Wednesday, 20 July 2011
If I am going to buy a car in France then the only one that will do is a Citroën 2CV. They’re cheap, chic and well, not 100 per cent reliable, but I don’t care.
When I was little my mother had a bright green 2CV, which we drove through the Dorset lanes with the wind in our hair and Dory Previn singing Lemon Haired Ladies on the ropey old tape machine. My dad loathed the car because it was noisy and shockingly slow and my mum went off it after the canvas roof came adrift and knocked her half-unconscious as she drove along.
But my sister and I adored it and once my mother got a swankier car she gave it to us. I’d just started training as a reporter on the Mid-Devon Advertiser and when I set off for work at the crack of dawn every Monday morning me and my mum had to push it down the road for a quarter of a mile to get it started. My friends likened the car to “a deckchair on wheels,” but within a few weeks my fellow trainee and spin-doctor-to-be Alastair Campbell bought a Citroën Dyane (the slightly more sophisticated version of the 2CV) in exactly the same colour.
On a good day my top speed was 60mph but on bad days lorries and caravans whizzed past me with ease. I was still so entranced that when it finally gave up the ghost I bought an identical Deux Chevaux in a shade of pale blue Cath Kidston would give her eye-teeth for.
Twenty-five years on I’m still hankering after another 2CV – and my teenagers are egging me on in my quest. Even though 2CVs went out of production in 1990, you can still pick them up for a song in France. Last summer my daughter spotted a beaten-up turquoise 2CV for sale for three hundred euros outside a garage in Dieulefit and campaigned for days to make me buy it. I admit I was half-tempted but luckily someone else snapped it up before I could do something even sillier than usual.
But hmmm, this year I just might...
Thursday, 7 April 2011
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.