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.