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When Someone Lives Up To Their Name With Very Interesting Results (Or - The Day I Ended Up Wondering If A Badge Still Exists)
9/28/2018 7:47:29 PM
People from my past can stay in my memory for all kinds of reasons.  The reasons range from me feeling comfortable being around them, me hoping I never have to enter their orbit again, them educating me about something (whether or not they are being paid to), them having an unusual accent, them having an unusual name, them just being unusual themselves, or, them wearing something which makes total sense to both me and them but might not exactly be seen as appropriate by other people (and their response to being told to take it off), or there is something about them which appeals to my love of the kind of games you can play with languages.

If I am totally honest about myself I love people with a bit of a twist to them.  If you can stick in my brain for over 30 years because of something you said or did around the time we first met (and it occasionally makes me wonder what you are doing now and hope you are still enjoying your existence) you can't go far wrong.  The icing on the cake would be if we met up again after over 20 years and (whilst you might have physically changed almost beyond recognition) you are still the same kind, friendly person I remember from all those years ago.

That is exactly what happened to me this morning.  I met up with an old school friend who still managed to live up to the Dutch definition of his name in the best possible way.  The interesting thing about that is - he is actually from Sweden.

If I tell you that I have always admired Anders Mankert for being a bit "anders" (as in the Dutch word for "different") you might start to get a bit worried about either me or him.  There is no need to though.  As I am about to explain.

My overriding memory of Anders is from when both of us were sitting in our Tutor group (probably in the first term of the first year of Secondary school) and him getting told off.  Well, it wasn't the fact he got told off that stuck in my brain - more the reason for the telling off and how he responded to it with impeccable logic way beyond his years.

Anders was wearing a badge saying "I am a Swede".  Our form tutor had a total sense of humour bypass as a result of this and told him off for wearing an immature badge.  Anders went up in my estimation with his response.  All he could say was "I was born in Sweden.  That makes me a Swede".  Game, set, and match to Mr Mankert.

Today I had the sheer pleasure of being able to spend time with Anders as we walked around the site of his latest venture - a golf course in Leicester.  The way he explained his vision of what he wants to achieve just reminded me of the boy with the badge and the quick response.

I think the best way to describe his vision for the golf course is as follows - take one rulebook (stating dress code, rules of etiquette for being on a golf course, membership fees, reasons for being anywhere in the vicinity of the aforementioned golf course, etc), rip it up, and start from scratch - building a golf course you yourself would be happy to play at.  (If you can make someone like me feel welcome and catered for using technology, you are definitely onto a winner as far as I am concerned.)

What I am going to say next may sound a little strange but the way Anders managed to infect me with his enthusiasm for the project wasn't his obvious passion for golf, or him talking about how he came up with the idea, or the time and resources he has put into it.  It was Anders Mankert being the Anders Mankert I remembered from school - a kind of person who cares about people.  (Put it this way - I can reel off a very long list of names of children who bullied me in Secondary school.  His name is nowhere to be seen on that list.  He may not have directly stuck up for me but I always felt safe when he was around.)

I wish him every success in his venture (and I look forward to being able to review the place when it opens in a few weeks).

I never thought I would actually end up feeling extremely privileged to count someone I went to school with as a friend as well as feeling proud and honoured to be given a sneak preview of something so fantastic.



The Last "First Line" (Or - My Favourite Writing Exercise)
9/18/2018 7:53:40 PM
Today was the last "Scribbles" meeting as a Creative Writing group.  We ended by doing my favourite exercise.  You are given a line and then given a certain amount of time to write the first thing which comes into your head as a result of it.  Usually the time limit is five minutes but today we got fifteen minutes.

The first line was "She squelched as she stepped through the doorway into her underground hovel".

You could say I came up with a topical story in a way.

Here it is in full.

"She squelched as she stepped through the doorway into her underground hovel.

Well, to be honest, it didn't exactly start life either being underground or what could honestly be described as a hovel.  However, that is what a typhoon-inflicted landslides can turn perfectly tidy, habitable residences into.

She supposed that, compared to her neighbours, she was lucky - at least her house was still - in a way - standing.  The fact that she really needed a JCB to get to her front door was beside the point.  Of course - being in a remote part of the Philippines - JCBs were a bit thin on the ground.  So she had had to rely on the generosity of strangers with shovels to dig a path to her front door.

Why had nobody warned her about the likelihood of a super typhoon hitting the area she had chosen to move to in order to escape her life back home?

Of course, no one else knew the real reason she had decided to uproot herself (after selling all her earthly possessions) and move to one of the remotest places on Earth.  The reason she gave anybody who asked why she wanted to do it was because she wanted to help the needy and teach English.  You know?  The usual "Do Gooder" ideas which sound a lot better than leaving the country before you are quite possibly arrested and jailed for killing your husband because a divorce had the drawback of leaving him alive to cause you further torment.

As she fell into the hidden hole in the floor in the middle of the room and plummeted to her own death - her last thought was - I wish I had come here earlier.  It certainly would have saved me killing him."

I really surprised myself by writing that.
Sometimes Bad Behaviour Is A Reaction (Or Why I Think Schools Are Becoming More Dangerous)
9/6/2018 10:10:18 PM
I never thought I would find myself opening a blog post with the following sentence - "I really wish I didn't feel I have to write this blog post because I am too close to the subject of it and I still find it painful to think about the subject.".  In fact - it is only thanks to three people that you are about to read a blog post on a very difficult topic for me to talk about (even though none of them knew I was considering writing about it) because they have all - in their own way - convinced me to be totally honest with you and be myself.

I was reading an article which really upset me recently - so much so that I didn't know whether to cry or get extremely angry.  In the end I just ended up feeling very sad that the same mistakes appear to be being made as when I was at school (back in the Dark Ages).

I have told you that I was bullied at school and the effect it has had on me (in fact - the only two things I didn't mention are the fact that my time at school put me off the idea of ever having children - as well as the fact that, unless I know either the child themself or their parents personally, children scare me).

There is a flip side to the bullying which - strangely - never seems to enter the minds of the people who are dealing with the results of it.  The victim will do practically anything to escape the situation - up to and including trying to get themself excluded from school.  I should know - I have done it myself.  It even got to the stage where I told my Year Head to his face in the first term of my first year at Secondary school that I wanted to be transferred to the Secondary school in the village I lived in.

Things like Detentions and being put in what was known at the school I attended as "Solitary" (where you spent the entire day on your own - with the occasional supervision from a teacher - and got detention at break and lunchtime) were supposed to be a punishment but, to be totally honest, they were things I lived for in that first year.  Why???  Because they were the only times I felt 100 percent safe in that school.  (If I had thought I could get away with it I would honestly have preferred to have spent all three years in that school working in "Solitary" with the only breaks provided by lessons with the only teacher in that entire school who I could stand being on the same planet as.  No prizes for guessing which teacher that might be or which subject they taught.)

The whole "crime and punishment" debate, as far as misbehaving in schools is concerned, scares me to death.  Not only do the current levels of punishment seem Draconian to me but I have yet to find out about the preceding actions as far as trying to find the causes of the misbehaviour in the first place are concerned.  We are always told that there are preceding sanctions and ways of correcting the behaviour of a student before it gets to the Detention stage but what about if there is a serious cause - like bullying???

Of course, people react to being bullied in different ways.  Some people who are bullied somehow manage to seem able to cope with it and act like nothing is wrong until they are in the privacy of their own bedroom, others may Self-Harm or even attempt suicide, whilst yet others (myself included) end up feeling as though they have committed a crime by the mere fact they exist (especially if - as in my case - they honestly feel they are being bullied by most of the teachers as well as the other students) that they might as well "play up" in class as it won't make much difference to the outcome anyway (and any so-called "punishment" seems like a holiday compared to being stuck in a classroom where you feel like you are being bullied on all sides).

Yes - I agree that students who misbehave in class should be punished if there are no mitigating factors which might explain the reasons behind the misbehaviour.  However, I feel we still need to be very careful about the type of punishment doled out.  Luckily even I escaped corporal punishment (the cane, etc).  But some of the punishments I read about in the article would probably be considered to fall under the category of torture if they were applied to an adult.

I am not saying that school days should be seen as a time of hearts and flowers where nothing bad ever happens (after all - it is meant to prepare you for life in the adult world) but to go through the majority of your schooldays wishing you had never been born in the first place (and feeling extremely jealous of a girl who died of a heart defect similar to yours - the only difference is yours got mended when you were a baby but hers didn't) is not exactly the kind of scenario I would wish upon  anybody else.

We need to have a grown up debate about bullying in schools, punishment in schools, as well as Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Education (as in - is it really appropriate to mix the two without certain caveats?).

In my personal opinion (based on my experience - as well as what I have been told by a friend of mine who has a child with Special Educational Needs and is in Mainstream Education) I think that - unless schools and the Government are prepared to understand that students with Special Educational Needs actually need more attention and careful handling - as well as role models they can actually relate to (in my case I would have loved to have a teacher whose sight was obviously at a similar level as mine) they might as well go back to the days where students like me were autiautomatically enrolled in Special Schools.  In fact, when my Mum told me that my parents had the choice of sending me to a Special School I nearly told her that I wish they had done that instead of forcing me to go through the hell of Mainstream Education.

When I say "we" need a grown up debate I mean one which includes those of us who have seen the blackest of black sides of Education as well as those of us who have apparently sailed through school without a care in the world and got top grades in all their exams.  Only when we are all included will we get a proper idea of the kind of Education system which would benefit every single child both now and in the future.


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