Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Spoonfest, Scotland and more!

It's been a while since I last posted, so here are pictures from my holidays up in the Peak District and around Scotland.

We spent a long weekend in Edale where the first international Spoonfest was held. Over a 150 turned up to attend workshops by an international cast of instructors from as far afield as the US. There was also ample wood of supply for people to just sit around and carve spoons with like-minded folk. It was a wonderful event and the three days went by far too quickly. 

Spoonfest in Edale
A selection of spoons on show in the Town hall
Barn 'the spoon' running one of the many workshops that went on during the weekend.
The next stop on our journey was Edinburgh, where we caught the tail end of the Fringe festival. We spent a full day wandering around the city and saw live music, stand-up, street performers all within the wonderful setting of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh, after we'd eventually found somewhere to park. Pretty much our only time in Scotland without rain

An old church that was now hosting free burlesque during the Fringe

Juggling flaming torches whilst riding a giant unicycle in just your underwear? Fair enough.

Outside the mad slalom of people handing out flyers

Taking Shark Week a little too seriously.

Two very creepy toys from the Edinburgh childhood museum

From Edinburgh we entered the Highlands and after driving through some very dramatic scenery, within which a lone doe bolted across the road in front of us, far enough ahead that it was a wonderful sight rather than almost having it come through the windshield, which would have altered the experience slightly.
At our campsite, in an extremely picturesque spot, we were initially plagued by midges. This was the time to test the 'Nordic Summer' insect repellent I'd purchased. Whilst road tripping in the US we used DEET, but having seen first hand that it melts plastic I wanted to try something a little less toxic. The little tin of repellent I had was made up from mainly birch tar and left you smelling like a campfire. Most importantly however, it drove away the midges incredibly well. By the end of our trip I came to quite like the smell of the stuff. Plus we hardly made a dent in the small tin of the stuff we had, so plenty left for future adventures.
Our awesome campsite in Fort William.

On approach to Ben Nevirist

When we were halfway up we were neither up nor down.

Rain, the defining feature of our time in the Highland.
We hiked partly up Ben Nevis. We never had plans to make the summit, but went only as far as we wanted. We got thoroughly soaked, but some hot chocolate on the way back perked us up.
Our roadside tea stop by Loch Ness. Wrong time of year to spot Nessie though.

In the Cairngorms we arrived in good weather, with some amazing views of the surrounding hills. We got a little excited about the sights we'd see on our walks the next day. Unfortunately the weather closed in and we were stuck with heavy rain and about 200m (650 ft) visibility. Rather than tromp around in the wet we decided to go on a distillery tour. We went round the Glen Ord distillery. It was interesting to see how whiskey was made and comforting to see an industrial process that isn't computer controlled and can't be rushed.
At the Glen Ord distillery

Malt barley. Along with water, yeast is all that goes into making whiskey. Plus a lot of time.

Mandatory shot of me jumping.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bike Stolen

Yesterday my bike was stolen from Prittlewell Rail Station in Southend. It put a bit of a dampener on my otherwise quite good day.
Fortunately, I don't rely on my bike to get around. It was however, extremely handy. Plus with Spring here and Summer on its way, I was looking forward to getting out on some nice long Sunday rides. I'm keeping my eye on ebay and gumtree in case the villain that took it is foolish enough to list it. I'm also planning on scouring the local pawn shops too.
I do have an old bike at my folks place. I'm thus thinking of turning it into a fixed gear and taking the brakes off. That way, if someone nicks that, hopefully they'll crash.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Amazing new children's book illustrator

Check out this website for some cute and inspiring artwork by Wisconsin artist Courtney Dicmas. Well worth a few minutes of your time.

From 'Harold's Day Out' by Courtney Dicmas

Friday, January 13, 2012

Feeding the Birds

Some pictures from a recent afternoon spent chucking pieces of bread at our feathered friends in Cambridge. On an interesting side note, I recently figured out why baby swans are called cygnets. The family name for swans is cygnus. Mystery solved.

London's Natural History Museum

Mammal Room
It's been a good few years since I last visited the Natural History Museum in London. It's definitely one of my favourite places to go in the city. For free you can easily spend the whole day wandering around, looking at perhaps one of the greatest collections of natural history artefacts in the world.
As you enter the museum you're met by the bones of a long-necked Diplodocus that has stood in the central hall since May 12th 1905.
On this visit, we had a look round the large mammal room, easily my favourite. With a life-size model of a blue whale under it's ten tonne, 25 meter long skeleton, this dominates over all the other animals we would otherwise consider large. We also walked around the dinosaur exhibit, a firm favourite of many. While the exhibits are fascinating, it's laid out in a one-way system which, due to the crowds, often means you're pushed passed many of the info points.
The museum has four colour coded zones, each one housing a variety of different galleries. We spent a full morning in pretty much just the blue zone, so there's definitely plenty to see and do there.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A day at my desk

With the window shut my room smells strangely of cat. With the window open, sitting next to it at my desk, the cold breeze sneaking in makes me gaze out on the wider world. In the house Classic FM is playing, but outside is the gentle but constant rustle of the wind combing through the leaves still hanging on. A hidden crow coughs out it's croaking call. Seeing as it's only 1 o'clock maybe calling this a day at my desk is a bit much. However when the morning has been spent trying to fill out job application forms, I feel ready to call it a day. I might go for a wander and sit under the tree I've been looking out on every few minutes. Seeing as I want to work for an NGO geared towards saving the environment, it would be good practice to go out and appreciate the environment, wouldn't it?

Ah, the job hunt

After graduating I spent three years travelling and teaching English. I even have a Cambridge qualification to help me along with it. Unfortunately, I'm a little tired of living abroad, not knowing the language or understanding the culture. So it's been back to the UK for me. However it kind of means back to square 1 for me, like being a recent graduate all over again, except now I'm 24. During an era of record high unemployment I decided it would be a good idea to start looking for jobs in a sector I have no direct experience in. Ha ha, I'm a friggin' genius.
However, I'm still hopeful that I'll find someone in the environmental sector willing to pay me to help save the planet. My time spent travelling opened my eyes to a variety of environmental issues. Living in Iraq helped to internalise the externalities of using cheap fossil fuels to provide the energy we use. Our street was provided power by a generator that stepped in during the frequent power cuts. The generator was constantly surrounded by oil drums and emitted a thick oily smoke. Having such a clear demonstration of the costs of my energy usage certainly encouraged me to try and limit my electricity needs. Even though I am no longer living in the exhaust of my power source I clearly understand the needs to cut unnecessary energy use.  While volunteering in Costa Rica I was made aware of the need to conserve water. Despite the deluges of the rainy season, the dry season was beset with water shortages. Not knowing whether or not water will emerge when you turned on the tap made me acutely aware of the uses I was putting the available water to. At Lower Upcott Farm in Devon I am learnt the techniques of farming using traditional, sustainable methods. Understanding first hand the effort required to produce our food in a sustainable and responsible manner has opened my eyes to the benefits of sourcing ones food from local and dependable sources. These experience have shaped my values, creating within me a desire to live lightly and to limit the impact I have on the planet. 
I'll let you know how it goes.