Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Deputy weatherman’s deputy and rain on flowers

July 12, 2017

My pal Kenny Stanton reads the weather station at Winterfield in Dunbar every day and sends his results off to the Met Office. He was on holiday recently and his deputy Ronnie took over. Then Ronnie was on holiday and I took over and became the Deputy Weatherman’s Deputy, something that not many people achieve in their lives, and surely ranks alongside positions such as Vice President of the USA or Steve McQueen’s stuntman in The Great Escape. It is an intriguing post to hold, particularly in relation to the use of language. The first task is to enter the weather station (photo below). For security, the station is fenced in with iron railings, so you go in as a prison warden with your keys jangling, in the style of Mr Mackay (video).


Dunbar Weather Station (Click to enlarge)

Once inside, you open the Stevenson Screen   which is not a screen but a white, wooden, slatted box, which could be mistaken for a beehive, seen on the left of the photo above. It is called after the Edinburgh born engineer Sir Thomas Stevenson, the father of the author Robert Louis Stevenson i.e. the father had the novel idea first. Inside, the Stevenson Screen looks like this.


Thermometers inside the Stevenson Screen

My instructions were to record the air huidity by looking at the left hand vertical thermometer and this is recorded not as air temperature but as dry bulb as the thermometer is “not affected by the moisture of the air”. The right hand vertical thermometer reading is recorded as wet bulb. “By combining the dry bulb and wet bulb temperature in a psychrometric chart or Mollier diagram the state of the humid air can be determined”. Are you still with me? So, dry and wet bulbs are not planted in the autumn and dug up in the spring, they record humidity. Wouldn’t it be good if you had something similar for humans e.g. bright bulb and dull bulb which recorded stupidity? You could do this surreptitiously and avoid people with high dull bulb reading.

There are many other readings but, at the risk of losing you, I will focus only on the sunshine element. The Met Office state that “A glass sphere focuses the sun’s direct radiation on a graduated card and the length of the burn trace on the card corresponds to the duration of sunshine”. The photo below shows the Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder and if you’re feeling nerdy about sunshine recorders, check this out. My task was to replace the card which showed the previous day’s sunshine, with a new one.


Sunshine recorder in Dunbar weather station

The next photo shows the distorted view of part of the weather station through the glass orb and you get a weird sensation looking through the orb, which is 10 feet above ground.


Looking down the sunshine recorder at Dunbar weather station

The weather has inspired song writers and poets for many years. The Beatles (video) sang ” When the rain comes they run and hide their heads/  They might as well be dead … When the sun shines they slip into the shade/ And sip their lemonade..”. The first song heard on Radio 1 was “Flowers in the Rain” (video) by The Move. The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova wrote “Sunshine has filled the room/ with clear golden specks of dust”. In An Autumn Rain Scene, Thomas Hardy wrote “There trudges one to a merry-making/ With sturdy swing,/ On whom the rain comes down”.

We’ve had a lot of rain here recently, with heavy skies often moved along very slowly by a distinctly cool north easterly wind. One joyful aftermath of the rain is in the garden where raindrops on the flowers and leaves are a sight for sore eyes. I took these photos yesterday, to capture the ephemeral nature of the rain. An hour later, the raindrops had gone, extinguished by the sun. It’s a short existence if you’re a raindrop.


Raindrops on a gladiolus leaf


Raindrop on flowers and leaves


Raindrops on begonia flower





Contrasting seas and a bulb that might “see me oot”

March 10, 2017

I’m very lucky not only to  be living by the sea but having an uninterrupted view of the sea from my back door. Each morning when I open the blinds in our conservatory, I see something different and, of course, unique. The tide will be fully in or fully out, but more usually at some stage in between. The uniqueness of the sea – that individual wave will never been seen again, although its almost identical siblings will – and the sky – those clouds will never be seen again and if it’s a clear blue sky, that shade of blue will never be exactly reproduced. It always looks similar but it’s never the same. There are rocks that emerge on the outgoing tide and they attract a variety of birds, which I view through my scope. This morning, there was a small group of dunlin (includes video). These are energetic little birds (see video) and pitter-patter amongst the rock pools, constantly feeding. I also see groups of maybe 20 dunlin take off and fly around. As you watch them they turn and flash their white bellies. It’s like a magic trick as first you see birds flying, then you see an aeronautic display of little white shapes. I hadn’t realised – until I did a search on a well known search engine – that you can see murmurations of dunlin, as in this spectacular video.

What I see out of my window depends, of course on the weather and last week, on consecutive days, I had contrasting views of the sea. On one day, as in the photos below, the sea was universally grey, apart from the white waves, and the rain battered the balustrade. I took the photos in a slight lull, when the rain had eased off a touch. For most of the morning, the rain spat angrily at the sea, the land and our house. It was driven on by its pal the wind, which blew off the tops of the waves. So going for walk was not an option. However, there’s a certain pleasure to be had from watching the wind and rain from the calm interior of your house. I found it interesting when I lived for a while in Australia, that people there would still have corrugated roofs on very expensive houses, as they liked the sound of the rain on the roof.


Grey seas in Dunbar


Grey seas and sky in Dunbar

The next day, the outlook was completely transformed. The storm had worn itself out, the rain had gone elsewhere and the wind – an angry old man yesterday – was now a twenty-something breeze, bringing warmth and calm. In the photos below, the white waves really are white against the blue sea and there’s a lightness about the sky, so different from yesterday’s heavy and almost indistinguishable clouds. I find it interesting that we would mostly see the 2nd photos as containing more beauty than the first two. Is that because we are conditioned to see light as more beautiful than dark?


Spring pots on the decking, blue sea and sky at my back door


Blue skies and blue sea in Dunbar

Last week, we had to replace the bulb in our bathroom and my wife returned with a new bulb. We have a solatube light fitting, which brings in natural light during the day from the roof and is fitted with an electric light for night time. The light – photo below taken in daylight – looks as if it has 4 bulbs but it has only 1.


Solatube light source

When I got the new bulb, I looked at the packaging (below) and I noticed 2 things. Firstly, not only does it use 85% less energy and you save lots of money BUT it claims that it will last 23 years! There’s a Scottish expression which people use, usually in a jocular fashion, addressed to someone of a certain age – “Aye, it’ll see ye oot” (will see you out). This means that a person who has bought e.g. new furniture may die before the furniture is replaced. Now, I’m hoping that I will still be here in 23 years time, although as a Scottish male, certain statistics may be against me i.e. it might “see me oot”. The second thing I noticed was the wording at the bottom right of the photo below i.e. that the bulb will “deliver a colour matching the warm and comforting feel of an older incandescent lamp”. It was the word incandescent that intrigued me, as I’d never heard of an “incandescent lamp”. Looking it up, I discovered the history of such lights which  were a real breakthrough in their time. The original incandescent lamps were, according to this website ” Not energy efficient (90% of energy goes to heat, 10% makes visible light”. So now I know. I knew what incandescent meant, in terms of someone being, for example, in an incandescent rage, meaning that they were furious. By coincidence, reading this morning’s Guardian Sport, one article begins “Jose Mourinho was left incandescent after a UEFA official appeared to laugh off his concern…” This of course made me think about what an incandescent lamp might be like. A lamp so mistreated by its owners that it refuses to light up except when they leave the room and go to bed? A jealous lamp, following the arrival of a new lamp in the room, switching itself off and on constantly? Okay, I know that a lamp is an inanimate object but, can you prove that your lamps don’t light up when you’re not there?


Light bulb packaging


Eyemouth walk, oral history and inside tulips

May 3, 2014

A walk around the town of Eyemouth last weekend proved to be interesting. Eyemouth is a historic town 23 miles (37K) from Dunbar and only 5 miles (8.1K) from the border between England and Scotland. It is still a fishing town with some large boats and fishing in the town goes back more than 800 years. Some of this history is on show at the Eyemouth Maritime Centre which is situated at the harbour’s edge. The Centre also records details of the widespread smuggling that went on in the 19th century to avoid taxation on basic items such as salt, but also spirits such as brandy and gin, and more luxurious goods such as lace. It’s a very well designed museum. Our walk took us to the far side of the harbour, where we passed (1st photo) the steam powered drag boat Bertha which may have been designed by the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, although this appears to be disputed. The 2nd photo shows a picture postcard view of the harbour, although postcard producers would probably have waited until the D R Collin lorry had departed. At the far end of the harbour is Gunsgreen House, an impressive building originally built by a smuggler and now a museum. Away from the harbour, you come across the statue of Willie Spears (see photo 3) a fishermen’s leader at the time of the great disaster of 1889 when 189 men from Eyemouth and surrounding towns and villages, were lost at sea in a huge storm. Eyemouth is perhaps not as visually attractive as other fishing towns on the south east of Scotland but it’s well worth a visit.

Steam dragboat Bertha

Steam dragboat Bertha

Eyemouth harbour

Eyemouth harbour

Willie Spears

Willie Spears

When I retired 2 years ago, one of my aims was to do some local history about my home town of Dunbar, and two years later, I’ve started. My intention is to research shops and shopping in Dunbar in 1950. The research project will firstly involve using a number of secondary sources such as newspapers, council minutes, organisational records and photos from the local history museum. I will also be aiming to interview people who lived in Dunbar in 1950 and my initial plan is to interview people over 80, who would be 15/16 in 1950. As part of the background reading, I’ve been looking into oral history in order to examine definitions, techniques and interpretations. Writers such as Paul Thompson state that oral history is not new, as much history was handed down in stories told by the older members of early societies. Modern oral history takes the form of recording the narratives of people who lived through historical events or periods, and it is only in recent times that people other than members of the ruling elite have had the opportunity to give their version of events. So there is value in older people’s own stories, whether they were e.g. farm workers or farm owners. I hope to interview a cross section of Dunbar society in 1950 in order to get a range of views on what happened e.g. when people went shopping. My research background is very helpful in organising such a project but I’m learning new perspectives by reading the views of oral history practitioners and academics.

Over the past 3 weeks in Dunbar, we’ve had an east wind, very cold at times but fairly light. Some days, the sea at the back of our house has disappeared with the incoming haar (sea mist) and there has been a ubiquitous greyness. I would say that every cloud has a silver lining, except on most days, there were no clouds to be seen, just one long uninterrupted grey sky. However, one silver lining is that the tulips have lasted much longer this year, as often they are blown apart in strong westerly winds. This gave me an opportunity to do some close up photography on the tulips and the following 3 photographs show how the insides of the flowers can take on an abstract quality, as if some other form of life was growing inside the tulip.

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip