< class="pagetitle">Archive for the “Travel” Category


As I sit here in Tampa International airport  and listened to passengers conversations as they walk by I am reminded of a video clip shared to us this week by one of the NASA Educators.

The video entitiled "Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy".  In it Amercian comedian Louis C.K. talks about how spoiled we all are by the current technology and how our generation has started taking those improvements for granted to the point that we can't appreciate them anymore. His interview tells us that we have basically become a generation of complainers. He reminds us that "Everything is amazing and nobody is happy".

His section on flying is particularly apt "Flying is the worst one because people come back from flights and they tell you their story and it's like a horror story. It's, they act like their flight was like a cattle car in the 40's in Germany. (yeah) That's how bad they make it sound (right). They're like it was the worst day of my life. First of all we didn't board for 20 minutes (right) and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes. We had to sit there. Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero? Wow, you're flying! It's amazing! Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, oh my God, wow (yes) you're flying, you're, you're sitting in a chair in the sky (yes, yeah, yeah) but it doesn't go back a lot. And it smells really. You know, here's the thing. People like they say there's delays on flights (yeah) delays really New York to California in 5 hours. That used to take 30 years to do that and a bunch of you would die on the way there and have a baby. You'd be with a whole different group of people by the time you got there. Now you watch a movie you take a dump and you're home."
I for one still marvel at the science and mircale of flight- must remember that if the flight is delayed!

Comments No Comments »

We were taken to the Cosmophere in Hutchinson, and could not believe such an amazing resource is hidden away in deepest Kansas. If you are ever in that area it is defintiely worth a visit. 

This space museum features the largest collection of US space artifacts outside of the US  National Air and Space Museum and the largest collection of Russian space artifacts in the Western world. It also has an IMAX Dome Theater and Planetarium which we did not have time to visit (we were there so long they were waiting for us so they could close up). 

The Cosmosphere is home to the actual Apollo 13 command module Odyssey, and SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. They were all well laid out, and the rocket outside was particularly effective with sound effects which mad eyou think twice about standing beside them!

It also offers innovative astronaut training camps for the young and the young-at-heart, and I knwo several people young and old who would lve to try that out!.   

Comments No Comments »


While we were in Wichita our lovely colleagues at ESSDACK arranged for us to stay in this beautiful hotel in the Old Town part of Wichita. Built in 1906 the hotel was once a busy warehouse facility for the Keen Kutter brand of tools, silverware, dishes nd sporting goods. You can still see the Keen Kutter name on the outside bricks.

Designed by the firm of Mauran, Russell, and Garden, the warehouse employed state-of-the-art construction and was known as not only the strongest building in Wichita, but also the largest warehouse in the world. The building was also identical in design to the famous Cupples Building located in St. Louis.

The Keen Kutter warehouse was considered to be virtually fireproof, with watertight floors and corbled walls that slowed air currents. Additionally, a cupola on the roof housed 20,000 gallons of water, ready to douse any fire on the premises.

Nearly a century later, local hotelier Jack DeBoer, founder of the Residence Inn and other suite hotels, purchased the Keen Kutter warehouse with the idea of creating a truly unique hospitality experience. What others saw as a timeworn structure, DeBoer saw as a blank canvas for something wonderful, and so he closely managed a major renovation and restoration of the warehouse. Thanks to DeBoer’s vision, the Hotel at Old Town opened for business in 1999, giving the Keen Kutter building a second life.

In celebration of its illustrious history, the Hotel at Old Town conducted a major search for Keen Kutter brand items, which resulted in the largest authentic collection ever assembled. These items are displayed on each floor in museum-quality cases adjacent to magnificent photos of early Wichita. The collection serves as a lasting tribute to the hotel’s history.

The rooms were lovely and the service great, so we will definitely be back.


Comments No Comments »

I have just returned from a very short visit to the UK. Next weekend the Queen celebrates 60 years on the throne and everywhere you go there are Union Flags. With the Olmpics due to start in July it will be a big couple of months for London. It was a shame I had to come back before the celebrations, and the good weather, started.

One of Selfridges' windows-celebrating all things British

John Lewis' window-Union flags on a range of goods for sale

And yet more goods for sale

Flags in Oxford Street, and Regents Street and lots more streets

Varying the theme-tea pots in the Team GB colours for the 2012 London Olympics

Comments 1 Comment »

We finally made it to Fiji! 26 Years after we first attempted to visit here (that got aborted by the coup), and after 3 other attempts which failed for all sots of reasons including leaving it too late to book, we have finally had a holiday in Fiji. Ironically we actually booked to go to Samoa, but our hotel took a block booking from Survivior Samoa and bumped us out, and only the good work of our travel agent and the kind people at Air NZ allowed us to swap to the Shangri-La resort on Fiji's Coral Coast.

This is the view from our hotel balcony and I have to say we do not miss the aftershocks, the munted roads, the chemical toilets or our broken house. We do however feel sorry for all our friends and family who have not been able to make the break away and who are still suffering.

We have lots of books,the beaches and the pools and we plan to do a lot of nothing. After the last few months we actually feel we deserve a break.


Comments 1 Comment »


Staff from CORE Education, along with another 20 Kiwis and over 70 Aussies have been in Belfast, Northern Ireland for the past week to attend the 15th International Conference on Thinking, held at Queen's University.

I am pleased to announce that after a lot of hard work, CORE Education has been awarded the right to host the 16th International Conference on Thinking, which will be held in Wellington, New Zealand in January 2013.

The conference will promote cross-discipline involvement in the development of our capacity to think and learn. Speakers will address issues within the overarching theme of “Expanding Global Thinking”:

  • Future Survival – Environment, Science & Technology, Health, Energy
  • Personal Futures – work & leisure, learning, arts & culture, aging populations
  • Future Society – indigenous development, societal institutions, social equity, evolving economies

Delegates and speakers are expected to be drawn from the areas of

  • Education
  • Business
  • Health
  • Sport and leisure
  • Local government

Registrations of Interest are being taken on the ICOT2013 website

Comments No Comments »

The Parliament Buildings, known as Stormont because of its location in the Stormont area of Belfast, is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive. It previously housed the old Parliament of Northern Ireland, which was commonly referred to simply as "Stormont".

The need for a separate parliament building for Northern Ireland emerged with the creation of the Northern Ireland home rule region in 1920. In 1922, preparatory work on the chosen site, east of Belfast, began. The original plans for a large domed building with two subsidiary side buildings, housing all three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial.

The plans, reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol were scrapped following the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and its knock-on effect on the economy of the United Kingdom. Instead, a smaller domeless building designed by Sir Arnold Thornley was erected on the site. It was opened by Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) on 16 November 1932.

In the 1990s, Sinn Féin suggested that a new parliament building for Northern Ireland should be erected, saying that the building at Stormont was too controversial and too associated with unionist rule to be used by a power-sharing assembly. However, no-one else supported the demand and the new assembly and executive was installed there as its permanent home.

On 3 December 2005, the Great Hall was used for the funeral service of former Northern Ireland and Manchester United footballer George Best. The building was selected for the funeral as it is in the only grounds in Belfast suitable to accommodate the large number of members of the public who wished to attend the funeral. Approximately 25,000 people gathered in the grounds, with thousands more lining the cortege route. It was the first time since World War II that the building has been used for a non-governmental or non-political purpose.

After my Dad died in 1977 we needed to get a copy of his birth certificate but couldn't as part of Stormont was damaged by fire at some stage and records were lost. We had to trace his date of birth through the church he was christened in St Mark's in Portadown. When we finally got the records we discovered he was 9 years older than we had thought and had been born in August 1909. We think he changed his age to join up in the British Army when WWII started.

Comments No Comments »

By the early 1900s, Belfast was a thriving industrial city with a population of around 390,000.  Many of its citizens were employed in the linen, engineering and shipbuilding industries.  Harland & Wolff, the largest of these shipyards, built over 70 vessels for the White Star Line.  The most famous of these were the Olympic-class vessels, Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, designed and built between 1908 and 1914.

The Harland and Wolff shipyards are located on Queen's Island on Belfast's River Lagan. It was built there when they straightened the river in the 1840s, and in the early 20th century it was where my grandfather William George Wright was employed as a cabinetmaker.

In those days a skilled worker was paid £2.00 a week while an unskilled labourer received £1.00. They were also expected to put in long hours, their days starting just after 6.00am and finishing at 5.30pm, with only Saturday afternoons and Sundays off. For Managers the days were even longer as they were expected to be at their post to supervise before the rest of the men arrived to start the day.

Photo of Shipyard workers going home from Queens Island, Belfast 1911. I wonder if my grandfather was amongst that crowd?

Titanic’s keel was laid on 31 March 1909 at Slip No. 3 in Harland & Wolff shipyard.  This was the largest shipyard in the world at that time.  On 31 May 1911, Titanic was launched into Belfast Lough. 

She departed on her first trans-Atlantic crossing to New York on 10 April, 1912.  Then at 11.40pm on Sunday 14 April, 1912, tragedy struck.  The ship hit an iceberg and two hours and forty minutes later, she sank to the ocean floor, with the loss of almost 1500 lives.

In her brief life, Titanic was the largest, most luxurious vessel ever built and her story – from the city of her birth to her tragic loss – continues to fascinate and move today’s generation.

Until recently Northern Irish people have seen the Titanic as a sign of failure and although there are 70 Titabic museums around the world, there has been none to date in Belfast. That will change in 2012 which is the centenary of the disaster when the stunning new museum will open. It is designed to look like the prows of 4 ships- all the size of the Titanic.

Today, Harland & Wolff’s two magnificent yellow twin cranes, Goliath (1969) and Samson (1974) still stand guard over the city, even though there is no longer any ship building in the city.

Comments No Comments »

Today I visited a wonderful little primary school situated in Derriaghy, at the western outskirts of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Oakwood Integrated Primary School is an integrated, co-educational school which enrols children of all faiths whilst retaining its Christian character.

Oakwood opened with 30 pupils in 1996 as a direct result of parental action. It operated as an independent, non-fee paying school, until it received government funding in 1999. The site of the school, an old factory, was chosen by those parents in 1996 because it was neutral and had no direct association with any group.

The emergence of integrated schools within Northern Ireland has been one of the most significant social developments over the last 30 years. This development has been even more marked given the sharp political division and violence that has characterised this region over the past 100 years+.

Integrated Education can best be described as the bringing together in one school of pupils, staff and governors, in roughly equal numbers, from Protestant, Catholic, other faith and no faith backgrounds. It is about cultivating every individual´s self-respect and therefore their respect for other people and other cultures. Integrated Education means bringing children up to live as adults in a pluralist society, teaching them to recognise what they hold in common with each and to accept and enjoy any differences.

Children are encouraged to share their faiths, their customs and their symbols, and understand that people can live together respecting and valuing diversity.

Education in Northern Ireland is still highly religiously segregated, with 95% of pupils attending either a maintained (Catholic) school or a controlled school (mostly Protestant, but open to all faiths and none), both funded by the state- by varying amounts. As a result teaching a balanced view of some subjects (especially things like history) is difficult in these conditions.

The churches in Northern Ireland have not been involved in the development of integrated schools, instead they have been established by the voluntary efforts of parents who no longer wanted their children growing up in a  secterian world.

Oaklands is a great little school, strongly supported by the local community and providing a well rounded education for the children of the area. It was a pleasure to visit it.



Comments No Comments »

The annual Calgary stampede is being held here at the end of next week- in a way it is a shame we will miss it but the city has been quieter this week to look around and next week we are told that prices will rise for lots of things so maybe it is best we will not be here ($NZ1-0.72Canadian cents).

In preparation for the event there are flags being erected everywhere on the routes that the parade will take, plus shops and businesses are decorating their windows with stampede related displays and artwork painted on the windows.

Maybe one day we will get back to see it all come together and see the cowboys in action.

Comments No Comments »

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments No Comments »

A walk through Ecchinswell’s St Lawrence churchyard, with the smell of the yew trees reminded me of this poem-

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the Poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault
If Memory o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country’s blood.

Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation’s eyes,

Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

Yet e’en these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
E’en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
E’en in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th’ unhonour’d dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, —

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

‘There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

‘Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.

‘One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

‘The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.’

The Epitaph

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melacholy marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
He gained from Heaven (’twas all he wish’d) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God.

By Thomas Gray (1716-71).

Comments No Comments »

Thomas and I flew Air Canada to Calgary and had to wait at the airport for 3 hours to meet Howard’s plane flying in from LA. Luckily there is lots to see at the airport as there are  statues and sculptures located at the baggage carousels, all with different themes. Obviously Calgary likes to entertain its visitors while they wait for their luggage at the airport.

The next sight that caught our attention was the volunteers all dressed up in a bright red vests and cowboy hats who was there to welcome tourists. One of them explained that Calgary actually is a city of volunteers: 7 out of 10 Calgarians volunteer their time for a good cause, and volunteers were some of the main reasons why the Calgary Olympic Games in 1988 were the first Olympic Games in history to actually make (rather than lose) money.

Comments No Comments »

I spend Tuesday in primary schools in Nottingham and could not fail to notice that the World Cup has attracted attention in the schools. Apart from the children (girls) who were wearing England headbands, the children were interested in the fact that New Zealand were playing in the cup and in fact were playing the afternoon I was at one school.

The schools have both used the World Cup in a variety of lessons and even at lunchtime when they have world cup themed lunches each day (we were there for the Italian day with lasagne and spag bol on the menu). The art class was painting  the flags of other nations, and also designing a new footbal strip for the South African team based on the colours of their flag, the maths classes were using stats from the event- e.g. if each game takes x minutes, how many minutes for the whole tournament, etc

In other schools children have also used the World Cup as a way to learn about the geography of the countries taking part, the history of South Africa, different nations’ songs and dances, and art work too.

Youngsters from Brunel Primary School, in Saltash, marched to the town’s Kimberley Stadium waving the flags of all 32 countries competing at the tournament in South Africa. They then sang the national anthems of the UK and South Africa, and the official anthem of the 2010 World Cup.

Others have taken this opportunity to forge links with other schools and to take  part in a live computer link with people in Cape Town.The whole concept of using the World Cup to support lessons fits in well with Britain’s  International Primary Curriculum (IPC) being encourages across schools.

Other ways in which the country is embracing the World Cup and flying the flag are shown below.

Comments No Comments »

Walking through the city this week I have come across all these colourful elephants. The Elephant Parade is a conservation campaign to highlight the urgent crisis faced by the endangered Asian elephant. Developed by www.elephantfamily.org, the event sees over 250 brightly painted life-size elephants located over central London this summer.

Each is decorated by a different artist or celebrity and running from May to July 2010, this is London’s biggest outdoor art event on record. With an estimated audience of 25 million, the charity hope to raise £2 million for the Asian elephant and benefit 20 UK conservation charities.

The elephants are going to be auctioned through Sothebys but unfortunately neither my bank balance or my excess luggage allowance will allow me to get one!

Comments No Comments »