To be a hippy, 2017

We were passing through Glastonbury, for the first time in many years. I was pleased to see that it still had shops selling healing crystals, joss sticks and, for all I know, kaftans. There were still colourfully dressed types walking through the streets, some of them looking a little dazed and out of touch with the year 2017.

What does it mean to be a hippy in 2017?” I asked Mrs Oblique.

She thought carefully.

Well, now it’s making a statement. It used to be just…. being.” Which got me thinking.

A hippy was, I believe, somebody who espoused freedom, rejecting the conventions of the time and living according to their own ideals. This inevitably led to them developing new conventions of their own, typically an acceptance of drug use and sexual freedom. Hippies also had a certain convention of dress, typically colourful and loose. Hair was worn long. “Flower power” was the key phrase.

New conventions perhaps now had to be followed to be a hippy, which of course ran counter to the ideal of freedom. (I am sure some of the original hippies would object to this reading.) I suppose that 1967 was the high point of the movement. It couldn’t last, despite ecstatic welcoming of the “Age of Aquarius”. It turned into a fashion style, rather than a lifestyle. Eventually, musically at least, punk came along and rejected it, in characteristically energetic style. Unfortunately some punks had an aggressive approach to life; Daevid Allen, leader of the ultimate psychedelic band, Gong, and probably an archetypal (and certainly peace-loving) hippy, was allegedly nearly lynched at a B******* R**** concert when the singer, one B** G*****, saw him and urged the audience to “kill the hippy”.

Mrs Oblique, upon further discussion, said that she thought originally hippies did not necessarily call themselves hippies; they just were what they were. I’m not sure if there is anybody who calls themselves a hippy now; but what does it mean to be a hippy in 2017 if this is not just a fashion statement?

I would say that a hippy is still someone who espouses freedom and lives according to their own ideals. This cannot mean, and has never meant, that they have no morals or responsibilities. We live in a hugely interdependent and interconnected world. It is almost impossible to live “off the grid”, at least in the UK, if that is your idea of freedom. It is also certainly wrong to interfere with the freedoms of others. In this I am with the duchess, who, I seem to remember, on being told of the activities of Oscar Wilde, said: “My dear- as long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”

It is, however, possible to live something of the hippy ideal; going your own way; perhaps being as independent as possible; perhaps being as self-sufficient as possible. I am exposing my own instincts here, but sadly I don’t follow them.

Incidentally, since writing this, I saw a mention of “rich hippies” in a newspaper. Clearly I have a different view of what the word means; or perhaps it is now just a fashion statement. Do a search for images on the word “hippy” to see what this means.

I finish with a cartoon by Mrs O. This is a reimagining of an original idea I saw in a music paper long ago. Please contact me about any copyright issues!

Hippy and mother

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Election Note 1

Another election looms in the U.K. While I don’t intend this blog to promote any particular political view, I will be voting and I would urge anybody eligible in the U.K. to vote. It DOES make a difference; you CAN make your views known and take action in many other ways, but you have no right to moan if you haven’t voted. (More on this at a later date. If I get round to more election notes.)

Election notes 1One strange phenomenon of which I was first aware during the last election and which has appeared again this time is the staged meet-the-public photo-opportunity. All the party leaders and other prominent characters have been in these. They appear to be speaking to a group of the public; of course, this group is a group of their party members and supporters, all carrying supportive placards and cheering on their leader. In one recent such occasion you could spot the constituency candidate smiling awkwardly behind the main man. (There’s a clue.)

I was musing on this today when a news item appeared on the TV which struck me forcefully with its similarities to the U.K. situation. It was a short clip of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, beaming as he walked along being applauded by a group of his generals.

Now I’m not for a moment suggesting that our political parties and their leaders are in any way like Kim Jong Un and the North Koreans. However, such staged and artificial situations are not worthy of our democracy.

In case you are wondering, I have not yet finalised the Oblique election manifesto. Chocolate may well feature. I am consulting my supporters. Certainly baseball caps worn back-to-front will be banned. The Fashion Police may be given increased powers of enforcement.

Moving in Music

It’s a sunny April morning. Mr Hillage and Ms Giraudy, otherwise known as System 7, are playing ‘Manik Shamanik’ from the CD ‘Seventh Wave’ on the hi-fi. It’s quite loud, so we can hear it in the bath upstairs. I just wanted to note how much I like having music around me, rather than on headphones. You can move round the music; be in the music. It takes on the characteristics of the space you are in. It’s also a shared experience (however perhaps to the annoyance of others). It’s part of the environment, rather than isolating you in a little bubble. In the case of music like this, you can feel the bass, too.

System_7

(This is uplifting, positive music, as is most of Steve Hillage’s work. No, I haven’t bought the 22 CD, £200 Steve Hillage pre-System 7 retrospective box set, much as I have been tempted. Would I ever have time to hear it all?)

Easter Bunny versus the Chocolate Carrots

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And did you get Easter eggs today? Have you been good?”

When will you get eggs? Monday?”

And is the Easter bunny coming?”

It’s Good Friday. We’re shopping. I’m even more confused than ever.

My parents weren’t especially religious. Nevertheless, there were certain rituals at Easter. We always had hot cross buns for breakfast on Good Friday; they just weren’t available at any other time of the year, anyway. On Easter Sunday we always had soft-boiled eggs for breakfast and the shells always turned pink. I never could work out how my mother made this happen, even when I knew about food colouring. Easter eggs only appeared on Easter Sunday. In later years, they used to make a Simnel cake. That was about it.

Now Easter just seems to be a blur of chocolate, the Easter bunny, egg hunts and hot cross buns of all kinds of flavours. It starts soon after Christmas.

Now I’m not one to look behind, I know that times must change.” It’s just that…. well, I can’t work it out. Are there any vestiges of the Christian story or a spring festival? Or is it just a vague commercial opportunity? For once, this isn’t the fault of schools; I know they teach what Easter is, as they do with festivals of several religions.

Tradition, as I have said before, is important, especially for children. I’m not arguing for a return to the traditions of my childhood. I’m not arguing for anything, I suppose. I’m just saddened by the way in which any message, pagan or Christian or whatever, has been lost in the quest for sales.

How about that? Almost a whinge. Happy Easter/ spring festival/ whatever.

Of Sigils and Quidditch, or Lord Voldemort meets the White Walkers

To my surprise, I find myself admitting that, on the whole, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling are a Good Thing. They have enthused and excited a whole generation of readers. Many of those readers have been motivated to read at a level of complexity and difficulty far beyond what they would otherwise attempted. As far as I know, this is still going on.

There are drawbacks. Some children were daunted by them and thus given a further negative outlook on reading. I know that some parents pushed their children to read the books, because they felt it was a Good Thing, and that this had a very negative effect. There is a fine line between encouragement and pressure. However, I also know that some parents read the books to or with their children- a Very Good Thing. (Miss O. #1 says that my reading ‘The Hobbit’ to her was her gateway drug to reading. Nothing makes me prouder.)

(Probably some of the original Harry Potter generation are reading the books to their own children. I just hope this doesn’t lead to the Roald Dahl problem; at one point he was being read and promoted to the exclusion of new authors.)

I read ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ when the series was starting to achieve a popularity beyond its initial cult following (but before the films). I enjoyed it, although I thought I detected echoes of ‘The Worst Witch’. I have read the lot and have one major reservation: they are too long.

It’s probably heresy to say this, but I believe that Ms. Rowling needed a good editor. The first book was comparatively tautly written. I got increasingly bored with the series. Particularly I wish there was nothing about Quidditch, or at least much less; and I wish there were no references to snogging. They are tiresome. Quibbles aside, I would love to have an abridged version of the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong; there are some moving and exciting episodes. Probably the very things I find uninspiring are the things young readers love. Butterbeer, anybody? Anyway, who am I to quarrel with such a success?

The title of the book in the picture may surprise British readers- presumably this is the American version.

Harry Potter Continue reading

A Teaching Moment: The New £1 Coin

I’ve just had a teaching moment. I don’t know if other retired teachers get these, or if they just wake up sweating in the night, convinced they haven’t done the planning, or the marking, or that their students haven’t reached the required level, or that they haven’t prepared for the lesson observation tomorrow, or that OFSTED are coming…… No, it wasn’t one of those. It was a positive moment.

£1 coinI’ve just seen a new £1 coin for the first time. For those of you not in the UK (I am delighted to say that quite a few occasionally read this blog) the coin is 12- sided, slightly larger than the old coin and designed to foil forgers.

All of a sudden, my mind switched into teacher mode. Wouldn’t this be a great maths lesson theme? Imagine the fun able (and not so able) primary children could have with it.

Think of the questions that could be asked. What shape is the outline? (A dodecagon. Roughly, it’s slightly curved.) What 3D shape is it? (A dodecagonal prism. Again, roughly.) What are its width and thickness? How heavy is it? (Dunno….. How could you work it out? It’s too small for conventional scales.) How many of the new ones weigh how many of the old ones? What numbers does it have on it? How many make a kilogram… or how much would a kilogram of £1 coins be worth? How high would £100 in £1 coins be? And on, and on….. Draw it…. without drawing round it. Then there’s research work: how many will be in circulation? When will the old one be withdrawn?

Actually, this would be a great homework. You could pose a few questions and then ask the students to ask more. However, as usual, some parents would prepare a huge dossier without any child input.

Sadly, I got very excited about this, then just a little sad that I couldn’t do it. Only a little sad, mind you. By the way, my teaching nightmares usually involve me not being able to find a coffee mug at breaktime and getting back to the class late. That’s sad.

I’d be delighted to find that somebody has already thought of this, but even more delighted to find that somebody else has used it. Or perhaps it doesn’t fit whatever the latest curriculum might be.

(The image attached is labelled for non-commercial re-use; I know this can be a tricky area where currency is concerned. However, I don’t think this one will help forgers very much. It’s probably courtesy the Royal Mint.)