Week 479

Sunday, 25th February

A glorious, glorious day of blue sky and sunshine. We (I)  have luxuriated in doing very little. Newspapers and three football matches have left me satiated with relaxation and self indulgence. The whole day has looked like summer and felt like winter. A couple on Brighton Beach featured in The Sunday Times exemplified the atmosphere.

Actually, Pauline has made stock and cooked whitebait out in the garden but it wasn’t somewhere to rest and relax. In the kitchen, the febrile political situation was centre stage as I read through the blogs and the newspapers and the unsavoury but unctuous Charity organisations are still making plenty of waves. These self-serving, hierarchical organisations which see themselves as businesses and entitled to equivalent perks while claiming special, charitable concessions are at the centre of this mess. They are, of course, propped up by successive governments who want to keep the problems they address at long arms’ length. I am loathe to repeat it but I have been warning of this for40 year’s.

Monday, 26th February

A seriously cold day that didn’t get much above 4C/39F although it was beautifully clear and sunny. We went to the Health Club but ducked outside swimming and restricted ourselves to 70 mins in the gym. I watched interviews from Parliament Green and they were conducted in heavy snow. Amazing. Train companies were already cancelling schedules for evening services in anticipation of problems. Today, we ate red meat for the first time in many months. Pauline cooked peppers stuffed with a Bolognese sauce and topped with Parmigiano. It was absolutely delightful.

The 8th Century crypt in repton church.

I originated in Mercia – one of the most powerful kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England; it held a position of dominance for much of the period from the mid-7th to the early 9th century. More specifically, I originated in Repton, the capital of Mercia. Repton, on the banks of the River Trent, has long been well known for its public school centred on St Wystan’s church with its Anglo Saxon crypt which is the burial place of two Mercian kings – Ethelbald in 750 AD and Wiglaf in AD840. Today, I stumbled upon a research paper from Bristol University reported in EurekAlert! which is a blog of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Don’t ask!

Skull of C8th resident of Repton.

EurekAlert! reports that researchers from Bristol University have firmly identified through carbon dating, bones in a mass grave, first discovered in the 1980s, as expressly connected with the dates when it is know that the Viking Great Army wintered in Repton, Derbyshire, in 873 A.D. and drove the Mercian king into exile. Even more interesting to me was the fact that carbon dating from almost 40 years ago led to the belief that the bones were considerably older  but recent and more accurate dating methods have been reapplied and this specific date confirmed.

What was especially interesting was the explanation for that discrepancy between the two dating processes. Apparently, the older test could not distinguish a problem that is now known. The bones of fish that formed a part of the people’s diet, carry the carbon from much earlier times and become embedded in the bones of those who ate them. This carbon trace persists and was difficult to eliminate in the original tests. Fascinating for a major fish eater. I will have my date of birth tattooed on my bones just to be clear.

Tuesday, 27th February

Woke to an icing sugar sprinkling of snow. This decoration always makes the world come alive. Because of this major change to the world, fewer cars left houses in our neighbourhood to go to work. Teenagers took the day off from school – although the schools weren’t closed – and ran through the village pelting each other with snowballs. They had to work hard to gather enough snow to make a snowball but 15 year olds seemed very excited about it.

We drove down to the post office to collect a parcel in the village and, on our return, saw a young woman examining the underside of her car. She said, she had passed her test 5 years ago but had never driven in snow and didn’t realise how slippy it was. She had skidded into the kerb and thought she had damaged her suspension. It is a bit of a novelty this white stuff.

I must admit to something of a guilty secret. The parcel I had gone to collect this morning included a ‘selfie stick’. Actually, for a mere £20.00/€22.75, I received a telescopic stick to fit my smartphone, a Bluetooth switch to attach to the stick and control the smartphone remotely and a mini-tripod to attach the smartphone to also for remote photography. I have had to accept that I so rarely use my digital SLR and so often photograph with my smartphone that I should address the issue. At the same time, although I am not thrilled by my appearance on camera, I am unable to include my wife and myself in recorded experiences. We may, in future times, regret that. Hence the selfie stick.

Wednesday, 28th February

A bitterly cold but bright and sunny day. Watched reports from London of strong and settling snow, of frozen harbours down the south west coast. We felt lucky with our lot. We’ve done some shopping and a full workout at the gym although swimming will only resume at the weekend as the temperature gets above freezing. Today has not got above 2C/36F and much of it has hovered around -2C/28F.

I’ve always enjoyed photography. Pauline bought me my first SLR camera – a Ricoh – in the early 1980s. I loved it. For a while, I thought I was quite good but I didn’t persist and, each time I picked it back up, I became increasingly dissatisfied with my efforts. Later, around 10 years ago, I bought (school bought me) a very expensive Canon DSLR and thought I was the bees knees. The trouble was, as I bought tripods and expensive wide angle and telephoto lenses, my bag became so cumbersome and heavy that I left it at home more than I took it with me. Then I got a smartphone and, quite contrary to my prejudices, found I could take perfectly acceptable photos for my Blog with that alone. Suddenly, I realised that I hadn’t taken my camera bag out of my office for months.

Photograph by Bob Sanders – Sunrise over Jubilee River, Windsor

My brother, Bob, has obviously more staying power and determination. Not only is he prepared to get up and out early in the morning but he seems to relish braving the cold and wet in order to take a good photograph. Today, he was rewarded by getting this picture in the Evening Standard. I think you will agree, it is not bad for a little brother. Wouldn’t mind a large copy of this framed on my Lounge wall – if he’s looking for 40th Wedding Anniversary presents. I ought to add that, by coincidence, Pauline & I celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary this year.

Thursday, 1st March





First day of March. Happy New Month. It has been a bitingly cold day – -2C/28F but without snow. The news media has obsessed with bad weather all day and chosen the worst spots to site its journalists so the worst of the weather can be showcased. Standing in front of a motorway and telling us nothing is moving as cars drive past doesn’t instil confidence. When the quotes they report are this original – Stranded motorist on M80: ‘It’s like a car park’ – you know they are struggling to keep a story alive.

I am really ashamed to admit that we didn’t leave the house today. Actually, that’s not quite true. We did pack our exercise bags and open the garage door. The air outside was so cold that Pauline said, Are you sure you want to do this? Like anyone just setting off for the gym, I wasn’t sure, so I said: We’ll give it a miss. and came back in the house. We both spent the rest of the afternoon feeling rather bad about that decision but we both have to live with it.

Friday, 2nd March

M62: Junction 23 – 22

We must have had a flurry of snow overnight because there was evidence of an icing sugar sprinkling this morning – in places. It was -1C/18F when we got up at 7.00 am but we didn’t realise that until we stepped outside. The morning news was full of weather-related problems on the media. Our old friend, the M62 motorway between junctions 23 – 22 was one of the worst hit. It is, after all, the highest stretch of motorway in the country. We travelled it for around 40 years twice each day.

Near our old home.

This week, has seen long delays and, today, complete closure. Snow, accidents and 90 mph winds have all combined to bring this about. The school that superseded ours was closed on Wednesday, yesterday and again today. Often, we did the difficult journey only to find the school’s condition was so bad that we had to close and then make the dangerous journey home. It took us most of the day and we arrived home more stressed than if we’d worked a normal day. At least we haven’t exposed ourselves to dangerous driving conditions this time. We’ve stayed at home for the second day running which feels bad but will do us good.

Our Sifnos friends have given us dates for when they are coming. We are really looking forward to seeing them again. Since we left three years ago, we have only met them briefly in Athens a couple of times. It will be lovely to spend time together this Greek Easter.

Saturday, 2nd March

Well, Spring has finally sprung here on the South Coast. We have woken to a lovely, sunny day and a reasonable temperature of 7C/45F and we got to 10C/50F in mid afternoon. Of course, that is not quite true of all the country and the media outlets, in particular, are still running old (cheap) footage of the past few days and looking to keep the story rolling while they find resources to catch up. Lots of horror stories abound about snow from Surrey to Scotland and I wrote about the chaos on the M62 across the Pennines yesterday. I particularly liked this slight dig at the hype which was posted on Twitter under the caption:

Getting bloody ridiculous now on the M62.

We are really looking forward to going to the Health Club this afternoon after two day’s absence. We are going rather stir-crazy. We are committed to a good week of exercise and our bodies feel they need it. We will start swimming outside on Monday. Hoping to avoid polar bears.

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