Wednesday, 28 October 2009


I spent an amazing day at the children's hospice today and I wanted to share it with you. We had a visit from a guy called 'Brummie' from 'Taste for Adventure'. He is ex-SAS and spent several hours with the children and staff sharing details about survival in the wild.

A dozen or so kids, most in electric wheelchairs were fascinated as Brummie showed us how the most ordinary, everyday objects can be life-savers.

For instance, after a helicopter crash in the jungle, how did a pen and paper help to save lives? The answer is that the group of survivors realised that they were not going to be rescued after some 3 weeks of surviving near the crash site so they sent 4 people off to try to find help. Before they left, they wrote down the names of all the survivors and drew a map of the geographical features which they could see from the crash site, which included a waterfall and two streams which came together to become one. Sadly, the group of 4 fell to their deaths whilst crossing dangerous terrain. However, their bodies were found and the piece of paper made it clear that there were several others lost in the jungle. A local guide recognised where they were from the clumsily drawn map and led rescuers straight to the remaining survivors.

What a story! This guy was absolutely fascinating and had the kids (and staff) held spellbound as he told his tales. We were shown how to build shelters, find food and water and start fires. Having been shown this, staff and children proceeded to build our own shelters and after an outdoor lunch of burgers and hotdogs, they all had a turn at starting fires. We warn kids not to play with matches - quite rightly - but these deserving children had a real thrill out of starting their own fires (under careful supervision).

We were astonished to watch as Brummie rubbed an ordinary household battery against a piece of steel wool and it burst into flames! Apparently, this is one of the commonest causes of household fires when batteries and steel wool come into contact in your garage and then ignite cans of paint. You have been warned!

After saying goodbye to Brummie, we kept the fun going with a range of outdoor activities devised by the Hospice staff. Firstly there was some orienteering to test map-reading skills. Then we had to erect a shelter to keep us safe overnight in the unlikely scenario that a plane crash near the hospice had left us all trapped in the garden. Finally, they were able to test their skills at hunting down a wild animal for food. I was the wild animal and I'm pleased to say that having found me lurking in the undergrowth after a 10-minute search, they decided I wouldn't taste too good!

Fantastic fun for all concerned and many thanks to Brummie - read all about him by clicking the link above.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


We have witnessed a furore over the appearance of the leader of the BNP (British National Party) on BBC's Question Time. The BNP for anyone who may not know, is a cuddly sort of right-wing, neo-fascist, heavily racist political party. There were furious protests that Nick Whatisname should not have been given airtime and that the programme gave the BNP valuable and dangerous publicity.

Well, given that we are a nation who believes in free speech, I for one would defend the BBC for allowing it. However, I have grave reservations about the way they handled it. By bullying him and not allowing him enough chance to speak and dig his own grave, they appear to have awarded him martyrdom status in the eyes of some people. I watched the programme and Nutty Nick came across as a sleazy, slimy weasel of a bloke - so he'd fit into British politics just fine at the moment with all the scandal over their expenses.

I was prompted to take a peek at the BNP website and check out their policies and based on this, in the interest of balance after Question Time gave Nick Niceguy such a bad time, I present a list of 10 GOOD things about the BNP for your consideration.

1. Unlike the other parties, they have no MPs fiddling their expenses because....well because thankfully, they have no MPs.
2. Their name, BNP, is easily mis-googled (click link).
3. They are able to re-write history - apparently the holocaust didn't happen. So we could get them to tell us how we stalwart Brits repelled the Romans and the Vikings for instance. (Update: Nick Thingy may be changing his mind on this one).
4. Since Nick Numpty was sporting a poppy, he obviously believes in remembering the valour shown by the many nationalities who helped us win the second world war, blacks, gurkas etc.
5. They'll bring back the birch and give those naughty schoolkids a darn good thrashing.
6. (This is a quote from their website because you won't believe me otherwise) - they will use 'electronically tagged chain gangs to improve coastal defences'. That should keep us safe from those nasty Somali pirates!
7. We'll be able to have machine guns in our homes (quote 'any means of defence') to protect ourselves from burglars. ('Pass me my Uzi darling').
8. The candle industry will be given a huge boost because the BNP will remove overhead power lines.
9. They will put a stop to the 'spineless subservience to the USA'. Of course there will be a slight drawback to this in that the tourist industry will collapse - but then it only brings in a paltry £85 billion.
10. Nick Nobody is such a friendly, handsome and charismatic leader that he will undoubtedly attract masses of votes at the next election.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


My wife has an amazing skill. She can enter a clean and tidy kitchen, prepare the simplest of meals, then leave the kitchen looking like a team of chefs and sous-chefs have just come to the end of a busy shift. Every pot and pan will have been used, food will be on the work surfaces, on the floor and usually on the walls. I'm sure the reason her diet is working so well is that so little of her meal actually makes it to the plate!

After breakfast, she turns her back on the debris in the kitchen and sets off for work. Curiously, an amazing thing happens while she is out. We are visited by the dishwasher fairy, a large hairy, fairy who magically puts dirty dishes into the dishwasher, washes all the pans and cleans the surfaces. Yet somehow, when my wife returns from work, she seems not to notice that we have had a visitor. It's almost as if she expected the fairy to appear and do its thing.

This may seem a little one-sided but I can assure you that it isn't. You see, I too am visited by a fairy. My visitor is a beautiful, sylph-like creature who periodically removes my dirty clothes from the basket, washes them clean, sprinkles them with stardust and leaves them in a tidy pile on the bed for me to put away.

So we have two fairies who visit this house and as far as I'm concerned that's ......... fairy nuff.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


My brother is selling his house. He's been trying to sell it for quite a while but there's a problem. No getting away from it, the house is ugly! Of course he's made it very nice inside, done his best with it, but its one of the worst examples of 1960's design you can find.

The biggest thing in its favour is that its in the heart of town (Bristol) with lots of amenities on the doorstep. There's a library next door and a pub beyond that. There's a pedestrian crossing outside the gate leading over to an upmarket supermarket and a row of useful shops. Buses pass the door heading for all parts of the city - but the outside of the place is hideous!

So who would be the ideal buyers for this property? I'll give you a moment to think of the answer.......
Did you get it? Well my brother was so lucky when the estate agent (I think our friends over the pond call them realtors) phoned him up and said we have a couple who want to 'view' your property - they are both blind!

The appointed hour arrived and the blind couple turned up with a sighted friend to talk them through the tour. They were loving it. They especially liked the fact that there was such easy access to the shops over the road and all the other facilities that were so close at hand.

Then the doorbell rang. It was the estate agent who was running late and arrived all breathless. 'Sorry I'm late' he said, 'but you'll never guess what's happened! Someone's been hit by a car on the crossing outside'.

Don't you just love estate agents? Just what my brother wanted the blind couple to hear!

Sunday, 11 October 2009


I was recently on a Child Protection course and we were asked to consider various scenarios and state whether or not we considered them to be child abuse. One example was of a father undressing his 14 year-old daughter. We all agreed that this was inappropriate and therefore abusive. We were then told that the father was a single parent and his daughter had cerebral palsy.

The point, which was well made, was that we shouldn't rush to make judgements until we have all the facts.

This got me thinking how society's views on things have changed during my many years. In the 1970's when I started out as a fledging special needs teacher, it was not only accepted that a male would change a teenage girl's nappy, it was expected. I did so, in a totally open situation. The changing area had three tables and the three staff busy changing, would commonly exchange banter as they removed soiled nappies, wiped the children clean and put on fresh incontinence pads etc.

I recall one occasion when I had them 'rolling in the aisles' when one teenage girl I was changing, had an exceptionally large bowel motion during the process. For the benefit of my two colleagues, I provided her with verbal encouragement with 'Keep going Susan, I can see the head!'

I remember that sometime in the 1980's, it was decided that each changing table should have screens 'to preserve the children's dignity'. The problem was, that in preserving their dignity, staff were then screened from view as they provided what is now called 'intimate personal care'. A debate ensued and I began to ask a female member of my team to assist me when I changed a girl (but not when I changed a boy). A few years later, it was formally agreed that it was not appropriate, for males to change females - something I had been doing for many years. However, females could continue to change males.

Given the recent case of the female nursery school worker who abused the children in her care, it seems to me that the only solution is to stipulate that two staff must always be present during intimate care situations but sadly, even this arrangement would be open to abuse.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


I really shouldn't be complaining about this government and its laws. They have been so ridiculous lately, that I have had plenty of content for these posts. There was the idea of letting cyclists get a new bike from me by shoving their bikes in front of my car which I covered in 'The lunacy of the law', then there was the case of the school meals assistant who was sacked for letting a father know that his daughter had been the victim of a bullying attack not a skipping accident as the school had told him. That one was dealt with under 'Bully for her'.

The latest example is a beauty. Two female police officers who worked at the same station (so were colleagues and friends), have been looking after each others children - which worked really well since they work different shifts. You are probably waiting for me to go on to reveal something which they did wrong. I already did!

The government agency responsible for governing childcare (Ofsted), have declared their arrangement illegal. This is apparently because
1. They are not registered child minders.
2. They look after the children for longer than a 2-hour stretch.
3. They are remunerated for their time when looking after the children by receiving free childcare.

They are policewomen for heaven's sake! All they are doing is helping each other out and it should have nothing whatsoever to do with the law. To say that the law is an ass in this case is an insult to asses.

Rant over.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


It would seem that had I been partnered with Eve in the Garden of Eden, I would have fared no better than Adam. I too have been tempted by the apple and now I have taken a bite.

It all started when I had a close look at the iPhone. You may recall from my earlier post 'Rotten Apple' that despite drooling for one, I am unable to have one - yet. Well the thing is, having reached the firm impression that it truly is God's machine, I was tempted to look at the Apple iMac too. Obviously this was only out of idle curiosity you understand. After years of being shackled firmly to Microsoft and Windows, there was no way I was going to take a quantum leap into the unknown by switching to an iMac...... and yet .....

They are beautiful machines. I have learned that Apple have ploughed serious money into making sure that they were much more attractive to behold than regular PCs. Yes but beauty isn't everything. No use them looking good and then breaking down all the time. What's that? They very rarely break down? If they do break down those nice smiley people from Apple will have it fixed before I can blink.

Yes but sorry, the bottom line is, everyone knows that there is much more software written for PCs than for iMacs. I couldn't manage without certain programs which won't run on an iMac. Pardon? I can run my Windows programs on the iMac very easily using a widget called 'Parallels'?

So as we speak, a shiny new iMac is winging its way to my home. How long before an iPhone is nestling in my hand too?