I was prompted to ask this question after meeting some start-up farmers in Massachusetts. They are interesting and unexpected entrants into a profession we are often told has a gloomy future: from a rock promoter to a Harvard educated bio-physicist.
Like other developed countries and the rest of the US, Massachusetts has a large number of farmers over the age of 65 with no identified inheritors. For 30 years, the number of entrants into farming was on the slide. However, over the last decade that has begun to change. It seems, farming is becoming cool again.
“Large, hot Earl please,” the waitress yelled in a cafe this morning. I smiled, seeing in my mind’s eye a dashing peer of the realm with a twirling moustache, like a character from Blackadder, rushing out of the kitchen. But no, just a tepid tea in a paper cup. Spending time in Boston this week, where my husband is working, I have been reminded of the saying, attributed to George Bernard Shaw, that Britain and America are “two nations divided by a common language”. At the library when the attendant said: “check your bag, please,” I opened it thinking she meant she wanted to look inside. But she meant it had to be put in a locker.
For holiday reading, newspapers are hard to beat. Photo: Mary Kemp Bruce
HOLIDAY READING 2016: newspapers and Don Quixote. I still love newspapers. I like everything about them, the way they smell, the way they crinkle when you fold them over at the bit you're reading, the way you don’t have to hang onto them but can drop them on a cafe table for the next customer to enjoy.
I read a lot of newspapers this holiday. There is no shortage of news at the moment, what with Brexit and the heightened possibility this creates of “Sexit” (this phrase coined in a ditty here). One afternoon, on a motor boat trip, the engine noise too loud for conversation, I crouched over the previous day’’s FT. It seemed as if wherever I sat a personal deluge of sea water sloshed over me, rather refreshing in the brilliant sunshine. I clutched the paper to my chest to protect it. My friends were amused to notice the inky headlines of the Big Read smudged onto my chest, cue some teasing about my “reverse Linda Lusardi” moment. (“Some women put their tits on page 3, but others...)
Go on yersel, England. Scotland is sticking with the lady in red.
The Scottish Parliament at night: Photo by Rob Bruce
It was all wrong on the day of the poll, like a scene from Shakespeare, unseasonal thunderstorms, flooding, owls hooting in the afternoon. ‘Is that a dagger that I see before me?” someone tweeted when Boris Johnson praised David Cameron. “Beware the march of IDS,” said another. Guardian columnist Nick Cohen compared Michael Gove and Boris Johnson to Regan and Goneril, the bitchy daughters in King Lear. Joyce McMillan the next morning in the Scotsman quoted Rome and Juliet: "A glooming peace this morrow with it brings." Then the UK’s EU commissioner Lord Hill resigned with Lady Macbeth’s last words: “what’s done cannot be undone”.
A Scottish 'No' Voter Pleads: "England, Don't Let Us Down!"
This week in East Berlin wherever I went, I seemed to hear the sound of bagpipes. First, a man in a Glengarry playing the pibroch in the famous street Unter den Linden; then a Pole in a Celtic top playing an ancient set of pipes his grandfather had acquired in the Highlands.
Is the Curriculum for Excellence Dumbing Down Scottish Education?
What do we mean by a good education? It’s not the same as being intelligent of course. Many people have potential which has not been realised, and that is, in a nutshell “the attainment gap.”
An educated young person has skills they can take with them into the world. But should these include reasonable fluency in a modern language, an understanding of the sciences, maths, some knowledge of literature and history? Or, in this age of easy fact-finding on the internet does an educated person mean: a successful learner, a confident individual, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor, as Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence has it?
The Scottish government is wrestling with the implementation of this curriculum, which was intended to build on the concept of the “democratic intellect”, a generalist approach favouring interdisciplinary study. But how is it working in practice?
There was an interesting article in online magazine Sceptical Scot last week by the principal of George Heriot’s in Edinburgh Cameron Wyllie in which he reported a doubling of of the number of parents trying to get their children into the school at Senior 3. There were 45 applicants to S3 at GH this year after a record high of 25 in 2015. He said that this picture was being replicated at other independent schools in the city. Not big numbers perhaps, but Senior Three is not a traditional entry point for Edinburgh’s independent schools. Places are as rare as hens’ diamante scarf pins. Adam Smith himself might have trouble getting into a Merchant Company school age 14.