Monday, September 28, 2009

duke of edinburgh award training

There are lots of schools around the country that participate in the DoE Award scheme, but there can’t be many (if any?) that would be able to match our school’s record of last weekend. Over 130 Year 10 pupils (virtually half of the entire year!) took part in DoE Bronze Award training with an amazing 39 members of staff involved (all unpaid volunteers) in a two-day trek over the beautiful countryside around Wells and Glastonbury. Not quite sure how she did it, but the entire weekend was master-minded by the irrepressible Carol.
A wonderful, if very full, weekend – with the only downside being that we all had to be back at school on Monday morning!
Photo: climbing barrow hill on the final leg of day one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

peace one day

Yesterday was Peace One Day. I’d never even heard of it up until a fortnight ago.
The idea was launched by one man, Jeremy Gilley, in 1999.
He set out to find a starting point for peace. He had a mission: to document his efforts to establish the first ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence with a fixed calendar date. Remarkably, two years on, he achieved his primary objective when the 192 member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted 21 September as an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on the UN International Day of Peace.
At school, great friend Tom wanted to put on an Assembly for the entire school about Peace One Day and was duly given permission to do so by the powers-that-be (due to various logistic problems, this all happened last week and, ironically, I didn’t get to see/hear it - I was “required” elsewhere!) but, by all accounts, it provided a beautifully simple message to all those attending. He also asked pupils if they might be interested in producing some simple windmills to mark the day. He’d expected a pretty limited response but, in the event, was presented with getting on for 400 windmills! These were duly displayed at the front of the school and provided a powerful reminder to pupils, teachers and the local neighbourhood of the futility of war.
I think you should watch this short film from the website.
Photo: some of the peace one day windmills “planted” at our school yesterday morning.

Monday, September 21, 2009

away we go

Moira+I went to the Watershed again yesterday afternoon – this time to see Sam Mendes’s excellent film “Away We Go”. It’s about a couple in their early 30s facing impending parenthood. Her parents are long dead and they moved to Colorado to be near his parents – who, with no apparent regard to grandparental responsibilities(!) – announce that they’re off to spend two years in Antwerp. This results in the young couple embarking on a journey across North America (visiting friends, relatives etc) to find the perfect place to raise their yet-to-be-born daughter. It’s very funny at times and oddly touching.
We both thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


It was great to see Steve+Bev again yesterday. Sobering thought to realise that Steve+I started our architectural course together at Oxford just 42 years ago… and, of course, neither of us have changed one iota! Like Moira+I, Steve+Bev met at Uni and the rest, as they say, is history. They visited us in Bristol about three years ago but, ridiculously, this was the first time we’d been back to Newnham-on-Severn since we moved to Bristol in 2003. Anyway, we had a lovely time – eating, drinking, laughing and chatting outside on a beautifully mild September day and then walking beside the river and through the village.
We definitely won’t leave it another three years before getting together again!
Photo: Bev+Steve in Newnham (note: Moira was in the original photograph, but had her eyes closed!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

the way we were

Gail+Ian+Moira+I were talking over supper on Saturday. Ian asked me about some music that had been playing and I made an apologetic admission that one of the tracks was from Sarah Brightman. Ian’s response was that he was currently into Barbra Streisand! This prompted me to remember Streisand’s “The Way We Were” – a song that my mother had chosen for her funeral (ten years ago last month). I hadn’t heard it for ages so, thanks to the wonders of Spotify, I played it over and over again before breakfast yesterday.
It reminded me that lot has happened over the last ten years…. Ruth, Hannah+Alice have all got married and, of course, Mikey, Iris, Dan and Rosa are now on the scene.
My mother would have been quite pleased.
Photo: Mary with Hannah (taken about 1982?)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

babs (+play me, I’m yours)

Gail+Ian+Debby+Ken are our very special friends. We’ve been friends for a long, long time and the lovely thing is that we try to get together over lunch to celebrate each other’s birthdays. Yesterday was even more special. Firstly, because we were celebrating Debby’s 50th birthday and, secondly, because it was the first time we’d all got together since Gail+Ian moved to Devon (they used to live in Oxford, along with Ken+Debby). We met up at Severnshed in Bristol and enjoyed a lovely meal together before walking through Queens Square and around the harbourside.
Photo: Ian providing us with musical accompaniment in Queens Square
Note: BABs is the e-mail shorthand for our get-togethers (Barnes-Adams-Broadway).
PS: on Friday evening, when I walking to Welsh Back to have a drink with some school friends, I noticed a lone piano in Queens Square. At the time, I just thought it was somewhat strange. Later that night, on my way home, I became aware of some amazing improvised jazz being played on a piano – the same piano I’d passed earlier in the square. It was just beautiful. One guy was playing; his three friends were standing around him and were just smiling; it made me smile too. A lovely moment.
Moira subsequently pointed out that it was all part of an art initiative – “Play Me, I’m Yours” (check out this website – some great pictures). Brilliant idea!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


For those who don’t live in South Bristol, the blog title stands for the very impressive “Bedminster Residents against Tesco Expansion into Ashton Gate” group. Tesco has submitted a planning application for a 24-hour superstore development at Ashton Gate and lots of us vehemently oppose the proposal and fear that, if permitted, lots of our local stores would be forced to close. It’s been estimated that the store would generate 5 million car trips a year - equivalent of roughly 7 weeks traffic on the M5! Today, local residents formed a human juggernaut and walked down North Street and most of the local shops displayed large “Closing Down” signs to highlight the damaging impacts that a new superstore would have on the local community.
It was a hugely impressive demonstration and yet another reason why I love living in Southville.
Photo: part of the human juggernaut in North Street today.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I watched “102 minutes that changed America” on channel four-on-demand the other night. The documentary film comprises hundreds of pieces of footage and audiotape from ordinary people who directly experienced the awfulness of that day. Hugely evocative and it immediately took me back to being in the office of my architectural practice and being called by one of the staff who’d been watching CNN news at the time…. and viewing as the second plane struck the other tower. I recall going home and sitting transfixed by the television images long into the night as the world tried to come to terms with what had happened. Watching the film was agonising is so many ways: hearing the voices of the fire fighters on the 78th floor; the telephonist telling people to remain where they were and that help was on its way; seeing people standing below the towers and staring up in disbelief – when you knew that both towers were going to collapse and anyone left in their location would perish.
Ken+Steve+I were in New York some three weeks later (on a golf tour of New York State) and witnessed the aftermath for ourselves. The World Trade Centre site was still smouldering (although only the excavators were allowed anywhere near). Ken, a New Yorker himself (who had watched the erection of the twin towers as a young boy), was completely devastated as we viewed the site from a boat on the Hudson river. According to Ken at the time, New York seemed like a ghost town (although it still seemed pretty lively to me!) - people were understandably afraid to go back into the city after all that had happened. We were warmly welcomed by everyone we met - and we were able to eat in restaurants that previously would need to have been booked months in advance! I didn’t have a digital camera at the time…. perhaps I need to check out my old negatives again?
Ken+Debby+Gail+Ian+Moira+I went to New York in April 2006 and stayed only 300m or so from the World Trade Centre site in Manhattan. I found it almost impossible to relate the “normality” of what had become a construction site to the scenes of devastation watched on television on the day itself.

Monday, September 07, 2009

street party

As we often do on a Sunday morning, Moira+I wandered down to the Tobacco Factory Market yesterday to buy or two things. It’s a very friendly, lively market that has a great community “feel”. Yesterday, it got a little more crowded than usual because our visit coincided with the “Creatures of Southville Carnival” street party.
Southville is very nice place to live!

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Although we’ve only been back at school at matter of a few days, the holidays already seem an age ago (well, not quite…). Amongst the new measures introduced this term is a rule that holidays within term time will no longer be authorised - unless there are “exceptional” circumstances. My immediate reaction to this move was: “so we’re going to have parents lying to us to cover holiday absence” (a view endorsed by a number of my colleagues). Sure enough, we had one father ringing the school on Thursday to apologise for his wife’s “failure to notify the school earlier”(!), but that their two daughters had both gone down with tonsillitis. Strange that, because classmates had previously informed teachers that they were on holiday in Cornwall! It may seem pretty insignificant, but it stills sets a pretty poor example to children in my book.
There’s another boy in our House who has significant behaviour and attendance problems (he’s transferred to our school because his previous school couldn’t cope). It seems to me that his underlying difficulty arises from poor parenting. His mother is always trying to justify his actions (I’m all for supporting your child, but…) and she is devious, completely unreliable and constantly “lies through her teeth”. As a result, in the home situation, it appears he has no framework for appropriate behaviour whatsoever. At school, we’re trying to establish these disciplinary boundaries, but it’s often an uphill battle. Sadly, with such poor parenting, it’s no wonder that the boy struggles.
I work in a school with a reputation for very good standards of behaviour (admittedly, we don’t have to contend with the issues of many inner-city schools). Whilst I accept that my views may have be coloured by having worked with young people over the past four years or so, there seems to be a growing number of dysfunctional families.
Following the recent crowd disturbances at the West Ham v Millwall football game, I came across this story of one of the pitch invaders carrying a four year-old boy on his shoulders. Another wonderful instance of setting a good example!
Moira pointed out this fascinating post by Mark Easton, the BBC’s Home Editor (I urge you to read it!), following the appalling case in Doncaster last week of two brothers, aged 10 and 12, who admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent after they had lured two other boys (aged 9+11) to a ravine in South Yorkshire (one of the victims had a sink dropped on his head during the attack!).
Talk of intervention even before birth might smack of the Nanny State, but I’m getting to the stage when I think it will have to happen.
Photo: the sign is from the home of the brothers who carried out the attacks in Doncaster.