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We are very fortunate to have an excellent theatre in the City and we try to go to most productions there. Earlier this year we saw ‘The Hounding of David Oluwale’ about the death of a Nigerian immigrant in Leeds in 1969, and then last month saw Lenny Henry as Othello, both very powerful and moving plays. Last week however, it was something much lighter and very funny. ‘When we are Married’ was written by J B Priestley in the 1930′s but set in 1908. It is in the fictional West Yorkshire town of Clecklywyke and features 3 happily married couples on the day of their 25th wedding anniversary. It soon becomes apparent that perhaps they may not be married after all. The cast portrayed very strong Yorkshire characters, fine upstanding men – ‘big in the Chapel’ and strong willful women. However, there were moments when a couple of the women were more Les Dawson than meaningful characters though I suppose it is likely that Les Dawson drew on the play for ‘Sissy and Ada’. Nevertheless it was a good and very enjoyable performance and well worth the visit.
For the last four or five weeks, we’ve been walking in the Dales most weekends. While recording the latest elearning stuff podcast last week, we had a brief discussion on the use of animoto so thought I’d use some of the photos from the last trip up Great Knoutberry Hill to do a short video.
Yes I know – too many sunrise and Hellifield Station photos, but I like it.
Yesterday was an interesting one. During the day as well as getting my car fixed (ouch!) I was at Accrington and Rossendale College for a day’s training on TextHelp Read&Write Gold. This is a piece of software that helps computer users with reading and writing difficulties. It can read text aloud, help construct words and sentences has advanced spell checking, document scanning and other tools. Although I’ve used this for over 2 years it was good to have a more comprehensive look at the more advanced features. A few technical glitches with the network installation meant that some bits were missed out but it was a good day overall. So thanks again Dave Foord – who did a great job.
In the evening by means of a contrast I went with a friend to see Cherie Blair speak at the Ilkley Literature Festival. Unlike Alistair Campbell who opened last year’s celebrations, she didn’t sparkle or shine. Although she does look much better in the flesh than her portrayal in the media, she was very much the loyal wife and had no intention of stealing Tony’s thunder – his autobiography is on the way. She was interviewed by Francine Stock, BBC journalist and novelist and took questions from the floor for half the session. There were no great revelations and she only really became animated when she was talking about legal cases she had won and lost. She even managed to make her opinion of the return of Peter Mandelson to the cabinet slick and dare I say, embarrassingly unctuous. An interesting but not riveting evening.
On Sunday last we decided to attempt Pen-y-Ghent the final of the Yorkshire Dales ‘Three Peaks’ that we still had to climb. We took the train to Horton in Ribblesdale which is only 20 minutes from my village and we set off along a gently sloping stony path. We had decided to do the longer walk rather than the straight up and down to the top and back so were going to walk the full length of the fell, climb the ridge and then walk along the top back to the summit. The weather was showery and despite having been soaked to the skin on Ingleborough a couple of weeks ago we still didn’t have over trousers (£100 is a lot of money!). The guide book mentions a couple of pot holes and we could see these by the side of the path. Then as we approached what seemed to be a dip in the path it very quickly opened up to a 20 m chasm. This is not for the faint hearted. It is unfenced and just appears in front of you. Hull Pot as it is called is said to be the largest natural hole in England. There is no way down it other than abseiling. The river normally disappears before it reaches the pot and emerges half way down the wall but as we had had so much rain it cascaded dramatically into the bottom.
It was a real treat and a complete and rather un-nerving surprise. We trudged on as the showers got heavier and more horizontal and we were repeatedly soaked. As we got to the bottom of Plover Hill at the far end of the walk I was having problems staying upright in the wind and the prospect of walking into the wind on the ridge on the way back wasn’t too appealing – so I ahem, suggested we re-think and come back another day to get to the top – when it isn’t so windy. And perhaps we should check the forecast in the Pen-y-Ghent cafe which warned of ‘significant buffeting’ and winds of up to 45 mph. So we retired hurt to a pint of tea and to dry out.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to see the fourth day of the test match between England and South Africa at Headingley. Although it was a terrible result for England – they managed to avoid a defeat by an innings – just but still lost by 10 wickets, it was a great experience and I really enjoyed it. Last weekend I was honoured to be allowed to go and watch Yorkshire play in the County Championship against Surrey. This was the third time I’d been into Headingley as I had bunked off from my summer job in 1977 to go and see Geoffrey Boycott reach his one hundreth hundred in first class cricket. On Saturday I was astonished to discover that Mark Ramprakash, the Surrey captain and series 4 winner of Strictly come Dancing, was about to do the same! Despite Yorkshire’s efforts he blasted along to 112 reaching the milestone just after four in the afternoon.
As someone said on the day, it doesn’t happen very often, not many people have seen it done at all and hardly anyone will have seen two with hardly setting foot in a cricket ground in between. So again it was a pretty boring draw on the day but I enjoy live sport and it was good to be there on such a momentous occasion.
Last weekend I fulfilled an ambition I’d had for a long time. We walked across Morecambe Bay at low tide. This is a very dangerous place and it shouldn’t be attempted without guidance so we had phoned in advance to book onto a pre-arranged walk. The chap on the phone sounded very friendly so we were looking forward to it. Unfortunately, Northern Rail had other ideas and their 9.02 service arrived nearly an hour late. I rang the organiser again and he said he would send his wife to Carnforth station to meet us with the car. With this amount of friendliness and informality I had imagined a relatively small affair. How wrong can you be? She drove us to Hest Bank where the walk had already started – you can’t wait for tides, and we were astonished to see a long line of about 200 people setting off. We had prepared in advance and had slapped on sunscreen all over and by the first channel had to decide – shoes on or off. We decided to do it bare foot so the shoes went in the bags.
The walk is the original drovers passage from Hest Bank to Flookburgh. We in fact went to Grange over Sands as there was some sort of steam festival in Flookburgh. There is an official Queen’s guide to the sands but he no longer does the Hest Bank route.
We set off and quickly caught up with the rest of the party. It was very very well organised with a number of supporting walkers, two tractors and about 4 quad bikes. If anyone was stuggling to keep up they could have a ride on the tractor. We crossed a couple of small channels and the group stopped every hour or so to muster everyone together. Eventually we made it to the Kent Channel which is essentially where the River Kent drains into the Bay. One of the leaders went ahead with a long stick and checked that the ground under the water was safe and once we were all together we set off. It was quite fast flowing at times and the deepest it got was sort of mid-thigh. I don’t think anyone took the tractor option.
We followed the course of the channel along its bank for quite a way as we moved towards Grange. Once there it was such a relief to sit down as by the nature of the Bay you are on your feet the whole time and there is no opportunity for rest breaks (of any kind!). We had walked 9 miles in bare feet over soft sand, hard sand, rippled sand, mud, samphire and grass. We then discovered that sun can penetrate through sea water and burn the top of your feet – the one bit without sunscreen! The organisers had also added a transport option and for an extra £3 you could get a very welcome coach back. It was a really unique experience, quite hard work and great fun.
There is an article in the Guardian today which states that Skipton’s High Street is in the final for the accolade of Britain’s Greatest Street. It is in competition with the Portobello Road and Kensington High Street in London. I can’t imagine how they are going to judge it – they have virtually nothing in common. Skipton’s High Street is dominated by a market for four days of the week. One of the highlights of the year is Sheep Day and part of the high street is in fact called Sheep Street. It does have a nice church at the top and a pretty magnificent castle behind that. More info here.
I wrote a few days ago about the work being done at one of the Specialist Colleges in the North West. I’ve written an article for our newsletter for it so thought I’d post it up here as I’m quite excited by it.
“Langdon Lecturer prompts new National Project
Langdon College is an Independent Specialist College in Salford in Manchester. They are part of the successful ‘Mobile in Salford’ bid for MoLeNet funds along with Pendleton, Eccles and Salford Colleges. Langdon are the smallest college in the North West with 17 students who primarily come from the Manchester and London Jewish communities. As part of their commitment to providing an ‘inclusive multi faceted extended curriculum’, they are using a number of mobile devices to enable learners to more successfully transfer the skills they learn in college to both the college residences and their own homes.
The college has bought a range of equipment to trial, including Samsung Q1 touch screen tablet PCs, Asus Eeepc, iPods and portable DVD players.
David Foden, the Independent Living Skills lecturer is leading the way, providing video instructions on basic cooking techniques. The learners access the instructions through an interactive PowerPoint© slide. The page is divided into grids with either symbol or verbal instructions. On pressing the relevant square, the video loads and the learner can follow the instructions on the screen. Each task has been broken down into its constituent parts so that it follows a simple and logical sequence. So the first instruction is to wash your hands, followed by putting on an apron etc.
By having these instructions on mobile appliances, the learners can take them back to the residences where support staff can ensure that they follow the procedure then have been learning in college. Similarly, when the learner goes home for the weekend or half term holiday, they can show their parents or carers how they can make their own lunch. This will allow the students more independence as they tend to become deskilled when they return home as things are done for them. The learners now have ‘homework’ to do in half term to make at least one simple snack meal of beans or cheese on toast.
One downside of this work is the time it takes to make the videos and the interactive Powerpoint © presentations. David was sure that there were other lecturers in Specialist and Mainstream colleges doing much the same thing and wanted a way to share his videos. He approached the RSC North West who contacted TechDis. John Sewell, Senior Adviser for Specialist Colleges at TechDis commented ‘short video clips are a great way of showing how to do things and the way that they have been put together by David Foden at Langdon is great. So great it needs to be shared; these clips take time to produce so it makes sense to share. We aim to put together a national resource to do just that’.
The RSC NorthWest will be working closely with TechDis to ensure that this national resource is set up and maintained. David has kindly offered to be the first to share his work. We will be contacting colleges in the next few months with details”.
The exciting bit is the last bit – along with TechDis we are hoping to both set up a TeacherTube account for video sharing but also create a portal using Xerte to add accessibility features to the videos.
We work in an old building at Lancaster University. One of the other teams that work in our building are the Cumbria and Lancashire Online Education team. They set up a webcam inside a bird’s nesting box earlier in the year and now a couple of blue tits have taken residence and are busy feeding their 5 chicks. The BBC have reported on it and you can see the amazing live images from the link here. Thanks Kev for the information.
Next Monday, 21st January is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year and as such is named Blue Monday. It is the start of the last week in January and a combination of the debt, weather, time since Christmas, time since New Year resolutions are broken, lack of motivation and need for action can be represented in a mathematical equation. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the equation but it is certainly a depressing time of year, for all those reasons just stated.
The campaign to ‘Beat Blue Monday‘ was started by the Creativity at Work consultants and is being promoted by Green Communictions here in Yorkshire. There is a facebook group (of course) and the Samaritans are part of the partnership.
They suggest you try and do something to cheer yourself and others up such as:
“Blog – Write a blog about what you are doing to Beat Blue Monday. Make your readers smile. If you do write a blog post on Monday 21 – make sure to tag it: “beatbluemonday”.
Try something new -Be creative, or learn something new to get your brain active and start thinking of new things instead of dwelling on the old.
Get physical – By changing your physical state, from a simple shoulder-shake at your desk to a full work-out at the gym, you can change the way you feel.
Contact a friend or relative – Get in touch with someone you have not heard from in a while; thinking of someone else takes your mind off you.
Take a break – Go somewhere different, whether it’s a coffee bar you have never been into, or a faraway luxury holiday; by changing your physical location, you change your perspective on the world.
Be nice to a stranger – Do a random act of kindness; doing good for others is the best form of self-satisfaction.
Help the planet – Be a good ancestor in some way; the planet will be here long after you are gone.
Pamper yourself – Spoil yourself, from a small indulgence to a luxury you have been promising yourself. You can even dye your hair blue to create a stunning eye-catching change.
Plan something new – Whether it’s planning a holiday for later in the year or deciding what to do at the weekend, looking forward to something new or different can be uplifting and refreshing.
Share your thoughts – A problem shared is a problem halved. Visit the Blue Monday blog to see what ideas people have come up with for dealing with life’s little problems. “
Having read all those, I got a day’s pampering at the Spa of a rather smart hotel locally for my birthday so might just take that up next week.