This weekend was the annual Dorset Seafood Festival in Weymouth, which I’ve been going to every year for yonks. There was a new sponsor this year, Nyetimber, the English wine makers from Sussex, and although I don’t drink any form of sparkling white wine, the public were lapping it up! Great to see an English sponsor and there was so much emphasis on seasonal and local food. Perhaps the quote of the weekend came from a local fisherman when he was doing a crab demonstration. He said, “why would you want lettuce in January?”
I think it was quieter with less stalls than in recent years, but it was a big weekend of sport, although I heard some people saying it was busier! For me, it was more pleasant than some of the overcrowded recent festivals, and the fashion is changing for the better! I have never seen so many girls and ladies of all ages in such pretty dresses at it before. I met Eren Baslar, who founded myfunkybags.com after working for DHL in Asia and saw all the used packing tape being thrown away. He had an idea and got some Chinese backers to help set up a processing plant in Indonesia, which now makes very durable and funky coloured bags for all purposes, from recycled plastic water bottles and packing tape! He gets the first picture ever on the Good, Bad and Mad... me at his stall!
I’m going against the flow here. I’ve read a lot of criticism about Alexa doing the GPs job. I don’t see it like that. Self-diagnosis, which I think is dangerous, has been around on the internet for years and Alexa and others have been giving medical advice for some time as well. What the source of the advice was or how good or bad it’s been I don’t know, and doubt it is possible to tell. But to link up with the NHS so that at least we know the source of the advice is sound is a good thing. Obviously, it doesn’t replace the doctor, and patient’s details need to be protected. If I had an Alexa, I’d probably give it a go with something I knew the answer to, but it seems to me that this is one of the better uses of artificial intelligence and I know several doctors who use Dr Google at times. If something was rare and they suspected it might be the problem, they used to look it up in a text book to check… now they use the internet. Nothing wrong with it.
I have written at length over the years about the lowering of standards and mediocrity becoming the new genius, as well as problems of getting decent staff (especially at the bottom of the market). Last week I spoke about reading buddies who help kids who can’t read when they leave school. Now it appears illiteracy will get worse. According to the website Schools Week, since 2012, 3,500 would-be teachers failed literacy and numeracy tests, which you may say is trying to keep standards up. But we don’t know how high, or more likely low, the pass standard was. Last year, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that all new teachers had to “demonstrate a high standard of numeracy and literacy.” Now it looks as if the tests, always unpopular with the wannabe teachers and the training colleges, could be scrapped and instead the trainers themselves will decide if the wannabe is up to the job. When chairing the Tom Olsen Lecture last week, I rejected a question to Dr Courtney Radsch because it didn’t address the subject of the lecture and in any event, raised the question of “who watches the watchers”. I find myself drawn to that question twice in five days.
I am seriously worried about standards in all walks of life and wrote at length about respect last week. I’m now sometimes actually referred to as the guy who thinks mediocrity is the new genius.
A committee has concluded that ‘the group’ is greater than any individual. Why, I wonder? Well, we’ve just decided to do it that way in case we exclude anyone from the ensemble, and in case anyone gets above themselves and starts to celebrate anything other than equality. If that makes for mediocrity, who cares about that these days?
Staying with the themes of education and mediocrity, clever kids are not taking GCSEs in modern languages for fear of getting low grades that will hinder their chances of getting into university. Apparently, teachers and students think getting high grades in languages is harder than other subjects and the fear is that learning languages may die out if the trend continues. Entries for GCSE French and German have dropped by 30% since 2014. So, what has been proposed? Make the exams easier!
Ian Pendrick and Richard Clarkson, who were coastguards at Hope Cove in Devon, have been sacked for rescuing a car that had slipped from outside the Oceans restaurant, at Bolberry Down, and was close to the cliff edge. The fire brigade and the coastguard were instructed to take no action as the car wasn’t considered to be in a precarious position. As such, those giving the order to ignore it cannot have had any health and safety concerns, but Ian and Richard feared that the driver might have been at risk if he attempted to retrieve it himself. So, they decided to take off their ‘uniforms’, park their official Land Rover away from the scene, and use their own Land Rover to safely rescue the car. They were suspended and then sacked, but guess what for? Not taking the coastguard Land Rover back to base before dealing with the car. Madness.
I don’t believe in giving babies dummies. We never used them. Millions of folk today, however, do, and I’ve known a few of them to often ask each other, “have you seen the dummy?” I’m sure at times they do get permanently lost and you have to get another, but if you lost 19 dummies, you might think something odd was happening. Well, that happened to the Wellesley family in Boston, USA - not Lincolnshire! The family noticed that Mortimer, their three-year-old dog, was being sick before meals, so they took him to the vet. An x-ray revealed something substantial in his stomach and the surgeon’s knife exposed that to be 19 dummies!