INHERITANCE OR ENVIRONMENT?

Today something happened which surprised and shocked me, I watched an  programme on PBS which shows stimulating and interesting programmes from an American point of view. I found the programme took a very original view on the influence of genes on an individual’s behaviour  and attitudes with reference to three very important areas: intelligence, crime and poverty. Over the years I have read  about the links between intelligence and how much may be inherited through the genes and the fact that individuals differ in their talents and abilities. I have always accepted  that each one of us is a unique individual with different strengths and weaknesses. Myself  I was never much good at sport; too slow, too awkward, too clumsy. On the other hand I never came top of the class!!! There was very  frequent measurement of who got 9/10 and who didn’t.

     There were some subjects which had a fascination for me ; English and for a time French, history and geography. Other subjects, domestic science, needlework and mathematics had very little interest or seemed beyond my understanding. Sometimes a charismatic teacher, Mr Buchanan  our history teacher, made any topic interesting. I understood clearly that we all have different likes and dislikes, to get back to the programme, ‘ In the name of the Gene,’ the assumption that our genes govern everything  about us, our approach to crime, poverty and intelligence. This was said to be  what the ‘experts’ learned from a study of genes, although no proof was offered as to which genes controlled intelligence, or poverty or criminal behaviour. It was stated that black people had lower intelligence than white people and this was a fact of life. this is of course total rubbish. The state of poverty was due to the extravagance  and carelessness  of  the individuals themselves. This I know to be a total misunderstanding of the social and political organisation of British, American or indeed any society in our world. Even in democratic countries a small elite controls access to information to a considerable, if not total extent. The press in the UK is not controlled by the government but triviality swamps most newspapers and much of television.  Many people in the twenty-first century feel disregarded and ignored and know that they are living an impoverished life without a decent house for their family to live in.

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FRENCH AND ENGLISH.

There was a time when I knew some French, sadly only crumbs remain. I mention this language because I have a book on my desk written in French by Thomas Piketty. It has been translated into English by Arthur Goldhammer, the title is,’Capital in the Twenty-First Century.’ There are 685 pages, I confess I have not read them all. When faced with a very substantial volume I read first the introduction and then the conclusion. I have found both extremely interesting. Professor Piketty explains that economics is so much more than mathematics:” I see economics as a sub discipline of the social sciences, alongside history, sociology, anthropology and political science. He prefers the expression ‘ political economy.’

I have a life-long interest in history and a more recent interest in sociology. How to earn and spend money has been a special interest since I was a child. My parents both worked very hard and mother had the difficult job of spending the money father earned to cover the daily expenses of a family of six. This was not an easy task as the wages were limited, father’s work was always classified as unskilled. so I started with the personal and later extended to the wider political understanding of the economy of Britain. Piketty uses an equation r is greater than g, in other words–‘ capital reproduces itself faster than output increases.’

    Piketty continues; ‘ If we are to regain control of capitalism we must bet everything on democracy, and in Europe democracy on a European scale.’

The most important question is how do the democracies fight the globalised patrimonial capitalism of the twenty-first century.

HOT!!!

Another hot day, temperature in hall 25.3 degrees. Sorted out some jobs, phoned the repair man about my stationary chair. He came out 3.0 clock, the problem was the batteries, apparently they were leaking and firmly stuck together. Batteries replaced, up and down the stairs like a dream. A phone call to the agent, we have decided not to downsize, financially difficult. When everything sorted had a little zzz until tea-time. There’s a lot of eating goes on. Maybe its the climate  or age not sure which to blame.

     Again football and tennis on television, great excitement England is still in the World Cup. Husband is willing to record some matches, I go into my ‘study’ and waste time on the internet. Amazing how time slips by and no progress in any direction. Even found some papers I’ve been looking for several months past. Too much stuff, too many files, severe pruning is necessary. I’ll start tomorrow.

     Pat on the back for me I defrosted the fridge/freezer. I emptied the freezer, food there I don’t remember buying, a packet of mince, frozen chicken, had to find another cool place, (yes another small freezer). Took the plug out, how long had it taken for the ice to mount up on every surface? Kitchen equipment has its own mysteries, unbelievably useful but tricky to maintain. Domesticity I approve of it a hundred percent, I just wish someone else was doing it! Me, a woman who has been married 52 years. There is a saying, variety is the spice of life. I am an extremely lucky woman, a thought occurs, ‘ Adventures for the Mature Woman.’

VISITING THE PAST.

veraewatson15

Today Thursday 28th June is a gloriously sunny day, the sky is a cloudless blue and there isn’t a breathe of a breeze, a perfect summer’s day. I have lived through many summers days, truth to tell, many days, indeed many years, many decades are long gone.  The future is another country unknown to me. Yesterday I saw my sister and we travelled to that long ago past when we were children. She drove her car with quiet determination, I provided advice which was frequently wrong, fortunately it was usually ignored.

      She was looking for the first house, our first home in Hendon, Sunderland. Amazingly she found it, a short street, numbered in order 1-12 on opposite sides. We were in fact born on opposite sides of the street, I was the first to arrive in number 10. Jean arrived eighteen months later but by then the…

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VISITING THE PAST.

Today Thursday 28th June is a gloriously sunny day, the sky is a cloudless blue and there isn’t a breathe of a breeze, a perfect summer’s day. I have lived through many summers days, truth to tell, many days, indeed many years, many decades are long gone.  The future is another country unknown to me. Yesterday I saw my sister and we travelled to that long ago past when we were children. She drove her car with quiet determination, I provided advice which was frequently wrong, fortunately it was usually ignored.

      She was looking for the first house, our first home in Hendon, Sunderland. Amazingly she found it, a short street, numbered in order 1-12 on opposite sides. We were in fact born on opposite sides of the street, I was the first to arrive in number 10. Jean arrived eighteen months later but by then the family was living in number 4 directly opposite. Like many young families my parents rented rooms, the rooms in number 4 were on the ground floor, much easier when a pram is a daily necessity. Our parents were used to hard work, dad was a coal miner who worked under the north sea, mum cooked the food, kept the rooms clean; washed our clothes, when washing involved a tub and a poss stick. Great physical effort was required, mum was just twenty-three and fit.

      The street was in good order, the houses neat and clean. I assume the houses are about a hundred years old, around there were open spaces and not a single building which looked familiar. Happily the park, a frequent playground, was still in full bloom,just a few minutes walk from the house. Praise be to the people who said that a park in a heavily populated area was absolutely essential. I hope todays town planners are as far-sighted as they were a century ago. Grand-parents,aunts and uncles lived close by and were turned to when mum was overwhelmed. Our arrival was delayed as a one way system operated on most of the main roads.

     In 1943 our family in common with many others was bombed out. We were all safe in the air-raid shelter in the back yard; grand-parents, young aunts and uncles, mum, my sister and me. There was an unexploded bomb in the back lane, the air raid wardens warned us to stay away from it. Our home was damaged but still standing. The adults were told they must find somewhere else for us to stay until the house was checked out. Grandfather had a sister not very far away, he was sure she would help us. I don’t remember much of the journey, Jean was wrapped up in the push-chair, I held onto it and mum pushed it. Space was found for everyone for the night. The next morning  the adults organised a visit to the officials who would find us a more permanent home. Mum walked around the neighbouring streets looking for uncurtained windows.

COLLECTING.

I have to say I don’t consider myself a collector, on the other hand a piece of paper with printing on may come in useful someday, such papers are mounting up with startling rapidity. Of course dictionaries and reference books still have their usefulness, (yes I know about the internet). Old birthday and Christmas cards well it would be callous to put them in the recycling bin. My scribblings may one day find their way into an actual printed memoir, I hope I’m alive to see it. On this beautiful sunny morning I ought  really to be drinking in the fresh air in the garden but first I have a few words I want to put down.

     It doesn’t help that we have lived in this very same house for fifty-one years, before the New Year of 1968 husband and I moved into this new build house. It was our first home, apart from electricity, gas central heating and water, the rooms were bare, only a sink in the kitchen and bath and toilet upstairs. Much has changed in the intervening years, every room has its own collection of ‘stuff’. On this beautiful sunny morning with the sun filling the house with light and warmth I am very grateful that the gods have been very good to me. I could tell myself that I have been sensible and careful,  true, but luck has played a much bigger part. In the late 1960s new homes were being built and the prices were within the range of people on very ordinary salaries like teachers buying their first home. People looking for a home today are not so lucky, house prices are exorbitant and bear no relationship to annual salaries. As a wealthy nation we could remedy this, we choose not to.

     The thought of downsizing has occurred to me, obviously a sensible thought at this stage in our family life, him and me we tire so quickly long before everything is in order. We have the luxury of space, space to be together and space to be apart. He chooses some comedy programmes that frankly I find terribly unfunny and I turn to the internet. It has to be said often just wasting time or on the odd occasion using my own brain and allowing time to pass in a more interesting way. The question which is always waiting in the wings, which stuff to get rid off and which to keep (obviously a much smaller section) until it becomes someone else’s problem.

     I am an enormously lucky person, much of it due to the time and place I was born in this beautiful country of England. Politicians can do good things, the Welfare State, 70 years old this year. They can also do bad things when influenced by the extremely wealthy. We can only hope that the new generation will have men like William Beveridge, Clement Attlee and Jennie and Aneurin Bevan  in it.

Notes on Sunderland.

Stuart Miller & Billy Bell, ‘ Sunderland in old Photographs.’

900 years ago. Angles and Saxons permanent settlements–the monastery of St. Peter’s at Wearmouth in the Golden Age of Northumbria, a centre of faith, learning and culture.( 8th century?)

Vikings and Scots reduced it to splendid remains.

In 1565 Bishop of Durham, in great decay of building and inhabitants. True history of town starts in late 16thcentury (1570s+). Production of salt from brine- development coal export trade

+other industries; lime, alum, copperas  and glass.

Adjacent village of  Bishopwearmouth, most important trade Coal Export.  Keelmen, casters, trimmers and ballast men.

1717 River Wear Commissioners, creating dock facilities. Bishopwearmouth, Monkwearmouth and Sunderland grew rapidly in C18. Bishop became more fashionable in C19. Wide streets, good houses. Middle class flow into Hendon and Grangetown, fine terraced housing.

end of C19 S. highest infant mortality rate in country , dreadful squalor. early C20 soup kitchens and dole queues. Building of extensive council estates.

Post 1945, long, painful adjust . Also more building of council houses, e.g. Pennywell. A very large estate without schools; a good frequent bus  service, a Cof E church, shops nearby. A doctor’s surgery at Grindon, also a library there.