Posts Tagged ‘wind’

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.

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Grey seas in Dunbar

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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?

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

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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.

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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?

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Light bulb packaging

 

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Six little terns, wintry St Abbs harbour and green shoots

December 16, 2015

I’m reading the new Poetry Book Society ChoiceLes Murray‘s Waiting for the Past. Murray’s poems are dense with images and he has the poet’s knack of reducing into a few words what the rest of us would need a paragraph to explain. One of the early poems in the book is entitled Dynamic Rest:

Six little terns

feet gripping sand

on a windy beach

 

six more just above

white with opened wings

busy exchange of feet

 

reaching down lifting off

terns rising up through terms

all quivering parallel

 

drift ahead and settle

bracing their eyes

against the brunt of wind

So we have four short verses and like all the poems in this book, you need to read and re-read to gain an insight into the depth of what the poems is about and what happens in the poem. The title is an oxymoron in that dynamic and rest appear to be contradictory. My English teacher at school, Mrs McKie, would be impressed that I remembered the term oxymoron. The terns are “resting” on the beach and in the air, and in the last verse, they “settle”. Murray imagines the birds – I assume that you cannot see birds “bracing their eyes” – perhaps narrowing their eyes in the face of a strong (and cold?) wind. The last phrase is “the brunt of wind” i.e. not the brunt of the wind, suggesting a forceful and unpleasant wind for the birds. The wind also affects the birds on the ground as their feet have to grip the sand. So the poem is dynamic, with “terns rising up through terns” and there is constant movement in this attempt at rest. Murray’s white terns are common in Australia and have striking blue/black beaks and black eyes.

White tern (Public domain photo from http://www.ozanimals.com/Bird/White-Tern/Gygis/alba.html)

White tern (Public domain photo from http://www.ozanimals.com/Bird/White-Tern/Gygis/alba.html)

We drove down to St Abbs Head on Sunday on a cold and damp winter’s day. It was grey all day and dark in the morning until 8am and dark again at 4pm. Despite this, we were well rugged up for a short walk, there was still plenty to see. The harbour, which still contains the now defunct lifeboat station, has fewer boats, with some on the shore for maintenance (see photos). The sea, of course, never stops and the waves were gently caressing the sea walls – the wind was light and south westerly, so no dramatic coastal scene on Sunday, but the sea still looked cold. There were some people about but you felt an absence – of tourists, divers and fishermen that throng the harbour in the summer.

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

Before walking to the harbour, we parked at the Nature Centre and visited the excellent Number Four Gallery. On the way to the gallery, I remarked that it would not be long until we saw snowdrops here. Looking down at the leaf strewn ground, there was no sign of growth, but when I pushed back some leaves, the green shoots of the snowdrops were well above the ground – see photo. I pushed the leaves back over the stems for protection. I remembered the final lines of Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind – “O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”. Apparently not, as the snowdrop growth looked strong and healthy and the green provided a good contrast to the ever-fading leaves from the trees, although some ivy leaves were still green.

Emerging snowdrops at St Abbs Head

Emerging snowdrops at St Abbs Head

Carol Barrett, time travel and enjoy the daffodils while you can

March 22, 2014

A visit to the excellent SOC Donald Watson Gallery in Aberlady to see a stunning exhibition of paintings by Carol Barrett, entitled Under An African Sky. The exhibition features Carol’s paintings from trips to Botswana and to Tanzania. There’s a wide variety of birds and animals depicted in the exhibition and it’s only when you consider the amount of detail in many of the paintings e.g. birds such as the Crowned Crane or any of the cheetah paintings, that you realise how skilled and imaginative this artist is. I emailed Carol and she kindly sent me photos of what I thought were the two standout paintings in the exhibition and they are posted below. The first is a large painting of 3 elephants and it appears to be an affectionate family portrait, to be enjoyed by all. What I also liked about it was the abstract quality of parts of the painting e.g. the lines on the elephants’ trunks. The second painting is an extraordinary portrait of an ageing lion, and you can almost see the years of experience in his eyes. There’s also, for me, a melancholy aspect, as if the lion might be bemoaning that his best days are in the past, although there is still menace in his eyes. The detail and the delicate background in this painting are of the highest quality and I returned to the painting several times. If you are in the area, it’s a must see.

Tender Giants by Carol Barrett

Tender Giants by Carol Barrett

Fading Monarch by Carol Barrett

Fading Monarch by Carol Barrett

This week, I finished my free online Philosophy course presented by a range of expert lecturers from Edinburgh University. The final week was on time travel and it focussed not on the possibility of time travel but on the logic of time travel. Dr Alasdair Richmond posed a number of intriguing questions about the logic of time travel e.g. could you go back in history and kill Hitler before he came to power? Given that the history of the world since the 1930s has happened and is believably recorded by almost everyone, it would not be logical to argue that this could be done. However, it might be logical to suggest that a time traveller could go back and see Hitler before he came to power, as long as history was not changed. A further logical possibility – however unlikely – is that there could be multiple worlds I.e. not just our own, and that, in another world, Hitler might well have been killed and not come to power. Now, all this could be dismissed as navel gazing but what it does do, is make you think carefully about what you are listening to, what you read and what sense you make of all this.

The daffodils are out in people’s gardens, in forests and in municipal displays at roadsides and roundabouts, and they are a delight to the eye. However, this week we have had very strong winds which have tested the daffodils’ strength severely and there have been many casualties, such as the ones in the photo below, taken at the back of my house. So we have to enjoy the daffodils while we can. At least the daffodils are stronger than the crocuses shown in the previous post, all of which were blasted into oblivion by the wind.

Blasted daffodils

Blasted daffodils

 

Autumn colours, crosswords and cycling against the wind

November 20, 2013

We were on our way to Smeaton Gardens last week and parked the car near the entrance and walked up the avenue. Photos 1 and 2 show the range of colours on the trees which we passed on the drive way up to the garden centre. When you pass the cattle crossing, there is an intriguing sign which tells you that “Sheep have no sense” and that motorists should be aware and that dog walkers should keep their mutts on a lead. The sheep have the freedom of the grassy areas which also contain jumps for horses. There is something very pleasurable about walking alongside autumnal trees and this pleasure is heightened by the uniqueness of the moment – leaves only fall off a tree once – as well as the ephemeral nature of this experience – if you return next week, there may be no leaves left on the trees. You know that the trees have had their annual few days of glory – their own fashion show in which you, the watcher and admirer – walk the catwalk down the middle of this glorious exhibition. Photo 3 shows the landscape across the sun hit trees towards the Lammermuir Hills in the background. Photo 4 shows the future – spring wheat coming through in resplendent green and in neat lines, with the shadow of a big tree.

Each day, I try to complete the cryptic crossword in The Guardian. On most days, I fail to complete it although, having devoted more time to it since I retired, I usually get most of it done. However, particularly on Fridays, when it can be most difficult, I often struggle and on occasion e.g. if Araucaria is the setter, I go through the crossword for the first time and get no answers at all. Now, you can look up the answers on the Guardian website but I never do this – I wait until the next day. There was a great article in last week’s Guardian Review on crosswords as it’s 100 years since the first ones appeared. The article confirms that to do cryptic crosswords well, you need to do them often, as you pick up regular clues as to what the answer might be or how to work out the answer. Some answers are within the clue itself e.g “Regular church goer owns tree” (I made this one up) – the answer is LARCH i.e. “owns” means contains and Larch comes from the last 3 letters of Regular and the 1st 2 of church. Over the years you pick up words meaning contains. My own favourite from the article is “Number of people in a theatre” and the answer is ANAESTHETIST – look again at the word number or better still, the first 4 letters numb and you get the answer. Very clever stuff.

On Saturday, I was out cycling in a fierce wind – 18mph and gusting to 28mph. This is very hard work and you pedal and pedal but don’t seem to get very far even if the road is flat. So this needs some thinking about. My strategy is to imagine that I’m actually going up a steep hill, so slow progress is expected but the effort is doing you good. I cycled against the  wind for 16 miles (25k) and was mightily relieved to turn the corner in the knowledge that, on the way home, the wind would be on my back and that I could shoot along the road at 25mph (40kph) on some even stretches. This is your reward for your earlier struggle. It’s just that it goes past very quickly, as opposed to the outward journey which at some points seems endless.

Autumnal avenue

Autumnal avenue

Autumnal avenue

Autumnal avenue

Autumnal vista

Autumnal vista

Spring wheat coming through

Spring wheat coming through