musings (201) fun Monday (76) friendship (64) K9 (13)

Wednesday 31 December 2014

That time again

Already have several appointments booked for 2015, some for D and others for me. Hoping we both have far fewer visits to various local hospitals next year.

D has been a regular at St. Helens, here's hoping after today he's discharged from outpatients. Don't get me wrong, the folk at the clinic have been very good, I just want all to be over and done with.

I know to expect a recall to assess my progress, but am not looking forward to it. Nearly a fortnight in a major teaching hospital was more than enough. 

D has assessment appts in Feb (osteoarthritis) with the possibility of an op in March. Luckily he's going to one of the smaller hospitals instead of the main teaching hospital. He mentioned it to our friendly chemist, who replied that given time he'd be much, much better after the op.

I still haven't found my way back to Tai Chi, but of course there have been no classes over the holidays. Nor will I be able to go when they start back as I have booked to have me hair cut. The hairdresser makes regular (weekly) visits to one of the neighbours, so I go there too from time to time (most convenient).

Sunday 28 December 2014

Recuperation slower than anticipated

It's no wonder everything is out of kilter in my personal world.

When you've spent several weeks losing interest in food / being unable to cope with the hospital food on offer, it should come as no surprise.

Having been discharged from hospital and the ministrations of the district nurses team, I am not suddenly 100%. 

It's not just a case of mending physically, there's some psychological mending to do as well. At the beginning of my stay in hospital, I seemed to spend countless time aiming to accomplish simple tasks. How to move and sit up in bed. How to manoeuvre from bed to chair. How long to stay sitting in the chair by the bed. How to cope with the hustle and bustle that accompanied each and every group of staff that came on the ward throughout the day. Taking meds (tablets) four times a day. That involved a lot of kerfuffle as the trolley was propelled from bed to bed. One particular nurse showed quite clearly how much she hated doing those rounds, either that or she could not have cared less. She propelled the meds trolley not caring where it went or what it bumped in to. It was as tho' she was doing her personal dodgems game.

Throughout my stay my worst nightmare was 'doctor god'. Okay, so he'd passed  his exams, but had plainly missed / failed the patient communications, bedside manner part. Some folk like me have 'floating veins', ones that can be seen (only just) but dodge out of the way of needles. After a few days my hands, arms in particular the inner elbows were a swollen mass of bumps and bruises. 

As for recuperation, it continues slowly, mind and body are taking their time. 

PJ days

Just read a post by a friend who has declared today to be a PJ day. That set me thinking, as my days have been PJ days since November 24th.

I have been out with D a few times, briefly to do some necessary shopping, then home to snooze once more.

A friend phoned today, unfortunately having lost track of time, I replied that I had only just woken up. The caller was most surprised - asleep in the daytime? I passed the phone across to D who explained the goings on since I went into hospital, had the op, came home and so on... Then he went on to relate the next series of appointments that are coming our way starting with Dec. 31st. Here's hoping to see the last of the regular appointments that have been the norm throughout 2014.

Friday 12 December 2014


4th discharged from hospital complete with assorted meds and dressings.

5th a district nurse arrived to look at my surgery sites and redress the largest one.

12th I contacted the 'team' as it was a week since the dressing was changed. Someone left a message for me...

Had a phone-call followed by another district nurse. Now, there's no dressing, but an instruction to go carefully. Seems I have now been discharged from the care of the district nurses group, but I have a phone number, just in case.
Problem being, I do not feel like 'me'. 

I've encountered and surmounted the various hurdles that count as progress on the way to recovery.

Right hemicolectomy - basically - began with keyhole surgery and camera for a look see. Widened to remove a large section of bowel including the mass they came across. Stuff sent to be tested to find out what's what. 

But in myself I am not 'right'. I spent about a fortnight learning the minutiae of being on the receiving end of treatment. English language / creativity scholars would have a 'field day'. 

Recitation of several phrases throughout the day. Pain? Score 1-10 with 10 being the worst. Have you kept your fluid levels / pulse ox levels up? I need to take your blood pressure, can you put this (probe) under your tongue / behind your teeth?

Tea, coffee?

Sit out in your chair.

Have you had a wash? Have your bowels opened (details). Any sickness?

Then there's the meds routines...
Odd how staff behaviour / personality changed with their uniforms.

Staff nurses in a terpsichorean spiral from shift to shirt and ward to ward. Brittly 'happy' and ready for the fray. 

The smooth running of the ward interrupted as the 'great and the good' i.e. Consultant made his rounds. 

It became easier to cope when fewer people paid attention to this patient. 

Monday 8 December 2014


For a fortnight I gave myself time to get better. Then I gave in and asked for GP appt. 

25th Nov. saw the GP.
He told me to get myself to A and E (accident and emergency).

From then on I found myself at the Hub, which is what the teaching hospital has become.

Take in - assess - treat - send to ward (s)
Pass thro' the ward regimes
Send home.

Operation - right hemicolectomy

Came to, on Ward 5, in room 6

From then on I had one objective - to find out and do all that was required to be allowed home.

The Anaesthesiologists are amazing, followed closely by the Surgeons. Lets face it, we trust them with our lives.

Friday 14 November 2014

There's something about this time of year...

that always seems to increase the bad news.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.
Stanza from 
Dirge Without Music

I've been fortunate to have belonged to the OU community for quite a long time. Over the years I have become friends with fellow OU students. At first we 'met' and chatted via the messaging service 'FirstClass'. From time to time, some were able to meet face to face, but that was but the icing on the gingerbread as the saying goes.

The OU finally decided to get rid of FirstClass, and reluctantly we tried to get used to Muddle as we named the replacement. Along came Facebook, and eventually we found our way their and communication was restored. Over the years we have laughed and cried, shared stories of hope, success and loss. We have celebrated and congratulated as folk earned their qualifications. 

Today, someone mentioned they had experienced a loss. Although the person doing the posting is not part of my friendship group, we have friends in common. Something else I read made me apprehensive, so I checked which people we both knew. That's when the blow struck. One person had gone into hospital last month, weeks had passed without much news. I looked up his page and found a post from his daughter. The dear man had died in hospital yesterday. This is no place for details. Suffice it to say a loving, kind, generous soul has departed this life.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Catching up

No Tai Chi for me last Saturday, but an OU day school instead.

Manchester Uni Roscoe building

D took me to a quieter railway station, one with a large car park and a station I know well.
Anxiety is my constant companion, but if I'm lucky, slumbers in the background. Hence, not going to the nearest station which is near a very busy road junction and where car parking is awkward at best.

The train arrived on time and travel was uneventful apart from 'Tickets please!'.

Last time I was at a day school the venue was only a short walk from the station. I had a map with me, but no proper idea of how far to walk. It took half an hour as I had to keep checking street names.

All the events were on the first floor, but the number took some working out.
01 for First floor, followed by 10.10 turned out to be room 10 or 01.10.

Some presentation were better than others, the one on Stalin and Shostakovitch was particularly memorable.

One of my pet hates stems from having studied desktop publishing. The last speaker had some pages to make up a worksheet. Granted, I did not expect her to have stapled them together, but she had not even bothered to number the pages. Add on to that her use of Times New Roman, a font dating from 1929, and I was 'not a happy bunny'. Her choice of font and size mde the document challenging to read. Then, I noticed she was working her way word by word thro' the notes.

Once of a day, I would have suffered in silence, but not these days.

I made my apologies and left to catch my train. Boarding the 3.45 instead of the 4.15, I was home early and pleased with myself for catching the earlier train.

Thursday 16 October 2014

In the local news

From the online version of the Echo.

It's a sign of the times, that folk got themselves into a lather and thought some simple actions were a threat.

In comparison with larger nearby airports, John Lennon airport is less busy. Hence flight training know as 'Circuits and bumps'.  A number of pilots doing training in take-offs and landings. Hence the colloquial term for them flying round in 'circles' and then landing (bumps), only to take off again immediately.

Add on to the repeated 'circling' an appearance by a Hawk jet trainer aircraft and some of the local populace took to social media in distress.

Thursday threes...

Whilst it is often said that bad luck comes in threes, I wonder whether good luck might work that way too.

This week, I have successfully ordered two new pairs of glasses. Today, I went to my postponed GP appt. The new GP seems to have been getting to know his patients by asking them to return after two weeks, four weeks and 8 weeks. Today was my 8th week appt. 

The doctor went thro' my blood results thoroughly, I've never come across a GP who mentioned all the results, usually they focus on anything wrong. The good news, with the exception of cholesterol levels everything is fine. Although a little raised, he noted an improvement since 2012. Therefore his instruction 'more of the same' and he noted I appeared well aware of how to look after myself. Then instead of 'see you in six months' he changed his recommendation to 'see you in a year!'.

The chemists has been running a collection scheme and when your card is filled up you get £3 off your nest purchase. Today, the card was filled and I got my £3 discount.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

What? Two posts?

Late last night an email arrived from the OU.

Another email arrived just now

"Thank you very much for volunteering. I will be in contact again by the end of the week with more information."

What's going on?

At the end of U214 the Art of English, I wrote a glowing report on the experience, heartily recommending that course, and full of praise for Course Team and Tutor.

The OU have folk developing new modules and it seems they'd like to involve some students. Hence my invite to take part in working thro' and assessing a preliminary version of part of a new module that's in the process of being written.


as in prescriptions...

Tis a sign of aging when you find yourself on repeat prescriptions. Sounds easy at first - contact chemist who then dispenses prescription according to the list (6 monthly) received from the surgery.

Things went wrong for D when our local chemist was unable to fill part of the script. National shortage of a certain med. However, another local chemist still had some, cue replacement script and trip to other local chemist.

Scroll on another prescription list is minus one item. Computer 'knew' item dispensed on different script, therefore had deleted it from repeats.

Similarly for me, surgery issued set of scripts to chemist, but they had not been updated. Therefore, when my prescription was collected, it came without one necessary item.

I have GP appt this Thursday, so hopefully GP will update his records.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Sorting Saturday

No Tai Chi, but time for an OU tutorial instead. The local venue has been a good place, all the time I've been there. Trust today to be the opposite.

Stuck away in the back of beyond on the top floor. Access via the kind of metal staircase that gives me the collywobbles. Stairs where there are treads but no risers, so perception problems have a field day. Give me a proper staircase where you cannot stare into empty space between each step. Followed by a walk the length of the corridor with several sets of fire doors to negociate. The room when I found it was pleasant, it was getting there that posed the problems.

Access was even more difficult for the tutor and a couple of other students, one in a large wheelchair and the other struggling to walk using a typical hospital supplied walking stick. She told us she'd asked for help, told the Centre of her problems but to no avail. The tutor also has mobility problems. Chatting beforehand, he told me he had problems with walking because of damage to one knee and other problems with the leg he broke whilst cycling in Finland 3 years ago. 

Hopefully, the tutor will do his best to ensure a ground floor room in future. 

Scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. students carried on arriving in dribs and drabs for the next half hour. Hence, the tutorial ran on for half an hour after the scheduled noon finish. 

Friday 10 October 2014

Friday unusually

no Tai Chi, my excuse being I woke up too late. At least that's what I told B when she phoned up later to ask if everyone was okay here. In one sense it was true, if I'd pushed myself I could have squeaked in, but my get and go had got up and went. Also, as I told myself, the routines they do there, I can do by myself if need be.

Hence, the day progressed slowly, I even let D go to the chemist without me to pick up a delayed prescription.

Computers have a lot to answer for, if as happened the other month, the chemist could not get one item, and a new script has to be provided, everything from then on goes pear-shaped. It's going to take a couple of months and a meds review before D can have his list of items put back to normal. 

On a different tack, there's someone who has taken to social media to witter on solely about obscure 'folk' groups North of the border. When an open to interpretation statement is made asking about 'Idlewild' yours truly has an ancient memory-bank which obviously connects Idlewild + NY + airport and responds accordingly. 

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Wordless Wednesday





Friday 3 October 2014

Fridays n Saturdays

have become Tai Chi mornings with the Happy Healthy Hearts Group. It makes a useful preparation for the more 'advanced' Saturday morning classes. The ladies of HHH are a lovely bunch, but do not take themselves seriously where Tai Chi is concerned. For them it is more about a social gathering with time to chat before, and afterwards over tea or coffee.

Saturday's group is far more serious and sometimes includes folk with Tai Chi qualifications at various levels. There's always a lot more to learn on a Saturday.

This Friday afternoon was lovely and sunny, and there was a phonecall from a neighbour with an invite to coffee and a chat. 

I've recently begun to carry on with my OU studies. Now I have a tutor who uses a local venue for tutorials and his email was most welcoming. He included info about what would be covered by the first tutorial. It's going to be a bit of a wrench, but once a month a tutorial will replace Saturday Tai Chi.

At Tai chi earlier (Sat. morning) I found out there's no session next Saturday. All the advanced practitioners are going to a seminar.

Advanced students do 'weapons' training, I'm happy just to learn the Old Form. Perhaps, but I've no idea when, I might some day join them. 

Thursday 2 October 2014

Those Places Thursday

The start of October is an odd time to think about Christmas, or it is for me. I know some folk get involved in buying stuff all year round 'ready' for December. So why am I?

Tis a very simple answer. Two close friends arrived en route to the airport, bringing with them a pack of Christmas cards and a 2015 calendar. They belong to Funraisers, note the 'd' is missed out on purpose. Along with other friends they raise funds, usually in a fun way for the East Lancs. Hospice. Recently, they'd held an event ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ to raise funds for East Lancashire Hospice, and Christmas cards had been ready and available. 

For 30 years East Lancashire Hospice has continuously provided a special way of caring to people suffering from life limiting illnesses throughout Blackburn, Darwen, Accrington and Clitheroe.

John Chapman is the artist who creates lovely scenes like this.

Other scenes can be found and if need be, purchased from ELH via the website.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Tuesday must do

Usually, I do not go anywhere until midweek, leaving the local shopping centres to others. Today is the exception. Since D has severe osteoarthritis and uses a walking-stick even around the house, the ferrule has worn away.

Last week he went up the road to try and get another, but the shop turned out to be expensive and not to have the kind he required. We went to the shop local shopping shopping centre where he bought the stick (Thursday). It was no longer in stock, but Steve, the ever friendly and helpful phoned up to order a new one.

Yesterday, Steve phoned to say the order had come in. Hence today's visit to the shopping centre to collect the new stick.

Now D has a repaired stick for everyday and his new one for 'best'.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Taking a hint from a suggestions list

Census Sunday is suggested...

There's a forum concerning a couple of small villages in Derbyshire. They used to be referred to a the Great hamlet and Little Hamlet. Suffice it to say, my family has been connected with both for many, many years. So much so that my branch is very much an outlier. To this day I have no evidence to show why they ended up in Lancashire some 100+ miles from the original villages.

Rumour has it that the family went to the four winds when the family business got into difficulties. There was a fire which almost destroyed the business and so various family members left to seek their fortune.

 A problem with genealogy is the number of times names are re-used and in that family the names: Cyrus, Frank, George, Benjamin, Sarah and Elizabeth abound. Occasionally, names such as Ellenor and Ruth cropped up. 

From a company where fathers, brothers, uncles and sons worked it lost most of the family as they headed to Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire and the USA.

Two sisters who remained in the villages.

Friday 26 September 2014

Friday - sans Tai Chi

Fridays usually involve a social gathering with folk of a similar age known as the 'Happy healthy hearts' club. From 10 until 11 we attempt to do tai chi, chatting before the tutor arrives then coffee of tea and a chat afterwards.

Barbara is 80 and May usually gives her a lift there and back. Times when May doesn't go for any reason, I do the 'chauffeuring'. But, not today, no lift and no Tai Chi.

D and I went to the hospital, where he had laser treatment to cauterise capillaries in his eye. Arriving at the hospital early, having left home early in case of traffic congestion en route, the nurse out drops in D's eyes. Then we waited, and waited as the waiting room filled up.

The appt time of 9.15 came and went, it was 10 a.m. before D was seen. I carried on waiting for another 3/4 hour whilst he was treated. Apparently, the back of his eye began to hurt and is ratcheted up as the treatment progressed. The good news being the other eye is okay. Consultant had done some preventative treatment on other capillaries, just in case. 

Now there's a two month wait for an appt. for a check-up and hopefully he'll be discharged from outpatients.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Wisdom Wednesday?

Following onwards thro' AA100 I came across a quiz based of the first three chapters of book 1.

Would you say the following statement is true or false?

1. The most reliable written accounts of Cleopatra are those produced by ancient Roman authors. [note Roman, too easy to be mislead ad Plutarch was in fact Greek]

Cassio Dio wrote about Antony and Cleopatra, more than 200 years after the events occurred.

Horace Ode 1.37

2. Cleopatra ruled the richest and most powerful country in the Mediterranean basin.
Certainly, Egypt was a rich country, with vast wealth, particularly grain.Roman power was far superior to that of Egypt.
 The problem comes with the word 'country', was Rome a country? or just a State?

3. Cleopatra manipulated her image to appeal to different audiences. Now, this is something for which evidence can be found.

4. Doctor Faustus retains elements of a medieval morality play.
What's meant by an Elizabethan Morality play? Pause for thought.

5. Marlowe borrowed a lot of his ideas from his reading of Shakespeare. Although some scholars posit that Shakespeare was influenced by Marlowe, could the reverse be true?

6. "Cézanne painted the way he did because he simply didn't have the technique to emulate artists like Bouguereau."
Hm, that would be like comparing chalk and cheese.

7. Cézanne was "the first modern artist"?
Again this is debateable, time to look once again at the group of Impressionist painters associated with Cézanne.

Paul Cézanne - 1839 to 1906 used restricted palette and reworked time and again. Dedicated painter and misfit.
Claude Monet - 1840 to 1926 in Le Havre Eugène Boudin encouraged him as a landscape painter. 1855 moved to Paris. Friend of Pissarro.
Camille Pissarro - 1830 to 1903 friends with Monet and Degas landscapes
Auguste Renoir - 1841 to 1919 began by copying some of the works in the Louvre.
Berthe Morisot - 1841 to 1895 woman impressionist artist, wife of Manet. For a short while she was more well-renowned than Monet, Renoir and Pissarro.
Alfred Sisley -  1839 to 1899 friend of Monet and Renoir, landscape painter, impressionist. Born in Paris to English parents.
Edgar Degas - 1834 to 1917 painting, sculpture and making prints

Monet, Renoir and Sisley founded the Impressionist movement.

Monday 22 September 2014

Starting anew

Carrying on from my previous post...
As we used to say on FirstClass the old OU social media, the registration finger struck.

I've become accustomed to study and relish learning for the sake of it. Having just completed U214 the Art of English, I wondered whether to stop or to carry on. Browsing the OU courses, I came across AA100, Arts past and present. Then I gave in and registered, it starts officially on October 4th.
It's a fascinating mixture of Art History, Music, historical figures, drama and suchlike. The first book in the series 'Reputation', covers Cleopatra, Christopher Marlowe, Paul Cézanne and Stalin. Unfortunately, for this presentation, Faraday has been omitted, so chapter 4 has become optional.

Typically, I've been dabbling thro' the available resources, downloading pdf, transcripts and audio files. So far, I've watched a video presentation on Cleopatra as portrayed on film from 1917 to 1963. The latter was the famous Burton and Taylor epic, which I remember watching in the school hall as an end of term treat.

Next, I played the recording of 'Dr. Faustus' whilst following the text. The version edited by John O'Connor has the text on the right-hand pages with 'helpful notes' on the left. The bulk of the book covers Marlowe's life, playhouses, language, criticism, performance, plot and study skills.

Later, the course looks at quartets by Schostakovich. 

I'm really looking forward to working my way through.

Apols for repetition, put it down to pleasant anticipation of things to come.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Studying - what? me?

After my successful result for the Art of English, I half thought of stopping at that. Then the registration finger 'struck' and now bring on Arts Past and Present. 

The website opened today, the official start of the course is in October.

I love accessing course resources and organising files and folders to take the information. Now, I have pdf versions of the course books and an assortment of other necessary pdf. Probably a sign of my generation, but I was brought up to treat books with respect. Later generations daub pages with highlighter of various loud fluorescent colours without a qualm. Then they have to nerve to sell on their disfigured books. Worse still, some folk will pay good money for them!

That's why I love pdf, I can highlight to my heart's content (guilt-free) and the search facility is a boon, far superior to indexes at the back of an ordinary book.

Arts past and present is a pot pourri of a course - Cleopatra, followed by Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, then Cézanne, just for a start.

Unfortunately, the OU has had to alter some of the ways it operates, hence chapter 4 on Faraday has become optional. Another effect has altered the scheduling, length of 'terms' has been shortened and holiday breaks lengthened. It will take some getting used to.

Saturday 6 September 2014

#2 Tai Chi

For the last few weeks, I have been going to not #1, but #2 sessions of Tai Chi.

The usual Friday session is more for being sociable, rather than a strict session. Although some folk have been attending those sessions for many years, the level remains the same. I had begun to wonder where to go to move up in skills. Hence, I now do Tai Chi on Fridays and Saturdays.

1 Tàijí qǐ shì Taiji Begin Form
2 Jīngāng dǎo duì Buddha's Warrior Pounds Mortar [1]
3 Lǎn zhá yī Lazily Tying Coat
4 Liù fēng sì bì Six Sealing And Four Closing
5 Dān biān Single Whip
6 Jīngāng dǎo duì Buddha's Warrior Pounds Mortar [2]
7 Bái é liàng chì White Goose Spreads Its Wings
8 Xié xíng Walk Obliquely
9 Lǒu xī Brush Knees
10 Shǎn sān bù Step Three Times
11 Xié xíng Walk Obliquely
12 Lǒu xī Brush Knees
13 Shǎn sān bù Step Three Times
14 Yǎn shǒu gōng quán Hidden Thrust Punch

15 Jīngāng dǎo duì Buddha's Warrior Pounds Mortar [3]

That's as far as it goes, unless there's someone new, in which case everything is broken down into more segments.

Saturdays are far more purposeful. Today, we focussed on some moves after Buddha's Warrior Pounds Mortar [3].

Green Dragon Emerges from the Water  (Qing Long Chu Shui) 

Pushing With Both Hands (Shuang Tui Shou)

Fist Under The Elbow (Zhou Di Kan Quan and Chui Zhou Di Chui)

Stepping Backwards And Whirling The Arms (Dao Juan Gong or Dao Juan Hong)

White Crane Spreads Wings (Bai E Liang Chi).

Diagonal Whip (Xie Xing)

Turning Back With Arms Twining (Shan Tong Bei) 

Flashing The Arms,

To be covered soon - Flash The Back, Flashing Turn To The back

One of the really good things about Saturday is the focus, no unnecessary noise, everyone determined to do their best.
Then, like today, it is a mixed group with some using  it as a warm-up for the next session. No matter where you look, there's someone more expert whose moves you can imitate. 

Tutor David G 


Don't stupidly repeat the form and think that you are going to get fighting ability. You must take out single movements from the form and train them repeatedly until you completely understand them.

The form is not a dead thing. Many people can do an outside imitation of the form, but they are lost in, as one participant put it, "copy and paste mode". The form must be alive within the principles.

Use slowness to achieve detail. I cannot emphasise how much importance Wang put on the fundamental need to train slowly.

Monday 1 September 2014

September, I'll remember...

So goes  familiar song from Simon and Garfunkel. 

September 1st and the start of another year for my teacher friend. I wish her well.

Once again the media is full of yet more government interference in education; my goodness, how they love their social engineering! 

I am thankful to have the inestimable benefit of retirement. Part of me still wonders how those returning to the 'chalk-face' continue to cope with the overwhelming burden of management directives. Teaching is hard enough without those whose education bears no resemblance to anything they inflict on children today. 

Cynical, that's me...whenever these initiatives are enforced

The guy fronting the initiative in the media...

Nick Gibb was born in Amersham, Buckinghamshire

  •  educated at the Maidstone Grammar School, Kent
  • Roundhay School, Leeds
  • Thornes House School, Wakefield
  •  College of St Hilda and St Bede at the University of Durham
  •  received a Bachelor of Arts degree in law in 1981.
Therefore, he's from the generation of 'O' levels and 'A' levels, pre- GCSE which was introduced mid 1980s.

Whenever these initiatives are brought in, money has to be spent on resources. Someone authorises companies to do training, publishers bring out new textbooks and in these days, new computer software for schools.

The burden on teachers is to use an American expression 'ramped up'. No-one takes into account the endless hours teachers put in to getting ready to face the challenges, or the increasing stress levels.


Saturday 16 August 2014

It has been a poor year for toms.

When folk in widely separated parts of the country all have similar problems, there must be a link somewhere.

Discussing the situation, I have concluded that toms do not like the prolonged arid spell with for the UK horribly high temperatures. 

The heat was too much for me, and I guess the toms did not cope with the rapid rise in temperatures during the day. Nor did they like the resultant weeks of overcast rain-bearing skies.

If I think back to when I used to help in Dad's greenhouse at home and compare it with the same greenhouse some 30 years later situated here, I've never known such a poor year for toms. Hey ho! Another sign of climate change?

Friday 15 August 2014

Ch-ch-ch changes

This has been a momentous week, mostly sadness. The untimely loss of someone who touched millions by his acting and comedic skills. 

The media have been awash with obits, some gentle, others not so. R. I. P. Robin Williams.

'Thought for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 is something I listen to rarely.  These days I am up and about well before the broadcast time.

Today, the speaker was Anne Atkins. I'll have to wait until tomorrow to listen again. She spoke of the melancholy associated with the life of a clown, comedy-tragic or tragic comedy and seamlessly worked in classical examples from Greek literature to the present day. 

Usually, if the radio was on and she was introduced as speaker, I'd turn the radio off. 

'Anne Atkins, a vicar's wife and Christian author is a regular guest in the three-minute slot,'

On the rare occasions I have listened to her my 'hackles have risen' and I am not alone, search her name to find examples.


Now, thanks to the BBC web page I can quote...

"The year is 1806, the place London. A man seeks help for depression. “Normally I’d prescribe medication,” his doctor says. “But the pantomime on at Covent Garden will do you a lot more good. I cried with laughter. Go and see Harlequin and Mother Goose. Grimaldi will cure you.” 

“Ah,” sad the man sadly. “I am Grimaldi.” 

Not waving but drowning. The aria Vesti la giubba from Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci opens, Put on your costume and powder your face. People want to laugh. Turn your tears and distress into jest, your pain and sobbing into a funny face... Until the harlequin’s real life overwhelms him and the comedy turns to tragedy."

I had to find a more trustworthy translation...and ended up listening to the late, great Pavoroti performing that aria. 

"To act! While out of my mind,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it's necessary... make an effort!"

I recommend watching Pavoroti singing the Aria and thinking about Robin Williams and the gaping hole his loss has left behind.

Saturday 26 July 2014

St. Swithin and a day of changes

Tories are doing a reshuffle.

I usually avoid politics like the proverbial plague. However, today, the media report that various people have changed places.

The one of main interest to me is Education.
I have friends who are still coping in this most burdensome occupation.

One friend is Head of a primary school and another works in one. 

True in the shuffle, the to date most despised incumbent at the Education department has been replaced...
But...the replacement is a former oppo of the PM so tarred with the same brush [deep sigh].

Uncomfortable truths?

Reading some posts earlier, brought to mind  past memories.

In the 1970s, education was one of the 'best' careers to be in. There was respect amongst educators, pupils and parents. They were a well-oiled team working to do the best with limited resources. Prime Minister Harold Wilson (Labour) gave teachers their best pay rise ever. Staff-rooms buzzed with promise. It was not all good news, there was bullying of female staff by male staff 'in authority'. 

One Deputy in particular would walk into the staff room and exclaim, ''Ah, my dear, you appear to be 'free'.'' Then delegate a class in need of cover to the unfortunate female. Rumour had it that the guy kept a 'wee dram' in his desk drawer.

Then came the 1980s when the seeds were sown and nourished by the incumbent Tory party which was almost communist-like in its zeal to oppress and to brow-beat the population, with the coal miners and school teachers as their targets of opportunity.

In came G.C.S.E. and out went C.S.E.

Once again England was a nation of discontent. 

The Tories ground down the miners and the teachers. Social engineering was carried out on a grand scale. 

There were strikes, the Govt.. saw the Unions as outright foes. London developed a 'get rich quick' - devil take the hindmost 'culture'. 

Unrest continued, social engineering went on at a pace. After the miners had been 'dealt with', teachers were in the spotlight, told they were not professionals. The annuity links between teachers and Civil Service were scrapped and millions ££££££ disappeared into government coffers. 

Traditionally, learning had been disseminated from universities to colleges and schools. Now the government intervened with its National Curriculum which still blights lives today.

For some 30 years the curriculum has been at the beck and call of ideologies, whims and fancies of successive governments.

What has happened to the teaching staff during that time?

Staffrooms are war zones where staff are bullied by line managers, Wooden Tops (aka senior management) and in some schools the bullying is done more often by parents and pupils. 

To adapt a well-known song...

Dark sarcasm in the classroom
Pupils - leave those teachers alone!

One school Head targeted senior staff and threatened them with loss of early retirement. He sought ways to remove senior staff, first demeaning them, then increasing workloads and belittling their efforts.

Simple maths 
Remove senior knowledgeable renowned and respected staff as a way of gaining 'control'. 

Next, promote yeah-sayers and lick-spittle. Those most malleable who would ask no questions. Bring in newbies with no experience but 'good' on paper. Saving money as you go.

Sign up your staff for mindlessly boring, time-wasting 'training'. Set one session in an hotel, pay for the cronies and lick-spittle to stay overnight at the school's expense...all in the name of 'training'.

As was common knowledge at the ought not to accuse the then Sec. of state for Education because he had been sectioned and spent time in a mental institution before release complete with cert. of 'sanity'.

Then, another incumbent of that position was said amongst teachers to be....
quite literally...
'the blind leading the partially-sighted'.

One of the leading unions issued members with a work diary to fill in. That was when the Govt. claimed teachers' salaries were 'generous', since they were paid for 2765 hours per year.

The diaries were completed and made telling reading. Some conscientious staff had passed the requisite number of hours before Christmas. Others lower down the pay scale and with fewer responsibilities had clocked more the half the national hours. 

Then the bright sparks at the DoE (Dept. of Education) worked out a cunning wheeze. They enacted legislation instructing staff to do all reasonable to fulfil their obligations. No matter what the hours actually spent on preparation, form filling and all forms of mindless bureaucracy and red-tape involved plus contact time...hours officially remained at the notional 2765.

Part way thro' the 1980s and on into the 1990s pressure mounted on teaching staff. 
One of my friends left yo become a prison warder...seeing it as far less stressful, which turned out to be true. 

Another committed suicide.

Despite the fact that a member of staff was fulfilling her duties responsibly, the time-table was redesigned to make her surplus to requirements. That particular trick was used several times. 

Senior management harassed anyone with the temerity to really be ill, by demanding work from them.

Being signed off by a Consultant wasn't 'good enough'. One guy had a nervous breakdown and was forced back into the classroom.

By 2000 the gateposts were being moved and it became harder to qualify for early retirement. 

The Head that took over saw illness as a slight and personal insult. Her solution was to target the staff member by setting in motion the dismissal process. 

Fortunately, one of the governors was paying enough attention and when the dismissal proposal was put forward spoke up in the teacher's defence. 'You must not do that to 'n' all my children have been taught by 'n' and 'n' deserves better treatment.

The rest as the saying goes is history...

That school no longer exists, and in the year that 'n' retired staff were given a bonus because of their achievements.

The school that replaced it...completely new building from 'scratch' but lacking those members of staff that had shown moral fibre over the years....has slid further and further down the league tables...

Monday 14 July 2014

This on-line apology for a life...

I used to comment that a computer was a typewriter that 'talks back', in the days before no ordinary folk had an on-line presence, Now in the age of connectivity, loneliness on-line becomes more apparent. 

Talking into the 'ether' only serves to make aloneness more up front and personal. On-line communities are an anathema. Communing as in really getting to correspond meaningfully is a hollow joke, as hollow as the electronic worlds themselves.

Years ago there was an on-line community that bore more of a resemblance to life. It was accessible to OU students. There people expressed their thoughts, beliefs and life events. Friendships grew and folk met up face-to-face, cementing feelings of togetherness. Later in the name of 'progress', the OU adopted formats ready-made by Google. Connections were sundered at a stroke. Some migrated to other platforms in the desperate hope that the community would survive. Needless to say, it did not.

Today has been a day of several folk deleting accounts, pulling the plug on on-line communities. 

Something to ponder...