June 30, 2005

Hundred Acre Graveyard

Piglet is dead.

John Fielder, the voice of Piglet in Disney's Winnie the Pooh films died on Saturday. This is just a day after the death of Paul Winchell, the voice of Tigger.

To the best of my knowledge, the Peter Cullen, the voice of Eeyore, is alive and well. For now.

Pooh is dead. The voice of "Bear of Very Little Brain", Sterling Holloway died in 1992. November 22, in fact. The 29th anniverary of the assassination of JFK. Connection? Hmm... Well, there are 9 characters in the 20 original stories by A.A. Milne. You do the math.

Posted by david at 09:20 PM | Comments (3)

June 26, 2005

World Class Disaster

I work in a "world class" education system. At least that was what Tony Blair said in 1998. He promised that is what Labour would create. He just didn't mention that the world in question was the Third World.

Since they came to power this Government have pumped £1 billion into the national literacy and numeracy strategies. An examination of GCSE results in the intervening years has shown that this tax money has gone down a rat hole. There has been no improvement. The GCSE exams have been made easier and easier, and still no improvement.

I see it every day. Secondary school students cannot read or write. They can form complete sentences, not to mention paragraphs. They can't spell very basic words.

I work in literacy subjects, but I'm supposed to incorporate numeracy skills into my lessons, because apparently unless they are made to do a bit of adding up in RE and History, they forget how to do it before they get to Maths again. So I teach on the Trinity. You know, 1+1+1=1. Put that in your numeracy strategy!

Only a couple of weeks ago, Baroness Warnock, the architect of inclusive education - the mainstreaming of those with special educational needs - said, "Oops! I was wrong about that."

She now regards the moving of pupils out of special schools as a "disastrous legacy". She said, "Governments must come to recognise that, even if inclusion is an ideal for society in general, it may not always be an ideal for school."

That's the heart of the matter. The Government is trying to address pedigogical issues with political solutions. Is there any wonder that the logical and inevitable result is failure? And if they are failing the education of the population year after year, how disastrous will this legacy be?

Posted by david at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2005

Reason not to Cheat #213

Be sure you own your own car.

Lotus Esprit Turbo
price: £0.50
Ended: 17-Jun-05 00:26:49 BST
Start time: 17-Jun-05 00:21:46 BST
Buyer: goddamm7 ( 0 )
Item location: birmingham
United Kingdom
Post to: Will arrange for local pickup only (no postage).
Postage costs: Check item description and payment instructions or contact seller for details

"I need to get rid of this car immediately - ideally in the next 2-3 hours before my cheating arsehole husband gets home to find it gone and all his belongings in the street."

It sold in 5 minutes and 3 seconds.

H/T: Greg Wallace

Posted by david at 10:46 AM | Comments (1)

Telling Time

Aidan has made the transition from asking about the order of the days to being able to explain them. There's no more "What's after Tuesday, Daddy? What's after Wednesday?"

This morning he was going through the days and he got to Friday and said, "Then it's Saturday again! 'Round and 'round and 'round. It always comes back around." He just doesn't realise that at my age, it comes around just about that fast.

It seems just like yesterday that I was sitting here working on reports.

And Monday comes around just as fast.

But only four weeks now, Andrew.

Posted by david at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2005

Permanent Marker

Michael Schiavo has inscribed a permanent testimony to his crime. David Ward has a very insightful post about Terri Schiavo's burial, "What the Grave Marker Really Says".

Posted by david at 12:17 AM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2005

Working Hard for the Money

Because I don't want it to get lost in the comments below, I have decided to respond to a comment with a full post. In reponse to the post "Five Weeks" Andrew Duffin commented: Teachers - "half a day for half the year".


I'm expected to work 60 hours a week for £5,000 less than the national average salary. I get a total of 13 weeks of holiday per year. 39 weeks x 60 hours = 2340 hours per year. Compare that to 48 weeks x 37.5 hours = 1800 hours per year. That means that I work 1.3 times more than someone who works a statutory week with a statutory holiday. We'll set aside for the moment that I'm also expected to do marking, planning, report writing, etc., during all but my six weeks in the summer.

And then there's the 25 of those hours each week when I am trapped in a small room with anywhere from 20-30 badly behaved teenagers. That doesn't include break duty, lunch duty, after school duty, detentions, after school revision clubs, etc.

And then there's the parents evenings, open evenings, etc. Tonight was Year 8 parents evening. I arrived at school today at 8:00am. I left at 9:00pm. From before 6:00pm until 9:00pm, I met with some of the parents of the 120 Year 8s I teach each week, so they could discuss the report I wrote about their child's progress.

And I'll even ignore my own situation as an amputee criss-crossing a 14-acre campus many times each day, with most of the places I have go being upstairs.

Half a day for half the year?

Posted by david at 11:32 PM | Comments (4)


A hat tip is due to the anonymous reader who emailed me an excerpt of Mark Steyn's op/ed piece in the Daily Telegraph. The piece as a whole is about the general incompetence of Thames Valley Police, but this is the funniest/scariest bit:

As we now know, if you require a less desultory response from Thames Valley Police, the best advice is to speculate about the sexuality of the officer's horse. As my colleague Sam Leith reported yesterday, late in the evening on Bank Holiday Monday, Sam Brown, an Oxford University undergraduate, inquired of a mounted policeman on Cornmarket Street: "Do you know your horse is gay?" Also, "I hope you're comfortable riding a gay horse."

Within minutes, young Mr Brown was surrounded by six officers and a fleet of patrol cars, handcuffed and tossed in the slammer overnight, after which he was fined £80. A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police told the student newspaper Cherwell that the "homophobic comments" were "not only offensive to the policeman and his horse, but any members of the general public in the area."

"Offensive to his horse"? Well, you never know. If any constabulary is keeping a full-time equine psychologist on staff, it's bound to be Thames Valley. Even now, the horse may be on one month's stress leave at home on full pay, with his feet up listening to Judy Garland on his iPod. Whoops, sorry. We don't know whether the horse in question is, in fact, gay. It may be just the way he trots. Whoops, there goes another 80 quid. What I'm getting at is that, even under a generous interpretation of "homophobia", it's hard to see why simply identifying the horse as gay should be a criminal offence.

If you enjoyed that, read the rest of Steyn's piece. Free registration may be required. But it's worth it. Really.

Posted by david at 01:54 AM | Comments (2)

June 22, 2005

Chicago, We Have a Restaurant

You never know what you might wander across surfing the net.

One of my all-time favourite films is Apollo 13. Anyone who has read this blog for very long knows I'm big on all things outer space, but surely even for the most earth-bound person, the the return to the home planet of Jack Swigert, Fred Haise, and Jim Lovell in a crippled ship is one of the great voyages of history. They traveled 297,315 miles after the explosion and had to manually line up a re-entry angle of between 5.5 degrees and 7.5 degrees.

If you've seen the film, you'll remember the young teen Jay Lovell away at military school in Wisconsin, watching on television to see if his father would be burned to a crisp an Odyssey-turned-incinerator.

If you want to see the artefacts of Jim's space travels and drink astronomically named martinis, you will have to visit Jay's restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois. I have to say I was a bit shocked that my mental picture of Jay Lovell has gone from that of young actor Max Elliot Slade to Dom DeLuise.

If you dine at Lovells of Lake Forest, bring your MasterCard (or Visa, or anything else they will take), because dinner doesn't come cheap. Dinner for two, with salad and entree, sharing an appetizer, will set you back about $100, plus $50 for a mid-range bottle of wine. Cigar and cognac not included, of course.

Posted by david at 11:13 PM | Comments (1)

June 21, 2005

Wimbledon's Weapons of Mass Consumption

If you are planning to visit the All England Club during the Championships, hoping to dine on Henman Hill while you watch Tiger Tim declawed and defeated, sorry, but you'll have to leave your picnic hamper at home. Amidst all the champagne and posh food, you may be toting a weapon to perpetrate a terrorist act.

As reported in The Times,

Pam and Philip Newland, from Skegness, Lincolnshire, were angry at the new security measures. “We’re civilised people, you know. We’ve had to leave our wicker picnic hamper outside, and all our knives and forks, so we’re eating chicken in barbecue sauce, shelled prawns, Scotch eggs and salad with our hands,” Mrs Newland said.

“They even took our corkscrew so we can’t open our wine. I haven’t got the imagination to do anything nasty with a corkscrew but I’d have a go if they told me now.”

This means more people have to buy lunch from on-site caterers. Champagne is £10 a glass, and while a half-lobster will set you back £26, you can get Scottish salmon for £15.

Posted by david at 10:08 PM | Comments (2)


Today is the longest day of the year. There will be daylight outside until nearly 11:00 tonight.

At least the heat of the day is gone. I know it's nothing like the 104°F on a pickup truck mirror in south Texas, but we have had it about as hot as it gets here. Mrs H got rid of some of our junk at a car boot sale on Sunday and we were starting to get sunburned before we could even get set up.

We've been sleeping with the windows open and the oscillating fan has been going when Abby's asleep. Unfortunately, she is just tall and curious enough to get her fingers inside the blade guard.

Today there was a dip in the temperature, but it's headed back up over the next couple of days. Could reach the upper 80s again. And before you think about how comfortable that would be, remember that we don't have air conditioning for our bodies acclimatised to living at 52°N latitude. This is roughly the same as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Posted by david at 09:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2005


Today I was informed that I have passed my NQT year. I can now teach forever in this country.

Last August, I briefly mentioned how becoming a teacher works in this country. If you remember, forgive the redunancy. For those who may be unware, Qualified Teacher Status can be obtained in several different ways. I got a Post-graduate Certificate in Education, or PGCE as it is known in this kingdom of endless intials, abbreviations and acronyms. With that came Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

Someone with QTS must then spend a year as an NQT - Newly Qualified Teacher - and satisfy a local education authority (LEA), through the auspices of the induction programme at a school, that the NQT is suitable to teach. The difference is that one can get several bites of the apple when it comes to getting a PGCE, but the NQT year is a one-time-only thing. Either you make or you don't and if you don't you are forever barred from teaching at any level. So today was important.

Posted by david at 08:02 PM | Comments (6)

June 19, 2005

First Class Ticket

He was the most expensive Lord Chancellor in recent memory. He would have made Cardinal Wolsey proud. Though he resigned in 2003, Derry Irvine is still milking the public purse for every penny. Before he resigned, he fought against the inflation-linked pay rise that the rest of the Cabinet received. He wanted an increase of more than five times that. He was already the highest paid member of the Cabinet - receiving almost £30,000 per year more than the Prime Minister. When he resigned, he received a pension worth more than £2 million.

Now that he is just a rank-and-file member of the House of Lords, he rarely does anything connected with its business. He votes only occasionally, never takes part in debates, and serves on no committees. However, he does show up long enough to sign in whenever the Lords is in session.

Why bother? Because he gets £192 each day. Even though he lives in London, he gets an additional £128 overnight allowance because his official residence is in Argyllshire in western Scotland. And on top of that, he gets the cost of first-class travel to his official home each day, even though he actually lives no more than a few miles away. The travel perks alone add up to more than £35,000 per year. And it is all tax-free.

It's not like he doesn't have any other income. He is also a consultant and non-executive director of Hutchison Whampoa, fetching a six-figure sum for that. Please forgive me if I begrudge him £35,000 per year of my tax money in free non-existent travel.

Posted by david at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face

I am sad to report the death on June 15th of world record holder Percy Arrowsmith.

Hooterville is home to many notable things. The largest cider company in the world was founded here. The Royal National College for the Blind is here. There has been a cathedral here since 676. The city has given its name to a famous breed of beef cattle known since the 1600s.

It is also home to at least two records listed in the Guinness Book. The first is the largest bag of chips - as in chipped fried potatoes, the chips part of fish and chips. It weighed 812lbs. This record may have been exceed in February of this year by a chip shop in Plymouth, but they are waiting to hear back from the Guinness people.

Percy's record is much nobler than the first, even if he only held it for 15 days. She shared it with his wife Florence. On June 1, they celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary. As the BBC noted, the year they were married Stanley Baldwin was the Prime Minister and HM the Queen had not even been born yet. In fact, HM's grandfather George V would be on the throne for another 10½ years.

Perhaps Mrs H and I will one day be married 80 years. I'll only be 115.

Posted by david at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2005

Pay or Wait

Health care in this country is free. Well, not exactly free. We all pay for it. We just may not get it.

Rachel King suffered head injuries when she was hit by a car in January. She has dizzy spells and reduced vision and is in need of an MRI scan on her brain. She can get it done in two weeks time. The only problem is that it will cost £983. That's $1800.

She could have it done at the very same unit on the NHS, since she's already paid for it with her taxes. She'd just have to wait a bit. If you consider 80 weeks just a bit of a wait, that is. She told The Times, “I still have falls, and I can’t return to work or drive. I’ve never signed on the dole in my life but I have had to now.” That's right - for an existing condition with existing debilitating symptoms severely affecting her well-being. 80 weeks.

The letter from King’s College Hospital said that because of “heavy demand”, the scan would be delayed. However there was a handwritten note on the bottom, which read: “If you want to go privately call 0845 6080991 for prices.”

According to The Times:

When she did, the telephone was answered by King’s College Self Pay, who said that the cost of such a scan was £983, and she could have the procedure in a couple of weeks.

King’s College Hospital said in a statement that it recognised that an 80-week wait for scans was unacceptable. It had recently received funds to expand its services, with the aim of getting waiting times down to 26 weeks by next March.

Now let's see... Next March is about 39 weeks from now. The list will then be down to 26 weeks. That's only 65 weeks in total. Why didn't I realise just how good a job the Government is doing in reducing waiting times?

No telling how long the wait would be if a GP told someone, "I think you might have a brain tumour. We ought to have this checked out." The patient would be checked out alright, long before the diagnosis could be made, except by autopsy.

Posted by david at 03:01 PM | Comments (2)

Standing Alone

He's still wearing three crosses, even if he is the only who recognises his position.

Irineos still calls himself Patriarch of Jerusalem, even if all of the other autocephalous churches of Orthodoxy have said he is just a simple monk. He did not appear before the court of the Church in Istanbul and refuses to recognise its verdict.

Unfortunately, the Locum Tenens, Archbishop Cornelios, can't get the keys to anything because the governments of Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority have to officially recognise his dismissal. Only Jordan has done so at this point, even stripping Irineos of his Jordanian citizenship. But he still holds possession of the patriarchal property in Israel.

I would think the Israeli authorities would be loath to remove him, seeing as he was the one who illegally sold them church property.

Irineos really is a piece of work. How did this man get to be patriarch in the first place?

Posted by david at 12:39 AM | Comments (3)

June 17, 2005

Five Weeks

It is now only five weeks to the end of the year. Then I get six weeks until school starts again.

I know we get more holiday time during the school year itself, but it would be nice to have three months of in the summer like teachers in the States.

Posted by david at 08:45 PM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2005


I think June is my favourite month of the year in the UK. Being in the final crunch to get all my books marked and everything else that has to be done has put a bit of a dampener on the usual euphoria, but nonetheless I like June.

I first met Mrs H in person in June a few years ago. It is a good month for meeting someone, because the days are long and warm. Good for long walks and picnics in the evening. There is daylight until after 10:00 pm. There seem to be more clear nights when the sky fades into purple and the stars come out.

As I write this, the current temperature is 87F and the heat index 94F in my home town, and that is only because the heat of the day has past. It appears that at its peak the temperature today was even higher than the heat index is now. The temperature today in the Shire was about 64F. By Saturday we will be in the throes of a heat wave with tempertures reaching 80F. Fortunately it will be back in the 70's by the start of the work week.

Posted by david at 11:08 PM | Comments (2)

June 12, 2005

The Foster State

This is the scariest thing I have seen in a long time. And I see a lot of scary things. Even wonder what the Government is planning behind our backs. Well, fortunately, there are always moles in the civil service who are happy to leak things to the press.

Remember that total idiot who used to be Education Secretary? The one Tony has now made Home Secretary? Well, it seems that Charles Clarke is not done yet tampering with the lives of our children. In fact, this is a lot more than tampering.

From the Sunday Times:

A confidential Home Office report recommends that children should be targeted as potential criminals from the age of three. It says they can be singled out by their bullying behaviour in nursery school or by a history of criminality in their immediate family.

It proposes parenting classes and, in the worst cases, putting more children who are not “under control” into intensive foster care instead of care homes. Nursery staff would be trained to spot children at risk of growing up to be criminals.

So if your child is a bit aggressive at nursery school, or at least a "trained" nursery worker with two GCSEs and an NVQ decides that he is, he could labelled a potential criminal and taken away into foster care.

But really a child need not do anything. All he needs is for a sibling to get in trouble. Then it's no more Mummy or Daddy for him. Maybe they'll get to come by and visit. Maybe not. And foster homes can be nice. Okay, not always, but he'll get moved around a lot, so he will get to know lots of Mummies and Daddies. And if his own Mummy and Daddy attend mandatory parenting classed, they might be deemed worthy to try again - under close supervision, to be sure.

Posted by david at 10:27 AM | Comments (7)

June 11, 2005

My Other Website

I have updated my other website recently. Enjoy. The website, obviously - not the Red Lion.

Posted by david at 09:57 AM | Comments (2)

June 10, 2005

Living Up to a Name

I realised today that name by which the Eastern and Western Churches choose to be known is significant. I'm sure the rest of you thought about this long ago, but it just hit me.

In the East (speaking theologically) we are Orthodox. Right-believing. Or more literally, right-worshipping. (But worship is an expression of belief, lex orandi, lex credendi, and all that.) And our point of fellowship - at least at the table, and that is the true measure of fellowship - is right belief. That's why we are very concerned about that Filoque and all that.

In the West, they are Catholic. Universal. You will be assimilated.

In a way it is a bit ironic. As Orthodox, we don't like systematic theology and we are apophatic (i.e., emphasising that God is ultimately unknowable). We didn't have Scholasticism - rather we have Hesychasm (holy navel gazing). But we are doctrinally unbending.

Catholics (and their intellectual offspring the Reformed) have doctrines for everything. It all springs from medieval nominalism. Everything fits in its box.

Yet it is the Catholics that are praying that we may be one, even as the Father and the Son are one.

The 100 million Orthodox are praying that one billion Catholics will see the truth about the single procession of the Spirit, anathemise Augustine and Anselm, retract any doctrinal statements since 787, grovel some more about the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, repent of the error of their ways, and beg that they might be received back into the One and Only True Church. (That is, except for the 10,000 real True Orthodox, who are praying that the bulk of the 100 million so-called Orthodox will repent of their papal-influenced calendar and beg to be received back into the real One and Only True Church. [That is, except for the 6 or so really really really True Orthodox...])

The Pope is saying the Church needs to breathe with both her lungs. The Orthodox say she already breathing with both of her Orthodox lungs and will offer a respirator to the lifeless Catholics, if they follow the instructions above.

A number of Orthodox of my blogging acquaintance have opined that they don't see reunification within their lifetime. I wonder if they, or many others, see it within any lifetime. In fact, I wonder if it is possible when the Catholics refer to the Orthodox as a sister church and the Orthodox say "I wouldn't consider them 'brothers'..."

This may comes as a surprise to some (especially those who find me particularly subversive) that on His way to the Cross, in his last "quiet time" with the Father, Jesus didn't pray that the is disciples might understand that when He told them earlier in the evening He was sending them another Comforter, He really only meant that in a economic sense. He probably wasn't even thinking, "you know, I could have put that a little better." Being God and all, He probably knew that it wouldn't even be an issue until the successors to the Apostles took a second shot at the Creed in 381, tidying it up after everyone had a chance to read recently the reposed bishop of Caesarea's work On the Holy Spirit.

No, he prayed a different prayer for the successors to St Peter and St Andrew and St Mark and St James and St Thomas. The successors to St Peter are now praying that prayer. It is time that we and our patriarchs did the same.

Posted by david at 01:09 AM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2005

Name and Shame

For those of you unfamiliar with British criminal law, the flavour of the month is the Anti-social Behaviour Order. This is issued against really bad people who go out of their way to commit crimes that make other people's life a absolute misery. An asbo is a way of saying, "You've been very naughty and if you are naughty again we might put you in jail."

Here is one that was recently issued:

A 10-year-old boy has become one of the youngest in Britain to be given an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo).

Calvin Hooper and his brother Kyle, 12, from Newport, south Wales, have been placed under Asbos for five years by magistrates in nearby Caerphilly.

Both are banned from swearing, making rude gestures, damaging property, starting fires and throwing missiles.

Forty-four incidents were recorded in 14 months, including breaking windows and shooting at people with an air gun.

In a 14-month period leading up to January 2005 the boys also threw bottles and eggs at people near their home in Broadmead Park.

Posted by david at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2005

Heretical Thoughts

I thought I would try on a little heresy tonight, in the vain hope of getting useful comments. I'm sure what will really happen is that I will appear on even fewer Ortho-blogrolls.

Because our local eucharistic community (which now meets once a month over an hour away) is on the verge of shinking to the ecclesiastical equivalent of an astronomical singularity, we have twice attended our former RC parish. It is nice to not have the only fussy child in the congregation (or children at all, fussy or otherwise). It's nice to be five minutes away. The priest is by far the best extemporaneous RC preacher I have ever heard. And unless you are an Athonite monk, you probably don't think there is anything heretical about visiting an RC service.

But as I was sitting there (and standing and kneeling, at all the appropriate times), listening to the best sermon I have ever heard on anamnesis (except for the bit about the transformation occuring during the Words of Institution rather than the epiclesis, but really we Orthodox are a bit apophatic about that anyway), and then observing said transformation minutes later, I was thinking. A dangerous practice at best, I know.

I'm not a heretic to believe that the gifts on the RC altar are effectively changed into the Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood. There are probably only a few on the fringes of Orthodoxy who would deny this. So there, in the Mass, I am in the Presence of Christ. His Body is truly on the altar and I am truly a member of His Body in the pew.

Yet what seems to matter most is that it was a RC priest under the authority of an RC bishop under the authority of the successor to St Peter as Partriarch of Rome who prayed the prayer asking the Holy Spirit to do His sacramental work. The apostolic succession is valid or we would not recognise the Eucharistic prayer as valid. It was the Holy Spirit Who did the transformation. The same Holy Spirit sealed me in Baptism and Chrismation.

The Most Precious Body and Blood is not a Catholic Body and Blood or an Orthodox Body and Blood. It is Christ's Body and Blood.

What is wrong with this picture?

Posted by david at 09:21 PM | Comments (16)

June 05, 2005

More Mugabe Madness

Robert Mugabe is at it again. He has run all of the white folks out of Zimbabwe by seizing all their property, so he has to find new ways to persecute people.

Over the last two weeks, more than 22,000 people have been arrested as illegal street traders. Over the same period, about 200,000 people have been made homeless as the government has torched and demolished shantytowns in Harare and Bulawayo. If this policy continues unabated, it may affect between 2 and 3 million people - up to one-fourth of Zimbabwe's population.

It may come as no surprise that the areas under attack are those which tended to vote for the opposition in the recent elections.

Posted by david at 07:54 PM | Comments (2)

Home Invasion

We have ants. Everywhere.

We can't figure out where they are coming from. It's hard to tell where they are going. They don't seem to be carrying ten times their weight in food anywhere. They aren't marching in long queues. They just seem to wander aimlessly. Sometimes they are alone, sometimes in small groups. They don't seem particularly vicious, as there are no reports of bites or other attacks.

They just don't want to go away.

Posted by david at 12:37 PM | Comments (2)

Bedside Bible Ban

This made the front page headline of the Daily Mail on Friday, but was picked up by the broadsheets as well. The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust is considering banning Bibles from hospital bedsides. They don't want to offend anyone. Leicester is, after all, heavy Asian, with lots and lots of Muslims and Sikhs.

The only problem is that no one is offended. Both the Muslim and Sikh communities immediately responded to this news. Suleman Nagdi, of Leicestershire's Federation of Muslim Organisations, said: "This is a Christian country and it would be sad to see the tradition end." Resham Singh Sandu, Sikh chairman of the Council of Faiths, said: "I don't think many ethnic minority patients would object to the Bible in a locker."

One of the executive directors of the Gideons said they had not received "a single letter, e-mail or telephone call from any member of another faith to say that they have been offended by a hospital bible."

Trust officials have also tried to say that the Bibles might spread MRSA (the hospital super-bug). Of course there is no known case of this. Washing hands and using clean rags with a little disinfectant might be the first tactic for Leicester. Just a thought.

Posted by david at 03:57 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2005

A Hairy Situation

During the last week, I tried to grow back the full beard I had for about twenty years. I was only going to keep it for a few weeks. Just for old times sake. I made it through a couple of days before Mrs H figured out what was going on. After four days she refused to be seen with me in public unless I shaved.

Alas, I bowed to the pressure. Back to the goatee to which she begrudgingly compromises. She only agreed to that after we had lunch with friends in Texas a couple of years ago and all the men had goatees. They may have all gone clean-shaven by now, but it will be be so long before we see any of them again, I'm not worried.

Posted by david at 09:11 PM | Comments (2)

The Week That Was

We are back from our week in Cheddar and half-term is almost over. All that’s left is the remainder of the weekend and the scramble to get things ready for Monday.

On Friday, Mrs H and I visited two more of the attractions on our Explorer ticket. We started at Cox’s Cave, the first “show cave” developed in Cheddar. Mr Cox was the uncle of Mr Gough, whose cave we had visited earlier. Cox’s Cave was smaller, but prettier and more cave-like than Gough’s.

However, given its smallness, it seems the owner, the present Marquess of Bath (Messr Cox and Gough having been tenants of the 4th Marquess), or whichever of his minions is responsible for this part of the estate, has decided to enliven the experience a bit. One of the passageways and chambers has been stocked with waxworks resembling creatures from Lord of the Rings. Not only that, but the audio story completely rips off Tolkien’s work. There’s elves and men and a wizard with a staff (named Randolph or some such). The evil lord is named Mordor (strange idea to rip off the name of a person using the name of a place, but whatever). Then there’s a dragon (anybody read the Hobbit?) in a cave.

The best bit was actually a teenage boy in either a monk’s habit or a very long hoody standing perfectly still until people pass by and then jumping out at them an shouting, causing girls to scream and wet themselves. At least I assume he was a paid employee of the Bath estate. I suppose it is just as likely that he is a teenager with an ASBO and nothing to do over half-term.

After we emerged from the Middle-earth copyright violation, we went up the road to the Cheddar Man exhibition. This was mostly an advert for evolution mixed in with anthropological and archaeological speculation. Cheddar Man is the oldest complete skeleton found in Britain – dated at some 9000 BP. Never heard of “BP” before? I’m a trained historian and neither had I. It is a novel dating system meaning “before the present” or “years ago”. Whilst it serves the purpose of removing any reference to any person or Person of religious significance, it certainly has limitations. Very broad references to 9,000 years ago are one thing, but try referring to things more specific. After all, I was born in 41 BP. However, next year I’d have to change my birth date to 42 BP. History books would have to be revised every year. The Battle of Hastings may have occurred in 938 BP, but after October 15, it will be 939 BP. And how confusing will this be if one of my Year 7 students in five years time picks up a textbook?

Posted by david at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2005

Underground Hymns

While the grandparents watched Aidan and Abby, Mrs H and I had part of the morning to ourselves. We bought explorer tickets for the Cheddar Caves and Gorge. This includes a number of attractions, but fortunately the tickets are good for ten years, if that's how long it takes to visit each of the sites.

After taking the open top bus ride up the gorge, we visited the largest of the caverns, Gough's Cave. While not exactly Mammoth or Carslbad, it was quite interesting. When we reached the last of the rooms, the audio tour told us about the discovery of this underground jewel.

Even though he broke through to it in the middle of the night, Mr Gough, being a religious man, immediately trekked the quarter-mile back to his house, got his familyout of bed, dragged them all the way back to the end of the cave (and it wasn't as easy to get back there as it is today) and they sang hymns until dawn. How they knew it was dawn, the audio guide didn't explain, but perhaps somebody remembered to take a pocket watch. Given the acoustics of the room, I'm sure it was a captivating sound.

Posted by david at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)