Tuesday, February 24, 2009

who the hell do you think you are?

Moira+I were discussing family history with Bob+Christine over the weekend and saying we were somewhat envious of all these celebrities being able to call upon the services of the BBC’s researchers on the “Who Do You Think You Are?” programme - who help dig up the really interesting bits that we would find almost impossible to discover. Given that they have programmes such as “Masterchef” and “Celebrity Masterchef”, we felt there was an opportunity for a non-celebrity version of the WDYTYA series featuring ordinary people like us! We’ll obviously be writing to the BBC very soon with this brainwave of an idea; we’ve even come up with a title for non-celebrity version: “Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?”.
You read about it here first!

Monday, February 23, 2009

university challenge and the sun newspaper

Watched the final of University Challenge this evening and, after watching the programme over recent weeks, wasn’t at all surprised that Corpus Christi College, Oxford won. In previous rounds, their captain Gail Trimble had been outstanding but seemed strangely nervous in the final until the last few minutes when she seemed to come into her own (which was good for the other team members, as it demonstrated that they were pretty bright too!). I’ve been amused by the attention that she seems to have attracted; Moira read out extracts from an article in yesterday’s Observer which included the following quote from someone’s blog: "Not for some time have I been so angry at a complete stranger as I was with this Trimble character. Each answer was met with a smug grin or a cocky smirk. My normally placid girlfriend ended half-poetically seething: 'Not a friend did she own at school', before physically turning her back on the screen so she didn't have to bear this odious little smug specimen."
When I googled Trimble’s name, I came across a wonderful(?) “report” in the “Sun” newspaper essentially claiming that, although she’d been hailed as the brainiest woman in Britain, the Sun’s pub quiz questions had caught her out! She apparently DIDN’T know who had won the Brit Award for Best Female or the name of the 13 year-old father who’d featured in the Sun last week or who had won the most recent series of “Big Brother” or even the name of the Chelsea football manager!
Thank goodness for the Sun newspaper some say (not sure whether to laugh or cry)!
Photo: extract from the Observer’s team picture (which actually only showed three of the four team members for some reason).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

thame weekend

Moira+I spent a great weekend with lovely old friends Bob+Christine in Thame (where we used to live before moving to Bristol). The weather was ideal (sunny+mild) and on Saturday we had a wonderful walk through the woods skirting Swincombe village before “retiring” to the Five Horseshoes pub (Maidengrove, near Henley-on-Thames) for an excellent lunch. We had a very relaxing time – and spent the entire time just eating, drinking and talking. Went along to one of the services at our old church (St Mary’s, Thame) this morning and it was lovely to meet up with so many old friends. We felt very humbled by the amazing welcome we received. We’ve known Bob+Christine for nearly 35 years (from our days when we all lived in East Oxford and subsequently followed them to Thame) and, although we hadn’t got together for nearly two years, it was as though we’d never spent much time apart.
Bob+Christine are very special people and very special friends.
Photo: Christine+Moira+Bob on the woodland walk.

golfing in sunshine (again)

Had a really great day with Steve+Ken on Friday (golfing at Studley Wood, Oxford). The sun shone and we all played well, despite not having played for ages. I’ve been on a bit of a winning streak over the past year or so when we’ve occasionally managed to organise the odd game together…. but NOT this time! Ken, despite not having played for 5 months, went round in a gross score of just 76 (three over par). We let him play off a handicap of 8 (were we stupid or what?), which effectively meant his score was 5 under par. Needless to say, Steve+I had to be content for battling it out for second place (we drew!).
Can’t wait to play Ken again - on his adjusted NEW handicap!
Photo: Ken+Steve during a break in play on the 7th.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

three colours white

I continued my cinematic education this afternoon by watching part two of Kieslowski's trilogy “Three Colours White” on DVD (part one “Blue” is definitely one of my all time favourite films and I’ve yet to see “Red”). The film originally came out in 1993!
Although not quite in the same class as “Blue”, I really enjoyed it. I was struck by the greyness of its setting (by and large) and also surprised by the fact that it was a droll, almost cruel, black comedy (apparently it’s the light relief of the Trilogy). The main character Karol (played by Zbignieu Zamachowski) is a Polish hairdresser; his French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) divorces him after six months of unconsummated marriage in Paris and the rest of the film is essentially about him plotting to win her back.
I’ve just looked up the Film Four Review and it reckons that the last few seconds of the film - in which the two leads conduct a sign language conversation across a prison yard (if the film wasn’t 16 years old, I’d be really nervous about giving anything away!) - is a “transcendent moment of modern cinema”. Although I think the scene is quite touching, I’m not sure I quite agree with Film Four’s assessment. However, with my somewhat limited experience as a cinema-goer/film-watcher, you will appreciate that I’m no Mark Kermode!

Monday, February 16, 2009

vicky cristina barcelona

Went to the Watershed with the lovely Ithaca crowd yesterday to see Woody Allen’s latest film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. The first line of the Watershed’s blurb describes the film thus: “Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson burn up the screen in this sexy black comedy of impulsive romance set against the vibrant colours and rhythms of Barcelona”. Whilst, in many ways, this encapsulates the film it fails to point to what, for me, was the heart of the movie – namely the straight-laced Cristina character (Rebecca Hall), who effectively plays the “Allen part” with her self-questioning uncertainty…. hovering between passion+restraint and desire+duty. It’s an engaging film, not much more than that for me – although it did evoke very fond memories of our trip to Barcelona some ten years ago.
Perhaps it’s time we returned!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

kielder challenge begins again

This is the time of year when Laura+I start working with a few pupils at school for this year’s Kielder Challenge event. When I first became involved, three years ago, we were virtually “given” our team of four pupils. Now, perhaps due to its higher profile within school, competition for places is extremely keen - we had an initial shortlist of some twenty names. The criteria for getting on to the shortlist are pretty wide-ranging. They DON’T necessarily mean that we’re looking for the brightest students academically – sometimes we end up working with pupils who perhaps lack self-confidence or self-esteem or with a history of behavioural issues. The selection process consisted of interviewing the students individually and then putting them through some typical problem-solving tasks (they will actually be working our pupils from Fosseway School with severe learning difficulties or physical disabilities).
The final eight students proved to be a really lovely bunch…. I feel sure they’re going to provide us with lots of laughter over the coming months!
Photo: the final team plus four reserves (Rikki, Sean, Aimee, Laura, Jasmine, Jack, Ben and Beth).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

traffic chaos

Normally, the journey to and from school is unremarkable (boring, but unremarkable).
Today was somewhat different. It was my turn to drive Andy and Pete into work. As usual, we set out at 7am. The journey normally takes us about 35 minutes.
This morning it took us just over two and a half hours!
It transpired that there was a queue of lorries (and cars) lined up on the southbound A37 between Pensford and Whitchurch after drivers had decided that conditions on Husley Hill were too dangerous due to the icy road conditions (an 18 tonne lorry had apparently hit a milk tanker and was straddling the road; this was followed by a motorcyclist coming off his bike because he hadn’t realised he was on sheet ice). The ironic thing was that we were the first of the Bristol teachers on the road (and duly phoned other teachers to warn them) but were the last to arrive at school. As we hadn’t moved for over 20 minutes, we decided to turn round and seek an alternative route, like so many others, and found ourselves in huge queues of other frustrated drivers!
On the way home, we came across an overturned van in the middle of the A362 in Paulton (not the one shown in the photograph!)…. no one appeared to be injured, but it was almost surreal seeing this overturned vehicle EXACTLY in the middle of the road straddling the white line perfectly and pointing towards us as if it had been carefully positioned there by a crane.
Hopefully, tomorrow will be a quieter day (Pete’s driving!).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

another snowday!

Woke up about 3am and peered out the bedroom window to discover a magical white world. Somewhat bizarrely (I WAS awake I hasten to add!), three hours later I found myself standing in the middle of our street in almost childlike wonder and surrounded by complete silence apart from the beautiful sound of my feet padding about in the virgin snow. We’d had two or three inches of snow overnight and so it wasn’t a great surprise to find that the school was closed and that we’d got our second snowday of the week!
Strange to think that, in my former self-employed, architectural life, I would have been in the office as usual by 6.30-7.00am on such days (having travelled in the long way round to avoid the hills) and ready for a full day’s work. The great thing about school snowdays is that I feel completely guiltless and it’s a lovely feeling!
Photo: figures in the snow at Greville Smyth Park.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


This is my fourth year working at Norton Hill. Before today, we’ve had only one “special circumstances” day off – a wind day when high winds were blowing ridge tiles some 50m across the playground and were clearly a risk to life and limb. You’re only 60 once in your life and the odds on you being allowed a “special day” off school are clearly incredibly rare. So yesterday’s official “snow day” came as both a surprise and a huge bonus, Through a flurry of text messages, an impromptu lunchtime get-together was arranged in the Watershed (attended by about a dozen or so); the sun shone; and I had an absolutely perfect 60th birthday. The downside was that Moira tripped and fell on the way to the Watershed and decided to return home to a hot bath instead. After about one-and-a-half glasses of red(?), I duly returned home with Iris and sat down with Hannah+Felix+Ruth+Stu+Iris+Moira to consume yet more lovely birthday grub.
Photo: some of the non-teaching Watershed lunchtime crowd (plus Hannah+Iris).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

birthday bash

I was “persuaded” by other family members that I needed to have a party to celebrate my 60th birthday. I have to admit that I felt very uncomfortable by the prospect and, having reluctantly agreed to it, really just wanted to get the whole thing over and done with.
In the event, of course, I had a lovely time (I even had my first ever helium birthday balloon!)(thanks
Heather!) and it was great to see so many familiar faces – many of whom had travelled quite lengthy distances. Moira+Ruth+Hannah did a brilliant job sorting out wonderful food, flowers and stuff….. and the birthday festival will continue when Alice comes down to Bristol in about three weeks time!
Photo: Rookery Road Junior School football team, season 1959-1960 (I’m the one sitting in the middle with the ball) - the photograph was used for the party invitation…. sorry, I didn’t take any photographs of the party itself – probably a wise move!
PS: Chris+Lal gave me a CD they’d compiled of music from 1949 and, somewhat frighteningly, I can remember over half of them!
PPS: in order to keep numbers down, it was a shame not to have been able to invite any of my lovely school friends to this prestigious occasion…. although we might just drink the odd glass together at tomorrow night’s the Bristol Self-Help Group meeting!
PPPS: didn't realise until today that Buddy Holly died on my 10th birthday!