Saturday, October 31, 2009

An afternoon in Leeds City Centre with the EDL: 31.10.09

For some time I have been receiving e-mails from an organisation called Hope Not Hate. It is an organisation which aims to defeat the far-right by galvanising into action people of goodwill regardless of faith-stance: the sort of people who might be a bit apathetic about the idea of taking action. "What difference can I make?"

About a month ago HNH started to talk about an organisation called the English Defense League. This is a new kid on the block and has only been going for a couple of months. Their website states:

"The EDL was formed on the 27th of June, 2009 due to frustration at the lack of any significant action by the British Government against extremist Muslim preachers and organisations....Some organisations and media reports have branded the EDL as ‘racist,’ ‘fascist,’ ‘far-right,’ or even ‘Zionist.’ All of these accusations are flat out untrue. We take an actively anti-racist and anti-fascist stance. In addition, the EDL is non-political, taking no position on right-wing vs left-wing. We welcome members from all over the political spectrum, and with varying views on foreign policy, united against Islamic extremism and its influence on British life. Everyone from those whose ancestral roots are in pre-Roman Britain to immigrants just arrived yesterday will be welcomed into the EDL with open arms as long as they are willing to stand up with us for English values and against Islamist hate. Too many English are afraid to stand up and say "Enough!" because of the fear of being branded "racist.” We hope to change this.

So in short, we invite people of all races and faiths to join us in this campaign to awaken our sleeping Government to face up to and deal with the Jihad in our country, which threatens the very foundations of the freedoms won so dearly for us by past generations."

Given that a great deal of EDL material is based on Daily Mail reporting they might as well just go ahead and put up a sponsorship link.

HNH's strategy was to encourage citizens of Leeds to e-mail the City Council and the West Yorkshire Police Authority and demand a ban on EDL's proposed march in Leeds and then to pass on the requst to friends. This strategy had been enough to stop such marches in other cities, particularly following the running battles in Birmingham City Centre, amidst the shopping public, for most of that afternoon.

I was one of the Leeds Citizens who sent such an e-mail and forwarded it to my friends. There were, I am told, 15,000 such e-mails received by the police and the City Council who, in their wisdom, decided to let the march go ahead.....well until the anti-fascist league decided, quite predictably, to hold a counter rally. Now the police have a serious policing and potential public order issue on their hands and belatedly decided that no one could march but both groups could rally but in different parts of the city centre, less than a quarter of a mile apart. The anti-fascist coalition were outside the Town Hall and Art Gallery and the EDL were in City Square. The police presence was absolutely huge.


The Mounted police were out in force, there were at least three helicopters and police from all over the north of England were in attendance. I spoke in passing to a Police Officer from Northumberland.


Outside the Art Gallery the ant-fascist rally was in full swing by mid day. I looked out for a Christian presence but only came across a retired Anglican Bishop, Bishop Derek, not in clericals, which I thought was a missed opportunity for an overt Christian witness. I was amused, though, to see a Father Ted placard which said "Down with that sort of thing". I kept wandering down to City Square to see where the EDL was but there was no sign. They were, it turned out, in the pubs but the police presence around the square was even heavier than outside the Art Gallery.


Several marches had set out from other parts of the city to converge on the Art Gallery and it was as they arrived that the police strategy began to dawn on me. As the contingengt groups arrived they were heavily escorted to the main rally. It became clear that if you were in the main rally you were likely to be cordoned in so that there would be no mingling of the two protests, which would have been catastrophic in fairness to the police. I didn't particularly want to be trapped behind the barriers for the afternoon with the Socialist Workers' Party and the range of grungy interest groups that made up the Anti-Fascist Alliance and I wanted to see the EDL so I got out while the going was good and headed back to City Square...


...only to find that access around the city centre was now seriously restricted. Leeds is Britain's fourth city. It is a significant centre of retail, commerce, finance and culture, but most of the folk on the street had no idea what was going on. They clearly hadn't been listening to BBC Radio Leeds.


Leeds is also a multiracial city and I love it for that.


At the Art Gallery the numbers grew.



It wouldn't have been a good afternoon to travel to or from Leeds by train: the EDL were coralled in the station forecourt and then led the hundred yards or so to City Square under police escort.

Ordinary members of the public stopped to jeer and trade insults. Those of us watching were told that we weren't English any more.


I was reassured by the fact that there appeared to no more than 300 EDL members. Three hundred and fifty tops.


They were overwhelmingly male and fitted the standard far-right stereotype: Mainly young, often shaven headed, visibly tattooed in many cases, often with beer bellies and with a great deal of poor dental work on display. Most were not from Leeds.


For a multicultural non-violent group thay did a good impression of racist football hooligans with their flags and chantings of IN-GER-LAND. (Where is that exactly?)


I was approached by a journalist.

"I saw you up at the other rally. Could I ask you why you are here?"

I had heard that some EDL supporters were claiming to be guardians of our Christian heritage, so I talked about that a little. I wondered when hatered and intolerance had become Christian qualities. I also lamented the hijacking of my flag and the implication that only those now tightly inside City Square, and largely cordoned off from the rest of us, were patriots.


It was still just possible to move in and out of the square and my journalist friend (the Mail on Sunday, I may die of shame) set off into the mele. I declined his invitation to join him on the basis that I wasn't suicidal. That and the fact that the police dogs were now on display together with the riot police. I was, however, determined to stay as close to the centre of activity as the police would allow. My strategy was simple: I would watch and listen and seek to be an overt Christian witness. I would not indulge in name calling or shouting and wherever possible I would attempt to engage in calm discussion.

I was deeply disappointed that there were no other dog collars or Christian banners, though. Where were Leeds's Christians?


Soon enough the entrance to the centre of City Square was cordoned off and there were several attempts to storm the barriers from within but the police presence was too heavy. I got chatting to three young men who had travelled down from Durham and had found themselves trapped outside the barrier. They were in their mid twenties and were all, they told me, ex-army. They were probably a bit confused by my English flag lapel badge and asked me what I though of the event. I told them I was not impressed and pointed out the huge mismatch between what I had read on the website and what I saw in front of me. At that point there was another surge from inside the square as one group tried to storm the police and tear down the barriers.

My phone rang. It was Claire.

"Have you finished protesting? Could you pop into Primark and get me some tights?"

"If I were black or Asian..." I said to the army guys "If I were a woman or a gay man or disabled, what I am seeing in front of me now would not recruit me. I think the organisers of this group have been naive. This group is in the process of being taken over by the far-right"

They were nice guys, respectful and courteous: under other circumstances we could have sloped off to the pub, the four of us, and had a civilised conversation over a few pints and I sensed they weren't entirely convinced by what they were seeing inside City Square. We talked a bit about Christianity and I repeated my feelings about Christian values.

"What about Sharia law then?"

"What about it?"

"Well in our lifetime it will take over."


"Its taking over now."

"No it isn't. Sharia law is active in this country in a very small number of civil not criminal matters, things like the dietry regulations and marriage and family law. Muslims can put themselves voluntarily under the authority of Sharia Law but if they don't like the outcome of a Sharia court they still have redress to English law. Sharia law is secondary and subserviant to English law. We won't have stonings and the chopping off of hands."

"It's what they want."

"No it isn't. Not my Muslim friends anyway. They think Sharia Law's irrelevant in this country. There are what...two million Muslims in Britain? Let's be generous and say that a million are religious although that still doesn't mean that they want Sharia Law. How is that million going to impose Sharia law on the other sixty million or so of us? It's just not going to happen."

We chatted for a bit longer and after another pack mentality surge from the EDL showing their true colours, my three new mates shook my hand and headed off back to Durham.

The atmosphere was now decidedly odd: there were a great many members of the public who had stayed on to see what was happening and there was a bit of a party feeling. The mood in City Square itself was becoming much more confrontational though. Then the police moved in and moved us away from the barricades. The horses and the dogs went between us and the EDL and the riot police arrived. The general public were more bemused than anything else. I was intrigued by the police tactics but never less than impressed.

"Where are your women? You'll never procreate." (A woman's voice from among the shoppers to the amusement of the crowd.) "We're not that daft." came another female voice in reply "Look at the state of them."

A young African-Carribbean man was talking to his friends about the recent lamentable T.V. appearance of Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party. Griffin had foolishly got into the issue of what makes one British. For any member of a Heinz 57 nation like the British, talk of racial purity is a mistake and a joke. The young man used Griffin's own remark about the pre-Roman Neandethal peoples of Britian and noted that most of the Neandethals were, in fact, currently in City Square.

"Their website says you are welcome to join them" I told him "They are multi-cultural."

"You don't believe that do you?"

"No, but the quickest way to subvert them is to take them at their word and for Black and Asian people to join."

"Now that's an idea but a better idea would be for one of those suicide bombers to slip in there just now.....I bet they wouldn't try this on in Bradford."

"I'd shake his hand" said one of the girls with him.

"If you could find it...."

Ah, gallows humour. I love it.


Then it became clear that a group of EDL had never been inside the barricades and had mingled with the crowd in order to be provocative and to stir things up. They started to barrack the crowd nearest to me. I found myself in no-man's land with a group of journalists on a small pedestrian island in the middle of a bus lane, the EDL splinter group on one side and the general public on the other and police horses between me and the side I would have preferred to have been on. I decided to stay put while the police did some more phalanx stuff that moved people on.


I found myself next to a pair of middle-aged white woman, a young Asian woman and two or three EDL blokes.

"What are you for?" ventured one of the middle aged ladies.

"You're just parasites." an EDL guy responded. What? Did I hear that right?

"Excuse me. I've worked all my life.!" She wasn't standing for that.

"And you lot" he continued to the Asian girl "You don't give anything to the community."

She wasn't having it either. "What? And Asian businesses don't pay tax?"

"You all just spread it around amongst yourselves."

"I've just been shopping in Marks and Spencer's."

"Jews. Just as bad."

So much for a multicultural membership.

The blokes moved off. Seen off by three determined women.

I chatted to a young Englishman and a a couple of young Asian men who were clearly overseas students and a bit confused by what was going on.

"This is bad for Britain's reputation" one said. I wasn't so sure.

"Look at how few there are of them in comparison to the ordinary members of the public who are standing by in disapproval. These folk aren't demonstrators. The counter demonstators are coralled in up at the Art Gallery. No. I think this is good old fashioned democracy and free speech at work at its best.

Word came down that the Anti-fascist group had voted unanimously to march on City Square. (Wrongly as it turned out as they were still coralled at the Art Gallery). Taking no chances though, the police swiftly moved us on and escorted the EDL back to the station to much booing and catcalling from the crowd and some charming abuse in return from the "non-violent EDL". As the flower of British manhood passed by they felt able to be really brave behind two cordons of riot police. Some of these guys were by now clearly the worse for alcohol and many were seriously looking for a fight.

There was a break-out from the EDL chased by about thirty police and I found myself "kettled" - surrounded and circled by police in a group of about thiry five members of the public with no escape. As if any of us were going to set off in hot pursuit of the EDL! "My" party included a lady with an obvious learning disability and half a dozen teenaged girls who were trying to get to the H&M sale. We also had a very unpleasant member of the EDL with us who was trying to provoke the men in the group, all of whom refused to play. He kept ignoring me even though I attempted to engage him in conversation.

"You should know better" he said to me in the end.

"I do. That's why I'm here." but before I could follow that up our little group was moved on again, surrounded by our escort, and released into an empty street. Empty that is except for about fifteen police vans with flashing lights and a dozen mounted police.

I wished I'd had an apple.

I never did make it Primark.

Friday, October 30, 2009

All Ears: Overheard in tea-rooms.

Oh yes. My mother loves her new teeth. She wears them all the time. Except at meal times.

So she let the budgie out and it flew straight on to the lit gas hob. Went up like a torch. Anyway I put brandy on its millett and it perked up.

I knew they were having an affair when he gave her those raspberry canes.

Anyway I knew it was him from behind in Marks and Spencer's. I recognised his pack-a-mack. But it was Easter Day so who was to tell him that he couldn't?

He gave a wonderful urology at the funeral.

I can't buy their clothes: I can barely get into the changing rooms!

Now then: brain surgery. It's not rocket science is it?

I do try to protect the planet. I only use the car when absolutely necessary, like getting from a-b.

An elderly lady was accompanied by her teenaged Grandaughter. The girl's mobile rang. "Good grief Dear. How did they know you were here?"

Did you see that new underpants advert with David Beckham? He's moved men's pants into a whole new ball game.

It's not so bad having twins. You still get eight hours sleep - it's just spread over six days.

Yes, I think when he wrote "rapist" monks, he probably meant "trapist" monks.

I am not a sexist. I love women. Who do you think I allow to iron my shirts and cook my meals?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hungry Bum

The cold weather has not prevented the lovely local ladies wearing very little.
The motif of the season seems to be sequins, a splash of neon and leggings. If not in leggings then it's tights, bright patterned or fishnet. The fashion faux pas' this season seem to be showing the band at the top of the tights beneath skirts or shorts and leggings that cling to every curve.
It's been cameltoes and mooseknuckles in all the long nights.
The shiny pattern leggings bring only two things to mind, box rot and two seals wrestling on a beach.
On ladies who don't know their size or just don't care you can see their hungry bums eat their leggings until I can see their every intimate contour highlighted in shiny black or silver. Not a good look for any night out.
On a rare occasion I have to give out the "badly packed sausage of the evening" to a lady who combines all manner of wardrobe malfunctions. From the dark roots under straightened straw like blonde hair. Heavy tan with shiny light coloured lips looking like a bad negative. The neon asymmetric top with grey bra over the naked shoulder. The top coming too short on the torso with a pale white dunlap over the top of the sequined shorts. The hungry bum eating the hot pants into a scrunched up sequined thong and leaving the thick band at the top of the tights bisecting a showing buttock before the rest of the fishnet glory looking like a highly patterned garrote leading down to the high heeled high ankled, platform boot. These take the small well painted toenails and make them look like pigs trotters.
A worthy winner of the badly packed sausage of the night award. Messy and serially minging for a lady who last season scrubbed up rather than scrubbered up. "Saucer of milk to the front door"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Telling tales out of School

My Yr 9 classes have been analysing Aquinas and his First Cause Argument in advance of discussing why many Christians are happy to accept the Big Bang Theory.

"Is he still alive then sir?"


"That Aquinas bloke."

"Which part of Medieval didn't you get?"

We got through the Big Bang theory quite well seeing as we were discussing difficult ideas such as the idea that there was once a time when there was no "before" and, therefore, there was a time before which there was no such thing as time.

"Sir. My head hurts."

Then we had to discuss what we meant by "nothing" as in before time began there was nothing.

"When I say nothing, what visual image do you get?"

"An empty space."

"That's something."


"That's something too."

"Now my head really, really hurts."

"If you had to make a choice between the Big Bang Theory and the traditional Creation Story, which is easier to understand?"

In chorus: "The traditional Creation Story."

"Which is easiest to believe?"


"So what's the conclusion?"

"Sometimes the scientific explanations are as off-the-wall as the religious ones."

We are making progress.

Then we moved on the Darwin and Evolution.

"Is he still alive Sir?"

"Yes. And isn't he looking really good for two hundred?"


"O.K. Which period on the time line was two hundred years ago.?"



Take me now Lord.

Yesterday was the last day of the half term and that is traditionally a dress as you please day where the kids pay £1 each which goes to a local charity.

I am faced with Billy and Tom, two likely lads in Yr 9 who should never be in the same class together. They decide to do up their anoraks to the top.....over their heads. I have the uncomfortable feeling that I am talking to two decapitated beings whose voices sound strangely disembodied through the fabric. As they are such a pain I have a fleeting desire to silently usher the other kids out via my office and leave them to it.

"But it's dress as you please day."

"Notice that the key word in that sentence is dress as opposed to do"

"Sir. You're wearing converse."

"Wow. How did that happen?"

"You look like Dr. Who....only older."

Cheers. He's 760 years old.

I had my exams analysis meeting with a senior colleague and we concluded that my department's results were 12% below target and therefore the official performance descriptor would have to be "inadequate". Now those targets are based on national assessments the kids did at Key Stage Three - two years ago - in English, Maths and Science but not in Religious Studies so I have a big problem with the data as a predictor of GCSE performance in my subject area in the first place. I ask my colleague how this can make sense given that the three of us who teach R.S. have classroom observation data consistently in the top tranche of the staff and consistently positive. Neither of us have an answer. How can you have three first class teachers and inadequate results? One of the means of assessment has to be wrong surely?

"I'm not being awful Sir. I enjoy the lessons and the discussion and all and you make them interesting and fun and everything, but I didn't choose to take R.S. It was compulsory. I don't need it for my job. I've got enough other subjects to worry about so if I do well that's a bonus but I shan't be revising when I could be doing my maths. You've got to prioritise."

It's hard to argue. I have a conscript army of students and the government wants good grades? They don't go together. The key phrase in all that for me is "I enjoy the lessons and the discussion and you make them interesting and fun..."

"Sir, Sir. Right. Jesus right. Was he real?"

I am tempted to ask a sarcastic question about why millions of people would follow a fictional character, often in times of great difficulty and often at severe personal cost including persecution and martyrdom, but opt instead for a more reasoned approach, deeply depressed at the lack of background awareness that seems to get worse year on year.

"There is no doubt about the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. He is mentioned in contemporary historical documents of the Romans and Jews. Jews and Muslims believe in Jesus as a historical character."

"Yeah, but those history people could of bin (sic) in on it."

Sage nods from elsewhere in the group.

"What? Why?"

"I dunno."

"Well come back and tell me when you do."

"The issue isn't about whether there was a Jesus. There undoubtedly was....."

"How do you know?"

"Because of the evidence."

"It could of bin forged."

"Why? Who could possibly benefit from such a conspiracy?"

"Anyway, Jesus didn't die. He moved to France and started a family."

"And that would be the Jesus that was made up then? Where'd you get that idea from?"

"That book in the Bible."

"Which book in the Bible?"

"You know. The Da Vinci Code. Honestly Sir, you're supposed to know these things."

I am going to put out a contract on that bloody man!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Don't blame me, blame Barry....

A Brit, a Frenchman and a Russian are viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden.

"Look at their reserve, their calm," muses the Brit. "They must be British."

"Nonsense," the Frenchman disagrees. "They're naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French."

"No clothes, no shelter," the Russian points out, "they have only an apple to eat, and they're being told this is paradise. Clearly, they are Russian."


One day in the Garden of Eden, Eve calls out to God,
"Lord, I have a problem!"

"What's the problem, Eve?"

"Lord, I know you've created me and have provided this
beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals, but
I'm just not happy."

"Why is that, Eve?" came the reply from above.

"Lord, I'm lonely. And, I'm sick to death of apples!"

"Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution. I shall
create a man for you."

"What's a 'man', Lord?"

"This man will be a flawed creature, with aggressive
tendencies, an enormous ego, and an inability to
empathize or listen to you. All in all, he'll give you a
hard time. But, he'll be bigger and faster and more
muscular than you. He'll be extremely gifted at fighting
and hunting fleet-footed ruminants, and not all that bad
'in the sack' if you know what I'm saying."

"That sounds wonderful," says Eve, with curiosity.

"Yes, well, he's better than a poke in the eye with a
burnt stick... Eve, you can have him on one condition."

"What's that, Lord?"

"You'll have to let him believe that I made him first."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Just in case you wondered....

Still here but very busy! (Well not here obviously as this is Tallinn.) So don't worry.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blindingly useless

This relates to something that happened a good while back but has needed a little distance and patience before posting.

One evening, on the door of a very busy bar, myself and 2 colleagues refused a gent. He was intoxicated and on refusal became very aggressive. He took on a fighting stance, I'd say amateur boxing not mixed marshal arts or anything that might kick. He swore a fair bit and then lunged in with a jab. Aimed at the doorman in the middle, not me in this instance. The lad on the far side shoved him off course, he missed the lad in the middle and I bounced him back out into the centre and away from the doorstep. My mate who'd been swung at was a little irate, the gent took another lunge at him. My colleague struck him, open handed, in the top of the chest. The drunk did a complete reverse in direction and fell backwards, onto his arse.
He got up and swore a whole load more, made some lovely threats and then on spying two high vis wearing members of the police accused us in a very loud tone of beating him up. The police invited him over the road and heard how he'd been punched, kicked and thrown onto the floor.
All of this had been done by my colleague, "yes officers, the one in the centre with the blond hair".
All of that is fairly common in this line of work. What's not is one of the officers, a sergeant, walking over, establishing the blond ones name and then arresting him. He called for a back up unit to whisk my colleague away. They did not ask to hear our evidence, they did not ask to see the ample CCTV. They did not ask if we were busy, they did not ask if this doorstaff's presence was necessary or more importantly if their absence invalidated any insurance or fire safety controls. They did not ask to see the doorman's licence and thus have full access to his criminal record and address details.
They lifted him off the door and went back to take a more formal statement from the drunk to support the allegation of assault. The chap in the van was more than a little pissed off, I was more than a little pissed off. The manager was more than a little pissed off. When the manager approached and asked if they would like to see the CCTV, he was told to go away. When he asked if he could expect the chap back that evening to finish the job he was paying him for he got told to go away or get nicked too.
The end of this story is long and pointless. The doorman was eventually charged, having not taken a caution. The case went to court, the CPS provided no case, he was cleared of the charges. The action against the officer for wrongful arrest was settled. All of this taking over 12 months.

All of it could have taken less than 12 minutes if he's asked to see the tape, 12 seconds if he'd have checked the badge, written down the details after checking the photo matched. He'd still be there at the end of the night, even if he vanished the club would have some contact with him, even if they weren't cooperating the SIA hold enough identifying evidence to get an arrest warrant. No need to pull him in on the say of a violent aggressive drunk.
If my colleague had hit him without restraint, without good grounds for fear of injury, without regard for the possible risks then perhaps a more front foot approach would be required from the boys in blue.

This is atypical, most officers we meet are professional, competent and pragmatic. Some are not.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Odds and Ends

I had a fabulous afternoon at Bradford college with the student teacher cohort. I delivered the first of my sessions on assertive classroom management to all 150 of them and it was very well received indeed. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and loads of students stayed back to talk to me and to tell me how much they had enjoyed the session.

I really appreciated that affirmation: some recent events have rather knocked my confidence and my sense of self-worth so to have that many people enthusing over something I had done was rather special.

I have managed to put my back out again - leaning into the wardrobe to get out a shirt. I speculated to a colleague that this might be God's way of telling me to be a naturist.

She thought not.

Barry sent me a couple of jokes to keep me cheerful: How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb............ ten: one to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb..........At least ten, as they need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb exists. Even if they can agree on the existence of the light bulb, they still might not change it, to keep from alienating those who might use other forms of light.

I haven't seen him for weeks but he keeps 'em coming!

President Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize. That must so piss off Republicans. If my back would allow I might do a little jig of celebration.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Maybe this is where I'm going wrong

Now I saw this and it made me laugh.

According to the Metro free paper we get on public transport - (No, not if I can possibly avoid it what with me having resigned my membership of the public) - this event was caught on CCTV. I would have paid to see it.

"Two yobs who attacked a pair of cross-dressers picked on the wrong guys - they were cage fighters on a night out in fancy dress. Drunken Dean Gardener and Jason Fender taunted the pair who were tottering along the street in wigs, short skirts and high heels.

When bare-chested Gardener aimed a punch at one of the cage fighters, the other, wearing a sparkly black dress and long wig, stepped in and landed two lightening quick blows.

The punches sent the yobs reeling while their intended victims teetered away in their high heels, stopping only to pick up a clutch bag they had dropped during the mele.

They had already scrapped with several men including one dressed as Spider Man before they approached the cross-dressing cage fighters.

As they appeared in court yesterday, their lawyer, Mark Davies, said: "You know it can not have been a good night when you get into a fight with Spider Man and two cross-dressing men."

You think?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting older

(Picture based on me)

Yesterday was my birthday.

My parents are away on holiday but my mother had slipped the card in the post before they went. Daphne has previous convictions for her taste in cards. This is what I got this year:

For a special son

Your birthday brings
fond memories
filled with warmth and joy.
Happy thoughts of smiles
you bought
when you were just a boy.
And though the years have changed some things,
when all is said and done,
you still bring smiles
and happiness -
you're still a special son.

I arrived at the knowledge college on good form and with a tin of muffins for the folk I share an office with. At whole staff muster I was mildly surprised when my friend John announced that he had an announcement:

"Guess who's birthday it is today? Sixty Three."

"SIXTY THREE! Why am I nice to you John? If you think that counts in lieu of a card and a wrapped up present, you've got another think coming."

John and I have been mates for twenty five years. I think it's what they call the attraction of opposites. John is what you might describe as a Free Child. Oh alright then, a total nutter. He teaches Physics: enough said. Or to paraphrase Basil Fawlty, "I'm so sorry. He's from Wakefield."

Given that John is (whisper) FIFTY just before Christmas I can see some payback here which may include an approach to his Dad for one of those nude-on-the-rug baby photos that might just end up in the school weekly bulletin.

Both my R.S. colleagues were away today and I had to run around like a blue-arsed fly sorting out their work and taking the form register for one of them.

"You shouldn't have to do that on your birthday." observed one boy sagely.

My headteacher and I exchanged some banter and a conversation about blogging and then it was off to lessons. I started the day with a nice Yr 9 class. I have two support assistants in that lesson working with lovely youngsters who have some learning difficulties and Mrs. Andrew and Mrs. Denham like to join in the discussion. (Sometimes the kids don't get a word in edgeways.) At the end of the lesson they burst into a rendition of "Happy Birthday." The kids didn't join in and looked at these two mature ladies as if they were totally mad - and they may have a point.

"Is it your birthday then Sir?"

At the end of the day John hove into view in my classroom doorway with a card and a wrapped up present.

"What's that for Sir?"

"It's the old man's birthday."

"What old man?" (Thank you Zoe.)

"Him over there with they grey skull."

Again I ask. "Why am I nice to you?"

"Go on Sir. Open it."

First the card: "How many old people does it take to open a birthday card?
And on the inside. "Evidently only one."

Then the present which as it came in a shiny bottle bag I assumed would be ... well .... a bottle.

No. This is John we're talking about.

It was novelty socks.

"I had a great time in Primark choosing them."

They are all black and on each pair there is a colourful legend.

Moody Monday (green).
Terrible Tuesday (yellow). I am wearing these as I type.
Wiery Wednesday (red). No, you read that right.
Thirsty Thursday (blue)
Funny Friday (purple)

Things can only get better.