Wednesday, January 30, 2008

complain? who me?

I received an early birthday present yesterday. There was a package in the hall when I arrived home from school. It was a birthday present from my lovely bruvva.
It was an elastic band.
It was an elastic band from “A Complaint Free”. You see, my brother+I have both been labelled by our respective families as being “grumpy old men” (which is frankly outrageous). The accompanying letter included the following suggested rules:
1. Begin to wear the bracelet now.
2. Every time you complain, gossip or criticise, move the bracelet to the other wrist and begin again. Keep moving the bracelet from wrist-to-wrist until you keep it on the same arm for 21 consecutive days.
I read the letter and immediately informed Moira that I didn't want to swap the elastic band on to the other wrist because of my watch strap. Mrs Broadway simply said: "you've started already... that was your first complaint, swap the band on to the other wrist right now!"…….
I look forward to wearing it and becoming a nicer person (surely that's almost impossible?) within a matter of days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day. They’re having Assemblies at school during the course of the week based on the holocaust and it put me in mind of the brilliant “Holocaust – a Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz” shown on BBC tv in 2005. For the first time since its liberation, permission was granted for music to be heard in Auschwitz and a number of leading musicians were brought there to perform music for the film. It featured extracts from Henryk Gorecki’s wonderful Symphony no.3, including a piece (see youTube link from the film) based on this prayer inscribed on a wall in the basement cell of the Gestapo’s headquarters in Zakopane, signed by Helena Blazusiakowna “18 years old, imprisoned since 26 September 1944”: “No, Mother, do not weep. Most chaste Queen of Heaven, support me always”.

Monday, January 28, 2008

muddied up in the mendips

The first of this year’s Ten Tors training sessions took place yesterday in the Mendip Hills. Some sixty Year 10-13 pupils from the school took part, together with 17 school staff (by my count) plus numerous volunteers - all giving their time completely free. A really good day in perfect walking weather. Key moments for staff included: a) Jennie asking for someone to “muddy me up”(?) because her kit looked too clean and b) Tom+I just having to have a huge breakfast in the cafĂ© next to one of the checkpoints while we waited for the first teams to arrive.
Someone had to do it (breakfast that is)!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

guy garvey

I usually listen to Sunday Evening’s “Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour” radio programme on a Monday evening (via listen again on BBC6 Music). Wonderful mate Si Smith first put me on to it and it really is brilliant. Arrived home yesterday to find an e-mail from Si entitled “don’t read this until you’ve listened to last night’s ‘Guy Garvey’s finest hour’”. Well (obviously I read the e-mail first!), I’d e-mailed GG a few weeks ago saying I thought he ought to add Si to his Christmas card list – after he’d implored me to listen to GG’s show. I also mentioned some of the great musical recommendations he’d passed on to me. Blow me if GG didn’t mention my e-mail on Sunday night and played the excellent Looper - 'Impossible Things 2'.
Si Smith and I are now famous (official).

Monday, January 21, 2008

“I could have been knitting….”

No, these aren’t words from film critic, Mark Kermode. Moira+I went to see the Coen Brothers’ film “No Country for Old Men” yesterday afternoon and the knitting comment was Moira’s considered verdict on this tough, impressive film of “violence, societal breakdown and masculine madness in the 1980s” (from the Watershed summary blurb) - somewhat different to my memories of 80s, but hey….! I found it compelling, but won’t say any more in case I spoil it for you.
Earlier, we’d spotted Phill Jupitus and Paul Merton (they were at the Watershed for Slapstick 2008) and, on our very wet walk home, Moira came out with the second best quote of the day: “the highlight for me was Paul Merton standing next to us in a baggy jumper talking to a wall” (I assure you, he was actually on his mobile)!
There’s no pleasing some people…..

Sunday, January 20, 2008

white house race

Came across this interesting (but rather depressing) insight from Justin Webb (BBC’s North America editor) on the US Presidential elections:
And so to the Democrats. Hillary Clinton won (in Nevada) because she won women and she won Latinos. She also won because some voters think - or are persuaded to think - that Senator Obama is a Muslim. This is a fact: I met otherwise well-informed voters in New Hampshire who believed that he refused to be sworn in as a senator with his hand on the Bible. It is out there; it really is. It does not explain the Clinton victories but it adds to them”.
PS: I hadn't previously watched "The West Wing" but good friend Andy has lent me the "Second Season" box set and I'm already up to programme 9! Maybe this explains my renewed fascination with American politics?!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

extreme pilgrim

Watched an absolutely fascinating programme last night about an English vicar, Pete Owen-Jones, who travelled to the Egyptian desert to follow in the footsteps of St Anthony – a Christian hermit and founder of monasticism (you can watch it on BBC iPlayer). His trek into the desert culminated in a three-week spell living alone in a cave in the wilderness which (despite some theological misgivings on his part) proved to be both testing+rewarding. I felt as if I’d be with him on his spiritual roller-coaster ride – so much so that I ended up with a thumping headache!
PS: this was the last in a series of 3 programmes; I also watched the second - when he travelled to India to join the Mela, the huge Hindu pilgrimage to the Ganges - which I found absorbing, but somewhat bizarre at times.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


A sad day.
The Founder of sent me a very nice e-mail overnight explaining that unfortunately, due to licensing constraints, they can't offer the service to residents outside the USA for the time being - but that they're working on it and will let me know as soon as the situation changes!!
Yes, I admit it (and I’m very sorry, I know I done wrong!!) – I did give them my US Zip Code as a New York hotel that I'd looked up on the internet (I think my UK e-mail address was a bit of a giveaway!)!
I’d been going on about this brilliant music website – it allowed you to create your own “radio stations” with your favourite artists plus new ones that they thought you might like (“if you like x, then you might enjoy this…).
I’ll let you know if the situation changes!
PS: meanwhile, if you know of a similar website, please advise!
PPS: I've since been told that is somewhat similar (I'll try it!).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

kennett+avon canal

Moira+I were in Bath by just after 9am yesterday.
Despite the awful weather of the last few days, we decided to trust the local weather forecast and get on the train to Bath and walk along the banks of Kennett+Avon canal. We past miles of flooded fields and houses with water threatening their thresholds and feared that our journey would be a complete wash-out! In the event, it was just beautiful.
We walked along the tow path as far as Bathampton in bright sunshine (avoiding bikers+joggers as we did so!) - with stunning views over Bath en route. We then retraced our steps for a mile or so (envying the house boat dwellers) before meandering through the city streets back to the station and home by 2pm.
A really lovely way to start the weekend.
Photos: Saturday morning snaps.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Just received this photograph, taken on the webcam.
Isn't it lovely!

journey home

The journey home from school last night proved somewhat eventful.
I was giving Andy and Philippa a lift back to Bristol. It was snowing as we set out, but that proved to be the least of our problems.
The homeward journey took some 100minutes as we had to contend with three lots of flooding (an hour hour more than normal).
When we left school, Andy+Philippa had loaded several bags of books into the boot of the car. They all looked rather similar in their supermarket plastic bags and we made jokes about not mixing them… and, of course, when we dropped Philippa off – she took Andy’s books instead of her own (which we didn’t discover until I dropped Andy off)! I eventually arrived home only to find a message from Andy on my phone – could I please check in the car in case he’d dropped his keys…. but that he was almost certain he’d left them at school! They were his car+flat keys; his flatmate was skiing in Switzerland and it was pointless trying to locate his landlady through directory enquiries as her name was Jones and he hadn’t a clue where she lived!
Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

“there’s something happening in america….”

I’ve been fascinated* to watch/listen to/read about the early US presidential primaries. The very real prospect of America electing either its first woman or first black President. Barack Obama winning a stunning victory for the Democrats in Iowa; Hilary Clinton gaining perhaps a surprising win in New Hampshire today. For the Republicans, Mike Huckabee’s early victory in Iowa and John McCain’s win in New Hampshire – an amazing comeback after his campaign appeared close to collapse last summer.
I love this quote about American politics from Mario Cuomo (Democratic governor of New York 1983-95): “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose”.
We’ll see!
PS: * apart from the whooping+cheering of audiences at inappropriate times and, please, let's NOT have an American President called "Mitt" (Mitt Romney); "George W" was bad enough!

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Villa lost to ManU again yesterday – this time in the FA Cup.
I take full responsibility.
Alice+Dave got married in 2003 (Dave is a ManU fanatic and, sadly, I was unable to convert him to become a Villa supporter as part of the wedding package). It’s a good job that we love him dearly because, since Alice+Dave’s marriage, Villa have lost EVERY one of the TWELVE games (I’ve been counting, believe me!) against United.
The next defeat will be on 29 March (at Old Trafford), so put your mortgage on it now!

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Absolutely lovely to have my brother and family for an overnight stay. An opportunity for Moira+I to chill out over food+drink with them and great that Hannah+Ruth+Stuart+Iris were able to join us too.
Photo: Saturday morning walk along the harbourside in Bristol (Alan+Eleanor+Megan+Moira+Lesley).

PS: Hannah+Fee put me on to and I suggest you should try it. It’s a “new kind of radio - stations that play only music you like”. You key in an artist or music style and it plays full songs plus other tracks that Pandora thinks might appeal to you. I’ve been really impressed.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

kite runner

If you’ve not already read it, then you need to read the book. Either way, you simply must see the film. It’s absolutely brilliant.
As many friends will know(!), I’ve been positively evangelical about the book ever since it first came out in paperback. I’m afraid I’m going to be just as boring about the film…..
Look, just see it!!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

thoughts and more reflections

I’ve been reading Ellen’s, Si’s and Gareth’s blogs reflecting on the passing of the year and the prospects for 2008. It’s made me continue to think about some of the other, perhaps surprising, things (ie. ignoring family life; friends; friends’ 50th birthdays; and Iona!) that have been special for me over the past year:
a) Involvement with young people in such activities as Ten Tors, Duke of Edinburgh Award, Forest
of Dean and Kielder Challenge (and working with some lovely adult helpers too).
b) Enjoyment from music (despite, or perhaps because of, the demise of Fopp – thanks to i-Tunes, my i-Pod and musical suggestions from a whole host of friends.
c) Regular stimulation from the Iona Community’s “Growing Hope” book.
On the other hand, regrets-cum-resolutions would include:
1. Finding more time to draw/paint.
2. Reading more.
3. Going to the cinema/theatre more.
4. Getting more exercise (of course!), but without signing up for another 10k run (I gave up those
more than 10 years ago!).
5. Learning to live more simply.
photo: Moira at work in the office at home – clearly she’s the focus/anchor/love of my life! x