#Picture Blog on a Picnic #Summer Fun in #SuttonPark 野餐皇家萨登公园图文并茂

Girls are having badminton fun!

Girls are having badminton fun!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when the Kirks’ annual picnic in Sutton Park was in full swing on a Saturday in June. Some of you probably remember that we enjoyed a fabulous outing in May last year, when I organised our first picnic at the very spot in our favourite park (Henry VIII used to hunt wild pigs and chase girls there once upon a time!) – we had some really lovely ladies from China, who were visiting BCU at the time. Now they have all gone back to different parts of China, but I hope that the memories of those fun moments have stayed with them:

#Picnic in the Park: #Spring Excursion in Sutton Park 春游伯明翰

Our 2016 summer picnic yesterday was bigger, with 18 adults and children, all having something to link them to BCU and the International Office. Again, I’d invited all the visiting academics from China to join us, including the newly arrived Professor Zhang and his wife, Professor You from Shenyang Normal University.

Professor Zhang Peng and his wife

Professor Zhang Peng and his wife

Yang Bong and his Parents

Yang Bong and His Parents

 

It was a great day out for family and friends. John and I were pleased to be the hosts for such a happy occasion. Several of us made hot and cold dishes to be enjoyed by everyone. Others brought drinks, fruit and snacks to be shared.

Food, Glorious Food

Food, Glorious Food

Let's Eat and Enjoy!

Let’s Eat and Enjoy!

For the best part of the afternoon, it was cloudy but thankfully no rain, even though John had prepared to erect a gazebo for that eventuality.

Just like last year, we had a range of sporting activities and some of us took part, as you can see from the pictures below. Playing badminton was cool, but we had a great team building Frisbee session, involving more participants, even people outside our circle. Absolutely Fabulous!

Food and fun go hand in hand, as so conversations!

Food and fun go hand in hand, as so conversations!

Bubble time for both adults and children!

Bubble time for both adults and children!

As it happened, Boldmere was having a street music festival, so we headed there to get a taste of what it had to offer. John and I lived in Boldmere for ten years before we moved further north, so it was good to go back to the street I was so familiar with. It was packed.

There was music but we were too busy trying to find a place to sit down after our walk. Eventually we found a table in a crowded bar and had a chilled beer. It was a good wrap-up for an action and fun packed day.

Walking in Sutton Park

Walking in Sutton Park

Boldmere High Street transformed by music and fun-seeking crowds

Boldmere High Street transformed by music and fun-seeking crowds

It was a wonderful gathering, as you can see from all the various pictures taken by a number of friends at the party, and mostly by myself. I wish to thank my husband John for being an excellent co-host and first-rate organiser. I also wish to thank everyone who came to the party and make it such a memorable occasion.

More pictures of the day

More pictures of the day

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Some of you will be pleased to know that I am already thinking about throwing another party in the not too distant future, and you never know, you could be invited to come along!

Just a little reminder of the picnic goes in May 2015

Just a little reminder of the pretty picnic ladies in May 2015

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#BCU Staff and Students Journey Into #Africa

Staff and Student engagement at BCU

Staff and Student engagement at BCU

Celebrating culture and diversity is something some of us feel passionate about, especially me. Fortunately at BCU we have a platform to showcase different cultures and customs. In the past year, together with my colleagues at the International Office, I have organised a number of cultural events, a mixture of education and entertainment, aiming to be informative, engaging and fantastically entertaining.

On the 3rd of June 2016, we had our latest in the series, and the spotlight was on Africa, a vast and exciting Continent whose cultures are as varied and diverse, and whose people are bright, colourful, and happy and positive. The speakers included a number of academics, administrators and students.

Early in the morning on the Friday, staff from the International Office with our student helpers busied ourselves with decorating the venue in bright, colourful textiles, and fashionable outfits from Africa. We displayed posters, drums, African style snacks and coloured beads. The atmosphere was electric.

Pam, Assistant Director of International Office at BCU

Pam, Assistant Director of International Office at BCU

Drums and colourful African Fashion

Drums and colourful African Fashion

Following the introduction by the Director of International Office, John Kirk, Mr Charles Magee, an experienced West African recruitment manager, delivered an informative overview about BCU’s recruitment activities in the African Continent, especially in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana. His presentation was followed by a visiting academic from one of our partner institutions in Nigeria, Dr Victor Oladokun from University of Ibadan, who highlighted how important it is to establish partnerships between UK institutions and our African counterparts, and in this case, BCU and UI.

Key speech by Charles Magee

Key speech by Charles Magee

Dr Victor from UI, Nigeria

Dr Olatande Aremu originally from Nigeria

We welcomed further presentations from senior academics from our School of Media, Diane Kemp discussing ‘Social Change: practical media and journalism for African students’, and Sam Coley’s fascinating account of ‘Love and Hate Radio: Community Broadcasting in Sub-Saharan Africa’. Dr Olatunde Aremu from our Faculty of HELS talked about ‘Public Health provisions in sub-Saharan Africa: a bibliometric analysis of the current status and future prospects’. What a breadth of interesting topics!

Our lunch was laced with African flavours too, when we were served with fried plantain, rice with blackens beans, dry spicy chicken and sweet treats. It was also a perfect time for the staff and students to mingle and network.

A great occasion to celebrate culture, customs and diversity!

A great occasion to celebrate culture, customs and diversity!

In the afternoon, we had cultural snapshots when more members of staff and students shared interesting insights about countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, and fascinating customs of marriages, weddings and religion. The pictures above and below give you a cool peak of what happened during this wonderful event.

Personally I have learnt a great deal about Africa, the only continent to which I have not been, yet. After this amazing little taster of the African culture, I am looking forward to my African adventure when I’ll surely pay a visit to the Victoria Falls, as recommended by some of our speakers.

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The workshop on how to support our International students from the African Continent was especially engaging. Open and face to face dialogues between the senior staff and students will lead to the improvement of services by the International Office and the rest of the University.

Thanks to everyone who came and joined us on the day, whether you were a presenter, a helper, or you simply popped in to sample the African style cuisine!

Sunday, Ruth and Larry from BCU International Office

Sunday, Ruth and Larry from BCU International Office

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Back to #Writing: Time for a New #Book

Book talk at University of Helsinki

Book talk at University of Helsinki

What makes a writer pick up a pen and start writing? Or in today’s world, instead of doing whatever we are supposed to be doing at work or at leisure, we choose to sit in front of our computer and words begin pouring out onto the screen and forming sensible sentences and eventually paragraphs and stories?

I don’t know about other writers, traditionally published or Indie authors or someone who simply enjoys scribbling. I know why I am motivated to write a book, and in my case, more than one book.

When I started writing The Same Moon, it was to make a dream come true. You see, I dreamed of writing a book a very long time ago. There was no precise moment that the train of thought came to me, but it came nonetheless. It became so strong that in the lonely nights when I was a single, struggling PhD student in my rented student accommodation in Leeds, with a second-hand PC, I took my very first step in writing a book of fiction. My journey had begun.

That was over 20 years ago, although the final product of The Same-Moon greeted its’ first readers nearly ten years later when I shared samples with my writers’ group, Bold Writers. Even that dated back to the year of 2003, shortly after our move to Birmingham.

The Same Moon New Cover

Those aspiring writers from a little place called Sutton Coldfield, in a room hired from Sutton Coldfield Methodist Church, they became my very first beta readers and critics. I took on board all the comments they made on my humble efforts and I plodded on.

It took another few years before the final draft was ready, to reach out to people further than my immediate circle, to people as far as the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, China, Japan and parts of Europe.

I remember exactly when I started writing Trials of Life and what motivated me. The second in my Journey to the West trilogy was born in Manchester, which was also the location of the best part of the plot. It came at the end of a job and was inspired by the people I met during the relatively short time I lived and worked there. It was not a very happy memory, not all of it, hence the title of the book. Trials, from big to small, legal or otherwise, are not the greatest experiences, and where possible, I would advise people to avoid them. But of course, many of life’s trials and tribulations, are simply inevitable. It’s called LIFE.

A book I put my heart and soul in writing it!

A book I put my heart and soul in writing it!

Back Jacket of Trials of Life

Back Jacket of Trials of Life

Land of Hope, I was compelled to write it. After a decade or so working as a professional interpreter and translator, I witnessed what was happening both above and under the surface of British society, amongst the hidden and the voiceless, the poor and the illegals. I wanted to become their voice and put faces, names and motivations to those in the shadows.

I spent a couple of years promoting and editing my trilogy for the paperback versions. At the same time, I started planning and writing my second trilogy.

Then came 2014, when I went back to full time employment. My time as a freelancer was over, and my life took a different direction, as it was detailed in the following post.

From Freelance to 9 to 5

With a full time job, the best part of my time is no longer mine to decide what to do, so writing was relegated to the little spare time I had. I continued to blog but its frequency was reduced. I needed time to breathe, relax and enjoy the fruits of my hard work. I came to a conscious decision to take a break from book writing.

Friends and fans have asked when I am going to publish another book, and I had no answer. During my book talk at University of Helsinki just over five weeks ago, I told my audience that I would get back to my second trilogy one day, perhaps when I retire.

I shared my writing journey with colleagues from University of Helsinki Confucius Institute

I shared my writing journey with colleagues from University of Helsinki Confucius Institute

Retirement, to me, is still some distance away. So when exactly?

Just over a week ago, I spent a sleepless night, thinking about my life, and people I have met. Friends and foe, it was a very thin line to cross, sometimes almost imperceptible. Other times you can pinpoint exactly when and how you just fall out, you banish them for good.

Some people stay friends for a very long time, and others come and go. It’s not that they are not your friends any more, it’s just that they are gone from your life, and they no longer play a part, even a small one in your lives. The world suddenly swallowed them up, or they have simply sailed away of their own accord, and disappeared from your horizon. Their universe has left your orbit, and your’s no longer has an impact on them.

There were people you met and you thought of them as friends, but they never really were. That was okay. Friendship is mutual and sooner or later, you realise that one-sided affection and trust are not going to last. They stop mattering to you, even though it hurts when the realisation hit you in the head.

I learnt my lessons, the hard way!

I’ve learnt many lessons, the hard way!

There were people who pretend to be your friends, and deep down they have neither respect nor trust in you. They expect things from you which they will never give you in return. Some of them even set out to hurt you, and you did not see it coming, perhaps because they resent your honesty and integrity, perhaps your attitude towards life. You have faith and you believe in the decency and fair play, qualities that matter to you. When your so-called friends turn out not to be so, something come crushing down, smashing your idealism and your optimism to pieces. Like a broken mirror, you can no longer see the beauty behind these seemly pretty faces, they become distraught and disfigured, and their twisted souls are exposed for you to see the extent of the decay inside. It is not a pretty sight: all egos, jealousy, lies, scheming and senseless rage and revenge.

When the truth is out and it is face off in the ring, the writer bursts out fighting.

It is time to write another book.

Good people, bad people, I meet them in real life and I write about them in my books.

Good people, bad people, I meet them in real life and I write about them in my books.

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#Columbus ‘Discovered’ America and We Discovered #PortoSanto

Pretty Porto Santo

Pretty Porto Santo

Across the dark blue waters of Atlantic, north of Madeira, lies a quaint little island Porto Santo. I knew little about it, except that it was supposed to have beautiful sandy beaches and could be reached by ferry from the Port of Funchal.

Always one to explore new territories, I had wanted to go during our previous visits to Madeira but John had refused to budge.

This time around in May 2016, I became more insistent and persuasive. “The ferry is fairly big and stable and it won’t be as bad as the one when we crossed the English Channel a few years ago,” I assured him. Besides, I need a photographer.

So on Wednesday morning, we rose early to board the ship to Porto Santo. During the two and half hours’ crossing, no motion sickness; instead we enjoyed a coffee and sweet treats, popping onto the sunny deck from time to time to snap pictures of the ever shrinking island we left behind and the one we were sailing towards.

Sailing away from Madeira

Sailing away from Madeira

Miles of yellow sandy beach on the other side

Miles of yellow sandy beach on the other side

On approaching the shore, what greeted our eyes were that of a marvellously pure, yellow sandy beach, curved along the bay, stretching endlessly.

Although the biggest industry for Porto Santo is tourism, compared to her richer and bigger cousin Madeira some distance away, Porto Santo is a serene picture of peace and calm, a rare gem of get-away-from-all, far far away from the hassle and bustle which constantly confront the city dwellers. Even after our fairly large ferryful of people debarked, the island seemed to have absorbed them without efforts. On the long stretches of soft sandy beach, we saw only a handful of people sun bathing.

Following our brief consultation with the woman in the Tourist Information office, we found a little church. Under the noon sunshine, the white church with lovely blue pottery tiles depicting the death of Jesus shone brightly and inviting. We went in and saw a set of most usually wood sculptures of Jesus and his twelve disciples. From my mind’s eye, I saw many a fishermen, explorers, and perhaps even pirates who would go in praying for safety during their missions on the dangerous and unpredictable ocean. Once they set sail, they never knew whether the waters would be friend or foe.

Beautiful Church

Beautiful Church

Jesus and his Twelve Disciples

Jesus and his Twelve Disciples

We visited Columbus’s old House next, which is now a museum. On the courtyard, a picture of sailing ship was built into the ceramic ground. A little rose garden was in full bloom and naturally I stopped to appreciate its beauty and to smell its fragrance.

After feeding ourselves with a tasty Madeira brand of local bread with bacon and cheese, we found a spot on the beach. I was not going to pass the opportunity to have a splash in the sea. The waves came rushing to shore and then ebbed away, with a power to thrill and to cool, to excite and to sooth. As always when I was by the sea, I felt my spirit soar, like an eagle flying high and free, and a pure joy filling my heart and soul.

Enjoying the cool waters and waves

Enjoying the cool waters and waves

The photographer was captured without his knowledge

The photographer was captured without his knowledge

Later, we hired a tandem which took us along the wondrous coast, all the way to the tip of the island, where we stopped for a coffee and cakes. En route, we feasted on the changing scenery as the breeze caressed our faces, energising our legs and pushing us forward. There was a cycle lane along part of the ride but very few cars passing us by. We were one with nature.

On a Tandem

On a Tandem but not cycling

I think that John was pleased that I ‘dragged’ him to Porto Santo.

We will return.

Smell the Roses

Smell the Roses

Eating Limpets from the sea

Eating Limpets from the sea

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