Up the Down Staircase

Book cover

Over a late lunch decided to begin re-reading “Up The Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman. This time as an ebook. I loved it as a teenager … and again as a new (or nearly new) teacher. 

I’m expecting to love it once more … but have only got as far as the end of the introduction, which is brilliant! Such an accurate reflection of the state of education from someone who has observed it over a whole lifetime. 

Bel Kaufman was 101 when she wrote this intro in 2012. (She died at 103 in 2014). Her story of how she came to write the book and her astute observations and reflections are wonderful. 

Both a sharp criticism of all that is wrong in education and a celebration of those marvellous men and women, the inspired and inspiring teachers who truly make a difference.

I’d recommend this as mandatory reading for everyone who, like me, is passionate about teaching and learning and what our education systems should be doing for our young. :)


Play Time

Yep … play time … two words. Though I guess it was playtime too  … :) Thoroughly enjoyed Faith Healer, written by Irish playwright Brian Friel back in 1979 during The Troubles.

MTC put on a fantastic production, directed by Judy Davis. A minimalist stage with only a few props allowed the audience to focus on the poetry and emotional power of the script – a fascinating woven tapestry of four independent but linked monologues.

Strong performances from all three actors beautifully delivered the humour and deep tragedy of the story. Colin Friels as the troubled, yet charismatic faith healer, Alison Whyte as his devoted wife/mistress and Paul Blackwell as his long-suffering manager … all were excellent and often nuanced performances..

The whole play was a wonderful and at times very moving illustration of how we create our own realities. And how, as Fred Allen one said:

A human being is nothing but a story with skin around it


Less or Fewer


Ok … so even my best friends will tell you I’m a bit of a grammar pedant. :)

But I’m sure I’m not alone in wincing every time I see the horrible muddle people make when using “less” or “fewer”.

Examples? An an article headline this morning … Less People Want to be Nurses. Or a notice in every lift (elevator) of a large building: If travelling two floors or less please use the stairs if you are able to do so.

And that big building? The campus of a national University! Ouch!!!

[Rant mode ON]

Come on folks … surely it’s not an impossible task to get this one right? For something that is … well … “en masse”, for want of a better word, use LESS. But if you could possibly … perhaps even conceivably count ’em … use FEWER!


That hill has less forest
… and fewer trees.
A beach has less sand
… fewer grains of sand.
Less fruit in the bowl
… fewer pieces of fruit
Less water in the lake
… fewer drops of rain.
We travel less distance
… and fewer kilometers
See less of a crowd
… and fewer people.

MORE practice = LESS confusion + FEWER mistakes! :)

[Rant mode OFF]

I feel better now. ;)


Memorable Aussie Advertising

Following on from my previous post – Not Happy Jan – I’ve reflected on some of the other advertising jingles and sayings that have become part of our Aussie culture.

Below is my list.

(Sadly there’s one for which I couldn’t find the ad anywhere on the web … an old ad for Solvol soap with the line “Wash your hands Geoffrey! … With Solvol Geoffrey!” Apparently nobody has posted that one anywhere yet.)

I like Aeroplane Jelly …”

This is the origional 1930s version, but the jingle reappeared in ads in the 1980s. I think just about every Aussie who grew up here between the 30s and the 80s could sing you this one.

“We’re happy little Vegemites …”

As with the above jingle, the tune definitely stuck in Aussie minds. But the expression of being a ‘happy little Vegemite’ also became a part of our idiom.

“Put another shrimp on the barbie …”

Whatever people may have thought about this tourism ad, saying ‘put another shrimp on the barbie’ crept into our conversations.

“Louie the Fly”

This one’s a classic. As children, we even started calling flies ‘louies’!

“You’re soaking in it … “

This is the Aussie version – there’s a US version as well.

“Go on Freddie … drink it!”

Not a hugely attractive or memorable advert this one … but “go on Freddie .. drink it” became part of our idiom for some reason.

“A real Norm”

From the Life Be In It ads – a name for someone who’s lazy. This is one of the series of ads they made – I liked the poem. :)

“The 14th of February, 1966 … “

Ok, so not really a saying. But as a kid the words for this jingle to the tune of “Click Go the Shears” definitely stuck in my brain!

“Slip, Slop, Slap”

This is the original from 1981, with Sid the Seagull. Apparently one of the most successful anti-cancer ad campaigns ever run.


Not Happy Jan!

I recently used the phrase “Not happy, Jan!” in a Facebook post … and a response from a colleague and friend, Jan Somers, in Belgium reminded me this is a peculiar Aussie expression. I explained and assured him I wasn’t having a go at him at all. :)

We’ve picked the saying up, from all places … a TV advertisement! It’s become a common catch phrase for anything that annoys us or gives us that ‘grrrr’ moment of frustration.

For all my international friends and readers, here’s the original – a Telstra advertisement from 2000. It still makes me smile! :) For the curious, the boss is played by well-known Australian actress Deborah Kennedy.