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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Monday, 25 September 2017

Look Both Ways

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A little while ago, someone said to me that their life was always about going forward.  They didn't understand why some people either want or need to understand certain events from their past or why those people might still have fears generated by those situations.

I have thought about this a great deal.  Do people focus too much on what has happened to them previously?  Is it self indulgent to do so?  And I must say  I really don't agree.  Whatever has happened to you or around you (especially in childhood) is what has shaped you.  For better or worse. If you think have the ability to only look forwards, then that in itself, it seems to me, is a learnt skill.  A decision not to be affected by events or others.  Single minded yes, but necessarily helpful to those around them.

But if that's how you roll, good for you.  However, I think many (most?) of us have things from our past which we know affect us still.  Whether familial or professional.  Over the years, I have spent a fair amount of time with therapists.  Post-natal depression turned out to be a bit deeper and becoming a parent raised all sorts of questions about my own upbringing.  Even this year, I went to a therapist for a few months because there were things I needed to work through.  I felt I needed to learn in order to go forwards. 

This blog has often tried to think about how the wider past affects us.  I have regularly written about  learning from history.  Quite recently I wrote that I was seeming more political than family history orientated on the blog but that I felt it was justified in these uncertain times.  The thread of family history runs from the past to the future and I feel we have a responsibility to our descendants when it comes to the threat of nuclear war or to the implications of Brexit, etc.

In fact, as I write the news channels are full of the breakthrough of the Far Right in Germany's elections.  Buoyed no doubt by the refugee crises and by the racist, sexist White House occupant.  If ever there was a reason why we must keep looking back in order to move on, this is it.  These people feed on discontent and on each other's bravado and they spread disinformation.  I don't believe we should simply face forwards in our personal lives and I definitely don't believe it in our political lives.  Learn from history.

[By the way, on a lighter 'the past affects us' note, I still have flashbacks to the vile boss I had at one City job and to certain amateur dramatics humiliations, to name but two.  What about you?]

Monday, 11 September 2017

Weather He Exists

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As the rolling news coverage is showing, our planet is undergoing, once again, extreme weather to say the least.  And as ever, Donald Trump's commentary language is about as simplistic as it gets.  The use of the words 'bad', 'good', 'very' are his go-to descriptives for everything though, aren't they?

However, even a greater intellect than Trump (no comment on how difficult it would be to find a person of more intellect - other than 'try the nursery') would struggle to describe something so extreme which they completely deny should be happening.

What puzzles me about the American Right is how you align extreme Christian religion with the denial of global warming.  If you are Creationist, what do you think is happening to the planet?  If you believe wholeheartedly - word for word - in the Bible, you must, for example, believe that Noah was told by God to build the Ark to save the animals 'two by two' (hey, there's a song there) while He flooded the place.

If it is not global warming, what is happening to our weather, our temperatures, our sea levels?  Is 'God' doing this?  And if so, why?  What are we being punished for?

Personally, I think the writers of the story of Noah were telling - a long time after the event - of a situation caused by a some kind of planetary issue.  And in another example, the plagues described as descending on Egypt were to do with extreme weather.  More likely explanations surely?

As a teenager, I was very involved in the Methodist Church.  Many of those who I went to youth events with subsequently entered the ministry or worked for the church in other capacities.  For me, I did greatly enjoy my time and I hope I took a moral compass from it.  I did believe in religion to an extent.  But it was not unquestioning.  And I have never thought that God created the world in seven days, etc etc.  To me, these tales are clearly a way of making sense of history passed down to the writers, of the world around the writers, of the unknown.

Or is there something we, the little people, are missing here?  There is film called 2012.  It is a disaster movie based on the idea that extreme sea level rises cause catastrophic flooding on the Earth. The only humans to survive are those who have places on giant space-ship-like vessels which have been secretly built.  And the places on those ships go mainly to the wealthy and those in government.

I am sorry if this is all getting a bit David Icke for you.  But having now watched fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes in the space of a week, I am even more terrified by Trump and co's refusal to believe in the need to mend out ways.  By their actual reversal of the measures which have so far been taken - and which never went far enough in the first place.  We, and not God, are most definitely killing our beautiful and bountiful planet.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Educating Everyone

And here we are.  September and back to school.  Only a day late with my first blog...  Hope you have had a good summer.

With the start of the new term, I have been pondering education.  My youngest starts secondary so we are entering a new phase.

Last week, in The Times, there was an article about the three brothers who head up the Harrop Fold Secondary School featuring in the new Educating Greater Manchester documentary on Channel Four.  It was a thought-provoking piece.  Not least for the admission that a school which has been turned around in a remarkable fashion over the last decade - it was once labelled 'the worst secondary school in the country' - is now being held back (strangled) by a £1.5 million debt.  It is not alone in this issue, thanks to the Private Finance Initiative.

Since I had just returned from Carfest, the BBC Children In Need money-raising festival, I was particularly struck by the disparity of expectation in our country.  At Carfest, we had a great time (lucky to be able to afford to participate) and no doubt, millions have been raised over the two festivals this year.  But the enterprise revolves around (duh!) cars.  And most of them are exceptionally expensive cars, owned by billionaires.  Just one of the Ferraris we saw is worth more than that debt at Harrop Fold.  Even if the festivals make a still-amazing £6 million or something, the entire proceeds could not purchase more than three or four of those Ferraris, McClarens, etc.

As I have written before, we do not live in a poor country.  We live in a country where choices are made for us about how our money is spent.  We are then 'persuaded' that these are the right choices and much is made of government debt, 'austerity' needs and so on.

We may talk about the decrease in services, read about the debt in education.  But we are conditioned not  to protest too much.  For example, Harrow Fold is in Greater Manchester.  Where there are two of the richest football clubs in the world.  Each with weekly wages bills that far exceed the strangulating debt of that school.  Indeed their wage bills probably could probably wipe out Greater Manchester's education debt with just one week of donations.

But somehow we believe it is acceptable for these situation to co-exist.  Fans whose kids are at struggling under-resourced schools are paying to watch overpaid, over-privileged footballers and not really questioning the differentials.  And it is not just them of course.  We are all conditioned to believe there is nothing wrong with this gap.  Trickle down economics?  More like 'build a dam' economics.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------And speaking of gaps, I was lucky enough to go got Singapore and Bali this summer.  Apart from the staggering scenery, one thing which struck us was the vast number of Chinese tourists.

We have been consistently informed by the Brexiteers that our route to financial and trade salvation after Brexit lies in the East - China, India, etc (Mr Trump's war not withstanding).  Well, our education system is not even remotely on this page yet.  Our children are still usually given a choice of French or German, possibly Spanish for 'modern languages'.  No thought has been given, on a mass scale, to Mandarin or other such languages.

The amount of people and money flowing from China would seem to mean that our future should indeed be facing East, regardless of whether we are in the EU or not.  But we - and more importantly our children - are definitely not prepared.  Even if we rely on the Chinese to be learning English (a typically arrogant assumption and one of which my small snapshot of well-off Chinese this summer saw absolutely no evidence), there are huge cultural lessons to learn.  We really struggled just on a small tourist scale to deal with the differences in manners and attitudes.

Of course, many UK private schools are apparently teaching Mandarin....