Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Not Orly but Oslo

The week of 18-23 October took us to Oslo for the annual conference of ITU: The IT Research and Competence in Education research centre in the Education Faculty at the University of Oslo. We were doing the opening plenary for the conference, and it was our first time ever in Norway.

I flew from Montreal to Paris -- but to Charles de Gaulle Airport, not Orly -- and then onto Oslo. Perhaps it was because it quickly became apparent that Norway was a place we'd love to return to that we did not get the camera out earlier. Or perhaps it was because the conference turned out to be full time work for almost all the time we were there. Whatever the reason it was not until the last afternoon that we really got a chance to get out and look around. It was cold and wet. On the way to the airport the next day it was snowing. Could be a long winter in Oslo .....

The free day began with a trip to the Munch Museum to take in what we know as German Expressionism. I'm no art critic, but this was a seriously comprehensive museum that communicated a full (and dark) concept. The only work of Munch that I had previously known was The Scream -- housed somewhere else, perhaps mercifully. I'm not easy to get into museums, but this one was magical in a troubling kind of way. It will live on in my head and my mind's eye for a long time, and if I ever retutn to Oslo I will visit again. It made a disturbing impact.

Then we wrestled with the elements and found a bus for the Viking Ships museum, but we went in the wrong direction!! That was not a problem since it was so cold and wet outside. The bus arched through the city centre and out through various Gates to the end of its line -- wonderful sightseeing in the rain. Considerable cold weather architectural majesty. It was easy to spend time on the bus and ride it to the end of the line and then back to the Viking ships. After all, we thought there was plenty of time before the 6pm close. But we were out of season and closing was at 4pm. We stole a peek at the big ship through the doors until a guard passed by to suggest with a glance that we move on.

We walked in the rain and finally decided it was not going to get any better, so the camera came out. On the road from the Viking ships to the folk museum we found a very nice neighbourhood that shared its good looks with us as the rain came down and our hands quietly froze.

Onto the bus and the camera came out again. But this time I shot short videos in order to get as much as possible on the way back. The video cameos are great, but do not yet translate to the blog.

The short sequence of photogenic houses follows. Meanwhile, we have briefly blogged the conference at our everyday literacies blog.

Gracious living in a picturesque 'hood. Posted by Picasa

Autumn colours against white against a rainy rainy sky and chill air Posted by Picasa

A different design Posted by Picasa

Snowproof Posted by Picasa

Part of the Oslo folk museum on this rainy day Posted by Picasa

The rest of the folk museum building Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 17, 2005

Weekend on the island

I managed to get a good flight price to get over to Newfoundland on the weekend to check out the building we were having done. Gary and Ray Evoy had started building the barn when we finished teaching the summer school, but it had only just begun. Since then the weather has been patchy -- the west coast of Newfoundland kept catching the tail end of the hurricanes from further south. Gary and Ray were building when they could, so I was keeping off their case. However, you can only stay away from a place like that for so long when you're as close as Montreal. So I left it til the last available weekend this trip. Next weekend is plenary weekend in Oslo, so that was out of the question.

During the week I got a phone call through and was told the barn would be closed in by the time I got there. So I bought a sleeping bag and air mattress, organised a rental car from the Deer Lake airport, and arrived around 11 on the Friday night. Called in at Ray's on the way out and found them still up. They said the generator was hooked up to some lights, but that it would likely be cold out there -- did I want to stay overnight with them? Tempting as it was, the Cove beckoned.

It was indeed cold, and next morning saw me at Walmart getting more bedding. But what a great sight greeted me on arrival. The generator fired up easily, I inflated the mattress, and managed to sleep until the cold won out around 8 in the morning. A quick dash to the car to apply a liberal dose of heater. That worked. A few biscuits and a can of cola spelled breakfast, and then the ride in to Corner Brook to visit Wal. Besides a pillow and another sleeping bag I bought an electric kettle, lots of water, a small fan heater, plastic stuff to wash in, and a few other items.

I got back to find that Ray's son, Cory, had installed all the power points down below and in the loft, and hooked the generator up to the wiring in the walls. So I could make coffee, and I made a LOT of it. The wiring works a treat -- hit the switch upstairs and 4 or 5 lights come on.

With extra bedding I slept a good 10 hours the second night and was almost late for a meeting of the summer school teaching team -- planning already for next summer. Funny how I was never that far ahead when I was a 'proper' academic.

It was a great weekend in a magic place, and all the more magical for the outstanding humanity you can feel in the presence of the barn. Well built by outstanding folk, with generous spirited neighbours all around.

Roll on retirement, I say.

All done on the outside, minus a bit of sealing for the frost wall. It is a great barn. It's 10 metres long by 5 wide, with a loft. The cottage will sit at right angles, away to the right. It will be around 8 metres long by 7 deep, but built in the 'saltbox' tradition. Shipboard lap timber over thick plywood, and a simple pitched roof, well-trussed to take the snow -- like the top section of the barn roof, but no 'fall-aways'. Posted by Picasa

Generator by the door -- enough to boil a kettle and light the inside. Posted by Picasa

Perry, a neighbour, rests his boat over the winter, when the sea for miles around freezes. A friendly presence at the edge of the driveway. Fishermen's sheds beyond. Posted by Picasa

Front view from amidst the debris. Posted by Picasa

Out to sea from the loft window.  Posted by Picasa

Top of the Cove from the loft window. Posted by Picasa

As it looks coming up the drive from Bottle Creek Road. Posted by Picasa

Perry's boat will ride out the winter at the edge of where we leave off. Posted by Picasa

How it looks from the beach front. Posted by Picasa

Not bad for an autumn day, but not the blue of summer (see archives for July-August) Posted by Picasa

Ladders, planks and scaffolds. Posted by Picasa

Through the trees from the road. Posted by Picasa

Looking out to the open sea. Beyond lies the Canadian mainland -- Quebec. Posted by Picasa

Just there, in the larger view Posted by Picasa

Quietly present from the far side of the Cove Posted by Picasa

Autumn coming in Posted by Picasa

More autumn on the way Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Working in Montreal

September brought the start of a new part time job in a new town. The new job is as a Visiting Scholar over three years in the Faculty of Education at McGill University. I will work in McGill on site 15 weeks each year until 2008, basically in the role of a research promoter. It is a great job in an excellent university, and I am very happy (and privileged) to be here. I will be doing this job in conjunction with the half time research professorship at James Cook University in Cairns, so the times ahead will be busy indeed. The idea is to spend two substantial periods (each of around two months) each year in each of Cairns and Montreal, and divide the rest of the time between Nexico and Newfoundland. It is a lot of travel, hard on the body, but always very interesting. I love doing work life this way.

'Home' for now is in a hotel on Sherbooke Street East -- two kilometres or so east of the McGill Campus. The hotel is right on the north eastern corner of the Latin Quarter. It is a fantastic part of the city, and living is very easy. The public transport system in the centre of Montreal is brilliant -- as good as in Mexico City, which is saying a lot. The choice of weekly or monthly bus and rail passes makes getting around the area served by the metro very easy and comfortable. The bus stop and train station is 300 metres from the hotel and I get off the same distance from my office. With buses and trains every 8 minutes during business hours, and regularly until after 1.30 am, getting around is flexible and convenient.

A Sunday afternoon stroll took in Rue St Hubert, south of Sherbrooke, down to Notre Dame, and along Notre Dame to the area south of the Maisoneuve statue. Here is some of what was out and about in what is proving to be a true 'indian summer'. We are now into October and the days are mostly cloudless and warm. It has been a truly beautiful -- magical -- beginning to a new work adventure. The combination of Cairns and Montreal is fantastic.

On one corner of St Hubert and Sherbrooke Posted by Picasa

On St Hubert just up from the corner with Sherbrooke Posted by Picasa