Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Monday October 20th

Thanks to my good friends at Barclaycard, I had agreed to do three days supply teaching at my previous employer's, School W. My wife, a teacher at School W had regaled me with stories about how the lunatics were finally running the asylum, which I, knowing the female tendency to exaggerate (but not about that), took with a large pinch of salt.

I sat watching the News in the morning, applying the 'Head Banging Principle'. Like the man who banged his head against a wall because it was nice when he stopped, if I watch enough reporting about the credit crunch, climate change, repossessions, stabbings, beatings, famine, disease and pestilence, then anything else seems like a breath of fresh air. Suitably depressed by world events, and equal parts amazed and annoyed by the fact that Bill Turnbull is evidently considered, by someone at the BBC, to be something other than a burk who was not bullied enough at school, I headed to the Micra.

The drive to School W from my house is a short one. One of the aspects of the journey that never fails to amuse me, is Cardiff County Council's approach to environmentally-friendly travel. Doubtless some idealist in Westminster, or worse still, the Welsh Assembly, thinks that cycling to work is the solution to a multitude of ecological and economical problems. As such they have sworn to do whatever it takes to encourage us all to get on our bikes. Either that or they are on a big back-hander from Paint Our Gutters Red Ltd. To expand on that, to say that that the drive to pedal-power had been half-hearted in the Cardiff area, would be a gross understatement. In place of the broad cycle paths to be found in continental Europe, the densely-populated UK has opted for a compromise. Unable to lose space from our already congested roads, and unwilling to fund road-widening schemes, British decision makers have invested almost nothing in a third way. By painting the area between the double yellow lines and the kerb red, Councils such as Cardiff immediately created miles of cycle paths, exceeding (I would have thought) government targets. Brilliant on paper, the scheme loses a little credibility, when the fact that standard bicycle handlebars are several centimetres wider than these newly created cycle paths is factored into the equation. In the unlikely event that the hapless cyclist was not clipped by a passing lorry and sent under the wheels of one of Cardiff's pointless thirty metre long bendy-buses, they would still have to endure cycling through three inch deep dirty rainwater, dog faeces and cicagrette ends. But they still do it. Every morning polystyrene hatted idiots risk life and limb to turn up at work looking like a cross between a vagrant and an aerobics instructor.

Whilst I was parked at the traffic lights near the rear entrance to the train staion (in the cycle path/red gutter), I saw two fly-posted signs that tickled my fancy. The first was advertising a Cage Fighting night in Newport, the second a 'Time Flies in the Rhondda' DJ night.

If you have never been to Newport, don't. It is the most violent conurbation I have ever spent an evening out in. I once had the pleasure of escorting my best friend, bleeding profusely from a head wound (not self-inflicted), to The Royal Gwent Hospital, in Newport, on a Saturday night. The A&E waiting room was standing-room only, as ne'er-do-wells with assorted injuries swayed back and forth. At first I thought that two resident police officers in riot gear was a little heavy handed for a hospital. However, they were soon overwhelmed by the three fights that broke out, independent of any earlier altercations, near the reception desk. As such, the thought of people paying their hard earned money to see grown men fighting, in a barbaric, no-holds-barred, contest, in the Leisure Centre in Newport, is only obscene in as much as those people could see the same thing, gratis, outside of the Leisure Centre in Newport.

With the closure of the mines, the loss of the supply businesses associated with the coal industry, and the crushing unemployment levels that followed, the Rhondda has suffered more hardship than most areas of the UK. The extreme lack of investment has resulted in a landscape peppered with dilapidated buildings and a population who could be forgiven for thinking that they had been abandoned. This oppressive feeling of hopelessness is largely to blame for the greatly heightened levels of drug and alcohol dependency that the area experiences. Accordingly, the reason that I found the DJ night fly-poster particularly ironic, is that I'll venture that one thing that time does not do in the Rhondda, is fly.

On arriving at School W my feelings of dread proved to be well founded, and it took until 10.32am for me to remember exactly why I left my full-time teaching post in the first place. But I think that I will combine my few days back in the real world into one expletive-riddled blog tomorrow.

On the way home I was relieved to see Beelzebub appear, suddenly, near my house. I had not seen my diaboilical chum for over two weeks, and was beginning to think that maybe his work in Canton was done. But there he was, large as life and still wearing his lucky blue sweatshirt and cream trousers.

In the evening, exhausted, I fell asleep on the big sofa, and dreamt of all my teeth falling out.

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