Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Archive for August 2010

The child prodigies that make me uneasy

with 2 comments

Parents are always proud of their children’s achievements, however small and insignificant. From the first “proper” smile about seven weeks’ through the ten metre swimming certificate and beyond, we are programmed to burst with pride at every opportunity.

Every child is talented at something, of course, and it is always something to celebrate.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=Einstein&iid=2946646″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/2946646/albert-einstein/albert-einstein.jpg?size=500&imageId=2946646″ width=”234″ height=”320″ /]

But there is something about stories of child geniuses and academic achievements that make me a little uneasy.

Take, for instance, six-year-old Esther Okade, who has just attained a grade C maths GCSE, and seven-year-old Oscar Selby who was awarded an A* grade in the same subject .

No doubt these children are incredibly talented, bright and gifted. Their parents are proud. The two wunderkids look happy enough.

I wish them every success as they grow up and hope they are happy and settled as they go through life.

But stories like these nag at me and I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Am I concerned about their well-being as they grow older and put themselves under intense pressures to prove themselves? Or is it about the outside influences, which heap pressure on them, leading to myriad problems?

Is it pushy parenting? There are elements of that in some cases of child prodigies, of course.

Is it about allowing them to have a “normal” childhood so they develop the social skills that are vital to living with their fellow humans?  A person who cannot empathise is an isolated and lonely figure.

What is it that makes me so troubled about six and seven-year-olds taking such formal exams?

Most importantly, what do you think?


Written by CommonPeople

August 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Jayne's posts

Tagged with , , , , ,

It’s time for Walsall to show its culinary mettle

with 7 comments

It’s fair to say that Walsall is an *ahem* poor relation to neighbouring Birmingham when it comes to fine dining.

The town does lack its one and two-star Michelin restaurants, although it does have a fine selection of chip shops and pizza emporia (I know many of the latter in particular).

But now is the time to put Walsall on the culinary map, people.

Will we find Walsall's Fanny Cradock?

The Channel 4 show Come Dine With Me is returning for a new series and it is looking for Walsall residents to take part.

Who wouldn’t want to see Walsall’s equivalent of this?


For those of you who are not aware of this show, it takes four strangers from the same town and each has to host a dinner party for the others. At the end of the week the most impressive host wins a £1,000 cash prize.

If you or anyone you know would like to take part then email leaving your name, address and contact number ASAP on: comedinewithme@itv.com or call 0871 200 3939.

And – no, I will not be applying. I don’t want to end up like this stressed-out woman:


Written by CommonPeople

August 9, 2010 at 10:41 am

School shoes: the agony (and no ecstasy)

with 2 comments

I am trying very hard to be patient and to be understanding.

I remember the pain and the sorrow.

I remember all too well the stand-up rows I had with my mother about them: both sides adamant that the other was wrong; neither would back down. It was like the OK Corral, but in a shoe shop.

The reason for this grief?  School shoes. I recall the shelves heaving with dreadful footwear that *no one* would be seen dead in: the “sensible” lace-ups with delightful crepe soles; the t-bars that no one over the age of eight would wear.  No – what every secondary school girl wanted to wear was the patent pumps with big Minnie Mouse bows (am I showing my age?).

Unfortunately, my mother with one eye on her purse and the other on the perceived longevity of this fashion attire refused to say yes. What I needed, she assured me, was sensible leather shoes that would keep my feet dry when it rained, warm when it snowed and were still appropriate when the sun was shining.

But – I was a near teen, going into what is now Year 7 and I didn’t want little girl shoes. It was an argument we endured at least once a year (depending on how long the shoes lasted). I can’t remember who won. I imagine it was 50/50. Maybe.

Fast forward *cough* a few years and I am having the same issues with my daughter. She is about to go into secondary school and does not want sensible Clarks. Fine – I don’t rate them anyway. But we are definitely at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to deciding what’s appropriate.

Do you think these Alexander McQueen shoes will go with my uniform?

Thin soled ballet pumps – as far as I am concerned – aren’t going to last when you are walking a two and a bit-mile round trip five days a week in all weathers. She won’t touch the Hush Puppies and I do sympathise: most are hideous or just too young (adorned with butterflies or silver hearts).

History is repeating itself. The stand-offs are probably hysterical to an outsider. I’m having palpitations each time we enter a shop; her body language speaks volumes. She can’t even look the shop assistants in the eye. I just apologise continuously.

Oh, that I could fashion a pair of school shoes that were right for a girl on the edge of teendom!

A plea to shoe designers: please save me from the embarrassment of another ding-dong of a battle in the middle of a shop. Is it so hard to come up with leather shoes that can satisfy mums and their fashion-conscious daughters?

Excuse me for a moment. I’m just going for a lie down …

Written by CommonPeople

August 7, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Jayne's posts

Tagged with , , , ,