Archive | July, 2016

On a train – again. Politics and media: lunatics and asylums.

15 Jul

Thursday 14th July. Bastille Day. May Day. My day, if you’re interested is focused on getting to Charing Cross for an important meeting with a buddy of mine in Gordon’s wine bar. Since our country’s top politicos – and the huge media circus which follows them – are doing f… all work apart from spinning and speculating, me and my mate JT are going to do the same. With chilled Viognier.

JT is an NHS surgeon and I am a greybeard ex-teacher. I’ll be toasting the departure of goggle-eyed Nicky Morgan from her office of state and JT will ruminate that Jezza Hunt, the king of rhyming slang, is still pulling his strings.

It seems, so far, that Mother Theresa May-be is more than just a questionable fashion statement. She’s serious, unafraid and stateswoman-like. I say ‘so far’ because she has let one lunatic out of the asylum. Boris the Spider. She has given BoJo a motorbike to plough into the barbed wire of foreign affairs. It’s the Spider’s career lifeline and the world’s diplomats are sniggering at the prospect of him cutting himself to ribbons. Mother T has rolled the dice of opportunity for the arch-opportunist. Perhaps not such a silly punt?

Boris can banter multilingually. He’s no dummkopf and might enjoy unpicking the terms Glasnost and Perestroika with bad Vlad Putin. I can imagine amiable chats about Ukraine fuelled by a bottle of Stolichnaya. The Spider’s ability to debate improves with every shot, I’m told. The word shot gets lost in translation. For bad Vlad it means something different.

Mother T has savaged Cameron’s people to the unbridled joy of Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s ubiquitous, slant-mouthed rottweiler correspondent who can’t sleep until her thirst for politico gossip is slaked. When Mother T gets her boys and girls back to work and the general media orgasm has finally calmed, perhaps we’ll get news rather than the appalling newspeak of the last few weeks. Is it an idle hope that the standard and tone of public debate might rise from the gutter?

The depths which the Brexit-Remain conversation plumbed were shameful. Lies, dishonesty, ambition’s toxic ladder, project fear and fantasy – all did us a great disservice. We were part of it. The enfranchised: those who voted; those who did not. In the highest of places unsupported assertions were rubbished without proper thought and honest assessment – on both sides. And we all bought into it. Particularly the media whose voracious appetite for hype masked any attempt at proper analysis. What followed the cataclysm of Brexit has been worse – almost. The PLP has seen the chance to nuke the Corbynator, mildly hampered by their own idiotic selection procedures. The Labour Party is in mid self-immolation. The Tories wisely chose to withdraw from an unseemly circus of leadership hustings.

Ah. We have passed Tonbridge and I’m hoping for a clear run into Charing X now that Southern/Thameslink has withdrawn a large number of inconvenient trains littering the track. A guard has just inspected my ticket with great courtesy. I heard a man asking about recent strikes to which she replied ‘Don’t go there,’ with a wry smile. I think she meant Brighton.

Sevenoaks. A large group of French children is boarding. Gosh, they are lively but very well-behaved. I can’t quite see who is controlling them but I’d put him/her up to replace goggle-eyed Morgan at the Dept. for Education. If you can command the respect of 30 boisterous Europeans, it’s more than any of our politicians can manage at the moment.

Next to me a woman has just answered her phone, sotto-voce, saying “I don’t want to speak on the train. I’ll phone you later.” My spirits soar.

Not as much as when I meet my buddy and we relax into the sunny idyll that is the seating corridor at Gordon’s Wine Bar. Our conversation ranges over much that I have written herein. And more. The wine lubricated our already riveting conversation. He’s a socialist, I’m a liberal; we laughed in our joint despair. Where is Tim Farron, I cried? Who? he smartly sniped. And so on.

We parted with vows to repeat the experience soon and I skipped to Waterloo, then Wimbledon to catch the Thameslink train to Sutton. Only two minutes late. Result. Time to catch Ab Fab – the Movie at the Empire. A comical fantasy, like our political life. The tapas afterwards were more interesting. Both made me smile.

And then back to the news of Bastille Day in Nice. It’s where this blog started but not where I thought it would finish. Lunatics and asylums is horribly apt.

Teacher, teacher your strike is affecting my life chances..

5 Jul

Thought that this was a quote from a 5 year old kiddie with a day off? Wrong – it’s Nicky Morgan the goggle-eyed blue stocking whose sense of proportion is the inverse of her ambition.

It has long perplexed me that when there is the (very) occasional  day of action by teachers, the main carp is that our hard-done-by pupils will miss such a vital few hours that they will, likely, become failing wastrels who are permanently scarred. Don’t we all know that this is twaddle? Kids leap for joy, parents groan because it’s pisses them off to make alternative arrangements – and the world remains confidently spinning on its axis. Today the 5th of July, sees industrial action by the NUT. Hmm. 5th July. Plenty of really, really meaningful, vital work going on. Are GCSE and A levels affected? No. Have some schools broken up? Yes – almost all private schools. Is my next door neighbour’s daughter in her paddling pool right now? Yes – and much the better for it.

Now I’m not a fan of strikes and the NUT need to be wary of too few voting on behalf of too many. However there is a funding crisis. Rising numbers (huge ethnic and language variation) + teacher recruitment crisis + disaffection with testing regime + academy programme hiccoughs + cash per pupil seriously down + teacher redundancies + n(other pissing off factors) = strike. That man Toby thingy who sanctimoniously runs a group of Free (ho ho) schools just said that class size is unrelated to ‘outcomes’. Clearly he was comparing a Shanghai after-school hothouse of 100 children being forced to do 3hours rote-learning of Maths or Chinese proverbs or some such. Hanging over these lucky students is the threat of a lifetime of scorn and dishonour for the family if they don’t punch through glass ceilings and stir-fry their way to 1st class degrees in doing what daddy and the political greybeards tell them.

Having retired from the honourable profession let me tell Toby thingy that it was easier teaching 20 children GCSE than 30. Indeed it was easier teaching 28 or 27. An A level group of 20 is much, much harder than one of 10. This must be startling news to my readers. It behoves all who enter the education debate to be honest. The NUT need to get their ballots right and be proportionate in their responses when times are tough. Largely they manage this. The Secretary of State needs to be more honest about funding – something Pouty Gove never achieved – indeed more honest about an awful lot of things. It is hard not to come to the conclusion that, for far too long, teachers  and headteachers have been the whipping boys and girls of a political elite who see the process of children’s education as resulting in ‘outcomes’ which are measured in profit and loss. Teachers don’t like Gradgrind analogies. Google him, Nicky Morgan.

SW 19, Welsh Football and Trust…

5 Jul

Win or lose tomorrow night the Welsh soccer boyos will be heroes. The Icelandic nation clapped their losers in Reykjavik with a pride that warmed the cockles. So it will be in Cardiff whatever the result. Gareth Bale seems to have morphed from superstar into team man while Christiano Ronaldo has remained the aloof galactico in Portugal’s talented bunch of, apparently, individuals.

While the week of the long knives continues in politics it is clear that there aren’t many team players around. Boris the Spider, Pouty Gove and Farridge claimed they represented team Britain but they are all Ronaldos without being good looking or the ability to score anything other than own-goals. The Labour Party is no team either. It’s a if the PLP have been biding their time to hammer the bedraggled Corbyn. But the membership still like him. It may be that he is more trustworthy than the Westminster bubblewrap. Theresa May in the blue corner is touting her trustworthiness – well compared with the deceit all around her she might have a chance. Whatever the case I am (a) losing interest in the political circus and (b) know that the nation will be losers one way or another, after Brexit. Our political class don’t have our trust – they are too busy infighting and imagining an importance that we no longer confer on them. The tabloids today were far more concerned with Chris Evans’s resignation from Top Gear.

Ah but when the sun shines and Wimbledon is in its second week, we lighten up a little. Style, honesty, brilliance, graciousness – Federer. Brutal, muscular power, glistening athleticism – Williams. Both move slowly between points, particularly Serena, as if she has to summon up another brooding, violent moment of brilliance and needs the time to wind up. Roger seems to take winning and (occasional) losing and treats those two imposters just the same. All’s right with the world when these superstars are on court, Sue Barker twittering away in the studio and John McEnroe kicking Tim Henman and Andrew Castle into commentating touch.

I tune in a lot over the Womble fortnight because I trust what I will see and hear. Brilliance, sportsmanship, quality. The emergence of stars in the making and the reliable excellence of the older stagers who set the standards. By the end of Wimbledon fortnight we applaud the winners but, equally, we have all enjoyed the journey. So too with the Euros, although they will fade more quickly in the minds of this Englishman. But I will be cheering on the Welsh tomorrow although I’ll fall short of singing Land of my Fathers. There is something Wimbledon-white-pure about fair sporting battles- the mighty individuals and teams – which leave a much better taste than the unedifying political manoeuvrings of recent weeks.

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