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Hearing the Worst

Moving, engaging, important.

Alive with Cancer

“You are going to have a horrible time,” the doctor said, “a really horrible time.”

I had turned up for what I thought was a routine appointment with the consultant. He looked at his notes, then at me, before leaning over his desk and telling me that the test had come back positive.

I did not feel any physical pain, but a numbing sense of shock. His words were well meant, but not reassuring as I found myself going into battle with cancer.

After the diagnosis, I had a million questions, ranging from – can I be cured, how are you going to treat me and – the most pertinent question of all – how long have I got? Like millions of others, I suffered an agony of uncertainty and anxiety.

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Cowspirary Debunked

Cows Mt Capburn

Cows on the meadow off Stanley Turner looking toward Mt Caburn, Lewes, Susssex



This is an agenda-drive, single-answer to the world’s problem, California and US centric production.

There are problems with its presentation, the production techniques and approach and the choice of and use of evidence, and the ethics of how they treat those interviewed.

This is not a BBC Horizon or Panorama, or a BBC / Open University production. In GB we are used to the highest production standards. Ask yourself if the BBC would broadcast this.


Cowspiracy is the TV equivalent of the News of the World.

The story telling technique and style is to use exaggeration, scaremongering, a pastiche of the Hollywood storyline template, and exploiting tropes and clichés of the investigative documentary genre.

  1. People and organisations that do not wish to take part are assumed to be guilty of a cover up just because they do not wish to respond to emails or the presenter doorstepping their offices..
  2. Doorstepping and gratuitous use of ‘hidden camera’ angles suggests that those approached have something to hide – that is not proven; they just cannot respond to every nutter who presents themselves at their door waving a camera.
  3. Using emotive scenes where animals are killed or culled.
  4. Unnecessary and gratuitous lingering on a duck as it goes under the chop then cutting later to the presenter puffing up his cheeks and shaking his head. Yet this was an example of small-scale backyard farming that in reality is one of the answers to decreasing industrial-scaled meat production.
  5. The presenter playing the role of Jesus in the wilderness. ‘Someone like us’ – not a journalist, or academic, just a member of the public making his enquiries. He claims to be going on a learning journey but follows a singular path to prove his hypothesis.
  6. Scaremongering by making unqualified claims about potential mass extensions of species and lines such as ‘we’ve stolen the world from free living animals’.
  7. The death of an activist.
  8. Shot choice and cliches: tuna fishing, animal culling.
  9. By the end of the film, with lingering shots of California trees there is a distinct ‘hug a tree’ atmosphere.
  10. Cutting away to the presenter and his easy to read body language and facial expressions.


The Evidence

  1. Emotive, exaggerated animated graphics that are unrepresentative of the evidence they purport to come from making  naive scaled-up calculations to illustrate the problem and make projections.
  2. Inadequate introduction to those interviewed i.e. their context and stance relating to the argument.
  3. No interviews with the people who wrote the reports, news paper, magazine articles the ‘evidence’ was selected from.
  4. The quality of the research is weak. The sources poor, biased, limited and often of no value.
  5. The assumption that ‘peer reviewed papers’ were read and used throughout, when in fact only three are given on the website as ‘facts/
  6. Failure to adequately cross-reference and corroborate the ‘evidence’ uses.


The Ethics and Legality of some of the interviews

  1. Setting up an interviewee to be mocked/humiliated on camera then putting this online.  
  2. Recording before and after the interview to get the person off guard then using this. It must be assumed that a ‘release form’ of some kind was used, yet did these people know that the material would be used in this way?
  3. Showing and naming children on a sustainable farm who were indirectly mocked. If I was the parent of this farm I would have taken legal action against the producers.
  4. Using access to a sustainable farm and a backyard farm to mock them and in the case of the sustainable farm probably doing significant damage to their reputation and trade. Implying that what they were doing is worse than industrial farming was ludicrous and revealed the presenter and the programme makers to be unscrupulous activists not documentary filmmakers.



A single issue mockumentary aimed at animal activist vegan supporters.

More like a recruitment video for a movement or cult produced for believers to support their preconceptions.

The US is the guiltiest party, with by far the greatest consumption of meat per head in the world.

Abuse of selected evidence too often using newspaper and magazine journalists as the supposed ‘expert’ sources. (See the website).

Causality is complex but the presenter wants to reduce it to one thing


Do Your Own Research. Draw Your Own Conclusions

Go to a reputable source such as the Oxford School of Geography and the Environment and find and use only peer reviewed papers in reputable journals. Take nothing for granted, check the papers cited in these papers and construct your own understanding of the issues.

Use Google Scholar if you don’t have access to a university library.

Don’t just read the relevant papers. Follow up the lines of argument and researched cited by these papers too.

Don’t buy the DVD or T-shirt.


‘The Reputation Game’ You’ll be engrossed for days and changed forever

Reputation Game

The Reputation Game is a compelling read that has you nodding along in agreement, turning the page for another insight and then pausing to take in the academic research. Written by a former Financial Times journalist and PR guru David Waller and a Business School academic Rupert Younger, the blend of the journalism and the academic gives you two books beautifully blended into one.

I find you become engrossed for hours at time – it has that ‘can’t put it down’ quality, but also as it skips through so many examples and references that any of these can form a satisfying quick read making it good not only for a commute, but to flick through between stops on the underground.

I know a dozen people who should have a copy, one who probably wishes he had written it. On the one hand I can send them this review, on the other I might just buy them copies and tell them why they should read it and how it well both be a pleasure to read and of value to them either because they have a ‘reputation’ to maintain, build or rejuvenate, or because they are in the business of doing this for others, both individuals and organisations.

Amongst many, often interviewed for the book, in relation to ‘reputation’, you will gain insights into:


Roman Abramovich

Lance Armstrong

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi

Michel Barnier

David and Victoria Beckham

Benedict XVI aka the Pope

Jeff Bezos

Tony Blair

Sepp Blatter

Usain Bolt

Susan Boyle

Richard Branson aka Sir Richard

Gordon Brown

Warren Buffett

George W Bush

Caligula aka The Emperor

David Cameron

Jimmy Carter

Charles Windsor aka the Prince of Wales

Winston Churchill

Nick Clegg

Bill and Hillary Clinton

Jeremy Corbyn

Robert Downey Jnr

James Dyson aka Sir James

Elizabeth Windsor aka The Queen

Roger Federer

Niall Ferguson

Margaret Hodge

Steve Jobs

Boris Johnson

Tom Jones aka Sir Tom

Bernie Madoff – interviewed in person by the authors.

Theresa May

Max Mosley

Horatio Nelson aka Admiral Lord

Barack Obama aka President

John Profumo

Vladimir Putin aka President

Cecil Rhodes

Saddam Hussein

Maria Sharapova

Joseph Stalin

Ivan the Terrible

Margaret Thatcher

Donald Trump

Mark Zuckerberg
And when it comes to business and organisational reputation you will learn about:



Amnesty International

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

The Bhopal Disaster

The British Army



The Catholic Church



The Deepwater Horizon Crisis

Domino’s Pizza

The EU





Goldman Sachs


Innocent Drinks


The London School of Economics


Philip Morris International





Union Carbide

United Airlines





And in doing so you will learn about:


Capability reputation and character reputation and a whole lot more. Some of which will make you smile, much of which you can apply.




Computer Free

Gone is the computer. Here is a fountain pen and paper. It is easier to spread out, easier to gather up ideas in bundles … better for brain? This has the makings of a dissertation.

Familiarity and mastery

Your head gets into a place it never wants to leave. You take command of a subject and want to build on it.

Or should do. I resist mastery in favour of novelty.

So I have to find ways to keep everything fresh. To seek out the challenge.


The new role of ‘Learning Facilitator’ at Coursera

According to Coursera, the 'learning facilitator', a new role that they are developing and will wear several different hats: managerial, technical, social, and pedagogical.

Coursera goes on to say that "effective facilitators must know how to guide learners in their learning journey, provide formative feedback, offer technical guidance, foster community, and communicate in a way that encourages learners to construct knowledge together".

This 'facilitator' role is somewhat more demanding than the current Coursera 'moderator' who is there simply to nudge things along. This Facilitator role sounds more like the Open University 'Associate Lecturer' (AL) – a practitioner, a graduate of the course they support, and typically someone at PhD or PhD candidate levels. The Coursera moderator is merely someone who recently took the course on which they plan to moderate and gained a score of over 82% and have done the Coursera E-Moderator MOOC.

The development of the Coursera Facilitator is in line with their move increasingly towards developing undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses.

Where Coursera will struggle is expecting facilitators to have enough technical knowledge to do much more than answer the most basic technical questions: they need to know where they can turn. Also those who have invested so much to gain this greater academic knowledge required to be a facilitator will expect to be paid. Coursera will be charging, as they do increasingly as they move away from the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).


When he was my age my grandpa was fighting in the Warsaw Uprising … and other stories.

Zoe and Z.A.P : Granddaughter and professor, veteran, leader, OBE, British citizen, Polish hero … 

From the introduction to the Polish documentary on Zbigniew Alexandri Pelcyznski. (see below for computer translation)

Bohaterem filmu jest prof. Zbigniew A. Pełczyński, w młodości żołnierz powstania warszawskiego, dziś filozof polityczny, emerytowany naukowiec i działacz społeczny lub – jak to sam określa – “przedsiębiorca społeczny”. Dwukrotnie ranny w walkach w stolicy w 1944 r., na krótko przed upadkiem powstania dostał się do niewoli i trafił do obozu jenieckiego koło Bremy. Siedem miesięcy później, pod koniec kwietnia 1945 r., obóz został wyzwolony przez Amerykanów. Młody Pełczyński wstąpił do brytyjskiej armii, by dalej walczyć. Pragnął też studiować. Miał szczęście: wraz z kilkoma innymi kolegami z AK trafił na uniwersytet St. Andrews w Szkocji. Specjalizował się w filozofii politycznej, w 1951 r. przyjął brytyjskie obywatelstwo i otrzymał etat naukowy na uniwersytecie w Oksfordzie. Dobrze czuł się w Wielkiej Brytanii, cenił i lubił tamtejsze obyczaje, kulturę, ludzi. Wrósł w swoją drugą ojczyznę. Jak powiada, “zrepolonizowała” go dopiero “Solidarność”. W początkach III Rzeczpospolitej był doradcą Sejmu i URM, ale nie odniósł na tym polu wielkich sukcesów. W 1994 r. zakończyła się więc jego kariera doradcy, lecz po kilku latach intensywnej działalności w Polsce nie chciał wracać do spokojnego życia emerytowanego wykładowcy i swego domu na angielskiej wsi. Zainicjował współpracę między uczelnią w Oksfordzie i Uniwersytetem Warszawskim, stworzył system stypendialny dla studentów z Polski. W 1994 r. założył też Szkołę Liderów, która w ciągu 10 lat funkcjonowania przekroczyła granice Polski: w jej zajęciach coraz liczniej uczestniczą bowiem także młodzi ludzie z Ukrainy czy Gruzji. Celem szkoły jest kształtowanie postaw i stanu świadomości charakterystycznych dla otwartego społeczeństwa obywatelskiego, przygotowywanie młodych kadr zdolnych rządzić krajem, lokalnymi społecznościami, dużymi firmami – ludzi otwartych, kreatywnych, elastycznych, umiejących korzystać z cudzych doświadczeń. Opowieść o prof. Zbigniewie Pełczyńskim nie jest typowym filmem biograficznym, choć wiele w niej szczegółów z życiorysu bohatera, wyjaśniających, jakie wydarzenia i czynniki kształtowały jego postawę życiową, wpływały na jego wybory, skłoniły go do podjęcia określonych działań. To raczej filmowy esej, w którym losy tytułowego “lidera” stanowią punkt wyjścia do refleksji zarówno historycznych nad postawami powstańczego pokolenia, jak i tych całkowicie współczesnych, dotyczących reformy oświaty, a zwłaszcza szkolnictwa wyższego, możliwości kształtowania liderów społecznych i intelektualnych. Licznym stypendystom z Polski uniwersytet oksfordzki stworzył warunki, jakich nie był w stanie zapewnić im rodzimy uniwersytet. Losy i działalność prof. Zbigniewa Pełczyńskiego poznajemy z jego relacji, a także z wypowiedzi ludzi, którzy go znają prywatnie lub współpracują z nim: prof. Leszka Kołakowskiego, prof. Jerzego Kłoczowskiego, Bolesława Taborskiego, Timothy’ego Gartona Asha, Elizabeth Frazer, Johna Adaira, prof. Jana Krzysztofa Bieleckiego. Z kolei polscy stypendyści Oksordu i zatrudnieni na tej prestiżowej uczelni młodzi naukowcy z Polski, m.in. dr Marcin Walecki, dr Grzegorz Plebanek, dr Wiktor Maciejewski, Piotr Drag, Agnieszka Grodzińska czy Witold Czartoryski mówią o pozytywnych stronach systemu stypendialnego stworzonego przez prof. Pełczyńskiego, i ogromnych możliwościach, jakie otworzyły się przed nimi wraz z przyjazdem do Oksfordu. Absolwenci Szkoły Liderów, tacy jak Adam Krzanowski z Krosna, swoją pracą na rzecz miasta i jego mieszkańców, dowodzą natomiast praktycznej przydatności takich kursów. [TVP]

Courtesy of Google Translate:

The protagonist is prof. Zbigniew A. Pełczyński, in his youth a soldier of the Warsaw Uprising, today, political philosopher, a retired scientist and social activist or – as he describes – “social entrepreneur.” Twice wounded in the fighting in the capital in 1944., Shortly before the fall of the uprising he was captured and was sent to a POW camp near Bremen. Seven months later, in late April 1945., The camp was liberated by the Americans. Young Pełczyński joined the British army to continue fighting. Also he wanted to study. He was lucky: along with several other colleagues from AK went to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He specialized in political philosophy in 1951. Adopted British citizenship, and received time researcher at the University of Oxford. Well felt in the UK, valued and liked rustic customs, culture and people. He has grown into his second motherland. As he says, “zrepolonizowała” it with “Solidarity”. At the beginning of the Third Republic was an advisor to the Sejm and the URM, but did not comment on this area of great success. In 1994. So he ended his career counselors, but after several years of intense activity in Poland does not want to return to the quiet life of a retired teacher and his home in the English countryside. Initiated the cooperation between the university at Oxford and the University of Warsaw, he created a system of scholarships for students from Polish. In 1994. He founded the School of Leaders, who during 10 years of operation exceeded the limits Polish: in her classes growing numbers participate because the young people of Ukraine or Georgia. The aim of the school is to shape attitudes and awareness characteristic of an open civil society, preparation of young talent able to govern the country, local communities, large companies – open-minded, creative, flexible, able to benefit from other people’s experiences. The story of a professor. Zbigniew Pełczyński is not a typical biopic, although many of the details from the biography of the hero, explaining what events and factors shaped his attitude in life, influenced his choices led him to take certain actions. It is rather a film essay, in which the fate of the title “leader” constitute a starting point for reflection on the attitudes of both the historical insurgent generation, as well as those completely contemporary, for the reform of education, especially higher education opportunities to shape social and intellectual leaders.

Numerous Polish fellows of Oxford University has created the conditions under which he was not able to provide them with native university. Fate and activity prof. Zbigniew Pełczyński know of his relationship, as well as the statements of people who know him privately or cooperate with it: prof. Leszek Kolakowski, prof. George Kłoczowski, Boleslaw Taborski, Timothy Garton Ash, Elizabeth Fraser, John Adair, prof. Jan Krzysztof Bielecki. On the other hand, Polish scholars Oksordu and employed in this prestigious university, young scientists from Polish, among others Dr. Marcin Walecki, Dr. Gregory Plebanek, Dr. Victor Maciejewski, Piotr Drag, Agnieszka Grodzińska whether Witold Czartoryski talk about the positive sides of the scholarship system developed by prof. Pełczyńskiego, and huge possibilities opened up before them, with the arrival to Oxford. Graduates of the School of Leaders, such as Adam Krzanowski from Krosno, his work for the city and its inhabitants, demonstrate while the practical usefulness of such courses. [TVP]


I have just fallen in love with Héloïse Letissier.


Chance had me discussing dreams today and I remembered that last night I had fallen in love. I had to explain it a bit further: I was on a studio set, as a writer or director or producer, or creative instigator of some kind. There were some 30 people, half performers half crew. During the course of the day or evening I fell in love with this girl. I’m 30 again. It was a delicious feeling. I could have drawn her face.

Chance had me trying out Amazon Music and my ‘Modern Folk’ choices had me listening to ‘Christine and the Queens’ who I immediately recognised.

Which is when I realised that I had seen her performing on Jools Hooland’s New Year’s Eve Hootennany and my mind had simply grabbed her from there and superimposed her as ‘the love interest’ in a sweet-dream romance.

Christine and the Queens


The Héloïse Letissier interview


Performing on the Graham Norton Show



Last night I fell in love with Héloïse Letissier aka ‘Christine and the Queens’

The dream was vivid and memorable in the sweetest of ways as I was in my early thirties and falling in love; we both were.

I thought nothing of the dream until this afternoon walking on the South Downs a friend mention a dream he’d had about flying and I shared my ideas on how to understand the meaning of dreams through a set of probing questions. I mentioned that I’d just fallen in love in a dream, that I was on film set of some kind: 15 performers, same number of crew. And I’d fallen in love with one of the team. I even said that I could draw her if asked.

Later today I’m playing around with Amazon music and amongst a set of modern folk singers I recognise a face from New Year’s Eve when we’d watched the last half hour or Jools Hooland. A few clicks and I’m watching ‘Christine and the Queens‘ and instantly recognise the face; so that is what my mind had done. The face had had to come from somewhere.

I love ‘Titled’. I’ve just been listening to ‘Jonathan‘.

A couple of hours ago, before any of this I jotted down a note to myself about a story I will struggle with all my life. I wrote: ‘he can only communicate through drawing’ while she can only communicate through dance’. In honesty I doubt there’s more than a music video in it, and a potentially corny one at that. But it intrigues to give characters I have developed and written about for over a decade such specific parameters. I had the protagonist of ‘Form Photo’ Robbie become an artist 18 months ago when I was working on this piece through ‘Start Writing Fiction’ with the Open University. Suzi’s world was overly complex but I had her leaving unexpectedly, even faking her death, to go and find herself in France. The story lasts a lifetime with Robbie, a kind of Damien Hirst cum David Hockney cum Paul Nash cum Lucien Freud eventually exhibiting massive pieces in the hall of his castle.

Inspiration has to come from somewhere.


Life Drawing

May – December 2016

For my record, as a learning exercise and experience and for comparative purposes over the next 6 months.

I am playing with materials, and tools, remembering old lessons and picking up new techniques and approaches.

My goal is to create at least life-size life-drawings, using blocks of charcoal.

The next step is to work on sheets of A1 and to study anatomy more closely.

All works created at sessions with Sussex Arts Club or at Charleston. Sessions typically 2 hours with drawing periods ranging from 5 x 1 minutes to 45 minute sessions. In 2017 I will also be trying the longer pose held over self weeks.

Simple lessons learnt:

  • Less is more
  • Size matters : hands are the size of the face
  • Shade not lines
  • Essence, mood and feeling
  • Pair up up the right tool and paper
  • Study the artists I admire.



Life Drawing

katecollage1Over the last six months I have attended some 16 life drawing sessions. I am noticing an improvement. I hear my later mother at my shoulder all the time. I heed her advice.

Last week I worked on hands and feet; this week I put the body back. I even dared to try to add a face rather than ignore it.

Over 2 hours we did 5 x 3 minutes, 3 x 5 minutes, 2 x 15 minutes and a break. Then 1 x 20, 1 x x 10 …

I keep everything. Mum’s rules.

I never throw anything out and when I start a drawing on a sheet of paper I keep going, just drawing over changes. I rarely use a rubber, unless to erase black to leave white …. so it is like using a crude white pencil.

There is little time to measure the way I was taught doing a 3 hour single portrait; so I muddle between a quick outline and then correcting it, or, as today, placing the key positions of everything that trying to get the lines right first time.



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