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!