Ashes, Dyslexia, Countryside, Moyles, Robbie Williams & BMW 130i M Sport

Good-ish start yesterday to the final Ashes test. I’ve never been a cricket buff, maintained an interest since school and always been a bit envious of people, like baseball nuts in the US, who are able to quote stats and talk comprehensively and insightfully about cover drives, reverse swing and silly mid-off. For my part I love the drama and tension of a four-day sporting occasion played out under English sunshine, somewhat more engaging than a petulant over-paid teenager getting narked at Windsor Park in Belfast

In terms of keeping up to date I have tried both theirs and the BBC’s I’m happiest with Channel 4’s Desktop Scorebox.

Delighted to see Professor Maggie Snowling on TV last night in the Dispatches programme which re-evaluated our understanding of dyslexia. Professor Snowling is a specialist in child linguistic development at my alma mater, the University of York. For many years I’ve believed (anecdotally I must add) that dyslexia was over-diagnosed and misunderstood by psychologists, education professionals and parents. Last night’s programme presented a raft of evidence, collated over many years and studied by the foremost centres of Psychology at York and Durham that essentially presented dyslexia as a condition that has some genetic basis but is significantly exacerbated by developmental problems. They continued to debunk the myth that dyslexia is an intelligence issue but, most importantly, they identified a shocking failure in traditional therapeutic responses to this wide-ranging condition. Essentially there have been limited improvements in childhood literacy despite massive amounts of investment. Fortunately there is now a proven and robust way of educating and improving individuals with dyslexic-type problems – though it is used only in Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

There continues to be a hot debate on this subject and the anxiety felt by parents and teachers at being told that our understanding and treatment of dyslexia is misguided must not be underestimated. Taking this into consideration I feel considerable pride at having been educated under Professor Snowling and her colleagues in the Psychology department at York, particularly because they have not simply identified a problem and shortcomings, but have proposed, developed and proven an alternative. British education policy-makers should stop blindly issuing laptops and extra time in exams (of which they have kept no record) and sit up and listen to this evidence.

BBC’s effervescent Breakfast News programme this morning spoke to a chap who was attempting to counter the CPRE’s assertion that we’re losing more and more countryside to unnecessary development. This bullish individual (whose name I forgot to note down) maintained that this was simply an attempt by “posh people” to protect “their own back yards”. Why do people like this continue to believe that the countryside is populated by Posh Toffs in country estates? Liberal middle-class Blairite metro urbanites in their deluded world fail to see the rural hardship, the modest dwellings and the dwindling community social structure in the countryside despite scouring the papers to purchase second homes and price out the very people they now claim are looking for affordable housing which should be built on greenbelt land. In his impassioned rant he maintained that a massive proportion of land was still green and much of it assuredly protected by greenbelt and AONB designations. This seems to have no basis in fact. Such designations have not prevented the development of thousands of houses in the South East following Prescott’s demands to build all over Kent.

What needs to happen (alongside my theories for the return to sustainable high-quality agriculture) is development like that taking place in Ipswich. A run-down industrial dock area is being transformed (the demolition teams started work this week on the Cranfields Flour Mill for Wharfside Regeneration’s major project) into a mix of affordable and luxury development. There are thousands of acres of undeveloped brownfield sites across the UK which would serve the needs without desecrating more countryside. The countryside is not, as this chap seemed to believe, simply a place to look at and take walks in. It provides, broadly, food, forestry, oxygen and sanctity. It is, in short essential.

Whilst on the theme of development, I see from local papers that Sittingbourne (subject of recent disparaging comments from David Baddiel) are considering plans for a major new development away from the High Street or in the woefully neglected Forum centre. In a town centre which has already see independent butchers, fishmongers and other such stores close in recent years as a result of a supermarket invasion, why would planners consider anything other than re-developing a centrally located shopping mall to attract major national brand interest? This, combined with an effective strategy to encourage quality local independent traders would encourage people to visit the town again. What the town does not need is a major new supermarket in the middle distance drawing people in cars away from the traditional heart of the place. Another supermarket, even one like Tesco, will encourage nothing other than more generic stores already very well represented in Maidstone, the Medway Towns and Bluewater.

Have been amused by Moyles’ ongoing campaign to Say No To Wogan. However I’d like to hear Wogan’s reaction but listening to two stations is, if not impossible, wholly impractical. Might be best to get a bit of Wogan during the week and listen to the Best of Moyles Podcast on Thursdays…

Robbie Williams
New single, “Tripping” I think, is excellent. Didn’t like Radio (but appreciated the post-Chambers change in direction) but this one is brave and different again. He might not get the perma-tanned 30 something’s weak at the knees anymore in the same way Angels did but he knows his audience better than his critics do. His recent (vaguely bitter) handling of a press conference showed a greater intelligence than many might give him credit for.

Other stuff I’ve been listening to: Shakespeare Sister and P J Harvey, makes a change to get some thoughtful lyrics through my headphones. Steve Wright in the afternoon has made a change too, I’ve not listened to him since he was on Radio 1 – and this show is very similar – but I think the repetitive nature of it means that it’s only worth listening to on two or three days a week.

BMW 1 Series
A new 1 series M Sport version has been announced. Not technically an M1 but more an improved petrol range-topper with a bit of an M-range styling makeover. As Andrew Frankel pointed out in the Sunday Times Driving supplement though you could get a 330i for £2,310 more which seems to make more sense. I’m prepared for BMW to lend me one to change my mind though. Get in touch BMW UK …

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