Thursday, August 25, 2016

For Sale

Was having a bit of a chat earlier today with Peter and Chris about the world of international schools. They've both taught in them and I never have. Chris was talking about one particular franchise that had earned its progenitor oodles of the green stuff.

Now here's a funny thing. Usually when I hear about folks making lots of cash selling education I feel a stab of jealousy over the painful truth that they're rolling in it and, let's face it, I'm not. But this time round the stabbing feeling didn't arrive. Instead I felt vaguely relieved I didn't have to face the headache of figuring out how to make the money (I suspect it's not easy, even when clever people make it look that way) and sort of happily uncompromised about what I do on a day-to-day basis.

I suppose that sounds a bit saint-like, uncomfortably so. But I don't mean to suggest I do what I do out of some sense of charitable dedication. I do it to earn a living, and I manage a comfortable one, thank you very much. But I'm doubtful about the idea of turning the business of the classroom into a business. Somehow, in ways I can't really articulate, that doesn't work for me. (But more power to your elbow if you see it differently, and wish to earn more than a bob or two along the way.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

That Shrinking Feeling

When one's greatest pleasure of an evening is to finally get 82 names to match correctly 82 proposal forms in addition to the numbers allotted for supervision amongst one's colleagues, it's a sign that life is closing in a bit too narrowly. And when even just achieving that lies outside one's capabilities it's time to just give up and go to bed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Going Wild

As we were sitting together afternoon in the room in which we prepare our examinees for one of their oral assessments, my colleague Rachel was telling me about a wildcat which got into the staffroom yesterday. It seems it was a little thing, like a puma, but managed to seriously scratch the arm of one of the security guards tasked to deal with it. The idea of such a bundle of wildness invading our sedate surroundings strangely heartened me, though I must say I felt sorry for the poor guy who had to deal with it.

It put me in mind of that most vicious of all felines, Esther's Tomcat, featured in one of the best of Ted Hughes's early animal poems. I mentioned this to Rachel who immediately tracked the poem on-line, reminding me of how immediately accessible so much wonderful writing is these days. I confess, I couldn't help but read the piece out adopting my best Ted Hughes growl and I reckon I did it rather well. If you don't know the poem do click on the link I've so thoughtfully provided above and enjoy. And if you do know it click anyway and enjoy it all over again.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Missing The Target

I've not given up yet, but I have a strong sense that I'm not going to get The Museum of Innocence read by the time we set off for the Hajj, despite the abundant charms of Pamuk's narrative. I've thoroughly enjoyed every page I've read but have only managed a further ten since I last posted about it. Mind you, I have read the issue of Prog I was referring to from cover to cover (the article on the late Syd Barrett was particularly fascinating) and am making solid progress with the issue of the NYRB. I'm now re-reading a fascinating review of a recent biography of the American poet Wallace Stevens and wondering why I don't own a single volume by him. Must get hold of the relevant Library of America edition, which is a Collected if I'm not mistaken.

My plan is to go to Makkah carrying just Tariq Ramadan's excellent The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad for re-reading along with some of those little editions available of Al-Ghazzali meditating on various topics. In recent years I've discovered the pleasures and benefits of what might be termed reading for devotional purposes - another age-old cultural experience sadly neglected in our less-than-devotional age.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hitting The Target

Funny how some things never change. I was reading my journal from some fifteen years back on this date, and came across this reflection on the notion of assessing organisations (and, by extension, individuals) in a quantitative manner:

I veer between hope that it can be made to work usefully and despair at its lack of reality in demanding a quantitative approach to everything. There is something disturbing in the insistence on targets that surrounds us in so many aspects of modern organisations. I feel that a psychic cost has to be paid when we get the balance wrong - the balance, that is, between the usefulness of a highly specific aim to focus our efforts, like locating the treasure on a specific point of a map, and the need for room to just dance around in, meadows to roam.

Of course, we're still stuck wrestling with the same 'instruments' for assessment. But, then, some things do change. Fifteen years ago I was genuinely emotionally invested to some degree in these issues. These days I don't care in the slightest. 

(And another thing that hasn't changed. I just downloaded Supertramp's Breakfast in America from iTunes, an album I haven't listened to at full length since I was at university. Happy to say, it still hits the target in a big way.)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Green Light

How highly satisfactory it is to sit in a class for the Hajj and know that you've finally got the visas that guarantee you will actually be able to go on the pilgrimage. This was our very, very fortunate position today following the issue of said visas yesterday. There is much rejoicing in our little household and an absolute determination to get this journey of a lifetime right.

We've now got a busy two weeks to prepare and intend to make every minute count.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Present Moment

Listening to - Ennio Morricone's music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Drinking - a can of Coke Light.

Eating - nothing now, because I'm still full of the cake I ate on arriving home from work.

Thinking of - not very much at all.

Feeling - very good indeed, thank you very much.

Writing - this.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Moment Of Panic

The fact that an old chap like myself can contrive to create a moment of sheer blind panic at work, brought on by nothing more than a heavy load of stuff to do and a battery running low in a sound recorder, is a mark of how little progress I've made over the years. Fortunately I managed to subdue the very real physical aspects of the experience and am now considering ways of trying to ensure it isn't repeated in the near future. And also fortunately it was a very private moment, so at least major blushes were saved.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In Tune

Can't get the tune from Soon It's Gonna Rain from The Fantasticks out of my head. Not that I want to or am trying in any way to do so.

Back in June I had a strangely dry period with regard to music. The opportunity was there to listen almost endlessly and I didn't take it. There were exceptions, but generally even stuff I love sounded stale. Now I'm going through a period in which everything I hear sounds vital and alive. Not sure why, but not bothering to think about that too hard. Just enjoying being in this zone.

When we were rehearsing A Midsummer Night's Dream there was a moment when I was the only person in the auditorium and one of the performers, who was the stage side of the closed curtain, just started improvising - at least, it sounded spontaneous - on the piano that occupies stage left (and gets in our way.) It was an oddly magical moment - again for reasons I can't explain, and don't really want to.

In fact, now I come to think of it, it was the music that some of the drama guys wrote for the show that sort of got me back in tune.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Getting It Wrong

Any real involvement with the world in terms of a drive to get things done opens one to the possibility, indeed probability, of screwing up badly with someone, somewhere, and hurting their feelings. It's a horrible and painful price to pay, but a necessary one.