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Paradise…

July 30, 2017
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I wonder if anyone’s checked TripAdvisor for posts about paradise?

While holidaying in Greece recently, modern metics meandering, we approached a very secluded aquamarine bay with white sand and clear waters, and my 10-year-old daughter proclaimed “that’s paradise that is”.  It was indeed a great trip. On the surface of it, as well as deeply ingrained, the Greek vibe is chilled yet warm, rich and simply welcoming. 

But, as the 14th C. poet John Lydgate realised “You can’t please everyone all of the time” – of course this is still true. Going by TripAdvisor it seems some people might never be satisfied. Are you?

“Taste is the enemy of art”, oft quoted by many an art student. But perhaps taste, or preference, is a hindrance when it comes to a shared utopia? 

Our wisdom, our preference, our expectations, our wants… We all have different ideas of what is ideal. The Greek Plato, realised “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” I think the word ideal comes from the Latin idealis “existing in idea”, therefore, perhaps a common ideal is not achievable in a sharable way.

But back to our paradise…

One person’s heaven is another person’s hell.

Our opinions, habits, prejudice and other survival mechanisms can get in the way of knowing paradise on earth.

Alexia from Ghana has been Greek island-hopping for 6 years, she braids wrist bands for the tourists as she recites popular Bob Marley lyrics “rise up this mornin’, smiled at the rising sun”… she has a certain bonhomie but I sensed her mind was elsewhere.

Our fervently friendly municipal bus conductor Katrina tells the passengers “we’ve only one life, best be happy now”, and indeed she did exude happy everytime we saw her.

Our barman Spyros is originally from Athens. “The city’s ok for the young” he says, but he’s “happier now on the coast, where it’s easier”.

The mysterious mountains of Albania morph colours with the light like a giant chameleon lazing across the hazy strait. There are super-yachts the size of planets moored in the millpond sea just out of reach of the port, where old wooden vessels, wizened and lost, rust and decay amid big brand tourist fodder and small brand tourist tat.

Spyros serves us a Blue Lagoon and a Roda Garden Sunset, gin, and brandy cocktails. The beach is 10 meters from the door and the sea’s warmer than the pool.  It’s 3pm, 35 degrees, and the sun is scorching the lizard’s tail as it scuttles behind a cactus.   Cicadas buzz in a never-ending chorus, but the frequency of the sea’s waves is so low, even Eirene herself might fall off her peaceful perch… The Tower of Bable does seem to have fallen, around us a hum of multiple languages create an odd sense of freedom, (nobody mention a brexit).

Despite all this, we still reach for home, creature comforts, our own beds, familiar flavours and totems…

I guess we may need to acclimatise to paradise if we ever get there. Three little birds might make an awful din!

Having said all that, we did have a great Greek holiday.

It’s not all about the performance…

July 16, 2017

It’s not all about the performance…

It’s about the act of singing, together.”Global Harmony” from Melton Mowbray.

Yes, at the end of each term we perform a concert and it’s always a very enjoyable event. Recently we had a great time (and the audience did too we trust) at Harlaxton Church in Lincolnshire, helping to raise funds for the community’s church. The church was full and the atmosphere was great.

However, I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not all about a performance.

Singing with these fine folk is a privilege. It’s not all about the performance, it’s about the act of singing, together. The whole thing’s bigger than the sum of its parts.

We don’t often get a chance to see film of us singing… but here are a few candid recordings of what we do…

As well as a 40-70 strong choir, us blokes get together when we can and try our hand at ‘things’.  There’s often 8-10 of us but in this instance, it was a challenge as there were only 4 of us available, one on each part – not much room for wobble. But, T, M and D did a great job here, and I think I just kept it together.

This song’s called ‘Kroz Planine’ (Through the Mountains). It’s a Croatian folk song that translates something like this:

Through the mountains and hills, I will spend my youth time, I will ask the cold stone if he has seen my lovely girl, Cold stone says to me: – there is you lovely girl, I go to my lovely girl and kiss her black eyes…  #ahappysong.

I have said before… “Singing, making a noise… what’s it all about… expression?
Have you ever overheard someone singing their own song as they casually walked down the street?
Compare this with the routine recitation of a prescribed composition. The true expression of a feeling, often with a subconscious root, is what it’s about, I think. Rather than trying too hard to tick all the right boxes – just let it out? Relax and express yourself… words, sounds, notes and Musical Direction* are a great help.

Essentially, on a Monday night in Melton, Global Harmony just sing for pleasure, with no specific pressure to “perfect it”. OK, yes, there is gentle pressure to polish off a few rough edges and remember to ‘listen’ so that we’re realise we’re part of a bigger whole, but first let’s just pull the treasure from the ground, polishing the diamond is an ongoing affair.  Our *Musical Director Liz takes us all over the world with a variety of cultures, languages, and rhythms. Liz’s encouragement and enthusiasm is infectious and we are privileged to benefit from her dedication.

If you’re interested, there’s more here: ‘good old sing’ 

You can see some clips of the Choir’s smaller group ‘Close Harmony’ here:

If you fancy joining Global Harmony give it a go! The main choir can be found here: www.globalharmony.org.uk

 

The Call of a Calm sea in Summer

July 1, 2017

As you know, for 5 years now I have ridden a bike to and from work. This activity and perspective has seen many changes over time. It’s not for everyone I guess. It’s probably just me.

As mentioned before, generally I have moved from a driverly, ‘get there’ quickest, arterial-route, cyclist-culture mode, to a more pedestrian, ‘person on a bike’, safer, relaxed, more enjoyable mode.

I currently travel 9 miles twice a day. The route is 95% off main roads, 75% off roads, 62% separate cycleway, meaning the trip is often a 45 minute tonic before and after work. I tracked it recently, just for the record; 96 miles a week.

Locally, we suffer a lack of funds (or perhaps lack of political clout/will?) to invest in proper infrastructure for people on bikes. Outside of London, planners and budgeters seem not to grasp that provision of proper infrastructure will generate more bike use which in turn sees a healthier, happier population, a more vibrant community, a healthier local economy, personal savings… #yawn, it’s all been said before – the stats are all available.

In Leicester, authorities say it’s a Cycle City. Yes, there’s a lot of ambition and you can see their actions plans here: Cycle City. 

  • Deliver a 10% modal share of traffic cycling to the city centre and double everyday cycling numbers by 2018!
  • Develop an infrastructure network of high capacity, quality cycle tracks along main road corridors…
  • There has been refurbishments, traffic calming, access for cyclists, improvment to NCN cycle routes…

This is all great. Well done LCC, but…

For all the good plans, I don’t understand why obvious routes, like the 1940s cycle paths alongside Melton Road near Rushey Mead, are left in such an embarrassing state, year on year. They could be a jewel in the city’s Cycle City proclamation.

To encourage people to get on bikes, and suggest they use facilities in this state is embarrassing. It’s all very well having a back-slapping Sunday Sky Ride, festival days, Critical Mass fun and frolics, but when that sees no real change in basic provision it’s perhaps almost pointless.

Specific replies to my enquiries about the Melton Road section mentioned above are disappointing.
Leicester City Council’s Highways Managment considers there to be
no self-evident actionable defects here as per our Intervention Levels for highway maintenance.”

Leicester’s Planning, Development & Transportation Cycling Coordinator says it’s “not a current high priority for the city.” and “not a Highway Maintenance high priority either”.  They say the City Council is committed to developing the wider cycling network and hope for “additional resources and support for improvement”.  They say their immediate priority is “for improved links between the Pedestrian Zone & Belgrave Circle as identified by the City Council with widespread stakeholders support in the adopted Cycle City Action Plan”.

Leicester’s Mayor says “I cycled them recently … they do need some TLC”.  I say “Yes please Mr Mayor…”

I guess it’s not covered in their “Radial Corridor Improvements”, under their “forward planning for 2014”. 

Over the last 5 years, the state of the route has seen little TLC. My bike had suffered broken spokes, pedals, spindles etc all due in part to the state of the surface. If the equivalent surface was found on a road it would be near not fit for purpose. As I say, an embarrassing option to proffer to new bicyclers.

That all said, riding a bike can still be a tonic. Now riding off road, in a more pedestrian non-sweat-inducing manner, I am able again to have the radio in one ear and the world in the other. The ‘world in the one ear’ being the brightest birdsong, the greetings from the regular dog walkers and fellow bikeists, the passing early risers, vibrant street life, all not encountered via car. My radio ear usually has an energising Radio 3’s Breakfast Show during the inward trip, my return trip is sometimes sans-radio but often a frivolous Radio 6’s Steve Lamacq show on the return.

Like the idea of ‘riding a bike’ 5 years ago, the thought of ‘listening to Radio 3′ was laughably preposterous. But, give stuff a chance and you might see through the assumptions and preconceived pre-judice.

Often, it’s simply a nice accompaniment for the journey, but occasionally we’re served new-to-me treats.

This morning as I cycled into the elements I was lulled by Grace Williams’  Calm sea in Summer from her collection of ‘Sea Sketches’… Wow. Sensations of the sea, memories from Cornwall to Greece were momentarily transported to rural Leicestershire.

As I cycled through the meadow near Belgrave Hall, Ian Skelly offered a haunting The Call Of Wisdom’ by Will Todd… Again wow… #bigsigh.

 

 

Ain’t music brilliant?

Ain’t riding a bike brilliant?

I hesitate to say, when Radio 6 played the Beachboys’ ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice’ as I pedaled through the park, the heady mix of memories, air, endorphins, people laughing and commun-ity, can not be matched by a polished, pine-fresh, personalised, petrol-guzzling, procession in a prestigious safety-cage.

But perhaps that’s just me.

 

 

Reprography

June 11, 2017

Reprography: the art or process of creating, printing and reproducing documents and graphic materials.

The college Reprographics Department I facilitate is in place to support teaching and learning, through the timely provision of an array of printed resources.

Teaching and learning time is valuable, teachers and support staff at the frontline of secondary school education are well aware that their own time is also valuable. Our department is here to create and produce requested printed resources, making more preparation and teaching time for staff.

Mindful of good service, a timely response to print requests is just part of the value we provide. As a reprographics service, we aim to turnaround print requests from all staff, within hours. Juggling multiple requests from hundreds of staff can be exacting but scheduling work so we meet required deadlines is an essential part of the service provided. 

Requests may be for a few dozen worksheets, a few 1000 booklets, through to a varied mix of classroom material; reward cards, certificates, posters, notices, incentives etc. The quality and broad range of items possible is notable.  Work may be single-color, full-colour, stitched, folded, hope-punched, laminated, bound… all on a variety of stock materials and finishes.

From scheduled test material and syllabus resources to items designed for more kinesthetic, tactile and visual learning, our daily output is significant and varied.

In an age of digital information, printed visual material is still important in our education system. Printed material can be used in classrooms to encourage students’ learning process and make it easier and interesting. Quality printed graphic material can be a great tool, helping make teaching and the dissemination of knowledge more effective and more successful.

Con-text

June 3, 2017

Characters at play… I was going to write a load of waffle about browsing the campus library years ago as a student, looking for a play to explore and direct. I did write a few paragraphs about how our days are surrounded by the theatrics of our lives. How life’s stages are filled with sets, props, and characters. Our minds are filled with scripts, narratives, subtext, and routines. The constructions around us; our habits, our favourites, our choices, our vocabulary, our acquaintances, our attitude, our responses… All part of the theatre of our lives.

I was thinking about how we embellish, enhance and enchant our lives. We imbibe our chosen feel good foods, impulse buys and guilty pleasures. We assimilate ideas, philosophies, promises and traditions. We are entertained by new stories, we are empowered by tunes and mantra, we are informed by polemics, fear, doubt and hope. Framed by our chosen station, our favourite coat, or our familiar chair, popular distractions infuse the working week, blockbusting entertainment punctuates the normal. But…

But, with all the theatrics above in motion, I cycled to the village for pies from the butcher, I had coffee and a chat in the church cafe, then cycled home to make bread. How much more middle-aged, middle-England, middle-class can I be? I have even descaled the coffee machine. I have just spent a well overdue two days with the family, walking, picnicking and generally chilling out together – Thank you Universe!

However, my Saturday morning’s warming visit to a coffee shop, is scripts away from a today’s meeting with BD and cold thoughts of value.

Perhaps we may never know how the world might work unless we stop directing, and allow ourselves a part in the play. Breathe, feel, re-act… ignore the expectations of the audience, and the ambitions of the cast…

Characters at play.

Little things

May 13, 2017
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It’s been a while, time flies when you’re having fun.  Much water’s flowing under the bridge, around the stones, over the shingle…

Over time, many things morph to polish off our sharp edges and sharpen our perceptions.

  • While watching ‘Genius’ recently we’re reminded that “Human perception is frightfully narrow…”.
  • Simon Parke’s ‘Abbot Peter’ reminds us “Every contact leaves a trace
  • After reading David Eagleman’s ‘Brain…’ about the mechanics and chemistry of our neural interactions; I think(?) the narratives we create(?) are mind-bogglingly amazingly cripplingly awesome. Interaction can be magical…
  • My favourite idea carried from my art student daze… ’the interaction between things is what makes them fecund’ (thanks to Wallace Stevens)
  • And so many other nuggets sifted from the stream… as Aristotle said, the whole becomes greater than it’s parts.

After doing a little favour recently I was given a card that made me smile. “the little things that count” Spike Milligan. Thanks FP.
Yes indeed, I guess it’s the little things that make the world go around.  It’s also very often the little things that make us smile.

I was also reminded of the quote “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love”. This is often misattributed to Mother Teresa. I guess religion can guild many simple ideas with sentimentality. But in essence, it can be true.

A simple work ethic of doing everyday things (perhaps ‘mundane things, but that’s subjective judgment) with honesty and dignity. Even in this age of automation, if someone didn’t keep doing the key routine unrecognised things that keep the big machines working they would not work, or perhaps at least (or worse) start to perform poorly, dangerously or ineffectively. 

Thinking of ‘home’, ‘work’ and ‘faith’… Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross recently said ”…who’s gonna do all these jobs?…”

Here’s to more poetry, here’s to truly discovering more from less, here’s to a blessed cleansing of perceptions…

The torn edges,
The stains,
The spittle,
The red mist,
The black dog,
The burning,
The bruises
The rust,
The tarnish…

The pulse…

The breath…

The silence…

The water…

Life…

 

Brooks saddle ~12,000 miles

April 12, 2017
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WOW, thanks Brooks Saddles.

I treated myself back in 2013 to a ‘Brooks’ saddle. Alas, last month after about 12,000miles (been doing >3000 a year) I heard a snap.

I had to switch my Brooks Flyer for the old off-the-self saddle that came with the bike that, yes, looked comfy but after a day my backside was not happy about the cheap ‘comfy looking’ saddle.

After 4 years of 5day-a-week riding, my Brooks is like an old pair of boots! Snug as slippers!

Disappointed, and fearing the worst, I called and emailed Brooks with my ride history and proof of purchase. Seven days later my saddle’s been returned fixed! WOW, ready for another 12,000 miles at least!

Like I said, my brooks saddle’s like an old pair of leather boots – snug as! Thanks SG and Brooks Saddles.