Academies and Frails

I see the Conservative conference is keen on there being more ‘academies’. What a daft word this is, right up there with ‘proactive’, ‘action plans’ and ‘centres of excellence’. Academy is just a posh word for school, and what it means is this: ‘my school is better than yours, because it’s an academy‘. It’s the logical progression from the Baker years, the Major years, the Blair years, that we go on trying to dislodge schools from local education authorities. A new school defines its own rules or focus, almost entirely by nomenclature. Nothing changes except that other schools are forced to ‘compete’. I think I am getting Stalinist in my old age: why this stuff about choice? I would quite like there to be one sort of rail ticket, one sort of car (I mean it), and perhaps even one fundamental design of house. I could go on.

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Today saw the funeral of my last uncle, my mother’s elder brother, Jim – James Douglas Frail, who died last week aged 92. In our family, the name Frail has now been extinguished – but there are certainly other Frail families in the country, and it would be interesting to know what their ancestry is. There’s a Thomas William Frail, for instance, from the early part of the nineteenth century, who was my greatx4 grandfather’s brother, and whose descendants are out there.

When people die, they take with them a series of in-jokes. For instance, Jim was often referred to by my mother as ‘James Douglas Frail – curly end of a walking stick’ (!) The only theory advanced is that he answered to this as a child when faced with the shape of a tricycle, and asked his name at the same time. In vaguely the same way, my sister Clare and I always referred to the Beatles B-side ‘You can’t do that’ as ‘You-can’t-do-that-ginger-biscuit’. But why? Clare’s dead & I can’t recall. Hopeless!

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