Archive | June, 2013

Cardiff Bay

18 Jun

We went for a trip to Cardiff yesterday, to look around the new(ish) bay development and, well, just for a day out really. We went by train from Hereford, about an hour’s journey. It was drizzling as we left and was still a little damp when we arrived. The last part of the journey was two one-stop hops, from Cardiff Central to Queen Street, then from Queen Street to Cardiff docks. The development is just old enough for it to settle a bit in terms of blending in and for some of the sharper edges to wear down. Around the harbour there is a plethora of food joints and the Welsh Parliament, the National Arena and the Pierhead. We walked around the barrier up to the Captain Scott exhibition, past the playgrounds and fitness things, then back to the Boat Museum, where we tried to pay, but no-one was there to collect. We had tea and cake in the cafe. After a walk around we went into the Doctor Who experience for lunch before going into the performance and exhibits. We experienced ship shake on the Tardis bridge, 3d monsters and other silly stuff, eventually coming out on the exhibition area and the monsters and costumes and things. It is an effective way of parting the tourists from their cash, though many seem to have gone there specifically as fans, from all over the globe.

At one point we had a silly picture on a background, just the usual schtick. When passing the bay we went on a quick trip on a water bus around the development.

We walked the mile and a bit back to the city centre, had a brief look at the shopping, ate in Pizza Express and had a drink in The Duke of Wellington before getting the train back from Cardiff Central, arriving home a bit before half ten

The rath of Karhn

15 Jun

We (belatedly) went to see the film ‘Star Trek – Into Darkness’ last night. I switched off my brain and I suppose it was OK. If you like lots of wiz-bangs and flashy FX, that is. It’s what I have to put up with, being married to a part-time Trekkie and Whoie. Talking of which, as ‘er outdoors has some time off we are going to Cardiff on Monday and will be taking in the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Docks. Now the new Doctor Who series (since the break in production) certainly has better production values than the old one, and some of the stories and villains are quite good, apart from the clinically obese Daleks. I suppose it is part of my burden in life to be tolerant. I’m not exactly sure that it works both ways. For example, we are going on a short break soon, and had to make a late booking. My choice was for somewhere hot but not too far away, and cheap. Well, the weather has mostly been effin’ cold and effin’ miserable. Anyhow, Hazel doesn’t much care for the heat. We are now going to Snowdonia, North Wales. Guaranteed to be warm and dry! So I didn’t win that one.

Anyhow, back to the film. There is a bit of an overlap here, at one remove. Benedict Cumberbatch, who is becoming ubiquitous, played Khan in the movie and also played Sherlock Holmes in the series also produced by the new Doctor Who People. The character was rehashed from the earlier film ‘Wrath of Khan’, when played by Ricardo Montaleban in a chest prosthetic. The working name for the character in the new film is John Harrison, and the planet they travel to is Chronos. Now, John Harrison invented the Marine Chronometer which enabled accurate navigation in the Eighteenth century, geddit? Years ago we kept recording the old movie onto VHS. Doing a clearout we found we had no less than four copies. What I couldn’t stand about that movie was the American pronunciation, as in the title above. Any Englishman knows it should be pronounced ‘The roth of Karn’.

Flaming June

6 Jun

Just a brief note about the new greenhouse and what is happening here. It is supposed to be sunny today, but isn’t. The new greenhouse is good and we keep finding the cat napping in it. The tomato plants seem to be appreciating the conditions inside, as does the first decent aubergine (egg plant) I’ve ever had. I’m looking forward to a decent crop for once. If you look back you will see a wintry scene and pictures of the tree being taken down. Here’s what that part of the garden looks like now, a quick picky of the shocking pink peony.

Last Hay Festival entry, 2013

3 Jun

Saturday 1st June

We were still a little tired after attending six events the previous day, so I think we were both glad to have only two events booked. The weather was good, and we dressed in lighter clothing. I even wore sandals! Hay looks and feels much better when you are not sheltering from squally showers and trailing mud around. I find it a little depressing to be among the huddled damp masses. A few summer clothes make it look much brighter.

The first event we went to was a talk by Peter Sawyer, ‘The Wealth of Anglo-Saxon England’. Alright, this is very closely associated with my Masters’ thesis, so I was Keen to go. It was strange to see someone who appears on my list of sources. He described the volume of coinage available, especially when Danegeld was being paid, where the silver came from and how well the production and distribution was organised. In comparison, Frankia and northern Europe were in the Dark Ages. I asked a question about sceattas and their relationship to the laws of Athelberht of Kent. He made the right reply that schillings and sheattas were measures of weight of bullion at the time and not coins. I sent an email thanking him and giving a link to my thesis.

At two thirty we went to a talk in the same tent (Sky Arts) where Jerry Brotton and Adam Lowe talked about the Hereford Mappa Mundi in 3D. I had expected a visual representation of a medieval world map. What this was, however, was a surface mapping of the calf-skin on which the map is painted. The result was an exaggerated 3D printer model of the actual surface of the map, with little or nothing about the painting on the surface. [Aside: The labelling of Hereford on the map was over-painted. It used to be thought that this was because the map was produced in Lincoln. It turns out that it was because of people touching that point in a kind of ‘You are Here’ exercise.] Anyhow, as an article to touch the model was fascinating, though I doubt it advances our knowledge of the meaning and iconography very much. Other maps were shown in staged relief, 10:1 to show the surface of the Earth and depth of the oceans. AS a visual representation, this was quite stunning.

Ah, well, goodbye to Hay for another year!

More on Hay

3 Jun

Friday 30th May 2013
This was a busy day, starting at 10 AM and taking in six events before the end of the day. First we saw David Crystal who was talking about English spelling and the book he wrote about it. This is such a contentious area that it generates a good deal of hot air. Having been interviewed on a popular lunchtime radio show his book went ballistic up the charts and overtook ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ for a while! (but not Gordon Ramsay). It seems that in Old English (Anglo-Saxon), all spelling was phonetic, but the Normans changed some to the French equivalent (hence Qwen to Queen). With the invention of printing the first typesetters were Flemish speakers who introduced their own interpolations, especially the ‘h’ after the ‘g’, as in Ghost. Samuel Johnson’s dictionary includes his own prejudices, such as no words ending in ‘C’ and his invention of the spelling ‘Musick’. The only successful attempt at standardised spelling being by Noah Webster. Since then, we have adopted various other words, and first anglicising them, such as ‘Noodle’ for ‘Nüdel’, but later used the words directly, as in ‘Strüdel’ but not ‘Stroodle’. He is a very entertaining speaker and the book sounds pretty interesting too.

At half eleven we saw Tom Holland talking about the perceived decline and fall of the Roman Empire. He was pretty good. This was the London Library sponsored lecture. Our notion that the Barbarian hoards raised Rome to the ground is false. In many ways the Barbarians tried to maintain the Eternal City, if only for the glamour of association. The Eastern Empire was still going strong and various outposts tried to maintain the rule of Roman Law. Included in these was Brittania, later reduced to Wales. A late governor of Brittania, Magnus Maximus, took the legions with him in an attempt to wrest power in the Western Empire, and left the native commanders in charge telling them to rule in the Roman way. These commanders became the British royalty. When the Welsh were defeated by Edward I they asked him for a native born prince. Edward II had been born in Wales and was the first Prince of Wales. So perhaps Prince Charles is heir to the Roman Empire!

After a break for lunch we saw Derek Nieman talk about his book concerning a group of British POWs who took up or continued ornithological studies while in captivity. Hence the book title, ‘Birds in a Cage’. Several of these men went on to become leading naturalists and running the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Oddly enough, no German POWs seem to have done anything similar. It had me wondering about British eccentricity.

Simon Garfield talked about his book, ‘On the Map: Why the World looks the way it does’. This was fascination for revealing the politics and self interest that lay behind the various representations of the globe on flat paper. The different projections reveal a good deal of the intent of the map maker and the society in which they were engaged. Why does the top of the map face North? The Mappa Mundi faces East. Antarctica is rarely seen on globes because that is where the makes name goes.

We had another short break for refuelling before the evening. Having seen Tom Holland’s lecture earlier we saw him as an interviewer for Mary Beard who was plugging her book, ‘Confronting the Classics’. She is a strong proponent for the teaching of the classics and finds relevance in many modern parts of life. If you think that European education before the twentieth century was largely concerned with teaching the classics, this makes sense. All jumped up warlords have tried to become the new Roman Emperors since Charlemagne, I go back to the glamour of association. I asked about the relationship between the classics and the Age of Reason, especially in the titles Classical (music [musick?]) and neo-classical (architecture) Despite having an idealised, romantic version of the Romans there seems genuine admiration for them and a desire to ape their supposed culture. Much of what we think of as Greek culture has passed to us through a Roman filter. For example the histories of Alexander the Great were written when Rome controlled Greece.

We finished the evening with Tony Hawks talking about making the film of ‘Round Ireland with a Fridge’. This was sponsored by the local Newsagents! Anyhow, the story goes that after making the journey and writing the book, which turned out to be successful, Hollywood took an option on the book and an outline script was prepared. Tony then had to listen to a producer pitching the story to him, which was very different to what happened. The plan went into cold storage and Tony repaid the advance. Then some British film-makers tried to get the project going but were unable to finance the movie. Tony then decided to do it himself, and asked some rich friends to put up the cash, which they duly did. The film actually earned a little money and Tony decided to film the next book ‘Playing the Moldovans at Tennis’. This he financed himself and the profits are going to a children’s charity in Moldova. Hawks is a very personable fellow, and droll with the proper comic timing. He started with a comment that he gets a lot of email from young skateboarders who think he is Tony Hawk. These messages he call ‘skate mail’. After initially ignoring them he now replies to. I.e. : Q: Do you prefer the long or short board? A: If you are cutting a long loaf I recommend a long board, otherwise the sort board is fine.

This has got so long that I will continue Saturday’s events on a new entry.