Thursday, August 23, 2007


I went into school earlier today to be with pupils as they opened their GCSE results. Overall, there were great scenes of rejoicing, with some excellent grades acquired through hard work. The half dozen pupils I’d been specifically mentoring all did pretty well – although I know that two of the boys could have done better (and I think they know that too). I thought that another of “my” boys(!) was going to drop out of school altogether last Christmas, but thankfully he was able to turn things around and had gained really impressive results. He was delighted (and I’m sure his mother was too!).
Hopefully, for most pupils, the results will provide a boost to their self-belief and act as a springboard to higher education and particular career paths. Inevitably, for a few, there was disappointment – I passed one boy as he was on his way out of school; he’d clearly being putting on a brave face to his friends but now, as he left, reality was dawning and he couldn’t hold back his emotions any longer as tears started rolling down his face. I came across two other boys - both with disappointing results – who were laughing and joking in a typical macho, “we-don’t-care” way and maintaining that they’d only come into school to see their mates. For them, their GCSE results could be the wake-up call they need – or perhaps they could simply be the next steps in lives of disillusionment and under-achievement. Hopefully, it’ll be the former; unfortunately, for those particular individuals, I fear it might be the latter.


I’m off to Scotland tomorrow to spend a week with the Iona Community. I think this will be my fifth visit to this wonderful place, but it’ll be the first proper extended visit (last year’s two-day stay was in low cloud and heavy rain!). Hopefully, I’ll be spending a fair amount of time exploring the tiny island (some 3.5x1.5 miles) and the rest of the time working alongside members of the Community and visitors like me.
It won’t quite be the luxury living we enjoyed in Italy last week but I’m really looking forward to it!
Photo: sea shore at the south-east corner of the island

Sunday, August 19, 2007

casa pietro berrettini

Thanks to the amazing generosity of our lovely friend Ken, who’d invited us all to Cortona to help celebrate his 50th birthday (it was actually his birthday in April, but we didn’t want to say anything), Gail+Ian+Moira+I stayed at this amazing place near the highest part of the steeply-sloping medieval city (Berrettini 1596-1669 was a painter/architect/writer). Wonderful accommodation and a stunning garden (100 paces long - I counted!) with breathtaking views across tiled rooftops over the valley.
How incredibly lucky we were!
Photos: terrace; kitchen/dining room; bedroom window view; bedroom suite; garden dining area


Sorry, but somewhat inevitably, the next couple of blogs contain the odd reference to a certain Italian holiday! Obviously, it’s lovely to spend time in a wonderful place but even better when you’re with great friends (Ken+Debby, Ian+Gail, Terry+Carol and Moira) – to enjoy the pleasure of talking, relaxing, eating, drinking and laughing with them. Our get-togethers normally started at 10am at the café for coffee and pastries(!); sometimes we would meet up for lunch in a restaurant and then, in the evening, perhaps eat bread, meats, cheese, roasted tomatoes at the table in the garden overlooking the valley as the sun went down.
Whatever we did, we didn’t need to hurry… was tough!
Photos: eating in the garden; at Max’s; at the café; reading in the garden; eating again

Saturday, August 18, 2007

return from cortona

Moira+I have just returned from a wonderful holiday in Cortona with six great friends. The sun shone; our lovely friends were just lovely; the food+wine were excellent; Cortona was magical – and the place we stayed was amazing (more to come on this in due course!).
Photos: some quick images

Friday, August 10, 2007

balloon fiesta

Ruth, Stu, Iris and I got up at 5am today and went down to Ashton Court to watch 97 balloons (just 97!) take off on an absolutely beautiful morning. You still wouldn’t get me up in one of them, but it was very impressive.
Photos: this morning’s pictures (they look remarkably similar to those I took in 2005!)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

cortona again

Ciao! We’re about to return to beautiful Cortona in Tuscany for a week – to help celebrate Ken’s 50th birthday (again – it was his birthday in April!) at his favourite restaurant. We’ve been invited along with some other great friends, so I anticipate that much red wine will be consumed during the course of our time there!
Someone's got to do it!
Photo: Cathedral, Cortona in the early morning

Sunday, August 05, 2007

relaxing on holiday?

I seem to have spent an awful lot of time in the bathroom recently! Even with a plumber coming in to deal with the technical stuff (and that’s had its problems too!), I knew that the proposed modifications would be a complicated and frustrating job and, in this respect, it hasn’t disappointed. Doing-it-yourself is clearly going to cost less than “getting someone in”, but isn’t it amazing how much more money you end up spending than you’d originally thought – it always seems to be a case of needing just a few more bits of timber or screws or paint or wall tiles or whatever. The job seems to have been going on for ages (we’re currently without a wash basin) and shows every sign of taking up the rest of the school holidays (at least!). There have certainly been times when I just wanted our old bathroom back, believe me!
Photo: bathroom in progress (sort of)!