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Category Archives: Education

Entries dealing with the potential of educational improvements following Scottish Idependence.

Education, education, education…

I’ve written many times about education as it is close to my heart and also because our country requires the education system to deliver the skills and knowledge which will drive it in the future.

There is a major disconnect within education and of course a general dumbing down of curriculums. Apparently primary school children arrive at secondary schools without achieving the correct level of attainment required to begin the secondary curriculum. When students arrive at Universities they also have not achieved the correct level of attainment required to begin their chosen subject. When students arrive at their new employers they also have not achieved the correct level of attainment required to begin their chosen job. Ho hum…

Then we have the “universities” which used to be “colleges”. I’m not altogether sure what they actually achieve although they must? How easy is it now to gain a degree from these establishments?

Our “learners”, up to the end of secondary, are incredibly negative about their education. Their education gets in the way of their lives and the things they want to pursue. I’d imagine a part of this is down to maturity or the lack of it.

The system lets everyone in education down and that includes teachers. That is a great pity. Some learners manage just fine and go on to wonderful careers, the middle of the group manage despite educational hurdles and the bottom scrape by and mark time until they are “released”.

My own definition of the success of education goes like this – if driving past a school at 7.00 am there would be a queue at the gates by pupils and some teachers who were desperate to get into school to get access to learn as much as they could. The same would be the case if driving past a school in the early evening. Again pupils would be still there working on their own initiative to gain as much knowledge etc. as they possibly could.

Not like the Korean system and also not like Mr Goves vision which is based on an independent model obviously.

That’s fine as far as it goes but what next? The learners are required to select a career, which they feel suitably enthused about and which will maintain their chosen lifestyle as they see fit. Here lies probably the biggest disconnect.

If someone decides they want to become a surveyor for example they take the course at university, which will give them the qualifications they need. Then they will then apply for surveyor type jobs. That makes perfect sense does it not? Well no actually it doesn’t.

The universities and colleges might churn out hundreds of surveyors who end up chasing much fewer jobs. There is no current system, which matches supply, to demand and the tragedy of this is that we are dealing with human beings not goods and services.

Presently we end up with people having degrees and expecting to be employed in a discipline that they have been trained in. This is a further problem because the universities and colleges suggest to their students that they are more than capable of carrying out the work and they will be given jobs because they have the right qualifications. Again the real world demonstrates that this is much less the case.

Sorting out education is a major task and it goes well beyond just the education system as it presently stands now.

There is much more that could and should be done.

The question is what can we do about it?

 

 

 

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Heiddies rule…

The Heiddie was always a bit daunting when I was at school and also when I was working with schools. They have a tough job really which is more political than educational. They seemed to spend as much time out of school as in it.

I thought that Heidies were primarily to ensure that the staff delivered what they should be, deal with the curriculum and uphold good behaviour along with several million other things. It would seem that they are also turning out to be getting involved in things that are nothing whatsoever to do with them at all.

In Edinburgh this recently. we had a Heidie tell his pupils that they had to stop dying their hair in alarming colours. If they continued to do so, they would not be allowed to go on school outings. The trip mentioned was to go to the Scottish Parliament. After this made the press here one of our MSPs offered to welcome any pupil with hair colouring considered to be out with the Heidies directives and take them for tea in the parliament cafe. Touche.

Now the Heidie in question had stipulated that hair colouring should only be black, brown or blonde.  The auburn haired pupils are going to get a hard time from him then?

I would imagine that all of his pupils wear the designated school uniform?

There I was thinking that the new Curriculum for a Excellence was to support enabling all young people to become “successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors”.

Confident individuals, it says confident individuals.

Isn’t that about learning to know themselves, trying things out, making mistakes but getting it right more often which may at times involve daft stuff? Being told what to do and when to do it does not support “individualism”. Dressing the same as their fellow clones does not support “individualism”. Being told what to eat, being subject to petty, random rules and having individual choice squashed do not support individualism, confidence, responsibility and contributing.

Can we not leave our children to do their thing? Can’t we leave then to dress as they see fit for school? Can’t we let them express themselves be it hair, food, music, etc. etc.? And, for goodness sake stop this nonsense about everyone being equal in a uniform. Those with still stand out as those with and unfortunately it’s the same for those who haven’t. The world won’t end if children wear what they want rather than being imposed by adults who should know better than enforcing  similes of some private school rules.

If the rules were relaxed, and I know they wont be, Heidies would cite health and safety rules when they got the chance, like they did when shell suits were all the rage. Okay it may have been possible for two shell suited people to rub their shell suits together accidentally and have them spontaneously combust but I can’t recall that making the press.

Perhaps brightly coloured hair might be capable of distracting a teacher who may fall over due to shock? Weren’t teachers young once? Didn’t they daft stuff on occasion?

You’ll remember that there is an Independence Referendum happening later this year. Independence. A serious word. We need independent people who will pursue independent views and bring their individualism to bear. From which a new and vastly improved Scotland will emerge.

We need individuals who may well sport blue hair with yellow dots. It matters not a jot what they look like it’s what’s in their heads that we should be desperate to encourage not what’s on the outside.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Children, Education, Schools

 

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Creative play

During the sixties my main toys were corgi cars, Action Man, my second hand ancient bike, wee plastic soldiers, plasticene, Lego and Meccano.

The last three there were great because you could do your own thing with them. They could be used in whatever sort of game or war I was imagining at the time.

Plasticene was great for making wee tiny sandbags for the wee plastic soldiers to hide behind, especially since it went a sort of unattractive brown colour when all the colours were mixed together as was almost always the case.

Lego was used for building platforms for the wee plastic soldiers to shoot from and to form steps and bridges between the cushions on a chair, again for the wee soldiers. You could also make guns out of Lego.

Meccano came with a wee booklet, which showed what your Meccano kit could be made into. You could make wee vehicles with the bits as well. Mines was a mixture of black and yellow bits and older green and red bits.

Lego and Meccano have changed quite a bit.  Lego now comes as pre-designed kits and you just follow the instruction. Meccano is the same.

That means that the kids of today don’t get the opportunity to use their imagination or their creative skills to make stuff. My lego comprised almost entirely of red bricks with the occasional black or white one. Now they are all sorts of colours and they have a specific part to play in the kit.

If you were well connected, via your Dad obviously, he might know a man who worked at one of the chemical plants in Grangemouth who could get you a big bag of red bricks of the 4 or 8 variety. The BP made the feeder pellets, which were then melted down and used to form the bricks.

Lego and Meccano were scalable as well. You could build stuff, which was the same scale as Action Man or the same scale as the wee tiny Airfix soldiers. Lego was the best really. Although it lacked enough variability in the brick sizes and shapes, with a bit of imagination, you could make things work pretty well.

Lego also do figures now. They have to be built but there isn’t a lot to it. I did a Meccano kit I got at Christmas. It was a motorbike and there was a choice between two designs. The first attempt wasn’t doable. I didn’t have enough hands or fingers a few millimetres thick. I couldn’t bend the metal plate long enough to get the bolt through the required hole whilst also holding a wee spanner with a bolt in it and turning and tightening it. The kit said it was for eight years and above. I did the other design and it worked fine.

Anyway, I can’t help feeling that kids are being deprived of their chance to be creative. It’s so much better to be given something and then let your imagination build staff, which you want.

Maybe there are other toys now, which have taken the place of plasticene, Lego and Meccano. The world moves on. Technology rules. Technology also depends on people who have the ability to not be frightened of a blank sheet of paper and how to turn that blank sheet of paper into something that has value.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Children, Creative play, Education

 

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Robert Burns, poetry and enlightenment.

The 25th January is Burns day in Scotland. Those who like his poetry get together at some point during the day or the evening and they have a Burns Supper. A Burns Supper involves people reciting some of his poems, singing some of his songs and eating haggis, mashed turnips mashed potatoes.  There may also be some drinking of alcohol some of which will be whisky.

I’ve never been to a single Burns Supper, not a one. Now that is slightly surprising given that my Dad used to go to between 15-20 every year. He performed for years and did Tam O’Shanter, Holy Willies Prayer, Tae a moose, various and toasts and sang songs as well. He even made it onto Scottish Television one year providing an opinion of tasting various recipes for haggis.

I’m not altogether sure why I didn’t go to any and there was no real pressure from my Dad to go. He enjoyed it and I have a video somewhere of him doing Tam O’Shanter.

How did Robert Burns manage to write his poetry? He wasn’t from a moneyed background and he had no real advantages in his early years. So what sort of education must he have had? Bear in mind that at the time he was going to school very few children had access to books and school.

Robert Burns was a product of the Scottish Enlightement. Enlightenment was happening all over Europe with differing results. The enlightment in Scotland changed the world. If you don’t believe that for a moment you might want to check out read “The Scottish Enlightenment – The Scots invention of the modern world” by Arthur Herman ISBN 1-84115-276-5.  This book should be required reading for everyone living in Scotland, who will be able to vote, ahead of the Scottish Independence Referendum.

Back to Burns though. The Church in Scotland and the Scottish parliament decided that the best way forward for the country was to educate the people. Again at this time it was only people with loadsa money who could get their children really educated. The intent was a good one but how to achieve it. Basically they set up a library in every town and city in Scotland. A library could be set up anywhere there was room so it might have been in the local butchers or any other shop or building. Children were encouraged to read and they were helped in this because at the same time local schools were also formalised and a certified teacher had to be employed by the local population.

The effect of this was pretty incredible. Over a period of years the levels of literacy soared in Scotland. The level of literacy in Scotland (75%) outstripped England (53%) by a huge amount.

So Robert Burns had access to books, he was taught by a real teacher to read, ask questions and along with other the other things happening in Scotland at the time which, widened his horizons. The education system in Scotland was the best in the world. Things have changed now and modern politics or modern politicians have managed to mess it up.

What would Rabbie Burns think about how things are now and how would he view the opportunity to gain Independence for Scotland.

You know what his answer would be.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Art, Edinburgh, Education, Equality

 

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That nice Mr Gove…

That nice Mr Gove got a bit of a kicking in the palace of Westminster. Various thugs had a go at him whilst the cameras were rolling. Apparently Police are going through the footage to identify the assailants but so far they have made little process as the officers watching the videos keep falling asleep.

And who would blame them?

Lets be fair here shall we?

Gove has been trying his best to nudge education away from dumbing down and the “everyone is a winner” mentality, which has been eroding education in the west for years now. That’s not to say that he may have become a bit over-ambitious right enough.

But then consider the opposition.

The exam body in England – are they not interested in driving higher standards of learner/pupil/student knowledge and ability?

Teachers unions – Teachers need someone to protect them but is a union the right type of organisation to do so? Do the teaching unions not want teachers to have a better structure in which to teach a better quality of appropriate content?

Teachers themselves? – Do teachers not want to divest themselves of all the paperwork and tiresome meetings etc. and solely spend their time helping the learner/pupil/student achieve more?

Parents? – Do they want their children to achieve real, worthwhile and needed knowledge and skills, which will allow them to get a great job?

Gove is trying to steer education to deliver all of the above. Okay maybe at times the way he goes about it isn’t ideal but he is trying to push back decades of leftie “everyone is the same” tosh.

Our society is shockingly imbalanced and I didn’t see Labour do anything to address that as their history suggests they should have. In fact they made it worse.

Perhaps a return to exam only assessment is too much of a step. That’s not because I think it should never happen. It’s more like I would like each learner/pupil/student to be taught to “learn in a way that allows them to make the most of themselves. It’s ludicrous that our children go to school and the system is the same for almost them all.

They are individuals. They are precious because of this. Our greatest steps in achieving new ways of doing things come from individuals who go and look and try and succeed. Teams rarely achieve this if ever. Sporting teams sometimes do but only because the team and the back up staff is full of individuals, all of whom have to step up to the mark every time they perform.

Mr Gove should be applauded and encouraged and questions should be asked of other governmental ministers as to why they are not trying to get their departments to achieve significant change which would benefit us all.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Education, Family, Politics

 

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Supply and demand.

Lots of stuff in shops are subject to supply and demand.

The farmers have been bemoaning how rubbish the weather has been over the past few months and the effect this has had on their crops.

The effect has of course been that the crop yields have been much lower than expected which is tricky for the farmers. Their overheads stay the same, relatively, whether the crops fail or it’s a bumper harvest. The market still expects to receive the same amount of crops but at times receives much less and whilst buying from overseas sources helps it generally means that prices go up. By the same token if there is a bumper harvest the price goes down.

We also see this happening with gas supply prices, petrol prices etc. etc. Supply and demand. Now there are bad men out there who take advantage of supply and demand as they are able to manipulate the market in order to make more profit for themselves. They generally buy up enormous quantities of a commodity and them sit on it until the price rises due to lack of market required supply. We then have to pay more for the commodity or for stuff we want which contains said commodity. Or the Mars Bar economy reduces the quality or quantity so we pay the same money as we did a week ago but we get less one way or another.

Supply and demand economy. It mostly works. Mostly.

But supply and demand isn’t just for various commodities, goods or services it happens in other ways too. I’d like to introduce one of the most ridiculous examples of over and under supply, which has been happening in our economy for years, making life difficult for our young people and is getting more and more ridiculous.

It’s education.

I’ve banged on about education previously and how it needs significant and revolutionary change to enable each and every child to achieve their full potential. At the moment the education system is aimed at getting as many students/learners/pupils to university as possible.

Is this a good thing? It should be but the realities seem to tell a very different story. First of all we have all the soft cuddly courses. Dare I even say the art courses? Universities line up the courses they offer and people roll up to fill them.

The thing is that our economy requires people with certain skills who will help the economy grow. It’s a difficult balance however, since a shortage of one skill can’t be addressed immediately and it can take years for that to be addressed and then when it is addressed, far more people have gained the skills than are required.

Mix in skilled people coming from overseas and a larger than necessary skill pool and suddenly people can’t get the jobs they thought they’d spent 4-5 years working for. The skill glut reduces salary levels for everyone with those skills, which is great for the employers.

Those who miss out find themselves thinking back to all the statements made by tutors etc. which suggested that gaining a degree would guarantee a real job which would pay them good salaries for their entire career.

The present system does not take account of supply and demand. The universities and colleges lay out their courses and people queue up to take the places on offer. A hierarchy exists which grades students depending on results and perhaps other elements, which undoubtedly are considered by employers and may help them when making decisions on the most suitable candidate for the job.

With no link between the number of students, the number and quality of courses available and the number of jobs which will be available when the students graduate then supply and demand plays no part, apart from depressing salaries and unemployed students.

Could be organised better?

You would have to hope that it could. However, there are so many vested interests involved it may be more than difficult if it were ever considered.

 

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Uniformly speaking…

I bang on about a lot of things and this is one of them.

Let me set the scene. I’ve already read the official biography of Steve Jobs, or Steve Jobbie if my Mac is playing up. I decided to read the unauthorised version also. It’s not been particularly shocking or providing new information.

However, there was a very telling picture of Steve at secondary school. Long hair, jeans and a colourful shirt, just what you would expect really. He was a free spirit after all. No uniforms at that school then. No uniformity. No conformity.

This also got me thinking about what the purpose of uniforms actually is, AGAIN!

Another visual prompt from a TV prog made me think a bit further. The prog was the first episode of Utopia. Utopia should not be viewed by people who want to understand what’s going on. Mrs TT is frighteningly bright but she can’t understand any of Utopia whilst I can sail through it whilst falling well within the dangerously dim category. It’s written by geeks who spend a lot of time on line following up on conspiracy theory stuff. That’s not me but I may dabble a bit. A very small bit. Really. Honest.

The prompt was the young boy who is to be very important in Utopias plot going into his school and standing at his open class door. The teacher doesn’t know who he is but his classmates recognise him. He hasn’t been to school much and he’s dirty and unkempt. All of the other kids in his class are in uniforms. They are clean, regimented, segmented, measured, steered…

Uniforms are handy for armies though? Well maybe not, maybe not anymore unless you’re trooping the colours and such like at Buckingham Palace etc. Our latest terrorist enemies, which we’ve funded, equipped and supported don’t wear uniforms. They do when they want to infiltrate our armies. No one shoots at them, they wear the same uniform as our troops. They shoot our troops however.

When is a uniform really handy? Maybe in a shop? You want help and you ask a person with a uniform because they know stuff or they should anyway. Maybe a badge would do the same thing. You see the badge and know the person wearing it works for the store. Unless… unless… they are from a competitor and have infiltrated the store to spread the wrong information to customers who need help but will end up not buying because they have been misled.

The Police? Well since they started to dress in a paramilitary style they seem less approachable. Their new uniform is to protect them from crims who have knives and guns. That’ll be the guns that are banned then. The guns that are available fairly easily to the crims who know that we, the law abiding public, do not have guns. That’s handy for them is it not?

The crims don’t wear uniforms either. They blend in.

Doctors wear, or used to anyway, white coats, which were really introduced to keep the blood, vomit and other unmentionables off their clothes. Seems pretty fair really. Now they have plastic peenies, which may be letting down the sartorial elegance which doctors at times display.

What about firemen? Well they wear protective gear so that when they go to put out old Mr Smiths chip pan fire around midnight on Friday night, they don’t scorch their body parts. That’s fair enough although fire fighters helmets have obviously become fashion accessories. Who gets to wear the brightest with the best badges on or who gets the silver shiny one?

Mind you the ladies may not be as attracted to firemen without their uniforms unless of course their house is ablaze etc. On second thoughts they’d probably be very keen on firemen not wearing uniforms. Good grief.

But I digress. I just can’t see a good enough reason for kids to wear school uniforms. They look cute? People know they are from a particular school? Are we really suggesting that we should keep all our kids the same so the poor ones don’t stand out from the rich ones? Kids are so much smarter than that.

But we are adults and we can make up our own minds. If you want your kid to wear a uniform, follow uniformity and generally conform carry on.

If you don’t then carry on also.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2013 in Children, Education, Family

 

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Will we ever get education right?

Education has been back in the news, mainly due to the issues with some exam results in England. There was a change in the marking between prelims and actuals and it caught a lot of people out. Not ideal really. At least re-sits are on offer quickly.

The educational plots have been lost all over the place and maybe, between the political interference and the entire curriculum juggling the education system doesn’t do what it should say on the tin. Education used to be simple as I have said before. It used to be “don’t go near that because it will eat you, don’t eat that because it will kill you and don’t go wandering off because you’ll get lost and you’ll die.

The difference between years gone bye and now is that there was little choice of job or basic survival then and the choice now is enormous. How do you educate children to meet every potential job that’s out there? You can’t. So what are we teaching our children? Generalities until university or college and them more specialist stuff? Maybe some of it but certainly not all of it.

Education is subject to supply and demand. There is a demand need, which relates to the right number of students leaving with the right qualifications to meet that demand. You see this most when a new development changes the market place. I saw it happen with computing when it went from huge computing machines in big business and universities down to mini mainframes and PCs being used everywhere. There were always shortages of one skill or another which educators addressed only to find by the time that they had churned out people with the previously desired knowledge and skills there were no longer a shortage but there were other skills in short supply. Isn’t that the way of it?

There is no link between workplace skill requirement and under-graduate and graduate numbers. It’s just a free for all. Study what you like, become what you want to be. If you are lucky you will achieve that but the odds are stacked against you. You always need to throw more resources at something to ensure you gain the benefit you want. Just enough or too few and you won’t gain the total benefit and sometimes too little is giant gap. Some of your resource or students will fall by the wayside so you have to counter that by getting more students on the courses to start with.

Education is a free choice based on jumping through hoops. The hoops are generally exams and the hoops get smaller and higher depending on the entrance criteria. But not everyone wants to be a surgeon or an engineer or an accountant/lawyer/journalist or even a teacher. Some people want to do art or music or drama and why not? We have a diverse population which means we have a diversity of chosen work activities.

The student population is huge now. It’s an industry in itself. There are the big name universities, the known universities and now we have the colleges which have become universities, colleges which are still colleges and various specialist education establishments. All vying for the right students who will get the qualifications, which they are aiming for and complete the courses. The completion is important for the education establishments, they need students to complete 25% of the course so they can get paid, usually by the government, for churning the students out.

Quality is an issue and so is the cost of gaining an education. It might not seem like its expensive when a student loan is buffering the day of reckoning but it will have to be paid off at some point. The whole system is skewed unfortunately.

The big question has to be  – what basic universal knowledge does our society need students/pupils/learners to have?

I’m going to try to raise some debating points over the next few weeks just to try to get a handle on the big question but also to consider how education might look if it was tackled in differing ways.

If you feel that you have an opinion let me know and if you want to author a piece or joint author then please let me know.

 
 

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School uniforms misrepresented!

They are at it again. Sigh!

A couple of days ago BBC Scotland covered a story from a High School in the Glasgow area. Basically the school Head Teacher had enforced the wearing of school uniforms, which included a requirement for ties, shirts and blazers.

He was interviewed of course and said the pupils used to come to school in trainers, jogging trousers and sweatshirts. But since he’d been there he had encouraged pupils to wear proper school uniforms with shirts and ties and blazers. Although he’d only asked the senior school pupils to do this, the lower school pupils had “begged” to be allowed to wear the same.

He also said that truancy and exclusions had been reduced by a colossal figure and pass rates and grades in exams had hurtled skyward also. All down to his insistence that school uniforms should be worn. He obviously believed every word he said. Perhaps he hadn’t actually been either aware of or considered the full impact of him being in post however.

Firstly lets acknowledge that there is no evidence in any shape of form what so ever by any body, organisation, council or government department, which has carried out any sort of research resulting in factual empirical results which show that the wearing of school uniforms by pupils has any impact on behaviour, exam results or anything else what so ever.

The claims made which say there is, continue to fail to take into account other factors. In this case the facts are that a more proactive head teacher came along and changed the way the school was being run in a good way, which addressed a variety of differing issues leading to positive outcomes. No other explanation is possible or factual. Simple.

However, the same head teacher and others involved in education that think as he does are doing themselves and their staff and pupils a disservice. The changes introduced to improve teaching, improve the way that discipline is structured and in improving the greater engagement of pupils and parents are what matters and what provides the improvements for all.

It is a further disservice to the pupils and to the parents who have to wear and pay for school uniforms. There are also questions to be answered about individuality, creativity and personal development for pupils. We need thinking people, people who will bring their individual talents to bear on which ever career they ultimately choose or end up with.

We all recognise that not everyone is going to be the next Einstein, Picasso, Lord Olivia, Mozart, JK Rowling, Richard Branson, etc. There will be some though. But we also need people who can think, recognise how to improve the way things are done, challenge the status quo and recognise change as a necessary part of life.

School uniforms or any form of mass uniformity constrain. Constraints are the enemy of progress. There are of course exceptions such as the police and the military for obvious reasons. Team strips possibly. People do wear similar styles of clothing, which identifies them as being part of a fashion, trend or a group, but they don’t tend to wear exactly the same clothes.

It’s one thing to identify pupils wearing hi-vis vests on school outings, which could help in a number of ways and another when there are hundreds of pupils in schools dressed the same way.

We shouldn’t be looking back at schools of yore or see independent schools as a good examples of uniform wearing. The first are in the past for a reason, we’ve moved on and the second? Well perhaps there’s more of an elitist value in wearing a uniform, which depicts the pupils with a quality marks or up market brand type of cache.

Encouraging your child to be all they can be is fundamental to their development and that same encouragement needs to stress how unique and wonderful each individual is. Our children should be different, be who they are, be who they can be and most of all be unique.

 

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Children, Education, Family

 

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Alasdair Gray at the Edinburgh Festival

It’s festival time in Edinburgh don’t you know!

Town is full of people going to various events and shows and generally enjoying the largest arts festival in the world. Mrs TT and I generally take in a few shows etc. during the festival, mostly in the fringe and mostly involving music or comedy. Well you have to really.

Sometimes we take a vague stab at something and go see it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn’t but such is life during the festival. You’ve probably done similar. You can always do a bit of sleb spotting. Loads of them come. We don’t tend to do much of that to be honest although it’s good to know that some globally known slebs come to Edinburgh, which hopefully isn’t a bad thing if they go home, and tell all their mates that Edinburgh is the place to go

Anyway, this weekend we made our first foray into the festival. The Book Festival started on Saturday and we went up on Sunday to hear Alasdair Gray read from his impending new book of short stories. As with all things festival it was more of an experience than it might have been.

Charlotte Square was much drier than usual. A lot less puddles and green grass showing rather than normal “Somme” appearance we have all been accustomed to and grown to love. Okay we don’t it’s just its always so wet and I don’t find the smell of wet grass that appealing. No matter. We were there in good time stopping to browse in the books shop and even managing to get a “wee” seat there so we were ready to sit down for a while in the theatre to listen to Alasdair.

If you haven’t already come across the work of Alasdair Gray that’s a pity. He’s best known for his murals in The Ubiquitous Chip and the Oran Mor and for his best known book “Lanark”. I read Lanark in 1985 and enjoyed it immensely. You might want to give it a go although I’d advise you prepare yourself to stick with it at times. The whole book is better than some of it’s parts but it is wonderful if slightly, well okay, pretty far away from the beaten track of most books back then and miles away from most books now. Alasdair also has written plays and poetry and carries his sense of humour through all of those.

I was lucky enough to meet Alasdair a few years ago. He was at one of my clients involved in book publishing one afternoon. He was a bit unkempt (his trademark although not by design), wearing a long grey coat, which was past its best as my granny would have said and he had a partially finished bottle of Irn Bru in his pocket. He seemed confused and I did worry about his ability to make his way back to the train station and all the way back to Glasgow under his own guidance. I didn’t ask him for his autograph.

Anyway, We took our seats (yes I’m back to the book festival now – keep up!) and Brian (no neck) Taylor of BBC political correspondent fame was the Chairperson. He came in as a rotund vision in pristine white trousers and shirt and a fetching yellow jacket, quite a statement Brian!

Alastair was brought on looking a bit unkempt. He was introduced by Brian as being an artist with many strings to his bow each of which he was exceptionally talented, which is of course correct. It was then over to Alasdair to read a sample of two short stories and two poems.

Off he went. It was slightly unsettling. His voice changed as he went along and took on various accents and ranges. From time to time he was wont to laugh and did so enthusiastically and without constraint. His first story concerned a chap called Eustace (useless) McNulty who seemed to find it hard to hold on to who he was. This was followed by a story about “big” a chap who was a bully and couldn’t keep hold of relationships with clever women. This was cut short prematurely because he hadn’t brought the last page. He did finish the story from memory whilst tugging at his white hair, which took on a “Jedwardesque” style. Two poems followed and then we were on to the Q & A session presided over by Brian.

The questions weren’t many in number and less cerebral than might have been hoped. He did manage a wonderful response to a question as to when he felt he had reached a point of success. He said that he had felt that quite early although it was short lived and he had moved between peaks and troughs, through which there was only one way to proceed. This was of course just to keep going regardless. No secret. Is that not what we all do he said! Of course we all thought.

He was well received and went on to do a book signing, which went on for almost two hours. I took my 1985 copy of Lanark along but didn’t queue for the autograph.

The moral of this long ramble?

Simple. Alasdair Gray is a huge, unique and significant talent and we should laud him highly whilst he still walks amongst us.

Give his site a look and buy a book, visit Oran Mor when they have a band on that you like and enjoy the added experience of the venue and his murals. Rave about him to friends. Write to your MP so Alasdair gets the recognition that so many of our Scottish heroes failed to get when they still habited the planet.

Six gold medals is a significant and awesome achievement but so is being an incredible multi-talented artist!

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Art, Education, General

 

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