Saturday, 12 July 2008

Holiday blog episode 1

1st July


A year ago Emma Kate Braddy died, after six weeks of life. A few days later I met Neil and Jane, her remarkable parents, and in a week or so we laid her tiny body to rest in our churchyard. I’m sorry I’m not there to mark the day with them.
(There’s a website about her short life:

30th June

Only a game!

One of the things with having MND is that you’re limited as to what you can do; so I probably watch too much TV in my spare time. But I’m going to talk about it again today. Hard luck, Germany. (Apologies, Herr Lahm (not Larm), I saw the back of your shirt only last night. I think it’s a sign of disrespect when you can’t be bothered to get someone’s name right.... So I’m sorry.) But well done, Spain. I could see why it’s sometimes called the beautiful game. I must say I was pleased because before the match the pundits were saying they were the underdogs, though I noticed after the match they soon changed their tune, ‘Of course, throughout the tournament Spain had been playing the best football, by far, blah de blah....’ But, as I said, I tend to side with the underdogs.

In the interval I turned over to ‘Top Gear’ in time to see Spooks do the lap in a moderately priced car - and the restoration of the Cool Wall. For those who’ve not seen the archetypal ‘boys and their toys’ programme, the Cool Wall is where the presenters, usually Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, categorise cars into different degrees of coolness or uncoolness. It’s mildly amusing (though they got Skodas wildly wrong). But last night one bit of labeling struck me. Richard Hammond moved Aston Martins from cool to uncool, because they’re common on the King’s Road, and they belong to footballers, such as Frank Lampard, WAYNE ROONEY (snigger, snigger) et al. Well, in fact, they are highly skilled sportsman. They may be overpaid, but it’s the market rate. It felt there was a mixture of snobbery and jealousy in dubbing cars (which you’ve previously admired) uncool, just because footballers like them.

Then I turned back to watch the second half of the match and saw an exhibition of skill given by passionate professionals refusing to give up until the final whistle. Uncool - perhaps; but admirable. Respect to them all.

I’m reminded of something Chekhov, the Russian who wrote sad plays, said about critics, to the effect that they are like parasites who live off the blood of the animals who do the work.

29th June 2008

Too hasty

Not being on line here, I can’t see what I wrote yesterday; but it was obviously a case of too much haste. Because I know I got Nelson Mandela’s age wrong, and I think I said some of my best friends were asses. Well, clearly I didn’t mean that, much as I esteem donkeys. If you’re one of my friends reading this, of course I didn’t mean you. I didn’t mean my BEST FRIENDS. I can feel the hole getting deeper! I meant, some well-respected acquaintances of mine have, on occasions, acted in an asinine way.... Phew! Apologies for any offence.

Incidentally I should have known better. When I was teaching, I learned the crucial lesson, that you NEVER call a student a fool or a failure or any label. Because you do literally label them. They get the message that’s your general opinion of them as a human being. What’s worse, they may also begin to believe it of themselves, especially as they’ve probably heard the same from others. If, instead, you say, ‘That was a stupid thing to do, wasn’t it?’ you imply the opposite: that you rate them as a person with potential for better.
Labels for people may be useful, but they are dangerous. Can you imagine God labeling individuals? (Maybe that’s the point of Adam and Eve. God’s not into making the human species, but individual human beings.)

Going back to the Nelson Mandela concert, I caught the TV broadcast yesterday. Weren’t the Soweto Gospel Choir great? And I loved Annie Lennox with her young choir. Apartheid was labeling taken to its logical pernicious extreme. Black and white and coloured - we’re just human. We’re made in God’s image. How dare we treat people as less? That’s part of Mr Mandela’s virtue, that when he achieved power he didn’t buy in to the label-culture; he didn’t institute reverse apartheid. Remember the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with Desmond Tutu?

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