Friday, 29 November 2013

I love a bit of tomfoolery

Just one of many bits of tomfoolery I sent off into a festival. However, I did not ask this man to take his clothes off. He did that by his own initiative. Outrageous! What are people doing taking initiative?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Visit Norwich - the alternative guide for wanderers

I have lived in the same city all my adult life and that city is Norwich, Norfolk, UK. I came here originally to study at the University of East Anglia and stayed. I know several people that did the same as me and a few more that left and then came back. Those of us that love it, really do love it. 'Not too big, not too small and enough to keep you entertained,' is a common mantra. It's also beautiful to look at.

Something I always do when I see someone in Norwich holding a map, is to stop and ask them if they need any help. Usually I find myself in a conversation that results in me listing many of Norwich's 'worth seeings'. I know there are websites that list attractions, but they are often the things you have to pay to go and see. Some of these attractions are great but Norwich is also a wonderful city to just wander around too. So here is my alternative list of 'experiences' for visitors to Norwich.

Riverside Walk A stroll along the river takes you to some great historic sights. We usually walk from Fye Bridge (the ducking stool bridge) to Pulls Ferry (the point from which Caen stone left the river and was transported up to build the cathedral) but you can go further both ways. Between Duke Street and Oak Street there is a wall covered in white writing - I believe it's an art installation! This is a picture of Cow Tower - one of the medieval city's defences found on a 'corner' of the river.
The Plantation Gardens. This really is like a secret garden. It costs next to nothing to get into. You leave a non-distinct part of the Earlham Road and the track opens up into a network of paths in a garden cut into a large hollow just next to the Roman Catholic Cathedral. It's striking - although this photo - taken mid-winter does not do it justice.
The shop 'Head in the Clouds' has existed in Pottergate for decades. It's a shop full of hippie stuff. It's quite an experience. I fell in love with it when I first came to Norwich. But I am a hippie.
The Waffle House is pretty unique. Those with huge appetites tend not to like it but the waffles and all their savoury and sweet toppings, delicious salads (with a choice of dressings) and thick shakes have kept me happy for many years. It's reasonably priced too and family friendly.

Elm Hill A beautifully preserved Tudor street. If you stand at the top and look down it - it's adorable. I also like the view of the back of the Elm Hill houses from the riverside walk: a higgledy piggledy array of add-ons to some houses.
The Cathedral Close It's beautiful! Don't just visit the cathedral!

The Cathedral I was recently given an alternative tour of the cathedral that included a musket ball lodged in a grave that dates back to the civil war, a statue of a nun with a slightly 'pregnant' bulge (scandalous), very old graffiti including a picture of a ship and Elizabethan gentleman and many dates carved into the walls, a grave showing a baby died before he was born - due to the Gregorian calendar shift, the grave of the man that paid to be buried upright in the wall so he would have an advantage come judgement day, the green men in the cloisters, the damaged tomb of an unpopular man...etc
Jurnett's Bar If you're in Norwich on a Friday evening and you like live music, go to Jurnett's bar, Wensum Lodge on King's Street (King's Street is an interesting wander in itself). Every Friday (excluding the main school holidays), several local musicians perform a 4 or 5 song or tune set. Jurnett's bar is in one of the oldest and grandest Jewish Houses in Norwich.

The Forum A huge modern thing! It invariably has an exhibition or craft fair in its atrium. There's a library at the back too. There's usually a pleasant buzz here.
Tombland Alley (and Tombland) Worth looking at for the wonkiest house ever!
The Market Open every day except Sunday, the market has some fantastic stalls and contains some pretty funny Norwich characters. Try the spice stall to be served by Gareth: whose humour many find insulting(!), the cheeseman stall for a huge range of cheeses, Follands Organics for very reasonably priced organic fruit and veg, a leather stall (many hand-crafted leather goods that make great gifts), bag stalls, underwear stalls, haberdasheries, second-hand goods, and much, much more. The food stalls at the back of the market are great for a quick, cheap, stodgy, filling and scrummy snack or lunch!

The 'Lanes' Head in the Clouds is found in the lanes. It's definitely where most of my favourite shops are found. 'The Lanes' includes Pottergate, Lower Goat Lane, Bedford Street, Bridewell Alley, Dove Street and St Benedict's Street etc and is full of one-off independent shops.

Anglia Square The budget shop centre of the Universe! Not particularly pleasant to look at but great for numerous bargains.

The Aviva Building on Surrey Street. It's used as an office building but the occupants don't mind if you pop in to look at their somewhat grand marble hall. If you're lucky the security guard will take you upstairs to see the ornate clock and the unused historic boardroom.

The Arts' Centre on St Benedict's Street, set in an old church. It's a venue for lesser known national bands. The bar also hosts lots of gigs for local musicians. Check out the programme if you're visiting - you might catch something great.

UEA The strange ziggurats and the Sainsbury's Centre are worth a look from the campus lake ('the Broad'). The concrete architecture isn't to everyone's taste but there's a great atmosphere during term time. It's also near Earlham Park (and Earlham Park Cafe).

The Adam and Eve I used to work in this pub when I was a student. You have to be small to work there! Founded in 1249 a.d., it claims to be Norwich's oldest pub.

Mousehold Heath, near the prison on Britannia Road, is worth a climb for the views of the city.

The pedestrian streets Central Norwich is pleasant to wander around because of the number of streets that are closed to traffic and as the streets pretty much follow the original medieval road plan, it makes quite a labyrinth.Bridewell AlleyLondon StreetDavey Place

Rosary Cemetery. Rather beautiful and atmospheric. The entrance is close to where Rosary Road meets Thorpe Road.

Foodcycle Friday Meals I was one of the original project leaders that launched this project that take surplus food from food retail businesses that would otherwise have been thrown away and uses it to cook a free meal for all that attend on Friday nights at 7 p.m. in the Friends' Meeting House on Upper Goat Lane. My experience is that people seem to think FoodCycle should only give meals to those really in need but we always believed it was more about preventing food waste and demonstrating what people could do when they came together - with a little effort and time. We saw it more as a community builder. It currently attracts a diverse mix and often serves great food.

The Brain I don't know who put it there, but it has always tickled me that there's a brain outside Next.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Gratitude and parking tickets

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude recently. I think it is a key and effective tool in helping us to be happy. It is so easy to get sucked into the negatives: the grass being greener, the disappointments and moan about the mundane. It is also very easy to take things for granted. However, it doesn't take long to shift your perspective and suddenly be filled with gratitude. For example, there are parents in the world that have to watch more than one of their children die of starvation and/or disease. That surely gives enough instant perspective to shift most people's thinking into that of gratitude. I think most people in the 'western world' should be able to find something to be grateful for.

I am reading a book at the moment called 'Capital' by John Lanchester. It's a brilliant book and I recommend it highly. It's social comment, attack on inequality, satire of modern living, gives a view of different lifestyles from different and 'outsider' perspectives and more... Anyway, there was a part in the book that made me gush gratitude. And this is how it goes....

Quentina is a traffic warden who originally came from Zimbabwe and she has just been really horribly insulted by a woman that witnessed her not put a ticket on a car because the woman perceived she was being favourable towards a 'posh' car.

Quentina felt that she had some experience of the world, and of the people other than at their best, but she had never known a subject on which people became irrational as quickly and completely as that of parking in this absurdly rich, absurdly comfortable country. When you gave people a ticket they were angry, always and inevitably. And the anger could spread and become catching, as it had with this plainly mad woman, crazed with resentments. There were times when she wanted to say: Get down on your knees! Be grateful! A billion people living on a dollar a day, as many who can't find clean water, you live in a country where there is a promise to feed, clothe, shelter and doctor you, from the moment of your birth to the moment of your death, for free, where the state won't come and beat or imprison you or conscript you, where life expectancy is one of the longest in the world, where the government does not lie to you about AIDS, where music is not bad and the only bad thing is the climate, and you find it in yourself to complain about parking? Praise God for the fact that you resent getting this ticket, instead of rending your clothes with grief because you lost another child to dysentery or malaria! Sing hosannas when you fill out the little green form in the envelope stuck to your windshield! For you, you of the deservedly punished five minute overstay, you of the misinterpreted residents' bay area, you of the Loading Only sign, are of all people who have lived the most fortunate!

Instead Quentina said,
'Loading is taking place.'

That gives me some perspective on little life irritations like parking tickets!

And here are some quotations I found about gratitude that speak loudly.

Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.
Denis Waitley

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

We learned about gratitude and humility - that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean... and we were taught to value everyone's contribution and treat everyone with respect.
Michelle Obama

Boredom is a luxury; be grateful that you can be bored.
Susan Sita Van Aken

Friday, 24 May 2013

Behaviour Management Technique

For the last two years I have worked in a school for primary-aged children that have been kicked out of mainstream education (known as a PRU or short-stay school). Upon hearing this, most people say 'that must be a really tough job,' and it undoubtedly is - in some ways. For example, when I am with these children, I can't display any personal 'touchy' or sensitive areas or I would fail miserably as these children invariably attempt to find any weak spots and goad every adult into behaving like the other adults in their lives. When they do this, I always remain calm and carry on delivering unconditional positive regard for the child - which might - I suspect - be beyond some people. The job requires me and those I work with to be very self aware and therefore this job has taught me lots! Aside from this dollop of self-awareness, I have learnt the better ways to manage extremely damaged children's behaviour. Recently I went to a training day that consolidated what I had intuitively concluded about behaviour management but consolidation with some extra tips is always beneficial. This is the journey the trainer took everyone present on...

1) In any situation where there are children and an adult, the adult is the most interesting 'toy' available because any adult is far more interactive than even the most complicated or advanced of children's toys. Therefore, children want to engage with us more than anything else in the room.

2) What a child wants in any situation therefore is our 'energy' - whether it is positive or negative.
This video illustrates this in a really entertaining way.
Toddler tantrum needing attention
3) What some adults get locked into and therefore repeat again and again, is putting all their energy into the unwanted behaviours. When an adult becomes agitated by a child's behaviour, they become far more engaged with the child - even though it is in a negative way. When a child is doing what we want them to do, they tend to get little of our energy. Therefore children learn that bad behaviour gets our energy.

4) Children actually love rules - which seems counter intuitive. Rules outline expectations and make things fair. Rules do not mean children will always follow them, but it clarifies what is desirable.

5) So a really effective behaviour management technique involves:

*setting clear rules like 'no swearing' (nothing vague like 'be respectful' as there is some ambiguity over what this actually means and it can mean quite different things to different people),
* 'giving' lots of energy to those getting it right
* being specific with praise to clarify the desired behaviour - not 'well done' but 'I love how you remained calm when...'
* withdrawing energy from those getting it wrong.
* The trainer also made it clear that you should give the child an indication of the fact they are not getting it right and that you are about to withdraw your energy. He suggested the term 'reset'.

6) Once the child is back on track, acknowledge this and re-give your energy.

Many teachers and parents are so used to locking horns with the bad behaviours, it take some time to re-adjust habits. It actually feels risky to start addressing all bad behaviours simply with the word 'reset' but it does work. I have extensive experience of it!

It always feels healthy to me when antiquated/mainstream views about something are challenged. When we are immersed or surrounded by something and it is all we have ever experienced, it takes a big step away from the idea to question it effectively and see a better alternative. This is one such example.