Wednesday, 28 February 2007

We don't need no edukashun

This week has been a 6-year flashback all over again! That hoary old education problem has reared its gnarled head and is chewing us unmercifully.

Steiner schools could learn a good deal from state education and vice versa. After 3 years of Steiner experience, we feel that the ideal situation would be a Steiner teacher who had state experience, or even vice versa. For IS, and HS before her, their 2 teachers have come to Steiner without any prior (non-Steiner) educational training. As the Steiner system invariably involves ONE child having ONE teacher for their entire Steiner school education the biggest drawback is a poor child-teacher relationship - then you're lumbered.

Yesterday was the second consecutive day that IS was kept back from Steiner school. We are in the pits of uncertainty over a number of issues about IS progressing in school and what we perceive as poor teaching: here, the two are inextricably intertwined. IS's situation has worsened since last summer when HS was removed from the school after being bullied and poor teaching. Coincidentally, HS's teacher is the husband of IS's teacher and SC feels that this teacher is (wittingly or not) taking it out on IS. Who am I to disagree?

Though IS is dealing with all this with a positive stoicism, she is losing her natural spark for learning through this neglect.

All work was abandoned yesterday and we talked around the subject with IS and looked at our options....stay put, move on or home-educate. It's a lottery.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

A Gold and Black day

When I was 7 my mad (certifiable!?) uncle David took me to my first football match. We went to Stamford Bridge, a mile or so along from our flat in Brompton Road, to see Chelsea. If he ever thought that I might become embued in the spirit of the boys in blue-and-white he was quickly mistaken. The Wolves boys in gold-and-black were far more eye-catching, in the late England captain Billy Wright they had the paramount British sporting ambassador and it probably helped that they were the football champions of England, Europe and the world!

Yestreday I made one of my 3 or 4 visits a season to
Wolverhampton. "Did your team win?", asked SC. "Yes, 'my team' won". And with great glee, "We hammered Leeds". Conversations between us about football remain perfunctory and without any perceptable passion. Come'on you Wolves!

Meanwhile, our local team, Great Bickering disUnited lost 17-0 to Dishforththwaite Palace, with 'our' brave goalie Josiah Brassbotham the hero once again. Come'on you disUnited!

......Tears for Souvenirs - 31 March 2001

The week before we left London was full of emotional goodbyes - including my last working dinner at the BBC with my writing patner Nick - culminating in an All-Welcome Farewell Party on our final weekend.

On a sunny spring day we opened the house to neighbours, friends, children, relatives, school staff, shopkeepers and gatecrashers. It was a day of hugs, kisses, reminiscences, laughter, surprise appearances, tears, more hugs and more kisses and more tears.

When I ventured forth from safe Fulham to SC's house in down-market, south-of-the-river (sipt!), next-to-Tooting, Balham I never thought it would have turned out to be the friendly, villagey community 8 years later that I was sad to leave.

IS, then nearly 4, commented on the move, "This feels wrong".
Did we really know what we were moving to?

Saturday, 24 February 2007

De-lightful, de-licious, de - love - ly

Yesterday was HS's first Parents' Evening at her new, improved, shining school - the previous 5 years' Parents Evenings were black holes of miserable education review. HS, as we knew, had had problems with writing and spelling - and NOT ONE of her past teachers ever properly addressed the problems. As you can imagine, HS's confidence and self-esteem has been pretty low.

Last evening, our first meeting was with teacher CGL (English) and she was fulsome in her praise of HS and her positive efforts to remedy her abilities AND what a de-lightful girl she was. Swelling heads from SC and I.

Maths, Chemistry, Geography, Chemistry, History and Art (HS's favourite) all followed in their enthusiasm and encouragement for a girl who has been knocked backwards over 5 years. Mrs GS, the special English tutor, confided to us, "I love her to bits".

Would it be wrong for me to stick two metaphoric fingers at those black hole teachers? Who cares now. An educational corner has well and truly been turned. By the time we left school my chest was puffed out, my heart was thumping and my eyes were brimming....or was that the pouring rain as I hummed "She's de-lightful, she's de-licious, she's de-love-ly"


In late 2005 I got involved with The Band Room - an extraordinary local music venue. And for a year I became a part-time music promoter. By chance and with some foolhardiness my first booking was American songwriter-singer Stephen Bishop - a longtime favourite of mine. A great deal more later but....I arranged the show to be filmed and Stephen and I agreed to release the film on DVD. Because of the ravagaes of last year neither of us followed the DVD through - NOW was the time to email Stephen again.

Hey, Bish let's get this done!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Taxi Driver – not quite like de Niro

When we lived in South London I always thought life was pretty easy – our girls were walked to school and nursery in a concise 15-minute tour, shopping was local and most of our ‘new’ friends were those we’d met through ante-natal classes. In our final year we were even considering dumping our 8 year-old Sierra estate so rarely was it used.Now, we have 2 cars – one parent/one car takes HS (12) a 90-minute trip to York, whilst the other parent/other car takes IS (9) and ES (7) on a one-hour round trip in the opposite direction.

And then there’s the collection of the girls at later times of the day. And in the meantime, SC and I worry about our carbon footprint whilst wheedling out a few financial crumbs.

Today, ES and her friend K, also 7, had to be collected from their village school on the North York Moors by another dad at lunchtime. We were called mid-morning to be told that the dad had a consultation in the village running over the collection time so the girls would be walking on their own from school to the dad’s car 600 yards away and sit inside it until the dad arrived. SC blew steam and a heated discussion ensued between us ending in, “How about you phoning for once and dealing with this?” Now I know the North York Moors sure aren’t the mean streets of South London but this is exemplary of the lax attitude that some parents seem to have a about their childrens’ whereabouts. A flurry of phone calls followed and I found a solution but us taxi drivers are severely overworked and underpaid………You talkin’ to me?

.....Shuttling back to the year 2000

Apart from the arrival of the new Millennium, the Queen Mum reaching the age of 150 and George Dubya stealing his way to the Presidency, the year 2000 was notable for 2 things – doing a ‘script doctor’ job on a film script and this was our final full year living in London.

As many folk will testify, selling/buying a property is a form of unremitting masochism with the occasional flash of sadism. SC had been in this house for 11 years before I moved in, during which time it had been a post-university house with lodgers. Then there was another 8 years with me and the arrival of each girl and DIY-ing it into a family house. So, SC had never had to sell a house before.

Na├»ve we certainly were when we walked through the door of our friendly local estate agent to meet Tracy, the pillar-box estate agent with the rictus smile. After that we endured a hellish 4 or 5 months during which we…………suffered surveys, called in council architects, spent hours on the phone to solicitors and estate agents, lost work, shed tears, made visits to Yorkshire, bored friends and relatives with our woes, sought advice, shed more tears, had sleepless nights, spent needless amounts of money whilst all along OUR estate agent seemed to have a double deal with the buyers, Mr and Mrs P and their solicitor who also happened to solicit for the agents. Mr P was about 27 or 28 but looked and behaved like a 16 year-old public schoolboy – whilst in the background lurked the dread legal brain of his father, a reputed QC.

At a very late stage, it looked as if Mr P had us over a barrel about construction work needed on the kitchen to get the sale done. But help came in the unexpected and welcome form of SC’s great-aunt and the largest cheque I’ve ever seen in my hand. The following day we confidently made a delicious visit to smiley Tracy and announced that Mr and Mrs P should really agree to OUR terms within 24 hours or……… Unsmiley Tracy spluttered and spluttered and spluttered.

Hey, lady……You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? YOU TALKIN’ TO ME? Hah!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Where to start?

Well, at the beginning, but…not quite at the beginning; and if anyone can grasp that conundrum for a while then I'd rather answer the question....Why am I writing a blog?

I suppose for 2 reasons.

Firstly, for all of my life I've lived in a major/minor city in England, or elsewhere in the world. Then in 2001 I found myself hauling our family 250 miles northwards to the North Yorkshire market town of Great Bickering. When we arrived here I did feel that we would have a quieter, simpler life compared to the complexities of the great metropolis. 6 rollercoaster years in Great Bickering have disabused me of my naievety. My career veered from Pharmacy degree/pharmacist to music photographer to (fiction) writer for the past 25 years: but the vicissitudes of life over the past 5 years have constrained my writing. Until now. So, I'm flexing my atrophying brain cells and I hope that our experiences and my thoughts might resonate....with someone, somewhere.

Secondly, as a result of this move I have some strong opinions not only on town against country but also with the infamous north-south divide, of which more, much much more later.

Initially, I hope to construct this blog in the form of a time shuttle - from life at the present day to events over the 6 years in North Yorkshire and perhaps beyond.

So, as the Frenchies might say......On y va!