Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Shell Shocked

Well, I don't really know what to say about my enrolment yesterday apart from I felt rather shell shocked (I think that is probably the best description) and, if I'm totally honest, more than a little bit concerned as to whether I am actually going to be capable of completing the course. (I'm seriously hoping that it's not going to be as tough as I think it is!!)

To begin with, during the actual registration process, I discovered that the course is going to cost twice as much as we had been expecting. Now I know the actual amount, it's clear that the information I was given was the price per semester not per year but that was not my understanding at the time. (To say that it was a bit of a shock would be something of an understatement!). Chris and I discussed it last night when I got home and, because we can spread the cost, it should be alright. (He was so good about it....said he views it as an investment in our future and, despite the fact that I made the most of our time in Thailand, he knew that I gave up a lot career wise when we moved).

My timetable, however, is going to be considerably more difficult to work around!!

I had been told, but had seen nothing in writing till last night, that the course would be one evening a week followed by a full day and that they would run consecutively. When I got the actual timetable it turns out that my modules will both be in the evening and they don't run consecutively. Chris and I don't want to feel like we're living separate lives...we're just starting to feel like we have a life together again after all the hours he worked in Thailand.

So all this was going through my head when we learned exactly what is going to be expected of us over the duration of the two years.

We were told that reading a few books and being able to provide an accurate summary of the information and ideas was not going to impress any of the academic staff nor were they going to be particularly interested in reading about how one of our opinions could be justified by using someone's theory to back it up. If we are confident in our writing ability then absolute perfection will be expected and having good ideas is not going to be enough if we don't have the skills to express them, research their viability and implement them. (There are free courses offered on how to do this at the University). The style of learning will be very reflective and we will be expected to examine, critique and de-construct our views and actions and, through that process, show what we have learned and how we have developed. (Does that sound a bit scary to you? It sure as hell does to me and it did to the other two people that were there too!!)

I can see where this is coming from and why it's necessary. The third sector has been rapidly expanding over the last few years and is going to continue to do so (especially in this economic climate!!). Some organisations, like the one Chris's sister works for, do an absolutely amazing job (and manage to do it on a shoestring!!) but others....well....others don't do quite such an amazing job and it's those that give the third sector critics their ammunition (and sometimes make those that work in the sector feel as if they are banging their heads against a brick wall!!). All the tutors on this course work out in the 'real world' as well as lecture and they have put this course together as part of a wider agenda to try and establish an industry standard. The reason for the reflective learning is to look at more than just whether the targets were met but at how they were met (what were the experiences of those involved in the process and, taking those experiences on-board, how could the process be improved as well as challenging our core beliefs and perceptions of how things are, how they operate and making us question our own behaviour within that context).

I knew that the Masters was going to be challenging and that it was going to involve a lot of hard work and I was prepared for that. I wasn't prepared for the fact that I would have to go through such self scrutiny and I suspect that it is probably going to be a rather painful process. (Seriously, would you want to examine yourself that closely?)

I felt like I had reached a crossroads last night....I could choose to walk away from the University idea (I would probably still be able to get a job in the sector) or I could commit to the course which would give me the chance of having a proper career. Well, I'm not one to walk away from a challenge...and writing this has actually helped me process it all.

Anyway, I do have some exciting news to share too!! In order to be able to do the reflective aspect of the course properly I need to be actively involved in a community development role which I am not currently (mainly because I needed to know timetables etc before I could commit to anything). The course Director specialises in the health sector (He knows and works with everyone there is to know) and because of my experience in that area he has offered me a volunteer position within his organisation (I wouldn't be working with him directly it would be one of his colleagues). It's a win win. He would be getting a volunteer with experience (and who would be building upon that experience) and I would get the opportunity to put into practice what I was learning on the course, learn from people very knowledgeable in their field and work in a very prestigious organisation. I'm going to accept the offer (I think I would be mad not to!!)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Colour Week - Saturday

This is not part of the official Colour week but Mountain Mama suggested that we add an extra colour and since I've enjoyed doing these posts so much I decided to join her.

Saturday's colour is Cornflower Blue

This is a photograph of the Peace Vessel at Hellfire Pass. It was erected in honour of the 12, 436 Prisoners of War who lost their lives during the building of the Burmese-Siam railway.

A fisherman out catching his dinner in the village of Ban Talae Nok. There used to be houses on that stretch of beach but they were destroyed in the Tsunami.

This is a photograph of the world longest handmade bridge. It's in Sangklaburi and was built by the Mon people with no help from engineers or anything!! (When you look at it from the side it looks a bit like the game Kerplunk...you just have to not think about that when your crossing)

Temple roof at dusk just outside Kanchanaburi.

and last but not least


In Cambodia there is an entire community that live on a 'floating village' at Tonle Sap. They never leave the water (they even have a floating church and a school!!) and they use these contraptions to store their boats. Amazing how some people live isn't it!!

Anyway, I hope you have all enjoyed looking at our photos over the past week.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Colour Week - Friday

Friday's colour is Plum


This is a photograph of a small Chedi at a temple cave just outside Kanchanaburi.


This is a picture of the Burmese mountains taken from village of Mae Sued
five miles from the border.



This is a photo of Alms bowls at a temple in Chiang Mai.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Colour Week - Thursday

Thursday's colour is Chestnut


This is a photograph of a carved wood panel in a door frame at Jim Thompson's House. Jim Thompson was responsible for saving the Thai silk industry and bringing it to the world.


This one is of a sunken temple in Sangklaburi. The original town has been completely submerged and, depending on the time of year, you will be able to see parts of the old temple emerging from the water.


I took this when I went on a trip to Mae Hong Son which is on the Thai/Burmese border. This is the machine the villagers use to make their rice.


This is a Buddha at the Khmer Temple Muang Sing just outside Kanchanaburi.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Colour Week - Wednesday

Wednesday's colour is Goldenrod.


This is a photo of a small Buddha statue that was part of the decoration on a large gold pyramid. The pyramid is part of a temple in the heart of the Mon community in Sangklaburi and in all our time in Thailand we never saw another temple like it.


This is the famous golden umbrella at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.


This is a Buddha at Prasat Phanom Wan in North East Thailand. The temple was built by the Khmer and dates back to the 11th Century!!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Colour Week - Tuesday

Tuesday's Colour is Burnt Sienna


This is a photograph of Thailand's largest reclining gold Buddha at Wat Po. It truly is a sight to behold!!


This is a photo of stone carvings at Banteay Srei Temple (otherwise known as The Ladies Temple) in Cambodia.


These are my feet standing on the red earth outside Angkor Wat in Cambodia.


and just cause I love this photo. A Monk reading Sanskrit in Angkor Wat.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Colour Week - Monday

I have rather a lot going on this week (none of it exciting enough to blog about!!) so I was a bit worried that my wee blog was going to start looking a bit neglected.....that was until I visited Mountain Mama. A group of bloggers inspired by Elsie Marley are taking part in a Fall (or Autumn as I would call it) Colour week based on Crayola colours.

Monday's colour is Brick Red


This photograph was taken just along from the
Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.


This one is of prayer bells outside a Kanchanaburi temple. When the wind blows and the bells chime they carry your prayers up to Buddha.

Lighting incense will also carry your prayers up to Buddha.


and I couldn't resist adding this photo of chillies drying on the roof of a
house in the village of Mae Jong.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Eeeekk!!!

I've just completed my pre-registration form for London Met!! I have my official enrolment on the 29th of September followed by a introductory meeting where I will get my timetable and meet the other students. It's all very real now.....

I'm starting to feel slightly panicky!!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Contented

We have just had a lovely few days....so lovely, in fact, that I kind of feel as if I've been away on holiday!!

On Friday I visited a local farm with seven members of the Malmesbury Art Society to do some drawing. I have never done any drawing outside before and it was a wonderful experience!! The farm was stunning and there were all sorts of interesting things dotted about. I chose to base my picture on, what I can only describe as, a shed with wheels and then I moved round the farm incorporating different bits and pieces into the picture. It's not finished yet but I took some photographs round the farm to help jog my memory. Tom arrived on Friday night so the games console was turned on, curry was ordered and a few bottles of wine were sunk!!

Saturday was absolutely glorious, blue sky and sunshine, so we got out our English Heritage book out and had a flick through to see where we might visit. Tom was quite keen to see Stonehenge so we headed there first and then had a look at what else was in the area. We decided on Old Sarum Castle near Salisbury and then, if we had time, we would head over to Old Wardour Castle.

The great earthwork of Old Sarum stands near Salisbury on the edge of Wiltshire's chalk plains and it dominates the landscape!! Its mighty ramparts were raised in about 500 BC by people in the Iron Age and it was later occupied by the Romans, the Saxons and then the Normans. The Normans realised the strategic importance of the site and it was them that built the palace, castle and cathedral, the remains of which, we meandered round on Saturday afternoon. There is not much left of the actual building but there is enough for you to get an idea of the sheer scale of the place....it must have been a very impressive sight in it's day!!

After that we headed over to Old Wardour Castle. It's quite secluded, and wasn't massively easy to find, but it was worth the perseverance because to describe it as stunning isn't doing it justice!! It was built at the end of the 14th century for the 5th Lord Lovel and is very unusual as it has a hexagonal tower house inside it's central courtyard. Apparently the Lovel's supported the Lancastrian cause in the War of the Roses and as a result Wardour Castle was confiscated when Edward of York defeated the Lancastrians and became king. It then changed hands a number of times but it's downfall came when, having been surrendered to the Parliamentarian Sir Edward Hungerfold, the owner and Royalist Henry Arundell led a counter-siege. Gunpowder mines were laid in a drainage tunnel beneath the castle but too much gunpowder had been used and the explosion led to the collapse of a large part of the castle and it was decided that the damage was too much to repair. A large part of the castle is still intact and as you can meander through it, climb up the stairs and get a real feel of how it would have looked in it's hey day!!

We then headed back home, lit the barbecue and sat in the garden drinking wine and munching steak till it was too dark to see and we had to head back indoors!!

Yesterday, before Tom headed hom, we took a trip to a place called Honeystreet to have Sunday lunch at a pub called 'The Barge Inn'. It has a camp site out the back, mooring for canal boats and is home to the Crop Circle Enthusiasts so has a real mix of clientèle. It also has a fantastic view of one of Wiltshire's White Horses but it was a bit chilly to sit out yesterday so we had our lunch inside. All too soon it was time to take Tom to the station.

We had such a lovely weekend that I feel rather contented today!!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

New Painting

Well, here it is....my first ever attempt at watercolours!!
(I've not compressed the image so if you click on the picture
you should get a full screen version)


It's based on a beautiful house here in Malmesbury which
is probably well over 100 years old!! What do you think?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Malmesbury Carnival

Malmesbury has a big Carnival every year......the town has loads of different events throughout the entire month of August (We went to a wine quiz based on 'Call my bluff' which was really good fun!!) culminating in a big procession through the town. The procession was on Saturday evening so Chris and I headed out, along with most of the population of Malmesbury (who knew so many people actually lived here!!), to watch the parade.

I have to say that I was most impressed with the thought that had gone into some of the floats....there are some very talented people live here!! Have a look at these....

We had clowns

An elephant



Strickly John Seargent

Aliens


and even The Village People doing YMCA



I like living here!!


Friday, 4 September 2009

Happy Birthday little blog

It's my blog's 3rd birthday tomorrow!! (I know....I can't believe I've been blogging for three years either!!).

Only in Thailand was created four days after we arrived in Bangkok and my first ever post was written when we were living out of suitcases in a serviced apartment and I was trying to find somewhere for us to live.....Fast forward a couple of years.....Not Only Thailand was created 10 days after we arrived back in Britain and my first ever post was written when we were living out of suitcases in a serviced apartment and were trying to find somewhere for us to live......

I am seriously hoping that in two years time I will not be about to set up yet another blog whilst we are living out of suitcases in another serviced apartment somewhere!!

Anyway, Happy Birthday little blog because of you I have a wonderful record of our time in Thailand and I have met lots of brilliant people along the way.

'Here's to blogs and Friendship' *raises glass*

Happy We Are Thegither

(The gither = together)

Here around the ingle bleezin', (ingle bleezin' = blazing fire)
Wha see happy and see free? (wha = who, see = so)
Tho' the northern wind blaws freezin',
Frien'ship warms baith you and me.

Happy we are a' thegither, (a' = all)
Happy we'll be, ane an' a'; (ane = one)
Time shall see us a' the blyther (blyther = happier)
Ere we rise to gang awa'. (Ere = before, gang awa' = go away)

See the miser o'er his treasure
Gloatin' wi' a greedy ee! (ee = eye)
Can he feel the glow o pleasure
That around us here we see?

Thus then let us a' be tassin' (tassin' = drinking)
Aff our stoups o gen'rous flame; (stoups = tankard)
And while roun' the board 'tis passin',
Raise a sang in frien'ship's name.

Frien'ship maks us a' mair happy'
Frien'ship gies us a' delight;
Frien'ship consecrates the drappie, (drappie = a small amount of spirits)
Frien'ship brings us here the night.

Happy we are a' thegither,
Happy we've been, ane an' a';
Time shall find us a' the blyther
Ere we rise to gang awe.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Blogging is Bloody Brilliant!!

When I started my blog I never in a million years thought that I would make friends through it.....but make friends I have!! (Honestly, I have met so many brilliant people that I would never have met otherwise.....it kind of blows my mind!!).

We have just spent the most wonderful weekend in Portsmouth. 'Why were you in Portsmouth?' I hear you ask....well, we were in Portsmouth to celebrate the marriage of two of our blog friends, DJ and Chopper. (They actually got married on the 31st of July but were having a big barbecue for friends and family this weekend and I was over the moon when we were invited to join them!!). We decided, since it was the bank holiday, that we would make a weekend of it and DJ, in addition to inviting us to the barbecue, invited us over to their home on Sunday night for dinner....we had such a good time!! (See, told you blogging was bloody brilliant!!).

We stayed at a fantastic B&B called Clarence Cottage Guesthouse (If you ever go to Portsmouth then you MUST stay there!! Talk about value for money!!). The room, I say room but it was more of a suite, was beautiful (We had a big bedroom, an area off that for making tea and coffee, a separate living room AND a big bathroom all to ourselves!!) and the woman who runs the place is exactly the type of person you want to run a B&B...she was just lovely and she made the most scrumptious breakfast!! (We will definately stay there next time we're in Portsmouth!!). Anyway, we checked in, dumped our stuff and then headed to Queen Elizabeth Country Park just outside Portsmouth where the barbecue was being held.

I have to say, what a brilliant place to have a barbecue!! The views were stunning in all directions and it was very well set up!! (They have a huge barbecue for people to use, a covered area in case it rains, portaloos and loads of picnic tables....brilliant!!). We had such a good time!! DJ's friend Debs, who I recognised from the book launch, and her Aunt came over and sat with us and then we were joined by the lovely Leigh (Helen you were missed!!)....I have no idea what the hell we were talking about but we just didn't stop laughing from the moment we sat down!! We were definitely the loudest table and the most popular!! (Unfortunately the popular bit had absolutely nothing to do with our witty repartee and everything to do with the fact we had tomato ketchup and chocolates but hey....we were still the most popular table!!). Chopper (His name is also Chris so I'm going to use his blog name otherwise I'll just end up confusing you...and me!!!) was doing the man thing and standing at the barbecue wielding tongs whilst DJ was doing her hostess with the mostess so we didn't actually get to spent much time with them but we still really enjoyed ourselves!!

On Sunday we started the day with a wonderful big breakfast at the B&B and then decided to have a stroll along the harbour. Blimey, there was a lot going on!!! There was a kite festival, a circus, a car boot sale, a market and an ABBA tribute band was playing at the bandstand.....the place was absolutely heaving!! We meandered along the sea front, walked the length of the pier, went round Southsea Castle and then followed the old ramparts right round to Spinnaker Tower. We stopped for a coffee, went up the Tower....the views just take your breath away!! (It was a clear day so we could see for miles!!) and then had a mooch round the shops before heading back to the B&B to get ready to go to DJ and Choppers for dinner.

We had a wonderful night with them and I have to say.....OMG that woman can cook!!! We started off sitting in their beautiful back garden (Which was home to THE largest sun flowers I have ever seen in my life!!!) sipping red wine and eating warm home-made bread with cheese and home-made green tomato chutney (which was to die for!!) and then headed inside where we had slow roasted venison with a red wine and chocolate gravy, home grown vegetables and roast potatoes followed by home-made apple pie and cinnamon ice-cream!! (My mouth is watering at the thought!!). DJ even opened the last bottle of her home-made rose wine which was just divine...I tell you, she is a domestic goddess!!

We laughed a lot, the two Chris's got on like a house on fire (They share the same sense of humour....I can't work out if that's a good thing or not!!) and I even got to witness a random comment from N3S which went like this

N3S - 'I don't like this song!'
DJ - 'Well don't listen to it then'
N3S - 'I have to. I can't close my ears you know!!'

I knew I was going to adore him!!!

---------------------------------

Guys, thank you so so much for inviting us along to your barbecue and for making us so welcome in your lovely home!!