Friday, 21 September 2012

Oh-Oh, Hastilow!

Well, well, well, what do you know? You wait over a month for a blog entry and then two come along at once. TRAROTL is the blogging equivalent of buses, something which Will Self so eloquently whined back when I met him at a drinks reception in 2010.

Regular readers will be familiar with me analysing stupid letters that have been sent in to my local rag, The Sloppy Star, for many years now, so this blog entry is something an ickle bit different. On Page 8 of yesterday's Slop we have a column written by a man called Mr Nigel Hastilow (more on him later. Much more) which is possibly the worst thing I've ever read. I know I say that every week but, seriously. Let's go:

Complaints by us lefties wouldn't be right

That's the title, and it's one that caught my eye because, based on his previous muck, there's no way this dude is a "leftie".

There's nothing sinister about it. I am left-handed and the world's against me. Who can I sue?

Ah. Left-handed.

It's the ginger-whingers who finally convinced me there must be money in it.

As you read this column, please note one thing - I'm left handed. Yes, I'm left-handed, and even I think this is the shittiest thing I've ever seen since Lord Charles Shitty took a shit on a shitting toilet.

In Milton Keynes.

So, a few people call you carrot-top? Get over it. You really don't know what discrimination's all about. Try being left-handed, cack-handed or simply gauche.

Could you excuse me for a moment?

*taps out unnecessarily long phone number*

HEAVEN: "Thank you for phoning Heaven. For the Big Man Himself, press 1. For a guest, press 2. For a saint, press 3. To be re-directed downstairs, press 666."

HEAVEN: "Thank you for are now on-hold. Your call is very important to us. Please hold."

They're playing "Abide with Me". Don't you just hate on-hold music?

ST PETER: "Hello?"

ME: "Rosa Parks please. Fifth floor, I believe."

ST PETER: "One moment."

"Little Donkey" now, for fuck sake.

ROSA PARKS: "Hello?"

ME: "Rosa, it's me, Ewar!"

ROSA: "Yes?"

ME: "We met before, a few years ago. I was just wondering if you could tell me your story, you know, the bus one. I love to hear it."

ROSA: "Of course! Well, one day I was sitting on a bus, and, you know, there were awful problems at the time. This was 1950s deep south America, you see, and on the bus there was a "coloured section" and a "white section". A white person wanted to sit in my seat, in the "coloured section", and I refused.

ME: "Hmmm."

ROSA: "Yes?"

ME: "I was just thinking...were you called 'gauche' though?"

ROSA: "What? No!"

ME: "So what do you know about discrimination?"

ROSA: "...."

ME: "I mean, why don't you look up to and revere Nigel Hastilow? Why do you and everyone else discriminate against him, just for being left-handed? Hmm?"

ROSA: "It's not because he's left-handed. It's because he's a fucking cunt."


There was a huge fuss recently when Wolverhampton's Laura Payton was given an apology and £150 compensation by the Halifax because she took offence at a bit of a joke about the colour of her hair. Mrs Payton complained a member of staff told her: "I bet your daughter is glad she isn't ginger like you."

Now, OK, maybe this is just me, but I think that's pretty damn appalling. "I bet your daughter is glad she doesn't look like you, you freak"? If someone said that to my wife I'd poke them in the eye. An apology and £150? Good! I'd want that employee sacked as well. Why would you even say that to somebody? I've already laboured this point but "I bet your daughter is glad she isn't black like you" - would that still be "a bit of a joke"?

When I read about this I'm sorry to say I wasn't outraged on Mrs Payton's behalf.

You're not sorry.

It just made me chuckle.

Really? This is probably the unfunniest thing I've ever read in my life, and I've watched "Citizen Khan" AND "My Family". Saying that to a stranger isn't humorous, it's incredibly disrespectful.

But it turns out most of the world's redheads are happy to moan about how badly they were bullied at school and you think: "You're having a laugh." Or, in the words of John McEnroe, one of the world's famous left-handers :"You cannot be serious."

Nigel Hastilow's advice to children who are currently being bullied at school: "Just shut the fuck up."

I have nothing against redheads. Some of my best friends are ginger.

Did we have a sweepstake for how long it'd take for that sentence to get an airing?

Obviously you have to be wary of them, given their notoriously bad tempers.

I'd be wary of the Irish, given their tendencies to gun British people down.

Even so, there can be something distinctly alluring about all that flame-coloured hair. What really isn't on is for this group to complain it's discriminated against. Reddism is nothing compared with leftism, discrimination against left-handers.

(Here comes a really boring bit. Sorry. It does get better later on though.)

The world isn't designed to make life difficult for ginger-nuts but it certainly is for us lefties. We can't even sit at a computer without having to move the mouse from the right hand side of the desk to the left (assuming the wire is long enough) or we have to try manipulating it with our right hands. I'd like to see you right-handers try it left-handed. Institutionalised leftism is rife. For years, I found it completely impossible to use chopsticks. I just couldn't manipulate them in any way which conveyed food to face.

Based on what we'll see later, I'm a little surprised Mr Hastilow eats that foreign muck, but we'll get to that.

Then - and you may say this shows just how slow-witted left-handers must be - one day it occurred to me to try transferring them to my left hand.

And the award for "World's Shittest Anecdote" goes to....

Suddenly a whole new world opened up. The miracle of chopsticks. Why hadn't I tried them in my left hand before? 

You're a bit thick?

Because they are laid out for right-handers and the obvious solution to my problem never occurred to me.

As you're clever people you already know that this is bollocks, but take it from me, a leftie - this IS bollocks. If there's a pen to my right, I'm not going to pick it up and try writing with my right hand. I'm going to transfer it to my left. Now either Hastilow is the thickest man EVER, or he's just writing this to fill space and praying that this backs up his point. Not that he has one anyway.

Thick, I know, but we lefties are used to life's little inconveniences. Try, for instance, cutting your fingernails with a pair of scissors using your left hand. It is more or less impossible. Discrimination starts early, of course. When I was at school, they still held to the antediluvian 

Great word, I'll give him that.

view that all kids should be right-handed. Lefties were, as the Romans used to say, sinister. So I was taught to play cricket right-handed and kick a football with my right foot. Worse, of course, was the requirement that I should write with my right hand. It was very difficult and my handwriting was awful. We had to submit examples of our work to be assessed by the teachers. Mine were so consistently terrible I took to writing things out secretly with my left hand and then swearing blind it had been done with my right. What a terrible little liar I must have been. But the alternative was to have my work thrown back at me time after time because my (right handed) handwriting was so poor.

That's all very interesting, Nigel, but I don't think that sort of attitude has prevailed in our schools for many years now, so why reference it?

I don't think that sort of attitude has prevailed in our schools for many years now.


But unthinking leftism remains a daily difficulty for the 10% of the population blessed with the talent, creativity, and originality to make the best of our unfortunate predicament. Even my dictionary defines left-handed as being "awkward, unlucky, dubious."

A biscuit to anyone who can remember what kicked off this weird little rant in the first place. Wasn't it about a woman being abused in a bank? It's been so long now, I forget.

And if you think a laughable lefty is as bad as a ginger whinger, consider this: Research in America shows that even left-handed surgeons are themselves frightened of being treated by fellow left-handed surgeons - because all their training and equipment is designed for right-handers.

We've still got about four paragraphs of this nonsense left, fucking hell. I'm as bored as you are.

Still, this is not intended to be another moan from a supposedly oppressed minority. Quite the opposite, in fact.

You could have fooled me.

Mrs Payton should have laughed off the Halifax worker's little joke just as rich redheads like Lily Cole or Nicole Kidman should just get over it.

Fuck Nicole Kidman. I'm serious. Aren't you sick of her, constantly whining? I walked out of the cinema halfway through "Moulin Rouge!", such was the frequency of her moaning "Wah wah wah I have red hair, boo hoo everyone fucking hates me".

My advice to Lily Cole and Nicole Kidman - just, like, get over yourselves darlings!

And, whatever inconveniences we lefties have to put up with, you won't find us queuing up at the bank for compensation because all those pens-on-string are positioned for right-handers.

Because A) They extend across for left-handers and B) They don't verbally abuse you.

Yet the prevailing sense of victim-hood knows no bounds. Any group of people can find reason to moan - and most of them do: "Oh it's so unfair they're calling me fat or Welsh or too tall, or too thin, or a Scouser, or too old, too young, a social security scrounger, a rich banker..."

Am I wrong or did I just read about a million fucking words from someone complaining about holding chopsticks in the wrong hand, or something?

We are all eager to portray ourselves as hard done-by. I blame the compensation culture.

We're almost done, I promise.

People will always give each other nicknames, make snide comments and rude remarks or unthinkably ignore the needs of left-handers. But we lefties wouldn't dream of complaining. It wouldn't be right.

End of bollocks.

Hastilow's article caught my eye because I read some utter nonsense from him a few weeks back which was crowned off by the charming sentence of "What's good about the NHS anyway?" Last night, I was intrigued as to who he is/what his background is so I Googled him and H-O-L-Y S-H-I-T.

Google Nigel Hastilow. First thing you see is this:

"People also search for: Enoch Powell"

followed by several articles about him quitting as a Tory (of course) PPC because of his belief that "Enoch Powell was right". You then go onto his Wiki page, which tells us that he's an "active member of the TaxPayers Alliance and a supporter of the Freedom Association".

In short (and I bet he is short as well) Hastilow is mad, bad, and very dangerous to know. How fucking appalling it is that local newspapers are giving him space and money to spew his filthy bile out at us.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Never Let Me Go(ve)

By now you will have seen the news that the Government is mucking about with education again. The latest brainwave comes from idiot twerp Michael Gove, who is:
  • hilariously out of his depth as a Cabinet minister 
  • scarily thick
  • in a very influential position 
So that's pretty damn scary.

Gove's latest idea is to axe the oft-criticised GCSE and overhaul school testing. In a few years time, rolling assessments will be gone, and a heavy emphasis will be placed on your "traditional" end of year examination. There will be only one exam board, and, according to the BBC, pupils will be 'assessed entirely by an external exam, with proposals for an end to all internal assessment.' In basic language - no more coursework.

So what do I think about all this? Not a lot, quite frankly, although I'm prepared to concede that only having the one exam board for a subject isn't the worst idea in the world. Is there a "race to the bottom" under the current system, with various exam boards competing against each other and chucking out easier test papers? Possibly. Not for me to say, really, but regardless, I think for simplicity's sake just the one exam board is possibly a wise idea. But what about the exams themselves?

Because Gove's problem with GCSEs seems to be all about grade inflation - that the humble GCSE is nowhere near as difficult as the O-Levels he had to endure in his youth. I can imagine this is the case. In my hand right now is my father's O-Level mathematics book that he used when he was 16. I've spent the last 15 minutes trying to find a question in it that I can answer (correctly), and I can't find one. In some places, I have an excuse - the money questions are in shillings(?!), I don't have any algorithms on me, I've forgotten what words like "factorise" mean - but mainly I just can't blooming do it. And I have a B in GCSE Maths, I'm obviously super smart.

So if Michael Gove wants to tell me that exams have got easier over the years, then fine - he can. But for me the slipping in standards of exam papers isn't a reason to tear up the whole structure currently in place and start again, particularly in regards to destroying the notion of coursework. I don't think exams are necessarily bad things, but placing the entire weight of a subject on one exam is a bad thing, because you simply don't know how people will react. There was a girl in my year at college who was extraordinarily smart - far smarter than I was or ever will be - but continually she struggled with exam papers and never got the hang of them. She didn't get the marks she really could/should have got in them, for whatever reason, but at least she was able to fall back on her coursework, which was always magnificent. In short, we know that students learn in different ways, so to me it makes sense to draw out that learning in different ways too. Exams are stressful, which is why they reward those who work best under extreme pressure. It would be unfair to penalise those who don't in such an extreme way.

I hated exams when I was at school - who didn't? - so I've tried to block out the memories of them, but what I do recall, particularly in my favoured subject of English, is how the exam always went one of two ways. Either:

1) We opened the exam paper to find that it was indeed the question our teacher had predicted it was going to be, so the entire class sat there like automated drones writing the exact same key themes, quotes, points because our "learning" had been crushed and we were just regurgitating the stuff we needed to know to pass the exam.


2) We opened the exam paper to find that the question wasn't one we had been anticipating, at which point we all went "SHIT!", looked at each other, panicked, then began to scribble as much bollocks as we could.

Creativity and critical thought? Maybe a little in scenario 2, but it was frantic and far from our best work. Enjoyment? Nowt from either. Reflection? Again, maybe a little in scenario 2 but no time for it to be anything deep or meaningful. Pressure? Extreme in both scenarios. In the future, even if the heart rate is a bit slower in scenario 1, students still know that this is now their only shot, the long process of independent thought and creative thinking they enjoyed via coursework now stripped away.

So what's the answer? It's difficult to say - everything seems to have its pros and cons, and there is no perfect system. Rolling assessments makes the student feel like they are constantly being tested/evaluated/analysed and under constant stress. Coursework can be conducted without integrity and open to abuse. A block of exams at the end of the year is an absolute nightmare, an experience I'm so glad I won't have to go through ever again.

Maybe it's time for a new way. Something fresh and innovative, a method which strips away all the "You won't need to know this in the future but you need to know it just to pass this exam" bollocks. A revolutionary, exciting and inspiring new way of education, which will fill the students with enthusiasm and joy. A way which stimulates creativity, and passion, and critical analysis, a way that leaves our education system admired around the world for its originality and enterprise.

A way which, deep down, we know we'll never see under Michael Gove and the Conservatives.