On Tuesday I went up to Rugby (the city) for a training day on leadership techniques. This was run by Straight Talking, and it was a freebie taster day, so we (people from various organisations) were able to try out a few activities, in the hope that we'll then persuade our companies to pay for the longer course later if we think it's worthwhile. This involved various outdoor activities, e.g. low ropes and high ropes, and was quite fun. Slightly to my surprise, it actually turned out to be quite relevant, too. (I'll expand this into a longer post later.) It was a bit of a hike (300 miles round trip), but it was good weather to go blasting up the motorway on my motorbike, and I suspect that there's some correlation between the speed I go and the number of squished bugs on my visor...
On Friday evening I went off to a Royal Institution lecture about consciousness and anaesthesia (hosted at the Royal Society of Medicine). It's the first RI event that I've actually attended, and I thought it was very interesting. The event was chaired by Baroness Greenfield, and she made a comment at the start that everyone was there by choice, because they actually want to exercise their minds. I think the two speakers did a good job of pitching their talks at the right level - they were aimed at a lay audience, but they still went into quite a lot of detail with diagrams of the brain, pictures of fMRI scans, and a description of the way that anti-matter is used in PET scans. I really must get round to reading my copy of Gray's Anatomy one of these days, although I suspect that some of the information may be a bit out of date by now (I have a reprint of the "classic" edition).
Yesterday (Saturday), I went off to an SJA training day, for driving theory. That went well, and I picked up some useful information. Basically, my driving licence covers me for pretty big vehicles (I've driven a Luton van when moving house), but St. John Ambulance have their own restrictions on who can drive minibuses/ambulances, mainly to keep their insurance premiums down. I've been reading through the Roadcraft books for motorbike/car (mainly written for police drivers, but useful for anyone), and the main point from them is to pick up on subtle clues, e.g. if the road is straight as far as you can see but then you can see the line of streetlights curving away to the right after the horizon then that implies that the road will have a bend ahead. Anyway, I passed the theory tests, so I'm now a category 4 driver. That doesn't mean much by itself, only as a stepping stone - I'm not allowed to drive a vehicle by myself, or carry passengers/casualties, but I can be observed by a facilitator. Once the facilitator is happy, I can move up to category 3, which means that I can drive around by myself (e.g. to practice on the minibus). After that, I can go for a two day training course, and (hopefully!) pass an advanced driving test to join IAM, at which point I'd become a category 2 driver for SJA - that means that I can carry passengers for non-emergency work, e.g. driving a minibus full of people to a duty. Category 1 involves blue-light calls, but it will probably be a while before I get to that level, since I'd really need to have the Ambulance Aid 2 qualification anyway. In the meantime, this may save me some money on my personal bike insurance, so that will be a nice fringe benefit.
Then in the evening, I went up to Stratford-upon-Avon to watch the RSC perform Much Ado About Nothing, which I really enjoyed. I studied that play at school (A Level English Literature), so I know it pretty well - our class watched pretty much every version that was available on video, and I was in the school's performance as 3rd Watchman (back before I realised that my enthusiasm for acting outstripped my ability). This version was set in 1950s Cuba, which seemed a bit odd at first, but worked pretty well; they kept all the original dialogue, so there were just some of the physical aspects that were changed (e.g. the moped). I must admit, this is the first time I've seen it performed with a blatantly gay subtext between two of the characters, but that fitted in remarkably well.
The main thing that struck me about it was that it worked well purely on its own merits as a romantic comedy; rather than having the "culture vultures" suffering through it on the grounds that it's Shakespeare and therefore must have some Artistic Merit, the whole audience was laughing because it really was funny. As for the dialogue, I probably had an advantage, but for the most part I'd say that it was easy to understand. Basically, it's more formal than the way in which people normally speak, but I'd say that it's probably equivalent to Madame de Pompadour (from last week's Doctor Who episode) - she impressed me by being so articulate and eloquent, such as her line about angels and demons. ("One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.") Coming back to the play, there was also quite a bit of physical comedy, which I think was introduced by this particular director, but is consistent with some of Shakespeare's other plays (e.g. Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream).
The theatre design was slightly unusual, in that the stage was surrounded by the audience on three sides. That did mean that you'd miss out on a few things if you were sitting in the wrong place, but on the whole it worked pretty well. We had front-row seats, which gave a great view. So, that was a fun evening, and it was good to catch up with some friends who I haven't seen in a couple of months.
Meanwhile, I've been planning my summer holiday; I've booked time off work so that I can head down to Cornwall for a week in July, so I'm looking forward to that.