A little catch-up

I’VE been away for a few days, so time for a little catch-up:

* FIRST off, farewell Tony Benn, of which so many words have already been shared since his death on Friday that it almost seems futile to add any more. But the story of his speaking tour of 2008 and its arrival at the Bloomsbury Theatre still raises a smile. For some reason or another, Camden Council saw fit to give Mr Benn dispensation to smoke on stage while he fielded questions about his life and philosophies. The smoking ban was little more than a year old but he got special treatment. When he nipped backstage, however, to grab his pipes – three of them – he discovered they had been stolen. “I would be grateful if anyone has taken them to keep an eye on them for safe keeping,” he said, forgivingly. Half a decade later, the TB originals have yet to emerge on eBay.
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* SCRUFFY teachers, there’s a New Journal story that really took off, the Ofsted criticism of some teachers at Acland Burghley was swiped by most national newspapers and our local TV stations. Slightly embarrassing this, though, a couple of posts back I held up Educating Yorkshire‘s Matthew Burton as a slightly-scruffy teacher who had shown the classroom miracles he can achieve regardless of whether his tie is done up properly. And yet as the debate hit the Observer on Sunday, Burton himself used his op-ed piece to insist it was important to stay smart at the chalkboard. “It would be patronising to ask a child to put their tie on, tuck their shirt in, swap their trainers for shoes or chinos for trousers if I were flouncing around the corridors in a Juicy Couture velour leisure suit and a pair of Crocs,” he wrote. “The expectations of a teacher’s appearance is bundled together in the wider issue of ‘professional standards’, and although I dig a fancy sock, a skinny tie, and on occasion, battle weary after a long day at the coal face, my tie may slip down, I will always make a conscious effort to dress professionally.” Oops, soz. 

* I WAS actually on a schools job earlier month – best not to name which school – and we were taken to a classroom of primary children sweetly singing Alice The Camel, a song about a camel which loses its humps until its a horse that I hadn’t heard before. Apparently, it’s well known. This may sound a little a bit out of left-field but watch and listen to it on YouTube, surely I am not the only person in the whole world who mishears the lyrics as ‘Alastair Campbell has five humps, Alastair Campbell has four humps…’ It does though, doesn’t it?

*THE Twitpic war has begun ahead of May’s council elections: the Conservatives, for example, tweeted this picture of what they identified as a pile of Lib Dem leaflets dumped in a West Hampstead bin.

* ON the subject of Camden’s Conservatives, the hunt is on for the mole who licked the Daily Telegraph’s diary page with details of what Nadine Dorries said to one of their party soirees in Hampstead and Kilburn. The result was a rather convoluted piece about UKIP and Weight Watchers which made the evening sound far more boring than it surely was.

* AN insight into what goes on at Camden Council’s citizenship ceremonies held at the Town Hall was supplied by award-winning author Kamila Shamsie in an article for the Guardian – and it’s all, apparently, very “American”. Ms Shamsie, who was brought up in Karachi, explains: “There was a picture of the Queen in her tiara set against a large Union Jack. I might have laughed out loud. It seemed so American: the smiling portrait, all those flags and then someone pressed play on a CD player and classical music filled the room. I want to say it was like The Ride Of The Valkyries but this seems so over the top that it must be a novelist’s imagination.

* RICHARD Caring is reportedly selling his stake in Camden Market a decade after investing. Truth be told, the newspaper upset him when he first invested and the months that follow which saw people were worried about how the Stables would be re-developed. He doesn’t give many interviews, so we found ourselves trying to ‘door-knock’ him in Hampstead. You can see a snip of the piece below and how we met his ‘barking Alsations and a golden retriever’ at the gates. It was a bizarre time, looking back. There was one of the country’s richest men ringing up the New Journal’s offices on the day it came out to personally outline his displeasure in no uncertain terms. He had a point: we had made a mistake on whether the Stables Market arches were going to be wholly pulled down and in retrospect, while I’m not personally a giant fan of the horse sculptures, the millions of visitors still seem to love the way it looks down there. We later agreed to meet the architects and put things right, and with relations warmer, he signed off with a joke about not coming to his house again or he’d set the golden retriever on us. Fair enough, I thought.




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