Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Ashes

Great results but not great sport.

Great Sport occurs where two equal teams battle and it is unpredictable.

In the past Australia have been the better team and it has not been Great Sport.

This time we have the better team and it would be a travesty not to win the series but the is not Great Sport.

2005 had two teams and that was Great Sport.

Sports Personality of the Year

Since I went to watch it in 1985 it has often had a special place in my heart and watch it when ever I can. Unfortunately this years Phil Taylor coming second representing darts is a bit of a joke as it does not fit under the definition of a sport which is

A an organized, competitive, entertaining, energetic and skillful activity requiring commitment, strategy, and fair play, in which a winner can be defined by objective means.


AP McCoy (horse racing) came first, sadly none of the horses were able to speak about how they felt about it but you can't help think that it is wrong to give an award to a sport which only seems to exist as an extension of the betting industry. How many other sports do they tell you the odds at the same time as you get the results.


The coach of the year went to Colin Montgomerie for coaching the Ryder Cup team. My main issue id that he did not coach them as they all have their own coaches he merely chose which order they played in


One man who does deserve his award was Lance Haggith from Bedford who runs all kind of basketball sessions as well as charity shops giving away sporting equipment to those who cannot afford them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One.

Lots of action, some thoughtful scenes but in all an excellent set up for part two. Well worth going to see but keep an eye on the fact that Daniel Radcliffe is the lead and should be the tall masculine character however he has not quite grown enough for a Hollywood lead actor. To compensate he often stands on rocks. logs and other items or is in the foreground with the pothers set back.

Agatha Christie

Some of the Christmas TV I was most looking forward to were Agatha Christie adaptations but they were pretty disappointing.

The Secret of Chimneys - get rid of the hero and two of my favourite literary characters in Lady Eileen "Bundle" Brent and Superintendent Battle, import Miss Marple and a whole new script and worst of all have Lord Caterham as the murderer. I wish that they would trust the book to provide a good yarn from which to adapt a screenplay rather than invent a second rate, wholly inconsistent tale with plot holes a Routemaster bus could fit through.

My two favourite sets of detectives from Agatha Christie are the aforementioned Bundle Brent and Superintendent Battle who appear in two mysteries and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford who appear in about 5 including N or M which is my favourite of all. They often seem to be seen as unable to support the whole plot as it would not attract enough viewers so Miss Marple is parachuted in.

In terms of Miss Marple no-one is better than Joan Hickson. Some of the newer Miss Marples are just too healthy and spry and not quite ethereal or old enough. Maybe Joan Hickson has spoilt us all.


Of the Hercule Poirot stories my favourite is Murder on the Orient Express with the jury deciding on the fate of a child murderer. In the latest adaptation it seems that they assumed that the audiences know who the killer was and focussed more on the dilemma Poirot ended up in rather than ensuring that they provided a coherent plot and to explain in enough detail. Albert Finney is often seen as a pantomime character in the film version but it presents the clues and conclusions in a way that allows the audience to easy follow along.

Tron Legacy

I had low expectations of this film as I had not seen Tron with this being the prequel. It tells of a man who has gone inside the computing system called the Grid to make it better. In trying to make the perfect system he found that he was imperfect and the system in trying to eliminate him has stranded him inside the machine. 20 years later his son finds his way into the machine to rescue him.

Overall I found the film relatively entertaining. The effects were good and the fact we saw it on 3D and IMAX meant that we had all the technology to make it good. Without them I think that it would be a fairly dull plot. The sections inside the computer are particularly good in 3D.

The main problem I had was that in comparison to the Matrix (which is similar in plot) it did not have the quality of script especially the way in which characters learnt about their surroundings. People appeared to able to master the inside of the computer system immediately with little training and while they were learning then the audience could be learning the same.

The other reason I did not connect with the film was that I spend a lot of the film wondering if I was getting the maximum benefit from the 3D. As I have a stigmatism and am very right eye dominant I can see some of the 3D effects but wondering if I am seeing them all.
Overall a good film but not one that will live long in the memory.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

I'm back

Well that was hectic. I am not sure what happened to the time between October and Christmas but I managed to stuff a lot into that time.

So
I have sold my house, have seen any number of other places and have had a couple of offers rejected.

I have been to Cambridge to look at the exam papers for 2012 and add comments or help restructure them. A hint - then on Geography.

I have been writing questions for text books

I have been getting angry at the government's non-sensical ideas on schools and their funding.

I have been navigating the ice and snow that has hit this part of the country

I have been teaching Yr13 weather and Yr 10 and 11 AQA Geography for the first time which makes it more time consuming,

And now it is Christmas

Saturday, 16 October 2010

X Factor

I absolutely hate X Factor but I can't help but admire it. Simon has managed to increase the revenue stream in three more ways
1. Being able to buy the track during the show so even the people who lose are making him money and the winner will have made him money on approximately twelve tracks before they even release their own songs/ album.
2. Setting up a link with Tesco to sell X Factor merchandise and then having one of their employees get through so they can mention the name of the store throughout the show (product placement anyone)
3. Nokia apps exclusively linked to the X Factor
Cynical moi? Certainly. Just see his bank balance explode when X Factor US starts and he tries to ruin their music industry.

Party night

Last night C and K came to visit A and we all went out drinking. I can't remember the last time I was awake for the purposes of drinking and partying at 2 am but it has been a while. Thankfully no hang over or any ill effects.

House situation

It is still for sale. I have had any number of viewings but believe that I need better prepared viewers as if they have even a little more cash they go for a house with an extra reception room but in poor condition.
It is now getting to the point where I am beginning to hate my house and am second guessing every decision. Should I have painted it that way? Is there any thing else I could do? Was that the correct carpet? Did I put the loo seat down and will that affect whether they buy it.
it is also a pain to have it looking immaculate every time I leave and my cupboards are filling up with stuff that is shoved out of the way as there is a viewer coming in a couple of hours.
I JUST WANT IT SOLD.
It is especially annoying as a friend who put their house on the market later than I did have now sold, have had an offer accepted on a house and look like they will be in by Christmas.

Feeling old

This year the new NQT in the department is an ex-student of mine who I started to teach GCSE in my first year of teaching.

The trainee in the department is a girl who I played korfball with and I am sure she was 14 about three years ago but turns up ready to teach aged 22.

Conclusion - I am getting old.

The Town

A team of four lifelong friends — Doug MacRay, James "Jem" Coughlin, Albert "Gloansy" Magloan, and Desmond "Dez" Elden, from the tough streets of Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston Massachusetts — rob a Cambridge bank, taking bank manager Claire Keesey hostage. After her release, Doug follows Claire and they begin a relationship.

A really promising set up to a film with the promise of level of intrigue as Doug and Claire get more and more friendly with the secret that he took her hostage hanging oer them. As she is introduces to more and more of his friends and other hostage takers will she realise what her boyfriend did. Will the tattoo clue she saw during the robbery lead to her an unpalatable conclusion? Will she tell Doug that she thinks one of his friends is a bank robber without realising he is? Will this put her life in danger and how will this affect the friendship between the gang of robbers?

How knows because they decide instead to have lots of guns, shooting and more robberies forsaking tensions for action. A reasonable film but could have been so much better.

The other area that was well used was the scenery of Boston with numerous aerial shots of the down town sky line and the Bunker Hill monument. The shoot out at Fenway Park baseball stadium was another land mark that was used that I had visited and at least when the plot meandered I could admire the scenery and think back to my holiday.

It was also interesting to see the rivalry between the Townies (blue collared Irish immigrant residents) and the Tunies (white collared middle class) with the gentrification of the Charlestown suburb. An interest comment on the movement of people within a city.
And why did we need to know about the tattoo?

Tamara Drewe

A film based on the book "Far from the Madding Crowd" by Thomas Hardy and a graphic novel combining farce, bawdy comedy, silent stoicism, killer cows and two naughty foul mouthed schoolgirls.
Tamara Drewe, a young and attractive journalist, returns home to a small village with the intention of selling her now-deceased mother's house which she has inherited. Locals are amazed at the improvement to her appearance after she had a nose job while away. Andy had been interested in her when she was a girl, and when he sees her now it is clear he is attracted. Across the valley is a neighbour's house where authors stay to work on their stories, but the husband, Nicholas, keeps having affairs while his wife stays at home providing food and lodging for her patrons.
Hilarity ensues and I really enjoyed it. I was surprised by the amount of bad language (am I getting old) although the two school girls stole every scene that they were in. The other scene stealer was the magnificent countryside with the director using it at every turn and producing a film that at times almost felt like a tourism commercial for US tourists. The turns and twists are nicely done and it is well worth a viewing.

Norwich City 4 lost to Stingers 2 by 11 goals to 5

Getting a settled team this year has been a nightmare and we seem to have different players in the team every week and this lack of consistency is showing. Add into the fact that the half of the team were not really good enough for the sixth team last year playing in the third division and results like this are inevitable. We played okay but too often our team made stupid errors or just weren't up to the task against this level of opposition. On the bright side I scored a delicious penalty (still 100% this season) and played switch defense really well. In attack however the urge to shoot on sight rather than trying to build up to better attacking positions was really annoying.

Norwich City 4 beat Dragons 2 by 8 goals to 5

Another game another incomplete team but at least this time it was the opposition. Playing against 7 brings certain advantages and disadvantages. In our end we had an extra boy which means that he cannot score but get lots of possession and should be aiming to set up a lot of the play. In the first half I was able to score but my teammate G was so slow at distributing the ball that we had a small number of chances and one off attacks. At half time we swapped so I was the free player and I set up 5 goals by keeping the ball moving with quick paces and hanging around the post so that all of the attacks were extended and not just ending after 1 attack. Good win.

Norwich City 3 beat Stingers 2 by 6 goals to 3.

Having just played for a team without enough players the team that followed did not have enough players so I was playing back to back which nearly killed me. Fortunately I played bit better and scored two goals. The second was a penalty and it was good to see that I am still as accurate from the spot as always (100% so far this season) but the first goal was sensational with a long shot from the half way line straight down the centre of the basket barely touching the sides. A nice pass set up a third goal and a satisfying victory occurred although the opponents were a little unfortunate as they hit the top of the basket on a number of occasions. Still they get a losing bonus point for their efforts.

Norwich City 4 v Knights 4: ????

The first game that I have ever played where both teams managed to lose. You are allowed to play two players from your third team "down" and no-one is allowed to play two teams down. If you do play an illegal team you automatically lose 5-0. Suffice to say that to get enough players on the pitch both teams had to revert to an illegal team so both teams should lose 5-0, however, There illegal team was more illegal that ours so completely outplayed us but as to what score appears in the official records who knows.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Melsop Farm

because sometimes you have to go and look at small animals




Norwich Heritage Day

For one weekend recently it was Norwich Heritage Weekend. All the historic buildings in Norfolk and Norwich open up allow people to have a look around. These include about million churches, little gardens, slightly strange members clubs and an amazing shop.

We only got on to this a bit late so a lot of the places that needed booking were not available to us but there were so many places that you can just drop in and look around.

Most cute - the Guide HQ next to the river
Most odd - Strangers Hall - Men's club with the smell of old leather but with the flat screen TV showing the horse racing
Best Church - The Octagon Chapel on Colegate
Most Needy - The King of Hearts Art Gallery - hopefully they can sort funding
Best tour - having a look behind the stage at the Maddermarket Theatre.
Best Garden - the Bear shop on Elm Hill - a surprising gem
Best Shop - an ex roller skating rink built in early 1900's. No words can describe it.






Oklahoma!

Oklahoma! is a musical that is set in the Mid West of America in 1906 and was performed at the Theatre Royal. It was a well acted and performed with some songs that you might recognise. It was really enjoyable and I felt that the performances of Curly, Laurey and Aunt Ellar were really good. At first I found it hard to get on with the character of Jud as it sounded like the actor was using a fake voice but it turns out that he just had a really deep voice.
There are a number of really good songs and you might recognise this two


It also helped me work out what the hell a Surrey with a fringe on Top was as it was the name of a pub in Sheffield.

The area of real interest wasn't really played out that much. At this time new laws were passed that allowed settlers to be given free land if they moved to Oklahoma. This would allow them to become a state. The enclosing of the land by farmers stopped the cowboys roaming the cattle freely over the land and led to some conflict. I felt that they could have made more of the fact that Curly crossed the boundary from one side to the other although the scene were he sold horse, gun and saddle hinted at this.

Like all art Oklahoma! is a reflection of the situation when it was written and performed and in many ways that is sometimes more interesting the art itself.

The World Trade centre Mosque that is not a mosque and not on the site of the WTC

You can know measure how racist you are by answering the following question.

How far from the site of the Twin Towers should the mosque be built?

It seems 200 metres and not in line of sight is too close for a large number of people. How they square this with the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution is another question.

It also seems to ignore the fact that Freedom Tower (or whatever it ends up being called) may well have a prayer room for any Muslims who work there.

The scariest places in the world

I have often contended that small villages are the scariest places in the world and that the larger the country the less interaction those villagers will have with other nationalities and thus the scary factors is increased exponentially. The evidence comes from both the real world and the fictional world.

The decision of a Florida pastor of a tiny church to burn a Koran (in the end he pulled out)without fully realising the consequences bordered on the idiotic. Whether it would have actually endangered troops in Afghanistan is debatable but to lump an entire faith into a single group shows a singular lack of vision. After all did Tim McVeigh, the Oklahoma Bomber represent all Christians?

The film The Last Exorcism follows a pastor as he shows the tricks he used to fool people into paying him to perform exorcisms. When he decides he can't keep up the pretense and takes a film crew to his final exorcism all is not as it seems and things quickly get out of hand. For a horror thriller it is a decent film up until the last ten minutes when the film throws it all away with a frankly ludicrous ending. I would have liked them to continue driving into the sunset with the thought that everything was well.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Womens Rugby World Cup

was on recently and I got to see some of it. England lost to New Zealand in the final which was a bit of a shame but they are clearly the best two teams in the world and a close scoreline emphasises the small gap between the two teams.

For those of you who thing it is a bit genteeel then watch this


Favourite Player - Maggie Alphonsi for her all action style. This is the only video I could find and it shows a bit of her talent.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rabbit Emergency

So Missy (short for Mischief) stopped eating (very unusual), stopped terrorising Snuggles and sat feeling sorry for herself. It turns out this is a very bad sign. As a prey animals rabbits only show they are in pain when it is serious and this was. The other piece of information is that if a rabbit stops eating it can die as it requires a stream of food to keep its digestive system working. As the vet explain "it is a gut on legs" and the other vet described it as "very complicated".

As follows
A rabbit eats food and chews it about 300 cycles side to side and it goes down the oesophagus.
The food goes into the stomach, but the real action isn’t there. The stomach stores the food and the contents are sterilized and moved to the small intestine. Then the undigested fiberous material moves on and is sorted. with the fibre going to the colon forming hard waste. The remaining food is then ready for digestion goes into the cecum which is larger than the stomach.
The hard waste that bypasses the cecum is moved through the colon in a circular motion and forms perfectly round hard balls.

The cecum is a complicated organ that redigests the food. It is filled with enzymes and bacteria that breakdown food. Every 3 to 8 hours the cecum contracts and forces the material back into the colon where it is coated with mucus, then passed through the anus and the rabbit eats these "cecotrophes" directly. The rabbit redigests the cecotrophes to receive even more nutrients from them.

So we had two vet trips, special food to apply by syringe, injection to help move the stomach and a pain killer. Thankfully Missy is back to normal.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

This Thing of Darkness

Captain Robert FitzRoy was a man who you may not have heard about but made a lasting contribution to the world as we know it but yet did not live to see the benefit it has brought.

He was a brilliant seaman who was the first to pass Naval exams with 100%. This ability allowed him to captain HMS Beagle in two voyages in and around Cape Horn where a lesser captain might have lost the ship and the people on board. On the Beagle was Charles Darwin who used the geological and biological evidence he saw to propose the theory of evolution. As a committed and devout Christian he could not bring himself to believe the theory and could not be reconciled to his part in the theories origin.

As an MP he had laws on who could and could not skipper a ship passed saving thousands of lives but was not asked to stand down as his beaten rival was causing too much negative publicity.

As governor of New Zealand he was left in a difficult position as European settlers had been sold more land than existing in the whole of New Zealand. The money was not forth coming to buy the land from the Maori and with less than 100 soldiers he could not take it by force. He also refused to blame the Maori in the Wairau Affair started by colonists. He was replaced after three years when people who had not profited from the expected land sales forced him out.

His years of weather observation including pressure allowed him to make valid forecasts of the weather and by using the telegraph machine and bases in Canada, USA and other areas he made weather forecasts allowing harbour masters to signal to vessels if a storm was imminent. His system was disbanded as it was costing fishing fleet owners money to have them in port when a storm was predicted.

The weather observations were restored after pressure form the sailors who found them invaluable but after he committed suicide. He was found to be in debt having spent £6000 (£400 000) of his own money on government projects.

You can read about his life in the book A Thing of Darkness but a paragraph from close to the end sums up his contribution Concentrated on the Beagle were

No less than five of the Beagle's officers were destined to reach the rank of admiral; two became captains of the Beagle, two, eventual Fellows of the Royal Society. They also included Governor Generals of New Zealand and Queensland, a Member of Parliament, future Heads of the Board of Trade and the Meteorological Office, two artists who achieved considerable renown, Secretaries of the Geological Society and the Royal Geographical Society, an Inspector of Coastguards, Australian property magnate, the founding father of the British colony in the Falkland Islands, 6 professional surveyors, five world class botanists, one of the founders of the science of meteorology and author of Origin of Species

Toy Story 3D

Worth seeign for the Spanish Buzz Lightyear alone although the performance of Lotso is fun to watch and the cameo from the soliders were also fun to watch.

The ending is sad in the end of an era way and is supposed to make men especially weep as the idea of moving on and groewing up are key. Maybe the fact I see it year on year with different school groups made me less affected.

Salt

An excellent premise with the idea that the CIA agent that is charge of interviewing KGB Russian defectors in fact a spy. From here I was hoping that a complex and confusing web of truth and lies would be spread before the viewer culminating in an ending that might or might not have revealed a truth or left us guessing combined with the ideas from Bourne that more vulnerability and realism in action films heroes results in better film left me anticipating that this could be quite good.

What we got was a bit of a pastiche of an action movie with an absurd plot, over the top action ideas and unintentional comedic moments. This did not make it bad or unwatchable in the same way that a Bond film is a comedy so was Salt and I enjoyed it a lot better when I accepted this.

If you are ever in doubt of the absorbent powers or even healing powers of a sanitary towel then watch as Angelina straps one over a bullet wound and then never bleeds or shows any ill effects from the injury.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The difference between Montenegro and Croatia

Both have their richer sides and inhabitants however in Montenegro there are more obviously a poorer group of people and this can be seen in the cars that are on the road. Which taxi would like to take?

Cable Car - Picture of the Day 14/08/10

You can take a cable car from the old city to the hill below. As with all tall buildings the best time to go is when the sun is going down so that you can take pictures while it is light and then while it is dark. Here is my best attempt



Cavtat

Cavtat (Tsavtat) is a small resort about an hour boat ride from Dubrovnik. We had the option of staying here and while it is very nice I am glad we did not stay there and were only a stones throw from the old city as it allowed you to go for a meal or a stroll rather than being dictated to by when the boats were leaving. The other option was to own your own boat and drift down the coast to the city for the evening.

Invasion

The city walls might have been quite successful at keeping out medieval invaders but the ships that arrive now still provide an invasion that it is best to try and avoid. Some cruise ships are nicer than others but either way only having five or six hours in a location means it is not the type of holiday I would particularly enjoy.


Dubrovnik Aquarium




There are only really three reasons for visiting
1. It has a toilet
2. Its cool and shady
3. It's a challenge to take photos.

The displays could be bigger, the fish more exciting and the more interactive. I felt a bit sorry for the turtle as it did not seen to have enough space.

Promenading

One evening we went to the more modern part of Dubrovnik. Catching a bus from the hotel we were told to tell the driver Posta Lapad as the place that we wanted to get off. We were merrily driving along when we realised that we were heading out of the centre of town. At the next stop we got off and end up at the other end of the promenade than we intended. This turned out the be good as we walked back from the more remote areas into civilisation as it got dark, We were also in the perfect place to see the sun go down.



















Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Picture of the Day 13/08/10

The iconic thing to do in Dubrovnik is walk the city walls. We started at 8.30 in the morning and by 10.30 it is uncomfortable as the heat reflects off the marble, there are lots of steps and no shade. The views however are worth it whether they are sweeping panoramic shots, guilty snapshots into the lives of the residents or arty shots like the one above contrasting the Orthodox church bells with the red roofs of the typical Venetian cityscape. The mountains form a barren and dramatic backdrop. A must to for any camera fanatic.

Birds

There were lots of pigeons, swifts, swallows and martins but very few sea gulls. At one point the swallows were swooping down and taking a drink from the surface of the swimming pool.





City lay out

Each end has a gate - this is the Ploce Gate


Dubrovnik has a main street called the Stradun


To the East is up hill and there is a tangled maze of streets and steps


To the West are more open areas as it is flat so there is the church of St Blaise


the harbour


Around the outside are the walls which would have deterred me.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a lovely place to visit in the Spring and the Autumn but the heat makes it less pleasant in the Summer and makes the need to get into water very important. On our first full day in Dubrovnik we went to the island of Lokren in the bay and after an aborted attempt to walk to thr summit we headed for the sea. There are not really beaches bit rather a set of rocks with a ladder into the sea. This means that the boring bit of wading out till you get to a deep point is lost.

Lokren is a lovely island and has a numerb of "wild " peacocks roaming left over from when Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph of Austria as in charge and they had a large number of medium sized chicks. Some of the bolder one came hunting for fruit amongst the sun bathers although a small child and a stone gave one a nasty suprise.

Picture of the day 12/08/10

There are a lot of stairs in Dubrovnik as it is built on a hill

How to cross a border

Sandra was the rep that took us through the border from Montenegro to Croatia. There was another group who were heading in the same direction but were going to the airport.

As we approached the border we had a lunch stop as Sandra thought we had plenty of time but then she found the flight was an hour earlier so we hurried into the minibus and drove through the Montenegrin border and into no-mans land. This is where we joined the queue which must have been two miles long and Sandra knew we were not going to make it.

They were considering driving up the lane reserved for traffic coming towards us when a coach decided it was going to do that and we followed. As we went up the hill we found traffic coming towards us and we blocked the road until someone let us into the queue.

As we got close to the border post a police van came up behind us and I thought we were for the high jump but it turns out Sandra and the policewoman were school friends and we got an escorted ride. The car that tried to follow us was made to go to the back.

The couple made the airport in time.

Driving Montenegin style

The road is one lane in each direction. As we come round a corner we find that there is a car coming towards us on both sides of the road. The car pulls into its lane and I breathe a sigh of relief only to see there is a second car behind it. It pulled in and there is a third car. In total there was a queue of 6 cars on our side of the road who all pulled over and while it was not very dangerous it was risky. The driver smiled and said "That's Montenegro driving for you"

Morača Canyon - Pictures of the Day 11/08/10

After three nights in the mountains we were off again heading down to the coast and then along to the city of Dubrovnik.

We had to leave at 7.30am in a taxi that had to drive out of the mountains and through the Morača Canyon (2nd most spectacular road in Montenegro) and I spent the time trying to take pictures of the scenery from the taxi window. Here are a few of the best.





This journey was done with a driver that had more phonecalls than the average office, a habit of caressing the crucifix hanging from the mirror on roads with flimsy looking railings and a lot of traffic. The most sobering moment of the trip was seeing the red tape where there was a missing part of the railing and the comments from the driver that a lorry had gone over the side. I doubt that he survived the long drop.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Kolašin Botanical Picture of the Day 10/08/2010

There is a small botanical garden in Kolašin run by the Vincek family. They are a very hospitable couple especially Daniel, the 70 year old curator who served apple brandy on arrival at 10am in the morning! He has officially retire but you can see the love and the care that he has for the garden and his knowledge of the plants and the conditions that they need to grow. His garden is unique as it is in a volcanic area (acid soils) in a predominately limestone area (alkali soil) and has many links with many botanical gardens around the world including Kew Gardens. We visited with two other couples from the UK and one of them really knew his plants gaining the nickname "The Professor". It was good to meet someone who lives in the area full time so we can get to ask about life in the mountains. You need 20 cubic metres of wood to get through the winter as it is cheaper then using electricity to heat the house and the locals were all chopping in mid August so they don't get surprised by an early Winter. The area looked like this


Biogradska Gora - Picture of the Day 09/08/2010

Is a 54 square kilomtere National Park located in Montenegro and was a short journey to where we were staying. We went to Lake Biogradsko and did a circular walk around it. The area is stunning and the forest in this area is virgin having never been cut down and is described as primeval. There are a serious of steep sided mountains containing glacier lakes and swift streams. There are lots of animals and despite my best effort I did not see a bear (well there are not many left). 1 other animal we did not see were the Tiger Mosquitoes that the man in the visitor centre warned us about describing them as tiny but "bite like crocodile" after using insect repellent we kept most of them off but some of them got in at A's waist and she was left with three of the largest bites I have ever seen - this also led to a comedy incident in an Apoteka trying to buy Bite Cream.


This is what the area looks like



Bianca Resort in Kolašin

The hotel was empty. We met no other guests until teatime. We met only three members of staff. We went for a swim in the empty pool, the empty jacuzzi, the silent corridors and the bar devoid of people. It got busier throughout the stay and at the end was being used by the Montenegrin and Italian basketball squads in preparation for their upcoming match (Montenegro won) but on arrival you kind of wonder what you had got yourself in for especially when it fells like a small Belgian detective might be sitting quietly in the corner awaiting a murder to occur.

Movin' on up - Picture of the Day 08/08/2010

So after three whole days at the beach it was time to head for the town of Kolašin.

On Wikipedia it describes Kolašin thus:-

Kolašin is one of the centres of Montenegro's mountain tourism. Although Žabljak is considered more attractive destination, Kolašin has the advantage of being easily accessible by road and rail.

Kolašin is located on the foot of Bjelasica and Sinjajevina mountains, which offer great conditions for skiing. Because of Kolašin's altitude (954 m), the town is considered an air spa.

Biogradska Gora national park is in the town's vicinity, and is considered a premium tourist attraction. The development of Kolašin as a tourist destination is bolstered by opening of Bianca Resort & Spa, a luxury resort in town's center.

This is almost entirely accurate and the Kolašin is located in a lovely area of the country but describing it as easily accessible was not exactly how i would have described it. It involved travelling two of the eight most spectacular roads in Montenegro climbing and winding into the mountains on three occassions and then winding back down the other side. Travelling through Podgorica and the unbelievablly gorgeous Morača Canyon (more of this later). After three hours of travelling along roads consisting of 1 lane in each direction we arrived at the Bianca resort which looks like this. Love the hexagonal windows.




Sveti Stefan - picture of the day 07/08/2010

Sveti Stefan is a hotel that has taken over an island. It is everywhere. It is very pretty and is linked to the mainland by a causeway. It is on the cover of most guide books. There are post cards of it in most places. The beach and the cove it is in is one of the few really sandy beaches. Steps climb into the hills to surrounding villas. In the guide book it talks about the shady lanes and the smell of jasmine that drifts through its courtyards. After a hair raising taxi ride down the cliff from the main road we found it was closed for rejuvenation - oh well. Here is a picture of the outside.


Becici, Budva and Petrovac

Three of the resorts on the Montenegrin coast all differ vastly in character and the levels of enjoyment that they bring.
Budva old town is a beautiful old medieval Venetian towns with winding streets, elegant courtyards, decent if expensive restaurants and it is a lovely place to visit. The buildings are mainly reconstructed after they were mainly destroyed in the 1979 earthquake and I wish that they had been a bit cleverer hiding the air conditioning units that are necessary if unattractive. The area attracts the rich and famous of Balkan society and also stocks Jaffa Cake Ice Cream. Close to the old town is the tacky bit with the ubiquitous shops selling tourist tatt and I this is the area that I enjoy least.
Becici apart from a nice beach and a row of nice bars is over developed and the infrastructure has yet to catch up meaning that there are major traffic jams in the area and large areas are still being built. The government bans building work after May and after a little persuasion (like confiscating keys) there is noise but the building sites still remain. It is a shame that after the economic melt down in the early 90's the same building restraints had been put in place.
Petrovac is my find of resort, laid back, low rise, well gardened. From the areas along the Budva Riveria this would be my choice. A on the other hand disagrees.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Picture of the Day - 06/08/2010



Never saw a tornado or at least a waterspout (a non-supercell tornado) before- this one was at least far enough way not to be a risk to anyone at least until it started moving towards us!!

Kotor Bay

In all the literature written about Kotor Bay it claims that it is a s fjord - but although it is a steep sided valley it was not created by a glacier so is a submerged river canyon called a ria. I resisted the urge to correct it each time I saw it - just.

Why animals are smarter than people



Middle of the day and hot so
a. Look round a town
b. Lie on your back with your paws in the air
c Hide behind a shady shutter

Kotor

Kotor was the first white wall, limestone and marble clad ex Venetian style town that we visited on the holiday. Both Dubrovnik, Bubva and Kotor were all ruled by the empire based in Venice at some point and they all share the white walled, red roofs, twisted street layout. Kotor is a UNESCO world heritage site that stills bears one of the few tributes to communism left in Montenegro as rules forbid them from altering them.

The road from Budva to Kotor via Cetinje - Picture of the Day 05/08/10

First you go up from the coastal resort of Budva into the coastal mountains until you get to a point where you can take pictures like this
You then go down the otherside and reach the town of Cetinje. You then go up again to the village of Njegusi where you can see the view to the valley floor.


As you go down to the valley floor you can see a small hill again and you think that then yo go up the small hill there will be a short drop that you can see up ahead to get back to the coast.



As you crest the hill your jaw drops and you get this view. Only 25 hairpins in a coach to get to the bottom almost 1 kilometre below.




With roads that look like this


A decided to sleep from top to bottom thus reducing the terror as we approached each hairpin

Cetinje


Cetinje (Setinyah) was the traditional capital of the Montenegrin region, a region that has changed with the ebb and flow of the empires around it. Montenegro has never been conquered as it is far too mountainous and poorly located from a tactical stand point so apart from occasional burning no-one stayed around for long. To reflect this the monastery has a somewhat fortress like appearance to keep the raiders out. The Montenegrin Orthodox church is trying to establish itself as different from the Serbian Orthodox church and if it happens then this will be where it will be based.

Things I learnt on holiday

1. Montenegrin cuisine rarely includes mushrooms
2. Croatians don't understand spoons
3. Montenegrin taxi drivers believe themselves to be equal to Ayrton Senna and some might be
4. You can only be scared for your life so many times in a short period
5. Cats understand how to deal with the heat best
6. The most dangerous animal that exists is a small child with a stone
7. In the former Yugoslavia you can tell where a car comes from by the letters on the number plate
8. Tiger mosquitoes are small but "have bite like crocodile"
9. 3 of the most exciting roads in Montenegro really are
10. Basketball players are really tall and make you feel really short.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The 10 Montenegrin Commandments

I can't recall them all but they include

Work causes all ailments. Don’t die a young man
If you feel the urge to work, have a rest and it’ll go away
If you see someone else working encourage them to stop
Only break periods of rest for meals
Wake up late, rest and go to bed early

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Why Academies are bad

If you devolve academies from the LEA there are a number of issues

1. They stop being locally accountable so you can't vote for anyone local to go in and change them as the town/city/county council are no longer in charge.
2. If you devolve power from the LEA then academies will have to buy in services such as Computing, Insurance, Transport and Payroll. While they could go to an outside service the people who are best set up to deal with the problem are the LEA who will charge a premium as they are now in the business of making a profit. The same job is now more expensive.
3. Pensions - as the LEA is now longer the employer of the staff at the school they are not responsible for the pensions contributions so that added burden on the each individual school budget will wipe out the extra money given from central government.

Michael Gove has to go

The Minister in charge of education has to resign due to incompetence some time soon.
This is why

1. Using anti-terror legislation for pushing through the academies bill for the thousands of schools who want it - or rather the 153 that showed some interest
2. Exaggeration of the number of free schools - 63 have shown some interest down from the 700 the claimed earlier in the year. This made it seem like it was a popular idea rather than the fringe concept it really is.
3. Cancelling the Building for the Future programme of school renewal to help fund academies and free schools. I mean why improve a current site when there is an empty shop nearby.
4. The inability to produce a list of school programmes he was cancelling accurately.
5. Spouting the idea that A levels do not help discriminate between the clever and very clever students. This is before the new A* grade has even been awarded for the first time and before the number of candidates getting each grade is known.
6. Wanting to return to full A Levels rather than modules as it better reflects universities - who are all modular. This is also despite Cambridge University saying they like AS as a useful indicator of progress. It will also mean people get to the end of a two course and then fail rather than realise that A Levels are beyond them and finding something more appropriate.
7. Calling people thick - it isn't helpful and it doesn't help them improve
8. Making Outstanding schools academies - so if they are really good give them extra cash and stop checking who they let it allowing them to get better and cream off the brightest students in every town - good holistic thinking.

What parents want is the local school to be providing a quality education and that should be the aim.

Homerton College

Once again I am in Cambridge attending an exam board meeting for two nights and the booking system has placed me at Homerton College. Having experiecnced the Royal Cambridgeshire, the Gonville and the University Arms the sound of an ancient college in the centre of Cambridge sounded quite nice.

1. It is not central but stuck out in the suburbs
2. It is not ancient, the university is from 1976 although some of the older buildings date from early. It does present a nice mix and the grounds are quite attractive

The main issue is that essentially they are hiring out a student hall of residence and calling it a hotel so amongst the luxuries it would be nice to have include a towel, a television, a net curtain or blind, free internet, some kind of guide to the services they provide and food and reception in the same building as the one you stay in. There are also some strange ideas like check out is 9am (I am pretending not to have read that notice in the foyer), when I want a towel I have to collect it and the idea that the cost of this should be equal to the cost of the usual hotels.

Good thing I am not paying directly.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Inception

This is a great film.
1. The visuals use the same technology as the Matrix and the super slo-mo, weightless fights are brilliant
2.The direction is first class and anyone that has seen Memento knows what Christopher Nolan is capable of
3. The story is complex and detailed. Don't go to the toilet says Mark Kermode as you will be lost. It says we know you are clever enough to keep up so do so. This is in contrast too many blockbusters which assume the audience are stupid.
4.Who thought of this idea.
5. The ending.

St Michael's Great Yarmouth - the largest parish church in the UK

St Nicholas' Church and Priory was founded by Herbert de Losinga (Bishop of Norwich) in 1101 as a penance for an act of simony (buying a church office). It is the largest parish church in the country and arguably the oldest building in Great Yarmouth.

During the Medieval period the church was at its most magnificent with stained glass, tapestries, painted and gilded walls, frescos,19 guild chapels, various relics of the saints and ornate furnishings. At this time Great Yarmouth was the fourth richest town in England. The interior was destroyed at the Reformation and the Priory dissolved.

In 1649 the church was divided into three parts as the Puritans, who were now in the ascendancy, demanded use of the building as their church. The arches were bricked up (two feet thickness) on the north side of the nave, the eastern side of the transepts and the eastern side of the tower. The three portions of the church were used by the Anglican Church (south aisle), the Puritans led by Rev. Bridge (the chancel, which they fitted up as a church house) and the Presbyterians (the north aisle).

A new door to the chancel destroyed the altar tomb of Thomas Crowmer (Bailiff of Yarmouth 1470-97). The mutilation of this tomb was contrary to the Act of Parliament of 1644, which allowed the demolition of monuments of idolatry and superstition, but not monuments to dead people, unless they were deemed to be saints. The windows in the east end were filled up with bricks. The north aisle was used by the local militia as a drill hall when the weather was wet. All the three denominations held their services simultaneously. The alterations to the church were paid out of a rate levied on the townspeople. At the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 the Puritans were ejected from the church. The bricked up arches put up by the Independents and the Presbyterians were not taken down until the restoration of 1859-64 when the church became undivided for the first time in about 200 years.

In 1942 the church was completely gutted during a German air raid leaving only the Norman tower and the walls standing.

Great Yarmouth

I take it back - after a while of mooching waiting for A to finish the interview I take it back. There are 3 nice buildings in the whole of Yarmouth, the rest appears to be a bit of a dump. Here is the proof.