If I had three wishes

Oil lampI set the Daily Create today, without having anything particular in mind when I did it. So if I had three wishes, what would they be? Obviously an end to this neo-liberal capitalist nightmare of wars, poverty and corruption. But, in a less altruistic vein, here are my three wishes at the moment:

  1. To be better at image manipulation. I’d like to be as good as this guy, or like Average Rob, but it takes time to learn and more skilz than I has.
  2. To be better at playing uke. I can strum, but I need to practice more, and more, and more …
  3. To be able to draw. I can’t. Never could. Maybe I’ll take an art class when I retire.

“Project 365-329/365 Three Wishes 三個願望” flickr photo by Li Jen Jian  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

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Recently Terry introduced me to Lumen 5, a neat free tool that lets you make videos out of blog posts. He’s done  a few, and blogged about it again today. I still had Alan’s latest post open in my browser, so I used that to make a quick video.

It’s a lovely tool to use – really quick and easy to work out. After publishing it takes a few minutes to render, so I went off and cleared some emails from my inbox while I waited. I’m really pleased with the result.

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There’s a poem by Spike Milligan I’ve always loved, and I think of it often living here in rainy Glasgow:

There are holes in the sky
Where the rain gets in
But they’re ever so small
That’s why the rain is thin.

So here’s my one word poem for today’s Daily Create – some pics I took yesterday. The first is our back garden during the downpour, the others are local pavements.













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dandelion clocks

I hate dandelions. I can’t think of one thing that’s good about them. They straggle all over our driveway and however hard we try they keep multiplying. Don’t tell me that their leaves are good in salads or tea because we live on a busy road and there is no way I’d eat anything that was grown at the front of my house. Don’t tell me they’re good for the bees as we have many other, prettier flowers that the bees love. Here’s what our front step looked like earlier:



Actually, it’s not just dandelions I hate. There’s two closely related flowers that also take over our garden. This monstrosity:



and this one:


Which looks pretty close up, but which takes over the whole garden if I am not ruthless.

They’re not even rhizomes – if they were I’d have a grudging sort of like for them all – but they’re not. they’re taproots. Ugh – you pull, and pull and pull – and out comes a huge long straggly root. And you know – you just know – that there’s a tiny bit left in the earth that will regenerate. I’ve just spent an hour out in the garden fighting with them (and other weeds, of course) and my back aches, and I know that next time I go out to look at the garden there’ll be more of the little horrors mocking me. I could make an analogy with education, or beliefs … and of course there is a huge difference which could be teased out, but I just wanted to vent today.

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The best decision I ever made

I had a training course off campus today, so all week I’ve been planning to use this as an opportunity to respond to Kim’s weekly photo challenge and take photos of the path I chose to walk along. As a bonus today’s Daily Create asks what the best decision I ever made was, so this post counts as a twofer 🙂

Actually. although I set out with my camera to hand, it was such a glorious day that I nearly forgot, but as I passed by the fountain I remembered and turned around:

The Stewart Memorial Fountain

This fountain was designed as a monument to the late Lord Provost Robert Stewart, “the man deemed most responsible for establishing Glasgow’s first permanent supply of fresh water from Loch Katrine“. I love knowing things like this about my city – so much of it is about the ordinary folk who lived and live here. The whole park was originally designed by Joseph Paxton, head gardener at Chatsworth House in North Derbyshire – a place I used to visit often as it was very close to where I grew up – a serendipitous connection for me when I remember it.

A little further on I stopped to admire some geraniums – these are semi-wild around Glasgow. I was going to move so that my shadow was not in shot, but I decided to leave it as it was:


Another thing I love about my city is the juxtaposition of different faiths and cultures – such as here:


and from the other side:


and here:


The building that the training course was happening in is not a beautiful work of architecture (it’s the big one at the end of the road with the glass front):


But my uni rent the 6th floor, and the views from the training room are stunning:


The Uni tower is in the background of this one:


And the Mitchell Library, open to the public, is opposite:


I particularly love the statue of Minerva on the roof:


Apparently she’s referred to as Mrs Mitchell – though I’ve never heard that myself.

Then down below to the right some more Glasgow treasures – another juxtaposition I note between the opulence of the Mitchell, the necessity of the pornbroker, and the curry shop – so many different messages dancing around in my mind there:


This restaurant  was first opened in 1964- that’s the year I was born.

So what was the best decision I ever made? Why, to move to Glasgow, of course. I have never regretted that snap decision made almost 20 years ago.




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Mud, glorious mud

My dad used to Love Flanders and Swann – so much so that we had a song book for piano – and as a wilful child I used to play their songs rather than practice my set tunes. So when I read the Daily Create today I was transported back to my childhood.

I wandered around campus today looking for some mud – surely there must be some after all the rain yesterday? But the sun was out, and most of the mud was decidedly unmuddy. I found this behind our building, though, and came home still with an earworm. Nothing for it but to sing it out. So here’s the chorus to the hippopotamus song:

And, for those of you not wanting/able to listen to my dulcet tones, here’s the lyrics:

Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud

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What would you save from a digital fire?

wood fire

Wow, what a good question. Today’s Daily Create asks:

The internet is on fire: What digital personal effects would you save?

Kevin’s story gave me pause for thought – as he suggests, I wouldn’t have time to log into everything. So what would I care about most? This blog, which has been part of my life for five years now? My Flickr account, which I do regularly upload my favourite photos to? Google Docs, with all of my collaborative writing including our crowdsourced #CLMooc Tech Tools Playground? My Ravelry account, with pics of most of my recent knitting projects? Gosh, so much of who I am exists online. Ok, so a lot of it I could find again – but would I?

So if the internet was on fire, what would you save?

“Wood fire Fury” flickr photo by cogdogblog  shared into the public domain using (CC0)

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Frog Song

Rushing to do the daily create today in between marking and cooking tea, as it’s one I suggested and I think it’s fun! My family and friends will know of my lifelong love of frogs, so here is a very brief poem inspired in part by Aristophanes’ play The Frogs.

I wrote  a two line poem and used an online robot voice generator to “say” it. Then I uploaded it to SoundCloud and added am image of my frog home from our garden.

Enjoy 🙂

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Another year older

My birthday this week gave N and me an excuse to take a week off from work and head up to the Cairngorms for a few days of bird watching. At least, that was the plan. Tuesday began with a flurry of packing everything we might need, with a pause while N gave me my main present – a tenor uke he had adapted into an electric bass for me:

My brother, Helen, Bron and Hugh (Helen’s dad) had hired a boat to cruise up and down the Caledonian Canal, so we made a detour past Fort Augustus to meet up with them. N enjoyed steering the boat out onto Loch Ness:

They’d also bought me an amusing bottle of malt:

Then up to Granton on Spey, through hail and snow – we found out the next day that 7 inches of snow had fallen (though a lot of it did not settle, plenty did). Plans for walks in the spring sunshine might need to change then …

On Wednesday we drove up CairnGorm and took in the spectacular views:


Thursday was dreich, so we drove to Knockando, where I’d found a working Woolmill which dates back to 1784, and still has much of the old machinery thanks to EU funding. Of course I bought some yarn – one skein for my blanket and some lace weight for a future project:

The weather was still pretty dreich, and the hills were shrouded in cloud, but we were determined to take a ride on the funicular, so we drove back up CairnGorm to have lunch at the summit – the view was NOT spectacular from there:

But we appreciated seeing some snow buntings:

On Friday the weather was a bit better. We spent the morning up at the coast, seeing dolphins in the distance a Burghhead before wandering around Findhorn Bay taking pictures of birds in the gorse like this yellowhammer:


We then drove to the Culbin forest to look for crossbills – N saw one but there was no way I was climbing up where he went:

Then, on the way back to the hotel we stopped off at Lochindorb and saw these Greylag geese swimming around:

Then home, on Saturday – with two little cats glad to have their humans back.

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How not to run a training course

This week I’ve done a lot of knitting. Nothing new there, you’re probably thinking – but it’s been a lot, even by my standards. You see, this week, I have been on a training course – and the only positive thing I have to say about the experience is that my gloves fit nicely and my socks look amazing.

I wasn’t expecting too much from the course, to be honest. It was a fairly generic course for Trade Union learning reps and I knew that we were going to be a mixed bunch. But I did expect to come away having picked up some idea of the rights and responsibilities of being a learning rep, and to have had a chance to work out how to get started in the role (which is a brand new one for my union). One thing I particularly wanted to find out about was what a Learning Agreement between a Union and a Uni would look like, so I asked the trainers right at the beginning about that. Absolutely, they assured me, that would be covered. “Good, good”, I thought.

As is usual for this sort of course, the sessions were organised into group work and then feedback sessions as a whole room. That’s fine – generally there’s enough time to look over any relevant paperwork and discuss it as  a group, and a bit of time to chat and swap war stories with other reps. However, this whole course was a lesson in how not to run small groups.

Here’s what the trainer said we were going to do:

  1. Work with the other three people at your table
  2. Appoint a person to feedback (this person would change each time so we all had a chance to speak),
  3. Work in the group for 20 minutes (trainer will circulate to check we are all on track),
  4. Each group would only feed back one or two items so each group had a chance to contribute.

That’s  a great recipe. It’s one I use as it avoids the tedium of having to sit through multiple groups all saying the same thing. However, this was not what happened. Here is what actually transpired:

  1. Each group looks around the table and appoints a speaker,
  2. Work in a group for 20 minutes,
  3. Look around the room and see the trainers huddled in a corner chatting,
  4. Start chatting about something,
  5. Notice the trainer has finally started circulating,
  6. Carry on chatting,
  7. Say “yes” when trainer gets to our table and asks if we are on track.
  8. Finally, after 40 minutes or so, the trainer asks if we’ve had enough time.
  9. Say “Yes” loudly,
  10. First group feeds back one or two things,
  11. Trainer proceeds to connect these up to everything else that we could possibly have written on the subject. Asks for suggestions from the floor. Repeats these in great detail and gives a mini-lecture on some of them,
  12. After topic is exhausted, trainer asks other tables if they have anything to add,
  13. Expresses surprise that they do not,
  14. Says we might as well have a break.


To add insult to injury, the topics yesterday were quite repetitive, and I was not the only person to notice. When one attendee responded to the trainer’s question by saying “we wrote the same as we did when you asked this morning”, lots of folk nodded. The trainer, however, seemed oblivious. At morning break today a huddle of [large retail store] learning reps on the course beckoned me over and asked if I was enjoying the course. I asked them what they thought and it became apparent that they were as frustrated as I was by the trainer. Back at my seat I whispered to the person next to me that I felt like not coming back after lunch. As she walked out of the room at lunchtime she said, in quite a loud voice, that she thought that there was barely enough content for a two day course, let alone the five is was scheduled for. I hope that, like me, she takes that back to her union officials.

It wasn’t all bad though – the course was held at the old Nautical College on the south side of the Clyde, and I enjoyed taking pics of the view over there –  the image at the top of this post is near Bridge Street Subway, taken yesterday afternoon. I also smiled each time I walked along to the canteen and saw this view:

I never did find out about the learning agreement though …

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