Monday, August 30, 2004

More on Stereotyping

English lessons in Luxembourg constructed to give an insight into everyday life in Britain.

An exercise in tense enquired if Arthur has left the house, to be answered that yes he has gone down to his favourite pub, where he likes to have a few pints. It went on to say that he goes there often and it will not be long before he becomes an alcoholic.

Another lesson was about a young lady who had not yet eaten but was going to get fish and chips from round the corner and then watch the telly.
In another passage the reader was informed that the English middle classes will lose all their cheap servants when immigration stops. The British were beyond redemption in their eyes.
BBC on this day

Sunday, August 29, 2004

National Stereotypes

Here's an amusing extract from but she's a girl blog, and there is a ring of truth. Maggie Thatcher generally gets blamed for the new wham-bam-thank-you-mam British attitude especially in the construction/property and estate industry. She's also blamed for the increase in the number of tenants who couldn't afford to get onto the property market, with the correspondng boom in landlords, the new multi-millionaires who also hold down professional jobs like accounting,nursing and teaching. The craft had been taken out of craftsmanship.I would tend to agree with the commentator who said:

"I suspect that our many years of tutelage under Margaret Thatcher may have had something to do with this.Or, more generally, the way in which our economy has developed over the last several decades. I remember my father describing his time as an engineering apprentice - when apprenticeships were something to be aspired to. Contrast this to more recent ‘innovations’, particularly things like the YTS scheme, and you’ll see that there’s been something of a shift in the Zeitgeist. Apprenticeships were something to be pursued, YTS schemes, which as best I can tell were a wholesale disaster, were foisted on young men and women who really didn’t want to work a dead-end job for dead-end pay.

I think these sort of economic and political changes go some way towards explaining the national spirit … sadly. "

The piece describes the construction of a Huf Haus.

The Huf Haus looks great but these modernist structures tend to last for only 40 years after which most modernist homes need to be replaced.

Friday, August 27, 2004


"Even so I cannot understand why Anil Dash's blog didn't pass the test whereas Steven Berlin Johnson's blog was approved."
Spoke too soon. Anil Dash now uses G-Ads whereas Seven Johnson has stopped doing so.
I am posting this via my e-mail client.
If all goes well it should pop up on my blog. Also changed the Ad layout to be a WIDE Skyscraper banner- like the sticky fly traps my grandmother used to set up.

This is intriguing.
Though I'm not sure that I'd care to be blogging nearly every thought and deed. But then again, a year ago I wouldn't have dreamt to be doing this.

The Great American Bunion Derby

While I am trying to understand the new horrible layout of the blog here is an amazing story.The story puts the Olympics in the shade.
Bob Brown on a normal day teaches in Cornwall. He recently won the toughest contest known to man a 3,100 mile run from the east coast to the west coast of the United States, running nearly two marathons a day for two months.
There are no spectators to cheer them on or watch them cross the finish line because the race is one of the best kept secrets in the US. They run through deserts, plains and over mountain ranges. The winner made do with a minimal support crew consisting of wife, sister and just a couple of friends.
He lived on one particular gift from one of his sponsors, 8 Cornish pasties a day. A gift from a small Cornish bakery perhaps. After supplies ran out he made do with jelly beans, crisps, energy bars and cereals and gorged on chocolate. Just about anything that was bad for you.There wasn't any time to roast a rattlesnake or desert rat or two.

Google Ad Mad

This blog is going Ad Mad for a while until we see how things pan out(pun). Yes, we are officially gold-digging and have a sponsor. Google had the Adsense to approve their ads inclusion on the blog. Simply copy and paste from generated templates. Google don't give their approval indiscriminately either. A human reader browses through the blog. That's nice to know. Maybe it was late afternoon and he or she fancied some afternoon tea. Anyway we are Adseiling. That's enough bad jokes.

Early in the night I slipped in a lacy background image hoping to tip the scales in favour. I have more jiggery-pokery planned as I am trying out a Macromedia Flash trial.
A few adjustments to the ad placements are required. Jobs for tomorrow, the night is drawing closed.

Actually, I think I've reasoned it out. It must be all the links to Thomas Paul's 700+ Amazon reviews and the potential $$$$ revenue generation. Thank's Thomas Paul.
Even so I cannot understand why Anil Dash's
blog didn't pass the test whereas Steven Berlin Johnson's blog was approved. Hitchin' your wagon to a star publisher or reviewer has added bonus points.
Read his thoughts on his sponsors here.
I feel so Blogging Beautiful :smile: until the Inland Revenue turns up at the door before the first cheque arrives. I'll have a good laugh if the cheque is written out for the princely sum of $0.00. It'll serve the IR right.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Unfinished review : The Learning Game

Thought I'd try and review the book as I was reading it to see if I could capture any thoughts and feelings. My thoughts are in the light of teachers I knew in the past. As you got older you made the unpleasant discovery that if they lost you while lecturing that was the beginning of the end. You were history. So even if a lecturer or his subject bores you to tears, it bodes well if you hang on to their every word. Feigning understanding isn't much use as they'd throw a googly of a question and catch you out when least expecting it. Sensitivity to any rivalry or romance between the teachers would further keep you out of trouble. As you can probably tell I got quite detached about what teaching was all about. I felt they didn't really understand "real" life and lived in an ivory tower. Let's see if Jonathan Smith's book can change my view.

Jonathan Smith teaches young children. That's clear from the start. He claims that people tend to look on teachers as people not quite fully grown up. This I find is very true of teachers in junior education. Which is a good thing. It's only later that the teachers get egoistical and aloof. Which is also a good thing, generally. But on rare occasions you do discover the teacher that has the ability to connect to the playful and curious inner child and bear fruit.

Rule no 1: Learn never to apologise for being a teacher. The British teachers are habitual apologists. Some teachers go even further and are in denial, aware of "the social disabilities of the trade." Jonathan Smith writes that teachers need to be like doctors who never apologise even if they are about to finish you off. Those who have second careers in writing or in music still find themselves apologising. The apologising only stops if they are lucky enough to have a book or piece of music shown on TV.

Rule no 2: As a parent and teacher he advises that beyond loving them, the best that can be done for them is to "make them interested, interested in things in the hope that it will make them interesting." To me that is the most difficult thing about being a parent or teacher. "Nothing beats a seriously good and demanding chat with your pupils or child , a really serious exchange of views even if it descends into a row or argument." I ask you, have teachers and parents lost sight of that ? Can they not risk being humane over being PC ?

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

What afternoons were made for

Tea at the Ritz.

Every day of the year this most British of traditions may be enjoyed in The Palm Court. Tea is served from noon and there are three sittings that may be reserved; 1.30pm, 3.30pm or 5.30pm. During the week a pianist plays and at weekends a harpist.

Afternoon tea sandwiches:
Smoked salmon with lemon butter on brown bread
Poached salmon with watercress on brown bread
Roast turkey on sun dried tomato bread
Cream cheese and chives on caraway bread
Cucumber and dill on spinach bread
Egg and mustard cress on brown bread
Salt beef and mustard on granary bread

Freshly baked plain and fruit scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream

Madeira and rich Dundee cake

Afternoon tea pastries and cream cakes:
Passion fruit mousse
Three chocolate mousse
Raspberry tart
Mixed fruit tart
Lemon meringue tart

The Ritz selection of tea or coffee
£32.00 per person
Inclusive of service and Value Added Tax

In order to avoid disappointment, reservations are strongly recommended. Gentlemen are respectfully requested to wear a jacket and tie. Jean style trousers and trainer type shoes are not permitted.

It was the Ritz I was thinking of not The Dorchester. But apparently The Dorchester does them too without the pianist or harpist and formal dress. I think it's still better value than, say, The Aberdeen Steak House which you find at every corner in and around Oxford Street. They could have put more effort in the number of cakes. Shock horror! They don't have strawberries and cream.
The dish has become too common for the Ritz to include it. Mille feuille ? Lemon meringue ?
And the breads! The British afternoon tea has been sabotaged. On second thoughts, stick to the country.

Finding an ECH

I was going to post this as a response to Tom's comment on the previous post but it got overly long.

Finding a good ECH is never easy and while I think being in the countryside is an essential ingredient, a good alternative for afternoon tea in London is at The Dorchester, a very swanky hotel near Hyde Park on Park Lane. I enquired and prices have changed recently but the traditional afternoon tea has been preserved in spite of rumours to the contrary.
The price per person seems to have kept up with inflation. I had compared it to a week's rail fare travelling to the city, years ago when I studied the basics of computing at the education arm of the British Oxygen Company in Park Lane.To my utter surprise the price is still on par at £28.50. It used to be £11 then. You could also bump into the likes of ET there. Elizabeth Taylor.

For really good puddings try The Pudding Club, Three Ways House, Mickleton, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire started in the 80's in response to the attack from The Black Forest Gateau and Strawberry cheescake on the great British pud..

"Enjoy a unique break to remember. Attend a meeting of the Pudding Club, generally held on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month. Stay overnight and take English breakfast before exploring the local area. On Saturday night dine in the main Restaurant from the table d’hote menu, departing after breakfast on Sunday morning."

There are many local attractions in the vicinity. The most important Stratford-on-Avon (Shakespeare Country) is in the next county Warrickshire.
That's enough sounding like a travel guide. I'd also look for Gary Rhodes' restaurants him being a top chef and ex-footman to the Queen who hopefully instilled in him her partiality to afternoon tea. And hotels doing Agatha Christie mystery holidays.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Staying at an English Country Hotel

The English collectively suffer from sweet tooth. Stay at a Country Hotel and it's very obvious from the ritual ceremony at tea-time and plans for a stay-in supper meal or dinner will only be finalised after first determining "what's for pudding?".

The beverage is often Earl Grey or a blend of lapsang souchong and Earl Grey. Copius amounts are needed to wash down the cucumber/salmon/cream cheese sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, a selection of biscuits and shortbreads and an even bigger selection of cakes ; small and dainty fairy cakes, butterfly cakes, iced finger buns, mini fondants, medium loaf breads (eggless and best served with fresh butter), to large Victoria Sponge cake, Dundee cake, Devonshire cake, Country fruit cake and Farmhouse fruit cake.

In the evening the main event is the pudding parade of which there must be at least seven. Spotted dick, syrup sponge, sticky toffee pudding, passion fruit charlotte, chocolate mousse , summer pudding and Eton Mess, all served with lashings of custard arrive one by one. Each arrival is greeted with cheers and the aim is to eat all seven.

The following morning a very brisk long walk in rolling hills is the perfect antidote to these excesses.

'Il Divo'

Four tenors in a group called "il divo" is a new project by Simon Cowell in conjunction with BMG records in London to create a new sound that combines pop music with opera. Guess what ? When they sang, they shut Simon Cowell up.They each earned about £300,000 a year before they signed the recording contract, so this is the gourmet end of dining on music.The full album is due to be released in November/December and Il Divo's first single, a cover of Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart, will be out next month.

The Four tenors are : David Miller from Colarado , appeared in La Boheme on Broadway. He gave up the opportunity to debut as Cassio in Othello with the New York Metropolitan Opera to be part, instead, of Il Divo when he realised it's scope. In classical music you can either be completely caught up or be totally let down.
The worst performance I've been to was at the NY Met Op. The star of the show , Placido Domingo, cancelled on opening night and I guess the remaining performers of Aida felt equally let down and gave a lacklustre performance over two days. It was excruciatingly painful to sit through that, though the rest of the night in Central Park more than made up for it.

Urs Buhler from Lucerne Switzerland. He has sung with the Salzburg and Amsterdam Operas and is a star of Holland's oratario circuit.
Sebastien Izambard a songwriter and producer based in Paris he also performs in musicals and concerts. He has never sung true Opera.
Carlos Marin born in Germany of Spanish parents, he has appeared in La Traviata and Figaro and taken leads in Spanish productions of Les Miserables and Beauty And The Beast.

On another note, the TV program X-Factor starts in early September, with auditions like Pop Idol but open to all age groups. Watch out for a woman in her 40s , stopped by her husband from accepting recording contracts, twice, while in her 20s and 30s.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Modest Mouse : as life gets longer awful feels softer

as life gets longer awful feels softer
well it feels pretty soft to me
and if it takes shit to make bliss
then i feel pretty blissfully

Check out the Easy Listening link on the right, down.
from the "new" Modest Mouse album Good News For People Who Love Bad News , admittedly easier on the ear than their other album The Moon & Antarctica.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Living In Egypt

Some Blogs are beyond fascinating and this is one.

Living in Egypt

The author has a way with describing an unusual culture and her love for Egypt, warts and all, shines through each post.

Friday, August 13, 2004

The Library

It's been ages since I last loaned books from the Central Library and I had to apply for a new card, a laminated, magenta coloured card. Fortunately, they had all the books I wanted when I rang up and I was in and out of there in 15 minutes.
To me, Central Libraries exude the same sense of foreboding as hospitals do. The feeling that the longer you stay there someone's precious time is being wasted, doesn't help either.
I prefer going to local libraries, the staff are always happy to see and service their customers. A visit to the GPs used to have the same cozy feel but now the General Practioners is just like a visit to the Central Library. It's becoming so that it's wiser to know exactly what you need before you enter which usually requires doing some research beforehand.

I got out all the books mentioned in the previous post. The same Jonathan Smith authored both The Learning Game and Summer in February and I'm looking forward to reading them.

Who knows, I might even blog up a review or two.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Learning Game: A Teacher's Inspirational Story

Amazon.co.uk: Books: The Learning Game: A Teacher's Inspirational Story:

This appears to be a must read for those interested in inspiring others, not just for teachers. Jonathan Smith also taught "poets like Christopher Reid and Charles Boyle, the biographer Anthony Seldon, entertainers and actors, and even the oscar-winning maker of When We Were Kings, Vikram Jayanti".

Note of interest: Is this Ed Smith-of-Kent-and-England-cricketing fame's father ? The Jonathan Smith who wrote The Learning Game, taught Vikram Seth at Tonbridge School and Seth's The Golden Gate has a place of honour on Ed Smith's bookshelf as does his father's book

Summer in February

Summer In February describes the stormy first marriage of the painter Sir Alfred Munnings.One of the strong points of the book ,apparently, is that it is very well researched ! :confused:

Also, Smith (Ed) believes that D.H. Lawrence's : Studies in Classic American Literature shows insights into America that are unsurpassed.
To the last I would add :
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville . After more than 150 years since it's publication, this analysis of the America still remains startingly apposite. Lightly written and with intelligence it stands as a definitive guide to the US and a founding text of modern liberalism. Or so I am told but decide for yourselves from this full-text electronic version.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Nimbys

English passions for long muddy walks and gardening amaze foreigners. One explanation is that the countryside is a scarce commodity and set to become even more so with all the planning development in progress. Plans for whole stand-alone towns like Stevenage and Milton Keynes are underway.

Nimbys is a word that exists only in English. It stands for Not In My Back Yard and describes the hostility to rural development.

Legend has it that under the hills around Winchester, England's ancient capital lies a sleeping dragon. Only when the tribes of Britain gather once again upon it's head at Twyford Down would the dragon awake to protect the land and banish tyranny from the shores.

Some think the dragon has been woken as Protestors take up the cause to keep England a green and pleasant land. Market forces are once again at work to place a value on either development or conservation. Each side would have to show the loss by going ahead or not with rural developments.

See the comments on origin and use of the word NIMBY.
Meanwhile here's a very humorous strip on NIMBYs.

Always On

Wi-Fi coverage is a requirement at conference hosting venues so that attendees can wirelessly surf the internet even during speaker sessions. When the networking works they sit in neat rows eyes glued to their laptops , not missing out on any live action as they have mounted webcams capturing the visuals on stage and displaying them on a small window on their screen.

While software boss at IBM Steve Mills was giving a speech on things being "leveraged" and "empowerment of modular design and componentisation" , screens alongside him had blogs shown running commentaries on the audience reactions. It wasn't flattering ! "OK, bring on the hook. Enough of the IBM commercial!".
"Blah blah say something!" read another blog. "Seriously , what is this dribble... what a waste of 45 minutes" said a third blog. Attendees can look at the blog screens without even making eye contact with the people sitting around them and read what they are saying about the panel discussion.

A technology breakthrough in getting rid of dull speakers. Wait till it hits every classroom. Scary!