“Girl Meets Boy” (lesson plan), Guidelines to Improvised Comedy

Well hello again.

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on writing… but CREATIVE writing wouldn’t be accurate.

For the past year, I’ve written essays for my Masters course in Applied Linguistics, and every time I’ve moaned, “but I’m not doing any writing”, people have said, “but you’re writing your essays every week.” Not the same.

As always, being a teacher, I’ve written lesson plans. Mostly they’ve just been simple notes for myself. Recently, I submitted a proper one to a teaching website called Designer Lessons – my article was called “Girl Meets Boy”, and it’s a thought provoking discussion and video class, (with the link here – even if you’re not interested in teaching, the video at the start is worth watching)

And, as I’ve been running nearly every improvised comedy workshop in the past two months, I’ve done a lot of lesson planning for that, too. Even though I’ve been doing improvised comedy for, in total, about 6 years now, it’s only in the last 12 months that I’ve really started to learn how to teach it – mostly through, you know, teaching it. I’m getting pretty good at designing the direction of a class, and what particular points I want people to notice this week.

Continue reading ““Girl Meets Boy” (lesson plan), Guidelines to Improvised Comedy”


Wow. It’s been so long since I was last here that I mistyped the web address to my own blog. Er… oops.

But Good News, Everyone! My deadlines for my Masters program are UP. All (!) I have left to do now is my thesis, and the final deadline for THAT is February 2013.

That’s not to say I’m going to leave it to the last minute. I will try and get as much of that done as I can during the summer… which is roasting out here.

But it IS to say that my timetable just opened up, big style. And I plan to fill the time with some writing. I’ve got a proper formal writing group that I’m going to go to almost every Thursday. I’ve got at least four other friends who want to do some creative writing this summer who can encourage me and keep me going.

And… I haven’t written anything YET. So to kick myself off I’m going to post for you…. the first poem I ever read aloud at a poetry night. I re-read it this morning, and I still like it. I wrote it a couple of years after my grandfather died, and I like the… childish voice of it. I hope you’ll see what I mean. I also consider it a bit of a tribute to the man, as my grandfather was the man who introduced me to the beauty of poetry.

I should also say that, in an unfortunate way, this has kind of become a companion piece to Jigsaw, which I guess is a more mature version, so I recommend you check that one out afterwards.


You could tell he was up to something
By that naughty twinkle in his eye.
He cheated at football, moved the goalposts closer,
And took his ‘goal kick’ from our penalty line.
He’d send us to sleep with tales of talking sheep,
And wake us to chase us mid-morning-shave,
A grizzly foam monster in pressed brown pyjamas.

He wrote us poems about bunnies
Who loved to eat honey
Which we found very funny,
And he taught me chess.
And we could never do quite well enough to please him at school,
We could always do better, try harder, and we did,
To please him. I loved his smile.

You don’t smile. You look confused.
You don’t laugh, you talk gravelly and slowly,
You sit in bed, and Gran gets tired, and thin,
And the nurse whispers to my Mum,
And your eyes –
Staring, coldly, trying, oh how desperately trying,
To place me, to know me, to tell me –
“How are you getting on?”
I can’t answer.

No, you’re not my Grandpa anymore.

Milk Sky

Bubbling kettle, watch –
your clean steam stirs no colour
into flat milk skies.

My parents have a very large house, but when you’re only home for 3 and a half days, there’s always something to distract you. Having lived in cities for 4 and a half years, I’d forgotten how hard it is to find peace and quiet in this house. There’s always something to do, or something I’m supposed to have done. Writing this, for example, is a nice way to put off going through my room and sorting out all the bags and boxes and drawers of things I hoarded over the years.

I know haikus are supposed to carry some hint of a season, but the weather today is so seasonless, I instead chose to write a haiku that seemed to have a lack of season. I’ve read a few haikus that gave personalities to inanimate objects (which I guess is the animism part of Shinto that I’ve always liked), so I thought I’d risk talking to a kettle. And finally, I decided that I would avoid the word “tea”.

Way back here, I argued that the haiku is an unnecessarily complex form to write in, in English… which I decided after I realised how easy they are to write in Japanese. I still haven’t decided on whether an English haiku should be 4,6,4, or 6,8,6… probably the former for mine, as I have a tendency to lay the adjectives on a bit thick anyway. I still respect the Japanese haiku as a work of creative ingenuity, and it gets my mind working, but I find it frustrating when I’m trying to ADD words to make the poem work. Poetry should be about conciseness, surely? About finding the one right word to make it work. In this case, this could be a two word poem, and I’d still be happy:


milk sky


Remind me one day to tell you my new theory about the pleasures of poetry taken from a neurolinguistic perspective. I can’t tell you now, I’ve left my notes in Barcelona. This Masters malarkey has just been endlessly busy for the last 3 months. I deliberately chose to do this Masters in a year and a half, to give myself more time and less stress. The

My university

reality, however, has been that up until about the first week of March, I’ve had just as much work to do as everyone doing the Masters in a year… except those people are JUST doing the Masters, and I’m teaching 14 hours a week (not including planning / travelling time), and performing stand up comedy, and running Improvised Comedy workshops, and performing improvised comedy once a month…

… but you’ll be pleased to know that from now on, I will only have about two lectures a week to attend. And I only have about 3 projects left to hand in. We’ve finally reached the time of year when all the 1-year Masters students are working on their theses, and I’m sitting back and trying to decide what to write mine about. As a result, I will finally have more time to read books for fun! And write…. as long as there aren’t more distractions!

I hope to see you on here again very soon.

Where I’ve been, and Some Jokes I did

Well hello Blog!
It’s been a long time. 4 and a half months.

When I last typed stuff here, it was still hot. Also, I still had a lot of free time, I was trying to get started on performing comedy, and my flat was cleaner.

What changed? Well, quite a lot. First, and most importantly, I started studying again. I’m doing a Masters in Applied Linguistics and Bilingual Acquisition in Multilingual Contexts, which is a big way of saying “ooh, look at me and my cleverness.” While I’m doing that, I’m also continuing to teach part time, and between all of that, I’ve been performing stand up comedy and pulling together a group of funny souls to perform improvised comedy too.

As a result, the writing kind of got…. pushed to the back. And it annoyed me. “I should write again”, I told myself every other day. But I wasn’t even finding time to read anything that wasn’t an empirical study, so I can see why that didn’t happen.

But now, a month’s reprieve. I only have 2 Masters classes for the next month, and instead of the stress-inducing 12 hours of classes (which obviously meant at least that again outside of class to study), I now have a measly 4.

I plan on using the time to stretch my writing muscles (at first) and then get some full on writing done (after that).

I also need to try and get our first Improvised Comedy performance arranged, and write some new material for a new stand up comedy set.

While I get that started, I thought I’d show you something I did over my long hiatus – one of my two stand up comedy sets! (with any luck, I’ll get a copy of the video of the other set soon)

Some forewarnings

– it comes with a long and glowing introduction from the MC – I just skip that bit.

– one of  comedians really is called Adolf. That’s not a joke.

– and it ends when the camera runs out of battery. The last minute BEFORE the battery died… I kind of lost my stride. It was very unpracticed, that bit. As in, written that afternoon, not really learnt. So feel free to stop before the end.