I was rummaging about in my internet cupboards and found this interesting old personal blog. It’s hilarious that (a) I recognise the mid-life crisis in the posts and (b) it’s almost three years since I felt the need to vent thoughts in this way.

For some very good reasons, I made the blog private for much of those three years but I think it’s probably safe to come out from hiding now.

I might post here again, but see the Hello, World post that kicked the blog off in 2007.


Suspension of Belief

14 September 2010

A few weeks ago, I made my annual resolutions. I don’t do the traditional New Year nonsense, instead I wait until my head is clear, I am rested and rational and hopefully a little more objective than I am in the commercialised crush to sensibility that is the Festive Season. After all, I hate Christmas.

To put this in context, I had just finished a two-year stint as head of Physics at a pleasant little low achieving state school. I’d worked my nuts off: made some good progress in ethos and with some individuals (of whom I am incredibly proud) and put together a decent set of online resources at my own expense which were enjoyed by many around the world. I was now back at a former school (another, less pleasant but no less low achieving state school), as a class teacher of no particular fame or significance.

Here’s how I started.

Not wishing to be ungrateful, I realise that looking after one’s health is the baseline from which everything else is launched. I’ve quit smoking again as I write this and have been to the health club more than ever in the past two years. I remain committed to clearing my name and debts, as much as when I refused to take the bankruptcy cop-out of the spineless, which was the state of affairs my second marriage left me to deal with, seven years ago.

I dream of being a writer, encouraged by a few who say I have some talent in that direction (is it just because I like words?). I dream of having earned a PhD but frankly have neither the patience, tenacity nor intellect to do a proper one. I might buy one, like a guy I know who has a fifty-dollar PhD in Polar Bears.

Next, I wrote down some habits: procrastination is my worst, but the tendency to confidence (which pisses people off) and depression (which pisses people off) is probably the most costly.

The catharsis comes in recognising some of the realities of life: I set these in a backdrop of a list of things which are not my priorities: proving myself, I don’t have to do; working for free, or for nothing, needs to stop; and taking on other peoples’ problems has to go too. Part of the urgency in this is due to my age, my financial dependence on working which nails me to Scotland, and fact that there are arseholes, everywhere. Look around you.

I have a lot of interests, and I’m happy that I’m pursuing these better now I have taken the summer to organise my house and my office. I have no excuses, except as already noted. I’m not really interested in the union, or the poor or the stupid. “If you don’t want to learn, son, bugger off and get out of the way of those who do.” (Hood, 2010)

Finally, I drew up a list of the consequences of these lists of constraints and facts. I have to keep earning. I have to exercise, physically and mentally. I have to make time for my home and garden. I have to remain in control. I have to have balance.

From these conclusions, I have shut down all web sites which don’t directly drive one of the priorities on my list. The Wiki, the World-Wide-Whatsit, the Physics sites, the forum, the teacher blog, Mr Hood’s classroom (my Moodle VLE), all of them, now gone.

I’ve also stopped believing true, things that are patently fake. This is the most liberating of all.

Cut me (to the) quick

29 August 2010

I’ve been looking closely at my social media connections – Facebook, specifically – and have been a little uncomfortable with the mashup of my professional and private life that Facebook has made over time. I resolved to separate the two using the advice on Lifehacker. In doing so, I discovered that my father has disconnected himself from his single remaining connection with me, his firstborn son. Not that we were close at all – far from it, I suppose – but it hurts nonetheless.

Facebook, like many other social phenomena of the Internet, is a wonderful tool of the new age of connectedness. I am a user and advocate of using technologies like Foursquare, Last.fm, Blipfoto to immerse yourself into the networks of humanity all around us. This new experience, however, leaves me sharply aware of the brutal nature of the new communication channels: there’s nothing like the rich exchange between two humans sitting face-to-face, using the complex emotional streams of facial expression and body language to be clear. Even that is hard enough. When you are reduced to a few words of type, or the 140 characters of Twitter, care has to be taken in disambiguating what is meant.

The most eloquent of communication, though, is tacit exclusion. It really, really hurts.

A few years ago, I ran little software company in Fife. My office was next to Gordon Brown’s constituency office. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was legislating against small companies like mine by introducing the IR35 legislation. I lobbied against it and met him, as my representative at the time, on more than one occasion to press my case. I lost the argument.

A little while later, Gordon and his wife, Sarah, lost their first child, Jennifer. I offered my condolences and helped his office deal with the large number of similar messages from the people. In 2003, facing insolvency, I closed the business down and took a year out of the workforce to re-qualify as a teacher. During this year, I struggled with debts, and one particular month, was unable to pay my rent and was afraid I would not be able to stay at university. When Gordon Brown heard about this from his staff, he sent me a personal cheque for the rent. Unsolicited.

Since then, I have recovered my solvency and am enjoying public service in secondary education. Gordon Brown has refused repayment of the help he gave me in 2003.

It is a pity he is painted so blackly this week, after a private remark was made public. I am thankful there are no media microphones in the staffrooms. Teachers might come across as child-hating, contemptuous and arrogant middle-class snobs, judged by the words vented over a coffee after a run of difficult and challenging childrens’ behaviour.

I’m not voting for Gordon Brown: he’s not my representative. I am, however, voting the way I think is the democratic way: I am voting for the local man who does a good job representing the people of my home town. He’s a Liberal Democrat, as it happens. Would I vote for Gordon Brown if he were my representative? Yes, of course. He is a good man.

Peace on Earth

26 December 2009

I hate Christmas. Well, I don’t hate it. I get closer to hating it every year, though. All that expense, meeting social expectations. All that stress meeting social expectations in time. All that guilt, spending time in the bosom of another person’s family instead of my own. All that frustration, wasting precious hours that could and should be spent doing something more worthwhile. All that hypocrisy of Gestapo chariteers.

Peace is never far from my thoughts, especially at this time. It’s a place I long for. The Peace of walking dreamily in an English Lane; of sharing a space with a dog that understands you; of feeling your place under a starry sky; of vamping out some pleasant chordy melody for nobody’s pleasure but your own. The Peace of fresh sheets. The Peace of the Mosque.

I am further from Peace than perhaps I have ever been. This year, I have consolidated my rejection of recent religion. In my life, I’ve been a Mason, a Muslim, a Mormon. Even an ordained priest in the latter (pun intended). Each step I have taken in the man-made structure of fake revelation has taken me further from myself.

Is anyone reading this? If so, I wish you what you wish for yourself. For me, it’s a return to the flickering hearth of honesty: whether by mazel tov or molotov.


28 October 2009

There’s a place in my head which is difficult to visit. I was there a short while ago. Whenever I visit this place, the result is that I cannot sleep, nor even stay horizontal in the dark. I have to be upright, in the light, with the comforting sound of the BBC News for company and reassurance.

What is this place? Beaconsfield, Tasmania. I’ve never been there physically, but since I heard the story of the two miners who were trapped a thousand metres under the ground and who were rescued after five days in 2006, this place in my head tortures me, especially after too much caffeine. Read about it,  if you don’t know the story. I cannot imagine how these two men got through this ordeal. Three years on, I don’t know if I ever will.

BBC Question Time

23 October 2009

I wasn’t going to blog about this but I have just read Seb Schmoller‘s skewed assessment and thought I should after all.

The BBC is obliged to be politically impartial – you could argue that all public media ought to be so but we are all aware that this is more than naive an expectation. Their reasoning for inviting Nick Griffin onto Question Time can never have been, “that it wished to discredit the BNP and negate its influence” for this would imply political purpose. The BBC can have no political purpose. Rather, as their DDG said clearly yesterday, the BBC responds to rising political importance by following what the people do – in this case, the people voted the BNP a couple of MEPs. They therefore represent a view – a minority but significant view – of a part of the people of our country. They therefore should be involved in public debate so that we can hear, be influenced by and respond to their eloquence, the strength of their argument, their charm, personality, good looks and all the other things that affect how we dispense our electoral power at the ballot box. Bravo, BBC, for not being bullied into the suppression that was demanded by the clamour outside TVC and elsewhere, for this would have been oppression. Only the dishonest or stupid fear open debate.

As for the choice of panelist, this was a master stroke. An articulate and moderate Muslim woman; a highly experienced politician from the establishment that caused the reaction that voted in the extremists; the extremist; and the sharpest intellect I have seen on such a forum for years. Bonnie Greer, the playwright, commands not only devastating wit but also a thorough knowledge of history. With these and apparent ease, she allowed Nick Griffin to place himself by his own words right where he belongs. At the end of his own political rope.