Monday, 31 October 2011

Return to UWE

Today, I went back into UWE.  Before I got to any of my meetings, I was reminded of the delights of dealing with the institution...

Phil Phelps had operated the system as per specifications and booked me a car parking space in advance (as required by article 99, subsection 324d(iii), paragraph 2...). I duly pulled up at the UWE Gate House to get my parking ticket and token for the barrier into car park 19. I drove round, put my token in the slot at the barrier, and proceeded to my designated space (#52) to find an orange VW beetle parked.  There were lots of other empty spaces in the car park, but - knowing from long experience how university employees' minds work- I rang the Gate House to ask what I should do.  I was told that the VW must have driven in when the car park barrier was up earlier in the day, and that all the apparently empty parking spaces were allocated for the day. All they could offer me was a space across the road in the student car park (a good 10 minutes walk away from my first meeting).  So I rang up Dan Buzzo, who told me that the car park in front of his building had its barriers up! I drove round there and found a parking space right outside the building (which was a much better outcome all round). Just to be on the safe side, I rang the Gate House and told them this is what I had done. The joy of systems that don't work!

I went in to talk to Dan & Phil about how the speech recognition project they took over from me is getting on (very well, as it happens - which makes me wonder if I should have passed it on long ago!).  After that I had a series of meetings to talk about details and logistics of my teaching in Hong Kong next Spring. I now have firm dates for this teaching (a week at the end of February and another week in the middle of April). I just need to sort out a contract, agreement over pay rates and payment dates, teaching materials,  flight and hotel arrangements...  The most important details still to sort out are what Su will do while I am teaching for 7 hours a day:-)!

It was nice to bump into lots of people on campus.  The face of the day belongs to Frank Maddix, lecturer extraordinaire (!) and bassist in Left At The Lights, in his fetching bicyclist togs ready for his journey home.
Also great to catch up with Stephen, my erstwhile office colleague, over a cup of coffee
Some things never change - a couple of my meetings were in P Block, a building that I was told had exceeded its design life when I first started at UWE nearly 20 years ago...
After texting Su to say "Hong Kong is go!", I drove back home through the fading gloom of  Hallowe'en afternoon. This evening, we have been under siege from hordes of ravening sugar-crazed pre-teens, demanding sweets with menaces:-).

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Flowers, Lunch and Early Darkness

Bella did not put her clock back last night, so she was still awake at dawn, wanting her breakfast. Su got up and fed her, and made a cup of coffee too - which was most welcome! After breakfast, we went back to our allotment one last time to collect the last bits that we will use at home. I was struck by the number and variety of flowers in bloom for the end of October.  Next year's primroses have popped up very early...
 Some dwarf tomatoes we planted are still flowering!
 Evening primroses had appeared during our time away in Turkey and Greece
 What we left behind for the next tenants to work with
 After cleaning ourselves up, off we set cross-country to Barbara & Richard's for lunch. Over lunch Trish revealed that, rather than reset her watch twice a year, she has two watches - a silver one set to British Summer Time, and a black one set to GMT, which she put on today for the first time since March. 
One delicious meal later, we all managed to stir ourselves for a walk with Bella who had patiently watched us eat - with just a couple of little snacks Richard smuggled to her.  On the return leg, this intriguing notice left us all a bit bemused. Thermal imaging is in the news at the moment with tents around St Pauls being scanned to allegedly show absence of sleeping protesters - any connection?
 Back from the walk we subjected our hosts to two short slide shows of our recent travels to show our gratitude for such a lovely meal. Then it was time to head home and feed the hungry hound - through the far-too-early afternoon darkness that is the British winter.  I hope that proposals to move to European daylight hours get approved next year!

Saturday, 29 October 2011


Definitely felt like Autumn this morning walking Bella. The leaves off the trees adorned this car so tastefully.
Nipped out to do a bit of shopping and saw this traffic cone from yesterday.  I despair of the linguistic abilities of Council employes - "doning" indeed!  What's wrong with "donation" or "giving"?
With all our plans for being away over the next year, we have decided that we cannot do justice to our allotment site (we'll put some small beds in our back garden - which gets sun from March to September -instead). So today we went and started clearing up our stuff, Su harvesting some nice produce in the process.
The reward for our labours was  a dim sum lunch in Bristol.
The restaurant is decorated in stereotypical fashion...
Afterwards, I took Bella out for another walk, and came across one of BT's Infinity boxes - bit like a Tardis to hold so much!
On the way back home, I was struck by the interplay between not-yet-dusk and street-lamp light
Tonight, the clocks go back but this will add to our sense of disorientation. As well as coping with Infinity this week, just last Saturday we put our watches back two hours - now we gain another hour! As Steve Miller sang on "Fly Like An Eagle", "Time keeps on slippin',slippin' - into the future"

Friday, 28 October 2011

Misty, blue skies, mushrooms and trees

A strange morning.  The fog started to clear and then it came back in, leaving just the hilltops exposed (Little Solsbury popping up in the distance)
Some beautiful sights as the sun started to break through finally
Great views (Little Solsbury in the distance again)
How would you know which buses stop here?:-)
After breakfast, into the van for a jaunt.  It hasn't been driven since Tuesday...
Went up to Westonbirt, which did not disappoint in its show of autumn colours
These are not flowers, but mushrooms
The view from under the caps
The maples were really stunning
And it was great to be out in the bright sun with both of us recovered from our Greek souvenir cold.
After some lunch and a cuppa in the van, we tool Bella for another stroll and saw these BBC technicians setting up for the last night of "AutumnWatch", which has been coming from Westonbirt all month apparently
The outdoor set for the programme tonight
Trickled home after about four hours - Su made a lovely tea and now we are talking about where we might be able to take the van in the next few weeks before it gets really cold.  May be just day trips...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Waiting for Infinity...

Spent a large part of today waiting for Infinity.  BT were meant to arrive between 8 am and 1 upgrade us to their new almost-to-the-house fibre-optic broadband service.  So, we were awake about 7 am ... About 11 am, Su went out shopping - but she forgot to take any money with her (which is good for the bank balance but not for the wardrobe or the fridge).  I got a call from the BT engineer at about 12.30 to tell me he should be with us in about 15 minutes. Nearly an hour later he finally appeared, cursing his colleagues who had wired up the new switch box down the road back to front.

As I have been recovering from the Symi cold that Su kindly passed on to me, the whole saga unfolded without much aggravation to my addled brain.  We are now connected, and have yet to test out our new service in earnest. The literature does advise that connection speeds may fluctuate - even stop for a while (!) - during the first ten days, so time will tell which variety of Infinity we have actually been sold.

Tomorrow we plan to get up to Westonbirt as the rain is forecast to have gone by then.  Our wanderlust is undiminished by our recent travels - if anything it is stronger, and we are talking about all sorts of possibilities for our next moves. On Monday, I will talk to people at UWE (my first visit there since July!) about the Hong Kong connection next February & April and we have booked some more time on Symi next May.  All this seems a long way off, so don't be surprised if we blog from somewhere else before too long! Till then (with the line that Paul H. stole from me in a comment yesterday) we'll be going "To Infinity and Beyond"!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Porridge Head...

The day started off sunny before the showers started. Our reward was this lovely double rainbow over Charlcombe Valley.  What does it mean? (click here for Youtube video!)
Su had turned the house upside down looking for her mobile phone, and was about to buy a new one. Through my fuzzy head, I eventually managed to muster enough brain cells to wonder if it might be in the van from the day before we went to Turkey.  Sure enough, there it was - in an overhead cupboard for some obscure reason!
After all that excitement, we headed back down into town - back to the Little Theatre to see "The Guard", a most unusual funny film - highly recommended. The Film Festival starts in a couple of weeks, so we will see a lot more of the Little Theatre over this month. We may even get back there tomorrow. A detour via Marks & Spencer led us to the bus stop during a lovely sunny spell.
My brain has turned to porridge again, so only a short blog.  Tomorrow should be exciting - we are getting our broadband switched on to BT Infinity...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Seen around and about today

A lovely start to the day, feeling as dreamy as this picture suggests.  Possibly the beginnings of my turn at the cold, which has increased in congestion as the day has progressed.  Thankfully, Su is feeling better  , if still a bit weakened.
Looking out the back of the house, autumn colours look so much better in the sunshine
Picked up the van from VW garage, who have not fixed and only part-diagnosed it (but they did not charge me a lot for the time they spent on it, so not all bad...)  I am now on the trail of a good auto electrician though, so should get the battery side of things sorted soon.  Then I just need to get someone who can service the gas side of the van's functioning - never-ending but fun. Zoomed off in the van to Keynsham Co-op to exchange surplus Turkish lire and then came home to really blue sky after the washed out appearance of the last two days.
In the back garden, autumn has also properly started to show its full colours...
 Vibrant sedum
Later on saw these balloons on a brisk wet walk with Bella
And these pretty daisies too
This evening, we went out to the Little Theatre to see Woody Allen film, "Midnight in Paris" - a thoroughly enjoyable funny romp through a series of increasingly bizarre situations, and well worth seeing.  On the way to "Yum Yum Thai" for a meal afterwards, saw this patriotic taxi.
After dinner headed back towards the car and saw this Home Delivery of Large Skull Spider from Maplin's - just what every home needs!
Yesterday's record pageviews finally clocked in at 301 for the day, so we are on track for our highest ever monthly total. Don't know what we are doing to increase our readership so much (although we do get quite a few hits on a post called "CONKERS" which isn't about the computer game but about horse chestnuts!).  Maybe we should keep on travelling and writing about our exploits.  Please feel free to post a comment and let us know what brought you to the blog. Time for me to finish for the day, have a hot toddy and join Su in slumberland. Till tomorrow...

Monday, 24 October 2011

Monday Back in Bath...

A day of domestic details.  Su battled her cold to get car tax and insurance sorted and picked me up from dropping the van down to the garage to get the electrics sorted out. Shopping and dog walking followed by a first instalment of catching up with recorded TV programmes from the last three weeks away.
A selection of pictures from being back in windy, grey Bath below:-
 Snapdragons in October!
 A good show of hydrangea pom poms
 A local campaign leaflet celebrating success!
 Autumn has come to Bath while we were away

A listening post

Last but not least, this blog has seen lots of activity today.  Our previous highest daily page view total was 110 on Symi last week.  Don't know why we are suddenly so popular - many thanks to al our readers!