Monday 6 September 2021

BATH: AN ADUMBRATION IN RHYME by John Matthews (pub 1795) annotated 2021. A review.



The act of giving the main facts and not the details about something, or something that gives the main facts:


Ben Wiebracht of Stanford Online High School , Stanford University, is the series editor for the “Forgotten Contemporaries of Jane Austen.” In this first editon of the series Ben is the co-editor  along with seven of his students, Joe, Carolyn, Macy, Sophia, Kate, Lauren and Varsha. They chose to investigate a poem by John Matthews (1755 – 1826), a contemporary of Jane Austen’s, that relates  a day in the life of somebody enjoying the delights of  Bath in the 18th century. The inspiration for this book was an article Ben and his students co authored for ,"Jane Austens World," blog entitled, “A Day In Catherine Morelands Bath.” This edition begins with an introduction to the series explaining the premise, that this series, “ strives to see Austen in the same way that Austen saw Elizabeth and Darcy , in Pride and Prejudice and also to uncover some of the Gardiner’s (Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle) of Austen’s world.” In a sense it is an attempt to see people and characters of the 18th century in a context that helps us in the 21st century  get at least a glimpse of how life and people would have actually been in the 18th century. Ben and his students, by comparing Austen and Matthews, provide us with an insight into their thoughts, attitudes, interests and actions . Something historians, film makers and us  readers try to do when we immerse ourselves in Austen.

 Ben and his students use the Gardeners, as an example of the type of people, middle class, and quietly influential ,rising in society  and who’s importance is not at first apparent  to the plot,  as a template for the type of people they want to write about. It is the Gardeners for instance who influence some of the main action within Austen's novel , but on the surface appear to be ancillary characters. At the end of the novel they are shown appreciation  by the  main protagonists. Ben and his students quote the finishing lines of Pride and Prejudice,

 “With the Gardeners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy as well as Elizabeth really loved them…. the persons who, by bringing her to Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.”

 In many ways this series is about getting under the skin of the everyday people who make the wheels of society work.

The original title page.

I think  this first edition, “Bath: An Adumbration In Rhyme,” is ground breaking work. First as I have mentioned above it is an attempt to allow us to experience the 18th century at a deeper level.  Also from the teaching point of view Ben has given his students a purposeful aim. They are not merely writing an academic essay, introduction, key points with evidence and explanation followed by a conclusion , the usual academic essay format written for a tutor and never read again, a dry formal process.   Through the creating of this book ,Ben has given his students the opportunity to add something meaningful and important to  our understating of Jane Austen and the 18th century. The editing team have gained valuable experience in researching, and choosing key evidence. They are also assured of providing continued pleasure and gained understanding for their readers to come.

John Matthews by George Romney 1786 Tate Britain.

I have read  Matthews poem previously but knew very little about him apart from the obvious that you can glean from his poem that the writer was part of the well to do, educated middle classes. The activities and days events Matthews describes in his poem need money to participate in. The fact that he is a competent poet, I won’t say a great poet, and references Latin quotations reveals that he is educated to the highest level of the 18th century. Ben provides us with a  biography of Matthews. He was born in Herefordshire in 1755 and appears to have lived in Herefordshire for the rest of his life. He was also very lucky, or very canny, as far as money and fortune goes. He married a wealthy heiress Elizabeth Ellis and later in 1784 an elderly spinster Elizabeth Skinner left him her fortune of £80, 000. That was an enormous amount of money in the 18th century. He was a rural gentleman in the top 5% of the population. He was educated at Eton and Oxford. He took up a medical career at St Georges Hospital in Westminster London and later became a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He built a large estate in Herefordshire. He funded charities. He founded and commanded the Herefordshire Volunteer Corps in 1798. In 1793 he was The Mayor of Hereford and in 1803 he represented Hereford in the House of Commons as their member of parliament. His poetry appears to have been a form of relaxation and escape. He published mostly anonymously. And, what I like particularly about Mr John Matthews is his ability to be self-deprecating. One of his more well know poems is about Cloacina the Roman Goddess of sewers and apparently he thought of his own publications as worthy of being used as toilet paper. I think he is being harsh on himself in writing that but you have got to smile or even have a laugh along with him.

(As an aside, St Georges Hospital eventually moved to Tooting in South London in the 1970s. It is a university hospital and just happens to be my local hospital.)

Matthews attitudes to society , his rejection of democracy as pursued  by The French Revolution  and his opposition to the levelling of society are all suggested in the poem. A comparison to Jane Austens attitudes to class and movements between classes can be made . For instance the attempts of Isabella Thorpe to marry up, the misguidedness of Emma Woodhouse trying to marry off Harriet Smith and Catherine Moreland’s relationship with Henry Tilney.  Austen was testing the boundaries between classes whereby Matthews merely disagrees with the blending of society.    This shows Matthews as a man of his time,  conservative in his beliefs and with little  desire for the world to change. 

As  a poet his style was boisterous and earthy. It is pointed out  that many of Matthews views are shocking to our modern sensibilities. His cruel lampooning of spinisters for instance, who came to Bath just to enjoy themselves and have a good time.

His poetry  catches us out by making quirky contrasts, This is an example from The Adumbration,

”So the beaux in their boots, the belles in their slippers

Come to walk up and down and peep at the dippers.”

Something elegant turns into something salacious and saucy. He has a naughty sense of humour. I think this appears again when he is walking up, or down, Milson Street.

When you’ve with politics done, the beauties to meet,

You may stroll for an hour up and down Milson Street

Where the misses so smart, at ev’ry fine shop.

Like rabbits in burrows, just in and out pop,”

Burrows, rabbits;  this is suggestive of the sexual appetite of rabbits of course and the ,”misses,” are there just for breeding. The misogyny is palpable. We can find further examples.


 Later, the Victorian music hall tradition and the advent of the Victorian seaside piers with their peepshow machines, “ What the butler saw,” are further example of this saucy earthy humour. It took generations to become unacceptable. Our cinema was at a low point, depicting this saucy humour, up to the 70s with the very popular ,”Carry On,” series of  films. British seaside postcards had this saucy side to them also before women’s groups and society as a whole decided they could not tolerate this blatant misogyny and sexism any more. Matthews was an early protagonist of a very long tradition of British earthy humour.

What I found most interesting in the discussion about Matthews poetry was the analysis of the poetic structures Matthews uses. The rhythm is an anapaestic rhythm rather than the more common iambic pentameter. If we think of the iambic pentameter in terms of our heart beat, our most personal rhythm, it is the essence of our life.  Shakespeare and all the great poets use it. Comedians on the other hand tend to disrupt natural rhythms to catch us out. The anapaestic beat is our heart beat with an extra soft beat catching us out, almost tripping us up. It lends itself to satire and humour and this is what Matthews uses.


 Matthews himself had been influenced by the first writer of these type of  Bath satires,  a gentleman called Anstye who wrote, “ The New Bath Guide,” a similar sort of satire to Matthews  and from which Matthews probably drew inspiration.How much Austen herself was influenced in her writing by both Anstey and Matthews is open to debate but there are strong links.What I find that connects Austen, Matthews and also Anstey strongly is the geography and  the geology  of Bath.  Matthews describes a day in Bath , meeting friends and acquaintances at The Pump Room where the health giving waters from the spring could be drunk,(although Matthews is not sure about the health giving properties of the water for certain reasons), shopping on Milsom Street, walking around The Royal Crescent and Landsdown Hill, and attending balls at the Assembly Rooms in the evening. The landscape, buildings, venues, activities  are  the same as we find in Persuasion and  Northanger Abbey. Some of the types of characters can be compared too. The difference being is how Austen  makes them live as flesh and blood through their interactions and  their humanity.  In contrast the essence of Matthews and Anstey is the superficial with amusing anecdotes, about people in general.

A map of Bath published in 1810 created by Benjamin Donne and David Wright. 

 Ben and his students have kept the somewhat archaic spellings and punctuation where  the metre and rhythm would be affected if these were changed. Our understanding is not hindered though. Some words and punctuation have been modernised to help us where it doesn’t affect the flow.

The annotations to the text Ben and his students have produced are excellent. As we read through this edition the left hand page is Matthews poem and the right hand page are the annotations explaining words and phrases and providing detailed information. Also, alongside the annotations are references to  Jane Austen  where they are  applicable,  referencing Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. This is the first time this has been done with this text. It extends our understanding of 18th century Bath and also illuminates Austen's achievements.

This is a wonderful piece of work. I can’t wait to read the other editions referencing other authors  from the time of Austen.  I certainly feel that my understanding of Austen’s works and her world has been enriched by this first edition.

Further Reviews:

 Vic Sanborn at Jane Austen's World has also written a review of this edition. We both had some input into Ben's work with his students, Vic more so than myself.


John Matthews: Bath An Adumbration in Rhyme, Series Editor Ben Wiebrecht, Pixelia Publishing 2021

You can buy the book at Amazon UK:



This article was researched, written, and designed by LiYuan Byrne, Josephine Chan, Ariana Desai, Carolyn Engargiola, Ava Giles, Macy Levin, Gage Miles, Sophia Romagnoli, Kate Snyder, Oscar Steinhardt, Lauren Stoneman, Alexandria Thomas, Varsha Venkatram, and Dr. Ben Wiebracht.






Wednesday 18 August 2021



“Manjeet Mann is an actress, playwright, screenwriter and director. She is the founder of Run The World- an organisation that works with women and girls from marginalised backgrounds and helps to empower them through sport and storytelling. She lives in Kent.”

The Crossing is written as a narrative poem connecting two teenagers, Natalie, who lives in Dover, Kent and Sammy a teenage boy from Eritrea. The story relates  the forces that cause people to feel so desperate that they are driven to migrate and about the poverty and lack of chances  that some people endure in Britain. It relates  the creativity and inner strength and courage that keep  both Sammy and Natalie trying and  hoping. Human dignity, humanity and  the empathy  that can exist between people of different backgrounds and experiences are  explored. The story  is about love and hate and how people can rise above adversity and help each other.

Manjeet Mann explores what it is to be a migrant from a country like Eritrea. What is it that impels Sammy to leave his mother, his family, his girlfriend Sophia, who has gone missing possibly abducted? The conditions he lives in are dire. Young men like himself are conscripted into the army. They are treated as slaves. They lose their freedom. They are abused. Sammy and his friend Tesfay, who decides to escape Eritrea with him are of conscription age. That would be a strong enough reason.  There is an added need to escape for Sammy. The murder of his father, Baba, and also following in his fathers beliefs, his strongly held views about free speech and democracy. Sammy and his family want those freedoms and they won’t get them in Eritrea. He thinks, because his father was hunted by the authorities, he will be watched and targeted too. His mother , like all mothers, wants the best life for Sammy. The family obtain enough money for Sammy to pay for the fake documents that will get him across the border. They gather  money to pay the human traffickers who they hope will get them to Europe and eventually Britain.

Nat , in Dover, takes on her mother’s role  after her mother’s death. Her mother had worked for an organisation that helps and supports migrants. She was also a cross channel swimmer who swam to raise funds to help migrants. Nat returns to swimming herself, which she gave up after her mother died, and trains hard to do a channel swim to raise money for the same causes her mother espoused, causes that help and support migrants like Sammy and his best friend Tesfay. Mel, Nat’s best friend sets up a donation page for her and supports her friend in her ambition.

Both Sammy and Nat suffer the death of a parent and are grieving. Both have the will to fight to make their lives better and in the case of Nat other peoples lives better such as Sammy’s and Tesfays.

In contrast, Nats brother, Ryan, becomes disillusioned. He thinks the migrants coming into Dover are taking jobs and homes that he and his father and Nat need. They are on the verge of eviction.  His antagonism for the migrants drives him to join the EDL, The English Defence League, a nationalist right wing group who use violence to make their point.  Nat can see how her brother becoming a member of this  group  gives  a  purpose to his life but she finds it hard to understand that he can’t  see that the immigrants are not the problem. Why doesn't he feel like her and their mother?Other societal issues need to be fought against and fought for. The problem is not immigrants. She thinks of migrants as equal human beings to herself, like her mother did, in need of help, support and love.  Ryan, on the other hand,sees the migrants as not deserving of what Britain has to offer. To him they are ,” others,”  less deserving, perhaps even less human, an invading group, not like him.

There are other important  themes explored in this novel. Nat and her friend Mel love each other. The love between them is tender and sweet. Tensions are explored in their relationship such as  Mel comes from a wealthier more comfortable family that Nat.  On the other hand Nat’s family are struggling to find a home for themselves and feed themselves. This causes some friction but their love for each other is much stronger than their differences.  They are mocked by Kevin a boy in their class at school . Kevin also bullies and demeans Fazel a migrant  in their class. The two girls confront Kevin in no uncertain way.The world has many, “Kevins'.” In another novel the issue of Kevin is something that could be explored further.

 The message of this novel is that often the rules of our society   need to change and develop to take account of everybody.   This novel shows that real people do not fit into an ideology and it portrays all human beings as equal. If this book does anything it should help us to be open to others through listening and understanding and through positive action. 

It is not a long story, however it manages to pack in  philosophical issues about ambition, hope, suffering and taking action. What enables Manjeet to do this is the narrative poem style. Much of it is written in the first person which makes it direct and visceral. The often short lines are distilled experience and emotion combined in a few words which pierce right into you. Sometimes the lines are fragmented into single words, each word draining every bit of meaning and emotion out of the moment. The book is classed as a Young Adult novel and so it deals with immediate sensations and emotions and because of that I felt refreshed and connected to the action.

Here is an example. Baba, was Sammy’s father, taken and murdered by the Eritrean army in front of his wife and his son because of his outspokenness criticising the regime.

“His blood seeps

Into my shirt

Staining my skin

I breathe into the





Our salty tears

Mix with

His iron blood

Which soaks into

Our skin

Our hair

Our guilt

That we live

And he



The story switches quickly and often between Sammy in Eritrea and Nat in Dover, relating their personal experiences of loss and pain. Connections and similarities build up at an intense rate.

Nat for her part has recently, within a matter of weeks of this narrative, lost her mother to cancer. Her mother was the driving force and positive impulse of the family. Her father becomes distant and introverted after her death.

“ I touch the screen

Wanting to grab hold of her

To reach through my phone and




I wish she were still, here Dad.

I know , love, I know,.

Dads desperate to keep it together

but he is broken

We all are.” 

Ryan, Nat’s brother is being influenced by the EDL, The English Defence League, a national front style organisation that aggressively attacks and confronts immigrants to Britain.

“I try to see

Try and understand..."

The end word of one  piece of narrative about Natalie is the first word or phrase of Sammy’s next dialogue and vice a versa.

 This switching  back and forth between the main characters helps create an empathy between the two characters who do not know each other or of their parallel lives at the start of the story.


 News cameras and journalists follow the plight of immigrants from Eritrea and other places people feel the need to escape from on their way to Calais to get to England and to other destinations in Europe.Nat sees Sammy first on the TV news and feels empathy for him. She later sees his picture in a magazine. She tries to get in touch and after Sammy has reached Calais somebody helping in the camp  gives Nat, Sammys -email. They start messaging. They talk about their dreams and hopes. After a visit to one of the  Calais camps Nat is being driven back to the ferry and Sammy sees her drive past . There are a number of missed chances to actually meet like this during the story.

Towards the end of the novel there is a surreal moment when we think they actually meet. Do they? Nat is swimming the channel with her support team and  getting near the French coast. She is exhausted and begins to a hallucinate. Sammy for his part has become desperate about his asylum claim. He thinks he will never be granted it. Walking on the beach and thinking of freedom a few miles across .the channel he walks into the water and starts to swim. In her hallucinatory state Nat sees Sammy swimming towards her. They touch hands and then he is gone. She thinks she is dreaming and swims on to complete her crossing. So was this really Sammy? There is a strong feeling  that it was. Sammy is found drowned pulled up by a trawler in it’s fishing net. News of his death  reaches Nat through social media and she is so stunned she falls to the floor weeping.We get a sense of what it is to be really desperate certainly from Sammys point of view and partly from Nats point of view too.

The story ends with Anthony, a refugee from the Calais camp who makes it to England and met Sammy, Hamid who also makes it across the channel, Fazel, Mel and Nat along with other people who have heard about Sammy, altogether standing on the White Cliffs near Dover. Hamid, Sammys friend from Eritrea reads messages from Sammy's mother and family and they scatter his ashes over the sea.

The last verses describe Natalie continuing her work supporting refugees in the migrant camps of Calais feeding them from a makeshift kitchen. Nothing has changed. Camps are dismantled and migrants moved on but others come to replace them. And the ending is repeats Nats mothers words of hope and dreams.

“Natalie, look at the stars

I will be looking too.

They are the same ones you see.

This is how we are all connected.….”

We do not hear how her father is now coping or what her brother Ryan is doing. It would be interesting to know.

This book helps the reader empathise and promotes a positive and loving approach to others especially those who are suffering greatly and immigrants in particular..

An example of how systemic racism works in Britain is our education system. The National Curriculum includes some colonial history from the white colonialist point of view and  it mentions some Afro Caribbean History and Indian History. These subjects are kept within separate sections as though they have no connection to the rest of our history. It does not explore how our whole history is imbued with our colonial past and certainly does not explore what effect that has on minorities today and the sytemic issues they have to contend with. Here are the only statements from the National Curriculum hidden away in a non statutory section that touch on these issues.

“ a study of an aspect of social history, such as the impact through time of the migration of people to, from and within the British Isles.”

“Britain’s transatlantic slave trade: its effects and its eventual abolition.”

 ( Non statutory National Curriculum Key Stage 3)

Notice the study of the slave trade is only required up to the date of abolition. This seems to me to be keeping the problems of systemic racism we have today, at best, at arm’s length and at worst completely out of sight.

David Olusogo’s book” Black and British A Forgotten History,” provides a  history of ethnic minorities in the British Isles over thousands of years. It explains  how racism has developed and been reformed to take on different aspects in every generation from the time of slavery to the latest iteration.

All of this is relevant to Sammy, Hamza, Natalie  and Natalie’s brother Ryan who is attracted to an aggressive anti-immigration group and also Natalie’s father who is lost and confused. What our government does in education, immigration law and in its strategies for settling refugees  affects us all and the way we live.



“The Crossing,” by Manjeet Mann published by Penguin Books 2021




“Black and British. A Forgotten History,” by David Olusoga published by Pan Books 2016

The National Curriculum (History)

  Key Stage 3 mentions slavery and immigration  but only requires a limited study.






Monday 12 July 2021

Sunday 11th July 2021 8pm Italy v England at Wembley Stadium.


The game ended 1-1 after full time, followed by 30 minutes’ extra time that kept the score at 1-1. So penalties followed

The final score 1-1 with Italy winning 3-2 on penalties. Those bald facts disguise so much. As the years and decades role on the facts above will  be the most that a Google search will reveal. Statisticians will see those facts in a  chart of other finals, other scores and other nations names and will draw conclusions of a statistical kind. What they will have lost is what the game meant to me to you, to England, to the UK to our mood , our hopes and our aspirations.

When Marilyn and I woke this morning we switched on the radio to listen to BBC radio 4 news and it was full of heart searching comments  about the match.  Nick Robinson the presenter had a sombre tone.

The whole nation, if they couldn’t be at Wembley among the 60,000 fans permitted into the vast arena of Wembley Stadium  were either watching the game on TV at home, in pubs, clubs, city centres throughout the country or maybe Trafalgar Square with giant screens showing the game to excited crowds. 

Was the game going to relieve the depression of coronavirus and  lockdown? 

Here is my kick by kick account as the match unfolded.

The national anthems of Italy and England took their turn to be played and sung.  60,000 sang God Save The Queen.

The two teams took the knee at the start of the match in respect for Black Lives Matter. There are things more important than football. A buzz of expectation and then ”Sweet Caroline,” rang round the ground, a whole mass of impromptu choristers belting it out at lung bursting intensity. The atmosphere was electric. I could feel the emotion and the tension coming out of the television screen.

The captains exchanged flags at the centre spot. A close up of Giovanni Di Lorenzo the Italian right back hands in prayer eyes to heaven . Rather obtusely a remote control model car painted in LGBT rainbow colours delivered the ball to the centre spot.

The referee in pink. The Italian team in blue. England wearing all white.

At exactly 8pm the referee blew his whistle and Italy kicked off.

The crowd roared. ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND!


1 minute. A slow, calm, measured start. Italy passed the ball along their defensive back line. England got the ball and also moved at a slow pace passing it around, feeling their way into the game. Italy and England, two prize fighters sizing each other up warming to the,” battle,” beginning. A faster tempo takes over.. The crowd hushes, near silence but still a buzz murmurs about the stadium. Maguire gives away a corner to Italy. Maguire clears. He is a dominant confident defender. Harry Kane strides down the right. Crosses it.  The ball arcs over the Italian players and a couple of England players to the left and Luke Shaw gliding swiftly into positon, in one glorious fantastic movement strikes the ball like a bullet from a gun and GOAL!!!! England score! 1-0. What a fantastic goal. The crowd go wild. The England players are euphoric. We, are all euphoric. 2 minutes and 12 seconds into the match and England lead. The Italians looked rocked. England players look elated. The crowd is elated.

After the restart a   cynical tackle by the Italians. England free kick. Is this how it’s going to be?

Shaw challenges Chiesa, the Italian’s mercurial star.  Free kick near the England penalty area. Pickford sorts out the defence. Close up view of England supporters praying.

Insigne shoots high over the bar. Mancini, the Italian manager looks pensive. Gareth Southgate, England’s manager frowns, hands in pockets. Sterling, gets a free kick. Italy are looking unsure, not exactly rattled but searching for a way to play.. England are looking confident. Italy take out Harry Kane . Very physical. Italy are going to play tough its obvious. The game has burst into life. Its all hell for leather.

11 minutes. England cross into the Italian area. Lorenzo puts it out for an England corner, The crowd expects.

13 minutes. Jorginho gives away another corner to England. Italy looking shaken. Not sure how to handle the England team. Struggling to break down England.

16 minutes. Italy beginning to attack more. They seem to have got the measure of England now.This game is far from over. The Italians are trying long range balls up to their attackers missing out the midfield.

Mancini doing a lot of shouting from the side-line. The sound of the crowd buzzes likes waves of rising and falling energy. An elemental force.

20 minutes. Trippier makes a long run through the Italian midfield and defence. He forces a throw in. He takes the throw, a long arcing lob into the Italian penalty area. Its smothered by the Italian defence.

23 minutes. The England defence are looking strong and secure.

27 minutes. Italy looking frustrated again. England seem in control once more.

30 minutes. England free kick  but in our own half. England seem to be controlling the game for the time being. Italy now passing the ball, keeping it but still unable to break down England.. The pace has slowed. The usually well-oiled Ferrari engine of the Italian is unsure, trying to work it out. A spanner in the works perhaps.

35 minutes. Chiesa slices through the England defence and shoots just to the right of the goal. Pickford nowhere near it. England escape. In a counter attack Luke Shaw penetrates the Italian defence. He is playing well. He gets a probing cross into the box. No England players there to finish it. Where was Harry Kane?.

39 minutes. Italy attack. England defence secure, strong, robust, they still  look confident.

40 minutes. Italian free kick. Dangerous. John Stones clears with a header.

44 minutes. Italy attacking strongly at the end of the half but England hold out.

 4 minutes added for extra time. England need to get to half time with a clean sheet.  Italy are  not the force we were all expecting. The crowd roar. “ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND!”. John Stone blocks a strike on goal. Italy dangerous all of a sudden.

 47 minutes Now England attack. Shaw and Kane slice through the Italian defence like a hot knife through mozzarella,cheese.. Italy clear. The crowd whistle. A shrieking storm of whistles. Bonucci has a long shot that is easily gathered up by Pickford.The crowd cheer.

49 minutes . The referee blows his whistle for half time. The score 1-0 to England.

Television pundits in the studio.

Gary Lineker, “Half way there folks.”

Alan Shearer, “ England have been absolutely fantastic.”

Alan Shearer.” We didn’t let them settle.”

Jurgen Klinsman on the touch line. “Oh my God, it’s rocking here.”

SECOND HALF: Things get intense:

46 minutes. Both teams are cagy at the start of the second half. England must keep up the tempo. What can Italy do?

46 minutes. Kane taken out by Nicolo Barella.  Italian frustration showing.

Sterling goes down in the Italian area. The referee is in a good position. No penalty.

49 minutes. Italian free kick on the edge of our penalty area. Lorenzo Insigna takes it. Shoots. Close, but past the post.

England really need a second goal to be secure.

51 minutes. Italy attack. England defence break down the Italians. It goes nowhere. Insigne  is the most dangerous Italian player at the moment.

53 minutes. The Italians make substituions. Imobile off.

55 minutes. England free kick. Luke Shaw takes it.OOOH!! Maguire heads over the bar. Crowd chant. ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND!

56 minutes Italy dangerous, getting chances. Italians putting us under a lot of pressure. England need to weather the storm. Italy keep possession. Warning signs for England now. Declan Rice surges forward for England. England defence are playing well frustrating Italy.Chiesa makes a great shot. Pickford dives to his left and makes a brilliant save.

62 minutes. England corner. Stones heads but the ball is guided over by the giant Italian goalkeeper, Donnarumma.. Chiesa is beginning to cause problems for England.

66 minutes. Italy score!!!!!A scramble in the England defence and Bonucci slams the ball into the net from close range. Opportunistic. Television camera close up of Pickford. He is angry. Gesticulating at his defence. 

68 minutes. The centre is taken. 

There is an uneasy feeling around Wembley. Italy have started to  enforce their authority on the game. What is going to happen next? Italy now are attacking strongly. They have been revitalised. They have the bit between their teeth. England have not dominated at all in the second half. They have stopped playing. Shaken by the Italian goal.

70 minutes. Saka on for Trippier.

Gary Lineker commentating in the TV studio.” Must be a shift in formation now. Perhaps a 4-3-3 formation?”

72 minutes. England need to get back on the front foot.

73 minutes. Benucci gets contact on a crossed ball. Very close.

Henderson is now on. Italy are breaking through at will. England on the ropes.


75 minutes. England seem to have lost their way. Need to be brave, Need to press higher. In their own half too much at the moment.


MarcoVeratti fouls Maguire . Free kick.

The Italians seem to be all over the England players.

Camera looks at the England crowd. Praying, hands together, concerned faces. The Italians look lively on the attack. England worried, desperate.

Italy attack swiftly again. England look uncomfortable.

80 minutes.  England must move up a gear. Worrying times. England fans tense, subdued.

Chiesa injured on the side line. Chiesa takes to the field again. He is one Italy’s best forwards. We could have done with him staying off.

83 minutes. England with a chance. We are attacking, pressing again. England have suddenly come to life. We can HOPE!! Insigna fouled Trippier. Yellow card. England free kick. Cleared. Shaw shoots too high.

85 minutes. Chiesa off. Bernardessi on. Chiesa must have been more badly injured before than he thought, than we thought.

86 minutes still 1-1. England supporters sing out. “Football’s coming home.” I wonder. Is it?

88 minutes. Great attack from Sterling. It takes a few Italian defenders to stop him.He’s like an electric eel working his way through them.

90 + 6 minutes. Injury time. Sterling attacks again. Gets a free kick in England’s half.

93 minutes. Italy stalking England. England doing their best to keep them at bay. So tense all around Wembley. Italy playing with fa freshness and a freedom all of a sudden.

95 minutes. Chiellini literally gets Mount by the collar of his shirt and pulls him to the ground.  Mount was about to break free on the attack. Cynical, calculated. Chiellini is yellow carded. A professional foul.

96 minutes. The referee blows his whistle for full time. Its 1-1 with Italy on the up.

30 minutes extra time to be played.

Both team squads get into their respective close circles. Mancini in the middle of the Italian players. Southgate crouches forward, hunched , tense in the middle of the England players. He looks impassioned, resolute, determined driving home his points to the team.

. The whistle goes for the start of  extra time. “COME ON ENGLAND!!” Belloti comes on for Insigne.

Southgate has made no changes so far.

Emerson blocks Henderson.

5 minutes. Sterling attacks down the wing and earns an England corner.

5.54 Varrati off Locatelli on. Mancini is making the changes.

The ball comes  to the edge of the area and Phillps has a shot. He pulls it wide to the left of the post.

8.47 Jason Mount off. Jack Grealish on. Can HE do anything?

Grealish and Saka attack the Italian defence slicing through but take the ball too far, between them, for a goal kick.

11.34 England must attack. Italy nearly score but the England defence  scrambled the ball away.

13.29. Worrying moments.

15 minutes +1 Italy still on the attack. Hand ball. England free kick. Luke Shaw to take. Shoots wide.

Half Time in extra time.Whistle blows. Exhausting emotionally for us who watch and those who play. The England team must be shattered. Unbelievable.

16 minutes. Are Italy playing for penalties? The nightmare approaches.

England must remain positive.

3 minutes to go. Sancho and Rashford on. Henederson and Walker replaced. Is this in preparation for penalties? Why do England do this?

28 minutes. Italy are playing for penalties now surely.  Italian corner. That was close.

34 minutes gone. Referee blows his whistle. It ends at 1-1.


OH NO!!!

Penalties: Italy won the penalty shoot out. 3-2.

Did England lack creativity throughout the game? If they did, so did Italy. But what is it about the psychology of England players, maybe there is something particular about English football, maybe our national psyche that prevents us, always, from winning penalty shoot outs? What does taking a penalty make an England player feel in this high pressured emotive moment?

Marilyn , at the start of the match wondered if the black players like Rashford and Saka would face abuse online. It has proved so. They both missed penalties but the cruellest abuse is that meted out to  Bukayo Saka, merely 19 years old. He missed the deciding penalty. He is a  teenager for goodness sake!. It is appalling that he or anybody should suffer racial abuse. It will stay with him for the rest of his life. What does abuse say about us as a country as people of one nation?


The radio 4 discussion, Marilyn and I lay in bed listening to,  with Nick Robinson, about the game was tinged with disgust at the  terrible racist abuse online after the match targeted against Marcus Rashford  and Bukayo Saka.

 We are all being asked to behave responsibly when lockdown and all restrictions are removed from our lives from the 19th July.Personal responsibility is very important, we are all individuals and have to make balanced  decisions about our lives. But it appears personal responsibility has a nasty side. Racist abuse is prominent it seems. Boris Johnson, Pretti Patel and other Conservative ministers rebuke those who take the knee in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. They don’tsee the point. Our government does not understand societies response to the statues of colonialists and slave owners that dot our country. They deny systemic racism exists in Britain. Are they therefore responsible for racists feeling they can abuse the black players? Responsibility should come with understanding and balance with regard to others. Are we as a society capable of that? The,” libertarians,” have pushed for an opening up of society from the coronavirus lockdowns. They get their wish from the 19th July. In the light of disgusting responses to our defeat in the Euros are some people incapable of being trusted to do the right thing though?

Saturday 24 April 2021

What should we do to help children recover after lockdown?


The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE was appointed Secretary of State for Education on 24 July 2019.

On Monday 8th March all school children in Britain returned to school. Over the last year most had to stay at home. Only those children who  were and are deemed vulnerable, for whatever reason, poverty, neglect, abuse, or whose parents are key workers  (nurses, teachers, doctors etc), were permitted to be in school during the period of lockdown. During my morning run, that often takes me along Grand Drive past St John Fisher School and, also through the Sir Joseph Hood Playing fields past Green Lane School, I  noticed children on the playgrounds or playing fields doing sport. They numbered twenty or thirty children. That is equivalent to one whole class. I know this is not a very accurate assessment of the numbers of children in school over the lockdown period but it gives an impression of the numbers there were in each school during that period.

Gavin Williamson , the education secretary, has recently announced possible measures to help children catch up since returning to school. He has suggested, among other things, longer schooldays, a five term year creating shorter holiday periods, discipline hubs and strict discipline codes to counteract the deterioration in behaviour he thinks will take place because children have been at home during lockdown. "Children will explode into the corridors and classrooms of Britain and wreck the place," won't they Gavin?. What makes Gavin not think that children will be so desperate to get back to school and see their friends and do exciting things in their lessons they will be  better behaved than they were before? I see every reason why  thereturn to school for the vast majority will be a postive experince. 

I have my theories about this government during the pandemic. They seem to have brought in measures in different areas of government which they say is because of the covid pandemic but I strongly suspect are to do with policies which they had planned for some time but deemed unpopular. Under lockdown they can introduce them quickly with the excuse they are necessary. A very sneaky way to bring in Conservative right wing policies no doubt.The head of OFSTED, Amanda Spielman, commenting on Gavin Williamson’s suggestions diplomatically said that ,"we need to go by the evidence."

Many fortunate children have been able to access online learning provided by their teachers at their own school through internet links. Teachers have worked hard creating online content. The BBC has done sterling work creating and broadcasting entertaining  and helpful screened lessons for all age groups covering all subjects. Many children do have the technology, laptops, TVs, internet connections and smart phones. 

The online learning I have seen the BBC presenting has been of a high standard but no matter how good the online learning provided is, it can never be able to replace face to face teaching in a classroom. To learn , to be inspired, to be able to make mistakes and try again, to be wowed, to develop as a person you and I and all children need face to face interactions and children need it in a classroom with friends around them.  Personal interactions, empathy, understanding and face to face teaching which can immediately take into account misunderstandings or different aspects that arise  is really needed.

There were those, a significant minority, who did not have access to this online learning. I read of teachers delivering  work to children in their homes and then returning a week later to collect the work carried out. Many children are living in abject conditions of poverty that created conditions whereby even this personal service was difficult or impossible  for them to take advantage of properly.

It was interesting lately when the Chief Constable of Merseyside retired recently he made a statement  saying that if he was given £3 billion pounds he would use 20% to improve the police force and 80% to deal with poverty in his region. He thought poverty was the biggest factor in crime. If people had jobs and decent living accommodation they  would not turn to crime. This of course applies directly to education too. If you deal with poverty then the educational outcomes for many would immediately improve.

From the 1950s, a revolution in teaching was taking place based on the work of  child psychologists such as Jean Piaget and his  cognitive developmental theories and  in Britain, Baroness Plowden  published her report on education in 1967. Plowden had  researched the best learning practices  in schools in the years before the report was published. These two, among others, such as Montessorri and her child centred educational techniques and Vygotskys theories about social interactions lead to all schools taking up some form of  child centred education. Progress is never an immediate thing though and new ideas take a long time to be taken up by the mainstream.

From a personal viewpoint when I was 11 years old, in 1963, I  arrived in secondary school.  I  felt  crushed by an inferiority complex and lack of confidence and belief that some of my junior school teachers, strict disciplinarians and advocates of rote learning had instilled in me. They had not taken on the new research and new ideas about how children and humans really learn. At secondary school I met a teacher who came from Liverpool. He had a Liverpool accent and had a wry sense of humour. I remember still feeling a little fearful but I was mesmerised by his cheeky approach to us as a class. He was a breath of fresh air.  He taught maths and made it fun. Ok, he still had a teaching  technique that lacked exploration on the part of pupils. His approach was more show and copy than experiment and problem solve, but it was delivered in an entertaining way. As I got older another teacher, our art teacher, actually told me once I had painted a great oil painting. I think it was some trees, bushes and a sky and I myself wasn’t at all sure it was any good but the art teacher thought it was good. Those two teachers stand out especially for me.  Fun and praise, those two things made me feel good.Teaching and learning should be about excitement, exploration, a passion to learn and progress and have those two elements of fun and praise  as well. Learning should make pupils ,”feel good,” I think.

I was a teacher for about forty years. I found teaching hard. If anybody tells you any different they are lying, but it totally absorbed me. It challenged me every day. From creating that close relationship with every child in my class to finding innovative and exciting ways to enable children to learn, to make it child centred so the child actually felt the learning was about them as an individual, giving the children the tools to solve problems, to be imaginative, to make things, to be challenged and enjoy the whole process. No it wasn’t easy, but doing it like that  was absolutely right and necessary.

One child I had in my class one year was struggling with most things but one day we were all outside on the playing fields just outside our classroom , all of us looking at the clouds and an occasional jet airliner taking off from Heathrow Airport nearby. It was an English lesson.As a class we were thinking of words to describe what we were looking at. This child, who was struggling, Robbie, stood next to me and he said,

“Mr Grant, that sky is so deep its like looking at infinity.”

“Wow Robbie, that’s brilliant! I love those words.”

 When we got back into the classroom Robbie wrote a poem , only four lines long about the sky including the words he had thought of. I praised him so much. I remember feeling excited for Robbie. For the rest of the year Robbie was so keen and looking forward to every English lesson.

Mr Williamson wants longer school days. He wants a draconian discipline policy. He wants five terms in the year. Mr Williamson doesn’t know anything about the teaching and the earning process. Longer days, more terms, stricter discipline really is not the way to go Mr Williamson. Discipline comes from close personal relationships, a belief in yourself and a desire to learn. It comes from feeling valued and being encouraged.  “Catching up,” is not about  longer days . A spark of inspiration, a sudden triggered love of something is all that is needed. Everything else follows.If Mr Williamson is worried about the children not covering every part of his precious national curriculum then he shouldn’t be. The curriculum is not education. Love, empathy, inspiration, the right sort of challenges are what is needed. Your ideas, Mr Williamson, will tire and wear out teachers and pupils and make all those important elements of teaching and learning much harder to achieve.

The first thing children need when they all get back into their classes is to say hello to their friends, be able to talk about their experiences, laugh and enjoy the moment. Leave it to the teachers to reignite the love of learning. That is all that counts.