Sunday, 27 May 2007

"It was 40 years ago today......

....that Tyger Hutchings took the band to play",
(to paraphrase Lennon-McCartney)
in Golders Green.

On this very day back in 1967 – just days before Sgt Pepper’s release and the impending summer of love – a group of fellow North Londoners played their first ‘live’ gig.

It began with friends Ashley ‘Tyger’ Hutchings and Simon Nicol collecting together Richard Thompson and Shaun Frater for everyone to.....

“Become converted!!! FAIRPORT CONVENTION happen at St Michael’s Hall,
Golders Green, opp Woolworth’s.
Adv. Tickets 5s. 01-883-2505”.

It's extraordinary to think that that unprepossessing band of North London teenagers have burgeoned into the pantheon of the British folk-rock legends. Forty years on, it looks like Fairport may well be around in another 50-100 years…somehow.

I have pulled my original posting so that I can dredge up some more thoughts and repost a lengthened
version in a week or so

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Home schooling

We’re into our 3rd week of home schooling and it has been…..tiring, thought-provoking, exasperating but most of all very rewarding.

The GB HE school consists of the redoubtable Mrs R who has taken charge of English, Classics, Botany, Biology, Art and Languages (French and South London) whilst I am doing a fearsome impression of Mr Squeers, in charge of aggravated Mathematics, Cane-swishing and Toilet Duties.

In IS’s case, we tolerated far far too long her Steiner education which really began and ended with her very poor teacher. This was emphasised when
started home schooling and we realised that IS had trouble with 3 times table and very simple division - not good for a 10 year-old. At Steiner, it seems that the basics were not covered well - looking back there were cursory lessons on times tables and simple division whereas there was plenty of princes, water sprites and bears swapping bags of gold around in the name of maths. Call me old-fashioned, yes I'm burdened with having been born in the 50's, but the start should be writing letters/words/numbers, spelling and times tables by rote - there, I'm labelled forever. Anyway, for the past 3 weeks, IS has looked so different from the bored, listless girl that was suffering under the Steiner yoke; she is now brighter, more responsive, taking pride in her work and having more confidence and self-esteem. Whoopee!

I did 1½hours quite basic Maths with IS and then…..
…….Some English with ES. 4 weeks ago ES, 7½, could not read more than 20 words and was just learning her numbers from 1 to 20 – though she was damn hot on knowing how much pocket money she should receive. Now, ES knows up to her 4 times table by heart and is doing simple mental addition/subtraction and number ‘games’. On top of that, she is devouring Oxford Reading Tree books and knows 2 Ant and Bee cover-to-cover.

This isn’t to blow our own foghorns but there are 2 salient points to be made here. Firstly, the Steiner system is V E R Y S L O W, which is not a particularly bad system as it works out fine in other countries, but once the child reaches 7 the Steiner system can remain pedantic….unless there is a good teacher. Secondly, for the rest of this term, our girls are getting 1-to-1 tuition which, even with fumbling amateur efforts, is better than the 1-to-20+ state system.

My only regret is that there are some many FAB blogs out there and not enough time to read them at the moment. Que sera sera sera!

Friday, 18 May 2007

Want some sweets little girl

The phone range this afternoon and it was Mrs R from her mobile from town. The gist of her call was that there was a middle-aged man hanging around the Junior school looking furtive and supposedly “offering sweets”.

I walked up the garden to where ES, 7½, was riding her bike just to check that she knew not to go ‘too far’.
Me: I just wanted to make sure you don’t ride your bike past our lane.
ES: No, I’m just around here.
Me: Errm, sweetheart, what would you do if someone, a strange man, you didn’t know came along and offered you some sweets?
ES: (Eyes alight) Sweets!? (then a moment’s thought) Well, I‘d take them….but I would give him some money for them.

The lesson this afternoon was ‘Confectionery - and how it can damage your health’.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Fair game at the Game Fair

Well into our 7th year in God’s own county – a Yorkshire quote, not mine – and we took the plunge and handed over scores of dosh for our first entry into the annual Great Bickering Game Fair.

The fair is held just on the way out of town on a vast area of green land owned by the shaven-headed Simon - GB's own Branson. Simon tends to walk determinedly and moodily around town invariably followed by a couple of acolytes with antennae twitching. Up to now I had never said more than ‘Hello’, ‘Morning’ or ‘Hi’ to him but as we pulled up at the entrance ready to pay there was the taciturn Simon barking orders at his minions to get the cars moving towards the Car park in some order. Suddenly he came over and apologised to us for the chaos and his temper…and threw us a beamer of a SMILE. This is a man I could sit down with one day and have a happyccino and chew over life in Great Bickering.

The Fair was spread over 2 enormous fields encircled with perhaps 80 or so stalls and turned out to be a great success with our refugees for a number of reasons. We had never seen such a large number of dogs in one day…mainly labs, spaniels, greyhounds and border terriers but with a smattering of Jack Daniels, Scotties and lurchers – this is clearly the Dog Social of the Year around North Yorks. The early part of the day was spent walking 10 yards and then chatting with a dog, walking a further 15 yards and stroking a pair of collies and so it went on. The girls spent time on the obligatory bouncy castle/slide complex and then on the karting track but we as the cash flowed from my pocket we averred on the offer of a chopper ride around town (at £25 a head).

The food was typical Yorkshire fayre – roast anything with chips, baps and tea. The stalls were enticing….Cantabrian Rat Catcher, The Stolen Tool Company, The British Ferret League, Wetwang Cushions, Louise’s Dog Leads, Arnold Philpott, Daughter and Grandaughters etc etc. Of course, what the Fair is about is ostensibly animals and their co-relation with Yorkshire folk but for me what was most fascinating for me was people-watching. Market Day in Great Bickering is interesting enough – retired farmers standing around in huddles talking about…well, what retired farmers talk about - but the Fair threw ALL the varied locals into this arena. One thing that Yorkshire folk do not seem to have much of a care for and that is Fashion. Come on Stella McC or Donatella – open a Fashion House up here, pet.

The last event of any mention for us was the Derwent Hunt Beagles – 3
riders in pink galloping around the arena blowing their hunting horns with the beagles eagerly following and most of audience orgiastically watching….save for our quintet – unabashed, Mrs R, HS and ES were jeering them. With my quiet sensibility I just looked embarrassed, took pics and imagined they were a rogue branch of the Balham HuntSab.....time to leave and head back to our car stickered with ‘For Fox sake – Ban the Hunt’ - all 4 tyres were in tact so it was off home.

* I have been asked, quite correctly, by Mrs R to state that Mrs R did in no way on that day in that circumstance jeer the hunters, though the lovely Mrs may well have caterwalled on other days in other circumstances....but that's a topic for another day. The record is straight-er!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Oh to be 10 again

Refugee Farm entertained a VIM – my mother – over the BH weekend; she came not to see her favourite son but because she thought her grand-daughters were on the borderline of not remembering who she was and one refugee grand-daughter was approaching a double-digit Birthday celebration. My mum’s visits are infrequent because she believes that the temperature north of Newport Pagnell rarely tops -20°C, so that limits us to the months July and August. Anyway, she chanced the weather and we switched on the heating again. Brrrrrrrrrr……

I spent one weekend morning mowing and strimming the lawns and surrounds: it’s not dissimilar in mind-numbing ability to painting walls, jogging or writing a sketch for Jimmy Cricket (the nadir of my sketch-writing days) except that I was sweaty and my forearms ached. It gave me time to reflect on our divorce from Steiner education.

I will blog a comprehensive review of not just our Steiner experience but also our schooling rollercoaster soon. Meanwhile, IS has now been home for week and she is a different girl. IS was bored with her lessons (and her teacher), she was listless (bordering on mildly depressed) and she stoically continued at school despite our suggestions that she leave. In retrospective, IS was just waiting for us to make a definitive decision. This past week IS has been livelier, more communicative, done some home-schoolwork with her sister ES and been HAPPIER.

And today IS is 10 years old. Ohh, to be 10 again – playing football with friends in Holland Park, regularly peering down Madame’s cleavage in French and listening to Bobby Vee, Brenda Lee and Adam Faith on Radio Luxembourg under the covers with the lights out. Happy Birthday, IS!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Shaking and Moving

Yesterday, after months of mounting difficulties, we shook the Steiner schooling tree and we removed our 2 younger girls, IS and ES, from the school.
Today we move on...though we know not quite where. (Home schooling for the time being)

After a fairly extraordinary 2½ years at this Steiner school we eventually discovered revelatory details of the covert core of the Waldorf teaching system.

With lightened hearts, we are looking forward to the Bank Holiday weekend...and beyond.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Questions are easy....

....answers are damn elusive!

Today was the sort of day when I was....
a) Pleased not to be in London,
b) Pleased to be in Great Bickering,
c) Perplexed at some of the questions that the day threw in my face.....

1. After 6 years why suddenly are there about 3 times more Guardians than usual in Great Bickering's finest newsagent?

2. Can a barn swallow mate with a sand martin?

3. How can a pane in our bedroom window, 15ft above ground, be broken, scattering glass in an arc of about 10 foot inside, yet......there's no sign of any 'projectile' inside the room?

4. Is Steiner schooling run by....gnomes from Saturn, the men from Atlantis or the 3rd Reich?

5. Why I have to write my blog long-hand in PENCIL before typing it?