Saturday, 25 October 2008

A fit of giggles

video

This is the famous radio clip when Brian Johnston and Jonathan Agnew got the giggles during a live broadcast in Test Match Special: England vs. West Indies, 5th Test, The Oval, 9th August 1991. It was voted the best ever sports commentary by Radio 5 live listeners (75%)!

Apologies to all you non-cricket lovers out there but it is very funny. Life and the weather seem a bit murky at the moment so I'm always looking for ways to alleviate the gloom. Thinking back to the non-glorious cricket weather which we did not have this Summer I thought of this!

There is a slight fault with the sub-titles it should be "Aggers" (short for Agnew) not "Angus".

The late great Brian Johnston was known as "Jonners" (I saw him give a talk, "An evening with Jonners", at the Richmond Theatre many years ago and I loved every minute of it). Test Match Special is still marvellous but not the same without him and the other very colourful cricket commentator, Henry Blofeld, (Ian Fleming pinched his name for James Bond's arch enemy) is known as "Blowers"...ah! the labyrinthine peculiarities of cricket. Just simply wonderful.

P.S. Hope the clip works OK. I've watched it before on You Tube (from where I downloaded it) and it was working fine. Things keeping going kaput on us like the speakers, my watch, my camera, my diving computer, the shredder (we are on to our fourth!) and much, much more...I need to start writing some letters..."Dear(ly) (beloved) manufacturer, we bought this item several hours/days/weeks/months/years* ago...."

*delete as appropriate

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

"Too much, too young"

Following Yorkshire Pudding's post (entitled "Thrall"...including a magnificent DH Lawrence poem) about the state of state education in this country I found this article (The Times) and this one (in The Guardian). It is rare that opposite sides of the political spectrum agree so wholeheartedly on an issue.

Frankly I'm appalled. The thought of a creeping system of"testing" of toddlers and small children is horrendous. Our son will start nursery some time over the coming year. My husband is on the committee of the parent-run nursery. It is a local nursery situated behind the state primary school in the village. The nursery takes a maximum of seven children in one session. Due to government moves to offer "wrap around" child care (8am - 6pm or later) so that parents can work all hours, given to man, to pay government taxes, our small nursery is under pressure to merge with other bigger nurseries in the area. In order to offer this "wrap around care" it will mean that children (aged 2-5) will be bussed around the nurseries to wherever this care and "stimulating" play takes place. The nurseries are all rural which means journey times of at least 20 minutes plus all the extra time involved getting small children on and off the buses.

The children are tiny little things who just need lots of loving, a safe environment in which to play, time to enjoy themselves, have fun...have all the time in the world before "real life" and testing cuts into their little daily lives. What do you think? Please let me know!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Gladiator the Film




I have the DVD of Russell Crowe in Gladiator on the shelf but we have just not had the time to sit and watch it. It is very rare that we get three whole hours (or is it more?) to ourselves. Even if we put children to bed..the eldest one goes up and down the stairs like a yo-yo. So if anyone has seen the film maybe they can comment on this article and the film. It's just something I've seen in the paper lately. When I do eventually get to watch the film I know I'll want to read this and try to make sense of it all.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Romans go home!

video

I've been meaning to do this for ages but I couldn't figure out how to do it...this is one of my all time favourite clips! I sneaked into a cinema in 1980 with a friend in Exmouth to see the film (under age of course!)....

Saturday, 18 October 2008

New Term's Resolutions

For once I think I am going to try and beat the clock! Rather than wait for 2009 to knock at the door I'm going to resolve to do something today. I intend to set up a new blog to try and help me lose weight. Recent posts of expatmum and pottymummy made me feel quite pea green with jealousy. Those, added to the fact that the doctor asked whether I am going to have another baby the other day...mean that I am really going to go for it!

I've just conquered the flipping accounts. Sorted out all those crumpled receipts we had just stuffed in a big, bottomless drawer. Just e-mailed the spreadsheets over to our accountant so I am feeling a tad better with the world at large. (Also sworn a lot because I ended up deleting crucial information without taking a backup copy! And had to re-do masses last night.) Large being the operative word. I feel like I've had Christmas lunch about two months too early. Anyway I am two stone ("baby fat") too heavy at the very least. Translated into American that means 24 pounds more ballast and into European (which I can never get my head around) I think that is roughly 10.88 kilos?? (So when you think that the "average" baby weight is 3.5 kilos...that is at least 3.11 extra babies I am carrying around with me! Aaggh!)

I'm sorry to burden you with this...and I know it can be termed "too much information" but I wanted to shame myself into doing something about it. I managed to lose 2 stone between baby no.1 and baby no.2 but then promptly put it all back on again with the second pregnancy. A wonderful nutritionist helped me to lose the 2 stone but I am basically too skint to do it again with her this time. I am also terrible at doing things again: am fine the first time and then lose interest/motivation second time around. (Well...that applies to jobs at least...not children or husbands!!!) I'm amazed I'm still blogging.

OK. So I have "outed" myself. Now I have to eat less, drink no alcohol, no coffee (or at least only decaf coffee), eat no cakes, no biscuits, no bread (only rye bread), drink decaf tea, and drink no dairy milk just oat milk. Take exercise (because having a little one...does not really let me do it? Or am I being a lazy, fat, wimp?)...I don't like running (I did toy with doing the Great North Run for about 30 seconds), and my nearest swimming pool is about half an hour away by car....

Oh, for goodness sake just set up the blinking blog and see what happens!!! (Daughter asked me the other day: "When are you going to lose the baby bump?" Don't ya just love 'em!)

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Back to the Future (Past)









Ever since Pottymummy and East Anglian Troy blogged on the "Credit Crunch" a.k.a "the Credit Cremation" I have been wondering whether I ought to blog on this subject or not. I suppose I cannot help myself. So here goes...

I joined a very well known high street bank as a graduate trainee in 1990. I didn't really want to go into banking but a certain somebody thought it would be a good idea. I endured the rigours of learning how branch banking worked for 12 months at a branch in Cheapside (strangely enough the branch was in a building owned by The Bank of England, City of London) and then 6 months in the West End of London (a very posh area). I then worked in Corporate and Institutional Banking for another twelve months as a graduate trainee firstly in Correspondent Banking and then in Marketing. I much preferred the latter twelve months because I was rubbish at branch banking. One day I was put in charge of sorting out direct debit mandates and standing order mandates (ever thought they were one and the same thing!!!) needless to say the whole branch ended up working late that day to sort out the backlog!

In Correspondent Banking I was in my element. This is the part of a bank which deals with other banks (usually all foreign i.e. non-UK banks). All banks have to have accounts and lending facilities (it is how they work) and this is business to be won. Ever wondered what happens to your cheques and travellers' cheques which you use abroad...the business where you spend your hard earned dosh e.g. Luigi's pizzeria in Milan, then sends them to their own bank (e.g. Gelato Bank) which sends them back to your UK bank (and asks for the money to be transferred from your account). This all has to be processed, costed and charged for. (This is just one small example.) Anyway I could bore you to death about how banking works but I won't. It, banking, may not even exist next week's time anyway...and life is too short...

I'm afraid I'm a bit of a history nut (as you may have gathered from the title of this blog). I first encountered "the City" as a sixteen year old as I wandered around the deserted streets of a Sunday, as my family had been lent a flat in the Barbican by a friend of a friend. I was amazed that this quasi medieval world still existed and I was bowled over by the fabulous architecture all crammed into the ancient, narrow, winding streets with deliciously sounding names: Threadneedle Street, Lombard Street, Pudding Lane, Cornhill, Tokenhouse Yard etc. etc. Just wandering around absorbing the details of the London Guilds' buildings left me speechless. So I suppose that it was more the history of "the City" which beguiled and lured me in rather than "the finance" side. Although the latter helped a little to persuade me admittedly.

And so after ten years of being part of the racket and being exiled to the 49th floor of Canary Wharf away from my beloved quirky buildings, sumptuous church squares, forgotten alleys, sudden pockets of greenery in all sorts of unexpected corners I decided to part company with "the City". Another life awaited me...
As for the shenanigans which are affecting all markets worldwide (not just the City)...I also fear that history is repeating itself. Look no further than the oft-mentioned South Sea Bubble crisis which affected the whole country, even King George I and his mistresses lost money, as a result of that bubble bursting. The link to Channel 4 website nicely sums up the cautionary tale . What it does not mention that five well-established banks failed as a result of the bubble bursting and it also meant that there was a run on the Bank of England (still a private company at the time). The run on the latter was only stopped by a ruse used by the Bank:
"To avert failure in 1720, "the Bank organized its friends in the front of the line and paid them slowly in [silver] sixpences," writes Charles Kindleberger in his Manias, Panics & Crashes , quoting a Victorian history.
"These friends then brought the cash back through another door; it was deposited, again slowly counted, and then made available for paying out once more."
Round and round the silver sixpences went...out over the counter...and in through the back door! Slowly counting out the deposits, only to get them back and then count them out once again, the Bank's diligent tellers helped it survive until the Feast of Michealmas on Sept. 29th. Once the holiday was ended, the panic had passed."
Thus the Bank of England stopped underwriting the South Sea Company's debts. "The Bank of England, in short, had done well to withdraw its support for the Bubble. Honouring the South Sea Company's false promises had nearly destroyed it."
The current government is trapped between a rock and a hard place right now. It is attempting to restore trust in the financial system, as are many governments worldwide, because if we, the borrowers and savers, do lose trust in the system...what happens then? Apparently we can survive for a while as happened in the 1960s ("most grocers and pubs became bankers overnight") when there was a prolonged strike by Irish banks for several months but how long can we really survive or do we go back to a barter system? (And spare a thought for everyone's pensions, savings, mortgages, healthcare, education. You name it...anything that is anything is affected by that long tentacled monstrosity called "The City"!) Deep breath. Gulp!
So.......Expatmum polish up those tapdancing skills as they may well come in very handy!

Monday, 6 October 2008

A curate's egg of a post...


I trotted off to Dulwich (South East London) because of:
1) a Mouse called "Minimus" (who made Latin cool!).
2) to visit old college friends.
3) to attend a one day Minimus course in Dulwich to learn how to teach Latin Minimus to children and adults.
4) to meet two well known Dulwich bloggers (Dulwichmum and Dulwich Divorcee).
5) to see my London Media Sister (who hates that title) so is henceforth to be known as "Very Arty Sister" (as opposed to t'other sister who is "Very Numerate Sister").
In short it was all extremely exciting.

The weather was good: crisp, sunny and autumnal. The trains were excellent and I could read my books in peace! I got to King's Cross, reached the top of the escalators in the Tube and the place was promptly closed down at 5pm on a Friday evening. I couldn't believe it! (Well, I could actually). Sirens stated sounding with a stern voice announcing: "Please leave the station immediately this is an emergency!" You could be forgiven for thinking that World War III had just broken out. Managed to leave the station in record time (Thank God I wasn't downstairs in the bowels of the Tube!) and was carried along by the numerous hordes to some buses on the other side of the street. It was only when I looked at their destinations did I query whether I wanted to go there. I didn't. I hailed a black cab and sanity soon returned. Charing Cross beckoned. The cab took me through the streets of Covent Garden. Anyway I'm rambling. I got to Charing Cross. Caught the train and arrived where I wanted to be. Again I was surrounded by multi cultural London. Something I miss about Northumberland to be sure. It was far more multi cultural in Roman times. (I stayed with college friends who now have two children. We talked, laughed and drank red wine. I stayed up late!)

Saturday dawned. I said my farewells and caught two trains via London Bridge. I arrived in Dulwich country. I'd never been before. I was curious to say the least. I went for some a coffee at an Italian deli in the village.

The course, itself, was super. The lady, Barbara Bell, the creator of Minimus is a dream. She is wonderfully inspirational - everything you hope to find in a teacher. She explained that you can teach Minimus in an after school club or as a lesson. Funding can be obtained to buy the books. It is cross curricular. Children love it. It helps their English grammar, they learn how to pronounce Latin words, how to act out the stories, how it influences certain modern languages, how it ties in with geography, history, archeology, science. The list is endless. It's all based around a real family who lived at Vindolanda c. AD97-103. They've found evidence of their existence and how they lived through the Vindolanda tablets. These are little wooden postcards which have survived miraculously in bug-free earth at Vindolanda (which means something like "White Cross") where many Roman forts were built during the Roman occupation of Britain. These people were there a little prior to Hadrian building the wall in AD122. It takes your breath away. Even if you cannot get up to Vindolanda it is worth taking a look at the tablets which are on permanent display at The British Museum.

After a full day there I met up for another cuppa and a chat with Dulwichmum and Dulwich Divorcee. It was great to meet them in the flesh and have a chinwag. For me, it wasn't long enough as we all had to rush our separate ways and Dulwichmum very kindly dropped me at my next port of call (staying with some more college friends). I drank some more wine and stayed up late once again. Why did I half wake up...expecting a wail from another room? Nothing came. I snuggled down enjoying every last inch of freedom.

The next day the weather broke and bucketed down. I decided to save money and buy a Rail ticket to all London terminals. I got to London Bridge and wondered why the machine swallowed the ticket. I'd forgotten about the Tube bit! (Amazing now to think that I've lived half my life in London.)

I met Very Arty Sister at the gleaming new designer palace called St. Pancras station. It had changed one hell of a lot since I was last in WHSmith where I bumped straight into Alan Rickman. (I don't think he recognised me though....) We pretended we were already in France and ate "pain au chocolat" with two cappuccinos, plus two mint teas...the bill: sixteen quid!!!! It was great to see her again. I don't see and talk to her enough. I aim to change that...
That's it really. I read the Sunday newspapers in the quiet carriage back to Newcastle. It was wonderfully sunny shiny and fresh. Got another train home to my gorgeous family. What larks!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

The day dawns

The day dawns. The air is bright with anticipation. Including mine. The dew is still soaked into the grass. The night has had a chill. I open the windows and see the condensation escape before my very eyes. It is the day before I go to London without kiddywinks, without The Diver, without the "Ed" the wonderful, laid back dog. I will not know myself. It will feel bizarre. It will be a whole weekend as a fully grown up adult once again, footloose and fancy free. This has not happened since my tummy had a No.1 bump in it!

Will I be able to cope? Thoughts of navigating the Big Smoke, on my tod, drift through my mind. I suspect it will feel delightful and lonely. Two sides of a coin. Conjuring up memories bad and good.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The phone rings...

The Diver has just been out walking the dog. It is early evening, still light, although the nights are drawing in now. The heating is on. He phones to tell me about vast swathes of migrating geese in the sky. "See them over the farm just yonder Thirlwall Castle". I put my head out of the window. Could I see anything? Could I heck! My timing is impeccable - as usual.