Pedagogy and Print
Nick Wonham, North Hertfordshire
This is the linocut that I talked about in yesterdays post. My first ‘lockdown linocut’. It illustrates a fairy tale which I wrote several years ago and have finally had the time to get around to cutting. It tells the story of a fisherman whose wife embroiders a shawl for him before he embarks on a fishing trip into dangerous waters. The shawl, which of course was made with that special ingredient love, ends up protecting the fisherman from the dangers he faces. I think we could all do with something similar in the situation we face now.
From Rural New York
Sandy Connors, USA
Tonight I am listening to NPR radio, a favorite show for Saturday evening ~ and I hear a timely poem from Pablo Neruda I think you will love ~
Now we will count to twelve
And we will all keep still
For once on the face of the earth,
Let’s not speak in any language;
Let’s stop for a second,
And not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
Without rush, without engines;
We would all be together
In a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
Would not harm whales
And the man gathering salt
Would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
Wars with gas, wars with fire,
Victories with no survivors,
Would put on clean clothes
And walk about with their brothers
In the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about...
If we were not so single-minded
About keeping our lives moving,
And for once could do nothing,
Perhaps a huge silence
Might interrupt this sadness
Of never understanding ourselves
And of threatening ourselves with
Now I’ll count up to twelve
And you keep quiet and I will go.
The heart of Cornwall
In the news today there was further clarification on how students will be awarded their qualifications. I went straight onto the Ofqual website to read the documents they had just published. As a teacher and a parent of a year 11 child I straddle both anxious parent and anxious teacher. This is not the way things should have happened. No proper end to studies, no exams, no goodbyes, no celebrations or commiserations with our students on results day. Students are left in the unenviable position of being awarded grades without having the chance to sit their exams. Teachers are left in the unenviable position of making judgements about their students which will result in grades and effect their futures. I worry for my daughter, I worry for my students and I worry about how on earth I will approach this task. My job is to try and help each student achieve their very best, normally the exam board decides what that means.
Clearly not everyone can have A’s, clearly some students will feel disappointment, but rather than the students being the author of their own success or failure, I will feel uncomfortably implicated. Despite experience and a good knowledge of my students and their work to date, this is going to be a very difficult situation for everyone. I try to remind myself of my own words, said to my distraught daughter when she realised exams were not going ahead, ‘we just need to get through this and hope that all those we care for, survive... That must be our focus now’.
From St Just
Jane G, St Just
Last night I watched an old Lewis, and it already seems strange to see people going about busy streets and offices, hugging and talking as if there was nothing to be afraid of - except of course the odd murderer on the loose. And that nice Hathaway not once taking time off detection to ask if anyone's journey was absolutely necessary.
There were lots of planes coming in this morning - unclear why, unless people were trying to beat the police by gaining altitude, but it was rather cheering.
So too a tractor ploughing one of the fields between me and the cliff with a whole flock of sea-gulls in tow in a more or less straight line, like a wake of small white waves breaking.
I've also been oddly encouraged by the lyrics of the Vernon manuscript, which tend to be reminders of the transience of the world, though one very topical one records that in 1381-2 there was a popular uprising followed by pestilence followed by an earthquake: possibly we should all tape down our china.
My favourite, though, is the one that interrupts its attempt to answer the question 'What is Man?' with a stanza about animals' souls:
Dyeþ mon, and beestes dye,
And al is on Ocasion:
And alle o deþ, hos boþe drye,
And han on Incarnacion;
Saue þat men beoþ more sley3e,
Al is o comparison.
Ho wot 3if monne soule sty3e,
And bestes soules synkeþ doun?
Who knoweth Beestes entencioun,
On heor creator how þei crie,
Saue only god þat knoweþ her soun?
ffor þis world fareþ as a fantasye.
This is a very odd thing to find in an otherwise entirely orthodox poem: I imagine the poet looking at his cat as he wrote, and wondering.
Bunny and Me
I had to work alone in the studio today as the hammer noises upset my companion too much and he instead sat outside in the sun. The old sleeper I use as a bench seat is his current favourite spot as it heats up during the morning sun, and I imagine the wood absorbs the sun’s heat quite nicely.
After the hammering stopped he joined me.
I finished two metal and wood sculptures today a nice feeling when you put something to one side and say “yes it’s done”
Thoughts from the Suffolk Coast
Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold
A nice, easy day until about 3pm.
I was in my front garden when my neighbour pulled his car into his driveway. We waved and then, as I was about to go indoors, I heard him slam the boot shut, saw him pick up two shopping bags and lurch forward in an odd, unsteady fashion. Slow motion moment. He dropped the bags, stumbled and - CRASH, BANG - fell face down, arms outstretched into the stones. He wailed.
I ran over immediately. “I’m fine” he insisted, waving his arms about and trying to stand up. He certainly was not fine. “Wait a minute” I said, “don’t rush. You’re bleeding. Just stay still”. He actually needed a couple of minutes getting his breath. Then, at his request I tried to help him stand again but by this time another neighbour had joined. Between us we helped him up.
In doors, after tea and a biscuit, and a couple of sticking plasters to his knees, he said he was ok and we were not to trouble any more, please. We left him therefore - nursing his pride. “Ring 111 if you’re unwell” and “call for an ambulance if you don’t feel right”. Then further worry - ‘Should we have stayed away? Called an ambulance? Was it wrong to help him stand, to give close support?
Stoicism. Embarrassment. Neighbourly behaviour. Moral obligations. Isolation. Social isolation. Worry.
Will ring him tomorrow.
John Underwood, Norfolk UK
Mr Teasy Weasy
I have noticed a slight stirring amongst the glitterati and in the news, which reports slight worries about hair cutting these days, or the lack of it. The carefully coiffured are apparently feeling the want of their regular colouring and cutting -as opposed to the “whizz it all off with the clippers until it sprouts again what little there was of it in the first place oh good that makes me look a little less like Captain Birdseye (substitute Albert Einstein if you don’t eat fishfingers)” brigade.
I play Mr Teasy Weasy to my wife Ally. And before you recoil at this gross over-sharing from a late middle aged member of society and skip down to read something more wholesome, I must explain.
I colour Ally’s hair, and have done since the days we both used to henna our hair, in our younger hippy-ish, knit your own beard-ish, pigs-geese-chicken-ish, lentil bake and Barley Cup-ish days. Years pass. If this were a film there would be Tumbleweed. We no longer live on what the locals in the village called “Hippy Hill”, and Ally buys hair colour in a box.
Mr Teasy-Weasy was the celebrity name of Raymond Bessone a British hairdresser from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, but in my youth and in my family, anything fancy, primped or slightly baroque, was in some way Teasy Weasy. If Ally tells anyone that I colour her hair, I am likely to chime out “oh yes, I’m Mr Teasy Weasy”, which is fine if you are talking to someone from the same generation and understanding, but... disturbing... to someone of delicate sensibilities who has never heard of the man. Below is what Nathaniel Wanley wrote about hair colouring in his “Wonders of the Little World”, London 1678 (do you remember binding it for me in 1994 Jane?). I wonder at perfuming one’s bonce with sulphur and steeping it in Aqua Fortis. Good luck with your hairdressing should our immuration last a few months more.
Notes from a factory in the Midlands
Palm Sunday, and I am consciously shutting out thoughts of work and the implications of the enforced economic crash we are living through. Instead this morning I re-read G K Chesterton’s poem "The Donkey" which provides an unusual view of Palm Sunday, told from the perspective of this ill-treated and often derided animal, “The devil’s walking parody / On all four-footed things” . In the final stanza the donkey tells us the secret that he still keeps:
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
And talking of fools, why have the authorities decreed that churches must lock their doors? I understand that church services have to be banned, so as to discourage groups of people from different households congregating together, though I do feel a sense of loss at being unable to attend mass and participate in the re-enactment of the rituals of my ancestors. But surely the church doors could at least be left open so that we could drop in for a moment of silent prayer or contemplation, whilst engaging on our permitted daily exercise. It would provide a refuge away from this mad and terrifying world with its ever more draconian rules on house arrest. Blaise Pascal said that “all of humanity’s ills stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. I would like to sit quietly and alone in a church, but the government won’t allow it. Could I ever have imagined that here in a liberal western democracy in the twenty first century I would find myself writing such a sentence? Rant over. I must cultivate my garden.
Choose Something Like A Star
I copied this out for a friend, to put in the post tomorrow, and thought it could be a contribution on here too - I like the sound of the eight million Shinto deities. Lucky me to walk through the Japanese forests a couple of years ago and come across little makeshift Shinto shrines hidden in the trees......
A Week in the life of Edward & Molly (w/c 30th March)
Carla, South Norfolk
Dear Edward (5) and Molly (3)
School, nursery and all our groups are now closed and cancelled, due to the corona virus so I thought I'd write to you so you know why we are not formally home schooling and so one day you can read what a normal day in the life of us consists of:
Dear Edward and Molly
Molly slept all night - hooray!!! Edward woke up with a bad dream in the night.
We planned a long list of things for today, some of which we achieved, most of which we didn't.
The morning was mostly spent cutting up egg boxes for a secret craft project that we are getting on with! More of that in a few days time. Whilst snipping, we enjoyed a few songs from the film Moana, which we haven't seen, but the music is really really good. Then some Red Hot Chilli Pipers. You both love using scissors, we had several different pairs that you kept swapping round.
As you had lost bunny before bedtime last night Edward, you decided it was finally time to start tidying your really messy room. It is nearly tidy. In the end bunny was found behind a sofa in the living room. At bedtime Edward, you said how nice it is to have a tidy bedside table (it is usually piled up with books), so I have suggested we make you a desk tidy from toilet roll tubes for your little bits and pieces that you like to keep close. You also said how much you are missing school, so maybe we need to get round to video calling your friends and role playing school again, you said it was the activities you miss. We will read your class blog together and go through your homework book and choose some activities for you, it's not the same but it will have to do, for now.
After lunch we made drums with 2 x empty 4kg tinned tomato cans. We cut fabric to size to glue to the outside, cut fabric to secure over the sharp end and then tied old shoe laces round them so they can be worn over the shoulder whilst playing. You both loved them and proceeded to play marching bands around the garden, going all around the outside of the house in circles for ages! We are planning to attend an online drumming workshop tomorrow afternoon, so it's a good job we made the drums today, otherwise we'd have been using saucepans.
You then decided it was time to bike up and down the lane in the sunshine. We probably need to buy you some mudguards for your bike Edward as your back got covered in mud as you like riding through puddles.
After tea we finally got round to doing Molly's footprint painting that she requested a few days ago. Molly had great fun painting her hands and feet and then the whole piece of paper, like you used to do Edward. Edward you painted the most amazing rainbow picture, I have never seen you paint a painting before, it is like I said, usually a whole page of colour, it was brilliant.. You mixed orange and purple really well, the colours were beautiful. We talked about the primary colours and how you can make other colours by mixing certain colours, I wish I had taken a photo of the paint palette with all the colours in.
We also filled a couple of balloons with 2 tablespoons of flour and tied them up and they feel nice and squidgy.
We haven't heard any news for a few days so should probably try and catch some tomorrow. It must be time for some reading and writing tomorrow and then maybe an afternoon of TV so I can do some cleaning!!!!!!! Ah, just remembered drum workshop, we'll work something out.
Daddy spent another day working in the dining room.
Fingers crossed you both sleep all night!
Love from Mummy.x
Dear Edward and Molly
April fools day, we didn't do any tricks and forgot to turn the calendar in the kitchen.
Edward, you asked for a singing assembly when we were planning our day but couldn't remember the words to the song, we rang your friend Amelia but she couldn't remember the words either.
One of your pieces of homework is counting in 2s or 5s, you can do this pretty well, so we looked at telling the time in 5s as you know o'clock, quarter past, half past and quarter to. You will write about it in your book when you are ready.
In the kitchen you wrote all of the phase 2 and 3 words which was simply amazing and Molly did some really neat writing when I had written the dots for her, it was brilliant.
We had our first recorder lesson which was soooooooooooo much fun, you both had descant recorders and I had a tenor recorder. You both listened really well about which hand goes where and about not putting too much in your mouth and about saying tu tu tu. You played several rhythms on the note B. We had to think of the words in the books under the notes and one was about 'little fly' and another was about 'no more milk today'. You were very keen to carry on but I have asked you to practice before we turn the page.
We ordered a craft book for making hamster toys so that our crafts have a purpose and we are excited to finish them as often we'll do the first step and then forget about them. Our book arrived a few days ago and you made an excellent treat tube with toilet rolls.
We took part in the online bucket drumming workshop, it was good fun. Sadly you both lost interest quite quickly so we are unlikely to do it again. We had to tap several rhythms starting with the we will rock you beat. We had loads of drums - a bucket from the garden, a bucket from Edward's bedroom, 2 twiglet tins and the 2 drums you made yesterday. The tins were brilliant at making a different sound for the rim shots. We played in Edward's room as we thought it wasn't very fair on Siri to play in the living room. Our friends Debs, Holly and Eleanor took part from their house as well.
After drumming you watched TV while I cleaned the bathroom. Boring! but wow, it's so nice that it is sparkling, it hasn't been like that for monthsssssssssss!
Mummy discovered today that a pub nearby are doing takeaway food so we ordered from there, it worked like a treat, right on time and really tasty food. Yummy veggie fish and chips in a pizza box. We will do it again. You have to order and pay over the phone, arrive to collect but wait in your car till they telephone you so that only one person is collecting at a time, collect your order from a counter and go!
We often sing arpeggios when we brush your teeth, we sing arrrr, eeeee and pah, so all in all we've had a musical day.
You both woke in the night, fingers crossed for tonight.
Love from Mummy.x