Mike Vickers' Blog

April 12, 2019

Our Young are showing The Way

Filed under: Climate Change, Education, Greta Thunberg, Italian, Sustainability, World Class — derryvickers @ 2:28 pm

What more is there to say, other than Bully for all of you out there who spending your Easter holidays on the picket lines

https://ukscn.org/ys4c-where

The Guardian article

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/live/2019/apr/12/youth-climate-change-protests-across-britain-live

A Young Volunteer

 

From Corriere della Sera

Greta Thunberg invita all’assemblea di FridaysForFuture in Italia

Appuntamento a Milano il 13 aprile per discutere la direzione che deve prendere il movimento studentesco contro il climate change che il 15 marzo ha riempito le piazze del mondo

 

 

 

 

 

April 10, 2019

The Stupidity of Brexit – Music civilises the World

Filed under: Brexit, Education, Music — derryvickers @ 3:14 pm

Another view of the stupidity of Brexit

Susan Tomes in Weimar

As Brexit approaches, and with it the prospect of these schemes closing a) to British students wanting to study in the EU and b) to European students wishing to study in the UK, I must say I spent a lot of the week contemplating the young chamber groups with a sense of poignancy, almost a feeling of sorrow for something about to be lost, or at any rate made harder.

Some of the best music-making was by groups with diverse nationalities. That cannot be a coincidence. Offering young musicians a taste of life in other countries and of other cultures’ attitudes to music has been hugely beneficial. They make friends and forge working relationships across Europe. It seems to me that without exception they become more open-minded.”

http://www.susantomes.com/musicians-studying-eu-countries-brexit/

 

February 23, 2019

James MacMillan and Colin Currie – made in Scotland

Filed under: Cumnoch Tryst, economics, Education, Music, St Petersburg, World Class — derryvickers @ 7:32 am

Last night, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) performed a 60th Birthday concert for James MacMillan: MacMillan conducting two of his pieces Veni, Veni, Emmanuel and Seven Last Words from the Cross.

There was also a short introductory piece by Part. The Seven Last Words from the Cross (1992) was a choral piece and was well done, the SCO Choir gave their best, but I’m not a fan of Choral Works.

But the Veni, Veni, Emmanuel was something out of this world. Colin Currie was stupendous on percussion. Playing everything from snare drums, foot drum, xylophone, vibraphone, dancing everywhere. Excellent backing from the SCO. MacMillan used every possible woodwind instrument and even the strings to provide a deep sound.

What MacMillan has done is to completely integrate modern / jazz with percussion into the classical symphony repertoire.

But in another way, in his Cumnock Tryst, he has brought classical music to the people of Scotland. He established his tryst in Cumnock, an old mining town in Ayrshire, some five years ago and brought a new life to it. OK, just four days a year in the Autumn but the local musicians practice the whole year for the event: He involves the whole town. Last year, the theme was the First World War and to me the centre piece was ‘All the hills and vales alone’ (https://www.thecumnocktryst.com/all-the-hills-and-vales-along) using a forgotten poem by a forgotten Scottish poet Charles Hamilton Sorley. MacMillan brought in singers such as Ian Bostridge, but the choir was local, and the orchestra was the Dalmellington Brass Band backed by the Scottish Ensemble. He was taking the piece on to London where they would use the London Symphony Orchestra.

If we want, in West Lothian, to see what Modern Classical Music can do for our Core Development Towns then we could persuade MacMillan and Currie to give Veni, Veni, Emmanuel in Livingston with the orchestra being one of its many brass bands: he has the skills to transpose the music to brass band as demonstrated with ‘All the hills and vales alone’. Sorry, I may sound pejorative but I’m not. One has only to think of perhaps the greatest symphony of all, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 played first (almost) to a packed audience in bombed out and besieged Leningrad in 1942.

Free Music Tuition for Schools is a ‘hot potato’ in Scotland , butget’s are short and tuition fees are an easy target.  West Lothian has come to a reasonable compromise with the those that can pay do pay and those that can’t go free.  But people get a kick out of music, and Veni, Veni, Emmanuel is just one that could bring the whole community together, rather than ‘Them and Us’.  The Concert last night at the Queens Hall was filled with the ‘Usual Suspects’ but there were at least 20 children near the back.

 

July 23, 2018

The Shetland Bus

Filed under: Education, Orkney, Personal, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:39 pm

While visiting Burghead on the Moray coast I was reminded of the Shetland Bus.

The Shetland Bus operated during WW2 ferrying Norwegians from Norway to Shetland and materials to Norway. But as I found at Burghead – Burghead also operated a bus. To say that it was a dangerous affair was an understatement but in times of war.

You can read about the Bus at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland_bus

But for the bus run to Burghead see:

The Shetland Bus

The Memorial to the Bus at Burghead

 

 

 

 

 

About the Bus to Burghead

On the plaque

 

 

 

 

I had my own personal memory while taking the photos I stepped back to include the whole memorial and fell off the edge of the quay and hit the ground hard – luckily, I survived and was very well looked after by the Burghead Sea Rescue group. Incidentally my camera kept taking movie pictures.

I attach a couple of photos of Burghead including the Well. The Well’s archaeological significance remains unknown.

Burghead from the Headland

Burghead looking South

 

 

 

Who cut the well remains unknown

The Well

The Well Description

The Well Description

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BTW when visiting Orkney two weeks ago (see previous blog) I was reminded of John Rae, the explorer seeking the North West Passage while working for the Hudson’s Bay Company. At Stromness not far from where Rae was borne there is a monument to him too.

To John Rae Arctic Explorer

John Rae

It’s good that Scotland remembers its heroes with plaques and lifelike sculptures.

July 4, 2016

The Land of Lost Content

Filed under: Education, Personal, Poetry, Sustainability, War — derryvickers @ 7:44 pm

 

As a child I lived in Congleton in East Cheshire

I was able to walk and cycle freely wherever I liked.  I and my friend would be out for hours and my parents never worried.

A favourite place was up to Mow Cop.

Mow Cop

The Folly of Lost Content

though I suspect the way up has changed a lot since then.

I fear that kids can’t do that anymore.  It’s a great pity (and nothing to do with the EU)

Why do I remember this now – its because a book has just been released on A E Housman.

Housman composed a slim book of poems ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

The book was reputed to be carried by solders on the Front in WW1 and I can understand why.

However Housman also wrote the verse:

The Land of Lost Content

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A. E. Housman

Malvern Hills

Malvern Hills like Shropshire and the Long Mynd

 

 

April 10, 2016

DHI Seminar ‘Providing Independent Advice to Government: difficult choices and managing tensions’

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Education, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 10:04 pm

The David Hume Institute seminar was given by Naomi Eisenstadt in the Standard Life Building in Edinburgh

A few comments on the seminar.

  1. Despite her name Naomi is American rather than a German
  2. Appointed as independent adviser on Child Poverty to Scottish Government
  3. Scotland is different from California
    1. White bread  > brown bread > with jam then milk
  4. Poverty is not the same as inequality
  5. How poor is poor – numbers resonate
  6. More than ½ the adults in poverty have a job
  7. That a child is physically healthy doesn’t mean that the child is not in poverty
  8. A child of wealthy parents is not in poverty, but it does not mean that the child will grow up to be a productive and healthy adult.  Some kids from wealthier families go off the rails.
  9. 90% of the children with multiple problems, not just poverty (unemployment, poor maternal mental health, poor housing,  etc,) do not wind up in the criminal justice system.  But this is 10 times the rate for the wider population,
  10. Making sure My child is OK  – All parents
  11. Expose children to ‘the world of work’ at an early age
  12. High priority on early education is a proven fact
  13. Better joining up: parents > schools > teachers
  14. Poverty will never be eradicated but can be reduced
    1. The Nordics do better – the gradient between the poor and the wealthy is less
    2. High taxes mean better social care
  15. Lower paid are less likely to go to University (not unfortunately new)
  16. Quick Wins do well but often go unnoticed
  17. Caring is very very expensive – carers need to be well paid
  18. Naomi stressed that the ‘The problem is Me’ by which she meant that much of current policy protects pensioners from the impact of austerity, but is particularly harsh on young families.  She noted that she had worked very hard, but still felt the state protects older people like her, at the cost of younger people
    1. Which I expect applied to the majority of the evenings audience
  19. Theory is fine but practice better
  20. Scotland does better than England

Eisenstadt came over as a great practitioner rather than a theorist.

For more on Naomi Eisenstadt’s recommendations to the Scottish Government see https://www.holyrood.com/articles/inside-politics/naomi-eisenstadt-scotlands-independent-adviser-poverty-and-inequality.

Interestingly no one asked about the Scottish Government’s policy for Universal Child Guardianship.

March 19, 2015

Filed under: Education, History in the making, Poetry, Travel, USA, World Class — derryvickers @ 12:27 pm

Which of these eight women put forward in the New York Times to appear on the 20 dollar bill in place of Andrew Jackson –

Sojourner Truth, Susan Anthony, Rachel Carson, Margaret Sanger, Emma Lazarus, Frances Perkins, Wilma Mankiller, Harriet Beecher Stowe

do you know.?

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/03/18/putting-a-woman-on-the-20-bill

I admit I had heard only of two of them.

Emma Lazarus, a poet, who supported the immigrant cause penned the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. I had not known or had forgotten the inscription:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

An inscription that all of us in the UK should revere in the period up to the May election.

February 26, 2015

David Hume Institute – Politicians & Professionals series

Filed under: DHI SPIF, economics, Education, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 12:17 pm

 

A series of five lectures given by the five Party Leaders in Scotland at this time.

The four I went to were in order Ruth Davidson for the Conservatives, Patrick Harvie for the Greens, Jim Murphy for Labour and Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP.  I missed Willie Rennie for the Lib Dems.

How did their policies for Scotland compare.  Well they had a surprisingly lot of common round.

  1. Murphy and Sturgeon were singing from the same song sheet on education and levelling the playing field; even Davidson considered Scotland needs to be more meritocratic; children from the poorer areas of Glasgow need to have the same opportunities as the rest.
  2. Further Education should be equally prised as Higher Education
  3. Scotland needs to get people back to work: Murphy, the unemployed while Sturgeon the Mums – she advocates Child Care to do so
  4. Murphy and Sturgeon were again singing on a Fairer Scotland.  Harvie brought up employers reneging on conditions in the work place
  5. Both Harvie and Murphy attacked zero hours contracts
  6. All except Sturgeon seemed to agree that Scotland is too centralised and power needs to be distributed. Sturgeon however did mention the Community Empowerment Bill before parliament at this time and she did recognised that for education there is a balance between the centre and the councils – is education ring fenced or not
  7. The oil is a dying commodity but we should be harnessing all that expertise in Aberdeen
  8. Of course there were differences: Davidson is for cutting taxes rather than Scotland going Nordic, Murphy reminded us of the Mansion Tax and 50p in the £ for high earners while Sturgeon said that the Smith Commission would help but not enough of tax raising under Scottish control.
  9. Davidson was the only one to talk about defence but even she didn’t tackle Trident nor was she pressed by the audience
  10. Harvie made the point that people now look at life as a ‘hotel’; you take the room, pay for the service and move on; and I would expect all four politicians would agree with this sentiment in their own different ways.
  11. As Harvie said in respect of the Bedroom Tax there was a high degree of unanimity between Labour and SNP  in Scotland and agreement on the way forward could have been reached a lot earlier if the two parties hadn’t automatically taken up their usual antagonist positions.  It may be time for the Scottish Parliament as a whole to take a more active part in moving Scotland forward without the need for usual party warring.

So what about the performers themselves

  1. Patrick Harvie in my view gave the weakest performance possibly because the Greens politics is all things to all green thinking men.
  2.  Jim Murphy was not consistent in his delivery trying to tackle all Scottish problems as he sees them in the 45 mins allotted – he is of course on an uphill battle in trying to win back Labour voters and may well have been tired.
  3. Nicola Sturgeon gave the most polished speech (and was the only one on time!) and stood up to answer questions, but maybe somewhat complacent – her time will come when she has to put her policies into practice – I noted already a careful keeping of her power dry.
  4. To me Ruth Davidson was the easiest to listen to and faced the audience all the time and her position is somewhat easier as as she recognised the Scottish Tories have a long way to go and she will be considered to have succeeded if she makes any headway in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon – An Educational System for Everyone- the Foundation of a Fairer Scotland

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Education, Left Politics, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 12:14 pm

 

Nicola Sturgeon at the David Hume Institute

The fifth and final lecture by Scottish Political Leaders

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, gave a very polished lecture and answered the questions with verve and composure.

But what did she say; well not that much.  Sturgeon focused, as her title suggested, on education in Scotland limiting her scope and the questions arising:

  1. The Education system in Scotland at present is not fair.  Opportunities for children favour the better off.  This is shown in children’s vocabularies – those from the poor schools are 13 months behind those from the well off.  The lower 20% do ½ as well as the well off.
  2. Education is not just for its own sake;  the economy is dependent on a qualified workforce.
  3. Scotland as part of the UK is suffering from the Coalition’s austerity programme –all three main parties in Westminster are equally culpable.  Against this, Scotland is doing its best to mitigate the effect of the austerity.
  4. Scotland has more university places per head of population save only for Finland
  5. Scotland has introduced its Curriculum for Excellence and this is going well.  Nevertheless Scotland is happy to learn from elsewhere – witness Sturgeon’s recent visit to Blue Gate Fields junior in Tower Hamlets.
  6. Head Teachers will be required to undergo retraining and achieve new qualifications; focus on ‘Doing rather than Being’
  7. Scotland is targeting from the early years and is introducing Child Care to get the Mums back to work
  8. Education is not just 5 to 18 but is life-long and adults also need to learn
  9. Scotland also recognises the need to bolster Apprenticeships and these have risen by 1/3 over the last 5 years.  The Government has taken on the Wood Report in full
  10. In questioning she emphasised that Councils are responsible for education in their regions and recognised that 2 Councils had reduced school hours and teachers employed.  The Government was in negotiation and in any case a Council’s educational budget is ring fenced.  Sturgeon stated that there is a balance of responsibility between Central Government and the Councils – and I got the impression that the point of balance could change!
  11. The Governments policy is free school meals for all – there should be no stigma to the less well off
  12. Sturgeon recognised the problem of private schools but the playing field has to become level.   I did not catch her solution
  13. Teaching is not just the prerogative of the school teachers but the parents need to play their part.  Communities need to help here and Sturgeon mentioned the Community Empowerment Bill going through Parliament at this time (though such help must tend to upset the level of the playing field)

Sturgeon finished by emphasising that she is passionate about education and  that the inequality in Education has to be sorted; in her view everyone needs to be brought up to the same level for Scotland to prosper economically and to flourish.

February 10, 2015

Tim Benton – Can we do it sustainably

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Education, Sustainability, World Class — derryvickers @ 5:28 pm

A lecture at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 9th February 2015

Tom Benton is Global Food Security Champion He made a number of critical points on world growth and how and if it could be sustainable

  1. There are 805 million in the world hungry; there are 1 million people in the UK in food poverty
  2. All of us eat the wrong food. 2/3 of the food eaten is wheat, rice and maize; if we include sugar, barley, soya, palm oil and potato we get up to 86%
  3. The world population will increase from the current 7 billion to 10 billion by 2050
  4. Food for Europe comes through the Suez Canal – an interruption in flow and Europe would be in crisis – there aren’t enough ships to go via the Cape
  5. The World will be 4* hotter; it’s not the average temperature that matters to growing plants it’s the maximums which could 6* or 7* above the average – at 35*C maize will not grow
  6. 70% of water used for agriculture; 1 kg meat takes 10/12 tons of water for production; a green bean from Kenya takes 1 gallon of water
  7. Eat local food , it saves water and carbon
  8. After continuous increase in crop yields now starting to drop off
  9. Need to reduce demand for food
  10. 1/3 of food wasted – 3 for 1 but best by today.
    1. The need for supermarkets to always have food available requires that they have 200% resilience
    2. Our food laws have stopped recycling of waste
  11. Health cost is £2,500 per person per year in the UK
  12. 50% of Chinese heading for diabetes
  13. In 2050 we will be eating more than the World has produced so far; needed 120% more water 40% more crop land 10% less forest
  14. Loss of biodiversity
  15. Agriculture produces more carbon than cars
  16. A plea for more horticultural research
  17. Food sales dominated by Marketing and supermarkets. Remember that supermarkets provide the food that we want to buy. The answer is a change in us not the supermarkets – if we change our eating habits then supermarkets will change what they sell.  A bottom up approach is needed
  18. During WW2 we got it right
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