Monday, 30 June 2008

Gaining Marks for Obscenities

Pupils are gaining marks for writing obscenities in their GCSE English exams even it has nothing to do with the question.
A pupil who wrote “f*** off” has been given marks for correct spelling and successfully conveying meaning. More marks would have been given if he had put an exclamation mark after it, as this shows a grasp of very basic grammar.Peter Buckroyd, the chief examiner of English for the AQA - Assessment and Qualifications Alliance - is responsible for standards in exams taken by 780,000 candidates and for training for 3,000 examiners. He has instructed other examiners to mark in the same way adhering strictly to the mark scheme, to the extent that pupils who write only expletives on their papers should be awarded marks. 2 marks, out of a possible 27, where given for the 2- word expletive.

As a marker of English papers myself, I do understand the idiosyncrasies of working to the criteria of a mark scheme and the difficulties of finding the "best fit" to mark positively and constructively.I do not however, see how the context was met, in this case, when the "question" was "Describe the room you are in." This 2 word statement /demand/order, neither describes the room nor is effective in it's expression. Perhaps if the response had been "This room is ****ing awful " then a degree of relevance could be attributed. But to credit 2 words with correct spelling in this instance is totally inappropriate and to say that that it demonstrates “some simple sequencing of ideas” and “some words in appropriate order” is positively ludicrous and an insult to the students who have shown their language skills by their appropriate responses.
What a fine example Mr Buckroyd is showing of the English language and is uses.

It's seems to me rather like admiring the child who shouts abuse to someone in the street and agreeing with the PCSO who pats them on the head and thinks "children will be children ".

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Sick people - "In Concert"

The "papers" have varying reports of the Mandela concert on Friday, and last night's Glastonbury, of which I watched majority of both.
As I have said before, I am not an Amy Winehouse fan at all, but have to say that she has a powerful and unique voice. But whilst the voice still seems to be strong, her overall appearance and demeanour does not seem to show a "well" person. The Daily Mail reporter who said that she was "glowing" must have been looking at someone different to me. What I saw at both concerts seemed to be a woman struggling with life itself. She is skeletal, plastered in make up which makes her look terribly ill (which she is) and she is clearly struggling with keeping up the facade of her "act".
What are we that we watch this spectacle of a desperate, sick woman putting on a performance whilst accompanied by her doctors? I suppose we could say it's brave of her. I don't think this is the case. Her promoters have a lot to answer for and so do we for watching.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Who to believe - the old man or the donkey ?

The old man of the village who was thought to be the wisest, had a visit from his neighbour one day, who asked to borrow his donkey. The old man didn’t like this neighbour much and not wanting to loan the donkey said, “I would love to loan you my donkey, but my brother came only yesterday and borrowed it. The donkey, sadly, is not here.” The neighbour was disappointed but thanked the old man and began to walk away. Just then the donkey, which was in the old man’s garden, let out a loud bray.The neighbour turned to the old man and said, “I thought you told me that the donkey was not here!” The old man looked at the neighbour. “My friend,” he said, “Who are you going to believe? Me or the donkey?”

Living in Maltby at the moment, it is very easy to feel like that neighbour. Who are we to believe and who’s lead do we follow when we are presented with divisions and disputes which appear to increase as each day goes by ? Those who have been elected and presumably strive towards the betterment of Maltby, or members of the public, many of who feel that they are being treated contemptuously by some of the very people who are representing them? Clearly the best plan is to listen to the facts and to make your own mind up about the scenario. But this is virtually impossible too.
Discussions in Town Council meetings have recently turned into what a late entrant could easily mistake for a Pantomime, with abuse from councillor to councillor, councillor to Chair and councillor to public. Yes, the public have responded, not always appropriately, but then, we are after all “the public” - the ordinary people who are not affiliated with the governing body. If we have cause to think that we have been mislead then it is obvious that we are going to be disgruntled, and act so. If we have reason to suggest that our money is being spent unwisely, then we have the right to say so and expect a reasonable response. But this democratic exchange of views is not happening - either between the public and the council or amongst the councillors themselves.

The main principles of democracy are firstly, that all members of the society have equal access to power and secondly, that all members enjoy the same recognised freedoms and liberties. “Majority rule” is often the description of a democratic system, but when this is not carefully legislated, an uneven distribution of power can occur which threatens the democracy itself. Is this what is happening within our community? Unfortunately, this seems to be the case. That there are many differences of opinion is clear, but in a healthy community this would be a good thing. The differences would be debated until a mutual agreement came about which benefits everyone. What we are experiencing in Maltby is not so healthy, however, as there is an element of power shifting towards individuals, where the “best for the community” option does not always come first. This is not only within the Town Council, but amongst some members of the community who appear to enjoy a role with a “title” and the power that this seems to bring. Perhaps it is human nature that this happens as we progress up the “society ladder” or what we perceive to be a ladder of success. Maybe we convince ourselves that what we are doing is for the benefit of all when in fact the “all” have not really been asked.

The improvement/regeneration of Maltby is under discussion and has been since 2005 when RMBC secured funds for the Maltby Masterplan In fact more than that – it has been discussed, the community has apparently been consulted in detail and a consultation report produced. The next steps are in progress and “delivery of interventions” begins July 2008. I as a resident of Maltby, did not know about much of this until recently as the detailed community consultation passed me by (I did not see the consultation document on a table in a tent on Coronation park, at last years Maltby Festival) Is it too much to expect to be informed, openly and honestly of issues that affect us and for which our Council Taxes pay, without the residents having to find out for themselves? I would think not.
It has been suggested that if we want to know exactly what is happening in Maltby, then we should attend meetings to this end. I am currently attending many meetings, as this seems to be the only way of hearing and understanding what views and attitudes really are. But if I had wanted to attend every Town Council meeting and be so deeply involved with detail, I may as well have stood for election myself. All I expect as a resident of Maltby is to have the council which was democratically elected, to operate democratically, honestly and with the benefit of it’s people in mind. I do not want to have to decide whether to believe the old man or the donkey.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Maltby Town Council In Disarray

After the exposure of the divisions and dispute within Maltby Town Council at the Annual General Meeting on 21st May, it was difficult to believe that further disruption, accusations and splits could be possible. A letter from Kevin Barron MP, had already criticised the council for delaying a cheque to the Maltby Festival Committee and complained about the way in which the council was being run.
But more allegations were possible. And they were shown at the Town Council Meeting, held on 18th June at Addison Day Centre.

The meeting began with questions from the public, which were related to the Maltby Master Plan Consultation Document, Tarran estate, and the green space of the former Craggs School site. A member of the public then accused Cllr K Stringer of casting aspersions on his fellow council members, through his recent publication of a poem in a local newspaper and demanded that Cllr Stringer either resign or be dismissed. Cllr Stringer responded with the words “who gives a damn” which inflamed both councillors and public and the meeting began to resemble a baiting tournament. This member of the public was encouraged to sit down and keep quiet – Cllr L Stringer shouting that he be removed from the meeting.

Further public questioning centred around the Edward Dunn building and it’s uses, users and key holders and the allegation that minutes have been misinterpreted and falsified. The meeting, which had an Agenda of 24 items, then moved on to number 2.
The Chair, Cllr Ben Slade announced that he had received apologies, and was inserting an item into the Agenda. This brought uproar from Councillors A M Laird, L Laird, K Stringer and J Andrews, with them declaring that this was “out of order” and not ethical within the meeting, where the public and press were still present. The Clerk, Mr D J Morton and his assistant said that three days notice should have been given for this. Cllr Slade, backed by other councillors, stated that as he was The Chair he could and would determine the running of the meeting.

Cllr Ben Slade then stated that he had taken independent legal advice and that it had been recommended that he make the following proposal. Reading from a letter Cllr Slade said that he proposed that Mr Morton, in his capacity as Clerk to The Council, be called to a disciplinary hearing on Friday 20th June, and that he be suspended on full pay with immediate effect, pending the result of this meeting. This proposal was seconded and voted on at 8 to 4 by the council.
Pandemonium then ensued with some councillors registering their protests as The Clerk collected together his paperwork and left the room with his assistant. The Chair declared that the meeting was suspended and four councillors hurriedly made their exit, with one shouting abuse at the remaining councillors and public whilst pointing a finger and threatening a member of the press.

It now remains to be seen what will be the outcome of this sorry state of affairs within Maltby Town Council. That there are more than one “side” to the scenario is clear – which is right, true, legal or for the good of Maltby residents, the future will tell. That rumours, arguments and opinions have been brought into the open is perhaps a good thing. The way that this has been done is maybe not so good.

The move forward for Maltby, it’s residents and council seems an arduous task just now.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Bring British troops home.

Just when we were hoping British troops might be returning from the Middle East, more are to be deployed to the south of Afghanistan bringing the total to more than 8,000 by next spring. The plan is that this increase will provide better protection and further the training of local security forces as well as developing projects already in operation. That this increase in soldiers in Afghanistan will likely coincide with less troops in Iraq, is coincidental, I think ! The move will involve troops manning new armoured vehicles and Chinook and Apache helicopters. Tornados will replace Harriers as planes and crews show the strain of almost four years of engagement.
"It does not mean our mission is expanding” says the defence secretary Des Browne. “We are taking the steps necessary to take our mission forward as effectively as we can." The Taliban leadership, he says, have turned "their ambition from insurgency to terrorism" referring to the suicide attacks last week which killed three British paratroopers, last week. The Taliban's new tactics pose a "different, but very serious challenge" to British troops.They will do – as long as the British and Nato continues their attempts to have a “hearts and minds” campaign, and where John Reid,the defence secretary who sent the troops there, did not know why they were going. He also thought they would not fire a shot. Five million shots later and we are still left wondering why they are there.

So why are they there? To defeat the Taliban is the generally accepted view. But is this the case? The Taliban are a group of people who change their tactics, views and methods according to the situation at the time. Many Afghans go along with the type of Islam and culture associated with the Taliban, which is mostly based on their tribal traditions. Afghanistan is a country where the differences between the ethnic groups is extremely important and also makes for a divided society. Pashtuns v Uzbeks v Sunni Muslims v Shia Muslims – whichever group you belong to you are likely to be someone’s enemy.

Perhaps they are there to liberate Afghan women once and for all from the restrictions of the burqha. Most Afghan women are still covered or veiled in one way or another – some wear the chador, which is quite restricting but not as restricting as the burqha, favoured by the Taliban. Changes here are hardly likely, not matter what British troops do.

What about the opium poppy fields, then? I don’t believe they are there to get rid of these, as with that business gone, Afghan farmers would be thrown into further poverty.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, was “democratically elected” so he does not need to be ousted. However, it is difficult to believe that he has the full support of the Afghan people and was voted in fairly and squarely by a free society who based their votes on political and social issues. More likely that he is there because various warlords and militant leaders voted for him and told others to, so that he would leave them to dictate to their own territories in the country as they choose. Some of these leaders we in the West call our allies, depending on the situation and our mood. Sometimes the “village elders” co operate with us – when they don’t or they start shooting us, we say it’s the Taliban. Help from us if often accepted, but they don't want us there, no matter how many hospitals, schools and “developments” we may make.

Maybe we are still looking for Osama Bin Laden, still hiding in Afghanistan from where, under the Taliban 'Al Qaeda' keeps it’s headquarters? If we let the Taliban control the country then ‘Al Qaeda’ will be plotting its next attack of the west from there. This is a poor argument when most of us believe that any such attack is just as likely to be planned and implemented in Leeds, Bradford, London or Rotherham.

So back to why are British troops still there, and continuing to be deployed ? Well, I think we don’t know – but British troops being there or not will not help the situation. We continue to send troops to a place where no good can be done by them, and they are just a target for our enemies. British presence in Afghanistan is as pointless and worrying, as is the presence in Iraq. One hundred deaths is one too many and can not be defended by our Government, except for them to save face.
This is not the role and duty of the British Forces.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

The Perfect Father

Take the eyes of Peter Andre (because he seems like he would "see" deeply into feelings), the ears of Jamie Oliver (because he seems to listen well), and the mouth of Gordon Ramsay (because he speaks openly about everything) and you have the makings of "The Perfect Father". So says a survey amongst teenagers of what they think a perfect father would be like. (Yes, I was a bit shocked at the mouth one, too!)
If only it was this simple and of course the survey is not suggesting that it is, but it's interesting to note what most people have as their ideal. And it's not about having someone buy you the latest clothes, cd's, dvd's or games consoles - it's about feelings and emotions. Not such a revelation in itself, but perhaps an insight into what is important to our children, despite what advertising and social trends tend to tell us.
That I had the best father in the world, is something that I was able to easily believe. My father was a very good man, a man of principles and great intelligence, though not excessively educated. He was an artist, a writer, a speaker, a musician - all of the highest degree. He taught me the meaning of morality and of when to speak and when to keep silent (this last, something that at middle age I find that I have still not mastered). As a child I believed that it was quite plausible for everyone to believe that their parents were the best in the world.
As I grew older I found that not everyone did believe this, and that came as a suprise to me. How anyone could not think their parent perfect, was at first unthinkable. Growing older still, I learned that looking for perfection can often lead to unhappiness and that it is a more or less unattainable goal, whether seeking it in others or ourselves. But even if my father was not "perfect" in the true sense of the word - because he was human and could not be - then he was to me. And that's all that matters.
The best fathers are the ones who listen to their children, offer advice when it's needed, keep quiet when it isn't. They teach their children what they believe to be right and give them the opportunity to question these beliefs as they grow older. Perhaps they do not have to be around all of the time - often circumstances mean that they can't be. But to be there in mind and heart is maybe as good as - and sometimes this is as much as can be given.
Happy Father's Day, to fathers everywhere.

Monday, 2 June 2008


WOO ! I won this month's One Word Challenge on Writer's News Talkback, with this poem. The word given was "Lightning".


When rain streams down on thirsty earth
and tender shoots are seen,
we’re grateful for what makes it so,
and revel in new green.
But water’s strength soon spoils the land
when torrid rivers run,
and drown the soils which drink no more-
we yearn then for the sun.
Then solar rays dry out the flood
and warm the ground a-new,
till fertile becomes desert plain,
where teeming life once grew.
As heat kills off all fruitfulness,
a barren landscape there;
our only hope to wait again
for a force to change the air.
At last it comes - a flash, a streak,
a charge to cause the storm.
The power that shows authority
from no mortal human form.

Now I am the judge of June's poetry challenge. Feel free to sign me up for your latest antholgy poetry publishers.............

Mindfulness - the New Capitalist Spirituality ?

Since coming across this article in   The Guardian's "Long Read"  my mind has  been full of the issues it raises- so to spe...