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

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 »

Seriously looked at going up to the semi-final this weekend but the tickets were $800 each, plus airfare to Auckland and accommodation, so will be watching it from home in Christchurch instead.

I was heartened to see that plans are in place though for Welsh fans who are even further away More than 45,000 free tickets into Millennium Stadium in Cardiff have been claimed by Wales fans to watch live coverage of the semi-final being held against France. This will be at 9.00am Saturday morning UK time.

The Welsh Rugby Union have given the tickets away this week. All of them were snapped up within hours and the WRU is now considering releasing more tickets. The stadium seats 74,500 and has giant screens at each end.

It's all part of an event the WRU have put on called "Wake Up for Wales."

The stadium will open at 7.30am local time on Saturday, with live music acts to keep the crowd buzzing before the game starts at 9am.

The WRU has also encouraged all of Wales to wear something red to work on Friday to support the team. We will certainly be wearing red here tomorrow and cheering on the Mighty Welsh.

Comments No Comments »







British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would break with tradition and fly the Welsh flag outside his official London residence to mark the occasion.

"We would only usually fly a home nation flag for a final," Cameron said.

"But I know how important a competition this is and we all want to get behind Wales, so I've decided to break with tradition on this occasion and fly the flag for Wales in Downing Street on Saturday."

We have had ours flying at home for weeks:)

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 »

People in Stony Stratford, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, have spent the week withdrawing their maximum allowance of books in protest against council plans to close it as part of budget cuts. And they said the plan had been a success, with all 16,000 books withdrawn from the library.

Friends of Stony Stratford Library (FOSSL) used Facebook to rally residents when Council budget cuts threatened the closure of their local library.

The Stony Stratford Council wrote to 6,000 townspeople in December, telling them that while the threat of closure was only a threat, it was time to prove how crucial the library was to the community. So then began the Facebook campaign to prove the point. Locals rallied behind the campaign and at the peak of the protest the group calculate  that books were being checked out at a rate of around 378 per hour.

According to the Guardian, the last few books lent out were self-help books and practical mechanics books. But all were checked out, and now all the library staff have to do is dust the shelves.

One of the locals summed up the value of a local library when he said, “The library is the one place where you find five-year-olds and 90-year-olds together, and it’s where young people learn to be proper citizens.”

Stony Stratford’s previous claim to fame is originating the expression “a cock and bull story, from the name of the local pub “The Cock & Bull”.  However it has been suggested that maybe now they can coin a new expression for community efforts. “Shelf clearing”? “The community got together for a shelf clearing to protest the closure of the local nature walk. Locals say that officials are giving them a cock and bull story about litter on the trail.” Maybe? Maybe not. But the sight of an empty library because it’s thriving rather than closing is pretty inspiring.

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 »

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 »

It was announced this afternoon that the new British coalition government were axing or suspending a range of projects agreed to by the Labour government since January 2010. They include a range of building and roading projects (including a new hospital), two major projects which will effect Sheffield jobs and cuts across a number of research fields. The indication is, with a major budget deficit (the interest on loans alone is over £60billion per annum) that these are just the first of many cuts. Britain has its first budget under the new government next Tuesday and schools are holding their breath to see what that brings. Rt Hon Michael Grove, new Secretary of State for Education seemed to indicate at the National College conference today that the sector should expect “bad news”, but that the government was commited to front-line services. We will know more about what that means on Tuesday.


Stonehenge Visitor Centre: £25m Plans aimed to improve the setting of the prehistoric monument, with a new centre located further from the stones, the nearby A344 closed and a new transport system to drop visitors off.

Local Authority Leader Boards £16m Created in the last weeks of the Labour government to replace regional assemblies, made up of English council leaders with powers over areas like transport and housing. The government says their powers will be given to councils.

Sheffield Forgemasters International Limited: £80m The Labour government had extended the engineering firm an £80m loan for a 15,000 tonne press to supply specialist components for the nuclear industry. 

Rollout of the Future Jobs Fund: £290m A fund to support job creation for young people who were long-term unemployed which aimed to create 150,000 jobs. Councils, charities and social enterprises were encouraged to bid for a share of the money.

Six month offer recruitment subsidies: £30m For people on Jobseekers Allowance for six months – it included new short-term training places, recruitment subsidies for firms employing them and more support for people to start up a business.

Extension of Young Person’s Guarantee to 2011/12: £450m The scheme aimed to provide work or training places, mainly for 18 to 24-year-olds who had been out of work for six months – some linked to the Future Jobs Fund.

Two year Jobseeker’s Guarantee: £515m Aimed at giving jobseekers a guaranteed offer of a job, internship, volunteering placement or work experience after two years of being out of work.

Active Challenge Routes – Walk England: £2m Department of Health project to map walking routes and promote them on an interactive website so people can record their fitness.

County Sports Partnerships: £6m Aimed at helping people access and benefit from sport – 49 across England. They also make sure local facilities are being put to best use.

North Tees and Hartlepool hospital: £450m New hospital at Wynyard Park, on Teesside to replace existing hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees.

Local Authority Business Growth Initiative: £50m Aimed at encouraging councils to help local businesses grow by rewarding them with a grant that was not ringfenced.

Outukumpu: £13m Project to buy and develop a Sheffield site into an industrial park.

A14 road: £1.1bn

There had been plans to widen the road between Cambridge and Huntingdon to six lanes.

Libraries Modernisation Programme: £12m Plan to reverse decline in library usage, to offer flexible opening hours, free internet access and entitlement to membership from birth. Film centre loses government cash

Sheffield Retail Quarter: £12mRetail and leisure development in central Sheffield consisting of about 100 new shops and 200 apartments.

Kent Thameside Strategic Transport Programme: £23m Improving road junctions and bus transit schemes on the A2 to accompany major residential housing and commercial office development.

University Enterprise Capital Fund: £25m Funding to help university departments translate ideas into commercial ventures.

Newton Scholarships: £25m Initiative to identify, assist and retain 100 of the best research students at UK universities.

Health Research Support Initiative: £73m Service to help medical researchers understand trends in patient data to support clinical trials and other studies.

Leeds Holt Park Well-being Centre: £50m Plan for a “community hub” in Leeds including a new swimming pool and learner pool, meeting areas, a community café, activity rooms and consulting rooms.

Birmingham Magistrates Court: £94m Proposal to build a state-of-the-art new court building in the centre of Birmingham.

Successor Deterrent Extension to Concept Phase Long Lead Items: £66m Purchase of hardware for design phase of successor to Trident nuclear missile system – to be reviewed as part of the broader Trident “value for money” review.

Search and Rescue Helicopters: £4.6bn Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funded deal for a new generation of search and rescue helicopters to be jointly operated by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Transport. They will be reviewed “as a matter of urgency”.

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 »

Driving around Essex this week we began to wonder if the new Conservative coalition in Britain was taking open government a bit far, but in fact this sign is for the Kelvendon Hatch Nuclear bunker, decommissioned in the 1990’s and bought by a local family to turn into a tourist attraction and film set. Great sign though!

Comments No Comments »

Hilary & I went for a lovely walk on Friday evening up to Alexander Palace which sits majestically on the hill overlooking Crouch End. The Palace built in the 1870s has has a chequered history and has suffered from two major fires in its life time. In fact the residents of the Haringey Council area are still paying off the massive overspend caused by repairs after the last fire in 1980.

Dr Who fans might wonder about those scary angels- but none moved whilst we were there!

From the forecourt there is the most amazing view out across London city -check out the panoramic photo on wikipedia shown below

Comments No Comments »

Have spent the past four days staying with a friend in London before heading to Essex and work with colleagues at CORE Education UK. It is been great being back in North London, especially as my arrival coincided with the hottest weather this week with blue skies and 25degrees+ every day. Have managed to juggle NZ work at odd hours of the day and night (thanks to jetlag) and spend time out in the sun during the day. Have been staying in Crouch End, which is in North East London, and which is a fairly high socio-economic area with Range Rovers and Yummy Mummies everywhere. It is reported the home of Bob Dylan and David Tennant, neither of whom I saw at all. The town centre is dominated by a Victorian red-brick Clock Tower (similar to the one in Christchurch) built as a memorial to Henry Reader Williams who fought to keep the green spaces in the borough. I am sure many sitting out in the sun this week would want to thank him for that.

Comments 1 Comment »