Saturday, March 17, 2018

The beast from the east returns

Blighty is currently being hit by another cold snap, a few weeks after the last one which was dubbed by the media "the beast from the east".

However the temperature is still above 0C so the snow is melting rather than settling, hence its not very photogenic. Instead here's a photo from Geneva showing one of the marinas frozen over, something which hasn't happened to the Thames since 1814 when an "elephant was led across the river below Blackfriars Bridge".

No chance for an Elfstedentocht here on the Thames. If you haven't heard of this its a 200 km ice skating tour / race held in Friesland in north Netherlands whenever the ice is thick enough, which apparently is not very often.

You can get a feel for it (and the intense cold) in this Public Service Broadcasting (the band) video:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Remembering Stephen Hawking

There's been a lot in the media about the sad news of the death of Stephen Hawking and it made me remember my old Cambridge days.

He was a familiar sight then and I often saw him sitting in his wheel chair zooming along the streets of Cambridge, zipping across roads with an alarming speed.

While I studied in the same department as him - the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP to its friends) - he didn't teach us undergrads.

One of my post-grad friends who was lucky enough to have him as a lecturer invited me to the senior common room for tea when Hawking was there - not sure if that's enough for me to claim to have had tea with him but it was certainly memorable.

He wasn't always right and like all humans he had his failings. But he asked the big questions about the universe and came back with some big answers. He made science accessible with a recurring role in shows like The Big Bang Theory. He stood up for what he believed in politically.

And he showed that humans are defined by their mind more than their body: despite doctor's early prognosis he was to live a full life.

It reminded me of Charles Darwin who it is often forgotten was ill for large parts of his life. Darwin also noted that "Even ill-health, though it has annihilated several years of my life, has saved me from the distractions of society and amusement".

But Hawking seems to have enjoyed those distractions of society and amusement as well as doing great science:

Friday, March 09, 2018

Icy conditions for Lake Geneva Swimmers

There were no swimmers with polar bear blood to be seen trying out the steps down into Lake Geneva above, and none climbing onto the basking platform below.

There was little need of the no swimming signs:

I've swum in the lake before but not this trip!

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Ice Sculptures of Geneva

The boats in the previous post were not the only things covered in ice in Geneva down by the lake.

According to Wikipedia, Lake Geneva suffers from something called the Bise, which is a cold wind coming down the lake from the north-east.

The Bise was really was rather dramatic: it felt like a wild animal had taken over Geneva, with lights swaying wildly, creating pools of light that swirled in the dark, and gusts thrusting against one, as if trying to push over or whisk away into the night.

It also flung up spray from the lake which froze in dramatic fashion into ice sculptures (above)

Walk-ways  were covered in a smooth layer, causing dangerously slippy conditions:

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Frozen Boats! Frozen Boats! Frozen Boats! .... in Geneva

I've been off in Geneva again, struggling with a cold and the cold, rather than posting.

It really was rather chilly, and the wind thrown spray froze on boats down by Lake Geneva, as can be seen by these three examples:

Actually, not sure if this one can still be classified as a boat, as it seems to be acting like a submarine:

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What Lizbef did next

At the Delos tribe meet-up last week had a chance to catch-up with Lisa and Liz and what they've been doing post Delos.

Turned out that apart from eating some of JP's special macarons both have been very busy. In particular, recently Liz and her Edouard have bought a boat together:

Alas a bit of work is required as Papageno (as per the Magic Flute I guess) was storm damaged and in particular has broken masts, which is a bit of a handicap for a sailor.

But, like Delos, it is an Amel.

Good luck Liz and Edouard!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The last Wild Beasts in Hammersmith

I've blogged before about the band Wild Beasts but this is for the last time as yesterday evening they had their final gig in the Hammersmith Apollo before splitting.

This quartet have a unique sound which I described earlier as "as if they are the chamber music of rock, a falsetto voice over metallic chords". A common theme of their songs was, well, work it out for yourself from these lyrics:

All the King's Men:

Girls from Roedean, Girls from Shipley
Girls from Hounslow, Girls from Whitby

Bed of Nails:

Be blatant as a bailiff
I want my lips to blister when we kiss

We Still Got The Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues:

Trousers and blouses make excellent sheets
Down dimly lit streets

You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to work this one out.

It was a wonderful yet sad evening. Wonderful as the set list was packed with favourites but there was always the knowledge that it was the last time ever we'd hear these chords, these tunes, these songs.

It was a special gig, with confetti (above) and multiple encores plus a choir at the end. Some lead vocalists might have done a spot of crowd surfing but these guys are from the Lake District which is known for its walking rather than surfing, hence we got this:

There could only be one final, final song, the aptly named The End Comes Too Soon, which wrapped up the magnificent story of Wild Beasts:

To sing us out the choir gave us the poignant Cheerio Chaps, Cheerio Goodbye, and then it was over and we streamed out into Hammersmith and the night.

It was reminder that all good things come to an end at some point. So if you have a band you want to see and they are playing near you, grab the chance.

The end comes too soon.

Update: reviews in Guardian here, Quietus here, Telegraph here, Times here, DIY here, NME here, Standard here and finally the Independent here with this apt quote:

"It proved to be the wrong time for this extraordinary – almost definitely the most interesting British indie/art-rock outfit of the past decade – but their music will endure and this was a fitting last act"

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Delos tribe in London

I've loved watching those SV Delos videos and when the call came out on FB that there was a Delos tribe meet up I had to go.

London was wet, its streets and roads awash, winds biting cold, but the atmosphere in the Admiralty pub was fantastic, warm and full of great people.

I came prepared with some baking goods. For these deep sea sailors it had to be something blue, so came up with these Blueberry and Lime macarons:

A great evening!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: Swallows, Amazons and Coots: A Reading of Arthur Ransome by Julian Lovelock

I got this for Christmas and finished it within 2 days. But then I am a bit of a S&A buff.

This book looks at the series of novels by Arthur Ransome about those Swallows, Amazons and Coots from a more analytical viewpoint. It goes in depth into the background, considering how Ransome's own life is revealed (or not) in the books and how it connects or differs from the society in which he lived and times during which they were written, namely 1930 to 1947.

Those years, like Ransome's life, were packed with events and historic changes. Lovelock considers  how both England (in particular, rather than Britain) and Ransome related to women and the colonies, the differences and similarities, and how that affects how we read it today.

The book is structured as one chapter for each of the 12 books, starting with Swallows and Amazons and ending with Great Northern? with diversions as themes are picked up and analysed.

I found it fascinating though I didn't always agree with Lovelock, and looking at the reviews online can see there are others that disagreed with him. I have so many thoughts jotted down that I'm going to have to post them separately on another occasion.

An interesting buy to anyone who loves the books as much as I do, and there's even a foreword by Sophie Neville - a great pleasure as always to hear from this expert on all things related to S&A.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

London Boat Show: On The Waterfront

There comes a time when you've heard all the talks, checked out the interesting new boats, browsed the boat show and had a bite to eat when the day seems to have been rather long and the exit beckons.

Outside was the magic twilight in which docklands glowed, reflecting in the hotel-yacht nearby.

A quick peak out at the quay-side by the ExCel exhibition centre and it was clear there were no boats on display:

It was rather cold: time to take the DLR and head west.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

London Boat Show: Ladders

There're always some off topic stands at the London Boat Show.

For some reason many are basically the sort of thing you'd see at an Ideal Home Show, in particular kitchen and bedroom focused, with knive and pans sets or new beds. I did wonder if they never left but the stands stay there all the time.

This one make me immediately think of one of the Greendale courses on the TV show Community, namely Ladders:

Though they didn't describe itself as ladders but instead something about "Access Solutions".

Monday, January 29, 2018

London Boat Show: Two Cars and a Helicopter

At a boat show you expect to see... well... boats, though for some reason other vehicles seem to creep in.

The amphibious car (above) did sort of make sense but this one less so:

Though maybe if you're buying a massive white gin palace you might as well colour coordinate the Bentley while you're at it.

But then what happens if your helicopter is charcoal grey???

That's done it! Cancel those orders!!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

London Boat Show: Rowing the Indian Ocean

At the London Boat show saw another of those cross-ocean rowing team expeditions things. I know its all for a good cause (*) and terribly hard work but really can't get that enthusiastic - sorry guys!

I just can't see why you'd row when you could sail. Maybe I've seen too many SV Delos videos but they seem to be having a lot of fun while this just seems like making life hard for yourself.

Also, wasn't that the route that the debris from that the Malaysia flight 370 aircraft crash followed, washing up at Mauritius too?

Anyhow, there's a web site about there voyage here.

(*) raising money for to support those with Parkinson's Disease which really is horrid so worth funding