Friday 6 July 2012

University Challenge

It was an odd time for the train to be full.  Full of anxious and excited teenagers and anxious middle-age parents.  This was the annual migration.  Of Lower Sixth formers to visit one of their possible choices for undergraduate education.  It is the season when the organised take numerous trips to universities across the country.  I'm guessing that the numbers this year are somewhat down as the economic realities of racking up an enormous debt in an uncertain labour market will steer many away from the corridors of further education.

Once upon a time we would all make the trip alone, but these days it seems most are accompanied by parents.  To be honest I haven't a clue why.  Really I think it's madness.  But such is social pressure that I was there on the train as it trundled down to Southampton.  It's not that I mind going...why would I?  But this is the start of the process of a child becoming a young adult, making their own decisions, making their own mistakes...and deciding where they want to spend the next three or four years is something they should be able to decide without parental interference....and try as any parent might, if they are there with them, they will express an opinion, and influence the choice.  We're looking at what might best be described as pretty safe universities...all with good histories, well respected and certain to educate The Boy to a good in effect it's a bit like choosing a car - you know that a Jaguar, a BMW, a Mercedes, an Audi is a good car, and the decision on which to get is just a personal thing.  I suspect the whole parents coming along thing is simply a reflection of how over-protective we have become, and that doesn't do anyone any favours in the long run.

Anyway, he liked it.  Even in the rain.  My opinion is neither here nor there.  And there are plenty more to take for a test ride.

By some remarkable coincidence, whilst we were standing at the bus stop getting soaked to the skin, I received an e-mail from Parent Adviser that aims to help parents through the university selection maze.  It can be found at  I hope it helps.

Daily picture 48

It's traditional

Thursday 5 July 2012

Picture Daily 47

...and fish

How to turn a triumph into a disaster

I read today on the BBC (so it must be truthful, fair and accurate) that a lifeguard in America had been fired for saving someone's life.  Apparently the nearly drowned person was swimming in the sea off an unguarded part of the coast.  Saving him created 'liability issues'.  I would love to say "Only in America", but sadly I know this is not the case...there was a case not so long ago of some fireman who didn't rescue someone who was drowning in a lake because they didn't have the right training.  The same madness means that during the last bout of bad snow, the buses stopped working, and last year The Boys sports day was cancelled in case people fell because of the rain.  Life without risk is probably not worth living.

There have been some deaths this week.  I know there are deaths every week, indeed every second of every day, but these were significant.  Dear Eric Sykes...a comedian of the old school who always felt like my favourite uncle.  And Sergio Pininfarina...who will be unfamiliar to you unless you are a petrol head.  He designed some of the most beautiful cars on the road, not the least of which was the Lancia Monte Carlo - a car that I've mentioned here before.  The sad end to the tale of my beautiful Lancia is that after thirteen years of storage, it had been badly mauled by the rust beetle, and would have cost some £30,000 to would have been worth about £9,000 fully restored, so the maths didn't add up and I let it go sadly.

I slightly mis-timed my post about That Face yesterday...only because they did a 'workshop' production last night at the school.  Remarkably, it was sold fact they had to bring in more seating to accommodate all comers...not bad as they were charging £5 a ticket.  The Cat and The Boy put in quite breath-taking performances..even with my obvious bias, they achieved an incredible performance, full of the raw, passionate, heart-wrenching emotion that the play demands.  So much so that The Cat's Mother was in tears by the end, and that in turn gave me the collywobbles.  This was far from the average many ways as good as a professional performance - which I guess they need to achieve for it to be a success at the Edinburgh Fringe - you can buy tickets here.  It was a triumph.

So it was more than doubly upsetting that the celebrations afterwards resulted in an outbreak of hostilities at half-past midnight, which then developed into something that makes the Battle of the Somme seem like a chimpanzees tea-party this morning.  When we should all have been basking in the afterglow of glorious success, we were instead mithered in conflict and anger.  We're all out tonight for dinner before a performance of Henry V (I may have mentioned that The Cat's Mother is on a mission to get Up and me to see a performance of everyone of our 'A' and 'O' level texts) at The Globe.  It will be interesting to see whether any more than half a dozen words will pass between us, or indeed whether we'll have a version of a UN-brokered Syrian ceasefire over our steak.  Just so long as there's no finger pointing, we may get away with it.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Picture daily 46


Roll up, roll up

This is nothing but a shameless plug and a plea...but as it's for The Boy and The Cat, I have no conscience.

The two of them are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe...which is enough to make any self-respecting parent's chest swell with pride.  The description of the play is:

"Mia is at boarding school. She has access to drugs – they are Martha's. Henry is preparing for Art College. He has access to alcohol from Martha. Martha controls their lives. Martha is their mother. That Face won the TMA Award 2007 for Best New Play. Polly Stenham received both the Charles Wintour Award 2007 and the Critics' Circle Award 2008 for Most Promising Playwright."

You may gather from that it's quite challenging viewing...but that's how it should be at a Fringe event. So please, please, please have a look at the web page here , buy tickets if you will be in Edinburgh, click the Facebook 'like' button, tweet it and share the link with as many as you can!

Thank you

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Picture daily 45


Of course I'm pleased Bob Diamond has down, several thousand to follow I hope.  But, but, but I have this rather desperate feeling that with his departure the landed aristocracy that's in power now will feel this is sufficient and the wanker bankers will be allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains and prosper into the future.

I'm in a grump...I'm well into one of those battles that characterise my life, and am doubly frustrated because it was supposed to be a major step to making everything easier...and in fact has made things ten time more tricky. Ho hum.

I realise today that exercise of any sort must make you fat.  Obese in fact.  For the second time in the last six months I popped down to the local Decathlon super store...this time to get some kit for The Boy.  He's about to disappear off for three weeks...a week at Army camp, a week training and then a week in Iceland on a geography field trip, so inevitably needed some more kit..the list I compiled consisted of three items, his list thirty items.  Not to worry, nothing that another mortgage won't pay for.  When I started looking round the shelves all I could find were L, XL, XXL, XXXl and XXXXL sizes, the few items that were marked M turned out to be US M size, which is a European L.  As I didn't see a mad rush for the store I assume that means it really does stock only the larger sizes, and assuming they know what they're doing, that can only mean they stock what the customers need.  It may mean an unscheduled stop off at Westfields...which I'm a little too familiar with at the moment.

I've lusted long, and I've lusted hard after a new camera for a little while now...and my prayers were answered on my birthday by The Cat's Mother, so it seems only fitting that I share the first picture with you.  In case you're interested it's got 24.3 megapixels, Full HD AVCHD, 25/50p, OLED Tru-Finder, 10fps, 7.5cm LCD, built-in flash.   In short a behemoth with a 500 page instruction book which should help me take some nice snaps....

Monday 2 July 2012

Picture daily 44

Boats in the harbour

The biggest birthday party ever?

Well, blow me down it's Monday morning and I can barely put one leg in front of the other.  We had rehearsals from 5.30 until 10.00pm on Friday night, 9.00 am until 5.30pm on Saturday and again 9.00 a.m until 1.00 on Sunday.  In total we're rehearsing for more than 200 hours.  Over the weekend we hit the half-way it's all downhill from here!

Friday was quite traumatic, arriving just minutes after a man had been stabbed to death in the Westfield Shopping Centre.  One of our number had seen the blood spurting out and his background in the police meant that he could tell us with a high degree of certainty that  the man would not survive.  The likely scenario is that this was two gangs fighting it out to see who would have the 'right' to be stealing from shops in the Centre.  A large part of Westfield remained cordoned off for the rest of the weekend.  Such a terrible waste of life...not just the guy that died, but for everyone else who was involved and thought that fighting gang wars was a good way to go.

As it was my birthday on Saturday everyone in our section sang a very rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.  I brought in for everyone in our group...that's about 75 of us....a Cadbury's chocolate Gold medal.  This may possibly have been the first time that anyone has been given a medal in the Olympics Stadium.  Danny Boyle was walking past so I grabbed him and gave him one too. After saying thanks, he said that in another group  it was Emily's birthday too and he would take me over to celebrate with her.  "Mind you", he said with a large grin, "That's more of a birthday present for you than it is for her".

Harsh, but probably fair!

I spent the rest of the day enjoying my birthday celebrations with a few thousand of my closest friends....certainly a birthday I will never forget!

When I staggered home, The Cat's Mother and I took ourselves out for a pizza...Pizza Express remains an absolute treat with me trying not to fall asleep from exhaustion after all the exertions of the day.  Just like a kid, I was over-excited by the prospect of opening my you think we ever get over that?  I hope not.

Sunday we were back on the field of play, and grateful that for the second day the sun stayed out, and we didn't get soaked to the skin again.  For the first time we ran though our sequence from start to end, so are beginning to get a real feel for how it will be on the night.  That too is helping create a fantastic buzz around from everyone involved...and some of the mumbles and grumbles that have been echoing over the last couple of weeks are fading away.  Hurrah!  And we can feel all the more secure now that The Royal Marines have taken over security there.  It's already been announced that there will be livestock as part of the Ceremony, and we were introduced to half a dozen of the horses - we were all encouraged to make as much noise as possible by their handlers to make sure that they were not spooked by the noise.  Indeed they weren't - I don't think there's too much for the RSPCA to worry about.

And then finally, I headed home for a big family meal in a restaurant overlooking the canal.

All in all, that was really quite a birthday weekend!

Sunday 1 July 2012