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“Si vis pacem, para bellum”—Flavius Vegetius Renatus

10 Jul

Nick Gibb, schools minister, whom I believe but have yet to confirm was disowned by his more musical relatives, announced yesterday that teachers will have more power to “crack down on nuisance pupils.” I say, harrumph.

Surely the term “nuisance pupils” is redundant. When was the last time Mr Gibb was around young people? They are, by definition, a nuisance. Duh.

One of these so-called powers is the power to search students for the following items: music players, mobile phones, fireworks, knives, pornography and cigarettes. Schools today are in trouble, I would never deny that. They are hotbeds of violence, bigotry, and frustration, and anyone who works there and survives deserves an award. But I do believe this scheme to be mostly pointless.

Music players must be annoying (especially given the music young people undoubtedly play through them) but how dangerous can a Walkman be? Their corners are rounded, for goodness sake.  And do students really bring fireworks into the building? Obviously students shouldn’t be bringing fireworks to school but they shouldn’t be bringing ten litre tanks of gasoline to school either, and I don’t see those on the list.

Pornography seems a bit unnecessary as well; are young people really that interested in pornography? I find that a bit hard to swallow. In fact, including it on this list may actually end up encouraging young people to find out more about pornography. It wouldn’t surprise me if within 48 hours of Mr Gibb’s announcement, young people will be heading down to their local library’s card catalogs, searching for books on erotic art and/or old issues of Health & Efficiency.

Personally, I am appalled that teachers would even consider confiscating cigarettes from young people. During puberty, it is vital that teenagers can define themselves as “cool” and there is no better way of doing this than by smoking cigarettes. In five years when our hairdressing salons, mobile discotheques, and crack dens are being run by poindexters instead of hipsters, we will have Mr Gibb to blame.

Many students claim that they carry mobile phones to school for safety reasons: if someone attacks them with a Walkman and/or a piece of pornography, they will immediately be able to ring through to 999. I know this to be a lie. Check any young person’s mobile and the first number they’ll have on speed dial is the European Court of Human Rights. That way if an adult brushes past them, asks them a question or looks at them from an angle they find offensive, they’ll be through to Brussels in a jiffy. This fad for human rights for young people is madness. It isn’t just that teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to have mobile phones in schools. They shouldn’t be allowed to have them full stop; they cause more trouble than they’re worth.  Think about happy-slapping. There was never a problem with children fighting each other until mobile phones came around.

I don’t envy the schools minister his job. Things are in a right state, and he must be seen to be doing something. But I can tell you right now that this is not going to do a damn bit of a good. This is because wars between groups of people (and let’s not kid ourselves here, this is a war, a war between good and evil) are not won through power. They are won through emotional manipulation and fear. Look at any war in recent history and you will see what I mean. Did Nixon win Vietnam through power? No. He won it by introducing the television series M*A*S*H to the American public, which shamed the Viet Cong into surrendering. When George W Bush raised the flag to announce “Mission Accomplished,” he was illustrating just how completely crazy he was, which frightened the Iraqis so much that we haven’t heard a peep out of them since.

Therefore I have a proposal for the Schools Minister. It is radical, I am aware. But when you lose control and you’ve got no soul, it’s a tragedy and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Each school in England, from infant to secondary, should be given a puppy. This puppy shall be kept on the premises, and part of the school budget should be ringfenced to include enough money to provide for the puppy’s food, medical treatment and personal caretaker. The puppy can function almost as the school’s mascot, and it’s a documented fact that animals can help the lonely and sad, so the puppy’s presence will help with morale in both the classrooms and staffroom.

More importantly, though, the puppy will function as the most effective weapon in the war on “nuisance pupils.” Whenever a child steals a rubber, passes a note or repeatedly stabs the games mistress, he will be escorted into the Puppy Room, where the student can hear but not see the puppy. There a teacher will read aloud the crime(s) the student has committed and will force the student to administer a shock to the puppy (volts and length of shock will vary according to the crime’s severity). The student will be able to hear the pathetic cries of the puppy, the innocent, cuddly puppy, the puppy this child has grown to love like the brother he never had, and he will have to accept that it is because he was bad that the puppy is suffering. Enforce this rule for one week and I guarantee you that behaviour will improve (any student not emotionally scarred for life by this experience should immediately be institutionalized—he is clearly a serial killer in the making).

Before you accuse me of unnecessary cruelty, I should stress that obviously the puppy is not really being shocked. The whole thing is faked, and the sounds of the distressed puppy are actually coming from an out of shot, struggling actor assigned to each school (another hidden benefit of this proposal—a reduction in dole queues nationwide). The point is the child believes his behaviour has harmed the animal and therefore will be so ashamed and frightened that he will shape up forthwith. It’s harsh, I know, but it works. I’ve cured many a godchild of the habit of chewing gum in public with this particular method, so I’ve evidence of its success rate.

Alas, I’m sure it would take someone of great courage to enact this policy, and we know that Mr Gibbs probably does not have the Balls to do it. I guess teachers should be thankful that they will also be granted anonymity in cases where a complaint has been made against them. I know my good friend Mr Stephen L Devoncourt of 22 Steeplechase Lane, Market Harborough (tel: 01645 321778) will be much relieved that the fistfight he had with his school’s head boy will now never be made public.

It’s Time to Face the Facts

14 Apr

I do wish young people today felt a bit more comfortable in their own skin. I can’t imagine the pain some teenagers feel when they look in their mirrors and shudder at what they see. I am incredibly sympathetic to what these freaks must be going through. It’s sad.

Yet I can completely understand why they’re in such a state. As depressing as it is that youngsters are so insecure, I forgive them for it. Refusing to accept spots, chubbiness, and perspiration issues—hating the self while one’s hormones are going loco is pretty much par for the course, as Tiger Woods might say. I am very proud to admit that, when I was in all my pubescent glory, I was able to hold my head high despite the occasional epidermal mishap or hormonal eruption. (I know it may be hard for some of you to believe, but, yes, I haven’t always been perfect.) Partly because of my grandmother’s support and partly because of the blindingly obvious fact of my inherent superiority, even as a teenager I had an appropriately commendable sense of self-pride.

As I look at the little shits across the avenue trying to hide their self-hatred by harassing the passers-by, it’s clear they don’t possess the skills and talents I did at their age. This is understandable, because special people like me are few and far between. But where is their support? Do they not have family members or teachers to strengthen their confidence in the way my grandmother did mine?  Of course, I know part of the problem is that many teenagers’ parents are no more than teenagers themselves and therefore they have very little to be proud of in their own lives, let alone succeed in passing any pride onto their children. I’m going to resist the temptation to dwell too much on this, though, as there’s little we can do, save mandatory sterilisation, to address this issue.

However, there is something we can do to help. And here, I address specifically our public figures. Those in the public eye should serve as role models of self-assurance.  You never know—some mousy 13 year old may see a photo of a celebrity beaming with pride and be inspired to hate herself just that little bit less.

Most famous women are aware of this responsibility. They take their “look” a bit more seriously than our famous men. Women step up to the plate to demonstrate that, by looking classy and confident, they obviously do feel comfortable with who they are.

The men seem to struggle more. Probably the most photographed and talked about men in our country right now are the candidates for prime minister. Yet, neither one of them sends a very good message with their appearance and levels of confidence. I believe that Gordon Brown does not even want us to look at him—what is that communicating to us?

And the other one, well, just look at him. Both of their faces tell me, “Things are not too great all around”; if that’s what they say to me, god only knows what those faces say to the kiddies.


Recently I’ve stumbled across this man, Christopher tells me he goes by the name of Nick Clegg. Now here’s a face that says, “I am who I am and am damn proud of it.” This is a face to lead a country, this is a face that would show young people that self-acceptance is a good thing. I’d like to get in touch with him to gauge his interest in joining politics as with a few suggestions from me, he might really be able to make a difference.

Many young people today need a little boost in the self-confidence department. Of course their parents should help them more, but we know we can’t always count on some kinds of people to do the right thing. That’s where the rest of us need to take some communal responsibility. Every time I am photographed or go out and about, I do so with a cool, calm certainty that I hope will motivate kids to feel as good about themselves as I do about myself. I’d like all adults, but definitely those in the public arena, to follow suit. I ask you, please, love yourselves and show the world you do. If you can’t do that for the rest of us, especially our young people, the least you could do is to just keep your face out of ours.

A Modest Proposal Which Just May Save Young People from the Misery of Feeling Content

4 Sep

As my regular readers know, I am more than concerned about the disconnection which seems to be affecting young people today. No longer able to ride their bikes around parks nor bully smaller, weaker children, the young people of today have grown up without a sense of community. As they blossom into young adults, they see themselves purely as individuals, some so satisfied with their existence that they choose not to select a partner. This is so disappointing. They never know the joy of meeting someone one finds barely tolerable and merging with them into a union of mediocrity that can bring tears to the eyes.

However, having recently conquered the largely untapped world of the internet, I have come up with a solution that may help these young people to lose their self-contentment and better appreciate that they are nothing without someone else.

In the few short days since I have been publishing online, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of contact I have had. I knew I had a loyal public but publishing in this way has allowed me to reach even more lovely people. In fact my box has been getting so much traffic, I’ve had to ask Christopher to leave my bush alone for awhile to give him time to sort through some of my correspondence. You may never know the wonderful feeling it brings to one’s heart to receive devoted messages from all over the world: offers of thanks, congratulations and erection maintenance medication. Just this morning I received an email from a Nigerian royal offering me a large sum of money, simply because his father had requested he give it to someone “nice” and of all the people on Earth, he chose me. I’ve also had a number of, shall we say, rather amorous notes, though Christopher assures me that they are not really appropriate escorts for a woman of my standing. While I trust his judgment, I do wonder if there’s not a hint of the green-eyed monster behind his analysis (and the look on Christopher’s face as he types this only confirms this suspicion).

While the majority of young people are obviously not as well read, well traveled, well spoken or as modest as me, I truly believe that if I have had such success with the internet, they can, too.  I suggest to someone that an internet meeting place be designed so that people can write up a brief description of themselves, perhaps even attach a photo, and then wait patiently until a stranger deems their brief life history interesting enough to connect with. They can then contact their new friend via email and perhaps eventually speak on the phone. After this has happened, a date could be arranged. I anticipate that once this match is made, a life long commitment must surely be forthcoming. Then the world will have two less single, happy people to concern ourselves with.

Computer whizz kids, I’ve given you the crumb of the idea—-now get baking!

Why Can’t They Leave Well Enough Alone?

16 Jun

As summer is now upon us and the rain shows hints of sunlight, I’ve become aware of a trend that is both dangerous and immoral. Normally I have a woman come to me to do my hair, but on occasion I frequent a local beauty parlor. While under the dryer, I often flip through the pages of whatever magazines they have available. I find this keeps me up-to-date on the social issues of the day while saving me the shame of actually purchasing one of these gossip gazettes myself.

Yesterday I was at said salon having my hair done in preparation for last night’s gala at our own Museum of the Mundane, when I noticed page after page of young women whom I can only describe as orange. Bernard, my coiffeur, explained that “having” a “tan” was “all the rage” amongst these young “celebrities.”

The tone of one’s skin (whatever that may be) is a gift from above, and to try to deliberately alter it is quite frankly blasphemy. I myself am rather fair-skinned and, while I do not intend to imply that my complexion is perfect, my complexion is in fact perfect. This is because I have never deliberately tried to alter it. It has changed, of course; after all, I have travelled the world and one does not spend days building a hospital in the Chalbi Desert without getting some sun. But that was the result of the good work I was doing, not a vain attempt to change the hue of my epidermis. If these young ladies could manage to do a decent day’s work, they might find that, in addition to a helpful pay packet, they will earn the bronze glow of a job well done.

What I find even more alarming is that some of these starlets do not even gain their colour from the sunshine, but rather apply to it to their own persons through the use of a cream which changes their skin’s shade. Christopher informs me that this is why they appear so orange, rather than tanned. Ludicrous! I think we would all agree that harlots use artificial colour to paint their cheeks—-what on Earth must we call those women who paint their whole bodies? I shudder to think and am thankful that I am unfamiliar with the names that Christopher has suggested as possibilities.

Despite all my worldliness, I still find myself shocked by some of the things people find in vogue. Call me a fuddy-duddy, call me a prude, call me an award-winning writer with fans based all over the northern and southern hemispheres, call me what you will. But I am comfortable enough with myself as I was made to have stayed ignorant of this trend for as long as I have, and I am glad of it.

Note: I may be away from the computer for a day as tomorrow I am having one of my tattoos removed. We shall speak soon.

An Urgent Public Defense

6 Jun

I have recently been accused of being unfair to young people, a claim quite frankly I find deplorable and libelous. Christopher has volunteered to serve as my counsel should this case go to court. But I am appealing to you, my loyal readers, please do not accept this character assassination without giving due consideration to my history. I have spent much of my adult life doing nothing but traveling the world and spending ungodly amounts of money having adventures purely so that I could pass on my stories and wisdom to the young people of today. I do not enjoy singing my own praises, but quite frankly no one deserves more praise singing for their efforts to benefit young people than I, their humble servant.

That said, young people have a lot of problems and are in desperate need of a good shape up. I do not hold them individually responsible—clearly their parents have let them down when they permitted them to develop their own personalities before the age of twenty—but we must accept that the young people of our country are in a right state. I feel quite strongly that it is unfair that teachers get the blame. Please view the clip below to see what I mean.

This clip highlights a few important issues. Teaching is not an easy task, and being a new or supply teacher is clearly worse. While my time as a teacher was rather limited, I do have acquaintances who worked as supply teachers to earn some pin money. Both Mr Bindingcock and Miss Fluck said they felt bullied and threatened during their brief excursions into the world of teachers. I think many of us forget that today’s teenagers, on average, are at least seventeen inches taller than they were in our day. Combine that with swagger and you have got a nasty piece of pie. I don’t doubt that on programmes like this the usual stench of violence and pubescent perspiration has been edited out. Any adult, regardless of previous criminal prosecutions, who teaches should be commended for their bravery and commitment.

More importantly, though, what I find most shocking about this clip is the students’ utter indifference to having a man of such stature in their presence. John Humphrys is both visually and aurally delicious yet at no time do any of these little rascals attempt to worship him in the way he so clearly deserves. Had I been a young lady in that classroom, I would have cherished every second of breathing the same air as the great man and I don’t mind admitting that I would have dropped my hankie at his ankles a number of times, if you know what I mean. This is of course because I was raised to be that way, and I lament that that childrearing strategy has fallen by the wayside.

In summary, 1. young people have problems but I am not unfair to them, 2. so-called friends should keep their mouths shut and 3. if John Humphrys is willing to forget the unfortunate incident he and I shared in the lift of Broadcasting House, I would simply swoon if he would get back in touch.

Everyone Needs an Algonquin

17 May

When I was breakfast editor for Rupert Stanley Quim’s magazine Specific Monthly, I often found myself eating lunch at the famous (or infamous) Cafe Grandmother. It was not unusual for the likes of detective writer Derek Pinpoint, novelist Ginger Readers and her cronies and other notable writers to join me. I recall us gossiping, eating blueberry pancakes or BLT sandwiches and generally just having a smashing time. Reminiscing about these years brings to mind another group of quick wits who gathered at a round table, throwing their coins down, telling secrets, cracking jokes and sleeping with each others’ mates. I am thinking, of course, of my mother’s bridge group in Trenton, New Jersey.

These ladies would get together each Tuesday afternoon, most often at our house since we seemed to have, based on the women’s weekly comments, the nicest drapes. In retrospect I suppose it was our ever full liquor cabinet that really drew them in, but I wouldn’t want to hurt my mother’s feelings. If she had them. But I remember as a youngster sitting at the top of the stairs, peering down at the lacquered hairstyles, the crossed legs and the cigarettes burning down to ash. I can hear now in my mind’s eye the laughing which grew in both intensity and decibels as the day wore on (and the liquor bottles drained). I remember hearing the voices, hushed but excited, sharing secrets and insults (the words “embezzling” and “stupid bastard,” to this day, take me back to those innocent afternoons) and I so wanted to grow up to be one of those ladies. (I had hoped by the time I was old enough to lacquer my hair, another one of the ladies would have bought nicer drapes so we could meet elsewhere, thereby excluding my mother.) But unfortunately I found that, as I grew older, this sort of bonding had become a thing of the past. If I had not been blessed with such talent as a writer, I may never have even experienced those few years eating with Derek, Ginger and friends. The days of intimates getting together to enjoy the misery of others just simply don’t exist in our work-a-day world.

Which leads me to my point that young people today just seem too isolated. My advice to them, and to you, reader, if you find yourself lonely or disconnected, is to get married. Too many young people stay single, “trying to find themselves.” That’s not what life is about. Life is about alcoholic laughs and betrayal and embezzlement. The burdens of a spouse lead directly to that kind of happiness. Just ask my mother or her friend, Shirley. They’re both listed, but don’t bother calling on a Tuesday afternoon. Or just call my parents’ house then, but hang up when she answers. That really gets her goat.

Best of luck, little ones!