I’m In Love With Japan

Japanese-customs

Japan; the one country in the world that I have longed, longed, to visit for decades. I cannot put my finger on the moment when I first wanted to visit Japan; childhood I think.

I was given a set of books by my grandfather, one of which was about Japan; its otherness absolutely fascinated me. My father used to talk of the horrors committed by Japanese soldiers in WW2; they had a fearsome reputation, but I was somehow convinced that they couldn’t have been the only ‘bad guys’. Over the years, I have dipped in and out of my love affair with this distant land; Books, Films, Manga/Anime, Sushi, Textiles, Crafts, Comics etc.

But what of modern-day Japan?

It is a country of contradictions, fascinating customs, beauty and respect. Japan arrived relatively late to the ‘Westernisation party’. They had had connections with the Dutch and English since the 16th century, however, it was the Americans (Commodore Perry), who literally forced Japan to open its doors; to trade; join us, or suffer the consequences was the implicit message from Perry’s massive fleet.( I equally loath and thank the man)

An island nation of 127 million, Japan is notorious for its ultra-strict work culture, and for being so safe even its Yakuza gangsters do not carry guns – much. The murder rate is the third lowest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), with fewer than one thousand homicides in 2015. In that same time period, the US – a country with a population less than three times the size of Japan’s – recorded fifteen times that many. Japan is one of the safest countries in Asia, and its murder rate of less than one per 100,000 is the lowest among industrial nations (* compare with South Africa – The murder rate since 2011 stayed at around 32 per 100,000 but the number of murders has increased with increases in population. South Africa also has one of the highest rates of rape in the world.)

yakuza
No hiding place…

And it just keeps on getting safer. 2015 saw the lowest rate for every single type of crime since 1945. Tokyo is ranked as the safest city in the world. Osaka is ranked as the 3rd safest. Greater Tokyo is the second largest urban habitation on the planet, so that’s one heck of a verdict.

japan

Street crime is practically non-existent there, and drug use is low. This is largely attributed to the culture of Japan, as being known to use illegal drugs or being sentence to prison would be considered of bad character.

According to the United Nations, in their report called UN Chronicle: The Atlas of Heart Disease & Stroke – Japan has one of the lowest rates of coronary heart disease in the world.

Japan life-expectancy

Japan is well known for its politeness and good manners. Not only that, but Japanese culture is also extremely efficient. Japan is a busy country but is well organised.

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The Japanese take hygiene seriously. You will hardly see any rubbish on the roadsides – even the trains are clean!! In Japan, not only they are clean, everything is in perfect order and neat as well – well trimmed trees, for example.

Temple bells, the stone gardens, the bamboo, and the torii gates instill a sense of peace and serenity. And teenagers can be seen paying tribute at shrines as often as older generations. Respect for tradition and culture runs deep.

 

It has been reported to me many times by family and friends, that Asian countries always have much better hotel service than in the West, but, I read repeatedly, Japan takes it to another level. Bags are brought to your room. Towels brought up just because you might need extra. Hotel owners wave you good-bye. Everything is done with a bow. Everyone is helpful.

r-GIFT-GIVING-large570
Giving gifts is a huge part of Japanese life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dumb; Japan has its down sides, doesn’t everywhere. But  I cannot help but be drawn to this place that is 9,406 km away. And the recent mini-series of TV shows by BBC 4 made me pine for it even more.

samurai sword
They make the curve how?!!

I think in the age of the ‘self’, the individual, me, me, me; we might learn a thing or two from the Japanese.

Sayonara

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054qbtb

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/26/what-is-safest-city-in-the-world-crime-immigration-tokyo-amsterdam-new-york-bogota

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/01/06/national/media-national/even-gangsters-live-in-fear-of-japans-gun-laws/#.WXHYDxXyvIU

https://www.insidejapantours.com/blog/2012/03/12/10-reasons-why-japan-is-so-great/

http://www.thecoolist.com/japanese-anime-for-everyone/

http://www.rmc.edu/docs/default-source/asian-studies/the-opening-closing-and-re-opening-of-japan-japanese-foreign-relations-before-during-and-after-the-tokugawa-shogunate-%281600-1868%29-%28pdf%29.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/12/31/japan_s_19th_century_modernization_why_did_the_country_end_its_isolation.html

 

 

Shame on You?

How many of you want to hide under your desk when your behaviour at the office party is discussed over the following days? (Yeah you have.)

How many times did you hang your head in shame as a child because of your actions?

Shame: noun

1.the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another: She was overcome with shame.

2. disgrace; ignominy: His actions brought shame upon his parents.

Psychology Today defines shame as – Shame: A Concealed, Contagious, and Dangerous EmotionShame informs you of an internal state of inadequacy, dishonor, or regret . As a self-conscious emotion,shame informs you of an internal state of inadequacy, unworthiness, dishonor, or regret about which others may or may not be aware.

Shame is closely related to Guilt. Many psychologist will argue that shame is harmful to the inner self. Shame is internalised, shame can destroy self-perception. Good old guilt on the other hand, is an external admission to something you have done wrong – or something you perhaps should have done but failed to. Shame is internalized and deeply connected to our sense of who we are. Guilt is often passing. Shame-based comments appear to be accurate statements about our character or lack thereof. Those comments are easily internalized as truth about who we are, haunting us long after the comment was made. Guilt, on the other hand, fades with time or after corrective action is taken.

We love to ‘name and shame’. Even better, we love to ‘name and shame’ publically; social media is a fantastic tool for the ‘shame-r’ to use against the ‘shame-e’ (So they aren’t real words! Yet! Just you wait).

And shame, might I add, is not in the eye of the beholder. Some people are completely shameless; much like Frank Gallagher.

shame 1

Let’s have a look at Guilt V Shame examples:

Donald Trump tried to intimidate his former FBI director into silence by threatening to release secret recordings of their conversations.

Donald Trump baselessly accused President Obama’s national security adviser of committing a crime — after his White House conspired with the head of the House Intelligence Committee to foment a false scandal.

He violated federal law by claiming proceeds from various Trump products would go to charity, although there is no evidence that Trump ever donated the money to charity.

His vow to use torture on suspected terrorists would violate the Geneva conventions. He would be committing war crimes.

He suggested that women should be “punished” for having abortions and “joked” that he’d date his daughter!!!!! (WTF!)

Seeing a pattern here folks? Mr. T has perhaps the longest list of actions and activities that come under the label ‘guilty’, and yet, the man evidently feels no shame whatsoever. (And not only guilty, but libelous. Seriously, how is this man still President?!)

He believes not only, that he is the law, but that he is above the law. He has been sued over 3,500 times in his career, including 70 times during his campaign. He blithely tweets comments and opinions that seem to have been dredged up from a recent dream. He has absolutely no understanding of world politics and how the historical interference of America and the UK have brought us to where we are today.

The man is a buffoon, without the charm (and I use that term loosely folks) of Boris Johnson. And the irony is, he bandies the word ‘shame’ about like a fat cudgel made of Bratwurst. He truly does not know the emotion of shame. I bet he shits bullets; his insides must be as cast-iron as his skin and brains.

Choose your shameful buffoon

 

Now let’s just enjoy some moments that the man should be ashamed of –

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

http://www.pajiba.com/politics/a-complete-list-of-all-the-times-donald-trump-has-broken-the-law.php

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/06/every-terrifying-thing-that-donald-trump-has-done.html

http://sticktrump.com/

 

 

 

 

Self – Obsession

Warning: you may not like what you read today. And if it piques, ask yourself why.

Self-Obsession

What strange times we live in.

Imagine you are not from the country that you live in. Take a moment.

Now look at it with as objective a view as you can.

Do the people in your country care for each other? Do they work together in harmony? Do they strive to make it a better place to live in? Or, are efforts made just for the few?

Now let us step away from that country, pull back as though you were a camera lens, a film shot pans out, and we see the Earth. Ask the same questions.

Are you satisfied with what you see?

Are there people in this world who do not have what you have? Are there people in this world who do not even have the basics for sustainable life? Are there people dying needlessly? Are children dying needlessly?

self obsession 4

We think we are being a good person when we make a donation to a charity. We think we are a good person when we drop coins into a ‘begging bowl’. We think we are good when we buy a poppy, a copy of The Big Issue, use a charity shop, recycle.

But we need to seriously ask ourselves the question – Who am I doing it for? For many, this is actually a self-serving activity. We tell ourselves, ‘I’m a good person because I ….fill in the gap…’

But are we doing this to make ourselves feel better? To alleviate a little guilt? To be able to proclaim to others that, yes, I am a giving kind of person.

We live in an age of self-obsession like never before. Of course there have been cultures in the past, in which people have been worshipped and adored; the ancient Greeks, Gladiators and Romans. But because they did it, does that mean it is alright now? Are we not a progressive being; do we not strive to improve?

self obsession 2

We all know how easy it can be to get attention via social media, and the biggest item used by regular folk today is the selfie; the ultimate tool in the self-obsessives kit.

self obsession 3

Now that we have the front-facing camera on our smartphones, the way we take pictures and share them has changed. So convenient, so ‘trendy’, so self-obsessed; we never to stop to ask – is it good for us, good for others? What a bizarre question, you may say, but if you step back and apply the ‘imagine you’re from another planet’ test, you begin to see how truly strange this activity is.

self obsession 5

Why do we think anyone wants to see our every move? Why do we think the rest of the community wants to see our pouting lips, thrusting hips, girlfriend’s arse, boyfriend’s pecs, a new hairstyle, lipstick, every inch of the human body has been photographed to within an inch of its life.  We all have one, so why do we feel the need to show ours to everyone else?

self obsession 6

We are so self-obsessed, that when someone ‘famous’ dies, or an horrific incident kills many, there is a public outpouring of grief, a gross display of ‘how I feel’. People don’t want to hear this or be honest about it, but there is a strange reaction to the victim(s) and the event: around the inner circle of family and friends, a second layer begins, the people who did not know those involved, but ‘want to express their love’. Outside of this, complete strangers arrive to ‘show solidarity’ at this sad time.

self obsession 7

But, we must ask ourselves, who are we doing this for?

Really.

Are we actually empathising, feeling the sadness of loss that the family feel, or are we pandering to our own, selfish need to feel like we are a part of it? Can we not feel something without a public display? Why the need to be seen placing flowers at a site that has absolutely no relevance to us, other than, the true answer – I need to be seen to grieve, I need to be seen to be a feeling/thoughtful person. I need to be seen to do something.

I need to be seen.

 

self obsession Tilda

I’m in love with…

 

 

…Sir Richard Burton, no not that one –

richard burton

This one –

Richard_Francis_Burton_by_Rischgitz,_1864

 

Born in 1821, Richard Francis Burton was something of a celebrity in his own time. Think of the typical idea of the Victorian male:

  • Manliness was a virtue, a form of control over maleness, which was considered brutish.
  • The Victorian man liked to form secret societies, such as the Masons.
  • He was not only the head of the household; his duty was not only to rule, but also to protect his wife and children.
  • Working was manly; whether working-class males in heavy industry, or middle-class males, upper class males could become involved in philanthropic works or other enterprising actions.
  • Sport! They watched it, read about it, did it. Sports and cold showers; to keep the ‘little man’s’ desires in check and to prove his worth – to be ready for attack.  E. M. Forster, apparently said that this “then led to “well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds, and undeveloped hearts”.
  • And most of all, Victorian man was British. And proud of it! The expansion of the Empire became entangled in what it meant to be a man, and so he served the Queen, he hunted creatures to near extinction; he pioneered and subordinated non British peoples. He was top man, the dog’s bollocks, king of the world (with little k.)

RFB

Burton fits some of this characterisation; however, his views on the rest of the world and in particular Islam and women were light years ahead of his fellows. He  was ‘sent down’ from Oxford (meaning he was kicked out), after a series of mischievous events. He took it well, bid his tutors farewell and headed cheerily off to become more than they could ever imagine.

RFB was not only an explorer, he was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He seemed to excel at everything he did. I cannot think of anyone else alive or historical who was so accomplished. He was extraordinarily open-minded for a man of his time:

Letchford, Albert, 1866-1905; Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), KCMG, FRGS, Maitre d'Armes, France

Burton did not think of women as inferior to men.  He was very much interested in sexuality and erotic literature – his accurate translation of ‘The Book of a Thousand and One Nights’, is full of steamy sex scenes. He translated the ‘Kama Sutra’, the most famous book in the world on sexual techniques to this day.

kama sutra

He slept with woman of all race, colour and creed (males too some reports say), he smoked opium, drank cannabis drinks with holy men, he hung about with prostitutes with no particular judgement on their profession. He took a spear to the face, when his and Speke’s encampment was attacked one night in Africa, and survived. He was spy in India. An Afghan pilgrim in the Middle East; he had himself circumcised so he could pass as native, one of the few white men to have entered Mecca in disguise. He spoke a fair number of languages too – fluent in 29!!! I can barely speak my native one right. And on and on his adventures go.

220px-Richard_Francis_Burton_in_Africa

I first heard about RFB in my teens I think. Then later on a friend who was interested in him lent me a book, ‘Sir Richard Burton’s Travels in Arabia and Africa.’ I read and studied it, sort of. But what really enticed me to discover more about the great man was a work of literary fiction.

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi’, by Mark Hodder. The first of four books in Hodder’s Burton and Swinburne Adventures. In this alternative 19th century, Hodder really brought Burton to life for me – the outrageous behaviour, that British stoicism partnered with emotional passion, a huge, physical, Brainiac of a fist-fighter paired with the slight, red-headed, waif-like Algernon Swinburne; poet.

hodder

Two real persons from history partnered up for some beautifully written and roistering, boisterous adventures. And so I began my love affair with Ruffian Dick; I even wrote him into one of my own short, Steampunk stories, in which my protagonist, Lucy Lockhart encounters more of Ruffian Dick than the average English woman did!

Burton was adventurous of mind as well as body. He seemed to fear nothing. He did not judge other cultures as his fellow Victorians did (and some of us still do today), he was bold, brave, liked a laugh and a drink, and he was devoted to the love of his life, his wife; Isabel. His energy, enthusiasm, his curiosity for the people and world around him should be held as an ideal to work for today I think.

Sir Richard Francis Burton died, 20 October 1890.

220px-Richard_Frances_Burton

This August, I hope to make my own mini pilgrimage from the North, to London to visit his tomb at Saint Mary Magdalen Church, Mortlake.

sir-richard-burton-thomb-001

 

 

The same superficial view of holding woman to be lesser (and very inferior) man is taken generally by the classics; and Euripides distinguished himself by misogyny, although he drew the beautiful character of Alcestis.’ RFB. On Arab womanhood in 1001 Nights.

Women, all the world over, are what men make them; and the main charm of Amazonian fiction is to see how they live and move and have their being without any masculine guidance.’ RFB. On Arab womanhood in 1001 Nights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming of Age

When I turned 18 (oh so long ago), I got extraordinarily drunk whilst at college. I spewed copious amounts of vomit around the girl’s toilets and had to be taken home by a member of staff and a student. My mother was confused – she did not recognise drunkenness when she saw it, my father thought it quite funny. I was ill for about three days. When I turned 21, my parents turned up at my university digs with a cake, my two main childhood toys (Tiny Tears and Teddy) and a bottle of champagne.

Fairly typical for Many UK young people on the cusp of adulthood; most people I know of my age, also got ridiculously drunk on their eighteenth birthdays. It seems to be the norm here. Celebrations dropped down to 16 after a while, so massive parties and lots of alcohol consumed, usually in the celebrants family home, but more and more people are hiring halls, or restaurants or clubs these days.

So when do we become an adult? What do we do to celebrate and mark the transition from childhood to adulthood? And why are the laws and customs regarding what a teen can and cannot do not unequal throughout England? It seems like other cultures have a handle on this, traditions which continue over the generations and are acknowledged by the whole community. You can have a tooth filled in Bali, do a land-dive in Pacific island of Vanuatu, or be beaten and scarred with the Fulani of Western Africa. But what do we do in England and when do we do it?

For those of you who are not English, let me fill you in –

  • The legal age of consent (to have sexual intercourse), is 16 years.
  • You can drink a beer, wine, or cider with a meal in a pub or restaurant if you are with an adult, at 16 years.
  • You can get married with parental consent, at 16 years.
  • You can smoke, (but you cannot buy cigarettes or tobacco) at 16 years.
  • You can drive a vehicle ,at 17 years.
  • You can vote in Elections, at 18 years.
  • Now you can buy your own cigarettes, at 18 years.
  • The legal age to purchase and drink alcohol, 18 years.
  • The minimum age for enlisting in the UK armed forces is 16. Those who sign on when 16 or 17 must serve until they are 22.
  • Join the Royal Navy at 16 years; although that may vary for certain roles across the different branches. If you’re under the age of 18, you will need the consent of a parent or guardian.
  • Legally – in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – a minor is a person under 18 years of age.
  • In London, under 11’s travel free on most public transport.
  • On most public transport across the UK, adult fares begin at 16 years.
  • Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you’re paying for adult tickets from the age of, 12 years.
  • Kids go free at Legoland, up to and including the age of 15 years.
  • In England, you must stay in full-time education, for example at a college, start an apprenticeship or traineeship, or spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training, until you are 18 years.

 

So let’s have a quick re-cap. At 16 years of age you have to pay adult fares for theme parks and the like, you can smoke cigarettes, but NOT buy them. You can marry with parental consent (so presumably have children), you can join the military, which presumably involves in weapon training. BUT, you have to be with an adult to have a drink with a meal. You must remain in education and you cannot vote. Not forgetting, that legally, YOU ARE STILL REGARDED AS A MINOR. YOU ARE A CHILD! There is little, or no consistency.

Does this picture look skew-whiff to anyone else?! I have been boggled by the age issue since I was 13 years old and I was charged adult price for a ticket for Madame Tussauds Waxworks Museum. I argued for ages with the guy on the counter:

“I’m not an adult”

“It’s adult for 13 and over.”

“I’m a school kid!”

“It’s adult.”

“But I’m not responsible enough to be an adult!”

I paid anyway – wanted to see the wax heads on sticks.

Tussauds
Well it was scary then! Especially as I was alone, sans parents…

Can we not all agree on what age is the one true age of reaching adulthood? The complications are sometimes related to money. In the consumer age, corporations and conglomerates want your money, regardless of whether you earn any or not. This is a ludicrous situation. Not only can we not agree on set ages for ‘coming of age’, but we don’t now know when to celebrate. So, 16 years old’s celebrate that they have turned ‘Sweet 16’ (So What?! I cry), then 18 year old’s celebrate their ‘coming of age’ – as we have seen already, usually by getting very, very drunk.

Then along comes 21 years. This used to be the age recognised throughout the UK, when a child became an adult. This changed in 1970, in England (1969 in Wales and Scotland). It was a huge moment marked by celebrations, party, gifts and, a once well-known song.

Now we are being told that, mentally and emotionally, we are reaching adulthood around 25 years. So isn’t it about time to have parity across the board? If we are saying that people are minors/children until the age of 18, shouldn’t all laws and charges reflect this?

21today

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx1D2asFSig

 

Having something definite to mark this passage provides us with a ‘mental landmark’, we all know where we stand. Make it a real celebration, something that is recognised by all, a ceremony of sorts. A Tradition.

queen elizabeth 21st
Princess Elizabeth on her 21st Birthday, choosing ‘one’s totty to take to the ball.

 

Jewish Coming of Age Tradition: Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Mazal Tov! Around the world, young Jewish boys and girls celebrate their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at age 13 and 12 in order to demonstrate their commitment to their faith and recognize that they are now responsible for following Jewish law. After the religious ceremony, a reception  to celebrate the young person’s hard work and accomplishment takes place; as they have often spent weeks learning and preparing for this day.

bar-mitzvah-casino-party
Health and safety not an issue, as youngster is jiggled up and down in the air.

Amish Coming of Age Tradition: Rumspringa

In Amish tradition, Rumspringa marks the time when youth turn 16 and are finally able to enjoy unsupervised weekends away from family. During this time, they are encouraged to enjoy whatever pleasures they like, be that modern clothing or alcohol. The purpose of this period is to allow Amish youth the opportunity to see and experience the world beyond their culture and upbringing. It also recognises that youthful exuberance exists and needs to be allowed to happen. In this way, returning to their community and way of life thus is entirely their choice. Those who return are then baptized and become committed members of the Amish church and community, marking the end of Rumspringa (but they must do so before turning 26).

rumspringa-party-via-Fark
And you thought they were dull !

 

 Inuit Coming of Age Tradition: North Baffin Island

In North Baffin Island, Inuit boys have traditionally gone out to the wilderness with their fathers between the ages of 11 and 12 to test their hunting skills and acclimatise to the harsh arctic weather. As part of the tradition, a shaman would be called to open the lines of communication between men and animals. Nowadays, this tradition has been extended to young girls as well, as “out-camps” are established away from the community in order for traditional skills to be passed down and practiced by the young men and women.

650-inuit

 

 Khatam Al Koran Coming of Age Tradition: Malaysia

In Malaysia, 11 is a special birthday for some Muslim girls, as it marks the time when they can celebrate Khatam Al Koran, a prestigious ritual that demonstrates their growing maturity at their local mosque. Girls spend years preparing for this day, reviewing the Koran so they can recite the final chapter before friends and family at the ceremony.

khatam6

 

Maasai Coming of Age TraditionTanzania and Kenya

The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have several rites of passage that carry boys into manhood. Boys between the ages of 10-20 come together to be initiated as the new “warrior class” of the tribe, placed in dozens of houses built for the occasion. The night before the ceremony the boys sleep outside in the forest, and at dawn they return for a day of singing and dancing. They drink a mixture of alcohol, cow’s blood, and milk, while also consuming large portions of meat. After these festivities they are ready to be circumcised, making the official transformation into a man, warrior, and protector. Similar to other rites of passage the boys cannot flinch, because doing so would shame their families and discount their bravery.

Rituals-of-the-Massai-Tribe-
Jumping for joy – literally!

 

Japanese Coming of Age Tradition: Seijin-no-Hi

In Japan, the second Monday of January marks a special day- the day in which 20 year olds get to dress up in their finest traditional attire, attend a ceremony in local city offices, receive gifts, and party to their hearts’ content amongst friends and family. It’s their Coming of Age Festival, otherwise known as Seijin-no-Hi. The tradition started nearly 1200 years ago and recognizes the age when the Japanese believe youth become mature, contributing members of society (it’s also the time when they get to vote and drink).

Japan

 

It is interesting to note, that whilst I was searching for images to represent each culture’s way of celebrating this rite of passage – I could not find anything to represent the UK. There were very mixed images of different types of parties, the odd one of teens drinking or smoking, but no consistency – because we have no recognisable, traditional way to share and enjoy. This will have to suffice…

francebooze-271671

 

 

EXAMS!!!!

Exams!

It’s that time of year again.

Exams!

The word can bring the usually stout of heart and joyous of personalities to a stuttering, heart-in-the-mouth, stomach-churning (occasionally pants-filling), halt.

exam Will

Thousands of young people across the UK will have sat, or be currently sitting these horrendous GCSE/A level/End of Year papers. My thoughts are with you guys.

But why do we do exams? For years I have gone along with the mentality that exams are there to assess how much we have learnt, to grade us for the next level of education, to see where our skills lie (academically) and so direct our employment options.

Imagine our ancient ancestors – ploughing the fields, milking the cows, thatching roofs, building homes, smithing your horse’s hooves, sewing your clothes, brewing ale, grinding corn and so on and so forth. Did they sit written exams? No. They didn’t, but managed to make, create, produce and thrive in a continuously moving environment.

SONY DSC
Er, obviously NOT going to be a bricklayer!

The problem lies with numbers; not those hated calculations involving equations and formulas – or that might just be me. I mean numbers of students. In the past, authentic assessment was the norm; we had apprenticeships; an expert would take on an apprentice, provide individualised training and constant feedback. Apprentices were evaluated on how well they applied the skills, not how well they answered a multiple-choice question. The tradition continues today; the construction industry being a point in question.

exams chinese outside
Chinese students had to sit outside – is this what we are heading towards???!!!

But as the population grew, we needed a way to assess huge numbers of potentials. And now we have a kind of production-line mentality to education and exams. We go in one end, age 5 years (3 ½ if you go to pre-school), and come out the other aged 18 years, having sat numerous tests along the way: IQ tests, 11Plus, Aptitude, End of Year, SAT’s (thanks America!) Mocks, GCSE’s (O Levels if your over 40 years), A Levels. THEN, you can go to Further or Higher Education where you do further exams – or retake those English and Maths GCSE’s you failed at school.

exam stress
And we start them so young!

And this in an age where we talk about the individual; about how we’re each different, how we have differing needs, how we learn at different rates. So why the rigid, one-size-fits-all attitude?

And what do exams do anyway, besides stress us out? So you happen to be able to remember a bunch of information that someone spewed out for 10 months, so what? Just because you can pass a written exam, does not mean you will be successful in life, as a person – you know, the REAL important stuff?!

Should we be looking at a new way to educate people? What should we be educated in?

We’re so busy stuffing our heads with dates and measurements and names and so forth, that we do not stop to think what we should be learning about.

Education, after all means – the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university, “a course of education” (OED) Origin – Word Root of educate

The Latin word ducere, meaning “to lead,” and its form ductus give us the roots duc and duct. Words from the Latin ducere have something to do with leading. A duct is a tube that leads from one place or organ to another. To educate, or teach, is to lead to knowledge. To induce is to lead into a particular state. (Merriam-Webster)

 

So, instead of stuffing words, dates and formulae in, we should be spending half the time, drawing out from the pupil.

And anyway, who decided that if you don’t get the grades then you’ll never ‘make it’ in life. Let’s have a look at how some well-known people fared in their school exams and ask ourselves, Do we really need exams in the form they currently are anymore?

Imagine if every student across the land – every single one – refused to do their exams. On the same day, at the same time, they all agreed to down pens and refuse to take part in this pointless ritual that measures nothing but an individuals ability to regurgitate information in a given time frame…I wonder what would happen?!

exam david
Failed his pasty eating exam…

 

Simon Cowell –Music Entrepreneur – left school with just 1 O Level.

Jon Snow– journalist/News Presenter – Grade C in English.

Lord Alan Sugar – Business Entrepreneur – 1 GCSE.

Sarah Millican – Comedian – D and E in her A Levels.

Jeremy Clarkson – TV Host – “If your A-level results aren’t joyous, take comfort from the fact I got a C and two Us. And I have a Mercedes Benz.”

 

…and extracts from some school reports of the good and the average:

 

“This boy will never get anywhere in life.”  Eric Morecombe, Comedian.

“Judi would be a very good pupil if she lived in this world.” Judi Dench, Actor.

“Certainly on the road to failure…hopeless…rather a clown in class…wasting other pupils’ time.” John Lennon, Musician.

“Inclined to dream. Could do better if he tried.” Nick Park, Animator.

“Jilly has set herself an extremely low standard which she has failed to maintain.” Jilly Cooper, Author.

“Constantly late for school, losing his books and papers….regular in his irregularity….” Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister 1940-1945/1951-1955

So you see, if at first you don’t succeed; become an entrepreneur, a comedian or a politician, can’t go wrong!

 

Oh, And

Good Luck! 

Sex…(That got your attention didn’t it?!)

 

N.B: Possible sensitive material. (Depending on how sensitive you are.)

Sex sells.

Forget your Game of Thrones romps in Peter Littlefinger’s brothel, or the gyrations of any number of women – and occasional men, in music videos, or that 1990’s bra advert – ‘Hello Boys.’

You know by now that I like to have an occasional rant  – and if you don’t then you haven’t been following properly! *smiles coyly – or you have only just started following.

I wanted to rant about sex, no not the lovely smushy, let’s-get-this-party-started kind of sex, but the kind that is used to make you (and me I suppose, sometimes, but I like to think I’m-above-that-kind-of-thing) buy stuff.

Are advertisers bastards? Or are we just dumb animals that allow our baser instincts drive the click-pay-send-buy cycle? It’s all over the show: perfume and aftershave adverts, clothing, cars, ad infinitum. But what bugs me most? Music videos! Music videos that contain endless yards of naked, semi-naked, sweaty, oiled, writing flesh. And guess what? There’s no age limit on them like films have, so television channels can show them at 8:30 on a Saturday or Sunday morning, when you want a lie-in, and your little kids are up and about. And what do little kids do when alone? (Ew, not that!) Yep, they watch the box, unsupervised (‘cos you got pissed the night before and have to lie still in a darkened room so you don’t vomit all over the place – or is that just me?)

Your kids are watching soft porn people!!!!

But before we all get carried away, this post isn’t about soft porn (though I know some people will wish it was). I have been noticing semi-clad images all over the show except one place – literature (NO! Not that kind of literature) I’m talking about fiction writing and the covers that bind them.

Sex sells.

petyr baelish
Petyr Baelish, fondling those exquisite pages.

Which brings me back to Game of Thrones; or should I say books in general. Although there is an insanely wild amount of sex in G.O.T, the covers tell a different story, because it’s all about politics, not sex. There are those books that have a suggestion of sex on the covers; prime example is Jilly Cooper and all those jolly gals and boys who ride horses, play polo and live in a foreign country as far as I’m concerned. And maybe an open shirt or two revealing a male chest to titillate the middle-aged, middle-class reader. And then there is the brigade of women writers and readers (and I guess some blokes) who read romance. Ah, romance; roses, wine, softly scented kisses, you’re kidding aren’t you?!

 

image001.jpg

It was not always so. For your delectation, I have trawled through acres of yellowing-dog-eared-slightly whiffy pages to present to you some fine, and cringe worthy, examples of how sex has been selling literature for decades. From the 1920’s through to the current day, I give you, how sex sells literature…

sex 1928
Ladies in Hades. 1928

 

What Aldous Huxley would have made of this cover, God only knows!

sex 1963
Teacher’s Pet. 1963
sex 2011
In Bed With a Highlander. 2011
sex 2012
Taking a Shot. 2012
sex 2013
First Strike. 2013

And my favourite; even though it is a parody…

sex spoof

You can find more romance parody book covers at – https://www.flickr.com/photos/verybigjen/sets/489555/

Feel the need of a scrub down now. Have a great day y’all.