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Weeks 8-10: Variety is the Spice of Pain

Review of Recent Weeks:

Miles: 91 (best week 27 miles)
Longest Individual Run: 11.2 miles
Miles to go: Many. So, so many.
Weight: 98.5 kg
Resting Heart Rate: 56
Amount of Seafood Consumed in Barcelona: I drank so much that I now have a two-second memory, like several of the fish I consumed

I’m writing this the night before I set off on my first proper hill run of the year: The Fairfield Horseshoe. It represents a small section of the actual ultra route in October. I’ve done the Horseshoe before both in full and in smaller sections, but I’ve never run it. What kind of an idiot would do that?! At 11 miles and 3,000 feet of total incline, it represents a quarter of the distance and incline of the Lakes in a Day route, so will be a really good gauge of how I’m doing at the moment. It’s also a mere 2.5 weeks before I join up with my running partner for the first time for a training weekend – again in the Lakes. To be perfectly frank, I’ve expelled larger things than him into the toilet after a heavy weekend’s drinking, so I’m naturally concerned that my endurance levels won’t hold up. I’ve prepared well for the distance; I’ve run 11.2 miles in 1 hour 45, but since then I’ve also abused my body by eating all the octopus in the ocean and drinking too much Vermouth in Barcelona (NB: It is virtually impossible to eat octopodes out of existence; a female octopus lays 200,000 eggs in her lifetime, and, if anything, their species grows at a rate above global fishing. NB#2: The plural of octopus is octopodes. You’re bloody welcome).

3D octopus jigsaw – 50 delicious pieces

The old weight loss has dealt me a hefty (ha!) blow too. Instead of shrinking away, my legs have instead put on substantial amounts of muscle, leading to me not so much losing weight as changing shape slightly while maintaining the same weight as before. If this continues, I will become a triangle – something which I pointedly refuse to do (sorry not sorry – couldn’t resist). I will also encounter serious issues when the mileage jumps up to marathon lengths, something about which I am already a little concerned, even though there are still…SHIT! Ok, let’s scrap the word “still”. There are 12 weeks until our first trail marathon of the year. Bugger me backwards with a barge pole! (As my mother used to say – apologies Mum – Happy Mother’s Day again by the way).

I REALLY hate Particle Man

So, how’s it been so far? Let’s weigh up the pros and cons – I’ll do five, because it will satisfy my OCD.

PRO: I can run a 10k pretty much anywhere, at any time now.
CON: This has no practical use in modern life whatsoever.

PRO: I feel like I am just about on track so far with regards to the year’s training.
CON: I have done the easy bit. Subsequent 10-week training patterns will be significantly longer and more time-consuming.

PRO: I have noticeably lost body fat.
CON: It’s somehow migrated south from my stomach, turning into extra leg muscle. I now have to wear padded cycling shorts to walk to the shops to prevent the most severe kind of chafing.

PRO: AfterI run, I feel virtuous and healthy like some kind of superhuman monk.
CON: Five Guys have just joined Just Eat.

PRO: My brain is sharper; I’m now able to recognise simple shapes and patterns.
CON: The patterns that I have thus far recognised are patterns of binge drinking.

Well, I’m not too sure that was a helpful exercise at all, but as Magnus Magnusson used to say: I’ve farted so I’ll stinish. Odd guy.

U wot M8?


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Weeks 6 and 7 – Stepping on Ducks

Weeks 5 and 6 Review:

Miles: 37
Longest Individual Run: 8 miles
Miles to go: 1,900
Weight: 97 kg
Resting Heart Rate: 54
Overall Mood: Violently swinging – like sadistic polyamory

Surely only those of you with the most unbelievably sharp presence of mind will have noticed that this is two posts combined into one. This is partly because it’s been a couple of busy weeks in the world of sofa-based self-employment (no webcams involved), but partly because there has been very little to say. I find this to be quite a pleasing metaphor for such a long training programme with such a steep upward curve. The fact is I don’t always make a discernible improvement every time I run. And now I’m six weeks in, I’m beginning to come to terms with this. In weeks 1, 2 and 3, not only was every single run a tangible step forward, but if it wasn’t then I would be riddled with anxiety, like a corpse at the end of a Western. I’m slowly but surely learning to temper my expectations. They are now as follows:

  1. Some days, you just feel like shit. These are not days for improvement, these are just days for mileage.
  2. I won’t be less knackered than the previous run every time. The very notion is absurd – this is not how anything in life has ever worked.
  3. I will not necessarily be able to run further every Sunday, and I can’t necessarily rigidly follow the training programme I downloaded on the Internet, because it doesn’t take into account my specific fitness, injuries, mental state or work timetable.

I intend to read these back to myself every time I start to feel anxious. Because, as fate would have it, by doing an activity that has proven to be extremely beneficial to those who suffer from anxiety, I’m now anxious about my ability to do it, and do it well. Those who have told you that suffering from anxiety is exhausting are spot on, and this paragraph is testament to the fact. I get anxious that I will have an anxiety attack, before I have had one. How utterly ridiculous the human brain really is.

Charlie Brown is fucking bob on.

So, what of the next few weeks? Well, I have a goal in mind. I would like to get to half marathon distance by March 4th. That gives me two and a half weeks. I’m not going to stipulate whether this should be outside or on the treadmill at this stage, as my shins will dictate that – and I’m not going to panic about it. I’m also not going to set a time to adhere to. I would be loosely happy with two hours, factoring in my new stride pattern and extremely restrained pace, but if I accidentally go more quickly or slowly then so be it. This is part of my resolution not to be beholden to “one size fits all” training regimes. Because LIFE IS NOT LIKE THAT.

Oh, just as an amusing aside to finish on – I did an absolutely tremendous fart while working my way up Beecroft Hill today. It must have changed pitch about seven times – more than an entire Iggy Pop album – and I swear it helped me shave three seconds off my time.  I am reliably informed that this is a pretty standard by-product of running. I now need to make sure that the next one I do takes an old lady’s hat clean off, kills a passing crow stone dead, or summons Cthulhu.


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Week 5: Take a Deep Breath

Week 4 Review:

Miles: 20
Miles to go: 1,959
Weight: 98kg
Lower Body: Glued together with an eye-watering array of tape and supports

Here we are then! It’s time to take a deep breath and start the marathon training programme for real. It’s a spreadsheet of seemingly random words; strides, lunges, recoveries, sprints… fartlek (calm down now), and the numbers next to the days are escalating rapidly beyond the counting capacity of your average young toddler / regular at the Leeds train station Wetherspoon’s. By the time February is over, I will (in theory) be running in excess of 10k four times per week. My Sunday long runs will be as close to full marathons as halves, and I assume, I will have started to get “runner face”. Right this moment though, I’m staring at the training spreadsheet, turning it upside-down and every which way in an effort to make the numbers look less like they are trying to jump off the screen and attack me.

“But I can count to eleventy…”

I’ve made a bit of headway with my shins though… shinway? I’ve drastically reduced my stride length, which has resulted in that weird shuffly run that comes to mind when you think of liquorice-thin, middle-aged distance runners; a kind of wobbly fast walk, with floppy hands bouncing from side to side like a sped-up version of Dale Winton wandering around a shit British supermarket in 1994. I can do that for an hour without stopping now, and with pretty tolerable pain at the end, as long as I stretch for a good 10-20 minutes both before and after the run.

Convincing a generation of children that shoplifting is fine if you do it to dated music.

And I do feel fitter. My lungs feel larger, and I generally feel a bit less depressed – although this could be because January is ending, and we’ve had a few blue skies. I’m also genuinely excited about seeing if I can get myself up to a half marathon in the next four weeks. Ok, maybe “excited” is a little strong. I am far less daunted by the prospect of the rest of the year than I was two weeks ago, though. What’s the word for “slightly better than totally apathetic”? I’ll borrow from 10 Things I Hate About You; I’m whelmed. Let’s hope that I’m not adding a prefix to that by the end of the week.

Just to be clear – I think I’m trying to say that I don’t absolutely hate every single moment of this. I think. Maybe.



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Week 4: Derailed? Not a Bit of It

Week 3 Review:

Miles: 18.5
Miles to go: 1,979
Weight: 99kg
VO2 Max: 46
Emotional State:

It’s been a tough week. You can set out to do things with the best of intentions, but ultimately if something more important comes along, then your intentions have to be shelved. This week, unfortunately, that something was the sudden death of my grandfather. There isn’t much to say about this – we all loved him, he led an incredible, inspiring life, and his four children in particular are understandably devastated. So, I’m going to depart from the usual pattern of petty, sweary humour that is my “level” of intellect for just a second to post a nice photo of him – if you’ll indulge me.

My grandfather David and his wife Jean, with my brother James, and me – 1987

And I’m back in the room. As Flanders and Swann would say: Pee, Po, Belly, Bum, Drawers!

I’ll tell you what, though. He wouldn’t have been impressed that I departed from my running routine so that I could be sad. Oh no. And he certainly wouldn’t condone the kind of moping that would stop me from completing my training program, and the upcoming races. You see, when it comes to the stubbornness (and pedantry) that has worked its way through my entire family, David was patient zero. He was the Uber-pedant. King Stubborn. I have tried – believe me, I have tried very hard – but I still feel as if I can only aspire to hit the heights of the great man. Like so many runners will do over the next 9 months, he has left me trailing in his wake.

So, as the training gets tougher, and my shins become more swollen, I am going to use David as my inspiration. He was unbelievably tough, resilient and unwilling to admit any kind of defeat in life, and I will attempt to follow up the hills, along the paths and through the mud, all in his footsteps. And every time I feel like giving up, instead of summoning up extra courage from within myself, I’ll just imagine him giving me a look that says “Don’t even think about it”. That ought to do it. He’d probably have done all the runs in a better time too – just to prove that he could.

Anyway, this week is the final week of my “ramp-up” training. Next week, the proper marathon programme starts and I’ll be relying on him to help me keep going back to the gym when I’m in pain, or I’m tired, or I simply can’t be arsed. But then, he never let anyone down in life, so I know he won’t let me down now, even in death.

And nor I him.

In Memoriam – April 24th 1928-January 20th 2018

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Week 3 – Shin Splints and Sadistic Fantasies

Week 2 Review:

Miles: 17.5
Miles to go: 1,988
Weight: 98.5kg
VO2 Max: 46
Shin Splints: OUCH

I feel a little bit like Icarus. Well, except for the Greek bit. And my Dad didn’t create a massive labyrinth. And I didn’t try and build wings – who even does that? And I haven’t drowned. But other than that, I feel a little bit… no, exactly like Icarus. Or at least I thought shin splints were like Icarus, in that they were a myth. And now I’m drowning in a sea of pain, choking on the hubris that has led to the only set of wings in my line of sight being those of Nemesis. Woe is me, death befalls us all…

Alright, this may be a slight exaggeration. It fucking hurts though. Like, well bad, innit? It’s like the kind of pain that loan sharks inflict upon you when you don’t pay up. A writhing, baseball-batty kind of a feeling. I’m now on a diet of weird stretches and hobbling, but it also means compression socks, a return to the dreaded treadmill (the dreadmill) and the looming spectre of something even more disturbing emerging from the tarry pit of doom that is any reputable gym; the cross-trainer.

“I will cut you, bitch.”

Anyway, this week I have been alternating between slower and faster runs. I’ve found a decent treadmill pace that I feel I could run at forever (for the purposes of this post, forever = anywhere between 1 and 15 hours), and I actually enjoyed the final two runs of the week, despite one of them being the day after an extremely important staple in any Dry January disciple’s calendar: the accidental-on-purpose beer festival.

I have two more weeks of increasing my workout duration in stages, although some of my mileage will have to be completed on the cross trainer due to the aforementioned shins (not The Shins – they are far less palatable). It’s all about cardio at this stage though – building up a level of endurance and being used to breathing heavily for longer and longer periods of time, like a really persistent stalker. Today, for instance, I’m taking my phone, headphones and some duck / duct tape to the gym. This final ingredient is key; I don’t want anyone thinking I’m not a dangerous kidnapper, and that it’s therefore acceptable to use the machinery directly adjacent to me (note to Interpol, A.K.A my most frequent blog visitors – duct tape will actually be used to secure my phone to the screen of the cross trainer so I can watch Netflix – an hour on the cross trainer is roughly as dull as being locked in a room with Tim Henman, but the walls are all padded, thus removing the most logical route to the sweet release of death, meaning that you are forced to commit suicide by repeatedly lacerating your own temples against his giant teeth).

“…and KILL”

My “run buddy” and I are training separately until March, so I can’t be entirely sure if he is experiencing any similar issues. My brain has taken over though, and I find myself passing my running time imagining him skipping blissfully over mountains and rivers, singing “Fa la la la la” and “Hey Nonny” and suchlike while all the woodland creatures of the world dance along merrily behind him. He isn’t sweating. Oh no. The only moisture that touches his face is but the gentle morning dew of a crisp spring day as his mind serenades him with the greatest symphonies known to man. I imagine jealously stabbing him in his stupid little trim midget body, but then I realise that instead he’s waltzing off into the distance and I’m sitting naked in a puddle, hitting a nearby plant with a butter knife.

Still, it’s all good fun, eh?


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Week 2 – Why Am I Not Yet Mo Farah?

Week 1 Review

Miles: 13
Miles to go: 2,005
Weight: 100kg
VO2 Max: 48
Desire to eat so much cheese that I turn yellow: Ever-rising

Well, here we are. I’d like to thank my fans around the world, all the Kenyans whose achievements I have far outstripped in under a week and, of course, my Mum. Only 2,005 miles to go! And I thought it’d be hard…

I’ve done five short runs this week at a slow pace – I’m trying to focus on the kind of pace I might be able to maintain for the best part of an entire day. Obviously, this requires a carefully calculated, scientific approach, so I tried running with an open, 90%-full flask of whisky for a bit, to see how quickly I could do this without spilling most of it all over myself. It turns out that the answer is roughly a 9-9.5-minute mile, in case, you know, you’d like to “ask for a friend”.

I’ve also been very cautious with my glass knees. I will be doing three of my five weekly runs on the treadmill all month, and two longer, slower runs on relatively flat, forgiving paths alongside canals. I’ve already had to upgrade my weight loss plan by an extra (circa) seventy-three kilos to compensate for the weight of the ludicrous assortment of neoprene supports that will cover various parts of my lower body, the further I run.

Incomprehensibly though, when I looked in the mirror this morning, I was still staring back at myself. I wasn’t Mo Farah yet – this has come as an enormous shock to me, so I haven’t done any running today. On a slightly less stupid level, my resting heart rate has gone up, and I have been sleeping less well. I’m assuming that this is because 13 miles is pretty insignificant, and I’m therefore still just suffering from the same insomnia as before. Or maybe running is bad for us all, and I should instead attempt to kill 2,018 Germans on Call of Duty (NB Object of Call of Duty may or may not be to kill Germans – can not confirm) in one year. Or eat 2,018 steaks. You’d all sponsor me to eat 2 tonnes of meat and write about it, right?

Anyway, on to this week and the rest of January. Each week for the remainder of the month will be the same in terms of structure, but with an extra mile per run each time that day come around again – except for Saturdays, which always stay the same. To be clear:

This week: Tues, 3 miles, Weds 4 miles, Thurs 3 miles, Sat 3 miles, Sun 4.5 miles
Next week: Tues 4 miles, Weds 5 miles, Thurs 4 miles, Sat 3 miles, Sun 5.5 miles

And so on and so forth. The idea is that I will then be running the amount of miles per week required to start proper marathon training come the first week of February, which coincides with it being 16 weeks until the Calderdale Marathon. This also means that I can eat roughly 400 grams more cheese each week without putting on weight. This equates to – roughly – 14 slices of cheese on toast, or two per day. Alternatively, I could carry the one, subtract the number I first thought of, and eat about 97 wheels of Laughing Cow (other fake cheeses also available). Either way, if my calculations are correct, I should be at “CHEESE LEVEL: FRENCHMAN” by January 31st.

Zut alors!

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Trough Physical Condition – the Start of a Long Journey

The Ruins of 2017

What a pleasant, positive post title to start 2018! And with that I’d like to welcome you to the “Ultramarathon 2018” section of my blog. Excuse the stench; I’m covered in a very specific sweat – one that smells of maple cured ham, seventeen different types of booze and an assortment of chocolate. That’s right, we’ve just had Christmas and New Year, and I’ve obviously treated my body like a wheelie bin round the back of a kebab shop. What better time than now then, to start 10 months of training that will see me complete a hill marathon, the Yorkshire three peaks and the Lakes in a Day ultramarathon, by which time I will have run 2,018 miles in 2018, with two months to spare. This is the equivalent of running from Leeds to Ankara (excluding the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam).


This seems like a good point to put this into context; I’m not currently unfit. I can currently run 5km in 20-25 minutes depending on terrain, and 10km in under 50. I could walk 50 miles tomorrow if you told me I had to. However, I haven’t run further than 12km in 2 years, and my gym trips have been mostly HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and weights. I love rugby, and have played on and off for 26 out of the 33.9 years I have been on this planet, so most of my training has revolved around keeping in shape for this. Because of the nature of the sport, I’m 5″10 and 15.8 stone (100kg). This is great for smashing people to smithereens, but not so good when you have to lug that extra weight across hills and mountains for 50 miles. As a result, I think it’s safe to say that I need to do two things:

1) Lay off the weights, give up rugby and lose 10-15kg in weight. This one is easy; my knees were recently described as “held together only by the will of the Gods”. In rugby terms, I’m old and battered. It’s time to accept my fate. Also, losing weight is going to be a given when I sneak up behind my contented stomach and metaphorically yell “SURPRISE!!!” by relentlessly running four or five times a week.

2) Significantly improve my endurance. Interval fitness is totally different. I can get my heart rate up to 200 for several minutes and go all guns blazing at the weights or the sprinting. But then I need a minute off before I do it again. This is not conducive to running for the best part of a day without stopping.

Actually, three things.

3) Stop eating pizza and drinking beer all the time (MyFitnessPal informed me that in 2017 my two most logged “foods” were wine and beer). Mmmmm… wine and beer. Not completely, mind. This isn’t a blog about going vegan or teetotal or anything else that I would genuinely rather die than do – more one that will document the struggles of running between 30 and 70 miles a week, non-stop for the next 10 months, and how it ends up affecting me both physically and mentally.

Again, a little context. Like so many people I know – and more people in the world than perhaps we all realise – I suffer from anxiety – panic attacks, insomnia, mood swings and low self-esteem. I have done so for many years, and at its worst it’s like living in a nightmare. Except not, because I can’t have nightmares if I don’t sleep. A daymare? Anyway, I can’t deny that the post-exercise feeling is a good one, and that exercise helps me sleep and feel better about myself. So absurd amounts of exercise should make me feel absurdly great, right? RIGHT? Well, I owe it to the people in my life, and to myself, to give it a go. Part of the reason for keeping a weekly blog is so that I can look back in ten months time and (hopefully) see a change for the better. I also hope that people will read this blog – other runners, people like me who want to run more and further, or who suffer from problems with anxiety.

The Charity

Over 50% of my motivation is self-improvement for sure – I’d be lying if I said otherwise – but some of it comes from the desire to do some good old-fashioned fundraising. I’m doing this with a friend of mine – he will be going through the same hell as me, at least according to our Excel training programme. Together, we’re raising money for Yorkshire Cancer Research. I doubt I could name a single person who isn’t either related to, or doesn’t know someone who has suffered or died because of cancer. It’s a horrible disease, and one that I firmly believe can be beaten. I’ve gone for YCR as opposed to Cancer Research UK partly because Yorkshire is my home, and partly because smaller, more local charities often struggle for funding, but shouldn’t be overlooked. I’d love us to raise £3000 together – after all, we’ve got a year. But who knows? Every little helps. Here are the links to my JustGiving team page and personal page if you’d like to donate / heckle us.


First Stop – January

Shit, I’ve actually got to do this now. Words come more easily than steps, weirdly. Fortunately, January is a build-up month – I’m just getting used to running further and further over the course of the month before starting a proper 16-week marathon training programme in February (16 weeks before the Calderdale marathon). Oh, and Monday is always a rest day – I’m thankful for this as I spent all of Monday January 1st feeling like I had been turned inside out by an evil robot monster made entirely out of vodka.

Here it is: WEEK 1: Tuesday 2 miles slow, Wednesday 3 miles steady, Thursday 2 miles slow, Saturday Park Run, Sunday 6 miles slow. Week total: 16 miles.

Current weight: 100kg. Resting heart rate: 58bpm. 2 miles slow: 19 minutes. Fear level for rest of year: Q*£&£YT%*W&£TY£W(TR*U!!!!O£)R*UCMC

It’s now Tuesday evening, and I’ve done my first two miles of 2018. It felt like running after consecutive days of drinking huge amounts of alcohol always feels – fucking horrible. 19 minutes of beer demons punching me in the chest. But hey! That’s two down, 2016 to go. I’ll be in Ankara before you know it (Disclaimer: this may not be remotely true in any way, shape or form).

Bring it on.



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100 up!

It’s taken a little longer than I thought it would – just under 3 years in fact – but I’ve finally reached 100 posts. I started off not really knowing what would end up on my site, whether it would be a blog, a resource site for teachers, a site for students, an academic site or nothing in particular. I think it’s ended up as a more student-centred site, with a focus on IELTS – 40% of my posts are about IELTS or are model answers. Perhaps this reflects the situation in English language learning in the UK, and student needs. Interestingly, about 40% of students in my current school are IELTS-focussed students, so perhaps I’m subconsciously responding to the needs of my own students – not a bad thing.

I hope I will continue to post more General English / Teacher Training / General Blog posts, because they bring me (at least) a lot of enjoyment. But I fully expect the IELTS section of the site to continue to grow and grow. I also hope that in the next 100 posts I can write a bit more of what my readers want – I’m happy to listen to and write about what my students, ex-students and peers would find useful. As always, you can contact me by clicking the tab at the top of the page, or just by commenting on this or any other thread.

Anyway, I’m really proud that I have kept going and am now averaging well over 1000 views a month. Thank you to everyone for reading, commenting, following, liking and sharing. Long may it continue! 🙂


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Is the IELTS exam fair?

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. In a twist of fate though, it’s the most recent post from the brilliant “Secret Teacher” in the Guardian, referring to the stress and pointlessness of the current exam climate in mainstream education that has led me to finally put finger to keyboard (link below). IELTS is the monopoly, THE exam for students wishing to enter our universities. But is it fair? Does it truly live up to its claim that it assesses students’ ability to cope with life at a British university? Do any exams really contribute positively to education?

With the IELTS exam, this is largely a question of time. There have been no significant updates to IELTS in years, and it’s not just the format; most other EFL exams are now available to sit online, which at least more closely mirrors motions that students actually go through in modern universities. IELTS as a paper exam falls down somewhat before you even inspect the content; who handwrites essays? This is a problem in mainstream education as well, but there are arguments for handwriting as a skill with younger students writing in their own language. In EFL, how many students will actually ever use handwriting – especially on an essay level – other than for sticky note reminders on their fridges? Online, yes. Emails for work and to friends, the general language of the Internet, and TYPING essays. But spellchecking and autocorrection is an advanced tool nowadays, with the grammar counterpart not far behind. Surely retaining 25% of marking criteria for grammar and 12.5% for spelling in writing is redundant and provides an unnecessary obstacle to success?

To further compound the problem with the writing paper, task 1 is a ridiculous exercise. Students analyse a graph which looks like it was drawn in the 1980s. No part of this task replicates anything that 99% of these students might actually do at university or in real life. Even the final 1%, the maths / economics students, of which there aren’t many coming in from the typical IELTS countries, wouldn’t realistically analyse a graph in this way, because it in no way requires objective thought, exophoric comparison or real “analysis” anyway.

Adding spelling in as the main criteria for the listening exam on top of this just seems to be deliberately unfair. I know a great many English people can’t spell very well. Does it really matter that much? Is a student going to read back through their lecture notes and penalise themselves for a missing letter, or a misheard minimal pair? Granted, the listening test contains some isolated tasks that replicate real university life, especially the task 4 lecture note-taking, although students were even using their phones to record lectures when I last attended one in 2003. I imagine this is even more common nowadays, and obviously students can replay audio of a lecture again and again if there is any difficulty with comprehension, rather than being told that they “will not hear the recording a second time”.

The reading paper is the worst of the lot. The time pressure is absurd, so much so that students training to take the exam are taught how to AVOID reading, because there isn’t time. They scan, match shapes and numbers and fill in gaps. Not one of the tasks actually requires a critical response, or any in-depth reading, and the third paper is about a technical subject, often from New Scientist, that will in no way match the subject that the student actually wants to study at university. I can honestly say that I can’t find a single redeeming feature about this section of the exam. Why can’t students sit an integrated skills paper, with a reading and summary section, like the ISE exams? Why can’t they answer some critical thinking tasks? The cynical answer to the second part is that it would require IELTS examiners to undergo extra training or retraining in order that they an accurately assess a critical response. Ultimately, I have seen nothing to suggest that Cambridge want to spend a single penny on improvement in any area of the exam, and they are unlikely to as long as they are an accepted monopoly.

In the interests of fairness, I should point out here that the speaking test is quite good. The two-minute presentation and the discussion / opinion-based questions give the students a good work out, although it’s a shame that they don’t adopt an FCE / CAE approach and get two students in at once for a seminar-style discussion. Still, it is a reasonable exam, and the marking emphasis is (correctly) on fluency and ability to communicate rather than being pernickity over minute accuracy.

The danger of exams such as this is that, because they don’t really test ability in realistic situations, teachers then prepare students to pass said exam, rather than upskilling them in real-life tasks. This could be said of secondary school exams as well as IELTS, but this doesn’t make it right. The added external pressures that students receive from governments, workplaces or family, mean that they are also happy to be taught to pass an exam in this way, and they become interested only in this. I can say that I have seen students leave IELTS preparation courses with a lower level of general English ability than they had when they started, but they are happy because they’ve ticked off the entrance criteria for their university of choice. Bearing this in mind, surely IELTS is actually detrimental to a student’s ability to survive at university, and is therefore negatively affecting the skills gaps on university courses that it was put in place to close? And if so, why haven’t universities noticed this?

I imagine that I am writing this in vain, but I am also pretty sure that I’m not the only one having these thoughts. I’d love to hear from more people about their experiences either with EFL or mainstream examinations. I also hope that if this strikes a chord with you, you’ll share it. Maybe someone far more important than I will read it.



Secret Teacher link:



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Learning in Chunks – just a question of lexis?

It is not exactly revolutionary of me to mention the word “chunk” within the subject of ELT. It has been long established that vocabulary needs to be presented less as individual discrete items, but horizontally, so as to include and acknowledge collocation. Words are indeed the key to communicative language, but prepositions, adjective / noun or noun / verb combinations, and high-frequency connections are the glue that holds it together. Without these things, it is impossible to achieve any real level of productive fluency. None of this is in debate.

There is a particular part of this that is starting to interest me, though. It isn’t the fact that we ought to draw attention to collocation, or words “in chunks” though. It’s the implications of “chunking” for a learner. Chunking isn’t, in fact, just a method of expansion, for as it encourages learners to observe vocabulary in groups rather than individually, it also facilitates the breaking down of full, multiple-clause sentences, in to manageable, bite-sized chunks (Michael Lewis, The Lexical Approach). Again, not a new observation. But is the idea of “bite-sized” usable in other skills?

At this point, I’m going to switch to reading tasks, specifically, academic reading. As an IELTS teacher, I watch a lot of struggle. Students are faced with daunting amounts of text, answers hidden amongst technical terms and “distractors”, and a time limit that would have most native speakers struggling. Often, the sheer volume of text is enough to guarantee demotivation, and, ultimately, failure. I’ve looked at techniques, of course. We’ve scanned, skimmed and inferred until blue in the face, but often it just isn’t enough. Perhaps they aren’t up to it yet. Or perhaps they encounter problems because the task, not the text, isn’t “bite-sized”.

Let’s look at a typical task in an IELTS reading exam. True / False / Not Given questions typically present themselves in order in the text, and require the student to scan and skim in a linear fashion, albeit not necessarily having a clue about the percentage of the whole text covered by the task (unless there is a clear, “scannable” keyword). In general, students are presented with about seven questions, and 800 words of text. They then proceed to read question 1, scan the text, find the answer, write the answer, and repeat for question 2 et cetera. Of course, if they can’t find an answer, they don’t really have a point of reference from which to continue moving forward through the text. In other words, it is difficult to establish linear movement, and can result in time-costly rereading and doubling back. In an incredibly time sensitive exam (1 hour, 3 texts, 2400 words, 40 questions), this is not exactly ideal.

Now, let’s say that a student approaches this in a slightly different way. Upon receiving the task, they break the questions, and then the text, in to bite-sized chunks. They draw a line under question four, and look at questions 1-4 as a separate task. They are not only breaking the task down, but they are also immediately acknowledging that they are likely to be looking at less of the text; the first four-sevenths, roughly. Granted, this is still not exact enough to be comforting. The next stage then, is to isolate the text in a more precise way. The student scans for a keyword match in question 1. They aren’t looking necessarily to find the exact answer at this stage, merely to highlight the area of text in which the answer lies. They draw a line indicating where the text relating to questions 1-4 starts. The next part is to do the same again, but instead of doing this for question 2, they do it for question four. Once they have drawn this second line, they have created a text box, in which four answers lie. The text box is considerably smaller, and therefore less daunting, than the original text, and task, as a whole. They then go through the standard question-answering techniques as they are usually taught. This process is then repeated with questions 5-7, again focusing on isolating “answer-heavy” text, and eliminating time-wasting and a general feeling of being overwhelmed by volume.

While early in my research in to the benefits of this, results so far have been good. Not only have 100% of my students responded positively to this concept, which I believe is more than half the battle (for I am a disciple of the affective filter), but success rates in linear tasks have also gone up considerably in over 80% of these students. I am keen to acknowledge that reading methods and techniques are very much individually subjective, and, as a result, it is difficult to say that there is a “right” way. However, if learners feel that they can approach a task with more confidence than before, I am positive that this will directly contribute to an improvement in results alone, as so many learners are beaten before they step on to the pitch, to use a famous sporting analogy.

I’d love to hear from teachers and students who would like to give this a go. My contact details are on this site. Get in touch, and help me answer the following question: “Can we use the idea of chunking as a reading test technique in general English and exam settings?” And, even more interestingly: “Is there a practical use for a technique like this outside of the environment of comprehension-based tasks – could chunking improve reading ability as a whole?”


Simon Richardson

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#3 – The Death of Music

Perhaps I have made a mistake almost immediately. Perhaps number 3 should be “When people decide to write long lists of things they hate and then take so long to complete it that North Korea destroy the world before they have even reached #10”. Perhaps the time has come for me to hang up my hobnailed angerboots, put down my gun of vitriol, un-stab the unseen cloud of irritation that seems to cloud my every path.

The truth is, I haven’t been that angry recently. Well, not in any specifically-directed, coherent way, anyway. My recent anger has taken the form more of a general malaise than a focussed spew of tooth-shattering rage. I’m not going to misleadingly paint you a picture of a reformed gentleman, whistling his merry way down the sunny side of a cobbled street, handing out sweets to the young neighbourhood children – partly because this is now an arrestable offence – but still, all things considered, I’ve been fairly cheerful. I almost smiled the other day.


“I love Mondays”

Unfortunately, a rule in life tends to be that if you stick your head up above the fog for too long, a seagull is going to poo on your head. In my case, the poo in which I have been recently covered is a musical poo. Not as novelty as you might expect, I’m afraid. It still smells bad. If I put my finger in it and give it a lick, it still tastes pretty awful. And if it happens in the middle of a crowded street, I still need to flee, red-faced, muttering “Oh, for God’s SAKE” under my breath repeatedly. Yes, that’s right. An extremely pooey poo.

I don’t like self-righteous, arrogant pseudo-folk – a subgenre represented by Frank Turner. I have no time for self-fellating, psychological-meltdown teen-idol gibberish – patented by Britney Spears, most “admirably” stepped up a few units of irritation by Justin “phallus-head” Bieber and Miley “chlamydia incubation device” Cyrus.  I am certainly not endeared in any way to sexual-assault banterpop or its sister genre, gangster rap…e (see R. Kelly, Robin Thicke and an all-star cast of angry, tracksuit-wearing miscreants shouting bad “poetry” loudly in to microphones at staged parties, while surrounded by gyrating crack-whores with dead, dead eyes). And as for One Direction… I’d rather vote Tory than ever hear of them again.

cameron cunt

“I will shoot Harry Styles right in the face if you vote for me.”

What has happened to the world? Generations of youth swept away on an unnervingly quickening tide of time, to be replaced with the musical equivalent of join-the-dots. The legacy of the 60s and 70s – The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Hendrix, Dylan, The Kinks, Clapton – through the 80s and 90s, glittering with gems as bright as Queen, Jacko, Sabbath, Metallica, Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, anything Dave Grohl has ever done, and, of course the mighty and transcendental Toto… all this has been confined to the archives, sealed away in a cage somewhere in a library (what’s one of those?) to gather dust, as our ears are overrun with dirge until, in an evolutionary change fitting of a very bad horror movie, the children of tomorrow are born without ears as our genes realise that deafness holds a much higher chance of survival than being constantly exposed to the brain-melting musical acid that is known today as “Nicki Minaj”.

the children

Maybe, somewhere out there is an adolescent who will read this. If that is you, young “Hashtag Dollar-Sign LOLington-Smythe”, please read my words of warning. Go back to the roots of your ancestors and write something with actual music in it. And guitars. Guitars are good. If you don’t, you will be personally responsible for humans ceasing to have ears. And what’s worse is that this mass ear exodus will almost certainly result in our once-essential and seemingly-benevolent, flappy bits of head skin retreating to the sea to form a master race of giant, amphibious ear people, and they will surely have their grim vengeance on the world that has forced them to swap being squashed up against pillows for the bed of a litter-filled ocean. When this happens – and it definitely will – the only sound left will be the sound of this grumpy old bastard saying “I told you so” (except nobody will hear it, because… oh, right, you get it).


I fear for you all.


Still, at least I’m angry again. Every cloud and all that.

ear attack

“I’m, er… watching you”





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Photo Shoot

I’m not usually one for modelling, but I was asked to take part in a photo shoot for work recently. I’m quite pleased with some of the pictures, so I thought I’d post them here – teaching action shots!


It's a small word - can you guess?
It’s a small word – can you guess?
Over there!
Over there!
This man is a LEGEND! (On the board, not standing next to it)
This man is a LEGEND! (On the board, not standing next to it)
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#2 – Don’t you know how to talk proper, like?

I hate change. Suffice to say, puberty was not an easy time. I have come to believe of late that even the most erratic and impulsive of folk do in fact embrace some level of routine-steeped life, whether it be a set bedtime, a plan of the week’s meals or even “touch-oneself-o’clock”.  However, it would be something of a damp squib to devote part of my Sunday to writing about the trials and tribulations of that horrible moment when live Sport lasts longer than expected (resulting in the earth-shatteringly cataclysmic cancellation of ugly orange-faced posh people guffawing smugly at inanimate objects for 30 sodding minutes), so I won’t. Instead, I’m going to focus my twitchy anger on changes in language and, more specifically, why in gibbering ARSE it has become the norm to be as articulate or literate as a drunk parakeet with a toy shovel in its head.


Technically, this means that I NEVER have to stop masturbating

It isn’t just the old favourites. Don’t get me wrong though; Your / You’re and There / Their / They’re errors bring me out in a rash. It’s more the regression of language, the slide in to the lingual abyss, the inability to wear trousers that fit properly. Grammatically. I hear “could of”, “should of” and “would of”, I endure “irregardless”, “pronounce-iation” and “expresso”, my skin turns inside out and suffocates me half to death when I hear “LOL”, “OMG” and the dreaded “Literally”. I mean, what do people think this is? SPANISH? Wash your malapropic mouths out with minty word juice and then pick your teeth with a damned sharp apostrophe, the lot of you. But don’t you DARE attempt to retrieve said toothpick from a possessive pronoun (unless it happens to be “one’s”).


Apparently the “price” doesn’t cover English lessons

I read an article in Metro recently. (The mere sound of those words leave the smell of rotting relative clauses lingering in the air like a language fart, so appalling is the overall standard of English found within). It was a piece on the evolution of slang or, as I’d prefer to call it, “how to decipher the moronic, structureless grunts of children”. Have a look at the picture below, but DON’T count the number of words that you actually understand. Instead, say them out loud to a friend and then you can both have a massive laugh at how unbelievably incapable other people are. Then go outside and punch a teenager. Punch some English back in to them. (NB: Don’t punch a foreign teenager and then use the previous sentence as an excuse, unless you’re fond of the EDL).



I’ve almost finished now, but I’d like to leave you with a brief lesson. Next time you are subjected to a barrage of blarney, a deluge of drivel or a tirade of tittishness, please redirect the offending numskull to the below. It may save a life one day. Theirs. (NOT BLOODY THEIR’S).

Part 1: Your / You’re

“Your” is possessive, meaning it is used when indicating that something belongs to “you” (whoever that is).
Example: Your command of the English language is nothing short of atrocious. Get a grip, you arse.

“You’re” is an abbreviation of “you are”.
Example: You’re a poorly educated, ill-informed, illiterate moron. Avaunt, and quit my sight!

Part 2: There / Their / They’re

“There” is an adverb, usually indicating location or place.
Example 1: Look over there; it’s an English person with little command of his native language. See how his knuckles scrape against the floor.
Example 2: There is NO SODDING APOSTROPHE after that word, Angelica darling. I’m sorry I hit you. It’s for your own good.

Part 3: LOL / ROFL / OMG / BFF

These are NOT WORDS.
Example 1: Yes, your honour. I freely admit to using my favourite Thesaurus to brutally murder a young lady on the bus who I had overheard exclaiming “LOL” to her friend.

Part 4: Apostrophes.

Apostrophes are used to signify possession, meaning that the following noun belongs to the person / pronoun to which the apostrophe is attached. They are NOT required after plurals, nor are they necessary after “it”, unless you want to say “it is”. They are also used to abbreviate “is” or “has”.
Example 1: Simon’s fountain pen plunged in to Andrew’s heart, for he knew that to hear but one more misused personal pronoun would surely send him quite mad.
Example 2: A: “What’s happened to him? Is he…dead?” B: “I believe he’s split his last infinitive, yes.”
Example 3: His injuries, extensive as they were, were caused by a multitude of misspellings. (NOT “misspelling’s).

Part 5: Borrow / Lend

If you borrow something, you take it from somebody for a limited period of time, after which it is (usually) returned. If you lend something, then you give it temporarily to somebody else. You can NOT say:

“Can I lend a pen?”
“Can you borrow me ten pounds?”
“Can I have a lend of your tampon?”

Instead, say this:

“Can I borrow a pen?”
“Can you lend me ten pounds?”
“Can I borrow your tampon?”

Cleared that up? Good. Now bugger off.



Some threat, that.


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Facebook buyout sparks mass unfounded cartoon-based hysteria

Facebook buyout sparks mass unfounded cartoon-based hysteria

American Internet giant Google have launched a successful $1tn takeover of Facebook, which will see Earth’s four largest powers combine in a move that has sent fear and reminiscence through the hearts of 1990s children all over the world. The move swiftly follows Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp, the world’s most popular time-wasting messenger service, and is thought to be the largest merger in the history of anything, ever.

‘It’s like he’s, y’know, becoming a Capitalist Captain Planet!’ shrieked Martha Atkinson, an unemployed single mother from Bedford.


The Power is His!

‘It’s very simple – now that the four corners of the World – Google, YouTube, Facebook and Whatsapp have joined together, the force of these elements will transform me.’ boomed Larry Page, Google CEO, immaculately caped and masked, atop a $35,000 dollar replica of The Iron Throne.

 Experts have expressed concern over the sheer weight of the gold bullion used to make the purchase, stating that ‘polarisation of international wealth to this extent could cause a weight imbalance so catastrophic that the entire area could collapse in to the sea.’ However, retired Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg remained unperturbed. ‘I recently relocated my private bank to an undisclosed location in Africa in anticipation of such an issue. You see, nobody gives a shit if Africa sinks’ he smiled, casually lighting another $100 bill as he stepped on to his private submarine.

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This morning I decided that my site needed more pictures. I’ve done a fair bit of travelling and holidaying in the last few years, so I’ve put up photographic evidence of my trips to America, Portugal, Egypt, Brazil and Colombia, as well as a few from various places in England. I’ll put more up another day, but this is a good start.

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#1 Walky-Texty Gawp Machines

Allow me to paint you a picture. It’s a windy Tuesday afternoon and you’re on your way home from town. You’ve got a few shopping bags – perhaps a vacuum packed steak for tea, so bloody that it is gradually leaking red middle-class juice on to a new pair of 15% off Converse.


God, you’re COOL. You’re like that guy from that band.

Naturally, you’re anxious to get back to your semi-detached suburban bubblebox, put some Eric Clapton on your floor-standing speakers and sing tunelessly along to the first three words of each chorus (you silently mouth the other words, because you don’t know them). Anyway, there you are, briskly courting the edge of the pavement in order to breeze past the ridiculous assortment of dawdlers, aggressively obese women in tracksuits and children picking their noses, when POW! You’re unceremoniously shunted in to a puddle that has collected mud, cigarette butts and cholera at the side of the road over the course of the last 24 hours of British drizzle, by some utterly inconsiderate drone. Exasperated, you stare at your damp Sainsburys bag-for-life and then glance up to see that the newest object of your vitriol is none other than a completely anonymous, random bastard who is bashing, banging and bouncing into the rest of the pedestrian public for no other reason than they are BLOODY TEXTING. Or flicking through their Facebook news feed. Or looking at a semi-naked selfie that has been snapchatted to them by Shazza15 (who, it will later turn out, is underage).


OMG ur so funny lolz…cnt wait 2 c u babe. Stella xxx

Evidently, I am not the only person who is exceedingly irritated by this. In New Jersey, tickets are now being issued for “reckless walking”. The NTSA estimated 1500 accidents directly caused by this in 2010, with a projected year-on-year rise. And, hilariously, an American woman with a BMI higher than her IQ was so distracted while texting that she WALKED OFF A PIER. It’s incredible to watch. These dribbling cretins jolt from side to side as if they are steering themselves with their own thumbs, and, with the irritating “swish” motion now a feature on virtually every phone in existence, the switch of direction has become so rapid and chaotic that it resembles a string puppet dancing. Or someone accidentally slipping on Peter Andre’s hair.

Now, I’m not usually an advocate of vigilante justice (I am), but in this case it seems clear to me that the only way to combat this appalling crime is by legalising instant street beatings. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than watching – even better, actively participating in – a hungover 19-year-old girl being set upon by every member of the general public within a cat-swing, and beaten to within an inch of her life as a punishment for being too absorbed in Whatsapping her BFF about where to get the morning after pill, instead of just looking where the hell she was going. Bitch.

Texting While Walking

You’re going to get punched in the head, love.

Other similar crimes include unnecessarily walking three abreast down a narrow street, suddenly stopping without warning, standing in doorways and genocide.

You have all had fair warning. Next time I come to town, I’m coming swinging.


‘But on my way, I’m going to be doing this… if you get hit, it’s your own fault…’


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My Room 101 – A Labour of Hate

Before I begin, I would like to draw your attention to an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT WORD. Please remember it for later.

Atrocity – /əˈtrɒsətɪ/ (noun, countable)

1. Appalling or atrocious condition, quality, or behaviour; monstrousness.
2. Behaviour or an action that is wicked or ruthless
3. The fact or quality of being atrocious

When I find myself tuning in to the immaculately coiffed reporters of doom, gloom and celebrity gossip that are “The Newsreaders”, they often use the above word when referring to war crimes, terrorism and British weather.  They are, of course, unarguably (and equally) correct in their usage of the word in all three instances. However, in doing so I can’t help but feel that they overlook the need for its continued and everyday usage, for the sad fact, ladies and gentlemen, is that I experience atrocities EVERY SINGLE DAY. I only need to step out on to a road to find my senses bombarded, beaten and bullied by tiny little atrocities, living openly like bacteria upon a vast array of breathbags, brain-morons and all-round irritating little cretins worldwide. Put quite simply, I am having a clandestine hate-affair with the whole world.

Simon was never readmitted to the Halitosis Anonymous group

Stop reaching for that straitjacket, Mother. I realise that not all of you are going to have been immediately convinced, which is precisely the reason that I have decided to start a little (ish) project, entitled “Room 101 – A Labour of Hate”.

It would appear that the “blog” section of this site is swiftly being transformed in to a personal crusade to win a place in your hearts as your second favourite hate preacher (after Abu Hamza – he is definitely more cuddly), so I may as well go the whole hog and embrace this as a fact to be celebrated. Taking the idea of popular BBC TV series Room 101 (but with a twist), I have decided to write 101 short pieces, each addressing a new atrocity – not a “Trevor McDonald atrocity”, but one that you yourselves may encounter from day to day. Perhaps this collection of musings will serve as a warning, so that you can be ever-vigilant of the unspeakable crimes that lie a matter of feet from you – on the other side of a supermarket shelf, round the corner of a crowded street, or on Track 9 of that utterly appalling CD that you’re about to cram nonchalantly in to your pocket noise-maker. DON’T DO IT!

Or perhaps you could simply upload pictures of your own faeces-covered rear end and then use this section (or any other) of my blog as virtual, pixellated toilet paper. I would be delighted with either outcome.

Hug Me!
                                    “Hug Me!”

Expect edition #1 of my anger-filled ranting to follow forthwith. Oh, and here is some appropriately rage-filled music, courtesy of a man who has spent his career being outwardly furious at being named after a river that flows through Nottingham: Trent Reznor.


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BP 180/110 and Counting

Somewhere, deep within the bowels of my brain – a metaphor that might go some way toward explaining why I talk so much shit – lies a switch. I like to think of it as being incredibly difficult to flick, kind of like a bogey with legs. Unfortunately, I have been reliably informed that I am wrong.

The switch to which I am referring to is embossed with the word “RAGE”. We all have one. Mine is either faulty or the size of a fist. A really angry fist with the word “hate” tattooed across its furious knuckles. In my experience, there are a number of things in life that, completely understandably of course, reach their horrendous little fingers out, insert them in to my ear and jab the switch repeatedly like particularly invasive q-tips. I’ve already vitriolically hammered my thoughts on a couple of these hideous little anger-goblins on to a keyboard here and here Well, they say that pent-up balls of maniacal aggression come in threes…

Anger Goblin

The Green Goblin of Apostrophe Misuse

‘I’ve got a bike, I can ride it how I like…’

It’s a glorious, sunny day. If you’re reading this from Southern Europe, South-East Asia, Australasia, most of North America, South America, Africa, The Middle East or any country where English is not the first language, this means it’s cold, but it isn’t raining. If you visit RIGHT NOW (just for one day mind), I can all but guarantee you that you might not immediately die from Pneumonia as soon as you get off the plane. Of course, if you’re a Muslim the EDL might stab you, but at least you wouldn’t be freezing cold. Anyway, I’m British, so when I catch a glimpse of the sun I’m practically naked within 5 seconds (strange how an enormous ball of fire can have the exact same effect on the male population as Scarlett Johansson, isn’t it?) and I take to the streets for a delightful little stroll through central Oxford. How quaint. Or it ought to be at any rate, but within two minutes I meet the first perilous obstacle of my aimless little waddle: a ROAD. That I need to CROSS. Fortunately, J.P Knight, and later, Leslie Hore-Belisha came up with excellent  methods of facilitating this: Traffic Lights and Pedestrian Crossings. Comforted, perhaps complacent, I approach one of these marvellous and apparently COMPLETELY UNHEARD OF inventions and press the little button. And, after a little wait, the little red man becomes a little green man and happy little me can cross the little road and potter along happily to…..”DING DING WHAT THE FUUUUUUUU&%*$%&” As if from nowhere, like a ringwraith for the modern day, a lycra-wearing lunatic comes steaming straight through the red light / over the pedestrian crossing, a look of determination on his face seen thirty minutes earlier when trying to cram himself in to an outfit meant for athletes, or at the very least people who don’t resemble the blob from Blade that gets burnt to death by a UV ray. Take note, fatties. Wear anything other than a tent with sleeves and I will come at you with blue lightbulbs.


Following stage 8 of the Tour de France, 
Bradley Wiggins removes his yellow jersey
and breathes out

Revenge is a dish best served on foot

It’s like a lottery. A really dangerous lottery only played by idiots. So, a lottery then. They appear from nowhere at speed, swerving unpredictably in front of livid bus drivers, resembling enormous flies evading a swatter. Stopping for nothing and nobody, caught up in the smug complacency that no number plate or other identifying mark adorns their metal chariot with which to locate or fine them, single-mindedly focused on the titanic task of getting from point A to point B without stopping or slowing down, lest their entire being loses its pedally sense of rhythm and spontaneously combusts. I can feel my blood pressure rising just from writing this paragraph. One day I will turn the tables. I’ll casually walk along the pavement in a logical, straight line until a cyclist passes, and then deviate completely illogically in to the road, knocking them from their vehicle. I’ll then beat the absurd engineless motorbike to death with my bare hands and rip its damned spokey-dokeys off (Did I mention that I’m currently imagining myself destroying a six-year-old’s bike from 1989?). That’ll level the playing field. Cyclists beware. Pedestrians are striking back, one broken bone at a time.


When the police arrived on scene,
Budgie was already dead.

The alternative is that Patrick McLoughlin reads this blog, and makes the following changes post-haste:

  • Number plates on all bicycles, or mandatory identity jackets as seen worn by Colombian motorcyclists
  • On the spot fines for cyclists who don’t follow the highway code / wear a helmet
  • Enable wronged pedestrians or motorists to legally strangle perpetrators to death in the middle of the street while humming the theme tune to Shaft

Job done.


I realise that this is going to tally up against me somewhat. I have already asserted in no uncertain terms that riding on a train is definitely what I’ll be doing on repeat in hell (if such a place exists).  I’ve now followed it up by tearing in to bicycles like a live manifestation of rust, but much faster acting. It looks bad, but I’m not actually a mediaeval farmer in disguise. I’m not terrified of the concept of, or even plainly anti-transport. I’m also not the kind of gibbering loon who would demand that the wheel be placed in Room #101. In fact, what I’ve come to realise is it’s not the train’s fault. It’s also not the bicycle’s fault. No. The fault, quite clearly, lies with all of YOU. The people who turn them from innocent little inanimate objects in to wheely whirly nightmares. So, I’m going to suggest that humanity is tossed nonchalantly in to the mythical BBC pit – though recent revelations seem to indicate that an underground lair full of hateful things housed within BBC headquarters, may in fact be more plausible than originally thought. Call in Tony Robinson and Time Team. They’ll get to the bottom of it (and then have to stay there, in accordance with my condemnatory wishes).


“ARGH! Savile’s got a hold of my leg….”

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This new-fangled thing called the “Worldwide Web”

It’s Wednesday. If you’re a bespectacled Kiwi, this means that ‘tonight is the night that we make love’. But I’m not in New Zealand. In fact, I’ve never even been, despite it effectively being a giant country-shaped rugby stadium in the middle of the sea. Instead, I’m sitting in my bedroom in Oxford. Well, when I say “sitting” I actually mean “crouching in the corner of a dark room wearing a coat hanger covered in tinfoil for a hat, gibbering poppycock about the Wars of the Roses to the wall”. Why, you ask? Why is this otherwise entirely sane gentleman of repute acting in such a way that might have him mistaken for a rabid Justin Bieber fan?

The length of....time you'll have to wait to see Justin Bieber

I’ll tell you, but ONLY you. You see, the Internet did it.

Cast your minds back, if you will, to the dim and distant past. The internet was in its infancy. Facebook, Twitter and the seminal Roundabout Appreciation Society hadn’t even been roughly conceived in the back of a Ford Transit yet. And, across the world, perplexed parents are speaking to their mothers on their landline telephones, when suddenly “BRRRRRRRRRRR…EEEEEEEEEEEEE….B-DN B-DN B-DN” – a noise that could only be described as similar to what happens when Q*BERT flushes the toilet after a long day lighting up cubes drowns out their fawning agreements and tiresome eye-rolling. It’s happened. Their children are connecting to “The World Wide Web”, futuristic land of pixellated paedophiles and pornography involving wallpaper and horses. “Say it ain’t so!” they cry. But so it was. And is. And forever shall darn well be. Thankfully, they just sigh, apologise, reach for the plug and…..”click”. Silence. Disconnected.


So there was a time, you see, when the www’s and the http’s could be rationed. It was considered a routine request that the internet be “disconnected” so that homework could be completed, chores done or pets fed. However, let’s fast-forward a few years to the present day and try and conceptualise the same request, as presented to today’s snarling, square-eyed picture of youth. I believe it would go something like this:

Father: “Mike, it’s time for tea! Come downstairs and… OH MY GOD… I…er…I…”

Son: “Dad! Oh my God, what are you doing! You can’t just come… I was, er… I was just looking at this…er…”

Father: “OK OK OK, enough, I’ll be, er…. just… tea’s ready, come downstairs please”

Son: “OK just… SHUT THE DOOR! I’ll, yeah, OK…”

Not a pretty picture.


I digress. The point is that the internet is omnipresent, omnipotent, omnivorous; it literally devours everything it touches – meat or vegetable. Everything that was once perfectly happy living a 3-dimensional, oxygen-breathing life has now been absorbed into “the all-powerful internet”, a place so backward that it contains sites where “following” people is encouraged rather than illegal. Books are online, jobs are online, I even overheard my family talking about taking my Grandmother offline the other day. I was incensed. How dare they upload members of my own family without even informing me?! Is she available on USB? Can I “share” her with my friends? So many questions…


All this madness brings about the question: what happens if, amongst this, you suddenly find yourself deprived of the internet for a length of time?

And so I bring you back to my current reality, chewing on nails and spiders’ legs while shivering under a blanket made of my own toenail clippings. Ladies and Gentlemen, I HAVE NO INTERNET. If I say this in public, I imagine I will be stared at while mothers  usher their children away from me and preachers flick stagnant water over my face. I am impure! Unclean! Disconnected from the internet; disconnected from life. It isn’t fair. Imagine what would have happened if Jack Bauer had said “Chloe! I need satellite coverage of the hostile’s vehicle NOW!” and he had got the reply: “Sorry Jack, Internet’s down. Apparently someone from Virgin Media will be round in two Monday’s time, between 1 and 6 and can she have the first line of your address and postcode, please?”


I need help.

Missing: One “Internet”.

Size: Both minuscule and unfathomably huge.



You know where to find me.


Posted on

“Mum… MUM! I think the planet’s dead!”

I hope that you all appreciate this. I’m hunched over, bottom lip firmly clamped over nose, taking valuable time out from the last day on earth to write about the last day on… yes. Well. My nonetheless valid point is that I deserve recognition for this selfless act. Of course, the painful agony of this is that the earth is about to be eaten by Godzilla, meaning that my long overdue Nobel prize will remain undelivered. Damn you, Gorilla-Whale. Anyway, while rocketing through my bucket list at a speed that would give Morgan Freeman an epileptic fit, I have had time to pause and reflect on the cold hard facts that form the undeniable truth that is the forthcoming apocalypse.

Marlon Harewood's Bad Hair Day 20.12.12

The Mayans

I feel compelled to begin by stating that I have never in fact met a Mayan. However, I have been told that the 21st of December represents the end of a 5125-year cycle in their calendar. This is terrifying news, but it DOES allow me to draw the following highly educated conclusions about their ancient society with some degree of confidence and authority:

  1. Their calendars were ludicrously expensive.
  2. They used rhinoceros horns embedded in to their walls to hang said calendars, which made a mess of their kitchen wallpaper.
  3. They are responsible for most species of rhinoceros being endangered today.
  4. Mayan Teenagers’ calendars contained an eye-watering amount of airbrushed soft pornography.
  5. This resulted in Mayan males having abnormal asymmetries in their wrist sizes.
  6. Mayan females liked to plan things an awfully long way ahead.
  7. Except for counting numbers after 20.12.2012

Hot Mayan Nurses

ARE YOU SCARED YET????? I start trembling and have to hide behind a pillow whilst sobbing quietly in to a bucket of my own sick EVERY NEW YEAR (although I have been told that this is actually affected by alcohol consumption rather than doomsday-phobia). All the same, imagine the state the Mayans must be in right this second, after stacking up 5125 New Years in to one night. I can’t even begin to imagine how one would go about dressing in 5125 different fancy dress costumes at once, let alone sing Auld Lang Syne 5125 times. The mind boggles.

The Music

Whilst there is no denying the quality of both The Beatles and Nirvana separately, the combining of two powerful forces such as these has no doubt confirmed that Armageddon is upon us. It doesn’t matter that 50% of them are dead, or that Paul McCartney has been melted by his own smuggery leaving only a magic singing toupee behind, the facts CAN NOT BE IGNORED. Strongly backing up this argument are musical collaborations such as Madonna and Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Chris Brown and Iggy Pop and that staggering mountain of wildebeest turd with a dollar sign in her name. The mysterious release of a single called “Scream to high buggery” by Ban$hee on this very date has almost certainly swayed it for me.

Ke$ha is Swamped by Fans

The Guys with the Signs

I mean, they seem so sure this time, right? Undeterred by the previous 74 occasions on which they have been proven to merely be the kind of people who twitch on buses, stare intently at geese and sniff bridges, the placard-wearing brigade have once again taken to the streets in force, sporting everyone’s favourite judgement day slogans:

  1. “The End is Nigher”
  2. “Get your tissues for the second coming”
  3. “It’s not the end of the… OH WAIT”
  4. “I’ll NOT be back”

I’m pretty sure I also spotted a group of students near the back too, but their signs said “NOW will you legalise it??”


They Killed Sir Patrick Moore

I don’t know who “they” is, but television has recently told me that Sir Patrick Moore was the only man in the entire world to have owned a telescope. Now nobody can see Godzilla coming. We are all surely doomed.


So it’s almost time for me to bid you adieu. The final curtain, the last hoorah. As Edith Piaf, a woman who could be transformed from a midget in to the tallest woman in the world through careful ironing, once warbled: “Je ne regrette rien…”

BUT WAIT!! An epiphany! Maybe all is not in fact lost! Remove the knife from your mother in-law’s throat, put your pants back on and return that Bugatti to its owner very, very quietly. And, for those of you just about to seal the airlock on your cryogenic chambers, first ponder over these three crucial, life-changing facts:

  • It’s already 21.12.2012 in Australia, so even if the end of the world is coming, at least they died first.
  • One of the four horsemen of the apocalypse recently received a six-month ban for the presence of a “prohibited substance” in his blood and is therefore unavailable for selection.
  • Kim Jong-Un’s fingers are too fat to press the big shiny red button on his massive mahogany desk.