What Might a Welsh Medium School for Grangetown Look Like?

Last week, my daughter brought home from nursery a document produced by Cardiff Council setting out the school admissions process for 2015/16. Next Monday, 13th of October, the application window for admission to reception class opens. As someone who has been asking Cardiff Council for a Welsh medium primary school in Grangetown for some time, I was disappointed that we have reached this point with the council still to reveal their plan to deliver the 60 reception class places promised in their latest WESP (Welsh in Education Strategic Plan) document. In fairness those places are planned for the 2016 intake but we were also told that a temporary starter school would be established but there is no mention of that either. We had hoped that the council’s cabinet member for Education, Julia Magill, would offer some update to the process when the council returned from it’s summer break but there is still no sign of any progress, so it looks like we will have to apply to send our daughter to Ysgol Pwll Coch in Canton, as there is still no school in Grangetown for her.

While we wait with baited breath for Cardiff council’s next move, I thought I would look at some of the options for a new welsh medium primary school in Grangetown, who knows, it might even give Councillor Magill and her officers an idea or two.

Gas Works and Channel View Location

Channel View Centre

The first option is the the only one that featured in Cardiff Council’s public engagement consultation earlier in the year, and it has faced stiff opposition from users of the centre who fear the loss of leisure facilities and residents who fear traffic congestion on Ferry Road and Jim Driscoll Way. Nevertheless it is the only site on the short list that was in Grangetown, and suitable for a new two form entry school. Given that the council’s cabinet members for education and leisure have issued a statement confirming that a school at Channel View would better safeguard sports and leisure services than a stand alone centre, as currently exists, lets assume they would provide a mixed school/community facility. There are examples of schools combined with community facilities that can be accessed not only after school and during holidays but during the school day as well. However the site is quite small to accommodate all this and I think the building will need to be expanded to allow the retention of assets such as the sports hall. To save space, the building could include a rooftop playground like this Elementary school in central Los Angeles. I would try to retain the recently installed outdoor all weather pitch.

A Potential School at Channel View North East

A Potential School at Channel View North West

Gas Works

The former gas works, adjacent to the Ikea store off Ferry Road, was not included on the short list for the engagement process but was on the long list of sites that were discounted for various reasons. This site has been talked about frequently as a possible site for a new school, but Cardiff council does not own the site and it would likely be expensive to remediate the historically contaminated land. A school here would depend on a developer taking on the site for residential and the council negotiating the provision of a school. Although the site is much larger than Channel View, and so could conceivably provide a more spacious setting for a school, a developer is unlikely to be keen on taking on the expense of remediation only to have the lion’s share of the site taken over by a school, so I have shown the school occupying around a quarter of the 10 hectare site which would still allow a decent amount of outside space and the opportunity of a less “high rise” building.

A Potential School at the Old Gas Works (North East)

Land Adjacent to Clive Street Lane and Ikea

Land Adjacent to Clive Street Lane

The third site is a wild card, the long strip of land between Clive Street Lane, the Ikea store and the railway line, it was included on the long list in Cardiff Council’s engagement document. I am not quite sure exactly why this site was discounted. but I assume that most of the sites on the long list were discounted for a combination of size and the cost to develop them. The size of the site is actually quite good at 2.2 hectares but the shape and the challenge of some significant changes in level make this quite a challenging site, but I think that’s what makes the site interesting. I also think that the development of what is currently derelict waste land would benefit the adjacent Clive Street lane, which is subject to persistent fly tipping and other anti social behaviour. Perhaps making the lane a little more overlooked and upgrading it’s surroundings would have a beneficial effect.

A Potential School at Clive Street Lane (North East)

I hope that we hear of more progress towards a new school for Grangetown soon and my great hope is that the problems this project has faced can be transformed into an opportunity to design something innovative and special that we can be proud of.

 

*I produced the (very) rough 3D sketch models shown here using Autodesk Formit*

Does it matter if everyone thinks my daughter is a boy?

Yesterday, I was dressing my daughter, when I made a decision to put her in an item of clothing purely to identify her as a female.

There were some jeans out, also a nice blue hoody, and as I am always being told by my wife to use clothes that are already out that left me with just socks, shoes and a t-shirt to choose. Wait. Mum’s already put some socks on her and instructed me that she needs to get some wear from a pair of trainers before she grows out of them. So just a t-shirt then. First on the pile were some summer vests (discounted – it’s Autumn now, there’s a nip in the air), but what caught my eye was quite a cool little t-shirt with a guitar on the front. Wait. Trainers, jeans, t-shirt, hoody – she’s going to look like a boy!

The whole blue/pink, boy/girl thing was something we had tried to avoid from the beginning – we decided not to find out the gender of our baby until the birth, so we bought clothes that we liked and would be happy to put on a boy or a girl – apart from some gifts and hand-me-downs this means not much pink. Since becoming a parent I have discovered that although baby clothes departments are split down the middle, blue and pink, if you manage to find baby clothes in any other colours – red, green, orange, yellow, purple – they also indicate “male”. Something else you discover when you become a parent, is that strangers will talk to you about your baby, and in doing so, they will reveal the gender they believe your child to be. In the case of our daughter, strangers, checkout operators, old ladies at bus stops, healthcare professionals who haven’t read their notes and don’t know whether her name is a boy or a girl’s name, inevitably judge her to be a boy. I usually don’t bother to correct them, just smile and nod, and don’t worry too much about it but I think the sheer weight of numbers is getting to me. When she was a baby, I thought that it was a 50/50 and people were just guessing wrong, but it’s every time. “He looks just like you.” “Would he like a balloon?” “Need a high chair for the little man?” Today, at a car boot sale a stall holder invited us to “just let him have a rummage” through her box of toys, despite the fact that our daughter was wearing a dress!

The little lady is now at an age where she no longer wears “baby” clothes like baby grows and rompers, she is now a toddler and clothing styles are far more distinct for boys and for girls, even t-shirts and trousers are cut differently (despite body shapes still being broadly similar at this age), and are embellished with cars and monkeys for boys, and flowers and butterflies for girls. But perhaps I’m putting too much importance on clothes, that is what we always think about when we walk away from one of these encounters, “But she’s wearing girly jeans” we protest. Do people look close enough to tell the difference between boy jeans and girl jeans? I do know that people often point out her resemblance to me, so maybe they make a subconscious connection – I am a very manly man after all. Then again the child minder has been complimented on her son’s smile (not her actual son, my son… err, daughter).

So in the meantime, I’m using Hello Kitty t-shirts as a gender indentifier, boys don’t wear Hello Kitty right?

Maybe she just looks like a boy, maybe she’s an ugly duckling (she’s not – she’s beautiful).

I was a Stay-at-Home Dad… and Nobody Died!

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I haven’t written anything for a while, but I feel like I should write about my experiences, so far, of fatherhood, or more specifically, additional paternity leave.

My daughter’s first birthday is fast approaching, and I feel very fortunate to have been allowed to spend much more time with her, thanks to new paternity leave rules, than other fathers might have.

My wife and I decided before our daughter was born, that I would take the last three months of our parental leave allocation, but up until I actually started my leave, I wasn’t really sure what it would be like. How would we spend our days? Would she nap without her Mum? How would she cope without fresh breastmilk?
The answer was that we would work it out for ourselves. We play, read books, go for walks, go to the cinema, even do housework (not as much as mummy would like!) and lots more.

We have the occasional bad day, but we have fun, we should, we’re both easily amused. I came with the attitude that we were going to have a good time, and I think that was easier knowing that it was just for three months.

I wanted to be organised and ordered but preparation didn’t go well, Mojo was having a flare of her Crohns over christmas, so I was firefighting from the get go. But as time went on, I have tried to plan what we might do the next day or in the coming week, although I have also found it is best not to plan to do too much, as I will inevitably be waylaid by a poo-plosion or some such. Some of the small things I enjoy that I didn’t think much about are; picking out clothes and dressing her and putting a clean nappy on her. The second of these sounds odd, but it is, I think, a combination of the slightly smug self satisfaction that comes with being a cloth nappy parent, and the sense of achievement at having changed a nappy! No, seriously, I think it is a good feeling when I have made her clean and comfortable. It feels good to care for my child.

I’ve learnt a lot, it has made me closer to my daughter and even, I think, made us better parents.

I have enjoyed it so much I have asked about cutting my hours at work so we can spend more time together…. and have more fun!

Feet Petite

A few weeks ago, some of our lovely, creative friends offered to make some casts of our daughter’s feet using alginate gel. The alginate is a powder that forms a gel when mixed with water, and the gel quickly sets to form a flexible mould which can be used to make plaster of paris casts.

We are delighted with the results, we think they are much better than the impression kits that you can buy. I love the way they have captured the wrinkles on the soles of her feet and the way she curled her feet up in the gel.

Do I Like Autumn or Not?

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Each year, almost like clockwork, Autumn comes around and sends me into a deep and amorphous funk.

Even though I’ve been working for ten years, I still get that “back to school” feeling. There are a number of factors at work here: the first damp cold days are a reminder that the months ahead will be even more cold and grey. It’s not cold enough for the heating to be on (we all want to keep it off as long as possible, right?), so unlike the depths of winter, home is not a cosy refuge from the cold in the air. Autumn is mucky, the falling leaves are mulched on the ground into a dirty decaying mess on the wet pavement. My birthday is in October and as a child it would tide me over between Summer and Christmas. I used to wonder why people were so worried about birthdays and getting older, but these days a birthday fills me with trepidation. It’s not so much the thought of getting older that causes my anxiety, as being stricken with the thought that nobody else gives a crap, that if I organise something my friends won’t come, or they will come and complain about it. Of course the first signs of Christmas are showing – and I’m a big fan – but it’s just not as good as it used to be, is it?

What Autumn does amazingly is colour. Even when the sky is grey, if you look carefully, the shades and patterns are beautiful. The sunlight in Autumn has a special quality; somehow nostalgic for Summer just past. Sunny days are more valuable in the Autumn, when each fine day could be the year’s last, than in Spring, when we complacently assume there will be many more to come.

This weekend had that feeling of the last warm weekend, and we swapped the pervasive damp of the city for the dappled light of the Forest of Dean and enjoyed the other great thing about Autumn – Apples (cider!). The Wye valley is fantastic in the spring (blossom) and autumn (fruit), and I haven’t been to Symmonds Yat since I was a kid, so this was a real treat.

Tikka Flavour Clark’s Original Pie

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Clark’s Pies are a Cardiff institution, and while they are to be found for sale in chip shops around South Wales, there are those who believe the only place to get a “Clarksie” is from the pie shop on Bromsgrove Street in Grangetown, where the pies are made fresh each day. For many years the shop sold only, hot or cold, large or small, pies. Yesterday, Clark’s pies launched a new pie. Blasphemy! I hear the cries of the purists. But wait it’s still a “Clarpie” it’s just differently seasoned (or spiced).

I was lucky enough to be one of the first to try one of the new Tikka flavour Clarksies. We live very close to the shop in Grangetown, and Mojo popped in and picked one up for me and very kindly dropped it into the office while it was still warm. The tikka filling won’t blow your head off, but I found it to be nicely warming and complements the rich buttery pastry case, that is the hallmark of a Clark’s pie.

It’s Decoupage, Yeah?

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That’s right I did some Decoupage. big whoop. It’s only cut and paste.

I decided to brighten up an old Lack side table from Ikea, it was scuffed and buried under junk not really being useful. I thought I could cover over the scuffs with some decoupage but couldn’t decide what to use, when I realised, we have lots of wrapping paper that Mojo insists on saving but I am unlikely to use again for wrapping. I decided on two patterns which we had substantial sheets of, and that were marred by sticky tape and tears in the middle. I cut the wrapping paper into irregular shaped pieces of varying size, ranging from roughly 1cm x 2cm to 5cm x 5cm.

Having made sure the side table was clean and dry, I was ready to Decoupage! I applied watered down PVA glue to the table with a paint brush and then stuck my wrapping paper pieces on, overlapping each other, and applying more PVA on top of each piece. Now a normal person would probably be able to cover an object of this size in an evening, but because I am painfully slow at doing anything, it took me four evenings altogether, even though I had some help from Jasper.

I have so far applied three layers of PVA, apparently, apart from sealing the surface and making it more hard wearing, adding extra coats of glue/decoupage medium/varnish will make the cut edges of the paper appear not so prominent and more like inlay. Some artisan decoupage has 30 or 40 coats of varnish!

As you might be able to see in the photographs, I have covered the top of the table and only half way down the legs. It occurred to me that people will almost certainly look at it and think it is only half finished, but the idea was to give the impression of a tablecloth, after all that is what we would have to use if I hadn’t covered the scuffed table top. Anyway, I think it looks okay. Just a few more coats of PVA and it will be a useful table again in our front room.

Cartoon Connections Project Update

I was doing some work on my cartoon project last night, and realised that it could be a lot of work. More work than I imagined. I started designing a database to organise the data, I really wanted something where I could input the data and have it output something graphical – like the genealogy software that is out there, but some of the connections between shows are deeper and more complicated than that (and deeper and more complicated than my programming skills, which are nil). So I think I will have to make my own graphical representations.
I have identified some of the important linkages – key individuals like Jean Chalopin and production companies like Nelvana or Klasky-Csupo. I intend to base my posts around these links, rather than the shows themselves.

Hopefully, the first real Cartoon Connections project post will be coming soon, but I have a spare room to decorate so I will have to earn the right to work on the blog. Hard work ahead!

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International Craft Cider Festival

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On Friday, we nipped up the valley to attend the International Craft Cider Festival. It was a lovely day and a shame there were not more in attendance (hopefully more people turned up on the Saturday and Sunday).
As the name suggests, the main attraction was the cider bar, where the producers were very friendly and keen to offer samples of their work. There was excellent live music from the likes of Paper Aeroplanes, The Misers and 4th Street Traffic, and although the audience in the field was rather sparse, the free flow of cider meant the drizzle did not dampen spirits.
There was also a market hall where we picked up some delicious fudge, raspberry wine and apple and blackcurrant brandy, ideal for when we finally get round to inviting people round for dinner.
Meanwhile, back at the cider bars, we met some spaniards who showed us their traditional, Asturian, method of pouring cider from a great height (seemed a little wasteful to me – half of it splashes out on the floor), and explained that their very lightly sparkling “sidra” must be knocked back quickly, as the taste changes if you sip it (maybe this is why I had such a sore head on Saturday). I also tried “champagne style” cider from Germany, as well as the usual west country scrumpies and perries.
We had a lovely day and hopefully we will return next year.

New Cartoon Blog Project

A few weeks ago, a tweet started me off thinking about cartoons that I love – there have been many over the years – and how they are related. So I have started researching the backgounds of some of my favourites with the hope that I will eventually form a kind of family tree of animation from the last 30 or so years. Already, I have stumbled across some forgotten favourites from my childhood.

If you have a favourite cartoon from childhood, or a great show that is on right now, let me know about it in the comments or tweet at me @pygmyputsch.