Sunday, 22 April 2012

beat the drum

The week started ominously enough.  Back at work after the traditional two week 'holiday' - the Duke of Edinburgh week included - for a 'Professional Development Day'.  We're not allowed to do any useful work, we have to be directed to spend the day going to meetings and being told what this term's style of teaching is to be.  But hold on! There's an hour at the end of the day for a 'Team Building' session. Deep joy.

Evidently the new Ofsted criteria are so harsh now that most schools in England have been downgraded.  What was excellent last year and for the previous few years is now just not good enough. A friend of mine has a theory that whilst this is going on and so called 'Free Schools' are being opened everywhere (including, allegedly, in our little town*), the Tories are basically bringing in Grammar schools through the back door.  So, most schools (Academies) are useless but there will be  in place a range of selective schools that can be turned into Grammar Schools instantly.

Anyway, back to the PD Day. So we went to one session that told us of the high importance being put upon learning in the new criteria so it was of utmost importance that we sit and listen to how important it is and then spend up to 15 minutes desgning a lesson for a subject none of us teach with more resources than we could sensibly read through in the time available. We were given a few minutes during the day to meet in departments. But, of course, we still had the last session to attend.

The time came and we duly filed in to the hall where every seat had an African drum and a length of plastic pipe on it. From the stage came the deep and rythmical thumping of a drum group.  Three guys furiously beating out the sound so beloved of 1930s Universal Pictures movies such as King Kong.  It's those damned drums!!

An hour.

A whole bloody hour spent sitting there banging on drums.  Since when is sitting in an audience being directed when to hit it, how to hit it and when to stop hitting it by a guy on stage "team building"? That's audience participation isn't it?

Having started with drumming, the week ended with the sad death of Levon Helm late of the Band. I'm sure there'll be many obituaries and reminiscences to come but I liked this short comment in yesterday's i.  Levon had been ill for the last ten years but had managed to complete a couple of solo albums - his voice was shot, obviously, because of the throat cancer - but they are pretty good and there are glimpses of the man's goodtime spirit and joy.  It's a shame that he and Robbie Robertson never really buried an ancient hatchet** but he died with dignity and with his friends and family around him.  For Levon, that's what it was all about. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought of such great songs as Rag Mama Rag and The Weight when we heard the news.  But I also though of the last track from Levon's Dirt Farmer - Wide River to Cross:

I'm only half-way home I gotta journey on
To where I'll find the things that I have lost
I've come a long, long road still I've got miles to go
I've got a wide, wide river to cross

I guess that journey's over.  Thanks for the music, Levon. It'll live on.
*ironically enough the two schools are being amalgamated into one because of falling roles.  Er . . .
** According to the obituary in today's Independent, differences seem to have been overcome as Robertson visited Helm in hospital. Apologies for the misleading comment.  I'm glad this happened, our older heroes are going pretty damned fast.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

war of the worlds

And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.

H. G. Wells (1898)

among the trees

Among the trees I have lain and passed my golden days
Among the trees I have spent my summers in a haze
Of lazy afternoons, watching all the rain, as it patterns the
verandah, then disappears again.....Come the sun

Some days start a bit weirder than others, I guess.

Being a teacher I am used to laying awake at about three o'clock in the morning whilst a gang of skeletons are making hey in the wardrobe no doubt looking for a tin opener for the Watney's Party 7 that continues to be passed around from party to party and no doubt will be for the rest of eternity. This morning, however, it was between the hours of four and five-thirty that I lay awake and wondered, not for the first time, where it all went so wrong. All those dreams of youth et al, ad nauseum . . .  However, after getting a few more hours of  fitful sleep, I finally woke up to a nice hot cup of tea that Mrs Dave thoughtfully brought me.  After a few articles from Stuart Maconie's new book (Never Mind the Quantocks), I decided to get up and have a bath.

So there I was, lying on the bathroom floor completing my "reps" - exercise jargon for the amount of times you have to do something painful in the optimistic belief that it's doing you some good. Having already completed a series of standing-on-my-left-foot-only-and-bending-my-knee-and-holding-for 10 seconds (10 reps), I was now lying on the bathroom floor at a jaunty 45°angle with the bath filling up with hot water and Epsom Salts.  I had a tight rubberised band around my knees and was attempting to lift my knees whilst keeping my ankles together.  Idly interested parties may assume that my Physiotherapist may have a wicked sense of humour. Whilst trying to hold this pose for the aforesaid ten reps, from the bathroom stereo* the mournful sound of Eric Clapton singing, "Dear Lord, give me the strength to carry on".  This is the usual absurdity of everyday life. You can't make this stuff up.

I've obviously been rather obsessed with the two things mostly on my mind for the best part of the first quarter of the year. So, gentle reader, I do apologise and will try to stop mithering on about the damned kitchen now it's nearly back to normal - Mrs Dave is baking some apple and cheese muffins as I type - and my other bête noire, my broken left foot. In fact yesterday I went out for a brief walk in some woods up around Martlesham. It was an opportunity to get out in the fresh air, which is something that a few youngsters need to do according to a recent radio report. Look at the cover of this bok I saw recently in Waterstones - Nature Defecit Disorder!! Whatever next? Anyway, it was also an opportunity to mess about with a new camera app on my iPhone. Now, I have never been much of a photographer and only use cameras to keep a record of where I've been or anything that takes my fancy.  Usually unusual trees.  I leave all the clever and arty stuff to real photographers like Mike Chisholm - a man who knows all about lenses and apertures and such-like.

During the week I had heard rumblings and grumblings about Instagram but had been too tired or disinterested until yesterday to find out why this useful little app was being discussed on Radio 4 and taking up newspaper space. Instagram is a phone app that allows you to apply various filters to your snaps (that's what they are).  See the previous post for an example. They are just a bit of fun for snappers.  I've used Instagram for most of the last year - not that I take many photos, though. I was certainly surprised - like most people seem to be - that MyFace had paid the ridiculous sum of a billion dollars for a small app that is free to download and use. The creators had never, up until now, made any money from it - they must be laughing all the way to the bank. A few years developing a bit of software in a completely altruistic way has allowed them to join that ever-growing club of young slacker millionaires. Good for them, I say, but I can't for the life of me work out how money will be made from it.  Surely they can't start charging for it?

Anyway, I wandered around the woods using Camera+ which just adapts your iPhone's camera and makes it a bit better. And it's free, just like Instagram. There are loads of filters (better than the Instagram ones) and flashes and zooms and all sorts of other things I'll never use. For an example of what I mean here's a very Arthur Rackhamesque tree I found. By adding a filter to it, it takes on the look of an old found photo. I can imagine a few elves and sprites partying around at night, possibly having finally opened the everlasting Party 7. But as I say, it's nothing more than a bit of fun - certainly not Art!

Despite having walked in this wood often over the last twenty-odd years, I still managed to get a bit disoriented so out came the old iPhone as I wasn't carrying an old fashioned compass. Switch on the compass app and voilà there we are - head West and back to the car, dodging the hailstones. I must write about how useful the iPhone has become. Despite my usual fustian, technophobe approach to modernity, it's fast becoming one of the most important pieces of everyday kit. This is all despite the fact the I hardly ever get calls on it - it seems to be everything but a phone. Unfortunately, not a hat.

Still, more about such things another time.

*Of course.

Friday, 13 April 2012

so we dreamed us up a kitchen

And finally we are back home and able to use the kitchen. We've spent most of the week painting walls and putting up new units. I think it's all been worth it although it has been, at times, traumatic. It still isn't actually finished though! There is still the small matter of having to have new worktops fitted as the previous ones didn't quite survive the experience. It's a long story.

So, here we are at the wrong end of the Easter holidays about to feed some friends - it's nice to be able to start having people around again after all this time.

Keeping it simple I've been told that it has to be a veggie night. Something about heavy red meat not going down too well late in the evenings or somesuch. Lentil lasagne, then, which is our go to meal for guests on meat-free occasions. The recipe of which was in a Tesco magazine some twenty five years ago - we brought it with us to this house from the last one in Bedfordshire. Blimey, it all seems so long ago. I wonder if others have particular recipes that stay with them for years?

Oh and Bedfordshire exists, it isn't a made up place to send your kids when you want them to go to sleep.

Oh well, I'd better go and turn the oven on or something useful like that. I quite like this blogger app although it has some design faults. Typing on an iPhone isn't as easy as on a normal keyboard, so I don't write as much. A blessing of some sort, I guess.

Monday, 9 April 2012

keep the pub fires burning

Well, it's Easter Sunday and we awoke to constant drizzle and low-lying cloud. Packing up wet tents and soaked-through clothes is not exactly anyone's favourite pastime. Least of all mine. Mrs Dave and I got here to Edale at about midday. Just in time for a lunchtime breakfast. We parked the minibus and found a space next to a lovely roaring fire.

After last night's decent meal in The Sportsman at Hayfield the thought of cooking in a soaking tent tonight doesn't really appeal. So we retired to The Old Nags Head for a ham baguette and a bowl of chips. This venerable hostelry sits at the start - or indeed, the end - of The Pennine Way.

After taking advantage of the facilities on offer, we now find ourselves sitting in the Visitor Centre looking forward to getting home to civilisation tomorrow night.

The weather report generally across the country looks wet and miserable. I think that's where I came in.

. . . I was rather rudely interupted just after this as one of the minbuses broke down.  The clutch went whilst going up a hill.  Luckily enough nobody was injured, in fact there were only Mountain Leaders in it at the time.  Some skilful driving backwards down a hill saved the day.  Consequently, I spent a lot of time ferrying kids around.  Yesterday (Monday) meant a lot of driving.  Thank god for decent insurance, as a lorry  brought back the broken vehicle and trailer and a taxi brought back some of the kids. We got home last night all safe.  No further incidents.  Back to normal.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

long distance information

Here we are then, deep in the heart of deepest Nowhere, Derbyshire. It was certainly snowing earlier in the week which means we came up here a day later than planned. We're back on the DofE Easter trip again. We managed to avoid it last year. This year, due to my gammy leg, I'm not doing any yomping across snow-peaked ridges.

There's plenty of rain and the camping is as you'd expect. Awful. Ah well, the things you do for love. Er ...

Anyway, here I am testing out whether or not the new blogger app works on my iPhone or not. If the photo of Stannage Edge works too, this could open up a whole new experience in blogging. I'm sitting in a tent waiting for the only pub for miles to open so we can go for a meal. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and it looks doubtful as to whether we'll even be able to eat at all.

It's grim up North.