It seemed a fair bet that the phrase: Stephen Sterling and the Gruffalo – has not been written very frequently if at all. I thought to check, and the best that my (un-Google) search engine could come up with was: Education for Sustainability by Stephen Sterling, John Huckle ... which brought a wry smile to my face.
My putting them together is because they were, in very different ways, two highlights (one was actually a lowlight) of recent trips down 'the peninsular' – which is how those of us quartered safely in Wiltshire think of the four counties to the south / south-west of us. I made three visits in the space of 10 days which shows an unusual dedication to travel.
The first was to go to Stephen's 'retirement do' in Plymouth which was in the grip of some mercifully-attenuated hurricane that had belted across the Atlantic. It was wild 'n' wet outside, but the canapés were fine, the wine was dry, and the Deputy-VC's speech of appreciation was brief, pertinent and well judged. The university has emeritised Stephen and it hopes that he will continue to work with staff and management as they continue in their development as a sustainable university. Stephen's response was more pointed, setting out the agenda of unfinished business that the university has if it is to make a success of such development. There are, of course, limits to what one Emeritus Professor can do without significant resource and tangible top-management support, including money. It was a nice occasion and it was good to be there, even if it did mean an interminable, uncomfortable time on Last Great Western whose stations get more poorly appointed the farther you are from London.
I came across the Gruffalo in a Cornish wood c/o the Forestry Commission's dalliance with Julia Donaldson. There were various interpretation boards along the paths drawing attention to forest animals, including the G. However, you had to use a Smart phone App to access some of the information – so much for communing with nature I thought, if impulses from a brumal wood are dependent on apps. To make matters worse, we were all being encouraged to look for red squirrels, the nearest of which must have been well over 100 miles away. It was a spectacular walk in parts and there was a forest school in the middle of it.
The third trip was to Dorset – profound England. It's always a pleasure to be there even if I do travel with some trepidation because of the squirearchy's predilection for locking up first-time offenders. Anyway, the highlight was following an (obviously polluting) VW car whose owner had converted the rear VW badge into a Devil logo complete with horns, tail and trident. I took this to be an admission that the poor bloke was stuck with a smelly heap of junk, and had concocted a DIY comment on the injustice of it all. However, I later discovered that the kit is available (for any brand) on the web for a modest price. It would look really good on my VW Electric Up!, but as that is one of the few VW cars that doesn't spew out noxious gases, it seems inappropriate. I was in Dorset to visit the magnificent Etches Collection.
But back to Stephen. My wishes for a happy retirement is qualified only by the desire that he uses it to write ...