Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Packaging and expectations

Jack of Kent has a nice blog post about the packaging used on the homeopathic pills.

We rarely stop to think about how easy it is to manipulate our thoughts and opinions by means of cleverly chosen words and cunning presentation. Maybe the world would be a better place for everyone if we all stopped to apply a little more critical thinking to the things people tell us.

The very essence of true belief

So the 20:23 event took place then.
You didn't know? Of course you didn't. Apart from having a name that would mean nothing to the anyone who isn't a molecular chemist, it received very little media coverage. It wouldn't have mattered if it had though. As I said some time ago, things like homoeopathy aren't really sciences, or even pseudo-sciences, they are far more like religions. You cannot convince a religious believer of the falsehood of his position with evidence and logic. Evidence and logic simply reinforce his view that he is right because religions are by definition, belief without proof. In among the bits of reporting that the event did get a spokesman for Boots said that they support calls for more research into this "treatment". Why not just read the studies already done?

Actually there's a simple answer to that last question. It would be the same answer if a thousand studies had been done, or a million. The results of the studies don't give the answer they want so they would like the studies to be done again (and again and again) until they do give the answer they want. A thousand overwhelmingly negative studies can be ignored as soon as there is one that by pure chance shows the slightest positive result. If I start selling patent medicine remedies under the brand name of "Bob's Old Quackery Pills" it won't matter if ninety-nine percent of my customers report no effect. It won't even matter if some of them get worse. As long as I can point to one who got better I can claim it as proof that my system works.
This is the problem. We can go on proving it's rubbish forever and true believers won't take a bit of notice of us.
That's the very essence of true belief.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Bilston Voices

This month's Bilston Voices was nothing if not diverse. Along with City Voices, it's often an eclectic mix but tonight's pushed it further than usual. They kicked off with Raj Lal, rescheduled from last time. She read the first chapter of a work in progress, a novel set during the 1984 riots in Delhi. It was gripping stuff. The best compliment that you can pay this kind of writing is that it sounds authentic and this certainly fit the bill. It sounded more like memoir than fiction.
Keith Melbourne was next with a set of poems with a local feel, some delivered in dialect. Most of them were clever and funny - one was sung to the tune of The Deadwood Stage. It was a versatile performance though with a more serious note being struck, and struck very well, by his poem "The War Artist".
The first half was rounded off by Ruth Parker who opened with a couple of her poems, as excellent as ever, and then moved on to a story, albeit written with her usual poetic flair, about a woman changing her life after her husband leaves. It was a good enough story, well crafted and entertaining, but personally I would rather have heard more of her poems.
I say that she rounded off the first half but before we broke for the interval there was one more poem, a tribute to the venue - the Cafe Metro - by John and Liz Rogers. It was short and amusing and they presented a framed print to the staff to hang on the wall. It is a nice venue, oddly shaped and pleasantly decorated with just the lack of any beer (apart from the kinds of bottled lager that I can't stand) being a drawback.

After the break it was time for something new. The organiser and MC, Emma, is a great advocate of spreading the joys of poetry and she has started a new feature of a shorter set showcasing a young writer. Tonight's was Emily Oldham who read a handful of her poems to us. If she was at all nervous it didn't show and she rattled through a set which may have been a bit top heavy with the preoccupations of youth but showed a great deal more skill and style than I could have managed at that age. (Any voices from the back crying "Or now" can leave!)
We moved on to Paul Francis who read a collection of extracts from his new autobiography. Paul has a lifetime as a teacher and writer and the anecdotes, combining elements of both, were strong and interesting. I'm not sure if they were more interesting to me as a teacher than to others in the audience but I can say that I enjoyed them a lot.
And so to Heather Wastie - or possibly Lily Bolero, the performance was, by her own admission, rather schizophrenic. Her poems were not just well written and extremely funny but brilliantly performed. Like Emma last time, she didn't read, she recited, freeing her to perform. As she went through the set she took on a whole range of different characters and voices to great effect. I especially liked the one where she "interviewed" the members of the audience at a classical concert, becoming character after character each one with their own peculiar and annoying, concert-going habits and each one critical of other members of the audience. Like Keith she finished with a song, complete with a taped backing, an instrumental break and a dance routine. It was hilarious.

So all in all another excellent night out. The only trouble is that they keep on raising the bar so that those of us who also sometimes get the chance to perform there will have to work harder in future to keep up. It's a good problem to have.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

scratches head

You know how you hear those half conversations so often when someone is walking along the road talking on a mobile phone?
Well here's half a conversation I heard at the station today.
You can make up your own ideas about the other half.

Well take it out of you mouth and hold it in your hand.
You can take it with you in the car.
OK then keep it in your mouth but don't eat it.
Yes, it would make me laugh too.

I have no ideas, but it it one of the weirder half conversations that I've ever heard.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

How and why

I'm sitting here in the living room, doing some work on the laptop and my Dad is watching TV. At the moment he is watching it by watching two minutes of Cromwell (starring Richard Harris) and then two minutes of Police Academy 3, then two minutes of the World Indoor Bowls Championship, then two minutes of Little Women (the 1994 version) then back to Cromwell to start the cycle again.
This channel hopping drives me crazy and I have no idea how he does it.
Nor why.

Not really a rant, more a sigh of despair.

It's been ages since I had a rant about education. This has been driven more by worry that my views could be unpopular with the people who have the power over me in a work environment than by having nothing to say. You hear so much about people who have blogged unwisely.
This, then, isn't a rant. It is, as it says on the label, more a sigh of despair. What it also isn't is about my college because the things making me sigh are true of every college and every school in the country. Probably. It's possible that there are some that take a more rational approach, but I seriously doubt it.

What the hell, you are asking, is he rambling about. The answer is Ofsted inspections. We are a week into the three week countdown to a bunch of people turning up with clipboards and telling us whether we are inadequate, satisfactory, good or outstanding. That's fine. Inspections don't bother me. I know I can do my job. What does bother me is the preparation for inspections. New forms, new versions of old forms, new instructions on how to fill in old forms, new instructions on how to fill in new forms, instructions on how to check that the old forms we already filled in are updated to match the new forms and so on, are what bother me. They come daily, hourly even. Everything is being checked, double checked and revamped. Classrooms are being tidied, cleaned and decorated. Posters are being put up. Student work is being hung around the place. Coloured paper edging is appearing on notice boards.

More than that though there are the meetings. We are getting briefings on every aspect of the job, every aspect of the paperwork, every aspect of everything and it's all stuff we know and do already. Every day.
The college will be fine. Everybody in it already does a good job. All that the meetings and the procedural changes do is make doing a good job that little bit harder. The meetings take away time that would be better spent doing the job. The procedural changes force people who have already done a job to do it again.

I'm doing it. We're all doing it. In every school everywhere in the country teachers always do it. And in my opinion it's all so unnecessary. My view of what special preparations should be made for an inspection is, none. None whatsoever. Either your college or school is already doing what it should or it isn't. I think we are. There is no need for us to go into a tail spin trying to do more.

There is a good case to made for random, zero-notice inspections. Of course the inspection criteria would need to be changed because as it stands there probably isn't an education establishment anywhere that would pass. That's a flaw in what the Government says makes a good college though. It's a flaw in Government thinking rather than in college practice. What really needs to be done is the complete redesign of the inspection process (and while we're on the funding model).
A lot of the unnecessary stuff that the Government likes to have needs to be consigned to the dustbin. The things an inspection is looking for need to be streamlined and better thought out. Inspections need to be done at random intervals and without prior notice. Colleges that fail inspections need to be helped rather than punished. Colleges shouldn't be forced to close or merge on the basis of inspection grades. Inspection grades should not have any influence on funding.

I can't write any more though because right now I have to get back to rewriting my group profiles on the new forms, and checking that my Individual Learning Plan targets are all "SMART".

Sigh. Turned out a bit like a rant after all.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Ongoing 18

The next picture at first glance appears to have nothing to do with the poem I've written for it, so I'll go through the thought processes that led from one to the other.
The picture shows a tramp looking at a dustbin, the lid of the bin is high in the air. The caption reads "what's in the dustbin?" The idea, I suppose, is to draw something holding the lid up there.

My first idea was for a poem called "Levitation". I had the title but no real idea of what to do with it. I started to form an idea about considering life to be something that is "up in the air", to write about how who we are and where we are isn't necessarily connected to reality, isn't grounded. The idea went nowhere but somewhere in the middle of my doodlings was this: "do not think of the ground/think only of the sky".
I added a couple of lines and then started to get the idea for what eventually became the poem below. At that stage raven and fox didn't appear in it. Then it occurred to me that I could turn it into a character exchange. From there on it only took about twenty minutes to write. Of course the stuff that went before took over a week. I hope the point of the last stanza is reasonably clear.

And in an additional change that occurred to me this morning (twelve hours after posting it ) I've changed trees to rocks which seems rather better.

So here is

Teaching Fox To Fly

raven said:
the trick is this,
do not think of the cliff
think only of the air
fox said:
the cliff looks very high

raven said:
the trick is this,
do not think of the ground
think only of the sky
fox said:
the ground looks very hard

raven said:
the trick is this,
do not think of the rocks
think only of the clouds
fox said:
the rocks look very sharp

raven said:
the trick is this,
do not think of falling
think only of flying
fox said nothing

This verse is outside my normal style and I'd appreciate comment as to whether it is successful or not.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Dilute according to taste: postscript

I actually took a homoeopathic remedy once.
It was while I was travelling. I was feeling very nauseous, a condition primarily caused by the consumption of rather a lot of beer the night before. Travelling in our group at the time were a couple who were into all this alternative therapies nonsense*. They had their homoeopathic remedies kit - dozens of little phials all labelled up with the names of the ingredients that they didn't actually contain.
As I wasn't feeling up to yet another argument about why it was all nonsense I took the perfectly harmless sugar pill that was offered.

Lo and behold, about six hours later, my hangover had gone. This was, I was solemnly informed, proof positive that I was wrong and that it does work. And who could possibly argue with that?

Now, can I interest anyone in my homoeopathic vodka? Guaranteed ten million doses in every glass.**

(*They were a perfectly ordinary, decent couple but some of their beliefs about medicine were off with the fairies. Homoeopathy, acupuncture, chiropracty, crystal healing, aromatherapy: you name it, they bought into it
** Although thinking about how homoeopathy is supposed to "work", homoeopathic vodka should sober you up rather than making you drunk, so it probably won't be a best seller.)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Dilute according to taste

I very rarely get involved in this sort of thing but I think this one is worth thinking about.
Here is an explanation, in language that anyone can understand, about why homoeopathy is bunkum.
Boots, the most popular high street pharmacy in Britain, sells homoeopathic "remedies" in spite of having admitted that they know them to be useless. Even the meanest snake-oil salesmen usually at least put a drop of whisky in the stuff. If people want to buy remedies that do nothing then let them, but they should buy them from the quacks and conmen who have always tried and will always done his kind of business (sincerely or otherwise), not from a reputable organisation which has no business selling it beside proper medicines as if it has a genuine medical benefit.
It's a matter of trust. Once they sell one thing that has no medical benefit, that they know has no medical benefit and that is simply a way to get people to hand over money for nothing* then how can we possibly trust that anything they sell is any use?
Anyone who wants to register their feelings about this with Boots can do so here.

(*Of course it's much worse than that because while people are treating themselves with this quackery they are NOT treating themselves with anything else that might actually be beneficial.)

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Ah, that old chestnut about whether or not comedy should have taboo boundaries is the discussion topic on this morning's The Big Question**. There are plenty of self-righteous people commenting but one of the panel told an anecdote that I feel makes the opposite point to the one intended. At a show she was involved in there was a joke about an aeroplane crash. A member of the audience burst into tears and walked out. It transpired that his brother had been killed in an aeroplane crash. Now I have no idea whether or not this was a true story or something she has made up for the sake of illustration,but I'll take her word for it. The point that she drew from it, however, was that that joke was therefore unacceptable and needed to be removed from the show.
The point I take from it is quite different. I have said time and again, here and elsewhere, that I do not believe it is possible to tell any joke that isn't potentially offensive to someone. The panellist went on to mention Joyce Grenfell as an example of someone who was very funny without being offensive. I quite agree, as far as it goes, but the question is, was there any potential, any potential at all, for offence to be taken at her material?
Well, she did a lot of monologues about teaching in an infant school. One of them included a boy who had to wear his older sister's pink coat. Good grief! Was she crazy? That could have traumatized the child. Imagine having someone in the audience who has spent his whole life in therapy in a massive confusion of gender dysphoria because his mother sent him to school in a pink coat. That one joke could undo years of treatment. It has to go.
It's a ludicrous example and it's meant to be. It's meant to point up how any joke, however innocuous has the potential to offend someone.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Oh my God, why is that bankrupt poultry farmer taking out a gun?

Another panellist mentioned the comedian Tim Vine. I happen to like Tim Vine. I think he can be very funny and very silly. He likes rapid fire one line jokes. He holds some kind of record for the most jokes told in an hour. Imagine how horrified he'd be when including the four word joke "Velcro? What a rip-off!", if he discovered that my Uncle Jack is now known as my Auntie Jackie following a very unfortunate (and ridiculously unlikely) Velcro-related incident*. I'm sorry, that joke has to go.

The only way to avoid the remote potential for offence would be to outlaw jokes altogether.
You don't like a comedian? Then don't watch him. I can't stand Russell Brand. Lots of people like him. Good luck to them. They can pay to go to his gigs and I hope they have a thoroughly enjoyable evening. They won't see me there, but that's my choice.

*Just kidding. Uncle Jack is actually now making a living singing in a castrato choir.
** Because of this.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Ongoing 17

The next picture shows an elephant and a car with no doors with the instruction to draw as many elephants as possible in the car. My poem, inspired by this picture, is called "Why elephants don't drive."

Why elephants don't drive

An elephant never forgets,
At least he does not forget much.
He's a whizz when it comes to recalling
Anniversaries birthdays and such.
He knows to the hour and the minute
When he first met his mate on the plain
For his brain once something is in it
Will not let it slip out again.
If he goes on a trip to the shops
He has little need of a list
And when he returns with the shopping
There's never a thing that he's missed.
But some things can give him a problem
For example if he has a car
Sometimes he'll put down his keys
And then he won't know where they are
And though he may search the Savannah,
And enlist every bull, calf and cow
To assist him in seeking to find them
The keys will remain lost, somehow
And if by some strange chance they're found
He'll discover that though he may strive
He just can't recall where he parked
Which is why elephants do not drive.

28 Years Later

There used to be a band called Jameson Raid. Unless you live within about five miles of where I was born or own the Metal For Muthas albums that compiled tracks from what went by the clumsy name of NWBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) you have almost certainly never heard of them. For the people whose musical taste was formed in that geographical area and within a year or so either side of mine they were the must see local band. They released two eps and a track on one of those albums. Eight tracks altogether. And that was it and that was twenty eight years ago. I saw them half a dozen times in the brief period that they were around, bought the few available tracks and then, when they split up, filed them and, over time, forgot them.
Forgot them until a couple of weeks ago when Pete turned up in the pub with a concert ticket for Jameson Raid who have, after all this time, got together for a few gigs. Naturally I've bought a ticket and equally naturally I've dug out those tracks for a listen. What amazed me was that after twenty eight years I can still sing along with most of the words. I knew all of Seven Days of Splendour and Catcher in the Rye and most to The Raid and Getting Hotter. I struggled a bit with Straight From The Butcher and It's a Crime and only knew a handful in The Hypnotist but hey, it's been twenty-eight years. Given that I cant remember where I put my keys ten minutes ago and regularly forget to watch or tape my favourite programs I'd say that's pretty damned good.
Of course whether the band will be pretty damned good after all this time remains to be seen. I shall of course keep you informed but the gig isn't until the middle of July.
Meanwhile I have a set of photographs I took of the band when I saw them for the last time at Himley Park. I shall scan them at the weekend and put them onto my other blog.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

To Put Away Childish Things #6

Let's get one thing absolutely clear. I'm not going to include Terrahawks. It was rubbish. I may be all nostalgic over most Gerry and Sylvia Anderson programs - including the live action of UFO - but I draw the line at Terrahawks.
OK. No Terrahawks then.
Gerry Anderson started way back in 1957 with The Adventures of Twizzle of which I have no recollection at all. (Well I was only born in 1957!) I also know the second series, Torchy The Battery Boy (1958-59) only by reputation. I've seen it since on YouTube but I have no memory of it. It's the only one though. I do recall seeing the next series, Four Feather Falls (1959-1960, but repeated later) in which Two-Gun Tex had a talking horse and dog and magic guns. The characters in Toy Story 2 bear more than a slight resemblance to it.
Of course the first "proper" one, the first of their science fiction series and a precursor to all of their greatest triumphs, was Supercar. I have some Supercar episodes on DVD. They have clunky string puppets that walk without touching the floor, a flying car, a child who gets into trouble and a pet monkey. What more could you want?
Supercar was an innocent and rather primitive foray into puppet adventures but, for me, the best it ever got was the next production from the Andersons: Fireball XL5. Later series, particularly Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet were great but it was Fireball XL5 that started the whole style. It had the truly iconic spaceship of the title, piloted by Steve Zodiac and Venus ably assisted by my favourite Robert The Robot who would frequently intone an electronic "On our way 'ome". It had a theme that it's impossible to forget, the most perfectly ludicrous take off mechanism for XL5, a catchy closing theme, and the transparent humanoid Robbie who bears more than a passing resemblance to C3P0 as he is shown in the Star Wars prequels before he gets his gold-plating. It was wonderful.
Then there were the adventures of Stingray. Who could forget that opening with Marineville disappearing underground and the voiceover of "Anything can happen in the next half hour"?
Increasingly sophisticated series Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet followed. Now the puppets were getting more realistic and the stories were getting more complex, sometimes almost up to a live drama level.
Then it all started to fall apart. Neither Joe 90 nor the Secret Service were particularly good, though they were OK.
UFO, an attempt at live action, I remember with fondness but the acting was often as wooden as it had been in any of the puppet series and its successor Space 1999 suffered not only this problem but a ludicrous premise and a lot of technobabble scripting that often made it unwatchable.

There has more recently been a new version of CGI Captain Scarlet which was actually pretty good, being, in the main, true (apart from Lieutenant Green's inexplicable sex change) to the spirit and ideas of the original but suffering from a lack of network commitment and poor scheduling. I'd still rather have the puppet version but modern kids demand a more sophisticated approach to television.
I think most of the series would stand a modern update. The ideas and the stories would be update easily and I would love to see a remade Fireball XL5 - as long as it was done in the style of the new Captain Scarlet and not in the style of the truly dire Thunderbirds movie.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Ongoing 16

The next doodle is a maze. It made me think of lost things.
It made me think of transient poetry.

Transient Poetry

on the road
late at night
coming home
having drunk
i make poetry in my mind
i select words from storage
i join them into silent stanzas
i build them into unspoken verse
on the road
late at night
coming home
having drunk
i make poetry in my mind
arriving home
it is forgotten

Friday, 8 January 2010


From the very same shop that brought you this, today another window-sized poster.

Nike Woven Pant

Half Price

Maximum two per customer

I've never seen a singular pant but, as it's less than the maximum, I'm tempted to go in and ask for one.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Ongoing 15

The next picture shows scientists looking down a microscope at something very, very small.

Chaos theory: systems where arbitrarily small changes in the initial conditions can lead to widely differing final results meaning that outcomes become impossible to predict.

Chaos Theory

The smallest of lies
the greatest of truths.
Moments too short to measure
lead to
eternities of loss.

And this is chaos theory.

I remember her in the crowded airport
hiking boots and a sense of searching
a look on her face
dream dream dreaming of another life.

I remember her in the mountain village
with rain running down her face
across shoulders, down arms
drip drip dripping from fragile fingertips.

I remember her afraid of the ocean
trying to learn as I tried to teach
how to be straw not stone
float float floating, tied to the surface.

I remember her at the hidden beach
worrying about abandoned bicycles
at the head of the trail
fret feet fretting that they would be gone.

I remember her on the castle walls
not silent but strangely sorrowful
wearing a long black coat
look look looking at the cold horizon.

I remember her in the crowded airport
misleading tears on a pale cheek
tears at parting, she said
dream dream dreaming of another life.

The smallest of lies
the greatest of truths.
Moments too short to measure
lead to
eternities of loss.

And this is chaos theory.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Another Snow Day

Ah, it's that time of year again when we get our annual bit of snow and the country closes. More specifically, and for people like me more importantly, the schools and colleges all close. As at this time last year, I took the advantage of the combination of a day off, a lot of snow and glorious sunny conditions to go out and take a few exceptionally misleading photographs around Bilston and Coseley. I say they are misleading because anyone looking at my pictures would think that I live in some beautiful rural backwater whereas in fact I live in the heart of the urban Midlands.
It's all just a matter of pointing your camera in the right direction.

Those who also follow my photography blog will see the pick of the crop in due course. These are the second, but nonetheless quite good, selection.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Am I the only one actually listening?

I've just heard a newsreader on television say that this morning Gordon Brown effectively ruled out an early general election when he said this morning that there will be a Labour Budget in March. The trouble is that that's not what he said. I know it because I watched the program where he was interviewed and the people writing the news broadcast know it too because they followed up by showing the relevant question and answer from the interview.
He was asked "Will there be a Labour Budget [in March]?" and he answered "There will be a budget if the time is right."

This is, as the more astute will notice, a non-answer because the person who decides if the time is right is Gordon Brown and so the answer is the equivalent of "there will be a budget if I say so and won't be a budget if I don't say so". It's about as non as a non-answer can get and I was baffled at the time as to why the interviewer didn't pick it up. I am equally baffled now as to how the interpretation on the news can be drawn from the actual words.

Don't you just love political doublespeak?

Ongoing 14

The next doodle has a group of people at the unveiling of a statue, well actually of a plinth - you are supposed to draw in the statue yourself. I started thinking about monuments and that led me to reflect on my trip to the DPRK which has probably got the largest per capita number of monuments of anywhere on Earth.


I never saw a country as full of monuments
And as empty of hope.
I never saw a country as full of rhetoric
And as empty of scope.
I never saw a country as full of words
And as empty of truth.
I never saw a country as full of the young
And as empty of youth.
I never saw a country as full of the heretofore
And as empty of the hereafter.
I never saw a country as full of the absurd
And as empty of laughter.
I never saw a country as full of menace
And as empty of peace.
I never saw a country as full of the burden of life
And as empty of release.

Ongoing 13

The next doodle shows penguins.
As a photographer I appreciate a good model and they don't come any better than penguins.

So, here's my new poem, Photographing Penguins.

The penguins who posed for the portraits I took
Were perfectly properly proud,
So poised and precise and yet prim in their look,
Though none stood apart from the crowd.
They preened and paraded with purest panache,
And pointed their beaks to the patchwork paint skies.
They presented a picture of style without flash,
Replete with a plumage to pick up the prize.
They patiently put up with all the palaver.
As I pointed my Pentax, they all turned to see.
Wrapped up in my parka, I looked so pathetic
That the penguins all peered with great pity at me.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

Strange thing, isn't it?
It occurred to me about half an hour ago that ten years ago, exactly ten years ago, I was in Peru awaiting the New Year. Things hadn't been going very well recently. I'd somehow become a bit of a social pariah in the group. I'd split from the group between Christmas and the new year to spend some time on my own and think about whether or not I wanted to continue travelling with them at all. But since then they had looked up a bit. I'd taken the train up to Machu Picchu and rejoined the group and we'd travelled back via Ollantaytambo and Pisac. There had been a kind of uneasy truce going on for the day that it had taken to get back to Cuzco where we were celebrating the millennium.
Being so far west we had a lot of time while the New Year sprinted round the world to reach us. It had started its journey towards us in the Chatham Islands before I was even up. And as the day progressed I drank to New Zealand and Australia over breakfast and to Peru at Midnight in the bar of the Cross Keys pub and to all points in between in a variety of establishments. People were in party mood - some who hadn't spoken a word to me in weeks were relatively friendly.

I watched its progress on television in this assortment of bars courtesy of CNN whose coverage of the event verged on the surreal. It included live reports from empty airports, a discussion with a pilot in the air on the impact of the Millennium bug and an interview with the Dalai Lama that seemed to go on for hours.

Apart from these unexpected gems there was more commonplace fare - endless shots of the Millennium Dome, archive film of great New Years past, overviews of the outgoing century, fireworks from around the World. Sydney and Paris managed especially impressive displays. The London ones, as covered by CNN, failed to impress at all.

But that comment about time was as true then as it is now, as it always was and always will be. The day had arrived rather quicker than I could ever have expected. It hardly felt like days since I left England and it was difficult to believe that seven months had gone. The greater part of my journey was behind me. The USA and Canada were in the distant past. The whole of Central America and Columbia and Ecuador had been reduced to a series of photographs, diary entries and memories.Peru would soon follow as I continued South into Bolivia.

From the Cross Keys the view of the Plaza through the wide balcony windows seemed as unreal, or perhaps surreal, as the scenes on television. It was filled once more with people letting off fireworks and loud explosions. The brightly illuminated Cathedral opposite vied with the lights of the Christmas tree for our attention.

As Midnight approached the atmosphere grew louder and livelier and when it struck the bar was flooded with sprays of champagne and Cusqeña beer and filled with the noise and smoke of firecrackers. Everyone was hugging and kissing and backslapping and of course toasting the day. For a brief moment I felt part of the group again. New Year can do that for you. Then it raced away from us to finish its journey around the world. CNN moved coverage to Los Angeles and Alaska and we carried on with the party.

That's the story of then. What about now? Now it isn't seven months that have passed, it's ten years. It feels more like ten minutes. I cannot believe that it has been so long. I cannot believe that I am so much older than I was then. And I cannot believe how little has changed in my life.
And therein lies the reason that time is such a tricky, slippery little bugger.
I travelled on for another year or so after south America and then came back and became a teacher and have been ever since. The years have followed a pattern. The weeks within the years have followed a pattern. The days within the weeks have followed a pattern. And the days, weeks and years have become more or less indistinguishable from each other and that's what throws your sense of time.
To use a phrase I have used many, many times before, I am seized by a curious sense of time not passing.

And now, I shall wish you all a Happy New Year, and if that doesn't work you can try having the same happy old year all over again.