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Friday, 12 October 2007

Enjoying the marrow and a bacon and egg sandwich

Lin cut the marrow from Ano Korakiana into sections, took out the seeds and stuffed the hollow with mince, topped each section with cheese and put them in the oven. We ate them with carrots, baked potatoes and gravy. How I do like stuffed marrow.
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This week I've been teaching some Japanese civil servants. They are here to learn about local government in the UK, to practise their English and get a feel for British culture. We have WiFi in the lecture room and with that and a number of colleagues to teach their specialist subjects they will know more than 99.999% of the British public about local government, and a good deal rather more than most British citizens about our culture. Chris Game, who with David Wilson, has written the definitive textbook on British Local Government is with them for nearly two days of their two weeks. Peter Watt, as knowledgeable about finance and performance, was with them for a day and half. We had a typically provocative overview of 'Our Island Story' from Lesley Prince who arrived with flags, swords, history books, old English texts, a smattering of Japanese and a story that begins with the ice age and continued to the English Civil War and the seeds of a democracy based on universal suffrage sown at Putney in October and November 1647 - 360 years ago this month. We've been to the Court Leet at Henley-in-Arden. I've done sessions on the spirit of British Administration, on Overview and Scrutiny and on 'narrowcasting'. Our director, Martin Willis, talked about care of the elderly, which included an experiment in which he knocked on our door and then just walked in, and then knocked and waited until asked in. He was exploring the experience of independence in care homes, one of which the students visited in Castle Vale. In between all this I took them round our tree filled campus explaining the idea of a redbrick university and the role of Joseph Chamberlain in the founding of Birmingham University. We gazed down from the podium in the Great Hall and stared up at the hundred metre high Old Joe Clock Tower. "He saw a tower like this when he was on holiday in Sienna". An extra bonus was an exclusive tour of the Barber Institute - an exquisite place where we rejoiced in seeing Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Constable, Turner, Ingres, Van Dyke and many other works so close to. I needed to warn them about traffic hazards on the road between their lecture room and where they ate.Yesterday morning I bought an egg and bacon sandwich from the Baguette Stall at Five Ways and explained its role in British culture. All this week I've been enjoying cycling to and from campus, but rising each morning at 7 and not turning in until after midnight has left me quite tired. I'm looking forward to the weekend - though here's a load of errands to get through at home.
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We've booked seats to go back to Corfu at the end of January for over three weeks.

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