In Sapa, Vietnam

In Sapa, Vietnam

About Me

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Sharing time between Southampton and Noyal-Muzillac in southern Brittany. Sports coach, gardener, hockey player, cyclist and traveller. I studied an MA in Management and Organisational Dynamics at Essex University in 2016-17. Formerly an Operations Manager with NEC Technologies (UK) Ltd.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Pictures in the Imagination

Thomas Nicoll Hepburn (1861–1930) writing under his pseudonym Gabriel Setoun authored the following poem beautifully describing the tracery of frost left on the Velux windows at La Basse Cour this morning as the outside temperature plunged to -3C.

Jack Frost

The door was shut, as doors should be,
 Before you went to bed last night;
Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,
 And left your window silver white.

He must have waited till you slept;
 And not a single word he spoke,
But pencilled o’er the panes and crept
 Away again before you woke.

And now you cannot see the hills
 Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;
But there are fairer things than these
 His fingers traced on every pane.

Rocks and castles towering high;
 Hills and dales, and streams and fields;
And knights in armour riding by,
 With nodding plumes and shining shields.

And here are little boats, and there
 Big ships with sails spread to the breeze;
And yonder, palm trees waving fair
 On islands set in silver seas,

And butterflies with gauzy wings;
 And herds of cows and flocks of sheep;
And fruit and flowers and all the things
 You see when you are sound asleep.

For, creeping softly underneath
 The door when all the lights are out,
Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe,
 And knows the things you think about.

He paints them on the window-pane
 In fairy lines with frozen steam;
And when you wake you see again
 The lovely things you saw in dream.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017


The temperature at La Basse Cour is usually a couple of degrees warmer than the south of England, but that doesn't mean we don't get frosts. At the weekend we had the first real hard frost of the year:

GĂ©rard has been telling me since September it is going to be a hard winter starting by getting very cold at the end of November. Since he spends all his working week on a roof exposed to the elements he has an interest in these things. 

Despite my scepticism he has proved accurate so far ....

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Autumn Colours

The seasons run a little later here than our previous home in the south of England and in other years the leaves on our trees have hung on until December then gone brown and fallen off. This year the autumn has been much brighter, maybe it's the dry year we've had (our spring has been dry since May).

Here are a few shots from around the grounds taken this week:

The ornamental cherries beginning to lose their leaves

Last burst of colour for another of our cherries

The mixed beech hedge planted in 2011 well established now

Actually over the road from us but a beautiful silver birch in Lucien's former garden

Our newly named "Sulphur Oak'

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Contrasting Emotions of Victory and Defeat - A Psychoanalytic Approach

This article reproduces part of my dissertation research project for an MA in Management and Organisational Dynamics at Essex University

Players in a sports team can derive much joy from victory. It gives a real sense of satisfaction that all the personal sacrifice has been worthwhile and provides a cathartic release from the fear of failure, shame and humiliation. Equally, defeat can cast a shadow of gloom and despair over the participants for days, weeks, sometimes years or the rest of their career. In spectator sports these emotions also extend to the vicarious participants, the sporting fans.

"Some people think football is a matter of
 life and death. I don't like that attitude. 
I can assure them it is much more serious than that" [1]

Why do people play sport and thus willingly expose themselves to the risk of these extreme opposing emotions? This question can only be answered by understanding how participants deal with the uncertainty of success and the unpredictability of failure, the very essence and attraction of sport.

I have played in, coached and watched competitive team sport for over forty years. I have observed teams who appeared invincible and who played with belief, skill, stamina and trust in their teammates to overcome the opposition. Equally, I have seen teams where players seemed openly to question their desire to be on the pitch, where the normal behaviour was aggression, team members distrusted each other and defeat was the inevitable outcome of stepping onto the pitch. Often, confusingly, one emotional extreme was followed a week later by the opposite with the same team and participants. As Lionel Stapley states in the title of his book “It’s an emotional game” (2002).

The conventional view holds that teams are happiest and most fulfilled in the elation of victory and most desolate in the reality of defeat. Yet there is also a value placed on the importance of being a ‘good loser’ and playing a fair game according to the rules. This Corinthian ideal, rooted in the British education system, assumed that sport could teach, on the playing field, virtues complementary to those learnt in the classroom - team spirit, fair play, bravery, pluck, swiftness of judgment, deference to arbitration, attention to detail and mastery of rules (Fernández-Armesto, 2009). In contrast to these desirable qualities, there are examples of teams or individuals who are viewed as bad winners and seen as arrogant, triumphant, narcissistic, mean or cruel in their victories.

Victory and Defeat - The Contrasting Emotions

I found little research in this area, where it exists it is found within the separate areas of sports psychology and psychoanalytic consideration of sportspeople undertaking individual sports such as golf, swimming or athletics. Many sports teams actively utilise a sports psychologist to assist them in preparing for, and responding to, competitive engagement. In the field of research, the focus of sports psychology appears to rest largely on motivation, preparation for competition and managing the subsequent response to results. These psychological techniques rely on visualisation and cognitive approaches and frequently address the issue of athlete arousal (in this application arousal refers to the intensity of involvement in the activity). They do not, however, appear to consider the source or cause of anxieties or how the  environment contributes to the reaction of the athlete.

The former test cricketer and Endland captain Mike Brearley (who qualified as a psychoanalyst on his retirement from cricket) is one of those who considered how psychoanalysis  could contribute to understanding how sports teams operate. I found that sources on psychoanalytic considerations in sport are mainly concerned with individual sports such as athletics, golf and tennis. In his book It’s an Emotional Game, Lionel Stapley (2002) wrote about his experiences from three years consulting to a manager of a professional football team in the English Football League. Stapley’s work included a psychoanalytic analysis of stress and considered the effect of anxiety on performance. One of the most compelling contributions has been made by John-Henry Carter who reflected on his experiences of playing rugby union as a professional player, his retirement and subsequent return to competitive play. Carter explicitly thought about issues of victory and defeat in team sport from the perspective of a player who was, at the time, a trainee psychoanalyst. It was immersion research; drawing conclusions from personal, direct experience and living within the day-to-day reality of a sports team. 

I differentiate psychology, which focusses primarily on psychological considerations of the individual, and the distinctly separate method of psychodynamically interpreting the behaviours of sports teams by understanding hidden subconscious feelings and beliefs of individuals and how, in turn, these influence their teammates and the team’s performance. 

In 1992, Daniel Begel, a specialist in sports psychiatry, reviewed team sports in his field and commented on the lack of relevant work. He observed that, “consulting work with athletic teams, whose primary mission is to win, needs to be reported on and understood in the context of … group therapy”. Begel was writing twenty-five years ago and it appears that there have been only limited contributions in the intervening period. 

It was this gap in the field of knowledge that I decided to investigate.

[1] Quote attributed to Bill Shankley, OBE, manager of Liverpool FC between 1959 and 1974.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

A Sabbatical from ......

This is the 300th time I've sat down to post in this blog ...... 

For the past thirteen months my twitter account has described me as "On an academic sabbatical at Essex University studying an MA".

The Chambers Dictionary defines a sabbatical as "relating to, or resembling, the Sabbath; enjoying or bringing rest; on or relating to leave from one's work (as in sabbatical leave, sabbatical visit, etc). --- n a period of leave from one's work, esp for teachers and lecturers, also esp to undertake a separate or related project."

I hadn't reflected on the derivation of sabbatical from the word Sabbath, certainly my year didn't involve a lot of rest and I wasn't on leave from my work in any very meaningful way. Although many of the teachers or lecturers I know would value a period of leave from one's work, I don't know of any who have actually taken one. Chambers hits the target in the last clause, however, I certainly was undertaking a separate project.

After six years living in France, primarily working with my hands although applying my mind in a very different way to what I was used to, I felt ready for a change and a return to more cerebral studies. 

Essex University was a good place to study - I had some issues with the teaching methods on my course and some of the "laissez-faire" approaches of academia drove us both crazy at times. 

I'll reflect a bit more on returning to student life after 34 years in some future blog posts but in the next few posts I'll include some parts of my final dissertation study on a psychoanalytic interpretation of victory and defeat in sporting teams.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A good year for ...... the Butterflies

.The Spring this year was mainly cool and damp, it wasn't until June that we really got any warm Summer weather. Not good weather for Butterflies to hatch, grow as caterpillars, pupate and hatch.

Since mid June we've had hardly any rain and it's been warm and frequently hot, the garden flowers have been spectacular (at least where we have managed to irrigate with water from the well). Perfect weather and conditions for Butterflies. And we've been rewarded with a spectacular show beautifully recorded in Barbara's photographs.

Not usually found in the British Isles this is a Map, second brood. An interesting insect as the first brood has completely different colours and markings. (On Dahlia)

A perfect Red Admiral (on Dahlia)

The Peacock has been seen frequently but is a difficult subject to capture (On Aster)

My favourite, the Comma. I love the beautifully sculpted wings. (On Lavender)

A stunning picture of a newly hatched second brood Swallowtail. (On Verbena)

A slightly damaged Swallowtail was around the garden for a week and a half - missing an eye! (on Verbena)

New sighting this year - a Painted Lady. This remarkable butterfly migrates to Africa in the Autumn covering 150km a day and overwinters in Morocco and Mali. (On Lavender)

A Holly Blue (on Aster)

Friday, 10 June 2016

The car knows better ....

There are, I once read somewhere, 89 (or maybe it was 106, I forget now) computers on our eight year old Honda. One of them runs a piece of software called TSA and for eight years and 112,000 miles it's done ...... absolutely nothing at all apart from monitor and check and keep an electronic eye on things.

Then, as I gingerly pulled the caravan past a lorry on the A10 Autoroute heading towards Bordeaux a combination of crosswinds and an unstable air flow around the front of the truck caused the caravan to begin to snake alarmingly behind us. It was the most extreme snaking I'd ever experienced and as I reacted in the standard way (foot off the accelerator, damp out the swings with gentle steering) TSA checked whether the car or the caravan was causing the swaying, analysed if it was getting worse, decided it was dangerous, concluded my driving wasn't up to it and something much more significant needed to be done. It engaged the four-wheel drive and began dramatically applying the brakes individually to counteract the snaking, in a couple of seconds things were back to normal. The truck driver spotted the problem and slowed down to let me back across and onto the safety of the hard shoulder (at the noise of the brakes coming on and off we said "Tyre's blown out" to each other at exactly the same time). It hadn't and so after 30 seconds to collect ourselves we headed on again.

TSA has gone back to monitoring, watching and doing nothing until it's needed (hopefully it won't ever get to that again). 

It's a rather strange feeling when your car decides it's a better driver than you are and takes control away from you. In fact distinctly unsettling in hindsight but maybe another reason to buy Honda again ..... 

Aiming to get the CRV past 200,000 miles first before that time comes though.