Archive for the ‘Amlit’ Category


One week to my Chicago trip with Beth, starting with a train journey to Brighton next Wednesday, then Heathrow Thursday. Resurrected big red quilted coat yesterday and bought 2 thermal T-shirts today. Ed says the red coat will help Beth and the Chicago PD to locate me when I get lost.

Ed’s colleague Prof. John Hassard has given a paper today on the Hawthorne factory at Cicero outside Chicago and the experiments there in 1924. The museum is only open for tours by appointment. The Museum website claims, ‘”The company subsequently invented the loudspeaker, public address systems, radar, brought sound to motion pictures, and most importantly, the transistor for which Bell Labs researchers won the Nobel Prize.” Radar, indeed! And we understand that the Industrial Revolution started on the Eastern seaboard of the United States of America too (tourist in Manchester UK). Just got diverted for half an hour to read a brilliant article titled  The Hawthorne Studies – a fable for our times? by E. A. M. Gale in a medical journal.

Anyway, a big sunny day today in several ways; the literature class on Maupin’s Tales of the City and sexual / female liberation in general proved very interesting in the group of 12 women and 4 men; Rosie visited in the afternoon; I got some work done on my Faulkner paper; two good salad-based meals; the anti-TNF injections B is having seem to be having a beneficial effect; students marched with lecturers on Millgate and “violence broke out”; as Ed has said on FB, “The BBC is talking about how the student violence in London might distract from ‘sensible debate’ on tuition fees; would this be the sensible debate where the Tories go “we’re doing it” and then they do it?” and I won £25 on ERNIE – Premium Bonds.

What a great piece of music Mussorgsky’s The Great Gate of Kiev is. Just borrowed the Pictures from an Exhibition CD from the library and er… listening to it.  I see Kandinsky did a cool painting based on Hartmann’s original design too. This is my second blog in October, when I have only been  managing one a month so far. Just squeezed it in before November – an extra hour today with the clocks going back, that’s what it will be then. Reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary and Light in August at the moment, as I have been “volunteered” by our tutor John Toft to do a presentation of about two hours, related in some way to these works; fortunately it is scheduled for after Christmas, so lots of time to figure out a piece of work that might begin to approach a standard worthy of the great man from Oxford, Mississippi and our 1930s USA study group ( at Bradwell Lodge Community Centre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, every other Thursday).  Seems funny making the journey there from home, the first time last Thursday, as most of the route is the one I took for 21 years from 1981 until I retired from the College ( which was demolished this year and is now the site of a huge Sainsbury’s). I think that apostrophe is in the right place – please note I did not put one in 1930s USA earlier. That would have been a ‘Crewe Comma’ of course and has indeed got itself on the sheet distributed to us at the start of our sessions. Never mind, it’s the thought that counts and what a great idea this course is, totally put together and the location organised by members of the group. When I ‘did’ the previous course, under the auspices of Keele University, we looked for a while at American architecture and art and in 18 days time I’m off to Chicago with Beth for a six day break – me from Retirement, Beth from Work. Very excited about that – well, as excited as you can get at 65, and then a bit more. Of course, the recent appearance of bombs on cargo planes, in parcels from Yemen to Chicago synagogues adds an extra frisson to the trip.

It’s a new month and so I feel it’s also time for a few blogged thoughts. Have received news that Keele University have chosen to close all their Continuing Education classes ( at least the ones I have been attending for the last 2 years – see blog of 10 February, 2010 ). They don’t call it that of course. Couched in some vague euphemisms about retirements in the Department, reduced and devolved budgets and such.  However, now the good news. Have also heard that some of the old stalwarts of one of the classes and the tutor have combined their not inconsiderable wills, intellects and regard for their fellow human beings to arrange with our local pub for our new classes to use the pub’s function room and the tutor has already put together our new syllabus on the theme of  Twentieth Century Liberation movements. To be studied through eight sessions on literature, with a further session devoted to related movements in art and one more on a play yet to be chosen. Wonderful. (If this is what the latest pathetic slogan of  our government means by the Big Society, then I like it. But it isn’t really, is it). How we pay the tutor is nobody else’s business. I already have Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, used to have Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City but had to buy it again along with Meridian (Alice Walker), Disgrace (J M Coetzee) and The Help ( Kathryn Stockett ). How good is that, to have a real reason to buy some new books. The accompanying links are there for me to see some background and also because sometimes such links means you follow one and don’t get back to where you came from for hours, if at all.

Been to Leek today to meet up with someone doing their family tree and who has discovered she is related to my wife. Leek is not like any other town round here and since we spent most of our 2 hours today in a cafe talking, we plan to return soon for a prolonged mooch around the streets, back streets and shops.

Looking after next door’s stick insects – am told there are 8 in the two containers but have only spotted 6 so far amongst the foliage. Hope they are all apparent when I hand them back in 10 days time…… What odd pets.

A long time ago in a town far away (well 80 miles) I came 28th out of 29 in Woodwork at my grammar school. This didn’t bother anybody too much, as my Dad’s life experience up to that time told him that working with your hands was to be avoided if at all possible, since it meant low wages and being treated badly altogether. This he was keen to tell me, so as to encourage me in more “academic” pursuits which he hoped would lead to a world he knew very little about, but he knew was desirable – anything where brain work was involved, something called “the professions” and it looked like I might make it there if I kept working at the school work that wasn’t Woodwork or Metalwork. His observations were based on a career which started at 14 in the workhouse, (still operating in 1926), through french polishing furniture and spraying cars, coupled with the odd encounter with a solicitor he had to visit to put a deposit down on our house and a dentist for whom he did some french polishing. Such programming against manual work was supported by the school, with its public school pretensions, so what years later came to be called Design and Technology was dropped from the curriculum for clever pupils. Fifty years later I can knock a nail straight in a piece of wood fairly successfully, say 9 times out of 10 and saw a pretty straight line if I concentrate really hard. The shelves I build don’t wobble. The quiet thrill such achievements now create equates in a funny sort of way to the non-manual work high points or “achievements” I sometimes reached working with rebellious adolescent school pupils for many years (after a disastrous stop-off for 2 years in accountancy training).

I have so far read the first 40 pages of  The Case for Working with Your Hands or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good by Matthew Crawford and am liking what he is saying very much indeed. I loved my non-manual, “professional” job most of the time and I don’t think Crawford is so much arguing against such jobs as campaigning for a shift in middle class attitudes towards manual workers that is a bit more respectful than the commonplace “We’ve found a marvellous, plumber and he’s so cheap…!”. I may return to this theme after completing the book.

Sounds like a firm of solicitors or a band. Today we talked about The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett, set on the coast of Maine, USA.

Most people liked it, some a lot, some a little but a fairly vocal minority not at all. Soporific and unrealistic, thought some.  I loved it and was pleased to borrow a different edition with some other Jewett work included, as this one story Morag had introduced us to in our Wednesday class made me want more, even in the light of some comments that this was her best writing, putting the rest into it’s shadow. We’ll see. One viewpoint off the internet suggests that Sarah was influenced by the Trancendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and others.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/ralph-waldo-emerson/

Once I’d found out what that was I could see the reasoning behind that observation and understood more clearly one of the aspects of The Country of the Pointed Firs that made it so agreeable to me. I must be a Transcendentalist, (maybe). Off to Leek next week for a tour of the Arts and Craft Movement in the town.

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