Thursday, January 20, 2011


Working in a pre-recession public sector was an odd experience. It attracted two main types of character into its employ. Those who will not work in the private sector because of their lefty, lofty and sometimes loony ideals, and those who can’t, either through severe ineptitude or idleness.

I was a much a fan of the former, but undoubtedly tinged with the latter. Like many, I turned up a frustrated & slightly confused graduate. Very much a lover of the moment, At university, I could on occasion be brilliant! Nimble of thought, I enjoyed debating with lecturers. A thrilling cocktail of adrenalin, wit and genuine interest, perfectly balanced climbing against the austere facade of the academic establishment. However, I was highly inconsistent. The finer points of Athenian Law seemed to pale into insignificance compared to the finer points of the opposite sex who were making my tummy go all funny in a new post-pubescent way. Freedom, drinking, loving and winning were what it was all about. I realise Æthelred the Unready is a key figure in medieval history, but Andy was Unready and staring me back in the shaving mirror.

Volatile, fragile unable to bottle things up, manifested a desire to exorcise pain through beer, music and bad decisions.

Back to the pre Tory, free-wheeling days of public funded employ. We had to find a creative way to dissipate our annual budget in order to qualify for the same remuneration the following year. Perhaps it was simple curiosity or the thought of fun, but far more likely pure narcissism on the part of one particular manager that led us to be personality profiled as part of a team building day. The science may be sound enough, I’m not sure. However, I struggled to see how learning about our own personality would help us in any way work better together. I have known me for many years now and am fully aware of my faults and try to hide them to work colleagues. Friends are rarely spared. I may have mentioned that the horoscope in the local paper may be a more cost effective way of moving our team forward. Nevertheless these were the halcyon before the credit crunch, where bankers were just ‘other people’.

In the spirit of the day, I decided to give the personality test my best. I was told it was impossible to cheat, which strangely reassured me. After half an hour if multiple choice, seemingly pointless questions I was finished, and awaited with excited hypocrisy, the results.

“You cheated!”
“How?” I replied, “You said, you couldn’t cheat the test!”
“Well, your results have come back. You are an off the scale extrovert!”
“I know!” I said. This seemed to irk him considerably. This usually unflappable, kindly middle aged man looked stumped. He seemed affronted and wanted answers.

He started to ask me questions about my youth and my education to see how somebody could end up like this? Being extrovert isn’t about being loud and aggressive (although I certainly can be), it’s a state of mind. You live on the surface, but are not superficial. I am attached to the pail that draws deep on a well of emotion (ohhh poncy). It’s a contradiction really, Outwardly strong: inwardly flighty and indecisive. Unusually terribly disorganised, but great when my backs against the wall. Overall, I wouldn’t change me. I just gradually need to improve.

My examiner started to try to justify his science by making slightly ill meaning remarks. “You haven’t moved on from my university mentality… You refuse to mature… You still live at home, don’t you see?... You refuse to accept your life as it is…. You will not move on in your life until you do!” I was not impressed!

Utter bollocks of course. He knows nothing about my circumstances, the break-ups, the opportunities I have been lucky enough to have been afforded. This blog wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for going to Canada. The only thing preventing me from lashing at this sweet middle aged creature (who I quite liked incidentally) was the obvious discomfiture writhing all over his face. So I played it a bit passive aggressive: I seem naturally suited to it.

A subtle defence against being patronised was needed.
“It’s because I’m an extrovert. I can’t help it you see!” There may actually be some truth to this.
“You have come back all this way to tell me that I am scientifically incapable of being me?” I said with a raised eyebrow Roger Moore would have applauded.
“Erm no but…”
“May I ask how long have you been doing this?”
“7 years”
“28 what?”
“28 years, I have been doing me. Fully functioning with modest success.” I smiled.
He laughed, as I did which eased the slowly rising tension..

Being an extrovert can be great. A natural show-off with a plucky attitude and (I like to think) a sense of humour. However, I decided it wasn’t me with the problem. It was the public sector/charity environment. So I decided to move to where my troubles can be viewed as a virtue. I am now a teacher. It’s a place where my extrovertism can be put to good use. Kids like it when I’m silly, colleagues didn’t.

Dear Middle aged friendly man,
I’m mature enough to realise this ALL BY MYSELF!
I hope you’re happy. I am.

Yours sincerely,


Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Years Resolutions 2011

All situations are unique, everybody is different. Nevertheless, apart from turning 30 in July, I have no idea what's going to happen in 2011. I will certainly not be in the same job and I doubt I will be living under the same roof. When, where and with who, are questions that both excite & daunt me depending on what mood I'm in. The worst case scenario is nothing happens. To help avoid this, I have come up with some resolutions that are more of a lifestyle guide. Some could happen, some will and some I won't get close. However, if I at least give it a go, I should have some good after dinner stories to tell.

  • Be more like David Niven.
  • Become a qualified lead climber.
  • Get something published in Private Eye.
  • Play guitar in public.
  • Make it onto the Queens speech (long story).
  • Blog more.
  • Move out.
  • Finish a leg of darts in under 14 throws.
  • Don't put back on the weight I lost last year.
  • Get a permanent job.
  • Stop asking, start doing.
  • Speak more French.
  • Be bold. You regret the things you do less than the things you don't do.

Drink less, eat less and enjoy more. All that jazz. Happy New Year all!

Friday, December 03, 2010


It's been a while loyal/random/drunk/lost reader. Apologies for the long absence. It's due to finally having started teaching. However, I am not as school today. Due to the inclement weather, I am sat in my dressing gown typing away at you (nice mental image eh?)

Being back in a new school has been interesting, tiring and a little bit deflating at times, but generally it's good to be back in the saddle. I have enjoyed being fielded the same old questions:-
  • Are you French? (I get this a lot)
  • Do you use sun beds?
  • You got kids?
  • You married Sir?
  • You gay then Sir? (S'okay if you iz Sir)
  • How do you spell GCSE RE?
  • When are you leaving us Sir?
  • You've got sommink inya innit? (another reference to being slightly darker skinned than the local populace)

A footnote on that last question. I only really noticed it when someone pointed it out to me, but a lot of the kids look very similar. Light brown/blond hair and blue eyes. Not exactly an Aryan super race, but worryingly easy to explain. Nobody ever seems to leave! Some of the staff are ex-pupils as are many of the Mums and Dads of the kids. If they didn't go to my school, they went to the rival school across the road. It does give the place a rather cosy family feel, bordering on the odd. I'd just be happier if they would reach out to extended family. Perhaps outside a mile radius of the school. For the gene pool's sake. I myself, with my swarthy skin and non estuary accent am regarded as a foreigner (I was born and brought up 12 miles away) and manifestly eyed with suspicion and mistrust.

Apart from one incident where talking about queen Elizabeth to year 8's & hinting at her lack of a husband. "what do people my age start to do?" "Retire?", the staff and kids have been great. I'm happy to be there and they're happy to have me. It's only a maternity cover, with very little prospect of being kept on so I have been applying for other jobs. My good friend Paul suggested sleeping with as many history teachers as possible so I can get continuous maternity cover. Laughingly I told this to my head of department this. Her earnest response was "you could do, but you'd have to get your timing right." Can nobody else see the flaw in this plan?

Moving on. I have a new love in my life. Lumps in all the right places but the harder I try the more difficult it is to get my hands on them! Mile End Climbing Wall is a great place! It was my good friend Ian's idea to do a weekend beginners climbing course there. As soon as the instructor saw me, he knew that I was ambitious, determined and likely to fall apart at a moments notice. And how right he was! I sit here and not climbing because I injured tendon in my foot whilst climbing, which means I cannot walk, let alone climb!

I still love it though and yearn to return. For beginners like me, it's an amazing core workout. I have to do my marking before I go, as my grip is so knackered by it, I can't hold a pen afterwards. I nearly had to sign out with a shaky X once, leading the wall attendant to wonder if I was actually literate.

It's very friendly down there and packed with young fit trendy looking people, so I provide a nice contrast. I am a bit of a minor celebrity there having landed myself the membership number 123456. Guy behind the desk said they staff had been talking about this magic member and shook my hand when he found out it was me. More famous as a number than for my climbing but I'll take what I can get.

However, since the course and before the injury I was making real progress. I bought some climbing boots, chalk bag and finger tape, so I at least I look the part. Being a man, I love the kit. I enjoy the ritual of squeezing my feet in the extremely snug boots and then doing them up as tightly as possible lacing all the way from the bottom (as I was told to). I don't care that the good flash climbers climb without even tying theirs up. I may not be very good, but at least I feel I might me. It does not matter what has been going on all day at work. When you climb you focus on nothing else. You are instantly transported back to being a six year old boy climbing trees. It's only the day after you're reminded you're almost 30!

Well it's a snow day so not in school. I shall leave you with the advice given to me by a deputy head in an e-mail this morning about what to do during the close down:

"This morning, Loose Women and Doctors Can I recommend Quantum Leap on ITV 4, also hoping to catch an episode of Diagnosis Murder or Murder She Wrote."


Saturday, September 11, 2010


A little verbal camouflage may be required here. I have a friend, let's call him... erm... 'Pope Ian', of no fixed abode, Leytonstone (yes that should do it). He's good to hang out with, his easygoing style puts you well at ease, even laughs at my jokes which is a bit above and beyond. Great company. However, he is also a magnet for acts of randomness, that at worst turn into an amusing dinner party anecdote, and at best have been life defining moments.

One such example I can recall, fits somewhere in the middle. Pope Ian had been out trying to buy coat hangers, when a young lady approaches from nowhere & tells him, not to buy his hangers as the shop down the road is much cheaper. Buoyed by this consumer advice, Pope Ian then asks the lady if she knew of anywhere local that had cheap Internet?

Roll forward 15 minutes, he's in her flat using her Internet and he hears the popping of a wine cork. Half a bottle later, her ex-boyfriend walks in. I get a phone call. They've all gone down to the local pub and can I meet them there because this is weird and he needs back-up. Sadly I wasn't much help as several jugs of beer later, all four of us ended back up their flat. We needed to escape, but how? We did it by performing the Lambeth walk (they were Canadian and asked us to do it. We felt cheapened by the experience), walking high kicks and doffing imaginary toppers towards the front door, closing it quickly behind us and back to normality. If this seems strange to you, you should have been there!

Anyway, back to the present day. Pope Ian is at a leaving do of someone he hardly knows. Gets talking to people he simply doesn't know and manages to get an invite to a housewarming party that not even God knows. From the very little we know about the host from her myspace page, we know that she is a Classical composer, Cambridge Uni then Royal Academy of Music, multi award winning international jet setter. Not his usual type you might say.

Far too afraid to go on his own (and I don't blame him) Pope Ian went recruiting for a Wingman! Someone who is witty, urbane, steeped in the classics and not quite as charming as he is. After several scores of rejections from more suitable candidates, I got the nod, as has... erm.... Tiberius Banks (yes that should do it). So tonight we're all of to a party where we don't know a soul and have no a clue what to expect. Nevertheless, I intend to discharge my responsibilities with my usual commitment to my friends.

What does a wingman actually do? More research was required. Wikipedia defines it as a role that "a person may take when a friend needs support with approaching potential partners. A wingman is someone who is on the "inside" and is used to help someone with relationships." No problem! I can do that. Just be nice remember to say nice things and don't talk to much (could be a problem actually).

But then I stumbled upon "Ode to the Wingman". Fantastic I thought, we have our own song!

This chick's rockin your bro' on the dance floor...
But she's towing an anchor
A junior investment banker
Who's talkin' 'bout herself and not much more, oh...
So buy her a beer, that's the reason you're here, mighty wingman
You're takin' one for the team
So your buddy can live the dream


Oh Sh*t! The Wingman is supposed to take out the 'Gatekeeper' isn't he....
This Wingman is grounded!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A note for my 18 year old self.

With thousands of students about to fly the nest and away to University I wondered, if i could go back in time, what advice I would give to my younger self to help me through that most daunting of transitions. I did this professionally in my last school for a group of sixth formers, but for myself, what home truths would I share?

  • Mum will cry when she drops you off. Be prepared because crying is contagious
  • Don't worry so much. You will be good at this.
  • Yes, everyone else seems to be having sex. Get over it.
  • You leave uni two stone heavier than when you arrived. Learn that your eyes are bigger than your belly.
  • Don't start smoking. It's antisocial, horrible and it's a bugger to quit, which you WILL do!
  • Never ever in your Greek History seminars call out "it's all Greek to me" when you don't understand something. Academics are not known for their sense of humour.
  • If you decide to fall in love, go for it. Just remember never to alienate your friends, as they're the people who will help you pick up the pieces again when it all goes belly up!
  • Always keep a little bit of yourself private. You'll need it. Probably in your second year to fall back on when times are tough.
  • Never use the condoms the University gives you. There is a reason they are free.
  • Don't compare yourself to other people. It's impossible for a start and you never know how messed up they are.
  • How people perceive you and how you perceive yourself are often two very different images.
  • If a woman gives you nice big hints that she likes you, don't freeze and be all prudish because you're a coward. No man ever went to the grave saying he wished he'd snogged less women.
  • Try as many sports as you can. Especially skiing, become Club Captain and win club of the year at the AU dinner. Because I bloody well enjoyed that moment.
  • Be yourself, choose you're own path and walk tall. People will respect you for it (As long as you don't go all weird then people will just talk about you behind your back)
  • Share everything but if you do be prepared to loose it all. It's replaceable anyway.
  • It doesn't matter that you don't really like clubbing. Some people are just like that.
  • Be brave. Try new things. You're young enough to bounce back. If I tried the same again, I may go crunch.
  • The secret to women, is a mystery. I don't know the answer and anyone who says they do, is a charlatan and lair and deserves your pity.

Have fun the class of 2010. Jealous? Well I have done it twice now, and it's about time I got a proper job. Good luck one and all x.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Father, Son and the Holy Pope.

Father and Son. Paul and I

I have a confession to make. For the schadenfreude I am about to relieve myself of, may Ian have mercy. The story goes something like this. When we met up for our weekly darts night a couple of weeks ago, he greeted me with the sad news that he had split up from his girlfriend. I hit my head against the wooden panelling of the pub in shock. I know how keen he had been on this young lady. I really felt for my friend.

However, the shock subsided and was replaced with a rather warm feeling of solidarity. You see both Paul and myself had become single a few months before. We have played a lot more golf together as a result. Paul can always be relied upon in a dark hour to hit some balls or play darts with. However, I felt there was one man missing. The warm feeling was knowing that "we've got him back, the Holy Trinity is reunited". Only until the next one comes along of course, but that will do me. We can split cabs now, stay out late and generally make merry at weekends. Bloody selfish I know, but what the hell, I didn't split 'em up, so I intend to take full advantage.

Two words came from Ian that sing like a choir of Angels in my ear. "Gentleman's retreat!" A weekend in the Brecon Beacons with some of the old Canada crew and a few hand picked special guests. Seven in all. All boys. Not loud, shouty, aggressive boys. People whom I know well, shared a lot with, respect and who are bloody funny. I have not laughed so much on a weekend for a long time.

Intrepid explorers.

Plus when boys get together, we get adventurous and a little bit silly. As a result our waterfall walk gave us both stunning scenery, a magical insight into the inside of a waterfall and double pneumonia. But we didn't care. Got back to the hostel, got showered and got a curry! No complaining, just jokes that next year we should do a city break as we marched soaking wet back to the car park.

Ian and Paul.

It just seemed as if all the moon and the starts had aligned themselves for a weekend of good clean wholesome fun. One that took my mind right off my own petty worries which I needed shaking from and returned me healthy, happy and contented. Now don't get me wrong. I love spending time with women, very much so. Especially on the sofa with a bottle of red and a good rom-com. I hope those days are not too far off again. But I also know that some of the group are already pairing off and settling down. Sometime soon, we won't all be able to saunter of to the mountains at the drop of a hat. Myself included. I'm a teacher! So if this was a last big hurrah together, than thanks for the memories boys. You were there when I needed you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All change!

Attempting to blog during my PGCE year was, as you can see, a complete failure. Luckily, my teacher training was not. By god it's been a hard road with plenty of bumps and scratches along the way, but enough highs to prove that it is the job for me. One third of a masters degree and an 'outstanding' Ofsted rating at the end of the course has helped me finish on a high.

I haven't managed to come through totally unscathed. My relationship with my long term girlfriend didn't make the end of the year. I threw myself into my work, loved it, but could have taken it easier and made more time for her. I'm no martyr, more selfish, I enjoyed my work. I had to, I would not have made it through otherwise. I relied heavily on my fellow PGCE students for support and who I know will continue to be friends and crutches during our NQT year.

The PGCE is over now. Time has been given back to me. Time for reflection, time to open back up to my family who found it difficult to relate. Time to repay old friends, have a beer and conversation again rather than just sitting like a shell shocked zombie, nothing much to say just throwing darts with a half smile. Time to think, play guitar, visit places. Perfect!

Well yes and no. I have been out a lot, seen old friends and made new ones. This has been great fun. I have found new interests and had the time to research them a little in my constant quest and unquenching thirst for knowledge. I enjoy this, so don't think that I haven't been, but I find it hard to enjoy things for enjoyments sake. I like to have a purpose. I don't start work until October. It feels very distant. There I know, is my purpose but at the moment I feel very detached. It's everything to me. I'm just not very good at being just... me!

Basically I am a shit louche. I have lead a very charmed life and struggle with the fact. Bloody useless. I should give it up and give it so someone who deserves it more and would make better use of it.

Do I sound down? Not a bit of it. Time has allowed me to get fitter than I have been in the last 10 years, I'm down to a light heavyweight and my brain is as sharp as a tack, sense of humour fully restored. I just think to much. So much so, that I forget what I have actually achieved in the last 12 months. The kids that thanked me for being their form tutor or teacher, the merits, praise for students who went for it and got it. The look on my year 9's faces last period on a Friday when I had them in the palm of my hand looking at the First World War and the genuine thanks and respect from the colleagues I worked with.

"Come on then Andy, upon reflection with all things considered, had it all been worth it?"

Of course it bloody has!