Monthly Archives: June 2023

  • 50 years on

    In October 1973, a large cohort of (mostly) young people aged 17-19 left their homes with varying levels of street wisdom under their belts and dampness behind the ears (not to mention essential life skills such as being able to manage money and cook. Ed.) to embark on something that was going to change their lives for ever – studying the BA Modern Languages course at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, now the University of Wolverhampton, a matter that was going to occupy us for the next four years until the summer of 1977.

    Just shy of 50 years later, twenty-two alumni plus partners (including some who are also Wolverhampton veterans. Ed.), some travelling from as far away as New Zealand, and seven of our lecturers all assembled for a significant anniversary celebration back in the city that grew up around the site of an abbey dedicated to St Mary founded by Wulfhere of Mercia in 659 and in which they studied from 1973 to 1977.

    BA Modern Languages 1973-77 50th reunion group photo
    Alumni, lecturers and partners stand back from the bar. Photo courtesy of Paul, edited by photography wizard Tim.

    The hair may be greyer or diminished in luxuriance, the limbs less lissome, the waistlines somewhat stouter, but the same personalities still shine through the physical changes and laughter and good times prevailed as they did all those decades ago, even though some of the party had not seen each other for over 45 years instead of the 5 years since the last reunion.

    This time your ‘umble scribe travelled up to Wolverhampton on Friday afternoon; and it proved to be worth the effort, allowing plenty of time to settle in and relax instead of the mad rush of arriving on the day and then scrabbling to get ready in time before sitting down to meat. After a meal and a couple of lemonades at nearby hostelries, it was back to the hotel where we kept the barman busy serving us brown beverages of various shades.

    Saturday dawned far too early, but any lack of sleep was cured by an excellent breakfast, assisted by the excellent company. At lunchtime, a small party gained access to the room where our revels were to take place, to decorate it, sort out the seating plan and ensure that the music and visuals worked properly.

    Two o’clock on a warm Saturday afternoon saw a large group of alumni assembled in front of the oldest part of the university – known as The Marble for a campus tour led by David from the Alumni Office. Since our time, many of the university building that we remember have been demolished and replaced by more modern facilities. Long gone are the wooden huts and the perishing cold St Pater’s Hall (which the the polytechnic shared with a vegetable wholesaler. Ed.) Part of the tour took in secure parts of the campus and for this we were joined by David from security who’s worked for the university for nearly two decades. His tales of student high jinks revealed very little has changed over the decades/generations. Finally, any Wolverhampton Polytechnic/University of Wolverhampton alumni who have not provided their contact details to the Alumni Office or need to update them can do so here, whilst back copies of the alumni magazine can accessed online too.
    Alumni on tour with Dave from security. Photo credit: David from the Alumni Office.

    The traditional Saturday night celebratory meal saw new directions and a new dimension. Firstly, the usual disco was dispensed with and replaced with Sheila’s Spotify playlist as background music. This meant there was no need to SHOUT TO HOLD A CONVERSATION. 😀

    Secondly, much mirth and merriment was occasioned by the presence of an inflatable Selfie Station photo booth complete with props – silly hats, inflatable musical instruments and the like.

    Last but not least, your ‘umble scribe had volunteered to compile a video slideshow. Comprising mostly photos from our student days, this 32 minutes’ long movie was played on loop throughout the meal until coffee was served and we reached the speeches slot. For the nerds, the slideshow was compiled with Imagination, “a lightweight and easy to use slide show maker” for the Linux and FreeBSD operating systems. Similar software is available for other, more common operating systems. Those whose photos were not used will be pleased to hear there is mofre than enough material for another slideshow for the 50th anniversary of our graduating in 2027.

    Feedback on the meal itself was most appreciative and it was possibly the best our gatherings have enjoyed to date.

    With coffee served, it was speech time, with former assistant head of department Alan on his hind legs for a few well-chosen and thought-provoking words. These ranged from the benefits of a period of residence abroad, including not only gains in maturity, but also finding common ground with one’s hosts, primitive hygiene arrangements in 1960s Spain, the difficult relationship of Britain with the rest of Europe and the continuing need to teach and study other languages in a world where English in the de facto lingua franca.

    Once the applause died away, MC Dave leapt up to respond and in amongst the anecdotes of student life during our mandatory year abroad, which featured broken sanitary fittings and a visiting England rugby league team, he found time to propose a heartfelt toast and tribute to absent friends – both staff and students – who had not survived to join our revels that weekend. Many remarked afterwards that Dave is a natural public speaker, so well done mate!

    Celebrations continued well into the small hours on that warm and sunny June evening with the moon and stars shining down before it was finally time for bed.

    All in all it was a brilliant weekend and my gratitude goes out to all my fellow attendees for their kindness, generosity and company. We now have a couple of years off until planning for the next event needs to start.

    Thanks to…

    Of course, events don’t happen of their own accord and a fair bit of time was spent planning in various Zoom sessions. Your correspondent would like to express particular thanks to the following:

    • Sheila, Paul & Gwenda for the bulk of the organising;
    • Sheila (again!) for the Saturday evening playlist;
    • Whoever arranged the flowers for Paul and Gwenda;
    • Dave for relieving Paul of master of ceremonies duties;
    • Alan for his speech;
    • Jill for her exhibition of course paperwork and photographs;
    • Jane for liaising with the alumni office and arranging the university tour; and last but not least
    • Anyone who bought me a drink! 😀
    Final bouquets and brickbats

    First the bouquets. Your ‘umble scribe is indebted to: the staff and management of The Mount Hotel for being so welcoming and accommodating (the food was excellent! Ed.); the Westacres for feeding nineteen of us on Friday evening; the Swan Inn for their splendid draught Banks’s Mild and idiosyncratic urinals; David of the Alumni Office and David of security for the university tour; the weather gods for their lack of wrath; and finally, the good folk of Wolverhampton for filling my ears with the music of the Black Country accent and dialect.

    Brickbats (so no links. Ed.) are awarded to: Cross Country Trains, First Great Western, London Northwestern Railway and Network Rail for making the British Railways Board of yore appear a model of efficiency and punctuality. Other attendees who endured railway hell are invited to add the names of the guilty parties in the comments below.

  • Bristol Live: lost – one dog

    Quality control at Reach plc regional press titles does not seem to be getting any better.

    Ample evidence of this is provided by a story in today’s Bristol Live/Bristol (Evening) Post, which features a non-existent dog in one photograph, as shown by the screenshot below.

    Photo caption reads A family snapshot of Tiah, Zaya, Kieran, Kehlani and their dog Obie
    Spot the canine

    To be fair to Bristol’s newspaper of (warped) record, the dog does appear in a subsequent uncropped version of the same photo with an identical caption.

    Why the editor tolerates such duplication and lack of quality control is beyond the imagination of your ‘umble scribe. Perhaps s/he would care to explain in the comments below.

  • Bristol Live exclusive – war and mass killing in Dorset

    Bristol Live, the Reach plc local news title that serves Bristol (badly. Ed.) is not know for the restraint of its headlines; and one of yesterday’s was definitely what one could classify as sensationalist.

    Indeed, judging by the headline war and mass killing have recently occurred in Studland in Dorset, if one takes the standard definition of carnage, i.e. “the violent killing of large numbers of people, especially in war“; and all relating to a car ending up in the sea.

    Headline reads Carnage at world's most expensive resort as car rolls into water

    Needless to say there is no mention of mass killings or hostilities in the report itself, only the minor inconvenience of cancelled ferry services. Could it be yet more evidence that the residents of the city’s Temple Way Ministry of Truth have a very poor understanding of the English language? They definitely have a tendency to use it like a blunt tool instead of a precision instrument.

  • Brave Sir Boris

    On Friday disgraced former alleged party-time prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson resigned as a member of parliament with immediate effect rather than face the sanction of parliament for lying to it and possibly losing a by-election for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency he has ignored since 2015 and held with a slender majority of 7,210

    The Monty Python team had Johnson’s pusillanimous character type down to a tee way back in 1975 in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    Like Sir Robin, “Sir” Boris has plenty of previously form, as recorded by the minstrels of the fourth estate.

    “Sir” Boris is first and foremost famous for evading a journalist by hiding in a fridge; and while he was Foreign Secretary in Theresa May’s administration, Johnson typically avoided a Commons vote on the expansion of Heathrow airport (concerning which he had previously vowed to oppose, saying he would “lie down in front of the bulldozers“. Ed.) by disappearing to Afghanistan for the day

  • Bristol’s environmental crime fines raised

    On Tuesday your ‘umble scribe was at a meeting of the Bristol Clean Streets Forum, which brings together community activists, council officers responsible for waste management and enforcement and the council’s own waste management company, Bristol Waste.

    A frequent plea your correspondent has been making for years was again repeated on Tuesday, namely to make greater use of the local media to deter littering, fly-tipping and other environmental crimes. as per the example of neighbouring North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Councils, who frequently have successful enforcement actions written up in the local press.

    The meeting was informed that press releases were indeed issued to highlight successful enforcement actions but the local press preferred stories from the two local authorities mentioned above to anything produced in the newsroom down the Counts Louse.

    Well, something finally happened yesterday. Bristol Live reported that the council had agreed to increase the charges imposed under its FPN scheme for environmental crimes such as littering. fly-tipping and fly-posting.

    Fly-tipping labelled with enforcement Council Aware sticker
    The Jane Street fly-tipping hotspot looking unlovely – as per usual.

    FPNs for littering will be increasing from £100 to £150, with the discount for early payment rising from £65 to £75.

    Councillors also agreed to double penalties from £200 to £400 for breaches of the “household duty of care”, which requires residents to take reasonable steps to ensure waste produced at home is only handed over to licensed waste carriers for disposal.

    Since 2017 the council has earned a surplus of £220,000 from these fines and these proceeds have been spent on measures to keep streets clean, including removing fly-posting, anti-littering campaigns, equipment to litter-picking groups, clearing graffiti and additional enforcement according to Kye Dudd, the Cabinet member for climate, ecology, waste and energy.