Posts Tagged ‘The Public’

It's amazing how much fun an underground train journey can be

That’s how we spent our half term holiday: learning to use the Tube. Well, we did a few other things as well, but when the Joker told people about what we’d been up to, the Tube featured rather heavily in his report.

My mother is a Super-Organised Nanna and we’d agreed to go and stay with her and Grumpy Grandpa in London for a few days. The Vicar managed to break away from his sermon prep long enough to spend some of the time with us aswell.

S-O Nanna had comprehensively surfed the net to work out the best things to do with an 8 year old, a 7 year old and a 5 year old in London during half term. So we had a trip to the Science Museum, a visit to the Tower of London and finally an activity morning at the Museum of Childhood.

Of course we visited all these places by tube, which, when you’re under ten and don’t have to do it all the time, is a wonderful treat. This is the first year we’ve been able to do this sort of visit because the Engineer is only just out of the buggy and not whining all the time he has to walk.

The Science Museum trip was the least successful, even though the Vicar was able to come on that one. Even though we were at South Kensington tube station by about 10.45am, there was already a queue to get in. And after we’d had our picnic lunch by the interactive section we would have had to queue again for around 45 minutes to get into the part with all the buttons. The children enjoyed it, but it was really too busy. I think we’d only return there on a school Inset day, when not quite the whole world is trying to visit. Apparently the Natural History museum is similarly heaving during half term. But it is free.

Our favourite part of the Science Museum was probably a story time session, where one of the staff told an interactive story about a visit to Iceland. Her story taught the children about snow, ice and volcanoes, using actions and a white parachute. It was most suitable for younger children although I think the Queen probably enjoyed it the most – she loves drama. Ooh – and we bumped into some old pals from Vicar college. We’d not seen them for nearly five years. London’s a small place. Or Vicars and their families like to do free things in half term.

More on the Tower and the Museum of Childhood another day. Wish we had similar stuff on in our town tho’. I’m thinking The Public could learn a thing or two…

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Our family visited West Bromwich’s very expensive new art gallery this weekend. We had been at the baptism of Polly’s baby at the local catholic church and had time before the chicken roasting in the Vicarage oven was going to be cooked, so we dropped into the big black fish tank with Babapapa windows.

Is it a huge waste of money or an investment for the future?

A huge waste of money or an investment for the future?

We have been in before (for expensive coffee and a view of the glitzy loos), but the art gallery part has only just opened, so this was our first opportunity to gauge whether the £67 million that was spent has been really worthwhile.

Of course, the word on the street is that it is a complete waste of money for a town which has no cinema, no bowling alley and no swimming pool. But let’s give it a chance, eh? We loved the art gallery in Wolverhampton, where you could look at beautiful pictures, dress up as a Georgian, feel textured sculptures and eat wonderful salad selections. I would sometimes just pop in with the kids for half an hour to visit their favourite exhibits.

So how was the Public going to shape up? Would the kids enjoy it? And would the grown ups?

First off, I have to say that the curators are a bit overkeen. I like to look at the art and spend time in my own head in a gallery. And the kids like to do their own thing. So having three or four curators launch themselves at us telling us what to do was a little off-putting.  Maybe they were a bit bored – there seems to be rather too many of them.  It’s great to have them there to ask things of, but when they just started suggesting what we do, I felt rather patronised. Like we were ignorant and wouldn’t know what to do and might not be able to read any instructions or labels. It made me a bit grumpy, to tell the truth. If I want people to leap on me and ask me if I need any help, I’ll go to a posh frock shop.

Secondly, there’s not a lot there. And I don’t want to sound ignorant or anything, but I don’t think that much of it was what I’d call art. There were four sculptures and some good photos of the Black Country from the 1960s. But the rest consisted of the following:

  • What the kids called ‘dance mats’ and were basically slightly weird and not very good computer games.
  • Some fun video projectors which enabled you to see yourself sitting on a bench with people sitting on a different bench.
  • Some touch screen digital photo frames with photos of art projects that have happened at the Public over the summer.
  • A couple of short movies (one on the Public and one on Malcolm X).
  • A chance to make an animation of yourself.
  • Some gadgets which you could swirl your hands in to make coloured bubbles appear on some round projector screens.

I’d much rather look at a couple of good paintings and let the kids dress up in funky ’60s clothing, like in Wolverhampton’s pop art gallery.

Now from their latest magazine, I can see that there is more to the place than the exhibition, and we enjoyed hearing wafts of live jazz as we ambled down the long wooden ramp that most of the gallery seems to comprise of. And I liked the look of their Saturday art club and might even bring the kids along one week.

But as for the exhibition, the children enjoyed jumping about on the ‘dance mats’ and swirling their hands to make bubbles. And they liked the free self portrait photo. But the Vicar and I were pretty bored. And I can’t see the gallery exciting my kids about art, especially not compared to what they could experience in Wolverhampton. I wonder what they could have done with a cheap refurbished factory and money spent on real art instead? Or money spent on artists in every primary school in Sandwell.

So in my view, the Public seems rather like the Millenium Dome. A visionary building with less than visionary contents. The Public has so far failed to impress this section of West Brom’s public.

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According to Lord Laming, directors of council Children’s Services departments need to be retrained to understand the pressures of frontline social work. This will mean that they can support their staff properly.

According to the Vicar’s Wife, they also need to be retrained in postal logistics and basic form reading skills. And support their staff to do the same.

First impressions count

First impressions count

I applied for school places for the Queen and the Joker before we moved to the vicarage. We changed local authority from Wolverhampton to Sandwell. So I carefully completed Sandwell’s schools application forms, accompanied by a covering letter, for both children and hand delivered them to the reception desk of the Sandwell Children’s Services department. On a Friday morning.

When I called a week later to find out how they were getting on with my applications, I was told that the department had not received them until the Tuesday. My paperwork had taken three working days to move a few floors up in the building. Not a good first impression.

A few days later I called the school to find out if they’d heard anything. But apparently, they are told about children’s allocations to a school after the family. But the very helpful lady in the school office said she would call Children’s Services and then get back to me.

When she got back to me she told me that the children did have places (hooray!), but that Children’s Services had sent my letter about it to the Vicarage. Where I would not be living for another three weeks. As I had especially informed them in my covering letter and on the forms I had sent.

Children’s Services re-sent the letter to my Wolverhampton home. And I discovered that they had given places to Queen Vicar in Year One, and Vicar Joker in Year Three. So the Queen, who is seven, would be sitting in a class with a bunch of children two years younger than her and the Joker, who is six, would be stretched by being promoted to the Juniors. And being called by his surname instead of his first name.

Now I know that my children have rather unusual names and that the Joker’s first and sur- names could be interchanged to make a ‘normal’ name. But so can many people with Scottish heritage. Like the Vicar for instance, and the Engineer. But his sister and mother (I signed my name in the covering letter and on the form) have the same surname. AND I COMPLETED THE FORM CORRECTLY! With the right names in the right boxes and everything! And I can’t believe that in multicultural Sandwell, everybody is called ‘Jack Smith’ or ‘Jane Brown’.

So all in all, Sandwell Council have a bit of work to do to begin winning me over now. Three mistakes in their first piece of communication with me is not a good record sheet. I’m not surprised that this is the council that landed itself with The Public.

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