Wetherby

It’s surprising what you learn when working with people from other countries; especially about your own country’s society and language.

Sharon and I have just finished two days work (for TLC) with people, mainly teachers, from four European countries. They are all (as usual) brilliant English speakers and (again as usual) inquisitive. The first night we ate at The Swan and Talbot in Wetherby and as a result several colleagues wanted to know what a Talbot was. It had never occurred to me that a talbot was anything other than someone’s name; despite spending many of my childhood holidays in Blackpool tramping around Talbot Square and Talbot Road. It turns out to be a type of dog. They also wanted to know what a ‘hard shoulder’ was. They’d guessed the answer but wondered why it was so called. The answers to that one are not easy to find and verify I’ll tell you!

Clip shows a communication exercise

Eating in Wetherby was a pleasure compared to eating in the hotel, which seems to be run by young inexperienced staff. I have no problem with young and no problem with inexperienced but both need someone to turn to for advice and guidance. There didn’t seem to be anyone who cared at our hotel. Lunchtime buffet fodder was gauche and unimaginative. I’ve no idea what they charge organisers for lunch, but they should charge 50p per head extra and add some thought and imagination to what they do. The evening prior to our event three of us went there to greet late arrivals from The Czech Republic, Germany, Spain and Austria. Edith, the German had arrived and eaten and those coming from Spain and Austria were delayed until after midnight but the Czechs got to the hotel in time to be told the restaurant had closed – 9.30pm. The hotel just didn’t care.

Anyway, we had a great two days with the group before moving on to Reeth for a couple of days R and R.

We both enjoy Reeth, which is in Swaledale North Yorkshire, because it gives us several things: peace and quiet, great walks, fabulous scenery, real pubs (with real beer, fair to middling food, no music and no frills) and No internet and NO phone or 3G reception. As I say – R and R. The cottage was tiny but we managed – just. The view from outside was stunning; we couldn’t quite see the river but had fabulous views over Harkerside Moor, which in the prevailing weather (beautiful) was delightful.

It wasn’t until we arrived home that we realised there had been a volcano eruption in Iceland. So all the time we were driving back through the northern Yorkshire Dales (via Tan Hill, Kirkby Stephen, Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale and Skipton) and soaking up the sun, our erstwhile European colleagues were still trying to get home. At the time of writing, I am aware that Edith set off yesterday for Dover to be picked up by Christophe who drove from Baveria to meet her and the Czechs had returned (were returning?) by bus. The Spanish and the Austrians were staying on at the hotel. No update today.

Eduardo

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Leeds 1

We’re at the end of what really is day two, but is officially day one now. The Improving Language and Culture with ICT course has started well.

On Thursday, we’d heard that there was to be a right-wing English Defence League rally in Leeds on Saturday with the inevitable opposition rally occurring at the same time. Because our visitors were coming to Leeds to witness and learn more about British culture (and given that the postmen and local refuse collectors were striking anyway) we decided that as the Latvians had arrived a day early, we
would ask them to visit York on Saturday instead of Leeds! This turned out to have been a good plan because the two that did go to York had a brilliant time. The third Latvian went to Bradford and enjoyed herself too – the only problem being that we’re spending a day in Bradford this Tuesday. Never mind.

So that was three participants sorted – but the rest were arriving at various times in the day. Only one, from Germany, was affected and then, only because the police had put a ring around the railway station, that prevented taxis from operating out of there. The poor man had to walk all the way to our hotel, with his luggage, not understanding why there were no taxis!

Sharon and I arrived mid-afternoon.

We first went to Leeds Metropolitan University to drop off all the tools and equipment we will need on Monday through until Friday and then to the Novotel in Leeds, where we had our first meeting today. They knew we were coming today, when we called in last week to check and they knew who we were on yesterday when we came along with all our ‘stuff’ for Sunday (today) – but today (Sunday), they had no idea who we were (but that’s another story and one that a stern voice and no nonsense but polite attitude took five minutes to sort out). Then we arrived at the Ibis, where we are to stay for eight (8!!) days.We’d arranged to meet everyone at 7.00pm for dinner at 7.30pm – at the
Ibis. Which was ok, but fairly confusing because no one had met anyone else. Luckily I have a distinctive visage and was able to attract people from all over Europe to our table. There were fourteen of us for dinner and as it was Halloween (another story), a special menu too. So the meal went ok and the group got on well. Four people were still traveling as we went to bed.

Breakfast was nice and relaxed but the weather had changed. Outside it was pouring down. Torrential rain followed by strong winds was the story of the day. Everyone was drenched by the time we got to the Novotel. We’d planned that everyone would introduce themselves first and then tell us a little more about their countries by means of a newspaper collage. But most of them didn’t bring their newspapers to the Novotel. So we moved on to the ‘what do you think England is, what
do you think the English are, what do you think about English culture’ activity. We were investigating preconceptions and asked the group to mix themselves up to reach a common understanding of ‘England’. This turned out to be a brilliant get-to-know-each-other activity that
highlighted some real stereotyping. The idea is that we re-visit the activity again next Saturday and see how things have (or have not – gulp) changed.

We spent the afternoon at The Armouries (after another stern voice and no nonsense but polite attitude with the taxi company). Now we’re preparing to go out into Leeds for a communal dinner – at La Tasca!

Leeds

Improving language and culture with ICT.

Tomorrow, Sharon and I will meet most of the sixteen people arriving from all over Europe to take part in this course. Some won’t arrive until very late evening, so we’ll meet those people first thing Sunday morning at breakfast.

The course is taking place in Leeds.

This is a city I’ve hated with a real passion ever since I was dragged there twice a year as a cub-capped, short-trousered boy needing summer, then winter clothes from C&A (do you remember C&A?). I used to find it big, noisy and far too full of shops for comfort; the only good thing about it was the train journey from Huddersfield. Yet things change, and whilst it is still big (too big), noisy and far too full of shops for comfort, my preparations for this course have changed my view of Leeds.

The course was conceived by Khawar Iqbal and she’d asked me to help her deliver it if she won the European funding required to run it. Both Sharon and I have been heavily involved in the planning. Basically, Khawar has done the early people-stuff (recruitment, flight and transfer booking, hotel booking etc.) and Sharon has done the later people-stuff (venue planning, food, goodie finding and purchasing, bag packing, David pushing). I have had the leisure of planning the course around Khawar’s original ideas and with Khawar’s support and input.

And the planning has been a real pleasure. I’ve learned more about Leeds than I ever thought existed. I’ve walked the streets with new eyes. Until September this year, Leeds was still the place of boyhood dread; these days even the train journey was (is) to be dreaded (mainly due to the times I generally have to visit Leeds, the trains are overcrowded for about three hours at each end of the day). But researching the history, the culture and the city itself has opened my eyes to it’s (mmm, lost for a word here – not quite beauty …) Well.

So  we start on Sunday with a full-on day and continue through to Saturday with another full day planned (although the afternoon, like Wednesday is fofo).  We will also visit Bradford to look at culture within culture and part of our historical/cultural research will include Bonfire Night! What is it? Why is it? What does it say about us?

Because I have to help deliver Advanced PDA/e-Guide courses in London and Birmingham this week, the lovely Lilian Soon will be working with the group Monday through until Wednesday – so I know they will be in good hands.

Which reminds me – I plan on reading through the Advanced course today (as well as the Leitch 2006 Report, the Digital Britain Report and another big paper I’ve already lost the will to read), so I’d better go.