Gove – “50 books a year?” Give us a break

31. Of Mice and Men [208]

Fifty books a year – that’s the recommended annual amount of literature in the government’s latest ‘nanny state’ proclamation. Education Secretary Michael Gove is intending to shake up the national curriculum and make teachers less reliant on staple – and therefore short – texts like John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men and increase variety and quality of recommended reading for students. Laudable.

But it has been suggested that this should also apply to adult’s reading. Who’s got the time?

I like reading – I’m addicted to it – but 50 books a year – that’s a book a week. Try fitting reading that volume in around the pressures of a busy family life and a full-time job.

Not to mention the cash to buy them or the lack of libraries from which to borrow them if government and local authority cuts force their closure.

Get Carter is 40

Michael Caine in "Get Carter"
Image by mrrobertwade (wadey) via Flickr

George Melly once described one of my favourite movies of all time as a “bottle of neat gin swallowed before breakfast.”

And this March marks its 40th anniversary.

The original Get Carter was lauded as the ‘Best British Film of All Time’ by Total Film. One of the most popular cult classics certainly, the best British film of all time – not sure, but Mike Hodges’s directorial debut delivered a classic 70’s thriller and captured Michael Caine in one of his finest performances.

Adapted from Ted Lewis’ 1968 novel Jack’s Return Home, Get Carter follows hard as nails London gangster Jack Carter‘s (Michael Caine) return to Newcastle for his brother’s funeral. Suspecting foul play, Carter’s quest for the truth about his brother’s death leads to a complex trail of lies, deceit, cover-ups and backhanders played out against the haunting backdrop of the gritty North East.

“Newcastle will be one of the stars of the film,” proclaimed producer Michael Klinger in 1970, prophesying that Get Carter would do for Newcastle what Bullitt had done for San Francisco!

Unfortunately it took over 20 years for Klinger’s prophesy to come true. On its original release in 1971 Get Carter was not a critical success. Many journalists weren’t comfortable with Hodges’s vision of a violent criminal underbelly. Consequently the film spent two decades in the critical wilderness. It was not until Get Carter was re-released in 1999 that it took its rightful place among the pantheon of British cinema classics.

Michael Caine told Loaded magazine in February 1999: ” Quite often, you only realise how good a film is in retrospect. Then years later, a whole new generation picks it up and hails it as a classic!”

There will be a series of anniversary events in the North East to mark the anniversary. It’s a shame that key locations like the Trinity Square multi storey car park in Gateshead have gone. It was here that Carter uttered the immortal line: “You’re a big man but you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself,” before throwing Cliff Brumby, played by Bryan Mosley, off the top of the car park.


Time Team in Castor update II

Time Team in Salisbury
Image by Wessex Archaeology via Flickr

Rob at the Royal Oak is hosting a Channel 4 Time Team event at the Royal Oak on Sunday 13 March.

The episode filmed in Castor last June will be screened from 5:30pm. After that there will be a local knowledge quiz and a raffle. Time to mug up on all those snippets of Castor legend and lore bandied around the bar on cold winter evenings.

And while you’re there get your lips around a pint or two of Rob’s excellent ale.

See you there.

Junior football – It’s not the FA Barclays Premier League…

… but it sometimes feels like it when you’re following the trials and tribulations of your 10-year old son’s team as it progresses up the local FA Junior Alliance League U10’s league. Written off as non-starters at the beginning of the season the boys are now challenging for a top-3 berth. They’ve played some good football along the way but all the issues that are evident in the senior, elite leagues are evident at this the most grass-roots of grass-roots levels – the performance of female match officials, foul play, crowd problems – you name it’s there.

This week the boys suffered the worst defeat of their season to date, which could put their ambitions in doubt. They were outplayed by a team who definitely wanted the win. On a rain-soaked muddy pitch (conditions under which the game should probably have been called off anyway) they all but gave up after the first goal went in. It’s something when a team loses and the best player on the pitch is the goalkeeper. They were beaten by poor  coaching – they were told the game was an easy one and when they went behind their complacency got the better of them.

However, at least two of the five goals were scored as a result of poor refereeing – and it’s impossible to criticise a female ref these days. A throw in was awarded, but the player still made his pass after the whistle. A defender, playing to the whistle, raises his hand to keep the ball from going out of play behind the goal to avoid wasting time. The referee then blows for a penalty – handball in the area – ignoring the fact that she had awarded a throw in seconds before. 2-0.

Shortly afterwards the referee impedes a defender, preventing him from getting to the ball ahead of one of the opposing forwards. He shoots, he scores. 3-0.

And so it went on. I know it’s just a kids match but it is important that we instil a sense of fair play into kids that could become the future of the sport. And in officials who should have the courage to not only stand by their decisions but to recognise when they have made serious mistakes. But it’s important to resist shouting abuse. The officials themselves are young teenagers and are volunteering their time to referee these games.

Still, number one son was delighted with his goal keeping performance. He saved at least four other good shots as the opposition got behind his non-existent defence – often with odds of three against one. The problem comes post match getting a bunch of moody 10 year olds to shake hands.

Spectating parents can also be a problem. It isn’t the Premiership, and the kids are only 9 and 10 years old. Shouting encouragement is one thing, but abuse is something else and can be damaging to developing confidence. There are obvious frustrations but ‘at the end of the day’ it should be fun.

Watch Ray Winstone’s  video. I see one of these almost every Saturday. I find that most post-match blues can be cured by listening and encouraging and being the bringer of a bar of chocolate and a couple of packs of Match Attax.

World Book Day

Flag of the United Nations Educational, Scient...
Image via Wikipedia

It’s World Book Day on Thursday. World Book Day was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading. It is marked in over 100 countries around the globe. It has its origins in Catalonia, Spain, where roses and books were given as gifts to loved ones on St. George’s Day – a tradition started over 90 years ago. Because we’re a bit different, and to ensure the event takes place in term time and doesn’t mar our own St George’s Day festivities – such as they are in a country that is rapidly losing its own national identity – WBD takes place on the first Thursday in March in the UK and Ireland.

Visit the WBD website for lots of downloads for the kids. And help them spend their tokens wisely.