Archive for September, 2008

Coming Home

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

I am now back in Sydney, about to set off for the airport for the flight home to London. Yesterday I flew back from Port Macquarie and had the pleasure of being sat next to a really grumpy lady. She complained about my handbaggage and the stewardess took it off me. I felt like a naughty boy. Then she insisted on moving to another seat where she could be on her own. (I must check my deodorant!). It amazes me how some people seem to look for things to moan about.

We went for a fabulous walk before I left yesterday, out to a headland to see if we could spot migrating whales. Unfortunately none were visible, but we did see dolphins. Then we went to a rainforest boardwalk on the way to PM airport. What an incredible place this is – the wildlife the locals take for granted is truly amazing.

Well I think that’s it.  I will be home tomorrow and then will be seeing you all again. Thank you for reading my blog and being with me on my seven week adventure.  I hope you enjoyed it. It has certainly been an experience for me – and I know a lot about Anglican schools in Australia now. So just ask if you want to know!

God bless.


The Last Leg

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

I am in Camden Haven staying with Laurie and Barb Davies. Laurie is the person who first arranged for Margaret and me to come to Australia in 1997. I arrived on Tuesday night having flown from Sydney in what people here call a cigar – i.e. a very small plane. I had to leave my main case in Sydney because it was too heavy for the plane; I will collect it before my flight home.This is a few days break before I come home, which I needed as I was exhausted when I arrived here. Today I went swimming in the sea – the temperature is about thirty degrees so there is some compensation for me in having missed the English summer; although from what I hear you didn’t experience any weather like this. Today is early Spring, so it looks as though it might get pretty hot here as summer develops. Again I have been warned to keep an eye out for snakes – they tend to emerge in this weather to bask in the sun.We saw the full size replica of Captain Cook’s boat the Endeavour moored in Port Macquarie harbour. It is currently on a voyage around Australia. It’s so small – amazing to think Cook came here on a three year journey in such a tiny vessel. This trip has certainly been an incredible experience for me. I have met some fantastic people and visited some wonderful schools. I have given nearly 50 talks/lectures/sermons/seminars and worked with many teachers on how they can contribute to developing the ethos of the Christian schools where they work. It has been very humbling, but also encouraging to see how the work of Stapleford over so many years has produced ideas and approaches which have so obviously been helpful to teachers in Australia. I feel very privileged to have been invited here.

The School in the Bush

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

This is my last school. It is on the outskirts of Sydney, near the Blue Mountains. This is bush country with vast areas of scrub land with gum trees and wattle bushes. We have to keep draught excluders under the external doors of the house where I am staying, not to keep draughts out but to make sure the snakes don’t come into the house. Apparently this is snake season, but I haven’t seen one yet.  I am hoping to forgo that pleasure.

This is the part of Sydney where the bush fires can burn for days. Apparently the school was engulfed by one a few years ago. The firefighters don’t save the buildings by extinguishing the fire but by guiding the fire around and between the buildings. Sounds incredible to me as I gather the flames can reach 100 feet into the air.

The experience at this school has been quite breathtaking. By the time I leave I will have been here for 5 days working with the 150 staff. It is an exceptional school where there is a commitment to developing Christian distinctiveness in both the curriculum and the school life in general. I have spoken at three major events and worked on a one-to-one basis with every head of department. Tuesday is my last day here and after that I head off for a few days holiday at Port Macquairie with friends. I need it – I’m exhausted.

On Sunday I was taken for a drive into the Blue Mountains. It was stunning. I have been once before, but then everything was enveloped in a thick mist. This time the sun was shining. Daytime temperatures are mid to upper twenties now, so I am hoping to have some time on the beach when I am on my break at PM before the flight home.

On Friday evening last week I gave a set piece lecture in Sydney on the vocation of the Christian teacher. The PowerPoint presentation was a challenge as the computer was about 20 metres from my lectern. It worked – just! I had a formal response from a a high powered theologian, which was pretty intimidating; but I survived although I have some thinking to do about kingdom of God theology. The most surprising thing of the whole evening though was when the person introducing me announced I had five grandchildren with another on the way. A look of astonishment apperead on my face! I wondered if someone back home had told him something I didn’t know. It turned out he had thought I had said this when I hadn’t. I have given up correcting the introductions I am given prior to talks – it’s incredible how information gets distorted!

Back home in a week. Boy am I looking forward to that. 

Bats and Balls

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Saw something I have never seen before the other day. Hundreds of bats, each the size of a squirrel, hanging upside down in a tree in the grounds of a school. The balls were in Sydney. I happened to be in the city centre when the welcome home, ticker-tape parade for the Australian team took place. I was given an Aussie flag to wave, but tucked it away. I didn’t own up to being British!

Later on today I am addressing the Archbishop of Sydney and invited guests at the Archbishop’s residence on the Christian contribution to education – just a little intimidating, especially if you recognise his name (Peter Jensen). Then I leave Sydney city centre and move to the western suburbs to stay at St Paul’s School. I have enjoyed Shore School and debating the calvinist view of education! St paul’s is very different.

A Tale of Two Schools

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

I visited two schools in Brisbane. The first was a very posh boys school which was led on the classic English public school. Rowing was the main sport. But I was really impressed by the caring way in which the boys were tretaed. I watched a very impressive chapel with 7 year olds where the chaplain led a wonderful assembly on the symbols of eagle and dove and got the boys really involved. I had to lead a teachers event in the school Board room, which was like a blue chip company board room. But the teachers seemed fascinated by English school RE.

I duly turned up at the second school the next day in shirt and tie and realised I was way over-dressed. I had to get my tie off pretty quick so as not to look like a school inspector. I discovered that this school had been set up by some staff from the first school I visited because they wanted to offer a different education for children that suited. So it was very informal. I watched a fascinating lesson where a group of 16 year old boys gave a PowerPoint presentation on the ethics of ography. They were trying to shock the teacher – a middle aged lady, who retaliated by embarrassing them with her frankness. But another very impressiove school.

I am now in Sydney, actually sitting in a shopping precinct at an internet kiosk. I am staying in the guest flat at a very prestigious school with probably one of the most sought after views in the world outside my window – right across Sydney Harbour to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. To orrow I am preaching in the school chapel.

Gold Coast

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

My last day in Melbourne (Saturday) was a treat – a real day off. I was taken to Melbourne city by Kirsten and we went up a skyscraper to the highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere – the lift goes up 88 floors in about 28 seconds (an ear popping experience). Then we went on the EDGE which is a glass-enclosed platform which they push out from the side of the building with you in it. So you can look down through the glass floor to the street, 88 floors below you. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

The flight to Brisbane on Sunday was alarming. The check in lady forgot to attach a label to my bag and I watched in horror as it disapperaed into the baggage system with no indication at all as to where it was supposed to go. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it turned up at Brisbane. We were also an hour late as our pilot refused to accept the plane we were supposed to fly in so we were transferred to another. He didn’t think the first plane was air-worthy.

I am actually staying in a tourist hotel on Gold Coast. I feel rather conspicuous in my suit and tie with everybody else in shorts and flip flops. So I am wearing my lighter suit which looks vaguely Panama to try and disguise myself. The locals complain the weather is cold, but I have swum twice now in the outside pool. Just two mallard ducks in with me and a huge lizard observing from the side!

So far I have visited two schools and lead a seminar for RE teachers. I am appreciating the lighter load the people here have given me. The schools are fantastic and the pupils so positive and polite. A wonderful place to work with the added bonus of an incredible cliamte.  One RE teacher here uses Chris Wright’s book “Key Christian Beliefs” which I helped write in the mid-1990s. Today I was with a class of 6 year old girls – 23 versions of Charlotte (my grand-daughter) all wanting to tell me about relatives who live in England.   

Tomorrow I move to Brisbane where I visit two other schools and lead another workshop for RE teachers. Apparently my hotel is a casino hotel, which should be an experience. Then on Friday I fly to Sydney for the last leg of the travelling scholar programme.


Saturday, September 6th, 2008

This is my last day in Melbourne. I’m having a quiet day, which is really nice as it’s been very busy up until now. This afternoon I am meeting up with a friend (Kirsten) the daughter of Laurie and Barb Davies who were responsible for Margaret and my’s first ever trip to Australia in 1997. Tomorrow I catch a flight to Brisbane for four days work in Queensland.

I have had five nights in Melbourne. Two were in Warraugul, about 100 km away, and three here in the city staying in a vicarage with one of the school chaplains. The school visits have been really good. Since arriving back in Melbourne city, I have spent two days in Overnewton Anglican Community College. There are 250 teachers on the staff and I did an hour’s presentation for them all at 4pm on Thursday afternoon on how Anglican values can influence teaching and learning. That stretched me, not because the teachers resented being made to stay on after school for an hour to listen to me as I had expected (they were great in fact), but because the technology failed completely and I had to start my talk without any access to my PowerPoint presentation and not knowing whether the techies who were furiously working behind me on the sysytem would get it working. It can feel very lonely on a stage with 250 people in front of you! The techies triumphed, but it is unnerving having a computer delivered to you five minutes into your talk. I just kept talking whilst they plugged everything in as though this was all normal! On Thursday I also spoke to about 30 school chaplains earlier in the afternoon and then at a dinner for 70 school principals, chaplains and others. Speaking in between the main course and dessert is always a strange experience. At the dinner I sat next to the second woman to be consecrated a bishop in Australia, Barbara Darling; she was great – a former teacher. The Archbishop of Melbourne has now endured two of my talks.

Friday was a day working with students. Addressing 200 sixteen year olds on Religion, Beliefs and Values was a daunting prospect, but they were fantastic. It made me remember that teaching can be great fun. Some of them were a bit naughty, but it was all friendly stuff. None of the unpleasant hostility that we seem to have so often in England. I also spoke to 300 year 7 students in two separate sessions. They were all waiting for me as I arrived. It really is strange being whisked into a hall full of people waiting for you then just having to pitch in. If this goes on I shall start talking to any gathering of people on the assumption that they are waiting for me to start a lesson! Not sure that will work on a London Underground platform.

A highlight of Friday was lunch with some of the pupils. I was very impressed with how they acted as hosts for an adult. Their social skills were very impressive; quite a compliment to their school. In the evening I was taken out for dinner in a Japanese style restaurant where we worked our way through a seven course menu with all sorts of intriguing dishes. I haven’t a clue what I ate, but it was tasty. It was also intriguing to find I had a lot in common with the Senior Chaplain at the school, who had also set up a distance learning course in theology, in his case at Trinity College Melbourne.

I am realising on a trip like this keeping clothes cleaned and ironed is quite a challenge. Finding a washing machine has never been such an interest of mine before! It’s going OK, except for me washing a dry clean only tie which I have spent an hour this morning trying to resurrect so it looks vaguely wearable! Hey-ho!

Shopping for Sheep Dung

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

I am now in Warragul, 100 kilometeres from Melbourne. I have just completed a really enjoyable day with the Christian Studies staff in St Paul’s school here. They were very enthusiastic and enjoyed Concept Cracking and working with Margaret’s art materials. Tomorrow morning we drive back to Melbourne where I work with the staff of another school. It’s a big one – they have 280 staff. I am addressing the whole staff on a Christian approach to teaching and learning (i.e. Charis for those who know Charis).

The two day visit to Tasmania was frenetic but really good. Again the staff I was working with were very responsive. They all however comment with concern about the very materialistic culture of their pupils. I had fun working with sixth formers in one boys’ school which I afterwards heard was raided by the drug squad just after I left. Nothing to do with me guv – honest. It was great to see friends from the previous visit here in 2005, but a bit silly only to have an hour or so in their homes such was the schedule.

The sheep dung heading to this entry is because on the two and a half hour trip from Hobart to Launceston (i.e. south to north of Tasmania) my driver (the head of the school in Launceston) stopped off to pick up 8 bags of sheep dung for his garden. He had got a great deal from a local farmer – seems sheep dung is an important commodity here (but the supermarkets don’t sell it yet).

So far flights have been OK although Virgin Blue (a Richard Branson company here) decided to cancel my flight from Adelaide to Hobart so I had to take two flights and go via Melbourne to reach Tasmania. But at least they ignored my overweight case and gave me $6 for a coffee. VB has a very definite ethos. All cool young people in jeans who call you “Trevor” and make you sing Happy Birthday to another passenger in mid-flight. We didn’t quite get to playing “pin the tail on the donkey” but I don’t think we were far off. In comparison Qantas is very staid.