Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Review of Stairlift to Heaven 2, Further up the Stairlift by Terry Ravenscroft

For those of you who have never heard of Terry Ravenscroft, he is a writer of comedy. He has written for such people as Les Dawson and The Two Ronnies, and has also been the script writer for such shows as Alas Smith and Jones, Not the Nine 0'Clock News and many others.

This book does not fail to live up to the expectations such a CV would lead one to expect. It is full of humerous anecdotes of his escapades with his friend, Atkins.

Atkins seems to be just the same kind of person as Terry Ravenscroft and the two egg each other on to all kinds of misdemeanours from misleading someone in a charity shop to believe he had found a valuable piece of pottery to annoying cold callers on the telephone.

This is the second book Mr Ravenscroft has written about his life in retirement and I am looking forward to reading Book 3.

Definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

In Defense of Grammar Schools

This should not have been published on 23rd May, so I'm going to move it to the correct place. Apologies.

There is a debate going on in the UK at the moment about education. As an ex-teacher I am interested in the arguments.

The Conservative Government wants to allow Grammar Schools to be re-established. Before the 1960s there was a system of Grammar Schools and Secondary Modern Schools.

In order to get into a grammar school, all children took an examination at age 11, in the final year of their primary school. It was called the 11+ examination. Those pupils who were in the top percentage got a place in the grammar school. I don't know what that percentage was, but I have heard it said that the top 25% went to grammar schools.

The grammar schools were academic schools, and they taught academic subjects. secondary moderns tended not to teach much in the way of languages, for example.

It is said that the future of children was settled at 11, and that was not good, because some children developed later. But the 11+ was not the end. There was a 12+ and a 13+ that pupils could take if they seemed to be developing in a more academic way.

At that time, the school leaving age was 15. The pupils who went to grammar school had to stay on until 16 so they could do the GCE 'O' level examination. A few pupils stayed on at secondary modern and did 'O' levels as well. If they did well in the examinations, they could then go on to the 6th form in the grammar school or at a college. I have several friends who did this.

During the 1960s, came the advent of the comprehensive school. These schools were deemed to be fairer than the old system. Each neighbourhood took in all the pupils from its catchment area. All went to the same school, regardless of their academic ability. This, it was said, was much fairer. It did not create an elite and a lot of 'failures' at the age of 11.

On the face of it, this seems to be fine, only I think there are a number of flaws in this argument.

The main one, I think is this. Pupils from a given area all go to the local comprehensive school. There is no examination for entry, so no feelings of failure by those who did not pass the 11+.
That sounds fine, but if the neighbourhood school is not very good, all pupils from that particular neighbourhood are being failed.

Children do not get the chance to meet children from a different background, either. They are living with these people, have been brought up in the area, either rich or poor, and so they do not get a rounded picture of society.

The idea was the opposite of this. Pupils attending comprehensive schools were supposed to see all the different types of people. Yes, they saw all the different academic types, but not people from different social backgrounds.

Comprehensive schools were supposed to prevent the feelings of failure by some pupils failing the 11+. I don't think you can stop pupils from feeling inferior intellectually by lumping them all together. They can see the brighter pupils doing better than them in their academic work. That will make them feel inferior just as much as 'failing' the 11+.

One other thing brought about by the introduction of comprehensive schools, is that the education given is a watered-down academic curriculum, which is not suited to all pupils, and has lowered the academic standards for the very brightest pupils.

Grammar schools, they say, create an elite. This is supposed to be bad. In a perfect world, I suppose everyone would have the same academic capabilities, but everyone does not. There are some people who are much cleverer than others. Some say that it is solely due to their background how some people develop, and a middle class background is advantageous. This I would not dispute, but only to a point. There are middle class children who do not excel, and working class ones who do, in spite of their background.

They say that comprehensive schools help social mobility. How? Pupils live and learn in the same area with the same people and values.

In a grammar school, pupils come from all backgrounds and all areas of a town. They mix with each other and get to know something of the lives of each other. Pupils from working class backgrounds can get an academic education, and get away from the schools in their area where ambition is perhaps not so great.

Bright pupils who live in an area with a poor school can get away from that as well.

It is said that grammar schools have more middle class pupils than working class ones. That is something that can be worked out. 'They' say that the exam can be coached and middle class parents are more likely to put up the money for coaching. Well, I went to a grammar school and was coached for the exam, but not by private tutor, which is the perception, but by my primary school. Encourage primary schools in working class areas to coach. Or develop an exam where coaching is no advantage.

There's always an answer, and in my opinion, the advent of comprehensive schools has lowered standards. When I look at the exams I took at 'O' level and the exams pupils take at GCSE, there's no comparison. We had to write essays. They just have 'structured questions', or fill in the blanks.

I see grammar schools as promoting social mobility far more than comprehensive schools in contrast to what the detractors say, that they are elitist and prevent it.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Legend of Grillon and Parador from The Wolf Pack

The legend of Grillon and Parador is one of the legends of the world of Vimar. Grillon is the god of nature and wild things, and Parador the goddess of agriculture. This tale is told on the first day of spring, the equinox, which is also considered to be the first day of the year. It is celebrated by feasting after a religious ceremony, and people let down their moral standards for that night.
Any children conceived on Grillon's Night are not considered illegitimate, but rather, are blessed, being thought of as Grillon's children.

One day the Lord of Nature was walking all alone
When beside a hidden pool a lovely sight was shown.
For bathing in the moonlight, where no-one should have been
Was a beauteous maiden, the loveliest he’d e’er seen.

Lord Grillon lost his heart to her
This maiden oh so fair.
He vowed that she would be his own
His life with her would share.

He showed himself at once to her
As forward he did tread.
She said “And who are you, good sir?
Should you not be abed?”

Oh lovely maid, my love, my life,
I ne’er will rest again.
Unless you come to be my wife
My heart will feel such pain.”

And so fair Parador was wed
To Grillon. She agreed
To always sleep within his bed
And others ne’er to heed.

But evil now will turn to dust
That love and bliss
For Barnat after her did lust
And swore she’d be his.

He poisoned Grillon’s mind and said
She was untrue
That she had been into his bed
And others too.

Lord Grillon he was truly sad
That she should treat him so.
He thought that he’d go truly mad
So far from her he’d go.

Now Parador had done no wrong
To deserve this fate.
She could not any more be strong
Beneath Lord Grillon’s hate.

So mourn she did and all the world
Did join with her in sorrow.
All green things died and creatures curled
All safely in their burrow.

But in good time, Lord Grillon found
How false the god of war.
He came to her and he reclaimed
The love of his wife once more.

So once again the land grew green
And springtime came again.
And summer’s warmth and life serene
While she forgot her pain.

And so each year the land remembers
The love of Parador
And autumn comes and winter’s embers
Till Spring returns once more.

If you want to find out more about the world of Vimar and its inhabitants, you can buy The Qolf Pack, Book 1 of The Wolves of Vimar by following this link.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Special book offer

Starting on Monday 19th June, Emily Littler is offering Vengeance of a Slave at the special promotion price of $0.99 or £0.99. This is a 59% saving.

The price will increase in steps for the following 7 days, until June 26th, when it will be back at its full price of $2.99 or £2.35. Hurry so you don't lose out.

Here is a bit about the story.

Adelbhert is only 6 years old when he is forced to watch the crucifixion of his father and other men from his village. They rebelled against the Romans and this was the punishment meted out.
Then he and his young sister are taken as slaves for their pretty looks and ash blonde hair. A rich merchant from Britannia buys them and takes them to give as presents to his wife and daughter. Adelbehrt promises his sister they will escape one day, but cannot promise when.
His experiences make the boy hate the Romans, and he nurtures this hatred throughout his years. as a slave. He is treated more as a pet than a human being, which he hates.
What will become of him and his sister when they are no longer pretty children? Will they be sold and separated? What will their future be?
Adelbehrt's one ambition is to escape and take his revenge on the Roman Army.
But one young man against the might of Rome is seemingly impossible odds. How can Adelbehrt escape, and how can he fight the Roman Army, and can he overcome his hatred before it eats away at his soul.

Clancy Tucker's Blog: 10 June 2017 - TOP QUOTES WORTH READING

Clancy Tucker's Blog: 10 June 2017 - TOP QUOTES WORTH READING: TOP QUOTES WORTH READING G'day folks, Get ready. Here are some more top quotes. ...

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Aspholessaria. The End. Or is it?

A few days later, Asphodel took some food to a family not far from the temple. They were a very poor family, and the children were hungry. She had been taking food to them for weeks now, preventing the children from starving. Their father had no work and occasionally stole in order to feed them.

When she arrived, one of the children was sick. Asphodel did what she could to heal the child, but as a novice, her strength was not sufficient yet to heal him completely. It tired her.

She arrived back at the temple, exhausted. It so happened that a rector was passing as she entered.

'You look tired, Novice Asphodel. Where have you been?'

Asphodel told her she had been visiting a poor family and had healed one of the children as well as giving them food.

'Most commendable, Novice. Charity is extremely important. What family was it you were visiting?'

'The family of Yelver, Rector,' replied Asphodel, bowing her head as was expected of a novice to a rector.

The rector frowned. 'Isn't he a thief? One of the evil folk we have been told not to treat?'

'Rector,' said Asphodel, 'he might have stolen from time to time, but he only did it because his children are starving. He's not an evil man.'

The rector raised his eyebrows. 'A thief is a thief. Why doesn't he get a job to feed his children? No, don't answer,' she held up her hand as Asphodel was about to speak. 'There's no need to say anything. I must remind you not to visit this family again. You are not to have anything to do with them. Understood?'


'I said, is that understood? Have I made myself plain?' The rector looked severe.

'Yes, Rector. Quite plain.'

The rector then walked away and Asphodel returned to her room.

'Yelver would love a job,' she muttered to herself as she walked along the passageway, 'but he's often unwell himself and can't work.'

A week later, on the day Asphodel usually went to visit Yelver's family, she collected alms as usual from the alms box and food from the kitchen. With her basket of food and pouch of money she set off on her charity work.

All week she had been thinking hard. She did not believe Sylissa meant for anyone to be ignored, and her vows said as much, so, after visiting those families on her list, she took the remaining food to Yelver's home.

The little boy seemed a bit better, and Asphodel did another healing on him, and told Yelver's wife to make sure he had extra food, then amid the thanks of the family, she left.

This went on for several weeks. Yelver's boy got better and the family were grateful--so much so that Yelver went to the temple to give thanks and some money he had saved from his last work.

His donation was noticed by the rector who had seen Asphodel a few weeks previously. He called the girl to him.

'Did you visit Yelver after I had forbidden you to go there again?'

Asphodel looked at her feet. 'Yes, Rector,' she said.


'His family were starving. His children were in danger of dying from lack of food. I went out of common sympathy.'

'Come with me,' the rector told her, and he took her to see the Great Mother.

Asphodel knelt before her as was expected.

Mother Caldo was not impressed by Asphodel's reasoning.

'We have had a directive from the Most High,' she told the girl. 'The leader of our church has given us specific instructions. Yet you, a mere novice, seem to think you know better.'

Asphodel said nothing. Novices were not supposed to speak in the presence of a Great Mother or Father unless told to do so.

The Great Mother paced the floor, then she stopped.

'You have shown yourself, on several occasions, to be willful, young lady,' she said. 'You seem to think you know better than your elders. I think the discipline here is perhaps too lax. My friend, the Great Father in Hambara, runs a more strict regime. Perhaps he can make you see the importance of obedience. I will write him a letter asking him to take you and you can take it there.'

She sat down at her desk and picked up a quill. Dipping it in the ink, she began to write.
Then she looked up.

'You are, I believe, almost ready to be promoted from a novice to a curate. I will put this in the letter and you can be tested in Hambara. I understand there's a caravan leaving tomorrow. You will take that.'

So Asphodel left Bluehaven to travel to a new temple in Hambara.

But her story did not end there. You can find out more by reading The Wolf Pack. Just click this link.