Monthly Archives: September 2016

Relief, frustration, moan, rant, laugh.

Lots of niggly listy things done this week so thought I would drift away for a moment for a think.

RELIEF – No more medical interventions for three months save for a quick rubber snake down the throat maybe – so hurrah for that!!

FRUSTRATION – I am wrapped in a straight jacket of teaching procedures at the moment. Of course we “academics” (pah) have it easy, compared to the primary, secondary and FE folk. There is still an absence of the ultimate sanction in most universities and so we can get-away-with-it by ignoring some of the nonsense poured down like wet cement upon or heads by the dept of higher education or whatever they are called.

MOAN – I know its oft said and even ofter moaned about, but there really is an infectious management culture thing that spreads through advanced economies like the flu. Among educationalists it’s more like the plague – fatal to morale, creativity and to good teaching. Please could someone ask them all to go away and leave us beautiful creative folk alone. Any of you folk unfamiliar with A.S Neil might want a gander at this

Summerhill looks like it could be a nightmare to be part of (eg teach, be a pupil, live near, pay for) and it has a checkered history, nearly closing in the 1980’s cos of some OFFSTEDy type scathing report. I have heard that some children in later life have scorned it vociferously and it does have something of the hippy cult exclusivity aura around it – school for the Glastonbury Poppies and Sams. Like so much that is out of the ordinary it is probably as flawed as the ordinary but at least it is trying to be different, and that has to be a good thing when so much education policy these days is about reproducing the schooling whatever the minister is in charge happened to have. Grammar schools (Blah, blah blah) are in because Teresa May went to one. And look at what she has achieved!

RANT – Our blind acceptance of the status quo annoys me a lot. Everything should be questioned, scrutinised and criticised at all times. What we are doing to children in schools is certainly worth chucking away right now. In mainstream schools we seem to have turned punishing our children into a cultural ‘must do.’ Thankfully we don’t whack them anymore but we substituted that punishment for “achieving”. That means working hard, striving lots, doing things, lots of things…. What has happened to lying on your book pulling the fluff out of your belly button? Maybe I should run a module in that discipline.

RANT CONT….When I was a teenager I used to have an orange bobbly bed cover on my bed, upon which I lay, kicking a plastic spider that hung down by a string from the light above. This activity has held me in excellent stead for those moments when only thinking about something really is all that is needed (like now). I do not need to fact check, read anything, ask anyone, complete a worksheet, pass an exam —- just bluuuuuur and out it comes all runny and delicious and maybe largely wrong (if such a notion existed). The capacity to think for yourself is at the antithesis of what eduction achieves. It cannot do so when we teach teachers the craft of not thinking for themselves. We do that by ensuring that rigidly stick to a pre(o)scribed process and that to step out of line will result in all their pupils failing the this-that-or-the-other-test-crap-nonsense.  I deplore the state of mind that uncritically thinks that education always has value and that educators should respected. Teachers are all crap I should know I am one. Education does have value sometimes for some people (mainly goody goodies and I have no time for them) and some educators are good, like some dogs are well behaved but some are not, so steer clear they may bite you or drag you under a bus. And it also ‘messes up your head man.’ Especially if you are a teenager who has been told repeatedly through her school career that GCSE’s or A levels are the end of lifes journey to hope, and if you mess them up the only way left is the Hell that is failure – OOOOOOOOhh. Apparently failures have consequences, like falling off your bike and knocking your teeth out. What nobody tells you is a/ – you may come to prefer your toothless grin to your toothed b/ – if you are that upset just go to the dentist and get a crown. Just don’t cry, despair or listen for a moment to old people cos they are all wrong! Education is really cool, when you are ready for it and if you want it. A.S Neil made it optional, he made it fun and he made it creative. We have made it compulsory, dull and regurgative of the supposed wiser ones who claim to be entitled to teach, but know nowt. Myself included.

LAUGH – Here is my favourite picture ever.


Not all tumours are equal – thank goodness

Not all tumours are that bad. In my case a new tumour has been deemed insignificant and unworthy of treatment. I wonder if it feels hurt and offended. After all, it was trying its hardest to scare the shit out of me, it failed by the way, and then some smart arse consultant deemed it the ‘Walter’ of tumours, a sissy wimp not even worth an aspirin. Hah! Took weeks and weeks to get the results but after the first two I decided that if it was urgent they would have got in touch and forgot about it. 6 weeks – Take That Tumour!

Hurrah !!! The hens are back, but are having to stay behind bars most of the time. They are lovely shiney, sparkly- new hens (feathers to die for darling) so we are hoping they manage to avoid inhabiting foxey loxeys larder for a bit. I admire the farmers stoicism. There is nothing he can do except cross his fingers that foxey is full up, turned vegetarian, on vacation or has been eaten by a hound.

Not impossible as we do very occasionally get the hunt hounds passing through, complete with folk in red coats. They are “not to be messed with” animals. Much bigger than you would expect and quite scary. Enormous bollocks too. Whereas the dogs …. During the course of the hunt they get scratched and bitten to bits giving them a slight misshapen Freddy Kruger look. The last one we came across, who had clearly got left behind or abandoned by the rest, was a bit of a muddy, bloody, wounded wreck – and he certainly did not want a stroke or to be adopted as a pet.

The chicken farmer has thee vintage tractors – all the same make but three different sizes, bit like daddy bear, mummy bear and baby bear. I guess he is Goldilocks. He lined them up outside the house ready for a tractor show this weekend. Bit of a let down to see them dragged onto a trailer to be transported to the show. Apparently old tractors, like old people choke on trendy, modern food – namely biofuels, it gums up their works with a nasty fungus. I had no idea that biofuels were so bio. I must say I am rather envious of his collection but the trouble with old vehicles is that you really need to know how to fix them so my aspirations to own a vintage land rover or even better a Chevrolet, will remain unfulfilled for ever.

I am doing some heavy prepping for teaching in October. I have a large teaching load, we all do, but my modules are very vocational, practice orientated  and largely free of theory, which suits me well. I have always been deeply suspicious of theory, it’s back to my tractor theme. What is more useful, a book on the history of tractors or knowing how to make one? More than that – what is more fun, more creative, more life affirming than making a tractor go and what is more turgid than committing its clunking, gurgling being to nothing but print and airy debate. So my job is to joyfully teach how to build and fix tractors and on the way how to reluctantly and sparsely park them in the broader post-post modernist barn amidst the post structuralist combine harvesters and hay balers. What a load of tosh. Actually when you meet a real theorist who really know their stuff they are pretty fascinating people, trouble is there are so many duff ones. Yours truly being the duffist.

On the advice of Athur’s lovely girlfriend, Lisa I have dumped the name “Marge” from my phone box. My Aunty and her bequest is still acknowledged and her photo is in the box but the notion of naming the box and providing a biography was one of those ideas that was really appealing when I thought of it but ultimately only meaningful to one person – me. (And I suppose Marge). To the visitors to the box it was just plain confusing – why ???? Because the voice they hear, after having read all about Marge, was mine and although I do have a slightly camp Australian twang I was clearly not the female Marge they we expecting. It probably began a stream of thought that settled somewhere around pantomime or tranvestisism or most likely Dame Edna. A non sequitur of significant unhelpfulness. Just another mystery to solve and confuse but not clever on my part. It’s so easy to retake opaque mysterious art – much harder is to create art that is transparent accessible and still magical. I think it takes craft.

I have real trouble when it comes to selecting from ideas. I like most of my ideas, in fact I hang on to them even when my guts are screaming ‘let go, let go’. It seems such a waste to chuck them away as you never know when you might run out. I teach my students that they must put their designs in front of users as they develop them, not at the end of the process when it is too late. I really must practise what I preach. Practice v practise??? Of course it’s dispiriting realising your treasured concept does not work, but you have to get used to it.

Oh by the way – Vince, our stray cat, now follows Mitch around like a disciple follows Jesus. He is still terrified of us, but seems to sleep inside the house when we have gone to bed. Mitch and Bobby just look troubled and confused.

BORING POLITICAL BIT – I think the media and Labour Party have got the Corbyn phenomena completely wrong. I was rung by the Labour Party to ask if I would vote for Owen Smith. The argument was that voting for Owen Smith might make the Labour Party electable whereas a vote for Corbyn would not. When I explained that despite being a member of the party I did not care about its electability, the response was a tiny bit huffy. But here is the thing. Why should a party member, such as me, who leans to the left, support a party that ceased leaning to the left after the demise of Michael Foot, and put in power a party that does not do the things a left leaning party should do. In other words we are being asked to support, a name, a habit, a history, a club, dare I say a religion, not a set of real left wing policies. I could not care less if the ‘labour Party’ fell under a number 25 bus. It has had its history, one it can be very proud of, but now the time has come to throw off the mantle of legacies and get on with being something that is truly left leaning in every respect, in terms of its vision and philosophy as well as policies and membership. If that means years in the political wilderness I am afraid there is no alternative. This is a tragedy for those that are in need of compassionate, fair, honest, government but it is a greater tragedy to maintain the status quo just because it is called ‘Labour.’

So Labour Party members don’t vote for the “Labour Party” vote for a compassionate ethos that looks after those that are least able to look after themselves. I rather hope the Momentum emerges as a new party under the leadership of JC and that old/new labour and all those professional politicians, who support politics and power at the expense of vision and change, get jobs in the Sports Direct workhouse they have been subliminally supporting.