Monday, 15 September 2014

Summer Snap

We’re sliding into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and we’ll take a few snapshots of summer with us. They will be happy days arranged in layers of warmth, to be served up, sweet, behind drawn curtains in rooms yellowed with winter bulbs. "This was us," we’ll say, "multi-coloured, animated, young-at-heart." See what the sun did. It curled us into happy shapes and held us up. Our ears were retuned so that birdsong defied the rumbling traffic. Our eyes were, even though mostly shaded, focused on the freshly painted landscape. Even in the city, the stretched benefit of movement could be discerned with ease.

I’ve waited months for a snapshot to take with me into winter, and it came later than I’d expected, the form unpredicted.

We were walking. It was still early, but the sun was warm on our necks and shoulders. The sky appeared bigger than usual. It was as though the horizons were set lower, and the blue above more taut as a result. Something pulled on the outside of heaven, and the day resisted in the only way it knew how, by filling itself with light.

As we crossed a patch of common land, one corner of which, narrowed into a dried mud track, hundreds of swallows circled and dived around the canopy of a single oak tree. We stopped and watched, unblinking, until our eyes watered. The aerobatics were performed in quick shifts, the small birds wheeling and twisting before sending showers of their kind high into the air as they, themselves, came to rest on a swaying cable.

In the midst of all this activity, two skeins of geese offered a ‘fly-past’, eventually breaking into perfect v-shapes from the original heavily scored strips that had appeared just above the distant tree line. As they honked and hooted out of sight like a dishevelled gang of party-goers, I knew I had my snapshot, one for the album. A moment, simply labelled ‘Summer’.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Another Way

About 8 months ago, Ciara Brehony and I set up a Facebook page called simply, Another Way. Our blurb states, “News and views about the way our children are educated, along with possible alternatives and changes that might benefit learning in the 21st Century.”

I doubt if the education of our children has never been a more closely scrutinised topic than it is today. Home schooling is as popular as ever, free schools and academies springing up all over the place, confusion reigning supreme in an area of vital importance to parents and pupils alike.

Yesterday, our little group swelled by three new members, bringing the total to 60. In light of that milestone, I’d like to share a short video clip that was posted earlier this week. It’s just food for thought. And that’s the key thing about education isn’t it? Keeping an open mind and investigating all routes towards helping our children fulfil their potential.

Another Way is open to anyone, so if you have a Facebook account, and you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to join us.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

An Englishman aboard

As far as I’m aware, there isn’t a trace of Scottish blood in my ancestry, so some will argue that I’m already on the back foot when it comes to having a view on independence for Scotland. Furthermore, I’m not an expert in economics, internationally agreed rules on application for EU membership, the precise state of natural resources within the borders of Scotland, etc, etc.

Actually, I don’t believe that the great and sudden proliferation of experts – self-styled and otherwise – can know much of the unknowable that lies beyond a possible ‘Yes’ vote.

So, I can only speak as an Englishman. Not a Briton first and foremost, or a UK citizen, but an Englishman, as defined by the country of my birth. For years, I’ve been altering those options on feedback forms and equal opportunities declarations that come sandwiched between ‘reasons for applying’ and ‘confidential medical’ in job application packs. Scanning the choices, the closest I ever seemed to get was ‘White British’. So, strike through British, and replace with English, in best print.

The strength of who I am and where I’m from has surprised me at times. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not some fanatical, flag-waving supporter of St George. I simply feel English above all other options, most of which are either historical, or politically convenient labels promoting homogeneity. “Better Together” springs to mind.

Independence is an odd state of affairs. As individuals, the idea of losing it is the thing most of us fear above all else. Bearing witness to the collective will of a nation to stand on its own is a fine thing, as long as it’s somewhere far away and doesn’t involve breaking a 300 hundred year union.  

I hope that Scotland will be brave, and I say this as an Englishman. Not in a ‘loony’ way, but in a neighbourly way. After all, who doesn't cheer for a good friend who seizes on the opportunity to have freedom and independence? Perhaps, one whose mouth is dry with fear, or crammed full with sour grapes?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Just when you thought it was safe...

Well, I’m back, a little surprised, and certainly earlier than I anticipated. But having decided to keep going, well, here I am.

In the process of tweaking the blog, my mind turned to gambling, for some reason. Initially I put it down to my summer Wordpress experience. A venture that didn’t produce the desired results - I’d rather not talk about it. Anyway, the whole gambling thing started me thinking about chance, risk, speculation and, ultimately, working out when I last won something. Conclusion: if a small bottle of tonic water counts as a prize, then it was in late July of this year, at the village school fĂȘte. How could I forget?

Generally speaking, I tend to lean towards ‘in it’, more than ‘win it’, but this doesn’t deter me from buying raffle tickets in a good cause, or splashing a couple of quid on the Euromillions lottery draw every now and again. And I have had some luck with the latter. £5.60 on one occasion.

So when Goodreads flagged up a competition that involved little more than clicking on the ‘enter’ button, I clicked. It was just one day before the cut-off point and, as I recall, I didn’t lose any sleep wondering if fortune would or wouldn't be kind to me.

The prize was to be a signed copy (actually, there were ten copies) of Will Self’s latest novel, ‘Shark’. And guess what? An email duly arrived in my inbox to inform me that I was a winner. How about that, then? I’m extra pleased because Will Self is not only one of our finest writers, he’s a rare individual, always worth listening to, always worth reading.

Lucky boy, eh?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Time Out

After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided to pull down the blinds at Square Sunshine, at least until the end of the summer. I want to give myself a little more space to revisit old interests and possibly investigate some new ones. Let's call it a blog-break, not necessarily a blog broken. Happy holidays, and enjoy the sunshine, square or otherwise!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Fresh air, ice-cream, and going ape!

Had a fabulous family day out at Moors Valley Country Park. Although we paused for a ride on the miniature steam railway, ice-creams, and multiple playground activities, there was adventure and celebration in the air, too.

Now 35 years old, I think this little girl might be past close encounters with bears. Even those with a seat and wheels! However, her daughter, SW, was very keen to 'Go Ape' with her dad.

And, do you remember what I said in my last post, about scaling fallen tree trunks, twice your own height? Well, as far as Things 1 and 2 are concerned, it's mission accomplished!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Breathing Space

We’ve been planning a family visit to London for this coming weekend, in part to celebrate our daughter’s birthday, but also to take the opportunity to introduce our grandchildren to the ‘sights’. So why are we now heading for a country park instead? Well, it’s a question of breathing space, really.

Once you start to organise a day out in the capital city, for four adults and three small children, it’s not just the Millennium Eye that’s rotating. Anyone who’s familiar with the film of Fantastic Mr Fox will know that possum feeling.

Yes, it’s disappointing not to be taking the little ones on an exciting – for them -  train ride. It’s not such a let down to know that we’ll avoid the crush on the Tube, the fumes, the crowds, the noise, etc.

No doubt, after a day of running and climbing in the woods, there will be three pairs of tired young legs, not to mention the four pairs of considerably older legs. But it’s a different kind of achiness you get, keeping your balance, or testing your ability to scale fallen tree trunks that are twice your height.

Cities can leave you drained in so many ways, so we’re leaving the stone steps and concrete pavements for another day. It reminds me of a time, around 30 years ago, when we were visiting relatives near Southampton, having driven up from our home in Cornwall. We were out in the car on a Saturday morning, when our daughter – 5 or 6 at the time -  surveyed the scene before remarking that she was bothered by the constant movement of so many people. As I recall, she was most anxious about where they were all going to. It would have been so tempting to quote a line or two of Donovan’s ‘The Observation’.

On the sidewalk the people are hustling and bustling
They ain't got no time so they think on the thing
That will fill in the space in between birth and death
Who're they kidding?

Obviously I exercised restraint, on that occasion, something I can guarantee the grandchildren won’t be doing when we turn up here!