Wednesday, October 19

Help. Let's have more HI. Less AI.

Help. A little assistance with a query about a service or product. It doesn't seem much to ask but try getting someone to respond in any meaningful way to a problem these days. In recent weeks I have tried to get help from several banks, a hospital, an insurance company an on-line sales organisation and Google and in every single case I have got nowhere. I have not even got nowhere fast - it's been a slow, tedious and very annoying process every time.

On the occasion when I have finally found a human to speak to I have suggested that they try their own system and relate at their next management or training session to the boss their own experience, if not mine. Many people do seem to be sympathetic and yet nothing ever changes. I can only guess that the middle managers who have put these systems in place have no desire to admit that they may have made a mistake and so their bosses don't get any direct evidence of the failure and any statistics which might reveal some dissatisfaction are either hidden or, if shown, regarded as something now which applies across the board and so there becomes a sort of feeling that if everyone in the same industry is suffering the same way there is not a great deal they need to do about it.

It all starts with the telephone system or an on-line page which asks you to select the area for your query. Often you may not actually know which of the many choices offered are the most appropriate. On the phone, you select one and hope for the best, only to be told, usually several steps down the line, that there is a 63½ minute waiting time or, horrors, there is no-one available to take your call and please try again later. Brrrrrrr. All this is, of course, interrupted every minute or so by a voice claiming that their website has all the answers you need and just go there and you'll not need to phone anyway.

On the web page you might have a list of possible questions that they think you were going to ask. None match what you had in mind. Others, a little more advanced they believe, try to second guess your query from the freestyle text you can enter. This works even less well for me. You search all over an organisation's page for a phone number, email address or some other way to get help. Cleverly, all help and contact links seem to bring you back to the same place. Very occasionally you might reach a page where there are some more options. One might be to have an online chat. You type in your question and hope. No, it's not a person but the same search engine as you encountered before which tries to second guess your query based on what you type and gets it quite wrong.

Once or twice I did find a human at the other end of the chat line. But all the human was able to do was the same as the telephone choice system elsewhere - refer to some sort of flowchart. She asks the questions and, depending on my answers, is guided through the chart until she reaches a conclusion - I need to speak to a representative. Yes, I knew that. Thanks. Just tell me how.

My questions are not Masters degree level challenges. I might need to make a transfer of funds which cannot be done by one of my banks online for some reason I don't understand. I have a problem to resolve with a customer of the online trading company. I want to change an appointment. I have a website built with Google tools and want to get Google to promote it so that people using Google can find it more easily. You'd think that would be the sort of thing Google would love to help me with. They even have AI systems now for lots of their services. Their telephone staff seem to lack even human intelligence, though, as the first encounter I had was almost robotic as the girl struggled to work through her flowchart of responses and actions to be recommended to the caller.

The nice chap in the States that I did finally get to speak to was human and did have a little more intelligence but all he could do was sell me some advertising. He did understand my query and that I would not buy any advertising until I had made some charges to the website to make it work better with Google but was still unable either to tell me who I should talk to or to head me in the direction of someone who could actually help. He finished up emailing me a link which I had hoped would be to an individual who might be in a senior enough position to straddle both Google's technical and advertising departments and advise me accordingly. The link just went to a page where I had started several days ago. The 'type a word and we'll try and find out where you need to be directed' sort of page. AI that is more artificial than intelligent regrettably.

One thing that seems evident to me is the standard of competence of the individuals that we interact with in these conversations. It is very poor. We are often dealing with one of the lowest levels of staff in the organisation who follow a sort of script or the flowchart type thing I've referred to before. They're not doing anything more than a computer program would do. They seldom have much of a clue as to the problem you have or your own situation or any experience of your business or activity. I might not expect that from the first person I deal with but I do think we should get to speak to some more senior people at a much earlier stage. 

There is a lot to be said for putting smart, knowledgeable people on the enquiry lines for part of their day. They would minimise the time that it takes to deal with queries and also be better placed to make changes in an organisation where the level of customer enquiries merited this. 

The stupid phone choice systems and on-line help flowcharts need to go as I doubt they help anyone very much at all. Give everyone a phone number and an email address. Employ extra staff - there are plenty of people available - to answer those calls and make more senior staff time available to take calls referred to them. Get teams to check emails and pass them to the right people and make sure they're actually dealt with in a reasonable time. If things go crazy and there really are times when the phones go mad then have a system where people call you back. This is so much better than making us wait. And the music . . . what is that! No-one I have ever heard from has any desire whatsoever to listen to that 'holding music' which is nearly always of terrible quality and at an uncomfortable volume to boot. Mad. Don't tell us to consult a website. We're calling because we want to talk to someone. Let us talk to someone. And let that someone be human and intelligent, please.

It this really too much to ask? The whole nation seems to have been totally conned and taken for a ride by idiot middle managers who think a program some organisation has flogged them to 'manage' calls will answer all their queries and ours too. I know of none, anywhere, that has been in any way a success.

Some organisations which have got it right are First Direct Bank, PayPal (once you find their number!) and UK2.Net domain management. The customer service from these three has been remarkably good in my experience. In every case I have had access to a comparatively senior, intelligent member of staff who gets what I need, understands what I say and knows what to do to respond and retain my business.


Saturday, October 15

Green And Pleasant Land Matters

A few years ago this was a happy place with amusing articles and pictures of life in the village. I am so sorry that it has turned into my series of log-winded moans about what is happening in the world but, to be honest, there really isn't much happening in the village. In 2020 COVID-19 sent the vast majority of its residents scampering for the safety of their homes, bolting the doors, refusing to see visitors and getting food delivered from Tesco or Ocado vans. They're an obedient lot. The Government said they had to be locked down and so they did. A few of us needed to keep a business going and I made one or two trips each week to the Post Office in a nearby village where I could also buy an 'essential item' or two in case my trip was queried by some officials. I genuinely did expect to be stopped by Police from time to time. We had seen reports of people walking in Derbyshire in a way that was apparently illegal and so this seemed just as ridiculously feasible at the time.

To be quite honest, my life and activity didn't change a great deal throughout the COVID period now that I can look back and see what happened. I was able to make many trips to Ukraine which must have relieved the boredom and, by good fortune, this area escaped the high level lockdown too for almost all the time. I do believe that we should all have been left to make our own decisions about our activities and health and that the mass of Government regulation and expenses was largely wasted. Having said that, it is easy to write in hindsight but I really have never supported the way the State was able to rule our lives or restrict our activities. Obviously, the remarkably successful development of a vaccine was marvellous and many people did many good things but I was very glad to be able to burn sacrificially those horrid masks we were forced to wear a little while ago. Some people are still wearing them - looking like Chinese tourists in London. The Chinese always seemed to have them, presumably believing that our cities are as bad as theirs for pollution, although why they didn't just visit some more pleasant, beautiful and definitely pollution-free places in this country and discard the masks I do not know.

All this regulation stuff was what did for Boris. I rather think that his views on lockdown were similar to mine but he seemed to forget that, whereas no-one was too bothered about what I was doing from day to day, the eyes of many disgruntled people or downright enemies of the chap and his Party were very much focussed on the parties, cake and whatever may have been in the glasses at various occasions. He was totally screwed and probably could not believe how it became not just headline news but stayed on the front pages of newspapers for weeks on end. A very, very effective campaign by people who disliked Boris and the Conservatives generally was able to gather support not just from obvious sources like the baying Labour voices and almost everyone in the North who hate 'Tories' anyway, especially posh-speaking ones, but also from much of his hitherto solid Conservative rank and file membership who had been so keen to follow the rules and do as they were told who were quite upset that they were effectively being told to do as the boss says not as the boss does. That didn't sit well with that section of society either.

I really had no objection to the parties, cake or whatever but I did feel that Boris handled things poorly. He may well still be Prime Minister had he opened up the nation at the very start and said "Sorry, chaps." 

I really do wish he were still Prime Minister as Liz Truss is frankly a huge embarrassment. I can imagine how many Americans must have felt when Donald Trump was holding forth on this and that and generally making a fool of himself. We pitied the States then, and yet we recognised something in the Trump style which did work. He did seem to know what he was doing ninety-nine percent of the time and he did have balls, personality and was the guy that you'd want on your side in a fight. Mrs Truss has so far shown no personality, no determination or cohesion of policy and has also made seemingly illogical decisions and made no attempt to explain herself in words of one syllable. She strikes me as a little dim and way, way out of her depth. I voted for her, believing that she was the most likely to continue to support, and, indeed, beef up, support for Ukraine and reckoned that she might eventually become more of a leader in time.

Now, I would like the Conservative Party to arrange a replacement as soon as possible so that we can, hopefully, all get behind one individual who has some talent and can engender respect across the world as well as appeal to voters in Britain. I do not believe there is any great likelihood of a massive Labour victory in 2024. Voters have seen nothing much of interest in anything that Labour is proposing and are unlikely to trust them any more, especially if things have started to get better by then. What could be more concerning would be the rise of the Liberals as the natural go-to party for disillusioned Conservatives. No-one has any idea of what they stand for nowadays and any coalition with Labour could be scary with Stonewall, Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil type of organisations' supporters taking charge.

As it is we are seeing the country run in many places by Stonewall, Pride and people who believe everything pushed out by Black Lives Matter, and a whole raft of organisations that have sprung up to bring sex and gender into mainstream debate and communications. We have a situation now whereby some universities and colleges, many government-funded bodies too, are obliging their staff to do crazy things like add their preferred pronouns to signatures, include the Black Lives Matter logo, and the Pride one and others to communications. Although one particular organisation has since said that its 'instruction' to do so was intended as a 'please think about doing' so the damage is done. Many people will have felt they had to do so to avoid being sacked or accused of not supporting the trans community. How many people are there in this community? Are they all supporters of BLM and Stonewall, and Pride? Do they all agree that everyone should now be calling themselves Alice, He, His or whatever now? I doubt it. There are a million minorities in this country and each deserves respect but we can do that by being human, kind and polite. We do not need regulations and we most certainly do not need Black Lives Matter or Stonewall, each awful organisations that have erupted in our HR departments midst since some bloke died resisting arrest in America. 

I do not want any institution or firm or body or organisation that is in receipt of taxes I pay to be in any way associated with BLM or Stonewall. Or a whole raft of others who will no doubt be getting massive funding from Councils across the country anxious to show that they are doing the right thing in this wacky woke world in which we now exist.

I am trying to recall when I first heard or read the word woke. It is an odd word and would have stood out like a sore thumb but I can't tell. It just seems to have grown and become more common over the years. I am thinking that I had not heard the word before 2018. It was after BLM too, so that dates it to May 2020 at the earliest. I dislike the word a lot but I am not sure why. I think it is because it is the past participle of wake and so a part of a verb in my usage. I woke up at 8am. It seems to be similar to the woke in 'I woke up to what was happening". But "to be woke" makes no sense to me. I can be awoken, maybe even, at a pinch woken but I cannot be woke. At least that's what I thought. It seems that I can and the dictionary does define woke as an adjective, first appearing in 2017 and meaning awake to sensitive social issues. So I could be woke after all if that means aware of. I feel that awake to implies some essence of agreement that something has to change so the jury's out on that.

So far, I have disliked and genuinely oppose just about all that I read and see being done in the name of woke. How has this come to pass? It appears that organisations like Stonewall and Pride really have managed to get a shoe-in to so many of our institutions and so persuaded umpteen thousand of those counties' middle managers and executives in HR posts that we desperately must use their services, running courses and something akin to re-education camps for some, to show us white people how terrible we all are. In 2020 the Government said that they would be cancelling all Race Bias Training in the Civil Service and, I understood, all Ministries including the NHS, arguing that it was effectively useless. However I see many training websites still offering Race Bias Training, including some that are run by the Government themselves as quangos!

I remember something called Black History Month back in the late 1990s at college. Lecturers were obliged to include material relating to this history of black people or their countries, as I recall. More often than not this involved some nice curry in the canteen and posters in classrooms where cut out shapes of Jamaica or Fiji were stuck on sugar paper. They stayed up a long time and often were brought back for Inspection when the glue had dried out on some of the fallen cut-outs leaving the original bright colour of the sugar paper standing vibrant in the otherwise very faded purple, blue or magenta colours that sugar paper always was. I didn't do much by way of posters or celebration of Black History myself. It seemed a bit odd. Why did we never have a Yellow History Month, Brown History month or even a more polite Asian History Month perhaps? My college in Dunstable, Bedfordshire had a massive number of Pakistani students, mostly doing IT or Business Studies as a way to maintain income benefits for their families for a few years more rather than their attendance, such as it was, being, for all but one or two, any real attempt to complete sufficient BTEC assignments to have a chance at university entrance. I can remember maybe four students that I would call black. But they came from countries as different as Uganda and somewhere in America. They didn't see the point of Black History Month either as they and their parents had been here for a long time and, whilst they might have some interest in their parents' or grandparents' roots, the posters and menu were not of much significance to them. And the Asians, as a whole, were pretty much ignored completely until Ramadan or maybe some Festival of Lights came along for a day or two. Then we'd have a few posters again but nothing like Black History Month. Month, for heaven's sake!

At about the same time I remember the Academic Board being presented with a draft document which was proposed by some very serious woman as our Equal Opportunities Policy. At least I think that it was Equal Opportunities that came first. Equality and Diversity came later. Probably some variations in between. Let's say it was Equal Opportunities. I have regaled readers of another blog on education matters about this particular event in the past and how my suggestion that we merely say we will treat everyone the same fell on deaf, if not somewhat stunned and, one set of amused ears. I mean, why say more? Where does that take us? By attempting to specify who might be needed to be treated equally one is almost implying that they're not in the first place. By attempting to list all the minority groups you're almost bound to miss out one and they'll have something to complain about. Then you have to think about what activities are to be dealt with in this policy - from how we handle admission enquiries at the outset to telling people they've failed their exams at the other end? And all that comes between.

We finished up with a 96-page document which no-one ever read and I was branded something close to but not quite, obviously, racist. All I had wanted to do was to put respect for all people, including majorities as well as minorities, as a fundamental duty which we should all not even have to sign up to but was simply the right thing to do. If there were instances where our paperwork or a procedure might offend someone from some minority or another then we should fix them. The time wasted drafting those 96 pages, and probably another 96 for each of the subsequent new policies required, could have been considerably better spent. If we'd been asked to dig into our pockets and pay for that time then the whole thing might have been different - but time paid for by our taxes doesn't feel as if it is a cost coming directly out of our earnings.

I am probably very fortunate not to be involved directly in such matters now. Because I would have refused to add any BLM or Stonewall or Pride logos to my correspondence and not wished to have Hill, He His on my name badge, suggested that instead of Black History Month we have White History Week for a change; because I would have slapped some students on the back either to congratulate them or wake them up from time to time, refused to attend training sessions designed to correct my attitude to white supremacy or whatever similar bollocks was on the menu or, more likely, did attend and tried to argue a few points with the tutor doing the PowerPoint show; because of all this I would have been in trouble most, if not all, days and, at best, encouraged to retire gracefully. At worst, I would be visited by the Police investigating a 'hate crime incident' as no doubt one or more the things I had done could have triggered someone to say how upset they were that I'd said they were only there because their parents told them to be there.

There was just one trans person in the classes I taught that I was aware of. I did get a shock when someone who had worn a suit and looked definitely masculine one week walked in in a bright blue dress and wig the next. I couldn't help but stutter in whatever Level 3 Business Studies lecture I was giving that day but I regained my composure and made no big thing of it at all. This was at Vauxhall Motors' premises in Luton where we ran an outreach course for employees to gain more qualifications and the students were all in their 20s or 30s. At Dunstable there were none. A few professed to be gay but no-one disputed whether they were male or female. Every single one was, in 2010, happy to be one or the other. No-one wanted or needed a Don't Know or Unspecified box to tick. Even the chap, er, sorry, student, at Vauxhall signed on as a bloke. I do accept that I was temporarily troubled by what to call him, er, them, no, that's rotten grammar, I give up, the person. I managed to avoid needing any hes or shes, though, throughout the 30-week course and we got on fine.

So I can accept that we need some help in how we address trans people but they are so few and far between that I do feel we can take care of that without special training and expensive organisations instructing us for fear of a visit from Mr Plod. I would simple chat to them and agree what to do. End of story. I also refuse to accept that there has been a sudden massive splurge of people who have become trans or declaring some other variant between or outside the confines of male and female. Nor has there been any requirement for me or any of my colleagues or students to know anything at all about our colleagues' or students' sexual preferences. Indeed I would be surprised if many of the staff I knew would admit to any! "Sex, old boy? No idea. Can't remember!" So I couldn't give a toss about anything to do with the LBGTQOO+ community or whatever it is called these days. And why don't they call it the NLBGTQOO+ community and let us Normals in. By Normal I mean men or women who don't give much of a toss about all this and get on with their lives as men or women, probably having relationships with the opposite sex if they're lucky or just remembering old times. Now by calling myself Normal I could be implying that everyone else in the group is abnormal. Insofar as 94% of the population in 2020 defined themselves as heterosexual or what I've loosely called normal then that seems fairly clear. The others are all minorities, some minute minorities and certainly not what one might encounter normally. As individuals they're not abnormal but their preferences are. It is not meant as an insult, it's just a way to emphasise the point. We're spending an awful lot of time pulling our hair out and defending dismissals or statements, re-educating grandad and making sure that we don't upset university students by allowing someone to speak their mind about something or we try to warn them that the content of an old film might have a reference to Tranny or Poofter. A horror film might even have a shock at some point. Oh dear.

The National Education Union, Britain’s largest teaching union have a resolution to develop a definition of transphobia, passed at the last annual NEU conference in the spring, and now looks likely to be adopted.

The proposal suggests that anyone who expects trans people “to participate in discussion or debate about their rights and/or identities” is transphobic, and cites “propagating ideas, concepts and misinformation harmful to trans people and which erase and ignore trans history” as examples of transphobic behaviour (while neither outlining what is meant by “trans history” nor what “ideas, concepts and misinformation” would be considered harmful). It further defines transphobia as a “rejection of trans identity and a refusal to acknowledge that those identities are real or valid” or the “incorrect use of pronouns”.

While protecting trans pupils, trans teachers and trans support staff from harassment is a worthy aim, it’s clear that this proposal goes way beyond legal compliance and would have the effect of rendering any challenge to gender critical ideology or the agenda of transrights activists as a form of extrajudicial hate crime.

That’s problematic because, statistically, it’s inevitable that in a mass membership organisation like the NEU many members will reject the central tenet of gender identity ideology, namely, that sex is a social construct, and instead believe that sex is binary and immutable. Is the NEU effectively saying to all its fee-paying members that don’t want to go along with gender identity ideology that it regards them as ‘transphobic’ and no longer wants to represent them or defend their rights? As member relations campaigns go, it’s certainly daring.

And what about the policy’s effect on staffrooms up and down the country – will it have a chilling effect on free speech? If this definition is accepted, anyone who says: "You can’t logically self-identify as the opposite sex", will be a transphobe. How many teachers will be too scared to speak up in schools and they will just go along with the NEU policy? It becomes something you can be dismissed for. Just like that.

All this is happening in Great Britain today. I look around and these topics of racism and diversity, Pride and BLM feature increasingly in news reports and those delivered by the BBC, as well as many new series produced by them, seem to feel that we all need to be educated, with a dreadful Dr Who series from 2019 or thereabouts and even the presenters or teams of people sat on chairs to debate matters seem to have to obey some rule of one from each minority wherever possible. I can almost hear the Programme Manager at a W1A-type meeting shouting " . . . OK, if there's only one make it a black woman first choice. Asian woman second, then black bloke. Gay white next. But no old white bloke on his own . . ." You may grin or grimace but I have no doubt whatsoever that they is a list of preferred minorities! Nothing to do with knowledge or ability.

Basically the Conservative government has been well and truly set-up and I suspect there is not a great deal anyone can do now. These things all happened under the radar. It was so difficult to refuse to take the knee at the time. Rather than risk offence many of our leaders and stars of field and screen did so. The police did and the BLM movement must have thought it was Christmas with all the money that poured in. Never to be seen again, but that's another story.

I have been reading the Spectator recently and have been particularly taken by Rod Liddle's articles and occasional ramblings in the magazine or on-line. So far, I have not disagreed with a single word that he's said. That's unusual for me but we seem to be of a like mind. He is a member of the SDP. I presume that is the Social Democratic Party which I really had thought had died out some years ago. I recall the two Davids, a bustling woman and a few others launching it but had no idea it still existed. I have just read some of their aims and policies and there's nothing in there I would disagree with. Might I suggest that Rod and I see what we can do to persuade a few of the more intelligent Conservative and Labour MPs to switch allegiance? Something has to change. 

I expect to see the Online Safety Bill redrafted to refer purely to the safety of children and a campaign to prove just how preposterous much of this woke training is, together with effectively removing any publicly funded associations by organisations with Pride, Stonewall and BLM and others. No-one denies their right to exist but I believe many would prefer they raise funds directly without taxpayers' support. The same applies to a vast array of organisations set up to garner charity, lottery or similar funding but which have objectives which need rather closer examination. 

This is a green and pleasant land, in places. It certainly remains so here in Astcote but I do fear for some other parts. The Conservative Government need to start running this country again. At the moment it seems effectively to be in the hands of assorted Socialist HR and local government personnel who, with their cronies in much of the media now, are having by far the greatest impact on this pleasant land. We need a Green And Pleasant Land History Year.

Saturday, October 8

Keep taking those iodine tablets . . .

 


There was something very satisfying about the news of a bridge being blown up today. It was also quite surprising and I am pretty sure it has taken many people by surprise, even those who claim to know what is going on in Ukraine rather better than I do.

The bridge is the Kerch Bridge which was built by Russia following their annexation of the Crimea region in 2014. The Russians need that bridge to enable support to reach their front quickly. Now they'll need to take a longer route and it does seem to be a most significant gain by Ukraine. Ukraine has, since I last wrote, made remarkable advances and retaken a large amount of land and some key towns in the North East, with Russian troops pushed back, in some cases we're told they're scampering back, to the 2014 line. Even in the South, Ukraine troops are making advances around Kherson and there has been a lot of positive news about the places returning to Ukraine control.

At the same time Putin has enforced residents of the areas that Russia have been controlling to vote for their towns and villages to become part of 'Russia'. People really have had no choice - anyone seen to vote (and it seems that their voting intentions are seen) against becoming part of Russia is regarded as some sort of Ukrainian agent or generally undesirable and likely to end up in prison or carried away on some excuse or another. There may be one or two people who genuinely do prefer the apparent peace that they believe might stabilise in their town, and the money and employment offered by new town governors, but I doubt they number more than 5% at most. The other 95% will have voted the way they did merely to stay alive and well and living in what they hope will become 'Ukraine' again. 

I am actually surprised that the votes we have been told about were not 99% in favour in every place. The same tactic was adopted in 2014 to justify the takeover in Crimea and some less definitive Russian control of towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. We didn't believe it then and we don't believe it now. No way have Ukrainians voted to be Russian after all that they have seen happening in their streets and fields.

So I have been fully expecting great efforts to be made to pull those areas back and it is encouraging that, even as Russia attempts to set up some administrative systems in some places, they are being driven out by Ukraine's advance. What I had not expected was any effort to retake Crimea. I had tended to think that there might have been some historical anomalies in how the borders were drawn whenever the whole area was divided up by whoever did the negotiations back in the 1950s. My knowledge is poor on this but I have heard quite strong arguments asserting that the Crimea region might not have been so obviously a part of Ukraine. That doesn't mean that it was necessarily a part of Russia either and certainly these doubts were no justification for the 2014 invasion. It does mean that, at that time, I felt there might be a good reason for both sides, and international advisers, to look again at the map and thrash out something and, of course, consult properly the population there. Forcibly taking it and conducting a dodgy poll in 2015, however, did more to damage Russia's interests in the Crimea than help them in my view. 

I had rather thought that suggestions that Ukraine might want Russia to withdraw not only to their 2014 positions but also from Crimea were extremely optimistic, whilst laudable aims. Now I am beginning to believe that they could actually do it and that would most definitely not go down well in Russia. I can imagine the population at large in Russia not paying a great deal of attention to the 'special military operation' ending more or less with the Russian troops where they started and no great change to any borders - and neither the extraordinary amount of damage to Ukraine's cities and towns nor the great loss of Russian lives and equipment would be broadcast to them and they'll look the other way to a large degree if they do happen across any real data that shows Russia in a bad light anyway. To lose Crimea would be another story. And that's why there is going to be some massive escalation in due course.

Putin simply cannot let the Ukraine advance continue and, whilst the bridge being damaged doesn't exactly make it much easier for Ukraine to retake Crimea, and there is still a huge amount of work to do in the South, it has become something that more and more people now see as feasible. Before it was a sort of dream and no-one I knew considered it part of the current plan.

My guess is that there has been a significant amount of support from other countries under no national flag, maybe UK, maybe Lithuania, pretty definitely Poland and Estonia and there are people there on the ground making a difference. Ukrainian troops are getting some better weapons and lots of training too and they seem to be applying all this new-found knowledge and ability to most impressive use. If this is, indeed, to be a tipping point in this war then now is the time that whatever we can do needs to be done as it will have the best chance of success while Russia is clearly on the back foot. Before they can regroup, rearm and generally figure out the next move we should make ours. Throw whatever we can in to help Ukraine and get every European country to join in. USA too, and Canada and Australia and whoever else we can get on board. Leaders like to be on the winning side and they can be now.

The one question remains, of course: will Putin hit the nuclear button? I think it is likely that he will, with a small but nasty missile hitting some infrastructure or town in Ukraine as a threat to show what he can do if we don't cease the assistance. That will alienate a lot of support within his own country, though, and start a major divide between the Russian population who will be unable to avoid the publicity of such action. No 'special military operation' now. This will not be what they thought they could ignore and look the other way about. They managed to ignore Bucha, children being hit, massive civilian causalities and other ghastly crimes committed in their name but nuclear war they'll not be able to let pass as if it hadn't happened.

If they're lucky the wind will not blow any radioactive dust their way. But there will be a response from the West and several weapons bases will be hit almost straightaway and no military commander will risk going along with Putin's next steps, whatever they may be. The writing will be clearly on the wall for Russia as a whole at that point. However mad or bad his colleagues may be, they'll not risk escalation in full knowledge that more will come their way, however many missiles they may have. No-one except Putin signed up for that sort of conflict. We need to call their bluff and soon we will have a great opportunity to do so.

There's a long way yet to go but I am finally feeling positive about Ukraine's chances of not just regaining control of its territory but settling this on Ukraine's terms, not those of some committee.
But my friends may need to keep taking those iodine tablets.

Monday, June 27

Four months later. It is still wrong.

It's been four months and three days since Russia began the destruction of Ukraine. As several military experts predicted, Russia has managed to take effective control of a band of Ukraine stretching down the eastern side and across the south. Their progress has been very slow and painful for both their own troops and, of course, the people living in those sectors. Occasionally they have been repulsed. Efforts to attack Kyiv came to nothing and Kharkiv, whilst still vulnerable, seems to have never surrendered and at the time of writing remains very much under Ukraine control and not Russian.

Missiles today flew across Zhytomyr, a town which has escaped the worst of the fighting and damage to date. They may have been intended for military training targets or transport facilities but also damaged buildings and people. There had been some definite relaxation in places at some distance from the occupied zones, such as Lviv and Zhytomyr and even Kyiv, with visits from foreign leaders and pictures widely broadcast of Boris Johnson strolling with Volodymyr Zelensky in the sunshine. I doubt now, though, that I would feel safe anywhere as we move towards what must be the next phase of this terrible war.

What I just cannot understand is the logic of what Russia is doing. I appreciate that the original plan may have been to take over the country in a rapid exercise and bring its government back under Soviet control which Russia imagined the people might generally put up with and so put a stop to any further development of support for Ukraine by the West and, primarily, NATO. I don't recall reading anything about anyone in the West being particularly concerned about invading Russia. To the best of my knowledge no-one in Ukraine was planning to seize any Russian territory in February 2022. Yes, Ukraine, and to a lesser extent, some other nations, disputed the action taken by Russia in 2014 to take over Crimea and there has been constant argument about where the eastern border should run, but no-one was about to give Putin any particular trouble.

There was no love lost between Ukraine and Russia and there were certainly matters to be resolved but there were many families in Ukraine with relatives in Russia and many Russians with families in Ukraine. Many people lived in one country and worked in another. Although Ukrainian had been made the official language for the country's business activities, Russian was still widely spoken and accepted as normal across the country. People spoke both languages and no-one really objected, other than a few hard-liners. It was, after all, not that many years since Ukraine and Russia were simply two republics in the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. We talk of 'Russia' now and often mean the whole of the rest of the USSR but that's really quite inaccurate. Russia is the Russian Federation now and, whilst it is a large area on the map, 'Russia' does not include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan, not to mention Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania which are now in the European Union. Russia is still big but nothing like as influentially big as what we used to think of as 'Russia', i.e. the Soviet Union.

So Putin's talk of wanting to 'reclaim' the territory called Ukraine but which he does not recognise as an independent nation now seems bizarre - unless he also proposes to do the same with all the other errant states. I guess some may remain friendly and would welcome a new overarching Soviet banner but most would not. Georgia and Armenia have already had some border troubles and now fiercely defend their independence and support Ukraine in words but don't do much of material value.

And that seems to be the way things are across the world. Everyone says how bad it is. How terrible that a whole country is being destroyed - and I mean destroyed as some cities appeared to have completely disappeared, population included - with no industry or infrastructure remaining of much use to anyone who might wish to return one day. What on Earth can be the point of causing so much destruction? Let's say Russia does, eventually, take control. What have they got? A massive wreck that would cost a fortune to rebuild. A fortune that Russia neither has nor would be able to acquire. An unwilling, slave-like population would be forever resisting their control and fighting locally would go on in pockets here and there. No amount of policing and new government would prevent chaos and no economy would be restored without people willing to work to help Russia and that is one thing no Ukrainian is going to do in such circumstances. So 'winning', if one can call it that, achieves merely massive debt, continued fighting in places for years and years and what would be an empty vessel of a nation that Russia would not be able to afford to fix or manage.

Putin may have the satisfaction that there would be no NATO forces any closer than Poland but that would have been the position anyway as NATO were not exactly enthusiastically supporting any membership for Ukraine before. Indeed, with Finland and Sweden now becoming members it could be argued that he has achieved the reverse in terms of border security.

So I am at a loss to comprehend what this is really all about. And because this whole action by Russia has been so destructive, so bad, so inhuman and, whatever one's religion, so evil in all respects, so totally unjustifiable on any grounds that I can think of, it simple cannot, must not, be permitted to succeed. The United Kingdom and one or two other countries have helped Ukraine to some extent by supplying weapons and no doubt our assistance in training the Ukraine military has helped them survive this long, but it is nowhere near enough. I doubt that there will ever be sufficient assistance if all we do is supply weapons or advice. From Day 1 countries should have been prepared to assist militarily. If Russia had seen that we were serious in our intent to defend Ukraine then they would almost certainly have had cause to think twice about their actions. As it has been, we shout and moan and complain and wring our hands. It hurts no-one. Our sanctions have little impact and some even argue that they have enhanced Russia's economy with far higher fuel prices for their gas and oil. Other sanctions they will largely find ways around and the population will not be badly affected in terms of day-to-day life. I do think that the population must, however, at some point realise that they have been severely duped and surely the average Russian has a similar intelligence to the average European and will eventually see that what their country had done is wrong and needs to stop. I fear that we cannot wait for such realisation to dawn on the addled heads of the Russian populace, though. That will take years. Ukraine hasn't got years. Action is needed now. Countries should now show just how annoyed we all are with events and make it abundantly obvious to Putin that he either leaves Ukraine now or his troops will be defeated. We're not threatening to bomb Russia yet but we will do whatever is necessary to return Ukraine territory to its original lines on 23 February 2022.

The fear that everyone does seem to have and which has to be the only reason I can imagine feasible for not taking any action is that of being attacked ourselves. We are afraid that there will be a missile landing on Milton Keynes, Buckingham Palace or, more likely, some military place where we have lots of special weapons. Actually, it is not us that are frightened it is the leaders of our nations. They do not want to be the ones who cause the missiles to be fired. They worry that we would blame them for the deaths and injuries which would be the inevitable result. I can see their point. as things stand only Ukrainians get killed or injured. Only Ukrainians lose their properties, business, livelihood, possessions, families, children. Only Ukrainians suffer at the moment. So that's OK. We're safe as houses here in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Malta, Switzerland, Estonia, Lithuania, Italy, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Finland, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ireland, Hungary, Romania. Moldova and anywhere else I've forgotten in Europe . . . we're all OK, Jack. Qh dear, what a shame. People's lives, their whole world, are being totally devastated in Ukraine. But we're OK. Better keep it that way.

This is wrong. I hope that some leaders will also conclude that this is wrong. And go fight. Send in our planes, drones, defence systems, missiles, whatever we have that they need and the people to help them do it. Do whatever is necessary to stop Russia in its tracks now. Send them home and start repairing Ukraine. And send Russia the bill.

"Russia has nuclear weapons" is what most detractors say. Russia even claim to have some new supersonic missile which can reach us here in the UK in a few minutes. So that is why we don't take any more action? Because someone might fire something at us? But it's OK for Ukraine people to be fired on every night and day? Just not us, thank you very much. On that logic, just having a nuclear weapon seems to mean that you can wave it around and basically do whatever the hell you want . . . oh, hang on, don't we have nuclear weapons? And don't the United States, France and Israel? (Pakistan, India, China and North Korea do too but I can't see them taking our side in a fight - and probably not Russia's either). So why don't we wave ours around and, with France and the United States, at least, make it quite clear that we're quite capable of firing stuff in Russia's direction if it proves necessary. However crazy you might think Putin may be, he is not going to risk taking all of us on. Only Ukraine (or, possibly Moldova too). He won't even nuke them because his own people would be affected if the wind blows radiation their way.

So can someone please stand up and start making plans to put this great wrong right. 

Wednesday, April 27

He, she or it. 517 School Policies. This is Britain in 2022.

Something's gone wrong in this country. I think it has also gone wrong in many other parts of the world too but I can only write about the one I live in. 

There are now 517 officially recommended policies which schools should have documented and implemented. I am sure that, if I searched, I would find a similar number for Further Education Colleges and Universities. Then, no doubt, any firm that has any dealings with government departments will find that it needs many of these too.

How on earth have we come to this? I suspect two forces at work; one is the Woke Brigade and the other is the inclination of people to sue organisations. The Woke Brigade I will come to in due course. The inclination of people suing organisations has definitely developed considerably in the last few decades. This has been the foundation for many Health & Safety rules and regulations. Once upon a time, an employee or visitor might have an accident - a genuine bit of bad luck or actually a case of their not being very observant and tripping over something. Unfortunate but that was the end of it. No-one was to blame, no-one deliberately caused the accident and there may even not have been any injury of note. Then someone consulted a solicitor who reckoned that he could obtain some significant damages, and some income for the solicitor too, by suing the organisation. Even without physical injury it could often be claimed that someone had still 'suffered' and deserved compensation and, with defence in Courts costing a fortune, organisations would often just pay. This, of course encouraged more and more and organisations were advised that they would need to have to be able to show that they had taken all steps reasonable to prevent these accidents in order to get suitable insurance cover and/or some respite from the Courts.

I am rather unconvinced that there are now less accidents at work than there used to be, despite all the rules and regulations and despite all the policies introduced and the never-ending stream of training now virtually compulsory for staff.

If for 'accident' you now say 'offence' then we now have to beware that anything we do might cause offence to someone. By 'do' I also include 'say' as now much offence seems to be taken by some individuals on what we may say or write in conversation or material, even that which is not designed for general publication or hearing. It seems that such 'offence' could be taken by someone in connection with a comment regarding race, belief, colour, gender, sexual orientation, height, weight, age, accent, ability, disability, attire, residence . . . in fact, I am not sure there is anything which might not 'offend' a particular person who is determined to delegate control of their motions to this new attitude of existence.

It is now a hate-crime to do, say, almost think something which another finds offensive, quite regardless of whether there was any reference or direction of a comment or action to that person. That person can report you to the police and the police are duty bound to record the complaint on your record. It seems unnecessary that you are informed of this and if you are not approached by the boys in blue to seek some explanation (not that I can see how that will make any difference to the record anyway) then it remains there for others to see. That next DBS check, for example, or a reference check may well reveal that you have a number of these hate-crimes registered against you and may have a major impact on your ability to be employed, take on a contract or be allowed to rent a property, open an account somewhere.

There are so many minority groups of which someone could claim to belong to and those groups would be the first to support their allegation of 'offence'. We used to talk of 'equal opportunities' but it wasn't long before that was deemed inadequate and we needed to be more specific about which minority group a policy would be introduced for and, almost by implication, not doing the same for another minority group could be seen as ignoring them and the ridiculous spiral of nonsense has been the result we see now.

The 'hate-crime' thing has to be the worst recent development and I cannot imagine how it has managed to become part of British legislation so quickly and, seemingly, without most of the population even being aware it existed. Next on my list of hated, yes, I'll use the word, hated developments is the ridiculous nonsense about a man 'self-declaring' that he is a woman, or vice versa. As a consequence a man goes to a women's jail, can use women's toilets, changing rooms and goodness only knows what else. How the hell did that happen? There can be no doubt about one's biological components: you are either a man or you are a woman. You are a male or you are a female. There is no argument. You may dress differently, prefer to be treated as something different and you may have had all sorts of operations and treatment to attempt to change your physical appearance from one to the other, with varying degrees of success. I maintain that it is quite reasonable to go along with someone being referred to in most circumstances as being of whichever gender they prefer and we have for generations had what we called 'trannies', transsexual people who were men dressing and behaving like women and, to a lesser extent, women dressing and behaving as men. With the exception of those bearing a doctor's certificate that they have completed to a certain degree the physical transformation and/or who have some legal change of reference gender, biological males should not be permitted to use female toilets, changing rooms or similar facilities.

If you're going to talk about 'offence' then surely there would be a real case where one could reasonably expect a woman to be offended by some bloke offering full frontal views to all in the room or, more worrying, not showing any body parts but merely enjoying gazing at those around him. But, no, it seems that I am on the wrong side of the law and should accept that if someone wishes to be considered a man or a woman then so be it. No questions asked. Similarly, a kid at school can claim that they want to be a boy or a girl, with parents seeming to have little say in the matter. Weird or what.

Then we have those who wish to be called non-binary. I think this means they do not wish to be considered as either a man or a woman but merely a person of indeterminate gender. Perhaps the word indeterminate is wrong here as it implies one might actually try to determine, maybe by asking a question or looking closely and that would be offensive and something else to add to your DBS print-out.

There may be other variations but my head is beginning to hurt just trying to explain them to myself, never mind you. I turned to outrightinternational.org for assistance on this. They tell me:
Gender identity refers to a person’s understanding and experience of their own gender. Everyone has a gender identity; for some people, it corresponds with the gender assigned at birth, and for some others, it does not. Gender identities are expansive and do not need to be confined within one collectively agreed-upon term. There is no one authority that dictates the boundaries of gender, except the individual concerned.
Well that could mean anything! You are what you think you are would be a shorter way to put that, I think.
Gender expression refers to the ways in which a person chooses to present their gender to the world around them. This can include clothing, mannerisms, pronouns, names, etc. However, it is important to note that while things like names, clothing, and others can be an intentional part of a person’s gender expression, these things also do not necessarily need to have a gender attached to them. This is to say that a person’s gender identity can sometimes inform a person’s gender expression, but a person’s perceived gender expression does not dictate their gender identity.

OK. Whatever you may be, this is what you give the impression of being. 

Collectively used terminologies can be helpful for societal understanding and acceptance, as well as for advocacy work.

Yup. The lawyers. And give something a name and it exists and is immediately a minority that requires legislation, rules and can take offence even if you've never heard the expression before.

So here we go:
Agender
Agender means that a person identifies as not having a gender. A person who identifies within this term often will consider themselves as either having a type of non-binary gender identity or as not subscribing to any gender identity at all.

Cisgender
Cisgender is commonly used to refer to people who identify exclusively with the gender that they were assigned at birth.

Demigender
Demigender is a term used to partially identify, or feel a connection, to a particular gender. For example, demigirl or demiboy. These identities vary by person but hold in common the fact that there is not a full identification with one gender, only an internal leaning towards it.

Gender Questioning
Gender questioning describes someone who is questioning all or parts of their gender (identity or expression) and does not wish to identify themselves to a specific gender identity.

Gender Fluid
Gender fluid, like gender questioning, is a term that can be used to describe a person’s gender identity, expression, or both. Gender fluid describes a person who moves fluidly between genders, or whose gender shifts over time.

Genderqueer
Genderqueer describes a gender identity that can not be defined as exclusively masculine or feminine. Genderqueer people experience their gender in all unique ways (hence the name). The impossibility of defining the term is part of its appeal for people who identify as genderqueer. The identity can include elements of feminine, masculine, or non-binary identities, or none of these. In part, it can be seen as a rejection of association with a label.

Intergender
Intergender describes a gender identity that is a mix of both masculine and feminine identities. Intergender is not the same as Intersex. Intersex people can identify within any gender identity or expression.

Multi-gender
Multi-gender describes people who hold more than one gender identity. This can be further specified by bigender, trigender, etc.

Non-Binary
Non-Binary is widely used to describe a gender identity that can not be categorised as masculine or feminine. Non-Binary people experience their gender in all different ways. It could be experienced as a combination of male and female, neither male nor female, nor something completely independent of notions of conventional gender identities. Non-Binary is an expansive umbrella term, and many gender identities discussed in this article fall under it.

Pangender
Pangender is a gender identity where a person identifies as all, or many, gender identities. This is similar to Polygender, although Polygender is more limited.

Transgender/Trans
Transgender is used to describe any person who has a gender identity that is different from the gender that they were assigned at birth.

Androgyne/Gender Neutral
Someone who expresses themselves in such a way that they do not wish to be perceived as any one gender.

Boi/Boy/Tomboy
These terms describe someone who expresses themselves in a way that is traditionally described as “boyish.”

Butch/masc
Butch, or masc, describes someone who expresses themselves in a way that is traditionally considered “masculine.” While commonly used by female members of the LGBTIQ community, the term can be, and is, used by everyone.

Femme
Femme is used by people who express themselves in a way that is traditionally perceived as “feminine.” Femme can also be used as a gender identity, but it is most commonly used as a term to describe an expression.

Gender Nonconforming
While occasionally used as a gender identity, gender nonconforming is most commonly used to describe a gender expression that is different from cultural stereotypes associated with that person’s perceived gender or their gender assigned at birth.

Māhū
Māhūs, of indigenous Hawaiian and Tahitian culture, are people who embodied both male and female spirits. These people were often given honorific roles, as their fluidity was seen as a form of spiritual liberation.

Bissu
In Indonesia, the Bissu are priests who either present as male with a female spirit, or vice versa. Their duality of gender allows them to serve as a conductor of spirits, hence their role as priests.

Khawaja Sira
Specific to Pakistan, although close in relation to other cultural third genders in the region, the Khawaja Sira are people who do not identify as male or female and have been seen as “chosen people,” with the ability to give curses or blessings. They commonly serve as gurus.

Two-Spirit
Two-Spirit is a cultural third gender used amongst over 150 indigenous tribes across North America. While the word varied prior to colonization, the meaning remained the same. Two-Spirit individuals refer to people assigned male at birth who go through special rituals to determine if they also hold a female spirit. Similar to other indigenous cultural third genders, Two-Spirit people held an honoured role in their societies.

I think it will be pretty obvious that all these new terms, that we're supposed to know and write policies about and avoid causing offence to anyone who says they are one of these, are just ways of saying either I am a man or I am a woman or I don't know/don't care. So I'll treat those who are or seem to be a man as a man, those who are or seem to be a woman as a woman and sod the others. I mean, if you don't know what you are then it's a bit rich to expect us to know how to treat you. Well do our best but don't expect miracles and don't demand some special policy to be developed for you.

They go on to say that "this is certainly not a complete list, and sadly, many cultural third genders were erased after colonisation spread a strictly binary view of gender". Looks like us rotten English people screwed up some chances of a third gender amongst our other dreadful sins in the past". Third genders?? Good grief? What's that?

Then we have the matter of colour. You can say someone is a person of colour but not that they're coloured. Good luck with that. If your black then you're black and it seems you have to be proud that you're black and you can say you're black but I may be in trouble for saying that you're black. I get into even more trouble by criticising Black Lives Matter, an organisation which achieved almost God-like status and could not be referred to in any other than a positive way without one being regarded as racist and, ping, another entry on the criminal record at the cop shop.


From Douglas Murray, writing in the New York Post:
One year ago the details of BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors’s real-estate empire emerged. She owned four homes and seemed to be shopping for more. And this month we found that BLM, funded by well-meaning gullible folk who gave generously to the cause, bought a $5.8 million California mansion.

And from Taki in The Spectator:

Far more important than the facts of BLM co-founder’s riches are some facts revealed by the Brit canary in the coal mine. Here’s what Douglas had to say in a nutshell: left-wing papers like the NY Times and Bezos-owned Washington Post, plus CNN and MSNBC, pretend that racism is a pandemic and unarmed black people in America are killed with impunity by the cops. Among liberals, 40 per cent believe the figure is between 1,000 and 10,000 annually. The actual number in 2019 was about ten. For any of you who failed maths at school, as I did, the big lie by the lefty media simply multiplies the number by 1,000. Just think of it for a moment. Platforms supposed to objectively inform the public leave them misinformed a thousand-fold in order to discredit the police, and to convince the world that Uncle Sam is a racist beast.

So please don't ask me to donate or in any way support that organisation or take the knee as so many of our leaders and otherwise respected people did, mostly because they felt obliged to, especially with the amazing slew of propaganda that dreadful organisation managed to produce. 

I remember trying to get the Academic Board at Dunstable College in the late 1990s to reduce a massive and unwieldy Equal Opportunities Policy to one simple and readily understandable sentence. "We will endeavour to treat all staff and students with respect and provide opportunities  for everyone, whatever their background, religion, beliefs, gender, race or physical or mental impairments". They opted instead for a 40 page document which no-one ever read after the meeting and which was, itself, based on a draft from another College which was a copy from another institution . . . and originally a Department of Education suggestion. Since then the DofE and their subsequent re-inventions have been busy.

All this has happened under a Conservative government! This is the stuff of the loony left but they were supposedly thrashed and sent packing with Corbyn. Clearly not. Or maybe now it is of no matter who is in Government. The power to affect our lives is now in the hands of those 30-somethings on committees left, right and centre, well, left mostly, in schools, councils, local government, nationalised bodies, quangos and so-called minority groups. I fear that it has all gone far too far and there is little hope of normal life ever returning. These people are everywhere, usually female, from one or other minority group loud, good debaters with quick put-down lines for anyone opposing them at meetings and definitely not Conservative or in any way supportive of the elected Government. In fact one wonders who gave them the power they do have. They were almost all not elected but appointed. Probably by some manager anxious to tick a box.

I would very much like to see a massive rebellion against all things woke. Let us return to being the normal, mostly decent and caring people that the British are and always have been. We can show you that we do not need legislation to treat people the same. We'll show you that it is quite natural to prefer the company of some people than others, that we work better with some than others and not something anyone should be offended by. We can tell jokes and will more than often laugh more at ourselves than at others. Idiots will say things they shouldn't but there is little actual offence taken when people joke about white people or Christian religion but we run the risk of being beheaded if a white person even tries to explain a joke about a black person or a certain Islamic religious bloke. Maybe a brown person would be in trouble too, I don't know. But i do know a teacher in the West Midlands is still in hiding several months after trying merely to tell his class about the dreadful killing of staff in a French publishing agency and encourage debate about the images.

I really do not know what has happened to this country. Do you? Read on. 

Here are the 517 officially-recommended policies, which may or may not cover all you need. [Acknowledgements to policiesforschools.co.uk]


Safeguarding and Welfare of Children School Policies
  • Acceptable Internet Use and Agreement Policy
  • Administering Medicines Policy
  • Advocates and Independent Visitors Policy
  • Anti-Bullying Policy
  • Anti-Cyber Bullying Policy
  • Anti-Violence, Aggressive and Anti-social Behaviour Policy
  • Child Sexual Exploitation Policy
  • Child Gone Missing On or Off Site Policy
  • Confidentiality Policy
  • Dealing with Extremism and Radicalisation Policy (Prevent Duty)
  • Dealing with Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence
  • Designated Teacher for Looked After and previously Looked After Children Policy
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Checks Policy
  • Domestic Abuse and Operation Encompass Policy
  • Drones Over-Flying the School Policy
  • Eating Disorders Policy
  • Educational Visits Policy
  • Educational Visits and Terrorist Incidents Policy
  • E-Safety Policy
  • Emergency School Lockdown Policy
  • FGM Policy
  • Intimate Care Policy
  • Intruders Policy
  • Knife Crime Policy
  • Looked After Children Policy
  • Mobile Phone Safety and Acceptable Use Policy
  • Online Code of Conduct for Students Policy
  • Online Code of Conduct for Teachers Policy
  • Online Safeguarding for an Online School Policy
  • Parent and Community Use of Social Media Policy
  • Photographic and Video Images Policy
  • Positive Handling (Restraint of Pupils) Policy
  • Private Fostering Policy
  • Pupil Behaviour and Discipline Policy
  • Safeguarding and Child Protection Part 1 of 4 Policy
  • Safeguarding and Child Protection Part 2 of 4 Roles and Responsibilities Policy
  • Safeguarding Child Protection Policy Part 3 of 4 Recognising the signs of Abuse and Neglect Policy
  • Safeguarding Child Protection Policy Part 4 of 4 Safeguarding Procedures Policy
  • Safe Physical Contact with Pupils Policy
  • Safer Recruitment, Retention and the Single Central Record Policy
  • School Personnel Code of Conduct Policy
  • School Security Policy
  • School Trips Policy
  • Searching, Screening and Confiscation Policy
  • Self-Harm Policy
  • Sick Child Policy
  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Policy
  • Students on Placement Policy
  • Supervision of Pupils Policy
  • Supporting Children with Health Needs who cannot attend School Policy
  • Supporting Pupils with Long-Term Medical Conditions Policy
  • Troubled and Vulnerable Children Policy
  • Uncollected Child Policy
  • Visitors, Visiting Speakers and Contractors Policy
  • Whistle Blowing Policy
Statutory School Policies
  • Admission and Attendance Registers Policy
  • Admissions Policy
  • Anti-Bullying Policy
  • Attendance and Truancy Policy
  • Biometric Data Protection Policy
  • Charges, Voluntary Contributions, Remissions and Refunds Policy
  • Collective Worship Policy
  • Community Cohesion Policy
  • Complaints Policy
  • Conditions of Service Policy
  • Data Protection and the General Data Protection Regulation Policy
  • Data Protection Procedures Policy
  • Dealing with Allegations against the Headteacher, Teaching and Support Staff, Supply Teachers, School Volunteers and Contractors Policy
  • Disability Equality Scheme and Disability Accessibility Plan for Pupils Policy
  • Disciplinary Procedure Policy
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Checks Policy
  • Equality and Diversity Policy
  • Fire Safety Policy
  • Freedom of Information Policy
  • Governors’ Allowances Policy
  • Grievance Procedure Policy
  • Home-School Agreement Policy
  • Instrument of Government Policy
  • Liaison and Transition Policy
  • Minutes of Governing Body Meetings Policy
  • No Smoking Policy
  • Performance Management Policy
  • Positive Handling (Restraint of Pupils) Policy
  • Pupil Behaviour and Discipline Policy
  • Pupil Exclusion Policy
  • Register of Business Interests of Headteacher and Governors Policy
  • Relations Education, Sex Education and Health Education Policy
  • Risk Management and Risk Assessment Policy
  • Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy
  • School Council Policy
  • School Prospectus Policy
  • School Staff Pay Appeals Policy
  • School Website Policy
  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Policy
  • Staff Capability Policy
  • Supporting Pupils with Long-Term Medical Conditions
  • Teachers’ and Support Pay Policy
School Health and Safety Policies
  • Accidents and Emergencies Policy
  • Administering Medicines Policy
  • Alcohol and Drugs Misuse Policy
  • Allergies Policy
  • Asbestos Policy
  • Asthma Policy
  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Policy
  • Communicable Diseases Policy
  • COSHH Policy
  • Diabetes Policy
  • Display Screen Equipment Policy
  • Disposal of Nappies and Personal Protective Equipment Policy
  • Educational Visits Policy
  • Educational Visits and Terrorist Incidents Policy
  • Electrical Safety Policy
  • Emergency School Lockdown Policy
  • Epilepsy Policy
  • Fire Safety Policy
  • Health and Safety Part I of 3 Policy
  • Health and Safety Part 2 of 3 – The Curriculum Policy
  • Health and Safety Part 3 of 3 – Safe Procedures Policy
  • Legionnaires’ Disease Policy
  • Lone Workers Policy
  • Management of Health and Safety Regulations Policy
  • Manual Handling Policy
  • Medical and First Aid Policy
  • New and Expectant Mothers at Work Policy
  • Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Policy
  • PE Safety Policy
  • Portable Appliance Testing Policy
  • Premises Manager Policy
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Policy
  • Risk Management and Risk Assessment Policy
  • Road Safety Policy
  • School Crisis Management Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Arson Attack Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Asbestos Disturbance Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Bomb Threat Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Chemical or Biological Contamination Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Child Gone Missing Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Communicable or Infectious Diseases Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Dangerous Weapons in School Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Evacuation of the School Building Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Flooding Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Gas Leak Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Outbreak of Fire Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Physical Assault on Pupils or School Person Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Re-Occupation of the School Building Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Road Accident Policy
  • School Crisis Management – School Security Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Severe Storm Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Severe Weather Warning Policy
  • School Disaster Recovery Policy
  • School Minibus Policy
  • School Toilets Policy
  • School Transport Policy
  • Sick Child Policy
  • Sharps, Blades, Needles and Syringes Policy
  • Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents Policy
  • Smoke Free School Environment Policy
  • Stress Management Policy
  • Swimming Safety
  • Traffic Management Policy
  • Travel Code Policy
  • Voice Care Policy
  • Working at Height Policy
  • Workplace Environment Policy
School Improvement School Policies
  • Assessment Policy
  • Classroom Observations Policy
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Friday, April 22

Ukraine, nearly two months later . . .


In my previous post I noted how I had learned that Ukraine men would fight and not give up easily but, nevertheless, expected that, by now an unpleasant situation would have arisen with Russia trying to run the country, businesses reluctantly trading as part of the Russian economy but those who chose not to fight accepting that life needs to go on and secretly hoping that there would be an opportunity to put things 'right' again once more decent leaders took over at the Kremlin. I expected that there would be a large number of military people still actively disrupting Russia's attempts to run things, with varying degrees of success. In some cities and towns I could imagine resistance being particularly effective and there being little impact from the invader's presence other than it being a thorn in the nation's pride. In others resistance is troublesome but no match for Russia's supposed superior numbers and general might.

I was quite wrong again. 

What has transpired is absolutely appalling, dreadful and downright evil behaviour by Russia's troops who, at the same time, have achieved very little. Indeed, at the time of writing, Russian troops have been taken out of all areas apart from the Donbas region in the East and along the South coast areas. Russia failed miserably to take any towns or cities other than some small areas in the East where there had been fighting and no real success by either side since 2014. Aided by a great deal of equipment, training and resources from other countries, the Ukraine fighters have achieved a lot and surprised everyone.

Whilst the bravery of Ukraine men and some fortuitous supplies and assistance here and there has prevented Russia from taking control of anywhere, Russian bombardments, missiles and general destructive activities have destroyed vast swathes of towns and cities in the East and South. Kharkiv looks wretched, once a large, vibrant and pretty city. Mariupol looks like something from an apocalyptic movie, almost every building either flattened or blackened, scarred by an extraordinary amount of bombs and missiles. Many other towns look almost as bad - even outskirts of Kyiv have been badly damaged and we now read reports not only of residential property being blasted out of existence but the people living there too, nearly all women, children and old folk who either chose or had to stay, also being killed - shot, many executed after being tortured or subjected to the cruellest of degrading acts by the invaders.

However much one tries to understand the reason for Russia wanting to take control over this area, this destruction and wanton killing is almost completely incomprehensible. What is the point of destroying infrastructure, resources, factories, food production, power generation, civilians? If you wish to steal a neighbour's car a normal person certainly wouldn't dream of wrecking it first. If you wanted their house, a normal person wouldn't dream of destroying its roof and walls and its contents. What has happened there is more like one of two things: a sort of punishment, revenge for such successful resistance and the massive loss of life and equipment experienced by the Russians, much like a mother might in the old days have whacked her child if he didn't behave as she wants, or as a bully beats up some kid who refuses to part with a toy, or could it be simply that Russia just doesn't care and if vast swathes of Ukraine become ugly, concrete-strewn dusty fields over the years then so be it. They simply don't care.

I feel it is a bit of both but mostly the former with two types of individual doing the damage. The first type is the frightened and very inexperienced young Russian boy with a gun in his hand or weapon at his disposal. Faced with resistance he just fires as one might in a video game. Shooting first and asking questions later does make some sense to this kid. He is scared, he's seen many of his colleagues blown up in tanks stuck in the mud or troops killed, cornered by Ukraine military and he reckons he may be next so he shoots whoever is approaching him. He probably has no idea of the procedure he'd have to follow in taking a prisoner, never mind a bunch of prisoners. They may only have been six or seven old women shouting at him but he simply had no idea what to do. So he shoots them. And the little girl that was with them. That I can understand although that doesn't in any way excuse it, of course. What I can't understand is the rape and torture and execution of people with their hands tied behind their backs. That's a different story altogether and shows some sort of planned intent, not just an instant defensive reaction.

And that's where the second type come in. The more experienced fighters brought in to support the Russian army from Chechnya, Syria and other countries. These men are tough and used to war and know how to win skirmishes and don't panic or just react blindly or stupidly. They'll have decided what to do and just go in and do it. If they need information about where Ukraine fighters may be hiding then they'll get it one way or another. If they just fancy the look of a pretty girl, or boy, I suppose too, then they'll take what they can get as no-one's going to stop them. They rule the roost but are no chickens. In many ways they may prove to be the worst aspect of the whole thing when bodies start to be counted and stories begin to be told. I doubt they're operating under any guidance other than the most loosely-worded instructions to take a town, village or factory.

The Russian forces themselves have been pretty useless but these mercenaries and some groups, like the Wagner Group, are the ones who have caused the real damage. They don't care. It's not of interest to them who lives or who dies, What remains or is destroyed.

Add to the equation the missiles fired from distant fields which have landed in almost every town, ostensibly to destroy some military targets but, in practice, merely destroying hundreds of homes instead and you have a recipe for this dreadful scene which we now can see unfolding.

Forces backing Russia - I can't honestly say Russian troops - now do appear to be likely to take some sort of control over who goes where in the Donbas region and, to a lesser extent, along the South coast from Mariupol to Odessa. 

I suspect that Putin might like now to stop and claim that he has taken these two tracts of Ukraine and ended the 2014 project in the East successfully and effectively closed off Ukraine's economy by sealing off access to the sea through ports in the South, as well as opening a corridor through to Transnistria in Moldova, which has been pretty much cut off to date. Whilst not exactly a defeat of Ukraine by any stretch of the imagination, this could be presented in an uplifting and meaningful way to justify what the Russian people must be beginning to see has been more than some military exercises, or whatever terms the Kremlin insisted media use instead of war or fighting, killing, bombing or destruction. He could probably hope to get away with this and no-one would ask about the earlier huge losses or many thousands of young Russians dead.

This might even be seen as a way to bring some sort of  'peace' in the country. Ukraine people thus expected to brush themselves down, fighters to put down their guns and people who ran away to return to the places that remain Ukraine and start rebuilding property, infrastructure and lives.

But no, this is not going to happen. Putin may well make 'success achieved in the South and East' his message (and hope people forget his earlier statement of intent, de-militarisation and de-Nazification) but only Russians will be listening and only Russians will be foolish enough to believe him. The rest of the world will not accept Russia simply walking away and pretending nothing untoward happened. For 'untoward' read 'criminal'. That's what Russian-supporting forces have been in many, many instances already and, I fear, there are plenty more yet to be documented and even more offences to be committed and atrocities enacted, either planned, in revenge or in desperation. Ukraine will continue to fight in every single place. They will receive more weapons, more training, more money and, I do believe more actual manpower and military support too, and we will see some more terrible scenes but we will also see Ukraine gradually retake all the ground it has lost and a very different outcome to that which anyone might have expected.

There may ultimately be an area to the East and in the Crimea where some independent control is instigated for a period. Over time the people in these areas will be able to determine for themselves how they are governed - by Moscow or by Kyiv or even by themselves. Russia's actions of late, however, cannot have made the Moscow Option more likely - which just goes to emphasise the stupidity of the whole affair.

For Ukraine elsewhere, though, there will eventually be a remarkable sense of achievement when it does come to the end. There will be an absolutely massive amount of work to do to rebuild the bricks and mortar but that can be done in a positive manner and I believe there will be plenty of financial support to help this happen and to happen quickly. Cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol, as well as countless others we know little about today but which will have been badly damaged, will need to be redesigned in some cases, with the opportunity to take advantage of new techniques in materials and design and cityscape generally which will be fascinating to watch and, I'm sure, for many residents to become part of.

With Russian influence considerably diminished, Ukraine should benefit from the desire of Europe to assist and welcome them into a trading fold, although I don't see much chance of EU membership for a while. Their economy will need to improve very much and there are many questions about how they manage banking and finances generally, with a tendency to corruption in the past amongst rather too many of those in positions of influence and power. They won't get into NATO either but let's just say that I don't see NATO being fooled again by any future Russia moves.

Russia itself will be a much poorer and rather unwanted country, much like some of its neighbours like Kyrgystan or Tajistan, perhaps, which were also members of the USSR, like Russia and Ukraine had been. We seldom see or hear much of these places now. Russia is a vast geographical state, though, and no doubt will try to be heard but whether we believe what it says, or even want to listen, depends a lot on the extent to which it changes over the years. Russian people will have a hard time in any discussions with the rest of us as they will take some time to come to terms with the total deceit to which they were subjected by their leaders and media. Parents in Russia refuse to believe adult children in Ukraine about what happens now in 2022 and it will be very difficult for any of them to admit that they were wrong. Few people will want to visit or deal with Russia whilst it maintains its silence and lies about events this year. How can we go if we find ourselves arrested for talking about it? At the moment even talking to each other about it could land us in trouble, never mind actually trying to tell residents there the truth! How can anyone do business if every email or phone call is subject to a similar test? I hope no-one, either because they really want to see some Russian scene or because they want to trade there, allows themselves to be gagged and accepts the restrictions which I expect to remain for some considerable time yet. No, leave Russia to stew. Any Russian people who are prepared to listen and accept the facts of 2022 are welcome here and I hope that more and more do leave the country of repression and of no freedom. 

Russia once so proud will soon be a mere shadow of its former self and no amount of parades or holidays celebrating this or that military event will make any difference. Russia will soon be dead. RIP Russia. Long live Ukraine.

All of this is my hope, of course. That is all. I may, again, be proved completely wrong and some very different outcome emerges. This may drag on for years with just enough support from us to keep Russia at bay in most parts but not enough to push them back. That does require us, or someone, actively to get involved. We need to grasp the nettle of war to end this quickly and achieve maximum advantage for Ukraine. We need to put ourselves at some risk of being hit by a missile from somewhere a little north west of Moscow. Every single person in Ukraine at this very moment is subject to that very same risk. We cannot hold our hands to our faces and peep through our fingers any longer. There is a monster. We don't like it but it needs to be defeated and Ukraine is a little kid in its grip who will cease to exist if we just turn away and hope someone else does what we dare not.

So, yes, there are still many different ways that this can end. I know which way I'll vote for.