Monday, 25 February 2013

Today's small achievement

No, not the yoghurt maker, though I am very pleased with that.  No, the achievement is its location.

For the past 25 years the central heating boiler has been in this little niche behind the kitchen door, but when the lovely Ian Ruggles came to replace it, he told me that it had been illegally sited by the previous installer, as the exhaust was venting over a neighbouring property, so the new one is in the attic.

I immediately took down the bookshelves full of cookbooks on the other side of the kitchen, as behind the door was a much more convenient location than where they were, and they're now happily installed.

But the old boiler used the power point you can see the yoghurt maker plugged into.  It wasn't a socket, but a switched, wired connection.  The electrician just removed the wire sticking out and left the box where it was.

Today, I replaced the front of that box with a proper, switched single socket that I found in the cupboard of never-to-be-discarded electrical junk in the cellar, and hey presto, the yoghurt maker has a proper home, no longer cluttering up the worktop every time I want to make yoghurt!

I know, it's a small thing, but then I'm easily pleased!

A bloody nice surprse!

So an envelope just dropped through the letterbox and I found myself the unexpected recipient of a gold blood donor card!  I don't keep track of how much blood I've given, so it came as a nice surprise to discover I've made 50 donations and am thus eligible for the gold card.

At the moment the service is running an experiment to determine the optimum frequency of donation.  They've signed up 50,000 donors and given them different frequencies.  I give every two months, which is more often than I was giving before, but I've not noticed any adverse effects.  It will be interesting to find out whether things like age, sex, race, blood type, etc, affect the frequency you can give blood, or whether everyone can give every three months, say. Not sure how long the study will go on, but I imagine it will be for at least a couple of years.

Yes, I'm looking forward to reading about what they find.

And if you don't already give blood, please give it a go.  It's really no big deal, and there is a desperate need for more blood.  You will be saving lives, I assure you.

Singing in Ripon Cathedral

It's a bit of a trek up to Ripon Cathedral, North Yorks, but the people are so lovely and welcoming, and the church has such a friendly accoustic, it's really worth the effort, even if the Sunday evensong is at 5.30, with a sermon, so we didn't get away until 7.

We drove up on Saturday morning, taking another of the choristers to save on the number of cars going up there.  I'd booked a table in the Whitehouses Inn in Retford, which is a couple of hours up the A1 and breaks the journey up nicely.  Whitehouses serves decent food and we've made a habit of stopping there for lunch whenever we head up north.  They were as good as ever.

Evensong was at 5.30 and went rather well.  In fact, all the music went well.  We sang a set of responses written by our conductor, Richard Prince, a Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis written by Daniel Purcell, younger brother or cousin of the more famous Henry, and for an anthem we did the justly famous Lord let me know mine end by Maurice Green.

Jenny and I stayed in the Ripon Spa Hotel which is close to the centre of town, was very pleasant and comfortable and served us an excellent breakfast.

On Saturday evening, one of the choristers had booked an upstairs room in an Italian restaurant called Prima, where the whole choir had great food and drink.  Yes, it was pretty noisy!  Well, there were a couple of dozen of us.

On Sunday morning we sang Eucharist to a congregation of over 100, which was pretty gratifying.  The Sumsion mass is lovely; very calm and peaceful, but sadly I can't find a YouTube recording of it.  The communion motet was something (I forget) by Percy Whitlock that we've not done before.  Some of the choir really loved it, but I don't really know it well enough yet.

Then there was a long break, because evensong wasn't until 5.30.  We had a nice lunch in the March Hare cafĂ©.  I think the TripAdvisor score is poorer than the place deserves.  We had very good food at a reasonable price, with good service in comfortable surroundings.

At evensong we sang responses by Nicolas, which I don't like at all, finding them aggressively discordant.  Others do like them, sadly.  The Mag and Nunc were by Stainer and were typically Victorian and over the top.  I was under-rehearsed, but overall they went well and I think the congregation liked them.  For an anthem we sang the Howells O pray for the peace of Jerusalem which we've done many times before and is a cracking piece.

The sermon was actually a very interesting talk about St Cuthbert, a 7th Century monk and later Bishop at Lindisfarne.  Much better than a real sermon, any day, and considerably reduced my resentment at finishing so late!

Whitehouses is closed on a Sunday evening, so we drove to Stamford, which took a couple of hours, and met up with our friend Jane and another chorister, Mike, at AskItalian in the centre of the town.  They were about 20 minutes behind us, having taken a wrong turning right at the start of their journey and gone all over the shop before sorting themselves out.

We had the place pretty much to ourselves and the girls serving were friendly.  Food was pretty good, too, but we've come to expect that of Ask.  Richard, the chorister we'd driven up to Ripon, had kindly offered to drive part of the way home, so I took full advantage and had him do the hour's drive from Stamford to Royston, thus permitting me to have more than a single glass of wine!  Thankyou again, Richard, it was much appreciated!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

One clever bird

This one-minute video is worth watching!
video

Buzzards and Pheasants

You may recall that last year there was a tremendous fuss when our lovely government proposed to bow to pressure from those who like to kill things for fun (ie those who shoot pheasants) to take steps to limit buzzard populations.  Lots of us inundated our MPs with letters of protest and the proposal was swiftly withdrawn.

Well now the BTO has published a short paper discussing the proposals and explaining why it was such a bad idea.  You can read it at http://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/u48/downloads/conservation-letters.pdf.  It's quite short and a reasonably easy read and I commend it to you.

Summary: predation of pheasants bv buzzards has a very small impact on pheasant numbers, while predation by foxes is vastly more severe.  Even road deaths kill many times more pheasants than do buzzards.

One piece of potentially useful research was lost when the gummint's daft idea was shelved, however.  Someone was going to look at changing the pheasant release pens to make them less easy for buzzards to use - shrubs instead of ground cover, removing perches which might help buzzards to survey the area, increasing the density of birds being released at any one time - and that might have been a useful avenue to pursue, but it's gone for now.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

And there might still be fish in the sea for our grandchildren!

Well I don't mean that literally, of course, as I have no children, so can't, by definition, have grandchildren, but you catch my drift, as it were.  MEPs voted overwhelmingly today to change the common fisheries policy, in line, a bit, with what the great Fish Fight has been demanding for the past several months.

Once again, there's a long way to go, and the fishing industry is bound to scream and stamp like spoiled children, but we just have to hope our lords and masters hold their nerve and do the right thing, so the seas are not totally depopulated of anything remotely palatable to eat.

Be good if they could also summon up the courage to take a machete to the common agricultural policy while they're at it, but that would be too much to hope for!

Gay marriage takes first step

Well hoorah for that!  Yesterday parliament actually approved the first steps to make same-sex marriage legal in England.  At bloody last, I say.  Of course, there's a way to go yet, but hopefully this significant component of our population will get the same marriage rights as the rest of us.  My own MP, Oliver Heald, disagrees with me, but I can't see how this will affect traditional marriage at all.

My only regret is that they still have that daft bit forbidding the Anglican Church and some other religious bodies from carrying out the ceremonies.  If the clergy doing the thing are willing, why should it be banned?

Monday, 4 February 2013

More about the boiler

The day the central heating engineer took the old boiler out and installed the new one, I discovered gumtree.com and immediately placed an advertisement to sell the old boiler.  I had quite a lot of responses, but they all just fizzled out, even ones where we'd agreed a price.

So about a week ago I refreshed the ad (for a fiver you can make the ad 'featured', which means it floats up to the top of the list from time to time) and a nice man from North Lincolnshire phoned me.  Once again we agreed a price but this time he actually turned up with his money and took the boiler away, so we're all happy.

My real desire was to find the boiler a good home, rather than try to make a lot of money from it, and I think I've succeeded.  I really didn't want to take it to the recycling centre.  I don't like throwing perfectly good stuff away.