Friday, 14th August, 2020

[Day 151]

We thought today was going to be an intermediate kind of day but although it started off fairly cloudy, eventually it turned out to be a pleasant summer’s day with a light breeze and the sun eventually breaking through the clouds. We got the letter posted off to Meg’s cousin which was quite an important one as we hope she will be in a position when we make our trip to Chester in about 12 days time. As we have not seen Meg’s cousin for a couple of decades, we suspect there is a lot to catch up on, but after a gap of that period, one never knows how such encounters are going to turn out. Meg had seen a lot of her cousin when she was singing in small opera houses in Austria but we have lived at quite a distance from each other ever since and therefore the opportunities to see each other have been limited. Then we had a further chat in the park with a lady who uses a wheelchair and was looking out for my hat and, not seeing it, assumed we were not there. She found us eventually and we chatted for a while about family history matters. Eventually, we made our way home but we seemed to be running a bit late on everything this morning. We exchanged a few words with our Italian friend down the road but she was busy preparing for visitors. I have to say we had a fairly lazy afternoon – I am sure there were various things in the garden and within the house to which I should have attended but the humidity does make one feel a little disinclined to exert oneself. I had yesterday emailed a friend who was an old colleague to get news of his wife who we knew was going to have an operation. It seems as though as all has turned out well so far as we can tell at this stage, so I was relieved to get this piece of positive news.

Occasionally, after I have answered my emails I look at Sky News to see if there are breaking stories (I must add that although I loathe the Rubert Murdoch stranglehold on the media, I am forced to admit that Sky News always seems to get to critical stories way before the BBC which I suspect has been utterly tamed, not to say cowed, by the past few governments) Apparently. Donald Trump was asked a question whether he regretted the fact that he had consistently lied to the American people during his presidency. One would have expected a complete denunciation of the reporter who had had the temerity to ask the question but instead, Donald Trump swerved the question, turned his gaze to another journalist and gave them to chance to ask another question instead, without offering up either an answer or a defence. Extraordinary – shall we see a video clip of this in the next few days? (Not on the BBC I venture to suggest, in view of what I have just been saying above).

I read a fascinating letter in ‘The Times‘ a day or so back, commenting upon the difficulties that the government is facing over ‘A’-levels in which teacher’s assessments are moderated by an algorithm which looks at the past record of the schools, thus ‘baking in’ inequalities. For example, a pupil with high predicted grades but in a school which performed ‘poorly’ the previous year could expect to be downgraded by applying the algorithm. The letter writer in ‘The Times‘ reminded readers that Michael Gove scrapped the system in which A-levels were essentially modular (each year being divided into two semesters) and with AS levels at the end of Year 1 of the sixth form. So, an A-level mark would be the amalgamation of the marks of four semesters of work – but if this system had not been jettisoned, then by the time of the lockdown students would have marks attained for three out of their four semesters. Under these circumstances, it might have been considered quite fair to base the final A-level mark on these three semesters of work rather than four. However, Michael Gove thought that the pattern that we had in the 1950s ought to be the model for the future (i.e. one exam at the end of two years of study) and reflects the way in which some Government ministers think that we should ‘look backwards into the future’. So a lot of the current mess could have been avoided if the existing system had not been tinkered with for essentially political reasons.