Monthly Archives: January 2015

Good blood, anarchy and the rat.

As of yesterday my blood numbers are ‘spot on’ – quote – so for now I will declare myself well!!! Hurrah.

I will be at the National Amyloidosis Centre on 4th and 5th of March for more running up and down the corridor and lying in state in machines with pretty girls and charmless Australians. Then my situation will be reviewed and the question of the transplant will be settled for a bit.

Maria and I celebrated by watching an episode of ‘The Sopranos’ – you know the one where the Mafia boss dies of cancer!

I have resolved my political sympathies are located somewhere between anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-libertarianism, anarcho-individualism and the Greens – oh and maybe I will vote Syriza in the forthcoming election or if really desperate Labour. I now support the Jewish Women’s Archive in order to get a $5 poster of Emma Goldman, my current political hero and obsession.


This anti everything Epiphany coincided with a serious outbreak of materialism. I confess to an addiction to Amazon Prime and the list of gadgets and goodies I have purchased in the last few weeks is shameful. A packet of tweezers, a leather sandbag, black and white film, woodworm repellent, screwdriver (tiny), tv adapter thingy (did not work), tv adapter thingy 2 (did not work very well), first aid cabinet (family size) and a dental mirror. Ebay has been similarly favoured by my clientage mainly aimed at skewering the rat – yes I have bought a movement activated security light to scare it away (fat chance) and I am seriously contemplating a night vision security camera so it can capture some selfies with rat celebrities. It is unbelievably persistent having dug around 8 holes and shifted various heavy obstacles to avail itself of our inside loft toilet and deli. Oh and big confession I purchased an anarchist badge – was going to keep this quiet – as it is so pathetic – but having revealed it to my nephew I have decided to fess up. Maria won’t wear hers as it’s childish. REALLY AS IF!!

My anarcho materialism is matched by my continuing enthusiasm for fixing stuff and rediscovering my legacy of meaningful objects. Thus I have restored my mums paint box, hence woodworm killer, displayed by Dad’s City medal, my Grandad’s war medals, my maternal grandmothers gold watch, my great uncles numerous curios, my dad’s leg (false), a bunch of photos of us lot, my father-in-laws watch, my corgi cars, my camera collection, a lonely pink teddy, a microscope and a tallow candle that looks like dog pooh, oh and loads of other stuff discovered in the loft in pursuit of yes – Ratty! A few disasters including this fix to the IKEA roller shutter effected with a Stanley knife and brute force.


The really good news is that I have written the words to a set of songs for voice and ventriloquist doll. My mate Paul has agreed to write some music so I am really pleased and excited – I have tried to sell him a few ‘dogs’ recently so I am pleased he thinks they have potential. The key to writing song texts seems to be to leave space for the music. If they work as poems they probably won’t as songs – so bad poetry really – I seem to have cracked that. My Pier poem for the Stephen Hawking voice and nostalgic sounds is nearly finished and I will post it in the next few days.

Love and Syriza don’t mess it up, to you all xx

The head of radical leftist Syriza party Tsipras speaks to supporters after winning the elections in Athens

Harry Leslie Smith

Said with such passion, this cuts through theoretical political debate and reminds us why it important to protect the NHS.

“The NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. When it was launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5 1948, it was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay”


I admit I had not seen this before and I am very suprised it has not received more views on YouTube. Yes it is sentimental, but Mr Smith delivers it with such genuine feeling it cannot fail to move even the most hardened Tory (privatiser).




In case you missed it my birthday is today

Today is my actual Birthday – although I have already had my presents and parties so who cares. Here is a summary of me.

I am 58 years old, born in 1957 – we behaved like this then.

I weigh 12 stone. I am about 5 feet 8 (shrunk 4 inches!!). My waist is probably nearly 38 inches. My chloresterol level is probably 7 ish. Blood pressure around 150/90. General fitness pretty poor. Strength diminishing. Flexibility/agility laughable. Daily exercise none. Diet lots of good for you stuff with equal quantities of bad for you stuff – but lots. Alcohol consumption none – na nana na na. Consumption of sweeties through the roof. Memory diminishing it was never good. Reasoning power none. Imagination world class. Common sense more than many I know. Fear for humanity none. Fear for self some. Fear for those I love overwhelming at times. Love of others significant. Love of self more significant. Love of doggies through the roof – more than pussies. Ability to care for doggies nil. Ability to fix things not as good as I think. Ability to figure out but not be able to execute how to fix things excellent. Ability to outrage disappointing. Bowels excellent. Bladder average for age. Teeth poor but improved since new regime. Sexual equipment (no even I don’t go there). Digestion very good. Feet better than most. Hair better than most. Complexion average. Muscle none. Six pack have not seen it since 1966.

Things I wish I was good at – counting, playing the bass, sticking at stuff
Things I am good at – seeing the wood for the trees, joining things up, ballet.

Love to all

Ofsted – a retired headmaster’s view

“Ofsted has been my biggest hobby horse for about fifteen years and was a significant factor in me retiring at 57 instead of a more normal age!”

I received this article after my Tweet and post regarding the fallibility of the Ofsted process. While I have had nothing to do with the organisation myself I am deeply suspicious of the way they and other similar bean-counters operate. I keep meaning to post an article by Demos that argues a similar case. I must dig it out. In the meantime everything this person says confirms my suspicions and reinforces my view, particularly as it is informed by long personal experience and not a little frustration.

The underlying philosophy of this and similar organisations should be resisted.

Here it is in full with the authors permission.

“Ofsted has been my biggest hobby horse for about fifteen years and was a significant factor in me retiring at 57 instead of a more normal age!

If I try to be objective:

a) it was not set up to help schools improve like the previous system of inspection by HMIs. It was part of the package of changes (I won’t dignify them by calling them reforms) started by Kenneth Baker in 1990 when the curriculum was nationalised and teachers lost their prime function of writing curriculum for children.

b) the mood at the time was accountability for public money (and still is) combined with finding something which would enable governments to prove beyond doubt that schools had improved in their term of office. What better than performance data?

c) thus the job of Ofsted was not to help and encourage, but to ‘tell on’ schools so that the local community who had no means of understanding what their local school was up to (?????) could know which of the schools in the area was the ‘best’. At a stroke, we lost the notion of the catchment area school and fed the great God of parental choice which was always a dubious one, in my view. I remember a parent coming to me in Retford who said “I’m shopping around ” to which I replied “I think you’ve come to the wrong place”.

d)the brief of Ofsted was to inspect things which could form part of a national comparison bank and phrases like ‘broadly in line with national averages’ became the new currency. This meant that they only reported on things which all schools did. Of course, the long liberal tradition of both primary and secondary schools had been a pride in things they did which other schools didn’t do! Thus it was very discouraging to find that your prize project was dismissed in a couple of lines if it was mentioned at all. Ofsted reports were meant to compare what was similar in schools, not what was different.

e) and then, towards the middle 90s (I remember so well writing to the miserable Gillian Shepherd about it) came the biggest goof of all: the introduction of target setting and performance data. Inevitably, the private sector responded with organisations which knew all about data and how it could be applied to schools and we have now reached the point where every child in the country is on a data bank from the minute it enters school. Its future is mapped out to the age of 16 based on SATs scores and if at some point it fails to achieve a target, it will not be because of a parental divorce, a bereavement, an attack of adolescence, the dog being run over etc. – it can only be because of bad teaching and Ofsted’s job is to root it out. Thus, technically, a school Ofsted report could be written before the inspectors arrive simply by comparing the data expected with the data achieved. Many schools believe this is what happens. And like all data in all walks of life, it is an unhealthy mix of potentially interesting with the straightforward misinformation.

f) not the least issue is the question of who Ofsted inspectors are. It was a new national body and they had to get people from somewhere. In the main, they came from two unhealthy sources: professional colleagues who had been employed in county councils doing a valuable support job who were squeezed out by falling budgets (the situation we are now in where most schools are no longer run by county councils did not begin with Gove – both the Tory and the neo-Tory (Blair) governments have been running down local councils for nearly a quarter of a century in order to centralise power in Westminster). These people were forced to take on a job they didn’t approve of or want to do but had to choose between Ofsted or unemployment. Many were idealists who felt that they might be able to domesticate Ofsted and still be a help to schools but they were often disillusioned. The other source was of teachers who were frustrated by their lack of promotion in school and saw a route to a more satisfying way of nursing their grudges and gaining power over heads. and, of course, there were some perfectly decent souls who did as well as they could in a very tight straitjacket. The challenge of the ‘lay’ inspector threw up some interesting eccentrics, many of whom knew next to nothing about schools or worse, thought they knew a lot about them. Telford College had in their team of inspectors a lady who was not ashamed to admit that she had never set foot in an FE college before.

g) finally came the problem of Ofsted being the gun by which the DfES fired its bullets. If on a Monday morning, the Prime Minister decided that schools should be doing a lot more about citizenship or sex education, a school inspected on Thursday was immediately probed (and of course found failing) on these topics – which they may not have known about if they had not been followers of Prime Ministerial announcements. When a government nationalises the curriculum and packs it so full that teachers are up till eleven every night, it is hard to add something new several times a year when you don’t take something away!

As you can see, I am fairly indifferent to the subject!

I probably lost my hope of being objective somewhere along the line. I always referred to Ofsted as a terrorist organisation and worked actively with staff to find ways of subverting them. I even once produced a set of a dozen school brochures with a different set of aims and objectives in for their reading matter. I hated them. I can’t put it more clearly than that.”


I am/not embarassed

There have been times recently when I have felt more than a little embarrassed by this blog. Still I seem to be seriously addicted to keeping it up, so despite my embarrassment I see no possibility of abandoning it, at least for now. My embarrassment is triggered by the following doubts.

1. I talk mainly about myself. There is a lot of ‘I think this’ and ‘I believe that.’ That’s pretty egotistical and showy offy – not really the sort of behaviour I approve of in others. Some of you must be thinking ‘what a tosser!’ And that’s embarrassing.
2. I don’t know much about much. I am not an expert on anything and anything I am a little bit knowledgeable of does not really feature in this blog. As a consequence my views are pretty stupid at times. Despite protestations that ignorance doesn’t matter I am actually embarrassed by my ignorance of so much, not least politics and religion, the subject of many of my posts.
3. I am not very articulate. I haven’t the patience or skill to write well, some people do so without effort I would have to put in hours of work and it still would not be very good. Also schoolboy doubts about grammar and spelling creep up on me even though I try so hard not to care. But I have chosen to exonerate myself from one niggling cause of embarrassment.

I know it’s unfashionable, it’s certainly not very British, many people find it boring or pretentious or too Notting Hill but I am interested in thinking about thinking and I love to talk about it.

Not that interested, that’s true, but I have a track record. I stole, but did not read a biography of Nietzsche from Swanley library when I was about 16, I read a shelf load of Freud at about the same time, I have countless largely unread books on philosophy for dummies, existentialism for the uninitiated, Plato for the perplexed – while my passion may be no more than transitory, insubstantial, ill informed and incomplete I am interested in broad brushstroke thinking about thinking much more than I think most people are.

I have decided that this is something I should not be embarrassed by. In fact I will put it more strongly – I find people who are not interested in ‘ideas’ (or philosophy if you prefer or hard subjects if you prefer that) pretty dull. People who are interested, but like me ignorant are far from dull. SO HOORAY TO THOSE OF US who get off on opinionated, ignorant, cyclic discussions that go nowhere about nothing substantia, and down with those ‘dulux magnolia minds’ that are too frightened or indeed embarrassed to have an opinion about anything risky or hard. Everyone can have an opinion and those that pretend they haven’t are probably too vain and full of themselves to risk ‘putting it out there’. Secretly they know they are right! They turn out to be quite oppressive. You know the sort – they raise their eyes to heaven when you start going on about Derida at the pub quiz or look outraged when you cross the decency line at a swimming gala and ask someone whether they think competition is really good for society. They actually think that any conversation that doesn’t begin and end with ‘have you compared it with John Lewis prices’ is an enormous social gaff. In that respect Vive le France – a nation that has always been up for a good old philosophical barney in a way that the Brits have been all to ready to avoid or ridicule or worst be embarrassed by.

love and unreasonable outrage xx

Blasphemy – pause for reflection

Yesterday I heard a Muslim spokesperson defend the notion of justifiable offence caused by images of the prophet. His argument was that the video footage of the Paris killing of the police officer was censored to avoid offence to the family so why shouldn’t images of the prophet be censored to avoid offence to Muslims. The point he made supports what ADNE Tweeted to me ‘ Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ Perhaps I trust the liberal media intelligentsia to impose censorship but not ordinary people of a faith I happen to find hard to take seriously

Is this a fair point? – (yes I had to Google it as well) – ‘who guards the guardians?’ I suppose the conclusion for an atheist like me is that blasphemy is not a worthy enough outrage for society (whoever that is) to be allowed to impose censorship. The individual sensibilities of the police officers family should be protected. I am not sure I am happy with that conclusion and wonder what others think? I think I may be setting myself and my views above those of others like some sort of atheist missionary out to convert people. How unpleasant.

Ratty – the return, boys and girl.

Busy weekend. I was fierce with steroid induced energy and ended up psychotically pursuing another plucky rat. I spent my early morning waking ritual reading the literature on rats and it turns out to be very simple to deal with them, at least in theory. Find where they get in and block up the hole. Thanks to some timely re-gravelling by the boys and girl we think we now have its access point identified – a hole in the annex wall – should really have spotted that. Each time we fill the hole with stuff, brick, sand, gravel ratty unfills it overnight. We have asked a builder if we can actually cement it in but have yet to hear back. I think not, it’s a hole that sits over a plastic pipe and is clearly deliberate. Anyway Ratty seems to have a desire to join its deceased cousin in the loft who is now a flyblown corpse. We know this because the flies drop through the light fittings in the kitchen, onto the work surface by the toaster. Anyone for tea and toast?

Boys and girl back to their fast lane /bohemian lives. We rally enjoyed having them so much. They are interested and interesting, what could be better. I am so proud of the way they lead their lives – I like to think a chip off the old block but they are better at it than I was. Proper non compromising artists. To hell with being sensible, to hell with all the bullshit about responsibility, citizenship, hardworking families, the ludicrous big society. Capital entrapment I call it. They don’t of course because they have grown up – it’s only me who has reverted to my 14 yr old idealistic and stupid self, but I think they forgive me.

My mind is so occupied with projects it is exploding with excitement. I want to do everything all at once which must be very tiresome for Maria who has to be the enthusiastic audience for my impassioned outbursts. Unfortunately for the boys and girl are also expected to endure my enthusiasms which frequently involve interfering, or as I call it helping, with theirs. Anyway they are missed already.

As you can probably tell I feel extremely well indeed. I have no more chemo after Tuesday while they review all the results and decide on the next stage around Easter. Hopefully the warnings about infections will be relaxed as the effect of the chemo on my immune system wears off. I believe I am still classified as a medical emergency if I get an infection at the moment either that or I am just being neurotic or I just don’t want to see anyone or I am loving my bubble life – yes I am rather.

As you know I have taken to fixing things I have been reluctant to fix in the past. So far I have repaired two old video cameras, one watch, two still cameras, one video recorder. I have destroyed one ancient speech machine, one rather nice cassette machine (drat) two other video cameras (over confidence), one Edwardian thingy (rescue able but in bits at present) and one food processor. So overall we are down a few gadgets. One new pleasure is that for my birthday I got a magnifying light like model makers use. It is totally brilliant. I can now, very precisely and with no eye strain break any number of intricate trinkets irrevocably. Pure joy.

Next week I need to settle more to work and stop partying. I have tons of work and at times I can be quite disciplined even working from home as I do, especially now the two hospital visits a week are coming to an end. So watch this space for an increase in productivity. The great thing is I love the work I am currently doing, so unlike so many people, returning to work is not a hardship.
Forgot to say I have now de rusted my paper guillotine and it is working perfectly.

Troubled thoughts re Freedom of Speech


I think I believe freedom of speech to be non negotiable. I am troubled by my view not being a fan of non negotiable anything and thus inevitably the debate between theory and practice could cause this polemic to implode. That said…

The terrorist acts in France. The rights of the terrorists to express their views in the media are no different from those of the journalists who were murdered. The right of the footballer / convicted rapist to claim his innocence is no less than the right of the victim to claim his guilt. We must not allow the state, any state or group of individuals to dictate what can and cannot be said however dangerous or offensive it is. This means offence will inevitably occur to those individuals who do not subscribe to the fundamental principle of freedom of speech. I am afraid that must be the case and we will have to endure the consequences. The French cartoons should be republished by the BBC. There can be no bounds to freedom of speech.

Am I a fool?