Thursday, April 30, 2009

the speaker

I found myself watching the television last night. I hardly seem to watch it these days. I watched the end of “Wainwright Walks” on BBC4 and was about to disappear downstairs to the basement to work on our forthcoming exhibition when I became intrigued by a programme called “The Speaker”, which was about to start on BBC2. I’d never even heard about it and last night’s programme was the final (“the search to find Britain’s Best Young Speaker”). From thousands of entries (14-18 year olds), they were down to the final three for yesterday’s programme. The finalists were flown out with Unicef to research children’s rights in Malawi and I suddenly realised that one of the finalists, Irene, was a member of one of our local churches here in Bedminster! She was just brilliant. Not surprisingly, the quality of the finalists was incredibly high. Irene ended up coming a close second to the 14 year-old winner (who was also from Bristol!), but I have a feeling that we might be hearing a fair amount about her in years to come.
Inspiring, moving, humbling stuff!
PS: if you’re quick, you can watch it on BBC iplayer

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

si and steve – as featured regularly on bbc 6 music

Just before Christmas 2007, I e-mailed Guy Garvey (lead singer of Elbow, who presents the “Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour” radio programme on BBC6 Music) suggesting some tracks for his “Songs for Guy” slot. Many of the songs had actually been recommended to me by my good mate Si Smith. In January last year one of my suggested tracks was duly played and both Si+I were mentioned by name (see blog?).
Well, blow me down, GG's only gone and played another one of the suggested songs (ie. from my original e-mail!) in his show last Sunday when he featured an entire show of the best of "Songs for Guy" over the past two years.... and, once again, Si+I both received honorable mentions! This time it was "When I go Deaf" by Low.
If you’re REALLY quick (ie. before next Sunday), you can hear this magical moment of broadcasting history via the Listen Again facility for the 26 April show (about 53 minutes in!!).
As a result of “appearing” on the radio, I declared that Si Smith and I were officially famous. I now understand that we’ve been short-listed for “Strictly Come Dancing”.
PS: on a completely unrelated matter, and in response to Gareth’s challenge, I’ve joined her in applying to occupy the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square for one hour as part of Anthony Gormley’s “One and Other” Project. Think I’ll just tell them: “yes, it’s me – the person Guy Garvey’s always going on about on his radio show”.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

ten tors training on dartmoor

A very tough, but very enjoyable, training exercise on Dartmoor this weekend.
It was the last chance for the six teams from school to put in their final hours of practice on the moor before the event itself on 9+10 May, carrying with them their heavy rucksacks containing tents, sleeping bags, cooking facilities, provisions, spare clothing etc. Saturday proved to be a very difficult day - but ideal for training purposes. Some of them had never previously experienced poor conditions on the moor, so it was important that they were able to do so before the competition weekend. We had driving rain and hail, high winds and low temperatures for most of Saturday, but the majority of the pupils came through the experience brilliantly. It was especially good to see some of the rather nervous younger team members grow in confidence and self-belief as they perhaps surprised themselves by their abilities to endure such wild weather.
Photo: Nun’s Cross checkpoint at 6.30am this morning (the teams had to set off on Day 2 at 6am AFTER dressing, cooking breakfast, dismantling and packing away tents+equipment!).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

zoo quest

Iris+I had a day at the zoo together yesterday.
Despite the wet and the cold (and the fact that I used my bus pass for the first time), it was a very successful day. Lots of laughter and the shared cheesy chips went down well at lunchtime too! All the notable animals duly performed – except that for the fact that the lions failed to roar (which Iris said she was quite pleased about) - the sea lions were complete show-offs, the otters were brilliant, the gorillas looked very bored (but at least turned up) and one giant tortoise just lay under a waterfall (had he drowned?). I spent most of the time wanting to be Johnny Morris (you’re probably too young to know what I’m talking about)!
Photo: Iris and her lion “friend”.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

golf is an easy game….

I’ve been playing golf for more than 30 years. There have been times when I used to play up to twice a week but now, sadly, I hardly play at all. Yesterday I played for only the fourth time since 2007 and, amazingly, equalled my best ever score of 83 on the par 73 course (including nine pars)! I really can’t explain it or quite believe it…. I drove the ball and putted really well right from the start and there were no “flukes” (I even hit a ball into the water once). Great mates Ken+Steve were duly magnanimous in defeat - although I dread to think what handicap they’ll give me next time we play!
As Ken conceded, this was the closest I’d come to shooting my age in golf!
Photo: Ken hitting his tee shot on the 18th (and, to top it all, the sun shone all afternoon too!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

stillpoint @ the jam factory, oxford

Moira+I visited Stillpoint’s “Stations of the Cross” exhibition in Oxford yesterday. We were really impressed by the work of the 14 artists on display - some inspiring pieces - and also by the Jam Factory as a venue. As a bonus, it was great meeting up with Ian for lunch!
A very good day and very much worth the journey.
Photo: Cara Heafey’s lovely lino-prints.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

three colours red

I watched the last part of Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy yesterday (only 15 years late!) after raiding Fopp for the “Three Colours Red” dvd. By pure chance, it transpires that I’ve actually watched them in the correct order (blue, white, red) – which was just as well as the final twist of fate reveals the destinies of the characters from all three parts of the trilogy! Early on in the film, I had a sense that things were going to come a sinister conclusion as Valentine (beautifully played by Irene Jacob) was drawn increasingly into what felt like the strange and threatening world of Joseph, a retired judge (again, superbly played by Jean-Louis Tringtignant). In fact, the film is about warmth and friendship and what one film review described as “about the invisible connections that intertwine our lives”. Joseph finally sees the possibilities in playing an active role in shaping the events around him and not being resigned to let fate dictate his lonely existence; Valentine sees that she is not as lonely as she thinks she is, allowing her to let go of her fruitless relationship with Michel.
I think I need to watch it again in order to pick up more of the subtle and playful interconnections. A beautiful film - and I loved the way the colour red was a recurring element throughout.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Moira+I enjoyed a lovely relaxing time with Richard+Sarah over the weekend at their wonderful house near Llanllugan. Their house is really quite an extraordinary place. It combines a refurbished/converted cottage, the remains of Listed barn and beautiful, elegant new extensions (with stunning views across green valleys and layers of distant hills) and is filled with lots of art and a huge library of books. It was a lovely weekend of walking, talking, laughing, eating, drinking and reading.
A perfect start to a fortnight’s break from school!
PS: I couldn’t resist getting up at dawn on a beautiful morning and watching the sunrise!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

putting one’s body on the line for charity….

The staff played the sixth form in a charity football match at school today.
We beat the students last year 3-0, when I’d refereed the game. This year, it seemed only right that I should take on a pivotal roll in the team formation. I decided to play the Rooney/Gerrard role within the team – filling the hole just behind the central attacker (many apologies to the few of you who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, but this is important stuff). From here, with my wealth of experience, I would be able to influence things, create goal-scoring chances out of nothing, be able to bring the less confident players into the game and, of course, offer encouragement to the team by my mere presence. I didn’t have time to mentally rehearse my goal celebrations but, hey, it was only for charity!
It was all great fun. The crowd was in very good voice and there were times when the chats of “Broad…waaay, Broad…waaay” rang out across the Astroturf (yes, they REALLY did!). Three of “my” Year 7s later told me that, in their eyes, I was “Man of the Match” (really again!)(I may give them merits). All in all, it was a memorable occasion and perhaps, for some, even life-changing. No doubt, in years to come, people will be telling “I was there” stories.
We lost 0-5.
PS: I should point out that we had 15 players in our squad. This meant that we had to employ a system of rolling substitutions and I was “on the bench” when three of the goals were scored! Will football managers never learn?
PPS: I haven’t got any photos of the game (something to do with sentanta copyright?) so the attached image is from one of our recent practice games.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

don't be fooled?

Do I have any concrete expectations for the G20 summit? Well, on the basis of the outcomes of similar gatherings over the years, I’m afraid the answer is no.
The one huge difference this time of course is Barack Obama. He says he’s coming to listen as well as to lead. We’ll see.
The trouble is that many people (me included) have got to a stage where they feel frustration and utter contempt for world leaders, bankers, MPs and everyone else who has got us into these linked climate-financial-poverty messes. We no longer trust them.
Getting 20 world leaders to agree to any package of measures will no doubt lead to another watered-down communiqué being released at the end of the talks. There’ll be much posturing as usual (this time it seems that Sarkozy and Merkel will endeavour to take their share of the limelight?) but it'll probably make very little difference at all.
I hope and I pray, but I’m not holding my breath.
PS: I was amused that some protest organisers have dubbed the event as “Financial Fools Day”!