Welcome to our little home on the net. We are Steve & Rosemary and live in Buckinghamshire, UK. This is a blog of our life, sometimes interesting, but mainly boring. Its is very picture orientated as Steve loves to take pictures, especially of wild life. Sometimes he has his arm twisted by Rosemary and takes the odd snap of a weed.
Today was a lovely bright and not overly cold day, so off we set to RSPB Otmoor to check out the Starlings. Would we recognise our local Starlings as they came in to roost in the reed bed! We arrived at around 2.45, the car park was already full, bar one space for us. We headed out slowly looking for birds. To be honest, there were not many around, the scrapes were empty. The walk to the reed bed is around 1500-2000 meters. There are several viewing points, we chose one a little bit further on, where there should be a few fewer people.
Shortly after sunset the Starlings started to arrive and did their murmuration bit. Interesting how small groups of birds had to join in with the big group before going in to roost. Once roosted there were large waves of starlings flying over the tops of the reeds as they moved around to other locations.
As we were leaving we saw a green flash in the sky, fairly low down and travelling North. The trail was very short, and it seemed to travel slower than a meteor, and faster than a sattelite. The short trail was also quite wide. It was visible for a couple of seconds. No idea what it was.
Rosemary wanted to see a National Trust house dressed for Christmas. The most dressed house is Waddesdon Manor which we have seen many times. Last year we went to another house because Waddesdon started charging NT members to go around the house at Christmas. (This is probably the intention of the National Trust, so they can get more non-members in paying the full price.) R was outraged (even though she’s heard all about people booking free NT members tickets and then not turning up) so she insists we go to another house. So, this year we went to Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire.
The house was decorated in various different styles based on one of the many eras when the house has been lived in. The helpers were all dressed up in appropriate costume for the various eras of the house decoration. We wandered around playing with the children’s toys. Of course, the day ended with tea in the cafe and a search through the secondhand bookshop.
Rosemary and I had a trip to Oxford today. Parking virtually impossible in Oxford, so you have to use the Park and Ride. Being retired, the cheapest and easiest way into Oxford is to park at the Bicester Park and Ride which is free. Then catch the S5 into Oxford, yet again free with your bus pass, and they supposedly run every 15 minutes. The website shows you live arrival times of buses, ours was a tad late.
In the city of Oxford, we went straight to the Library where there was an exhibition of books and magazines. The Bodleian is a copyright library so receives most publications from the UK. These included erotic publications, some of which were subsequently banned. The access to these publications was restricted and categorised as Phi. Students could see them for research purposes only with a written note from the Director of Studies. Most of the books displayed in the very public area were very tame, you could hardly believe any of them would have been banned in the UK.
Next was the business of the day shopping, clothes shopping. Having spectacularly failed at this, it was time for lunch at the Cinnamon Kitchen, an upmarket Indian Resturant on the upper floor of the Westgate shopping centre. There are several restaurants up on the roof. Many with outside seating for warm days. A token gave us a free glass of bubbly and we had a fine meal.
Well after this, it was home time, but we had to go to the sweet shop for some aniseed balls. These were purchased at Hardys Sweet Shop on the High Street. It is so much further down the road than we ever imagine. We always believe we have gone past, and the shop has closed. Aniseed balls purchased for Rosemary. I won’t touch them now after a large dentist bill to replace a cracked tooth; I tended to crunch them up with my teeth.
Weekend away in Leicester drinking Whiskey in the National Space Centre. Poor R had a dry weekend, Whiskey or Whisky is not her favourite drink.
As some weekends start, we loaded up the car with a chainsaw and hedge trimmer and headed off to Leicester by way of Nuneaton. We needed to pick up the ashes of my Aunt Margaret who had been cremated on August 30th after she died on the 30th of July.
Arriving in Leicester in time for lunch at the Halcyon Kitchen. I had a lovely veggie salad dish, though missed the black pudding which should have come from Norman’s all day breakfast. A coffee in the Northern Cobbler before the gardening starts.
My favourite gardening is always with a chainsaw, cutting and destroying must have been instilled in me from the Doom Computer Game. I started off well with the carnage and destruction, but the chain oil reservoir had not been closed properly and a trail of oil was dripped through Valerie & Norman’s whole house. Oops, thankfully the route taken was on tiles. Phew! So a spot of decimation in the garden, opening up the canopy with the removal of some trees and ivy, all completed before nightfall.
Viv and Bill arrived for an early supper, a lovely bean stew/soup. Then it was on to the Space Centre for the Whisk(e)y tasting organised by 23 wine and whiskey.
You were given a tasting glass and a map of the Space Centre with the locations of the different whisk(e)y stands. These were peopled by 23 wine and whiskey, or by the actual company distilling the whiskeys. You went from stand to stand to try the different drinks, trying to act intelligently and making cerebral comments. This becoming more difficult as the time passed. The samples were small, but there were many to try.
At the same time, there were master classes, these were sold out well before the day. They took a theme, mine was American Whiskeys. On show were Bourbon, Wheat Whiskeys and Rye Whiskeys. This class took an hour and was fun, with a very knowledgeable and entertaining compere.
In the main hall, there were whisk(e)ys from Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, America, Canada, Japan, Sweden and India. The Indians even produced a peat tasting drink with peat imported from Ireland and Islay.
Was a very enjoyable evening. My regret was, unlike Rosemary, I did not see much of the Space Center. The positive of this I will have to go back.
The next day, after a slow and late rise, was breakfast, a walk and lunch at the Cradock Arms. I was amused when we all ordered out pints of ale, Tiger, and Rosemary also had a pint. One taste of it and you could see she realised her mistake. For some reason, she thought we all had ordered a lager. I ate a traditional Sunday lunch of pork belly, once Rosemary realised I had been served Viv’s turkey, and Viv had been served my pork belly.
Another trip organised by the Berkshire branch of the Cambridge Society was a visit to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. This was not exclusive to the Cambridge Society, we populated two groups of around 10 people for the tour. There were several other groups visiting.
We arrived in bright sunshine, checked in at the gatehouse and drove to the visitor car-park. We started off with a short talk and then we were on the way to see MAST. This was a British device looking at new ways to contain the hot plasma. It was undergoing an upgrade, adding new containment electromagnets, and a redesigned device to remove the gas and debris from the fusion reaction. It was not operational and was being dismantled to fix a leak which was letting in air. Hopefully, it would be up and running in a couple of years.
After MAST we saw JET, which is still at the forefront of Nuclear Fusion research. It still holds the record for generating the most power. It also had recently been upgraded and was building up to break new power records. It is funded by a collaboration of European countries and was testing out manufacturing ideas to go into the ITER reactor in France. For instance, the robotics required to perform maintenance tasks, such as replacing the Beryllium lining tiles. When a test is run on JET, it can consume 2% of the UK national electricity supply.
I find it amazing how old these devices are, and they are continually being upgraded as the science improves. ITER will be the first Nuclear Fusion reactor which will run and test out a commercial reactor engineering build. After it has been built and tested, the first fusion reactors may enter service. This is still 30 years away so it is likely I won’t be around.
After the tour, we left in the torrential rain for the pub, The Swan in Sutton Courtney. Nice meal, and the company of some Cambridge alumni for interesting conversation.