Friday, 29 May 2015

School 1958 and my first caning!

I went to the senior school, Sharmans Cross, a large secondary modern school in Shirley Solihull in September 1958. To get to a secondary modern you had to fail your 11 plus which I did, but I soon got over the disappointment although remained jealous of my pal from across the street who not only passed but his parents rewarded him with a new bike with deraillure gears!

It was a large school with over 900 pupils, all boys and as I was a baby boomer the new first year was very large, with classes 1A1, 1A-Inter, 1A2, 1B1, 1B2, 1C, 1D, 1E, each with 38 boys. I was in 1A1. 

So how was this school run? Basically by the slipper and cane. The slipper was the sole of a size 10 plimsoll, or pump as it was called locally, and administered by any teacher for lesser misdemeanours in blows of 1 to 4 across the backside. For more serious offences the cane was used up to six of the best. 

Even before I went to the school I knew of this as my brother, 7 years older than me, had already experienced these. I vividly remember seeing him in the bath when he was 14 or so with big blue wheals across his behind. He had been in trouble over something or other and for punishment the teacher had told him to carry all the chairs and desks out of the classroom. 

"You must think I'm a bloody fool to expect me to do that!" and for saying this he was rewarded with six of the best. 

The same teacher was to teach me science later on and he had not mellowed much, but I will expand on this in a later post. 

Before my first day my brother told me that at some time a teacher would ask for volunteer to be caned and I should volunteer because afterwards I would never fear being caned again. 

In one of the early days 1A1 was in the Art Room. The Art Teacher walked up and down between the desks looking at our work. He carried his 1 meter long cane with him, on the top he had pushed a plastic Jiffy Lemon with which he use to "playfully" strike us over the head as the fancy took him.

In the front row a boy had dipped his brush into a colour at random and splodged it over his paper. 

"What do you call that?" shouted the teacher.
"I call it 'All Colours', sir."

Obviously not impressed by the abstract side of painting "Get out to the front" he barked "and bend over! "

He rotated the cane over so that the Jiffy Lemon was above his hand and gave the budding artist two swipes. 

"Anyone like to volunteer for the cane?"  he asked after the boy had sat down. 

Remembering my brother's advice my hand shot up, "Yes please sir" to everybody's astonishment, including myself, I called out. 

So he ordered me out and repeated the punishment on me. Well I immediately began to doubt the advise once I felt the pain but on balance I think it did remove the fear as there were many times I received the cane there after. 

Now this may all sound at best silly and at worse brutal, but it was a good school with great repartee between teachers and pupils, and if we took it too far then one or several or even the whole class would be slippered or caned and the balance restored. Anyway that was the view from the A1 stream, not sure how the C, D and E streams faired. 

Still I would not be happy now for the same treatment to be handed out to my grandchildren. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Colour Blindness

There were three characteristics I have that as a young child I was unaware of, namely
  1. Red-green colour blindness
  2. Short sightedness
  3. Speech problem
Now none of these could be described as handicaps, at worse just deficiency, but the point is I was unaware of them. In this a post I will discuss colour blindness, the other two in later posts.

My elder brother was also colour blind so perhaps this had been discussed at home but it did not register with me. The first time it effected me was when I was 5 or 6 years old,  about 1952 or 1953. I was at school and we were drawing a picture of a daffodil, probably an Easter Card for our mothers. We were all at our desks, the old fashioned type with a lifting lid.

When the teacher saw my picture she instructed me to stand on my chair with my hands on my head and told the other children to  "Look at silly Roddy's painting, his daffodil is orange not yellow!" I gazed down from my high vantage point and for the life of me could see no difference in the colour of my daffodil to the others. Luckily these type of incidents did not bother me but I never forgot it.

In the 1950s schools were visited by nurses and doctors and everyone eyes were tested and I was soon diagnosed with red-green colour blindness but I did not worry about it.

In fact it was not until I was 17 can I remember the next incident. I was now playing rugby for the small market town Alcester in Warwickshire. We played in red and black hoops, just like Moseley but some many skill levels lower. I am told to most people red is a vibrant colour but not so for me, so when the shirts were old they merged into one near black colour. Now being short and short-sighted my natural position was scrum-half and although a basically solid player I had little flair, but for a short guy I was a surprisingly good tackler. I especially enjoyed felling the big opponent forwards as they broke through a line-out and were all off balance. I was somewhat dumbfounded on one game when one of our forwards ran towards me from the line out, passed by and continued towards our try line. Why was he going that way? The opponents were Shipston-On-Stour and they played in all black shirts.

Then I started to drive and this meant I had to get to grips with traffic lights. Again not a real problem as for me they were not Red, Amber (whatever that is) and Green but Red, Yellow and White with a greasy smear, and they were normally on poles at a certain height.

When I became a parent my inability to recognise colours was of great interest and amusement to my daughter. I think it pleased her that I could get something so basic wrong. "What colour is that?"  was the frequent question. Some I got right some not. There are references one uses. Grass is green, pillar boxes are red so I try to match these. If the green is dark then I call it brown, if the brown is light then I call green. This behaviour now fascinates my grand-daughters.

Graphs can be challenging.  At one branch meeting the presenter was discussing the red line on the graph.
"Excuse me," I interrupted, "I am colour blind, which one is red?"
"The one above the green." he replied.
"Excuse me," I interrupted, "I am colour blind, which one is green?"

Final example. I was watching Prof Alice Roberts on TV regarding evolution of mankind and how man can see three primary colours whereas most animals only two. The film showed a market stall of fruit, first as animals would see it, and then as we humans see it.
"Well they seem the same to me." I said.
"Good grief," my now adult daughter said "for the first time I think I understand what you see."

Shame that teacher all those years ago never did.

Friday, 22 May 2015


Key to understanding.

Distinguish between fact, conclusion and belief. Here is an example.

I walked out of my front door and notice the roads are wet.   Fact
It must have rained.    Conclusion
God sends the rain.   Belief
Beliefs can be true or false, they are just a matter of faith, and I leave this to the individual. But just saying something is a fact, does not make it so.

To continue with my example.

I turn the corner and the road is dry.    Fact
This new fact causes me to reconsider my previous conclusion. Did it only rain on the other road? Was this road somehow covered?

Returning to the first road I see the pavement is dry though the road is wet.   Fact
The road cleaner vehicle must have been along the road.   Conclusion
I turn another corner and see the road cleaner.   Fact
Road cleaner made the first road wet.    Conclusion
Note the new fact of seeing the road cleaner adds evidence to my conclusion, but it still is a conclusion and not a fact.

(Photo by Dominik)

Emotive language.

A good technique in novels and poetry but can be counter productive in understanding.

 An example, you may think your child is independent others may see him/her as obstinate. Both are seeing the same behaviour but putting a different ‘spin’ onto it.

Gravity, Newton and Einstein

On a recent holiday in North Norfolk I had a conversation with a local person who held interesting theories regarding Quantum Mechanics ability to influence understanding. Now I have a more scientific background and his was more philosophical. Anyway this led to a discussion on gravity and he sent me the following link to a Youtube.

Gravity Newton to Einstein

This was my reply.

Just watched video. I have seen most of this before but the new bit was his 'thought experiment' of explaining why the planets do not fly off instantaneously if the sun was to suddenly vanish. Let's hope it remains a 'thought experiment'.

There is a lot of coincidences between Einstein and Newton, both studied light, motion and gravity. Both appear to have eccentric behaviours, Newton spent years studying Cabalism. However for Newton to develop his Laws Of Motion he developed a whole new field of mathematics, now known as Calculus, which is used by pretty well all of Physics to this day, including Einstein. Now no doubt Calculus would have been developed by someone else if he had not written his Principia Mathematica, in fact it was being developed on the continent at the same time by Leibniz. 

The origins of Quantum Mechanics as taught to me all those 50 years ago was the discrete energy levels of light being released from atoms. Why discrete and not continuous as expected form Newtonian physics applied to atoms. This specific energy level was called quantum. Einstein's Nobel Prize for Physics was in recognition of his work on  photo-electric effect related to this new science.

I find it interesting that Newton's theory of light was built on a corpuscular model, he believed the eye emitted small particles that were reflected back into the eye. However the alternative wave theory of light gained prominence as it explained diffraction and the dual slit patterns, and Newton rings, the interference patterns you can see if you place a convex lens on a mirror. The wave theory culminated in Maxwell's Equations of Electro-magnetic waves in the 19th century, at which point some bright spark said 'Pretty well all that is to be found out about physics has been completed'.

Then at the start of the 20th century things started to change. They could not find the ether in the universe the media through which light was suppose to travel. They could not explain the quanta levels of emission. This led to new theories about light and again 50 years ago they (academia) were beginning to think of light as a duality of particles and wave lengths, say particles that were bundles of light waves. It was at this point in my education I began to get disappointed in the loss of elegance of the solutions compared to the more classical physics so I concentrated on other areas to specialise in where I could understand and so enjoy the maths and learn enough to pass the exams.

Anyway having discussed these things with you have inspired me to look again at General Relativity and Quantum Physics, because half a century has gone by and who knows what has been happening. So I have googled around and found a reasonable book on line, but there were a couple of math techniques I have to learn first, but now maths is written all different so I am having to do a crash revision on Set Theory! I am expecting it will take a good year to do all this considering it is only going to be a background activity.