"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"


Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Sausage and Mash


What do racing drivers eat? Knotty question posed by grandsons when a lunchtime scaletrix party to run concurrent with the qualifying rounds of the Valencia grand-prix on the TV was proposed by other half. As the chef who is not particularly domesticated I suggested racing drivers probably ate sausages and mash with a side order of pizza which met with general approval although an addition to the menu in the form of baps with jam was added at the last minute. Dessert consisted of chocolate chip cookies [shop bought] and a quick kick around in the back garden helped the digestion.

The chef had to lie down due to a bad back - which was a very good move as other half and a family friend did all the washing and tidying up. Laying on the bed listening to the boys giggling and laughing was great - and a good background to the misery engendered by listening to 'Any Questions' and 'Any Answers' on radio 4. These two programmes did supply plenty of food for thought and blog material so nothing was wasted.

[Just for the record, Lewis Hamilton finished third and Jenson Button finished seventh in the practice tos tart on the grid for the race tomorrow. The photo above is from http://www.eurosportsevents.com/images/barcelona-grand-prix.jpg]

Friday, 25 June 2010

Equality of Education


Due to Baby sitting, Builders and House guests [all good things!] I am going to be really lazy and mostly recycle a reply I made to another blog about equality of education in this day and age. No facts and figures, just my opinions!

Socialists have agreed for over one hundred years with the need for equality of education to provide the equality of opportunity and this is something with which successive Labour governments have always struggled.

The 11+ [where it still exists] and similar ‘entrance’ exams often involve extra coaching – paid for by or involving family or friends. The same thing also happens with exams like GCSEs and A levels. Thus so often such exams do not show the real attainment possibilities of students. It can happen that such students can thus be offered a university place on the strength of predicted ‘A’ level results [and these offers also take into account which type of secondary school the student is attending, comprehensive schools getting a lower offer 'rating' than grammars and privately funded education] However the same 'coached' students can often be seen to be struggling once they are at the university against those from the same ‘passed over’ comprehensives who have had to work much harder to get an ‘offer’. One student from the former type of secondary education was heard to ask a lecturer ‘when do we get the hand-outs’ [i.e. precis of the lectures from which to prepare essays] only to be shocked by the reply along the lines of ‘go to the library and get some books and work from them'. The comprehensive school students were already in the library working away. Not prejudice – fact!

Then there is the bias of large companies who will only accept applicants for jobs who have obtained their degrees from ‘A list’ universities. This makes a nonsense of equality if the same degree is only acceptable from certain universities [names of companies can be supplied!] So if a student chooses a university near home for economic reasons s/he may find that an economic disaster looms if that uni is ‘unacceptable’ to the firms s/he applies to for employment. That won't pay any student loan bills.

For those that think the Oxbridge etc unis give the best education, believe me ‘it ain’t necessarily so’. There is more to education than book learning, meeting people from all walks of life is one of the most important things, imo.

And then we have the whole fiasco of student fees, loans etc. Although this week may have held the longest day but it was not really long enough to debate that one and the budget did not help the problem.

Education is one of the most important gifts we can give our children, but also importantly it doesn’t stop with young people. I am a great advocate of life long learning and latterly worked in the field of continuing adult education. Again successive governments have cut back investment in this important area – not realising perhaps that getting pensioners out of the house to an adult education class – in their words to me on many occasions – kept them out of the GPs surgery by ‘keeping their brains alive’. I was teaching at a first year degree level and believe me there were times when I was having trouble keeping up – especially with one 89 year old!!

Education is also the way to overcome prejudice, class divides, intolerance and on and on. But we also need good quality teacher training in all areas – especially that of special education needs in all ranges of ability [another hobby horse of mine which I will leave to another day]

But before I go I must 'plug' an exhibition which opened in London last night. This is by a very talented young artist that we have been following for a number of years. His work is often shown abroad, so it is good to be able to catch it when in London: Please click on http://www.rokebygallery.com/ and the link ' Simon Keenleyside ' to see some wonderful pictures [One is shown above]

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Robin Hood Tax

Liked @robinhood posters at Westminster Tube, shame Osbourne'... on Twitpic

Courtesy of http://twitpic.com/1z1jc0 and RobinHoodTax

No further comment needed!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

This is the end of the innocence*

Well that's how yesterday's budget felt to me. We could all hope that it would not be too bad, that the LibDems would fulfil their promises to 'rein in' the Conservatives worst choices and make the budget one that although eye wateringly hard would affect all sections of society - nay take from the rich more than from the poor. Those supporting the Robin Hood Tax were hoping for just that - money to be taken from the greedy banks [we have all learnt about them over the past few years!] to help the World's poor. The Merry Men and Women of Nottingham were disappointed yet again: http://robinhoodtax.org.uk/. Instead this was the reverse of a fair budget as it looks as if it will overwhelmingly take from the poor and give back to the already rich.

It would not be so bad if we still had as many council houses [whoops now equals 'social housing']as we did in the 1980s and then the cap on housing benefit might be achievable. Callers to 'Money Box Live' on BBC radio4 told Paul Lewis that they did not know how they were going to manage to pay their rent next year. I wonder if George Osborne was listening in to that?

George Osborne also talked about children growing up in homes where 'worklessness' was the norm. What's wrong with the old-fashioned word 'Unemployment'? Why does George's use of 'worklessness' somehow smack of 'worthlessness' or 'shiftlessness'. Did he see the woman on BBC TV news who remarked that it is all very well to talk about getting people back to work but where are the jobs coming from? Obviously not the public sector.

And lone parents must get a job [with the proviso of there being a job to get] when their youngest child is 5. Fair enough but where is the child care to facilitate this? Will it be economical for the state to provide 'free' child care so that these lone parents can find a well paying job near enough to home to race back to fetch said children before the child care 'closes' for the night?

George please read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. I won't ask again but would ask amazon to deliver you one if I didn't know you can afford your own copy.

Sorry to be a misery today but like Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror, I don't like the budget! http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/columnists/maguire/2010/06/23/history-will-show-george-osborne-s-emergency-budget-was-a-disaster-115875-22352641/

*Lyrics from the Don Henley song The End Of The Innocence . But of course that little phrase also reminds of Blake's Songs of Innocence and thenSongs of Experience. And I think an appropriate Blake 'Song of Innocence' would be:
Infant Joy
I have no name;
I am but two days old."
What shall I call thee?
"I happy am,
Joy is my name."
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!

Which lightens my mood but:

A 'Song of Experience' dedicated to George Osborne:

London
I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every black’ning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse


Please don't let us return to these times.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

"The heat and dust had already been at work upon this multitude."*




*The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells, Book 1, Chapter XVI - The Exodus From London

We have the builders in. It may have become obvious over the past few weeks that I am neither very domesticated or housetrained. In the past when other half has announced that he was about to decorate it has thrown me into a tizzy which has often lasted far longer than the actual 'happening'. However somethings just cannot be avoided and certain areas of woodwork need serious attention, involving much sanding down and ensuing dust. So the above quotation from one of my favourite authors is very apt considering today also appears to be one of the hottest days of the year so far.

The hot weather is very welcome as this means that the front door can be left open for the constant toing and froing. It also means that all those passing by can see that one of the builders has a scarf tied around his face a la terroist style to keep the dust out of his face [I suggested a purpose made dust mask but apparently that is 'cissy'] So I am expecting a visit from the police/security services at any moment. But the climate change also means that in a house where normally the doors are all always open [whether due to old hippiness 'freedom' or laziness I cannot remember] but today are closed against the encroaching dust, every room is heating up nicely despite all the windows being open. I can't put the fans on in case they whirl the dust that is getting in under the doors around!

It occurred to me about four hours after the job started that maybe dust sheets would have been a good idea. I will know next time....... And what is quite cute are the footprints showing clearly my toes wherever I have walked! I never wear shoes indoors which makes me wonder why I have so many pairs of sandals!

To make matters worse it is Budget day today. So far it doesn't sound as if the poorer sections of society are coming too well out of it but I need to read more detail before commenting. I have tweeted and facebooked the link to my previous blog on The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists as suggested reading - especially for the chancellor: George Osborne. But my escapist reading for today will by another H.G.Wells favourite: 'Kipps' and if I get time I may watch the 1960's musical based on it: 'Half a Sixpence' which stars Tommy Steele. I am leading an online discussion on 'Kipps' and great fun it is too, to do this with a favourite book!

And before I leave 'The War of the Worlds' altogether I do have to 'advertise' the Jeff Wayne musical version which I adore and have in many different forms. And this is not only because Richard Burton is the narrator! The music is awesome. And before I get even more self-indulgent I will sign off!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Strange Days Indeed*


*Lyrics John Lennon from 'Nobody Told Me'

Since I last blogged there have been a series of very contrasting days. I went to a funeral, a friend's birthday party, it has been Fathers' Day, our Wedding Anniversary and today is the Summer Solistice. All celebrations, even the funeral was a celebration of my friend's life albeit with a regret that she wasn't there to share the party. And all involved memories - memories of a long and happy friendship at the funeral; memories of families and children growing up at the birthday party and on Fathers' Day; memories of our marriage and again family memories on our Wedding Anniversary. And to an 'old hippy' the Summer Solstice brings many memories!

So of course all these happenings on different days got me 'meditating' on the different aspects of life represented: birth, death and marriages and the celebration of all three plus Fathers' Day of families and friends. And the importance of memories - f'r instance on Fathers' Day there were lots of thoughts for me of my own father who passed on forty three years ago as well as celebrations for other half from our children.

And then the Summer Solistice brings all the thoughts of renewal and the change in the seasons that has been going on for millenia as people come and go. The photo above was taken at the last time we were at Stonehenge to see the sun rise over the heel stone. I really feel an old [in the sense of age!] hippy today as I didn't get up to see the sun rise anywhere - too many celebrations of other sorts over the past few days meant I slept through... I had thought of getting up to watch the sun rise over the Thames Estuary but in the event didn't!!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Clean sweeps

Well I am gradually relaxing a bit and allowing a few friends and enemies to know about my blog. Now I hope one day to find I have a comment to moderate - I will then feel that the world of cyber writing has accepted me as one of its own!

The excitement of a new vacuum-cleaner wore off after a few sweeps around the carpet and I decided that a bit of activism would be more rewarding. So onto the laptop to see who I could lobby for some of my 'causes'.

Marathon walking child and her partner are off to Edinburgh at the weekend for another 'Moonwalk' to raise money for Breast Cancer. All those fantastic walkers prepared to walk 26+ miles overnight with just bras as topwear [this includes child's male partner and all other male walkers!] to raise money. Walking around Princes Street etc and all the sites of Edinburgh, Holyrood House, the Castle etc etc I hope the weather is kind to them all. Edinburgh is a lovely place and whenever I have visited I have always been made very welcome there.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

She had to go


Well my car had to go. I haven't been able to drive for over 18 months and the chances of being able to drive again are very slim so it is silly to have a usable machine taking up all that space in front of the house. But it was very sad when she chugged off last night although I understand she went to a nice home and new owner - I was too upset to go and say goodbye to her [the car]

One day when I am feeling brave I will blog about how it feels to have to give up a job one really enjoys suddenly due to health reasons. How one feels the loss of status, the loss of stimulus, the loss of an identity. And the car which used to take me to that job has now gone too.

Still, no good whinging and other half took me out for a treat today which included lunch. I am probably the only grandmother who really loves being taken to MacDonalds for lunch. I always was a cheap date.

And I bought a biography by Kenneth O. Morgan of Michael Foot, one of my political heroes. And Holby City is on the TV tonight. So onward and upward!

Monday, 14 June 2010

My e-reader


I love my e-reader! I first became vaguely interested in buying one when I read a review of the 'appliance' by Andrew Marr in the Gruniad about 18 months ago. Then last year when my neuro probs seemed to be escalating and reading could at times be stressful, although my computer use didn't seem to get so compromised so quickly I thought about buying one and after seeing one 'in the flesh' decided to make the leap and part with the pennies!

It has helped a lot and reading so much 19thC literature I can download so much from free sites on the net. Just now I downloaded something one of my face to face reading groups is doing in September, although I have the 'hard copy' it means that I can take this copy along with the other 130 so books on holiday with me in the e-reader and it will take up less space than an average sized paperback.

The other great use is when - like yesterday - I get a copy of a book out that has been sitting on my shelf for a time and find that since the last read the print has shrunk considerably! So I can download the book and get started whilst I am waiting for amazon to deliver a new copy with larger print.... I find that old hardbacks are the worst culprits for shrinking print. Victorian editions especially. Our ancestors must have been a lot more determined than us when reading - especially when considering their poorer lighting!

There are drawbacks, it is not always easy to find something one has read previously and obviously one cannot annotate the text - but it is possible to 'bookmark' pages and if using the reader for study purposes a small notebook would help. When I have been teaching a book I always have two copies of it anyway - one to read and one to teach from which is full of annotations, post it notes and scribbles whose meaning are known only to me! One can save photographs and things , but despite having had the reader for nearly a a year that is a technical leap I have not yet taken, but it would make a lovely compact, portable photograph album!

The only trouble is that when I get onto one of these free sites I am worse than a child in a sweet shop! Books I have always meant to read or know I have and can't find in the house just beg to be downloaded and because it is so easy to do I just have to do it. Last 'I must download it' was 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists', after I had told everyone on the blog that they must read it, I thought it would be a good idea to take it to Somerset with me. Two minutes later there it was in my e-reader, I hadn't even had to look for it in the cupboard to pack [and I do know exactly where that is in my cupboard - right next to the biography of its author Robert Tressel, about a foot from where I am typing this!]

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The World Turned Upside Down [2]

In 1649
To St. George’s Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

We come in peace they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common
And to make the waste ground grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it will be
A common treasury for all

The sin of property
We do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls
Spring up at their command

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feed the rich
While poor folk starve

We work we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to the masters
Or pay rent to the lords
Still we are free
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed
But still the vision lingers on

You poor take courage
You rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace
The orders came to cut them down


One of my favourite folk songs, written by Leon Rosselson as sung by Roy Bailey and Billy Bragg. It celebrates the Diggers, 20 poor men who gathered together in April 1649 at St. George's Hill, Surrey to farm the common land. They declared that because the Civil Wars had been held against both the king and landowners land should be given to the poor for their use, as food prices had risen out of all proportion during the 1640s. The Diggers membership increased during 1649 but their presence and beliefs worried both the government and obviously local landowners - who were also claiming common lands. Eventually the Diggers were dispersed by a combination of legal action and violence, and by April 1650 they had been disbanded.
A blurry version sung by Billy Bragg at a Tolpuddle Rally http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK2ldle1kAk

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The World Turned Upside Down [1]


Through eating too much supper before I went to bed
Strange thoughts came on my slumber, strange thoughts came in my head
This world seemed topsy-turvey and people of reknown
Were doing the most peculiar things as the world turned upside down
I dreamt there was no work house and there were no starving poor
And nations never did quarrel, nor never went to war
I thought all men were angels and women ne'er wore a frown
Old maids they had large families as the world turned upside down

English Rebel Songs 1381 - 1984 Chumbawamba

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Diane Abbott


I am being really lazy today and most of today's blog is made up of my reply to another blogger's comments to a third blogger's posting. This made me think how incestuous the whole blogging 'scene' can be and wonder who outside reads the blogs. Will we all end up with a sort of 'Planet Blogg' mentality and only believe in the world according to other Blogg citizens? Surreal thoughts of the kind that usually only occur in the West Country are flooding in so will leave those questions dangling.

Today I really want to celebrate how well Diane Abbott did in the hustings last night. But first I must say how awful it is when lesser media commentators suggest her nominations are simply down to 'a bad advert for positive discrimination'. Poor Diane – how awful to be thought ‘a bad advert for positive discrimination’! That little statement ticks about every politically incorrect box going. Hopefully you will have gathered that I am against positive discrimination of any sort believing in the ‘best person for the job’ principle and imo Diane Abbott is just that. She would not have been my first choice for the Labour leadership contest, that would have gone to John McDonnell [I supported him against Gordon Brown last time around and have sadly just put away again my John4Leader t-shirt!] but once John stepped down yesterday Diane Abbott became my natural next choice. Not for any of the ‘positive discrimination’ reasons but because I largely agree with her political views [f'r instance she was anti the Iraq war from the beginning - I was one of those who took part in all the marches] The issue of her sending her son to public school has been raised - I can understand her comment that she was only being questioned because she is a woman because it is true it is largely the case that women MPs of whatever political shade are questioned more often on their childcare and children's schooling etc than male MPs. The question of whether or not the child should be at a private school is a different issue upon which I don’t know enough to comment.

I did write more incisive political and social analysis of the days events but my technophobia came back and I lost the draft of the blog. Well the last bit is true but maybe I have exaggerated the first. But I do want to say that I listened to Vanessa Redgrave on 'Woman's Hour' this morning and found her both moving and admirable. Worth 'listening again' to if you have the chance!

The picture today is of a birthday cake which my youngest daughter made for one of her nieces - my granddaughter! Just to cheer us all up on a grey day when we are trying to lose weight!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Don't blame me I voted Labour!


I am not saying that I am a hoarder, but I still have my badge from the first time around! However anyone wishing to buy the upto date version or a sticker, please go to:

http://wheelers-website.blogspot.com/2010/06/dont-blame-me.html

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Superstitions


I am only writing another post because everytime I look at my profile 'it' says there are a total of 13 posts showing and I do not like the number 13! To make up for this terrible admission I will publish an interesting picture! Taken in the credit crisis of 1974 it is just as applicable today, sadly....

And a favourite quotation:
'We ask ourselves: who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone.' Nelson Mandela (quoting Marianne Williamson)

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Holiday Postcard


Its lovely to be on holiday in Somerset, especially with so many friends [about 40] but the down side is that we only get the early editions of the newspapers so have to watch BBC 24 hour news to get the upto date stuff. F'r instance the terribe events in international waters perpetrated by the Israelis' yesterday would have passed by unnoticed if we hadn't announced it at breakfast yesterday. Luckily twitter also alerts me to stuff so I can scurry back to the chalet and turn on the TV!

Yesterday was lovely and hot, today rain but the beauty of this bit of the coastline is the ever changing weather gives a different 'slant' to the view!