One little addendum; an appendix, if you will.

I don’t normally write anything serious or of note in my blog and I think this is why.

Put simply, I’m not very good at it.

I’m prone to exaggeration and over inflation to make a story more interesting, which I think is grand. But it does mean it is no longer necessarily very truthful. It is never done intentionally, but my life is quite dull and as such needs a bit of spicing up, otherwise even my one or two readers would give up.

As such, this week’s blog has involved some real life people, who quite understandably feel that I have portrayed them, or the circumstance, poorly. You have to remember that I have a ridiculously big mouth and never  think before I speak (or type, come to that). It is something I have to work on, or I will spend the rest of my life adding a little addendum here and an appendix there. So here I am to try to set things straight.

I stand by what I said in the main, but I feel that I could have been fairer and less biased about the way I put it.

When I arrived at Beaconsfield High, I felt very vulnerable. I’m sure it meant nothing to any of the people at the school, but I was so cripplingly conscious that they had all passed an exam that I had failed and as such were all heaps more intelligent than I was. If nothing else, I knew they had all had five years of far better education than I had. I was out of my comfort zone, big time. At my secondary school I had been seen as a fairly hard worker and quite bright; here, I really had to graft. I remember my mum telling when I failed my 11+ that it’s better to be the king of the shit than the shit of the kings and that phrase has never really left me.

I was made to feel even more of an average Jo(e) in my first English lesson; the teacher told us that she wanted to get an idea of the class, so if we could all stand up one by one and tell everyone our GCSE grades. Before I went there, I was very proud that I had managed to get two A grades (even if one was in PE.) But suddenly I was in a world where everyone had A*s and As. I had to work so hard to get my English up to the standard of the class in the first term; I really wanted to do it, but it was hard.

To try to cover up the fact that everyone else had learnt about iambic pentameter and feet at GCSE and I barely understood the difference between a simile and a metaphor, I made it seem like I was happy to be the idiot. I didn’t mind being the fool who didn’t quite understand stuff. It wasn’t me being difficult, I just didn’t like people to think I was trying really hard and still wasn’t good enough.

None of this was the fault of Beaconsfield High, or Wye Valley come to that; it was just a result of the tripartite system. I was very happy at Wye Valley, but that is because it was the first experience I had. I thought that was what all schools were like. I didn’t realise that arm wrestling with a teacher was not a usual, or productive, English lesson. We all had a really informal relationship with our teachers, so going to a school where we spoke when we were spoken to and stood up when the bell rang, waiting to be dismissed by teachers was very foreign. If I had gone to Becky High first, I would have found that the norm.

Preferring one school’s ethos to another is not a big thing and not something that should ever be an issue. I think the self-consciousness about my own intelligence or worthiness is something that is an issue. But as I said, that is not the fault of the school, just the antiquated system I was schooled in and I let that affect my judgement of the school. I found it very foreign to be in a school that tried so hard to emulate the private system, but really why wouldn’t they? They seem to have got it right. They get the grades. If you can achieve that without paying for it, why not? But that is where my issue lay yesterday; it is not the amount that the school were asking for from the parents – £10 a week is not a massive amount of money. It is the principle. It is not a fee paying school. For those that can afford it, it is not an issue. But for those who can’t, it is a real ask and something that could make them feel truly uncomfortable, which is what upsets me.

My inferiority complex told me that they might have the grades, but I was more developed as a person. That’s not true, but I don’ t like to think I have failed in anything. So I like to think that going to Wye Valley was the right option for me. Of course, my sister went to a grammar school and did not cope with the pressure one bit, so I think my mum was secretly delighted that I was going somewhere else.

When I went to a school that was so dedicated to pushing their girls, rather than letting them do stuff if they wanted like I was used to, I found it a bit strange. But that should not and does not detract from the fact I had a lovely time at Becky High. The reason for that was all my lovely friends. I remember going on the induction day and being befriended by a lovely girl called Harriet, who introduced me to all her lovely friends. She then came and found me on my first day to reintroduce herself to me and took me under her wing. I have never been so grateful for someones kindness, but I’ve never thought to say it.

That group of girls were all really great people; they welcomed me into their group like I had never not been there. I have so many great memories with them; buying Millie a prosthetic leg, going to see Dave Gorman in Watford, walking to One Stop every day, writing poems around everyone’s name, going to see Busted(!) and just generally having fun. They made going to school brilliant fun.

Despite going off to university, I am still friends with most of these people who were so kind to me. They gave me a lifeline and let me forget for a time that I didn’t feel like I deserved to be there, or belonged. I hope this kind of explains how I felt and why I felt that way; please don’t see it as a slur against you or your experiences. I spoke rashly and it was not the school’s fault, but at the time, I saw it that way. Please find it in you to understand me, even if you think I’m totally barmy. I know how ridiculous all those feelings of uselessness were and their effect on me was crippling. But hey, Beaconsfield High did the best job of preparing me for uni; I went into my first year lectures and seminars understanding what they were talking about and even feeling like I knew a little more. This is definitely not something I would have got if I had stayed at Wye Valley. My two years of hard graft were well worth it because they made the transition to university so much smoother.

That’s all folks.

The offspring of riches: Pride, vanity, ostentation, arrogance, tyranny.

I don’t normally blog so early in the week, but I’m so outraged by something I have just read in the local paper, I cannot help myself. No, it wasn’t the usual poor syntax, misspellings and atrocious metaphors; for once, the content made my blood boil.

Before we start, I feel I should give you all a little bit of context; I have lived in South Bucks all of my life and it was only when I went to university that I realised that our schooling system wasn’t the same as everyone elses. (I was a very sheltered child.) For a start, I was in the first intake of children to move to secondary school when we were eleven and not twelve, so moving to big school was all the more terrifying as we were much younger than they were used to. But for right or wrong, one of the selling points of Buckinghamshire is the educational system. Parents move into the area to go through our schooling; at eleven, we were made to take the eleven plus. Those who passed, went to a grammar school of their choosing. Those who failed were chucked at the nearest secondary modern.

I failed. Of course, the letter didn’t tell me I’d failed, it told me “you have been awarded a place at a secondary modern or upper school.” It doesn’t matter how much you dress up a turd (even with glitter and feathers), it’s still a shit. I knew what it meant. My mum told me that if we’d have taken it at twelve, I would have been ready and would have done better. She said we could appeal and because of my family situation, I would probably get special dispensation. But I really wasn’t bothered. I knew I’d failed, so I didn’t want to go somewhere where I would instantly be one of the worst people there. Besides, all of my mates were going to Wye Valley. So, I went with my friends to get their fancy uniforms with their blazers and a line skirts fitted, whilst my mum popped down to Marks to get me my regulation black trousers and we bought the school tie. This all sounds a bit ludicrous, but that’s how it was. I remember me and a friend showing each other our uniform; she was in a blue shirt made from what could have been my mum’s old j clothes, a grey skirt, grey tights, a blue woolly v neck and a blue blazer. I had normal black trousers, a white shirt, the school tie and a green school sweatshirt. It was very obvious that we were moving worlds apart.

We moved schools and very quickly fell out of touch. But it was not an unhappy falling out, I loved being at Wye Valley. For a start, there were lots of boys there. Non of my grammar school friends got to see boys, except at the bus stop. Although I’ve said that first, it wasn’t the important thing. Everyone was given confidence because they were allowed to do what they were good at. I was always made to feel like the teachers wanted to help and wanted you to do well, with the exception of maths where I would make a positive effort not to work.

Wye Valley was a sports college, but there was no pressure to do sports if you didn’t want to. However, if you showed an interest, they would do everything to help you. About twelve or thirteen of us decided we wanted an after school hockey club, so one of our teachers volunteered to run it, even though he didn’t know much about hockey. As he was no hockey expert, he got a mate in who was; Callum Giles, who played for team GB at the Sydney Olympics. We were very excited that we were getting a Olympiad coming to coach us and for no real reason other than a mate pulling a favour. We were never asked for any money for this – I presume the school paid Callum, but it was nothing to do with us. We got all that expert advice for nothing. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znMjn-CZHsA)

There were other advantages to going to Wye Valley; there weren’t enough teachers to go round, so for the first few years we would have a half day on a Monday. I don’t remember anyone’s parents being bothered in the least by this and we always had fabulous afternoons. I could talk until I’m blue in the face about this, but what I’m trying to say is that I always felt that everyone at Wye Valley tried their hardest for me. I remember Mrs Jarrett stopping the school bus down the road so I didn’t miss it because I was in floods of tears after threats of exclusion from my horrid maths teacher. I was in quite serious trouble, but they still tried their hardest. And they never asked for anything back.

Fast forward a couple of years and my mum convinces me that if I want to do A Levels, I must go somewhere equipped to teach their students to get decent grades. So as a back up plan, I applied to go to Berkshire College of Agriculture to do some kind of equine management course, which I would have done eyes closed, but I didn’t want to assume I’d get enough GCSEs to go to a grammar school. Thankfully after re-jigging my A Level subjects so they didn’t include history (thanks to the D in my GCSE), I was accepted into Beaconsfield High School.

My first day was really strange; I had never joined a school as one of the only new people before. All these people were so confident and had been pumped full of how important and wonderful they were. And there I was, getting a bit tearful because I had to find my form group in the science block, which was miles away and I didn’t know what the room numbers meant. Of course, it was fine. Everyone was lovely and really welcoming; they made me feel as though I’d been there the whole time and I enjoyed my time there. But I’ll never forget being given a letter on my first day for my parents; upon opening it, I discovered that they were asking them to either donate £450 for a new computer or set up a direct debit to fund the school. Now, that letter never got to my parents. I was not going to give them a begging letter. Not after they had just shelled out to pay for the coach to get me to school. We went on public buses to Wye Valley and it was free. Naturally, Beaconsfield High used private coaches, which were paid upfront by the term.

The grammar school seemed convinced that it was a private school; they took part in MUN (Model United Nations doncha know) and the only people who played on the sports teams were county players at least, if not being lined up for England. This was a far cry from Wye Valley where we cobbled enough players together for a hockey team. I didn’t do much during my time at Beaconsfield High; most of my frees were spent riding, having driving lessons or arsing about in the common room. But I sensibly buttered my form tutor up so he could write me a lovely personal statement; he claimed that it gave him a rare chance to do some creative writing, which he didn’t get as a science teacher.

So, I loved my time at Wye Valley. I felt like I looked at my time at Becky High with a cynical eye; I really didn’t like the way they seemed to be emulating private schools. I remember one week we had a series of speakers come in to talk to us. We got to talk to our local MP, who got no questions about politics or the country as a whole, just inundated with questions about how dare Tesco build a shop in Gerrards Cross. We then had a Q & A section with Sandi Toksvig, which excited me because I secretly loved Call my Bluff. If only I knew then, what I knew now, I could’ve asked her so many questions. (Possibly about whether she has ever dressed up as a nun in front of Steve Frost hiding behind a door…)

So imagine my disgust when I saw Beaconsfield High were on the front page of the local rag because they have asked every parent to set up a minimum standing order of £10 a week for the seven years their child will be at school. That’s only £3650 over seven years and nothing compared to a private school. BUT, why should they pay? They go to a state school. This is not meant to be a class based system, it is meant to divide people by intellect levels. (Yeah.) What if people can’t afford to pay that? How dare the school ask them? Oh right, I know why. That’ll be because they decided to build a whole new Sixth Form centre and ran out of money half way through. Bucks County Council bailed them out to the tune of £1.3 million and now they are trying to claw that cash back. Disgusted? Yes, I was. Surprised? Nope, it smacks of Becky High to me.

(Golden)Twit Twoo, Here’s Lookin’ at You

I think this blog needs a little warning; if you do not use Twitter, some of this may be lost on you, but it’s childs play. Read on and you’ll see, it’s dead simple.

It’s that time of year again; the central heating is cranked back on, you lay awake all night coughing and then when it is time to get up, it’s pitch black and chilly. Bed seems like a much nicer option and I find it increasingly hard to get up on a winters morning. But this morning it was all different; I dragged myself out of bed after cowering under my duvet for a good five minutes. With stiff ankles cracking and sleep blurring my vision, I stumbled over to my laptop. Through the blur, I could see that not only had I received a #followfriday at 5.49am, someone had nominated me for a GoldenTwit award.

Now, I don’t really subscribe to this #followfriday mullarkey; does anyone ever see it and actually follow me off the back of it? I’m not sure that they do, but it’s lovely to be recommended by people. Even if they are your friends and you would make their lives miserable if they did not. It’s just nice to have someone saying something nice about you.

Until this morning, I wasn’t aware of The GoldenTwit awards. I had no idea what they were, but I was delighted to find that I had been nominated for one. I don’t have thousands of followers, but I like to think that all 116 of them were in for the long haul and enjoyed my twerping. So I clicked on the link to explore the GoldenTwits and I was welcomed into a world that celebrates the little things people say. Some of the best things have been said in 140 characters; there is a reason that the likes of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain were so concise. Obviously not all of their best quotes fit into 140 characters, but that is why the likes of WordPress exist. Micro blogging and ordinary blogging go hand in hand; I couldn’t live my life in 140 characters, but it’s a great way to amuse and abuse your friends.

So it seems all the Twitter Greats have been nominated for the GoldenTwit awards; David Schneider, Mrs Stephen Fry and David Cameroon (@TheFuckingPM) are all there. I realise that I am not anywhere near their level of greatness, but I would be delighted if all my lovely friends voted for me regardless. (All is fair in love and twitter.)

When I went onto the GoldenTwit website, I discovered that I had to answer some questions, in order to win people’s votes. The questions were as follows:

Why do you deserve a Golden Twit award?

When tweeting, what are your objectives?

What have you achieved?

What’s your favourite Twitter application?

Why should people vote for you?

How would you describe twitter to non-tweeters?

Now it is all very well amusing people as a by-product of entertaining yourself and chatting to your friends, but this is a lot more scary. Answering these questions with just 140 characters is incredibly pressuring; suddenly I have to be funny on demand. Dance for me monkey! I like to think that my tweets entertain now and then, but I do not soley write them for that purpose. So I have spent my evening trying to work out the best thing to write? Do they expect me to be sincere or humerous? Did they want me to genuinely try and win people over?

I tried to answer the questions seriously, but in all honesty, I have not managed to achieve anything in my twitter life and I don’t really have any objectives for goodness sake. Twitter is a subconscious thing, it is like talking or thinking and not something I use for business. So, I decided to bluff over my obvious inadequacies with sarcasm and flippancy.

What did I write? Well, you’ll have to pop on over to http://www.goldentwits.com/user/SillyBry to have a gander. (Oh and if you don’t vote for me while you are there… well, I will be having words. Except that I probably will be too embarrassed, so I’ll just ignore it in that irritating British way. But I’ll think some pretty nasty things.)

“Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death”

The British public constantly complain that we are being watched; we worry that the country is a nanny state, which has to monitor everything we do to ensure we comply. As we drive down the street, we are constantly on the lookout for the bane of the highway; the dreaded speed camera, solely designed to ruin our fun, stop us getting home quickly and to make money off of us. Or so the Daily Mail would have us believe. Perhaps, just perhaps, they are put in place to ensure the safety of us, other drivers and pedestrians. After all, it is pretty important that you drive slowly around schools and village centres. Yes, I do think that they make a tidy penny out of it, but those who are caught speeding always say the same thing; “why don’t the police spend their time catching real criminals?” Well, like it or not. If you speed, you are breaking the law and if you break the law, you are a criminal. Everybody speeds at some point, but you are aware of the risks. If you speed, you can get slapped with a fine, or you could crash, hit another car and kill someone. I know how extreme that sounds, but that is why the law is there. If you speed and hit another car or a pedestrian, the outcome will be far greater than a couple of points on your license. We know why we shouldn’t do it, but on occasions we do. I’d just like to hope that we do it sensibly; I don’t drive fast in villages or near schools etc. Plus, I don’t go dangerously fast, I only ever nudge the limit.

We walk through a town centre and there are video cameras tracking our every movement; again, our Orwellian friends would have you believe it was so that the government’s all Seeing Eye was trying to track down your every move. To be honest, I don’t think they are unduly upset that you are going into Primark or that you have had a dirty rendezvous with someone you shouldn’t. It is much more likely that it is those with criminal intentions; if you are planning a jewellery heist, then yes it is something to complain about. But in the event of an attack, I’d much rather there was video footage to aid any possible prosecution. This seems an unusually optimistic outlook for me, but I can’t really think that the government is interested in the minute of lives and even if they are, they might catch a criminal off the back of it, which is a bonus.

The average Briton likes to complain about these things from time to time, but it isn’t something that hugely bothers the majority of us. Perhaps we have an inkling that life aint to bad in good ol’ Blighty; afterall, my dad lives in the Middle East (which isn’t necessarily a reason why Britain isn’t so bad!) Anyway, I digress. The UAE has had massive difficulties of late with the surge of technology and smartphones. Apparently a lot of people who used iPhones and other smartphones in the UAE complained that their battery life was appalling; yes, I know, we all have the same problem. But it seems that we don’t; the reason their phones would not even last a day was because they were not the only people using their mobile internet. Essentially, the all seeing eyes of the oligarchy (for that, it definitely is) have been checking out what the general public use their phones for.

This didn’t go down so well with RIM, the manufacturers of Blackberry, who would not conform to these rules and regulations. So when the UAE made a move to ban the blackberry, all the juicy details spilled out. The reason that Blackberry don’t conform is because they have Blackberry Messenger, which unlike text messages, phone calls and emails, it cannot be tracked as it is sourced through another country. Fear not, RIM are aware of how big a market Dubai and it’s little brothers are, so they are working out how they can conform. But why does Sheikh Mo and his family see it as necessary to track what everyone is saying and doing? How many times have you drunkenly googled something like “the film where the bloke has a baby with Arnie in it”? These things have no significance to you, but for some reason you really want to know after the second bottle of wine. (It was Junior, by the way.)

Dubai is currently suffering from crippling debt and is being bailed out by Abu Dhabi; so why the hell are they presumably paying hundreds of civil servants a frightening sum of money to sift through all this banal and useless rubbish? I cannot even see how this is being done to protect anybody; I understand speed cameras and CCTV in town centres, even if I am not dead keen on them, but this? It smacks of something fishy to me.

 

 

(If you don’t see me again, you’ll know the all seeing eye has caught up with me…)

Is it better to be known or remain invisible?

Working in a minute administration office for a large corporate entity is a very strange experience. It combines the difficulties of both working in a small team and also of working for a large, faceless organisation. Basically, in the small team, every player has quite a big role to play and if they aren’t pulling their weight, then everyone knows it. So in this office, we are all very confident and know each other very well. But there are occasions when we have to leave the office and stray into the larger confines of the organisation. This can go one of two ways; well and extremely badly. My experiences tend to tell me that they rarely go well. This might sound a little negative and it isn’t meant to worry you; I don’t let my cock ups worry me, so don’t you go losing sleep over it.

I think my favourite of these experiences was when I was required to go over to our European HQ in the Netherlands; I meet up with the rest of the training team (sounds grand, but there are 3 of us) once a quarter to organise our diaries and schedules. It so happened that the only time we could do this was when two out of the three of us were in Hoofddorp, so I flew over to meet them. Flying on my own? I managed. Getting to the hotel on a series of complicated shuttles? I conquered. But when the Vice President of the European side of the business came in to meet with my manager, I was truly shown up. He has only had one association with me before and because of that, I really did not want him to remember who I was. Essentially it is because I am related to my sister and it caused some trouble when taking me on, so now that I have a permanent post, I didn’t want the issue to raise its little head again. I decided that the best method of defence would be to continue working whilst they had their meeting. That worked brilliantly, but at the end, he looked at me, saying “I don’t think we’ve met before?” So I had to introduce myself and when he asked me what I do, all three of us dismissed it very quickly; “ohh, she doesn’t nothing much.” “Admin mainly.” “Sales support, not much training”. So, I got away with it, but now he thinks I’m a freeloading weirdo who works somewhere in the company, doing something.

Being in the lower echelons of the company (ranking somewhere level with the gutter, I think) I tend to get given the jobs other people don’t want or can’t fit it. Sometimes I am asked to go onto conference calls on someone else’s behalf and this was my latest embarrassment. I was asked to join a “training improvement” meeting to take notes. So, at the said time, I clicked on the Live Meeting link and the screen turned blue, but there was no sound. I turned my speakers up, but nothing. So then I waited for a few minutes (after all, I was a little early), but I still couldn’t hear. So I left the meeting to try and reconnect. However, in the minute or so that I had left, the American Trainer who was running it, had stopped the webinar to ring me to see if I had got on ok. Having told him I had a few audio problems, he sent me the dial in details. Now on the email it said: Local Dial in 012345678 or International Dial in 876543210. (It obviously didn’t have those numbers; I just can’t be bothered to think of actual numbers.) So, as I am dialling in internationally, I try the international number. The following then happens:

Gruff Birmingham Accent (We’ll call him Man): “Hello?”

Me: “Oh, erm hello. I don’t think I’ve dialled the right number. I was trying to dial into a conference call.”

Man: “Well why did you ring me then? I’m Customer Support.”

Me: “Well, I dialled the number on my conference acceptance email. But if you are customer support, perhaps you can help me?”

Man: (sighs) “Well what country are you ringing from?”

Me: “The UK.”

Man: “Really?”

Me: “Yes, really.”

Man: “And where were you calling?”

Me: “The States.”

Man: “Well, let me check.” (Holds hand over headset) “Mart, I’ve got someone here trying to dial into a conference call!” (Comes back onto phone) “Nah, we can’t help.” (Hangs up.)

Me: Gee thanks?

I don’t even understand what happened there; did I speak to A & T Conferences or was it just a bloke in his living room in Dudley? I was inclined to opt for the second, but I still hadn’t got a clue how I had got through to him. So by now, I’m feeling pretty flustered, so I dial the American number and then magically get through. Delightfully, when I joined the call, the person presenting stopped, asked me who I was and asked me to introduce myself to everyone. Cue my flustered “I’m nobody, I’m here to take notes for Shelley. I am so unimportant!”

Why do I have this inbuilt inability to show myself off? Someone asks me what I do and I should reply with “Well, I organise corporate hospitality and support at international equestrian competitions.” Instead, I make the standard joke about being a PA to the sales team and then mutter something about proofreading powerpoint presentations. Why am I so bloody English?