Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Wales, in photos...

When on our recent holiday we went for a walk on the beach, had a ramble in the hills, did a lot of driving along a particular road, rode horses, and took a long walk along a long pier. Here are some pictures to prove it.

The hills around Capel Curig. Stitched together using autostitch.

Bren with unadorned hat. We went horse riding along a trail near a place called Penmachno.

And this is the horse I rode. He's called Phoenix, and he likes to trot, even when he's supposed to be walking.

The caravan.In disarray.

This is a car park on the road between Capel Curig and Beddgelert. The route is amazingly photogenic, and I just had to do a panorama here.

As luck would have it, my Mum and Dad were also on holiday nearby. We met them in Beaumaris. Mum started smelling things that nobody else could smell that evening. She's now undergoing tests. It's hard not to be worried.

We went for a tour around Beaumaris jail. It was fascinating. The door in the wall in the picture above led to a scaffold. Two people were hanged here, and one of them became the protagonist for the voiceover.

Bren at one end of the pier.

Bren at the other end of the pier.

Menai: A study in rust.

Bring me sunshine...

Thank you.

Bren with Iggle Piggle. Iggle Piggle is the one in the light blue top with red hair..

Synchronised swimmers.

Black Rock Sands. You can drive here legally and make you own Nazca lines.

The posts are there to stop unauthorised vehicular entry to the caravan park.

by people in Range Roves.

They look good in the light of the evening sun.

There's a chapter in Alan Weissmann's book, "The World Without Us" that is devoted to polymers. You can read it here. We live in a world contaminated by an ever increasing amount of indestructible crap. Black rock sands is no exception.

This last one is organic. It's not plastic.

Lambing season.

Just look at the wool on this sheep. It's gorgeous. Look at it. Look. At. It. Imagine yourself running your fingers through it.

This is the track northwards from Capel Curig. It was like the road to Rivendell.

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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Somewhere, in the New York of my dreams...

...there is a very tall building. The top is square and it has a raised parapet. On the outside of this parapet is a decorative, architectural circle of rough sandstone, like a solid stone wheel.. It juts out for a couple of feet, and has a diameter of perhaps 20 feet. Below, straight down, is a void.

And last night, dear reader, I was sat atop this wheel, while Bren sat sideways on, slightly to the side of me, on the slope of the wheel, perilously close to the point where it got steep enough for a slide into oblivion to become likely. I wanted to clamber over the parapet, which was perhaps 4 feet or so above the apex of the wheel to the comparative safety of the square top of the building, but I couldn't do so without putting Bren in further danger. She, though, was reluctant to move.

The emotional content was fear. My toes were probably curling in my sleep. They are now too, remembering.

Buildings, anxiety, an unspoken frustration. I don't suppose this is too hard to interpret.

Edit: A few days later, I found a link to something in my waking life.

I've been playing Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. I'd got quite a long way into the game, and was starting to get a bit bored with it, so I was messing around with the cheats, awarding myself a jetpack, and flying to the top of some of the tall buildings that you find in the game world.

It may be that somewhere in San Andreas there is a building with the architectural detail I described above, or it could be that I've taken something else and modified it. My best guess is the control tower at San Andreas airport.

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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

moving on

We have a completion date.

A week on Friday, contracts will be exchanged, money will change hands, and we will be mixing our blessings in new surroundings. The house we currently live in will no longer belong to us. It will belong to Alex, and we will shortly be leaving it to him.

In return for this downsize we should be clear of debt. Our overheads should be lower. We can also pay off the landlord to Bren's shop, who's turned out to be a manipulative, callous shit, not to put too fine a point on it.

Update: Expected move date dependent on when van hire is cheapest, but I've booked off the weekend of 11/12 May.

Also further contact has been made by Landlord. He has suddenly taken a much more conciliatory line. It looks like we're not going to have to find close to £15,000 to buy ourselves out of the lease, although some costs will still be incurred.

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

The lost weekend

All week, on the odd occasion we managed to get online, we've been looking at the weather forecast. It said the best day was going to be Saturday. Having got close to the top of Glyder Fawr last time we came here, we planned to make the climb this time around. This time it would work. We would choose the best day, get up early, and get our asses into gear.

And so it was that this morning, having set the alarm for 10am, I awoke sometime before it went off to the sound of rain pelting onto the roof.

Yesterday was lovely. We went to Capel Curig, and had a nice ramble in the hills. A fine precursor it would have been.

I went online this morning and checked the weather forecast. Perhaps after a wet start, things would brighten up, but no. Every online account matched the evidence of my eyes. The clouds stretched to the horizon, and they were low black heavy clouds with murder in their heart.
The websites though said this weather was for Sunday. Hang on a minute! what was going on? I moused over the clock in the bottom corner of my screen. It said Sunday, 21st April. But... But...

Somewhere along the line I lost track of the days. Our 9th anniversary was on the 18th. I thought it was a wednesday but it wasn't. We celebrated with my Mum and Dad, who also happened to be on holiday, in Anglesey.

No wonder the weather forecast for Saturday turned up a day early! And no wonder the weather scheduled for Sunday followed it. And no wonder Capel Curig was so busy!

We go home tomorrow. A day earler than we thought we were going. I have lots of photos to post, but not using a mobile broadband dongle in an area with lots of mountains nearby.

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Friday, 12 April 2013


"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

What they failed to achieve with Tanks and Stukas, I can't help but feel they achieved with newspapers and television. 

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We still don't yet live in a caravan.

It should be that the sale of the house will be completed in the next few weeks, but even then, we will not be vacating immediately.

In the meantime, I've started what I hope will be a joint blog with Brenda.


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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Merseyside by night

I can't find it now, but I posted a composite image of the whole damn world by night a couple of years ago. Then I made the point that light equalled wealth. Here though, the opposite is sort of true. The brightly lit stuff is high density urban and industrial. The darker bits are rural. Affluent communities of larger, more diffuse dwellings.

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Monday, 8 April 2013

Ashes to ashes, rust to rust.

David Byrne, in his book (audiobook for me), Bicycle Diaries, tells the story of Spandau prison.

For many years, the prison had just one inmate, Rudoph Hess. Eventually, Hess killed himself, and the structure was almost immediately knocked down. The bricks were pulverised, and the dust was dumped into the North Sea.

They didn't want the site to become some kind of focus for neo-nazis.

I suspect that Margaret Thatcher will be cremated, and her ashes strewn to the winds,  because they don't want her grave to become some kind of focus for defecators and graffiti artists.

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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Need for speed...

One of my regular readers asked me to provide more detail on a comment made in a previous post.

"...surreptitiously sneaked into the middle is the unexplained, "A pupil who's [sic] main driving role model is a dick." Perhaps you can shed some more light on this. Remember this is a public forum."
So this is for Pete.

One of the main characteristics of learner drivers is that they go too slowly in the quick bits, and they go too quickly in the slow bits.

First of all, going too slowly on fast roads...

Using the PIE model, they may physically be struggling to do what they need to do to drive at the right speed. Not being able to change into a high gear might be one reason. Not looking far enough ahead is a more common one. They may not have the knowledge that's required (that white sign with a black diagonal stripe is a national speed limit sign, which means 60 mph on a single carriageway and 70 mph on a motorway or dual carriageway) And they may be shitting themselves lack the confindence to travel at the required speed.

Secondly, going to quickly when they should be going slowly happens for some fairly well defined reasons.

Not being able to make the car go slowly enough is one thing. Clutch control takes time to master, as does using the brakes in a progressive way. But it's often not a physical thing. The emotional and perceptual play a big part.

Learners will often find the correct speed if there's nothing behind them, but will go too quickly if they can see a car in their mirror. They feel that the driver of the car behind is angry with them for getting in the way. This is sometimes true, but generally, most people are pretty tolerant, and the ones that aren't are never going to be happy with having a learner in front of them, even if that learner is travelling at 90mph.

Psychologically, if someone is uncomfortable with their situation, they don't want to be there, and will often rush, just to get it over with. The most blatant example for me was a couple of years ago, an elderly lady wanted refresher lessons. I took her to New Brighton promenade, and she shot off like a bat out of hell. I ended up taking her onto the motorway just to keep us safe. We got there in the end, but the first few sessions were pretty scary for both of us.

Finally, the speed someone chooses is based upon preconceptions. If your experience of driving comes from sitting next to a careful driver who drives defensively and carefully, your perception of what's acceptable may well be very different to someone who's spent their time as a passenger with someone who drives aggressively.  On lesson one, when I'm taking a new pupil somewhere quiet, I will generally try to drive as well as I can, to set a good example. Generally.

And so to the pupil I was referring to. Just for the purposes of this post, let's call him Steve. His real name is Dave, but let's call him Steve.

On lesson one, I took Steve to "The Dips", and was in the middle of a fairly standard first lesson when a car whizzed past us, screeched to a halt a bit further down the road, rapidly did a 3 point turn, and drove back, pulling up next to us. It was Steve's dad, and he was made up to see his son actually behind the wheel doing a bit. We spoke briefly, he wished his son and me well, and off he went. Steve's dad drives for a living, making deliveries. I get the impression that he's a bit quick.

I did a lesson with Steve a week or so ago, and it was terrifying. I spent the whole lesson trying to slow him down, as he was going far too quickly into blind junctions and upto red traffic lights. Everywhere really.

A thought struck me then, that the reason he was driving that was was because that's the way he thought he was expected to drive. At the end of the lesson, I asked him why he wanted to do it this way, and he couldn't really offer any explanation. I certainly wasn't going to start calling his dad a bad driver to his face, so I mentioned about nervous drivers and worries about the person behind thinking bad thoughts.

I saw Steve again a couple of days ago. I'd really been dreading the lesson, but he made a conscious effort to do things differently, and at some point, a whole cascade of pennies seemed to drop. He really flew, and by that I don't mean he drove at 100 miles an hour. Giving himself the time to do things properly put him in control, and he really got into the new skills he had acquired.

Hopefully, he will take a lot of what he learned and take it into his future driving. Steve is at the beginning of a career path (he plays football at youth level for a professional team) that could potentially see him make a lot of money and be given some high powered vehicles to drive.

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I can't remember if I cried, 
when I read about his widowed bride. 
But something touched me deep inside, 
the day the music died.

It's rare that I will shed a tear for someone I've never met. The last time it happened was when I heard of John Peel's sudden death. Why him? Well he was a profound presence in my own personal culture.

And so it is that news comes today of the terminal illness of Iain Banks. Another person who's life and works have been a huge part of my life for several decades. It's difficult to precisely say why, but he's put into words many of the things I'd like to see said. Always with an eye to a story, and always with a dark humour.

Not all of his books do it for me, and for all the potential complexity of something like Banks' "Culture", there must only be a finite number of possible storylines. Yet overall, he's someone I've kept coming back to again and again.

And, dear reader, I don't mind telling you that a tear is welling in my eye as I write this.

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Famous for 15 minutes?

A famous person once famously said that everyone is famous for 15 minutes.

Well let's see if it's possible to determine if this is correct, using nothing more than my own criteria for fame, the internet, and the back of a conveniently located fag packet.

Well there are approximately 7 billion people on the planet, as far as is known.

The average human lifespan is 67.2 years.

My arbitrary criteria for being famous is the inclusion in wikipedia's list of living people. This contains 612,250 entries.

So how many 15 minutes are there in 67.2 years?

Well 4 of them make an hour. Therefore 96 of them make a day. Allowing for leapyears, there are 365.25 days in a year. So that means there are 35,064 fifteen minute blocks in an average year. Multiply that by 67.2 and you get 2,356,300.8.

So if you divide 7 billion by 2,356,300.8, you should end up with the number of people that are famous at any given moment.

This I have done, and I got the figure, 2,970.7582325652140847212715795878.

This is clearly far fewer than the number of people included in wikipedia's list of living people, and so I have to conclude that we're on average famous for longer than 15 minutes. If not, then there would be far fewer famous people, unless you introduce some criteria such as only being famous while the person doing the counting is awake.

So how long on average are we famous for? To find this figure I need to divide the number of wikipedia'd living people, by that long number above, and multiply the result by 15. This will give the answer, in minutes.

612,250 / 2970.7582325652140847212715795878 = 206.0921664

Multiply that by 15 and you get 3,091.382496 minutes. That's 51 hours. 51.5230416 to be precise.

So, Mr Warhol, I'm afraid you were out by quite a substantial amount. You should have researched it, like what I did.

This does of course lead to a follow up question.

When will I, will I be famous?

I can't answer. I can't answer that.

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