Old Long Songs

Yesterday morning my husband Steve called me to see a video clip on Facebook which said Judges Astonished When 10YearOld Sings60s Hit Like Nobody Else Ever Has.   which he then played for me.   The young girl has an amazing voice and the performance was accomplished and she sang most of “The House of the Rising Sun” like Whitney Houston.  That song has been sung, as have some of Whitney’s hits, by many people of varying levels of ability but in my “teenager of the 60’s”  opinion nobody has sung anywhere near as well as the original.  The thing most of them forget about that song is that it is not only about the words, it is also about the instrumentals. Those guitars still bring me out in goose-flesh.  Nobody else captures the essence of the song in the way that the Animals do. The visuals are, of necessity pure 60’s, but the sound is such that nobody else has ever quite captured the same effect  Talking about it with my son he said – none of the others capture that feeling of being run down and desperate and sort-of crummy.  One very interesting article I found while looking at these old recordings was a page called WAS There a House in New Orleans They Called The Rising Sun?”   in which there was reference made the possibility of its origins being a bawdy English folk song that goes, “If you go to Lowestoft and ask for the Rising Sun, there you’ll find two old whores, and my old woman’s one.”

Thinking of the House of the Rising Sun, which when it was first recorded back in 1964 was, at 4minutes 8 seconds,  the nearly the longest pop song that had ael pasot that date been recorded and radio stations simply would not play it all at any one time.    Nowadays many groups sing long and very long songs, but back then most songs averaged about 2.5 minutes.  From my, admittedly fallible, memory the longest recorded song prior the the Animals singing the House of the Rising Sun was when I was barely older than the young lady trying her hand at that golden oldie, and that was El Paso which was recorded back in 1959 and was actually marginally longer at 4 minutes 24 seconds.  As a little girl I loved it.  Someone in the family remarked yesterday that probably Donald Trump would not!


In 1968 the longest song recorded to that date was Richard Harris, who I remember far more as an actor than a singer, brought out the marathon recording “McArthur Park  which lasted 7minutes 27 seconds.  A rather strange and beautiful piece of music which was very seldom played  over the radio in its entirety

stairway to heaven


I have looked too for some time to find a recording which claims to be the original recording of Led Zepplin’s  Stairway to Heaven  which is one of the most amazing rock songs ever.  The recordings vary in length tremendously though the video which claims to be the official one is 7minutes 59 seconds long.  There are so many recordings and the longest live recordings are over 11 minutes.


And where actually am I heading with all this reminiscence?  It goes back to a post I myself saw a couple of days ago, and which was probably, subliminally, the reason for this blog.

Where has the interesting music gone?  All these songs have words, they share a picture, a story, they touch the imagination and create mind pictures. I have not even touched on the folk era and the wonderful music which erupted out of the feeling about the Vietnam War.  So much of the Alternative music which was more the music of my children’s era than mine also had words which challenged the world.   But what do we have now.   Is this the stunted imagination of over technologised youth?

music comparisons

37 years of progress brought you these lyric comparisons

To those friends of mine who are also the teenagers of the 60’s I only hope that some of these Old Long Songs give you some pleasure, as they gave me listening to them all over again.





Ancient Christian Art

On a Friday morning Steve and I go to a gathering over coffee called TGIF.  The meeting is at 6h30 every Friday morning for an hour and we have speakers on a vast variety of different  topics.  Today we had Loraine Beaton a lecturer in Art History at Open Window speaking on  “Christ in Art History”.    As an Orthodox Christian I found it a bit sad that there was remarkably little between Egyptians and the Renaissance but she did touch on the Greek and Roman Statuary and the Roman Catacomb art which was where I found two slides which were particularly fascinating to me.  I must say quite clearly at this point that these are only the thoughts of a lay Christian and that for the possible Theologial background I have reached beyond my own knowledge to other sources for information.  I also was struck by the thought that as we progressed through history the spiritual was slowly but surely replaced by the humanist,  the importance of the depictions of Christ by the iconographer gradually subsumed by the importance of the artist.

The first thing that really interested me was the paintings in the Catacomb of St Priscilla  (1st Century)  one of which is of a figure referred to as: the Veiled Woman in the very good web site  which includes a Google visual trip around the Catacomb. The article on the web describes the Cubiculum of the Veiled Woman thus:

The Cubiculum of the Veiled Woman

This room is named for the picture in the semi-circle on the back wall, in which a young woman, wearing a rich purple garment and a veil on her head, lifts up her arms in prayer. On either side of her are two scenes unlike any others among all of the paintings in the various catacombs, probably episodes of her life. In the middle, the Good Shepherd is painted in the Garden of Paradise, amid peacocks and doves. Before this scene, in the arch above the door, the prophet Jonah is shown emerging from the mouth of a sea-monster, a clear expression of faith in the Resurrection. The semi-circle on the left depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac, while on the right are shown the Three Children in the fiery furnace in Babylon; both of these episodes are expressions of faith in God’s salvation, understood by the first Christians as prophecies of the salvation brought by the coming of Christ. These pictures, which are in a remarkably good state of preservation, date back to the second half of the third century. 

from Catholic Pilgrims in Rome.

cubiculum of the Veiled womancatacomb curch of St priscilla

I found this rather amazing as I am sure that it must be one of the earliest examples of the Platytera,  the figure of the Mother of God as seen in most Orthodox churches.  One of the things that struck me was the veil,  which looks remarkably like scarf worn by Jewish men at prayer.  I wondered if back in the early church it was a sign of her Jewish heritage.  jewish rabbi

in the church the Icon of the Mother of God is usually situated in the dome above the altar and is the first to draw the eye on entering the church.  She is the “First Christian”,   the first to say “Yes” to God,  the first to say “Be it unto me according to Thy will” .  She welcomes all Christians into the house of God.

Platytera - Altar-Iconostasis1

sometimes she is seen in half figure

Platytera - 4

and at others, like in the Catacomb, in full figure

Platytera - 6

in most of the icons she is shown with the figure of Christ, as in the hymn sung during the Lenten period.

“All of creation rejoices in you, O Full of Grace,
The assembly of Angels and the race of men.
O Sanctified Temple and Spiritual Paradise! O Glory of Virgins!
From you, God was incarnate and became a child, our God before the ages.
He made your body into a throne, and your womb He made more spacious than  the heavens.
All of creation rejoices in you, O Full of Grace! Glory to you!”

From the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great

the problem is that when I start looking at things like this I also see other things that fascinate me.

One of them is the mention in the description of the Veiled Wombyzantium book judith herrinan, is that she is wearing a purple garment.   Some years ago we read a book from the Unisa library on Byzantium (written by Judith Herrin)  in this she describes the significance of purple and that it only royalty were allowed to wear in.  All the royal births took place in a purple room.

and of Jesus:

Mark 15:17 – And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his [head],

Mark 15:20 – And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.



also mentioned as icons seen in the Catecomb  are prophet Jonah and the Three Children in the fiery furnace in Babylon  these two are continuing themes throughout the seasons of the Orthodox Christian Year.  Their presence in this very old art, ties in with their liturgical significance.


Jonah was caught but not held fast in the belly of the whale
He was a sign of Thee who hast suffered and accepted burial.
Coming forth from the beast as from a bridal chamber he called out to the guard:
“By observing vanities and lies you have forsaken your own mercy”

then at the Matins of Pascha

Thou didst descend, O Christ to the depths of the earth.
Thou didst break the everlasting bars which had held death’s captives
and like Jonah from the whale on the third day,
Thou didst arise from the grave

And  the midnight office before Pascha:

three youths in the furnace

Inexpressible wonder!
In the furnace Thou didst save the holy youths from the flame
Now Thou art placed in the grave as a lifeless corpse, for the salvation of us who sing:
“Blessed art Thou, O God our redeemer!”

then at the Matins of Pascha

He who saved the three young men in the furnace became incarnate and suffered as a mortal man.
Through is sufferings He clothed what is mortal in the robe of immortality
He alone is blessed and most glorious:
The God of our fathers.

The other slide shown this morning which interested me was of an engraving on the central relief panel of the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, made in 359 A.D.

sarcofagus 1

the description of this particular panel (http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/32671) says

The depiction of Christ as a beardless youth with short curly hair in the Alexandrian style wearing a philosopher’s toga is typical of this transitional period of Christianity. The scene itself, a version of the Traditio legis (“transmission of the law”) in which Christ stands or sits enthroned giving scrolls to Peter and Paul on either side of him, is a paleochristian motif drawn from depictions of the Roman emperor. The standing Christ is earlier than the enthroned version which became popular in the second half of the 4th century, as in the central relief panel of the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, made in 359 A.D.  

peter and paul

Both apostles carry the rotulus legis (scroll of the law) and they’re both wearing togas. They have short but full hair and are cleanly shaven, another mark of how early this image is since once the iconography became standardized Peter and Paul would be depicted with balding heads and beards.






but the thing that most interested me about the engraving is the figure at the bottom

I am reasonably sure that he is Cosmos – as depicted in the Pentecost icon.



At the bottom of the Icon is another semi-circle, showing an old king against a dark background. He is often named as Kosmos and represents the world. He is crowned as a symbol of earthly authority – i.e. he represents all the peoples of the world, rather than the whole of creation. He is sat “in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79), and is aged to show the corruptibility of the world. Yet he also holds a blanket containing scrolls representing Apostolic teaching (compare with the scrolls held by the Apostles in the Icon itself and “the meaning of objects held by saints in icons“). Though in darkness, the descent of the Holy Spirit has not only reached the Apostles, but also all corners of the world into which the Apostles will preach the Gospel. The Empty Seat A striking aspect of the Pentecost Icon is the empty space at the centre, between the Apostles Peter and Paul. This central seat is a place of honour, the “Teacher’s Seat” around which the Apostles are gathered. Why is it empty? Because it is the seat Christ should be sitting in, Who has ascended physically into Heaven. Yet Jesus promised many times that though He would leave them physically, He would instead give to them the Holy Spirit as a comforter, advocate, and guide. This promise was first realized at Pentecost, and is still true today. Therefore, the Icon, which is also an Icon of the Church, shows the Apostles gathered in unity, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, surrounding Christ Who is invisibly present. The world, Cosmos, is at their feet, ready and waiting to be harvested through the passing on of Christ’s teaching.

Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who made fisherman all-wise, by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them, drawing all the world into Your net. O Loving One, glory be to You.

(Apolytikion for Pentecost)


I am afraid that as soon as we moved to the Renaissance and beyond, in the back of my head I could see a rather wonderful Icon of Ronald Regan in a home in Axbridge in the UK when we went on a long rambling trip back in 2005



Venting my spleen at the Media Morons

media morons 2019-01-08

In the long space between Manchester United matches, I find myself, despite myself, watching the various talking heads expounding their far from expert, far from researched opinions, designed to influence both clubs and fans.   Today’s version was no different.    The topic no surprise.  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer  and Mauricio Pochettino .  The presenter  referred to a newspaper article which said that the Manchester United players want Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be appointed permanently.

But can our knowledgeable panel accept this?  Of course not – in their supreme wisdom they have decided that United need one of the “Elite Managers”     Since Sir Alex left we have had at least two of the very elite, if career results count –  Van Gaal and Mourinho.   What “Elite” managers are they thinking of –  Well firstly there is Mauricio Pochettino who has done an absolutely fabulous job with Tottenham, but it is not a job that he has finished – he still has not won anything!  He needs to stay there for at least another two or three years. Then there are sundry rumours about various  Italians and Spaniards etc  and if you look at them and their teams they play a style far more like Mourinho than  Manchester United.   Would we sink back into defensive depression?

Have any of those who express  these opinions actually studied the careers of Ole Gunnar Solsjaer and their  media favourite Pep Guardiola?   Have any of them seen the amazing similarities?

First we look at Pep Guardiola


Here I will quote from Wikipedia (so you can go and read the rest if you like):

Guardiola was a creative and technically gifted defensive midfielder who usually played in a deep-lying playmaker’s role. He spent the majority of his career with Barcelona, forming a part of Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team that won the club’s first European Cup in 1992, and four successive Spanish league titles from 1991 to 1994. He later captained the team from 1997 until his departure from the club in 2001. After leaving Barcelona, Guardiola had stints with Brescia and Roma in Italy, Al-Ahli in Qatar, and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico. He was capped 47 times for the Spanish national team and appeared at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, as well as at UEFA Euro 2000. He also played friendly matches for Catalonia.


Note:  He spent 14 years of his playing career at Barcelona

After retiring as a player, Guardiola briefly coached Barcelona B, with whom he won a Tercera División title, and assumed control of the first-team in 2008.  ( I have not included his managerial record – we all know and are told eternally how great it is )

Note:  He played for Barcelona for 14 years,  then he coached their B Team for a year  – the team he grew up with, the team  where he knew what he had learned from managers like Johan Cruyff and Louis Van Gaal, he went from player to B Coach to first team coach.  He took over a side who knew the systems that he knew – a side that was pretty much the best that money could buy – and he won with them.  He was NOT an Elite Manager – he became one by working at his old club with expensive players who knew the way that his old club played.  Then he moved on to another  winning club with world class players and lots of money – Bayern Munich

He has never had to take a team from the bottom of any league and make it a success,  he has never had to do so with limited funds, like Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche.  Nobody knows if he could.

Guardiola represented Spain 47 times and scored 5 goals

Then we come to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

ole gunnar solskjaer

again I will quote selections from Wikipedia (the whole article is worth reading)

Before he arrived in England, Solskjær played for Norwegian clubs Clausenengen and Molde. He joined Manchester United in 1996 for a transfer fee of £1.5 million. Nicknamed “The Baby-faced Assassin”, he played 366 times for United, and scored 126 goals during a successful period for the club. He was regarded as a “super sub” for his trait of coming off the substitute bench to score late goals. Solskjær’s defining moment in football came in injury time of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, where he scored the winning last-minute goal against Bayern Munich, completing a remarkable comeback and winning The Treble for United. Before the century was up, a biography was written on him.


In 2007, Solskjær announced his retirement from football after failing to recover from a serious knee injury.[5] However, he remained at Manchester United in a coaching role as well as in an ambassadorial capacity. In 2008, Solskjær became the club’s reserve team manager.

He returned to his native country in 2011 to manage his former club, Molde, whom he led to their two first ever Tippeligaen titles in his first two seasons with the club. He secured a third title in as many seasons, when his team won the 2013 Norwegian Football Cup Final.

In 2014, he served as manager of Cardiff City, during which the club were relegated from the Premier League.

Note: He spent  2years playing for Molde and 11 years playing at Manchester United – his playing career shortened by injury then he turned to coaching

Firstly at Manchester United

Solskjær signed his last player contract with Manchester United on 31 March 2006, with a provision to allow him to develop his coaching awards. He also acted in an ambassadorial role for the club, when he travelled to Hong Kong in 2006 and played with students at the Manchester United Soccer School in Hong Kong. When interviewed by Setanta Sports in August 2007, Solskjær confirmed he would train to be a coach after retiring from professional football, and would start to earn the required badges after his last season with Manchester United. Following his retirement, Solskjær worked for Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, coaching the strikers on the first team for the remainder of the 2007–08 season.  (note that these strikers included Christiano Ronaldo)

As announced on 20 May 2008, he took over the Manchester United Reserves during the summer of 2008. Solskjær was United’s first full-time reserve team manager since 2006, taking over from Brian McClair and Jimmy Ryan, who had filled the role in a caretaker capacity. He won the 2007–08 Lancashire Senior Cup by defeating the Liverpool Reserves 3–2 in the final.  On 12 May 2010, Solskjær won his first Manchester Senior Cup by defeating Bolton Wanderers 1–0 at the Reebok Stadium

And then at Molde

On 21 October 2015, Solskjær returned to Molde, signing a three-and-a-half-year contract to become their new manager. He guided them to first place in their Europa League group, ahead of Fenerbahçe, Ajax and Celtic.  In the last 32, they lost 3–1 on aggregate to holders Sevilla, despite winning the second leg.   In Solskjær’s second spell at the club, Molde finished second in Eliteserien in 2017 and 2018 and lost 2–1 away to Glenavon away in Europa League first round qualifying round. They overcame the defeat at home to get to the next round. On 3 December 2018, Molde announced that Solskjær extended his contract till the end of the 2021 season.

and now at Manchester United

Manchester United appointed Solskjær as caretaker manager on 19 December 2018, taking over from José Mourinho for the rest of the 2018–19 season until a permanent replacement is found

 Note:  He played for two clubs, Molde and Manchester United.  He coached at the two clubs for which he played. 

And now at Manchester United where his has won his first 5 matches 

 Solskjaer  represented Norway 67 times and scored 23 goals


But the sages shake their heads and say 

  • Oh but they were not the “big” sides.  (We lost and drew with the “little” sides under Mourinho.)  
  • They say it is just the “honeymoon period”
  • He has only done this in Norway!   
  • Ah but he did not win with Cardiff – forgetting that they themselves said that they “would not hold his record at Cardiff against him as he was taking on a losing defensive team too late in the season”  
  • United must look for an elite manager. 

But how many “Elite” managers are there out there who have won the leagues and taken part in European Football.  The say that the euphoria will wear off, that it is all emotion.   Why on earth would they listen to those who actually play for Manchester United?   

So Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must simply go on winning and prove the Media Morons wrong.   If Pep Guardiola can go from player, to reserve coach, to first team coach and win,  there is absolutely no reason why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United cannot do the same or better!  

They know this well in Spain,  English media regard Zidane as an “elite” coach because he went back to his club of expensive world class players and became their coach  (his only coaching experience) .  Luis Enrique also coached the team he played for, Diego Simeone coach of Atletico Madrid, was their player .   It is only in England that they  do not value the player enough to let him coach and bring club experience to  coaching  – never in the big teams with the world class players.

Now Manchester United may be breaking the mould – long may it continue




I use this as a forum for what I call “Occasional Opinions”  these opinions are entirely my own and these grow at will from various different stimuli.  This past fortnight I have felt bombarded with different things which have in some way or another sparked off a chain reaction of thought.  They may well feel to others as completely unrelated but together they have sparked off ideas in my woolly head.

The TV has been full of issues on Hair, I have been reading a novel set around the Atomic test at Los Alamos,  today at TGIF  I heard a wonderful speaker on dealing with privilege in the way that Christ did, and various bits of music old and new have been circulating in my mind.

Before the Municipal elections there appeared to be a growing need to stir up emotions relating to “racism”.  So much so that it felt as though there is an underground chamber somewhere where political gremlins are at work and their only occupation is scouring social media for any instance of racism, which would have gone completely unnoticed by the general public and blowing it up to cause the most social antipathy and divisiveness possible.

The elections came and they  went with all the excitement and change, the like of which we have not seen in years.   Immediately following the first Municipal council meeting in Pretoria which was now no longer under the control of the ANC ……  we got racist HAIR.

I am sure that if you checked with older teachers, and they gave the matter some consideration,  you would find that they would all agree that girls in Standard 7 / Grade 9 are probably at their most inflammable.  Just give them even the sniff of a grievance and they will go off like a bomb.  I can only speak for girls, as I was one, and my school experience was of a “girls-only” school (but so is Pretoria Girls High).   We were probably younger in our Standard 7 class than the current girls in Grade 9, both chronologically and emotionally.  But believe me we were horrid.  It was in Standard 7 that we tormented the nun in charge of our class into a near breakdown.  It was in Standard 7 that we went on strike after a school swimming gala, when we were told to go back to classes for the afternoon sessions.  It was in Standard 7 that we played tricks on our science teacher that nearly drove her bonkers.  It is in Standard 7 that it is very easy to see yourself as “badly done by”.  In Standard 7 you are the center of your universe, and nobody understands you at all. Nobody has ever felt like you do ever and never will.  In Standard 7 we all looked prim and proper ……  but we were little different from the Grade 9s of today.  The nuns did not make a big issue about hair, in government schools (particularly Afrikaans medium schools) they were far more strict about tying back long hair …  but this was 1962 …  By the end of the next year a large number of the girls in that class went out to work,  I think that for most of us, we knew that our parents were having to pay for us to be at a “good” school and we were preparing for exams which would allow a lot of us, who were not going to go through to Matric to leave school with a qualification.  When we were not tormenting the teacher we worked hard.


I have absolutely no problem with uncovering issues of racism, particularly towards the young, but the timing and the highlighted issue is, in this case, very suspect.  There have been small mutterings about issues of girls being challenged for speaking their mother tongue, but these have largely been glossed over, there have been remarks about teachers treating girls differently based on their colour,  but these too have been glossed over.  The issue for the girls (which in a way I can understand) and  less understandably for their parents, has largely been one of HAIR. I suppose that it is the one thing which they can make visible. And while they are getting all hot under the collar and marching around feeling great at being one of a mob and “getting at the teachers” what is not happening is ….Education.  One of the biggest problems underpinning all the other problems in South Africa.

There was one girl who, in a sense, became the TV face of the Hair issue.


This is in fact a “privileged” child.  She is the daughter of a family who can afford to send her to one of the best girl’s schools in Pretoria. She belongs to a family who can afford for her to have the full uniform and the fancy hair.  She is articulate as she is receiving a good education.  In a few years, her parents will be able to send her to the University of her choice. But she is badly done by.  Because someone might have objected to her Afro – a fashion from 1970’s America.  Had she spoken about mistreatment in the classroom, I would be sympathetic.  As it is my mind goes back to 1962 and us going on strike because we wanted to go home instead of back to class..

This girl is at a school surrounded by beautiful grounds.  She is not in a township school with classrooms like this one in a primary school we used to use for Church services in Mamelodi.  This school was well cared for by the school authorities but still had holes in the floor, sagging ceilings and drab walls.   But still learning takes place there.


When I woke up this morning the music in my head was from the musical Hair,  I never saw it back in the 70’s and am not relating  to the music for any other meanings than that of Hair as a form of rebellion.  I watched the video this morning, after we came back from TGIF and the very thought provoking talk given to us by Themba Gamedze on privilege and healing in Christ, and was fascinated by the beginning of the video, where the woman immediately linked long hair in a man to homosexuality.  (One of the matters which had been mentioned during the talk having referred to the way in which the initial Rhodes-must-fall movement has started to fragment into more and more specific protesting groups some of which are based on gender issues.)   This video was made nearly 40 years ago in the dark old days  – but even then Hair was seen as a form of rebellion.

In 1964 when I was in Standard 9 (grade 11) there was a  new Teen Magazine which came out  called Fabulous. It was an A3 size mag with full size pages which could be used by teenage girls as posters.  It arose in the days of the Beatles, who in the eyes of our parents, were positively outrageous, their hair was SO long.


Then came the Stones – the group that the parents “loved to hate” –  I find it fascinating today to look at those pictures which brought forth such ire!    That Terrible Hair


most of our parents have not lived long enough to experience what they have become!


You simply have to laugh!!!

Issues of Hair will come and go.  I guess it may always be an outward sign of rebellion.  But here in our country, we have much bigger issues hiding behind this.  Yesterday on ENCA they had one of their earnest staffers interviewing a young black woman and asking her about White People’s opinion about Black Women’s hair.  For me this displayed, exactly, one of the problems of our old and tormented history.  If ENCA wanted to find out what opinion White people had about Black Women’s hair, why not ask someone white?  If she wanted an opinion from a Black Woman, why not ask her about her feelings related to her hair, and why she may or not feel that white people had any opinions about it at all.  She may well have been surprised, and may have opened the window to a discussion.

It all eventually boils down to Education.

In 1976 there were the first really severe rebellions linked to Education and started a whole era where the mantra was “Revolution before Education”  which certainly brought change in the next 20 years but led to a whole generation of uneducated and unemployable people.  In the new South Africa  of 1994 there were a number of educators with vision for something better, most of whom ended up side-lined as the years have developed a system in which the lowest-common-denominator seems to be the acceptable mean.  Now we are already losing educators of the calibre of Prof Jonathan Jansen to retirement.  Instead of providing an education which challenges to excellence, over the past 20 years we have lowered standards & passing percentages. Instead of providing a better education for all we have just made it easier to pass.

An obsession with University Education as the only option has lead inevitably to the current problems of there simply not being enough available money to give University Education to all.  Back in the bad old days, there were Teacher Training Colleges, there were Technical training schools, there were apprenticeships.  Many young people chose  technical training and by obtaining skills have been able to make a life and a job for themselves, not all went to work for others. People were able to make things with their hands.  Many years ago, at the initial emergence of the NDP I remember Blade Nzimande talking on the radio about plans for educating people at all levels – I assume that this is still just a plan!  Now all we seem to get are endless people with an MBA who want to draw exorbitant salaries and manage other people.  They announced the other day on TV that our Iron and Steel industry is about to collapse.  Who cares?

When I left school the girls who went to University, firstly had to get a Matric which was good enough to allow them to go and were those who

  • would need a specific degree in order to do what they needed to do and had parents who could afford to send them – or were clever enough to get a bursary
  • those whose parents could afford to send them, and who would probably meet “Mr Right” in their first year and drop out.

Students have always been revolting.  It is in the genes of students to rebel. It is their right to ask for things to be better. Through all time they always have.  The question is – does burning down a Law Library make anything better?  Destroying knowledge, and denying it to students who want to learn. It just smacks of the Nazis.  It smacks of ignorance.  It does not say anything about the value of education.

Back in the days when Teachers themselves went to be taught at Training Colleges we were living in Durban North and involved in a Youth Group at our church. One of the people who used to come and talk to the group was one of these “teacher of teachers”

My beautiful picture

Railton Loureiro

He is one of the people who said memorable things and was particularly gifted in encouraging people to think.  There are two particular things which have sprung to my memory this week.

At one of the meetings with the Youth Group young people of 13-16, children of middle-class families at good schools. Driven kids who needed to perform at school. Very articulate. The youngsters were incensed over the issue of a caning that had happened at the Boys High school in the area.  Railton let them talk about it and then asked them – What have you learned from this? In the resulting discussion he brought them to see that  “You do not have to love your teacher, you do not have to love your class, you can go to school and learn nothing but that what you learn is what you make yourself available to learn.   You will learn about injustice be  being exposed to it.  It does not make it right, but it is still an opportunity to learn”  He encouraged them to  open themselves to all sorts of learning and not to shut themselves off by anger.  Yes they could be angry, but they should learn from it.

At another time he asked the group – “How do you define ‘Intelligence?”   The kids talked about it at some length about it and put forward all sorts of definitions.  At the close they said to Railton – “how do you define it?”  His answer has always resounded for me for the past 40 years.  He said – “Intelligence is what shows in what you do when you do not know what to do”

Where are the teachers like him now to challenge the youth to channel their anger?  We have too many adults just too willing to add fuel to the fire.

On the way back from TGIF this morning a different tune was running round in my head which somehow also spoke to me about the fact that things do not ever really change,  this tune goes back to the late 1950s which makes it 60 years old but the things (and the places) it speaks about are the same today.

The Merry Minuet”

(Sheldon Harnick)

They’re rioting in Africa. They’re starving in Spain. There’s hurricanes in Florida and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch and I don’t like anybody very much!
But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud for man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.
They’re rioting in Africa. There’s strife in Iran. What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.

I have been reading a novel by Joseph Kanon called Los Alamos,  in which a man called Connelly is employed to solve a murder, in the midst of the secret testing of the Atomic Bomb at Los Alamos.  Everything there was secret.  People had numbers. There was one Post Box address for all the people working on the project.  Security watched everyone. There is a fictional description of the Trinity Test in the book which paints an effective picture

Suddenly there was a pinprick, whiter than magnesium, a photographer’s bulb, and he was blinded with light.  It flashed through his body, filling all the space around them, so that even the air disappeared.  Just the light.  He closed his eyes for a second, but it was there anyway, this amazing light, as if it didn’t need sight to exist.  Its centre spread outward, eating air, turning everything into light.  What if Fermi was right?  What if it never stopped? And light was heat.  Bodies would melt.  Now a vast ball, still blinding, gathering up the desert at its base into a skirt that held it in place, like a mesa made entirely of light.  The ball grew, glowing hotter, traces of yellow and then suddenly violet,  eerie and terrifying, an unearthly violet Connolly knew instantly no one had ever seen before. Eisler’s  light.  His heart stopped.  He wanted to turn away, but the hypnotic light froze him.  He felt his mouth open in a cartoon surprise.  Then the light took on definition, pulling up the earth into its rolling bright cloud, a stem connecting it to the ground.  How long did it take for the sound to follow?  The hours of light were only a blink of seconds and then the sound, bouncing between the mountains, roared up the valley toward them tearing the air.  He staggered, almost crying out.  What was it like near the blast?  A violence without limit, inescapable. No one would survive.

Los Alamos – page 555

this is followed a few pages later  by an obviously fictional conversation with Oppenheimer

….  “Out there”  Oppenheimer said, indicating the far edge of the blast area.  “ I want to get away for a bit.  It’s quite safe as long as we don’t go near the crater.  You need a lead lined tank for that.”  The paved road ended a short distance past the bunker.  Out on the dead sand , Connolly looked toward the huge blast crater, the sun reflecting off what seemed to be pieces of green glass.  “The ground fused.  In the heat” Oppenheimer said calmly.  There was no destination.  After a while they simply stopped and got out, looking around at the empty desert.  There was no sound at all in the new silence, not even the faint scratching of lizards and insects. Oppenheimer stood still, looking at nothing.   “The worst part is, I was pleased,” he said suddenly, still looking away. “When it went off.  It worked.”   Connolly looked down to where the funhouse mirror of the morning glare stretched their shadows out along the ground.  “They will blame you’ he said.   Oppenheimer turned to him slowly, surprised.  “You think so?  Prometheus?”    “No. Fire was a gift.  This is a curse”

Page  561

Joseph Kanon 1997

The question in my mind this morning was –  are we in the middle of a “Nuclear Test” of our Education.  When all the protesting and the fire and the burning and the righteous objections to everything is over will everything of value be gone?  Will those who have worked to stoke all this righteous anger say “When it went off it worked?”   and will the reply be “Learning was a gift, This is a curse”