Monday, 15 January 2018

I've had a letter published in the Guardian - here is a link to the page or you can read it below.

In view of the appalling revelations that the UK has been shipping vast quantities of plastic to China for many years, would it not be a good idea to have the UK lead once more in something and have genuine recycling plants set up here in the country? I mean genuine plants to process plastic from the UK and the rest of Europe, not just depots for onward reselling as seems to have been the case.

There are initiatives to use such waste plastic in innovative ways. For example there is a small startup company in Scotland, MacRebur, developing ways to reduce the amount of toxic bitumen in asphalt by substituting a proportion of waste plastic into the mix. Surely we should urge government and private industry to build and develop plants to deal with the problem now, before we are knee-deep in bottles?

Thursday, 20 October 2016

New Triumph Bonneville 'Bobber' - first look

Just seen the latest Triumph. Really classic looks, I'm seriously thinking of  getting one of these/

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Beethoven's Birthday Doodle from Google 17/12/2015

December 17th - Beethoven's birthday. Google's landing page for their search page featured a brilliant Doodle today. A search afterwards will probably bring it up to play again. It consists of putting together some of the composer's greatest openings. Fur Elise, the 5th etc.
Great fun, more please Google.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Getting up to band 7 or more at IELTS - 1 of 4 - Listening

Here's something I've been working on recently. A set of hints and tips for each of the four skills included in the IELTS test. The first skill is listening.

Overview The listening component of the IELTS test is divided into four sections. The time allowed is roughly 30 minutes, followed by 10 minutes to transfer your answers to a machine readable sheet. It is worth knowing that questions and answers follow the same order as the listening. You will only hear the recording ONCE.

Questions may be any of the following formats. Multiple choice, matching, labelling a plan, map or diagram, completing forms, notes, tables of information, flow charts, and summaries. Other question types include sentence completion, where you are allowed only a certain number of words and/or a number. Always read the ‘rules’ of the question carefully sometimes the number of words varies. It can be one, two, three or four words, though usually it is three. The speakers can be from any of the countries which use English as a major official language, this includes The UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. All the speakers talk clearly and do not have strong accents, however, it would be a good idea to make yourself familiar with a variety of accents. You can practise listening by watching or listening to the BBC or CNN news. Movies are not normally as good as the language tends to be less formal, but some are useful to practise listening skills. From time to time throughout the recording you will hear phrases like “You now have 30 seconds to check your answers.” It is probably better use of the time to read the questions more thoroughly and try and predict what type of word the answer will require.

  Part 1 This section, along with part 2, deals with every day or social situations. There will be two speakers in part 1, there will be a conversation, perhaps about arranging a party or similar. It will be fairly basic and not too fast, a good place to get easy marks. Always remember that the questions are asked in the same order as you hear the conversation. If you hear the answer to a later question, move on, you have missed the information.

  Part 2 There is only one speaker in this part. The person will give information connected to an everyday or social occasion. This could be a short talk about a subject like facilities at a library, or on how to buy a monthly rail ticket. This part is also fairly easy as you do not have to distinguish multiple speakers. If you lose the flow of the conversation you should look ahead in the questions to find a question you can listen for the answer to. Sometimes you will need to do some simple maths to properly answer a question. For example, you might hear: “About 1,000,000 cars are stolen annually in the UK. Only about 25% of these vehicles are ever re-united with their owners.” The question might ask: How many cars are returned to their owners each year after being stolen in the UK?” _____________ If you wrote 25% that would be marked as incorrect, the right response is 250,000. The question asks for a number not a percentage.

  Part 3 This part is set against an academic or training background and is between multiple speakers. Usually something like two students guided by a tutor or supervisor. It can be quite difficult to recognise who is speaking if all the speakers are male or all female. Sometimes the question asks you to say who agrees with a particular suggestion or similar. If you are having problems deciding who is speaking listen for clues at the handover times. This is when one speaker is passing the turn to speak to another. You will hear phrases like. “What do you think John?” Obviously, John will speak next. Or, “I don’t know what it’s like; Mary’s been there, tell us what you thought Mary?” Again, the next voice should be Mary. Sometimes the clue is in the next speaker’s first phrase. For example, a new speaker might thank or otherwise acknowledge the person who has just finished talking. “Oh, that’s useful Peter, good to know, thank you.” In this case the previous speaker’s name was Peter. The conversations tend to be orderly and polite so are not very difficult to keep track of. As spoken English is much less formal than written English you may hear contractions, such as “I’ll be there, but Bob won’t be able to get there on time.” Make sure you are familiar with the sounds of these common contractions.

  Part 4 The final section is, by far, the longest listening and is usually a university lecturer or other formal speaker talking about an academic subject. It is important to remember that, even if you know the topic very well, you should not bring in any outside information to inform your answer. Base your answer only on the material you hear. Prediction is a very useful skill for this section, look at gaps and choices and think about what class of word is needed from a grammatical and logical point of view. As an example look at the following summary which needs to be completed from a listening. Predict what type of information needs to be given. You can see that question 1 requires a number, question 2 needs a place name, most likely in Europe. Number 3 would be a number. The final question requires a noun or noun phrase.

  Tips and advice From time to time a speaker ‘changes’ information you have been given. You may be listening for the nationality of someone who has been mentioned and the speaker says “She’s from America.” Just as you are writing down “the USA” or “American”, the speaker realises he has made a mistake and corrects himself. “Oh! I’m wrong, she’s actually from Canada.” As the answers are written on a machine readable form be especially sure you are writing the answers next to the appropriate box number. Be VERY careful when doing this as the machine will only mark what you write in a certain box, it cannot notice that you have missed a line. Therefore, if you make a mistake in the first few lines then everything after that line will be incorrect.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Is this the Cutest dog you've ever seen?

Now, I'm not a dog person, but this little fellow, whose name is Bruno, could change my mind. I was teaching people to become TEFL teachers this weekend and one of my students, who lives in Filey on the Yorkshire coast, mentioned that his family breed dogs. I looked at their website because I had not heard of the breed before. They are Prague Ratters, or Prazsky Krysarik. 
My youngest daughter loves dogs and I casually asked how much a cutie like this would cost. The answer means that my daughter will be disappointed as they cost a minimum of £1000.00. So, a cat or a rabbit it is then until we win the lottery!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Sakura in York

A friend wrote a Haiku on her FaceBook wall after seeing the Sakura in Toronto. It inspired me to write one of my own.

Spring blossom petals

In profligate abundance

Earthwards drift as pastel snow

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

York to Cork and back again

It began one Friday afternoon. I was just thinking about my schedule for the following week, which I needed to send out to some online students in order for them to book some slots with me the following week, when the phone rang. It was the company I do TEFL teacher training for. I usually teach once a month for 20 hours in Hull, East Yorkshire. This month I’d been lucky and had spent the previous weekend delivering the course in Liverpool. This was because the teacher for Norwich was ill and it was easier for the Liverpool teacher to cover Norwich and for me to teach in Liverpool. Now I was asked if I would like to teach in Cork, Southern Ireland.

It has been more than thirty years since I was last in Ireland. That visit was pretty swift too. I was competing in the Circuit of Ireland International Rally. Cork was the venue for a service halt in the middle of the night before moving on to Killarney the next day. It being so long since I’d last been there that I jumped at the chance.

The problem was which UK airport to travel from. It was Friday afternoon and the last weekend before St. Patrick’s Day was about to begin. Flights were fairly full and the few seats available were being offered at an extortionate price. We eventually settled on a flight from Manchester as being both doable in terms of timing and price. Still, it was a hefty £386.00 return. A few months earlier I had taken all four people in my family all the way to Switzerland and back for a hundred pounds less.

Logistically I had to stay three nights in Cork. The high cost of the flight was negated somewhat by the really rather reasonable price for the hotel. As I indicated earlier, the previous weekend I’d stayed in a hotel in Liverpool for one night. This had cost an eye-watering 169 pounds. Curiously, for the Cork hotel was operated by the same chain and the rooms were perfect clones of each other, the Irish hotel cost only 210 Euros for the entire three night stay. I’m sure there must be some sort of Adam Smith-inspired economic algorithm to explain these flight and hotel cost differentials, but it escapes me.

My group of aspiring TEFL teachers were the usual mixed bag of young and old, native speaker and non-native English speakers. They all had hopes and dreams of TEFL somehow taking them from whatever they were doing to somewhere a little more exotic or a little more affordable or just a tad different. I was there to equip them with the confidence and the basis of a teacher’s toolkit to enable them to make the leap towards their individual goals. I regaled them with stories of travel and memorable lessons intertwined with nuggets of good practice and ready-made lesson plans. I watched them make their first leap into teaching with micro teaching sessions directed at their new found peers.

All that took us to Sunday evening. Be mindful that St. Patricks Day is now bearing down on Ireland and most people will take the Monday off so as to have at least a four day holiday stretching from Friday evening to Wednesday, or perhaps Thursday morning. My peace and quiet was well and truly shattered by a drunken banshee of a woman complaining to all who would listen that her “feckin key card” would not open the “feckin door”. I was glad of that. It was my door and three-thirty in the morning. I slept fitfully until breakfast and wandered down to eat after speaking to my wife via Skype.

The night before (Sunday) I’d eaten in a very curiously decorated converted market in the centre of Cork. They had chandeliers reputedly of an identical design to those in the White House. I cannot attest to the veracity of that claim, but they looked impressive anyway. The food was the highpoint for me though. I chose bangers and mash as this was on the specials board.  The sausages were sourced from the nearby English Market and were delightfully seasoned. The mash was of just the right consistency and tasted so much better than the dreary varieties of potato we can get in England. The Irish certainly do know their spuds, these were great. Surrounding the mash was a moat of gravy with soft onion and herbs, deep meaty flavour and a superb compliment to the sausages. 

The following day I returned for lunch as my teaching course was over and I had some hours to fill before my flight. This time I chose the gourmet burger with chunky chips. Once more the superior tasting Irish spuds worked their magic. The burger was indeed a gourmet offering and the depth of flavour in the beef, bacon and cheese (all Irish of course) was nothing short of miraculous. I enjoyed both dishes immensely and would love this restaurant to be a little nearer York where I live. York and Cork; only one letter different, but a world away in both value and flavour.

A comment or two on the beers is warranted too. I selected the Midaza stout with both meals. This is an amazing traditional Cork-style stout and well worth seeking out when in Cork. It is a real gem, dark and malty with hints of dark chocolate. Apparently the word means fantastic and so I'll use it for both meals at the Bodega. "Me dinner and me lunch were both midaza, thanks very much".

The full name of this place is the ‘Bodega at St. Peter’s Market’. I can certainly recommend that you enjoy at least one meal here when in Cork.

Monday afternoon darkened towards evening and it was time to get to the airport. I had travelled into Cork by taxi on Friday night but thought the twenty euros charged a bit expensive for the relatively short distance. As the bus station was almost next door to the hotel I had bought a ticket earlier in the day. The journey was comfortable, safe (which I had not felt in the taxi) and not a lot slower than the car. However, I needn't have rushed to the airport, my Aer Lingus flight was delayed by one and a half hours.

Once on board I was further disenchanted with Aer Lingus to discover that there was no fresh food on the aircraft. I was reduced to eating crisps and snacks. Doubly disappointing as I had been looking forward to a chicken and stuffing sandwich at least. I’d also begun to lust after a scone and jam with coffee too. I’d remembered them from the outward flight. This may have been because this was the last flight out of Cork on the night before St. Patrick’s Day. No wonder there were only a few passengers on the plane.

On landing in Manchester I still had a couple of hours on a train before reaching home. I began to write this account of my long weekend. As you can imagine I slept well that night and awoke to St. Patrick’s Day in England. I was peeved to hear that there had been a spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in Ireland, appropriately in bright green, that night. York on the other hand had a fine display of tupperware-shaded clouds.

I hope it's not as long before I visit Ireland again. I'm working up enthusiasm with the family for a trip later this year. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Taking the pain out of referencing in academic writing

I must have written several dozen pieces of academic writing. These range from proposals to conference papers via essays and reports. Not to mention a 15,000 word dissertation.
All of them had one thing in common which I hated because of the time it took to do correctly. That was REFERENCING!!!

They are really tedious to do: and when you are citing lots of sources it is quite stressful too.
Help is at hand. Below is a link to a slideshare presentation that should make things easier. It goes through how to set up and use the referencing tab within Microsoft Word. This really does save you time. Different formats of citations are handled with the flick of a toggle. It handles in text and bibliography citations easily.
A big thank you to the author, Mike Glennon, for this really useful resource.

In praise of Non-Native English Speaking Teachers

I have said for some years now that NNESTs (non native English speaker teachers) are in many ways more suited to teaching English as a foreign language or English as a Lingua Franca than native speakers. NSTs (native speaker teachers) are sometimes burdened with 'too much' English. By that I mean, idioms, exaggerated elision and contraction, question tags, metaphor and all manner of needless extras. None of this is needed in the quickly increasing outer circle users ELF toolkit.

NNESTs are also in a position to empathise with, and perhaps teach better strategies to, others going through the same difficulties as they may have encountered.

So, there is my contribution towards the empowerment of the thousands of great teachers who were not 'lucky' enough to be born under one of a few select flags.

It will come as no surprise to many of you to hear that the highest performing nationality in the TKT test sample from the Cambridge handbook which I have used with close to 200 trainee teachers are not British, American or Australian teachers, but Romanians. Native speakers don't know enough grammar or IPA to perform well in it.   

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Monday, 8 December 2014

Charity at Christmas

Something a little bit different for this post, A guest appearance by my eldest daughter Amanda. This was her homework over the weekend. I think for a 12 year old it is a superb effort. Well done Amanda.

Charity at Christmas

We all love a good gift. No matter how big, small, cheap or expensive it is, we relish the joy of tearing away at the concealing wrapping paper to reveal the prized gift. I remember receiving the book ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and being utterly elated. I’m sure you’ve all received a present with which you were overjoyed. But what about the poor children in Africa? What about the children who might not even make it to Christmas? What about them?

There are 2.2 billion children on Earth, 1 billion of those children live in poverty. That is ridiculous! That number concerns me and it should definitely concern you. Of the 1.9 billion children in the developing world, 1 in 3 has no adequate shelter. 1 in 5 has no clean water, that’s an outrageous 20%. And every seventh child has no access to any healthcare. These statistics have to change.

As well as the unfortunate children in Africa, there are children elsewhere in the world that, sadly, suffer from a terminal illness. Their lives are a constant uncertainty. Today could be one of those children’s last day. One of these terminal illnesses is cancer. For some cancer patients, all they want is hair, some want more time with family, whilst others simply long for a cure.

Imagine you lost both your parents to a disease. Imagine you have no food or clean water. Imagine it’s Christmas and you’re alone. This is what some children have to endure. They want the basic necessities of life, things that all humans should automatically receive. No child should ever have to want something that should be theirs!

Now picture this: you have no hair. You can’t go out with friends. And today could be your last day. How would you feel? I couldn’t be so mentally strong as to live through that. Why ask Santa for jewellery, a new phone or an album from your favourite artist when all you really need is a cure?

Luckily, charities are here to help. So instead of spending your Christmas money on your personal luxuries, why not give it to children who will benefit massively from it? Children who need food, water, shelter or a cure? Why not be charitable this Christmas? I guarantee you’ll make a difference. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

Lies, damned lies and statistics*

I used to joke that 86.67% of statistics were made up on the spot. Well, I cannot help but be reminded of that joke when I look at the leaflet recently posted through my letterbox.

I find it incredible that City of York council had the courage to print this leaflet. Why? 
How can they possibly profess to know how much rubbish York residents produce each week? 
How do they know what percentage of our kitchen waste is recycled in our own gardens? 
How have they calculated a figure with two decimal places (43.63%) for such an uncountable thing? 
I have written to the council to find out how they came up with this figure. 

*The phrase "Lies, damned lies and statistics" is attributed to Mark Twain. He, however, always said it was from Benjamin Disraeli, despite it not appearing in any of Disraeli's works. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I've won a prize.

Just received my prize for winning a British Council competition. I must say I'm very pleased with it. I had originally thought I was only getting the book in the middle of the photo. All the others, plus pens, a DVD, and a bag were a complete surprise. I am particularly looking forward to reading the main prize - "The Edge of the Sky" by Roberto Trotta. It was written in only the 1000 most common words in the English language and it attempts to explain all there is in the Universe. A review coming when I've read it.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Unimaginable space and luxury in the sky.

Ever wondered what is 'upstairs' in a big modern airliner?
Here's a peek upstairs in an Etihad A380. The service will begin in December from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow.

I don't think I'd buy a ticket even if I could afford it. All this space for 2 people for a 7 hour flight. The money that it cost would buy a lot in Africa or Asia. I am slightly sickened to think this could be above me while I'm content with sardine class. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Lurkin' in Larkin's footsteps

I've been teaching a lot recently in Hull. The place has perennially had a reputation as being a sleazy down-at-heel sort of city. I, however, think it's a great place. The tastiest, best value Chinese restaurant in the world. A whole quarter devoted to museums. A world class marina. The list goes on...

Another attraction for me is that it is the place that the poet Philip Larkin chose to live. I have been teaching in the Mercure Hull Royal Hotel which has a Larkin connection. Before being taken over by the Mercure group this hotel was The Royal Station Hotel. Larkin used to take his lunch here sometimes and met several of his Oxford colleagues here over the years. The hotel is one of the few places specifically mentioned in a Larkin poem.

Whilst at the reception last week I asked the receptionist if they still used sheets of letter headed notepaper for guests. She affirmed that they did and passed me two crisp sheets of good quality paper. The reason I had asked was that Larkin mentions "The headed paper" in his poem "Friday Night at the Royal Station Hotel" which I think is a very poignant, if short, example of his work.

On returning home I typed out the poem and printed it on one of the sheets. I think the result was worth framing. Therefore, I will award myself an early Christmas present and get it mounted and framed.

Here is the poem for you to read...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Breaking into the inner sanctum of TEFL teacher training courses.


I've been giving CPD presentations and facilitating workshops for peers and new EFL teachers for many years now. I first passed along some knowledge while working in Thailand in early 2004. So I feel, at this 10 year anniversary time, qualified to comment on teacher training courses. I did a Cambridge CELTA in IH Newcastle in 1999 and followed that up with a CELTYL at the British Council Bangkok in 2005. Since then I've been constantly involved in CPD either for myself or in providing knowledge in my own specialist areas. 

I have delivered input sessions on CELTA courses at the English Language Centre, York and now train prospective EFL teachers in Hull and Manchester. The input sessions are delivered by the same person and contain much the same content. Yet the courses I now teach on are sometimes seen as less 'valuable' by some teachers, and indeed employers. For far too many years the British Council has recognised only Cambridge or Trinity as being capable of delivering introductory, and indeed diploma level, TEFL courses. 

Having now taken two certificate level TEFL courses and one diploma course from Cambridge and another diploma level currently being studied for with Trinity, I can say with some weight of evidence that there are other course of equal 'worth' being taught out there. 

I tend to think there is some snobbery at work and will personally work hard to level the playing field from now on. To this end a colleague and I have seen a gap in the market, and let's be honest it is a market, and we are currently putting together a teaching business English introductory level course for those wishing to embark on a new career, perhaps from a business background. 

I will keep you up to date as we progress with the project. 


Monday, 20 October 2014

Going bananas

As a long-term resident of Thailand during the first 10 years or so of this century I am well used to seeing bananas. My father-in-law has several different varieties in his garden. On my return to the UK I thought it might be fun to see if I can grow a banana or two here in England.

I tried to buy a variety that would live outdoors in the UK perhaps Musa basjoo, however, there were none left at my usual Dutch plant supplier. Then in May I saw some small banana plants in 5" pots for sale in my local branch of Lidl, a German-owned supermarket. I bought two for £5.00 and put them in my conservatory as they were not a hardy variety. After a few days it became obvious that were going to grow at a prodigious rate. I potted them into 12" pots and detached a few pups at the same time. The pups are now the size of the originals and the parents are looking really quite impressive. They were labelled as Musa acuminata 'Tropicana' and appear to be a dwarf Cavendish related strain, at least I hope they are 'dwarf'. The Cavendish is the main banana we eat here in Europe, and indeed North America. I've seen huge plantations of them in The Canary Islands and some of the plants towered above me. Probably no hope of them setting fruit here in York, but you never know.

At the moment they are outdoors enjoying our unseasonally mild autumn weather. I'll bring them in when the temperature consistently drops below about 12 degrees centigrade.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

New TEFL teacher training course in York

I have now taught a TEFL teacher training for about a year in both Hull and Manchester. Now, I have decided to offer one nearer home in conjunction with a colleague. His name is Ben Dobbs and we have taught various courses together at a couple of institutions, most recently at York University for York Associates. We both have our own teaching/training organisations. We offer expertise in complementary areas, so it seemed natural to combine forces and offer a really good introductory TEFL course in York. 

We both began teaching English after attending an introductory course in York, ooh, too many years ago. Sadly this course no longer runs, so we have decided to fill the gap. 
We are hoping to deliver the first course early in the new year.

Get up to date news from either of these sites:


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Bernard's Morning

A piece of creative writing I wrote for my York University course. We were asked to write a piece using trees as a metaphor. 

Bernard's Morning
Bernard bleeped the car locked, pocketed his keys and walked into the wood, the darkness held no fear for him. He’d walked this way many times before. He hoped to reach the high ground just as the sun was rising. He had two miles to go and about 25 minutes to complete the distance. It was early summer now and it was never really dark at this time of year anyway. The eyes adjusted as soon as you left the brightness of the car behind in the car park he had noticed. Bernard was getting old now but he knew he could do the distance by the time dawn glimmered over the high ground beyond the wood. He’d been coming here, to watch the sunrise for 70 years. He did it each year without fail. For more than sixty years now, on the morning of 6th June: D-Day.

It was here, in this particular wood, that he’d done a great deal of training, with number 2 parachute regiment, during the Second World War. He’d grown to trust his comrades during those exercises and knew they trusted him; all gone now. He came to honour those men so needlessly taken, well before their time. There was Jimmy Rice - a budding architect, Peter Thompson – a skilled mechanic, John Rutter – earmarked for great things in the world of law. All wasted on the beaches of Normandy. He tried to remember the names of as many of his old friends as he could. More difficult now as age had eroded chunks of memory away, piece by relentless piece.
After 22 minutes he reached the crest of a small hillock, beyond this lay the bulk of the forest and the view he remembered from all those years ago. He gazed out over a scene of carnage, acres of trees cut down, clear felled. Nothing left but grave-like stumps and snapped minor branches. No trees now, nothing living over one foot tall.
Just then the sun crested the higher ground beyond and revealed the full brutal results of the mechanical timber garnering that had obviously finished only recently. The sharp acrid smell of too much pine resin in the air almost too much for Bernard. He knew the trees as his friends and now they were gone. He caught a glimpse of colour about 40 feet off. It was a lone red poppy. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Father's Day gift - a different kind of strawberry plant

I was invited to the garden centre by my wife and family to buy a plant for Father's Day. No particular thing in mind. Maybe an orchid, perhaps a hardy geranium, or something completely different. Well I didn't see anything different or inspiring in the orchid department. I probably have more different varieties of hardy geraniums than most garden centres already. I've been getting interested in ferns of late. However, once again there was nothing that inspired me.
It was my youngest daughter who spotted some strawberry plants in a hanging basket. The amazing thing was the colour of the flowers. They were pink. The variety is called 'Toscana', I don't know what they taste like yet but they are very decorative when in flower. All the other strawberry varieties I've seen have had white flowers on them, like the wild ancestor has. These were very very striking and I asked if I could have a pot.
Thanks for my Father's Day present. I hope they taste as good as they look.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Roman coins discovered in 2000 year old yew tree

There are several venerable old yew trees in the British Isles. Each one of them has a great many tales to tell I'm sure. However, one old tree, the location of which I shall keep secret, has tales to tell from many hundreds of years ago. The recent stormy weather ripped limbs from many trees and completely downed many hundreds up and down the land.
Our tree fell victim to these winds too and a huge section of its massive central trunk fell away; ripping a huge section off the tree's Eastern flank. On inspection of the damage a horde of silver and gold Roman coins has been discovered.
They were in a lead box and it is thought this had been hidden in the trunk of the tree for many hundreds of years. It is of course not possible to know exactly when they were hidden. However the lead box is inscribed with Roman letters and although crushed over the ages it is possible to read the word 'arbor' - Latin for 'tree'. The local museum has provisionally valued them at "Not less than 4.5 million pounds." They would not be drawn on when the box had been hidden, but do not rule out the possibility that they were hidden there during the Roman occupation of Britain. They await the results of a dendrochronological survey of the tree being carried out by Durham University. The newest coin has been dated at 379 AD so obviously they are all at least 1635 years old and may very well have been in the boughs of the ancient tree since that date.
If all this seems a little too incredible to believe look at the date of this post. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

A change of roles this week

I have been teaching a Thai student intensively for the last month. He needs to get a good score in the IELTS test to enable him to enter a university in the UK. He had a test on Saturday and so today he is having a break from learning English. 
Our purpose built classroom has not been idle though. My wife, who is Thai, has begun teaching Thai and taught her first student today. She will be fine as she trained in Bangkok at the British Council to teach English and was better than some of the native speakers. 
I enjoyed the change, but tomorrow I'm back at the chalk face and my wife doesn't teach again until next Monday. 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

New job as a teacher trainer - well, one weekend a month at first.

Further to my post about about passing on my 15 years plus of English as a foreign language teaching I am pleased to announce that I have been selected.
I will begin by teaching a 20 hour course in Hull once a month.
I'm very pleased to have been selected as the competition was stiff.
Here is a link to their website:

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The World's scariest landings

A few years ago, 2010 to be exact, I was invited to write a guest blog on Rachel Cotterill's very popular blog. I chose to write about airports and some of the scarier landings to a few of them that I have experienced.
I thought I should share this post with you here on my own blog.  So, I've included a link to the original post on Rachel's blog which I urge you to visit. Her posts are varied and always interesting.

15 years of teaching EFL - time to pass on the knowledge

After 15 years of teaching English as a Foreign Language it's time I took more of a role teaching and training other teachers. Although I have presented at conferences and seminars for many years and taught occasional input sessions for Cambridge CELTA courses I've never done a whole training course myself. Last Saturday I attended a short training course and interview which included a 10 minute presentation. I'm hopeful that the outcome is that I run training course for one or two weekends each month.
It's for a company that run introductory courses for those wishing to become TEFL teachers. They are 120 hour courses with 20 hours face to face (me I hope) and the remaining 100 hours online.

I will know on Monday if I've been selected. Watch this space.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

5 years on - still no nicotine

While sitting at my computer this morning I realised that it is now five years since I smoked a cigarette. At that time I was on retreat at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. I had applied for a job in York after 10 years living and working in Thailand. I thought to myself that as cigarettes in Thailand were less than £1 per packet but were at least £5, possibly as much as £7 per packet, depending on the brand, in England, I had better think about stopping.

I'd never really tried to stop before, thinking it would be much too difficult. In the end I just stopped. A day or two of craving then nothing at all. And this after more than 30 years of smoking.

Since that time I've seen a whole new industry spring up making 'electronic cigarettes'. I see these are very popular, but have the smokers really given up smoking? I think not, merely changed their way of taking nicotine.

How do I feel? Much fitter, no cough, clean smell. I wish I'd done it years ago. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Khao Soi - my favourite Thai meal

We recently travelled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It's a long way so we needed to stop several times for food. We were with my brother-in-law who works for EGAT (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand). In his job he travels all over Thailand and is great for knowing the best places to eat. He recommended a restaurant in Lampang which serves a really great dish of Khao Soi, sometimes spelled Kao Soi.

I had eaten Khao Soi while living in Bangkok. The shop which used to sell it though fell victim to the riots of 2008 and I have been longing for a dish since that time. So, as you can imagine, I was very pleased to hear we'd be stopping at a restaurant well-known for this speciality of Northern Thailand. I usually choose to eat chicken breast and was a little disappointed to hear they only served chicken legs here. It tasted amazing though and I washed it down with a glass of guava juice. I asked for an extra portion of crispy noodles, as I like that part the most. Then my brother-in-law ordered another bowl for me of just the curry and noodles. I ate the lot. It really is that good.

On the return journey, three days later, we stopped at the same restaurant (Khao Soi O-Ma) and had two bowls again. Yes, I put weight on during this holiday.
Below you will find a link to a recipe for it. Enjoy.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Back from Thailand and full of resolutions to post at least once a week to this blog.

Just returned from Thailand. Not as warm as may think at this time of year. We visited many places and took a lot of pics. I'll drip feed them over the next few weeks rather than all in one go. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Working on a new website - posts may be a little sparse for a while.

Hi, big changes in my life. New job, new house! Two of the most stressful things that can happen in one's life apparently.

I appear to be enjoying the challenge though. Nothing too stressful so far. Usual niggles with tradesmen, solicitors and building societies. But, nothing a grown man with the support of his family can't deal with.

Maybe it's because I've just returned from a week's retreat at a Buddhist monastery.

I'm also working on a new website for our family business. Have a look and see how it progresses and morphs over the next few weeks.


Monday, 16 September 2013

Latest orchid photos

A few months ago I posted a couple of photos showing some of the orchids from my bathroom. I promised to post more as they bloomed. The latest crop of flowers from one species were particularly magnificent, so here is a photo. For the botanically minded it is Dendrobium compactum, a species native to South East Asia.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A budding designer in the family

My eldest daughter has just started secondary school. She seems to be enjoying it so far. One of the last things she did at primary school before the summer break was to design a logo for the local church. We didn't think anymore about it until we passed the church recently. You can imagine our surprise when we saw her group's design outside the church professionally produced and full size. What do you think?