Monday, May 29, 2006

Free ICT courses for teachers

The National Union of Teachers provides free courses for teachers in ICT. If enough people are interested, we will run a multimedia skills courses in Crawley next term. These courses cover the use of interactive whiteboards, use of digital photography and Publisher and are aimed at teachers who have basic ICT skills but want to improve them. If you already know how to use a word processing package, email and file management, come along.

The course will consist of 12 "twilight sessions" (which always sound rather more romantic than they actually are - in fact it just means it is after school and therefore does not incur cover costs) and there will be places for 15 applicants on each course

If you are interested in this course or in basic ICT training, contact me by emailing which is the email I use for learning rep work. You can also ring me on the helpline 01342 410805. I will only need your name and address and whether you seek a basic or intermediate course.

You can indicate your preferred course location by giving either school address or home address. I will forward this information to HQ for inclusion on a database which is used to plan training.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two lives

Vikram Seth ISBN 0-316-72774-1
Published September 2005

“Don’t take the black man” were the first words Henny Caro first said about Shanti Seth when he was proposed as a lodger in her family home – hardly a promising start to a relationship which was to last the rest of their lives.

Shanti and Henny Seth were not famous, at least prior to the publication of this book. Their lives spanned a fair proportion of the twentieth century and they were dominated and changed forever by the rise of Nazism and the second world war.

Shanti, born in 1908 and brought up in India, was sent to study dentistry in Berlin in the 1930s although he did not speak a word of German. It was there that he met Henny who came from a patriotic “intensely German” family. In addition to her initial hostility, she was also engaged to someone else.

She was able to get out of Germany and went to reside in London where they became close friends. He lost his arm at the battle of Monte Cassino but went on to pursue a successful career despite his disability. It was only after the war that she learned that her mother and sister died in Auschwitz. The book traces her search for the truth about their fate.

This close intimate portrayal of their lives by their nephew is a powerful work of art and will not leave any reader unmoved.

Interestingly as well as dealing in detail with the plight of the Jewish families in Berlin during the war it also deals with the less well-documented suffering of Germans in the post war period.

It also deals with the effect on Henny’s group of close friends in Berlin, Jewish and non Jewish, one of whom became an apologist for the Nazis. The personal is political in this novel but there is nothing but the most superficial of political analysis on the part of the writer; the reader has to provide that.

In addition to spanning the century, the narrative spans the globe, from India, Germany, Israel and Palestine to Britain where they lived most of their lives.

Reflecting on the story which he has been telling, the author concludes, “Behind every door in every ordinary street, in every hut in every ordinary village on this middling planet of a trivial star, such riches are to be found.”

Read it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I swear Finland's drummer was Bill Bailey. Not very heavily disguised either. Their heavy metal blasted away the lacklustre entries from the rest of Europe. Certainly nobody had any difficulty remembering which one was Finland!

Wogan (who might usefully be pensioned off to make way for, for example, Jonathan Ross) made some good jokes about, well to be honest one good joke about, the countries who voted for their neighbours.

Since the "balkanisation" of Eastern Europe the voting has been skewed. It is as if England, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Strathyclyde, The Isle of Man etc each had a vote and voted for each other.

However Wogan then praised good old Ireland for voting for the UK which sounded odd and even more weird he was cynical about Serbian people voting for Bosnia. Short memory Terry - they used to be at war - there is no old pals act between Serbia and Bosnia, just a legacy of bitterness. Perhaps the young people in Serbia want to put nationalism behind them and vote on the merits of the song.

Wogan is in no position to call another presenter a one-trick pony. He needs to get some more jokes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Water companies record profits

WATER companies are expected to unveil 2 billion pounds annual profits compared with 1.7 billion last year. Meanwhile we face higher bills and the first drought order for a decade has been introduced in Surrey, with more to follow.

Three companies - Southern, Mid Kent and Sutton and East Surrey - have applied for drought orders.

Profits would be lower if more money was being spent on reducing the 800m gallons of water lost each day through leaks.

Barrie Clarke, Water UK's spokesman arrogantly dismissed criticisms. "Whether you like it or not, in England and Wales we have a private sector water industry. The question people need to ask themselves is would they like to have successful companies running services of such public importance or less successful ones, and successful companies are those that provide the service they are expected to provide and make good profits.'

If you can't water your garden it's because there is a fat cat sitting on the hosepipe!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Forget you had a daughter

There is a clear implication in many of the books written about European or American prisoners in jails abroad that it is all very well for the "natives" to have to put up with disgusting conditions but it is just not cricket to expect us to.

For example, anyone who has read Midnight Express will have felt sympathetic to the protagonist but still felt, 1) he was a drug smuggler carrying an improbable amount of dope for his own use and 2) he seemed to have a contempt for the people and the country where he was imprisoned.

"Forget you had a daughter" by Sandra Gregory is the story of a drug smuggler who wound up in prison in Thailand and how she coped with the experience. She wound up in the infamous Lard Yao prison, jokingly referred to as the "Bangkok Hilton". If anyone begins this book thinking it is another "Midnight Express" they are soon disabused.

Sandra Gregory, who wrote the book with Michael Tierney, steers clear of that. The early chapters express her love for Thailand and the story ends with her regret that she can never go back there. She makes no bones about her guilt and/or stupidity. Moreover, she earned the disapprobation of some white prisoners because of her friendships with Thai prisoners and she has harsh words to say about the treatment of prisoners in British jails where she spent the last years of her sentence.

It doesn't sensationalise the sexual tension in a women's prison but doesn't skirt round it either.

The corruption in the prison was remarkable, prisoners could get most things on the black market but woe betide them if they couldn't pay their debts: "On one occasion a Nigerian woman had her bottom lip bitten off and fed to a cat, for not keeping up the repayments." I have to warn you that that is mild compared to some of the things reported in this book. It is not for those who are too fastidious.

Sandra Gregory is not obsessed with herself, throughout the book she observes and tells the stories of other prisoners. This is no sob story. Although it contains graphic descriptions of the conditions in prison it is written with some humour and is a very readable narrative.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A message of hope

Leon Trotsky said that socialism was a message of hope but fascism is a message of despair.

How would you apply this to the present situation?

When Unison came out on strike against New Labour's plans for pensions (they have billions for war but nothing for the poor) - it was probably the biggest strike since 1926. They weren't divided on racial or religious lines, they acted together and they made the government sit up and take notice. What use are the BNP? Their sick message of hate is irrelevant.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bullies Nazis and Prats

The BBC had a news item about former Labour voters so fed-up with New Labour that they are voting BNP. The BNP understandably made the most of the release of foreign criminals by the home office.

What the program did not mention was the criminal records of the BNP leadership - they couldn't be deported because they are good old British criminals!

Who says today’s politicians lack convictions. The British National Party is brimming with them – all of a criminal nature. “The BNP will crack down on crime and restore public safety and confidence,” its website states. But despite claiming to be a party of law and order, the BNP is home to criminals, racist thugs and football hooligans. The ranks of the criminals extend to the very highest level of the party. They include:

Nick Griffin (Party Chairman) Received a two-year suspended sentence in April 1998 for inciting racial hatred. His magazine The Rune carried obscene anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial material as well as crude racism.

Tony Lecomber
Tony Lecomber (Group Development Officer). In 1985 he was convicted on five counts for offences under the Explosives Act, including possession of homemade hand-grenades and electronic timing devices. Sentenced to three-years imprisonment.
In 1991 he was sentenced to another three years imprisonment for unlawful wounding for his part in an attack on a Jewish schoolteacher whom he caught trying to peel off a BNP sticker at an underground station. He has a total of 12 convictions.

Colin Smith (South East London organiser). Has amassed a total of 17 convictions for burglary, theft, stealing cars, possession of drugs and assaulting a police officer.

John Tyndall (founder of the BNP). Six convictions. In 1962 he was jailed for organising a paramilitary organisation. Four years later, he was again sent to prison for possession of a loaded gun. In 1986, he was convicted for incitement to racial hatred under the Public Order Act and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

Warren Bennett (Chief Steward). Supposed to keep order in the party yet has convictions for football hooliganism. In 1998, he was deported from France with over 50 other Scottish hooligans, including several BNP members.

Steve Belshaw (East Midlands BNP organiser. Was convicted in 1994 for assaulting a lawyer in his home-town of Mansfield. At the time, Belshaw combined his BNP membership with Combat 18 activity.

Kevin Scott (North East Regional Organiser). Was convicted in 1993 for hurling a glass at a black customer in a pub.

Alan Gould (Waltham Forest Organiser). Was convicted in 2000 for racially abusing people in a local pub. He told the court that it was the drink getting the better of him.

Robert Bennett
Robert Bennett. A leading activist in Oldham BNP during the 2002 elections campaign, Bennett has served five years in prison for the gang rape of a woman. He has also served seven years for armed robbery and has over 30 convictions in total.

Mick Treacy. The Oldham organiser has five convictions for violence, theft, and handling stolen goods

Darren Dobson. Found guilty of racially aggravated assault at Oldham magistrates in November 2001. Fined £300. Connected to football hooligans in the Oldham area, and has links to the nazi terror group Combat 18

Darren Hoy. April 2002, the BNP supporter was sent to prison for 3 months for racially abusing people as they left an anti-fascist rally in Oldham.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy Mayday

Happy Mayday whether you are dancing around maypoles, marching against the government or just enjoying a day off.

The day dawned gloomy here so we will have to see how it goes.

One old English saying (i.e. one most old English people have never heard of):
"Nut for the slut; plum for the glum
Bramble if she ramble; gorse for the whores."

Preferably leave hawthorn at a friend’s door for their luck, but other plants are an insult. I suggest you leave the gorse at home. I also assume btw that "gorse" rhymed with "whores" - terribly confusing for those who like horse-riding I should imagine.