Last night I watched Question Time on BBC2. Well, I half watched it and half read a book. There was some interesting discussion about the EU and Brexit among other things. The programme was being broadcast from Bradford which has a large Asian population. Maybe as a result of that a question came up about our prime minister's insistence that immigrants should all learn English and in particular that the "traditionally submissive" (his words, I believe) wives should learn English to prevent their isolation and maybe prevent their sons from being attracted to terrorist organisations. You can imagine the storm. A number of people pointed out that funding for English as a second language classes had been cut by a certain government ruling. A teacher of English told of the women of all ages, not just the young, on waiting lists for the now restricted numbers of classes available. And a quietly assertive young Asian woman listed the occupations and professional positions held by traditionally submissive Asian women. Almost all of the speakers, with the exception of the bloke who almost shamefacedly admitted to coming from Essex, spoke with a Yorkshire accent, including the Asians in the audience.
One of the panel had a strong Scouse accent. He was the second in command of UKIP. I am afraid I found it hard to take his contributions very seriously. This was partly because he was from UKIP but also because he mostly looked as if he was doing an impression of the comedian Alexei Sayle. The gestures and the facial expressions were there; unfortunately the humour wasn't. I read this morning in the paper that Nigel Farage was supposed to be on the panel but got stuck in traffic, travelling from Wales, I think, to Bradford. Mind you, I might not have been able to take him seriously either. Unfortunately some people do.
Other things. Joan Bakewell, or rather, Dame Joan Bakewell, is 82. And unless they published an old photo in the publicity for a book she has written, the "thinking man's crumpet" is looking very good. I was amused and rather horrified to read that when young Joan got a scholarship to Cambridge, the headmistress of her school announced the news to the assembled girls with the reminder that “however pleased we are for Joan, the true calling of a woman’s life is to be a wife and mother”.
This is a little different to the headmistress of my girls' grammar school. She used to interview the girls who had chosen not to continue into the sixth form after completing O Levels. In our year, one of my best friends was leaving to get married to the boy she had been going out with since she was thirteen. We all knew she was having a baby. She could have left school at Easter but had stayed on to complete her O Levels. She returned from her interview in tears. The headmistress, who was very proud of the fact that so many of HER girls went on to university, had told my friend that she was letting herself down letting her parents down, letting the school down and, most importantly, letting the headmistress down!
What a difference a decade and a half made in attitude to women's role in society.
Mind you, I doubt that Dame Joan's head teacher would have approved of young "gals" having sex before marriage!
Getting back to Dame Joan, when she worked at the BBC she once asked a senior executive what plans he had for a woman to read the news; the answer was, "He had none. And never would have.” End of conversation. Another change of attitude. But only partial. It appears to be obligatory for female news readers to be attractive and always well-dressed and coiffed!
And finally, some good news stories. The hole in the pavement outside our house, made by the electricity men when restoring power to our row a week ago, has finally been filled in. The bad news is that the plastic barriers are still there.
The other story is about a teenager in Germany who found a half-kilogram gold bar in an alpine lake. Being a good, honest girl, she handed it in to the police. Six months down the line, nobody has claimed the ingot and so the young lady finds herself the owner of a lump of gold worth about $20,000. That should pay for a few more holidays by Alpine lakes!