Sunday, February 15, 2009

And the winner is .............

I have to tell somebody, so I'll tell you all. (That's Danielle and just about nobody else in the entire world.)

We've just won the lottery! Yes, it's true, and if Patricia is reading this at the moment, we really have won. Honestly!

Ten Quid!

Ever since the lottery started we have bought a couple of tickets every Saturday. Then we check the numbers on a Saturday Evening and miss out. You can guarantee it that if we get 22 and 24 then 23 will come up. This afternoon we were looking at nice cars parked outside John Lewis' Incredible Store at Cheadle. I'd love a BMW, I've no idea why, maybe I want to pose as a poseur, who knows. So we keep saying that when we win the lottery I can have one, and a new computer and ............

We never win. But this week ...... On Thursday Night I won a litre of Johnnie Walker Red Label Whisky at Stanley House. (Admittedly I don't drink Whisky, but never mind, it's the thought that counts). So, last night we were out at a Valentine's Dinner in Whitfield (the other side of Glossop) and so I took the litre of Johnny Walker for their raffle. I won a bottle of Epernay's finest soft drink. You know the one Danielle, it comes in a green bottle, bubbles slightly when it comes out and it's manufactured by the Widow Cliquot's Heirs and Successors. Well, not the Widow's actually, in fact I don't recognise the label at all. But it does say Epernay. So hopefully it's a bit better than plain grape juice. And I do drink the big C!

Then we win ten quid on the lottery.

Maybe our luck is about to change.

Maybe we are going to win the Lottery BIGTIME.

Maybe .......................................

What's that OINK OINK OINK sound up in the sky.

Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it Superman..................................................................

Saturday, February 14, 2009


You'll recall that I wrote in an earlier post, a couple of weeks ago, that we had gone into Manchester on Saturday morning to see the new Gormley sculpture that had been aquired by the Manchester Art Gallery.

I took some photographs on the little, pocket Fuji Camera and I'm really glad that I didn't go swanning round with the new DSLR hanging round my neck. I'd have looked like a proper little plonker.

Still, I haven't got around to looking at the pictures that I took until today. So I have just spent half an hour working on them in the photo application.

Everyone goes on about Photoshop, but I use a program called Photo Plus 2 by Serif. I can't really see that I cannot do anything that I want with my photos, and for a fraction of the cost of Adobe's product.

Anyway, the first picture here was quite interesting. We always park in a car park at the back of Victoria Station. I think it is on Cross Street, opposite the Coop Buildings. We walked in towards St Anne's Square, across the new Square they have made outside the Corn Exchange. There was a bloke with a young boy taking photos. The adult was obviously showing the lad how to get a good picture, so when he'd moved on, I took a picture from the same place. I'm really quite pleased with it. Remember I am strictly an amateur snapshot taker, and I think that this is pretty neat.

Now, I thought that I would put two or three photos in here, but I'm struggling to get them scattered up and down the page. I still don't know how to get blogger to do what I want, so I'll stop right there and upload the pictures to my Flickr Account. They are also on my Picasa Account, but I prefer to use Flickr because people like Danielle, who insist on using Macs don't seem to be able to see Picasa (Or is it just D with her dislike of all things Google?) (She'll send me an email telling me why I'm wrong now, just you wait and see.)

So here I am going to put a link to the Flickr page. Try this and let us hope that it works

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tautology and Teleology


I thought that these two words were similar, but they are nothing like each other. The word I wanted was tautology. That means:

tautology is an unnecessary or unessential (and usually unintentional) repetition of meaning, using different and dissimilar words that effectively say the same thing twice (often originally from different languages). It is often regarded or thought of as a fault of style and was defined by Fowler as "saying the same thing twice".

Whereas teleology, which I seem to have spelled wrongly, means:

an argument for the existence of God or a creator based on perceived evidence of order, purpose, design, or direction — or some combination of these — in nature. The word "teleological" is derived from the Greek word telos, meaning "end" or "purpose".

So nothing at all alike, then. Never mind, they say that a daily advancement in knowledge is good for you! Well, it's good for me!

Learning Day

I do feel ever so guilty really. Haven't written a thing in the blog since last Sunday. I did have a chance to write on Monday Evening, but I couldn't think of anything to say, and since I often think it's better to say nothing than write a load of drivel, I wrote nothing. Don't worry, by the way, I may be at work, but it's still before the start of the working day and I have a few minutes to myself, so I'll use them.

Yesterday was a "Learning Day". I'm sure that must be a tautology or a teliology or something. Isn't every day in a school a Learning Day, because it ought to be. However, our Learning Days are supposed to be something a bit different.

It seems that the current idea in education in England is that teaching "old fashioned" subjects such as History, or Geography, are old hat and ought to be done away with. The new trend is to do "project work" which I think I was doing at Junior School (or was it Primary or Elementary School - I forget the changing terms for the same thing) but of course the movers and shakers in 21st Century education don't remember that.

The School that I work in was built in the early 1950s and is a really beautiful school. It has a huge entrance hall, a vast Assembly Hall with a full sized theatrical stage, wide corridors and solid wood floors. In a couple of years it is to be pulled down to make way for a new 21st Century School. When the plans to do this were first produced one of our local politicians was heard to say, "I don't care if it has a medal from the Royal Society of Architects, that was 50 years ago, we want something that can inspire in the 21st Century." With thinking like that I can only say, "God Help Michealangelo Buonarotti and Leonardo da Vinci - they were 500 years ago"

So school will probably be pulled down and replaced by a glass and breeze block school which will have narrow, harsh corridors but which will inspire minds in the 21st Century!

Anyway, back to Learning Day. We had three classes, one each from years 7, 8 & 9, so 90 girls across the 11 - 14 age range. Split into teams of 3, one from each age group, each team was given a name out of history (the names ranged across history from good old Guillaume le Conquerant to John Lennon. An eclectic mix if ever there was one. The project group was from the History, ICT and Music Departments.

So the students were asked to work together as a team, each of them having a specific role within the team. They were asked to plan their work, gather resources, create a suitable slideshow using Microsoft Moviemaker and present it to the group. Their movie had to have pictures, a narrative, suitable background music and a speech track overlayed, and it had to be 3 minutes long.

That's actually hard work, three minutes is a long time. We showed them an example that we based on one of Terry Deary's "Horrible History" CD's. The one on the Tudors. It's very funny and has the refrain

Henry the Eighth was a big fat man
He ate all the food in the frying pan
If he'd have been a little bit littler
He wouldn't have ended up like Adolph Hitler

I know. Not excactly Shakespeare, but it is pretty funny and it gave them the idea that they were allowed to be entertaining with their work.

We had a really good day, or at least I thought that we did. Everyone worked really pretty hard at it and there were some very good results. Oh, I forgot to say that the students were asked to produce a resource for use by Year 7, 11 year olds, and the results, on the whole, did that job well. Yes, we got some oddities, like the group who consistently referred to the hero of Trafalgar as "Nelson Horatio". That tells you a lot about the value placed on History by the modern education system. When MP's find out that modern British students don't know who Horatio Nelson was, they will scream blue murder and demand that History is taught properly. (By properly they usually mean lists of names and dates). Nothing changes though. History doesn't matter in Britain these days. I've probably mentioned before that only two countries in Europe do not insist that all students study History to the age of 16, those two countries are Britain and Albania. It's so nice to be in such august company. Still, let us remember George Santayana, who, in his book "Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1," wrote the often misquoted words "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Not that that ever seems to bother politicians, or bankers for that matter, and I did say BANKERS.

Okay then, off to teach. Those who can, teach, those who cannot teach go into politics and tell the teachers what to do! Sayonara!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Get Funky

Here is an entertaining looking website for those who like playing about with pictures. I'll bet that it doesn't work on Macs though.


This is one of the pictures that is part of the "Hidden Manchester" Exhibition at URBIS in Manchester. This picture, along with all of the other ones in this exhibition is the work of Andrew Brooks. You can see more of his work at the following website: I cannot recommend this exhibition too highly and, if you live in Manchester, go and see it. If you don't live in Manchester, then have a look at the website.

I went to see the exhibition a week ago. I was blown away by the photographs in general, but I find that this one, in particular, keeps forcing itself back to the forefront of my attention.

The information that goes with this picture reads as follows:

In the eastern spire of the Town Hall, overlooking Saint Peter’s Square, a battered pair of shelves holds the forgotten records of Manchester’s bureaucratic past.

As sunlight streams in from the hidden courtyard outside, these books lie and rot, slowly turning to dust as they see in their third century. Whether put here to be secured, or put here to be hidden, their contents, that must have at one time seemed so important, are now merely a curiosity in a forgotten corner of the city.

I think that it must be this mysterious side of things that appeals to me. Whenever I go to a "stately" home, or a Cathedral or somewhere like Manchester Town Hall, (and I have not actually visited Manchester Town Hall despite the fact that I've lived here since 1969, a lot longer than I lived in Kendal, my home town.) I always want to go through the doors that are, inevitably locked and equally inevitably marked "Strictly Staff Only"

As a matter of fact I did once get the chance to go through a locked door exactly as I describe above. It was while I was visiting an old place in the Lake District. I asked one of the Guides what was on the other side of a particular locked door and he let me look. There was no floor! So sometimes I guess that it is a good thing that you cannot always get through these doors.

Anyway, to get back to the point, what fascinates me is the fact that, somewhere in Manchester Town Hall is a door, leading to a steep set of rickety old wooden stairs leading to this room. I mean, look at the picture. Here is a huge room full of the dust of ages and these two rickety (must be a favourite word) old sets of shelves full of crumbling old books of documents. Don't you just want to pull the books off those shelves and read them, 'cos I most assuredly do.

And look at all those windows running floor to ceiling. The room is full of light, unless it's one of Andrew Brooks' trick photos. I want to walk up to those windows and look down. In the exhibition there are pictures of the hidden courtyard in the centre of the Town Hall. I mean, I didn't even realise that there was a hidden courtyard. In the exhibition all of the pictures show places that people like you and me never get to go, and I want to.

It also leaves me wondering if Mr Brooks sneaked into this room to take this photograph, or was he allowed in to take the photo in this hidden place. I mean, how many people in Manchester actually know about these secret, hidden places.

As I say, I desperately want to go and see these places, but I realise that I probably never will. I've looked at a couple of websites that talk about "Urban Explorers" but they are all young and fit and have names like Jazz and Bazz and Shazz. Something tells me that a 58 year old History Teacher who is fat, bald and called Kevin is never going to get the chance to go urban exploring. But I can dream.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Matter of Logic

I wrote a bit about my faith the other day. My friend Danielle wrote me an email after reading it, part of which reads as follows. Bear in mind that this is only a little of her email and it is taken out of context. Danielle wrote,"I don't know about England but in France, the churches are almost empty, and the last Christians who go to mass on Sundays are oldies. Which means that catholicism might soon or later disappear. Protestants are not a great many, and apparently, apart from the great ceremonies, temples are not full either.. Which seems to demonstrate that there is a crisis."

I won't dispute that at all. Back in the 1960s I was a Church Choirboy and every Sunday there would be two or three services and the Church, Kendal Holy Trinity (which is a big church) was full. But that was in the days when there was nothing else to do on a Sunday. The boozers had very limited opening hours. The only TV Channels didn't start till 7 at night. No shops, none at all, were open.

Over the intervening years all that has changed. We now have 24 hour a day boozing in pubs that never close. The TV is never off and the shops are open every day of the week. So we all worship the great god mamon by going shopping.

As a result, the churches are, as Danielle says, empty. The Church that I attend now has a regular congregation of about 90 for the one and only service that is held on a Sunday. Numbers are really on the decline, and maybe we are seeing the beginning of the end of religion as it has been in this country for hundreds of years.

I don't think that it is necessarily so, or at least I hope not.

Then, almost on the same day that I got that email from Danielle I found the following. I am currently reading a Science Fiction Novel, and military Sci-Fi at that. In this rather strange place, lying in bed reading my novel, I read the following.

"Staynair laughed softly. "It isn't a matter of faith, it's a matter of logic. Either God exists or he doesn't. Those are really the only two possibilities. If he does exist, as I believe, then ultimately anything that promotes truth will only tend to demonstrate His existence. If he exists then whatever happens will be what he chooses to allow to happen - even if what he chooses is to have mankind turn against him, for a time."

"And what if he doesn't exist?", Merlin asked quietly.

"If he doesn't, then he doesn't. But if he doesn't then none of it will matter anyway, will it? If it turns out that I've been wrong all my life, what have I really lost? I will have done my best to live as a good man, loving people, serving them as I might, and if there is no God, then at the end of my life I'll simply close my eyes and sleep. Is there truly anything dreadful, anything to terrify any man, in that possibility? I don't fear oblivion, I simply hope for, and believe in so much more."

This is back to me again. I have edited that passage but only very slightly and only to remove a few things that were not germane to this posting.

I thought it was amazing that, just at the point when I needed an answer to a philosophic question, an answer popped up in the most unlikely of places. Strange!

I will admit that I think that passage is rather appropriate. I found it, personally, very satisfying. I think that it kind of speaks for me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I'm going out in a minute or fifteen and I've been sitting here trying to think of something to write. After not posting anything for about three months I am trying to posrt something every day. I didn't get a chance in work today, just too much work, and I'm out in a bit. So this is really just a short post to keep me going.

Isn't that miserable.

Tomorrow will be worse as I have even less time.

Makes me think. I read a lovely novel a few years ago. It is called "The Dark Is Rising" by one Susan Cooper and it belongs to the genre of fantasy. I remember it because it's quite a convoluted story about a young boy who effectively travels in time. I remember it because it features a line "For tonight will be bad and tomorrow will be beyond imagining." Of course, being teenage fiction it never lives up to its promise. No that sounds horrible. There are a lot of brilliant books in that genre and The dark is Rising is actually pretty good, certainly a page turner for me. They made a film of it the other year and I watched it on Sky over Christmas.

Total Mess. I wish they had left it alone.

See you all tomorrow, if we are spared!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Walking in the Way

Okay, I'll start with a bit of a declaration, then you can ignore this post if it makes you uncomfortable. I plan to talk about religion or faith, tonight. So if you don't want to read about that or pretend that I never said any of this, come back tomorrow and see if I've talked about something else in the meantime.

It seems to be a bad week for being a Christian, this week. I've no idea why this might be the case, but I'm beginning to feel that way.

So as a starting point, I'd better put my cards on the table. I'm a Christian. There, I've said it. I don't see myself as being a red hot Christian. I'm not a fundamentalist. I don't even have a fish on the back of my car. I go to Church most weeks and I love the feeling of reverence that I get when I'm in Church. I'm not good at praying so I usually end up having a chat with God when I get the chance. I just hope that He is listening, and I'm assured that He is.

I sometimes lie there in those bleak, lonely hours in the middle of the night and wonder if I've got it wrong. Maybe there is no God, maybe the whole thing is one huge cosmic joke. But I just don't believe that at all. I really do believe in God and, with a bit of luck, s(he) believes in me. I also rather like the reassurance that while I am not that clever, there have been, and are, a whole host of very much cleverer people than me who also believe(d) in God, so I guess I'm not in bad company. I'll cite people like Miles Coverdale, Desmond Tutu, Thomas More, Thomas Cranmer, Bishops Latimer and Ridley, Archbishop John Sentamu and Martin Luther. So if I have got it wrong, then I'm not on my own.

But it isn't cool to be a Christian is it. You hear Meeja People on the Babble Box sniggering about people who are Christians. I rather object to that, after all, I don't snigger about them!

Somehow, my bad week for being a Christian seemed to start on Sunday when I was watching Andrew Marr's political show. I usually like him as he talks sense most of the time. On Sunday he was talking to Sir David Attenborough about Darwin and Natural Selection. At one point he asked Attenborough if Natural Selection finally disproved the existence of God and then, in a sort of throw away remark, he said something like "or perhaps it allows for wormholes to faith." I won't pretend to understand the point that the pair of them were making, but I rather resent the implication that all truly clever people don't believe in God, but worms might.

Okay, I'm a worm! Proud of it by the way!

Tonight I was watching "The One Show" which for those of you French People who aren't reading this, is a lightweight magazine program which is on at 7pm on weekday nights. Tonight the guest was Robert Winston who is a well known scientist working in the fields of Gynaecology and such like things.

At one point in the programme they ran a piece about declining Church Attendance in the UK and made a point that lots of people seem to be embarrassed to admit to being Christian, or believing in God. They did a VoxPop and seemed to decide that there were a lot of people who admitted to believing in God but not wanting to go to Church. Fair Dos - it's a free Universe. Anyway, back in the studio the conversation got around to Richard Dawkins, the Scientist who pours scorn of anyone with faith. He wrote a book called "The God Delusion". A best seller.

I thought that Winston might agree with Dawkins, but he didn't. He said that Science was really only one interpretation of life, the universe and everything. He also said that he was pretty sure that scientists were beginning to admit that religion or faith might well be "hardwired into our genes" and had been for hundreds of thousands of years. Doesn't mean that I'm in any better position vis a vis Dawkins, but it made me feel a touch better.

I'm not any sort of scientist but I do quite like reading scientisty books, as long as they are not too technical. I read the description of The Big Bang in Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything - which is based on more technical sciencey books. I really don't see a lot od difference between the creation story in Genesis and the description of the Big Bang in Bryson.

Is anyone absolutely certain that God did not "push the button" that started the Big Bang.

I'm not a creationist. I do not deny Darwin or Natural Selection. But I am yet to be convinced that God does not have a hand in the way that the world works.

Okay, you canlaugh at me, but to quote the original Martin Luther, "Here I stand, I can do no other!"

Except, of course, that he said it in German.

Nighty Night.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Living in the Arctic Circle

Once upon a time I lived in North Derbyshire, but tonight I returned home (Yes fans, I got home safe) to find that my house has magically moved to just inside the Arctic Circle, probably on Spitzbergen.

Parked on the drive, got out of the car, opened the front door and turned around in time to watch my car slide down the drive and bump into Pats Clio.

So the car is now parked at the top of the drive. Bugger the next door neighbours tonight. So they cannot get on their drive. They never think about us.

I do love sitting in the warm inside, watching the cold, cold snow falling outside. But how do I get to work tomorrow if this keeps up. I'll have to wait till tomorrow to find that out, and so will you.

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow

You know, it never ceases to amaze me. In the UK a bit of snow seems to close the country down. Up in Norway, Sweden and Finland the same amount of snow that we've had today would be cause for a good giggle. I understand that the Inuit have five hundred words for snow (I am exaggerating!!!). So here I am sitting in front of my year 8 class. We are now up to about 80% attendance 45 minutes into the lesson, and these students have mostly travelled less than 5 miles (8 km for you Danielle). They were supposed to be here by 8.30 but, because of the snow, today it has taken an extra hour.

I must say that I watched the news last night with trepidation. News of massive amounts of snow coming over to England from Russia. It was clearly particularly bad because it was going to hit the South East of England and London. We get this amount of snow fairly regularly oop North, but when it affects London the BBC seems to believe that the end of the world is nigh. So we knew, in advance, that there was going to be "heavy snow". They even put out a "SEVERE WEATHER WARNING" from the Meteorological Office to say how heavy the snow was going to be.

So when I got up this morning I looked out the window and there it was, exceptionally heavy snow. It must have been at least, ooooooooh, 3 cm deep. I have to drive up a hill to get out of our road and, since we traded in our bigger, heavier Ford Focus for a more economical but smaller and lighter Fiesta, it has been noticeable harder to get out of the Road when it snows. To get to work I decided I needed to leave early, so I set off on my interepid adventure a quarter hour early.

I should not have bothered! I got out of the Road with a little slipping and sliding, but once on the main road things were a lot clearer. So I'm in School by 7.20. By 8.30 when we are due to open there are still 14 staff missing and hundreds of girls. Apparently the buses are having problems, they can't get from Ashton to Droylsden, but I drove through Ashton on my way in. So my little Fiesta can make it, but the buses cannot.

Makes you think, doesn't it. maybe I should have gone back to bed. The problem will be getting home as the bad weather is due to come back again.

Tonight I must write up the Minutes from the last PCC Meeting at Church, I'm Secretary of the PCC, but I'll find time to let you know whether I got home, or not!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Matthew Shardlake Rocks!

I don't usually write about the books I read, the films I watch or the Music that I listen to. I don't pretend to know anything about literary criticism or any other sort either. I belong to that class of people who know what they like.

I like Matthew Shardlake.

Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer at Lincoln's Inn in the England of Henry VIII. He lives in a series of books by C. J. Sansom, and I believe that Mr Sansom is a god!

I think that Mr Sansom must have been writing these books for a considerable time now, but I came upon them much more recently.

I first came upon Matthew in the book "Dissolution" when he was sent to investigate some curious happenings at Scarnsea Monastery by Thomas Cromwell. I don't know how often I pick up a book only to be ultimately disappointed by it, but from the moment that I turned the first page, I was hooked by Matthew Shardlake and his world.

My next visit to Matthew Shardlake's world found him at home in London in the book "Dark Fire", investigating the rumours of Greek Fire being sold to somebody, by somebody else. This time he has help in the person of the redoubtable Jack Barak, a kind of 16th Century James Bond without the gadgets.

I'm currently three quarters of the way through the third of Matthew's adventures. "Sovereign" is set in York during Henry VIII's Great Progress in the North. This time the story revolves around strange goings on in royal circles.

These books are complex, involved, full of twists and turns. I like a good thriller, but I usually have a good idea who has done what by the halfway point. I don't have that feeling with Matthew Shardlake. He isn't the most sympathetic of characters. The hunchback lawyer who seems to be despised by everyone in power, but his humanity is palpable, his intelligence remarkable.

I am very happy to say that I have the fourth book, "Revelation" sitting under the coffee table waiting to be read, just as soon as I finish "Sovereign". And with a bit of luck Matthew Shardlake's creator is thinking up another 600 page turner, just for me!

Automatic Comments

I wrote a piece, below, about the new President of the U.S.' Inauguaration Speech and received a comment. I've said before that I don't get many comments, so I was quite excited. Sad, aren't I. When I read the comment from someone called mberenis I discovered that it had nothing whatsoever to do with what I had written. It was just some electronic crawl that the President will never read, and I assume that it was an automatically generated comment which resulted from me using the word Obama in the heading of my post.

Well, just to say, if you ever read this
mberenis, your comment was not appreciated. Stay away!