Friday, 31 August 2012

SPASTICUS AUTISTICUS




“I’m Spasticus, I’m Spasticus
I’m  Spastiicus Autisticus
I’m Spasticus, I’m Spasticus
I’m  Spasticus  Autisticus
I’m Spasticus, I’m Spasticus…”

Ian Dury of The Blockheads 

If  Ian  Dury  had still been alive, he died in March  2000, he would have been  on that  stage in the middle of that  Olympic cauldron in  Stratford,  East London the other night, yelling and  screaming out those lyrics. Instead it fell to the wonderful Graeae Theatre Company to proudly play his part. Those words sung by Drury, a polio victim, full of manic energy, staggering in his crippled state and hanging on to the microphone  precariously for support, exploding with  energy and anger at  the gaze of most,  pounding out that song, dripping with sweat,  on a stage, confronting everybody  with his  disability showed  us what paraplegics are capable of. They are capable of everything. Ian Dury wasn’t hiding his disability, he was thrusting disability at us, telling it how it is. The 4,200 paraplegic athletes at that wondrous opening ceremony of the Paralympics  were there to show the world what they can do, to show the utmost effort, skill and achievement. In the words of Seb Coe the organiser of both the 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics here in London,
“  prepare to be inspired, prepare to be dazzled, prepare to be moved.”

The Opening ceremony to The Paralympics 2012. The statue of Alison Lapper.

The theme of  the opening ceremony  was Enlightenment. There was more than one  layer of meaning  encapsulated  in that  theme. There was the historical  Enlightenment which involved, Sir Isaac Newton and his understanding of gravity and the universe right up to the recent Hadron Collider based in Lucerne that has smashed atoms at  such  speeds that scientists  have detected the Higgs  Boson particle which has changed the study of physics  and how we understand the universe. The whole stadium, using a light show, became the Hadron Collider with a moving commentary by Stephen Hawking the paraplegic  professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University.

A giant copy of the 1948 Universal declaration of Human Rights flicked over it’s pages in the middle of the  stadium.

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 Ian McKellen  played Prospero from Shakespeare’s, The Tempest with  Nicola Miles Wildin, who used her wheelchair at times, playing Miranda. Prospero sent Miranda shooting high into the air above the stadium  to smash the glass ceiling that blocks so many avenues of progression for paraplegics and the ceiling crashed to the ground in a multitude of shards. Destroyed!
Miranda looked about her and proclaimed,

“ o wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankingd is! O! Brave new World that has such people in it!”

I must add, not, The Brave New World of Aldous Huxley, far far from that.A human loving Brave New World. We can only hope and strive.

Marc Quinn’s giant sculpture of a beautiful, erotic, naked, and  pregnant  Alison Lapper sitting squatly with stumps for arms and deformed legs, dominated the stadium at one stage.

The theme of enlightenment not only covered the historic period of Enlightenment in Britain in the 18th century and all its  great themes of exploration, discovery and science but it was also about enlightening us about people with physical disabilities. The main theme seemed to be saying there are no disabilities just different ways of perceiving and doing.

The end of the ceremony had Beverley Knight singing,
 “I am what I am
I don't want praise I don't want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it's noise I think it's pretty
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle
Why not try to see things from a different angle…”
Her voice is so powerful and strong. She filled the whole stadium with her voice and 80,000 voices sang along with her. I had tears in my eyes.


Ian Dury's Spasticus  Autisticus being performed at the opening ceremony of The Paralympics.

“Iam what Iam…….. I’mSpasticus, I’mSpasticus, I’m Spasticus autisticus!!!!!!!!”

The period of Enlightenment. Isaac Newton perceived an example of gravity when an apple fell on his head.

To end the ceremony, Royal Marine, Joe Townsend, who lost both his legs while on duty in Afghanistan after standing on a hidden explosive in a road, flew into the stadium along a zipwire from the top of Anish Kapoors adjacent observation tower  holding the Olympic torch aloft. Margaret Maughn, who received Britain’s first Paralympic gold medal at the first Paralympics in Rome in 1960, waited in her wheelchair to receive the torch. She lit the Olympic cauldron.
The Paralympics were an invention by Dr Ludwigg Guttman at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948. Soldiers returning from the conflict in Europe with horrendous injuries improved their whole disposition by playing sport.  Dr Guttman discovered that by taking part in archery and other sports adapted to their needs  soldiers recover mentally, socially and emotionally from horrendous amputations.

AND HERE IS IAN DURY PERFORMING SPASTICUS AUTISTICUS;




Saturday, 25 August 2012

WE READERS ARE KILLING THE NOVEL



Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson is one of our most successful recent novelists and author of The Finkler Question which won The Man Booker Prize in 2010. He is  a journalist, broadcaster and novelist born in Manchester in 1942.

In the article below he berates us readers for killing the novel.

Reading his article entitled, “ Readers are killing the novel, warns Jacobson,” Source Books and many of their readers come immediately to mind. Source Books is a publishing company with  many  parts to its octopus like, many limbed body,  the most life withering and  destructive tentacle  of which publishes Jane Austen  spin offs. I should say more specifically, Pride and Prejudice spin offs. Darcy and Elizabeth must appear. That is the only one of  Jane Austen’s creative  works  that  has the pulling power to  sell. Yes, it's all about money and the duping of innocent ladies who are happy receiving pin money to sweat away over writing  nice sweet sentences for Source Books.  Surely anybody aware of this should hear the warning bells immediately and certainly not read this stuff. However some people apparently do read it.

So what is Howard Jacobson’s main point? It is that we as readers are reduced to liking novels that have a character with whom we empathise.  That is not what Jacobson thinks reading should be about and it is not what I think reading is about.

One of my favourite analysts of good writing, Pie Corbett, an ex teacher, writes,
” Literature should jolt the senses, making us feel alive... we should  have only time to  read books that bite and sting…if books we read do not wake us up  with a blow to  the head what’s the point in reading? A book must be an axe which smashes the frozen sea within us.”

When I read I want to be challenged, made to think and have my world turned upside down. I want to be made to feel uncomfortable and challenged. The comfortable safe world of another Pride and Prejudice spin off is doing two things, killing the novel  and killing  me.

Here is Howard Jacobson’s article:


18th century landscaped gardens



The Chinese Bridge at Painshill Park.

Jessie Ware is  a new singer emerging  from South  London. This is her first hit single.

What is appropriate for all you Jane Austen  fans is that this video was made at Painshill Park in Surrey, a reconstructed 18th century gardens.

  If ever you get the chance it is a wonderful, magical place to  wander around, full of follies such  as a ruined abbey, a grotto by the lake, a medieval castle tower and ,"rooms,"  evoking  different emotions and situations.

Imagine Jane Austen instead of Jessie Ware and at the end of  the clip imagine Darcy driving Elizabeth  Bennett off in a landau!!!!!!!!

All the best,
                  Tony



Painshill Park link:

http://www.painshill.co.uk/

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Haworth and the Bronte thing.




The Moors just outside of  Haworth.

“ I  struck straight into  the  heath; I  held on to a hollow I saw deeply furrowing the brown moorside; I wade knee deep in it’s dark growth; I turned with it’s turnings, and finding a moss blackened  granite crag in a hidden angle, I  sat  down  under it. High banks of moor were about me; the crag protected my head; the sky was over that. Some time passed before I felt tranquil even  here;  I had  a  vague  dread  that wild cattle might be  near, or that some sportsman or poacher might  discover me. If a gust of wind swept the waste,  I looked  up, fearing it was the rush of a bull; if a plover whistled, I imagined it a man. Finding my apprehensions unfounded, however, and calmed by the deep silence  that  reigned as  evening declined  at nightfall, I took confidence.  As yet I had not thought; I had only listened, watched, dreaded; now I gained  the faculty of reflection. What was I to do? Where was I to go?”
(Jane Eyre,  Chapter XVIII, by  Charlotte  Bronte. First published 1847)
This passage comes straight after Jane has  left  Mr Rochester, in great consternation. The presence of his mad, sick  wife, watched and guarded in her  garret room  has been revealed to Jane, and  she has had to spurn Mr  Rochester’s approach to  her. For all  his powerful reasoning  she  has cast herself out into a wilderness. In this passage Jane expresses her fear of meeting anybody. She knows  she will  be judged. She has left her home for a “no mans land.”   Jane has cast herself out into a world of wind, rain, storms and barrenness and fearful imaginings.  All is left to chance. This scene portrays the mental and physical situation Jane  is in. She descends into deep despair and wishes for death. A human being could go no lower without actually taking their life. Charlotte Bronte challenges us to experience this with her character. She shakes us up and makes us concider things we would not do normally.

 Charlotte Bronte  explores  societies values about relationships  and marriage. The long argument between Mr Rochester and Jane and this moorland scene give us an inkling into the writing process that she went through and the purpose for writing she believed in.

 Emily, Charlotte and Anne


Recently, Clive, an old school  mate of mine and Paul , also an old school friend from our Liverpool days, and I visited Haworth Parsonage in the village of Haworth on The Pennine Moors. It was the home of the Bronte family that included the three sisters, Emily,  Anne and Charlotte who wrote some of the most amazing stories of the  English language. We always think of the Brontes, sitting  in that  stone parsonage miles away from all civilisation conjuring up  brutal  and emotional  stories through their imaginations brought on by  wild winds, rocky promontories and windswept moors..  This is partly true.  There  are  the  moors and the windswept promontories  at the back  of the  parsonage and reaching far off to the horizon, but the  parsonage is situated on the edge of  Haworth, which is  an extensive community. They were not alone. The sisters were the daughters of, Patrick  Bronte, the vicar  of Haworth, and this might have created a social  distance between them and the rest of the village.


 The Haworth parsonage where the Bronte sisters lived.

When we entered the parsonage, the first room we saw, to the left of  the entrance was  the parlour. Much of the furniture is the same as when The Brontes lived there. There is a large dining table and it was around this table the three sisters would conjure up their stories.  It was interesting to hear that they would often walk around the room and around the table talking about their ideas, verbalising their stories, exchanging ideas. This brings me back to the above passage from Jane Eyre. I can imagine the Bronte sisters challenging societies perceived values. Exploring the authenticity of accepted codes. I can imagine Emily or Anne playing devil’s advocate to Charlotte's Jane Eyre and arguing  Mr Rochester's view. I can imagine Charlotte pouring out the  emotions of Jane  expressing despair and the anguish Jane felt cast out on the moors.  That room and that table must have been witness to some  dramatic scenes. It is also interesting to discover that the Bronte sisters drew and sketched. By using, acting,  speakiing out, sketching and dramatising scenes they crafted  and formed  their stories. They discussed, in their writing, Christian morals, social conventions, such  as   marriage and challenged these perceived conventions, questioning and reasoning every aspect.  The moors had an emotional and physical presence which infiltrated their writing.  The weather and the landscape  were all put into the mix to create the conflicts and arguments. This is what makes them great writers. A great writer should  challenge the  reader.  

Being human  never changes. The process the Brontes went through to  write their stories is as valid today as  it was  then.  Jane Austen’s process took a similar path. She was more  discrete and private but  she read her writing out loud to Cassandra and Martha Lloyd. She mulled over sentences and phrases with them. She loved going to the theatre and loved to see stories acted out.  Her brothers had been a big influence on her in this process. Cassandra we know loved drawing and sketching and so did Jane. We can see these similar creative process between the Brontes and Austen. They each did it in their own way and with their own emphasis  but the process of thinking, writing, editing having somebody to listen to  their compositions,reading out loud, dramatizing, drawing ideas and scenes was very similar. And Charlotte, Anne, Emily Bronte and Jane Austen loved language and words.

There is a writer called Pie Corbett here in England  who  used  to be a headmaster at a  school  in Kent.  He started writing poetry for the children in his own school  and then began publishing his work.  He has become a  popular children’s writer.  But, being a teacher he is also good at getting children to write. His approach is to  provide all sorts of  imaginative experiences and activities with words  to aid the writing process. He calls it ,”Talk for Writing. “The government asked him to help design their literacy strategy for writing.  Pie Corbett,says,

“we learn to write by practising writing, by trial and error and most importantly through becoming familiar with what works- by reading good writing.”

This is perhaps the crux of the matter. What is good writing and how can we recognise it? Pie Corbett goes on to say,

” Literature should jolt the senses, making us feel alive... we should  have only time to  read books that bite and sting…if books we read do not wake us up  with a blow to  the head what’s the point in reading? A book must be an axe which smashes the frozen sea within us.”

Pie Corbett makes this point about writing.  To find your own style you have to read and become immersed in a whole variety of good writers with different and varied styles. 

The Bronte sisters  in that parlour in the parsonage in Haworth, pacing  round  the  room, taking character parts,  reading out loud, trying new phrases, challenging each other, were in short , as  Pie  Corbett says in describing, “Talk  for  Writing,” making  their ,”prose flow…and bite and sting.” The Brontës lived in the Haworth Parsonage, from 1820 to 1861.Charlotte; Emily and Anne Brontë were the authors of some of the best-loved books in the English language. Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre (1847), Emily's Wuthering Heights (1847), and Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) were written in this house over a hundred and fifty years ago. Both their father, the Revd. Patrick Brontë, and brother Branwell also saw their own works in print.

Looking down Haworth High  Street.

Haworth is a rugged little village with all the buildings constructed from local limestones and millstone grit. The village perches on the side of a steep hill.  The parsonage, where the Brontes lived, is at the top of the village and then beneath the parsonage is the graveyard followed by the church and then houses and shops sloping downhill towards the railway  station in the valley below. I should think the heart of Haworth, all  the buildings that comprise  the high street  and some of the houses just off  the high  street down small  alleyways, are the same structures that were there in the time of the Brontes.. The Black  Bull  pub at the top  of  the high street is the very  establishment that Branwell  Bronte  used to  frequent and  get drunk  in. He was an alcoholic and a womaniser. He was thrown out of one job as a tutor to a young boy in a wealthy household in nearby Halifax because he had a relationship with the mother. What was embarrassing for Charlotte was that she was tutor to the daughter of the same household and had got Branwell the job with the family. She had left her employment with the family shortly before the fiasco with Branwell, fortunately.
A shop in  Haworth High  Street.

The High Street is full of quaint shops who unashamedly are using the Brontes to bring customers through their doors. Lovely, very good quality  tea  shops proliferate, Ye Olde Bronte Tea Rooms where Paul bought us an excellent lunch, Villette Coffee  House and  The Souk and lots more to choose from .  There are also  many good  quality artefact shops, woollens, books, antiques, art galleries, home made  sweet shops, clothing shops; Mrs Beightons Sweet  Shop, Silverland, Firths, The  Steam Brewing Company, Catkins of Haworth, Ice Shop and Gifts  , The  Stirrup and so on .    Surprisingly few actually use a blatant Bronte connection but they all benefit and owe their existence to the tourist pull of The Brontes. It would be easy to criticise this but Haworth is situated in an area of poor employment and little investment  to create new industries and new wealth.  Tourism, sheep farming and outward bound sports such as walking camping, pot holing and climbing are some of the main sources of income in the area and so the good people  of  Haworth use tourism to make a living. The stories written by Emily, Catherine  and Anne  help a lot through their fame. The  shop attached to  the Haworth Parsonage stocks all  the Brontes books and a choice of different publications.They have all the biographies too.  There are good quality guide  books and OS maps of  the area for  walkers  and those who want to  see more of the moors. There are also pencils and book marks and a beautiful selection of cards. 

Clive and a gentleman singing Dylan numbers.

As Clive, Paul and I walked downhill along the High Street of Haworth a busker strummed his guitar and sang Dylan songs.  Clive being a very proficient guitarist and singer himself joined in and accompanied the busker and they created a great duet. We walked on down to the bottom of the High street to the nearby station. Haworth station is a very important station.  It is run by the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and Haworth station is it’s headquarters. They renovate and use old steam trains to run on the line. Haworth station itself has been used as a film set for The  Railway Children. It is used for period films when steam trains are required. We are lucky to  have steam train enthusiasts in different parts of  Britain who  have  taken on old disused stretches of  railway lines and use them to  run steam  trains. A few miles south of where I live in the beautiful Hampshire countryside  is the Watercress Line, a similar  organisation to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. It passes near Chawton, the home of Jane  Austen.

As we walked back up the hill to Haworth Parsonage, a large group  of Morris Dancers had arrived in the village.  They were dressed in their colourful regalia and carried sticks for the type of dance they were going to perform. What surprised me, as a Southerner, was they didn’t look like the Morris Dancers I  have a come across in  the  South of  England. They were dressed in costumes comprising a multitude of strips of multi-coloured rags. Their faces were painted with mauves, blues and reds, similar to ancient Celtic tradition.  In the South of  England , Morris Dancers tend to  wear  white trousers and white shirts with bells and ribbons hanging off them. They tend, on the whole, to look a much more subdued lot in their dress.

A  Wikipedia article describes Morris dancing thus::
“Morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. In a small number of dances for one or two men, steps are performed near and across a pair of clay tobacco pipes laid across each other on the floor.
Claims that English records dating back to 1448 mention the morris dance are open to dispute. There is no mention of "morris" dancing earlier than the late 15th century, although early records such as Bishops' "Visitation Articles" mention sword dancing, guising and other dancing activities as well as mumming plays. Furthermore, the earliest records invariably mention "Morys" in a court setting, and both men and women are mentioned as dancing, and a little later in the Lord Mayors' Processions in London. It is only later that it begins to be mentioned as something performed in the parishes. There is certainly no evidence that it is a pre-Christian ritual, as is often claimed.”

 Morris men and ladies in Haworth.

Morris dancers and Mummers, another old rural way of story telling passed from one generation to the next, are an exciting spectacle. An aspect  of  the Mummers groups,who are not mentioned   above, is  they often  re-enact   rustic  interpretations of biblical stories which do indeed have a pagan feel about them.. 

We left Haworth driving north towards the motorway and passed through some of  the  desolate moorland beloved by the Brontes  before reaching the old mill  town of Halifax.  I  had not  been to  Halifax before and I was  amazed at the site of many of the old Victorian cotton mills . They are enormous stone buildings that encapsulate the growth of industrialisation in the Victorian period.

And so, back down south as we say!!!!!!!!!!  
Paul, a very good mate of mine from Liverpool standing in Haworth's  churchyard.

This link is an attachment to the Haworth Parsonage and will provide you with lots of information about the Brontes  and the parsonage.

POST SCRIPT; Pie Corbett has written two books to help teachers develop children’s writing. “Jumpstart to Literacy,” and “Jumpstart to Storymaking.”

They are full of games and strategies to help develop character, setting and to help a story move along. 



Monday, 6 August 2012

MY CITY (London)




Bait ul Futah Mosque in Mordern South London


When my youngest daughter , Abigail, started in  year 1 at The Sacred Heart Junior School, Burlington  Road, at the age  of five,  she had only been there a few days when she came home one evening. As I  was about to  take  her schoolbag from her  she retorted,  “ haji ma.”  I replied, “What did you say?” “Haji  ma,”  she repeated. “Konnichiwa,” she continued. My daughter was not only talking Japanese she was also talking Korean. She was able to translate for me. I had gone to take her bag but she didn’t want me to take it off her.  “Haji ma,” means,” don’t do it.” “Konnichiwa,” means, “good afternoon.” Abigail was demonstrating the ease with which she was able to, at the age of 5, fit smoothly into the multicultural environment of  her school. On the playground they were all  conversing in a variety of languages and each of them was learning from each other.

London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world. People from all over the world have come to live here over the decades and centuries.Some to esacpe persecution;some to have a better  life for themselves and their families. Each part of London has it’s mix but often each area has it’s most dominant immigrant group. Where I live it has a very large Korean community, hence my daughter coming home speaking Korean phrases from a very early age. Restaurants, supermarkets , hairdressers, travel agents, craft shops and clothing shops are all Korean. Streets of them.

Five hundred yards from my house, near Motspur Park railway station , there is a Greek Kebab house, a fish and chip shop owned and run by a Chinese family and further along the road, a Chinese takeaway with a giant steel wok prominently on view in the shop window. Motspur  Park Tandoori restaurant holds Elvis nights once a week with a Pakistani Elvis wearing all the gear, dressed as the star; Las Vegas era. We have a hal hal butchers shop which prominently exhibits a large photograph of a cuddly little lamb which all the local children love to look at, announcing, emblazoned across it, “Fresh lamb butchered for your Sunday Roast. Delicious.”Next door to the butchers shop is EKLEE, a delicatessen and a fruit and vegetable shop with much of it’s produce exhibited on tressle tables on the pavement.It sells  the most amazing range of olives and sells the most  delicious baklava, and sweet syrupy pastry's and spicy curries made in their kitchen at the back. The range of produce it provides is a greater range of herbs, spices and vegetables than your usual English greengrocers.It  is  owned and run by Mr Malik and his  lovely Iranian family who have lived in the area for  generations. Kami’s, the hairdressers are owned by a Turkish family. The local chemist shop is run by a Pakistani chemist and my dentist is Indian.
Two miles from where I live , in Tooting, the whole area is mostly Indian and Pakistanis. Sari shops displaying the most beautifully designed fabrics of all colours often emblazoned with  gold edging, proliferate.
We get many  people from the Southern Hemisphere,  Australians,  South Africans and New Zealanders. I taught for many  years with Katie  from  South  Africa  and  Evette from Zimbabwe or  Zim as  she  used to call it.  I met Evette in my local  TESCOS the other day with  her new baby  boy.We talked and  she  is very worried about her country. Her  Mum and  Dad still live  there  and are struggling along. They are too old  now to  move anywhere else.Next to  Raynes Park Station is a small South African grocers shop. You can  get your bill-tong there and other South  African delights.  

In Motspur Park,my local park,  the Sir Joseph Hood Playing Fields, is used for Australian Rules Football after the usual football  season is over.The Wimbledon Hawks use it as their home ground.. They set up  a bar selling cans of Fosters beer and hold an enormous barbecue that sends it's delicious odours wafting  across the fields  during every home game. Their  bright orange kit make them stand out at  some distance.
The Wimbledon Hawks at The Sir Joseph Hood Playing Fields.



These diverse communities also have their places of worship.. We have the largest mosque in Europe, the Baitul Futih Mosque, with space for 1600 worshippers at a time.
In Wimbledon Village is the Buddhapadipa Temple, with gold and jewelled designs all over it. It has a small monastery of Budhist monks and nuns and also runs a Budhist school.The Koreans have taken over an old office block which they have turned into their own Baptist  church. SomeKoreans are Roman Catholics and attend the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Wimbledon .There  is a  Christian  Science Church in Worple Road ;  Raynes Park Methodist Church, Holy Cross Church of England  and  St John the Baptist Roman  Catholic church are all within a mile radius of where I live.  Often they each hold cultural activities to which they invite all the community.  We get flyers through our front door inviting us to Buddhist and various Christian celebrations.

The Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church Wimbledon.

What I think is unique is that often these diverse churches and religious traditions organise things together.  Every year, for one week, there is the Raynes Park festival that includes drama and music events . They collect the money for charity. My church, The Sacred Heart at Wimbledon, has a semi-professional choir. They have purchased a Steinway Piano and also have   a giant organ with an amazing pipe system. They hold classical concerts and attract top classical musicians to perform. The Methodist Church in Worple Road has a vibrant and strong amateur dramatic society and there are various art and performance groups in the other churches too. They all come together for one week each year to put on an amazing festival. The money goes to a designated charity. The churches and different religious groups also combine to organise and run soup runs and provide accommodation for London’s down and outs throughout the year. The priests, rabbis, monks, pastors and leaders from each denomination meet regularly to discuss how they can work together and emphasise the similarities and positives between them.

The different religious groups also provide educational opportunities for the community. It is law in this country to teach religion in schools but it must be multicultural as well as specific. My children go to the catholic schools in Wimbledon. They have all been to the Sacred Heart Junior School and then Alice, Emily and Abigail have gone on to the Ursuline Convent and Sam, my son, went on to  Wimbledon College, run by the Jesuits. They are catholic schools and the catholic ethos is extremely important to them . However they must learn about all other religions, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. All the churches, synagogues, mosques and temples of various religions provide education programmes. We take our children to visit the local mosques, temples, synagogues and churches to learn about their history and beliefs. All children love learning about other religions. It really does help them understand and appreciate each other.

Occasionally, in a Christian school we might get children of other faiths. There is a trust between the diverse ethnic groups. I have taught  religion lessons in the past. When I  am  teaching about Islam for instance I will always find out if there is any child who prays to Mecca and holds Mohammed as his prophet, in the class. I will  then  get them to tell us about their lives and experiences. The rest of the class really appreciate this and ask their class mate all sorts of questions. This situation does two things. First it makes the child realise that everybody in the class respects him or her and their religion. When there is a particular festival, for instance divali, we will  get the Hindu mothers in to cook us food and bring in saris and costumes for the children to dress up in.Secondly, we all learn about each other.

In one of my classes, a few years ago I had a little Jewish girl. She got very excited about the  fact  we were going to look at Judaism and told her rabbi all about it. I got a message for the rabbi saying, if I wanted, he would come in to help me teach the lesson. So I got him to come in and we team taught. He filled in all the bits I wasn't sure about. He brought in a small piece of the Tora to show the class, some unleavened bread for them to taste and some artefacts from his synagogue for them to handle, draw and write about. I took photographs of the lesson  and wrote a report which the rabbi published on his synagogues website. I got a lot of great comments on the website.. The little girl  was ,"over the moon."

It would be interesting to see how the controversial Florida pastor ,Terry Jones , who  burned the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11, would survive and get on in Motspur Park in South London where I live. It might help educate him and  others of his ilk.

My London is a melting pot.  It is not about erasing cultural differences or trying to convert people from diverse religions. It is about celebrating each other’s differences and similarities. It is about learning from each other and creating a synergy of ideas and cultural influences.

And to conclude lets all  give it for the 50th anniversary of  Jamaican Independence.

Usain,  you  are the king  mate!!!!!!!


And lets give it up for "Marley Bob!!!!!!"