Friday, December 31, 2010

50th anniversaries in 2011

20/1 JFK sworn in
6/3 George Formby dies
8/3 Sir Thomas Beecham dies
15/3 Dr Richard Beeching appointed head of BR
26/3 Leigh Bowery born
31/3 Sir Geoffrey Faber died (there was no other Faber)
11/4 Adolf Eichmann put on trial
12/4 Yuri Gagarin first man in space
19/4 Bay of Pigs fails
23/4 De Gaulle broadcasts appeal in face of Algerian coup
8/5 George Blake gaoled for 42 years for spying
8/5 Anthony Wedgwood Benn barred from Parliament as Viscount Stansgate
10/5 Beyond The Fringe opens
13/5 Gary Cooper dies
31/5 South Africa leaves Commonwealth
27/6 Michael Ramsey enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury
1/7 Woman called Diana born
2/7 Ernest Hemingway shoots himself
13/8 Berlin Wall goes up
17/9 Ban the Bomb demo in Trafalgar Square (850 arrests - plus ça change)
18/9 Dag Hammarskjöld dies in plane crash
1/10 Last steam train runs on the London Underground
11/10 Chico Marx dies
18/10 West Side Story opens
25/10 Private Eye starts publication
2/11 James Thurber dies
9/11 Jill Dando born
4/12 Contraceptive pill approved for NHS by Enoch Powell
24/12 Frank Richards (author of Billy Bunter) dies

Oh, and it's my 50th too. Bloody Hell, how did THAT happen!

It was ten a half years ago tonight. Another subtle shift in perspective.

I did my usual thing of scanning the teletext pages for the local honours handed out to anyone I might know, when my jaw hit the floor. In Essex Mr R Bryant MBE "For services to justice in North London". I was immediately sure it was Dad as he'd been a magistrate for 20 years in Waltham Forest, and had been chair of the NE London Chancellor's advisory committee for some time (and was especially distinguished as the other 4 chairman were judges - Dad was the only, and I think first, lay chairman).

Having no broadband back then, but a working wireless setup connected to a Microsoft SBS 2000 server with modem (oh happy days!), I fired up the laptop and hooked up to the net and searched around. There I found the website from Buckingham Palace, which showed a similar report, without being *absolutely* sure I was convinced it was him.

Dad had kept completely and utterly schtum on the matter. As he had to.

The following morning, having set a completely unusual Saturday alarm, I rang and asked to speak to 'Mr R Bryant MBE'. "How the hell did you find out?" was his, frankly, shocked response. "Curiosity and the Internet Dad!!". I then explained.

Tonight, catching tweets on this year's New Year Honours, I realise that I'm no longer really bothered by it all, and will catch up with it all in the morning. It doesn't really matter now... Another subtle shift in perspectives.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A different kind of Christmas, ups and downs

With the year we'd had so far, we didn't expect Christmas to be ideal, but for both of us to go down with flu on Christmas Eve, and still be ill on the final bank holiday (Tuesday 28th in the UK) adds a special je ne sais quoi...

We did get to to cook the bird on Boxing Day, and have some - thankfully the cold weather meant that the boot of my car proved to be a excellent fridge.  But we've only had our second proper meal in 5 days!  Christmas Day dinner, was a bowl of soup and a cheese roll.  Still, could be far worse.

In the meantime, the ponds have started to defrost, but not before I got some interesting photos of the near complete coverage.  The lower pond level has dropped about 6 or 7 inches with the amount of water taken up in the ice.

This is the small ring left around the upper pond's pump (used to aerate the pond, and in these conditions ensure the ice is incomplete).  Frankly, given a few days more i think the pond would have been fully frozen!

Here's the waterfall between the ponds, almost something for a climbing challenge

And finally the pond filter system.  Heavily encrusted with ice, the water continues to flow through, but I imagine the contents are probably frozen in part.

Thank Heavens for a temporary thaw!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Steve H's (nearly!) annual Christmas gig - A Natural Christmas in the Garage

It's a strange night for me at this gig, as tomorrow we have a funeral to attend. And that's odd in itself as it's the first funeral in over 15 years where we've had no organisational role. We feel strangely spare over the last two weeks as we have just been told what and when, rather than been co-ordinating.

So tonight it's Christmas fun, and tomorrow will bring what it brings, and then we have 1 last gig and then we can wind down and enjoy the break.

And I hope he hands out the baubles from the tree again!

Friday, December 17, 2010

It was a cold cold day on the beach!

Today was the last day of our short break in North Norfolk.  After yesterday's miserable rainy day (although we did have some fun and shopping!) this morning was a glorious, nearly clear blue sky, day.

We breakfasted and moved out on our way home.  By dint of staying in a Holkham Estate hotel we got a free pass to the Lady Anne Drive car park opposite the Victoria Inn near Holkham Hall (although to be honest with so few people about, we probably would have got away without a ticket!).  Drive down to the parking places we looked to our left and suddenly realised that yesterday's 1,000 goose skein appear to have settled to feed on the field adjacent to the drive, along with a few thousand others.  Despite the cold we stopped and wound down the window and listened to the gentle honking of the geese.

Parked, we started to prepare for our near Arctic expedition. Without any apparant reason the geese all took off and moved field.  The sound and sight was simply amazing.  Sadly i had no decent camera with me, but the phone's camera had to do, and did a decent job.
Then, we set out across through the pines to the dunes and hit the sand.  The sands and beach were rock solid. The cold weather had completely frozen the beach - but there was a residual amount of sand whistling through the air at a few inches above ground as the cold arctic air flew in from the north.  As we looked we could see a few miniature sand dunes forming and building as per 1978 Geography O Level course notes!  In places they were perfect crescent shapes.

By now we were well out towards the sea (probably over half a mile from the trees) and wer still totally alopne on the beach.  This is a rartity to say the least.  We often come here on Boxing Day or New Year's Day and however cold, there is always a large turnout of kite flyers, dog walkers, hungover walkers, recalcitrant children in tow, but this time - we were really on our own.  But with a windchill that was about 15 or more degrees Centrigrade, below, I guess we were the only ones bold enough to brave the weather. 
Eventually reaching the sea I was somewhat disappointed to find there were no indication of ice in the water.  Optimism defeated
As the picture below shows, it was damn cold out there, and despite wrapping up really well, we could do nothing to keep our noses and cheeks from freezing!

Returning having dipped our toes in the water, we saw more of the shifting sands, and returned to the location of our big arrow in the main dune (done to show our way back),  Mrs B was astonished to see that the main line of the arrow (dragged out by our feet) was already filled in with the blown sand - even though we'd only been out for 10 minutes or more.  At this point I was about to take another photo, when my phone rang.  Now, Orange, how come you can get a phone call to me at least a mile from civilisation and whilst nearly in the North Sea, but you cannot manage to deliver a signal within 1.5 miles of a mast, and in a populated area? 

Finally, returning close to the trees, we marvelled at the crystaline nature of the frozen sea water in the patches of ice in the channels through which the entire marsh area would later be flooded.

But I like it!

It's a stark winter beauty round our way...