Sunday, 6 September 2015

Proud to be German

Yes, I know I am not German, although I have grown to love the country in the last few years.

I obviously have a German partner, and have been learning the language, first at the local adult learning course, which although was a good start to the German learning process did not quite work out for me, so I only stuck at it for the first year. This is very normal apparently, and I take solace from Adam Fletcher as he brilliantly describes the journey he went through trying to learn the language while living in Germany in his book Make Me German.

I am now using the app Duolingo to help me learn, it seems to be working for the weird way my brain works, dripping the language into my head in small burst each day. I feel in a few months of using this app I have learned more than a year in class. (Ivonne is using the app to learn Spanish too, as being fluent in two languages is not enough...)

We have German music on in the house as much as English language music (I am listening to the excellent Silbermond as I type!) and regularly listen to the Bremen based radio station Bremen Eins, of which I identify about a word every 5 minutes...

I also have thrown myself into drinking German beer, this is something I find quite easy, this bit of 'being German' I am a natural at!

But the thing that recently most made me wish I was German was their response to the refugee 'crisis' in Europe. Germany seem to be mostly dealing with thousands of people seeking refugee in the country in a grown up, organised (well you would expect that), humanitarian, and friendly manner.

In the UK we seem to be terrified to let a few thousand people across the channel from Calias, and some of the attitudes and opinions I have heard from politicians, the media and individuals I work with has really disgusted me.

Yes, I am sure these attitudes exist in Germany too, and I am sure that there have been incidents that we don't hear about in the British media, but overall if I was German then I would be very proud to be German right now!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunday Assembly High Wycombe

Well, things are starting to come together - the first Sunday Assembly in High Wycombe will be on 11th October at 11am!

If you don't know what Sunday Assembly is then think of a church service, with songs, and readings, and poems, and a talk, and community - but without the need for any of the congregation to have any supernatural beliefs, and no mention of god in the service.

It's more complicated than that perhaps (a humanistic edge, some existential ideas, some psychology thrown in, some mindfulness... the list goes on). You can find out more at the main Sunday Assembly site

We have now got a venue, a speaker, and a theme all sorted, the music is coming together bit by bit but remains my main concern, as I don't really understand the ins and outs of how a band works, or how music works for that matter, but we are getting there.

We still need to print and make some banners to make the venue look amazing, we need some poetry readings, we need people to meet and greet and make teas and coffees. We need to sort the running order, the timings and the publicity. If you can help, let us know!

But we are now only six weeks away from this happening, and happen it will, if we are ready or not! Exciting times, and thanks for all the people who have helped this come together, especially Gemma whose enthusiasm got the whole project off the ground in the first place!

Follow Sunday Assembly on Twitter @S_Assembly_HW or like us on Facebook

Sunday, 23 August 2015

High Wycombe from the Marlow Road

On Thursday I went to Tate Britain, and decided (after seeing a few of my favourites in the old part of the building) to focus on the Clore Wing, which is mostly full of Turner pieces which I have not properly explored before. i was amazed to read that they have over 42,000 Turner items (including sketches), and this got me thinking.

I searched the online catalogue to see if he had painted or drawn anything of places I know, so I searched for Devon, and then Buckinghamshire... One picture instantly jumped out... Wycombe Church from an angle that looks as though it could not be far from our flat, I was fairly sure I knew the spot that Turner must have been standing, and that our modern day flat would have been in his picture had it been built in 1802.

So this morning, armed with printout of Turners painting i strode up the hill, looking to match the angle of the church and line it up with the curve of the hills behind. I confidently strode to the spot in the field that i thought it must be, and instantly knew that I had got it all wrong. The hills behind didn't match, and the angle on the church was not right. I was on the wrong side of Marlow Hill, and realised this might take a bit longer than I thought.

I crossed the busy 4 lane road (luckily on a Sunday Morning it is not too busy) and strode up the hill to the only turning off the main road that could possibly provide the right angle on the church. Sadly trees obscured the view all along, and the area I would have needed to get to was private property of Wycombe Abbey School. I kept walking until I just glimpsed the Church through the smallest gap in the foliage, it was still not quite the right angle, but very very close. I walked to the end of the railings and the row of trees only to have my view blocked by houses.

I walked back to the gap to estimate where the right place would be. I think that I would need to be about 20 or 30 metres forward from where I took this photo to be in the exact spot that Turner stood when he painted 'High Wycombe from the Marlow Road", but that falls well into the private grounds of the school.

I will visit again in the winter to see if I can get a slightly clearer view without those pesky leaves!

Sunday, 4 May 2014


...It's been a long time (lots of works in progress so far) but I have finally completed one of my new things.

We went to Yo Sushi (I know there is an exclamation mark, but can't remember where it goes) in High Wycombe yesterday.

I was glad to see the rotating coloured plates whizzing around, and knew that we would sit on one of those high bar stools, and rather liked (but didn't use) the taps for water on the table top.

We were shown how to call for assistance, had how to order explained to us, and helped navigate the menu.

I decided to go for the most Sushi looking dishes, so picked a small purple plate that was spinning around, and then ordered a salmon dish from the specials menu.

I must say I didn't enjoy the little seaweed wrapped parcels of rice and fish that I picked from the conveyor belt, it was very tasteless (just a general fishiness) and very very dry, and made me reach quickly for my beer to just get some moisture back in my mouth.

the next dish was more moist, and had a nice lemongrass element to it, but was just more fishy rice, flavour indistinguishable from the first dish! I ate maybe half of it, but could not manage anymore (and I was really hungry still!).

So a disappointing experience, not made better by not being able to relax on the high stools, being situated by the sink where staff were washing their hands, and rather dark, small surroundings.

So, I have no tried it, but won't be going back! Who want's to go for curry?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

12 New things for 2014... The ideas...

Thanks for all your ideas on Facebook and Twitter, I am now going to try and pick, adapt and make sense of them.

Some ideas were too expensive (Compete in a hill climb), or too time consuming (Pilgrimages), or both (Fostering a child) but thanks for making the effort... 

Some I have done before, so don't count (visited Palestine, Ottery tar barrels, running a half marathon, National Novel Writing Month, reading a book of the Bible)

1. The first useful one was from Jovan, "Pilgrimage to Mecca". Well, I am not about to actually make the pilgrimage to Mecca, but I have been meaning to read the Koran for a while now, so I will read at least part of it this year! (I will need some help from my Muslim friends and colleagues on the details of this one!).

2. The second one from Sarah was "Make and eat your own Sushi". Well, I have never even eaten sushi, so I will eat sushi this year!

3. Emily suggested taking up an instrument. I am thinking Ukulele maybe?

4. Martin suggested learning a computer language, I am concentrating on the human language of German right now, but would like to read a bit more about the basics of how computer language works, as I have so many friends who use it for their work, but it feels like another world to me. So I will read some kind of introductory book on the subject (cop out? I hope not!).

5. Kate suggested growing potatoes on the balcony. I have grown all sorts, but never spuds! Ivonne actually has the bag we need to do it, so nothing stopping me on that one!

6. DT suggested acting in a production of Shakespeare, well, and this may shock you, but I have never seen a live production of Shakespeare, so I am going to start there first!

7. Ivonne suggested I learn to knit a scarf. I think this is slightly more realistic than the other suggestion of sewing my own clothes, so going with that.

8. Maria suggested learn to hula hoop... No idea where the nearest hula hopp learning centre is, but happy to give it a go!

9. It has been suggested before that I learn to play Chess properly.

10. Kathryn suggested doing a one mile open water swim, bit ambitious given that I can't really swim, but I would like to try at least a few swimming lessons.

11. I have never been fishing, despite JJs kind offers in the past. This is the year I will catch a fish...

12. Zoe suggested giving up meat for a month... I will try a week!

That is my 12!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

12 new things for 2014...

I need your help!

In 2014 i want to challenge myself to do 12 things (one per month) that I have not really done before. For instance this year I started learning German, and how to play backgammon. 

So I need your ideas, and I will pick the best 12. It could be going somewhere, an event, a skill, food related, reading or watching something, giving something up, taking something up.... well, you will be more creative than me!

Try and think "What would Neil really not think about doing"... then suggest that! The only proviso is that it can't cost the earth, or be too overly time consuming!

I will then blog my experiences throughout 2014!

Monday, 17 December 2012

2012 - Museums

London March 2012 015

 The great thing about living so near London is that you can be in a museum within an hour of leaving work. Stressful Saturday morning at work, no proble, jump on the next train and before you know it you are surrounded by objects of art, science, literature and more...

I have enjoyed many events at museums this year, from recording podcasts at the British Library and the V&A, A strange talk about inanimate objects at the Wellcome Trust, the superb "Writing Britain" Exhibition at the British Library, and all the delights that the British Museum offers.

The below picture is from the British Museum, despite having been maybe 8 or more times I still have not seen everything, and every visit discover a new room of things. this bird statue is perhaps my favourite of all things in there!
London March 2012 024