Thursday, 17 July 2014

Tony’s Newsround

A few stories that have caught my interest.
Seize the Day
Actor Ray Lonnen, who starred in shows including ITV series Harry's Game and the BBC's Z Cars, has died aged 74.
I was sorry to hear that news. Of course most of the tributes refer to Harry's Game, which was certainly a high point in his career, when he was the lead as an undercover British soldier, sent to Northern Ireland to infiltrate the IRA and kill an assassin.
But he was also brilliant in the Sandbaggers. I was in Bideford, doing teacher training, and lodging at the house of the head of Mathematics and his family, and they were avid fans of "The Sandbaggers", so I tended to watch it with them, and within a few episodes, I was hooked.
The "Sandbaggers" was a nickname for a Special Operations Section of MI6, whose work included highly trained officers, with dangerous missions that could be politically sensitive or especially vital. The writer, Ian Mackintosh, probably had some experience or knowledge of those kinds of operations.
Ray Lonnen played  Willie Caine, the Chief of Operations second in command, and he gave a brilliant performance in the role, alongside Roy Marsden as his boss, Neil Burnside.
According to the BBC website: Tara Ward, Lonnen's wife of 20 years, said: "Ray was a gentle man who showed great strength in his final years. Despite his discomfort, his favourite expressions were 'carpe diem' and 'the best of times is now.'
French Cuisine and a False Reputation
Miss Gurke: I'm sorry, but do you think we could cancel our fruit salads?
Sybil: Well, it's a little tricky, Chef's just opened the tin.
(Fawlty Towers)
No one expects Haute Cuisine at Fawlty Towers, unless of course, they are holding their Gourmet Night! But then they go and get a French chef, and when he gets drunk, dishes from a nearby French restaurant run by "Maurice"
French cuisine has a reputation for excellence, and this is indicated by the fact that so many restaurant menus, even in England, giving names of courses in French (although the English may be given underneath). This is less so now, of course, when Masterchef style pretention has meant that even English can sound pretentious with just a sprinkling of French - Méduse soup with gruyère croutons, Pan fried squid with a garnish of sea vegetables, followed by an Earl Grey soufflé. Of course, that is "nouvelle cuisine", which also harks back to French culinary prowess.
But there is bad news about French food. Many French restaurants, according to a BBC report, just reheat pre-prepared food, rather than cooking it from scratch. Apparently that 85% of restaurants secretly make use of frozen or vacuum-packed food! Zut Alors!
Now there will be a new logo on menus - - in the shape of a saucepan with a roof-like lid – and it will show if the dish is home made – "fait maison", or not.  From next year it will be compulsory for all menus to carry the logo – if the food is home made, so absence of logo indicates  it is not.
I wonder what the position would be over hear if we introduced a similar scheme. It seems like an excellent idea to boost tourism – always assuming that enough restaurants could demonstrate that their food was home made.
Excellence that is beyond measurement
And finally, a letter from a school regarding KS2 results which has gone viral. This in no way denigrates testing, but it does, I think, show very well that tests simply do not present the full picture. There is often an obsession with measurement, and quantifying things, which overlooks what is really important in life.
Examinations and qualifications can help people in their search for employment, and they also demonstrate a certain standard – a doctor has to pass medical exams for the very good reason that the patient wants to be know they can be trusted to diagnose correctly and prescribe accordingly. But – as the case of Harold Shipman tragically shows – and cases like the Bristol heart scandal – they are not enough to guarantee safety. Character and motivation is not so easily measured, despite the expansion of pseudo-tests in the business community.
Here is the letter, which is a hymn of praise to those aspects of being human that we often misguidedly overlook or neglect, or simply fail to see as the very qualities in which our common humanity can shine:
The Letter

Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test results. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.
However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you... the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.
They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture.
They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school.
They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends.
They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best... the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.
So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.

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