I've been thinking about blogging for a while. Writing has always been something I've done, through diaries, poems and letters mainly; or sometimes in times of crisis I've just sat down to 'write it out'. So a blog feels like quite a natural thing for me to do; but it has taken me nearly a year to actually start doing it. There are lots of reasons for this; the usual excuses (time) - issues about overstepping personal and professional boundaries (Phil Jewitt's great blog explains this issue better than I can) - and also an uncertainty about what exactly to theme my blog around.
The last point was the real stumbling block, and it has taken me a while to think this through. The answer came to me the other day when I was reading through my late Nan's memoirs - a collection of stories about her life that she put together shortly before her death in 2005.
My Nan, Elsie Maude Withers (or Kit as she was better known) was born in Islington in 1913. Kit was one of 13 children, an unimaginably large family to an only child like myself, although not uncommon at the time. Kit loved school and she loved learning – but had to leave as soon as she turned 14. That was the reality of schooling for an east-end child in those days. Her favourite subject at school was English, and her favourite school memory was playing Portia in the Merchant of Venice. Kit treasured that play, and I lost count of the number of times she told me how much she would have loved to study Shakespeare.
After leaving school Kit never returned to studying and I wonder why- was it to do with culture, opportunity, confidence? All of these are possible issues although I will never know for sure because sadly I didn’t think to ask her.
She believed in the value of learning though, and was single-minded in her desire for me to go to college and university.
When I think about lifelong learning, I think about Kit and the opportunities that I have been privileged enough to experience. I also think about how much of what we learn is informal; from characters like Kit that hold families together and share their wisdom and experience. Although she never had the chance to do much formal learning, she taught me more than anyone I know.
This blog, then, is dedicated to Kit and the joy of lifelong learning, in all its forms.