Lockdown: Week 6

I want to publicly thank all the staff at Oakwood High School and all the parents and carers for all your work with and for our children and young people. These are, as we have discussed on many occasions, very strange times and we have all been presented with personal and professional challenges, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. We work together to support our children and young people in these difficult times when we all  have pressures on us to ensure that we are safe, our families are safe and protected and yet we all still have a commitment to our children and young people. You will all know better than me the specific children, within our community, who need that contact. There will be children and young people who have very few constants or very little stability in their lives. You all provide that constant and you will offer some of that stability. Thank you, once again

There has been significant talk, in the national media, about how we will get out of this lockdown situation. I just wanted to take this opportunity to reassure you that key leaders have been meeting (over the internet) and planning for and when the lockdown will be lifted; at least in respect of the school. We know that the end of’ school lockdown may be long before the wider community lockdown is lifted. And consequently, it is very difficult at this stage to plan fully and share widely, however we’ve been talking about broad scenarios and how we might collectively manage pupils and the staff within those various scenarios. 

What seems to be clear is that a return to ‘normality’ will not be any time soon. We will continue to open for the children of key workers and those vulnerable pupils which we will run through until we are out of lockdown; be that sooner or later. Beyond that we are looking at our services and our site. We are readying our services and the site for our return, whenever that might be. Be reassured that, as always, we are working to get and stay ahead of the game and to give everyone the very best environment, thus allowing us all to return with confidence to the school.

For now, it is as we were. I know that you are working terrifically hard but do try to take some time for yourself and your family. Do those things that you haven’t been able to do in those busy pre-lockdown days.

This week…

I continue baking, but something very different this week. My first ever vegan chocolate cake, to celebrate my eldest son’s 23rd birthday. 

The Spanish continues slowly. 

The running continues (again very slowly). As of Monday, this last week, I’d run 21 days on the bounce. I had Tuesday off and I’m back on it again. Well, if you only get an hour out of the house you have to use it effectively.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy, stay connected and stay sane. And remember that this will pass.

‘If isolation tempers the strong, it is the stumbling block of the uncertain’ Paul Cezann

Have as good a weekend as you can; the Sun will shine.

Ongoing comedy connections. Please feel free to ignore or press delete now. If not…

When I started this I wasn’t sure for how long things might go on. Today marks then the end of this run of connections. I’m finishing with Only Fools and Horses. The last truly great working-class comedy. The link is one step back, to then take a step forward. If we stepped back from Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads to Porridge, we can then step forward and get into Only Fools and Horses. The obvious link being David Jason; Blanco in several Porridge episodes and who goes on to become the enormous comic character that is Del Boy, in Only Fools and Horses.

From Hancock through to Del Boy we have some obvious working class comedy icons. Whether the actors were working class is something to debate but it’s clear to me that the characters they play are very much of their day and of a very working class background – almost anti-establishment. The set up, the structure and the narrative throughout these connections has been the desperate situation the characters face and then an exploration of their behaviours in those contexts. All of the leading characters, across the six sitcoms, have been people who have wanted something very different to the circumstances they face; they are striving, with varying degrees of success, for something very different, they aspire to be ‘better’ than they are, they are dreamers being’ held back’ by those around them and the ‘system’ more broadly. Del boy is no exception to this.

The later episodes of Only Fools and Horses drift into romanticism. The show became the event. Earlier episodes, short, half an hour, punchy, limited in set and set-up, they stand the test of time. Many of the episodes and much of the narrative is centred on and written for the three main protagonists; Del Boy, Rodney (you plonker) and Grandad. There are a limited gaggle of supporting characters across the series but the earlier episodes, of Only Fools and Horses, follows the pattern set by Hancock, through Steptoe, Rising Damp, Porridge and the Likely Lads by having a very limited cast, a strong script and are darkly comic, riddled with pathos.

Interestingly Only Fools and Horses was transferred to radio in the early 80s. Unlike some other sitcoms which made the transition from TV to radio (the best being Dad’s Army), rather than being made and written for just for radio, no adjustments were made.  It’s a mark of the script and the acting that it was just played as it had aired on TV. The later, hour-long episodes became much more visual in their comedy. The early episodes are dialogue driven.

More recently, the character of Del Boy has been betrayed as the archetypal Thatcherite dreamer – maybe even shorthand for Thatcher’s’ Britain of the 80s. I think it’s pretty clear from those earlier episodes that, despite Del Boys desire to get on, he wasn’t someone who ‘romantically’ epitomises that era. He was just a very poor, poorly educated, working-class lad, who lives on a council estate. He just wanted to do the best by himself and, most importantly, by his family. I really don’t see Del Boy as an overtly political character. If we do want to apply politics to those earlier episodes I would want to describe, or see, them as a statement of the failings of that Britain, that era, rather than see him as the poster boy of the entrepreneurial spirit. He is very much fighting the system, fighting the establishment, which/who have made it all but impossible for people like him to get on. The system is stacked up against people like him, people like them.

In this episode, which is of very poor quality (sorry), which makes it quite difficult watching as a consequence, we have Del Boy, Rodney and Grandad hunkering down for most of the episode, in a nuclear shelter (the Porridge cell, The Rigsby bedsit, the rag and bone man’s yard?). Those of us who lived through the 70s and 80s will remember the fear of the prospect of a nuclear holocaust. Despite the quality, it is the perfect episode for exploring the characters, their personalities, their differences and their love for one another.

The Russians are Coming Episode 6 Series 1.