Grumpy Older Person on the heatwave and uniform

A news item today condemned a school for making pupils- sorry, students- wear school uniform in the “heatwave”. The aforementioned uniform was a polo shirt and trousers.

My goodness, writes my grumpy older person alter ego. In my day we wore blazers, pullovers or waistcoats, shirts, ties and woolly vests. With caps. And gaberdine mackintoshes in all weathers. Woe betide you if your socks were not the regulation thick woollen ones. Why, I remember in the heatwave of ’72, when birds were dropping out of the sky from the heat…….

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, uniform. Well, it’s hard to think of a uniform that’s cooler than a polo shirt. I suppose shorts could substitute for trousers. I don’t suppose many students would be seen dead in sandals, however.

The news item has made me recall my schooling, which doesn’t often happen. We did have to wear blazers or jackets (and ties) in all weathers, unless given permission by the teacher of the lesson we were in. I remember Miss Young (a rather wonderful English teacher- one of the old-school types who never shouted or punished, but who never, ever had any class control problems) allowed us to take our jackets off. The room was suddenly bright with white shirts, and the odd grey one.

While we’re on the subject of uniform, hands up who remembers gaberdine macs. On of my abiding memories is the smell of them drying in the cloakrooms. Unforgettable. We take for granted modern fabrics: waterproof, cool or warm, stain resistant, easily washed and often not needing ironing, cheap……

Anyway, enjoy the heat. You’ll be moaning come the winter….

Note: More apologies (in the unlikely event of anybody reading my old posts) for some of the comments. Some are just weird. including instructions for storing medicines. Wot? Nothing to do with me, gov……

A Literary Wedding

DSCN6753Briefly- We went to a lovely wedding the other day, where there was something of a literary theme: hearts on the table punched out from a copy of Pride and Prejudice, paper bouquets made from books and magazines, themed course names, and so on.

 

 

DSCN6752I particularly liked being asked to choose a present for myself: a book from a selection made by the bride and groom. The idea provoked discussion and pleasure. I know it has motivated some guests to read, or to read something new. I chose ‘Underworld’ by Don de Lillo, as the groom particularly recommended it. Looks like a cue for a blog review. Eventually; it’s huge. Thank you, Michael and Christy-Anne

Reading in Public

Now that I have more leisure time, I have started to notice what people are reading in public. Just for my own amusement, but hopefully yours, I am sharing my observations with you.

This all started when I saw somebody who I stereotyped as a businesswoman reading Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a world without work, by Nick Srineck and Alex Williams, which is apparently a “major new manifesto for a high-tech future free from work”. To which I will only say: oh yeah? For all the starving or impoverished billions of the world? Or just the privileged few? No, I haven’t read it, and am not inspired to do so.

Persuasion (Jane Austen) This was being read by the kind of lady you would expect to be reading Jane Austen; although a surprisingly wide range of people like her work. An old hardback copy. It does inspire me to want to reread Austen, a pleasure that never fails.

Azol Agol This is a cautionary tale, perhaps. We were in Boston Tea Party, Honiton; the youngish man at the table was reading a book. Mindful of my intention to write this blog, I was peering to see what the title was, and realised this looked incredibly creepy, so stopped. It was something like Azol Agol, but I can’t find this anywhere! I can find books with Azul (I think this is “blue” in Portugese), but not the exact title. Have I misread it? I know it was recommended by New Statesman. It remains A Mystery.

Kindle Here, of course, is Another Mystery. There is no way of knowing what someone is reading on a Kindle. Of course, you could guess, from the gasps of surprise or horror, the tears, or perhaps the heavy breathing: apparently this is a good way to disguise an interest in pornography (sorry, erotic literature). Fifty Shades of Grey is allegedly a favourite; no, I haven’t read it; yes, I have peeked into it; yes, it does really look like rubbish. Come to think of it, I see a lot of Kindle reading, by all ages, and I am sure this is more for convenience than from a desire to hide titles from prying bloggers.

(According to Mrs O. it is common to see Japanese commuters reading the most violent and sexual manga comics and books on their journey to and from work.)

On a lighter note,  I was delighted to see two young children having breakfast before school in the Waitrose café, reading with apparent pleasure and apparently uncoerced. Their books were J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and that timeless classic, Digger to the Rescue (author unknown) (see footnote). Interestingly, there is at least one edition of the Harry Potter books that was published in “serious” covers for adults. A couple of weeks later, I saw the family again and had the courage to tell the mum that as a retired teacher it did my heart good to see children reading, not playing on their phones. “Oh, you wouldn’t want to teach this one,” she smiled. “He reads all the time, even when the teacher is talking.” I rather think this might be a Good Thing. Depends on the teacher.

Another recent sighting was a table of four people with a copy of The Ups and Downs of Cruising. Before you get any peculiar ideas about the subject matter, it turns out to be a rather light-hearted book by Bryan Shelley about…. taking a cruise. Not “walking or driving about a locality in seach of a sexual partner” (Wikipedia). What a relief. This is Hampshire, after all.

Trains are another good source of reading matter observations: newspapers, manuals and magazines as well as books of course. The Kindle is popular. However, last week I saw Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben, which I think is some sort of medical thriller, and A Piano in the Pyrenees, which is a “light hearted travel book” by Tony Hawks. Older readers will remember ‘A Year In Provence’, another book in which an Englishman moves to France. I assume that this is similar, full of gentle misunderstandings and affection. I may be wrong and I have too much to read to confirm or deny this. I speculate that these books may be indicative of a desire to escape from the mundane reality of commuting. I only spotted the author’s name on another train book: Phillip Kerr, who I have found writes crime novels set in wartime and post-war Berlin, with detective ‘Bernie Gunther’. More escapism?

I suppose I should mention The Tent, the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. These could recently be spotted being read by the Obliques while waiting for daughter #3. I have blogged about the latter (‘The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend’ by Katarina   Bivald). The former is apparently a very amusing read about camping. We’ve been there….

DSCN6711

Footnote: ‘Digger to the Rescue” is part of a series by Mandy Archer and Martha Lightfoot. Putting jokes aside, they look great for young readers.

£367, 640

Many of you will recognise that sum as the alleged weekly wage paid to one of the star English Premier League footballers. As far as I know, it has not been disputed.

£367640

As my legion of followers and regular readers will know, I try desperately to be positive in this blog, sometimes in the face of overwhelming odds. I just can’t bring myself to be positive about this.

I’m sure there have been all sorts of comparisons and conversions made to show what this figure really means. For example, to take an example I know a bit about, unless teaching has suddenly become hugely more profitable since I retired, this would pay the annual salaries of ten teachers, with a lot of the other costs of employing them…. in a week.

It would pay for six thousand homeless people to stay in Southampton Travlelodge for a night. Yes, I know…. it’s not big enough. OK, it would pay for 16 of them to stay in a Travelodge for a year. 32 if they doubled up.

It would buy a three bedroomed house in Southampton. That’s every week. It would buy 81, 879 Big Mac meals. For pity’s sake, it would buy me chocolate for life, or 1868 copies of that Steve Hillage box set I don’t really want. Really. Yes, I am very privileged to be able to make that comparison, and my life is very privileged compared to very many people’s in this country and abroad.

Some of you (and I can guess who you are) will argue that this is just a result of market forces; that if the fans didn’t pay for the tickets, then salaries like these would not be paid; that players with this level of skill deserve what they get. You have a point. But my point is that such enormous discrepancies in rewards are out of all proportion.

I’m sorry, I think this is just wrong. No. I can’t think how it can be changed. Yes, my reasoning probably has huge holes in it. But I think it’s just wrong.

 

 

Fashion Police Bulletin #3

Before we get going on our latest bulletin, the Fashion Police would just like to clarify their position on gender. That is…. we don’t care about gender. Identify how you like. Dress according to however you see yourself. (And in our humble opinion, unisex toilets would be a very civilising influence on those who identify as male. However, this is moving away from our role as arbiters of good fashion taste.)

Nevertheless, there are many- dare we say a majority- of people who do identify quite clearly with traditional male or female genders. Thus we use these terms when necessary, without implying that they are binding or exclusive, or that you should necessarily dress according to your stated or self-identified gender, if you wish to state it or self-identify it. Indeed, we saw a gentleman (for his beard implied to us that that was how he saw himself) in Southampton the other day in a very fetching dress and make-up. The Fashion Police applaud such individuality and flair.

Colour The Fashion Police find themselves in the happy position of being able to start this bulletin with thorough approval of the brighter shades that are making some sort of a comeback this Spring. This is most evident in shops, and seems to be trickling through to the high street. While it is generally not the Fashion Police’s role to be prescriptive, we thoroughly approve.

Ready-Ripped Clothing We hate to labour a point, but we are very perturbed to find that our views on ripped jeans (see Bulletin #2) have been ignored; in fact that there is evidence of ‘artfully’ ripped tops being for sale. In one horrific example, the holes looked much like bullet holes. Don’t do it (Penalty according to extent of pre-ripping.)

T-shirtWriting on T-shirts The other day we saw a young lady (for that is presumably how she self-identified) with a neat T-shirt, on which was printed the word “……imist”. The dots are to indicate that none of us could see the rest of the word. “Optimist”? “Pessimist”? “Soroptimist”? (We have never worked out what that last one means.) Now we could have stared intently at her chest until we could see the word clearly, but the male members of the Fashion Police felt this was inappropriate. The moral? Please don’t wear a T-shirt with writing on unless you are happy to have people look at your chest. Especially not long texts; some of us are not happy until we have read them all. No penalty; just a word to the wise. (I’ve been dying to use that expression since I heard it on EastEnders the other night.)

Sports Short In a well-known clothing store today there was a banner advertising a “Sports short”. In another part of the store there was a banner advertising “T-shirt and shorts”. Are we missing something? Is a “short” different from a “pair of shorts”? Is this a protest against an archaic use of the word shorts, as a plural for what is now a singular item? Or is it just sloppy thinking? You may well argue that this is totally outside the remit of the Fashion Police. You’d be wrong. Sort it out, P*****k.

Back-to-front Baseball Caps Still? Are they all taking the mickey? After all we have said?

 

England, My England

All sorts of odd thoughts abour imperialism, multiculturalism, patriotism etc. Not very entertaining or worthwhile unless you’re a retired teacher with time on your hands.

I started to write this while listening to ‘Impi’, by Johnny Clegg and Juluka, a rousing song about the defeat of British forces by Zulu warriors. It’s stirring, passionate stuff. I suppose that very few would argue that the European armies which invaded Africa and a lot of other places had right on their side. I think however that Jonny Clegg has probably some sympathies with the British soldiers: the ‘poor bloody infantry’.

It got me thinking about all manner of things: what it means to be the descendant of imperialists; what it means to be a white man in a multicultural world; what it means to be patriotic; what it means to be English… or is it British?

In no particular order, then: multiculturalism (whatever that means) is a fact of life in my country. (Just for the sake of argument, let’s call my country England.) No amount of posturing or opposition is going to change that. I think that my children don’t really notice colour or culture. I do, because I am a late middle-aged white middle-class man; but I try to embrace it and not to let my upbringing prejudice me. Multiculturalism brings its difficulties, but also huge rewards.

So does multiculturalism mean that we- or I- can’t be patriotic? I think that we can.

When I talk about being patriotic, I mean that I have a strong feeling for the country I live in. That includes all its multicultural elements. I won’t begin to give examples, because I’m sure I’d offend somebody, or myself. (Oh, alright then. Music, art, food…. and music.) I do not mean my country, right or wrong. As Tim Stanley said in the Daily Telegraph, if you think your country is doing wrong then you have a patriotic duty to correct it. I love my country, but if I didn’t, I would try to change it or get out. (Yes, I know Dr Johnson said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel; he was talking about a particular instance, not the term in general.)

Yes, I am also very aware of my country’s imperial past. A huge amount of what was done was wrong. But it wasn’t my fault! If slavery had been happening in my lifetime and I had been aware of it I would have tried to change it. I did not support the Iraq war; to my shame I did no more than fulminate about it.

I particularly love the tolerant attitude of very many of my fellow countrypersons. Maybe they are even a majority? Most people I meet don’t give a ****** **** about colour, race, religion, or choice of dress, food or music. I realise I live in the soft South; yet Southampton has quite a high immigrant population, and I love sitting in a café and watching mixed race couples or grous of friends wander past with no comment at all. Yes, I know this is a very small piece of England/ Britain…. but this blog has to be about how I see it from my corner of the world.

So, let’s look at that list of issues that Johnny Clegg started….. I see I haven’t covered the English/ British debate. I think I’ll leave that to another time, as it seems to warrant more thought. There is also a hidden issue, that of English song, which I keep avoiding writing about. Look up Johnny Clegg- he’s no relation to Nick Clegg, as far as I know. The music is excellent; what you might call early ‘world music’. I imagine however that he might be quite scathing about my privileged first world musings.

By the way, I am finishing this blog listening to “Drone4Daevid” by various musicians.

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