Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Poem Is

A poem is a volatile moment

In a centrifuge

spun like

liquid air fractionally

distilled to smoke and

mirrors

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A poem has the character

of sky

each word a small sphere

of rain

catching the light

above the horizon

magnetic effluvia,

dancing lines

of subtle matter

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Poems, are tributaries

merging and convergent

to the heart

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Thank you to the beautiful Susan for inspiring this poem with hers: http://susandanielspoetry.com/2013/04/28/its-not-a-poem-unless-it-rhymes/

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Filed under Creative

I know my ABCs too!

In response to lovely, lovely myspokenheart’s post here: <ahref=”http://myspokenheart.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/now-i-know-my-abcs/comment-page-1/#comment-1454″></a&gt;, find below my abc!

A – angry (generally about politics!)
B – boring (when angry about politics)
C – cake/chocolate/chips/crisps/cheese- comfort food
D – delegate (I am bossy and like to do this)
E – ellipsis…I love those dots
F- frabjous (a much neglected word I like)
G – greedy (see C)
H – happy (unless angry- see A/B)
I – interesting (unless A/B)
J – jelly (it’s the only word I could think of)
K – kimono ( I like all things Japanese)
L – LOVE
M – me (someone I am glad to be most of the time)
N – NO! A word I need to get better at saying
O – open
P- peace
Q- quirky
R – reading (I EAT books)
S – secrets
T- tintinnabulation (because it sounds funny and doesn’t look like a real word)
U – uvula (see above)
V – very (everything I do I do with passion)
W – when will this ever end?!
X – xyst (I like trees)
y- YOU ( without you I would be alone)
z – zzzzzzzzzzzzz (I love to sleep)

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Filed under Funny stuff

Who will speak for the unemployable?

Back in my days of literacy teaching, when I worked with adults whose linguistic skills ranged from non-existent i.e. barely able to read and write, to threshold GCSE, I always started my classes by talking about what my learners COULD do because this helped to build confidence and let them know that I valued their skills as much as they valued mine. We sometimes played a game where, as a group, we allocated jobs in a fictional stranded on a desert island scenario, and it made them chuckle when I commented that I’d be the first one to be barbecued and eaten, as knowing where to place a comma would be extremely unhelpful if shipwrecked: unable to build a shelter, whittle a simple bow and arrow or fishing rod or build a fire rendered me something of useless hanger on, more useful for my meat content than anything else. Knowledge and skills are of course, contextual. I think of this often in my current job as a careers and skills adviser and with great sadness because lately I meet more and more individuals who are condemned to long term unemployment because their skills don’t work in the context in which we now live.

The current UK job market has shifted so much over the last 50 years: the task of applying for work, even unskilled work, requires literacy and computer skills beyond the grasp of many, young and old; unskilled work has become rarer and more competitively sought; qualifications have replaced experience as an indicator of job role suitability and an increasing professionalisation of even manual work has taken hold. Global capitalism has led to the outsourcing of production: in the past 30 years alone, the UK’s manufacturing sector has shrunk by two thirds. This process, termed ‘de-industrialisation’ goes hand in glove with the growth of what New Labour termed the ‘knowledge based economy’ i.e. lets flog ideas, tourism and brands instead of objects, be the brains of the operation rather than the hands. (for a more in-depth and intelligent exploration of the subject go to Aditya Chakraborrty’s excellent Guardian article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/nov/16/why-britain-doesnt-make-things-manufacturing)

I work on the front line: every day I meet individuals caught in the struggle to find meaningful work with which they can support themselves; for example, I meet many who have supported themselves brilliantly through practical trades all their lives who now find that this is no longer an option. The recession, which is a direct consequence of our unsuccessful economic policies, has killed the construction trade; in addition, even simple labouring now requires a health and safety ticket, beyond the grasp of those with poor literacy skills or without the money to pay for it.  I regularly meet men who have driven dumpers for 25 years but can no longer do so because they cannot afford the £500 needed to gain certification or feel that  they cannot take a test because they can’t read or write very well; young people who have fantastic practical skills but are shy and can’t sell themselves at interview so stand no chance of getting a job or even an apprenticeship; people with learning difficulties, who are actively seeking repetitive work, factory work and the like but there just isn’t enough to go round. The list is endless. How can we help these individuals, who grow in number year by year?

These are a common stories and heart breaking ones: many of these individuals have a strong work ethic and, for them, being out of work can lead to ill health, depression or alcohol abuse (more customers for the overstretched NHS). I have listened to more than one tale of woe which ended in a confessional of suicidal impulses: I think it says much that a careers adviser should be the witness to this kind of emotional desperation

And it’s not just the older generation who suffer: as a teacher, I taught many apprentices who were fantastic bricklayers, hairdressers or carpenters, but who were simply unable to grasp how to place a comma, or a plural apostrophe. The local college has now made it a matter of policy that individuals who are unable to gain GCSE C standard English and Maths cannot continue to study their trade to a level which will help them gain employment: the ranks of the unemployed and unemployable grows and grows.

I am regularly reminded that it is part of my job to challenge these individuals and I do: I encourage all my customers to engage with education and training and to gain better IT skills which will enable their job search and job applications. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a teacher, and I believe in education as a force for change, for self development and growth, social, economic and individual (but this  means we must see education as more than a tool for churning out accountants and software engineers- another subject dear to my heart). As a teacher I did all I could to engage my learners, to contextualise the skills they needed to develop and to value the skills which they had. But to imagine that this is sufficient is naive: more often than not I could not overcome the problems wrought by generations of low aspiration, poverty or poor nutrition to name but a few, and at times it was hard to argue that it was even necessary: I would not choose a bricklayer based on the quality of his written work; must a cleaner have an NVQ? We cannot even begin to address the issues of our de-industrialised economy without changing some of the fundamental inequalities at its heart: as I witness first hand Labours’ ineffectual attempts to provide a political alternative and the Tory answers to these problems, slashing benefits, scapegoating claimants and continuing to pursue economic policies which widen the gap between rich and poor, I wring my hands in despair. Who will speak for these disillusioned and marginalised individuals?

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Filed under From the news, General, Musings on Life

I’ve been to me and frankly paradise is more appealing

I appear to have been ambushed by life. It waited for me in a side street and then just jumped me, coshed me on the head with a sock full of sand and stole my va va voom. I have spent the last few months lying, dazed and confused in a metaphorical back alley trying to find the strength to get up again. I’m now half sitting, half lying, which is progress of sorts.

On Wednesday I had the day off work so I got on a train and went to visit friends who live 60 miles or so away. It rained constantly, so after a delicious lunch we trudged around a shopping centre, our sodden trousers flapping around our ankles and looked at things we couldn’t afford. It sounds dull but it was something to do and it enabled me to raise my mugged top half from the cobbles. I love travelling by train. I love the fact that you can get on a moving vehicle and sit down and do nothing and it will just whizz you into a new environment with no effort on your part. I thought it a good bit of marketing, the advert which said ‘let the train take the strain’. I had a rucksak instead of a hangbag, which always makes me feel like I might be running away: a good feeling. At the station I had to fight the tendency to just get on a train to London and have an adventure. I stood in front of a massive billboard advertising a performance of Madame Butterfly and I felt tears welling at the back of my eyes: I’ve never seen Madame Butterfly, I’ve never been to the Albert Hall and I want to. In fact, to subvert the lyrics of an awful song, I’ve never been to Georgia or California or anywhere I could run, taken the hand of a preacher man and made love in the sun, or been to paradise but I have been to me and frankly it was jolly hard work and a bit fraught. If I could, I’d write a strongly worded letter to the travel agent who sold me this damn awful holiday demanding my money back.

I’ve been a mother for almost 20 years, and for at least three quarters of that I’ve been going it alone and it’s made my world somewhat small and confined. As I bed down in to my 40s and learn more about destination ‘me’ I realise that I am a person who would like to put on a rucksak and get a train to London and see Madame Butterfly and that’s just for starters: Georgia, California and paradise here I come. But here I don’t, because I have a mortgage and children and a job in addition to ageing parents: the wild woman I feel chuntering away just below the surface, who at last has the confidence to start exploring, to have an adventure, to live out of a rucksack, to take a train or a plane to somewhere new and to talk to strangers along the way, has to find a less dramatic way to break free or she will hurt those that depend upon her.

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Filed under Musings on Life, Personal Growth