Thursday, 29 March 2007

Hobnobbing with Celebrities

I've added an album of photos of myself with some celebrity friends to my Picasa site.

Bond Girls Caroline Munro, Martine Beswick, Tanya Roberts, Britt Ekland, Carole Ashby and more, Hammer Horror stars Ingrid Pitt, Madeline Smith, singers Toyah Wilcox and John Leyton and a few other assorted people!

Since this post was originally published the album has been taken down, sorry! There's several of the photos elsewhere on the blog though - click the link below for topic "Celebrity"

Thursday, 22 March 2007

From Leeds to Taunton!

After leaving the AoC NILTA conference yesterday, I drove down to Taunton, where today I've delivered a session at an RSC seminar for South West Colleges and Universities. The seminar was all about bidding for project funding from external sources and the session I gave was about ensuring your business case matched the needs of the funders and presented what you wanted to do in the best light.

"RSC" means the JISC Regional Support Centre, 13 of which support Further and Higher Education Colleges and Adult Continuing Learning in their region of the UK.

I was the last speaker of the day and wondered whether delegates may have gotten a little jaded after a day of what could have been quite a dry subject, but they seemed to be up for it and nodded in the right places!

We were at Hestercombe Gardens, perhaps not seen at their best today, but I'll bet it's a beautiful place on a sunny day from spring to autumn. One tree had a gnarled trunk, looking like a face.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

AoC NILTA Conference 2007

I'm currently at the AoC NILTA Conference in Leeds and it has been an excellent conference this year. This has been the 19th NILTA Conference if you count the "parent" organisations of NILTA, namely NAITFE, the National CMIS Board and SCITFE the first incarnation of all.

One or two people present have been at all 19 of them. I can't quite claim that, I started out in 1993 as Associate Chair of the National CMIS Board so have been to enough for people to look at me with concern, wondering whether I'll collapse with age... or perhaps waiting for me to grow up - no chance of that I'm afraid!

Lots of people yesterday were saying nice things about me to my boss, some without realising who she was, so my thanks to them!

Some good and pertinant sessions and keynote speakers. I especially liked a couple of phrases by Barbara Ganley from Middlebury College in America who was speaking about the use of blogs by her creative writing students. She spoke about "learning in cycles of disruption and repair" and the need for building into your courses some opportunities to fail, so that learning can come from it.

Initially this might sound strange - we want students to fail? Well not in the long run of course, we want them to achieve their qualification, but walking away with a certificate is not the only goal I hope. It's when we fail in something that we take a step backwards, assess things like what went wrong and why, learn to identify and solve problems and learn what is repeatable and what should not be repeated.

The second keynote was from Nigel Paine who gave a very enjoyable and thought provoking session. He focussed on Change and the rate of change and the slowness of many educational cultures in dealing and accepting change and embedding new ways of learning. "We have got to let things from the past go," he said - a phrase that might challenge a few cultures perhaps. The tendency can be to evolve slowly, adding and supplementing but without alway reviewing, releasing and discarding those things which have become tired, outdated or no longer relevant to today's young people in Further Education.

JISC infoNet, my own organisation, is currently involved with a series of one-day workshops on Change Management, delivered by myself with Clive Alderson, which introduce strategy and techniques for supporting Change in organisations.

Another of our resources which has been generating lots of interest is the Planning & Designing Technology-Rich Learning Spaces infoKit. With many colleges currently involved in new building projects or refurbishment, the kit, released last week is timely and contains many resources, including a database of images of college and university innovative building projects, hosted at Flickr.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Two in a Bed...

Cats I mean... This normally spells trouble. I got up this morning, despatched to make the coffee as Fran was in work for 7:00am and the cats had decided to bunk up in one bed rather than use the other (larger) bed.

Normally Jess has a thing for standing, sitting or lying using Tigger as a pillow, but this morning she was sprawled out on top of him, bum hanging over the edge of the bed and Jess looking just a touch resigned at the unusual state of affairs...

It's been a bit of a musical morning for me - the band have a gig tonight so I've been getting ready for that, more about that on the band's blog.

It's a busy weekend all round as tomorrow we have the family coming round - there's a few birthdays in March and three of us will have had or are about to have one!

Next week will see me in Leeds for the AoC NILTA conference and then rushing off to Taunton to give a session at a seminar on bidding for project funding.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Train of Thought

I'm just back from another couple of days in Birmingham.

This has been for the JISC Conference (which I think was easily the best that I have attended) and for a day's planning meeting with the rest of the team.

Tomtom didn't make the trip this time as I travelled by train. I'm not sure what it is with me and trains - I'm sure they can't go wrong as much as my experiences seem to suggest, but anyway...

Coming back, my train had the misfortune to be behind one which hit something on the line near to Bristol. I'm not sure what, but by the time my train (heading for Glasgow) reached Birmingham where I was getting on, it was 45 minutes late. A typical experience for me really, I'm not sure why I should even mention it.

It was made all the more memorable by two imbeciles behind me who felt the need to use the f-word every alternate word. I'm not a prude but it did get a bit wearing hearing it three or four times in every sentence... And on a train surrounded by other people I feel that's selfish and ignorant behaviour.

On a different subject, we're starting to get fired up about the gig on Saturday at Cabus Village Hall (see the band's website for details).

Sunday, 11 March 2007

A few hours in Cumbria

It was Fran's birthday yesterday so we had a trip out today. It's been a bit of a dark dismal day but sometimes I quite like that anyway.

So we motored up the A6, ignoring the new satnav which wanted to go on the motorway, passing through Lancaster, Carnforth, Milnthorpe etc. I stopped off at Beetham to take a couple of photos of the River Bela.

Once the weather gets a bit more sunny I must have another trip up here to see the Fairy Steps (see this page for explanation) which I've only ever photographed in black and white.

Anyway, we carried on up to Keswick, ate fish and chips in an upstairs cafe and had a look in a couple of antiques shops. I'm afraid I bought another handful of old 78rpm records. Haven't played them yet, though some looked a bit worse for wear anyway...

Fran was on the lookout for another Liliput Lane cottage - her collection is growing close to city status... Unfortunately (phew! ha ha!) she didn't find any...

Friday, 9 March 2007

Make a U-turn as soon as it is safe...

Yes, I've gone Satellite Navigating! And it must work because I haven't crashed into one yet...

I've been in Birmingham, Wednesday afternoon and yesterday and finding anything remotely resembling the street map is a nightmare. In most big cities, not just Birmingham. A combination of one-way streets and new corner buildings where the street names are never replaced makes trying to find anywhere a total frustrating challenge!

So I went out into the malls of Birmingham and came back with a tomtom. I played that until the chap in the next room at the hotel complained and then went out again to buy a satnav...

I'd sussed the way from the hotel to the ICC where I had an exhibition stand at the ACM Conference, but the satnav got me back to the motorway at the end of the day without any fuss at all.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

A Welsh Morning

I've been in Wales this week, going down on Monday afternoon in some rather abysmal weather, but the view from the hotel car park yesterday morning was certainly nice.

The village is called Chancery and it's just outside Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast. I missed out on most of the scenery driving there as it was dark by the time I turned off the main north-south road to head west. There was one bit where a river ran alongside the car behind a bank and I was hoping the bank held out because the water level was about halfway up the car doors...

Clive turned up around 11:00pm having driven from Motherwell in Scotland. We were in Aberystwyth at the university, running a Risk Management workshop which went well and the drive back north took us over the mountains to join the M56 at Welshpool. More spectacular scenery - including a lorry perched on a narrow bank of earth 6 feet above the roadway. Either a tyre blew or he went to sleep... He was lucky not to roll down sideways - the drop on the other side was the longer!

Got back to find wife and daughter frantically writing out wedding invitations. My daughter gets married in June so I'd better get out now and earn another crust!

Friday, 2 March 2007

My Music Online

A while ago on the blog site of my band Creeping Bentgrass, I mentioned Billy Fury and got a reply from Moya from the website http://www.billyfury.com.

I registered on the site which is an excellent resource for Billy's fans and this month they are featuring a track from my solo album - "Blue Bayou".

This can be heard by clicking the "Click to Play" link from the Billy Fury site.
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