‘Wash Hamsters Separately’: my #teacher5aday is not what I expected

Is there such a thing as a juxtaposition too far? This little fella seems to think so.
Is there such a thing as a juxtaposition too far? This little fella seems to think so.

The moral of my #teacher5aday is this: don’t discuss your 5 a day with your partner. Especially not if you are someone prone to pontification and not pulling your weight. If you are the type of person who enjoys seeing someone get what they deserve, then read on. I get what I deserve.


I want to stay connected, and seek connections, with people that don’t agree with me. One of the great pleasures of life is a hearty debate, a fundamental disagreement, but with both parties celebrating the good faith of the other. From time to time, I contradict myself or push out an opinion that has not been thought through: I enjoy being challenged and learn a lot from the experience. I want more, not less of this in the coming year.


I run a lot. Primarily because it is extremely cheap, but also so that I can listen to music with relative abandon without annoying my wife and children. Click here for my favourite running song (if you do, you’ll understand both why I run rather than jog and why my wife doesn’t like listening to *my* music).

My ambition, for the last couple of years, has been to run a marathon. I was signed up for the Lima Marathon in May 2014, but managed to get food poisoning two days before the race. My disappointment at not running (having prepared for the last six months) was compounded by the fact that I had food poisoning.

The furthest I have ever run (in one go) is 40 kilometres. It was in a training run, which is apparently quite silly. It took me a week to recover.

So, like an animal that doesn’t learn from its mistakes, I will try to run again in May 2015.


I need to finish my MEd, which I cut short to move abroad. So I’m hoping to find a university that will allow me to top-up my last 60 credits. However, that is a bit too teachy to meet the spirit of #teacher5aday, so let me divulge something I promise to learn that has only a tenuous connection to my profession.

Obviously, blogging has been a fun, recent hobby. I get an enormous amount of pleasure from reading and writing on both Twitter and WordPress. However, this year, I promise to do one thing neither bloggy nor teachy: I will learn how to use a washing machine. Not just how to switch it on, but also how to use the various settings: which buttons to press, nobs to turn, for the various types of clothes that there are. To perfect my use of washing machines, I will also need to learn how to read the labels on clothes.


I get wrapped up in the virtual all too easily. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking: ‘Ooh, that would make a good tweet!’ or ‘That could be my next blog.’ You could argue that I’m more prone to ‘noticing’ now that I’m looking with purpose (for an imagined audience). But it’s not as wholesome as all that.

What I need to notice this coming year is when enough is enough. I need to put the new influx of information and communication that has come to me through Twitter and WordPress into its proper place. To say that the virtual world is not real is unhelpful and misleading, because it is real communication with real people. But it is the people right next to me, the easiest to hear and hold, that I should listen to most deeply.


This is a toughie. Possibly the facet that challenges my predisposition the most. I am aloof, sometimes taciturn and often unwilling to reach out – for help, let alone to help.

I do a fair amount of voluntary work connected to school, but nothing off my own back. My wife has suggested that I could volunteer to clean out the hamster cage. I think that might be the one. I could say that I’ll teach English in a charity school in a dangerous part of town, but that would be self-aggrandising, wouldn’t it?

So let’s leave it there.

My five a day is to connect me back to domestic life and to listen more closely to my family. Yes, I’ll try to run a marathon again. Yes, I will drift back into my Twittering ways. But I will ground myself with the acrid scent of hamster-wee-infused pine shavings. And I will be able to sight-read sweater labels at ten paces.

Watch this space (because I’ll be too busy in the utility room).

Many thanks to Martyn Reah (@MartynReah) for having such an excellent idea and curating the #teacher5aday. I will be blogging about washing machines and hamster care for the foreseeable future.


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