Friday, February 25, 2011

The week.

I was in Ireland this week. It was there I heard about the Christchurch earthquake on Wednesday morning- about ten hours after it actually happened. It took a couple of days for the reality of it to set in. The death toll currently is 113. It feels strange to be here- to feel strongly with what has happened, but yet be disjointed from it. Life goes on normally here, yet I have spent a lot of the week attached to news websites and realtime feeds, mostly I think to make sense of it all. A few hours ago I heard from the last friend I couldn't get hold of, which was a relief. The above picture, taken just after the quake struck, reflected the enormity of it all.

Growing up in New Zealand I think we are always aware of the propect of the long-overdue 'Big One' a quake that would stretch everything.`It seems strange to think it's actually hit.

So, you see, it would all be a bit strange to post about anything else just now. I hope all reading this back in New Zealand are safe, along with their families and friends.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It must be time for a half-term break.

Only half the department turns up to the department dinner last night. "Only two days to go" is frequently heard. Media studies is being taught more prominently (recognising and analysing conflict in East Enders). The bulb blows on my interactive whiteboard projector at the start of a double lesson (no replacement until after the holidays). Child says, "Why are you making us write stuff. We'll learn to write when we get to college". There are tears in the staffroom. An email from the head of department says we've overspent the photocopying budget with several weeks to go. Someone goes home sick and I see my free periods disappearing out the window. Ran out of time to make a thermos of coffee in the morning. By 3pm exhaustion over-rides repulsion and I reach for the instant coffee. No milk left. Just missing the train home by one minute and the next one is twenty minutes late.

One more day to go.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where it all started.


This is actually the song I was most referring to:

Note the jaw grinding between every line. This is actually only about six weeks before he died.

The thing I love about music (especially now with the Internet and YouTube... and blogs) is just how much one song can take you on a journey to other music. I don't believe any songs exist in isolation, with out some kind of influence.

I never was much of a fan of hip-hop or pop and rock music seemed to be less likable as it headed out of the 1990s so it made a bit of sense to me to search in the other direction- to it's origins. I was a MASSIVE Pink Floyd fan about ten years ago, now I've gone as far back as Big Bill Broonzy. By this time next year I may have fast-forwarded to the post-emo apocalyptic rock of 2015.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Trouble in Mind

Trouble in mind, babe, I'm blue,
but I won't be blue always
Yes, the sun gonna shine,
in my back door someday

I'm goin' down, down to the river,
I'm gonna take my rockin' chair
Lord, if the blues overtake me,
I'm gonna rock on away from here

'Cause I'm trouble in mind, you know that I'm blue,
but I won't be blue always
Yes, the sun gonna shine,
in my back door someday

Big Bill Broonsey

At the end of this week it will be the half term break. This will be a week long, and for me, unpaid. But, I'm going to Ireland for six days in which I will seek commiseration with the down-trodden Irish. On Saturday, the day I leave it will have been seven months since my arrival to England. I can't really think of a statement in which to sum up this time, so I won't even try.

By Friday it will complete a seven week long half-term in which I have felt like teaching has drained the life out of me, rather than providing any kind of backbone of meaning. Including the Christmas break which I spent working in the pub in London and the half term prior that I was doing supply work and starting my job, it feels like I have barely had a moment to breathe since early November- all with an inadequate amount of sunshine hours. The last musical gig I attended was early December, the last trip to the theatre was about three weeks before that.

This last weekend I was in London, my first time back in six weeks. As well as catching up with friends and shopping, I went to the London Transport Museum and thought a little bit about The Underground and other things. I brought back to St Leonards a few CDs bought over the summer. One was from the Rise and Shine Blues Festival I went to in London in August. I got to see Vali 'Sir Blues' Racilla play- a Romanian blues guitarist- and it was delightful to listen to him again.

Being indentured to an education system I am losing faith in does have a flip side- it provides a healthy weekly wage and I'm clinging to the idea that it might lead somewhere. As Shakespeare said, "The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope". So bear with, this blog will cheer up soon.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A guide to youth slang in East Sussex: Part Four

Today's lesson about slang words left me in rather a confused and slightly embarrassed state.

Discussion on the themes from Of Mice and Men was going quite well with my Year 11's period 4 today. I was trying to emphasise a really important point that I knew would be in tomorrow's mock exam- I was trying to drop a hint in other words. So, I stated something like this, "Candy feels isolated and without a sense of place because, due to his age and injury, he could be tossed off the farm at any moment". At this point the whole class burst into fits of laughter.

Really unsure as to what had caused this I asked what I'd said. There was quite a pause, some couldn't stop laughing, but mostly it was due to no one really wanting to say it.

"You said 'toss off' miss".

I was still confused.

"Well", said George at the back, "I could draw you a picture".

Matt and Duncan at the front endeavoured, in quiet voices, to explain, "Well miss, you know what someone normally does when they're alone, well it's when a girl does it to a guy instead"


"What do you think it means, miss?"

"To throw, fling or discard" I explained, trying quickly to find an example, 'toss those sausages off the BBQ' is probably not going to work, "Toss another log on the fire", I added.

Whew, think I might be able to retrieve this lesson, better get on with it now they've gained composure.

"So, as I was saying, Candy's isolation, because of his old age and because of his injured hand..."

(shrieks of laughter)

Only a fool would try to continue. I set them paragraph answers to do and resigned from the front of the class.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Top Five of Two Thousand and Ten: #5. Live Music (worldwide)

Seeing your musical idols and heroes live in the flesh can, in my opinion, result in one of two outcomes. Either you see a false pawn of an industry of cool, or, you realise their humanity, their brilliance in a world that has dealt them the kind of fate you can relate too (and more). Seeing Neil Young live at the start of 2009 for me was the first instance of the latter. It was 43degC in Melbourne and Neil walked out looking like a middle aged accountant at a BBQ- linen shirt, cargo pants and leather sandals. But that's where the comparison stopped as he played with ferocity for over 2 hours in the intense heat. He ended the set playing until every guitar string broke.

But enough of 2009, this post is about 2010 and I was able to see a lot of live music throughout the year. From seeing friends and favourites at the Wellington Botanical Gardens in January to the local indigenous music in the Chaing Rai markets in Thailand, the local radio music of bus drivers in Albania to the influenced styles of open minded Japanese artists on Shikoku Island and Dixieland Jazz players in Tokyo. It was a year of taking on what the encountered world had to offer.

There had been a purpose to this. I had left Aotearoa on March 9th with a purpose to see and hear more music. I'd left behind my ipod and any copy of any of my previously owned music. This has caused frustration at times, yet it has also forced me to listen to the live world as I have encountered it. See other people's music as they saw it.

Shortly arriving in the UK on July 19th I noticed that Bonnie 'Prince' Billy was playing. I think his music has a depth to it I rarely find anywhere else. So, surviving on baked beans for a fortnight allowed me to pay for the ticket at the Shepard's Bush Empire. And it was a thrill, to see a musician who hadn't been sucked into the suckers of the music industry. To give you an idea of his depth Johnny Cash covered one of his songs in his American Recordings.

Well, to tell the event succinctly, I went to see a true musician play at one of the world's iconic venues and didn't come away disappointed. Seeing this musician's ability in the flesh has left me more of a devotee than I had ever been before.

The music was amazing, because I got the feeling (much as I had with Neil Young) that these musicians in front of me were playing music with their own passion for it and we were just lucky bystanders who became part of the sound and part of the experience. That to me is really good music.

The other delight of the year was seeing a concert with Gillian Welsh, Dave Rawlings, Old Crow Medicine Show, John Paul Jones (best known as bassist for Led Zeppelin) and Mumford and Sons at the Troxy on September 17th. I'm not sure how I feel about the whole idea of people recording parts of concerts and putting them on YouTube- but it gives you get a taster of that night.

Gillian is just super- she seems to be all about the music, never bowing to the idea that she must cake herself in makeup or have a stylish haircut in order to be a respected musician. Unfortunately, in the above video her mic wasn't working and she looks across to the right at the sound man trying to get the attention of the sound man who wasn't paying any. So I give you the below as well.

I never learnt to play an instrument, as much as I would have liked to the chance and determination weren't there. This means I'll always be limited to being a music appreciator. 2010 felt like a year in which I did that well.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A 12 hour school day makes this Jack a slightly batty one

Keeping in line with a theme of posting insightful things other people have come up with I give you this. Arriving home late from parents' evening may have also contributed to the hysterics I had after reading it. You can sign up for a daily email of savage chickens cartoons. I highly recommend it. Most days it will be interesting enough to put a smile on your face and occasionally one will have you chuckling. Being in NZ means the emails arrive in the wee small hours so having it sent to your work* email address will always help lift your spirits as you face a new day.**

*Curmudgeon- I realise this word only applies to you whimsically, but it might help to make you grumble less, and it's better than all those TV adverts you keep watching.

**No sarcasm intended.***

*** Note correct use of the asterisk

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A mid week interlude.

In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.

– John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry