Monday, September 27, 2010

cave refectory road

Our great friend Ian Adams has just had his first book published. It’s called “Cave Refectory Road – monastic rhythms for contemporary living”. Moira has read one of the initial drafts and was very taken by it; I’ve purposely waited to read the book itself and I can’t wait!
The following blurb is from the Canterbury Press website:
One way in which Fresh Expressions of church are springing into life is through ‘new monastic’ or ‘intentional’ communities, groups of individuals and families living in the same geographic area or connected virtually who share a simple rule of life. Cave - Refectory - Road explores how traditional monastic life is helping to shape a new flowering of Christian community today. It traces the roots of ‘new monasticism’ and draws on the classic elements of monastic life to suggest how this ancient wisdom, learning and spiritual practice might be reinterpreted for new settings.
A handbook for all who are exploring ‘intentional living’, its rich and inspiring teaching is clustered around these themes:

• The cave: the place of stillness, prayer and withdrawal that can inspire a new engagement with the mystery of God
• The refectory: how monastic practices of hospitality can create communities that make a difference in the world
• The road: how the example of the friars can lead to creative and loving engagement with public life.
This link includes two reviews from people for whom I have great respect (Jonny Baker and Nadia Bolz-Weber)…. as well as details of how you can get yourself a copy!
He's a very special man and it sounds like a very special book.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

sixth form education

In an age when, it seems, schools have to measure “success” by their GCSE and A Level results, there must have been many schools who were left reflecting at the end of the summer on the fact that their average A Level results had actually got slightly “worse”. There is an expectation that examination results will improve year-on-year. The trouble is that if you’re allowing more and more students into the sixth form (see my comments made last November!), then I think it’s absolutely inevitable that some of them will struggle – there is far greater onus and expectation on students for individual research, analysis and presentation. Most of them are able to adapt to this different (for them) style of education and to flourish. Others simply lose the plot – they seem completely unable (or unwilling) to come to terms with the need to organise their own time. Clearly, these students need help… or, if they’re simply not up to the diverse demands of A Level education, then perhaps shown the door and pointed in a different direction.
No doubt, this is a problem facing many schools nationwide. You would have thought this might have resulted in consultation with key staff and perhaps a forum for the exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, there are schools where this doesn’t happen.
Instead, the powers-that-be decide that it must all be down to poor teaching and that the solution is “to give more work to students and make them all work harder”. I have relatively little knowledge of education but, from my own experience, I know that this sweeping “solution” could have a catastrophic effect on the lives of many of the most able students – who are already working at full capacity – and, indeed, on the morale and motivation of their teachers. Whipping everybody (students and teachers alike*!), just because those less able (or less willing) students might fail to achieve reasonable examination grades seems fundamentally wrong to me. Sadly, I suspect that this approach will also have a detrimental effect on such schools in the medium-/long-term – they will end up failing to attract the very best students into their sixth forms and their average A Level grades will suffer accordingly....
It shouldn’t be like this.
PS: * interesting comment from Moira over supper yesterday: “an organisation that doesn’t respect its staff probably doesn’t respect its clients either”. Discuss!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

peace day

Yesterday was International Peace Day and, like last year, the school marked the occasion with the wonderful Tom (plus pupils) putting on a series of Assemblies and encouraging everyone to make peace windmills. The windmills were “planted” outside the front of the school and made an impressive statement for this important day (over 500 of them!).
Click on this link to find out more.
Photo: some of the multitude of windmills outside school yesterday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Went to the private view of a new exhibition at the impressive View gallery in Hotwells last Thursday. Damian Daly, a former college buddy of Hannah’s was one of the artists. Impressed with all the work on show and really liked the gallery itself. It was lovely to meet up with Damian and Nicky again (we think his work is quite outstanding) and really strange (but good!) to see that the exhibition also incorporated some of his pieces that formed part of our own number40 exhibition in September 2005, including the piece shown here.
The exhibition continues until 14 November.

Monday, September 20, 2010

breacon beacons

I spent the weekend on the beautiful Breacon Beacons with over 40 pupils from school undergoing their Duke of Edinburgh Award Silver and Gold training (plus a dozen members of staff). Essentially, they were short of a mini-bus driver, so I was roped in at the eleventh hour. As usual, the students were all brilliant (and such lovely individuals too!) and a great credit to themselves and the school. Brilliant too that the school has so many members of staff willing to give up their weekends for free to make it all possible (five of them having previously gained Mountain Leader qualifications). Next weekend, I think there are something like 120 pupils (plus nearly 30 members of staff?) involved in DOE Bronze training.
Quite amazing.
photo: one of the teams walking down into the valley from Llyn y Fan Fach reservoir.

Monday, September 13, 2010

certified copy

Went to the Watershed (for what seemed like the first time in ages) yesterday to see Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy”. It starred Juliette Binoche (and William Shimell) and was filmed in Tuscany - so I was in my element! It’s about a man and a woman; the man is a British author who’s visiting Italy to talk about his new book (on the idea of originality in art) and the woman is a French-born gallery owner. After his lecture, they drive to a nearby village where the café proprietor takes them for a married couple… and they go along with it. Their fictional role-play continues in a restaurant - where the scene is played out with each speaking more or less directly to the camera (the director’s aim apparently being that Juliette speaks directly to the male members of the audience and William to the female – which I found strangely effective) – and where Juliette plays out what appears to be the crisis in her real marriage (in an almost unbalanced way?). The film touches poignantly on four generations of marriage – from newly marrieds to an aged couple. In many ways it’s a very strange film; you know something of HER background, but virtually nothing of HIS (and she never asks!).
Binoche’s performance is mesmerising, of course.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

the concrete house

Moira+I visited The Concrete House, near Westbury-on-Trym, yesterday. It was one of 25 buildings that were open to the public as part of the excellent “Bristol Doors Open Day 2010”. Designed by architects Connell+Ward and built in 1934 (Amyas Connell was one of the pioneers of the modernist architecture in the UK). Large areas of glass and orientated to maximise sunlight gave the house a wonderful light and airy character internally. Judging by the massive heat-gain experienced in one or two of the rooms on yesterday’s tour (it was beautifully sunny), thermal insulation must have been a huge problem (ie. hot in summer, cold in winter). Apparently, as far as the original clients were concerned, the husband adored the house whilst his wife simply hated it! I have to say, I was a little disappointed by the house overall – perhaps, very unfairly, because I was seeing it alongside Le Corbusier’s 1929 Villa Savoye!
Photograph: three-storey glass and metal-framed stair tower giving access to the sun-roof.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

summer books

I’m afraid that I frequently use this blog to record stuff – in this case, books I’ve been reading. Yes, pretty pathetic I know! Anyway, these are my latest titles:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery): A really beautiful book. Initially, I struggled a little with its profound philosophy, but was ultimately taken by its charm. Sad, funny, thoughtful, uplifting and optimistic book.
Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck): A tiny, powerful book… don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read another Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath some 40 years ago?!). Bought it in St Davids when rain threatened outdoor activities!
Everyman Poetry (RS Thomas): I’d hardly read any poetry and felt it was high time I did. I found Thomas frequently bleak, brooding and, for me, at times impenetrable – often bitter, but also sometimes with chinks of compassion and hope. Although I often felt out of my depth, I did enjoy his way with language (especially when read aloud). I’ll persevere!
The Olivetti Chronicles (John Peel): I picked this up at “Fopp” for £3 (I think?). It consists of articles he’d written for Radio Times, Guardian, The Independent, Sounds etc etc and, although I did read it from cover to cover, it’s one of those great books for “dipping into”. I like his writing self-effacing style.
A Parrot in the Pepper Tree (Chris Stewart): I loved “Driving Over Lemons” and found this to be equally enjoyable… entertaining, well written and it made me smile (frequently)…. on to the last one in the trilogy in due course... and then the boat one and....

Saturday, September 04, 2010

me and mark kermode

Very much enjoyed seeing/listening to the Dodge Brothers in the Performance Café at Greenbelt. Mark Kermode, film critic and journalist, is their double bass (and harmonica) player. As we watching, I was struck by the vague physical similarities between Kermode and my late father, Ron…. but then realised that, by default (many people felt that I looked a little like my dad), there was probably some resemblance between Kermode and me!
Big head, big nose, big ears, greying hair, similar build, talks a lot….
Uncanny eh?
PS: of course, there are a few differences too – he’s clever (PhD in English), he’s financially stable, he’s much younger (by 14 years!), he doesn’t have a vertical crease down his forehead and he’s musical, but hey!
PPS: I might start using a comb and "slicking" my hair back in future perhaps?
Photo: Dodge Brothers, Kermode and me.