Saturday, 22 May 2010

In Which There is Sunshine, and Fighting Swans

I had been feeling a little disappointed, as I'd thought I might go to the Bristol Comic Con & Small Press Expo which is on this weekend, which would have meant the opportunity to but it turns out that having thought "I really should buy a ticket" doesn't have the same effect as actually buying a ticket, and by the time I got around to the whole buying a ticket part it was too late, and they were all sold out.

Which was sad, as lots of interesting people, such as Paul Cornell, Tony Lee, Jason Arnopp and others, many of whom I follow on Twitter. (plus, you know, comics and books and stuff!)

Still, when I woke up, it turned out it was a glorious sunny day, so I was reconciled to the idea of not having to get up early, and get a no-doubt hot and crowded train into Bristol to hang around inside a hotel...

Instead, I've been doing lots of chores -it's so nice to be able to get washing dried outside, for a change, and my clematis has come out in a riot of flowers and my tomato, lettuce and cauliflower plants all seem to be thriving, which is all most pleasing.

I went over to Bradford on Avon where my favourite picture-framer is based, to take him my 'Desert Wind' print, from Neverwear to frame.

When I got there, and was walking along by the river, I saw a couple of mute swans fighting.

Given the third swan which was swanning around watching enthusiastically I'm guessing this was some sort of sordid sex and violence thing - although I suppose it could simply be a territorial thing.

It made me very aware of just how BIG these birds are. It was clear that each was trying to get the other's head under water, and by the end the winner was allowing the loser to have his head above the water, but was holding the rest of his body under the water.

They must have considerable stamina - I must have watched for at least 10 minutes, and the fight had started before I got there.

After that excitement I did get to the framers , and had a discussion about how the print is to be framed, and then, inevitably, I ended up in the bookshop. . . . although I was very good, and only bought one book (and that, second hand)
I then spent some time admiring the more picturesque bits of the town, before heading home where I did lots of housekeeping, as a result of which I now have clean floors, lots of clean laundry, much less dust, some freshly potted put tomato and aubergine seedlings, some newly planted squash and courgette seeds and lots of portions of bolognese in the freezer. And some different library books.

I also got time to go and queue up in the Post Office in order to post my engagement gift to my sister K and her fiance C. I will do another post about that later, with pictures (the gift, I mean. The queueing was uneventful, and doesn't deserve its own post), but I will wait, just on the off-chance that K or C stumble across this blog in the next few days, before the parcel arrives, and it spoils the surprise.

I bought a lot of stamps, too. Probably I should write to people in order to make use of them. The Post Office recently issued stamps for the Acession of King George V. This took place in 1910. It's good to know that they are so on the ball.

All in all, it was a good day.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Friends and Puppies..

On Saturday I headed over to spend the day with an old friend of mine, (we used to live opposite one another, from the age of about 9 0r 10)

She and her husband farm, and had agreed to sell me some beef the next time they had an animal butchered for home use, so the purpose of the trip was to pick that up (I now have a large selection of steaks, joints, mince and the like in my freezer, all from a cow which was born and raised right here) and to generally catch up and spend some time together.

And, as it turned out, to meet some puppies, as one of their dogs had pups recently, and now there are seven utterly adorable little bundles of fluff and squeakiness...

They are four weeks old today, and are very friendly, curious and cute. I was tempted to take one home, but (a) they are not yet young enough to leave their mother (b) Tybalt would emphatically not approve and (c) my small, almost gardenless house, and office-based job are not really suitable for a working dog.....
But they are incredibly cute.

It was a beautifully sunny day, so we (and the puppies) were able to spend

most of the day outside, then later, J and I walked through the fields to see her parents (who were our neighbours all the time I was growing up, and until my parents retired and moved away 2 years ago) It was a glorious evening for a walk - the hedgrows were bluebells, cowslips, primroses and cow-parsley, and as well as some lovely views across the levels towards Glastonbury, we also saw lots of rabbits, a hare, and a magnificant dog-fox - the most vivid red, against the bright green grass, and very large for a fox.

I did manage to catch a picture of him, although it doesn't do him justice, and even J, who recently lost 11 chickens in a single night to a fox (maybe this one) had to admire him.

It's days like this which remind me what a beatiful part of the country I live in, and how lucky I was to be able to grow up here. And, of course, how lucky I am in my friends.
Of course, when I returned home, Tybalt was not impressed at me for having been gone 24 hours, and coming home smelling of 9 different dogs.....

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A Quiet Weekend

It's been a fairly quiet weekend - too cold, and too intermittently wet, to do much, but I did manage a short walk into town yesterday. I didn't spot a kingfisher when I walked along by the river, (I have seen them in the past, despite it being a very urban river, and usually half full of shopping trollies and other junk) but there were some sleepy ducks, a beautifully reflective swan, (as well as a less reflective one, sitting on a nest with it's back turned towards me in a marked manner), and a moorhen, which ran away and hid, but not very well.

Today, I have mostly been reading, and defrosting my freezer, which is one of those things which has to be done. It's very dull.
Probably the most exciting part of the weekend was watching Doctor Who - Vampires in Venice (twice). I've still not 100% transferred my affections from David Tennant to Matt Smith, but it is good fun, all the same. And I'm warming to him. I wonder whether it is a sign of age, when the Doctor starts to look too young?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

"Pulse" - (Spoiler free) Review

I just had the opportunity of watching the pilot episode of 'Pulse', a hospital horror drama written by Paul Cornell and featuring Claire Foy & Stephen Campbell-Moore, which will be broadcast on BBC3 soon - and which will potentially be picked up as a series.

The BBC Press release says
St Timothy's is one of the UK's top teaching hospitals, home to some of the country's most promising trainee doctors. But beneath its veneer of medical normality lies a secret network of dangerous experiments pushing back the boundaries of science with potentially horrifying consequences in this one-off 60-minute medical horror drama written by Paul Cornell.

Hannah Carter's mother was a consultant at the hospital, but died suddenly a year ago. Grief left Hannah (Claire Foy) teetering on the edge, but following a year off, she's back to resume her training. But Hannah remains fragile, so when she starts glimpsing peculiar events in the hospital and unsettling behaviour from her ex-boyfriend and star surgeon Nick (Stephen Campbell Moore), she's unsure what to believe.

Ignoring the pleas of those around her, Hannah puts her sanity on the line to uncover the truth about the hospital
It's good. Bloody good.

The opening scene, (which I hope I can forget if I ever need to go into hospital for an operation) gives viewers a glimpse of what is happening (although not how or why) - letting us know more than Hannah does: enough to make us fear for Hannah's safety as she begins to look into the anomalies she witnesses, and to realise what is happening.

Hannah and the other characters are believable, and even in the confines of a single episode we see them start to develop in a realistic and believable way, and learn more about Hannah's past, without heavy-handed flashbacks or exposition.

There are some bloody moments, but this doesn't rely on blood for its horror.

In short: Pulse is very well written, tightly plotted, and left me at the end, staring at the screen and saying "but I want to know what happens next.."

I really hope the BBC commission a full series so I can find out. And you should definitely watch this whenit airs.
You might not want to watch just before going into hospital, though.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Oh Bugger.

The Election is over, although as I write this there are still 38 seats still to declare, but it looks like we have a hung parliament, which means that both Brown and Cameron will no doubt be courting Clegg for his support.The results do, however, through up the issues with our first past the post system.

At present, the position is this:
Conservatives 36% of the vote = 44% of the seats
Labour 29% of the vote = 37% of the seats
LibDem 23% of the vote = 8% of the seats

Which doesn't really seem right.

Hopefully, even if we end up with Cameron as PM (which would appear the most likely outcome) his need for support from the LibDems may mean we get electoral reform.

Of course, we are also likely to get massive cuts to public services, great steps backwards in terms of Human Rights protection, equality (both in terms of gap between rich and poor, and in terms of equal rights for everyone regardless of gender, sexuality, disability etc).

All I can find to say this morning is that I suppose it could have been worse. At least the BNP & their slightly less racist far-right moron friends in UKip didn't win anywhere.

It's pretty cold comfort.

And yes, 'my' MP, got back in with just over 50% of the vote. In a way, I mind that less, because I knew it was almost inevitable, whereas I had greater hopes for the election as a whole.

In addition, there is the outrage of people being denied their vote because of a larger than anticipated turnout. I have seem some comments on Twitter etc that they have only themselves to balmse for leaving it to the last minute, but from what I can gather, in many cases people had been queuing for well over an hour, only to be turned away becuase they hadn't reached the front of the queue by 10 p.m. I have voted in every single election, local and general, that I've been eleigable for, (over almost 20 years, now) and I have never had to wait for more than a few minutes - it would never occur to me that if I went to my polling station at 9 p.m. I might not get in by 10, and might be unable to vote, and I dount anyone else would have expected that either.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

In Which There is Blood, and Politics

So, today I finally made it down to the civic centre to give blood. It's the first time I've managed it for over a year, as I've kept having colds, and chest infections and things at the times they've been in town.

I was most upset to discover (after they got their hands on my precious blood) that they had run out of chocolate biscuits! I mean, what's the point of giving them my blood if I'm not going to get a guilt-and-calorie-free chocolate biscuit afterwards...

And tomorrow, of course, is Election Day, and I shall have to go and put my cross in a box at some point. My polling card never arrived, but it appears that this is a postal problem, not a sinister attemt to deprive me of my vote (I spoke to the council, who confirmed that I am definitely registered and that I don't need it in order to vote)

I keep spinning between hope and fear about what the results will be. I have a horrible suspicion we're going to end up with a Conservative government as people decide to punish Gordon Brown for being in charge when the economy tanked, and for generally eroding our civil liberties and betraying the pricipals the Labour Party used to stand for, but the problem with that is that voting in the Tories instead is a bit like hammering spikes through your eyes to try to cure that mild headache... They've cosied up to the far right in Europe, have said they will scrap the Human Rights Act (because it's not as though having legal protection for our Human Rights is important or anything...) they have made it clear they don't intend to bring in any electoral reform, and any tax cuts they make will benefit the rich at the expense of the most vulnerable in society. and they have spectactularly failed to critisise or disown the candidate of theirs who believes people are gay because they are possesed by demons and can be cured by prayer.

I really, really hope that isn't what we wake up to on Friday morning.

Monday, 3 May 2010

In Which There Are Friends, And Tea

I love Bank Holidays, especially this one, which for some reason crept up on me and felt, as a result, lke an unexpected gift.

And a second pleasure, a couple of weeks ago E, a friend of mine from university, got in touch to say she'd be visiting the area with her hsband this week, and suggested we meet up. Which I felt was a perfectly splendid idea. We don't see each other often enough.

We met in Bradford on Avon, which is a lovely little town, and has what may be the country's best tea shop. Having successfully rendez-voused, we started with a quick wander down to the Tithe Barn, and into the various little shops selling charming frivolities, then walked back along by the river, up into the town (Mainly to point out the bookshop, which was closed for the bank holiday but will no doubt be a point of call for E when it is open tomorrow...) and went into The Bridge Tea Rooms, which is one of my favourite places to go as a treat.

It's a "Victorian" tea-room - full of knick-knacks, old, sepia toned photographs and suchlike, with open fires and waitresses in mob-caps, in a 17th Century building, and it serves glorious teas - by which I mean both leaf tea (they have a selection of over 30, including white & green teas), and afternoon tea. They even provide sugar-tongs, for those wishing to preserve properly genteel Victorian manners.
On this occasion, as it was three in the afternoon and we had not lunched, we decided to really indulge ourselves and ordered the "Prince Albert's Tea" which provided sandwiches, scones* & cake, served on a three-tier cake stand.
Which gave us the opportunity to settle down for a long chat (and, as it happened, to avoid the ferocious hailstorm which interrupted the mostly-sunny afternoon.
And then (having eaten to excess) we went for another amble along by the canal.
A most enjoyable afternoon.

[*It should have been meriengues, not scones but we don't much like meriengues, and they let us substitute the scones) ]

Sunday, 2 May 2010

In Which There Are Flowers

I guess that after last weekend’s excitement, the rest of the week was always going to be a bit of a anticlimax. It was mostly spent working, and trying to catch up on lost sleep.

There was time, however, to help Cheryl move, on Monday evening, and to enjoy the signs of spring – I drive past woodland on my way to work, and over the past week the bluebells have all come out, as has the wild garlic, although that has not yet reached full strength as you cannot yet smell it as you drive past! The horse-chestnuts are in full flower, and on all the residential streets there are ornamental cherry trees covered with pink or white blossom.

It was wet and windy this morning, so the blossom was falling like snow.

In my own garden, the kingcups in my miniature pond are out in force, the clematis plant I bought last year seems to have woken up and is galloping at speed up the trellis, and the aquilegia is our, although oddly, all of those seem to be purple this year (I’m sure at least one was white, last year…) The rock geraniums are flowering busily (They are a bit pink for me, but seem to be VERY hardy, so I think I shall have them around for a while)

I shall also have an excellent crop of Herb Robert, although as that’s technically a weed, I probably shouldn’t boast about it – it is quite pretty, however, and grows in the cracks of the paving I haven’t been able to take up, yet.

And the lettuce, tomato, cauliflower and herb seedlings which I planted out all seem still to be alive, and growing, and not yet completely devoured by slugs and snails.

Once it stops raining, I shall go out and do a bit of weeding, and meanwhile, as it is a weekend, I think I shall do some baking – I think I feel a poppy seed cake coming on..