Friday, 17 November 2017

Happy Birthday, Alan Moore! (November 18th)

We've been attending the Oxford Literary Festival every year since 2009 and in the spring of 2012, I Alan Moore Oxford Literary Festival V for Vendetta Watchmen

attended a discussion called "What's the Point of the Arts and Humanities?" with Simon K√∂vesi, Josie Long, Philip Pullman and Alan Moore.

I was aware that Alan Moore very rarely made public appearances and at one point I thought there was no better way of meeting him than a book-signing or talk at his hometown in Northampton. So I was very pleased when I heard that he was coming to Oxford. To be honest, I felt that the event was a little hush-hush. Sure it was included in the festival guide but I thought they'd make a bit more buzz about it because you know, it's Alan Moore.

As the discussion focused on the arts and humanities, I was also curious what Mr Moore would say about the films that were based on his works. I heard in the past that he didn't approve of his work being translated into the big screen. He did say during the discussion, "I heard that the Watchmen film apparently cost $300M. Now I don't believe that it's actually as good as the comics" (the crowd applauded - he added he hasn't seen the film). From his biography "Alan Moore Storyteller": "Rumor had it that with some of the profits from his work on Swamp Thing and Watchmen, Moore had bought his dad a house. The truth was a little less extravagant – it was a greenhouse for his back garden." So as not to be repetitive, I'm directing you to my full article about the event here.

The book-signing that followed the discussion wasn't announced so it was no surprise that there were only around 20 people waiting in the queue. I brought some books from home and had them all signed. We bought Alan Moore's biography from the festival bookshop, the aforementioned "Alan Moore Storyteller," hurried back to the queue and requested for him to address the book to M who was then only 17 months (she kept turning her back, probably got scared of the author's beard hehe. Seriously, though, Alan Moore is a lovely man!). Later, I saw that the pages on "The Lost Girls" are very explicit. But then, brilliant Mr. Moore got it that my then toddler wouldn't read this book anytime soon anyway and wrote her this amazing "time capsule" message (see photo below). Alan Moore Storyteller Oxford Literary Festival V for Vendetta biography
Loved what he wrote for our little girl.

My other books that he had signed were Watchmen, Batman the Killing Joke, one comics issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta. I suddenly remember that Alan Moore began writing V for Vendetta on the Isle of Wight whilst on working holiday (I found this information interesting as I recently posted photos on Instagram of our memorable boating trip to the Isle of Wight during a bonfire night weekend many years ago). His introduction to the book sounded so heartbreaking, sad, and just worried about the future of England under Thatcher. I'm glad he didn't leave Northampton, decades after he wrote that.

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Friday, 10 November 2017

Sherlock, books, actors and other ramblings Sherlock Holmes Meiringen Reichenbach Falls Switzerland
Sherlock, Moriarty and me, across time, space, a Paget
drawing, and the fairy kingdom of romance (
Falls, Switzerland).
Many years ago, I wrote an article for Fine Books and Collections called "Sherlock Holmes' near-death experience in Switzerland" that made it to Forbes Magazine's literary roundup for that week. "For any Sherlock Holmes follower, the serene Alps, with all its constant white glow and unwavering welcome, might only be a distraction from the need to keep an eye out for rocks being pushed deliberately and dark figures appearing out of nowhere. The Alps are a reminder of the famous detective’s ‘last days’ before the tragic encounter with his archenemy, Professor James Moriarty. The memorials erected in his name and the accessibility of stories in several languages have supported the popularity of Holmes for over one hundred and twenty years. As a devotee who spent years following the detective’s trail, first through the canon and whatever pastiche I could get hold of, then through travels, coming to Switzerland felt like the culmination, the highlight of my Holmesian adventure." Read my full article here.

I wanted to write about our most recent trip to the Alps (August 2017) and it's been in my saved Sherlock Holmes Meiringen Reichenbach Falls Switzerland
10 years of Meiringen
drafts for more than two months now. Not that I didn't know what to say, on the contrary, there are just so many things concerning Sherlock I could write about that it's often hard to choose. Moreover, I wanted to treat every Sherlock Holmes-related event in my life with utmost care, as they should be. The idea that books can shape one's destiny is very true in my case. I loved books, music, and films (mostly Hollywood) growing up. Memories of some films I saw and some actors I liked are now somehow coupled with horrible and frightening behind-the-scenes goings-on that just took away part of the magic of that childhood. There are old films I just love and it's like any day now I might hear a pronouncement of an actor that "during the filming of ___, so and so did this to me." This is when (fictional) books stand out. It's true that you would interpret a book differently in every phase of your life and when you have more experiences to compare it with. But, a fictional book is pure in such a way that, the events and characters are there, but you shape the settings and actors in your own mind. I try not to let the private life of an author ruin his fiction for me. I don't normally like fan fiction (Dame Jean Conan Doyle, Conan Doyle's daughter, wasn't a fan of pastiche) but with Sherlock, I just wanted more. I guess I was very secure in my reverence of him that I didn't mind how other authors added to the canon, but I personally think that the Holmes-Watson love angle is cliched. Point being is, I loved Sherlock from the books, and as a lover of anything Victorian, Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes appealed more to me because that series produced by Granada Television was true to the books. That said, the Sherlock Holmes of Conan Doyle's stories is, and will always be, the true Sherlock Holmes for me and no revelation about any actor who'd played him could ruin that. Sherlock Holmes Meiringen Reichenbach Falls Switzerland
This old English church in Meiringen, Switzerland, houses 

the Sherlock Holmes Museum, including a faithful 
reconstruction of Holmes and Watson's living room at 221B 
Baker Street in London. It was carefully and authentically 
reconstructed according to clues that are to be found in the 
Only two months after flying into Scandinavia for a two-year graduate scholarship programme in 2005, I started working on my visas to visit the UK and Ireland. I had a Norwegian residence permit and could visit the Schengen territories but I was more interested to see Sherlock Holmes' London. Consider this, it was the first trip out of the island in the Philippines where I grew up and my first time to ride an aeroplane. If not for my scholarship, I would never have funds to travel. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd end up living in England, a dream I've had since childhood. I knew I would be back to my home country after my two years were up and I thought it was my only chance to visit England. Along with this mission were interconnected people and events in which the Sherlock Holmes books were the centre -- upon arriving in England, it was important that I also visit an English philatelist in Berkshire whom I've known (because of Sherlock Holmes stamps) since I was a teen and who generously sent me Sherlock-related memorabilia for almost a decade. He had promised to show me London but he wasn't well. So he sent his son to meet me at the hotel where I was staying, spent the day sightseeing in London and that night, the son and I drove to Berkshire together so I could meet my friend.

I hit it off with that son, Mike, and we now have two children :-) Mike became a catalyst for my Sherlock Holmes adventure and he took me all over England, to places that have something to do with Conan Doyle and the stories. Funny enough, it wasn't in England but in Meiringen, Switzerland, where I still dream of settling in someday, just to be close to Reichenbach Falls. Over the summer holidays, we took the kids to see Meiringen. It is undoubtedly one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's favourite towns as well. It didn't mean much to the kids, especially my younger one, but hopefully someday they'd appreciate how fun it was to "meet" Mr. Holmes away from London.

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Friday, 27 October 2017

The Little Mermaid in Paris and Copenhagen The Little Mermaid Disney Ariel Hans Christian Andersen The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame Louvre Paris
Some days you will find yourself in a Disney film, not literally. To be fair, I saw this painting before I saw The Little Mermaid (I began watching Disney princess films only when my daughter started watching them) and so when I saw the cartoon version, I went, I know I have a picture with that same painting somewhere! I thought it was just the perfect painting to depict the curiosity of a young mermaid who hasn't had any experience with fire.

The painting of the lady is called The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame and it appears in that part of The Little Mermaid when Ariel sings Part of your world. She has lots of treasures in the film from shipwrecks, and presumably, she rescued this painting and is now part of her collection. I saw this painting in the flesh at the Louvre many years ago (that weekend in Paris is published over at Wilderness House Literary Review as Paris, a party, now and always. Go and have a read if you've got time!).
The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, oil on canvas, circa 1638-1640, is by Georges de la Tour (France, Vic-sur-Seille, 1593-1652). La Tour's early training is still a matter for speculation, but in the province of Lorraine he encountered the artist Jean Le Clerc, a follower of the Italian painter Caravaggio. From this source likely came La Tour's concern with simplicity, realism, and essential detail. Mary Magdalen was traditionally depicted in her grotto or as an aged woman. The absence of explicit narrative in this painting emphasizes Mary's state of mind and heart rather than time and place. The simple composition of vertical and horizontal shapes draws the viewer into the Magdalen's contemplative world. The skull, books of Scripture, and scourge set the mood, but the chief symbol and true subject of the work is the candle at which Mary gazes in her meditation. Rendered in extraordinary detail and modulation, it emits the light that followers of St. John of the Cross called "the living flame of love," toward which spiritual pilgrims are drawn out of the "dark night of the soul." La Tour scrupulously conveys the tactile quality of surfaces. The polished skull and leather books have different reflective qualities; Mary's heavy skirt, thin, wrinkled blouse, smooth flesh, and hair are meticulously distinct. Each spare detail is carefully regulated to achieve an overall balance of form and light.

The picture on the lower left is of me by the statue of The Little Mermaid in her true home in Copenhagen, Denmark, as of course, the fairy tale was written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (I have yet to read the original fairy tale). This trip is from more than a decade ago back when I was still studying in Scandinavia, but it deserves a different post, maybe some other time. Let's just say that a classmate/fellow traveller, whilst we were visiting the Carlsberg Visitors Centre, accidentally deleted all the fantastic photos she took of the city because she got tipsy. Later she good-naturedly blamed me for it as she drank all the free beer that I had refused to drink. Tangled Rapunzel Flynn Rider Eugene Maximus frying pan Disney
Screenshot from the movie Tangled, 2010, when Flynn Rider
is fighting Maximus the horse using a frying pan. 

Growing up, I loved Dyesebel, the Filipino take on this mermaid and I also enjoyed Splash with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. The Little Mermaid, even with its reputation as having brought Disney back to its glorious days, is not my favourite Disney film. On a related note, I didn't really take to Rapunzel as a child but I just posted on Instagram yesterday how Tangled is my favourite Disney movie. Different media have different impacts, that's just the way it is.

I could watch Tangled over and over again. I wish it was as popular as Frozen. Flynn Rider must be the funniest, wittiest Disney prince/thief ever. I loved how Zachary Levi voiced this role, he's got a great singing voice, too and it doesn't hurt that he looks just like Flynn Rider :) The sad scenes make me tear up all the time. And that bridge in the film always reminds me of Charles Bridge in Prague. Haven't seen this year's TV movie or series with the same actors, so that's another thing to look forward to.

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Monday, 23 October 2017

Open very carefully, a book with bite! Open Very Carefully A book with bite Nicola O'Byrne Nick Bromley"Open very carefully, a book with bite!" by Nicola O'Byrne and Nick Bromley. M got this book as a present from school one Christmas, couldn't remember if that was preschool or later. I loved this book the first time I read it to M. It's one of those books, again, that you'd wish you wrote them yourself. I'm not sure if it's very original (I haven't read many children's picture books to know) but it's so much fun and exciting with its very jerky central character and you have to literally move the book to read it. My two year old also loves this book now and as he loves that crocodile toy (a free soft toy once when we'd bought stuff from Lego, it's of such good quality), I thought I'd pair the book with it whenever I read it to H.

Basically, the book is supposed to be "The Ugly Duckling" by Hans Christian Andersen but the story immediately takes a drastic turn because of an intrusive character: a crocodile! So the ugly duckling is forgotten and now we are chasing a crocodile who loves to eat letters Os and Ss, and eventually, words and sentences. Open Very Carefully A book with bite Nicola O'Byrne Nick Bromley
We are told to rock the book backwards and forwards, and it works, the crocodile falls asleep.

Whilst asleep, we get to be the naughty ones and are told to draw on him. Open Very Carefully A book with bite Nicola O'Byrne Nick Bromley

So a bow, tutu and ballet shoes are drawn on the crocodile and with these, he doesn't look so scary anymore!

But all that drawing has woken him up and he doesn't look very happy. 

It seems the crocodile's had enough of the book, and he's going to make a run for it but ouch, it doesn't seem so easy to get out of a book. 

A bit of shaking might make him fall out of the book. Open Very Carefully A book with bite Nicola O'Byrne Nick Bromley

It doesn't work and the sly crocodile's worked out what to do.

He munches his way out his way out of the book and we are left with a hole, wondering where he's gone. Open Very Carefully A book with bite Nicola O'Byrne Nick Bromley

Such a sweet and fun book, thank you so much to Ms O'Byrne and Mr. Bromley who created it!

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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Back to Blackbushe Blackbushe Airport Yateley Common Surrey Hampshire
Woke up to the sound of rain today, which is lovely and comforting when you're just at home with family. We love to explore but our two young children are also the type who would stay in bed with us on a rainy day like this (yup, that includes having breakfast in bed, building Lego and watching reruns of 60-minute makeover till lunch - I like watching this show as I like being horrified at what they could do to people's houses in 60 minutes, then I could also tell my husband, never, never do that to our house!). Blackbushe Airport Yateley Common Surrey HampshireI mentioned in a previous post how we hadn't gone to Blackbushe Airport in about three years, well, we came back the day after just to have M practise on her cycling skills.

Whilst the space is so convenient for her to just cycle around, the tarmac is a pretty rough surface to fall on once we take off her stabilisers and she works on her balance. We saw this when H fell, it didn't look like a hard fall but he had blood on the side of his nose and right temple when we got him up. Blackbushe Airport Yateley Common Surrey HampshireThere were three youth motorbike learners when we arrived. They were all right; there was a large group of them, like a family and relatives together. A few minutes later, though, a police car and another policeman on a bicycle arrived. They spoke to the youths and their families and then they all left. We
assumed they were told off for riding their motorcycles there.

It was not easy to cycle on the uneven path from the nearest parking area to the runway but Little Miss-I-don't-want-to-ride-my-bike just took off once we got to the runway.

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Plane-spotting at Blackbushe Airport Blackbushe Airport Camberley Surrey Yateley Common Hampshire
Duck, you three!!!
You could easily spend a day at Blackbushe Airport, was what we remembered when we went there yesterday afternoon. We used to go there a lot and realised the last time we visited was before H was born. I really can't believe it's been that long, considering the airport is only a six-minute drive from our house. Now that H takes interest in aeroplanes (and any other thing with an engine in it), we thought we might as well take him there.

First, a note on the location. On one Blackbushe Airport Camberley Surrey Yateley Common Hampshire
Woodland (Yateley Common) on our way to the runway.
side of the airport is Yateley Common so I always thought the airport is part of Hampshire. In their website, though, the postal address is Surrey but I'd say the actual location is Hampshire. Now this is not really surprising as Hampshire and Surrey (and Berkshire) share a lot of land. For example, we live in Berkshire and we are in the secondary school catchment of our local area but our nearest secondary school based on physical location is actually in Hampshire. The second time I visited England, my then future father-in-law drove me to the road where the three counties meet. Not a big deal but I find little things like that so magical.

Blackbushe Airport was built in 1941 and it was originally called RAF Hartfordbridge. The first civilian flight was in September 1945. In 1960, Blackbushe Airport was closed, and all of the infrastructure, fixtures, and fittings were auctioned off. Parts of the runways were dug up. The airport remained closed until 6 October 1962 when it was formally reopened as a general aviation field. Blackbushe has an important historical place in British Drag Racing history and was the scene of the legendary Dragfests. Blackbushe also hosted the 'picnic' in 1978, with over 200,000 people attending the concert with Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Band, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker and The Rumour, Lake, and Merger all performing. Source: Blackbushe Airport Camberley Surrey Yateley Common Hampshire
Waiting for lunch (after we had our cakes). The other one
said she was freezing.

As a family, we love to watch the aeroplanes whilst we have breakfast at the Blackbushe cafe. We would then proceed to the runway, passing through the woods (Yateley Common). Note to self: bring M's scooter or bicycle next time. The disused runway is just perfect for learning how to bike-ride. I remember that a few of her classmates learned how to cycle there (is there still hope for me?!). That said, the runway is huge but twice, two little girls on their bikes almost ran us over. "Watch where you're going!" One of the mums shouted to her daughter. Mike said later, "all little girls are just like Peppa Pig, aren't they? Talk and talk and talk." It was true that the girls couldn't concentrate riding their bicycles because they were just chatting away! Blackbushe used to have the UK's largest outdoor Sunday Market as well, held from 1984, but sadly closed in 2015. Blackbushe Airport Camberley Surrey Yateley Common Hampshire
One of the disused runways.
I envy my husband who didn't really go very far from where he grew up. He has good memories of Blackbushe -- drinking a few beers with his best friend whilst watching the aeroplanes from a bench that is not there anymore. "Oh, this is a great spot, we used to play radio-controlled cars here (we got told off)," he would say. He also had flying lessons in Blackbushe when he was younger.

I was a bit worried when I learned that there are plans to re-develop Blackbushe, thinking they might make use of the disused runways, etc. and limit public access. Fortunately, the plan is only to "re-develop the airfield itself, to provide better facilities and to generate future employment for the area, without having a detrimental impact on the local community and its recreational activities." Even so, Mike commented how huge a project it was. Blackbushe Airport Camberley Surrey Yateley Common Hampshire

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Friday, 29 September 2017

A "Sporty" School Year Kick-starts with a Visit to the Olympic Stadium Tom Daley diver Olympics British
The Olympian and champion diver Tom Daley 
training. Photo by my six-year-old, who brought 
her pink camera with her.
How lucky is this girl and her schoolmates?

M has been to field trips to nearby areas and to London during pre-school and since she started primary school in 2015. For two years in a row, the school treated them to "secret trips" at the start of the school year (Read about last year's trip here). It is entirely hush-hush that we don't have a clue till the day where they are headed to. On this occasion, we parents kind of had a clue that the trip would involve swimming as the school letters required the children to bring swimwear, but the children were kept in the dark till they reached the destination. Oh, all right. I might have heard the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London being mentioned but there was no confirmation. I didn't know what M would feel about swimming (she did have some practice during our summer holiday at the villa in Italy), but I thought she'd be all right as they'd do other sporting activities.

We're only on our third year at M's school and I could see how the curriculum works. Each year, they focus on a subject and work around that area, teaching the children and giving them projects related to the theme. The children get to experience new and exciting opportunities and develop skills in a range of curriculum areas. This year the focus is on how sport and P.E. can inspire students to rise to challenges and raise aspirations.

M's class at the Olympic Stadium in London 
(photo from the school website)
As I'm not a sporty person, I have a tendency (more like defence mechanism) to frown upon any portrayal of sports that tend to mislead many youths and make them believe that to be a [football player] is the easiest path to success. But to show sports for what it really is: the hard work and determination that go with learning and training for a particular field is a different matter altogether and leaves me in awe. It requires hours of practice (and in most cases, a lot of money) to train a child to excel in a particular sport, even if he/she already has talent for it.

Ten days before their secret trip to London, international athlete Luke Delahunty visited M's school, encouraging the children in their sponsored circuits activities in the morning, followed by sharing his story during assembly. As a 24-year-old serving in the RAF, Luke was paralysed from the chest down after his motorbike crashed with a tractor on his way to work. We now know Luke as a hand-cyclist and rower and he also represented the country in the 2016 Invictus Games, an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event founded by Prince Harry. When I write of Luke's achievements here it might sound very easy, but changing your course through life even for people who don't sustain life-changing injuries is a hurdle and that's what's truly inspiring about his story, that one's potential is endless. He had such a busy schedule that on the same day, he rushed to the One Show for an Invictus Games special on BBC 1 after visiting M's school, and this week he is at the Invictus Games in Toronto to represent the country once again. Tom Daley diver Olympics British
Tom Daley and his coach, Jane, were presented 
the Pride medals from M's school; on the right 
are Tom's Olympic training partners (photo 
from the school website).
Admittedly, I was more excited than I should have been when I heard M's school would go to the Olympic Park. This past week I kept reminding M to look after herself, she didn't want to catch any bug or she might miss the trip, a very rare opportunity, indeed. I guess this was not bad compared to other little things I worry about when I think of her out in the world without me. Should I let her bring the school water bottle or just a normal water bottle that she could dispose of after using? "Do you know how to open a [normal] water bottle?" I asked her. Of course I took it upon myself to unseal the bottle before packing it in her bag. I would have loved to come -- helpers, whether in the classroom or trips, are always needed at M's school. But it was such a long day. The parent-helpers and children had to be in school at 8.10am for an 8.30 departure, and they were back only by 7pm and even if Mike worked at home that day, he couldn't look after our younger child till sundown at the same time. The children explored the areas in the park - swimming in the wake of legends at the Olympic Pool in the Aquatic Centre and taking part in sports and games in the Copper Box Arena. Then they watched Olympian and champion diver Tom Daley train after which he talked to them about his sporting life, answered questions and paused for photographs.

I admire M's primary school (no wonder it was voted School of the Year in the whole area this year and in the June 2015 Ofsted inspection, its Reception class was the only one in the borough that got an Outstanding [highest] rating). As the oldest school in town, it is a proper Victorian school. I would say where we are is countryside enough for me; the school is not in the middle of nowhere but I'm amazed how this tiny primary school voluntary aided by the local church does mighty things.  It also does know how to make use of its close proximity to London. I continue to be amazed with the opportunities M gets at such a young age, to have educators who are not afraid [and are free] to think out of the box, and bring about these well-thought out themes. I could only comment from what I know but having gone to, and taught briefly in, a traditional school, we didn't have this. When she was in Reception, I remember that the theme they had for the final term was Mary Poppins. At first, one might go, why? But with most children's short attention span, this was one way to pique their interest. This teaching approach is non-conformal and creative, that learning was so fun-filled for the children they didn't even think of school as work. I know Mary Poppins but it was only that time that I realised how much you could do with her as central to children's learning. I admire the Reggio Emilia schools of Italy and I would say M's school has some of the Reggio schools' qualities. She's a really lucky girl to have this great start. As much as I'm worried this early that she might not get a place in the secondary school we'd like for her to go to as we're not in catchment,  I'm just glad she gets all this exposure very early in life. headteacher's award
Her first Headteacher's Award for this school 
year. It's funny how these pieces of paper become 
the parents' pride.
What a busy three-week-back-to-school it has been, at least for my six-year-old! I came to pick her up at judo last Tuesday and they were doing this exercise of quick-thinking where children got eliminated and she won (for the life of me, I never thought she would for she daydreams a lot, but I saw her win). She also got her first Headteacher's Award for the school year (and a unicorn stationery of her choice) and she responsibly moved her violin lessons to Wednesdays, acknowledging she is tired on Friday evenings as she also has Homework Club that day. I know she's only six but I'm proud of her and I'm also kind of nervous for her little brother who's got so much to live up to. I'd pulled her out from dance (ballet and tap) after nearly two years of lessons for various reasons - maybe I should blog about that, or maybe I shouldn't. She's doing Chess and Board Games again this term (run by the Headteacher, my only way for her to be a good sport as all board games at home end up in tears). Her class is also benefitting from rugby coaching this term, another example of what I'd hoped our PE was like when I was in school. Her social life calendar is fully packed compared to my Zero one but let's just enjoy every moment, shall we. I am confident she's not overworked, the girl is just so full of energy, any excess would just be spent teasing and making her brother cry (even after warnings of, wait till you're 13 and he's 8 and a half). It's also one of those old things -- you'd like for your child to have the opportunities you never had. Right now I'd like for her to try all things and it's up to her to decide what she'd like to focus on later on. I already signed her up for Brownies (girlguiding, or Scouts as we know it back in the Philippines), the next step from Rainbows which she currently attends. She will move to Brownies in January should they already have a place for her, the term after her seventh birthday. I would love for her to continue doing Guides and hopefully someday be a guide/leader herself as it helps her be more responsible and independent. I don't expect her to learn how to make fire from sticks and rocks, but that would also be cool.

"The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy based on the image of the child, and of human beings, as possessing strong potentials for development and as a subject of rights who learns and grows in the relationships with others.
This global educational project, which is carried forth in the Municipal Infant-toddler Centers and Preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and has inspired other schools all over the world, is based on a number of distinctive characteristics: the participation of families, the collegial work of all the personnel, the importance of the educational environment, the presence of the atelier and the figure of the atelierista, the in-school kitchen, and the pedagogical coordinating team.
Focusing on the centrality of the hundred languages belonging to every human being, in the atelier spaces young children are offered daily opportunities to encounter many types of materials, many expressive languages, many points of view, working actively with hands, minds, and emotions, in a context that values the expressiveness and creativity of each child in the group."

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Monday, 25 September 2017

An Early Autumn at Painshill Park Painshill Park Cobham SurreySomebody gave us a 10-month buyagift voucher that was to expire today (!) and as is our way, at the last minute we searched for somewhere near to use it. Mike recommended Painshill Park in Cobham Surrey, coincidentally, I've always wanted to go there after M's class went there for a field trip last year. (I blogged about that visit here, where M's school went to secret trips with their year level, took photographs, selected a photo to paint and had them framed for a school exhibit).

The lady at the till said she hasn't seen one of our vouchers before and after consulting with another staff member, accepted our voucher under "membership" without any trouble at all. Painshill Park is an 18th century landscape garden originally created by the Honourable Charles Hamilton between 1738 and 1773, and restored in 1981. Having two very young children, we visit a place just to go for a walk and have a picnic and we did just that.

There are so many things to see at Painshill Park, at first I wasn't really sure what to feel about the unrealness of everything in sight, e.g., how to make sure that you've got a raised flag all the time? Have a metal flag, like that one we saw atop a Turkish tent, permanently flying. Painshill Park Cobham Surrey
The man-made grotto dates back to

When I went to their website after M's trip last year, I was sorry for M's class as they didn't get to see the cave in the premises. It's only open on weekends, and the opening times also depend on whether there will be stewards available. Before visiting, I had the impression the cave was natural. We learned that the cave is man-made, and that it took 10 years to build. This extraordinary folly dates back to 1760 and hundreds of thousands of crystals including calcite, gypsum, quartz, and fluorite (AND GLUE!) have been used to create it. The stones with the holes were apparently sourced from the Cotswolds. Basically, Hamilton was inspired by Renaissance and contemporary art and visits to Italy on the Grand Tour, and he decided to create a tranquil landscape setting enriched by follies, water, trees, shrubberies and a vineyard. I took this picture of the grotto (right photo) towards the exit where you could see the landscape outside. For something man-made, this grotto is huge. "I want one!" I joked to Mike, probably not that far from Hamilton's reaction when he saw these things in Italy. I asked the steward how much it was to make a cave like this. Apparently, the recent restorations alone cost about half a million pounds. Painshill Park Cobham Surrey
On the way to the Gothic Tower. Looking for
Rapunzel. Forever a school girl.
At least the waterwheel in the park has some use, is was restored in 1987 and it is one of the largest working wheels in the UK. It was originally created to feed the Cascade and Lake, and to provide water for the plantings. Unfortunately, it wasn't running during our visit. There's also a mini-vineyard reminiscent of the Chianti Region. Painshill produces its own wine from that restored vineyard.

"Hermitage - Hamilton advertised for a hermit to live as a recluse for seven years in the Hermitage. Legend has it that the hermit was found drinking in a local inn within three weeks."

We were very lucky that even though we had visited during the weekend, it was not that busy and we could see the trees already trying their best to change colours, and the hint of autumn was so beautiful. We managed to visit the sites that were only open during weekends like the aforementioned grotto and also the Gothic Tower. Well, I stayed with H whilst Mike and M climbed the 99 steps and caught sight of the amazing views beyond the Painshill landscape to four counties. It said in the leaflet that Canary Wharf and Windsor Castle can be seen on a clear day. Mike wasn't convinced and said you would see them only if you know where they are, and if you do, they are really tiny. Painshill Park Cobham SurreyOverall, it was a lovely day out and the kiddies enjoyed it very much, especially H who was so enamoured with the swans.

A personal note about Surrey: it used to be my place of work, at the same university where Mike got his bachelor's degree a decade before I worked there, a University of London unit located in the countryside. Mike's paternal ancestors lived in Surrey for centuries. My son H was also born in a Surrey hospital. In literature, Surrey is where Privet Drive is located, where the Dursleys (Harry Potter's unkind relations) lived.

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