If you listen to what Steve Earle says at the beginning of this video, then you will understand the power of music in education; it is so there in my bucket list of songs. With my peacenik background of teaching in the Middle East, how could I not love this song?
Teaching away changes you in many ways. But, if you are very lucky, some experiences may be truly life changing. This popped up as a memory from six years’ ago today: https://wheatypetes.world/2016/08/15/refugees/
If your classroom assistant is the wife of a “Cultural Attache” at the embassy, you may strike lucky and get invited to a slap-up formal lunch at the Ambassador’s residence.
In some places, where life is difficult for expats (like Libya, where you couldn’t officially buy alcohol), the Ambassador may invite the whole Remembrance Sunday congregation in the CWGC cemetery back to the residence for dinks and canapes. As British territory, the rules on alcohol did not apply and a fine wine was served.
It was the second entry into the register for a marriage in Jordan, where the young relief consul on his first posting, was so excited about one of his first duties being marrying us that he phoned his Dad, all excited, from the Brit Club, we later heard.
And talking of the Embassy Club, what a great place to go for a swim, pub quiz or to to join the football team.
Before the England match against Hungary at Wembley, the England players took the knee as a demonstration, not of support for BLM, but to send the message that racism will not be tolerated in football.
The Hungarian players did not.
The thought occurs: why is it just the players who took the knee? Why shouldn’t the whole crowd do the same to show their support for the message? It would have a lot more power if the whole stadium stood up, or rather knelt down, as a show of solidarity.
You get to know your colleagues (both Primary and Secondary) very well. And this is the reason: you are all ex-pat teachers looking to get the best experiences you can from the country you find yourself in. So, I cheat a bit here and put lots of golden moments into one with the top five trips away from postings abroad.
- Finding yourself in Old Damascus. You had a bit of a hoo-ha getting the visa in Amman, where you had to sign solemn declarations that you never had been, or ever would plan to go, to Israel They did no recognise Israel as a country, so a stamp in you passport – even an exit stamp from one of the Jordan-Israel crossings, was enough to invalidate your passport. But then you discover (or discovered since recent sad events) a medieval world, with an ancient Souq where the apothecaries still sell snakes pickled in a jar for medicinal purposes.
2. The un-touristed, stunning Roman ruins of Sabratha where you can sit on a Roman toilet overlooking pure azure Mediterranean waters, or catch a glimpse of it through the columns behind the stage in the amphitheatre with the lewd reliefs in the foreground.
3. Taking a weekend away in the dubs from Bratislava into Hungary to the Danube Bend, where they lend you an electric cable to hook up, rather than charge you a hefty deposit. Here was perfect rural peace in an idyllic spot above the curving Danube,
4, Heading off to Petra or Wadi Rum or Aqaba where we had our regular favourite hosts.
5. A short train ride to the Christmas markets in Vienna or Budapest.
There are many more of these apart from the top five. which you can find under Jordan, He who Could Not Be Named, Bratislava is for Life. Slovakia blog posts from the home page.
One day my classroom assistant was reduced to tears. I was not sure why at the time. We had just had a new six-year-old starting from South Africa. He was a white South African. One of the first things he did was to ask if he could sing a song to the class. “Well, yes, sure, great.”
This is what he sang:
‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (The Call of South Africa)’
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (Xhosa)
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo (Xhosa)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Zulu)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho Iwayo. (Zulu)
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, (Sesotho)
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, (Sesotho)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, (Sesotho)
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika, South Afrika. (Sesotho)
“When I sang that to my class in South Africa, it made them cry,” was his comment. And then I noticed my classroom assistant in tears. She knew it was the new South African national anthem. The small white child, the son of the very recent white masters of South Africa, singing about the new nation, blessed with the amazing Peace and Reconciliation ushered in by Nelson Mandela.
South Africa’s national anthem features five of the most widely spoken of the country’s eleven official languages – Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English.
Lord bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high,
Hear our petitions
Lord bless us, your children.
Lord we ask You to protect our nation,
Intervene and end all conflicts,
Protect us, protect our nation,
Protect South Africa, South Africa.
Out of the blue of our heavens,
From the depths of our seas,
Over everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound,
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land.
I just happened to listen to a song tonight which brought up a memory. I was teaching in Slovakia and every morning on the fifteen-to-twenty-minute drive to work one winter, I kept on hearing this song on the radio that I really liked. Meanwhile, the thermometer in the car was regularly hitting minus twenty-two on that curious cold spot beside the VW factory in the countryside that we passed twice each day on our commute. Now I have this pleasurable sort of ear-worm going on with this song that reminds me of those times. One day I decided to play it to my class there, thinking it would get me down and groovy (sorry – I know this doesn’t work, but I am a Baby Boomer) with the upper-class Slovak element of the class.
I had to search the play lists on the radio station online to find the name of the band and the song – I only speak a little Slovak. It was IMT Smile (strange name I thought, for a Slovak band), which was founded by brothers Ivan and Miro Táslers, whose initial letters have given the name to the band.
Little Lenka in my class was amused. “Mr, Baxter – they are singing about love,” she sniggered (don’t exactly roll the Rs – just elongate them to get the East European accent). Well, I knew that. I knew Vela Laski meant “big love”. She told me that they were singing in Czech. I never knew that. But I was amazed at the tri-lingual ability of this giggling seven-year-old. I still love this song. I think it must be a mandolin , or something similar, that gives it that agreeable lead rhythm. And at one point it builds up to the most teasing crescendo before dropping back into the verse in a way that takes you along up with it. And at that point, you find yourself on a musical precipice, just waiting to get thrown down… the timing is perfect to throw you down from the cliff-edge. Put it on headphones, loud, and you will see what I mean. For me, it sends a shiver down my spine, every time. The vocals take a crazy left turn into “shwa” inputs, to “wa-wa-wa” and “oh-yehs”, that should be twee and naff, but somehow manage to work along with the Czech. The milliseconds of silence speak volumes – sublime enough to grab you throughout the song. All in all, it’s a jolly song that is really nice to drive to work with in sub-zero temperatures. Here it is, for your pleasure:
When they say yellow warning for rain – they mean it will rain like buggery.
The M6 North/South – what can I say? A “4 hour” journey (according to google maps) took 10 hours. Southwards a “5 hour” journey took twelve hours. In all, there and back, we spent seven hours in traffic jams. And those damn birds blocking the way out of the service station didn’t help much either.
From the campsite you could see the wind-driven rain coming at you from across the loch. It hits. And then it goes away and you may get a beautiful sunset later.
When you ride on the Harry Potter train, keep the little windows shut if you don’t want to have little grains of burnt coal soot in your hair and on the tables. The viaduct at Glenfinnan is a stunning ride. Mallaig has ditched the Celtic trinkets for Harry Potter souvenir shops. Shame really.
In 1787, an unusual rock which had been found in a lead mine at Strontian, Scotland, was investigated by Adair Crawford, an Edinburgh doctor. He realised it was a new mineral containing an unknown ‘earth’ which he named strontia. In 1791, another Edinburgh man, Thomas Charles Hope, made a fuller investigation of it and proved it was a new element. He also noted that it caused the flame of a candle to burn red. Strontium is best known for the brilliant reds its salts give to fireworks and flares. It is also used in producing ferrite magnets and refining zinc. Modern ‘glow-in-the-dark’ paints and plastics contain strontium aluminate. They absorb light during the day and release it slowly for hours afterwards. The village is also the only place where you can buy petrol in under an hour’s drive from the campsite overlooking Loch Sunart at Resipole.
It is a lottery on the Corran Ferry. Sometimes Peaches gets charged the £9 for a car/light goods vehicle, at others £13 for a “motorhome”. It was 50/50 on the four times we used it. The £9 worth of Range Rovers were still bigger than her, the cheats!
From the train you can see what a lovely location Inverailort Castle enjoys (bottom left).
Finding a lovely stop to cook up some food is always a pleasure in these parts.
And the moral of the story? What I have learnt from all this? Simple really: the Highlands of Scotland are still one of the places I would recommend to anyone visiting this planet for the first time. Not just for how beautiful it looks, but equally for how much it beautifies your soul.
Cool Camping is my go-to website when I am looking for somewhere to pitch up. So what is it with https://coolcamping.com/ that makes it a go-to website for campers? It is quite simple really. What you read is what you get. And what you get is a campsite that for one or more reasons is out-ot-the-ordinary-exceptional. Mount Pleasant Eco Park in Cornwall was a perfect example. Read the review from Cool Camping here.
What I found was exactly what Cool Camping is about and exactly what they said I would find: a campsite which, for a number of reasons, lives up to the accolade of Cool Camping: something which goes beyond the expectations of a “normal” campsite.
Firstly, it is a business which is conscious of its environmental footprint. So, half of the power used is generated by the wind turbine nearby. It is not just a campsite; it approaches its role with an environmentally-conscious responsibility whilst supporting local artisans and craft-workers. You will find here composting toilets, a common sense attitude towards its role in the local community (and especially during this pandemic), workshops from local artisans and a restaurant with a very chilled atmosphere using local produce. You may be lucky and catch a gig in the amphitheatre. But if that is not available, just go and use the pizza oven there.
Then consider the fifteen-minute walk down an old copper-miners’ path to the village, where you will discover a surfers’ paradise and some great food to be had. But consider equally the fact that a fifteen-minute walk down the steep valley will not be the same when walking back up the hill. The night we were there, there was also a Middle-Eastern street market down in Porthtowan in the evening. From the campsite there are superb views down the valley to the beach. Or look over opposite and wonder about the lives of those who worked in the old copper mines and start to feel the history of this valley before the surfers arrived. But most of all, just relax in a beautiful campsite and come away feeling re-energised for whatever the following week may throw at you.
Yet again, Cool Camping got it spot-on here. The photos below will give you some idea of why this really is cool camping… hire a tent or a pod if you have not got your own tent or other accommodation; walk to the beach down a stunning valley; fire up a BBQ, wood-burner or fire pit; admire the environmentally responsible vibe; go with your pooch or your family – it will not disappoint.