Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Model United Nations

The MUN has taken three stages

In Stage 1 the students were divided into groups and from there they were introduced to the topic of Syria. There was some discussion of the topic and what the problems in Syria were. The homework was to go away and research the countries that they were represented.

In the second stage the students were then asked to think about how their country was affected by the Syrian conflict, what they wanted to happen and which other countries were their allies and enemies. Countries ranged from US, UK, Russia and China, regional powers such as Egypt, Iran and Syria and some countries that had experienced genocide such as Bosnia and Rwanda.

The third stage was hosted at City Hall and the students were allowed to use the council chamber where Norwich City Council have their debates. The students had microphones and were sat in the proper horse shoe shape. They had to fulfil all the same protocol of the United Nations and could raise points of order and points of principle. Students wrote a position paper from which they adapted an opening speech. There was then a debate and question session where the delegations explored each others positions on the Syrian debate. After that there was the possibility of formal and informal caucus where there were a set of chats and discussions. This was followed by more debate and a working lunch. At the working lunch a series of resolutions were put forward by the students, these were then voted on although a two thirds majority was not reached. The resolution was redrafted and put to the vote again reaching a majority.

It was lovely to get to go to the city council chamber and see the students engage in a real debate on a real topic following the UN rules and a reminder not to write off yousg people as there are always capable of surprises.

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Due to the way that the timetable falls this year means that on a Thursday morning I don ‘t teach until 11am. This is very handy because Wednesday is Orange Wednesday and one of my most favourite things to do is take my wife to the cinema. In the last weeks we have seen a wide range of films including, Silver Lining Casebook, Skyfall, Argo Ted, Hope Springs, The Bourne Legacy, Anna Karenna, Loopers and Sinister.

All of them comprise a wide range of different viewing but generally avoid the superhero genera and avoid sequels.

The following awards have been given out by me

Biggest plot hole – Loopers – if you have a time machine I wouldn’t send people back 20 years to kill them. How about 65 million.

Biggest paradox – Loopers – so many paradoxes you could drive the Millennium Falcon through them.

Scariest movie – Sinister – above average scary movie that means that you may never want to move house again.

Most under-rated movie – Argo – A proper spy movies with lots of very tense moments, a credible set of bad guys, interweaving of historical footage and brilliant performances but odd timings and empty cinema did not seem to get the recognition it deserved.

Best couple – Silver Lining Casebook – A very interesting film involving a man with bipolar disorder and his drive to win back his wife and the dance teacher that will act as go-between due to the restraining order.

Best moustache – Matthew McFayden. Anna Karenina was a good attempt at a new take on the costume drama. Basing the whole play in a theatre worked well with excellent costumes and good performances meant that it was enjoyable if not spectacular.
Least impressive comedy – Ted – the idea of a walking, sweary, teddy bear who is getting between a man, who has been his best friend since he was little, and his girlfriend was an interesting premise but the joke wore thin quite early.

Best film - Skyfall - just terrific

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Picture of the Day - 19th August

The limestone in the capital forms a series of humps through the city (imagine the Loch Ness Monster). The city is built on the flat bits with wooded parks on the humps. The one area that is different is the castle that is perched high above the city. There is a train that will take you up there and the views from the top are spectacular with a series of churches, cathedrals and streets spreading out with the brooding mountains in the background. There is a tower to climb and a chapel to explore making the whole day well worth while.

Picture of the Day - 18th August 2012

It was tempting to put the picture of a bus here as this was the day we transferred from Croatia to Slovenia. We knew it was a long trip but did not appreciate that it could have been a lot shorter as we often parallelled the motorway travelling at a slower speed, behind tractors or peeling away to go and visit another small town. At first it was fine and we could see that Poreč and Rovinj were the stand out locations on the coast in Croatia. We then visited Piran and Portorož in Slovenia which look like lovely place to visit before heading to Ljubljana. The hotel was lovely and we were on the 9th floor with a lovely view towards the heart of the city, the castle menacing perched on the hill to the right, the river winding through the square and the sound of local klezmer music drifting in through the windows.

In 1895 there was an earthquake in Ljubljana and a lot of buildings were damaged. The city was re-built in the Vienna Secessionist style or Art-Deco as you might know it and this had led to a beautiful small city to visit and perfect for a city break.

Picture of the day - 17th August 2012

We spent this day looking around Poreč fully as it was our last day especially the Euphrasian Basilica. There are lovely mosaics from the Roman era, a bell tower with fantastic views over the whole town and the church itself with the gorgeous friezes and gold leaf. The basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St Euphrasius who was a 6th century bishop in this area who helped the spread of Christianity.

Picture of the day - 16th August

We liked Rovinj so much we went back and this shows the twisted street in the old city leading up to the church on the hill. The bus journey was straightforward and allowed us to drive down the side of the Lim Channel and bring back memories of Montenegran roads. The only problem with the bus journey back was the inconsistent air conditioning which meant that we sweated every minute of the hour it took to get back to the resort.

Picture of the Day - 15th August

In Poreč and the rest of Croatia this was a National holiday as it was The Assumption of  Mary (the idea that Mary was taken into heaven either dead or alive depending on the church you ask). Being a feast day we decided to go into Poreč and see what was going on. What a rock concert and big screen had to do with The Assumption was not clear but where there are tourists few people get the day off as happens in other more rural areas of Croatia.

Picture of the Day - 14th August

On this day we took a boat trip to Rovinj. This area is full of Venetian aged towns that grew up around ports. On the highest hill there is a church/ cathedral. The old towns are a warren of pedestrianised streets that wander in a charming yet higgledy- piggeldy manner. Along these routes are a series of small cubby-hole shops selling souvenir knick-knacks, art, traditional craft items or cafes. Above the shops are shuttered flats and apartments, seemingly unchanged apart from air-con units and satelite TV dishes. Attached to these old towns are more modern city centres that instead are maybe 100 years old and surrounding them more modern developments. Fortunately the towns in this area seem to have avoided the evil Communist hand of brutalist architecture (either that or it has all been pulled down).

We stopped at the Lim Channel, this is inaccurately described as a fjord but as glaciers never got this far south it is in fact a ria (flooded river valley) carved when the Adriatic Sea was a lot lower.

Picture of the Day - 13th August

This was a real lazy day around the pool where we swam, drank, read and chilled out. After a very nice dinner it was back to the pool side for entertainment. This was a variable feast, the highlight of which was the Croatian Elvis who sang phonetically making all the correct sounds but without actually saying words. He was dealt an interesting issue when he had to deicde whether to continue with pelvic thrusts when the only dancer was a 4 year old paying him very close attention.

Picture of the Day - 12th August

The coast of Northern Croatia around the town of Poreč is stunnigly beautiful and geographically interesting. The rock is limestone which leads to rocky beaches. People then build platforms close to the sea so that you sunbathe and either walk into the water for a swim or climb the ladder into the sea. The limestone give striking red rendzina soils which are heavily stained with iron. They are also very quick draining which means that conifers are the only trees that grow but this gives fantastic coastal woodland leading to shady coves and tree lined walks. It is also leading to a bit of a water shortage in Istria. There is also minimum high rise development so there is a busy but not packed feel that a lot of resorts can have.  The limestone will be a theme we will come back to.

Picture of the Day - 11th August

When you arrive at a hotel by the sea on honeymoon there a few things you would like. These include a sea view and a balcony. Room 345 was not the kind of room that dreams are made of. What we got was a view of the woods, disappointing, and a dark room with a kind of strange window. After complaining we got an upgrade despite the fact that the hotel was full and this picture was taken from the window. This was not the only complaint about the rooms we had. In Lake Bled our room with a lake view balcony did not have a balcony, the next room had a good view of a car park and the final room was third. It just goes to show if you are not happy then you get nothing if you keep it to yourself.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Being late

I hate being late but when it is for airports I am particularly irritable and one of the few times that I am stressed. On the way to the airport we were cutting it fine as the oil light came on. After check the engine we then tried to find some oil which was not easy at 5 in the morning especially as Tesco was pay at the pump. When we arrived we were later than expected but the queue we ended up in was moving so slowly it barely felt like it was moving. They did not help my stress levels. When we went through security the people in front were trying to take a chemist shop through and were stopped and we had to wait further and then at which point my belt became a target for their investigation costing us more time.

On the way back we were at the pick up at plenty of time but we then had to sit around until the exact time even though we were the only people. We then went to get other people and it took us ages to get across town, every moment making us even later. The lateness made me even more annoyed being late and amusing A.

Things I have learnt about Budapest

1. Bolt means shop and is not the name of the Usain Bolt's less famous brother

2. There is a disappointing number of shops that can be found in the UK. Tesco Expressz was predictable but I wasn't expecting a Vision Express.

3. Pick up a basket in shops as otherwise the steely- eyed security card is not a happy bunny
4. There are a lot of homeless as the economic recession bits
5. There are a lot of posts to avoid people ending up in the road but there are just at wrist height
6. The abbreviation for florint is either HUF or FLT and there are 330 to the pound (ish)
7. Most of the architecture is lovely but there are a few communist building which leave a lot to be desired
8. Hungarians love spas and there are specific about temperature. The hotel had two pools one just above body temperature and one just below. There are pools with different levels of chlorine.
9. There are lots of different types of trams which run smoothly, the trolley buses look like they have not been modernised since the 1950s.
10. Ferencvaros means Francis' town and their have one of the most successful football clubs in Hungary.

Budapest - Picture of the Day - 14th April

This was the day that we had to leave. After a trip to a chemist (the Hungarian for Strepsil is Stepsil) we ended up in the city, had some lunch and then headed home via, the not as a bad as it sounds, Whizz Air. We sent time around St Stephen's Basilica but didn't take many pictures so the very exciting photo of the day is of a crane. I usually visit cities when they are being renovated and avoiding cranes in photos becomes an interesting challenge.

Budapest - Pictures of the Day - 13th April

We went to Budapest's green lungs. Margaret's Island is a green oasis in the middle of the river with a few hidden surprises. There is an animal park with giant rabbits, storks, horses who only come over when you have food and peacocks. There is a spa and pool complex, a water tower, there are ancient ruins, there is a communist style hotel in the brutalist style and there is a hotel in the Victorian style. After leaving the island we visited the Parliament and made it to Gresham's Palace in time to catch the moonlit river cruise with questionable string trio and lovely food. The end of the day had both of us sitting arm in arm as we saw the sights from the bow of boat in one of the most romantic cities on one of the most romantic rivers in the moonlight.   


Budapest - Picture of the Day - 12th April

We visited Buda on this day although unfortunately A was not very well and was half towed and half dragged around the sights. A kept telling that she did not want to miss out but really should have been n bed. At various points she had to have naps and hot chocolate to build her strength and cough sweets to provide medication. In Buda is the Royal Museum, President's Palace, Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion. It has a number of quaint streets and tree-lined streets that give it a restful air and the funicular railway means that you can let the train take the strain. One piece of advice is not to try to the use the toilets in the National Museum for free as they get a bit arsey. From the Fisherman's Bastion you get a great view across the whole of the city and if you go at dusk you can see it in daylight and at night.

Budapest Parliament from the Fisherman's Bastion

Budapest - Picture of the Day - 11th April

There is only one place to start when visiting Budapest and that is the River Danube. It cuts the city in half with Buda on one side and Pest on the other (we were staying in Pest). It was not until 1849 that the first bridge over the Danube was finished and the two parts of the city were properly joined. The vast majority of the buildings can be seen from the river bank and as with most cities that expanded through the Victorian era they liked to show off. As a capital in the Austro-Hungarian empire it has a parliament building and royal palace as well as a number of churches and cathedrals and an opera house. On the first whole day we had a very relaxing time down by the river in the bright sunshine admiring the architecture. 

Chain Bridge with the President's Palace (white building behind)

Budapest - Picture of the Day - 10th April

When you go to a hotel after you have just got married tell them you are married, now it is hard to raise face to face so email them in advance. The hotel decided that we would be the guests of the day and that meant that we could have a upgraded room with two bathrooms, a sitting room, a lovely big bed, chocolates and a free bottle of champagne. It made a beautiful hotel into an even more special experience and made the whole trip memorable.

The Corinthia Hotel, Budapest

Sunday, 6 May 2012

What I am watching

Game of Thrones: I have read the books, I know what is going to happen and it is still fab. Peter Dinklage acts everyone of the screen.

Homeland: Which side is Brody on? Top acting from Damian Lewis and Clare Danes' bi-polar scenes were so convincing.

Law and Order SUV: Always a twist somewhere that you don't see coming (unless you have seen it before on one of the 6 million channels that it is on.)

Criminal Minds: Another week, another serial killer that is tracked down and sorted out.

Pointless: As quiz shows go it asks you to find the most obscure, most difficult answers rather than wasting time with easy questions.

Britain's got Talent: Now we have got away from the cringe-worthy auditions it might be worth watching.

Casualty: Loving Doctor Keogh in a "House-lite" role

On the box: Smash, Once upon a Time and Planet Earth Live.
Recommended Grimm and Awake (I wasn't so I can't comment)

Cinema rules from Mark and Simon

The Cinema Code of Conduct states:
  • No Eating... ...of anything harder than a soft roll with no filling. No one wants to hear you crunch, chew or masticate in any way. Nachos cause special offence and are of the devil.
  • No Slurping... ...of drinks. You've already drunk a 5 litre flagon of pop, you really don't need the melting ice too. You are not six years old.
  • No Rustling... ...of super high density, rustle-o-matic, extra rustle bags. No foraging of any kind, if you're going to need it during the film, get it out before hand.
  • No Irresponsible Parenting' Your five-year-old does not want to come to see the latest 12A certificate: you are using the cinema as a babysitter. Your child's moaning, whinging and crying is your fault and a profound annoyance to everyone else. Your interrupted sleep caused by your child's nightmares is also your fault and serves you right.
  • No Hobbies This includes knitting, drug dealing, model aeroplane assembly, fighting, having sex and updating Facebook.
  • No Talking You’re in a cinema – you have come here to watch, not to discuss. Or ‘engage’, or ‘participate’, or ‘explain’ or whatever. More importantly, no-one in the cinema has paid £8.50 to hear your director’s commentary on the movie. Just sit down and shut up.
  • No Mobile Phone Usage At all. Not even on ‘flight mode’. This isn’t an aeroplane, it’s a cinema. Even if you’re not yapping, you’re still creating light pollution. Put your thumbs away. NB: includes BlackBerries, PalmPilots, iPads – whatever.
  • No Kicking of Seats The area of floor directly in front of your seat is yours, and is there to put your legs in. The back of the seat in front of you belongs to someone else; do not touch, interfere with, or otherwise invade their space with your feet, knees, or other bodily appendages.
  • No Arriving Late Like Woody Allen in Annie Hall, you’re supposed to watch movies from the very beginning to the very end. If you turn up late, tough: go see something else – The Sorrow and the Pity, perhaps.
  • No Shoe Removal You are not in your own front room. Nor are you in Japan (unless you are, in which case, carry on). A cinema is a public space: keep your bodily odours to yourself.

The Hunger Game

An interesting post-apocalyptic future where the interestingly attired minority keep the twelve districts that revolted sometime in the past under their thumb. Each child can get food from the state but that means they have a greater chance of being chosen for the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a killing zone where one child from the 24 "wins" when all the others are dead (think Lord of the Flies).
As a set-up goes it is an interesting idea and quite a good film but it copped out at nearly every key moment and instead of providing us with a few dilemmas (will she/won't she moments) they find a convenient way to get her out of the situation. It also ends strangely and whilst this is supposed to allow the franchise to continue it makes the film a bit odd.

The performances are good, the cinematography good, the dialogue good and the idea of killing as Saturday night entertainment is good but the painfully obvious script and lack of suspense means it never gets above good. The best bit was the view of the future with the battle to win Saturday night's rating battle with the over the top razzmatazz and the focus on celebrity (even if they are about to kill others) and sugary interviews.

PS In a film about people going hungry everyone seemed very well fed.

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)

Scandinavian crime drama is on vogue for the last couple of years and this film is based on a book by Jo Nesbø. The Millennium trilogy were interesting although not brilliantly written (there is a introductory chapter on Swedish fraud) and the Wallander series in both English and Swedish were very good and this stacks up well against them. In an interview with the director he speculated that the reason for this rise in crime is due to Hollywood films make their heroes whiter than white whilst the bad guys are foolish and dim. In the Scandinavian crimes the heroes are far from perfect, the bad guys intelligent and brutal and the narrative complex.

The film is very good, the plot moves swiftly, the action is good, if brutal, the characters are well drawn and the conclusion is clever and the loose ends are tidied up without being too tidy. The level of comedy was good and produced some smirks and laughs without being slap-stick. I only had to suspense my powers on belief a couple of occasions which was good. It was also interesting to see Ser Jaime Lannister getting his come-uppance that he so richly deserved.