March 2009

It is close to Easter and time for lots of marking coursework. The students are getting stressed at exams looming on the horizon. The teachers are tired and pining for their holidays. These are busy times, times when it is important to actually take a break at break time and take a lunch at lunch time. I must remember to do these things.

It has been a long and eventful weekend spent roaming the Mourne Mountains.

It was the first overnight experience for our Silver Award group and their first experience of walking with heavy rucksacks, it was not a pleasant experience at times. There were moments of beautiful weather, gaps between the hail showers when the sun would shine down and we could pretend to feel warm. Then as we began to set up camp the rain came down and the wind grew stronger. Occasional gusts were strong enough to cause a little imbalance.

The night was cold, not an encouraging first night camping. In the morning the wind was strong and very cold. It was fine if you are walking in expensive clothes which are the latest in fabric technology, but not if you are dressed as a Silver Award pupil. We cancelled the cross mountain walk for their day after camping and detoured through sheltered forests. We changed pick-up points and finished early enough to grab a cup of coffee in Newcastle.

The weather began to brighten and calm down as the pupils moaned with tiredness and hauled themselves onto buses. As they drove off towards warm homes the mountain adventure was not over for some of us. Now was the time for me to visit the local police and show them this:


An hour and a half, and lots of phone calls, later the lovely Sharon and I were ready to head back into the hills, this time with a police escort. We rode in their land rover as close as we could get and then began the 1 hour trek to the old unexploded World War II shell. When we got near everyone but me sat down for a rest and a chat. I headed off with a GPS and a compass feeling very under pressure to find a rust coloured object on a vast rust coloured moor.

When another instructor and myself discovered the bomb we thought about marking it but then we realised the danger of attracting attention to it so we settled for using the instructor’s GPS to get a 10 figure grid reference. The GPS only connected to 3 satellites, so to make sure we also took sighting bearings off three mountain peaks. As I tried to relocate the explosive needle in a haystack I began to be glad that we took those bearings when the GPS started to take me into an area away from what looked right. Again the pressure was mounting. I switched it off and put it in my pocket, it was time to go old school. Time to trust geometry and the ancient device that can be relied upon. Always trust the compass. It had been many years since I had done this, but I did have some experience. I began to triangulate the bearings. After another 20 minutes it began to feel right, I recognised this. Then it began to feel wrong again and I thought of how embarrassing it would be to not be able to find it. All I had left was to find the point where the bearings crossed. I stopped at that point and put my bag down, it did not look right. I checked the bearings again, it did not look right. I turned slowly and scanned the ground; there was the bomb 15 meters away.

I waved my arms to draw them over. They were not even watching, just chatting and relaxing. Another minute of arm waving and I began to fly someone saw me and they began to head towards me. I had time to see what the GPS said; it marked it to be 200 meters away. Apparently you need 5 or 6 satellite connections to get good accuracy.

It was shortly after that I had one of those surreal moments that sticks in the mind. We still had to get down off the mountains, we still had to get home and do our weekly Tesco shopping. The sun was blazing low and a cold wind had blown the clouds from the sky to leave a clear deep blue. The lovely Sharon and I stood with the police around a bomb and I casually said, “who’s going to kick it first?” To my disappointment, no-one laughed.

I am sitting sewing bits and pieces of tents.  It is calming and very random.

I passed in and out of school today. Briefly.

Before I even got to registration I was off in a minibus to the local indoor Climbing wall.  Our top climbers were competing in a competition against some rival local schools.  Some tense moments, some bold leaps, many sore fingers.  Our students picked up 1st 2nd and 3rd prizes!  We even gut a cup and lots of prizes.

Things ran late and lunch was just a thought as I went back in to school, briefly.  Then I was running to a meeting in another school.  Literally running.

As I walkedback  into school the bells rang to mark the end of the day and I once again visited, briefly.  Just enough time to grab some tents and shepherd a large group of student into the sun to see how to pitch a tent.  The practice conditions were perfect.  Everybody was slow into action.  Enough time for a sudden wind and rain storm to come from nowhere and send everybody screaming and freezing as tents flew into the air and spun around.  I suspect that even if a few of them are still a bit puzzled at the dark art of tent making then at least they see the importance of doing it quickly.

Nearly 1 week later and the sniffles seem to be drifting away.  I am now left with a throbbing congested head.

Yes I am nice and cheery…… honest.

cough…sniffle…cough cough…sniffle


Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.
2) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
3) Tally your total at the bottom.
4) Put in a note with your total in the subject

1 ( ) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 (x) The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 ( ) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 ( ) Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 (x) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 (x) The Bible
7 ( ) Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 (x) Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 ( ) His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 ( ) Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Pit-stop Count: 4 (want to read 0)

11 ( ) Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 ( ) Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 ( ) Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 ( ) Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 ( ) Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 (x) The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 ( ) Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 ( ) Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 (x) The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 ( ) Middlemarch – George Eliot

Pitstop Count: 7 (want to read 0)

21 ( ) Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 ( ) The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 ( ) Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 ( ) War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 (x) The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 ( ) Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 ( ) Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 ( ) Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 (x) Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carrol
30 ( ) The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

Pitstop Count: 9 (want to read 0)

31 ( ) Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 ( ) David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 (x) Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 ( ) Emma – Jane Austen
35 ( ) Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 (x) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 ( ) The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 ( ) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 ( ) Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 (x) Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

Pitstop Count: 12 (want to read 0)

41 (x) Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 (x) The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 ( ) One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 ( ) A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 ( ) The Woman in White – Wilkie Collin
46 ( ) Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 ( ) Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 ( ) The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 ( ) Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 ( ) Atonement – Ian McEwan

Pitstop Count: 14 (want to read 0)

51 (x) Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 ( ) Dune – Frank Herbert
53 ( ) Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 ( ) Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 ( ) A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 ( ) The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 ( ) A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 ( ) Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 (x) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 ( ) Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Pitstop Count: 16 (want to read 0)

61 ( ) Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 ( ) Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 ( ) The Secret History – Donna Tart
64 ( ) The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 ( ) Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 ( ) On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 ( ) Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 ( ) Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 ( ) Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 ( ) Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Pitstop Count: 16 (want to read 0)

71 ( ) Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 ( ) Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 ( ) The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 ( ) Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 ( ) Ulysses – James Joyce
76 ( ) The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 ( ) Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 ( ) Germinal – Emile Zola
79 ( ) Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 ( ) Possession – AS Byatt

Pitstop Count: 16 (want to read 0)

81 (x) A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 ( ) Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 ( ) The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 ( ) The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 ( ) Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 ( ) A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 (x) Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 ( ) The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 (x) Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 ( ) The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

Pitstop Count: 19 (want to read 0)

91 (x) Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 ( ) The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint EXupery
93 ( ) The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 ( ) Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 ( ) A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 ( ) A Town Like Alice – Neil Shute
97 ( ) The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 ( ) Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 (x) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl
100 ( ) Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Total: 21 (want to read 0)


I haven’t really done much exercise for a while.  Yesterday I was in the hills but then had to leave early.  So when it came to leaving and catching an appointment I left myself plenty of time to get there.  So I could have walked down through the forest paths but I ran anyway.  Just for the hell of it.  The terrain at one point was quite rocky and with little patches of ice.  So inevitably I had to slip at some point.  I scuffed my knee and the granite tore a hole in my trousers, and a smaller hole in the knee itself.  Later that evening my knee began to hurt, then hurt more, then it really hurt.  But it was strange, the strange bit being that it lasted 10minutes then simply disappeared. It is a little bruised but feels fine. And tonight I did lots of running with not even a hint of pain in the old knee.  How bizarre.

I have just closed the last page on a book that has affected me.  It is a novel about a boy growing up and trying to figure out where he is meant to be.  Where that is is obvious from the start.  The captivating part of the story is his observation of everyone else.  Mainly the waste of society  and people.  A disconnection with the land and our purpose in life.  As I read the book I could not help but have some feeling of disgust at the waste in our lives, our materialism.