Friday, 28 December 2007

Christmas

After a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas with good company, food, nice pressies and some tiem sitting on the sofa I want to introduce my new dog.



This is Lester and as you can see is an adorable puppy. Before you question my sanity and remind me that a dog is not just for Christmas, I will explain. Lester is currently being puppy walked by a family. When he is a year old he will be trained to be a guide dog and paired with a blind person to help them get around. At the moment Lester is around 6 months old and will be living with a volunteer family who will train him along strict guidelines to intirduce him to as many sites and sounds as possible. When I was little we puppy walked a dog called Choat that went on to become a guide dog and started with another called Dandy. It is a nice scheme where you get a new puppy, kepp them for a year and then you get a brand new puppy. I then repaid Mum and Nick's kindness by winning the traditonal game of Monopoly rather too easily to derive too much enjoyment from it.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Orange

As I was trying to update my phone and I need to change the credit card as it had gone passed its expiry date. I ring up and am put on hold. After 15 minutes. It cuts me off giving me all this speil about it being peak flow and all their operators are working at top speed. My only observation is this at 10.15 on a Thursday evening. My guess it was the Christmas party.

Also, do Orange sell many phones in the Catholic parts of Northern Ireland.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Sudoku

So Juliet gave a book of Fiendish Sudoku not hard sudoku or relax at the end of a day Sudoku but fiendish. I was pleased when I maanaged to do the first one but the next 5 I got half way and then just got stuck. I mean I really studied those puzzles but just couldn't see a way forward. There was obviously a technique I was missing, or some way to solve the puzzle that I did not know. Using a website that solves puzzles step by step I wen through one and sometimes wish I hadn't. There are a lot of different techniques I didn't know about and while the geek side of my personality is interested I am not sure that it aids my search for a relaxing puzzle to do now and again.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

If I find out who scheduled parents evening tonight or a non uniform day for Friday I would like to shake them warmly by the neck. The satff are tired and the last thing we need is hyper active kids. I wish management actually taught more as it might influence their decisions a bit more.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Roll on Wednesday

This time of the year is the toughest for teachers as you battle the tiredness of the long term, the rising level of excitement in the students and waking up and returning home in the dark. It is at this time when you need to teach the most intresting lessons while your body wants to relax and chill out and you want to go home early. Wednesday is my most difficult day and when I get over "Humpback Wednesday" it should be a downhill struggle to the end of term and I can start to feel a touch Christmasy. To anyone who thinks that this is easily I invite them to join us in the teaching profession, I hear that there are positions available in science and maths.

Dream

I rarely remember dreams so this one stuck in my head. I was bring chased across a lush landscape which was ancient (it had tree ferns but not trees so 60 million years ago) and populated by dinosaurs. I was being chased by a dinosaur that wanted to eat me but I was able to run fast enough to just keep out of reach. It started to bite another animal and when it did it and the dinosaur turned to stone. Analyse that puppy!!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Irritation

At the moment life seems to be irritating in many different ways.

1. The teacher and the teddy bear incident is irritating me as nobody comes out of the affair very well. The teacher should have known better, the Sudanese government over-reacted (do they seriously expect the fall of Islam to be caused by 50 year old teachers from Liverpool, religious fanatics are portrayed badly as people who over react, Sudanese democracy comes out looking bad as only government supported demonstrations are allowed, British government look bad for trying to mess with another countries justice system and my school's RE teaching looks shaky as few of the children understand why calling a bear Mohammed might be offensive to some (imagine if I called my classroom teddy bear Hitler or Jesus). The only person that comes out of it well is the Sudanese prison service.

2. Labours funding crisis is irritating as although they have done wrong they are taking heavy criticism from the Conservatives. The problem is that at least Labour are trying to be transparent whereas the Conservatives take a lot of money from patrons clubs. So I could set up a club, take money from lots of people, donate it to the Conservatives in the name of my club and no-one is the wiser. Labour did wrong but the Tories have no moral ground from which to cast their stones.

3. The last two weeks of term are always the most difficult so why do management schedule two parents evenings in the last two weeks. There is no rush to report back to parents especially in Yr 8 as we are only about half way through the year.

4. In the last two weeks there have been draws for the Euro 2008 football competition and qualifying for World Cup 2010. The whole system is hugely complicated, over elaborate and seems geared to support the big teams and I would love it just to be random. Put all the names in the hat and draw it at random. Lets see what happens.

5 About this time two years ago all the talk amongst my friends was of Lisa and Scott's wedding preparations. When they got married last October it all stopped. Now it is back with Kat and Andy. I can cope with the location/ dress/ flowers/ cake stand talk and it helps when the men in the group tend to head for sport as topics of conversation. The irritation comes from a sense of feeling a bit left out as my friends marry and try for families. Is this a sign of getting old!!

6. Weather. Stop being warm and damp and start being cold, clear and snowy.

Friday, 30 November 2007

This made me chuckle




This made me laugh as it shows the up and down fate of Luton and shows the highs in League 1 to the lows in League 4.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

An update

Well the last few days have been busy and so it is time for an update.

Last weekend I spent looking after Scott and Lisa's cats as they were at a wedding which was cool. They are rescue cats and wary of new people especially men but sat just outside of arms reach and watched me. Then they lost interest and started playing with a toy and they were pouncing on each other. Lisa was trying to talk me into getting a cat and I agreed I would get one but it would live at her house, be looked after by her etc. Scott on the other hand was less impressed by the idea however. Also at last the dreadful Kate Garroway got voted of Strictly Come Dancing. Think of all the excellent performances you never saw as she kept mucking up instead.

Tuesday was a parents evening for Yr7 and Yr10 students in my form and was also a colossal waste of time. I had a number of appointments around 3.30 and then one at 5.30 so I was hanging around for about two hours so I could say nice things to a parent who I am in phone contact with every other week. They also travelled 15 miles for a 5 minute appointment which goes against the Ecoschool initiative that the school is running. The big gap did give me an opportunity to put together an application for a job teaching in the US. The British Schools of America have schools in Boston, Washington, Chicago, Houston and Charlotte, The letter was a masterpiece of jargonism and teacher speak and I have to thank Lisa and Richard for their proof reading and suggestions. I think it should get me an interview but as they are small schools they may not need a geographer.

Wednesday was the football and the poor result that eliminates England from the European Championship before they even get to the final section. This seems to happen every 15 years or so and caused a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Everyone looks for something to blame and the role of foreign players in the Premier League seems to be the favourite excuse currently but I think if the English players are good enough they will be in the top teams. There are also plenty of good young players coming through. I think the issue is more the number of games that are played and the subsequent number of injuries. The team was missing all of its first choice defenders (Neville, Terry, Ferdinand and Cole) as well as the best two attackers (Rooney and Owen). There are also a number of back up players not available. So I think that there needs to be a reduction in the number of teams in the league to help. The only country in Europe that has the same sized league is Spain and they perpetually underachieve as well. The league won't suffer in quality much as the bottom two teams are usually rubbish. Less league teams means less gate money so the team owners will never go for it but we can but hope. The only good thing is they may bring back the Home Nations Championship where England, Wales, Scotland, Northen Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all play each other. Some of the Croatian players said they were put at ease by the singer of the National Anthem who sang 'Mila kura si planina' rather than 'Mila kuda si planina' and as I think you know this is 'My dear, my penis is a mountain'and not 'You know my dear how we love your mountains'.

At the same time Luton became thew worst run team in the league. The previous chairman and board made illegal payments to agents attracting players to Luton except they got relegated so the players they attracted weren't of a sufficiently good standard. Financial impropriety can lead to relegation which Luton may escape as they have already gone down. They risked the future of the club for a total of £160 000, about two weeks wages for a top player in the Premier League. With the chairman standing down the club had no financial backing and went into receivership. This costs us 10 points and puts us bottom of the league. At least the squad are strong enough to get us out of the relegation zone (starting with a win today). Lets hope adversity pulls the team together and not split it apart.

Then on Friday I caused myself an issue thanks to doing the right thing again. A student brought in a copy of Jordan's autobiography (well we are encouraging reading; next we will try and improve the quality of what they are reading) complete with pictures of her nude modelling days. I confiscated the book and she gets into a right strop and was disruptive and irritating. No doubt I will have her parents on the phone unable to see the bigger picture, defending their child to the hilt despite the fact she was in the wrong. I explained to her it was not suitable for a school environment and I would post it home but somehow this is not acceptable and this puts me in the wrong.

Also on Friday the student from UEA was observed by the UEA tutor. She did herself proud and it was a good lesson but she was nervous and went through all of her activities really quickly and got to the end of the plan with about 15 minutes to go. Credit to her she was able to keep it going but I imagine those were the longest 15 minutes of her life as she is running the class with one half of her brain whilst thinking up new activities with the other half.

Last night was the Humanities curry which was very tasty followed by some bar billiards. Tomorrow, korfball to look forward to.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Guns

I am strongly in favour of gun control and despite the constitutional issues find it funny that US have not enacted stronger restrictions after the number of school shootings they have. One issue is that accidents can always occur and this link kind of proves my case.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

I hate losing korfball matches especially when we never really have a chance of winning so I wrote to the organising committee to try and get the issues sorted out

Dear Sir/Madam

The second division of the current league is rapidly descending into farce. Norwich City have played 5 league games and I believe that players form higher team have played down in four of these matches. In the first match a player currently playing at Highbury in the National League was playing in the Second Division and in the most recent game against Stingers 2 the two first team players contributed 8 goals of the 10 scored. It feels that the rule is being broken deliberately and I rarely see anyone playing up from their third team

I realise this is not against the rules but certainly against the spirit of the rules and especailly when the players that are playing down are the best in the club as occurred when Dan played for Stingers 2. The current situation is very disheartening for new players and is reducing my enjoyment of playing and having played for 10 years I am know seriously considering whether to continue.

I propose the following rules for inclusion next season

Players can only play down if there are less than 6 players (the minimum need for a legal match)

or

2 players can play down but cannot score

or

the number of players playing down is reduced to 1

or

written evidence of why players cannot play is submitted and a real injury has to occur before subs are allowed on.

I hope that issue is raised at your next meeting and the current farce is ended.

Hope to hear from you soon

Guy Mortimer Norwich City 3

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Congratulations

Congratulations to Kat and Andy on their engagement that they announced this morning.

Bonfire Night

On Saturday was the third annual allotment Bonfire Night where we went to Aaron and Clare's allotment has a fire, some fire works and a few beers. This year someone else had had the same idea and there was another party at the other end. They decided to put all of the wood they had collected on to the fire straight away rather than feed it on through time so they had a large and rather spectacular blaze. So much so that it attracted the local fire brigade who had been called out by someone and they came to check. They checked on us at the same time but ours was under control. Overall an excellent night but next year with Aaron and Clare on their world tour its future is in doubt.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Garden

So I had this dude come and fix the fence as the posts were rotten and getting them out of the concrete they were in needed specialist equipment and also concrete the lawn as it was so wet and shady it never grew. The result of the fence is excellent but he went a bit far with the concrete and took out one of the flower planters I made! In there was a budlea that was a present from Kat's mum and clematis so I am going to need to get some large pots to make up for the big bare space and next time be more specific on work that I need doing. I will post a picture when I get home in the light.

Monday, 29 October 2007

I was a but down leading into this half term. It is the longest, the nights get darker, you don't usually get snow but drizzle, the kids get excited p to Christmas and there does not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. i had arranged a trip for the Yr12 to go to the sand dunes at Holkham and it was glorious. It was cold in the shade but bright and clear, there were lots of dogs and people riding horses, the instructor was good and the kids well behaved but I feel a lot more positive. This will probably change as it Yr12 Open evening tomorrow, approximate finish is 9pm.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Wierd names

After half term I will be teaching a kid with the first name Allabamba. I kid you not. At the moment there is a tele advert with the theme tune Sweet Home Alabama which is now stuck in my head and I know I will struggle to teach her without laughing internally if not outloud. It reminds my of a story that might be apocryphal of a kid that thought her name was said Seaobham (Siobham) as her parents say it written down and liked it rather than Shevaughn as well as mums usual response "Would you like that spelt the traditional way" to some usual spellings. I believe there are restrictions on what you can name you child in the UK but I am not sure.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The What If Final

Well if the rule sad been applied properly the game would have been more exciting. England might have won, they might have lost by more. The referee asked if there was any reason not to allow the try so that means there must be conclusive proof to overturn the decision, not might have been out but was conclusively out and I think that there is doubt which means the try should be given. Would England have then won, well who knows. The only thing I would add is that there are a number of players saying it should/should not have been given so that would also add doubt. It is also interesting to find out what effect having seen it on the big screen had because I think at one point Mike Catt tells the ref he saw it was a try on the big screen. Suffice to say that a lot of Mr Rolland's decisions were questionable for both sides and it a shame that a better ref could not been found.
The other issue was the presence of Thabo Mbeki in the middle of the celebrations. Mr Mbeki is partially responsible for numerous deaths though his policy on AIDS in South Africa (a head in the sand approach) and as the biggest trading company with Zimbabwe is propping up the Mugabe regime. Could you imagine the stink if Blair had been partying with the team with his record on deaths in Iraq! During the apartheid era sporting teams from South Africa went along way to stress that there was no link between sport and politics despite the fact that the vast majority of the population were barred from playing in the national team. It would seem Mr Mbeki has conveniently forgotten that when the opportunity presented itself.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

There is about an hour to the start of the world cup final and I don't know how the players can cope as I have been a mixture of apprehension and excitement swinging from optimism to pessimism. The heart says England but the head say South Africa. The heart then tries arguing with the head S Africa have not yet been tested by a stronger pack, S Africa have not been under real pressure as Argentina made all the errors in the semi, finals are won by the team who makes the least mistakes and this world cup has been full of surprises is there one more but the head hits back with S Africa have already thrashed us once. On the 11th March I gave reasons why England and South Africa couldn't win. I said England lacked experience in key positions but players have recovered from injuries to counter that. I have said S Africa like the contact too much, lets hope this is true as their pace outwide is frightening.

Off to start my preparation as ITV gave gone for a 10 minute build up so I have some rugby on tape to watch.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Open Evening

Once a year the school throws open its doors and tries to attracts students for next year. The more we attract means the more choice we get and theoretically we can choose the better behaved ones. I hate working in the evening (I have worked nights, evenings and mornings and give me mornings every time). I feel that I get some inane questions and some strange ones. The kids love the interactive stuff whereas the parents want to know exam results, topics covered and see examples of work. What made we laugh was the role of management as they wanted me to hide a stack of brand new textbooks and had someone clean the fronts of the notice boards. I mean do parent choose a school based on the fact that there is a pile of text books in the corner or the display in the noticeboard is slightly hidden. I just find the whole thing tedious as it goes on for about 5 hours including preparation and actual contact with parent is about 1hour as they all come in a rush and we kick our heels for the rest of the night. Only one day to half term.

Seth Lakeman

On Wednesday we went to see Seth Lakeman and he was brilliant as usual and produces a high quality performance. I think I prefer his violin songs to his guitar songs but there is not much between them. He is a Devonian sing writer and his songs are based on folk tales from the region. You can hear him by clicking on this link. My favourite is Kitty Jay (which you can select on the page) which he plays faster and faster until he is a blur. The song is based on this story.

The only downside was the way that the support act was treated by the crowd. We were quite near the back and the amount and level of conversation around us was so loud it drowned out the amplified singer. Okay he is not who you came to see but you have paid your money and he was a talented singer and songwriter so have some respect and listen to him or leave the auditorium or go into one of the other bars to chat. A colleague I saw there said she had come to see the support but spent the whole time chatting only to whoop with joy at the end of each song.

Rugby

So without possession of the ball, territory on the pitch or the best players England beat France and are in the World Cup Final. It would be a fairytale for them to come back from having been beaten by them 36-0 but I just can't see it happening. South Africa are too tactically smart to fall into the traps that France and Australia fell into. They can also deal with the deep kick better than the other two and have an aggressive defence so I think that S Africa will win by 20. I would also like to highlight the fantastic tap tackle by Joe Worsley.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Commuting

I went to London today for a meeting at the British Museum (which has a fab exhibition on Chinese Empire) which was really positive. The bloke was harvesting views on the new GCSE and all the people there were fullsome on praise. On the way home I caught a rush hour train from Liverpool Street and my work was it grim. I arrived 10 minuted before it left and was able to get a sleep but as it closer and closer to departure more and more people got on to the train until it was stuffed. More than half the people then carried on working on laptops although the man next to me was played shootem up games on his. The constant buzzing, ringing and loud speaking of phones made me glad to have some music to listen to. After an hour and half most people had got off but to add three hours to every working day with travel is something that I wouldn't want to do.

The Thrills

Last night a group of us went to see The Thrills at the Waterfront which now it has become smoke free is a lot nicer inside but has lost some of it down at heel image. The Waterfront is a great place for gigs as it is bog enough to attract decent bands but too big that so that it looses the intimate atmosphere. It is brilliant for the wide range of people who happily co-exist. At the gig were middle aged couples, a few goths a punk with a large mohawk, some girly girls, some of the sixth form and of course some late twenties/ early thirties teachers thinking they should go out more and not be so tired. Seth Lakeman next week.

Radio 4

1 times Wales is Wales
2 times Wales is Norway
3 times Wales are ??

New counting
Onety
Twoty
Threety
Fourty
Fivety
Sixty
not forgetting Onety One

Just Genius

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Update

1. Rugby

Well somehow England managed to beat Australia in one of the best, most dynamic and spectacular forward performances that you will ever see. Mel (Aussie), Scott and Aaron (English) came over and we had 80 minutes of shouting, obscenities, applause and beer culminating with Mel bursting into tears and having a nap on the sofa. The following match between New Zealand and France was equally exciting and I am pleased to see that the New Zealand didn't win as there is a kind of arrogance in their play and attitude towards rugby. Fiji v South Africa was good as well and only an excellent piece of cheating finally securing the victory for South Africa. Rugby is a game where you cheat as much as possible up until the referee catches you.

2. Resolutions

There is no point setting resolutions without checking on them as the vice principal told the students in assembly today so in my bit to hopefully be more accountable here I go.
A. Be more organised and try to implement the one touch approach to paperwork (read it and deal with it one touch) Not bad, have cleared most of the paperwork as I got it but this needs to continue.

B. Try and mark work more promptly and remember to give it back. Better than it was last year but could be better still. The key will be when it is dark getting close to Christmas

C. Try and find a new job for Sept 2008 in a different country. the favourite at the moment is Canada after really enjoying the trip to North America in the summer Written to the universities to get all the paper work I need about the details of my courses.

D. Go and gym or swim four times a week Not quite but averaging around twice a week as well as korfball training and one match so far.

E. Score at least 75% of all the penalties I take in matches 1 from 1 so far but a miss would make it 50%

F. Improve my long shooting. Been surprisingly good. Rolling the ball of the end of my fingers seems to help.

G. Wear more shirts to social events On all occasions I have done this and have bought a few more to wear.

H. Be prepared to be more forceful in large group to put a point across and not just enjoy listening. Not really been in a place where this may happen

I. Undertake a new hobby of some description No

3. London

I am going to London for a one hour meeting with QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) to talk about the Pilot Geography course I have been running for the last couple of years. It should be interesting as the course currently operates a system where all of the Yr11 work forms a portfolio of evidence and is worth 33% of the mark with the exam at the end of Yr10 (33%) and more traditional coursework in Yr10 (33%). With the removal of coursework from GCSE Geography about to occur I think it would be a mistake to have just an exam and hopefully the force of arguments will help push this new format.

4. American Sport

In the near future there will be an American Football at Wembley and I fully understand the ides to help spread the sports popularity and increase the fan base but there are two issues.
Firstly NFL Europe has just closed down. This was the best way to promote interest and allowed a route for good European players to act as role models and maybe break into the professional ranks. It also acted as a good breeding ground for second string American players to get some experience of playing time.

The second issue is that they have had the same idea for an ice hockey and basketball games but there are already professional ice hockey and basketball leagues in the UK. We can hope that these games don't take spectators from UK teams but promotes interest and increases the number of people playing.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Genius

Many years ago I was bought a book by Dave Gorman called Are you Dave Gorman where Dave Gorman had to find as many people called Dave Gorman in a set time. From there I have seen his tele programmes and his theatre production. His new show on Radio 4 called Genius has started and I think it is very funny and you should listen if you can at this link. My favourite idea was bunkchairs with multi-storey chairs for busy areas. The only problem was that as with bunkbeds bunkchairs would be more dangerous meaning more people would end up at A and E. To create enough space for all the new casualties you would have to install bunkchairs. Genius!

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Rugby

So the pool stages are finished and the the two stand out quarter finals are England v Australia and New Zealand v France. Fiji have done well but the loss of their fly half will hamper there ability to beat South Africa and Italy v Argentina will be a big forward battle but may lack the subtley of the other games. I would like to play tribute to the minnows of the tournament who have played their part in making this a great tournament (USA, Samoa, Tonga, Romania, Italy, Portugal, Japan, Canada, Georgia, Namibia and of course Wales and Ireland). There is talk of reducing the number of teams to 16 but I think this is a mistake as the only way to improve the level of play is to play against the best teams and to spark interest in the home country (Georgia has gone rugby crazy apparently). Some of the larger beatings occurred when asking the smaller teams to play two matches in four or five days and they don't have the squad depth. It would be fairer to ask the bigger teams to have more games more often but then they would not be playing on the weekends when the larger crowds and tele audiences can watch and satisfy the audience. An example of this is Japan who had to play the 8th, 16th, 20th and 25th (4 games in 17 days) whereas France played on the 7th, 16th, 21st and 30th (4 games in 23 days).

The Result

Well we lost but it was a tight affair and the result of the game will hang on the eligibility of one of the opposition players who is registered with Highbury in London and may be ineligible thus giving us a 5-0 win. Not sure of the score about 8-5. I scored a penalty and was good defensively but the timing and understanding in attack is yet to gel.

The new Korfball Season

Well later today the korfball season starts and I think that it will be a tough season. Firstly a lot of players have gone to university and that has weakened the club. Secondly getting promoted and a change in the structure of the divisions means the quality of the opposition will be a lot greater. Thirdly there have been a lot of new people have started this term meaning during training I have been helping others. Fourthly I am not certain who all of my team mates are. I have a feeling that they are young players moved up from the under 15 league which means that they will have to learn that they are no longer the biggest/ fastest/ strongest player, showing off to their mates with stupid long range shots or behind the back passes is not going to help us win any matches and to play as a team incorporating all the players in the team. Fifthly Ireland and Argentina will be playing rugby at the same time and I must not be distracted.

Anyway there is a touch of excitement and apprehension. After all we might be brilliant. Check out our progress at http://www.norfolkkorfball.co.uk/. I am in Norwich City 3.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Phewww

Well the term is well and truly in full swing and the work is piling up like the Himalayas around me. There is a small relief in the fact that work experience for Yr11 is in two weeks and that will free up a bit of time and the school has finally appointed a member of staff to cover for a colleague who has had to go part time and that has taken a few lessons from me as well. This year has presented a few new opportunities for me as I am mentoring the new teacher in the department as well as the student teachers when they come into school and leading a group of teachers in continued professional development! This means I have to show new teaching techniques but sadly they are not new and everyone already knows them so you come across as patronising. However, taking on the extra work all counts towards whether I cross from normal to upper pay scale at the end of the year so all is worth it. Generally classes seem harmless with the odd strange character here or there but the timetable is arranged so that I get the worst class on a Friday Period 5 and no non contact (free) periods between Monday Period 5 and Friday Period 3 so I have to be super organised which I am not. My main gripe is that support staff and management seem to pursuing their own objectives and making decisions which don't help the kids.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan has for a long time been a favourite author of mine. James Pratt with whom I shared a house in Sheffield introduced me to his writing and the first six books of his Wheel of Time series. Since 1996 he has written 5 more in the series creating a complex world of alliances and betrayal, of battles and war, of good versus evil and of human relationships and sacrifice. I have been eagerly awaiting the final installment when the hero takes on evil and wins (I guess). The date of publishing has kept on being put back and when I looked into the reason I found that the author had cancer although reading his blog it appeared that he was writing as much as he could manage. Unfortunately he died at the weekend leaving his last work unfinished like all the great artists and it will be interesting who if any attempts to write the final book and end the (what ever the word for 12 is) ology.

Rallying

Around the year 2000 Rallying was on the tele all the time and it was a huge sport mainly because two of the main contenders were British. Colin McRae and Richard Burns routinely fought out tight finishes on ice, gravel, mud and concrete with drivers such as Carlos Sainz, Didier Auriol, Tommi Makinen and Marcus Gronholm. The speed at whiich they drove on narrow, tree or cliff lined roads with their co driver shouting instructions was really good fun. Wrapping your car around a tree was common and crashing on to the roof of your car and having the crowd turn you back on to your wheels so you could carry on was routine. The hard charging McRae who would prefer to crash in the hope of winning as opposed to the cool, icy perfectionist that was Burns was a real contrast and it was real entertainment. So I was saddened to hear of Colin McRae's death only a couple of years after Burns passed away. A video tribute to McRae and Burns can be found on these links. And here are some accidents for a bit of fun.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Favourite Players

I have two favourite players Joao Uva of Portugal who is a big bearded flanker who seems to play the game with a huge smile on his face and Marius Tincu who was bald and managed to cut his head and there was blood everywhere and he had to keep going off to have a dollop of Vaseline on his head to stop it. Later in the game he had a knock to the head and was woozy but still wanted to play despite the fact the doctor had told him there was no way he could carry on.

Also the whole of the Georgian team Paliko Jimsheladze, Otar Barkalaia, Meko Kvirikashvili, Bessik Khamashuridze, Irakli Machkhaneli, George Shkinini, George Elizbarashvili, Otar Eloshvili, Makho Urjukashvili, Irakli Guiorgadze, David Katcharava, Rezo Guigauri, Irakli Abusseridze, Bidzina Samkharadze. Goderdzi Shvelidze, Avtandil Kopaliani, Mamuka Magrakvelidze, David Khinchaguishvili, David Zirakashvili, Akvsent Guiorgadze, Ilia Zedguinidze, Victor Didebulidze, Mamuka Gorgodze, Levan Datunashvili, Guia Labadze, Besso Udessiani, Rati Urushadze, George Chkhaidze, Zviad Maissuradze and Ilia Maissuradze. I mean I can't stop laughing at the commentators attempts with this selection of names
(PS I like cut and paste)

I was right

So shortly after the last post the computer stopped entirely and completely. The part of the hard drive with Windows on was corrupt so I took it to the computer shop but despite the words repair in bold on the window they don't do repairs but were able to give me the number of a bloke who did. He was able to fix Windows so that it opened and then clone the hard drive to another hard drive and install that so all works again and I did not loose any files (always back up your files )

Monday, 10 September 2007

Hard Drives

One day the computer works fine, the next you have problems. It looks like problems with the hard drive and starting up. The system has become unreliable and occassionally crashes for no reason but as the computer expert once said,
"There are two types of hard drive, those that are broken and those that are about to break"

Underdogs

As a English person I am naturally drawn to the underdog in any sporting contest and will be completely biased about who I want to win and how I see the match and things like refereeing decisions. So I was delighted when France were beaten by Argentina (although it is debatable whether they were an underdog) but disheartened by New Zealand 74 - Italy 14 and Australia 91 -3 but the underdog fights back. England 28 - USA 10, Ireland 32 - Namibia 17, Wales 9 Canada 12 at half time and Scotland 56 Portugal 10 were all excellent performances from the underdog where the vast proportion of the team are amateur and the professionals don't play in the top leagues. The International Rugby Board provided the cash to appoint a fitness and a forwards coach for each of the emerging nation and training each day has had an effect.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

RIP Pavarotti

I don't like opera especially as not being able to understand the words lessens the meaning and context and I find the higher registers difficult to listen to Pavarotti holds a special place in my development into the person I am. In 1990 the World Cup was in Italy and the Three Tenors did a performance with Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma which was used as the opening theme tune to Italia 90 (the football world cup in Italy) and this was what sparked my interest in football and all sports except rugby. So when I see or hear Pavarotti it takes me back to Cameroon beating Argentina, Gazza's tears, Waddles penalty miss so high it is still rising, Linekar's goals, Costa Rica beating Scotland, Platt's last minute over the shoulder volley, Cameroon and Roger Milla playing when he claimed to be 38 but was probably around 45 and finally losing to Germany on penalties again. I can even remember where I was during the fateful semi-final as I was part of a concert at Leighton Middle School of Heidi where I had the major role of the vicar! At half time in the play we found out that Germany had scored and at the end of play that England had equalised. By the time we had walked home the penalties were finished and England had lost. So thanks for the memories. (PS if you watch the video do you remember that world symbol used for about 5 years and doesn't Des look young)

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Korfball Training

Tonight was the first korfball training of the year. As it effectively stops at Easter you haven't seen people for about 5 months so it is a bit of a reunion if the same old faces all looking slightly older. I have played for Norwich City for 7 years and it has been run and coached by the same people. The next group of people you notice are the new people who are usually hanging close to the person who has introduced them and as yet are lacking the confidence to pick up a ball and shoot at the hoop. The third group you become aware of are the newly promoted under 13's who are hanging around in a crowd of their peers. It takes slightly longer to think about who is not there, usually those that have gone to university or people who move away and kind of vanish.

While everyone arrives there is some shooting at the post as a kind of unofficial warm up and the action of shooting is so unusual and uses muscles that are not normally exercised that your arms get tired really quickly. After a bit of fitness work and some words of motivation we divide up to practice skills and Marian takes all the new people and tries to show them the basic. You realise that half will never come back and the other half will return regularly. After the skills work the groups are divided into teams and we play some games. If you are against a new person you try to take it easy so you don't scare them off and if you are against an under thirteen you try not to squash them. In a couple of weeks playing hard will be the norm. There is a small subsection of the under thirteens that have been the biggest/ strongest and fastest at their age group and are a bit cocky. Against those you play hard, intercept passes and block them from the post just to remind them this is the big league now and try to ensure that they play in the team and not the superstar as they used to be.

Good to see that the pattern was followed again this year.

Monday, 3 September 2007

New Year Resolutions

As this time of year is the beginning of a new school year and at the same time becoming a year older means I usually reassess my life and set out my new years resolution. I thought if they were in the public domain I might stick to them a bit longer.

Work

1. Be more organised and try to implement the one touch approach to paperwork (read it and deal with it one touch)
2. Try and mark work more promptly and remember to give it back.
3. Try and find a new job for Sept 2008 in a different country. the favourite at the moment is Canada after really enjoying the trip to North America in the summer.

Korfball

1. Go and gym or swim four times a week
2. Score at least 75% of all the penalties I take in matches.
3. Improve my long shooting.

Personal

1. Wear more shirts to social events
2. Be prepared to be more forceful in large group to put a point across and not just enjoy listening
3. Undertake a new hobby of some description

Happy New Year

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Eyebrows

It was probably a throw away comment, something said to every customer in the shop, one of those things that people say, part of the service offered but what an effect. After having the return to school haircut the barber asked if I wanted my eyebrows trimmed. That one simple question has made me paranoid about them. Are they too hairy? Where is the border between hairy and too hairy? Am I of the age where eyebrow growth will go into fast forward and sprout at a tremendous rate? Now I will have to keep a check on the problem and make sure it doesn't get out of hand when on Friday I did not realise it was a problem.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Newspapers

One of the best things about the holiday is that it gives me a chance to read the news both in print and online far more thoroughly and to think about the articles in news and these are some of my favourites.

1. Emu - A people arriving at a Walmart for work found an emu in the car park which she corralled. Not sure that I would get that close to emu as they can kick and peck.

2. Olde fashioned baseball - one of the rules is that the umpire can ask a member of the public of good standard in the community what the decision is if he didn't see them.

3. Sat-Nav - it reminds me of the journey where a man wanted to go from Liverpool to Southampton without using motorways so it suggested he went through Ireland and France to get there.

There have also been a couple of stories that have irritated or provoked strong feelings.

1. Lee Hughes - Lee Hughes was a footballer who caused a death through drink driving and was imprisoned. He served the sentence and has been released and a number of people are up in arms that he is resuming his career. While I do not condone what he did (and he appeared very remorseful on TV) he has paid back his debt to society (although in mine opinion it should have been longer) he is of far more use to society if he has a job, paying tax and acting as warning to others who might be on the same situation. It is not a cushy role as every away fan will remind him of what he has done and it has also cost him around £900 000 a year in wages as his is now playing for Oldham and not West Brom.

2. Camilla - The fact that Diana's sons invited her to the memorial service means that they would like her to be there. The fact that she declined to divert attention is sensible but a lot of Diana's "friends" appeared aghast that she was invited. Sorry it is not your job to be irritated. It might be difficult to accept but maybe Princes William and Harry can see the effect that Camilla has on Prince Charles happiness, maybe they like her. It would appear that there are far more complex emotions involved than love or hate.

3. Prison strike It is dangerous to ignore the no-strike part of your contract as it sets a precedent where the government might ignore parts of your contract like the bit where they pay you.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Rubbish Sports Coverage

Secondly the Rugby World Cup is going to be on ITV. That means adverts just before the kick off so players standing around waiting for the TV coverage to be ready. It means that at half time 10 of the 15 minutes of the break will be adverts and the quality of analysis of the play, tries and future plays will be reduced to nothing. There will also be some competition and the adverts of the official sponsors to be endured. It means no Brian Moore who is very opinionated and blunt with his views but very funny and always willing to apologise when proved wrong rather than trying to backtrack and we can only hope that Jim Rosenthal (broadcasts on all sports but knows nothing about them) will be absent as he is so bland. ITV also have little experience of broadcast from these stadiums so we can only hope that they get the cameras in the right place but I am not holding my breath. There will also be the pointless camera gimmick that they feel that they have to use so that the sponsors name appears on the screen (blue square blimp was on screen twice an hour during the cricket). There is also the promise of every match being covered but to what extent matches will be on digital channels only (ITV3 and 4) is yet to determined. They are trumpeting the arrive of listening to the referee as a new first but you have been able to hear it for several years under the normal commentary so if it will be a dedicated feed will there be any commentary or just the referee talking. It seems that it is going to be another opportunity to watch the pictures and listen to the radio.

On Sunday they showed a match from Serie A and the following applies. 1 If you score one goal this is a time to attack not to become defensive. 2. if the opposition have a player sent off then quick passing will expose their numerical disadvantage 3. If you have a player sent off then by being only defensive will cost you. 4. If you score an equaliser you might be able to get a winner rather to stop attacking a team who aren't attacking you. Entertainment this game was not and all my prejudices against Italian football were met.

Monday, 27 August 2007

SAD

I knew that Seasonal Affective Disorder existed but I really noticed it affecting me. I know that I probably only had the lightest symptoms but a bright, warm and sunny weekend with a walk down the beach, reading the paper in the park, attacking the shrubs and weeds in the garden and listening to the cricket on the radio has brightened my mood. I wonder if going from the US where it was very hot and sunny heightened the change as the difference was so large.

In the news at the moment are the fires in Greece threatening Olympia. A couple of years ago I got to travel there and while earthquakes have reduced the actual buildings to a series of piles of rocks the sense of history and the museum that goes with it were very impressive and I hope the treasures can be saved. It is made worse by the fact that the fires appear to have been arson.

Friday, 24 August 2007

GCSE results

Thank you for the people who asked how the results of the GCSEs went. They were as expected and the structure of the qualification lets me and the students have a very good indication of the student's results in May.
In Geography the exam is in Yr10 and the Yr11 is putting together a portfolio of work. As long as I accurately assess the portfolio, as I have done for the previous three years. after a lengthy calculation I can work out which grade there work is.
In Leisure and Tourism the exam is at Christmas in Yr11 so the same idea applies. It does take the fun and pressure out of the day however which is slightly disappointing.

The world is against me (well the weather at least)

Whenever I get back from a holiday I always have a period of feeling a bit depressed as it seems a long time to the next one. This has been heightened by the fact that one there was a touch of jetlag and being ill, the shocking weather (which has been overcast, wet although no prolonged downpours and relatively cold), the fact that a lot of my friends have gone on holiday, the electricity company sending my erroneous threatening letters and the inability of people to sort out my laptop.

The absence of Scott, Lisa and Mel to go to Athena's wedding/ party in Cyprus combined with Aaron, Clare and Tim all being away at the same time has left me with lots of time to myself. The poor weather has excluded things I usually do like going to the coast and even just sitting in the park and reading the paper. This has meant having to come up with some rules to help my sanity. Having at least two decent conversations every day. This has meant collaring people and talking at them such as having an indepth discussion with the Amnesty International person in the street on the change in abortion stance their organisation has adopted. I also have to try something new everyday (today which was sushi which is okay but nothing special), go for a walk somewhere and try not to spend too much. The ability to Internet shop is especially tempting.

The laptop issue is just typical of the support we can expect. I am being to suspect that the people who are there to support the staff are often more help than they are worth. So by taking in all the laptops they were to be PAT tested, have the virus software updated and any problems fixed. Instead it still won't connect to the Internet or the data projector, there is no sticker to say it was PAT tested and there is now a password on it which I don't know so can't logon. The technicians are now on holiday until the first day of term.

The electricity company didn't send a bill, then sent a final demand. I then paid the bill promptly and the other day had a message saying I had 7 days before the debt collectors arrived. After a short phone call I got an apology when they looked in the records and found it had been paid.

Bank holiday weekend this weekend so it must be rain

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Rugby friendlies

South Africa 105- Namibia 13
England 62 Wales 5
England 15 France 21
Scotland 31 Ireland 21
Japan 69 Asia Barbarians 6
Ireland played Bayonne of France


You need to pick an opportunity where you are going to learn something about the form your players are in. If a player plays well for South Africa against Namibia what does this tell you?

You need to pick a team that will compete as otherwise you put yourself under a lot of pressure. Wales picked a second team against England and got hammered. This means that the match against Argentina is almost a must win but it is a friendly. The players are under pressure in a warm up match!

You need a team who don't want to lose their own players. One of the players for Bayonne broke the cheekbone of Brian O'Driscoll by punching him, putting him out of some of the early matches in the World Cup. The player who threw the punch might well get banned but they are not in the World Cup and might have improved France's chances greatly.

You need to be able to compete, although not necessarily win, without giving away any tactics that you want to use in the world Cup. All the coaches have video technology and will break down your set plays, lines of running in the backs and which players are doing which jobs so you need to practice but not give away all your secret weapons.

The following matches are on in the next couple of weeks sparking all kinds of debate and a litany of injuries to factor in to the debate about who will win the World Cup.

Canada v Portugal
Italy v Japan
Wales v Argentina
France v England
Ireland v Italy
Scotland v South Africa
Wales v France

Urghhh

This rarely happens but I am ill. It is a well known fact that when a term ends the lack of adrenaline, caffeine and for some nicotine coupled with the phew factor means that your bodies defences go on holiday and the nasty bugs strike.

Firstly jet lag appears to be working backwards. I thought that I would be tired when it was night in the US (roughly 4am to 3pm BST) but instead I am tired in the afternoon and wide awake at midnight (10am to 7pm Central Mountain Time).

Secondly my throat is sore and nose runny (maybe the aeroplane recycling the air and bugs).

Thirdly I have an upset stomach which is very odd as I usually have cast iron digestion. Mel said that this is a side effect of jetlag but I am not sure how this works.

Anyway not looking for sympathy just reporting the facts.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Results

All good at A Level. Everyone managed to go to university where they wanted although not all got the grades they need but with the introduction of fees the amount of places have increased as there are less applications. Some of the fun has been taken out of the day as student can check on their places using the Internet before they get their results so they have a ballpark figure before they arrive.

At AS all was as expected all two student have achieved 300 out of 300. This does not mean that they got full marks but got a high enough percentage to be awarded full points. 480 is an A grade after two years work so they are getting close after one.

It has been interesting to see that a lot of the media attention has been about what to do if you do not get the grades you want. This maybe that the rise in passes was not that great. A couple of years ago we got real good at finding the students how weren't going to pass and suggest that continuing was not a great idea. The other big story is that the percentage of students getting A grade is rising but they never realise the actual number of students as this is probably not a story. Students are realising that getting E grades is not very good and with more modules in January most students leave rather than finishing the course. Thus the percentage of students getting an A goes up as the number of people getting E's and U's goes down. Only the actual number of people passing the exam would reveal this.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Back home

Rover and I are home safely and apart from an athletic looking slug who has left a trail all over the carpet in the lounge all is well. Rover is my suitcase (its red so Red Rover, we have been roving and like a dog we have been for long walks). The only casualty has been my rucksack which has lost its bottom and the Washington guide book I left outside the Capitol.

The trip was amazing and that was mainly due to the fantastic people who were prepared to put up with me, answer my questions, show me their traditions and welcome me into their homes and way of life. Thank you does not really seem enough but your welcome and help was fully appreciated.

Sarah asked me what the best part of the trip was and I couldn't answer because the trip was so varied that no one point stood out more than any other but I thought I would share a few things not already covered.

Funniest moment - well two really both at the Kansas City baseball match. The first occurred when a ball was hit in the stand two or three rows away from us. Most people were on their feet trying to catch except one lady who remained seated. The ball with unerring accuracy picked out her neighbours glass of beer with the ball sitting in the bottom of the glass and the beer like an alcoholic tidal wave reared up and splashed the poor lady from head to toe. The second occurred when the Kansas City mascot was using an CO2 style gun to shoot promotional hot dogs into the stand. He/she/ it thought it would fire one on to the top tier in the stand only to shot it in into a concrete cross beam 6 feet above his head squashing the hot dog flat.

Most embarrassing moment - getting on the subway train in New York to find it empty. As the doors closed I realised it was at the end of the line and going to the depot. In my haste I had got on the train on the wrong side of the platform. Luckily it went back into service 10 minutes later and let me get off.

Worst decision - deciding to walk from the station to the hotel in Philadelphia in 90 degree heat. It felt like three miles uphill.

Guy the mini-celebrity. At the camp meeting service the pastor asked who had travelled the furthest and yes it was me by about 5800 miles. At the end a succession of people introduced themselves and told me their England story which made me feel very welcome and then the pastor in charge told me all about his Doctor Who fascination and the TARDIS door key ring.

Biggest disappointment - American football game. A let down after all the effort that we went to.

Language issues - in a coffee shop I thought I had ordered two coffees but ended up with three. Must be the accent! Secondly was asked if I wanted pickle in a sandwich. I said yes expecting Branston but got a dill pickle.

Strangest apology- Someone apologised for the American Revolution and becoming an independant nation. Interesting to see what would have happened if there had been no Revolution (didn't do Canada, Australia or New Zealand any harm after all).

On a similar topic most vilified man - George III who during my travels was described as evil, tyrannical and cruel. I am not sure that taxation without representation is any of those and with causalities about even at 50,000 for both sides he is hardly a tyrant. It could be noted that Washington DC (and other areas) currently has taxation without representation!

Weirdest thing - Sales Tax. In the UK Sales Tax (VAT) is in the price that the shop put on the goods. Could you please do this so I can get the correct money ready in advance and not hold up the entire line will I try and sort the dimes, nickels and quarters. Being in 8 states didn't help this either as they are all have different rates.

Most over-rated food: Philly cheese steak - cheese on a steak, its ok but not as amazing as they would have you believe. Hoagies, such intriguing but it is a large sandwich on a baguette roll.

Sarah also asked what I was most looking froward to when I returned home and I struggled to come up with an answer. Usually it is home cooking or sleeping in your own bed etc. but I have had times on my own, in a pair and as part of a family. I have eaten out and also had home cooked delicacies (biscuits and gravy most noticeably), the hotel rooms have ranged from dismal to superb with much more comfortable beds than my own. Access to the Internet has meant I have been able to keep up with the UK news and sport (Go Luton Town:2 wins from 2 games.) I saw my family just before I left so had caught up on all the gossip and plans. I had seen a wide variety of scenery from the coast in New York to the rolling mountains of central Missouri. The one missing ingredient has been my friends but with a lot of them away on holiday I am not sure if they are in Norwich. This lead me to think about what I really like about England. If you asked an American which is the best country in the world most by reflex would say the US but I would ask in what context do you mean best. The UK has it good points and it has its faults. I think the answer it is that I know how it works, what the law in a certain circumstance is, what my rights are and what it all means so that I am totally at ease in situations. Being abroad requires constant thought to achieve your goals and targets whether though language, custom or religion differences whereas being at home does not require the same level of thought (in New York it took me a while to realise that I could use the yellow pages in the room to find what I was looking for; in England that would be the first place I would look). And of course the beer in England is a lot better. Maybe I need to go away more often to help me appreciate that fate.

Results day tomorrow for my A Level kiddies. I will let you know how they get on.

Environmentalism

If you look carefully there are some encouraging signs. Some buses and mail vans in New York are running on electric power. Buses in Washington run on LPG. The Sedalia Democrat newspaper is printed on recycled paper using ink made from soya. There were boards on energy efficient lightbulbs, demonstrations of Ethanol fuelled cars and reducing energy wastage at the Missouri State Fair. Rising gas prices are making people look at which cars are the most fuel efficient and there was an article on this is USA Today.

It is only the start however and there are two areas which can be improved. Firstly there are many sprinklers and hoses for watering plants which is fine but you need to use them at dusk not in the middle of the day. This means the water does not evaporate but sinks into the soil and is available for the plant roots. It also stops minerals such as calcium being dragged to the surface through capillary action making the soil less fertile.

Secondly the use of polystyrene/ Styrofoam especially in restaurants. In one sit down restaurant the meal was on a polystyrene plate with a plastic cover. It might keep your ice cubes colder than cardboard for a longer period but you are increasing the US reliance on overseas oil which has political as well as economic outcomes and increases landfill.

American Sport

Before arriving in the US I had made plans to see a baseball, basketball, American football game as well as a rodeo. I thought I would enjoy the American football the most but this unfortunately was not the case. Firstly when you are watching the game at home on TV it is far more spectacular than in real life, it is a lot easy to follow the ball, the tackles seem more violent and you can do something else during the breaks in action and there are a lot of them and they go on for a long time. In the last two minutes both teams have three timeouts as well as the two minute warning so progress in match terms slows and you forget the game situation and want to reach for a book. Most of the time I found myself watching the big screen instead of the action and if you do that you may as well watch the tele. The situation was not helped by the hopeless parking where there were signs telling you where each car park was but nowhere does it say that these are for permit holders only so after waiting in a very long traffic jam we couldn't park there anyway. The fans were pretty vocal which I don't mind but the stream of sexual innuendo and invective toward the cheerleaders made me wince let alone the parents of the children who were seated around us.

The baseball was much better than I expected. I had read up on it but did not fully grasp the rules or the statistics surrounding it. It is a lot like watching cricket in that there is a natural flow to the game and while there are frequent breaks none of them are too long or extended. The only issue I had was that a new pitcher would warm up in the bullpen but then also need to warm up on the mound. Why not fully warm up in the bullpen and not stop the flow of the game?The best match we saw was not at the top MLB level but at the next level done (AAA). The game was attended by about 3000 people so it was not busy, the weather was gorgeous but not too hot, for $10 we got seats 5 rows from the front behind the dugout (and could have got closer) so it was good value. The quality was good and there was the same thrill when there was a hit mixed with the fear it was coming straight for you. The stadium had a down at heel but welcoming feel and you could hear the individual comments from the crowd. There was a particularly funny keep him in, take him out, keep him out, take him in routine when the opposing manager was on the mound considering a pitching change. I also think that all outfielders should not be allowed gloves as it makes outfield catches too routine.


The rodeo I have already commented on and the basketball was okay.


Overall be prepared to be marketed at, this could be for individual feats (10 strikeouts and you get a free burger from...), races on the big screen (if the animated boot beats all the other shoes in the race then get 10% of at ...), give aways (todays free T-shirt comes from...) and through sponsorship (the big screen is brought to you by ...). This is partly the fans fault as if they did not participate and buy products the companies would not get the money and not continue to sponsorship. I will continue to boycott sponsors who create poor adverts.


Be prepared to be organised. There are around 90 home games in a season on all days of the week. You are unlikely to get the same fans going to each game so they need to be organised. Due to the distances involved there are rarely many away fans so there is no need to be out chant the home fans. Organising includes telling you when to clap your hands, shout, cheer etc. Having been to many football and rugby games where the fans organise themselves it felt a bit strange.


Hear the National Anthem get murdered. Apart from Kansas City where a 13 year girl outsang everyone else nearly all the attempts to sing the US National Anthem did an effective job of forgetting the words or murdering the tune. I am not sure that Americans need to be reminded what country they are in but could we have a taped singer to protect the eardrums (At the end of the Simpson's movie they sing the Marseilles instead).


Have your concentration broken. There are wandering food vendors, people going to get food, Mexican waves, beachballs in the crowd and interviews over the tannoy. In one baseball game the person sat next to me arrived in the third inning, was getting food in the 6th inning and left after 8. Not sure why he came to the ballpark but watching baseball did not seem to be the reason. Sometimes there are so many distractions that even I forget that there was a game of sport in progress.


In conclusion if you are in the US go and see a rodeo or AAA baseball for the best entertainment and value for money.


Delta Airlines

I am currently blogging at Gatwick. The plane landed on time and within 23 minutes I had my luggage and been through passport control and Customs. Unfortunately I gave myself 2 hours to accomplish this and I cannot catch the train until 10.00 as I have an off peak ticket (but it only cost £17 - can I claim that the flight wasn't delayed and purchase a more expoensive ticket on the travel insurance). So I thought I would use the time to post some thoughts about my trip to the US in this time. The biggest point of contention is the Delta operation in JFK. In Nashville they were fine, in London they were fine but at JFK it is just confusion and chaos. On arrival at the airport there are signs leading you to the departure lounge which just stop in a multi storey car park. Thanks. On arrival at the terminal you stand in line. In London this took 5 minutes and Delta were very efficient but not this time. Everyone regardless of where they were going stood in one line. Anybody who arrived late for their flight went to the front of the queue. So when I arrived 2.5 hours before the flight I was at the back of the queue. 1.5 hours later I made it to the front with people going to Nice, Milan, Frankfurt, Dublin, Bucharest and Mexico City having been placed in front of me. Just as it is my turn a family of four with four huge bags where again but in front of me, also going to London. When I made it to the desk the lady suggested that I was lucky to make the flight arriving so late and I should arrive earlier. When I pointed out how long I had been there she accused me of being impertinent and made me go through the more rigorous security check for those who book late (no), paid cash (no) or raised some suspicions to the check in staff (must be the funny accent). The moral of the story seems to be if you turn up when they ask you get abused and ignored, if you turn up late you are rewarded and made to feel special. Strange way to operate a business if they want repeat custom and good word of mouth marketing.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Driving

On Friday and Saturday I had my first experience of driving in USA. On Friday I drove a couple of mules (this is a typo that should say miles but I like the concept of having driven some mules somewhere. On a different point mules are larger than I thought) along the backroads and apart from one junction was fine about being on the wrong side. I also did about 200 miles along the Interstates which is easy to do. If you remember that the driver is supposed to be in the middle then I was fine. Both cars were automatic so changing gear was not an issue although having the mirrors the opposite way around means that I used my wing mirror more than the central mirror as we first look was to my left. The Interstates are generally very, very straight and this would make the Romans very proud. In England the roads tend to wind around hills and go for the low point between them but in the US this does not happen and it leads to a kind of rolling up and down type of driving especially on the highways. Sarah's car drives well and helps debunk some of the myths about cars in the US. Firstly larger cars are needed especially when places are so far apart (Sedalia is about an hour and half away from the largest city in the state if you travel at 70 mph). Secondly because the semis (juggernauts) have three axles on the cab and not two they have a wider turning circle which leads to less and far more gentle curves so American cars don't handle tight corners well but they rarely have to. This means that the suspensions can be softer and body roll is less important. Thirdly the construction of some of the highways and interstates is using large slabs about 30 feet long. There is a small gap in between the slabs so you need a softer suspension compared to a continuous tarmac (asphalt) roads.

One of the most obvious things especially when the State Fair is in town is the number of pickup trucks which come in every shape and size. It took me a while to figure out what there wasn't there and that was white vans. This also leads to a loss of a whole socio-economic group the white van man as the Sun newspaper points out winning the vote of White Van Man is key to winning the general election and being able to form the government.

The only issues that I have are that indicators can be red and on the back of cars at night they don't stand out and junctions are generally labelled well when you get to them and are easy to use of you know where you are going but not so well labelled as you approach multi lane junctions (intersections) that you are unfamiliar with.

Currently in Nashville, Tennessee and flying to New York tomorrow. I still can't believe Sarah let me talk her in to some of these journeys. I knew that places were far apart but I was naive in just how far apart they were. When I suggested going to a baseball game I did not realise there was also a total of three hours of driving involved. Going to Nashville also was further away than I thought. Yesterday we drove for about 500 miles and although we saw no traffic jams it still took 9 hours. If someone was coming to visit me and suggested a 9 hour drive for a two day visit I would kindly point out it was a 9 hour drive away and that there were a lot of other places to visit.

Again have managed to secure a lovely hotel with pool for a cheap price. I advise you to use expedia to book hotel rooms as they just keep producing top deals.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Missouri State Fair

On Friday Sarah, her mum and dad and me went to the Missouri State Fair. Which on the face of it is a large agricultural show but it is also so much more. In the past you can see how the farmers would meet annually, buy and sell livestock, feed and machinery. Ensuring that the wheels of agricultural where oiled for the following year. This means that there are shows of the best animals, largest vegetables and there are any number of stalls promoting products from tractors to animal brushes. To stop there however would not be shining a light on the full glory of the fair as there are also booths from many other organisations from the rights for gun owners, hunting conservation, highway patrol with Otto the speaking car, right to life, left to life, republican party, democratic party, car manufacturers, vegetable peelers, local organic produce etc. (ok I made one of those up) but everyone who has an organisation in Missouri has a stall. On top of this there are a large number of food outlets and honourable mentions should go to corn dogs, funnel cake, pineapple whip, salt water taffy, jerky and tasty and succulent pork chops. Alongside the people trying to sell products and food where a whole host of different shows and exhibitions.

The first one that we saw was deciding on Miss Missouri State Fair. In the part we saw each contestant had to explain how a particular topic affected them and agriculture in general whilst wearing a sparkly ballgown. The topic surprised me a little for instance how does BSE affect you and agricultural. The answer ranged for the obviously learnt, plain wrong and surprisingly good. Sarah accurately predicted the winner and she ended up as the overall winner as well. Maybe the decision to wear a bright yellow dress helped as most of the others were in red.

The second was pig racing which was really fun and well done. The couple that run it played along to the stereotype so well it had you wondering if it was real or not. With pigs running such as Lindsay Loham the gags and humour were great and audience participation was encouraged well.

The third was similar to a dressage event except that you would have multiple riders and horses in the ring simultaneously. Sadly in some classes there was only one rider making it look a bit like a dying art. It was interesting to try and pick a winner as the horse walked, trotted and cantered passed and I was usually wrong. Luckily as reported earlier in the blog there was no-one in a class on there own who came second or third.

The final one was a rodeo which was really good. The pace between events usually flowed well and the action did not stop. There was bronco and bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, team roping, wagon racing and barrel riding (a race around a course of barrels). There was obviously a lot of skill, strength, balance and bravery required especially for the bull riding which looks mad especially as if you come off quickly there are a steel gates to one side and an angry bull to the other. The wagon racing looked like it was going to be good until one of the competitors tried the equivalent of a hand brake turn and one of the wheels fell off thus ending the race. My favourite was the barrel riding as it was fast and exciting and as times were around 15 seconds it gave you a chance to get into it a bit more whereas wrestling a steer in 5 seconds is a superb piece of rodeo skill it does not give you time to get into it before it is over.

Overall the day was really fun and exciting and I now need to go to the Norfolk Show to compare the experience.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Barry Bonds

Last night the most important record in American sport was broken. Barry Bonds hit a home run to make him the man that has hit most in history. This has been all over the news because he has been accused although not proved of taking steroids and this means that some people see the record as tainted. The evidence seems to be that he has links with the Balco lab who had produced steroids for other athletes and a sudden change in appearance between two seasons where he had increased the amount of muscle tremendously. The issue is further clouded that while the taking of steroids was against the law (I think) it was not against the rules in the sport. It is also clear that some of the pitchers may also have been taking steroids as well to make them throw the ball harder and make it more difficult to hit. The had a man on the TV saying that steroid use would have been incidental as they wouldn't help him connect with the ball properly but I find this argument a bit spurious as they might of had a bit more travel on them making them in to home runs or allowed him to recover more quickly from injury and allowing him more matches to hit home runs in. It was the seventh story done on the Guardian online sports page so it is attracting attention in the UK but after news the Kevin Pierterson is fit to play cricket on Thurs and Sunderland have signed a new goalkeeper. Maybe it was a slow news day.

Missouri

First of all the temperature is not quite as hot as I said. This is the heat index which incorporates the humidity as well which tells you what the temperature feels like. The opposite of wind chill. This actual temperature is around 99 degrees.

Both Sarah and I have arrived safely at her parents close to Sedalia after a long drive. I did not realise it was quite as far as it was and the route that we took circled in and out of the Ozark hills stopping off to see some of the sites such as Elephant Rocks and Johnson Shut-ins. The area is gorgeous and reminded me of a large version of Southern Scotland around Loch Katrin with its wooded slopes, rolling hills and streams and creeks. This was in contrast with the area around Advance which reminded me of Norfolk with flat, agricultural lands and small rural communities. In the end we were on the road from around 8am to 5pm and I felt guilty about asking Sarah to do the amount of driving that we did, I think she became moulded to the shape of the seat. It wouldn't be so bad but we have a longer drive to Nashville on Saturday. I will have to contribute but I am worried about my reactions as this might put us in more danger.

Today I have seen the areas around where Sarah grew up such as her school replete with year book photo and church which is interesting, as well as seeing Sarah with her family. Whenever families get together people seem to revert to their role in the complex family unit. I know that I do. Seeing the way Sarah interacts with her parents and brother and the extent to which they can wind each other up shows they have strong bonds.

That is all for now. The baseball in Kansas City and the Missouri State fair are coming up in the next few days before heading to Nashville.

Lamberts and Throwed Rolls

In Sikeston near Advance there is a cafe called Lamberts which has the speciality of throwed rolls which is as it sounds. After you have been seated if you want a roll you holler (shout) to the appropriate member of staff and they throw the hot roll at you. The cafe was like stepping back in time about 30 years and several states to the West! The decor was mainly licence (number) plates on the wall and all that was missing was saw dust on the floor and a row of spittoons. The food was very good although I avoided the chicken gizzards and pigs jowls and had shredded beef in a open sandwich laced with gravy and Sarah had the sausage and kraut (sauerkraut). The other feature they are renowned for is that some of the waiters wander round serving as much side orders as you want. These include fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, black eyed peas and sorghum molasses. A very nice meal and an unusual place.

Monday, 6 August 2007

It is hot

Today is it supposed to be between 100 and 110 degrees. If you minus 30 and then divide by 2 you get between 35 and 40 degrees centigrade and that is in the shade!

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Tipping

I totally understand why you tip. The prices are lower than you might expect because the waiters and waitresses only get a limited wage. You are then expected to bolster their wage if they provide an adequate service and you are more likely to return to a restaurant where the service was good leading to more tips in the future and more business for the restaurant. What I don't get is why you tip taxi drivers. Did they get me there faster? Was it a more direct route?

I might also have left a couple of door openers disappointed as I just said thank you. Someone also offered to carry my bag but having lugged it around airports and metro stations I wasn't going to pay someone to take it to the lift for me.

Washington DC


Firstly an apology to Sarah as the weather in Washington was high to mid 90's with 95% humidity and these leads to a Mediterranean style of working with an early start, siesta/ quiet time in the middle of the day and a busy evening schedule. DC is a city of monuments and memorials to both ideas and the people who enshrined them. The most memorable of those are the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR monuments. The whole area is run by the National Parks Service and they provide very knowledgeable pamphlets and rangers. This was especially true of Ford Theatre where the ranger gave a half an hour speech about the run up to and assination of Abraham Lincoln which was both factual and mesmerising at the same time. Another round of applause should go to Melvin who conducted the twilight tour of the city and was again very knowledgeable and entertaining.

Before I came to DC I had read about it being the murder capital of the US and having talked to Marianne (Sarah's cousins wife) who live in DC and she had said that it was difficult to pick a safe area as one block can be safe and the next to it wouldn't be. This was highlighted because between the hotel (on a renovated block) and the metro station there was a derelict block with some buildings boarded up and some being pulled down. Generally in the places I have visited the central areas have undergone gentrification (which is where old houses are renovated, turned into apartments/condominiums and sold for extortionate prices to raise the class of an area and drive away crime) and also have a high police presence so feel safe and I have no problems.

The hotel in Washington was amazing. It mainly deals with business men and people at weekends as the convention centre is one block away but as there were no conventions and it was not a busy weekend so I got a $325 a night room for around $75. It was three rooms with a lounge, room and bathroom. I fell on my feet there. Thank you Expedia.

The only bad thing about the visit to DC was trying to visit the Capitol where both halves of Congress sit. You get a ticket with a time on it and I got mine saying 10am.At 9.50 there was a security alert as someone from a previous tour left a bag unattended and the tours where suspended but the did not stop giving out tickets. After about an hour at 11am the alert was over and there were about ready to start and they made everyone line up with the people with the early tickets at the back. So I would have faced another hour of standing in line in 90 degree heat. I had already had to go back to the hotel once as you are not allowed to take in bottles or creams so the prospect of no water, suncream and standing in line for a second hour made me leave and I went and sat in the Botanical Garden nearby which is a very pleasant and educational place.

Strange things about Washington DC
1. The pedestrian crossings have a count down on them so you know how long it will before the stop light comes up.
2. The bank I went into had a airlock type door where only one person can enter at a time.
3. National Airport is so close that when you are in the monuments remembering past American presidents there is almost the perpetual sound of low flying aircraft.
3. Neo classical pillar deign is used on almost all of the major buildings including White House, Capital building and both Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments. This also extends to the first and second bank in Philadelphia.
4. There is no J street as the j script looked to much like an I (but the I didn't look to much like a 1 or the 0 like a 0??)
5. You can see the change in stone colour on the Washington Monument where they changed during the long gap in its construction.
6. The centre of Washington is over a canal that was originally designed to take the president by barge from the white house to the Capitol
7. The light in the National Archives where they store the American Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and Magna Carta is 2 footcandles. That is the same as being one foot from 2 candles. Normal sunlight is 110 footcandles. I mean I can use imperial of metric but footcandles. Please!

Am now in Advance and went to church to see Sarah preach on the topic of greed and how living a more simple live would allow us to give to those less fortunate than ourselves which for some one in the middle of a three week vacation (holiday) hit a bit of a chord.

Advance

Sorry for not posting for a couple of days but the facilities to do this are limited as it is expected that everyone has the Internet at either your home or your work. The addresses that the guide book listed as being Internet cafes where variously a church, the embassy for Trinidad and Tobago and a car park (and yes I was in the correct quarter if you know the layout of DC). The hotel did have wifi but I did not have bring my wireless Internet card as they need to test it at school so I could not blog. Anyway my current location is Advance, Missouri and I will post more about being in Washington DC when it is not nearly 11pm.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Direction

I usually have a very good sense of direction and I understand the road layout system that most cities use as it is the same as Milton Keynes but I am having problems. I know where I am for instance at 6th street and want to get to12th street so I use the map to work out which way I want to walk and I nearly always get it wrong and have to back up and go the other way. Another example was from the subway to my hotel in New York I turned right, left, left, right. After three attempts I noticed that my hotel was just one block straight ahead. It is really irritating.

Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love





Philadelphia is a much nicer placer than New York. The city is busy but not the crammed feeling that you get in New York and there are more green spaces especially around the more historic areas. In the historic parts there are a lot of buildings associated with the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution (some are reconstructions of the original buildings). It also has some of the work of Benjamin Franklin and the part he played in setting up services in the US. He seems to have had some good ideas like setting up the first Colonial Postal Service but the guide seemed to ignore that these services also existed in Europe and where not new ideas. Overall the area is really nice and when the weather hit 90 it was pleasant place to sit and read in a shady spot. There are a few unusual things about Pennsylvania which include,

All alcohol supplies have to be made from the State Government so it is one of the largest alcohol purchasers in the world. It also takes about three months to order something that they don't stock.

Cars don't have front number (licence) plates so I keep thinking they are new.

A lot of the streets are named after trees usually the species that grew there which is incongruous now that it is all buildings.

Off to Washington DC today staying at the Morrison Clark Hotel, hopefully it will live up to Philadelphia. Not sure what the Internet availability will be like but having a free Internet connection in the room has been very useful .