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Last weekend we headed south early on Friday morning for Edgebaston Cricket Club.  It was the third day of a four day game between Yorkshire and Warwickshire. There were a few breaks for rain but after lunch the weather held and Yorkshire managed to storm ahead to a boring draw despite declaring with 600 runs the night before.  We left about an hour early to head further south to Tewkesbury.  We booked into the Weatherlodge there, where Sal is deputy manager.  Jenny and Stuart, and Lorna joined us and on the Saturday we went in Stu’s very nice BMW to the Badminton Horse Trials.  It must be nearly 10 years since we last went and it was still just as good.  It’s a really good day out and you don’t have to be particularly horsey to enjoy it.  Like many live events you don’t see as much on the ground but get a much better feel for the atmosphere and excitement.  We had Sky+’d it (is that a verb?) so watched the highlights when we got back – well done Ollie Townend.

On Sunday we headed even further south to Longleat.  It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and wasn’t disappointed.  I’ll upload most of the photos onto Flickr and facebook but a couple are worth posting on here.

The rhino were very impressive.

Rhino

Once you get into the big cat enclosures, you  have to keep your windows up.  Stephen was trying to get a photo of the lions and a fly was sitting on the glass – so he tapped it to make it move.  This co-incided with the large male lion getting up and walking straight towards us!

Lion

Despite the safety of the car – I for one was pretty worried.  However, what we hadn’t realised was that there was another juicy piece of meat just where we were parked and he just lay down, tucked in and totally ignored us.  It did mean though that Stephen got a fabulous photo.

lion eating

It was a brilliant day and a fantastic weekend.  It was great to see the girls and boyfriends.

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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.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that we had just returned from Nice.  What a fabulous place and it is easy to see why the rich and famous and not so rich or famous head there.  We arrived to a rather cloudy overcast day  but at least it was warm – about 26 degrees.  The hotel was right on the Promenade des Anglais and our room overlooked the sea.

View from Hotel room

View from Hotel Room

The following day we decided to walk round the headland to the West of the town from Villefranche sur Mer.  We stepped off the train and within a few hundred yards were on a superb little beach with a diving pontoon and a swimming area bouyed off from the boats coming out of the marina.  It sort of set the tone for the whole holiday.  Walk a bit, head round a corner, ‘Oh that looks a nice beach’ swim, sunbathe, potter on a little further.  Walking in the Dales is nothing like this!

The old town of Nice is a warren of small streets full of restaurants, bars and shops.  We ate there a couple of times but it is not cheap – £7 a pint of lager!

Vieux Ville

On the Saturday we took a trip to an island just south of Cannes.  It’s called Isle St Marguerite and is just 4 Km long and about one Km wide.  It has no vehicles and is even no smoking!  The trip took about an hour and was quite bumpy across the bay.  We walked along the coast stopping every so often then on the South side found a fantastic little cove.  It was about 15 ft wide and just exqusite.  I swam out of the cove with Stephen’s camera, which is waterproof to take a photo of ‘our beach’ and will post the photos along with loads of others onto the flickr site when they’ve been downloaded.  It was just idyllic and I could have spent all day just taking photos of yet another beautiful view.  The island is covered in pine and eucalyptus trees making the air scented and delicious.

Isle St Marguerite

Isle St Marguerite

It wasn’t all sun, sea and beaches though, we did visit the Museum of Modern Art and the Matisse Museum which are all free.  The Matisse is held in a beautiful 17th century mansion surrounded by olive trees in a park to the North of the city and is worth the visit.   I also managed to get the timer to work on my phone camera so here are the happy couple on the steps of the Museum of Modern Art.

Lisa and Stephen

Lisa and Stephen

All in all a fantastic holiday the best ever!

Rotterdam is very Dutch – well the rest of the Netherlands is too but I’m here so it holds my attention.  I got here on Sunday after a very quick and pretty uneventful flight – though a few questions come to mind every time I go through an airport.  What is it that makes people think it is fine to sit and drink pints of beer at 7 in the morning because they are going on holiday?  Why are books at airport bookshops 50% bigger than books on the high street and what is the point of handing out packets of tuc biscuits in an attempt to make you think you have been fed? 

The train from Schipol to Rotterdam was fast and smooth and sadly not one of the very exciting double decker ones.  It was great to be met by eldest daughter and once I’d dumped my bags we headed off into the city centre.  There are some intersting buildings including the cube house.

Cube Houses - disorientating inside surely.

Cube Houses - disorientating inside surely.

Yesterday I was up North to Amsterdam.  I spent the whole day there and battled round the Van Gogh museum – I was delighted to see a handful of Gaugain pictures as well as some by Millet and Monet.  Amsterdam is beautiful and there is another delicious view round every corner.

Amsterdam Canal

Amsterdam Canal

So a great day spent doing art, shopping and sitting about reading – bliss.  Oh and finally – Happy Birthday Kate! 

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.

Hull Pot Beck disappearing

Hull Pot Beck disappearing

I was in Glasgow last week for the inaugural meeting of the Accessibility and Inclusion role group.  Members from the other RSC regions who had responsibility for Accessibility and Inclusion were there and it was a great opportunity to discuss developments, and share experiences.  There is some seriously good work going on and I was particularly impressed with a project that Margaret McKay has been doing with Glasgow Metropolitan College.  They have implemented a cross college process to make learning materials accessible.  CALM – Creating Accessible Learning Materials – is a project to ensure that learning materials are ‘accessibile, readable and available in a variety of formats to meet the requirements of learners with a range of additional learning needs.’

This is a college wide approach and not one which is just for the learning support staff.  All staff have had training and more importantly, the college invested in admin staff to provide support in converting existing documents into more accessible formats.  As the continued gripe from staff that we get is – ‘we haven’t got the time’  providing admin and technical support has been crucial to the success of the scheme.

So now I’m wondering if we could do something similar in a college in the North west.  I have a couple of candidates in mind but may possibly speak to them before posting to here.

It was a great visit and we had a superb traditional scottish meal in the Bothy restaurant.  Yes I had haggis with neaps and tatties and it was very nice.  I also discovered ‘tablet’ which is like kendal mint cake without the mint – I think that’s the nearest I can get to it.  Thanks to Margaret who was a fantastic hostess and it was great to see everyone from around the UK and NI.

Lee and Sachi LeFever at Commoncraft have produced another cracking video explaining how social media works.  As part of our job we spend a lot of time trying explaining to people how and why Web 2.0 works and there you go –  they’ve done it in all of 4 minutes. Watch and enjoy – or you can download it here.

It’s been a busy week with lots of visits to learning providers and we’ve seen lots of really innovative and imaginative use of mobile devices. On Wednesday, colleagues and I went up to West Cumbria for a meeting and spend the afternoon ‘playing’ with lots of the new kit that the college had bought with the ‘Learning for Living and Work‘ funds. Unfortuntaely the Wii’s were in use in the classrooms but we did have a go with the digital movie makers and the Tony Hawk headcams (these are usually used for skateboarders but did the job well). They are a great bit of kit for recording evidence of achievement in the workplace. They use the same software as the digi-cams so the college had managed to negotiate a half day’s training for 40 staff. I was delighted to hear they made sure that it was curriculum staff who had the training as well as the learning support staff – as ‘this technology is not just good for learners with disabilities or difficulties but for all learners’ – hurrah – someone who has seen the light. but I would say that wouldn’t I.

At the end of the week, I went to a Specialist College in North Manchester where I was fascinated to see the progress they’d made using mobile technology. They are part of a consortium which won a MoLeNet grant (yes that is the correct spelling it stands for Mobile Learning Network) and have invested heavily in some impressive kit. The Independent living skills lecturer has made some videos of recipes and instructions in a very clear and ordered way. Using an impressive Samsung handheld touch screen PC the learner can navigate their way round the instructions via an interactive PowerPoint page. The instructions were set in a grid showing either a symbol or word depending on the learner’s ability and tapping the square launched the next bit of film. Even better the learners can take the device from college to the residences or even home and practice their skills. As usual the big draw back of all this is the time taken – unfortuneately we haven’t worked out a way of cloning staff yet!

Although the Samsung was impressive, they will probably be using the small Asus eeepcs for most of the learners. These are fab small computers with a 7″ screen, but with no moving parts and with a Linux operating system. They are so fast it’s unbelievable and you are typing within a minute of switching on and at £200 worth every penny complete with speakers, webcam and wifi!

I posted about the videos that Lee LeFever and his colleagues at Commoncraft make a few months ago. Their ‘Zombies in Plain English’ has been short listed for a Yahoo video best animation award.

You can vote for them here.

Well Happy New Year everyone. I suppose now is the time to look back at the year and pick out the highs and forget the lows.

Well the year started with all the preparations for going out to Tanzania and that was definitely a high. It prompted the start of this blog which will be one year old on the 14th of this month and I’ve enjoyed posting a selection of random thoughts and ideas. It does seem to have now got the shorter identity of ‘Lisa’s Cotton Knickers’ – thanks Dave for the public mention at the RSC Conference. I hope I’ve managed to raise a bit of awareness of the work that Steve and Pia are doing at Emau Hill for Tukae.

It’s been a year of conferences, some good – HandHeld Learning, some not so good, the afformentioned RSC event! Others have been our own at the De Vere in Blackpool, an excellent single day at Salford University where I was introduced to jaiku, and a badly organised day at Manchester University (note to conference organisers, don’t make the delegates wait till 2 pm for lunch – they get crotchety).

Books of the year must include Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, as well as Kalheid Hussein’s A Thousand Splended Suns, Julian Barnes’ Arthur and George and yet more Bronte stuff. I’m looking forward to reading one of my Christmas presents, Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer as well as two more Shakespeare books, The Lodger by Charles Nichols and Bill Bryson’s latest.

It has also been the year of Facebook. What will come next? Bebo will become more popular; they are already getting new fans with KateModern – a 21st Century soap starring amongst others Ralph Little – check it out here though I think it is the season finale today.

So here’s to a new year and new aspirations. I’ve got a few ideas of what might transpire in the next 12 months, but until I’ve made complete plans it will have to stay under wraps. One thing is certain – I’ll be a Great Aunt in the next few weeks – so Good Luck Sarah and Paul!

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