Friday, 28 December 2012

A Christmas Carol

I'm not a great Dickens fan, so went along slightly reluctantly when neighbours and drinking buddies Lorna and Richard proposed that we go to a performance of A Christmas Carol in Charles Dickens' House in London, but I was completely wrong.  That's never happened before, of course!

We went down by train at lunchtime and spent a couple of hours in the National Portrait Gallery, something else I was pretty ambivalent about.  Wrong again!

Jenny wanted to see the exhibition of pictures of Prince Henry, son of James VI of Scotland and I of England, so we bought our tickets and went in.

First, it was fascinating - he was very popular and in his late teens looked extremely promising as a future king, but then tragically died of diptheria (I think).  The notes published after his autopsy seem clear enough that modern medics have decided that was what did for him.

There was music playing quietly, and the highlight was hearing the Tompkins When David Heard that Absalom was Dead which we sing occasionally.  It's one of a slew of pieces composed as a direct result of the death of Prince Henry.  I've rarely enjoyed a couple of hours in an art gallery more.

From there we returned to Russell Square and walked to the Dickens Museum.  There were only 24 people in the audience in a smallish room, where Dominic Gerrard put on an excellent one-man-and-a-puppet show which held us entranced.  I was so glad we went.

Afterwards we walked to an Indian restaurant, the Salaam Namaste just around the corner, where Richard had booked us a table. We had really excellent food and if you're looking to eat thereabouts, I highly recommend it.


OK, so I'm a bit behind posting this, but hey, it's Christmas!  We had a great time, and I hope you, dear reader, did too! I crocheted Jenny a beret with a flower on it, which inevitably needed to be adjusted for size, but which I've now done.  I only do crochet once in a blue moon, but there are endless video tutorials on the net, so I spent a small amount of time watching a few of those, then got on and did it, and not only did she say she liked it, but actually, it doesn't look at all bad.

I also made her this 7cm-wide silver brooch, which probably only a handful of people in the entire world will fully appreciate. I saw the design as a tattoo on the web with that wave-effect, and a mediaeval fish in the middle. 

I was very taken with the design, so replaced the fish with a life reconstruction of a beast called Crassigyrinus, which was one of the first fossils we found when we started exploring the lowermost Carboniferous rocks in the Borders Region of Scotland a couple of years ago.

As you can imagine, there are not too many people who'd recognise it at all, and fewer still who would realise that it was part of the ecosystem during the period Jenny and her colleagues are investigating in the course of her latest, greatest project.

It got the thumbs-up, too, which was a relief as it was damn hard work to make! The chain is because over the years, Jenny has lost several brooches when the pin has come undone, so I've got into the habit of adding a short length of chain with some sort of pin so she can secure it twice, just in case.  To be sure to be sure, if you like.

Dinner was pot-roasted haunch of muntjac, and very delicious it was, too.  We hadn't expected it to be quite so big, and at the end of dinner had only reduced its 1.8kg to about 1.5kg!  However, some of the leftovers will be made into Muntjac en croute on Sunday, which will be good, I almost guarantee.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

I want one of these!

The BBC is reporting a prototype electric motorbike being developed in California (I think), with fully enclosed bodywork and gyroscopes to keep it upright.  It looks really cool and I want one.  Sadly, it'll be too expensive at $24,000 if it ever goes on sale.  The posts sticking out of the body just in front of the rear wheel are for parking only.

I'd also have preferred to embed the video in this blog posting, but can't manage to extract the embed code, so I'm afraid you'll have to follow the link.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Catfish catching pigeons

This is amazing footage of European catfish on the River Tarn in France, where it passes through the city of Aldi, which I found on the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog on the Discover Magazines Blogs.

There's a small island in the river, where pigeons come to rest and bathe, and the catfish have obviously been watching David Attenborough, since they've learned to lurk in the shallows, then lunge out of the water to grab a pigeon, just like Patagonian killer whales catching unwary sea lion pups.  Yes, they sometimes strand themselves briefly, but, like the killer whales, they get back into the water without problem, and obviously catch enough pigeons to think it's worth the effort.

Monday, 3 December 2012


I've posted before about Choir 18, with whom Jenny and I have sung in Venice, Brussels and Strasbourg, and this weekend we were with them again, though not in quite such exotic locations.  On Saturday we gave a short lunchtime concert in Southwark Cathedral, then yesterday sang an Advent carol service in a minute church near the village of Stanstead Abbots just south of Hertford.

The Southwark Cathedral music was all new to me, and it was a bit of a struggle on two rehearsals, particularly as two tenors dropped out at the last minute and for the last piece, O Magnum Mysterium by Gabrielli, the conductor moved some first basses up to second tenor, and made the second tenors sing the alto line.  My sight reading is not great, and I really found singing the new line difficult after one quick run-through in the morning.  Everything else was pretty good, so overall we were happy with our performance.

Yesterday at St James in Stansteadbury was also difficult, singing some stuff we'd never seen before with just the rehearsal on the day.  Inevitably there were a few iffy moments, but overall it wasn't too bad.  It was made more interesting by the fact that the church has no electricity or heating, so no lights, just candles.  And someone had to pump the organ by hand.  We were thoroughly chilled by the time it was all over.