30 04 2013


Officially, as a pillar of the community, I have little tolerance of swear words. I expect high standards of literacy from my students and about 90% of the times that they hastily mutter a tirade of swear words under their breath, there are usually at least a dozen better ways of expressing their displeasure at their situation.

However, as a Drama teacher I often find myself in situations where my students are enacting real life on stage and whether we like it or not – in life people swear. It makes perfect sense that an actor enacting a role may use language that is not natural to them and I refuse to censor my students. However I would never force them to use language that they are uncomfortable with either! This is an issue that arises particularly, although not exclusively, in GCSE and A-Level classes. In terms of the examination, the language/dialogue is part of their overall characterisation and as such must reflect the people inhabiting the world of the play.

It would be ludicrous for a student playing the role of a builder who upon dropping a hammer on his toe exclaims the words “Oh golly gosh, that stings a bit!” A hormonal teenager does not necessarily profess his or her desire to “make love” and sometimes the only means of aptly describing the behaviour of the less savoury human beings in life requires language that I would shudder to read on a public lavatory wall.

Swearing has its place. As with all things it loses its power out of context or with overuse – but like it or not it is part of our verbal communication and provides a means of expressing our true intent and meaning in a manner that is just as valid as the flowery romance of a renaissance poet, the rhetoric of a politician or the persuasive language abundant in modern advertising campaigns.

The head of Yr11 recently paid a visit to my Drama class to observe her students in the run up to their exam. After complimenting their work ethic and expressing her joy at seeing even the more challenging students working on a performance requiring collaboration and commitment; she regaled me with a witty anecdote about an external visitor being given a tour of the school. Apparently this tour was rudely interrupted by the repeated use of the dreaded “F” word echoing from the theatre. These were good kids in the midst of a Drama rehearsal, who do not tend to swear outside of lessons but who decided that censoring the script would rob it of its character. An explanation and apology was offered to the visitor who simply raised one overly plucked eyebrow and said “GCSE Drama I suppose?”

I frequently quote the taboo words in the context of my lessons. By quoting swear words directly from texts and removing all the emotion from my voice and face I manage to diffuse the impact of these words. Nothing makes a swear word less evocative than hearing your teacher say it in a neutral tone with a blank facial expression! After all if we arent shocked by it, what is the point of saying it? I am also explicit with younger classes who show up on occassion to provide exam groups with an audience and I warn them about the adult content and language. I remind them that we only invite younger audiences to view work if they are mature enough to respond responsibly. It is worth noting that I have never had so much as a giggle from an audience member when a swear word has been used during a performance and I am confident that this is because I tackle it head on.

Swearing has a time and a place – in moderation – just like any other type of language. Sadly; as is the case with so many other things in life, we cannot protect our children from “bad language” altogether. We can simply educate them about finding alternative means of expression. I am not suggesting by any means that we should either encourage or discourage swearing; but attempting to pretend it does not exist or wipe it from existence is as futile as holding back the tide. The bigger our reaction – the more likely it is to become a major source of rebellion and conflict.

In summary: To hell with censorship – LIFE IS TOO F”*KING SHORT.


29 04 2013

MondayTo whom it may concern,


Where the hell did my weekend go?


Kind Regards


I don’t ask for much in a man…

28 04 2013

I dont ask for much in a manWhen I was doing my degree I lived in temporary student accomodation. I wanted to make my space feel like my own so the walls were adorned with posters including my favourit one (shown above).

I would spend my evenings admiring the male model immortalised in black and white and hoping, just hoping, that one day I would have one of my very own who would meet the requirements laid out.

It has been many years since I spent my evenings admiring this handsome man on my wall and my life has changed since then in ways I never thought imaginable.

Some of the things I hoped for worked out and others fell by the wayside. Thats life. I like to think that the things that were most important were the things I succeeded in achieving.

I am currently enjoying a night in with FFOMC and he has just left the house to buy ice cream 🙂

Life is definitely good 🙂

Undercover Boss

27 04 2013

Undercover Boss

When I am off school with lots of time to fill for a week or a fortnight I go into a bit of a reality TV induced coma.

There is little to watch on TV during the day of any substance, I only tend to read before going to bed and as the weather has been pretty dodgy I dont particularly want to go out anywhere for fear of being caught in the rain.

Over Easter I discoverd a new guilty pleasure to add to my repertoire Undercover Boss. This is a fantastic idea! The CEO of a major company goes undercover taking on the more menial job roles for a week and trying to get a feel for how employees really feel about the company they work for.

They adopt a false name and identity to fool employees and wear a disguise so they are not recognised. Their employees are told they are on a reality show (usually called Second Chances), to justify the camera crew. Most start this process with a certain amount of confidence, believing that they will rise to the ocassion and meet all the challenges they are faced with and that their employees must tackle every day.

However, even the CEO’s who started at the bottom level of their company and worked their way up over time, are often shocked by how demanding, dangerous and demoralising some of the work actually is and by the end of the process they are forced to reassess their pay structure, benefits program and company ethos. Although there have been one or two shows where a dissatisfied employee has been caught out for their negetive attitude or poor working practice; the focus is mainly positive and the CEO’s are able to develop empathy and make positive changes to improve working conditions of all staff.

Wouldn’t it be great if all employers tried this? There are difficulties faced by employers at all levels in a company – the board room included – but when staff are promoted to the lofty heights of senior management they can quickly forget what it is like to work on the front line and can develop unrealistic expectations.

Another aspect of the series that I like is at the end of each episode when the CEO reveals his/her identity and offers gifts to staff they have worked alongside, to recognise their individual efforts and ease their struggles. Gifts include: paying for courses and training to aid progression, promotion, new resources for their business, holidays, cars and even large cheques or donations to charities. It is wonderful to see the reaction to these gifts and to consider how they can improve the lives of the lucky recipients.

It is all too easy for bosses to get caught up in the boardroom and lose touch with those at the bottom. It is great to see them abandoning their suit and tie and rediscovering the company they run and the people they manage.



26 04 2013


I discovered an image shared by a friend on Facebook today raising awareness of the condition, LUPAS.

I have dutifully shared this but to be honest it is not a condition I know a lot about despite the fact that I myself was diagnosed over 10 years ago.

Embarrassingly, most of my knowledge about the condition comes from American TV series House starring Hugh Laurie. My understanding from this show is that although doctors test regularly for LUPAS, it is almost never what the patient is actually suffering from.

Except sometimes it is…

LUPAS is an autoimmune disease that can be fatal. Basically the immune system becomes confused and attacks healthy body tissues sometimes including organs. I found the following list of common symptoms on the internet posted by a medical professional recently diagnosed with the condition:


  • Painful or swollen joints and muscle pain
  • Unexplained fever
  • Red rashes, most commonly on the face
  • Chest pain upon deep breathing
  • Unusual loss of hair
  • Pale or purple fingers or toes from cold or stress (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Swelling (edema) in legs or around eyes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen glands
  • Extreme fatigue

Before my diagnosis I visited my GP about the fact that I was losing my hair. At the time I honestly thought he would recommend more iron in my diet or some other smple fix for what I viewed as a trivial asthetic problem.

I was not expecting a biopsy.

The diagnosis shocked me at first, but I resolved not to research the condition furthur. I do not want to ever be defined by an illness. I refuse to allow a medical condition to hinder my day to day life. My Mother gets most upset with me about this and thinks I should slow down and when I am rundown that I should consider whether my condition is playing a part. When I was first diagnosed I used anti-malarial medication  that made me feel ill and I stopped eating – screw that! Who wants a cure that is worse than the original condition? I do not want any furthur information about LUPAS as I do not want to suffer imagined symptoms simply because I have read them on a website.

However I do suffer from fatigue and occassional depression because of this condition, I am extremely sensitive to extreme temperatures and I have a bald spot on the center of my head where hair will never grow back due to clinical scarring. It is difficult when you have a condition that is invisible to the rest of the world and when I try to explain it, the most I can say is “I get cold in winter, hot in the summer and feel tired sometimes”. Who doesnt?

God willing I will never experience the more agressive symptoms associated with LUPAS, as if I do I may need to confront this condition head on. But for now it will not become who I am and I will continue to push myself accepting it as a minor irritant but not a major issue in my life.

Thanks for all the red pen

25 04 2013

red pen

It is that dreadful point in the academic year when tantrums and tears are a daily occurance…and thats just the staff!

GCSE students throughout the country have just realised that they are GCSE students and that they have exams coming up in the VERY near future and they are starting to develop a sense of urgency that they have never experienced or entertained before. Their lack of planning and preparation is OF COURSE the responsibility of their teachers; who must now treat their urgent requests to re-read endless drafts of substandard coursework – hastly put together under extreme duress and at the last minute – as their top priority.

I was discussing my own education with a colleague a few days ago. We are both feeling a little demoralised by how much our students expect from us. Dont mistake my meaning; I do not mind giving up my time for my students and often stay up to 3 hours after my day is technically over, to do 1:1 work or to direct and advise whole groups. It is not that to which I object. But I struggle when students want me to think for them, endlessly extend deadlines to accomodate their social commitments or allow their last minute panic, (following two years of not pulling their weight relying on the fact that they can pull it together at the last minute) to adversly affect my own work/life balance which is sadly lacking.

I was never top of my class at school; but I valued my education and took it seriously. To be honest, I was a little fearful of my teachers and very anxious about getting in trouble. I would never have dreamt of waving a stack of paperwork at a member of the teaching staff while they ate their lunch, assume I could dictate when I would hand in a piece of work or demand that I needed help after school on a particular date and time. Unfortunately there are a growing number of students who think that they own their teachers and are entitled to their time both in and outside of the classroom.

When I was at school, I submitted drafts of essays and devoured all the comments written by my subject teachers. I realised that these were the clues that would help me progress and I reflected on why a particular piece of work received the grade it was given. Although I was not an angel, I recognised boundaries and realised that my teachers did not owe me anything nor were they responsibile for my failings.

With this in mind I wanted to say to all my subject teachers particularly my GCSE and A-Level teachers – who were awsome, “Thanks for all the red pen“.

Without it, I would not have achieved the results I did, and my options would have been increasingly limited. I would hate to think that I only achieved my grades because a teacher went above and beyond ignoring whether or not I deserved and had earnt the qualifications I have to my name.

So although the next few weeks are certain to be highly emotional, I really hope that my students will look back and thank me for all of my red pen marks on their work, my feedback, criticism and the time I have spend coaching them and more importantly; I hope they come to realise that however demoralised they may feel on a given day that these interventions are as painful for me as they are for them and they are not there to punish them but rather indications of how much I care and want them to achieve the grades that they are capablee of.

The future father of my children…believes that “only smarties have the answer”

24 04 2013

Nestle Smarties

As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts; FFOMC is a man of simple pleasures. He asks for very little really and is generally easy to keep happy. As long as he has the following things: beer, an internet connection and easy access to his pyjammas and slippers when he gets home from work in the evening; he is perfectly content entertaining himself and is relatively low maintaince.

He does however allow himself the occassional treat. One of his indulgences is a packet of his favourite sweeties: “Smarties“.

In truth, I don’t know why he is so found of these particular sweeties, maybe it goes back to a happy memory from his childhood. He usually eats very little chocolate, but for whatever reason, a packet of Smarties is his one request on my infrequent shopping  trips.

We have a fab off-licence just over the road from us called the Bottle and Basket. It is a small family run business, (like so many of the shops and take-aways in our area), and the guy who runs it delivers the most outstanding customer service ever! The access to these small family enterprises is one of the reasons I love living where I do. It is nice to live in a community that thrives on small businesses rather than the big brands and high street stores; unfortunately my community is one of a dying breed coming, coming close to extinction due to the current economic downturn. But FFOMC and I like to do our bit to support these local businesses rather than the bigger less personal options.

Unfortunately FFOMC’s love of Smarties, and my love of indulging him, has left me in an embarrassing situation at The Bottle and Basket.

It would seem that only smarties with the letter J on the end of the tube are an acceptable choice. Any other tubes of smarties are clearly hallmarked for other people.

I dont know if you have ever stood in an off-licence, holding up the queue because you are deconstructing their sweetie display (which, let’s face is, is not the most profitable aspect of their business); searching for a packet of smarties with a J on the end. But in my experience, it appears to be frowned upon.

When you have repeated this exercise for such a significant number of visits that the off-licence owner feels obliged to go to the store cupboard to bring out the stock that is not currently displayed on the shop floor so he can actually feed the madness and assist with your search; then you know you have crossed some sort of line.

To the best of my knowledge – Smarties do not actually taste any better when they are packaged in a tube embossed with your initial – but I do know is that sighs and comments will be made if I come home with the “wrong” packet.

Come to think of it; I don’t even know what smarties have the answer to exactly, but I am certain that whatever it is – it does not begin with a J – although it may be:

Question: “How can you irritate your wife and compromise her position as an upstanding pillar of the community and perfectly normal human being in one simple shopping trip?

Answer: Ask her to pick up a packet of Smarties!

Guardian Angel

23 04 2013

Guardian Angel

I am not usually a motivational quotes sort of person but feeling in need of a little guidance and the image above did make me smile.

With that in mind I have a message for my Guardian Angel:

Your break must be well and truely over by now so put down the coffee and get back to work, please. I don’t like to complain or be difficult but I am a little overwhelmed at work at the minute and could do with a guiding hand. There is nothing life threatening for you to address but my paperwork is a little crazy right now and it’s sometimes hard to know when to accept that you have done all you can and need to put a project to rest. Even with deadlines fast approaching the temptation to endlessly refine work and make improvements in the pursuit of perfection is hard to resist and time is not on my side.

I could do with you resting on my shoulder to help me to keep things in perspective and calm me when day to day challenges seem to become insurmountable tasks.

I dont often ask for help so when I do it is generally a sign that I actually need it. Help me to find the emotional strength to stay strong, secure in the knowledge that this too will pass and be a distant memory a month from now.

A rose by any other name

22 04 2013

Evil Flowers

Ahhh…welcome back my old friend.

Every year I seem to forget that I suffer from hay fever until it actually happens. It started in my early 20’s and to be honest it is still a bit of a shock on the first sunny day of spring when I start to feel the familiar scratch at the back of my throat, slight headache, puffy eyes and snotty nose that accompany this condition – not generally an attractive look, but I think I make it work!

Apparently 15 million people in the UK suffer with Hay fever: an allergy to airborne substances causing inflammation in the lining of the nose, throat and eyes.

But boiling it right down I spend my entire spring and summer in fear of FLOWERS! Seriously? As if there isnt enough turmoil and chaos on the planet already – about 20% of us cannot leave our homes during the spring and summer months without the fear of being struck down by a dangerous daffodill, an irate iris or even a poisonous petunia?

Apparently it is simply the immune system “over reacting” to the release of pollen into the air when the weather starts to warm up. My immune system is already a bit of a drama queen and seems intent on embracing every illness going, before going into hyperdrive on attack mode.

Enough! Life is too short for me to live in fear of FLOWERS!!! Unless of course they look like this:

Little Shop of Horrors

One Ring to Rule Them All

21 04 2013
Tolkien Ring

Could this be THE ONE RING?

A quest.

This weekend, one woman has braved the elements with her husband and FFOMC (future father of my children).

Many have accepted the challenge but few have successfully completed the ULTIMATE DATE DAY.

Hobbit hole

In a flat above a shop there lived a couple. It wasnt a nasty, dirty, flat (although the roof did leak every time there was heavy rain). It was not filled with an oozy smell (unless you count the copious amounts of insense sticks), nor was it yet a bare, characterless flat with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was the home of a married couple, and that means comfort.

In this flat lived two people. They had simple needs. The pressing need over this particular weekend was to find a suitable Date Day activity that would meet both of their individual needs.

This couple were not looking for an adventure, but without thie bidding it; adventure – came to them.

This particular adventure started last weekend. It started with what seemed like a harmless and entirely unadventurious suggestion to make the most of the current good weather by finding a suitable location for a nice romantic walk.

And so the search began. But, when a modern woman is enticing her husband to participate in a romantic ‘date day’ it is imperative to have the appropriate ‘hook‘. Therefore, when I announced this morning that we would be following through with our plans to ‘GO OUT’ I had to sweeten the deal somehow. The conversation went as follows:

ME: (tentatively) Soooo…should we leave in about an hour?

FFOMC: (taken aback) Er…OK I suppose just after I finish my game. Where exactly are we going?

ME: (with great confidence) In search of ‘THE ONE RING’

FFOMC: (more interested) Are you talking about the one in Lord of the Rings?

ME: Yes.

FFOMC: Oh. OK Then.

Now I may have oversold the excursion a little.

Our trip was to The Vyne in Basingstoke. Two good friends of ours – spent their Saturday there and as is the way with modern technology they poted a photograph on FaceBook. The Vyne is a National Trust site of historical interest. When I looked at it – it seemed to be the perfect location for a romantic walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It started as an intimate family home in Tudor times but I needed a way of engaging my other half. Luckily it is also the home of an ancient Roman Secret.

Here comes the geeky husband friendly bit. They have a new exhibition showcasing a ring from the Roman Empire which is said to be Tolkien’s inspiration for ‘The One Ring’ from his famous Lord of the Rings books. They even have a ring room in which you can read the story of this ring, the Roman tablet inscribed with a curse on the man who stole it, and its fascinating connections with Tolkien.

In contrast to our last attempt at a Date Day: we both managed to get ourselves out of the house with minimum fuss and enjoyed a stress free drive to the site with FFOMC following the sat nav directions. We had secured a free pass from the internet which we printed that guaranteed us free entry to a site that usually charges over £10 per person to the gardens and house.

We started with a leisurly walk of 2.3 miles (following the brown arrow route) and didn’t run into another soul as we walked hand in hand enjoying just being outside in the fresh air and chatting about everything and nothing. We had not one penny of cash on our person’s so we could not purchase anything during our time there (although the hog roast was most tempting and we did consider the virtues of becoming cut-purses for the day) but we enjoyed seeing the actors playing; Robin Hood, Maid Marion and George (complete with a Dragon of sorts) and wittnessing the archery, Morris dancing and other activities throughout the day.

The house itself was splendid and during out tour we reflected on the fact that on our holiday’s abroad – we love these sorts of excursions- but for some reason do not make the most of the rich history we have less than half an hours drive from our doorstep.

The ring exhibit iteslf (the main attraction as far as FFOMC was concerned) was confined to one small room and visitors were able to view the ring through a magnifying glass. It is inscribed (much like Tolkien’s ring) and there is the legend of a curse on anyone who steals it.

The link to Tolkein seemed tenuous but we really enjoyed the day.

On our return journey we stopped for a carvery lunch at a Brewers Fayre which was awsome and despite being our main expense, it rounded our day off nicely and brought Date Day Take 2 to a wonderful end.


All in all it has been a very adventurous day for us and I truely suspect we have Hobbit blood give our adventurous spirit! If all subsequent Date Days are as successful we may need to make it a weekly event! We may not have made it all the way to Mordor but it definitely brought us closer together 🙂