Wednesday 27 January 2021

elemental snow

It says something of these present times that, aside from listening online to a talk a friend gave on the other side of the world Saturday night, the highlight of my weekend was that I successfully replaced the heating element in my oven.

I would imagine that, for the average man of my age, such a feat would be quite unremarked and unremarkable. I muddled my way through it and didn't really think twice. Until I spoke to Dad later that same evening and casually mentioned it.

I'll swear I heard the thump as he fell off his chair. It seems I lack a reputation for being practically gifted amongst my nearest and dearest. Personally, I reckon they do me a disservice, although given that Dad's an engineer and my brother has, variously, been a trainee gas fitter, run a tool hire company and then most recently been in a crane hire, I suppose I am somewhat overshadowed on the practical aptitude front.

What Bill? He sails and does stuff with computers. 

I think that's pretty much how they have me boxed and labelled. And I say that without malice or resentment. Although I also do stuff with guitars and pianos and karate. And I can, funny enough, actually manage a screwdriver and find and follow instructions in the event I can't actually work out what to do with the screwdriver once it's in my hand.

And of late I've both mended a garden fence and replaced an oven heating element. I really hope Dad doesn't think I'm rendering him obsolete!

We've had a little bit of snow. It fell overnight across the weekend and was mostly gone from the low ground by the start of the week. But it persisted on the higher ground and in the shadow of the valleys around Stroud for a couple of days.

I've always thought the Mill looked pretty in the snow.

It is gone today though. A few icy patches remaining, but even they're melting quick. I'm about done with winter now, truth be told. It's not so much the cold that bothers me. It's the lack of daylight, the persistent damp and continuous mud. 

Of course, the mud wouldn't be a problem if it actually stayed cold enough to freeze. But even the latest snowy spell was more of a slush anywhere except on high ground or the afore mentioned valley shadows.

Of course, if it did freeze I'd only complain that the lake was frozen and I couldn't go sailing. Except, of course, I can't anyway.

Friday 22 January 2021

the mind's eye

We've had a frosty start to the day this morning.

I've just read an interview with Judy Dench, and from this moment I feel that whenever in the future I see her on the stage or, more likely given I've not visited a theatre in years, the screen, from now on I have a moral obligation to undertake only to see her as 6ft tall, willowy and about 39.

Thursday 21 January 2021

elsewhere context

Having just called the last storm a damp squib, it occurs to me that we've been very lucky down here. From the photos on the Guardian this morning, other parts of the country have not fared so well. 

I guess that puts my worries about a garden fence and frustrations at not being able to go sailing into context.

after the storm


The repairs to my garden fence appear to have weathered the latest storm. Amazing what you can manage with a screwdriver and a small handful of self-tapping screws. 

To be fair, whilst it's apparently wreaked soggy havoc elsewhere in the country, the storm was a bit of a damp squib down here. A little bit of breeze, sheets of persistent drizzle. But no significant flooding, which is one up on the last storm, which pushed covers up off of drains and had me fording the raging torrent of an impromptu river across the road on my usual drive home from work.

And, of course, knocked my garden fence down. But according to the Met Office, unlike the lad Christoph who passed through this week, the storm before him was a lass, Bella, and well, you know, Hell hath no fury. Evidently.

Apparently, the UK Met Office started naming storms back in 2014. Apparently, according to a BBC Newsround post I just Googled, "The Met Office hoped that naming big storms will make people more aware of them and how dangerous they can be". Okay.

Also, courtesy of a quick Google . . .

Brand me a cynic, but if people can't read the weather forecast and judge the risk for themselves from the weather warnings given, then I don't see that naming the thing is going to help. It just feels like a publicity stunt. Although I am an absolute fan of our Met Office, and all those clever meteorological soothsayer folks out there in the world in general, as they do go a long way towards helping to keep me and my friends safe, so I guess who am I to gripe about a little bit of PR?

Personally speaking though, on the second point, I find names just as confusing as numbers. As evidenced by the number of times I'll smile genially at a friend or acquaintance as we're chatting along, whilst trying desperately to remember their name, and secretly pleading in my head that my dad doesn't ask me to introduce them.

I don't have to worry if it's my wife stood beside me, she knows me well enough to understand what's happened if I haven't already made the introduction. Dad does too, it's just that he's a little more malicious.

That said, and back to not belittling the storm that's just passed, as I was leaving for the office this morning, I did notice the phoneline to one of my neighbours' houses had snapped and was swinging loose from the telegraph pole in the street. Though there's an odds on chance they have cable anyway, so won't have even noticed.

The above package was delivered yesterday. It contains the replacement heating element for my oven, along with a grill pan grid I also took the opportunity to order a replacement for. The element was duly wrapped in a copious amount of heavy duty bubble-wrap so appears to have survived the transit intact. We shall see when I fit it Saturday.

However, the perilous state of the box as it was delivered by the courier (or rather, abandoned unannounced at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the office, but such are the times we live in) struck me as an amusing juxtaposition to the attached "fragile" sticker, and goes some way towards suggesting how much attention the courier companies pay to such labels.

That I find myself writing about boxes and garden fences suggests very strongly to me that I really need to get back out on the water, so I thought I should add a photo from last year to remind myself of summer sailing. Well, summer sailing in the UK at least, which was when the above photo was taken on passage from Plymouth to Fowey.

In fairness, the passage back, whilst still having to beat into the wind as it had, typically, switched directions overnight, was of an altogether more pleasant character.

I am feeling very landlocked at the moment. I haven't actually seen Calstar since early October, and haven't actually managed to sail her anywhere since the above trip out to Fowey and back at the end of August.

That's just crazy mad. But again, such are the times we live in.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

first signs


Spring has sprung. Noticed the first daffodils beginning to push through on my way into the office this morning. Weather has warmed up since last week, currently around 10c. I guess we're currently in the warm sector of a frontal system that'll push itself over the country over the next few days with the storm that's forecast.

Apparently the Met Office have named this one Christoph. Hopefully Christoph won't blow the garden fence back down that I've only just screwed back together and put back up after Bella had her fun with it a over Christmas.

I'm not sure I particularly like the Met Office affection of naming the various storms that hit us as if they were new born babes. In any case, Christoph sounds like a jerk. The weather's forecast to turn icy again by the weekend, so at least if he does knock the fence back down the swamp that is currently by back garden should be fairly solid to walk on if I have to go out there and put it back up again. 

And it's not as if I have any other plans.

In other news, whilst I might be unimpressed with the modern affection of naming storms, modern technology never ceases to amaze me. Nik told mentioned a couple of nights ago that the oven had ceased to warm up. I'm guessing the heating element has gone; it did this before some years ago.

However, to replace it, I've got a) remember to look for a replacement online and b) remember to make a note of the make and model of the oven so that I know what I'm looking for. Yesterday I forgot. So today Nik rang me to remind me. At which point we deduced that neither of us could remember the make and model of the oven and neither of us were home to check.

It needs to be fixed, but I can't say it's a huge priority for me. Most of the cooking I do is done on the hob. The call ended with a dissatisfied "Guess one of us will have to check when we get home" and the underlying, unspoken threat that I'd be cooking tea for the foreseeable until I got it sorted.

However, Dad and I refitted the kitchen back in 2014, which was when we replaced the oven. And I have a habit of taking photos of everything. 

So I went onto my Google Photos and typed "oven" into the search bar. And there it pops up, my oven, shiny and new in the showroom on the day I decided that was the one.

That has to be the singularly most boring photo I've ever posted up here. But from that, I was able to zoom in and sharpen the image on the label sat on the hob, and having then identified that it was Kenwood CK305 (which I don't recommend, by the way) it was a simple matter to source and purchase a replacement heating element for the oven which, if all goes to plan, should be with me by tomorrow.

Clever thing this technology stuff.

Monday 18 January 2021

Dry January


I should've sailed New Year's Day. I've done so every other New Year for countless years now at Frampton, or if I've not it's either been because the lake has frozen over, or I was dumb enough to win the previous year's race and so was stuck with Race Officer duty for the year following.

But of course I'm now at South Cerney rather than Frampton, and South Cerney don't race on New Year's Day. We did have a race on the Monday following Boxing Day and that was fun. It involved a drive through the snow to get to the Club; I'd mean to race the Albacore with Amanda, but she rang to say she'd been snowed in and couldn't make it, so instead I cracked the ice off the Laser's boat cover and massaged life back into the frozen up lines and raced that instead.

I had meant to go play by myself New Years Day, race or no, but when the morning came around, the weather was so dank and dismal, without even the redemption of a breeze that, having glanced briefly out of the bedroom window, I rolled back over and slept off the excesses of the night before for a couple more hours instead.

I'm not proud of myself.

And shortly thereafter, of course, we went into a new lockdown. Or at least a lockdown-lite. We're still allowed to go to work if we can't work from home, and the definition of essential shops that are allowed to remain open is pretty broad, but we're not allowed out to play. And certainly not out to sail.

The one saving grace is that the weather has remained dull and boring. Actually, that's not true. We did have a freezing fog in the first week of the new year, which was atmospheric if not especially pleasant, but not the sort of weather than makes you wish you were out on the water. 

But freezing fog or no, with no boats to play with, no gigs and no karate, the weeks and weekends are kind of blending in to each other. Although I do still have work, and work is staying busy, which provides a demarcation of sorts, and for that I'm grateful.

Otherwise, my only real distraction other than work and walking the dogs has been the piano, which I've spent a fair amount of time at since Christmas. Possibly to the despair of my wife and, perhaps, next door. 

I've been struggling over the notes of Chopin's Prelude in E Minor and Beethoven's Für Elise, which of course has involved an awful lot of clumsy repetition. Both are, slowly, getting there, a progress which I've found very satisfying. But both have still a long way to go.

That said, a week ago last Wednesday was our 25th anniversary, so I guess Nik must've built up a tolerance to me by now. And whilst I don't actually know if next door can hear my piano through the walls of our semi-detached, I do try to be careful with the volume and constrain my practice to daytime at weekends and early evenings during the week.

Of course, it being an electric piano, I could always plug a pair of headphones in. But nobody's asked me to yet, and so until somebody finally feels driven to mention it, I'm going to not think of that.