Friday, December 28, 2007

You are the ref

Question submitted by Anna aged 5:

It is the start of the game. The ball is on the ground in the middle of the pitch. A player kicks it but the ball doesn't move. All the players try to kick it and it still doesn't move. What would you do if you were the referee?

You might ask a ball boy to throw another ball on. But what if that ball didn't move when the players tried to kick it? How many new footballs would you try before you abandoned the game?

What if this form of paralysis became widespread? Striking league fixtures at random. One premier league fixture per week, no telling which. An expectant crowd of 36,000 people, waiting for kick off, all eyes on the centre circle and the ball just freezes, can't move. The replacement balls are similarly stricken, the game gets called off. How long would fans, sponsors, health and safety inspectors and TV companies stay patient with football?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dreams can come true (especially in dreams)

I dreamt that Fulham won 5-1 away at West Ham. I woke up, it was saturday. We went to the cinema in the afternoon. They read out the football results over the tannoy. West Ham Utd 1 Fulham 5. I told Andrew that it proved that dreams did occasionally come true. I felt the elation of a supporter of a team on a winning streak.

Then I woke up and finished off this picture of our kitchen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

what do you sink?

Room 508, Hotel Villa Royale, Brussels (nearest metro: Botannique/Kruidtuin)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fleet street

Drawn from the gap between a couple of pedestrian barriers on Ludgate Hill

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Watling Street

Until half an hour ago I believed that the little Watling Street in the City of London (where I occasionaly buy a sandwich from a nice Italian bakery) was a component part of the very long Watling Street, the great Roman road which ran from Dover, through London, up towards St Albans and then north westards towards Shropshire and Wales.

Now thanks to Wikipedia I learn that it probably wasn't on the route of the Roman Road, because the Roman road would have crossed the Thames near the site of the present London Bridge, and this little Watling Street is too far to the west of the City to be part of its progress north.

Still it's name is a nice reminder that London was the Roman capital of Britain, and hence an appropriate place for an Italian bakery.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Will Belgium split?

I've made a lot of trips to Brussels this past year, to deliver training courses for the European Commission. Its been an interesting time to be visiting Belgium:
the country hasn't had a Government for four months.

There is widespread talk that the country may split, with the Dutch speaking Flemish Region (Flanders) in the north of Belgium seperating from French speaking Wallonia in the South.

The Belgium general election took place in June 2007, but the Dutch speaking and French speaking parties haven't been able to come to any agreement so a government has not been formed. The Dutch speaking parties want more powers for Flanders, the French speaking parties want more rights for French speakers in Flanders.

The guy who sat next to me on the Eurostar on Wednesday said he thought that Belgium would have split already if it wasn't for the fact that people don't know what to do with Brussels.

Brussels is a region in its own right, situated as a little enclave inside Flanders. Officialy it is a dual language city. All the signs and services are in both languages. But 80% of its inhabitants are French speaking, and as you walk round it you rarely hear Dutch spoken. The litmus test is the shops: a Dutch speaker said that most of the shop staff in Brussels don't understand or speak Dutch, so you have to use French.

A Flemish man told me that Flemish people resent the fact that Brussels has become a French speaking City. Historically most of the inhabitants spoke a dialect of Dutch until the Napoleonic occupation of Belgium in 1793 to 1815. My friend Will tells me that most natives of Brussels have Flemish sounding surnames but are French speakers.

All the small towns and villages around Brussels are Dutch speaking, but are attracting Franch speakers wanting to commute into Brussels. There have been complaints that some of the shops in Flemish villages around Brussels now have shop assistants who only speak French. Once a year the Flemish community holds the Gordel, a cycle ride around the periphery of the city of Brussels to symbolise the encirclement of Brussels by Dutch speaking towns and villages. (Gordel is a Dutch word for belt).

Here are some snippets that people have told me over the past weeks:

A Dutch speaker living in Antwerp (the biggest town in the Flemish Region): people in Antwerp are saying that we have gone 100 days without a Federal government and managed perfectly well, so maybe we don't need one at all. The Belgian royal family don't speak Dutch very often or very well, yet the Flemish have to pay for them'

A French speaker living in Brussels: When they put the piles of free papers out at the Metro stations they make equal piles of Dutch and French language newspapers. The French language newspapers get taken but loads of the Dutch language ones are left, I don't know why they bother'

A Dutch speaker brought up in Brussels: I felt more kinship with French speaking people in Brussels than with Dutch speaking people in Holland. I speak French as well, and we have a common religion (Catholicism) whereas Holland is Protestant.

A French speaker from Louvain-la-neuve in Wallonia told me the history of his town: The Catholic University of Leuven/Louvain is the oldest university in Belgium, dating back to 1425. It was a French speaking university, but located in Leuven inside Flanders. In 1968 the Flemish people decided that they didn't want the main university in Flanders to be French speaking, so they turned it into a Dutch speaking University. It was a very emotive issue, with demonstrations and protests. The French speaking staff went to a green field site 30 km to the south, in Wallonia. On it they founded the French Catholic University of Louvain, and built the town of Louvain-la-Neuve around it. The town has been a success, with the University and all the students in the centre, and residents and lots of new industry and commerce around the periphery. The centre is entirely pedestrian with the roads tunneling underneath it: you ought to come and see it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Goal celebrations

8 o'clock Friday morning

Dad (aged 38): Come on son, time to get up

Son (aged 8): I hate poopid Fridays, I don't want to go to school

Dad: Did you know son, there are some very small people who live on a different planet on the other side of the universe and are called iggle people. They see everything that happens on our planet but they don't interfere, like the Watcher in the Fantastic Four. Each iggle person picks a human being on our planet to support. And fifty of them support Andrew Lappin. When you open your eyes they say 'hooray Andrew's woken up'. When you start getting dressed they say 'hooray Andrew's getting dressed' and everytime you put on a sock they shout and wave their arms in the air with joy. And when you score a goal they are so happy they dance around their little rooms

Son: I haven't scored a goal in the playground for ages. There are two really good goalies Jake and Arthur and it doesn't matter what I do I can't score.

7:30 Friday evening, picking up from boys brigade time

Son: (playing football in the church hall, sees dad and runs over to him) Dad, dad, I scored a goal in the playground, and I scored a hat-trick at Boys Brigade!

Dad:(high fives with son): The iggle people are going mad, they are having street parties!

9 o'clock Friday evening

Son (lying in bed holding his Star Wars book): Are there really iggle people dad, or is it just a story to make me happy?

Dad: Funny you should ask that, because, somewhere on the other side of the universe, a little tiny iggle boy is lying in his iggle bed saying 'dad, is there really an Andrew Lappin who scored lots of goals today, or have you just made it up to make me happy?'

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

View from our front door

I stood on our doorstep drawing for twenty minutes every morning for three weeks.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Fulham 3 Tottenham Hotspur 3

One thing I really enjoy about sport is when an individual or a team cut loose and freely expressing their talent, at the expense of less gifted opponents.

From my childhood I think of Viv Richards walking down the wicket while Bob Willis was running in to bowl at him, then flicking him into the Lords' executive boxes. Or the crowd shouting 'ole' as the great Brazilian teams play keep ball and deny the opposition a kick.

Sportsmen so in tune with their ability that they turn a high pressure professional encounter into an effortless stroll in the park.

Even when my team are on the receiving end I can't help admiring it.

Berbatov and Malbranque strolled round Craven Cottage on Saturday, coming off their markers, playing little angled passes. Revelling in the space they created for themselves.

It had started to go wrong when we gifted them an early goal. Spurs took control. Then Robbie Keane put Berbatov through one on one against Niemi. From where I sat it looked as though he had enough space to drive a bus between Niemi and the near post and that is were the ball went, at a rate of knots.

At 2-0 Spurs were cruising. All around me was silent, apart from the bloke behind me turning the air blue with his expasperation. Fulham have a new team, almost all the players have been brought in by Sanchez this summer. Not only does it take the players a while to get used to each other, it takes the fans a while to get used to the new team, to identify players who can lift the team, who can lift the crowd. We couldn't see where any inspiration could come to turn back the tide.

Andrew was fidgeting in his seat next to me. I tried to keep his mind on the game.
'We need a goal before half time'- I told him.
'We need a miracle' - said the man behind me.
We got a corner straight away and scored from it. 2-1.

I imagined Sanchez hyping the team up at half time and Fulham mounting a second half surge towards the home fans in the Hammersmith End. It didn't happen. You can't mount a surge if you haven't got the ball. Spurs played exhibition football. Keane played Gareth Bale in through on the left behind the defence. I could see space for another bus between Niemi and the near post, so could Bale. 3-1.

Fulham fans are quiet, hardly got the spirit to boo the returning Malbranque. He hit the post with Niemi beaten. Tottenham fans were serenading their team, enjoying an easy win. But the trouble with exhibition football is it needs to have a ruthless streak to it, a killer punch.

Spurs took off their captain Keane and replaced him with Defoe after 75 minutes. I told Andrew they were doing it because they know they have the game won and want to give Defoe some match practice. A sign of complacency

Fulham went for broke and put three central strikers on. Spurs got worried and took Malbranque off from the right side of midfielder, replacng him with a third central defender, Dawson. When he came on you could see the midfielders and attackers looking at Dawson, waiting for instructions, wondering where they were going to go. Their captain Keane wasn't on the pitch to sort it out.

If you are on top in a game and want to make sure you win it, you have two options, you can either bang away your chances on the break to kill of the other team, or you can play keep-ball to deny them any possession. Spurs had missed their chances, and once they had gone down to three in midfield they couldn't play possession football. Fulham could just pile on the pressure for the last ten minutes.

Fulham's second was a lucky deflection. The third goal was an unusual overhead kick/lob from Joe Kamara. Its funny how time stops when your team scores an important goal. When you come down from whatever height you have jumped up to, you find yourselve face to face with someone whose been just behind / beside/in front of you for ninety minutes, but whose existence you were never aware of. You forget all about the players and the pitch.

The spurs fans on the way home looked like they had lost a pound and found a redundancy notice with their name on it.

I hope Jol doesn't get the sack. I like watching his teams. They entertained us thoroughly and had the decency not to leave with all the points.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Return to Downhouse Farm

We went back to Downhouse farm near Bridport in West Dorset for our two weeks holiday.

Here are some views of the cottage, outside and in:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I really enjoyed getting the sleeper to Edinburgh last week.

It meant I could pop home from work, have something to eat, read the kids their bedtime story, go back to London and have a nice six hour sleep on the train.

Then wake up, get the bus to my favourite cafe in the Scottish capital (Marvid's cafe round the corner from Heart's Tynecastle stadium). One round of tea and toast, one chat with the cafe-owner about Kurdish-Turkish relations, then its back on the no 25 bus to start work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Our kitchen

I'm running out of rooms to draw in the house now.

I'm going on the sleeper train to Edinburgh tonight, so if I wake up early enough I'll draw the carriage

Monday, June 25, 2007

mum and dad's house

We went up to Dalgety Bay in Fife for the weekend, my first stay in my mum and dad's new house. I enjoyed waking up before everybody else and having a choice of different rooms to sit and draw in.

Yesterday I sat on an armchair in dad's study (above). The day before I sat on the landing, at the top of the stairs, looking down to the hall below.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Warm sunny days, indoors

Room 6, Hotel Chatelet, Luxembourg, Thursday June 14, 6 am

Luxembourg: the smallest nation ever to be immortalised in a Smiths song.

I could find no discernable trace of those frightening verses which may or may not have been sent to a buck toothed girl in the Duchy. It was a long shot....

Monday, June 11, 2007

From the bottom step

Another view of our hall.

I drew the door too narrow. Good job I'm not an architect, and good job we don't have to get prams and buggies in and out.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

our hall

I sat on the ninth step of our stairs every morning last week to draw this picture.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Oulipo evening

On June 5 I'll be going to Rational Rec's OULIPO evening at Bethnal Green Working Mens Club. Below is Russell Martin's blurb for the event (I've added a few links):

The OuLiPo - an acronym that translates as "workshop of potential literature" - was a post-war French literary movement that included Georges Perec, Italo Calvino and Raymond Queneau. The tenet of the OuLiPo is to create literature via constraints such as palindromes and lipograms.

The event Features:

-- An OuTraPo performance (Workshop for Potential Tragi-comedy)

-- Interview with Stanley Chapman, the first exponent of OuLiPo in the UK in the 1960's

-- OuLiPo like music pieces by Tom Johnson and Damien Ricketson

-- Oulipean activities and games for the audience

-- "Documentary Saga of the OuLiPo" - a new multimedia work by Rees Archibald, Andrew Infanti and Matthew Shlomwowitz that promises to explain everything you need to know about OuLiPo.

-- Book stalls by Bookworks, Artwords Bookshop and Strange Attractor.

Stanley Chapman (b. 1925) was a British architect, designer, translator and writer. He became a member of Oulipo in 1960, founded the Outrapo, and is also a member of the French Coll├Ęge de 'Pataphysique, and the London Institute of 'Pataphysics and the Lewis Carroll Society. His English translation of Hundred Thousand Billion Poems was received with "admiring stupefaction" by Raymond Queneau.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Groundhog day picture

I sat on the same armchair for fifteen minutes every day for a week to draw this picture of our living room at 6.55 am.

Alexa is in typical pose in her corner after her morning stroll. The sofa cushions are still up from the previous night - our ploy to keep Alexa off it.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


This is Alexa, she is an ex-racing greyhound that we have adopted from Hersham Hounds.

Our first dog, and she seems to be settling well. She's very placid (but we have had to hold on tight to the lead on occassions when she has spotted a cat or a squirrel or a toy electric car). She doesn't waste energy so when she's not out for a walk she's usually spread out in her corner like you see in the picture.

Hersham Hounds gave us lots of good advice about looking after greyhounds. We knew needed a greyhound that is friendly with other dogs and happy to be around children, and Alexa fits the bill on both of those.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Four things I like about football

1: the routines
Fulham v Liverpool. A 3pm kick off means a 2pm stop off at the River Cafe outside Putney Bridge station. The fact that Andrew had already had his lunch didn't stop him ordering his usual bacon chips and beans.

This was't a routine game. A loss today would mean Fulham would probably have to beat Middlesboro on the last day to stay up.

2: the gossip.
The guy next to us on the long thin elbow-to-elbow River Cafe tables has been told by a reliable Fulham source that Alan Shearer has agreed to be the next Fulham manager if we stay up. And that Chris Coleman's sacking was partly due to the frequency of his womanising and drinking and with his assistant Steve Keane in the Weatherspoons next to the Motspur Park training ground.

We got some more gossip on the way back: Zat Knight's broken jaw in December wasn't done larking about with brother, it was a training room brawl with Louis Boa Morte. Thats why we had to sell him to West Ham.

3: the interplay between crowd and players.
Seventy minutes gone, in what has been hyped as the biggest game in Fulham's history. West Ham are winning, so we need to win too. The game is flat. Fulham had been as threatening as a bowl of blancmange (does blancmange still exist?). Crowd quiet, aware that elsewhere West Ham were 3-0 up. Throw to Fulham right underneath where we sit. Liam Rosenior has the ball in his hand. He looks at us. Gestures to us. We start singing. He points to the badge on his shirt,we sing louder . Come on he says. We are on our feet now, he's got us going, the whole place is lifted, transformed. A few minutes later Simon Davies wins the ball in midfield, an exchange of passes, Liam Rosenior is behind the Liverpool defence and does the right thing, low and hard across the box, all Dempsey has to do is to make contact. 1-0

4: the feeling you get when your team wins.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A friend in need

Anna was sick into her lunchbox at school on Wednesday (and over the table, her cardigan and the new dinner lady).

She was in the school office waiting to be picked up. A girl came up to her, selflessly offered Anna their lunchbox and said
'here Anna, you might like these sandwiches better'

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Drawing in restaurants

As a consultant you get used to sitting in a restaurant on your own. You arrive in a town/city at 8:30pm. You are hungry, so you find a place to eat. The food is nice, but I used to feel like Norman Nomates until I started taking a sketchbook along.

Restaurants are great places to sit and draw for an hour. You don't have to move, its warm and dry, no-one is going to chase you out the door, and if you want anything else to eat or drink you just have to nod to one of the waiters.

On Monday I ate in aa kebab shop in Brussels (Le Botannique Snack)

Last week I was staying on Anglesey and ate at The Bridge Inn in Menai Bridge.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Travel broadens the mind

Brussels, Villa Royale, Room 205. 6 February 2007, 6:40 AM: ,

Brussels, Villa Royale, Room 206. 13 February 2007, 6:40 AM

Brussels, Villa Royale, Room 206. 14 February 2007, 6:40 AM

Anglesey, Wales, Gwesty Victoria Hotel, Room 24. 22 February 6:40 AM

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Volgan war

We are in 2079. Joe Pineapples goes to Russia, to destroy Volkhan their head of state. As with all incoming robots, his satellite navigation is removed on entry to the country. His rockets are useless without it.

He takes a taxi to a cemetry. Once there he knocks the driver out, cannabalises the taxi and uses its satnav to fire his rockets at Vulkhan. He just misses. Joe is now running towards the Kremlin, armed to the teeth. Blackblood, defending Volkhan, isn't worried. He knows that all robots entering the country have been fitted with a bomb tag. And he has just given the order to detonate every single tag. It is unfortunate that a lot of innocent robots will be killed. The detonations will happen in three seconds time.

I've been waiting three days for the explosions: the next issue of 2000AD is out tomorrow. And I've discovered the fun of comics as opposed to graphic novels: the difference between watching a football match live and seeing the highlights later. Blogs, football teams, comics: all at their best when you track one or several over time, as you flow through time with them.

Adam Crabtree and Gavin Hanley can give you a more sophisticated reading of Joe's adventure

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dylan Dog

I went to Italy a couple of weeks ago. I was working in Ispra, a tiny town on Lake Maggiore that has a European Commission research centre. I arrived at 10 at night. The hotel was virtually empty and its kitchen had closed. The receptionist offered to make me a sandwich. I was sitting in the bar eating it when I saw a small comic book on the bar.

I sat and read it. Set in London, a young detective, Dylan Dog, living with someone else called Groucho who looks and acts like Groucho Marx. Investigating some sort of curse on a building site. I only got half way through it. I didn't pluck up courage to ask if I could borrow it for the night, and the next morning it was gone (I think it belonged to the hotelkeepers daughter).

Next lunchtime I was in a newsagent with my colleague Paolo. I asked him what the Italian word was for 'bandes dessinees' (the French phrase that covers everthing from comics to graphic novels). 'Fumetti' he said and took me to a huge long shelf of comics, all the same size (A5/pocket book)and length (100 ish pages) as the Dylan Dog story I had read in the bar.

Turns out there are a number of popular comic book characters in Italy and every month they bring out a complete new story for the character. Paolo described all the characters. Tex the cowboy, who has been going for sixty years and is Paolo's dad's favourite. Dylan Dog, who I'd already met. Other characters whose names I have forgotten: one set in the future like Blade runner, a crime one. They didn't just have the current months story for them, they had back issues too. Spoilt for choice. The only comic on sale in UK newsagents is 2000AD.

I chose one of the back issues of Dylan Dog, Mystero di Venezi. It was brilliant: an ill-intentioned couple trying to get a Film Director and a tour guide to hallucinate into existence demons that would destroy Venice. I chose it because it was set in Italy. I later read on Wikipedia that Dylan hardly leaves London because he gets motion sickness (in my story he travelled by train). That it is the largest selling comic in Italy. And that Umberto Eco has said that he never gets bored reading the Bible, Homer or Dylan Dog.

My lack of knowledge of Italian didn't prevent me enjoying the story and the drawing. If you want to dip your toe into the waters of learning Italian you could do a lot worse than grab hold of a few Dylan Dog stories.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Fulham 2 Newcastle Utd 1

One of the nice things about watching football is admiring skill from opposition players.

Last November Arsenal came down to Craven Cottage. Early in the second half, a long ball over the Fulham defence from the half way line. Thierry Henry controls it with his left and curls into the top corner with his right foot before we could blink. The referee disallows it for offside. I told the bloke next to us that this was perfect, you see a world class player score a world class goal and it doesn't even count against your team.

Our seat is only 15 rows back, so we can see the whites of the players eyes when the action is near us. Newcastle had a throw right in front us yesterday. Nicky Butt received the ball at his feet. I paid special attention. Nicky Butt, a neat passer of the ball, growing up in all those succesful Man U sides. Man of the match in that England v Argentina game in the 2002 world cup that Tania and I somehow managed to watch on a hospital tv an hour before Anna was born.

Butt turned and rolled the ball square, towards were he thought his defenders where. But they weren't. Heider Helgueson was though, and he cracked the ball over the suprised goalkeeper into the net.

That is two nice memories I have stored up from Nicky Butt now.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fulham 1 Tottenham 1

You have to think on your feet when you take your impressionable seven year old to a football match.

Son:What are they singing at Steed Malbranque Dad?
Dad: They are calling him a greedy custard son.
Son: Why?
Dad: Because he used to be a favourite player here, and now he has gone to Tottenham for more money, and he eats too many puddings.

Vincenzo's Montella came on. his fourth outing as a sub for Fulham. His sophisticated Italian touches have made him a folk hero here already. A few minutes later he has stuck away a penalty that looks like winning Fulham three points.

A new song goes up around the ground. Only one thing for it, sing an edited version in Andrew's ear as loud as I can.

Montella oh oh oh , Montella oh oh oh
He comes from Italy
He doesn't like Chelsea
Montella etc.

(the crowd claimed that Vicenzo harbours a much stronger resentment towards Fulham's nearest neighbours)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

Two further proofs of the existence of God, to add to those discovered by St Thomas Aquinas

Breakfast time, one Saturday in November 2006. Anna is asking her parents about the time God made the world.
Andrew (aged 7, feeling antagonistic towards younger sister): There isn't a God Anna.
Anna (aged 4, shocked): yes there is
Andrew: No there isn't. My science book says the Universe is made of particles. It doesn't mention God.
Anna: But there must be a God Andrew, because there is a Jesus.

Dinner time. Same day, same family.
Tania (aged 37): What places shall we visit when we go back to the Isle of Wight? Do you remember the places you liked last time?
James (37), Andrew, Anna: The Crab and Lobster, St Helens beach, the Steam Railway, the Dinosaur museum
Tania: What is the name of that place with the model village?
James: Godshill
Anna ( turning triumphantly towards her brother): see Andrew, there must be a God! Because there is a hill!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How is work?

If you catch yourself talking negatively about your work today, have a read of this great blogpost from the Chief Happiness Officer.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Do dogs eat mashed potato?

Scully, from the Retired Greyhound Trust, came to spend sunday afternoon with us.

His visit prompted lots of questions from Anna about dogs.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ffawd, Cywilydd a Chelwyddau

I've found a novel that I want to read in a language that I don't know.

It is called Ffawd, Cywilydd a Chelwyddau (Fate, shame and lies) by a Cardiff writer called Lloyd Owen.

The novel almost won the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize for best unpublished novel in the Welsh Language at the 2005 Eisteddfodd. The judges said it showed 'the boldest thinking and the closest to genius" of all the competition's entrants. But they didn't give it the prize because it pushed the boundaries of acceptable publishing.

It is described as cross between Catcher in the Rye and Trainspotting, a dark journey of the soul aimed at teenagers. There is a lot of swearing in it, but the swearing is in English because their isn't much swearing in the welsh language.

Lloyd Owen says that he is influenced by the Coen brothers films: (Fargo and Big Lebowski are two of my favourite films too).

Waterstones at Ludgate Circus have ordered the book for me. They say it will be in within 7 to 10 working days.

That gives me a week or so to learn the sounds of the letters in Welsh. Then I will read the first chapter at normal reading speed.

It will be a good test for the ideas on language learning I put forward yesterday. I hope that reading it, even without comprehension, will encourage rather than discourage me from learning the language. I hope that I will be able to tell you something about the chapter. Not much, but something.

I'll let you know how I get on! I am going to visit Bangor later this month for a consultancy assignment so it would be nice to have even a smidgeon of Welsh before I go.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Anna's horse

We bought Anna a horse for christmas.

She is a bit weak, she has no strength in her legs so we have to carry her anywhere she wants to go. She still spends most of the day sleeping. We call her 'floppy'.

When I came downstairs early yesterday morning floppy was asleep on the sofa, so I sketched her for you

Reading a novel in a language you don't know yet

Lucy posted a great question in response to yesterday's post on learning languages.

Would you get discouraged if you read the first page of a novel in the language you wanted to learn, and couldn't understand a word of it?

I would normally advise you to firstly read that little bit of your language text book that tells you what noise each letter makes ( I get a bit discouraged if I don't know how to pronounce the words to myself in my head).

Then start to read your novel. Don't be discouraged if you don't understand a word of the first page. Carry on reading the first chapter at the same pace you read in english, without looking up anywords in a dictionary, and without re-reading anything. When you have finished the chapter note to yourself anything at all that you picked up about that first chapter. I am sure you will be suprised at what you can say about it.

Now read the next bit of your language text book. Don't bother with their exercises, don't try to memorise any of the vocabulary, just read what they are teaching you.

Then read chapter two of your novel.

Does anyone want to try it? Or nominate a language that you would like me to demonstrate this on?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Learning to draw/ learning a language

Check out this brilliant blogpost by Danny Gregory on drawing.

I love Danny's book 'The creative license'.

A couple of years ago I tried to teach myself to draw from two standard texts on drawing. They covered the major aspects of drawing. The authors had drawn pictures to illustrate the points they were making about perspective, proportion and tone. But I gave up fairly soon.

I believe that for an adult, learning from a text book often doesn't work. The strength of text books is that they are comprehensive, and explain all the complexities of something. This is necessary for students, who will have to defend themselves against exam questions. But it is a weakness for adults, who tend to be more prone to giving up. If you are put off starting to draw by a concern that drawing might be a very complex skill, then a book that explains all the complexities is just going to feed that concern.

The challenges facing the author of a book for adult learners are:
  • how do you help the learner find the inspiration they need to keep learning, and to keep enjoying it?
  • how do you help them to keep in mind the real reason that they wanted to learn the skill in the place?
  • how do you help them to suspend judgement on themselves long enough so that the thought 'I can't learn a language/draw/cook' doesn't prompt them to give up?
This autumn I stumbled across 'The Creative License' by Danny Gregory. It looks different from the standard books about drawing. For a start there isn't a type written word in the whole book. He has drawn and lettered the whole thing, even the copyright details in the front page (everything except the barcode and his publishers logo). Everypage has drawings on it, simple drawings of things in his life: bagels, meetings in an office, motorbikes, bookshelves, a homeless guy he met, spoke to and drew. They are not there to illustrate technical points. They are there to show you what you can do with drawing. The book is bursting with life (Danny's life).

Gregory isn't interested in telling us all there is to know about drawing. He isn't interested in getting us to any particular standard. He is interested in getting us to pick up a pen and paper and draw. Just draw the outlines of things, he says. Maybe after a few months you'll want to start to concern yourself with colour and the effect of light, or maybe never. But for the moment just draw the outlines.

I'd love to write a book on learning languages that persuades people first of all to find something that they want to do with that language (say, read a particular novel in the original) and then to get hold of that novel and spend a bit of time each day reading it. (Reading is easy, it just involves scanning your eye over a page of words. Comprehension comes a bit later). I'd ask readers to spend as much time with that novel as they do with their language text book.

They would be staying close to their reason for starting to learn. If they give up after three months they will still have read that novel in the original. And the novel will provide them with a means of gauging their progress, and a means of seeing what aspects of the language text book are useful to them and what aspects they don't need to bother their head about.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Another way of stubbornly refusing to be miserable about anything

Yesterday we went to see Fulham play Watford, the bottom team in the league. Fulham had two goals disallowed, missed a hatful of chances including an open goal, and had our goalie stretchered off. It finished 0-0.

On the way out I passed a man who declared:
'I can not feel down on a day when West Ham lose 6-0 at Reading'.
It sounded incredibly profound and true at the time.

There is no particular animosity (as far as I am aware) between Fulham and West Ham United.

This man may well have found a foolproof way a way of fending off any existential regrets, misgivings, worries you may be experiencing. On the day of your unhappiness simply scan any football results to find a team in some league, somewhere who has suffered an incongorously large and unlikely defeat, and laugh.

Today is a bank holiday in Scotland, with a full programme of league games. For those of you feeling the blues today I will try to find a result that will give you a confortable feeling of schadenfreude to dispel them (for 24 hours at least).

If you haven't got time to search through football results simply stretch the statement out a bit:
I cannot feel down in the month/year/solar system in which West Ham lose 6-0 at Reading

Update: I've just checked those Scottish results. Dundee United lost 5-1 at home to Falkirk. I can not feel down this week.