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The Adventures of Archimedes

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: 20111026 at 2126

We won... but what?

What with applying in two rounds of Olympic ticket lotteries, and some help from Thomas, we ended up with tickets to three Olympic events: badminton, hockey and women's football. (I'm particularly looking forward to the latter as we have tickets to the final at Wembley). Recently we applied for Paralympic tickets, and we have clearly won something as we seem to have been debited some money. Sometime over the next few weeks, we should find out what we're going to get to see. I am fed up of people decrying the Olympics. The decision is made now, it's coming here whether you like it or not, so we might as well participate and make the most of it. I'm pretty sure it won't happen again here n my lifetime, so it's something I want to see.

If you ask me, the Paralympics are even more appealing as for all of the competitors this will be the highlight of their sporting careers, any teething problems with the venues will have been long ironed out, and Team GB should win a decent number of medals. If I paid a licence fee, I'd be really annoyed that the BBC think they have better things to spend it on than mounting some decent coverage.

: 20111025 at 2049

How not to start your day

Wake to the sound of something small and very squeaky being tortured downstairs. Stumble out of bed in dark, walk into piece of furniture that didn't used to be there (in newly decorated bedroom), swear copiously. Find two cats in lounge looking very disinterested in what-ever creature one of them has dragged in. Shut door. Listen carefully for sounds of creature, which evades capture by hiding behind furniture. Yell at cats, who remain completely disinterested. Move furniture. Find creature falls silent, give up looking for it and also on the idea of going for a swim, shut the door, get dressed and go to work...

If you really want to finish the day in style, coming home to find Himself has moved everything that can be moved into the middle of the room and still found no creature (plenty of evidence though - wretched thing has relieved itself everywhere) has a certain thematic satisfaction. We're left idly wondering whether one of the cats has caught it in a moment of interest and taken it back outside. They of course wear an expression of weary disdain at all of the activity and are most put out that they've been shut in the lounge for the night.

: 20111023 at 2109

Birthday Celebrations

We went bowling; I had forgotten quite how rubbish I am. Occasionally it all goes right and for a moment I think I might have some latent talent, but then the universe rights itself and I'm back to sending the balls down the gutter. Ah well. It didn't really matter, as we all had lots of fun. Even if Mr Jamie (Aged 4) won in one of the lanes.

Thanks to a pretty early night, I didn't feel too awful this morning, notwithstanding the amount of junk food and sickly alcoholic liquid I poured down myself last night. It was ages since we'd been to a house party, and it was a lot of fun. With luck, we'll have relieved the worst of Kathryn's being 30 traumas for a week or two. As I told her at the time, if it's any comfort we'll always be older than she is.

: 20111022 at 0805

A Challenge

Kathryn was 30 last week, and today is her second celebration. As we were unable to join her for a day of madness in London last weekend this is the day where we have to do justice to her celebration ambitions by (somehow) getting through bowling, lunch and an evening of drunken lunacy, accompanied by something pink. The preparation is done, though I'm not sure Himself has yet found anything pink to wear. If you're lucky, and we survive the experience, we'll post some pictures tomorrow...

: 20111002 at 2125

heatwave and history

It's been warm; hot indeed. I'm not really, designed for hot weather but it's been nice to see the sunshine. Depressingly, I've caught germs from somewhere so during what is possibly the hottest weekend of the whole year I've got a nasty case if the sniffkes, accompanied by considerable self pity.

In an attempt to take my mind if it, or perhaps take his mind if the self pity, Himself took me to Porchester castle today. It is one of my favourite places as it has a lot of historical interest but is also a really nice place to be. From the top of the tower you can see for miles. I wondered whether the Spinnaker will still be around in a few hundred years?

: 20110905 at 2117

Hello Stranger

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that we've been appallingly bad at blogging lately. Presumably, you've noticed. In fact, you've probably given up on us altogether and gone off to have a life instead, for which I wouldn't blame you. Maybe you'll stop by again one day, maybe you won't - but at least there will be the odd update for you in case you do.

It's not that we've been terribly busy and haven't had the time, almost the opposite. But not quite; it isn't that we've done nothing, it's more that we've done nothing that feels like you might possibly be interested. About a year and a half after joining the National Trust, we finally went to see Uppark , which was moderately interesting, but probably only to us as we've done several murder dinners there. Unless you're particularly fascinated by country houses, it's probably all the same to you. We followed that by a night in a very pleasant hotel where we ate delightful food and whiled away an entire day in an equally delightful spa. Somehow there doesn't seem to be much to tell.

Getting away has been nice because for both of us, our workplaces have been by turns traumatic and completely manic, but wouldn't blogging about work be enormously dull? Besides which the point is to try and have a life outside of blogging. So I shall resolve dear reader (assuming one of you at least has hung on) to find something each day to do/listen to/read/think that does not have anything to do with work. And I hope it will do me good - at least that way all is not lost if you have completely deserted us.

: 20110817 at 2113

Voice of the People

Apparently in Switzerland, if a hundred thousand voters sign a petition demanding a referendum on any particular question, the government has to hold one. Given some of the subjects attracting support on the Government e-Petition website, perhaps it's just as well it doesn't happen here. I'm not sure I want the voice of the people to prevail.

I don't, for example, think many of the people who rioted on our streets last week were fundamentally bad people who are dedicating their lives to making other people miserable. (Although obviously like any right minded person I would mind those particular people who ARE devoting themselves to making the rest of us miserable being rounded up and made to do something really unpleasant for a long time.) I think quite a few of them got caught up in something they now regret, swept along by the crowd and not stopping to think about what they were doing. That makes them stupid, and a bit sheep-like, but not fundamentally bad people, and I'm not sure it justifies taking away the benefits that might be the only way they can feed their families. I also have a sneaky feeling that if a contributory factor - or even an excuse some people told themselves made what they were doing was OK - was that they were struggling financially, then this is not likely to encourage them to behave better in future.

I don't for a moment think that I have answers to society's problems, and I do understand the horror that nearly everyone feels in response to what happened, and I would like to see those who took part really properly pay for it in some way. I'm just not convinced that mob rule makes good decisions. In most circumstances, you need someone at the top who makes the hard choices, and everyone else, to some extent at least, just has to lump it. Maybe this is cowardice and I'm fundamentally not interested enough in the major issues of the day; to be honest, I've reached a point where I just want a quiet life really. Rather than vent my spleen calling phone-ins and getting into heated debates about what to do about the young people/black people/white people who supposedly caused the whole thing, I'm more inclined to find a youth outreach program in my local area and volunteer. At least that way I could contribute something constructive.

Some Swiss at least seem to treat the 'people power' facilities with a sense of humour, and are currently campaigning to ban computer presentation software. Fortunately we don't use it a lot at work, but I suggest some employees of large companies may sympathise with the aims of the Anti-Powerpoint party. Perhaps we should use those convicted after the riots as test cases and subject them two a few weeks of solid death-by-powerpoint, after which they'll no doubt be begging to be released to help rebuild the communities they damaged and promising to be good forever.

: 20110813 at 0742

It's All So Quiet

Not that Thomas was a particularly noisy house-guest, but his now that he's gone posh and moved to Emsworth we notice his absence as a gap in the household. Less washing to do; less food to cook (or, since it's hard to get used to that, more left-overs for the moment.)

It's the summer, so there's not too much going on round here. We've done a bit of reading, quite a lot of work and not a lot else.

: 20110730 at 1018

Offensive and tasteless!

This blog is officially offensive and tasteless! At least it is according to some tenth-rate filtering software at a certain Further Educational establishment. I for one am very proud of this. I thought my review of the trip to Edinburgh was really quite tame. Maybe it was the plastic men who did it? Or perhaps, just perhaps, it's something to do with some of the other blogs that we link to. Hello Kathryn. I'm not saying anything...

The blog has also been slightly suped-up with curvy corners and drop shadows. But those are only visible in a browser with decent CSS3 support. If you can't see them, then you haven't got one. You can get one here. Other standards compliant browsers are available. Curiously the Google webkit-based browser on my phone can do curvy corners but not drop-shadows. If you want to be really high-tech, you could try stalking me on Twitter with the aid of this button.

: 20110716 at 0756

The plastic men are coming

It's starting folks; not long to go now. The plastic people are coming. It looks like a full-scale invasion. For some reason they seem to be starting with Debenhams in Southampton. Don't ask why. We were there last Thursday; it was a hot day and the air-conditioning was broken, which made it a very, very hot and humid store. And it's full of plastic men, many of whom seem to have no clothes on, and no sense of shame about having no clothes on. Interesting.

This seems to be the arrival area where more and more of the plastic army are materialising, with nothing on, before spreading out through the store.

lots of plastic men

The they spread out through the store, slowly taking over the world, one department at a time. The one at the front has stolen some clothes off the rack; don't be fooled by his lack of fashion sense: they will have no mercy when they reach your town!

plastic men around the store

Suddenly they're everywhere. They clearly have some kind of primitive social structure since they go around in groups. Like teenagers hanging around on street corners, this group have taken over a department and are on the lookout for victims...

a group of plastic men

These guys are trying to blend in. They've acquired some clothes but you can't fool me, it's the silver head that gives it away!

plastic men blending in

And I don't even want to think about what happened to these poor chaps. They must have done something dreadful back in the Plastic Homeland to arrive in this condition.

plastic men with no heads

Meanwhile, in the arrival area there seems to be a fake. He's quite well camouflaged, can you spot him?

fake plastic man

I can think of several possible explanations for this disturbing new development in the brief history of mankind:

  • It really was the start of an takeover by naked, plastic aliens.
  • It was so hot in there in July with no air-con that the staff had been baked; their clothes were incinerated and their skins had gone crispy.
  • It was so hot that the mannequins in the store had come to life and decided to strip off to cool down.
  • Or, most bizzarely of all, that the dummies in Debenhams get undressed on Wednesdays and re-clothed on Thursdays, in the middle of the day, with hundreds of people watching.

Occam's razor says that the last one surely can't be right. That's just too ridiculous. What kind of store would operate such a warped policy as that? So aliens it is then! They're coming!

: 20110713 at 2203

Scottish rain is quite like Welsh rain really

They both get you very wet and if you try to use an umbrella, you'll find that it somehow comes in sideways so you still get wet. Still, we had a good time. Ate lots. Drank lots. And were generally very cultured visiting museums, castles, even a library. The library of Scotland no less. But we didn't go to any galleries, since they all seem to be shut for redevelopment, simultaneously. No artwork for us. We had to make do with a tour around the Scottish Parliament and a visit to the Scottish Crown Jewels.

The Scottish Parliament building is really quite something and well worth seeing. I know it cost a fortune and took ages to build but it is surprisingly dignified and grand as well as being fiercely modern and mostly made of concrete. This is a picture I took from the distance showing the curved fascade facing the park and the sea beyond.

Distant view of Scottish Parliament

The Stone of Scone is really just an unremarkable lump of sandstone. The Crown of James V, however, is beautifully preserved and still striking today. It makes an appearance to represent the power of the Monarch at the opening of each session of the Scottish Parliament. Also in Edinburgh Castle we visited the tiny room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James the VI of Scotland and I of England. Born on the same day as me, sensible chap, from these modest beginnings he went on to be the first King of Great Britain. Which is quite something to crow about. His mother rather underplayed her hand and didn't realise how powerful she was until she lost her head. Very careless. James, however, knew exactly how powerful he was and returned to Scotland only once after he was crowned King of England. This little orphan, crowned King of Scotland aged seven set the scene for the development of Britain into the most powerful maritime, military and trading force the world had ever seen.

On the subject of power, real power, it struck me just how close the principal political buildings of state are in Edinburgh. The Royal Palace is literally just across the road from the new Parliament Building. Just up the road are several Scottish Government buildings. On the far side of the park is the key to Scotland's former trading wealth - the sea port of Leith. And at the top of the Royal Mile is Edinburgh Castle - the seat of military power. I've attempted to capture some of this from a hill-top vantage point. In the background you can see the dramatic landscape of Aurthur's Seat and to the left you can just make out a little bit of sea. Centre-left you can see the Royal Palace and just to the right you can make out the front of the Parliament building which is literally a stone's throw away. In the foreground are some Government buildings. It's all there, densely packed political power, quite unlike any other Capital city I've seen.

Political Landscape picture

I promised Twitter followers that I would post the view from our hotel window, which was particularly good. So here it is. You can see all the way out past the port of Leith and into the Firth of Forth.

View from hotel window

Finally, this caught my eye on the train home. It's a sign seen at Doncaster station. Can anyone tell me what a loaded brute might be? It sounds like something to be avoided!

Railway sign
: 20110705 at 2139

We are the champions

On Friday Thomas and I went to a quiz, organised by James as a fund-raiser. We dragged a few others along to make up a team and took full advantage of the jacket potato supper on offer, as I expected to loose horribly. Fate however had blessed us with a properly balanced team which tackled rounds including 'red things', 'films' and 'geography' with actual knowledge, and we won. Rosie and Thomas were the most pleased (being the most competitive) but it was very gratifying. Yay for us.

There is a quiz at the Bench club night on Thursday, and I am expected to be humiliatingly last to make up for this.

: 20110702 at 0730

Not so fast slave!

Ho ho ho, best laid plans and all that... so much for an early night. Our reader may remember that in the not too distant past we purchased a discerning cat-flap, which reads the ID chips in the cats and only lets in 'the right sort of cat', in this case the ones that actually live here. It was fantastic, a simply but brilliant idea made by a UK company, expensive but worth every penny to keep other people's cats out of our house without requiring our two to wear collars (what a hilariously daft idea that would be). Until it broke. I have no idea what caused it to stop working, but one day I noticed that the customary 'click' indicating successful recognition had stopped. Our cat flap had started letting in the riff raff, and it was only a matter of time until the local riff raff worked this out.

Thankfully, as well as innovative electronics the UK company that made it offer rather good customer service. After a brief exchange of emails describing the symptoms, a nice lady concluded that the only solution was a complete replacement, and dispatched one. Can't fault that. It's a shame that the courier company they use insist on a signature, and seem incapable of delivering outside work ours, and have a depot conveniently located completely out of my way to any location I might ever want to visit, but you can't have everything. This did mean it took nearly a week for me to get my hands on the package containing the new flap, at which point (as you do) I drove around with it in the back of my car for a couple more days. Well, I had things to do, much more important than fitting a new cat flap... that could wait until the weekend (when, with a bit of luck, Paul and Thomas would do it.)

When on Thursday evening I came downstairs to find the local howling cat (for the sake of all of our sanity, shut up creature!!) in our lounge, and inclined to hang around in the garden once chased out of the house, I realised this could not go on; it was time to fit the stupid thing. This is why I was on my hands and knees at quarter past ten at night with a hole in the side of the house, swearing at my lack of a third hand with which to hold the other side of the thing in place so I could get the screws in. This little hiccup overcome, I proudly surveyed my handiwork, and went to find the treats to summon the monsters so that they could be programmed into the new flap. It has to know which ones to recognise see? Theo, of course, arrived almost instantly the food cupboard door was opened and was easily persuaded to pass through the flap with it in learning mode. Result. Archimedes was resolutely Not At Home. Presumably, out gallivanting, I know now where, but apparently beyond earshot. I dared not leave the thing in learning mode - what if the other cat came back? - so eventually had to give up and go to bed. I got up three times, convinced I had heard him banging his little face against the unyielding door, but eventually fell asleep. In the morning, there he was, sitting on the fence, confused and bemused by being shut out of his own house. I had to spent ten minutes coaxing him in to overcome his suspicion of flaps that suddenly won't open for him. Stupid animal.

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