Thursday, February 24, 2011

The phoney war!

It begins!

The First Day of the examination season is upon us!

We have two people with the same first name on the invigilation timetable and there is no differentiation made so the day starts with the chaos that we know so well.  But, ironically, as chaos (of a sort) is our middle name it is taken in our stride and we confidently wait for the next crisis.

The sun has come out to indicate that it is still there and to give us hope throughout the next few days as, according to the strict rules of the pathetic fallacy and the local weather forecast it will be thoroughly sad and depressing for the period of the examinations with overcast skies and even precipitation.

The day for me has started well with an unexpected free for almost a whole period and then finishing off one exam and allowing the class “study time.”

This so-called “study time” is, as you might imagine, the bane of our lives.  The pupils, in a school that is constantly setting examinations, constantly ask for study time.  Their idea of study is to “revise” for less than an hour just before the examination.  Their short-term memory capabilities have been honed to a fine edge by constant practice and they can easily take in a vast amount of knowledge that they can just as easily discard as soon as they have regurgitated what they have been asked to “learn”.

As talking is second nature to our pupils the idea of studying in silence is an almost impossible ideal for them to aim at and therefore an enforced period of quiet is a fairly noisy battle of wills.  Still, it’s better than teaching.  And on day one they do at least have a plethora of tests for which to prepare!

I am trying to read more.  This is because the demands of school drain the natural inclination towards the printed (in whatever form) word to fill the free-ish evenings that I might have.  God knows there is enough for me to get stuck into in spite of the fact that the two authors that I decided to download electronically do not seem to exist in digital form.  I will persevere and should have the texts safely in my Kindle for the holidays – however long or short they may be.

I have ordered a book from Amazon that purports to be a complete guide to the musical works of Mozart.  I have been merrily listening to the more famous parts of his oeuvre but am looking askance at the more esoteric offerings (especially in the operas) of which I have never heard.  I always find that some sort of background gives me the incentive to listen with a little more concentration. 

I have been caught before about what people regard as a “musical guide” and the one that I bought on Carl Nielsen is almost impenetrable in its use of technical musical jargon and immensely unhelpful illustrations from the score. 

A famous line in “Look Back in Anger” was, “Do the Sunday papers make you feel ignorant?”  Well, this guide to Carl’s music certainly made me feel so!  I only hope that the present guide that I have bought after looking (electronically) at a few sample pages is a little more human and inviting.

I have also bought a guide to Office for Mac and only hope that it too is user friendly: I am a “user” and not a “geek” so I need things explained in a rational and not an intuitive way.

To leaven out the arts I have also purchased a series of Simon Rattle’s discs that seemed to be good value covering a range of music: British, Russian and Stravinsky – the latter of which I had not realized was a nationality!

I like the fact that the overwhelming quantity of music on The Machine is new, though some old favourites will have to be added by hand, as it were.  The Rattle versions are of music that I have on other discs, but it will be good to experience them on something new. 

I suppose that what I am saying is that the purchase of The Machine is an excuse to buy more and experiment with other radical interpretations than the ones I already have.  Of course, this all falls down when it comes to paying for them and I am much more inclined to go for what I perceive to be bargains than pay full price for something supposedly more “interesting”!

Today has been interesting given the fact that I have four lessons and a meeting and I appear to have taught only one of them – and that was more of a question and answer session rather than a formal lesson. 

My second lesson was supervision; my third simply disappeared and my students flocked to the “library” to engage in ceaseless conversation until the head of the sixth form stormed in and demanded their silence; my fourth has disintegrated into a “study” lesson where most of the pupils appear to be actually engaged in work of some sort.  I confidently expect that the meeting will be curtailed in the interests of marking.  So, all in all a fairly lazy day and the sun has shone throughout.

Today does however mark a significant moment in the management of my finances.

It has taken me a while to recover from the horror of discovering that the only time that I had savings was the only time when it didn’t really pay to have them.

The bloated plutocratic thieves who run the bond market played fast and loose with my savings and managed to rip 40% of the value of my funds away.

Needless to say, I remembered the small print that always stated that “investments can go down as well as up” and I confidently awaited an upturn in the market.

What I hadn’t banked (ironic) on was the fall in the value of the pound.  What, when I first arrived in Spain was a Euro worth?  70p.  What is a Euro worth now?  85p.  An effective devaluation of some 20%.  So for my savings (ironic) to worth simply the same as they were when I put them into the “slow but steady growth” bonds they would have to increase in value by  while if I consider what interest rate I could have got in an ordinary bank or building society then I would need to earn another .  If I then consider the charges that have been made while these wealthy fools have gambled away my money, while being paid with my money as well then I would need to add a further  and all of that is merely to stand still.  I could weep.

However apart from a few bad tempered (on my part the people at the other end were serene) telephone calls I don’t know exactly what the situation is.

I have been encouraged by the economics and business studies teacher to leave things well alone and only worry nearer the date of the maturity of the investments, but planning for something as important as the rest of my life should occupy some of my time in the years leading up to the date on which the funds become available without penalty.

I have therefore written to the managers of the fund and asked them to come clean and let me know exactly where I stand.  It says something for their sense of decency that they have not seen fit to send me a single printed account of what the hell they have been doing since I put the money into the funds.

I have, of course kept some track of what is going on, but my discoveries were inevitably discouraging and depressing while I comforted myself with the feeling that time was, hopefully, on my side.

Now I will find out if the length of time that I have left for the funds to settle has been sufficient for me to regard what seemed like a safe investment to justify my grudging confidence.

Meanwhile life, as they say goes on.
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