Thursday, 2 July 2015

Mindless Vandalism

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Today's Comet had a two page spread on our contribution to the Hitchin Festival.

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The main news item focused on the vandalism done to one of the exhibits.

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It's back!

This morning, I was working on the database at the British Schools' Museum and decided to go and have a look to see if everything was still there and in good condition. Clare's litter campaign was back in its rightful place,beside the river, instead of in it.

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The Nursery Rhyme tree

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and banner were still intact

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as were  the butterflies

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As I made my way past the Festiwool tree, I spotted something

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which was joined by a second 'something'.

It is nice to see that our installation has no adverse effect on the local fauna.

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Just as the Fountain in the river  the Hiz alongside St Mary's, commemorates the life of Sir Ian Dixon,, so our project commemorates the church's medieval roots with the wool industry,

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Hitchin Festival

kicks off next week, with an  Installation in St Mary's Churchyard. Members of Hitchin Stitchin' have been preparing for this. Some of us have even chosen our trees.

It was while touring through the churchyard, avoiding the marquees, that I became aware I was being watched.

I began to feel like an extra (one who wouldn't last long) in Hitchcock's The Birds.

 It was lunchtime, of course, and there were people eating, but I couldn't help feel that these plump ducks needed no extra padding.

People use St Mary's churchyard for a picnic lunch on fine days, and this was a fine day.

Not so the following day, when The British Schools Museum's Fair in the Square was taking place alongside the first full day of Rhythms of the world.

The Market Square was almost deserted when I arrived to do a stint on the bric-a-brac stall. Friends of British Schools were manning each stall and no one needed any help.  It was bucketing down, so, after distributing a few leaflets and taking these photos, I headed back to the car.

I volunteered for the wrong spot. I think the Museum had more customers than the Fair, as there was a quilting and sampler day there, and tea and cake!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Volunteers' Week

Before I joined the team of volunteers at the British Schools' Museum, I was unaware of this week of celebration. The Chairman of the Britosh Schools' Trust reminded us that volunteers contribute billions of £s to the national economy..

The British Schools' Museum was one of only two museums to be awarded the Queens' Award in 2012.

In this, the 800th year of Magna Carta, Martyn Lewis CBE, chairman of NCVO’s trustee board says this;

Whether driven by a neighbourly passion to help others or to achieve a personal “high” of satisfaction, it is the finest example of real democracy in action – people voting with their feet not in response to the relatively long-delivery election promises of politicians, but to identify and tackle immediately an issue on their doorstep or in society at large.  Of the 164,000 registered charities that weave a web of support across our country, an amazing 90% have no paid staff.  And it is estimated that there are another 150,000 non-registered organisations also run entirely by volunteers. They are all succored and sustained by an army of people who get a real kick out of donating personal time and effort to help others.

The Hitchin British School (founded 1810) was an early example of how education provides social mobility. A child born in the slum yards beside the parish church could move out of dire poverty and into a relatively comfortable existence.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Missing Monarchs

Fotheringhay Church

I've been interested in Richard III ever since I discovered his birthplace during a cruise on the River Nene. I also share his birthday, which has kept that interest alive for over 20 years.

Henry I Memorial Cross

When the news broke about the finding of Richard's remains, I thought of another monarch, whose burial place MWNN and I  had discovered during a different cruise, this time on the River Thames.

For some reason, lost in the distant memory of the past, we visited Forbury Gardens, in Reading, by road, shortly after an aborted trip up the River Kennet earlier in the summer.

There we found a charming urban park that contains the remains of Reading Abbey. Henry I (son of William the Conquerer) founded the Abbey in 1121, and was reputed to have been buried there.

When we visited, there was a small car park and access to the gardens on foot. The park has been re-furbished since then, and the notice of Henry's burial removed from interior railings.

A plaque on the Abbey ruins, unveiled on the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Abbey, marks Henry's burial.

Henry isn't the only 'missing' monarch. There are many others whose burial spot has been lost for one reason  or another. Is it a mark of the renewed popularity of  the present Royal family, the remarkable story of the re-internment of Richard III's bones, and  an increase of interest in tracing one's own ancestors, that has led to the search for the remains of Henry Beauclerc?

Unearthing Henry may prove more difficult than finding Richard III. It's possible that the remains are underneath a nursery school or Reading Prison.

Coin found at Foxholes on the road from Hitchin to Offley

Even more difficult, could be the search for King Offa of Mercia's burial site. He died at Offley, near Hitchin, so it is possible that he was buried in the church he founded beside the river Hiz.

However, legend has it that his body was transported to Bedford, on the River Great Ouse, and buried there. Given the river's habit of flooding, the remains of the first King if the English could be in the mud at the bottom of the river. If King Offa’s grave is located in the River Great Ouse itself, as suggested, this would involve an aqua-archaeological survey, presumably involving personnel in full scuba gear.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Village Ignored

Tinted postcard c1900 Walsworth

Despite having its own Common, Church, shops. pubs, refurbished playpark, primary schools, and Community Centre, Walsworth has always been the neglected village in Hitchin.

The Walsworth Festival, the only free festival in Hertfordshire, is run by Walsworth volunteers. Others, regularly clean the river and Common, keeping it a green space that can be enjoyed by the whole community,

Why, then, is a housing estate on the other side of the town, benefiting from a £7 million boost to its community facilities, when the village of Walsworth is denied £160,000 to maintain its Community Centre?

Monday, 4 May 2015

Why you should read at least one

of Terry Pratchett's books.

Sir Terry Pratchett is the Carrier of Carriers

It would have taken me far too long to compose as good an entry as this one from io9, so I'm going to be lazy and just give you (the reader), the link.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Pans Narans

“The anthropologists got it wrong when they named our species Homo sapiens ('wise man'). In any case it's an arrogant and bigheaded thing to say, wisdom being one of our least evident features. In reality, we are Pan narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee.” Terry Pratchett " The Science of Discworld II:he Globe"

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Was it that long ago?

Although we don't normally celebrate the day we were married (prefering St David's Day - it's easier to remember), MWNN and I had a commemoratory lunch at MEVAN Ocakbasi & Bar on Friday, for our 45th Wedding Anniversary

It was half-term and there were other diners there (unlike last time, when we had the place to ourselves). Perhaps that's why there was no piped music?

I've lost count of the number of times our meals have been spoiled by piped music. If there are other diners in a restaurant, the noise becomes unbearable as everyone raises their voices to be heard above the music (which is rarely the music of everyone's choice).

Certainly, it was a very pleasant experience, reminiscing about the past 45 years and enjoying delicious Turkish food without struggling to hear or be heard.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

And so we say goodbye to

baby Oleg.

Y’all can say what you want about Monty the penguin  but Compare the Market is the dark horse of the heartbreaking Christmas adverts this year.

I've seen most of the adverts that feature Oleg, and discovered more (Coronation Street sponsors) on youtube.

I wonder if there will be any animated films to follow the adverts? Following the success of Creature Comforts? Nick Park went on to make Wallace and Gromit and the spin-off, Shaun the Sheep.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Good Omens

and the wisdom and wit of Terry Pratchett.

I really enjoyed the Radio 4 dramatisation of Good Omens.  I re-read it every year, during the summer. I haven't done that (for obvious reasons) for two years. It was nice to be reminded why I like Pratchett's work, especially Good Omens.

 One quote sums it all up for me
"Anyway, if you stop tellin' people it's all sorted out after they're dead, they might try sorting it all out while they're alive." (Adam Young - on not blowing up the world and starting again)

 The script was a very good adaption. It brought the story into the 21st century with good use of 'old technology (landlines).

Plus, I really like The Hell Hound Dog.

Friday, 28 November 2014

When you're not well

you gravitate towards nursery  food and the comforts of being in bed, looked after by someone else.

Not being able to read for very long, I like to listen to the radio, but Radio 4 extra (formerly Radio 7) has strayed from its original remit of drama, audio books, and vintage radio comedy. TV is a poor substitute and my Skybox is badooshed. Somehow Laptop TV hasn't the same appeal (or controlability).

I'm looking forward to the new Paddington film (released today) coming out on DVD. I'll probably be feeling better by then so, in the meantime, I'm making do with the trailers

With a cast that includes Ben Whishaw as Paddington, Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown, Peter Capaldi as Mr Curry, Jim Broadbent as Mr Gruber, Julie Walters as Mrs Bird, Michael Gambon as the voice of Uncle Pastuzo, Imelda Staunton as the voice of Aunt Lucy, and a cameo appearance by Michael Bond, this star-studded film is attractive to children and adults alike.

I'm not sure about Nicole Kidman's character, Millicent; it smacks too much of Cruella de Vil. But every children's film needs its villain and Kidman plays the part to perfection.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

So pleased

the boat is back in England. Our truck driver, Richard, told us of the problems he faces when travelling through the channel ports of Dunkirk or Calais.

Illegal immigrants try to board a lorry at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel

France is becoming the “weak link” in Europe’s migration control.

The mayor of the northern French city of Calais has threatened to block the port unless Britain does more to control the number of illegal migrants.

Illegal immigrants storm a ferry at Calais

Shifting the blame to the UK  is easier for the French, who signed the Schengen Agreement. Ireland and the UK opted out.

Answer to th
e question  Why Should England Share France's Immigration Problem, Would They Ours? 
The assembly of illegal immigrants  in the channel ports is in a large part down to the ridiculous free movement rules brought about courtesy of the EU. Once migrants get into an EU country it is impossible to stop them heading towards their chosen Utopia - the UK. Many of the eastern outposts of the EU have border controls from their adjoining non-EU neighbours which are, shall we say, none too robust. By its eastern expansion the EU has effectively provided France with a border with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Turkey. As well as this they have an unenforced border with Italy where large numbers of migrants land from North Africa. It is little wonder they are seeing huge numbers of migrants arriving at the channel ports. This is not the fault of the UK, it is the fault of the EU, and in particular those EU nations who are members of the Schengen Agreement (though it has to be said that border controls on mainland Europe had all but disintegrated long before that agreement came into force). 

There is no reason why the UK should "share" the results of this folly. The way for France to tackle the problem is to prevent the migrants entering France in the first place. But they cannot, and that's their fault. 

Unfortunately France must be bound by the rules that state that asylum should be claimed in the first safe country that the applicant arrives in. In most cases that is not France but had the French not signed up to the Schengen agreement and continued to patrol their borders with the same vigour as the UK (which I know is still insufficient but a good bit more effective than France) they may not have such a problem. The migrants would most probably be in Germany or Italy. Had they, in turn, not signed up to the Schengen agreement (etc. etc.). (New Judge's answer to the question posed on a forum)

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A crafter's story

A woman wanted to purchase a beautiful hand crocheted dress and spotted a crafter who did absolutely amazing work, but she charged a good price too. The woman thought that the price was way too high so she approached the crocheter and in quite a brusk fashion stated "I want to buy a dress from you, but I think you charge too much." The crafter was a little taken aback but replied "Ok, how much do you think i should charge?" The woman replied “I think you should charge “X” much, because the yarn will cost this much, and ribbons this much, and buttons this much. I even factored in the price of scissors."

The final price the woman had calculated was a lot cheaper than the crafter's original price, but she said "Ok, deal. You will get your dress in a week".

The woman was very pleased with herself and couldn't resist telling all her friends what a fabulous deal she had negotiated, how smart she is, and that in a week she will have her gorgeous crocheted dress.

A week later her parcel arrived in a lovely packaged box. She opened it and inside was yarn, ribbons, buttons and even scissors. Angrily she contacted the crafter asking “How could you do this to me? I asked you for a dress and you sent me a box of yarn, ribbon, buttons and scissors?!" The crafter quietly replied "My dear, you got exactly what you paid for, if you think there is something missing, you need to pay for it."

Monday, 21 April 2014

Pan's Labyrinth - was it worth struggling to read the sub-titles for hours?

No it wasn't

On the same altar of High Fantasy as The Lord of The Rings? I think not, Finknoffle.

Instead of a reality and a fantasy that intertwine and comment on each other, we have two fantasies that are like ships that pass in the night. 

I was beginning to think I was the only one who found nothing remarkable in this film. Then I found this review, by Travis Mackenzie Hoover, which sums up my thoughts so well that I need not bother going into any more detail.

Suffice to say, I was expecting something like a cross between Alice and Narnia but, apart from one short scene where the heroine looks very Alice-like as she squeezes through the inadequately-size door she has created, there was nothing to engage the mind in the same way.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

We have lift off

WriterconUK is go!

Put it in your diary - 12th - 14th September, Coventry Ramada Suites Hotel.

Relaxing at The Event Dinner
Everyone has a role in fandom – this is your chance to mix with people who write, create, or simply appreciate the work of those who do.

WriterConUK began in 2007 to  provide opportunities for the virtual community to meet in real time. Each year, we organise  a weekend of activities for fandom Writers, Artists, and Vidders.

Fans from any fandom are very welcome to join us. So far, we have members who list Lord of the Rings, Torchwood, Stargate, Supernatural, XFiles, Doctor Who, Being Human, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Discworld, Merlinand Sherlock among their interests, as well as  crossovers - some of them unexpected (Bagpuss and other Children's series).

Share this with your friends and anyone you think would be interested in a weekend of fun and introduction to the creative world of writing, graphics, and more ..........

Saturday, 1 February 2014


for Pipedown.

Hate Piped Music (Muzak)? You are not alone. 

Extract from The Lady Magazine - Time to Pull the Plug on Piped Music

It's a modern plague, filling our ears with needless nonsense. 

Written by Nigel Rogers

What do Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, Prunella Scales, Lesley Garrett, Julian Lloyd Webber and Simon Rattle have in common? They all hate piped music and all support Pipedown, the campaign for freedom from piped music. 

They’re not alone in detesting this acoustic pollution. Millions of people hate such music, which can often be inescapable. Go into a hotel and piped music will be flooding the lobby; it fills the restaurants; it is played in lifts – one of its names is ‘elevator music’ – and in corridors; it is even tinkling away in the lavatories. 

Hellishly ubiquitous, it goes on forever, unlike live music whose players pause for breath or for drinks, and which is seldom relayed far. (‘Piped music’ does not refer to a type of music but to any music piped or relayed around a room or building where people go for reasons other than listening to it.) The same unwanted music fills shops, restaurants, pubs, even parks. 

And if you protest, you can be made to feel a tone-deaf killjoy in a minority of one. ‘You are the only person to complain,’ is a common response. It is also rubbish. Impartial opinion polls show that those who loathe piped music outnumber those who like it. But often people do not like to complain and slip away quietly. 

People who notice it with real pain include that large minority – one in six – with hearing problems. They find it impossible to hear conversations against piped music. 

Musicians find it a pain in the ear because they invariably listen to music, while music teachers hate it because it is hard to get students sated with non-stop music to listen properly at all. 

And for people lying immobilised in hospitals, piped music or television can be torture. 

Think this is all a storm in a teacup? Remember, Piped Music does not come free, but is an extra that must be paid for with every meal, drink, ticket, piece of clothing.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The season of peace, goodwill to all men and

parking rage.

I honestly don't see the point of celebrating Christmas if it means that the notion of patience, politeness, and goodwill to fellow drivers flies out of the window when looking for a parking space on a Market Day.

I drove MWNN to the station yesterday, then went on to shop in town. It was market day. Drivers behaved in very unseasonable ways, as is usual in the week before Christmas Day.

I don't see the point of celebrating Christmas at all if the central message gets lost in the annual scramble to buy 'stuff', out-do the neighbours in decorating the house, and spend the festive season over-eating and drinking.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

It's Christmas!

Well, no, actually - it isn't.

But, if you watch commercial TV, you'd be forgiven for thinking Christmas was nigh. They're clever and manipulative these modern adverts.

I quite like the M&S one with its reference to children's stories. But, and it's a very big but, they make me sad, and a little angry.

The message of Christmas has, once again, been hijacked, sacrificed on the altar of Profit. Wasn't it always, I hear you say? I don't know the answer to that. Historical records tell us that feasting and fun were a part of community life in winter - a way of celebrating the return of the sun at the winter solstice.

Communities would gather, light fires, and feast. In the Northern Hemisphere, this would take place on 21st December (or thereabouts).  Feuds would be put on hold (mistletoe over an entrance) in recognition of common humanity surviving in a savage world.

The Christian Church integrated the solstice in their celebration of the birth of Christ. It could be argued that this was an early form of 'spin' - a way of filling the churches with those unwilling to abandon their pagan ways.

Children have always been at the heart of Christmas celebrations. I'm old enough to remember a childhood where extended families, attended church,  came together for a meal (the women sharing the labour of providing it) and the children were supervised playing seasonal games (the men organising and supervising) - a bit sexist, I know, but this was the 1950s and women were still second-class citizens.

So why, you might ask, am I so annoyed at the modern spin doctors - the media? It's all about the emphasis. The simple message of sharing, peace, goodwill to all, in the midst of giving thanks for surviving another winter, has been lost. It is all about the giving of gifts (and the wanting of things). TV has been with us for almost 60 years. In that time, the wanting of things has grown, status gained through ownership of things.

The important things of what makes a society civilised seem to have been downgraded and are in danger of being lost. It doesn't have to be specifically Christian (other religions have been swept into the consumerism surrounding Christmas).

I'd like to see a return to a winter celebration of thanksgiving for the continuation of life, through the sharing of a meal in a spirit of peace and goodwill.

That's not too much to ask, is it?

Monday, 16 September 2013

The measure of success?

Things are a little out of kilter when coming second is seen as failure. We saw it at the Olympics last year, when Silver or Bronze medals were greeted with disappointment by some people.

It happened again, yesterday in Hyde Park when Johnathan Brownlee was beaten into second place in the World Triathlon Championships.

Spain's Javier Gomez won his third ITU World Triathlon title as he beat Britain's Jonathan Brownlee in a sprint finish at the Grand Final in London.
Brownlee was overtaken on the home straight by Gomez, who finished one second ahead of the 2012 champion.
"I gave it everything but there was nothing I could do. It was tough.
Johnathan's brother Alistair told BBC Sport that his brother was a "complete tactical numpty" for not waiting until closer to the line before attempting to outsprint Gomez.
Jonathan, who won a bronze medal at London 2012, set off with 250m remaining but was overhauled by 30-year-old Gomez just before the finish.
"Alistair wanted me to use my brain and to think about it. I did use my head as much as I could," said Jonathan, who admitted losing by such a narrow margin was "quite hard to take".
I understand that competitiveness is a good thing, especially at the Elite level. But what sort of message does this send to would-be amateur athletes? If winning is all-important, why bother starting any sort of healthy activity?
This attitude is also prevalent in the world of eduction. The annual 'league tables' laud those pupils who score A or A*. Anything less is seen as not good enough. Some of my friends recall this attitude from their own childhood when a parent would respond "Why weren't you first?" when told that the child had achieved 'second place' in something at school. I'm not suggesting that all competition is bad, far from it, competition spurs us on to improve our performance. 

This advert for washing powder sums up my feelings of how not to encourage children (listen to the final line from Dad). Belittling anyone's efforts merely undermines whatever confidence they may have, to a child, it can add to their low self-esteem.