Ron Finley, Frank Sidebottom & a Headless Chicken …

… are My Three Best Things About … being online this week.

The first involved a *presents positive spin learned as government press officer* happy mistake. Well, okay, a mistake: made by me.

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”

Ron Finley is an awesomely-inspiring, creative man who’s brought guerrilla gardening to bring fresh, healthy food to  South Central Los Angeles. He ‘wanted a carrot without toxic ingredients I didn’t know how to spell’ in a community where the drive-through kills more than the drive-by. The authorities tried to stop his planting. Ron won.

A year ago, he gave a wonderful TED Talk. I posted this on Twitter at work at the time and spotted it again this week while looking through links for an evaluation report on the Local Food Programme project where I’ve been working. I tweeted it again, managing to get both the date AND his name wrong. Ouch.

Ron graciously pointed this out in a reply – and started following the Farm. I apologised straightaway, giving my name so none of the other folk who post would get any criticism. He sent a lovely response: @StepneyCityFarm @TEDTalks @KarenJKHart #AllGoodThings That cheered up a night of insomnia.

‘There are currently two films about Frank Sidebottom in production, one meticulously searching out the world of Frank (Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story) and the other exploring the idea of what it was to be a man in a fake head (Frank, for which Ronson was screenwriter)’

Poor Jon Ronson has had rather a challenging week, saying on Twitter that he’s ‘a man being yelled at by 8000 Guardian readers’ for Frank. The quote above explains more about the two films; it’s from this feature in The Skinny.

My husband and I met through The Archers. After a get-together of a group of like-minded people, we wandered off for an evening at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town: a Frank Sidebottom gig.  Fantastic. Yes, ‘Guess who’s Been on Match of the Day? is Our Song.

We’ve finally got round to ordering Being Frank: there’s still time to support the documentary and get listed in the credits. My husband commented on our gig story and got back my second best thing, this lovely response from Steve Sullivan, Director of Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story:

‘Surprisingly, you’re not the first person to say they got together with their partner at a Frank gig! Surely not the romantic of atmospheres, but then there was magic in the air!’

And the Headless Chicken: best thing number three.  The Folkestone Triennial announced this year’s artists, including Yoko Ono and Andy Goldsworthy. I’m looking forward to ‘Whithervanes … a neurotic early worrying system.’ One of roofoftwo’s five sculptured birds will be on top of that Martello Tower, just around the corner from my Mum: a 21st century weathervane measuring levels of concern on the internet.

I’m sure Frank would approve.

Back to school?

New_Forest_last_day_of_the_summer_holidaysA levels, GCSEs: it’s the annual round of results and debates on whether it was tougher back in the day.

I don’t know about the grades. I don’t feel qualified to judge whether modular systems are fairer than an exam at the end of a course of study.

I did old school O and A Levels. Tough, yes. But I think she has it tougher because I was able to have a summer off from studying before Sixth Form started.

My 16-year-old scientifically-minded daughter picked up an AS result yesterday: a surprisingly decent grade in History. The surprise was that she hates the subject and hadn’t wanted to study it. It was the only subject she could fit into a timetable designed to meet curriculum requirements with required core subjects.

Her school in Kent takes exams early so she already had all government-imposed qualifications, except one. As she had to retake German until the alphabet ran out of letters at its rear end, the timetable left her with a History AS on top of her additional GCSEs.

Study doesn’t come easily to her and I think she deserved a summer kicking back a bit. The photo shows her on her last real day of rest during three days in the New Forest back on 15 July.

That’s the day she was given summer holiday work tasks for starting A levels in Biology, Chemistry, Geography and Physics. These have kept her occupied every single day since.

She’s read ‘Why does E=MC2? by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw’ and ‘The
Selfish Gene’ by Richard Dawkins and is working on ‘The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison’ by John Emsley: all three books  need a written review.

There’s an assignment on the state of the oceans for each of the science areas and 15 news articles to find and review to cover a list of geographical issues.

Back at school to get results next Thursday. Back at school to discuss results next Friday. Back at school the week after for a further interview about A Level choices. Then back at school for real the Monday after.

She’s working harder this summer than I ever did after a round of exams. What might be a surprise to some is that she’s leaving the Kent grammar, where her friends are having a summer off. She’s not heading for a public school, where you might expect a summer spent cramming for a head start.

This is all for a state school in poor Tower Hamlets, where there’s the highest rate of child poverty in London.

Maybe this might help cut down numbers of the next generation of poor deprived kids here. And I hope she’ll  think it worth it, some day. Not now though: she’s too busy cursing poor Prof Cox.

No more giant badgers. Shame, really.

A_badger_not_the_giant_one_from_Folkestone_School_for _GirlsMy daughter is unlikely  to be attacked by a giant badger.

This makes me sad.

I am sad that, of course, there is no such thing as a giant badger. Such a disappointment. The innocent creature pictured featured in the Daily Telegraph, one of the news outlets that ran a story that a giant badger was terrorising the girls at her school. It claimed there were ‘hundreds of screaming, hysterical girls … too scared to walk across the school grounds’.

While I wasn’t too pleased about her language, I was delighted that her reaction was ‘WTF?’ She had seen no such thing: none of her friends had even heard of the GB until she posted a link on Facebook.

It is a pity that she is unlikely to experience being ‘charged at and then sniffed by’ the beast, reported elsewhere in a story that arose from one single unsubstantiated anonymous source. Those journalistic standards in a story about my old school in the town where I started work as a reporter also make me sad.

My main cause for sadness, though, is un-badger-related. My daughter will start a new school for sixth form in September. There’s a concrete playground but no fields for badgers of any size here.

What it does have, I found out yesterday, is a police escort at home time. This is because of a ‘fear of crime and violence in London’s East End’.

It makes me sad that I’ve often had to call the police where we live. I couldn’t bear to list the dozens of times and severity of incidents.

I’ve worked for the Metropolitan Police Service and the Home Office. I don’t call 999 lightly. The number of occasions on which they don’t turn up far outnumber those that they do.

If the police think home time is in need of this level of attention, there are worse things than giant badgers out there. And that makes me very sad indeed.

(‘Shame, really’ was the response to most things by Nanny in Nancy Mitford’s ‘The Blessing’. Today I am mos’ly channelling her. Nanny, not Nancy.  That definitely makes me sad.)