I am from Mars and you have a Penis

Why do men and women seem to worry so much about communicating with each other? I was in a bookshop today and couldn’t believe the amount of books on this subject – starting with the ubiquitous “Men are from Mars” … Continue reading

First Impressions

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If you were to see me at a bar, glass of wine in hand, getting more marble mouthed as the drink wore on, you could be forgiven for thinking I’m a middle class twonk.

I was flabbergasted when a boyfriend described me as ‘elegant’, a secretary in an office challenged me with the immortal phrase “You’re posh int ya?” and some automatically assume I’m always in designer clothes “WHO are you wearing?” *rolls eyes*

A boss once described me as “an iron fist in a velvet glove”, she referred to herself as just the iron fist. I think it meant that I got things done by being nice, which she slightly disapproved of.

People assume I am high maintenance, fussy, particular, that I will only settle for the best of everything or that I think I’m glamorous or theatrical and possibly up my own arse. Some of the young people at work have been immediately terrified by me on sight. When I heard that I was horrified.

Strangers also think they know me, or that I look like (insert the name of any blonde actress here), I’m particularly dense or a bimbo (not so much now I’m older). The simple reason is that I have a bland collection of features that some seem to project onto. Nothing I can do about it.

I’m not trying to be anything I’m not. Honestly. But it just goes to show that we cannot control what other people think if they don’t know us. I’ve stopped worrying about it so much as I’ve got older.

I come from a working class background. We struggled financially as a family. I had a pretty shitty childhood. My parents didn’t know how to take care of me. I learned very early on to fend for myself. It was violent, too, so I never felt very safe.

That’s why I have worked so hard to make sure I survived and could be independent of everyone, if I needed to be. It wasn’t ever about material gain. It was about making myself feel safe.  Sad, really.

I was lent out to my Dad’s middle class boss and his wife, who spoiled me with clothes, trips abroad, books and the like and gave me a taste of a wealthier life. Which was weird in itself.

I learned that attention and appreciation came from outside my family and, as for unconditional love, I missed out, but I still managed to keep hold of a big heart.

I went to a girl’s grammar school, which still had pretensions of turning out “young ladies”, so I had years of elocution and deportment training and very strict rules on immaculate grooming to contend with. And the ballet lessons.

What you see is not what you get.

I can ‘pass’ in the hooray set, or even with the real aristo types, but I don’t belong there.

I don’t fit in at the working man’s club, or a Yates Wine Lodge or Cinderella’s in Essex, but I’d have a laugh.

I’d be itchy and uncomfortable in the Boden set or with the North London meeja types. Simply because I find pretentious people fake.

I uneasily float between classes, a stranger in all. That’s what social mobility does for you. I often feel like an outsider.

Of course I have faults. Impatience is the worst. Because I’ve always been driven, I find it hard to slow down, I want to make quick decisions and get on with things.

That’s an area I’m trying to fix. It makes me seem pushy and doesn’t belong outside a deadline driven environment at work. I have to learn not to always lead from the front, especially in relationships.

The other thing that myself and female colleagues struggle with, is expressing our femininity and vulnerability.

After nearly twenty years in the hire and fire world of advertising, with enormous egos to cajole and calm, plus ridiculous deadlines and demands, you have to appear tough.

We are all highly capable and organised women that make the impossible happen, it’s a skill; but even in 2013, it’s amazing how many men find that deeply threatening or want you to be their big strong mummy.

I advise people getting to know me to be patient. I know how frustrating it is to deal with someone who isn’t how they seem. I afford them the same courtesy; but it’s incredible how quickly people categorise others on the most surface attributes and immediately put them in one box or the other.

Truth is that I’m an earthy sort. Straight down the line, emotionally steady, loyal to a fault and have a naughty sense of humour.

I’m certainly not high maintenance. I’m self maintaining and I view women that expect men to pay for everything with pity and disdain. I’ll definitely buy rounds and split bills, thank you. It’s only fair. If I really wanted a diamond bracelet, I’d buy one. Let’s stay up all night talking instead.

You can take me to a posh restaurant and I’ll know which fork to use and what the culinary French or the pretentious ingredients are, but I’d appreciate it far more if I was taken to somewhere simple that just served one good thing, whether it was a bacon butty wagon,a scruffy little dumpling shop in China town, or the bagel bake in the Old Kent Road at 4am in the morning.

Some of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had consisted of bread, cheese, ham and wine. Local to where I was at the time. Preferably eaten outdoors in the sun. On a rug.

I have stayed in places where rats crawled over me in the night, or scorpions kept me awake by scraping their claws against the walls and ridiculously expensive hotels with grovelling staff to cater for every whim (don’t like servility at all). I don’t care as long as I’m having a good time, with authentic people.

The luxurious looking fur coat cost me £15 at a boot sale, the rest of the outfit is likely to be a mix of charity shop, customised bargains or just good online buys. I’ll prefer natural fabrics and I like my towels soft, my sheets good quality and my perfume subtle, but that’s about as pretentious as it gets.

I know that the menacing bloke covered in tattoos is probably as soft and sensitive as a puppy and loves his mum, I’m not going to judge the swaggering teenager or the elderly woman, who seems to be the type you’d ignore. All of us are more complex and interesting than we may first appear.

I won’t, however, tolerate rudeness or a disregard for other people – I do judge and dislike people like that. I’ll drop a toxic person the minute I find out what they are like, (the ice maiden cometh) or have a word with rude people on the train. I don’t ever fear ‘showing myself up’. I can be formidable if fighting a cause or protecting someone I love.

But generally, if you care to look, I’m a direct and honest person. Quite simple in my tastes and insatiably curious about people of all kinds.

There’s nothing to be scared of, I try my best to be gentle and kind; I have a long fuse and if I do lose my temper (very rare) it’s over in 5 minutes and I never sulk, seek revenge or play mind games. I strive to be a decent sort. I expect most people are the same. I start out with that assumption. Despite everything, I remain optimistic.

When I burnt out from over-work, my medical insurance afforded me so much bloody therapy, that I have exorcised every demon and examined my own navel intimately. I know myself only too well and, to be frank, am bored rigid at the thought of any further self examination.

We all deserve to be given a second look, a chance to show the real, many layered, person underneath the facade. Because if we always judge too fast, we’ll only meet people that appear to be just like us and never get to know them – how boring is that?

Tantraaaaaaaah!

image I’m a “Tantrika”. In case you don’t know what that is, it means that I have trained in various esoteric practices that involve meditation and breath control to…um…reach various “blissful” states.

Tantra is confusing as it means different things in different cultures, to the Buddhists it is about death, to the Hindus about life and the body and to the West – sex.

In some respects, it helps to have a sense of humour about it. Especially when attending classes and workshops. It does attract a wide range of people (and a few weirdos) but it’s not an orgy and no-one actually has sex. It’s all in the mind and the theory.

There are some groups where more ‘open’ participation takes place, but I haven’t been courageous enough to attend those. “Juicy women” groups are an example, where one ‘celebrates’ one’s ‘yoni’ (i.e vagina) with a small group of other women and a coach. It works like one of the original 1970’s female consciousness raising groups, knickers off and hand mirrors to explore your own nether regions. I’d die of embarrassment and/or get a fit of the giggles – so perhaps not. I don’t think any of my female friends would want to cum with me.

Another movement is the Sex Positive group with “OM” meditation. This consists of building a nest of cushions with a partner, then using lube, indulging in a 15 minute (it’s timed) masturbation or oral sex session (with the man doing all the work) and once this is learned, you are supposed to do it every day. Chance would be a fine thing!

One of the most unusual groups is ecstatic BDSM, that combines bondage and S&M with tantric techniques to push your boundaries sexually and open yourself up to new experiences. There are private sessions available, but most of the activity takes place within groups, with various ‘specialists’ to tie you up with ropes, stick needles in you and give you various forms of corporal punishment.

The difference between this and standard BDSM is that it involves deep mental states and emotional connection, so it is aimed at couples.  Apparently, it’s very popular in parts of Europe and they hold private ‘festivals’ – a sort of Glastonbury of sex! Wonder if it’s muddy?

All of these unusual activities are happening in and around London, as we speak and it seems to be a growing movement during times of austerity. After all, staying in and having adventurous sex is very budget conscious entertainment!

As for amusing, I have to tell you about the first Tantric Workshop I attended, because it was funny and not erotic at all. I learned a few things, which I have saved in my brain for the future, but at the time it was one of the strangest days I’ve had for a long time.

It was a Sunday morning and we were in a photographic studio, sitting on yoga blocks on a padded floor; 12 men, 12 women, the ‘guru’ plus one male and female ‘helper’. There was a wide mix of ages and nationalities, from very young, painfully shy, guys, to women and men in their fifties and most ages in between.

Apart from two girls in their thirties that had that ‘smug yoga look’ the beatific smile, tie-dye hippy garb and a tendency to wear very little in all weathers; all the other participants looked petrified. I was in one of my “So what” moods and was approaching the scene with a mix of cynicism and curiosity.

We started by being paired off randomly, male to female. I got a doggy eyed Italian man, who looked twitchy and nervous. This didn’t improve as we began the exercise, which was to match our breathing rate and stare into each other’s eyes for 10 minutes.

I just took it like one of those staring competitions from school days and just smiled and looked right at him. It was weird, but not a big deal, all I felt was an ache in my jaw because I had a smile stuck on my face, which set rigid as I realised how bothered my ‘partner’ was getting. His eyes were darting everywhere but towards my own, his jaw was clenching and he was biting his lips.

After a while, he started to shift from foot to foot and beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. His breaths became shallow and fast and I was getting tense trying to keep up with him and doing my best to slow him down. I kept smiling, I hoped kindly, although I was staring, I was doing my best to soften my gaze.

By the way the poor man was squirming, I might as well be beaming death rays out of my eyes. 10 minutes lasted forever. Well, reader, the Tantric Goddess of Medusa (to mix myths) must be strong in me, because my ‘partner’ then left the building, never to return! I don’t usually have that effect on people. Honest!

I was then paired with the male ‘helper’, who looked like a young, blond version of Richard Branson, all beard, teeth and patchouli. We had to continue the breathing/staring thing, this time for five minutes then we had to move to the right and ensure we ‘met’ every opposite sex member in the group in 3 minute increments.

The reactions of my male counterparts ranged from hysterical high pitched laughter (the helper), to one of the young ones that gulped continually like a turkey, the elderly Jamaican man, with the gold teeth just stared back warmly and the really creepy Greek man (who looked just like a satyr) made my skin crawl. The others were sparkly and flirty or like small bunnies in headlights.

I learned that I seemed to scare the hell out of at least half of them.  Note to self, don’t stare at strangers. My mother was right.

The next exercise involved walking around to some music and getting into our ‘female energy’  which meant holding our bodies softly, concentrating in breathing into our heart chakra and greeting the others in the group as we passed. This was an easier exercise, as everyone relaxed, I felt the urge to greet people with a smile and a touch on the shoulder or arm; which is how I tend to behave naturally, if I like people, I’m automatically tactile, unless I sense it makes someone uncomfortable.

This was followed by ‘masculine’ energy, where we all swaggered about like lads and nodded curtly at eachother, while breathing from our root chakra (based in the perineum!) which had more than a few of us laughing.  Interestingly, no one touched. That’s male energy for you.

The morning was spent in various exercises like this and breathing along to drum beats and through various energy chakras. It was easy and fun and by lunchtime, everyone was energised and we were connected as a group.

Lunch was, of course, a vegan affair and we ate outside at tables in the courtyard. I got talking to the guru, a bald ex insurance salesman, who had been made redundant, took off to India to ‘find himself’ and ended up at a meditation retreat. He took to it, changed everything about his life, including his name and set up a school of spirituality that held various groups like this on a regular basis.

The problem was, he was very literal and somehow quite an innocent, when one of the girls was joking with me about what the male and female energy would be like in a threesome and I said I’d let her know as I had one every other Saturday; he took this very seriously and asked why every other Saturday? I had to gently inform him, we were joking. He looked very confused.

Of course, the afternoon got weirder. Two of the exercises particularly stand out. One was the “flower and the bee” that consisted of all the girls standing facing outward, with eyes closed in a circle and the boys had to be bees visiting each flower.

They could touch us in a non sexual way and we could say STOP to any wandering hands. We didn’t know which man was the bee. I got a lot of hair stroking and some inept shoulder massages and someone tickled my neck in an annoying way, but that was it. A most peculiar experience.

When the girls were the bees we were much more adventurous. I was having fun making men shudder by breathing on their necks or stroking their spines lightly and one poor chap had the confusing experience of me and another girl tickling him and giving him bear hugs from behind. It was all quite innocent, like being children, not erotic at all. Maybe it was because I wasn’t in the least bit attracted to anyone.

The breathing exercises got more complicated and we had to pair off to do them. Everyone eventually got paired with everyone else, the soundtracks got weirder, the drumming more intense and we were supposed to learn to breathe ourselves through an orgasm, without the orgasm. Yup. That was odd.

The two ‘yoga’ girls, that I mentioned earlier, seemed to go into full “Meg Ryan in the Deli” mode with much screaming and moaning. Definitely fake though and owed more to a dodgy porno soundtrack than Tantric bliss. It made everyone else laugh and we discovered later they had been specially invited to make up numbers.

So I learned a bit and continued with further discoveries. I’ll tell you about that another time. Suffice to say, I have a lot of theory, but lack practice, but you never know when I’ll be able to release my “juicy female Goddess forces” …..

A matter of style

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Long gone are the days when I used to have Champagne lunches at Harvey Nicks or Daphne’s in Brompton Cross; then partake in the highly dangerous extreme sport of drunken shopping.

It’s a game that ends in regret and humiliation as inevitably you return the 6″ silver Jimmy Choo’s that you thought were a great idea at the time and bring an enormous bag of very outré designer gear back to the inevitably snooty shop girl for a full refund.

Perhaps that’s why celebrities dress so badly?

Oiled by cocktails, champagne, gossip and not much to eat, I became an Ivana Trump creature, caught in an orgy of spending, the difference being that I wasn’t married to Donald and I would be eating toast for a few months, trying to pay off the bills.

I’m not that woman anymore.

Since I was a very little girl, I’ve had an interest in fashion. Precociously, I made a little book when I was about eight entitled “Fashion through the Ages” which contained little felt pen drawings of crinolines, flapper dresses and medieval snoods that I had laboriously copied from history books; sitting on the floor, tongue out, colouring in with a bumper pack of felt pens. I thought I’d be a fashion designer one day.

As I got older, I wildly experimented with style. The more outrageous the better. I had a canary yellow outfit aged 13, matching my hair, which included yellow eyeshadow, lipstick (not recommended), tights, dress, handbag and sandals. I was tall and slim for my age, but I looked like a giant Tweety Pie, hence that nickname.

Going to art college made me even more eccentric. I’d raid theatrical prop cupboards, charity shops and market stalls and changed my image constantly, an example that comes to mind is a 1960’s space age red knitted mini dress with white cowboy rubber boots (!) topped off by “Twiggy” eye makeup and a black and white Afro wig. What WAS I thinking?

I went very boho/Stevie Nicks later on, with big floppy hats and flowing dresses and I never fitted in with the fashion “tribes” around me. My friends ranged from baby punks to mods, goths, rockabillies and very slick 80’s girls with flicky hair and shoulder pads. I haunted Kensington Market at the weekends.

I had to tone the whole thing down when I started working in advertising, with suits and smart little dresses and heels, but as soon as I got home, out would come the hats, the vintage floral dresses and all manner of strange footwear. I went through a stage of thigh boots with everything (they look really weird under a long skirt when you sit down, like a second pair of knee caps).

Now that I’m supposed to be a grown up, my look ranges from fairly glam to Bo Ho hippy chick or Scandinavian quirk.

Invite me to a fancy dress party and I will go full out, either raiding the attic or via a ‘proper’ theatrical costumers. I’ve been a sassy saloon girl, worn Susan George’s Cleopatra costume to a toga party (so overdressed no one wanted to talk to me) and I shaved my eyebrows off and covered my face in latex and greasepaint to make a horrifying Cruella De Ville. Yes, I won a prize and after a few drinks caught sight of myself in a mirror and started in fright.

I have put on a stone and a half in the past 18 months, following my burn out and the various medications I’ve been trialled on during that period. My Doctor kept switching meds, because nothing worked and although, due to my complaints of mysterious weight gain, they tried ones known to make others lose pounds, my poor body piled on the weight, despite eating like a mouse. Allegedly, in the next few months, my weight should re-establish itself to normal, but it won’t be overnight.

It’s frustrating in the meantime, because I have to dress so carefully and the clothes I want to wear have to be toned down or be adjusted by a seamstress. The high street, of which I was never a fan, has to be avoided at all costs because the chain stores seem to be designing for a body that is a cross between Kate Middleton, Kiera Knightly and an under-nourished 12 year old boy.

I don’t look like a bolster and I still have my hourglass curves, but everything has increased in voluptuousness and I’ve had to replace most of my wardrobe online. I’m Ms Monroe’s measurements at her plumpest, complete with tummy; which means today’s fashions look dreadful on me and I can’t do vintage because everything is so tiny.

I won’t be stuck like this forever and I’m not overly self-conscious about my body, but it’s a damn nuisance. It appalls me when I see ‘normal’ and even big women around me with nothing in the shops suitable for them to wear. It’s depressing and the choices are so anodyne or yes, I have to say it, tarty and naff (apologies to those under 25).

There are no opportunities to be individual any more, unless you are a size 8-10 and haunt over-priced vintage stores and pay well over the odds. I’d make my own if I could figure out how to use my sewing machine.

Maybe I should go back to my eight year old interest and start pillaging the past and design something. There is plenty of scope to raid historical costume that are flattering, glamorous and exciting. It can’t be just me that looks at Downton Abbey and yearns for pre-war elegance; but I suppose the designers don’t dare go out on a limb because it might not be commercial.

That, indeed, is what’s wrong with fashion. In my job I’ve had the opportunity to work with buyers, stylists and trend forecasters, so I can see how the lemming effect had taken hold. Mainly gay, male, couturiers design for boy like bodies, having an aversion to tits and hips; then it trickles down to the high street and via emaciated celebrities in the media.

The reason why ALL the stores have the same styles and colours, is in the commercial interpretation of the trend forecaster’s findings. They have the power (looking 5 years ahead) to say that next summer we’ll all wear fuschia pink booty shorts and everyone, from department stores and even supermarkets buy accordingly. It is stale, safe, ugly and boring and all about mass consumption.

I’ve always had a total horror of turning up somewhere in an outfit that matches with someone else’s and I get quite miffed when a look I have created for my own goes mainstream and everyone is wearing fake fur or flamboyant Indian shawls; but that is my peculiar vanity. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.

There’s nothing I want to buy. I can only wear 25% of my existing wardrobe and I’m feeling quite pouty about the whole thing. I can’t be the only woman that feels like this. Whatever happened to Great British style? Where have the individuals gone? It’s increasingly the same for men (what’s with it with the pastel skinny mankle jeans?) . I’m going to have to get taught how to sew, because it’s not going to change anytime soon.

If you see me in a pair of jeggings and Ugg boots, please shoot me and put me out of my sartorial misery. It will be the living end.

A gathering of jackals

imageMy inbox is often an interesting place. That’s not a euphemism. Through a convoluted process of investigating esoteric groups, art galleries, book stores, boutique hotels, pop up events, happenings, shops, theatres and clubs, I’m on a lot of “alternative” mailing lists.

I received one this afternoon, that immediately created a vivid picture in my mind, that I had to write about. It was an invitation from “Cougars and Cubs” which I was invited to join the other week. Thinking it would probably be a hilarious evening with my girlfriends, I said OK, gave them an unidentifying mugshot and a screen-name and left it at that.

There has been a flurry of requests this week from “cubs”, little boys aged 18 to 23. I’ve been impolite and have not responded, because, honestly, letting loose my pent up female energy on a child so young would not only scar him for life, but afterwards, I would feel bad enough to put myself on a sex offender’s register.

It’s WRONG, somehow. For me, anyway. I don’t flatter myself that I have been singled out for an approach, knowing young boys, they’ve been bright enough to send an email to any likely woman on the list. Perhaps they’ll get lucky.

Imagine my surprise when I get an invitation today that tells me that I am invited to a cubs n cougars party next week and 56 – yes FIFTY SIX other women have already RSVP’d.

In my over-imaginative brain, fuelled by a very giggly lunch with an old friend, various scenarios popped into my head. I imagined all these Amazonian, sexually confident, women, circling these young boys like jackals at a watering hole.

Eighteen to twenty five year old boys are an unappealing mixture of severe and raging hormones and limited experience (from what I can remember back in the Iron Age). I thought of them as tiny Ibex, young, skittish, yet curious, surrounded by the slavering beasts.

As only 25 cubs had signed up for said Party, they were in scarce supply and were bound to be torn limb from limb by a bitchkreig of horny women. It would not be pretty.

Any woman reading this will know how competitive the fairer sex can get when there is a limited supply of anything. One only has to look at the Sales to see the shadow side of the average female rear up and bare her jagged teeth and claws to grab a bargain.

It is a fight to the death, with an undercurrent of such feral greed, that even the most crazed Taliban terrorist would run in fear from. Imagine if sex is added into the mix? The apocalypse would compare as a polite disagreement over how to cut the crust off a cucumber sandwich, at a maiden aunt’s tea party.

So many men haven’t a clue about what lies beneath the smiling facade of many women. We’re relatively subtle and often only other women can spot our signals.

It starts with that LOOK at the competition. You know the one, ladies. It takes a fraction of a second, but it lists, scores and compares any other female’s attributes and their likelihood of pulling with inhuman speed.

I know, myself, that if I attract glances like this, that I’m looking good. The more dagger eyes, the better. No matter how uncomfortable it can be. If you’re looking rough, you don’t attract their attention at all. You’re deemed as on the subs bench. Injured. You won’t be playing.

I could tell you (and I’m not alone in this), which woman in a crowd goes like a train, who is madly in love and not worth approaching and which one will have your family pet boiling in a saucepan within the week. Women are born with this split second assessment ability of other women. It’s something very primal.

Men, on the other hand, are clueless (sorry chaps, but it’s true). I’ve seen women come on so strong to a man, literally wagging her lady bits inches from his nose in a primal signal of “fuck me now” (she was not a lap dancer and we were in a restaurant) and the poor chap said to me afterwards: “What, her? Don’t be stupid, she’s just a friend, definitely not interested in me THAT way.” It’s enough to make me start up as a dating coach for the poor bastards.

I’m the sort of woman that finds it demeaning and very bad taste to compete for a man. My moves are so damn subtle it can take forever for a chap to catch on that I’ve been having impure thoughts about him. That’s not through any Machiavellian design, or game playing; I just find the being obvious thing, undignified and I’d embarrass myself.

Once my blood’s up, however, in an ongoing relationship or dalliance, that’s a different matter, entirely – but as a ploy to ‘snare’ a man? No thanks. I’d rather save up a nice surprise for later, in private. Lady in the drawing room and all that…

Back to the watering hole. These young boys won’t know what’s hit them. By the time they’ve realised they are going home with a Valkyrie, it will be far.too.late. What’s more, they won’t have a clue how it happened. It is, somehow, a slaughter of the innocents.

I was thinking, what would I have been like if the ‘watering hole’ situation represented the only chance a woman had to find a mate?

I think I’d be the drowsy puma on a branch, watching the fracas from a distance, probably wearing a diamond collar, if I could find one out in the bush.

I might flick my tail a bit and snarl if one of the jackals came near and use my vantage point to spot my prey from a long way away.

There’s NO chance he’d even get to the watering hole. Poor lamb. But at least I’d be subtle. Deadly, yes, but it would be such a pleasant death.

So think and perhaps pray (if that’s your thing) for those poor boys next Friday, for they know not what they do. They’ve been watching MILF porn for years and have this vision of a sexy Mrs Robinson type in mind, but the reality, like nature, is red in tooth and claw. For yonder, there be jackals.

Are Grammar Schools an evil scourge on society?

There was an article in a The Guardian, that bastion of the comfortable ‘left leaning’ elite that poured scorn on the last remaining 163 Grammar Schools in the UK:

Grammar schools do not aid social mobility. Stop this deluded thinking | John Harris http://gu.com/p/3k9h5/tw via @guardian

The measure the author has used is based on the percentage of free school meal claimants in these schools; to paint a picture of snobby, middle class social exclusion, therefore, damning the very idea of Grammar schools as an evil societal menace.

Firstly,I’d like to refute the article’s facts:

*The few remaining Grammar schools are highly sought after, so naturally, there will be a middle class bias, as these parents will move hell or high water to coach, cram and geographically re-locate their children in order to get ‘Private Education Quality for Free’

*The geographical locations of these schools are not in poverty-stricken, under privileged areas, so the catchment area adds yet another bias.

On these two points alone,the article falls down because the source of information is completely skewed. Of course there is a low percentage of pupils claiming free school meals in these establishments! This doesn’t mean that Grammar schools fail poorer pupils per se, especially not when you look at the historical context and the current results.

Back in the hey days of the Grammar schools in the 1950’s, 40% of the students were from poor backgrounds, which was why they were hailed as an opportunity for a meritocracy, giving disadvantaged children the chance to improve their social status and future earnings.

By the time the ideologically driven Harold Wilson Government decided to abolish the Grammar School system in favour of a poorly conceived ‘universal comprehensive’ system, there were less than 30% of poorer students attending Grammars, this has now reached a low of 2.7%,  if we are to use the free school meals calculation as a reliable indicator.

Now that we are down to a mere handful of schools, it’s worth making a common sense comment – the reason why middle class parents fight so hard to get their children into Grammar Schools is that the education is GOOD.

A recent study by the Oxford Review of education, entitled “Who Benefits From Grammar Schools” compared the county of Buckinghamshire – one of the last areas with several Grammar schools, with pupil results from equivalent non Grammar schools in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

This survey looked at various weighting of their sample, including actual exam and test results pre and post schooling and other indicators such as socio-economic groupings and race.

I believe this is a more robust report to the Sutton Report which the Guardian article selectively refers. Here are some highlights:

Differences in exam attainment – comprehensives vs grammar 2013 based on Buckinghamshire schools:

Grades of C and above 1.5 x greater in Grammar Schools

The odds of gaining 5 GCSE’s are between 9 and 13 times greater at Grammar schools

Of grammar school pupils claiming FSM, they were 53% MORE likely to gain English & Maths grades of A to C than their secondary school peers.

Academically borderline pupils gain a 4-5 point advantage of gaining 5 GCSE’s at grades A to C by attending Grammar School

Although the proportion of under-privileged children is small, this does not mean that they don’t benefit from the more academic environment that a Grammar school provides. The issue is that there are NOT ENOUGH OF THEM. If every area had at least one Grammar school, we would see a wider selection of Socio-Economic groups attending.

I believe that every child has the right to a quality education that teaches them how to think, stay curious,engaged and finds and nurtures their individual talents.

We need all kinds of people in society, from the academic to artistic, the scientists, the visionaries, the carers, the artisans, the service providers.

I think Grammar schools are PART of the answer, but not in isolation. There should be a range of educational establishments of the same high quality as a traditional Grammar school free to ALL children.

Whether it suits our utopian ideology or not, children are individuals. Some will thrive in a disciplined, academic, environment and some would do better in a more task oriented one. The needs of the children should be at the heart of our education system including long term consideration of what roles in life they are being educated FOR.

I have had direct personal experience of a state run Grammar school (single sex) and endured it changing to a Comprehensive half way through my schooling.

The difference in standards was enormous. Teachers left to join the private sector, classrooms were so over-crowded, they built temporary classrooms in the playing field and a previously disciplined school became unruly, with fights, attacks on teachers and general anarchy being the order of the day. The two schools could not integrate.

The Comprehensive and Secondary Modern concepts were neither thought through, nor funded sufficiently – resulting in an unfair system.

Educational results are now some of the poorest in Europe and because the opportunities for social mobility are closed to most, we have more Public School alumni in positions of power than ever.

A return of the Grammar school in every educational area would do something to address this, we could even ensure that selection is representative of the demographics of their catchment areas, provided the pupils pass an entrance exam.

Skills, talents and personality need to be taken account of in each stage of a child’s development so that education suits THEIR needs. There will always be some children who, due to unfortunate circumstances, do not engage, but it is our duty to find something they can excel at and train them accordingly.

Grammar schools are not for everyone, but a one size fits all comprehensive system isn’t either. Why penalize any of our children because of their background? Why not reward hard work and merit?

DATING ADVICE FOR WOMEN – Top 20 Tips!

 

Perfect outfit for a first date. Classy, individual AND sexy!

Perfect outfit for a first date. Classy, individual AND sexy!

1. DO ensure he knows you are a sex bomb by describing your sexual prowess online – e.g “I always swallow” have public conversations with him about vulgar sex acts. He’ll assume you are not only classy, but a great sport.
2. DO increase the number and explicitness of texts in the days leading up to your meeting. He needs to know you’re hot.
3. DO wear as much make-up as you can and dress sexy, the more flesh on show, the better. He will love other men leering at you.
4. DO make sure he knows about the penis size and sexual style of all your previous partners. He’ll want to know how he measures up.
5. DO show him your ‘jealous’ side if he looks at or mentions another woman. Men love to feel wanted.
6. DO feign complete indifference if he starts talking about himself. Steer the conversation back to you and fish for compliments. He needs to know how special you are.
7. DO complain loudly about as many aspects of the venue he has chosen as you can. He needs to know you are used to the best things in life.
8. DO find several things to criticise about his appearance/taste/interests – if you can compare him unfavourably to other men you know, all the better. It will ensure he tries harder.
9. DO demonstrate your passionate nature by grabbing him if he tried to leave the table at any point (i.e go to the bathroom) say things like “You’ll never leave me, will you?” In your best ‘little girl’ voice.
10. DON’T laugh, smile or behave like you appreciate him in any way. Stay cool and he will get hotter towards you.
11. DO tease him as much as you can. Remove your shoes and play footsie, moving your foot up his leg and push down hard between his legs. He’ll be unable to resist, once his eyes stop watering.
12. DO act outraged and hurt if he makes any suggestion or reference to sex. Make sure he knows that he’ll have to wait at least six months before even kissing you. Them’s the rules.
13. DO talk about your fantasy wedding, honeymoon destination and the names of your future children. Nothing gets a man in a romantic mood faster.
14. DO invite a group of your girlfriends to sit a few tables away and signal to them how the date is going with thumbs up and thumbs down gestures as necessary. He’ll appreciate your sense of fun.
15. DO re-apply your make-up at the table, several times during the evening. He needs to know you care about how you look.
16. DO make a big fuss about what you are about to eat. Order off menu and be very specific about calorie count, fat content and carbs. He needs to know you care about your body.
17. DO drink as much as you possibly can. There’s nothing more charming than a tipsy girl.
18. DO take him back to yours later. Sex is compulsory on a first date (Point 12 is meant as a sexy ‘tease’) insist he disinfect himself before getting into bed.
19. DO choose an extreme sexual style for the first encounter, it will set the scene for the relationship. Choose from “Wild n Frenzied” or “Icy Maiden” or alternate between the two! It’s so exciting!
20. DO beg to see him again as he is leaving. Text him at least 20 times a day until the next date.

DATING ADVICE FOR MEN – Top 20 tips!

Dress down, don't hide your musky man scent by washing.

Dress down, don’t hide your musky man scent by washing.

1. DO prevaricate about setting up the date. Take your time. Change your mind. Drag your heels. She’ll love it.
2. DO wait until 30 minutes before date then text to cancel. The fact that she is dressed up & on her way, will earn you extra points.
3. DO make another date and repeat (2) above, up to three times to test if she likes you.
4. DON’T buy her a drink. She’ll like to get her own and yours.
5. DO have a moment of silence while you look her up and down, if you can manage a sneer, even better. Keeps her on her toes.
6. DO talk about other women you are dating or intend to date. Compare their attributes to hers, ensure she knows they are better than she and you’re only doing her a favour by being there. Will make her extra keen to try harder.
7. DO outline all the faults of all the women you have ever known in great detail. She needs to learn from their mistakes.
8. DON’T appear interested in anything she says. It will make you look cool and mysterious.
9. DO show your appreciation for other women in your surroundings. Make appreciative comments. She needs to know you are a real alpha male.
10. DO find a few things to criticise her for and do so, loudly and clearly. She needs to know you are a man of discernment.
11. DO tell her she looks considerably older and fatter than you thought she would. Keeping her guessing is very sexy.
12. DO suggest sex as soon as possible. The loo is a good place or around the back of the establishment by the bins. She’ll be putty in your hands.
13. DON’T smile or laugh at any point in the conversation. Maintain a haughty look of indifference.
14. DO invite a few friends in, preferably one of them being a woman with a crush on you, introduce them then ask them what they think of her. Flirt with the other girl, a lot. Your date needs to know you are in demand.
15. DO go back to hers if she has lasted this long. She has low self-esteem, which means she’s ideal.
16. DO dress and leave immediately after sex. If she is sleeping, leave a fiver on the bedside table.
17. DON’T contact her for at least two weeks, then call and ask if you can see her after a night out for a ‘BOOTY CALL’
18. DO ask if she has any prettier friends, if she turns you down at any point. Introductions like these are great for your Casanova reputation.
19. DO give her marks out of ten online for any sex acts you have indulged in. Photos are an added bonus.
20. DO date as many women as possible and openly flirt at all times, online and off. You’ll get luckier and luckier. Women love competing for a man!