January 2009 Archives
I really hate having to start a piece like this, so apologies for the appalling vagueness.
A couple of months ago I read an article by .. umm .. someone, in the Sunday Times magazine 'Open Minds' section on ... umm ... something to do with whether an economic downturn might actually be good for us.
Now, annoyingly, I can't remember exactly what was said and I can't find this particular feature anywhere, but here's my very sketchy paraphrase: "A recession might actually be good for us, as it'll stop us relying so much on expensive luxuries that fill our lives. It will bring us back to basics, cause us to think about our priorities, shake us up a bit and make us realise that the best things in life are free. Perhaps we will stop buying things and start being more content with what we've got. Perhaps we will start investing in another way - in our families, our relationships; the things that are actually fundamental to us, but that we don't focus on enough because we're too cluttered up with all this stuff, and too busy and tired running ragged in this Capitalist rat race etc etc."
Deaths have a way of piling up like cars in a motorway accident. It seems trite to put it down to the time of year but any undertaker will tell you this is when they are most busy.
As I write this I am missing a funeral I would very much like to have attended - but I have been to one funeral a fortnight for the past six weeks and there is a limit to how much I can rearrange my work to accommodate them.
In truth, I am also suffering from grief overload. The world seems grey. The unlit Woolworths store on the High Street makes me feel mournful. Wherever I look, I see loss. I am probably resisting the sadness of yet another farewell.
None of the deaths have been devastating - a dear great aunt, who lived a very good life and died at the age of 93, the mother of my best friend whom I have known since my school days....
Though very sad, they have not been like the death of a spouse, or a child, or my own mother. That kind of grief is unignorable and so you don't ignore it and, if you've any sense, you take as much care of yourself as possible as you go through it.
The multiple pile-up of minor griefs affects me in a different way. In some respects it is harder to deal with than the overwhelming loss that is etched in your face, robs you of sleep and leaves you clueless as to whether it is day or night.
I am left with the vague sense of something missing that I can not quite pin down. The people who have died are not people I saw every day, or even often, so at one level their absence makes no difference to my regular routine. It's just walking past that Woolworths store that gets to me...
Here's some words from Lucy Hewitt, aged seven, pictured right:
'I love being in Cat & Mouse. It is a story about what happened to the children and their parents during the Second World War in Poland.
'It is an emotional and tragic story about the Jewish people in the concentration camps. But we are acting this as the Jews being mice and the Germans being cats. I think this is good as I think children like me understand this better.
'When people come to see Cat & Mouse they will learn that Hitler and the Nazis were not very nice. They did bad things to the Jewish people, and lots of people died and children died as well, or were left with no mummies and daddies, and if I didn't have a mummy and daddy who would look after me? That makes me sad.
Do these old pictures mean anything to you? If you're in them, the Midland Arts Centre wants to hear from you.
Mac - currently in the middle of a massive refurbishment - is looking for people who helped to build the original arts centre as part of the United Nations International Work Camps of the 1960s.
The Children's Workforce Development Council says that more men need to work in early years education to provide better role models for young children. Family break-ups and the resulting increased instances of single-mother families has helped to create the current problems, and this is further compounded by poor rates of pay and engrained stereotypes which are said to deter men from taking up such jobs. Their survey of more than 1,000 parents of young children in England found that 55% wanted a male childcare worker for their nursery-aged child, rising to two-thirds among single parents, so there's clearly a demand here.
Now, there's a lot of talk about role models, and some of it is tosh - speculation as to whether certain footballers, pop stars or soap actors are suitable role models for our young people following news leaks about their latest affair/nightclub brawl/pre-arranged photo opportunity at the local hospital is somewhat simplistic and naive, and underestimates our young peoples' intelligence. But in the course of a conversation with colleagues recently, I got around to thinking that many people growing up in the 70s and 80s - particularly those from non-white communities - could be forgiven for thinking that 'people like them' (and I use that term advisedly) did not fit into modern society as there was a distinct lack of role models who were anything other than white, middle-aged, middle-class men.
One of the joys of travelling around the country is seeing what makes the headlines in different parts of the UK. Last week I read an article in a Cardiff newspaper about an advert for a local college on the side of the Pontypridd to Cardiff Stagecoach Bus which read "can't find what your looking for". The paper then helpfully pointed out that there was an apostrophe and the letter 'e' missing on the word 'you're'. Thanks for that.
I should confess that I am a fully paid-up member of the Lynne Truss fan club and do get extremely irritated by poor punctuation, grammar and syntax, and careless typos. Recent signs on my local high street offering "Cut price CD's" and better still "Potatoe's" (not in the same shop you understand) had me mentally reaching for the Tippex. My English teacher always told us that the rule about apostrophes was "If in doubt, leave it out". Not foolproof, but certainly less irritating in the days where there was no spellcheck on a computer to point out your foibles (in fact, there were no computers in our school).
There's been a lively and typically Guardian reader series of letters praising Ladybird books. Everything from computers to maths is best learned through these little volumes, according to this Guardian correspondence from experts in various fields.
I know what they mean. Often real specialists miss the points that ignorant punters are really looking for. I think another series of books should take their place alongside the Ladybirds - the Horrible Histories by Terry Deary.
Since I seem to be using this Post blog as a platform to campaign for better wireless internet provision in Birmingham it would be remiss of me not to draw your attention to a new initiative to map what currently exists.
Wifi in Birmingham is a simple Google map which anyone can edit. If you know of a wifi node in the city simply add a marker and write a short description of the place.
It was only started a few days ago but already there's a nice stream of points (seemingly on a route from Kings Heath through Digbeth to the Jewellery quarter, but that might just reflect the folks who've been contributing so far). Interestingly all of them are free. You could say there's no need to map the paid-for nodes since we've got blanket coverage. You could say that. Or you could say paid-for wifi is a fools errand and no-one is interested. I'll let you decide what you want to say.
But for now, if you're a digitally nomadic laptop slinger in the city please add your haunts to the map. It's hoped that this will be useful for visitors, not to mention make residents aware that they can get online for free in the city.
Readers of a certain age may recognise my picture - the saxophone section of the legendary Ivy Benson All Girls Band, who came to international fame during the Second World War.
I'm happy to pass on a plea to track down female band musicians from that era.
Producers of Alan Plater's award-winning play Blonde Bombshells of 1943, which comes to Royal & Derngate, Northampton, from Monday 26 to Saturday 31 January, are searching for women who may have been an original Blonde Bombshell.
Work is proceeding apace on the ÃÂ£14.8m facelift at the mac and word reaches me of a new initiative. Birmingham Assay Office has joined forces with the centre to support the refurbishment of the Jewellery Studio there. The partnership, worth ÃÂ£15,000, forms part of The Birmingham Assay Office's commitment to supporting jewellery makers in the city.