Friday, 31 December 2010

End of year thoughts

E received her law course results and she got a good pass. The personal feedback about her essay was somewhat disappointing to her until I pointed out that the law students had been set up to fail. Why else would the course demand a rigid word count? My daughter could have (and did) write an essay twice as long as that required then pruned it ruthlessly.

We said, "You have passed a difficult course with a good grade. You were seventeen when you decided to take the course - a University level course - and you passed. This is a magnificent accomplishment so please, please be proud of yourself."

E has great difficulty in being proud of her accomplishments - they are never quite good enough, even though she does exceptionally well. I shall carry the pride for her. I am proud of her huge efforts, her diligence, her determination, her persistence even when she is feeling unwell, her questioning heart and her sense of justice.

She deserves every success. I know it has been hard for her to stand outside the coddling, infantilising cocoon of school and still make her way. No one submits your work for you. No one arranges your exams. It is a lonely road in many respects, but, when you have reached your goals, you can tell yourself that "I did it my way." To do it despite society's pressures must develop your character. To succeed despite the constant chant that 'School is best' is a massive accomplishment.

I salute all home educating young people in their homes, in their friends' and neighbours' and acquaintances' houses as they go about building a real community. I salute them in their places of interest and anywhere they go. They are all magnificent. They are all such examples to us of what people should be. I salute them.

And to their parents: teach your young to recognise, understand and give love. Teach them to listen and watch. Teach them logic. Teach them to respect themselves and other people, and you will have taught them everything of worth that one human can pass to another.

May you all succeed in whatever you choose to succeed in this New Year, and on into the future.

I wish you all happiness and good health, and an exceptionally good 2011.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Holidays

If you celebrate Christmas, please enjoy yourselves on December 25th. If you do not celebrate Christmas, please enjoy yourselves anyway.

Give a thought to those who are huddled in the snow in this deep wintertime. Whatever they have done or not done, do they deserve to freeze?

Spare a moment to think how to enlighten the cosmos, and shine your candle - no matter how small - into the dark regions of this most beautiful world.

Be peaceful. There is nothing worth fighting about; not land, not money, not possessions.

Remember that we are all one. We were born in the Big Bang that generated the Universe, and we are miraculous mosaics of stardust.

No one is other. No one is not you. You are everyone and everyone is you.

Be kind. If you cannot love someone, try to understand him. If someone hurts you, forgive him because you damage only yourself in hating him.

Cherish your children. They are your most tender gifts to yourself.

Have a lovely, peaceful, caring Christmas.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Thick, thick snow and World War II

Six days to go before the day. Christmas which I perennially misspell as Christams.

Our heating has been belting along, bless its tiny boots.

My mother's heating went off at 10:00 o'clock last night. She put the electric heater on, and surrounded herself with hot water bottles. Surprisingly, she slept and this morning she rang me.

She's lucky we live within a two minute walk. Elderly, bent over, unable to hear or understand a lot of what she hears, my mother is now tiny and very frail. She was young during the years of World War II, recalls it all with horror, says it should never happen again, deplores the fact that many, many regions of the world are torn apart by war in these modern days.

My mother is a survivor. She is a heroine: she and other young women chopped tree after tree down during the years 1942 to 1946 to send them to be made into pit props, telegraph poles, ladders, newsprint, and other such necessary items. Timber Corps women were part of the Women's Land Army.

"By July 1943 there were 87,000 Land Girls and they were joining at the rate of 4,000 a month. Despite this, in 1944 the government, led by Ernest Bevin, declared that Land Girls would be excluded from post-war education and training schemes. This led to protests and strikes, and Lady Denman resigned. However, Her Majesty the Queen made the people aware of her support for the WLA and eventually the government was forced to compromise. A Land Army Benevolent Fund was promised £150,000 and resettlement grants of £150 were agreed, but Land Girls received no medals for their services. The much prized uniform was taken back. One was only allowed to keep greatcoats and shoes, but only if the greatcoat was dyed blue· "

My mother loved her greatcoat. She said it had style and suited her. You would think they could've given those young women their coats as a small thank you, wouldn't you?

In 2000, for the first time since the World War II ended, the Land Army women were invited to the cenotaph to remember their fallen friends, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins and sweethearts.

They were honoured in 2008 by the Labour government issuing a badge for the Land Army and Timber Corps girls. Gordon Brown said:

"We have been slow to thank you. We could have done this years ago but I'm pleased that we can do it now. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude."

Scotland went one better, erecting a life-size bronze statue of a Timber Corps girl in the forest near Aberfoyle in 2007.

I was pleased to be able write an article for Ancestors magazine about my mother's experiences in the Timber Corps. In the inimitable way that some mothers have, she read it and commented: "Well, that was better than I expected."

Here and now, for my little mother, for all the women who undertook heavy manual labour, left their families, lived in huts, trudged through snow, laughed at adversity and saved thousands of tons of space in British ships for food and necessary supplies, I dedicate this blog entry.

To you wonderful women - God bless you, wherever you are.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tuition fee fight

I salute the students.

I thought the power to revolt was dead in the water. I thought it had disappeared beneath the oceans of Brittania. Drowned and dead.

Apparently not. The students are out in this filthy weather shouting their slogans, resisting being kettled by the arms of the state (police).

Using the right they have to say 'no' in a peaceful demonstration.

I think they are marvellous.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. From fifty percent of this country's young people being encouraged to go to University now we have anyone whose parents aren't loaded struggling a) to get in and b) not to be encumbered with debt for twenty five years.

Punish the poor and the middle class when they never benefitted from the good years, but, oh yeah, make them pay in the bad years.

I believe that the bankers etc. organised the terrible chaos we're in. How else were they to stop paying savers the rates the savers were owed?

Protest on, my young friends.

"They (the youngsters), like many others from across the country, had just spent the day protesting or lobbying or saying a speech, all in the hope the government would listen."

They don't listen, darlings. They only listen when you agree with them, when you're one of them. They aren't there for you, my children. We, home educators, could tell you how deaf they can be, how frustrated you all would be.

Protest on, even though you think you may have lost. You will carry the day.

Life is stirring in all of us. The knowledge of fairness is raising its head. The sense of something wrong is dawning.

"There were shouts of 'I can't breathe' and calls for medics for those with bleeding heads who had been hit by baton-wielding police. Ian Dillets, a student from SOAS said:

"Everyone is cold and hungry and would like to go home, but we're not allowed to go home. There are a lot of people now standing around saying if they're not going to let us out we might as well go and get angry.""

Are our children to be treated like criminals? Who are the police protecting? The rights of the state to do whatever it damn well pleases. We are more than the state. We are greater than any Parliament.

Times are indeed a'changin'.

"Tim Mortimer, Leeds University Union Activities Officer, said he had great trouble seeing Simon Burns, his local MP for Chemsford yesterday:

"I rang and emailed him several times but he managed to wrangle his way out of it saying as he was a minister he didn't have time to meet with his constituent. It's a bit upsetting. MPs are condemning any kind of violent action but were not allowing people legitimate means to get their point across.""

Maybe he doesn't represent you, Tim. Who does he represent then? Who are these people? What is this system? These are questions that Tim might be asking himself tonight. The questions we all should be asking. Don't we deserve better than this? Don't our children deserve better than this?

Quotes from

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Music to my ears

Last week, I was in the same room where E was playing some new piano music. She struggled with it.

After thirty minutes, she came away from the piano and eventually, after a chat, she went off to do something else.

Yesterday, E sat at the piano and played the new music. Beautifully. Perfectly. Effortlessly. I was quite transfixed.

After her practice she said that she had found that, most times when she struggled to understand a topic or produce work, if she left and went back to it, she could do it. It was as if her subconscious had been beavering away on the topic.

I have a theory too that, now and then, you just aren't ready - mature enough - to do something. It just isn't the right time. I know that happened with me and Maths. I couldn't do it - always had trouble and grief. Following bucket loads of frustration, I left it alone. But, a few years later, I could solve the Maths problems and wondered what had been wrong before.

Well, there was nothing wrong. I just didn't hit the right time. I was not yet mature enough to cope with the questions.

Recently, E passed her Grade 5 Theory test with a mark of 83% and received a merit. She has her new shiny certificate. E is now determined to bring her piano playing up to the same level, and she will because she wants to.

I am, once again, so proud.