30 October 2011

Warwick

For Marilyn's birthday, we meet up with Paul and Nic in Warwick. We decided that we didn't want to explore the castle so settled for exploring the Leycester Hospital and town centre.

The hospital is named because it was operated as a place where hospitality is offered and not as a medical hospital. What impressed us is the way that is a small land space, they had buildings and nice gardens.

The town centre was spacious but also had a number of interesting buildings.

27 August 2011

Photography Courses

Errol completed two further photography courses. The first in late June was at Bolsover Castle. This was an opportunity to explore architectural photography although the sun and clouds didn't co-operate for some of the desired shots. Errol attempted a circular shot using his panoramic head. It doesn't quite have the impact he had hoped. He also got to experiment with a shift lens.

The second course in mid-July was taking photos of birds of prey. This time, Errol attempted to capture the character of the birds and the interaction between the birds and the falconer, He was reasonably pleased with the results.

He is now working on photobooks for each of the courses.


A knight's day out: Kenilworth

English Heritage organised a jousting day at Kenilworth Castle. Conveniently, it was on Errol's birthday. We have been to Kenilworth a couple of times. Once to explore the castle and the other exploring the centre of town. Paul came up from Milton Keynes and a number of the Peacechurch families also came along so it was a great day out.

During the day, we watched a woman falconer, observed the knights do some training exercises, and of course observed the jousting. The knights were in full armour. The parts of the armour were explained to anyone interested as they dressed for the joust.

As usual, Errol got out the camera and tried to capture some of the better moments. Having done some photography courses, he tried to capture the atmosphere of the event and not just a record of the event.

16 June 2011

Settling Down?

Really, it isn’t that we have not done anything over the nine months that there has been no blog. On the contrary, we have done some rather interesting things.

Marilyn went back for three weeks in New Zealand to see her dad late in September. We had to get the local MP involved to get her passport and even then the border agency claimed it was processed three weeks before they sent it out. She had been back in UK a week and he died (17 Oct 2010) so it was both back to New Zealand for the funeral. Paul had already decided to head back to see whether he could see granddad before he died but was waiting for his flight when we told him. We were only in New Zealand a week and it was back to the UK and into work.

With another white Christmas, doing much over winter wasn’t looking promising but Errol started his exploration of the National Cycle Network with a ride to Redditch and then to Stratford-upon-Avon. Both of these rides occurred in January as the snow melted. Since then, he has completed three other big rides (Birmingham to Lichfield, Newbury via Reading to Oxford, and Nottingham to Lichfield). More are planned. He is looking at purchasing a recliner trike to make these trips easier.

We have made trips to Oxford, Stowe, Ashby de la Zouch Castle, Llandudno (North Wales), Kinver Edge, and Caenarfon (North Wales). Throw in a photography course for Errol at Papplewick Pumping Station near Nottingham and you can see we have been out doing some exploring. The trip to Caenarfon was done with Sue Crooks, one of Marilyn’s friends from Ministry of Education days in New Zealand.

Marilyn has joined the local embroidery guild which, although much smaller than the Wellington guild, is still quite active. She has attended a guild day school on fabric box making, as well as continuing to work on her own stitching. This has included completing a gingerbread house completed with needlebook, pincushion, scissor holder & fob which was different to her usual work.

With all of this happening, we have managed to complete the purchase of a house in Birmingham and we moved in over last week. Still a lot of sorting out to do but we do feel as though we have more space.

On the job front, things are also beginning to look like they will be more settled. Marilyn’s job was made permanent once her residency issues had been sorted. Errol was asked in for an interview at Aston University almost on the same day as the University of Birmingham said that they would only offer a six month extension of his contract with little prospect of renewal beyond that. The result of the Aston interviews is a job offer for a Teaching Fellow position which Errol has accepted. Aston University is based in the centre of Birmingham.

05 September 2010

A Continuing Saga

The wait continues for the return of Marilyn's passport even though the reasons for needing it are becoming more urgent. Marilyn's father has now been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but without her passport, she is unable to travel to see him and support the rest of the family.

All of life currently feels like we are sitting in limbo. Although we both have work (Marilyn until mid December and Errol until mid June 2011), there is no certainty that allows us to make confident decisions about housing, research funding, …

Errol was again asked by a student whether he would be able to supervise his PhD. The response is always the same - “I can not guarantee that I will be available beyond ...” So although there has been some opportunity to supervise MSc projects over the summer and see some of his research interests make progress, it is difficult to make progress on some of the bigger projects. But what we are experiencing seems to be the norm with recently graduated academics. Errol shares an office with two research associates both on short term research contracts and there are two others in teaching assistant roles on short term contracts. Errol wonders what the message is that students receive about the future security of work in academia and in industry.

Despite all the uncertainty, we do have peace of mind feeling that we are supposed to be in this situation and it has much to teach us about waiting on God and about being God's messenger.

The demise of our desktop computer means that we don't have access to all of our photo editing software and we don't want to overload Errol's laptop.

The month has been busy with a quilting exhibition visit, a church camp, a conference, and a trip to Bletchley Park with Paul. The church camp was under canvas in a farmer's paddock. An experience that we haven't had for quite a number of years. The panorama from the top of the white horse hill was good especially early on Sunday morning.


The conference was in Durham and organised by the Computing and Information Sciences Subject Centre of the Higher Education Academy. Durham is a nice city and Errol enjoyed walking along the rivers edge.

08 August 2010

A Busy and Mixed Two Months

The last two months has been extremely busy having some high points and a really sad and difficult event.

Paul and Errol went to the Moto GP at Silverstone (20 June). We ended up taking our car as his motorbike got stolen from outside his flat in Milton Keynes. He is still negotiating with the insurance company on the value of the bike. The racing was quite entertaining and Errol did snap a few photos of the action.

In the last week of June, Errol went to Bilkent University, Ankara,Turkey for the ITiCSE conference. This was the first time that he had presented any material linked with his PhD thesis. There was a good response to his material. He really enjoyed his time in Turkey and is disappointed that we were not able to have a week's holiday there to explore some of the country since to Marilyn's passport is still with the UK Border Agency while her residency application is being processed (taken 5 months so far). Admittedly Errol didn't see much other than areas around Ankara but the people were really friendly. A nice bonus was hearing on his return that the university was prepared to pay for his trip. He was also given an opportunity to prepare a paper for a conference in Durham at the end of August so that took up time through July.

While Errol was away, Marilyn went to the Bournville Festival and watched a Maypole dance. The girls wove and unwove the ribbons as they danced around the pole.

Marilyn has begun attending the local Embroidery Guild, but it is noticeably smaller than the Wellington Guild. The summer event was demonstrations & a lecture on fabric dyeing & painting, but there are not many gatherings beyond the regular monthly meeting. She is continuing to stitch on her own pieces, including regular stitching on the bus journey to and from work.

Marilyn had a week off work so she spent that exploring more of Birmingham (instead of going to Turkey!). Errol joined her for a day in the Jewellery Quarter which we really enjoyed.

July began with the news that our nephew, Scott Guy, was murdered in New Zealand. Now, a month on, all we know is that he was shot at the gate of the farm as he went to do the milking early on the morning of the 8th July. Three chocolate Labrador puppies were stolen from the farm overnight. The puppies have not yet been found. Part of our daily routine now is to check the New Zealand news reports for updates on the investigation.

Marilyn's sister, Jeanette, was in London for a conference which started on the morning we heard the news of Scott's death, so we called her early in the day. She came to see us a week later and we took a couple of days off to give us an extended weekend to explore the Cotswolds, Oxford, and Exeter. We visited Moretonhampstead and Blackingstone near where Marilyn's great great grandparents farmed.

Errol was commissaire at two circuit events in Solihull. Here in the UK, there are a number of small cycling circuits. The one in Solihull is a kilometre long. Races are of a fixed duration. From a commissaire's perspective these are some of the easiest to events to manage.

The extension of Errol's contract has an additional bonus as he will be teaching the introductory programming course. This will allow him to apply the results of his research and there is an added benefit in that he will have additional support through the Peer Assisted Student Support (PASS). Errol has begun his planning with the development of lesson materials and progressive programming exercises.

We have also begun to look for a house to buy. House prices here mean that we will have to borrow more than we really want to do. Most of the houses are also smaller than we desire and don't have storage for the bikes. Finding something that will fit our budget and needs may prove difficult.

31 May 2010

Changes keep happening

During this coming week, we will finally have some new bedroom furniture. It was ordered about four weeks ago. In true English fashion, it couldn't be delivered straight away so we had to wait until they could fit it into their schedule. Once it is installed, we can stop using the packing boxes for clothes storage. One more step toward being a little more settled.

However, that install comes at the end of a fairly busy week. Tomorrow, Errol is heading down to the University of Kent at Canterbury where he will present a seminar on his research. He did a working group with a couple of the academics from there at the conference in Dundee in 2007. Ever since we arrived here, it had been intended that he would do a presentation but it was a case of finding the appropriate time. Now with the students completing exams, Errol finds he has less pressure on and is able to get away for a couple of days.

This weekend has also been a busy one. Yesterday, we farewelled Phillip, Amanda, and the grandchildren on their journey to the USA. It is a little over eleven months since we arrived here in the UK and this will mean returning to the use of the internet to keep up with them. Over the last month, we have made frequent trips down to their place to help sort out the house and to get them ready for the move. Even though we have been expecting this since before Christmas, it was still difficult to say farewell. At least we got to celebrate Kathryn's birthday with them at Legoland in Windsor last weekend. Kathryn keeps asking whether we are going to the USA as well. On one of our visits, Kathryn said she would stay with us rather than go.

We have both received news of extensions to our contracts. Marilyn through until December. Errol for twelve months. Errol continues to apply for permanent positions but is also looking at ways to fund some of his research. He is also writing papers for journals. Having to pay his own way to conferences is proving too expensive as a way of letting others know about his work. However, conferences have the benefit of meeting people and developing relationships.

Errol will be heading to Turkey on his own for the ITiCSE conference so no overland trip or holiday in Turkey this year. The UK Border Agency hasn't finished processing Marilyn's residency application and is still holding on to her passport. We have had to request the return of Errol's Irish passport so he can go on this trip but he could travel on his New Zealand passport if necessary.