Fringe Day, Saturday 10th August

A day at the Edinburgh Fringe.  I was not in the mood – all that enthusiastic jollity on the streets – but Joan insisted and it turned out to be a great day, lifting the spirits.  I’m sure that if you are interested in following up any of these acts, you can get them from a simple google search.

12.00 Mugengkyo Taiko Drummers –  UK’s only professional troupe.  They were spellbinding.  Made me want to go to Japan (which I have never wanted to do before).  Came out uplifted.  Enormous skill and poise in their presentation.   What fabulous gifts we humans have. 

4.00  Soweto Melodic Voices – a choir established in 2005 as a charity to give some kids in difficult circumstances some structure and guidance.  When they first started singing together my eyes moistened immediately, such beautiful and rich harmony… and what energy, what colour what bright white toothy smiles!  They were fast and furious and so happy..  I could have listened to them all night.  After they got me up dancing on stage (you know that bit where a member of the audience gets picked and has to go up… I didn’t move out the way fast enough), I wanted to run away with them and sing with them and never come back to my boring day-life, but I didn’t have the costume for it.

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6.00  The Magnets – a real contrast, a very professional band of six male ‘a cappella’ singers, one of whom did the most amazing beatbox backing I have ever heard, including playing an imaginary drum kit you could actually see, I swear it, one of whom did a deep bass guitar and the other four lead and vocal harmonies in turn.  Very slick, very professional.  Had we not see the raw Soweto kids an hour before, I would have thought they were the best a cappella act I had seen, but there was a fresh naive enthusiasm to the Soweto kids that no amount of professionalism can improve on.

8.00   Roddy Doyle at the Book Festival – talking about ‘The Guts’, his latest book which is a sequel to ‘The Commitments’ and finds Jimmy Rabbite 25 years on, facing cancer, but with the same mad family life and sharp dialogue.  I’ll put it on my ‘must read’ list, but not at the top just yet a while.

10.00  Faure’s Requiem, by candlelight, in Old St Paul’s Church (just along from the station) – soft and melodic, peaceful, contemplative – a real contrast to the raucous loud energy of the earlier drumming and vocal shows – but the chairs were so hard that you would not fall asleep.  A soothing end to the day.

11.30  last train back to Stirling – standing room only before it even got to Haymarket.  We got talking to a neighbour we haven’t seen since her son was in Adam’s class at nursery and primary (!).  Her nephew joined us.  Interesting guy, fitba’ daft.   He had played for Rangers youth, been signed by Aston Villa (the year they won the European Cup – 1982) but got crocked age 19 and never fully recovered, drifting from Hearts to Dundee and then ending up as a junior footballer (Linlithgow Rose).  He had some good ‘insider’ stories.  The time, and the chat, flew.  What a contrast to the normal morning and evening commuter trains, with everyone on their iphones and ipads, or reading the Metro.

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“School Leadership: Dealing with Dilemmas 2.0” now ready for publication.

Dealing with Dilemmas 2.0 advance copies are printed already.  The official launch at the University of Edinburgh is tomorrow evening (13th).  I’m excited about it.  When the first edition was published in 2007, Christine Forde of Univ of Glasgow told me

Your book is going down a storm with SQH candidates – it has answered a lot
of questions for them.”

This gave me a lot of pleasure, as I had set out to write the book to answer some questions that were bothering me! In particular, I wanted to explore why there is such a gap between the real life experience of school leadership (not just of the the headteacher, but all those who take on leadership roles) and what is written on bits of paper such as policies or guidelines or quality indicators.   In the real world of lived experience, everything is much messier but also so much more real and exciting. This book goes some towards explaining ‘why?’

The new second edition is revised, updated and expanded, with many more exemplars.  It’s also physically bigger and aesthetically more pleasing.  I hope it continues to answer important questions for those who lead in our schools.

My thanks to the publisher, Dunedin Academic Press (click here), for their faith in the book and the importance of its message.

2nd edition

2nd edition

I can’t believe it’s been six weeks since the last blog.  Assessment, holiday, assessment, Mum’s illness, more assessment and some time in the garden and this is where I’ve got to….

Tengku Mahmood once more….

One of the classes in 1976!!

Regular readers will remember that last April I went back to Malaysia to visit the many old friends we have out there(see the holiday of a lifetime   and Malaysia No More ).   Fuziana told us ‘Malaysia is your second home’.  While there, I decided to revisit my old school and to see if I would run into any of my former school pupils or teachers.  I should have been better organised.  After a fruitless wander to a couple of addresses with no-one home, I had  a phone call with one former student and then managed to locate another (Sudin b Ismail) on our way to Kuala Terengganu to stay with our teacher friends there.  While it was great to meet up with Sudin, I regretted that I had not been better organised earlier in my ‘search’.   An earlier Facebook search might have helped.   However I later made contact with Nik Kamisah through Facebook.

It turns out there was a TMS reunion this week, after which Nik Kamisah sent out the link to my Facebook page ( Danny Murphy ) and lots of my former students from the mid70s are now my Facebook friends!  I can’t understand even a tenth of the chat in the ‘ex TMS’ Facebook group (I am now a member), but it’s great to reconnect after so many years.  It’s also a remarkable tribute both to the power of Facebook and the power of VSO!!   No doubt there are many more photos like the one above taking up shelf space somewhere on the East Coast of Malaysia!

Here’s the story of the reunion in the Malaysian press:

Tengku Mahmood Reunion

The little miracle that is the knee

Thanks to the internet, I have a really good picture of what has happened inside my knee.  If you’re interested in knees, this is a really good site:

Patient education – the knee

The curved thigh bone (femur) sits on top of two ‘c’ shaped pieces of cartilage (the menisci), which (if the knee was a clock) run round from roughly 12.30-6 o’clock or so and from roughly 6-11.30 o’clock, but  in separate compartments – a bit like an incomplete set of spectacles.  These stop the femur from rubbing on the flat shin bone (tibia) and absorb a lot of the complex forces of walking, running, jumping.  Injuries of the medial (inside) meniscus are more common and complex tears, like I had, are more likely in older people, but may also be to do with the length of time since the injury started and the various things I have done since that I probably should not have, which have likely aggravated it / caused further damage!!

The torn / damaged area has now been completely removed, leaving some ‘shock absorber’ still in place.  However I also have deterioration (likely to lead to arthritic pain) in both sides of the knee and also behind the knee cap.

All those years when the joint worked so well, I took it for granted.

Now, when I see people walking with no problems, I want to tell them not to take for granted the little miracle that is their knee!

Thank you NHS

I had my much awaited (at least by me!) knee op today.   The original injury took place while running with Anna in August 2009, the week before I was due to to take part in a team triathlon with school colleagues at Loch Tay and it’s caused quite a few problems since then.  The full story is at the bottom of this blogpost.

This morning, 25 months later, I arrived at the fabulous new Forth Valley Royal Hospital at 8am for a day operation.  Day surgery is a fantastic highly efficient production line, from start to finish, with specialists at each stage: careful ‘handovers’, notes checked, friendly smiles, reassuring information at each stage … reception, day ward seat and change into gown, pre-op waiting room, anaesthetic ante-room (where I conked out), operating theatre (no memory of that, thank goodness, although on the information leaflet you are informed that 1/3000 people wake up during their operation!), recovery room, back to the day ward and then home.   Features I thought were particularly strong were:

*  the outstanding modern facilities of the new hospital. Nurses I spoke to seemed less happy with it, one calling it ‘soulless’, but I thought their cheery and reassuring manner filled it with ‘soul’!!

*  the day ward staff nurse (Stewart) who was managing all of us who were going in or coming back from theatre.  The tea and toast he got me were just magic!

*  the cheery atmosphere created by the nursing staff at every stage, not least in the good natured banter between them.

*  the consultant Mr Bayer – clear and efficient in interviewing me beforehand and assessing the knee, no time wasted, but very solicitous and would have given more time if I had wanted to ask questions;  clear and direct in returning to see me after the op – told me what he had seen ‘inside’ i.e. trimmed the cartilage, assured me that there was enough left so that I would have no ‘bone on bone’, but also pointed out wear and tear in three parts of the knee, including knee cap, that will cause arthritis and may require a new knee in a few years (I should be so lucky to get a few years more!!); told me to get in touch with him at any time if there were post-op problems.

*  the anaesthetist (didn’t get his name) and his team (a younger doctor, a trainee and the anaesthetic nurse) – he was keen to reassure me that the problems I had with my last op were nothing to do with anaesthesia (my belief) and everything to do with the op.

The story of my injury:

When I got this knee injury I was still a fit guy, able to do 8-10 mile Sunday morning runs.  One stride, everything was fine, the next stride my knee was sore.  This led to a clutch of SportsPhysio appointments and exercises, based on a diagnosis of problems with my knee cap, and several months and several hundred pounds later I began again some gentle running, though it still wasn’t completely comfortable.  In May 2010 I was a member of another staff team, running as one of a team of four in the Edinburgh Marathon Relay.  Unfortunately, I knew that morning that things were not right, but letting the team down twice in a row was not on, so I persevered and did it some serious damage – no more physio, only an operation would do – even the physio agreed.  I did not want to go into the system before heading off to Cambodia, as it would put back my departure date by 6 months, so I tholed the problem until my return earlier this year – sometimes it was worse than others, particularly in the few weeks before I went to PP, but other times just a background ache.    When I returned to UK, I already had a deferred appointment arranged.   Three outpatient appointments, an x-ray and MRI scan later, it was agreed that there was a tear in the cartilage and that an arthroscopy might provide some relief, although some of my discomfort might be to do with arthritis rather than cartilage.  If I was a highly paid sportsman, I possibly would have had the surgery straight off.  I wish in some ways that I had dealt with it sooner, as it’s been a limiting fact in my life these past two years, but then again consider the case of Owen Hargreaves .  Maybe, as my Gran used to say, I should just count my blessings.