Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Urban Diary

As soon as I get off at Victoria station I notice the buzz. The blue and white scarves, the Samsung logo emblazoned across the shirts. The District/Circle Line platform is alive with the sounds of victory chants. ¡Campeones, campeones, olé, olé, olé!. It might feel strange to hear Spanish words amongst the mainly Anglophone crowd but this is the Premier League we are talking about here, the multi-million pound business that makes globalisation feel real and palpable. Chelsea Football Club has a powerful Brazil-born Spanish striker up front, a no-nonsense Serbian midfielder sitting in front of the defence, a promising, up-and-coming Dutch left-back and a world-class Belgian goalkeeper. Only two of Chelsea’s all-conquering regular team were born in this country. Who cares, though? Today it is all about celebrating.

What was a trickle at Victoria station becomes a flood thronging out at the gates of Fulham Broadway tube station. The Royal blue flags are out and for a couple of square miles become the only sight to behold. Correction: the only beautiful sight to behold. As I take up my position behind one of the barriers to see the three open-top victory parade buses I scan the crowd. Standing next to the cockney-rhyming-slang Londoners are turbaned Sikhs, pram-pushing Eastern-European-looking men and hijab-wearing Muslim women. Families mill out and about, the atmosphere is more suitable to Alton Towers than Fulham Road. But this is modern football, served with a tall skinny latte.

The temperature cannot seem to make its mind up. My hoodie is pulled down and pulled back up in quick succession. I regret my decision not to wear anything Chelsea today. I console myself with the thought that since where I live is not an SW6 postcode I am being sensible by not standing out. But I feel jealous of my fellow supporters. I, too, have got the shirts, the jumpers and the hoodies. Back home.

Suddenly there is a roar. The first of the three buses appears at the top of the road. The blue flags are hoisted higher. The chants grow louder. Parents hug their children closer. Selfie sticks spring up. Smartphones are held aloft. The players wave from the bus. The crowd waves back. London shrinks.

© 2015

Photo by the blog author

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 30th May at 6pm (GMT)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

For those of us who live in the UK, and especially for those who work in education, the word “Ofsted” probably rings many bells. Ofsted stands for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. However, ask most head-teachers and they will tell you that a shorter way to describe this independent body is as a career-breaker. To say that Ofsted is feared as much as Islamic State is currently feared in the Middle East, is putting it mildly. The fate of many schools rests on the final verdict of an Ofsted inspection.

This post is not about Ofsted, though. I shall leave that for another time. This post is about what happens once the inspectors go. You see, we had our very own Ofsted inspection a few days ago. I must admit that there was nothing extraordinary about it; it actually felt like another day at work. Maybe because were ready for it, or maybe because we are just too bloody good and sometimes we need someone else to validate our quality as educator. As a member of staff whose main role is to work with parents and carers I felt remarkably relaxed. I was interviewed by one of the inspectors and at no point did I feel under pressure. In fact the inspector was able to see one of our parenting courses in action.

On the Friday that week, with the inspectors gone the day before and the school returned to “normal” (whatever that “normal” means), I had one of the most enjoyable experiences on my way home.

Riding my bicycle at the end of the day and with the weekend to look forward to I slid into a TGIF mood. As my two-wheeler devoured yard after yard on the high road, I slowly became conscious of my own body acting like a set of gears. It was almost as if my legs, knees, calves and other muscles were part of the bike frame. Both machine and I were working in unison and to a syncopated rhythm.  I could even hear an internal sound acting as a bass hook. The warm sun was on my right. It was beautiful. It was also truly human. I felt a sense of freedom. Not just because the inspection had gone well but also because through my physical exercise I had become aware of this other dimension to life. It is a dimension of which I have been aware before. When I listen to a piece of music, or when I watch a new film I am really keen on. Or perhaps an oldie I never tire of seeing. This dimension is a sign from nature – even if I am surrounded by concrete – that I am at one with it.

Last week my daughter phoned me up from the shop where she has just started volunteering. She wanted ten pounds. As a rule for many years now, I very rarely carry cash with me. Small change? Yes, I still do. But pound notes are rarely found in my wallet. My daughter was surprised about this and yet how many times I have explained to my children that my weekend money for the last ten years has amounted to five pounds, the price of my two weekend papers combined. That means that I do not spend money unnecessarily. However, recently both publications put their prices up which meant the fiver I used to take out has become a tenner as the combined price now is £5.60. On top of this you cannot get five pound notes at cashpoints anymore. It is from ten upwards, which means I usually end up at the supermarket buying a very cheap item (for instance, sugar) in order to get my five pounds. But now that strategy is no more. It is ten pounds at the till as cash back with the remaining change from the purchase of my two newspapers being put away for the next weekend.

In times of need, thrift is still king and queen.

© 2015

Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday27th May at 6pm (GMT)


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