Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Kama Sutra

I came back from running errands in the rain to my weekly helper going, "I think I should show you what I found in your son's room."

It was a pocket version of the Kama Sutra.

I laughed, more so from the look on her face than anything else, and said, "O! That's alright. It's our copy."

"We want to be the ones teaching him about these things rather than let him learn from people we don't know whom."

Apparently our son was the only one who managed to keep a straight face when the new Science teacher taught them human reproduction.

We've always said that we must teach him about sex, about responsible sex, and other related values ourselves and not expect someone else to do it, or let him learn from reading pornography, or whatever.

The control over when to do this was taken out of our hands when he heard the TV news report of a British woman (and the man as well??) being taken to court for having sex on a Dubai beach. I did not manage to change channels quickly enough.

"Dad, what is sex?"

Dad gamely stepped up to the plate and did a very good job explaining. The mechanics.

On other occasions when the context was right, we reinforced the values.

Now, nearly 13, he's learning about his growing body and anticipate the massive changes ahead. Dad enlightens him about experiences that only dads have.

Back to mechanics again.

So why not the Kama Sutra? And also the Song of Solomon in the Bible?

There is the occasional "Yuck!", but he's established that Mum and Dad are the ones to talk to about these things.

Job done?

Not quite. I've started praying for a Godly woman that God would nurture to support my son in his adult life.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Escape FROM the Country

My husband and I had been thinking of moving to the country when he retires and we dream of keeping honeybees and chickens and growing our own vegetables, etc.

Last night we were in Devon to celebrate his mum's 80th birthday. We had a great time but I was nervous about travelling knowing how treacherous the weather promised to be.

Thankfully husband drove well (as usual) and I suspect given the weather warnings, only those who needed to travel, did, and the roads were pretty clear. Still the rain beat down.

We checked into a riverside inn in Bovey Tracey, rested, and met up at the pub restaurant for the party.

When we were leaving after the party the staff told us that the road we arrived by was flooded and traffic was not getting through. So husband, who knew that area well, chose a different route.

Once we got into the car the local radio notified us of various flood spots and, of course, that the river had burst its banks at Bovey Tracey. Ah! What do we do?

Son in the back was panicking. We managed to calm him down.

But we reached the point where Police closed the road and husband was shown what the road looked like: a river! We were told to park up and walk.

So we did, in our party clothes! Thankfully I had opted to wear boots to keep me warm.

"County Rangers" were putting out sandbags and we were told, "You don't want to go that way. The water is waist high."

That frightened me a bit.

Thankfully after wading about 70-80 yards in not quite knee-deep water, we got to the bit of the road which was actually a bridge over the river and surprisingly our pub/restaurant/inn was quite dry considering that the river runs under it! We got back to our room.

Son was petrified that the flood waters would rise even further. He was just very tired and began to imagine the worst. So I comforted and reassured him that with the police down the road, the worst that could happen was they would evacuate us. He soon fell asleep.

This morning we found that it was "just another day in Bovey Tracey" (after Phil Collins) and people were out and about walking their dogs and getting their newspapers. The river level had fallen although the road was still 'puddley' right outside our room (which was in a dip).

Husband returned his abandoned car to the inn, and we packed up and left without even stopping for breakfast, keen to get out before the next rains appeared.

That first squelch (is that the right word?) of water inside one's shoes took a bit getting used to.

Mighty strange to think how instead of an 'Escape to the Country' we literally escaped from it.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Leaving Primary School

The following letter was sent to Straits Times Forum on 5th November 2012, one of the many letters that have not been published. I have been too busy to put this up on the blog and so have not made any further comments.

Please feel free to do so:


Our son is transferring to senior school in September. The system in the UK independent sector is rather complex: offers are made based on a permutation of 13+ Common Entrance Examination (CEE), interviews, school reports, individual school entrance exams, scholarship exams, etc.

The most important advice we have been given is:

  • Our son must be happy in order to thrive at senior school, so shop around.
  • If your son requires tuition to pass the specific school entrance exam, then it is not the right school for him.

Boys from his school have won scholarships to senior schools based on their athletic skills, or talent in art, drama and music. However, everyone still sits the CEE and the results are used by the senior schools to customize teaching.

There is no shame in going to a ‘less academic’ school because the minimum academic standard is still there.

Entrance to state schools is different. Grammar schools still require excellent 11+ exam results. However, grammars are finding that pupils that have been coached to pass exams struggle to keep up*.

Other schools are required by law to be non-selective and offer places on the basis of distance from schools. When performing well in exams is not a passport to a ‘good’ school – as only the rich kids can afford to live near such schools – children lose incentive and then self-esteem, leading to a race to the bottom.

It is sad that parents (and children) think that Singapore only has a place for those proven to be academically gifted by the time one is 12.

Singapore must find a balance. Precisely because we are a small country we must nurture the natural talent of every child and educate each to the appropriate level to make each a contributing citizen.

In addition, society (you and I) must respect, appreciate and reward justly the part played by “we, the citizens” and every net contributor, not just the educated and well-heeled.

How miserable would life be if we do not have safe bus and train drivers, knowledgeable and polite sales/service staff, efficient and hygienic hospital cleaners and porters, keen-eyed and dextrous factory workers, etc?

Those who have risen to the top courtesy of a meritocracy now have the moral responsibility to ensure that the best and brightest of each cohort, from whatever background, also have the opportunity to do the same.


Bright children failed by a 'cult of the average', CBI warn

Private schools are demonised in Britain but are the envy of the world

* Grammar school tests to be made 'tutor-proof'

Thursday, 8 November 2012

What's the point of HRT?

This is not about hormone replacement therapy, sorry, but the "Habitual Residence Test".

I saw a client this week who was refused benefits on account of her failing the HRT.

Born somewhere in the Middle-east she became a citizen of a Scandinavian country and had lived there many years. Then she decided to come to the UK where she has family.

She was clearly in a lot of pain when she saw me and could not sit for more than a few minutes without having to change position. She told me she had come here so that her family could look after her.

But EU/EEA citizens cannot just arrive on these shores and claim benefits. They have the right to reside but they must be able to support themselves by being employed or be self-employed, but they do not have the right to benefits. I think the objective is that people do not simply move to a country with better benefits, ie shop around for better benefits.

Truth is, people do.

They come here and worked for a bit, claimed illness, and then go on benefits indefinitely. It has been known.

When I later looked at this client's notes I realized that she had been seen by our most experienced adviser who told her the 'rules'. I said, you know, you could go back to your country and you'd be able to claim all the benefits: health, care, education, housing, etc.

She wouldn't countenance that idea because she wants to be in the UK. Her son requires special medication and has special needs. Her children have been in school here. Etc.

When I looked up (just) at the HRT I learned that there is a chance that this woman may now qualify and it makes me angry.

If you intend to stay and if your children have been put in school, you are habitually resident, and therefore you can now claim benefits.

She worked for a month when she first arrived and was dismissed. She kept dropping plates in the restaurant because she was depressed. She suffers from arthritis in several places, etc.

And the UK taxpayer has to pick up the tab. Why? She had no intention of working here. She wanted to come here so that her family could look after her because she is ill. That's what she told me. And yet if she drags the procedure out for a bit, simply by refusing to go home, claims that her children are settled here, etc. she would pass the HRT. And thousands of pounds of benefits would roll in, not counting the medical bills we are already paying.

Also, she was sent to us by her social worker! The taxpayer pays the social worker to look after vulnerable people. The social worker sends her client to my advice charity, run by volunteers.

If you paid for a medical service would you be happy if they say, 'Sorry, cannot help you there. Please go to the Red Cross or St John's Ambulance people.'

I cannot understand a welfare system where people could fleece it without having first contributed to it. Does Singapore really want this sort of welfare? Be careful. It would be good for a few years. Everyone would be happy. But there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Look at Greece. Apparently they retire in their 50s while Britons cannot retire till at least 65, or 67 in my case. But they want their pension and for much longer. They are out on the streets demonstrating again.

Do they not understand that we have to work to keep the economy going in order to pay benefits?

We have decided that we will leave this country as soon as we can. Job offers, anyone?