Monday 23 January 2012

Britain's Conundrum

Whilst planning one of my English classes over the weekend, I came across a survey which was in the news last week on the top 50 things that people find confusing about modern Britain.

Puzzler World 2012 questioned 2,000 adults on what they found the most difficult to understand in today's Britain. Apparently, two thirds of us hate being confused, but only half of us will actually get around to asking for help if there is something we don't understand.

Well, now I am going to put myself in that half and say that there's a lot about the results of this survey that baffles me.

There are things on the list which many people down the pub would frown at if brought up in conversation: what scientists are up to at CERN, algebra, foreign languages, the science of Stephen Hawking, politics. They'd be the one person at the pub who always ventures some know-how on the subject, but really, you'd all just be blathering on, nodding at things you have no idea about. Some people are terrible at learning languages (even their own); atoms just aren't others' cup of thinking tea; and algebra will still give some people the willies from their high school lessons (But it's maths, why are there letters?)

This is all perfectly normal and OK. We can't understand everything. What would be the point in that?

But then there are other things on the list which warn me about the state of this nation's confusion: Jedward, why Rooney bothered with his hair transplant, why Giggs' (Ryan) wife hasn't left him yet, Kerry Katona, people who crack their knuckles.

Yes, these are really things which have the minds of the UK mulling it over, working it out, thinking it through and coming up with a big fat nothing.

I am confused, it seems, about the confusion.

Why do people need to understand the likes of Jedward? Surely they would have much better luck concentrating on the other things on the list that might help them out one day: buying a house, pensions, credit cards (we are also confused about why Britain is in so much debt - I think the point speaks for itself). By making space from our pondering on the Giggs' marital status to asking for help understanding the small print, we could get ourselves out of our own sticky situations later down the line.

Which brings me back to this 'asking for help' problem. I notice that the last two items on the list are 'men' and 'women'. If we don't understand something (or someone) it's highly unlikely we'll go straight to them and ask them to explain themselves to us. Especially when it concerns the opposite sex.

Now that is a conundrum.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Happiness, happiness, the greatest thing that I possess

I loved Ken Dodd as a kid. It was even better when I started to understand his terribly dirty jokes about turkeys and women. But the song he would always sing, with diddy men prancing around and tickling sticks going everywhere, made you feel light, bouncy, without a care in the world and... happy. And you can be any age to understand that.

The other day I was working with a man connected to my old job, doing some filming for a friend. Afterwards, he was asking me about my plans now that I am unemployed and if I missed my old job. I explained how I missed those I had worked with closely, but that we are all friends and will continue to be. I told him that I did not miss the job; and that I was thinking of trying to teach more. I have always loved teaching, and although I continue with students and partners at LBS, I miss it as I used to to do it Buenos Aires.

His reply was, "But there's no money in that."

I was surprised by his reaction. I have always had respect for teachers, not just because I was brought up by two of them, but as a job goes, no matter the subject, the age, the place, there is no other feeling like giving someone the confidence of knowledge, and how to use it.

The other thing I was surprised about was how he was measuring my job choice in monetary value and little else. I'm not idealistic enough to think that the simple joy of teaching will pay my food and rent (and travels!) alone, but neither would I take ever take a job I know I am not going to enjoy just because it pays well. A job's pay, it's value for your work, is not the value you have (sometimes it's not even the value you 'earn') as a person. I don't care if I never earn loads, but I care being judged on it and I certainly care about being miserable.

Crap economy, crap job prospects, crap and high university fees, crap management, crap, crap, crap: this isn't how young people and those out of work should be thinking. This isn't New Year's thinking - it's life thinking: finding something you love to do and being happy most of the time doing it. If it makes you rich, tired, poor, stressed, fat, thin, smarter, wilder, it doesn't matter. It's your choice.

The measure should be if it makes you happy.

My reply to the man last week was in that vein: "Teaching makes me happy, though," I told him.

He frowned, shrugged and made a weird little noise. I don't think people consider their own happiness enough.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

A Christmas feast in January

I am standing in Tesco with Martín on January 2nd 2012. He loves supermarkets; perusing the aisles for things we'll never eat, need or use. I am used to this, and usually work round this by sending him off on a very specific mission, which takes an age, but means I can get the majority of the shop out of the way while he thinks about buying 18 cans of peaches.

But yesterday I could not budge him from a super-saver-end-of-aisle-Christmas-is-over-fest.

Salmon, cooked hams, fine cheeses all on offer. He couldn't get over it. He had to buy them. And there were three things in his favour, which means he won.

The first is simple: they were things we love to eat. Our weekends are not complete without a King's Breakfast of salmon, spinach, mushrooms and eggs piled high on toast laden with cream cheese. As pork addicts, everything pig related gets a full seeing to in our house and nothing is spared. And cheese? Martín would eat a whole whale carcass if it was covered in the stuff.

Keep it simple: fondue for Christmas dinner
 The second was that we don't have a normal Christmas. There's no platter of little biscuits with salmon; no turkey and stuffing; no ham and potatoes; no Christmas pudding and cheese board. By going skiing, we eliminate ourselves from the supermarket slog for Christmas food and escape to the mountains where we let ourselves be satisfied with a simple pile of French beef, a pot of hot oil, some dips and chips. Therefore, come the New Year, we are not already bored of these foods which were overbought and have been sitting wrapped in foil like fallen asteroids in the fridge ever since.

The third reason why Martín got his wicked bargain way was because these foods were half price and half again. True bargains you can only dream of before Christmas when these items are on your shopping list.

And then it got me thinking. Why don't people have their Christmas food feasts in January? For those that love the foods more than the festival, it's so much cheaper come the post-Christmas price meltdown. Christmas can still be in the spirit of giving, time with loved ones, and you can do that with any foods you like! What do you fancy? Chinese? Go for it! Italian's your thing? Why not! There is nothing that binds us to the turkey and ham and stuffing sandwiches aside from the fact we've always done them. But with January's perfect prices for all those foods, why not delay those feasts?

Just don't tell Tesco.

Monday 2 January 2012

Little thoughts for a big 2012

So, we are over the bump that turns one year into another and here are some thoughts already on 2012 and what might be in store.


If you did not see London's New Year's Eve fireworks display, I urge you to watch them - there is a version here. They had us gobsmacked and forgetting to drink our champers. They also gave me goosebumps. Not just because they are fireworks and I turn into a kid around them; but also because this city gave such an amazing show anyone not excited about the coming Olympics this year in London must be living in a ravioli (stolen Argentine idiom).


The week prior to New Year, I spent skiing in the Alps. One day, as I had to rest a pulled Achilles, I was on the balcony of our apartment sunning myself in just a towel. Two days later we were skiing in such snow and cloud, we couldn't see from pole to pole going down the piste. And the temperature had obviously nose-dived. The first day of 2012 here was grey with torrential rain. My pots are flooded, yet my bird bath has filled up nicely. The second day of 2012 had bright sunshine and blue skies - a perfect winter's day.

I guess it's like my grandma always says: "You just can't predict the weather in this area." Or anywhere, anymore.


Today I found out that one of my friend has got engaged. And with our wedding at the end of this year in Argentina; and being bridesmaid for another friend in October, there is a whole lot of wedding planning, talking, decisions and excitement to be had.

Of course, a wedding has nothing to do with a marriage, and I am sure that during the course of the year, we will lay even stronger foundations so that our wedding day will be the start of a long, happy and healthy marriage.


I have been accepted as a London 2012 Games Maker, one of the 70,000 volunteers who will help in some way to run the show. I am really excited; I twitch just thinking about it. I've got my training for my Spectater Entry post at the Athlete's Village next month. Bring it on.

The Run of a Lifetime

In 33 days, I will be having my last sleep in a tent with my friend Maria before we set off on Cruce de los Andes.

Legs will burn, blisters will pop. Stomachs will churn, bums will flop. Sights will reveal, faces will grin. Fatigue will heal, hearts will win.

Happy New Year