For Manchester (Love)

So, on the evening of Monday 22 May a bomb was detonated at the Manchester Arena, timed to coincide with the end of an Ariana Grande concert. A pop concert attended by kids.

For the record, anyone that commits a deliberate act that results in the death of 8 year olds, in children having nails pulled out of their faces, in parents burying their children, of children losing their siblings or their parents, in schools mourning… They are beneath contempt. Whatever your political or religious views, whatever their political or religious views, they will not be rewarded in any next life that may or may not exist, they are not martyrs, they are not warriors, they are not nothing.
Give them no attention, pay them no heed, for they do not deserve it. Do not remember their names, they do not deserve fame nor infamy.

Remember the victims, and celebrate their lives. Live your life the best you can in their honour… And love. Always love. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it feels like it will destroy you, but love none the less.

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The end of more than just EU membership!

The people have spoken. The UK is leaving the EU. 37.5% of the eligible voters said they wanted ‘independence’ from the European Union and so we enter the unknown.

I am not going to lie, I am immensely disappointed.

I have seen most, if not all, the arguments for leaving, taking back control of our borders, taking back control of our laws, getting rid of migrants, getting rid of Cameron, saving money, saving the NHS, even sticking out to the ‘establishment’. They are all flawed, but the one that annoys me most is the last one. We are now in a state of flux, an uncertain (at least) two years where everything is to play for and no one knows at what cost, and there are people celebrating because it’s a victory over the establishment. They could lose their jobs, they could find their savings are next to worthless (they may not, but they could… no one knows) but it’s OK, because the establishment had dinted pride. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!

The thing is, the problem, the thing that I find most upsetting is… I have never felt so disconnected from the country of my birth, the country I call home, the country I have started a family in. I am British, incredibly so… as far back as anyone has been bothered to trace my family have been British… but right now I don’t feel very British.

The political discourse throughout this referendum campaign has been disgusting. There has been no end of lies, muck throwing, name calling, all round nastiness from both sides. Neither side can take the moral high ground because they have been as bad as each other.
Remain used threats, financial fear, worst case scenario guesswork and out right lies to bribe the electorate, and they had leaders from around the world join in the threatening behaviour. Leave brandished the Remain campaign ‘Project Fear’ but we’re they any better?
Leave used racial fear mongering, imaginary numbers, vague optimistic guesswork options, and out right lies to drum up jingoistic nationalism… and do you know what’s is even worse? Both sides even managed to fulfill Godwin’s Law, comparing the each other to the Nazis. Seriously, this was supposed to be a grown up political debate about an important decision, and everyone was acting like children and internet trolls.

So a mostly uninformed British populace was asked to make a decision that even the most qualified and informed of experts didn’t have enough information to really know sufficient amount to make.
37.5% voted for leave, 34.7% voted to remain, and 27.8% presumably decided that they didn’t know enough or that neither side had been composed enough to gain a committed response from them, so didn’t vote. So leave won, but can’t claim the majority of the UK wants out (they will, but then why should we expect honesty from one half of the most deceitful debate I’ve known).

So this is the end of the UK in the EU (or at least the beginning of the end), some might say the beginning of the end of the EU. This has been the end of at least pretending to be respectful and honest in political debate.

Scotland voted to remain, and we’re told in their independence referendum that to stay in the EU they round have to stay in the UK. They were also told that staying in the UK was the only way to guarantee financial stability, but right now all bets are off, and there are no guarantees of anything right now, so the UK they voted to stay in doesn’t actually exist anymore. As such, there are moves afoot to find a way to keep an independent Scotland in the EU without the UK… oh and Northern Ireland voted Remain too, so there are even rumours about the good Friday agreement being at risk.

So this is the end of the UK in the EU, possibly the end of the EU, and possibly the end of the UK (as we know it).

This whole thing has brought out the worst in the UK. It has left my disillusioned, distanced, disheartened… dis… well just dis.

We can not claim to be a positive nation after that campaign. We can not claim to be tolerant with ‘those’ posters, or with actions like those shown by certain members of this ‘great’ nation of ours…

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We can not claim to be any of the things that I hold dear, that I see as being a core value… which means that right now, I don’t think i can claim to be British… whatever my birth certificate says, whatever my passport says, whatever my hereditary says… This is not MY Britain.
Maybe it will be again, I genuinely hope it will… but for now I am a stranger in my own country.

I will not give up on MY country. I will continue to work with positive people, I will continue to do everything I can to make positive change, I will continue to fight for honesty, positivity, respect, dignity, and equality.

This is the end to many things, but this is not the end of hope, this is not the end of good people, and I know that I am not alone!

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Straight or Gay, does it matter? #Orlando #StopHate

It can hardly have escaped your notice that the worst mass shooting in America happened today.
What might have escaped your notice is that it is the 7th mass shooting since Monday, the 13th this month… and that despite assumptions to the contrary, the shooter appears to have NOT been Muslim.

This is an atrocious event fed by hatred, and we can not allow hated to win. We can not allow the Islamic communities to suffer because of the actions of one person, one person that didn’t even share their faith! But what is the solution? What is the appropriate response?

I could use many inflammatory terms for America in my response, but certain high profile Americans are unwittingly making that argument for me, besides which passive aggression is still aggression… and we just agreed to not let hate win. For whatever reasons America still had major issues with gun laws, most other countries that surfer a gun related atrocity have clamped down on gun ownership, their citizens still have freedom and liberty but don’t get shot at for going to school, going to church, signing autographs, or having a night out in a club. It is not place to say what America should and shouldn’t do, but I think even the most pro-gun American would like to see America fall from the top spot of gun violence.

Anyway, that isn’t the point of this post. So far I haven’t mentioned sexuality, despite it being in the title, so clearly it isn’t the main subjects I want to cover.

This tweet got me thinking, you see a far as I can see Calvin is both right and very very wrong.
Does it matter the sexuality of the victims? On a humanity level no, not at all. On a compassion level, no not at all. On an immediate response level, no not at all.
You see, if you say it matters then you are saying that they are either better or worse human beings because of their sexuality, which is frankly an atrocious position to take. People are people, every life has value, and no-one should ever have their worth dismissed because they are “only”!
Only Black, Only Gay, Only Muslim, Only Disabled, Only Female, Only Stupid… (in no particular order)
There is no Only!
So does it matter if they are straight or gay? No… they are human beings, and loved, and valued, and have great worth!

However…
He has a point. The club was chosen for a reason. The club was chosen for hatred, the club was chosen for the sexuality of its patrons… The club was chosen to create death in the gay community. So does it matter if they are straight or gay? It did to the shooter, and it does to the long term response. This can not be allowed to happen again, and that means stopping the hatred. It means removing the anti-gay legislation, giving gay Americans the same rights as their straight peers. This is a hate crime, and through education and institutional changes to attitudes that hated needs to go. Remember, we can’t let hate win!

But wait… how do we educate the hate away? At it’s simplest it is about teaching that any LGBQT+ person is just that, a person. They are not a gay, they are not a lesbian, they are not a bisexual, they are not confused, they are people. Just like their brother or sister that was born into a body that matched their gender, that is attracted to people of the opposite sex, and that wears clothing that society deems gender appropriate. They are people.
How do we get that message across? I don’t know about you but I think

“It doesn’t matter if it was a gay club or a straight club! People are people!”

is quite succinct in that.

So, does it matter if the victims were gay or straight? In some ways yes, in other ways most definitely not!

Also, could we remove the hatred from Euro2016, and while we’re at it from the EU debate too? In fact… let’s just stop hate.

Parents Vs SATs: Stop The War

Yesterday saw families ‘going on strike‘ and keeping their children from school in protest over the Key Stage 1 SATs. For those that don’t know, the KS1 SATs are tests covering the core skills such as Reading, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG), and Maths, that are taken by year 2 children (Six to Seven year olds) across the country, and they have been labelled as cruel, unnecessary, and stressful.

First of all, I shall address the ‘strike’. Children were kept off school for an entire day, missing valuable learning, for the sake of one activity during that day – an entire days learning lost, learning that will be built upon later in the week, later in the term, and throughout their school life. Was it worth it? Was it a fight worth making a stand for? Well, those are the big questions.

The protest is because of the “week of exams” that is adding undue stress to children when they should be encouraged to enjoy their learning.

So why are the children being put through this stressful experience?

The SATs have a purpose, no-one would create that amount of extra work for themselves without a reason… Many of the children taking these tests are in Primary Schools, a single school that teaches from Early Years (Reception class) to the end of KS2 (Year 6, or Ten to Eleven year olds), but a lot are not. A lot are in Infant schools, and come September will move to Junior school, for these children the SATs give a standardised measure of the children’s strengths and weaknesses that can be passed on to their new school to ensure that they are given lessons that are suitable. So why aren’t Primary school children exempt? Because they are still moving between Key Stages; their learning is about to enter a new phase, building on the basics learned in Key Stage 1, and it is important to make sure that the children have that underlying understanding if they are to build upon it – how do we test that they have that understanding? The answer is in the question… Test.

But still, children at six shouldn’t have to sit exams, should they? We all remember how stressful our GCSE’s, GCE/O’Levels, or your local equivalent were! Those that went on to Further or Higher education will know that Exams never get any easier… heck, even the driving test is horrifying on some level! I am a grown adult, I have been driving since I was 18, I wanted to take my motorcycle test (mainly for pleasure) and I did some of my worst riding on test day, because the stress got to me! Why would we want to put our children through that? We wouldn’t! But we have to remember something VERY important about the SATs. They are NOT GCSE Exams. Why do we get so stressed over Exams? Why do we let nerves get the better of us on our Driving test? Because it means something to us! We want to drive, we want the freedom it offers and the opportunities it opens up, we are emotionally invested in passing the test. We want a decent job, we want a pay-check that is sufficient to give us the things we want without too much of a stretch, we want the opportunities qualifications will open up to us… and we are told that we need to do well in them if we want to succeed! We create the stress (with the help of the adults around us, that are doing there best for us) ourselves because of our investment. How about SATs, are the children invested in them? They shouldn’t be! The results of the SATs do not open up any new opportunities, doing well will not gain the children anything and doing poorly will not hinder them. The results are for the teachers, the results allow the schools to give the children the best education they can.

It is worth saying that, every day in every lesson, children are assessed. Assessment is not new to them. Assessment is not different, or scary, or stressful… it’s just what happens, it’s just how they know what they are good at and where the school will give them extra support. The year two children in the class that I am currently a Teaching Assistant are not stressed out by the SATs, they just see them as another activity in the school day. Another way that they are asked questions, no different from the game about fractions, or the role play about the Emergency Services.

If you work in a school and your children are stressed out about them then I have two questions for you; What are you doing wrong? What are their parents telling them?

If you are a parent and your child is stressed out by them then I have two very similar questions; What are you telling your Child? What is your school doing wrong?

 

So was it worth taking children out of school over the SATs? No. They missed out on learning, they missed out on socialising with their friends, and all because of a test they probably didn’t know they were taking!

The bigger point however is about stressing out our children, which we ABSOLUTELY shouldn’t be doing – but it isn’t the SATs that stress them out, it’s how we as adults react to the SATs.

My thoughts on the #EUref and #Brexit

David Cameron has finished his negotiations on EU reforms, an agreement has been met, and a date has been set for the UK to go to the polls to choose whether we should remain in the EU or go it alone.

Up until now the Eurosceptics have been making all the noise, but between now and 23rd June the Europhiles will start shouting, and the war words will become somewhere between unbearable and tedious. So before I lose the will to care I thought I’d give my two penn’orth.

Now, over the next four months (have we really got to put up with four months of campaigning?) you will here all sorts of fairly predictable arguments. We should have control over our own laws, we should have control of our own borders, we should be able to refuse free NHS treatment/housing benefit/income support to non-nationals… We are better, stronger, safer in Europe, we will be affected by the EU whether we are in or out, so it’s better we be in so we have a say. Then there are the counter arguments, manipulated figures and out right lies. Oh and then there is the frustrated pedantic, that will get increasingly annoyed at the repeated use of Europe in place of EU – because we are voting on whether to stay in or leave a political union and not the continent, now amount of shouting will move our island to a different continent.

First of all, let’s be honest most of us hear these things and think “how can I trust a word out of your lying , manipulative mouths?”, secondly, realistically the things that are important with regards the EU are not considerations in the daily lives of most of us. EU membership won’t change when our bins are collected, whether pot holes are fixed, or if the bus service is any use. This makes the campaign quite awkward, especially since it is based on the new deal David Cameron negotiated for us – and frankly that deal is a sham. I am not criticising what the EU offered, I am not criticising David Cameron’s negotiating techniques (I can’t I didn’t see them), or even what he managed to win off the EU leaders  from his list of priorities… My criticism is with what his list of targets was in the first place! There is a LOT wrong with the EU – it is a behemoth of a political machine that has ‘evolved’ naturally and without big picture planning. It needs a major refresh, it needs some serious readjustment of ego’s, it needs streamlining, and it probably needs a Washington D.C.; a city-state with no national allegiance, that has the sole purpose of administering governance over the union… but that isn’t what he asked for, he asked for populist things pandering to the out leaning neutrals. Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense – he wants to win a referendum, but it doesn’t actually improve the monster we are voting about.

Sham reforms aside, it’s the part of the post where I get off the fence and give my opinion, and justify it. As I have said, the EU is an ugly beast, it is far from perfect, and if we are honest, it will probably never get close to perfect, because it has too many conflicting cultures and ideals… but we should stay in it!

Whilst I agree with some of the reasons the in campaign will trot out over the next 4 months, they are not my biggest reasons. There are other ways of keeping a lot of the things the in campaign laud about the EU, some of the out campaigns concerns are valid and are not being addressed, but there are two big things about the EU that I love.

I love the fact that if I want to go on holiday to France, or Spain, or Slovakia, I can buy tickets and go. I do not need to worry about applying for a Visa, I do not need to worry about health insurance, I can just decide on a whim to get on the train or ferry, and go. And best of all, if i love it and don’t want to come home, I can find a place to live, and a job, and stay… just like that, and just like the 761,000 Brits in Spain, or the 200,000 in France. No Visa, no complication, just move, like moving to another city in the UK.

Do you know what I love more than that though? Do you know the one thing above all else that makes me shout from the roof tops “We NEED to be in the EU!”? The genuine protection it affords me as a human being. David Cameron’s Conservative party have tried, and continue to try to erode our rights, to remove our freedoms, to overturn the fundamental protections that should be afforded to EVERY human being, not just westerners, not just Europeans, everyone. There is only one place that still stands up for us, and will hold the government to task, and that is the European Court of Human Rights. I am sorry, but I do not trust our government anywhere near enough to that up.

Is the EU perfect? no. Has the new deal improved it? no. Is it the lesser of two evils? yes. Do I have enough faith in the power hungry psychopaths and socio-paths that make up the ranks of career politicians to give them the freedom afforded from being untethered by the EU? Hell No!

A Vauxhall I’d pay for? I didn’t see that coming!

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So, General Motors European arm, Opel, have confirmed the Chevvy Bolt will be crossing the Atlantic as the Ampera-E. Although not officially confirmed as coming to the UK as a Vauxhall, the Vauxhall website also carried the news, and let’s be honest – it’s a rare event that an Opal isn’t released by Vauxhall.

I have never had any desire to buy a Vauxhall, not that there is anything particularly wrong with Vauxhall but there cars don’t exactly inspire or excite me, but with the probability of the 200 mile ‘affordable’ electric Bolt joining their line up they may actually be about to get my money!

I currently drive a Honda Insight, which costs me £10 a year in road tax, and frankly I don’t want to go back to paying more than that a month… I love my Honda, I loved my old Civic, and I’d love to stick with Honda – but since they are chasing hydrogen down the rabbit hole, and the Insight will need replacing before hydrogen cars become ‘affordable’, they have backed me into a corner. I have to change allegiance – and Vauxhall have just edged their way into the lead as likely replacement.

I have considered the Nissan Leaf, and the next gen Lead certainly looks good, but Nissan have gone out of their way to avoid my money. I am not one to chase people to throw money away, especially if their customer service is so poor for people they are trying to win over (how bad must it be once you’re trapped as a customer?). The BMW i3 is tiny, farcically so in fact, and has a stupidly small range as a result. Renault Zoe is an option, but their payment system is baffling, they have no quick charging, and they don’t appear to be keeping up with their Japanese cousins. Then there is Tesla.

The Tesla Model 3 is scheduled to assertive around the same time as we can dare expect a RHD Bolt Ampera-E, and is aiming at a similar if not identical price point… And thanks to the S and X (and roadster) Tesla is seen as a luxury brand, which gives extra kudos over Vauxhall… But Tesla have not had to deal with such a high volume car, have not had to deal with people that bought a car as a car rather than as a symbol, statement or accessory, and frankly that makes them an unknown entity still.

So there we have it, I’m in a position I never thought I’d be in… I want a Vauxhall!

Hover-cars All Round!

Since the beginning of Science Fiction people have had hover-cars as a staple symbol of the future, gliding along with no visible means of propulsion or lift. So ubiquitous are they, that if any one of you were to imagine “The City of Tomorrow” I am positive they’d feature. But will they ever happen? We have mag-lev trains that hover, but they are nowhere near as free as a car, Super cooled superconductors are a fun party trick, but are no hover car… heck they haven’t even got hover-boards sorted yet without a metal floor, so what hope have we got of achieving full hover-car status.

But wait… They DO have hover-boards, don’t they?

segwayminiThe Segway mini has certainly been given that label, but it is really just a Segway without a handle. It has two wheels that are firmly planted on the ground. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, hovering and so can not, by definition, be a hover-board. Although….

If we decide to accept the Segway mini as a hoverboard, then we must therefore be prepared to accept other modes of transport that are suspended by two wheels in contact with the ground as hovering – that means push bikes and motorbikes are hover-bikes, kids scooters? hover-scooters! If we accept two wheels as hovering, why not 4? Wait, cars are only held off the ground by 4 wheels… We have Hover Cars!!

Tomorrow is Today! We made it people!!

For this to work, we should probably stop calling tyres “tyres” and start calling them “Air Pockets” then we can justify the hover nomenclature slightly easier. Or, and it’s just a thought… we could stop calling things hoverboards when they CLEARLY don’t hover.