Watch the Skies

Making a timelapse film of the clouds. How hard can it be? Just point a webcam out of the window, attach it to a laptop that's not needed for anything else, and press "Go".

That's after you've spent two nights failing to the laptop to recognise the webcam, and your mother has spent an afternoon and some powers of lateral thinking after you've given up. And after all that, you find the sky is not so much cloudy as a uniform wash of pale grey.

Last week I did one day of teaching, covering for a sick colleague. This week another day for another one. In both cases after two hours of sleep following a night of drunken debauchery. But hey, that's what Sundays are for.

Actually I'm not sure my colleagues are ill that often - I think they're off trying to find work somewhere better. Either that or they had fun Sundays too.

In any case, I had a very pleasant one-to-one with a cute Swiss lad who plays electric blues guitar. Which meant I gave a lesson in music theory and American blues icons masquerading as one on vocabulary.

Oh, and the school have come up with a cost-efficient solution to the problem of students putting viruses on the classroom computers. If a teacher is ill one day, they call up their friendly neighbourhood substitute teacher, and if the entire class bunks off - which they often do - he spends the lesson reinstalling Windows and putting in security.

There's a piece of laminated paper blutacked to each classroom door, informing us that if any student is more than ten minutes late, we're to send them to the "student room" for quiet study. It's next to the notices telling students they must speak English at all times, and put the chairs on the tables at lesson's end.

If we followed the instructions, we'd have nothing but empty classes and I'd fix the computers in no time.

Tony recognised me, for the first time ever. He was being "moved on" from outside a shop by the manager. Earlier the police had done the same from the beach - and given him a piece of paper to prove they'd done it.

I gave him the coins in my pocket, but what he really wanted was company for half an hour, so I sat and listened while he drank his cider.

He'd spent eight years in the army, eventually serving in Basra - "cleaning up the mess left by the yanks". He says he tried to avoid shooting people if he could. Soon after he was posted, four fellow soldiers were killed when an American helicopter fired a missile on their jeep by mistake. He doesn't like Americans much now.

When detoxing he gets flashbacks to that time - the noise of gunfire, the fear of mines and the whole sense of hopelessness. Eventually he snapped and started shouting at a superior - "What are we doing here? What's this for?". He was put in solitary confinement ("The Greenhouse") for two months and discharged.

Now he's afraid he's going mad, but insists (correctly) that he still has self-respect and people who care about him.

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