Growing Groups

Working for the Voluntary Sector in Hastings

Ending the Universe on the Right Note

We’ve been having a bit of a discussion at work about the end of the universe, which if you didn’t already know, may be scheduled for this Wednesday. This is the day when the people at CERN turn on the Hadron Collider in search of the sub atomic particle called Higgs Boson. Apparently, the moment the collider gets up to full power goes there is a very small chance that all the energy focussed on a few accelerated atoms fired at one another in an effort to create a ‘beginning of the universe moment,  will also create a black hole. The immensely strong gravitational field will then of course suck everything into it, resulting in the end of the universe.

The first I knew about this was a programme on the telly at the weekend, hosted by the former D:Ream keyboards player Brian Cox,  according to the telly programme he’s not only a keyboard player but also a nuclear physicist and who works on the CERN accelerator!

My work colleagues were naturally quick to grasp a number of perhaps less well considered aspects of all this, showing a particular interest in whether there were likely to be any other big name musicians working on the project, who will also therefore  be playing a pivotal role in the future of the universe on Wednesday.

There wasn’t much doubt that Kraftwerk would be employed in some capacity, since most of them also played keyboards and have a fair amount of technical skills. That bloke from 1970s band Sparks was also a racing cert – well the band is called Sparks so that must help.

On the same keyboards theme Rick Wakeman – already showing proven flexibility as a Countdown competitor  – may well be involved with some of the super conductivity stuff. Don’t forget he has a considerable amount of dry ice experience when staging some of his worst work like all those ice spectaculars in earlier decades.

We were also all in agreement that Mick and Keith have probably taken some time off from the corner shop over the past few years to help bring the project in on time.  Also, if celestial surnames were anything to go by, there may even have been career openings for Keith Moon and Edwin Starr.

So the key question that remains for you to answer is:

Which other musicians would you suspect are ‘moonlighting’ with jobs at the CERN particle accelerator – and what do you feel are the possible implications for the future of the Universe as a result of their role on the project:-)


September 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sync my Voluntary Sector

I’ve been fiddling about with a bit of software called ‘SyncMyCal’ this morning.  This is the tool identitied to help all the Councils for Voluntary Service (CVS) in East Sussex to provide one single web based calendar for training and event information.

SyncMyCal is a widget that sits with your Outlook Calendar Toolbars and allows multiple users of a google calendar to update their own entries at the press of a button. Its been possible to upload a single Outlook calendar to Google page as a freebee for some time – without any extra software – but the problem comes when you want to update existing information (because this is when you want some items deleted, some added and others amended).

Now with The final google calendar can be stuck in any web page

The AskCaspar website presently holds a copy of the google calendar which all East Sussex CVS’s will be able to send information too, but it’s pritty easy to past the same calendar into any of the websites of the contributing Councils for Voluntary Service.

I’ve also had a quick go at this on the Hastings Voluntary Action website in preparation for the glorious day.

August 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oiling the wheels

Someone has lost a filing cabinet key at work – not me I should add –  but as ‘Information Officer’ I pitch in to learn all about filing cabinet locks and how to order new keys. So if you ever want to know all about what the digits and numbers here is a very handy piece about it.

I’m in anorak heaven today, since I’m now listing our website on an excel worksheet. As the site grows I need to log what tasks need attending to on each of the different pages. Excel has turned out to be a really useful tool for doing this, because you can use individual rows for progress with specific pages, with hyperlinks to the specific pageson the web and  columns for dates and  work that still needs to be done. to be done

Look at that, I’ve now discovered other people living in anorak heaven too!







July 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Googlemaster of the Universe (ish)

How happy am I at work today? Very happy thank you.


In my life, there are little things that please my mildly obsessional mind in ways that more rounded individuals would probably find rather troubling. Today I am chuckling (though only inwardly, since I share my workspace with others) because by careful crafting of meta tags I have clawed our website up the greasy pole of Google UK, we now have top rating when you type in the letters HVA. So take that, Hackney Voluntary Action and the Herpes Virus Association, you are no longer top dogs, from now on Hastings Voluntary Action have top position on the prime interweb search engine – result!


Climbs Around London


















Yesterday evening my wanderings took me to Stone Farm, a long way from Hastings but a beautiful sunny and breezy evening on a sandstone outcrop not too far from Forest Row and Crawley. Playing on the rocks with other members of the Hastings Rock and Fell Club was really good fun. Stone Farm Rocks have some really good boldering and some extremely good bolderers (people who bolder), here is a youtube of someone called Danny Coleman making light work of a difficult Stone Farm bolder problem to give you an idea of the games climbers play.


Stone Farm bolder problem


And while we are in that neck of the woods, a reference is due to possibly the best ‘knock my town’ website I’ve yet to see on the web. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you This is Haywards Heath (don’t forget to turn the sound up).

Lunch time already, and  too much of this morning has been taken up dealing with information and potted history from the Hubs and Capacity Builders websites.  After much chasing of dead links and sifting through lots of ‘management speak’ this has all been boiled down to pritty much three lines of text and three links to go on the Group Support page of our own website. My view is that most voluntary organisations and community groups probably don’t give a monkeys about where everything came from, which organisation morphed into, collaborated with or partnered who ever else, so none of that gubbins gets on to our website.



This exercise has been of considerable benefit to me, in part because I now have a greater historical understanding of the restructuring of voluntary and community sector support services at a national level, but more practically because I have learned that if you keep the shift button pressed down when you click something in the ‘Other Places’ menu on the left hand side of an XP window it opens a new window



June 26, 2008 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, Uncategorized, voluntary | Leave a comment

Eridge is nice

Well Eridge Green turned out to be a brilliant place to climb. The site was pretty much deserted except for our Wednesday club meet.  The climbs were all in reasonable condition (that’s climbing talk for dry and not covered in green slime) and very few biting insects.

I’ve been adding some more stuff to our website at work today on the subject of Seedcorn Grants. This is a pot of money made available for voluntary and community groups by East Sussex County Council. Councils for Voluntary Service across East Sussex are becoming more involved in the applications process for small grants from a variety of statutory bodies – which makes good sense since CVS’s accumulate the most comprehensive information on the voluntary and community sector in each local area.  

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Something New

I’m off to Eridge Green this evening, tucked off the main A26 and quieter than Harrisons Rocks for some reason.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Future Charcoal Slump

I’ve been updating some more of our work website today, namely the pages advertising volunteer vacancies.


A few years ago, when I was a skint local government councillor and balancing my time between changing the world and low paid temp work – I started editing web pages by getting a book on HTML from the local charity shop. After this, I just played about by pinched the source code from interesting sites and tried adapting it for the types of pages I wanted – when people are being nice they call this ‘standing on the shoulders of others’. All this has been useful grounding for using web editing software, because no matter what package you use, you always have to go back and ‘unpick’ things that go wrong on pages by reading the code every now and again. In fact I’ve never actually bought any software for web editing and at the moment I use a freebee download called NVU for web editing


And upload pages to our hosting company server using another freebee FTP package from coreftp


The end result is that you can get a useful website on line for about £50 a year.


Cycling in to work today I noticed my ‘local’ Shell garage was deserted and the conversation at the office has started to touch on lack of petrol and how people are dealing with this. My own anxiety presently extends as far as the possibility of a run on 3 in 1 at Halfords, but I’m sure the whole thing will become far more real to me later in the week when I need to go back up to Reading again. And what happens to all the other things that petrol stations sell while this is going on, is there going to be a slump in the charcoal briquette market?

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A ballanced weekend


I don’t know where the title ‘ballanced weekend’ comes from – maybe its a  mixture of the song Funky Weekend and the Audit Commission methodology of a ballanced score card – who knows.


Anyway, I drove back to Hastings early on Sunday morning and grabbed an enjoyable enjoyable few hours on the allotment. The spuds needed earthing up, I used an old washing line to make some wires for the loganberries to grow on, staked a red current bush – which was listing badly with the weight of fruit – I harvested the seeds of the poached egg plant for next years green manure and removed all the field bind weed from the lavender.


Got back to work and realised that I was in grave danger of missing the date by which we have to reregister our domain name. So I quickly stumped up the cash on-line before someone else bought the name and tried to sell it back to us at a huge profit. Here is a top tip, over the years I’ve discovered that its best to get one company to hold your domain name and another one to provide hosting. That way, if the quality of the hosting gets worse you can quickly get someone else to do this for you and redirect the name towards a new company.


Also uploaded the pics from the Certificate in Community Volunteering Awards Ceremony to our flickr account. I always put pics on the Flickr account because its a presence elsewhere on the web which creates an extra route into  (in the same way that that did) and helps boost our google rating.




June 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Places change

I spent last weekend in Reading, doing some probate stuff, clearing out rubbish that my late Father had accumulated and helping my Mum sort out the blackberry bushes in the garden. If you want to grow briar fruit you have to make sure the new runners are trained in one direction for next years crop, while the 2 year old flowering stems are left to do their thing for this years fruit. I’ve learned that this is a painful process if left too long into the summer.


I’ve had an allotment for years but I’m learning that suburban gardening is very different. It seems to involve a healthy amount of ‘over the garden fence’ conversation with neighbours. For me this generates a slightly hesitant edge, because I’m now catching up with people who I haven’t really seen for about thirty years.


I’m learning to respond to ‘Hello stranger, what have you been up to?’ by reducing the last thirty years to ‘oh this and that and how are you?’ Then, because of the age of most of Mums neighbours, the conventional thing is to exchange some anecdotes about the NHS.


Like most people on their estate Mum and Dad moved in during the 1960s, and together with the rest of the road they all grew old together. Over the years, the original open plan areas of grass between the houses were gradually converted into a forest of overgrown garden centre shrubs and lap larch alley ways. The architects’ were originally inspired by creating a housing scheme with all the roads on one side of the houses and all the paths on the other side. This helped to keep cars away from pedestrians and kept the profits of the construction company up, because they saved one pavement for every row of houses. But over the years the open paths and houses set on individual open plan lawns have given way to fenced off gardens and narrow alleys. So the alleys become abandoned and everyone walks down the roads because they feel safer for pedestrians.

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dealing with death

I’m glad to be back at work after a couple of weeks off, following the death of my dad, which was a not entirely unexpected event, though still traumatic for my mum, who has drifted into being his full time carer for the last couple of years.


Both my sister and I live on the South Coast about 100 miles away from Reading , so there has been much travelling and many overnight bags packed and unpacked in the past fortnight. But we’ve muddled through (as most people do) in the endless round of death certificates, post mortem, undertaker, registrar, ministers, funeral arrangements, catering, invitations, ceremony, strewing of ashes, probate applications, building society and bank negotiations, pension adjustments, council tax recalculations etc, etc.


So being back at work feels just fine at the moment because while its important its nothing thats a matter of life and death.




May 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment