Friday, November 17, 2006

you thought council was dull....

Hello all Just a wee plug for a funky wiblog that has been going a while, which I was reminded of this week. The Dullest Blog in the World is possibley a high point in low end humour but it works oh so well. Warm Regards John

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Joy of Text

There is nothing I enjoy more, when communicating then writing a letter. Whilst I am notoriously bad at consistently writing I feel so much more involved when writing then when texting/emailing. The reason this is is because I do try to write with a "real" pen. I have always been a fan of the fountain pen. There is something magical about the way it just glides across the page, winking slightly with the wet ink. Whereas the 'umble biro allows all forms of writing to be got it just seems to stick into the page when writing. The words and thoughts flow with a fountain pen and it improved my handwriting no end! It appears that one of the main private schools in Edinburgh also had the same thought....
From BBC Online Fountain pens boost 'self-esteem' Pupil writing Exam markers require neat handwriting in exam papers. The headmaster of an Edinburgh school where pupils have gone back to using fountain pens said they helped to raise academic performance. The writing policy at Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School in Edinburgh means children a young as seven are using the pens. Bryan Lewis, the school's head teacher, said the practice helped boost youngsters' self-esteem. It is thought the pens make pupils write neatly, which helps exam markers. Fountain pens have been used for many years by older pupils. The move comes after the Scottish Qualifications Agency said markers had difficulties with poor handwriting on exam papers. Mr Lewis said in the past four to five years the use of fountain pens has been extended, with seven and eight-year-olds using them 80-90% of the time. He said: "We believe if you write in fountain pen you must write neatly, but if you use pencil or ballpoint pen you can mask bad handwriting. "We have a particular writing style and we have developed it very carefully and found a way that allows left and right handed people to write without smudging. "We think children deserve to be able to show their work neatly. We think children need to be literate and numerate and the way society is now we have to work harder. "The role modelling is not always there, so they need it in school." Reaped benefits Mr Lewis said developing neat handwriting was something pupils could then show to their family, who in turn could take it on board. He claimed being praised for good handwriting reaped benefits later and was one of the skills that has suffered as a result of progressive teaching approaches which meant less emphasis was put on basics such as grammar. A large number of pupils join the school aged 10, and have varying standards of handwriting. But within a matter of months they are able to get to grips with the fountains pens and a cursive, or joined-up, handwriting style, the head teacher added. The Headteachers' Association of Scotland believes handwriting basic skills should be taught as a "priority" as soon as children begin primary school.
That said, as regular recipients of my letters know, it is unfortunately not always possible to write in a fountain pen. This is usually because I have lost the thing- I easily get through for or five pens a year and a £8 a pop that aint cheap! Even so, like the eternal snob I can sometimes be I am rather specific about my ink colour. It has to be black, blue ink just doesn't work. I find something deeply enhancing to the eye about black ink... I don't have any such opinion of people who send things to me though, i more enjoy the fact that i have received something handwritten in the post. Indeed I try to live this out where possible by, if typing a letter always signing it by hand. Right better stop procrastinating as have some letters to write but a pen to find first.... Take Care Y'All John

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Rememberance Sunday

At Wesleys Chapel we have a variety of memorials around the building. One that I always appreciate is the one erected to the Wesleyans who fell in the first, and then re-dedicated to the Methodists (as we had unified) who fell in the second world war. The reason I appreciate this one is it has numbers on it. 285,000 Wesleyan Methodists went to the first world war and around 28,000 died. That number (285,000) is likely to be the result of the annual returns of Methodist Church membership around the country. Therefore it is like mobilising every current card-carrying Methodist but knowing that one in ten will be killed. Imagine what that would do to your congregation... This is a sobering thought and today's service was never going to be easy. The minister does a grand job of trying to placate pacifists like myself with those who are proud of the military past and choose the more "traditional" approach to remembrance. That said I did feel rather excluded from some of todays service and had to stop singing a particular hymn. The hymn in question I can't find reference to bar our handout so shall reproduce the first verse.Though we were informed that it was the official Boys Brigade Hymn and is riddled with the militant Christianity that Victorian hymn-writers had!
O God of Love our prayer we raise For Unity and peace, That all mankind may give Thee praise. And war for ever cease
Nothing too controversial there (bar the "all mankind may give" line... but then we go to such classics as...
"Lord, grant us peace, but also give A great and holy pride In men who showed us how to live. And, as their Master, died
It then goes through a hero-worship style description of "hero brothers" who should "make us worthy" to also claim to be Brothers The finishing finale (V6!) is
Lord, from our hearts, to Thee we give Thanks for their life-blood shed: We pray for grace that we may live True to our glorious dead
Besides repelling and annoying me greatly it really got me thinking about my underlying anger at the Christian services which "celebrate" remembrance Sunday and the whole imagery thing that comes with it. I think that alot of it is a generational thing, but through this we are allowing previous generations perceptions and styles hold back and prevent our new way of looking at things. During the run up to the second Iraq war I was heavily involved in Edinburgh Youth Against War. We managed to mobilise around 3,000 young people out onto the streets to argue for a peaceful solution rather than warfare. I think that , due to our upbringings and also our attitude to violence has changed over the intervening generations between the second world war and now. This attitude does not take away from the respect and awe for the experiences that those in previous generations went through. Awe and horror at things such as gassing and trenches but also knowing that we shouldn't allow this situations to start in the first place. Therefore I look forward to this years' debate beginning to move the nation forward to new ways of remembering those who died, whilst remembering we are part of a global world where millions died for the whim of politicians and that "never again" is possible if only we let it. Indeed I would have to herald a quality sermon being delivered in Swansea recently, click here to see what Revd Richard Hall preached (wish I'd heard it as it reads wonderfully). Take care y'all john