Friday 28 December 2018


I went for a walk a while back and didn't take my good camera.  I had my phone with me, and it has a (digital) zoom facility, so I was able to capture this heron fishing.  The first picture is with no zoom, the second is zoomed.   The phone tends to blur or pixellate the image, but in this case I think the effect works well.

Thursday 27 December 2018


I'm a graduate of Cambridge university, and my college was Churchill.   I think that universities are a Good Thing, especially in their old rôle of guardians and expanders of academic knowledge.   I think they are, or were, of general benefit to mankind.   As a member of the university and of the college, I get what you could call an annual report from each; they include a summary of what has been going on, news about graduates, and so on. 

The Cambridge one this year sports on the cover, and on an inside double spread, a picture of a collection of people, with banners that all read "Progress Together".  My first thought on seeing it was that it looks like a game of Diversity Bingo, but on the other hand, if the uni wants to emphasise the fact that a world-class university education is available to everyone who meets the requirements, regardless of height, weight or hair colour, then I'm all for it.

There is an article inside, about Stormzy, a black grime artist (electronic dance music), who has sponsored a new Cambridge studentship for four black British students, covering tuition and a maintenance grant for up to four years on any course.   Well excuse me, but isn't that a teensy bit, um, well racist?

The Churchill college magazine often has articles about its outreach campaign, attempting to find intelligent students who have been failed by the government education system, but who could benefit from a Cambridge education, once brought up to speed.  This is a good thing in my view.   The college is apparently, under intense pressure to admit more young women.  Churchill college must recruit at least a specified minimum proportion of science undergraduates (by statute) and since fewer young women than men currently study sciences, these two objectives are hard to reconcile.  One part of the proposed solution is apparently to try to ensure that, without reducing academic standards, more women who apply directly get in.   If the recruiters have been doing their job properly, of course this won't be possible.   Another part of the solution, as far as I understand it, is to favour women who go through "clearing", that is, they are rejected by the college they initially applied to, but might be capable of benefiting from coming to Churchill.  Excuse me again, but isn't that a teensy bit, um, well sexist?

Thursday 20 December 2018

Friends shaking hands

We're just back from a trip to England, visiting family and friends.  Always great to see people and come away with new impressions of the place, seen from a different perspective.

We spent the first couple of nights at my sister's near Fareham.  Her hubby spent some time in Canada this summer, visiting an old school friend.  He had a fabulous time, and came away deeply impressed by the quality of life to be had there, for people with his kinds of skills.  He's taking my sister out there in 2019; I can see an emigration happening, if all the hurdles can be cleared.   A lunch with mum was enjoyable, and it's good to see her partner looking to be in good health, much better than when we last saw him.

Overnight in Lewes, and a meet-up with a friend of Anita's.  She took us out to Brighton where we went around the Lanes and had a delicious lunch in The Flour Pot.   I also discovered a new and used CD shop.  I succombed.

We went to the toy museum at Brighton.  It's mostly dedicated to miniature railways, but there are other things there too, including a great display of Meccano models.  I had huge amounts of the stuff when I was a kid, bought largely for next to nothing at jumble sales, in undefined assortments.  I had lots of cog wheels of different sizes, and learnt from practical experience the meaning of backlash in gear trains, and the fact that you can't gear up rotational speed indefinitely.

Meccano was invented by Mr Hornby of model train fame, who kept making mechanical models for his son, and wished he could buy a standard set of components that could be used in multiple ways.  It was marketed as engineering for boys.  I reckon that these days if you re-launched it as engineering for girls, it would take off again like a rocket.

On to Wimbledon to stay with our friends there.  I spent a happy hour or so at Top Wind, a specialist flute shop in London, chatting about the music world and flute world in particular.  Bought some sheet music too.  I was going to join up with my French flute tutor there, introduce her, but she couldn't make it. 

Our Wimbledon friends led us to a new-ish and excellent Thai restaurant called Patara.  They seemed to make all of their menu items from scratch, and featured many things that I had not seen before.  The best Thai meal I have had outside of Thailand.

My impression of the retail environment was that is was slow.  I'm used to having to push through crowds in Wimbledon at this time of year, but it was easy to get about.  Fareham seemed sparsely frequented, and Marks and Sparks had closed.  I can well believe that people are not shopping like they used to.

On the last lunchtime I was able to meet up with a couple of old schoolfriends in a pub.  I hadn't seen Nick for ages, although Melvin I saw less than ten years ago.  We had a good old natter, and Nick who still works full-time, was clever enough to take the afternoon off, so we talked long into the afternoon, until Anita and I had to leave to sort out some last-minute Christmas things.

Monday 3 December 2018

La Suzannaise

It was a couple of years after we moved here that I heard about a small artisanal brewery being set up in Ste Suzanne, just up the road.   Not long after, I started seeing the beer for sale in local bars; not in all bars, but in more and more as time went on.  It's available in the restaurant down the road (La Taverne des Grottes) and in the village bistro (run by volunteers, open whenever it seems like a good idea).

They started out with a limited range of beers, just the blonde to start with, I think, but the range has expanded to include such as dark beers very like English beers, and wheat beer, etc.  These are just the kind of beer I like; full of lavour, locally available and high quality.  Little micro-breweries like that are just what is needed in this time of increasingly global uniformity.

I learned a year or so ago that the owner was ill, and more recently that he has died of the cancer he was fighting.  A sad loss.  And today, down the road in the restaurant that stocks his beers, I learn that the the brewery will shut definitively.  Another sad loss.

I bought one of the last 3 remaining 6-packs of bottles in the restaurant.   The owner added a commemorative beer glass "La Suzannaise".   I shall savour the beers, and drink to the highest quality afterlife for the brewer.   And thank him for his all-too-brief, but valued contribution to the quality of life here.

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