Annual “cheese rolling” contest……….a Great British wacky tradition!

It turns out some people will do anything to win some cheese – as competitors at the annual cheese rolling at Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth in Gloucestershire proved this afternoon.

Crowds gathered for the event, which takes place on the late May bank holiday every year, to watch people chase a wheel of Double Gloucester (a very popular English cheese) down a hill.

Participants risked life and limb to catch the cheese – and as these action-packed pictures show – many ended up rolling head over heels and getting injured on the way.

The event was run officially from the 1880s until 2010, when health and safety fears led to it being cancelled. However, since 2010 it has been run unofficially every year.

1432556575-86d2c9fd2337794e188244d10eeb97cc-1366x2052Thank god that the “elf n’ safety” mob have been ignored and this wacky and wonderful traditional event continues albeit “unofficially.” Yes it is dangerous but extremely funny and continues the tradition that makes us British, and which no visitor to this fair isle will ever really understand.

And as I would say to all my Lithuanian friends, “you could never do this in Lithuania because you don’t have any hills!” (except the little one on which sits the castle in Vilnius……..and that could just be a possibility).

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Not so bright or self aware teenagers……………………

Bright teenagers are being taught how to adopt a firm handshake and how to make eye contact because they do not know how to behave in interviews. Teachers fear students with the highest potential will be unsuccessful in university and job one-on-ones because they have not learned how to conduct themselves in formal situations.


In a bid to give them ‘insight’ into the importance of body language, top students are having lessons in the dangers of mumbling, bad breath and even failing to plan the right outfit.  In sessions guided by a group of volunteers, pupils are also shown how to avoid a ‘wet fish’ handshake and why they should try not to do nervous foot-tapping.

As part of the scheme, the students are even advised on getting a hair cut and buying a new shirt the night before an important interview – and to make sure they smell nice.
The lessons form part of a scheme known as LikeSkills, a project run by Barclays and the Transformation Trust, a youth charity, which was set up two years ago. The scheme, which works with those aged between 11 and 19, now operates across 11,000 schools, colleges and youth clubs.

Kirstie Mackey, head of LikeSkills, said the scheme aims to give students ‘a bit of insight into the importance of body language and making a good first impression’.
The aim is to show how their so-called soft skills – including self-awareness, self-confidence and personal presentation – can make a positive different to career prospects.


A typical lesson might involve an introduction from a volunteer, before a series of mock job interviews which are carried out between class peers.  In one lesson at Ernest Bevin College in south London, Steve Beckles-Ebusua told the sixth form boys how to ‘sell themselves’.

According to The Times, he said: ‘An interview is a performance. Do your homework and do what you can to prepare for the bid day. It’s like asking a young lady out. Have a plan. Make sure you look the part. Get a new shirt and a haircut.’ Lobsong Lama, 18, who is predicted top grades and wants to be an investment banker, said the lesson contained ‘golden nuggets’.

He added: ‘The end goal is to get a job and to do that you need to well in interviews. In school, we don’t get these tips.’  Those behind the programme say the lack of part-time and Saturday jobs has stopped teenagers being put into situations where they are forced to develop their confidence.


This article originally published in The Times starts off with the words “bright teenagers” but I find it very difficult to believe that so-called bright teenagers do not know how to shake hands when meeting someone or present themselves professionally at interviews. What is it about the current generation that many seem to have no common sense, no social awareness and worse still no concept of what is considered to be “good manners.”

Have they never see their parents shake hands when greeting people or watched a film / TV programme where people meet and shaking hands is considered the “norm?”

More importantly why are they not being advised by their parents about these things, or if they are, why do they choose to ignore the advice?

I quote: “Lobsong Lama, 18, who is predicted top grades and wants to be an investment banker, said the lesson contained ‘golden nuggets”……….well if he is 18 years of age and one of the academic high flyers AND doesn’t know how to greet people or to present himself at that age then there is very little hope for him.

What I do find surprising is that this issue has reared its ugly head again as I can remember my work as a careers adviser back in the 1970s when we were working with teenagers and always included sessions on “impression management” and in recent years I have done sessions for both under and post graduates on the same topic in various UK universities so there is nothing new in what is being done by Barclays and the Transformation Trust. 

But the question that still puzzles me is that I left secondary modern school in 1965 aged 16 and I knew that if going for interview I should dress professionally and greet someone formally when meeting them by shaking their hand. It was simply social convention, I didn’t need to be taught it. What has changed?

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A wander down the “ginnels” of Golcar

A warm afternoon so I decided to do a little tour of the “ginnels” of my home village of Golcar. For those of you who don’t know what a ginnel is, it is “a narrow passageway or alley often between terraced houses” and is a term that seems peculiar to both Lancashire and Yorkshire.


The origins of the word allegedly dates back to the 17th  century and it has been suggested that it is a corruption of the word “channels”


So with my new Sony a65 camera in hand (courtesy of Mike Guttridge) I set out to photograph the local flora and fauna and any other interesting object that came my way.

So what follows is a range of photographs taken within a half mile radius of my home

DSC02343 DSC02372 DSC02364 DSC02360 DSC02345 DSC02341

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Justina Gringyte triumphs as Carmen at ENO………..more Lithuanian music success.

Justina Gringyte as carmen at E.N.O.

Justina Gringyte as carmen at E.N.O.

Calixto Bieito’s take on Bizet’s Carmen is tough, dark, spare and intelligent. There’s little of the vulgarity that can make Bieito’s shows annoyingly embarrassing. But there’s absolutely no Andalucian kitsch either. A Spanish flag in act one, a looming Osborne bull ad backdrop in act three and, at the last, Escamillo dressed for the corrida are just about the only reminders of where we are. Almost all the dialogue has been cut and although there are striking visual moments, it is the threat and reality of male sexual violence that dominates this Carmen.

Vocally it is a strong revival, too. Justina Gringyte commands the title role. She looks, and is, more eastern European than Spanish, and in the act-three card scene she sounds as if she is singing Tchaikovsky rather than Bizet. But she has a vibrant mezzo with a strong top, as well as stage presence to spare, and she is good at capturing Carmen’s reckless vulnerability. Eric Cutler’s Don José is musically and theatrically an even more impressive achievement. He moves more convincingly than many Josés from mummy’s boy to violent abuser, and he has the measure of the role’s many vocal challenges, too, passing the test of his act-two aria in style.

The evening’s final great strength is the playing of the ENO orchestra under Richard Armstrong in the pit. Armstrong’s long years of experience as an opera conductor in Wales and Scotland mean that nothing is overdone and yet nothing is missed. There is real authority in his handling of the score throughout. ENO has made a smart move by adding him to their roster.

Note; The above is a summary of the review in the Guardianonline.

Posted in Art, Cklassical music. Female Conductors, Culture, Lithuania, Music, Opera, women in society | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating the rise of female orchestral conductors………………


The number of  female orchestral conductors continues to increase as male prejudices (and some female) continue to be challenged and only recently Marin Alsop was announced as conductor for the UK Last Night of the Proms 2015 .

So, how many can you identify? I will set you going by saying Marin Alsop is bottom right…….

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The little house on the prairie…………..but not as you know it!

Little House on the Prairie was an American Western drama television series, about a family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota and was very popular in the 1970s and 80s.  However “the little house on the prairie” I am referring to is not in the mid west of America but situated in West Yorkshire here in the UK.

Aerial view of the

Aerial view of the “little house on the prairie”

Anyone who’s driven on the M62 between Manchester and Leeds will have seen the farm in the middle of the motorway and wondered: what’s it doing there? On the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire, slap bang in the middle of the motorway is Stott Hall Farm. Known to the truckers as ‘the little house on the prairie’ it’s possibly the most famous farm in the land.

Stott Hall Farm is an 18th century farm on Windy Hill, situated between the two carriageways of the motorway between junctions 22 and 23. The road forks around the farm for engineering reasons owing to the surrounding area’s geology, though a local myth persists that the road had to be split because the owners refused to sell the land during its construction.

Twilight at the

Twilight at the “little house on the prairie”

There is also an “urban myth” that a swampy type character sat on the roof of the farm blasting out Led Zeppelin songs to protest about the demolition of the farm…………nice story but again untrue. Due to its remoteness in the Pennines, the farm is often nicknamed the Little House on the Prairie but no one seems to know who gave it the name or when. But it is now known countrywide to lorry drivers using CB radio by this name and is even referred to as such by BBC Radio 2’s traffic reporters.

Only last week I was listening to Radio 5 early one morning and a traffic report came on saying that there were problems between J22 and J23 of the M62 opposite “the little house on the prairie.”

View from the bridge over the M62 looking west towards the

View from the bridge over the M62 looking west towards the “little house on the prairie”

So it now seems that the name has gained national and unofficial recognition, as everyone who I speak to knows where the “little house on the prairie” is and even people “down South” are aware of its existance!

I think it is rather wonderful that you can be driving along one of Britain’s busiest motorways and then suddenly come across the farm and the sight of sheep and lambs grazing in the middle of 6 very fast lanes of traffic.

So, if you have never driven the M62 between Lancashire and Yorkshire (there is a “checkpoint Charlie” to check passports at Ripponden) be prepared to see one of the “seven wonders” of Britain’s motorways.

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I am Spartacus…………………….Andy Burnham for Leader


This is Andy Burnham who seems to be a leading contender to be the next leader of the Labour Party. He is currently MP for Leigh (my home town) and as they say in Leigh'”tha could put a pig up for Labour and it’d get elected”………………

Apparently, after leaving Cambridge University ( no red brick university for this “northerner”) he worked as a researcher for Tessa Jowell from 1994 to 1997, then working for the NHS Confederation in 1997 and as an administrator for the Football Task Force in 1998. The same year, he became a special adviser to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, a position he held until 2001.

After the retirement of Lawrence Cunliffe, the Labour MP for Leigh, Burnham was elected to succeed him in 2001. He held various cabinet posts within the Labour government and as Health Secretary, Burnham allegedly ignored repeated requests for a public enquiry into unusually high mortality rates at Mid Staffordshire Hospital, including three independent reports into what became known as the Stafford Hospital scandal. Burnham and his predecessor as Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, rejected 81 requests to examine the high rate of deaths at the hospital. 2,800 of which arose after alarms were first sounded.

So here we go again with a prospective Labour leader who has never held a “proper job” outside the London metropolitan political bubble, no experience of business or industry and whose main claim to fame is that he tried to stop the enquiry in to the Mid Staffs NHS Trust scandal as he felt it would not be “helpful.”

After the debacle of Ed Miliband there is every chance of getting another “clone” in as leader. It is often said that Political parties get the leader they deserve.…………watch this space!

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