Wednesday, May 30, 2007

tacky blackpool

Now I know that Blackpool has a reputation for being a really tacky holiday resort, but I have very fond childhood memories and have retained a somewhat romantic recollection of the place. Last Sunday, Moira accompanied me on a pilgrimage and we duly sat overlooking Bispham Promenade eating our chips and watching the occasional tram trundle past (where had they all gone?). Clearly, it seems that the only reason anyone goes to Blackpool these days is for a stag weekend (can’t actually imagine anything worse!)… I left feeling really quite depressed: everything IS plastic, cheap and incredibly tacky.
Maybe it was always like this and I just didn’t notice?
Photo: Blackpool: miles of empty beaches!
PS: apologies for not updating our number40 website for some time – the computer software keeps telling me it has “experienced an unexpected error” and I can't work out what's wrong…. Aaaaaaaaaaargh! Am left feeling like a grumpy old man (no comments please!).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


We’ve been away for a few days up north visiting Alice+Dave+Mickey. Great to be with them and lovely to see Mikey growing up and into lots of new things. Moira+I managed to visit Blackpool (well, Bispham – 4 miles up the coast) during the course of the Bank Holiday weekend, where I spent all but one of the annual Broadway family holidays up to the age of 16. Contrary to popular belief, the beaches were deserted (ok, so the weather wasn’t brilliant!). Yesterday we all visited Tate Liverpool (the first time for us) and were really impressed. Back home now after a very tedious (ie. slow!) drive down the M6!

Friday, May 25, 2007


We’ve got a mufti-day at school today (last day of term). Pupils (and staff) pay £1 to ignore school uniform and dress up as one of their heroes for charity. In my case (any excuse to avoid wearing a tie!), I’ve decided to wear my old Villa shirt, c1965. As a former centre-forward myself*(!), I shall pretend to be Gerry Hitchens for the entire school day (no one at school will be any the wiser!). Not many people know this, but he once scored 10 goals in 14 days (14-28 November 1959)(sad, who me?).
Those were the days!
note*: I can remember scoring 29 goals in the season for Handsworth Grammar Under-12s, but my goal tally declined season by season to something like 8 by the time I played for the First Eleven (by then, people had “encouraged” me to play in midfield!). There was a famous match, when I was probably 14 or 15, and was playing centre-forward; we won 16-0 and I failed to score!! It’s tough at the top.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

leavers day

It was Leavers Day at school today for the Year 11s. It’s a great day when all the Year 11 students get a chance to dress up in their finery to celebrate their last “proper” day in school before (as the name suggests!) leaving for college, apprenticeships, jobs or before going into the sixth form. They arrived at school by various modes of transport: limos; horse+carriage; motor bike; racing car; camper van; tractor; hydraulic hoist; unicycle; pogo-stick et al!
As someone relatively new to the world of education, the whole business seems a little strange to me…. because they haven’t actually left school yet – in fact, it’s right in the middle of their GCSE exams! Nevermind, they all seemed to have a wonderful time!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

christian aid and cannabis cookies

I’ve done my annual duty street collection run for Christian Aid this week (just two very small streets). I’d been terribly organised and printed out little notes with each envelope explaining when I intended to collect them. Arrived home after doing my collection rounds and explained to Moira that people fall into three categories: a) those who aren’t at home (or pretend not to be); b) those who are absolutely lovely (and have either got their envelope ready or make their sincere apologies for not getting their act together and then fill their envelopes on the doorstep); and c) those who simply grunt some form of mild abuse.
Moira thought I ought to know about the latest from “The Archers” message boards (sorry, but she loves them!) regarding Christian Aid collectors and speculation about “cannabis cookies”!
PS: Actually, I WAS chased down one of the streets on Friday night by a suntanned lady wrapped only in a black towel clutching her CA envelope (honest!)…. but I don’t know if any cookies were involved.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I’m feeling quite pleased with myself! You know what it’s like when there are various “jobs” hanging over you…. Well, over the past couple of days, I’ve booked tickets for the Bromyard Folk Festival in September (ie. music, beer+camping weekend with my lovely brother Alan); booked flights+coaches for my trip to Iona in August; and booked the car in for its annual service. All I need to do now is to re-erect the kitchen shelves; transfer all the furniture+equipment from the dining room back down to the basement; and buy photographic paper+cartridges so I can mount some more photographs (ordered after last week’s Arts Trail). Maybe I’ll also find time to watch the Cup Final?
Photo: Iona shoreline
PS: Great friend Ian has written a beautiful (+moving) piece in his blog about his Dad, who’s suffering from a form of dementia. It includes a wonderful poem from RS Thomas.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Great evening at St George’s in Bristol with Hannah+Moira yesterday to see/hear “The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain”. Just brilliant! Spent the entire evening sitting with a huge grin on my face. Pity Felix wasn’t able to make it as it would have inspired him to persevere with his own ukulele playing. Only other regret was that they didn’t play “Wuthering Heights” – but you can see them perform it here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

southbank arts trail3

Well, they said it was going to be wet….. and they definitely weren’t wrong! Heavy rain for long periods of the day gave way to bright sunshine right at the end of the trail yesterday. Another great day (and a great weekend) – lots of people came to see us despite the awful weather and we also managed to get out and about to see some of the other exhibitions.
Photo: We dubbed these girls “The Southville Arts Posse” – they arrived en masse at about 11.30am; they were very organised and determined to see as many exhibitions as they could; they were enormously self-confident (but in a very nice way); and they knew what art they liked and what they didn’t (ten year-olds going on twenty!)!
PS: I had a text from Charlotte (one of the support teachers on the Ten Tors) at about 4pm yesterday to say that all our school teams had been picked and that the pupils had all been “brilliant”. That’s good to know.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

southbank arts trail2 (+ten tors)

Well, the weather forecast had sounded pretty bad but, in reality, the sun shone for a fair amount of time yesterday. Lots of visitors (it felt just as busy as last year) – possibly thanks to Paul making contact with Steve Wright (Evening Post 24/Seven) who gave us a really good write-up in this week’s edition. Smiling and chatting to people from 11am until 6pm is pretty tiring (but good fun)!
I’ve added some photos to the SouthBank flickr site.
PS: Early morning news is that this year’s Ten Tors event is being abandoned due to very poor weather conditions – for only the second time in it’s history. I was really disappointed not to be with the teams this weekend and just know how devastated they’ll all be feeling by not being able to complete the challenge (but perhaps also somewhat relieved in the circumstances?).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

southbank arts trail1

Lots of lovely people came to see our exhibition last night at the start of the SouthBank Arts Trail weekend. We were really lucky with the weather – heavy rain until 7pm then, amazingly, the sun came out and it remained dry for the rest of the evening. I probably talked too much and drank too much red wine, as usual! I did actually remember to take a few photos this time (I forgot at the last exhibition), but only at the very start of the evening – it’s difficult to use a camera and drink at the same time!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

blair's going, going....

He’s finally going – or rather, it seems that there’s going to be an announcement later today of his intention to go (oh, do hurry up!)! I was a strong supporter until he decided to side with Bush and invade Iraq on a false premise. An articulate, charismatic, political leader – unfortunately, like many other people I’m sure, I ended up feeling I couldn’t trust him any more.
Photo: “Blair’s Lair” chalked on to a signpost near “Chequers” (Prime Minister’s country retreat) – someone had written “Brown’s” above the PM’s name, then had second thoughts and crossed it out! Do they know something we don’t? Actually, there was something in the Observer this weekend saying that, if he became PM, Brown would be dispensing with Chequers as a regular weekend retreat – so perhaps they did!
PS: this is an announcement of my intention to go to school today; I might issue further announcements when I set out from home and when I actually arrive at school….

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

take me back*….to mull (not hyndford street)

Spent much of the weekend preparing the basement for this coming weekend’s SouthBank Arts Trail (eg. decorating, framing, hanging and moving lots of stuff out of the basement and piling it into the dining room!). Still not finished, but it’ll be fine by Friday (honest). Played lots of music over the course of the past 3-4 days, including loads of Van Morrison stuff (just brilliant!). One song – not a particular favourite of mine as it happens - took me back to a wonderful holiday/retreat on Mull with our great friends Cara, Fay, Gail+Ian from Anamcara (forerunner to maybe) in October 2001. As soon as I heard the opening bars of “On the Bright Side of the Road”, I was instantly transported back to our little wooden shack (it's in the top left of the picture) at Croig on a beautiful sunny morning, looking across the white sand to the flat waters of our little cove; Fay was cooking breakfast; and VM was playing on the CD player. Great memories!
Photo: Croig beach, Mull
PS: *obscure reference to a line from VM’s “On Hyndford Street” from Hymns to Silence!

Friday, May 04, 2007

it was fifty years ago today…..

I remember it well (unfortunately, I really do!). Villa won the FA Cup (they haven’t managed to do so since!); Johnny Dixon lifted the trophy after Peter McParland had barged Man U’s goalkeeper into his own net (fracturing his cheekbone I think?). United seem to have been beating us ever since! I was convinced that 2007 was Villa’s year (50th anniversary etc) and very nearly placed a bet on them to win at very good odds. Unfortunately, we were beaten by (yes you guessed) Manchester United!
On his blog, Adam Bond has pointed out that the Villa have gone for a new crest/logo and I agree with him – it’s horrible!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

kielder challenge

I spent a wonderful day at Ashton Court, Bristol yesterday in one of the Regional Heats of the Kielder Challenge – a national outdoor adventure competition for teams of 13 to 16 year old young people. Our eight students (from Norton Hill and Fosse Way Schools) competed in the category of teams which included four pupils with physical, sensory or learning disabilities. Our team won the regional competition and are now either in the Challenge Plate or the Cup Final itself in Northumberland (depending on other scores from around the country), but the biggest thrill was seeing the pupils working so well together as a team and just having a great time - laughing and joking with each other as they tried to solve problems in the sunshine (and making Rachel+James+me laugh too!).
A great day!
Photo: Rachel, James and the team