Walking to the shop this morning I was again aware that every leaf on every tree is constantly growing, changing. And so am I and everything else I can and can not see. For a moment I imagined being in a time lapse image, rushing onwards beyond the constraints of the clock.
I was back at The Abbey last night. Last season, for various reasons, I wasn’t there enough and I missed not having a proper feel for the team and individual players, for the Club as a whole. And I missed out on too many games like Saturday’s against Notts County, which just isn’t acceptable. The Carabao Cup doesn’t fill me with much excitement generally but I was free for the evening and my children (7 & 8) were up for going. They’ve been a few times before but don’t get the buzz when it’s cold and wet and there are no goals. Yesterday was warm and dry, a late night was offered, and even they love the thought of possibly hearing Coconuts… Here are, in time-honoured football cliche, five thoughts on an evening at the Abbey at the start of a new season:
Mid way through the second half, when Newport had been three goals up for a while and it was becoming clear that we were never going to get back into the match I was asked if I was disappointed:
“Not really. I’ve seen Cambridge United play dreadfully more times than I’ve seen them play well. It’s just how it is.”
“Why do you keep supporting them then?”
“Because they’re my team and…”
I didn’t finish the sentence because what reason could I give? Two young children, who witnessed a truly abysmal display of football, jumped for joy when we scored a token penalty in the 90th minute to make it 4-1. They want to go again. The atmosphere, meagre as it was, got them. It does that.
I’ve seen this on Twitter:
I really believe that if you want to raise literacy standards in schools, you need to train all staff on the following: Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs, Adverbs, Simple sentences, Compound sentences, Complex sentences. 7 basic things that impact so much.
I’ve not replied. I know there’s no point. I’m losing an ideological battle against a maelstrom of analytical ideology. I’ll probably start too many of my sentences with “I” this time.
As a child I was read to endlessly. And sung to. Our house was filled with books. When Mrs Jackson read us Roald Dahl’s “Danny the Champion of the World” when I was in Year 4 I was captivated. There was a world in a book that I could relate to, lose myself in, dream of. A world so like my own and yet more exciting and fantastic than mine could ever likely be. After it had been read to me at school I asked my Mum to read it to me, then I read it myself. Then I read lots of other books. From an obsession with sticker albums, atlases and encyclopedias the world of fiction became something worth engaging with, rather than it just being done to me. It was the same with “You Tell Me” by Roger McGough & Michael Rosen. And the Mr. Men books. And The Magic Faraway Tree series, and countless story books that I’m now sharing with my children. Books were exciting, reading was exciting. I have become an adult who has started too many sentences here with the same word, but who has held an otherwise acceptably high standard of literacy for as long as I can remember.
Nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs. I did those at primary school. I don’t remember specifically talking about simple, compound and complex sentences. I knew what they were though when we were ‘introduced’ to them at secondary school. I was using them already without knowing. My writing was good, or so my teachers and peers told me – without drowning the joy I found in the written word.
I wouldn’t argue that the those of us who have to teach literacy to children need to know about the seven basic things mentioned above, but where is the love? Where is the joy? Why isn’t it seen as important that staff need to communicate the joy of books and a love of reading? This isn’t a case of “Well obviously, that goes without saying!” because it doesn’t. Reading for pleasure is an afterthought, an add-on if there’s time to fit it in. How many Year 6 children in the country are read a story to daily? Nowhere near enough. During a recent observation I was told that, in an otherwise Outstanding guided reading lesson, the group who I had allowed to ‘read for pleasure’ were not being given a specific reason to ‘read for pleasure’ and thus the lesson was marked down to Good. I argued that giving purpose to pleasure stopped it being a pleasure, but it didn’t wash.
Currently I’m teaching Years 5 & 6 and I have made a point of reading to them as much as I can. They are excited and transfixed. The more able readers are able to enjoy a text for its own sake, and the less able readers are accessing a book they would presently have no chance of doing so for themselves. They are being exposed to text types, phrasing, emotions, vocabulary, dramatic devices, characters, general knowledge and so much more. And they don’t even realise it. The horror – how can you learn anything unless you’re told in minutiae what it is you’re learning and why?
You can analyse things as much as you like, break them down to gradable zeros and ones until you’re contradicting your own rules, but children and adults alike respond better and learn more when they are enjoying what they do. Until we make joy a central part of literacy (and all education for that matter) we’ll continue to have pupils who go dead behind the eyes when they think of reading and writing, and teachers will have to keep fighting to force feed stuff that would be gobbled down if there was some love shown for it.
I’m a teacher. I know I need to know those seven basic things. I also know that they are nothing if my pupils don’t feel excitement when they pick up a book or a pen. I wish the people in charge, and those who meekly follow their dogma whilst pretending to have minds of their own, would know this too.
Joy. Literally, joy!
As is the way of Ofsted I don’t know how my school did in our inspection last week. I still think that that’s rotten, but so be it. It’s over for now.
I voted to Remain in the EU and I’m a member of the Green Party. In an ideal world we’d have a left-wing Government as part of the European Union but I’m also a realist and, however much it upsets me, I accept that 52% of voters chose to leave the EU and so that’s what’s going to happen. Referendums are binary and we’re heading out.
As we approach the General Election in a few weeks time I have an important question rattling around my head. Here it is:
In light of all that we have seen and heard since the Referendum, with a Conservative Party seemingly aiming for a hard-Brexit, do Brexit supporters feel that the wishes of the 48% should have any bearing on the process? Are those 16.1 million people now irrelevant because 1.3 million more people wanted something different?
With the answer to that question in mind, what point is there in me voting on June 8th? This is not a flippant question. I used to think that every vote, even with a first-past-the-post system, was important because even if you didn’t vote for the winner your MP would take notice of those who voted for other parties. For example, as a Green voter in a Conservative safe seat I’d expect my MP with 53% of the vote to follow the Tory line and represent the wishes of the the majority who voted for him – but I also hoped that when doing their job they’d bear in mind the other 47% and take into some sort of consideration that almost half their constituents had a different vision for the country than them. By voting Green (or Labour, or Lib Dem, or – shudder – UKIP) in a Conservative safe seat I’d expect to lose but I’d also be making my views known and, however quietly, my voice heard.
Post-referendum, I’m left doubting that absolutely. We have marched towards a hard-Brexit with scant regard being paid to the 48%. We are repeatedly told that Brexit is “the will of the Nation” when actually it’s the “will of 33% of those in the Nation who are eligible to vote”.
Along with over 16 million people I have become a non-person, irrelevant and disregarded. Yes referendums are binary, but surely you have to pay some attention to the will of those who didn’t win? Don’t you?
And so back to June’s election. James Cleverly is going to win this seat. It’s a certainty and he knows it. Unless he does something as stupid as the last one he’ll be my MP until 2022, and even if he does mess up some other Tory will be drafted in and they’ll do the job instead. So who do I vote for, or do I vote at all?
Obviously, I’m going to vote. But…
Vote Green I definitely lose and, in light of what I’ve written above, I have no faith that my non-Tory views will be considered for even a moment over the next 5 years.
Vote Labour tactically and I’m 99% going to lose and again, in light of what I’ve written above, etc. etc.
Vote UKIP or Lib Dem and I’ve somehow got to live with myself…
So who do I vote for? Vote for my beliefs or tactically, and does it make any difference? Is James Cleverly and the Conservative Party in general going to pretend I don’t exist on June 9th or might my vote, and the many millions of votes by people like me, be considered for even a fleeting moment whilst the country is being ripped apart?
“It means I review my future and my past in the light of this feeling. It is as though I wrote in a foreign language that I am suddenly able to read. Wordlessly, she explains me to myself. Like genius she is ignorant of what she does.”
Given this table and told to pick a shot from A (fairly standard spirits), a shot from B (flavoured/novelty/grimace-forming), a mixer & a garnish in order to Mix Your Own Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster – this is a selection of what was drunk. (There were others, but by then we were too alight to write them down…)
Tequila, Jagermeister & Coke. Cherry.
Dark Rum, Fireball (liquor with whisky & cinnamon), Red Bull. Umbrella.
Gin, Limoncello, Elderflower cordial & soda. Lime.
Pear schnapps, sloe gin, lemonade.
Pear schnapps, 10-year-old plastic bottle Seychelles dark rum, lemonade. Cherry.
Vodka, Limoncello & cranberry.
Bacardi, slow gin & cranberry.
Pear schnapps, Limoncello & Red Bull
Courvoisier, 10-year-old plastic bottle Seychelles dark rum, tonic water & grenadine. Lime.
Courvoisier, margarita mix, lemonade. Lime.
Whisky, Genepy, Limoncello, lemonade. Lime.
I recall having one later on that made me shudder to my core – needed a top up of Red Bull to make it palatable. Generally though, there were some great new drinks created!
Whilst driving on a very ordinary piece of road this afternoon, with me in the front and my children in the back, my 4 year old daughter came out with this:
Daughter: “Oh it’s wonderful!”
Me: “What is?”
Daughter: “The whole world Daddy…”
And as I looked again at scenery I had hitherto just seen I had to agree with her. In every vista there’s something worth seeing. Something that’s wonderful.
Thank you my beautiful girl.
Exciting stuff eh?!
We’ve been with ASDA European Breakdown for two years now.
On Saturday, driving home from Northern Germany and heading for the overnight ferry from Hook of Holland, the alternator went on our T4 just before the Dutch border & just after all the garages had shut up for the weekend. With two children under 4 in the party I called ASDA Breakdown and they provided the following service:
Of course, the van was still in Germany when we got home. In a convenient twist of fate we know someone who works at a car import/export company which had a truck on its way to Hook of Holland and has offered to ship the van back to the UK for us. This does make life much easier but if we hadn’t have had that option ASDA would have:
(And should our shipping option not work out the offer for this is till there.)
I really can’t speak highly enough of them. There was a slight moment of anxiety over the flight on Sunday evening (I hadn’t mentioned the car seats & bag for the hold so the original Ryanair flight fell through quite late on) and I did spend a lot of time on my mobile getting/checking info. but I always felt like we were being looked after and…well worried about really. The people I dealt with on the phone seemed to care that we were OK and that everything was being sorted. I know it’s just their job but when you’re stuck in Germany with no way to get home that perception is a nice one to have.
What could have been a nightmare end to a great holiday actually turned into something approaching an exciting adventure, and although we’ve got bags of clothes in the back on the car we can’t get to yet (plus the pressies for people!) we were, in the end, only a few hours later getting home than we would have been had we got the ferry as originally planned. And the hotel was nicer that the ferry! It was stressful at times, but my stress was due to us having broken down in the first place, not the support we subsequently received.
So there we are. I’m sure some people will have had less positive experiences but that’s modern life I guess. We however are very happy customers and I wanted to share this with you.
On being faced with the question: Could these British values of tolerance be the thing that costs us our Britishness?
Britishness? Britishness? It’s just a political construct! A name! The people of these islands have changed, and will change, day-after-day until the end of time. I was born and bred in this country but I’m a quarter-Latvian which means I’m not pure-bred British and so ought I to lop off an arm & ship it back to the Baltic? I’m probably more anti-Britain than most of the Muslims who get abused on a daily basis in this bloody wonderful country but because I’m white nothing will ever be said to me.
What is it to be “British”? Reading the endless drivel about the Woolwich attack made me think just that. Calling paid killers heroes? Knifing someone who looks like a Muslim? Attacking a mosque? Too extreme? Maybe just venting your spleen about ‘them’ on social networking sites like being ‘British’ makes you automatically morally superior to every people in the world by default.
‘Britishness’ is about as concrete a notion as the sea. It’s been changing for thousands of years and it’ll keep changing forever, although it’s only been ‘Britishness’ since 1707 because that’s how long Great Britain has existed. Before that it was ‘Englishness’, and before that ‘Anglo-Saxoness’ and before that… We can’t lose something that isn’t fixed, but we can keep hold of the fact that we’re all humans and that most of us basically want the same things in life.
I don’t know why I’m writing this, I’ve been sucked into the ‘debate’ when I promised myself I wouldn’t. All I really think, because I’m a yoghurt-weaving woolly-minded hippy is that the labels of ‘British’, ‘Christian’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Nigerian’, Conservative’, ‘Cambridge United Supporter’ are just labels we give ourselves because we want to belong, but in the end we’re all simultaneously individuals and one part of the human collective. Maybe if we all started treating the Woolwich killers as two people who did a terrible thing rather than ‘Muslims’ and the victim as a man who was walking home rather than a ‘British soldier/hero’ we might not give other people reason to do this kind of thing again, because you can’t have reprisals against everyone? Give people a label though and you make them a target. Maybe if we were all just a bit nicer to people regardless of where they were born or live, or the colour of their skin, or the version of god they worship there might be less of this kind of thing in the world? Maybe if we stopped judging people from a position of self-imposed superiority? Maybe if we were all just a bit kinder to one another?
If we really were a tolerant nation these terrible things wouldn’t happen. I think they do because we’re only really tolerant when it suits us.
That’s me done, I shall leave with the wonderful cartoon below and go back to avoiding the news and trying to be nice to people as much as possible.
Generally, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always answered “Coping…” when asked how I am. I say it sometimes at home, I say it always at work, and it’s usually accompanied by one of the sighs for which I’m renowned. Recently I read a tweet which suggested we ought to reply to that oft-asked question with “Challenged” and I confess I saw merit in doing so. I understood where the tweeter was coming from even though I’ve been berating myself for years for not fully counting my blessings.
This morning, on walking back from buying some milk at our local shop, I witnessed the following conversation between a woman I was walking behind and a man coming the other way:
Woman: How are you dear?
Man: (triumphantly) Wonderful thank you! (laughs, genuinely)
Woman: Excellent! (smiling)
And it made me smile too, and it cheered my heart, and as I walked the 90-odd seconds back to the house I looked down across our town and I breathed in the air and thought “Yes! I’m wonderful too!” because I am, and the day was, and on the whole my life is.
What difference would it make to me day-to-day if I answered the question “How are you?” with a triumphant “Wonderful!”? I don’t know, but I’m going to try and find out because it can’t be worse than my usual sighed reply. I’m incredibly lucky, my life is wonderful, I ought to try and acknowledge that and feel that as often as I can. Starting now.
I went in a B&M Bargains store today! When I last shopped at B&M Bargains they were a relatively small chain of shops found only in and around Blackpool. 15 years on and they’ve been developed into a national chain and as I bought cheap mealworms for the chickens and a novelty sock hanger for the washing line I was thrown back to my days on the Fylde Coast. I quite enjoyed being back in a B&M Bargains Store, if only because I like the feeling that I was in on this one from early on – like having seen a stadium-band in a small pub before they made it. If only I’d tested the Hello Kitty toothbrush light before leaving the shop…
Today’s the day Thatcher died. I grew up in a Conservative household in a constituency so Blue they put an Iraqi-born candidate forward at the last election and still won. I went to a grammar school that may as well have been a recruiting office for the Conservative Party. From the age of 8 when I started to be vaguely aware of politics to the time I was in the sixth form I only knew one Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister and I was in her thrall. I was so right-wing & anti-European I’d be a member of UKIP now, and I wrote her a letter telling her so. I didn’t know any better, how could I growing up where, and how, I did? If I moved further and further right from 8 to 18, from 18 to 38 I’ve shifted completely the other way. I’ve seen some of the world since then. Enough to find myself becoming more left-wing as each year passes and finding myself despising the things I now realise Thatcher stood for.
My teenage infatuation with Thatcher’s politics isn’t something I’ve ever tried to hide – there were mitigating circumstances I was powerless to control – but I do feel like a man who long ago realised his first “love” wasn’t actually worthy of his attention and now feels a little bit silly. From me, no tributes (is there a politician I respect enough?), no celebrating (it’s not Blair after all), just remembering what I used to believe in and being thankful that I’ve grown up.
This time last week I was halfway through a visit from Ofsted. I’d had 3-4 hours sleep the previous night and was faced with the same prospect again that night. I’d not been able to face eating and Red Bull was my friend. I was running on empty. So much rides on a ‘good’ performance these days, and it’s all based on what 2-3 people you’ve never met before and know nothing about think during 2 days in your school. They put everything under enormous scrutiny and if they don’t like what they see lives are turned upside down and careers are ended.
We’d been expecting them to visit any day but still, when we did get the call, the initial feeling was of a bowling ball in the stomach. “Here we go…” went the thought in my head, and then a sort of numb tranquility set in and I set to getting ready. In actual fact, apart from feeling physically sick from the time I found out they were coming in at 12.30 on Tuesday to their arrival at 7.45 on the Wednesday, the anticipation was worse than the inspection itself – what can you do about anything at that point? The weeks of ending every sentence with “in case Ofsted are in next week” are far worse because there is always something else you could do, always something else that you fear might be held against you.
The consequences of a bad inspection are well known and don’t really bear thinking about. You can flippantly suggest that if you’re doing your job properly you’ve got nothing to worry about but what is‘properly’ these days? The goalposts are always changing and often are placed according to an inspector’s loose personal interpretation of ever-vaguer Government policy. The feeling is that if they want to ruin you there are enough gaps in the system to have you whatever you do. Michael Gove recently dismissed the suggestion that Ofsted should be a cause of fear. He demands that teachers are held accountable and I don’t have any real issue with that, but accountable in such an arbitrary way with such grave consequences? If they don’t like what they see over that short time frame a teacher’s job, their career, can be over either through being asked to walk, or due to the unbearable stress ‘school improvement’ puts on people. What jeopardy does Michael Gove have in his job? So long as he doesn’t do something really stupid the only consequence of any incompetence is, because he’s an MP in one of the Conservative’s safest seats, a backbench job for life on £65000 a year. How would he deal with the daily threat of having to have every bit of paperwork perfect and available for inspection at 19 hours notice AND having his performance in parliament, meetings and interviews scrutinised in minutiae with the prospect of unemployment (or further continuous scrutiny of the same kind) hanging over him? I expect he’d reject the comparison, but that is the way of the politician. One rule for you…
A week on then, as the title suggests, how do I feel? Well apart from not being allowed to know how we did (it’s our hard work, it’s our school, it’s our careers, but we the staff are not entitled to know the inspectors’ judgement until the rest of the world does) I feel OK. The weekend afterwards I felt like an arm had been lopped off because there was no need to do the extra work I had been subconsciously doing to cover myself in case we got the call. What I had done was enough – perfection was not needed for a while – and I could relax with the young family I hadn’t seen for three days earlier in the week without constantly remembering other things I ought to do ”in case Ofsted are in next week”. That display could wait until Tuesday, the planning for Thursday could be done on Wednesday, the weekend was mine. This week, after school, I spent a while reading in my neglected garden and, for the first time this year, took the time to properly water the vegetables whilst listening to the birds singing and looking at the clouds. I hadn’t noticed I’d stopped doing these things for fear of Ofsted, and I was glad they were back in my life.
In its current form and under the leadership of Wilshaw and Gove that’s what Ofsted does – it looms in the ever-closer distance robbing you of perspective. It takes over your life until, if you notice it’s happened, you don’t like what you and your life have become. Too much rides on too vague a set of criteria judged in too opaque a way. The week after Ofsted I feel free – I await to see how long it is before my vegetables start wilting again.
All together now…
“Moonpig Dot Com!”
Who can resist the charms of the moonpig advert?
There is one around these parts who can’t help but dance to the moonpig.com advert jingle.
It is therefore in his honour that I present the moonpig mp3, taken directly from the moonpig.com advert theme tune.
Just click on the link to download. Enjoy!
Spider Pig is one of the funniest bits of the Simpsons Movie, and the makers know it. The song Homer sings appears in various forms throughout the film. Here’s Homer Simpson singing Spider Pig as a downloadable MP3!