Thursday, 28 October 2010

Intelligent Design

Sometimes I think I’m ridiculously naive. I presume that most people in the world believe the same things I do; that they value honesty, hard work, kindness and intelligence. I think that everyone wants a fair society where the vulnerable are cared for and everyone believes they have a responsibility to their families, their community and the world. All too often I realise that I’m making ridiculous assumptions and though the majority of my friends have the same values I have (after all, I've chosen them to be my friends) these things are far from universal.
A lot of what I believe stems from my faith. I think the basic ideas that Christ taught (or people say he taught if you prefer) are good ones to live your life by. Where I start to disagree with my fellow Christians is when they start to believe every word in the Old Testament is the absolute literal truth. It feels like their world view and mine collides and I get annoyed at what I see as the hijacking of Christ’s name to support ignorance and intolerance. No doubt they would think I was subverting the message but you know what? They’re wrong and I’m right!
I’m used to having to defend my liberal stance on contraception, divorce, gay rights and other social issues but yesterday I was totally dumbfounded when I met two creationists.
As you know, I’m tutoring in a local school. One of the other tutors is a new father and yesterday we were discussing his new baby with a parent. He mentioned how strong his week-old baby’s grip was and I mentioned the theory that back in the days when we were tree-dwellers babies needed to be able to hang on to their mothers. At this point the mother said
“I don’t believe in evolution, I’m a Christian.”
I managed to reply,
“I am too, but I do believe in it.”
before the other tutor said,
“I don’t believe in it either.
I was dumfounded. I literally did not know what to say. Fortunately she then said,
“If we’re descended from monkeys how come we can’t use their blood for transfusions?”
So I was able to reply with a bit of common sense and say,
“We’re not actually descended from present day primates. It’s more that we’re distant cousins descended from a common ancestor. Our DNAs have changed so much over the millennia that we’re not compatible with each other.”
At this point another teacher raised the issue of the fossil record and the mother said it was too early for a debate and we moved on but I was left amazed. I’m also a little horrified that a man who believes that the world was created exactly as it is now and that fossils are a trick by God to test our faith is teaching science to primary school children.
I’m in favour of being open-minded about people’s beliefs but I’m clearly not a relativist and I’m also very confident that the scientific proof is there. It might be called The Theory of Evolution but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have huge amounts of evidence supporting it. I don’t understand why people’s faith isn’t strong enough to survive scientific ideas that counter the literal interpretation of the Old Testament.
I realise I’ve ranged over a few different ideas here but I want to end with a little scene from this morning. Imagine me and (yet) another tutor being presented with a child who refused to believe in the existence of wolves...
Photos, video, internet articles, eye-witness accounts and books; none of them were enough to convince him. I think there’s a message in there somewhere!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Half Term

It's been difficult to blog recently. I seem to have been visited by at least one of the plagues of Egypt and my lymph nodes have swollen up to cope with it, the result is an unhappy, uncomfortable me!
The by-product of this is that I find it difficult to get enthusiastic about anything and though I'm physically able to blog there's nothing much I want to say.
It's half term and all over the country teachers and support staff are enjoying some well-earned rest. Many are away (we once went to Venice in half term and the place was lousy with teachers. We spent a lot of time guessing their subjects, the particularly up-tight and annoying woman in our hotel was without a doubt a Domestic Science teacher...).
As a supply teacher I get horribly stressed by the holidays and become obsessed by the fact that I'm not earning anything, not because I'm a materialistic madam but because I like to pay the bills and would like to heat the house this winter. This always seems horribly ungrateful as The Girl and other people in "normal" jobs don't have the weeks off that I do. Mind you, they probably wouldn't want a quite as much unpaid leave as I have.
There is a myth that Supply Teachers get paid loads but in fact even if I worked every day that schools are open (which I would) I'd still earn at least a third less that I would if I was a classroom teacher on a proper contract and I'm not even very high up the salary scale. I haven’t helped the situation as I've recently agreed to work at a school for £15 less a day than my actual rate because I decided it was worth it for the better quality of life this particular placement affords. I am aware that this is going to put more pressure on the old finances so I was delighted when the agency offered me one-to-one tuition at a (very) local school. The pay isn't wonderful (once the agency takes their substantial cut) but it beats sitting on the sofa watching repeats of The Gilmore Girls.

I'm teaching two Year 6 girls. W is Polish and an absolute delight. Imaginative and enthusiastic she needs help with vocabulary and with verb tenses but has wonderful English given that she’s only been in the country three years and hears no English at home. She thinks I’m amazing, which is gratifying, and keeps telling everyone how funny I am, though sometimes I’m not actually trying to be funny. T is from the Traveller Community though she lives in a house now. She is very bright but lacks confidence. She was telling me yesterday about her love of Mozart and “Beet”hoven.
The school has organised it really cleverly. There are five tutors and ten children. We meet from 8.15 to have breakfast together and work for two two-hour sessions. Whilst one of your children is with you the other is baking, or drawing or having some kind of game in the hall. Mostly what I am loving about this is the chance to talk and listen. We have so many pressures on our time during term time and so much we try to fit in the curriculum. We have so many children and not enough time to have pleasant, non-work conversations. It’s so nice to be able to sit down at the table and have breakfast or a mid-morning snack and with a group of children. To have time to laugh at their jokes, listen to what they did the evening before or talk about things that interest them. It’s what I imagined teaching would be like and what it so rarely is like.
I’m having a happy week.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

John Barrowman

I've always been a bit of a lover of all things kitsch and camp. I loved The Eurovision Song Contest long before it was fashionable and 22 years ago I made all my University friends crowd into my room for my first Eurovision Party (they thought I was mad). I collect kitsch religious souvenirs (though they do need to be real, I'm not interested in contrived gift-shop gubbins) and just wait for Christmas...

I'm also a massive Doctor Who fan. And I mean massive. Honestly, I'm obsessed. Ask anyone, ask the children I teach. I love it. Go on, test me, ask me anything...

So, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be spending Monday night in Hull City Hall watching John Barrowman sing a selection af songs from the shoes and other favourites. I was almost put off by the £30 price tag (seriously, how much?) but after the very first song (Get this Party Started- natch) as he moved round the stage with his dancers in his sequin-trimmed suit and the adoring audience of menopausal women shouted and cheered, I turned to my friend and said,
"This is worth the money alone!"

The band was great, he was note-perfect and, my god, what a showman. He told stories, camped it up for the crowd and showed us photos from his life. At one point during a song in tribute to his parents we all realised that they'd joined him on stage and were waltzing together. NOT A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE!
By the time he reached a finale with "I Am What I Am" I was on my feet (despite the vertiginous heights of the upper gallery) cheering and stamping and singing along and proclaiming it the best night ever.

I'm so glad I went. It wasn't cool, it wasn't intellectual. It was total, unmitigated fun. And obviously I'll get him to sing at my wedding when I marry David Tennant. Oh, did I say that out loud...?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Which stands for Object of my Affection...
He's a man I see around my local area who is so much my type that even new friends picked him out for me. He's tall and has slightly floppy hair and a good sized nose (I love a good Roman nose)and looks enough like my ex-husband to have been nicknamed after him. In fact it's not so much that he looks like my ex as that they both look like my first love the gorgeous Italian, Vittorio.
I've never got up the courage to say more than a few words to him but when I see him I turn into a bit of a teenage idiot getting all excited and texting my friends.

I saw him today. I was in one of our local coffee shops messing about on t'interwebs and eating a slice of Dime Bar Cake (yum) when I looked up and realised he was sitting across the room with an espresso and a friend (good combination if you ask me). I carefully removed my scarf in order to display a little more cleavage (O.K. a lot more...)and tried my best to look busy and interesting rather than stupid and self-important. I felt like we kept making eye-contact but I'm really not sure if that was just because I was so self-conscious. After a while I had to leave so I gathered my things together and headed for the door only to get there a the same time he did. We ended up walking down the street almost side by side. All without saying a word to each other.

So my question is...
Did he get up at the same time as me on purpose?
Is it all in my mind, or was he making eye-contact with me?
Will I ever manage to get the courage together to give him my phone number?

Monday, 11 October 2010

Random Thoughts About Allergies.

I have four different types of allergies. There's the type like the wrong kind of washing-up liquid or moisturiser that brings on bumpy hands or eczema. There's the type like hairspray or paint fumes that makes me wheeze. There's the type like cats or dogs that does both. And finally, there's the type like pine sap or tea tree oil that causes hives, unpleasant digestive responses and full-on-call-the-ambulance asthma.

The first three are inconvenient and at times distressing, I have a small (and often expensive) choice of household products, toiletries and cosmetics to chose from, I've never been able to have the much-longed for dog and I've had to ban the cats from my bedroom. The steroid creams and ointments prescribed for allergic eczema are all based on white paraffin or petroleum based carriers which...I'm allergic to.
Walking past someone who's wearing too much aftershave can leave me gasping (seriously, Lynx works more as chemical warfare and less as personal grooming in my world) and I once passed a hideous train-journey behind a woman who thought doing her hair and spraying Ellnett all over her head in a crowded carriage was a good idea.
On good days I take three different asthma and allergy drugs but any number of illnesses can result in hospital trips (last year's pleurisy caused months of issues). My eczema makes me feel self-conscious and ugly and my asthma restricts my life, I hate it.

However, I can live with all that. Slightly, no strike that, a lot more dramatic is my reaction to latex, pine sap and tea tree oil. After noticing these things were all tree based I was a little worried but yesterday's experiment with Maple Syrup was totally satisfactory and I enjoyed my pancakes very much.

I've had three very serious allergic reactions in my life.
The first was one night when I'd eaten a prawn sandwich that may have been a bit too old (hot day, insufficient chilling in a sandwich shop), I came out in hives and my lips, and fingers swelled-up. However, in the light of subsequent events I'm beginning to wonder if the latex gloves I wore for my housework that evening may have been more to blame (though I'm still being wary of prawns).

The second was a couple of years' ago on a family day out. I'd gone to Bekenscot Model Village with my Dad, my sister and my niece. We'd been meaning to go for years and it was lovely. I adore model villages (there's a post in there somewhere) and was having a lovely time when suddenly my sister said,
"What's that on your face?"
That, was a hive.
They'd been trimming all the miniature trees in the village and an avenue of full-sized conifers and the sap was on the air. I became very ill, very quickly and had to be taken home. Fortunately my anti-histamines and asthma drugs worked and I recovered quickly.

I was not so lucky last week.

I've had an abscess on my head (golly, I'm making myself sound attractive aren't I!) and have been bathing it with very hot water into which I'd put a few drops of tea tree oil. Stupidly, I hadn't made the connection to my other allergies and although I was fine for a couple of days, when I got too much of the water and oil on my body I cam out in hives all over my body. By Friday night they'd joined up into great red patches and my breathing had gone crazy. I called an ambulance.

The Paramedics, and the lovely staff at Hull Royal Infirmary were wonderful. They sorted my breathing, pumped me full of anti-histamines and put me to bed. They cared for me and listened to me and never once patronised me.

They saved my life.

And now? I have an appointment with my GP later, I'm going to sort out my medication, I'm going to take my allergies seriously, I'm going to carry a warning card and I'm going to go and see the Consultant. Oh, and I'm going to have an artificial Christmas Tree this year...

Don't Panic, It's Organic.

I used to hang out with a load of dope smokers, they were nice enough people though if they put as much energy into jobs or causes that they put into scoring they could change the world but many of them did have a somewhat naive attitude to their drug of choice. In their defensive stance they would insist that weed was totally safe and actually quite benign because it was natural. Now I should say that I think marijuana is no more or less harmful than alcohol. Some people have the occasional joint in the same way others will have a glass of wine with a good dinner. Some people spark up at breakfast just as some crack a can of strong lager as soon as waking.
However, it's very clear to me that this blind trust in a drug because it's natural is ridiculous. Belladonna is natural but the clue's in the name- Deadly Nightshade. Hemlock is natural but it still did for Socrates. And Tea Tree Oil is natural but it still nearly killed me this weekend...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Apologies #1

I'm sorry I haven't been blogging. There are several reasons.

1. I've been getting into the swing of the new term and have felt a bit busy.
2. My computer just kept getting slower and slower.
3. My internet connection (via Dongle) went bonkers and it was taking me four or five attempts to get online.
4. I got out of the habit and couldn't think what to say.

Errrm, that's it. Then of course I just started to feel guilty for not blogging and it got more and more difficult, like with your thank you letters after Christmas as a child.

So I'm back with a new netbook and will be blogging again. If the internet still kicks me off it's not so much of a problem as my new speedy pooter reconnects so fast (the old one took at least ten minutes) and I can use this little HP Minibook in coffee shops for full posing value.

More tomorrow...