Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXVII: Peter Ryley

(Peter Ryley)

Peter Ryley is fat. He likes being fat. He once tried being slim. It didn't last. What did last was giving up real work to go back to education.

He picked up a BA in Politics and Contemporary History at Salford University and then embarked on vast amounts of self-financed part-time postgraduate study with an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford and a PhD from Manchester Metropolitan University in the history of Anarchist ideas.

Peter's work has all been in an increasingly besieged adult education, in urban Manchester, rural Derbyshire and North Yorkshire, and now in Hull at the University of Hull's Centre for Lifelong Learning. In his twenty-seven years of working in adult education, he has never been promoted.
He blogs at Fat Man on a Keyboard and contributes as Gadgie to the Drink Soaked Trots

What made you decide to start blogging?

I thought it would be fun after a couple of letters of mine to UCU were posted on Normblog. It was a form of self-indulgence that suited my propensity to make big speeches.

What is your best blogging experience?

Late night sweary emails from Will

And your worst?

Late night sweary emails from Will

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

This is really difficult. The one that got the most attention lately was Reading Gaza, which was posted on the Drink Soaked Trots, rather than my own blog, though there was a follow-up on Fat Man. Best to look at the two together.

Reading Gaza

Language Lessons

Favourite blogs?

I started making a list of those that I really like, some of whose authors I have had the pleasure of meeting and sharing the odd drink with, but then the list started getting too long. Sorry pals, you all deserve a mention, but I am going to just name the two that tell you all you need to know about the state of the nation:

Olly's Onions and spEak You’re bRanes

What inspired you to go into politics?

I am not sure if I ever have really, at least in the organised sense, though I was once in the same ward party as Hazel Blears. I think that I have affected more lives through adult education than I ever could have done through formal political activity and that has been the instrument of my politics. Underlying all is a deep rage at the unnecessary cruelties of an unjust world and a dream of the possibility of something better.

Is New Labour dying?

A better question is whether it ever had life. In my view it was still born. I see New Labour as a colossal mistake based on false premises. Labour embraced Thatcherism at the very moment of its demise. As it clasped the mouldering corpse close to its chest, I stared in incomprehension at the ghastly spectacle. And then I realised, they were not administering a futile kiss of life, they actually were necrophiliacs. All the disasters of today spring from that original, mistaken genuflection at the altar of conventional wisdom.

Given the postmodern culture we live in, do people treat Education with the same respect as they did, say fifty years ago?

First, I don't think we live in a postmodern culture. Second, fifty years ago, I was only six so I don't know much about respect for Education then. I have met nothing but respect in my work. I think the most important issue is the lack of respect that educational institutions show to people. What we call a lack of respect is often a defensive reaction to social exclusion. Then again, amongst the young, it could be simply the result of our strange idea that we should be stuffing academic knowledge into people undergoing puberty.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

I would love to follow the British Rugby League team to Australia (but only when they improve a bit).

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

Yes, and I do every time I can. A beautiful place in Greece, the Pelion Peninsula.

Who, excluding the present leader and Prime Minister, do you regard as the best British Prime Minister, and if different, the best Labour leader?

Excluding the present incumbent is hardly necessary! Attlee is the obvious choice. This is not only due to what was achieved, but also to the circumstances that were faced at the time. Don't forget, too, that he wasn't alone; he presided over a talented cabinet. The contributions of two working-class autodidacts from both left and right, Bevan and Bevin, are especially notable. The vision and courage shown in the face of the colossal task of post-war reconstruction is a stark contrast with the vacuous timidity shown in better times.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Inspiration? That is hard. Because I have read much history of radical movements the people who take my breath away are the ones who appear in glimpses - fascinating, brave and obscure. They often inspire more than the leaders or the famous. So I would name Selina Cooper. You may not have heard of her. She was a working class woman activist from Nelson, Lancashire living from 1864-1946. That there is a full biography of her is due to an encounter between the historian Jill Liddington and her daughter when researching the history of the women's suffrage campaigns. The result is one of the finest biographies I have ever read, The Life and Times of a Respectable Rebel. Neat way of sneaking an extra book in as well.

Favourite Bond movie?

I don't like them. I liked Doctor No when it first came out, but I was an adolescent.

Favourite Doctor Who?

I am old enough to have seen the first series. I didn't watch it again, so there is only one Doctor Who - William Hartnell.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

The Simón Bolívar National Youth Orchestra

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

Barsby is near Melton Mowbray - good pork pie country.

Favourite national newspaper?

I tolerate the Observer and despair at the Guardian

What would you say your hobbies were?

Blogging obviously; reading of course; going to Greece; trying to learn Greek; entertaining friends, especially on hot summer nights on the patio in Greece.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Yikes! Three?

These are not necessarily favourites but are significant.


First is the song I want played at my funeral - Jollity Farm by the Bonzo Dog Doο Dah Band - and you all have to sing along! Second, it has to be Mahler's Urlicht from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Finally, I need something that symbolises Greece. So I have chosen the classic, Συννεφιασμένη Κυριακή.


This is even worse. Political ideas, biography, narrative history, poetry, novels?

I shall stick to novels. I love the philosophical novels of Milan Kundera and I have read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting three times. Melodrama and Greece together? Captain Corelli's Mandolin is hugely enjoyable. Some of the history is dodgy, but the theme of the power of unconsummated love is wonderful and the picture of a Greek village is memorable, as is the revulsion at the horror of totalitarianism. It is very flawed, but a favourite. And then it has to be Hardy and his 'great hammer strokes of fate'. With my job I should pick Jude the Obscure, but I would really choose Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I can't read Hardy without weeping. Bitter tragedies rooted in sustained anger at social injustice. Wonderful.


Popular Posts