Tuesday, 13 February 2018

My name is John and I'm a Melancholic

Mauritius 13/2/18

Early draft can’t send pics from phone in Mauritius but they’ll be here soon...

Thinking of my sisters this early morning, in the heat of a Mauritius night held at breathing distance by an efficient air conditioning unit. One gone, one going and the other making hay, stitching in time, putting her best foot forward, breasting the waves and generally getting sorted, as you do when the inevitable becomes, clear sightedly, obvious.

There is a restlessness in me as I see the raging at the night drawing nearer for loved ones and feel a need to do something to get sorted too but seeking greener grass is a fool's errand I've been told by those who see angels in their mirrors. Then I see contented animals doing it successfully all the time and remember those sad, skinny mules kicking around, rib-chested in muddy confines. Maybe they rushed in a while ago, full of hope. No, we make our own beds and must lie in them, whilst it’s night.

I was struck again, yesterday, by how same the world is, wherever I've been. When you see behind the rose tinted lenses, your tourism spectacles come with, beyond the greener grass atop mountains, woodlands, valleys, or those different coloured rocks and sands and seas. And when you have become used to the bird songs and vocal tumbling in the mouths of locals - it is far more of the same, this wonderfully similar, recognisable, Earth.

The Desire Lines on sand and scrubland wander in that wriggle of nonconformity as though each walker enjoys the first maverick's little wander from the straight line (that remember joins every two places). A few little steps as if to say, "I can tread beyond the expected you know. Look I am doing it now!". Then a scurry back to the path, soon to become track and roadway - eventually laid bare, black, tarmacked black a bobbing straight line to the heart of the, once village, then town, now city.

And where is the heart of this city? The market of course as it is and will always be. For this is the place where we humans go for our food. In this endeavour we are exposed, as nowhere else. Except more so the waterholes but these are rare things now as our springs are piped to our cloisters and closets (as is our music – like it or not) so we may drink, wash and soap ourselves in secret intimacy. Only peeping Toms see but their voyerism is joyless. Meanwhile, we humans in our markets are, if you take the time to watch, busily joyous, earnest, singular, industrious and vulnerable in our selling, buying and carrying of our necessary vitals and victuals.  Yes, here in the fleshy, flowery, fishy and flamboyant displays we are naked expectants of the unrealised joy we carry, new found in our bags, bundles and boxes. Back home we journey licking our lips in anticipation of the cooking and eating, dressing and wearing, unpacking and using our new finds.

Children carry for mother's. Sisters load their brothers. Singletons barter for lovers,  or will, alone (not always lonely) wear it, eat it, or display it for long remembered others..

In this hustling bustling and muscling I see the same expressions I've seen all my life. You'll know them all and recognise them instantly too. It is reassuringly human and - so - in this instant my melancholy evaporates and a sterner resolve takes its place.

New day - new paths - best foot forward. Like my sisters always teach me.

Friday, 19 January 2018

We can and must teach a "Can Do!" culture.

Working with a group of teachers this week I was asked to share what I had learnt in over 40 years as teacher, leader etc...

I spoke about the importance of REVIEW prior to ANALYSIS and PLANNING because I am an evangelist for Action-Research and developing a REFLECTIVE profession...

I mused that we all make assumptions and that it's important to be open about what they are, if we are to plan our teaching and leading effectively.  I went on to hypothesise that assumptions, such as these, become beliefs when they are shown to be true, over time.

I then projected this slide:

It reads:

Show me a problem, a concern, a worry, or a barrier to improvement and success and I’ll find someone somewhere in the system who forgot to, didn’t, or couldn’t work out how to stop it, mitigate it, or cope with it. Then I’ll (want to) help them sort it.

I’ve learnt, and observed, that barriers to success, come down to a lack of capacity in individuals, teams and organisations to “review their effectiveness and plan to improve”.

So, I now believe that self-evaluation and planning is a critical skill, that can and must be taught.  It embeds the capacity to become independent and, later, interdependent.  It builds a “Can do” culture in families, schools and the workplace.  Crucially, it spreads a deeper and more powerful understanding of community, society and democracy.

On reflection:

I reckon most of my BLOG/rants have grown from this belief!  I often megaphone about colleagues, fellow citizens and those in authority who somehow missed something critical that was happening all around them.  Whether it is abuse, corruption, bullying, oppression, environmental ignorance or just unacceptable sloppiness across the board.

The phrase that epitomises the after effect of such lapses and suffuses the hollow excuses, even apologies, when they are offered, is, "These were unintended consequences".  This, self justifying utterance, is an acceptance that someone, somewhere, perhaps the speaker, did not think through what they were doing, or not doing, before they acted... Well, I think and shout, "They bloody well should have done!"

Am I being harsh?  Is this too simplistic?  Maybe I'm railing against apathy and, as I was once chided, "Baying at the moon".

I have come to believe that nothing can and will improve until an "action research minded" individual, or group, steps into the failing arena. My goodness - no it's their goodness - there are some warming examples of individual campaigners, sufferers, whistleblowers and heroes who have the strength and moral purpose to sand up for what they feel, know or believe is "right" and "just".

The hopeful bit

(So) The only way I can see of making any positive difference is by teaching our children that they can make a difference by thinking deeply and acting accordingly.  When educationalists, parents and community leaders teach in this way - we are building hope into the curriculum.  We are inoculating a generation against apathy and breeding thinking citizens who will be able to make judgements about their immediate and wider world. They will likely be interdependent and caring, rather than independent and selfish.

If you are like me and so many others I hear bemoaning the "current situation" around and about our lives, work and politics... I just ask that you do all you can to encourage the critical skills of: judgements based on evidence; analysis of critical factors, and prioritised action to weaken barriers to improvement and success.

Isn't this about, "Looking at what we are doing, with a view to doing it better next time?"

I repeat - Am I being harsh?  Is this too simplistic?  Maybe I'm railing against apathy and, as I was once chided, "Baying at the moon".

10 things we can resolve to do:
(or at least check out with reliable others whether we are right to consider such action)
  • Whistleblow, report, challenge unacceptable behaviour.
  • Praise and publicise good acts
  • Refuse to buy goods and services from corrupt, or unethical companies
  • Offer positive feedback and reviews for those who provide good products and sevices
  • Recycle correctly and search for environmentally sensible products
  • Pick up other peoples litter
  • Use energy wisely
  • Argue on behalf of those who are too weak, or vulnerable to make their own case.
  • Gently (and increase pressure on a rising scale) challenge ourselves, and those closest to us, when we fail to act on witnessing unacceptable behaviour and actions (even if this is at some personal cost).
  • Vote - always vote and weigh up the consequences of your vote on vulnerable citizens across our world.

Oh yes, PLEASE add comments below with your own positive suggestions... 

Sunday, 10 December 2017


Thanks for the comments - Now edited to improve rhythm and rhyme? 18.12.17

noun: a rounded underground storage organ present in plants such as crocuses, gladioli, and cyclamens, consisting of a swollen stem base covered with scale leaves.

Doggerel rap is recompense.
My rhythm method of sense,
Searching rhyme and reason,
You too? We too? #MeToo?
Is this a change of season?

It’s dark, it’s night, I’m in bed and warm
Metamorphosing from Leafman to Corm
Dying, shrinking, crisping to dry,
Oozing down sinews to earth,
Does the bud still long for sky?

Then Savil, Weinstein and Spacey rise groping
And Trump with his little hands hoping.
Lunging, looming and grabbing what they can
We cringe, hide and wince as,
They boast, "I am man!"

I curse them, the bastards. We know what they've done.
In their darkness they dimmed down our sun.
Stunned, for while, we've lost our way.
They perverted and dirtied what it means to be male.
They took our affection away.

We were the romancers
The lovers, the dancers
The poets, the painters of light.
Applauding the best we saw hope in the rest,
Just wanting it all to be right.

Some search for solace, “Me too!” they groan
Despairing but sharing, no longer alone,
In the frost, winter bleak, on the hills.
It's somehow less grim as, huddling in,
We whisper and moan of our ills.

Feeling some hope we sense the cold.
Oh, to be strong if not bold.
We turn ears to the darkness to catch what they say.
Shivering we nurture the candles,
To give us the light to show us the way,

Yes, you evil, oppressors, abusers,
We'll tell tales of how you used us,
With non smiling grins on your faces.
You sullied and bullied in your lip curling toils,
And raped through your countless disgraces.

As you bruised on thrusting, onward in stealth
Entitled by power, prestige and wealth
We stood aside watching your swagger.
You predators, losers, big headed braggers,
You pathetic, buggers and shaggers.

We will not lie down! Well we do but it's gone,
That sense, in loving, as two becomes one,
The joy when we touched has been smothered.
So, we pause, take care and try to fathom
The wants and the needs of our others.

Yes, it's the time to take stock
To turn back our clocks
Before we were too numbed to see.
When nothing but us consumed our love,
To the time when our loving was free,

Take her hand, stroke his chest,
Understand you are blest.
Help him to touch you well.
Draw Desire Lines on each other's skin

Restore consensual.

Enter the mountain, don't thrust for the top,
Whisper of hope, roll angst down the slope.
Enjoy the unfolding, reveals and the awe.
Our sun's Spring warmth will loosen the thaw
Then, let us make love once more.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Britney Grate and The YouRow Club

Once upon a time a young girl called Britney Grate joined The International "YouRow" Club. At first all went well but, after a few years despite her efforts, she felt the Club had changed too much.  So, she sent in her resignation.  That's when it all became very difficult and she didn't know what to do. She wrote to a Counsellor who listened and replied...

So,Britney, let me check I've got this right... You joined The YouRow Club willingly and accepted the rules. Indeed, you got involved and helped write them. You didn't always agree with the other members but you negotiated, on equal terms. Then, years later you began to feel that the club had changed and so you decided to leave. So you said you were leaving and the other members said, “Wow, we don’t want you to leave but OK, let’s see.... you signed up to subscriptions for years, so we've had a meeting and decided you'll have to pay what you owe us before we can talk about how you'll stay friends with each of us, or not.
Britney, my view is That seems like a reasonable stance by the club. It as also means that you Britney, who made the decision to leave, are in a minority. You also tell me that parts of you want to stay - Is that right?

Let’s be honest, I don't think you, Britney, thought it through. The other members didn't want you to leave the club. They'd much rather you stay to influence the club in ways that benefit  it and you. Several Club members told me that you, Britney, have great ideas but sometimes appear big-headed. 
My clear advice, Britney, is now that you’ve got into this mess it would be best to say, “Sorry Folks, I made a mistake thinking that leaving was a good idea. So, I won't be cancelling my membership after all”.  You can always add, “But get ready you'll be getting some proposals for change”.
I really believe some of the YouRow Club want you to help them change. Indeed, they keep saying so. My view is that they’ll welcome you back and apologise for how they were often blind to what you saw and said, well most of them. What do you think now Britney?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Maydays in June

Of Grenfell Tower and other scandals
Why we must Whistleblow a wind of change.

We lay them down in Grenfell Tower
Clad in unintended consequences.
Our very own refugees, lost friends,
Clutching copies of their unread letters,
Dark reproaches Posted to their elders, richers and betters
As dawn approaches.

This year is turning slow
As a thin moon cuts high clouds.
There's a cold wind tonight
After all the heat.

The Bishop’s abused
Shudder in nightmares. Still returning from a broken youth
Listening to Canterbury Tales
Clutching copies of their unread letters,
Collusions of Effusion, C of E Isn’t this the place where sanctuary should be?
How long do we have to wait?
More examples will follow
Some in anger, others in sorrow.
Remember Hillsborough?
The trial starts tomorrow
Only 28 years too late.

Insert here something about bankers
Rhyme it with wankers
  or Saville and Greville
Crisis with Isis
Jersey with mercy
Austerity with Money Tree
Oppression with depression
Warning with mourning.

Now, such verses sound hollow
All homework we learnt
By rote (not by heart) for tomorrow
Then burnt?
Might this rhythmic pattern of rhymes with no reason
Beat the intro to a season of treason?
Time for hunkering down, Backhanding the frown Nodding off to that silent prayer, "This too will pass..."
Repeat the epithets
"Head below the parapet"
"Save your ass"
"I will not grass..."

Too late, too late!
The strong, unbolted, stable Has unbridled hate.
No more high days, hay days
Are there only Mayday Maydays?

The thundering immensity of all this
Falls on deaf ears, bent shoulders, Aching hearts and dimming hope.
Who sees any lightening in our sky?

The first of us rise up
Bare teeth and gesticulate About “Our rights!”
And kick against the pricks.
Our chorus is rhetoric
That empty echo trick.
Rasp it out through sore throats,
Spit it out at scapegoats,
Print it on placards in full view
“For the many not the few,”
Or was that,
"We’re all right - Fuck you!”?

The second of us couch potato down
Watching, screens scrolling,
Eyeballs rolling, swiveling.
Keyboards trolling, driveling.
Surfing click and chips
Licking and index fingering.

The third of us just mutter,
“Democracy,” tut and splutter,
“That stupid delusion
Coalition of confusion
Pathetic illusion”.

Despairing as far-left and alt-right
Meet behind the continuum's back
"What we have you lack!"
Red and blue make a bruise
"Qui s'excuse s'accuse"

The fourth of us ponder,
Frowning, thinking it through.
And if we know of evil do we speak?
Too few do, too few. Would you?
In austerity don't argue with authority.
If you question, or dissent,
You'll be deemed troublesome and slow,
Less effective and efficient
And then, “Let go”.

The final indignity is,
“The politicians’ swerve.”
Loosening their limper grip
On a finely shredded nerve,
We hear them cry, "This is not what we meant at all
We were wanting to stand and serve.”
And see we let them free
For the current bargain plea,
A formal, public statement of apology.

The lonely wise looked up and saw,
At each and every moment too soon,
Beyond the moon,
All our reflections in all our sky.
Each of us a star, a prick of light mingled,
Interdependent, not one of us single.
They turned and asked us, “Why?”

Seeking answers, we vaguely recall...
“Love thy neighbour...
Above all to thine own self be true...”
“If you can keep your head when all around…
“No man is an island…”
“I have a dream...”
“Yes we can...
“Humanity is you...”
These bites are all sound
But do they speak to you?

Could there be hope after all?
The forecast is more wind tonight With a harder frost whoring in.
If we hug closer, safer, warmer, tight
Might we be less vulnerable and small?

Meanwhile in La La Land...
We bend over our youngest singing,
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high,
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.”
Straightening, we leave them sleeping
Hearing our words repeating,
“Dreams that you dare to dream really can come true.”

So, let’s dare to dream and teach them
How to face the darkest hours.
We’ll set their moral compass
On those ivory towers.
We’ll demonstrate how to care
And when to be aware,
When others oppress, abuse,
With alternative facts, fake news.
We’ll say their lies are obscene
That grassing up is now green.

So, tittletattle, nark, snitch and tell tale
Whistleblow a wind!
Let our breath of life, be a righteous gale
Buffeting those who sinned.
A hurricane of hope speaking truth to power.
Let this be our learning
From the lesson of The Tower.

John Pearce June 25th 2017