Friday, 27 May 2011

Education, edgoucasion, ejoucayshun!

I think we all agree that education’s important, right?

There’s a reason why we slaved over our school books and revision notes all those years ago, and why we now stand over our teens Dominatrix-style (no, that’s not a whip behind my back, honest!) trying to make sure they do the same.

Nothing learned is ever wasted, surely? Well, yes. But it's equally true that “a little learning is a dangerous thing”. Obviously that’s especially true when applied to brain surgeons or airline pilots, but we don’t seem to mind when the folk around us – and yes, the ones we stare at on the box – drop gaffes and half-educated asides at the drop of a hat.

I know there’s a big debate about whether society is dumbing-down. Us oldies maintain that it is, but the newbies maintain quite the opposite – that they have greater knowledge and understanding of things we never even knew existed. I suspect that both camps are right, in part. I’ve seen a sample Maths GCSE paper and literally couldn’t make head nor tail of it – but then maths was always a bit of an academic No Man’s Land for me. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the English paper I’ve seen.

ANYWAY.... if nothing else, some of the highlights of exam papers give us a good giggle every year – so who I am to deny you that joy?

These are allegedly extracts from genuine GCSE exam answers doing the rounds on the Internet:

  • Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah desert and travelled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere

  • The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinnesses, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. One of their children, Cain, asked "Am I my brother's son?"

  • Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea , where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without ingredients. Moses went up on mount Cyanide to get the Ten Commandments. He died before he reached Canada .

  • Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.

  • The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a female moth.

  • Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.

  • Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career took a dramatic decline.

  • In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits, and threw the java.

  • Eventually, the Romans conquered the Greeks. History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long.

  • Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul . The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out "Tee hee, Brutus."

  • Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his subjects by playing the fiddle to them.

  • Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was canonised by Bernard Shaw. Finally Magna Carta provided that no man should be hanged twice for the same offence.

  • In midevil times most people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the futile ages was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verses and also wrote literature.

  • Another story was William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son's head.

  • Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen". As a Queen she was a success. When she exposed herself before her troops they all shouted "hurrah".

  • It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented removable type and the Bible. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes and started smoking. And Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100 foot clipper.

  • The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet.

  • Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miquel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.

  • During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic . His ships were called the N1na, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe.

  • Later, the pilgrims crossed the ocean, and this was called Pilgrim's Progress. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all this.

  • One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without stamps. Finally the colonists won the war and no longer had to pay for taxis. Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing two cats backwards and declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot stand" Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.

  • Soon the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.

  • Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation.

  • Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltaire invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy.

  • Gravity was invented by Isaac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.

  • Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic. Bach died in 1750 to the present. Bach was the most famous composer and so was Handel. Handel was half German half Italian and half English. He was very large.

  • Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took very long walks in the forest even though everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.

  • The French Revolution was accomplished before it had happened and catapulted into Napoleon. Napoleon wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a Baroness, she couldn't have any children.

  • The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West.

  • Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on the thorn for 63 years. She was a moral woman who practiced virtue. Her death was the final event of her reign.

  • The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men.

  • Lois Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis. Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of the Species. Madman Curie discovered radio. And Karl Marx became one of the Marx brothers.

  • The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by an anahist, ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.

I’m not going to pass any comment, or draw any conclusions.

I just wonder how on earth the people who have to read and mark the papers manage to get through their days without collapsing in hysterics and drowning in a sea of mirth-induced tears.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Chilling or cool?

When it comes to chilling out, no-one can beat the sub-zero cool of a 14-year-old boy.

And of course, no matter what I tell him about actually being there at the birth of punk back in Blighty in the late '70s, nor his father's guitar mastery, the ManChild will only ever see us as old fogeys (albeit slightly eccentric ones).

In his eyes, youth has the monopoly on cool. We should really leave the serious chilling out - with attitude - to those that do it best, namely him and a select band of uber-cool friends.

He's got all the accessories - the shades, the 'do, the sullen gaze at the camera and the electric guitar (which he can actually play) to pump up his cool factor.

But to be honest, chilling out teen-style looks like just too much effort to me.
Even when I was a teen myself, I was blissfully ignorant of the nuances of cool-dom, bumbling my nerdish way through college with bad hair, ill fitting clothes and the enthusiasm of a hyperactive cocker spaniel on speed.

I was decidedly un-cool.

And despite my mantra of "It's good to be different, you don't have to follow the crowd to be liked" and occasional sheep-like bleets when I spot signs of him following the herd, the ManChild seems to be following his father's lead.

DaddyCool WAS one of the cool kids at school, had armies of pals and even knew all the words to the English Top Ten (a VERY BIG deal in Greece in the early '80s when the ultimate in cool was recording songs from the radio onto a cassette, then playing them in your room 3,000 times to learn every single syllable, before presenting it to the gang).

So, it comes as no surprise that he has appointed himself as ManChild's guide through the labyrinth of adolescence, determined to make sure that the fruit of his loins will be among the cool at school.

Me? I'm taking a back seat on the whole cool thing.

For a start, Kiddo would never take any lessons from me on the subject - he knows too much about me, including the fact that I used to be a young ornithologist, sang in a choral society and cried at Lassie films.

I'm just chilling out with the occasional glass of plonk and bowl of nuts, giving him a wee nudge now and then when he seems to be straying a little too far from himself.

And believe me, that kind of chilling takes much less effort than the tireless pursuit of cool.


Not chilled out enough yet? Head over to this week's Gallery over at

Thursday, 5 May 2011

In which I get Kreativ

A funny thing happened to me on the way to Thursday this week.

There I was, minding my own business, trolling through Twitter, when I noticed an unexpected mention of my Tweet name. It was there cos I received an award. For my blog. From a complete stranger.

It was a big surprise for me, mostly because I have made a conscious decision not to get caught up in the statistics/popularity game in my online life. There are enough numbers for me to stress out about in my ‘real life’ without adding to it with anxieties about how many ‘Friends’/followers/hits/comments I get – and I do nothing to pursue them. I blog mainly to have an outlet for the random burblings that occur to me. For the pleasure of getting them out of my head and presented in some logical order on a website. It’s a wee ego boost for me – but it’s not a popularity contest. (That’s not to say that I don’t like the contacts I have made and interaction with cyber-buddies that has developed – but I’m more concerned about quality of those friends than quantity).

So, it was a pleasant surprise when I saw that John (a.k.a. @dogbombs, who writes the blog has listed me among his ten nominations for the Kreativ Blooger award.

Thanks so much, John. Despite my protests at not being in the blogging game for acclaim, it is nice to know that someone reads my ramblings and thinks them worthy of a mention.

The deal with this particular award is that I now have to nominate ten of the blogs I follow for this award, let them know, and then share some unknown info about myself. So, here goes:

1. The brilliant and always busy Becca at

2. The creative and always cuddly Mr Colgan at He’s supposed to be retired but his output leaves me gasping for breath like a stickleback in a dry spell

3. Then there’s the Fab Fran at Always erudite and entertaining

4. Scrumptious Kelly at Often has me laughing out loud and is worth visiting every week for her regularly “nom or vom’ feature

5. The lovely and ludicrously talented Lucy at Not only is she a brilliant illustrator, quirky, funny and refreshingly down to earth, she’s another ex-pat to find herself transplanted in a country going through some tough times lately (she’s in Portugal, I’m in Greece and we’re both learning the real meaning of ‘austerity’)

6. Another one in a country facing some tough time is the sumptious Sarah in Ireland, who blogs at

7. At 18, James is a young man shouldering the burden of his father’s Alzheimers with remarkable maturity. Read more at

8. The terrific Tattie Weasle is always worth checking out

9. Full volume Viv claims to be unoriginal over at I beg to differ. Check her out as she prepares to start Uni as a mature student later this year

10. And no list would be complete without my soul sistah Georgy – weird but wonderful, a creative force and artist in residence down in Brighton Town, and one-time avante-gardener. She has been inspiring me for more than a quarter of a century – check her out at

And now, here’s 10 things you may not know (or may not wish to know) about me…

1. As a child, I had an imaginary child called Moke. I made my Mum lay a place at the table for him, and we once missed the bus because we had left him at home.

2. I also used to hear (or imagine) the voices of two people coming from the top of my wardrobe. They were not nice – a harsh stern man’s voice, accompanied by a sarcastic, weedling woman’s voice. I banished them for good one day by climbing to the top of the wardrobe to tell them to shut up and leave me alone. They did.

3. I then developed a habit of jumping off the top of wardrobe onto my bed, flapping my arms wildly to see if I could fly – just a little bit. Mum never did know how I managed to break the bead so thoroughly.

4. In my late childhood/early teens, I used to sing in a church choir and the local choral society (I know, nerd alert!). I was the only one under 50. I still adore the twiddly bits in baroque choral pieces.

5. I am more accurate hitting a target with cherry stones spat from my rolled-up tongue than I am with an air gun.

6. I can still remember the horror and humiliation of drying up in front of thousands of people when singing a solo at International Camp with the Woodcraft Folk in the late 1970s.

7. I am a hopeless idealist and have been since my childhood. I don’t plan on changing that.

8. I have freakishly long toes – especially the middle ones – and I can pick up things with them.

9. I still use the shorthand I learned as a cub reporter in the mid-80s. It’s great for making notes I want no-one else to read, especially as it’s a fairly rare form (i.e. not Pittmans)

10. I can swear fluently in Greek – but most of you would never know when I'm doing it!

So, there you go. Now you know more about this particular ‘Award-winning’ Blogger.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Macho May Day?

So, today is May Day.
The day on which the glorious proletariat revolution is celebrated around the world.
The day where every worker marks the sacrifices made by his forefathers.
The day when….

No, sorry, wrong version.

Rewind please. I forgot – socialism is just soooo last decade. Even the socialists aren’t lefties any more, and just thinking about a workers’ revolution is rather passé these days.

No, May 1st is one of those days when all around England full-grown men put on their cricket whites and then tie ribbons and bells around their arms and legs (some even go as far as criss-crossing their chests). Then they don special bowler hats adorned with more ribbons and bells, adding a few sprigs of flowers and herbs for good measure.

The really lucky ones will even get a dried cow’s bladder (decorated with – you guessed it – ribbons and bells) to shake around.

Then these fine examples of English manhood gather on village greens around the country, where a massive tall pole is erected with yet more ribbons flowing down (note the heavy symbolism). Those ribbons are then grasped firmly by the Morris Men (for they are our macho Englishmen), who then dance round and round, gradually trying themselves up in knots around the Maypole.

All in the name of fertility rites, of course (bloody pagans)….

Good to know that my countrymen are such a manly lot!

(And they ask me why I ever left!?!)