Thursday 5 April 2012

On yer bike

Pocket money for chores. That's how it worked. Enough pocket money for a comic and some sweets, provided we did our allotted tasks about the house. Seemed fair enough to me, but I didn't want sweets. My sights were set higher and I would press my nose up against the model shop window, yearning to buy balsa and glue and tissue with which to commit aviation.

So, when I was 12, I lied about my age to get a paper round and then managed to stall for the best part of a year before I could get a legal permit to work part time. Work was - as far as I could see - what distinguished children from adults and I very much wanted to distance myself from association with the feckless youth I had been surrounded by ever since I'd started school. (I never did take to children; I still reckon I was quarried, rather than born.)

 I saved every penny I could of my 75 new-fangled-pee per week wage until I had managed to amass the £25 I needed to take advantage of my parents. Take advantage, that is, of their generous offer to meet me half way on the purchase of a bike. Oh yes, I forgot to to mention, I ran the first year of that round, in all weathers. (It's only in later years I realised my poor mother must have been saving frantically to keep up with me!)

Not long after that I started working weekends at a market garden on the princely sum of 10p per hour. And at sixteen I worked as a general dogsbody in a local hotel on (gasp) £1 per hour and some weeks I managed to put in 25 hours, working part time while starting on those proper 'A' levels. I was working. I was a man. At least that's the way it looked to me. Unless you achieve something great and different your daily work defines you. You'd think more people would want to be good at it.

So it really pisses me right off when I come across stories like the desperation of Janette Harrop of the Old Original pub near Bolton who has been unable to recruit an employable apprentice. If you don't read the whole piece, the headlines tell the story pretty much. Applicants simply can't be arsed, being accustomed to their every whim being catered for as a child. When even a union leader agrees with me (In this article Mary Bousted says, "Far too many children are waited on hand and foot." and believe that their teachers are there to serve them.) there has to be something going badly wrong.

And that's been a common cry from employers for some years now. The infantilisation of Britain, the child-centred culture, from families to school and now into universities and the workplace we (you, that is) have been bending over backwards to shield children from the hard lessons they need to learn in order to play a useful part. We live in a country that is about as far from real austerity as it's possible to get, but the progressive weakening of our (your) moral fibre has created a generation or more that simply cannot get off its arse... for love nor money.

I saw all this coming, years ago, when I began to see BMWs and Mercedes parked out side council houses. When people began to aspire to a lifestyle they could not possibly afford, backed up by an absurd and warped sense of entitlement. Why save for something when you can have it today, declare yourself broke and never pay it back? The never-never became the not-never-ever

But somebody has to pay and if not you, who? Norman Tebbit said "get on yer bike" to an increasingly idle nation back in the 80s.

Today he'd have to make sure your mum got up to pedal it for you.

The theme of the week is incompetence and yes, Britain, not only are you utterly useless, you are not even competent enough to try to hide it.

Blog Plug: For an insider perspective on education you should read this excellent blog by Andrew Old (@oldandrewuk )

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