Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: a very good year!

I appreciate that, on a national and international level, 2006 has been a very difficult and somewhat depressing year – the continuing mess in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine; terrorism; greed; violence; poverty; global warming concerns; lack of real progress on debt/trade issues in Africa; wars; political frustrations and politicians etc etc!
However, for Moira+me, lots of rather nice things have happened in 2006! These included: Ruth+Stu’s Iris being born at the beginning of September; Hannah+Fee getting married a few days later; and, in October, Alice+Dave “taking delivery” of their new adopted son Mikey; plus a trip to New York; two restful weeks in the Western Highlands; and driving down to St Ives for breakfast (as you do).
We have much to thank God for!
Photos (left to right/top to bottom): looking across to Mull from Drimnin; Moira resting on a hillside walk in Scotland; Hannah+Fee’s wedding; Debby/Ian/Gail eating in New York; more New York; and again; Stu+Iris+Ruth; St Ives harbour; Mikey+Alice; and Ken+waitress Barbara at New York’s Stage Deli.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

“big idea”: four years on...

This time four years ago, Moira+I were living in Oxfordshire, the children had all long since left home and I was running my successful architectural practice in West Wycombe village - but we’d just come up with our “big idea”! We’d decided to sell up and relocate to Bristol with a vague idea of setting up an art workshop/gallery in conjunction with daughter Ruth+husband Stu (who already lived in Bristol). In reality, it didn’t quite work out like that, but we did buy a house in Bristol with a basement (which we converted into studio/workshop space – and is used regularly by Ruth, Moira and me) and we do put on at least two exhibitions a year. It’s been great fun. We love Bristol and have met some lovely new friends - and daughter Hannah+Felix decided to move to Bristol too a couple of years ago too!
Photo: montage of our Christmas exhibition this year. Follow the number40 link opposite.

PS: another disastrous cricket defeat in Oz (am currently awaiting call to help out in final test match - wicket-keeping batsman-cum-leg spinner - how can I fail?)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

happy christmas!

Started the day off yesterday with our traditional family Christmas breakfast – champagne and bacon sandwiches (try it, it’s brilliant and gets the day off to a lovely relaxed start!) – before going off to church again (after midnight mass) and hugging lots of friends. Great to have all the family around today (Alice+Dave+Mikey arrived late on Christmas Eve from Lancashire) and it did seem very strange to have babies in our house again at Christmas – but very nice!
Good news of great joy that will be for all the people!
Photo is of Ruth+Iris+Hannah+Mikey+Alice
PS: apologies for poor quality image (I was experimenting!)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

single status: the mess

You might recall me mentioning “single status in schools” (blog 13/12/06 refers)? Essentially, school support staff (like me) had received a letter from our local education authority outlining its proposals for introducing “single status job evaluation” and concluding with the following threat: “if you have not accepted the offer by the end of the year we will write to you again telling you that your contract will be terminated on 31 March 2007”.
Not surprisingly, lots of people (like me) wrote passionate letters to the Council complaining at its appalling treatment of its dedicated workforce. Suddenly, we hear that the Council had made a basic error in the formula it adopted to formulate its proposals (in the Council’s favour, of course, for EVERY employee under consideration!). Oh, how embarrassing!
We then had verbal confirmation (from our Head Teacher) that the Council’s proposals had been withdrawn and I duly received a four line letter two days ago from the Council in response to my own letter, essentially confirming this and informing me that it would be “reformulating the proposal and implementing Single Status in Schools on 1 September 2007”.
I genuinely feel for the member of staff at the Council who had to break the news to the Chief Executive: “excuse me sir, I think we’ve made a slight error…”.
PS: Fine….. but wait! I received a phone call last night from a work colleague (we undertake exactly the same role for exactly the same salary in the same school) who had just (ie. yesterday 23rd) received a two-page letter telling her that the Council wasn’t going to reformulate the proposal and that if she hadn’t signed up by 21 December (ie. 2 days before she received her letter....oops!), her contract would be terminated on 31 March 2007. Let’s just blame the Christmas post!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

losing out to red devils and tigers!

A gloomy weekend of sport for some of us (ie. me!). After Bristol Rugby’s 15-43 thrashing by Leicester Tigers last night (who scored six tries), Villa went down 0-3 at home to Man United this afternoon. Son-in-law Dave (a ManU fanatic) is coming to stay over Christmas and I had hoped, just for once, that my side might have won this time to give me bragging rights – but clearly not!
Things are unlikely to improve in the short-term – Villa are due to play ManU at Old Trafford in the Cup in a fortnight's time. Only recently, I’d been suggesting to friends that 2007 was going to be “Villa’s Year” as it was exactly 50 years since the Villa last won the FA Cup. Don’t hold your breath!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

christmas IS coming

Term finished yesterday and I stayed in bed until 8.30 this morning to celebrate! Despite being completely exhausted, lots of the teachers manfully dragged themselves into Bristol for a “quiet drink” last night – starting at the Commercial Rooms, going on to the Vodka Bar and then who knows where, to dance the night away (I managed to sneak off at this point!). It was good to see people enjoying themselves after such a hard term.
Right, must start thinking about buying presents!
Image is from Ruth’s “mother and child” lino print

Sunday, December 17, 2006

relaxing with friends

Number of Christmas presents bought to date? None! So, clearly, I should have been battling my way through crowded shops this weekend in a mad panic, with so little time before 25 December. Instead, Moira and I spent a wonderful restful time with our lovely friends Gail+Ian and Ken+Debby in Oxford…. enjoying a relaxed lunch yesterday, then back to K+D’s for more red wine, iced lemontello, more eating (including ricciarelli biscuits and brandy chocolates), talking and lots of laughing!
It was also great to be with all our other mayBe friends to celebrate an open air eucharist today in Port Meadow on a brilliant, sunny morning, followed by brunch at the wonderful Jericho Café.
Celebrating Advent/Christmas with friends is quite magical – and definitely beats shopping!
Photograph of the mayBe open air eucharist on Port Meadow
PS I see David Attenborough did win the "living icon" award!

Friday, December 15, 2006


Ok, I’m sorry! I know I said “no more family photographs until Christmas” a few weeks back, but just thought I’d slip this one in – and, in any case, we break up from school on Tuesday, which makes it feel like Christmas!
After spending recent weekends staring at art, it’s really good when the picture smiles back at you!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

single status in schools

I don’t want to bore you with school politics, but our school’s local education authority is really getting me down at the moment. Over the past week or so, it has been sending out letters to school support staff (like me!) outlining its proposals for introducing “single status job evaluation” by April 2007. Letters include such reassuring words as “your job has not been evaluated or re-assessed in the current process and therefore your grade will not change” but concludes with a threat: “if you have not accepted the offer by the end of the year we will write to you again telling you that your contract will be terminated on 31 March 2007”.
It transpires that hardly any support staff benefit from this review process; most workers are suffering pay cuts – some extremely harsh. It appears that this cash-strapped Council has discovered a brilliant way of saving money!
Unfortunately, hard-working and dedicated people within education are left feeling very undervalued, de-motivated and disillusioned.
Who was it who said “education, education, education”?

Monday, December 11, 2006

john tavener at advent

Moira was playing our CD of John Tavener’s “Song for Athene/Svyati/and other choral works” yesterday afternoon and it made me realise just how much this wonderful piece of music had become part of Advent and Christmas in our household. “Song for Athene” (which you might recall was played at Princess Diana’s funeral?), in particular, has an amazing haunting quality that never fails to get the hairs on the back of my neck to rise! Our lovely friends Gail+Ian bought me the CD a few Christmases ago – it's been a brilliant gift!
PS I see David Attenborough didn’t win the sports personality award after all!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

what sports personality?

The ten short-listed contenders for the BBC Sports Personality of 2006 must all be hoping they don’t win the coveted trophy tonight. In such a dire year for British sport, the winner would almost certainly go down as the “worst winner” in the history of the award. The shortlist contains a tennis player and a golfer who haven’t won a major title between them; a racing driver who has won just one grand prix race; a darts player and two boxers (hardly top-notch sports); a cricketer who can’t actually get into the national team; a cyclist; a gymnast and a member of the royal family - who’s quite good at riding horses.
What about comedian David Walliams for his channel swim? What about Michael Vaughan for not losing a single test match this year (ok, so he didn’t actually play in any)? What about Matt Dawson for his performances on “Celebrity Come Dancing” and “Question of Sport”? What about David Attenborough (ok, so he’s not a sports personality – but winning this and the “living icon” award would be a brilliant double!)?
Hey, how about just cancelling it altogether this year?

Friday, December 08, 2006

what a waste

This is part of a photograph that accompanied a shocking recent article in “The Times” by Lewis Smith (18/11/06)(I kept the cutting and have just come across it again in my briefcase while looking for something else!). It was taken at one minute past midnight on a Saturday and the full photograph showed the offices of a whole host of international companies, including the banking firm Credit Suisse, in Canary Wharf London. In this small area, it’s reckoned that £7,000 is wasted on unnecessary lighting every night. Over the Christmas period 22 December – 2 January, the Carbon Trust estimates that businesses across the country could save themselves £60 million in energy bills. Global warming? Do we care? An accompanying Credit Suisse statement to the article explained that the firm did have “a duty to protect the environment and to reduce the environmental impacts of its businesses…”. Oh good, that’s ok then!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

living icons

The BBC’s Culture Show is running a “living icon” competition. David Attenborough will no doubt, and quite rightly, win the accolade (but how come Morrissey is in the final three and Kate Bush in the last ten?). When I visited the National Portrait Gallery recently, I bought a batch of postcards and among them was Ronald Traeger’s 1967 photograph of Twiggy (not the one attached). It’s a wonderful image and has been on the mantelpiece ever since – Twiggy would probably get my vote! The image of her shown here reminds me of a poster I did in about 1968 (black+white female face on a coloured background)….. wish I’d kept it!
PS: had wondered about Ian Botham as a living icon but, after today’s shattering defeat in Australia, I think it’s best not to mention cricket!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

number40 christmas exhibition again

Exhibition went well today with a steady flow of people (after a very quiet day yesterday) - and a good number of sales too. It’s quite tiring standing up, talking and smiling all day!

number40 christmas exhibition

Well, we DID manage to get some work together (see 15/11/06 blog) and Friday night’s private view was attended by loads of people (aren’t friends wonderful!). Really enjoyable evening, drank the odd glass of red wine and the art looked even better as the evening went on! We even sold some pieces. Unfortunately, I forgot to take any photographs! The exhibition finishes today….
picture is of one of Ruth’s textile exhibition pieces (“green composition”)

Friday, December 01, 2006

john bell on holy ground

Since last Spring, St Aldhelm’s, Bristol (our own church community) has been hosting the excellent “holy ground” series of talks and practical workshops on such diverse matters as climate and the environment; the spirituality of the workplace; creative arts and meditation; and drama and storytelling (follow the “agora” link at the side of this page). Last night’s final event was led by the wonderful John Bell (hero of mine!), from the Iona Community, under the heading of “politics, passion and the human soul”. I’d seen/listened to him twice before at Greenbelt and yesterday’s session was completely riveting, truly inspirational and profoundly challenging – I think he should be the next Prime Minister!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

complaints choir of birmingham

Moira put me on to this lovely “YouTube” video (coming from Birmingham myself, it just felt right!). I liked it a lot and it made me smile - you’ve GOT to see it! (I even found myself singing the chorus in the car on the way to work yesterday).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

….but at least the sun’s shining

Came back home on Friday from a school field trip feeling very depressed that the behaviour of a few pupils spoilt things for everyone else. I woke up on Saturday to hear really depressing news about the England cricket team in Australia. Then listened to commentary on the radio on the England rugby team’s awful performance in the afternoon against South Africa and the Villa only drew at home to mediocre opponents….
But I woke up this morning and the sun was shining and things didn’t seem so bad afterall.... (and our newsagent reckons the England cricket team will score a miraculous victory – is he completely mad? – and I mustn’t forget that Bristol Rugby beat Gloucester on Friday night with the last kick of the match!).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

is it just me or should we ALL be worried?

I listened to the President of National Union of Students on the radio the other day talking about student grants/loans issues. Coming from a working class background, my parents certainly had no financial means to be able to support me through university. Without a full grant (and, of course, all fees were paid!), university would have been impossible for me - especially through a 7 year architectural course. Having now seen our own three daughters go through university (and knowing the costs involved!), I find the financial pressures placed upon young people today all very depressing. Most of those emerging from Higher Education owe huge levels of student loans; they’re immediately under pressure to find well-paid jobs (and to pay off their loans) but, understandably, they also want to have their own homes (will they be able to get a mortgage and, crucially, afford a deposit?); it would also be good to start a family before too long (but how are they going to be able to pay their monthly mortgage payments if they do that? - and what about child care because they can’t stay at home as they need the money to pay the mortgage….?). Oh, and by the way, whatever they do, they must start making provision for their old age/retirement. Help! I thought it was tough in our day, but we had it pretty easy by comparison…. or, maybe it’s just me getting old?
Photo shows the carefree student life c1970: Moira (in classic sheep’s clothing) plus Bev and Ted – they look SO happy!

Sunday, November 19, 2006


The other day a colleague at school remarked that “we definitely didn’t do that in my day” referring to a group of pupils who were all hugging each other enthusiastically. I made some comment about the fact that I definitely hugged far more people these days than I used to (and even kissed some of my very good male friends!). I think he was quite shocked. The following day I heard on the radio that the Head Teacher of a Cornish Community College had banned hugging at his school because it “was making youngsters late for lessons and, in some cases, leading to ‘inappropriate’ embraces”!

Yesterday, I came across a lovely “YouTube” video on the excellent Peace Church blog entitled “Free Hugs”
. You really need to see it! (

Friday, November 17, 2006

karine polwart

Went to see Karine Polwart perform at Thekla in Bristol with good friend Alan last night (I’d previously seen her at Greenbelt 2005). Brilliant evening, featuring lots of songs from her wonderful “Scribbled in Chalk” and “Faultlines” CDs. Lovely, warm and quite inspirational woman; she’s got a Masters Degree in Philosophy and a background of working for the Scottish Women’s Aid movement on issues of domestic+child abuse/ children+young people’s rights before quitting her job in 2000 to concentrate on writing and singing her songs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

christmas exhibition

The next number40 exhibition (in our basement) is happening on 1-3 December (the image is a copy of the postcard flier/invitation). We’re all involved - Ruth, Stu, Hannah, Moira and me - plus friends Sarah Davidson and Philippa Royle. All we need to do now is to get some work together…. and clear out the basement!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

kiss me goodnight and say my prayers…..

It’s just possible that you recognise the above words? They’re the first lines of Billy Bragg’s “Tank Park Salute”, which I think is probably the best song in the world, ever (maybe). I’ve been playing it quite a lot again recently and never tire of it. I came across the following comments when I googled the song a couple of days ago:
“Billy Bragg wrote Tank Park Salute about his father, who he watched die of lung cancer when he was 17. Though he knew his Dad was dying, they never talked about it. He said watching his father die was like a slow car crash. He spoke of the regret of neither him or his father ever acknowledging that his father was dying over the two years he watched him die. This is a deeply personal song that moves us precisely because it is personal. It's not that we can relate to Billy Bragg's memories of his father; it's more that the honesty and beauty of these memories allows us, or maybe even forces us, to access our own”.
My own father died of lung cancer in 1992 after a brief six month illness (the song was published in 1991). He too refused to acknowledge that he was dying and I therefore wasn’t able to ask him all the questions I wish I’d been able to put to him. In some strange way, the song acts as my own memorial to my Dad. Thank you Billy.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

family photo album update no.2 (more apologies)

I’m conscious that the “family album” only seems to make references to Ruth+Stu+Iris and Alice+Dave+Mikey, so here’s a photograph of Hannah+Felix taken at their wedding in September. I think the caption should read: “about time too!” (they’d been together for 9 years afterall). We all had a brilliant time. Right, that's it, no more family pictures until Christmas at least!

family photo album update no.1 (apologies)

When I made an apology in an earlier blog for including family photos, I received a few comments from friends effectively saying: “family photographs are actually what we’d like to see” (shorthand for: “rather than your normal inane ramblings”?). Having just been up to Lancashire to see Mikey for the first time (he's a very happy 9 month-old) and being lucky enough to be able to see Iris on a regular basis in Bristol (she's already well-known on the local art circuit at private views and exhibitions), I attach two more images of our grandchildren!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Moira tried to get on to our website ( a couple of days ago and failed. After making a few enquiries, we discovered there’s been a major problem with the hosting company’s server - our friend Bob reported that the server “had fallen over” (I think that’s technical talk?). Unfortunately, the problem was much worse than they first feared, so the hosting company decided to resort to its back-up version – only to discover that the back-up had been corrupted and was therefore unusable. So, for the time being at least, let’s just say we’ve got a “virtual” website (literally)!

PS. We've now managed to get the website back up - but it's dated September 2005 (and we'll need to change password settings etc to be able to update it, which might take a little time so bear with us).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

so this is christmas?

Just thought you ought to know that last weekend (yes, 4/5 November!) saw the first “completely-over-the-top-external-decorations” of Christmas 2006 appear on a Bedminster house, here in Bristol. I was going to take a photograph, but decided not to do so just in case someone thought I was impressed by it all!

Monday, November 06, 2006

iraq reflection

With the news that Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death, I’ve been reflecting on the events of the past three or four years and came across a letter I wrote to Tony Blair in January 2003 (ie. before the war). Here’s a brief extract:

Whilst there seems little doubt about the evil nature of Saddam's regime, I feel it is essential that any action against it should only be taken if it can be proved that Iraq is in breach of the UN resolution and, at this stage, we still await evidence from the UN weapon inspectors. When the decision was taken to send the inspectors back into Iraq, there was a sense of "now we'll be able to show the world that Iraq holds weapons of mass destruction"; only weeks later, the UK/USA Administrations are saying that weapons inspections "could not continue for unlimited time". Condemning Iraq for failing to prove a negative would hardly appear to count as justification for war. Whilst I can obviously see the justification of ridding the world of any weapons of mass destruction, I am far from convinced that the consequences of any invasion have been properly thought through. To my mind, a war will almost certainly result in unpredictable and unintended consequences - high numbers of civilian casualties; the death of many servicemen and women; more instability and violent chain reactions in the already volatile Middle East; more anti-American and British sentiment around the world; and, almost certainly, even more terrorism”.

My views haven’t really changed!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

stop climate chaos

Travelled up to London for the Stop Climate Chaos demonstration yesterday with Gareth, Alan, Iona and Eilidh (before you ask, we went by coach!). Impressed by the very large turn-out and with some of the speakers. All the UK political parties now seem to be on board (in theory – promises are easy, action is the key), but will any real progress be made when China, USA, India, Brazil, Australia and others still stand on the sidelines looking the other way? Came across this Native American saying in the powerful “Hope, Friends, Love, Trust, Freedom” book by Neil Paynter (by Iona Community’s Wild Goose Publications) which seems to say it all: “We do not inherit the earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children”.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

who do you think you are?

I have to admit that I’ve been fascinated by the TV series and it’s encouraged me do a little delving into my own family background. Rather like Jeremy Irons telling everyone he had an instinct that he was Irish, my brother and I both feel “drawn” to the sea (probably direct descendants of Lord Nelson?). Imagine my joy when the 1851 Census described my great, great, great grandmother as a “mariner’s wife” (her husband obviously being away at sea at the time of the census)! Unfortunately, I’d got my lines of communication crossed and had misread one of the links – in reality, the nearest we’d got to the sea seems to have been Banbury! As things stand, I’ve only been able to get back to Robert Broadway, born in 1791, and it seems that I come from a line of either brass workers or cabinet makers – probably ended up specialising in coffins?

PS (golf blog dated 26/10/06 refers): I didn’t wait 3 months before playing golf again! Played with long-time great mate Pete and his son Jason in Oxford yesterday (Dad lost on the final hole after hitting his ball into the water twice – something Jason found very funny and Pete didn’t!). I will definitely wait another 3 months before playing again….

Sunday, October 29, 2006

remember, remember the whole of november (not forgetting october, december and the new year)

Just thought you might like to know that, at precisely 5.50am (yes 5.50am) and again at 5.52am this morning, someone decided to let off a couple of rockets here in trendy Southville, Bristol. Never let it be said that we don’t know how to enjoy ourselves in the West Country.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

cream teas and other health foods

Lovely couple of days in Devon with friends Mags+Jez (and meeting up with Gail+Ian+Sid+Rachel). Seemed to spend quite a lot of the time eating, drinking and laughing - plus the odd rural walk and beach trip. My only disappointment: I'd decided to get up at dawn and climb the hill to the church to photograph the sun coming up over the horizon. Problem: absolutely no sun (all day!). However, brunch at the Pig Finca Cafe in Kingsbridge is to be highly recommended (see photo). There's definitely something to be said for lazy weekends (well, ok in our case, Friday and Saturday)!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

did golf opponents take bungs?

If you don’t play golf yourself, this won’t make any sense at all, so don’t bother to read on! I played today in Wiltshire with great friends Ken+Steve+Des (accompanying photograph of K+S taken on a golf tour of Scotland in 2003 – yes, we’re that sad!). I hadn’t played for nearly 3 months so made my apologies in advance for my rustiness – I had visions of spending the entire round looking for my ball in the rough/hacking out of trees and such like (if you don’t play golf but have bothered to read on, then I must stress that golf is a game of “feel” and “timing” and, for this you need to play regularly). In the event, I had a really good round – with perhaps only 5 or 6 poor shots all day – much to my embarrassment and my golfing partner’s pleasure, as we beat our gracious opponents with some 7 holes still to go! Clearly, I’ve now found the magic formula for golfing success and will wait another 3 months before playing again (but don't bank on it).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

how (not) to speak of god

I’ve been reading a fascinating book called “How (Not) to Speak of God” by Peter Rollins. It’s written from the perspective of the “emerging church” movement and has certainly challenged some of my own thinking – especially as I’ve been asked to prepare a talk at the Alpha Course at St Aldhelm’s Church on the subject of “Why and How Should We Tell Others?” (about our Christian faith). Take this, for example: “For too long the Church has been seen as an oasis in the desert – offering water to those who are thirsty. In contrast, the emerging community appears more as a desert in the oasis of life, offering silence, space and desolation amidst the sickly nourishment of Western capitalism. It is in this desert, as we wander together as nomads, that God is to be found. For it is here that we are nourished by our hunger”.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I promise I'm not going to use this blog as a family photo album, but....

Moira and I are just getting used to our new status as grandparents - and we do rather like it! Somewhat concerned at suggestions that, on the subject of "what do you want to be called?" (granddad? grandpa? gramps?), a certain unnamed daughter (but she knows who she is!) came up with the idea of "grumpy"! What's all that about then? This picture of Ruth with daughter Iris (born on 4 September) was taken a week or so back. I promise this will be the last family photograph for a little while (honest)!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

welcome mikey!

Just received this photograph from Alice+Dave: Mikey has duly arrived and, by the look on his face, seems to be settling in pretty well!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

the times they are a-changin

Half-term in two days' time (and not a moment too soon!) and an opportunity to chill out with my lovely brother in Brum; see our equally lovely friends in Devon; play the odd game of golf (literally - as I've only played four times in the last year!); and, hopefully, spend some time with new granddaughter Iris. Exciting times for our youngest daughter too - Alice and Dave are adopting a Downs Syndrome baby, Mikey, and finally "take possession" tomorrow!

first entry

This is new stuff for me and I'm really just going to post this to announce (to myself!) that I'm up and running.