Happy New Year of the Monkey!

One of the joys of Chinese New Year is that celebrations traditionally go on for 16 days … so there’s plenty of time to send out new year greetings!!

2016 begins the year of the Monkey. In celebration of this we thought we’d share with you a story of great achievement in a tiny monkey’s life:

An animated monkey in a space suit trying to grab a banana.

Miss Baker – The first American astronaut to survive a trip into space
On May 28th 1959, Miss Baker (a tiny squirrel monkey) and Able (a slightly bigger rhesus monkey) blasted off on a 16 minute mission into space. For the first time the NASA rocket and its astronauts returned safely home. Previous to that, only fruit flies and corn seeds had survived the journey. Sadly though Able died only four days later.

After a flurry of media attention (including an appearance on the cover of Life Magazine) Miss Baker retired from the space business. She went on to have a long and pampered life, during which she lived on cottage cheese and bananas and received fan mail from thousands of schoolchildren. She was married twice, first to Big George and then to Norman, neither of whom went anywhere special or did anything of note.

Miss Baker passed away in 1984 aged 27, at that point also holding the record for longest living squirrel monkey. She is buried at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Alabama where, to this day, admirers leave bananas on her headstone.

If you were born in : 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, or 2004, you are a Monkey and this is your year!

Some monkey ‘facts’:
Monkeys are witty, intelligent (obviously) and mischievous. They are hard workers, fast learners and crafty opportunists.
Lucky numbers: 1, 7 and 8
Lucky colours: white, blue and gold
Lucky directions: north, northwest and west (really?)
Lucky fruit: bananas (not really)

Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Mo and Dave

Halloween Phone

Spooky animated gif of a phone

Thanks to the web and mobiles our land lines have been getting less and less use.
As we have two numbers (One originally for a fax!), we thought it kinder to put one of them out of its misery and give it a decent burial. Halloween seemed the appropriate time to do it.

IATEFL and fear of speaking

Viv and Mo at the Macmillan stand at IATEFL 2015

It is said that people fear speaking in public more than they fear dying. That’s what everyone told me as I prepared to deliver my first talk ever! And, having spent my whole life managing to avoid both of the above, I can believe it.

But recently I spoke at the IATEFL 2015 conference, in Manchester, with my co-author and friend, Viv Lambert. We were there with Macmillan Education, speaking about storytelling as a way to explore critical thinking with children (the main feature of our course, Story Central). Viv has much more experience in speaking and had just returned from a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, giving talks and workshops. But she still gets nervous, and referred to IATEFL as the ‘biggie’ (not helping, Viv!)

As a bit of an introvert the prospect of this talk terrified me, and the only way to deal with it was to do everything I could possibly imagine to prepare for it. We wrote and rewrote, designed and redesigned – determined not to subject our audience to death by Powerpoint. We rehearsed together via Skype. I read a lot and asked people for advice (thank you Mark Trezona, of BridgeBuilders, for sharing fantastic tips and a wealth of experience with me). I walked, recited, meditated and even ironed some clothes (that’s serious!) By the time we arrived at the conference, in theory, I knew what I had to do and what I needed to say. What I didn’t know, however, was whether my body would disown my brain just when they really needed to cooperate with each other. Thankfully it didn’t.

OK I admit it, it actually felt quite exciting as it all came together on the day, and Viv and I had a lot of fun doing this as a team. The nerves I assumed would debilitate me manifested as a sort of heightened alertness. I was surprisingly calm, I didn’t lose the ability to speak or move, and neither of us threw up or died. Result!



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