Friday, 23 January 2015

Simon's 21st Century Grand Tour of Europe!

Hi guys
As you can imagine after my last (quite personal) blog, I want to do a fairly safe...but interesting blog post this time! So I have decided to do this specific blog on travel, and in particular a 21st Century Grand Tour! Which in this particular case are places to visit if you are in Europe.
The places I list, are attractions I really have enjoyed visiting for one reason or another. You'll find that most have a historical significance of some kind, which may become a topic of one of my General Interest podcasts!

I say that because I haven't done that much travelling myself outside of I can't do a worldwide list. Although as I write this I am thinking in future I may write a blog post about places I really want to visit around the world someday!!!

Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, England

Minack Theatre Stage
The first attraction on my Grand Tour should be very familiar to you all, as I have in fact written nine blog posts about it (up to this point in time!). I am of course talking about the Minack Theatre down in Cornwall.

Rowena Cade Memorial
 This is a place very close to my heart, because I have crewed (with my Dad) on two Surrey Opera (hi everyone at Surrey Opera!) shows since 2012. The Minack Theatre is unlike any other theatre, as it is so unique in it's design and location! Even it's origins are unbelievable, due to the sheer determination of its creator Rowena Cade!

Picture from Aerial Cornwall
For all those that don't know the theatre is located just outside of the village of Porthcurno perched on the top of a cliff looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.
The origins of the theatre date back to around 1931 when the amateur dramatics club she was apart of  decided to act out Shakespeare's "The Tempest". Looking towards the end of her garden (the gully above the Minack Rock) she said "I wonder if we could make a stage here?".
After 6 months of hard graft for her and two crafty Cornish craftsman the stage was set for the first performance of "The Tempest" in 1932. It was lit by batteries, car headlights and a weak supply of power brought down from Minack House (her house).
Over the years the theatre received improvements and extensions, making it the attraction you see today!
But the first time you look down to the stage you will become spellbound, like it did with me and Dad!!!

Pompeii,  Naples, Italy
Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background
The second destination on my Grand Tour is somewhere I've visited twice with my Mum on holiday! It's also one of those archaeological attractions that you have to visit if you have any interest in history or archaeology!
The ancient Roman town of Pompeii is what I'm talking about! As if you're like me and you have a very strong interest in history and archaeology then you just have to fly over to Italy and explore it!
After it was destroyed and buried by between 4-6 metres (or 13-20 foot) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD (along with Herculaneum).
Pompeii, is somewhere that has an unusual history of being discovered and then being rediscovered. As it lost until 1599 when it was initially rediscovered...but it wasn't until it's second more famous rediscovery (in 1748) that Pompeii got put back on the map.
When the Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre discovered the town and started excavating. He discovered that the town and everything in it was perfectly preserved due to the lack of air and moisture.

A preserved loaf of bread from Pompeii
The objects that lay beneath the city have been well-preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture. The artefacts the town contained provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into life of an everyday Roman citizen.
At this point I just want to point out that if your in anyway squeamish, don't read the next paragraph!

During the excavation, plaster of Paris was used to fill in the cavities in the ash layers which once held human bodies. Once the plaster of Paris had set allowed Joaquin and his team to see the exact position a person was in when they died.
A Pompeii street
A place well worth visiting (along with Mount Vesuvius) as it's amazing being able to walk in the same footsteps of everyday people (much like ourselves) from Roman times! An adventure well worth experiencing for yourself!!!

Titanic Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Titanic Quarter
The next country we're off to is Northern Ireland...and Titanic Belfast! This is somewhere else I've visited with Mum on holiday back in 2013 (hi Julie & Robert!).
As the names suggests is a museum all about preserving the memory of all the people on board the ill-fated (and Belfast built) maiden voyage of the White Star Line RMS Titanic. The museum also discusses her sisters ships (RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic) also built at the nearby Harland and Wolff shipyards (including the famous world famous Samson and Goliath cranes).

Titanic Belfast forms the centrepiece to the Titanic–related heritage sites in the very apt "Titanic Quarter" of Belfast!
Other sites include the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding offices (including headquarters and drawing offices), the SS Nomadic (the last surviving White Star Line ship).
The Titanic–related sites doesn't stop there as you can also visit the Titanic's Dock and Pump house and...the Titanic and Olympic slipways.

Me standing at the bottom of the Titanic's Dock  (and Pump house)
All are nearby via a short walk...but I would recommend buying the Combo Ticket, which includes entrance into Titanic Belfast and Titanic's Dock and Pump house. This is because I believe it gives you a better idea of just how big the ship was when it was completed. Another clever way the designers of Titanic Belfast interweaved the scale of the Olympic-Class Ocean Liner is by constructing the building to the same height (126 feet or 38 metres) as the hull!
Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast doesn't have any of the artefacts taken from the ship, as a sign of respect to all the people who lost their lives on the 14th April 1912. It still manages to really capture the story of the ship's construction between 1909-1911 to eventual rediscovery of the shipwreck on the 1st September 1985...73 years later.
The Shipyard Ride scale replica of the Titanic '​s rudder
The highlight of Titanic Belfast is The Shipyard and the Ride at the end of Shipyard Exhibition, where you board a six-seater car which takes you on a ride through a recreation of the Harland and Wolff shipyards. Making you feel as though the ship is being constructed around you...what is incredible about this ride is that the car actually moves through a scale replica of the Titanic '​s enormous rudder. if you have any interest in Titanic I would recommend that you start planning your visit to Belfast and to Titanic Belfast, you won't regret it!!!

Anne Frank House Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Anne Frank House Museum
The next country we're visiting is The Netherlands, and the Anne Frank House Museum! Which is situated in the country's capital Amsterdam. 
The Diary of Anne Frank BBC Mini-Series cover
I visited here with Mum all the way back in 2011....after my interest flourished watching the BBC production of The Diary of Anne Frank. The 5 part Mini-Series was produced in 2009, and Elle Kendrick  performed the lead role.
After watching that I then decided to read her diary (also known as 'The Diary of a Young Girl')...which I really enjoyed! So much so, that I ended up reading it for a total of three times in quick succession. But what I wanted to do, more than anything was to visit the museum!
Anne Frank
To all those that don't know who Anne Frank is here, is a brief summary of what happened to her and her family.
Anne's Franks original Diary
Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who forced to go into hiding because of the German occupation of The Netherlands during Second World War. Together with seven others (including her family) she hides in an secret annex in Amsterdam, and writes about her experiences in a diary.

The Diary of a Young Girl 1947 first edition cover
Almost 2 years after going into hiding, they are discovered and deported to concentration camps. Anne’s father  (Otto Frank) is the only one of the eight people to survive from the Secret Annexe.
After the war Otto Frank gets his daughters wartime diary published in 1947...since then it has been translated into 67 languages with over 30 million copies sold worldwide!

A place well worth seeing if you have an interest in the Anne frank and the Second World War, as it is one of the most interesting places I've ever visited on my holidays!
Making well worth you won't regret it for a second!

Imperial War Museum, London, England
Imperial War Museum
For our final destination we're heading back to where our Grand Tour began...England! Where my absolutely favourite museum in the world is situated, I am of course talking about the Imperial War Museum!
Before the Foster and Partners redevelopment
It has recently re-opened (17th July 2014) after two years of redevelopment and £40 million pounds of investment, so that the museum could better fulfil it's aim 'to provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and "wartime experience".
The new layout was designed by Foster and Partners, who are also responsible for construction of The Canary Wharf Underground Station and the American Air Museum at the Imperial War Museum's Duxford branch. Which won Foster and partners the Stirling Prize in 1997!

After the Foster and Partners redevelopment
The history of the Imperial War Museum goes right back to 1917, when the Cabinet agreed that a National War Museum should be created in order to collect and display material relating to the Great War, which was still being fought.

Imperial War Museum at The Crystal Palace
The Dominion governments (countries under the crown in either the British Empire or the Commonwealth) also took an interest in the Cabinet's the name was changed to the Imperial War Museum. Three years later in 1920 an Act of parliament formally established the museum and elected a governing Board of Trustees. Later that year (9th June 1920) the museum was opened by King George V in The Crystal Palace.

Imperial War Museum at The Crystal Place poster from 1920 (by P I Rixon)
Between the years 1924-1935 it was housed in two galleries adjacent to the former Imperial Institute, located in South Kensington.
One year (7th July 1936) after it closed in The Crystal Place the Duke of York (who later become King George VI) reopened the museum in its present home...
which in a former life, made up the central portion of the Bethlem Royal Hospital (also known as ‘Bedlam’). This change of postcode was all down to the generosity of Lord Rothermere.

St Paul's Cathedral during The Blitz
At the outset of the Second World War the Imperial War Museum's terms of reference were enlarged to cover both world wars. From September 1940 to November 1946 the museum was closed to the public, and vulnerable collections were evacuated to stores outside London.

Short seaplane
Most of the exhibits survived the war...but a Short seaplane (had flown at the Battle of Jutland) was shattered when a German bomb fell on the Naval Gallery on the 31st January 1941. In the same blast some naval models were damaged.
Since 1953 the museum's terms of reference have been extended again to include all military operations, where either Britain or the Commonwealth have been involved with since August of 1914.

It an amazing museum, which takes an interesting look at the history of warfare. By displaying the artefacts in an exciting and unique way...acting as a memorial to all the people that have died because of war.
Influencing (and inspiring) people to stop wars from ever happening in the future, which is something at the heart of the Star Trek franchise and ideology, making it somewhere you just have to visit!

This is Simon from The Engage Podcast, saying You Only Live Once (YOLO)!
Signing out!!!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Simon: My Dyslexia and Dyspraxia

Hi everyone!
Firstly I have to admit that this blog post has been the most challenging to write, as it has meant that I have had to deal with something quite personal and something I don't like facing head on.
So making it public knowledge adds a bit of jeopardy to this blog post unlike any others I have written or will ever write.
As it makes me feel quite vulnerable.

As the title suggests this post is all about Dyslexia and Dyspraxia a couple of conditions quite close to my heart, as I suffer from both. I am hoping that by the end of this blog you'll be able to recognise the symptoms and signs for Dyspraxia and Dyslexia in your friends and that they can be diagnosed.

For all those that don't know, Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty (or spectrum disorder) that affects the skills involved in the reading and spelling of words. Dyslexia tends to have difficulty with:

Verbal memory
This the ability to remember a sequence of verbal information for a short period of time. Such as a set of simple instructions or a short list.

Rapid serial naming
This is the skill of being able to name a series of colours, objects or numbers as quickly as possible.

Phonological awareness
This is a key skill when it come's to someone's early spelling and reading development. You become Phonological aware once you can identify how words are made up of phonemes (smaller units of sound). Changing a phoneme can lead to changes in their meaning.

Verbal processing speed
Is the speed in which it takes someone to process and recognise familiar verbal information, such as letters and digits.

Along with:
  • Physical coordination problems (Dyspraxia)
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Problems concentrating and a short attention span
  • Poor organisation and time-management
  • Difficulties with numbers (dyscalculia)

    While Dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or DCD) is also fairly common, although it affects a persons physical co-ordination and movement.

    Fortunately, I don't really suffer from the associated problems you get with them. This is only because, as times gone by I've found different 'Coping Strategies' to solve the problems I face due to Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.
    Even as I write this blog I've had to use my 'Coping Strategies'. One of those techniques is having to effectively forcing Spell Checker to correct my misspelled word for the correct spelling...that happens quite often whenever I write a blog post!
    Let's take the last the last paragraph for example, in this instance I couldn't remember how to spell the word strategy. If that happens I have to 'try' and sound out the phonics on the word (difficult for Dyslexics). You might think that's easy considering it's written right in front I should get it right first time round...but the word I've spelt is statergy.
    As you know the Spell Checkers red line has appeared, so I can  right click on it and go to the Spell Checker window and select the correct spelling.

    I also want to tell you an antidote describing what can happen when you have a bad case of Dyspraxia! I had to go back three years (back to 2012). When I got my first car (which I nicknamed "Little Donkey"), a car I've reluctantly had to change since...

    Anyhow back to what I'm suppose to be talking about, at the time I was working in a local school as a Teaching Assistant. So I had to compute the 2.5 miles into work each day. On the 2nd day of term eager to get into work, I leave for work at 7:45am and 'somehow' manage to bang my head on the top of the door frame of my car!

    Instantly I start not feeling very well...but thought nothing of it! After another forgetful 20 minute compute I get into work. Where I mention what has happened to the other staff, which results in me having a Cold Compress put over my head.

    After 'trying' to do a full days work, with symptoms of a unknown and undiagnosed illness (at that time). I go home (around 4:00pm), fortunately after talking to the teacher I was working with (Hi Penny!) I decide to play it safe and get the bus home (leaving my car where I parked it).

    A few hours past by (around 6:30pm), and my Mum gets home from work (local hospital). After a couple of seconds she's looked at me, and knows with out asking that I'm not feeling well.
    Within 10 minutes she's on the phone to Phil asking whether he can pick us up and take us to Accident & Emergency (A&E). A little while later, Phil comes and takes us directly to A&E.
    After spending 3 hours (Taking us to around 10:30pm) being looked at my a couple of Doctors I am finally diagnosed with Concussion.
    Then after a short wait, Phil came and picked us up again! Instead of taking us straight home he went and picked up my car and drove it back to our house, before going home!

    I would just like to finish by saying that I am internally thankful to Penny (the teacher I was working with) for being very supportive on that day, Phil for coming to the rescue and to Mum for getting me to A&E!

    I know that's a quite lengthy antidote...but I think it just shows you how Developmental Co-ordination Disorders impacts people's lives. I know there are going to be people out there saying "Simon, you can't put that experience solely down to Dyspraxia?!"
    In answer to those people, I have to say that I don't think it's the whole reason it happened...but I don't think it helped matters!!!

    This is Simon from The Engage Podcast signing out!