Posts Tagged ‘QUIZ’
This morning we noticed that the water in the large pond on the allotments has suddenly become crystal-clear. Throughout the summer and autumn it has been as black and forbidding as Albert’s vest, now we can actually count even the fish which lurk near the bottom. They must feel like Mrs Biggins when her curtains come down for their annual wash. But why does it happen?
Anyway, our attention today has been focussed on our primary schools. One of my fellow hen-keepers, Bill, has a niece who has just qualified to teach, and tells me that the government is proposing to reduce the number of times that a trainee can re-sit the final exams. Judy had to take the test three times and under the new rules she would have been fired off after two. Given the lass clearly has an affinity with small children and knows her subjects well that would have been a pity. But here’s the rub, Michael Gove has specifically excluded academies and free schools – run by private companies or other organisations outside of County Council control – from the new proposal. Now just why would he do that?
Character assasination is not our thing but it has to be said that Michael Gove always reminds us of those ’upper-class twits’ which used to feature in Monty Python. That’s his funny side, but there is a darker one. His behaviour toward those schools that have decided to stay within the state system is nothing short of dictatorial.
A perfect example is provided by Downhills primary school in Tottenham. The school has been told that either Gove will make an “academy order” or the governors can vote to do so themselves “by no later than 27 January 2012 ”. The school, he has ordered, must be taken over by “a business, university or private school”. Whichever emerges they will be free to use unqualified teachers.
This year Downhills has passed the acceptable rating of 60% and is making good progress, despite being in a difficult catchment area. Labour MP David Lammy is a former pupil and he is outraged by what is happening. There is, he says, no evidence that forced acadamies work in the primary sector and the Downhill children are being used in an attempt “to experiment with 100 years of proud history”.
Downhill’s head is Leslie Church. He says that the school has worked hard to improve the quality of teaching, but there is no alternative than to obey since Gove’s department is asking for a response without allowing any alternative. He worries that the move will mean that the school no longer has ” democratic accountability”. At present there is a democratically elected governing body, and a democratically elected local authority. Both have the power to change the head if they have cause for concern, neither has done so. Right now both parents and councillors see themselves as responsible and “behave in a supportive way”.
This is beginning to happen right across the country and, in the view of many educationalists, will have an adverse effect on primary schools where parent involvement is a major factor. Of course if the governors, who are elected by parents, decide to make such a move that is an entirely different matter.
But Gove is gaining a reputation as a little dictator. Before it is too late someone should remind him that we do still live in a democracy. Just!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ;
1. Which former First Lady was nicknamed “The Smiling Mamba”? 2. Who had hits with “Joanna” and “Celebration”? 3. Where would you see a facula? 4. Who played the title role in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”? 5. Which country has a unit of currency called the Leone? 6. The seaside town of Westward Ho is in which county? 7. Oloroso is a type of which drink? 8. Back in the charts in 2005, in what year was Bananarama’s first hit? 9. Which Wonder of the World statue was at Olympia? 10. In which century did William Caxton establish the first English printing press?
We allotment codgers love a mystery. Hardly a day passes but we mull one over, they can range from the latest Felix Francis whodunnit to what appear to be over-frequent visits by Jack Smith to Mrs Biggin’s semi. Today’s papers gifted us two mysteries to debate during our brew-break.
The first concerns The God particle, at least that is what the headline writers term it. There is near hysteria regarding the first glimpse caught by scientists of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle that is thought to underpin the subatomic workings of nature. We learn that physicists Fabiola Gianotti and Guido Tonelli were applauded and borne shoulder-high by hundreds of scientists yesterday as they revealed evidence for the particle found amid the debris of hundreds of trillions of proton collisions inside the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.
Apparently the Higgs bocon is the signature particle of a theory of the origins of mass. Its name derives from Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University who first pointed out the need for the evidence that could be provided by the missing particle. It seems we are now one step nearer knowing where we came from, which will hopefully be more cheerful than where we are going to.
But after some debate we decided that this did not qualify for the Codger’s mystery of the day award on the grounds that we haven’t the faintest idea as to what they are talking about. To us the only mystery is why they bother and whether it justifies the fortune already spent on it. But who are we to suggest that cancer, climate change and such are of more immediate priority?
The second mystery of the day is the Big Society. We have never fathomed out what it is and were reassured today to read that the public administration select committee, having considered the matter at length, are no wiser than us. What is it, they ask. Nick Hurd, the minister for civil service appeared before the wise men and claimed that people fundamentally undertstand it. Having conducted research which showed that only one geezer in Southend had even the vaguest idea, the committee begged to differ. It demanded the appointment of a Big Society minister. That rather upset Mr Hurd, who supposedly already has that dubious honour.
Having read the report I am no clearer as to exactly what David Cameron’s dream is. But one finding by the committee did strike me as worthy of thought. Presumably a key part of this never-never land is volunteering, people coming forward to work for their community. The MPs pointed out that given that the government is financially screwing charities and self-help groups into the dirt whilst at the same time privatising local services previously under the aegis of local authorities, the likelihood of anyone volunteering is reduced. Who would be prepared to work for free for a private profit-making concern?
But is that really what this mysterious society is all about? In May, David Cameron relaunched the policy for the fourth time. If even the select committee is bemused perhaps he should have a go at launch five. Maybe it is all in some way connected with that elusive particle?
At least we have two good questions for next Friday’s quiz. We can be pretty sure that the only responses we will get will be ‘pass’.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE WITH THIS MIDWEEK ‘ON THE MAP’ QUIZ;
1. W hich South American city has a famous Copacabana beach? 2. The Bass Strait divides which two islands? 3. Which Middle East capital is known locally as El Qahira? 4. Where is the official country home of US Presidents? 5. Whose Vineyard is an island off Cape Cod? 6. Where was checkpoint Charlie? 7. Which US state has a ‘pan handle’ seperating the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico? 8. In which two countries is the Dead Sea? 9. The site of ancient Babylon is now in which country? 10. On which river is the Aswam Dam?
OOOOOOOOOO ANSWERS TOMORROW OOOOOOOOOOO
Sunday morning on the allotments is always different to the other days of the week in that Albert, for as long as I can remember, always roars out Methodist hymns as he works. To make things even worse he pays no heed to the seasons, this morning we had a whole range of triumphal Easter renderings. My analysis has it that he has a repressed guilt complex centered around the fact that on the Sabbath he doth labour, a clear contravention of his Methodist roots. The other codgers simply believe that he is one pence short of a shilling.
Albert and I go back a long way and we share a childhood ambition, one never realised. We both grew up wanting to be not train drivers but spies. I can remember sitting in a Lyons Corner House – this is a rather old story – amongst about a dozen boys who all appeared to be reading a newspaper. Each paper had a central hole through which one could watch people entering the establishment. The idea was based on movies we had seen and was, we imagined, part and parcel of a spy’s job description.
Of course the war years were ideal for would be spies. Urged on by posters warning of listening ears, we all spied relentlessly. No success can be claimed but two of those boys have nursed the desire for the art right through to old age. Now we are both disillusioned, not merely because we never made it but becuase it seems that every spy has a business card and regularly gives TV interviews. I am reminded of this by an exclusive in today’s Sunday Telegraph.
From this we learn that Mikhail Repin, a Russian spy, was expelled after trying to gain secrets from politicians. There are, we learn, around 50 spies employed in the Russian embassy in London’s Kensington Palace Gardens. They even have a conventional organisation structure within which Mr Repin was a mere third ‘secretary’. All of the spies regularly meet officials at the House of Commons and defence and security think-tanks in Whitehall. At a barbeque last summer Repin mingled with such notables as Keith Vaz and Simon Hughes.
For an annual fee he was able to enrol for private lectures by senior military and intelligence officials plus regular drink parties and finger-food buffets. In fact he was given free access to every corner of the establishment. No one seemed surprised at the presence of a handsome young Russian who asked lots of questions and made copious notes of the answers.
Clearly spying is not what it once was and one cannot help wondering if the time has come for Mr Putin to order a headcount review. Fifty does seen over the top, particularly since everyone knows who they are and what is their spying speciality. We learn that the expelled Repin was tasked to learn more about government policies on the EU (something even the government would like to know), trade finance and the UK-US relationship. Rather than replace him, Mr Putin could consider the cheaper alternative of watching Sky News.
To those of us brought up on the works of John le Carre it is all very disappointing. In mitigation it does occur to us that the large number employed by Russia in London may reflect the fact that they imagine us to have unrevealed secrets about such things as the EU. In actual fact we ran out of secrets long ago, and are now rapidly running of ships, planes and troops too.
But maybe we missed a trick here. In all good spy novels it is the double-agents that catch the eye. We could have negotiated a job-share with Mr Putin which involved Repin moving to the Russian embassy in Paris. There must be a potential for spying there and we just might get to know what Sarkozy means when he talks darkly of teaching Cameron and his followers a lesson they won’t forget.
After all, given the modern version of spying modus operandi all “Michael ” Repin would have to do is join Sarkozy’s lap-dancing club and ask him!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Three 2. A helicopter 3. MI5 4. M People 5. Labrador 6. Gabrielle 7. The Old Curiosity Shop 8. Greece 9. On the seabed 10. Kent
I never thought I’d live to report it, but this morning David Cameron received a unanimous round of applause on the allotments. A few days ago we scratched our ancient heads at his choice of the financial sector as the UK’s red-line for the EU negotiations. We still do, but what we hadn’t anticipated was his willingness to slug it out in the face of what amounted to bullying tactics by the Germans, French and almost every member of the EU. If this was a tabloid it would have Cameron asking ‘Just who do EU think we are?’. But it isn’t and I’ll content myself with admitting that he has surprised us all, not least those who saw him as a PR guru and little else.
Of course, given the attitude of his back-benchers, the Prime Minister had little alternative to doing what he did in demanding some return for his support, but a whole series of his predecessors have rolled over when ordered to do so by the EU big guns. He didn’t flinch and we all have seen pictures of the animosity shown by Sarkozy and others. Few of us will lay awake at the revelation that if we refuse to bend to their will, the French and Germans just won’t love us. One spokesman for the furious EU gang has said that we will face revenge. If my memory serves me well they have tried that before!
Apart from the sudden transformation of the Old Etonian into a David happy to take on the Goliaths, one new truth has dawned. Whilst it is difficult to forecast the future given that the problems of the Euro still look insurmountable, one thing is clear. In an attempt to win German financial support most of the other Euorpean countries are surrendering their sovereignty. The deal leaves Britain in splendid isolation and the time has surely come to ask ourselves just what are the benefits of being members.
Such Lib Demmers as still exist will insist that we gain from influence at the Brussels table. That has now gone and suddenly the ‘for’ column looks empty. Trade? Hardly since we currently buy more from Europe than we sell to it and, in any case, manufacturers on either side of the channel will never turn down orders. Indeed, the talk yesterday of the new EU bloc freezing out trade with China and the USA sounds like commercial suicide that we are well out of.
The ‘ against membership’ column looks a tall one. Our subscriptions exceed our recipts by a large margin, and our industry is handicapped by a mass of laws. Our island is over-populated and there is nothing we can do to prevent EU citizens pouring in. Our laws are repeatedly overridden by the European Court and our agricultural and fishing industries are at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats. Viewed objectively, rather than politically, it is hard to spot the advantages of staying in the EU that will now emerge.
For this gang of old codgers the most puzzling aspect of yesterday was the response of Ed Miliband. Clearly it is politically dangerous to shower your opponents with even faint praise, but his claim that Cameron has got it totally wrong automatically triggers the question as to what he would have done. So far we have heard nothing on that score and we are left wondering if he seriously believes that we could allow ourselves to become even more enmeshed in an authoritarian and undemocratic organisation that will progressively assume control for every sovereign nation’s affairs.
Inevitably today’s right-wing press is demanding a referendum. It is likely that Cameron would not be averse to that since being able to speak for the whole country would help him when he has to respond to the inevitable EU backlash. Little doubt about the nation’s verdict when asked whether we should remain in Europe, but it would spell the end of the coalition and, given the apparent view of the Labour Party, would trigger an election. At this very moment Mr Cameron is probably reflecting on the fact that Churchill took on external threats only to be dumped when the ballot boxes were wheeled out in 1946.
But would the Lib Dems and Labour seriously consider going to the country recommending that we sign up to a ’Merkozy’ regime? Do turkeys vote for Christmas?
IT’S TIME FOR YOUR FAVOURITE WEEKEND QUIZ!; 1. How many times did Joe Frazier fight Muhammad Ali? 2. What was designed and made in a variable form by Sikorsky in 1941? 3. The TV series ‘Spooks’ is about which organisation? 4. Who had hits with “One Night in Heaven” and “Moving on Up”? 5. Which “dog like” peninsula formed Canada’s tenth province in 1948? 6. What was Coco Chanel’s Christian name? 7. Quilp appears in a book about what kind of shop? 8. In which European country are the Pindus Mountains? 9. If a creature is demersal, where does it live? 10. In which county was the first Youth Custody Centre set up in 1908?
??????????? ANSWERS TOMORROW ??????????????
Hardly a day passes but someone arrives at the allotments witha tale of woe about the latest cuts. The housebound now spend most of their days in bed as a result of the home carers services being slashed, meals-on-wheels are but a distant memory, the local children’s charity has closed.. the list is a long one. Those of us of a less volatile nature than Albert tend to trot out the cliches about all being in it together and money not growing on trees, but even we are stunned by the government’s ability to turn a blind eye to tax evaders and to produce, as if from a magician’s hat, buckets of cash for its pet projects.
Over £32 billion has been earmarked for the 100-mile high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. This incredibly expensive brainwave will eventually reduce journey times by 35 minutes, and we are supposed to believe that the top businessmen likely to use it will, as a result of the time saved, be able to transform our economy. The fact that such wizards tend to work on the train has been swept aside, as has the fact that the existing rail network desperately requires investment.
But, with the final approval for this madness due at any time, a number of senior Conservative MPs, who represent constituencies around the Chilterns, have let it be known that they may rebel given the certain scarring of an area of natural beauty. Indeed, Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh Secretary, has let it be known that she just might resign. No problem. Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, will announce next week that she has found £500,000 and will use it to fund a one-and-a-half-mile tunnel under the Chiltern Hills near Amersham.
Clearly money is no object when it comes to what many leading lights have described as a white elephant in the making. To hell with the housebound, this is a prestigeous asset we must have despite the fact that we are a small island and the time saved via higher speeds – trains on that route already run at 125mph – is inevitably small.
We can take it as read that, despite all the protests about priorities, the project will be approved. Then we can await revelations in Private Eye about the contractors and their connections with senior politicians.
Even in good times this venture would be open to debate, to pursue it so frantically right now beggars belief. But it is nice to know that there is still plenty of spare cash available!
LANSLEY IS STILL SOMEWHAT SECRETIVE!
My story about the refusal of the Health Secretary to publish the government’s own risk assessment of his much debated NHS Reform bill caught the eye of the Deputy Speaker of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle
I have a letter from him making clear that he believes it “essential that the risk register is published immediately”, and he goes on to confirm that he has written to the Secretary of State for Health “urging him to release the information so that it can inform the debate currently taking place in parliament about NHS reform”.
But the register remains under wraps. We don’t need too much imagination to work out the reason!
TEST YOURSELF WITH THIS WEEKEND QUIZ! ANSWERS TOMORROW!!
1. Alan Shearer’s league career finished with a game against which team? 2. Which Kenny Rogers hit starts, “On a bar in Toledo…”? 3. In which sport is there a piste other than skiing? 4. Which member of Queen would have been 60 in September 2006? 5. Which Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced TESSA? 6. Which character was played by Dooley Wilson in “Casablanca”? 7. Who wrote the play “Private Lives”? 8. Who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner? 9. Whose hits include “Waterfront” and “Alive and Kicking”? 10. Voords, Krotons and Autons have all appeared in which TV series?