Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Anglian Update

To be fair to Anglian, so far, they've done everything I could have asked. The local manager arrived dead on time yesterday afternoon and spent about 5 minutes examining the scene before admitting they'd had the same thing with another Royston conservatory not long ago.

He agreed the gulley should have been raised and sealed and that the whole underfloor area would have been flooded with drain water. We agreed what a good job it was it'd just been dishwasher/washing machine/washing up water!

Then he said they'd replace the old gulley, leave a big hole in the floor for about 3 weeks while the subfloor area dried out, then make the damp-proof membrane good and recast the concrete floor where it had been dug out. Replace the entire chipboard subfloor, ensuring the gulley was built up to the level of the chip. I said I'd relay the laminate, which I'm quite happy to do.

This was the perfect, and to be honest, rather unexpected answer from a big corporation. I'd fully expected to have to fight, as I think was clear from earlier postings, but the guy just put his hand up and said "We did this badly. We'll put it right." You can't ask more than that, and if the restoration goes as smoothly as he's proposed, I expect to be impressed.

And, having been rather public with my complaint, I'll be equally public in my praise. That's only fair, after all.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sutton Hoo

Today we went to Sutton Hoo. It's a fantastic place, and I can't recommend it highly enough. You won't see all the fantastic jewels they unearthed, but we did see some, and on the basis of what we did see, I'd say, go. I didn't regret it. I think it's wonderful.

The famous helmet is in the British Museum, of course, but don't panic about that, because there's really very little of it left. What you see here is reconstructions in all their glory, and they are fabulous. This is a 2m high sculpture in mild steel, suspended over the entrance to the Exhibition centre, and it's simply magnificent! Check out the supporting rod-work inside, which is a work of art in itself!

To be honest, the remains of the mounds themselves, apart from mound 2, which was rebuilt to it's original height, was unimpressive. Could easily have just been part of the topogrophy, but it was still a delightful and evocative site.

Back in the Exhibition Centre, the only thing that really captured my attention was one of a pair of clasps made from gold with cloisonné garnet and (can't remember) glass inlay which looked completely new. The label said, "Unrestored". Look at this stuff. It's 1500 years old and was made by a man working with a charcoal brazier. If you don't know about soldering
without gas, I can tell you it's a nightmare. This complexity of soldering, even with gas is absolutely top quality stuff. I cannot imagine the skill of the man who did this. I remind you, all the yellow stuff is gold.

Lemmy try a bit. All the red stuff, is garnet. Get a piece of garnet, polish it down to the thickness you need, then somehow make it the complex shape you need, then place it in position. Most pieces were so precise, they didn't need glue! Get that!

And even forgetting the astonishing levels of skill required, just remember how old it is, and that it was made entirely by hand. Look at that piece of chain, holding the pin onto the clasp. A man, 1500 years ago, made each link of that chain, by hand, and joined them together. I could do that, though not remotely as well. He was a world class jeweller, yet this piece of work enables me to relate to him. It is truly humbling.

It's 5 inches long. Actually, this image is upside down, but I don't know why. I don't think it matters much, but if you disagree, I'll fix it.

OK, mouth still open in amazement, I'm going to bed. Night night.

Edit: One slightly odd thing, which I don't understand, is a detail of the construction. Onto the gold back-plate, he soldered the little gold "walls" that make up the cells into which the glass and garnet are fitted, but before that last stage, in the bottom of each cell, he dropped a little square of gold leaf, which looks, if you click the picture and examine it larger, for all the world as though it's been textured into a series of rows of dents and bumps. Almost like a reflector. I think this was a way of getting more reflected light back out through the garnet, to make the piece glow even more brightly. Ain't nothing new under the sun, right?

Friday, 25 July 2008

Lunch

Now that I've eaten my lunch, I thought I'd tell you how good it was. Isn't that considerate of me?

Actually, I've been off sick since Wednesday, and today the doc told me "It's a virus" which was strangely gratifying, even though there's nothing he can offer by way of treatment. I've not been at death's door, but the symptoms, remarkably like a hangover, came and went, so that on Wednesday morning I came home from work, quite unable to concentrate, and since then have felt as bad or worse numerous times, but equally, there have been times I've felt pretty much OK and guilty at not being at work. Sorry about the long sentence; I should have issued a Safety Warning. But then, if you'd done the Risk Assessment you obviously should have done before starting to read, you'd have been prepared. Sorry again, verging on the facetious here.

I'll just point out for the record, that it definitely wasn't a hangover. The symptoms appeared on Tuesday evening, and were enough to make me unusually restrained in the alcohol department ever since.

So lunch was roasted red peppers with Vignotte cheese. It's just the standard RRP recipe and I added the vignotte because I found it flexing its muscles at the back of the fridge. After I cut said muscles off, there was plenty left for this. It worked well, but I think many cheeses would have done just as well. Stilton comes immediately to mind.

Choose a box-shaped pepper if you can, so when you cut it in half, both halves will stand up. Mine was a normal triangular one, so one half fell over. Yellow or orange is fine, but don't try it with green. Just doesn't work.

Leaving the stalk on helps them maintain their shape. After removing the pips, chop some tomatoes into each, to more or less fill each. Scatter finely chopped garlic and anchovy over the tomato. I find anchovy rather tough going, so split a quarter of a fillet between the two, but you can use more. Salt and pepper, of course, and some chunks of cheese. The original recipe specifies a droodle of good olive oil, but the cheese makes that unnecessary.

Oven on quite hot, say 180°C for half, maybe 3/4 of an hour; keep your eye on it.

Serve with a nice glass of, well I had Pouilly Macon Macon Fuissé, so more or less any classical French chardonnay, I'd say would be fine, but equally, a decent Tourraine would go well, or a light-bodied red, maybe a Saumur, lightly chilled.

Of course, I'd forgotten, being ill, to make bread, but fortunately was able to wander over the road and steal some from Lorna and Richard. They'd have given me some, had they been in, but they weren't. It's a real privilege to have friends like that.

Thank you, Yorkshire Pudding

Idly perusing some of my friends' blogs while waiting for my lunch to cook, I came across this that Yorkshire Pud posted on 21st July. I was completely blown away. I don't much like the rest of the poem (I looked it up), though I'm all for the sentiment, but this bit conveys so much in so few words, it has to be one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. It's by Simon Armitage, who I think is another of those that live on the wrong side of the Pennines. I have reformatted it to suit my own prejudices, which I suppose breaks the copyright.

I have not padded through the Taj Mahal
Barefoot, listening to the space between each footfall

Picking up and putting down its print against the marble floor.
But I skimmed flat stones across Black Moss
On a day so still I could hear each set of ripples
As they crossed.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Conservatory - update

Well I have to admit, Anglian has gone up a tiny bit in my estimation. I've just had a very encouraging phone call from the manager of the Cambridge 'maintenance' section (I'm sure they have a proper word for it!) enquiring about the nature of the problem. When I related how we'd found the gulley uncapped and just covered with a piece of slate he sighed heavily, as though he'd heard this story before.

Anyhow, the upshot is he's coming over himself on Monday to take a look, so that when the fitter arrives the following Friday, he'll be suitably prepared.

At least, that's the impression I have now. To be perfectly honest, I'm trying not to let my hopes get themselves up too much. We'll see.

On Monday we had our last choir rehearsal before we sing in Winchester Cathedral for a week, so were at the conductor's house for a short rehearsal followed by drinks in the garden. Very civilised. Jane kindly agreed to drive us home in my new car, though it's not really far and she was badly baulked by slow traffic, so couldn't take advantage of the performance. I'm sure she'll have a proper go some time soon! It's a 2.2 litre turbo-diesel and really does go remarkably well! And returns an impressive 50+ mpg.

This evening we're off to St John's College gardens to see a performance of As You Like It, taking a picnic, of course. We try to take in a few of these garden performances each year, and have seen some memorable performances, including a magnificent King Lear.

I shall ask Richard to drive us home in my new car. I think he'll agree!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Albert's Enormous Purple Organ!

On Friday night, there being no gardening programmes to watch, we were about to watch some stuff we'd recorded earlier in the week, when we found ourselves watching the first night of the Proms. Some guy was playing a most beautiful Mozart oboe concerto, I think, and from then on, we were completely mesmerised.

So the title of this post relates to almost the first thing I noticed, which was the organ. For those not in the know, the whole Proms event, from July to September, takes place in the Albert Hall in London, and I was astonished to see the organ was purple. I didn't realise, until later, that it was just the illumination that made it so, but it was quite fantastic to see. Hence the title of this post.

After that, we had Strauss's Four Last Songs, which we've got on CD, and which we absolutely adore. I hated this music, until, about 10 years ago, Jenny learned them at singing lessons. We both did the lessons, for an hour between us on a Tuesday evening, so heard what the other was doing, every week. Quite quickly, I fell in love with these pieces, and I still listen to them often, at work.

The programmed soprano was ill, so we had Catherine Brewer, instead. I'd never heard of her before, and was unimpressed by the ..er.. large lady that came on stage. However, when she opened her mouth, I was transfixed. She reduced me to tears in nothing flat, and the audience was similarly blown away. Fan-bloody-tastic. I 'fess I closed my eyes, because I didn't want to read the translation, being entirely uninterested in what's being sung *about*. I'm completely besotted with the music, as with the sacred music we sing in our own choir - I'd much prefer it all to be in Latin, so I don't actually understand the words. Frinstance, many friends rave about Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. Jenny and I can't bear it, but I suspect that's partly because it's in English, and the religion just makes us want to throw up.

On Sunday, the saga of the Conservatory and the Drains got itself going, and I think this one will run for weeks and weeks. I decided at work that there was no way I was prepared to wait until Friday week to at least get the drains sorted out, so eventually phoned DynoRod, who responded almost magically quickly. The fixed price callout seemed a bit pricey, at £110, but for that, they do the whole job. And I don't have to pay Anglian Home Improvements anything, which makes it worth it, just for the pleasure of that!

I'd resigned myself to taking yet more time off, even though I already have a holiday debt, so I'll have to work back the 3 hours I skived off this afternoon. Within minutes of my initial phone call, DynoRod had not only arranged an engineer to call around after his next job, but the man himself had phoned to say he was on his way and would wait outside the house until I arrived. If only Anglian were even half as good.

He had to use a giant crowbar and a big hammer to lever the manhole cover up, then shoved a hose up the necessary orofice and turned it on. The end seems to squirt water at high pressure slightly backwards, so it drags itself along the pipe by jet propulsion. After quite a while, the water had started to flow clear, so he turned it off and tried to drag it out. And tried and tried and tried. It was properly stuck.

We decided to try to locate the small drain which I referred to in the last post, so took a bolster to the chipboard. Since the latter was already soaked with sewage and needed to be replaced, this was fine. Only there was no sign of the drain. I checked with a photo we took when the conservatory was being built, and we knew exactly where it should be, but all we could see was concrete.

While he struggled with his hose, I smashed at the concrete with a lump hammer and bolster, eventually breaking through. Still no drain. Finally, he extended the hole I'd started and found the drain.

Far from having been capped and sealed, as the drawings specify, it had just had a piece of slate laid across the top. Inside it was clogged with numerous bits of concrete, roof tile and what looks suspiciously like tiling grout. He managed to free his hose, which had been his biggest worry all along, of course, then did his best to clear the pipe. Sadly, there's a big lump of something still down there, which he couldn't get out, but he reckons the pipe is clear enough that it'll be OK, as long as we dump a sinkful of really hot water down it from time to time, and presumably give it the Mr Muscle treatment as well.

Then he made his one mistake. He shoved the hose back up the hole and turned it on, to make sure it was all as clean as possible. Of course, the end appeared up the drain, squirting disgusting grey water up the wall, onto the (live) electric sockets, up the window, etc. Lovely. He did a moderate job of cleaning that up.

I figured he'd earned his money, and gave him a tenner tip. He'd worked really hard on an unpleasant job, and always with a cheerful demeanour. Good lad.

Now all I have to do is persuade Anglian that it was all their fault. I'm confident it was, but that doesn't mean they'll sort it out for me. Their worst offences, as far as I'm concerned, were to not seal the drain properly, and to then concrete over it. The concrete was poured onto a polythene membrane, itself resting on a couple of inches of shingle. At least on the kitchen side, that is now best described as shingle mixed with ..er.. shall we say a grey, clay-like substance.

The drain needs to be built up to level with the concrete, then sealed with a screw-down cap. Then the chipboard, some of which must be renewed, needs to have a removable section and I'll sort out the laminated flooring so I can get to that.

So I leave you with a picture of the conservatory as it now is.

Anglian - deeply unimpressive

I've been in denial for about 3 weeks now, but have finally had to face up to the truth, and I'm not enjoying it. 3 weeks is about as long as we've been hearing a strange bubbling noise from beneath the kitchen sink when the washing machine pumps out. I've been hoping it will just go away.

Yesterday I finally pulled off the kick-board on the cabinet concerned, and found a minor flood. The washing machine is in a small utility room beyond the kitchen, but the waste pipe runs into the kitchen and down the same hole in the floor as the pipe from the sink. There's obviously a blockage somewhat downstream from there, as waste from the dishwasher, washing machine and kitchen sink all bubble up , though most of the water does actually go away and so far the flood has not appeared where we walk.

The horror waiting for me was that when we had the conservatory built by Anglian Home Improvements, they sealed and covered up the manhole immediately outside the kitchen window. To rod out this drain, I had to lift the laminated floor of the conservatory. That proved surprisingly easy; AHI obviously used decent quality laminate, which is about the only thing they've done that pleased me.

Beneath the laminate is 12mm chipboard. All along the kitchen wall, this is damp and black from leaked water. I managed to raise the bits of chipboard covering the manhole, only to find it concreted down. I've no idea how I'm supposed to lift it. But anyway, it's not the culprit. No sign of leakage, thank goodness.

What didn't get a mention in the original plans, was the little 15cm square drain up against the kitchen wall. It's supposed to have been sealed (and has clearly been leaking) but the installers didn't bother making it accessible through the chipboard. And I can't shift the chipboard. Believe me, I tried to get it up, but completely failed.

So this morning I phoned Anglian. They understood the problem and would send an engineer as soon as one became available. Looking at the diary, that'll be Friday, 1st August. Yep, I have to wait until the end of next week for someone to come and fix what they should have done right in the first place.

I tell them that's unacceptable as my kitchen is flooded and I can't use the sink, washing machine or dishwasher, to say nothing about sewage seeping up from below the conservatory floor. Well the terms of the warranty preclude a faster response. I can have someone within 72 hours but that'll cost me £140.

You could say I'm a little cross.

So please avoid using Anglian Home Improvements for anything, and please spread the word about how unhelpful they've been to me.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Nothin' much goin' on

Just a quick post in case you think I've died or something. I haven't, but I've not much to post about, so this is just a place-holder. Sorry. Most of my blogging time, as I've said before, is now taken up with C# programming, but that is paying dividends as the work I'm doing is being taken seriously at work, and hopefully I'll eventually move into a full-time programming rôle, but you know this already.

The weekend was rather frantic, with much charging about. The first thing we had to do was tie a cotoneaster horizontalis back onto the gable end of the house. This shrub is about 8 feet high and had self-set in the dirt by the cellar window around the time we moved in. We've never given it any support, and it's cheerfully grown against the house wall, but in the heavy recent rain had collapsed across the path which leads past the garage into the back garden. Since that's where Jenny brings her motorbike, it had to be sorted out. I put up a couple of horizontal wires, and hopefully all will be well. I think we might give it a haircut on a regular basis from now on.

In the cobblers, picking up some shoes Jenny had had repaired, we found a card advertising an art exhibition in the next village, so took that it, but I'm afraid we were not impressed. I think my stuff is better, and these were proper artists, apparently.

I'm planning to join Herts Visual Arts Forum and apply to take part in next year's Herts Open Studios event, but so far have done nothing about it. There are 3 of us interested in joining up; Peter, of Peter and Julia, is a potter, Jacques, of Jenny and Jacques, whom I've not mentioned before, turns wood on a lathe, and me. We figure we could hire a venue between us, and keep each other company while the crowds avoid us. At the very least, it would give me a deadline for whatever I'm working on. Right now, having finished Lorna's head, I'm planning a cubist kneeling nude, but Jenny is not encouraging me much. I plan to ignore her.

I have a piece of wood called paduck, about which I can find very little. It's an African hardwood, not dissimilar to mahogany, but with a redder tint. My piece is about 75cm long, 30cm wide and 10cm thick. I've sketched the outline using a piece of garden chalk, but haven't actually started carving yet. Maybe Thursday.

Once back from the art exhibition, we loaded stuff back into the car. The saga here is that I swapped the car last Wednesday. I'd never been entirely satisfied with the Mazda 6, though it went well, and when I saw the paint blistering up just in front of the driver's side rear wheel arch, I decided it was time to replace it. Biting the bullet, I've bought a Toyota Avensis. I paid the same for it as I did for the Maxda when I bought that, but it's a year older. I am very much happier with it, as I was confident I would be, having driven one in Australia when we were there last year.

I didn't actively choose a top of the range model, but that seems to be what I've got. 2.2 litre diesel T-Spirit with leather upholstery, satnav, the biz. Yesterday the computer told me I had averaged 53 mpg! Oh yes, and my favourite - automatic windscreen wipers. Whatever next?

Anyway, we keep a basket of stuff in the boot - fuel can, screen washer & sponge, rubber gloves, warning triangle, all that sort of stuff, held in place with a rubber bungee so it doesn't crash around the boot all the time. And kites. You have to have kites in the boot. I think we've got 5 at the moment, one of which, a basic stunt kite, we've never successfully flown. It just goes in a big, rapid semi-circle, before crashing to the ground and dismantling itself. After rebuilding and trying again a dozen times, I got demoralised and gave up.

So when I changed cars, I had to take everything out of the old one and then load it all into the new one. It's surprisingly time-consuming!

Saturday afternoon we also noticed we have a pair of house martins nesting. More than a decade ago I put up a couple of artificial martin nests, but they were studiously ignored for years. Last year we saw some birds taking a little interest, but nobody nested there. This year, we can hear the chicks as the parents swoop up and feed them from the entrance. Entranced is the right word; we just love having them there and are determined to encourage more.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Lorna's Head

Several years ago, Lorna asked me if I would do a carving of a head for her to give to her friend Dot for her birthday. I think at the time it was a birthday with a zero, but it was a long way ahead, so I thought I could do it easily.

I finished whatever I was working on at the time, and made a start, but it didn't go as quickly as I'd hoped, and then I encountered a large bit of shell in the stone. Bath stone is a bit like that - the matrix is quite soft, but you can find quite a lot of really hard shell in unexpected places.

I realised recently that what I had experienced was the equivalent of writer's block. I'd hit a snag and I didn't know how to proceed, so I just left it. It's been sitting in my shed for about 2 years, while I've made very slow progress on it.

Fortunately, a couple of weeks ago, I had a breakthrough, and changed the design substantially. Inspired, I had at it with enthusiasm, and on Wednesday finished carving . Yesterday I gave it a coat of sealant (otherwise it spalls off a small amount of white dust) and 3 felt feet so it won't scratch whatever surface it's put on, and I'm ready to hand it over. Lorna has seen it and expressed herself satisfied, even if it was rather late!

So I thought I'd show her off to you guys. I hope you like her. She's about 28 cm high.

And now comes the really hard part - how much to charge for her. Ah, now you're asking!

Friday, 4 July 2008

A prestigious award!

I'm delighted to be able to announce that I won the DJKirkby Wordless Wednesday award! Well, OK, I shared it with a couple of others, but hey! Thank you, DJK. Most kind, and I'm very proud.
Edit: I've changed the html behind the graphic, so if you click the award it takes you to DJK's blog so you can see what a clever bugger I am! Sadly, I 'm not clever enough to make it scroll down to 9th July. The photo is of a praying mantis pretending to be a stick insect.

Well, it's been a busy old week and here I am at 6pm on Friday, still at work. That's not good.

Still, on Sunday we're singing in a concert in Shillington church, near Hitchin, and I'm looking forward to that. Now I'd better finish what I'm doing and get off home!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

A few days in Munich

Jenny was invited to speak at the University of Munich, so I went along to do the tourist bit. I'm posting this at work, and will add some photos when I get home. Edit: well I would, but J has taken the camera to work. Maybe tomorrow.

We were supposed to fly out of Stansted at sparrowfart, so had to be up at 04:45 to get there in time. Distressingly, the plane was delayed 2 hours, so all that pain was for nothing. There were various excuses, but the one I liked best was from the Captain as we taxied out. They'd found a small dent in the side of the fuselage and it was obviously necessary to check it out. That had not taken long, but the supporting paperwork...

Anyhow, we were met by Leo, a Dutch biophysicist working at the University, and he and an American colleague, Bruce, pretty much looked after us the whole of the time. Leo is a really nice guy, but is also the fastest walker I've ever known. "So" he says, in his Dutch accent "shall we go?" and with that, disappears rapidly towards the horizon. He was also incredibly well-organised, with Underground and bus times known to the minute. Bruce is a good lad, too.

On the Sunday afternoon we visited the rather disappointing Pinakotech der Moderne, which is a museum of modern art. Sadly, many of it's large rooms were occupied only by arrays of fluorescent tubes, or plywood boxes attached to the walls. Not what I call art, at all.

We started in a section devoted to art on paper, with a narrow gallery of mediæval works, followed by several rooms of more recent stuff. In the gallery we'd look at a couple of pieces on one side, then cross to the other side for a few more, before re-crossing for a couple more, and so on, working our way boustrophedonically (ha ha! got it in!) along the display.

We weren't keen on much of the stuff in the exhibition, so after a while excused ourselves. Sadly, the silversmithing exhibition we had decided to head for was inexplicably closed, so then we went to the design section, with quite a bit of interesting stuff.

BMW are based in or near Munich, so it was no surprise that a number of the exhibits featured their cars and motorcycles, including wooden mock-ups covered with clay as they explored the shape of the final vehicle. Fascinating, but I think the building wasn't really intended to be the Museum of Modern Art I was expecting.

Wandering around central Munich afterwards, we came across this magnificent plastic sponge dragon! The gallery was closed, but I got in the next day and they let me photograph it. Wonderful! There were several other pieces in sponge by the same artist, but this was the only one I really liked.

I also saw, and loved, this amusing water feature in a pedestrian arcade in the centre of Munich, with the bronze boy trying to stop the water coming out of one of the stone figure's jets. Beautifully done, and a very clever idea.

In the evening Jenny and I wanted to eat in a local Bavarian restaurant, but the one Leo recommended was closed on Sunday evenings. We were actually staying in a hotel in a village on the northern outskirts of Munich, so being unable to eat there, we wandered around until we found a Greek restaurant, which served us very acceptable food and wine. And they were kind enough to let us eat around the corner from the TV screen, so we weren't subject to the footie while we ate.

Afterwards, however, Leo had invited us back to his house for a drink, and we arrived to find him and Bruce settled in front of the telly, so we didn't escape it entirely. And curiously, Germany was rather quiet after the game. I wonder why that was.

On Monday, Jenny went to the University with Leo and Bruce, while I went into town. Leo had said I should visit an exhibition of paintings and drawings by a 19th century German artist called Menzel, of whom I'd never heard, but first I wanted to walk in the Hofgarten, which was close by.

To my delight I found a small private gallery (Galerie Henseler) showing African art, specifically art of the Dan people from the Ivory Coast and Liberia. The link is to an online shop selling stuff, but I include it more so you can see the sort of stuff I was looking at, since the Henseler site only has the one photo. The proprietor gave me a price list, but I only needed to look at it once to know there was no way I was going to take any of it away. The prices started at 20 times what I had paid for my Fang masks!

Then I took in some of the Menzel exhibition. He was an exceptional draughtsman, but I found the whole thing altogether too intense. Brilliant little drawings in sketchbooks added a very human touch to the exhibition, but even so, I found I'd reached saturation point by the time I was about half-way through, so gave up. Museum fatigue, Jenny calls it.

After lunch in the main square, I dropped into St Peter's church, which was cool and atmospheric, but with rather a lot of ornate carving and gold. From there, I crossed to the Asamkirche, which Leo had raved about. This was so extraordinarily over the top, I just sat at the back for 5 minutes, astonished that people should do that to a building. Well, there you go.

We met up at 2 at the Munich Palæontological Museum, where we relaxed and looked at some interesting exhibits. I'd read about Precambrian Burgess Shale fossils and also obviously of the Solnhofen lithographic limestone in which Archaeopteryx was found, but never seen either. (No, I lie. I have seen the London Archaeopteryx but wasn't expecting to see one in this rather small museum. ) I was almost as impressed by the Marella specimen as I was by the Archaeopteryx.

Jenny's talk was in the main body of the University, located in the southwest of the city, so we took the U-bahn (Underground) to get there. It was still a fair hike, as the train doesn't actually go all the way yet, but it was warm and pleasant, so not a big deal.

Although this was supposed to be a prestigious event, there appears to have been no publicity at all, and the audience was a disappointingly small. Considering they'd flown Jenny out especially and put her up in a hotel, (we had to pay for my expenses, no surprise), we think somebody had cocked up big time.

After the event, Leo took us to a biergarten he knows, where we drank very good dark wheat beer (dunkel weissbier) and ate a curious local dish called (something) Knödel mit Ochsenfleish, which translates as some sort of dumpling with beef. It also had a bizarre potato component, with a texture somewhere between mashed potato and jelly. The flavour was good, but the strange dumplings and the weirdly-textured spuds made it an 'interesting' experience. Probably not one we'll repeat!

In the morning we caught a bus outside the hotel. It arrived precisely at 9:35 as Leo had predicted, and took us to the nearest S-bahn station (2 underground systems, S-bahn run by the national railway, U-bahn run by a local Munich firm. Both were spotless and absolutely prompt.) The S-bahn took us to the airport and all was perfect until we landed at Stansted, where our bag did not arrive. Fortunately they have phoned to say it has now arrived and they'll send it to me at work.