Tuesday, April 29, 2008


This country is way too complicated. Here are 3 reasons why...

1. One of my students told me that she goes to Birmingham by coach because train is too expensive. I asked how much she pays and it is twice as much as I pay to go by train! I know how to get to Birmingham cheaply because I do it regularly and did a lot of research on the internet. I would have to do more if I wanted to go anywhere else cheaply. This annoys me because the people who can't access information easily are the ones who can least afford to pay extortionate prices!

2. The tax system here drives me mental. Why do I need other other reference numbers in addition to my National Insurance number? Why do I need to pay for the NHS and BBC separately? And why, when I did two jobs, was one administered through a tax office in Bradford and another through Middlesborough? And why didn't these offices communicate with each other? After a stuff up last year, I now have to make regular payments on account, on top of the tax paid directly from my salary.

3. The final reason was what sparked this whole rant off. I took a trip to my local pool and discovered that some lanes are signposted for anti-clockwise swimming and others for clockwise! I have never heard of anti-clockwise swimming lanes. And when I told that to the lady I crashed into (though it was hardly her fault) she goes 'It's always been like that'.

And that is why.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I wasted too much time in school being good. Now that I'm a teacher I've realised that mischevious students are the most interesting.

We went to Kew again for an end of term excursion and I enjoyed staying quiet while my students had a bit of fun with the tour guide:

Now these ones are bananas.

Are you sure my habibi?

Yes, they are. And underneath the bananas you can see that we've put lots of manure. Does anyone know what manure is?

I know Manuel. He work with me.

Now, if you look in this direction you can see that there are Holme Oak trees along both sides of the path.

Homework trees?

No Holme Oak trees. And that tree over there will have beautiful flowers in July if you come back.

(in unison) Inshallah.

And over on that side you can see a cedar from Lebanon.

How did you get it? Did you steal it or did they give it to you?

I loved it. And I loved the plants too.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Back in London

I arrived back in London this morning. Typhoon signal number 3 was hoisted when I left Hong Kong and water was pouring from the sky. I love that type of weather but it made for a bumpy start to the flight. The biggest disturbance occurred as the first round of drinks were being served and the man next to me ended up with a very wet lap.

No such exciting weather when I landed in London. It was gloomy and cold and the trip home from the airport was painful. Sunday morning is probably the worst possible time to arrive in London. The city is covered with evidence of the night before and the drunken perpetrators are still stumbling home.

Walking along the pavement, I had to pick up my rolling suitcase repeatedly to avoid bottles, spilt food, vomit and dog poo. It didn't get any better when I reached home - a bag of rubbish had been emptied in front of the apartment building and a bottle of wine spilt across the floor of the lobby.

I thought I'd seen it all but then I went out shopping and spotted this on the street...

Yum! I was marvelling that I've lasted two and a half years here.

Things started to look up though. I had a cheap and delicious Turkish breakfast in Dalston followed by a walk in the park. A little later I was in the front window of a tea shop with a pot of tea and a slice of gluten free chocolate cake.

As the caffeine started to kick in, I watched people passing by and realised how much I feel at home in this city of huge variety. It may be grotty but it's good to be back.