There is an old saying here that when one door closes, another opens, Well, today I met a friend for lunch on the other side of the Pennines. The journey was through spectacular countryside - very wild and high, with little habitation. I put my camera in the car, expecting to take a series of photographs on the journey. The road goes through the famous Three Peaks district, so I looked for Whernside and Ingleborough to photograph. Where had they gone? They were totally in cloud - right down to the valley floor. Visibility was very poor all the way until I dropped down into the Trough of Bowland, where the sun was trying its best to get out.
So - sorry, but there are no photographs today.
However, on the way there I was thinking of what I could post today if all else failed - and of course I came up with another topic which is in the news here at the moment, and it is a topic close to my heart as an ex-English teacher. It is "that letter." I don't suppose there is anyone in the UK who has not heard of it, but for readers elsewhere the letter I am talking about is the one which our Prime Minister sent to a grieving parent after her son was tragically killed in Afghanistan.
I am sure the Prime Minister was sincere in offering his condolences, and a personal letter is surely the best way, short of actually calling personally. But am I old fashioned (many would say I am) in that I still think First Impressions matter greatly.
The Prime Minister does not have good hand-writing. He is not the only one - handwriting has not been taught in our schools for donkey's years and as a nation we have no accepted script. (For US readers, I can usually pick out people who come from the US because you have been taught "proper" script - and it shows). So I excuse Gordon Brown his poor handwriting. What I cannot excuse is the rest of the sorry saga. The poor, grieving mother has said that he spelt her son's name wrong and also that the letter was written with a felt tipped pen (and not even a fine tip).
First of all the spelling. As a teacher I would say to a pupil - if your handwriting is bad then it is even more important to make sure you lay the letter out correctly. The receiver of your letter gets his or her first impression of you from what lies on the page - so be aware of that. Even using a ballpoint is suspect in my book - if you take the trouble to write a letter to someone, take the trouble to use pen and ink. And if you don't know what pen and ink is then buy a really fine fibre-tip which uses proper ink.
Set your letter out beautifully on the page - line each single line up so that it is neat and precise - use paragraphs to separate - and check spelling. If your spelling is suspect (and let us face it none of us have perfect spelling) then ask someone (surely the PM has numerous 'secretaries')
to check it for you.
Am I being too pedantic? Is it too much to ask? All I can say is that if I get a letter (and let's face it letters of any kind are few and far between these days) and it is on scruffy note paper, or badly written, or badly spelled - then I am put off the writer immediately (unless he or she is under the age of about seven).
When our government purports to be so dedicated to improving education, what kind of message does this send out? And that it was sent to a grieving mother makes it all the worse.
What do you think?