3rd January 2003 at 00:00
Arnold Evans counts the hours as he tries to clear his inbox of American junk.

I like to think that the editor named this column after the legendary pork luncheon meat. SPAM (as it should be written) might have fallen out of fashion but once it was the bedrock of every schoolkid's diet. That was in those golden years when we all wore Davie Crockett hats and Cliff Richard was nearly as young as he looked and the only new technology anybody had to get excited about was that ingenious little key which mysteriously opened the tin. Calling the column Spam was, I thought, a tacit acknowledgement that my writing, too, was meaty, dependable, versatile, wholesome and value for money. Surely the editor couldn't have been thinking of that other kind of spam which is always irritating, sometimes offensive, often illiterate and best left unread.

When the column first appeared in 2000, we were all a little more tolerant of spam, simply because there wasn't so much of it around. But as the years have passed, the amount of digitised detritus that finds its way into our mailboxes has risen at an alarming rate. Every day, 10 billion totally useless messages are winging their way through cyberspace.

This morning - which is typical - I got lumbered with 87 of them. Among other things I was offered a time share in a condominium at Key West, a cure for snoring, the lead role in an action movie, creams to enlarge my penis andor bosom, a foolproof way of winning at roulette, a course in hypnosis, enough Viagra to raise the Titanic and particularly galling - a piece of software that is guaranteed to protect me from spam.

It usually takes me about 15 minutes each day to scroll through my mail box and delete the junk. It doesn't sound too much until you do the sum and discover it adds up to 91.25 hours a year - enough time for a long weekend in Paris or to read War and Peace or for someone to take your call at a public utility's customer enquiries.

According to the European Parliament, coping with unsolicited email is costing us pound;6 billion a year, so they've passed an anti-spam law which comes into force next October. It will undoubtedly curb the activities of spammers - but only those who are based within the EU. What's the good of that? Every single one of the 87 items I received this morning was as European as mom's apple pie. I'm afraid the only sure way to avoid spam and save ourselves 91.25 hours is to bite the bullet and abandon our email addresses. After all, there is another method of communicating. If you've forgotten what it is just pay a visit to

Aminicab driver has reminded me that teachers lead the life of (expletive deleted) Riley. He would swap his job for theirs any day of the (expletive deleted) week but is unable to because - unlike a surprising number of minicab drivers - he doesn't have a degree. There must be thousands of other non-graduates equally enthusiastic about a career in education - enough, say, to solve the current crisis in teacher recruitment.

The small matter of obtaining the necessary entry qualifications shouldn't prove a problem - thanks to the net. Sites such as will provide degree certificates from any university for a modest $75.

It's true that instant graduates might not know enough to teach pupils much but this doesn't necessarily matter - thanks, yet again to the net. For example, offers customised essays on every conceivable topic for as little as $15 each. Students simply download these and pass them off as their own. The hype merchants always promised that the net would revolutionise education. I suppose this is what they meant.

It can't be long before the BETT show will have to move from Olympia in favour of a venue that can accommodate a bigger crowd. It's not that there will be more visitors, but those who do turn up will increase in girth over the coming years. It's predicted that a quarter of Britains will be clinically obese by 2010. As with every other modern ill, computers are obviously to blame - the only exercise most of us now do is click a mouse.

Children are at even greater risk as they abandon traditional sports in favour of computer games. And, of course, all that junk food isn't doing them any good either. Indeed, Professor Michael Wadsworth, one of the experts in this field, reckons that a child's diet was far healthier during the 1950s. There are also educational implications: according to scientists at Toronto University, too much fat in children's diet actually impairs memory and concentration and affects their attainment in school.

Perhaps the small fortune that schools currently shell out on ICT would be better spent on PE equipment, breakfast clubs and strategies to persuade kids to exercise more and eat sensibly. There are links to all manner of fun ways of keeping fit at and links to countless recipes for healthy meals at

Of course, if children really want to emulate the infinitely varied and nutritious diet of the 1950s pupil, they should visit As the folks at SPAM tell us, with commendable candour: "Whether it's SPAM, SPAM Oven Roasted Turkey, SPAM Smoke Flavored, SPAM Lite or SPAM Less Sodium, it's the same great taste."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today