Sunday 31 March 2013

A lot of balls

A new experience for me this weekend - I visited a pawnbrokers. 

That old-fashioned description wasn't what was over the door - but that's what it was.  It offers of course a very old-fashioned service, but one that - in my neck of the woods  anyway - is depressingly flourishing. In fact along with fried chicken shops and betting shops, places offering pay day loans at interest rates of over 1000% are just about the only enterprises that do prosper around here.

Thankfully I wasn't there for a loan - I wanted to collect a Western Union transfer from Greece.

I wanted to  - but I couldn't because I could not persuade them that the name on the paperwork from the sender - 'Chris' - was a universally acknowledged abbreviation of the name on my driving license 'Christopher'. Even my signature on the very same license  'Chris' was not enough to assuage their jobs-worthiness. Nor were my pleas that only the DVLA, the Passport office and my grandmother got away with calling me Christopher - and she's been dead for twelve years.

So I left empty handed. I am nor sure whether I should be relieved that bureaucratic bullshit seems to trump old-fashioned avarice. Or doubly depressed at a new corporate  take on old-fashioned parasitism.

Friday 22 March 2013

Standing on the shoulders of giants

It was always going to be a risk: 

Taking a bunch of cynical street wise London teenagers to an art-house cinema to watch two hours of largely black and white talking-heads in a worthy  documentary.

But getting my GCSE class to watch Ken Loach's 'Spirit of 45' paid off. You couldn't make it up - the kids came out wide-eyed and buzzing: Had it really happened ? And how come people had let that bitch Thatcher get away with destroying it all ?

As I walked back to where my bike was parked I have to confess to being choked with emotion: 

Satisfaction that a generation whose experience was so different, could be inspired by these old people talking about socialism. Melancholy for that older generation - my Mum and Dad's - who had seen their dreams fall apart and who we will never get a chance to properly thank. And anger for my own generation - those 40-somethings who bought into the 80's Thatcherite dream that shat on it all.

Thanks Mr Loach - you confirmed that I am in the right job.

Monday 11 March 2013

No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid*

Ironic. As mentioned in my last post I was going to interview my dad to use his reminiscences as a source for one of my classes. One that I had heard before was of  him going to a meeting as a teenager shortly after the war to hear Aneurin Bevan speak on the creation of the health service - a defining moment which persuaded him to join the Labour Party. 

I was going to brave the icy weather and ride down to Kent when I got a call from his carer to come early because he had been taken into hospital. Fortunately he was able to be discharged the same day. But whilst spending a fairly harrowing day in the very same AndE department from which my mum was admitted and never returned, we had an announcement advising us that waiting times were three hours and that anyone waiting to be seen should go to another hospital ten miles away, or to see their GP. 

And next week I will be on a march next Saturday  to protest the cuts at the Whittington Hospital - roughly a life time on and from my dad going to that meeting ...

* These words from Aneurin Bevan's 'In Place of Fear'

Tuesday 5 March 2013

History of our own

I am happy to be working in a school at the moment that promotes the kind of History that would get Mr Grove foaming at the mouth. No kings, queens, Isambard Kingdom Brunel or David Livingston. 

The student population is largely Black and the school makes no apology for featuring Black history heavily in the curriculum. And not just the usual GCSE focus on 1960s Civil Rights but Black British History - pre-colonial Africa, slavery in the Caribbean, decolonisation and post-war immigration. It shouldn't really be a surprise then  that as a result, History is popular at the school, and the kids are actually keen to take part in the lessons.

This attempt to connect what is being taught to student's own experiences and the world today is not restricted to Black History. Yesterday we were discussing the possibility of  a school trip to a viewing of Ken Loach's new film 'Spirit of 45'. And this weekend I was interviewing my Dad to use a source for his memories of hearing Aneurin Bevan speak at a public meeting at that time.

This teacher-training business is probably the most all-consuming and draining thing I've ever done -  but it certainly beats the crap out of what I used to put up with in my previous life ...