Saturday, 18 June 2016

House and Garden

When I moved in to my house I knew it would need a fair bit of work doing, and last year I got the majority of the indoor work done, with a new boiler, insulation, and lots of redecoration.

This year, it's time for the outside, and on Monday morning, 4 blokes and a JCB turned up to get started.

pre work

At the front, the previous owners had tarmaced over the front garden, leaving it open to the road, and I've wanted to turn that back into a garden, (hence the JCB)

Apparently they took out about 18 tons of tarmac and rubble.

After which they laid topsoil, and built me a fence and a couple of gates.

I am of course partial, but I do think it looks rather nicer now! 

And I shall be starting to plant stuff at the front in the coming months.

At the back of the house, the previous owners had laid patio and gravel over most of the garden, and again, I wanted a bit more garden. In addition, at Christmas, the back fence succumbed to the weather.

The death of the back fence
pre-work back garden

So I decided that I would keep the patio but increase the amount of lawn, and of course replace the back fence.

new back garden

The new turf looks very neat and bright compared to the old grass (or it did..)

Because, having finished the work on Thursday, the heavens opened on Friday evening, and we had phenomenal amounts of rain in a very short space of time, which resulted in a very brief but spectacular flood.

Which was just a bit annoying :( I mean, the turf care instructions I have been given do say to "keep the new turf well watered" for the first couple of weeks, but I suspect this wasn't quite what they had in mind...

Friday, 17 June 2016

Jo Cox : RIP

I'm normally fairly light hearted here. I don't make a habit of positing about politics.

But today, I came home, I turned on the news, and learned that Jo Cox, MP a West Yorkshire MP, and former charity worker,  was murdered today. She was stabbed and shot while holding a surgery in her constituency.

I didn't know her. I didn't know her name, before today.

But I am appalled that anyone, politician or otherwise, has been killed for doing her job, for standing up for her principals, for holding, and expressing, views which others didn't accept.

She was only elected 13 months ago, in May 2015. She used her Maiden Speech in the House of Commons to speak out in support of the benefits of multi-culturalism and immigrants to this country, she seems, by all accounts, to have been an excellent and effective constituency MP, and she actively worked to support and welcome refugees.

Her death is a huge loss, not only to her family and  her own Yorkshire community, but to all of us. She was the sort of politician one can respect and support, and even if you don't share her political views, she clearly earned respect for her integrity, commitment and compassion.

And she was well-matched. Her husband, in the middle of the first shock of her death, gave a statement. He said:

“Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives, More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it everyday of her life with an energy and a zest for life that would exhaust most people. 

She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.

Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”

My heart goes out to him, and their children. To be able to refrain from any mention of revenge, from any hatred.. I hope that he will find some comfort in the outpouring of love and support there has been for his wife.

I have also been thinking a lot about the word Neil Gaiman wrote, after and in response to the Charlie Hebdo murders. I think they apply here, too. 

"I believe I have the right to think and say the wrong things. I believe your remedy for that should be to argue with me or to ignore me, and that I should have the same remedy for the wrong things that you think.

I believe that you have the absolute right to think things that I find offensive, stupid, preposterous or dangerous, and that you have the right to speak, write, or distribute these things, and that I do not have the right to kill you, maim you, hurt you, or take away your liberty or property because I find your ideas threatening or insulting or downright disgusting. You probably think my ideas are pretty vile, too."

Thursday, 16 June 2016

TheThreepenny Opera

On Saturday, I saw The Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre. I've never seen the show before,although I am of course familiar with the song Mack the Knife.

I really enjoyed this production. The theatre's own website promises that it "Contains filthy language and immoral behaviour." and it does.

Rory Kinnear is Captain MacHeath, with Rosalie Craig as Polly Peachum, Peter de Jersey as Police chief 'Tiger' Brown (I kept thinking that he looked familiar, having looked him up when I got home I find he was Cominius in 'Coriolanus' at the Donmar, and Horatio in the David Tennant 'Hamlet', which would explain his familiarity!)

I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The staging is  almost cartoonish, with many props labelled - '"drugs", "loud" (on a megaphone) and so forth. My particular favourite was the newspaper with the huge headline "Mack Does Bad Things".

Rory Kinnear is convincingly amoral and scary, and he also has a surprisingly nice signing voice. 

And Rosalie Craig (Polly Peachum) was hugely impressive, both musically and and as an actor. As indeed were Jamie Beddard (stealing evey scene he was in) and Nick Holder's aimiable but terrifying Peachum.

Definitely worth seeing. I should like to go back and watch it all over again, if I could. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

A Grand Day Out

On Saturday I spent the day in London, meeting up with friends in order to go to the National Theatre to see 'The Threepenny Opera'

We met up in time to have lunch (Pies!) near the river, then, as we walked back to the theatre, we found that the RAF had kindly put on a fly-past to celebrate our meeting.

(I suppose it is just possible that they may also have been marking the Queen's 90th Brthday and Trooping of the Colour) 

Spitfire and Hurricane - Battle of Britain Flight
There were initially a group of 4 helicopters, followed by a Hurricane and a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Flight

There were then various other planes,  from the Hercules, and other big transport planes, to more modern jet planes, including Tornados and Typhoons.

The finale was provided by the Red Arrows, who came in over the Thames in their distinctive 'V' formation.

I hope the Queen enjoyed seeing them. We did!

The Red Arrows
And it was a fun addition to the day.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Beekeeping update

I've had the bees for 3 weeks now, and they have not given up on me in disgust yet, which is good!
Comb with Queen, bees, pollen and brood.
As I explained in my previous bee-post, I didn't manage to spot the queen when I installed the bees, but I did manage to see and identify her on my first inspection. She was supposed to come ready marked, but she isn't (or perhaps her workers have cleaned the marking paint off her).  She's also much yellower than I had expected, having seen much darker queens in the other hives I have seen.

But I did feel very pleased with myself when I managed to identify her! 

It was fascinating, too, to see the different colours of pollen as the bees bring in stores - if you look at the photo above, you can see one cell with bright orange pollen in, which I believe is likely to be dandelion pollen, for instance.

Newly drawn comb with eggs
The bees have also been busy as, well, bees, 'drawing out' wax into new cells to fill with stores and new bees - I was very impressed to be able to see the teeny tiny eggs in the new cells - clearly Her Majesty is hard at work!

I have also now received my first bee-sting (not something to celebrate, but I suppose it can be seen as  a rite of passage of sorts.

I had a bit of a wobble this weekend, as when I went to see them on Saturday they appeared to be much less mellow and chilled out  than they have been until now, but happily another local beekeeper came to inspect them with me, which was very reassuring.(We didn't either of us manage to spot the queen, but she was obviously there, as there were plenty of new eggs!)

I have added a Super to the hive - this gives the bees more space to keep stores, particularly honey, but the queen cannot get into it so she stays in the bigger brood-bx down below and keeps laying eggs. I am not really expecting to be able to harvest any honey this year, as it is the first year, as the bees will of course need stores to keep them going through the winter, but who knows? If they have a good year, they may have some honey to spare for me!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Buzz Aldrin : A Remarkable Man

Photo of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong
On Friday evening,  I was privileged to see and hear, a real legend, Apollo astronaut, Buzz Aldrin.

He was visiting Bath in connection with his new book, No Dream is Too High

He spoke about his early life, giving us a potted biography, from his childhood (the name 'Buzz' coming from'Buzzer', as his sisters couldn't say 'brother' when they were very young), through his first flight at the age of two, and then (skipping a decade or so), he spoke about his service in the US Air Force, and flying as a fighter pilot during the Korean war. (including taking a photo from his gun turret camera, of a Russian pilot ejecting from his plane, which was published in 'Life' magazine)

And then on to his involvement in the Space program. He explained that he was encouraged by Ed White, who had been a close friend of his since they were both at West Point, to apply to NASA (White was later killed in the Apollo 1 disaster).

At first, he didn't succeed, as he had not been a test-pilot, which was one of the qualifications needed, but he persevered, and got accepted on his second attempt!

And, of course, then came the Gemini and Apollo programs - he spoke a little about these, and about the moon lading itself, including explaining that the black marks on his space suit in the famous photo of him on the moon are moondust left by Armstrong on the bottom rung of the ladder from the lander.

He also spoke about his love of diving (and showed a photo of him on a dive to celebrate his 80th birthday, hitching a lift with a whale shark!

The event finished with a few questions, including some from children. One of the kids asked whether he had needed a passport to go to the moon, and he explained that no, he didn't, but that he did fill in a travel voucher / expenses claim, setting out details of the full round trip!

I wasn't able to get a book signed due to the size of the queue - my seat was up in the circle. The venue holds about 1,600 people and I think it was sold out, so the queue as long, and I would have been near the back of it, so I didn't stay.

But even without meeting the man face to face it was an inspiring evening, with an extraordinary man, who has had the most extraordinary experiences. And a remarkable reminder of what scientific imagination can achieve.

(In fact, the one sour note of the evening was the number of people who were getting up and making a lot of noise, trying to jump to the front of the queue, before the event finished - do disruptive and rude!).