Enough with the Analogies

Where the country road led
Perranporth Beach

I’ve found that there isn’t really time (or more accurately — energy) to write these Internet logs when one is fully employed.  Thus the the numerous internet fields I sowed sowed in the past have been left untended and barren.  I bit like the communist remnants of Statue Park in Budapest.

If you’ve been following Waffle Group closely, I left you on a bit of a cliff-hanger with the last post. What a long time to dangle out there? Your arm must be aching terribly! So sorry.

I did, in the end, make it to the top.  There is a lovely view from up here.  Beautiful country roads that tunnel through overhanging tree branches, leading past rolling farmlands to the coast. It’s windy down there on the beaches, but I’m told the air calms down in the summer months making the beach perfect for an influx of tourists.

Seaside walks along craggy cliffs are an option. ‘Rambling’ is what they call it around here.  Bean Dog has certainly been impressed with the potential of the place.  We took her to Perranporth beach and she couldn’t decide whether to dig a hole, manically run in a circle, or chase a tennis ball — so she opted to cycle between the three, switching from one activity to the next every 30 seconds.

A fair summary is that I think Cornwall is a kickass place to live.  It has less temperamental weather than Scotland has, and it generally warmer.  There are similarities too.  The Scots rather enjoy waving about their blue and white flag, and beating the drum of Scottish pride and nationalism. The Cornish have a black and white flag to wave about and appear to be similarly keen on their unique identity.

The best thing about Cornwall is that I have a professional job here.  The rest of the UK misses that key ingredient to self-sufficiency, and so Cornwall could be an environmental wasteland devastated by years of unrehabilitated mining activities and tailings dams, and I’d still think it was the most magical place on Earth.

My new employer has offices in the with a breath-taking view of a mine tailings facility used to store precipitated acid rock drainage from historic underground mine workings.  A fitting location for a mining engineering and environmental consultancy.  I don’t intend to say too much about work here, except that I am extremely happy and really enjoying the company, the people I work with, and the job itself.  If you do want to know more about my work-related things (environmental management, environmental science, mining practice and stuff along those lines), such writing may appear at Pragmatic Hippie.  There is not much there now, so no surging ahead in your effort for dull soothing reading.  (As an aside — if you cannot contain your need for tedium, the Dull Men’s Club might be just what you need).

Cornwall would be less lovely if I only had a job here, but my family were elsewhere.  This was kind of the case when I first arrived here.  I rushed off to Cornwall to get stuck into the job, while Angie packed up our old place in Scotland, arranged for the move, looked after Jethro, looked after Bean, performed circus tricks and generally displayed superhuman characteristics.

I eventually managed to find a place for us to live. Angie travelled down by train with Jethro and Bean. A ten hour journey. Miraculous no-one was thrown from the train in frustration during the trip.  No sure how Angie managed it. Then our stuff arrived at the house.  It would never have made it on to the truck had our magnificent friends Jude and Andy not been there to coordinate things in Scotland.  You guys rock!

The dust of the move has mostly settled, but we are still left with no cupboards in the house (or at least very few), although we did buy a lawnmower. It’s about keeping up appearances. As long as we keep people out of the house, they can’t really see how the clothes are all piled in stacks.  Long grass at the front of the house is less easy to hide without blinding all of the neighbours. And although a recently blinded neighbour is unlikely to complain about an unkempt garden, they will probably call the police which will just attract more attention and more people requiring blinding. In the end it just seemed like less work to cut the damn grass.

We have the essentials, but we still lack friends, and this is something that is hitting Angie particularly hard.  I have people to interact with at work, but she would really like a little more conversation with other adults.  We’re working on it and know we’ll get there eventually — it just takes time.

Jethro starts school this year in September.  Due to the awkward timing, it’s a little pointless signing him up at a nursery, so Angie has been trying to find interesting extra-mural activities to keep him busy and herself sane.  Swimming and French lessons have commenced.  I can say that I’ve learned more French from Jethro’s age 3-4 French than I ever did during my disastrous attempt to study French at university.

And here ends the lengthy general update thing. The next one might be a long time coming, so if you want Internet update-type things from me it might be best to find me on Google+. The Book with the Faces is not to my liking.  I don’t really get the Short Shrill Bird Noise, although I do occasionally make sub-140 character droppings.  Frankly, there are so many of these damned social network things that it makes my brain rattle inside my skull, and my eyeballs pulsate.  I decided I have to choose one of these things, and I’m choosing the one that almost no-one I know uses.  How very anti-social-network of me. I’m certain some of my readers understand.

An Analogy: Part 2

Link to Part 1 of this analogy.

11 - October - 2008 -- Crib Goch
There is less rope in this supporting image than I hoped for.

The grappling hook finds firm purchase around a sturdy tree-trunk. I tug at the rope a couple of times to make certain it won’t come loose. Then I start to climb.

At first my footing is secure and I make steady progress up the embankment. About halfway up my footholds start to crumble. A stream of soil dribbles downward. I scurry but the dribble grows into a rushing torrent of matter. The ground disappears beneath my feet but I don’t let go of that rope. My fingers ache. My feet find no purchase. There is strain in my arms, my shoulders, my back. My body rages against my will.

For a time I think of just letting go. The fight is too hard. The potential reward too remote.

“Climb!” she shouts at me, “We need you up here!”

And so I climb.

I’m almost at the top. An arm reaches down over the edge towards me. I grasp the extended hand. Soon I’ll be able to see what it looks like from up there.

Christmas with the Fletchcocks

Last year we spent Christmas with the Fletchcocks, with them travelling up to Edinburgh. This year we made the trek south to London.

A lot of the fun this year was that Jethro was fully into Santa Claus. Last year his understanding of the event was a little sketchy. He knew something unusual was happening, but didn’t really comprehend why it might be exciting.

This year, Xmas trickery installation is complete.

The random photos of tofu have gone missing. I don’t think much of value has been lost though.

I also recorded some audio of the excitement. From a quick review of the 17 minute clip, it seems to be mostly the adults rambling on like idiots with the occasional exclamation of excitement from small child Jethro. Editing is required.

Hope your Christmas was a cheerful one too.

An Analogy

Floating rag pickerImagine a deep gulley with muddy slippery sides. Along the bottom of the gulley runs a stream of water.

The water was once clear, but since it ran its course into the gulley it has turned murky. The polluted water churns up rancorous odours.

A raft of strapped-together flotsam and driftwood wobbles on the surface, rushing along the gulley. I stand upon the raft, balancing precariously and feeling slightly nauseous — a result of the combined influence of the fumes from the water and the rocking motion of the stream. I take a wide steady stance, and ready the rope and grappling hook I hold in my hands.

I look up to the top of the walls of the gulley. I see branches of trees up there, rushing past. Perhaps the stream will eventually lead to a tranquil pond, but right now the only way out seems to be to cast my rope at the branches of the trees. I’m not very good at casting rope at tree branches.

The grappling hook actually caught firmly a couple of times, but every time I lost my grip on the rope and fell in the muck.

I managed to scramble back on to the raft those times, but the ordeal left me exhausted and I just lay still for a while and let the water take me where it wanted to. The gulley seems to go on forever, as does my supply of rope and grappling hooks.

Another branch approaches. I cast the rope. The hook scratches at the muddy soil at the top. Puffs of dust rise up from the impact. Grains of clotted sand run down the embankment and splash into the grey-brown water. The hook slips past the branch and plunges downward. I draw the wet and smelly rope back on to the raft.

The above is essentially the news of my life at the moment. At any particular point in time I am either on the raft, in the crappy water, throwing hooks at tree branches, or stuffing about with a rope. It isn’t worthwhile to write about it much because, frankly, the story is quite dull. The raft never changes. The water never changes. The steep incline out of the gulley never changes. The branches I attempt to catch a hold of all look roughly similar, although the trees to which the branches are attached are probably all quite different.

Once I finally get a firm hold of a branch and drag myself out of the gulley, I’ll let you all know what the new view is like.

Trip to Oban

The nice thing about receiving rubbish news was that we had already booked a long weekend getaway to Oban. Or, more specifically, to Loch Melfort, about 17 miles south of Oban.

So we let it go and piled the family, the luggage, and the dog into the car.

Wait, we don’t have a car.

Fortunately it is possible to hire a car in Scotland. Angie finished off the packing while I caught the bus to Falkirk to pick up the rental car. I chose Mitchells Hire Drive, Scotland’s favourite vehicle rentals. Scotland must love low levels of service and product quality.

The next cheapest company was double the price of this bunch, so perhaps I expected too much. Most people probably don’t think they deserve to receive a clean car and full tank of petrol when they pay £40 a day for the privilege of using a Ford Ka. Yeah, it must just be us uppity immigrants. The dirty looks I got when I raised some objections. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of competition nearby, otherwise I would have walked out and tried to rent a vehicle somewhere else.

The beaten-up grubby car acquired, I travelled home and we loaded in all the gang.

Weather was our friend on this trip, and Scotland is a really beautiful place on sunny days.

The drive was beautiful. The place we stayed, Melfort Pier and Harbour, was beautiful. There was a tiny beach and Jethro loved splashing in the water. Bean had her first experience of a beach, and I had the impression that she approved. She seemed to say, “Surely, such holidays are fitting for a dog of my high status, and why have I not been treated to such things previously?”

We travelled a bit around the coast, visiting Oban and taking a boat ride around the seal island. Also got a look at some salmon farms up close.

Other short drives took us to the tiny villages along the lochside. Beautiful little spots like Craobh and Ardfern received our custom and appreciation.

Then we returned, and on the drive back we found a most wonderful spot for lunch. The pictures belong tell you more.

And if these were not enough photos, there is a larger collection available on Picasaweb.

And now for something completely frustrating

The Universe. Really pretty, but it's what's on the inside that counts.

It turns out that the Universe is a bit of a prick.

Just when I thought it had stopped screwing me around, it goes and puts obstacles up in my way. Financial obstacles.

The banks seem to be disinclined to provide me with a loan to finance my journalistic studies this year, for no sensible reason. Thanks Universe!

Instead, the Universe is sending me recruitment agents with new opportunities in environmental work. They are only about one year late. Thanks Universe!

And curious business opportunities too. What the heck, Universe?

Guess I’ll just go with the flow.

Linlithgow has a Palace So We Moved There

Our Palace that needs repairs

They wouldn’t let us into the Palace. Not to live there, at least. There must be some sort of mistake, so we’re living in a semi-detached two-bedroom place until we get it all sorted out.

Mind you, the place we’ve moved to is rather nice. It has double-glazed windows while the Royal Palace has no windows at all. Sure, there is a lot more space at the palace than the house we’re in, but imagine the palace heating bill in the winter?

We moved because the costs of living in Edinburgh were too taxing. Other than the palace we should rightfully occupy, we chose Linlithgow because of its strategic geographic location. It’s about half-way between Edinburgh and Glasgow, along the railway line, increasing the markets in which we can look for employment. Nursery school teacher and telephone call centre human are not our life-long ambitions, so having a broader range of places to look for other work is an important consideration.

Unlike the place we rented in Edinburgh, our new place in Linlithgow didn’t come furnished. Fortunately, second-hand furniture from charity shops (like British Heart Foundation) is super-affordable — and they deliver! Unfortunately, on the day we moved they delivered only half our bed. And not the soft, springy half. The floor that night was not in any way comfortable.

Bean Dog’s emancipation from quarantine coincided beautifully with our move to Linlithgow. A few days after we moved home, it was up to me to fetch Bean from the Milton Quarantine Kennels, in Strathclyde, west of Glasgow. Angie was off at work, so I had to take Jethro with me on the journey, which complicated matters somewhat.

The SPCA appeared to have a No Fur Cutting Policy, and as a result Bean was a rather massive canine ball of fluff. I told Bean this, and Jethro overheard me. He still hasn’t stopped telling people that Bean is “a ball of fluff.”

Bean was, understandably, excited about leaving solitary confinement and getting her first sniff in six months of the outside world. Bean has neither travelled on a bus nor a train, and both means of transport would be required to get her back home. Jethro, although having travelled on buses and trains, had not travelled on them with Bean. He was rather excited about it all too.

Their excitement was my trepidation. I had terrible visions of dogs and children running off in opposite directions, and falling in front of buses, trains, and other heavy machinery, as I scurried desperately after them. Surprisingly everyone was rather well behaved, with one exception. Bean sat quietly panting while every bus passenger embarked and disembarked. That was until a black person stepped on the bus. Then she let loose with her growly-yap-growl-yappity-yap! Another passenger sitting across from us remarked, “Your dog is racist.” I couldn’t really argue with her, but attempted to deflect the implication of my inherent racism with a story about dogs barking at white people in South Africa, when the dog owners were black. If seemed a flimsy defence and I’m not sure it worked.

With Bean living with us again there is a sense of belonging. A sense of place. Although nothing can ever be truly permanent, we feel relatively certain that we’ll be here for a number of years to come. Our stay in Edinburgh felt transient and incomplete. A rented flat we were not allowed to decorate didn’t feel like home. We are living in a home now, and that’s an important step on getting our life back on track.

Having a home gives us a base to operate from. We’ve found Jethro a playgroup to attend and a child-carer to watch over him while we attempt to rekindle our careers. Although “rekindle” may be a poor turn of phrase, considering we already cast our careers into the bonfire of [clever metaphor I’m too lazy to think of], and scattered the ashes to the four winds.

Moving on to some pics of the new place. Enjoy!