Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Bye, kids.

I've just finished working at a special needs secondary school, where i was sent for a month. I would have been there longer, but my shiny new job as a gay/bi women's sexual health worker (woohoo!) just started, so for two days a week I'm now a professional lesbian, so I'll only be doing short term school jobs on the other days.

Much as I'm excited about my new job, I'm hoping to be going back to this school occasionally. It's completely awesome. The kids all officially have 'moderate' special needs. that is, severe enough to be taken out of mainstream school, but moderate enough in comparison to a lot of special schools. it's basically the 'we're not sure what to do with this kid' school, leading to a chaotic mix of learning and behaviour problems and a huge spectrum of ability and attitude.
I'd like to celebrate my time there by writing about some of the turns of phrase I heard that made me boggle and giggle...

The kids at this school are socially aware enough to swear and use slang and generally appear far more knowing than they are. Like all teenagers, but more so. Interestingly, many of them come from backgrounds where it is considered normal to use terms like 'spaz/spacker' and 'mong' (see previous posts on these terms) to mean 'idiot', despite the presence of students with cerebral palsy and Down's syndrome. They simply don't connect the word with the meaning, and if you try to explain it, they rarely believe you.
The girl who really surprised me was the one who regularly used the phrase 'monging me out' as in 'stop it, you're monging me out' or 'that really mongs me out' basically anything that's disturbing/annoying her is doing this. She is one of the more able kids; no actual 'conditions' as such, just a subnormal IQ, and usually finds the more extreme physical special needs exhibited by students on the school's sister site particularly unsettling. Persuading her, on visits to the other site, not to loudly proclaim 'MIIIISS, can we go back to OUR school? THIS LOT ARE MONGING ME OUT!' I tried to explain why that wasn't a cool way of expressing herself, pointing out that we had Down's syndrome kids in school and comparing 'mong' to racial slurs such as 'Paki'. Her response? 'But Amir IS a Paki. AND he's a right mong.' Amir, incidentally is one of her best mates. He is Pakistani, but is not Down's syndrome. However, he has very similar behaviours to Down's kids. He doesn't care if she calls him a Paki. It's tough to explain to both of them why it's not cool.
Another kid I enkoyed working with was obviously from a very articulate and intelligent family, with at least one parent/carer who reveres Richard Dawkins as a god (There's a lot of that about: can't they see the irony?).
She's great, taking on creationist kids (mostly muslim but some christian) to argue for evolution and against religion (bear in mind this is a special school. you do NOT expect to walk into 'But look at pictures of skeletons. we LOOK like animals.we are animals. we CAME from other animals. your book is WRONG!') She also stands up for gay rights on behalf of her uncles who I'm told are planning to adopt. If a kid uses the word 'gay' as an insult she is down their necks faster than any of the teachers, citing her uncles and demanding that they explain themselves. She's hard. there's not generally much homophobia in her class. Except from her.
Previously mentioned 'mongs me out girl': Why have you got silver toenails?
Darwinist: My little brother painted them for me. Just 'cos he wanted to use it himself. Ended up with it all o'er his hands though. Little Poof.
Me: I thought you said it was OK to be gay. What about your uncles?
Darwinist: oh yeah. My uncles are gay. it's normal. I don't know why people are bothered.
Me; But... you just called your brother a poof.
Her: yeah, he IS a poof. He's gone to school today in nail polish. Poof.
Me:That's a bad word for a gay person.
Her: I know. but I like gay people.
Me: I know, but if you use words like poof, other people will think it's OK to call gay people names.
Her: Then I'll smack them one.
There's a logic there, I suppose.
In the same class, later the same day, much male adolescent giggling was occurring about the title of the new(ish) film Lesbian Vampire Killers. Comfortingly, 'Mongs me out' girl had taken the earlier conversation to heart.
Beavis-like Teenage Boy: Heheheheheheheh Lesbian. Heheheheheheheheh, Lesbian Vampires. Heheheheheheheh.
M.M.O girl: Shut up! There's nothing wrong if two vampires love each other very much! Stop picking on vampires!
At this point, I fell off my chair.
I'm gonna miss these kids.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

When is GBH not GBH? When it's the cops.

I saw and liked this on one of my favourite procrastination centres: .
It's a valid point, and one I think we can transpose to the G20 protests in London on April 1st.
For those of you in America and elsewhere who may not have heard the full story, there were lots of protests in London to mark the G20. Anyone from climate change protesters to anticapitalists, it was hyped up in the media to be a full scale mob riot with thugs aplenty. Even though the majority of protests on the day were peaceful, the news coverage looked like this:
Sky News
Bad protesters. Naughty protesters. Much was made of the man you can see at 0.51 'taunting' peaceful police officers. One has to wonder where he got the headwound that made him so angry, though.
The police were praised for their decisive and necessary action in a very difficult situation. Any peaceful protesters who had suffered only had their thuggish, violent, riot-happy comrades to blame. Even a protester called Ian Tomlinson's sad death was due to those evil mobs preventing the police from helping him after he had an unexpected heart attack.
Then this video shows up.

The Guardian, incidentally is a left-wing broadsheet paper, to whom this video was given by a New York fund manager who also wasn't there for the protests, but had been 'kettled' (trapped) by the police. And since this came out, the heart attack verdict given by a police autopsy has been called into question. Internal injuries are now believed to be a more likey cause of death.
And now a fair few others have come forward with compromising video footage directly contradicting claims made by the authorities, and suddenly the London Metropolitan Police don't look so 'courageous'.
But still the language is different.
I heard what I assume to have been the head of the Met, or at least a spokesman on BBC Radio this morning. He said the actions of some officers was 'regrettable' and 'IF there were (Officers deliberately covering up their ID to avoid later complaints, as appears to be the case with Ian's truncheon-happy buddy)they will be dealt with'.
There are still politicians claiming that the police were just doing their job, and it was the protesters who 'started it'.
Thing is, if you're up against the police, and the police are whacking non violent passers by with truncheons, (sorry 'using necessary force in a difficult scenario') what are you going to do, call the police?
Or do you become a 'violent mob'?
Or relinquish your right to protest?
Them's your choices.
My thoughts are with Ian Tomlinson's family. It's hard enough to lose your dad without being lied to by the police as well.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Definitely Intelligent

I was at my mum's over the Easter break. On Jesus day itself we celebrated with the usual pagan egg rituals and my cousin came over with her husband and kids. I like kids. I like babies and teenagers, toddlers and tweens. I like teaching kids new things and I like it when a kid can outwit me. However. I really appreciate downtime from the little darlings. I like to be able to walk away from work or from a mummified (no... wait. I don't mean that...) friend's house in the knowledge that I can go home and be irresponsible. And honestly, I don't know how my cousin does it. She is an incredibly devoted mother and her older child, her daughter, is WAY too smart. Having a clever toddler is a minefield. All the white lies and sweeping statements you can get away with for other kids, like "Father Christmas doesn't bring toys to naughty children", "If you have a late night your hair will fall out" or even a simple "It's dinner time." are painstakingly dissected and debunked by a fresh-from-the-box genius who can run rings around you.
The reason I wanted to talk about my cousin's kid, though is this. If one word fits her, it's 'definitely'. When offered lasagne at lunch, she responded Charlie and Lola style: 'I def'nitely, def'nitely don't like that AT ALL' But definitions are something she is obsessed with. Amina hates linguistic ambiguity. It makes her really cross. If you refer to what she's wearing on her feet as 'shoes' when sandals, boots or even Crocs would be a better description, you're in the doghouse. Words that are normally and comfortably accepted as having multiple meanings are avoided and, and this is the part I love, replaced with her own coinages. 'Baby' is unnacceptable as a description of her little brother, as it is an adult term of endearment used in pop songs. So he's a zing. Or in extreme cases, Mr Zing. 'Go' is used only to refer to the action of going. As an imperitive in a game, as in "Ready Steady Go!" The words 'ah bwah pwigh' are substituted. The list goes on.
Anybody else got words they made up as a kid? do you still use them? I love this kid for talking control of an illogical language and, aged 4, whipping it into shape. And she's so strong willed, I suspect we'll all be using them before she gives them up...

Thursday, 9 April 2009

When it comes to the dentist, ignorance isn’t bliss.

I’ve practically moved in with my dentist over the past 6 months. Over a decade of dental denial doesn’t do much for the state of your teeth and when I did finally did force myself to sign up, there were a lot of problems.
I made it clear from the start that I was very nervous and panicky about coming in. My dentist was very sympathetic, and did her best to put me at my ease. However, it’s an NHS (National Health Service- subsidised by taxes and with flat rates, but long waiting lists and overworked staff) practice, meaning that they are incredibly dedicated but strapped for cash. These people work through their breaks, stay late and will do anything to make sure everyone gets the treatment they need. I have huge respect for them, but they don’t have time to chat (it’s not like I can make conversation during the seemingly endless fillings and hideous root canal treatments) and they work on the assumption that the patient would rather NOT know what was going on. So they just blithely stick piece after piece of apparatus into my defenceless mouth. Apparatus they never talk about, and which I have only seen through my safety shades at an angle not suited to anything than observing that the good dentist needs to cleanse the pores on her chin.
However, after months of highly uncomfortable research, I present to you my findings on the basic toolkit of your average dentist.

The Frankentooth Bolt: This little number clamps around your tooth like a vice, poking holes in your gum that you don’t know about until the anaesthetic wears off, but when it does they sting like buggery. They seem to generally use this when there’s a bigger filling to do, as if they are expecting the whole tooth to fly apart under the pressure.

The Face Sucker: Made famous by Bill Cosby’s iconic routine. Except these days they don’t leave you alone with the damn thing. Instead an enthusiastic dental nurse has at you with it like her mum’s coming to visit and she hasn’t hoovered in six months. This is fine as long as she gets the angle right and you don’t feel you NEED saliva, but when she’s reaching round to the back, god help you if you’ve a sensitive gag reflex. I swear she nearly sucked up my uvula last time.

The Bill Murray Packing Peanuts:
The things Bill Murray spits out at the end of the masochist at the dentist scene in Little Shop Of Horrors. Not a film you want in your head when you’re in that chair. If you prefer you can think about the Godfather, since that’s who you look like once they’ve pointlessly rammed them round your jaw like they’re planning to fed-ex it somewhere.

The Power Tools:
Holy hell. Forget the drill. This is like one of those all in one Black and Decker jobs you’re supposed to buy your dad for Christmas. It has a variety of scary looking add-ons, makes a selection of worrying noises and, occasionally, disturbing smells (cf Thubuh Smuboke Mabachibine).

The Tortured, Pissing Bat:
This is when they say “we’ll just give you a quick clean”, and you foolishly assume the worst is over. Not so. It makes a noise like a pipistrelle under extraordinary rendition and squirts water everywhere but your mouth. And it feels like the dentist is etching a beautiful filigree pattern on your gum line, i.e. intricately painful.

Flat-pack screws:
These little numbers are what they stick in your root canals. Inch long black spines, which, no joke, they screw into your tooth like they’re going to wall mount it. Dentistry, Ikea-style.

Thubuh Smuboke Mabachibine:
Bill Cosby again. “Smuboke, smuboke, smuboke! FIBUR!” I swear. If I hadn’t seen that routine I would have been out of that chair and down the street with a mouth full of metal when the smell of burning tooth hit me. Seriously, it doesn’t occur to these people that the easily spooked dental phobic might be bothered by a FIRE IN HER MOUTH with no warning?

The iFill™: My personal favourite. Unlike the well appointed medieval torture chamber aesthetic of the rest, this thing looks like Apple designed it. It seems to be used to ‘cook’ your filling after its gone in. it makes your mouth feel nice and warm. Kind of like your tongue’s in a tanning booth. It’s probably giving me cancer.

Would it be better if I actually knew what these things were called, and why they were used? Does knowing the name of something reduce your fear of it? I think so, but the dental culture here is ‘shut your eyes tight and let the experts get on with it’. This is why I have resorted to naming everything myself, and not in flattering terms. (Hmmm. I may be onto something here: could sexist racist and homophobic slurs POSSIBLY be born of fear and ignorance? Surely not!) One day, when they’re not rushed off their feet at my dentist’s (cold day in hell), I’ll have them give me a quick tutorial, and maybe it will be less scary after all. On the other hand, I like my names better. Another life lesson in prejudice there.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Go Iowa!

So, Iowa legalised gay marriage. Hooray for that. A rural, non-coastal state getting a clue gives me hope that one day, ONE day, gay marriage might actually make federal law in the states, giving me the option of emigrating to the states with my beloved as a real honest-to-goodness American-by-marriage. I'm not saying I definitely WOULD, I'm saying it'd be nice to be ABLE to.
But it raises a question. A question that the blog Queers United have irritatingly beaten me to.
Over here, we call gay marriage 'civil partnership' because the religious lobby claimed that marriage was a sacred term. Yeah, because there are no married atheists at all, right?
Any suggestions for a neutral, inclusive and descriptive term? answers on a postcard. Or in comments, whichever.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Victory, apparently, is Riot Kitty's.

OK in a departure from normal service, today's blog is dedicated to the awesome Riot Kitty and her crazy meme shenanigans. Apparently I have to:-
1. Post six random funny things about other people.
2. Then tag six other bloggers.
3. Link to the person who tagged you.
4. Be FUNNY.

Here goes.

1. My friend and exneighbour had an annoying and supercilious houseguest who woke her up one morning to the smell of noxious fumes after he put the cordless electric kettle ON the stove, melted the crap out of it, and then ran across the kitchen and dumped it in the sink, leaving a trail of molten plastic in his wake. He hasn't lived it down.

2. A kid in a behavioural inclusion unit (bad kid school) I once worked at asked to go to the toilet during a cooking class and didn't return. After some investigation of the moans coming from the cubicle it transpired that he had stolen some chillies in order to experiment with their 'stimulating' properties. He could barely walk when he emerged.

3. My beloved told a store clerk 'fuck you!' when she was two years old.

4. One of the followers of this blog owns a deranged, paint-drinking attack goose.

5. My best friend got a blowjob at my wedding, in the conference room of the city council building, and was almost interrupted in flagrante by a drunk-assed bridesmaid. This is what happens when you give the gays a foot in the door of local government.

6. My friend's mum, upon walking in on her offspring discussiong masturbation, said the immortal line "Oh don't stop on my account, I know all about wankling!"

OK, everyone following this blog should consider themselves tagged.