Thursday, July 28, 2005

It's All In The Numbers

It's All In The Numbers

Number of holes in tights: four.

Number of people accidentally cut off whilst juggling the switchboard: three (all in the first ten minutes).

Number of ink marks on skirt: one.

Number of minutes spent laughing about things on the internet: more than I should have.

Number of hours of torrential rain: all bloody day.

Number of hours left to work before griffining countdown can properly begin: seven and a half.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Party People

Party People

"Having a party?"

I look down at the collection of party paraphenalia next to the till. There's no way of getting round the fact that it looks like I'm having a child's birthday party.

"Yes - on Saturday"

"Noisy I expect"

I giggle. How little does the checkout-lady know.


I pay and collect my second bag of the day, having earlier discovered Poundstretcher to be an unexpected source of both entertainment - they had a very good paddling pool selection* - and cheap birthday tat. I'd searched more upmarket versions, discovering in the process numerous ranges of hen night tat** but - and I should have guessed this - nothing was ultimately able to beat Woolworths. Thus I emerged with a range of party stuff that must have left the checkout lady somewhat bewildered as to whether I was throwing a party for a two year old (the party bag stuff and tiaras) or a drunken rabble (the comedy party poppers and tiaras).

Now I've just got to factor in Scarborough's sand getting everywhere and the party's ready to go.

* For anyone wondering, I like paddling pools, they make me smile. Mainly it must be said because Nik and I bought Griffin one as a comedy present after he jumped into the pool at the Trafford Centre. One of the first conversations I had with Fox was about said paddling pool, so it's a double whammy.

**I discovered a 'Girls on Tour' badge in one of the ranges which I intend to buy before my next roadtrip.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Yellow Brick Road

The Yellow Brick Road

This morning I managed to go back to sleep after hitting my alarm off, which immediately meant that I was chasing around after myself in order to get ready to leave at eight. As it was I left with wet hair and wearing a pair of tights with a hole in. No, I didn't realise they had a hole in when I put them on and yes, had anyone asked me about it I'd have said I was going for deliberate boho-couldn't-care-less chic rather than couldn't get arse out of bed chic.

When you start the day chasing after yourself it's bound to continue in such a manner. And my mind's rather buzzy at the moment anyway so it really wasn't pretty. Rush, buzz, wet hair and a aphotocopier do not make for a good combination.

And then, just before lunch time, it emerged that the job I'm contracted to is going to take ten weeks longer than anticipated. And those ten weeks are before any building related delays kick in. So I've found myself with a 'summer job' that will be finishing around Christmas. Which would require a very loose definition of summer by anyone's standards. In some ways this is good, I may be on Monkey wage, but it's reliable monkey wage and more flexible than I could normally dream of. And brain zeroed out stuff is good for the four days a week I'm not working, at least in theory when I manage to drag myself into something of a routine. But the Christmas thing makes it, well, more solid, stretching out in front of me like something, erm, big and stretchy, say the yellow brick road. And we have to be honest, I don't exactly enjoy what I'm doing. I can deal with that as long as it's temporary, but as soon as it starts to stretch out...that worries me.

Which is why I have the buzz. It's also why I've got lots of part-time courses info, a new use for my not very attractive savings account and some illegal photocopying on me. Because, holey tights aside, sometimes the buzz can be a good thing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Another entry with the word 'quiz' in it

Another entry with the word 'quiz' in it

"Look, it's a Shakespeare Quiz Book"

"[Excited] That's a whole evening's entertainment right there"

"For you two, maybe".

But in the end I didn't get to pit my Shakespeare knowledge against Val's. The book was too easy. And, as every intensely competitive person will know, there's no point rolling out those competitive genes if there's no challenge.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What's The Buzz?

What's The Buzz?

"Where are you going?"



"Erm, to see Jesus Christ Superstar".

There's really not an easy way to get round that sentence when you live in Leeds, a good three and a half hours away from Cheltenham. And whilst my viewing of JCS hasn't quite snuck into double figures this year, it's probably more than is generally considered healthy for any one individual. But then when I have I let the numbers game defeat me? Anyway, as I quickly maintained - I was going for the weekend away, I'd never been to Cheltenham and we'd be popping into Stratford on the way back. Stratford means Shakespeare. And Shakespeare legitmises everything. And this everything includes repeated viewings of JCS.

As it was the show itself was possibly the most moving I've ever seen it. Quieter, smaller - not least because of the reduced size of the Everyman Theatre compared to where I'd seen it previously - maybe more touching in an ensemble way. Certainly not the flashiest or even the most sparkling but moving in a slightly disconcerting way. Craig Price's Jesus seemed woefully broken from the opening moment and, for the first time, I cried during 'The Last Supper'. That scene's always teetered on being my favourite - Fox's Judas was outstanding in it a couple of times - but on Friday night it was the moment that had me unreservedly. I'm not a fan of the new Giant Peter's voice - my former favourite moment 'Can we start again' between him and Mary now goes for nothing - but he's one of the best actors on the stage. He made himself seem tiny during the last supper, crinkled up with Jesus's robe, which is no mean feat for a man who's about 7 foot tall. And, even though my affection for Fox has coloured my perception of Judas since he left the role, Jon Boyden's Judas really has been pretty outstanding the few times I've seen him.

If, however, I was to give an award it would have to go to Tim Churchill's Pilate. The first time I saw this production of JCS, back in September of last year and I breathed a deep sigh of relief that Fox was actually quite good, a little unsure in places and not quite sure what to do with his hands at times, but overall better than I could ever have hoped, the only other person that I wanted to talk to was Churchill. Val and I rushed over to him telling him that we "really enjoyed [his] performance and we're theatre snobs". On Friday night I think he showed exactly why he's been the most consistently outstanding cast member. During the 39 lashes he was entirely derranged. The intensity of his performance actually made me scared. And that's pretty fantastic when you know exactly what's going to happen, blow by blow.

In many ways it's been a fantastic opportunity to see the production mature over the past ten months. From sitting at home talking to Nik on the phone as she relayed Fox's performance, through seeing Fox for the first time and re-enacting his scene in the middle of the Birmingham hippodrome, whooping for the first time in Manchester, seeing Fox at his best in Oxford and worrying about him horribly, loving the special Christmas charity event and singing loudly in the pub opposite the theatre whilst the cast stood nearby and missing Fox in Liverpool to seeing the Fox and Glenn Carter -less production, with its less starry, more ensemble nature. At no point have I ever thought that this is an outstanding production, there are far too many niggly things that I don't like, not least the cop-out ending, but it's a production that has had outstanding performances within it. And it's matured beautifully. There are still things to see even as it winds down its run. And I'm glad I went to see it - purposely - post Fox. I don't connect it with something knotty and painful in relation to Fox, but as a show in its own right with all the little piece of breath-holding magic which that entails.

Whilst I didn't end up with a JCS boy as Val and Cat had schemed, I think maybe I should conclude my time with JCS with a picture of one of its unsung stars:

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Dom; priest, apostle and general ensemble member. And so lovely that I condone stalking him for the rest of his life. He's a star in Australia y'know. He's even been on Blankety Blank.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Did I Say Something About Black?

Did I Say Something About Black?

Two and a half years ago in an Oasis sale I bought what I consider to be my cutest ever jacket. A denim, puffed sleeved, fitted, Military style coat that does magical, magical things to your waist.

Sadly - or maybe not given the circumstances - 18 months later it no longer fitted me. Nope, if it gives a fab shape then it also has to push any excess fat in one direction. Let me just say that it wasn't pretty when I tried it on just after Christmas in 2003. Unless, that is, pretty consists of the display of copious amounts of white/blue flesh.

Post exams, however, I've lost enough weight to put me back to my insane lympahtic system weight, only this time without, well, the insane lymphatic system. So my jacket fits again. And when I discovered this I got very happy, especially given the current almost vogue for military jackets.

Today, proudly wearing it with more than a spattering of black clothing I walked past new look. And then did a double take. I know that I said that black was the new boho, but they didn't have to listen. And pride of place in their window display?

A black military style jacket.

I never learn, do I?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Vatican City

Vatican City

"Getting an audience with the Pope is easier than getting to talk to someone on site".

Ah, makes you happy to be the admin monkey, doesn't it? I wonder if the Pope has one of those.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

So You Wanna Be A Rock Star?

So You Wanna Be A Rock Star?

And it had all started so well. Civilised even. Overflowing plates and sangria at Oscars, fairly sane conversation and, because this is me and I can giggle for England at the best of times, quite a bit of giggling. It was when we stood up to leave that I realised that I haven't recovered yet from my finals induced alcohol famine. So much so as I emerged on to York's streets on came the mortarboard hat and gown.

But if I was giggly and rapidly losing the ability to maintain much coherent thought - other than my pressing desire to gain possession of one of the beds in Evil Eye - thins still looked outwardly civilsed. Even when we'd gotten the bed - thankfully to discover that the tv in the corner of it wasn't treating us to the best porn that Men and Motors can offer - things still seemed to befit an almost Oxford Grad ball:

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I hadn't thought through the whole drink/bed/short tiered skirt and wedges combination. I'm not graceful when I'm sober, and given that to the sangria I'd added a white russian and champagne by this point, my only response when trying to get into position for this photo was "I'm glad I'm wearing big knickers". Classy.

After tequila and the required Terrorvision moment which tequila necessitates, things started to go progressively down hill. Early on in the evening we'd noticed a guitar next to the bed opposite us - cue shouts of "oh my god, he's got his guitar!" to, erm, no one in particular - and by half nine two wannabe guitar players had emerged. The first of whom could kind of play the guitar, hence the arm waving, out of tune everyone singing 'Wonderwall' moment. And because we really, really need no excuse to sing - despite everything that the last year has done to show that we cannot sing - we managed to get a blast of unaccompanied 'Bring It On' in there. I think it went whoosh over the head of the men around us [who, sadly did not include Danny McFly but did, since Evil Eye is clearly the home of York's lookey likeys, visiting or, did include Dustin Hoffman].

The second wannabe guitar player was more problematic. Mainly because it was me and I cannot play the guitar. Griffin medleys on the recorder yes, arm waving guitar classics no. But the alcohol and the presence of a guitar seemed to connect to my knowledge that - hey I can read music, I know what a semi-quaver is, this guitar lark can't be that hard. And, anyway, I can do band attitude. Despite my almost total lack of vocal talent, I'm lead singer in our fictional girl group. If you're wondering what we sound like - we're a female Busted but with better clothing and regular accoustic sets at the Bedford. Tortured, artistic rock chick I can do. Even when I'm wearing comedy clothing.

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Thus I managed to find myself, at 11:30, opposite the Parliament street fountain - which was spurting to its full extent - with a guitar. Probably the less I say about the mechanics of this the better. Let me say it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I had the guitar and there was no way I was letting go of it. Even when I was in the fountain. Even when we were blasting through Semi Charmed Life.

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Thankfully I had the foresight to put it down when I ended up racing around the fountain on Dustin's back. Really. And again my skirt seemed a very wrong choice. And because if you want to meet random people the fountain is the best place to go we seemed to meet literally hundreds. I even got asked to play the guitar a couple of times. Thankfully, since I was starting to sober up, I declined and kept everyone's ear drums in working order. And because I am clearly a weirdo magnet I ended up being asked if I wanted to go home with a bearded drunk who was most likely old enough to be my father. When another random started talking about the MA department at York I decided that dressing in something which resembles school uniform is not a good idea. The antics at the fountain were only surpassed when, for the first time ever, we were asked to get out of the fountain by the members of a passing police van. Naturally we sang at them and, rather than arresting us under some public disorder act, they ended up laughing before driving away.

And because we're nothing if not constant in our traditions, a photo at the Little Griffin van was in order

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Obviously that's not the actual photo, that one will be soon gracing the front of the Little Griffin van. As for the random men, I'd tell that story but it, aherm, really isn't my place.

And so the group disbanded as the ball came to its end. Soon I was in the taxi queue, again being asked to give a tune while we waited - what is it about having a guitar that people think you can actually play it? Given that I was once again sober and coherent I'm blaming my rolling into the taxi in a specactlarly in-elegant way on my shoes and guitar combo. Look, I don't have that skill yet. I'll have learnt by the time I come rolling out of the Ivy to the assembled press.

As balls go, I think I can safely say that this one will live long in the memory. Now if someone can tell me waht to do with some glasses, a champagne bottle and a guitar I'd be very grateful.

Monday, July 18, 2005



As Oxford doesn't have a graduation ball (don't feel too sorry for me, it has hundreds of other balls, with or without a Chesney Hawkes appearance) I had what I termed my Grad Ball on Saturday night. It may have been without ball dresses, dodgems and Mr Hawkes but it turned into an evening that I doubt will be easily forgotten. For all concerned. My problems chiefly started with the fact that I ended up pretty much drunk after Sangria at Oscars. By the time we'd hit the tequila stage at Evil Eye I was pretty much gone. And as I was wearing my cap and gown by this point it wasn't a subtle 'gone'.

Given that it managed to include a spectacularly spouting fountain, a wayward guitar, 'Wonderwall', champagne, Little Griffin photos, piggy backs, beds in bars and, naturally, a little bit of 'Bring It On' I'm going to have to share the story. And indeed some of the less embarrasssing photos.

But tonight, after typing up more than I have ever desired about building foundations, I'm tired. I'm also emotional but that has nothing to do with the typing and more to do with the fact that I've finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. If you've read it I'm not upset because of the obvious reason. Well maybe a bit. I'm more upset that Ms Rowling has taken the bottom out of her universe. Ok, maybe not as dramatic as that - but for me? Yes. And I'm not sure what to think. Over-analysing a children's book? Probably. But I can over-analyse Potter at length [if you're lucky I may share my whole Shakespeare/ Potter theory with you at some point*].

In reality I thought the book sagged a little bit in the middle - too much information had to be divulged in not too subtle a way it struck me - but when the story came together about 200 pages from the end. Woosh. End of seat, not wanting my lunchbreak to end stuff. Now though I guess I feel a little bit cheated. In my heart I still believe there's a twist to come. I've already concocted a theory. Of all the information that Rowling bombarded us with there's one piece that I'm dying to know that she didn't tell us. There's a why that Harry believes he has the answer to at the end that I don't think is true. Or maybe I don't want to think is true. But as I write all the clues seem to be pointing to something...ah, when did "children's books" become so complicated?

I did guess who the half-blood prince was, fairly early on in the book though [after an initial wrong turning] so I guess I'm getting better at reading the clues. Or maybe I just need to go out more.

*Maybe lucky is the wrong word.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

There's Something About Snape

There's Something About Snape

On the rather large list of things that I love [cowboy boots, Woolf, jaffa cakes, The Great Gatsby, the new Phoebe bag*, Byron etc etc] there is a very special place reserved for the Harry Potter books. Or more specifically - Snape. C'mon the guy's great - flawed but intelligent, a biting wit combined with swishy robes. And he's immortalised by Alan Rickman [oh, the voice]. Genius. And by far the most interesting and complex character. There's so much I want to know about him. Plus because I'm soppy girl at heart who cries over The Muppet's Christmas Carol, you know I think there's something incredibly sad in his past. Something that will undoubtedly have me reaching for the tissues. Aherm.

So it might be said I'm a bit of a fan. It probably goes without saying that I'm very excited today. And from what I've read so far I'm not dissapointed.

I've only one thing to say - Snape better still be alive at the end or Ms Rowling will be receiving a strongly worded letter.

*Not that I have Mulberry's new Phoebe, it's an unrequited love.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Black - The New Boho

Black - The New Boho

I love Boho. I love vintage. I love that slightly quirky individualistic streak it's supposed to create.

But enough is enough.

There is nothing individualistic about the skirts that litter every high street. The most overblown items of the last 12 months? Ponchos and gypsy skirts. That should tell you something. Both items I've owned and loved. I bought my gypsy skirt in a sale just before I started Uni. My poncho came, after weeks of searching, a year later. Now I cannot wear either of them in their identikit, even Victoria Beckham is wearing them, style. When Senorita Beckham catches a trend you know that this is where it MUST END. Because the style Gods decree that if it has filtered through to a woman who is willing to wear a single label from head to toe anyone with even a remote pretension to any sort of style kudos has to jump ship. When this is coupled with women up and down the country - regardless of age or shape - are embracing elastic waists and rolls of fabric in the form of these skirts there's no hope. C'mon even the rats are leaving.

Because that's the problem when New Look rolls out a trend. Boho for all its apparent inclusion and volumes of fabric is actually incredibly unforgiving. It should come with "this may make you look like a marquee" stamped across it. I could never go Sienna all out boho because I have to accept that i)there are very few situations in life when people need to see my thighs and ii)I need a bit of tailoring to make everything seem in proportion. Short of some pretty heavy duty plastic surgery it's something I've just got to live with. I'd like it if others - many of whom really should know better - would accept this too. The other problem is that Boho has been stripped of its risk. The whole point of the concept is surely that something could go wrong. Not even Sienna Boho-Princess gets it right all the time. But the watered down mass produced version is devoid of risk (other than making you resemble that marquee). It's become as safe as a pair of jeans or a little black dress. And that means that - for all its jangly bits and colours - it's become a tad boring. It says nothing about the wearer.

I like clothes that reflect personality. Quirky, chic, idiosyncratic, whatever. Clothes that - in short - show a little bit of fun, reveal a little bit about you. Why copy a trend when you can start one?

If this shows me up as a secret fashion snob, then I hold my hands up. Guilty as charged. But what I love about clothes is their individuality. That there are colours or styles that immediately make me think of certain people. One of my friends calls a particular shade of green 'Corinne green'. I rather like that. A rolled out trend doesn't have that factor. It all merges into one great mush.

And, if there's one thing that I don't like, it's mush.

So, if the high street and all those boho wearing women out there could hold on to the boho whilst I go and buy lots of black, belts to wear around my waist rather than hips and some tailoring to die for I'll be quietly happy. I can still wear them with my cowboy boots, right?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Almost Famous

Almost Famous

"Hello famous person"

"She's not famous, she's infamous"

Either way, this is the kind of welcome that I like. I'm quite impressed that some of my former teachers have cottoned on so quickly. A copy of the SSoB poster and a programme and they've already by-passed the 'future famous person' tag.

I popped back to my high school today. I'd heard through various sources that there were teachers who'd been asking about me so for the first time in nearly two years I made my way to the sixties building where I spent a good proportion of six years of my life. And, despite the fact that I now have to wear a visitor's pass and can't remember the room numbers, nothing much seemed to have changed. Even some of the art work on the walls was the same. Ok, to be fair a huge new technology block has appeared and the library has doubled in size. Both of which were the size of shoe boxes when I were there and I was only a little jealous of the new drama suite they're having built for September. Drama Suite. Do you know how magical those words are to me?

But everything still felt comfortable, complete with the added bonus that I'm 22 and not actually a pupil there.

That was, however, until I'd been there about an hour. I'd had the usual conversations, a tour around and more congratulations than is good for any one ego, let alone my ego. I was sitting on the desk in David's room - ah, I was never allowed to do that when he was teaching me - for about twenty minutes as we'd talked and the year ten class around us had continued their own conversations. Then he hit me with something I hadn't been expecting.

"Did you ring in a radio station?"

"Which radio station?"

"Five Live".

And I knew exactly what he was talking about. Because, let's face it, if he were playing a guessing game then he's done pretty well to guess the only national radio station I've appeared on. So the chances are that David heard the appearance in question. And if he heard it, then that also means that he knows. He knows about Griffin.

Now maybe I should break in here to say that I am certainly not ashamed or sheepish about the whole Griffin experience. Bloody hell, I've talked about it on tv, radio and on here. I threw my dignity and my shame away a long, long time ago. I think the last remaining shreds went some time around sitting on Griffin's knee in Birmingham Zanizbars. After that there was no way back. But that doesn't mean that I broadcast my propensity for stalking minor popstars amongst great swathes of people I actually know. Some of them get the idea, some have even heard the stories, some have gotten the edited highlights. Most, however, remain blissfully ignorant. And I think former teachers should be kept in that bracket. Especially this particular teacher because, frankly, he needs no more ammunition. There's more than enough to mock about me without giving him the Griffin thing too. But it's too late for that. And I'm incapble of damage limitation.

I put my head in my hands. David starts to laugh.

"You were saying you follow him round the country. Stalker".

And because there is no way to counter that accusation the immortal words slip out: "I'm not a stalker. If you asked him he wouldn't say I was a stalker".

"Of course he wouldn't - first rule, don't annoy your stalker. You'll find that out, when you're famous and you have a stalker. Don't annoy them"

And there is nothing I can say to this other than point my finger impotently at him. Because he's right. And a part of me wants to laugh. The other part wants to curl up and die that my talking to Griffin on Five Live about writing on his stomach and being thrown out of Nottingham Ice Arena had a wider audience than I'd ever imagined. But this means that I'm off guard.

And I'm certainly not ready as he turns to year ten, set one: "Did anyone here watch Fame Academy?"

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Elephant Feet

Elephant Feet

I'm climbing up the stairs with my hands full of sub-contract correspondence.

"What have you done to your heels, Corinne?"

I pause and wince slightly. I can only muster two words.

"These shoes".

When I reach the office I look at my feet. In the heat - it's pushing 90 inside - my feet have swollen. Not just slightly, oh no. They look like someone has stuck a bicycle pump into them and pumped. And then kept pumping until long after the bicycle wheel would have exploded. Consequently the shoes that fit me this morning no longer do. Which, not to leave you in any doubt, hurts. I have a high pain threshold - I once went 24 hours with a broken arm - but skin being wrenched off of your feet? That hurts. And because I have developed elephant feet I seem to be losing skin from almost their entire surface. Did I mention that it hurts? IT HURTS. And, anyway, I've resigned myself to the fact that as well as losing half of my bodyweight in sweat and a high proportion of skin to my shoes I'm probably going to get blood poisoning from the wounds as well. Seriously, I knew someone who got blood poisoning from a blister. And I saw her blister and it wasn't a patch on what has happened to my feet. My feet make hers seem positively attractive.

I'm not sure the Health and Safety guy's going to be pleased. I'm certainly not.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005



We'd gotten passed the armed guards at Leeds station, who'd been our welcoming and departing committee, and crammed on to the Middlesbrough train. It was standing room only and most of the carriage was buzzing with news of the house raids about twenty minutes from where we were stood. This was only interrupted by the occassional comment on how mind-numbingly hot it was. And tales of air-con systems that didn't work, people being given free ice lollies by their bosses and questioning of what the temperature has to be in order for you to legally be allowed to leave.

And then I heard one of my fellow passengers talking about theatre. And suddenly I knew there was a conversation that I had to listen to.

"I saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when it first started, there was some brilliant casting Richard O'Brien as the childcatcher -"

I silently giggle as the Crystal Maze music plays in my head.

"But later [attempting to evoke the horror to Disinterested Blonde]...they cast people like..."

Stephen Gately. Go on, you know you want to say Stephen Gately.

"Well, like Stephen Gately"


"You know, the guy who was in Boyzone"

Disinterested Blonde looks, well, disinterested. I giggle because I know Boyzone. And by know I mean bought all of their singles and albums. Saw them in concert. Had a bit of a soft spot for Ronan. Not Stephen, admittedly, but close.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang guy still sems to think that he's on to a winner with disinterested blonde though. "I mean Stephen Gately - he's scary, but in a very different way".

But, as I fight the urge to laugh out loud - as everyone knows it wasn't Stephen who was the scary one of the band, oh no, that would have been Shane Lynch and his pineapple hairstyle and all over body tattoos, the train pulls into my station. As I leave Chitty Chitty Bang bang guy still seems to be extolling the non-virtues of Stephen Gately whilst Disinterested Blonde falls ever deeper into a coma.

From armed guards to Stephen Gately in under ten minutes. Kind of makes you proud.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Is Nasty Nick Still In?

Is Nasty Nick Still In?

Ok, I know I've said before that I have a newly ambivalent relationship with Big Brother, but I've now seen enough of the programme to pass serious judgement. And my conclusion?

When the most appealing person is a right-wing, fox-hunting southerner who considers the north to be "a backward place" you know you've got a problem.

And a word to the girls - I'm all for getting your bangles out but there's out and then there's out. Skimpy tops, yes. No tops and letting a geordie short-arse manhandle you, no.

In an ideal world the cameras would be turned off and they'd all* be left to fester in there for eternity.

*Ok, I'd let Eugene out just because he needs to go back to his own people in another galaxy far, far away.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

D- For Effort

D- For Effort

The first that we knew about Obi 3's school's impromptu appearance on national television was in a letter from the school itself. Just to inform us that they were taking legal action to try and stop the programme in order to protect the children who were on the footage. A few days later they sent another letter, this time providing parents with a list of solicitors should they want to pursue the matter themselves. It seemed they'd rather missed the point.

On the programme itself the school was the second of the two Leeds schools. Its introduction came in the form of the supply teacher having been told that she was being sent to a "challenging school". Cue footage of two of my brother's classmates wrestling each others' heads off whilst around them children climbed over the tables. Welcome to John Smeaton.

As it was the school came off better than two of the others in that it was given a fairly sympathetic hearing and none of the teachers were on film insulting the pupils. The issue of enquiry seemed to be why, in what is a predominantly middle class area, there exists what is effe ctively a 'sink school'. The answer, as any local resident can tell you, is that most local children do not go there. They pulled out when its 1,200 pupils became a heady mix of two schools that the education thought it best to close down. Neither myself or my sister went there despite it being by far the closest school to our house. Given that our school wasn't an option for my brother - unless he swapped gender overnight - there was a long process of deliberation over my brother. When it became clear that our proximity to the school in question would rule out the over-subscribed 80% GCSE school slightly further away and the only other possible school being closed and merged with a failing school as of this September, the patter of John Smeaton's new headmaster combined with Obi 3's desire to follow some of his friends there led to his application. I think it's a decision we've all come to regret.

As the footage showed the school has an incredibly high proportion of students with either behavourial or educational special needs. It even merits extra funding for this reason. But soemthing has gone wrong. There's a reason why the John Smeaton uniform gets funny looks from neighbouring residents. And the new headmaster seems to have succeeded in doing nothing other than obsess over the new building the school's going to get in five years time. But buildings don't change schools.

I'm someone who's incredibly passionate about state education. Maybe it's a product of all that public-school Oxford-ness I've witnessed. The level of diversity - on every level possible - that I'd encountered by the time I hit 18 far outweighed many of my Oxford peers. I also know there are some incredible teachers out there - I was lucky enough to come into contact with some of them. A couple in particular I owe a bit of the person I am today to. But if I'm some passionate advocate for all of the good things that go on in state education, I've also seen its failures. John Smeaton, it is clear, is failing its pupils. Obi 3 finds school hard on a level I'll never be able to grasp but he certainly isn't getting the help he requires. It's almost as if the school stops trying. Only the top sets are given homework. The fact that Obi 3 was truanting wasn't picked up on for nearly two months. It's taken literally hours of parental pushing to try and get something done. If he seems to be in school now I'm not convinced he's learnt much this year. Which I find deeply sad.

Maybe, rather than issuing false statements to the production company which paint a picture that doesn't exist or pursuing notions of child protection in relation to video footage, the school should look to itself and try and learn lessons. Acknowledge the fact that it has serious issues, rather than shying away from them. But it won't. Which is possibly the saddest thing about it all.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

More Results...

More Results...

For the first time in a few days I thought to check my university email account. Given that the only things that are popping through it at the moment are random newsletters and adverts from the Oxford Playhouse I've not been checking it every day. Mistake it would seem. Because since Thursday my exam results break down has been nestling there.

And I knew what would happen when I saw my exam results break down. I'd start thinking 'what if'. Getting the 2:1 letter, after all, doesn't require too much thought. A 2:1 is anything from 59%-67.9%. That's a lot of ground and speculation to cover even for me. But actual results. Yes, they're a whole other ball game.

Were I to bring out a white board and some markers to analyse the results (like Carol Vorderman but with better clothing) I would note the following:

1. I did less well in my two pieces of coursework (Ginny Woolf and British Modern Drama) than I'd expected. Not that I did badly (65 and 66, respectively) but I suspected that I'd get a first or pretty close to it.

2. Statistically I did better in my pre-Paddy Marber exams. As I suspected there was no middle ground on my language paper - I got a 70. I also managed a 70 in middle english commentary. Which would be shocking given the middle english element were it not for the fact that I got a first on my mods commentary paper as well. Which pleases me because you can't really revise entirely for commentary, you've got to be able to think on your feet. It also scares me as it's another indication why I may one day have to face the fact that I am a better editor than I am writer. My other good result in this block was a 68 in Shakespeare. On face value not too much of a surprise - I certainly know more Shakespeare than any other other author I wrote about. In reality, however, the paper was the worst of the batch. Predominantly because they changed the format without telling us. When I read the questions I honestly didn't think there was three that I'd be able to answer. I had to fight my way through that exam, harder than I fought for any of the others. So I'm quietly pleased. My Middle English paper is the, somewhat expected, pre-Paddy aberration. 64. And I suspect I may have the Mystery Plays to thank for that after a waffly Chaucer essay.

3. My renaissance paper worked out exactly as I'd suspected it would - 64. I suspect in that I got one 2:2, one middling 2:1 and one borderline 1 so they evened out. I got slightly less than my mock paper six - 66.

4. My worst result came in my final exam - 62. Bloody Byron.

And still swirling my pen around on the white board I can conclude:

1. When you are given 3 1/2 weeks to write an extended essay do not i) Spend a week and a half either stalking Fox at your local theatre, fliering in York and Boro for Griffin or rushing down to see Riccardi play in a battle of the bands competition. or ii) Lose a week to the premiere of your first play.

2. Inconclusive here. Could be i)go in to exam with only three topics you can talk about or ii)go in to exam being able to speak about 25 differnt Shakespeare plays. Equally inconclusive as to whether the timing lesson is i)don't see Paddy Marber during finals, you'll only get distracted or ii)accept that when you have so many exams together you are going to lose the will to live half way through so the earlier ones will naturally be better.

3. Middling papers will always be middling papers.

4. When you are tired do not write about something you love. You will waffle.

So I do think I've learnt things, albeit when these lesson are far too late. I've also learnt that whilst I couldn't possibly have worked any harder for the majority of my final two terms, prior to that...A bit more middle english, a bit more renaissance poetry. But they are all 'what ifs' and ones that are pointless to entertain. And I was rather touched that my tutor commented in the email that she was "delighted" with my performance given my rather interrupted degree. And I think a couple of years ago I'd have definitely taken a 65.875% 2:1.

I just won't be reading any Byron for a little bit.

Friday, July 08, 2005



I was going to blog about the Dispatches programme on Channel Four last night. Mainly because one of the four schools that the undercover teacher visited was my brother's school. And it showed two members of his class tying to wrestle each other's heads off. But that will have to wait*.

Because I have developed repetitive strain injury from excessive photocopying. And I am losing the ability to use my right hand.

Four years, fifteen thousand pounds and an Oxford degree. To operate a photocopier. Classic.

*I typed 'weight' there first. Possibly because I have a 'weight' story to tell too, but that one's going to have to damn well wait as well.

Thursday, July 07, 2005



It seemed slightly surreal. The sun was shining, when I looked out of the window to my right all I could see was an expanse of green fields. Everything was entirely tranquil.

Maybe detached would be a better word.

After yesterday's euphoria today's feeling is very different. I'd chastised London for stealing my thunder. A winning Olympic bid? Pah, I'd just gotten my degree results. In reality I felt rather proud that I'll always connect my degree to that day. Live 8, G8, Olympics, Degree. Now there's something I definitely didn't envisage adding to the list.

I sat in the office, supposedly busy with a final account, as the news started to drip through and I'm not sure how I felt. Because it's an invasion into something worryingly close to home. How many times have I taken the tube? How many times have I caught the bus? How many people began today as simply another day, maybe with a bit more of a spring in their step because yesterday was one of those moments when you can't help but feel a little bit proud? And for how many of them will things forever be different? Because my office, secluded in the midst of Yorkshire's fields, carried on. Other's didn't. And not far away, nameless, faceless places that seem merely statistics but places I recognised. Places I've been.

The image that wrenched me most, when I finally saw a television tonight? The cars with their open doors behind the wreckage of the bus in Ginny Woolf's Tavistock Square. You could almost smell the fear in their open doors, that intensely human panic which had forced their owners to leave them in such a hurry. And I couldn't help but feel my throat constrict at its visible markings.

My thoughts are with everyone caught up in events.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005



At 11:20 this morning the regulation envelope with a yellow sticker on the front dropped through my letter box. Now this is not a place for a Royal Mail rant but - 11:20? What kind of first class is that? Not that I want to do my postman - who I'm sure is very nice - out of a job but it's getting to the stage where it would be quicker to go and collect it from the depot myself.

But I'm not ranting. So, sitting at the bottom of the stairs I got to open the envelope with its bright red 'Oxford University Examination Schools' marking. And Paddy was right...

I got the "noble degree". Otherwise known as a 2:1

Or to be precise since this is Oxford and nothing is simple (not least the fact that they only send out your overall result and not any of your individual marks so I'm still at a loss as to how much my middle english paper buggered me) I was confronted with Class: II, Division: I, which took me a couple of looks to decipher because I did an English degree and not one involving Roman Numerals. Once I'd computed in my head I was rather pleased. Mainly because for all my earlier confidence of the fact that I'd got a 2:1 I'd had a burst of fear some time around the teeth-falling out dream. I don't think they let you within ten miles of the city if you get a third at Oxford. Public stoning may still be in operation.

I can now officially relax. Four years work done. And I've joined both Paddy and Hugh Grant with my Oxford English 2:1. Possibly more importantly I can wear my mortarboard hat to my heart's content. Now that's a result.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Some Things...

Some Things...

I might have blogged about had my internet access not gone awol:

Live 8 - For the first couple of hours when the backstage presenters were all saying 'I hope the atmosphere's coming across' was it only me who felt that it really wasn't? At times I felt more atmosphere in my room as I sat, volume pumped up, singing along with my arms into the air. It was only when it got dark and the BBC decided to mic the crowd that we got some atmosphere. And I know I'm biased but Robbie - just how brilliant was 'Angels'? Many, many shades of brilliant. I just wish that they'd put REM on later; 'Everybody Hurts' was pretty spine tingling even with the lack of atmosphere that their early slot gained them. And the blue face paint? Weirdly entertaining. Also big ups to Travis for their Bee Gee thing (and just because I do love a bit of a Travis sing-along, complete with umbrellas in the crowd) and the Coldplay/Richard Ashcroft linkup for 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' (not only because it made me think of SSoB as it was our 'credits' music but because it was great to hear it live after a very long time). And yes, I did cry when the girl from the Live Aid footage came out on stage. However complicated the issue, Bob, Richard - I'll always love you for trying to do something about it. I may be a lone voice but I also liked 'I don't like Mondays'...

Wimbledon - I was only slightly miffed that the women's final overlapped spectacularly with Live 8. Not least because it was one of the best matches of the tournament. So good, I didn't know who I wanted to win. In contrast Federer is a machine. I do not approve.

My weird dreams - On Sunday night I dreamt I knocked my teeth out whilst on a children's railway which looked suspiciously like the one they have at the York Railway museum.

That, as of yesterday, I am officially unemployed. No trip to the Job Centre for my £44 this week though as I'm braving the re-organisation chaos at Daddy Furness's work on Thursday and Friday to do battle with their photocopier and franking machine. Consequently I get to save my meeting with the great unwashed of East Leeds until next week*.

Having expended lots of energy on some sections of Four Chords, I've settled for some less brain challenging re-writing of A Year In The Army (new title possibly needed). Nothing huge, just a bit of condensing and re-phrasing (with a new prologue that I'm secretly rather proud of) before I march on with it. Maybe not my magnum opus but if 'Join Me' could get published...


**Joke. I loved 'Join Me'. I'll be buying his 'Yes Man' book too.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Would Coza Please Come To The Diary Room

Would Coza Please Come To The Diary Room

Having left you with only a random Paddy Marber conversation for company, I managed to watch - and scream a little bit - at some tennis, laugh and get slightly cold during some outdoor Shakespeare (review to come, you lucky, lucky people) and finish off my entry for The Play's The Thing. Yes - that means I can now officially say that I have applied to appear on a reality tv show. And you know just how much I've always wanted to be able to say that.

In the quick revision process I had to contend with one of the characters changing their background almost entirely and thus creating a great-gaping-hole in the motivation/action stakes. If that wasn't enough I realised that as The Four Right Chords stands Griffin might be well within his rights to sue my arse off. Not because it's his story - there's no reality tv bit in there - but it remains that whatever I attempt to do with Ben, the central character, he's coming out a bit Griffin-esque. Without the Rigsby impressions, thankfully. But Griffin-esque nontheless. Which means two things. One - I haven't found 'Ben's voice' yet. That doesn't worry me too much, in the first draft of SSoB the only character who had his own voice was Will, whilst in the second draft I think four of the six characters have their own voices. Two - it means that I have to do something to stop this drift. It's ok for me to put myself on stage in various guises. It's not ok for me to put a mangled Griffin up there. Especially in the context of this play. If I'll willing steal bits from people's lives I don't want to steal something that might be too close to home for all concerned. Plus in real terms I don't know Griffin and I don't know how he'd feel abut this. Maybe we could do some writerly trade off. Or he could accept it as his punishment for being (I assume) the source of the Dancing Bear fiasco. Or he could be flattered that some of his quirks are being immortalised. And, anyway, if end up famous, winning a Nobel Prize in the process (I'm really not that fussy about which one) he will always be able to say that he wrote his name across my breasts. .Twice.