Wednesday 20 November 2013


Unlike so many here, I'm not much of a traveller;  bit of Europe, bit of North America, that's about it.  I was, however, infected with that restless, hungry feeling at a very early age -  I attended five different primary schools,  then two grammars, two colleges and much later, one university.

The five primary schools were crucial;  the first was Ulsterville Primary, in Belfast - I'm not kidding, Ulster-ville; all my people, save my Dad, were raving mad Orangemen and women, 

My name is Ishmael and this is my tribe.

pre-Paisley-ite Presbyterian bigots;  Michael Stone, 

the grenade-lobbing,  funeral-bomber  and parliament-stormer
 is my never-laid-eyes-on-him cousin; 

another cousin was William Moore, one of the '70s Shankill Butchers, tied people in chairs and hacked them to slow, painful,  shredded  death;  a ringleader, he admitted eleven of nineteen  sadistic murders

The judge said, well, you can imagine what he said;  notwithstanding, our Wully was released under the Good Friday agreement.  Don't know if Mo Mowlam had a snog for him, wouldn't be surprised. Dead, now.

and after a few months, maybe just  a few weeks of loyalist, Mick-hating Ulsterville, Belfast was in my soon-forgotten  past and I was at Nazeby Road Infants School in Lozells, I think - maybe it was  Alum Rock, maybe I rubbed tiny shoulders with the unfortunately mutant Mr  Ozzie Osborne - in Birmingham. After Nazeby Road it was a school  in which I stayed so briefly I cannot remember it,  then it was Tindall Street Primary School, Balsall Heath, for a couple of years and finally, in primary terms,  Grendon Road County Primary School at the city's-edge, Maypole area until eleven-plus and King Edwards Grammar School, Camp Hill. 

Another upshift took me to Bangor Grammar School, County Down, took me back among the crazed, homicidal, torturing, neanderthal meatheads - David Trimble, his Lordship of Bigotry,

 was a few years above me.  

Trimble with his friends, marching for intolerance and hatred.

Trimble of course, was Blair's patsy in the whole Ulster Carve-Up, too stupid to read even the runes of his own demise, too stupid to breathe;  I always said it was a poor school, Trimble's the proof.

In his autobiography, from the safety of the House of Lords,  Trimbs rants and raves - now - about our then headmaster, Randall Clarke, how he hated  him, what a cunt he was;  at fourteen, I told Clarke  to his know-it-all, inveterate spanker's  face, told him he was a cunt.   I also told him that Hell would freeze over before he raised his cane to me,  unless he wanted a broken jaw. I don't think anyone had ever fucked him off before, certainly not a putative victim of his perversion.  Needless to say I was moved on again to  a couple of other, undistinguished institutions in Belfast and my education just petered-out;  university was much later.

It amazes me, today, that people still call for the return of child-beating;  it can only debase further the beater and if the victim is compliant - takes it like a man -  then one can only fear for his or her future never-did-me-any-harm personal development.  One of the great disappointments of my life is that I never had an adult encounter with Mr Jack Watson, maths and science teacher at King Edwards, he never used them on me but he fashioned, exquisitely, little cats-of-nine-tails  from bunsen burner tubing and included in his sadisdic arsenal one of those big, sinister ebony rulers.  Oxbridge, you see, turns out great men, freaks like Watson.  Given the opportunity I would've beaten him half to death. No, really, I would.

I call the move back to Belfast an upshift but it was really my father's second attempt at self-renewal, at escape from Authority.  Don't know to this day, never will, why,  in the first place,  in the middle of a nineteen fifty-five night my family, at a moment's notice,  fled Belfast for Birmingham.  I do know, however, that in 'sixty-three,  my father drank-drove away his PSV driving license 

he drove one of these, an earlier one, 
without suffixed year letters but much the same. 

 - everybody did it, then, well, anyone who drank and drove did both together - was banned for a year and so we were On the Road Again, back to a place where, pre-computer, pre-DVLA, he could drive unnoticed.  Trouble was that my mother died a few weeks after the return to Northern Ireland.  And so, effectively, did he. Motherless children, let me tell you, do have a hard road, but shit, I could be here for weeks, with this travelogue of the Isles of Complaint. And in any event, I'm not complaining; why would I complain about who I am?

She only lived to forty-eight, he stumbled on until sixty-two, disappointed by life, disappointed by his three children;  he and I  had bouts of closeness and bouts of estrangement, I hadn't seen him for a few years when he died. If there's any blame it's his.  He was the grown-up. But I don't suppose there is. People do what they do, mostly believing they're doing their best, it's only later that they repent.

Anyway, when you go to lots of different schools you learn lots of different stuff; as well as all the taught syllabus, there is the auto-didacticism of quick-study survival - who are the important kids; what are the games; where are the hang-outs; what's the pecking order among the teachers but the most important thing is, Which language do they speak, you gotta blend-in, don't yousix-year old, inner-city Brummies  don't wanna play marbles with someone who speaks OrangePaddy, and six year-olds, ten year-olds, any year-old kids can be and usually  are repellingly, remorselessly cruel, even when, as now, their monster parents Luv'EmToBits, DoAnyfin4'Em.  I was bilingual by the age of five-and-a-half, speaking Brummie outside the house, Lisburn Road Belfast within, so I was.

An easy facility with shape-shifting and mimicry came to me, then, of necessity, almost from  infancy, as did a kind of sang-froid about relationships and friendships -  they just flowered and as easily withered with each change of school. I was popular with the teachers, they all said to me - at nine and ten - Ishmael, you must be a writer.  I was always top or second of whichever class I was in and even so I was popular with the kids, too;  it was easy and meaningless, perhaps not meaningless, perhaps just a precocious awareness of sic transit gloria mundi - so passeth the glories of the world or more prosaically, Everything is shit;  all I was doing was what, by then, had become a secondary yet undeniable part of my nature. maybe it was the entirity of my nature, fakery. Deformed by successive, massive insecurities, internally twisted into a guilty figure of eight - my Mum didn't know that I had abandoned her beloved, Ulster-Scots, tut-tutting, nasal street twang in favour of whining, indignant Brummie and when she found out she was heartbroken but most of the time I managed to fool all parties, just;  my surface cool was a veneer, glued-on by desperation, pinned and edged with terror.  Still is. And   each change of school stemmed from a move to a generally more desirable neighbourhood and meant that I had to learn another set of  extra-school rules, hierarchies, locales, churches, shops  and characters. 

Some, people like Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, 

Remember? When you were young?
Course I do, mate, 'smy life's work.
No business, I always say, like showbusiness.

have managed to make lucrative artistic careers from childhood and adolescent tumult and upheaval;  trouble is that in Waters' case the icy precision of his music and its endless, endless  rehashing is eventually revealed not as art or insight  but just as a showbusiness drum to beat.  I don't know how they do that, those people, pull-out  their rhyming innards  for their audience's delectation.  Once or twice, maybe, it might be cathartic but touring your childhood round the world, decade after decade,  with a cast of thousands, Oh fuck that,  there's not enough money in the world, is there?  I must say, in fairness, that I saw a Pink Floyd concert in the late 'seventies, at Knebworth, - I had only gone to see Captain Beefheart

 - and it was amazing, Dark Side of the Moon, live, with real, low-flying Spitfires. Or Hurricanes.  

 But I wouldn't ever want to see another one.

 In our tramelled and regularised culture, a childhood  of constant change and interruption does not and in my case has not led to the Rewards of Obedience, not even in the sense of Twenty Years Of Schooling And They Put You On The Day Shift rewards.  It came to pass, you see, that after a childhood spent adapting, shape-shifting to fit-in everywhere I eventually didn't fit-in anywhere.   And certainly not in mid-sixties Belfast, where they painted the kerbstones red-white-and-blue and the B-Specials auxiliary police force kicked the shit out of anyone who even looked like a Fenian.  I was there just as the civil rights movement was kicking-off and by God it was an awful fucking place;  lacking affiliation to any hubble-bubble in it's reeking,  hate-filled cauldron, I split. Again. I don't know if anybody does it anymore, running away to sea;  there are probably health and safety regulations against it, although  I found the SS Ramore Head a much safer, more agreeable place to be than grammar school. It was as far around the world as I ever went and after that experience, package tours just didn't mean anything to me,  I have largely stayed in the British Isles.

 It was a strange, unsettling childhood, mine but  none of these  developmental aberrations matter a fuck when we think, if we do at all, of brown kids walking miles to drink a mouthful of shitty water, of brown kids drone-dismembered for democracy or of brown and yellow kids machine-gunned in their refugee boats by Aussie convict riff-raff, anxious that  no more nignogs pollute the land which they themselves stole from Abo.  I don't wish to offend mr mike, who has made the place his home but I never met an Aussie, male or female, who I didn't immediately want to punch in the gob, repeatedly.

Travelling and its fabled broadening of the mind doesn't compare  with the refining fire of constantly being the NewBoy; by the age of eleven  I had long completed   Emotion's Grand Tour,  stood fretfully under her leaning towers, lunged and parried on her battlements, been torn apart in her amphitheatres, faced her indifferent firing squads. Enough sightseeing for a lifetime.

Maybe that's why rather than foreign travel I have preferred  bombing around the British Isles in cars, only in cars, not on 'buses or trains or in any vehicle or conveyance which brings me into contact with others; I tried motor-cycling but it broke my neck, a considerable number of other bones, too, mainly in the head department.  My excursions have  been  a life-long series of road movies, restless and hungry for sure but not global, not even continental, just private, intense and focused.

Living in the Vale of Evesham, I used to think that Northumberland was a long way away, Cornwall, too.  Who was that bloke, Governor General of Canada or something, wrote the Richard Hannay books, John Buchan,  that's him, see, I unWiki-remembered him in the end, all on my own.  John Buchan, he wrote, in a couple of my childhood books,  about men of derring-do, charging up the Great North Road at Oh, fifty miles an hour, bent on some mission which would keep the Empire safe from Jews and foreigners.  

Belting up the A1M, in the 'nineties, in an unbreakable  three-litre Volvo was, for me, childhood fantasy made real. This was a huge, important journey, up the Great North Road.   It was only when I moved up here, to the top of the world, that I realised that Bamburgh Castle is only a hop, skip and a jump from Worcester. And that what was once the Far North is now the Deep South, bonny lad.

Moving here, to Scotland, the best part of England, twisting  up and down the A9, I soon got used to proper distance driving and would,  a decade ago, drive, alone,  from John of Groats to Worcester in ten or eleven hours; white knuckle, high-speed, stopping only for petrol and for the dogblokes to take a pee.  Roaring through the Highlands one night at a hundred miles an hour, I instinctively, fortuitously slowed just in time to avoid a deer, big as a fucking elephant, marching down the road like he owned it, with a half-a-dozen lesser deer in his wake, maybe they were his bitches.  I was soon, nevertheless, back at a hundred miles an hour, rolling, one-handed cigarettes and drinking warm, flask  coffee.  Getting out at the other end was like climbing from the grave and when I went to bed, the room spun a seasick spin and all that my closed eyes could see was an endless white line, rushing towards me, passing beneath me, on the wrong side.  It was a form of mania,  the I-Can-Do-This,  I-Can-Do-Anything kind.  I guess those days are gone, although I live in hope of having a male  argument with someone and saying, Alright, then, here's five-grand says I can beat you to Land's End, in any car you want to drive.  

There's not too many people do that - drive six-hundred miles, straight-off, non-stop, alone.  Jerry Clarkson,

of course, does it all the time, with a little unseen help. It is, though,  the Clarkson Rally, consistent with Monty Don's bland erasure of any other labourers in his vineyard, as though it is he and he alone who so perfectly plans and manages, weeds, digs and mulches his vast garden, as though his really is a horticultural labour of love and not a teevee show with limitless funds, with scores, if not hundreds of production assistants doing the work, off-camera, shredding license-payers' fifty-pound notes into compost.  Consumerism's deceitful oddjob man, is Monty.

Posing, of course I'm not posing, I'm being earnest.

Doing his solo, marathon drives, Gerry Clarkson will have a huge convoy in train, just out of shot, his every fatigue soothed, his every risk atomised and minimised;  he will have lawyers and doctors on stand-by;  his million pound motors will be maintained to billionaire standards of excellence; Clarkson will have motorised deerstalkers driving ahead of him, licensed to kill, just in case anything happens to Mrs Clarkson's wee fat bald old  boy. 

By now, you would think that Mrs Ishmael and I are old enough to know better than to  hurtle along the nation's highways, Hell for leather, she ought to be,  anyway;  I think she's about fourteen, and bossy, whilst I am just twelve or so, maybe eleven, but even so last Friday we set off an another demondrive.  It is one of marriage's oddities that I feel that I am the car driver, even though currently I'm not. Doesn't matter,  I am at the collective motoring helm.  I had some major surgery on my foot in June and await, shortly, a plastic surgeon's reconstruction;  it's only a small one, on the edge of my heel but it's crucial and  I have been off my feet for months and unable to drive;  hopping, limping and wheelchairing;  that I-Can-Do-Anything madness afflicts me still, regardless of the fact that I can presently  do fuck all and in the middle of a gale we took the Midnight Ferry for Aberdeen to make, next morning, an onward journey to Kilmarnock in order to  collect Harris, the dog and then sprint hundreds of miles across Scotland and up the A9 to the short sea crossing, homeward bound.

I've travelled on a lot of night ferries and they're all shit;  sickly drunks passsed-out on the floor or students camped determinedly, feet-up on the couches but the Aberdeen boat, 

coming down from Shetland, carries live animals on the car deck, so as well as the sounds and smells of stir-fevered, drunken, imbecile oil riggers going ashore for a spot of wife-battering - Christ, what a segment of humanity they are,  they make the foul, brawling  gits from Big Fat Gipsy Wedding look  genteel- as well as the skriking and misbehaviour of vastly over-indulged Islands bairns; as well as the sneering, lazy inefficiency and conceit ot the largely Belfast-born stewards  - or staff as they are now called -  there is the overwhelmingly  nauseating reek of sheep piss;  crawling, in the morning from the coffin-like cabin - you have to have a cabin's privacy or you'd be up on several murder charges - you are met by the smells of cheap bacon,  the kind cooked hours before and self-coated with salty, slimy, white exudate; of drunkards' vomit and of terrified animals.  It's no way to travel but we couldn't have covered the distance any other way, not in a day. 

The rest of the journey was easy, it was just hard going. Not all bad, though, on the way home we saw  foresty Perthshire' brilliant late autumn colours 

 and we saw the first snow on the Highland peaks. We did the journey, home to home, anyway, in  22 hours, about 550 road miles and 150 by sea.  When I told Nurse she looked at me as though I was mad.  Healthy people wouldn't even do that, she said, missing the point, I felt,  entirely. 'Snothing, I calmed her, you shoulda known me when I was younger,  I used to really get around.

  And besides, this bloke needed a home.
In a hurry.


tober said...

I read that they're planning to set up 'average speed cameras' on the A9 from Stirling to Inverness. 40mph for lorries and 50mph for cars.
Bonkers SNP government.

call me ishmael said...

I know that stretch like the back of my hand; sometimes, when it's clear and empty, a hundred miles an hour, in a modern car, is fine; when there's rainy traffic, forty is too fast.

A few peole are killed on the A9 but it's because they run out of the overtaking lane - the occasional bits of dual carriageway - and can't get back in, smacking into some poor bastard coming the other way. There's no excuse, there's plenty of notice given of the end of the dual carriageway, plenty of warning to pull back in; the drivers who fail to do that, they're the problem. I'd jail them for five years, whether they hit anybody or not; straight off, no messing; that'd stop it.

Anonymous said...

Nice dog.

My school years were regularly enriched by beatings, a few from other kids but usually from that fucking prick Head of Year, most of which would classify as assault and would cost the 'master' his job nowadays. I cannot say that they didn't teach me a lesson, because they did. They taught me that sad, repressed, little-baldy-twats, who hate their lives, jobs, wives and, in particular, schoolchildren should be afforded the respect they deseve - fuck all. It taught me to be defiant, no matter the cost. It taught me that petty rules are invariably accompanied by petty men and that their childish levels of spite are inversely proportional to their abilities. Most of all it taught me not be lke him, which is, believe me, a blessing.

Nasty bastard was an R.E. teacher. I often wondered, in later life, what on earth he thought he was doing, screaming and raving, spittle flecking and throwing stuff, then banging on about Christ like he had met Him. Insane, probably. A truly awful 'man'.

That said, there is a world of difference between GBH inflicted by a madman and smacked fingers, dished out by dad. The latter is very useful, particularly as it over and done with very quickly, instead of all that bolloxs about 'time-outs' and 'communicating on their level', and all sorts of other shit advocated by that wretched, fat bitchnanny Jo Whatever, with her stupid, fake accent and pithy insights into raising children, a subject about which she knows fuck all, as she has none herself. Expert, she is. Expert in selling bullshit to fuckwit parents who are little more than adult children themselves.

Perhaps a good fucking thrashing from Sir would have done her some good?

It's worth a try at least.


Caratacus said...

"dogbloke" ... I stand in awe of the simple poetry contained in that noun. Thank you - it has now been absorbed (and will be credited to your good self) into the Caratacus lexicon :-)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant piece, I lived in Bangor in the 60s and 70s, Clandeboye Primary. Different world, I remember some poor idiot getting sellotaped into his chair, and another child, Primary 3 age, climbing downwards past our first floor classroom from the one above, via the drainpipe. Big school on the Cliftonville Road was more civilised, 70s to early eighties no physical punishment but running the gauntlet outside if travelling alone, the "Fenians' hated the sight of the uniform, a fact which cost me a tooth. Anyway, your writing is wonderful as always, get that book out, and good luck with the new tiny doggy.

call me ishmael said...

The book, thanks, mr anonymous, is here. And all over Guido Fawkes's early order-order site.

CLandeboye, now, there's a thought. My mother is buried in Clandeboye cemetery at Helen's Bay and for a very short time I worked at Clandeboye House, ancestral home, they said, of the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava and his bint, Lindy Guinness; she still owes me a fiver. Oh I don't seem to have any cash, she said, one of those, proper aristocracy. I'll talk about them some more, another time perhaps.

call me ishmael said...

Well, mr caratacus, what else would you call them, it's not as though they're animals or anything, is it?

We were in a bit of a quandary, recently, mrs ishmael had been hankering for a girl dog; we wouldn't, she said, be able to call her a dogbloke, would we? Course we would, she'd be a ladydogbloke, obviously.

Alphons said...

I feel quite worn out just reading your tale, Mr. Ishmael. You, after going through it, must be knackered,

call me ishmael said...

It is a leprous distilment, mr vincent, formal education, which we pour down our own and our children's throats. At grammar school I was taught by only one inspirational - English - teacher; the rest of them were pigs, gown and mortar board pigs but pigs just the same, schooled, themselves in the vileness and cruelty you describe.

Later, much later, through mrs ishmael, I met a flighty old bird, Celia, who had been first the mistress and then the wife of one of my teachers; she spoke of him as a human being, of their domesticity, of his dying; didn't make any difference, he remained an utter bastard as far as I was concerned.

Much good that it's done me but I have never hit any of our children, not even slightly, maybe because I was never hit at home, well, my mother would chase us with a broomstick, me and my brother but her frustration just seemed to us like good sport; my father never, ever laid a finger on us. He bore, however, a lifelong, raging hatred for his own father who, I believe, was an advoctae of the belt; maybe that coloured his judgement; one would fervently hope so.

Saw about ten seconds of that nanny programme, that proved to be more than enough.

tober said...

I got to know the A9 quite well when I was posted to RAF Kinloss near Inverness. My friend and his wife were killed in a head on crash at one of those dual / single carriageway changeovers that you mentioned Mr Ish. Their kid survived (strapped into a child seat in the back.)
I also saw lots of accidents. One was a foreign camper van that went past us like a rocket. Full of foreign tourists enjoying the gorgeous scenery and laughing and joking as they went past. Then they were smashed to pieces like cardboard at the side of the road.....put a dampner on the day for us.
On a brighter note we used to stop at 'The Hermitage' near Dunkeld and walk to the Victorian follly with the fantastic waterfall....made you glad to be alive again.
Great for your new dog to explore if you ever pass that way on your travels again.

call me ishmael said...

Which bit do you mean, mr alphons; the Harris journey or the life?

Neither have worn me out, both are my bulwark against silvery Saga-ism. Y'know, those ghastly old fictionalised characters in the adverts, he seventy with neat, sufficient hair and too many gleaming teeth, she a flirty seventy with not a hair out of place, both sensibly downsized to a neat, tasteful and sensible retirement apartment, both going on neat, tasteful and sensible holidays and making sensible provision for their improbably young grandchildren. Fuck all that; that is a dark night into which we will not go gently.

No, illness makes me tired, medication makes me tired but living doesn't.

I've mentioned it before, here, somewhere but it bears repetition. I can't remember which book it was in or who said it but it was in F sCott FitzGerald's Tender Is The Night or A Diamond As Big As The Ritz - "...take me out of my turbulent waters and you extinguish my flame." A contradictory axiom worth living by, I've always though; don't fear the reaper.

call me ishmael said...

The A9, mr tober, is my Route 66, my Highway 61, from the empty badlands of Caithness down to ancient Stirling and Perth, I love every epic inch of it.

I have seen The Hermitage and never stopped, always in a rush but we plan to spend a bit more time, soon, just doodling around places like that, there are so many of them, just a mile or two off the main road through the very best part of England.

jgm2 said...

Well I never Mr I. I thought you went to the High School.

Turns out we went to the same school. Although not, perhaps, the same building because it had moved to King's Heath by the time I went there.

Small fucking world.

KECH was full of kids of Irish immigrants in the 1970s. Now, my brother who still lives in Birmingham, tells me that they'd point at you if there was a white kid in the class. 'What's he doing here'?

I wrote a longer post detailing the bilingual up-bringing I too received but deleted it. Writing it was cathartic enough.

call me ishmael said...

I'm not that old, mr jgm2. Vicarage Road it was.

call me ishmael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alphons said...

call me ishmael said...

Which bit do you mean, mr alphons; the Harris journey or the life?

I mean all of it, Mr Ishmael.

Your grammar school days remind me of my own during the later days of the '39 -'45 war. The teachers who were young enough for gun fodder were gone and we were left being taught by a bunch of old farts who only seemed happy when throwing things at pupils or thrashing them with a cane.
We had one or two who still had some humanity but they were scarce.
Happily we were not mixed up in events such as you had.

call me ishmael said...

I am always struck, mr alphons, by how many people call for the return of those wretched places. That is not to say that I am unaware of the very steep decline in teaching standards which has acompanied comprehensivisation. I was married to a teacher and was surprised, during her college days, at how very maladroit were her fellow student teachers; as my nephews grew, in the 'seventies, I was poleaxed by the stupidity of their teachers; corrections to homework might have been written, oh, by someone as pig0ignorant and clueless as the average modern MP, they knew next to nothing of spelling, grammar, history, mental arithmetic; those red-biroed commentaries were astonishing.

That wasn't as a result of the abandonment of selection because those teachers had themselves gone to grammars or highs or techs. It was the result, rather, of the absence of the necessary intellectual acumen to go to university, obtain a degree and then a teaching qualification - or not, as the case may have been. Instead, people with fairly feeble A levels attended teacher training colleges and studied education, taught by I know not whom, halfwit, lecherous beardy lecturers, I should think. It was the expansion of the teacher training colleges which has resulted in the national fuckwittery, has resulted in only a tiny minority knowing that hopefully is an adverb - indeed, in knowing what an adverb is.

If we are to remedy our national cultural and educational failure we must not listen to the idiot, Gove and fragment our shooling ever further. We should, instead, improve the educational experience of the vast majority by the simple means of teaching their teachers not just how to teach but what to know; digitised information gathering is all very well but it is no substitute for intelligence,

Intelligence - as it says on this blog's banner - is knowing what to do when you don't know what to do.

Caratacus said...

Well said on grammar schools Mr. I. I will confess that, due solely to lazy thinking, I had been sort of in favour of their return, having enjoyed a half-decent education at one myself in the sixties. I will now have to think that one through a bit more ...

Interestingly, my experience mirrored yours in that I was born and brought up in London, then the family moved to South Devon. Within three weeks my cockney accent and elocution lessons were put to one side for a broad Deb'n brogue ... for survival purposes more than anything else.

Now I watch as my granddaughter pits her wits (under the careful tutelage of her appalling grandfather) against the mainstream bollocks at school. Fortunately she she seems to thrive in going against the flow, but I do sometimes wonder ...

jgm2 said...

'they knew next to nothing of spelling, grammar, history, mental arithmetic'

My brother was telling me of being in a meeting with several others and his boss, a lady, who had been to KECH Girls school. 'So, there's 60 clients we need to see and there's 10 of us so thats... [produces calculater, tap-tap-tappety-tap] equals six people each we'll need to visit.'

My brother is sitting there slack-jawed looking around thinking 'Did nobody else see what just happened there'?

So fucking slack-jawed that his boss was moved to comment 'Is there anything wrong there jgm2brother'?

'No, no, s'fine, carry on..'

It's not just teachers and MPs. The whole fucking country is filled with utter fucking morons. Which is why the natural tendency of anybody who can find their arse with both hands is to distance themselves from the fuckwits. As you have.

Caratacus said...

Amen to that, jgm2. Bought four items in a supermarket a few days back and added up the total using the old noddle. The lassie on the till scanned it all in, announced the sum and sat there slack-jawed as I proffered the exact amount. She thought I was a fucking magician doing a conjuring trick ...

Alphons said...

Well, Mr Ishmael,
Like you I went to grammar school, but it was in the last three years of the war.
All the teachers who were suitable as gun fodder had been whisked away and we were left with a bunch of old style teachers. They seemed to be happiest when throwing a wooden blackboard duster at some poor scholar's head or thrashing one with a cane. However they did, somehow, get most of us out of the door with a foothold on the ladder of education.
Like most of my contemporaries I did not go to University. Very few did in those days. There were not many to go to, and the majority of society could not afford it anyway.
So although I came out of grammar school with the necessary ticket to go to University I had to complete my academic education on a part time day release scheme, much used in those days.
I went to work as an assistant to the dyer in a dye works in Halifax and continued my academic endeavours at Bradford Technical Collage (the fore-runner of Bradford University). Two evenings, one half day and Saturday mornings were my weekly education schedule for the next four years.
A few years after all this I took up employment, in the R&D division of a well known Multinational. as process control inspector in the department that produced synthetic fabrics. This was followed some years later by a move into the product development laboratories, developing not just fabrics but a multitude of products for use throughout the NHS.
Eventually I became the Quality Assurance Manager covering Quality Control, Technical Service and the Specification Departments.
By this time I was interviewing applicants for vacancies in "my part" of the R&D division. What I encountered was quite surprising at first.
There seemed to be a much larger pool of PhDs than had been the norm when I was at the lower end of the ladder. Also these people knew much more about less and less as the years went by.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that the Labour politicians in the immediately post was period had succeeded in creating equality in education by lowering the bar.
Because of their mad rush to increase University places, in order to hand out this new education, they built new universities, and needed more teachers.....but not with as much qualification.
As the years have gone by things have got worse because the teachers only need to be just one or two steps ahead of the pupils in order to seem "cleverer".
The sad thing is that as time has gone by a most important lesson is missing from the curriculum.
The most important lesson is “learning how to learn”.
Our old teachers, bastards as they were, some how taught us how to learn. It may have been the homework, it may have been the way they taught, it may have been a magic spell. What ever it was it was not computers, TV and/or youf. The brain is a wonderful thing but unless it is used it turns to putty.
One of my ploys when interviewing graduate applicants was to present them with an imaginary shop floor problem with a product, and ask what would be their first action if I asked them to go out and solve the problem. The Ph.D. Brigade would usually say, “Well first I would go and read up on the literature”. Those who got the job were the ones who said “Well I would go down on to the shop floor and see at first hand what was going on.”
The real purpose of education is just that, learning how to learn, and the beauty of the old grammar school education was that in some mysterious way it did just that. It exercises the mind far more effectively than does any alternative.
But then what does an old bugger like me know of the modern world????

call me ishmael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
call me ishmael said...

Hard to disagree with any of that, mr alphons, except, perhaps, the partisanship. I think that these days, there is only one political party, the Thieving Bastards Party but post-war there was a much clearer divide and my instincts, had I lived then, would have been pro-Labour, if only for the health service, for the ambitious house-building, for free school milk, all of which were anathema to other parties yet all of which were hugely beneficial.

The learning to learn difficulty is more complex, it is not a political issue but a social one. I have done some adult teaching, in a WEA setting but it was some time ago and I wouldn't want, now, to compete for a student's attention or respect with the myriad tutorials to be found in cyberspace, with the endless interruptions of social media, the distractions of the digitised life. How can a poor human compete with all that stuff, how can a poor man stand, in times like these? The comment, above, about till girls not being able to add up, mr jgm2's refrain about infinite stupidity and the only way being out, these conditions obtain only because of TV and calculators and computers and because of the almost total collapse of whatever we would comfortably call marital/domestic/ familial/institutional/hierarchical stability - some people call it Deference.

I never worked at your level, mr alphons, but in my small business, one time, I had a kid on a work experience placement. Although he attended what had been Bournville Tech. a prestigious technical school, at fifteen, he didn't know one end of a hammer or screwdriver from another and his whole childhood had assured him that he didn't need to and worse, he didn't want to. I knew his divorced mother and she would indulge Chris in anything, just as long as he hated his father, that was the main thing, obviously.

So very many kids are similarly the battlefield on which their parents fight, so many are so fucked-up that for decades, now, I've wondered, why on Earth would anyone want to be a teacher; these kids' parents are LuvEmm2Bits monsters and their young lives are ransomed to Apple and Time-Warner and 20th, Century Fox; casting pearls before swine is a more profitable endeavour.

These are huge, probably irremediable problems which we won't solve here. Trouble is that we need brighter people, better people to be politicians than politicians can be. quad erat demonstrandum.

yardarm said...

Seconded, Mr Alphons. Have met fuckwits of managers who possess a bit of paper saying they`ve passed something called a Lean Sigma Black Belt ( I shit you not) course in some bollocks when all they need is experience and common sense and if they haven`t got that they shouldn`t be in the job.

Seconded, Mr jgm2. Mr Ishmael, I can remember you, some time ago asking this question: if everything in this country, politics, civil service, diplomacy, military, the law, media, NHS, education, the City, big business, is run by people who generally went to the best schools and universities then why is everything fucked up ? Ishmael`s Conundrum it could be called.

Everything actually falls into place, everything makes sense if you accept that the best schools and unis are really just turd polishing factories and the fuckwitted do run everything everywhere; networking, portfolio careerists, like HG Wells Eloi, kept in clover by minimum wage, zero hours, austerity dwelling Morlocks.

This is what I understand to be Ruin: the Eternal Night of the Fucking Idiots. If you want an image of the future, imagine the Fuckwitted, in your face, for ever.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean us humble Morlocks get to eat them? I fancy a bit of that Cameron; he looks like ham.

Alphons said...

My Yardarms final paragraph made ponder me once again on the following.
The thing that seems to have past everyone by is that, through our “Progress”, our history and knowledge will be lost to future generations. (Some might think that was not a bad thing.)
If we trace back the methods used for recording information from way back in the stone age to modern times it will be noticed that as “writing” became easier, gradually changing from
hacking bit of stone with an elks antler,
through scratching marks in soft clay before baking it,
through skinning goats and making marks on the hides with various forms of carboniferous materials,
through chopping down trees and making them into paper to be written on with ink, (or graphite)
right up to putting electronic charges on to plastic disks or tape
every step has made the process of recording easier but has dramatically shortened the life expectancy of the written record.
The life of a cheap modern paper is less than the lifetime of a human being.
We have seen all this in a compressed time scale in the music field. The old cylindrical records, the 78s , the LPs. the tape to tape recorder, the cassette recorder, and now the CD.
It could well be that we are at the end of recorded history.

Anonymous said...

I remember the first occasion I was caned. It hurt like buggery and I snivelled like a girl.

The next time I managed to hold it together a little better, but was still snivelling.

The next time I knew it would hurt like buggery, but managed to keep it together, to pretend.

It went on and on, and eventually I grew to be able take it, and much more.

It got to the point where I would refuse to bend, and so then I was struck about the face and head. I had learnt stoicism by then, and the more he hit me, the more I took it, the more he wanted to hit me, the more I wanted to stand.

I would quite happily stab the cunt, if he was still alive nowadays. Make him feel how he made feel, the maniac.

Cunt is dead now, and has robbed me of even that pleasure


Anonymous said...

Great stuff as usual Mr. Ishmael and really good stuff in the comments.

Struck many a chord here and much, much food for thought.

I was a Grammar school boy meself and never considered it did me any harm, though I think so much depended on the particular school.

The teachers at mine were decent blokes for the most part - all, I think from University rather than college backgrounds (a few from Oxford and Cambridge even a few Doctorates among 'em).

Apart from getting the gym shoe a couple of times in five years, I didn't consider it abuse, but then I regularly got the shit kicked out of me at home.

For the most part, I always deplored the passing of Grammar Schools (the one I attended remains a Grammar School after going independent in the late seventies) and the end of 'streaming' (elitist!) whereafter classes were run to cater to the lowest common denominator , but then , pondering what I've read here I might modify my views a bit.

I really think you're onto something with the teacher training college thing Mr. Ish.

Lowering the bar for qualification in anything could never be a good thing and it seems finding a good teacher these days is like trying to find a decent politician (and often the same kind of people in my experience - thick as fucking pigshit, most of 'em).

Never went to Univesity myself but got HNC whilst working full time as a Builder. I found it remarkable at the time that two lads doing HNC at the same time as me, both utter dullards who struggled hard for the entire course, both faling exams and having to re-sit regularly, subsequently went to teacher training college and went on to teach.

Great news about your new dog Mr. Ish, by the way. He looks a grand little lad - I wish you joy


yardarm said...

Speaking as a Morlock Mr Moley I dunno if Id like to eat Wysteria Dave, I see what you mean, his broad shiny face, exuding privilege and entitlement from every pore. Ideally he`d be condemned to live as a Morlock, his trust fund, networks and old schoool tie meaning nothing but these people are impervious to humiliation; look at Huhne, back on telly clearly regarding his stretch as an impertinence and Laws, still in the government despite having fiddled enough that would get you or I sent down for longer than Huhne.

Hope Mr Harris is settling in well, Mr Ishmael.

call me ishmael said...

Mr harris is settling in remarkably well, thanks; it is an incremental, daily process, his whole world has been changed at the whim of his MasterRace - did I ever manetion AC Graylings suggestion that if all the animals in the world got together to form a religion, WE would be their Devil? Speciesism, he called it - and my main preoccupation is in trying to see to it that he doesn't feel scared. He seems OK, so far.

call me ishmael said...

I saw proto-feminist, Gloria Steinem, a while back, saying that it shouldn't matter how we were ranked but how we were linked.

Whatever the undoubted, short-term academic advantages of selection at 11 were, I do feel that they were hugely outweighed by the social division caused at such an early stage; mr tdg and others would argue that it was ever thus, and ever correct.

And if my schooling had continued uniterrupted to an anticipated professional or para-professional career maybe this whole post and its comments would not have been written at all - but I don't know.

As to Ishmael's Conundrum, - an eternally protected status quo in which the scum rises to the detriment of the rest - I feel this is reinforced by the suppression of Abilty by Power'n'Money; we need only look at the expensively educated but stupid trio, Cameron, Clegg and Osborne, to see that selection by breeding and money is a hugely deleterious failure, one which the righteous must, of necessity, overthrow.

The grammar school was not, in my view, an egalitarian impulse but was, instead, a reinforcement of privilege albeit by offering grammarschool kids and their parents a very pale, shadowy, delusory, imitation of real privilege, all made possible by a post-war burgeoning of made-up, pseudojobs in a newly massive public sector. Sticks and carrots, rather than strikes and lock-outs.

If the post-war grammar school was such a leveller, why is it that so many prime and cabinet ministers were and are from Eton and Harrow?
And why is that they, themselves, are so laughably maladroit, so fucking uneducated? All they that see them, laugh them to scorn.

The depity prime minister of the UK insisted that the state pension wasa Oh, isn't it about thirty quid a week? The prime minister thanking Uncle Sam for winning the Battle of Britain. These are not slips of the tongue, these are the mewlings of the stupid, expensively schooled only in guile.

BoJo, of course, with his phoney classics' blethering and his cock-waving is also basically a whoring gobby moron moonlighting as a politician. A million pounds a year being earned outside of his mayoral salary - such are the benefits to the nation of these fabled good schools, Harrow in BoJo's case.

I have said before that we should burn down Oxford, Cambridge, Harrow and Eton and start over again. How much worse could it be?

jgm2 said...

' have said before that we should burn down Oxford, Cambridge, Harrow and Eton and start over again.'

I think Cambridge should be spared simply because there are some good scientists who emerge from Cambridge whereas I'm not aware of anything great scientist or discovery coming out of Oxford.

The danger, as ever, seems to come from pseudo-intellectual gob-shites who will spend all day at £1,000 an hour arguing the toss over and back on some tenuous legal irrelevance. The finest minds of our generation allegedly becoming lawyers. But these gob-shites, PPE word-smiths, history, English and liberal arts students were never going to contribute one iota to the sum total of human happiness. Their loss is not as great as the brightest engineers, physics and maths students who, instead of inventing cold fusion or something fucking useful are hi-jacked at the university gate by GlobalBank and end up designing complex equations and using super-cooled computers and shorter transmission times to get their algorithm to rob another algorithm on some other computer and hence generate 'wealth'.

I am of the opinion that the UK should charge English, History and other hobby degrees double what they're charging at the moment and use the extra cash to provide free spaces for our engineers.

The damage ain't caused by Cambridge. It's the Liberal Arts factories of Oxford, Harrow and Eton who have the time to sit around designing ever more complex social theories and then using good money to see if they'll work. This time.

call me ishmael said...

I understand, mr jgm2, that we are soon to see the long-awaited revival of Ox-bridge's greatest joint enterprise, the brightest and cleverest men who ever self-assembled to further humankind's journey; I refer of course to Messrs Monty Python's Flying Circus - the most important comedic cknfluence ever. In the face of such unparallelled genius perhaps I should restrain my arsonist's instincts.

The BBC's Oxbridge batallions have consistently ensured that their old chums remain ludicrously over-valued, over-paid and over representative and I suspect that such is the case across the cultural and scientific piece.

I guess that any scientific void which developed, though, following my incendiary solution would be swiftly filled, encouraged, no doubt, by people such as yourself.

And is it me or is it strange that even foreign dictators, such as Hermann Goering and his boss never laid an HE bomb on the dreaming spires?