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

Saturday, September 22, 2007

kielder challenge

Back home after four days in the Kielder Forest, Northumberland.
The bare facts are that our team (four pupils from our school working with four pupils with severe learning or physical disabilities from Fosseway School) finished a great 10th out of 287 teams who entered this wonderful annual national event.
These young people demonstrated impressive teamwork, communication and huge enthusiasm in dealing with six (pretty complicated!) problem-solving tasks but, much more importantly, they learnt an awful lot about themselves, about relationships, about the needs of others and about learning to value their own abilities and those of other people - in short, an amazing, humbling and inspirational few days which, I feel sure, have already started to influence a number of lives (young and not so young!).
Key personal memories:
1. Lots of “chats” with a young boy named Ryan, who had severe speech problems (plus lots of other issues) and learning to “sign” various names – including “Doc” (one of our team members) – but also eventually succeeding in getting him to say “Oc” (for Doc!), which was a really great moment. Unfortunately, he then went around saying “Oc! Oc! Oc! Oc!” ALL the time and it was just like having our own pet seal!
2. Being “volunteered” by our team to take part in one of the extra “fun” challenges and ended up having several gallons of water poured over my head and getting absolutely soaked!
3. Ending up with my camera not working (due to the wet weather?) and fearing that the problem might be terminal!

Monday, September 17, 2007

off up north

I’m flying up to Newcastle tomorrow for four days with eight of our students (from Norton Hill and Fosseway Schools) to compete in the Challenge Plate Finals of the Kielder Challenge at the Kielder Forest in Northumberland – a national outdoor adventure competition for teams of 13 to 16 year old young people. We’re competing in the category of teams which includes four pupils with physical, sensory or learning disabilities. It won’t be about winning or losing; it will be about the experience of taking part in this wonderful competition.
Photo: Ryan, Doc, Tom, Beth, Emily, Andrew, Stacey and Montana (plus helpers Rachel and James).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

bromyard folk festival

Well, another great weekend at Bromyard with my brother Alan. We’re not desperately into folk music - but they DO sell beer at these festivals you know! In the event, although there didn’t appear to be any significant performers on the bill that we liked, we thoroughly enjoyed seeing/hearing Eliza Carthy and The Ratcatchers, Last Orders and the brilliant Mabon (see the middle photo below). Much to our surprise, we were also really impressed by the Saturday night Ceilidh (I must stress, we didn’t dance!) - the band (with the awful name of Whapweasel!) were amazing and the energy+enjoyment of the dancers was contagious. We even sang sea shanties (even though you can’t much further from the sea than Bromyard!). The weather was lovely and Alan+I had plenty of time to talk (+talk!)(I’d apparently forgotten to tell him that our daughter Alice was expecting baby next month!) over the odd bacon sandwich at breakfast and the odd glass of red wine or beer at virtually all other times!
PS: one of the troubles with camping is that I needed to get up 4 times on Friday night to go to the loo - and those tent zips make enough noise to wake the dead!!
PPS: we still don't know why blokes want to become morris dancers.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

bromyard and me bruvva

Looking forward to spending the weekend with my brother Alan at the Bromyard Folk Festival this weekend. We went there in 2004 and sampled a fair amount of the local ale and enjoyed the music, so have decided to repeat the experience!
Photo: “Show of Hands” at the 2004 BFF

Sunday, September 09, 2007

de la warr pavilion

A wonderful weekend with good friends Felicity and Chris in East Sussex. As well as time spent eating, drinking and laughing, we visited the impressive Sissinghurst Castle Garden (rescued by Vita Sackville-West in the 1930s) and Battle Abbey (was Harold really killed by an arrow in the eye?!) in glorious sunshine. However, the true highlight of the weekend was our visit/architectural pilgrimage to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea. Designed in 1935 by architects Erich Mendolsohn and Serge Chermayeff, it was the UK’s first public building built in the Modernist style and was re-opened in 2005 after extensive restoration and redevelopment.
Photos: sea terraces, stunning staircases and Aalto chairs at the De La Warr Pavilion.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

iris is one

Helped Iris celebrate her first birthday at the end of yesterday afternoon. Lots of giggling, pointing, calls for “more”, “high fives” and great entertainment!

Put me in mind of these words from Khalil Gibran’s book “The Prophet”, which were read out at a Baptism last Sunday:
"And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, 'Speak to us of Children.' And he said: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable".
Photo: Ruth+Stu made Iris a fantastic kitchen!

Sunday, September 02, 2007


While I was on Iona, I was persuaded to take the 50 minute boat trip to the island of Staffa and was really pleased that I did. I knew about Fingal’s Cave but hadn’t realised that Staffa was at the “other end” of the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim – with its amazing basalt columns formed from molten lava. I made a recording on my mobile phone of some of our group singing inside the cave (and, of course, am currently looking for a record company!). We’d just missed the puffins, but we did have six or so bottlenosed-nosed dolphins accompany our boat out of Iona which was absolutely amazing (unfortunately, the only photograph I managed to take makes it look as if we were being attacked by “Jaws”!)(perhaps I should contact “The Sun” newspaper?).

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Back from a magical week on Iona – with the huge bonus of having enjoyed pretty good weather. Great to have experienced a week with the Iona Community and to have had time to enjoy this wonderful tiny island.
Photos: some quick images.

iona people

Moira was unable to make the trip to Iona, so I was somewhat concerned at the prospect of living for a week with a group of complete strangers. In the event, it was the lovely people I met who made the week so special – living, eating, talking, walking and laughing together. Over 40 of us, from completely different backgrounds and with a wide range of ages. It was a very special, refreshing and renewing week.
The challenge will be see if I can use the experience positively over the weeks and months ahead!
Photos: just a few of my lovely new Iona friends.