A blog to cheer us all up.

Take a good look at this cover if you haven’t seen it before. It is the book of our times, chronicling what it is like to have ‘long covid’ step by horrible step. It is a stoical book, there isn’t a word of self-pity in it, but then you wouldn’t expect self-pity from a man like Michael Rosen, who is a superb communicator and admirably honest. He has spent his life writing books and poetry for children and knows exactly how to talk to children of every age. He never talks down or at, he talks with.

Here he is talking to a doctor whilst he was in hospital.

“A doctor is standing by my bed
asking me if I would sign a piece of paper
which would allow them to put me to sleep and pump air into my lungs.
‘Will I wake up?’
‘There’s a 50:50 chance.’
‘If I say no?’ I say.
And I sign.”

Superlative. No histrionics, just underplaying and accepting. Breathtakingly brave, as far away from the over dramatisation and self praise which the Prime Mendacitor indulged in when he went into hospital for a few days and came out declaring he’d been ‘at deaths door’.

There is so much in this book I hardly know which bit to turn to, to tempt you next (and I’ve read it three times now!). But first lets have a few facts. He was months on the wards, six weeks in an induced coma and many more weeks of rehab and recovery as the NHS saved his life and then got him back on his feet.

“In the gym
I walk five steps
and grab the bar.
The physio says that’s really good.
I’m proud.

She says that she knows
children who like my books.
I’m proud again
but then I’m sad.
I’m sure I won’t be well enough
to stand in front of 500 children
ever again
telling them my poems and stories
hearing them laugh.”

While he was on the ward and quite unable to speak because he was intubated, he was watched over every night by a team of nurses and assistants of various kinds who’d been pulled in from other wards to help. There were scores of them and at the end of each night they wrote a message for him in a diary that was kept by the bed expressly for that purpose and which he prints in this book. They are all the most loving of messages. I found them almost unbearably touching, but it was wonderful to read them because they were so obviously fond of him and saw how much he was suffering and how he didn’t complain. Love and bravery writ clear. Here are just a few of their comments.

This is an early one written by Pat, a lung nurse specialist. “It’s lovely to see all the photos of your family smiling and showing how much you are loved. We will keep you comfortable and talk to you all through the shift to let you know what we’re doing. My kids were brought up on your poems and loved them. We have given you a lovely wash and brushed your thick hair.”

A nurse called Joe writes “You seemed quite agitated and I know this is such a confusing time for you, I am truly sorry. Everybody says hello to you every day as you have been with us for 29 days. Everyone knows you and is rooting for you to keep improving and getting stronger… Your family have been sending their love every day.”

A girl called Holly writes she is “unsure whether I will work with you again Michael… I wish you all the best with your recovery. You are a fighter and you can do this.”

A girl called Natasha writes: “My hope is that you will get lots of hugs and love from your family to make up for all this time you have been apart, once you are free to go home…
It’s been a true honour. As I mentioned before, my two children love your poems and books and it has been a privilege to help in looking after you.
Good luck for tomorrow and I wish you safely home soon.”

It was a very long haul and it’s still ongoing for as Michael and lots of others have discovered, long-covid can be very long indeed. Right at the end of the book he writes of a lovely, normal moment, with his lovely, loving, normal family.

“I’m in the midst of beginnings:
you love, are starting a big, new thing
a change;
our daughter is buying lamps
and wooden spoons
before she leaves for university;
our son hovers on the edge
of a return to school,
GCSE worksheets lie open on the table;
and my granddaughter
not yet two years old
sits on the blanket outside:
we do
round and round the garden
like a teddy bear,
again and again and again,
she kicks a ball
and we all clap.”

If you haven’t read this book yet and thousands have – it’s a bestseller – may I recommend it to you?

This entry was posted on April 8, 2021. 3 Comments

How’s this for a coincidence?

This picture is one of the many taken at the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 and below is a map of one of the areas in which it was fought. Most people have never heard of this battle and until this morning I didn’t know that I had actually witnessed part of it.

Perhaps I ought to begin at the beginning. A Facebook friend of mine called Bru was talking about the difference between the way people behaved during the second world war and how they behave now and during our conversation I remembered an occasion when I watched the police taking the side of the Blackshirts a very long time ago. She was horrified that the police were on the side of the fascists and the fascists were chanting ‘Kill the Jews, Kill the Jews.’ And as we talked it occurred to me that this might have been part of the Battle of Cable Street that I’d watched as a very small child and that set me wondering.

The memory was very clear but the details were not, I knew I was very young, but not exactly how young nor where I was in London, except that it was in the year after my little sister was born which would have been 1936 and it was in the Autumn and that Dardy and I had gone up to London to visit ‘Petticoat Lane’. I can remember how quickly she took me back to the underground and got me out of harms way when we saw the demonstration ahead of us. We never reached Petticoat Lane that day.

So this morning when my lovely Charlotte arrived I set her the task of discovering whether it really could have been this famous battle that I’d seen all those years ago. And when we looked at the detail together, all of them fitted my memory. We would have arrived at Aldgate East underground and the demonstration was happening just ahead of us at the corner of Whitechapel High Street and Commercial Road. There were policemen and police horses there and they had been sent to clear a way for the fascist demonstration to get through.

And as if that weren’t coincidence enough, Lottie and I had been describing a fictitious demonstration that is taking place in exactly the same route up Whitechapel High Street and past Aldgate East. Hairs on the back of the neck rising!

And while I was telling Lottie how much I liked the traders in Petticoat Lane, who were all Jewish and gentle and spoke a mixture of English and Yiddish and were always kindness itself and that these were the men that the fascists were determined to drive out, I remembered something else.

I liked them so much, that years later I put two of them that I particularly remembered in the novel called Everybody’s Somebody. I gave them names, as though they were fictional characters, but I drew them from the life.

So I thought I would finish this chapter of coincidences with a quotation about them from the novel. This is truly how they were in Petticoat Lane.

“It was an extraordinary outing. Rosie had never been in a street so crammed full of people nor heard so many voices all shouting at once, nor seen so many stalls in such a narrow space, nor smelt so many old clothes, piled in tousled heaps on every stall and hanging from every available hook and rail, dolefully flapping their sleeves in the rush of air as the crowds pushed from place to place.

At first she tried saying ‘’Scuse me!’ but that was no good at all and, after a few minutes, she was pushing and shoving with the rest. They arrived at a shop draped with clothes and presided over by a small plump man in a Jewish coat and a black yarmulke embroidered in gold thread. He threw up his hands in delight when he saw Kitty and greeted her by name. ‘Pretty Kitty Jackson, as I live an’ breathe. Vhat I can do for you, my darlink?’

Kitty explained what she wanted and within seconds he had pulled four possible dresses from his rails and held them out for inspection, extolling the virtues of each one. ‘Nice bit a’ schmutter,’ he said, offering a blue velvet dress with a long stain down the front of it, ‘or you could try this one,’ showing a yellowing white lace. ‘That’ud wash up lovely.’ Then a pink skirt, ‘just your colour darlin’’ and finally a faded grey dress with a dilapidated collar. But Rosie grimaced and shook her head at all of them.

‘Well thank you very much, Mr Levy,’ Kitty said. ‘But they ain’t quite the thing we ‘ad in mind. I think we’ll go on looking.’ And when Mr Levy gave a rueful grimace they were off into the throng again and pushing their way to another shop.

This one was run by a tall man with a horribly tangled grey beard and kind eyes, which lit up when he heard what they were looking for.

‘Now ain’t you the lucky ones,’ he said, ‘I got just the thing. Come in yesterday. Vait there, my darlinks.’ And he disappeared into the dark cavern of his shop and reappeared with an elegant cream coloured suit hanging over his arm as if it had fainted. He hung it on the nearest rail, pushing the other clothes aside to make room for it and smoothed the sleeves and the skirt with a reverent hand. ‘Vhat you think of that, eh?’ he asked, looking from one to the other.

Rosie made her mind up at once. It was just the thing, it looked so soft and so stylish, with all those little buttons running straight down the coat and straight down the skirt and all covered in the same pretty silk. But before she could say she wanted it, Kitty started to bargain.

‘It’s good cloth,’ she said nodding her head from side to side. ‘I’ll give yer that. All depends how much yer want for it.’

‘For you darlink, two quid an’ cheap at the price.’

Kitty made a grimace. ‘Oh do me a favour, Mr Segal,’ she said. ‘Twenty bob more like.’

Mr Segal spread his hands before her placatingly. ‘For you darlink, thirty shillin’,’ he offered. ‘Can’t drop it no further’n that or there’ll be no margin.’

Another sideways nod of the head and a pause for thought. ‘Twenty five.’

Again the hands were spread. ‘Oy, oy. You drive hard bargain. I tell you vhat I do. Call it twenty-eight an’ I throw in a pair of shoes for free. Vhat could be fairer?’ And the shoes were produced from a dark chest of drawers just inside the door and held out for Rosie’s inspection. They were the prettiest shoes she’d ever seen and matched the suit to perfection. There was no doubt in her mind at all that she would buy the entire outfit. And she did.”

This entry was posted on March 26, 2021. 3 Comments

Hold the front page

The Prime Mendacitor has actually told the truth about himself believe it or not! And here’s the evidence quoted from the BBC – believe that or not! The times apparently are a changin’. So I’ll quote this straight from the BBC website

“Boris Johnson has told a private meeting of Tory MPs that the success of the UK’s Covid vaccine programme was because of “capitalism” and “greed”.

And even more miraculously the BBC got their information from The Sun! Mr Murdoch will have something to say about that, especially as the quotation here was even more relevant and typical of the speaker than the quieter version of it on the BBC website. Try this for size:

“The prime minister’s full remarks, which first appeared in the Sun newspaper, were reported to be: “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.” ”

We’ve all known for a very long time that this man is driven by greed and is an admiring advocate of the capitalist system and now here it is in black and white and straight out of the Mendacitor’s mouth. Of course to put the matter straight as to borrow Owen Jones’ words from The Guardian this morning: “‘Greed’ has no role in the UK’s vaccine success... The vaccine programmes is being delivered via our state-run NHS, while the country’s test and trace system has made “no clear impact”, despite private consultants charging up to £6,250 per day and Serco’s profits surging thanks to the £37bn programme.

That’s where the greed is MY FRIENDS and if that isn’t the ugliest thing you’ve seen and heard for a long while, I’d be very surprised.

I will say this again, even though I know I’ve said it here before. Boris Johnson is driven by excessive greed for money and power. And to satisfy that greed he has to pull a daily con-trick in the House and on TV which involves him in continuous and deliberate lies. One of the most odious of which is his projection of his personality as an amiable buffoon, HE IS NO SUCH THING! He is an ugly and dangerous man and sooner or later we will have to come together – not to join forces with his favourites and acolytes, but to demand his resignation. It will not be easy because he has courted and won the support of the multi-billionaires and press barons who currently control EVERYTHING about our society.

Maybe somebody should remind him of two things. 1. that there is such a thing as sin and that two of the four sins ‘crying to heaven for vengeance’ according to the Christian Catechism are ‘oppression of the poor’ and ‘defrauding labourers of their wages.’ 2. That there have been several national revolutions against the greed of leaders, one in 1765 in America and the other and even more bloody, in 1789 in France.

Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

We managed to have a bloodless revolution in this country in 1945. I would dearly like to think that we could do it again now. But for that we would need some highly principled men and women. Like these.

Gender based violence.

The brutal murder of Sarah Everard has shocked everybody in the country and it can’t be a surprise to anyone that the response to it was immediate, passionate and angry. The women who came out on to Clapham Common with candles and flowers to show their anger and sorrow, were acting on behalf of everybody who had heard the news about the murder and was moved and horrified by it. But then the police, having been briefed by Priti Patel, decided to disperse their gentle vigil with unnecessary violence and their actions made the situation infinitely worse. The pictures of a group of bulky policemen pulling a girl to the ground and kneeling on her, were deeply shocking.

But it has led us all to a turning point. Women everywhere are saying it is a disgrace in our day and age that a woman can’t walk down the street without being verbally or physically abused and that it can’t be tolerated any more. They’re quite right, as the majority of us know very well but it has led to newspapers generalising about these awful things and talking and writing as though all men are violent towards women and it has to be said that not all men are violent towards women and there are women who are violent too, towards their children, the animals that have the misfortune to be in their care and old people.

Most men are loving and gentle and are as appalled at the violence shown by other men to women passing by on the street and by police on duty to women daring to protest. These things are an abomination and we should all, men and women alike, be opposing them.

For violence is an expression of extreme hatred and most adults who show it have been brought up in such a way that they are full of negative and destructive emotions, jealousy, hatred, and even, terrible though it is to say it, being spoilt brats. For the spoilt brat feels it may do as it pleases and if it is full of hatred that it has every right to express it.

And before anyone tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about – as they well might – let me tell you all that I lived for the first nineteen years of my life with a violent abuser and that it was not male. It was female and as I watched her very carefully all through that time, I gradually learnt what made her tick and why she was so uncontrollably violent. I also know after such a childhood, that these badly warped characters can’t be changed by a law, although the law can be the start of change. They also need to be required to face the people they really are and be brought to the point when they sincerely want to change, and that would take very skilled psychiatric treatment, which would probably need to go on for a considerable time.

There is a job ahead of all of us and we are all involved in it now. And if I’m being provocative then so be it.

This entry was posted on March 18, 2021. 2 Comments

Lost art

This gave me an attack of the giggles, which is no bad thing in these peculiar times and does cheer you up, so I thought I’d like to share it.

But let me begin at the beginning. It all grew from another blog I wrote just recently about the spring. which I called ‘Dancing with the daffodils’. One of my neighbours read it and enjoyed it and decided to bring me a bunch of daffodils from his garden by way of saying thank you. I found a vase for them and put them in the middle of the long table in the conservatory and watched them come into full bloom. I thought it was a lovely present and enjoyed it every day. I hadn’t just sat and enjoyed a bunch of flowers for a long time, because I usually go from my breakfast table to my desk and start work, so this was like a holiday. And as I sat by the table admiring them, it occurred to me that I hadn’t done any painting for a very long time either and thought how pleasant it would be to paint these flowers. My paintbrushes were all standing ready in a tall pot in my study. All I had to do was find my paints and sketchbooks. I set off at once to find them.

And I couldn’t do it. I searched on all the shelves and in all the cupboards in my study and found all sorts of interesting things I didn’t know I still possessed but there was no sign of my paints. So I tried the living room and searched in all the cupboards there. Nothing. By that time I was asking myself where on earth I would have put them and feeling quite cross with myself – and the daffodils were beginning to wilt. The next day I looked through the wardrobes. Zilch. The day after I rooted about under the stairs. Not a sign, although I found a packet of cat food and two umbrellas I didn’t expect. By this time, the daffodils and I were both looking sorry for ourselves. It was very sob and drat.

And then my lovely granddaughter/amanuensis Lottie gave me a hyacinth in bud in a pot and the need to paint was even more intense. I searched again without finding even a hint of paint or paper and the hyacinth burst into beautiful bloom. Finally, when the daffodils were as you see them in the picture and the hyacinth was luxuriant, my younger daughter arrived and I told her my tale of woe.

‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I’ll find them.’ And love her dear heart she started her search, while I trailed after her, hopefully. The study. Nothing. The living room Nothing. The bedroom cupboards. Zilch, zilch, zilch. The cupboard under the stairs. Useless.

She’s a practical creature my Caroline. ‘They must be somewhere,’ she said. ‘They can’t just have disappeared. I’ll phone Lottie and see if she knows.’ Which she did. And our lovely Lottie knew exactly where it all was and gave us directions. It turned out, ridiculously, to be the one place where we hadn’t looked. A innocent cabinet in the living room which had always housed drinks. It was just so ridiculous it gave me a fit of the giggles which gave Caroline a fit of the giggles, which seemed a fitting way to end the search. Afterwards, when we’d got our breath back, I said, ‘If I told anyone this story they’d never believe it.’

So here it is.

This entry was posted on March 16, 2021. 2 Comments

Telling lies part 2

I’m putting this blog up again because it has become even more relevant then it was when I first put it together and that is because of one man’s superlative effort. Let me introduce you to him, if you haven’t heard of him, although I might say 10 million of us already have because we are now following his Twitter site. His name is Peter Stefanovic and he is a journalist, lawyer and film maker. This comes from his ‘about.me’ site.

Stefanovic is a high profile Lawyer, no bullshit Journalist, blogger, Filmmaker, campaigner, Labour supporter and Political and Social Commentator widely known for his no nonsense films debunking Political deceit which have been watched over 250 Million times. Nominated for Legal Personality of the Year in 2016 he is a champion for social Justice and the NHS.

A short time ago, he put up a video showing the Prime Mendacitor in full flow, telling one lie after another and suggested to his followers that if they were as opposed to this behaviour as he was, they should re-tweet the video. As of yesterday it had been re-tweeted 10 million times. But Peter Stefanovic wants to push it even further and quite right too.

“Until UK media steps up & reports his shameful behavior,” He said in a Tweet yesterday. “Until every MP stands up & calls out this disgraceful national scandal, every single lie & falsehood spoken by Boris Johnson since he became PM remains completely unchallenged on the Parliamentary record. I wont accept that.”

I think he could turn out to be the man for our times. So here is my pennyworth in support, I put it up originally on March the 11th, but I make no excuse for putting it up again now, these things need saying over and over again.

Telling Lies

I don’t think there can be very many people alive at the moment who do not know that the ex-President of the United States and the current Prime Minister of the UK are compulsive liars. Many of us would say they are so removed from the truth that we shouldn’t believe a word they say. In fact their behaviour has been so brazen and open that it has almost become the norm. And sadly there is nothing new about a lying politician, as the poets tell us. And don’t worry, I’m not going to give them the oxygen of publicity in this blog by publishing their ugly, lying faces. Lets look at poets and good men instead.

Here is Rudyard Kipling writing in his poem Epitaphs of the War 1914-18.

I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?”

And in our own time here is a Russian poet called Yevgeny Yevtushenko, writing on the same topic and with the same passion.


“Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God’s in his heaven
and all’s well with the world is wrong.
The young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times
Say obstacles exist they must encounter,
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.”

As our splendid Shelley said in the Defence of Poetry in 1821 “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

All of them are stating a truth that we are having to face on a daily basis and the big question they all beg is how on earth do those of us who value truth and honesty combat compulsive liars in power. Hitler and Goebbels called their lies ‘propaganda’ and felt completely justified in using it and it took a world war with massive loss of life to get rid of them and now here we are again being led by liars. Surely, surely there must be a quicker way than a world war to remove them. We just haven’t found it yet.

We need to put our heads together (if such a thing is now allowed) and design a powerful spotlight that we can play on our dishonest leaders every time they spout lies at us. And we also need to remember that there have been plenty of honest, truth telling politicians like the ones I’ve pictured below, who care for the people they’ve been elected to govern and don’t lie to us. Some have paid a terrible penalty for their honesty, but these are the leaders we need and the sort of men and women whose example we should be following.

And of course, it would help if we only had a press that understood that it is their job to tell the truth to power. We’ve got a very long way to go, but it is a way we must tread if we care about democracy and freedom.

Allons enfants de la Patrie.

This entry was posted on March 11, 2021. 2 Comments

Spring the sweet Spring.

A second blog this morning to cheer us up a little after the seriousness of the first one.

Spring has arrived in my garden in its usual exuberant way and I now have frogspawn in my pond as you can see and a new pet that I’ve called Annie, who comes to the door of my conservatory and taps on it to be fed. So I thought you might enjoy them too.

Nature can be cruel but it is also creative and tender and reaffirming.

And I hope you won’t feel I’m showing off too much if I add a poem I wrote a long time ago about a similar sudden arrival. I don’t think it ever had a title but it was fun to write.

Forsythia blazes golden in my garden,
Daffodils bob and sway, the hedge unfurls
Into a tender tangle of green curls,
Old fruit trees creak as new buds swell and harden.

Now finches fall in showers, thrushes sing
And blackbirds bounce in conflict, shrieking shrill,
Ponds fizz with tadpoles, squirmingly alive,
Trout leap, lambs stagger, piglets roll and thrive.
The whole world gleams and wriggles, nothing’s still
In the dizzying effulgence that is spring

Welcome back Persephone!

This entry was posted on March 5, 2021. 1 Comment

The privatisation of our NHS has begun.

Take a good look at these pictures folks they are ALL medical centres based in Camden, that have been run by our NHS. And let me quote a report from the Camden New Journal, which says:

“NHS funded contracts at Kings Cross Surgery, Brunswick Medical Centre, Somers Town Medical Centre and the Camden Health Improvement Practise for homeless patients are now ‘IN THE HANDS OF’ a subsidiary of the Centene Corporation”

I hope it makes you sit up as violently as I did when I read it.

It won’t surprise you to know that I checked out the Centene Corporation on Google. I discovered its address in St Louis, USA and its telephone number and also discovered the name and address of the company in New Cavendish Street in London which seems to have overseen the transaction, it is called Operose Health and claims to be ‘experts in working with complex health systems’.

Now I don’t know about you but I would call that privatisation by stealth and that, I need hardly tell you, is extremely dishonest and extremely dangerous. But should be no surprise to any of us who paid attention to Mark Britnell’s speech before the big American health companies in October 2010 which I reported in an earlier blog. He made it quite clear then that “GPs will have to aggregate purchasing power and there will be a big opportunity for those companies that can facilitate this process … In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider, not a state deliverer…The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.”

However, to quote Abraham Lincoln ‘You can fool some of the people some of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.’

But I have to hand it to this Tory party, they have prepared for this meticulously and in almost total secrecy. They’ve made sure that the press and the media were entirely on their side and will only say the things they allow them to say and they have run the cruellest and most lengthy of campaigns to silence the elected leader of the Labour Party who was one of the admirable few who understood what the Tories were about and were prepared to stand up and fight them. I keep waiting for this battle to be out in the open and for people to be told what is happening. But we have such crooks in power that I’m afraid this has got to be an undercover campaign which will be extremely difficult to maintain. Those of us who know what is going on are going to have to work our socks off to spread the information to as many other people as we possibly can.

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire (might well be) arrivé !

This entry was posted on March 5, 2021. 3 Comments

Dancing with the daffodils.

Because our lives are now crunchingly complicated and often difficult, I thought it might be helpful to remind ourselves that there are beautiful and comforting things to be found in our parks and gardens at this time of year.

So here is a blog about daffodils, they were my old darlings favourite flower because they were the first of the season and in his favourite colour. When we first moved into this house, the garden was still a field where oilseed rape grew among grass that was hip-high and the first thing he did once we’d settled in, was to start planning his garden. Everything in it had to be curved and rounded. Fish pond, soft fruit garden, flowerbeds, fruit trees, it was all there in his mind and as soon as it had been turned over and the lawn laid and a cricket pitch set out – because we had to have a cricket pitch naturally! – he went out to buy his favourite flowers. Or as he put it, ‘off to get a few daffs, little wooly Bear.’ I expected him to come home with a bag full but no, he arrived with three sack loads, for a ‘nice lot of variety’ and set about planting them all over the garden, where they bloom to this day 34 years later and bring colour to my Spring year after year.

And because he and I were not the only ones to be besotted by daffodils, I will finish off with another addict.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Coming out within the next twenty-four hours.

Within the next twenty four hours an old book of mine, which was originally published in 2007, when I was 76, and was my 21st published novel, is going to have life breathed into it again by my current publisher Agora. They are bringing out an e-book edition and a paperback. It’s probably conceited to say this but it pleases me no end because the central character is an admirable honest woman drawn from the life, strengths and faults and all, and the perfect antidote to the political dishonesty and corruption that is going on all round us at the moment. Let me tell you more if I may.

I had a rather chequered educational childhood because of the war and went to ten different schools in all so I saw a lot of different teachers in action, some kind and understanding, some trying to be helpful, some lost, and some absolutely dire. But it wasn’t until I reached was what to be my final school that I found a teacher I could – and did – thoroughly admire. Her name was Miss Davies and she was the Headmistress, wonderfully herself and admirably eccentric. Over the years she had gathered a team of like-minded and equally talented and eccentric teachers around her. It was the perfect place in which to learn. She taught according to a new technique called the Dalton System, which allowed pupils to progress at their own rate and in their own way. It suited me to a T. I loved her to bits.

So naturally when I came to write a story about a teacher, she was my template and I put her words into my heroine’s mouth and sent her to New York to find about the Dalton System, naturally, and made her a suffragette. Here she is explaining her philosophy in a letter of application for a headship.

”I believe that learning should be pleasurable and should bring its own reward. I believe that lack of pleasure in what we ask our pupils to do. A baby learning to feed himself or to stand and walk is utterly absorbed in what he is doing. He doesn’t fear mistakes, since mistake are one way of learning, he doesn’t tire, he is never bored and when he finally succeeds he is quite rapturously happy. If we could find some way to translate that experience into the teaching situation we should revolutionise the lives of our pupils.”

And here she is again at her interview, explaining in answer to a question, how she would deal with her pupils if they misbehaved. “It would depend on the offence. If someone has been hurt, then there must be an apology and an attempt to make amends, if it is caused by bad temper, the reasons for the temper must be discovered and dealt with, if it is laziness, the child must be helped towards greater effort, if it is misery, she will need cheering. There are always reasons for bad behaviour and that’s what I try to tackle.”

And is she relevant now? I think she could be and would certainly be a comfort to those of us who are near desperation at the appalling behaviour of our present government. I’ll let Polly Toynbee put that into words for me – and us – as she does in today’s Guardian.

‘Cronyism is rampant,’ she says, ‘and worse it goes unpunished. The sums are so vast, the secrecy so shocking, that ‘chumocracy’ doesn’t begin to capture what Britain has become…. Nepotism stinks as badly as awarding contracts to VIP pals; glorying in both, the government, rotting from the head, spreads the stench of corruption through everything it touches.’

Spot on Polly And thank you speaking out so clearly. We need voices like yours.

Have fun with my Octavia, friends and followers, if you haven’t met her before. I liked her so much I wrote a trilogy about her and her influence. The second book will be published on May 13th. I should live that long! Available on Amazon here.

This entry was posted on February 23, 2021. 4 Comments