Tuesday, August 30, 2011

today : spineless swines, cemented minds

Michael Gove's free schools open in a few days. It'll be interesting to see whether they achieve any success.

I suspect we'll never know if they are better than other schools. No doubt they will be measured differently when it comes to results. I also suspect that the fact that they are an ideologically, rather than educationally, driven project that they won't be allowed to fail. So expect to see the exact amounts of direct funding being quite difficult to fathom, with various obfuscated forms of financial support that other schools won't receive.

The rub, of course, being that their freedom is supposed to replace a failing national curriculum. Mmmm, that's the NC that was a Tory invention in 1991, mainly as a response to bogus tabloid fears of left wing Local Education Authorities brainwashing our precious kids with their loony leftism and forced gayness. And now a new thing to replace old thing. The fears are little changed. Centralising control and exercising it through grateful proxies. Bypassing the swathes of immoral ill-disciplined (liberal lefty) teachers that populate normal inner-city schools. And still there's the suspicion that inner cities are run by Labour lefties who cannot be allowed to have access to our childrens' purely capitalist minds.

I bet that when it all comes out in the wash, in an age of cuts across the education system, the money per pupil spent in free schools will easily outweigh Gove's trumpeted pupil premium. And lets not forget that it was the Tories who relentlessly stripped cash out of the system over for twenty years, leaving schools, pupils and teachers gasping for breath.

Monday, August 22, 2011

today : I meet someone I don't know

I'd like to use the opportunity of me owning an internetweb weblog to announce categorically that I have never knowingly met or befriended a haemophiliac.

Don't get me wrong. In no way have I sought to avoid haemophiliacs. I have nothing against them and am sure that they are all very nice people. In fact I am further certain that many, if not all, of them are worthy of some measure of admiration for living with such a potentially difficult and problematic condition.

But still, as far as I know I have never met one.

I just thought I'd clear that up.

Because today I was in the process of donating some old stuff - a stereo system that worked but was obsolete due to the lack of a CD player, some fine quality but little-used hiking boots that were in hindsight, seeing as I literally cannot walk, an optimistic purchase, and some books - to a charity shop. I know the guy in the shop and it's my first choice whenever I have anything to donate.

(Without wishing to appear too worthy and preachy and that I do a lot of work for charidee without wishing to talk about it, if you are ever thinking of donating to a charity shop it's a good idea, so my contacts on the inside inform me, to only give half-decent stuff. It seems that lots of people use charity shops as a way of throwing stuff away, including lots of stuff that is genuine rubbish and sometimes disgusting, like soiled underwear, unwashed nappies and bloodstained bedclothes. This means that charity shops have to spend time to sort out the good stuff and pay extra to throw the bad stuff away. The rule is that if you yourself wouldn't think of buying something were it in a charity shop, then it's probably best being put in the bin or taken to the tip, especially if it appears to be covered in suspicious bodily fluids.)

So there I was, parked at the backdoor of the shop unloading my donations from the car. My friend was helping, given that my walking sticks mean I have 100% less available hands than your average normal person to carry bags etc. In fact, to say that I was unloading is only true in its broadest, continuous sense. What I specifically was doing was pointing at the various items in the boot of my car, which my friend then unloaded and took inside.

Nearby, outside a charity clothes shop (it is a salubrious area), there was a parked red van. A wheezing circular bloke wearing blue overalls was piling stuff into the back. Once he'd finished and theatrically slammed the doors he walked over to me. From about a foot away he pointed firmly at my chest.
"I know you. You're Darren's mate. Good to see you."
I can quite honestly say that I didn't know this guy. Never seen him before. In point of fact, I've never even known anyone who could be mistaken for him. Moreover, I don't know anyone called Darren. The last person I knew of that name was at middle school aged about twelve. When we moved on to new school we quickly lost touch. Not a surprise given that we were never really good friends: the only bond we really had was that I was the maverick right-sided midfielder in the school footie team and Darren was a pretty tall and fast centre forward who benefited immensely from a number of my crosses, through-balls, back-heels and other skillful and creative assists.

There aren't even many famous Darrens. D-list musical and panto actor/tabloid love-rat Darren Day, Darrin from Bewitched, footballers Darren Huckerby and scoop-faced serially-injured Darren Anderton and pretentious film director Darren Aranovsky are the only ones I can conjure up at the moment, and one of them is fictional and spelt differently.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't know a Darren."
"Yeah you do. Darren. Darr-en. Darren from Ellington Avenue!" He'd started to speak to me in that slightly shouty way people speak to foreigners who don't understand English, or the elderly whose ears and memories are assumed to be suspect.
"I'm sorry," I said, rapidly rifling through people I'd known who'd lived in the area of Ellington Avenue but never thought of for years just to see if I missed a Darren. I rapidly came up with a Neil, a Niall, an Andrew, a Chris, a Jonathon and a Dean, but no Darrens.
"Darren the haemophiliac!" he said, as if this piece of medical information would prove the key fact that made me unable to further deny my knowing Darren from Ellington Avenue.
"I don't know what to say," I said. "I am local and I grew up around here, so maybe you've seen me around. I even know Ellington Avenue because a girl in my class lived there..."
"What school did you go to?"
"Greenwood High."
"How old are you?"
"Oh," he looked momentarily crestfallen. "I'm thirty six." He was silent for a moment while we both absorbed the import of our ages: with the maximum crossover for people being in school at the same time being seven years, any notion that we went to school together was scuppered.

Apparently this was his last gambit for creating some historical connection between us.

"Well, gotta run," he announced. "This stuff won't take itself to the tip," he said and walked away back to his van.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

today : same old sh*t

Knee + Jerk

National Service
Cut Benefits
More Discipline in Schools (bring back caning)
Cut more Benefits
Longer Prison sentences
Chain Gangs
Employ American advisors
Blame the previous government
Blame immigrants

(and btw cut taxes for the rich)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

today : feel the pain...take the blame

Barring further incidents, there will be a torrent, a clamour, of blame, analyse and explain in the next week or so. None of the MPs, newspaper columnists, journalists, think-tank directors, commentators or bloggers will admit the truth. None of them will personally take the blame for what happened in August 2011. Overwhelmingly, opinion is that nobody understands. But that is the point. We/they will show that we/they understand so little that they hardly have a way to grasp it. They don't even understand how little they understand. But once again, they/we won't look in the mirror. If control was lost then there's nobody else who could have lost it. If there has been a moral shift, it didn't just happen without cause. If society is 'broken', as the politicians seem to insist, then it didn't just break on its own. The hard truth is that we/they broke it. They will bang on endlessly about others' lack of responsibility without once genuinely taking responsibility themselves. If the young lack role models and examples, then older generations are the ones who failed to be the example or the role model. If the young lack opportunity then we are the ones who failed to ensure it. Everyone expressed some measure of shock and surprise that the country exploded in riots, but nobody will really admit their part in a society that engenders such violence.

today : I predict a roti

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

today : 90 degrees in my shades

Today it was 88 degrees in my kitchen, which for England is pretty hot. Summer is erratic and often very short and it always amuses me that we complain when it gets really hot, just as we complain when it gets really cold, or when it is neither especially hot nor especially cold. We also complain when it rains, or not.

But I am out of step with other Brits. I love it hot. As hot as possible please. If I was (and sadly, I am not) the person who won £161 million on the lottery the other week (and there's none of this American lottery nonsense where you get it over 20 years. Here it's one of those oversized cheques in a single beautiful chunk) I would instantly move to somewhere like Santa Fe for the dry heat and/or New Orleans for the humid heat, holidaying in Calcutta, Rio and North Africa for a change.

Anyway I am not even going to pretend that I am not , in part, using the heat as a rather feeble excuse to post pictures of Claudia Cardinale modelling various items of 'summer' clothing.