Sunday, 25 October 2015

Christmas Birthdays

So it turns out that people who are born on Christmas day are a lot like the proverbial London Bus. Before this week I did not know a single one, and then suddenly I met 3 in as many days (plus someone else who was born at 2 minutes to midnight on Christmas eve). Two of the three were also twins, which is even more bizarre.
     Aside from the obvious reason I'm not sure why so few people seem to be born on the 25th of December, it's 1 day in 365 (unless you're born on a leap year - and incidentally I'm yet to meet anyone born on the 29th of February) so maybe I've just been unlucky.
     There's also that weird fact that according to probability you only need 23 people in a room for 50% chance that 2 of them will share a birthday, and approximately 70 people for a 100% chance. I only have seven cousins but I share a birthday with one of them.
     For a while facebook used to have a page where you could see all of your friends in birthday order. At the time I knew approximately 400 people on facebook but they only covered about 220 days, with September the most popular month to be born in and February the least. By carrying it on for a while I was able to tick off another 50 days, but only now could I put a mark (or three) next to December 25th!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

the five people you meet in heaven: review

The five people you meet in Heaven, written by Mitch Albom and published in 2003, now often makes lists of books you aught to read (and features on my page 100 books) and along with it's interesting premise I thought I would give it a go.

The story is of an old man (Eddie) who, on the event of his death, reaches Heaven (or a Heaven invented by Albom for this book) and there meets five people who affected his life in some way and help him to understand the meaning or purpose of it all.

With this in mind I began reading but was initially disappointed, partly because Albom didn't introduce the story in the way I was expecting, or the way I would have written it, and partly because I think he over explains things a bit too much, rather than letting the story do the telling. He also seemed to be struggling to understand the Heaven he had invented, with vague references to God (who doesn't appear) and confusing settings. Slowly this does iron out and the story becomes clearer and although it is fairly obvious which way the book is heading there is a nice ending that I didn't quite predict. Albom is also brave in so openly offering five 'lessons' to Eddie, which other authors have, in my opinion, sometimes struggled with (E. Nesbit, Five Children and It) and occasionally succeeded wonderfully (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird). Personally I found the lessons unclear, although the ending helped to clarify them a little.
     The book is not long (under 200 pages) and is easily readable and overall I found it enjoyable and a little moving. I'm not convinced it would make my top 100 books, but as a simple story it's worth a read.


Monday, 12 October 2015

Helvellyn: Take 2

Today I finally reached the summit of Helvellyn, on my second attempt of the year. This time I approached from the north-west up an never ending staircase of stone steps, rising above Thirlmere and into the cloud.

After waiting for the cloud to dissipate until my legs got cold I eventually trudged onward into the mist. The top levelled out and through the cloud I made out Red Tarn to the east.
Ten seconds later this was the view:

If you hadn't guessed it was blowing a gale, but at least now I could see where the sheer drops were.

After this the views improved dramatically on all sides, although the cloud hung around until I was lake-side once more, when the sun turned the Lake District golden. Consequently I have come to the decision that while Helvellyn is a monster of a mountain, and not to be taken lightly, it is also one of my favourites.

Friday, 9 October 2015

PGL Update

It's been a busy few weeks and I realised I haven't written about PGL recently, so here's an update.

I am now qualified in almost all of the ropes sessions at Winmarleigh, including Abseiling, Zip Wire, and all of the 'Ground Up' sessions (climbing), of which there are many. This means I do fewer ground sessions, in which you generally get to know the group better, but does mean I get to really challenge the kids. The most rewarding moments are when children, who are truly scared, achieve something great by stepping out of their comfort zone. Some only get half way up a ladder, and some come down in tears, but telling them how amazingly they've done to push beyond what they thought they could do seems to increasingly make me start to well up too.

During the past week I have been group leading, working with a group during their stay, but I have also run a few sessions. This morning I instructed a session on 'Wobbly Bars', the final activity for eleven of the kids from my group. Most of them managed fine, but one girl had to be persuaded to climb beyond the 10th step, up to the lowest bar. Eventually she got her feet onto the bar and managed to shuffle far enough away from the ladder to be let down. She was in tears but had gone further than in any other climbing session during the week. Later the whole group (I was co-looking after 80 kids in total) were asked who had achieved something during the week that they didn't think they could have done. Almost all of them put their hands up but I noticed the girl from earlier didn't and she looked disappointed. I managed to catch her eye and told her with a look and a point of my finger that she had. She got the message and raised her hand minutely.

Playing games, singing till my voice is broken and dancing wildly at a disco are all great fun, but it is these wonderful moments that make working for PGL so brilliant.