Back in my Liverpool home

So nearly 3 months have passed since returning to Liverpool and at the request of so many people I have decided to continue with my blog!

I moved back to Liverpool at the beginning of August after an emotional final few days in Brussels. The 1st few days being back involved me moving back into my house, lots of cleaning and organising things ably assisted by some amazing friends who gave up a lot of their time to help. One thing to look forward to was a family holiday to Cornwall. I had never been before and it was the ideal time to spend quality time with everyone after being away for so long. Staying in a very old cottage we where able to explore without having to travel too far. Managed to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan, The Eden Project, Padstow, Tintagel, Port Isaac and a few other local places. After spending a year trying so many different Belgian beers I decided to carry on with the traditional sampling the best beer and cider that Cornwall had to offer 🙂

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The rest of the summer was spent visiting friends and catching up and before I knew it I was back at Broadgreen and the beginning of term! I received a lovely welcome back and a few people didn’t recognise me, especially with the beard and weight loss 🙂 After a few days it felt like I had never left which is not a bad thing and soon found that not much had changed! I found it comforting working with some of my best friends but also missing the buzz of Belgium.

This month I was also invited back to the Science Learning Centre in York to present a case study of how my career has taken off since completing the STACS (Senior Technicians Co-Leaders in Science) course in 2011 to this years cohort. It gave me a chance to look back at how much I have achieved in just a few years and share my experience of doing such a valuable qualification.

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So as we come to the end of a very busy and long half term I can reflect on some of the changes in my life. Things are looking up in both my professional and personal life.  In work I have been given more responsibilities. This is something I have been craving as I try and progress in my career. Some of it will provide a steep learning curve but I am up for the challenge!

This term as I am a member of the ASE Technicians Committee we are continuing to find ways to promote the role of a technician. Unfortunately with so many budget restraints in schools pay is always going to be an issue. Instead we are focusing on self promotion and trying to increase understanding of the role in our own schools. This was discussed in the monthly ASETechs Tweetups. These take place on the 1st Wednesday of each month and the highlights can be found here. Feel free to join the next one in November!

https://storify.com/ASETechs/tech-recognition

The Technicians Facebook group continues to go from strength to strength and we are hoping to have a 1000 members before Xmas. Lots of excellent advice and tips are shared on a daily basis and we have a very supportive community.

In my personal life, after such a horrendous year, I have unexpectedly met a fellow cat lover called Rachael who has become a very important part of my life. She’s beautiful, makes me laugh, inspires me and has helped me regain a lot of the confidence I had lost. Did I mention she has cats..;)

So that’s it for this update! Hope you enjoy it and thanks for all the great feedback. Phil

The Social Side

It hasn’t all been work, work, work though and I have been exploring more. On a recent Bank Holiday (on a Tuesday!) I went for brunch with the technicians of BSB past and present to Stonemanor which is a British shop and Tearooms which serves teacakes, scones and cheese on toast!

The shop itself is amazing. It’s only when you walk round you realise how much “English” food you miss. Salt & Vinegar crisps, Hovis bread, potato cakes, scotch eggs! Not very cheap as they have to import it all via Waitrose…

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After brunch a trip to Leuven was on the cards. Nearly everywhere was closed apart from a pub called Domus which serves their own beer brewed on site. A few beers later and some amazing spicy chicken wings it was off to the cinema to see Interstellar. The film itself was in English but there were French and Dutch subtitles at the bottom of the screen which was distracting at first but after a while I started trying to practice my Dutch reading skills. Great movie by the way and a superb soundtrack as well.

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Last Sunday I was given the opportunity to visit a traditional Xmas Market actually in Germany. We visited a town called Monschau just over the border which was about 90 min away. It was just how I imagined it to be. Extremely quaint and old fashioned set in the base of a valley. Anyone who knows me also knows my nickname is The Grinch around this time of year but dare I say it? I actually felt Christmassy.

Some of the local shops where selling beautiful homemade mustards and pates and there were some fantastic arts and crafts places as well. Handy as I picked up a few Xmas presents as well.

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The food and drink was excellent especially the Gluwein (mulled wine) with Amaretto in (available in Aldi in the UK!). This was a great way of warming up in freezing conditions. Food wise I had some Brockwurst sausage, Mushrooms cooked in garlic butter with bacon lardons, potato cakes with apple sauce and of course Snitzel and Stollen. We went into a couple of pubs with really friendly and welcoming staff which made us feel right at home drinking some German Beer (not as good as Belgian though…).

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At the beginning of December I was honoured to be invited for drinks and to meet up with the Science Council and their partners as they were in Brussels visiting the European Parliament to discuss EU Science Policy. As an RScitech it was great to meet so many people involved in different aspects of Science on a daily basis.

As I went into the city straight from work, I took the opportunity to have a look around the Brussels Xmas Market and to visit Grand Place to see their giant tree. The bar we met up in was called Bonnefooi and I would heartily recommend it. A very shabby chic place with musical instruments mounted on the wall and playing a mixture of Soul, Acid Jazz, Trip Hop and Lounge Music. They even have live music and DJ’s on most nights.

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http://www.bonnefooi.be/

It has also been a difficult few weeks dealing with homesickness as it’s been over 2 months since my last weekend home and I really miss my family. Skype is handy and useful but it can’t replace the real thing.

Anyway this is my last update of 2014 and it’s nearly time for the Xmas holidays which I know a lot of teaching staff look forward to more than the summer ones. I’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone for taking the time to read my posts and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2015!

Visit to Technopolis and Mira

So it’s been a while since my last update but it has been a busy few weeks in the run up to Christmas. Lots of big practicals going on and the classic dilemma of trying to perform photosynthesis experiments in December! A couple of weeks ago I went on my first school trip to the amazing Technopolis which is only about 30 min away from School. We took Year 11 on a day of science discovery where they could try loads of great hands on equipment and experiments.

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http://www.technopolis.be/eng/

One of the most impressive things at Technopolis is their giant Rude Goldberg machine which I unfortunately did not see in action on the day but to give you an idea what one is check out this video by OK Go.

After a great morning exploring and a quick lunch break, we headed off to Mira which is an observatory just outside Brussels. (It’s also next door to one of the best breweries in Belgium but that’s another tale…). Not knowing what to expect, I was thrown by the coach turning a tight corner into a narrow road. Up ahead was a big hill with a beautiful church on top and my thinking was perhaps it’s in the church or at least next to it. Nope. We pulled in and there was the observatory. At the bottom of a hill, behind a restaurant! Very unassuming and quite small, Mira still managed to deliver. We sat through a presentation on sunspots and then headed up to the roof to look through a telescope and see them for ourselves. Again I was thrown by what to expect. In a very small “shed” they had a couple of impressive telescopes that we could look through. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse as we went to look through the lens and we didn’t get to see very much. Still it didn’t matter and it was great to see the students being enthused by our guides and we even got to see a small piece of rock from Mars!

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Sightseeing at last

Today is the first day back after half term and the first question you usually ask everyone is “How was your week off”. Well mine was a mixture of work, sightseeing and trying local cuisine. Last weekend was the first time my wife had managed to come over to visit so I was responsible for providing 4 days of showing her what Belgium has to offer!

We had decided to stay in Brussels on Saturday night as it was a good chance to actually do a bit of sightseeing. I arrived at the airport to meet her only to find that her flight had been delayed 45min (Thanks Brussels Airlines!). Upon arrival we jumped on the train and went to our hotel around the corner from one of Brussels iconic sights “Grand Place” which looks even more impressive lit up at night.

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After a lot of walking and sampling chocolates in the 100’s of shops around the area we decided to have our dinner in the Hard Rock Café in Grand Place square. Although not very Belgian for food we made up for that by sampling some lovely Belgian Beer instead and admiring the fantastic guitar wall and the view from above.

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After a leisurely breakfast we headed to Tervuren on the Sunday for the “Blessing of the animals” ceremony in the park. This involves loads of pets and animals being blessed by the local priests. There were so many horses, dogs, birds, cats and of course lots of noise as well. It was certainly a sight to behold!

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On Monday we decided to head into the historic town of Leuven. Famous for its University and also the Stella Artois brewery! Leuven also has some fantastic architecture and squares but is much more relaxed and traditional compared to the bustle of Brussels. There is also a very strange piece of art in one of the squares which is essentially a beetle on top of a needle!

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For Michelle’s last day after showing her Tervuren park and BSB, we headed back into Brussels for a bit more sightseeing including The Comic Book Museum and The Delirium Café which holds the world record for the amount of different beers it serves! Delirium cherry beer is delicious by the way 🙂

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Then of course came the hard part of saying goodbye at the airport. It was great being able to share all my experiences with Michelle and show her my new workplace but now it’s 7 weeks till I see her and my family again. I know it’s going to be difficult especially with it getting darker earlier and us both being busy with work but I’m a very lucky man who has a very understanding wife who is supporting me with my move. Until next time…