Tuesday, April 29, 2008

tom+ten tors on dartmoor

The weekend saw the final Ten Tors training exercise before the event itself in a fortnight’s time. After the horrendous weather of the previous session, Saturday’s conditions came as a welcome relief (if you can call it “relief” after setting out from school at 4.30am!) and students managed carry their heavy rucksacks across the moor before camping overnight in Princetown. Teacher Tom spent much of Saturday night complaining about his sunburn (as a result, we’ve formed a “Tom Hockaday bad sunburn appreciation society” on facebook)!
We were anticipating rain the following morning and, instead, were engulfed in heavy mist (which meant map bearings were somewhat vital as you often couldn’t see beyond 30m let alone any tors!)…. followed by rain.
The students were brilliant and, given the limited number of teams we can enter, it’s going to be a really difficult task to select the final team members.
Photo: Tom+hat+shorts+sunburn on the moor.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

googling everything

After the last Ten Tors training trip to Dartmoor, my waterproofs were completely covered in mud (something to do with trying push James’s minibus out of a sodden field – but that’s all I’m prepared to say!). I duly sponged my waterproofs down but, frankly, they still looked an absolute mess. Moira suggested that I put them in the washing machine. “No,” I said with conviction, “it’ll ruin the waterproofing”.
Moira was clearly not prepared to take such powerful evidence at face value and decided to google “can you wash waterproof gear?”
She was directed to the “GearGuy” website where Miriam of Idaho had asked the same question of her boyfriend (and had been given the same response as mine). Moira was delighted to point out GearGuy’s reply: “Dear Miriam. Your boyfriend is a silly goose…. Of course you can wash waterproof gear… and keeping your gear clean will greatly prolong its life and reduce the risk of a fatal attack of mildew. Keep your gear clean! It’s happier, you’re happier, everyone is happier”.
As you can imagine, this now includes Moira (who still has a somewhat superior smirk on her face)!

revd john "latics" simmons

My mate John has just been made chaplain of Oldham Athletic FC!
It’s great news (he’s a huge fan of the club) and he’ll be perfect for the role. With this sort of influence, it might be worth putting a few bob on the “Latics” for promotion next season!
He’s even appeared on OAFC TV – I tried to upload a video but came up against problems (probably not clever enough). So, instead, you’ll just have to make do with this website link.
Photo: from John’s facebook page (note the halo!)

Friday, April 18, 2008

food for thought

My lovely brother Alan sent me a fascinating e-mail yesterday (in some ways, related to my recent Matthew Taylor blog). It contained lots of thought-provoking stuff (he's been doing lots of reading again!), so I thought I’d post an extract from it here. Hope that’s ok with you Bruv!:
“To reduce burning of fossil fuels, I thought making biofuels was a good alternative, but people are dying/continuing to die because of a global food shortage and food prices have risen 57% in the last year. Grain stocks are at a 25 year low - despite last year’s record grain harvest - 2.1 billion tons. The problem is that only 1.0 billion tons will be used for people’s food; an increasing amount (this year 100 million tons) is being diverted to make biofuels. Amazingly it takes 232 kg of grain to 'fill' a 50 litre car tank with ethanol - enough to feed a child for a year.
However, 760 million tons of grain will be used to feed animals. It’s an inefficient method of food production - it takes 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef...2kg to produce 1kg chicken, but consumption of animal flesh - certainly in China, India and the developing world - is seen as a mark of affluence and 'we' are now eating 50% more meat than 50 years ago.
The world cancer research has concluded that animal flesh occupies too big a place in our diet and contributes to cancer and heart disease. Cutting back on meat-eating may have environmental benefits also - the UK's 10 million cows produce more greenhouse gas per day than the average 4x4 on a 33 mile journey (who calculates these things!).
Conclusion? For all the right reasons, reduce your intake of meat. We don't eat that much ourselves...and certainly I'm content to structure our menu for a greater number of vegetarian meals...and perhaps we should go back to the 'old days' of hearty meals with little meat and filling our bellies with more the carbohydrates - Irish stew/Lancashire hotpot etc”.
“food for thought”. “feed the world”, “save the planet”. SPREAD THE WORD.
I’d go along with much of this, especially on health grounds (but there are so many other influencing factors aren’t there!). For us, on environmental grounds, I think it also comes down to trying to shop locally for locally-produced goods (even though it's more expensive) whenever possible.
Alan for Mayor of Birmingham, I say!

Monday, April 14, 2008


Spent last night watching the final round of the US Masters in Oxford with lovely friends Ken+Ian – after playing golf with Ken during the course of the afternoon. It was the first time I’d played since last October (and to think I used to play EVERY week!). This is the longest I’ve gone without playing since I first started golf over 25 years ago and, somewhat amazingly, I ended up scoring only five shots above my 15 handicap (Ken was even better at just one over par)(ok, if you don’t play golf, this will be meaningless!)... and it hardly rained at all!
Photo: just to even up the Ian-Frank look-alike of yesterday, I thought this would be an opportunity to point out the similarities between actor Alfred Molina (Chocolat etc) and Ken.
Uncanny, don’t you think?

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Yes, I realise this is somewhat obscure, so apologies in advance!
Later today, I’ll be travelling up to Oxford to play golf with great mate Ken. For reasons I can’t fully explain at this stage (it’s something to do with his belated birthday present!), I was looking at various early photographs of Frank Sinatra (not the ones of him his 80s and wearing a wig!) and, for the first time, became very aware that one of my other great mates Ian (see recent pace bene! blog) was a Frank-look-alike! After Ken+I finish playing golf, we will be getting together with Ian to watch the last round of the US Masters.
Spookie eh?
Photo (just in case you need help) from left to right): Ian, Frank, Ian, Frank, Ian.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

son of rambow

Went to see this film yesterday at the Watershed (it was Moira’s suggestion this time!) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Funny, endearing and just the thing for Friday afternoon entertainment in the school holidays for just £3.50 each – can’t be bad! I think this also means that I've stuck to my vague new year's resolution to try to see a film every month....
It’s difficult enough to get the pupils at school wear ties properly at the best of times, but I reckon there might be a new fashion for tying them round their heads from now on!

Friday, April 11, 2008

matthew taylor

Went to a fascinating talk at St Stephen’s, Bristol with Gareth, Alan, Gerry+Moira last night on “The Future is up to us” (the first of a series of talks in the Work+Spirit 2008/9 programme). The speaker was Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, and the former Chief Advisor on Political Strategy to the Prime Minister and Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research. This recent quote from him gives a flavour:
“The big idea is about how we live our lives in a sustainable way, not just sustainable in terms of the environment, but sustainable in terms of our own sense of well-being and the things that we care about, our families and communities. The big paradox of modern society is that we are more and more affluent, but we do not seem contented or at ease in our modern world. Politicians have not found a way of talking about that. Sooner or later some people or groups will find a way of talking about it and that will be the new terrain of politics."
He talked about what he called the “Social Aspiration Gap” and highlighted three key areas: our relationship to politics (between government, communities+individuals); our own personal impact on the world (learning throughout life/self-sufficiency but with government back-up etc); and the change in the way we relate to other citizens (technology-shrinking world/competing with scarce resources etc).
Much too much to include in this blog, but I understand that a transcript and podcast of the talk will be available on here in due course.
Really fascinating and challenging stuff!
PS: Matthew Taylor’s blog makes interesting reading too.

pace bene!

These are the words of a Franciscan blessing which means ‘peace and well-being’.
This is also the name of Ian Adams’s new website. As some of you will know, as well as being a great friend and hero of mine, Ian is the abbott of mayBe – an emerging church community in Oxford – and is currently spending much of his time working with and encouraging individuals and other similar church communities in the UK and beyond.
Pace bene! provides the gathering place for the various projects he’s involved in, each of which is dedicated to bringing about, in some way, peace and well-being in our local and global world. Not only does the website look wonderful (no surprises there if you’re familiar with other things Ian does), but it’s also going to provide encouragement and resources (eg. “Morning Bell”) for those travelling along similar paths.
Check it out, I think it’s just brilliant!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


There seems to be an awful lot of talk about 1968 at the moment (see this Radio 4 link) - Paris riots; Martin Luther King; Vietnam; Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech; Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; Robert Kennedy etc. A key memory for me (I started at School of Architecture in Oxford in September 1967) included this:
During the second year of my course, we were due to make a study trip abroad but in May 1968 (when I was still in my first year), a group of second year architectural students had gone to Paris… and got themselves arrested! The authorities at College were so appalled that they cancelled our international study trip for the following year and, instead, sent us to Pontin’s Holiday Camp at Southport (this is absolutely true, I swear!). The good news was that we were so well behaved(!), that they reintroduced the international study tour the following year (ie. we missed out completely) and sent that year’s students to Athens!
I bet this doesn’t make the BBC archives!
PS: of course, the REALLY concerning fact is that it’s over 40 years since I started at College!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

arts trail postcards

To save money this year, I decided to order postcard invites for our forthcoming exhibition from VistaPrint instead of our usual, very efficient Post Card Company.
Well, the invites duly arrived this morning but, instead of printing the 4”x6” image in the required “portrait” format, they’ve pathetically printed them as “landscape” – which means I have a very small invite and lots of surrounding white space! Even if I’d inadvertently ticked the wrong box (and I don’t think I did), you’d have thought that someone in Quality Control might have picked this up – it’s SO obviously wrong? I’ve sent off a complaining e-mail but don’t suppose it will help (and, anyway, we need the invites NOW). I’ll end up trimming every invite. Aaaaaaaaaargh!!
It’s just possible that we’ll set a trend for very small invitation cards?


Family+friends are the most important things in my life. There are times when I probably take them for granted (but hopefully not too often!). We’ve just returned from a few days away with Alice+Dave+Mikey+Dan in Lancashire. Living so far away, we obviously don’t get to be with them as much as we’d like, but it was lovely to see them developing as a family and dealing with stuff with huge amounts of confidence.
It reminded us of our own lives bringing up a young family some thirty plus years ago (but I don’t remember us coping quite as well!).
photos: Mikey+Dan+Moira

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

don’t do this at home

Didn’t have time to scribble a note about this before we left for Lancashire…. Iris came round to “play” on Saturday morning and, as usual, this resulted in lots of giggling and general hilarity. At one point, I found myself using the kitchen units like parallel bars and swinging my legs to+fro – much to Iris’s amusement. It was all very impressive grandfatherly stuff until I swung a little too high and ended up falling with an almighty crash on the floor! As you can imagine, Iris was somewhat concerned by this (and I initially thought I’d broken my back!!) so, despite being hurt, winded and bruised, granddad had to put on a brave face and get up off the floor (very slowly!) smiling and joking, as you do!
As they say, it only hurts when I laugh!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

kielder again (+fire alarms)

Great to get together with Laura, James and the Kielder Challenge pupils yesterday for another training session. We spent the afternoon on the ropes course at Chew Valley School. It was brilliant (and quite humbling) to see the students co-operating and getting on so well together. Back at school, I was apparently sorely missed when the fire alarm went off and wasn’t around to help tick off tutor lists+help organise stuff (sad isn’t it?).
Indispensable (almost)!
Photo: we also gave Laura a bottle of champagne to celebrate her forthcoming marriage. Have a lovely day on the 12th Laura!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

school loos

You’ll be fascinated (and slightly appalled) to learn that the boys’ loos in our House Block at school were in a pretty awful state – but I’ll spare you the unsavory details. I received a phone call from our Headteacher on Friday. He wanted to mark the completion of the refurbishment work with an official opening ceremony+asked me to invite a few students from our House Council to participate in this memorable occasion (he would arrange for a photographer from the local newspaper to be there too - REALLY!). Amid scenes of high emotion, you'll be delighted to learn that the boys' loos were indeed officially declared “open” yesterday afternoon - with a total of 13 people cramming themselves into the tiny executive facilities to witness the event. I'll resist the temptation to describe it as a "moving experience" (well almost).
They hope to start work on the girls' loos later in the week.... and there's talk of this being made into a movie.
Photo: I couldn’t resist smuggling in my camera (as you can see, they even allowed girls in the boys’ loos too!)
PS: this is NOT an April Fool's joke!