Friday, 6 February 2015

A red letter day

I recently attended a talk where the meaning of "Red Letter Day" was explained. In illuminated manuscripts, the jolly nice red pigment was reserved for saints - it was important, you see.

Well - today is such a day.

I first saw Robert Fripp in the Exeter ABC in 1971 - dominated by Lizard. Then again in York in 1973/4 with Bruford, Muir and Wetton alongside. Then again in 198x at the Leeds Irish Centre with the League of Crafty Guitarists. To my abiding regret, I had to miss a gig in Manchester in the 90s with David Sylvian when I was ill - now of course never to be repeated.

But this year Spike and I will see him in Aylesbury on 1st September. With every chance of a second viewing in Birmingham.

I wonder if he remembers me?

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Hele's School, (more than) 40 years on

A shocking picture of a painting of S L Medlar (but honestly, it's not in an easy position to photograph):

Sam Medlar was Head of Hele's Boys Grammar School, Exeter through the 60s until 1973; he probably disliked being called Sam but all the boys did it. At that time the grammar system was still the default and he presided over a school named after Elize Hele, an illustrious Tudor Exonian who left money in his will for the school's establishment. It was explained to me once that Hele's executors were so corrupt that it was not in fact founded until 1850. Of course, in the town Hele's was overshadowed by Exeter School - “Public”, with all that word doesn't imply.

Sam's tenure coincided with well documented British social change. He was, almost literally, “old school”, and I think he struggled with the sight of boys with immensely flared trousers (nowadays rightly regarded as laughable) and hair of sometimes extraordinary length, school rules notwithstanding. I had a couple of minor run-ins with him but nothing serious: corporal punishment was on the books as the ultimate sanction but I have no memory of it ever being deployed. His difficulty with boys who were plainly intelligent (no conceit intended), but who enthusiastically adopted the fashion of shabby and disorderly dressing was obvious. I think this was the only fashion in which I ever took any interest and I have still to move on from it.

Sam's revenge came at one's exit interview: after suitable small-talk and probably sincere wishes for the future, some but not all boys were invited to join the Old Heleans and left his sanctum clutching an application form – not me. Time has passed and you can now join online, which I have done.

The buildings I recall are long since demolished and the name of the school has lapsed (at least partly under pressure from the OH). Odd bits of memorabilia are on display in the replacement school, St Peters. 40+ years ago, I had an unthinking teenage disrespect for the war memorial and portraits of Heads past, but the passage of time is a curious thing. Of course, the school song was “Forty years on”.

Exeter School continues in uninterrupted business.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Fork Stoan and Bernt Arse

A weekend with the Enkelkindern. Very hard to travel around Kent without seeing it through Riddley Walker's eyes, but I tried.


  1. Banksy's latest, entertainingly augmented only recently.
  2. A sad loss.
  3. A surprise visit by David Byrne.
  4. Another one for my collection! Neglected, but fine.

A small number of other pictures may be seen.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Hello, is that Mrs Jones?

Misdirected mail is commonplace, and usually presents no problem. Envelopes addressed to "Prof. April McMahon" are redirected in a trice, and parcels addressed to "Dafydd Raw-Rees", postmarked Todmorden, likewise present no obstacle.

But today arrives an envelope addressed to "Mr and Mrs Jones".

FFS. I've just counted and there are over 2500 "Joneses" in the Aberystwyth phone book, and it's a slim volume.

This is going to take ages.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Charlies to manage Kate Bush nuptials

I have asked Kate Bush to marry me, and await her decision. She is a lady who takes care over these things and, while she didn't scream "YES" in immediate hysterical glee, she certainly didn't say "no" either.

So keep your diaries cleared: a date in mid November seems most probable, just after Claire's.

The Wedding List will be managed by Charlies of Aberystwyth (with branches throughout Wales, and one in Shrewsbury).

Monday, 1 September 2014

SECOND UPDATE - Photovoltaic cells: free money

I wrote with conceit both one and two years ago about our PV cells. It is now three years since their installation and the pictures they generate have stabilised.

The three year average daily generation and usage now look like this (click to enlarge)

(recall that "usage" is not a clearly defined quantity).

The best fit sine waves to generation and usage, plotted on the graphs, are (click to enlarge):

The waves are (again) reassuringly homed on the spring equinox. The average daily generation in 2011-12 was 9.8KWh, in 2012-13 was 11.3KWh, and in 2012-14 10.5KWh.

Well, the upfront money-in-pocket from the FIT is now well over £5/day. What we save from using free rather than costed power, and pushing surplus into the grid, is as ever secondary and difficult to pinpoint, but is certainly another positive quantity. We're not regretting this purchase.

There seems little point in perpetuating this project as I am now confident of the results. This will leave space on the fridge when I no longer stick the daily recording sheet there. Suggestions?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Aberystwyth Bridge Congress: 15-17 August

When I told Ben I was Secretary to the Aberystwyth Bridge Congress, he formed a mental image of a happy group of Civil Engineers on their summer seaside holidays, discussing load bearing and suspension mechanisms. Maybe next year.

Things to know if you are organising a Bridge Congress:

  • The iniquitous PFI scam means that in order to book space in Ysgol Penweddig (yes, a Welsh medium school), you have to talk to a lady called Laura based in Mansfield. I've had to stay twice in Mansfield and I don't recommend it.
  • Otherwise intelligent people find the clearest of forms simply impossible to complete.
  • Otherwise punctual people find the word deadline simply impossible to understand.
  • 450 packs of cards with attendant boards and packing cases weigh a lot.
  • Bridge trophies are very ugly, although I thought Ciocia Magda's augmentation of the Aber silverware was a masterpiece (mistresspiece?).
  • Suitably courteous letters to the local newspaper can extract sponsorship monies.
  • Machines that will randomly [sic] deal umpteen hands of cards are devious torture instruments beyond Dante's imagination.
  • An understanding of the WBF continuous VP scale will help.
  • The WBU precept is 12.5%.
  • Pinning the regalia on the WBU President is a bit like pinning the tail on the donkey, but it's perhaps best not to tell him that.
  • The services of a mild-mannered Wizard are essential.
  • The Swiss Teams algorithm is a joy to watch in action.
Anyway, in the 1860s there were plans to build a viaduct from Ynyslas to Penhelyg, shortening the journey north from Aber by an hour or more. This crossing has been fictionally actualised in the celebrated works of Malcolm Pryce, but I am thinking the 2015 Aberystwyth Bridge Congress could do the job for real. It'd be more straightforward than this year's.

(There are some indifferent photographs to be seen).