Saturday, 7 June 2014

Evidence that Fran's definition of a piece of furniture may not fully match the dictionary's

I have 450 exam scripts to mark and have just done number 130.  That will tell you everything you need to know about why I am taking a break to write a blog post.

I thought I'd tell you about my desk, the one I've been using while I mark my scripts.

When I say the word 'desk', are you thinking along these lines?...


You were?

Don't worry.  It's not your fault.  You are a normal human being and have nothing to be afraid of.  It's my problem, not yours.

In our house, 'desk' means this.




As I said, it's not your fault.  Did any of you study Saussure and his ideas about the completely arbitrary link between the signifier and the signified?  If you did, you'll know why that's relevant to this blog post.  If you didn't, be grateful.  I found those lectures so confusing that my brain was like a knitting bag that's been ravaged by three cats.

This art book is what they call a 'coffee table' book.  Only, in the case of this one, it's not because it can go ON the coffee table, but because it is the size OF a coffee table.  And this is why I have been using it for years and years as my 'desk'.  It sits on my lap, I pile a teetering Leaning Tower of Marking on top of it, and off I go.  Tick, tick, tick.  Cross.  Tick, tick.  Cross.  Tick.  Cross, cross, cross.  Cross, cross, cross. "E grade.  Were you listening at ALL in this lesson?'

I also use the desk when I am teaching private pupils at home, which I do regularly, both of us sitting on the sofas in the living room.  I prefer teaching like this; they feel more grown-up, I think.  It takes them a while to get used to my unusual approach to furniture, but after a couple of lessons, when I say, 'Help yourself to the desk' they reach for the Art Book without a hint of the fear and doubt they experienced in Lesson 1.

Only one pupil took a few lessons to get used to the idea; at first, when I offered him the Art Book to put on his knees, he frowned and then shrugged before complying.  To be frank, I was surprised to find he asked for a second lesson.

I told this to a girl I'd been teaching for a couple of years - someone who'd been fully integrated into the Fran-Hill-way - and she said, 'He does go to quite a posh school, though, Fran.  Perhaps your shabby copy of Robert Cumming's Annotated Guide to Art with its torn cover isn't what he's used to leaning on when he writes up his essay about Faraday's law of induction.'

I thought that a little harsh.


27 comments:

  1. Hahah, my lap is my desk too! It's just more comfy to be sitting without a desk. :)

    <3

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    1. I agree. Although Isabelle doesn't (see below).

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  2. Oh dear. I'd get a VERY sore neck if I did that. In fact, I have a fairly sore neck now even without doing it. I have to look forwards; being able to use a computer on an actualy desk is the only reason that I am currently able to function. Have you asked your pupils how their necks are? Mine has been sore since uni days, because of having to look down to write (and yes, probably being far too tense).

    Violins...

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    1. Oh dear. Painful neck not good. Is that an RSI type thing? I seem to manage, by having a big cushion on my lap, and then the 'desk' on top of that, and then a pile of marking, so that I'm actually more or less looking forwards and not down. The pupils don't do that (I don't think I could persuade them into the cushion routine as well as the art book one), but they don't write that much ....

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    2. This seems odd to me. In primary and high schools we all wrote looking down at the exercise books on our desks, no one ever complained about sore necks. We looked up at the blackboard when necessary and people didn't walk around outside looking down either. I did a lot of extra looking down because I was always reading and have arthritis in my neck now, but I can't blame the schools and desks there for that.

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    3. Maybe it's a tension thing. Some people have neck and shoulder problems because of that. And I know Isabelle was a teacher before she retired. I need say no more.

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    4. The sore neck started at uni, probably because I never did much homework at school (naughty girl) but did at uni. I kind of thought everyone had a sore neck if they looked down a lot! No? Just me, then? I shall proceed to feel sorry for myself...

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    5. You have my permission. I've had a bit of RSI in neck and shoulders before and it was not nice.

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  3. Can totally relate to this. In our house it's the Princess Diana Book - a huge hardback that I, a slightly guilty royalist, bought after she died. The entire family, including the hubbie who is an unashamed anti-royalist, has been known to wander round the house with a tax return/application form/greetings card, whining, "Where's the Diana book?" Good post - made me feel normal... :)

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    1. You use Diana as a desk! You are not a real royalist, no!

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  4. Your desk has featured on it one of my all time favorite paintings by the Venetian master Titian. I believe the original is in the National Gallery in London.

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    1. Sometimes I browse through the desk when I have a spare moment. I love the book. I really don't know much about art and I really enjoy looking at all the annotations and finding out what the different symbols/ideas mean. If I went back to college I would study Art History. It's always grabbed me.

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  5. I once had a book almost as big as a coffee table, it came in very handy for balancing a dinner plate or coffee and cake on my knees while watching TV with my feet up on the actual coffee table. I still own the book, a giant atlas, but it lives at my son's house and the cover is warped, so a mug of coffee is no longer safe on it.

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    1. I am beginning to think we should start a 'Book as Desk' society. I didn't realise there were so many of us. I thought everyone else had those posh lap-tray things or used proper tables like civilised human beings.

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  6. A hardback NEXT catalogue makes a great desk & makes for the ideal break... browse over a coffee !

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    1. I didn't know they came in hardback, those catalogues. My word. Why hardback for a catalogue?

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    2. They charge £3 that's why...
      funnily enough, I only ever order stuff from NEXT for my son these days; perhaps he should pay for the catalogue ( and the clothes ! )

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  7. I better not go into home tutoring as my bed often doubles as an office. PS my semiotics lecturer used to give a yearly lecture: so you think you are Saussure. He thought he was hilarious! ( Am I allowed an !)

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    1. Ha ha. No, I don't think home tutoring is for you, then. You wouldn't last long before the court case. Your Saussure joke made me laugh. I will steal that one.

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  8. I can so relate to this. I haven't owned a desk in years. I do sometimes use the table when I also need access to my graphics tablet, but for general use, my laptop sits on my lap - else why call it a laptop??

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    1. There's a verse in one of my performance poems that goes

      I’d love a supermodel’s body. Sexy legs .. all that allure.
      SOMEtimes my thighs look hot. Isn’t that what laptops are FOR?

      Thanks for visiting the blog, Adrianne!

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  9. In my family a tray invariably means a cushion. And "do it now" invariably means that I end up doing it.

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    1. Hang on ... you use trays as cushions? Cushions as trays? How does this work?

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    2. A try on which one can eat one's meal (off a plate). This idea is so popular you can now actually buy trays with cushions sewn underneath them.

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  10. Barthes might cite this as a fine example of pragmatics. Your home is a haven for psychological, biological, and sociological phenomena!

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    1. And don't I know it! I write the very same thing on any party invitations to guests.

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  11. In our house it's a large 1956 Times Atlas of The World . Handily there are 5 volumes , so we can cater for small tea parties .

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