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.
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.
I have not mentioned this before. I have been to the dentist after nearly 30 years of absence. A few months ago I had to go to the dentist because I had a hurting tooth. Well, actually it had been hurting a little bit for several years. It was discovered a lower molar had cracked. Must have been biting those aniseed balls. After a failed filling, root canal treatment was suggested, This was not proceeded with when it was discovered the crack was serious and had split the whole tooth in two. So I went for the implant and had a titanium metal fixing implant placed in my jaw. Today was a checkup after 4 months to see that the fixing was firmly in place and the bone had healed. All was well and I have been booked in for the implant false tooth to be sized. Alas, the surgery was busy for the next few weeks, so have to wait until the end of the month. So hopefully all will be fixed by Christmas.
We drove to Henley Business School for the annual Cambridge Society’s Berkshire branch annual lunch. The day was bright and sunny. We arrived in time for a glass of fizz before lunch. The lunch is a three-course buffet before a speech by a relevant speaker. This year we had Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the previous vice-chancellor from Cambridge University. He gave a fascinating speech about the future of universities. He felt the elite universities would succeed, but some of the smaller universities were likely to fail. As for Cambridge, he did not see the number of undergraduates would increase. It was not economic, it costs £18,000 a year to teach a student at Cambridge, and the revenue was just £9,000. A definite loss. The proposed reduction in student loans from £9,000 to £6,000 was going to put additional pressure on Cambridge University revenues. Thankfully the Cambridge colleges have some large endowments which make up this funding shortfall.
To celebrate my birthday, we decided to spend a couple of nights in our Campervan in Cambridge. Our first stop was in St Neots, parking on the Bedfordshire side of the river Ouse where we had a coffee at the Ambience Café. Rather an insipid Cappuccino. On then to Cambridge where we were camping at Cambridge Camping and Caravan Club Site in Trumpington. It is well served by buses running during the day every 15 minutes, and in the evening, one an hour until quite late.
We were soon into Cambridge and visited the Fitzwilliam Museum. Rosemary wanted to see a Virginia Woolf exhibition. Unfortunately, the exhibition was not what she wanted. R had failed to read the small print, “An exhibition inspired by her writings” Next, a stop at the Eagle for a beer. We drank in the bar at the back, which is very much themed on American airmen. The walls are covered with signatures and dedications. Next stop was dinner. We chose the Cambridge Chop House and had a good meal. The Chop House is mainly underground. Its basement extends under several of its neighbouring businesses.
Back then to Emmanuel Street to catch the bus back to the campsite.
On Wednesday, after an al fresco breakfast, we again caught the bus into Cambridge, admiring the new Medical research building around Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and the new student flats near the rail hub. Once in Cambridge we had a walk around Caius College, and even visited the LNB (Late Night Bar). No longer the LNB, now a bike shed. The porter knew it had been the LNB.
We then walked on to Kettles Yard which reopened this year after some modifications. An exhibition of Richard Pousette-Dart work was on show. He was a key figure of Abstract Expressionism. Jim Ede, creator of Kettle’s Yard, first met Pousette-Dart in New York in 1940. Of course, we visited the house of Jim Ede, which continues to surprise & delight.
We now walked along side Jesus Green, Midsummer Common and the river, looking at the canal boats and Cambridge Boat Houses. The canal boats appeared to be stocked up with coal for the winter. Spotted the new Gonville and Cauis Boat House, well Google maps did. Back across Midsummer Common and down King Street. I was telling Rosemary about the King Street Run, and oddly we met a Cambridge graduate several days later wearing a King Street Run tie. The basic objective drinking a pint of ale in seven of the street’s pubs before returning for an eighth in the pub you started. One of the club rules state a penalty pint is awarded for the commission of either of the two Ps, “peeing or puking”. Successful members of the club wore a special navy blue tie decorated with the image of a tankard surmounted by a crown. This tie is also decorated with a ‘P’ for each penalty pint drunk. The tie soon became a highly sought-after item of apparel.
Finally, a pint at the Anchor, overlooking the mill pond, then the University Museum of Zoology where we had a few minutes before chucking out time. Ah well on to the Eagle for another drink before going for my Birthday treat at the Loch Fyne Restaurant. Yes Rosemary embarrassed my by having a candle placed in my dessert. Then it was back on the bus to the campsite.
Our final day, Thursday, started with a lovely bright morning with a slight frost, but we’d been snug. We visited Grantchester and the Orchard Tea Garden. Another bright and sunny day encouraged us to walk down to the river and admire a couple of punts moored up. You can see where Roger Waters from Pink Floyd found their inspiration for the song ‘Granchester Meadows’.
The Friars Club of Aylesbury brought many famous bands to the town. It was about to end when I moved to Aylesbury back in 1982. I didn’t know of it, and shortly after I moved here, the club closed. In the early 70’s David Bowie debuted two albums in Aylesbury. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust on the 21st September 1971 and Spiders from Mars on the 29th January 1992.
On the 16th January 2016, David Bowie died. After a special event in Aylesbury, a week after his untimely death a petition was started to create a David Bowie statue. The council agreed, but would give no money. A Kickstarter project was started to raise the money. The money was raised and the statue built. It was installed while I was travelling in New Zealand. It has taken me until the 17th October to actually go into Aylesbury and see the statue which I contributed to. It well worth spending the time to see it, and be there at the top of the hour. A random track from David’s music is played every hour.
For those who live far away, there is a live David Bowie webcam.