A Fieldfare in my childhood nature notebooks
There’s a Fieldfare at Emsworthy Mire. It’s a thrill, as they’re truly wild and difficult to get close to. The ones which avoided humans are the only ones left to spread that eminently sensible behaviour to future generations.
I was thrilled to see my first Fieldfare on 6 February 1977 and wrote about it in my childhood nature notebooks. As you can see, spelling was not my strong point back then, but I blame a controversial failed educational experiment with something called the Initial Teaching Alphabet (Augmented English).
My spelling horror came courtesy of an MP called James Pitman, who married the demands of the Simplified Spelling Society with the extended phonetic alphabet of his grandfather Isaac Pitman, the originator of shorthand a century earlier. They gave birth to a monster, with a 44 character alphabet of the sounds of English, with strange, backwards and combined letters. It sounds like a sensible idea, to have a letter for every sound in English, but we don’t, so anyone taught ITA had to unlearn it later. Even worse, I could already read before going to school and then had to unlearn that, learn ITA, and then relearn normal written English.
I’ve had a deep suspicion of educational fads ever since.
Lædybird, indeed. Jeezus help me.
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