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! (http://www.peacechurch.org.uk/blog/joe/060928).

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 (www.number40.net) 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”.