Friday, June 29, 2007

To register, or not to register?

That is the question.

I had a phone call from our LA home ed 'advisor' yesterday, requesting this year's updated information (just a short paragraph) about the educational provision for Zara, for her file. I agreed to send this, and I wondered whether to officially tell her about Lyddie.

She knows about Lyddie unofficially, but appears slightly unwilling, I get the impression, to be officially told about her. I assume this is because, if I register Lyddie with the LA as being home educated, I'll be in a good position for the next 12 years or so (18 with our baby) to keep my eye on how the LA treats registered HErs in the area, as I'll still be one of them. Whereas if Lyddie stays unregistered, the 'advisor' perhaps hopes I'll just disappear off the radar, along with my silly insistence on fair treatment and adhering to the law, etc.

Not that our LA is too bad compared to some, but there are a few outstanding issues, such as:

  1. Did the 'advisor' ever ask to have her payment arrangements changed, so that she's paid for all HE liaison work, not just visits? She said she would, be we never had confirmation it had happened.

  2. Her first letter to new HErs, when they come to her attention, used to make no mention of other methods of providing information, apart from the upcoming visit, with specified date and time, as if the family had no choice. The letter also requested samples of work and future plans almost as if these were a legal requirement, without mentioning alternatives or options. We were promised that this would change but we didn't follow it up. I asked recently on the local list whether anyone had received such a letter recently and got no reply, so I have no idea what her current standard letters look like.

  3. She knows that strictly there's no legal onus for ongoing monitoring arrangements, by LAs of HErs and yet she earns her money by pursuing them. This is a conflict of interests in my mind, and I have said as much to her. This issue has never been properly addressed.

So all of this does need following up and I'm probably in a better position to do so (?) if I have home educating children registered with the LA for the next 18 years.

Someone was wondering on one of the home ed lists today, why the powers that be seem to be against compulsory registration. Could it possibly be that the most 'militant' HErs tend not to be registered with their LAs and therefore the 'trouble' they might cause is mitigated by their wish to remain 'unknown'? (EF: I have 'inverted comma' disease too - it must be contagious!)

Being unknown would be nice, I must admit. It's a luxury I've never enjoyed because I deregistered Tom, Ali and Zara from school. But for Lyddie and the baby to learn at their own pace AND for me not to be ever justifying this to the LA is an attractive proposition.

Then I think about things like truancy patrols, which are a much less worrying pospect from a 'known' point of view, and can be complicated for 'unknowns'. And just the whole feeling that we might be doing something 'wrong'. (Yes, I have a very bad case of 'IC' syndrome!)

Well, Lyddie will soon reach her 5th birthday. I suppose we can register her any time if we decide to, but Zara has only one more year of compulsory education, so in effect, if I'm to stay seamlessly on the LA files, we have that year in which to decide.

Comments most welcome!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Flood news from here

There is none!

Well, we had an exciting drive through a burst main on Monday, and that's about the extent of it. I gather the other parts of Yorkshire took the brunt of the problem this time. The nearest area to us that's vulnerable to flooding is the Hebden Bridge/ Todmorden valley in which we used to live, and I'm told the flood alarms were sounding there on Monday, but the new defence system held.

But we've been watching the news, reading and talking about the flooding issue a lot. Lyddie didn't understand it at all before Monday. At first she was completely unaccepting of the idea that rainwater could actually get into a house, other than through a leaky roof. We had to explain about rivers bursting their banks, and then the story of the dam in Rotherham threatening to breach triggered yet more questions and answers and explanations about reservoirs, water supplies and dams. Rotherham is about 35 miles away from us, over the South Pennine hills, so it's kind of close to home.

Tom and I got into one of our heated debates about states of emergency, such as the one recently called in Hull, specifically about the question of whether we'd evacuate unquestioningly if ordered to. I think we kind of agreed in the end that it wouldn't be unquestioning, although I think I'm right in thinking we'd have no legal option if a state of emergency had been declared? But we were thinking about the official New Orleans response to Katrina, for example, when the decisions taken by officials weren't necessarily the best thing for everyone.

Apparently we're due for a lot more rain at the weekend and the ground around here is already very wet. The view from our window looks out on some of the 50% of UK housing stock since WWII built on flood plains, plus electrical switching station which would be a bit vulnerable if the River Calder burst its banks, but there haven't been any problems since a drainage system was incorporated into that land about 10 years ago so I think they're fairly safe.

There's just one of our brood away from home - Zara's staying with friends in the Midlands and due back tomorrow, so we'll be glad to get her back.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

House *works*

We've been very busy here - hence the recent lack of blog posts! But we've been sorting out all our stuff (books, toys, paperwork, art stuff, photos etc.,) into a workable storage system allowing us easy access to everything.

With apologies to readers of my other blog, who have seen some of this already, here's what we did:

The books, jigsaws, games and art/craft stuff were all in the dining room which worked quite well because good use was made of the dining table, but the room was quite crowded and getting around the table at mealtimes could be a bit of a tight squeeze:

And the living room housed a chaotic collection of toys, which was also good in a way, because it seemed to engender the most creative, complex imagination games in Lyddie. But even when tidied into boxes (randomly) it wasn't attractive and the room never felt tidy. I was also concerned that we had too much stuff that wasn't really accessible, and there's no point in having loads of stuff that doesn't get used.

As for paperwork and other stuff, well:

It wasn't pretty. I'd made a start with those boxes you see to the right there, but for weeks I kept thinking "This whole place needs sorting out - properly."

Louise asked me how we knew how many crates we'd need and the answer is: we didn't. Wilkos were selling a range of Crystal perspex crates with lids (standard size: £3) and I looked at the chaos on the living room floor and roughly counted the number of categories I could see: duplo, dolls, teddies, cars, etc. and guessed at the sizes that might be required. We did sums to make sure we had enough spare cash in the overdraft then went off and bought a dozen or so and spread them out on the dining room table. Crates of toy chaos were then brought in one at a time and sorted. When we ran out of boxes, we went back and bought more. I think this happened about five times!

Until the dining room was full and the living room was empty:

Then we painted it:

And went to buy shelves. Ikea's Ivar range is one we've used before, and we've found it's cheap, solid, looks ok and above all is easy to assemble and modify, so we went with that. Lou also asked how we knew the crates would fit on the shelves and - we didn't! Well we knew the regular-sized ones would. The big ones, did I measure them? I might have, but we were working so fast and furiously by then (16 hour days, all last week) that I can't remember. I think we (I - Tom was laughing at me for it, so it can't have been him!) decided just to wing it. All along we were doing sums on the backs of envelopes - we looked like mad maths boffins trying to solve a complex theorem!

We filled loads of shelves with boxes and books, then decided we needed more shelves, so went back again. This job wasn't meticulously pre-planned at all! It was kind of, er, organic in its development. I wish I could blog movie clips of us careering back from Ikea with car full of people and shelving units, then all piling out and starting to build them. Our baby was quite interested in the process anyway, from her sling-side position!

Anyway, here's the end result:

And here are some more detailed pics, on big clickable photos at Lou's request (who is probably at HESFES, - hope the sun shines!) so might not see this until next week anyway.

We made a play corner, with cars (right box) and a road mat. ( - Ikea again! £10.) The box on the left is full of Zara's old Polly Pocket miniature compacts, for which we need to get some replacement dolls.

The bulk of the jigsaws and games are up here:

But we put some in easy reach near the table, especially the stuff Lyddie's been using a lot:

Here are Magnetix, and a box of modelling stuff to the right..

Here's Lego..

All the family photos are in this big box here, for someone to organise if ever they feel like it! We wanted them to be accessible, but toddler proof, which these box lids are.

I hate making things 'age-appropriate', but there are two baskets full of 'young child' books on the 2nd shelf up, so these are about chest-height for Lyddie:

As is the Duplo basket:

We found the cable for the piano - and I've actually been playing it! First time in years. I'm very rusty. Lyddie has played it too. She's been experimenting with the sounds and carefully picks out tuneful sequences.

Also, the globe met the map, and Lyddie got an impromptu geography lesson from Tom when she wanted to know how and why the one became the other. Good question, when you think about it!

Files, old college stuff and diaries went up here. There’s 15 years’ worth of I Ching readings with corresponding notes in that lot! And old training diaries. I might publish it all one of these days.

Here are dressing-up clothes...

And this is kind of what's reachable from the table. Those three smaller boxes to the right contain felt tips, crayons and pencils. In the centre above the lego is a box full of painting gear.

And there's a box of paper at the bottom and a box of comics. This is a crawling/toddling baby angle, one of which we'll have again in a few months. So she can reach things which are safe for her to play with, and not get into things which aren’t.

To the left here is a box of board books, and to the right is a box of musical instruments, and baby dolls in the basket below.

We've amassed three dolls' houses over the years. Nothing special, but they all get played with. I'd love to build a big wooden one. Might get around to that one of these days. [*Edit: ooh I could try to build one into one of these shelves..]

I guess you don't need me to tell you what this is! I bought it 20 years ago for my 3 year-old stepson, and it's survived five children before the current batch of little ones! I also tried to put relevant books next to certain toys. *Sigh* and I said I never did strewing. Oh, the hypocrisy! Ah well. I had to put things somewhere. And strewing is quite fun, I find, when it's done openly. I'd still never be so sneaky as to leave a certain book casually open in the bathroom or something.

Here's a box full of dolls, and doll paraphernalia, of a size that might inhabit the dolls' houses.

Some of my favourite books here. Making berry pie today (thanks Lucy!) reminded me of Peter Rabbit - and I knew exactly where it was! So we read it straight away instead of having to do the usual 10-minute search.

Here's Pooh Bear Corner:

.. and Letterland shelf...

And even the old sideboard got a clean-out. It now houses random toys:

.. and the train set. I really must get some wood glue and fix that bit of track though:

In the corner behind my PC we put the more 'boring' stuff. Those smaller boxes at the top are mostly paperwork. There’s a box for bills, one for banking, one for maps, stationery, etc. And there’s a knitting box up there at the top! And a hallowe’en box. That big box top left is full of Christmas stuff. The 2 below that are videos, which we’re still on because I’ve yet to find a child-proof DVD. The three big boxes in the middle contain sewing & cloth (top), home ed meeting stuff inc parachute (middle) and old files (bottom). Then down the right hand side there’s outdoor sports stuff in the top one, then old home ed stuff below that, from the days when we thought learning had to go in files (!) and some old business stuff below that:

Then we put curtains on that section so that we didn't have to look at it all the time.

Some books, amazingly, didn't make it onto the new shelves due to lack of space! We ran out of walls for shelves. There was also no room for our old bookcase in there, so the cooking/health and herbal books all stayed in the dining room:

Well blimey, it took nearly as long to blog all that as it did to do the job!

In the end the whole project has cost about £350, including paint, shelves and 40-50 plastic boxes. (I still don't know how many we bought!) We were going to spend that money on a new garden room roof, but I'm glad we did this instead because it's improved day-to-day life for us more than the garden room roof would have done, especially given the recent rain we've had! We might manage the roof later in the summer. I hope so, because it will be good to improve the outdoor living space, for when we get some sunshine.

I love the way the new storage system works with natural learning, even in just the first few days. We've got computers in here and TVs, and everything within easy reach. Lyddie's done about 10x more activities every day than before, and the teens keep wandering in to play the piano, find a book, watch a bit of TV or just chat. That says a lot, because they're very self-contained in their rooms and so they don't have to join us in here!

Yes, it was a week of very hard work which was well worthwhile. And we can sit at the dining table now without having to push past bookshelves too:

Phew, I finally blogged it all! Funny how a job doesn't feel finished until it's been blogged.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Perhaps modern medicine doesn't know it all."

An excerpt from Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth:

Len warmed a small towel on a hot water bottle, and we wrapped the baby in it. Liz, Len and I were all stunned by the smallest human being - I estimated about one and a half pounds - we had ever seen. I had no experience of caring for a premature baby.

Just then, Conchita regained consciousness, and cried: "Nino. Mi nino. Donde esta mi nino?" (Baby. My baby. Where is my baby?) Len told Liz to tell her mother that the baby was very small. He then took the scrap of life over to his wife. With a sharp intake of breath, she put out a shaking hand to touch her child then smiled and murmured: "Mi nino." It was as she drifted off to sleep, her hand resting on Len's hand and the baby, that the Obstetric Flying Squad arrived.

In the 1950s, most big hospitals provided such a squad as back-up for domiciliary midwives. It was the proud boast of the London squad that it could reach any obstetric emergency in 20 minutes. That night, the smog slowed its response to three hours. But at least we now had an obstetrics registrar, houseman and nurse, and within minutes the GP also arrived. He looked exhausted after more than 24 hours treating patients, yet he had the courtesy to apologise for being late.

We all agreed mother and baby should be transferred to hospital but Len was alarmed. "Does she have to go?" he asked. "She's never been away from home."

Eventually it was agreed she could be treated at home but the baby would have to go to hospital. We went back into Conchita's room, where mother was still asleep, her hand over the baby that was still lying on her chest. An ambulance was called from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and when it arrived, it discharged a doctor who hurried past carrying an incubator, then another carrying a ventilating machine followed by a nurse carrying a huge box and, finally, two ambulancemen and a policeman carrying oxygen cylinders.

In Conchita's bedroom there were now five doctors, two nurses, a midwife and Len and Liz. The paediatrician, who took over from the obstetrics squad, gasped when he saw the size of the baby. "Think he'll make it, sir?" asked the young doctor.

"We'll have a damn good try," said the paediatrician. But when he tried to take the child from a still sleeping Conchita, the muscles of her arm tightened. Len leaned over to her, murmured and tried to loosen her hand but it tightened and her other hand came over to cover the first. Len then asked Liz to explain to her mother in Spanish that the baby had to go to hospital.

Conchita's eyes flickered open. "No," she said. "He will die." She thrust the baby down between her breasts and folded her arms over him. With perfect confidence she said, again in Spanish: "No. He stays with me. He will not die."

The paediatrician said the baby needed an incubator and the expertise of the world's greatest children's hospital. But Len stepped in. "This is my fault," he said. "I must apologise. I said the baby could go without consulting my wife. I shouldn't have done that. When it comes to the kiddies, she must always have the last word." The doctors eventually gave up, packing up their equipment, and the GP and I, nervous at the responsibility we were about to take on, began to arrange blood transfusions and nursing cover for Conchita.

Everyone dispersed. I couldn't face pedalling home alone in the fog, and fell asleep in one of the Warrens' armchairs. I woke five hours later to find Conchita dipping a fine glass rod, used for icing cakes, into breast milk on a saucer and then touching her baby's lips with it. His lips were no bigger that a couple of daisy petals but a tiny tongue came out and licked the fluid. Len said Conchita had been doing this every half hour since 6am.

For the next five months, Conchita carried her baby in a silk sling nestled between her breasts. Had someone taught her all this or was it purely maternal instinct? Whatever it was, both she and the baby survived. I still think that if the baby had died at birth or been taken to hospital, Conchita would have died too. Yet if Conchita had refused to hospitalise her baby today, she would probably have had it taken away under a court order. In the 1950s we were less intrusive into family life, and parental responsibility was respected. Perhaps modern medicine doesn't know it all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

8 things meme

Thanks for the tag from Nic :-)

The rules are simple…Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. I'm a Yorkshire lass, right down to my boots. Not moving anywhere else, not for anyone. (Just you watch, I'll be living in Australia next week now I've said that!)

2. In my adult life, I first spent ten years being married, living in the bottom of a deep valley, wishing I was single and living on top of a steep hill. Then I spent ten years being single and living on top of a steep hill, being very happy to be here!

3. I'm one of life's natural mothers. I find motherhood very easy and infinitely rewarding.

4. I'm very strict with myself about certain things, like not offering unsolicited advice or instructions. I don't manage this all the time, because I am my mother's daughter, but I work very hard at it.

5. I'm one of those annoying vegetarians who eats fish sometimes. (Technically a pescetarian then, but there's no point saying that in a restaurant!) Actually I'd possibly eat some meat too sometimes if I could stomach it, but not the factory farmed stuff. I have been vegan in the past: I tried all sorts of diets while training in the Taoist arts, to see which worked best for me. Am still not 100% sure.

6. It's no secret that all five of my children are autonomously home-educated. This is because I want them to be able to live life on their own terms, rather than someone else's.

7. I struggle to think straight in noisy, chaotic or cluttered environments.

8. My favourite sort of people are completely honest, up-front and straightforward. I'm likely to run a mile from people who try to be cunning, or harbour secret agendas or seek to second-guess me to try to manipulate my behaviour. If I feel that someone is trying to steer me in any way, I'll just extricate myself from the situation.

At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people...

Oh dear, I think most people have had this now. If you haven't, please consider youself tagged!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Two museums: don't touch and do.

We've visited two very different local museums in the past two days.

Bankfield, the first, is an old-fashioned 'don't touch' kind of museum, with everything behind glass, to be viewed and explained only. The grand houses of old mill-owners are the closest things we have to stately homes around here and Bankfield belonged to Edward Akroyd, heir of James Akroyd & Sons Ltd, one of the country's largest worsted manufacturers.

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The Akroyds and Bankfield played a key part in the history of Halifax and in my personal history, because they were primarily responsible, in Halifax, for bringing the cottage weavers down from the hills and into the factories.

My great, great grandfather was a cottage weaver and as a child I loved to hear from his daughter, my great grandmother, about what life was like for them. They didn't weave every day, but on weaving days the furniture would be pushed back and the loom brought out into the room. The whole family worked on the cloth and associated jobs, before the finished piece was taken to market. There were cloth halls in every local town here then, and the cottage weavers made a decent living, from what my great grandmother told me.

One of my grandfathers worked in one of the weaving factories in Halifax, from the age of 13 when he left school, until his retirement, with a few years' absence in World War II. Back then in the early 1970s, while his mother-in-law was telling me fireside tales about the cottage loom, he'd be working at the factory one and Bankfield was already a museum, opposite the mill houses in which most of my extended family lived.

I was often there too and it hasn't changed much. It smells the same as it did 35 years ago and it still fires my imagination, though I no longer dream of living there. It can't ever have been a house to feel at home in. There are wax models of the family - still the same ones - in their stiff stays and crinolines, still looking extremely uncomfortable. Uncomfortable clothes, uncomfortable houses... not much to envy about the Victorian lifestyle, rich or poor.

But I love the place: it's a museum with a heart. Somebody has passionately collected toys, costumes, old machinery - local junk from the past 100+ years, basically, and cleaned it up for display. I found myself peering at old ranges to see how they worked, and being laughed at by the girls for recognising some of the toys as being ones I'd had new as a child.

Some of it's spooky - long, dark corridors and shuttered rooms full of the kind of waxworks that came alive so credibly in recent Dr Who series that they made us jump and be glad to escape. There's a huge wooden music machine which still plays a harmony through punched holes on a 2 foot wide brass disk when you insert a coin, and a myriad of other treasures.

Outside in the park was a clover-shaped stone paddling pool, in which I played as a baby. It's filled in now with earth and grassed over. Do we have a verb for Health and Safety yet? It's been Health-and-Safety'd, along with the spinning top roundabout and the 12-seater wooden rocker. We still had fun though - there's some good modern stuff in their place now.

Edward Akroyd and his ilk priced and bribed the cottage weavers down from the hills into the factories and then agonised over housing them all cheaply, huddled together in their hundreds on the same sized plot as the owner's single house and park. No wonder their consciences were pricked. Working families lost their independence, their health and a sizeable chunk of the woolen industry profits in the name of progress.

Now the story has gone nearly full circle and the old mills are being converted into executive apartments and arts centres. We're thinking about getting some sheep and taking up weaving here. At Bankfield yesterday I bought a book about building looms. It kind of made sense to do so.

Today, by way of contrast, we've been to Eureka! the purpose-built Halifax children's museum, down by the train station. Everything there is to be touched and played with. Nothing is enclosed in glass cases. I think Lyddie preferred it, but I didn't. It seemed plastic and artificial. Here's a toilet you can see flushing. There's a pretend car you can pretend to fix. Here are some pretend roadworks you can go down into, to see what's pretending to be under the pretend road.

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And hoards of school children on trips with identical blue sweatshirts being told: "You can touch this! Look! You can play with that! Try this! Test that! Stand on this, climb on that, push this, pull that, twist the other!" I smiled wryly at the teachers' unconscious stream of instructions. Even on Discovery Street (Yes, really!) there's no such thing as free exploration for many children.

As for real exploration, I find it sort of nice but sort of sad that children now have to be 'encouraged' to play with a plastic, pretend version of the real world which is now almost completely an exclusively adult-inhabited reality. Lyddie wasn't interested in finding plastic worms under the plastic road and I didn't blame her. She preferred to chase the pigeons outside, the only child in 200 or so, running free.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Snapshot of England

We drove past a speed trap last night - police patrol car with two officers. Drove around the corner into the red light district: there we saw one totally brazen exchange of money for drugs and two prostitutes selling their wares as children played in the street further up. This was broad daylight and we took it in as we travelled through at 30MPH.

I'm not making any judgments about drugs or prostitutes. I possibly am making some about police priorities exposing sham laws though. I've been thinking a lot recently about what - and who - our legal system is actually for. There are probably no simple answers, but what we saw last night, all within two minutes, said quite a lot on the issue, I thought.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Iraq: we didn't really win, then? *Confused*

It's just that a few years ago I remember scenes of British and American tanks driving into Baghdad amidst supposed universal jubilation. The 'war' (on Terror) which had somehow mysteriously wound its way from Afghanistan where Bin Laden the 9/11 perpetrator was apparently hiding to Iraq which didn't seem to have a lot to do with either Terror or Al Qaeda, was over after just a few days of superior American precision bombing which hadn't killed or inconvenienced anyone but which had got rid of that nasty Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein, we were told, was such a bad man that some of us started to wonder why he wasn't, then, in cahoots with that other really bad man Osama Bin Laden against the shining heroes of the West. But it seems that he wasn't. Perhaps the two of them had just never hooked up.

Anyway, Saddam was defeated. America and Britain had generously liberated Iraq from their evil dictator. Job done. All that remained was for them to hang around fixing things up while a grateful Iraq quickly and democratically chose its new leader.

OK, I skipped a bit of news reading after that, but the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have since been killed there - including several Americans - and that there's no water or electricity in the cities and the country is in national crisis does now seem to be ever so slightly at odds with the initial reported scenes of jubilance. But it's ok, we're reassured that this is but a minor hitch due to some quaint confusion amongst the Iraqi people, (who obviously are taking some time to get used to the idea of democracy,) which will be soon ironed out. Meanwhile, we must rest assured that the allied forces have definitely destroyed the Axis of Evil and are in the process of rebuilding Iraq's police force (so when did that get destroyed, to need rebuilding..? I must have missed that bit..) and assisting with the rebuilding of the country.

They sneak these words in like 'rebuilding' without explaining the background. Because rebuilding implies they were there before, and are now not, but doesn't state why not.

And now we're suddenly told that five Western men have been kidnapped by Iraqi people. From the 'Shi'ite-controlled Foreign Ministry'. By 80 (or 40 - later reports suggest an earlier witness may have been suffering from double vision) policemen, in police cars, with official security passes to enter the building. And it just so happens that some of the men in question were there in an 'advisory' capacity, 'advising' the new, liberated Iraq on how to rebuild its oil industry. (There's that rebuild word again.)

80 (or 40) policemen stroll into the Shi'ite-controlled Iraqi Foreign Office, extract five Western men with no trouble at all, then drive away in their police cars. It was suggested that these 80 (/40) might have even been policemen!

So. Not the grateful, 'liberated' Iraqis we've been led to believe, perhaps? Not quite the smooth, ordered transition of power that was described to us regarding this act of benevolent generosity on behalf of America (and Britain) to the Iraqi people?

And imagine us sending 'our people' to talk to the Iraqis about oil! We'll be selling sand to the Arabs next. Literally. Well, we might as well: they're selling water to us, an island nation with a temperate climate.

So, given that it seems like we haven't been getting a full and frank version of events from our governments or our media, I have a few questions to throw out into the ether, to see what answers come back if any.

1. Did this invasion really have anything to do with Bush's cooked-up war on an abstract noun?

2. Did it even have anything to do with 9/11?

3. Is it really, absolutely, all about oil?

4. If so, why didn't they tell us that instead of giving us the fairy story version of events?

5. Who's cashing in, out of the whole situation? Because we can be sure it won't be the general British or American public. And it certainly doesn't seem to be the average Iraqi citizen. So, assuming there are vast profits somewhere involved, where might they be going, exactly?

6. Come to that, where are they coming from exactly?

7. OR.. was it all about Iran? Or Israel? And what's the story there? In fact, does anyone know what's really going on in the Middle East? Anyone at all?

Because I'm interested, now.

NB: Special prizes for the person who can spot the most uses of irony and sarcasm in the above text ;-)

Hey, and what are we still doing in Afghanistan, come to think of it? I thought we'd 'won' there too.