Visit to the Whitworth Art Gallery

(Mon 27-Apr-2015)

I recently had a day to spend in Manchester with my children, so took them to Whitworth Art Gallery. Lauren and I had gone and taken Story once before, while Atticus was in nursery, and she’d been much more interested than I had expected, so I thought we’d go again.

Atticus was looking out of a window when Story called over to him, “Look at this!” – and showed him this:

Dove II, 1997, by Gary Hume

Atticus liked this.

They then saw “Genesis”, by Jacob Epstein, and both talked about “the lady has a baby in her tummy”:

There was an exhibition of work by Cornelia Parker. Atticus like two pieces which were made from Flattened instruments and flattened metal tableware suspended from the ceiling. The children showed no interest in in it, but I enjoyed a piece that was a cast of cracks in a pavement in Jerusalem.

Cornelia Parker’s most famous piece, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) was on display in its own room. On our previous visit, Story found it scary, and wanted to leave the room straight away. On this visit, Story still said it was “scary”, but was more willing to stop and look. Atticus was fascinated by it, and spent a long time looking at what he could see, and talking to the gallery staff in the room.

“Decoy” (a glass drum) caught Story’s attention last time, and Atticus was interested in it too.

We spent a while looking at watercolours, and Atticus seemed to like any with a river, and one of Lichfield Cathedral.

Atticus also liked Beast XXI, by Lynne Chadwick:

By this point, they were both starting to lose interest.

Mary Kelly, Multi-Story house (2007). I liked this, but didn’t get a good look because the children were getting restless. It has short pieces of writing about feminism on the panels to read and consider.

From here we went outside, where there was an activity for children to make their own pieces of art:

Story hard at work.

Atticus showing off some of his art.




Overhead at the school gate.

(Fri 9-Jan-2015)

“…and they’re suspecting that she’s got the e. Boli virus”

Parent at a primary school in Stoke-on-Trent.




Five hidden details in Stoke-on-Trent

(Tue 29-Jul-2014)

This post is inspired by the Gizmondo post – 10 Hidden Details in Your City and What They Mean, which was rather America-centric. Here is a more British version – all photos taken by me, in Stoke-on-Trent.

  1. Boot Scraper
    Boot scrapers were mentioned in the Gizmondo post, but they look a little different here to the one they pictured – lots of terraced houses have these built into the wall by the front door, though many are now broken.
  2. Duckfoot
    This is a site for moveable street furniture, mainly deployable CCTV cameras. Part comes up (with a special key) and provides a place for the pole to sit and access to power for the cable that runs up the inside of the pole.
  3. Induction loop
    Induction loop
    These black lines in the road cover induction loops, which detect traffic. They are used to control the timing of traffic lights, whether or not the filter lights come on at some junctions, and to count cars on car parks, for the signs displaying how many spaces are left.
  4. Spinning cone on pedestrian crossing
    Spinning cone on a pedestrian crossing
    The cone sticking out of the bottom of the control box for a pedestrian crossing spins when the light is green for pedestrians. This is to help visually impaired people when the crossing doesn’t beep (if there’s two or more close by, they usually won’t, because it won’t be clear which one is safe), or with a hearing impairment as well.
  5. Renamed Street
    renamed street
    This is particular to Stoke-on-Trent. Streets being re-named probably has happened in other places, but not, as far as I know, on the scale that it has in Stoke-on-Trent. In the early 1950s there was a wide-scale re-naming of streets, because of the way the city grew up out of six towns (and several villages), so there were a lot of duplicates — including 14 different roads called “High Street”. There’s a full list on The example above is Standard Street, Fenton, formerly Wellington Street.




Four things that give Health & Safety a bad name (and how to fix them)

(Mon 26-May-2014)
Sign reading 'caution this sign has sharp edges'
  1. The phrase “Health & Safety”
    Don’t say “for health & safety reasons”, say “because of the risk of…”. Is it a heath risk or a safety risk? What is the danger?
  2. “Health & Safety” being blamed for things that aren’t health or safety related at all.
    Again, don’t say “for health & safety reasons”, give the real reason. If you can’t say what the risk is, why are you calling it a health and safety problem? Many of the cases given in the HSE‘s Mythbuster’s Challenge fall into this category
  3. Being over-cautious
    Most Daily Mail stories fall into this category, as do many of the early cases from the HSE‘s Mythbuster’s Challenge
  4. The Daily Mail.
    Don’t read it. If you read by accident, don’t believe it. If it really happened, remember it probably didn’t happen the way they said it did.




What have the Conservatives done for me?

(Fri 24-Jan-2014)
screen capture of for hardworking people website

The Conservative’s “FOR HARDWORKING PEOPLE” website will, for the low low price of some personal details (salary, post code, if you have a mortgage, young children, “how often you fill up your car with petrol”, if you have state pension) and your email address, give you a list of things they claim to have done for you.

I could write a scathing article on the questions alone, but lets start on just the answers it gave me:

Here’s what we have done to help you and hardworking people in your area:

Saved you £700 a year by cutting income tax. We are cutting income tax for 25 million people, and have taken 2.4 million of the lowest paid workers out of income tax altogether – helping hardworking people be more financially secure.

The tax cuts left me with £480 more per year, so I don’t know how they got that figure, plus, as a public-sector worker, I’ve had no pay rises until my 1% (so, below inflation) raise last year – effectively, a pay cut every year. It’s overstating the benefits for the low paid as well, as those who benefit most from the tax changes are those paid just under the amount for the high rate income tax. They’ve also put VAT up, to take that “extra” money back.

Saved you £182 a year on petrol by freezing Fuel Duty and cancelling Labour’s planned rises – giving you more money to spend on the things that matter.

I’d like to see a retailer try this trick “save 10% *(saving based on what prices could have been)”. It’s another over-generous figure, based on the assumption that I buy about twice as much fuel as I actually do, and as the cost of public transport has gone up, I’ve used the car more.

Helped people provide for their families by getting 79,000 more people into work in the West Midlands since 2010. We’ve helped create jobs by backing businesses with better infrastructure and lower jobs taxes – and there are now a million more people in work across the UK than in 2010.

I was in work in 2010, so no direct help there. Looking at jobs available, I see a lot less worth applying for than I did last time I was job-hunting in 2008.

Reduced crime by 20% in Staffordshire – making your community safer.

Police have admitted crime figures are manipulated.

Cut the cost of childcare for parents of 3 and 4 year olds by £400 a year

But I still can’t afford it, and other services my wife used to take the children to have been cut.

Protected children online by forcing internet providers to install automatic Family Friendly Filters blocking inappropriate material

I was already capable of setting up filters. And that “inappropriate material” net is cast much too wide.

Capped benefits so no out-of-work household can claim more than the average family earns by working – so we reward those who want to work hard and get on in life

This hasn’t helped me at all. It’s only affected a small number of households, with large numbers of children (leaving them vulnerable), and as far as I know, none in my area.

Reduced the national deficit by a third – so we deal with our debts and safeguard our economy for the long term

I haven’t seen any positive outcome of that. I’ve seen pain caused by the way they’ve done it.

Reduced immigration by nearly a third – so our economy delivers for hardworking people who play by the rules

Something that’s made life more difficult for my family, and it’s bad for the economy, as immigrants are net contributors to the economy.

Pledged an in-out referendum on Europe by the end of 2017

Hasn’t helped me at all. It may have reduced investment and job opportunities, as business who sell to Europe are seeing an uncertain future.

We’re delivering the best schools and skills for young people – with 1.5 million new apprenticeships giving people the chance to get on in life

Like al-Madinah free school? The improvements in schools in my area is mostly due to Labour’s “Building Schools for the Future” programme. My brother is just finishing an apprenticeship, and missed out on some training previous apprentices had benefited from because this government cut it.

And we’re forcing energy companies to put customers on the lowest tariff

Is this why my energy company recently stopped their lowest tariff and moved me to a more expensive one?




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