Jul 28th

Just a fun poem

By Hil

I just found this in my documents - wrote it years ago for a competition that required the use of foreign words and phrases.

It's not really for critique, which is why it's not in critiques - it's just for a bit of fun.

BTW, needless to say, it didn't get anywhere in the comp!



Cause Célèbre (or urban myth)

There’s a caveat for free in a famous royal faux pas,

Vis-à-vis how not to be persona non grata.

Keep it sotto voce if it isn’t à la carte;

La vita won’t be dolce if your riposte sounds too tart.   

If Marie Antoinette hadn’t mooted haute cuisine,

She’d have missed her tête-à-tête with Madame Guillotine.

She’d said ‘Just eat brioche’ (à propos lack of bread).

For the hoi polloi – too posh. Ergo she lost her head



Jul 28th

Let's talk nerdy for a minute

By AlanP

Just a little prompt. Some of you may have read about a new virus ish threat to smart phones called Broadpwn. How do they come up with these names? So far there is no known bunch of bastards actually exploiting it, but since the person who found it announced it to the world at a conference recently, they will do soon.

However, it is already fixed so long as you apply the update. iPhone or Android smartphone users are used to their apps updating any old time. Don't be fooled, that isn't the update you need. The update is to the operating system

Your operating system doesn't update so often, in fact you may not have it set to automatically update at all. You might not be up to date. It's easy to do. Be sure you are on a WiFi broadband signal as this will eat your data allowance and be sure you are fully charged or connected to a charger. Head into the settings app, find the software version and tap manual update. Take any offered OS update and choose install now. Then go and make a cup of coffee while it does what it does.

That's all folks.

Jul 27th

Romeo and Juliet - query

By mike

        This is a small query about ‘Romeo and Juliet’  I am no Shakespeare scholar but, earlier this year, I saw a production  that was beyond my comprehension.I recently read though the play with ‘Spark Notes’ and a watched a DVD  of a very traditional production.

     Can you portray Juliet as a bitch on heat, who is in her twenties, wears a negligee  all the time,  and seems keen on masturbating while having the hots for Romeo?  If you look at the play, there is an early scene in which Juliet’s father speaks of his daughter as his one love. She is not yet fourteen and could not an ‘arranged’ marriage be put off just for the moment?    I have no objection to ‘re-imagining Shakespeare’ but can the former interpretation be justified by the text?  


Jul 25th

Looking Ahead

By Woolleybeans

For the past 15 years or so, I have taught English to ages 11 – 18. This means I’ve seen the steady increase in workload, the increase in targets and the various changes to the curriculum. I’ve loved teaching, and I’ve loathed parts of it. I’ve fought my way from near breakdown (okay, not so much ‘near’ as ‘long and stubbornly not quite going over the final edge’) up to being one of the most successful and respected teachers at my current school.

And I’d made my peace, more or less, with staying in teaching.

Partly, this consisted of not thinking about what it would be like to have even the current workload and expectations at 68 years of age, but I’d survived thus far and so what if I was using myself up to do so? It just took thinking of my body and mental health and energy as a kind of coal – it would be mined until it was gone. And then I’d die.

I was quite cheerful about it, to be honest, which might have been a warning sign in and of itself.

Nevertheless, kids were getting value out of my lessons, progress was being made and colleagues appreciated my work and support. Could be a lot worse.

One problem was the impact on my writing. It can hardly be a surprise that writing is my dream, my passion and my way of being most myself. That’s the case for plenty of people on here. And many people have made it, in various forms, whilst still working.

Unfortunately, it was looking less and less likely I’d be able to do the same. I simply don’t have the energy reserves. Even before viral fatigue hit me a few years back I have been exhausted, suddenly and inescapably, before I feel I should be.

At work, I run on adrenaline. I am awake and energetic and buzzing (apart from when I blank out and become a vaguely human shaped cloud of fog, but even then I can usually fake being awake to the kids), but when I get in from work I zone out.

If I don’t actually fall asleep, which at several points of my life has been almost inevitable, I just shut down in terms of being able to do anything. It’s annoying. It also doesn’t go away because people suggest doing x, even though lots of people like to suggest a whole range of x’s. 

Again, I’d made my peace with it. I would just hibernate at home, and sometimes manage to write. So it goes.

And then Mr WB messaged me when I was at work, saying a job he could go for had come up in Scotland and what did I think about him applying? He included a link to a map.

He was talking about moving to the Outer Hebrides.

It was intriguing, and, although at that point we were mostly joking about it, we looked into it a little more. Not a big deal. We often do fantasy shopping for new lives – I love house shows and wandering about Rightmove and the like, and having a semi-realistic context just makes it more fun to me.

Only the idea wouldn’t go away.

Several weeks later, in half-term, we found ourselves on a plan, flying into Stornoway airport for a slightly less than 24-hour visit. At the end of that visit, we decided he’d apply.

During the Easter holidays, we went back again. This time, for the interview. He got the job.

Now, it became apparent pretty early on that, with one secondary school on the island and a few other blocks to me getting a job, we couldn’t go for this if I needed to get employment up there to make it work. Over the next weeks, we moved from we could try it and I could look for something up there to Mr WB being the one who said, well, why not take this as a chance to really have a stab at the writing?

Mr WB goes up to the island in just under 6 weeks – we’re up searching for houses next week – and I won’t join him right away. Irritatingly, the interview was just after the deadline to resign for the end of the summer term.

I’ll be here until at least Christmas, and possibly the full school year, looking after our dogs and our existing house and hoping not too many spiders turn up, because otherwise I’ll be living at work. And hiding the dogs in a cupboard. No-one goes in that one stockroom anyway.

When I do go up, though, I won’t be teaching. We’re going to make sure our new place has space for a writing desk.

Six months ago, I thought I would be in teaching until I died, possibly in front of a group of kids who didn’t see why they had to write about language in a language question. Now, I am looking at ‘retiring’ in a year.

I may go back to teaching. Hell, we may make it a few weeks and move back down here, who knows? But it’s a chance I was thinking I wouldn’t get, and I’m now both excited and kind of anxious about taking it. (I mean, I’m anxious about most things – that’ll be the generalised anxiety, the lovely thing)

It’s going to take some mental adjustment, but it does feel good to be looking ahead to something new, something different.

And I already have a list of projects I want to get finished.


Jul 25th

cricket and friendship

By mike

   This is for Whisks and is about friendship - or for anybody interested in cricket.  But there seems to be some psychologists on the site.  The post is an essay that Kathleen Watkins wrote about her friendship with Sir Neville Cardus.  It was published in ‘The Cricketer’ just after Cardus’s death.

         When I wrote an introduction to Kathleen’s essays, the news was full of Jimmy Saville and other celebs who had mi-used their fame in respect of young girls.  I was rather put off.   But you cannot make assumptions.  If you read Kathleen’s essay you can see their relationship was completely different, or she would have written otherwise.  This was staring me in the face. .

      But  I can see an actress might suggest more.  Kathleen did not go to see Cardus before his death,  There are a few letters in which he asks for a visit.  I think regret and sadness might be the theme.  But it is clear to me that Cardus was the big influence in her life.     

    Another essay was published in which she describes the young girl who had entertained Cardus - the critic and humourist.,

       Kathleen came from Manchester.  But one of her essays is about elocution lessons.  She had wanted to be an actress and would have been very good.  Any comic actress of a certain age could impersonate her, but the person who comes to my mind is Wendy Hiller.     I only remember visiting a suburban housewife and someone who had lived with us when I was a child.   But I can see that someone like Cardus would have found her an entertaining companion.  Humour was something they shared,  Her husband had a very dry wit too, Another relation said that Cardus would have been rather pleased to walk around London with such an attractive woman on his arm.

       Last night I went to the theatre and saw a play about friendship.  I had not intended to see this play.  On the Saturday, I had crossed Leicester Square where a kiosk sells discounted theatre seats on the day.  £15 was the price for a stall seat for a play called ‘I loved Lucy.’  As a fan of sitcoms, it seemed a must.  But I bravely got a bottle of wine and went home.  I drank the wine and watched ‘Mamma Mia’ on the TV.  My time could have been better spent.   Yesterday, I went to the theatre and got a £15 front seat.  It was press night,   The play was not what I thought   A distant relation of Lucille Ball - a homosexual  had visited the actress in her old age.  He is ‘I loved Lucy’ and the play is about  their  developing friendship.



“Cricketer’ - fondly remembered