Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Trickster

Peterborough Today:

Here is a story, a modern day fairytale, from the Peterborough evening Telegraph, told as a warning to you all but also the first tale in a long time which features a trickster - that most interesting of archetypal characters. It also features a fool but he is not named as such:

It really should have been titled 'the laptop that turned out to be a gold top'

A man bought what he thought to be a laptop computer, but when he got home and opened the box he was amazed to find it contained three litres of milk.

Two men were offering laptops for sale from their Ford van, which was parked on the roadside, close to the Somerfield store, in Eye Road, Peterborough.

Thinking he had a good deal the victim gave the men £150.

When he arrived home he opened the box to find three cartons of milk where the computer should have been.

The men were selling the fake goods on Friday afternoon.

Iain Allan, from Cambridgeshire police crime management unit, said: "This is another example of someone being conned into buying something.

"Never buy anything from someone you do not trust.

"If you see a trickster, I advise you to report him to the police straight away."

Anyone with information on conmen should call police on 0845 456 4564 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

15 March 2005

Friday, September 24, 2004

Frog in a pail

Trying to find a simple wildlife story which illustrates emergence / the tipping point I came across this simple tale with a similarly simple moral: The frog in a pail

Note to self: I must try telling this tale in a Cynefin anecdote circle and inviting the listeners to write down 'what they get from it'.

The Fens - a sense of place

He looks friendly - lets take a closer look Posted by Hello

Having lived on the edge of the fens now for 17 years I am beginning to understand their appeal and to appreciate the connections a person can have with their local environment.

Despite such a huge proportion of the fens still being subject to intensive agriculture there are small occurrences of special places which give you a feeling what the ancient landscape must have looked like.

At Flag Fen on the outskirts of Peterborough I have attended two years of evening lectures by some of the worlds most enthusiastic and dedicated archeologists including the great Francis Prior and his wife Maissie Taylor (get well soon Maissie)telling tales of marshes and causeways, of swords and bronze age huts. The connection with the moon has begun to fascinate me, especially the possibility that the causeways were re-built every lunar eclipse. see The Future in the Past.

THe picture above was however taken at Chippenham Fen, one of our National Nature Reserves. I had the immense privilege of meeting these two wonderful creatures and a few of their friends whilst doing some story collecting about volunteers on our reserves a while back.

Just looking at the picture brings back the memories of that day so vividly. I remember slowly approaching the pond and Kevin, the assistant site manager said "don't make any quick moves if you want to get a photo because as soon as they see you they will be over to meet you". I took the photo then stood my ground as they rushed out of the pond to greet me and soaked me as they butted and smelt us.

I often wax lyrically about telling stories and drinking real ale but meeting water buffalo as nice as these takes some beating in the 'perfect job' stakes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Paradise regained

"The older we get the more we realize that our lives have been influenced by certain places and certain people without our fully knowing just how much. They are there in our memory, like photographs put into an album and probably not looked at for another thirty years or more. Yet we always know they are there, that those moments were once part of our lives and that we are wiser because of those experiences".

These are the wonderful words of Edward Storey, the fenland writer and poet, written as a tribute to those who have protected Woodwalton Fen, especially Gordon Mason.

Last week I was privileged to record on video and audio the 50th anniversary of Woodwalton Fen as a National Nature Reserve (NNR). The day was a wonderful celebration of photographs, nature walk and memories with a very distinguished collection of people who had been involved in the fen over the years.

The sun came out, two marsh harriers and a hobby took to the air as we walked along past the reed beds, meres and beautiful grasslands.

My favourite quote of the day, from the speech given by our director, Andy in the shadow of the Rothchild bungalow, was "Here I am with my wellies on, bins (binoculars) around my neck, a glass of champagne in my hand and standing here with you all at Woodwalton Fen, what more could anyone want."

I now have 60 minutes of video and more than 4 hours of audio on minidisc to process into a priceless momento of the day.

More importantly the sense of connection, of belonging was so strong you could amost see it physically. I hope everyone came away as inspired as I was at the dedication and determination of the people, how wonderfully peaceful and historic the fen landscape can be and how visionary and revolutionery are the future plans of joining up our existing reserves into one large fen as part of the 'Great Fen' Project.

Gaping Void

I had already got to the opinion that memes, stories, ideas and beliefs could be potent attractors.
Added to this a belief that when we watch someone carrying out an activity, be it rowing, digging or missing a penalty that 'mirror neurons' fire in our brains ad we therefore 'fully' experience the experience.

I was therefore greatful to the David Gurteen web site for pointing me in the direction of a fellow blogger - Hugh Macleod, a creative director who helps to explain how dopamine is the explanation for all these and a whole lot more in his blog entry gapingvoid: note to self: synapses.

Read for yourself about the neurological explanation of addiction and the darker way that marketing and advertisers are using this knowledge against us.

Every picture tells a story

"Spent some time feelin' inferior
standing in front of my mirror
Combed my hair in a thousand ways
but I came out looking just the same"
Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story

I remember back in 1973 going to see Rod Stewart and the Faces at Sunderland Mecca and the Sunderland AFC Team were on stage with them (at least I remember Billy Hughes was there). I recently discovered that it was a Geoff Docherty who I have to thank for booking such brilliant acts in those days, thanks Geoff.

Anyway, 31 years on I am trying out an 'attractor' of sorts at work whereby everyone is being invited to bring in their photographs especially those featuring group shots. We then intend to scan the best and circulate/produce a Photo Cd for all staff.

The essential intervention in all this however is the act of discussing the photos with friends and colleagues. My hope is that a greater sense of belonging (Cynefin in Welsh), both to English Nature and to each other, will emerge.

A new beginning

After about two years of seeing my blog appear in Google searches I have decided to give it another go so watch this space.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Comment Excellent TV

Although already part way through the series, anyone in Britain should stay in on Friday nights and watch the excellent new series of Bill Oddie goes wild. His relaxed manner, the beautiful scenery and wildlife and his knowledge of plants, birds and other beasties make it a very pleasurable half hour.

I was particularly interested in the way the show is all presented in the first person with him arriving, researching, observing and commenting on what he sees and finds. This is how Dave Snowden and Steve Denning recommend storytelling on their excellent masterclass and gave me a greater insight into how to make a story or in this case a programme more involving and how you relate more to the teller.

The proudest thing about the show is the credits, which in this episode at least, thanked English Nature amongst the other Wildlife organisations involved. I will have to find out who was involved and get the full story of 'Bill Oddie going wild'.

Comment - External presentations

One of the things I decided I would like to do when I got into this 'storytelling' was to break into the Conference presentation curcuit. By word of mouth I was recommended and asked onto a UNICOM conference and have now done at least 5 presentations mostly as case studies about our work in English Nature. The most recent was back in November as part of the KEPS (Knowledge Enabled Public Services) 2002 series which by the positive feedback I was sent seems to have been well received. If you look closely at the last photograph that is me in the centre with my back to the camera in the blue shirt and with the seventies haircut.

The most valuable thing for me about presenting at these conferences is the chance to meet other fellow enthusiasts and for each session you present you are re-paid with a free attendance of your choice. So it really is getting paid in knowledge for your knowledge.

During Coffee a fellow north-easterner (If only I had written down his name!) came up and we discussed our limited success with inviting people to come and tell their stories about a Nature Reserve. He said that in Northumberland they had tried to collect old photographs of an old mine and its workings. They took over a shop in the village and offered a free 'scan and enlarge' service to anyone with old photographs, thereby getting a scan copy for thyemselves.

What was fascinating was that small groups of locals began collecting round the photo's talking about their memories and anecdotes. I discussed this with Karen and we came up with the idea of a 'Time Team' approach. (for those that don't know Time Team is a televised three day team based rush to discover all there is to know about the history, archeology, people of various sites across Britain).

We are seriously considering trialling a three day event whereby we take a landscape ecologist, Botanist, Geologist, Aerial Photographs, site files etc and invite and encourage local interest whereby we capture the photographs and more important for me the anecdotes and oral history about the photographs, people, local landscape and wildlife for possible publication or part of our web-site. This for me is a good example of how two or more pieces of knowledge can be combined to create an exciting new innovative approach.

My next presentation for UNICOM is part of the Managing Knowledge 5 Day Conference in LOndon in March, my session is on the final Friday as part of Building Dynamic Communities of Practice. As usual I only have a few ideas at the moment so I will be trying to createe a completely new presentation for the event detailing the many types of communities we have (especially the smokers at the back door), the many stories about and within them and a particular emphasis on our experience at a number of National Nature Reserves where we have tried to pull together communities who have a common interest in the reserve.

I am also particularly looking forward to meeting David Gurteen of the Gurteen Knowledge Website who is chairing the day.

First apologies to my reader. It has been almost 4 months since I updated my blog but an enquiry from a fellow story enthusiast in the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario, Canada has made me realise just how powerful blogging can be.

I am now 5 months into my project and have spent most of the time building relationships, collecting source material and ideas and steeping myself in the wealth of material on the Internet and in our Library relating to knowledge, communities and stories.

The project staff resources has been doubled to two with the arrival of Karen who with her useful interests in Archeology, myths and solid Conservation experience in a local Team will I hope get us up into second gear. I hope shortly to add Karen to this Blog so that we can make it more lively, interesting and varied so watch this space.

Monday, September 23, 2002

COMMENT: I felt the earth move

Last week I made my first purchase from Amazon, using up my £3 discount for a first order, and bought The Tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell. I just knew that as I opened it I would be unable to put it down and continued reading it until after midnight, Sunday. I fully agree with it's 5 star rating. A very thought provoking book with ideas and descriptions which resonate so well with events and people around me. I couldn't help hoping that Peter Reid, the Sunderland Manager, had reached his tipping point after that dreadful performance in the Derby against Newcastle on Sky yesterday - I am so glad I am living away as I know how much stick my fellow 'mackems' will have to put up with until next April when we meet them again on home soil.

A Sunderland fan died and went to heaven. On his arrival at the pearly
gates he was met by St. Peter who explained that although they loved everyone
they drew the line at mackems fans and he wasn't allowed to come in. "That's not fair!"
said the Sunderland fan and continued to complain about his rejection.
"Can't you make an exception" he went on. "Ok" said St. Peter
"If you can prove to me you've done one act of bravery in your life I will let You in."
"But I have" said the Sunderland fan. "When Sunderland played Newcastle at the St James Park I
went on my own and I wore my Sunderland shirt my Sunderland hat my Sunderland scarf and I stood in the
middle of the Mags fans and I sang "Come on Sunderland" and
"Magpies are Crap" as loud as I could." St. Peter replied" that was very courageous,
and when did you do this brave deed". The Sunderland fan looked at his watch and said
"Oh about a minute ago!"

Anyway, I got to bed at 12:30 and woke at about 12:55 to hear what sounded like a Roman army storming through the downstairs of the house. I just lay there with the house shaking and a roar of noise and my wife wasn't roused until the cat came racing through terrified at whatever she had experienced. Being educated as a Geologist my top three options for what had just occurred were:
1. A huge lorry had backed into the house and demolished the wall
2. A Harrier Jump jet from nearby RAF bases had decided to practice hovering over the house
3. An abortive attempt by aliens to abduct me as the experiernce was identical to those on the X-files and a full moon lit up the windows.
It wasn't until 7am this morning that the notion of an earthquake entered my head, and I was immensely relieved to hear the many e-mails, texts and phonecalls which had similarly misunderstood this short but scarey experience.

I guess this experience will now be locked in with the rest of my knowledge for future recall.

Friday, September 20, 2002

COMMENT : IBM KM for Government Forum

Well the IBM conference went really well. Dave Snowden couldn't be found so I was asked to go on first and boy was I nervous, more than 50 people in the Great Hall of the very posh London Insurance Hall, and I was miked up and shown the video camera up on the balcony. I started fine and then in walked Dave Snowden and perfectly to cue, knowing his dislike of powerpoint, I crashed out of powerpoint and amateurishly tried to get the slideshow back up and running. I recovered OK and judging from the comments afterwards think that my retelling of the 'Badger Man' story from Ernest Neal's excellent book 'The Badger Man' was the story of the day.

I was also particularly proud that during our workshop on Communities that my suggestion of the 'Thursday night pub collective' was sited as a good example of a shadow organisation community. When asked how we regulate membership and prevent unwanted members from attending our regular meetings I replied "at 17:30 we simply change the venue".

I have since found out that Ernest died on Aril 19th 1998 but hopefully his stories live on to inspire enthusiasts of both Natural History and now Knowledge Management.

Again participating in events like these throws up the strangest encounters and I was approached by the sound engineer for the day who proceeded to tell me several very entertaining and 'lesson learning' stories of which I can only retell one of the five for fear of breaking Blog libel and obsenity regulations.

As he attached the microphone he said "make sure you switch it off when you are not presenting. At a recent conference this senior official walked out of the hall and without realising he was broadcasting to the entire audience proceeded to berate this poor junior official with an onslaught which would make Basil Fawlty look like Mother Theresa. On his return he was booed and was embarassingly told of his show stopping speech. In good storytelling fashion he reportedly then ran out and has not been seen since." Made me remember to switch the mike off immediately I had finished anyway.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

I've been studying storytelling for so long now that last night I dreamt I had written 'Lord of the Rings'.

My wife replied "Don't I know it, that's not the first time you've been Tolkien in your sleep".

SOURCE : Guardian Sat 14th Sept 2002

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