Friday, 20 August 2010

No places at the inn...not even with straight As

You may recall that I have had a thing or two to say about the education system. I have, indeed, been known to say it loudly whilst banging my fist on the bar at the Surfeit of Lamprey.

It came as no surprise, although I was still deeply disappointed, to see that up to 150,000 young people will not get a university place, this year. Moreover, there are students from state schools with damn good results who won't get places.

How can this be when successive governments have said how important it is that everyone gets a chance to go to University and how we wanted to encourage growth in numbers?

Like horses with blinkers or jockeys with blindfolds, they have charged headlong at Becher's and come a cropper. Those of us observing from the safety of the sidelines, our progeny having passed through University some time ago, saw this coming before the field even rounded the first bend. Of course, those blighters at Whitehall and Westminster were just interested in getting the unemployed figures down not in the best interests of the nation's children.

The headlines had set even this sleepy corner of England talking. Hogenroast Malpractice may be off the beaten track but that doesn't mean we are unaware, you know. So, having been joined by Robert Awfullybuff-Headstrong, Nigel Snipe-Razzell and Merton Herflop, I became quite animated on the subject.

"Indeed so" nodded Merton, the former school joker and now editor of Public Eye, "I have been thinking how to get some good cynical humour out of it on next week's "Have I got some view for you"

This brought some good thumping and hoorahs from the group. Merton was a schoolboy of no influence at Warboys, despite editing the school rag but has turned that completely around with his very public face on tv. Can't say I always agree with his views but he does present them with a cutting edge.

I hope you are listening, out there, those of you who balls-ed up the system. Here are the squire's three actions for the future good of our school leavers;
- Provide enough alternative places in good apprenticeships or equivalent that offer good skills and a high likelihood of employment and review them every two to three years to ensure that what is on offer is relevant to what society needs.
- Go back to Universities as academic houses with establishments (such as the polytechnic and technical college) providing specialisation, ensuring there are enough places for all students who obtain all A grades.
- Reduce the number of places so that grants and scholarships can be offered to reduce the terrible debt that families and individuals face after their course is done.

We don't need degrees for the sake of it. We need people qualified in skills that can be put to use. And most of all, we cannot afford everyone to be intelligensia with nobody to do the leg work. The top 2-2.5% worked for a reason. It isn't elitism, it's about managing expectation.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Basel is more like an old Brush

Now I don't know any bankers. You might think a man of my standing would, but I don't. Probably just as well for them otherwise when all that shenanigans with the banking system happened, I'd have been after them with my riding crop and a blunderbuss. The hunt needs something to do, as well.

I happened to be down at the Wagon and Tax Break over the weekend and was drinking with an old Warboys man, Don Merryweather or as he calls himself, these days, Donald D Merryweather.

We happened to get onto the subject of the banks with Donald being a Financial Consultant, as you would. Do you know these dashed bankers are sorting their dirty linen behind closed doors in Switzerland? I say, dash it all... any other industry and we'd have a public enquiry but not the banks, evidently. No doubt, they will come up with a lot of technical jargon and then expect the rest of us to believe that they have imposed a lot of strong regulations on themselves!

What are those lily livered political types going to do about it? That's what I want to know. We are all grown ups and despite what these banking types may think, a lot of us understand business and finance, too. So here's my personal challenge to them... come out of your closeted, velvet cushioned seats at your antique walnut veneered table and talk to the rest of us in plain language because we want to hear how you are going to do things better in future.

Let's not forget whose money saved your bacon. And let's also not forget that we are all suffering as a consequence of your inability to regulate your industry properly. And by the way, when we talk about not wanting you to take big risks, that's not an excuse to keep down interest rates on our savings nor declining investment in small businesses.

Basel (well alright, pronounced improperly)... it's enough to make a fox laugh.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The rising tide of blueberries

Now don't get me wrong. I like a blueberry as much as the next man. Dashed good taste to the little blighters but chaps... it's distinctly un-British to allow them to surpass the raspberry and the strawberry as the nation's most loved berry fruits.

I was having a quick snifter at the Surfeit of Lamprey with fellow drinkers, Nigel Snipe-Razzel and Geoffrey Loosley-Gaye when my eye was caught by an article in the Times.
"What ho!?" I yelled, waving the offending headline in front of them. I can tell you that Geoffrey spluttered into his beer so much the poor fellow nearly drowned.

"It'll be blueberry jam at breakfast, next!" Nigel Snipe-Razzel shook his head, coating everything around in a fine spray of hair oil.

"Never" I banged my fist on the bar, waking old Ted Gracecrease who blinked and asked if "that Randall fellow had gone in yet" "Never!" I continued "Maddy would never abandon her Tiptree marmalade and as for Hildebrande, the PMs office would be under siege at the mere suggestion"

My erstwhile colleagues nodded and murmured supportively. I pondered on the matter later and I have to tell you, I am concerned.

If you thought the advent of McDonalds and this US backchat was the beginning of the end, the blueberry is at the much more pervasive end of this wedge. We may bemoan the fate of the tart and seedy gooseberry as much as we want... Obama's army is winning this invasion of the British cultural territory and nobody has even asked if it is illegal.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Headmaster Ritual

Dash it all! I was so surprised that I dropped my morning paper spilling my grapefruit juice all over my kippers. The grapefruit juice was Hildebrande's idea, by the way. She has practically brow beaten the men in the family into a more healthy lifestyle. Anyway, where was I, apart from now having a soggy Times crossword?

Ah yes. It was the news that a headmaster of a primary school had managed to rack up a salary of over 200k. I thought that education didn't pay. Personally, I thought it was a bit much, in these times. I'm all for heads earning a proper wage. The 80k with say a maximum 20% on top seems reasonable for primary education. You could push that up for a secondary head, in my view.

What amazed me was that it had been on the BBC and the man was being hounded. If we are going to talk about where public money has been over committed (or wasted, I'd say) let's talk about the Samoan chappy who gained asylum and is claiming benefit while living in a Chelsea mansion because a 3 bed house "wasn't big enough" all at our expense. Now that's where the BBC should get involved. I don't recall Samoa even being one of the colonies. I'd love to know how to get a Chelsea residence on the state.

If my old pals in the party would like to chuck one my way... I will graciously accept.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Why so many posts in a day

Dashed sorry about all the posts on the opening day but had to move them from elsewhere as it was getting no attention and one thrives on attention, don't you know?

I would love to stay and chat but I have to pick up Maddy and give her a lift down to Much Vexing where she is helping to organise the village fete.

Perhaps next time...

The debt owed BY the new generation

I was propping up the bar down at the Surfeit of Lamprey last week with my old friend and fellow Peterville & Gonewylde man, Nigel Snipe-Razzel when we were joined by Henry. I should be more specific. I mean, of course, my long suffering brother-in-law, Henry Treadsoftly who is married to my sister, Hildebrande.

"Given a pass for an hour, old boy?" asked Nigel, with one of those grins.

"Oh, er, yes" Henry nodded "Hildebrande has gone off with the ladies of the Much Vexing Music Society to London. Apparently, they are seeing the premier of a new piece by Godfrey Overblown-Blythe."

"It's atonal" he added in a tone of dry distaste.

I digress, though. The issue I wanted to get onto was student costs. It came up because Henry and Hildebrande had laid on a meal for our nephew, Paul, my youngest brother's boy. He has just finished his last year at Warwick and is expecting a two-one or first in Business Dymanics & Demographic Accountancy. I am told it's going to be the in-demand skill over the next decade. William, being William refused to come to the rest of the family either to get the boy into a decent Cambridge college or for money so the lad is in debt to the tune of 16k before he has even started.

What I don't understand is why sucessive governments of this country thought that everyone needs to go to University in the first place. In my day, the top one to two per cent went, they were supported by grants and they came out and got decent jobs. Now, we are told that over half the pupils in the country are to go on to further education. At that level the country cannot afford grants or other intervention. Instead, we have a scheme that sucks them into a cycle of debt that many of them will not get out of for years after they qualify.

You know what this is about, don't you? It keeps the unemployment figures down while the interest fills the coffers of government. The losers are the students, of course. Set high goals, they go off, believing they have a bright future, come out the other end of this educational sausage machine and find the job pool won't support that many graduates so they end up working as agents in a call centre or in a pizza bar earning under twelve thousand a year.

And do you know how much it costs the parents if they choose to pay the fees and expenses for their progeny? About twenty thousand a year, I'm told, now. That's a fair whack even for us supposedly well-heeled types.

What I don't understand is why there is any problem with leaving school and becoming an electrician or a plumber. Lord knows, they cost me enough to bring in when there is work at the manor. I don't believe I have ever met a poor plumber, electrician or tree surgeon. They all tell me they are in demand and I can now believe it. The chaps who would have joined those ranks have all gone to university to study Applied Psychology or worse, Politics. (Although the latter isn't what it used to be. You can't even get your moat cleaned out on expenses, these days)

I have some sympathy with the young despite their noisy music, taste in clothes and that facebook thing. To be given aspirations and then let down is no way to begin your working life.

A snifter or two?

Had a quick one up at the Surfeit of Lamprey with an old school chum, Jeremy Enjoyse-Silk. He is resting, at the moment. You may recall him as the lead in that dashed thing a few years back where he played the head of a rich family and had affairs with various women characters while making and losing millions when the Southsea bubble burst. Must have been five or six years ago, now.

Anyway, we had a bit of a discussion about this matter of lowering the drink drive limit. Dashed if I care, really as I don't drive myself and I never permit my chauffeurs to drink alchohol on duty, don't you know. Seems to me, though, that it isn't the limit that is at issue.

It's this culture we have. I remember back at college how it was considered somehow heroic to get smashed every night. Trouble is, people don't grow up and keep doing it long after its sensible, if it ever was. Now I'm alright with the chaps going out after a big sporting event or whatever and having a few provided they take the train afterwards. But I must say, the village suffers its few disturbances every summer from groups arriving, drinking too much and then making a lot of noise and harassing folk.

Last summer, a group of rowdy young men and women decided they would remove the statuary along the top of the manor's west wall. I mean, dash it all, those were put up there in the 18th century. Some of those pieces were irreplacable. Fortunately, they only got two down before they were chased off by the staff. The local constabulary seemed to think it was a bit of a joke, which upset me more than the damage, at the time and I told them so. If the police don't react more seriously to vandalism, well, what chance do we have? You'd think, living in a police state, that property owners and upstanding members of the community would get more respect and help than they do. They seemed more interested in questioning my staff and I on how the chasing off had been conducted than catching the miscreants.

£6k it cost to replace those two pieces. Do you think six thousand pounds of damage is acceptable? I don't.

No, you won't change anything by altering the limits although make it one pint and I'd still be happy. It's the drink culture you have to change and it starts with making arrests as people get into cars at the pub and with a serious response to this unacceptable yob behaviour that bullies, worries and upsets ordinary folk.