Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Monday, 23 November 2015

This Unholy Call to Arms

This is very unusual or me - my blogs are not normally political. However, I listened to  (was it John Humphries?) on Radio Four this morning, the anchor talking to Angela Eagle. If ever there was an exercise in Press bullying, that was a prime master-class.   

   Angela Eagle, making herself comfortable on the nearest fence, would not be my usual day's good deed. But Humphries came back at her like a terrier with a rat, he pulled and tugged and turned it around and circled around her. When he could not get a firm commitment to going to war from her, he asked her, what her principles would be.   Mr Humphries: what is your professional code of ethics about interviewing Labour politicians? No holds barred and let's degrade and destroy? Do you apply the same vitriol when it is a Tory minister? What do you hope to achieve, you, Laura Keunsberg and that pack of Press Hounds who feel they are entitled to pursue and destroy at least one Labour M P every day.   You are concerned about the 'disarray' in Labour ranks. What about the twenty - odd M Ps in the Conservative back-benches who will not sign up to Cameron's shenanigans? I'd like to see them squirm for a change.   


   These millions of pounds now happily committed to being spent on armaments, which will appear when the Syrian Question is hopefully solved, in 2025 or thereabouts, (like the bird-flu vaccine, which never quite worked and is still cluttering the store-rooms of NHS clinics ) could they be put to better use? 


   It would help to know what exactly Cameron proposes to do, in Syria, or in Europe or anywhere else. The man is lost. 

 

  I wonder whether we could annihilate violent fundamentalism by educating the disaffected and the disenfranchised? By creating jobs, by spending more money on supporting the community, rather than practising austerity in that easy direction.     


  Are we going to war to please the French? To SHOW UP the Americans? To win support with voters as Thatcher did with Faklands? This country, indeed the world, cannot afford another fiasco like Iraq. After such a war, there will be other Muslim fanatics springing up in outrage. There will be more Jihadi groups looking for revenge.

   Corbyn, I often feel, does not need enemies, he has his shadow cabinet and dispossessed Blairites to attack him. I hope they remember the strength of Corbyn's mandate. Or, are the vipers in the Labour nest saying they know better than your ordinary Party member, like yours Truly? I thought we made it clear to the likes of Yvette that we don't trust them. We like a little honesty from our leaders. We prefer careful deliberation to knee-jerk gunghoism. 

 

  And I fear for all those perfectly non-violent Muslims who are tarred with the same feather, as the terrorists, for just existing.


 
 


   

Friday, 20 November 2015

Being Old

My son, Kitta worked in the States at a University for one year, some twenty-five years ago. He is a Mathematician (for his sins) and told me this story. He had the chance to talk to a distinguished Hungarian Mathematician, Paul Erdos, at a conference in Kansas.  Erdos was an old man by then and told Kitta, ' Being old is terrible, all sorts of aches and pains. I hope you get the chance.' Erdos didn't live many years after that.

   I suppose I should be grateful for the chance to have the aches and the pains, especially when so many young people die without the time to achieve their aspirations. All those people in Paris and Beirut and Northern Nigeria, Mali, and... What a sad symptom of our times! 

   So, I mustn't grumble about that shoulder, which is reminding me that I overdid the gardening yesterday. Wielding that power saw with abandon - it was fun. Since my sight is not entirely trustworthy about small spaces, I think I may have chopped off a perfectly healthy Peiris, just coming into flower. Not unusual for me. That Peiris was too near a huge bush that had outlived its decorative usefulness and needed to be dispatched.

   When I take a plate off the shelf I knock the sides on the wood and the plate often gets chipped. When I get up in the night for a trip to the bathroom, I sway and have to hang on to the wall or bed. And when I go out in the night, I have to hold on to someone because the dark makes it all much worse and I am totally disoriented. Still, I tell myself, I am functional - almost.

  Then there is the knee, which refuses to do its job without protest; the stomach, which has its own idiosyncrasies; the wrist which cannot hold up my favourite hardback in bed. So I end up buying Wolf Hall, paperback and e book. Ditto with Beevor and his delightful book on the final retreat of the Germans in Ardennes, in WW2.
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   However, the most irritating aspect of ageing is that you cannot predict the future even a year ahead. I want to prepare for dilapidation, but what shape will that take? Shall I fall once every year and break bones? Shall I irritate my family by making them repeat everything they say to me twice over? Never mind, they say when they have reached the end of their affectionate tether. But now I want to know what they said, and they have moved on to other thoughts, leaving me hanging. 

    I am angry for nothing and impatient for trivia.  This is not without cause. I lack confidence to jump into my Polo and drive where I wish. In the eighties, I was forever driving all over East Anglia and Suffolk. I would drive to Southwold to pick my daughter from her boarding school four times a term. I had to go to empty Ely for examiners' meetings for the C S E exams.. On Thursday evenings I went straight from Wickford, where I taught, to Chelmsford. I attended a course on Computer programming, taught by Brian Jackson, he of the nimble fingers. What an accomplished card-shuffler he was! We had computers, larger than my bedroom and punched cards for each command of a programme. So, in addition to being uncertain about the commands themselves, we also punched them to oblivion. The programmes never worked. Did I hear a long sigh when Jackson looked at my pack of cards?

   I would return home to Laindon at ten in the night weary and diminished from my battles with the machine. I could not even see the purpose of the project. No sat nav then or mobile phone. The country road was without street lights and I drove on a wing and a prayer.

   It is the dependency and the lack of control that is unpalatable about old age. How can the young understand that. If you are thirty years old, you can't know how forty feels. If forty, sixty is another world. And at sixty eighty is the outer space.

   And I still haven't been to China. Or written my memoirs.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Hands off Education, Nicky

Gove was ridiculous, but everyone knew that, probably including himself. He did serious damage to the idea of education, but Nicky Morgan is positively lethal.

   Now, I don't get exercised too much at the antics of the pack of Conservative ministers/ monsters, all focused on money and debts and deficits as though they are running the family firm. But when they get their grotty little paws on the schools, I have to sit up and scream. 

   I spent my entire working life in education and believe that all change for the better can only be achieved by educating the little ones. Catch them early and make them understand that all people, little or big, are born equal; that religion is a human construct (albeit a useful one, though some would argue that the idea of money and international banking are more useful ones. Yuval Noah Harari has some interesting things to say about this in Sapiens) and must be treated as such, not fought about. They need to understand that human achievement is not all academic, but must also include compassion, respect for the vulnerable, the disabled, the intellectually challenged, the idea of being part of a community, a society. No amount of testing can assess that.

   Testing at age seven? Is our lovely Nicky confusing test results with actual achievement, skills, knowledge...? And as a measure of progress in schools, what kind of progress are we after? Do we want to get more like the Japanese and the Chinese in this respect? India is bad enough - torturing four-year olds with tests in some schools. Germany starts Primary Schooling only at age seven, but the children catch up in quick time. In Africa most children start at age six; my children started school at six and I have not noticed any shortcomings in this regard.

   Or - is it teachers Nicky Morgan wants to harass? Someone should gently inform her that we are harassed enough. When I left teaching Secondary Maths in 1983 the biggest relief was all that regimentation I escaped. Those attendance registers on Thursdays for the County Council, the glib report templates that asked all the wrong questions...

   And what are our teaching unions doing about the dismantling of schools? Must I, at eighty, get myself a placard, and take to the streets?