Tuesday, May 31, 2011

desert island discs

In March 2007, I blogged about having a cunning “business plan” (back in the very olden days!) for producing personalised “desert island discs” for ordinary people like you and me. Well, the BBC has finally got round to inviting the public to do just that (you’ve only got a matter of a few days to respond to Radio4’s invitation to submit your own Desert Island Discs). Somewhat pathetically, I still have a page in my filofax (dated 10 December 1988 – blimey, that’s over 30 years ago!) outlining my own selection. Please note the following: a) I’m still waiting to be asked to appear on the programme, b) my original list contained NINETEEN records, c) I’ve just submitted my own list to the BBC (the telephone will be ringing any minute…) and it only contains TWO of my original selections (Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen) and d) I found it absolutely impossible to restrict the list to EIGHT (I could actually have submitted half a dozen lists of eight records).
Anyway, for what it’s worth and in no particular order, this is my final selection (I’d be very interested in hearing about your own versions!):
1. Love Letter (Nick Cave+the Bad Seeds)
2. Cold Water (Damien Rice)
3. Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
4. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen)
5. I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Frank Sinatra)
6. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (June Tabor)
7. Let It Be (The Beatles)
8. Symphony no.5: 4th Movement (Gustav Mahler)
PS: Actually, this is NOT the list I submitted to the BBC! I ended up realising that my list couldn’t ignore The Beatles or Mahler – so, very reluctantly I deleted: To Be Lonely (Joan As Police Woman) and A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan). How could I?!

Monday, May 30, 2011

bruce+sara's big adventure

This time, some two years ago, Bruce+Sara were trawling the English and Welsh countryside in the hope of finding a suitable property and, crucially, some land on which they could continue to explore and develop their ideas for permaculture living. They finally discovered their new home (a dilapidated barn in some 17 acres) in Llangurig, Powys in mid-Wales – within 300m of the river Wye - and exchanged contracts in January last year. Like us, friends of Bruce+Sara will have been following their progress via Bruce’s lovely FB photographs – but, this weekend, Moira+I were able to experience a little of their big adventure for ourselves. Of course, Bruce+Sara were the perfect, generous hosts and it was absolutely lovely to see them again, but it was also encouraging (and somewhat inspiring) to see how far they’d progressed in a such a short time (not to mention producing the adorable Gracie along the way!). They’ve made a wonderful job of converting the main barn (there are three other smaller barns, plus two massive open sheds!) and incorporating lots of eco-friendly design principles; they’ve created lots of raised beds immediately next to the main barn; they’ve started to convert another barn; they’ve got their own chickens; they’ve moulded some of the higher land to enable them to erect a large poly-tunnel, plus more vegetable-growing space; they’ve planted nearly 5,000 trees…. oh, and they’re also well on their way to establishing their own herb tea business!!
Moira+I are full of admiration and have returned home to Bristol feeling incredibly lazy….
We had a lovely time – lovely friends.
Photo: Moira, Sara+Bruce (+Gracie) walking "their land" – it doesn’t include the vast acres on the other side of the valley!
PS: I didn’t take very many photographs (but here are some) and especially regret not doing so (due to the drizzle) during our beautiful Sunday forest walk.
PPS: Bruce+Sara first introduced us to the concept of permaculture in the garden of their rented house in Bristol in March 2009 (as part of GrowZones).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

the long goodbye

The Year 11 pupils at school are now on study leave preparing for their GCSE exams. Before they departed, the wonderful Quantock House and Sports Captains (Eloise+Demi+Dan+George) wanted to present me with a farewell gift from the whole House – even though I don’t actually retire for another eight school weeks. First of all they’d contrived to organise a whole Quantock House photograph so they could present me with a really good framed copy. Then they encouraged all the House tutor groups to contribute comments/greetings/drawings for a brilliantly entertaining “Thank you Mr Broadway love from Quantock" retirement book. There are lots of really lovely, heartfelt notes of thanks including these particular gems: “Thank you for being a good head teacher” (if only they’d paid me accordingly); “you were there when no one else was”; “you were my favourite teacher” (even though I didn’t teach); “heroic and stunning” (really?); “I hope you get a big villa” (the football team or a palace?); “thank you so much for helping when I had my stomach pains”; “no one will forget you” (is this a threat?); “I will never forget your great handwriting and brilliant fun attitude” (a wonderful combination!); “thank you for looking after me through everything”; “I would never have felt welcome without you”; “thank you for being there for me with my ups and downs”; “thank you for supporting me and showing me the light at the end of the tunnel” (did I?) and, finally, “you are, and shall always remain, a legend and by far the most amazing Assistant Head (?)… words cannot describe how much you will be missed”.
Money can’t buy this sort of stuff… very humbling (as well as funny, sometimes) and it reminds you of all the good things about working with young people in education (of course, I could list a lot of bad things too!).
It now feels wrong to have to go on working for another WHOLE term!
Photo: the cover of my lovely, big retirement book.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

kielder challenge heats

Our Kielder Challenge team took part in the Regional Heats at Ashton Court yesterday. They were wonderful and we all had a really good day. They ended up Heat winners by a considerable margin and they were absolutely thrilled. There’s even a chance that they might end up at the national finals in the Kielder Forest, Northumberland in September – but only a couple of teams end up qualifying from the Region (and the Region is HUGE!). It’s just a brilliant event.
Photo: Gary, Andrew, Charlie, Charlotte, Chris, Polly, Megan, Roxy and Becky.
PS: Gary was a last-minute substitute for Alihan – who was ill; Charlotte was unable to participate due to an injured foot (she was on crutches) and Polly substituted as reserve.

Friday, May 13, 2011

kielder challenging

We’ve just completed the last of our training sessions in preparation for this year’s Kielder Challenge’s local Regional Heat – which take place in Bristol on 20 May. As I’ve mentioned before, four pupils from our school work with the four from Fosse Way (a school catering for young people with physical disabilities and/or severe learning difficulties) in a series of outdoor challenges. It’s such a rewarding event and SO good working with these wonderful individuals.
Photo: Chris, Alihan, Charlie, Roxy, Becky, Polly, Andrew and Megan.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

centenary school photograph

We had a pretty disrupted afternoon at school today with pupils assembling for a whole-school photograph to mark the school’s centenary. The main photograph was taken in two separate sittings and, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, the arrangements seemed to go remarkably well. We were also incredibly lucky with the weather – it started raining 30 minutes after we’d finished. Sadly, the only staff members appearing on the whole-school version were the Head and Deputy Head Teachers – with a separate staff image taken at the end of school (to avoid complete chaos!). It’ll be very interesting to see the final results. Photo: just a few of the pupils waiting to be snapped this afternoon.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

paul lewis at st george's

Somewhat pathetically, I decided to forego the second meeting of our newly-formed book group (even though it was at our house AND I’d read the book!) and, instead, attend a Paul Lewis piano concert at St George’s, Bristol. I’d watched one of Lewis’s televised BBC Proms last summer (a Beethoven piano concerto) and had been mesmerized by his performance. I’d missed out on seeing him in February due to Gail’s wonderful birthday celebrations and vowed then that I would try to ensure I saw him perform the next time he was in Bristol – and, of course, one of my “resolutions for retirement” was to be a more regular concert-goer (yes, I know I haven’t retired yet, but it’s important to get in some practice!). Last night featured Schubert’s piano sonata (no.18 in G D894, if you must know!) as the main piece. I’m not a particular Schubert fan but the concert was mightily impressive and I was utterly captivated by Lewis’s stunning, masterly execution. Not only do I struggle to see how anyone can play a musical instrument with such technical accomplishment, but also just how anyone can learn such complicated pieces “by heart” and play for over an hour. A wonderful evening.
Photo: you’re not allowed to take photographs during the concert, so I decided to take one of Lewis’s piano instead, before the concert started! As you can see, I had a brilliant seat in the gallery.
PS: Amazingly, during the interval, I bumped into Richard+Sarah (good friends and Felix’s parents – Felix being married to our daughter Hannah, you understand!), who had travelled down from mid-Wales especially for the concert.
PPS: I actually got back home in time to grab a glass of wine before the Book Group meeting had ended (we call ourselves “The Slow Readers Group”). They were pretty scathing about: a) my concert-going, b) that I was the only member who had cried reading the book and c) that I had taken so much pleasure in the change of font for different chapters featuring the two principal characters!

Friday, May 06, 2011

royal wedding day

This time last week, it seems that I was amongst the very few people in the country NOT to have been following the royal wedding. Instead, Moira+Gareth+Alan+I spent the day enjoying the beauty of the Somerset/Wiltshire countryside walking between Freshford and Bradford-on-Avon, along the banks of the Frome and Avon rivers (which also just happened to take in a pub lunch). A really lovely day amid stunning surroundings and rather nice people!
Photo: various images en route.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

april-may books

More books (sorry):
Cities of the Plain (Cormac McCarthy): The last of “The Border Trilogy” books. I’ve seen someone describe the books as a “coming-of-age story” and I think they’re probably right (certainly not a “traditional western” as I’ve also seen them described!). Idealism and optimism of youth set against the reality and harshness of the “real world”. I found them quite magical.
Lent for Everyone – St Matthew (Tom Wright): As the name suggests, I’ve been using this as my Lenten study book. Even though I’m not a great admirer of Tom Wright’s writings (having previously been irritated and disappointed by “Surprised by Hope”, for example), I did find some of his insights into St Matthew’s gospel quite helpful - and his Good Friday comments particularly powerful. I certainly enjoyed the discipline of the daily readings.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery): I originally read this last Autumn, but I’ve just re-read it because it’s our Book Club’s latest book (even though I’m going to miss the meeting!) – and found it even more charming and uplifting this time round.
Will You take Me As I Am – Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period (Michelle Mercer): Mitchell’s “Blue” is probably my favourite album (if I was only allowed one, then it would be this one) - clearly, this could have something to do with it coinciding with my uni-days of the late 60s and early 70s (the album came out in 1971)! Despite its rather haughty attempts to contrast Mitchell’s writings with those of St Augustine of Hippo and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the book provides a fascinating (for me) background to the album – eg. going to live in the Matala Caves, Greece for a couple of years from Spring 1970, feeling somewhat “in crisis”. The book was published in 2009; Mercer’s not a brilliant writer, but the book’s well researched and informative. I adore Mitchell’s music but probably wouldn’t like her as a person (too much ego? selfish? arrogant?)… and I’d be much too boring to be her friend!
Editor (Max Hastings): I’ve long admired Hastings as a military journalist, but this is specifically a book about his time as the editor of “The Daily Telegraph” (not really my kind of newspaper!) between 1986 and 1995. Frankly, despite him not being quite as a right-wing as most of the Telegraph journalists he first inherited, the book shows him up to be a rather pompous, arrogant, wealth-seeking, old-fashioned Conservative who seems to pay scant regard to the real world or to the likes of you or me (somewhat outrageously describing the not-so-well-off as the “underclass” at one point!). Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating book (and very well written) – especially describing the political squabbles at the end of the Thatcher era and his less-than-complimentary views of the Prince of Wales.

Monday, May 02, 2011

ten tors

I helped out over the weekend with Ten Tors practice on Dartmoor. It was the last chance for some thirty pupils from school (14-15 year olds) to secure their places in the final team selection for the event itself on 14+15 May. All pupils had previously gained their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Awards as a pre-qualifier for consideration for team selection. I love watching the mix of the “gifted and talented” individuals (who seem to be brilliant/determined at everything they do) and those pupils who are often associated with poor behavior/attitude working together quite brilliantly. At least half the pupils taking part this year are girls and - this isn’t a sexist remark in any way - it’s amazing to see even the tiniest of them “lugging” their kit across the moor with comparative impunity!
It’s a very humbling experience to see them grow in confidence and self-belief.
Photo: If you think it’s easy, why don’t YOU try walking 35 miles over Dartmoor (often over very rough and difficult terrain) carrying a heavy rucksack containing a tent, a sleeping bag, cooking facilities, food, water, spare clothing etc?