Thursday, 22 May 2014

Adur Festival 2014: Shoreham's street party

Hello and welcome to my blog. Thank you for your positive comments on the second "day in the life of," and I wish Tanya every success in the local elections.
     Today, I'm going to take a short break from the series to bring you details of the imminent launch of the Adur Festival. 
   It'll kick off this Saturday, 24th May, when all of Mella Faye Punchard's careful planning will come together in a series of unmissable street parties in North Road, Lancing, Pond Road, Shoreham and Fishersgate Community Centre.

 The Lancing and Fishersgate parties will start at 11a.m and Shoreham's at 1.00p.m.
     All you have to do is turn up and prepare to be dazzled by acrobats, street performers, live musicians, dancers and a giant snail.
   Here's Shorehams' line-up.

Here are the details of Fishersgate and Lancing street parties. 

With Shoreham's French and Artisan Markets starting at 9.00 a.m, you may as well make a day of it in town.
     Unfortunately, half-term has arrrived with unseemly haste, so I'll be back again in a fortnight's time with a day in the life of a martial artist.
     Thanks for dropping by.
Ta-ra for now.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A day in the life of a mature student

Hello and thank you for your positive comments on the first "day in the life of." It's time now for the second, so over to you Tanya.
Tanya Williams lives in London with her husband, Tim, and their three children. She’s currently studying for an MA in Human Rights.

I get up and shower at 6.45 a.m. dress, then it's household chores before I ferry the kids to the station at 7.30 a.m.  At 8 a.m. I leave for University. I often cycle because I’m training for a 54km walk in Bhutan in October for the Australian Himalayan Foundation, and I need to get fit.
When I arrive at Uni, I buy a half price newspaper from the Uni shop and enjoy it with a coffee then I check my emails before lectures start at 9.00 a.m.
         I decided to go back to Uni for lots of reasons. I’d been doing a routine job for six years which was never going to change, and my applications for more interesting jobs had been unsuccessful. Our youngest was about to start secondary school and our parenting time is now more crises based than responding to daily needs. Danielle laPorte’s, “The Fire Starter Sessions,” inspired me, but most of all, last summer, I fulfilled a long-held ambition to back pack around Cambodia for a month.
In Cambodia, I met a bunch of NGO workers who were half my age and doing really interesting work. It was like looking through a telescope backwards at my own life and it looked too small and constricted. The trip made me realise that I didn't have to settle for a boring job, that I could literally pack my bags and move on, so when I came home, I resigned.
         I’ve always been political and my background is in languages, law and journalism so I signed up for a one year full time MA course in Human Rights.
         The last time I was at University was almost 20 years ago, and this time it’s less fun. The buildings are run down and there are poorer facilities. The Uni has low expectations and the lecturers are on strike and angry about pay and they don't mark our work sometimes which seems unfair. The students have loans and debts and they also have to do internships all the time. It's exploitative, but it seems the only way to get interviews. Still, I love being around people who think ideas about the world matter, who can criticize the War on Terror without being accused of being a leftie or worse.
         The study is more collaborative than I'm used to. We have to do group work and present it to the class. The students present very well and make PowerPoint displays in minutes, but I don't really like it. You only really learn the bit you're presenting and if the other groups don't do theirs well, you never get to learn about that area. Technology also effects teaching styles. The laptop screen has priority and people don't look lecturers in the eye.
Although I’m much older than the others, age doesn’t seem to create a divide. Any divisions are more to do with students not being native English speakers. They participate less, either because they are shy or don’t understand.
 I can speak French, Greek, and German and I’m learning Arabic and, for me, language is at the heart of everything. It forms how you see the world. If you don't speak the language, you can only engage with more educated people, usually men, so you might not get a true picture of women’s concerns. I went to the biggest mosque in Europe, which is in New Malden, and I spoke to the girls there. They didn’t care about wearing a niqab or a burka. They had more important issues to worry about, like Sharia law and inheritance rules which entrench discrimination.
I study at Uni or quiet spaces away from home. I’ve no dedicated workspace at home, so if I study there, I’m constantly packing up my papers so the family can use the computer or kitchen table. Also, I don't switch off very easily once I've started on a topic. I get very into it and feel irritated when I have to pack up and do household stuff.
I study every day except Tuesdays. That's when I work at Liberty, writing legal advice. It brings human rights into solving real world problems but squeezing five days study into four can be tricky.
         “My” day usually ends about 4.30 p.m. when the kids come home from school. I lay out snacks and drinks and start preparing supper so we can eat at six. After that I may read or watch TV, unless I’m out supporting the Green Party. I go and hand out leaflets at the station or attend public meetings to support our MEP candidates. I did it twice before for the Libdems, but I became politically homeless after they joined the coalition in 2010. It’s nice to be involved again and I’m now a Green Party candidate in this year's local elections.
During the winter months, I help at a local night shelter for homeless people. The temperature has to be below freezing before it’s opened and the charity will decide that at 2.00 p.m based on Met weather forecasts. That’s when I get the call to come in for a shift.
         When I graduate I'm going to work on improving Islamic women’s human rights. It's a disgrace that some countries which sign up to human rights treaties are allowed to ignore it by saying,  “It's our culture” to marry 8 year old girls to 50 year old men, or censor the press, or use child labour.  
Our Human Rights tutors tell us not to get overwhelmed by the terrible stuff that's going on in the world. We should just pick a small bit to tackle. That will be my small bit, but it's not small to the people I'll be working with.
Until then, it’s lights out at 10.00 a.m."

Thank you Tanya. I look forward to seeing you back here to tell us about your trip to Bhutan. 
In the meantime, next week they'll be a short break from the series so I can bring you news of the Adur Festival street parties. 
Until then, thanks for dropping by and have a great week.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A day in the life of an airline pilot

Hello and welcome to my blog. I'm delighted to launch the first in a new series of, "A day in the life of," and today it's a day in the life of a commerical airline pilot.

Richard Coward is a Training Captain on the Airbus A320. 
He has 30 years flying experience and lives in Shoreham with his wife and son.

            I’m a freelance Training Captain and I train pilots across the world, either in the simulator or on the line. I’m currently training Serbian pilots on the line, so I’ve been seconded to the airline to train them whilst we are flying the normal passenger schedule.
I normally check-in an hour and thirty minutes before the scheduled departure time and meet the other pilot. This is often the first time we’ve ever met, but together we’ll go through the paperwork, such as flight plans, weather, and NOTAMS.
The flight plans include the expected weight of the aircraft; how much fuel we’ll need; the route that we’re taking; how long that’s going to take; how high we’ll be flying and at what sort of speed. We’ll look at the weather so we can plan ahead and avoid things like thunderstorm clouds. We read the NOTAMs, Notice to Airmen, which gives us information about what's not available at the airport or en-route, for instance, to avoid a certain area because there’s an airshow or a military exercise.
Some airlines also provide a maintenance state of the aircraft, so we’ll check that and make allowances for defects. A typical example would be if they’ve de-activated a brake on one of the wheels. We’ll still have three, but it will effect the takeoff and landing performance.
After we’ve gone through the documents, we'll meet the cabin crew and give them the information about the flight and then about an hour before departure, we'll go out to the aircraft together.
When we get on the flight deck, we’ll put all the data into the onboard navigation computers. We'll ensure that every bag is loaded and in the right place, check that there’s enough fuel and that there are no further technical problems with the aircraft. Once the crew has confirmed that everyone is onboard and it is secure in the cabin, the final bit of paperwork is signed and left behind. Then we'll close the door and go on our way.
During the flight, we'll record our flight time and note the time and fuel as we pass waypoints. We'll check the weather ahead, look out for other aircraft and talk to Air Traffic Control. As a training captain, I’ll look at the pilot’s training file to see what subject matters we need to talk about, plus, at some point, we'll have to eat and drink.
When we finally get to our destination, they’ll be more paperwork and we’ll refuel and stretch our legs while the aircraft is cleaned. Once the passengers and bags are loaded, we’ll be off again. For short-haul operations, the typical turnaround time between landing and taking off is usually about 45 minutes and crews will do between two and four flights a day.
            When we get back to base, the aircraft will usually be handed over to the engineers. If there have been any problems we'll have recorded them in the technical log, then it’ll be back to the office for another 30-40 minutes to do the final paperwork. It’s a long, long, day and tiredness and fatigue are major concerns in the industry.
Our overriding purpose is to operate safely, and modern pilots are more like flight safety managers than they’ve ever been before, so there’s been a much bigger drive towards managing our temperaments.
Our temperament has to be tailored towards being safe, and once safe, to follow the law, then  passenger comfort comes next. If your temperament is such that you’ll always put the law or passenger comfort first, and risk safety, it'll start going wrong. We’ve seen this over and over again in accident reports.
 To operate safely, we also have to make sure that the crew work as a team. The crew, which includes us, may not even know each other when we check-in, so the Captain has to break down barriers quickly to create that team. 
The beauty of the airline industry is that the crew are all trained to follow the airlines' Standard Operating Procedures, (SOPs), and they are followed, to all intents and purposes, every day. Therefore, if a crewmember, regardless of whether they are new to the job or have 20 years experience, decides that something isn't right, they should go and inform somebody. Whether or not they do, depends on whether there is an environment of equality, trust, and support onboard.  Unfortunately, failures to follow SOPs sometimes go unchallenged and it's usually for cultural reasons. For instance, I’ve been in Asia and seen a Captain make a mistake. The first officer spotted it too, but didn’t correct him because it would have caused the Captain to lose face.  In Eastern Europe, the prevailing attitude seemed to be that if somebody had out ranked you in the military, they believed they were right and expected you to follow their lead, irrespective of your position in the company. Cultural issues like that should never interfere with flight safety and it’s one of my jobs to make that clear in a culturally sensitive way.
Most pilots have a passion and pride about flying, but it’s not the healthiest of jobs and the closest thing I’ve got to a bedtime routine is, get undressed, wash teeth, check time of wake up call and crash out. Even if it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon!”

I hope you found that interesting. Thank you Richard for contributing to the series and thank you for dropping by. I'll see you next week with another "day in the life of."