Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Daily Prompt: Far from Home

Daily Prompt: Far from Home

Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home.
The farthest I’ve ever been from home [I’m going to go literal with this one. It’s too late at night after a long day to go all meta and talk about how distance isn’t always measured in geographical miles] is Australia. Or maybe New Zealand – I’m not sure which one is furthest away. In any case, I visited both on the same trip so I’ll talk about them as a ‘whole’.

It was great. Eight weeks of sunshine (and the occasional torrential downpour). I saw kangaroos, koalas, and bugs bigger than my foot. I shared a dorm with this weird girl who kept getting naked. I learnt to surf; visited glaciers and rainforests; climbed a mountain – I even went to Hobbiton. I travelled by horse, bike, train, jeep, mini-motorcycle, and only fell off two of them. I had a go at herding goats in the outback, and watched Shakespeare at the Sydney Opera House. And, possibly most impressively, I managed to end the trip on speaking terms with my travel companion – no easy feat when you’ve sat next to someone for the entirety of 20 hour bus ride only to then get lost trying to find your hostel.

And yet, predictably, my Dad’s first reaction when I got home after two months away was: “You had your nose pierced? Oh dear. Still, I suppose I should be glad it wasn’t a tattoo.”

Missed you too, Dad…

Priceless.

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New Primary Education Curriculum: Too much, too young?

I haven’t posted anything about education for a while, but what with the almost daily announcements about reforms coming from government, I thought it was about time I stepped back into the fray.

This article from the BBC, despite its slightly inflammatory title, presents an interesting comparison of Michael Gove’s new primary curriculum with those of Finland and Singapore, which have the most high-achieving education systems of any country.

The comparison can essentially be summed up as follows:

Prof Wrigley said: “The curriculum documents for Finland and Singapore make no demands for eight-year-olds to count in sevens and nines, or for the learning of long lists of spellings which exceed the range of children’s active vocabulary.”

In Singapore children do not begin science before they reach the age of England’s Year 4 children. By this time English children are expected to cover 20 densely-packed pages listing scientific knowledge. In Finland science starts at age seven, and until age 11 is taught within a child-friendly environmental and natural studies curriculum.

So when Michael Gove last week claimed that ‘the changes to the curriculum were necessary to keep pace with the achievement of pupils in other countries.’ and then ‘cited Hong Kong, Massachusetts, Singapore and Finland as “the world’s most successful school systems”‘ I think he was getting his research a bit mixed up. Yes, there may be seven year olds in some countries who can calculate complex fractions, but not in the countries he cites. Their education systems are successful whilst not piling too much academic pressure on very young children, and still encouraging thinking skills and creativity.

In my opinion, Gove’s whole plan to gear the curriculum towards more rote learning and a knowledge based curriculum is skewed. In a world of Google and Wikipedia, what use is rote learning? What we need is to teach our students skills that they can apply in the real world. And this doesn’t come about from our seven year olds trying to learn 20 pages of scientific knowledge.

Don’t even get me started on how this new curriculum will affect those children who aren’t necessarily the most academic.

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Daily Prompt: Your Life, the Book.

From a famous writer or celebrity, to a WordPress.com blogger or someone close to you — who would you like to be your biographer?

My friend Shev. We lived together for three years during university, and she knows me pretty well. But the main reason I’d like her to write my biography is because of the conversation below, which makes me laugh every time I read it… Whilst I can’t promise it would be the most exciting of biographies, it would certainly be accurate [don’t judge me!]. Failing that, I’d like Louis De Bernieres or Nick Hornby to write it. They have a great mix of absurdity, witticism, and character-led writing. 

This does feel like a slightly lazy blog post, but that’s because the answer came to me virtually instantaneously.

Over and out. 

Ruth: Too comfy… Can’t move…
 
Shev: This status summarises you better than anything I’ve ever seen. Also I think it should be the title of your second autobiography (after Where Are All the Teaspoons?)
 
Ruth: I really need to stop looking at comments whilst on the train.. I’m becoming the weird girl who laughs on the train…
 
Shev: Chapter 1-25 of Where Are All the Teaspoons? will consist mostly of tales regarding Ruth’s constant struggle to escape her duvet in order to start writing.
 
Shev: I love the idea of 25 chapters of just Ruth trying to get out of bed. The next 25 will just be Ruth trying to get someone to make her a cup of tea.
 
Ruth: I’d think of a witty come back… but it’s all true. “As i lay there wrapped in my duvet cocoon and too comfy to move, i thought to myself, ‘is there anything better in the world than a duvet?’ Then a new thought came to me, ‘A cup of tea AND a duvet, that’s what! Now… who can i text?’
 
Ruth: It would clearly be a best seller.
 
Shev: Coming soon: 2013’s most action-packed thriller.
 
Ruth: i’m still in bed typing this. just thought you should know.
 
Shev: I assume you are in bed 100% of the time unless I’m told otherwise.
 
Ruth: Lol. I love the thought of teaching from my bed…
 
Shev: May be perhaps a little inappropriate. But if someone is ever going to work out a way to do it, it will be you.
 
Ruth: Guys… Bad news… I’m going to have to GET OUT OF BED AND LEAVE THE FLAT in order to go buy food… THE HORROR!!!!!!!! hope i don’t get altitude sickness from standing up.
 
Shev: Let us know you survive the ordeal.

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Daily Prompt: Fandom

Are you a sports fan? Tell us about fandom. If you’re not, tell us why not.

This is an easy one for me. It’s a topic I’ve had many discussions with people about, and it’s something that I have a fairly strong view on.

The answer is no. I am not a sports fan, and ‘fandom’ is one of the reasons why.

I’ll admit, I don’t find sport particularly fascinating. A shame, as the rest of my family are big sport lovers – whether it’s watching Airbus UK vs Wrexham, the German Grand Prix, or the Ashes – and my lack of interest has meant a lot of family dinners spent staring out of windows over the years. There are some I enjoy more than others – I can just about watch F1 and Rugby without falling asleep, for example, but I can’t bear football or tennis (sorry all you Murray fans out there!).

And before you suggest it, it’s not down to a lack of understanding. With two sports-mad elder brothers, I have had the offside rule explained to me more times than I can remember. Admittedly, I’m a little shaky on my knowledge of tennis, but I could happily explain the LBW rule to you over a Pimms at Lords sometime.

I think part of it is the element of competition. I’m not naturally a very competitive person [unless it comes to Scrabble], and I really hate that someone has to lose after they’ve put in all that hard work. It makes me genuinely sad for them. I’d probably still be sad even if it was the EDL playing the BNP in the Questionable Politics World Cup. After all, they tried their best. And we’re always told as children that as long as we try our best, that’s ok. But it’s not ok, because even though they tried their best they’ve still lost, and they’re upset. How is that fair?

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It also baffles me how emotional people get about sport. I can sort of understand it at a National Level – I love any excuse to wave a flag, see my posts about Eurovision – but beyond that I just don’t get what the big deal is. This is a phenomena that particularly seems to occur in the word of football. From Match of the Day, to the 5 Live Football Phone-in, to post-game violence, it all just seems a bit of an over-reaction to what is, essentially, a game. Just like Chess. Or Badminton. Or Tiddlywinks. But do you see people stabbing each other over a bad result at tiddlywinks? No. It’s all about perspective.

People treat sport like a religion. In fact, I’ve come to wonder whether the absence of religion in what is increasingly a secular culture means that people have had to transfer that passion, that dogged loyalty, that hope, onto something else. And it has manifested itself in people coming home early from the pub so they don’t miss Match of the Day, or ranting about a questionable yellow card on national radio. In fact, if you think about it, going to a football/rugby/cricket match is a lot like going to Church. If the Stadium is the Church, then the chants are the hymns, the match programme is the service sheet, and the players are the idols, who you are wishing (read: praying) upon for a good result.

That last paragraph might have gone a bit far. But you get the idea. Sport is not life or death. It’s sport. Take a step back, sports fans, and realise that yes it’s compelling viewing (for some!) but that doesn’t mean you should name your child ‘Hotspur’ and spend your entire salary on going to watch Aston Villa play football in Dubai.

I’m anticipating a lot of people won’t agree with me on this one – my brothers for starters – so feel free to comment with your own views.I’d love to hear them!

An Ode to Wolverhampton. Yes, you heard correctly.

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Of all the things I didn’t expect to come out of my time at university, a blossoming relationship with Wolverhampton was certainly one of the more unanticipated. But as several of my close friends are residents, I’ve had to spend my fair share of time there of late.

I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with this town. Sorry, city. According to the Telegraph, Wolverhampton became a city in 2000 as part of the millennium honours (no cathedral – controversial!).  It’s a city with a lot of character. After living in a small city on the other side of the Midlands with the personality of a teaspoon (apologies to friends who know which city it is I’m bashing. I love you all, I just dislike the city) this is a trait I’ve grown to really appreciate in a place. Of course, the city has it’s down sides. The cabbies are all a bit mad, there are areas my friends won’t let me walk through alone, and I have been winked at by more creepy old men than I wish to remember. But every town has it’s faults. Sure, many people there have slightly questionable views on certain issues,** but at least they actually talk to each other on the bus. And what’s more, the buses themselves talk to you in a Wolverhampton accent. Haven’t you got to love a place whose transport system pronounces the word road  as ‘rowd’?

So, here are a few facts about Wolverhampton. Because knowledge is power. You’re welcome!

  • The UK branch of MENSA is based in Wolverhampton
  • Natives of Wolverhampton are called ‘Wulfrunians’. This is because the city is named after Lady Wulfruna, who founded the town in 985AD and was the granddaughter of Ethelred I
  • Wolverhampton was the first town in Britain to introduce automated traffic lights, in 1927 in Princes Square at the junction of Lichfield Street and Princess Street
  • The Sunbeam motor car, built in Wolverhampton, became the first vehicle to hit 200mph when it broke the land speed record in 1927
  • Trolleybuses appeared in England in 1923 and in 1930 for a brief period, and Wolverhampton was the world’s largest trolleybus system
  • Josef Stawinoga, who lived in a tent on the ring road for 30 years prior to his death in 2007, was a local celebrity. When he had to have his tent replaced in 2003, it made the national news. It is thought he was a Second World War veteran, whose status as a POW had left him with claustrophobia and unable to live in sheltered accommodation, but the council’s ‘meals on wheels’ service visited him regularly whilst he was living on the roundabout. There is talk of a statue being erected on the roundabout in his honour.

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  • Wolverhampton Grammar School was founded in 1512, making it one of the oldest active schools in the UK. Old boys include Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England since July 2003, and Sir David Wright, former British Ambassador to Japan
  • Wolverhampton’s most famous sporting son, footballer Billy Wright, was the first player in the world to earn 100 caps playing for his country. Wright spent his entire 20-year career at Wolves, and played 105 times for England between 1946 and 1959, captaining the national side on 90 occasions
  • The city’s newspaper, the Wolverhampton Express and Star, recorded daily circulation figures in early 2009 of 128,836, making it the biggest selling regional daily paper in the UK

** See the anecdote / transcribed conversation at the end of my previous post which was given to me by a friend from Wolverhampton.

This post was written with some help from:

http://www.wolverhamptonhistory.org.uk

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6911571/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-Wolverhampton.html