Tuesday, 4 September 2018

The Blasted Hour of Marketing Hangs Heavy on Me Again


Just come to Stall 13, Handmade and Vintage Doodah, CMK this weekend. Okay? It's a lot easier on all of us. To sell my beautiful Knicker Drawer Note Books I won't be wearing Shark's apocalyptic facemask, although I might dress up A Bit Steam. Not enough to frighten you with the goggles and plumbing and copper piping, just enough to enjoy myself.



I have a lot of lovely books for you there. Ridiculously under-priced. And, if you are the right person, I might even hand one over to you completely free. Yes, that might be a bit off-trolley, but I'm not out to make any more than simply feed my own addiction.



The Knicker Drawer Note Books are passion. Vulnerability and endurance; loss and remembrance; blasted hearts and broken souls and resilience and bloodyminded determination to hold the little things that matter. Like postage stamps and handwritten notes, which are timeless and endure well beyond any day's trials, like body blows and mortal wounds. Intimacy. Yes, that as well, in the materials I use and the crumpled cotton bedsheets from which I stitch. Am I rambling? Who gives a toss. I'll put those thoughts in a notebook.








My next step is to sit in front of the computer, DOING MY MARKETING. Pity me there. I will be cursing and threatening Facebook (which I hate, much like a 17thC Puritan facing down Satan), and Twitter, which is maybe not so bad, because at least Donald Trump gives me a laugh.

Ramblings. Better committed to a lovely tactile sensory notebook, tied with ribbon, scented with perfume, and stashed away in a Knicker Drawer for my great grandchildren to wonder at and assume that I just drank a lot of gin.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Steampunk Asylum X at the Lovely Lincoln

My mood will be down, at least for a few days, while I sink to reality, the splendid upliftingness of the Steampunk Asylum X gone! Where a buoyant time was had by all in our tribe, including our Travelling Aunty, in her sea captain's hat and her golden octopus, coiled in a net, called Octavia, and hauled from the waves. Oh that time would come again!

Who could not love to be here, surrounded by all the gentle madnesses, the dedication to craft and to story and to living life a little splendidly? And, if next year, you cannot strap on your corset and don your hat, you must be too deep mired in some bad real world to be able to come with us and escape into fantasy.

















(Just to reassure the concerned: Professor Pragma was not plugged in to the wall socket.)


Thursday, 23 August 2018

Off to the Asylum

Ah! A perfect time of year! I strap unlikely items to my hat then off I wobble, down the road, all the way to Lincoln! Suitcase of magical books in hand, inspired by bits that fell off the car and old plumbing, wending my happy way to Bailgate Market Methodist Hall.

Professor Pragma is still standing (well, mostly lying down), having completed 12 rounds of chemo and now on a fortnightly drip of reduced juice to keep him going for the August bank holiday. If you see him, doff your cap. He deserves it.

And oh! What wondrous books! Saturday and Monday! (Remember, not Sunday. The very friendly Methodists will be enjoying a sing song.)
















And, for the first time, the start of a new line in what will become the book bags...


The Mars Explorer! As The War of the Worlds ends, you're the first group of scientists assigned on an ambassador mission to build peace! Right? Anyway, you need the bag. Ta-da!


In all other news, there has been a lot of it. My tribe are all busy about their doings in adventuring ways creating more news than the Grit Station can handle.

Just come over to Asylum X and say hello. Remember, Methodist Hall, just down from the Assembly Rooms, Saturday and Monday.*

* But if I have to cart Prof Pragma off to hospital, sorry to miss you.

Monday, 16 July 2018

It's not the home register that matters...

A home-school register my fat arse. This is about getting all you parents and kids on a surveillance list.

The better to know where we are, little piggies, all the better to gobble us up.

1. The 'register' will give both schools and local authorities a free hand in bullying, abusing and generally lying to parents who express uncertainty that Tinkertop's school is doing the best for her. Especially when she gets the blame for having the crap kicked out of her in the playground.

Examples of poor local authority practice abound in my world. Rare it is, how we hear of benign hands and sympathetic nods to the alternative lives shaped by home education.

2. The government and media, continuous drum-banging of the words 'Home School'. But not 'Home Education'.

Oh how revealing is their language! Says the government with an agenda to enforce schooling: 'THERE MUST BE SCHOOL'. Education journalists, hang your heads in shame. Are you aware of the history of your words? Of philosophical inquiry into ideas about education? Of the difference between UK and US culture? Of what it means to school and to educate?

3. It's not the register they ultimately want. It's control over what's taught.

This is coming at home educators, just round the corner, hurtling fast. Stop going off into that field you ne'er do wells! What are you up to? You'll never learn anything useful from that blackbird! You must teach British Values and Citizenship!

4. And after the control come the inspections.

It's been a long-held belief by, um, almost everyone, that my children, like thousands of others, are invisible. If I mentioned to anyone, anywhere, that my children are invisible, I'd be sectioned before the week was out. But it's okay for the authorities to declare this paranormal state of my children to me and then demand that I make them visible.

5. Next... control over who's teaching, where a child learns, and ...how much money from your taxes can be handed to Pearson?

It's not a far leap into the imagination to create a situation where every child has part of their school career delivered* at home.

Ah, you school choosers! You will throw up your hands in horror and exclaim, 'We can't teach anything! We're working!' And the government will say, 'It's alright! Your child can follow their personal goals on a step-by-step program delivered by Pearson, on a database maintained by Capita! Look! We already tested it out on the home-schoolers!'

And you can rest assured, knowing that your child won't miss out on anything and you can go to work leaving the camera turned on and the robot in charge.

6. I've come to believe that home education, especially of the autonomous variety, is not understood by anyone, unless you're doing it or are in it.

I have had my guts wrenched out, over the years, trying to explain autonomous education to people; how it changes authorities, dynamics, power structures, what you think about the world, every blasted thing. That freedom has been based on trust. It's in the government's interest not to trust and to sow lack of trust.

So today, I just want to say, Oh fuck off, you ignorant Guardian tossers.

7. At which point do you Home educate? Home school?

All you innocent parents out there, with your cute gurgling baby and blasted sleepless nights. Are you teaching your child at home? We can see you, spinning that early-learning Einstein cot toy. The register will extend to you, pretty quickly, because your child will need to be tracked. And is Tinkertop attending her nursery place? If not, why not?

8. A register has nothing to do with home education and everything to do with the nut-jobs.

Sadly that little hoard contain not just the downright dangerous Monster Parents, but fundamentalist, extreme-thinking Jewish, Muslim, Christian groups who have surfed their knowledge of legal educating options to use the home educating world as a cover for their crazy ideologies.

I guess I'm not allowed to say that.


*delivered ... I remember sitting in a school hall in 1993, fighting a headteacher over their use of this statement: 'delivery of the curriculum'. Look now. Another of my infamous lost battles. And who's left around me to even see what the issue is? This is how our normal moves on.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Parent bashing

I see the Guardian is enjoying its pre-summer holiday fun with its now familiar 'Leave those kids alone' headline. Huh. Parents. One moment it's neglect; the next we're helicoptering.

I just want to remember a bit of background culture.

Not so many years ago (Sir) Michael Wilshaw urged more structured learning in school-based nurseries.

As I remember, he advised 'well-directed play', which I guess is code to parents for Teach your child how to play before they get to nursery at age 2! Then your little Tinkertop will be ahead at school and succeed in LIFE! Maybe his agenda was to reinforce the culture of school league tables and early testing.

I guess some nurseries took up the offer, telling Tinkertop how to play with the toy trucks in a manner which would comply with all road signals. Then upcoming parents could be properly instructed in the pre-nursery input expected of them. Direct your child's play to focus their learning potential and maximise performance in age 5 tests - realise your child's true potential!

But it's not the first time that the government, with its departments and think tanks, have set about telling parents what to do and how to do it, threatening us with the guilt of dire consequences if our child fails to comply.

As in, your child will fall behind if they miss one day of school. Your child will fail to get a good job if they don't follow the school rules. And (one of the best yet), Your child will fail if they don't have a good grasp of grammar.

As a semi-neglectful parent of daughters, who have between them missed some 10,000 days at school (and I have yet to find one drawback about this), I can truly say I want parents to rebel. I really do. I want parents to loudly call out nonsensical parent-bashing crap every time they encounter it. I want them to kick up so much fuss we can't see the pavements for the packs of feral kids sent out to see if they can construct a functioning alternative society before tea-time.

Let's face reality. Schooling is big business from pre-school to further education. The government has turned the whole lot into a retail job, running on the same lines as the outfits in your shopping centre department stores. Courses have 'sticker prices' and now it seems normal to talk about money, not widening a person's thinking, as the end goal to a life lived in schooling. Research, findings, policy-forming think-tanking: I suspect much of it. They are basically seeking to reinforce the schooling system that we have, rather than to radically approach and present challenging thinking.

So how about a different puzzle for us all to spin on. How many graduates do you need to staff a coffee shop?


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Welcome to the ecare system

In the last month, my husband lived in hospital for over a week. He was admitted through the emergency route on his 7th chemotherapy cycle.

A week. The longest time he has yet needed to stay. Not surprisingly, he is depressed, tired, upset, and angry. Told he can go home, this is suddenly denied him and he must stay for another day. Then another 8 hours. Someone didn't scan down the onscreen information, you see? They only looked at the first line, and the second line gave different information which would have meant a different instruction and a different result.

My husband is close to crying. He wants to cry with frustration. He wants to come home. I feel him lost in the hospital and, as I make another trek across the hospital grounds, I am afraid of the future.

Anyway, background information about my husband, whom I have known for 30 years, it doesn't matter. Neither does his name matter, and neither does any interaction anyone might have with him.

None of this matters because now he is a barcode that needs scanning.

When his barcode is scanned, the computer screen instructs the assistant. The assistant looks at the screen. They do what they are told. Then they leave the room where my husband stays alone.

When the nurses, students and assistants come to scan the barcode, these are the four interactions I have heard offered to my husband, who stays in bed day, after day, after day, while I am scared of the future.

I have numbered these interactions 1, 2, 3 and 4, for your reading convenience.

1. I'm just coming to scan your barcode.
2. Can I have your barcode?
3. Hmm. Barcode.
4. No words. (Nurse enters room, scans barcode, and leaves.)

These thoughts strike me.

Your nurse doesn't need to be human. Perhaps this would help, because then we wouldn't be disappointed. A robot doesn't care.

The doctor doesn't need to be in hospital. They could be sat anywhere in the world - the USA, India, Australia - a call-centre operative, outsourced in a globalised medical supply system. Professionals working quickly and remotely; scanning the onscreen information and sending instructions digitally. This would be easier. We wouldn't expect a human to smile.

In the old days, there used to be folders that followed you around. A person could scan, quickly, the pages of information to make a judgement. Yes, that liver function has always been high: a strange abnormality brought on by reactions to treatment. We can see how temperature follows the same pattern, so yes, let's use judgement now, in a stream of oversight, discrimination, speculation.

But that is old style. Folders are lost. Hand writing is impossible to read. Mistakes are made. Reading from a screen, one line of information, without the oversight to impede the medical decision. We could fit in twenty patients an hour on such a rapid throughput.

I'm an old dinosaur. I don't belong in this world. There is a bright new future, and I'm not part of it. The healthcare services are now looking to 5G: robotic surgery, wearable devices, online doctors, remote procedures. Technological transformation of medical services brings in consumers and markets, buyers and sellers. New markets. New economies. The healthcare budgets of old nations are vast.

This is the language of healthcare. It is of the economy. It is 'new value chains' and 'beneficial partnerships'. They will 'improve resource efficiency' and 'meet consumer demands for greater convenience and freedom of choice' with 'value for money'. This 'technological transformation' will offer 'opportunities for telecom operators to penetrate new value chains'.

But the loneliness, confusion, and dismay that might result from an all-computer system, we could deal with, couldn't we? We could access the hospital range of touch-screen devices to amuse us as we sit alone in our isolation wards and side rooms. Viewing packages available on request. Prices range from day rate to long-term. This is e-care. Enjoy your stay.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

In the playhouse

New Shed for Squirrel. Former playhouse. Roof changed from wood to polycarbonate after a holly tree fell on it. Big can of paint from Re-Use centre and result. (Much loafing about with books, I hope.)







Friday, 18 May 2018

What does 'education' mean?

What does it mean, this word education?

For the lazy, it just means 'school'.

The school this month says it means exams. They say, It's all about exams.

For some people in government it means oversight.

My neighbour says it means SATs.

I hear, for the little'uns, it means tests.

In one of our national newspapers this week 'education' means approve, monitor and inspect.

These definitions don't sound right to my ears. They all sound a bit uninspiring. Is it so? Education has become not curiosity, wondering, experimenting, learning; the time to explore.

Education means learning the mark scheme. This week, at school: What do we think of 3.2 in the mark scheme? Oh my broken heart, for what education means. I still want education to mean, What do we think of King Lear?

Well, you work it out. What do you mean by this word, education? (Careful. You might pick a fight with the school, your neighbour, or a national newspaper.)

Otherwise, outside, from over here, education is philosophy. Education never meant tests, exams, learning the mark scheme 3.2.

It means, the freedom to explore whatever you like.

Thank goodness then, we still have otherwise than at school. But we're holding on to that, only by the skin of our teeth.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Think very carefully before you're bullied into home education by a school

Beware. Times they are a-changing.

The laws and guidances pertaining to home education might be changed by the time you read this.

At present, there are no laws, no statutory duty and no powers for government to oversee, monitor, register, control, inspect, or interfere in any way whatsoever with your choice of elective home education. Neither are you required to register or seek approval from any local authority to educate your child at home.

In home education, we have enjoyed a sort of trust tradition. The state has trusted the parent, believing that the parent knows what is best for their child. Here is an implicit understanding: a parent will move heaven and earth to support, encourage and develop their own child’s interests, abilities and aptitudes.

But times, they change. We have entered a world of suspicion, surveillance, monitoring, tracking and targeting. Civil liberties is a contested area.

But the government has powerful clients like Capita and Pearson whispering of solutions to these issues. They run very nice databases and big educational-technology projects. Wouldn't it be 'right' if all citizens could, 'for connected purposes', 'be embraced' by the new opportunities that a technology-driven world can offer?

In this new world, governments and corporates could work hand-in-hand to 'help' us all, and bring about 'social cohesion'. Surely there's nothing wrong with a bit of data sharing of your child's emotional, educational and welfare needs?

Home educators, with an insistence on parental rights and freedom to eschew educational database compilations and choose what ever field they damn well like for their child are, in this happy new world, more than just an awkward squad. We must appear as awkward as dinosaurs with attitude.

For many years, as the pressure is applied to all citizens to conform, the government has ‘had a go’ (to put it mildly), at the image of us off-beat home educators, treading our own paths. Once, we were seen as eccentric hippies. The worst that was probably said of us was, 'Let them get on with it. They are harmless and bonkers.'

Over the last 20 years, as we have been seen as more 'dangerous' to the vision of conformity, then the campaigns to bring us to heel have become more vicious.

Now home educators are routinely cast as child abusers. Terrorists. People with dark secrets to hide. People who need to be watched. People who are up to no good. Feckless. Inadequate. Mentally unstable. Mothers who have Munchhausen's Syndrome by Proxy.*

My personal favourite is that my children are invisible. (I must have imagined them all along.)

But now, we have a very specific problem in the world of home education. Schools. Schools are joyless, soul-sucking places which no longer let kids run about and be kids. Kids are now proto-customers for whom their parents are indoctrinated into believing they must buy verbs and number lines. Otherwise their child will never get a job. (The jobs don't exist, but shhh about that.)

Some parents (quite rightly IMO) tell the schools to fuck off. Parents and child choose instead to run about in the woods and learn about beetles.

Some kids, trapped in this miserable SATs factory, simply go bonkers. (Not surprising.) The schools then tell the parent to fuck off. Or, 'Why don't you 'home-school'?! The parent then has a miserable time; isn't dedicated to home ed, has no philosophy about education, and thinks the answer must be in a text book, somewhere. They sink or swim.

Think very carefully, then, before you home educate. Instead of attending to the basic structural and social problems - the trust in you as a parent, the pressure on government from corporates, the demands placed on schools by government ministers - all the attention will focus on You.

You will spend all your time looking over your shoulder, wondering what is coming at you next.

A BILL [AS AMENDED IN COMMITTEE] TO

Make provision for local authorities to assess the educational development of children receiving elective home education; and for connected purposes.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1 Duty of local authorities to assess children receiving elective home education

(1)The Education Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2)After section 436A (duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education), insert—
“436B Duty of local authorities to assess children receiving elective home education

(1)Local authorities have a duty to assess the educational development of children receiving elective home education in their area.

(2)Local authorities have a duty to provide advice and information to a parent of a child receiving elective home education if that parent requests such advice or information in relation to their obligations under this section.

(3)A parent of a child receiving elective home education must register the child as such with their local authority.

(4)Local authorities must assess annually each child receiving elective home education in their area (hereafter referred to as “the assessment”).

(5)The assessment set out in subsection (4) must assess the educational development of each child.

(6)The assessment may include—
(a)a visit to the child’s home;
(b)an interview with the child;
(c)seeing the child’s work; and
(d)an interview with the child’s parent.

(7)A parent of a child receiving elective home education must provide information relevant to the assessment to their local authority when requested.

(8)The Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument specify—
(a)the arrangements for parents to register a child with their local authority under subsection (3); and
(b)the methodology of the assessment.

(9)A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(10)In this section “elective home education” refers to education given to a child at home following a decision by their parent to educate them outside the school system.”

2 Guidance relating to elective home education

(1)The Secretary of State must update the guidance for elective home education 
for local authorities and parents to account for section 436B of the Education 
Act 1996 by the end of the period of one year, beginning with the day on which 
this Act comes into force.

(2)In updating the guidance in subsection (1), the Secretary of State must have regard to—
(a)the expectation that elective home education must include provision of supervised instruction in reading, writing and numeracy, which takes into account the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs and disabilities, and
(b)the views of children and parents who elect home education.

(3)The Secretary of State may carry out a public consultation to inform the guidance set out in subsection (1).
Interpretation 
In this Act— “elective home education” refers to education given to a child at home following a decision by their parent to educate them outside the school system; and “local authority” means—
(a)in relation to England, the council of a district, county or London borough, the Common Council of the City of London and the Council of the Isles of Scilly;
(b)in relation to Wales, the council of a county or county borough.

4Extent, commencement and short title
(1)This Act extends to England and Wales only.
Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill

(2)This Act comes into force at the end of the period of two months, beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
(3)This Act may be cited as the Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Act 2017.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2017-2019/0098/lbill_2017-20190098_en_2.htm#l1g1

* 'At our first interview Mr Badman was interested in what I had to say. His opening question was to ask me if home educating mothers suffered from Munchhausen's by Proxy. I thought this to be a curious starting point - that of questioning whether home education is a symptom of mental illness.' Memorandum submitted by Dr Paula Rothermel FRSA, Educational psychologist expert witness.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

The Law doesn't matter. This is Revenge.

The first thought I have on seeing a copy of the Times article - how police are tracking home-school kids - is, Revenge.

The fact that Lords and Ladies are supporting this - a police action which has no statutory basis - shows how much of a toss they don't give about the law.

They're taking revenge. Last time, you see, we got away with it. We protected a fundamental principle of law. We protected the legal duty we all have, when we citizens hit parenthood. You, parent, get to choose what education fits your child.

Learning - it isn't about verbs and nouns, facts and figures. It's the type of world your child knows; the type of world they are shown as aspirational; the type of world which makes us proud. 'Learning' means who they interact with; how they use private and social space; who they feel accountable towards; who they see as authorities in their world. 'Learning' means all the unwritten rules, the codes of behaviours, the way we can challenge those codes; who can break them, who cannot.

All these intimate, intricate power relationships we stitch into our everyday, which we casually gloss under that word. Education.

But I can see how one law - declaring a parent's duty to educate their child - simply gets in the way. It gets in the way if more powerful people than me are trying to readjust a world of structures and hierarchies and obligations. In our new world, they need compliant citizens who don't ask too many questions; who don't criticize power too deeply; who don't ask that most dangerous of questions: Why?

In someone's vision of society you need to demonstrate all your activities in a public way. Imagine a society where your actions can be monitored, regulated, authorised. Perhaps governments and business work hand-in-hand to pass your identities and personalities between them: to better manage your compliance for other regulations, sanctions and, um, social improvements. Let us then sing our new hymns: Our society will improve! We become a better people! In our hearts is the sun!

In this utopia, some behaviours can be addressed as anti-social, fined and punished. Some behaviours are rewarded. Some behaviours modified. How is your e-behaviour credit balance doing? The score which combines your attitude to learning and your receptiveness to engagement? Welcome to our new age: Social Panopticon.

But are you failing to agree to certain rules? Did you fail to engage in the market this year? Did you fail to show us behavioural compliance with the consensus? Did you fail to demonstrate how you would like to be embraced by technological progress? Um, I think we're now on the territorial fringes of totalitarianism, aren't we?

We old dinosaurs stand in the way. We unhappy band of home educators. We who are not trying to replicate school at home. Clinging to old fashioned, quaint ideas, like The Law. My band, my tribe, those laws, we all get in the way of social improvement.

Me, I won't buy a fridge to help me make online purchases, I'll simply do without a fridge. I won't change my energy supplier, but I'll turn off the lights and lower the heating. I don't live by the consumer world. I can repair things. I can make things. I am resourceful. I am crafty.

What can I say to the Lords and Ladies who are now eagerly supporting illegal action?

Know the world my children know. They know to trust themselves and their own judgements. They know they can change the world. They know that they are valuable people who will touch the lives of others in many positive ways. They are independent-minded, strong, and determined. They are inspired by the powers, crafts, talents and ideals of ordinary people. Not with people who assume power over us.

They know that governments around the world are corrupt. They see how money doesn't reach ordinary people. They know that unbridled corporate power leads to division, greed, and makes a new type of slave-owner. They know that many who take it upon themselves to lead can be easily seduced by money and power.

They also know that home education is just one type of educational structure and in itself it's not a problem. The problem is with shit parenting. And some parents are shit whether they offload the kids to school or shut them in a cupboard at home. If you want the statistics on that, I bet I'm on safe ground to assert that more kids who go to school are abused, beaten up, made into terrorists and nut-jobs by their parents than kids living outside the mainstream schooling routine.

Your basic problem, Lords and Ladies, is this. Schools have become joyless, miserly, soul-stealing exam factories.

Schools who have one eye to their customer base are desperate to off-load kids who are not making them look good. The very kids who need social support. Schools are suggesting to parents they might like to 'home-school'. They're using home education as their cover. Schools, not home education, should be your proper focus. Unless you are particularly vengeful.

Look how governments have demolished and destroyed what children love to do - feel free, run outside, explore the world, engage in hours of child-led play, ask questions of adults who do not know the answer, find out things with people who want to explore as they do.

Governments have destroyed this childhood because these children will grow up to create an adult world which is out of their control. The adult world created by free-thinking people will be dangerous to the controlling, organising powers. We have adults who ask Why? and who feel powerful enough to organise and act. They can create a world of spontaneity, exploration, and radical challenging to traditional vested interests. If you were on the controlling side, wouldn't you want to stop this type of world, dead? And take revenge on those who try to keep it alive?

I'm not engaging with the worlds of Soley and Deech. They represent a future that my children won't have. My children will go about this world, bright sparks, bright satellites, bright thinkers, who'll always ask, Why?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Who's into Art Deco?


Look, it's a free 1930s armchair, which looked great in our retro office with art deco mirrors and theatre studio lights.

For God's Sake, will someone please take it off my hands?! If I have to take it down the tip, I'm going to be distraught. It's FREE.

Don't suggest ebay, auction, trading site, freecycle, local noticeboard, a reupholstery specialist, the local art school or the local theatre props person.

If you want it, get in touch. This is the closest I've ever come to begging.