Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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25/9/16: in the UK a bit longer - and the 'Great British Bake Off'

So, last day of leave day, back to work tomorrow.  But not, as would be normal, in Dar es Salaam, but in the UK waiting for my residency permit to come through.  So have booked some office space close by and look forward to working through email and Skype whilst being several thousand miles away from where I really need to be.

Which feels a bit strange, to be honest.  How working remotely is going to pan out remains to be seen, I do rather like being able to pop into the offices of colleagues rather than being solely reliant on more formal methods of communication.  Plan at the moment is to head back on Friday 28th October, but watch this space!  And my poor plants being left all by themselves, have previously been able to rescue at least some of them on return, but this time?

Meanwhile, with more time than normal to read newspapers, there have been two main news stories this last week.  Well, a few more than that, I suppose, some political party (of which I used to be a member) has re-elected its leader but I don't think that's going to make much difference for some time.

No, the two main news stories have been the horrifying bombings of Aleppo in Syria on the one hand - and the sale of the 'Great British Bake Off' by the BBC to Channel 4 on the other.

Just to explain for non-UK readers, the 'Great British Bake Off' is a television programme in which - oh no, hold on a minute, I've never actually WATCHED the programme, so why am I writing about it?  But from what I can gather from snippets advertising the programme, it's a baking competition in which the judges say insightful things like, "Moist," and, "This cake is so hard I could stand on it."  An idea which would be good, maybe, for one programme ever, but this has now been going for 6 thousand series of 3 million episodes each - OK, that might be a slight exaggeration but you get the idea!  Although it does need to be said that an estimated 10 million people (real figure this time) watch it, a very high figure for any one TV programme nowadays.  So it would appear that these 10 million people know and / or understanding something that I do not.

But it has been curious watching TV bulletins over the last week that go from a story of huge human suffering on the one hand to an internal media dispute on the other.  Although, when I scan the BBC News on the Internet, I think it is likely that I would be rather embarrassed at the amount of time I spend on serious news rather than amusing stories of this nature.  Maybe we need to give ourselves a bit of space here, that in an age where we see many graphic ages, both genuine and fictional, it is difficult to feel the full force of the impact of bombings in a city far away to which we have no connection and in a previous age would only have read about in newspapers a few weeks later.  This reminds me of when I first watched the film 'Titanic' at a time when I was quite into film analysis, and observed the ways in which the viewers' attention was directed away from the full horror of what was going on to worrying about what happened to a piece of jewellery.

Not quite sure where I'm going with this.  We can't reasonably take on board the whole world's problems, we cannot reasonably be expected to respond to the suffering of a person far away in the same way we do to somebody close to us.  But at the same time it does seem somewhat absurd that we worry more about the future of a televised baking competition than men, women and children having their homes destroyed in a city which is no further from the UK than many people go on holiday each year.  Perhaps the solution here is to follow the news generally and within that to look to develop a particular interest in one thing going on, where appropriate to pray for, and then also to give to relevant charities and to lobby MPs and otherwise engage in the issue.

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