Saturday, 24 August 2013

In Which There are Fun New Things

Today was interesting. My sister got in touch a couple of weeks ago to say that she and her partner would be going to a Hill Climb near here, and suggested it would be nice to meet up, which of course I agreed that it would, so  found myself attending my first hill climb.

I wasn't sure what to expect - I have to admit that the idea of watching a bunch of different cars driving up  hill didn't sound particularly enthralling, but  new things are often interesting, and how is one ever to know, without trying them?
Today was practice, and the weather wasn't great, so there weren't huge numbers of spectators.

There were lots of different cars, from souped up minis, to Westfields, to cars which looked (to my uninformed eyes) pretty much like F1 cars, only smaller (and with fewer adverts on them)

The course involved a pretty steep hill, and some very sharp bends, which are clearly tricky to navigate at high speed. . . some of the cars reached speeds of 120 m.p.h - lots of them clearly slightly misjudged the corner, and there was a certain amount of fishtailing going on, although only one car actually spun off (cue lots of marshals to push the car back onto the track, and to sweep the grass-cuttings from the road)

I don't think that I shall be making a habit of attending hill climbs, but I did find it more interesting than I'd anticipated, (and of course, it was fun to spend time with my sister and her boyfriend)

The whole time I was there, it was dull and grey with occasional rain, but as I drove home the sun came out.

I was in sunlight, and there was a beautiful, sunlit golden wheatfield, despite the gathering black storm clouds. I couldn't resist stopping to take a few pictures.

All in all, a very pleasant day.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

In Which There is a Dalek

After watching Neil unveil and officially open 'his' road, I spent some time navigating the one-way systems of Portsmouth in order to park near to the Guildhall, where his evening event was taking place.
Portsmouth Guildhall
Fortunately the Guildhall is not difficult to spot!
The Guildhall has a handy, and surprisingly affordable 'VIP' option which lets you sit inside eating cheese and biscuits and drinking wine, rather than queueing outside, which made for a relaxed start to the evening, with my new friend Kelly. (I do like meeting new people, especially at Neil's events when all the people are so interesting!).

Once inside the auditorium, however, the relaxed atmosphere was slightly marred by an unexpected extra guest on stage...
Mercifully, we made it through  the evening without anyone being Exterminated, although I feel that the fact that Portsmouth Guildhall seems to have a Dalek on staff is perhaps something which should be looked into while there is still time..

Neil was interviewed by Dom Kippin, and talked a little about his roots in Portsmouth, and about the road naming, Doctor Who and Dalek mythology as the earliest mythology he learned about, and about  the the books (Make Good Art, Chu's Day) which have come out this year. He told us that Chu's Day was written out of a determination to get a picture book published in China, after being told his previous picture books were not acceptable as they showed children knowing better than their elders, being disrespectful, and at times being naughty but not being punished. He also mentioned that there is a sequel!

Neil also answered questions from the audience, giving his recommendations for reading aloud to children (Diana Wynne Jones, The Mary Poppins books, Narnia, but not E.Nesbit because of the long, Edwardian sentences..), talked about his appearances in Arthur and The Simpsons and of course about The Ocean at the End of the Lane and how although the family is not his family, and the events not true events, the viewpoint of the protagonist is very much the viewpoint of 7-year-old-Neil.

Neil finished by reading part of Fortunately, The Milk which sounds as though it will be lots of fun, and then we were all threatened with the Wrath of the Dalek if we didn't queue properly for the signing...

I was lucky enough to be seated in one of the first 2 rows to be called forward, which meant I was able to get Vol. 1 of my Absolute Sandman signed (given the 2 hour drive home, I had already decided I wouldn't be able to stay and queue for very long) and to hand over a small box of flapjacks and muffins, as the ones I made last time seemed to be appreciated (and although  didn't know it when baking the ones i took to Bath, flapjacks made from porridge oats and blackberries are particularly appropriate for The Ocean at the End of The Lane)

I got home just after midnight, which so far as I could tell when I checked twitter this morning, was probably about an hour before Neil finished signing..

Monday, 19 August 2013

In which There Is An Ocean, and a Lane.

Yesterday, I took a trip to Portsmouth, to see Neil Gaiman officially unveiling the street named after his latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

I got there early , as I wasn't sure how long it would take me to find, or how easy it would be to find, but felt that a bit of extra time by the sea would not be a bad thing!

In fact, I didn't have too much trouble finding Canoe Lake (no canoes, but giant swan pedalos) and the lane is very close (map here )

View The Ocean at the end of The Lane in a larger map
and people quickly started to arrive. (including some gentlemen from the council who carefully covered the road sign up so it could be unveiled, and a little later  closed the road and set some chairs up for the visitors, and there was time to catch up with old friends and acquaintances and make new ones.

Neil lived near here when he was a child, and still has family in the area, many of whom had attended. There were also people who had known the family back then - there were clearly lots of people who hadn't seen one another for a while happily catching up, and I overheard one lovely, elderly gentleman saying to his wife's friend "look at all these people, I'd no idea David's boy was famous - did you know?"  I love that he (and others) had come out because it was "David's boy" or a former neighbour who was being honoured, and not just because he is a famous writer!

Then Neil arrived, together with the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Lynne Stagg (who, to my disappointment was not wearing her full ceremonial robes) and Sam Cox, Portsmouth's Poet Laureate.

Happy Neil about to unveil his road
The Lord Mayor introduced Neil, linking him with other literary figures who lived in Portsmouth (Dickens,  Conan-Doyle, Kipling) and then Neil gave a short speech, and unveiled the road.(there is an audio recording of Neil's speech here ) and we heard 2 poems from Sam Cox.

After the unveiling, Neil stayed around and chatted and had pictures taken. Someone gave Neil a Cornetto, which he managed to eat while making polite conversation and giving an interview to the local Jewish newspaper, someone else, (or possibly the same someone,) got him to sign a giant model cactus, and everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves.
(with thanks to the lovely chap who took this for me, whose name I didn't catch)
And as you can see, the weather was lovely - they'd forecast rain showers, but it stayed bright and sunny (albeit rather breezy) for the whole of the event.

A really enjoyable afternoon. And the evening still to come...

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Small Things

I'm still mostly busy with things which are probably not very interesting to anyone but me - I haven't been to any gigs or museums or shows recently.

I'm still moving on with the de-cluttering, and am making visible progress, which is gratifying!

This morning I ventured up into the loft to get down my *good* boxes (they are archiving boxes, so are strong enough to hold books, and small enough to be movable when they are full, so I have kept them ever since my first move) and to check what else I have up there.

I don't go into the loft very often - I'm not fond of ladders and in going up there I'm always convinced that I shall either fall (and lie for days with a broken back), or that I shall put my foot through one of the bits of floor which isn't fully boarded over, or knock the ladder over and end up trapped in the loft. However, there's no-one else to do it for me, so up I went.

I have been storing some boxes for my sister, from when she and C were living on the boat, and needed to check how many there were, so we can work out how to get them back to her. I found that other than her boxes, I only have a small number of boxes of my own stuff, and I brought a couple of the smaller boxes down and have been looking through them.

 I've been able to throw away some stuff (mainly very old financial documents) and have been looking through some of the rest- one box is mainly full of photographs, including old ones of family holidays, with my parents looking very young!

I also found some pictures from University, including one from Graduation, which I think is actually much nicer than my official graduation photo, in which I was sitting down, in the pose demanded by the photographer, and look like a large black tent  (albeit a well educated large black tent)

There were also some group photos from graduation, full of people I didn't recognise. (and some I did)  I also found various old letters, including cards from my grandparents (none of whom are around any more), which made me smile (and sniffle, just a little!)

I've reduced the amount of stuff to keep into one box, from two, which gave me a nice feeling of achievement. The next task to move some of the books which are currently into heaps into the good boxes, (which will then go into the cupboard under the stairs, as being easier to access than the loft)

I've also made yet another trip to the tip, with various junk, old cardboard and a couple of old very old and obsolete bits of electronics, including the radio/CD player which I bought to take to University.

It's progress, of a sort. Still some way to go, however.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Missed Me ?

This past week or so has been a little stressful - we've been replacing our elderly and very slow computer system, with new servers, hardware, and moving from having separate servers in every office, to having everything in one place.

And of course, things have not got entirely to plan, some stuff took longer than expected, and getting the various bits of software we use to play nice with each other has caused a few problems, so even through the main upgrade happened over the weekend, the IT guys have been in all week to get everything set up (and to try to work out why one (and only one) of the new computers is not playing nicely with the dictation system, and to make it behave itself)

My laptop has been to visit the IT guys to check out whether it was about to die (answer: probably not - it's running a bit hot but did well in its stress test, so for now I'm buying it nice cooling stand and am going to try not to spill any more drinks into it. I've heard they don't like that)

We're still having very hot weather, which I don't appreciate - I think we've had the hottest day in 7 years, and also one of the longest unbroken periods of sunshine.

On Monday, things changed a little - well, a lot.

We had torrential downpours, thunder, lightening, the lot. I popped out of the office at, lunch time for about 5 minutes, I got so wet that my shoes took 2 days to dry out, and I had to wring my hair out when I got back to the office..

It was still raining when I got home, and while I didn't dance naked in the rain (the neighbours are too close, and not understanding!) I did go out to enjoy the rain.

I wasn't the only one. There was a beautiful frog, and hundreds of lovely little snails. Mostly they were the stripey kind, but there were also dark brown ones, and yellow ones. They really are fascinating little creatures, and so beautifully shiny, in the rain.

(I admit I'm prejudiced. I can't feel quite so friendly towards the slugs. I'm sure they are just as fascinating, but they are rather less attractive)

Since Monday it has got hot again - I'm hoping it will be cool enough to do a little gardening tomorrow.

I'm also trying to get the house a bit less cluttered - last weekend I managed to completely fill the wheelie bin, and have taken 2 big bags of books to charity shops, and to tidy up the cupboard under the stairs so that I shall be able to fit several boxes of  my less-favourite books into it. There's a way to go yet, but I shall get there.

So, that's what I have been doing for the last week or so. How about you?