Sunday, March 28, 2010

to oxford for lunch

Moira+I spent a lovely time in Oxford yesterday having lunch with great friends Debby, Ken and Ian (Gail was recuperating at home after her hospital ordeals earlier in the week – very sad she wasn’t able to be with us, but wonderful that the prognosis seems to be very positive). We travelled up on the train, met up with the others for coffee at the Jam Factory where we were hugely impressed by the Stillpoint “Stations of the Cross” exhibition. Then on to Quod for lunch and on to Patisserie Valerie for some amazing desserts! The sun shone, Oxford looked beautiful (despite the fact they were digging up the High Street!), the company was perfect and the trains ran on time (more or less!).
A perfect Saturday!
Photo: Ian, Moira, Ken+Debby pondering the menu at Quod.

Friday, March 26, 2010

three musketeers

I received this photograph today via e-mail from my cousin David.
It shows (from left to right) my two cousins, Keith and David, and me.
It was taken in my grandparent’s back garden (Walkers) next to their garage.
I think it was taken in about 1957 (because Keith and his parents emigrated to Australia shortly afterwards). I would have been eight.
This picture confirms my childhood memories – it was ALWAYS sunny; there were ALWAYS blue skies; and jumpers hadn’t yet been invented.
Those were the days!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

bomb disposal probably isn't for me

I listened to a powerful, humbling interview yesterday on Radio4’s “Saturday Live” when Chris Hunter talked about his former life as a bomb disposal operator (you can listen to it on iPlayer, albeit briefly). Amazing to hear him talk about his role almost acting as a “form of atonement” and also about its “spiritual” side, but also sad to hear about the effect his job had on his personal life. I just can’t imagine what makes people opt for such a hugely challenging and dangerous role (and it’s terribly sad that they need to do so at all).
Co-incidentally, I recently came across this very funny T-shirt slogan: “if at first you don’t succeed, then bomb disposal probably isn’t for you”.
So true!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

eddie izzard marathon man

Hannah told me to watch this TV programme. I’m so pleased I followed her advice. As you might already be aware, the programme (it’s a series of three) is about Izzard’s quest to run 43 marathons in 51 days around Britain in aid of Sports Relief. It’s a ridiculous adventure – he isn’t an athlete, he’s never run ONE marathon let alone 43 and he gives himself just 6 weeks to prepare! If you haven’t already seen the series, I think you should (via iPlayer). It’s stirring stuff – fascinating, poignant and funny.
Be inspired!
PS: the final episode is being shown again tonight on BBC3 at 9pm.

Monday, March 15, 2010

moira’s “big” birthday festival

It was a lovely weekend – culminating in a gathering of wonderful friends at home yesterday, with the odd glass of wine and fantastic food prepared by Ruth, Hannah and Alice… and just a time to relax, laugh, chat and catch up with special people. Moira felt very loved and blessed.
Very good times.
Photo: Moira and daughters Alice, Ruth and Hannah.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

midsummer night’s dream at the tobacco factory theatre

Moira, Sheila, Alice+I went to see this last night.
The glowing reviews were absolutely right about the play AND about Felix’s performance!
Just brilliant, magical theatre.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

dear mrs parent

I refer to our meeting before school yesterday morning, when you demanded to see me as a matter of “extreme urgency” regarding a bullying issue involving your daughter. You will recall that you explained, in abrupt and confrontational terms, that your daughter had been verbally abused by the older sister of a fellow pupil while out shopping after school (and apparently in front of the girl’s mother). You indicated that the girl had been accusing your daughter of bullying her sister. You also explained that you had later confronted (in no uncertain terms, it appears) this girl’s parents to complain about the incident (you might be surprised to learn that the parents subsequently came to school to complain about your own behaviour). You are quite right, of course: it was entirely unacceptable for the older sister to have acted in the way she did.
However, I would like to make the following observations:
- I take exception to being accused of “doing nothing” to address what you regarded as long-term bullying issues when, having checked our files, the last minor incident was reported and dealt with on 5 November last year. We can only respond to situations that are reported to us.
- I take exception to your assumption that the “school was doing nothing” about the current matter (typical Year 8 bickering/friendship issues) when, in fact, we had spoken to a number of pupils, checked with teaching staff, issued warnings, had established monitoring arrangements and were in the process of recommending particular strategies for their shared lessons.
- I take exception to the fact that you had clearly not bothered to find out the background to the matter (as far as you were concerned, your daughter was entirely innocent).
- I take exception to the fact that you clearly felt you had the right to see me “instantly”, without notice or an appointment.
- I take exception to your confrontational attitude towards me personally (made all the worst by doing so in front of your daughter).
- I take exception to the fact that you were blaming the School for something that occurred outside school.
- I take exception to the conduct and attitudes of parents such as yourself who, in my view, set such poor examples to their own children - effectively saying that aggressive and intolerant behaviour is entirely acceptable.
Finally, I would like to apologise for what you clearly felt was my own rudeness in walking away from you. In the light of the verbal abuse I’d had to endure, I decided that the only appropriate course of action was to refer you to a member of the School’s Senior Management Team.
Yours sincerely
Mr Broadway
PS: this is the letter I would have LIKED to send! Situations like this make me question why I bother at all.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Tough choice. Do I watch the whole of the Reading v Villa game on TV or do I go to The Watershed to see Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “MICMACS” (Moira was at a bread-making workshop!)? I decided on the latter. Jeunet was the director of my favourite film “Amelie”, so I felt I needed to see it. Although it fell a little short of any comparison with “Amelie” (pretty difficult to live up to!), it did have lots of characteristic Jeunet’s touches - and also featured perhaps half a dozen of the Amelie actors too (including the brilliant Dominique Pinon) - and beautiful little visual jokes. The humour was almost slapstick at times and, with all its fantastic invention and imagination, there were moments when it almost felt as if you were watching Wallace+Gromit!
PS: The Villa won despite the fact that they were losing when I set off for the cinema (they only seem to lose if I watch the game!).

Saturday, March 06, 2010

more books

I’ve just finished reading Paul Auster’s “Travels in the Scriptorium” and “The Reader” by Bernhard Schlink. It was interesting reading them one after the other as they felt oddly linked. I was captivated by Auster’s book (one review I’ve subsequently read talks about the “spell the novel casts over the reader” and I think this is pretty close to the mark). It features a man in a room on his own with a desk and a manuscript. Schlink’s book concludes with a prisoner on her own in her cell surrounded by cassettes of book readings. The illiterate prisoner learns to read and was once a prison guard; the man is perhaps also serving a sentence of some kind – with the characters who enter the room each being described as “former operatives” once controlled by the man.
I thought the film of “The Reader” was absolutely brilliant and the novel is probably one of the most impressive books I’ve ever read – a love story which subsequently becomes an enquiry into the effects of the Holocaust. Sensitive, uplifting and ultimately strangely hopeful.
Think I’d like to read some more Paul Auster (although he’s probably far too clever for me!).
Photo: image from “The Reader” film, bookcovers and Paul Auster.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

the great offices of state

If Si Smith is my wonderful music and art guru, then my great car-share/teacher mate Andy is my television programme advisor. I really don’t watch much TV these days but Andy has recently been imploring me to watch “The Great Offices of State” on the BBC. It’s a three-part series presented by Michael Cockerell and “uncovers the secret world of Whitehall” (within the Treasury, Home and Foreign Offices). I’ve now watched them all on iPlayer and they’ve been absolutely fascinating (Professor Peter Hennessey is excellent) – with (pretty frank) interviews with past and present politicians and “normally camera-shy” civil servants. The programmes should be made compulsory viewing for all students of modern History and Politics.
Photo: The Foreign Office, London.

Monday, March 01, 2010

we woz robbed....

So, it wasn’t to be…. the Villa team got to the League Cup final at Wembley but fell at the last. Adam and I sat in front of the TV and were initially galvanised into thinking we were going to win after Milner scored from a penalty early on (but mystified that why the United man wasn't sent off). Man U probably edged the game in the end, but it could have gone either way….
Photo: Adam+I, suitably clad, in relaxed mood (BEFORE the game!).