7 July 2013

As many of you know, I gather bits and pieces for the Weakly News throughout the week and on Friday or Saturday I begin the task of pulling it all together. Yesterday, when I began this week’s edition, the weather was pretty decent so I thought I would check out the forecast for the days to come on the BBC weather site. Can this possibly be true?


27o C is a whopping 81o Fahrenheit! Whew!

I’ve had a busy few weeks leading up to the Bicester Film Festival which took place on Tuesday of this past week. Each year for the past three years I have done some work with a group of schools in the Bicester area (for our American readers that’s pronounced BIS-TER rather than BY-SES-TER) helping to co-ordinate and organise their annual film festival for primary age children. The kids produce a film lasting no more than three minutes, either a drama or a documentary, and submit these for judging. The films are independently judged by some outside contacts and we then hold a “Gala Award Ceremony” modelled on the Oscar ceremony which we held this past Tuesday. The kids come dressed up in their Oscar finery and we award trophies for the winning films in various age-related categories and medals and certificates to all the children who participated. The ceremony is always great fun, the kids have a wonderful time and the excitement and tension as the awards are announced is wonderful to see.

This year we had a special guest of honour who presented the top prizes, Mamoun Hassan, who is an internationally acclaimed film editor, producer, director, critic and judge. He is a wonderfully sweet man and we were very fortunate to have him at our little soiree. So how did we acquire the services of such an acclaimed guest? He is one of Penelope’s swimming companions in the early mornings at Spiceball, our local leisure centre. When Penny discovered that he was involved with films she cheekily asked, on my behalf, if he would be interested in presenting some prizes at this local school-based film festival to which he agreed!

I have to say, the standard of these films is, shall we say somewhat variable, so I was a bit concerned that he might be disappointed and felt he had wasted his time in joining us. In an e-mail exchange with him I quietly expressed these reservations and he replied, “On Monday, I introduced Kurosawa’s Stray Dog at the National Film and Television School; on Tuesday, I was on a panel at the National Film Theatre discussing an extraordinary Polish Film, ROSE,  so it will be terrific to simply enjoy myself handing over awards without any demanding students or  expectant audiences.”

I hope he enjoyed himself – I certainly did and the kids had an excellent time. If you feel you can stand it you can have a look at the winning films here. The overall winning film, Britain’s Got History, was very cute and was produced by children aged 8 to 9 years old. Great fun.

On Tuesday evening Ms Playchute and I had the opportunity to make our way over to Nick and Lucy’s to babysit Annabelle while her parents attended a Parent-Teacher consultation at her nursery. You will be as relieved as we were to hear that she has not yet been expelled and her behaviour and general development seem to be just about fine – would we ever have doubted it?

Unfortunately, our baby-sitting duties did not actually involve any time playing with our baby. She was tucked up in bed by the time we arrived and all we could do was gaze longingly at the video image on the baby monitor. Each time she would snort or cough we would race to the monitor to see if she needed picking up and playing with but alas, it seems that she is too well behaved for that sort of thing. We did think about creeping upstairs and pinching her but you will be pleased to know we resisted.

On our drive across to assume our baby-sitting duties we realised that we were going to be a bit early and Nick and Lucy were keen to get Annabelle settled at her normal bed time without any grandparental interference or excitement. So, we stopped off for a quick glass of wine at the Leopard, a pub/restaurant in Bishops Tachbrook. We each got a glass of wine and sat down in two large comfortable chairs just near the bar. For some reason, Ms Playchute gave me a large, somewhat suggestive wink and naturally I returned her gesture with a similarly exaggerated, and equally indelicate wink. All of this was observed by one of the chaps standing chatting at the bar who turned to us and said, “How nice it is to see two people your age still in love.”

Of course, I naturally replied, “Yes, but don’t tell my wife.” This elicited a chuckle from the chap extending the compliment and a derisory, “Yes, I was waiting for that” from Penelope. I have to confess, it took another couple of seconds before I challenged his assumption: “What do you mean by ‘two people our age’?”

Private EyeI’m not sure I quite understand what all the fuss is about concerning the NSA and the various other authorities (GCHQ in this country) eavesdropping and spying on us all – so this is surprising why, exactly? Private Eye had a cute article (click for a larger version):

This is what governments do, surely. Metternich started the process in a big way in the early 19th century by developing a pan-European postal system so that his officials could read everything that was sent. But even before then governments were intercepting and reading other’s communications – Mary Queen of Scots met her downfall after Elizabeth’s ministers intercepted messages from and to her supporters in France.

One interesting perspective I remember when George W proposed introducing such an extensive electronic surveillance system post-911. Someone (and I wish I could remember who it was or where I read it to attribute it properly) suggested that looking for electronic intelligence concerning terrorism was rather like looking for a needle in a haystack. The proposal to allow the government to intercept and look at virtually every electronic communication was likened, in this metaphor, to piling even more straw on top, making the occasional needle even more difficult to find.

Dale IrbyWhen I first saw the headline, “Texas Teacher Dale Irby Wears Same Outfit For 40 Years In Dallas” I was, to say the least, intrigued. It turns out though that it’s not one guy wearing the same clothes for 40 years but rather a teacher who, unintentionally, wore the same clothes for the annual school photographs two years in a row. When he and his wife spotted that he had worn the same outfit he decided, as kind of a joke I guess, to wear the same outfit in every school photograph since. He’s now retired and the story can be told!

Two things struck me once I discovered that this guy was not simply the smelliest and most unhygienic public servant in the civilised world. (1) How similar the early photo looks like me in my early teaching days (although I never, as far as I can recollect, wore quite such an outfit). But also, (2) it seems that his 40 year-old clothes still fit him – not sure that many of mine would, even if I still had them.

BargainsFinally, some time ago we ran a piece on supermarket “bargains” which were often anything but. A few weeks ago I ran across some similar examples in the Guardian which have been provided by readers. You’ll need to click some of the examples so that you can see the “bargains” on offer here.

And finally, a “Get Well Soon” shout out to my father and all the others in our extended and extensive family who are dealing with a variety of health issues at the moment. As Pam wrote in her weekly Whiner – you know who you are!

We love you all.





One thought on “7 July 2013”

  1. Check it out–the recipe for Wahaca pork belly carnitas!

    There were 2 interesting surprises in the recipe–500g lard (not really so surprising) and 500 ml cola! No wonder they taste so good! Greg, since you are lucky enough to have a wife who cooks (as opposed to John, who does not), maybe if you beg/trade for a chore/whimper/cry (you know what works best on Penny), she’ll make them for you…
    Good luck!

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