Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Let there be Light

Image result for images muna alfrink lightLast week I spent my half term break with a colleague and a group of students, including my daughter, at MUNA, a Model United Nations conference, at Alfrink College in the Netherlands.  The poster above introduces the theme and slogan of the conference which aims to open the minds of the students to issues in the world around them. This is the second year I have been on this visit and, yet again, it was a fantastic experience.  There were 375 students involved, many from local schools, but others had travelled from the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Sweden, India and China so it was truly an international conference.  We stayed with host families and, once again, I was welcomed by Annett, an English teacher at the college, and her family.  I had a lovely time there, enjoying her hospitality and friendship. We also met and shared a meal with the staff from the other schools.  Our students also enjoyed the social side of the trip, including the very loud MUNA party which was a less pleasurable event for the staff.

The main aim of the week was to introduce students to the work of the UN.  Each student represented a country and they then research issues, draft resolutions and participate in debates.  My daughter Kate represented Canada and debated human rights issues such as Child Forced Marriage.  She was a bit reluctant to speak up at first and rather overwhelmed by the older more confident students but did learn a lot from the experience.

We also visited Amsterdam and took students to the Anne Frank house, a very moving experience.What I found most poignant were the pencil marks on the walls showing how Anne and her sister Margot had grown during their time in the annexe.  I was very proud of our students who didn't rush through the house as they usually do on museum trips, but absorbed it all quietly and respectfully.

I'm hoping to return to blogging more regularly now spring is on its way.  It's lighter now in the mornings so I'm starting to emerge from my winter hibernation and am rising earlier.  I love light mornings and enjoy that quiet time before others emerge.  It's my favourite writing time,

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Year in Books: How do you read me? Let me count the ways...

I've been neglecting the blog recently, though I've been on Blogger fairly regularly checking out and reading other blogs.  And I've been thinking about how I read online. It's a different kind of reading for me than reading print.  An e-book is different again.  There are some posts I read all the way through properly; some I look at the pictures; others I skim or just read the entry on the home page.  And you are probably the same.  I tend to write fairly long posts not very often and so it's fairly likely that you are skim reading this post.  I doubt very much if all the 16000 + people who have come across me online have actually read a whole post. But you never know, perhaps you have time today...

Anyway here I am again with the only regular post I manage , the Year in Books link up with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees.  My January read was 'The Miniaturist' by Jessie Burton, which I received as  Christmas present.  I haven't quite finished it yet, one reason for my late link up.  I've enjoyed it. Beautifully written, it is one of those books that brings the characters and place to life.  It's full of detail about 17th century Amsterdam, obviously well researched.  I like the evocative descriptions of taste of the sugar and delicacies made from it, which reminded me of  Joanne Harris's 'Chocolat'. The plot, and its link to the dolls' house, is intriguing rather than gripping though, which explains why I've read it slowly.  It's a book to savour and one which will stay with me a long time.

But now I want a pacy, pointless, plot type novel to read over half term. A fast food kind of book, to read and forget - not good for me but enjoyable all the same. I haven't found it yet - considering the new S J Watson as I liked 'Before I go To Sleep'.  Any suggestions out there?

My February books, which I have already dipped into, are both non-fiction.  I've borrowed Steven Pinker's 'The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century' from the library.  It's  not one I'll read all the way through, but it looks interesting and I did enjoy his book 'The Language Instinct'.  I am also teaching Carol Ann Duffy's poetry at present and so am reading 'Rapture'.  Again one to read slowly.  I read the title poem yesterday and this line
stayed with me all day:
 'How does it happen that our lives can drift
far from our selves, while we stay trapped in time,
queuing for death?'

Another question.  Is it always better to read more, to get through as many books as possible?   Or am I alone in my occasional preference for some slow reading?