Friday, September 23, 2011

Trip oop north #1

Can someone please explain where on earth 2/3rds of September just disappeared off to?! This has been one very mad month. Between August and September I've had three incomplete weeks at work, thanks to taking a Friday and the Tuesday after the bank holiday to go to Greenbelt, then the week after I spent three days oop north at a conference for work. Then I had a WHOLE FIVE DAYS (shock horror) at work, then we set off on holiday. So some of the time has been a little bitty. The weekends have been mad. I got back from the conference at 10pm on the Friday, then lurched straight off to the church open day on the Saturday (having baked some chocolate brownies to sell on the Fair trade stall in the meantime), then hurtled straight into the church patronal festival the next morning, then off to knitting group for the afternoon. Gardening has got a bit behind as I haven't been at home to do any.

Fortunately I got the OH's jumper finished in time for his birthday.

 He has got a head really.

 I'm rather pleased with it, and I love the pattern - very easy to follow and well-written, and easy to adapt to particular quirks so I altered the length of the body and sleeves to his preferences.

And sewed a label in the back.

The slow cooker has come in very handy (again). This is lamb casserole.

The conference (held in Durham, with a trip to Newcastle) was most impressive. We stayed in Collingwood at Durham University. Halls of residence have moved on a bit since my day, not only was my room en suite, but it even came complete with its own recycling crate, and a little shelf with aerial socket to put a TV on! Back in my student days in the Dark Ages you had to carry your recycling all the way to the supermarket car park to find a recycling bin. And whilst I did have a TV in my room at university, it had to sit on a wobbly little table supplied by me, with a wobbly aerial sat on top of it.

Most impressively, the halls also had a "green" policy, with loads of stuff about reducing energy use, the food miles of the food served up in the dining hall (very tasty it was too) and even the conference packs provided in the rooms were all fair trade! Apparently there is some kind of competition between the colleges about which has the lowest carbon emissions.

 We had various talks during the days at the conferences, plus a reception at the Oriental Museum one night. This is the sort of place where I'd love to spend more time looking round, and I'd recommend a visit if you're in the area.

and a reception at the Botanic Gardens another night. Again, I'd have loved to have seen more of this than I did, the bit I saw looked beautiful.

One morning we took a trip up to Newcastle on a bus, to visit Seven Stories - the centre for children's literature. This is one of the coolest places I've ever been, and there was plenty on the, er, seven storeys, of the building to keep adults and children alike entertained (don't worry, there is a lift). The exhibitions managed to combine interesting stuff for older people (like me), with more kid-friendly stuff, and there is a massive creating space for children at the bottom storey, as well as the biggest selection of children's books in the bookshop that I've ever seen in one place. I loved the exhibition about Puffin books, and found displays from some of my childhood favourites.

Plus, they had a display about what happens to their book collections when they arrive on site, which included something that I think should go into my job description:

See, I'm an expert and a bit like a detective!

It was also fun driving around Newcastle on the bus, and admiring the views.

including a glimpse of the Angel of the North as we approached the city.

On the final day of the conference we got to visit the new exhibition space at Palace Green (the university special collections library), where there was a display of Treasures of the University. I also trotted off for a quick trip into the cathedral.

It was a great trip, I only wish I'd had more time to visit places in Durham - I did return to Newcastle with the OH this week whilst we were on holiday, more in a future blog post!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Greenbelt 2011

After a weekend away at Greenbelt I am now massively behind with blogging, reading blogs, sending emails etc. I've got about three blog posts waiting to be written, so here's the first:

My drive over to Greenbelt, on Cheltenham racecourse, consisted of torrential downpours, interspersed with murky grey daylight, which wasn't the greatest encouragement to get there and get my tent up. The first night was fairly, erm, wet, but when I left my tent on the Saturday morning, I discovered the sun breaking through the clouds (this is after lying in my sleeping bag for about an hour wondering if the rain would stop for long enough for me to go to the portaloos).

The site really is beautiful (in the sun), with the hills round the edge. This photo was taken from the race course grandstand, which has breathtaking views right from the top.

This year I was camping with Rebeltreble, a friend from church and knitting group, and a crowd of other people. It was her birthday on the Saturday, which, of course, meant chocolate cake for breakfast.

This time too I did more of a variety of things. I went to various talks:

[I've linked to downloads of the talks, although you have to pay for them].
This one was my favourite, Janet Soskice talking about "The magnificent lady Bible hunters: sisters of Sinai", probably because it was fun as well as interesting. It was all about twin sisters who, in 1892, did lots of things that nineteenth century women weren't supposed to do, including setting off into the desert and discovering some Bible manuscripts at St Catherine's monastery at Sinai. I'll be getting her book about them to read. She also spoke about Bible translation in a debate, which I missed, but which I'll be downloading.

I also heard Billy Bragg on "The rich get richer and the poor get prison", about how to stop the cycle of reoffending once someone is released from prison. This was also fun though, as it featured someone his charity has helped singing as well.

And, in one of the earlier talks, which I didn't think I'd be up in time to hear, Brian McLaren on "How Christians could destroy the world in five minutes (and how to make sure we don't)", which was about Christian theology in relation to Israel and Palestine. OK, so definitely not a fun topic, but definitely an interesting one, and I hope something comes out of it.

Plus, most of a debate in the Kitchen venue, about "Taking it to the streets", about the rights and wrongs of people taking direct action, which I can't find a link to at the moment.

I also joined in with some worship. Not only the Sunday morning Communion with 15000 other people (quite hard to photo)

but also a more meditative/reflective service with the Moot community from London.

Taught loads of people to knit at the Woolly Thinking group, where we made knitted graffiti to use on the site:

Oh, and the usual obligatory Greenbelt things, like bumping into all sorts of people from different parts of my life, including MrsNiddyNoddy, the vicar (and wife), my baby bro and SIL, a friend's baby I met for the first time, somebody I went to university with 10 years ago...

Much cake was eaten, and tea drunk.

I also spent some time in G-source, looking at lots of church resources, and picked up a funky tea towel.

Had a chat with Reg Bailey, the Chief Executive of the Mother's Union (the one who did the report about the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood). They had a gadget on display for improving hygiene in developing countries - yes, it's a funky handwashing/soap-on-a-rope device:

(I am still struggling with the idea that the Chief Executive of the Mother's Union is a bloke called Reg. But I mustn't be sexist).

And viewed an exhibition of modern art from the Methodist church: "Jesus in the everyday".

I think that's everything I did? It was quite a busy weekend...

I've still got posts to do on books and garden at the beginning of the month, but I'm away most of this week at a conference so not sure when that will happen!