Wednesday 15 May 2024

Mother's 90th

We went to the Chilterns for Mother's 90th; to a nice house outside Great Kimble. These are some pix, lightly decorated. Full pix here. Here we all are.


Here's the house - yes, I took the drone. See pix for other views, e.g. this.


We went to La Fiorentina - no ZaZa's - on Friday night. On Saturday we had a slow start having breakfast in various nooks. Here's D, outside.


M and I preferred the window seat. We had a picnic in the Ashridge woods:


We sent the cildren up trees. We climbed trees ourselves:


And we tip-toed through the bluebells.


We visited the monument (E and N on top; D on bottom).


Then home to relax by the pool; a meal at home; and quiet reading for the evening and by the fire.


On Sunday people were tired after Saturday's exertions. I took D and E to see Berkhamstead Castle; Great Gaddesden graves of the Proctor ancestors; a look around the church; then home via Cheddington and Peter's grave. At some point in the afternoon, tennis: Toby initially dominant until Rob remembered how to play.

On Monday M and I walked up in the morning: round the field to Great Kimble and the church.


Then over the road, up to the "fort" which isn't really there any more. I thought drone views might show it up but no; there are a few earth banks. And so after lunch we all parted in the afternoon.

Thursday 9 May 2024

New boots

PXL_20240406_145654076 Following on from the exciting Shoe Size, I bought some new boots. The bright yellow and red is a touch more garish than I might have selected myself given free choice.

These are La Sportive Aequilibrium ST GTX, the "S" being for "Synthetic" rather than leather uppers. There's a BMC review here. Mine were £325 from Ellis Brigham, Cambridge. I had wiffled around for ages trying to choose new boots. They are size 11 / 44, I think.

The old ones were in quite poor shape, and by the end of last summer the soles were well worn down (the yellow Vibram marker was quite worn away, which may be intended as a hint); the front rubber was going; and one of the lace-points had gone. Also, invisibly, a seam inside the right boot had started to rub on my big toe. None of this was actually fatal, and they were still fairly decent boots, so I left them by the municipal rubbish bins in case some tramp wanted to pick them up. They were Salewa (I'm sure) Raven (I think) likely this from the late lamented Outside Cambridge.

About the whiffling: I spent ages trying and failing to just get a new pair of Salewa's, since I liked than; D has a similar but slightly higher grade pair he got first for Ladakh. But after looking around - finally, in Hathersage and London - I ended up in EB Cambridge with these. They cost a little more than I was hoping for but meh. They are perhaps ever so slightly less serious than the Salewa's; the BMC article rates them more B1 than B2; but I'm  not planning ice-climbing in them. They are quite light - 1.3 kg the pair - which was a criterion.


Friday 26 April 2024

Book review: Red Sister

PXL_20240423_195105401~2 Red Sister by Mark Lawrence isn't dreadful sci-fi nonsense, because it isn't sci-fi; it's closer to fantasy. Teenage wish-fulfilment fantasy. That doesn't of itself make it bad; after all Harry Potter is much the same. I got this because I've been reading - and enjoying - The Book That Wouldn’t Burn - in W/S, and felt like buying something on a Friday to last the weekend.

And this is not-dissimilar let us say; I'll probably cover this ground better when reviewing that, but this one, like that one, is "poor but talented girl grows up in strange new environment making friends and dealing with the oppression of the powerful".

Before going on, and without yet revealing much in the way of spoilers, but those will come later, I note that the "defining event of the start" - her rescue of her friend, which causes her to suffer the emnity of the powerful, and leads to her friend's death - is a classic "you don't know how to fail" a-la HPMOR: somewhere in the middle of that (if you haven't read it, do so now, it is well worth it) Voldemort tries to explain to Harry that instead of a bizarre sequence of ever-less-plausible and ever-more-risky victories for ever-higher-stakes, it would have been much better, and nearly painless, to simply fail at the first hurdle. This doesn't suit well with modern Western thinking where all must have justice down the the last jot and tittle.

While I'm here - wherever I am - I'll also point out that spoiled-beautiful-rich-kid Arabella doesn't last very long in that role before being granted the inevitable promotion to friend. It felt that the book, knowing it was inevitably going to follow the trope, couldn't be bothered to go through all the motions and just cut things short.

Moving on to some good bits - after all I did read it - the world building is fun. It is a cold world, with extensive ice sheets, and a thin "corridor" of habitable land on the equator. Implicitly, it is orbiting a red dwarf - the sun is described as filling half the sky, though I'm not sure that quite works, never mind. But would such a corridor be stable? No, but that's OK, because there is a "focus moon" that briefly warms the night; it becomes clear this is a space mirror; and this seems plausible. But then, aha, it turns out that part of the plot is going to be control of some mystical tech that can control the mirror. Nice.

The rest of the mystical powers, and the four sorts of them, from the four sorts of original inhabitants, is also quite well done. And a bit blurred, as it must be.

As I said, this is really isomorphic to a girls-own-adventure, but - perhaps as so often with these things - that leads to oddities: when their lives are threatened they take it with the light-heartedness that they would were it the end-of-term hockey match. Oh yeah, and the character-shifts of, say, Sister Apple / Posioner don't quite work.

Monday 8 April 2024

Film review: My Neighbor Totoro

PXL_20240406_151328854 My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film. We seem to be having a season of these; see-also Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. It is lighter than both of those.

Two young sisters move into the japanese countryside with their father; their mother, it emerges, is in hospital with some unnamed illness. It is all rice-paddies and bicycles and everything is charming.

They meet "friendly wood spirits" and a weird catbus, and despite a scare when the younger sister goes missing, all is well.

There is a slight undercurrent of menace, we felt, though it is hard to know if it is really there or we were merely projecting our expectations. Certainly it would not have been surprising if the frog-faced old "grannie" had turned out to be an evil spirit; but actually she's just a genuinely nice old lady.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Shoe size

PXL_20240324_091630288 In the course of buying new boots, I was given cause to doubt my long-established shoe size of 10.5 to 11. Here is a machine-measurement (Ellis Brigham, Cambridge) showing UK 9 / EU 43, and here is another (EB, London) showing... UK 9.5, EU 43. However, trying on EU 43 was a complete failure; and EU 46 was far more plausible.

The "asic" el-cheapo yellow-lined trainers I have, which are about the right size, show 29.5 cm, US 12, EU 46.5 marks.

The Adidas Boston Adizero, again well-fitting, "yellow-green rand" version, have just about legible on one shoe marks of US 11.5, UK 11, EU 46.

Sunday 31 March 2024

Peaks: Stanage and Froggatt

Events constrained us to only one free day over Easter (and various abrasions and next-day-bones perhaps suggested that one day was enough), so Saturday saw me driving D, E and little Mi up to the Peaks, starting at the not especially unearthly hour of 7 am, or 6 am if you include getting breakfast and so on (and quietly forgetting the three pints with P and M I'd had the night before at the Castle; this may also be a good place to note Mi's helping plane down the underneath of the living room door). At my steady 65 mph up the A1 - blessedly clear - and Google's choice of Ecoroute, we took about 2:45 to get to Hathersage, where we had the traditional breakfast stop, and a quick look at the guidebooks, before doing the usual "well we'll go up to Stanage and see what's free". Wx: fine, sun and cloud, not cold, except in the wind at the top.

So a bit before 11 we left the car at the already-full carpark and headed up. This was Mi's first time out in the Real World. GPS trace. I lead Flying Buttress, and we watched someone doing the direct. Still a good route, and quite "interesting" getting from the side onto the slab on top. From there we moved not-very-far to Leaning Buttress Indirect, which D lead easily (well it is only VD).


From the ground E didn't believe it is possible to squeeze through the "Bishop's move" but it is. Oh, and D then top-roped the HVS direct.

After that to Hollybush Crack, which gets about my fourth ascent, but it is still fun. The start was easier this time; perhaps because it was entirely dry. I lead in my lovely Magdalen tights. And here's E and Mi at the top, with the landscape stretching away. My old helmet doesn't really suit Mi, but then again it never suited me either.


Lunch again at Outside, and I tried on various mountaineering boots, without finding a pair I really liked. Perhaps the Aequilibrium that EB had in Cambridge?

And so to Froggatt, now quite late, indeed we didn't start walking in till about 4:30. At this point the light was lovely, although the direction made for a poor photo. People were packing up so it was quiet. We did Allen's Slab, S; D lead it easily, I followed with slight trepidation on the rising traverse and even more on the pull up, but managed to force faith-in-friction onto myself and get my leg far enough up, and was up. It was good that D was so well within himself, because his gear was not the finest; but that's fine, part of the point is the practice (here's someone on Youtube massively over-gearing it, and also evading the crux by going a bit further R into the next crack, for the pull-up). E and Mi decided not to follow but go up the D (Slab Recess) which lead to the comedy of oh-we-need-to-get-D's-gear-out, but fortunately it fell out by itself while fiddling the rope.


And so away. By the end the sun was setting, and the light and the trees were even more lovely.


* Peaks: Stanage and Birchens (2023/04/08).

Boxing Day at Horseshoe Quarry (2022/12/27).

A trip to Pembroke (2022/09).

The leaves of Chatsworth lie thick on the ground (2015/11/15).

Stanage with Daniel and Jamie (2014/05/25).

* Chatsworth with Howard (2014/03).

* Stanage, 2013.

* Stanage; us with Howard and others (2010/04).

Tuesday 26 March 2024

London: Cloth Fair, Wigmore, Westminster, Courtauld, National Gallery, St Bartholomew the Great, RA

Mfd+J gave us a stay at the Landmark Trust's 43 Cloth Fair, to celebrate M's retirment and my 60th.


It was Betjeman's pied a terre. This is a "photo essay", which is to say I shall not trouble you with many words. If you don't recognise the pictures... check your culture. Full photo set here.


That's at the Wigmore Hall. Next morning, Westminster Abbey, which neither of us has ever seen, we think. I hadn't realised just how stuffed full of memorials it is. Some discretely understated:


And some absurdly elaborate, like this life-size figure, one of four:


And the flag-chapel is stunning.


Then off to the Courtauld, and would you believe that M wanted lunch?


I'm having an only-take-famous-pictures jag.


Fortunately the C, whilst not the largest collection, is relatively free of fluff.


I'd better stop there. We move on to the National Gallery.


I finally found this. Sorry about the reflections near the top, the NG aren't very good with their lighting.


Skipping lightly over my favourite spiderman and Bosch, we close with


Famous from my O-level history textbook on the development of the English in the 17th or whatever century. Home, via sunset views of St Paul's and quasi-dream views of alien spaceships. M, who had skipped the NG, was hard at work at home.


Sunday morning dawned. I had a quick walk around, which I spent entirely in St Bartholomew the Great, it being more interesting than I'd expected from Pevsner, with a lovely old feel.


There was a service going on, but they had gathered at the far end in the shelter of the altar so I wasn't disturbing them. Thence to the RA for intersectional coloniality and so on, which alas wasn't to my tastes particularly artistically interesting (I should have taken the large vibrant guy posing against a bright abstract background which Aesthetica has the good taste to highlight).


Flaming June, and some other RA-type stuff, is tucked away at the back.


After that we parted ways, M to church-crawl and me to Vets Head.