Tuesday, March 06, 2012

It's been a long time

Working from home today, listing to the beautiful Peter Broderick album HOME that arrived this morning and looking out at a beautiful sunny day. Suffice to say I haven't got much work done.

Having the opportunity to listen to a beautiful piece of art start to finish is a very rare occurrence in my life now and will only become rarer I suppose once our baby arrives in 2 months.

When I was a much younger undergraduate 11 years ago I always used to make myself listen to an album all the way through. I figure if someone has taken the time to write it and arrange the album in such a way you should always listen to it in it's entirety at least once and that should be the first time if at all possible. I would like to think that it would be the case with my PhD thesis yet I am too much of a realist to suspect this may be the case I can devote 3.5 years of my life completely to something that an external examiner will probably flick through, read the conclusions and the abstract only and decide my fate.

Not only is it frustrating but also rather sad that our lives have become so busy and full that we don't allow ourselves time to really indulge ourselves in what we do. I find it difficult to read lots of books because I always try to read the whole book, I need the context and I worry I might miss something plus being the son of an English teacher I feel it is cheating to not read it properly. However in the PhD I have been told numerous times just to read a chapter of a book at most and sometimes now use electronic books like Google searching for key terms or sentences that I need to assure myself of.

In my second year module on sustainability I teach briefly on Slow Design and I get really excited as I explain the concept to the students recalling using a record player and the nature of listening to a record which requires you full attention. I keep going until all the glazed over faces either laugh at my enthusiasm or sparkle because they get it. For them to understand the concept is after all quite hard they are hardwired into a culture of multitasking, they have very short concentration spans they are the generation who not only have a conversation with someone with earphones in, like I used to be frowned at for doing when I was a teenager but they will also be texting or looking at facebook at the same time.

So I challenge them, I challenge my students a lot during the module but this is the one thing I truly want them to try. I tell them to go home and put on a CD or an MP3 album if they can get one an LP is best sit there and just listen turn the laptop of, silence the mobile, log out of facebook shut the door open the curtains and listen. Look at the album artwork and cover notes read the lyrics if you must but just for 40 minutes immerse yourself in beauty, commit yourself to doing and focusing on just one thing and realise once again the shear beauty of a simple unrushed, uncluttered life. More than that I challenge them to spend just another 5 minutes in complete silence, then they look at me as if I have gone completely mad.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Oh how I have missed teaching

Yesterday was my first day lecturing at the University of Hertfordshire and it felt so good to be teaching once again. I was worried I may freeze having not done it for so long, but even after three years it feels natural like riding a bike. There may have only been 10 students, but they were all very nice and genuinely interested and I am told there may be more in coming weeks. Despite the low numbers and a few pauses where I lost myself, I felt on top of the world.

It's an amazing feeling when you find work that makes you feel this alive and you get the sense that you are doing the job that you are made for. It just confirmed even more that despite the lack of lecturing work in the UK, this is what I want to be doing. It's just a real shame it's only 3 hours a week and an 170 mile round trip.

Oh well, still hoping and waiting on more work from other universities.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Elections Again

I went to vote this morning and I'm slightly dismayed about how complex it was. In the Leicester South ward we had to make 6 votes, first and second choice for city Mayor, two counsellors, a new MP as ours is standing for Mayor and the referendum on the alternative vote.

I was slightly perplexed one because the colours of the lilac mayoral ballot paper and the grey AV ballot paper were far to similar for someone who is colour blind (severe Red Green) so well done government for failing in the inclusivity stakes and secondly there was a first and second choice for city mayor, yet in none of the electronic propaganda material had a second option been mentioned so I didn't read up on a second candidate as I know our previous local MP would make an excellent job.

So what should I do about the second option I was in a quandary? Well I didn’t put one but then I felt bad for not using my second option, this is of course the problem with the Alternative Voting system that is being proposed and the reason for referendum vote today.

So what did I put for the referendum, well after reading the form twice due to the poor and slightly biased and leading wording I put NO? Why well simply because it is a vote against the uneducated and those who have firm convictions, it will lead to chaos and cost millions to introduce and it isn’t even the original proportional representation that was promised and it has been introduced by the most untrustworthy politician of our day the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg who lies, compromises and misleads for breakfast.

So to break this down I felt stressed and perplexed by the number and complexity of the votes today and I am completing a PhD, I have had to explain the proposed system to many of my peers who didn’t understand it and they all have degrees many of whom are postgraduates and if they don’t get it how will the majority of our working class population. A vote for AV is a vote to restrict the ability of the common man to engage in and affect national politics.

The AV vote will also cause the population to become even more indecisive, I am a person with strong political beliefs and I knew I only wanted one man for Leicester Mayor but I felt awkward not putting a second option. So faced with 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and even 6th options for national elections I would be overwhelmed and feel very awkward if I only made one.

At the end of the day I believe that whilst the current voting system has awkwardness with hung parliaments situations like we have today the alternative voting option is not a solution, why should we have 2nd or 3rd placed votes then there will be very little difference. The three main parties will get the majority of the votes still and there could still be a parliament that has no overall majority but will result in fewer parties as the lowest parties votes will be removed.

Lastly I’m not sure of the impact that a NO outcome would have on the Liberal Democrat party but hopefully it will bring an end to this charade showing their leader to be a failure, yet I might even hope that it will signal an early general election and bring back some common sense and dignity to this country.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Higher Education Cuts Demo

On Wednesday the 10th November 80 students from Loughborough University travelled down to the demonstration against the higher education cuts organised jointly by the NUS & UCU. We joined a march of 50,000 students and lecturers, many of whom had got up early to travel down to show their support and March against the coalition governments plans.

The march was a tremendous success with students and lecturers travelling from all parts of the England, Scotland and Wales, there was a real sense of community in the crowd with a united purpose. Nearly all the students that I went with had never been to a demonstration before but felt strongly that they should support this. We were all amazed at the numbers and ingenuity of the students there. My favourite banner, it was hard to choose but I personally liked one that read. "We want Ed at least he has Balls" genius and it summed up the general feeling on the banners, in the chants and in the discussion. The majority of students felt betrayed by Nick Clegg, it was generally understood that we expect the Conservatives to act like this, but the 'U' turn of the Liberal Democrat party has showed a complete lack of integrity and it was what everyone was talking and chanting about. I would share some of the chants but I'm not sure the language was appropriate. But here's one dreamt up by one of the Loughborough students.

"Nick Clegg is a liar, he deserves to be fired, for raising the fees on all our degree's, living in a Tory wonderland'

However unfortunately this was not the message that was delivered by the media, who only seemed to be interested in the damage caused by a handful of individuals who many doubt are even students over 2 hours after the march officially finished. People are responding with shock and condemnation, personally I am frustrated and very angry with the British media, who instead of reporting on the constructive effort of 50,000 students, decide instead to report on the drama and destruction. The British media should be ashamed of themselves; they have sensationalised the damage and given weight to the riot instead of supporting the efforts of committed and dedicated students. When there is such a large demonstration there is always a strong chance that the usual rent a mob, yobs wll rock up and the Police should have been prepared for them. The law abiding students however should not miss out on the publicity that should have been given to their grievances and concerns.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Politician's not telling the Truth

Yes I know no-one is particularly surprised, but I was astounded by the lack of evidence and overall personal bias by this Green Party Counsellor, see below:
"Wednesday, 3 November 2010 The fees disgrace - blame LABOUR
Let's be very clear. It was LABOUR who opened the floodgates to the university tuition fees debacle that is now being imposed on our country. The LibDems have allowed it to happen; the Tories made it happen; but it was Labour who commissioned the Browne report, and it was Labour who set the whole thing up in the first place, by imposing top-up fees. As soon as the argument had been made by Charles Clarke that it was right for students to pay a substantial amount toward their higher education, and that higher education free at the point of delivery was going to be a thing of the past, then full-scale marketization became inevitable. It was only a matter of time. I made this argument at the time, as did Ian Gibson. We have, sadly, been proven right by today's news that the ConDems are going to bring in variable fees of up to £9k.
It is LABOUR who need to take the blame for having created the conditions for this dreadful outcome. (And it is only the Green Party (and the Nats, etc.) who come out of this with clean hands: see http://twitter.com/#!/TheGreenParty)
So: come the next election, let's all be clear about that. If you want to punish the LibDems over this, then there is no point in voting Labour."

Its very inaccurate in several places and just sheer self promotion based on half truths, so I have put him right.

"As usual for a politician you are missing out some vital information here like the introduction of the tuition fees originally in 1998 by Labour was based on the recommendations of the Dearing inquiry see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2004/jan/27/tuitionfees.students/print. Commissioned by the Conservative government under John Major, so I think you'll find is has been driven as part of the ideological conservative (protect the rich screw the rest) agenda for the last 14 years. I don’t believe labour would accept the recommendations of the Browne report in the way that the conservatives have because they were committed to seeing more students going to universities unlike the conservatives who only want it for the privileged few. Claiming that the Green Party would do any different is hollow as you won't have to carry through on your promises, just like the Liberals never thought they would so they too promised the world and surprise, surprise once they are given to opportunity to stand by their promises they show that they have the least integrity of any party in this country.
Rupert why don't you show you have some integrity, put your money where your mouth is and come on the demonstration against the cuts and Browne review next weds will you, I will be there in the midlands camp, why don't you come and say hello.
Matthew Watkins BSc MSc PGCE"

Please do check on the accuracy of reporting of your local MP's and Counsellors, this example of defamation is even more extreme than that from those rats in power.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Adventures in Britian's Demise

Interesting title I know and I long time since I have written when a lot has happened on a social and political front so the title inspired by a fairly middle of the road album by REM. Relates to a less than average Britian in economic and societal breakdown. 13 years of prosperity and social investment have ended not by a fairly mediocore recession but by a change in government out are the socially minded, fair handed Labour party and in are the corporatly minded Conservatives and the sell out pathetic limb wristed Liberals and although this all happened back in May the country is only now starting to feel the after effects of the poor decisions made by a third of the voters in the last general election.

Unemployment is on the rise, house prices are sinking again, and swaving cutbacks are being actioned across a number of important social sectors. Up to old tricks the conservatives once again have gone to bed with business and the upper classes, whilst setting about destroying community and working class people's livelihoods and prospects.

Universities have been hit hard and my aspirations on a lectureship are now looking more like a distant dream again as the cuts have already brought about recruitment freezes at a number of universities and left 22,000 students without places this coming year, Ultimately threatening the future of a number of institutions and Britian's global position as a leading education provider.

Council workers, Police employees, Civil Servants and Defense Staff are all facing the propects of unemployment. On top of this a number of services and government agencies have been cut completely including the essential and life saving Air and Sea Rescue Service and the future proofing Carbon Trust set up to ensure we met the environmental emmissions targets set.

More on cuts here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10924719

This is only the start the unfair cutbacks will continue to affect citizens for the foreseeable future undoing many of the great and socially beneficial outcomes acheived by the last Labour government. Having experience as a teacher, student, youthworker, and young man during this labour's 13 years in power I personally think there was alot to thank them for. I am not too young however to remember the carnage that the Conservatives caused and the broken society that they left behind in 1997. I am very concerned for the future of this country over the next four years that have been secured by the coalition due to a dubious change in the law ensuring that they can't be removed from power for at least 4 years. Yeah I bet you missed that one the law was passed in the first 2 weeks of them being in office. No Surprises .....

Friday, May 07, 2010

Hiding Place

Sometimes I wish for a hiding place, like when I was a child. To run away and hide in safe, warm and dark place. To escape people, life, reality, humiliation or embarrassment. I used to wrap my self up in a curtain by the front door, or hide in a wardrobe or the cupboard under the stairs for a while. Oh the memories of childhood how I wish I could now hide when I feel overwhelmed, when my brain is tired and my body is weak, life is mundane and my mouth is so dry I can barely speak.