Will you miss us Mr Duncan?



It’s that time of year when faces start disappearing from the school as the seniors leave, never to return which means only ne thing…”Will you miss us Mr Duncan?”

Yes and No is the answer although I find the stock answer of, “Who are you?” often deflates them enough to do the job. There are former pupils I keep in touch with on Twitter and Facebook because it’s good to see what they’re up to but there are others who if you never saw again could guarantee you a very happy future. Well that’s not entirely fair because I’ve bumped into some pupils long after they’ve left and they are often very nice and complimentary once they realise you’re not a complete arsehole and don’t have to sit through your boring lessons anymore.

Do teachers miss classes? Yes I suppose we do. Often in conversations with other teachers you remember classes good and bad from through the years and often it’s just one memory or one pupil that you link with a class. For me I try to think about the pupils and classes I’ve enjoyed spending time with as people over the years because although the work has to be done, I enjoy classes that you bond with, have a laugh with and you could have an interesting conversation with. Sitting in a room with up to thirty blank unblinking aces for a year is no fun and I’m fortunate to have had some great classes and pupils in my time. There are always kids who hate you with a passion and are glad to see the back of and they should be aware that the feeling is mutual more often than not.

My favourite experiences with ex-pupils are the random drunks that approach when you’re out and about shouting “MR DUNCAN!” across a crowded room, marking you out as the old square teacher in the room of young things. I’ve had some really funny pupils who come up and do the “Do you remember me?” routine and that’s it. They’ve nothing to say they just want to know if they made an impression on you. Unfortunately I’m cursed with a bad memory for names so I often can’t even bluff my way out of it. Mind you a “Hi You!” or a “How could I forget!” can get you through these difficult moments.

I suppose that in the same way I remember some of my teachers and have had chats with them over the years these former pupils are just trying to remember a time when actually life was pretty good and carefree as opposed to working or at Uni and you represent that time to them. As I say I do keep in touch with some of them and there is the wee bit of pride when you read they’ve achieved something or have passed exams or graduated. That makes you feel old.

As a teacher you will always be part of their lives – good or bad – and you’ll be a name thrown around by them in nostalgic terms. Hopefully without too many swear words attached…


It’s hard to hate, but I’ll make an exception



Mark Bridger, the man accused of killing April Jones is on trail and the stories and facts coming from the court room make you winder what kind of animal would ruin a human life that way. While I am more than aware of innocent until proven guilty and many times in this blog have talked about the need for the system to see the case through the evidence is already stacked against Bridger in a way that Houdini would struggle to escape from.

Seen getting into his Land Rover, DNA and blood matching hers across his house, admitting he had her in his car and fragments of bone matching that of a child’s skull found in his wood burner it’s hard to see past the man as the perpetrator of this heinous crime. I cannot and do not ever want to know what went on in his mind, but for the sake of April’s brave parents sitting listening to this story unfold day after day I hope the truth will come out and give them the answers that they need to at least try to put their lives back together again. I cannot begin to comprehend what they are going through and the sense of loss and anger and emptiness their hearts must be experiencing. And if the evidence coming out is true they are never even going to be able to lay their daughter’s body to rest to achieve some kind of closure. If he is the guilty party then to withhold the truth would be almost as big a crime as the murder itself.

I’ve never been of the point of view that capital punishment solves anything but cases like this really test my beliefs. Some will say it’s the easy way out to take his life and let him escape from living with the knowledge he ruined people’s lives, but if he is going to deny it and refuse to acknowledge what he has done, if proved guilty, then does he deserve to live? Does he deserve to see out his days while the parents sit at home with an empty chair at their table? Does he deserve the chance to rehabilitate himself and potentially be let out of jail in twenty or so years? I find it hard to concede that he has the “right” to live when a five-year old girl no longer does. Then it could be argued that any life is too precious to be taken and at what point does the age of the victim change those circumstances. I don’t have the answer but I’m certainly asking the question in this case.

As the case unfolds more and more difficult truths will emerge, emotions will be unbearable and the hurt the family are feeling will be felt by every parent throughout the country. We’ll check on our own kids more and hug them just that little bit more tightly, but for the lottery of life that could have been us in that position.



Prisoner’s Rights and wrongs



When you hear Justice Secretary Chris Grayling talking about prisoners earning priviliges and not getting things handed to them, you do think it sounds like a sensible idea. Once you see the details of yet another Tory idea written up on the back of an envelope you realise it’s as thought through as using Frankie Boyle as the new Blue Peter presenter.

What is the biggest issue in prisons according to nearly every report done in the last decade? Drugs. Does this proposal tackle that issue at all? No, of course not because they are aiming for the Daily Mail reading public by talking about taking away TVs and access to Sky and 18 certificate films. Hoorah say the toffs, give those oiks what for! Is remeoving a TV going to make a difference to a largely illiterate prison population or might it just raise the tensions I wonder?

Yes there needs to be an element of punishment, without question that is the whole purpose of the buildings and yes rehabilitation is the second cornerstone of these institutions – but those in charge need to have “luxuries”  they can use to ensure inmates toe the line. Yes remove Sky TV and Playstations because that is a treat too far, but leave the TVs and the basic bonus items for those who follow the rules and are changing their behaviour.

Another silly move is to make new inmates wear “uniforms” as a former prisoner pointed out these are the people most as risk from others on their introduction to the system and also the group most likely to self harm or attempt suicide. Despite what some might think making them stand-out targets is not the way to keep a peaceful situation.

No-one is tackling the drug problems in jail and many on both sides of the law are involved in the supply and sales – the government should deal with that first as some people are leaving jail in a worse satate than they enter which will never help society or their chance at a fresh start.


It’s not always Black and White



When the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) hired Reg D Hunter you’d think they at least knew who he was and what his act consisted of wouldn’t you?

“The Professional Footballers’ Association has become embroiled in a fresh racism row after its chairman, Clarke Carlisle, admitted it was a “huge mistake” to hire the comedian Reginald D Hunter for the union’s annual awards ceremony on Sunday night. Hunter, a black American comedian renowned for racial humour, used the word “nigger” during his set at the Grosvenor House hotel in London, following two years in which high-profile incidents including the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand case and Luis Suárez’s abuse of Patrice Evra have blighted the game.” – guardian.co.uk

Seriously, how can there be a race row when 1. He’s Black and 2. did you not read 1? This was a Black American not a White Englishman. All these so called complaints probably don’t even exist and to be fair those who were offended were the probably white middle class in the room. Yes there have been issues in football in the last couple of years but they involved Black players being verbally abused by non-Black players – I don’t remember the case that dealt with the Black player using the word about himself.

There are three things wrong with this story for me.

1. Reg is a well known comedian and to claim that you’d only seen him on Have I got news for you and didn’t know he did race related material is bullshit. On his eleven appearances he has mentioned it nearly each time – it’s part of his shtick and routine that he talks about it because we have such a paranoia in this country about it. The irony is obviously lost on the PFA. If you are booking a comedian ensure you know what they do before you agree to anything. It’d be like hiring Fred West as your builder and asking him to watch your teenage daughters while you pop out to the shops. Know what you are hiring and don’t blame Reg D Hunter for your mistakes.

2. Football makes a lot of noise about Racism but when faced with it they tend to fudge the issue or think that getting footballers to pose with red cards will solve the problem. It won’t be solved as long as players who have been proven to be racist are not dealt with in a clear and harsh way. When I’m at a match there is very little racism from the crowd because campaigns like show racism the red card have done a lot to change attitudes and those who do make ill-advised comments are dealt with by the crowd. But when the Captain of England is caught saying something on the pitch – whether repeating it or not – there needs to be more than a slap on the wrist to sort the issue.

3. Finally we are surrounded by music, television programmes and films that are full of the “N” word and I don’t see Clarke Carlisle or anyone else moaning about that if his colleagues are listening or watching those in changing rooms or on the coaches to and from games. It is just a word and those using it these days in those contexts are “reclaiming” the word since it was used as a stick to beat them and their parent’s generation with. You might not agree with it but you have to understand the parameters that they are working in.

Storm in a teacup time as usual in football. If those in the game worried about themselves, their behaviour and the image they project rather than worrying about stories like this then perhaps they wouldn’t be seen as overpaid thick prima donnas,


My Brain Hurts



Mondays are not the best in a normal week, but today was a real mental challenge trying to keep up with everything around me.

I was at a marathon interview – no not for the 26.2 mile race or the oil company – but a presentation, interview, two further meetings and a psychometric test. I’m used to having to think on my feet and using my brain through most of the day but even this was a challenge for first thing in the week. Everyone I met was lovely and friendly and even the main interview and presentation went well, but having to constantly filter what I said, answer their questions while thinking and of course stop myself from making smart ass comments was a real challenge.

I really hate interviews as it shows up my worst quality – I ramble too much. My brain runs off in fifteen directions at once but I’m aware of that and can pull everything back in but trying to do that when three people are taking notes in front of you and judging you is a tough one. I’m used to speaking in front of people and them judging but this is a different thing because you are talking about yourself – the good things about yourself at that. I come from stock that is more likely to rip the piss out of myself and play down any achievements and successes to instead pull out a soda siphon and spray myself with it while shouting “Me Stoopid”.

I don’t know if it’s the “British Disease” of the stiff upper lip or if it’s just me but I hate people who sit and talk confidently about themselves and what they’ve done – to me it sounds cocky and arrogant a lot of the time. I know that I have achieved a huge amount in my life and career so far – many of which I am hugely proud of – but it feels alien for me to sit and reel that off without wanting to top halfway through and apologise for being a dick. And I know that they want to hear all the things and if done in the right tone and style it is fine and not as wanky as I think  it is. I just don’t enjoy the process.

I’d be happy if I was offered it, but I’m pleased to get down to the final five at interview because the other candidates seemed really nice and as capable of the job as I am. You never know exactly what they are looking for in these situations and when I found out one of the other interviewees was already in post on a temporary basis I did wonder if it was already signed and sealed – just have to wait for the verdict which could take up to a week and a half.

I know it’s a good experience but not one I want to be repeating too often.




The Voice



Caught The Voice last night for the first time this series and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. The blind auditions are such a great idea as it allows those who don’t “look” like pop stars a chance at being one.

As always the simple ideas are the best ones and this is a corker. Whenever I do catch audition rounds of talent shows I often close my eyes to listen more to the vocals as that is how we generally absorb music through radio or recordings. The issue with the show is once they’ve seen them they then style them, give them a makeover and so on, therefore hiding the important element under a façade. I understand that the visual is important especially in the younger end of the market where looks sell as much as the song does, but it’s still sad that it requires that part. Based on vocals alone last year’s final four were the wrong ones. Why? Because by that point we’d bought into the whole package and forgotten the purpose of the show.

We don’t need the sob stories, the hair and make up and staging nonsense that you get on X Factor to know if someone can sing. It’s a shame that the audience gets to see them at all because we’d probably end up with a different winner after the public vote – wouldn’t make great TV though – but it would make a much more honestly chosen winner.

I seriously considered auditioning for the show this year – I applied but then decided against going to the audition itself; just chickened out in the end I suppose. There were several reasons I thought about doing it, mostly curiosity to see the process behind the scenes of one of these types of programmes and find out at what stage you actually get near the on-air section. Also I’d love to have a go and see if anyone actually turned round for me if I did get there. I’m under no illusion that I’m a brilliant singer – I know that I can hold a tune and enjoy singing – but without looking at me would they hear something that was worth developing in there. Again I’m not deluded enough to think I’d ever do that well if I did get through but the adventure might be worth it next year.

I suppose having sung with a band for the last decade and a half I’m interested to see if I am just a karaoke/function singer or if there is more to it. I’d have Tom as a coach I think because he has such a great voice that he would have the knowledge to bring the best out of someone’s singing and help with hints, tips and years of advice – plus the chance to sit down with Sir Tom and talk about his life would be an opportunity too good to miss.

Will I have the courage to do it next year? Probably not, but I’ll sit and watch the rest of the series now to see how this lot do.


We’ve created a monster..or two



As the latest chorus of “There’s an awful lot of loopers in this house” rings out this Sunday morning, Jenna runs in with a plastic set of toy grapes and pretends that they are a trumpet followed by Jake with a giant cuddly Spider-Man and I do question our parenting techniques and whether their eventual incarceration in a padded cell will be our fault.

Jake has taken to singing random songs about everything – bit like I do. You know the “washing up” song? No? “Washing up, I do the washing up – you do glass first, followed by the cup.” Or there’s the going to the toilet song -“going to the toilet, gonna have myself a wee wee.” And also on this collection “I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to move, I wanna stay in my jammies ’til the afternoon.” Remember Songs by my Dad is not available in the shops…anyway. He also mimics characters on TV and does silly voices of which his current favourite is Doofenshmirtz from “Phineas and Ferb” – “Ah! Perry the Platypus”. Not unlike me who started off with impressions of Roland Rat when I was Jake’s age. He is gradually becoming my very own Mini Me. Poor Kid.

Jenna on the other hand is a much more complex case. Her nakedness and need for world domination are not from my side of the family (apart from Great Uncle Adolf of course but we don’t speak about him). She is very good at making up words that don’t exist, cries when she doesn’t get her own way, tantrums that are as funny as they are terrifying and general ability to sleep wherever she is. There’s also the complete inability to make a decision. When it’s bedtime and she wants a story you usually have to read about three because she can’t choose, a process which is then repeated when you put her audio book on for here and to’s and fro’s between Peppa Pig and Charlie Bear. So I suppose she’s a Mini Jill then.

The thing is I’d rather have kids with personality and a sense of humour than some of these silent Stephen King-esque kids that you meet. You know the ones who cling to their parents and don’t speak even after he pretend “I’m shy” routine all kids have, but will follow you round a room and just stare blankly. I see lots of those types of kids at school, they don’t change they still just sit and look at you as if they are wondering which bit they’d eat first when they kill you. They are the ones with no sense of humour that have to explain the joke to everyone even after they have laughed but cannot see when someone is taking the mickey out of them.

Mind you there is a fine line between quirky and down right weird, a line that has been largely ignored by myself over the last thirty-five years, so hopefully the kids will find a good balance between randomly jumping and dancing Gangnam Style in the middle of the living room and doing the same thing on Jury Service. I thought there was a lull and people needed and energy booster – contempt my arse. Random sing and dancing is good for you, so is making strange noises and mimicking people – and if you don’t agree you were probably a child in The Shining.