27/01/2008

The idea of Space Travel and the Rector of Orsett in 1638

Posted in Local History at 9:42 pm by henrysgauntlet

The idea of life on other worlds to which we may travel is a familiar one. It has provided science fiction writers, films and television with stories for many decades. But it is not a twentieth or twenty-first century invention. Many people, including one of Orsett’s Church of England Rectors, had thought of it four centuries ago.

William Gilbert, a relation by marriage of his namesake who discovered magnetism, was one such man. He was born in 1597, educated at St John’s College, Cambridge and Rector of Orsett from 1626 to 1640.

Gilbert was interested in astronomy. He was perfectly willing to accept the idea of the earth orbiting the sun and the findings of observation through telescopes. Only bad weather prevented him seeing the lunar eclipse of December 1638. But he was also remarkably willing to consider that life might be possible on Jupiter or Saturn as he explained to the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh, James Usher, later that month. He came alarmingly close to the view that human beings were not necessarily at the centre of God’s attention. But he had no aim, he assured Usher, of finding new worlds where God had created none.

Gilbert’s astronomical speculations were private. His only published work was a sermon, The Art of Building Comfort, on the godly virtues of his wife, Jane, who had died in September 1639. This was conventional enough but its appearance may very nearly have coincided with his own death in December 1640.

(Author  –  Christopher Thompson)

 

 

 

Our heritage

Posted in Local History at 9:36 pm by henrysgauntlet

My interest in the subject means that, from time to time, I shall include pieces on our local history.   The first appears today, courtesy of its author, historian and former Orsett resident, Christopher Thompson.

26/01/2008

Parking “improvements” are so good no-one can park any more!

Posted in Parking at 5:22 pm by henrysgauntlet

Sometimes, when all I want is a pint of milk or a pack of tomatos, I go to the Tesco Extra in Stifford Clays.

Nearby residents had told me about the recent changes to the parking arrangements outside the shops in Crammavill Street, and how it was now almost impossible to find a parking spot.

Last week I had the privilege of this experience myself.   Went to Crammavill Street, established with some difficulty, (see below), that there was no vacant space, so circled the block four times.   Still no space, so gave up and drove over to Chadwell St Mary to the Tesco Extra at the filling station in Brentwood Road.   Why?

For reasons best known to themselves, the powers that be decided that the previous, nose-in, straight 90 degree parking places should be replaced with diagonal spaces.   Probably it was done as someone thought it was safer for driving in and out, leaving and re-joining the main carriageway.   As well as being diagonal, they are much wider than before.   Result  –  far fewer parking spaces, and to make matters worse the disabled spaces seem to have disappeared.

Because of their width, and their angle, it is very difficult to see whether an apparent space is a vacant spot or just the wide space between each car, (sadly not wide enough to park another one).   So drivers are cruising up and down, looking for a spot, thinking they’ve found one, and then seeing they were mistaken  –  all very dangerous.  

Frustrated drivers are parking on the pavements, and right on corners of side roads, at either end of the designated parking bays.

So a local authority, trying at national government behest, to cut carbon emissions and discourage driving, is in fact causing me and hundreds of others like me to drive round and round the block, using petrol and expelling exhaust fumes, and then, in my case, taking the decision to drive further to Chadwell and back so I can get a tiny bit of shopping.

Put the spaces back how they were before, when they worked perfectly well.

By the way,  just to discourage anyone from commenting that I should walk to Crammavill Street, I consider I live too far away for that.   It would be a long walk, and, in any event, I don’t want to and nobody is going to make me walk! 

20/01/2008

Are the Thurrock exam results good?

Posted in Education at 9:37 pm by henrysgauntlet

You’ve got to be pretty optimistic, (viewing the cup as half full rather than half empty), to regard the latest GCSE results published for Thurrock as being satisfactory.  

Some schools have made an amazing advance, and congratulations to them, but others are still languishing in the low teens as far as five A* to C grades are concerned.   There are amazing differences in one local authority area between 58% and 12%.

In particular, it is necessary to look closely at the new Gateway Academy’s 12%.    Remember that Gateway is made up of pupils who in the past would have gone to St Chad’s in Tilbury and Torells in Little Thurrock/Chadwell St Mary.   Torells managed to get its five A* to C GCSEs up to 26%, but its pupils’ results are now submerged in the Gateway’s figures.

When Torells was forcibly closed in August 2003 against the wishes of the pupils and parents, it was said that the new all-singing, all-dancing school would be open in two years, which I make September 2005.   They hadn’t even started building by then, and the new school still isn’t finished more than two years after that.   So, already nearly four-and-a-half years have gone by.   That fact must have had an effect on the pupils’ achievements.   Little eleven-year-olds from Chadwell having to go down to St Chad’s premises every day, and then, at fourteen, all the pupils from Chadwell and Tilbury back to the old Torells premises for the final two years.   A split campus always causes problems.

The Council’s Leader has said:-

“We have an unrelenting drive to push up standards so our children can reach their true potential.   I would like to thank all school heads and their teaching staff for their efforts and hard work.”

Well, of course, that’s right.   Teachers have a really rough job these days.   Battling against a tide of bureaucratic targets and form-filling, having to try to please OFSTED, and get some education into children despite, quite often, disruption and ill discipline in the classroom.  

Parents are entitled to expect the best for their children, but they have a responsibility, too, to make it clear to them that they go to school to learn, and to insist on good behaviour, hard work, and no bad language.   A calm classroom certainly helps teaching and learning.

Not everyone can shine academically;  they just weren’t born that way.   But they may well be tremendously talented at other things.   If there is a budding Christopher Wren, Michaelangelo or Nicky Clarke stuck in a class where they have no interest in general academic subjects, wouldn’t it be better for them to be in apprenticeships at 14 or studying vocational subjects at college?   They’ll probably end up earning far more and having much more satisfying lives than some young person with a lower second degree who will end up manning the ‘phone in a call centre. 

Should a £330 ‘phone be taken into school?

Posted in Valuables in school at 9:00 pm by henrysgauntlet

This week’s local newspaper prints a piece about a fourteen-year-old girl who lost her mobile ‘phone in the changing room at school.   The mother is appealing for whoever took it, said to be another girl in the changing room, to return it for sentimental reasons because of the pictures on it and because it was a Christmas present.  Naturally, I’m sorry she has lost it.

First of all, though, it is generally accepted that children shouldn’t take valuable things into school because of the risk of losing them, and this ‘phone certainly came into that category as it is said to be worth £330.   Some schools have rules which ban them for just that reason.

Then, what a lucky girl to be given a Christmas present worth so much.

And didn’t the girl’s mother think it was unwise to permit her to take such a valuable ‘phone with her?   If it were necessary for her to have a ‘phone with her for contact reasons, surely a £50 job would have been better.

An individual view of the area

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:33 pm by henrysgauntlet

This blog will be commenting about what is happening in Grays, and will also comment on the rest of Thurrock, and the county of Essex.

It will no doubt be critical at times, but will also praise the good things.

The writer is a life-long resident, whose family have been in the area for 500 years.