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Playing the guitar and singing

Something on your “to-do list” that never gets done.

Resolutions since 2016

At least 8 years ago I made these new year resolutions of things to do. One, and they are interlinked, remains stubbornly undone. The guitar stand remains, its handy – the guitar (in its case) is in the shed. If I sing, it is with the guitar.

A life time ago, it feels, in a different place (literally) I sang the way I now walk the dog or visit a wood or take a walk by a river. I suppose.

I still have a swatch of songs, the lyrics and chords, all typed out in 1980 ahead of going off on my gap year which started in early December 1980 working the season in the French ski resort of Val d’Isere. As well as 20 or so pop songs: a lot of Bowie, some Beatles, Cat Steven, Simon and Garfunkel, I have my own songs written when I was 17/18. Happy teen songs, love songs and comical songs (not very good songs!)

I doubt I have sung, except once or twice in church, at a funeral or civic ceremony, for at least 10 years. Come to think of it, the singing stopped around the time I also, finally, stopped swimming. Are the two at all connected?

Will something get me started again? It used to be the case that I’d catch a tune in the radio, find a song street, and if the chords weren’t too onerous I’d give it a go. I should.

Is it having neighbours that has put me off? I’ve not performed for many decades. In my teens and twenties I busked and sand on stage. Or drinking waking that bored the household with calls to stop?

Once upon a time I travelled with a guitar to accompany my singing and a pad of paper and soft pencils to draw. No more. But looking on the bright side there is plenty here that I have done or still do.

I took up life drawing in 2016 and attend at least ten classes a year, initially at Sussex County Arts Club in Brighton, but now with Silvea MacRae Brown at Charleston Farmhouse. I’ve expanded this into large watercolours of the pieces created and since started print making at Bip-Art – I have work, glass, rollers and ink out before me.

Visits to France and learning French have slipped a bit but after a few trails with language Apps I settled on LingVist and have stuck at that for five years taking my vocabulary from 375 to many thousands – 2,500 or more words I know and have stuck from over 5,000 that I have studied. I’ve tired of the platform though and am thinking about a person/video based course picked up from Instagram. Perhaps. Other languages call!

I also got together with other French speakers twice a month in a group called ‘Rendez-Vous à Lewes’ – sadly we lost the habit during Covid-19 lockdowns and the dynamic has gone.

For five years I returned to dinghy sailing, owning a Streaker and competing with Newhaven & Seaford Sailing Club. I went out as crew on offshore boats and even crossed the Atlantic from Grand Canaria to Bermuda via Cape Verde. I sold my Streaker in 2021 and left the sailing club just this month – even though I could from time to time go out on Rescue Bot duties (I have the requisite Power Boat II licence). Other things fill my day – woods mostly! I’m in one most days. Somewhere in East Sussex.

Skiing does happen but has been ruined by a protracted legal battle with Clubhotel Multivacances and timeshares inherited from my late father who died in 2002. The family, five of us, have had to pitch in to pay ever increasing maintenance fees despite the flat being used rarely – and one flat never at all. That and the cost and appalling lack of fitness. Yet I will be in a set slope next weekend and have a month in the Alps planned for January 2024 to mark 30 years of marriage (skiing brought us together and we honeymooned in the Alps).

And then there’s Radio 6 Music. Not on the list but rather an illegible scribble for a song I must have liked. I’m habituated to listening to Cerys Matthews everyday Sunday and got a call out after Jane, my older sister died in April 2022 … and now there’s Craig Charles both are a ‘must listen’, ideally live, otherwise on BBC Sounds and often played two or more times over.


What is it like to ski the last week of the season in the French alps?

25 years ago I fell in love with Spring skiing … and fell in love. On May 2nd I was skiing in Tignes when I got down on one knee and proposed …

Ski Belle Plagne

Fig.1 Roche de Mio looking across to the Bellecote peak

Above 2000m you have plenty of snow. It is groomed thoroughly every evening and in the morning is hard and covered in ice-balls. This softens up into sliding icing for the middle of the day. You go higher.

Fig.2 17th April 2008 The Bellevarde Glacier La Plagne’s highest list going above 3000m

In La Plagne you get to 3050m where there have been a few centimetres of fresh snow.

Fig.3 Chalet de Bellecôte up to Col de la Chaupe 2550m

Over in Les Arcs on the Auguille Rouge you get up to 3250m. Total block is required in the sun. Your face risks burning like bacon left on the hob.

Fig.4. Skiing in late April 2013: Too much snow? So much gaps had to be cut through drifts and avalanches. 3m!

Two years ago there had been so much snow we…

View original post 307 more words

Fancy skiing this year? It’s not too late!

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig.1 The view from our balcony – using a 300m lens!

Miraculously, or predictably, the end of the season if you enjoy spring skiing is going to end with fresh snow falling this Saturday – admittedly this is above 2500m, so rain on the lower slopes will do them no favours. This will clear to leave the last week in La Plagne skiable from 3100m at the top of the glacier on the Bellecote Mountain down to 1900m/1800m where the snow is thick enough to last a few weeks more. We have this flat until the 2nd of May 🙂

From Ski – La Plagne – historic and recent

Fig.2. Off-piste below Roche de Mio (on the cliff edge). Looking south east towards Val d’Isere’s Grande Casse.

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig.3. Across the roof tops. That’s the shops in there. Looking across to La Grande Motte. April 2014

This kind of skiing finds me in shorts and a T-shirt. Smothered in sunblock. No gloves if I am carefully not to fall over. No point skiing first thing unless you go high. So I’d go onto the glacier for powder at 3000m until later in the morning. Then head further down the slope as it softens. Lunch at Roche de Mio at 2700m then stay within 800m drop from this point, or return to the glacier. Mid afternoon I pull out a mono-board I bought in 1989! It is over 2m long and feels like you are bolting you feet to a surf board. It rides over slush as if it were fresh powder. It takes some getting used to.

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig.4. Book our flat through Pierre et Vacances. At 2000m you ski to and from your door. 

Our wonderful studio flat in Emeraude, Belle-Plagne is available to book through Pierre et Vacances from Saturday 19th for the last skiing of the season.

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig.5. Mid-afternmoon from our balcony. La Grande Rochette is that mountain on the left. Looking south east towards Courchevel. 

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig. 6. Belle-Plagne from the slopes … a hundred yards down from our flat on the way to Bellecote. 

The other great thing about being out this week?

Empty slopes, except for seasoniers on a last fling and a lot of end of season parties to go to. Our balcony at 2000m faces South West and gets the afternoon and setting sun. Heavenly.

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig. 7. Chalet de Bellecôte up to Col de la Chaupe 2550m

This drop below the chairs has been one of my favourite places to ski since my teens … in the later 1970s! Once though, in a T-shirt one spring this chair-lift broke down for over an hour leaving me sitting in the shade and feeling like a fool. Whatever the weather I now always take jumper, jacket, gloves in a backpack just in case.

From Ski – La Plagne – historic and recent

Fig. 8.Known as ‘Brown Pants Ridge’ off the side of Roche de Mio at 2750m. With a Ski Club of Great Britain guide late March 2014.

A precarious push and slide along a knife edge ridge with an awkward, though not fatal drop, on either side, into a huge sweeping bowl of skiing.

Wish I was there. Next year I will be 🙂

The accommodation

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig. 9. 385 Emeraude, Belle-Plagne, France.

These couchettes become beds.

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig. 10. 385 Emeraude, Belle-Plagne, France.

The ‘studio’ divides into to two distinct sleeping/living areas. The couchettes are over 6ft long, so they take me. I’ve regularly slept four here.

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig. 11. 385 Emeraude, Belle-Plagne, France.

The kitchenettes also has views right down the slope and across to La Grande Rochette. Even if you’re cooking you can enjoy the evening sun and fun.

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig. 12. The Kitchenette … 385 Emeraude, Belle-Plagne, France.

From Ski – Emeraude

Fig.12. There is a dishwasher too 🙂

The cupboards are stuffed with every possible kitchen appliance to accommodate eating for 8 or me. So have friends around, or have an entire service in the dishwasher.

On the balcony

From Ski – Emeraude

Before … 

From Ski – Emeraude


The sun comes onto our balcony around lunch time and we keep it ’til sun down, as late as 8.00pm This is early afternoon resting after lunch before going off to ski further ’til 5.30pm

Getting there:

Plain, train, bus, or drive …

From Ski – La Plagne – historic and recent

Getting there


From Ski – Emeraude

More pics here …. 

More pics in my Ski Emeraude Google Pics album 
Ski – Emeraude

Every bit of you contributes to your learning experience


When it comes to learning, everything matters – epecially the tips of your toes.

‘Human learning is the combination of processes throughout a lifetime whereby the whole person – body (genetic, physical and biological) and mind (knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions, beliefs and senses) – experiences social situations, the perceived content of which is then transformed cognitively, emotively or practically (or through any combination) and integrated into the individual person’s biography resulting in a continually changing (or more experienced) person’. Knud Illiris (2009:24)

In 1980 I worked the winter season in a Hotel in the French Alps. It was a 13 hour working day that started at 6.00am and included three hours off over lunch – 12h00 to 15h00. That’s when I went skiing – in all weather. That season, like this, had an abundance of ‘weather’ with more snow than even Val d’Isere could cope with. An avalanche took out an entire mountain restaurant … or rather burried them. They were fine and re-opened after a few weeks. Towards the end of the season I would shot up the slopes, in my M&S suit, with a plasticated boiler-suit like thing over it and skied the same run maybe 11 or 12 times before returning to the hotel and an afternoon/evening of carrying bags, digging cars out, taking trays of food, cleaning and translating French to English for the Hotel Manager. I had a Sony Walkman cassette player. I played Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’ and skied to ‘The Wall’.

33 years on, using the same skis if I want, the music on an iPhone, I manage three to five turns at a time … rest … three to five more turns … rest … three to five turns and take a suck on my Ventolin inhaler …. and so on.

And what comes to mind?

‘The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire’ Gibbon and Alexis de Tocqueville ‘L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution’ – both required reading before I started my undergraduate year of History later in 1981.

These are the games the brains plays on you. I can now of course recall Madame Raymond, the Hotel Manger, The Sofitel, Val d’Isere and Christian, the waiter who taught me to ski … and the word for dust ‘poussiere’.

And while up here 33 years later I have so far got through three books:

‘The A to Z of Learning Theory’ (2002), David Leonard; ‘Contemporary Perspectives in E-learning Research’ eds. Grainne Conole and Martin Oliver and ‘Contemporary Theories of Learning’ edited by Knud Illeris (2009) … from which I drew the above quote. The first covers some 150 learning theories – by the time you’ve finished it you may conclude that there is life and learning while death brings it to the end. As Illiris states, everything counts. The second is one of those academic compillations of papers. The title is disengenious as I could not find in ONE single paper (chapter) any attempts to give a perspective on e-learning research, rather these are papers on e-learning. Period. While the Knud Illiris edited book does the business with some great chapters from him, from Etienne Wenger and Yrjo Engestrom. So one is the K-Tel compilation from Woolworths, while the latter is ‘Now E-Learning’.

As it is still snowing I may have to download another book.


It’s back!

I need some of this. Though the view from the helicopter is preferable to skiing the mountain. Done that and not dead so never again!


There’s a buzz in town – the main road has been closed and lined with stalls, there are more people mulling around town (including many a freeride pro) and there are numerous constructions being knocked up around town including a big North Face stage and a scary looking ski jump in Place Centrale. It can only mean one thing… the Verbier Xtreme is back! The Bec de Rosses has been out of bounds for us mere mortals in preparation for the Freeride World Tour final and it’s looking particularly tasty after a fresh dusting of snow! Anyone who can ski the Bec in half an hour would deserve a massive pat on the back but these guys do it in a matter of minutes (and probably with much more style!) – well worth a watch!

The Freeride World Tour Final isn’t the only thing that’s back – so is the…

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Why skiing is my metphor for life and learning

Fig.1.   Mont Turia from the summit of Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs at 3250m

On the last day, on the last run of my first week’s skiing I broke my leg rather badly. I was 13. I was in hospital for a week. In a wheelchair for two months and had the leg re-broken as it wasn’t setting properly. I spent six months at home. Idiot. But most 13 year old boys are.

I missed the next season.

For the following 20 years skiing mattered – a gap year working in the Alps (Val D’Isere in the Sofitel Hotel working 13 hours a day 7 days a week), a decade later researching a TV documentary and book  (Oxford Scientific Films, Skieasy Ski Guides), falling in love with a fellow skiing enthusiast (we’ve been married 20 years), a honeymoon on the slopes and ten years later, on the slopes with a 4 and 6 year old, then again when they were 10 and 12. 

I miss it.

(See above – the last week of the season, Tignes. The only people on the slopes are the ‘seasoniers’ who have worked since December. It is like being on the beach. A stream that flows above Val Claret melts and various ponds form. We ski it.)

Early in the afternoon I’d asked my girlfriend if she’d marry me. I was feeling cock-a-hoop.

We’ve been back twice in the last decade. There have been other priorities. I’ll be taking my 14 year old son out later this month or in April. Is that wise? At this age teenagers really are prone to take risks and can lack the physique.

Reasons to celebrate and look forwards

37 months to the day after starting the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE) I got the final result, for H810: Accessibility in Open Learning – supporting students with disabilities, today. 84.

It has been so worth it and such a better, engaging, effective, experience than my undergraduate degree in a traditional university some decades ago. I feel as if I have earned it for a start. I have survived disasters rather than succumbed to them.

I am a reading, thinking, writing machine.

I feel like someone who has come to skiing late in life and has caught the bug. My mother started skinning in her mid 40s … and in her 50th year (unencumbered by her husband who was with wife three by then) sold the house and did a belated ‘gap year’ working a season in the Alps. The equivalent for me has to be the intellectual challenge of doctoral research.

More reading, thinking and writing – with research and teaching too I hope.


Tutor Marked Assignment One  (TMA01) for H809 (Practice-based research in educational technology) is due on Monday.

Why more?

‘Practice-based research in educational technology’, to use skiing as a metaphor, is like learning to ski ‘off-piste’. Apt, as the tracks I make are ones I have planned, rather than keeping to the groomed, signed and patrolled ‘safety’ of the regular runs.

And my reward?

Fig. 2. Mont Blanc – From the Ski Resort of La Plagne,  Above Montchavin. Les Arc on the right . The road to Val d’Isere clinging to the mountain in the middle distance Bourg St. Maurice in the bottom of the Valley

Skiing en famille.

We’ve not been out for five years so it should be a treat. It has to be on a shoestring, so short of hitching to Bulgaria can anyone recommend ways to keep the cost down?!!


Might I ?


Register here


Wednesday, March 23, 2011 from 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM (GMT)


Marwood Coffee Shop

52 Ship St

Brighton BN1 1AF

What is it?

MIGHT 3 is a collaborative workshop for ideas that have an ambition of achieving a turnover of £500k per annum or higher within three years of starting to trade.

Please register here today, as spaces are very limited.

It’s the third event in a series of three. But it’s fine to attend even if you didn’t get along to either of the previous two events.


Innovative things are sometimes too small to register on the radar for government, or funders, or the media. Sometimes so small that they are only a tiny, neglected idea in the back of someone’s head. But if you cluster together people with little innovative ideas, the clustering can help to magnify them.

MIGHT is an East Sussex and Brighton & Hove Innovation and Growth Team event programme organised by Wired Sussex.


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