Wednesday 28 April 2021

My 'secret strings' game to unlock 'texts' (stories, poems, plays, non-fiction etc)

 You tell the children/students that they are going to be poem or story 'detectives' and their job is find the 'secret strings' in a poem or story - or play or any 'text'.

Secret strings run within texts linking words, phrases, sentences and pictures or 'images'. The students' job is to find them. 

Sometimes the link is to do with sound - eg alliteration, assonance, rhythm, rhyme, repetition, long phrases, short phrases. 

Sometimes the links is to do with images - similar, contrasting. 

Sometimes the links are to do with repeated actions or 'motifs' or themes. 

Sometimes it's different words with a similar theme - 'lexical field', as it's called. 

Anything links to anything else if you can prove it.

Authors quite often don't know the secret strings that they themselves have created.

The longer you play the game, the more you find out about how a text is put together.

The longer you play the game, the more you start to come up with thoughts about what the text means and why it's been put together in a particular way. 

One example of 'motif': in 'Where the Wild Things Are' - Max says he'll eat his mother up. His mother sends him to bed with having anything to eat. The Wild Things say they'll eat him up. When Max gets home, there's something for him to eat. Secret strings. If we ask what is the symbolic meaning of 'eating', we might say, 'gratification'? 'Pleasure'? Then the secret strings tell us a little story about forbidden, withheld and granted pleasure...

Then there are the secret strings between texts - called 'intertextuality. You can apply the same method - echoes, allusions, shared themes, shared imagery, shared archetypes, shared plot lines, share genres...these are all the play of secret strings between texts. Looking for them, finding them, talking about them is a great way to discover how texts are structured and helping us to find out how themes and ideas are given to us. 

You can play these games by actually drawing on texts (if that's allowed!). I've seen children sitting on the floor with a poem copied in large format on to a sheet of sugar paper with huge margins all round. The children had different coloured felt-tips and drew loops round the items they were linking and lines for the 'secret strings'. Different colours for different reasons for the link is fun.

Saturday 24 April 2021

What did we know on March 16 2020 about Covid? What was the advice from the WHO?

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 16 March 2020
16 March 2020

Good afternoon everyone.

In the past week, we have seen a rapid escalation of cases of COVID-19.

More cases and deaths have now been reported in the rest of the world than in China.

We have also seen a rapid escalation in social distancing measures, like closing schools and cancelling sporting events and other gatherings.

But we have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing – which is the backbone of the response.

Social distancing measures can help to reduce transmission and enable health systems to cope.

Handwashing and coughing into your elbow can reduce the risk for yourself and others.

But on their own, they are not enough to extinguish this pandemic. It’s the combination that makes the difference.

As I keep saying, all countries must take a comprehensive approach.

But the most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate.

You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected.

We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.

Test every suspected case.

If they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in close contact with up to 2 days before they developed symptoms, and test those people too. [NOTE: WHO recommends testing contacts of confirmed cases only if they show symptoms of COVID-19]

Every day, more tests are being produced to meet the global demand.

WHO has shipped almost 1.5 million tests to 120 countries. We’re working with companies to increase the availability of tests for those most in need.

WHO advises that all confirmed cases, even mild cases, should be isolated in health facilities, to prevent transmission and provide adequate care.

But we recognize that many countries have already exceeded their capacity to care for mild cases in dedicated health facilities.

In that situation, countries should prioritize older patients and those with underlying conditions.

Some countries have expanded their capacity by using stadiums and gyms to care for mild cases, with severe and critical cases cared for in hospitals.

Another option is for patients with mild disease to be isolated and cared for at home.

Caring for infected people at home may put others in the same household at risk, so it’s critical that care-givers follow WHO’s guidance on how to provide care as safely as possible.

For example, both the patient and their care-giver should wear a medical mask when they are together in the same room.

The patient should sleep in a separate bedroom to others and use a different bathroom.

Assign one person to care for the patient, ideally someone who is in good health and has no underlying conditions.

The care-giver should wash their hands after any contact with the patient or their immediate environment.

People infected with COVID-19 can still infect others after they stop feeling sick, so these measures should continue for at least two weeks after symptoms disappear.

Visitors should not be allowed until the end of this period.

There are more details in WHO’s guidance.


Once again, our key message is: test, test, test.

This is a serious disease. Although the evidence we have suggests that those over 60 are at highest risk, young people, including children, have died.

WHO has issued new clinical guidance, with specific details on how to care for children, older people and pregnant women.

So far, we have seen epidemics in countries with advanced health systems. But even they have struggled to cope.

As the virus moves to low-income countries, we're deeply concerned about the impact it could have among populations with high HIV prevalence, or among malnourished children.

That’s why we’re calling on every country and every individual to do everything they can to stop transmission.

Washing your hands will help to reduce your risk of infection. But it’s also an act of solidarity because it reduces the risk you will infect others in your community and around the world. Do it for yourself, do it for others.

We also ask people to express their solidarity by refraining from hoarding essential items, including medicines.

Hoarding can create shortages of medicines and other essential products, which can exacerbate suffering.

We’re grateful to everyone who has contributed to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Since we launched it on Friday, more than 110,000 people have contributed almost 19 million U.S. dollars.

These funds will help to buy diagnostic tests, supplies for health workers and support research and development.

If you would like to contribute, please go to and click on the orange “Donate” button at the top of the page.

We’re also grateful for the way different sectors of society are coming together.

This started with the SafeHands Challenge, which has attracted celebrities, world leaders and people everywhere demonstrating how to wash their hands.

This afternoon WHO and the International Chamber of Commerce issued a joint call to action to the global business community. The ICC will send regular advice to its network of more than 45 million businesses, to protect their workers, customers and local communities, and to support the production and distribution of essential supplies.

I’d like to thank Paul Polman, Ajay Banga and John Denton for their support and collaboration.

WHO is also working with Global Citizen to launch the Solidarity Sessions, a series of virtual concerts with leading musicians from around the world.


This is the defining global health crisis of our time.

The days, weeks and months ahead will be a test of our resolve, a test of our trust in science, and a test of solidarity.

Crises like this tend to bring out the best and worst in humanity.

Like me, I’m sure you have been touched by the videos of people applauding health workers from their balconies, or the stories of people offering to do grocery shopping for older people in their community.

This amazing spirit of human solidarity must become even more infectious than the virus itself. Although we may have to be physically apart from each other for a while, we can come together in ways we never have before.

We’re all in this together. And we can only succeed together.

So the rule of the game is: together.

Thank you.

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Phoney localism in the Super League debate

I am seeing some phoney 'analysis' of power within football. Local fans aren't the 'workers' in football. We are the consumers. We buy a product either at the gate, or through merchandise, or indirectly buying the televised product from a retailer, the media, who is in effect the distributor of the product. The owners of clubs are the capitalists, the players (and ground staff) are the workers as supervised/overseen/managed by football coaches.

It's very interesting therefore to see that the football workers have been excluded from a debate (and the government intervention) as to how the owners operate their leagues (trading cartels, if you like). Are oil workers represented when OPEC meet? (I don't know, but I would doubt it. Prove me wrong!)

In Feb 2020, Johnson said that he was against 'market segregation' in his approach to Covid. Why now is he in favour of government intervention in football? And if he believes now in bringing all parties together, why aren't players represented at the meeting?

As I've said, I distrust the phoney localism going on defending something that doesn't exist in the top flight anymore: the local link between players and fans. Premier League teams are made up of an international cadre of 'workers'. The great heroes of the team I support have had no more than a tiny handful of north London players over the last 20 years.

As someone has pointed out to me, if the issue is really 'let's support localism', then why isn't the government rushing in to support local libraries, post offices, pubs, high streets? So neither in the publicly owned sphere or the small business sphere is the government really in favour of 'the local'. 

This is window-dressing.

Sunday 18 April 2021

Naming names - how the Holocaust happened right the way down to a small village in western France

 How my father's Uncle was killed:

Hitler was the Leader of the Third Reich.
Under his command was Heinrich Himmler.
Under his command was Adolf Eichmann.
Under his command was Carl Oberg
Higher SS and Police Leader
in Paris
Working with Carl Oberg was René Bousquet
Secretary-General responsible for the French Police
Under the command of Carl Oberg
was Hermann Herold
the regional Commander of the Security Police.
Under his command was the regional Prefect
Louis Bourgain.
Under his command was Gaston Jammet
the local sub-prefect.
Under his command was a local brigade
of gendarmes:
Eugène Cabanetos
Arnand Mazouin
Georges Salomon
who were under the command of their officer
Pierre Le Papu.
The four gendarmes knocked on
the door of one Madame Bobières
at 2.30 in the morning on Jan 31, 1944
and arrested Martin Rozen
who was staying there.
They handed him over to the local Nazis,
who deported him to Poitiers
then to Drancy
then to Paris Bobigny
then to Auschwitz on Convoy 68.