Well, it sounds better than induced. In my trip to the supermarket I’d found two types of melon, ham, fruit juice and coffee which founded the basis of my breakfast since arrival. P1130948Although having hot coffee from a glass is not easy requiring another trip on Saturday to get a mug.

I had worked it out using google maps and it should be 30 minutes walk to my new workplace.(pictured left) I was braced for the warmth but it was noticeably hot although not too perspiring until I got into the air conditioned classroom. It was difficult walking as people seem to have the land in front of their premises to do as they wish so it would be full of cars or other stuff requiring a detour into the road and my walk there seemed always to be facing the oncoming traffic. I learnt early on how the traffic makes way for each other, including pedestrians, and you just have to walk into it, no use waiting for someone to let you through. I also learnt that the shoes I’d bought when in Leeds were not broke in yet so by the time I got there I was hobbling slightly.

It was a normal induction day, signing contract, showing originals of certificates, giving the receipt for the visa I’d bought at the airport to get it refunded, instruction on how the school operated, brief history etc, tour of the building, or hobble round more like, and then we were taken for lunch at a buffet style restaurant serving Khmer, Vietnamese and Chinese food – though I could not really tell which was which but just grateful for something to eat. I got a tuk-tuk back to the hotel and started the routine of going up to the restaurant for something involving rice or noodles, vegetables, chicken or pork and chillis.

The other thing I did at my induction was pick up my timetable to find that I was working 22.5 hours a week, from 11:30 – 19:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 17:30 to 20:00 Tuesday and Thursday and 8:00 – 13:00 on Saturday and it was mostly EAP, which is what I had been teaching in Leeds and some of my Strasbourg work. That, however wouldn’t start until Tuesday as Monday was for training (Professional Development) and a staff meeting which finished at midday. I picked up my course books and rather stupidly took them back to the hotel where I had no more than time to look through them and then take them back to work.



I was booked into a hotel for the first two weeks which I thought would allow 20150917_121215_20862232273_ome to find my feet, discover something of the city of Phnom Penh and get my bearings before finding somewhere to live. The hotel messaged me on the flight to ask if I wanted collecting on arrival by tuk-tuk for $9 and, knowing nothing about getting to my hotel from the airport, I thought I very much did.

So, after paying $35 for my working visa and clearing customs I walked out to see my name displayed and was 20150927_111908_21559712779_otaken by the chap to wait, he went off and returned with his tuk-tuk,(pictured left with additional finger) loaded up my case and bag and headed off out for my first experience of Phnom Penh.

I was surprised by the number of scooters and motorbikes and the way they intermingled with cars and tuk-tuks with no-one seeming to come to harm. Vehicles coming the wrong way, people cutting across you it just seemed like an accident waiting to happen. I also put my sunglasses on, not because of bright sun but because of the dust in the air. Despite the seeming chaos on the roads I 20150918_071920_21319656540_omade it to the Hangneak hotel,(pictured right) checked-in, and was not overly disappointed when the card machine did not work so they could not take payment, and went up to my room, at the rear of the hotel overlooking a market,(pictured left) on the seventh floor, which was handy for the restaurant on the 8th floor.

After a rest I went out to walk the local area and found that just across the main road was a shopping mall, City Mall, containing the Lucky supermarket. I got some things for my breakfast the next day and went back to my 20150927_104800_21123860464_oroom then upstairs to the restaurant for a sun-downer and then my evening meal, As you come up the stairs there is a normal restaurant but turn left and it is open air, with a roof to protect you from the rain and lightning, and a great view out over the city, and, especially the Olympic Stadium which gave the area its name of Olympic. After the meal I retreated to my room and prepared for my first day at work the next day, induction day.

Elegant chaos


I wrote earlier about some of the problems I faced working as an English teacher in France compared to working in England. I mentioned there had been changes which had lead to the amount of work drying up and universities restricting the amount of work you can do so you do not count as a permanent employee and they do not have to pay social charges on your employment.

Also, last year and earlier this year I applied for a number of jobs that would have been good for my career but I did not even get interviewed for them. Some of the feedback I received included that I had no experience teaching outside Europe, particularly in Asia. As a result I applied for some jobs in Cambodia and Vietnam and was interviewed and offered a job in Cambodia to start at the beginning of July. I had already said I would start at Leeds then and we agreed to postpone my start.

The work in Leeds finished on the unforgettable date of 11th September. After getting a train to London at 8:40 then on to Paris, I arrived home in Strasbourg about 19:30 on 12th September. After a day taking things easy and working on the allotment on Sunday I went to Metz with JTO to see an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou where, as well as seeing a fantastic piece of architecture there was a really great exhibition about Andy Warhol, where, as well as examples of his paintings like the soup tin above they also showed and talked about his films, the Factory and the music of Velvet Underground and how they all linked into the themes of repetition and mass production we saw in his painting, asking what is art?

After lunch the city of Metz was explored and then we returned to Strasbourg to say farewell to some friends. Tuesday was spent packing before an early start, leaving before 5:30 on Wednesday for Strasbourg station was revisited to board a train to Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris. An overnight flight to Kuala Lumpur before arriving at Phnom Penh International airport at around midday on ThursdayI had planed to add more pictures and write more but the internet died yesterday and is so slow today I will just post what I have now.

Power in the Darkness


A week ago I wrote a piece here about having bought some ‘vinyl’ a it is now called, albums or LP’s as they were back in the sound-machine-logo2x1day. I also wrote about buying a means of playing the records. One of the records I bought from the great Sound Machine in Reading was by the Tom Robinson Band, ‘Power In The Darkness‘.(That suffers from the problems that beset wikipedia.)

I bought the album in the year of release and had the original which TRB_-_Power_in_the_Darkness_Front_Coverincluded a stencil for spray-painting the upraised fist symbol from the front of the album.

I don’t know how but, like a number of LPs, albums, I realised I had owned when they originally came out but I subsequently lost it, so I was able to replace this one because I had found it in the shop. I thought it was even better because it had the stencil as well. I had thought there wouldn’t be many after all this time which still had it. I bought it, amongst others that day.

Well, having bought a record player I have now listened to it. It reminds me of the me at that time. A list of some of the tracks gives an idea of where it was coming from ‘Up Against The Wall’, ‘Ain’t Gonna Take It’, ‘Man You Never Saw’, ‘Better Decide Which Side You’re On’ and ‘You Gotta Survive’. The state was going to disappear you if you opposed it. We were living in a fascist state. etc etc

I believed the agitprop views at the time. I was fiercely of the left. A person who joined the Trotskyist ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’ for a period until I attended one of their meetings. Above a pub in Katesgrove in Reading I was told that the run on gold at the time, 79ish, would result in armed workers guards at the gates of factories and the downfall of capitalism. We believed that there would be a workers revolution and that Thatcher’s anti-working class behaviour would lead to a revolution and the people would take over. Guess what, they didn’t. Others thought that a Labour Party fighting on it’s second most left-wing manifesto ever would win the election in 1983. Guess what students of history? Labour didn’t and Thatcher won a landslide. As she did in 1987. Major won another election in 1992 meaning that Labour was out of power from 1979 to 1997.

Who lost from that? The middle class Polytechnic or University lecturers who had a safe job and pension? No, they kept their safe cocooned existence.

The people who lost out are the people who really need a Labour Government. The poorest, the downtroden. The people suffering from the onslaught against people on benefits when the people stuffing their tax get away with it. The people seeking a better life who have come to the UK, found work and are paying taxes, or people fleeing the possibility of slaughter in their own country,

Who are the people supporting Mr Corbyn? The people who will suffer if Labour never wins again? The people on zero hours contracts, the people needing money to pay their rent or to buy food? People who are clients of food-banks? No. Not at all.

In my experience they are  people who don’t care if there is never a Labour Government again. People who didn’t even vote Labour at the last election, if they ever voted Labour. The people who can afford to say the Minimum Wage didn’t matter because it was too low. Their metropolitan friends didn’t see people get a pay rise because of the Minimum Wage or lose their job because of it either. Unlike family members of mine living outside their metropolitan elite, they clearly, do not count.

They did not benefit from the Educational Maintenance Allowance(EMA) so it was not important and they did not care when the Tories abolished it. Family members of mine did living outside London did, but they clearly do not count.

Or what about the difference SureStart made to the lives of children up to 3. The most important time in their lives and the first thing the Tories slashed? Nothing from the Corbynistas. The don’t care about the poorest and most downtrodden.

It is about the maintenance of middle-class welfare, unpaid education for the middle class at university, paid for by the poorest workers, people earning the minimum wage whilst those whose parents paid for them to go to private school pay nothing towards their further education. You call that redistributive? You intellectually challenged idiots.

For real people living in the real world the EMA made a difference and people stayed on at school and got an education, for the Liberal elite they didn’t so they were happy when the Tories abolished it. The people supporting Jeremy are happy to denegrate everything the last Labour government did which improved the lives of people.

The songs on the album by TRB remind me of nothing so much as the Corbynistias seeking to win the election for the leader of the Labour party for Jez! Well if he wins we will see a Labour Party that is irrelevant to the British electorate and fails the poorest and people who most need the Labour Party.

People have talked about getting people who don’t vote to vote. What kind of strategy is that? Appeal to people who do not do something to do it. Mmmm that’ll work. What about appealing to people who do vote to vote for you and thereby introduce the changes you want? Funnily enough that worked in 1945, 1964 and 1997.

Warm sound


So, as my previous post said, here I am in Leeds, earning money that has eluded me in Strasbourg, mostly because people who owe me money in Strasbourg have not paid me whereas Leeds pay me straight away, Who would have thought that universities in France would be so third world? Last year when I was here I tried to resolve a lack in my life. As I have also posted I have a number of vinyl albums which I have been cataloguing and converting to MP3 files. So I thought, I have a record player but nothing to play it through so the money I earn  I can get something. I took some advice and bought an amp and speakers but, after taking them home, which was an effort in itself, I found they didn’t work with the record deck I had so I didn’t get to listen to my records last year as I had hoped.

maxresdefaultThis year I spent some time with my parents before coming here to work and visited a record shop in the nearest town, Reading, and bought a few records. The top thing is that this time I have not waited until I got home to be able to try to listen to them. Paid before the weekend and yesterday I went into the city and bought a deck with inbuilt speakers so I have been playing the albums I bought. The first time I have listened to vinyl rather than have it playing whilst I convert it to MP3 and how fab is it? I just love the warmth of the sound again.I hope to be able to plug the deck into the system I bought last year and have it working fully when I am next home.

Cultural differences


As has happened for the last three years I am in Leeds working.

Living in Strasbourg and working as an English teacher, the work at the University in Strasbourg ends at the beginning of June and there is nothing until the middle of September. Previously I have gone to the UK to work at Summer schools. Then, as for the last two years. I got a job on a pre-sessional at Leeds. A course to help people, largely female and largely from China, to get used to what is expected of them in a British university before they start a Masters in September. Not so much teaching English but, as it is known in the jargon, English for Special Purposes.

Living and working in Strasbourg has not been helped by changes to the law by the government which has cut the money people have for training, a lot of which had been used for English language training. Similarly the restrictions put in place by the university to avoid people being considered a full-time worker mean there is some work there but not lots.

The most important part though is that in France I am self-employed. I prepare my lessons at home and then turn up and deliver them. Then I go home. Most of the time there is no-one else to share ideas with and talk about what you’re going through, no colleagues. Here I am part of a team. We share an office. We talk about what’s coming up and share ideas on how to deliver our lessons. There is none of that in Strasbourg. As a teacher I learn so much from my colleagues. I also go out on the evening after we get paid, have an after work drink, doesn’t happen in Strasbourg, and then go out somewhere for something to eat and chat and put the world to rights.

What’s nice here is that I get paid at the end of the month after having worked it. Who knows when I will get paid in France. I worked five contracts in France this year. I have been paid for two. Who knows when I will be paid for the rest. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity? Don’t make me laugh. Particularly not if you are an English teacher at a French university. Despite which Strasbourg is my home and, despite being on the wrong side of the Pennines, and me born in the south, Leeds feels like my cultural home.



So, for the third week of happy songs on Saturday I chose one of my own again.

In 1986 I was seeing someone and we spent the summer together. She went back to university and I continued to work in the pub as we had until my expectation of my employment opportunities came closer to reflect the opportunities available to me. Or alternatively I understood I would not get a senior position in publishing, social housing.or politics just because I had a degree. I needed to get experience in the workplace.

Anyway the someone I was working with in the pub gave me a mixtape. As people did then. A tape of songs one person likes and they hope the other person does too. I liked the tape a lot, although I am sorry to say I lost it and no longer have it. What I do have is a love of this song. It just ticks all the boxes, happy song. Enjoy.

#happysongsaturday #2 (On Sunday!)


Reader’s may have noticed something wrong with this post. It isn’t Saturday but Sunday I’m writing it. It’s not very good, having started something one week to fall down the very next week. I do not really have an excuse so will just have to try to do better next week. If I was to try one it would be something about the almost Annual Dinner of the English language theatre group I belong to here in Strasbourg, but frankly it doesn’t cut the mustard as an excuse. Incidentally a good evening was had by all.

When I posted this first last week I asked readers to send me examples of what are happy songs for them. I did not expect to get any response immediately. My hopes were that people might notice my little efforts over time and the occasional suggestion might be made. You can imagine my shock and pleasure to get two suggestions. So this week. #happysongsaturday is being driven by one of the readers.

Rob from Reading wrote to suggest Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson and in doing so said “It was re released I think around 87m 88 and I heard it on a jukebox in the Boars Head. It reminds me of sunshine and the swooning feeling you get when you meet a new love. I’m pretty sure the weather was hot. As you know I dj a bit and this always gets people up.”



There are a lot of songs about things that are not happy, the end of a relationship or similar. It seems unhappiness gets the creative juices of songwriters going better than happiness. But, there are happy songs out there. As part of a bid to change perspectives and look at happy songs rather than sad songs I currently plan to post a happy song every Saturday. I don’t know how long I will keep this up. Boredom or the inability to find happy songs may beat me. However I start tonight.

This song is one from my teenage years, perhaps just. I heard it afresh this week, I bought a copy of an album it was on and when converting the vinyl to mp3 I listened and thought how happy is that song. The Stylistics were not thought of as cool by anyone I knew at the time and no-one has suggested to me since that they were. I thought they had a number of good pop songs in the 70’s.(Though I didn’t say so to anyone at the time!) Clearly there is enough appreciation of their work for there to be a tribute act. If there are songs you think are happy and would like to see them included one Saturday leave a comment or contact this blog.

Darkness at the Edge of Town


This week unintentionally seems to be something of a Bruce Springsteen fest. Yesterday morning I went to see an Italian film set in New York called Hungry Hearts. Of the few plot-lines it was the Romeo and Juliet of doomed lovers and JTO has just got the latest book by a favoured author of hers, titled ‘Dancing in the Dark‘ – by Karl Ove Knausgaard. I am typing this listening to my favourite Springsteen album which gives this post its title.

The film starts with the embarrassing situation of a couple stuck in a restaurant toilet after he has done a particularly stinky pooh. Clearly it is not a problem as they spend the night together. As I said they go on to develop a relationship and then she gets pregnant. I won’t go on as I do not want to spoil it for anyone who might want to see it. It was produced by Italian broadcaster RAI from an Italian book which was transposed to New York and given a Bruce Springsteen song as a title, whether that was deliberate or a coincidence I do not know. Here’s the song:

There was no connection between the two events but this week Mr Amazon came round on his bike and delivered the new book  from Karl Ove Knausgaard – I did not know anything about him until recently but today I received as a gift a copy of the first of the six volume series, ‘A Death in the Family’. Ironically there hangs the tale of another coincidence as today I saw a Norwegian film ‘1001 Grammes’ (trailer) which is also worth seeing, a gently developing tale about a recently divorced woman in the world of weights and measures, I did say it wasn’t an action film! For those who don’t remember the Bruce Springsteen song it was one of his biggest its in the 80’s:

Darkness at the Edge of Town‘ was the Springsteen album which got attention at the end of the seventies but has long been overshadowed by its predecessor ‘Born to Run’ which gave him a massive worldwide critical and popular hit and the tow albums led on to his massive success in the 1980’s, giving the titles to the film and the book. Here’s the title track:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 440 other followers

%d bloggers like this: