Still life is a bowl of cherries

Usually I don’t enter the photo competitions. Simply because it is dangerous to cut about with a camera in my neck of the woods for a variety of reasons. Once a man goes beyond a certain age he is looked on as suspect when he starts taking snaps outdoors. Vigilante bands with pitchforks appear out of nowhere. Another basis for not photographing is the danger of catching a crime being committed in the background of your shot. This can annoy the criminal no end. They have been known on occasion to drop the plasma and attack the amateur paparazzi because a set of lens have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. As I treasure my skin I tend not to photograph in the neighbourhood.

This still life has still got some life in it.

Continue reading “Still life is a bowl of cherries”

The Reith Lectures – Niall Ferguson

I have just been listening to the 4th and final of the BBC Reith Lectures presented by Niall Ferguson. Despite his conceit and reputation as a media tart, I like Prof Ferguson. I have read a couple of his books, Empire and The Ascent of Money both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. In my view he is a bright man with sound ideas

Ferguson was born in Glasgow and educated at the Glasgow Academy.

The subject of the Lectures this year was The Rule of Law And Its Enemies

I am not sure if you can still find the first 2, but the 3rd and 4th are available and worth listening to, especially the last which is presented up in Edinburgh. Ferguson advocates more individual involvement in all aspects of daily life including social activities and private education, especially education and less government interference. His audience seems to entirely comprise Glaswegian left-wing academics and trades unionists; add to that the BBC’s Sue Lawley and he appears to be in a minority of one. But I find it difficult not to agree with almost everything he says and it leaves me depressed that there are so many who would oppose his views.

Have a listen if you can. I think Mr Mackie in particular would enjoy them.

Epic Win

Letter home from school…

Dear Dad,

$chool i$ really great. I am making lot$ of friend$ and $tudying very hard. With all my $tuff, I $imply can’t think of anything I need, $o if you would like, you can ju$t $end me a card, a$ I would love to hear from you.

Your $on.

A week later….. a letter from “home”

Dear Son,

I kNOw that astroNOmy, ecoNOmics, and oceaNOgraphy are eNOugh to keep even an hoNOr student busy. Do NOt forget that the pursuit of kNOwledge is a NOble task, and you can never study eNOugh.




Yes, I know I went AWOL around the Jurassic era. Rumours of my extinction have been greatly exaggerated, nonetheless.


The meeja are still at it, trying to parley the Fukushima crisis into a disaster and, in the process, handing the bedwetters and neo-luddites large wodges of convenient headlines with which to frighten the masses into the abandonment of the only clean, safe and reliable power generation source which will stop the lights going out as the current generation of power plants comes to the end of its working life. The latest scare tactic is the trumpeting of the fact that the Fukushima crisis has been up-graded to level 7, the highest level on the international scale used to measure these events. ‘It’s another Chernobyl,’ they whinny hysterically, running around in ever decreasing circles and waving their hands frantically in the air. Well, it’s not, nor can it be. It is a serious situation, and I’m not trying to downplay it, but it is contained and the omens, at the moment, are all good for it’s continuing containment. The hype and spin around Fukushima downplays the devastation caused by the actual disaster, a 1,000 year earthquake followed by a 1,000 year tsunami. The facts are…

Education or Instruction?

Some time ago I posted a piece with the title It’s Hell For Democracy. Based on the writings of C.S. Lewis, part of its intent was to show that contemporary thinking and criticisms on society are rarely the outcome of original thought. In the post Lewis’s thoughts on education are truly contemporary and yet he published them some 40 years ago. While researching something else I became distracted by a reference to an article on education. The attraction was the in the title Knowledge is not a shovel – Universities and democratic society.

The primary aim of education, however one understands it, must be to nurture the ability to reflect, to develop new ideas, and to implement these collectively, writes Gesine Schwan. Cognitive multilingualism is the only way to prevent the specialization of knowledge narrowing our horizons to an extent that results in structural irresponsibility.

Continue reading “Education or Instruction?”

Er – like, you know, they’re only words.

On becoming a civil servant in the mid 70s, I found myself in the thrall of what could be called ‘civil service, or Mandarin, English’. That is, writing English as if you were an Oxbridge graduate, never using a single syllable word, when you could find one with at least three. The use of this style extended to the internal memos, which preceded e-mail, and especially those memos sent by senior management and those of us with a pretension to higher things. It took John Major’s Citizens Charter and the promotion of ‘simple English’ within the public sector to bring about a significant change in the attitude and style of correspondence within the public sector.
Continue reading “Er – like, you know, they’re only words.”

Casual denigration of the Right

I read in today’s paper that Riz Ahmed, an actor, had “shocked” a cinema audience by introducing the film Taxi Driver with the words, “The original film inspired the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan. So, you never know, tonight’s screening might inspire someone to shoot David Cameron. We can only hope.” The actor, 27, apparently apologised afterwards, and said that his remark was intended as a joke – “Comedy is about taking risks and seeing the silly side to serious situations.” Continue reading “Casual denigration of the Right”


I ask in all seriousness: what attributes would you expect of the ideal teacher?  I have today undertaken some training, and this was one of the questions we were asked.  The answers – adaptability, fairness, flexibility, empathy, sense of humour, were all as you might expect.  Where my fellow educators and I parted company was over my suggestion that “passion for the subject” should be included.  Likewise, they dismissed knowledge – what you needed to teach at primary level, they said, was nothing that you could not mug up the night before. Continue reading “Teachers”