Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Zealand Tests


I'm off to Nottingham next week to see the Third Test against New Zealand – well not the whole thing, but the second day (Friday) weather permitting.

Good time to assess where the England team are at this present time.

Opinions are varied. You can, of course, only beat the opposition that is in front of you. In that respect, England's victory in the Second Test was welcome – if overdue. Wisdom has it that NZ are not really very good. Wisdom is probably correct. They have lost a world-class batsman, Stephen Fleming, and a world-class bowler, Shane Bond. Fleming has retired – far too soon – and Bond is making big bucks in the IPL. What's left, meanwhile, is fairly mediocre.

What is even more telling is the way England won at Old Trafford. It was hardly convincing. In the first innings when you should get the majority of your runs, they didn't. The bowlers rescued the batsmen with an inspired performance by Monty to dismiss NZ for next to nothing in the second innings. Before then, NZ were really in the driving seat.

Not really much to crow about!

Commentators keep banking on about the England batting, and they are right. I've been saying for as long as anyone will listen that Bell and Collingwood are not really Test batsmen. I also say that Pietersen is greatly over-rated. For my money he is no better than a Test number six.

I like the Sky commentators line. Batsmen get endless opportunities and faith in continuity from the selectors: bowlers get the chop. Fact is the bowlers are carrying this team at the moment. Some continuity is good, but too much is just stubborn and pig-headed.

One commentator suggested that the England First Innings failure was down to the batsmen being nervous and playing for their places. This is nonsense. Batsmen should always be nervous and playing for their places. What the selectors have been doing is the opposite: they have given endless chances to some technically un-gifted players!

There is a school of thought that England have too many players to choose from. New Zealand, on the other hand, have a small pool and make the best of what they have. This is also nonsense. Having a large pool of players should ensure that the most talented rise to the top and get picked. Then it's a results game.

You get results or you get dropped. Having a number of ready-made replacements on hand should concentrate the batsmen's minds. Competition is good, but it only works if it is put into practice. Endlessly talking about changing the team is no good unless occasionally you actually change it!

It's time to change some batsmen for some others. Bell and Collingwood should go and go now. With the series as much as won – it's time to see what others can do before the South Africans get here.

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All My Best Ideas

The Mistake-Maker - Me

I distinctly remember reading a book review in the Sunday Times on 18 May and thinking: someone has stolen all my best ideas again!

I remember thinking: I must remember to put this to one side so I can blog about it later.

I remember forgetting to do so and looking for the magazine this morning. I couldn't find it; for in a show of mesmeric competence she had thrown it away. Sometimes I can find the last three for four issues of the Sunday Times sitting patiently in my living room – just waiting for me to explore them. This time she has thrown all away except for last week's. And, the dustmen took the recycle bin on Tuesday.

Never mind. I bet I can find the relevant review on-line. Google here I come.

I don't remember the name of the book or the name of the author, so it's no good searching for them. That would be too easy. If I did know the name of either, I bet I could find a review in a flash. I don't.

Next choice: try to search the Sunday Times web site for the review. I know the date – it was a week ago Sunday – i.e. 18 May 08. here's where technology should be a real boon and a real buddy.

Fat chance.

The Sunday Times has extensive search facilities on their web site. What they don't have is back issues. It's easy to find the book reviews from 25 May (of which I have the relevant magazine in my hand!) but for the previous week it appears to be impossible.

Now, when Google have the disk and processor capacity to trawl the net and index the entire thing and then store it to make it accessible with just a few key words; why should the Sunday Times not do the same?

Why can't you simply type into Google: “Sunday Times book review 18 May 08” and get a list of the books reviewed that day. Try it. All you get are links to the Dalai Lama and a Verdi opera.

By now, dear reader, you are probably wondering where this is going?


Despite my previous week's exasperation at the pinching of my best ideas I can not remember enough of the important points of the mystery book to sensibly comment on it.

I permit you a reasonable snigger at my expense.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Been There - Done That - Seen it


Two Sunday Times articles, seemingly unrelated, caught my eye.

Ray Lewis is “Pied Piper to the wild boys”- is, apparently one of the Tories favourite black activists. His programme of “tough love' is a strategy for dealing with severely disruptive teenage boys. He is Boris Johnson's favourite community leader – though he leans towards the Labour Party when voting.

Ray's programme is really fairly simple. He takes some very naughty boys and instills some discipline into their lives. At his Eastside Young Leaders' Academy he works “minor miracles” He makes the boys march “African style – our boys have rhythm” and salute and get extra help in Maths and English. He insists they say “please and thank you” and hold open doors for grown-ups. He probably makes them help old ladies across the road and give up seats on buses.

These are all good things. They are not new. Hitler could teach discipline to kids.

Ray keeps kids off the streets by occupying them from 4 till nine – when their parents get home. He is doing good and valuable work.

He thinks the army of “ologists” in schools and social services are dominating our schools with dyslexia and ADHD – but (as he says) do they have any solutions for these problems? No, they don't.

Ray believes that it's parents and activists like him who are likely to improve the prospects for his boys. He's probably right.

So, when on TV last evening I saw a report that mothers are leaving babies only a few months old to go back to work so they don't lose their home to mortgage repossession, it seems likely that Ray's programme will need to be expanded. When the Dewsbury Chavs set the standards of behaviour for the civilised world, Ray is going to be in business for a long time!

Turn the page and we have TV's QI Quiz show. Apparently people who ought to know better are advocating a “child-centred” approach to learning. Learning by discovery. Learning by play. Have we heard this before? Oh, yes.

Does it work? Oh no.

Are these two articles related? Oh, yes.

First: young people of school age need parents. Two parents. One at home. If they don't have them, or their parents are so gormless and feckless that they can't or won't care for their children – the state will have to do it.

That's the job of schools.

I bet you thought that the job of schools was to educate our children. Only peripherally. It is a good thing if children learn some things whilst they are there – but the primary purpose of schools is to occupy children all day so their parents can go out to work. Once you realise that you know why Ray has so many children to save and why our schools are often a mess.

The great men who barely went to school – Einstein, Churchill, J.S. Mill, Bertrand Russell, Galileo, Da Vinci – the list is long – didn't need after-school care!

The dorks who think they can make school compete with Playstations are deluded. Point one of their manifesto is just stupid. Play not work – they say. If you wish to produce a crop of people who are good at playing, then this is a viable programme. if you wish to produce good, productive members of the community – it's just crap.

The purpose of school is to babysit children for 10-15 years. Along the way if they learn to read and write and do arithmetic – that's a bonus. Some will want to be rocket scientists. You won't learn aeronautical engineering by building model aeroplanes. You might awaken an interest in flight – but you could to that with comic books.

Unless we are prepared as a society to have half the work force at home (chiefly mothers) for five or six years looking after their offspring, we are not going to solve the problem of disillusioned teenagers.

Full stop.

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