Tuesday, 21 June 2011

In Which I am Disappointed (But Bounce Back)

I wasn't supposed to be here over the weekend. This weekend, I was supposed to be in a rented cottage in Wales, with no electricity, no phone signal, no inernet access - just time to relax with my Aunt, Uncle, Cousin H, plus Cousin's husband and adorable 8 month old baby.
I was due to leave yesterday morning, but as I was finishing my coffee yesterday morning, I got a phone call from my uncle, to say that unfortunately both my aunt, and my cousin had come down with a  nasty bug. So, initially we decided to leave it till noon to see whether perhaps they'd just eaten something which disagreed, to see if they felt any better, but they didn't. So  I didn't go.

Which was a disappointment. Worse for them, of course. Being poorly while on holiday, but a little sad for  me.

I ended up doing very little on Thursday- in the morning I was hanging around to see whether there was any chance of salvaging the trip, and doing bits of housework. Then it rained, and thundered, and lightened, so I stayed in and watched Doctor Who.

Today, however, started out a little brighter, so I decided, after a certain amount of faffing about, to go out. I went to Bath. I recently aquired an Artfund card, and on their website, it told me it would get me into the Roman Baths for free, so I decided I'd go there, because I have not been for simply YEARS.

However, when I got there, they told me it was not a bit true, but by that time I was all hyped up to see Regency/Roman architechtural mashups, so I went in even though I had to pay.

It's still a fascinating place.

Of course, most of the buildings are not Roman, but the water is the same as it always was, and there are the various finds, such as the head of Medusa, and the little folded lead sheets with the prayers and curses which people threw into the water.

There are also holographic Romans around one of the pools, and a couple of ladies dressed as a Roman matron & slave-girl answering questions by the Great Bath.  When i waas there, there was a slo a wedding party, which struck an odd note - I can see the appeal of the Baths & Pump Room as a wedding venue, but I'm not sure I'd want my wedding venue to be filled with coachloads of tourists.!

Having visited the Baths, I did make use of the ticket to procure a glass of the Waters, in the pump room. I cannot recommend it for internal use. It doesn't taste good.  it is possible, I suppose, that it may have done me good - I belive it was used to be considered particularly effective against gout, and I certianly don't have gout, so maybe it does work :-)

After leaving the baths, I went to the William Herschel Museum, (where once again my ArtFund Card was spurned) - I knew of Herschel as an astronomer and for discovering Uranus - I wasn't aware that he had originally come to Bath not as an astronomer, but as a musician (and a very successful one)

Other than that insight, owever, I found the museum a little disappointing; there isn't a lot there, and a lot of the more interesting exhibits, such as letters, are not well displayed. Still, there were some nice astrolabes and an orrerry, and a scale model of Herschel's telescope, and photographs of his decendents, so not all bad.

I'd thought about ending the day with a trip to the cinema, but by this stage I was rather cold, and a little damp from being rained on, and getting tired, so I went home and spent the evening watching Grosse Pointe Blank with the cat, instead.

It was not a bad day.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

In which There is Family

I spent the weekend down in Portsmouth, to visit my sister and her fiance. When we arranged it, the plan was that we would maybe do some sailing. However, when I got there, it became clear that that wasn't going to be practical. In the first place, the forecast was for heavy rain and very strong winds, (force 8 or so) and secondly, we were all pretty tired (C has just finished exams) and the tides meant we would have had to get up  rather early if we wanted to go sailing. So we didn't.

Instead, we sat up late over food and wine and conversation, then we got up late and had a gargantuan breakfast, and then, at the crack of 3p.m ventured out into the day. It was VERY windy, even ashore, although the rain didn't turn up til Sunday.

On Saturday we went to Gosport, where C took his dinghy out to the boat to check it out, while K and I went for a walk around the harbour front.

We looked at all the pretty little boats in the marina, and the big grey boats which belong to the Royal Navy, and the submarine in the submarine Museum, and HMS Warrior, which belonged to the Navy when it was built in 1860, (and for all I know, still does).
And we saw an egret,and looked at the Spinnaker Tower on the Portsmouth side of the river, then we met C, went home, and changed (and in C's case washed several lbs of fine river mud off) and dressed up and went to a rather splendid french restaurant in Portsmouth, where we had a delicious, leisurely meal.

On Sunday, the promised rain arrived, and it poured, solidly all day. However, this wasn't a problem - K&C had (sailing) friends ciming, so we made a sunday roast, and the friends brought cheese and fruit, and there was much conversation, then in the evening our cousin S, her husband T and 3 year-old son arrived - they have had a week's holiday in France and  were staying over night before driving home, so we had a socialable evening. I hvane't seen my little cousin for 18 months, which is forever when you're 3, so it was lovely to see him - he is a gorgeous, chatty, outgoing little boy, who was only shy for the first 5  minutes.

We alos got to hang out with his parents.

So, despite the lack of sailing, it was a highly enjoyable weekend, and I'm glad I went. I am very fortunate in my family, I think.

Oh, and K & I might have looked at lots of pictures of her wedding dress, and talked quite a lot about her plans for the wedding next August, becasue, after all, that's what sisters are for, isn't it?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

In Which The Geeks Gather

Thursday night was the night that Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton were playing at Bristol's Colston Hall, for the first date of their European tour. (it's a pretty short tour - only 4 dates, I think)

Last time they played in Bristol was in November 2009, (I  blogged it here ), and I ended up selling mercahndise, so this time when I heard that they were coming back, I sent off an email volunteering as a Merch Girl again. And then I inveigled my friend Cheryl into coming along with me to help out.

We got there a little early, and the guys were running a little late, so we hung out for a bit first, then Paul arrived to talk us through pricing and how to use the credit-card-machine-with-the-carbon-paper. One of the things on sale was the Paul and Storm's " ________ IS THE NAME OF MY ___________ COVER BAND"  shirt (which comes with a washable marker pen so you can fill in the gaps as often as you wish). I made some comment about their channelling John Scalzi, and was immediately corrected, and told thatg it is, of course, Scalzi channelling them... which led, inevitabley, to the creation of the "John Scalzi IS THE NAME OF MY Paul and Storm COVER BAND" modelled here, and on twitter, by Cheryl!

The show was great - first half featuring Paul & Storm, with the 'Nun Fight', 'Frogger the Musical' and 'The Captain's Wife's Lament' songs being particularly well-recieved.

There was also the presentation by a member of the audience of the the World's Largest Jaffa-Cake....
Then, after the interval in which we sold many many shorts and CDs, came JoCo's portion of the show, which featured many old favoutrites such as 'Code Monkey' and 'Skullcrusher Mountain', plus new ones including 'Blue Sunny Day' (about a sad vampire) the new Portal II song (and, of course, 'Still Alive', sung with full choral  audience participation), not to mention the ever-popular 'Re: Your Brains' (also featuring much enthusiastic audince participation)

Jonathan also spoke a little about the Crushing Burden of fame, enocuraged us all to sell all of us stuff in order to buy tickets for the JoCo Cruise
It was a lot of fun!

After the show (including the not-at-all-planned-or-choreographed,-honest encore) we sold a lot more merchandise, and had the chance to chat a little with Paul and Storm and Jonathan, before helping to pack up the unsold shirts, and heading home. I normally aim to be home well beofre midnoght on days when i have to work in the morning. I failed completely on this occasion, but I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever.  it was a great show, and I am so glad I went. Looking forward to next time.

If I can ever remember my YouTube password, I will try to upload some video I took, but I know there was someone filming pretty much everything, and with a better camera than mine, so she may well have posted a ll the good stuff already..

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

MoT and other tribulations

After last week's sad MoT failure, I took my car back to the garage on monday to have it's cracked thingummy replaced. Which meant having a courtesy car.

The piano-owning-mechanic led me out to the car park and stopped in a rather puizzled way, in front of a parking space which was conspicuously empty.  it should, apparently, have contained a Ford Fiesta. It didn't.  Which is why I ended up with the keys to a souped up Golf GTi. 

It's been a while since I drove a car with a manual gearbox, so when I couldn't get it into reverse I throught it must be me. Until the piano-owning-mechanic came running back to say "Oh, I forgot to mention. Reverse isn't where the gear lever says it is..."  Which made it an interesting drive. Most of the other stuff seemed to be where it claimed to be.  Although I never did find how to make the seat sit up, or whether it was even possible. 

When my car wasn't fixed by teatime I was quite pleased to swap the GTi for the (elderly, diesel) Fiesta, as I could at least sit up to drive it, plus I'm used to Fiestas. My mother used to have one, which she let me drive to Bristol every day for a year when I was living at home and attending university.

And tonight I got to pick my car up, all newly MoT'd and legal again. It has some new springs in it's suspension, and some new shock absorbers. And they did the thing where they saved the old oily bits to show me, presumably to satisfy me that they had actually put new bits in my car, rather than leaving it parked round the corner for 3 days while they played poker or piano or whatever. Of course, as a fraud-detection method, this does rather suppose that I can recognise my own cars oily bits. And that I can identify that the specific oily bits I'm being shown bear any relation to the part of the car which was in need of fixing, which,e xcept for things such as punctures, I mostly can't.  I can identify the wheels. If I evr i have wheel issue Ishall confidently be able to recignise that they are wheels, and probably even that they are the wheels of my car (or wone of its close relatives) but that's about it.

Anyway, I have my own car back, with some new springs and shock-absorbers, and a certificate to say it has passed it's exams and I am legal to drive it for another year.

I have to wait for the bill. It's going to be posted to me. Which has the minor advantages that (a) I can arragne to be sitting down when I read it and (b) I shall be able to have it on next month's credit card statement, not this one.

Small mercies...

Sunday, 5 June 2011

In Which There Is Much Family Pride

On Friday evening I drove down to Cambridge, in order to visit my brother, and to attend his graduation ceremony on Saturday.

He has spent the past four years studying through the OU (and working full time as well) and this is the end result! He now has a Bachelor's Degree in Computing and Mathmatical Sciences, with 1st Class Honours. And yes, we're all VERY  proud of his achievement. (it also means he's now got 2 degrees, and I've only got one.
Maybe I need to start studying something new!)

The degree ceremony was held at Ely Cathedral, which I don't recall having been to before. it's quite impressive, and has an unusual central tower topped with a wooden 'lantern' (apparently the original tower collapsed during building in the 14th Century, and it was  replaced with the current tower)

Inside, the cathedral has some pretty wonderful painted ceilings, and angels painted inside the lantern. The paintings aren't original, they were all added when the cathedral was renovated in the 19th Century, but they are rather impressive!

It was a beautiful day; we drove over to Ely, stopping for a pub lunch on the way, then after getting R all robed up we had a couple of hours before the ceremony itself, so lots of opportunities for photographs in the sunshine.

After the ceremony (which included the award of an honourary doctorate to Rose Tremain ) we went back to R's house to help him drink the champagne I brought him.

It was lovely to have the chance to spend time with R (and with my mum and dad) although I do now need a weekend to relax and catch up on some sleep...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

This and That

I've been  a bit remiss with this blogging, haven't I?
I haven't been doing much this last week - just working, and trying to keep on top of housework and so forth.

Housekeeping has included trying to gert the car through it's MOT - sadly it failed this afternoon - It seems I have a cracked spring in the ?suspension - I have a strong suspicion that this is probably the rattle I asked a (different) garage about a month or so back, which I suppose at least helps with the choosing which garage to use next time..

I'm taking it back on Monday, by which time they should have got the new spring in (plus a matching one for the other side) and should be able to fix it.  I'm waiting for the quote. On a happily surreal note, however, the garage I went to has a piano in thier waiting room! It's a tiny little garage - a modern, prefab unit on an industrial estate, not at all the kind of place one expects to find a random piano.

I didn't try to play it. It's the wrong time of year for my piece de resistance, 'Silent Night' played with one finger and many pauses. But I like to imagine that they have occasional clients who do sit down and play..