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Sunday, 29 April 2012

"The world is a better place for his having been there"

Last week there was a note in one of my Facebook groups: my old English master, from grammar school days back in the 1960s, had died at the age of 86. "Ned" Sharp as we called him was an inspirational teacher who made the English language come alive for us all at my school in Kingsbridge, Devon. He will be sadly missed.

One writer posted this comment, "He was the best teacher I ever had, bar none, and the world is a better place for his having been there."  I can think of no greater compliment: he made a positive difference in our lives. He left his mark. Indeed the world of many young people was enriched by his teaching, respect for us all and his joy of living.

Is the world a better place because we have been in it? It makes one think what legacy we'll leave for those coming after us.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Off centre coffee saucers

Whenever I buy coffee at an outlet like Costa, Cafe Nero or Starbucks I seem to get given the coffee in a daft saucer which has an off-centre indent for the cup. I guess the idea is to allow one to place a cake or biscuit next to the cup, but it means that the whole cup and saucer are inherently unstable when carried.

Please clever marketing guys, think before you come out with such daft ideas in future!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Nearly 60 years on

These two pictures are taken at the same place (Clovelly post office in N.Devon) just about 60 years apart. In the first picture I am about 4.5 years old and about to start school. Here I'm with my brother. The next picture is me as I am today.
1952 (me on the right behind donkey's head)

Me in 2012

Our Mortality

There was a very moving article in The Times yesterday about the last days of Philip Gould, Tony Blair's architect of New Labour. Philip died of cancer and wrote a book about his dying to be published shortly. The account in The Times was written by his daughter and describes his last few days of life and slide into death. I was moved to tears reading this.

In the last few months several people I know have been affected by cancer and have died as a result, or are still battling against it. As a result I have been reminded of my own mortality as in the famous poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
When my father died I saw his body in the mortuary. It was cold and lifeless yet my abiding memory of seeing him in this state was of a soul that had flown: the essential him was no longer there, yet I felt the real dad was not gone forever, but somehow released like a butterfly on the wing. My little grandson, just 4 years old, talks about us going back into the universe. Dust to dust? Who knows.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Lynton and Barnstaple Railway

"Axe" pulling the L&B train last week
On our holiday in North Devon last week we enjoyed a ride on the steam hauled Lynton and Barnstaple Railway. This is a delightful narrow gauge line that runs through a small piece of Exmoor countryside. When the line was originally build and opened in 1898 this 1ft 11.5in gauge line ran all the way from the market town of Barnstaple to Lynton on the north coast winding its way around the hills. It included some long 1 in 50 inclines. The narrow gauge was chosen to minimise the costs and to allow tight curves on the line. It closed in 1935. Today the line is run as a trust and only over a very short length although, funds permitting, it is eventually hoped that the whole length can be reinstated as few obstructions prevent this. If you are in this part of the west country I can recommend a visit to this fascinating little line.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Eureka magazine (in The Times)

Dumbing down science yet again?

Every few weeks the UK's The Times newspaper includes a "science" colour magazine that is meant to "inform" us about things in the world of science. Well Rupert Murdoch, please get a new editor for this as it is, in my humble opinion, (others may disagree) a load of rubbish written probably by failed arts graduates with primary school science at best.

I find the presentation of this magazine appalling - I can never get to what little meat there is in the magazine with all its fancy graphics - and the content is IMHO not worth the effort of sifting through. If The Times wants to inform and educate us then please treat science and technology properly and don't try to dumb it down for the epsilon semi-morons. The UK needs to enthuse people with science and not turn them off.

The Eureka magazine has its uses though - to wrap dead fish skins in or perhaps as garden compost.