Friday, August 31, 2007

Is that really what you mean?

I was recently looking for the services of a tree surgeon when I saw this advert on a forum at work for recommended services:

"Call Brian for all your tree felling and cutting needs! My prices are very fair and my service is hassle free. I am also a registered waist handler so no worries with the new legislation. Fully qualified and insured."

This made me laugh. In fact I was having a drink at the time and I nearly sprayed a large area of my desk. Personally I didn't know this type of service existed let alone that you could get a qualification in it! I wonder what the training involves? I am deeply reassured that he has insurance. If he tries handling my waist he might need it!

Don't you just love the English language? So many words with more than one meaning, or that when spoken sound the same but mean something completely different. As in this case. LOL! I was wondering if there were similar examples in other languages?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Time for Battle

The Festival of History that I recently graced with my presence was a massive event covering history in the Britain from the Roman invasion up to World War II. There were live re-enactment groups there which spanned this period and I watched Romans marching around the site, planes from WWI have a dog fight (see the post below), people from every age acting out 'living history' and practising traditional skills, including weaving, woodwork, armoury and cooking. There were also a number of battles and I captured one between the Vikings and Normans.

Now for the history bit so pay attention! The Vikings, also called Norsemen or Northmen were Scandinavian seafaring traders and warriors who raided and colonised wide areas of Europe from the 9th to the 11th century including Britain. It is known from the old Sagas that Leif Eriksson, who was a descendant from a line of Viking chieftains and established the first European settlement in Greenland in about 985, was most likely the European discoverer of America around the year 1000. The name Viking meant a man from the area that was known as the Vik, which was a bay between Norway and Sweden. However, the term Viking was not recorded until 1840 and only came into use in modern historical writings.

The Normans were a people from medieval northern France, who originated from Scandinavia and the name is adapted from the name 'Northmen'. They played a major political, military and cultural role in the northern and Mediterranean parts of medieval Europe and the Near East, with the colonisation of Normandy (in France) which they gave their name to, the Norman Conquest of England and the establishment of states in Sicily and Southern Italy and the Crusades.

I have always been quite drawn to this period in history and I have since discovered that my heritage is from Norhtern Europe and that my lineage can be traced back to the Vikings. It might expalin my interest in historical martial arts too, LOL!

These two sides met on the battlefield and fought valiantly but in the end the Vikings won this battle. I enjoyed watching them and there were so many people taking part that it really did look like armies meeting to fight each other. As you cna see form the photos there were even mounted nobles to command the troops. I took many shots during the action and have put together a little slideshow for you to watch. I hope you enjoy it and let me know if you prefer this approach or simply posting the pictures.

Friday, August 24, 2007

WWI dog fight!

I am lucky to live in a country that has a very rich and long history. It is so long in fact, that much of it has passed into myth and legend such as the tales of King Arthur. Despite this heritage, many people in the UK don't appreciate our heritage today and that makes me sad. History teaches us not to make the same mistakes twice, it gives us a link to the past and to our ancestors. It links us to the land that we call home. That is why I love events like the Festival of History that I went to recently. This is a massive multi-period event with live action re-enactments of battles, trading stalls, living history villages showing traditional skills and ways of living and lots of other events. One of the most impressive sights was a recreation of a World War I dog fight.

The group responsible for this are called 'The Great War Display Team' and they were incredible to watch. On the day that I was there they staged a WWI dog fight with nine planes taking part. I had my camera with me so I did my best to take photo's as they flew past and I have also done my best to identify the planes. The photo above is of a British RAF SE5 bi-plane showing the emblem of the Royal Flying Corps which later merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the RAF. The plane in the photo below is of a German Junker CL1 which was introduced right at the end of the Great War. It had two cockpits, the rear one being for a gunner, which was a dummy for this display.

It was an incredible sight to watch these planes perform and they all flew under 1000 ft so that the crowd could easily watch them as they turned, dived and performed their aerobatic display. Two things struck me. The first was that these planes are so slow compared to modern planes. Engineering has come a long way. The second was how maneuverable they were with some of the planes seeming to turn on a wing tip. I loved the heavy thrum of the engines too, so unlike the loud wall of noise that hits your ears with modern jets.

The aircraft danced in the air while a very amusing commentary played out for the spectators. It took the form of an interview with some British pilots who were reliving memories of dog fights with flying aces such as the famous Baron Von Richthofen also known as the 'Red Baron'. British flying ace Albert Ball battled with the Red Baron and when he died in combat he had 44 victories. The plane in the photo below is a Sopwith tri-plane which was flown by the British.

The plane in the photo below is a Nieuport 17 which was a French aircraft. This is the type of plane that would have been flown by the 'Lafayette Escadrille' as shown by the Squadron insignia (The Indian Brave) on the side of the plane and was largely composed of American volunteer pilots. They were recently the subject of a really good film simply called 'Flyboys' which is well worth a watch. (If you look closely you will see the pilot waving to the crowd!)

At the start of the Great War, aeroplanes were used for reconnaissance flights only to observe the movements of the enemy. Soon the pilots saw the merit in being armed and started to carry rifles, revolvers and other weapons so that they could attack enemy aircraft and troops on the ground. Later, larger guns were mounted on the planes themselves and this signified the birth of air fighting which is the WWI equivalent to the medieval duel. Often flying Aces would duel in the skies with each other and would often know each other by reputation.

This last photo was taken at the end of the display when the planes that had been 'hit' released smoke canisters. The top plane in the photo is of a Fokker dr1.

The display was an incredible sight and the whole crowd were stood with their heads tilted to the skies to watch those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. I have more photos from the Festival and will post about a Viking v Norman battle soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I recently went to the Festival of History which was held at Kelmarsh in Northamptonshire. This was an immense multi-period re-enactment event organised by English Heritage who are an organisation that promote and conserve historical sites, buildings and monuments and also play a role in educating so that the past is understood.

At this event there was everything there from the Romans, through the Vikings, Normans, Civil War through to the First and Second World Wars. There were re-enactments, living history villages and of course stalls selling period goods and crafts.

Regulars to Bobkats House will remember that I practice Western Martial Arts or Historical Martial Arts and so I was very happy to find a proper armourer there. He had a small hearth and an anvil set up and was working away in front of a fascinated crowd. While I watched he made a torc bangle and then later a dagger. There is something about a practical man that is good with his hands, especially one that wears an apron! LOL! It turns out that he was from the Czech Republic, a country with a rich history in armoury and his company was Kovex-Ars.

I don't know if it's because I do a desk job but I have a lot of respect for truly skilled craftsmen. I must admit, that I get a lot of satisfaction from doing something practical rather than going to meetings, and being emboiled in organisational politics myself. It is far more easy to be 'in the moment' when you are making something or doing something similar. You focus entirely on the task at hand and when you are done there are very tangible results. You can see what you have achieved. I think that is something I miss in my everday work. My tools are a computer, diary, pen and paper. Other than at appraisal time, it cna be hard to judge how well you are doing.

Anyway, I had my camera with me that day so I couldn't resist taking some pics of the armourer working, and of his stall. I will be posting some more pics from the Festival soon including some of WWI planes that had a staged dog-fight and a battle between the Vikings and Normans. Not something you see every day!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Looking back

A strange feeling came over me last week as I opened an email from 'B' at 'Burnt Offerings'. Why? you might ask, and I shall tell. I have 'bumped' into 'B' several times at Michele's Meet 'n' Greet and it's been nice to say hi. My curiosity was therefore piqued when 'B' sent me an email. On reading I was at once flattered, horrified and surprised. The first because 'B' wanted to know more about me, horrified as this doesn't look like an easy meme to do and surprised as I couldn't think why someone might want to know more. So you could say I felt a bit 'flatter-horri-prised'. Or something.

Anyway, after my initial feelings I am sticking with being flattered that someone wants to learn more and just hope that they aren't disappointed! My main problem with compiling this is that the meme asks you to look through old posts to illustrate certain aspects of your life and I have far from covered many things in my blog. There is far more to me than appears in these virtual pages. As I suspect is true for all of you. Anyway, here goes:

Link One: Family
- I don't write much about my family. There are several reasons for this. When I first started this blog it was as a sort of outlet. I am still not sure for what though. My marriage was breaking down and I was having health problems (due to fibroids which left me anaemic and often in excruciating pain and required anti-hormone therapy (a whole bunch of laughs) and surgery, twice). I didn't write about this though as I think I wanted somewhere where these things weren't. I know it sounds odd. So I never really meant to share personal stuff, just bits and bobs from my life and then photographs from day trips and holidays and other stuff. However, as I started to make some blog friends I opened up more.

I thought I would link back to the post where my family were affected by the recent flooding in the UK and my mother was in hospital again due to her recent problems with her back and legs which can be viewed
here. Mum is till having problems but she has now seen the specialist who has recommended various treatments. We are awaiting them to be given the go ahead. Fingers crossed as it sounds like this might truly help her if she isn't turned down.

Link Two: Friends
- This one is especially difficult as I do not write about my friends. However, I have made several blog friends. You know who you are :) I have even started to exchange emails with a couple and it is always a thrill to find an email from them. So the post I will link back to is my last birthday where I had a virtual party and my blog friends bought me virtual presents (some of which I must still post about as they were all wonderful!). You can relive the party experience here.

Link Three: Yourself
- I went back to a post I did last year for this one. I chose this one as it says a lot about me. I had just been for a weekend away in Plymouth, which is the city where I went to university and also lived for a few years afterwards. I loved living there. The post also says something about my sense of humour and my outlook on life. Lastly the place featured in the post was always one of my favourite places to visit when I lived down there. You can read about it here.

Link Four: Something I Love - I borrowed his name for my blog and he has been my constant companion for 16 years. I adopted him while I still lived in Plymouth and at first he wasn't sure he wanted to live with me. He had been stray and I suspect he had been mistreated too. After several hours he made up his mind and he came to sit with me. We looked at each other and an understanding passed between us. Ever since then he has followed me around like a puppy and is the best cat ever! You can read about one way he 'helps' me here and the photo is a nice one of him.

Link Five: Anything at All
- I love to travel. I have a very long list of places I want to go and I suspect that I will never have time to see them all. Last year I went to somewhere I have wanted to visit for a looooong time. It is probably the most recognisable place on earth due to it being in so many films. I has been a scene of great tragedy, and is a huge melting pot of cultures. It is New York. I must go back sometime but you can view a post I wrote about it here. Have a look as I was really pleased with the photos!

So there you have it. It was quite a challenge putting this together but it was also enjoyable to look through past posts. Kind of like looking through an old diary or photo album. I am supposed to tag five people with this meme but I generally don't do tags. So if you fancy doing it, go ahead and then let me know and I will pop on over for a look.

Update: I was absolutely thrilled and flattered to find that Michele had made me her site of the day. It made me smile which is not a bad way to start the day! She also said some terribly nice things about me so thank you for the compliment. If you have been sent here by Michele then thank you for taking the time to visit. Do please feel free to look around my blog. You'll find various things including random thoughts, things that are going on in my life and photographs I have taken on days out and on trips. If you haven't been sent here by Michele then let me return her compliment. Go and see Michele. She is talented and witty and her site is a wonderful place to meet other Bloggers. You'll find her link at the top of this post or in my side bar. Thanks!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's a matter of perspective

It's been one heck of a week. I got back from my residential course with the Open University mid week and then it was straight back to work. Boy was I bushed though. These courses are always hard work and incredibly intensive. Still when I got back Bob the cat was pleased to see me. He sat on the sofa and headbutted me lots, purring like some sort of pneumatic drill and then demanded to be fed before throwing up a fur ball. Yep, you don't always get a welcome as fine as that!

I returned from my Masters' residential with several things:
  • The tired look of someone who had been stuck in a room to brainstorm, mind map, deconstruct and analyse and reflect
  • A suitcase of dirty washing
  • Several flip charts covered in Post-It notes
  • The rest of the free toiletries from the bathroom
  • A blister on my foot where my shoes had been rubbing
  • A moment of clarity
The last one is the most important and was as a result of all the brainstorming and mind mapping and caused the tired pallor.

When you are involved in distance learning it can be a lonely experience. It's just you, a pile of books and a computer. Sure you get the occasional tutorial but never often enough to really bond with the tutor or the other students, and once you start a new module it's all change. That is why the residential courses are good. They are intensive but they cocoon you in a learning experience away from other distractions, like work and chores for the time you are there.

The course really helped me sort out my final project. It went from being a big messy heap of issues in my head to being a scoped and bounded problem that could be investigated further. All the key issues were teased out and stakeholders identified. We looked at the issues from the perspectives of different functional stakeholders to identify where tensions might exist. Uncertainties and ambiguities were highlighted for further exploration and research.

It's amazing when you work with others and they bring a whole new perspective to something, and with it a clarity that was proving elusive. All of a sudden you can see the wood that is made up from all the trees. What is more, you get the chance to help others sort out their issues in the same way.

This is something that isn't just the preserve of business studies though. It is true, that a problem shared is a problem halved. If you discuss something with someone then they can often see something from a different perspective as they are not in the middle of all the tangled mess of stuff in your head. I had more than one 'Road to Damascus' moment in the last few days and not all of them were 'in session'. Some were in discussions in the bar afterwards. Sometimes it's nice to know you're not the only one who has been struggling with a concept, dropped behind in their reading or is finding it hard to fit everything in. It's easy to feel alone when you're studying via distance learning. The residential course provides an opportunity to show that there are plenty of others in the same boat. It's reassuring.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's a developmental thing...

I am on the final course that makes up my MBA (Masters in Business Administration), Yay! I finish next May and it will be the culmination of 5 years study which I have undertaken whilst still working. I won't lie. It has been hard work and not just in terms of doing the actual work, but also in planning in the study time around work and trying to have a life and all those other things that demand our attention on a daily or weekly basis.

I am studying with the Open University which bases the majority of it's courses around programmes of distance learning with tutor support and residential schools. I am currently in a hotel near Oxford, participating in one of these. It's basically a guided group learning experience where the knowledge and experience that the other students have are a key resource. It's intensive, hard work, and incredibly rewarding (if you gel with your group) and fun! Oh yes, the days may be long (12.5 hours) but there is a social element too.

So far I have braved the peculiarities of the British train timetables, survived the convivial talk of the taxi driver who knows a captive audience when he sees one and even sallied my spirits at being put in the brown group in stead of the ones with much prettier colour badges. I am even smiling at having to walk around with a name badge on, but that might be because of tiredness and the well earned glass of wine I am currently enjoying! I have sat through two PowerPoint presentations and contributed with many Post-it notes to one group activity as well as introducing myself through the medium of art! Tomorrow it is my turn to present my work problem for the group to dissect and this will eventually contribute to my final project. Wish me luck.

Internet access is limited so I won't be able to visit until I get back home mid week. I feel I might need some recovery time once this is over! I will post again soon too, and let you know how this goes, I also have a meme to do as, some pics from an airshow to share and a Festival of History to post about that I went to at the weekend and had a fabulous time. I figured I was owed a day to enjoy myself before this residential course! Back soon :)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Busy Bee!

Things are still hectic in my world as I attempt the world record for multi-tasking. I'm seeing just how many things you can juggle before you end up with a big old mess of stuff going on!

Blogging is having to take a bit more of a back seat for a short time so apologies if I don't get round to dropping by as often as I'd like to. This is the state of play in my world at the moment:

  • My MBA essay is taking far more time than I hoped. It is a tricky one for me as it is based on my role at work which I have only been in for a few weeks.
  • My new role is just that - brand new, pretty unbounded and I also started it in the middle of a big change programme that is going on.
  • I am playing catch up at work whilst trying to help establish the new team I'm in and do some work.
  • Did I mention that one of out team members is off sick so I have extra duties?
  • The house is a total mess and how come the washing basket is always full?
  • Why does the grass keep growing???
  • I am off on a residential course for 3 days next week and need to get some things out of the way before I go.
  • There hasn't really been any news about my mother. She is still pretty much the same. Still waiting for the specialist...
  • Two of my friends have recently been plagued by blog trolls and upset by them. Funny how they are always anonymous...
  • I haven't had time to go anywhere and take any photos for awhile now :(
  • Divorce stuff still going on.
  • Need to go to the docs as there's something not quite right.
  • Did I mention that my house needs cleaning?
  • I'm feeling just an ickle wee bit stressed.
  • I caught my fave T-shirt on a door jam and it ripped :(
  • I need a glass of wine right now! Make it a large one!
  • Hope you like the little clip I'm leaving you with right now. It's kind of a teaser to get you warmed up for a post or two I want to do on the airshow I went to awhile back! The sentiment is straight from the heart though! :)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Crazy cats!

It appears that at some point in my existence I have been very very very bad indeed. I am sooo busy! Work is very hectic at the moment where I feel I am simultaneously herding cats, juggling soot and pushing jelly (jello) up a hill with a pointy stick! So much to do, so few hands, too few hours in the day! Despite the apparent lack of hours the days have been long which of course has compressed time to do other things...

At home, the house point blank refuses to stay tidy and clean itself, the grass has the temerity to keep on growing and I have the most boring essay in the world to finish for my course which I am having a bit of trouble with. So, I must have been very bad at some point as we all know there is no rest for the wicked! LOL!

The upshot is that I have got stuff to share with you but no time to do it justice. I have loads of pics from the airshow still to show you and some from a re-enactment I went to a while ago too. But for now I am going to go and start on my long list of things to do and write my essay so I am leaving you with the video below. Anyone who owns a cat knows that they can be loving, sweet and funny. I have a cat called Bob and my cat has done some crazy things in the 16 years I have had him, (but thankfully he hasn't done anything as silly as some of these cats). Enjoy! :)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Good news!

Good news!

My parents and other family members who live in Gloucestershire got running water back yesterday! Yay! It came with a stern message from the water company though which read kind of like a set of water commandments, (though it was sensible advice) and lead me to have a Monty Python Life of Brian' type moment:

Severn Trent Water said let there be water, so that it may flow freely from the taps and put an end to the misery of thousands. And eventually there was water and the water company spake thus:

Thou shalt not drink the water less it make you poorly
Thou shalt not use the water for cooking food, nor for the preparation of food including the vegetables that grow below the ground and above and the fruit from the trees
Thou shalt not make ice with the water
Thou shalt not clean thine teeth with it, as it is not pure in our eyes
The washing of bodily parts and clothing and the flushing of toilets is permitted.

The water company saw that this was good and they congratulated themselves on their endeavours.

But the people cried up to Severn Trent Water and said, how come, during our suffering you reported record profits for shareholders?

I can't help wondering if this dire warning was more to protect themselves against court action, should someone fall ill rather than through a desire to protect the people. The area had been without water for 11 days in total and they were relieved to get it back but the fact that the company released their profit news at that time sends a very clear message about who their real concern was.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm doing my Business Masters Degree and I understand that private companies rely on their shareholders for survival. I also understand that they would have been concerned about their share price dropping and so took the measure of reassuring their investors by releasing profit news. However, I am also a human being, and I can't help thinking that such a release seemed a little bit like rubbing salt into a big wound. I know many of those without water did not find the news amusing or comforting, especially seeing as the water company had been asked by the Government to mitigate against the chance of extreme flooding approximately 7 years ago. I guess they had chosen not to in case the shareholders got upset at the expenditure over a risk that seemed so slight.

Water companies are crucial to modern life, perhaps more than others. We rely heavily on clean fresh water and we are lucky to have it. However, to me this means that these company's perhaps should observe Corportate Social Responsibility more than other companies and they need to look after the people that are paying for the service as much as those who are funding the company.