Tuesday, January 31, 2012

31-01-2012

...Wow, the end of month one, 31 days into the daily blog post routine. I must admit that getting back to blogging on a regular basis is rewarding in many ways. I have maintained my rather eclectic mix of rants followed by more regular photo blog posts. Of course this means that any audience of the blog have to wade through an amount of obscure posts to perhaps find something that is mildly interesting.
Looking back at blog stats ( Blogger stats are impressive) I know that the most popular blog posts over time have been tech related, my praise of the Asus Netbook still being the most visited along with others along the same lines.
It is sad that at present even though I still remain facinated by 'tech stuff that I feel somewhat distanced from my former 'classroom based use of new tools and apps, I just loved attempting to make the new tools at the time relevant in a teaching setting. I was pleased as you may surmise when Mr Gove the UK Education Secretary finally admit what many had suspected for many years - that the UK IT or ICT curriculum was not fit for purpose. For years many of us who believed strongly  that using technology to create content and to connect was the way to inspire these skills in our pupils was the way to go. The only shame is that a generation of puils will have gone through our schools believing that technology was 'boring'....... which teaching to the curriculum definitely was. It was only by cutting loose and allowing creativity in that pupios became inspired .........we nearly lost the 'Facebook Generation'  - I hope that this lesson has been learned at last.

Monday, January 30, 2012

30-01-2012

I don't very often show my political leanings, however listening to PM on Radio 4 this evening where there were discussions on 'What the Police are for?' in the UK, two points were discussed which left me speechless.

The first was a politicians answer given by Theresa May recently when asked about the number of UK police on the 'front line'.....the Home Secretary's response was that the percentage of policemen and woman on the beat is to rise from 68% to 70% since 2010.... a good thing? In fact due to staff cuts the 70% is a higher percentage of a smaller number of frontline staff (2,500 less than 2010)... see Mark Easton's blogpost: More means fewer.
The second double take was on the issue of the extremely serious crime of anti social behaviour, where the Home Secretary appears to be saying that if the police receive 5 compalints ( from 5 different households) regarding the same incident of anti social behaviour that the police will have to take action!!!! It does of course beg the question, what happens if you are the only person to make the complaint? Will anything happen or will you be advised to get your neighbours to make a complaint. Surely this makes a mockery of modern policing.
In fact the most high profile cases in the UK where vulnerable individuals have been persecuted to the point of taking their own lives, neighbours were largely unaware or unwilling to make complaints.This new rule would have been completely unable to help!

I think that I may have got this out of my system now!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

29-01-2012

I hope that the two images in my blog post today are not signs of aging? The weather forecast for the coming week shows the possibility of night time temperatures down around -9C as a winter high pressure system sits over Europe blocking any milder air..... as I do not presently have my regular bed warming device ( Debbie!) it can get mighty cold...especially the toes! The Electric Blanket seemed to me a practical way to overcome this? ( I have justified it in this way anyhow!)
 I am much more confident that the second image (another of my purchases today) shows 'good taste' in music rather than impending old age. I heard snippets of some of the tracks from Leonard Cohen's new album  'Old Ideas' along with reviews from some respected critics on the BBC 2 Review Show on Friday evening.... today I couldn't resist buying it, and having listened to three tracks this afternoon, I was not wrong. I would recommend those who appreciate hearing a voice steeped in life experiences singing some pretty blunt lyrics should consider Cohen's latest offering ( not so sure of the LC illustrations on the sleeve notes!).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

28-01-2012

Those who know me well, will be aware that over the past 44 years through thick, thin and thinner I have been a long suffering supporter of Liverpool FC. This week has been one of those weeks when all Liverpool supporters are allowed out to crow a little... having had a good week of results over our 'friends' along the M62.....

 .....earlier in the week Manchester City were vanquished in the League Cup semi final, setting up an excellent final against Cardiff City at Wembley.... and today a victory in the F.A. Cup (2-1)against the 'old enemy' Manchester United... at Anfield of course.
I was very lucky when up in Liverpool in September 2010 to take a tour of the hallowed 'Anfield Stadium' for the first time in all my years as a fan, sadly I have still never seen a match at the home of my heroes!
It was somewhat saddening to see the state  of the environment outside the ground, it is quite a dismal area of the city with many rows of boarded up houses, and of course the club do want to build a new stadium ( for the 21st Century) .... but in the ground you can almost reach out an feel the history of a ground which has changed little over the decades.
The Kop stand

The Home Dressing Room


The European Cup (2005) :-)

I think that we are allowed to make some noise this week :-)  ...... I look forward to seeing at least one match at the stadium soon!

27-01-2012

During my time in Den Haag and its environs I have made it a conscious plan to visit as many galleries as possible. This endeavour is aided by the MuseumCard an excellent 39Euro (annual) card which allows free entry to the majority of museums and galleries and reduced price entry to others.
The museum that I have visited on more occasions than others is the Museum Beelden an Zee the city's sculpture museum.
From the outside the Gallery looks a little like a cross between a WWII bunker and a British seaside toilet block! Sorry but it does, you may agree! it is very near to the sea and as a result has a real seaside feel.
Inside the space is used in many ways to good effect to show both large and intimate pieces in a light and airy setting.....back in September the Museum showed part of an exhibition from China, the remainder of which was displayed in the open air along Lange Voorhout

.The sculptures above show the large scale works of the exhibition... the last being an interesting study where the artist was given a small plate containing a typically Dutch scene, this was recreated with objects from the plate displayed at an angle ( the angle between The Netherlands and China on the globe!). One of the smallest but most devine objects on show is a 12 inch long Man Ray sculpture.

The Museum Beelden an Zee would definitely be on my must visit locations in The Netherlands.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

26-01-2012..... blog post from 26-01-2010

I was reviewing my Blog365 posts from 2010 and was taken by the corresponding post from 26-1-2010 and decided to re post ...an interesting exercise to look back at previous blog posts from previous lives. This is also something that I will try out during the year, taking the chance to journey down memory lane.
Blog post from 26/01/2010
A few weeks ago I received a comment on my main blog from Laine a the Macmillan Dictionary Blog. Their blog has been running a week for each of the countries which make up the UK and this week is 'Welsh-English Week', each week they ask a group of bloggers from the country concerned to put up guest blog posts and today it was my turn..... above is my blog post with the link ( this link will change to other posts through the week).
Please feel free to leave a comment at the Macmillan Dictionary Blog for me :-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

25-01-2012

Above is one of my favourite images from 2011, for those who know my pictures from previous blog incarnations may well recognise the location ( by the side of a certain canal in Wales!). I was trying out the macro properties of my camera on this walk and captured some images of which I am quite proud..
... make a wish and blow ( well today is St Dywnwen's Day - Welsh Valentine's Day :-)
... nostalgia and home sickness all rolled into one blog post!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

24-01-2012 - Keep taking the tablet!

Having deliberately avoided the tablet wars and preferring the Netbook route ( Asus in particular) for mobile technology, in late 2011 staying true to my 'Android' roots I decided to scour the market in order to see what machines using the Android 'Honeycomb' OS offered the best deals.
My choice after a good deal of 'window shopping' was the Acer Iconia A500 tablet (see below)
From the moment that I turned it on and downloaded my favourite apps ( having run the HTC Magic smartphone through to November 2011... the apps were pretty similar) I was impressed by the way the machine communicated with many of my other cloud based storage being able to sync. contacts -Android phone contacts :-) and images ( Picassa based)
The goodies just kept on coming - the Kindle app, Skype ( using front or rear facing cameras), Internet Radio, Facebook, LinkedIn... and then of course an aspect that had never really hooked me previously - games.... Angry Birds ( to which I have become addicted!),
along with a brilliant driving game from EA which makes use of the tablet's accelerometer...........pool, golf, and on and on and on!
I think in short that the tablet may well be the 'killer one stop machine'. Of course I accept that this device would not be one on which you would use to write your novel ( the WP apps are not brilliant in the free app section!) and trying to use the tablet as a camera I still find embarrassing beyond belief.....however the speed of start up, easy connectivity and simple useability make this the buy that I am glad I waited for... I now only fire up a laptop at home in order to download my iTunes Podcasts or to watch some flash video....Acer Iconia I would recommend as a great buy. 
It will be interesting to see how the next generation of 'Android' and of course tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Samsung Galaxy along with Acer grow in the coming years.

Monday, January 23, 2012

23-01-2012

( Borrowed image of Chinese Dragon)
Happy New Year - 2012 the Year of the Dragon ( of course - a dragon)

 The Dragon symbol of the 2012 year is an intelligent and laborious worker who never puts aside work though sometimes this leads him to excesses. The water Dragon has enough courage to face challenges and easily finds weak points that stand on his way to success.



Celebration of the Chinese New Year in Den Haag will be on Saturday 28th January

Sunday, January 22, 2012

22-01-2012

Sunday dawned with a clear blue sky, but a wicked wind. I set off at around 12.30 for an interview and book signing session by Redmond O'Hanlon and the Paagman Boekhandel
 Setting off from the my old favourite No24 Bus stop on Sportlaan.... heading for the bookshop.

I wish that I had set off earlier and not done a quick shop and some house tidying as when I finally arrived at alomst dead on 1pm the venue was packed and dear reader you will have to take my word for it that the white haired bewhiskered  gentleman in the distance is the author and explorer ( and Darwin, Wallace admirer) Redmond O'Hanlon.( I will post the link to the Paagman TV interview link once it appears - it will be on the PaagmanTV  Vimeo HD channel)... sadly I did not have a book signed as there were no copies for sale in English!!!!
 .......below is some footage of Redmond on one of his previous trips to The Netherlands. It was thanks to the Dutch TV Channel's series retracing Darwin's Beagle trip using the Stad Amsterdam which has forged such a strong link between Redmond and The Netherlands.


There is also a series of interviews with Redmond on my favourite 'Web of Stories' site.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

21-01-2012

It was with mixed emotions that I entered the Buitenhof Pathe cinema this afternoon to watch The Iron Lady. Having lived through the Thatcher era in the UK and remembering the odd juxtaposition of Mrs T's St. Francis of Assisi speech and her actions which caused extreme disharmony and discord.

Of course the film is not about the public Margaret Thatcher, but is a study on aging and the tricks that the mind can play on us as we grow old. Meryl Streep 's performance is quite amazing, considering that much of the action uses extreme close up shots showing quite raw emotions. Streep displays many of Lady Thatcher's mannerisms quite brilliantly and inhabits the persona.
The relationship between daughter Carol Thatcher and her mother is a key part of the film, as the once powerful woman, now has to rely on her daughter in so many ways. There has been much criticism of the film for having the key parts of the Thatcher political era come and go without much discussion of them, but of course this is not the point of the film.
I came away having enjoyed the film, but still a little wary of the way that I had been manipulated into considering the human story around such a controversial figure.... is it too soon for a film such as this?

20-01-2012

Last evening an intrepid group of 11 IB  'Foodies' traveled to Rotterdam for dinner at the 2 Michelin Star Parkheuvel Restaurant. Of course the quality of the food and preparation was simply superb. It was amazing the way in which each course built additional flavours on the one before, also the wine selection for each simply worked.
You know that something is working when silence ensues at the table, this certainly happened with the Irish Beef course, when even grown men were heard to swoon...... I must thank Fiona Clark our DP Chemistry CAM and 'foodie in chief' for organising the evening ( we will draw a fine veil over the eventual price.... simple to say, good food is worth it!).
The only unfortunate part of the evening was that on leaving the restaurant at just after midnight the group quite quickly realised that the Rotterdam tram service had largely finished running at midnight.... also at the Rotterdam Centraal Station a further blow was the next train to Den Haag arrived at 2.02am! The shrill cry of TAXI was heard as we were able to find a minibus to take us back to the city, a further taxi home saw me arriving through my front door at 2.15am.....on 21st January... expect Saturday to be a quiet day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

19-01-2012

My favourite image from 2011..... taken in the old still intact, in situ concrete roof in the world, at midday with the sunshine sreaming in through a natural opening as it has done since 27BC ( for over 2039 years)....it is of course  The Pantheon.
It was back in mid August that Deb and I spent 4 days in the 'Eternal City' on a short break from the weather in northern Europe. It was fantastic to feel the warmth of an Italian summer day on our backs, the city was new to both of us, getting around by public transport was a challenge however it is a 'must' visit due to its enormous historic importance, so much of which is still above ground, the jewel in the crown some think of as The Colosseum which is of course breathtaking, The Trevi fountain is of course romantic, and The Vatican a great religious centre... but for me The Pantheon is both fascinating in its historic and religious significance, and as a result is number one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

18-01-2012

Looking a little threadbare and having lost some stuffing and ....... his squeak! ( much like his owner of the past 54 years) above is my best friend.... my Teddy Bear. He is not a pedigree bear ( no Steiff is he), just a mongrel with no special buttons or markings..... but still much loved. He was a gift at my first Monmouthshire Police Christmas Party when I was around 6 months old. Over the years he has been forced to reside in cupboards and drawers since his early fluffy days when he went everywhere with his new young owner.
However he has now returned to his former life, he is the silent person who has to put up with my present ramblings, it is probably fortuitous that he has lost his squeak and is unable to protest. He puts up with sharing a bed again with me much as he did half a century ago ( Oooooh that sounds so long ago when put like that!), he has lost non of his opened eyed friendliness and shows this by how much he has been loved along the way.
He is presently lying around awaiting the end of another day in The Hague when once again he will hear the familiar tones of 'Sailing by' followed by 'The Shipping Forecast' and National Anthem on BBC Radio 4



Goodnight everyon, goodnight.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

17-01-2012

Happy Birthday Jaycob and Abi
17th January marks the 5th and 6th birthday's respectively of the two wonderful  people pictured above. I have to pinch myself every now and again to think of  both of these being in full time school. In fact had I still been teaching the same age group that I was when I left the profession in December 2007, Abi would have been coming into my 'age group' in the next academic year. 
As you will no doubt surmise as with every parent or grandparent I am completely smitten and can be talked into almost anything by the two above. They are of course a shining example of their mum's skills as a mother, I know that Deb and myself are as proud as we can be of all three of them..... Happy Birthday ( Pen blwydd hapus i ti ) kids.



Monday, January 16, 2012

16-01-2012

......today marks the first anniversary of my arrival in The Netherlands. Oddly it sometimes feels an age ago, while on others seems like only yesterday. As many expats will confirm the early months of a relocation thoughts like these assail the mind as one assimilates into the daily/weekly life.
I must praise all of those that I came into contact with on my arrival and since, as they have made the settling in process feel extremely normal and natural...... and this is coming from someone who had previously lived happily in the same house for 15 years!  Coming to terms with living in a city was also a big change, I hadn't been a city dweller since living in London in the 1980's.
At this stage, apart from my stumblingly poor grasp of the language I feel entirely integrated into a new working life as a citizen of The Hague. The city has a motto ' enter the city as a stranger, leave as a friend' this is very true' as many can confirm. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Eva Zeisel 1906 - 2011

Eva Zeisel obituary http://gu.com/p/34y9j
The death on 30 December 2011, was announced in The Guardian today at the age of 105. My blog post of Zeisel's TED presentation was posted on 26th April 2009 (http://ddraig-goch.blogspot.com/2009/04/amazing-eva-zeisel-ted-talks.html). It was fascinating to hear from such an eminent lady talking in a very direct and down to earth way.

What a life,  thank you Eva.

15-01-2012

The fact that my grandchildren are having their joint birthday party ahead of the birthdays on 17th January ( Abi 6 and Jaycob 5) has lead me to reminiscing about this weekend 12 months ago. Sunday 16th January 2011 was my last full day in the UK ahead of my work relocation to The Netherlands.
I admit to not having much sleep 12 months ago, partly through the excitement and anticipation of what lay ahead, and partly due to the ridiculously early start that I had the next day in order to catch the 6am flight from Cardiff Airport.
At the time it was hard to get my head around the fact that the day that had first been mooted by the IB Director General in March 2008 ( 3 months after my joining the organisation) during the first presentation given outlining the strategy behind the IB's relocation to 3 new Global hubs had actually arrived.
I must praise the organisation for allowing those considering the move ample opportunity to visit and search out accommodation ahead of the move, and for providing a good standard of support throughout the process.
Thus it was that at around 10 am on Monday 17th January I took up residence at Berberisstraat 78, 2565XC, Den Haag ( orange curtains first floor) with my suitcase containing all that I had until my belongings arrived from the UK 3 days later.
I had of course left behind those that I love most dearly, which is what made the decision to relocate all the harder from the outset.
One year on however it has worked,  a few well timed visits home, along with visits here by many members of the family and of course the use of Skype on a semi regular basis has meant that life goes much as it did before. I have certainly found that the move has given me renewed energy and has proven once again that the maxim of - 'you don't know what you are capable of until you try it' certainly holds true. Going with this saying also saw me move from teaching into my current role after 19 years in the classroom ( who could have seen that coming?)!
I am also aware that with me not being around it has put additional pressure on the general organisation at home, and that I have missed things that I would rather not have ( the birthday party today being one!), on balance taking up the challenge has been good from both a personal and professional standpoint...... I am glad that I chose this option, life is there to be lived and as they rightly say ( whoever 'they are') 'this is not a rehearsal it is the real thing'


Happy Birthday Abi and Jaycob

Saturday, January 14, 2012

14-01-2011

This year I have seen two excellent films where the stars of the show were upstaged by a small dog.

Today it was The Artist - Director Michel Hazanvicius' homage to the end of the silent movie era. The film is lovingly shot in and around the same landmarks and buildings that were used originally.....Uggie the dog steals the show in all of the scenes in which he appears.

* On a side note last year Laura and myself watched a Josephine Baker silent movie with a live piano accompaniment at the same film theatre, my thought to give Laura the opportunity to see a black and white silent film very much as it would have been performed at the time. I felt it unlikely that black and white silent movies would ever be seen again.... how wrong I was.
The film plays the stereotypes of the age so well, and the very, very occasional use of sound is masterly.Plot Spoiler alert - the most telling being the leading man's heavy accent when he utters his only spoken lines at the very end of the piece, which would possibly have prevented his move to 'the talkies'.

A few weeks ago it was Beginners where Arthur stole the very considerable limelight from his stellar co stars ( Christopher Plummer was quite masterful as the 'out' Dad)

Good to see man's best friend showing that he to can act...... even though the rewards are I believe a little easier to build into a movie budget than are those of the rest of the cast!

Both films make it into my top 10 films that I have seen while here in The Hague, I look forward to seeing how well they do in the upcoming big Hollywood Awards

Friday, January 13, 2012

13-01-2012

Aarghh! Friday 13th today. Actually it has largely passed me by as I have been at home today, admittedly feeling well enough to actually work from my dining room table. We have now a VPN enabled network connection which allows us to work remotely with access to all of our data, I was easily able to work as one of the team today, and finally get that I was beginning to pull my weight after a very lacklustre week of inactivity. It felt great to be useful again.
One advantage of being at home this week is that it has enabled me to get to the end of a book that I have had for many years, one of those weighty tomes that you get stuck in the middle of...... Mao the untold story takes the reader through his life chronolgically, much of the revolutionary battles and power struggles while fascinating can leave one reeling. I was trapped just before the Great Leap which was begun in 1958. I have now been through the Cultural Revolution and further purges and as I reach President Nixon's visit in 1972 with the 'old man' moving toward his end. The book does not 'pull its punches'  in giving a unique insight into what was happening at the heart of this tyrannical reign.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

12-01-2012

I must say that I would not recommend  a viral throat infection to anyone following this week where I have been confined to my apartment almost all week trying to avoid speaking wherever possible ( even to myself!).

My big regret today was that I had been asked to say a few words on my boss's retirement this afternoon, this was a great honour which I was very much looking forward to, as with many plans this week it did not happen. 

I am glad that I made the effort to go out for our departmental meal last evening where we were able to surprise Ruth with her retirement gift from her immediate colleagues. I am also frustrated by not getting out to the cinema this week, as there are some great films around on my 'must see' list :
The Artist
Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy
Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol
The Iron Lady - great quote from Kermode and Mayo..... not as exciting as The Iron Man :-)
J Edgar

The Artist is first on my list once I am mobile again.... with no specific order for the rest.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

11-01-2012

I did manage to get in to work this morning after 2 days enforced rest at home. I stayed until 2.40 and then journeyed to my doctor for an opinion... which of course is the usually vague 'viral infection', much as expected. The cure - nothing apart from Paracetamol/ liquids and some gargling.... the main issue is that my taste buds are on strike presently and as we are visiting a local ( very good) restaurant this evening as part of the farewell celebrations for my boss.. this is extremely frustrating... alcohol is also off the  menu!
Hopefully all will return soon!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10-01-2012

Today's image is another one from the poster collection at Spui Tramhalte (see below) a thought provoking African proverb!


Monday, January 09, 2012

09-01-2012

Monday morning...... Mmmm! as you can see from today's image it was not a good day, I have felt as if there was a cold on the way for some days now, last night it finally arrived as I felt alternatively hot and cold, leaving me in bed sleeping and waking until around 2.30pm. I had the energy to walk to the local pharmacy to get the Hot Coldrex that you see above and have been on soup and drinks pretty much for the rest of the day.....hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, at least the aches appear to have subsided ( Paracetamol to the rescue!).

Sunday, January 08, 2012

08-01-2012

Sunday's in The Nederlands remind me of what Sunday's used to be like in the UK, very quiet with few people around and the sound of church bells permeating the crisp morning air. Today followed this pattern, with nothing much to do apart from my Dutch language homework ahead of my lesson on Wednesday I decided to make the most of the good weather and head out.

Having checked the local arthouse cinema (Filmhuis) before leaving for the tram, I noted that as part of the Movies that Matter season that at 2pm this afternoon a film called No more Fear which documents what happened in Tunisia following Mohammed Bouazizi setting fire to himself back in December 2010... the start of what was called the 'Arab Spring' in the west.
The film looks at a select group of people including the blogger A Tunisian Girl who were persecuted by the regime in place at the time, seeing it overthrown in January 2011 as the then leader and his family fled to Saudi Arabia. It was with sadness that reading some of the more recent postings (05-01-2012) from 'A Tunisian Girl' that the removal of the former reviled dictator has not resulted in the restoration of the feedoms that were instigated by the leader who was deposed in a coup by Ben Ali.... it would appear that Tunisia is still in turmoil.

Today's image is a shot of a poster on the wall of the tram halt closest to the cinema.... rather apt.I think?


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Today Steve O'Regan and myself set off for a visit to the KUNSTHAL ( Rotterdam) primarily to see the Stanley Spencer Exhibition which is due to finish on 15th January. The gallery is home to a number of other permanent and visiting offerings, we did take a look at The Mummies and Religious Art installations  prior to beginning on the Spencer spectacular, indeed spectacular it certainly is showing the cream of British art from the 1920's to 1930's and with a fabulous array of Spencer's work. The most poignant being the self portrait painted by Spencer in the year before his death following  his diagnosis of bowel cancer... this can be contrasted with two other self portraits including the one above used on the flyer....
1959 self portrait

Steve rarely gets his picture in any shots, so here just for those who know him is Mr O'Regan pictured in front of his favourite museum the Boijmans van Beuningen a stone's throw from the Kunsthal.

06-01-2011

Work day today... the weather however improved today, winds died down and the often intense rain and sleet decreased. I was encouraged enough to cycle home, having left my bicycle in the safety of the underground garage over the Christmas break.
Over the past few days I have been clearing files form my work Blackberry including image files and have decided to include some of these images dating back to 2008 in posts this year. To kick this off I will begin with my current screen saver image -
As you will see this image is of myself imitating MC Escher in the Escher Museum ( Escher in het Paleis) the original image is below -

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