The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

University Then (1959) And Now (2020)

Eager student with a fellow student- now my lovely wife of 57 years..

In 1959 97% of school leavers didn’t get a sniff at university. Even in my selective state grammar school’s 1952 intake a third left at 15 and another third left at 16. Moreover at the end of sixth form only nine of us went on to uni – that was just 10% of the original intake of eleven plus “winners”. Not forgetting that the bulk of my primary school fellow pupils “failed” the 11+ and went on to secondary modern schools.

That was the stark reality of 1950s England where the concept of “failure” was built into the hurdle race that was the key driver of the education process – never publicly acknowledged, of course, but privately accepted in many quarters with much talk of achievement and “stretching”

A lot has changed since those days. A university place for nearly half of school leavers is now the norm. Of our grandchildren Hannah has recently graduated, Oliver is starting his second year and Pippa has just arrived for her first day. No doubt that the youngest two, Evie and Harry will be wending their way shortly.

All these thoughts welled up as I cast my mind back to September 1959 when I arrived at my Leicester University hall of residence in Oadby.. I was a grammar school boy from a South London working class family whose parents had left school at 14 and had never owned a house or a car but but both were autodidacts who treasured reading and learning and study and encouraged me to make a bid for university.

I suddenly found myself, for the first time in my life amidst a bunch of people I had never met before….some of them even had northern or Welsh accents!!!! Most of us had trickled in during the day. We had our first evening meal then, afterwards, we sat around in the common room. After an initial burst of chatter we all became quiet, lost in our own thoughts. My own mind suddenly wished that I was back home, having tea with my mum and dad in familiar surroundings.

Why the hell, I asked myself, had I got myself involved in all this? I was absolutely homesick.

Then suddenly someone shouted “Let’s all go down to the pub!!!!”

My homesickness instantly evaporated – and never appeared again. I was now a fully fledged university student – the first ever from my family – and I was now going to enjoy it to the full….

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When Wasp Dreams Come True

You know when you have that nightmare where you dream that a giant wasp is crawling over your head and you try to brush it off and it stings your face and it hurts like hell and you cry out and your wife wakes up and says what’s wrong and you say I was dreaming that I had been stung in the face by a wasp and she says does it hurt and you feel your face and there’s no sting and you sheepishly say sorry it was just a dream and she says you shouldn’t have eaten that kebab and turns over to go back to sleep?

Well, that.

Except last night it wasn’t a dream. I really did wake up with a wasp crawling over my head and brushed it off and it stung me in the face and it hurt like hell…….😬😬😬😬

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Getting Ready To Welcome Home A Dad I Couldn’t Remember…..Demob 1945

Mum, dad and me..January 1941

 

I have no specific memory of VE Day itself, partly because I was only four and a half years old at the time and recollection from that age is often difficult to disentangle from imagination.

Dad had been sent to Algeria with the British army in the autumn of 1942 but even before then he had been stationed in various camps all over Britain since after call up in 1940 so, like millions of other young children, home during WW2 was a dad free zone. Throughout those years, however, in Britain, Algeria or, later, Italy, he wrote regularly to mum and always included a note for me, usually a set of funny cartoons.

So, for millions of women like my mum the importance of VE Day was as a sign that their menfolk, after years of separation, would be coming home.

The magic word was “demob”……demobilisation, the release of millions of servicemen from the routines of military life into “civvy street” and the process began just a few weeks after VE Day.
I must have sensed an air of excitement as I was told about daddy coming home.There had been some photos of course plus the little drawings and I knew about daddies from stories and nursery rhymes but otherwise “father” was in reality as strange a concept as the man in the moon.

I don’t remember his actual arrival. But I do have a few mental snapshots of the time the way most of us recall isolated events in our younger days. He must have returned in one of the earlier demob waves because I have a memory of houses up and down our road being decorated with union jacks and red, white and blue bunting and lots of signs saying “Welcome Home….Bill or Jack or Sid”….or in my dad’s case “Eddie”. I also remember my mum’s oldest sister, my maiden aunt (do they exist anymore?) lifting up me onto the wall of our front garden, giving me a small flag to hold and saying to my mum “he’s a flagpole” and them dissolving into laughter and me feeling very proud and important…

Precious memories….

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A Bit Of Cancer Surgery To Liven Up The Coronavirus Lockdown

Had a bit of a break from lockdown with a fun day at East Grinstead a few days ago. The Lovely Mrs P dropped me off at Queen Victoria Hospital at 7.45 for some neck surgery to cut out a bit of cancer. At the car park nurses were electronically testing temperature but it was too cold for an accurate reading so they let us through. Next step was a CT scan to check if I was a CV carrier….apparently QVH is doing that for all surgical procedures. Currently QVH is tagged as a “cold” hospital that will not cater for any Coronavirus cases.

Fortunately I’m not a carrier so straight then to theatre reception, gowned up and into the theatre after an initial chat with the surgeon and anaesthetist who both suggested, because of heart problems, a local rather than a general anaesthetic.

Now QVH, a twenty five minute drive from us, is one of the best in the world for head, neck and facial surgery so who was I to argue.

So I had my neck sliced and cut with a dentist type local plus a sedative feed to keep me comfortable. But I stayed awake and had some good banter with the surgeon and his team. Whenever the cutting became a little too sharp I squeezed the anaesthetist’s hand and she upped the sedative for a moment. Oddly enough the whole process put me at my ease and, as my surgeon said afterwards, a settled patient reduces pressure on the theatre team.

When all was done went back to ward at eleven and enjoyed an NHS Lancashire Hotpot and Apple Crumble at twelve. Because the wards were almost empty I had Prince Charles type attention from the nurses with copious cups of tea and digestive biscuits in between BP takes.
As the local wore off neck felt slightly but not unbearably sore so was able to persuade the staff to give me a box of that scarcest of drugs….the humble paracetamol….lol

Discharged at 3.30 so was able to walk into the car park just when my wife arrived to drive me back home.

As I said to Mr X and his team as I left the theatre I would rather not go through it again but if my neck needed to be sliced and diced I would opt for them every time….

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CORONAVIRUS AND THE RETURN OF THE BRITISH BOFFIN…..

Unlike the rest of us who can bloviate about coronavirus knowing full well that nobody else in the public sphere has to take a blind bit of notice of our Facebook blatherings Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, and chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty bear an unimaginable and unenviable burden of responsibility which few outside the military will ever experience – so anyone who has ever been in a position of authority will understand that being at the top can be a frightening place.

But cometh the hour, cometh the men…

For just when it feels like we’re about to enter full-scale coronavirus panic mode, two quiet doctors enter from the wings – and magically chime with our national, keep-calm-and-carry-on temperament.

Dr Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, are just the kind of modest eggheads we crave. They don’t make a drama out of a crisis; they just quietly get on with doing the right thing, leaving the frantic jazz hands to others.

Because they’re so clever and understated, we trust them. When Dr Whitty quietly lays out the measures needed for the ‘delay’ phase of the crisis – the symptoms to look for; why we should be isolating ourselves for a week if we have them – we see the sense of it.

When Sir Patrick gently explained, on the Today programme, why it was safer to go to the Cheltenham Gold Cup and watch it live than go to a pub and watch on TV, we listen.

Theirs is a respect rooted in intelligence and achievement, as well as their air of quiet, cool command. Chris Whitty, 53, was brought up in Nigeria, where his late father worked for the British Council. Educated at Malvern and Pembroke College, Oxford, he went on to collect four postgraduate degrees. He is an NHS Consultant Physician at University College London Hospitals and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. He was a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. He’s an expert in malaria and Ebola.

Sir Patrick was educated at Truro School and London University and was also a professor (at UCL Medical School). He went on to become head of research and development at the huge pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline. He’s an expert in vascular medicine.

In a world obsessed with celebrities and show-offy Instagram influencers, what a contrast it is when two gentle scientists against their better wishes, take centre-stage.

It’s the return of the boffin, the understated hero, who dominates our attention by not shrieking for it…

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The Joys Of Being A Teacher…Dealing With A Very Angry Parent

After having spent my lunch hour patrolling the playgrounds and corridors making sure a thousand kids at my comp let off steam in a civilised manner I was sitting in my office about five minutes into the start of afternoon lessons and ready to take a bite of my cheese sandwich when the phone rang.
“Better come round, Mr P – we’ve got an effer. It’s Sharon S’s dad”

That was the school office code word for a visitor (usually a parent) who came in out of the blue and demanded to see the head or one of the deputies immediately about how their f****** son or daughter had been treated by either some f****** teacher or another f****** pupil.

Although the textbook reply from reception could have been “Certainly, sir or madam, we’ll arrange an appointment – would next Wednesday at 10.45 be OK?” or even “We refuse to deal with you until you rinse your mouth out with soap and water” the office staff knew that a secondary school reception area is usually busy with passing trade both with both pupils and assorted adults so operation defuse had to be the order of the day.

I was therefore summoned.

Mr S was still at reception, bubbling with anger as I appeared.
“Hello, Mr S” I said “thanks for coming in” and immediately shook his hand.

Notice the cunning strategy? I was immediately owning the situation by pretending that he had entered our turf on my invitation rather than invading us in a fit of anger.
The handshake was even more significant. A gnarled old veteran from east end secondary mods had once told me that physically, psychologically (and statistically) it was very difficult to punch someone straight after they had shaken your hand.

I used the opportunity of Mr S’s confusion to shepherd him away from reception, along the corridor and into my office. He might still be angry but it would now be away from public view, the first important stage of operation defuse.

I closed the door, motioned him so sit down and then sat down myself with the desk between us. I then invited him to inform me of his concerns and the flood gates opened. In between the swear words the story gradually unfolded and it proved to be the old girly chestnut – friends falling out.
For about fifteen minutes there followed an eruption of anger and vituperation punctuated at appropriate moments by a “hmmm” or an “indeed” from me.
Eventually the volcanic activity subsided and Mr S looked down at his boots. After a long pause I sensed my moment had come. “Thank you Mr S” I said “I think I get the picture – leave it with me”
Mr S looked up

“Thanks Mr P” he replied “Sorry for all that stuff beforehand but I was on site and got this phone call from the Mrs with Sharon in the background going wa wa f******* wa……well, you know how it is…”
I gave what I thought was my knowing/sympathetic look and stood up and came round my desk. Mr S stood as well and we shook hands.
“….and thanks for your advice, Mr P” he said as we moved to the door.

Which was odd because I had not given him any advice at all…
On the way out he moved briefly to reception and muttered an apology and went back to his van outside.
“Another triumph for Mr F*** Off” said the girls at reception.
“I don’t know” I replied “he thanked me for my advice but I never gave him any.”
“But you listened” one of them said “and maybe that’s all some folk want at times”

As for Sharon and falling out with her bosom mates? At the end of school I buttonholed her as she was leaving and said her dad had come in about the situation and she just rolled her eyes. “Omygod – really? That’s all sorted, sir, no problem” and she went off, joined her mates and they went arm in arm towards the main gates….

Another notch on the gun for Mr F*** Off……

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With Trump The UK Telegraph Consistently Goes Pravda..

I have always found it a useful rule of thumb to treat DT articles on American politics as simply agitprop regurgitated from WaPo/NYT via cut/paste. For eight years the US media set aside its critical faculties and acted as Obama’s Palace Guard and DT writers aped that sycophantic style. Throughout 2016 they shifted this devotion to Hillary.

BRS and co totally failed to read the runes during the campaign and their faulty analysis and lazy assumptions got the election wrong

Instead of learning from the mistakes of their shoddy “journalism” they have let their anger fester and used it to drive this systematic anti Trump agenda……so Read more…

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BBC So Unhappy That The US Media’s Attempt To Macaca The Mississippi Senate Election was Trumped….

With nearly all votes counted, Ms Hyde-Smith had taken 53.9% of the vote in the staunchly Republican state compared to 46.1% for Mr Espy.

That’s quite a decisive win considering traditionally the mid term elections trend against the incumbent President’s party. Plus the overwhelming disdain for President Trump from almost all the media, showbiz and the establishment “conservative” punditocracy

Naturally the BBC was disappointed. Taking the lead from their friends at NYT, WaPo and CNN they had orgasmed over what was claimed to be Hyde-Smith’s macaca moment….

The race narrowed after Ms Hyde-Smith, who is white, was recorded saying she would happily attend a public hanging. The comments evoked the lynching of African-Americans in a state scarred by a history of racial violence.

Of course the beeb failed to point out that state officials who turned a blind eye to Jim Crow, the KKK and the lynchings were almost entirely Democrats. But why spoil a good narrative with historical facts….

To be fair the beeb did refer to Espy’s “ethical issues”

The Democrat has himself come under scrutiny for his 2011 lobbying work in the Ivory Coast, whose former leader Laurent Gbagbo is on trial at the International Criminal Court. Mr Espy was agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton, but resigned under a cloud of corruption allegations, on which he was later acquitted.

Nevertheless, although forced through gritted teeth to declare the Trump supported Hyde-Smith’s win as decisive, the BBC had to weasel something out of it

Yet Democrats and their candidate Mike Espy may well claim some sort of moral victory. In a state widely regarded as a Republican stronghold they made this run-off election a genuine battle.

Trump 1 Macaca 0

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Not All Students Are Ashamed Of Our Military

A 90 year old Marine veteran who served from 1947 until 1969 died in a care home a few days ago. It is a sad fact that many who survive to a ripe old age outlive their family and when they die their funerals are sparsely attended, usually just a handful of staff from their care home.

He faced a basic public burial but a local undertaker got in touch with the Royal British Legion, who launched a nationwide appeal for support for his funeral.

So when people heard about Marine Kerr’s death, especially so near to our own Remembrance Day, hundreds of them turned out to pay their respects and to honour his service.
There was a substantial presence from service men and women and veterans, local folk from in and around Shrewsbury including a group of teenagers from the local college.

Was a pleasure to be there, even though we didn’t know him it gave us all a chance to show our respects and how grateful we are for fighting for our country.

The words of these students, expressing their gratitude for the military service of those who either gave or risked their lives to protect future generations, stood in stark contrast with the academic “high flyers” of the Cambridge University Union who voted to reject the red poppy of Remembrance Day as “imperialist propaganda”

God Bless You, Marine Kerr. Rest in Peace and thank you for you service.

 

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By The 1930s Churchill Was Regarded As An Outdated Relic-Which Was Exactly Why He Was The Man For The Moment In 1940

This nonsense about Winston Churchill just shows how the lunatic fringe has moved into the mainstream. Ben Shapiro and Andrew Roberts have both forensically dismissed the claim that Churchill should not be regarded as a hero so I need not attempt to walk in their shoes but there are some points to be made arising from the “debate”

Even in the 1930s public opinion saw Churchill as an old fashioned figure, a relic of the Victorian/Edwardian era out of sync with modern attitudes. He had opposed votes for women, self government for India and helped break the General Strike of 1926. He believed in the Empire, hated Bolshevism and despised the League of Nations.
Within the Conservative Party he was seen as a relic and a troublemaker. Even as late as 1960 when, as a university student I helped campaign for the Tories in a council election I heard the local candidate use those very words about Churchill even when most of us saw him as the hero who saved our nation in 1940.

After Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 he became almost a one man band constantly warning against the rise of German militarism and the need to re-arm. His warnings fell largely on deaf ears, not just from his fellow politicians but also the general public. My parents remembered vividly times in cinemas when the newsreels showed Churchill and there were cries or “warmonger” from the audience. Rumours swirled that he wanted war because he had shares in the armaments industry. He was a voice in the wilderness when he refused to acclaim Chamberlain for Munich.

Yet when the nation was awakened to the possibility of defeat in 1940, when many politicians and media figures were pushing for “terms” and Chamberlain sought to create a government of national unity the Labour Party refused to serve under anybody else except Churchill. When George VI unwillingly appointed him Prime Minsister the country largely fell in behind him…..beecause, at that moment of crisis, his old fashioned, outdated ideas of patriotism mirrored the public mood

“It is to wage war by sea, land, and air, war with all our minds and with all the strength that God gives us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crimes.”

For a country totally alone, weakened militarily and economically it was manifestly an irrational response. No “modern” politician would have dared used that phrase…..which was why Churchill was the only one who could say it with conviction.

Subsequently as a wartime PM his path was not always even. The latecomers from Washington and Moscow gradually took up the greater part of the burden. But without that moment in 1940 the “monstrous tyranny” could well have been secure in Europe even until this present day…..

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