Friday, 13 December 2013

Santa comes to College

It seemed a very simple and straightforward suggestion back in early November to have a 'Secret Santa; for Christmas. The idea being that we would all draw a name out of a hat and spend a maximum of £5 on buying that person an anonymous gift.

Then someone had the bright idea that I should dress up as Father Christmas............

I suppose it would have been rude to refuse and run the risk of being called a Humbug !

So, last day of term and the reindeer's safely parked up and armed with my bulging sack of presents I arrived at Tresham College.

Thankfully I had my trusty Fairy and Elf to help give out the presents to all the boys and girls who have worked hard this year.

Everything went really well and I think a lot of fun was had by all and everybody got a present!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Film Reviews - RUSH and Captain Phillips

It is quite rare these days to visit the cinema but actually I actually saw two films in just over a week! First up was RUSH,nothing to do with the Canadian rockers this time. Rush is a 2013 biographical sports drama film directed by Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan about the 1976 Formula One season and the rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. It stars Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda. I'm certainly no F1 fan but nevertheless really enjoyed the film. Definitely need to watch on the big screen to get the most out of the film with the deafening and exhilerating race sequences. Australian actor Chris Hemsworth (Thor) takes the apparent star role as the blond, glamorous English playboy Hunt, driving for McLaren, widely regarded as a maverick risk-taker on the track, routinely pictured with a glass of champagne and two or three stunning females on his arm. The dull and humourless Austrian Lauda, driving for the Ferrari team, is played with wonderful resolve by German actor Daniel Brűhl (Inglourious Basterds). Lauda is everything that Hunt isn't but as the story develops following the horrific crash where Lauda sustains terrible burns to head and face the plot takes an emotional twist. Great entertainment for petrol heads and eco warriors alike! I would give an 8/10. Captain Phillips is a 2013 American action thriller directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. The film is based on the true story of merchant mariner Capt Richard Phillips whose vessel the Maersk Alabama was taken hostage by Somalian pirates in 2009. As you would expect Hanks is immense in the role of the tortured Captain trying to save his ship and then taken as hostage on a lifeboat. However the film also highlights the plight of the Somali fishermen pressganged by local warlords into doing their dirty work. Some extremely tense and gripping scenes guaranteed to have you on the edge of the seat. Maybe the film was 20 minutes too long if being ultra critical ? I would award 7.5/10.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Bradgate Park - Leicester

Not quite the clear and crisp autumnal morning I had hoped for as I made the walk up the steep incline to 'Old John'. Instead a low mist and persistant driving rain was the order of the day. This Folly or Prospect Tower was built in 1784 by the 5th Earl of Stamford. The circular stone tower replaced a former wooden windmill (which had been made unsafe in an earlier storm) and stands on Bradgate’s tallest hill and one of Leicestershire’s highest points – some 690 feet above sea level. Lord Stamford and his guests would have used the Folly to watch his horses gallop around the racecourse laid out at the base of the Hill. By 1792 an archway was attached to the Tower and the legend of Old John Tower’s beer mug outline was born. Bradgate is Leicestershires largest Country Park and most popular visitor attraction, extending to some 830 acres and welcoming 900,000 visitors every year. Steeped in History, the Park was the birthplace and early home of Lady Jane Grey - 9 days Queen of England. Fully refreshed after a toasted tea-cake, bacon roll and a large slice of coffee and walnut cake I set off for a spot of deer stalking. Bradgate Park’s red and fallow deer are some of the finest herds of parkland deer in the country. The average number of deer kept at Bradgate is some 370 – there are slightly more fallow than red deer. Other notable features of the Park include the Ruins of Bradgate House – a Tudor mansion (built in the early 16th century) and which was the birthplace and early home of Lady Jane Grey (9 days Queen of England in 1553) It was a real mixture of weather and between the showers the sun made an appearance and it was quite humid and sultry. It all made for some interesting photography conditions. Before leaving for home there was just enough time to audition for the role of the next Doctor Who.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Temperance Movement - Leicester Academy

Have to admit I didn't know too much in advance about The Temperance Movement. Not to be confused of course with The Temperance Seven who are something entirely different. Thanks to Planet Rock I was at least familiar with the two singles released from their self titled debut album; 'Only Friend & 'Midnight Black'. However before TTM there were support acts to be enjoyed. The first came in the form of Samuel Taylor. A young singer songwriter playing acoustic guitar and harmonica. He was pleasant enough on the ear without being over memorable in truth. The same cannot be said for the next band 'The Graveltones' who hit the stage all guns firing. The Aussie duo certainly created some noise for just a two piece band. Very reminiscent of 'The White Stripes' they made a big impression on the crowd for sure. The drummer 'Mikey' was actually playing 4 drumsticks at once. He was hitting the drums so hard the hi hats collapsed in submission at one stage. Formed in 2011 TTM are are 100% real Rock - nothing slick, nothing corporate about them. They have a genuineness that goes back to The Stones, Free, then more latterly The Black Crowes. If you like rock music with a good balance of light & shade, bluesy sound, catchy guitar riffs, terrific gritty vocals, and a few killer ballads, then 'The Temperance Movement' should be right up your street. Those gritty vocals mentioned above are readily provided by Glaswegian Phil Campbell. Something like a young Joe Cocker meeting Paul Rogers (Free/Bad Company) he is a real livewire on stage. My overwhelming feeling is that this tour is just a stepping stone for much bigger things to come for this band.

 Full Set List
  •  Midnight Black
  • Be Lucky
  • Smouldering
  • Chinese Lanterns
  • Only Friend
  • Lovers & Fighters
  • Morning Riders
  • Know For Sure
  • Pride 
  • Aint No Telling
  • Take It Back
  • Serenity

Steelbacks Open-top Bus Parade

Hundreds of fans saluted Northamptonshire County Cricket Club’s triumphant players outside the Guildhall. The applause, which never stopped during the 15 minutes they were outside the Guildhall, redoubled as the players, led by T20 Captain Alex Wakely, left the bus and accepted the crowd’s welcome. It has been a tremendous season for Northants, totally against the odds. In head coach David Ripley's first full season in charge, Northants ended their nine-year exile from the County Championship's top flight finishing runner up to Lancashire. The Steelbacks also claimed their first one-day trophy for 21 years by winning the 20/20 final at Edgbaston in August. Unfortunately due to new regulations Northants will be without Australian seamer Trent Copeland next season. The 27-year-old took 45 first-class wickets this season in the championship at an average of 18.26. There's no doubt Trent Copeland made a major contribution early in the season as they made a flying start. In his absence they only won one other game.

Friday, 16 August 2013

154 Bus to Foxton Locks

Spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon at Foxton Locks just past Market Harborough into Leicestershire. The journey there was a not the most comfortable perhaps but certainly a little different! The '154 Northampton Bus' was first delivered to Northampton Corporation Transport in 1947, this Daimler CVG 6 worked on the local bus routes covering 620,790 miles within the town boundary until it was withdrawn from service in 1964. It was then converted and used as a driver training vehicle during the period 1965-1969. After this, 154 saw little use and was eventually de-licensed in 1973. With the advent of the Greyfriars Bus Station in the mid-seventies. However, the 154 was given a further lease of life as a promotional vehicle to distribute information about this new town facility. After this task was over in 1978, the vehicle was simply stored in a shed at the back of the St James bus depot. Gone perhaps, but certainly not forgotten. The 154 Preservation Society was formed in 1990 and, since then, has spent over £10,000 restoring this wonderful vehicle. Having subsequently purchased a 1968 example of the same type of vehicle (JVV 267G), this is now operational after the fitting of a replacement engine. During her many outings during the dry summer months, 154 has travelled as far as Halifax in Yorkshire and has now completed a grand total of over 650,000 miles. Foxton Locks is the largest flight of staircase locks on the English canal system with two 'staircases' of five locks. They are located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal.Staircase locks are used where a canal needs to climb a steep hill, and consist of a group of locks where each lock opens directly into the next, that is, where the bottom gates of one lock form the top gates of the next. That is how I understand it anyway. Building work on the locks started in 1810 and was finished 4 years later in 1814. The actual transit should take approximately 45 minutes to one hour to complete; it is made quicker by the fact that the locks are narrow beam and the gates are light. There were several places for the visitor to enjoy fine Ales and decent food too so well worth a visit. Really good trip and a step back in time too - Happy Days!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Weymouth & Portland

The plan had been to spend the night in Dorchester after leaving Bournemouth on the Sunday afternoon. However the place looked a real dive so we carried on into Weymouth, a good decision as it turned out. Having never been to Weymouth before I was unsure what to expect but was really pleasantly surprised. The drive in provides lovely views of the crescent shaped beach and the Georgian esplanade. There is a lovely harbour with plenty of pubs and eating places which were very reasonable too! The picture above shows the view from our hotel window which wasn't a bad one at all. Even better were the clear skies as I was planning a good walk today while Marina was at work. After a hearty breakfast my walk started at 'The Rodwell Trail'. The trail follows the track bed of the old Weymouth to Portland Railway for two and a quarter miles between Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth at Westham Halt to just beyond Wyke Regis Halt at Ferry Bridge. The line closed to Passengers on 2nd March 1952 and finally closed to Freight traffic on 5th April 1965. The trail is a very pleasant walk with some interesting wild flowers to be seen. I particularly liked the flower of the wild chicory pictured below with it's beautiful blue petals. There are no less than four old Railway Stations and Halts all of which have the British Railways Totem name signs proudly displayed on the platforms. The end of the trail took me to the second part of the walk; Chesil Beach in all it's majesty. Chesil from the old English ceosel or cisel, meaning "gravel" or "shingle". The shingle beach is some 18 miles long 200 metres (660 ft) wide and 15 metres (50 ft) high and forms part of what is called 'The Jurassic Coast'. Although today I was just walking the mile and a half to Portland. I say just! It was incredibly hard walking with the wind and spray from the waves and the shingle giving way underfoot with each step. In fact it really knackered my knees which are still recovering at the time of writing. It was like walking in the desert with the end point always just out of reach. The Jurassic coast stretches over a distance of 155 kilometres (96 miles), from Orcombe Point near Exmouth in the West to the Old Harry Rocks on the Isle of Purbeck in the East. It was with some relief that I arrived at Chesil Cove a haven for scuba divers because of the shallow waters. Tempting as it was to stumble into a local tavern for a well earned pint I did carry on. I would really have liked to have seen Portland Bill , whoever he is? I saw a sign directing me to the West Weares coastal footpath and it was too tempting to resist. It was one steep climb to the cliff top but the views looking back at the beach were stunning! The West Weares are littered with the debris of old quarries which were used for centuries for the supply of Portland stone. Unforunately the coastal path was closed due to a landfall earlier in the year which I was quietly pleased with as Portland Bill was still another 3 miles away. Additionally there was some wonderful insect life to be seen including, several Burnett Six Spot Moth (above, a Chalkhill Blue and a Marbled White Butterfly. After my descent back down to sea level it was time for that well earned pint, a pint of Dorset Brewing Co's Jurassic Ale, how very appropriate. There was just time to pop back to Weymouth for a spot of lunch before journeying back home. Really enjoyed it down in Weymouth and will certainly be back again before too long.