Wednesday 31 December 2014

Soho revisited.

Christmas is a time for nostalgia. And in that spirit I was back in my old haunts yesterday for a Soho pub crawl. The Dog & Duck, The Blue Posts, The Star & Garter, The Red Lion and finally The Clachan. 

In truth there are not many things or people  that I miss from my former life, but I do miss Soho. Or more precisely my memory of Soho rather than the hipster-theme park it increasingly resembles.

I've not been back there for almost a year but plus ca change. The place that used to sell artisan Cornish pasties now sells artisan hot dogs - and that restaurant that specialised in authentic Korean street food now specialises in authentic Cambodian street food. The same shops that still sell vinyl, the fixed wheel bike shops and of course some  more artisan coffee shops. A lot more fucking artisan coffee shops.

But there are still a few of the traditional Soho pubs. The pubs that played a central part in my working life when I was the production manager of an artwork studio.  Our clients were largely the ad agencies of Soho - and the pubs were where the deals were made, the briefs given out and the proofs taken for approval. Part Roman forum, part 18th Century coffee house. 

This is now a  lost world that disappeared rapidly with the introduction of mobile phones and the relaxation of the licensing laws. And life got more corporate, more superficially 'professional' - and ultimately much more joyless. 

In fact, come to think of it, the decline of the traditional pub pretty much parallels my prolonged disenchantment with life in the print. 

Sunday 21 December 2014

Telling tales out of school

I know many teachers make a point of teaching 'a safe distance' away from where they teach. They cringe at the prospect of being spotted in Lidl or falling out of the pub. But I teach only about two or three miles away from where I live - and I rather like it.

Maybe it's naivety. Or maybe it's a reaction to so many years of commuting into work for the previous 20-odd years, and as a result living two separate and disconnected lives at work and home. But nowadays kids in school tell me with delight that they have seen me on the picket lines or lobbying the council,  in the local paper, in the national papers and even on the TV (actually it was only Kurdish TV). Yesterday a few of them saw me on a stall in the shopping centre selling papers and campaigning for the minimum wage. 

Obviously this is the cause of much piss-taking - although funnily enough not as much as when they  see me out and about riding my bikes  - or when they get to hear about my martial arts activities. For the average teenager there's far more comedic material in 'Sir's a Hells Angel' or 'Sir's a Ninja' - than 'Sir's a socialist'.

But it's all good. Most kids have the idea that their teachers go to sleep at night in the stock cupboard and only emerge in the morning ready  to teach period 1. Perish the thought that we are actual people. Or even if we are actual people - teachers can seem like  a species from another hemisphere doing some sort of out-reach work. This is a view increasingly perpetuated by the Teach First scheme and their all too-often achingly middle class young zealots parachuted behind enemy lines into the inner cities to do good. 

Much better then to show that we are just people who are part of the same community as those we teach - with families, outside interests, opinions - and eccentricities. It's probably not exactly what the DfE mean by 'promoting British values'  - but it should be. And it's worth having to endure a bit of piss-taking n Monday morning.