Lockdown: Week 8

It’s all but I can do this week to just not spend the next few paragraphs ranting.

We all waited on the governmental announcement of the weekend and we were looking for some clarity as to where we might be going and how we might get there. Sadly, the communication was not as clear as it could have been, and the ‘roadmap’ didn’t set out a direction of travel (at least one we could reasonably understand and follow). For the rest of the week, two or three times a day, there has been clarification and guidance published by the DfE. Most of that has been welcome and some of it has brought some clarity. It’s a minefield ploughing through the guidance and advice and picking out the sections which are relevant and useful. Sadly, I’m still not fully clear as to where we might be going but, as always, I will communicate with you when we have got a clear strategy.

In response to this guidance there has been an angry response, particularly from some of the teaching unions. That equally brings me some discomfort. In the musings from unions officials I have seen and read very little mention of pupils and students. Although I understand that one senior union official did suggest that all pupils, students and parents should be sprayed with disinfectant. This was knocked back when that officer was asked whether their members might agree to being sprayed too. It seems that this crisis is being used to drive a wedge between the government and the schools and colleges and between leaders in the schools and the wider staff body.

We have worked really hard at creating harmony and accord. There are external forces which seem intent on promoting disharmony and discord. We must not allow that to happen. We must not allow national or local personal/political agendas to get in the way of what we collectively want to do. Sadly, I believe that this global crisis has been shamefully used by some factions of government and the unions – where is the ethical leadership?

I look at our wider constituency: the pupils, students and parents out in our community. And they look back at us to display leadership and guidance. It is difficult to show that leadership and offer that guidance at this stage. We are trying desperately hard to stay connected with our children and young people. We do that despite the bickering at a national level. For that support, that commitment and that understanding I say an enormous thank you!

We will work our way through this. I will continue to communicate directly with you all, through the various mechanisms we’ve got. I know that you value that. We know that it is a global and national crisis and we want to continue to do our bit, play at our role. Many of us look at our friends, neighbours and family working in the health services, the caring services, the supermarkets, all those who have been furloughed or those self-employed who now have no income and we recognise that petty politics by whomever and whenever is inappropriate and unnecessary. We do the right thing despite, not because, of what emanates from those national bodies.

‘Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision’. Aldous Huxley

As a consequence of all the guidance and the need to understand and translate to our contexts and the need then to formulate a plan for the next stage of school/college closure and/or reopening I’ve done so little this week. I did revisit the fruitcake recipe of a few weeks ago. I learnt my lesson about storage and rather than leaving it out on the side for a few days, for it to dry out, it went into an appropriate tin and tasted a lot better, as a consequence. That said, it still only lasted a couple of days.

I continue with the running although I am persuaded that a rest day is a sensible thing. And so Tuesday I took the day off. I’m still looking to get in around 40 miles a week. Being out and about, running with the Sun shining (no matter how cold it is) clears the head somewhat.

Thank you, once again for your support, commitment and hard work. Together we will get through this.

Please feel able to press delete right now if not, comedy connections.

I ran to the end of a particular comedy cul-de-sac a couple of weeks ago. Today I’m going to start another route. A comedy roadmap maybe? – popular parlance these days.

If the last ‘connections’ had something of a working class feel to it; i.e. the subject matter, the writers and the characters were very much working-class in their outlook; I would suggest that comedy these days is very much a middle-class affair. The intellectuals have taken over radio and television comedy. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just as it is. Some of the brilliant work of recent years; for example, Fleabag (on the cusp of being a work of art) has been written by privately and university educated intellectuals.

To understand this and to follow a ‘map’ I want to take this right back to its beginnings. We are starting with Beyond Our Ken. Beyond Our Ken morphed into Round the Horne, later in the 1960s, but between 1958 to 1964 this sketch show led the way in radio and, latterly TV, sketch comedy. It was fronted by the straight-man Kenneth Horne. He wasn’t a comedian; He was very much a BBC establishment type. Beyond Our Ken though was written by comedy grandees Eric Merriman and Barry Took (you’’ remember him from Points of View, and starred Hugh Paddock, Kenneth Williams, Betty Marsden and Bill Pertwee (the ARP Warden in Dad’s Army – so there is a connection for you).

Although Beyond Our Ken was on the Light Programme (BBC radio channel before radios 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 4 extra etc) it was very much written by clever types for clever people. There were an ongoing and regularly appearing range of characters who drifted in and out of the sketches. It wasn’t anything like the sitcom; this is very much about clever wordplay and use of characters to drive the comedy.

Much of Beyond Our Ken was very 1950s Britain. It’s a very ‘knowing’ comedy. That said, much of the comedy is sharp, cutting edge and ahead of its time. Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddock, for example, playing gay characters, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain.

You could take or leave some of the sketches but on the whole it’s a delight to listen to. It was the Fast Show before its time. There is so much, coming at the lister so quickly that you can miss a bit without worrying about it being beyond your ken. And there’s another play on the words. In the north beyond our or your ken – meant not really understanding something. And so, it is unclear how much of what was going on around him Kenneth Horne actually understood. There is a slightly manic, clever people taking the mickey, in a very knowing way about some of the sketches but its use of language, use of catchphrase and forward thinking comedy makes it, in general, a delight.

Enjoy this episode from the early 1960s.