Wednesday, 21 December 2011

No Nudity On My Watch

Well that's the end of my stint as a student supervisor at the local college. Just looking forward to a few days next month as exam invigilator. It has been an interesting experience. I've loved every minute and I've learned a lot.

The corridors are full of posters. Many of these posters display academic information which has been put together by students of the different faculties. Therefore I've managed to get a bit of an education merely by patrolling past the classrooms. For example I've learned about chemicals associated with death. Poisons such as cyanide, strychnine and arsenic. Gases associated with dying – cadaverine and putrescine. Chemicals used in forensics such as formaldehyde. I have read articles on philosophy, psychology sociology, art and literature. I have discovered what career options are open to students of music, dance and media studies. I found out what the college does to support students with various disabilities and it came as a shock to me that a student can arrive there, having struggled to gain several GCSEs, only to be diagnosed with dyslexia. Surely, in this day and age, it should have been picked up sooner? I now know what mobile phones can do to the capillaries in the brain (something to do with breaking down proteins) and I understand that scientists now think they know what causes ME (something to do with retroviruses – whatever they are).

I've also learned never to underestimate the stupidity of youth. Here is where I explain The Bilborough Challenge. There are four floors and two lifts. The idea of the challenge is that a student gets in one lift on the bottom floor and makes their way to the top while removing all their clothes. They then run along the top landing, past the student lounge, while carrying their clothes. They get into the other lift and get dressed on the way down. It seems harmless fun but if anyone is caught it will go down on their record. We managed to discourage it this Christmas but they got up to other things instead.

Many of the misdemeanours are trivial. Dropping litter, feet on the tables, paper planes off the balcony – stuff like that. Some infractions are more serious and have to be dealt with appropriately. A lot of the time we are trying to stop them injuring themselves. They seem to think it's o.k. to take short cuts across the furniture until one of them slips off a table top and sprains their ankle. They think it's macho to take swigs from a bottle of chilli sauce until several of them get it in their eyes and we have a first aid room full of kids needing treatment.

Fridays are always sexual health day. There are various items they can pick up for free in addition to the opportunity to get checked out. This results in the staff having to clean out the student lounge of inflated condoms, tables covered in spermicidal cream and underwear with 'I've been screened' printed on. In my day they just told us not to do it until we were married.

Having said all this, they are capable of channelling their energy into more productive activities. Just in the few weeks I have been there they have raised hundreds of pounds for various charities via a Santa fun run, a sponsored head shave and selling cakes. Despite the usual stereotype image of idle students, many of them work extremely hard. Even on the final day of term, when Christmassy-type activities were going on all around, I saw many in the refectory, in study areas and sitting under stairwells with their books out. They were either reading, testing each other or scribbling notes. I sincerely wish that they achieve all that they deserve.

A Merry Christmas to them all. And of course to you, my fellow bloggers.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wish I Was Here...

I've done this in a bit of a rush because I've only just read about Janice Horton's Reaching for the Stars book launch day and Wish I Was Here... event on Angela's blog.

The pictures are all places in Singapore. First is Raffle's Hotel. Couldn't afford to stay there but it is open for the public to walk around and go in the shops and bars. Second is the Pan Pacific hotel which is down the road from Raffles and where I actually stayed. Third is a view of Chinatown.

I've been there five times and it's my favourite destination.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Party

Wednesday was Nottingham Writers' Club Awards Night and Christmas Buffet. I nearly didn't go because my throat is really sore and my voice has been reduced to a whisper. (It doesn't help having to shout at those pesky college kids). But, as you can see, it really was worth the effort.

The large one is the Jubilee Cup awarded for a story suitable for radio. The next one is for Verse of the Year which I won in March and mentioned on this blog at the time. The small one is the Dai Orridge Cup for being an enthusiastic newcomer and supporting the competitions. I also received a book token for various top placings in the quarterly prose competitions.

Our president Roy Bainton was there to hand out the trophies. My friend Carol also had some success as did Angela who unfortunately could not be there. There was plenty of food. We had quizzes, jokes and party pieces.

I've been a member of NWC for about fifteen months and have really enjoyed the chance to mix with other writers and publishers. The benefits of joining groups such as this are tremendous. I've tried to enter as many competitions as I can, not necessarily for the prizes but for the challenge of writing to a theme and a deadline and for the judges' feedback.

The committee work really hard to put on events such as this and I've just been asked to be assistant to the treasurer. I haven't really contributed much in the way of committee work yet but I'm sure I'll have plenty to do in the New Year. I joined the club to profit from the knowledge and experience of other writers and now it looks like I'm going to have to earn those benefits.

Also just learned that my short story appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo the other week. We don't get that in Nottingham but they kindly sent me a PDF version and I was amazed to see that it filled a two-page spread. I managed to print it out on nine A4 sheets and stuck it all together. Also, my story that People's Friend asked to be edited has now been accepted.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Getting Down With The Kids

Well that's two weeks spent as college supervisor. (Less one day for the public sector strike). I don't think I'll be able to gather enough material to be the next Gervase Phinn but there have been a few interesting encounters:

Scene 1.
** Two girls and a lad come out of the lift.
Me: Hold it, you three. Have you all got lift passes?
** Only staff and disabled students are allowed to use the lifts.
All 3: No.
Me: Let's see your ID then.
** The two girls show me their ID.
O.k. you two can go.
(To the lad) You're Lloyd aren't you?
Lloyd: How do you know my name?
Me: I've seen your picture on the database.
Lloyd: (Now getting a bit alarmed) What database?
Me: Your details are on a college database.
Lloyd: What, a special database?
Me: Oh you're special all right Lloyd. Don't let me catch you again.
** We have access to the student database so that we can identify them and know which class they are supposed to be in. I can even quote their GCSE results at them which freaks them out. I love this job.

Scene 2.
** I'm walking down the corridor past one of the recreation areas where two girls are sitting having a conversation.
Excuse me.
Me: Yes?
Girl: Do you know what a mongoose is?
Me: Yes it's a sort of furry thing with a long neck. A bit like a ferret.
Girl: Oh. Not a sort of chicken then?
Me: Because of the goose connection?
Girl: Yes.
Me: No. Believe me it has no feathers. In fact I think meerkats are part of the mongoose family. I think I read somewhere that in India they use them to kill cobras. Why do you ask?
Girl: Someone just called me a mongoose. Because I have quick reactions.
Me: There you go then. Quick enough to catch a cobra.
Girl: O.k. thanks.
Me: No problem. If I see any cobras in the corridors I'll call for you.

Scene 3.
** I'm walking through the student lounge and a girl is sitting alone on one of the sofas.
Hello, Stacy.
Stacy: How do you know my name?
Me: You showed me your ID the other day when I caught you on the lift with Lloyd. Remember?
Stacy: You must have a good memory.
Me: Not really.
Stacy: Are you Security?
Me: No. Just a supervisor. I'm here to make sure you don't damage college property. Or each other for that matter.
Stacy: Cool. Say, can you do this?
** She lies on the floor and starts writhing about.
This is called 'The Worm'.
Me: I'm not going to get down there and do that.
Stacy: Why not?
Me: I'd look ridiculous.
Stacy: Doesn't matter. You have to live a little. Do mad things.
Me: I've done mad things. I don't really want to any more.
Stacy: Have you ever run naked across a bridge?
Me: Certainly not.
Stacy: Have you ever drunk a whole bottle of tomato ketchup?
Me: Why would I want to do that?
Stacy: What have you done?
Me: I've seen the pyramids, I've climbed Ayers Rock, I've swum with the fish on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia...
Stacy: Oh, I've had a fish pedicure.
Me: Well, that is exactly the same thing.
** A young lad has heard part of the conversation and comes across.
I've been to Australia. I'm moving there with my family after my exams.
Me: You'll know all about Ayers Rock then.
Lad: (Looks puzzled) What?
** It was time I moved on by now. As I left the room I heard Stacy say “What a nice man.” I love this job.