New to this blog.....

Virgin Wannabes want to know how we virtually got started? Polly and Ivor Go Live! and Job Share Prime Minister. Follow our email journey.....

Mahatma Gandhi once said:

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chocolates for the Teacher?

Well Polly, I'm back home again in Little Uppity after a wonderful commune with nature in the Surrey Downs. Whilst my lifelong membership of The National Trust may amuse old soulmates from my Green CND days...was it really 25 years ago? I'd like to think that the added years brings an element of reflectiveness and that whilst I am growing old....I refuse to grow up! Did you get the DVD I sent you to advance your recovery?

The invigorating breeze and starlit constellations of the night sky did bring a certain clarity.....but I couldn't resist the urge to kick off my muddy boots, rush (barefoot?)to the shed and breathe in the intoxicating spirit of google in search of enlightenment.

The answers my friend, are not blowing in the wind! They lie in Switzerland. Land of chocolate. Did you know that teachers in Switzerland are paid oodles of Swiss francs (no doubt funded from the ample gold reserves of the Swiss Bank)...and rank number one best paid in the whole teaching world. But are they happy? Who cares...where is the UK in this ranking? I know statistics can be misleading and admittedly this information is a little out of date...let down by google and Orion's Belt I'm afraid. So I delved deeper...LOOK's as clear as Glastonbury mud, teaching salaries directly relate to both the quality of teaching and shortages in recruitment. So, please Polly, when Alvin and Evan eventually find some blogger to lend us a budget can we ensure that they address our educational spending as a % GDP as a priority? No 'pot to p#*s in' jokes please or I'll think I'm back at a green gathering!

I thought you would relish free analytical reign with these education statistics so I duly link them for your perusal as I found all those numbers a little daunting. See, I knew you'd love them...I feel another spreadsheet coming on? Whilst I'm sure there are some serious conclusions to be drawn from this data, I couldn't help but notice that 54% find school boring and in our Geographical Aptitude Test the UK ranked 126th out of 191 countries. I was astounded. At its height, The British Empire covered a sixth of the Earth's landmass...and we scored lower than Turkmenistan and Tuvalu...wherever they are? Well, I investigated the statistical basis for this finding to discover that our perceived geographical aptitude is based on the results of an on-line geography quiz game! So that's how we address the boredom factor in geography lessons. Ah yes...I did have a go..or two! I thought with my gap year interludes I could positively massage our rankings up the scale singlehandedly. It defeated me completely. Where in the world is Burkina Fasa, and should we be actively recruiting geography teachers by offering them fat salaries and a bar of 'Green and Blacks' Maya Gold? No international credit crunch in Switzerland they're good at maths too. Why is that? couldn't be the teaching could it? It must be the chocolate.
Nice to be home,
Love Ivor X
PS How's your meniscus? How many times have you watched Mama Mia now? Hoped you'd like it....Aunty Gladys said you would. She queued to get it at Woolies (just in time!)


Manifesto in the Making

Dear Polly,

It is chilly here at Tanners Hatch YHA, but Peter has kindly topped up my mulled wine and I've come outside to feel the wind in my whiskers. At a safe distance from the heart warming sounds of tin whistles, bodhrans and fireside harmonies, I'm not sure if it's the warm banter amongst kindly folk or the effect of the mushrooms...but I have had a sudden realisation that we are without manifesto.

We've been gayly blogging along, ranting here and musing there....and yet I fear that we have not been entirely clear in revealing the angle of our own political compass. I appreciate that it's early days and strategic direction does not seem to matter too much within British politics, but I feel it's important that we find some answers to our contemplations.

Bereft of google, I find myself studying Orion's Belt for inspiration, but in fact it was Paul (on fiddle) who passionately expounded on the merits of streaming. Then Mary rounded off the debate with a tirade on class size....she only took up the Clarsach harp to ensure a one-to-one ratio with her music teacher and a scholarship to a leading public school.

There was general consensus that every child matters and that educationalists deserve a handsome salary in order to attract and retain the talented. This, as Peter pointed out, would enable us to offload the poor performing teachers.

It was all getting rather heated so I slipped out to jot down a few thoughts on the back of my Ordnance Survey map. It's such a clear night sky, I'm hoping the cool breeze and another mulled wine will help shape my first draft of our manifesto....with a little help from my friends. Tonight Polly, the answers
are not to be found on google!

Peace, love and harmonies to all

Ivor X

PS Apologies to Sarah that Edwina got stuck in the rope swing....think she had been at my bottle of Fiddlers Elbow when my back was turned!


Friday, November 28, 2008

A Dog's Life

Going Youth Hostelling with Edwina....somewhere.

Cold Feet!

Dearest Ivor

Something’s cropped up, like cold feet! The weather forecast is hideous can’t we postpone the camping? The ceps will wait I’m sure, and although I believe it when you say some can have healing properties I think I’ll stick with the ibuprofen for now. Don’t forget Llangollen 1980, we wouldn’t want a repeat performance!!

Poll xx

Benji's missed one!

This globetrotting article from Benji Lanyado of The Guardian appeals to my wanderlustings...think he may need to travel into the arena of political blogs for a real winner. Do you think he knows of any a real-ale blogsites? It's becoming a blogging fellowship!
Ivor X

Blog Off Blears!


First things don't mention James. I have found his car keys in the inside pocket of my Afghan coat (me, nostalgic?). Should he wish to return my scooter preferably without adornments, I am happy to return them. Though I have chosen to withold the beermat with phone number for ransom in a belated effort to be responsible for his welfare. Should I be apologising again? Our wilderness weekend might be a touch frosty....but will do wonders for blowing away the cobwebs and clearing bleary eyes.

Talking Blears...I revel in the freedom of the blogosphere, I dance in the face of political diversity and I wilfully flaunt my libertine passions to all...or was that just last night? Get a life Hazel...even Bono has his light and dark side? I've heard that somewhere before.

In an effort to engender public interest in politics we should be actively embracing blogdom...isn't laptop politics better than complete disinterest? It is what WannabePM is all about....making it easy for the everyday blogger to present new views and legitimate protest.

I suspect there may be good reason why the British public don't venture out to polling booths in droves. Perhaps Hazel should read the article on how Obama used the net to rally support for 70 million. There's a lesson there that enough 'added value' for this political blog?

We are not all cynical and despairing, (though the word 'frustrated' comes to mind). We are just Joe Public trying to find a platform to be heard and blogging is a great democratic tool that allows multiple audiences freespeech. The internet can be a fantastic communication vehicle that connects and harnesses public feeling. Politicians just need to take their fingers out of their ears.

Sorry, I fear I have descended into an outburst of corrosive cynicism. In an effort to be neutral, I am reassured that Hazel recognises that ordinary people feel excluded and it is the poor and most vulnerable that are least likely to have democratic influence.

So how is it that Barack engaged whole comunities and won the hearts and minds of the young, of women and of minorities? Charisma aside, I suspect that the web campaign spearheaded the revival of American politics by filling the entire nation with a feeling of self worth and empowerment. Go on Hazel, be have Britain at your fingertips...isn't it time to get on with your blog?

As for power to the people...those Hockerill students are swaying the vote bigtime. Should I fire off an email to the Countdown Crew on Carol's behalf? In the interest of democracy of course?

Love Ivor X

PS Some advice from Reverend Danger to help with the packing quandary. I'm oiling the tandem.


Coming of Age

Dear Ivor

Your memory of our youthful antics is somewhat clouded by nostalgia! As no doubt your head is this morning.

You do have to be careful about keeping a lower profile, freedom of speech is not what it used to be, look at what has happened to Damian Green. There were warning signs that a Stalinesque style of government was creeping in. Hazel Blears has been rallying troops against the freedom to blog. Blaming “corrosive cynicism, fuelled by politically nihilistic blogs and a retreat from dispassionate reporting, is endangering British political discourse”. Perhaps the real reason that bloggers are taking to the keyboard in growing numbers is because…

"Sometimes people feel the political world is very far-removed from their everyday existence,", “There's something about the language we use... it's sometimes like a very closed world”. Said Hazel Blears

As a political community we have come of age and now expect our politicians to treat us as responsible adults, its right that they should be concerned for our welfare but actually we can cope with making decisions, hearing the truth and the odd nihilistic blog!

Poll x

PS To label your previous blog as CULTURE must contravene several codes of ethics!


Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!

Where are you Polly? James and I are neck and neck in the yard of ale, and I'm teaching him how to belt out 'Hymns and Arias' whilst striking the pose of a daffodil. He's playing away in Cardiff on Saturday, so thought in my capacity as responsible godfather, I should gird his loins with some tactical advice on not accepting bitter ale off any charitable Welshmen. He does however do a good Tom Jones turn on the karaoke...just like his Mum, but with his clothes on. We can only assume that you have lost The Firkin Point!! Trust me Polly, James is in good hands.
Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!
Ivor and Jimmy Boy XX
PS It was all going so well until the Cornish Pasties went airborne. So we also did the 'abject humiliation' bit several times, just for fun!
Oi! Oi! Oi!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Firkin Point

Dear Ivor

We work so much better together when there is a true meeting of minds, usually down the pub, sometimes cyberspace does get in the way of true debate! When we get voted in to the job-share PM arrangement, am going to introduce legislation banning email correspondence if you can see the recipient from your desk and the indiscriminate use of CCing will be punishable by loss of email access for a defined period, depending on the severity of the crime. Occasionally feel that we may confuse some of our followers with our meandering thoughts but hopefully it’s a learning process? After all “Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.” (GK Chesterton).

Luckily Robin is out tonight and James is back from uni so has offered to give me a lift. Shall we try The Firkin Point at 8pm?

Poll x

PS James wants to compare notes on the freshers’ rugby initiation ceremony, did tell him that your experience included abject humiliation as well!

Embrace the Three 'E''s

Sorry Polly,
Didn't mean to double-cross in the electronic mail arena. I embrace your delving into the environment and have booked us on a 'Wild Woods' weekend. Brush up on your mushroom recipes....and no 'toadschool' jokes please. We live to learn.
Think we should explore the three 'E's tonight, over a light ale...or four (numerically challenged remember?) Economy, Education and the Environment. Thinking caps on. Another mushroom quip, sorry!
Ivor X

A Sense of Perspective?

Dear Ivor

Think our emails yesterday crossed in cyber post! Either that or you had just had a home brew taster session?

My stumble into your area of environmental issues may have been a little clumsy but my intentions were honourable. However you are probably right perhaps I should stick to education!

We did manage to clarify a few matters last night at the Upping Arms and I am about to publish Poll’s poll for the Head of Education and Innovation. Our three runners are Dr Melvyn Kershaw ex head of Haybridge High School, Dr V Rataj-Worsnop head of Hockerill Anglo-European College and Carol Vorderman, just knew you would get the Welsh contingent in somehow! Perhaps we could have the Dragons as volunteer special advisers on the innovation bit. It might even stir Evan into some action?

David Blunkett is urging that everyone between the ages of 16-25 should do some voluntary work, sounds like another attempt to massage unemployment figures to me! Perhaps he should look at the figures from the Office of National Statistics which reports that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of adults participated at least once in some form of volunteering. If that’s not a good role model for young people don’t know what is. According to Volunteering England the voluntary sector is estimated to be worth £40 billion a year to the economy, no wonder he wants more of us to volunteer! Am all in favour of community spirit and a sense of belonging and the boys’ schools and sports clubs have both borne the brunt of my committee skills! Without the infinite goodwill of a host of local volunteers the majority of sports clubs would not exist. However to say that this will help put things into perspective on "what's happening to them in other parts of their lives", like no jobs, increasing national debt and the prospect of a tax bill without end, is a little patronising. Mind you Robin did say that he already felt that he was doing enforced voluntary work for HM Treasury anyway!

Still with all those extra zeros to keep in check the government has had a bit of a recruitment drive in the last quarter and employed an extra 13,000 people, no doubt on final salary schemes. Its heart warming to know that at least one sector of the economy is expanding.

Unfortunately with the economic crisis in full swing the outrageous conditions in Zimbabwe are DR Congo are hardly hitting the headlines. There’s perspective for you!

Poll xx


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tail Wagging the Dog?


Is the tail wagging the dog? I have personally experienced how easy it is to be diverted by the latest news headline and go wandering off at a tangent. Who exactly is in charge? The media or the politicians? Focus, focus, focus. I am not diminishing the importance of the unfolding massacre in Mumbai, nor the newsworthiness of Woolies and credit crunch kittens , but whilst the environment will always be our number one priority, we must remain disciplined in our efforts to make good the British education system. Why is this such a struggle? I'm starting to realise that whilst every child is complicated issue! And your observation of what appears to be a disdain of academic elitism is right on the nose. I will come back to the 'Gifted and Talented' agenda right after I have conquered my own dyslexia with big numbers.

This TRILLION thing has disturbed me....what is a 'trillion'...what does it look like? Any old British blogger knows it's twelve zeros, and can freely converse in myriads for those Asiatic superpowers who may be blogging in. But what does it look like? How many paper aeroplanes are we talking about? (Lucky Geoff Hoon doesn't live in Thailand!) As a visual thinker I find this a challenging concept but lucky for me, a very clever man called Michael Blastland came to my rescue. I confess, he may know Evan Davies, but please don't hold that against him Polly. Michael explains that you can get 50, 000 pennies into a cubic foot and therefore:

''a trillion pennies would fill two St Paul's Cathedrals'' .

I feel so much better now. Shall I email him and ask him exactly how many Edmonton's Shadows I need to handfold in order to carpet and mulch Geoff Hoon's garden? It's sure to confuse and throw all plans for a third runway into disarray.

I do not have your head for numbers Polly, and I oppugn the flagrant brandishing of zeros willy-nilly by political statisticians. I can't help feeling they are toying with my mathematical inadequacies and it frightens and humiliates me. We everyday blokes don't like to admit our lack of understanding, so we pretend to understand and then disengage from the reality of the situation. We are baffled by scale, seduced by numerical promises and all sense of real comparison eludes us?

Blinded by this abuse of numbers, I sought clarity in a bottle of Grumpling Premium and a long walk with Edwina. I finished this fascinating article on 'The Numbers Game' with a clear head and a healthy dose of skepticism. What reassures me on the one hand and concerns me on the other, is that even the journalists reporting on the state of our economy don't have a clue either. Super. So we are all pretenders then aren't we? Therefore, it doesn't really matter who's wagging the tail afterall. Which brings us back to our original premise. If our politicians, economists and the journalists don't understand numbers, what the bl***y h*ll is wrong with our education and why are the rest of us frightened to stand up and be counted....we are clearly all numerically challenged and we should be wondering why. Of course I'm not referring to our Carol Voderman but it may explain our difficulty in nominating a Head of Education.
Which after much rambling brings me back to your point about academic elitism. I have laboured over the many documents spewing forth about maximising every child's potential. It seems that whilst many special needs are targetted in state schools, the bright kids get overlooked because of political correctness. It is worrying that India Knight believes the so-called educationalists are not up to their jobs and 'should be sacked.'Maybe that explains why we are struggling to find people for our new role. If she likes real ale too, she's my new nomination for Head of Education and Innovation. Although I admire Alex Dolan's you think she could work compatibly with India?
Isn't it about time that we all stopped googling inanely, penpushing and number-crunching and begin talking turkey, facing facts and take some common sense action, swiftly. Our state schooling is failing on every level but I suspect if we asked wannabe bloggers:
'What action would YOU take to kickstart our education system?'
the answers would be many and varied. I'm not sure I know the answer....not without another session at the Cock and Bull. Truth is, leading educationalists have not been allowed a platform to air their dirty washing without risking career and disgrace. How can we deal with a problem if we won't even acknowledge it exists. I applaud Alex Dolan's courage...I suspect many of us are not shocked. But how many of us are prepared to do something about it? Hmmph?
Talking of tail wagging, must feed Edwina and take some deep breaths.
A trillion times yours,
Ivor X


The Long and The Short of it.


If you are economically confused...I am truly in the soft and smelly. I tried to comprehend the level of debt via conventional channels. The Ten O'clock News made it simple for us tree-huggers and kindly explained ...'that's 12 zeros'. Now, that's much clearer, as I wasn't sure how many there were in a billion, let alone a trillion. Let's hope we are all speaking the same language in this international economic crisis. God forbid there might be some global misunderstanding along the way?
Must go, struggling with my Saberdarts are certainly 'technically backwards and unique' but I think I may be developing pilot's finger...only another zillion raptors to go. Anyone want to help pimp my mini-jet?
Much love,
Ivor X
PS Simply speaking, I suspect 'the long and the short' of our borrowing status it is that we are deeply in the RED....this universally understood colour is often used as a warning signal to indicate danger. Is this clear enough?

Paradox of Drift

Dear Ivor

Do you need a hand with the paper planes? Apparently those nice people at BAA have agreed to accept an independent body monitoring the volume of flights coming into Heathrow if it gets the go-ahead for a third runway. Although in the past they did agree that if they got a fifth terminal they wouldn’t ask for an additional runway. An oversight I’m sure and probably the planned sixth terminal is only a little shed serving the odd tea and coffee!

Now you have become a self-appointed honorary member of NOTRAG thought you might need a bit of background info. It is a fact that more people want to fly, according to the office of National Statistics numbers of passengers in UK airports has risen from 4 million in 1954 to 228 million in 2005 and is expected to reach 500 million in 2030. Was I must admit a little boggled by those numbers! It is also a fact that additional flights will have a detrimental affect on the global environment, even the government recognises this. So which argument wins the economy or the environment?

In the past we have adopted a spend now pay later attitude, encouraged by easy access to credit and a belief in the strength of our economy. Before you say it, I am not going to be pious about this, I too have succumbed to a bit of plastic swiping in my time. However the recent downturn has exposed the fragility of the global financial system. There were warning voices but these were ignored. With hind sight we can look back and heap blame on that bank, this government or personal greed. However we can learn from the mistakes and build a more sustainable system for the future.

The environment on the other hand does not provide second chances. The warning voices are there; Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace to name but a few. Are we going to adopt a fly now pay later attitude? If we default on the environment the foreclosure could be catastrophic.

Whilst in Googleland was wondering if politicians suffer from the paradox of drift, the more they look for answers the further away they get from the truth!

We must stay focussed, see you later.

Poll xx


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Join the Elite?

Dear Ivor

My goodness you have been busy!! I have not been ignoring you, my silence was due initially I must admit to shock, but that was overtaken by a technical hitch, rendering me incompatible with the internet. I did find myself missing the lack of intimacy with Google and realised that perhaps I did have some of the symptoms of Google mania, an increasing fondness for primary colours, irrational contempt for Yahoo and a gambler’s obsession with “I’m Feeling Lucky”. For two days faced with a gap in my knowledge I could no longer respond with “I’ll google it” followed by some frantic activity on the keyboard, “duw it’s hard” when you have to admit you don’t know!

Did follow your foray into the Sky News web chat on “Wossy” and although it may not have been your finest hour I have to admire your nerve. I did try a contribution of my own, “For god’s sake Ivor get off the air”, however it was blocked by the moderator, who obviously found your ramblings amusing.

I have apologised to Ian Hyland on your behalf, and received a more than magnanimous reply. Think you may have got away with it this time! His comment on air to you, although a little cryptic, was not as you thought a reference to a pint of Black and Tan but more of a cerebral observation! However to have been included in a sentence with Bono is, I must admit, quite a victory in itself.

Sky News web chat transcript: 12:51 Ian Hyland: Ivor and Polly, it is possible to save the world and discuss other things too. Even Bono likes a bit of light and shade.

Our profile has increased immeasurably, although possibly before you venture forth again into cyberspace we may have to consult a lawyer!

Don’t think that I too have not been working tirelessly for the cause, even without the assistance of electronic aids. My venture into education has taken another turn and I need you to have a clear head. Rein in your endorphins for once and engage your grey cells! Was listening to the radio (won’t mention the station, as am a bit fed up with the lack of response from Evan, he hasn’t even posted an item on his own blog since 27 October!), and they were discussing the demise of the 11-plus test in Northern Ireland. It got me thinking about academic selection. Why is academic ability viewed differently to sporting prowess or an aptitude for the arts? Am I sensing a little bit of discrimination? There appears to be no complaints of inequality when young people are selected on talent to attend a sports academy or drama school. However if you excel in academic subjects and go through a selection process to attend a more scholarly establishment it is elitism? What’s wrong with being academically clever, answer that one for me?

The environment must be at the top of our manifesto, after all where would we be without it? Spurned on by your campaign have included a link here to the petition page against the third runway at Heathrow for all our fellow bloggers to object.

Should I interpret from your previous post that the Lesser Spotted Boris Bird is now an endangered species? Does the charismatic Mrs Boris know?

Was as usual confused by the budget. Am I right in thinking that the government wants us to spend money now that we lent to the banks, but that they don’t want to lend back to us, in order to pay it back to the government later in the form of taxes, no doubt with interest? Do they think if they make the route complicated enough we won’t notice that all roads lead to the tax payer!

They are still avoiding the question of the public-sector pension liabilities just another odd trillion of debt. I know I mentioned this before but let’s face it “these are extraordinary times” and time to admit that roughly 80% of tax payers can barely fund their own pensions, let alone contribute further to the under funded final salary schemes of 5 million public sector workers. It’s not just me who thinks so. Look at these articles from Power to the people and the FT. Is this not creating a pension elite? This huge injustice needs sorting out now!

Poll xx

PS see you Weds at the Upping Arms at 8pm?


Bird Strikes

Oh Polly,
You must read Linda McCutcheon's letter regarding the 'Black Suited Dimwit'....made my whiskers tremble. I've started twitching over the Thames Estuary in search of the Lesser Spotted Boris Bird but to no avail. Ah Ha! Found him...let's hope the conclusions of his commissioned studies are not set in high-fired stone!
Wednesday at 'The Upping Arms''...are we speaking yet?
Ivor X

Monday, November 24, 2008

Climate Crunch

Dear Polly
Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking in the shed (doghouse?)...and have put life a little more into perspective. The international economic crisis, whilst critical in many respects is really academic if we don't cut a global deal on saving the planet. Instead of writing a hundred lines on recycled paper in beetroot ink :
'Never again make silly suggestions on Sky News,
Never again make silly suggestions on Sky News,
Never again make silly suggestions on Sky News'
.....enough....I have been industriously making newspaper aeroplanes by the thousand. Stay with me Polly, it is rumoured that Geoff Hoon is on the brink of signing off the third runway at Heathrow. I thought that perhaps we, and a few of the lads from The Slightly Chequered, could lob dozens of these compostible aerofoils over his garden fence by means of peaceful demonstration. Elvis could make aeroplane noises too if he wanted? Wondered if we should drop a line to Geraldine at NOTRAG to show our support.

And where is Boris in all this? It makes a mockery of any serious attempts to address the ever apparent climatic challenges that are upon us. No one wants to fly anymore...we can't afford it for a start and nor can the planet. Don't do it Geoff! What do you think Polly...time for a revival of our 'Save the Whale' days? You know you want to? We need to be out there actively demonstrating....hang on a that Robin? You sly dogs....that's where you've been!

In my soul searching regarding our leadership campaign I can see how easy it is to lose the bigger picture. Let's face it, China, India, Russia are all growing into superpowers so it is critical that that we work towards international unity and adopt a collaborative approach to the key issue of global warming. The problem is...I'm not sure if we are and me that is! I'm not good with the silent treatment. I can't save the world single-handedly. When you and Robin have disentangled the bungee ropes from my scarf, could we all go for a drink?
Ivor X
PS You have to go one better, don't you.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sky's the Limit?

Dear Polly,
Please talk to me? I am truly repentant...and quietly drinking myself into an apologetic stupor. Even Edwina has got that look.
Yours Ivor X
PS Sky's the Limit?

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Can I come out of the shed yet?

Friday, November 21, 2008

This Once Great Nation...

Breaking News Polly!
Government ditches Prudence, and feel I too have given in to prudence. Whilst I should have been getting stuck into real issues surrounding the energy crisis, climate change and economic transformation...I found myself caught up in a last minute bid to save JR. I'm not proud. Wossy will not be sacked....but it's gone very silent on the BBC 'Jim'll Fix It' relaunch for Christmas. That may have something to do with a webchat moment that overcame me. I now see how fame goes to the heads of politicians. Ian Hyland's reply on Bono confused me...I thought he was referring to real ales (he's a Derbyshire man) and I made an off-the-cuff remark about Rudolph's Revenge. That one didn't go live...but I'm sorry to say several others did.

I hope Barry blogs on to Wannabe....I couldn't agree more with his comments, hence the title. Anyway, I've made my point loud and clear. It's time to put my media intervention to rest and move forward with a degree of humility. Still, it was funny at the time!
Ivor X
PS I will stay confined to my shed until things die down. Although there is an Arctic freeze heading this way for the weekend....button down the longjohns. Has Robin got the Max Boyce scarf that I swished?


Jonathan Ross Decision Countdown

Polly...can you believe it. The BBC are still dithering about Jonathan Ross. Didn't they get my email? Let's spell it out....are you listening Sir Michael Lyons of the BBC Trust?
  • Popular broadcaster gaffs big time.Ooops.
  • Listening public up in arms. Yikes.
  • Grandad understandably p***ed off. Ooops.
  • Apologies offered. Aaagh.
  • Punishment administered. Hooray.
  • Let's wait.....tum te tum....tum te tum...
  • Rebrand with new improved wholesome image. Mmmm?
  • Charitable, child-centred programme for Christmas. Mmmm?
  • Donate some/all of £6 million salary to charity. Hooray.
  • Forgiveness, peace and harmony. Yippee!

And the programme? Woss'll Fix It, of course!

Sir Michael, sorry to interrupt your critical meeting (there's another one going on in Washington today..nothing that won't wait though.) I'm hoping you might find the time to read this last-minute blog in your coffee break (Fairtrade I hope). Make the right decision please so we can all get back to minor diversions like averting global recession, tackling prostitution,DR Congo, climate change, honey rationing and Madge's divorce.
Seriously though, 'Good Luck Wossy'...if it all goes pear-shaped (Polly won't let me say 'T**s Up'), I'm sure we can find a role for you in the Wannabepm Crew. Not sure if the Environment is your metaphorical backpack...Repair, Recycle. Reuse...seems so cruel. But then under the circumstances? Fingers crossed.
Big Kisses
Ivor Dunmoaning
PS Education is clearly a no-go with the three 'R's. What about a short broadcast on the Economy 'Recession to Recovery'....don't mention the 'R' word?
Ohhh! Sorry, must reign in my uncontrollable endorphins!
Come out from behind the sofa of political correctness Polly...he knows I'm only joshing. Can't he take a joke?


Happiness comes...

In the words of Buddha:
Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others
Bloody benefits again! Can we ditch Galbraith?
Ivor X


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Be Very Afraid!

Oh Polly,

I have sniggered in wild abandon here reading your blog. And laughing is so good for the soul. Releases endorphins. Perhaps we should explore your concept of Happiness Lessons in school further? Personally I think we should offer out Melissa's advice to high school kids for them to take charge of their own positive thoughts...which options on the menu do you think they'll go for? Acupuncture, chocolate, horror films, a long run or...a very moving experience. None of the above? Mmmm tricky!

What a font of far flung information you are! I have a slight concern that the boredom of hospital food may have affected your mind. Are you descending into some all-consuming google mania? Is this predilection a health concern? Or are you simply delaying the inevitable return to Robin's frugality? As for Christmas, you needn't worry about Robin choosing unwisely as I've talked him out of the bottle recycled green gecko goblets, the willow making-course and suggested a more biblical offering. Perhaps you could get him a 100% hemp backpack to go with it ...literally.

Clearly 'glamping' in yurts holds irresistible appeal for British nature lovers, but not sure why you need a summer solstice as an excuse for 'dancing around the campfire in various stages of undress'. Alice should spend a weekend skinny dipping at C.A.T....that will certainly lift her organic spirits! I thought Robin would appreciate these top tips...although as I recall the question on most students' lips was how the f*** do you pronounce Machynlleth. That's where the indulgence in homebrew evolved. Ahh! The memories.

I may disappear offline for a while as I need to give clarity of focus to our communication strategy. Also, must press on with putting the finishing touches to the shed plans. This is a serious campaign driver, and whilst I agree with Pete May of The Guardian, that this is just the ticket for securing votes by the shedload...I do wonder if it's easier shed than done.

Just off in search of a red hot chilli pepper for a quick boost of natural euphoria and so that you don't feel left out here's an inspiring piece of music to stimulate your hospitalized endorphins....relax and enjoy! Got ya!

Don't you feel so much happier now...I know I do!!

Lots of love

Ivor X

PS Pressure's on...but take heart, we're not the only ones strapped for cash in our election it's open play if we WannabePM! I've found THE rousing campaign song to whoop up even more wannabe followers. I thought Doctor Mel and Robin would both like the spin on 'backpacks' (our metaphorical toolkit)...and I have a sneaky suspicion that LynnMarie has tripped out on happiness endorphins at several summer solstices. Perhaps this is the way to breakdown our middle-class image? I agree the American accent is an issue, do you think I should contact Max Boyce for a remix?
PPS Did you spot me in the C.A.T. photo?


Wealth Warning

Dear Ivor

You’re right you can’t believe everything you read! The article you found did sound rather caustic and slightly lacking in substance, more of a lewd gesture I thought. A bitter rival was probably an understatement, the edge of reason did spring to mind! Think a similar attack may have occurred on Wikipedia, as although normally an oracle on all things, this page seems to have mysteriously been deleted.

Was, I must admit, a little taken aback by his appearance , for a moment thought it was the comedian Dominic Holland, although perhaps a little more mature. Had more of a Dumbledore figure in mind with frayed cuffs, now there’s an academic stereotype!

Anyway on further googling discovered that, allegedly, Dr K is now an adviser for the Department for Children, Schools and Families so is already in the political forum. Also Adrian Chiles was an ex-pupil at Haybridge High School so perhaps he’s could give us the inside track? However in the absence of further nominations from our loyal bloggers, will just have to leave it up to the public as to whether they vote for him in our forthcoming poll.

With regard to more inclusivity and your tree hugging contingent, please do not ask Roger! Had heard he was trying to move the yurt from Swanage up to Firle to participate in Safari Britain, no doubt tempted by Alice Keens Soper’s comment on the site. I do not have to remind you that under no circumstances do I wish to resume the conversation on the joys of a green relationship with him! Think he got most of his tips from This one should appeal to you click here.

With regard to your concerns about your carbon footprint, there are wind-up laptops produced under the one laptop per child scheme, the XO, not sure you would qualify. Perhaps you could cobble together a solar panel instead?

The news from the high street is a little despondent and am feeling the pinch myself, Robin has been compiling a Christmas budget, looks more like rationing to me! He has taken to thrift far too easily for my liking. The list includes making Christmas decorations with pine cones and spraying various seed heads from the garden silver, very Sarah Raven. Also a secret Santa tombola where we each only buy one present, that’s one more than he usually does! He’s working on the menu now, heaven help us, if he asks you for any foraging tips please keep stum!

Only five weeks to Christmas and there is a distinct lack of indiscriminate spending going on. Perhaps shoppers are holding off, waiting to get a real bargain, although the Woolworths chain for £1 seems a bit too good to be true! Whilst we procrastinate are we actually exacerbating the financial crisis?

On the Today programme this morning Sir Philip Green blamed the media for fuelling the lack of confidence. I have to agree that I think he is partly right. Reports on flash sales on the high street do make me think twice about parting with my cash. After all things could go even lower, or is it because reality is dawning on me?

Whilst I have been indisposed I have examined my conscience, and have a nagging doubt that things had got slightly out of control. Are we all positively reviewing our spending habits now? House prices were soaring, credit cards were up to the hilt, mortgage debt was increasing and we were prepared to pay almost anything for designer clothing and the perfect interior. Has the power now been passed back to the consumer? Could it be that the prospect of Christmas, a season to be jolly expensive, with families overspending and getting into more debt to provide things they can’t afford, whilst repenting miserably for most of the following year, could be a thing of the past? Could we be humming along to ‘I’m dreaming of a debt-free Christmas’ or 'Jingle Bills, Jingle Bills, Credit cards thrown away, oh what fun it is to strive to pay for Christmas day, Oh!', ho, ho, ho! No cringing please.

Don’t be smug, you have always been the Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder in matters of excessive consumerism, which is probably why Robin has encouraged our friendship, well that and the supply of home brew, and perhaps in the past I have rejected your cautionary advice out of hand. I may never develop your resourcefulness where fashion is concerned, or your disregard for sell-by dates, however I intend to bear your mantra in mind when I am next out shopping, ‘This item can seriously damage your wealth’!

Poll xxx

PS Remember I recommended happiness lessons in schools someone has got there first!

PPS Have no idea about pocket money, did start giving it to the boys but always needed to borrow it back so ended up in debt!!


Benefits Who?

Hi Polly,

I enjoyed tonight's meeting and have come home energised and ready to roll. I've been in touch with the BBC about Woss'll Fix It. I'll get on to Pashleys in the morning and send off an email to Boris too. As for Dr Melvyn Kershaw...he sounded perfect until I started surfing the web and accidentally stumbled upon THIS! Sounds like a bitter ex-student or rival headteacher perhaps? Ignore it, ignore it....don't believe everything you google...some bloggers write any old rubbish. We should make up our own minds. He looks a sound bloke to me. Should he win the wannabe bloggers vote for Head of Education and Innovation, I may suggest he dresses down a little for our first brainstorm. I've already asked Aunty Gladys to knit him a few elbow patches in optimistic anticipation. I also think his age is a real plus factor in demonstrating inclusivity in our campaign.

If he jobshares with Carol Voderman we will have a real breadth of representation ranging in race, colour, gender, sexual orientation and now age. And so far we've only been recruiting for two posts! Still a bit dominated by the middle class I feel...might need to call upon a few treehugging friends though I'm loathed to admit my new found technical prowess. Can you get wind up I'm feeling a little uneasy about my carbon footprint?

As for EMAs...I'm disgusted. I'm lost for words...any private school mums out there in cyberspace that are claiming your £30 whilst pocketing ex-hubby's fortune....YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES! Read this and weep. Don't even think of blogging in a defence...just blog off down to your nearest Jack Wills shop...if you dare. Or put it towards your next pair of Jimmy Choo Nevada flats. That should ease your conscience...assuming you have one! (Don't worry Polly, I spotted Miranda wearing them...that's the only reason I know they are in at the moment!) You are SO right. We need to give some serious thought to this 'benefit' mentality that is souring the nation.
Must just catch the end of Moral Maze....all about social workers.
Love Ivor X
PS A random thought. Why do we give children Pocket Money?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dr Melvyn Kershaw, The One.....

Dear Ivor

Technically speaking it wasn’t a spelling error in my previous post, goodness I am beginning to sound like a politician, however my ‘though’ has been provided with its ‘t’. You knew I’d never be able to leave it unedited! However I think it shows strength of character, a willingness to recognise a mistake and the ability to take immediate action. How kind of you to point it out………!

I must admit I clicked on your link for Mint Sauce with a little trepidation, initially I thought it might be a Welsh folk band with a Max Boyce leaning. However was more than pleasantly surprised, graphics are just what we need and there is a certain similarity between you and Chipko Andolan, watch this space!

Whilst contemplating the undoubted impact that my absence has had on the salsa class, I was left wondering if Miranda Gibson had sidled into my place next to Antonio. Although he too had looked fairly amused at the sight of my robust undergarments, I pride myself that she doesn’t have my shimmy. You may be wondering at the direction my thoughts are taking me? Well I then recalled a conversation that I had had with Miranda about EMA, now I am not saying that this is the norm, however in this time of cost cutting it might be an area we could look at. We were chatting about our boys, hers are at an independent boarding school, and she was gloating that they both get payments of £30 per week, which helps to pay the insurance on Tom’s Mini Cooper with personalised plates and Michael’s Abercrombie and Fitch wardrobe and they also get attendance bonuses, they’re at flipping boarding school for goodness sake!

Of course I was intrigued to find out why they qualified for anything, thinking a scam was afoot and no, not even the whiff of one! The reason for it is because Miranda’s not inadequate maintenance payments from John (ex-husband) are not classed as earnings under EMA or the fact she lives in a £1m plus property. This seems a little unfair and perhaps someone reading could explain to me why this is the case? Is capital or value of assets taken into account by HMRC for any tax credits? Did a little ferreting around and found this paragraph;

“We will not normally take capital (that is, deposits in current and savings accounts at banks and building societies, most lump sum payments and the value of property, shares and other investments) into account when we work out your entitlement to tax credits.”


EMA payments are in turmoil at the moment; the grant company administrating the scheme is having the contract taken away because it is not delivering payments on time, or at all. Is this because they are incompetent, or is it because the system is too complicated and too many students are claiming! The argument for the payments is that students will drop out if they’re not paid. Know we have mentioned this before, probably at length, but is this the right incentive? Good education and better job prospects, not massaging the unemployment figures might be a more valid reason.

Back to education and back on track I hope….. Think I have found ‘the one’ for Head of Education and Innovation, Dr Melvyn Kershaw, he sounds perfect, a clear vision and a metaphorical rucksack full of experience and with time on his hands! He has leapt to the top of my list and I’m even thinking of setting up a fan club! Where has this man been all my life, sorry Robin!

See you later.

Poll xx

PS consider my communication sharpened!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Well Hello Polly,
(There's a song in that and I may have sung it before so indulge me.)

Quietly whittling by the woodchip pellet fire and feeling reflective, so my quote of the day comes from Jo Burt of Mint Sauce sheep and Welshmen jokes thanks. Thought he might consider doing some graphics for us if you asked him nicely?

If we all, mountain bikers, cyclists, multi-national companies, jo public, respected the land like old civilizations we wouldn't get so many punctures. Earth's Revenge.

Are you listening Boris?

Polly I was blown away by the Google offices. WOW! I'm off to the salvage yard with my etchings and a whole new dream for the shed makeover. Also wondered if you could show me how to email Pashleys with my Ivorbike ideas...gradually gaining technical knowledge but in the words of MaxBoyce....'Duw it's hard!' Cue the song again? I'll resist the temptation to link at this point! I'll do it here instead! This is such a wheeze!

I had another brainwave today...this time media not politics. Do you remember 'Jim'll Fix It'? I loved that programme, though my Dad only switched on in error thinking it was all about DIY. Well...I can see a new role for Jonathan Ross. If he combined his affable wit with a more charitable persona it might resurrect his faltering image and bring some much needed feelgood factor back to British viewers. Bestowing dreams come true in the Christmas run up would be perfect. Might break down barriers between the generation gaps too...scary children and all that. Just musing. What do you think? Struggling with Woss'll fix it...might need some tinkering. I'll email the BBC when I've worked out how to. Christmas should be a time of forgiveness....a time for dreams come true. Me first though with ''Woss fixed it for me to brew my own personalised real ale''. A fruity little number with robust undertones and a little rough around the edges!!! Another winning formula for bloggy good ideas I thought.

From real ale back to the real world...Dennis Woodside is a good call but we seem to have overlooked any pure educationalists. Is this a reflection of the current state of pedagogy in the UK? Because I can't think of any, can you? Also, do you remember a long time ago we talked about vision and focus? Do you think we have been guilty of wandering from the path somewhat? Have we forgotten our goal to lead this country out of the quagmire? We are now awash with followers and bloggers (no don't count all of them Polly it will take too long). I feel the enthusiasm bubbling under the virtual surface. We just need to tap into the views of the people of Britain...and empower our bloggers as a united force to be reckoned with. To do so, we must sharpen our communication as our next step in our campaign for leadership. So let's make that our focus at the pub tomorrow and get our troops rallied...or Raleighed even?
Love Ivor (PM in waiting) X

PS As for the spellcheck comment...I could feign hurt but I'm rather intrigued by what exactly you gave Peter Jones?!! Mmmm? Puts a new spin on 'Never drop your 't's!' You could edit it ...but I quite like it as it is!!


One Bicycle Per Child?

Dear Ivor

Am thrilled you have finally mastered the more intricate side of blogging and inserted links!! I fear there will be no stopping you now! Perhaps spell check could be next?

Unfortunately once again we may not have got there first. It seems that a link between Pashleys and Boris has already been mooted and apparently Jeremy Clarkson himself has one, not sure if that is an addition to their green credentials. However still think Pashleys IvorBike Freecycling Scheme should not be deterred by this minor hiccup and you should forge ahead regardless, as you usually do.

Have been investigating myself this one laptop per child scheme. You purchase a laptop with an identifying sticker which means you get two for the price of one, one for you and one for a school child in a developing nation. On the face of it I was impressed could we do the same thing with bikes? Probably more useful in some cases in order to get to school.

Whilst speaking of education, I have put Carol Voderman on the list for Head of Education and Innovation, although I would need to have a word with her about her freelance work with regard to promoting certain loan companies. Think her heart is probably in the right place and boy is that woman good with figures, bet she wears Trinny and Susannah tummy control thongs! Stephen Fry although an all round good egg could be a little difficult to manage and end up more popular than us, so a no-goer. Did give some thought to Peter Jones, perhaps he could job share with Carol as he certainly has the innovation side of things covered and we could do with a bit of that right now. Or we could look at Dennis Woodside, he looks a bit like a comic superhero and runs Google in the UK, now there’s a bit of super innovation for you. Could we kit no. 10 out like the Google offices in Zurich? Can just see Barack sliding in for a chat!

Am finding my enforced rest a little boring, although the hopping is coming along well and I can now get to the bathroom without too many mishaps. It does make me realise how debilitating even a small injury can be, not that you don’t know that, I still wince when I think of you coming off that rugby pitch.

See you tomorrow, Robin said he would drive me, he wants to show off his eco-fuel to you and also something about a chirpy trike! You’ll know we’re coming from the waft of chips!!

Poll x


Monday, November 17, 2008

I can link!

Polly, I did it! There's no stopping me now! Big kisses Ivor XX

Kneesy for you to say!

Welcome back Polly, I've missed you. Sorry about your meniscus, not to mention the big knickers (never again I promise!). I have been slightly confused and after much delving into transpirational pull and capillary action I realised I'd made a parallax error. You were, in fact, talking about your bloody knee! As for 'Meh'...I always thought that meant slightly more than 'rubbish' in French and it's not new in my vocabulary...not since 'O' level with Gerty Garlick in cell block H (mind your language) department!

I may have been harsh on Boris with regards to my Ivorbike Freecycling brainwave. He has been putting his money where his mouth is afterall, in challenging the plans to build a third runway at Heathrow. Top man Boris! When that's sorted can we address the small matter of London as Olympic Cycle City?

Boris, whilst you're busy, I hope you don't mind if I tip off Pashley Cycles of England to start designing a prototype to bid for contract a la 'Velib'. Being a traditional man I thought we should tender out to an established British firm. And as for Pashleys...remember it was Ivor who gave you the nod and the wink? Perhaps you could design Polly and I a 'fit-for-leadership' tandem for our ministerial campaign by means of a thankyou? No harm in asking. Incidentally, how did you know Robin had special needs...Polly only fessed up to me over one to many malibus? You know what they say about men with small hands? She'll have a field day when she sees your you do wicker laptop holders?

Polly, are we safe to go back to the Natter and Twitter on Wednesday do you think? If so see you there at 8.00pm.
Lots of love,
Ivor X

PS NO Polly! Pashleys don't do Cath Kidston basket inserts....yet?!!!


Strictly Cucaracha!

Dear Ivor

Sorry to have missed our meeting at The Grand Union. Not sure how much Robin told you about my salsa incident? Was performing a simple cucaracha, rather well I thought, when my enthusiastic partner, attempting a cross basic, tripped, resulting in a rather unseemly heap on the floor, a complete loss of dignity and a tear in my meniscus, to say nothing of the flash of my knee length tummy control pants, which although extremely discreet when covered do appear rather industrial on airing! Even in my moment of pain I recognised the flicker of smug looks amongst the female members of the class who now knew that the source of my sleek lines was not an iron will but more iron knickers! After a visit to A&E and more knicker airing, which I must admit I did attempt to pass off as sports under shorts, am at last at home with leg elevated, a bucket of ice and PC within reach!! Am afraid my dancing days will be over for a while, but it does give me more time to concentrate on our campaign.

It was a shame about your cycling initiative, but the fact that it is being done in other countries just goes to prove that it is a good idea, so carry on with the lobbying. Perhaps we could call it Ivorbike?

You were also right about not settling for mediocrity in education. It does sometimes appear that we have created a generation hooked on image and get rich quick schemes, waiting to be whisked off to another life instead of living their own. The way education is taught and valued must be a core part of our political party manifesto. We could get rid of OFSTED inspections and replace it with an organisation promoting teacher buddying schemes and exchanges, providing resources of tried and tested excellent teaching aids and advice. We could support and develop our teachers and their pupils, instead of contributing to a culture of pressure and blame.

It is surprising that it was reported in a recent YouGov survey that over 50% of adults interviewed thought that children were a danger to others. And yet children do not grow up in a vacuum, who and where are the responsible adults who have been figures of authority and influence in these feral children’s lives? Could it be us?

There is definitely a generation gap but there should be one, we don’t want young people sharing our disco anthems and being influenced by our cynicism! The great thing about the young, and which we must encourage at all costs, is their belief that they can change things for the better, if that goes we are all lost! In America Barack Obama won the youth vote so perhaps this is the time for change, before someone steals my identity online for £80 and ruins my life, sorry the pessimism just creeps up on me, must be my age!

Look forward to seeing you, need cheering up! Meh!!

Poll x

PS Nearly forgot, apparently David Mandelson has expressed an interest in being on Strictly Come Dancing, perhaps I ought to warn him of the dangers………then again!


A French Velorution!

It's true Polly the frogs are green (in an environmental sense) and revolting (in a cycling sense). I know that's not very gracious of me and not the best for continental relations but can you believe that all that industrious activity last night in the shed was actually old hat? The bloody French got there first with their 'VELIBS'...and New York already does 'Freehire Fridays'...and apparently free bike hire is coming soon to Birmingham! I was so deflated that my idea wasn't unique afterall, that I couldn't bring myself to do the appropriate links. There's too many of them. I can just hear all those bloggers out there smuggly typing 'we knew that'. Well I bloody didn't! But for the record Boris, get off your posterior and get on your bike. Why is it taking so long? Whilst the Parisians are gayly cycling around the Champs Elysees in their high heels, with a baguette under one arm and smoking a gallois in the tourism leaders were stranded on London transport on their way to a Travel Show at an Olympics venue. Just a tiny bit embarrassing. Up the French 'Velorution' I say. It's time for action, not words Boris. Hmmmph!
Ivor X
PS I can't see the French in cycling helmets...and how do they steer?

A Flash for Boris?

Sorry Polly,
I shouldn't laugh. But I thought that perhaps I'd got the dates or venue mixed up when you didn't show at The Grand Union. By the time I'd whizzed round on my scooter to the Twitter and Natter I guessed I'd missed you altogether. I nearly choked on Santa's Nut's when I read Robin's text. I never realised salsa dancing was so dangerous and I await with interest your update on accident and emergency procedures under the NHS! Can you bend it anymore? We did crack a few 'paso doble' jokes and Ernie wasn't very impressed with the impromptu bullfight which ended in a sad rendition of 'Y Viva Espana'. I missed the last train out so it was a long scoot home to Little Uppity.But on a serious note, take things easy and don't be too hard on the nurses.

Incidentally, I've had a brainwave. On my way back in the early hours I passed more than one abandoned shopping trolley. It may well have been the same one that I passed several times. I pondered as to why people nick bikes (especially mine) but not trolleys? Ah Hah! Because they are free. Therein lies the answer. If every train station or underground in London had a stock of sturdy bikes for public use. You could put in a nominal deposit, cycle to another bike bank near your destination, drop off your bike and collect your deposit. Surely bikes aren't worth nicking if they're free for the taking? This is revolutionary. It could resolve London's transport problem and save the planet. Do you think I should email Boris with my flash of inspiration? I've already been in the shed designing prototypes but need you to do a feasability study. Exciting though isn't it? We could have tandems, family carriers, pet panniers....must carry on scribbling whilst the juices are flowing.
Lots of love
Ivor X
PS Don't eat too many 'merengues' in hospital...sorry that was Ernie's latino joke. It was really funny...last night! XX


Friday, November 14, 2008

Happiness is...

Evening Polly,
Apologies for earlier lengthy blog. Now at peace having been down the allotment...elated to find a windfall apple with a shape oddly similar to Carol Vorderman's bottom. Not that I've been fixating. Came across this pertinent Chinese saying after my soapbox outburst on happiness. Thought it might warm the cockles:
''If you want to be happy for a short time, get drunk; happy for a long time, fall in love; happy for ever, take up gardening.''
Grubby hands, Edwina and a bottle of Good King Senseless...aaah! Nighty night.
Ivor X
PS Loved your Galbraith quote! Guess what? His father was a farmer and...a schoolteacher.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

By the Balls!

Hi Polly,
John Wayne also said: 'If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow'. Not sure if this philosophy will have a motivational impact amongst leading British educationalists! But then he was really called 'Marion' so the psychologists will have a field day.

Do you think Ed Balls was a John Wayne fan and shares my enthusiasm for spaghetti westerns? The crux of the matter is how do we convince school children that it is cool to be clever? Why do they all want to be popstars and footballers? Is it fame or fortune? I'm sure there is a need for aspirational role models who are bright and talented to inspire children to achieve their potential and I think it's particularly telling that, apart from Carol Vorderman (whose mother was Welsh incidentally), who else comes to mind for Head of Education? She might even help Alvin and Evan out with the zeros and I know Robin is finding his sudoku a little challenging! I'll tell her your spreadsheet is a no go zone.

Take Myleene Klass, for instance, (I know Mr Gilbert would have) despite all her classical attributes it was 'Popstars' that made her a household name. We need more public figures who are enthusiastic about learning and demonstrate the intrinsic value of education? How do we make this exciting television? These are largely diversionary rantings as the truth is I don't have another nomination for our Education and Innovation post. I like Carol, but even she felt the need to restyle herself with some interesting swimming outfits...there's even a website celebrating her bum. Wait a minute...what about Stephen Fry?

I'm afraid Polly, whilst I agree with you on most things (and panic inwardly when I don't) I found myself wildly gesticulating to Edwina about your comment 'There will always be good and not so good teachers'...that simply will not do. We cannot accept mediocrity in our educationalists. It used to be a matter of salary...but the teaching pay scale seems pretty decent to me. But does it inspire our teachers of the future?

I acknowledge that if Jonathon Ross and Beckham combined salaries we could fund enough teachers to educate the nation and resolve class ratios in one blow, so what message are we delivering? Playing football and making people laugh pays zillions and being a teacher is, well, OK? Everyday jobs are not selling themselves to our do we market academia?

I'm not saying it's all about salary. Even Aunty Gladys knows 'money doesn't buy you happiness' but don't we owe it to our kids to chuck out the rubbish teachers and attract and retain the brilliant ones?

What attracts people into professions in the first place? I don't believe it is purely salary. I googled this premise and various interesting facts emerged. Firstly, there is a 'Happiness Index' and beauty therapists are infinately happier than the rest of us. Bankers and builders are a miserable bunch...but then we knew that.

Also there is a threshold after which salary has little correlation with happiness...someone thought it was £25,000 if you lived in London...I suggest the rest of the country would be cock-a-hoop to attain that. Beauty therapists in Middlesbrough would need positively restraining from too much merriment and jubilation if they had that for take home pay.

One of the major drivers of happiness is work-life balance and flexible working practices. Employers are very slow to work this out. Sorry Polly I don't mean to start a domestic with Robin, (virtual jobshare role will make you more perky) but who wouldn't be happier working from home?

The bottom line is we are selling a lifestyle of richesse to our kids which won't ultimately make them happy. If we all ditched the telly and helped an old lady in our road or underprivileged child in the locality, we might teach the next generation a bit of selflessness and as you so rightly point out, social responsibility.

Research also shows that salary in itself is arbitary. If you earn 90k a year, you ought to be elated, but if the others in your team earn 100k you feel under valued and therefore unhappy. Interesting? Also, vocational jobs that involve making things bring real job satisfaction which I'm sure is why Walter (my dry-stone walling instructor) was always so smiley. And I thought it was the bracing wind of The Peak District!

Another thing...where are our future employment skill deficits? I don't know the answer ('thank goodness' I hear you groan) but presume we don't need forensic scientists anymore. So which areas are we developing in schools for gap filling employment shortages of the future? Do we need an enticing little soap opera called 'I'm an astronaut, get me out of here?' Or have 'Gok' work his magic on some renewable energy gurus ...'Green and Naked'? How about 'IT Housewives'? And if we all took shorter hours we would address our work-life balance and unemployment in one big hit.

I know, I know...back to the day job. Edwina looks perturbed at my agitation. What night are we meeting at The Grand Union? I will be in need of a drink to calm the nerves...they do one called 'Against the Grain'. Sounds good to me!

Much love,

Ivor X

PS I agree that challenging the curriculum (or even a challenging curriculum) is a big issue. First lesson for my 12 year old nephew in food technology was fruit salad. Ed Balls said, back in January, that by using simple ingredients and simple recipes we could prepare young people for adult life. So they had a double lesson chopping up fruit. Great life-skill preparation for a future in knife crime!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm a celebrity...

Dear Ivor

“Get off your horse and drink your milk”, as John Wayne is reported to have said……not sure why! I presume you were referring to my comments on EMA in your previous post. Am with you on your view on not allowing any kids to be disadvantaged by others and we are very lucky that education is free, just need to convince the pupils that this is the case!

However your clue is in the aspiration of many youngsters to become celebrities, which in many cases does not involve academic qualifications. We need to promote learning as a way not only out of poverty but also because it’s interesting and therein lies the rub. Don’t forget some of the excruciatingly boring lessons we went to at school, don’t you remember we used to count the people who went to sleep in Mr Gilbert’s classes, that was more exciting than the subject matter.

Kids today are not so willing to sit through things that they don’t find relevant. Perhaps we need to look at the system of teaching, not any criticism of the members of the profession, but an admission that the system is not working. There will always be good and not so good teachers but we need to address class sizes, resources and curriculum content with less testing and more collaboration across schools throughout the UK. You never know but with an increase in knowledge there might even be an increase in a healthy lifestyle. There is no reason that anyone from any background can’t mirror the Obama role model and aspire and achieve, we just need to provide the environment in which they can thrive and then the choice is theirs.

The case of ‘Baby P’ is absolutely abhorrent and just another indication of the breakdown of our society, where were the extended families, the friends and neighbours? We need to instil in the public a sense of responsibility for their own lives and a collective responsibility for each other.

Poll x

PS There’s a new video game of Barack Obama apparently in it he dodges lipstick-wearing pit bulls!


Wake up to Awards

This award mindset is getting out of hand. I'm waiting for someone to give me a certificate of merit for getting out of bed this morning (alka seltzer would be a start!). Will I be 'star of the day' for getting to college without cutting up a pedestrian on my scooter and do I get a gold star for consuming more than five fruit and veg per day...bonus points if they are 'nobbly' perhaps? What world have I come back to? As for your points on education. Don't reward the skivvers for bravely venturing in to ruin someone else's day...tell them its invitation only.

If they can't behave they aren't welcome. They are jolly lucky to live in a country were education is free. If it was aspirational to get in to school wouldn't the disengaged eventually realise that learning is a passport off the streets? A bit of reverse psychology. I pity the bright kids in state education that are being dragged down by the lowest common denominator in each class. I believe everyone is entitled to an education if they deserve it and WANT it! Don't bribe them in to school. It's crazy.

In a local first school near me the overwhelming wish for when they grow up is to be a footballer or popstar...what happened to nurse, fireman, doctors, teachers? As students everyone wants to go into forensics because of CSI. We forget how influenced kids are by media. We need action not awards. Let's cap salaries that are beyond reason or celebrate those who donate their millions to worthy causes. I came across a school last week who sends a prison bus round for a day so the pupils can experience first hand the environment of life At Her Majesty's Pleasure as a hopeful deterrent!

Have we lost the plot? As for 'healthy cities'...guess what...exercise more, eat less! Coronary heart disease is the single biggest killer in the UK putting a huge economic burden on the health care system. We spend millions on saving the lives of people who are eating themselves to death and only finding out after a heart attack that maybe they could have done something about it if they had acted earlier. And it's not just they lower incomes that sway the statistics...plenty on high incomes also find themselves whipped in for a bypass.

Why don't we screen everyone in their forties so they can see first hand what's happening to their arteries and shock them into changing life habits? Perhaps we could take treacle pudding off the menu in cardiac units and stop feeding our nursery school children chocolate biscuits at mid-morning breaks! Must go as my blood pressure is up!!

And our two leaders are arguing over cheap shots over 'Baby P'....did anyone stop to think that whilst perhaps more could have been done to stop this horror unfolding...what psyche are young adults growing up with that permit them to wilfully inflict such cruelty? Where are we going wrong?

Ivor...on my high horse X

PS Carol Vauderman for Head of Ed perhaps..we could 'countdown' to our election.



Dear Ivor

So good to have you back safe and sound. Won’t mention the loss of the chopper at this stage to Robin, as he was rather attached to it and to be honest had just become a member of the Raleigh Chopper Owners Club with pole position at Billing 2009! Oh well the ride of his life will have to wait for now.

Back to more important matters, good news for the allotment society as the EU is going to allow oddly shaped fruit and vegetables to be sold in Europe, you could have a market there, apparently 20% is rejected at the moment. Perhaps whilst common sense prevails they could also review some of their other misshapen legislation, starting with the Common Agricultural Policy?

I wonder if this will result in lower prices in the shops, Sainsbury’s announced a 13% rise in half-year profits, to improve on this they need to find a celebrity chef, promote 100 things to do with wonky fruit and veg and then they can charge more for it than the perfectly formed variety, is Jamie Oliver available? I know that he’s a bit busy at the moment promoting healthy eating, an admirable cause. The government announced the appointment of nine healthy towns yesterday which are going to receive £30 million of funding to improve the health of their populations. Apparently this is part of a £375 million public health drive to encourage fitness in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. No wonder they couldn’t afford that £40m leisure pool on the side of the Olympic aquatic centre.

One of the nominated “healthy towns”, Manchester, is proposing a “Points4Life” scheme to reward people when they take exercise with healthy food or free activities. Will this be means tested, am worried that Colleen Rooney could end up with more fruit and veg than she can cope with and no free time?

Tower Hamlets is proposing an award scheme that rates fast food outlets, cafes and restaurants on how healthy their menus are. We could have menus appearing with points ratings, and eating at an establishment with a low health ranking could result in point deductions. Scanning of biometric ID cards could be introduced when paying for a meal or buying shopping to check on the population’s food choices, resulting in a visit from the “Lifestyle Revolution” Army if fish and chips were consumed two nights in a row!

This is definitely an issue that our Head of Health and Welfare is going to have to tackle but we need to go for a long term approach. The government is currently planning on updating hundreds of primary schools in England and ministers will release £1.75bn for approved building work. We need to make sure that sports provision is one of the beneficiaries of this modernisation. There needs to be dedicated PE teachers working in schools and communities with access to modern sports facilities, we could even look at the use of independent schools’ facilities by state schools, they are registered charities after all! I’ll leave elitism in sport for another post!

In answer to your questions; think UK borrowing is probably coming from us, and social drinking becomes antisocial when you can’t remember who you were being social with in the first place!

Poll (your fellow Obama admirer)xx

PS looking forward to your victory single lyrics.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grand Union

Dear Polly,

Home at last! I have laughed and laughed until the tears have tumbled down my fully restored beard...found a pine cone hiding in the facial undergrowth. It fell out as I slipped in a few morris dancing steps to 'There's no one as Irish as Barack Obama'. Duw, did I laugh? You have been so busy Polly. Thanks for keeping the home fires burning especially since Robin's fiddled with the heating. Whilst I applaud his environmental focus I am feeling very ashamed about the Hymns and Arias rendition...wasn't sure of the time difference after my 'mince pie and mulled wine walk' through a small woodland in the Hope valley.Prudence would have been a safer option as I got dreadfully lost and had to follow the fireworks back to civilization. I'm afraid I then had the chopper confiscated by some lively lads in hoodies. It started as a bit of a lark outside The Woodroffe Arms after round one of the quiz night. I did think they were a bit too old for hide and seek in the cemetery and when they didn't reappear for the final I guessed I'd been hoodwinked. Always a silver lining though...our team won and as they'd all bu****ed off I took home a new collapsible scooter and a crate of Swift Nick as first prize! Felt the need to share the jubilation. Sorry Robin.

Now I'm home, refocussed and riding high on homebrew and adoration for Barrack Obama. 'The times they are a changing' Polly. Yes, can you believe it, not only does he share my musical taste (he's a Dylan fan) but his favourite film is 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'...spooky or what? I think this could be the start of a beautiful transatlantic relationship. He's not keen on alcohol or coffee but his previous dabblings in narcotics suggests he can't be all bad? I thought we should send him a celebratory gift box of Suthwyk Liberation in exchange for a crate of Liberty Ale as a gesture of unity. Apparently it will 'lift our spirits and gird our loins'. Way Hay! Should we tell him that Gordon's supposed to be in charge, but that actually we are the future leaders of Britain?
Have more serious stuff to say tomorrow but still in holiday mode, need to feed Edwina....and work out how to do those technical links that you patiently demonstrated to me the other day. You have given me lots of food for thought to respond to but I thought that instead of the Natter and Witter, The Grand Union would be more apt for the occasion. Also, its happy hour at six and there won't be many more of those soon. They seemingly encourage unruly behaviour and that's possibly why I may not actually be welcome at the Natter and Witter anymore!
Question for you...when does social drinking become antisocial? And a poser for Alvin and Evan...who exactly are we borrowing from in this global recession?

Missed you, much love from Ivor XXX

PS I'll give some thoughts to lyrics for our campaign victory single whilst I'm showering. Perhaps Max Boyce will help us out?


Monday, November 10, 2008

The luck of the Irish

Dear Ivor
After a nasty shock from the electric guitar and a complaint from the neighbour, think that our victory single might be better sung a cappella.

I have over the weekend been practising my scales and think that the soprano section would be within my range with you doing bass, which means that we are looking for an alto, do you think Evan Davis might be open to a singing role? Singing is meant to be a good team building exercise so propose that as well as regular cabinet meetings we have a good sing-song once a week in no. 10 perhaps even going so far as to put on the odd cross party concert.

Let the British public see we can work together and even have a bit of fun. On this front have been thinking that we need to look at changing political behaviour and creating a more collaborative and less confrontational approach, as one party, not even The Inn Crowd, can tackle all the political issues of the day.

David Cameron talks about a broken society, what about the broken political system, with public displays of petty point scoring and squabbling that would be appropriate to the playground, no wonder there is voter apathy when we witness daily the scramble for headlines and sound bytes. I do wonder what would be achieved if all parties combined their efforts and talents on sorting out problems and not on working on strategies to trip each other up. Would it be possible for them to share their ideas and experience for the greater good, or is it ultimately power that motivates a politician?

We don’t want to create an inert political system reliant on pacts between political opponents but some considered debate amongst politicians in the House of Commons would be refreshing, with a willingness to listen and perhaps even adopt a different approach in matters where the current direction doesn’t appear to be working. Instead of rabble rousing speeches aimed at undermining support for whoever is in opposition. To assist in this I propose introducing a seating plan in the House where MPs from all parties are separated into areas of expertise, so all the economists across all parties sit together etc, know initially we may come across some resistance but what do you think? It could be the beginning of some beautiful and fruitful friendships!

In case you missed the news, not surprisingly it has been discovered that Barack Obama has Irish ancestry (you’ve guessed here’s the song), carrying on a trend since Kennedy took office in 1961 of every President bar one, Gerald Ford, having some Irish blood. Even Joe Biden the Vice President elect, John McCain and Sarah Palin have Irish ancestry, is this an unwritten prerequisite for American high office? Or could it be the luck of the Irish and the the gift of the gab?

Hope your journey home was uneventful, it is quite a long way to cycle, although the Chopper seat is quite comfortable. See you this week, need to nominate our runners for Head of Education and Innovation.

Poll x x

PS we might need to do some research into our family trees


Thursday, November 06, 2008

We Want Change

Dear Ivor
Sorry but Robin did not appreciate your rendition of Max Boyce’s Hymns and Arias at 3 o’clock this morning! Although I was quite impressed by the harmony that the singer in the background was attempting, a fellow Welshman lost in the Peaks? You’re right I am still on a high from yesterday and keep chanting “We Want Change”. Strangely this momentous historical event seems to have bypassed some of our local residents, there was no mention of it at my pilates class and Robin said that it was the same at his office. I am wondering if the British people have become disengaged with politics. Or perhaps they have just become a little cynical. I may be wrong but in the press coverage I thought I discerned a small ripple of admiration and optimism!

However I am concerned that President Obama has the hopes of not only America but quite a bit of the rest of the world resting on his shoulders and he may be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Was wondering if we should offer him the benefit of our experience and common sense but I think we might get trampled in the rush! Perhaps we should wait and see how things go?

In the meantime we must press on with our own campaign, should we be composing a victory single, we haven’t really made any speeches at this stage that could be considered lyric worthy, do you have any suggestions other than Barry Manilow’s “I Made it Through the Rain”? Have had a go at an adaptation let me know what you think?

We made it through the rain
And didn’t get dejected
We made it through the rain
And kept our point of view
We made it through the rain
And found ourselves elected
By the public who
Got rained on too
And made it through….

Thought we could have it mixed with a rap version of “You are my sunshine" in the background?

Breaking news, the Bank of England has just cut interest rates by 1.5% and yet it seems it's not automatically passing this on to borrowers. I really can’t understand this banking lark. If mortgage rates are reduced the amount saved by individuals will then remain in the banking system somewhere, so banks will have the money anyway. And should the money be spent on something it will then be re-banked by whoever receives the payment, so again the banks get it back, where’s the problem?

Am off now to see if I can find the electric guitar in the loft. Make sure you peg the tent down more securely tonight.

See you soon.

Poll xx


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes we can!

Dear Ivor
Got your text and no I don’t think that Barack Obama would appreciate a crate of your home brew to celebrate his victory. That vintage rhubarb wine has quite a kick and we don’t want him to be unconscious over the next couple of days. I have however sent him our warmest wishes. Although a little tired from the late night am feeling extremely elated today and riding on a wave of American optimism! Could this be the change we have been waiting for, signalling the way forward for our job share PM leadership bid? Can we do it, yes we can!

With the concerns about EMAs and university students staging a protest about top-up fees today, think we ought to vote in our candidate for the Head of Education and Innovation next. Have been browsing the web under the guise of searching for a new broadband provider (Robin is lurking about and has been a little sulky since I mentioned my intention to look for a virtual job) and discovered that approximately 2 million students from the UK go to university each year, of which about a third seem to qualify. Got these figures from the Office for National Statistics so they must be right, but the qualifiers seem a little low, am I reading it correctly, need your clear vision to be applied to this on your return? If each student is paying per year £3145 in top-up fees this adds up to approximately £6.3 billion of which about £2.8 billion (very rough calculation) is provided in grants. Now what we now need to find out is how much it costs to administer the fairly complex grant scheme, which at this stage I cannot seem to discover, even with the help of trusty Google. The overall annual budget for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is nearly £19 billion, how is this divided up? Once we discover this our Head of department can calculate if it would be better to abolish the whole scheme and just pay money from the government direct to the universities, perhaps reducing everyone’s top-up fees by a considerable amount, or even abolish them all together. Also need to find out why students don’t come away with any qualifications, are they feeling under pressure to go to university, are they choosing the wrong courses or do they get lost in a fog of alcohol? Perhaps you could assist with this study as it is a topic close to your heart?

Am going to continue with a little cost saving research of my own, am looking into reducing the length of some university courses by increasing the number of lectures each week and shortening the holidays, not sure if it will be a popular move, perhaps to soften the blow we could add on a few more gigs at the student union and lengthen happy hour?

Don’t get lost in the mist!

Poll xx


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Price of Education?

Dear Ivor

Appreciated your phone call yesterday, thought I’d post something on the blog just in case you happen to stumble across an internet connection in your impromptu tour of the Peak District. You’re right, think communing with nature is just what you needed at the moment, looking out over the hills in the driving rain whilst wondering how far it is to the next hostelry is just how I imagine you will find yourself……….............extremely cold and wet! We have got a cabinet to organise you know and I have had to cope single handedly with counting the votes for our Head of Economy, which was actually a tie between Evan Davis and Alvin Hall, so have put them down for a job share arrangement. Quite handy really as they can set up a rota and this leaves them free to pursue their other careers. Apparently 66 per cent of Tory MPs have jobs outside parliament, 37 per cent of Liberal Democrats, but only 19 per cent of Labour, still I suppose you could say that as Labour are in power they should be a bit busier?

Whilst you have been tucked up in your sleeping bag thought you might be interested to know that Boris has launched his youth strategy for young offenders and troubled teenagers. His suggestion was to enrol them in the scouts and guides, can partly see his logic, locking up one offender costs about £90,000 whereas scouting only costs about £15 a term with trips on top. Forgetting to ask the volunteers involved for their opinion on the scheme was probably a slight flaw in the plan and also he may have had a considerable problem convincing the young people concerned that neckies and woggles are all the rage! Perhaps Boris could take a lead from the EMA scheme. I mentioned it to you the other day, it pays £10, £20 or £30 per week to 16 to 18 year olds from households earning between £21330 and £31580 to encourage them to stay in school and also gives them 5 bonuses of £100 linked to attendance and study. Would a similar scheme based on non-offending work? Nick Clegg seems to think that the £100m spent on bonuses for the EMAs could be viewed as unfair, as some students get paid for handing in their work on time and others don’t. I wonder could an incentive for one student act as a disincentive for others? Despite Nick’s fondness for “The Gruffalo” think he may have a point. What I find incredibly poignant is that in developing countries plagued by poverty parents and children are desperate for education and yet here we have to resort to paying our young people to stay in school. Has education become just another commodity in our supposedly developed world? Is there some way of us restoring value to education and I don’t mean with a price ticket? Am becoming a little strident probably too much American campaign viewing! Do you think we should try appealing to rugby Moms?

Must go as am getting out the sleeping bag and thermos for a late night with Jim Naughtie and the election results. Robin has turned the heating off!

Take care.

Poll xx