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Scattering the ashes

Charlestown beach

Christopher used to holiday in Cornwall as a child, and had very happy memories of the county. So I thought it was only right to scatter some of his ashes whilst I was down there. The spot I chose was very peaceful – a stream coming out of the small cave you can see just above the sea-wall to the right of the photo. The stream led straight down to the beach and out to sea. I think he would have approved.

Easter in Charlestown

After the end-of-year mayhem at work, I really needed a break over Easter – somewhere where I could just relax and do very little whilst recharging my batteries. So I booked a long weekend’s break in Cornwall, in a self-catering apartment just outside St Austell. I don’t know Cornwall at all well, but I rather lucked out with the place I settled on. Charlestown is a very scenic, unspoiled village, with a very sheltered harbour that is home to some tall ships.

Charlestown harbour

It is also the place where Poldark was filmed, and the locals aren’t going to let you forget that in a hurry, with photos of a topless Aiden Turner all over the place. I had an “authentic Cornish clotted cream tea” on Monday, and even the tea came in a Poldark mug!

There’s also a Shipwreck Museum, just above the harbour, that is surprisingly interesting. It has a very eclectic mixture of exhibits – just about anything with a tenuous link to a shipwreck. There’s stunning views from the cliff-top paths, plenty of restaurants, and several very pleasant little beaches. Even the weather was good – it was a bit chilly, but generally sunny.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable break – and I’ve come back feeling much more rested and ready to face the fray.

Bird Bath

I heard a distinctly odd scrabbling sound this afternoon, which sounded as if it was coming from the bathroom. Odd. On further investigation, it was definitely coming from under the bath. Even odder. My first thought was that somehow a mouse had got in there. The main stop-tap is under the bath, so there’s a small access hatch in the panelling to allow access. I opened it to see what was going on, and a little beaked head poked itself out. It wasn’t a mouse at all, but a blue-tit!

It didn’t seem at all scared, but flew up onto the shower-rail and watched with interest while the window was opened. The bathroom window is one I’ve not yet got around to replacing, so it still has secondary double glazing. I think that confused the bird, as it tried to escape as soon as the inner pane was slid open, only to fly slap bang into the outer pane. It looked a bit dazed, but pulled itself together and perched on top of the cold tap, watching carefully while the outer casement was unlocked. As soon as it was open, the bird flew straight out, so it clearly knew what was going on.

What is worrying me is how on earth it got under the bath in the first place! And if a bird can get there, then so could a mouse or worse! I’ve taped up the access-panel, so that if something does get in, then it won’t be able to get into the main house. But I’ve had a really good look around outside for a hole, and can’t see anything. I suppose another possibility is that there’s a way through from the roof space, maybe down behind the boxing that hides the pipework. I know the loft isn’t mouse-proof, so small birds could presumably also get in. Hmmm. Not happy!

Lidded Pots

Lidded pots

I went back to Eastnor Pottery again last Sunday to do some more throwing. While I was there, I picked up the lidded pots that I threw and decorated during my last two sessions there. The pots are all quite small – no more than 3″ tall – and therefore were very fiddly to throw. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with how well I’ve managed to get the lids to fit. I’m not a skilled enough potter to make a set of absolutely identical pots, but these are clearly all “variations on a theme”, which is what I was aiming for.┬áThe splatter decoration is achieved using an old toothbrush, dipped in a contrasting colour of slip. It’s dead easy to do, and surprisingly effective.

Exploding Cistern

The water pressure was low most of Monday, and then went off entirely for a couple of hours. Apparently it was a problem with a valve on the water mains, and they had to dig up the road yet again to try to fix it. However, the water did eventually come back on later that evening, but of course there were airlocks in the pipes, leading to lots of gushing, hiccoughing and stuttering when I turned the taps on. That wasn’t so bad. But I wasn’t prepared for the Exploding Cistern. This is apparently what happens if you have a BlooLoo cleaning block in the cistern! It made a right mess…..

Exploding BlooLoo in the cistern

Daffodil Sunday

The local stately home, Madresfield Court, has once again opened its gardens to the Great Unwashed on Daffodil Sunday. They didn’t hold it for a few years, which must have put quite a hole in the budgets of the local school and church, who together benefit from the admission fees. But tradition has been restored, and the event is now firmly back on Malvern’s social calendar.

They picked a good week this year, when the daffodils were at their peak. Since the date is fixed some time in advance, it can be a bit touch and go. I remember one year when Christopher and I went, there had been a harsh winter and the daffodils had barely started to emerge. Instead, the woods were carpeted with crocus, which was equally spectacular. Other years, it’s been a bit late and the daffodils have started to droop. This year however, they were spectacular.

A carpet of daffodils

What you can’t see in this carefully-framed picture are the thousands of people who were there! According to the local paper, there were over 2000 people who visited that afternoon, and it certainly felt like half of Malvern was there. However, when you have 67 acres of woodland, it’s easy enough to lose even a few thousand people!

End of financial year overload

It’s coming to the end of the financial year – both for the company and for our main customers. So there is huge pressure on us all to finish projects, write up final reports, give presentations and demonstrations, and of course to bid for follow on work for next financial year. Every year we promise ourselves that it will be easier next time, and every year we’re wrong. This year seems to be particularly hard, and I’ve been juggling several projects and multiple bids for new work. I’m shattered, which is why I’ve not been blogging much lately. Only six more working days to go until the end of March, and then I might be able to catch my breath! In the mean time, a combination of paracetamol, coffee and chocolate are keeping me going……

Sorting out the IT

Managing the home computer network was always very much Christopher’s role. The network around the house developed organically over the years, and is a mixture of wifi, wired Ethernet and Home Plugs (i.e. Ethernet over the ring main). He never explained it all to me properly (or if he did, I wasn’t listening), so I don’t understand the decisions he made, or how it’s all connected together. It’s all at least nine years old, dating from when we had the extension built, and it’s getting increasingly unreliable – one home plug has completely failed, my printer has stopped printing, the external hard drive backup has failed, and worst of all my broadband keeps falling over. The latter may be the fault of BT and/or my internet service provider, but I suspect that the geriatric router doesn’t help the case.

I’ve finally decided that I really ought to upgrade everything – strip out the aged and obsolete components, and start from scratch with a more modern solution. It would be good to have wifi upstairs in the extension, but the metallic lining on the cavity-wall insulation has a Faraday-cage like effect and there is no signal there at all. However, I’m really not confident at picking and installing a new network infrastructure. It’s not going to be as simple as a single wifi access point and router – the geometry and construction of the house just isn’t conducive to a straightforward solution. So I’ve called in an expert and had a chap from the local IT support company round after work today. I’ve given him a list of what I want to achieve, and have asked him to cost up supplying and fitting a modern network that reaches all the main rooms in the house.

So hopefully I’ll soon have a modern, comprehensive and maintainable wifi network round the house. If the broadband then continues to fall over, I’ll be able to harangue BT and my ISP safe in the knowledge that it’s not my equipment that’s at fault. 

Was that AM or PM?

I had rather a busy week last week. I had a meeting in Hampshire on the Thursday, followed by another meeting just over the county boundary in Wiltshire on the Friday. Rather than spend two and a half hours coming home on Thursday night, then the same again getting back down to that same neck of the woods again on Friday, I decided to stay overnight on Thursday. I went with a colleague to the first meeting, and he was happy to drive, so I got him to drop me off at a local hotel after the meeting on Thursday afternoon. The plan was that I’d get a taxi to my next meeting first thing on Friday morning, meet my colleagues there, and then cadge a lift back home to Malvern with one of them.

The most convenient (and from work’s point of view, most cost-effective i.e. cheapest) place to stay turned out to be a Georgian coaching inn in the village of Stockbridge. I’d never heard of Stockbridge before, but it’s clearly very famous in the fly-fishing world. It’s set on the River Test, apparently “one of the best chalk streams in the world”, and in season it must be heaving with fishermen. The high street (or rather, the only significant street, as it was a very small place) was full of fly-fishing shops, upmarket outdoor clothing stores, and tea-rooms. Even the fishmongers doubled up as a delicatessen and coffee-shop. It was very twee, and reminded me very much of some of the tourist-trap villages in the Cotswolds. Fortunately, it was well out of season, otherwise I don’t think I’d have been able to get a room at the hotel.

When I checked in on the Thursday afternoon, I asked the hotel receptionist to book me a taxi for the following morning to take me to my next meeting. I originally said for nine o’clock, but then thought that might be a bit tight so we agreed on 8:45. I was down in reception, all checked out and ready to go, at 08:40 as I find that taxi drivers usually turn up promptly and I didn’t want to pay any waiting time. But there was no sign of a taxi. By 8:50 I was getting twitchy, and at 08:55 I asked the receptionist (not the one I’d spoken to the previous day) to check that the taxi had in fact been booked. I pretty much stood over him as he phoned up the woman who’d been on the desk the previous day and asked her if she had in fact actually booked me a taxi, and if so with whom? It turned out to be with a local company that he didn’t use himself, so he then had to look up their number and call them.

It turned out that a taxi had indeed been ordered for me, but the driver for some reason had got it into his head that it was for 8:45pm not 8:45am! Quite why he thought anyone would want to go to an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere at that time of night escapes me! Fortunately he was pretty local to Stockbridge and didn’t have another job on, so he turned up within ten minutes and put his foot down on the journey. I finally got to my meeting just a few minutes after the people who’d come from Malvern, so that wasn’t too bad. It did put me in rather a foul mood though for the first part of the morning!

Gaslight

Many years ago, when I was in the sixth form at school, one of the other girls was studying for some sort of drama exam. I forget exactly what – my school certainly wasn’t relaxed enough to offer drama or theatre studies as an A-level, even if such a thing had existed back then. But as part of her exam I remember that she had to learn and stage a monologue from Gaslight, a classic play written in 1938, that appeared to be a melodramatic thriller about a woman being driven mad by her husband. I only ever saw the one extract, but it struck me as a play that I should keep an eye out for, as it looked quite interesting.

Fast forward thirty years or more, and I’ve finally had a chance to see the whole play. It was this week’s offering at Malvern Theatres, starring Kara Tointon as the put-upon housewife. Apparently, she’s quite famous and perhaps as a result the theatre was almost fully booked. I only managed to get a seat right towards the back of the circle for this afternoon’s matinee performance. I was right in my assessment – it was indeed a melodramatic, Victorian-style thriller. For the second week in a row, one of the key roles was of a violent, controlling psychopath. I wonder if Malvern Theatres is trying to send out some sort of message? The plot this week was about what these days would be classed as domestic abuse – not much physical violence admittedly, but emotional abuse, isolating the woman from her family, and slowly driving her out of her mind – or rather manipulating circumstances so that she feared she was going mad. 

The husband was a thoroughly unpleasant character, and the actor got roundly booed at the curtain call – which was a bit unfair, and he looked rather taken aback by that reception! The scene I remembered from school turned out to be right at the end, when the down-trodden wife snapped and finally showed some spirit. I’m pleased I’ve now seen the whole play to finally put that one scene in context. It did rather spoil some of the tension of the play for me though, as I knew that at some point the worm would turn and the husband would get his comeuppance.