Friday, 21 March 2008

New social group and support for special needs parents

A NEW social club for children in West Somerset with special needs and a support group for parents has been formed.
Information about the group will be shared by Action4Sen at a meeting being held in the Queen’s Hall, Minehead, at 11 am on Tuesday.
Action4Sen was set up last year by parents who were concerned at Somerset County Council cuts in school budgets for special needs provision.
It is campaigning for the council to return special needs funding to the level it was at before last August and also to stop the closure of any more special needs units in Somerset.
The group wants funding to be ring fenced funding to enable SEN assessments to be carried out fully to a national standard, as well as a review of present SEN facilities to allow the service to perform in the top quartile in the country within two years.
Following suggestions by parents for a social group to be formed, Action4SEN has met with CLOWNS, Social Services, and other parents in the area to discuss this idea.
As a result, the first meeting of the new social group will take place during the Easter school holidays at Alcombe Methodist Church Hall on April 10 from 10 am to 12 noon.
It is open to children with special needs, their siblings, parents, and carers, and offers a coffee and a chat with other parents and a chance to discuss how the group could develop.
A play activity box will be provided by Clowns.
More information is available from Siobhan Hutchings on 01643-707481 or by visiting the website

Pupils on the Easter egg trail at Dunster Castle

LOCAL families looking to celebrate Easter in a more traditional style can take part in a number of themed activities in the National Trust-owned Dunster Castle at the weekend.
They include an Easter trail supported by confectionery company Cadbury, which will give an Easter egg to every child who completes the trail.
Other family fun activities for visitors include face-painting, children’s entertainment, and an Easter themed play area.
The Easter trail involves egg hunters following a map around the National Trust site and visiting ‘trail’ points and collecting clues.
The events run from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Cadbury’s support of the National Trust Easter Trail is part of the company’s ‘Purple goes Green’ initiative, a programme to reduce its impact on the environment.
Cadbury ‘Egghead’ Easter eggs, which are the trail prizes, are unboxed and so use 70 per cent less cardboard packaging than the equivalent sized egg, creating less waste.
The confectionery company is contributing £150,000 to the National Trust Ancient Trees and Woodland conservation programme as part of the Easter Trail activity and its commitment to the environment.
For further details of activities and other participating properties go to
  • Our photograph shows pupils from Minehead Middle School helping to launch the South West National Trust Easter Egg Trail at Dunster Castle, supported by Cadbury. Photo submitted.

Funeral arrangements confirmed for Sir Arthur

THE funeral of Sir Arthur C Clarke will be held at the General Cemetery in Colombo tomorrow (Saturday), March 22, at 3.30 pm.
In keeping with Sir Arthur’s wishes, the entire funeral will be a low key, secular event with no religious rites, decorations or speeches.
However, both the funeral house and the funeral are open to the public.
“Sir Arthur did not wish to have any involvement by either British or Sri Lankan governments,” said his spokesman Nalaka Gunawardene.
“To that extent, there is nothing official about the funeral. But his friends, fans and admirers are free to pay their respects.
“We recognise that he was a public figure.
“Sir Arthur’s family deeply appreciates the very large number of condolence messages coming in from all over the world.
“These indicate the enormous respect and affection Sir Arthur inspired in so many people.”
The author’s remains now lie at his home at 25, Barnes Place, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka.
Since March 19, when Sir Arthur died aged 90, the family has politely declined many offers of banners and other forms of display of sympathy, as Sir Arthur asked not put up structures or decorations of any kind.
One exception is flowers, which are accepted.
In a signed letter left with his family and staff in mid-2007, Sir Arthur gave precise instructions for his funeral.
His final resting place is to be the family burial plot owned by his adopted Ekanayake family at the Colombo Cemetery.
Sir Arthur, who was born in Minehead, shared his Colombo house with Hector and Valerie Ekanayake, and their three daughters Cherene, Tamara and Melinda.
They will all be at the funeral.
Sir Arthur’s brother Fred Clarke has already arrived in Colombo, and sister Mary is due Friday night.
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke died at Colombo’s Apollo Hospital on March 19 early morning (Sri Lanka time) from respiratory complications.
He was also suffering from post-polio syndrome since the early 1990s, which confined him to a wheelchair for the past decade.
Photo of Sir Arthur by Shahidul Alam.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Hannah making steady progress in North Pole solo record attempt

EXPLORER Hannah McKeand was this week making steady progress in her bid to become the first woman to ski solo and unsupported to the North Pole.
Hannah, aged 34, who was raised in Watchet, where her mother Julian Burbury still lives, had travelled about 30 nautical miles north almost a fortnight into the expedition.
Although she still has around another 386 nautical miles to cover in about 46 days, her operations manager Steve Jones said the first section of the route was especially difficult and exceptionally small mileages were normal.
Mr Jones said Hannah’s progress so far was not an indication of how far she would be able to travel in a day later on.
In her log of the adventure, Hannah reported travelling barely two to three nautical miles in an eight-hour day, and on her worst day she had managed just 1.5 miles in seven-and-a-half hours.
However, Hannah said: “It might be tough terrain out here and the temperature is sitting at around the -45 degree mark, but I am experiencing the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets that give me beautiful pink skies most of the day.
“Against the white snow, this makes for stunning scenery and I am loving it out here.”
As well as the extreme cold, which at one point caused a tent pole to shatter, Hannah has had to cope with flat light and poor visibility, including a complete ‘white out’ which meant she kept bumping into things she would normally have found her way around.
On top of the weather conditions, there have been huge pressure ridges to negotiate and the constant movement and cracking of the ice, and several times she has had to risk stepping down to sea level and trusting her weight to refrozen sea water.
On her satellite phone, Hannah described laying awake at night and listening to the ice cracking and groaning around her.
The extreme conditions have caused wear and tear on her equipment and she has already had to carry out some running repairs.
It has also caused her to fall several times, and on one occasion in poor visibility she fell and injured her shoulder.
Although the plan was to ski most of the way, Hannah has found that she has made better progress wearing snow shoes.
Hannah’s progress can be followed on the website

Three last wishes of Sir Arthur

SCIENCE fiction author and inventor of the communications satellite Sir Arthur C. Clarke passed away on Tuesday after a brief illness. He was aged 90 years.
He died at Colombo’s Apollo Hospital from respiratory complications with his business partner Hector Ekanayake, who heads his adopted Sri Lankan family, with him to the end, along with his office and household staff.
Sir Arthur had also been suffering from post-polio syndrome since the early 1990s, which confined him to a wheelchair for the past decade.
Mr Ekanayake said Sir Arthur remained alert and active throughout his recent illness.
He was also in regular contact with his literary agents, publishers, and officials of the non-profit Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, which is based in Washington, USA.
Only a few days ago, Sir Arthur reviewed the final manuscript of his latest science fiction novel, The Last Theorem.
Co-written with the American author Frederik Pohl, the book is to be published later this year.
Sir Arthur is survived by his brother Fred and sister Mary, who both live locally. Their youngest brother, Michael, predeceased him.
Fred Clarke and his youngest daughter Judith were yesterday (Wednesday) travelling to Sri Lanka to attend the funeral.
Fred’s other daughter, Angie, who is a director of the foundation, will, by coincidence, be attending the annual prizegiving ceremony at Richard Huish College, Taunton, tonight (Thursday) with fellow director Peter Marshall, to present a new award, the Arthur C. Clarke prize for innovation.
The foundation had already agreed to donate the award and a bursary to the winning student at Sir Arthur’s old school.
The college has previously named its learning resources centre in honour of Sir Arthur.
Mr Marshall told The Post Sir Arthur’s illness during the past few months meant that his death had not been totally unexpected.
He said: “The job of the foundation is to promote his name and his legacy and perpetuate his name and all his good works all around the world, both on the fiction side and the science side of his life.
“We will continue to do this in the future with even more vigour since his legacy depends on us.”
Mr Marshall said he was aware that Fred Clarke had led previous attempts to set up an Arthur C. Clarke centre in either Minehead or Taunton.
He said: “In each case they did not get too far in raising money for it. Maybe this will be a stimulus to do it now.”
In his 90th birthday reflections video released on YouTube in December, Sir Arthur said he had ‘no regrets and no more personal ambitions’.
He listed three ‘last wishes’: some evidence of extra-terrestrial life, adoption of clean energy sources, and an end to the long-drawn civil war in Sri Lanka.
He said: “I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter, and science populariser.
“Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer - one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.”
Sir Arthur wrote 100 books and more than 1,000 short stories and essays during 60 years.
Among his best-selling novels are Childhood’s End, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous with Rama, and Fountains of Paradise.
One of his short stories, ‘Dial F for Frankenstein’, written in 1964, inspired British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee to invent the World Wide Web in 1989.
Another short story, ‘The Sentinel’, 1948, was expanded to make the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-wrote with director Stanley Kubrick. They shared an Oscar nomination for the best screenplay in 1969.
Trained in physics and mathematics, Sir Arthur also wrote many books and essays of non-fiction on space travel, communication technologies, underwater exploration and future studies.
In a landmark scientific paper titled ‘Extra-terrestrial Relays’ published in 1945, Arthur C. Clarke was the first to set out the principles of satellite communication with satellites placed in geostationary orbits.
Sir Arthur never patented the idea, and received no financial benefits from his invention. He was contented being acknowledged as the ‘Godfather of the communication satellite’, and having the geostationary orbit designated as ‘Clarke Orbit’.
Born in Minehead, he was educated at Huish's Grammar School, Taunton, and King's College, London.
He worked in the British Exchequer and Audit Department and served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force before turning a full-time author in 1950.
His interest in diving and underwater exploration led him to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where he settled in 1956.
He pioneered diving and underwater tourism in Sri Lanka through his company Underwater Safaris, and played an active role as a public intellectual and as a patron of art, science, and higher education.
He served as Chancellor of Sri Lanka's technological University of Moratuwa from 1979 to 2002.
Although he became the island nation’s first ‘resident guest’ in 1975, Sir Arthur always remained a British citizen.
The Sri Lankan government presented him the Lankabhimanya (‘Pride of Lanka’), the country's highest civilian honour, in 2005.
Government officials, scientists, artistes and diplomats came together to felicitate Sir Arthur on his 90th birthday on December 16, 2007.
Sir Arthur’s literary achievements were recognised by the Queen when she honoured him with a Knighthood in 1998. He had received the CBE in 1989.
Sir Arthur was conferred several honorary doctorates from universities around the world, and had won all the top science fiction literary awards at one time or another.
In 1996, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid No 4923 in his honour, while scientists at the University of Monash, Australia, named a newly-discovered dinosaur species as Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei in 2003.
  • Our photo shows Sir Arthur on his 90th birthday in December. Photo courtesy of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's office.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Sir Arthur dies at age 90

SUGGESTIONS are being sought for a permanent memorial in Minehead to science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who died, aged 90, late on Tuesday night.
Sir Arthur was the town’s most famous son, having been born in Blenheim Road, where a blue plaque on the wall outside now identifies the house.
The Mayor of Minehead, Councillor David Hawkes, told The Post he would be speaking to as many people as possible in the next few days to gather ideas for a lasting memorial which could be looked at by the town council.
Councillor Hawkes said he was aware that apart from the blue plaque, Minehead did not have anything permanent to commemorate the town’s connection with Sir Arthur.
Only in December, The Post highlighted how Sir Arthur’s 90th birthday was being allowed to pass by without any kind of local anniversary activity.
Now, Councillor Hawkes said: “I certainly think it is fitting that we as a town should have some kind of permanent tribute to him in Minehead, and something within earshot of the house he was born in would be good.
“We need to look at a memorial which would be of use to the public rather than just something to look at.”
One early suggestion is to site an orrery in Blenheim Gardens within sight of Sir Arthur’s birth place.
An orrery is a mechanical device which illustrates the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons in the solar system in heliocentric model.
It is typically driven by a large clockwork mechanism with a globe at the centre representing the sun and with a planet at the end of each of the arms.
Another similar suggestion for Blenheim Gardens is to place an armillary sphere, which is a model of the celestial sphere and is sometimes used within a sundial.
Councillor Hawkes said anybody who had any suggestions should submit them to the town council as quickly as possible.
Sir Arthur’s funeral will take place on Saturday in Columbo, Sri Lanka, which he adopted as his home in 1956, and his wish will be respected for it to be a private event.
He asked to be buried at the Kanatte General Cemetery family burial plot of business partner Hector Ekanayake, who headed his adopted Sri Lankan family and who was with him to the end.
Sir Arthur also left written instructions for his funeral to be strictly secular: “Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral.”
Photo of Sir Arthur by Shahidul Alam.