The Goat Whisperers of Brecon 

October 3, 2022

The Brecon Beacons are the looming highlands of South Wales. Remote, dotted with hill farms, whose owners which have eked out a living from their goats and sheep for centuries. This a land where communication between remote homesteads once took place with farmers shouting across the rocky terrain perhaps to locate a missing animal. 

It gave rise to one the most famous of Welsh folk songs, about a wayward goat. In the spirit of such songs the verses are repeated, each with a different colour goat. The song is called  Oes Gavre eto. Roughly translated ‘is there another goat up there?’

The farmer is in luck. From the next hill, the answer comes back. Yes, it’s white. Very white.

It’s got a white lip, and a white tail. Then the repetition. In the second verse it’s a black goat, very black, with a black lip and a black tail.

That might have ended pretty quickly, but the poet then moves into more fancifully-coloured goats.

Yes there’s a red goat, very red, with a red lip and a red tail.

In the fourth verse there’s a blue goat. And in the final verse there’s a pink goat.

As children, we never challenged the possibility of such a rainbow bunch of goats not existing. Anyway, the song might have more than a dash of reality, especially at dipping time, when the sheep and goats are dipped into dyed disinfectants, useful protection from disease, and for goat spotting of strays.

The song ends, but my story is only beginning…

The entrepreneurial farmers 

There‘s an entrepreneurial spirit in these hill farms. A thriving industry has sprung up. 

Visitors can take part in the life cycle of the goats and sheep from birth to the sheering. 

https://www.sheeptrekking.co.uk/

Other farms have expanded into goat-based activities. It seems young goats enjoy being taken for a walk, but even more if given a chance to demonstrate their climbing and jumping skills. A sort of Crufts for goats.

As the farmers might be saying:

There’s goats in them there hills. Any colour you like.

Notes for folk-song writers:

Here’s how the song goes in more detail

Is there another goat? One that hasn’t been milked?
On the craggy rocks the old goat is wandering

A white white white goat
Yes, a white lip, a white lip, a white lip
a bald white tail, a bald white tail
a white flank and tail, white-white-white

Is there another goat? One that hasn’t been milked?
On the craggy rocks the old goat is wandering

Now for the necessary repetition 

(2nd verse) A black goat

Yes it’s black black black

(3rd verse) A red goat

Yes it’s red, red, red

And as children don’t feel confined to colours empirically observed in goats we have 

(4th verse) A blue goat

(5th verse) A pink goat

Come to think of it, there might have been rainbow-hued goats after they have been subjected to the goat dips.

Or in Welsh

Oes gafr eto?

Oes gafr eto? Oes heb ei godro?
Ar y creigiau geirwon mae’r hen afr yn crwydro.

Gafr wen, wen, wen,
ie finwen, finwen, finwen,
foel gynffonwen, foel gynffonwen,
ystlys wen a chynffon, wen-wen-wen.

Oes gafr eto? Oes heb ei godro?
Ar y creigiau geirwon mae’r hen afr yn crwydro.

(2il pennill) Gafr ddu
(3ydd pennill) Gafr goch
(4ydd pennill) Gafr las
(5ed pennill) Gafr binc

Those willing to put up with my tuneless attempt at the first verse, will find it at the end of the podcast

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1945222/11422107


Rachel Reeves and the BBC Gaze

September 27, 2022

I allow my thoughts to wander as I watch the BBC News live feed of the Labour Party Conference

Tuesday 27 September, 2022

Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech at the Labour conference. His opening remarks capture the disarray of the Govt and the need for a Labour government.

A round of applause, choreographed as they always are at party conferences. Too lengthy for the neutral observer. But BBC News rose to the occasion. The cameras focussed on Rachel Reeves. Because she wasn’t applauding enthusiastically? 

No. 

Because she was replicating the state of rapture perfected recently at PMQs by Nadine Dorries during the applause gaps in one of Boris Johnson’s  oven-ready set pieces? 

No.

A suspicion crosses my mind. Rachel Reeves delivered a stunning speech yesterday. The BBC gaze was searching for evidence of overweening ambition, perhaps disloyalty towards a leader (perish the thought). The everyday creativity of a brand under construction. Yesterday’s triumph was too good to be true. Surely she should have avoiding being good enough to be see as a pretender for the No 10 job. By which I mean the No 1 job,

The speech continues. At the next pause for applause, the BBC Gaze moves on to another possible pretender. It is Angela Rayner, already more than a match in public exchanges with the recently-departed Boris Johnson. But the applause this time was briefer was briefer, as was Angela’s moment in the BBC’s gaze.

Starmer builds up for a crowd rouser. Promises a new future, a new corporate entity, Great British Energy, all green and job creating, then the punchline, and will be publicly held. For the people, owned by the people. He nails it. Standing ovation. The BBC gaze takes in the scene panoramically briefly, then unerringly focuses down to Rachel (fortunately applauding as gamely as ever).

The speech is beginning to run on empty. I wish he’d made it shorter. It dribbled to an end, with me shouting at the screen, you’ve got them. Say something rousing and get off. But he doesn’t do show-biz. 

He said something about being the Government in waiting which seemed to confirm the new-found confidence around the hall. Confidence in their future, in the latest opinion poll putting Labour on course for a comfortable majority. Confidence in the astrological arrangements that produced the arrival of the new look Government with policies being blown off course just in time for the autumn conference season. Or Christmas arriving in October, as one delegate put it, barely concealing his glee.

The post was also turned into a Buzzsprout Podcast, A version can also be found in the Everyday Creativity WordPress Blog


The Queen’s passing as an outburst of everyday creativity

September 26, 2022

This post introduces the ideas on creativity developed by the pioneering French philosopher Henri Bergson. I have linked Bergson’s work with that of the American educationalist Ruth Richards, who coined the term everyday creativity. The emotional impact of the Queen’s funeral is used to illustrate the link between Bergson’s work and everyday creativity

Health warning;

What follows deals with everyday creativity, but includes some abstract concepts a long way away from our everyday lives.

What is everyday creativity?

Readers of what I have writing, and listeners to what I have been saying recently will have gathered that I think everyday creativity is important to me. Important enough for me to squeeze it in to my blogs, podcasts, and sometimes too often to offer to friends wanting to talk about other shared interests.

I can’t remember when I first became convinced of the importance of Everyday Creativity. It certainly wasn’t a version of the famous Eureka Moment. It was earlier this year, after my last lectures on the subject (via Zoom, during the time of the virus ). It was possibly during the time I was working through the life-changing period of my life as I entered into the ranks of the baby boomers from the 1940s.

I had set up this blog to write about it even before I had a description not to mention a definition that might need changing some months later. In one of my earlier posts I offered a reasonably stable description as 

creativity in the sciences, politics, the arts, and above all in everyday life

Everyday Creativity began as a blog post in June 2022 to compliment my long-running blog Leaders we deserve. It will focus more on my developing ideas about the nature of creativity to be found in everyday life. 

I hope it will be interactive, and result in a network of subscribers interested in creativity in the sciences, humanities, politics, but above all in everyday life. 

Why is it important?

For me, it offers new ways of understanding how anyone might be more creative in everyday life. 

What’s new about it?

Strictly speaking the term has already used, and the concept studied, particularly by the American scholar Professor Ruth Richards.

http://interchange.education/sites/default/files/The%20Cambridge%20Handbook%20of%20Creativity.pdf#page=208

She writes in The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity 

Everyday creativity, as a construct, is not, as some think, confined to the trivia of life. This is an important misunderstanding. It concerns almost anything to which one brings originality, any time creation occurs in an everyday context, including major projects. Nor are eminent and exceptional creators excluded. Everyday creativity can be seen as the ground from which (a later and) more publicly celebrated accomplishment can grow.  In fact, many an important invention, equation, or painting that has changed culture started with a fleeting image or wild idea on an everyday walk or hike.

Later, her work was developed in further articles and books. The line of enquiry contributed to quantitative studies into the factors associated with creativity.  As often happens, however,  the power of the idea was not recognised, and the term has largely dropped out of use. 

From Bergson to Deleuze and back

Bergson’s ideas were given a temporary boost through the writings of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, reaching English readers. 

Deleuze saw in Bergson profound insights into the nature of the creation of movement perceived from multiple still images in Cinema, an example of Bergson’s treatment of time as .

The enthusiasm particularly from Sociologists was to become heated as a kind of culture war against ‘Continental philosophy’ particularly in the various forms of post-modernism. Two French physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont added to the battle with their book Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. The attention provided to Bergson’s ideas by Deleuze was if anything counterproductive. 

Why I believe Bergson is a key to understanding creativity from a practical perspective.

Although unfashionable today, Bergson reached the pinnacle of recognition for his work in his Nobel Prize for literature awarded in 1937 ‘in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented’. The award cited The Creative Evolution. I read the book at first only dimly understanding its significance. 

Even before DeLeuze’s support, there had been a controversy involving opposition to Bergson’s ideas by the century’s intellectual superstar Albert Einstein, who was subsequently considered to have misinterpreted Bergson as dismissing his own revolutionary ideas of time.

Much later than after my first reading, I began to see The Creative Evolution as offering a new way of thinking about creativity and time through a helpful lens of metaphor. I’m making the weak  rather than strong case for Bergson’s philosophy. This offers me some leeway against deeper questions that continue to occupy the thoughts of academic and armchair philosophers. 

Bergson, Time and the Queen’s Funeral

My takeaway from Bergson the is interesting idea of the persistence of time during which connections exist through our lived experiences. 

For example, my reading of Bergson long ago then connected with his thoughts as I could understand them. Now I connect them with the personal experience of ten days of intense coverage of the the mourning for Queen Elizabeth, and installing of the new monarch Charles, 

Two sets of events a hundred years apart, the first Bergson’s deep ideas on time helping me evolve my ideas about the second, my ideas about individual and shared experiences of the mourning period.

My glimpse of the new is that the emotional experiences of millions of people including myself are both unique and shared, an indication of the creative and evolutionary. 

Creating this little note is helping me re-assemble my own new ideas which came to me through my interest in everyday creativity. Maybe readers or listeners will be engaging, reacting (OK, even disagreeing).


Heroes and villains in the pageantry of the Queen’s Funeral

September 24, 2022

Conor Glean of the Royal Shakespeare Company helps us understand the pageantry of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, and how Shakespeare might have approached writing a play about the Queen’s life.

As co co-editors of the TudoRama newsletter, we interviewed Conor the week following the royal funeral ceremonies in September 2022.

Conor approached his first Shakespearean roles at Stratford this year, after his work in the Royal Exchange theatre, including his portrayal of Cassius Clay in One Night in Miami, earned him national attention. 

His current role is one of the two murderers in Richard 3rd, played as one of a pair of  low-life cutthroats, with Northern accents. It leads him to reflect on the representation of villains and heroes in Shakespeare, drawing on his cultural Afro-Caribbean heritage. 

This, he says, provides him with an additional lens through which to understand the outpouring of grief at the royal funeral, and perhaps a more nuanced understanding of cultural heroes both on stage and in British history.

Modern stage representations still stereotype Shakespeare’s villains, although ‘everyone learns how to speak in Received English in Drama School’. Earlier, he had to produce a more challenging accent of an American GI in a Noel Coward comedy.

He reflects on what might have happened if the Bard could have been brought back to life today, commissioned to write a play about the 70-year reign of the Queen.

‘Probably a tragedy’, he says ‘or with that spectacular ending at the Abbey, preparing for a continuation into the next play, which would of course be of Charles 3rd

You can hear the podcast of the entire interview on TudoRama, via Buzzsprout. 

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1945222/11360554


Normal service will not be resumed until there is a sanity reset 

September 18, 2022

Anyone out there at some other level of consciousness?  

I am painfully prodding out my message at around 10 kpm (keystrokes per minute). It is possible the mortal remains of our late Queen will be laid  to rest next Monday before you receive this.

I prod from the car workshop, at which my ageing Aygo has miserably failed its MOT.  Discussions have confirmed the car can be rescued from the scrapyard though assorted transplants. The rescue costs about the same as a 10 day  Viking cruise up the Norwegian fyords to see the  Northern Lights

Emergency steps, a plan B, are being worked out. The news distracts me from the other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which have landed recently.

It was last Monday when assorted events prompted me to contact my network provider which I will refer to as Chat Chat (CC for short) to deal with very slow speed Wi-Fi 

After much struggle with a service engineer who was operating his own version of Ground Hog day, I lost contact   The slow speed Wi-Fi has been transformed to  no Wi-Fi at al. 

The following day I returned to battle, led my gardener Mike who has been reassigned to IT duties. The record of the conversation with the Chat Chat engineer can found on the brief Podcast available via Buzzsprout

‘We will work on this dilemma gently and call you back in two days’ the CC man assured me

Two days pass. Guess what? Diligence did not extend to fixing my IT problem or to calling back.

The Matrix

I am forced to re-renter the Matrix-like world of Chat Chat. The same, or maybe someone sounding the same, CC person or Bot takes me through a lengthier version of the trial. I learn an even higher-level team will now work diligently to fix it and call me back.

I am no longer surprised when I receive  no further message. My system has reached dead parrot territory.

I remain bloodied and more than a bit bowed. Down but not out. A plan is emerging involving a courtesy car and camping out with people at places with WiFi . 

Are you still out there? Are you receiving me?  Will I eventually return to Planet Earth? Preferably in the early years of the 21st century. Meanwhile I suspect further adventures lie ahead.


The King and I: A Royal Suggestion

September 14, 2022

This is a true story (‘whatever you mean by true’, to adapt what the Prince of Wales said on a different matter. Some of the facts that follow can easily be checked).

My recollection begins with the visit some years ago of Charles, then Prince of Wales, now our new King, to Manchester. His journey was to include a visit to the University and to its Business School, where I was a junior lecturer at the time.

For the royal visit, the staff were deployed doing scholarly things around assorted class-rooms large and small according to student numbers.

I had the good fortune of being in a well-ventilated lecture room which could accommodate many more that the eight students taking my option on creative problem-solving. We were to demonstrate the Manchester Method of learning and problem-solving, working around a large A1-sized flip-chart, similar to those still found on easels outside meeting rooms during business conferences. 

The students were briefed to act as if they were not being scrutinised by the heir to the throne. Sniffer dogs had already confirmed that the room, like the rest of the building , held no bombs.

More or less on time, the door opened, and a large policeman with a large black beard loomed at the doorway. I recognised the figure of the Chief Constable, James Anderton, already a nationally known celebrity.

He scanned the room, and escorted in HRH and one of two other dignitaries. The students and I were fulfilling our ‘don’t notice the Prince’ act. 

The flip chart was filling up with ideas on the carefully selected topic ‘how to make city living more attractive‘.

The students were cheerfully adding ideas at a speed that forced me to abbreviate what was being called out, and act as an idea-warden holding out my non-writing arm to slow the flow of ideas. I sensed our time on stage was much shorter than Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame. Movements behind me suggested the show was coming to an end. The Chief Constable was preparing to usher out the royal group. But as he was leaving, the Prince of Wales intervened briefly, and pointed to me and then the flip chart. Time stood still. ‘Make architects live in the places they design’ he said, ‘Write it down.’

So I did. The illustrious guests departed. I am left with one regret…

I wish I had kept that piece of flip-chart paper.


How long should a Nation mourn?

September 9, 2022

On the death of her beloved Husband Albert, Queen Victoria began a period of mourning that lasted forty years to her death. It is considered today a somewhat extreme action by a person who never overcame the grief after her bereavement.

When Diana, Prince of Wales died in a gruesome car crash in 1997, there was an outpouring of grief for the princess which has scarcely subsided for those most affected. 

When the Queen died on Thursday 8 of September, the period of mourning began. Television channels grappled with the dilemma. BT Sports decided to show a football match, but to drop the pre-match and halftime punditry and adverts. 

‘Every COVID death is a tragedy’ we heard during the pandemic. For the deceased and for their loved ones. We know know of the widespread anger against politicians who uttered words of solace which were later found out to be false. 

At present there seems to be a country which has been long preparing for the death of a paradoxical figure, much loved, remote as a long-lost relative but closer than members of the household. Remote and close. Whose imagined life to the last detail is recounted in the minutest detail. 

The royal drama has already been played out in lucrative films. Popular debates continue over which actress plays the Queen best. This morning less than 24 hours after her death, an article appeared comparing the merits of Clare Foy, Olivia Coleman and Helen Mirren in the role.

By Friday decisions are now being reached to postpone sporting events. The BBC which has been preparing for several years for this sad event has virtually abandoned other news stories.

It summarises the current situation

 
 The Queen’s death will have a major impact on daily life in the UK. While a timetable of official events has been carefully planned, most details are yet to be confirmed. The funeral is expected to take place at Westminster Abbey in about 10 days’ time. The date, to be announced by Buckingham Palace, is likely to be declared a bank holiday. It’s unclear whether schools will close before then, with the Department for Education and devolved administrations expected to issue advice. Sporting and cultural events to have been cancelled or postponed include Friday’s football and racing fixtures, the BBC Proms – including Saturday’s Last Night of the Proms – and the Mercury Music Prize ceremony. Meanwhile, rail and postal workers’ unions have called off planned strikes.

The Diana death industry is still very much alive. The mourning for a fairy tale figure, especially one of a much-loved monarch can go on as long as those profiting from it can continue to exploit it.


The US Open Tennis disappears from our screens

September 8, 2022

England, home to Wimbledon with its great tennis tradition, whose midsummer slam is the highlight of the tennis season. But shamefully, a national preoccupation with tennis for two weeks of the year disappears before the next grand-slam event takes place in New York in early September.

Why? One obvious example is the national coverage. Wimbledon sucks up a great deal of the BBC’s national sports budget. The coverage is impressive, pushing football if not into the background at least into sharing the attention of viewers.

But after Wimbledon, coverage is restricted to radio broadcasts (remember them, folks?) And then, there’s the timing of matches. Even hardened tennis fans such as myself find the timing inconvenient. The early matches are good evening viewing, but the evening sessions, NY time often with the top billing matches, start in the middle of our night. They end at silly-o-clock even for Americans, but that’s a badge of pride for New Yorkers who like to maintain the myth that the Big Apple never sleeps.

All of this wouldn’t matter, if it wasn’t for a pattern of results from the Brits. For decades, we have been lucky to have had our interest maintained by Andy Murray’s runs of success into the semifinals and finals, sometimes winning the tournament, even in the era of Rafa Nadal, Federer and Djokovic.

Then, last year, when Andy was dragging his newly metal-plated knee around we had the near miracle of our new wonder-kid Emma Raducanu winning through the qualifying rounds, without many people noticing. Then she won her first rounds against opponents all seeded above her. Some glimmer of interest at home as she moved into week two, and reached the final. By then, even the BBC had recovered its appetite for transmitting tennis matches. Except of course they couldn’t.

When she won the tournament without losing a set, her place for super sponsorship deals was secure. The BBC did the best it could by making SPOTY (Sports Personality of the Year) the event where it spent the last bit of its sports budget. Emma duly obliged, ahead of World Boxing Champion Tyson Fury.

So, this year we had some skin in the game at the US Open, with Emma ready to repeat her heroics. Except for one minor thing, her season had been beset with injuries. She was paired in the first round against the experienced if unseeded Alize Cornet. And duly lost.

British interest subsided but then came to life briefly as four, yes four of the British men win though to the second week. That was something. British No 1 Cameron Norrie fulfilled his rise in the seedings. Andy Murrey, his metal plated knee in good order followed, with Dan Evans, and the exciting young Matt Draper joining him.

Unfortunately, all four lost on the first day of the second week. Normal service (no tennis pun intended) was resumed, with little attention paid in the UK. Football had regained its supremacy. Even the BBC still has access to some of the Cup matches.

The sad news is that that the BBC has inadequate funds to compete with the global channels. The most successful late entrant is Amazon Prime. Tennis snatched away from terrestrial viewers thanks to millions of book buyers.

Creative leadership is called for. But every Sunday morning I see signs of hope in the dozens of pre-teens being inducted into the game, as I take part in a seniors event on an adjacent court. Other juniors from the same club have gone on to reach international levels in the game.

This morning a film was being made with scenes being shot on the courts and the club house. Watch out for the publicity. Tennis remains a minority sport, but all is not lost.


Thought for the day. Fountain Abby ruins and the Royal Yacht voted favourite U.K. attractions. But are they?

September 3, 2022

Thought for the day. Fountain Abby ruins and the Royal Yacht were voted joint-favourite U.K. attractions. But are they?

The result came from a poll reported in the authoritative consumer magazine Which

Which commented that it was ‘easy to see why’ the two won over better known visitor magnets such as Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London.

Not so, I muttered to myself. What’s going on here, then? Closer inspection of the news item (reported in most of the print media) gives a clue.

Which has its long-established way of arriving at the best products from cars to carpet cleaners, computers to climbing frames. It involves listing a set of desirable features and adding them up. The product with the best total score is rated the best. 

This approach provides an answer, a league table of products. 

Unfortunately it is, to put it mildly, only as credible according to what these days might be described as its algorithm, the list of criteria, and any weighting allocated to each criterion.

These are also influenced by the people doing the rating. 

So: the rating of this survey was ‘during April and May’ 

The attractions were ranked by ‘nearly 3000 Which members’

According to: 

Value for Money

Staff helpfulness

Lack of Crowds

Dubious aggregation

 I have a general suspicion about this sort of aggregation to select a clear winner. It just about works in sporting events like heptathlon, then gets more dubious with beauty contests (including Strictly Come Dancing, Crufts dog show, and the Booker Prize for Novel of the Year).

In this particular case there is also an additional flaw which I am leaving for readers to puzzle out. Any comments will be studied, and the best selected for mention on our weekly newsletter. 

Puzzle rules

How will the best be chosen? Not, of course, by votes of ‘nearly 3000 TudoRama subscribers

Yes, you’ve guessed. The editor’s decision will be final. Competition closes on September 30th. Results will appear in a subsequent TudoRama newsletter.


Stay Alive, stay Creative. A Conversation with Myself

September 2, 2022

I recently thought differently about something important to me. As its importance is only to myself, I would see it as an example of everyday creativity.  

To share it with others, I posted it on Twitter, and started a note about the idea and how it began to suggest more ideas. The note turned into a conversation with myself.

The Tweet 

What’s the best way to retain your love of life? Give your everyday creativity every chance to flourish.

The Conversation with Myself

At risk of sounding pretentious –

You are sounding pretentious.

I’ll ignore that remark. I found creativity early in my working life. 

You are still sounding pretentious. Why don’t you add … ‘I suppose creativity found me’? 

So how should I explain what I mean?

Quit the health and wellness stuff. Get a bit more personal.

Good call. Let’s see. Take the time I was feeling a bit down on my birthday. Way down. 

Understandable, it was your eightieth. Thoughts turning to shuffling off the mortal coil, no doubt.

Sort of. As if I was heading for a creative black hole. Yes, and the feeling of emptiness. Then I made a decision, And that led to another one.

Go on, that’s better.

First, I’m going to give up writing books.

That’s the most negative thought you could have had. 
Probably not. I had some other pretty black ideas. But then!

…You rediscovered creativity and things started looking better.

Sort of. Instead of thinking what I wasn’t going to do in future, I saw what I was going to do.

You discovered podcasting.

That, and more. I made the connection. Loss of creativity. Feelings of depression. Rediscovering creativity. Feelings of elation. Feeling alive. Life’s worth living sort of stuff. In the zone. The inner child released.
A bit over the top?

That’s right. 

It’s still a bit of a leap to start spouting about a life-enhancing moment.

I need to sneak in a few theoretical ideas which I’m finding important.


Now that’s super-pretentious. You’re getting away from your immediate direct experiences into academic speculation. 

I was coming to that …