Who is this Jackcabnory......

London Cab Driver, part-time Singer, micro/macro blogger, runner and primary school teacher in the making.....

Monday, 11 September 2017

Teaching. The final frontier.

If you know me, then you'll know I made a decision about 6 years ago to change careers.  A decision that has occupied almost every waking hour since.

Back then, my work life was dull. Repetitive. Unfulfilling.

What was I going to do then?  Indulge me with a bit of backstory.

Call it serendipity, but I met Drew Buddie at a Twitter conference (yeah, I know) and this led firstly, to a friendship that has underpinned the journey - X Factor eat your heart out - I've undertaken. Drew is enthusiastic, about many things, but first and foremost it's education that drives him.

We bonded over a discussion about how the knowledge of London is such a comprehensive feat of learning, but in his eyes not recognised and understood by the educational fraternity.  I accepted his subsequent invitation to speak at a TedX event, following the regular BETT show in London.  I was a nervous speaker, but many of those present were kind enough to let me know how interesting they had found what I had to say.

At this point dear reader, I still hadn't decided that I wanted to pursue pedagogy.

But as I've already said, I lacked job satisfaction. They say if you enjoy work, then it's not work. And that was what I set out to do.

Then it hit me. Teach. Take the baton of enjoyment that the knowledge had given me, and pass it on.

My simple logic was this. I need to work for at least another twenty five years. I knew if there was no end in sight, I ran the risk of work based stereotype. Cab driver hates his job, becomes increasingly cynical, reads the Sun and has a penchant for outbursts on what is wrong with the world.

Great. I had a plan. Resit English, Maths and Science GCSEs. (Having ingloriously failed them in the eighties - my lame excuse always that it was because we were the first year to sit them as they replaced O levels - I'm sure progress 8 contemporaries may do the same!).  Then a degree, I had considered a Bachelor of Education, but settled on English Literature and Language.

So beginning in 2012 with my English GCSE, I began a study period that would last for six and a half years - almost double the time in which I studied to become a cabby. Now I have to stress that I HAVE enjoyed it. Stretched hippocampus not withstanding, I really have.

Let's try and contextualise this transition from cabbing to teaching, it may seem unusual, perhaps even a little misguided - but I'm not the first to go outside the box and do something against type - outside the box - look at Lucy Kellaway, FT columnist now Maths teacher.  You can read about her story here, here and even hear her here (from 37.40). She's even set up a charity to encourage people wishing to do the same.

So, the plan was simple. I'd study, I'd volunteer at my children's old primary school - to get some cockpit hours in the bag, and importantly be exposed to a little of what was to come. Not be blasé about the task in hand, get my hands dirty, I think that's enough metaphors.
And lastly, I'd continue to grow a network of likeminded folk on twitter with whom I would engage with virtually and physically at regular TeachMeet events .  There are, excuse the cliché, too many to name but trust me their value is inestimable.

All of this has happened. I am now the proud owner of BA Honours English Literature and Language Degree 2.2.

However, it's September 2017 and I am not starting my PCGE.

Austerity knows no bounds, and Educational budgets have been reduced across the country.  The route that I had planned, via  a School Direct or SCITT salaried training position are like gold dust. Schools are having to consider the level of hand holding that is necessary with applicants. Unfortunately their view seems to be that I would need more than some, or rather that the school would be pleased to have me train in a non salaried position, thereby not being a budgetary cost.

I of course understand their plight. But to quote Eddie Cochrane - "Mom and poppa told me "son you gotta make some money."  There seems to be a disconnect between a profession that is clearly struggling to retain staff and those that are trying desperately to be heard knocking on the front door.

This coupled with official forecasts by the Department for Education that by 2025 a further 750,000 places will be needed, suggests that something has to give.  

I want to teach. I've probably never felt so destined for anything in my life like this. It's vocational. I am determined to get there, and again I'd like to voice my appreciation for my family, friends and passengers who have showed their support over the years.

And finally, if you read this and think you can help me achieve it, I'm all ears.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Why don't you shut up?

I am the kind of person who likes to be connected.  Always in need of conversation.  I thrive on information; current affairs fascinate me, and keeping abreast of them is a constant task.  In pursuit of these aims I’ve always been a talker.  I love to chat and chewing the fat about many topics brings me great joy.

In my previous occupations, this has been fairly straightforward.  Working in an office environment, these were full of work colleagues with whom the current TV, government initiatives, or favourite musical act could easily be discussed.

Since changing professions 4 years ago, the human interaction, whilst still there, is not always accompanied by conversation.  Driving a London Cab is a functional job, and many passengers want just that; a driver - Not a précis of the problems in Rwanda.

So it was with delight that I discovered Social Media in 2009. The ability to converse with people is virtually limitless, time being the constraining factor.  Procrastination is the biggest pitfall, but this and other disadvantages are in the minority.  On so many occasions my knowledge on issues have been stretched by reading articles,  I am certain, these would not have crossed my path without the interweaving messages that have surfaced on twitter.  These articles come from a circle of online friends with whom I am connected by a process of referrals.  A ‘like minded’ group of people which seems to self propagate, with an extremely high success rate.  The true joy of the connections are when someone says “How do you know [insert tweeter of choice]?” and you reply “I really don’t know, but it feels like I’ve always known them.”

And all of this is possible thanks to Social Media, specifically mobile hosted Social Media. Yes, it can be benign, inconsequential. As can life.  I once heard Stephen Fry discuss twitter in a talk he gave.  “It’s a broad church.”  I completely agree.  And I am so pleased to be an enthusiastic member of the congregation.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Life, parenting and the universe

I usually start by saying it's been so and so length of time since my last post. This is mainly because life disappears up itself, faster than a goldfish forgets the view from the bowl......

Anyway, the thing is, I never knew it would be this hard. Yes, you can call me naive, but I would refute that in a second. Nearly 13 years ago, I had no preconceptions about how I was going to handle it. At the time I had a human being in my hand, weighing slightly more than a couple of bags of sugar, and roughly the same length. I've never professed to anything more than a make it up as you go, haphazardly nipping and tucking as we go. We have treated our responsibility with great care, ensuring the boys (we had a second, similarly 'sweet' package arrive almost 3 years after the first) are fed, watered and clothed, and have the ability to experience as much of life as possible.

The demands are varied and as we both work, we do out utmost to be around as much as possible. But we have aspirations of our own, mine are well documented and ongoing. But every so often you stop and think;

"Do I do too much?"

"Should we change?"

We've frequently discussed our approach, is it the best way. The simple truth is, maybe obviously, that it has to change according to circumstance. Long gone are the days of nappies and 'Farmyard Tales'. Now we have increasing volumes of homework, clubs and extra curricular activities to get to.

It's fair to say that the tumultuous tribulations we ride almost daily, are the highs, and lows of prepubescent boys.........it really is as cliched as you like, "I hate you", "you don't understand", "you're the worst" et cetera, et cetera.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not trying to nibble more off the tree. This is a highly charged time in my children's development. In the next 6 months alone I am running (very liberal use of that verb)a marathon, and sitting exams for GCSE Maths and Science.

What pushes me on, beyond my own endeavour to teach, keep fit, play music, is that this life we lead is an example to our little contribution to the next generation. I hope they will have the sense that life is to be lived. Lived in the way THEY chose, seizing any opportunities, and creating them if necessary.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Maximum Break

Dear Reader, it's been too long, and I'm sorry.

Too long, 147 days too long. Or over 200k minutes.

Since my last post, not since I saw my mother, or did a good deed.  

It's not been uneventful, I've reached a mini milestone on the path towards teaching, having achieved an A* in my English GCSE (amidst a sand storm on the grading of said exams) which I resat in May.

I did drop the study after the examination, which quickly ran into the summer period, where working schedules had to be adjusted to suit the boys being home.  Typically Mrs J would finish work at 2pm then come home and we'd perform the age old square dance of parental hand over..... I would then venture into the abyss that was London during the XXX Olympiad.  Seriously, they threw the bathwater out with the baby, if you catch my drift.  Hands up if you were a good Olympic-goer and actually spent some of your time and money in the other part of town that existed beyond St Pancras, and the fabulous Javelin train.

I had a few lucky breaks over the summer, and was very grateful to Emma Mulqueeny for the opportunity to be involved with Young Rewired State "Festival of Code" in Birmingham, a really inspiring endeavour for the yoof of today.

We'd decided to stay put for most of the summer, but we did grab a long weekend with some tweet pals in Roose Point, near Cardiff.  An absolutely beautiful part of the world, really enjoyed NOT driving. We took the train, much more relaxing. 

On the subject of Olympics......we did get to the stadium to watch the Paralympic athletics on the Wednesday evening, we were very excited and it was lovely to meet up briefly before hand with Tanni Grey-Thompson, who I met through work and have become very friendly with.  She was mobbed once spotted, and after having obligatory photos taken, had a quick chat before she had to get back to the commentary box.

September rolled round and school resumed, our eldest is no longer the small fish in the pond, now in year 8.   No 2 has started in a new primary school, we thought long and hard before making the change, but we felt he needed to move on for reasons I'm sure you'll understand (if you're a parent, hey maybe if you're not).

Right, I'm in need of a shower (cast your eyes up and to the right) just been for a run, in the pursuit of my other small challenge over the next 6 months, a place in the 2013 Virgin London Marathon!

Monday, 21 May 2012

The writer..... A short story

The door opened into the dusty reception room.  The lady that emerged was equally dishevelled.  Mrs Sinha was a petit woman, standing only 5ft 1 inches from floor to the ends of her wispy greying hair.  It had been a full five minutes since I had first knocked on the door, waiting patiently for someone to respond.  I was waiting to discover what this, unimposing to the eye, yet formidable literary agent thought of my manuscript.

I had been labouring away at it for hours; many, many hours to be precise.  If you took these hours and strung them end to end, they’d reach the moon!  Oh hang on, that’s not the metaphor I was aiming for.  Hopefully you’ll catch my drift. (Slightly better that one).  So I was very anxious to know what Mrs Sinha, the renowned agent for bestsellers; “Find me the head of Balthazar Speranza”; “All the worlds an onion”; and “Meatballs - an opus,” would think of my work.  I had called it simply, “Labyrinthian tales.”

Fantastically epic in it’s title, I had written a tale of two medieval protagonists.  Each vying for the love of a dusty maiden.  Lucius Renoy and Horatio Formitude.  I painted a very detailed picture for the reader, giving plenty of illustrative descriptions of the castles and landscapes the story is played out against.  I had devoured all manner of historical tomes in order to make the story as authentic as possible in its’ fabric.

Mrs Sinha beckoned me through to her office.  “Sit down my dear, you look awful.”

“Well I am a little nervous,” I replied “your reputation does go before you.”

“That’s, er,” and then she paused, reinforcing my earlier comment.  I knew she was prone to being painfully truthful. “Very interesting, but really I’m a pussy cat.”

“Your story is marvellous.” Relief! “I really think we have something to work with.”  She then proceeded to heap praise on my work.  We agreed that we would meet again over the next few weeks to formulate some ideas.  Just to ‘polish’ some areas of the plot she felt needed a bit more shine.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Challenge

“It’s 5 o’clock,” whispered Harry.  “Yes, I know.” Came the reply from the confused bus driver. Harry had fallen asleep on the N85 routemaster as it wended its way through town. He had been with friends for a party in The Ram, and had stumbled onto the night bus; Knowing there wasn’t much time left until the day.  The day when he would face his fears and abseil down the largest building in London. The Shard.  Couldn’t they have called it something a little less dramatic he thought? He had enough on his mind, without worrying that the hand stitched climbing rope might somehow be affected by the cutting name of the building.

It stood 900 ft on the south side of the river. Pointing skyward, with gleaming glass windows. Hardly the best surface for walking down.  Harry was to be among the first group of people to participate in this charitable exercise, scaring himself witless in order to raise £600 for Cancer Research.

 Today was the first time he had allowed himself to get worked up about what lay ahead.  Up until now his focus had been the great cause, how much it meant to him and the value of the work the charity does.  His mother had died of throat cancer 3 years ago, and he knew how vital research was in conquering this disease.

The training had been very thorough.  Starting in a classroom, where all the safety measures were explained, he was shown the equipment that would be used; and the techniques, from the experts, that would ensure safe descent.

When the day arrived, he looked out and was pleased the weather forecasters had got it so wrong.  Blue skies and a very light breeze were different to the rain and gale force winds expected. As the train pulled into the station, he could see it.  Towering so high that, as so often happens with tall buildings, he felt like he was falling backwards when he raised his eyes to the very pinnacle.

A final pep talk was given by the instructors and a handshake, wave and hugs from friends and family who had gathered to witness proceedings.

The journey up 80 floors was made via two separate lifts.  The first from ground to 44, then a second for the final 36.  The feeling was indescribable.  Harry exited the lift. It was time to secure his harness and prepare for lift off! Or more appropriately, let down.  The wind was much stronger at this height, Harry felt extremely cautious as he was lowered into the desired position for descent, roughly 90 degrees out from the glass façade.

The first few tentative steps seemed to last an eternity, but probably lasted only seconds. He kept listening to the instructors talking him through the ordeal and before he knew it was within feet of the pavement; “Come on fella,” came a cheer from the crowd, “nearly there.”

And then, touch down! He’d done it.  He hugged his dad and brothers, hoping that somewhere his mum was doing a jig in happy celebration of his achievement.

Next time, he thought, I’ll do a sponsored silence.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A tale of two decibels


Serene.  Look it up in the dictionary and it will tell you it means “clear and calm, placid and unperturbed.”  This is a broad description of my dining room.  It may seem simplistic, but when it’s not overrun with people; eating and drinking, doing homework or arguing, it is an extremely calm place.  I think it is here where I can sit and read, sometimes write and feel at ease.  This room signifies a lot of what I have achieved.  My wife and partner of 18 years, our children who have grown up so far and continue to do so.  They are all here when I sit and think, perhaps not physically, but it is only momentary.  They will return today from work and school respectively.  

This room is not much to look at, aesthetically unfinished.  But it is completely full of memories; Good and bad, happy and sad. Lyrical phrases like “Silence is golden” come to mind, but they’re right. My eyes do see.


“Four-oh-Seven!”  The eastern European waitress shouts for the third time.  It is not unusual for this to be the case at the little known portacabin secreted at the back of a disused petrol station in Waterloo.  The number refers to a the raffle ticket we customers are issued when we make our order for food.  This cafe, approximately 30 metres by 15, is busy most days of the week. Filled with London cab drivers, who whilst earning a crust will stop to eat one.  The hustle and bustle starts in the kitchen with staff sharing jokes with the regulars.  They, the regulars, then take their seats alongside their pals.  Conversations are frenetic and often revolve around fares of interest, family tales and, inevitably, the ridicule of each other.  All done with a rye smile and knowing look.

The cacophony of noise is elevated further by when viewing the TV screens that show rolling sports coverage. Expletives pepper the air, but this is to be expected when the subjects of derision and triumph are teams that have been lifelong obsessions for the patrons.  The food is good, the sporting results not always so, but the sense of kinship is palpable, without fail.