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diary

of kumquats, caviar and calamari

Sat by the fire in the hotel lobby. The flames dance for visual effect rather than heat generation but being there does somehow make you feel warmer. The heating in our room is still not fixed despite daily mentions to reception. I think some sort of gesture from the hotel will be appropriate when we check out. It’s not a money thing.

Today the ladies in my life are off shopping and I have a pink slip, as they say. It looks a lot brighter out there and I feel a museum trail coming on. The hotel is near the British Museum which will do as a starter for ten. I did my, admittedly inadvertent, shopping yesterday and have no need of further worldly goods.

There is now a sizable queue of people waiting to check out. Either they haven’t heard of express checkout or they all have issues with their aircon and want to see what the hotel has to say about it. The few other occupants of the lobby lounge have moved on. Not wanting to waste a moment of their day.

I note that Chelsea are hosting Man U today at 4.30pm. There are 89 tickets available on an aftermarket site (tout) starting at £400 a pop. Similarly there are 3 tickets available for Brentford v Everton from £100 a go at 2pm. Neither feels attractive.

Observations from British museum 

  1. Interesting set of exhibits that allow us to marvel at past civilisations 
  2. Not an observation unique to me but stunning that people were able to take these artefacts from their original homes. They would be far better in the context of their place of origin. There must have been a lot of damage done in extracting and transporting them.
  3. I see this as no different really to the destruction caused by Islamic state 
  4. The variety/contrast of different styles from around the world is amazing. Couldn’t happen today with the sharing of information across the internet. 
  5. Still lots of people walking around without masks

I find having to wear a mask in the British museum quite oppressive. Stifling. It’s not helped by the fact that I have too many layers on for the temperature indoors. Also whilst my hat is in theory squashable into a pocket the feather is not and it is too warm to wear it indoors.

That was yesterday. It is now Monday morning and we are settled into Coach E seats 6, 7 and 8 ready for the off. I’m not expecting anyone to come along and bags seat 5 which is obstructed by two coats and my leather backpack. If they do, and the seat has not been reserved, they will not be popular. 

The temperature outside is 273K although in London there is no frost on the ground. Three bacon rolls have been ordered. When it is freezing cold outside it is all about building up reserves when the opportunity arises

Today taxis were in plentiful supply, a far cry from the sitch on the ground when we arrived. Our transition from hotel to Kings Cross Station was correspondingly uneventful. We stayed at the Doubletree because it was less than half the price of our preferred home from home at the Trafalgar.

We paid for it in other ways as the room was cold, as previously mentioned. Also the breakfast at most Hiltons is mediocre at best. It’s formula applied across the whole franchise. There are some exceptions: Bankside and the Trafalgar. Conrad maybe. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the Park Lane Hilton and the Waldorf is only moderately better. I think the best hotel breakfast I’ve experienced in the UK, at least of all the chains, is at the Intercontinental at the O2. However I don’t collect IHG points and would need to be attending a bash at the O2 to make it work. 

We will need supplies when we get home. The local market should be open for business. Kumquats, caviar and calamari spring to mind but not as supplies we need, just because they rolled off the tongue. I don’t even like calamari. A warming and nourishing soup perhaps 🙂

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diary

Camden Tundra

Have moved operations to the hotel lobby. No rush to do owt today and I quite like sitting quietly watching the world go by. Also the heating in the room ain’t working. They are “sending an engineer”

That said the lounge bit of the hotel lobby is closed although I ignored the barrier and sneaked in. The lobby itself is not conducive to sitting around watching people as the hotel door keeps opening and closing and it is freezing out there.

Today the plan is leisure. John and I are off out to buy him a hat and we have Tom’s birthday party this evening. I’m hoping that the tube will be running and London will be less chaotic than yesterday. Fwiw LNER are telling people not to travel North of York today due to weather related disruption. We are already staying an extra night in town to avoid disruption caused by planned maintenance works on Sunday. The only answer is to stay at home.

You have to be fairly determined to want to be out and about in this weather. The concrete wind tunnels of London, also known as streets, don’t help. Wrap up warm folks.

Back in the relative warmth of the hotel after a morning of retail therapy with John. I say relative warmth. The aircon is still only firing on one cylinder but it is a million miles away from the Siberian wasteland that is now Camden.

My new burgundy hat fits well with my purpley silk jacket that has been laid out for tonight’s celebrations. I’m wearing it with a designer Anne’s Vans Originals tshirt and black jeans. I have brought my posh Loakes ones and twos but the weather out there is more daisy roots (we are in London) so I will dress appropriately.

Had a near death incident on the 168 back to the hotel. Well I say near death but I actually nearly left my phone on the seat.Same sort of thing. I checked my pockets as the bus doors opened and realised the sitch so immediately bailed on that stop. Fortunately the phone was there on the seat, top deck about 6 rows back on the right facing forward. Even more fortunately it turns out that stop was one too early so I ended up getting off at the right place. Serendipity ou quoi?. Fortune favours the brave, or simlar.

On the retail front we had gone to buy a hat and some scent (aftershave) for John and we met our objective. I also came away with two more hats, more scent, a badger hair shaving brush and stand and some sandalwood shaving soap all for meeee. And I took the opportunity of booking a haircut and shave on the day of trefbash 60 at Sweyn Forkbeard’s barbers in Camden Market. Down to 12 sleeps now.

I quite like the idea of a leisurely trip to the barbers on my birthday although it is a bit of a trek from the hotel.

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early one morning

scanstuff

Relatively late stroll to the shed at 08.45 this morning. Slept well last night, presumably due to the longer than usual 40 minutes swim. I was pleasantly and gently brought into a waking state by the arrival of the tea tray.

Now listening to a relaxing Classic FM playlist. The official start to the day this morning  is 09.30. In my mind I had it down at 10.30 but now I remember that it was CET. Sokay.

My new Macbook Pro delivery has moved back to Thursday having been brought forward from Monday next week to yesterday. This is not normal Apple operation. One has to assume this is down to a combination of demand at launch, semiconductor supply, global availability of transport and pandemic induced absence from work of drivers. When I ordered it they were saying week commencing 6th December so I suppose it is an improvement.

Made some headway with my new scansnap yesterday. Wasn’t a totes intuitive UI but we got there. However I did begin to understand the deficiencies. For example when scanning photos it is meant to reorientate them if upside down and store them in a photo folder at high (ish – 1.7MB) res. It does this when scanning to the local PC drive but not to the cloud. OK as long as I know.

This means that I’ll have to scan when the mac is switched on, which it always is although it is asleep overnight. It’s not the end of the world but adds a stage to the process of storing it in its ultimate destination, GDrive and Google Photos. 

I have thousands of photos to scan. These are divided into those not in albums, largely mam and dad’s and those nicely presented for the reader with accompanying labels describing what you are looking at. Ours. These are a bit more faff as I have to take them out of the album before scanning and then replace.

The scanning process itself is like lightning. Around 40 photos a minute so the “loose’ pics will be quick to do. I also need to decide on what to do in respect of uploading to Google Photos. GDrive is easy as I just put them in folders. Google Photos stores photos by date (ok and albums if I chose to do so) but the date on a scanned photo is that of scanning. It all means a bit of curation but once it’s done it’s done. The hard copies can go back into a cupboard to be looked at once every thirty years (never).

In other news I have 3 LED units on the blink in the shed. Going down like flies. I bought a replacement and spare ages ago that I have yet to fit but now I’ll need some more!

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early one morning

the darkest hour

The darkest hour is just before dawn, it is said. I googled it for confirmation and it is so. You can’t always rely on Google mind you, try as they might. There are companies who specialise in keeping specific bits of information low in the Google rankings. For example for celebrities who want to keep their heads down after doing something naughty. This is not the case here. Notice the use there of a capital G for Google the proper noun versus lowercase g for google the verb. Sgood.

That opening phrase is ripe for exploration but tempting as it is I am merely going to say that in the heart of the city, where we live, it is not so. This is because the urban dwellers amongst us have elected to install artificial lighting to preserve the safe passage of said dwellers when walking home from the pub. There could be other places they want to walk home from at night but pub adequately covers it.

In our house there seem to be light emitting diodes everywhere that also invade the sanctity of darkness. It does feel like an invasion. I could happily do without but the act of switching everything off at the wall before going to bed doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. I do switch things off in the shed, monitors for example, and cover up LEDs to minimise the light pollution emanating from the bottom of the garden which totes doesn’t seem right. 

The 16 port Ethernet switch remains on but I can’t see that from the house so all good. It is somewhat bemusing to observe that most of the ports are in use. In the shed! Hey…

On this occasion, ie now, the darkest hour also represents the time at which I get up and make the tea. Let there be light…

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diary

scanner

A crisp autumn day out there. In the house I have a number of pictures to put up in the East Wing and a roast chicken to prepare for this evening. Hannah is with us this weekend and we will have a nice family dinner, the four of us, thinking always of those not home this weekend. I’m sure they will be fine.

The chicken dinner is a tried and tested formula. Stuffing made with white breadcrumbs, fresh herbs mostly from the garden and chopped bacon. Roast potatoes and parsnips with some peas, and batons of carrots accompanied by pigs in blankets and a delicious gravy. Today I am throwing swede into the mix…

Putting up the next batch of pics and now at the command hook glue curing phase where I have to wait an hour before hanging the pictures. I have now run out and awaiting more supplies when Hannah returns from her retail expedition.

In the meantime I am restarting my search for a suitable photo scanner. The Epson one I have been after seems to be discontinued but I’m blowed if I can find the newer model.

Ordered a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1600 instead – will keep me busy during the long winter months that we are snowed in. Hopefully connectivity to the shed will remain unaffected.

We should be ok for a while if snowed in. We have three freezers full to the brim with unknown foodstuffs and a sack of flour that will keep us in bread for a while.  Might need to source an industrial sized bag of tea bags and hope that the milk float will make it through.

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early one morning

Rand Armitage

Up and not particularly at it at 08.20. There is no rush although I do need to repair the clothes airer before Anne gets back from Liverpeul so the clock is ticking somewhat. She has supplied a new cord for the purpose and it will be done. It is not particularly convenient banging into it every time anyone goes into the utility room, hanging, forlorn, as it does.

I sense I might also mow the lawn this morning. It is once more covered in leaves and mowing is an easy way to remove them to the compost heap, shredding the little blighters in the process. It ‘s not really fair to call them blighters as they have, in their short season on the planet, done the job asked of them.

My other job is to properly fix the handle on John’s bedroom door. The spindle keeps slipping out of the housing on the inside door handle rendering it inoperable from inside the room, if you get my drift. Why it just started to do that after only being installed in 1939 I will never know. The application of a bit of gorilla glue should sort it.

Rand Armitage was on Classic FM as I was preparing breakfast. What sort of name is that I said to Hannah. Actually it was Alan Titchmarch. I was only half listening. No name should come as a surprise nowadays. I then envisaged the young Alan in school whilst his teacher read out the register. Titchmarsh, Alan, “here”. Or even Titchmarsh, Al! I can call you Eddie and Eddie when you call me you can call me Titchmarsh, Al. Works for me.

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fusion

Machester to Lincoln

Long old haul back to Lincoln from Manchester really. Quite a full train, not helped I guess by the cancellation of the earlier one. What’s going on on the train network! Some people (yooves) stood up although there are some empty seats. Maybe they are getting off at Stockport which is only a couple of minutes out of Manchester Piccadilly. My bag is on the seat next to me. I will move it if required but the guard said that there is plenty of room in the front three coaches so if people haven’t got the gumption to follow his advice that’s their lookout.

Wearing my Bose phones and am in the zone. Band on the Run. We are in the foothills of the Pennines if such they are. Connectivity is pants. Sheep don’t use the internet. I guess. Weak winter sun shining onto the hills in patches. Horse running along the edge of a field. Running to see the train perhaps. Life in a field must be a bit tedious.

Might drive next time.

We have entered a tunnel. There must be a mountain overhead. A hill anyway. Emerging into the sunlight we are in a valley. Quite picturesque. I wouldn’t fancy climbing the hills right now. It will be dark soon and I have a beer in my hand.

You sense the road to Sheffield takes a different route to the train. The high road.

Passed a small farmhouse on the steep side of the valley. I noticed it after I spotted the stone barn. Not an easy living I imagine.

Now on the delayed 16.38 out of Sheffield calling at all stops to Lincoln Central. Takes 74 mins or so normally. The driver arrived with two minutes to spare but the cheery guard showed up a few minutes late. We were all kept champing at the bit on the platform.

Called two taxi firms in Lincoln to pick me up from the stayshun. Earliest availability was 7.30pm whereas I get in at 6! Hmm. Might have to stick my thumb out.

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diary

a late start

Bit of bacon grilling away on the George Foreman together with some rooms of mush. Bread in the toaster has just popped up. A good way to start the day. I have a busy morning in store but it doesn’t start until 9.30am so that is good. Off to UKNOF in Manchester tomorrow so today is the last day this week to get much “real” work done.

In the shed I can hear the electric panel heater come on. This is not a particularly regular occurrence as the shed is so well insulated. Sometimes I have to check if it is powered on but it always is. Just not always needed.

Outside the lawn is once more covered in leaves. Green Thumb mowed it yesterday clearing them all but the new wave has moved in to fill the gaps. Have to stay on top of this as one year we left it too late and the grass beneath was knackered.

The cathedral bells call out 9am. I don’t always hear them. Depends on the direction of the wind. Today it’s a West South Westerly which tells you where we live in relation to the cathedral. I was tempted to abbreviate that to West Sou’westerly but we live nowhere near the sea so I didn’t. I read all the Hornblower books when I was a kid. Must have them somewhere. Should look em up again. Haven’t finished my current batch of books yet. Maybe over Christmas.

It will be interesting to see whether I start reading more after Christmas as I don’t plan on working much more than a day a week. Anne’s Vans excepted of course but that is a fun thing to do. 

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diary

football

Sat in the holding pen awaiting the call to table. Hungry tonight after my bike ride with Steve Wildman out to the Rob Vashak abode on the cliff. Weather was pretty yukky for the return but we got in some off-roading which ameliorated the sitch a bit. I must remember to charge the battery ready for next time. Sdun. No messin.

Tonight I shall be watching Wales play Belgium at Association Football. It’s a home game and I understand that it would be beneficial for Wales’ progress in the competition for us to at least draw the match. I am optimistic regarding this as despite our star player Garth Bale being injured the Belgians have travelled without a number of their key team members because they have already won the group and to them the result is not material.

Ordinarily I might consider such an occasion as the perfect excuse to open a beer but I am being a good boy particularly as tomorrow night I shall be out on the town with the UKNOF crowd in Manchester. There will be no pressure for me to rush back on Friday either so a leisurely lunch may well be called for.

Now watching the warm up. I don’t know why as it is rarely interesting. In fact I’m actually watching the ads. Some geezer wiv a cockney accent encouraging us to bet responsibly. I presume he means only place bets that are going to win. Placing a losing bet would be deemed irresponsible in my book. I don’t need someone in an ad to tell me that.

The stadium is packed. It isn’t far from my sister Sue’s place in Caadiff. I remember once strolling out from her place for  pint only to find all the pubs totally rammed. I eventually squeezed into one and whilst stood there savouring my beer someone must have flicked a switch because the whole pub emptied out within seconds. They were all off to the game.

Thereafter I moved on to St Canna’s Alehouse where I remember, quite surreally, chatting with the Mayor of Bangor for quite some time. That’s all.

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diary

What?

Made it through another night. It was ever thus but will not always be. When quiet had blanketed the city I lay awake for some moments thinking I could hear footsteps on the landing. Then I realised I was listening to my heartbeat. A sound somehow accentuated by the obstruction to my external auditory canal, treatment for which is currently in progress.

Now I am in our weekly kickoff meeting but listening to classic fm with my microphone muted. The murmur of conversation in the meeting is somewhat inaudible as the music has reached a crescendo. In the meeting there are a mix of accents including Belgian French which is somewhat monotone and very soporific. It is easy to drift off.

I only have a handful of these meetings left to attend, finishing as I do in time for the fast approaching mid winter festival. Life begins at sixty. 

This week I anticipate rounding off the plans for trefbash60, the registration for which is now closed. Need to nail the menu amongst other things. I trust your outfit plans are progressing. Remember the dress code is Pirates of the Caribbean.

Trefbash kicks off the party season although we do have our annual Christmas Market Party the weekend before. From a work perspective very little gets done after trefbash and I am now accepting invites to other people’s dos. By the time Christmas Day comes along everyone is partied out!

Outside the shed the lawn has morphed into a golden brown colour. It is once again time to mow the leaves. I feel a deep sense of relaxation and consider that another cup of tea would be perfectly acceptable.

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early one morning

Remembrance

Up at 05.30. Again. I don’t have a problem with this. In the summer it is great. I sit in the conservatory enjoying the light, and the birdsong. In winter I sit in complete darkness apart from the light of the laptop.

Today is November 11th. Armistice Day. I looked in the media but the headlines are all about Covid 19 and Cop26.The wars of our day?  I’ve seen poppies being worn but not noticed much else in respect of commemorating the event. Maybe I’ve had my head down a bit, doing stuff.

My grandmother was born in 1907 in a miner’s cottage opposite the Blaenhirwaun pit in Cefneithin, on the western edge of the South Wales coalfield. So she would have been seven years old at the start of the first world war, eleven at its conclusion. My grandfather, who I never knew as he was a miner and miners did not live to old age, was born in 1899 I think. Just missing the war but he would have been exempt from military duty.

I was looking for the right word there but exempt was all I could come up with. He wouldn’t have been allowed to join the army but mining was not a particularly pleasant alternative. Anyway that’s not really the line I’m trying to pursue here.

We no longer really have a collective memory of the first world war. We rely on what is provided to us by the media. I’d have occasional conversations with my dad about the second conflict of which he had clear memories.

I don’t think I ever discussed the war with my grandmother. Our family, on my grandfather’s side had a woolen factory in Maesdulais near Tumble and I believe that at the time we made products for the military.  I know no more than that really.

It isn’t difficult to picture those times when I close my eyes. My grandmother’s house had signs from that era. Around her fireplace you could see the outline of the old range that used to be there and on which all the cooking was done. She also had a scales that were used to weigh the pig when it was slaughtered each autumn. We kept a pig at the bottom of the garden.

Although opposite a coal mine, one of a few in the area which must have made up the majority of local employment, it was very much a rural area. A cousin had a farm, Y Garn or Garnedd Fach. He was called Owain Y Garn. I remember visiting once and got my wellie stuck in the muck heap in the farmyard.

Neither factory nor farm are any longer in the family and one of my sisters has the scales. When I finish full time employment one of my projects will be to better document the family history. I started about ten years ago but got to the point where it needed a lot time on the ground putting into it and the project was parked. It is, to me at least, quite fascinating encompassing very recognisable historical periods and events such as the religious revival, the industrial revolution and the move away from a farming led economy and then the disappearance of the mining industry.

I will be stood on the platform at Lincoln railway station at 11am and will spend a moment thinking about the first world war and the men who gave their lives for us. We wouldn’t have conflicts such as these were it not for leaders and politicians who in their wisdom decide to get us involved in them. They are the same type of person at COP26 discussing the world’s approach to climate change. God help us.