21 June 2015

It’s been a great week, somewhat tempered, however, by the necessity of having to say “good-bye” to Adam and Ava on Wednesday. Goodness, how those three weeks flew by!

On Monday, at Nick and Lucy’s suggestion, we all visited Warwick Castle. I visited it many, many years ago but it was expensive even then. When it was bought by Madam Tussauds in the late 1970s I imagined I would never set foot in it again, having little to no interest in admiring a range of wax models. Every time we’ve had American visitors I’ve always made a point of driving them past it, moderately slowly, so that they could catch a glimpse of a splendid castle and then we’ve carried on up the road to the ruins of Kenilworth Castle which is much more of a favourite (of mine, anyway).

Warwick Castle

However, we spent a lovely, sunny day at Warwick with a tromp through the castle, a scamper up the motte and to the top of Guy’s tower, a bountiful picnic on the lawns and a splendidly impressive exhibition of a range of birds of prey – my goodness those raptors are huge!

We were disappointed, however, that the fire-hurling trebuchet was out of commission for the time being. A couple of months ago, in one of their demonstrations, they managed to destroy the medieval boathouse on the river just below the castle. Sparks from the burning payload ignited the thatched roof of the ancient boathouse and, essentially, burned it to the ground. Ironically, it had just been rethatched. Still, no such excitement for us. This first video shows the trebuchet in action:

And this one shows the effect it had on the boathouse!

On Tuesday we had a lovely last evening with Adam and Ava before they flew back to Yangshou on Wednesday afternoon. Nick, Lucy and Annabelle came over for a bit and we enjoyed a couple of lovely, lazy hours sitting around on the patio drinking, chatting and, in the case of Annabelle, sprinting around the garden. As Nick, Lucy and Annabelle got set to drive home we suddenly realised that we’d not taken a single group portrait during the whole of the three weeks Adam & Ava were here. So, I scampered inside to fetch my camera and tripod and managed to catch one in which most everyone had their eyes open and a reasonably passable smile on their face. As always, click for a larger version.

Family Photo

Sad as it was to put them on a plane on Wednesday afternoon, it looks as if we will be compelled to make another journey to the People’s Republic in October to celebrate their wedding Chinese style. Can’t wait!

As if all that wasn’t enough, we also had the very pleasant distraction of a short visit from our good friend George Jefferies who, it seems, is back in the UK for good now having been in Cambodia for the past bundle of years. Adam and George were just about in the same year at primary school, I think, so it was a fortuitous and most welcome accident that he was able to join us for their last couple of days.

George showed us an edit of the documentary he has been involved with for the past three years – the Last of the Elephant Men – about an ethnic minority in Cambodia who have, in the past, taken elephants from the wild and domesticated them. This is no longer allowed (for obvious reasons) but it does mean that their culture and way of life is rapidly disappearing. Very interesting and wonderfully well filmed and, of course, George was able to give us an insight into the people and places in the film.

I spent much of Friday afternoon with Nick in a canoe on the Oxford Canal. He rang on Thursday evening asking if I was interested in a bit of playing about on the water to which I instantly agreed – what’s not to like? We met up at Cropredy and managed to get both the canoe in the water and ourselves into the canoe without any mishaps much to the disappointment of the watching crowd. We paddled about three miles down the canal toward Banbury, had an excellent picnic (Nick made it so you can be sure it was very excellent indeed) and then paddled our way back up the canal again. The sun shone a bit and it was lovely and warm without being too hot. Perfect weather for messing about on the water and it was great fun. (We did manage to convince one of the people on-board a passing canal barge that we were headed to Birmingham which we expected to reach by tea time having set off that morning from London. The chap was, quite rightly, mightily impressed if not astonished!)


Just when you thought this government couldn’t get any more absurd. Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary after the idiot Gove was “moved sideways” before the election to get him out of the public eye, announced a new appointment which will undoubtedly transform and improve education provision throughout the land.

The government is keen to tackle the problem of “low level” disruption in classrooms – passing notes, talking while the teacher is talking, texting during lessons, etc.. So, she has appointed a new “Behaviour Czar” who will help teachers learn how to tackle such low-level disruption. Amongst his qualifications – he was a bouncer for a number of years in a Soho nightclub.

But what excites many papers is the appointment of a new behaviour ‘czar’, Tom Bennett, to help teachers crack down on low level classroom disruption. Bennett spent eight years working in nightclubs in Soho, including as a bouncer, all of which he says provided ‘an obvious training ground in classroom management’.

Even the headline sums it all up – Appointing a ‘low-level disruption’ school tsar is stupid government. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up!

And finally, just to confirm that nothing changes with this government, I ran across an article in Friday’s Guardian announcing that the UK is to reject plans being drawn up in the European Union to clamp down on multinational tax evasion. So, in spite of Osborne the Tit’s commitment to stamp down on tax evasion, those multinational companies which pay effectively no tax in the UK will be allowed to continue to do so. At the same time, he is insisting on making up to £15 billion of cuts to public services. Hey, we’re all in this together, remember?

And finally, finally. I hope you all have a wonderful Summer Solstice – what’s not to like about long, lazy hours of summer sunshine? I suppose the fact that the days start getting shorter and shorter from now until December might be a tad disappointing but what the heck – we’ll take what we get.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

And finally, finally, finally, is it Father’s Day in the States as well as here? I guess it must be so Happy Father’s Day to my extraordinary Father.


Much love to you all,