21 October 2012

Good morning to you all and welcome to the last Sunday before (at least here in the UK) the clocks return to their proper place after the lunacy that is British Summer Time. For months our body clocks have been disrupted for no useful purpose because someone, somewhere decided that they could make the sun shine longer by altering the time on the clock face. I’ve got an even better idea – let’s put the clocks forward twelve hours each Spring and then we can be truly amazed at how much sunlight there is at midnight every day! Never mind, it will all soon be over, at least until next year.

We’ve had a tolerably good week – the weather has been decidedly mixed with a fair bit of rain and gloom along with the occasional bright, sunny day mixed in. Our perception is that the autumn colours here are considerably brighter than normal this year, although compared to those of you who live in the great northeast, I am sure they would all still appear to be quite muted. Our Boston Ivy gives us the best colour (and, indeed, it does so every year) but this year there’s also quite a bit of colour elsewhere. Interestingly, it always seems to be the Acers which have been planted in supermarket car parks which provide the greatest colour, for which I am sure there must be some sort of explanation.

Annabelle
I am happy to share the red ball but the blue ball is mine!

The big excitement this week, of course, was Annabelle’s first birthday on Thursday. Although we were more than welcome for the duration (if we thought we could stand it), Nick and Lucy understood that perhaps a houseful of one-year olds was not our idea of a great day out. So, we went across when all the dust had settled and the guests had departed to find the birthday girl exhausted but still in a fine and entertaining mood. We sang “Happy Birthday” (during which rendition she seemed very proud of herself), ate birthday cake (very good), played with all manner of toys, boxes and wrapping paper, and even got to enjoy bath time (for Annabelle, not us). I am afraid I neglected to take any photos so you will have to make do with one Lucy posted on Facebook several weeks ago.

I am sorry to have to report that, apparently, the Flying Ant day I wrote about in July has now been exposed as a myth. The original article back in July described how scientists were somewhat mystified as to how the flying ants knew exactly when to emerge so that they could breed with similarly flying ants from other colonies. Now they have decided that it’s not a mystery at all because it doesn’t happen – the ants emerge over a period of days.

Even over a small area emergences happened on different days, suggesting that local synchronisation is not as precise as is widely believed.

I’ve ranted many times about the idiocy of our Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and his lunatic plans for education. Good to see, then, that Stephen Twigg, the Labour shadow Education Secretary is finally putting together some modest opposition. As Twigg points out, nowhere do Gove’s reforms address the real route to educational success – improving the quality of teaching. Gove’s reforms are all about structure – “free schools” and eliminating the support of local educational authorities, cutting all schools loose, overhauling the exam system, throwing away various parts of the curriculum. In fact, of course, the largest factor in a child’s success in school is the teacher standing in front of the class, not the structure and system they’re taught in. Gove’s insistence on structural reforms do nothing to improve the quality of teaching and illustrate his lack of any understanding of how education works.

Whilst different kinds of structure and governance has an impact, different quality of teaching has a much greater impact.

We’re off to Dublin next weekend for a few days. Our Ben is flying in for a meeting with some business associates and so we decided to join him for a few days before his work commences. How nice to have a decent excuse to fly away for a few days. While that’s good news for us, it does mean that next weekend’s edition may, once again, be delayed or non-existent. Which, I suppose, could also be good news for you!

And finally, did you see the report about the French woman who received a phone bill for €11,721,000,000,000,000 (in the region of $15,262,712,416,172,928 or £9,535,321,535,734,240)?

Love to you all,
Greg