5 years

As I’m writing this, it is almost 5 years to the minute that I last spoke to my mum. She was in hospital and planning to go home. Ok the doctors weren’t planning on her going home for another week or so, but mum was stubborn. A battle of wills was brewing. I can’t remember what we talked about that evening. How often is that the case. I can remember being given a shopping list to fill her home refrigerator – remember she was going home.

We didn’t see the overnight relapse coming.

Yes I really miss her. My sibling do as well. She was the gravity that held us together.

But I’m not sad. Not today. She would have used a Yorkshire cricket expression – ‘had a long innings‘. She did. Lots of great memories. Lots of smiles. That’s what I see now. And today lots of ‘tea and biscuits’. That’s exactly what you got every time you went to see mum. Within seconds you found a biscuit in your hand, as if by magic. Even if you were on a diet that biscuit founds it’s way into your hand. Followed by a reassuring ‘that diet can start tomorrow, how about a piece of apple pie…”

Views

Endless views or no view….

A school email exchange with a teacher kinda went this way yesterday.

Have you started the exam.

No I’ve not seen the paper yet.

Do you understand what your doing…..

No I’ve not seen the paper.

The instructions where clearly set out in the previous lessons.

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After an hour of looking we finally found an oblique reference to a question. Well hidden. One of those – it was clearly set out in section 635, clause 9, subsection B.

As clear as mud and so hard to find. Pupils and Parents don’t have hours available in the daily schedule to pour over every single document. Every single page. Every single well hidden file.

Did Hawklad answer the right question. In the right format. In the right way….. still no idea.

Together

Another day of school at home. Another day of me demonstrating how little I know about Science and French. Surely answering questions like why would the earths magnetic poles switch?, involves more than incoherent mumbling and awkwardly shuffling of my feet.

Je suis un muppet et plutot stupide…..

Maybe those parents doing homeschooling should have some boaster classes. Bring the likes of me up to speed. Deep sigh. Not much chance of that here in England with our current law breaking charlatans in charge. They can’t even look after the pupils correctly.

Our so called Government has announced an extra £50 per pupil to help them catch up and deal with the impacts of COVID education disruption. That disruption has been massive. Apparently £50 is a world beating some that shows commitment to the next generation. The US is giving its students a top up of £1600 per year, Netherlands the funding is £2500.

Our Government would much rather spend money on important stuff like a new Royal Yacht costing £200M. It also comes from a Prime Minister who enjoyed the privileges of a Private Education at one of the worlds most exclusive and expensive schools. In today’s money that cost somewhere near £50000 per year.

Remember we are all in this together….

Fame 2

It’s funny how you forget things. A couple of days back I was writing about my lame brushes with fame. Then this morning another memory flooded back into my mind.

My Dad took me on a train to see a charity cricket match. My first ever game. I think I was about 8. It was one of those matches with former cricketers, celebrities and a few local club players. It was a decent turnout of stars so a large crowd turned up.

Some quite well known former Yorkshire and England players with one huge star. One of England’s greatest ever fast bowlers and larger than life characters, Fred Truman.

At the end of the game my Dad told me that I would like to get Fred’s autograph. That was news to me….. Handily Dad had brought an autograph book and pen. Almost as if the autograph was for him…. So I was sent off to obtain the signature while Dad finished off his beer. A bit later I came back with various scribbles, one was definitely a TV celebrity – Leslie Crowther. But no Freddie.

That clearly wasn’t to Dad‘s liking and he decided to help me now. After much looking Freddie was located. He was in the players changing room. Next thing I knew Dad had pushed me through the door with clear instructions. Your not going home until you get that signature….

I was surrounded by men in various states of undress…. All appeared to be drinking. No sign of Freddie. So I asked. Freddie was in the showers. So yes I did get the great mans autograph. When he was completely naked. How could I forget that…..

Dad was happy. I never did see MY autograph book again….

Wow how times have changed……

Sun has got his hat on

“The sun has got his hat on.”

As a kid things seemed so sensible. So believable.

I remember my parents would be always saying that phrase and singing the old song. Normally when the sun was out which as we lived on the Yorkshire coast was on average once every three years….

The sun has got his hat on hip-hip-hip hooray 
The sun has got his hat on 
And he’s coming out today (Gay & Butler)

I remember asking my Dad once why the sun would have his hat on. Dad said that it was to keep the sun from the Sun’s eyes…..

At the time it seemed an entirely plausible explanation. I was happy with it.

Looking back those 930 years at my Dads answer and I can spot one or two minor issues. Surely the hat needs to be inside the Sun to keep itself from blinding itself. Maybe it’s not as scientifically watertight as I had once thought. Ok let’s call it a philosophical metaphor. Not sure Dad did them…

It’s now made me question some of the other things my parents told me.

Thunder rumbling is Cowboys and Indians fighting in the sky….

Lightning was dragons fighting in the sky …… very busy up there

Wind and the clouds moving was down to all the butterflies in the world beating their tiny little wings all at the same time….

Fairies and elves lived at the bottom of our Garden. …… For a while I misheard that one and believed Elvis for some reason had moved to Yorkshire

The Sky was blue because it was reflecting the colour from the oceans and sea …….. most odd as the North Sea is permanently grey offset with the occasional black oil slick

Every Sunday lunchtime my dad would set off in the direction of the pub saying that he was ‘off to see a man about a dog’. As it was every Sunday, that must have been some dog.

You only got curly hair if you ate the crusts from your bread slices.. I’m still waiting and actually probably left it a tad late now.

I suspect some of these parental facts might be a little dubious. My life has been based on so many falsehoods. Well at least I still have Santa. Maybe I need to borrow the Sun’s hat to hide under it for a while. Best thing to do these strange days.

Tired

Back to dark, moody weather. Apparently it’s warmer that’s why I’m wearing a wooly hat, gloves and 38 layers….

You know your tired when you function without using your brain. You make a drink with the coffee machine but forget to put a cup in the holder. You drop a full toilet roll into the bowl. You put your shirt on inside out and back to front. You give the cat dog food and the dog gets cat food. The washing machine programme settings are several pay grades above your abilities. And you microwave a tub of mint chocolate ice cream rather than a frozen cottage pie.

Yep getting a few of those days recently.

And then I just have to raise the brain fail stakes….

Cutting hair while tired. Starting to trim without putting the No2 guard on. In fact NO guard. End result a rather fashionable shaved area. On the plus side it’s a national lockdown so no-one outside the house is going to see it for weeks. Plenty of time to grow back. And as my parents would say ‘a rider on a passing horse won’t notice..’. They would also say ‘only 2 days between a bad hair cut and a you need to comb your hair cut’ – in this case make that a few weeks…..

Odd

Oh Yorkshire. You are such a beautiful county. Ok a bit cold, wet and windy. But definitely beautiful.

Beautiful, cold, wet, windy and a tad ODD. Look at me… Ok I’m not beautiful but the other 4 things most definitely do apply.

I think the weather has a tendency to make us a little odd here. You can tell by some of the things you here. Let’s go through a few Yorkshire words which stick in my mind. There are others but many spectacularly fail the decency bar.

I remember my school teacher announcing to the class. “Tomorrow 3C you get new classmates joining you. Brother and Sister. They are called Esmeralda and Oscar. With names like that they must be from Lancashire…..”. The funny thing was that they actually were born in Lancashire. The other funny thing was that our class was called 3C, which was ironic as the school only had two classes.

I remember going on a secondary school trip to The Yorkshire Dales. As we got off the bus the Teacher went though the safety rules. No mention of the nearby cliffs, caves or army firing range. “Right you need to climb that mountain and come back here. I would normally join you but I’ve forgotten my boots so I’m going to sit with the bus driver and listen to the cricket on the radio. Don’t get lost. Don’t go further than the mountain cairn as beyond that is Lancashire. Venture in there and you will be a lost soul forever….” Lancashire is our neighbouring county. Yorkshire is on the East and Lancashire is on the West of England. Both counties have been basically hurling abuse at each other for centuries. It has descended into Civil War and bloodletting over the English Throne. Thankfully it’s just verbal abuse and a couple of annual mad cricket matches these days.

I remember hearing a tourist ask a local in York how to get to the train station. The locals response was spectacularly helpful “Well Lad I wouldn’t start from here”. He then walked off….

I was stood on a Yorkshire Train Platform when the station announcer called out the next train to arrive. She finished off with the following helpful words. “The train on platform ….. will be departing in two minutes for London and the South, my thoughts are with those passengers at this difficult time for them as they head off into the badlands. There is still time for you to change your mind.”

As a kid my next door neighbour was a bit of a character. He would sing to his Rhubard patch every day. Usually things like ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘We will meet again’. It was an experience as he had a singing voice equivalent to a misfiring tractor engine reversing over a long line of exposed toes. Anyway one day I picked up the courage to ask him why he sang to his Rhubard. His response ‘They have feelings ya know’. Apparently he would wee on them as well. Clearly not that bothered about their feelings.

I remember my Dad often telling me that “this was the wrong type of rain for the plants”. “The rain has far too much water in it….”.

When I was at Uni I had to program a robotic arm. For a joke I decided to change all the user input instructions away from English into Yorkshire slang words. As you do! Unfortunately when I tested it for the first time eckie thump wasn’t the instruction to lower the arm cradle gentle to the table. I should have told the robot to wazzock. Eckie thump basically sent an expensive piece of robotics smashing through the table causing untold damage. Yorkshire was banned from the laboratory, probably still is.

I had been Rock Climbing in deepest Yorkshire and had popped into a remote pub for some lunch. Looking at the meat full menu I asked the Landlord if he had a vegetarian option. This clearly perplexed him. He scanned the menu board for a few moments and then asked “The best vegetarian option will be the Pork Sausages. They won’t have that much Pork in them most days….”. He did deliver as he made me one of the worlds greatest chip butties.

Final mention has to be left with out very own Yorkshire born Hawklad. He had been pestering me to take him to the KFC Restaurant. Finally I succumbed and took him. As the helpful assistant asked him what variant of southern fried chicken he would like. Hawklad responded “Have you got anything else to eat rather than chicken. I’m not keen on CHICKEN…..”.

So yes Yorkshire is most definitely ODD. But it is staggeringly beautiful.

Argument

One leaf in the corner of the garden. It definitely has a story to tell.

I was looking at a Social Media exchange about a secondary school in another part of the country. Parents were discussing how good the place was or wasn’t. Clearly it was quite a heated exchange. On one side you had comments like

It’s a great school…

Look at the grades the kids get…

It gets fantastic OFSTED ratings…

My daughter is likely to get straight A’s thanks to the teaching…

I love the school. It has discipline and look at the results it gets…

My daughter won an award for Drama because the school pushed her…

Fantastic teachers,

You always get a minority who are never happy…

Well if your not happy take your child to another school

Well homeschool then, miss out on the special treatment you son gets then…

And on the other hand you got comments like…

My child has just been dumped in the bottom class,

The teachers don’t care,

My daughter is getting no help, just left to fall behind,

My son keeps quiet and doesn’t cause any trouble in class. Wish he did as the teacher might start spending some time with him,

I’m not sure the teachers even want to know that he has ADHD,

School is not bothered that my son is scheduled to get no grades,

It is useless at helping kids out who have special needs.

That last line gives the basis of the argument away. The English School System provides one model of teaching for all pupils. It works for some kids but unfortunately a few too many are left behind. Increasingly special education is seen as a distraction to the main school function. An unnecessary drain on resources. You see articles in the Press basically talking about those children getting funding to cover additional needs as a gravy train for parents. That approach mirrors government thinking. Yes schools are given some targets for educational need but a school that fail in this area can still be seen as Excellent. The key is hitting the limited exam, performance management, how well they stick to the curriculum and the financial targets set for them.

I bet you can guess what side of the argument I would have been on. But I would add one important thing. All schools have good, dedicated teachers. Teachers who care. But they can’t provide for those children with additional educational needs when they are hamstrung by government. Where they are undervalued and trying to teach classes with up to 30 children crammed into them. With a set and unwieldy curriculum which must be strictly followed. I remember a conversation with school about computing. The teachers shared my frustration at having to teach Hawklad so much coding. Coding is a nightmare for dyslexics and some on the spectrum to learn. But they had to teach him that because it was a key part of the national curriculum set by government. Surely we can find a way of teaching all kids which offers the change to offer different learning routes depending on the individual.

A school can be excellent and at the same time fail to many of the next generation.

Terry

A while back I started talking about my two favourite authors. The first was Carl Sagan and now it’s time for the second. Many guessed correctly.

The wonderful and sadly missed Terry Pratchett.

Back in 1983 my mum bought me a book for Christmas. She would always buy me a book as a present. I had no idea who Terry was. Mum had heard him on the TV and thought maybe I would like his new book. I loved it….. He became my favourite author.

That was it. A tradition. Every new Terry book would be given to me at either Christmas or on my Birthday. She never missed a release. Apart from one. His last book. She never got round to buying that one, she would have if she had more time.

The Shepherds Crown was a tough read. Memories of mum and Terry. I decided to not read the last page. I can still say I’ve still not finished reading all his books….

Terry now has his own international day. April 28th. Let’s indulge in a bit of Pratchett wisdom a bit earlier than that.

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they haven’t forgotten this.

Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.

Evil begins when you start to treat people as things.

Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

And what would humans be without love? RARE said Death.

If cats looked like frogs we’d realise what nasty, cruel little b*****s they are.

Always be wary of any helpful little item that weighs less than its operating manual.

The enemy isn’t men, or women, it’s bloody stupid people and no one has the right to be stupid.

The presence of those seeking truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they have found it.

So much universe and so little time.

Children going hungry

Sometimes photos just don’t fit the message. Fit the mood. Fit the anger. Fit the shame which I feel towards my country and it’s government.

This week over 320 Government MPs stopped a proposal to extend a free school meal scheme to help thousands of our young ones. Just for a few months during these troubled times. Many families are struggling. Over 2 million children in our supposedly rich country are living in poverty. A significant proportion of those are frequently going hungry. Yes our so called government voted against ensuring our children don’t go hungry this Christmas. Let that thought just sink in.

How could they do that…. They trotted out carefully managed soundbites

**********

We want to return to good old British Values (Victorian)

It’s not our responsibility

Why should we nationalise children

It’s up to the parent to take responsibility

Parents would only spend the money on cigarettes and alcohol

Why are you questioning us, our way is right

Poverty doesn’t exist, it’s all a conspiracy

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Let’s not forget that this comes from MPs who didn’t have any hang ups about giving themselves a generous pay increase just a few weeks ago. From a PM who complained that he struggled to maintain his lifestyle on his £150000 a year salary. From MPs who are in no financial need, some have net worths of over £120 million. From the likes of one Cabinet Minister who can afford to send 5 children to an £18000 a year per pupil exclusive private school.

Thankfully we still have good people here. A young Premier League footballer who went hungry as a child is leading the fight back. Scores of individuals and businesses are stepping up to try and help. They care. Doctors and Teachers are backing the campaign. Even the Government’s own Children Commissioner calls the fact that children are going hungry as ‘horrific’ and ‘the attitude is like something from an Oliver Twist novel’.

Sadly our Government do not care. They have no morals. This is the same Government that has slashed the overseas aid budget which tries to help those in even deeper poverty around the world. They bring shame on our country. The hope is that one day a reckoning does come and we then find leaders who care.