Showing posts with label Jamie Oliver. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jamie Oliver. Show all posts

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Lost in the fog - and Jools Oliver's new children's range

For a moment I nearly panicked. I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, in freezing fog, with no phone signal and not a clue where I was going. I was off to my monthly book club, with a copy of Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women tucked in my bag, but it looked like I wasn’t going to make it. 

Of all the stupid things to do, I hadn’t checked where I was heading before I set off. The February meeting was at P’s new house in one of the loveliest villages in Northamptonshire. She’s only just moved in and I hadn’t visited before - but I assumed finding it would be a piece of cake. After years as a news reporter, haring off all over the country at a drop of the hat, my sense of direction hasn’t failed me very often. So all good, except I don’t have a sat nav and I’d left in such a hurry that I hadn’t phoned P for directions or printed out a map. “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll just get to the village and ring P from there.”

Only it wasn’t as simple as that. The snow has vanished from Oxford as fast as it arrived but the winding country lanes of Northamptonshire are a different story. As I drove at snail’s pace along the back roads, past snow-covered hedgerows, rabbits skittering in the ice and posters emblazoned with the words “No HS2 Rail Link” fluttering from the trees, thick fog descended and I could only see about two metres in front of my nose.

Finally, half an hour late, I drove gingerly into P’s gorgeous but alarmingly hilly village. Reaching for my mobile in the pitch black, my heart sank. “No service,” said the illuminated words on the screen. I’d stupidly failed to appreciate that in the wilds of the countryside O2’s signal is patchy to say the least. I drove up the hill, peering at the country cottages, all shrouded in darkness. There wasn’t a soul about and I briefly contemplated knocking on doors, reporter-style, but was too much of a wimp. After managing a scary 28-point turn to avoid ending up on the icy verge, it seemed my only option was to concede defeat pathetically and drive the 40 miles home.

And then suddenly, for a second at the top of the hill, a tiny bit of signal miraculously appeared. Another book club friend answered my call and yes, I made it to book club after all. Late, flustered and slightly incoherent, but I made it.

PS.  I’m not usually a fan of celebrity collaborations but I reckon Jamie Oliver’s wife Jools is a great choice to design a range of children’s clothes for Mothercare. The mother of four (three girls and one boy) is ultra-stylish, down-to-earth and I reckon she’ll come up with clothes that mums want to buy and children want to wear.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Chocolate biscuits, nagging and getting through exams

Revision fever is rife at House with No Name towers. With two teenagers working towards exams, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Desperate to help (something they don’t want at all!), I appealed for advice on Twitter. Answers came back thick and fast, ranging from “nag them about tidying their rooms - they'll prefer to revise” to “don’t insist that they can revise continuously - build in plenty of proper breaks” to “stock up with chocolate biscuits and other treats.”

I also looked back at my files and found a dreaded exams piece I wrote this time last year. It cheered me up no end so I've reprinted it here.

Teenager Ned gazes unhappily at the bright sunshine and blue sky and says for the umpteenth time: "I can’t wait for two weeks on Thursday."

Yes, the dreaded exams have begun and the house is filled with dog-eared files, text books and timetables. Ned’s at the top of the house, where no one can monitor precisely how much work he’s doing, while Lottie’s working in the kitchen to escape the temptations of Facebook and Twitter. The only trouble is that every time I tiptoe in to make cups of tea she asks me to test her on the radicalisation of the army in 1647. You what?

Then an email from pops into my inbox. It’s an excellent website, aimed at giving information and advice on “raising and educating happy, fulfilled girls.” With the exam season in full swing, the latest edition includes a raft of advice from leading headteachers on exam stress and how parents can help their daughters revise. There’s just one problem. If I dared try any of the heads’ suggestions in our house Lottie would soon tell me where to go.

"Rather than banning her use of the computer and mobile," reads one tip, "encourage her to negotiate a communication contract with her friends where they all agree which 20 minutes they will all go online/communicate with each other .... and make her stick to it."

I’m obviously a completely ineffectual parent but if I dared to mention the idea of drawing up a "communication contract" Lottie would laugh hysterically. The moment I offer any advice at all, she says "I’ll sort myself out" or, more crushingly, "that’s the last thing I’d do." And do you know what? She’s absolutely right. Her exams are her business, and she’ll do them her way.

PS: If your children are revising for GCSEs, take a look at some of the innovative ideas devised by the seven winners of Britain’s Dream Teachers, a competition launched by YouTube and TV chef Jamie Oliver to find the most inspiring teachers in the country. See

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Twenty tricky teenagers

My must-see TV of the week is Channel 4’s Jamie’s Dream School – the series where Jamie Oliver gets a host of celebrities to teach 20 tricky teenagers who’ve left school with barely any qualifications.

The science teacher is fertility expert Lord Winston (who’s already hit the headlines for getting the boys in the class to study their own sperm). History is taught by Dr David Starkey, politics by spin doctor Alastair Campbell, drama by Simon Callow, music by Jazzie B (the best teacher by a mile, I reckon), art by Rolf Harris and maths by economist Alvin Hall. Other experts helping out include barrister Cherie Booth, sailor Ellen MacArthur, rapper Tinchy Stryder and former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion.

Over two months the teachers have attempted to inspire the 16 to 18 year olds and (hopefully) persuade them to return to education. On the whole, the celebs have been utterly useless, especially the ones who blithely assumed they could stand at the front, talk about themselves and instantly command the students’ attention. They couldn’t of course. Most lessons have seen pupils walking out, yelling at the teacher, even picking fights.

The truth is, as the celebs have discovered to their cost, that teaching is an awful lot harder than it looks. I’m speaking from experience on this one. I tried my hand at teaching the same age group a few years ago and it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

Looking back, I’m not sure I taught my lot very much at all. One girl fell asleep every lesson, a boy whizzed his skateboard along the classroom floor, others chatted and texted pals when I wasn’t looking and as for handing their work on time – sorry, it rarely happened.

Now Jamie has experienced what life in the 21st century classroom is really like he’s been quick to praise the teachers who do it day in day out. “I have to say that I’ve never admired teachers more than I do now,” he said. “Until you’ve tried it, you can’t possibly know what it’s like standing in front of a group of young people who aren’t interested in what you’re saying.”

If only a few of our politicians would give it a go too.
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