Lesley and I took the decision to home educate our Daughter after the state system failed her in every way - she was being bullied at the age of three and beyond into reception, whilst at reception she was forced to do PE (in her knickers because we'd forgotten her gym shorts) in the dining hall when there was left-over food on the floor carpet. She was left to sit in the 'reading area' with dirty cushions and even dirtier books, she was stuck in a classroom with no daylight because the windows had been replaced with 'vandal-proof' perspex which had yellowed with age and become opaque with scratches and graffiti, we were forced to stand with parents who turned up in their pyjama's and slippers, who smoked in the playground and spat and cursed as they waited for children they should have never had (and wouldn't have had if the benefit system didn't pay for them.) I could go on (and on) but I think you get my point.
And now the education minister has commissioned a Mr Graham Badman (apt name) to come up with a report (Read some of it here) which basically gives the local authority the power to enter my home to assess me, my wife, the home and worst of all 'question' (interrogate) my daughter ALONE - without her parents present, and all because someone thinks that if the state isn't educating her she has to be being abused in some way. If I don't allow them access I will be comitting a criminal offence and could have my child removed to a 'safe house' indefinately.
We found out yesterday that the government plans to set up another 'child protection agency' - the ISA (Independent Safeguarding Authority) which will quite simply criminalise anyone who cares for a child without being 'investigated and assessed' for suitability by the new agency. So if, as we do, you place your child into the care of another (family members included - so grandmothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles beware!) for any length of time they will have to be put to scrutiny by this 'independent' government agency and face a fine of up to £5000 if they do not agree to it. I'm all for safeguarding children - after all this is why I took her out of the state system - but this is an overreaction to a couple of doubtless very serious cases of child abuse (Baby P, Holly & Jessica et al) where you will find that it was the state, or state run regulatory bodies which failed the child/children in the first place.
Nanny State getting out of control and getting away with it - Matthew Parris' take in the Times puts it all into perspective - VIEW HERE. Here's a snippet:-
"The ISA scheme and its enabling legislation were a response to the Soham murders. Those murders would almost certainly never have happened were it not for the incompetence of the police, social services and education authorities. The result is that in consequence of the failure of three state authorities, a fourth state authority has been set up. "
I've never understood all the fuss around games and gaming. I never really 'got' Space Invaders'-style arcade games in the eighties. The most challenging computerised game I ever played was Atari Tennis in the late 1970's!
Last Saturday Lesley came home with a Nintendo DS console and the game "Professor Layton and the Curious Village". By Wednesday afternoon I'd completed 100 of the 120 puzzles in the game and solved the mystery of 'the golden apple' (there are actually 135 puzzles hidden in the game, but 15 are 'bonus' ones and quite difficult to find.)
Realising my growing fascination with the device, I ordered Dr Kawashima's Brain Training - the one Jamie and Harry Rednapp and Julie Walters and Captain Picard advertise! It arrived on Wednesday (just in time!) The game gives you various puzzles in an attempt to determine the 'age' of your brain. I won't tell you what age my brain was on my first attempt (72) but I've managed to get it down to 46 by constant use and wearing down the console battery four times!!!
I can't say I'm going to rush out and buy a Playstation or Wii but now I can finally see how addictive they are - plus Emily can use it to improve her maths (if I let her!)
I'm afraid Lesley hasn't had a look in! We may have to invest in a second one!
Old 'Denim' our three year old Ford Ka was beginning to look a little jaded and a decision was made late last week to look for another car better suited to a growing six year old girl (Emily) as well as befitting a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis!! Within an hour of the decision being made to look for a car we'd bought it!!
This is my mid-life crisis itch well and truly scratched:
Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Sxi - not the most sporty of saloons, but more sporty than the Ford Ka and a few steps up the insurance group scale - and a few steps down in the miles per gallon scale!! I have a strange feeling I might regret the purchase when the Bank of England decides to up the mortgage interest rate!!
I came across this photo whilst uploading a back-up disk during my recent computer problems, and it got me thinking of how the years have flown since it was taken. Emily was just three weeks old and completely helpless, my life as a father had just begun - a role I knew nothing about (having had no secure father figure as a child myself.) Without blowing my own trumpet too much, I think I've done a bloody good job of it! Emily is six now and with a real character and personality of her own, a mixture my sense of humour and adventure and her mother's looks and brains. We've all come a long way.
My sincerest apologies for not blogging much of late - I have been exceptionally busy with work commitments, I changed my broadband supplier, my computer died and was reborn (again!) and any number of other excuses for not updating - all of which are true.
A consequence of computer difficulties is this new layout / template which, as you can see has completely deleted all of my additional widgets / add-ons etc - so I'll be checking to see if I can get these back up today... and tomorrow ... and probably for the next week and a half.
Watched "In the Pursuit of HappYness" last night and have to say it is one of the best films I have ever seen and brought so much of my own life back to me.
In the film Will Smith and his son are forced to live rough whilst he is an unpaid intern on a training program - the outcome of which will see just one intern being appointed as a broker with one of America's leading stockbroker agencies. The film follows his trials and tribulations in the pursuit of happiness and is based on a true story.
The comparisons with my own life (and I suppose many more people's lives) were uncanny (apart from becoming a stockbroker that is!!) Shortly after leaving the police force in 1985 I thought I'd try to find work in London but failed to plan things properly and ended up in bedsit after bedsit after converted wash-house, and for a time I slept rough near Charing Cross - not being aware of the benefits system I didn't claim what I should've and ended up spending all of the little money I had staying in a 'guest house' near Hyde Park, (Doss House would've been a more appropriate description) However, eventually I found work as a front of house attendant at The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane during the evenings and weekends, and during the day I sold advertising on a commission only basis.
Having achieved my goal, and having had some life changing, eye opening and at times very scary experiences along the way, I returned to the North East and a 'proper job' in business support. I've been there ever since (barring a short time running a courier firm in the mid to late nineties) but I wouldn't change any of it - those experiences made me the person I am today (Yes, a miserable old git, but also a person who strives to be the best at everything he does and who doesn't expect life to give him anything without hard work and possibly a bit of strife along the way - it's the best way to be, in my humble opinion and it makes you appreciate what you have.)
I highly recommend the film - go and rent or buy it tonight, you won't regret it.
The rather diminutive figure crowded out by the imposing stature, not to mention kaleidoscopic colour, of the Berlin Wall is me, aged 21.
My visit to Berlin took the form of a weekend of booze and more booze, but in between drinking sessions I found time to take in the 'sights' of the then divided city/country - Checkpoint Charlie, The Wall, the underground where you would pass through stations last accessed in 1961 when the wall went up, but whose lights still glowed and whose posters and signs depicted a very different era. East Berlin - which was very easy to get in to, but almost impossible to get out of, Potsdam, where the surrender treaty was signed, Dresden - bombed beyond recognition during the war and seemingly never repaired, Spandau Jail, which at the time still housed a solitary, elderly inmate by the name of Rudolph Hess (who would commit suicide some three months after my visit - was it something I said?) the prison being demolished the following month to avoid it becoming a site of pilgrimage to Germans sympathetic to the Nazi regime.
Less than two years after my visit The Wall was overpowered by the will of the people to escape the past and Berlin was once more reunited.
A former colleague of mine (from the very dim and distant past) posted me a photograph of me meeting a certain British Prime Minister in 1986.
It was taken shortly after I left the police force and, looking at it now, I can see why I was asked so often if my mother knew I was out whilst policing the streets of Stockton on Tees. At the time the picture was taken I was beginning my career in business support, unemployment in the UK was approaching three million and Mrs Thatcher was definately NOT popular having recently dispatched the British Coal industry and Arthur Scargill to history - she had another five years before even her own party got sick of her.
Being a paid up member of the Labour Party at the time I made my own 'protest' by wearing a red tie!! Though I do remember thinking what a remarkable woman she was, and how, over the course of the ten minute conversation I had with her, she almost changed my political views - I had to slap myself!! Very persuasive lady. I admire her tenacity now more than I did then that's for sure!
Celebrity at last!! - Well, that's not quite true.
Yesterday, after much emailing and telephoning (and begging), The Hartlepool Mail finally picked up on the book and have decided to run a piece on our fundraising activities for Red Nose Day '09, which was nice of them. The story evolves in Hartlepool because of the obvious link with their own legend, but there are not-so-subtle differences - our monkey is German, the legend version was French and a spy. Our monkey talks, theirs didn't - that's why they hung it, but our monkey talks himself into being hung because of his poor grasp of the English language!
So, at lunchtime yesterday I had to explain myself and answer their reporter Mark Thompson's questions about why we'd written the book and what it was all about. I think I did okay, now I just have to buy The Hartlepool Mail for the next few weeks and hope nothing too major happens in the world to wipe our story off the front page (lol.)
A quick post today to apologise for not commenting on your blogs lately - I have been visiting some. I've got a major push on at the moment promoting the book in order to raise as much cash as possible for Red Nose Day 09.
It's surprising how many people (even up here in the North East) haven't heard the legend of the Hartlepool Monkey, how, during the Napoleonic War, the Crofters of Hartlepool recovered a monkey from a shipwreck and tried and convicted it of being a French spy - having never seen a monkey or a Frenchman before, and having been unable to fathom its 'language'. They sentenced it to death by hanging. Our book takes a glance at this legend and turns it into fictional truth - our monkey is a German speaking, seafaring, baboon trying to escape persecution of his kind in his homeland. It's a bit of nonsense for Red Nose Day and I want everyone to download a copy NOW!! (Nothing like being upfront and honest, is there?!!lol)
Have a look at the website and read the first two chapters for free - click here
Following the red sky in the morning, it turns out it WAS a shepherd's warning!! The snow has been falling thick and fast across much of the UK overnight and today - and there's more to come. Still, it makes for a pretty picture AND (if you don't have to drive or work in it) it's fun, fun, fun!!
This Red Nose Day - 13th March 2009 I/we (being myself and my co-writer Andrew Baker) have decided to donate the proceeds from every one of our books downloaded from today until 13th March.
Although available as a paperback the royalties from a physical copy of the book are much lower than that of an electronic download - something like £1.20 per paperback sold as opposed to £3.00 for every downloaded copy, so we've stuck to the most revenue producing element for our charitable activity.
So, a download of "The Baboon's Left Testicle (Part One of Two)" will cost you £4.00 of which £3.00 will go directly to The Red Nose Day Appeal. We've signed a Fundraising Agreement with the charity so we don't want to lose face by sending them a cheque for £6 - the proceeds of our own downloads - so apologies for the blatant appeal!!
If you've not yet decided how to support this great event which does so much for worthwhile causes across the world then this could be one way to relieve you of the burden of having to make a choice. Even if you don't like the book - just think of where your money's going.
If you prefer a physical copy of the book (and don't want to support the Red Nose Day Appeal) then you can now buy it from Amazon!
"…Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who do not believe in magic will never find it." (The last published words of Roald Dahl.)