09 March 2011

09/03/11

Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

-Billy Collins

104 comments:

  1. Leni, from last night:

    Has US got 20 billion ? Barak is asking for it over an extended period but neverthless it's a helluva lot of money when US citizens are going hungry. The build of of arms in the region is alarming - to say the least.

    Oh, Leni. Dear, sweet, naïve Leni. As if the US government gives a flying fig about US citizens going hungry.

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  2. @speedkermit

    Just rushing off to be exploited, but needed to respond to this first. You said:

    "Fine, continue to get scuttled up the poopchute. Continue to nod along to a contract that directly violates the Working Time Directive that the Government is supposedly duty-bound - by virtue of its EU membership - to honour for its citizens. I"

    You know, we're not completely stupid,and no, we don't do that. We resist it, we draw attention to it, we at times have stand up fights about it. As I said at a recent meeting about workloads, the choice at the moment, courtesy of the system is work the hours, or do a crap job. Because nobody is bloody listening when I tell them I'm putting in 60-70 hour weeks. I'm not an idiot, and I know about the directive - indeed, I've raised it many times in debates and negotiations. However, I'm afraid I care too much about my students, and about other things I do to sacrifice standards. And so yes, I allow myself to be exploited. Because the alternative to being exploited would be to be bad at what I do - and I don't have the gene that allows me to do that.

    We all know that our sense of vocation is exploited. It's not news to me, I'm sure it's not news to Shaz, or anyone else who works in education. But I'm afraid dismissing the work we do, or telling us we're 'jealous' (of what, exactly?) doesn't actually support us in getting it fixed either.

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  3. Oh, and incidentally, when I spoke to my union rep about these issues, I was told that I needed to take responsibility for my own work life balance, because nobody else would.

    Nice use of the lovely, regulative notion of personal development and career management, I thought.

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  4. Now that’s what I call a poem, MW. Got to say, I’m with PeterJ on the Maya Angelou stuff, doesn’t do anything for me - just like that other famous one, “When I am old I shall wear purple” or whatever it is, I bloody detest that (while being aware that others think very highly of it, of course, and quite right too).

    Billy Collins is a different kettle o’ fish, though. Fine poet.

    PS I've been at work since 07h40. And will be here till about 17h30. Just as well I enjoy it, really, or I'd be feeling very exploited at the moment.

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  5. "We all know that our sense of vocation is exploited. It's not news to me, I'm sure it's not news to Shaz, or anyone else who works in education. But I'm afraid dismissing the work we do, or telling us we're 'jealous' (of what, exactly?) doesn't actually support us in getting it fixed either."

    This is a complete misrepresentation of my arguments. As far as dismissal goes, I'm pretty sure I spent two hours last night defending the fact that teachers and others in education do a pretty hard job and get consistently undervalued for doing it. And as for 'jealousy', what other gloss can you put on the observation that police officers are 'lucky' to get double time and TOIL for bank holiday? On any reasonable interpretation of the English language, that would seem to imply that non-police officers are 'unlucky' for not getting it. Not a bloody word about that all being part and parcel of the job you sign up to do, along with all the not-so-nice stuff, which incidentally (and yes I AM jealous) most people would say about having 13 weeks off a year no matter how much teachers and other educational professionals protest about how much planning and prep they have to do during that time. How long do you think it'll be before the government, whipped up by a tabloid mandate from all the green-eyed monsters over at the Mail and Telegraph, do a root-and-branch overhaul of teaching and you end up at school over summer doing that prep like lecturers do?

    "First they came for the police officers..."

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  6. Morning all,

    Just thought I’d start the day with some good news.

    My Son, heir and bright future of Scottish football was born last Thursday morning. Weighing in at a healthy 3.2 kilos (just over 7 lbs in old money) he’s the spitting image of his Mum (thank God).

    We’re doing well. We have the help of the Kramzorg, a nursing service that comes in from 8.30am-5pm every day for a week- cooking, cleaning, shopping, giving advice and doing anything else practical for the baby. An absolute godsend.

    Anyway, I’m off to enjoy the rest of my paternity leave and I daresay I’ll catch up with you all between nappies, milk and vomit at some point.

    It’s a bit early for tunes but as David Bowie wrote Kooks for his infant son, I’ll dedicate it also to my wee fella.

    Cheers.

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  7. "However, I'm afraid I care too much about my students"

    And how about career prospects? Because i've noticed over the years that once you start accepting the fact that you are going to remain on the bottom of the shitpile at work, that it becomes a hell of a lot easier to demand the things you are entitled to in law. Get together with a few likeminded people in the same boat and it gets even easier. (I'm pretty sure this is how the 'unions' started... haven't you got, like, about five different ones?). And sorting yourself out does not mean that you don't 'care' about your students. They're going to enter the world of work one day and if you and everyone else who cares just a little too much just roll over and let your bosses shaft you, then you're setting them up for a eventual career of penury and grovelling servitude. It's time to get French about things. Seriously, do you people call yourself socialists?

    Anyhoo, enjoy your day Meerkatjie, and if anyone says to you "well, at least you've still got a job" then punch then in their smug middle-management butt.

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  8. @13thDuke:

    Gefeliciteerd mate! Enjoy the paternity leave, and take good care of the Duchess and the Young Heir.

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  9. Well done Duke. Your first? Try not to freak out when the umbilicus finally shrivels and drops off leaving a large suppurating hole in the babies stomach, as I did. Other than that, the first few months are a doddle when you haven't got breasts.

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  10. @Duke

    That's great news. Congratulations to you all. Do they do babygros with green and white hoops?

    ReplyDelete
  11. @PeterJ:

    They do them in Leeds United colours. Shame my daughter’s since grown up to be a Tottingham fan.

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  12. Wybourne

    Very many congratulations and best wishes to you, your wife and your new son!

    Today's Top Tip:

    Don't bother changing out of the all-weather gear until he goes to school.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Welfare bill 'penalises cancer patients

    An interesting few lines here ---

    "The warning came as Labour backbenchers put pressure on Ed Miliband to vote against the entire bill, a move the leadership fears would send a signal that the party is opposed to welfare reform.

    There are signs that support for the bill's principles is beginning to fray due to opposition to specific elements of it.

    The shadow work and welfare secretary, Liam Byrne, endured a difficult meeting of the parliamentary Labour party on Monday night, with some MPs demanding outright opposition."


    Since NuLab started these reforms, and were going about them in the same inhuman dumb-bureaucratic and mean-minded way now continued by ConDem, it must be difficult for the 'leadership' to appear to be backtracking. Tough . My heart bleeds.

    When enough 'specific elements' are obviously plain wrong and cruel, meaning in English that enough actual people do suffer greatly, even commit suicide, it does call the whole approach into question. Cancer is easier to gain sympathy for, in public opinion, but so what!
    Cancer sufferers who are terminally ill claiming DLA will be exempt from waiting six months before they can make a claim."

    No need to comment on that.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    Following on the Shaz / Speedy discussion last night, if you do want a civilised society there needs to be a re-thinking of how many resources go where. Recognising crap consumerism, environmental destruction, and wealth re-distribution upwards for what they are is a start.

    And now to profit from perhaps the last sunny but cooler day, off with a vanload of tools to get some more aches. .

    -----------------------------------------

    Best wishes to the Ducal Family.

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  14. Congratulations Your Grace! Dalgleish is a good name for a baby boy.

    Montana, you got mail.

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  15. Just a brief observation on the quickly skimmed comments from yesterday evening and this morning.

    It has been the case that society would collapse without the charity sector for a very long time.

    It seems that the capitalist model of grasping, sharp-elbowed self-interest does not quite provide for every eventuality.

    Why do you think Camoron is so keen on Big Soc?

    I think Speedy has said in the past something like: "Try seeing what happens when there is no police presence for 24 hours."

    Well, quite.

    Why do you think all Home Secretaries go from plain simpletons and incompetents to spittle-flecked Nazis within ten minutes of starting the job?

    Brown trousers and bicycle-clips, anyone?

    The business of working extra hours for nothing is neither new nor restricted to the "caring professions" (like protection racketeering) and can be found in places like Tesco or any other commercial operation, large or small.

    There used to be a wizard wheeze pulled by the bosses. They said, "I cannot possibly afford to pay you a living wage, so you will have to get the benefits wallahs to make up the difference."

    Business offloading wage-paying onto the state and the taxpayer and creating a class of working dole-cheat scum.

    Now imagine Bob Diamond at the end of his hectic working day, stuffing his millions into swag-bags.

    Does he say, "OK, I'm not in any rush. I'll answer the phones for an hour. You push off home."

    Or is he within that magical class of being who will only ever be roused from torpor by a huge financial incentive, as is right and proper?

    Obviously, quite unlike the filthy shitbag at the bottom of the heap, who has to be threatened with less pay, longer hours - many of them unpaid - and worse conditions, otherwise you'll be out on your ear, Sunshine, because there are plenty more out there who will jump at the chance of doing this job.

    As we argue about the relative merits and abuses of our lives and jobs, the politicians and bosses are laughing at us.

    Like the landed gentry, obviously, on their own claims, forever impoverished and teetering on the edge of destitution, our elders and betters cannot afford to fill up the Bentley and the engine no longer works anyway.

    Cunningly, though, they have persuaded us all to push like mad, as they simply steer and enjoy the ride.

    If countless of our number expire in the ditches along the way, who cares?

    Plenty more to take our stupid places, after all.

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  16. @Atomboy:

    Man, what a bummer. I was in a good mood till I read your last.

    Cheers for that.

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  17. Such great news to wake up to!

    The best of health to the young marquess, congratulations to the duke and of course the duchess.

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  18. Shiloh

    Sudden mood swings are good for you.

    Take two of these every four hours and you will be right as rain in no time.

    PS You can substitute "ninepence" for "rain" if bad weather makes you feel a bit miserable or under the, er, weather.

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  19. OMG, who locked the kittinz in teh basket LOOL ?

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  20. @Atomboy:

    Thanks for that, no need though, it’s back to business as usual... I am once more in high feather and warmly disposed to the general run of humanity again, with nary a dark thought ruffling my bland, Pickwickian equilibrium.

    Phew!

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  21. Interesting. On the Open Thread, asking for a reaction to the all-women columnists yesterday, it's descended into something of a "It would be more instructive if you had all non-Oxbridge/middle class writers" response.

    Hanman, in the interests of fairness and dialogue, asks " I'd be interested in hearing more from readers about what you think the class make-up of our commentators is, why that might matter."

    I'm filing that under 'wilfully thick'. Or possibly 'disingenuous'.

    If you do nothing else today, stick your oar into to get RedMiner above the line. Passionate, eloquent (oh that a fraction of the current CiF crop could write half as well) and with a Monbiot-esque command of references, reports and specific instances. Jay could do an equally sterling job of ripping them a fresh one, but I think they're never going to allow him the free rein and visibility to do so. God forbid that a counter POV should ring truer than the prevailing wisdom.

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  22. @Swift

    To finish the job, I should think Tanya Gold on Chalet Girls and then OMG with Peaches Geldof on ITV2 at 9 this evening should plunge you into deep depression/goad you into a wild rage.

    @The Duke

    Congratulations! By all means listen to Kooks, but make sure he's a pro-level footballer before you throw the homework on the fire and take the car downtown.

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  23. @Spike:

    Fuck, I’m getting distracted too easily today – but yes, I’ve got “OMG with Peaches” Geldof Sky+’ed after reading of last week’s critical savaging. I am preparing to LOL and possibly ROFLMAO.

    Which reminds me - one of my favourite ever CiF pieces was when Peaches Geldof stood in for Alexander Chancellor. I could only imagine the claret-faced one’s aghast reaction at the Tuscan villa when news arrived by “young man” from the poste restante...

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  24. "Hanman, in the interests of fairness and dialogue, asks " I'd be interested in hearing more from readers about what you think the class make-up of our commentators is, why that might matter." I'm filing that under 'wilfully thick'. Or possibly 'disingenuous'.

    Why on earth would that matter? They've read 'Road To Wigan Pier' (probably), so they're in just as much in a position to comment on children up chimneys as anyone else. One contributer has even admitted to having once lived in a council house (or near one, I forget which). By reading books and stuff we learn to empathise with those less well-dressed than ourselves. And Wikipedia has made class boundaries practically redundant.

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  25. I could only imagine the claret-faced one’s aghast reaction at the Tuscan villa when news arrived by “young man” from the poste restante...

    You've clearly never tried to have something delivered by the Italian postal service.

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  26. Duke

    Congratulations on the birth of your son.Hope he has a great life and does you proud.

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  27. Fuck me, Swift, I'd missed Peaches Geldof on MySpace addiction. I've now read it. Words fail me.

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  28. @kermit

    You've left out Lolz Penz who was homeless and had to spend three nights on her friend Emily's bed sofa.

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  29. Poor Lolz...

    "Just three pounds seventy will buy her a carton of Waitrose white stilton and watercress soup and a sunflower and pumpkin seeded batch roll. A hundred and twenty pounds will buy her an aquamarine Laura Ashley chenille throw.. [etc]"

    I can imagine Lenny Henry doing the voiceover.

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  30. Wonderful news Duke - all the very best to you and yours.

    Kids are, without doubt, one of the finer experiences of life.

    Hope you go on to have a batch - they really are cheaper by the thrice.........and then they help bring each other up ...... and in the days before dishwashers they could be trained to do the washing up......and go down the pits and earn a crust

    Enjoy........can he play for Scotland having been born away?

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  31. Big Congratulations Duke! You must be over the moon :0)

    xx

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  32. "Fuck me, Swift, I'd missed Peaches Geldof on MySpace addiction. I've now read it. Words fail me."

    That is precisely why I try to avoid talking to anyone under the age of 30.

    Take note Duke - nothing good ever came of engaging with youths. Get his name down for a good boarding school sharpish.

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  33. Speedy (from yesterday)

    For much of my career I was a single parent - like your wife I went home soon after the final bell.

    I also met the implication that that meant I was not a committed teacher.

    Its not true, I did remember doing quite a lot of marking , prep and admin after my child was in bed though.

    The work still has to be done, you need to be home for the kids so you do it at home.

    No reason why it has to be done at school. In the 80's one of the rightwing newspapers (I think it was the mail) 'leaving school with the kids' was one way you could 'spot a good teacher'. Made me spit tacks that.

    Does your wife not do any work at home? I was secondary and didn't know anyone who could manage without doing out of school hours.

    I certainly couldn't do my job as I wished to do it without working at home.

    I found it hard to treat my pupils the way admin staff treat pieces of paper and that is what I would have had to do, maybe its the difference between primary and secondary, maybe its just that I was a stupid perfectionist who really loved the job and I would have had to cut corners if I didn't take work home.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Didn't catch all of the debate between Speedy and a few others etc. last night, but one thing I will say in defence of the overtime/BH ting is that it is one of those jobs wherein you may well be attending a murder or having to watch the results of a RTA being scraped up off the road and for that aspect of the job, there are emotional and psychological consequences that in every day life we, as citizens may never encounter. I do think that in London the LW was double for the Police and that I think is/was extremely unfair.

    Same for Tube drivers - was chatting to a woman on the bus the other day who was a counsellor for Tube drivers who had had to deal with a suicide or had hit someone accidentally, usually drunk, on coming into a station.... the job is one of great responsibility and that is why Tube drivers deservedly get 45K.

    The problem as far as I can see it the police is that they have a duality of purpose - they can be utilised as both public servant AND means of political control. They also need to decide whether they're on the side of their fellow citizens or on the side of the State and I think this will become more and more difficult as time goes on with this shambolic nut-job government.

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  35. David Mitchell on swearing, good as ever.

    Spoiler alert: this is the end of the article:

    In my imagined utopian future where foul language has lost its sting, people will have to be more creative if they wish to offend. David Tredinnick, the Tory MP for Bosworth, recently showed us how it's done when it emerged that he'd spent £510 of public money on astrology software and attendant tuition - a purchase so foolish it makes a duck island seem like a vital heart operation for the child of a constituent.

    He claims he needed them for a debate on alternative medicine (perhaps to see whether Capricorns like him believed in homeopathy) but I think he was looking for a way, without swearing, of telling the entire country to go fuck itself. No scream of scorn could have been more eloquent. No word he used could have caused me more offence.

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  36. Deano!!!!

    "Kids are, without doubt, one of
    the finer experiences of life.

    Hope you go on to have a batch -
    they really are cheaper by the thrice
    .........and then they help bring each other up
    ...... and in the days before dishwashers
    they could be trained to do the washing up
    ......and go down the pits and earn a crust

    Enjoy........

    can he play for Scotland
    having been born away?"


    Poetry, mate, poetry!

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  37. You really are a bumsucker habib

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  38. Many Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess!

    You've both played a blinder, all the best....

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  39. Congratulations, Duke!

    MsChin - will try to respond later to your post of last night.

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  40. Speedy, I suppose what confuses me is the illogic when it comes to divvying out commissions on subjects relating to class or viewing things from a different class perspective. It doesn't hold fast with the basic tenet of identity politics, which is that there's nobody better to write about an identity than someone of that identity.

    Women write about women's issues. Gay people write about gay issues. People from ethnic minorities write about race issues.

    And on issues concerning working-class people living on subsistence incomes in areas of deprivation, they are written by, er, filthy rich people with holiday homes in Italy.

    I look forward to Simon Jenkins' next article, 'My Vagina and Me.'

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  41. Speedkermit "First they came for the police officers..."

    You really do take the mickey.

    Just because you're still pissed off with me for pointing out what a wanker you are, you shouldn't denigrate Deano's rhythmic style of writing.

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  42. "Just because you're still pissed off with me for pointing out what a wanker you are"

    Did I miss that? Nothing you say really ever registers with me habib.

    "you shouldn't denigrate Deano's rhythmic style of writing."

    I did no such thing, I merely pointed out that you are an ingratiating toad.

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  43. RapidEddie - You know as well as I do that poor people are too busy eating chips and having sex with their wives' sisters to write searing indictments of subsistence living and the modern welfare state. Besides, they can barely write their names in red crayon, let alone a stirring 1200 word polemic. Best leave it to those well-meaning types at the Guardian. If they need to get within nose-holding distance of the lumpen proletariat for those real-life details that'll make their prose come alive with the humanity of it all, they can always ask the gardener what he likes to do with his £4 an hour.

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  44. RapidEddie
    Hmm ... but he could start with "Speaking as a total c@nt"

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  45. "Nothing you say really ever registers with me habib."

    In that case I can point out that you have very little experience of front line police work, having joined CiD, the filth of the filth, many years ago.

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  46. After all, who better to write about the impact the cuts will have on da yoof of today than Yvette Cooper? Understandably, she's worried about her daughters and their futures.

    I've got a feeling that they're going to do okay in life. Call it a hunch.

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  47. Any cat people on UT? Anyone have a clue why it is that our cat seems to think that raw potatoes are The Best Toy Ever??

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  48. Oh, Montana, you stupid, easily distracted bitch.

    Congratulations, Duke!!!!!

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  49. Cats are feminists. They think that potatoes are the dismembered Testicles of The Gods.

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  50. annetan42, i wrote quite a lengthy reply to your posts a while back and it disappeared. Suffice it to say that my wife is primary and they don't have quite the same amounts of marking as secondary teachers. She has also been with the same year group for about four years so there's a certain amount of recycling of lessons that cuts down on the planning. Yes she has to bring stuff home occasionally, but she tries to get it done at the end of the school day before she comes home. It certainly isn't ten hours a week. The Head is happy with her work, as are the parents, and she and the school got an outstanding from OFSTED last time round (although I suspect there is an element of Tory skullduggery going on there, re. promotion of 'academies' but I wouldn't dare say it).

    I can certainly appreciate people having high personal standards, but surely kids from deprived areas are far more appreciative of how you interact with them in class than how much planning and prep you have done on their behalf. That was certainly what my wife felt about working in Seacroft and Gipton (Leeds) where the kids would come in with black eyes and smelling of pee. They craved the attention they didn't get at home and an intricately detailed lesson plan was less important than whether you could get them to contribute constructively to the class as a whole - direct engagement rather than hiding behind micromanaged and timetabled activities. I certainly don't remember giving a rat's ass about how much prep a teacher had done when I was a schoolkid. Does anyone? So when you and Shaz say that you are 'doing it for the kids', do you think they really appreciate it, or are you just a good teacher and that is what they are responding positively to?

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  51. "In that case I can point out that you have very little experience of front line police work, having joined CiD, the filth of the filth, many years ago."

    What are you talking about habib. I've never worked in CID.

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  52. SpeedKermit:

    do you think they really appreciate it, or are you just a good teacher and that is what they are responding positively to?

    That's a very good distinction and point.

    (Sorry to butt in)

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  53. RapidEddie:

    Cats are feminists. They think that potatoes are the dismembered Testicles of The Gods

    Even the little cat-like fellas? hehehehe!

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  54. Montana.....

    Dear, departed Sir Chester had a mad penchant for... olives and...his own tail ;)

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  55. Now over to the "Make Money, Lose Money" studio to see how the modern high-flyers and low-lifes accumulate or fritter away the wealth of nations.

    This was a quick roundup of things to come, which I heard at the end of a programme on Radio 4, when trying to catch the news.

    1. Apparently, the awarding of contracts and the management of the construction projects for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India was so corrupt that hundreds of British firms have not been paid and maybe never will.

    Obviously, if India wants to pull itself up by its bootstraps and enter the league of blessed nations for which money is god, these are important lessons.

    Rip off the other cunt, take the money and run.

    2. [This one was not heard properly but this may or may not be the gist of it].

    Some enterprising, entrepreneurial and money-minded go-getters have spotted a perfect method of wealth creation.

    They seem to get the details of businessmen staying at hotels in order to attend business functions and conferences and galas and jamborees. They then pilfer about 600 nicker from their credit cards for "escort services."

    Poor little vicious, red in tooth and claw, it's a jungle out there businessman screams and pays up in case his little woman finds out. (Remember International Women's Day from yesterday? All over now, innit! Back in the kitchen and where's me dinner?)

    This would seem to be a flawless way to get the world out of the economic doldrums - until you spot that, like all wealth creation, it simply moves the money around.

    3. How do you fancy making money by selling your own personal data?

    So, apparently, the business of wanting to log and store all the data which our filthy little lives create was never about protecting us from terrrrsts.

    Like I said at the time, it was all about having stuff on us which could be sold.

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  56. "I've never worked in CID."

    Very few people do.

    Speedkermit, your anger toward me seems a bit weird. I apologise that I have made it more heartfelt.

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  57. "Speedkermit, your anger toward me seems a bit weird"

    Who's angry habib? I'm totally zen. I've been angrier at a dose of athlete's foot.

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  58. I've been considered as less...

    truce?

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  59. OK. Start counting your lucky stars.

    This is the situation at the real coal-face, as recounted by Bubblewrappedsprouts:

    Brusselsexpats

    9 March 2011 12:56AM

    Ah yes posting while working.

    Once and for all - for the JM who is the biggest saddo of all.

    Actually I also have an office set up at home and frequently spend time answering emails and text messages at a very late hour, long after my contractual obligations have ended for the day. This is also true for weekends when I have been known to receive urgent messages just as I was about to board a train for another country, or even when I was in that other country. It's all about flexibility.

    So the few minutes I spend when the office is quiet, and when many people yak on the phone, I can with an easy conscience use to blog on her as I more - far more - than do my statutory hours.

    And for your information my sorry lot in life includes getting to travel with the company - Budapest in a few months' time, where I shall have the honour of hearing Hans Blix speak at one of our receptions. Given the situation in the Middle East I'm really curious about this. And he is just one among other very high-profile invitees.

    In any case it's none of your business JM - you are not paying my salary. And you wouldn't last two minutes in Brussels.

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  60. She runs a high-level delivery business called Biscuits aux Corps Diplomatique.

    "Meez Sexpat!"

    "Oui?"

    "Cinq packets Creme des Custards. Vite!"

    "Tout de suite. MartynAvecBicyclette? Move votre derriere."

    Hence the phrase 'Hob Nobbing with the Ambassador'.

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  61. Yes habib, perpetual high dudgeon gets tiring after a while. I don't know how Hank manages it frankly

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  62. The more I read Buggerysexpest's crass, inane posts, the more I become utterly convinced that he has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that involves talking to important people about serious matters of state. Do people with diplomatic functions use words like 'saddo' in public forums and talk about the cut and thrust of Brussels as if it's the court of Louis the XIV? Does Hans Blix really want to hear an hour and a half's worth of drivel about dresses from a shaven trucker in a powdered wig?

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  63. Ha ha, speedkermit, I think Hank and I bring out the worst in each other.

    Peace and all the best.

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  64. My post on yesterdays Yvette Cooper thread has just been moderated.Have e-mailed the mods to ask why because i fail to understand how something that passed muster yesterday has suddenly become unacceptable today.Unless of course the lady herself complained.Not that there was anything to complain about as i genuinely thought i wasn't breaking any rules.

    Life's a bitch ain't it!

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  65. Speedy

    Maybe you are wrong on that one, as this Wikileaks exchange between Obama and his wife seems to reveal.

    Mr President [For it is he] Hey, Shell, you'll never guess who I've just spoken to on the phone!

    Michelle Obama Someone really important, I'll bet. Don't tell me it was the man from Del Monte!

    Mr President No! It was Dave Bloke! President of Engerlandia!

    Michelle Obama The one who looks like a smacked backside?

    Mr President Like, wotevah! He says he'll send me an email with the addresses of his outfitters, so I can look like a real nob.

    Michelle Obama Oh, well, la-di-da. Get you and your fancy ways!

    Mr President Do you have any gay friends I could borrow to go shopping? Dave says that's what they are really good for. That and interior decorating, like obviously.

    Michelle Obama Yeah, I might be able to rustle up one for you. Is that what you world leaders and heads of state talk about when you get together?

    Mr President No. Sometimes we talk about bombs and stuff. Speaking of which, here is a real bombe surprise for you.

    Michelle Obama Are we going to invade Yoorp?

    Mr President No, I've invited the boss of Ferrero Rocher to dinner!

    Michelle Obama Oh, Barmy! You really are the most powerful man on earth, aren't you?

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  66. I thought it was pretty vitriolic Paul - just being honest, not judgemental.

    I had a post removed the other day for telling Zoe Williams that a bad journalist blamed the tools at her disposal (she was trying to make excuses for a poorly written article about the ECHR decision about women's car insurance) on the subs - she really is a pompous ass and when she got caught out for lazy writing, she couldn't accept she was in the wrong gracefully, she went on the attack!

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  67. Kermit/AB

    The more I read Buggerysexpest's crass, inane posts, the more I become utterly convinced that he has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that involves talking to important people about serious matters of state

    The trouble for me is, unless La Bruxelles has indeed constructed a pure 'fantasy life' for the delictation of her extensive online fan base what worries me more is the fact that The Holy Virgin's Expostulations sound all too worryingly like someone who does have a 'serious' job.

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  68. La Rit

    Here are a couple of examples of how the way we wish to project ourselves and the way we imagine we are being perceived can part company with the types of reality experienced by almost everyone else.

    Dragons' Den is a programme in which thrusting entrepreneurs try to get funding from a group of businesspeople.

    All fine and dandy so far and so good, but those investors tend to want to know both whether the proposition is sound and whether the person asking for the money is spinning lies as they spiral into the blue yonder of la-la-land.

    So, one woman claimed - as part of her business credentials - that she had launched Sky in the UK.

    Too impressive to be true?

    Well, yes, strangely enough. It turned out she worked at something like PontaPrint and Sky had sent in the office junior to get them to run off a couple of dozen posters.

    Suddenly, the possibility of funding dried up as the Dragons dried their eyes and stuffed hankies into their mouths to stifle their laughter.

    On The Weakest Link, Anne Robinson asked a contestant what she did.

    "I run conferences for high-powered business executives."

    "Oh, that sounds exciting and glamorous. What does it involve? What do you actually do?"

    "Well, when all the delegates are seated and just before the conference begins, which is usually in an exclusive 5-star resort hotel, I stand at the front and tell them where the coffee and biscuits are and where they can find the fire exits and lavatories."

    There is sometimes a gulf between concocted fantasy and grubby reality.

    However, if our political affairs are being run by the likes of this bizarre creature, we really have nothing to lose by rioting in the streets, since it means the lunatics have finally taken over the asylum.

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  69. La Rit, as someone who's had the occasional 'serious' job (lots of people, expensively dressed, talking in jargon and taking themselves, well, very seriously) and then has pursued the freelance life (watching telly, arguing on the internet etc), I can safely say that any kind of a serious job does not allow you the time to post on a forum 30 to 50 times a day.

    It's either the mother and father of all sinecures (in which case, somebody should shoot her boss) or it's a dogsbody, pencil-pushing gig, that wouldn't be missed if it disappeared in the morning and only survives because it doesn't draw attention to itself by actually producing something.

    But she seems happy. The posts are still woeful shit however.

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  70. As a small observation, I think it was thauma who pointed out that the Antwerpian thinks that spilling her brainz on an open comment site is the same thing as blogging.

    Much like serving tea and biscuits is the same as holding high office.

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  71. MsChin

    anne / thauma

    From Direct.gov.uk:

    "If you are living in Great Britain and have reached the minimum qualifying age, you may be entitled to the Guarantee Credit. This guarantees a minimum income by topping up your weekly income to:

    £132.60 if you are single
    £202.40 if you have a partner

    These amounts may be more if you are disabled, have caring responsibilities or certain housing costs, such as mortgage interest payments.

    The age from which you can get the Guarantee Credit – the qualifying age – is gradually increasing from 60 to 65 in line with women's State Pension age".

    So £140 isn't much of an increase, is it.


    From what I gathered from yesterday's pension thread, you only get the Guarantee credit rate if you have paid in for the allotted time, so many people (obviously disproportionately women who may have not worked or taken time out for childcare) will not be getting nearly that amount.

    Under the new plan, each person gets the £140, so a couple benefits significantly. And there is no means-testing, so those who are unable or unwilling to go that process will get their money regardless.

    Much as I hate to approve of a Tory policy, it does seem to be an improvement - although of course the devil is in the details.

    As I said, the Tories will want to keep retirees, who are a reliable voting bloc, on side.

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  72. Atomboy has nailed the matter in his own inimitable style.

    Strongly suspect the Bruppet's actual job title is, if not officially Tea Lady, probably PA. So she gets to grovel in front of all these terribly important types before ushering them into the boss's office and, er, offering them a cup of tea.

    Flushed with delight, she then rushes back to her desk to 'blog' about the frightfully interesting, powerful and (above all) well-bred people that she mixes with in her professional life.

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  73. 13th Duke, that is wonderful news! Congratulations to you and your wife, and welcome to the world dukelet.

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  74. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  75. 13th Duke - fantastic news. Congratulations to you all.

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  76. In an idle moment, I've just been checking how we should address the Duke's new arrival, and have discovered that we need to know His Grace's subsidiary titles before we can decide. The eldest son is definitely a Marquess of somewhere, though...

    (Post fixed for infelicitous phrasing.)

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  77. If we're talking about moderation, I posted this on Whaddya earlier:

    Good grief! Is CiF hiring mods through the Christian Institute now? Or has Andrew Brown taken over the moderation team?

    On the sex ed thread, in answer to someone wailing that we should show respect for "faith" (a post that's still there), I asked why we should show respect for people because they have an imaginary friend and think everyone else should obey its alleged orders received by hearsay. Compassion and pity, yes, but respect?

    Modded.

    Then in answer to another post, I pointed out that when people no longer have to fear physical violence, repression and social exclusion on the part of organised religion, they tend to opt out of it.

    Modded.

    WTF? Is this the Guardian or the Watchtower?

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  78. @PeterJ

    Perhaps just the Young Laird?

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  79. Spike - I suspect that AB is actually the boss of the mod team. It makes sense.

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  80. Oh, and - given the Duke's reputation - do we know who the mother is?

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  81. Speedy = Thing is in secondary you have to teach the SUBJECT and make it as entertaining as possible. Its a performance art honestly and you need to know your material.

    I wasn't aware that my teachers prepared lessons either but I am sure they did.

    I can never understand why people accept thatactors and musicians rehearse but think that teachers just walk in and do it of he top of their heads.

    As a science teacher I had at the very least prepare enough in advance to be able to ordrer equipment for practical lessons.

    Then there's the interaction thingy in my experience you either have that or you don't. You certainly do have to think in advance of every class because each class is different.

    When you get a bunch of rebellious third years spellbound looking down a microscope at a drop of pond water its worth all the planning and the lost lunch hour setting up 15 microscopes.

    THAT'S what I'm talking about here. No offence have you ever done any teaching? If not you are like most of the population - you think you know how to do it because you have been taught!

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  82. Congratulations Duke wonderful news best wishes to mother and son!

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  83. I can never understand why people accept thatactors and musicians rehearse but think that teachers just walk in and do it of he top of their heads

    How true is that...

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  84. Hi LaRit

    Fair comment regarding my post on the Yvette Cooper thread being vitriolic but that's a different proposition to it being personal abuse which it most certainly wasn't..And my post to her husband Ed Balls last year was every bit as virtriolic and was allowed to stand.

    I'll be interested to see what the mods have to say if they get back to me but it's not something i'm going to lose sleep over.Sort of goes with the territory on Cif .

    ps got over 500 recs for it before it was deleted so a fair few people agreed with me.Unless of course it was just one person relentlessly pressing the rec button:-)

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  85. LaRit

    Scrap my last post cos i've just checked and the 'offending'post has now been reinstated.

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  86. Then there's the interaction thingy in my experience you either have that or you don't. You certainly do have to think in advance of every class because each class is different.

    And that. Sorry to be fragmented - having not been drinking for about 3 mths, this week has been a bit odd & I'm on the red wine - so apologies to Speedkermit if I made no sense last night, but I still think I was right, from my point of view anyway.

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  87. LaRit

    In fact scrap that last post cos i've rechecked and the sodding thing has disappeared again.Fuck knows whta's going on!

    @'Killing Fields' is on tonight if anyone's interested.

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  88. Congrats to the Duke and Duchess. I hope they have young Wybourne's name down for Eton... they make good puddings with meringue.

    Evening everyone else.

    Brain dead here, so drinking beer and browsing and not saying much else tonight. xx

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  89. annetan42 - "THAT'S what I'm talking about here. No offence have you ever done any teaching? If not you are like most of the population - you think you know how to do it because you have been taught!"

    Not teaching as such, but training for six years. New recruits, mostly the traffic modules but a lot of stuff about drugs and policing powers too, RIPA and management of information. It's the kind of stuff that doesn't need all the bells and whistles and bright shiny objects that so necessary to engage the attention of young lairds - we got the breathalysers out occasionally and pissed about with mouthwash. Once you know your stuff to a sufficient depth you can pretty much just breeze in and teach it, which was lucky because you never got much time to prep. More akin to lecturing really. There was quite a bit of marking though, of filework and statements. All very dull, but I enjoyed the actual training. It's still my 'plan B', and if I can get funding for the P/T PhD I've applied for and wangle some teaching hours, maybe a junior lectureship, I'll be offski. The novelty has pretty much worn off.

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  90. Congratulations 13th Duke news best wishes to mother and son and you! :)

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  91. Incidentally, the Winsor Report recommends that police officers in training roles ought to be paid up to £4K less than frontline officers, which might give you some kind of idea about the high regard that knowledge is held in within the service. (They're shrinking office posts across the force, so I suspect it's just a way of paying disabled officers less, but time will tell whether it's illegal or not). Colleagues I still know in the training department have said they will return to frontline duties if it ever happens. If they value educators that much lower than frontline bobbies, then I reckon the rest of that sector ought to start worrying.

    The country is run by utter fucking berks.

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  92. Is it my imagination or is this a repeat offence by Team Cooper-Balls? House-flipping the last time. At least with MacShame the Graun had the good grace to tell him to never darken their towels again.

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  93. While we're on the subject, I noticed the Guardian Editorial on CiF today about how the country can easily withstand the loss of 12000 police officers without any significant drop in service. Pretty much parroting the Tory line really - good old Graun, friend of the public servant. They argue that the service is bloated with beaurocracy, middle management and self-perpetuating and wasteful procedures and policies whilst failing to say exactly how other public bodies are any different under twelve years of New Labour micro-management. They also demonstrate their usual slender grasp of logic by of pointing out that while officer numbers rose, crime was falling at a similar rate, holding this up as a reason for reducing the workforce without once seeming to question whether the two phenomena might not be inextricably connected.

    Presumably the Guardian is also for the abandonment of all the accountability mechanisms that created the bloat in the first place - disclosure rules, the National Crime Recording Standard, data protection protocols, monitoring of disproportionality in the searching of minorities, freedom of information requests...?

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  94. Is the Guardian also for or against these cripplingly expensive protests that individual forces are being expected to shoulder the financial burden of policing? It is looking as if the citizens of South Yorkshire, the vast majority of whom will not be exercising their right to protest at the LibDem conference this weekend, will be losing out on about £1.5m worth of policing this year for the sake of 10000 mostly out-of-towners coming and having a good old shout. I do hope none of them find themselves the victims of a crime over the weekend, because there won't be a solitary copper in the county who won't be babysitting Clegg and his pampered yellow civil liberties pooches. Fuck knows what's going to happen to Londoners in the coming months/years - get robbed and you'll be lucky to speak to an answerphone message.

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  95. BTW: I notice this article got whisked away pretty smartish :http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/08/prince-andrew-royal-public-accountability?INTCMP=SRCH

    In case anyone didn't twig it, Heather Brooke was the journalist who originally exposed the MP's expenses scam even though the Telegraph took the credit for the whistleblowing.

    Anyway just finished her latest exposee which is ; "The Silent State" (Secrets, surveillance and the myth of British democracy)

    Not for the faint hearted but I don't expect anyone on this site are of that persuasion!

    BTW: congrats to the Spurs; not the prettiest of football matches but they got the job done!

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  96. Sadly didn't get to see the game but i was confident we'd get a draw at least which is all we needed.

    @chekhov

    Interesting!I think we all knew UK democracy is not all it's cracked up to be.

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  97. "Interesting!I think we all knew UK democracy is not all it's cracked up to be."

    Well quite!
    It's a bit difficult to argue against a "stitch up"

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  98. *
    The government's assault on women's lives is shocking

    PaulBJ's comment 8 March 2011 5:31PM

    Yvette Cooper

    I'm not going to take any lectures from a woman who was a member of the New Labour governments that got this country into the mess it's in.New Labour governments whose incompetence and corruption were a key factor in getting elected a ConDem government who is now making things a lot worse for many men,women and children alike.

    I'm not going to take any lectures from a woman who in the last New Labour government enthusiastically took over from James Purnell at the DWP.And who carried on with the implementation of the inhumane Work Capability Assessments that are having such dire consequences for working aged men and women alike who are claiming disability benefits.

    I'm not going to take any lectures from a woman who has just been reported, ,along with her husband, for allegedly claiming two sets of expenses for her three childrens holidays ..These expenses are paid for by the taxes of men and women alike .And if the allegations are proven she,along with her busband,is going to have to explain why two sets of expenses were claimed for their childrens holidays when as a married couple they should have only claimed one.

    I feel this article of yours was nothing more than an attempt by you to cause a distraction from the real issues here.And i hope that when men and women alike read this article they will come to similar conclusions as me.Namely that the recession and the public sector cuts are going to hit men ,women and children alike.And that you,Yvette Cooper,need to be called to account for your own actions,alleged or otherwise, before you start lecturing anyone else.

    Recommended (505)

    @ My above post has reappeared again on the Yvette Cooper thread but may well disappear again so i've parked it here.I have this fantasy of two mods having a full on spat over my post deciding whether it should stay or go.I always did have a vivid imagination!

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  99. Yep me post has disappeared again on the Yvette Coooper thread. FAREWELL!!!

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  100. Oops, sorry that was the wrong link. I'll try and give the correct one tomorrow.

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  101. Paul - Excellent comment.
    I see nothing there against the mod rules.


    I’m posting this at this hour (hopefully managing to post it) – so that it doesn’t interrupt the conversations of others.

    What follows was inspired by the observations Chekov has been making about the dearth of active investigative journalism these days, and how even that which is easily available by just a few clicks is not utilised – with much being only what is fed (or allowed) to the media from obvious central directives – as if morsels to their chicks with their mouths ever wide for more titbits of favours.

    So I had the notion to have a go myself, as an experiment - as someone with not the slightest journalistic experience. To see if I could produce an example of an investigative piece from that which can be gleaned fairly quickly and easily – and without even being active. What follows has been done with just a few easy internet searches.

    This isn’t meant to be a polished article. It’s just a string of easily read notes and observations, with all of the references clearly on display – as an illustration of how to go about it – in case there are any journalists looking in and wondering how it can be done.

    When there’s so much that can be revealed even by a cursory glance at the information that’s out there, think how much could be exposed about what is really happening, should some actual investigative vigour be put into it.

    These are the sort of subjects that should be in the headlines everyday – not the lowly (mostly) imagined benefit scroungers, but the very real taxpayers’ gigantic parasites.

    For from where comes money for the private contracts replacing public employees? – the taxpayer; and who pays again when it all goes wrong? – the taxpayer. While who loses any control or oversee about the carrying-ons of the companies giving them private services in place of private ones? – the taxpayer...

    This not so much unravelling as linking it up.

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