Saturday, 30 December 2017

Roaming Alone - Africa

I have just started my first trip abroad alone.  Not that I haven't travelled solo before, but I've always been met the other end or had some companionship planned.  These next 3 weeks are very different as, apart from a friend in Windhoek, and a business meeting mid Jan, I don't have a scheduled rendezvous with anyone.  A bit scary for an extrovert who thrives on company.

So, anyway, I packed the essentials - a new book from my brother (oh how apt is that!)
20171226 Roam alone
and a 'pick me up' book from Riona. The Little Book of Mindfulness.
20171226 Happiness
And painted my nails ready for Africa.
20171226 Toes
I set off on a chilly, damp Wednesday and soaked myself (not literally) with views of flooded Devon and Somerset.
20171227 Travel 08.45.57
It was a long journey.  Flight London to Paris and 5 hours at Charles de Gaulle airport; where I treated myself to lounge access.  Then an overnight flight to Johannesburg and I made my way to a local Protea hotel.  I had decided not to fly directly to Namibia that day as I had time to pace myself.

Well, after my tiring journey this was a welcome site: my room number sign.  It's an aeronautical chart of the Johannesburg area.
20171228 Room sign
And this is similar, chart symbols on their hall carpet.  I have carpet lust!
20171228 Jburg airport hotel 14.34.24
It was hot so I sat in the shade by the pool and read Pygmalion - now I want to see it on stage.  The hotel appeared to be full of couples which, as a solo traveller, I don't yet find easy (I'm hope I will one day).
20171228 Jburg airport hotel 14.51.11
Look, a BA view from my seat.
20171228 Jburg airport hotel 14.43.10 HDR
It was a pleasant dinner.  But I'm hoping that I don't have each meal time alone!
20171228 Jburg airport hotel 20.59.56

Monday, 25 December 2017

Diary of a Black Eye

I came off my bike late on Friday 01 December landing on my shoulder and face.  I ended up in A&E with concussion and a suspected broken shoulder.  Not my finest hour.
20171202 Black eye at 0300 cropped
Roger kindly came and scooped me up in the middle of the night and I stayed with him for a couple of days whilst the worse of the concussion passed.  Meanwhile, my black eye grew into a thing of beauty.   This is me the morning after the night before.  Not my most preened look.
20171202 Black eye at 1030 cropped
And this a few hours later.
20171202 Black eye at 1330 cropped
By the Saturday evening its true colours were emerging.
20171202 Black eye at 1700 cropped
20171202 Black eye at 1730 closed cropped
My first ever black eye - a rite of passage I suppose.  Sunday morning.
20171203 Black eye at 0830 cropped
Sunday evening.
20171203 Black eye at 1900 cropped
I received many empathetic comments from others who had been in this state. Monday morning.
20171204 Black eye at 0800 cropped
Tuesday morning.
20171205 Black eye 1000 cropped
And the side of my face, as well as my eye, turned a delicate shade of yellow. Wednesday morning.
20171206 Black eye at 1000 cropped
A week after it was certainly fading.  Saturday 09 December.
20171209 Black eye at 1100 cropped
Sunday 10 December.
20171210 Black eye at 1030 cropped
Thursday 14 December.
20171214 Black eye at 2300 cropped
Sunday 17 December.
20171217 Black eye cropped
Pretty much gone now. Friday 22 December.
20171222 Black eye
And healed for Christmas ;-)
20171225 Black eye cropped
My shoulder isn't fairing so well. This is it after my accident.
20171209 Shoulder - xray 02 Dec
Basically I have 'disrupted' the ligaments between my clavicle and scapula.  My clavicle is elevated around 5 mm (it should be between 1/2 mm from the scapula) and it's also pushed back.   Very painful and pretty impossible to move.

The long and the short of it is that it will probably take between 6/12 months to fully heal.  I have limited mobility but I cannot put any weight on it.  It's mucked up my training regime somewhat.  I had the option of keyhole surgery last week but declined (on medical advice of course) as the doctors believe it could heal naturally.  The fact that I'm doing far more with it after 3 weeks than most people do gives them hope.  If it's still significantly disrupted in a few months time they may still need to operate.  We'll see.

And in the meantime I have to try and behave.  Not over use it - which is a little tricky as I'm left handed.  So I have have to be patient and gentle to myself.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Horsing Around in Kent

Last week I travelled to Kent to see a dear friend who has recently moved there.  I can work/study anywhere so it was a good opportunity to shift venues for a bit.  Rachel works for Tregothnan so I parked myself at her pad near Kings Hill.

On the Tuesday she suggested a walk with some horsey ladies who wanted to discuss bridleways access across Tregothnan land.  Rachel was too busy to walk with us so I was happy to attend as her replacement.  We met with the ladies and Rachel explained that she was leaving them in my capable hands.  "So, who are you?" they naturally quizzed - presuming that Rachel had rocked up with a random friend who was just out for a stroll in the sun.  "I'm a chartered surveyor like Rachel," I stated.  They looked a tad impressed.  "Actually I'm a land surveyor if that helps." Even more impressive looks.  "OK," they said, "let's walk".

So we walked across various bridle paths.  I had no idea of the nuances of bridle path, public footpath  etc. It seems that horse people dislike dog owners, dog owners dislike horse riders and every one hates ramblers and the RSPB.  Or that's the hierarchy I understood.  We walked various paths and came across some unfriendly horse barriers.
2017-11-14 14.28.22
Double stacked railway sleepers are too high for horses to easily step over.  I'm not sure if they're there to discourage cyclists/motorcyclists but add on effect is that they can't be bridleways.
2017-11-14 14.35.58
I suppose it depends whether you mind having an enduring right of way across your land that allows access to pedestrians, horse and cyclists.

Anyway, chartered surveying head off I spent Wednesday at Excel in London on an UAV exhibition. Very small and, to be honest, boring so I didn't spend long there. I won't drone on about it [a couple of my readers may get the joke] so I headed back to Kent via a familiar spot.
2017-11-15 14.56.09
I've been in this pub many times and it's like a comfort zone when I'm having a shabby day.  Worked for me.

I headed back home on Friday and lo and behold, when I arrived back in Exeter some bright spark had nicked my suitcase.  So now I'm without glasses (so can't drive), chargers, mouth guard, MSc notes, clothes, gym shoes and all the other gubbins that one naturally carries around with them that isn't 'valuable' but it worth something to you because it's yours.  Someone else has all my stuff and I'm schlepped.  Awaiting the final guillotine from British Transport Police tomorrow (they say wait 7 days for it to turn up) then I'm onto an insurance claim.

So a very memorable week in Kent. But for all the wrong reasons.

Saturday, 28 October 2017


Weston-super-Mare has never been on my bucket list: it has a reputation for being the place you miss out between Taunton and Bristol, a bit of faded glamour with a decaying pier and chip shops.  However a friend was staying there recently, and other one was free for supper, so it was an ideal moment to get to know WSM.

I suppose I should have engaged brain earlier.  A place nicknamed 'Weston-super-Mud' is called that for a reason: it has a huge tidal range.  I knew it had a flat bay and that a vast amount of beach was exposed at low tide (up to 1.2 km in fact) but I hadn't realised it had a large vertical tidal range too - up to 11.8 m, the second largest in the world.  Now that alone should have had me dashing up the M5: honestly, how do these things pass me by?
20171023 WSM 12.47.51
Richard and I strolled north around the harbour towards the Birnbeck Pier, destroyed by fire some years ago.  You can make out it's old life boat slipway.
20171023 WSM 12.25.31
This walkway fascinated me. You can hardly make them out, but there are people walking along this path. It looks as if they're walking on water but it's actually an infinity walk on the edge of the enclosed lagoon.
20171023 WSM 12.10.36
Very clever.
20171023 WSM 12.14.54
20171023 WSM 12.38.27
And guess what? It had surveyors on it!
2017-10-23 12.38.23 HDR
Richard pointed to the church on the hill south and said he sometimes walked up there - and so stoked with coffee/diet coke we marched up to the church at Uphill.  I pointed out the church's benchmark for Richard.  Despite being a Chartered Surveyor these are not something he feels the need to hunt at every turn, tsk.

The view back across the bay was wonderful.
20171023 WSM 14.11.24
On Monday, before I headed back, we walked up onto Brean Down. It was a good stiff climb up from the car park, and more awesome views, this time south towards Burnham across the Berrow Flats towards Bridgwater Bay.
20171024 Brean Down 13.02.51
Once on the Down we headed towards the fort on the west end. But, guess what we found first? Richard knew about this but forgot I'd get excited. I really think he should hang out with geomatic surveyors a bit more. It's TP1608.
20171024 Brean Down TP1608 trig
You can see the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm to the left/right of the trig respectively. Interestingly, to me at least, Steep Holm is in Somerset and Flat Holm, 4 km north, is in Wales. Steep Holm has a trig and Flat Holm a lighthouse so both are worth a visit.
20171024 Brean Down TP1608 view
Once over the hill Brean Down Fort appears. It's an interesting place to look around. It was built in the 1860s as a Palmerston Fort and was occupied by the military during both the First and Second World Wars. It is a windy promontory and being sat manning the search light during the war must have been a grim job.
20171024 Brean Down 13.26.10
There was a nice benchmark on one of the barrack buildings. Cue rolling of eyes from Richard.

During the 1930s they used Bridgwater Bay to practice military manoeuvres (and perhaps explosives). The aircraft would be directed to their ranges using a large concrete arrow built onto the top of the down. Richard had been up on the Down many times but never seen this.
20171024 Brean Down 14.16.21
Weston may be going through a regeneration in the next few years.  Depending on the progress of the Avon Barrage, the tidal regime may be significantly modified and, perhaps the bay will stay fuller for longer.  This could attract developers of marinas etc.  I'm not sure if this would be a good or bad thing? I quite like Weston as it stands: cute and quirky.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Trinity Buoy Wharf and East India Docks

Last Sunday I had a day alone in London so hunted for something to do, coming across an outdoor dance event involving a shipping container (Dance Umbrella). It was at Trinity Buoy Wharf which I'd never heard of let alone visited.  Boy, if you'll excuse the pun, was I in for a treat!
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 2.45.36
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 2.43.39 HDR
Trinity Buoy Wharf used to owned by Trinity House who, amongst numerous nautical services, manage the lighthouses and buoys around England and Wales.  They used the wharf to house spare buoys and run lighting trials: indeed Faraday experimented here.  There were even trial lighthouses built.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 2.40.48 HDR
The Corporation of Trinity House withdrew from the wharf in 1988 and 10 years later Urban Space Holdings took over and since then have created an amazingly creative living and entertainment space opposite the O2.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 4.30.34
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 4.30.25
I'd heard of this innovative container housing. In the area it was, with its wonderful river views, I suspect these are not cheap.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.12.56
This is the second lighthouse that was built, Bow Creek Lighthouse (they demolished the first).
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 4.28.21
It was free to climb - and so I did.  Wonderful views across to the O2.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.08.58
And it has the smallest benchmark I've even seen.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.00.28
One thing that excited me greatly was discovering that the measurement of MSL was first defined here - before Liverpool before Newlyn. I knew Liverpool pre-dated Newlyln but had no idea that Trinity Buoy Wharf pre-dated them both. Sadly you can't see the datum line - maybe I'll need to hire a boat next time to have a proper hunt?

This wharf has the first ever tidal/lunar clock, alunatime.  The clock face shows the lunar cycle and the chimes musically play the state of tide.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.05.05
Anyway, the reason I initially headed to the wharf was for the dance show. Well, it was weird to be honest. It involved 40 minutes of watching a container slowly unfold and an artist drape herself around it to some mournful bongs from a speaker.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 3.50.10
She stood on top and swung an axe.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 4.01.14
It wasn't really my cup of tea but I'm delighted it got me to this amazing wharf.
20171015 Trinity Buoy Wharf 4.04.53
I headed back towards the DLR and realised that East India Docks were open. That drew me in...
20171015 East India Docks 4.47.51
On the dock gates I spotted a marker for MSL.  Not the marker, but the one for these wharf gates - where O-D = Ordnance Datum.
20171015 East India Docks 4.48.10 HDR
There you go - enlarged.
20171015 East India Docks 4.48.26 HDR
You can see the lovely clear tidal height marked in the wharf walls on the other side.
20171015 East India Docks 4.50.56 HDR
As I wandered to the East India DLR station I espyed the wonderful sign "Prime Meridian Walk". And as I turned I realised that it was directly across the Thames from Greenwich.
20171015 East India Docks 4.59.03
I turned and followed it north as long as I could, which wasn't far.
20171015 East India Docks 5.00.00
I took the DLR to Bank and then decided to walk back to Vauxhall.  This took me a while, especially as I stopped and explored the interesting Gabriel's Wharf on the South Bank en route.  And to end my long traipse, a view of the Thames as the sun faded. Beautiful.
20171015 Thames