Saturday, December 31, 2016

Don't give up until you drink from the silver cup (America)

Happy new year everybody!

In the Queen's 2016 Christmas message she focused on the idea of inspiration coming from ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

It's true. I certainly gain a lot of inspiration from people around me and it's a good time to look back on 2016 and thank some Joe and Jo Normals who have inspired me.

In my farewell speech to Woodford House I paid tribute to the girls because, everyday, I could easily find a large number of students who were pushing and stretching themselves in a variety of ways - in sport or the arts or the classroom or in leadership. They definitely inspired me on a daily basis.

Some of the teaching staff at Woodford inspired me considerably, to be better and to think about things on a deeper level. In particular, take a bow: Toni Dunstan; Jane Perry; Dionne Thomas; Amy Reid; Greg Semmens - all of whom made me want to push and stretch myself to new challenges.

It's a messy process this challenge business - two steps forward, one back sometimes, and I may have got a tad frustrated and even (shock horror) grumpy at times but it was always out of a sense of wanting more for the school, the English department, Wallingford, or, myself.

So, ma'am, may I add my ordinary voice to your regal one - a huge thanks to all these ordinary people doing extraordinary things to inspire me. Go you good things!

Love and peace for 2017 - Wozza

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I read the news today oh boy - four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire (The Beatles)

My very first purchase upon reaching London for our latest trip to the country with a meaningful cultural context (hello Arsenal, Carry On..films, Stratford Westfield Mall) was what, do you suppose?

Of course! The Guardian.

Boy oh boy, do I miss a proper paper when I'm outside the U.K.

Our San Francisco stop over meant I could read the New York Times a couple of, erm, times. I was underwhelmed. Okay, if pushed, it may have whelmed me slightly in the American sport coverage. But it's no Guardian!

The Guardian is, undoubtedly, the finest collection of daily writing to be found on the planet. And I love my daily dose. 

To continue the literary theme of this post - I'm nearly finished Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (currently being advertised as a TV show that is based on this novel).

The brilliant premise is what hooked me enough to buy a copy - what if the Germans and Japanese had won WW2? Yikes!

It took a while for it to grab hold (and sort out who was who) but now I'm reading it every chance I can get. I'm up to page 220 (out of 249) and so far, no sign of actually meeting the man in that high castle (who, in a great twist, wrote a controversial novel about how America/ Britain/ Russia won WW2).

I can't actually see how they could make two seasons of TV out of this material but that's American TV for you. Apparently it's a really good show.

Anyway - off to finish those remaining pages...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Don't look back, you can never look back (Don Henley)

Recently, my wife and I found ourselves lost in San Francisco. 

First though - some key facts:

1 At present, I can only access my iphone info if I can hook into some wifi - means cafes and large malls.

2 We had heard stories about the Tenderloin district.

3 We had decided to take the tram.

4 We are the straightest looking people on the planet.

5 I don't like to ask for directions.

We set off on our mini adventure - to find Amoeba Records on Haight Street, then on to the city centre for a look around before meeting up with our daughter (a SF resident).

We did the first part okay (and I spent a wonderful hour in Amoeba Records), but then we got back on MUNI to Van Ness and started walking.

Our decision making was 'what feels right' rather than head into a Starbucks on Market Street and check via the wifi. Oops.

Quickly, we started noticing a lot of cops interviewing homeless dudes, a lot of cops!, and fire engines, and ambulances, and then, as we walked through Golden Gate, we noticed a bad juju in the air. A palpable kind of threatening vibe.

We were in the heart of the Tenderloin. Wikipedia succinctly describes the area as 'nestled near the downtown area, the Tenderloin has historically resisted gentrification, maintaining a seedy character and reputation for crime. Squalid conditions, homelessness, crime, illegal drug trade, prostitution, liquor stores, and strip clubs give the neighborhood a seedy reputation.'


This is one time when beating a hasty retreat while not establishing eye contact is deemed appropriate. 

We looked back! Retraced our steps to the safety of Starbucks. Regrouped. Headed out again for a Westfield mall and then a tram home.

Why am I telling you all this?

In education, sometimes a look back IS appropriate. Sometimes, forward progress can only be made by establishing some solid ground. 

Sometimes a reconsideration is a good place to start.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

When the lights go down in the city (Journey)

In celebration of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and Wardini Books in Havelock North: 

My first connection to this celebrated independent book seller/publisher came when I was at Auckland University doing English, way back in 1977. The university's second hand book sale was a great place to collect weird and wonderful text books and hard to find publications like Ginsberg, Corso, Kerouac, and other beat poets and writers - stuff that I was somehow drawn to at this stage in my life.

Stage 1 English's 20th century American poetry course (omg - YES!!!) also had a Lawrence Ferlinghetti text as required reading - A Coney Island of the Mind. I was on board!

It's taken a while, close on forty years, but I've finally visited the store, in North Beach - still in it's original location. My second visit to San Francisco (first one was more for Samantha and Jesse's wedding so we were a tad distracted), and we cruised past the store.

Luckily, Jacky, Samantha and Jesse were waiting so I had a limited time to browse - otherwise I would have come out with loads of books! 

Instead I bought two volumes of Ferlinghetti's poetry to join Coney Island when I get back home and set up Abbey Road Four (ARF) in Maungaturoto!

In the forward to one, written by Lawrence in 1998, he bemoans the trend away from independent booksellers. Luckily, they are not dead yet!

Wardini Books in Havelock North has been a real find in the last four years. I love Unity Books in Wellington and Auckland. Hopefully, I can find another great little independent book store in Northland!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Emergent (Jakob)

According to Kate Bratskeir - One of the habits of supremely happy people is our love of music.

She's right! Music is a powerful mood shaper.

She reports that 'over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages'. [Click here for a few of Kate's favorite mood-boosting jams].

For some reason heavy instrumental drone music like Isis, Pelican and, (thanks to colleague Jo McDowell), Nu Zild's own Jakob always put me in a positive mood.

I was recently in New Plymouth for a family celebration and, of course, I stopped off at Vinyl Countdown. Lo and behold, they had a vinyl copy of Jakob's rare Sine album. Score!

I'm listening to it now and, although it's doomy drone metal, I find it incredibly uplifting!!

It's a great day outside - the sun is shining, birds are singing, there's a gentle breeze. I have a Coke Life in my hand, a new Jack Reacher on the go.

I am on holiday, packing up my vinyl and music collection in preparation for the trip up north in January. 

I'm a shiny happy person!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

In celebration of life (Nosound)

School end of year ceremonies are endlessly fascinating rituals, are they not?

The pre prizegiving brekkie was a highlight!
This last week has been chock full of them with truckloads of emotion along the way.  

On Tuesday, I went to the senior Christmas dinner and enjoyed the company of staff and students (special shout out to GG). Then it was on to the senior carol service and some jaw dropping singing from the chapel choir. At one point I just closed my eyes and gave in to the sound.

Wednesday was my last day at Woodford House, my school of the last four years. BTW, I went back in today (Thursday) to get some forms signed and it was a little like when you leave home and then return - you can't just go to the fridge and help yerself, can you.

The day started with a pre-prize giving breakfast in my honour at Bay Espresso in the village. Great pancakes (thanks to Toni Dunstan) and great company with my Woodie buddies!

The year's official prize giving ceremony was the last official occasion of the year and I really enjoyed it, although it ran long.

The guest speaker - prestigious alumni, Judge Jill Moss, was a treat. A tad lengthy (the speech, not her) and softly spoken, she held her audience with some personal and universal truths. Although she did retread some familiar 'shift happens' territory at times (that stuff's in danger of becoming a tad overused).

Toni, Dionne and my thumb!
Again the outstanding highlight was the Head Girl speech but there were other terrific moments. 

For me: watching Montana lead the Kapa Haka, the great controlled singing of Christmas Santus from the chapel choir, and the School Hymn (a personal favourite) - all firmly lodged themselves in my memory banks.

It will be interesting to compare it to my new school's annual prize giving, this time next year. With Westmount being co-ed and ranging from new entrant to Year 13, it will be a different kind of experience, I'm sure.

And so to the other end of year tradition - the school magazine (Woodford House's version is called The Chronicle).

Jo, Greg, Amy and Janey
The editorial promised a new look - away from it being, erm, a chronicle, but more towards story telling.

And, except for it straying close to a glossy public relations brochure at times, it largely does what it says on the tin. It certainly shows off the girls in their best light. Although it was a little light on staff presence, overall, the colourful pages and clean modern design contribute to a bright product.

So, that's it.  The last blog post on Woodford House (unless something comes to mind on a random Tuesday afternoon down the track). 

It's a great school with some real characters. I wish her well, and all who sail in her!

For me, though, it's farewell to my safe harbour of the last few years as my little boat, with a small crew, heads away, with a mind for further adventure out on the ocean.

Love and peace - Purdzilla 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

If I were you, I'd make it better (Al Green)

Painful leadership vs inspirational leadership.

The Leadership Freak blog by the wonderful Dan Rockwell recently highlighted this distinction.

His painful list included:  

  • Nit-pickers  
  • Ball-droppers  
  • Drama-makers  
  • Down-in-the-mouthers  
  • Hand-wringers

These unattractive characteristics don't require any further explanation. 

According to Dan, on the other side of the leadership coin (yes, I know, it's not a binary situation but this is still cool and relevant) are leaders who:

  • Care deeply about relationships - (it’s not just results) 
  • Invite and act on feedback 
  • Advance the agenda of others, without sacrificing your own 
  • Understand the difference between advising and advocating 
  • Say what others fear saying

I'll be aiming to keep these two models in mind as I move back into a senior leadership role for 2017.