I don’t know about you, but I am constantly distracted. Not, I hasten to point out, in the sense of Mrs Bennett, making declarations of distraction and waving my arms about to attract the attention of anyone who might be in the vicinity, not that sort of distraction, no. No, I mean the sort of distraction where I set out to do one thing, and end up getting sucked into doing another. It’s why tidying the house is such a trial – and also why I seem to be on a constant journey of surprise.
The other day it was diaries. I can’t remember why it was that I was digging through the drawers in my desk (it belonged to my grandma who got it from my great-uncle and has excellently capacious drawers in which to keep all manner of randomly stuffed in stuff) (I think it had something to do with maps) and I came across a small stack of my teenaged diaries.
Unlike me, my mum is a committed diarist. She has years worth of them, and I, as a young teen, was impressed by this fact and decided that I would do the same. I have several years of them (well, three) and they all end in about March – the time when I got bored and gave up writing them (I know, I know, it can’t possibly be because I had little to say, I hear you cry). What remains are fragments, glimpses of my former self, snatches of my inner world, preserved and forgotten until that moment when I stumble upon them and find myself remembering that book (but definitely not that test or that argument that I didn’t want to write about, the pages crossed out and blank) or that item of clothing I seemed so obsessed by (but not the blue gloves; what the blue gloves were I have no idea).
Despite my inability to keep a written record of my life, I find it hard to chuck them out. I’ve always loved at least the idea of diaries; during my teenage years my parents bought me several, one of which I loved so much it never made its way into the capacious drawer. Even today, it sits proudly on the bookshelf, partnering my other Books from That Era (or, in other words, Books I Can’t Quite Bear to Throw Away). It is a diary from the TV series ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, and I keep it on the shelf (having given up writing in it in about March) because there is so much in it to read, and, if you like that sort of thing (which I did, aged 14), to amuse.
I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan, but I loved ‘Yes, Prime Minster’, back in the day. I enjoyed the verbal repartee, the long, convoluted speeches from Sir Humphrey and above all, the polite warfare between the Civil Service and their political masters. Margaret Thatcher, if legend be true, was known for loving it too (I hasten to point out that I share Very Little with the late ex-Prime Minister), for its realism, despite its comedy. A politer, less frenetic Thick of It for a different age.
It’s this little story, though, the tale of Thatcher and her love for the series and its forerunner, Yes Minister, that makes me pause. Could this comedy, with its depiction of the battle between an older, post-war consensual age and a newer, brasher, why-not, infant neo-liberalism, be more influential, more on the money than we might like to think?
Now, again, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing some edu-reading lately, in preparation for writing my submission to the latest in educational enquiries, and I had a bit of a moment. I’ve been going on about it for a while, this business of Accountability As We Know it being damaging to education in this country, damaging to teachers and certainly damaging to the principles of inclusion and children in general, and in my mind I made a connection.
I remember the Education Reform Act. Not the Act itself, I was only 16 and way more interested in INXS at the time, but I was in the first cohort of children to sit the GCSE. I carried the first National Curriculum home to my student room when I started my PGCE. I sat with my new boss, when I started to teach properly, and chatted about Local Management of Schools, and what this might mean. I saw what happened to my old village school when the fashion changed, and everyone decided to send their kids to the other side of the valley because reasons.
It all sounded terribly familiar. When you watch it, it sounds so funny, so light, so fresh, so reasonable. The tragedy would be that it was a joke made flesh.