Friday, 31 July 2009

Friday Picture of the Day

Raining heavily as it has a lot so far. Hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and realised I like landscape paintings, sculpture and the context of how and when something was constructed. The secret in none of the guide books is that the building is if not more impressive that what it holds.


I really hate New York because it is so busy and getting or doing something is so difficult if it trying to buy a subway ticket to just walking down the street. I got up early to go to see the Statue of Liberty up close and
queue for the ticket
queue for the boat
queue to get through security
queue to get the audio guide
queue to get to Ellis Island
queue for the loo
queue to get a new audio guide
queue to get back to the mainland

What was worse is that it was making me angry and starting to act in the same way as many New York residents - rudely and with no thought for those around me.

heaven help those people arrived mid morning as it only got busier.

I really like New York as there is so much to do - from world class museums to free plays in the park. If only there all co-ordinated so didn't all try to be on at the same time. There are some beautiful areas and places were you can get away from it all. After all the queuing I walked the length of Central Park and found busy areas and quiet areas and generally no sounds of traffic.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The difference between hotels beyond the obvious size of the room and the view out of it is the small things.

1. The volume of the air con unit. If it is too hot to sleep you need it in but if it is too noisy then it is hard to sleep
2. The lack of a clock. If I have to turn in a lamp to see what time it is I am awake - even if it is 6.30 am
3. Not checking the room before you arrive - having to ask for a plug for the basin
4. Provision of small things like toiletries and notepaper
5. Classier staff - not leaving an envelope for a tip in the room when you arrive

I know that this hotel is half the price of the previous one but small things can make all the difference

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Times Square

A hot sweaty sticky mass of humanity - half trying to enjoy it - half trying to make mone from it. It then rains and it empties and people with ponchos appear.

Picture of the day

Tuesday's picture of the day

Let the train take the strian

A mountaineer when asked why he had climbed Mount Everest replied "Because it is there" and when I think about the long journey I took it is because it is too easy to fly over areas and not see what they are like. From the rundown industrial areas that seem to surround railway tracks worldwide to arching bridges over stretches of water the trip is as interesting as the destination. In many a metaphor for life - its all about the journey. It was a shame that we travelled down the picturesque Hudson Valley IN THE DARK. Thank you to the people on the line for delaying us.

If President Obama would like to spend his stimulus money on improving the quality of the rails then the train might be allowed to go close to its top speed. We got a lot faster as we got closer to New York. Early on cars kept overtaking us.
Now in Saint James Hotel in New York

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Travelling to New York

A nine hour train ride - seemed a good idea to see the countryside at the time rather than fly over it but now I am not so sure. Well let you know later.

Huckster Paradise

It says in the guide book that in the 19th Century every type of huckster tried to use Niagara to make money such as Charles Blondin and his tight rope acts. Well today the hucksters are still here only they have famous names such as Hard Rock Cafe, Disney and Ripleys Believe it or Not.

The Falls are great and the attractions with them worthwhile. I would recommend Maid of the Mist, White Water Walk, Aerocar, Skylon Tower, and Walk behind the falls and less so Niagara Fury . Helicopter rides need to be booked well in advance and ring up when you book it to get your slot early.

Turn your back to the Falls and it could be Leicester Square, Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard or any other overly tacky tourist attraction .

Monday, 27 July 2009


is defined as excessive pride or self confidence

So having carried my field studies coat around so far I thought I would wear it as you go close to the falls and it did its job admirably keeping my top half, rucksack and camera perfectly dry. It was on the other hand a little shorter than the ponchos they provide so had very wet legs. This did not compare with the gentleman who's poncho was ripped by the wind on the approach as he looked like he had a shower with his clothes on (which he did). The hubris comes from wearing jeans. Every field trip we tell the kids that when jeans get wet they stay wet and other trousers are preferable. Did I listen to my own advice? No. In fairness I couldn't wear my shorts as they are being cleaned after I sat in a puddle and was left with a very suspicious brown mark on their seat but I had other options!! Contact lenses also would have been a good idea.

Tips on visiting Niagara Falls

1. Buy an Adventure Pass - it is good value, you can skip the long queues and provides free transport on the shuttle buses.
2. Go on the Maid of the Mist first as this is the only attraction that does not let you skip the queue
3. Niagara Fury is okay but I understand how the Falls formed and I was a bit confused.
4. Save your poncho - rather than have three new ones.
5. You are going to get wet - so shorts and sandals dry quickest
6. When using the free transport - the second part of the bus is usually quieter and easy to access
7. Get up early - queues start to really build up around 10.30-11am
8. Watch out for free coupons - lots of them everywhere
9. Dusk is the best time to go up the Skylon Tower so you view it in daylight and night-time.

Niagara Falls

1. Picture from the bedroom window

2. Its is lovely and going to get out early and beat the rush to the major tourist attractions. A joint ticket looks the best value for all the attractions. Have brought a coat to avoid buying pacamac poncho thing

3. Firework display was good - probably best to stay in your room if you are high or be half way between the two falls to get the best view. Arrive early as it is busy. Would have like to see them integrate the falls into the display rather than just be a display near the falls.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Not quite perfect way to travel.

The single most dangerous job in North America must be Greyhound bus driver due to their absolute incompetence and inability to devise a system to allow easy transport.

  • On the ticket it says arrive 60 mins before the bus arrives. If you arrive that early you are told to go away as you are to early and getting in the way.

  • The customer service representative inside the buildings knows what the plan should look

  • like but this in no way represents what is actually occurring outside.

  • It is possible for a driver to not know where the bus he is driving is going. When I say is this bus going to Niagara Falls the correct answer was yes.

  • A queue of people going to separate places can form on the same platform and all of them be wrong despite what they have been told.

  • The number of seats on the bus decides who gets on not whether you have bought a ticket. If the bus is full when you get to the second stop if no-one gets off you have to wait for the next one and hope

  • Half the people in the waiting room think they are on the next bus but they are not in the queue and have no chance.

  • Most queues cross the areas where buses drive meaning that getting run over whilst waiting for the bus is highly probably but what ever inconvenience there might be don't leave the queue.

Its a wonder more passenger don't go postal at them.

Picture of the day - more rain. Now in Niagara.

Visiting Toronto

1. Bring and wear insect repellant - I have been eaten alive

2. Visit the CN Tower at dusk so you get to see the landscape at both day and night. If you eat at the restautant then you get free entry which is better value for both the tower and the restaurant.

3. Think about whether you need a whole day pass on the subway, most attractions are within walking distance and it might be better value to buy individual trips.

4. If you go to the Sirius stage you get free music but it tends to get better later as the bands get more professional.

5. Don't bother with the film about the CN Tower - a 17 minute film on pouring concrete

6. Have water proof shoes with you - Toronto does not drain well and there were a lot of puddles around

Is Canada different to the US?

I am not sure what I would have expected from Canada and therefore I am not sure if I am disappointed. As you move from Spain through France and into Germany there are a large number of changes and not just the language but food, culture and ideology to mention a few. I did not expect that level of difference but there seems to be similar to a number of the US cities that I have visited. Not to say it is a bad place to visit but not as different as I expected. It occurred that that the France-Spain border is mainly Basque and similar on both sides and French Alsatians speak German and maybe Toronto's closeness to the US border is the reason.

After time the difference I discovered is subtle. America tends to shout out at you advertising itself in self promotion with bright lights and endless commercialism. In Canada it is a lot more under stated and I think that the difference I was looking for is that Canada is different but they don't necessarily tell you about it, outside of bears dressed as Mounties, the under-statedness is Canada.

The best laid plans

Today I had a number of activities lined up for the day, starting with a boat trip and ending up with a trip to see some improv comedy with the 2nd City Theatre troupe. However, just after the boat trip the heavens opened between 12 and 5pm. Heavy thunderstorm rain, raining stair rods and cats and dogs. So heavy that Noah was spotted with hammer and nails buying wood and a pair of giraffes were seen roaming the streets complete with suitcases. So instead of getting to see some of the historic areas of Toronto I was in a number of coffee shops and other indoor attractions reading. At the appropriate time I headed to the theatre only to find that it had flooded. So most of today was a washout. Going to try and see some of thr sites tomorrow before moving onto Niagara Falls.

Picture of the DAY: Toronto skyline with the flag from the boat.

Saturday, 25 July 2009


1. CN Tower. Impressive structure and an exceptional views but lacks in other key identifiable buildings. Can you name any of these buildings.
2. The Ice Hockey Hall of Fame where you can see things such as the goal where Wayne Gretsky scored his 802nd career goal. Yes I was under whelmed as well.

3. Baseball. Last year I got to see Manny Ramirez in his last game before being traded from Boston to Los Angeles (I also got to see him in one of his first games for LA as well). This year all the trade rumours surround Roy Holliday (1 of the premier pitchers) and the home fans are desperate for him to stay so the atmosphere was amazing as there was a constant barrage of noise. It was rainy at the start but must have cleared up as halfway through the games they opened the retractable roof to display the view.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Welcome from Holland

One thing people overlook when I do these adventures is that it can often involved waiting and as I choose to fly via Amsterdam (cheaper and "less get to the airport" hassle) I have an hour before the second check in so I am taking advantage of the free wi-fi. Weather in Amsterdam is not promising and the flight over was pretty empty so I a row of seats to myself. Also 1 of my ex students was operating the check in desk which is good top see she has gainful employment as she was not that well behaved.

Most hair raising incident - opened overhead locker to find that my hand luggae and all improtant document etc had vanished. As there were so few other people it had slid right to the front of the plane but did give me a bit of a scare

Best moment so far - Red Arrows coming into land at the airport will I looked out of the window, taxied, refueled and then took off again. Some reason they were iffy with cameras in departure lounge.

Best fact. People who wore old fashioned and out of date square ended shoes were often called squares. Pointed shoes were more expensive and a sign of social standing. Know that I know this it makes me a square and know you know it you are a square as well.
Next stop Toronto. Toodle pip.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Tomorrow is the big day

1. Voting

I recently became aware that the two main candidates are both less than 30 and this made me wonder and question if there was a inbuilt prejudice to my MP being younger than me. I have kind of accepted never playing professional sport for England but how about an MP. If I would not consider that I have enough life experience to be an MP and vote on the impacts of economic policy on the future how about someone younger. The more I thought the more questions I ask

  • Are the major parties being disrespectful by selecting young candidates?
  • Are younger candidates likely to be more or less likely to by led easily by party bigwigs than other first time MP's? (are they just yes men/women)
  • Is there experience of education/ health etc. going to impact positively or negatively on their work as an MP?

Other things to note about the campaign

  • all the parties are on a major leaflet blitz - sometimes two or three a day. The DVD presentation however was a waste of time as very few were watched.
  • using a loudspeaker on a car to raise awareness is not welcome as it scares next doors dog
  • the absence of door to door campaigners of anyone other than low level minions is disappointing
  • if I am in a car park and you are a candidate come over and try to win my vote (I actually didn't notice and A told me)

The choice is between Labour and Lib Dem because Chloe Smith (Conservative) has spent a lot of time on how she will re-invent Parliament expenses which vastly overstates the kind of power she will have and secondly as the vote was last night shows woeful knowledge of the political timetable.

Oh and I am coming away.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

How can it cost the same amount to insure a 10 year old car worth £750 at the most and a 3 year old car with more than 10 times the amount? Maybe need to shop around a bit

Friday, 17 July 2009

Another year done

1. Term is now finished (thank heavens as it seemed to go on for ever and every lesson seemed to take about three hours). Hopefully now have 7 weeks of not thinking about work. Next Thurs heading off on the Third Great North American Adventure starting in Toronto and taking in , Niagara Falls, New York, Washington DC, Richmond, Kitty Hawk, Durham, Charleston, Savannah and Miami

2. Have 120 exams left to mark. Started with 710 so nearly done. A productive weekend could get that done

3. Have almost bought a new car. The green Hyundai has reached the end of the road and is destined for Wymondham car auction courtesy of the dealer. This is what the next one will look like

4. Have been to see the new Harry Potter film. Very good film on its own but not a great adaptation of the book. The first two films were okay and helped set the scene but they did manage to pick out three excellent actors to be the leads although Daniel Radcliffe is a bit short compared to the other two especially Emma Watson. Check it out here

5. Well Done to England saving the first test. We can't lose 5-0 anymore.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Medieval Day today. Had a falconry display. Was persuaded not to take my camera as Yr12 photography students would be taking pictures and making them available to all. Dismayed was I to find them doing it with a camera on a phone. Pictures rubbish. Lesson learnt

Education and by-elections

Labour have decided a five year teaching licence is a good idea.
Anything that takes planning time is a waste of time in school and lets face it who needs more paper work. If you are rubbish should take 5 years to get rid of you. Current incompetence procedures take a lot less than that.

Conservatives have decided to get rid of Quangos (Quasi autonomous non-government agency) and one of the ones in the firing line is the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA). QCA meet with relevant agencies, teachers and government before deciding what should be taught in GCSE, making sure they are equally easy/ hard and ensuring that the writing and marking process are fair. This according to the government is a waste of money and needs to be democratised. Why we need to vote for people this to fill this role is beyond me. Should this be decided by a minister or by someone who works in the field of education. It took 6 years to introduce the new GCSE's as it was a major change (bye bye coursework) longer than a government is elected for.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

By Election

Norwich North by election will be the day I go on holiday so I will get to vote in person.

Had four phone calls so far. All functional in style. Not much to choose between them

Met the Labour candidate. Not impressive. Grilled him a bit. At least he has bothered to call.

Waiting for the others to call.

Still not met any major politicians yet.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson has passed away and while I am sad for his family I did not know him personally and am therefore not that fussed. His contribution to music and the introduction of quality of music videos to MTV cannot be denied but in reality he had not done anything musical noteworthy for 10 years. It is therefore after death that he seems likely to make a huge impact on the music industry. Firstly posthumous sales have been huge. Secondly there is a huge catalogue of unreleased music that can now dripfeed into the worlds music catalogue.