Sunday, 24 November 2013


I've been thinking about friendship a little lately, mostly because I have to plan a series of activities for my class in Anti-Bullying week next week, but also because I've been lucky enough to spend time with good friends over the last week. A get together for a friends milestone birthday, people I've known from college who are more like family than friends, coffee with others who I've known for less time, but I still hold as dear.

We get to choose our friends, they become our extended family, somehow I have to get this across to the 9 & 10 years olds I teach. Maybe they can't choose their friends, they are all lumped together in one class, friends through circumstance, not choice, and their friends go back to their own families at the end of the day. When you're nine, thinking a friend you have in class will be a friend for life is an insurmountable thought. Two of my best friends were with me at primary school, we are just as close now as when we played Scooby Doo at break time or argued over who's turn it was to sharpen the pencils. When you're nine a broken friendship can feel like the end of the world, the idea of being kind is hard in practice when your heart hurts. Making friends is easy, losing them is easy too. You have to make the effort. As Kurt Voennegut put it:

"There's only one rule I know of; You've got to be kind."

Saturday, 2 November 2013

She Who Dares Writes: Chicago, my kinda town fo showa

She Who Dares Writes: Chicago, my kinda town fo showa: There are times when, America, you are awful, but I like you (apologies to Dick Emery). Chicago is an impressive city, impressive enough to...

Chicago, my kinda town fo showa

There are times when, America, you are awful, but I like you (apologies to Dick Emery). Chicago is an impressive city, impressive enough to equal New York, certainly noisy enough. Our apartment was placed next to the Chicago Fire Department, and didn't we know it. All day and all night sirens wailed along the streets below, each day a new, impossible caterwauling contributing to the cacophony of city sound. You get used to it, and begin to listen out for the different tones. Despite this, it's hard not to love the wide avenues and cultured public spaces of this lakeside city.
Beaches sweep impressively beyond the freeway, the skyline gleams behind in the autumn sun. The architecture is stunning, old houses crouch between the skyscrapers, but unlike New York, there is space, room to manoeuvre.
The natives are freindly in a genuine un-American way, perhaps it's their proximity to Canada. The city is a place of innovation and inventors, built on reclaimed swamp land in the 1830's, the local indians used to call it Chica-gee (smelly onion). There is a waft of garlic bread on some street corners, (the best to be found anywhere is at Michael Jordans steakhouse in the gorgeous Interconintental Hotel)or delicious cocoa from the chocolate factory. Spectacular design and grand art abound, The Art Institute houses the largest collection of French Impressionists outside the Louvre.
Navy Pier is the site of the first Ferris wheel, three times larger than the one that exists there now, built for the world exposition in 1893, the baskets were railway carriages.
The city snakes and layers with overhead railways and sunken roads, skyscrapers built on stilts. It is Gotham - Batman was filmed there. A magnificent city with too few centre bookshops but glamorous shops on North Michigan Avenue, great libraries, galleries and art, gentle gorillas in the free zoo at Lincoln Park, soulful music at the House of Blues and deep pan pizzas like pillows. Worth a trip.