thirtyvember

A still, cold morning. Birds quite audible, more so than normal at this pre-dawn time. Whether they sing louder in these calmer conditions or it’s simply easier to hear them, I don’t know.

Thick fog along most of the route up through the Weald alongside the railway.

Captivated, or merely distracted, this morning by stories in the paper about a Somalian meteor that’s been found to contain two or possibly three new mineral. Stopped to wonder what a mineral even is.

(I was as amused as ever to learn that the meteor was ‘discovered’ by Western scientists in the last year or two, but it has been known to locals for generations and is referenced in local folklore.)

I was also interested to read about a study into seasonal and regional occurrences of lightning, particularly as I have noticed a far higher number of lightning strikes this year – though I have to remember that this year is also one in which I’ve moved halfway across the country, and am in a house/position where I am far more aware of the local weather conditions than I ever was in a semi-subterranean duplex flat.

Mostly this morning I’ve found myself appreciating having the paper (or an electronic facsimile thereof) to page through – a paper is finishable in a way a website or social media is not. This is of course something Craig Mod and other have preached for some time – the joy of finishable media. And I’m allowed to, mostly without guilt, skim through the pages, alighting only on those stories and images that catch my eye.

I go through phases of coffee preparation methods, though pour over is the most consistently used, and this week I have brought the bean grinder out of partial retirement to get to work on a vast sack of coffee beans I have purchased while on offer.

I thought I’d got my ratios and weights about right for my pour over coffee, but good god the freshly-ground beans have thrown a spanner in the works and this morning’s coffee has been rocket fuel.

I can see through time, and there are multiple songs playing at once in my head. I have read thousands of words this morning already, and have written at least as many.

I fear I shall be found asleep at my desk by lunchtime.


This has been a collection of vembers. Thank you very much for reading.

twentyninevember

A blank sort of a day, though nothing as bad as the one vember which failed to make the cut, a few weeks ago.

Caught up with an old friend via video chat and I assume we both had our own signs of ageing obscured or eloquently smoothed out by the video chat’s algorithms. We talked about age and distance and communication, and caught up like it was only a few weeks since we last spoke, rather than two years or so. It’s like that.

A road sign has appeared on the pavement next to the park which reads, black text on a yellow background, “Body Worn Cameras in Operation.” It’s in a place where nothing really happens. It’s opposite a run of houses, and although its presence might make sense inside the park, here is is on a dead stretch of pavement and it is mysterious. The full-stop and title case is also unusual, and just makes me wonder about its provenance. What makes it more mysterious is that it fell over the other day, but has been re-erected by someone, weighted down with a sandbag, as is the manner with these things.

It’s not alone. A few weeks earlier, a road near ours was due to be closed for a day due to some sort of maintenance works; it was plastered with official notices and signs, and as the day approached I started to wonder what works were taking place. Meanwhile, on the next parallel road over, a sign appeared which read “ROAD NOT SUITABLE FOR DIVERTED TRAFFIC”. Not suitable for… any diverted traffic? Why?

M and I reasoned that some diverted traffic – buses, or lorries, say – might be too large for a small residential road. But any?

The sign, in a way not dissimilar to the body worn cameras one, had something slightly odd about its formatting which I couldn’t put my finger on. And it, too, was erected and secured in place with a couple of sandbags.

M and I decided it must be a resident of the next road over who didn’t want extra traffic due to the road closure.

But then the most bizarre thing: by the evening of the road’s closure, the signs had all gone, and nothing appeared to have been done to the road – certainly nothing which would necessitate the entire road being closed.

But the ‘no diverted traffic’ sign? Still there. And six weeks or so on, it is STILL there. It sometimes gets knocked down or moved slightly. But it’s still there. It wasn’t collected and removed by whoever took away all the other ‘official’ signs on the closed road. Which it makes me think it can’t have ever been an official road sign. So it’s still there.

The road is, apparently, still not suitable for diverted traffic… I wonder if it ever will be?

twentyeightvember

Woken by, or to, the sound of heavy rain. Fortunately only a brief shower, but last night we went to bed with the weather station reporting that we’d had just shy of 4cm of rain all day, and this morning’s brief spell gave another 4mm. It is possibly seasonally appropriate, but with this summer’s drought still reasonably fresh in our minds it is still striking.

A gloomth just beyond the train window. At home there had been a thin gauze of mist caused mostly by a nearby wood burner, but the sky far above was clear. Here, halfway up the Weald, visibility is restricted to about fifty metres and the only available light is either white, blue, or tinged with the yellow of the odd streetlight.

What little light there is serves only to illuminate the flooded landscape beyond – not quite as widespread as the recent flooding, and clumps of vegetation poke through so it is not as deep as that. But it still makes the low-lying land feel saturated, a wet sponge barely able to tolerate another day of heavy rain.

On the other side of the blogosphere, Mr Reeves has reached Las Vegas and I’ve enjoyed following the build-up to and traversal of a journey which seems exotic to my British self. As usual I’ve enjoyed his mixture of the everyday with the remarkable, and I love getting glimpses of the world through his specific lens.

Relate-able / not relate-able from another recent post of his: “When I woke up this morning, I struggled to remember the state I was in.”

I took receipt of a new computer at work, a replacement for a colleague’s old one. The new one is hilariously small – what I would have previously called a thin client, but it is a fully featured PC in the form factor of an external DVD drive. If it was much smaller it might actually fit inside the 5.25″ expansion bay of the standard tower desktop it was replacing. Astonishing.

Is backstreet back? I doubt it, and hope not, but the unstoppable nostalgia train rattles on, calling at 1999 in the form of Tokyo Vice and & Juliet, both recent productions which reference the Backstreet Boys. I won’t give away the joke in the Tokyo Vice episode, but there was some discussion of the true meaning of the lyrics.

On a related note, and I’ve discussed potential anachronisms in Tokyo Vice here already, but did people say “this is fucking sick!” in 1999? Maybe… And it is a well-travelled American living in Tokyo saying it. But it seems a bit ahead of its time…

twentysevenvember

A recent National Trust promotion which gave away free tickets to their buildings meant that we chose this day for a trip to one of our local ones. Well, we chose this weekend, although yet another train strike on Saturday rather forced our hand and we had to do it on Sunday. It was, alas, the worse day for weather of the two by far, but we tried not to let it put us off, and I’m glad it didn’t.

We dressed and packed for cold, wet weather, and cycled to the train, took our bikes on board, then rode from the station at Etchingham, a tiny and adorable sandstone building. The ride from there was fairly flat, along a decent road surface, 5km or, and with low traffic as we had hoped for a Sunday morning.

I settled into this shortish ride quickly, and found myself saying to M how much I missed cycling. She quite rightly told me to be mindful and enjoy it, rather than focussing on how much I miss it while doing it.

The road was lined with occasionally interesting houses and pockets of woodland, with large gaps revealing the countryside beyond, which to our left dropped away into the valley below, providing a lovely view, though hazy with mist and low cloud owing to the general dampness of the morning.

We passed the sad sight of a roadkill deer – a huge beast with a fine set of antlers. Emotions wavered between the sorrow of the animal’s death and the horrendous experience it must have been for the driver of whatever had hit it. Even the most glancing of blows with a creature of that size would have been a pretty shocking experience, and must have caused some damage.

The road down to Bateman’s, off the main road, was suddenly steep as it took us down into the valley we had seen to our left along the route. A smaller road, though mercifully still well-sealed, with small rivulets of water running down it. As we neared the bottom, the water collected into small channels in the woodland to our left, with masses of brown leaves forced into great piles as they got snagged in the low fences under which the water ran.

We parked up our bikes at the single bike stand in the fair-sized car park – there really was only space for two bikes at Bateman’s, which seems less than adequate. One could use the many wooden fences dotted around the car park, but it is much more reassuring to use something solid and metal.

It was a lovely day to visit Bateman’s, despite the weather. The rain petered out and we were able to explore the house and grounds. A local ‘rock choir’ was putting on a performance in the café as we arrived. M amusingly remarked that just as I headed off to look down a well – an essential duty whenever a well is seen – the choir were singing The First Nöel.

Bateman’s had been Rudyard Kipling’s final home for the first three decades of the 20th century, though parts of the building dated to the 1600s. It is a gorgeous sandstone country house with rambling grounds that mix formality with wild nature, occasionally tamed by structures like a water mill.

The house itself has a large collection of art and interesting objects – I was inevitably drawn to the clocks that we found, particularly as we were told by a knowledgeable volunteer that one, which still works and even strikes the hour on a surprisingly loud bell, actually predates the house by ten years. A stunningly old clockwork object, pretty even when completely inert, still in working order.

On closer inspection, the clock face was home to inscriptions of two skeletons and some Latin text acting as memento mori – constant reminders on every bell ring and movement of the hands of one’s progress towards the end. Large lead weights hung from the clock, and when I was finally able to tear myself away from it, I still felt its presence, knowing that if it’s still hanging there keeping time now, after four hundred years or so, it was damn well going to still be there long after my time is up.

The rest of the house was just as enjoyable a mix of timeless beauty. Rooms lined with books and filled, for ‘tis the season, with elegant peacock-inspired Christmas decorations.

We were occasionally provided with extra information by friendly volunteers – one explained the origin of the phrase ‘put a sock in it’ when describing a gramophone, and another told a story about Kipling’s father, gently phrasing his story so that he was able to tell it without assuming too much or too little prior knowledge from us as visitors.

He was right to assume little to none at all – I know basically nothing about Rudyard Kipling, and I suppose I know little more than I did even now having visited his home of thirty years. The house lacked many signs or information panels – though in fairness the volunteers posted in almost every room could no doubt have filled books with their knowledge of we’d asked them anything.

But sometimes a visit to a National Trust property is just that – a visit to a place. Snowshill in the Cotswolds, the home of Charles Paget Wade and his vast collection, is deliberately retained by the NT not as a museum with signs but as a house with rooms full of stuff. To visit is to simply inhabit that space, and it was the same with Bateman’s, so I very much enjoyed that aspect.

The water mill was an enjoyable extra – entering the building and seeing the mechanism immediately reminded me of visiting a water mill in France when I was in primary school, and another earlier visit to a windmill at some point. Apparently most of what I can remember of school trips in primary school is trips to mills, and that’s fine.

The nearby mill pond – which was, true to its name, as calm as one – was watched over by a very handsome cat, dark brown with pale splodges, as it kept a watchful eye out for prey unseen to us. As we left the grounds we saw it in the distance sat proudly upright in the middle of a field of sheep, a true rural, outdoorsy cat.

So yes, I’m very glad we got out to Bateman’s – it is so reassuring to find these special places, and to be able to time travel once inside them. When visiting they so often feel unique and rare and important, and yet we are so fortunate that they are plentiful, scattered all round the country, just waiting to be explored.

twentysixvember

Despite November clinging on, the recent turn in the weather has helped us realise December, and the festive season, is just around the corner. We thus decided it was time to festoon the house with decorations and to go out and buy a tree.

As usual, M took to this task with gusto, making the place look fantastic and colourful and truly bedecked. I was slower to enter the Christmas spirit, as I always am. But I am truly grateful to have such a cosy, happy place to call home, made even prettier with all the sparkles and colours and warmth provided by decorations and lights and candles.

It is a year to the day since we picked up the keys to this house. It feels as though we have achieved a lot in that year, and it’s quite nice that the period aligns quite neatly with the actual calendar year.

We have decorated and renovated many of the rooms of the house, learning a vast amount in the process, transforming it from what was already a very pleasant, homely home, into our own home, adding our own tastes and touches and possessions to it.

We have also spent this year inhabiting this house, this street, and this town, hopefully bringing our own touches to each of those, while also letting each one also blend into our own being and perception of the world. It’s been a full, enjoyable year. I have loved it and I am ready to commence year two in our new home.

It was also satisfying to move somewhere new in the depths of winter, with an entire year of seasons and weather and local events waiting to be experienced.

Hastings puts on a show whenever it feels like it, and it is rare to get a weekend on which no parade, exhibition or other congregation of people is happening.

It’s a stupid pun I’ve repeated to M until she stops even remotely humouring me, but by golly, Hastings has tings.

And my perception of the weather and the moon and the tides and the sky was very much something I hoped I would get closer to and more in tune with by making this move. I’m glad to say I absolutely have done so.

I’ve been so much more aware of the daily changes in the weather – and it feels as though it has been an historic year in terms of drought and flooding and the very tangible effects of climate change being brought to everyone’s front door.

I’ve also loved getting to understand the cycles of the moon and the sea. It’s like a new language I have learned by hearing whispers of it every now and then, as well as referring to posters, websites, apps and other almanacs which aim to illustrate the comings and goings. Immersion therapy, just as I had hoped.

Having a weather station in place – a generous Christmas gift from M’s parents – has also helped my understanding of the more subtle changes as well. The wind and the rainfall and the humidity.

It turns out this is a rather damp place, this green valley set among the hills of a south coast seaside town.