I’ve been out and about with the teenager, our granddaughter, over the last few days. First of all, on Thursday evening I took her to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester to a Suzanne Vega concert. The teenager frequently plays “Tom’s Diner” in the car but as far as I knew the only other song by Ms Vega that she had heard was “My Name is Luka”. So it was time she heard some more. It was a fine concert, a nice mix of material from her new album and older songs. And she sang both the songs the teenager is acquainted with. A good time was had by all.
The teenager, something of a photographer, took an impressive photo of the Hilton Tower, all lit up against the night sky. The Hilton Tower is the tallest building in Manchester. It is said that you can see Liverpool from the top floor. I could believe that. After all, we used to see the Welsh hills from Southport beach when I was a kid. The teenager had promised to email me the impressive photo so that I could include it in this blogpost but, in typical teenage fashion, has had more important things to do. It should have been easy enough as she took the photo with her phone. So it goes.
Yesterday I took her back into Manchester to visit the art gallery and see the exhibition of Grayson Perry’s tapestries. “The Vanity of Small Differences”. Despite the bitter cold we had an excellent afternoon and took photos of Manchester still bedecked with Chinese lanterns for Chinese New Year. Signs indicate that we have entered the Year of the Tiger.
In this way I am contributing to the education of the teenager. And she is learning to find her way around Manchester, which is no bad thing.
Michael Gove, Tory education secretary, has been stirring things up again, this time by sacking Baroness Sally Morgan, Labour chair of Ofsted. He is accused of politicising the inspectorate and wanting to put a Tory in her place. I can’t say I’m surprised. He’s also recommending sanctions to improve discipline in schools: writing lines and picking up litter. I wonder if he has seen The Simpsons where part of the satire is the lines that Bart Simpson has to write each day on the blackboard in his classroom.
"Whispering" Bob Harris, of Old grey Whistle Test fame, was featured on Desert Island Discs today. He talked, among other things, about leaving school suddenly in the sixth form after he was caught drinking a half of shandy and was summoned to the head teacher's office. When he saw the cane coming out he refused to suffer the indignity and left. His only return to school was to dump all his text books in the head's office! Consequently 16/17 year old Bob became a police cadet. That career didn’t last too long, however, and he was fortunate enough to make his living doing what he liked best: playing music.
Another who left school at 16 was Swedish writer Henning Mankell, author of the Wallander books, which have become known in the UK through the TV series, both in Swedish with subtitles and remade in English. The former are far superior, in my opinion anyway. Mr Mankell became a merchant seaman and travelled around a good deal. He was in Paris in May 1968 when the student protests brought France to a standstill and has a scar from being hit by a police baton. Maybe he would never have become a writer if he had stayed at school beyond 16.
Finally, here’s a cultural oddity: a photo of Michigan Theatre, Detroit. This theatre was opened in1926, 4000 seats, built on the site of the workshop where Henry Ford built his first car and closed in 1976, partly because of insufficient parking. This theatre, described in the newspaper as "pulsating with baroque opulence" is now used as a car park. So it goes!