Friday, 6 July 2018

Jane Austen Today: JANE AUSTEN'S WORLD CUP TEAM!!!!!!!!!

Mr Darcy (Fitzwilliam). 
Centre forward. 
Star striker, goalscorer supreme and team super star. 
Just imagine the crowd chanting. "Darcy ! Darcy ! Darcy!

Jane Austen Today: JANE AUSTEN'S WORLD CUP TEAM!!!!!!!!!: I wrote this eight years ago when England were playing in the The World Cup in South Africa. I put together a Jane Austen Team to beat the USA. I would choose the same team today. It was a bit of fun!!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018


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 A teacher getting the children to self assess their work against the lesson aims and objectives.

“Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.” Benjamin Disraeli(1804- 1881)

On the 14th June 2017 a fire broke out at The Grenfell Tower in North Kensington. It killed 72 people.

Benjamin Disraeli was acutely aware of the divides in society in the 19th century. He mentions lack of intercourse, lack of sympathy and what is more, ignorance of each other. The response of the Tory Council of Kensington and Chelsea to the fire at Grenfell was appalling. The councilors did not know their own constituents. The leaders of the wealthiest London Borough had no relationship with the poor people of their borough. The head of housing at Westminster and Chelsea had never set foot in Grenfell Tower. The local community around Grenfell responded to the disaster immediately. The councilors had no concept of the disaster. Their response was woefully inadequate. They didn’t know the people they were dealing with. This was a culture they didn’t and couldn’t connect with.

We have a divided Britain, rich and poor, socially advantaged and socially deprived and as Disraeli knew, with Grenfell, one group did not understand the other and in the case of Grenfell they had never communicated. We have people who feel entitled to get top jobs. We have people who are perceived to benefit from an elite educational experience, because of their background. We have people who are destined for the low wage gig economy and who are perceived to have had a poor education all because of their social upbringing and geographical place of birth. It is even more subtle than that. Those who get good educations through the comprehensive system and go to one of the many universities, not Oxford or Cambridge and who are able and talented still do not get the opportunity to rise past a,” glass ceiling.” because of their starting point in life. There is really very little social movement in this country.
A revolution in education is needed. I believe the way education is fractured and divided in this country is the root cause of our societies divisions, our lack of “intercourse and no sympathy,” our feelings of entitlement or lack of entitlement. In this country we have the so called elite public schools, Eton, Harrow, Westminster, Winchester and a few others, private prep schools, a few Grammar Schools, Comprehensives run by local councils, now being coerced more and more into academy chains, state junior and infant schools that may be part of an academy but still are often run by local education authorities. On top of all this we have an OFSTED system of inspection that promotes the ideals of the government, teacher assessments, pay linked to assessments and a national curriculum that is imposed and requires given methods of teaching.

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Classroom inspection criteria.

The public schools dominate entrance into Oxford and Cambridge universities. If you go to one of those two universities, you are guaranteed life at the top of society. You become leaders of industry, government ministers and the decision makers. The lesser public schools provide entrance into the rest of the top universities in Britain. Lawyers, managing directors, accountants, surgeons and Grammar schools compete on equal terms with the lesser public schools. Grammar schools are the most damaging. They are a conscious act of dividing society and deciding who gets what in life. With the public schools it is down to birth and the wealth of your family. With Grammar Schools the government purposely, through the blunt instrument of an 11+ style exam, splits one group of children from the rest. Comprehensives provide pupils with entrance into all the other universities, colleges, apprenticeship schemes and vocational courses. The poorest achievers at this level are just lost to society and the low wage economy if they actually get a job. None of these outcomes relate directly to ability and achievement. They relate to being rich and poor and their environment. The school system we have just entrenches this.

We need a truly comprehensive system in this country. This patchwork of systems, public, private and grammar needs to be got rid of and we need a comprehensive system for everybody. A comprehensive school should be part of the local community. It can be a place where everybody from whatever background and ability should be educated together. We would see ourselves as one people. The lack of social cohesion and the gulf in our society would be able to fade and heal.

Confidence and a sense of self are so important to our development as human beings. If that sense is destroyed or boosted the moment, we are born the consequences are dire. Thinking that others are better or less than us destroys us as an individual and destroys society as a whole. I was on a bus recently travelling from Wimbledon to Raynes Park. Some boys from Kings College Wimbledon, an expensive private day school, got on and sat near me. One of them looked out of the window and saw some Raynes Park High School boys. I heard him say. “I am so glad I never had to go to Raynes Park.” The others agreed with him. How destructive is that?

A comprehensive school can allow each child to achieve their potential. Child centered education is achievable. Teachers differentiate work and assess each child in their class in each lesson. This feeds back to future planning and the next lesson. If every child in the country went to a comprehensive the whole education system could focus on all our children together as equals and provide a high standard of education for the whole population and not be distracted and demeaned by other systems. It should be community based so that members of the community have a say in its education policies. It should provide a broad education for the community even providing lifelong learning.

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 A classroom display with children's work, information and some open and closed questions displayed.

What should a good classroom and a good lesson  look like?
Teaching should be left to the teachers. That is an idea that has been said often but what does it mean? Many years ago when teacher observations started we were assured that teaching colleagues could observe each other and be supportive of each other. This sounded like a very positive and useful thing to do. We tried it. I loved it. After observing one or more of my colleagues’ lessons and they had observed some of my lessons, we would sit down with a coffee and a note book and talk about what went on in the lessons. We gave each other creative ideas. We helped with an individual child that one of us might be struggling with in their behaviour or their learning. We talked strategies. It was a great way to develop as a teacher. This was called, being,” a critical friend.” Both of us were equal partners in the process, equally helping each other. The head would come in and observe once a term.  It was still a friendly supportive process with good advice given.Somebody coming out of University as a newly qualified teacher has reached a certain standard of competence and hopefully they have it in their personality, their imaginations, their creativity and their work ethic to become great teachers as they gain experience over the years. It takes time, maybe even years to develop as a good teacher. A new teacher can develop naturally with the ,"critical frend," supportive and creative approach  Then the government, in 1992, set up an inspection process called OFSTED. This is where it  went wrong. The supportive atmosphere and creative process of support within the school changed. The support and teacher development within a school now has a sense of desperation about it. OFSTED had its criteria and its assessment grades. You can fail, be satisfactory, good or outstanding. The criteria were imposed on teachers and a heavy gut feeling, the weight of authority came down. We had to meet the criteria to pass. 

The criteria are wonderful. I absolutely agree with every one of them. Here are a few of the sixteen criteria and they often have sub criteria attached:

 a positive purposeful atmosphere,
thorough planning,
use of key vocabulary,
a range of classroom resources,
 a productive use of your classroom assistant,
well thought out stimulating displays including examples of children’s work,
a good use of closed and open questioning,
children should be involved at all times in the learning process,
 teacher modelling and demonstration,
reference to other subjects and how learning can overlap,
 referring to the aims of the lesson,
pupil self and peer assessment,
 and finally it must be shown that every child has progressed during the lesson.

 I would not argue with any of this. The list describes a good classroom and good teaching practice. I always tried to achieve these things. But think,  an OFSTED inspector or the head comes in and they have a tick chart with the criteria on them and they are ticking them off as they sit there for thirty minutes of your lesson. Developing good teaching strategies does not happen at once. The pressure from the top imposing these criteria  crushes teachers.The approach is wrong. It is domineering.It creates fear. Your next pay rise and keeping your  job relies on your lesson observations  and the progress your children make. The “critical friend,”  was a supportive, organic,and creative way to help develop as a teacher.  It was enjoyable and made you feel worthwhile and valued because praise was a large part of that process. We looked for the good things in each other’s lessons as well as what needed developing.  Self-reflection is also a big part of what we do as teachers. We look back at the lesson and work out what went right, what might have gone wrong, who needs our help and what sort of help they need?  I know which approach makes good, energised teachers and which exhausts and crushes.

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So what about discipline?
People worry about discipline. It is easily achieved. When you first get a new job in a school, discipline strategies and the school and classroom rules are given to you to implement. As an experienced teacher you will have developed the right approach  which you can apply to any school.  A set of rules might go something like this;

1.     Move around the class with good reason.
2.    Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
3.    Work to the best of your ability.
4.    Listen to the teacher.

There will be a list of consequences too, ranging from time out near the teacher, missing breaktime, being reported to the head and the ultimate, bringing parents in and finally,exclusion.Some classrooms  have a chart to record behaviour.

Teachers, when they first start with a class should go over the rules so that the class is aware of what is expected.There are two approaches to this. A good approach which works and bad a approach which fails.  It could go horribly wrong or it could go right. The teacher who is constantly looking for misdemeanors and handing out consequences  has failed and good discipline in their class will be an uphill challenge . The discipline strategies have become the driving force in trying to get discipline. The teacher who is positive, smiles at the children, praises, encourages and engages with every child will be the winner. This positive approach reduces discipline problems to the minimum and this works for every child no matter what their reputation and past behaviour record is. It might take a bit more of an effort with some but you get there.Using the discipline rules should only be a reminder to the child.

Poor choices.
Many people give excuses for sending their children to private schools saying things like, "well they have smaller classes," " the discipline is better," "my son or daughter would not get on in a state school and they won’t learn as well." All that is rubbish. It is about their own imaginings.  Discipline can go wrong in private schools too. Children fail to learn in  private schools too. I think those parents are scared of the social mix and who their children will be rubbing shoulders with. Of course it is better for their children to be friends with a lawyer’s son or daughter than a bricklayers or postman’s children isn’t it? Do we want an equal society or not? Do we?

Comprehensives and local education authority junior schools with their great teachers and with the provision of good resources and facilities, that is the only way to develop a strong, healthy well educated and equal society.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018


The face of Jane Austen on the new statue in St Nicholas churchyard, Chawton.
To Cassandra Austen Thursday 6th June 1811.
“I had just left off writing and put on my things for walking to Alton, when Anna  and her friend Harriot called in their way thither, so we went together. Their business was to provide mourning, against the King’s death, and my mother has had a bombasin bought for her.-I am not sorry to be back again , for the young ladies had a great deal to do- and without much method in doing it.-“
To Cassandra Austen Sunday 24th January 1813
“ When my parcel is finished I shall walk with it to Alton. I believe Miss Benn will go with me.”
To Cassandra Austen Tuesday 9th February 1813
“ My cold has been an off and on cold almost ever since you went away , but never very bad; I increase it by walking out and cure it by staying within. On Saturday I went to Alton, and the high wind made it worse- but by keeping house ever since, it is almost gone.”
To Cassandra Austen Monday 9th September 1816
“Our day at Alton was very pleasant.”
I would like to reiterate that last sentiment. Yesterday, Sunday 17th June 2018, “our walk, to Alton was very pleasant.”

Caroline Jane Knight, the fifth great niece of Jane Austen and myself. I think I said, "lets make a face." But, we smiled instead.

Caroline Jane Knight is Jane Austen’s fifth great niece, descending from Jane’s brother Edward who took the name of Knight. Caroline launched the Jane Austen Foundation on April 16th 2014 in the Holywell Room of Oxford University. Her initial idea was to ask fans, writers, actors, producers and anybody who has profited from Jane Austen to donate money to support literacy programs in the country of donation and in the developing world. I first knew about this particular fund raising walk when Caroline posted  information about it on ,”Jane Austen and Her Regency World Facebook,” site. I have been writing about various aspects of Jane Austen for many years on my blog and other blogs. Having been a school teacher for over forty years, I know that good resources are necessary for teachers and pupils to develop  learning. My interest in Austen and my interest in education combined in this charity walk. Caroline set me up with a donation page and I advertised the page on my Facebook and on other sites. I had a great response from family and friends. Perhaps I was a little proactive in trawling through my e-mail list and firing off begging e-mails to all and sundry, but hey! what are e-mail addresses for? I hope everyone will still talk to me.

Some of the cards I was kindly given on the day.

The money donated will be used, in conjunction with an organisation called, Worldreader, to supply e-readers and a digital library for, Suhum MA Experimantal C School in Ghana. The project manager and class 3 teacher in the school is Michael Sem, and he will be seeing the implementation of this new technology.
 Ruth Sorby, from Worldreader, the organisation that Caroline has allied The Jane Austen Foundation to,  took part in the walk. We discussed the profound impact the readers will have on the children and teachers at the  Suhum school. Technology such as e-readers and digital libraries are some resources teachers can use from a whole range of teaching strategies. Where there are no books and there is not the teacher experience to use this technology, what is being provided will create an enormous leap in learning for these teachers and children. It is a very good cause to get involved in.

Ruth Sorby, from Worldreader and myself.

On the Sunday morning of the walk I arrived early because I had heard  a new statue  has been placed  in the graveyard of St Nicholas Church in Chawton. I wanted to see it and get a photograph. The rain had stopped and the cool clean air felt refreshing as I strode along the road from ,”The Greyfriar,” car park, next to Jane's cottage. It is a leafy walk along the old Gosport Road with some beautiful thatched and clay tiled cottages on the right, many with climbing roses and gardens brimming with hollihocks and geraniums. Beautiful examples of  English country gardens. Cars were pulling up in this stretch of road as I strode along and white flannelled individuals emerged to make their way to the cricket pitch nearby for a cricket match that day. I passed the flint walled primary school. Caroline was to later tell me that she herself had attended Chawton Primary School as a child. I admitted to her that I had always liked the thought of being a teacher there. Alas too late in life for me now. I arrived at St Nicholas close to the great house in Chawton where Caroline’s ancestors had lived. The statue of Jane stood on a pristine white stone plinth. It is dark bronze and shows Jane as a young woman. She is in motion with a twisting movement and a certain vitality in her body. A lady of action.  I took some pictures and hurried back down the Gosport Road  to see who else had arrived ready for the walk. Caroline and her father, Jeremy, were just pulling up in a car. They emerged both dressed in 18th century attire. Jeremy looking very smart in top hat and tails and Caroline in an elegant light blue silk gown, She wore an ostrich feather in her hair. I smiled and made myself known to them. Within minutes other people arrived, some in 18th century attire and some in their everyday attire. I was not the only one therefore. I wore  a polo shirt, trainers and walking trousers. Many knew each other already from contacts in the Jane Austen World but everybody was so welcoming and I think , during the morning, I had conversations with almost all the people on the walk. I was greeted warmly and in a very friendly fashion. Who was I this strange interloper?

Everybody gathering outside Jane's cottage in Chawton.

As we walked along I had a chat with Caroline and asked her how the Jane Austen Foundation came about. She told me about her youth and how she and  her family having to move out of Chawton Great House was a shock to her. She rejected her background and spent a few years trying to discover herself. She told me that for a while she lived in a flat over a jewelers shop in Wimbledon Village High Street. I know the jewelers. I live near Raynes Park at the bottom of the hill from Wimbledon Village.  Some time in the past we may have passed each other in the street. During this time she kept her illustrious ancestry a secret not telling anybody of her background. Caroline moved to Australia and became a successful business woman. Having met her, she has not only a great sense of humour and a warm effusive personality but she has a certain steeliness and determination about her. She has an aim for the Jane Austen Foundation and I can sense she will achieve it. 

The Foundation came about when her father, Jeremy, suggested she attend an Austen celebration for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice in 2013. Caroline saw the power for good Jane’s legacy could achieve and she formulated an idea for the Foundation.

We are ready to start walking.

Walking to Alton along the Old Gosport Road from the cottage in Chawton was a relaxed affair. The distance to Alton is a mere two miles and we followed the route Jane and her family, neighbours and friends would have walked. Just the thought of walking in Jane’s footsteps has a certain frisson, a certain excitement about it. I spoke to a gentleman who introduced himself as ,”Lord Cheltenham,” but he was very sociable and amiable not withstanding. Sophie Andrews, the creator and editor of ,”Laughing With Lizzie,” and her friend, both elegantly dressed in Georgian attire, were understanding at my requests to pose for pictures.

This elegant young lady could almost be Jane herself visiting friends.

 Joana Starnes, author and editor of, “All Roads Lead To Pemberley,” put up with me imparting my meager Austen knowledge until I discovered her identity and realized that Joana is, by far, more knowledgeable about Austen than myself. 

A very nice American lady and her friend,part of our walking group,were discussing terms we use here in England, the use of ,"sorry," "mate,"" bloody hell," and so forth when a van drove past with the name,"Pratt," emblazoned on it and I blurted out, 
"there's another one." Yes, I did explain the meaning of, prat.

And on we walked.

Onwards we walked, and the rain stayed off. Jeremy Knight was active as we walked along approaching people who were walking past and suggesting they put money into his collection tin ,”for a very good cause.” He was so keen to empty the pockets of passersby, one gentleman, top hatted and wearing white breeches and tails, who I was walking along with at the time complained to me that Jeremy was too alert, too proactive and wasn’t giving him a chance. I started pointing out possible targets in the hope he would get to them before Jeremy. It was all a very pleasant and light hearted of course.

In top hat and tails.

Caroline had coerced a friend to film the walk. At one time during our march I spotted this gentleman, squatting next to a gate post, his gaze looking down between his legs at his camera resting on the ground. I presumed some terrible accident had occurred and intent on capturing every nuance of the day I approached to take a photograph of him in this twisted and bent position. Thoughts of getting an ambulance could come after, then suddenly I realized what he was doing was filming me photographing him from a low angle.

I will get the picture first.

Our destination in Alton was The Swan Inn. The Swan is an 18th century coaching inn and it was the place that coaches carrying mail around the country stopped at in Alton to deliver the mail to the local people. It was also where mail was collected from local people to be distributed around the country. Walking to The Swan was one of many reasons Jane Austen walked to Alton. She collected her mail and posted her own letters here.  Alton was also where she would shop and buy dress material and visit friends. When the Austens decided to leave Southampton, living in Alton was the first place they considered moving to before the cottage, provided by Jane’s brother Edward, was decided upon. Jane ‘s mother was tempted by an acceptable rent for a property in Alton.

Outside The Swan Inn in Alton. 
Jane writing from Southampton to Cassandra, on the 2nd October 1808, referred to her mother’s preferences. 
“ In general however she thinks much more of Alton,and; really expects to move there. Mrs Lyell’s 130 Guineas rent have made a great impression……….I depended upon Henry’s liking the Alton plan and; expect to hear of something perfectly unexceptionable there, through him.”

The cottage in Chawton must have been free of rent, as it was owned by Edward.That was the deciding factor I am sure.

While walking to Alton I  asked  Caroline what she thought about all the things that go on in the name of Jane Austen. I told her that I think Jane Austen is a great author and I  love reading her books. However, to me she is one author among many that I enjoy reading. For instance I think Virginia Woolf, who was so inventive and groundbreaking in her novels, is just as good a novelist.  Caroline thought I was making the mistake of thinking there was one Jane Austen. She said there are two, the author and family member and then there is the Jane Austen that has been created by film and TV. I think I agree with her. 

We entered the Swan Inn. The manager was very accommodating with so many people all of a sudden descending on his establishment. The ladies dressed in their wonderful costumes stood at the bar. Pump handles advertising, Old Speckled Hen, and ,Shepherd Neame, India Pale Ale, suggested  occupations as barmaids. Caroline insisted on buying us all a drink, mineral waters, tea or coffee, before we set off back to Chawton. 

Then, we were on our way back, retracing our steps. The weather remained kind to us and the journey back was just as amicable with much amiable company. One young lady dressed in a white gown emblazoned with lemons and golden tendrils of hair draping her lovely face like coiled springs related to me about her occupation as a ,”re-enactor,” and although today she was dressed as a Georgian lady her main occupation was as a Greek Goddess. Yes, I could see that, without a doubt. We talked museum education . Working with children in museums and galleries has always been an interest of mine.

Sophie Andrews, "Laughing With Lizzie," on the staircase in The Swan Inn.

With another finely dressed lady I discussed pensions and life after work.  This was something that is important in both our lives. She had a handsome dog with her that was dressed in the coat of an admiral of the Royal Navy with epaulettes and gold braid. On the way back from Alton the dog had changed its attire to that of a hussar.

Wearing his hussar outfit.

I spoke to Alison Larkin on the way to the Great House. She told me who she was and about her audio books, “The Complete Novels of Jane Austen .” One of the things that Alison personified and I noticed throughout the day was the enthusiasm and passion there is for Jane Austen among all these Janeites.  There is a love for her that is tangible

Alison Larkin, keen to advertise her audio readers.
Once back at Chawton we walked on to the Great House for the  final photo shoots, first at the Statue of Jane in St Nicholas’s churchyard. 

At the statue of Jane in the churchyard.

Also at the graves of Cassandra Austen, Jane’s mother and Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, Jane’s sister. 

Contemplating the graves of Cassandra Austen, mother and Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, sister.

 A final photo shoot in the hall.
As we exited the Great House onto the front steps Caroline announced that ,”today we have made, £2000.” A few whoops and hand clapping went on and smiles all round. Caroline’s parting shot to me as I drove past her and Alison Larkin on my way home was ,“Wear a top hat next year!” I replied, “I’ll think about it.”

 Jeremy and Caroline Knight


The Jane Austen Literary Foundation:

" Jane and Me: My Austen Heritage," by Caroline Jane Knight

Alison Larkin

Sophie Andrews

Joana Starnes

Worldreader (Ruth Sorby)

Monday, 11 June 2018


The Thames Path is a national walking route that was first proposed in 1946 but was not completed until 1996. It is about 186 miles long, beginning at the Thames Barrier in the London Borough of Greenwich and ending at the source of the Thames at Kemble in Gloucestershire.
Transport for London promote The Thames Path Walk on their website along with other London walks, The Capital Ring Walk and the longer, London Loop. Transport for London promote these walks as a way to get fit and healthy. Their website says that 42% of Londoners are failing to meet the minimum levels of physical activity.
The website provides guides for each of the eight sections of the Thames Path. You can download the guides and print them off. They provide clear maps of the routes and show public transport and highlight the features of each section providing historical and geographical information about key places.
John Lodge first proposed the Thames Path walk to myself and Tony Brown earlier this year and we began, the three of us, by walking from Woolwich Ferry, just east of The Thames Barrier, to Greenwich. We had a great time, taking in views of the modern high rise developments at Canary Wharf and London Docklands. We circuited the perimeter of the iconic tent like structure of the O2 Building on the Greenwich Peninsula. We experienced a new London that is in stark contrast to The City, Lambeth and Westminster. Docklands is like Fritz Lang’s, Metropolis, compared to the historic sites and buildings that make up the center of the capital. The first stretch of The Thames Path ended at The Trafalgar Pub in Greenwich. It has a life size statue of Admiral Lord Nelson standing imperiously at the door.

The domed entrance to the foot tunnel under the Thames at Greenwich.

John was not able to join Tony and myself on this second section of The Thames Path. From the DSLR light railway at Greenwich Station a short walk took us past the Gipsy Moth Pub and the  Cutty Sark sailing ship that was built in 1869. It was the last of the great tea clippers that sped their way from India with its precious cargo of tea. It retired when steam ships became viable. We passed the web like glass dome of the Thames Foot Tunnel designed and built by civil engineer, Sir Alexander Binnie for the London County Council and opened in 1902. By the side of the Thames  the first sign post for the Thames Path with its black background emblazoned with bold white lettering pointed our direction.

A Thames Clipper with new blocks of flats on the opposite side of the river.

It was a bright, hot day with a blue skys above. The skyscrapers of Canary Wharf with their glittering glass sides massed before us on the opposite side of the river. We walked west beside the Thames, on past the serried ranks of new blocks of flats with balconies overlooking the river and its passing traffic. Barges, speed boat rides, police launches and occasionally a Thames Clipper, the river,”bus,” service passed us.

Walking along the south bank of The Thames we first came to Deptford. One of the main things about doing a walk like this are the new things you see and learn, often surprising. Sometimes what you come across illustrates, in physical reality, what you know from some history book and had never really given a thought to. Deptford was the location of the Tudor docks and shipyards. Henry VIII started them and they continued in some form from then to the 1970s. Francis Drake docked at Deptford after his voyage in The Golden Hinde around the world and Deptford was where Elizabeth Ist , in 1581, came to visit him and knight him onboard his ship. Here, in 1593, Christopher Marlowe , the great Tudor playwright came to a grizzly end, stabbed in the face by Ingram Frizzer, an associate of the spy master Walsingham. in a drunken brawl. Shakespeare become known as a playwright from 1592, so he was a contemporary.
Tony and I, at this part of the river, had to take a short detour from the river bank to walk inland around a vast derelict area fenced off from the public. High Victorian brick walls bordered part of the space. We walked up to the padlocked gates to the site and Tony called to one of the security guard on duty. We asked him what this site was and what was happening here. The gentleman was very chatty. He told us that this was the actual site of Henry VIII’s Shipyard. All the more recent structures had been demolished. The archaeologists from The Museum of London were excavating the site. Because of the expanse of the site they planned to excavate the site for  another eighteen months . Eventually, when all the research and excavations have been completed it is going to become an area of new housing and flats. The guard told us that they were going to be expensive. What housing is not expensive in London? Deptford historically has always been working class and for centuries was home to people who worked in the docks. Now, like in many areas of London, the local people are going to be priced out. The properties will no doubt become investment purchases for rich people.

Peter the Great.

Beside the river in Deptford we came across an unusual grouping of statues. They are almost cartoonish in their conception. The central character is very tall and thin dressed in 17th century frills and ruffs. A throne is next to him. A short rotund individual stands to his left wearing an oversize tricorn hat. We walked up to it and discovered that this tall thin statue was Peter The Great, Tsar Peter Ist of Russia. In 1697 he stayed with John Evelyn in his house in Deptford. The site of the house with a plaque commemorating it is in a park nearby. Peter the Great spent four months in Britain studying new technologies and shipbuilding techniques in the nearby Tudor docks.

Tony and I walked along talking about a myriad of things. I don’t know whether we actually ever stopped talking. That is a great experience on its own. Our shared past, our present lives and our plans for future adventures and our families were all discussed.

We walked on through Pepys Park. Samuel Pepys was an administrator for the Navy during The English Restoration period. He reformed the Royal Navy. According to his famous diary he had a few female acquaintances that he visited who lived along the river between the city and Greenwich.
Greenland Dock came next. It is the  largest docks on the Surrey side of the river. It was built between 1695 and 1699 and was only closed in 1970 and left to  become derelict. Now it has been converted into a boating marina. This was where whaling ships docked in the 18th century and where the timber trade with the Baltic was located. Ships bringing wool from Australia docked here. Container shipping made it redundant.

Greenland Dock.

Tony and I walked on. We were amazed at how much regeneration and new buildings there are along the Thames. The bascule bridge that crosses the entrance to Surrey Water and Surrey Quays, crosses a  canal leading to two these large basins for docking small ships. All of it is now surrounded by modern expensive flats and housing.
Surrey Docks Farm, is a city farm popular with school groups. It has a blacksmiths, a dairy and a herb garden. The farm has goats, pigs, horses, cows and sheep. In recent years it was moved from another site nearby. The animals were herded along the side of the river to this new site. Bronze statues of animals line the river here in commemoration of the exodus. There is a poignant information board, next to the farm, explaining how the area was badly bombed during the blitz. It recounts stories of heroism by local people.

Wartime heroics during the Blitz.

Just as we reached Rotherhithe we came across the tall chimney and brick building of a Victorian pump house. The pump house was used to pump water out of the foot tunnel built across the river at this point by the engineer Marc Brunel, the father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was the first tunnel built under the Thames. The pump house is now a museum to Brunel.

As we walked on it was time for a break and some liquid refreshment. We came across The Mayflower Pub. This is on the site of Cumberland Wharf where The Mayflower embarked from in 1620.

Tony enjoying a beer in The Mayflower Pub, Rotherhithe.

 The Mayflower called in at Southampton to load up with provisions then sailed on to Plymouth before setting off across the Atlantic. Captain Christopher Jones and many of the crew came from Rotherhithe and are buried in the cemetery of St Mary The Virgin opposite The Mayflower Pub. The last will and testament of the crew, written and signed before embarkation, is displayed inside the pub. There is also displayed the original list of the people who sailed on the Mayflower. Tony and I sat outside at the back of the pub drinking Mayflower Bitter and eating fish and chips. We had a great view over the river.

The Mayflower Pub next to Cumberland Wharf where the Mayflower left from.

From Rotherhithe we walked on to Bermondsey. We walked over the footbridge which crosses the entrance to St Saviour’s Dock. This is a narrow inlet which stretches back beyond view along a curving waterway surrounded by tall Victorian warehouses, still with their block and tackle cranes for lifting goods in place. These Victorian warehouses are now desirable London Dockland apartments. It was here that bodies of pirates were hung in the 18th and 19th centuries and where, in Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Bill Sykes fell from the roof top of one of these warehouses to his death in the mud below. This area was known as Jacob’s Island, a notorious slum area in Victorian times.

St Saviours Dock. Bill Sykes fell to his death here in  Charles Dicken's ,"Oliver Twist."

Still in Bermondsey we reached an elegant Victorian public house called The Angel Pub, which stands next to the river. It is surrounded by council housing. A large green area in front of the houses revealed the stone remains of walls and foundations. This was a 14th century fortified manor house belonging to King Edward III. From the information board and diagrams next to it we could see that this area was originally marshland and the river encroached all around the manor house which was built on deposits of gravel to provide firm foundations.

The remains of Edward III's fortified manor house.

 In front of the remains of the manor were three bronze statues. They represent Dr Salter, his wife Ada and their daughter Joyce. Dr Alfred Salter, during the late 1800s and early 1900s, dedicated his life to the people of Bermondsey helping to develop new treatments and pioneering work to help TB sufferers. His wife Ada was a socialist and became the mayor of Bermondsey and the first woman mayor in London. Because the Slater family lived amongst the poor  their daughter Joyce caught scarlet fever and died at the age of 8. This drove the Salters on even more to help the people of Bermondsey. It was a very moving tableau and Tony and I both felt inspired by the Salters story.

Dr Alfred Salter sitting near The Angel Pub, Bermondsey.

Onwards we strode to the Shad Thames which is a road of Victorian warehouses still with the iron bridges and walkways positioned at different levels connecting warehouses on one side of the street to the other.. We were now at Tower Bridge and got a clear view of The City and its Gherkin Building, The Nat West Tower, the Sky Garden building and the Cheese Grater.A Dutch three mast square rigger was anchored by Tower Bridge and looked magnificent with its flags flying. We stood and looked at the houseboats located here. One barge has a cycle stand for bicycles on its deck. Two other barges are planted out with trees and shrubs making the community of house boats look like a small ,"water village.”

House boats, gardens on barges, bicycles,a square rigger and Tower Bridge.

We walked on along Bankside and through Southwark taking in the reconstructed Globe Theatre and also The Tate Modern. The sun shining off City Hall and the Mayors Office was blinding. Queues were lining up to go aboard the second world war battleship, HMS Belfast. When we reached The OXO building we looked over at the gravelly beech below at the side of the Thames. The tide was out at this point. We could see lots of London Brick, some chalk, pieces of bone, butchery must have been prevalent in this part of London, pieces of pottery sticking out of the mud and black stones that could only have been coal. The Thames is a,” Mudlarks,” paradise. Here and all along the side of the Thames you can see the remains of piers, blackened wooden posts sticking up like broken teeth and parts of old slipways and piers.

City Hall.

We reached Waterloo Station and said our goodbyes. I was for the Raynes Park train and Tony was going to Hampton. I am looking forward to the next time. We will start at Waterloo Bridge and walk towards Lambeth, Vauxhall and Battersea.


Monday, 4 June 2018

THE WHO LIVE AT LEEDS or…. What does the past mean to me?

THE WHO LIVE AT LEEDS album cover.

Recently I took part in a Facebook challenge. Michael Billington, a friend who lives in Manchester, challenged me to post ten album covers of music that have and do mean something to me. The challenge got me thinking about how different music has had an effect on my life. The album covers were to be posted over ten days. Quite a challenge. Ten albums out of a lifetime of listening to and enjoying all sorts of music. A challenge that needed a lot of thought and of course, remembering. Some self-analysis of my feelings, reactions and attitudes was an integral part of the process too.
I chose THE WHO LIVE AT LEEDS for my first album choice. This is what I wrote on Facebook to go with a picture of the album cover.
Michael Billington sent me this message:
"Ive been asked to post Ten great albums that really made an impact and are still on your rotation list, even if only now and then. Post the cover, no need to explain. I'm supposed to nominate somebody each day but I may not do that. If I do, then there is no obligation ."
Anybody who reads this, have a go if you want to.
The first album cover I am going to post is ,The Who's "Live at Leeds."The cover is utilitarian and industrial in concept. In June 1970 , just after this album came out in May of that year, I went to a party in Southampton. This album was played continuously. I thought it the most exciting music I had ever heard and Roger Daltrey sang about, ,"My Generation."

So the album came out in 1970. That is forty-eight years ago. To me it still sounds fresh and full of incredible energy when I listen to it. I listen to it now and it lifts my spirits and creates a positive sense of myself making me want to be myself and sod the rest. Roger Daltrey would approve my expletive. 
But really, to be honest, can an album, singing about being young in 1970 have any relevance now? The album has its place in History. Teenagers nowadays studying social history and modern history can analyse the album and its lyrics, its place in time and learn about an aspect of their parents and grandparents past. Reading the track titles of the albums original incarnation, Young Man Blues, Substitute, Summertime Blues, Shakin All Over, My Generation and Magic Bus, these titles are about being young and alive and engaging with the world then. All the tracks are about young people taking charge of their lives with their own thoughts and beliefs and emotional responses and breaking away from their parents’ generation. 

In the late 1960s and early 1970’s this was a very big deal. The parents of teenagers in the 1960s had been through a terrible war and if we think austerity is bad now think about then. They had had no opportunity to question and rebel against their own parents’ generation, or if they did it was done in a mild mannered sort of way, something that every generation does naturally to some extent or other. A war meant that all thoughts about true, revolutionary self-discovery and shaping their own new world had to be put behind them. They were trying to save the world they had. They did as they were told, conformed, became part of the military machine and had to forget themselves. This made that generation what they were because of no fault of their own. It was not until the 1950s and 1960s that young people could really start to question and to challenge society. The track on the album, MY GENERATION, encapsulate this clearly.
People try to put us d-down(Talkin’ ‘bout my generation)
Just because we get around(talkin bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin’ ‘bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ‘bout my generation)
This is my generation 
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Why don’t you all f-fade away(talkin bout my generation)

And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say(talkin bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation(talkin bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ‘bout my g-g-g-generation (talkin’ ‘bout my generation)
 This is my generation
This is my generation, baby
My, my, my generation
My, my, my generation”
The words are an anguished shout at their parents generation that they want to be different. They are saying to their parents’ generation, “why don’t you all fade away.” The song repeats the words, “This is my generation,” again and again, pounding home the feeling  that the young of the time wanted to make their own decisions, make their own rules.

ME IN 1970.

So, great as a bit of social,emotional and human developmental history but why do I still like it?
In my Facebook comment I said it was exciting. It still is. Excitement is excitement in any generation. The album helps me remember back to 1970 like nothing else can. Photographs, letters, holiday postcards from that time take you back but music makes you actually experience the moment. You can be you then. You might think, so what? What does remembering do for you? I think it shines a light on the journey through life you have been on. It reminds you of who you once were. You might even reflect on whether you are happy with what you have done and become.
As for my children, by listening to THE WHO LIVE AT LEEDS they can experience a bit of the past. They can learn something of the past. Maybe it might dawn on them why their Dad is the way he is.  They might even see certain things which are universal about growing up which is also relevant to them. Great art and great music have multiple lives often being reinvented for every generation.  Maybe this is why we like old stuff and go to museums. Ha! Ha!