Sunday, 4 June 2017

May to June 2017

bransbury park climbing frameBank Holiday Monday, so it rained. Forced to go out as part of my new unreasonable fitness regime of having to walk somewhere every day, so I fed the birds (absent), sent even more bottles to their recycling doom (3) and climbed up a climbing frame in the park (1). It might be exactly where Sydney broke her arm so I erred on the cautious side and didn't go up too high. This was deemed sufficient, and I hastened back to Skype-Crafting with my new-found Skype-Craft mates.
Bonus Film night was 'Cast Away' in which the man with a snake in his boot crashed a plane and spent 4 years on an island arguing with a football called Wilson. I liked the cave art and crabs. I think it was also Bank Holiday Monday for 4 years in the south Pacific because it was always raining there too.
Meter Made
smart meter installation lowri beckAnyway, with its monotonous regularity, Grandad's birthday came around again. He is now 88 but still pretends not to be.
What we normally do is plan a registered activity, usually involving a walk to a set place, and have a pub lunch, do some maths and have a swim. This formula has worked for us so far.
But today was slightly different in that the gas and electric parasite company had arranged a Smart Meter to be fitted. This is not the well-dressed person that greets you at the door of Walmart, it is a meter that can send in the readings by itself. So we cleared out the cupboard under the stairs, which is now the only place you can get into the underfloor Hades now that the rest of the house has been tiled or carpeted.
pumping iron in retirement village gymThe Meter Man arrived and we coped with the event by leaving Jof in charge, and played a Gary Moore CD all the way to Grandad. He was pleased to see us and has a special ritual. Prior to this occasion, he stood on a stool made by G-G-Dad to hug Bud, and I stood on the same stool to hug him. This is to even up our relative heights a bit, for a better quality hug. But recently I have been growing and the Equalizer Stool has been replaced by a small leather briefcase. Is it strong enough, we asked. He opened it to reveal a massive chunk of wood which fits perfectly, and can easily support my expanding frame.
So as usual, I had a swim and then tried out the gym. They have a rack of dumb-bells from 1kg to 10kg. I struggled to lift the 10kg one so we selected smaller ones and pumped iron for a bit, as you do on your 88th birthday.
winchester itchen valley st catherines hill
Not content with the pumpage and some cross-training, we drove to Winchester where you can find St Catherine's Hill. This mellifluous carbuncle on the face of the world is also a nature reserve and has a free car park, what more do you need. So we split up and ascended the natural tumulus and met at the top in a copse of beech trees, with many bugs and dogs. From there you can clearly see Winchester cathedral, where the three of us scored the records for oldest and youngest tower-climber simultaneously, a couple of years ago.
winchester college playing fields river pathI had carefully checked out a footpath that runs around the hill well below the summit and confidently led the way. When M Senior and M Even-More-Senior chose their own route I was righteously huffed and scythed every passing plant with a stick I'd found that closely resembles a Minecraft axe. This is why I'm lower down the hill in my mustard-coloured shirt.
At the bottom he promised me a short walk to the Bell Inn public house and eatery in St Cross which is a village a mile south of Winchester. We walked along the side of a river and saw fish and swans and ducks and cows and sluices and bulrushes and weirs and streams and playing fields and weeping willows, and most of it belongs to Winchester College which is very posh and probably inherited all the land from the church, which is a big landowner in these parts, for the last thousand years or so.
But slowly it dawned on me that I had been conned yet again and my feet were getting tired and it was not the 200 yards I swore he'd said. While everything was joyous and pretty (with its many rivulets and streams of the River Itchen) and verdant and peaceful and historic O yea, there was far too much of it and my stick-scything became more demonstrative, as did my loud complaining.
medieval priory tudor buildingsBut just as I was about to expire from exhaustion and starvation, we arrived at the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty (established 1132) and the Bell Inn. I had scampi which came on a wooden board with chips in a bucket, as is the modern way, Bud had his first Caesar salad and Grandad had birthday sausages with birthday mash and birthday gravy. In the Priory (with its Hundred Men Hall Tea Room) you can clearly see medieval and Tudor buildings, and G-Dad sings there every now and then.
Fortunately the return journey was much shorter even though Grandad definitely trolled me about only 5 miles to go etc, and we drove back to his for maths and geography studies, and the suitcase ritual again. He has been given some sponge-cake by a grateful neighbour so we took some off his hands. I have some equations to solve for G-Dad homework and we listened to Jimi Hendrix on the way home, in my opinion he is mad.
Disc Jockeying
Up at 1030 because of holidays. Recently, when Bud's last job died, he took a load of old kit (such as the workbench in the garage) out on a proper signed property pass which now makes me the legal owner. The factory itself was the old Disc Drive manufacturing plant for IBM once upon a decade and as such, had all these old display cabinets with engineering marvels of bygone years.
ibm product family storage capacities
Problem is, you know it's all going to go in the skip apart from anything like pencils spirited out of the building by concerned employees, or anything of actual value which will get sent to new factories.
But the historical artefacts would be lost forever, and that is a crime against humanity. So he asked the Super-Big-Boss man if he could save these dusty remnants for the Science Museum in London, where I visited 2 years ago and got some great stuff from the shop.
And the collection was made and the museum contacted and they said yes, we'd like this one item please, so we get to keep the rest. The item in question is a 14 inch metallic data storage disc from some long-forgotten product which shows how much space 1 Megabyte or similar took up on a disc, and how that space got smaller as their clever engineers improved the technology over time. Today you'd have to carry about 400 of these to match the storage in your phone. All those little squares are labelled with the IBM product families, from the good old 350 series of the 1960s right up to the byte-busting 3380 we all loved so much back in the 80s.
14 inch data storage discSo we said O Yea, we shall deliver it unto you when the trains have that special cheap offer on again, and it is this week during my holiday. And the nice lady in the museum said sorry, we don't work weekends, I would have come in to meet you but I'll be in Spain at a wedding so nobody will be here. So we said we'll just leave it with a security guard, look at the museum again and go off to that groov-acious cable car near the Millennium Dome.
And she said no, they're not allowed to take it, (shame we'd already bought the train tickets) but can I offer you 2 free tickets to the Robot Exhibition to make up for it. So, for my daily walk, we went to the post office and posted it to London, where it will arrive at the same time as we do. Gosh Diddly-Poodle-Poo, thus the cookie crumbles. But we have given it to the nation, so we did the right thing. And Bud went to another interview so I got to play Minecraft for hours with nobody telling me off for hooting like the Monkey Cage at Marwell Zoo.
The Never-Ending Sandy
eastney nudist beach at low tideYears and years (6) ago we invented the 12-mile bike ride where you cycle down to the Hayling ferry, cross the water to Hayling Island, ride up the old defunct Hayling Billy railway line to Havant, and catch a train home.
This one has done us proud many times and there's always time to stop off at the very-bumpy-bike paths and the sand that never ends at low tide, and the funfair, pub and crab-catching areas.
And as it was a nice hot day we rode to the ferry and got there 10 minutes late because we'd stopped off at the park on the way. Last time we used the ferry, it was every 10 minutes but now it's back to the bad old days with only 1 an hour, and we hadn't looked it up in advance.
We waited for 50 minutes and I learned to skim stones and we could see that it was low tide. At the last minute, Laughing Boy Thomas (in my Scout Group) and his family got on the ferry with us, and we had to give him 50p because he didn't have enough money for the ticket. At least someone was prepared.
hayling island funfair sea front
And we walked out along the endless dunes of the 'West Winner' which is a vast expanse of sand that is exposed at low tide and you can walk out so far into the sea we've never really actually reached the end. You get a good view of Eastney Nudist Beach and Fort Cumberland with the sewage works with the massive chimney. I'd already elected not to bother with the funfair so we got our ice creams in early.
At the harbour mouth were many kids going mummy mummy look at me and then kicking a football or standing on a rock or dabbing or doing something else pointless but still expecting mummy to say O what a clever boy you are, I expect you'll have loads of girlfriends. Kids.
hayling billy line coastal pathOf course I had to cycle directly into a massive headwind at all times and directions but eventually we reached the old railway line where we stopped off to ride up and down the bumpy cycle tracks, and met Laughing Boy Thomas coming back the other way, a good trick if you can do it.
It isn't really a long way up the coastal path to Langstone but sometimes it feels that way. The Ship Inn supplies our deserved lunch and the food was very nice but actually a little small, serves me wrong for choosing from the kids menu. The Chocolate muffin with cream and ice cream was good, though.
The train took us home and I cycled straight out into a main road because kids have right of way, correct?
Covfefe. No, I just wanted to talk crap, because hithertoyeauntohereafterforsoothverilygadzooks, FML.
Indifferential Equations
Up first, even though I don't have to go to work! We woke Jof up and left the house before the rush hour was over. This week is getting somewhat formulaic, in that the daily structure has definitely been seen before. When we see Grandad, we do 1 registered activity with a walk, pub lunch and maths lesson. When we do London, we do 3 activities, go by train and drink beer on the way back. When we do Chichester, we swim, buy coins and investigate medieval architecture.
So today we had an hour and 3/4 in the Westgate Leisure Centre swimming pool. Having taken the same wrong turning we took last time, we were better able to correct ourselves and swam and dived and went on the waterslide and splashed each other and fought, directly against Jof's orders, because meh.
westgate leisure complex chichesterAnd I bought some more goggles on the way out for only £17, hope they last. I didn't get the new full-face mask based on Edvard Munch's Scream. From there, it is but a short hop to our favourite antique shop by Westgate where we bought several coins and tokens, especially the squashed 1p coins from the Statue of Liberty, Epcot Centre and Empire State Building. Couldn't help but notice he had an advertising flyer on his counter for 'The Boy King' at the Groundlings Theatre, where I act.
It had been 3 days since I had eaten by then (or so I made out) so we had food at the Wetherspoons again (who says you can't have scampi 3 times in the same week?) and continued our tour of the Roman city walls. Chichester is rather good for this kind of thing, Dear Follower Fiona told us about it and we're still doing it now. We did the North-East quadrant and found a splendid swingpark with sandpark and tyre-swings right inside the walls at 'Priory Park'.
The boundary rope of the cricket pitch has to divert slightly due to the presence of the mound of a Norman castle (previously much larger): the Guildhall is all that remains of the medieval priory (closed by order of Henry the 8th I am I am), and in the grounds of that priory they recently discovered a Roman villa of millionaire proportions because nobody has built on the site in 1600 years. You can now get married in the Guildhall, but you don't have to. In the background is the Cathedral (also built by that chap Norman), and the place was upgraded a bit by Alfred the Great, you know the way it is.
chichester cricket pitch city walls
I climbed the castle mound, swung on the tyres, and carried on round the walls. On the way home we stopped off at the post office to wait in a queue that stretched into the car park for a packet of undelivered coins, so I read 'The world's worst children 2' by David Walliams. At home I Skyped Sydney and Jof brought home some more coins for us to sort through. Not that we like coins in any way.
Another planned trip, with the same structure as most of our many previous visits. OK, so we'd had to post the historical artefact of data storage technology we were donating to the Science Museum, but that was no reason not to go to London as we'd bought the train tickets anyway.
religious animatronic moving modelsJof went to work and we left the house dead on schedule and arrived at the station with enough time to get a coffee and mess about on the lifts for a while. Train journeys are necessarily dull so I spent my copious free time looking at horses lying down, prostrate cows and apparently unconscious sheep, and babbling.
terminator movie poster science museum
We secured and successfully defended a 4-seat bay for the entire journey, and by the time we pulled into Waterloo, I'd eaten a Scotch egg, half a pack of cocktail sausages, 3 chocolate bars, crisps and 2 juices.
Trips to London are characterized by frantic periods of activity broken up by lots of sitting down, as well as lengthy stints of thrift punctuated by brief bouts of profligacy. The minute we hit Waterloo we sprang into action. I am now an underground map-reading expert and got us to South Kensington for the Science Museum in no time.
The mostly-lady at the front desk was confused by our request for our pre-booked tickets and sent us downstairs to the toilets who also failed to give us tickets. 2 floors up from there was the actual Robot Exhibition and the free tickets from our new insider friend saved us a good £20.
museum facade columnsSome of the early robots (automatons) were freaky as were the religious beliefs of their first viewing customers, seeing moving models of monks as magic. There was a cabinet of prosthetic arms that definitely looks cyborg-ish. The early film robots were epic in a clunky way and there was a T-800 that appeared in Terminator Salvation and some more modern AI bots moving inexorably towards the uncanny valley of human likeness.
We reckon Sexbots will fund the next industry great leap forward, as the military has done in other areas. Sadly there were no Terminator T-shirts in the shop, maybe they couldn't get a licence. I was wearing a Minecraft T-shirt so wanted to revisit the Hall of Archaic Computer Games, to show off. It took us a while to find the right staircase to the basement but once I'd squashed a couple of pennies we hit the shop.
british museum london egyptian collectionIt's great in there and you always want to buy 27 things but I restricted myself to a Minecraft book. He got 2 rocks (one of pure silicon, one of translucent titanium glass) but I found myself playing a game which was offered unto me.
Back in the day when even the parents were young, all you could get were simple 8-bit games with shooting or planes or similar, and you were grateful because that was cutting-edge tech. But with the computing power, storage and processing speed of today, the simplicity of the coding of the retro-games of yester-decade means you can fit 200 8-bit games into a gizmo the size of a matchbox, plug it directly into your flat-screen TV and off you go!
british museum chinese ceramics exhibitionBut there is no rest for the wicked and we left with our booty to go back underground, via a man with a huge bubble-making kit in a precinct by the Geological Society. A busker maimed Stairway to Heaven to speed us on our way.
Tottenham Court Road was just 2 underground changes away and along New Oxford Street and up Bloomsbury and Great Russell and hey presto, the British Museum. It has columns to die for and a big queue for the bag check. I led the way and we saw Korean and Chinese ceramics, Somalian carvings, Victorian watercolours, African chairs made out of recycled guns, Solomon Island head-dresses, Moorish textiles, Minoan pottery, Greek urns, Egyptian mummies, Japanese incense burners, a Michelangelo cartoon, Mesopotamian statues, Korean coins, a rock crystal skull, Amerindian totem poles, the world's oldest flip-flops and lots of gold.
british museum mesopotamian exhibitsIn the shop I got a Pyramid pencil sharpener and an Egyptian cat fridge magnet for Jof, because she is always asking if she can have a cat.
We also found a Pizzeria which proved highly acceptable for both taste and price, not the usual situation in London tourist traps. The pizzas were hand-made to order, cheesier than an 80s compilation and mine was only £6 with added drink and side order of broccoli.
Avoiding the numerous flyer-dealers outside, we found 'Coincraft' a Piccadilly-based coin dealer but the cheapest coin was £65 so we ran away, past the gaudy tourist tat shops with their beefeater teddies and Union Jack mugs and telephone boxes of all nations.
I have heard of the Docklands Light Railway and wanted to experience it having heard that some of it is above ground. The transfer was a bit complicated at 'Bank' but we got onto the DLR and it was epic soon enough as we went uphill and over canals and roads and other trains and looked into peoples' bathroom windows, unusual for an underground train. In the underground station was a poster advert for the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre - which I'll be visiting next week.
emirates cable car greenwichCanary wharf (not a singing Klingon) is a vast engineering marvel both above and below ground but they could do with improved signage, in my opinion. After fighting with Julie B (the Jubilee line), we finally got to Greenwich North and the Emirates 'Air-Line' cable car over the Thames.
I collect (amongst other things) novel forms of transport and this was to be my first cable car. I got my own ticket and we waited for the pods to do their slow circuit around the disembarkation/embarkation zone. You can see the procedure while waiting and it is all very slow until the car re-engages with the immense steel hawser whish is powered by the giant red horizontal turning-wheels.
Once you've been engaged, it shoots you up to the maximum velocity of 6 M/S and you climb up and up over the pylons until you are 90 metres over the Thames, even at low tide, and you bob along swinging gently in the breeze.
crossing thames cable car ride
OK so it doesn't have the raw acceleration of the Solent RIB ride or the brutal altitude of a long-haul Jumbo jet but it was excellent with views of building sites and barges and cable cars coming in the other direction and the runway of London City Airport and the Millennium Dome and Canary Wharf and overground railways and the Thames Barrier and planes and cranes and ships and water taxis and the giant pylons holding it up and skyscrapers and wakeboarders and a restaurant on a ship and I said the cable car would be better with a glass floor and a fellow passenger turned decidedly green. It was all over too soon as we landed at the Emirates Royal Docks.
houses of parliament security cordonBut we'd purchased return tickets so we did it all again! I got the 2 available souvenir medallion coins from the machine (automaton-robots taking your money, just saying) but we didn't get the pointless souvenir interactive photo because I'd got quite sufficient imagery of the ride already, thank you.
Bud always wants to go the extra mile but it felt like 5 as we sailed past Waterloo and got off at Westminster to see the armed cops.
I found 6 outside the Houses of Parliament and laughed at Black Rod's Garden Entrance which sounds dreadfully rude. It has a heavy wrought iron gate with a little wooden shed for the least popular and perhaps flatulent Policeman. I also found a 7 mile trek past Horseferry kid's park (with actual wooden horses) to Lambeth Bridge and a further 164-mile yomp across unfamiliar terrain to the Archbishop's Park next to Lambeth Palace. This green space has a top-notch swingpark that you can see from the train and I absolutely agree that I need to go there.
view from lambeth bridge westminster
But inserting it at the end of a 11-hour, 3-activity day was gross malfeasance, wilful incompetence and cruel and unusual punishment, as both of my legs had fallen off with exhaustion. I bleated and moaned my way down the never-ending pavement back to Waterloo and agreed that the Archbishop's Personal Swingpark will be done first on our next trip.
boy asleep on train seatsIn Waterloo Station we bought the same 4-pack of Belgian beer as the last 8 times and gigantic chocolate buttons and the Bucket'o'Chocolate and then we met Football 'Arry from my school class. He had been to the Imperial War Museum.
train tickets cable car experienceOn the train home we secured and successfully defended a 6-seat bay and Charlie (from my acting class) visited us and ate some chocolate and we battled a bit because I was tired and just wanted to read my Minecraft book.
At the beginning of the day Jof had told us to text her regularly as she was worried about terrorists. So we laughed at her and made sure to update her facetiously about our locations and activities about 8 times during the expedition: but for the last 2 she was asleep at home.
We missed the latest London terror attack by 4 hours and 1/2 a mile.
Sunday started at 1220, which means a 13-hour sleep. If you're going to break the all-time sleep record, do it properly. It was a quiet day: I couldn't even play my Retro Mini TV 8-bit games console because my LCD screen doesn't have A/V ports. So we have to go to Tandy or Radio Shack to get a RF converter.

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