Hamble Campbell's Home Page

An occasional window on Hamble Campbell's world.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I was glad to hear that Radio 4 was broadcasting Frederic Raphael's novel The Glittering Prizes last week (not sure if there really is a The in the title, but there we are).

Mr Raphael was one of three lucky recipients of fan mail I sent when I was seventeen (a few years ago now, sadly). I had never sent such correspondence before and I have never sent one since. It must have been one of those teenage aberrations that we read so much of in the newspapers these days. Today's teenagers may steal cars to crash them or enjoy mood-changing chemicals, but in those days we wrote letters of appreciation to artistic types.

You may be curious to know the identity of the rest of the trio ........ They were the actor and autobiographer Alec McCowen and the poet Christopher Logue. They all made very nice replies which I still treasure somewhere in our house.

A few years after this letter-writing episode I dreamed that I was on an escalator in a big department store, going up, Mr Raphael descending on the escalator's counterpart. This no doubt shows what an ungrateful, megalomaniac mindset I possess, considering the writer had sent me such a very kind and gracious long letter in response to my inarticulate stuttered praise. However, some time later by coincidence my brother-in-law and his family moved into the next village to Mr Raphael's in France. We have been to visit them, so maybe this vision was more a prediction of an event in a shop than an allegory.

Incidentally, the book I so admired is called Like Men Betrayed. I wrote to Christopher Logue about his poem War Music and Alec McCowen's autobiography is Young Gemini.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Jolly pleased

Well I was jolly pleased with the photos of my handiwork. Mister blackbird does look like he's rolling his eyes (as sulky ten year olds do when you ask them to recite their seven times table) - but he's not really, it's just the angle I took the photo from. His pupil (as in eye, not as in ten year old child) is in fact a black shiny multi-faceted bead which winks at you in certain lights. The dragon looks better now I have stretched him over a frame (a rather medieval fate for a medieval creature). The cockerel rag rug is coming along and he now has scarlet tail feathers which used to be a lovely lambswool jumper, the washing of which was entrusted to me .....

Embroidery photos

Rag rug photos

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Watch the board while I run through it.

Here's another reason why people don't like primary school teaching.

At school yesterday in maths the ten-year olds were learning subtraction. Quite a few of them knew how to do the standard algorithm (eg - 312 - 198 = take 10 from the 31 and make it 30 and give the ten to the 2 and make it 12 ). However, most children did not know this good old-fashioned method and certainly none of the less able children knew it.

The teacher, apparently following the national curriculum advice, taught them this method:

312 - 198

300 + 10 + 2
- 100 + 90 + 8
300 + 00 + 12
- 100 + 90 + 8
200 + 100 + 12
- 100 + 90 + 8
100 + 10 + 4

100 + 10 + 4 = 114

This would be fine if it was just put up on the blackboard to show what is really going on in the algorithm and then teach them the algorithm. But the children aren't taught the algorithm until they can show they can do the long drawn out method. For lots of children, especially the less able, writing all those numbers and keeping them in their proper columns is all just too much and they never get the hang of it. In fact some of the children who could do that bit of subtraction easily using the old-fashioned method were completely stumped when trying to write out the silly simplified method. I think they would do much better just being taught the algorithm - they'd all get there in the end. Teaching them this way, some of them never get there.

This happens every year. So when they were nine year olds they failed to get off the long method onto the short method. Now they are ten year olds they are still in the same boat. The old ways are the best, eh?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hello? Anyone in?

Maybe nobody noticed but I've been away, seemed like a year... the problem was that my secret spy counter thingy that told me how many visitors this blog has was taken away. I then had a load of trouble trying to install a replacement. I had not realised how important knowing that someone actually looks at the blog was to my writing it. I got demoralised and disaffected, just like a teenager smoking dope down the park (although of course I did not do this, I just didn't write my blog). However ... Today Mr HC installed broadband and I thought I'd have another go. Lo and behold, I actually managed to install the statistics button on the blog, so now I'm all keen again.

Another reason for not blogging is that I've been busy with my crafty current obsession - TEXTILES. (I really must show you the digital photos I took of my embroidery - you'll be fascinated - and hopefully pictures will download much quicker now).

I've done a few tentative felt-making projects and have been encouraged enough to agree to hold a felt making birthday party for my twelve-year old and her little friends next week. I will let you know how it goes.

The best thing, though, is my discovery of RAG RUG making. I was in the library last week looking for a book about felt-making (which I failed to find) and stumbled across some books on rag rug making (should have been looking where I was going). I don't know what it was but I was immediately inspired and I have now got (via the internet) some hessian and a very lovely rag rug hook made from turned yew and brass. At the weekend I was star purchaser at a jumble sale in Wallingford and now have half a sideboard stuffed with ruined wool jumpers, tatty curtains and men's suit jackets - I've even got a beautiful Harris tweed jacket which I'm trying to give to a man with a 42 inch chest, otherwise I shall have to take my scissors to it and incorporate it into my rug (the jacket, that is, not the chest, silly).

I feel entirely inspired, enthusiastic and ambitious about this new project. I see the making of a rug from rags as a very positive, creative activity. You can get some very strong, wonderful colours from hooking a patterned fabric, and the results can be like a painting with texture. Almost sculptural. I will keep you informed.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Buy to let

Lots of people are buying to let, and the government is even encouraging this by allowing these properties to be considered part of a pension plan.

Unfortunately, round here near Reading at least, house prices are too high for people on lower salaries to afford. The very rich, and there are many of them, can afford whatever they fancy. Then they rent out their properties and congratulate themselves on performing a public service. It is true that there will always be a certain number of people who prefer to rent than to buy. But the rent is very high and stops people being able to save for a deposit on a house of their own. The shortage of properties means the prices are kept high by the surfeit of buyers.

My suggestion would be for rental charges to be controlled by government. Rent should not be higher than mortgage repayments. Landlords have the resale value of the property as well as its rental income so rental prices should not be allowed to get too high. That should sort it all out I think.

Ardal O'Hanlon

I'd meant to tell you all about my evening out in Reading's concert hall to see this comedian. It was a wee while ago now but it has waited quietly.

Two things, really. What a beautiful room the concert hall is. It was all renovated a few years back and painted in tasteful colours - a very gracious room I would say, perhaps reminiscent of a methodist chapel. It houses the big wind organ called Father Willis that I remember being taken to hear played by a famous organist called Reginald Dixon. (Not Nixon - that was someone else).

The comedian was quite funny ina barmy sort of way, although my companion said she had heard some of the jokes before. He spoke for an hour, which I suppose is quite admirable in a way. There was a warm-up act of an Australian comedienne who had a similar frantic and slightly manic style. Some people thought she was a bit too blue but I wasn't expecting anything else and if anything she wasn't even as rude as Victoria Wood, who I saw maybe ten years ago.

What I am getting to is that my ticket cost £17.50, which if I'd realised beforehand and been given the choice, I would have rejected as toooooo expensive. I think people on low incomes are being denied so many things when goods are priced too high. I can't imagine why the price was put at that level. There were only two people on stage, one for just half an hour, the other an hour; there was no scenery, no costumes, no orchestra, no special lighting display. The answer is, I imagine, that there are plenty of people who can afford to pay £17.50 EASILY (the place was full) and so why not get what you can.