January blues in London.jpg

January blues in London

By: PAUL McKAY

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Teacher, Paul McKay, left London to live a self-sufficient existence in the Monchique hills with his partner Martyn. He keeps an assortment of animals and grows a variety of crops in an eco-friendly way – all on a limited income.

Monday January 1

The new Year never really feels quite the wild, happy occasion it is hyped up to be by those generally trying to sell us something. Television stations around the world show crowds of people whooping with joy, corking champagne, kissing strangers, singing weird songs and dancing peculiar dances!

Scotsman wear kilts, the Spanish eat grapes and we all watch fireworks. People pay ludicrous prices for mediocre meals, all so that during that magic moment at midnight they can be having a great time.

Two minutes later, they are where they were four minutes earlier, except it has happened. The great climax has occurred. They still look the same, they still feel the same and their lives are unchanged.

They are still in debt, still have to work and still as happy or unhappy in love as they were before.

Millions of pounds globally have been set alight, soared up high and shone in the sky for two minutes of artificial merriment.

As the fireworks bathe the partygoers in glistening deceiving light, the poor around the world remain poor, the starving still starve and everyone forgets them for two minutes of pure hypocrisy.

As you may have gathered my New Year’s Eve was not fantastic.

To make ends meet, each January I return to London for a few miserable grey months to teach 11-year-olds how to convince a target obsessed government that the country’s young can read, write and add up.

Subsequently, the glorious 31st is tinged with what lies ahead, so much so that I am not able to fool myself or anyone else that the magic hour is the most exciting event to have occurred all year.

This year, I sipped a particularly acidic bottle of fizzy battery acid in a soulless hotel cell close to Faro airport, while the deranged drunks outside tried to improve their lives by whooping, screaming and kissing one another at the stroke of midnight – Happy new year!

Sunday January 13

I began the school term this year by trying a new approach.

I smiled at the children, reassured them, built up their self-esteem and generally made them aware of the fact that I am a kind, caring human.

Within a couple of days, it quickly became apparent that this would not lead to the educational attainment that this government desires of its young.

The masses, it appears, perceive kindness as weakness and regard any lack of ‘strictness’ as the green light for a free for all.

Hilarity from the playground spills into the classroom, “having a larf” becomes the number one goal and classroom assistants become apoplectic monsters screeching at children to be quiet.

Two days later, the old Mr McKay re-emerged. The smile was replaced with an icy look.Encouraging comments were put on hold and replaced by impersonal instructions. Strict behavioural expectations were established and imposed without common consent.

Initially this was greeted with derision, which quickly gave way to resentment and finally compliance.

So it would appear that little has changed in London’s classrooms over the past 15 years.

In order to enable children to learn, a kind, caring teacher needs to present himself as a heartless, firm dictator.

It’s a great pity that the managers of teacher training colleges are still denying this knowledge to trainee teachers, preferring instead to play the hypocritical political correct line of saying one thing and knowing full well that in order to succeed in inner city classrooms, they will have to do something completely different. Welcome to Britain.

The number 25 bus from Oxford Circus to Ilford via Stratford (Olympic village) needs to be experienced to be believed.

Bendy buses were introduced a couple of years ago, with four sets of double doors, enabling passengers to enter and exit without having to show the driver a valid pass.

The bus is equipped with pass readers and passengers are expected to validate these passes on entry.

One does not need a degree in human psychology to work out that such a bus, passing through some of East London’s poorest areas, is not necessarily going to encourage the highest degree of personal morality.

The upshot is that the bus is constantly jam-packed to bursting point with non paying low lives who prefer to spend their hard earned bus fare on Kentucky Fried Chicken, the remains of which they are happy to leave strewn all over the floor and seats of the bus.

The atmosphere, whatever time of day or night it is, is one of complete savagery.

No-one gives way to anyone else. Shoving and elbowing are the preferred methods of passing others, eye-contact between strangers is viewed as a challenge for supremacy and smiling simply doesn’t happen.

The elderly, the young, the black, the white, the poor and the rich all behave in this way, spiralling lower and lower to achieve a society based on mutual contempt.

Is it any wonder that children brought up in such an environment find it impossible to respect an adult who appears kind or caring?

The rules of the jungle are learnt at a very young age and only the strong will survive.

Sunday January 27

Since being back in Britain, barely a day has passed without an incident epitomising the decline in modern morality.

This last week saw a gang fight close to the school in which I teach.

An 18-year-old boy was left dying on the pavement as onlookers stood back, too frightened to intervene.

Local newspapers report shopkeepers commenting that local school children who witnessed the attack laughed and jeered as the victim twitched his last movements on the damp grey pavements of North London.

As I write this and think about it, I am trying to equate such behaviour with the children I teach.

Now that my expectations have been established and I grow to know and to like them as individuals, I wonder how they see such incidents.

I cannot conceive that they would laugh so callously at such a momentous incident.

I cannot believe that they would have such low moral standards to find it funny.

I wonder if they would laugh, in order to protect themselves, to appear as heartless and ruthless as the next person so as not to be seen as weak.

The most telling tragedy is that I don’t know what the children in my class think about this or anything else.

I don’t really know anything about them or their lives.

I don’t know their likes, their dislikes, their hobbies or even their favourite food.

I don’t know how they spend their evenings, their weekends. Do they live with both parents?

Do they enjoy school? I have time to teach maths and English, nothing else. I have time to enable them to reach a level 4 – no time to discuss morals.

I know what they can do in maths. I know their levels in English. I know what they need to learn next in order to improve their level and satisfy the government on their abilities as readers and writers.

Like products to be processed, they are taught from 8.45am, to 3.10pm.

Many have booster classes at lunch time and after school. Some have Saturday school, others are taught during their holidays.

I wonder what trade unions would say were adults forced to work all these extra hours?

There is no time to discuss the murder around the corner, to do so would waste ‘learning time’.

The vast majority of these children will achieve the much heralded ‘Level 4’. The school, the government and the country will bathe in the glory of improving educational standards.

Meanwhile, 18-year-olds are stabbed in the street while school children laugh and no-one knows why.