The value of stillness on Wii Fit


The value of stillness is often overlooked in exercise, education and life in general. Iyengar yoga addicts know it well and it’s good to find an immersive game that encourages it in the Zazen feature of the Wii Fit. This is the last balance game to be unlocked and is a fantastic treat after so much movement. Sitting on the board and trying to achieve stillness works surprisingly well. If I could improve it I would like it to be longer than the three minutes it offers, but even in that, you can experience a sense of stillness and calm. The flickering candle, the moth and the creaking footsteps add to the sense of timelessness.
It offers an important counterpoint to the high energy activity of the other games, but it could be an excellent means of encouraging stillness and meditation in the classroom. Bizarrely, making stillness a slightly competitive game, although counter-intuitive, feels quite attractive. This is pitched well to encourage all to participate, to be a bit of fun, but ultimately to give a genuine taste of the value of stillness.

My internet bridegroom


I got married last year to a man I met on the internet in 1999. We’d got engaged years ago but we kept putting the wedding off because we couldn’t work out how to cope with our odd collection of family and friends. It was only the deaths of some of them that made us realise if we left it any longer they might all have gone the same way.

If you meet a man on the internet – and I do strongly urge you to do so – you leap over a lot of the stumbling blocks traditionally dividing couples; race, class, politics and so forth. In our case it left us with an interesting group of putative wedding guests.

Well – more than just ‘interesting’; they were an unruly and ill-matched bunch. Just like the bride and groom. Some of them mad, bad and dangerous. Others curmudgeonly and abrasive, quick to take offence and to dish it out. They came from all classes and temperaments, some of them embracing their fellow man like long-lost social workers, others with more than a touch of the Genghis Khans, so I struggled a bit with how to introduce them to each other.

I’d been to a lot of weddings before and they fell into one of two categories. There are ones where you get told where to sit. This means you have to last a four-hour lunch with people you’d run across a motorway blindfold to get away from. And the ones involving the informal meal you can eat with ‘whoever you like’.  I don’t know about you. Maybe you’re very cool about approaching total strangers but I always end up eating with the one other person in the room I know already because I came with them. I can’t possibly approach tight-knit groups of people I don’t know with my wilting ham roll and chicken drumstick.

So if you’re thinking of getting married soon and in keeping with the internet age, I think you should consider a third way to arrange your guests for maximum social interaction – a speed-dating arrangement. Serve five mini-courses, and rearrange the guests between each course according to your whims – age, height, month of birth …

Families must be deliberately torn apart. Husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends need to be separated and  set down next to people they’ve never met, and probably never will again.  You don’t need music or a disco, only odd speeches scattered through a very long lunch. A sort of teenager’s nightmare. This was how we did it and I couldn’t recommend it to you more highly. Shorn of their family armour, people blossom. Teenagers definitely need to be liberated from the disapproving eyes of friends who know them too well, As a result of this rough treatment our guests, even some of the teenagers, blossomed like a thousand flowers, or at least like a hundred really nice, interesting and friendly people. We barely recognised them.

By the end of the night we had to throw them out of the venue, and the next day once-cool teenagers sat on my sofa and asked when we could do it all over again. So  if you’re an internet bride getting married soon and your guests are causing you anxiety, stop sweating over the table plans, just herd them about like cattle between each course and force them to say hello to  strangers.  You can think of it as sort of collaborative thing – a Web 2.0 wedding. And it was so much fun I’m going to do it again next time.

Barnsley Thoughts


Watching re runs of the Young Ones and remembering the first time I ever saw Alexei Sayle, for some reason, puts me in mind of Charlie Williams, One of my first role models because he was a sucessful black man with a Yorkshire accent.

A further page details David Bradley, star of Kes, the first film I ever saw in which people spoke, on screen, with ordinary Yorkshire accents.

And Wikipedia – possibly not entirely accurate; it does claim that Billie Whitelaw is a Yorkshire woman despite listing her as “Born in Warwickshire” Maybe we own that now as well?

But best link – try out the Charlie Williams Joke Box here..

Meeting Royalty


I was invited to be “presented” and was curious enough to put my good shoes on and drag my arse across town on a very cold night. It was a perfectly pleasant occasion, a good, interesting and committed speech made without much reference to notes, and a reasonably warm and pleasant mien, but I wouldn’t bother again. It’s slightly uneasy being part of a small group, where you aren’t sure who is supposed to initiate the conversation or move subjects on. There were one or two awkward silences as listeners struggled against the noisy acoustics, and struggled more to think of an appropriate way to make conversation. I don’t think that kind of protocol would be a useful way to govern social occasions. However nice the individual concerned. It’s interesting to think that our lives were governed by such etiquette at one point – and that in some places, similar codes still apply..

Maybe I should have gone to the Harry Potter preview instead. But that can be a weekend treat. At work I went to an interesting demonstration of a fantastic computer wall, a means of accessing content that offered great possibilities for the classroom and the living room, as demonstrated to a colleague in Tokyo. Only two years ago we were wildly speculating that such a thing might be possible at some distant time in the future.



Xinran, a Chinese broadcaster who now lives and works in London at SOAS, wrote a collection of pieces about Chinese women. They are sober reading. For anyone who wonders why feminists can still be so persistent when so much of what they fought for seems to have been achieved, this is the answer. As increasing numbers of women now we apparently have freedom to choose, aim to return to full time homemaking, we’re in danger of believing that feminism was a lot of fuss about nothing. I think the ability to choose to work or not to work is a fantastic, and important choice, and still not enjoyed by many people. But having recently made just such a choice, I’m glad I came across this book. It’s reminded me how difficult getting here was, and continues to be for many women across the world. I recommend it. It’s got some tough stories, but I also found it uplifting.

A typical day


Awoken at 7.05, feed child, make lunchbox, breakfast in bath. Dress, face, pack bag, unlock bike shed, gate, answer small child questions re injustice of doing homework, sympathise, stop sympathising, see child off, get in car, drive to tube, get on tube, read Sunday papers money section, worry about pension, go into office straight into meeting, good, lasts for two hours, answer emails rapidly and with feeling that brain is draining away faster than usual. work piled on desk, call absent member of staff to hear she is still off sick with “underlying viral infection” = stress, more work, post office for E111 and posting of pokemon cards to small guest who inadvertantly left them, buy soup and take it back to desk, more mails, cup of tea with leaving colleague, back to desk, meet new member of staff, brief her on major tasks, take her to meet research manager, get hauled into another meeting, large amount of work handed to me, should be in third meeting but desk now so piled high with vital things which have to be done before the end of the day I can’t move and so am still trapped there when boss passes by and asks me to have cup of tea with other colleague facing work crisis, agree but now numb so can only manage to write it on gaudy orange post-it before realising how many other orange post-its are still awaiting my attention, more mails, time to go to govs meeting, panic, must read papers before go, but there is even more pressing email, do that but don’t complete it as brain too frozen to fully release necessary information – must send it on FOI course , must go, panic, when will papers be read, maybe before I go to govs, no time, get to govs with 3 mins to spare, meeting good but goes on and on and on, Home at 9pm, loved one cooks lovely food, but before that child is still deep in trauma of shouting teacher. Warm hugs and tears before short lecture on need to grow thicker skin. child crawls under leopard skin blanket to cry. Crying relieved by Blackadder 111. child up too late, tuck him into bed, refuse to read story, back down stairs, it is 10.30 “How was your day dear?” Read papers finally, return via email with comments. It is 01.13. It is bed time.