Saturday, 22 August 2015


As humans we have few things as precious as water.
Nothing like a good obvious statement to open a blog post. However, I write this because I have become more aware of how much water I consume over the past couple of weeks, and as someone whose most regular drink is a glass of H2O that is saying something.
     Winmarleigh Hall sits in north Lancashire, where for the past two weeks the tap water has contained something nasty called cryptosporidium (I don't really know what this is, but apparently it will make me ill if I consume it). So instead we have been downing bottled water by the litre, and maybe even the gallon - I wish I'd kept a running total of how much I've used. When getting water from the tap I have never realised how much I take. I might have a few glasses to drink each day, but I also have a quick swig straight from the tap from time to time when my mouth gets dry (something I haven't been able to do for a while).
     As well as having bottled water in the dining room for meal times, we have also been passing out more bottles to the kids each morning and evening so they can have clean water to brush their teeth with. Again I would never have thought this would use much water, but I have generally got though well over half a 500ml bottle myself for each brushing. In the first five days these are most of the bottles I got through, not including the water I drank at meal times.

I guess I should come to some kind of point. I don't think we should drink less water. Maybe we could appreciate it better and not take it for granted as we so often do. Overall though, I think we should simply enjoy it more, it's just great, and after all it is one of the most precious things we have. I know I'm still working on it!

Sunday, 16 August 2015


This morning I was woken at six o'clock by geese honking happily across Chew Valley Lake. I noticed through the walls of my tent that the sun was also already up, so I braved the cold and stuck my head outside. It was as though I had entered a Robert Frost poem, or a Swallows and Amazons story. A very fine mist lay on the low hills and the lake was illuminated by the ascending sun opposite my camping location. Slowly the water began to steam and the rising mist was blown gently across the surface. Small flocks of birds and ducks flew low over the lake, calling to each other, and from my vantage point I could see their reflection in the water, too.
     It was a photographer's dream, as the light danced on the water, the hills and the long grass, but all I had was my phone and so this will have to suffice:


Monday, 3 August 2015

Lessons of a week in Paris with (and sometimes without) a large group of children

Having just returned from a week in France, in which I helped to take a large group of kids around Paris, Disneyland and a few other places, I will now share my observations.

Firstly, having not been to France in many years and never visited Paris, I was just as excited as the young people, and maybe more than some, because several of the 40 or so I travelled down with had been before. This was a good thing because enthusiasm is important in any job, and particularly with children. The other PGL leaders were equally upbeat, especially on the excursions and together I think we managed to make the week even more exciting.

On Monday we travelled in to Paris, and going by coach is definitely a good move. You see lots, you can show and tell the young people about the city, while keeping them in an enclosed environment so that they can't scatter. It's also a stress-free way to travel.
     We parked outside the Eiffel Tower and began our day by climbing to the second level, an experience which costs (to my amazement) just 5 Euros. Although you're only about half way up, the views are still superb. Of course 600 or so steps is quite a lot for some kids but we got there without too much difficulty. Rounding them up and getting them back down proved harder, especially when they decide to go and sit down, hiding amongst the hordes, but we made it eventually.

The tower was followed by a river trip, not necessarily the most exciting, but good again for keep the children together, showing them the sights and giving them a time to sit down. After a time for some souvenir shopping we returned to the Chateau where we were staying, and if this had been it I would have been a bit disappointed. Fortunately, though, I had the next day off, and so returned to roam further across the city.

Tuesday's trip began with a march up to the Arc de Triomphe, which the 3 of us who had come in discovered was free to enter for anyone up to 25, this makes it even more of a must see. Views from the top show off the Eiffel Tower and the many roads leading away from the roundabout-without-rules. To be honest, though, the best thing to do is to peer down at the carnage as the hundreds of vehicles try to navigate around the unmarked tarmac!
 Obviously the most recognisable road is the Champs Elysees, which was where we ventured next.

It's just one of those special places to be and have lunch, which we did, equally revelling in the fact that we weren't having to count children every 5 minutes.
The best part of two miles away, in an arrow straight line, lies the Louvre, not somewhere we ventured in to but of course extremely recognisable, with the large pyramid at the centre of the ancient palace.

Continuing the tour I walked along the banks of the Seine, something which is not necessarily as appealing as it sounds, (it doesn't smell so great) up to the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. Again, I didn't go in, but appreciated the Church from each side.

We completed our day at a restaurant, sat outside under the awning, feeling very pleased with our Parisian day. There were and are many, many other things/places we could have done and visited, but it's always better take time and do things well, than rush to do everything in one go, which never works, especially when seflie-taking children are involved.

Wednesday turned our attentions to Disneyland. Probably not somewhere I would have considered going, but if you can get in for free then why not. Actually the best way to see Disneyland is with a large group of kids, even if it means stopping in every stall and shop for some expensive cuddly toy. The attention to detail in the park and on the rides is fantastic and I even enjoyed the parade at the end of the day!

The rest of the week was quieter, even with a visit to a large supermarket with the group, but we rounded off with another trip, this time to Park Asterix. Much more of a rollercoaster park than Disney this was a fun day for the trill seekers and those who somehow still hadn't spent all their money. There were also several shows, of which the Dolphin display was the only one I managed to see, although it was a nice way to end the week.

 A final note came on the journey home when one girl asked if I had enjoyed my holiday.
"Holiday!" I exclaimed, "I've been working this week, you know!"
"Yeah, but it's not that difficult is it," she replied.
'Oh no', I thought, I've been rumbled! Yet, on further reflection, while it may not have been the most challenging week, and has definitely been enjoyable, I'd like to think I have made a worthwhile contribution through my work to these children, who, I hope, will use these experiences and memories to spur them on socially and academically in the future.