Back from Suffolk

A long, but very worthwhile, trip to Suffolk at the end of last week, attending my TA training group.
Travel from Argyll to east of Ipswich either involves multiple train journeys via London, or flights and car hire and extra days travelling, or just getting in the car and spending all day on the drive, which is over 500 miles. Well, I don’t mind spending a day at the wheel providing it’s not pissing down and there aren’t any major jams, so it’s my own four wheels for me.
My preferred route is down the motorways to Penrith then across the A66 to Scotch Corner, before trundling down the variants on the A1 to join the A14 through fenland to Ipswich and the job lot of roundabouts that were inflicted on Suffolk in the cause of connectivity.
The consequence of a twelve-hour journey is that it takes several hours to stop buzzing and relax, but I’m used now to that sort of distance.
Decided to stop this time and explore the castle at Brougham, east of Penrith. A lovely red sandstone ruin all to myself – arrived just as it opened for the day – although not the most romantic of old castles. I tend to judge every castle by the standards of Goodrich in Herefordshire, which was a regular haunt in childhood and had ramparts and dungeons and moats and keeps and towers – all the stuff of happy boyhood afternoons and maternal terror.
The content of the training this time revolved around how metaphor in TA shapes our positions as practitioners. For me, being a fairly conceptual Hector, this was very interesting. It’s clear that one has to develop and refine one’s own ideas about practice and the underlying TA principles that inform it in order to become congruent in thought and behaviour.
Because of commitments back home on Sunday afternoon, the journey back was a bit of a challenge, having to leave Ipswich at five in the afternoon on Saturday and plod home in one hit (with appropriate food, pee and sanity breaks. Hit the sack at about half-past-three in the morning after a better drive than I expected. Took the M62 instead of the A66 – 36 extra miles but probably no difference in time. Still, I resent those extra miles and will probably stick to the Scotch Corner to Penrith road in the future.

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Why we believe in gods – Dr Andy Thomson at American Atheists 2009

This is well worth watching.

Storm by Tim Minchin

Fantastic! Just enjoy.

And the ospreys are back too

I see that my last post was about a month ago noting the first sighting of the bats that flit about The Grannary in the warmer evenings.

Last week the resident pair of ospreys returned to the village. Everyone around here feels a strong sense of them being “our” birds and their return is one of the markers of spring each year. One bird was back on the 31st March and the pair were seen on the 1st, which was when I first noticed them.

The nesting site is in a scots pine on an island in the local loch and there is a prominent dead pine pole close by which acts as a perch. Although it’s a couple of hundred metres from the road, one tends to watch out for the typical osprey silhouette as one drives past. Even with a cheapish pair of binoculars, it’s possible to get a reasonable view of them from the road and birders are a common site in the season with their scopes, flasks and sandwiches.

It strikes me as a little curious that these birds, which are so obviously a pair of long standing, return from their migration apart. Has the female stopped off at Braehead to look at shoes and the male got bored and gone ahead? Perhaps we’ll never know the answer to that question.

But, ospreys are part of the village, as are the pair of buzzards which nest across from the Chookery and occasionally scream overhead here. Just have to wait for the swallows to know that summer will finally be on its way.

The bats are back

Finally, an evening that feels a little spring-like as we spin towards the equinox.

Out for a breath of air about seven to find the last of the gloaming and enough light to watch the smoke rising in lazy pillars from the houses in the village. A full moon rising above the hill across the river – now peeking through the chimneys of the neighbours’ house. Crocuses showing willing around the picnic bench opposite the chimney.

With not a cloud in the sky and Venus setting as the moon rose, birds sang their last of the day. And, after a very long winter, two bats sported the air again, anticipating spring.

The machines have it

These last couple of days have been the triumph of things mechanical over the human inhabitants of the Grannary. First, her car decided that a full complement of brakes was no longer on the agenda when she was heading off to Oban to get the messages; fortunately well before she was into the bends and bealachs of the main road. So, my car was pressed into service for shopping and she consigned hers to the local garage on Sunday for tender ministrations.

Second, the undertray on my own car took sad injury on Islay and requires to be replaced, as does a worn ball joint on a drive wheel. So, into the chap who does things mechanical for me this morning, only for him to wait all day for parts to be couriered from Glasgow and not arrive. Back in tomorrow for that work, before I head off down the road to Suffolk on Thursday.

Third, and most frustratingly, the oil-fired range gave up the ghost on Sunday and refused to fire. In the confidence that we had a regular top-up service from one of the local fuel suppliers, no consideration was given to stocks of oil and I concentrated on seeing whether the burner was blocked. There was a little bit of grot in there, the baffles now badly deteriorated and in need of replacement, but still only concerted spluttering and a lack of the usual reassuring roar.

Eventually decided to check the oil tank yesterday evening and found it dry as a witch’s tit. We’d either been robbed of our oil, as had several other people in the village over the winter, or our suppliers had failed to fulfill their commitment to keep us topped up. More concern when the neighbours said they’d seen the oil lorry parked outside the house the previous week and the driver out and doing something. Turned out, when I finally spoke to them this morning, that they’d completely forgotten to check our tank and top it up since May last year – astonishing that the supplies had lasted that long. Much apologies from the area manager and an emergency delivery of 200 litres made today, with promises of more on the morrow.

Stanley, the range, is a temperamental chap and took a lot of re-lighting. I even called on the advice and services of the neighbours, from whom we bought the house and know its idiosyncracies well, but no joy. Finally, it was herself who applied the magic touch and jiggled the air filter, resulting in a satisfying roar and the reintroduction of central heating to our lives.

A bad case of builder’s thumb

Up chucking joists around at some friends’ self-build yesterday and today. Although the roof is still being slated, the house is now dry enough to get the joists in across the subwalls and hint at the possibility of it having a floor at some time in the forseeable future.

Getting the joists in place

The method is relatively simple: position the joists – three across the space – space them out with measured templates; strut them with metal straps to prevent movement and bolt the three joists into one structure.

Being of a marginally-lesser girth than B, I got the job of going under the joists to nail the struts in place. Having all the manual ability that comes with thirty years of pushing pens, it’s inevitable that my left thumb will take the brunt of my incompetence. It’s now nicely skinned and the nail feels alarmingly loose. Being additionally of a baldy persuasion, it takes very little to loosen my scalp from my skull, and the metal straps proved to be efficacious in this respect as well.

Still, since next weekend takes me to Suffolk and my TA learning group, the chance of getting either my head or thumb skinned for a couple of weeks is now reasurringly low.