Category: Rants


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I’ve always been partial to a good surprise. I was one of those children who secretly hoped for a surprise party or who would hint heavily to his friends that his birthday is just around the corner and wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone in his class sang to him? (Note: Rest assured, I’ve grown out of that.) I love surprising people too. I like to see their faces when I give them a meaningful gift or organise a treat for them. I’m a big fan of surprises – they break the monotony.

A few Christmases ago, my mum decided to tell me weeks before the big day that she had bought an iPad for me and I went ballistic. I was totally grateful for the cracking gift but I was furious that she spoilt it! Part of the joy of Christmas is the excitement and build up and she had casually demolished the mystery! Ooof! I was annoyed….

So, it’s probably not a surprise that I am totally anti-spoiler when it comes to TV. I don’t watch much TV, so the shows that I do watch mean a lot to me. And it means a lot to me that those programmes aren’t spoiled. I present to you, Case Study One: EastEnders.

Sometimes, particularly in these upcoming cold, dreary winter days, the thought of getting home, putting on my pyjamas and watching EastEnders (and thinking ‘Well, at least my life isn’t that bad…’) is all that makes the day bearable. I haven’t missed an episode for about three years. I know it’s a sad fact, but nevertheless, it is true. This week was a big week for EastEnders, with plenty of shocks and surprises promised. There was a lot of hype and, I admit, I was a bit excited. So you can imagine my disappointment when all the shocks and surprises were announced before transmission. I spent the whole week sighing and tutting as another storyline unfolded in the predictable or previously announced way. It shouldn’t have been boring, but it was. (OK, there were a lot of things wrong with last week’s episodes, but I maintain the stance that if everything had been kept secret I would have enjoyed the episodes a lot more.) Why do shows feel the need to leak everything beforehand? Alright, there is an argument that I shouldn’t go looking for spoilers, but we’re in an age now where even logging onto Twitter or Instagram can ruin a show for you – I didn’t have to look far. In the last few years, under the previous Executive Producer, some of the best storylines were transmitted by surprise. Look at the 30th Anniversary episode – they brought back Kathy. Iconic and memorable and a total shock. So, EastEnders, stop spoiling things for your fans! You CANNOT hype up a mystery ‘major character death’ and then, days later, announce an actor is leaving and not expect us to put two and two together. We’re not stupid.

On the topic of Twitter, I was getting increasingly agitated by the constant stream of spoilers in my news feed for Game of Thrones (which also happens to be Case Study two, for those of you keeping score of that). I understand people want to talk about it when they’ve watched it but what I don’t get is the need to spoil it for everyone. You don’t need to tweet (in detail) about it. You certainly don’t need to record clips from episodes into a snapchat story!! (I actually had to block someone for this – What kind of monster does something like that?!). Digital Spy also seem intent on spoiling it for others by revealing spoilers in their article titles or, even worse, writing a vaguely mysterious title about a possible death in the episode then spoiling it with a picture of the dead character in question! Stop! I will read your article but let me watch the bloody episode first!

There was a time when, keen for more information on plots and such, I would have gone looking for spoilers online but I have since discovered the art of watching spoiler-free. The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who taught me this can be a very rewarding experience. I enjoyed the episode so much more because I didn’t know what was coming and I was able to immerse myself properly. The same goes for the last season of American Horror Story. Despite each episode airing in the USA days before the UK, I was able to avoid spoilers and it made the season for me. I was totally obsessed with the show and it made me want to tune in each week. If I’d known what was happening, I’d have just been tuning in out of habit or to prove my findings correct, which isn’t quite the same experience.

My earliest memory of spoiler-rage is set in the school canteen. (This could be Case Study three, but to be honest, I’ve sort of lost track of that). I was (and still am) a huge Harry Potter fan and I used to buy each new book the day it was released, then spend as many hours as possible reading. I’d take the books everywhere – I’d read in the car, in the bath, in school during lunch time, and during 90% of the time I spent at home. I’d invested so much time in these stories and I really cared about what was happening. So, imagine my absolute (hormonally-assisted) meltdown when a girl in the dinner queue casually told everyone that Sirius dies in the fifth book. I was just pages away from the heart-breaking moment, and to hear it being announced (so proudly, by someone who hadn’t even read the sodding book) sent me into a rage! If she thought it was a good idea, she was gravely mistaken. ‘Oh! Thank you! Thank you very much for revealing that bit of information and saving me the trouble of finishing the book I’ve spent the last 48 hours reading during every waking moment. Phew! For a minute I thought I was going to have to enjoy it!’

Urgh. It still makes me cross. I can hold a grudge.

I don’t understand this necessity to prevent people from enjoying something you have had the privilege of enjoying. If you have watched something awesome, why would you want to spoil it for someone else? The guy who streamed Game of Thrones over his snapchat story – what was he benefitting from that? EastEnders weren’t benefitting anything from their pre-publicity reveals. If they’d have kept some mystery people might have watched to find out the answers.

So there are no positives to spoilers. The clue is in the name. It spoils everything. So stop it. Stop it right now!

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One thing I just cannot handle is bad manners. It might make me sound like a complete ancient person but I’ve been brought up to be respectful and polite, and aside from that I don’t see any reason to be anything other than nice to people.

So, coming home from a gym class on Friday morning, I open the door to my apartment block and there’s an older bloke in a suit standing right in front of me. He’s got this lofty, annoying expression, like I’ve just rolled out of the recycling area, and keeps his eyes fixed on the door frame. As an act of habit, I smile politely, say ‘good morning’ and step to the side to hold the door open for him. I then watched as, in what I can only describe as arrogant slow motion, the man walked straight through the door without muttering a word. As stereotypical Brit, that makes my blood boil. And as a stereotypical Brit, I then fumed ‘Thank you!’ and took my frustration out on the stairs.

To grind my gears even further, I was leaving the flat later that night, and as I reached the electronic gate at the side of the apartments, I could see this young couple heading my way. Incidentally, they were a beautiful couple – they had style and looks that made me, dressed in shorts and old top, feel like something from Fraggle Rock.  Regardless, the politeness gene kicked in once more and I stood there for a few seconds holding the gate for them.  Instead of reaching out to take the gate from me, the couple walked straight past and I suddenly understood what it must feel like to be invisible. It was like I wasn’t even there.

My fury aside, it reminded me that good manners is a dying art form. I live in a town that has a reputation for hostility. Sadly, it’s all true. You only have to walk down the main street and, unless you conform to the town’s ideas of normal, you’re guaranteed to have some snide comment spat at you. I often have to nip down to the local co-op and, despite being a regular smiling face, I’m still grunted at and have to catch my change. I’ve been on the other side, working behind the till in a petrol station whilst I was at University, and that was just as bad. I could never bring myself to enjoy the seven hours stationary behind a till, facing toothless demands for fags, regular arguments and abuse about the price of petrol and just enough pleases and thank yous to count on both hands. It costs nothing to say ‘Hello’ and smile, and to most people working in retail, a friendly face is rare treat.

Being polite is learned behaviour, and it’s something I certainly push in the classroom. I’ll go above and beyond to praise the child who holds the door open for me (whilst I’m carrying a tray of fruit and the rest of the class stampede past, often causing fruity avalanches), or the child who thanks you after waiting patiently for their carton of milk, because they need to see just how important being polite, respectful and kind is. I feel like we’re living in age where it’s more natural to be hateful than kind. A few months ago, after teaching a performing arts class, one of the year six pupils came over and thanked me. I was so taken aback and surprised. How lovely! To be thanked, out of the blue. But isn’t it sad that something as simple as a thank you was rare enough to shock me?

If you look around it’s surprising how rare manners are. I’ve worked in schools where, in the morning as I greet the children and their parents, the children walk past without even acknowledging the teachers on the door. But instead of calling the children out on their rudeness and modelling how to behave, the parents do exactly the same. I know life is busy and parents just want to drop their kids off and get to work but, it takes seconds to say ‘good morning’, but in those seconds your teaching your child basic respect.

These values might seem a bit old fashioned but it’s so important that they are instilled in children and they are taught respect. Good manners and respects comes in hand in hand with kindness and imagine a world without that! It’s not a world I’d like to live in, so, regardless of how rubbish a day we’ve had, it’s always important to be polite and a positive role model to any little eyes nearby.

So, it was Sunday and I was in the cemetery. Not how I spend every Sunday but I ended up talking to a lovely lady. During conversation, she asked where I worked and when I told her she replied with ‘A teacher? Oh I couldn’t do your job. You all work so hard, hats off to you.’

It’s at that point that I realised this was the first time a stranger had reacted like this to my career choice. I usually get some sarcastic quip about holidays (honestly, come on, give me something original) or ‘your lot are always complaining, aren’t you?’. It felt lovely to be complimented. Then, as I was recovering from the shock of the incident, the same thing happened again tonight at the gym. This time it was another lovely lady who ‘couldn’t do [my] job. It must be very tough.’ (And…she was a nurse, so I reciprocated the sentiment!). So, twice in one week I’d had very rare positive comments about my career. I had to write about it.

Truth is, us teachers have a bad rep. Even my own mother thinks my job is easy. On passing my PGCE she said ‘And now you’re a part-timer. Finish at 3pm and for most of the year you’re on holiday.’ Great. Thanks, mum. I’ve got other family members who refuse to believe that I don’t walk into work at 9am and put my feet up at home by 3.15pm. I’ve joined a profession that is rapidly losing its respect. (Disclaimer: Thankfully I do have family members who know exactly what my job entails. I’m one of three teachers in my family.)

But why? We’re working harder than ever to provide an education for the next generation but for some reason what we do is seen as easy. A job anyone can do. Not only are we putting every effort into educating and caring for children (which is why we all went into the job in the first place) but we’re having to deal with deadlines, paperwork, red-tape and ever-changing schemes and systems. So, forgive me if I’m a bit insulted when people insinuate I don’t deserve my holidays.

Whilst I was training, the main point the trainees brought back to the lecture hall was how firm a grip parents have over classroom management. The craziest of actions are carried out all through fear of offending a parent. I’ve heard plenty of complaints of well-experienced teachers being forced to apologise to a parent for moves that were only undertaken with the pupils’ best interests in mind. I’ve heard many a rant about parents swearing and threatening teachers for ridiculous reasons. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced any of that this year and my bunch of parents have been very kind and supportive, but I know I wouldn’t have heard horror stories like these if I’d have entered the profession twenty years ago.

Then you’ve got the children. I thank the teaching Gods every day that I don’t really have to tackle this problem at Primary level as our behaviour strategies are always very effective, but hearing from colleagues in secondary schools is enough to keep me tucked safely in the foundation phase. It can be very hard for teachers to gain respect from their teenage pupils.

The fact is people just don’t regard teachers with the same respect they used to do. So what is it? What is causing people to think a teachers life is an easy one? I don’t have the answer, but as a profession we need support, from everyone, to ensure our work is the best it can be, because nothing is more important than educating the future generation.

And next time you meet a teacher, please don’t mention the holidays.

 

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You know I love EastEnders. I’ve had a run for at least four years where I haven’t missed an episode. In the days of the Lucy Beale Saga I was even known to watch episodes twice in case I’d missed anything. Bordering on pathetic, I know, but this heart only beats for one soap and that’s Easties.

However, those days of double viewings are long gone. Since the autumn, it’s hurts me to say, EastEnders has been a disappointment, with the only bit of real excitement being the soon-forgotten bus crash. Gone are the firecracker episodes of recent years (the live episode, Sharon and Phil’s wedding, all the Carter chaos, Claw-dette and the aftermath of Paul’s death to list just a few), instead we’re left with pathetic, half-arsed sighs of episodes, like the writers have actually just given up. Lazy writing, boring storylines and character personality swaps – here’s just handful of reasons I think EastEnders is going wrong!

  • Ronnie and Roxy – I’ve already written about this but still….What the HELL?! Four months later and I’m still not over it. Two of the most iconic characters played by very skilled actresses bumped off in a very (ahem) damp storyline. Ronnie and Roxy deserved so much more than a hastily written exit clearly fashioned to grab cheap ratings. Please, EastEnders, let it all be a dream and just bring them back!
  • Mass Character Culling – it’s not just R&R who have been victims of an over-hasty axing. It seems to be the strongest characters who have left suddenly over the past few months. First, Pam and Les, a couple representing everyday folk, suddenly shoved in a taxi and sent off to Worthing. Then there was Claudette, a fiery matriarch with so many secrets yet to be uncovered. She had one hissy fit with Patrick and disappeared into the night. And don’t even get me started on Babe, who gave her finest performance yet in her last episodes. (I think I’m going to start cursing people too). That’s before we even mention Lee and Belinda! Jeez, Easties, get a grip!
  • Boring newbies – I’m talking about the teens. Stereotypical and dull. Teenagers don’t talk like that. It makes me cringe every time. Stop it, EastEnders. Stop it now.
  • Pointless returns – I am all for a return, especially if it’s an unusual one, such as Yolande or Derek, but what I don’t like is characters who are brought back for no reason. Yolande hovered about for a couple of minutes before disappearing back into the ether. WTF. In previous years we’ve had some fantastic surprise returns (remember Anthony when Patrick had a stroke? Rainie Cross revealing a secret bunk up with Ian? Morgan and Tiff for Whitney’s wedding? Not to mention Kathy. KATHY!) all of which have had a purpose and been really effective
  • Dull storylines – One word. Bins. Need I say anymore?
  • Mick and Whitney – The whole ‘will they, won’t they’ thing with Whit and Mick has been ridiculous. We all know Mick would never cheat on Linda, they’re the most solid couple on square. Stop trying to force this one on us, scriptwriters, it’s not working.
  • Ben and Johnny – Oh I could write a whole post about this one! Ben and Johnny have been mates for years, barely a hint at romance. In fact, years ago, when Johnny had a different face, he rejected Ben and that has sort of been the basis of their friendship since. Until last week when all the other characters suddenly and fleetingly decided they were ‘meant for each other’ (and kept repeating it throughout the episode just to really shove it down our throats). Of course, by the end of the episode they were in bed together. Because, of course, gay men can’t be friends, they always end up shagging their mates. *massive eye roll*
  • Pointless, slapdash storylines – the bus crash – no aftermath. Ronnie and Roxy’s deaths – pitiful aftermath. Johnny and Ben sleep together – agree to be friends again at the beginning of the next episode. Denise’s mum casually reveals she was adopted as she’s getting in a car to leave – barely mentioned again. On times it feels like the story threads have been planned by a hyper-active cocker spaniel. There such a lack of direction or continuity that it makes you think this new producer hates the show and is sabotaging it from the inside….
  • Michelle – It was very brave of producers to recast Michelle, and to an extent it has worked. It’s been good to see the Fowlers branch out a bit and perhaps, if a return of Vicky or Mark Junior was in the works, Michelle might stand a bit more chance of succeeding. So far her constant moaning and references to ‘the way mum use to’ do things is getting on my nerves. Though I must admit her special episode with Sharon was fabulous, full of witty, emotive dialogue. My advice – get rid of Preston, stick her with Sharon and bring in some of her kids. Oh, and let her carry on teaching.
  • Dreadful writing – I remember the days when the writing used to fizz and pop. With the exception of a handful of episodes, the writing this year has been pretty bland. Being able to guess what a character is going to say word for word is not a sign of good writing, and that seems to be happening a lot. We’re suddenly being subjected to a barrage of stock-phrases (‘poor kid’, ‘who does something like that?’, ‘Is this some kind of sick joke?’ *shudders*). Another hint that the writers have just given up.

There was a time when, if you’d have said I’d be writing such a negative blog about my beloved EastEnders, I’d have told you to sling yer ‘ook and get outta ma pub. I’ve tried so hard over the last few months to ignore the building negativity but I just can’t handle it anymore! This week has been billed as ‘explosive’ with the reveal of Michelle and Preston’s forbidden relationship and a rumoured disaster. I’m pinning all my hopes on it living up to the hype, with some powerful performances and possibly some surprises in store, because if it’s another disappointment, I might be giving Easties the duff duffs.

One of my very first posts – years ago, in an account that has been long since forgotten – was about the infuriation caused by Facebook. If it’s not sucking your productivity levels dry then its inhabitants are irking you with a barrage of lols and baes and TMI. I’m aware I may be morphing into a grumpy old man but it really does grind my gears! Settle in and prepare for a rant….

As this week is my one year blog-iversary, it only felt right that I revisit that topic. Especially as I still have so much whinging to do about it. Coincidentally, this weekend marks my tenth week of being Facebook free. Finding the ‘deactivate’ button was tough but after months of failed promises to delete I finally took the plunge… and I’ve coped much better than I thought.

I was a facebook addict. It had a grip on me. I’d find myself wasting hours scrolling through mindlessly dull posts (no offense to anyone on my FB friends list!) Sometimes I’d open the app on my phone without even realising. It had become a default action. I wasn’t learning anything. I wasn’t really doing anything. I’d just become passive. Staring at the screen, reading through rubbish. Snaps of people’s dinner. Mysterious statuses that, in reality, mean absolutely nothing. People checking in at A&E. (Why? WHY?! What possible reason could there be for checking in at A&E other than wanting attention? If I was at A&E with a genuine problem I’m sure the last thing I’d be concerned about would be CHECKING IN ON FACEBOOK! It’s made more annoying when people don’t actually state what’s wrong with them until the fiftieth comment, just to drum up a bit of tension.)

The concept behind Facebook is great. Stay in touch with all of your friends at the touch of button. But the reality is…let’s be honest….bloody annoying! Don’t get me wrong, the majority of people on my friends list I really do care about but there are some that just get on my nerves. I don’t care about your tea. I don’t care about your duvet days. I don’t care about your sodding holiday! (Alright, so I’m bitter about holidays!)

In the long term, I don’t think Facebook is good for your health. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sitting on the sofa for hours reading through the drivel, but that time could be spent more productively. Go for a walk. Watch a film. Read a book. DO SOMETHING. It’s also got to affect you mentally. You can sit reading posts about the fabulous holiday someone is having, or the swanky new job they’ve got or their perfect (non-existent) relationship and, when in the wrong frame of mind, it can really get to you. I went through a phase of thinking ‘God, what is wrong with me? Everyone seems to be off doing stuff and I’m not’. When in reality, I was doing lots of things. It’s easy to forget your own achievements when you’ve got 356 other people’s being shoved down your throat. When you’re at your lowest, having everybody’s perfect lives paraded in front of you is not what you need, but the important thing to remember is that Facebook is fiction. We’re all guilty of using Facebook to live out these polished, airbrushed lives. Very rarely do people post the truth. We like to show off what we’ve got and Facebook is there to allow us to rub it in the faces of the people we went to school with. That can backfire and leave you feeling pretty miserable, but you have to remember that a perfect life does not exist.

For some people, Facebook becomes something of an excuse. I know friends and friends-of-friends who think that by having you as a friend on Facebook gives them a free pass to not spend any time with you. They can go months without making the effort to see you because, as long as they have sent the obligatory message or wall post or comedy meme, they’ve done their bit as a friend. Facebook is doing a pretty speedy job of converting actual friends into cyber-friends. (Note: If you think deleting Facebook will shake your mates up into realising how much they enjoy your company and will spur them into spending more time you, just be careful, because it bloody stings when that doesn’t happen.) For that reason, Facebook can do the opposite of its purpose. It doesn’t just bring people together, it can drive them apart. It’s anti-social media!

In schools, there’s been a significant rise in disputes with parents, thanks to the wonderful Facebook. A number of parents (not all!) will take to Facebook to complain about their schools which then causes more problems than if they had just aired their opinions with the teacher. So teachers are defriending Facebook too. That’s before we even get into the chaos is causes between pupils!

Anyway, I know there’s a hell of a lot of moaning here, but a few weeks ago I had a bit of an epiphany. I was bored of Facebook. I’d planned to do lots of writing but instead I’d been distracted scrolling through the status graveyard. Frustrated with myself, I said adios to FaceyB and deleted. It hasn’t been a life-changing decision but it has certainly improved my mentality. I feel so much more productive. I’m putting more time into my work and finding more creative ways to bust any boredom. If I watch a film, I watch it. I don’t distract myself halfway through by checking FB and then lose the plot thread completely. When I’m out, I’m enjoying myself and my surroundings rather than gazing down into a phone screen. And I don’t have to put up with those ridiculous copy and paste posts which are ‘just for fun’. (Apparently).

So that’s the advice I’d give. Press delete. Even if it’s just for a break. Step away from the like button and start living again. Whether it’s for a week, a month, a year or even if you’re adamant on kicking the habit forever, do it. For the friends that you’ll miss, go and see them. Make the effort. Socialise! For the sake of your sanity, get rid! I guarantee you’ll notice a change.

Behold, summer has arrived! After, surely, years of winter Britain has finally been granted a sunny weekend. Thank you, Weather Gods. We are eternally grateful.

Soaking up the sun in a beer garden yesterday, lemonade in hand, shades fixed to my face (where they will stay until mid-September), I couldn’t help but feel like a curse had been lifted. I got a bit emosh as I switched off my heating and tore away the extra blanket from the bed. This could be a dangerous move, as I’m sure winter will return by the end of the week, but for now, I’m allowing myself to get delirious at the prospect of actual summer. Summer! Here! Can you believe it?

However, as usual, it’s not all ice creams and flip-flops.  Here are the five most annoying things we will have to endure over the next few months.

5) Complaining. I know, ironic, but yes, I am complaining about complaining. Facebook has already sent me into a meltdown after just two days of warm weather my feed is littered with statuses moaning about the heat. From the same people who whinge about the cold and the rain. Now, in Wales, we rarely get a summer so to those people who are moaning that it’s too hot here’s a special message from me. ‘Shut up. It’s summer. Enjoy it.’ Thank you.

4) Topless men. Why is it that whenever the sun pops out from behind a cloud, some blokes feel the uncontrollable need to strip off? Sunday was hardly tropical yet I saw FIVE topless men wandering round. Jeez. Put it away. I worked in a petrol station for five years and one thing (of the many, many, many things) that used to send me into a ranty-rage was blokes strutting in, t-shirt carelessly slung over shoulder, after just a hint of sunshine. Have you forgotten you’re in public? Put your clothes on! In those five years, I was faced with the flabby, the buff and the downright leathery. Whatever condition your body is in, nobody wants it shoved in their face. Put. It. Away.

3) Early Birds. Can someone tell the birds that just because the sun is up does not mean they can chirp as loudly as they can until everyone is awake? If I wanted to be up at 5am, I’d have set my alarm. Oh and also, on the same note, if you feel the need to get the lawnmower out at 8am on a Sunday morning, you’re a dick.

2) Being constantly sweaty. You wake up – sweaty. You have your breakfast – sweaty. You go in the shower – not too sweaty. You get out, feeling lovely and clean but before you have even finished drying off – sweaty. In the end you give up and resort to only showering in the dead of night.

1) and my number one gripe goes to – hay fever. The most annoying thing in the world, yes? Your whole summer is ruled by your nose. You pop antihistamines like sweets in desperate attempts to stop your throat from itching. In the morning, your voice could be mistaken for that of one of Marge Simpson’s sisters.  You develop the need to cough at the most inappropriate times. You come dangerously close to clawing your own eyes out and the inability to breathe due to excess snot is almost too much to handle. You find yourself wishing away the summer, clinging on to cooling thoughts of winter when your sinuses will be relieved, the coughing will stop and your nose will return to its usual colour……And then you get a cold.

Totally infuriating but this is the price we have to pay in order for a bit of sun. So, let’s take a deep breath, embrace these annoyances (don’t embrace the sweaty topless men though *shudders*), overdose on Piriton and fire up the BBQ.

HAPPY SUMMER, EVERYONE!