All entries for November 2005

November 26, 2005


It is a travesty that the study of Shakespeare remains compulsory for all GCSE English students. Shakespeare’s plays are probably among the most respected works in the English language, and the number of extremely popular plays that he has produced is impressive, but he does not have a monopoly on good literature. Obviously GCSE English is designed to teach and examine pupils, but further to this is an opportunity to inspire young people about books and enthuse in them a passion for literature.

I went to a private school (that’s an argument for another time) and my teacher, Mr Wilkinson, was an absolute legend who was extremely well liked. He chose Henry V for our play, in my opinion the best choice for a class of 16 year old boys because of its theme and because there are some awesome speeches. However the class of generally quite literate and intelligent people were largely uninspired, partly because of the language barrier and partly because of the big sections where nothing much seemed to happen. I found myself sometimes roused by a good speech, but more often bored by a few poor pages.

Were Shakespeare’s plays an undeniable cut above the rest then I would concede that the language barrier is an obstacle we must force our young people to overcome in order to appreciate the best writing in the English language. As it is there are other works of the same quality and depth but which have a more instant appeal, for example Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From The Bridge’ covers in some detail the issues of guilt, shame and betrayal while maintaining a light and accessible feel. If we are serious about inspiring in everybody a passion for literature then we should use the GCSE to show people that books can be stimulating and pose tough moral questions without needing three reads before they are understood. While Shakespeare is brilliant, he is not appropriate for every pupil, and so while his works should remain an option on the syllabus they should no longer be compulsory.

On a related theme, did anyone see 'The Taming Of The Shrew' on Monday? I only saw the last twenty minutes but was quite impressed by how the BBC seemed to have shifted the focus. Rather than requiring the woman to submit to the dominance of her man, the BBC required both the man and the woman to submit to a mutually loving relationship.

November 23, 2005


Give a mathematician some paper and he can prove theorems for one day, give him a blackboard and a small chalk mine and he and his family can prove theorems for generations to come. Mathematicians don't want to live off charity, they just want a fair start in life. Please give generously…...

Dr. Karl

Its now approaching six months since i last went for a meal with a pretty lady, but rather than get down about still being single i decided to relive the magic that was Alan Fletcher (aka Karl Kennedy) in concert.

I met Naomi (the aforementioned pretty lady) at New Street at 5 and we got the train to Derby. Derby, which is my home town and is generally an awesome place, was very hot and dusty and there were lots of flies about, but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm because we knew that we were going to see the great man. We ate at pizza express which was very nice (I even tried olives and found that I quite like them), and then we went to meet my friends at Wetherspoons. This was the first time that i'd tried mixing my hippy friends and my christian friends, but they all got on very well. Paul had bought all the tickets for me in Derby, and when he handed them over I was excited to see that Dr. Karl would 'meet greet and mingle' after the gig. We moved on to Walkabout where Karl was about to perform and sat outside in the beer garden for a bit.

20 minutes before Karl was due to come on we went inside by the stage and joined the crowds chanting his name. There were two very old ladies at the front who were obviously avid neighbours fans. Eventually the band came on and sang The Proclaimers' 'I would walk 500 miles'. The crowd went wild. Karl was on lead vocals and guitar, there were two other excellent guitarists, and Karl's wife was on keyboard and drum machine. They played one of there own songs, which nobody knew, and also played Wonderwall, Living on a Prayer, Three Lions, Sweet Home Alabama, Hey Jude and lots of other covers. Karl was very sweaty.

The crowd was wild, Karl was awesome and at one point reached out to touch the crowd. Caught up in the hysteria, Naomi and I reached and managed to touch his hand. He played on his neighbours connection all night, asking us whether we preferred Sarah, Izzy or Susan. The answer of course was a resounding Susan. Unfortunately it couldn't last all night and at eleven o'clock after two encours the band stopped playing. The fun wasn't over however, Karl was signing autographs and having his photo taken outside. We dutifully queued for ten minutes for our thirty seconds with Karl, and his wife took a photo. Karl obviously didn't want to appear sleazy by putting his arms around everyone, and decided to look very stupid instead.

Finally it was time to go home, we went to Five Lamps Tandoori for some chips and then Kady drove me and Naomi back to my house. Naomi promised to come camping with us over the summer solstice but cancelled closer to the time. Still, this has to be one of the craziest gigs i ever went to, it was awesome stuff.

November 19, 2005


So the days of pestering friends into sponsoring and wildly speculating about where we might get to were over, Jailbreak was happening. 34 teams gathered in the Piazza ready to get as far as they could from Warwick University in 36 hours without spending any money on transport. Andy and I had originally planned to try and get to Birmingham International and attempt to get a plane from there, or failing that to hitch down to Dover. However speaking to Jamie and Emma, another Jailbreaking pair, we decided head straight for Coventry and get the National Express coach to Dover.

We got a lift to Pool Meadow bus station with Jamie’s granddad, and spoke to lots of representatives of National Express, all of whom sympathised but were unable to help us, so we walked to the train station. The staff at Coventry station were again very sympathetic, but claimed they were unable to let us through the ticket barrier. We eventually got out of Coventry when a station staff member told us that she wasn’t allowed to let us on the rail replacement bus, but had something to check inside and the bus would be unguarded for a few minutes. We walked onto the bus and began the journey to Nuneaton, an impressive 9 miles from Coventry.

At Nuneaton things began to move more quickly, we went to Asda and managed to get given some cardboard and a marker pen in order to hitch, but then decided to keep going on the trains for a while. We caught the train to Leicester, and then to Cambridge, where Andy became very excitable and spent a happy five minutes “hiding in the bikes” at the station car park. Can you spot him?

We then caught the train to, Bury St. Edmunds, and then a bus to Ipswich, then a train to Manningtree, where we spent half an hour in the village pub which was attached to the train station, and then went on to Harwich International ferry port. We had decided to avoid London because we thought it would be a nightmare to get out of, as it turned out another Jailbreak team had arrived three hours before us via London. The port manager had gone home so it was very hard for us to get tickets, but eventually we had some success on the phone, and ten hours after Jailbreak had begun we were on the ferry to Hoek–van–Holland.

The ferry ride was fun and the first real chance for us to move around a lot on the jailbreak, Andy and I got several free shots out of a man who thought we were going to buy an overpriced bottle of vodka. We didn’t. The other two teams on the ferry had ambitions only to get to Amsterdam to “do things that aren’t legal in the UK”, but while we enjoy busking without a license, streaking, and carrying concealed weapons as much as everyone else, Andy and I wanted to get further than Holland.

After speaking to a few people who wouldn’t help us, I approached a man reading the Daily Mail and asked him if he was English, “I bloody well hope so” he replied in a south London accent, and told us his name was Steve and he could take us to Hannover. Steve had a very expensive car, paid for by the army apparently, and he drove us for about four hours to a service station outside Hannover where he told us we would be able to get a lift to Berlin in the morning with lorry drivers. We slept for a couple of hours at a table in the service station, and then started trying to hitch. Unfortunately because of German labour laws the lorry drivers weren’t allowed to drive on Sunday, something we learnt after four or five attempts to hold a conversation in German with varying degrees of misunderstanding.

Eventually we managed to get out of the service station with a crazy moustached German guy. I asked if he was driving to Berlin, he replied that he was going to Dresden, and I asked if we could come. The man (who’s name we forget) drove an incredibly expensive car at 150 miles an hour down the autobahn, this was by far the fastest either of us had been in a car before and was very scary. My ability to understand German has deteriorated a lot in the five years since GCSE, but from what I understood of the next four hours conversation the man earned lots of money from “closing down businesses”. He had also driven all the way from Spain in three days and was on the way to meet some colleagues who kept switching the location. After buying us a Burger King he left us at a service station about ten miles out of Dresden telling us he had to go and “do some business”. A couple of hours later we managed to hitch out of the service station to the centre of Dresden with a hippy in an old VW camper, he was an architect at Berlin University and was generally a dude.

Andy and I got to the centre of Dresden with about 9 hours left, but were very tired and thought that even if we did manage to hitch out somewhere we would probably fail to get back into a city and we didn’t want to spend another night at a service station, so we called it a day. It has to be said that despite popular belief Dresden is actually really beautiful, it has suffered from sixties architecture but the centre is lovely.

After a few hours exploring we caught the train to Prague, where we met three American backpackers
who said things like “I love writing philosophy when I’m really stoned man, like the other day I was really stoned and I was like what’s it all about man?”, and “Hey dude have you seen the film ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’? I was watching it the other day and I was really stoned and I was like this is awesome man”. On arriving in Prague Andy and I decided against furthering our acquaintance with the Americans and headed straight for the airport.

At the airport we realised that our cheapest flight would leave in 24 hours, so we booked it then slept on a large marble surface.

We woke up in the morning to find ourselves surrounded by a dozen Finnish girls using the marble as a table to fill out their flight details. Words cannot describe quite how surreal this was. Andy and I decided to spend the day in Prague looking around and trying to find some cheap tourist tat for Hazel’s and Ruth’s birthday. We didn’t find them anything, but did have a good time, and had lunch which was our first meal for 24 hours in a blues café. When Prague got dark cold and miserable we went back to the airport, got our flight into East Midlands, and then my dad drove us back to Coventry.

I think that Jailbreak (like the time I spent the night at Stonehenge) is one of those experiences that I have very fond memories of but wouldn’t want to repeat, particularly the lack of sleep and food was a bit annoying, but the good bits were awesome enough to make it a very happy experience overall. Plus we raised £200 for Cancer Research UK so it’s all good.

November 17, 2005

Sean R.I.P

I'm sitting in the maths block computer room at the moment doing my history essay and there have been various bits that i've needed to go and work through on the blackboard. After a while I realised it would save a lot of time to go and get a whiteboard pen from MS.01 and use the whiteboards in the computer room, but MS.01 was very dark and scary so I sent my friend Sean to get it. Sean's been gone 10 minutes now and i'm a little scared he's been eaten by the chinese people in dragon costumes.

November 09, 2005

Seven Ages of Man

So I’m sitting on a train going towards Derby and rather than doing my history of maths I’m thinking about this poem that was quite possibly by Shakespeare called the Seven Ages of Man. And then, in that weird time between being asleep and awake I start wondering who I might like to be like in each of those ages. I reckoned that since I’m 20 now that 2 stages of my life have passed so I only have 5 left. Obviously I’ll always be my own person, but these were the people I thought I ought to treat as role models.

20-30 Forest Gump – Forest is a legend, he overcomes adversity to be really successful and by the end of the film he seems truly content. He finally gets the girl, always a plus, but the thing that most attracted me about Forest was the real variety of his life. I have already joined a gospel choir and started long distance running so I suppose I am trying to emulate him in some way

30-40 – I’ve got two people in here but since they are both the same kind of character (in fact they are played by the same actor) that’s ok. The first is the teacher from Dead Poets Society, I admit it’s a long time since I’ve seen the film and I don’t remember all that much but I was very impressed with the way he inspired people, I’d like to inspire people like that someday. Also, he clearly has a huge passion for literature which is what he devotes his life to. In a similar vein, the psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting really had a positive effect on people’s lives.

40-50 – Rick from Casablanca. There is something appealing about a man who is heartbroken without wallowing in self pity. I won’t spoil the film for anyone who’s not seen it, but its awesome so you should. (The Red Dwarf piss-take is also worth a watch).

50-60 – Colin Rourke. None of our other lecturers turn up at nine o’clock lectures with quite such enthusiasm and blatant joy for mathematics. Add in the beard, the shorts, the cycling and the maths jokes and you’ve got yourself a genuine dude.

60-death – Bill Gates is a bit controversial, and I don’t actually know that much about him so I’m sure I’m going to find out he’s a complete bastard, but he has said that he’s going to give away his entire fortune before he dies and he is funding huge amounts of research into aids. While we may all get frustrated with windows, Bill Gates has made a fortune himself and is doing good things with it.

Other people i thought about but decided against were

  • Ace Rimmer
  • Bob Dylan
  • Lord Flashheart
  • Mr Kipling (he does make exceedingly good cakes)
  • Bleeding Gums Murphy

Anyway better go, the history of maths won't do itself

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