Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winding down

Things are winding down at college now. The students finished their term a week ago and there aren't going to be many staff around in the next few days. All my term's essays were marked and back last week, with internal moderation on Friday.... I can't believe how many essays from other tutors' courses I read for that. I'd never heard of Rudolph Hitler before, nor considered his place in history alongside Confucius as one of the world's greatest and most inspiring teachers. Working in higher education certainly is educational at times. The marking took all day in the end and left me completely drained but happy over the weekend. It's the first Christmas for years that I haven't had the PhD lurking in the background, making me feel guilty and anxious even when I pretended I was having a break. That's one big reason I'm looking forward to next year now, it will be different in a thesis-free way, even if nothing else happens.

Oh yes, another thing... I started fiddling with the 'follow blogs' thing in blogger but became slightly horrified when the google reader filled up really fast with people's posts and it felt overwhelming for some reason, as if I had to read everything because it was there. So as I'm in winding down mode, I changed my mind about the feed reader and have gone back to good old-fashioned links. I'd rather just pop over via a link when I fancy seeing how people are getting on with their various blogs, then it feels more like a pleasure than a duty, even if I do lurk rather than comment a lot of the time these days. Maybe I'll get my 'commenting mojo' back soon when I've had a good rest (and apologies for the Cheryl Cole/X Factor reference, it's obviously etched on my brain after all those weeks...). Hhmm, I clearly do need a rest...

Monday, December 14, 2009

The changing face of beggars

I was a bit shocked to be asked for spare change by a little old lady when I came out of the supermarket today. She looked like someone's grandmother, perfectly ordinary if slightly pale, with a curly grey granny perm, casual anorak, navy slacks and trainers, plus a standard NHS walking stick. You get used to different types of beggars in central London, the junkies, the Eastern European children with their mums not far behind and the groups of alcoholic street drinkers, but she didn't fit those stereotypes. It's not a particularly seedy area round here anyway and we don't get loads of beggars. I was taken aback by a local streetdrinker who bellowed 'got a spare tenner luv?' at me a while ago. That's inflation, I suppose. I quite admired her cheek for asking, but I wasn't shocked. The granny-beggar today was memorable as she seemed so normal. Maybe it was some scam, or maybe she was after her next fix, who knows, but I gave her a quid and hoped that's not going to be the way elderly people are having to supplement their pensions nowadays.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Knitted Character rides The Jelly

Harry Hill won two awards last night at the British Comedy Awards. His 'TV Burp' was voted the best comedy entertainment programme for the second year running, while he won best entertainment personality. Well deserved! 'TV Burp' is a frequently surreal review of the previous week's TV, often based on tiny inconsequential fragments of clips that you might otherwise miss, or pointing the finger at the truly bizarre (but serious) offerings from various TV channels.

The Knitted Character, a toy dropped once by a baby from a pram in an episode of the Eastenders soap in a few seconds of footage, has ended up being a running storyline for several series now, having his own adventures (rescued from a burning church by a magic sausage in Emmerdale, another soap) and competition. A brief comment on a cookery show with chef Heston Blumental about how the Victorians watched jellies wobble for entertainment has turned into numerous treats for the Knitted Character to ride on a jelly, accompanied by a sixties surf classic, Wipe Out by The Surfaris. That might sound weird, but his sketches and observations are usually very clever and funny, I don't know why they are sometimes, but I love them. Apparently he trained to be a doctor before he became a comedian. You can buy your own Knitted Character from the original prop suppliers, or use this pattern to crochet your own. I'd quite like to see a motley gang of knitted characters made by fans, it could be a curious spectacle.

The Story of The Jelly with The Knitted Character.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Having seen the post on Mathias's blog about the Technorati 'State of the Blogosphere 2009' report, I started reading it with the intention of writing something thoughtful about blogging, but got sidetracked by the phrase 'In a world that’s constantly changing'.  I knew it was from a David Cassidy song, who was a 1970s teen pop idol, for anyone not familar with that genre. Perhaps rather worryingly, snippets of song lyrics seem to stay in my head, even when they haven't been personal favourites, and they pop up to illustrate normal everyday stuff when I least expect it. I'd agree with the song fragment though - how indeed can one be sure of anything in a world that's constantly changing?

I could write about the speedily changing state of higher education, as evidenced weekly in the increasingly doomy Times Higher Education supplement, or moan about the creeping job cuts in my own institution, where the landscape seems to shift almost weekly. It's a bit depressing to dwell on though, so I won't. Can't be sure of much these days really, but it certainly is changing rapidly. A bit of early 70s pop seems a pleasantly escapist alternative, especially given the bloody awful state of the UK economy at the moment which is providing vague reminders of the 1970s recession, with increasing strikes, unemployment, rising cost of living, etc etc etc. David looks dreamily cheerful in his pink and orange satin outfit though, and has a lovely voice too.