Carry on Teacher

The final scene of this film moved me when I was a child.  It all seems a little sentimental now but the moment when Ted Ray stepped out to face his pupils who had wrecked his chance of promotion to prevent him from leaving them is one of my all time favourite film moments.

I was a fan of the early Carry On films.  This 1959 film was the third in the series that eventually totalled thirty-one.  I saw it on British television in the 60s since it was released in cinemas before I was born!  The black and white story of an ambitious headteacher who sees the arrival of inspectors as his opportunity to snatch the headship of a brand new school is a good one.

Two of his pupils overhear him telling a teacher that, should he get the job, there will be opportunities for others.  They decide that the only way to keep their headteacher is to ensure the inspection is a disaster and they enlist their friends to make sure it is.  The comedy comes from the thwarted efforts of the head to impress and the inability of the teachers to cope with the breakdown of order.

In the current British education system the inspectorate is a malign growth and there is little to amuse there but this is from a kinder age and the story leads to the final scene which I loved as a boy.

The ‘Carry On’ films continued into the 60s and 70s and I loved most of them until the bawdy humour became distasteful.  Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques and Charles Hawtry were favourites of mine but, in this film, Ted Ray was the star. It was his only ‘Carry on’ role.

‘Carry On Teacher’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

That Love Is All There Is

This poem by Emily Dickinson reminds me of those days in English lessons as a teenager reading things that did not speak to my condition, only to lodge in my brain and come back to me at a time (and an age) when I made sense of it.

That Love Is All There Is

That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love;
It is enough, the freight should be
Proportioned to the groove.

Emily Dickinson

BlogEDickinson

World in Action

This documentary series, broadcast on ITV, was an important part of my education in current affairs and politics when I was growing up.  The 30 minute programmes opened my eyes to global issues as well as the social situation in Britain.  It ran from the early 60s until the 90s but I was most aware of it during the 70s, a decade when some of the most amazing programmes were broadcast.

BlogWorldinActionThe programme was created by ITV when it wore its regional and federal structure with pride, a situation that meant that different television companies contributed their best ideas to the network knowing there was competition in intellectual terms from the other companies in the ITV group.  Maybe this is why ITV has dumbed down over the years at the same pace as it has become one company rather than a federation of regional franchises.  Granada was the company in the Manchester and north-west region.

I encountered some of the most important journalists of my youth on this series, John Pilger the most notable.  His films about Vietnam were excellent.  I also remember programmes about the far right National Front party which was growing in the 70s and Gay Pride, a film from 1979.

This series was broadcast at a time when television treated its viewers as grown ups.  It is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

 

The Innocent Anthropologist

I first read Nigel Barley’s account of his early anthropology field work in the 80s, not long after it was published in paperback.  I read it again recently; my new regime of picking books by random cards threw up ‘re-read a book from the shelf’ and this was the one I chose.

The strangest thing was that I remembered it as a very funny book but, on this re-reading, I could not find the comedy at all.  It was still a worthwhile reading since most of the substance I had completely forgotten.

Nigel Barley entered field work among the Dowayo people of Cameroon in Africa. The book shows the reality of life in the field and the extent to which the very cultural differences being studied can, themselves, cause problems with conducting the research. He spent a year among the people learning about their culture, something which was built around the concept of becoming a man through circumcision.  He also shows how hard it is to complete a study without affecting the community by his very presence.  He writes well on the contradictions of ‘them watching me while me watching them’!

I was amused at the way Barley decided on the Duwayo people for his study.  It owed more to the idea that other parts of the world were ‘already taken’ or tied up in war or strife.  His ‘choice’ was a good one, though, since the differences were suitably remarkable from the tonal language to the extreme style of circumcision.  His study of the people is less frustrating that his dealing with the state bureaucracy; he needs to stay on the right side of the law to obtain the permits and visas necessary to stay.  After 18 months, leaving is also a bureaucratic process!

I was glad to re-read the book and was amazed that I remembered so little of the detail, remembering instead the theme and tone of the book.  It made me wonder how many other books on my shelf would also stand a second go at reading them.

BlogInnocentAnthropologist

A Level History Without Tears

The best thing about reading A Level textbooks for history is the knowledge that there is no exam at the end of it. Add to that the fact that there is no course work either!  For both of these reasons studying units of the History curriculum for A Level is pure joy.  Maybe this is what education used to be like before politicians got involved.  Maybe studying for the sake of it is what is needed to produce good learners.  I should not like to deny the students seeking validation the experience of exams but, for me, those days are over.

The A Level textbooks continue to provide the right level at which to access high quality information on a topic or period in history.  The Access to History series I have used also directs you to particular historians if you want to study specific areas in greater depth.

I started a couple of years ago with a unit on the USA involvement in Asia after the Second World War, particularly in Korea and Vietnam.  Since then I have studied a unit on Presidents of the USA in the later half of the Twentieth Century (but I did this before the last Presidential election), a unit on the Indian fight for independence and, most recently, a unit on Germany from defeat in 1945 to reunification.

I studied British and European history for my own A Level back in the 70s, before many of the events in these books had even taken place!  This, though, is the way to study history without tears.  I recommend it.

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

In the final pages of Mark Thompson’s book ‘Enough Said’, he makes reference to this poem by Keats.  Having been reminded of it, I read it again after many years. It is in my hinterland.

On First Looking into Chapman’s HomerBlogKeats
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
John Keats

Snake

This poem by D.H. Lawrence was one I learned at school, using the words to speak aloud that I had no clue about their meaning.  In such ways did I pass through education, realising much too late how important these things were.

Snake

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Silently.

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.

The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, if you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth ?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice a dream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste,
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

D H Lawrence

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