HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Archive for July, 2009

Bateaux Symphony

Posted by HelenEdith on July 30, 2009

Symphony in the Upper Pool

Symphony in the Upper Pool

One of the more unusual sights on the River Thames is Symphony, an architect-designed river cruiser which looks like a giant floating conservatory. She is commonly used for dinner cruises.

I spotted her about a month ago (and have been saving the pictures up since then) when she was sailing past the Tower of London. I was in the vicinity to see Tower Bridge lifted for Balmoral, but I point a camera at anything interesting which happens to be around and had a very good evening with the camera on 29th June. Quite a lot of what has appeared in my blog over the past month was captured on my memory card that evening!

Symphony cruises past the Tower of London

Symphony cruises past the Tower of London

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St Paul’s Cathedral, but not the Dome

Posted by HelenEdith on July 28, 2009

Clock tower on the west front of St Pauls Cathedral, viewed from Cannon Street in the east

Clock tower on the west front of St Pauls Cathedral, viewed from Cannon Street in the east

When we think about St Paul’s Cathedral, we usually think about the Dome, but when I am returning to Cannon Street Station in the evening, the Dome isn’t the view of St Paul’s that I can see. Instead, I can see the tower on the south west front, pictured above, which has a clock face set into it.

Depending upon weather conditions, the BT Tower, which is much further west, is visible behind this south west tower of St Paul’s. I would like a picture where the BT Tower is obscured, but so far haven’t had a camera on me on a day when the weather conditions obscure the BT Tower without making photography of St Paul’s from Cannon Street impossible as well.

For some more conventional pictures of St Paul’s, including the famous Dome, visit my website, where you will find some night shots (what else 🙂 ) at St Paul’s Cathedral Pictures, October 7th, 2005.

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Book Review: Anne & Todd McCaffrey – Dragon Harper

Posted by HelenEdith on July 27, 2009

It seems that Anne & Todd are continuing to collaborate rather than Todd being set loose alone again in Pern after his one solo foray in Dragonsblood. The collaboration yields novels which are nearer to the original style of a Pern novel than Todd’s single solo novel was.

The thing about Pern is that it has Intervals which last for 200 Turns between the Passes when Thread falls; and there are Pern books set during a number of different Passes. There aren’t so many set during the Intervals, although as with this book, some are set as a Pass approaches. Anyway, it means that there are huge time periods which haven’t been explored in any Pern novels so far, and therefore new novels can easily be created, either by Anne & Todd collaborating, as here, or by either alone. A complete new set of characters will exist in a novel set in a time not yet explored, so there isn’t a huge problem with continuity, although I was a little surprised by the presence of fire lizards in Dragon Harper. I thought that they had ceased to be kept as companions 500 Turns after Landing, and were not rediscovered until several more Passes had been and gone.

The fire lizards in the story are useful, but are not the main plot of the story. The plot is one which Anne & Todd must have dreamed up a couple of years ago, but it’s a very topical one right now, as it concerns an Influenza epidemic which is spreading through Pern.

The main character in the story is Kindan, who also appears in Dragon’s Kin and Dragon’s Fire, the other two novels in which mother and son have collaborated. Kindan is now resident at the Harper Hall, where he is an apprentice. He is desperately searching old Records for mention of earlier Plagues, when a mishap with a torch results in a fire among the Records. Kindan is expelled from the Harper Hall and banished to nearby Fort Hold, where the Influenza epidemic is taking a terrible toll. With the Healer dead, it falls upon Kindan to do the best he can for the sick of Fort Hold.

The dragons pop in and out of the book, but they are more out than in, due to the risk of infecting the Weyrfolk shortly before a Pass. Kindan takes on Harper duties not usually expected of an apprentice as Pern faces the twin perils of the Influenza and starvation caused by having no-one to gather food. Kindan tackles both problems, and all comes out right in the end.

This was a good read in the usual McCaffrey style. One wonders how much longer Anne will exercise a certain amount of control over her son’s Pern efforts in a bid to keep him conforming to the original style of the books.

It also occurs to me that I would be interested to read something by Todd McCaffrey alone set somewhere other than Pern. I’d like to know whether he’s got what it takes to build his own universe, and what his style would be like when unconstrained by previous books written by his mother. I suspect that he may not have quite the same interest in anthropology and music as his mother obviously has, so any solo books he produces might be quite different.

Actually, I’d probably read the books if Todd would write about the Brain & Brawn ships or the Crystal Singer universe (which are connected) as those are two series for which I would love to have more episodes to read. Bearing the potential differences in his style in mind, however, I don’t guarantee that I’d like them as much as what his mother has already produced.

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Balmoral visits London and passes through Tower Bridge

Posted by HelenEdith on July 25, 2009

Balmoral passes through Tower Bridge

Balmoral passes through Tower Bridge

Balmoral, who is operated by the same company who operate Waverley (Waverley Excursions) visited London at the end of June. She uses Tower Pier, and requires a Tower Bridge Lift due to the height of her masts.

She’s actually a steamer, built in 1949, and originally operated out of Southampton. She operates mainly in the Bristol Channel during the summer season, but visits other ports as well, and appears to do a Thames season in late June and early July.

The day I saw her, she left Tower Pier and disappeared past HMS Belfast in order to turn around up near City Pier where there’s a bit more room.

Then she re-emerged from behind HMS Belfast.

Balmoral cruises through the Upper Pool

Balmoral cruises through the Upper Pool

Next she proceeded past the Tower of London.

Balmoral cruises past the Tower of London

Balmoral cruises past the Tower of London

By this time the bascules of Tower Bridge had started to rise, and through she went!

Balmoral passes through Tower Bridge

Balmoral passes through Tower Bridge

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Glasgow Herald Cryptic Crossword, Thursday 23rd July

Posted by HelenEdith on July 24, 2009

I generally do the cryptic crossword in the Glasgow Herald on weekdays. I usually get most of the way through it, although I have occasional days when I don’t even do well enough for it to be worth comparing notes with Buff in Australia.

However Thursday July 23rd was one of those days when I got the crossword right out! Yes, I answered every last clue, and I think I can even give you the explanation for all of them.

I’ll just add some spoiler space in case you’re still working on the crossword and you don’t want to see the answers just yet, and then I’m going to explain the whole thing… 😀

I won’t do this every day, as the Herald might take a dim view, but an occasional foray into how to solve their crossword seems like an interesting side-trip for my blog to make.

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Across

1 Research establishment for political party speech-making [10]

LABORATORY

political party = LAB
speech-making = ORATORY
I was also entertained that this reads as LAB OR A TORY

6 Break off for a photograph [4]

SNAP

double meaning

10 Went out with Father Ted [5]

DATED

father = DA

11 Vile attack [9]

OFFENSIVE

double meaning

12 Creates chaos about a source of garbled communications [8]

MESSAGES

chaos = MESSES
a = A
source of garbled = G
I originally thought that this might be an anagram of “creates” plus a G (source of garbled) as seeing “chaos” in the clue made me think that there was an anagram present. However, chaos was used rather more literally here!

13 Frenchman chasing single girl [5]

IRENE

single = I
Frenchman = RENE

15 Jumper who’s hardly sporting when not in front [7]

CRICKET

hardly sporting = “that’s not cricket”

17 Fearsome editor following key study [7]

DREADED

key = D (musical)
study = READ
editor = ED

19 Swarming bees can generate a lack of presence [7]

ABSENCE

anagram of “bees can”

21 One in charge warning worker [7]

FOREMAN

warning = FORE (golf)
worker = MAN
Worker is more commonly ANT, but not on this occasion.

22 Sign firm master after end of term [5]

COMMA

firm = CO
end of term = M
master = MA

24 Soldiers hurting, but getting there [8]

REACHING

soldiers = RE (Royal Engineers)
hurting = aching

27 One member rambling and getting better [9]

IMPROVING

one = I
member = MP (Member of Parliament)
rambling = ROVING

28 Pilot’s ordeal [5]

TRIAL

double meaning
This isn’t “pilot” in the sense of one who guides a ship or an aircraft, but “pilot” in the sense of a project undertaken to assess feasibility.

29 Delight at finding good shelter [4]

GLEE

good = G
shelter = LEE

30 Rulers’ gifts accepted one day [10]

PRESIDENTS

gifts = PRESENTS
one = I
day = D

Down

1 Woman or boy with ponytail? [4]

LADY

boy = LAD
ponytail = Y (last letter of pony)

2 Power sources that are best, it develops [9]

BATTERIES

anagram of “are best it” – “develops” is a clue that it’s an anagram
I tried hard to make BATTERSEA fit this, and it wasn’t until I wrote out the vowels in alphabetical order and then the consonants in alphabetical order that I “got it”.

3 Journeys in Kalahari desert [5]

RIDES

KalahaRI DESest

4 Time to support, however considered [7]

THOUGHT

time = T
however = THOUGH

5 Rejected by official [not new] [7]

REFUSED

official = REF (referee)
not new = USED

7 Inquire about individual racket [5]

NOISE

inquire = NOSE
individual = I

8 Acting quiet, get dinner ready [10]

PRETENDING

quiet = P (piano, Italian – used in music)
+anagram of “get dinner”

9 Manoeuvre royal train to front [8]

ENGINEER

train = ENGINE
royal = ER (Elizabeth Regina)

14 Withdrawing: result of itch! [10]

SCRATCHING

double meaning

16 One jumps court without legal authority [8]

KANGAROO

double meaning

18 First for length, and fourth for time, perhaps [9]

DIMENSION

“time is the fourth dimension”

20 Real change – one monarch from a previous time [7]

EARLIER

anagram of “real”
one = I
monarch from a previous time = ER (Elizabeth Regina, in this case meaning Elizabeth I)

21 Edges that project, initially from different angles [7]

FLANGES

initially from = F (first letter of “from”)
+anagram of “angles”

23 Man hiding quietly in tree [5]

MAPLE

man = MALE
quietly = P

25 Disliked heat setting and finished [5]

HATED

anagram of “heat”
and finished = D (last letter of “and”)

26 Regrettably said to be a girl [4]

ALAS

pun

———-==========ooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo==========———-

There! We’ve just been through a lot of mental byways together! 🙂

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Beckenham Concert Band at Coolings

Posted by HelenEdith on July 22, 2009

Assembling my bassoon at Coolings - photo by Stephen Andrews

Assembling my bassoon at Coolings - photo by Stephen Andrews

The Beckenham Concert Band played an outdoor concert at Coolings in what has become an annual event in Arthur’s Garden, located behind Arthur’s Coffee Shop.

He is our playlist:

  • 001 Blaze Away
  • 070 Bandology
  • 128 Semper Fidelis
  • 197 Fantasia on British Sea Songs
  • 216 Instant Concert
  • 275 Costa Brava
  • 282 Irish Rhapsody
  • 376 King Cotton
  • 432 Wizard of Oz Fantasy
  • 454 Songs in the Key of Life
  • 511 The Magnificent Seven
  • 632 Tony Bennett Unplugged
  • 658 The Symphonic Beatles
  • 679 76 Trombones
  • 681 Queen in Concert

It did clearly state on the end of the playlist that it was just that and not a running order, but I wasn’t expecting to see that at the end and didn’t notice it and started the concert with the wrong pieces on my music stand!

The numbers against the pieces on the playlist are the band’s internal catalogue numbers. This band has been in existence since 1977 (that’s over 30 years!) and in that time it has built up a huge repertoire of sheet music.

It was very windy last Sunday. I lowered the legs on the tripod portion of my music stand until they were flat to the ground and firmly anchored the two nearest to me by putting my feet on them. I also had my foot on my pad of sheet music until Viv, the baratone sax player, who was my neighbour, commented that she was sitting on her pad of music. That seemed like a good idea, so I emulated her. Viv was very impressed by the performance of our new perspex music holders. They definitely did better than clothes pegs in the windy conditions, although I did put a peg across the windward side of my music holder to make sure that the wind didn’t get inside and rip my music out.

We finished with the Fantasia on British Sea Songs, and when we got to the end of the Hornpipe, we got a round of spontaneous applause. 🙂 This was great, as it gave me a moment to catch my breath for the rest of the piece. 🙂

We brought Stephen’s Mum with us. She always enjoys a trip to Coolings – with or without music! She probably spends less money when she’s listening to music though, but I think she has plans to return for some plants that she’s got her eyes on. 🙂

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Book Review: Sarah Langan – The Keeper

Posted by HelenEdith on July 18, 2009

I found this book in a bargain book sale at Polhill and thought that it looked interesting. The front cover proclaims: “She lives in their dreams. They die in hers.” I thought that it was going to be a supernatural thriller, when in actual fact, it turned out to be more of a horror story.

Susan Marley is beautiful, but lives in a squalid apartment, and engages in prostitution in order to provide the bare essentials of life. Her younger sister Liz lives at home with their mother. Liz is in her final year at High School and finds being the sister of Susan is not easy.

The story is mostly told from Liz’s viewpoint, although in some ways the story is more about Susan, who dies during the course of the book.

After Susan’s death, things in the run-down mill town of Bedford start to go really seriously wrong, but we’re kept guessing about why this is and what’s going to happen. In fact, I’m not quite sure what the outcome was, even now I’ve finished the book!

This book was a struggle to read, but I kept at it and did eventually finish it, although the number of crosswords and killer sudoku puzzles I worked went up during the reading period, which I think must have been about a month!

Sarah Langan is unlikely to be on my list of authors to search for on my next visit to the library.

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Trinity House

Posted by HelenEdith on July 17, 2009

Bracket of lamps outside Trinity House

Bracket of lamps outside Trinity House

This very fine bracket of lamps is one of several to be found outside of Trinity House. I was passing by there last week on my way back to the office via Tower Hill after witnessing SV Tenacious when she was passing through Tower Bridge.

Trinity House, which has an impressive frontage, of which I’m sure I should be able to locate a picture (and will do so one day) is the headquarters of the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar; and some other maritime matters are also headquartered there.

I hope my lighthouse-loving reader will not be disappointed to be reading about the London headquarters of the General Lighthouse Authority rather than looking at pictures of actual lighthouses. 🙂

If she’s really desperate, here are a few places where she can look at actual lighthouses by clicking on the thumbnails I have provided…

Beachy Head – Eastbourne
Newhaven
Newhaven
and Dungeness, Kent – old and new
Fleetwood, Lancashire
Smeaton’s Tower, now erected at Plymouth, but originally the Eddystone Lighthouse, 14 miles offshore
Pendeen, Cornwall

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Maidstone again!

Posted by HelenEdith on July 15, 2009

When Stephen and I went to Maidstone a couple of weekends ago to hear Maidstone Winds perform on the bandstand in Brenchley Gardens, we didn’t expect to be returning to Maidstone again so soon.

However, to Maidstone we went, as Stephen’s Mum had a hospital appointment at the Maidstone Hospital. We picked her up and went to the hospital first. We had to pay for our parking as Jessie didn’t have her blue disabled badge with her. That was my fault, as she used her walker to get out to the car and her handbag was on the walker seat. I took the walker back into her house and didn’t notice the handbag on there and so it didn’t go with us! 😳

Once we were finished in the hospital, we headed into central Maidstone to visit the Chequers Centre, now renamed The Mall Maidstone.

I decided to have another four place settings of the stoneware crockery I bought last time we were in Maidstone. Stephen isn’t entirely happy about that as the plates are quite large and only fit in certain specialised slots on the dishwasher. They are really nice plates though: well glazed, plus they’re big enough that you can fit a decent cooked breakfast on them without bits hanging over the sides! 🙂

Stephen had various items of clothing, and so did Jessie and I. In fact, Jessie and I both liked one skirt and bought it in each of our sizes! Jessie and I both had trainer liners. I want them for actually wearing inside trainers, but she just wants them for putting on her feet at home.

Jessie also had some mugs and I had four glass tumblers.

Then we moved onto British Home Stores where I had some items I wanted to swap for a different size. It all got very complicated because I bought six on a “three for £5” deal but could only swap five as I’d worn one. The poor assistant took quite a long time to get it to come out right. I could have ended up making a £1 profit as the returns went in at full price and the replacements came out on the discount deal. At least I was in a good humour and so was the assistant, so we got it all worked out amicably. She did ring the bell and summon a second assistant as a queue started to form behind my complicated transaction! Just when we thought we had it all square, I noticed a size 22 tag on one of the items in my replacement pile and thought the assistant had got a return mixed in, but I’d picked up a garment which was displayed incorrectly sized. That entailed a bit more to-ing and fro-ing, but we sorted that glitch out too.

The one thing I didn’t manage to do was to visit Specsavers, where I was hoping to get some running repairs done on my prescription varifocal polaroid sunglasses. I was wearing them on a chain and they were hanging down on my chest when Stephen decided to hug me and bent the frames, causing one lens to pop out. It hit the pavement and now has a chip out of it. I suspect that I will be up for a new pair, but I’d really like some running repairs in the meantime as I need dark glasses next Sunday when I’m playing outdoors with the Beckenham Concert Band. If they can’t cobble those back together, I’ll need to get some clip-ons by Sunday…

I’d had enough of Maidstone by then, so we headed home. I took a wrong turning and we joined the M20 a bit further east than I’d intended to 🙂 but we got back to Jessie’s place eventually, having stopped along the way for a McDonald’s.

Jessie’s cats were pleased to see me, as usual. Minnie spent a considerable amount of time on my lap; Boonie had a couple of short sessions, and Mitsi landed when I was least expecting her, but moved off again once I’d acknowledged her. Mollie got her share of attention on the floor, and so did Sam.

Tomorrow’s a working day, and I think I’m tired enough to go to bed right now and sleep. Stephen would like me to pre-order Windows 7, but the site for doing that is currently down due to the high volume of traffic. Methinks that people are more enthusiastic about Windows 7 than they ever were about Vista. 😀 I should also check back through my book review file and make sure that the library book I’m about to start reading isn’t one I’ve already read. It would be annoying to sit down on the train tomorrow and find that my reading matter wasn’t something new after all.

Posted in Bruno a.k.a. Boonie, General, Minnie, Mitsi, Mollie, Sam | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Lloyds Register

Posted by HelenEdith on July 14, 2009

Sailing Ship weather vane on top of the Lloyds Register of Shipping building

Sailing Ship weather vane on top of the Lloyds Register of Shipping building

I went for a walk along part of Fenchurch Street a couple of weeks ago, and I found out what building has the gilded sailing ship weather vane atop it. It’s the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, which is rather appropriate.

The front of the building has decorations in it and even the metal gates in front of the doorways have decorations.

The insignia on the gates outside the Lloyds Register of Shipping

The insignia on the gates outside the Lloyds Register of Shipping

In fact, there’s so much there that you should maybe keep an eye out for a Website Update, as I might do a whole webpage on this building!

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