Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Learning Game: A Teacher's Inspirational Story

A continuation. Expect to see more of these little revues from the book.
Jonathan Smith mentions his disabled Uncle, his mentor and teaching example, who denied that pain and suffering were ennobling. Pain hurts, he said, you just want it to stop. Nearing his end at middle-age, his uncle answered his nephew's unasked question. How do you cope ? "You have to, you have no choice", he said.

One Christmas Day after dinner the family gathers in the uncle's room to play cards. The young Jonathan creams the adults who are well into their cups, sampling port and wine. Jonathan gleefully gathers up the spoils which Uncle Bert had egged him on to win. Uncle Bert, eyes twinkling, then passes around a ladies see-through stocking urging those present to contribute to the Haemophiliac Society. "It's very good of you, very good indeed" he'd say eyeing each coin on it's way down to the bottom of the stocking, then eyes flicking back to the remaining pile on the table. Jonathan reluctantly let go of all his treasure. Years afterwards, any time Jonathan felt low from exhaustion teaching, or off the mark writing or at general low points in life, he'd only have to think of his uncle for a little while and he'd be ready for the next long haul.

I have people like that in my life, my parents for one, who are rarely appreciated except at Christmas and birthdays these days. When I stop to think of the choices they had to make I am too astounded for words. Tonight I must finish this book.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Jane Austen

Jane Austen novels are still read avidly as library lendings show. They are prized for the irony, humour, depiction of English country life and it's underlying lessons.
Earlier I wrote this piece on the current movies covering Pride and Prejudice.
"Comedy Bridget Jones' Diary and the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason to-be-released soon. Based loosely on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

So far, the definitive TV period drama has been the highly successful BBC 1995 production. There's another version due out in Dec 2004/early 2005 starring Keira Knightley and Dame Judi Dench. No one thinks it will surpass the 1995 version because the leading man appears weak for the role of Darcy( Colin Firth appeared in both BJD and the 1995 BBC drama).
And there's the Bollywood spin-off.

Chick Flick Alert!" AND
"Being a Jane Austen fan I caught up with the Bollywood spin-off,Bride and Prejudice, this weekend.I thought it was enjoyable and fun. As RK said there were no moments of suspense, it just flowed freely to the end.

In the benchmark 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice there were heaving bossoms and Cavalry men,the bad daughter was bad even to her sisters in her race to be married off first and ended up married to the cad (an event that wasn't portrayed in B&P). I suppose in this day and age they couldn't be shown to be forcing a marriage on somebody. In P&P the dishonoured just stormed around talking darkly of preserving honour. If the long-suffering father hadn't lost interest in his three younger daughters, deciding they didn't have much sense and left them to their foolish mother's devices the family (honour) might have been better preserved.In B&P there is a fight scene between the hero and the cad ; not in P&P, the cad was offered money to marry the girl.
So which was more chivalrous? The end of P&P shows the entire family being reunited, cad and all.

If B&P, instead of too many dance and song scenes,had put some of these suspenseful elements in it, it might have fared better at the box office. Obviously they'd still have to translate the events to modern times. To do that and still be true to the original may have proved too difficult. All in all, Chadha did well IMO."

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Putting the garden to bed for winter

It's a daily sweep up job now that the trees are shedding the leaves. The apple trees are shedding their leaves yellow while the pear tree sheds black leaves.
The geraniums and fushias go back in the greenhouse cut back and repotted in small pots. All the extra compost goes back into beds dug up and re-composted for winter bulbs and plants. Out come the chrysanthemums, violas, pansies and primulas in all the colours mentioned in this post.Winter Colour
Our single robin who hasn't left us all year and the blackbirds are having a feast in the beds turned over. They don't eat together and as the blackbirds outnumber the robin I have to shoo the blackbirds away occasionally. So I think I'll leave it a while before planting out the winter plants. It'll probably be a good time to treat the fruit trees and perhaps put out some arbours for grape plants next year. In the morning I chucked out a handful of peanuts in their shells and by evening they had disappeared. Our single grey squirrel most likely picked them up and buried them somewhere for winter. I'm thinking of puting out a webcam to capture nocturnal goings on in the garden. Not to run every day but only when some treat or bedding has been set out for the wildlife. That would teach the young nieces and nephews some eco-sense. They are being so good with their pocket money and already show signs of having financial sense.
Food for thought : Most UK recycling waste is exported to China who then do the minimum recycling required with scant regard for the environment.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Welcoming Wildlife

Almost everyone seems to be talking about creating mini nature reserves or miniature eco-systems. So lets consider the possibilities.

Cheetahs have never known to harm man in all the 5,000 years they have been in contact. (advantage) Cheetahs never breed in captivity. Females don't lust after males they grow up with and may even go off strange males. Timing of the mating being crucial,the right week has to be chosen. (all advantages) Why can't kitty kats be the same? A friend of mine had twenty cats at one time, three generations.
Feeding. I assume they have to eat and since they aren't going to pick off any ready meals with two feet, that does present a problem.

Scaling downwards a bit to see what is possible:- toads , hedgehogs and squirrels will add interest to your plot and teach young ones about the fragility of eco-systems. Animals need food , water, shelter with imaginitive planting schemes and autumn is a good time to do this. Plant bushes that will be bursting with berries in winter - cotoneasters, holly, hawthorn and rowan - blackbirds and thrushes just love them.

Winter time animals find it difficult to find water so provide a waterhole. A pond would be ideal but a little birdtable or even an dustbin lid face down will do and see who visits.
In the summer dragonflies and damselflies will find a pond and a little later you should have frogs, water beetles, and newts taking residence. Make sure your pond has deep and shallow areas to make it easy for the animals to wade in and out. In spring add a log for dragonflies and other insects to lay their eggs.
Hedgehogs like frogs and toads think slugs are a tasty treat and provide a free slug control service! Leave out a dish of dog or cat food but not milk and bread which is bad for them. Hedgehogs are active from March to November but provide a home and warm shelter till warm weather shows.

Creepy crawlies are loved by various birds. Thrushes crack open and eat snails, starlings love daddy longlegs' larva and shrews munch grubs.
Slug pellets are verboten inside the nature reserve. In cold winter months treat birds to a handful of birdseed , a chopped apple or pear core ( Conference pears are particularly loved) and bread could mean the difference between life and death.
Set up the bird table clode to bushy cover to offer them protection from predators such as sparrow hawks. To prevent disease clean the table with boiling water and move it around the garden frequently. Sunflower seeds are favoured by greenfinches, bacon rind beloved by robins and goldfinches will spend hours picking out fine Nyjer seeds.
The greater the variety of food the greater the variety of birds will visit.Autumn is the best time to put up a bird or bat box on a tree or the side of the house. Place the box outside the reach of cats and facing north/north east so that the chicks don't become too hot.

Foxes also visit gardens and sometimes make their home under sheds and garden buildings.Although they can be a nuisance they will eat rats and feral pigeons. If you keep guinea pigs and rabbits outside make sure they are locked up else they'll end up on a fox's menu.

Plan summer garden displays with a lot of thought for encouraging wildlife.Honeysuckle, ivy, wisteria and flowers such as cornflower, Michealmas daisy and primrose, which attracts insects from hoverflies to bees and beetles.
Sedum (ice plant) and blackthorn are brilliant for butterflies and, honesty , ladies smock and dame's violet are great for orange-tipped butterflies and holly may tempt pretty holly blue butterflies into your reserve.

It's a bit like setting up murders by numbers so I am not sure what is being conserved in this case. I prefer furry animals to slimy beasties any day and hate the thought of inviting snakes to the garden. Maybe I'll just stick to insects and birds.

Tips picked out from various Sun bloggers and Thames Water - who knew techs could be such Forkheads.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Thanks to Jennings

Jennings was the character in the childrens books written by Anthony Buckeridge. I refered to this writer when I blogged about how a young teacher, who, reading from a story books about boys' school-life in post war Linbury Court Preparatory School, found to her surprise that the stories touched inner-city immigrant children from Somalia and Bangladesh.

Jennings Goes to School is another favourite title along with Thanks to Jennings. Sales of the 40 books have soared in places as far as China, Norway and Indochina. The best stories work wherever they go.

William Brown is one of the most popular fictional characters of all time. Usually referred to as the Just William books after the title of the first book in the series.

"There is only one William. The tousle-headed, snub-nosed, hearty, loveable imp of mischief has been harassing his unfortunate family since the 1920's. His name is a byword for irrepressible boyhood. His pranks are the scrapes of every healthy youngster, recorded with keen observation and an even keener sense of humour by a writer of immense talent.Incredibly, the William books span five decades."

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Or junk food in French. Olivier Pichot sounds like the right person to try and change McDonald's image. "If children don't eat vegetables at home it's because they haven't been taught."A Chateaubriand steak with foie gras

He has a tall order. Satisfaction from a Mac lasts for about as long as it takes to consume it. If they can get as far as actually putting something that resembles meat in a bun they'd be half way there.