Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

David Lammy doesn’t know the law on smacking children

MP David Lammy posing with an early medieval s...

Don't know what he's holding - hope he doesn't smack any kids with it.

UPDATE : Since clicking the ‘Publish’ button I spotted the article on Liberal Conspiracy which covers pretty much the same ground as this article – Give it a read, there’s a link at the bottom.

The Daily Mail in this article on David Lammy MP’s recent comments regarding the smacking of children, Labour MP: Smacking ban led to riots because parents fear children will be taken away if they discipline them perhaps goes overboard a little. I can’t help but feel though that David intended his words to precipitate just this kind of reaction – and I’m unsurprised by the Mail’s interpretation of his words. They may have got it a little wrong, but this gist of it is probably bang on.

I’m not going to argue about whether it’s right or wrong to smack children, or whether those of us who have been smacked as children are more or less likely to riot than those of us who were not.

I would like to set the record straight on what the Mail calls “The ban on smacking children” though

The Mail article states :

The Children Act of 2004, introduced by Tony Blair’s Government, removed the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’, meaning injuries as slight as a bruise can result in an assault charge. Guilty parents can be jailed for up to five years.

While Mr Lammy, (in his on-line web-chat for Mumsnet, says)

Parents in Tottenham continually raise with me the real pressures of raising children for example on the 15th floor of a tower block with knives, gangs and the dangers of violent crime just outside the window they say they no longer feel sovereign in their own homes and the ability to exercise their own judgement in relation to discipline and reasonable chastisement has been taken away from them. Its too easy for middle class legislators to be far removed from the realities of the typical single mum struggling with these issues and so in that context in the book I do say that we should return to the law as it existed for 150 years before it was changed in 2004.

The legislation currently talks about “a reddening of the skin” not completely sure how this applies to my own children! Previously the courts determined whether parents had used “reasonable chastisement” or “excessive force”.

So what’s the truth of the matter ?

Well the Children Act 2004 is apparently the relevant piece of legislation (to a point) http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/31/section/58 . It does remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement” in cases where a parent or guardian is accused of wounding, causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm or cruelty to persons less than 16 years of age.

The defence is retained though where a charge of common assault is made. This would be an assault which resulted only in bodily harm – not “actual bodily harm”. This is a lesser charge.

The statement in the Mail is misleading – an assault which caused a bruise, would have caused actual bodily harm – it would not therefore be merely an assault.

The key expression here though is “actual bodily harm”. What does it mean ?

The Children Act 2004 does not redefine this. It simply states the existing law. That’s right David, the one from over 100 years ago. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/24-25/100 –  specifically section 47 of the Act which has been interpreted by lawyers for a long time as meaning that :

Common Assault is one which causes only actual bodily harm – for example it might be a smack which leaves a mark, but which quickly fades, and is only transient.

Other assaults are more serious – as they involve ‘actual bodily harm’ – which although perhaps not permanent, has more than a merely transient duration such as a bruise, or a scratch.

The reference to “reddening of the skin” is used in the Crown Prosecution Service’s guidance on applying this law. http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/research/chastisement.html

The Charging Standard states that for minor assaults committed by an adult upon a child that result in injuries such as grazes, scratches, abrasions, minor bruising, swelling, superficial cuts or a black eye, the appropriate charge will normally be ABH for which the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ is no longer available.

However, if the injury amounts to no more than reddening of the skin, and the injury is transient and trifling, a charge of common assault may be laid against the defendant for whom the reasonable chastisement defence remains available to parents or adults acting in loco parentis.

Although this guidance is very influential it is not a definitive statement of the law. It is not as Mr Lammy says “legislation”  and in any case is used to clarify a law drafted in 1861 – the one which David Lammy wishes to return to – a time when relatively few people with black skin lived in the United Kingdom, and it was perhaps unsurprising that generalising statements were made. (I have unfortunately seen quite a few black children with reddened skin as well, but let’s not get sidetracked).

So to clarify if you have been accused of hitting a child in such a way that you’ve cut them or bruised them, then the defence that “I was only disciplining my own child as I believe any good parent should”  just will not wash – it’s no defence.

If however you’re accused of hitting a child in such a way that you’ve not left any mark that lasts longer than a few minutes (which presumably includes the red hand mark I remember vividly from my own childhood) – then you can say exactly that “I smacked my child because he was being naughty” – it is still legally a valid defence. It would be up to a jury, or magistrates to decide whether you were guilty. If indeed you were ever prosecuted.

The fact is that the Children’s Act, Section 58 is quite clearly NOT a ban on smacking. What it is though is a clear statement that smacking is also NOT something which would cause “actual bodily harm” to a child. Quite right too – Although the Mail talks of “injuries as slight as a bruise” – just ask yourself (especially if you’ve been smacked by your parents, or smacked a child yourself) – just how hard do you have to smack a child in order to leave a bruise ? I promise you, the hand print I mentioned earlier, left quite a mark on my memory – but it sure as hell left nothing to show for it on my leg.

The Children’s Act doesn’t take away any other defences either – so if you find yourself on the 15th floor of a block of flats and your 15 year old is coming at you with a knife, your defence is not going to be “I slapped him because he was being a tad rebellious” – it is going to be “I acted in self defence because I thought he was going to stab me”

So there is no smacking ban.

This stuff is easy to look up.

It’s even easier for David Lammy MP. That’s because he is a barrister. A man with a first class honours degree in Law.

Well you could have fooled me David.

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Family, politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Recipe for Hemicrania Continua

Around six years ago, my wife started getting excruciating headaches for no apparent reason.

Bromo-Seltzer advertisement for headache medic...

Unfortunately Bromo Seltzer didn't manage to quite get my wife into a ta ra ra boom de ay frame of mind

They seemed to be non-stop, and whatever she took for them, they never disappeared completely.

Six years later they still haven’t disappeared, and my wife, now out of work, disabled, and almost always in pain because of a condition diagnosed as Hemicrania Continua, is due to be admitted for surgery on Wednesday of this week, in a bid to alleviate her difficulties.

I’m hoping to blog about this over the next few days and weeks to let people know how she gets on, how our family gets on, and to bring her disabling condition – Hemicrania Continua – to the attention of a wider audience – that they may understand it more thoroughly, and hopefully help society become better disposed towards helping people who have it.

So what is Hemicrania Continua ?

Well the dry medical definition is that Hemicrania – or HC – is a rare form of “primary headache” – that is a headache for which no cause can be found – it is that it is. (and if that sounds as if it doesn’t make much sense then do please tell my wife about it !). It’s related to other forms of primary headache conditions such as Cluster Headache – CH . Cluster Headache is usually several extremely severe headaches coming rapidly one after another in a very short time. Although attacks can be very frequent, or perhaps not so frequent, there are periods of respite in between.  Hemicrania is a usually a left sided constant bi-lateral headache – it’s down one side of the head only and may vary in intensity, but is usually ever present. It’s a disabling condition, many sufferers have to give up their jobs, and medication used to treat it can cause a large number of side-effects – some of them very unpleasant.

I could – and will – tell you more about HC  later – but for the time being I’ll leave you with this recipe for Hemicrania Continua from Liz – a Hemicrania Continua sufferer who posts on the Ouch website – Ouch is the Organisation for the Understanding of Cluster Headache – and acts as an umbrella group for all rare headache conditions. Please do visit their site.

Here’s the recipe :

Recipe for Hemicrania Continua

Take some labour pain – increase the strength a little

Add: a burning sensation
a strong feeling of weakness
nausea
some vomiting
sensitivity to light and sound
blocked nose on affected side
blurred vision
slurred speech
drooped and watery eye on affected side

Stir well

Now pull the pain through the corner of your left eye until it goes right through your head so you can feel the pain of it coming out the other side.

Send stabs of strong sharp pain through the top of your head from time to time.

Boil well for at least 72 hours

Simmer for 12-24 hours

Boil again for 12-24 hours

Simmer again for a few hours

Boil again for 12 hours

Repeat this for the rest of your life occasionally swapping sides.

Oh by the way, I forgot to say, while you are doing this you must cook, clean and shop for yourself and go out to work.

Does that sound like fun ?  No ? That’s right, it’s not !

Please check back here to see how my wife and our family get on.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Disability, Election 2010, Family, Uncategorized, women | , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Child Benefit – What are the Tories up to ?

George Osborne MP, pictured speaking in 2009

Chancellor George Osborne

I woke yesterday morning to see Chancellor George Osborne on Breakfast TV announcing his plans to scrap child benefit for Higher Rate tax payers from 2013 – as detailed here BBC News – Child benefit cuts ‘tough but necessary’ say ministers

There’s been a lot of talk already about this (as one would imagine) – much of it focused on the anomaly of married couples earning just below the higher rate tax threshold being able to earn a combined income of over 80,000 without losing the benefit.

Personally I think that this is one anomaly that will be smoothed out – and not really worth getting uptight over. However there are a number of things that really puzzle me about this announcement.

What hits me straight-away is that although Mr Osborne repeatedly said that this move has got to be done urgently because things are so desperately bad, and if they had any choice they wouldn’t do it, but what with the state that Labour have left things in, we can’t afford to waste time, and we’re all on this together and I’m sorry but tough times call for tough solutions, and we’re all in this together, and it’s all Labour’s fault, but it’s really urgent, and we’re all in this together, yada yada yada …   Despite all this it’s not going to be introduced for three years. Three years ? If it was really urgent they could do this next week.

So it’s not really urgent then – it’s something that can wait three years.

But what intrigues me more is exactly why the Tories are trailing a cut which will primarily hit families with a single wage earner in the lower reaches of the higher rate tax bracket. Just the kind of people by the way, who would be likely Conservative voters.

Now there are those towards the left of the political spectrum who’d rationalise this quite easily – don’t give money to relatively wealthy people – give it to the genuinely poor who need it more

There are those on the right wing who’d defend it as well – don’t nanny us, make the state smaller and allow people to make their own way in life, without contributing to the welfare of others unless they choose to, and without resorting to ‘big state’ support.

In Britain though my feeling is that we have rather more people who don’t go with either of those views. We have rather a lot of people who are somewhere in the middle. People who don’t think there’s anything wrong with turning a profit, doing well in their chosen profession or business and becoming relatively well off, but who equally don’t have a problem with the state being structured in such a way as to help ordinary people – whatever their earnings – during the times when they need it the most – not just when they’re in desperate need, but also at strategic points in their life where they are relatively more in need of a little help.

When we think of “National Insurance” – we tend to think of it as insurance against the disaster of unemployment or disability. Insurance can provide for other less drastic eventualities though – and can be a way of providing for the future benefit of our families – and the nation’s families.

This is put fairly well (by a Conservative mind) in this article on Conservative Home : George Osborne’s child benefit cut shouldn’t be permanent – thetorydiary by Paul Goodman (who I confess I have not come across before – I believe he’s the former Tory MP for Wycombe).

I don’t think this measure naturally appeals to many in any political party right now – though perhaps some of the more extreme libertarians in the Tory party like it. It could conceivably drive a lot of middle income voters towards Labour.

It could of course be justified as an “emergency measure” – except as I said at the beginning – it’s not ! – We’ll wait three years for this.

So I really don’t what the Conservatives are up to with this – I am suspicious of the Conservative tactics. I don’t think they’ll ever implement this cut in its current form, and I worry about what they will actually do instead. I usually go for ‘cock up’ over ‘conspiracy’ every time – but this time I’m not so sure.

Just a thought !

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Disability, economy, Family, politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reversal of Fortunes

Any regular readers, or my followers on Twitter, or Facebook, may well have noticed that I’ve not been entirely active of late.

Hardly published anything – or tweeted- or anything else for that matter.

You may be wondering why.

Well here goes …

The school which I’m Head of – a special school for children with severe learning difficulties – was alerted that we were about to receive an OFSTED inspection. Not unexpected – a little earlier than we would have liked – but nothing we shouldn’t have been able to handle.

Except we didn’t – we fell foul of what in OFSTED speak is called a limiting judgement – certain areas of the inspection don’t just impact on that particular section – but on lots of other areas too – and to cut a long story short we ended up being served with “A notice to improve” – basically this means that you have 8 months in which to sort things out in.

Trouble is, this is not a good thing for a school, or for a Headteacher. It’s not good either for a local authority – and my particular local authority have quite a tough stance – if a school enters a “category” – then they generally expect a change of leadership. A bit like a football team missing out on a trophy really.

So a few weeks on, and here I sit, having resigned my position, and having had my life turned upside down.

Devastated ? It doesn’t even come close.

Now I could wax lyrical about the unfairness of the OFSTED system, about how I’ve been mistreated by my authority. I won’t though – I was sure that I wouldn’t make mileage out of my position in school before this happened – and I’m not going to start now. Suffice to say I feel at a very low ebb, and more than a little embarrassed at having to tell people what’s happened.

It’s been a year of incredible ups down for me – a year in which I met the Prime Minister, in which I had cabinet ministers reading my blog, a year in which only a few weeks ago I chatted with Education Secretary Ed Balls at a reception for successful Headteachers on the House of  Commons terrace. Now he’s not Education secretary – and I’m not, for the moment, a successful Headteacher.

So what for the future ?

Well I start again – I look for another job. I have no  millions to fall back on like David Laws, nor have I reached any substantial pay off agreement like Rafa Benitez.

I do have optimism though, and I’m not downhearted about the future. I know that I’ve delivered some excellence to my schools, and my pupils in the past, and I know that I’ll achieve good things in the future.

Perhaps this might be the opportunity for me to make that change of career that I never would have made – maybe I’ll get into politics after all – who knows ?

In the mean time if anyone knows of any jobs that need doing – I’m your man !

June 17, 2010 Posted by | education, Family | | 20 Comments

Bigotgate

A few months back my wife and I reluctantly decided to try and get a cleaner for our home. I say reluctantly because I feel uncomfortable about the idea of anything resembling the idea of having a domestic ‘servant’  – I feel such an arrangement is of its nature demeaning to the employee cast in the role of servant. My wife however suffers from a neurological disability, and I often work 12 hours per day or  more, 5 days per week. We struggle to keep up with the cleaning. So we set out to see who we could find.

We telephoned a number from a local free newspaper, and were visited at home by a pleasant lady – I’d say she was in her mid 40′s (as we are) who told us about her cleaning business – we were relatively impressed, and decided to give her a chance to do our cleaning. She talked for some time and during this time she issued the following statement :

“I’m not racist but, a lot of these Polish cleaners that you see these days, they have different standards from us.”

It’s fair to say that I bristled at this.

Why ?

Well, because I anticipated that she might start to make racist comments about Poles (she didn’t); because most people I’ve come across who do make racist comments invariably start their diatribe with “I’m not racist but …”; because my best friend is a Pole – and I’ve known him since I was 12; because my recently deceased Aunt, though not Polish, was Eastern European, having come to the UK as a Latvian refugee as a young girl; because I’ve employed at least a dozen Poles – either teachers or teaching assistants, in my role as Headteacher of a special school – and found them without exception to be hard working, usually very talented, and in at least one case to be an exceptionally gifted teacher; and finally because I deplore racism – and by extension the racists who promote it.

In short I thought it likely that she was bigoted and racist.

Would I have been justified in saying that to her ?

Well no, I don’t think I would. She didn’t actually say anything derogotary about Poles – just that their standards might be ‘different’ – and she presumably has come across more cleaners from Poland in our local area than I have (not difficult – I haven’t come across any – or any Poles either actually come to think of it) – she may well be right.

So I held my tongue, and engaged her to clean our house on a weekly basis – starting in a couple of weeks time.

Several weeks down the line I still don’t know whether she was bigoted, but I do hope that Polish cleaners do have different standards, because this English one never turned up.

However – my point is, although this woman never technically said anything specifically racist, she hinted to me that she might do – and I was wary – and expecting it – but it never happened. For me to jump to conclusions about her bigotry, would have been just presumptuous as it was for her to jump to conclusions about Polish cleaners.

Today on television Gordon Brown encountered a woman who similarly came out with a comment – out of the blue – about Eastern European immigrants. She said “where are they all flocking from” shortly after she’d said something about vulnerable people not getting access to help, and people who do get help not being vulnerable. And in common with the lady that I talked to,  she didn’t actually say anything racist  – but like Gordon Brown, I would have been tense  in this situation, and I’d have been expecting her to make a racist comment at any second – and yes I probably would have leapt to the conclusion that she was bigoted.

So was he justified in saying so – well no he wasn’t – he’s the Prime Minister and he should be extra careful not to jump to conclusions  – extra careful as well not to forget that he’s wired for sound.

Not that I can’t understand how and why he said what he said. To be constantly under the media spotlight all the time, having them judge your every word, every gesture, every look must be so exhausting – to get into the safety of the car away from the glare of publicity – I feel it is entirely natural that a Prime ministerial candidate, would voice doubts and anxieties about his performance, would question how well his team were doing, and would say things that weren’t particularly complimentary about a woman who’d just given him a tough time – even though he’d dealt with it rather well actually.

Understandable. It still doesn’t make it alright though.

But let’s be honest about this. He didn’t say this the second he got in the car, as the videos running on BBC and Sky news would have you believe. It was a short while later – he should have been out of earshot, and he was off air (but not unrecorded). His comments weren’t either blurted out live – they were recorded and played back after the event. And though his comments were unjustified, the conclusions that he had clearly jumped to weren’t entirely illogical.

That he apologised, both to the lady in question, and to Labour Party members (to whom I suspect he’s done the greater disservice) is to his credit.

So to my mind that’s more or less it.

Do I think Gordon Brown was right to do this ? – No I think he was stupid – it was an amateurish mistake

Do I think this will harm the Labour Party ? – I’m not sure – clearly it will with some people – others I am sure are getting heartily sick of the smugness with which the TV pundits are making news mileage out of this – and will quite possibly turn towards Gordon rather than away from him – we won’t really know until election day. I’m sure that many of them are wondering whether Sky would have published any off the cuff comments by David Cameron, had he left his microphone switched on in the car. I suspect the answer is no – but also suspect that Tory supporters will be quick to point out that David Cameron wouldn’t leave the microphone switched on in the first place – which would be a fair snipe.

Will it change the way I vote ?

Well I’m not pleased that this has happened – but I’m even less pleased with the barrage of nastiness that has followed the incident on television, and will presumably continue to do so in the papers tomorrow – so “No !”,  it will not change the way I intend to vote.

I’m still voting Labour

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Family, politics, racism | , , , | 2 Comments

Shed those lonely tear drops …

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It’s perhaps predictable that there are those who are cynical of the emotion showed recently in television interviews by Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Alistair Campbell.

So predictable that it strikes me, that any politician who would ever fake such emotion for the cameras – as has been suggested – for instance here Who believes blubbing Brown? – would be ridiculously foolhardy.

Well they might be, but I think all of three of them have more savvy than that.

Of Cameron & Brown I say this – both have lost children, and seeing one’s children die before you do is something that no parent should need to endure – it is a dreadful experience, and they both have my every sympathy, no matter what their politics.

As Headteacher of a special school I cater for some of the most disabled children in our society. Many of them have reduced life expectancy.

I’ve not seem many deaths of children in my time in special schools – but I’ve seen a few too many. It’s always hard to handle, however disabled the child, and however well prepared that child’s family may be.

I’ve also had the responsibility on one occasion of telling a Mother that her Son was dead. It was a powerful experience, and I’m glad that I was able to fulfil that responsibility effectively. I’m not sure that I’d be able to conceal my emotions were I to be interviewed on television about it.

So Gordon & David have my respect on this matter. Their emotion merely demonstrates their humanity.

It would be easier to round on Alistair Campbell – he hasn’t had such a bereavement. He has however been involved at the highest levels with those taking the hardest decisions of all – to take a nation to war. Knowing that those decisions will result in many parents  suffering the fate of seeing their children die before they do, but not knowing whether the action will result in fewer of them suffering that fate than would have been the case had another course of action been chosen.

That’s a hard cross to bear, and again I feel that he’s entitled to become emotional.

All things considered I’d be far more likely to vote for any of these three, tears or not, than for any of the spiteful nihilists who continually run them down.

BONUS : My title is taken from the Hon. Robert Nesta Marley OM’s ‘Cry to Me’ – listen here on Youtube :

February 14, 2010 Posted by | Family, politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bleeding Heart ? OK, I can live with that !

This article was similar to many I’ve seen in the Mail : Teenage Vietnamese immigrant is discovered hiding behind car dashboard at Dover

It tells the story of a young 16 year old Vietnamese girl found huddled into the tiny space behind the dashboard of a car, apparently attempting to enter the UK immediately. It’s a harrowing picture that accompanies the article, and clearly demonstrates, just how desperate some people are to come to the UK.

I was sickened by the Comments which accompanied the article – A short selection :

“No Benefits = No illegal immigration.
Simples!”

“If the authorties spent as much time and effort chasing illegal immigrants as they do on motorists , we wouldn`t have an immigration problem.”

“It would be nice to know what happened to these people `attempting` to get into our fair country.  Let me have a guess? They`re still here.”

“Until we pull out of the EU, scrap the Human Rights Act and take control over our borders this crisis will not stop.”

“There is no point spending the money for airport xray machines as it really can’t stop the determined crazy muslim terrorist who wants to get his virgins in heaven.”

” 1. Place in detention centre.

2. Deport on next available flight, at her Embassies expense! “

“Zero tolerance. Depot (sic) them all!”

“Too many bleeding hearts in this country.”

“No wonder they want to come here! So would i if i knew i could get money, a house, food, heating and clothing for FREE!  However, i have a British passport and UK birth certificate, i’ll just have to work for the above.”

( I’m not going to systematically debunk any of this – see Tabloid Watch articles for regular fisking of this kind of stuff eg. : Nobody benefits from ‘immigrants on benefit’ stories )

Suffice to say that this kind of hatred and vitriol dismays me. Why you may ask ?

Well maybe because I’m a White Anglo-Saxon of vaguely Protestant working class upbringing – My culture and values are supposedly exactly the ones which these bigots and xenophobes are so keen to protect.

And what are those WASP values ?

Well I was brought up to believe that if someone called at our family home, then we didn’t keep them waiting on the doorstep – we invited them into the warm.

If we had visitors, then we didn’t give them the chipped cups and glasses – we gave them the best china – and we made sure that they had something to eat and drink from it as well – if we didn’t have enough – well we just shared what we had.

If friends came round, and it was a mealtime, then they were invited to join us, and if we were similarly given hospitality at someone else’s house we were expected (by our own families) to return the favour.

It’s still how I live my life, despite moving from a council house in the Heavy Woollen district to the leafy home counties, and despite become part of the so called ‘middle classes’.

I find that my children’s friends tend to like coming to our house – because they’re treated with courtesy and respect, and hospitality. Which I guess means we spend a little more on food & drink, and I guess inconveniences us a little. You know what though, I like it – and I can afford it.

As a headteacher I’m not exactly poverty stricken of course, – but guess what – when my Dad was a factory worker, and my Mum was a part-time nursing auxiliary – we could afford it then too. Just a question of priorities.

And if you want to know what core British culture is about, then I’d say this – If my family came across a girl of only 16 years old (a little older than my 13 year old daughter and 16 year old son), wedged into a space in a car, clearly desperate and in distress,  what would we do ?

Well we’d make sure she was alright – we’d check that she wasn’t hurt – we’d make sure she could get herself cleaned up with a shower or a bath – we’d sort her out with some clean clothing; and offer her food and drink – and maybe somewhere to stay for a night or two.

Then, and only then, would we start to talk about the problems she faced in the future – and whether it would be a good idea to stay for longer, or whether we’d help her find her way to somewhere more appropriate.

So there you go – no pre-judgement – no fast track – just common decency and humanity.

Those are my values – they’re shared by lots of people – from lots of different cultural backgrounds. If that makes me a ‘bleeding heart’ liberal then I’m fine with that – I care about people, I want to live in a country that does too – not just it’s own people – but all people. Not just people who are like me – but all people.

Just in case any one was wondering.

February 7, 2010 Posted by | Family, news, racism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Win one for Mannion !

Many years ago there were a couple of brilliant footballers. There names were Wilf Mannion, and Albert Stubbins. That’s really about all I know of them. There names are very familiar to me though, because they were the nick-names that were used to identify my Dad (Stubbins) and his brother (Mannion) in their early teens, and in the way these things pan out, for most of the rest of their lives.

Why ? well because they were good footballers. Not quite so good as the real Mannion & Stubbins mind – but they both cut a dash in the Spen Valley League for a while.

Last weekend though my uncle, Mannion, died of cancer, after a relatively short illness. Diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus only in August, he only became really really ill a couple of weeks back – and it was quite a surprise when he died. So this blog is my tribute to him.

My Dad & my Uncle were two of five brothers born in Manchester, but brought up in the Heavy Woollen District in a working class family. They lived (and my Dad still does) a typical West Yorkshire (or perhaps I should say West Riding) working class life.

I suppose I could do a blog, talking about how they triumphed over adversity, through community spirit and support for the Labour party.

I could – but it would be a lie. I’m reasonably sure that all the members of my extended family on both my Dad’s side & my Mum’s, could have been loosely described as floating voters. Neither did any of them particularly triumph over adversity. They worked hard, and got by, none spectacularly successful and none of them failures. None of them wealthy but equally none of them ever poverty stricken (although it’s all relative).

No – the common thread which bound my family together was not politics. Nor was it religion. Nor was it the working class community spirit. It was actually … Football !

That’s not strictly accurate – it wasn’t just football – it was Huddersfield Town Football Club.

I was taken to my first Huddersfield match in what I think was 1965 – by my Dad, and three of his brothers. Including the aforementioned Mannion. We played Blackburn Rovers at home, and I recall the Town supporters chanting the name of Alan Gilliver – who later played for Blackburn (and more recently was involved behind the scenes at Bradford City). in truth I remember little about the game. I do remember though my uncle lifting me above his head to get a better view of the match, and promptly banging my head on the low roof of what was the “paddock” in front of the main stand at Leeds Road stadium – which had disappeared for ever by my next visit to the ground.

From that day onward I unwittingly became the subject of a plot to indoctrinate & initiate me into something that was part religion, part family, and partly a downright curse – I was about to become a Huddersfield Town supporter.

My Dad, Stubbins, played his part by dragging me and my brother to every home game. Kicking & Screaming ? You bet we were – we begged and pleaded not to go, but were told we had to – for my Mum’s sake (never been quite sure about how that figured).

Meanwhile Mannion would see us fairly frequently, and would test us on our football knowledge. This was achieved by studying the Littlewoods year book, which was delivered by the football pools collector at the start of each season. Along with details of how to complete an 8 from 14 Full Perm, or a “Lit-Plan”, it contained details about every club in the league (Question 1 – How many clubs are in the league ? Quick ! Quick !  Answer : 92 ! Yes – that’s right !)

Information – Important stuff. Like what colours each team played in. Like what colours they played in away from home, like which stadium (or more properly – which “ground”) they played at, and what was their record attendance, and ground capacity (all the good teams had a record attendance far bigger than their ground capacity)

So every few weeks my brother and I would find ourselves being grilled by Mannion. “What colours do Blackburn Rovers play in ?” “Blue and White ?” “Stripes ?” ” er … Quarters” – “No -it’s halves – you’ve got to know your strips”

“Who plays at St James’s Park”   “Newcastle !”   “That’s easy – but who else ?”  “Exeter City !” – “Well done – You’ve got to know your grounds”

We of course enjoyed every second of this and I gradually realised that most of it was tongue in cheek, but nevertheless it worked its magic. We gradually started to enjoy our forcible abduction to Leeds Road on alternate Saturday afternoons, and really did become quite knowledgeable about football in general, and Huddersfield Town in particular – the first team by the way to win the League title in 3 consecutive years (but can you name the others ?); and so it was on a Saturday afternoon in August 1970, I made my way out of the first match of the season – a 3-0 home win against Blackpool – our first game in the “top flight” for some 14 years – and back to the car with my Dad and my uncle – who pointed out after listening to the results coming in on the radio (which was held up to his ear – no flashy in-car entertainment systems back then), that as we’d got a better goal average (not difference) than anyone else who’d won that day, we were top of the league. I accepted this news as a confirmed Town supporter. As if it had ever been in doubt.

The years have not been so good to our team since then – certainly we’ve never been in that exalted position since then – and the next few years were a real trial for Huddersfield supporters, seeing us slide down to Division 4 whilst near neighbours Leeds (excuse me while I wash my mouth out with soap) enjoyed their best ever seasons under Don Revie. At school it seemed like every one was a Leeds supporter, save a few hardy souls like me. It wasn’t pleasant. We were teased and bullied and generally made to feel like a race apart – but we began to notice something interesting.

If you looked at a class full of about 30 kids and asked who supported which football team, you’d find maybe 26 for Leeds, 4 for Huddersfield. If you then asked who had ever attended a live game, you’d find around 8 for Leeds and around 4 for Huddersfield. If you then asked who attended every home game, You’d find around 3 for Leeds and around 4 for Huddersfield.

So we actually found that we had a more cohesive network – we all knew each other, knew people from other schools,other Towns, and we actually found that the Leeds supporters envied us. If we needed a lift to a game, someone’s Dad took us, or their Uncle, or Grandad or whatever, because in all of our families, supporting Huddersfield was not an option. It was seen as our birthright.

It may seem weird now, but I grew up in a family in which my parents, all my grandparents, all my 4 Uncles, and 5 Aunties, and all my various cousins – all of them, but all of them, were Huddersfield Town supporters.

In later life it wasn’t quite as easy to get to all the games, and I didn’t see as much of my uncle as I did as a boy, but when “Abide with me” was sung at his funeral, in typical cup final fashion with half the crowd not really knowing the words, I have to admit that I was tempted to break into a loud cheer at the end, and could picture in my minds eye, the team breaking towards their following supporters at Wembley.

I’m not a believer in God myself, but if my uncle is looking down on us from on high, – he may not be at God’s right hand, but if there’s a God, I’m sure Bill Shankly will be close to him – so Mannion : Have a word with Shanks – point out that he owes us after winning the cup for Preston & also taking us down a league, point out that Denis Law did some good stuff for Scotland, and get him to have a word with the big guy to see if he can sort something out :  Huddersfield to gain promotion to the First Division – or England to win the World Cup   – either will do (although both would be nice !);   Oh and if any Huddersfield Town players are reading this  – Win one for Mannion ! He was a good man, and it’s what he would have wanted !

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Family, Football, politics, Religion | | 1 Comment

The Scurrilous Rag

This weekend I’ve had my parents to stay – which is why I’ve not had any chance to indulge in my habit of blogging the weekend away.

However no weekend with my parents would be complete without a disagreement about their chosen reading material (“I only get it for the crossword” says my Mum – a likely story ! (to use one of her favourite expressions) )

So this morning I got to actually peruse the Mail on Sunday for real – ie. with a paper copy, rather than via the internet.

I abandoned it part way through, already despairing of the will to live (but also incidentally curiously baffled as to why such a pro-tory media outlet, has such a definite ‘anti-Cameron’ vein running through it – believe me Tories , if you lose Cameron – you lose the election). Before giving up though I read Liz Jone’s column You want BA to soar again, Willie? Then get Thora Hird out of the loo which is what i’m guessing passes for humour in the strange world that Mail readers inhabit (I’ve visited this world – my parents live there remember !).

Well anyway  – no dissections and critiques – no meta analysis and deconstruction – just this little snippet for you to savour  (this in relation to British Airways practices designed to make the airline more effective and profitable)

“When you call passengers for their flight, do not summon people with small children first. They shouldn’t be travelling anyway”

I mean what ?  what ?

Is this for real ? – hopefully not – hopefully it’s a joke.

But if this is a joke – what ?

Is this the kind of humour they have ?

What is wrong with these people ?

November 9, 2009 Posted by | blogs, Family, idle banter | | 1 Comment

Jessica wins the history prize

Jessica smiling - for a change !

One day I’ll get back to doing political stuff on my blog, but tonight was my daughter’s school leavers night at middle school before heading for Upper School in September, and when your iPhone’s in your pocket, and you can send the pics straight to your blog, there’s no contest really.

Very proud of her winning the school history prize, particular because I love history but was never good at it at school, and because both my children ridicule my love of museums.

I’m very proud of her !

Her choreography to Black Eyed Peas was pretty good too !

– Post From My iPhone

July 15, 2009 Posted by | Family | , , | Leave a comment

   

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