Fuzzy thinking across time zones!

Jist accept defeat - you're just not going back to sleep!

Just accept defeat – you’re  not going back to sleep!


3.00 am and I’m wide awake. After turning around under the duvet for half an hour, trying not to wake Sara, I decide that I have no hope of getting back to sleep. Abandoning a warm bed I tiptoe to the study having decided that I might as well work if I can’t sleep. Bramble, our small black cat who usually does the night shift curled on a chair in the study, is not happily disturbed, she gives me a look of disdain but quickly manages to tuck her head beneath her tail and pretend this isn’t happening. She slips back into the arms of Morpheus in a manner that makes me envious.

Jet lag is the inevitable consequence of long haul travel, but I have learned that it takes a few nights like this until my body clock returns to normal. No point fighting it, just accept the situation and move on. I know that any attempt to return to slumber will be ultimately futile. Sorry Bramble but you’ve got company until breakfast! Looking from my study window I can see the glistening of a hard frost on the road and a lawn still covered in snow. How different a sight from the last few days in Bangalore? I suspect that some of my friends in India have never known sub-zero temperatures, and may even recoil from the thought of experiencing an English winter. Right now I can understand why the warmer climes of India have an attraction.

The first few days back in England in addition to the readjustment to the time zone, also provides a period of reflection on what has been learned over the past couple of weeks. As always, I come back enthused by the commitment of  colleagues and students who are often working under difficult circumstances in India. However, it is equally possible to be daunted by the mere drop in the ocean that our work there constitutes in terms of instigating change. When fatigue takes over it is easier to see the difficulties ahead rather than to review the many positive outcomes of our work.  I am constantly reminded that every journey starts with a single step, and that unless that first stride is taken then nothing happens, and this enables me to continue thinking about the road ahead.

I am fortunate indeed in working with colleagues whose dedication to the MA course we run in Bangalore and the work we do with teachers, is more than equal to my own. I am also mindful of the fact that the time for change in respect of special and inclusive education in India is here now. Debates around the Right to Education Act mean that there is a far greater focus upon the causes of exclusion, and the responsibility of schools to challenge these, than there has ever been in the past. The teachers I meet are all keen to confront the difficulties of including children from maginalised groups that are being perpetually highlighted in the media, and to prove that they are equal to the task. I already hear of the difference they are making in their schools, and the changes they are promoting amongst their colleagues. Theirs are the stories that give us the energy to keep moving forward.

In the near future I am sure I will be hearing many reports of the leadership that our students in Bangalore are providing in the creation of more inclusive and supportive schools. It is this thought that will assist me as I try to shake of the jet lag and get on with my work.

3.45 am. In a couple of hours it will be time to get myself moving and prepare for another day!


Tis the season to be jolly!

We haven't had enough snow yet this winter to build a snowman. But I made this one a couple of years ago and he raised a smile amongst friends and neighbours.

We haven’t had enough snow yet this winter to build a snowman. But I made this one a couple of years ago and he raised a smile amongst friends and neighbours.

The temperature here fell to around minus seven last night and when I went into the garden early this morning it was still well beneath freezing. The air was fresh and cold and the lawn glistened white in the early morning sunshine. I enjoy these bright crisp mornings, so long as I don’t have to travel far on icy roads, and looking around the winter landscape of our garden the words of Christina Rosetti came to mind:

“Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.”

This was exactly as the still morning was here, with the grass crunching beneath my tread and our pond solidified.

The sheep in the field at the end of our garden, fleece enwrapped, cut a dour if bucolic image as they tore at the frozen herbage awaiting the arrival of the farmer with a fresh supply of hay and other foodstuffs to ward off the cold. Garden birds were clearly grateful for the nuts and other morsels that we put out for them as they flitted from rime coated trees to bird table.

On Boxing Day evening (26th December or St Stephen’s Day), we had a brief flurry of snow, temporarily coating the countryside in a thin sheet of white powder and adding to the traditional yuletide atmosphere. However, this remained only a short time here, unlike further north in England where significant disruption was experienced by travellers trying to negotiated icy snow blocked roads.

When I was a child I used to hope each year for a major fall of snow. Sufficient at least to build a snowman and to justify a dusting off of the sledge for a few thrills on the local hills near my home. Living at the time in Gloucester, the slopes of Robinswood Hill usually beckoned, where along with several dozen others I could participate for a few days in our own local winter Olympiad. Snowball fights and igloo building were the order of the day, but racing our sledges was the prime occupation. After a few hours of gliding the slippery course of the toboggan run and rolling around after countless crashes in the snow, I would return home wet and cold, but glowing with the pleasures of the sport. I recall to this day those hot aches experienced when first submerging in a steaming bath after leaving the frozen outdoor world behind.

Today as an adult I am far more sanguine about this icy weather. Personally I would be pleased to see the winter pass without a significant fall of snow. Having left a care fee period of childhood behind, I now see the winter weather as a potential hazard to travel and a disruption to my usual pattern of life. However, I am not so curmudgeonly that I would wish in any way to deprive successive generations of children of the experiences of exploring and learning in the snow. It is not too long since, that I enjoyed pulling my own children aboard a sledge through snowy lanes, and I hope to have similar opportunities in the coming years with my grandchildren.

Neither should we see the potential for such apparent winter frivolity as the sole preserve of children. Whenever we have a heavy fall of snow I still cannot resist the opportunity to don my boots and gloves and take my spade to build a snowman in our garden. This temporary addition to the Rose household invariably raises a smile from visitors and neighbours (who I suspect may see my behaviour as a worrying step towards ever greater eccentricity!). But for a brief while I am transported back to childhood and take my pleasure from my childish ways.

Convinced that the joy to be gained from an experience such as this should not be missed, a few years ago I revelled in the opportunity to teach a group of South Indian students at the university, who had never experienced snow before, how to build a snowman of their own. Within minutes they had reverted to a childlike state and were laughing and carousing in the snow, their earlier complaints about the cold almost forgotten. I took great pleasure the following day in inspecting more than a dozen such specimens on my walk from the university car park, wonderful examples of winter art that had appeared overnight.

So, to those of you who may be reading this blog in the warmth of your home, but with a snowy landscape visible from your window, I hope that you will shrug off the inconvenience, wrap up warm and maybe take the chance to make the most of the conditions. For others who live in areas where snow is an unknown commodity, I hope someday that you too will enjoy the many creative opportunities that these freezing conditions can bring.

          I hope that you all had a very happy Christmas.