Hollie, 22 from Manchester, discarded

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Today’s photograph is of a sheet of newspaper blown in the strong wind, dated 16th May, discarded and blowing away as I took the shot. Odd what ‘newspapers’ publish and people want to see. Goodbye Hollie from Manchester, we met at a media distance for a fleeting second, good luck to you in the future… 

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Bella rejected

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A couple of photographs. One taken on Bond Street, Tunstall, of a discarded Bella from The Tweenies on a damp grey mild day around 10.30am.

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The other of buttercups in the small park nearby yesterday evening about 10pm, still summer warm with bright sun. Both I feel are a kind of visual poetry, or maybe just things seen as I walk past and pass on to you bloggists, bloggers, blogladites? So what is a blog reader called?

Dog roses

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These photographs are of wild roses or dog roses on the edge of the park. I noticed them first from the intense aroma as I walked past bush after bush of them late at night at about 11.30pm, walking Oskar (the dog). The last light was disappearing in the north west sky, so I tried a night photo, which was OK but Oskar was pulling hard so couldn’t get a steady shot, but I quite liked the effect when I brought it up on screen. I then tried the flash, which created an unreal feel, quite weird. When I went past yesterday at 9.30pm it was a lot brighter, the yellow orange evening glow of evening midsummer sunlight.

 

Tumnus built over

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I was on America Street in Tunstall at about 10am today, the streets off are all called after American Presidents of the 19th Century, and I saw that a streetlight had been left lit. As it is one of the old looking ones I was reminded me of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, a book I loved when I was 9-10 and got me into reading, I had had difficulty reading before that. I thought about how now Tumnus’ forest would now be built over. I manipulated the photograph considerably, it was cloudy and about to rain but even Tunstall summers are not quite this bad!

The Maids

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Yet again politicians are messing around with the school examination system. Michael Gove, who seems to me an utter fool, but more frightening – an utter fool with a fundamental religious and political cause, who could well be a future PM, and who wants to take exams back to a dark age.

Everyone, especially males over 40, think that the system they were educated in was better and harder than children get today. Have people like Gove actually studied or worked in the exam system in the last 30 years?

I doubt it.

The exams are not perfect and need some work on them to improve them. The best people to do this are the teachers and academics who currently work on them. Too many seem for instance to be able to study the same book or play twice, the rise of the Nazi’s seems the main topic for history, but these are minor adjustments.

Gove and his supporters want everything to depend on the 3-4 hour examination. This is not real life, does he make decisions and stick to them after just a few hours? Perhaps he does, but sane people discuss, look at other options, investigate.

I am 59, so took a timed exam, everything depended on them. The course work hardly mattered (except oddly in art), and this suited me. I was very lazy at school, I found exams easy, I didn’t bother with any revision, I always had a belief that if it had gone in, it had – if it hadn’t, it hadn’t. I did OK getting top grades in a few subjects I liked, and low grades in the ones I didn’t. I was not a good student, until I left school and went to art school/college, then I worked very hard and diligently.

In the time I took exams and until the present system came in the worry was that girls/young women did not do well under the pressure of the timed exam, considerable resources were put into dealing with this, the present system partly came out of that. Now boys don’t do well and resources are pumped into reversing that.

About 10 years ago I went to the local college and started an ‘A’ Level Drama course (I was nearly twice as old as the teacher!). This was examined through a combination of course work and a written exam. It was much broader than my old exams, from the first week we were expected to keep notes and do work towards the final stages, in my school days I would have hated it, but as I was doing this for ‘fun’ it was hard but enjoyable work, I couldn’t just amble along and trust to my genius in the exam!

As an aside we did a performance of Genet’s The Maids and as only males (mainly 17-18) were left on the course, I suggested we do it in prison uniforms, as if it was done when Genet was in prison, some of the others wanted to do it in drag, but after discussion we went with the uniforms and made the set very simple, and I played Madame which was a sight to behold. I’ve always liked Genet and my understanding is that he wanted The Maids played by an all-male cast.

So Mr Gove, what is needed are exams which can show people know the facts and theories, but also mirror the real world of collaboration, research, understanding. You and the other politicians need to allow those who really know about education to decide on how we examine the different abilities of children, which needs to be realistic along with pushing the breadth of what they learn. I do not want to see people discarded at 11, 16 or 18 just because they did not do well for three or four hours in their life.

Today’s photograph on a mild cloudy day is of part of a disused kiln factory in Tunstall, which thinking of The Maids would make an interesting stage set.

 

Father’s Day

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An e-mail was in my box this morning from Pinterest to encourage me to get my father to make a ‘wish list’ for Father’s Day. As I don’t believe in ghosts or the afterlife that would be rather difficult as he died in early 1980, he was 72. So I am putting together a Pinterest board for and about him (http://pinterest.com/timdiggles/red/) which I will add to as time goes on.

I have written a few things in my poetry about the grief I felt at the time (click the link on this page). There is no sadness now after all he would have been 105 this year! For me it was more a case that at 25 I had only just grown up, gone was the teenage rebellion and a more considered rebellion stirred in my head. I hadn’t really talked to him, for instance about why throughout his life he had been a vegetarian, and I think we all regret not talking more to our parents, when they die we have so many unanswered questions. I knew his love of music, especially Bach and his considerable ability not only to play but compose, he could write music without hearing it and know a piece of music from a score; his painting and drawing; walking and climbing; a love and detailed knowledge of organs, railways, astronomy, maps, sailing ships. He had been a lecturer in Maths and was a brilliant student going to University even though his father worked on the railways, unusual in the 1920’s. He was quite stunning in his mathematical ability, that is not just a son talking, and was able to do considerable complex calculations in his head. I don’t know if it was showing off, but he beat the early computers in calculations and used to look at car number plates and tell you all sorts of mathematical things about the numbers and letters.

There was a distant side to him and an inability to appreciate newer music, art, film and I never knew him to read a novel. Things were facts. However he encouraged my working in art and the abstract questioning which came through that, and I remember the pride he had when he came to Cardiff College of Art for my degree show. 

Father’s Day wasn’t really something that we did, it seems to have become a big thing in the past ten years or so, another way to sell trash and cards. I often think that with his abilities he could have done more, he taught in schools before going to the Technical College which then morphed into a Polytechnic and is now Staffordshire University. But he was devotedly happily married and keenly pursued his interests. I remember how good he was as a musician, he played a few times as accompanist to Kathleen Ferrier when she performed at the Victoria Hall, and played the organ every Sunday at church, putting together a considerable body of music following the church calendar. So he did what he wished, his teaching gave him the resources to pursue maybe what he really wanted to do, he could easily have worked in ‘The City’ and made a fortune, but he played his music, studied trains, painted his watercolours and even had his own pipe organ at home, so maybe that is the lesson he taught.

ImageToday’s photographs are of a black gate in Tunstall in the backs near my flat and a wall of a disused factory in Hartshill.

 

Sweets for my efforts

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Yesterday I went to Burslem School of Art for the Prize Giving at the Open For All Exhibition run by Photographers Collective North Staffordshire. I had entered three photographs and was awarded Highly Commended which entailed a certificate and a very nice box of home made sweets. That was the first prize for anything I had received since I won the Leek Schools Art Competition in 1965, with a painting of a Port Vale player scoring a goal. So I was suitably delighted.

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Two of the photographs have appeared in previous blogs and a third came from November of frosty leaves (above), which someone actually wanted and many seemed to like very much. Which again I was very pleased about.

What made this ‘competition’ special was that it was limited to 6”x4” photographs (postcard size), which meant it was open not just to those who had smart cameras and the money to pay for large prints, but to all. All three of mine were taken on my Sony Experia phone and cost nothing to print as I took up a special offer. Looking at mine, the one so many liked, it really needs to be larger, and I will look into seeing the quality if enlarged to A3, the others are smaller in detail.

It was an interesting show and the format certainly brought together a wide range of experience and abilities, it also, as Tony said, made people look closely, not just walk by. Photos could be sold but I put on mine that if people wanted one then send me an e-mail with an interesting reason, only the leaves has been ‘scooped’ up.

I’m not a fan of competitions, I remember being on the selection committee for the Raymond Williams Award for Community Publishing, which had a considerable financial prize. There were around 120 books entered, three stood out for me as worthy winners and fitted the criteria. When we eventually got together, all four of us had a completely different shortlist, in fact two had chosen books which I felt didn’t even fit the criteria. Eventually we agreed on a winner, a collection  from a writers’ group which none of us had shortlisted and we all felt was a compromise!

I don’t think anything like that happened in the Burslem event.

It’s an odd thing ‘winning’ or in my case being ‘placed’. I am not competitive, and yet I love watching sports which are totally competitive and desperately want to see my team win, or on TV teams I don’t like lose, it is often the only time I truly let go, certainly not when I am creating art, that just creates more stress, I do not really enjoy the process of writing or creating art, as it never comes out as I initially envisaged it, perhaps if it did I would not want to create again!