Monday, 27 December 2010

Helen Oyeyemi - a young Deptford writer

More on the theme of random 'South-East London' connections...

© Sarah Wood
I came across this young Deptford author who everyone but me has probably heard about. A 2009 Times online interview includes this bit of intriguing detail:

"Oyeyemi is not weird. Nor is she haunted. Her back-story runs thus: born to teacher parents in Nigeria, her family moved to London when she was 4. Living on a council estate and discouraged from socialising with local kids, she read precociously and played with Chimmy, her imaginary friend, who “died” — hit by a car on Lewisham High Street while out buying a sausage roll — when Oyeyemi was 9. (“It was traumatic at the time, but seemed sort of suicidal on his part.”) School was difficult — disruptive behaviour and suspension dovetailed with bouts of clinical depression, culminating in an attempted overdose on pills at 15. After time spent with relatives in Nigeria, she began The Icarus Girl (involving a young British-Nigerian girl who encounters a secret companion), and earned a book deal with her first few pages, writing it on the sly while her parents assumed she was wrestling with A-level coursework. She studied social and political sciences at Cambridge and wrote The Opposite House (involving a pregnant Afro-Cuban singer from London, and featuring Yoruba folklore."

There's a short story published here at the New Statesman. She writes with a highly personal, internal voice which draws you in very quickly. I think the The Icarus Girl has to go on the reading list...

Friday, 24 December 2010

When will Santa get to Eltham?

Well, you can track him here - he's in Finland at the moment, heading westwards...

UPDATE 12 midnight:
He's arrived - video footage below shows him flying over London, including Greenwich's O2 ('the dome') building:

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Albany marks New Cross Fire anniversary

An event to note for next year, at The Albany, London SE8 - on Friday 14 January 2011:
"On Sunday January 18, 1981 a devastating house fire killed 13 young black people during a birthday party in New Cross, South East London. The black community accused the London Metropolitan Police of covering up the cause, which they suspected was an arson attack motivated by racism. The protests arising out of the fire led to a mobilization of black political activity, but nobody has ever been charged in relation to the fire.

Kwame Kwei-Armah hosts this event to mark the 30th Anniversary of the New Cross Fire incorporating music, film, spoken word and discussion to remember the young lives lost and the impact the New Cross Fire has had on the lives of Britons today.

The event hopes to be an inspiring and uplifting remembrance with contributions from Alex Pascall OBE, Professor Gus John, Menelik Shabazz, spoken word from Courttia Newland, El Crisis and Albany Associate Artist Zena Edwards and music from The Queens of Lovers Rock Carroll Thompson and Janet Kay."

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Is Twitter the future?

Username:  @LondonRaven64
I've finally joined Twitter. I'm blundering about on it at the moment as I don't really know what I'm doing! I had signed up originally to follow some of the recent university occupation tweets. Man, as if I need another distraction on the web...

It does have its uses. It was bizarre that the other evening at home I had to read on Twitter that it was snowing in Eltham, causing me hurriedly to look outside and see that it was true!

There are quite a few active local Tweeters - for example, @, @AdamBienkov, @nigelfletcher - some of them count as Twitter aristocracy. The trouble is that you naturally want to sign up to follow the ever more interesting Tweeters that you comes across through other accounts, and then you end up with tons of tweets - some good, others less so.

It was a co-incidence that I've signed up at the time when the value of blogging is being questioned, and when the legendary blogging guru Iain Dale has announced he's giving up blogging. It's interesting though that many of the most successful Tweeters are also prolific bloggers.

I have found that Twitter and Blogging are quite different, both as a producer and consumer. Each has their place at the moment, but for how long?  Will the quick fix of the rapid-fire 140 characters satisfy over the longer, more leisurely meal of a blog post?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Snow business

I bet you've been asking yourself:  I wonder what Greenwich Council's plans are for the winter and for looking after the borough in adverse weather? Go on, you know you have.

Well, the answers are set out in this document - the Winter Service Policy Statement (2010/11) - it's got everything from 'route coverage' to location of street salt bins in the borough.  And now some intrepid local bloggers have got together and 'google mapped' the location of the salt bins - see Jo Brodie's blog, and Charlton Champion.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Man shot in Eltham High Street

Spotted this today:

"Man shot during police operation in Eltham

A man has been shot during a police operation in south-east London.
Armed Metropolitan police officers attended a commercial address in Eltham High Street on Monday morning as a part of a pre-planned armed action.
During the operation a police firearm was discharged and a man received a gunshot wound.
The man is recovering in hospital and his injuries are not thought to be life threatening. The man along with four others have been arrested.
The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards."
 The 'commercial premises' is the Boots store in the High Street, near the McDonalds crossroads. Wonder what it was all about. Anyone know anything else?

Reported in the News Shopper and then later on the BBC website.

UPDATE: The Independent Police Complaints Commission is "independently investigating after a man was shot by police this morning" - the IPCC have issued this statement.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

On the buses

I came across this excellent blog - London buses: one bus at a time. It seems that some intrepid retired ladies set out to travel the whole length of any given bus, one at a time, and then give us a little write-up of their what they see, complete with little bits of history, links and their photos. Locally I was interested to read about:

- the 124 bus, Catford to Eltham High Street
- the 126, Eltham Crescent to Bromley South and
- the 122, Crystal Palace to Plumstead

and for those from the other side of London town, hailing from my childhood towns of Northolt and Southall, the 120 is covered - Northolt Station to Hounslow Bus Station.

Friday, 10 December 2010

A University with some good news!

Amidst all the recent high drama, a nice bit of local news related to universities:
"A lecturer from the University of Greenwich has been named as the joint winner of a competition to design a new water fountain for London’s eight Royal Parks.

Mark Titman, a part time lecturer at the University’s School of Architecture & Construction, submitted his “Watering Holes” design to the international competition which attracted over 150 entries from 26 countries." Read the rest at
 The architects firm involved is Robin Monotti architects, from whom this image is reproduced.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Tuition Fees voted in for English universities

That's it then, as if there was any real doubt.

Parliament has voted by 21 votes to raise tuition fees at English universities to a maximum of £9,000 per year.

In the second vote, MPs voted on measures aimed at protecting access for poorer students to universities charging more than £6,000 per year. It's just been passed with an identical majority of 21.

It's been quite a ride for the last few weeks. Students and other people have felt very strongly about the raising of tuition fees, but those that work in universities are fearing the other less publicised impacts - the cutting of public funding for universities and particularly for the arts and humanities. More on that later.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Tuition Fee vote in the Commons

No more fees - we can't even afford cheese
As well as the snow madness going on, the other big distraction is the future funding of higher education. Ever since the Browne Review, the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review and then the Government's response to the Browne Review, from my own perspective,  university management has been dominated by managing their own and students' responses to events, as well as having to keep 'the business' going on - it's been a really difficult and stressful time for all involved.

Now we have the Commons vote on tuition fees next Thursday 9 December. On top of the continuing occupations in some universities (eg. at UCL), students are planning various 'anti-cuts' actions, throughout the weekend (e.g. the The Long Weekend at Goldsmiths), with protests next Wednesday and lobbying on the big day itself.

The LibDems seem in disarray - Vince Cable wasn't going to vote for his own Department's policy to increase fees but now he is. Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell are voting against. Simon Hughes? I've lost touch with the latest. This from the party whose bald election pledge it was not to raise tuition fees. I've also just seen in a Telegraph piece tonight: "In a sign that the row could destabilise the coalition, senior Conservatives have expressed fury behind the scenes that Mr Clegg is endangering the key policy by considering abstention." Destabilise the Coalition? I wonder if that will turn out to be exaggeration or foresight?

The Labour Party have offered little credible alternative. More recently, they've come out in favour of a graduate tax, but seem to have provided little leadership on this issue. Ed Miliband has just come out today and called the proposals "an act of vandalism". While Labour higher education spokesman Gareth Thomas said: "John Cleese could not have scripted this farce better than Vince Cable.

In the meantime, Vice-Chancellors (VCs) and university management have been left to fend for themselves faced with the startling, and I have to say, unexpected, news that almost all public funding for teaching was to be cut (except for STEM  and some language-teaching courses). Outside of the university sector, a point often lost is that with this 80% of state funding for university teaching being cut, increased student contributions (i.e. via tuition fees) will not result in an increase is funding for universities. The majority of universities (esp. those with no large endowments American-style) are not rubbing their hands with glee. They are still having to introduce budgets which decrease expenditure and seek to increase income. Their own costs are rising, student expectations are rising and the looming pensions crisis is going to hit hard.

What are they to do? Faced with the withdrawal of their largest funder (in most cases, and certainly the non-science based unis) VCs are left to fall back on tuition fees to keep their universities going. The students threaten universities with disruption and occupation; meanwhile the government holds the cards in terms of funding. VCs are being pressurised by David Willets to come out in favour of a higher level of tuition fee but they are mindful that would not play well in their own village.

A risk is that if VCs come out against the government, and the tuition fee is not increased at the same time as the implementation of drastic cuts in state funding then they are faced with a double-whammy - a colossal one which can only result in cuts in student numbers. The most some VCs might ask for is a delay in the haste to introduce the changes. Lots of quick-step footwork is being done.

By instinct, I agree with a recently-expressed line of Tony Benn's: you should tax income not education. I'm not sufficiently hot on economics to outline how this can be done. But it does seem to me that the Government's universities budget (located in Willets' BIS Department) is having to bear a far greater, disproportionate hit than other departments. It was always a risk that once the 'genie was out of the bottle' when Tony Blair's government first introduced tuition fees, the trend would be to revise fees upwards in future.

That a citizen has higher education is of benefit to the whole of society and the economy not just the individual, and so I think it should be a paid through general taxation, with the tuition fee maintained at the current rate of just over £3,000 per year.

It will be interesting to see how the politics of this one develops this week. Not just for the university sector but for the coalition government itself.

Friday, 3 December 2010

No trains out of Eltham today
Well, at least we were told this morning - no trains out of Eltham!

Sounds like Southeastern Railway have been listening a bit. They've been criticised roundly for the lack of information to commuters (eg. see the 853 blog)

I see that yesterday Clive Efford "slammed" them in the House of Commons. (Do broadsheets ever use this verb, or is 'slamming' only done in the tabloids/local?) From the News Shopper:

"Eltham MP Clive Efford is the latest person to criticise the way Southeastern has handled the snow, particularly the lack of information given to passengers.

Across the area, commuters attempting to catch trains have been met with boards that displayed no train information while others have complained about the lack of staff.

Mr Efford told Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to “get a grip“ on the situation.  He said: “What I want to hear from him is what he's doing to the train companies to make sure they give up-to-date, accurate information?"

Mr Hammond said the lack of information was “inexcusable” and the Office of Rail Regulation would be investigating.The company was widely derided back in January after snow caused the same problems." 
Related posts:
My Snow Story
There's no trains
Let it Snow, let it Snow (2009)
Snowy White Christmas in Eltham (2009)

Gratuitous pictures I took yesterday:

Winterwonderland in the back garden

My children's work of art, goes by the unusual name of Frosty

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

There's no trains

National Rail website 1 Dec
Word is there are no trains out of Eltham station.

Hubby has had a call from two people on the Bexleyheath line. Still, being a stoical kind of chap, he has trudged out like Scott of the Antarctic to see what he can see (refusing all offers of scarf and gloves...). Maybe a bus to north Greenwich and then the Jubilee Line to London Bridge? Let's see how he gets on.

Update: He's on a 161 heading north - the bus seems ok but very little traffic on the roads.

My Snow Story yesterday here.

Good 853 post: Southeastern: Learning nothing from the snow