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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum What people say Merrily We Roll Along Follies Previous Previous
Journeys and Misadventures
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I've thought an awful lot about both the fiasco over GCSE English grades this summer (in sum, it was idiocy to shift the grades) and the announcement this week about replacing GCSE with a new exam.

I'm a product of the old O level and hated it, even though I did fairly well. It's very clear to me, as it doesn't seem to be to Michael Gove, that a three hour memory test at the end of two years' study is not the best way to test pupils' understanding of the concepts they have learnt. It's certainly a very poor way of showing how they are prepared for the demands of work. A lot of my thinking on the matter has been elegantly summed up for me in a letter to the press (I found it in the Guardian) by the former head of the Joint Matriculation Board, who was also the first head of Ofqual, Kathleen Tattersall:

As the former chief executive of the Joint Matriculation Board (GCE O- and A-levels), the Northern Examinations and Assessment Board and AQA (GCSEs and A-levels), and the first chair of Ofqual, I am appalled that we have a secretary of state for education who chooses to turn the clock back to a time when the success of the few was valued against the failure of the many ('Ebacc' to replace GCSE exams, 18 September). No one who is responsible for the education of young people should be proud to introduce a system which will result in a greater number of students leaving school with no qualifications. Education is about encouraging success and the raising of aspirations, not the writing off of a generation, which is what this new, untried, untested policy, based on prejudice and untruths, will bring about.

Mr Gove claims that GCSE has lowered standards. Why? Because more students succeed than was ever the case in O-level, an examination intended for 20% of the population? The real question is why so many students in the past did not succeed. Were they incapable of attaining a qualification, or was the qualification designed in such a way that most students failed? All examination systems are artificial constructs which reflect the values and aspirations of society. In the mid-1980s a thoughtful Conservative secretary of state, Keith Joseph, chose, after long deliberation and consideration of many feasibility studies, to remove the artificial limitations of O-level and introduce a single system of examination at 16+ designed to encourage all students to make the most of their abilities and to examine what the students "know, understand and can do" (DfE 1988). For the first time this country had a qualification which gave credit to students' achievements rather than defining most students as failures. We should be welcoming, not be alarmed by, the rise in the percentage of students gaining grade C (equivalent to the former O-level pass standard) and above.

We are now faced with a situation where Mr Gove is intent on dismantling the system with little evidence of the fall in standards he claims and no consideration of the impact on education generally and more specifically on the students for whom he holds responsibility. Those of us with knowledge and long experience of examination systems here and elsewhere fear that these changes will harm a generation of students and be detrimental to this country.
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I have come across little in life so far that is quite as wonderful as having my daughter fall asleep on me. Apart from perhaps the broad smile and giggle that she (sometimes) greets me with when I get home.
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I am still intending to keep up posting here more often.

Been kind of interrupted in the best of ways by a young lady called Abigail. So far she's living up to her name, but I don't have the time to detail how. More when things calm down a tad and we're into some sort of routine.
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We had a pretty quiet weekend, in all. Penny bought me Dominion for my birthday last week (along with the new Prof Layton). We've played a few times on Monday nights with M&H, but only with the initial recommended set-up, so we tried it to see how two-player works and then looked at a couple of the alternative set-ups. I'm enjoying it, but so far I'm getting creamed. A few other games also played on Saturday to take Pen's mind of being uncomfortable. She reasserted her reign as Queen of San Juan, but I won a couple of others.

General baking continues - by both of us, with a complete failure at bread-making by me as I misread the scales and only put in half the flour needed to make olive oil and rosemary bread. First attempt is now in the garden for the birds. Second attempt went much better.

Most of Sunday was spent watching the Daytona 24 hour race on Motors. We'd watched the start before bed on Saturday and I then flicked it on to find out what was happening with 6 hours to go and got hooked. It stayed on to the end (often in the background while we did other things), but this was a cracking race. Very close all the way between the top three prototypes and the top 4/5 GT cars. I do feel sorry for Alan McNish who drove two or three superb stints and was in the end let down by one of his co-drivers having a brief off-track excursion which damaged the rear aero and lost a little off the top-speed. Without that a 6-second loss would almost certainly have been a win.

No news is no news on the baby front. One or other (or both) set of parents are ringing pretty much every day now. Nice that they're concerned for and care about us, but it can be a little wearing at times. The theory that the bump would follow her Mum and Aunt (both two weeks early) has failed. Back in work and braced for phone call at any time.
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Why am I so very tired a lot of the time? Baby hasn't even arrived yet.
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Lovely letter in the Graudina today:

• If Sherlock can survive a rooftop fall, does this mean there is hope for Nigel?
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I remember back when the Tories were last in power, the BMA ran a poster campaign with the tag "What do you call a man who doesn't listen to his doctors? Ken Clarke".

It appears that the current incumbent of the Health brief has determined to go several better. Lansley now has the BMA, the two unions representing NHS admin/support staff and the Royal Colleges of both Nursing and Midwifery lined up against his proposals.

Time to at least re-consider, you'd think. But no - he's claiming opposition is a proxy for gripes about pensions rather than the considered views on caring from those in the caring professions. Idiot Megalomaniac, QED.
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Those of us involved in education have known this fact for some while.

The rest of the world will be coming to that realisation very quickly on hearing of his proposal to give the Queen a £60m+ yacht for the jubilee this year. I'm also not surprised that Willetts, his co-conspirator in damaging education for a generation is co-conspirator in this as well.

That £60m by the way was the estimate of Britannia's value when de-commissioned 15 years ago.
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No Nigerian financial advice of late in my email junk (why yes, I do review it regularly). However, among the assorted "Canadian meds cheap" and "hook-up" invitations I am now frequently being canvassed to join German-language gambling sites.
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We've watched Sky's adaptation of Treasure Island over past couple of nights (24 hours behind broadcast both times). Kudos to the channel for starting to produce some of its own drama rather than relying on bought in fare all the time.

On the whole, not a bad take on the book. Izzard was definitely better than I expected as Silver and there was mostly good backing, including sterling performances from Penry Jones and Glenister as Trelawney and Smollett. Not a trace of hobbitry about Elijah Wood as Ben Gunn either. Weakest for me was young Toby Regbo as Jim Hawkins. I felt a little niggled that Trelawney was portrayed as such a money-grubbing bastard and Dr Livesey as a coward. I don't remember either characterisation from the book. What mostly rankled though was the twist on the ending. It just doesn't gel with what's gone before either that Jim would throw all the treasure overboard or that the rest of the characters (particularly Silver) would let him.
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In the clear out we've got a number of games that we haven't played for ages and doubt we will again. So far as I know, all pieces are present and the games themselves are in fairly good condition, though some of the boxes are a bit "pre-loved". Would anybody be interested in any of:

Kings and Things - box is fair
Empire Builder - split corners on lid
Railway Rivals (GW) - fair
The Roman Game - good
Blood Royale - a bit flaked
Contsellation (The space race game) - good
Machiavelli (the diplomacy variant) - fair
Monopoly (parker Bros1972 edition) - fair
Campaign - corners split on lid
Buck Rogers, Battle for the 25th Century - fair

Can deliver within reasonable distance of Bedford or take to Consequences if you'll be there
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mr_malk asked me some questions, viz

"Is Warks/Worcs a tradtional rivallry or your own private prejudice? (Or are you [Heaven forfend!] a closet Lancashire supporter?!)"

W/W is indeed a traditional rivalry. I think some Worcs folks would prefer a Glos rivalry, but they're too busy with Somerset.

As for Lancashire, did I not mention the ancestral connection? My father's from Ormskirk way and we have census records from 1821 onwards of the family farming on the same patch of land at Melton.
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I am a little surprised, as the chaps from the Black Pear have managed to shoot themselves in the collective feet several times this year. Commiserations to mr_malk
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We had a midwife appointment last Friday afternoon. Penny wasn't looking forward to it as she'd not exactly hit it off with the lady at the first appointment. As it happens that one was on leave, so we got somebody else. She was absolutely lovely and when Pen mentioned her uneasiness about the first one suggested we go to the drop-in centre near us for the next appointment and see if we get on better with the lady there.

All samples are showing good results. Mum-to-be and baby were both pronounced healthy and we got to hear a nice strong heartbeat. Better, probably as a result of being prodded with the heartbeat monitor, the baby decided to make its presence felt to Penny, so she's now happy she can feel it moving.

Next up, second scan on 27th Sept; consultant appointment on 7th October and next midwife appointment to be made towards the end of October.
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Our bedroom put back together.
Haircut.
ID photo for new marshal's registration.
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Things Done:

Hotel booked for queenortart's and fractalgeek's bash (Sat/Sun)

Our bedroom shifted about and wall painted (1829 range, Burgundy Leather)

Cats booked in for annual jabbing

Account with Lloyds closed - what a palaver. Passed from one operative who took all the details to another - without being told that was happening. Then told he could only close the current account (and that's by sending out a set of forms to fill in and return) and I'd have to write to the branch or go in personally to close the savings and also have to deal separately with the credit card.

NCT ante-natal course booked. Yes, we're now fully public.

Things still to sort out:

Returning paperwork to Lloyds to get rid of them.

Find the least worst week to take as leave between now and mid-October (if I don't I'll collapse by Christmas)

Pay for ante-natal course

Shift bedroom back to normal

Shift about guest bedroom, paint wall (suede range) and put room back - sifting a pile of stuff to pass on to charity shops/recycling

Buy shed and move some stuff from downstairs front room in house out to it

Shift computer and bookcases from middle front room to make downstairs front room a study

Make middle front room into nursery.
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The apologia is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/sporteditors/2011/07/f1_coverage_to_be_shared_betwe.html

Comments are heading towards 4500 at a rate of knots. Mine's at 4250:

Sorry Ben, but while I can accept the argument that BBC needs to save money and prioritise what it spends on, I don't agree that this deal is the best option for anybod except Messrs Ecclestone and Murdoch.

You've given us a very high quality service since 2009, as shown by the awards the coverage has won, not least a BAFTA. I don't accept that the coverage won't suffer by shifting to show extended highlights or even the whole race on a delay. The BBC is either committed to live sport or it isn't.

The comments I've seen here and on other fora (facebook, ten tenths and various news sites including Guardian, Telegraph and even Daily Mail) are overwhelmingly negative. I think as an organisation you should reconsider.

I'd be disappointed if the BBC cancelled or didn't renew its contract with FOM, but better to do so and allow another free to air provider to pick up the contract for all live races.
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How long is this thing going to be on for?
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Marshals' post allocations for the GP now published. Vale In for me (on the inside of Stowe corner just by the start of the new pitlane) and with a bunch of people that I know and get on with well. Really starting to look forwards to it now.
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I picked this up at lunchtime and am listening on headphones on my pc on a fairly quiet afternoon at the end of a stressful week. There's been various comment from my friends and I think different people are taking different things from it. As ever with Kate, this will repay much replay. And apparently she's got a pile of new stuff well advanced.

My take on this first listen is that some of the tracks are interesting variations, but I prefer the original. Song of Solomon or The Red Shoes, for example, and while I can see what she's getting at I'm not keen on the voice modification on Deeper Understanding. Others though are brilliant improvements on stuff that was already good. Never Be Mine is excellent, taking what was there and subtly changing it. Flower of the Mountain and Top of the City are also good but Moments of Pleasure is absolutely blinding and just blows me away.

Sheer! Fucking! Genius!

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I might now be graded as a Track Marshal, rather than a trainee, but I'm still learning (and if at any point I say I've stopped learning it'll be time to stop marshalling as I'll be dangerous). Part of this year's activity is to broaden my horizons by visiting some other circuits and experiencing their ways of doing things. This Saturday I'm off to Oulton Park for an MG Car Club meeting - Via a Premier Inn in Crewe, as I really don't fancy being up early enough to drive for three hours to make sign-on at 0700.

Later on I'm down for a day or two at Mallory Park, which I thoroughly enjoyed visiting last year, and then Donington in September for the F3/GT bash.

The aim for a couple of years' time is to see if I can do le vingt-quatre heures de Mans or head over the pond for some Indycar.
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I sat Penny down with me to watch the first episode of the TV adaptation of Game of Thrones last week. I was a little apprehensive as her main motivation (other than indulging me) was "Sean Bean!" and I didn't want to let on what was in store for him as Ned Stark. Pen tends to think that the films of The Two Towers and The Return of the King are a waste of space because Sean got killed off as Boromir.

She enjoyed it, though with a couple of quite justified pokes about the early portrayal of a couple of the female roles - particularly Daenerys. She enjoyed so much that she asked where my copy of the book was. When I realised it (and the next) must have been loaned out, I bought new copies and took them home next day. She's just about finished devouring AGoT; isn't disappointed with Ned's fate and will start on A Clash of Kings in short order. I've not seen her get so into something as meaty a read in quite a while. It does mean that we've not watched episode 2 yet, but I've just ordered paperback copies of the next few for her (A Storm of Swords 1 and 2 and A Feast for Crows) and of the hardback of A Dance with Dragons for me.

For George has beaten Kong! Huzzah!

Even better, the order includes a new Vorkosigan book that I accidentally noticed was out.
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The delayed (because of Bahraini cancellation) F1 season got under way this weekend and so did the racing season proper at Silverstone, so I was out marshalling for the first time this year. I'm still getting to posts I've not done before - this time Farm, which is the outside of the first corner after the new pits, where I had a very quiet day.

Saturday's meeting was the BRSCC*-run Britcar meeting, the top class of which is now officially the British Endurance Championship. This is the same series that runs the 24-hour race I enthused about last October (and which the Top Gear crew entered a few years back).

The day was a mixed bag. First on the bill qualifying, followed later by a couple of races, for junior single seaters (Intersteps, using the cars that used to belong to the now canned F1-supporting F-BMW). There were only 9 of them, which on the full Arena GP circuit was fairly boring for the most part - particularly as a lad called Jake Dennis stormed away to win in both. A bit of interest watching how Sarah Moore (winner of the Ginetta Juniors a couple of years ago) got on in her first single-seater sessions - pretty fair with two fourths. There was a good race between 4 of them for third place in the second race, but only seeing them come round every two minutes was still a bit "meh". More cars or smaller circuit definitely needed.

Much the same for the production touring cars, even when they shared their second race with the Alfa championship. 36 minis were much better to watch, but were only out for one race of 15 minutes...

The main event was much fun. Over 40 cars, 3 hours of racing and plenty of excitement. The 24 hour is back in October and I'll definitely be doing it.

*British Racing and Sports Car Club
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For those of you uninterested in Echo Bazaar, move right along - nothing to concern you here.

For the enlightened and delicious friends, I have acquired a Lengthy Lease to Premises at the Bazaar.
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2011 47. Living in Bedford, working in Luton. Married to Penny (where was she 10 years ago?) and most of my weekends spent marshalling for motorsport, mostly at Silverstone (why didn't I do that much earlier?). Small circle of immediate friends located closely. Wide circle of good friends across the country who I don't see often enough. Happy.

2001 37. Living and working in Bristol. Single. Met Penny the following year. Many of my weekends spent Larping (still do two or three weekends of freeform a year, but not from campsites). Good circle of close local friends, which is what I miss most about Bristol even though many of them have also moved away. Happyish.

1991 27. Had just started first HE job at was still (just) Bristol Poly, having moved to Bristol the previous year to do a postgrad there. Single. Doing a lot of tabletop roleplaying. Happy.

1981 17. Living with parents, two younger brothers and little sister in Kidderminster. At school sixth form. Starting to find where I fitted into the world after mid-teens as a bit of a loner. Sort of happy.

1971 7. Living with parents and two younger brothers in Worcester. Happy.