Monday 28 April 2014

Independent Publishing and a Preview of Richard III

They say it keeps you young to learn new things but I think it batters your brain! Producing the text for The Children's Story of Richard III ready for publishing has been packed with new experiences and I now realise how daunting Independent Publishing can be.

It's not always the big things that catch you out. For me it's the little things like creating the Title Page.  I'd never thought about the Title Page inside the cover of a book. It's something that is just there. Fortunately Alice Povey is doing the Book Design as well as the illustrations and she came to my rescue. I'd never thought about the wording on the spine of the book either but again, Alice has got it sorted. As for the Acknowledgments Page, there is quite a lot of legal speak that we've had to include to cover copyright permissions from other people for images used and copyright claims on behalf of ourselves, not to mention acknowledging support and advice.

A preview of Richard III
One of the scariest 'almost mistakes' that I made was to not be consistent with my side heading styles.  I am eternally grateful to my publisher, Lynn Moore from The Reading Shop, for spotting this. Some of the side headings had initial capitals. Some just had a capital for the first word of the heading. Of course, I know how important it is to be consistent but I hadn't noticed the inconsistencies. So, how many more mistakes will I find before the book is out?

The illustrations have almost been completed by the amazing Alice Povey. I then get a penultimate opportunity to proof read. I'm feeling slightly sick at the thought of reading those words again but it has to be done! The final chance will be when the Printers, Soar Valley Press, produce their draft book. Once we say 'Yes' to that, there'll be no turning back. People keep reassuring me that even the most prestigious of publications have little errors but I so don't want that to happen to my book.

If that were all I was doing right now, then I wouldn't be feeling so brain battered but there's the small matter of continuing to catalogue the local cemetery and create a Website for Ancestry Research. Thankfully I have an expert in database building working with me but it's down to me to write the content of the Website text pages. This has meant a crash course in HTML coding and website design. Enough said!

So excuse me while I pop off and work out which letter to put in-between < and > to make things happen in HTML. It's all good stuff... I think!

Monday 21 April 2014

Some 'I'm glad YouTube wasn't invented' moments

Today's headline in The Telegraph reads,

"School pupils trolling teachers with 'vile' abuse on Facebook and Twitter"

Apparently one in five teachers have suffered in this way and even parents are posting up bad things about their children's teachers. What happened to the days when teaching was a respected profession?

I was a teacher for about 20 years. I don't think I was particularly bad at my job. It's just that all of us teachers have had those 'I'm glad YouTube wasn't invented' moments. In fact, I'm going to share two of mine with you now.

'I'm glad YouTube wasn't invented' Moment 1:

I trained as a History teacher at a time when History was 'out of fashion'. I had to teach Integrated Humanities instead and hated it. My first 'I'm glad YouTube wasn't invented' moment came towards the end of a Sociology lesson with a large class of unenthusiastic 15 year olds. I was showing them slides - yes that dates me - illustrating the Concentric Zone Theory of City development. I was just finishing the presentation when the bell went for break time. The class leapt to their feet, knocked my pile of slides to the floor as they rushed for the door and trod on my fingers as well as the slides. It only took a moment and it was a long time ago but I've never forgotten it. Neither have I forgotten the way the staff room was reduced to tears as I retold the event, but had there been a mobile phone in that room switched to Record... I dread to think of the consequences.

I soon retrained and spent the rest of my teaching career as a Primary School Teacher working with children from 7 to 11. Yes, that age group are kinder, easier to handle but there have still been some of those moments.

'I'm glad YouTube wasn't invented' Moment 2:

The newly introduced Science Curriculum insisted that we teach basic aerodynamics. How else can you teach a class of 8 to 9 year olds about aerodynamics other than by making paper aeroplanes. I should, of course, have warned the Head of my plans - this was in the days when we didn't have to submit plans in advance - and you can guess his reaction when he came into my classroom followed by two rather formal-looking visitors only to be caught in the crossfire of paper aeroplane battles from all corners of the room.

I do have some lovely memories of teaching but those would never have been recorded even if YouTube had been invented. My proudest moment as a teacher came during an Open Day when a girl I had taught from the age of 9 to 11 visited from her secondary school. She thanked me and said that she had never understood maths until she was in my class. Now that's the kind of thing that teachers of today need to have posted up on Facebook, shouted out from YouTube.

So if your child has a positive achievement at school, and I know they all do, please post it up on Facebook and thank her teacher because, when you're a teacher, words of thanks are rarely heard.

Three cheers for teachers!

Monday 14 April 2014

What's the point of the Passover Seder?

In a few hours’ time the Festival of Passover will begin. Tonight Jewish families across the world will have discarded their bread and anything that has come into contact with bread. They will have replaced bread with matzo and will be sitting around their tables with family and friends for a special Seder service and meal. The main reason for the service is to retell the story of the Exodus, how Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and away from slavery.

A traditional Passover Seder plate from Italy 17th Century

We have to tell it every year to help us remember. We eat bitter herbs so that we never forget the bitter times of slavery. We dip parsley in salt water so that we never forget the tears.
Does it make it easier to bear knowing that this happened not today but thousands of years ago? Maybe.

Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Belsen in 1945. When the soldiers arrived they were horrified to see piles of dead and rotting corpses and thousands of sick and starving prisoners.
Does it make it easier to bear knowing that this happened not today but 69 years ago? Not really.

Today in 1994 Rwandans were being massacred, not by the thousands but by the hundred thousands. The massacre continued until mid-July.
Does it make it easier to bear knowing that this happened not today but 20 years ago. No.

At this moment, as you’re reading this, people are being murdered in Syria.
Does it make it easier to bear knowing that this is in a far-away land?
Recent news reports told of the liberation of sex slaves locked in rooms in the UK. From where I'm sitting it doesn't get any closer to home than that.

So is there any point in retelling the story of the injustices of long ago? Yes. If it makes just one person stop and think about how they should treat other human beings then it's worth the retelling.

And on a lighter note it is a much-enjoyed tradition and a great excuse for a slap up meal!

Happy Passover

14th Century painting of Pharaoh's army and chariots

Tuesday 8 April 2014

It was St Pancras Railway Station

Well done, Hilary, you got it right but you did admit that it was a bit of a guess. I am surprised. I truly expected all those of you living in the UK to know that the photo in my last post was the top of St Pancras Railway Station in London. Here is the complete, uncropped view that I had of the building as I walked along Euston Road towards the station to catch my train home to Leicester.

The Meeting Place, one of the statues in St Pancras Station
St Pancras Station has recently been renovated and is now beautiful, both inside and out. The front has been turned into a luxury hotel and the station is now called St Pancras International as it is the terminus for the Eurostar trains to France. The modernisation work combines the old with the new providing sculptures, art work, shops, cafes. There's even a Champagne Bar.

It's hard to believe that in 1966 they almost demolished the entire station. There were plans to amalgamate it with Kings Cross Station just across the way. Thankfully it was saved. This could have been due to public opinion following an earlier demolition disaster. In 1962 Euston Station was demolished. The 1960s saw a lot of demolition of old buildings. The nation seemed to show little interest in preserving them but Euston Station was different. It was of special architectural interest, with a magnificent Doric Arch as its entrance. A passionate 'Save the Arch' campaign was mounted but failed. The whole edifice was destroyed and all in the name of modernisation. It truly is heartbreaking but it may have been this campaign that prevented St Pancras from suffering the same fate.

Have any beautiful old buildings been replaced by uninspiring 'improvements' in your area?

Friday 4 April 2014

Inspiring but...

...where are these spires?

So many times we walk along the street without once looking up. Anyone who loves architecture would love this view that I caught on my phone yesterday but do you recognise it?

Where was I yesterday?