Monday, 29 November 2010

Is the Secretary of State for Education a dangerous zealot?

Last night, sitting by the fire contemplating the winter chill and the bleak political landscape, I was visited in my head by an imaginary Tory. Whether some inner debate function had failed to close, I don't know. Maybe redundancy makes you hear voices. Anyway, it appears I had provoked the imaginary Tory a day or so ago with my disparagement of Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, who in my opinion is a dangerous zealot.

IT: Are you anti Michael Gove just because he looks a bit funny and sounds keen?
AT: He does come across a bit bonkers, yes. And there is something about him that by-passes my intellect. But there are non-Tories who have the same effect.
IT: Tony Blair? Hazel Blears? Nick Clegg?
AT: Spot on. The first two seem so long ago now.
IT: And would there be an element of class consciousness in your reaction?
AT: Possibly. It's certainly a collective failure that this country is still divided on class lines, to the disadvantage of very many.
IT: Good God, I thought Marxism was dead! But you see Michael Gove isn't the Tory toff you imagine. He was adopted, and he went to public sector and independent schools. As for you, you went to a grammar school and got a grant to go to university free.
AT: So there is a file on me somewhere. But no, it's not where people come from but where they are now that I care about. Too many people in politics (and education management and other top jobs) have a poisonous sense of their own entitlement and rightness on no qualifications, or direct experience of ordinary people's lives.
IT: Michael Gove is 100% genuine in his convictions.
AT: They often are.
IT: But look at his ideas. Don't you want the dead hand of New-Labour-inspired bureaucracy lifted from education? You were on about it only the other day. What's wrong with the idea of people being able to set up their own free schools, or with providing extra lessons for poor kids on Saturdays? For heaven's sake, don't we need to take education away from Local Education Authorities, and let the ordinary people you say you champion have the choice of not going to the rubbish local school where kids get stabbed?
AT: A kid got stabbed in my grammar school. My friend shot someone in the bum with an air pistol in chess club.
IT: You know what I mean.
AT: Yes, freedom from bureaucracy, but you don't have to dismantle publicly provided support for education to give teachers more say, any more than you have to privatise the NHS to give nurses less paperwork. In fact it's all just a screen for the right's dislike of anything provided publicly. You want someone, preferably your own supporters, to own it so that shareholders and entrepreneurs decide education (or public health) priorities. Because ultimately you want the populace to keep its head down and go to work for as little reward as possible instead of asking questions. You don't want the status quo challenged by people educated to ask pertinent questions any more than Tony Blair and his zealots did.
IT: So you want LEAs rather than the people to run schools?
AT: I want good education provided publicly for all. So I don't want people with a their own private agendas getting funds that would have gone to nearby public provision. Calling such schools 'free' is not honest, because they are a state-funded opt-out.
IT: So LEAs are good then?
AT: They are an agency of local government (and I thought you people liked government to be local). They are thus imperfect and prone to generate too many initiatives and too much paperwork. But when Hardacre Collage came out of LEA control and went corporate - the bureaucracy rocketed. Any management, public or private, that has no direct experience or involvement in the education itself and has a vested interest (e.g. a high salary, a political, religious or commercial position) to protect or promote will always fail to understand well what learners and their teachers really need. Unfortunately, the right  - and New Labour too - have exploited anxious parents' readiness to believe a set of urban legends about their local schools, and a dark strand in this is class and race.
IT: But schools do fail, and succeed.
AT: They do, though no one ever seems to question the targets. And, giving funding to so called 'free' schools, buddying 'failing' schools up with 'successful' ones, and providing lessons on Saturdays to keep proles out of trouble doesn't begin to address the issues.
IT: But you still think Michael Gove is a bit weird. Even though he thinks music should be on the curriculum for everyone?
AT: I do. Beer?
IT: Have you got a malt?
AT: Sloe gin do?
IT: Yes, that would be interesting. Bottoms up.
AT: Not top down.
IT: So we do agree about something then.
AT: I doubt it.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Santa ignored on A666 winter wonderland

The UK is all about weather. Even so, when the FMC Outreach team got in the car to visit Aunty, it was a surprise to see a local garage offering folding shovels free with every eight litres of oil. The poster suggested that the handle folded three times and the blade folded in half lengthways - the idea being, I suppose, that you could put it in the glove box until you need to dig your way out of a snow drift, and presumably, if things got really bad you could set fire to some of your cornucopia of engine oil. It looked like something from the late lamented Innovations catalogue, which used to offer hilariously outsize remotes you couldn't lose, solar powered fairy lights, and fleece blankets with hoods (which no doubt are for when you get snowed in on the sofa without a folding shovel).

The journey to Aunty's took us past Hardacre Collage at a time of day I would normally have been teaching. There was a light on in my old office, where I guess someone was wildly cobbling together a spreadsheet of imaginary figures to suggest that some initiative or other was being taken forward in full anticipation of all targets being met within budget in an aggressive funding environment whilst embedding functional skills and remaining fully inclusive. I must admit that I broke into an imaginary sweat till we got through the lights and away. We proceeded to Aunty's without further imaginings - until we arrived. She was there but didn't know where she was, though the Germans were involved, and she described herself as a lost golfball.

The week got colder, and the photo at the top of the page came true. However, last night our Principal had all his feet in the same place, because when a cat has every paw together it means he or she is curled in bliss (having a remarkable skeleton) and that there is a fire. Fruitcake luxuriated all Friday night in its glow, and in the vague knowledge that it was snowing and that once he was a vagrant but now is a billionaire education manager.

As I said, we are a nation made by our weather, a bit like Russia. Mind you, Napoleon would have done better to have headed for Oxford or Ashby-de-la-Zouch rather than Moscow. Though last night, he and his troops might have got snowed in somewhere on the A46 in a Little Chef car park. But if we are now a land of roundabouts and slip roads, we still thrill to the chill and hope it all becomes a 1950s Narnia of porridge and apple-cheeked scallywags, and that we get a day off because everything is shut thanks to a wonderful national lack of foresight. That said, we probably split fifty-fifty into pro and anti snow, and the telly reckons we've got more salt and grit than last year.

Nonetheless, there were signs on the A666 today saying sledges for sale, and the man outside the fish shop was desperately claiming that oysters keep colds and flu at bay (how much more British than the usual claim for oysters). A better claim might be that they boost intelligence. Then, Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Education and another kind of fruitcake) might prescribe them for the lower orders to have on Saturday instead of the extra lessons he's suggesting at present. More about him, no doubt, next week. Later still, mid afternoon (that is, as darkness began to loom), a flock of young Santas, elves, reindeer and snowmen went by, collecting for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal. They were, in the main, largely ignored, except by lorry drivers who tooted the pertest elves. It is after all, despite the early winter wonderland, too early to bring up the subject of Christmas. So let's get out the grit and the folding shovel. With the Tories back, we're going to need them.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

British students revolting at last

With apologies - and indeed thanks  - to Broadway, Nickomo, and many jazz greats

Students of popular song have been clamouring for the Fruitcake Miniature College interpretation of the much-covered standard The Sunny Side of the Street (1930, Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh), which was written in response to the 1930s depression. British students have been clamouring too, recently, arguing that if a life of debt is bad for a nation, it is also surely bad for those in that nation in education. FMC supports current non-violent action by protesting students.

Grab your coat and get your hat            * Young people never seem to dress up warm
Leave your worries on the doorstep        *They're nothing compared to future debt
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street               *Yeah, go on, cheer up!
Can’t you hear a pitter-pat?
And that happy tune is your step           *Like marching
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street              * and with a large bonus from a job in a bank
I used to walk in the shade
With those blues on parade                  * But I don't listen to Morrissey these days
But I’m not afraid
This rover crossed over                        * Nick Clegg has lost all credibility
If I never had a cent
I’d be rich as Rockerfeller                    * Though philosophically this is a hard position to
                                                           maintain in the face of huge tuition fees
Gold dust at my feet                           * Early use of irony in Broadway musicals
On the sunny side of the street            * Threadneedle Street (look it up)

No use scheming and no use dreaming     
And no use chasing the rainbow           * Maybe join the army
There’s no need to look glum                * Grin maniacally as you sofa surf through your 
                                                            unpaid internship
Take things just as they come              * You never know who may offer a sofa
Life’s a holiday, just a jolly day
Made for laughter and play                   * Until you leave primary school
If you’d have your share of fun
There’s but one thing to be done…       * Brew your own and knuckle down to work in a
                                                            call centre
Grab your coat….                               * Endlessly .... 

Next week we will visit The End by the Doors, unless begged not to

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Curing the recession with horseradish sauce

At the weekend you can be normal, socialise and cook, never mind the state of the nation. And so the Head of Animal Care and the teaching staff went to a lovely birthday party. As well as hearty congratulations, cake, long conversations and drinks, there were lots of interesting things to eat, which moved me to provide the promised recipe for the cure for the common cold and for the recession. Here they are.

Cure for the common cold, or how to make horseradish sauce (serves 4)
1 Get hold of some horseradish root. If you want, you can chop it into handy chunks and freeze it. You can then use it directly from frozen or defrosted.
2 Take a piece about the size of a big walnut, or two or three skinny bits about an inch or so long, and scrape off the white outer skin (think of it as tough ginger root). You might start weeping and blowing your nose straight away - and don't rub your eyes or imagine it could spice up any other parts of your delicate self.
3 Chop it into small bits and pound in a morter and pestle. It's very fibrous, but this is the bit that will cure your cold. You will need a box of tissues on hand. Alternatively whizz it up in a blender, which will not cure your cold unless you inhale on lifting the lid, in which case you may never complain about the recession or indeed speak again
4 Nearly done. Add a scant half teaspoon of sugar, a quarter of a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of vinegar (cider vinegar goes well). At this point you can also add half a spoon of mustard powder too, which helps if the horseradish is relatively mild. Mix everything, and stir in three or four heaped teaspoonsful of creme fraiche (about the same quantity as you have of pounded horseradish). Taste gingerly (or radically) to see if it needs a little more of anything. Serve almost immediately, traditionally with roast beef, mackerel or other oily or smoked fish, or anything you might enjoy with strong pickles. It freezes well.

Cure for the common recession, or how to make analogy sauce (serves them right)
1 Get hold of the root cause (Wikepedia no help here, sorry - suggest greed coupled with naive faith in unfettered free-market economics).
2 Take a chunk of greed (there may be a lot of mud to wash off first), expose the pungent part by peeling back the smooth tough skin, and chop into manageable bits.
3 Pound furiously with the pestle of ridicule in the mortar of irony (sarcasm will do), weeping copiously as you do so.
4 Nearly better. Add salt of the sweat of your brow, the strong vinegar of disapproval (tarragon can be nice), and a little sugar (they've got to swallow it after all). Be careful about inhaling, and serve immediately, preferably at Lord Young's table. Alternatively put in posh little pots and place innocently on tables at such places as the Bullingden Club, the Bank of England, 10 Downing Street, etc. May export, does not freeze.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Giving up drugs and thanking the Lord

Good news - I've kicked the drugs. The other good news comes from Lord Young, until recently our Prime Minister's enterprise adviser (neither do I). Lord Young told the Daily Telegraph that during the 'so-called recession' most of us had 'never had it so good.' On top of this wonderful news, I have also cured the common cold, which I will come to in a moment, but first I must thank Lord Young.

You see, I had thought that I had been made redundant in uncertain times late in my career with negative consequences for a public sector pension characterised as 'gold-plated' but amounting to maybe £8000 pa (please count those noughts carefully before dividing by 12). It turns out I was wrong, and I have this magnificently wizened specimen from Margaret Thatcher's former cabinet to thank for the relief brought about by this correction of my perceptions. I am sure my former students would join me in gratitude for his reassurance that 'the vast majority of  people [...] have never had it so good.' The fact that interest rates have been 0.5 for the last 18 months is not lost on us either, even though most of my former students pay rent rather than mortgages. Nevertheless, it's a comfort to us all that capital is cheap at the moment, if you can persuade anyone to lend you any.

So I am disappointed in that otherwise terrific David Cameron and his swash-buckling coalition of right thinking merchant venturers. It seems they do not have the courage of Lord Young's convictions. There have been retractions and apologies, and now Lord Young has resigned. Disgraceful! The man said what the rest of the crew are thinking. Do you really want the voters to get the impression you are ashamed of such 'insensitive views'? Anyway, he's certainly opened my eyes. I'm not redundant, I'm self employed. The coffers of FMC are not perilously low but have huge capacity for future funds.

It may also be that my cure for the common cold can cure political perspective too. It is a herbal treatment of my own - or rather a radical one - using horseradish root (radix radicis root - keep up at the back). I was making horseradish sauce. The piece of root I was pounding was particularly pungent, so I was weeping and streaming copiously while listening to the news, which was fizzing at Lord Young's comments. Lo, my cold felt ten times better, I skipped my dose of Day Nurse, and gave thanks to the Lord.

Return soon for the recipe for horseradish sauce and a cure for the common recession.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

the royal engagement, death and drugs

Maybe all the drugs I'm on are fighting each other, because I feel weird and can't get very excited about the fact that Prince William, second in line to the throne, has proposed to his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton. However I'm not so out of it as to lose all vestige of cunning; the plan is to hook lots of readers simply by alluding to to the royal engagement. See how you can be manipulated by media? Mind you, the engagement does prompt questions. What kind of society are we that our head of state is unelected? Why devote thousands of words to the fact that a 'middle class girl' will become a princess? I know it's November and wet, but isn't there any other kind of fun? Back to the drugs.

I'm on Night Nurse for nights and Day Nurse for the day. I seem to remember there was a reggae song about the former, which may tell you something. Anyway you can get them over the counter and they work. This is just as well because I have an actual real world task to perform beyond the bounds of FMC. I have to go and get a copy of Uncle Bob's death certificate (you don't want to know) and I have to get it done by midday. Feeling poorly, I go by bus. Unfortunately the driver is making sure he doesn't leave any stop early. Also no-one's got any change. It's already 11.20. Tick tock. There's a man wearing too much denim and a special hat who knows when this bus is supposed to be where, how this connects to every other bus, how long any of this it should take and could take, and how everywhere connects with everywhere else. Maybe he's on the Day Nurse too, and it takes him differently. Anyway, he's got the total stranger next to him on a knife edge of boredom and terror. Tick tock.

I make it. The Register Office - Births Marriages and Deaths is a metaphor just waiting to happen. It probably counts as an allegory. It's really busy for one thing. You have to go to a little hatch. OK, then you have to fill in a form (red for marriage, black for death), but there is definitely something about it that feels like an ante-chamber in a bureaucratic pre/afterlife. As something of an expert on bureacracy though, I can tell you that this place crackles with helpfulness. When I say we don't know how old Uncle Bob was because the mad old bastard was hiding from the law and devoted his life to being invisible, they smile and say it's OK. I hand in the form on the tock of midday, thus ensuring the solicitor will get it tomorrow. You still don't want to know. Tick tock.

Luckily the drugs don't prevent me from promptly catching the next bus back to Fruitcake Miniature College. They do though , I suspect, explain why I find a poster outside a church advertising 'light lunches' very strange. What exactly is a light lunch? Where can I get a heavy one? What was the mess I made on my desk at lunchtime when employed? Also I'm fascinated by a van owned by a company called SnacksDirect. A genius in marketing copy has been at work. Emblazoned on the van is 'always delivering retail snack solutions'. How many of the words apart from 'snacks' do anything there? Is there some retailing puzzle only solved by endlessly mobile peanuts and crisps? It was lucky for the lady who was next to the man in denim that she didn't get me too on the way back.

The verbal elation didn't last. In case you think redundancy is all lying about with the cat, despite the Head of Animal Care's valiant efforts with soup and chocolate, back at FMC I fell into a pit of gloom about my pitiful pension and continued lack of employment. This evening I got some bottles of Speckled Hen to augment the various nurses. So you see, redundancy leads to drink, drugs and death certificates. Now I understand why Captain Hook was so terrified of the crocodile that had swallowed a clock. Tick tock.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Sickies, scams, standards, and soup

Today the teaching staff are all in bed with the Principal. I realise this sounds cramped, but when you remember we have a teaching staff of one, and that our Principal here at Fruitcake Miniature College is a cat, the visuals may settle down a bit. Also, though I am actually in bed, and Fruitcake is here too, he is merely on the bed. We do have some standards.

When I was at Hardacre Collage, where I taught before being made redundant, we had standards too. True these were often double standards: teaching and other college staff worked like lunatics to provide a place for people to learn in, while some other people in the college made that difficult. These other people saw their mission as the service of bureaucracy in the name of funding. While they were mostly not very good at that, they are mostly still there. Sadly, they couldn’t generate quite enough funding to justify the continued employment of some of us earning less than themselves.

You might think it sounds like a scam. Not a bit of it. A scam, should you be unfamiliar with the term, is a deception by which you mislead people to your own advantage, for instance to part with money. There were of course other people outside the college who were indeed parting with money - broadly speaking, the Government (the whole complicated nest of agencies involved being too tedious to mention), which ultimately is us again, the public.

Those agencies too tedious to mention also had standards - the sort of that require endlessly recording in a madly permutating pseudo-scientific manner everything you do or plan to do, so you have no time to do anything properly. When added to double standards and spiralling inefficiencies, it was enough to make you want to throw a sicky, which is when you can’t face work so you ring up and say feebly that you have dengue fever, volcanic eruptions, or whatever, and which is not quite a scam.

Yes, yes, but what are you doing in bed instead of out looking for work? Because I’m sick, and the Principal has curled up alongside. A few moments ago, I was calculating how many days I had off  in twenty years. Maybe twenty, and no sickies, not through virtue but because the catching up later meant a day in bed wasn't worth it. As I contemplated this the phone rang. It was Jason, speaking American English not as his first language. He wanted to take me to my Temporary Internet files and persuade me these were all viruses. Fixing them would entail downloading something tasty. Luckily, I know what 'Jason' was doing is truly a scam, so I taught him a two-syllable intransitive phrasal verb. Unluckily I’ve got a horrible cold, but the Head of Animal Care is making chicken soup.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

British English

Here as promised is the next installment of the FMDE. Students of varieties of English may notice that with one exception the following are British English definitions.

Labour noun (one belonging to) political party formed by working people wanting rights and representation. Though often described as centre-left, and despite membership of the Socialist Internationale, the aggregate of British Labour Party membership and policies comes out of the wash a very pale pink, and in the late 1990s the party was held down and tatooed on the forehead with the adjective 'New,' during Tony Blair's successful bid to become a conservative prime minister. After a chat between Tony Blair and US President George W Bush, Labour promptly shot itself in the foot in Iraq. The party has a pronounced limp to this day, made worse by its haste to reduce civil liberties and it's eagerness to embrace unregulated free-market economics. The patient did not thrive under the care of Gordon Brown, and while it remains to be seen whether colour will be restored to its pallid cheeks by Ed Milliband, at present it currently languishes on the opposition benches watching the baying toffs and queasy looking Lib Dems on the other side.

Layabout noun unemployed or newly redundant person undeserving of even reduced benefits because of their lack of sufficient inventiveness or energy to get on a bus or bicycle, or to pull themselves along by their bootstraps, to see if the Big Society needs anything, and who may be found making spurious definitions of already well known words at a time of morning when others have already earned a biscuit at the office; natural Labour supporter who may be disillusioned.

Liberal adj & noun 1 American E (individual with views that are) extreme left wing, supportive of those we currently hate esp terrorists, yet also spineless, ineffectual, and of questionable sexuality; likely to opine that the favoured translations into the English language of the collection of ancient documents comprising the Christian bible may not be literally true in every respect. 2 British E (individual with views that are) socially tolerant but economically conservative; slightly grand or middle class; typical of one whose political party has been digested having supped with the devil using too short a spoon

More soon, possibly at A for 'anarcho-syndicalist', if the Big Society doesn't re-educate the college laptop. NB assignments from the trip to the future were due in later this week.

Monday, 8 November 2010

College trip to 2210

Thanks to the Science Fiction team for making possible the Fruitcake Miniature College trip into the future. This was, oddly enough, in a week when the British papers reported that the Prime Minister's personal photographer had been appointed to a Civil Service post, and that the longer-term unemployed were going to have to do unpaid work or lose benefit.

I think everyone found the trip fascinating. The staff accompanying came back to the present with nearly everybody (if not 100%, with certainly well above the national bench mark for college trips to the future). The coach company, it has to be said, were disappointed about the paintwork - paradoxes apparently don't do it a lot of good, and we had to get back on board a bit smartish after making the mistake of photographing a bank-sponsered police officer who we were asking asking for directions to the Houses of Parliament. All the same, of the returners, no-one reported a missing bag or coat.

I don't want to anticipate everyone's project work on how twenty years hence actually looks, but I do have to say that the news is not that good. Also writing this all up is, frankly, going to cause havoc in grammar lessons, and the teaching staff are talking about a need for new modal auxiliary verbs. But anyway, the Coalition are (will be?) entering a third decade, and no-one can remember why they are called that. The slogan on all the hoardings is  "The Coalition  - of all the people, for the Big Society." I can imagine there were rows behind the reinforced doors about that comma too, maybe deaths as well.

There's certainly been some electoral reform though, which would please Nick Clegg wherever he might be. Lord David is still very much in evidence. Not only is he on those hoardings, but also some of us got a very interesting message on our mobiles puportedly from him (certainly the right accent and head-boy tone) telling us where the nearest Work Opportunity Camp was and not to forget a tent and a spoon. We also managed to get a copy of the Daily Murdoch, though it combusted on re-entry. According to it's front page, as I recall, the Archbishop of Canterbury had written from the Tower of London retracting comments on the persecution of the poor and petitioning the King for clemency. Oh yes, and a British undergraduate single-mother got the Nobel Peace Prize.

So, though it was a slightly shorter trip than planned, we've brought back plenty of interesting material, and we'll be working with the Philosophy team on the question of whether you can change the future through the use of sarcasm. It may be our only hope.

Friday, 5 November 2010

American English

Today at Fruitcake Miniature College the drizzle has intensified to the point that Fruitcake, our Principal, won't go out the back door. Also everything is an hour later, meaning darkness is an hour earlier. Apparently this is to accomodate Scottish farmers. Far be it from FMC to diss Scottish farmers, but a recent scientific survey in a newspaper shows that 101% of British humans find the whole thing a bit tedious and confusing.

The second half of term is underway, though, and today we looked at miniature grammatical differences between the meanings of, say, "Did you hear the news?" and "Have you heard the news?" One of those differences is that the first question would be more common in  American English, and the second would, in certain circumstances, be more common in British English. Interestingly, style-gurus and prescriptive grammarians will happily accept differences between US and British English, and get very hot under the collar about regional differences or things that are changing. "Less" and "fewer", for example. Here at FMC we do know the difference there, for what it's worth. We also know the differences between simple past and present perfect, but these don't get in the press or in life-enhancing books.

So back to the questions. Phil Woolas, a Labour MP and shadow immigration minister, has been suspended from the Labour Party for telling porkies (pies - lies) about a Lib Dem rival in the recent election, and there will thus be a re-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth (if you like names get a good map of the UK). Luckily the letter L is the next feature lexicographically in the FMDE. Look out for 'lies', 'Labour' and 'Liberal' before long.

In fact, though, it's not tiny grammatical differences on either side of the Atlantic that are getting attention here at the moment. 19th century Irish writer Oscar Wilde famously quipped, to Mark Twain for all I know, that Britain and the US were divided by a common language. Nice one, but actually parts of the UK (not to mention Ireland) are just as divided in that respect. I think the big difference, bearing in mind those two minimally distinctive questions in our lesson today, is the Tea Party. Go back under your stone if you are not American and don't know who they are, and don't recall waves of international joy when Barack Obama became President of the USA.

America, you do not have a monopoly on fruitcakes. Here in Blighty we have our own very full complement. However we can't get a handle on your brand of fruitcake at all. This is more baffling than minor grammatical and lexical variations, and our question is: why are they so angry about the idea of something like the National Health Service? We are not communists (in the main). True, flying the Union Flag on the lawn over here would be wet and embarrasing (unless there's an enormous football match), and saluting it before lessons would be rather naff. The NHS, though, it has been said, is actually the nearest thing the British have to a religion. We think it's really good you don't have to pay when you go to hospital. We go there all the time, sometimes just to get out of the rain.

We do know what the media are like. We get clips of your loonies specially packaged, probably. But why do they think that scientists are cross-breeding humans with animals, and that Charles Darwin was any less than a rather clever old buffer who realised that the Lord God Almighty didn't actually put various kinds of finches in different places on the Galapagos Islands actually by His own Hand? Did we do something awfully wrong when we sent Puritans in boats your way?

By the way, we'd rather like all that tea back, actually.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Welcome back to Fruitcake Minature College

Welcome back from the half-term break. Returning students will be delighted to receive, at no extra fee, the first installment of the Fruitcake Miniature Dictionary of English (or FMDE as it will be no doubt be referred to throughout academia). In honour of our Principal we begin with C for Cat. Likewise, smarty-pants will notice, strict alphabetical order is not observed absolutely.

Cat noun 1 superior being, Felis catus; apparently indolent creature that nevertheless rises to  position of great comfort and influence. 2 Fat cat one gaining undeserved but extravagent rewards, e.g. as unearned bonus - see also puss, pussy, woosy, wuzza (wuzza) etc etc etc, as in "Mm, nice sardine for a wuzza?"

Cable verb to signal desperately but in ultimately futile manner that one is progressive, while being frogmarched in a direction that is opposite to one previously indicated.

Cameron noun awfully decent sort from frightfully good family who is just the chap in the current ghastly mess to sort out the poor, the ne'er-do-wells, and so forth.

Clegg verb comb. form of clog and leg as in leg up and leg it = to impede general progress in the act of personal political advancement and/or while escaping previously powerless position.

Coalition noun political equivalent of the scene in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe where Edmund accepts Turkish Delight from the White Witch.

Conservative noun (one belonging to) political party formed in centuries past by an alliance of landed gentry and industrialists to make damn sure that oiks, ne'er-do-wells, uppity teachers and the like, do not frighten the horses, and are kept very firmly in their place.

College noun 1 institution engaged, single-mindedly if often ineffectually, in the pursuit of maximum funding, despite the unfortunate necessity of recruiting students and employing teachers. 2 Shangrila, or Narnia in the time of the High Kings, where learning is what matters and the Principal is a large cat.

NB students concerned about balance and impartiality in academic life can be assured that the letter L will be equally lexicographic, and will feature soon