12 February 2016

Paragliders

This may sound a little crazy but frequently I drive up onto the nearby moors simply to read. I find a quiet place and sit in my car without distraction - totally focussed upon the book. Daylight helps to illuminate my pages.

And so it was on Thursday afternoon. Sitting right on the border between Derbyshire and Yorkshire, I absorbed two long chapters and then looked out across Burbage Moor. In the distance I noticed the unmistakable shapes of tiny paragliders, hovering about Stanage Edge, making use of rising air currents. Actually, they weren't tiny at all - that was just the perspective. They appeared like little may flies.

It was a reminder of the summer of 2008 when Shirley and I paraglided over the lagoon at Olu Deniz in Turkey. We were strapped to experts and lived to tell the tale. See this old post. For us it was literally a once in a lifetime experience but for others it is a mad passion that they revisit at every opportunity - even a cold February day. It's an adrenalin addiction.

Two chapters were quite enough so as that bright afternoon advanced towards evening, I decided to drive onwards to Stanage, hoping to snap some photographs of those daredevil paragliders. In total, I took sixty one pictures in twenty minutes, hoping that a few of them might turn out okay.

11 February 2016

Worksop

The south door - Worksop Priory Church.
The door is made from yew with intricate scrolled ironwork
- dated around 1250 - but the Norman stone arch is  considerably older.
Worksop is a town in Nottinghamshire. The Font of All Knowledge - Wikipedia - tells me that it has a population of 44,970. Worksop is an odd name. It sounds like "workshop" but the origins of the word lie dim and distant in our Saxon past. Some say that the name probably derives from the Old English for Wyrch's Valley. How ever the place name came about, there was certainly a significant settlement there when the Normans arrived to assert their powerful influences upon our land.

They built a magnificent monastery at Worksop with a fine church attached. During the Dissolution, the monastery was ruined by Henry VIII's forces but the priory church remains, albeit altered and developed through intervening centuries.

On Tuesday of this week, after a long walk around the town, I managed to gain admission to the church. A funeral service was scheduled to commence at one thirty but a kindly church warden was happy to give me a guided tour of the building before that sorrowful event. He was passionate and knowledgeable about the church and pleased to regale me with some of  its tales.

He showed me graffiti left by crusaders of the fourteenth century and in a tiny recess in the north wall he revealed a palm-sized piece of skull with an arrowhead  lodged in it. The skull has been radio-carbon dated with results giving support to the notion that this relic came  from The Battle of Agincourt (1415) when our lads whupped The French during The Hundred Years' War.

It was a lovely sunny day in Worksop and  a joy to walk around it and see it so brightly illuminated. When I was twenty four, after taking up a teaching post in the nearby coal-mining village of Dinnington, I visited Worksop on several occasions. I recall a night club on Bridge Street and a woman called Susan with lips that attached themselves to me like a limpet on a rock and I remember fish and chips and a couple of pubs but I really didn't know Worksop at all. I just wasn't as inquisitive in those days. I guess there were other things to think about.

Worksop Gallery:-
Mr Straw's House - museum of a forgotten life

10 February 2016

Poem

The Red Lion

Drinking in a country pub one summer’s day
Watching tiny particles of dust
In cinema slow motion
Dancing daintily in a sunbeam shaft
Like miniscule krill in a bay yet
Switch off the sun and
You wouldn’t know the dust was there
But my friend these particles are everywhere
If you only care
To look.


I sink another glug of beer
This glass ringed as a tree
Each line of foam left here
Like a layer of history.
Then turn to The Gents
Or head for the door
Dimly aware
That you need no more
For that’s time at the bar
Time at the bar please
Leaves dust
To
Settle.

8 February 2016

Hunt

The Kardashians - well, four of them...
I don't know about you but I refuse to subscribe to The Cult of Celebrity. It's everywhere. The seven billion non-famous human beings on this planet are constantly bombarded with news about one thousand so-called celebrities and their very boring activities. Television is awash with celebrities. Shows that were never intended to feature celebrities get taken over by them. "Celebrity Masterchef", "Celebrity Mastermind", "Celebrity Bake Off", "Celebrity Pointless", "Celebrity Ice Dancing", "Celebrity Big Brother". Celebrity This and Celebrity That. They are laughing all the way to the bank while we non-celebrities squirm in the shadows of our obscurity.

Anyway, I have come up with a brilliant idea for a new TV programme featuring both celebrities and non-celebrities. The working title is "Celebrity Hunt" and basically it involves non-celebrities tracking down celebrities in Sherwood Forest.
The first programme will involve The Kardashians - a self-publicising family who have magically achieved fame without effort or talent of any description. Previously knowing absolutely nothing about them, I have discovered that there are lots of them but for the first show only these Kardashians will feature - Kimberly, Khloe, Kourtney and Rob.

From The Centre Tree they will  be given a five minute start to save their hides. Then the non-celebrities will pursue them through the forest. The non-celebrities will be supplied with sniffer dogs and M16A4 automatic rifles as used widely by the American military. The aim of this exciting new gameshow is to track down the celebrities and eliminate them. Should any Kardashians manage to escape from the forest they will be allowed to go forward into next week's show when it is hoped that the celebrities will include Donald Trump, BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans, Miley Cyrus and Russell Brand. They will also be tracked down and, with any luck, eradicated.

Several ideas are still in the melting pot - such as the theme music and who will be the programme's narrator. "The Hunter" by Free is an early contender for the theme music honour. I have every belief that "Celebrity Hunt" will quickly become very popular with non-celebrity TV viewers and thousands are expected to apply to become hunters on the show.

7 February 2016

Cinemagraph

Obviously, John Gray over at "Going Gently" is a computer whizzkid. Recently, I noticed rather spooky moving pictures in his blog and wondered what the hell was going on! Were my eyes deceiving me? How had John achieved this illusion?

A little bit of investigation and I discovered that these pictures are called "cinemagraphs". It is possible to make your own cinemagraphs if you have the time, patience and right equipment but  that didn't apply to me so instead I went to a website called  cinemagraphs.com where I found the picture at the top of this post.

It's a never ending book. The pages keep turning forever. Turned by an invisible hand or perhaps flicked over by the draught from an open window. But what is written upon them? Is it a diary or maybe just a  handwritten list of items purchased from shops - till receipts carefully copied out ad infinitum. Looking closer, I see it's a passport with stamps recording travel that went on forever and ever. Amen.

6 February 2016

Teacherism

Racism is when someone is treated differently or unfairly just because of their race or culture. People can also experience prejudice because of their religion or nationality. It is illegal to treat people differently or unfairly because of their race.
Childline Charity website
Sidney Poitier in "To Sir With Love" (1967)
It can be difficult but in my life I strive to avoid prejudice and expect that the vast majority of readers of this blogpost also try to live lives that are not sullied with prejudice. Prejudice is the domain of the ill-informed, the cruel and the stupid. In extremis, prejudice may cause war, murder, torture, arson and other horrible manifestations of prejudicial thinking.

In quieter, everyday terms, prejudice may simply cause other people to be unhappy and feel alienated, misunderstood, belittled.

Because I rarely bang on about it, some visitors to this blog may be unaware that for thirty five years of my life, the way that I earned money was through teaching. So naturally, I know a lot about teachers. This despite the fact that none of my three brothers were teachers and despite the fact that socially I tended to avoid teachers because I didn't want work to overlap into my social time. I preferred to talk with joiners, plumbers, warehousemen, guitarists, the unemployed and nurses. In fact, how they happened to earn money didn't really mean much to me. People are much more than the jobs they do. Though my job was teaching that was never who I was.

In those thirty five years, the main thing I discovered about teachers is that they are all different. They are not like a shoal of mackerel swimming in the sea - all pretty much the same. To begin with you have different subjects and P.E. teachers may be noticeably different from say English teachers or Science teachers. You have got women teachers and men teachers, black teachers and gay teachers, inner city teachers and teachers working in cushy little private schools, teachers with disabilities and teachers who are so passionate about their work that they gladly put in sixty or seventy hours a week, secretly toiling at their desks during the holidays and late into the night. Commitment beyond the call of duty that "The Daily Mail" and the general public never see. Equally, you can have lazy teachers who do the bare minimum to get by but these are generally "found out" by the children they face each day.

In short, teaching is like any other job. Everybody's different and therefore it is surely ignorant to lump all teachers together. Would we say - I hate nurses or - I hate engineers? No. For that would clearly be stupid  prejudice. I call the blanket judging of teachers teacherism and in recent days I have discovered quite a bit of teacherism within the blogosphere. Quite surprising really and from  my point of view very objectionable.

One blogger suggested that all teachers are miserable, they talk about nothing but teaching and they have summer beach holidays that last six weeks or more. Another said he had taught in a private school for a couple of years when he was younger and it was much harder than working in a state school - even though he had never taught in a challenging urban area or dealt with children from disadvantaged  homes! Such correspondents are clearly teacherists and in my opinion teacherism belongs in the same bag as racism and sexism. It's all prejudice.

In general, this country's schoolteachers are doing a damned good job of  serving our nation's children to the best of their ability. It is an important role - not made any easier by interfering politicians, the squeeze on resources, sensationalist newspapers, large class sizes and ignorant teacherists who deride the profession and wear their sneering teacherism on their sleeves. Thankfully, most parents, most schoolchildren and most fair-minded members of the general public appreciate the sterling efforts of our largely gifted teaching force and these bigoted teacherists are very much in the minority.

George Bernard Shaw's silly but oft-quoted "Man and Superman" line -  "Those who can do, those who can't teach" should probably be extended to read - "Those who can do. those who can't teach and those who can neither do or teach wallow in ignorant teacherism."

5 February 2016

Bury

Yesterday morning the postman hammered on our door. He had lugged a sackful of letters up the street. I poured them upon our kitchen floor and began to rip them open. They were all from other bloggers and almost unanimously they were begging me to post some more pictures of Bury in Lancashire. Frankly, I had no idea that Bury was such a popular place! 

A jolly fellow residing in Canton, Georgia said, "Until you post some pictures of Bury my life will be incomplete." Former prison blogger Ian Rhodes at the newly refurbished Shooting Parrots blog said, "Bury holds special memories for me as it was there that I first learnt to clog dance" while Laughing Horse Blogger of the Year Lee from the hippy commune on Tamborine Mountain in Australia said. "If you post pictures of Bury I will alter my will  - making you the sole beneficiary."

So by special request, here for all the blogosphere to enjoy are six rather random pictures of Bury taken last Saturday... 
At Bury F.C.'s Gigg Lane Stadium
Neon poem at Bury Transport Interchange
Cafe in Bury Market
Crompton Street
Statue of Robert Peel and "The Robert Peel" pub
Former town centre pub.
Now an Indian restaurant.
This blogpost was sponsored by Bury Tourism Authority, Bury College, Bury Chamber of Commerce and the family of the late Dee Brown, author of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee".