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Thursday, 30 March 2006
Lichen on wall


I came across this lichen the other day on a wall in Smisby (recently redesigned site).  I am interested in how dry it is, and that it is cracking up. It is hardly cause for concern as lichen is such a hardy plant, but the condition of this lichen is perhaps a symbol of the dry winter we have just come through. This summer we will aparently have less water than last year, which was the driest for 30 years.

Posted by bigblue on 30/03/2006 at 11:07 PM
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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
When the night closes in


My apartment is about 15 kilometres (and 30 minutes drive) from East Midlands airport. This airport has special dispensation to allow freight planes to land at all hours of the day and night. Normally this doesn’t affect me, but ever so often night planes taking off in a Southerly direction fly at low altitude (below clouds) over my apartment.  In the wee hours of 7 March it was particularly bad and I phoned to complain.  The number to do so is 0871-919 9000.  There is the option of leaving a recorded message for them, as you will not get through to an operator.  If you do so you may wish to spell your surname, especially if you speak with a foreign accent. Two weeks and one day after my complaint I received a reply. It lists two planes which took off from the airport at about 12:30 am, both operated by the European Air Transport company.

Please be assured these aircraft were operating in accordance with all requirements.

At Nottingham East Midlands Airport the majority of aircraft flying at night operate in support of the express freight industry. These organisations operate a system of overnight delivery, typically for business customers and in order to fulfil the very exactign operational deadlines that are inherent with this type of operation, flying at night is essential. However we would wish to reassure you that in conjunction with our airline colleagues we will continue to bear down on all aspects of aircraft noise.

We are concious of the impact that aircraft noise can have and we have a very substantial programme of work in this area. Our amelioration measures in this area include:

  • The installation of a computerised system of noise and track monitoring
  • The introduction of substantially revised noise abatement procedures
  • The introduction of a night levy for ‘noisy’ aircraft
  • Discounts for day time cargo operations by large aircraft
  • The development and introduction of a noise penalty scheme for operations during the night time period

We believe that, in combination, these measures represent a substantial programme of work and reflect the very high priority that the Airport places on the control of aircraft noise. Having said this we do still need to hear your concerns if aircraft cause disturbance in the future.

Please accept the Airport’s apologies for the disturbance you have suffered.

Yours sincerely
Neil Robinson
Divisional Manager (Environment)

Last night I phoned to complain four or five times between the hours of 12:15 and 12:50 am.  I counted six planes at regular intervals and they all flew at low altitude over my apartment.  I will expect a reply again in about two weeks, but in any case I will probably respond to Mr Robinson’s letter and point out how vacuous it is.  It is the perfect model of a letter which wants to appear concerned but which does not commit to anything, and which does not advise me of my rights to pursue my complaint via escalation procedures. I was slightly suprised to read that the airport won recognition for its environmental measures, but then I noticed that there was no press release after the annual audit in October/November last year.  Why the silence I wonder.

Posted by bigblue on 29/03/2006 at 09:57 PM
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Night train


This is the late train to Tunbridge Wells.

Yesterday The Times published a dubious article suggesting that Germans are smarter than Brits. Maybe the average German is smarter than the average Briton, but the research mentioned in the article was conducted by Professor Richard Lynn. Given last year’s controversy there must be some doubts about his latest argument. 

There is a new blog devoted to covering the Unrest in France (providing continual English-language coverage of the young workers’ revolt in France).  I was intrigued to see that the blog is organised by the libertarian community in Britain, and wondered what a libertarian is in this country.  It seems that they are anarchists.

Posted by bigblue on 28/03/2006 at 09:18 PM
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Billie the cat

billy the cat

This is another photo of my sister’s cat Billie.

I was somewhat surprised to see that a programme on BBC2 tonight, Gypsy Wars features someone that I met just over two years ago

Irish gypsies have descended on the picture postcard village of Cottenham. They’ve settled on the orchard owned by conservationist Joanna Gordon-Clark. Now she’s determined to get it back - in the face of threats of violence and intimidation.

In Cottenham, Middle England has begun the fight back against the traveller invasions. Some strong language.

Joanna claims that the gypsys have deserted their nomadic conservationist tradition. I remember Joanna as a softie with a hard outer shell.  I hope that she (and all the other subjects) survive this fly in the wall reality TV documentary with their dignity intact.

Posted by bigblue on 28/03/2006 at 12:09 AM
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Saturday, 25 March 2006
Hheyi ngubani lo?

wood carving

I don’t know why, but the moment I saw this large carving in a shop window (on holiday in December in Cape Town) the phrase Ngubani lo? came to mind.

Checking the spelling of this question (which means who is there?) I came across this account of an incident in Swaziland when the King met with church leaders:

The king had arrived and everybody was attentively listening to the speakers when suddenly a dull but sharp sound broke the silence&an unidentified priest had just released his stomach gas just a little too loudly.

It happened after lunch yesterday at Ngabezweni Royal Residence when the church leaders had been served with free food of hard porridge and offal meat. The dull sound of farting seemed to irritate those who were within hearing range because for a few seconds there was murmuring and questions about who has done that. Hheyi ngubani lo? (Hey who was that?),other priests were heard saying. Others, including some members of the security forces were amused by the episode as they chuckled silently.

Many heads turned to the back row, where the farting came from, but the culprit could not be spotted. Like everyone, he probably looked around and asked who did that in an irritated tone. Meanwhile, the event, that is, king meeting church leaders at the royal residence ended late in the afternoon.

Posted by bigblue on 25/03/2006 at 08:13 PM
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Friday, 24 March 2006


Spotted on the door going out of the Montien Thai restaurant in Westerham, Kent.  There are photos of many such signs, menus, etc. in Flickr. I assumed that this could be a sign that the restaurant is run by genuine Thai people, but I noticed the ingredients in this place are typically English: tomatoes, mange tout, and my pet hate of English restaurant food, the baby sweetcorn.

I see from the website that there is a sister restaurant in Sevenoaks.  I don’t think I’ll try it in a hurry. My experience of the Thai Rainbow Restaurant in Ashby-de-la-Zouch was far more favourable.

Posted by bigblue on 24/03/2006 at 10:03 PM
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Thursday, 23 March 2006
Camps Bay

Camps Bay

This is another view of Camps Bay in Cape Town, taken at sunset from the rock in Fresnaye.

I had a strange experience three nights ago - that is if I can claim the experience for my own: a friend in Cape Town dreamed my dream. It was about her, me, my family and my thoughts. Some of the most obvious imagery was pretty clear to her (even then I don’t think she necessarily understood all the details and symbolism).  The rest, except for the final image was instantly clear.  I was astonished when she told me of the dream because I had been thinking the same thoughts that evening (and took them to my pillow).

I did a bit of research and there are two main ideas about the final, missing, link:

  1. The passage of life
  2. The buffalo sacrifice is important in many Southeast Asian cultures in royal and chiefly ritual, and in funerary rites. The buffalo and horse are commonly viewed as animals that carry the dead to the afterlife.
  3. The coming of Spring (representing abundance, new life, etc)

In the context of the rest of the dream either (or both) of these could make sense.

Posted by bigblue on 23/03/2006 at 10:41 PM
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Wednesday, 22 March 2006
Spring is now probably imminent


For oft, when on my couch I lie
  In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
  Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


After my last unfortunate prediction we have had a spell of cold weather and even some snow. Finally however the daffodils are making a late appearance, even if these ones do so with their chins on their chests.

Posted by bigblue on 22/03/2006 at 10:40 PM
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