs were declared unusable due to ‘health and safety’. What particular aspect of health and safety was being breached by using these stairs was never explained. Apparently it was something to do with them being a fire exit stairway. Yet for several weeks this stairway was the home of pots of paint and at one point a trolley full of decorating equipment. What was even more puzzling was how that stairway wasn’t used when we actually had a fire drill, and we had a few of those during my time there. So, with these stairs out of bounds, we had to make our way through around 100 metres of corridor separated by 10 sets of doors in order to get into our upstairs classrooms.

Between the malfunctioning computers, malfunctioning photocopiers, malfunctioning printers and interactive whiteboards, manoeuvering through doorways and along lengthy corridors in a building under refurbishment, actually starting a class on time was a feat in itself. Watching teachers get to their rooms for each session was like a cheap, school version of Wipe Out. Add to the maelstrom of malfunction a timetable from hell and manager with all the charisma of a haemorrhoid, I became as deflated as a dead mans scrotum. I completely lost my mojo and my ability to consistently perform my teaching duties to a standard that either the school or I were satisfied with. Furthermore, I was so miserable and depressed, I had no enthusiasm to do anything in the little time I had to socialise – and that really isn’t me.

Soon it came time for my first observation with the curriculum manager. This did not go badly, but it didn’t go too well either. There was little that the Tall Grey Man liked about the lesson, but plenty of things that he found to criticise; his perception of the glass was very much half empty. By the time my second observation came, I already hated going into work and had started to count down the days until the end of my contract (there were a lot of days left to count). However, I still wanted to have a good observation. That was made impossible when the interactive whiteboard failed to play any sound – sound is important for a language lesson focusing on listening. I had stored a CD player in the cupboard for back up but that was no longer there when I looked. So with 19 students and the observing teacher all staring at me, drained of confidence, I proceeded to wing a lesson without so much as a feather in my cap. Suffice to say the lesson crashed.

At the end of my second observation the observing teacher – who also happened to be the area manager and the person who had employed me at interview – passive-aggressively ripped it to pieces, blaming my lack of preparation as the reason for its numerous failings (it’s the teacher’s responsibility to check all the equipment in the classroom before a lesson). I decided that I would take the opportunity at that time to express some of my frustrations with my job in general. In hindsight I think that was a bad move. The area manager’s only response to my grievances was that I should count myself lucky that I had been offered a full time position. Here was me thinking that it was my skills, abilities and a sterling interview that got me the job, when all this time it was just luck. That kind of burst the tiny little bubble of confidence I had left in my teaching abilities.

give up

Having failed a second time, my third observation was ‘last chance saloon’ and I was told it would have to be a perfect performance or I would not have my contract extended – no pressure then! I had all but lost all my confidence in my ability to teach and I didn’t really know what I should or shouldn’t do in my lessons anymore. So when the time came I had got to the point where I didn’t really care. I hated the fucking job and I just didn’t want to be there any more. So it went that on a day when I had rushed into work because I had a personal problem to deal with at home, I arrived unprepared and as luck would have it I was informed approximately one minute before entering a lesson for absolute beginners (a group which I am not the best with) I was told that I would be observed – by two people.

To cut what has been a very long story short, my last observation was the worst of the lot according to the observers’ report. In fact, it was too bad to be true. It read like a report that was taking no chances in ensuring that I would not stay beyond my probationary period. I don’t think a random person dragged off the street would have got such a bad review. But I was exhausted, deflated, and despite disagreeing with much of what was said, I didn’t want to argue. To be honest, I think I had lost all perspective as well as confidence, so even I couldn’t tell what was right or wrong with my teaching anymore. After the area manager’s response to some of the views I aired about my job after my second observation, I knew I was already doomed at MAES.

I pointed out earlier in this story that part of my problem in my first job was that I came to teaching late on the back of a lengthy career as a freelancer and a lot of working experience. I think that had contributed to my failure, because I was not exactly silent about the shortcomings of the facilities and my introduction to MAES. However, I am now slowly learning that when you’re working for other people it’s probably wiser to keep your mouth shut.

My time at MAES had been the worst working experience of my life (well, perhaps on a par with that time I worked in a call centre for British Gas). There is more to any job than just grinding away like a machine. Motivation and confidence are needed to perform well; you only have to listen to any elite sportsman or woman to know that. If your management or your organisation fail in motivating you and sap you of your confidence, then they need to consider reviewing their own performance. Fortunately for me I didn’t remain down in the dumps for too long. I soon found some part-time work at a private school and regained my teaching mojo. They had a small staff team who were friendly and supportive and were more than happy with how I was going about my work. So much so, that they were sad to see me go after I took up the offer of a full-time teaching role elsewhere. My new job would take me 8000 miles away to work in Jakarta in Indonesia. That should be interesting.

quote-we-don-t-get-a-chance-to-do-that-many-things-and-every-one-should-be-really-excellent-because-steve-jobs-94882

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Heaven, Hell and ESL – The First Job pt.1

Anybody who has opted for a career in teaching knows it can be quite difficult to get your first full-time job after graduating. Teaching is not a job for the faint hearted and statistics don’t make good reading for newbies staying the course in their first year, which I’m sure doesn’t go unnoticed by Human Resource departments in schools and colleges. Hiring a graduate teacher may cost less in terms of wages, but if they can’t perform then their employer has to go through the whole process of recruitment again. This is unsettling for the students and a time consuming and costly process for the school or college. The safe option would be to hire someone with experience in the first place. So when I got offered a full-time job just weeks after receiving my teaching diploma, I was a very happy man.

ESL Teacher

Less than two weeks into the job and I hated it. A month in and I was seriously questioning whether I had made the right choice in becoming a teacher. I don’t recall too many things in life that I’ve given up on, but after two months I was considering throwing in the towel and returning to self-employment in the arts. There’s not much long-term security, but at least you have a social life and wake up relatively happy most mornings. Since I had started working for Manchester Adult Education Service (MAES) I woke up every morning with a groan and launched myself out of bed with the words “I hate this fucking job”. Long-term security is no good if your life is going to be miserable.

Help!

Help!

I’ve come to teaching pretty late in life. Prior to teaching I had a pretty diverse and creative range of work – graphic design, performing arts, theatre, independent community filmmaking, even djing and club promotion. I’ve very much followed what I enjoy doing. But whilst many may commend or even envy a career path of such freewheeling creativity, I ultimately failed to secure a foothold in any one thing. I didn’t become an established screen or TV writer. I didn’t establish myself in the world of theatre. I’m not a superstar Dj and I don’t have a branded club night that is in demand at big venues, dance events and festivals all over the world. And even though I once designed a range of t-shirts for a clothing company, that sold so well, it transformed Ringspun into a global success and made the owner a millionaire – I myself was never more than just a jobbing freelance designer. That said, unlike many of my peers over the years, I did do well enough to secure some financial assets, and I didn’t exactly endure the life of an impoverished, suffering artist, only to find myself with grey hairs, emerging wrinkles and nothing else to show for my art at the end of it. I’ve done my fair share of partying, travelled extensively, and I’ve had some wonderful working experiences. All of that experience has given me a great range of creative skills, skills that helped me in my work as a creative project manager, which is what I did for several years prior to teaching. I managed people, budgets and collaborated in partnership with other agencies and organisations, so I was not the graduate in his mid-twenties arriving at the start of his career with no prior experience. This I think was part of the problem in my first job, but certainly not the cause.

Whatever academic course you undertake to become a professional teacher is difficult. Whether it’s a PGCE, Diploma or Cert Ed, it involves intensive study and very hard work. You learn every aspect of the profession and there is a lot to learn. It’s a profession that is always changing and developing with advancements in educational philosophies and policies. Having spent many years working with young people, I knew enough about myself and British teenagers to know that I didn’t want to teach in high school, so I opted to pursue the route of teaching in further education. Adult learners are more motivated and less inclined to the psychopathic tendencies inherent in developing adolescents. However, whilst you may not have as many difficult behaviour issues to deal with, it’s still a hard job.

Whilst lawyers have legal secretaries and doctors have nurses and teams of medical staff to support their work, the teacher has nobody but themselves to plan, monitor, review and assess students on top of the actual work of effectively teaching and all that entails – and it entails a lot more than just standing in front of a group of people talking, believe me. Yet somehow we aren’t as valued as much as lawyers or doctors. Despite the fact that teachers transform the minds of men and women to help them elevate beyond the status of eating, sleeping and excreting beasts, the teacher is the professional that is taken for granted the most. The lawyer or the doctor would never have the ability to practice without first being taught by the teacher. Yet whilst most people would willingly part with £100 plus an hour for the services of a lawyer, or accept the meaty annual wage of a doctor as deserved, the teacher is somehow considered the runt of the professional litter and seldom given the respect of those other senior professionals in society.

multitasking

When you start your first full-time teaching job, it is standard practice to be eased in slowly. Your first week or so should be an induction week where you shadow other teachers in the educational establishment you have joined and maybe only teach half your timetable. You would meet the supporting staff, be given time to familiarise yourself with the school or college the resources and your work colleagues. Modern colleges tend to utilise a networked intranet that is supported by a technical team. This intranet system itself would easily require a half-day training session to get to grips with its basic functionality and content. The very, very least you would expect before you even entered a classroom would be a health and safety briefing. A couple of days before starting my first full-time job with MAES I received an email inviting me to meet the staff before I started. This was not mandatory, but an informal invitation; ‘If you have some free time’. I had the free time so I decided to go and see where I would be working, and it was a good thing I did because if I hadn’t have done I would have been absolutely fucked the following Monday!

I had been emailed my timetable a few days before my start date and it didn’t seem like my first week was an induction week, it was a very full timetable of classes. I was entering a department that was still in the process of relocating into a building that was still undergoing redevelopment work. Even the existing staff – who had all started a couple of weeks earlier – were still settling in. Yet despite this being my first full-time teaching role, despite no formal induction, I was expected to simply start on a full timetable upon walking through the door – a door attached to a doorway that led into a building that was still under construction. The timetable itself consisted of 9 sessions, each of which lasted two and a half hours. Within these 9 sessions were 7 different classes consisting of around 20 students. These classes covered every ESOL level from absolute beginner to intermediate and I shared 6 of those classes with 5 different teachers who I had never met, all of which I had to liaise with to ensure that we didn’t duplicate our lessons. When I showed my timetable to the team leader, a veteran of over 25 years, I think her words were, “Oh you poor thing!” The first couple of days of my job teaching at a language summer school experience left me thinking “WTF!” The first day of my full-time job with MAES simply had me thinking, “I can’t do this!”

That-moment-when-you-have-too-much-work-to-do

In most EFL schools the teachers work from an English language learning book. You have chapters which you follow each day and there are supporting materials and teacher’s notes for you to work from. MAES were working with the materials from Skills for Life, an ESOL resource pack created by the government in 2006 that is now so referentially obsolete as to be almost useless. There was always the option of creating your own material, and of course planning is a large part of an ESL teacher’s job. However, with each hour of teaching requiring anything between one to two hours of preparation, it helps to have a single piece of reference material to work from. Filtering through a yard sale pile of old books and being expected to prepare work for a week of two-and-a-half hour lessons without any formal induction was an utterly ridiculous expectation. But what was I going to do, complain before I even started? Of course not; so I just carried on regardless. But deep down the weight of the task and the fear of failure in my first job felt like a black hole of burden. A burden I believed and hoped was just a teething anxiety that would go away; it didn’t. By Thursday I had developed a tortuous knot between my neck and shoulder that remained there for the entire six-month duration of the job.

(tbc)

Heaven, Hell and EFL – Summer School Confessions

First of all let me start off by saying that despite the significant shortcomings I will highlight here, there was much to enjoy during this summer school ‘experience’. This was mainly due to the infectious enthusiasm of the young post-graduates who were responsible for activities, but also largely due to the fact that, at between £600 and £800 per-week per-head, we were dealing with predominantly sweet, civilised, respectful and polite adolescents and teenagers from wealthy European, South America and Saudi Arabian families, rather than the borderline, psychopathic, lunatics that inhabit a lot of British secondary schools. If you want to reclaim the self-esteem and respect that all teachers deserve from students, spend a summer working at a language school – just don’t expect much from the employers, you are business collateral – and it’s a lucrative business!

 

I already had an EFL qualification that I’d gained years before taking my Teaching Diploma, so having just graduated and with no plans for the summer, I decided to do a stint at a summer language school for six weeks.

 

When I arrived at St. Mary’s University College in Twickenham, I was suitably pleased by the grounds and the standard of food in the refectory. Mo Farah was having a little bit of a run on the grass alongside the running track (I understand that, being a record breaking Olympian, he resented having to pay the £4 to use the running track) and news was that it was going to be a glorious July, which made staying in the affluent Borough of Richmond all the more appealing, with its numerous al fresco bars and restaurants and riverside drinking culture. However, a week in and I started to wonder – WTF!

 

The summer didn’t disappoint, but the living quarters at the summer school certainly did. At first I had no qualms about my summer school residence. I knew from the offset that as a live-in teacher that summer I would be staying in what would have otherwise been the students’ accommodation – essentially a studio (minus kitchen area) with basic furniture and a wifi connection. I could easily live with that for a couple of weeks. But after almost five hours of driving from Northern England to Twickenham before humping my baggage into my dorm in the sweltering heat, I was told after the initial group induction lecture with the rest of the summer school team, that I would have to move to different accommodation to make room for the first cohort of students that were moving in.

 

I really didn’t fancy repacking all of my luggage, humping it across the campus and unloading it into another room – I mean it was really hot and I really just wanted to settle down and maybe have a beer or two on the grounds with the rest of the team and get to know who I would be working with. But when I finally did move into my new quarters, I wasn’t happy. I mean, I really, really wasn’t happy!

 

The original set up for the sleeping arrangements involved the students and House Parents’ (these were the younger members of the team who were responsible for ensuring the students got to bed early and didn’t wreak havoc during the night) living in one section of dorms, whilst the teachers were all housed in another section of dorms away from all the adolescents and teenagers who they would be teaching during the day. And this of course made perfect sense. As a teacher of any sort working with 11 to 17 year olds, you would expect to command some degree of respect from your learners and be in a position of authority. Having studied to a degree level and [in my case at least] established your academic credentials in post-graduate education to a level where you are professionally on a par (although not in your wages) with a solicitor or a doctor and have enough professional kudos to be trusted enough to sign the back of someone’s passport photo in order to satisfactorily establish their identity for the state, you would expect at least some kind of respect from your employers. Furthermore, being the wrong side of 40 (and I wasn’t the oldest by a long shot) you would naturally expect to be afforded the dignity of being able to leave your room in the middle of the night to go and take a piss without passing the kids you are teaching on the corridor. Because let’s face it, that boundary of respect is somehow diluted if those kids get to see you in your underwear when you’re coming out of the shower or on your way to the toilet in the middle of the night. Well the summer school senior manager (she was new to the job apparently) – who was a damn sight younger than me and the other teacher who was on my corridor who was easily in his 50’s – obviously didn’t see it this way. So we had the indignity of continually passing groups of South American and Spanish kids – many of whom we were teaching – every time we needed to have a wash or purge our bodies of digestive waste. Furthermore, the rooms were as old as the original foundations of the college, and swelteringly hot. I wasn’t best pleased. Even less so when I found out that the 19 and 20-year-old graduates who were employed as Activity Leaders were living in the private en-suite dorms that I’d been moved from.

 

I spoke to the operations manager of the school about this (who was also in a private en-suite dorm) and was simply told that I “should” be able to move in a week or possibly two. I’m a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face kind of guy when it comes to matters of personal respect, and I’d decided that if it did extend to two weeks that I’d be laying down an ultimatum of dignity and fucking off home. Particularly as the reason for us getting this shit accommodation was down to the fact that the company were making room for a massive influx of students in that first week – basically, they weren’t going to turn down the opportunity to make more money just to keep the teachers happy. I wasn’t getting paid enough to share my English knowledge with a bunch of kids from wealthy families, as well as my underwear collection and the swell of my man bulge too, fuck that. But sense prevailed within the management team of LAL and me and the other teachers were moved to more appropriate accommodation within a week.

 

The first thing that all the summer school staff did when first arriving at St. Mary’s that year was sign our contracts and receive our I.D. cards and company clothing – polo shirts, sweatshirt, raincoats and shorts for some. We had all agreed to the cursory terms and conditions of employment as explained upon accepting employment for the summer, and naturally those of us who were living-in (some who had come from overseas) had all made provision for our two to eight week stint working at the summer school. So after packing my stuff in the boot of my car and driving the 200 plus miles to the most southern part of London – at some considerable fuel cost I should add (British petrol prices are pretty damn high) – when I arrived and saw a section of the contract that waivered my right to the working time directive which limits your working hours to 48 a week, I wasn’t too pleased. I mean, what was I going to do? Turn around and say “Nah, I’m not going to agree to working an indefinite amount of hours for a measly £395 per week” and drive back home? I’d be down about £150 in fuel costs and searching for another job when I got back. So I signed in the hope that the company was only ever going to invoke this clause in the contract on the odd occasion when time and staff were stretched. This was not the case, and I don’t think that omitting to mention this section of the contract during the Skype interview process was an accident.

 

It turned out that, with classes starting at 9.15am and all teachers expected to report to the ‘teachers room’ at 8.45am, an hour’s lunch break at around 12.30pm (unless you had canteen queue-monitoring duty, which cut your lunch time in half) followed by a rota of excursion duties or supporting activities that went on until 9pm with a dinner slot in between (unless you were out on an excursion, in which case you had to make do with the sparsest of sparse packed lunches and the lamest of lame BBQ buffets upon return), we ended up doing somewhere in the region of 50 – 55 hours of what was supposed to be a 40 hr week! When I and another teacher did the maths, after tax, we were working for something close to minimum wage! This stuck in my craw. It really did. But I was there, and being there, there was much to enjoy.

 

Creating a good dynamic between a group of strangers who are all working together and come from different backgrounds, different cities and even different countries – and whose ages ranged between 19 and around 50 – is not easy. I don’t think that the recruitment staff achieved this, we did. The operations manager said that the year before was very different and there were a lot of tensions between staff. Our eclectic group had just by chance made a great team and I’m glad we did. I honestly can’t say that their was a man, woman or teenager amongst the group that I didn’t warm to in some way. We all just somehow gelled.

 

Between the young guys and girls who were Activity Managers, House Parents and Transport Coordinators, to the wildly diverse range of EFL teachers with their variety of different teaching experiences, the summer school team that year had a really good rapport. We got together pretty much every night at ‘the benches’, drank, snacked, laughed and shared various tales of the day’s activities and fuck ups, past experiences, future plans and aspirations, and it was great fun. Despite the long hours, the shit resources and the shit canteen food – which had gone from being half decent to barely edible – there was a real camaraderie between the group that carried us through. The combination of youthful enthusiasm and professional naivety of the younger post-graduate workers (they never really complained because they didn’t really know any better) and the life experience and wit of the teachers – young and old – really made a great dynamic. When you add to that the fact that the students – Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian, Argentine, Chilean, German, Turkish, Saudi – were all so sweet and delightfully full of character and charm, we were all more or less happy to be exploited whilst ‘the company’ turned over £1 to £2 million over the course of the summer (there was an average of around 200 students every week, for 8 weeks paying between £600 and £800 per head). I was probably the most cynical of the lot of us and even I didn’t bitch too much. Well maybe a little, but not too much.

 

By week 4 most people were moving on to the next adventure in their professional lives. Those who came to fill the gaps in the second half of the summer were mostly good people too (apart from one guy – Paul – who was universally considered to be an absolute cock). But after six weeks I was glad to get back to my comfortable home and my comfortable bed. But I was going to miss the effusive energy of what I left behind. Not enough to accept an offer of another two weeks work mind you! I’d had enough. I was exhausted – and I couldn’t shake the idea that, in real terms, I was only getting paid around £6 per hour – but mainly I just missed the settled comforts and stability of ‘home’. Something you hanker for as you get older.

 

For any parents reading this and considering sending their young ones to a language summer school, don’t take the educational side of it too seriously. Quite frankly – from my experience at least – that part is bollocks. Irrespective of whether that school is accredited by the British Council or any other respected authority, if my summer school experience is anything to go by, it is fun first whilst the ‘academic’ side is really just an add-on. Don’t get me wrong, I would recommend it as an experience for any young person – I was envious of those young boys and girls who got the opportunity to forge friendships and lifelong memories with other young people from other parts of the world whilst seeing the sights of a city in another country. And speaking professionally, the immersive experience of being in an English or any other language environment is invaluable for learning that language. But don’t praise the company too much. The success of those schools is all down to the underpaid staff and their youthful enthusiasm (irrespective of their actual age) for teaching and their commitment to ensuring the young people enjoy themselves. Whilst the executives, directors and CEO’s of the large, lucrative, language schools will take the corporate accolades and the bulk of the financial profits for what is achieved, it is the workers on the ground that really make it happen for your children. Don’t ever forget that. And if you do decide to take time out to express your appreciation and thanks for the wonderful experience had by little Selina, Oleg, Nacho, Cristina, Michele, Ivan, Ilia, Anna, Bruno, Laura, Luca, Stefano, Khrystyna, Julia, Betel, Abdul etc – then ask your child first who helped make that experience so enjoyable and ensure that you direct your thanks to those individuals by name. The best people in this world are those who serve for the love of what they do, not for the money.

Specially Brewed Just For You

So, it’s been a while since I put fingertips to keypad and aired my thoughts into the ‘blogosphere’. As the time between my last and my next posting lengthened, finding the inspiration to write something worthy of a ten minute read that didn’t require an effort of concentration on my part has been difficult. But here I am, sat on a Ryanair flight to Budapest and the most unlikely of things have spurred me into action. The menu card. Well not the menu card itself, but the copy accompanying the advertised ‘gourmet’ hot coffee they have for sale at €3.00 a pop.

I could probably go into an intellectual examination of the exaggerated claims (lies) that advertisers and traders get away with to peddle their products, but if you can read then I’m sure you’re intelligent enough to be aware of that obvious fact. But every now and then you see something that makes you think ‘Aw cmon, please!’ My ‘cmon, please’ moment was the copy describing the Lavazza coffee. The ‘gourmet’ Lavazza coffee. A budget airline coffee that comes with a ‘unique’ lid that means that your coffee comes ‘freshly brewed just for you’. Wow! I have to have one of those.

The SUPRLID

Well check that out people – the SUPRLID. Aren’t you blown away? I want to ask the air stewardess if this amazing and unique piece of technical engineering – a lid with a piece of gauze and a raised edge – was developed by NASA. I was so excited by the idea that I was using the same space age hardware used by astronauts. I was even more excited by the idea that Ryanair had created my personal profile based on the information given when buying my flight ticket and brewed a fresh coffee just for me. Not for anyone, no, just for me. Awesome. Totally awesome. I mean, how do they manage to brew a coffee specifically for me? These guys at Ryanair must be like, wizards or something.

I didn’t get to ask the air stewardess if the SUPRLID was developed by NASA or if it was used by astronauts. I didn’t find out how Ryanair collated information to make personal profiles of its passengers in order to provide us with bespoke hot beverages either. My daughter wouldn’t let me ask – she pleaded with me not to ask actually. However, I must admit that the coffee was quite tasty. It was by no means a great coffee, but it wasn’t the usual warm brown dishwater that’s usually served up on a plane either. I’m not sure that the ‘brewed just for you’ crew at Ryanair got it quite right with my personal profiling as it would have tasted more like a milky frothed up Douwe Egberts with demerara sugar, but if I was on a space mission for six months, living on food from a tube, then it would have tasted pretty damn good.

NO CHILDREN OR AIR STEWARDS WERE HARMED DURING THE WRITING OF THIS POSTING. ALL THE SARCASM CONTAINED HEREIN WAS WRITTEN BY A PROFESSIONAL AND SHOULD NOT BE COPIED AT HOME.

An Open Letter To BT Sport – Get Rid of Michael Owen

Michael wonders why everyone has suddenly left the stadium.

Michael wonders why everyone has suddenly left the stadium.

Dear BT Sport;

I know that you’re new to this whole sport broadcasting thing, but if you continue to be a provider of Premier League football coverage there is one thing that you absolutely must do. You have to banish Michael Owen from your team. Do not let him represent you by speaking in any way manner or form in a public broadcast again. He is terrible.

They say some people have a face for radio, well Michael Owen has a voice for mime. Aside from his barely veiled bias toward Liverpool and his hard on for Man United, he sounds like what cardboard would sound like if it could speak. He has a voice  like the Richard Harrow character off Boardwalk Empire, except that character has a voice like that because half his face has been blown off, which is naturally going to effect the way he sounds. That and the fact that he murders people for a living are inclined to make him also sound a bit dull and depressive. Michael Owen does not have this excuse.

Listening to Michael Owen, it… it… it actually hurts. Not in a the way a sharp object hurts when you are stabbed with it, Michael Owen is way to dull for that effect. It’s more like chronic discomfort. It gives you a feeling of anxiety, nausea and mild depression all at once – like the side effects of bad sleeping pills.

Please get rid of him. Please. He was a decent footballer (if not a chronic ‘sick note’), I hear he’s good at golf and a really good horse breeder, but you can’t be good at everything and he truly, truly, sucks at sports punditry. Even when he’s on screen he looks like he’s a prototype of an android, he’s unbelievable awkward looking and dull.

Some things work well together, like strawberry’s and cream, Morecambe and Wise, Lionel Messi and a football. Michael Owen and broadcasting are like Chris Quentin and the American film industry – it’s never going to happen. That is all.

Regards
Beasley Green

PS: I am not alone:

‘Boring’ Michael Owen savaged for BT Sport commentary debut
Five Reasons Why Michael Owen Will Flop as a Football Pundit

Me, My Selfie and I

jessie-j-selfie-twitter

Oh selfie oh selfie
Such self loving ain’t healthy
But by God I can’t help me
How I love me endlessly.
iPhone prepped nice and steady,
Prepared pout and pose ready,
In a club somewhere trendy
With my girls who’re my Besties.
With some guys who just met me,
In a toilet nonchalantly,
Silly face or seriously,
Or just me being me.
In my room getting ready,
Half naked, in flagrante,
Showing off my hot body
And my big bubble booty.
The people will love me
Repost and promote me.
They’ll all look and see me.
They’ll all want to be me.
Everybody will watch me
Nobody can stop me
Oh selfie oh selfie
How I love me endlessly.

Selfies

50 Questions

I found this list of 50 questions on Joanna Best’s blog. They didn’t originate from Joanne Best, but she had a link on her blog to where she’d got them from. When I clicked that link it took me to ‘A War In My Brain’. Not literally of course, that was the name of Megan’s blog which was where Joanne found the questions. But Megan hadn’t originated the questions either, although she did like cats.

The fact that Megan liked cats didn’t really help me find the origin of the questions. However, the link on her blog led to another lady’s blog who also liked cats called Felina. I don’t mean this lady only liked cats called Felina – that would be pretty limiting; no, I’ve probably just missed a comma there somewhere – Felina was the name of the blogger who also had this list of 50 questions. I think the name of the blog is a play on the word ‘feline’, which is why I think she also likes cats. That and the fact that she has a picture of her tabby cat on her blog. I’m assuming it’s a picture of her cat and that the cat didn’t write the blog, but I don’t know the actual name of the lady who did write the blog either because it’s a ‘sparkle page’ blog, which is a set up I don’t really understand so I couldn’t find her name.

Anyway, Felina – or whatever her real name is – she didn’t have a link to where the questions came from. She just wrote ‘I’ve seen this on some blogs, thought I’d give it a try just for fun’. This pissed me off as I really wanted to know where the questions originated from. Anyway, England and Denmark were playing a friendly and it was about as action packed as a vegan child’s lunchbox, so I decided to answer the questions myself. First I opened a another can of Stella Artois as I’d drank the last of the one of the previous three I’d already had. Here are my answers:

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Yes, my older brother and two sisters. I was the second youngest of five, so my younger brother was named after me.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
The second time I knew I needed a number two after I had my haemorroidectomy – after the first time I was aware of the agonising pain I was about to experience. After that I decided to make sure I was really drunk and high for the rest of the week.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
I’m not too sure, I use a keyboard most of the time, or a touchpad. When I write by hand it’s usually scribbled notes so it’s pretty messy.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LUNCH MEAT?
Jerk chicken served with rice and peas. I don’t want to be a grammar Nazi, but I think this should read ‘luncheon’. But it doesn’t matter because I don’t really do sandwiches, unless it’s a triple-decker bacon and egg sandwich, which I’ll usually have for breakfast, so I guess that doesn’t count.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
No, I’m a male so I don’t have the biological mechanics to have kids.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I hope not, because that would mean the other person that I would be would be a schizophrenic and I don’t think being schizophrenic would be fun, even if I was another person.

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
No.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
No, but I kept my daughter’s because I was really annoyed that I didn’t manage to save all of her baby teeth. At least with tonsils there is just one set so it’s not too hard to keep up. And even if it wanted to, the tooth fairy could never get in that jar because I’ve closed it really tight – ha!

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
I would if it wasn’t so damn expensive.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CEREAL?
Kellogg’s Cornflakes, but for some strange reason I never have cornflakes for breakfast. I tend to eat them after dinner, although I don’t really do desserts.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
They’re already untied when I put them on. I really don’t see any reason to tie them up when I take them off as they can’t go anywhere unless I’m wearing them.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
In relation to someone who is weak, I am most definitely a He Man.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ICE CREAM?
That’s easy – Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Munky.

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Whether they try too hard to be likeable.

15. RED OR PINK?
That’s sexist.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
My fickle temperament.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
The first goalscorer in a winning bet. If got that prediction on target every week I would be a rich man.

18. ANY TATTOOS?
Not any, they’re there for life so I’m very particular about the tattoos I choose.

19. DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES?
Yes – writing, Djing, watching movies, watching people, playing football, watching football, getting drunk and partying hard to house music and early 90’s drum and bass.

20. WHAT COLOUR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
I’m not wearing shoes.

21. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
A chocolate Boost bar, a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and a packet of Walker’s salt and vinegar crisps.

22. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
The pundits talking about the really boring International friendly between England and Denmark that’s just finished, although I’ve not really noticed that it was still on until now, so technically I’m just hearing it like background noise rather than listening to it. However, for some reason I am listening to the clock ticking on my wall and the rhythm of my fingers hitting the keyboard on my MacBook. A siren went past just then. I’m also aware that I’ve just listened to myself say to myself in my head; ‘you’re a strange man’ upon realising that the main thing I am actually listening to is the sound of me typing and the clock .

23. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOUR WOULD YOU BE?
A really dark purple.

24. FAVORITE SMELLS?
Freshly talced babies, fields of flowers, the names of which I couldn’t tell you if I was smelling them, the aroma of the air when walking through a pine forest, burning matches, ‘Antaeus’ by Chanel and ‘The One’ by Dolce & Gabanna.

25. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
My mam.

26. MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY OR BEACH HOUSE?
Beach house.

27. FAVOURITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Football, Wimbledon (quarter finals onwards) and post 60’s to pre-milennium boxing.

28. HAIR COLOUR?
Black

29. EYE COLOUR?
A brown so dark they’re almost black.

30. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
No, I keep them in my phone like everyone else.

31. FAVOURITE FOOD?
My mam’s apple pie is unstoppable. The lamb roast she makes at Christmas and Easter is incredible. My own Caribbean salsa chicken recipe is awesome when it’s right. The jerk chicken and the curry goat and rice they serve at Notting Hill Carnival. Escovitch fish with rice and gungo peas, and the Thai hot and sour soup they serve at Ark Bar on Samui Beach (I love food lots) 😛

32. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Thrillers.

33. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
The last movie I saw was The Good Shepherd, but it was so tediously long and dull that I stopped really watching by the time Angelina Jolie got fed up with being ignored by Matt Damon’s cold, detached CIA husband. The last movie I watched was Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy, but only because I was holding out in the hope that it was going to come good before the end. It didn’t.

34. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
Olive green.

35. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Who likes the winter!? I’m a man filled with Caribbean blood living in Manchester for Christ’s sake, summer is like therapy.

36. HUGS OR KISSES?
Both please.

37. FAVORITE DESSERT?
My mam’s apple pie.

38. STRENGTH TRAINING OR CARDIO?
Jacuzzi.

39. COMPUTER OR TELEVISION?
Computer feeding movies and mini-series’ through my television. Television is like a social lobotomy.

40. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
I’m writing one and reading several for research. The most interesting and disturbing is ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ by John Perkins.

41. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
My computer, an ashtray, a can of Stella and various receptacles for storing stationary – these questions must have come from the 90’s because nobody uses a mouse pad anymore… do they?

42. FAVOURITE SOUND?
The sea.

43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
That’s racist.

44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Somewhere out of my mind on LSD.

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I was told by my school teacher that I have ‘great perspicacity’. Aside from that I can pretty much sleep anywhere under any circumstances if I’m tired enough.

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
SM7, St. Mary’s Hospital, Manchester.

47. WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
Manchester… I need to move on, really, holidays just aren’t enough.

48. WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR HOUSE?
That’s elitist.

49. WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR CAR?
It will be silver when I eventually clean it again.

50. DO YOU LIKE ANSWERING 50 QUESTIONS?
It’s better than watching 90 minutes of England in an international friendly with Denmark… but yeah, that was fun. Now can somebody tell me where these questions came from please?