Monday, December 31, 2007

2007


Another memorable year with so much to be thankful for – the highlight being the birth of Alice+Dave’s Dan Amos in October. Ruth+Hannah+Alice (plus Stu+Fee+Dave!) still make us laugh and bring us much joy (as do Mikey+Iris+Dan!). Thankful for lots of very good friends. Lots of wonderful 50th birthday celebrations - thanks to Steve, Mags, Jez, Ken and Ian.
Photos (from left to right, top to bottom): Staffa; Dan; Iris; Mikey; Iona; New Year’s morning on Berrow beach; birthday celebrations in Oxford; Cortona from our bedroom window; eating with lovely friends in Tuscany; and, finally, our bathroom (completed at last!).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

anniversary


It was just 35 years ago today that Moira+I got married!
It was very foggy, so many of the wedding photographs give the impression of a Hammer Horror movie. All very different to today’s wedding preparations it seems – I don’t think Moira had a Hen’s Party and my Stag Night comprised of a few drinks with one or two mates a couple of days before the wedding. Our honeymoon consisted of one night in Stratford-on-Avon and we returned to Moira’s home in Lichfield to join the family in their New Year celebrations!! Moira says she remembers feeling that her parents were “old” when they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and so is somewhat depressed at the prospect of getting there ourselves quite soon too! What tosh!
Photo: ….and, as you can see, we’ve hardly changed at all!

Friday, December 28, 2007

iona moments 4


The last of my Iona reflections.
Moments of connection:
Deciding to join lots of other people on a pilgrimage around the island in absolutely stunning weather. Having the time to talk at length with other people from our group and sensing that these were very special people. Meeting up with David and with Elly (who weren’t part of our group) and hearing their stories. Feeling connected. Experiencing St Columba’s Bay on an idyllic day and being captivated by the multitude of beautiful stones that formed the shore. Singing in St Oran’s Chapel as we pilgrims completed our tour of the island and feeling a sense of closeness and power.
Saying goodbye from the ferry as it left the island early on Saturday morning. Feeling very humbled by the large number of the Iona Community and volunteers who came to wave us off.
Sensing God and that what I had experienced during the course of the week would stay with me for the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

iona moments 3


More Iona reflections.
Moments over meals and in the pub:
Laying tables, serving food and eating with new friends and other volunteers from the Iona Community. Taking it in turns to eat with different people from Lambeth, Putney and beyond each mealtime: Steph, Jane, Garry, Poppy, Dick, Dientje, Mary, Duncan, Mandy, Robert, Jean, Angus, Jackie, Alice, Marjorie, Woomie, Gloria, Tetla, Enid, Ruth and Ian - who made mealtimes very special.
Walking in the dark after the nightly service in the Abbey down to the harbourside to the “plastic” pub and feeling slightly guilty about seeking out the only bar on the island! Having opportunities to hear more stories and to meet people both inside and outside our group. Laughing over beer and wine.
Retracing our way back to the Centre by torchlight.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

happy christmas!


Had the whole family with us yesterday, which made it a very special day (we realise that there won’t be many occasions this will happen over future years!). Mikey, Iris and Dan were all stars and had a lovely time – even though they seemed to find the packaging far more interesting than the presents!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

christmas carols


Missed the carol service at St Aldhelm’s due to the end of term drinks (priorities?!). So it was lovely to have some thirty carol singers singing outside our house yesterday on their tour of the parish….
Christmas IS coming; the waiting is nearly over.

Friday, December 21, 2007

iona moments 2


Moments of serenity:
Waking up very early and walking down to the east shore before sunrise. Experiencing the stillness of the morning, the peaceful monochrome of the small islands on the opposite side of the water and the gentle lapping of the waves.
Walking along the road beside St Oran’s Chapel completely alone in the early morning and suddenly being captivated by the sound of exquisite flute-playing through its ever-open doorway. Deciding not to seek out the player, but simply standing and listening in awe from the graveyard and simply knowing that this was an act of prayer for the flautist and for me.
photo: early morning, looking across to the mainland

Thursday, December 20, 2007

end of term


I’m being paid peanuts for what I do. There’s a huge part of me that wants to find to a job in education that suitably rewards the contribution made (even though I did appreciate the significant financial sacrifice involved when I decided to retire from architecture to work with young people).
However, last night I spent a lovely evening with a large group of teachers in Bristol who were out celebrating the end of a hard and grueling school term. I spent a lot of the time hugging people who have been very special to me during the course of my “career” in education (this is only my third Christmas!). It made me realise that an enormous part of the enjoyment of the job was actually down to those I work with. Deep down, no matter how frustrated things become, it would take an awful lot to prise me away from these people!
Photo: me, Kate+Rachel at last night’s quiet end-of-term drinks

iona moments 1


At the end of the Iona Community’s “Growing Hope” book of daily readings there is a section devoted to reflections of one man’s time spent on the island (Neil Paynter, a member of the Iona Community). This reminded me of my own time on Iona in the summer. The end of the year has regularly been a time of reflection for me and this is the first of four scribbles recording some of my own thoughts when I was there:

Moments with new friends:
Walking up Dun I, the highest point on the island, on my first full day and meeting Dick from Holland (one of our group) half way up. Walking on up to the top together and immediately knowing I’d met a lovely new friend. Being mesmerised by the panoramic view; we were silent, but we were both smiling. Deciding to walk down the other side of the hill to the western shore but getting a little confused and having to climb over a barbed wire fence en route; throwing our bags over the fence (which meant that we HAD to get over!); Dick climbing over first but slipping and ending up launching himself like a human bird. Laughing uncontrollably just like children (he wasn’t hurt)! Talking and talking and realising that our lives seemed to be following similar paths and that our philosophy of life and beliefs, again, had many similarities. Experiencing the white sands and the turquoise sea on our way back to the MacLeod Centre via the north shore on what turned out to be a gloriously sunny afternoon. Knowing that my time on Iona was going to be good!
photo: Dick+Dientje

Monday, December 17, 2007

advent and liverpool nativity


Moira+I watched “Liverpool Nativity” on BBC3 last night. It was developed by the same team behind the hugely successful “Manchester Passion” in 2005 and, while not being as effective as the Easter production in our view (perhaps it suffered from being crammed into a one hour slot?), it was nevertheless a powerful reminder of the Advent and Christmas message.
Advent is a time of hope and expectation and I’ve been using the excellent “Advent Readings from Iona” book each morning since the start of the month. I found today’s reading (provided by Brian Woodcock) particularly poignant:
People travel great distances to find holiness. Some even come to Iona.
There is a story of a boy who lived in an isolated house on a hill. A God-forsaken place for a young man. But one thing fascinated him. Each night he would look out into the darkness and see a light. It was far away on a hilltop, but this sign of life gave him hope.
One day he decided to go in search of it. It was a long and lonely walk, and it was already dark before he reached the outskirts of the town. Tired and hungry, he knocked at the first door he came to, and explained his search for the mysterious light that had always given him hope.
‘I know it!’ replied the woman who had answered the door. ‘It gives me hope as well.’ And she pointed back in the direction from which he had come. There, on the horizon, was a single light shining. A sign of life in the darkness.
The light from his own house
.”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

www.boreme.com


Today’s “Observer” referred readers to the top 10 list of 2007’s most watched virals (“comical, bizarre and bite-size clips – often the more amateur the better - that spread at the click of ‘send’ button”). You’ve just got to watch Miss South Carolina giving a garbled explanation of why so few Americans can find their country on a world map; and Tay Zonday (amazing, deep voice) singing “Chocolate Rain”; and “Groovy Dancing Girl” by Sophie Merry from Dublin.
Just wonderful!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

bali climate change agreement?


So, it seems that delegates at the UN summit in Bali have agreed a deal on curbing climate change.
The intention had been to set negotiations in train that will eventually lead to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Its first targets for reducing emissions expire in 2012. EU negotiators wanted this "Bali roadmap" to contain a commitment that industrialised nations would cut their emissions by 25-40% compared to 1990 levels by 2020.
EU negotiators had thrashed out a compromise text with developing countries, including China, but the US had signaled that it would reject the compromise – a statement that drew boos from delegates in the conference hall – because they complained that the language on reducing emissions was too strong and would commit them to measures that could retard their economic development!
Eventually, the US grudgingly accepted the proposals. Somewhat pathetically, Paula Dobriansky (Head of the US delegation) said “I think we have come a long way here…. In this, the US is very committed to this effort and just wants to really ensure we all act together”. Oh good, so that’s ok then!!
However, depressingly (as far as I can tell at this stage), the US delegation got its way and the compromise agreement accepts that industrialized countries would not set firm emissions targets – to the utter dismay of most campaigners.
You might recall that George Bush infuriated his critics by professing world leadership on climate change at his meeting of the top 16 world economies at the end of September - while offering no new substantive policy and implicitly rejecting binding emissions controls.
I think Chris Miller of Greenpeace got it right: “The Bush administration is well out of step with the American population and, increasingly, out of step with US business”.
No doubt, we’ll get a queue of politicians lining up to tell us how wonderful this agreement is (and I accept that some agreement is better than none at all), but I’m left feeling depressed and desperately disappointed by the whole business and that this latest deal is just yet another fudge. At a time when the world cannot afford to delay, it seems that politicians have merely postponed REAL decisions on climate change for another two years when there will be another conference (in Denmark) to agree the final wording to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012!

Monday, December 10, 2007

simon smith and his amazing musical tastes


Good friend Si Smith is just one of those very special people.
He’s a brilliant illustrator but he’s also wonderful about coming up with ideas and suggestions. A few years ago, he told me (and a few others) that I ought to see the singer/songwriter Juliet Turner at a gig near Reading – and he was absolutely right! He’s also been fantastic about coming up with music suggestions (“I think you might like this”), such as:
Sufjan Stevens - '
Casimir Pulaski Day'
This Mortal Coil - 'Song for the Siren'
Trembling Blue Stars - 'Abba on the Jukebox' or 'November Starlings'
Looper - 'Impossible Things 2'
Elbow - 'Newborn'
Low - 'When I go Deaf'
Death Cab for Cutie - 'The Sound of Settling'
Denim - 'The Osmonds'
John Martyn - 'Small Hours'

Recently, he told me he thought I might like “Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour” (BBC Radio 6: Sundays 10pm-midnight) – “it’s quite eclectic and rather inspiring” he said. He’s absolutely right; it’s excellent! You should try it too (I’m rarely awake at that time these days, so use the “listen again” link on the BBC website).
Photo: Si Smith (bottom right) at Greenbelt in 2005 beside the tree he designed/conceived for one of the sessions.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

so this is Christmas?


I heard on the radio this morning that, in a recent poll for public theology think tank Theos, 27% of people were unable to identify Bethlehem as Jesus’s birthplace (rising to 36% of people aged between 18+24).
Very sad, but I’m not altogether surprised.
But, if you thought that was somewhat shocking, perhaps you should take a look at this “wonderful” YouTube link: I haven’t a clue who Sherri Shepherd is, but this American “celebrity” recently announced that Jesus pre-dated the Greeks (note: she also thought the earth was flat!).
Photo: from Ruth's "Madonna" lino-cut.

forest of dean


Spent a brilliant time in the Forest of Dean with a group of Year 8 pupils (plus a few staff!) this week. Despite rather wet weather, it was great to see the students tackle things completely “outside their comfort zones” (especially on the night walks, the climbing wall and Jacob’s Ladder) - their huge sense of achievement was just wonderful to witness. Very happy time, with lots of laughter and new friendships made.
Photos: problem solving; the climbing wall; view from the top of the wall; image from the noticeboard(!); and Jacob’s Ladder.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

christmas exhibition


It was pouring with rain, but still they came!
Why do we always seem to get this kind of weather for our exhibitions?
Really enjoyable evening yesterday with loads of people braving the elements and getting into the Christmas spirit.
Photos: detail from Tamsie’s “Pink Sky”; part of Hannah’s “A-Z of little things in life”; Lucie’s “My Kinda Lady”; Ruth’s “II”: and the inevitable red wine traces!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

number40 christmas exhibition


It’s time that time of the year again – when the dining room at home gets filled with boxes and clutter out of the basement and the basement gets magically transformed into a gallery! The exhibition is this coming weekend and includes work by Tamsie Beith, Lucie Sheridan, daughters Ruth+Hannah and me (Moira and Ruth’s husband Stu have decided to opt out this time) – illustration, drawing, painting, printmaking, photography and baby clothes! Everything’s almost ready!
Photo: invitation flyer (apologies, I know you won’t be able to read it!) featuring Tamsie’s “Camely Road” painting.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

consequences


Why the picture of Martin Jol?
Well, as indicated in a previous blog (March 2007), I’m not a huge follower of the England football team (too many disappointments etc). Last night’s inept, depressing defeat against Croatia will surely see the end of McClaren as the England manager. In the same March blog, I voiced my fears that Martin O’Neil (the current Villa manager) would ultimately become the next England manager (why? who on earth would want the job?). Unfortunately, I can now foresee O’Neil being appointed by the New Year and, in turn, Martin Jol becoming the Villa manager.
You read it here first!
PS: in other words, that awful mistake by the Villa goalkeeper last night will probably result in Villa losing its manager!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

outstanding


It’s official:
Norton Hill is an “OUTSTANDING” school.
The OFSTED Inspectors (and note that “outstanding” is the very highest level they can award), awarded Grade 1 for every one of the 38 areas of the school’s work. Clearly, this is entirely due to my own enormous contribution to the school since 2005 (with perhaps the help of one or two others en route?).
I've just read the Report and, amazingly, it doesn’t contain a single specific reference to any of the work I’m involved in; the inspectors didn’t even come to talk to me (I tidied my office especially); and I’m not even mentioned by name!
It’s an absolute travesty!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

st ives


I’ve just been reading Gareth’s blog about her booking the family’s holidays in St Ives for next summer (and was immediately transported there!). Sadly, and somewhat pathetically, I’ve been doing the very same thing this week – but for October 2009!! This date comes (more or less) midway between Moira's+my 60th birthdays and we were keen to book a week for the whole family in probably our very favourite place in the world – Upper Saltings, St Ives. I checked on their website and found people had already booked stuff for 2009 (blimey!), so decided to act and contacted the owner direct.
So it’s all sorted and we’ve started to dream already (the phrase “wishing your life away” comes to mind….)!
photo: this is a picture taken on the last family holiday there in 2004.

Friday, November 16, 2007

authority


The staff at school have been challenged to play a football match against the sixth form today to help raise funds for Children in Need. I spent a couple of hours on Monday toying with the idea of making a glorious comeback to the beautiful game (I would only need a few minutes off the bench to turn a game, score another impressive hat-trick etc….). I ended up reluctantly deciding that it would be somewhat foolish for a man fast approaching his 60th year to do such a thing.
However, I can now announce that I WILL be participating afterall!
I was approached by a couple of sixth-formers yesterday asking if I would referee the game – “Sir, we need someone in authority and we thought of you”. I eventually agreed (clearly, these were wise and astute sixth-formers who recognised my dynamic influence on the school and it would be wrong to let them down!).
Moments later however my pride was in tatters when they admitted I was their SECOND choice - they’d initially tried to get the Headteacher to act as ref, but he was busy!!
footnote: being such a natural, talented footballer, my biggest fear that, when the ball comes over, I won’t be able to resist putting it into the back of the net – pure INSTINCT will surely take over?

Monday, November 12, 2007

birthday weekend


As I indicated in my Friday blog, Moira+I were very much looking forward to spending the weekend celebrating Ian’s 50th birthday with great friends in Oxford. It proved to be an absolutely brilliant couple of days! Arrived at Gail+Ian’s first thing Saturday morning in time for us all to walk to Quod in the High Street for a superb breakfast; some of us then walked across Christchurch Meadow before meeting up at the King’s Arms pub in Broad Street for several glasses of ale (or whatever!); on to the Old Parsonage Hotel for an amazing high tea; and then chilling out at Gail+Ian’s with the odd glass and huge helpings of goulash. Sunday saw us meet up on Port Meadow with even more friends for mayBe’s community eucharist (see yesterday’s blog) followed by yet more wonderful food and great coffee at Manos cafĂ©/deli in Jericho.
Lots of laughter, great food+drink, hugs and happiness.
Life is good! Happy birthday Ian!
Photos: Quod breakfast; Lisa+Esther; Rachel+Ian+Gail+James+Esther; Ian+Gail+James; Lisa+Cara
PS: …. and the Villa beat Blues!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

remembering


We gathered on Port Meadow, Oxford this morning for mayBe’s community eucharist “in the open” on Remembrance Sunday. We threw handfuls of red and white rose petals into the air and we remembered those who had died in war and the peacemakers in our own two minute’s silence.
A powerful time together.
Sid and I learnt that our grandfathers were both at Ypres and the Somme during the First World War – both survived and both refused to speak about their experiences afterwards (my grandfather was in the Royal Horse Artillery and, according to family legend, joined up whilst under age).
The following words from poet Mary Oliver (“Staying Alive”) were used during our time together on Port Meadow:
I don’t mean it’s easy or assured, there are the stubborn stumps of shame, grief that remains unsolvable after all the years, a bag of stones that goes with one wherever one goes and however the hour may call for dancing and for light feet.
But there is, also, the summoning world, the admirable energies of the world, better than anger, better than bitterness, and because more interesting, more alleviating
”.
Photo: red+white petals on Port Meadow

Friday, November 09, 2007

happy birthday ian!


This weekend sees the last of the “great-mates-50th-birthdays-in-2007” celebrations in Oxford. As well as being younger than me, Ian is an inspirational man who has wonderfully good looks; intelligence; sporting prowess; compassion; great communication skills; generosity; humility; humour; doesn’t look anything like 50 years old and, crucially, is just a lovely bloke and a great mate!! Sickening isn’t it? Really looking forward to the weekend.
We love him to bits!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

karine polwart again


Went to a lovely Karine Polwart concert at St George’s in Bristol last night with Gareth, Alan and Moira. Excellent venue with marvellous acoustics; completely different “feel” last night compared with her concert at Thekla last November. You just get the feeling that she's a really nice person - as well as being an exceptional singer/songwriter. Found it amusing that she’d bought one of her guitars from Bristol on e-Bay!
Sounded very good to me!

PS: on a completely separate matter, I spotted the first brightly lit up house with Christmas decorations on the way home from work yesterday (same as the house I pointed out this time last year!). Rather depressing really.

Monday, November 05, 2007

growing hope


I really love the Iona Community’s “Growing Hope” book of daily readings. Two recent readings relating to our individual/communal spiritual journeys struck a chord with me:

“And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”. (Old Testament Book of Micah 6:8)
Journey Blessing:
“May our journey ahead be blessed with God’s laughter, silences, risks, challenges, healings, questions, promises, protests, answers, tears, solidarity, often uncomfortable peace and compassion-filled surprises – perhaps all in one day”.
(Peter Millar)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

andy


Good friend Andy is on a bit of a roll.
Recent events have included him running into the back of a police vehicle on his way into school (and subsequently being passed by pupils and staff colleagues alike - which instantly publicised his plight!). This was followed a few days later when he set off the fire alarm at school – which resulted in the entire school being made to stand outside in pouring rain (Andy is a Science teacher and he was apparently trying to video a simulated demonstration of nuclear fision, or something like that, by setting light to 200 matches – which just happened to be positioned under a smoke detector!).
Well, yesterday Andy kindly gave me a lift into school (we frequently exchange lifts) but en route mentioned that he thought the brakes on his "new" car (ie. the replacement for the one involved in the police accident!) felt "strange". We'd arranged to meet up at 4pm for the homeward journey.... but no Andy. No sign of him in the Science office, his lab or in the staff room. I checked in the staff car park... no car!! I rang him on his mobile: "Ah Steve, yes, a couple of things - firstly, I've just realised that I'd forgotten to give you a lift and, secondly, I'd just got down the hill from school when my brakes failed - so I've just called the AA. But don't worry, Dave+Tamsie have stopped to offer assistance so they can give you a lift home".
Clearly, it was an act of God (punishment for forgetting me!).
PS: from now on, the school is considering giving Andy his own slot in the daily staff briefing – far more interesting than the usual notices.

Friday, November 02, 2007

once again


I realise I’m in danger of becoming somewhat evangelical about the film “Once” (see my blog of 26 October), but thought you might like to watch this video clip using one of the songs from the film as an encouragement to see the film! My friend John Simmons (“come on Oldham”!) says he went to see it after reading my recommendation, loved it, insisted on taking some of his family to see it two days later and has bought the CD (you’ve been warned)!!
PS: this is a link for the cinema listings in your area.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ooooo scary!


I just love this image!
Halloween seems to be an excuse for huge commercialisation by supermarkets and the like, so Ruth’s do-it-yourself outfit for Iris comes somewhat as a relief.
If you really want to be scared, maybe you should watch this!
PS: perhaps even more scary is the fact that Moira+I first got together 38 years ago today!
PPS: right, that’s the last of the family photo album pictures for a while (promise!).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

grandchildren


Some recent photographs of Mikey, Iris and Dan (with apologies that this is becoming a bit of a family photo album!)….
Iris, Mikey, Dan, Iris and Mikey

alice+dave+mikey+dan


Moira+I made a quick overnight visit to Leyland to see everyone! Alice+Dave seem to be coping fine – although Mikey seems to be in complete denial that there has been an addition to the family thus far!
Photo: Dan+me by Moira (apologies for no pictures of the proud parents or granny!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

dan buckley


Taking a lead from Mrs Thatcher (and for those who know me: obviously I would never do such a thing!), it’s very nice to be able to announce to the world that “we are now a grandfather” again!!
Alice+Dave now have another baby boy (not sure if he's a future ManU striker or midfielder at this stage):
Dan - born 12.54pm today, weighing 7Ib 1oz!
Everyone well. Moira+I are clearly delighted and hope to make a flying visit on Sunday.
Welcome Dan!

once


Moira+I don’t go to the cinema very often, but we were really pleased that we went to the Watershed last night to see “Once”. This modern day musical (writer/director John Carney described his intention as wanting to make a “visual album”) is set in Dublin and is a story about busker and his friendship with a young Czech immigrant woman. This gentle, charming, uplifting film is just wonderful (and the music is absolutely lovely - the songs stay with you).
You’ve just got to see (and hear) it!
PS. I've already added it as one of my favourite films!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

camera


I indicated in an earlier blog that I’d had a problem with my camera on the Kielder Challenge and feared that it might be terminal. Well, so it proved. My friendly camera repair shop indicated that the LCD screen needed replacing and the cost was going to be prohibitively expensive (for a 4 year-old camera). I tried to buy a second-hand replacement on e-Bay but, frustratingly, was outbid at the very last second! In the end, I decided to buy a refurbished Canon PowerShot A640 (10 Megapixels and still with a LCD screen) – with a fair more memory than my old G3 (4MP) – for not much more than it would have cost me to repair my broken camera. Big problem is that I can’t afford it and have had to advise Moira that she’s bought it me for Christmas (and birthday)!
Just hope I haven’t made a big mistake!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

four have fun on a golf course (again)


There was a time when every Friday afternoon throughout the year, Steve, Ken, Pete and I used to play golf together - ok, sometimes we could only squeeze in four holes before it got dark! So it was great to have the four of us back on a golf course together again in Oxford this morning (sadly, I’ve only played 3 times in the last 18 months) - with all the banter, laughter, rivalry and missed putts…. and the sun shone beautifully too. Rather happily, the match (Ken+Pete versus Steve+me) ended all square - with Ken holing a five foot putt on the last hole.
As Ken would say (and did!): “it doesn’t get much better than this!”.
Photo: Ken+Pete+Steve+my shadow before our game today.

Monday, October 22, 2007

one world week


This is “One World Week” and I am reminded of the following stark statistics used by many international aid organisations (it’s also one of the daily readings in the excellent “Growing Hope” publication by the Iona Community):

Imagine shrinking the earth’s population to a village of 100 people with all the existing human ratios remaining the same.
The village would have 61 Asians, 12 Europeans, 13 North or South Americans, 13 Africans. One white person from Oceania.
There would be 51 females and 49 males.
70 non-whites, 30 whites.
70 non-Christian and 30 Christians.
50% of the village’s wealth would be in the hands of 6 people – all North American citizens.
80 villagers would live in substandard housing;
70 villagers would be unable to read;
while 50 would suffer from malnutrition.
One villager would have a college education.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

it wasn’t to be….


In the four or so years since Alice+Dave got married, Villa have yet to win against ManU (Dave is a ManU fanatic and, worse than that, has converted his wife to the cause!). Clearly, yesterday was no exception (1-4) - despite Villa taking the lead – and I anticipate that the powers-that-be at Villa will be asking for the marriage to be dissolved any time now…

PS: my Fantasy football team continues to go from bad to worse. Another appalling week and my league position in England has plummeted to 324,365th (from "just" 218,205th at the end of September)!
PPS: oh yes, and in the really important game, the England rugby team fell just short of retaining the World Cup. I only managed to watch the last 20 minutes at the wedding reception hotel (one small TV in a packed small area and I “watched” it from outside the room four rows back from the doorway!). It seemed to be a case of South Africa dominance at the line-outs and perhaps a little too much kicking? The boys “did brilliant” nonetheless! Heroic stuff!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

… and the bride wore white


It’s going to be a long and difficult day.
The England Rugby team has reached the World Cup Final against all the odds and we’re all holding our breath that it doesn’t end in an awful anti-climax (perhaps another 0-36 or worse?!). Great friend Ian thinks we ought to be singing for England (the players’ theme tune: “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers)!
Moira+I will be attending Mike+Sarah’s wedding reception this evening – which gives little scope for me being able to wear my lucky blue Cotton Traders shirt(!) – so I’m just hoping that a TV will be available!
Someone who definitely will be seeing the game is my lovely mate Steve Eyre. Yesterday, I sent him a text confirming golfing arrangements for next Tuesday; within seconds came the following reply:
“In Paris 4 le rugby. Allez les blancs!”.

Friday, October 19, 2007

climate change


Attended an absolutely fascinating (and packed) meeting last night in Bristol entitled “Climate Change: A Global Injustice” with excellent, challenging, thought-provoking speakers George Monbiot (“radical thinker”), Kate Raworth (Senior Researcher at Oxfam) and someone from the World Development Movement (can’t remember his name!). It’s given me lots of food for thought.
I started reading the preface to Monbiot’s book “Heat” in bed last night. It refers to Tony Blair’s contention that Climate Change is “the single most important issue that we face as a global community”. Monbiot acknowledges that when the Government’s commissioned Stern Report was first published last year (assessing the economic implications of climate change), he initially welcomed it. It was only on reflection that he came to realise that Sir Nicholas Stern's recommendations actually “embrace a greenhouse gas target with a reasonable chance of causing mass starvation”.
The meeting was far from being a list of depressing statistics and I came away feeling strangely uplifted and encouraged.
I suspect that you’ll be hearing more from me on the subject over the coming months – and I think my MP will be too!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

anniversary blog


Somewhat amazingly (for me at least!), this is my blog's first birthday.
Happy birthday blog!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

radiohead


Radiohead’s new album “In Rainbows” is brilliant. Just brilliant.
The band has chosen to release its seventh studio album as a digital download through the Radiohead website at a price determined by each consumer willing to part with an email address. Within two days of its release, reports say that more than 1.2 million copies had been downloaded.
You’ve got to have it!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

blue is the colour


Apologies. I now seem to be focussing on writing a Rugby Blog these days!
Crucial moment of the match was nothing to do with Joe Worsley’s great tackle or Jonny’s drop goal. It happened in about the 55th minute when I realised that I wasn’t wearing the “lucky blue Cotton Traders” shirt (even against “Les Blues”!). Once this error had been rectified, victory was never in doubt (well ok, perhaps just a little bit).
Photo: Jonny’s drop goal.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

holding my breath


Yes, I know that last week I said “the semi-finals are of absolutely no consequence” (having beaten Australia), but I’ve subsequently actually been dreaming of England getting to the finals (we’re not talking football here, by the way!)!
I’ve been having a number of “wouldn’t-it-be-brilliant-if-we-made-the-finals” conversations with various friends (notice how it becomes “we” if the team is doing well and “they” if they aren’t!).
I’m saying no more…..

dear peter


I was delighted that Al Gore has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the UN’s Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change. I don’t know if you’ve seen his film “An Inconvenient Truth” but, if you haven’t, I would certainly recommend that you to do so. There is comparatively little in the film/documentary that I wasn’t already aware of, but I still found it compelling viewing. To my mind, I think it would be hugely beneficial for pupils if they had an opportunity to see the film at School (albeit with the “accompanied guidance” prescribed by a British Judge this week!).
The following extracts from an article by Andrew Lee (a member of the Geographical Association)(see
http://www.geography.org.uk/resources/themes/ for suggested ideas for using the film with students) echo my own thoughts:
Whilst his message is hardly new, the significant thing is that the message is all in one place, and it is explained by a highly profiled credible person, who happens to be an American. Gore quotes Churchill from the 1930s, who whilst speaking in another context, as ever made a poignant and universal statement: 'The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences …'.
Yet the biggest threat to our future may not be climate change, it just might be our own apathy, or even our resolute refusal to acknowledge what just might be an inconvenient truth. Take your children to see this film, take your partner, take your parents, take your class, take your school. Make a pledge to get as many people as you can to see this film”.
I’d be happy to lend you the DVD if required!
Let me know what you think.
Many thanks
Steve
Note: This is an e-mail I’ve sent to the Headteacher at our School.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

hiv+stephen fry


Watched both parts of Stephen Fry’s excellent documentary on HIV Aids on BBC tv. Completely absorbing; moving; challenging; sensitively produced; lots of myths exposed; brilliantly presented. It reflected on how, in the early 1980s, little was known about Aids or how to treat it and how, in the UK, people were warned of its dangers via the "Don’t Die of Ignorance" campaigns. Twenty years later, infections are rising, particularly amongst three groups: the young; black African communities; and heterosexuals. The number of new infections amongst straight people now outweighs those in the gay world. I’ve read some of the messages on the BBC messageboard. I was particularly struck by this:
“I was diagnosed HIV+ 6 years ago, when I was 16. To date I haven't told anyone in my life other than the relevant medics. As was highlighted in the programme, it's not the fact that I have HIV that makes me wary of disclosing, but the way by which I undoubtedly caught it - I was an IV drug-user, involved in prostitution and did neither of them safely. My mistakes, my consequence”.
Check out the GIJonny link.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

facebook


Found these rather amusing (many thanks to Kymberley Jane Ashwood via John Simmons’ facebook page):
a) uncertain about being able to pay next month’s rent/mortgage?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNIolPG5qtE
b) so what is facebook all about?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b-fJxzpK7s

Saturday, October 06, 2007

world champions


Yes, I know. I feared the worst when England took on the might of Australia in the Rugby Union World Cup quarter-finals earlier today. In the event, it was an entirely justified 12-10 English victory and I feel very good about it all!
I watched the game in the John Cabot pub in Bristol’s Corn Street with a group of friends from school and the atmosphere was amazing (even to the extent that people were calling for “hush” when Jonny Wilkinson was taking his penalty kicks – as if it made any difference to him!). Initially, we had considered meeting up in the Australian “Walkabout” pub just opposite but, on reflection, I think we made the right choice!
The semi-finals are of absolutely no consequence – England will probably lose whoever they play…. but it was VERY important that we beat the Aussies!
I might even e-mail my cousin Keith in Australia later!
Photo: Andy Gomarsall celebrating victory.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

pure fantasy


At the start of the football season, I was persuaded (independently) by good friends Miles and Glen to manage a Fantasy Football team. You have to pick a squad of 15 players up to a total value of £100 million (pish!). Somewhat amazingly, Game One went very well and I thought “you’re a natural at this, Steve”. However, after eight games, it’s pretty obvious I haven’t got a clue and I’m slipping down the various leagues on a very consistent basis (I’m currently ranked 218,205th in England!)! For example, despite dipping into the transfer market a few times, none (yes, none!) of my forwards has yet scored a goal for me all season!! Yesterday just confirmed my ineptitude… my two squad goalkeepers (ok, you can only use one at a time) played against each other in a game that finished 7-4! As you might appreciate, you score decent points if your goalkeeper doesn’t concede any goals – fat chance of this yesterday! On a positive note, the goalkeeper I DID select for my team was the one who only conceded the four goals AND he also saved a penalty - and therefore got “extra” points for doing so!
Maybe things are looking up?
Photo: David James: one of my “goalkeepers”

Friday, September 28, 2007

bristol self-help group


Good friend Andy’s been going on about the Bristol-based teachers at school getting together in some quiet bar on a fairly regular basis during the course of a working week. Clearly, he didn’t want to be seen by the powers-that-be as one of those irresponsible, unprofessional, beer-swilling individuals who’d rather go for a drink than mark books or prepare lessons – so he persuaded me to send out a round-robin e-mail to members of staff asking the Bristol contingent to sign up for this exciting new venture instead! The reaction has been very interesting. We’ve now got an equivalent “self-help group” being formed for Bath-based teachers and we’ve even received e-mails from staff who live between Bath and Bristol saying they’ll try to attend both groups!
Somehow, I think my imminent Performance Review might be adversely affected.
Photo: me practising for the self-help group at the recent Bromyard Folk Festival