Monday, 30 June 2008

As soon as I saw it ...

... I knew.

Just before two o'clock this afternoon, as I was driving out to the local Primary School to hear some children read, I looked at the sky. As soon as I saw the cloud formation I knew what it was. Having been a Thunderstorm Observer for TORRO for the last 20 years (I no longer am), I have learnt a lot about clouds, and I knew this one looked different. However by the time I stopped the car and got out the camera, it had changed much of its shape.

The visible bulge below the storm cloud had been much more pronounced, and more tail-like, and if I had been in Tornado Alley in the USA, warning bells would have rung. As it was, the cloud's "tail" was dissipating, and within a few more minutes it had gone.

On the local Weather News tonight there was a photograph taken at Diss, not that far away, of a funnel cloud that had appeard there this afternoon. It was clearly the same formation, though all I saw was the end of it. If it had developed further, and touched down, it would have been a small tornado.

Twenty minutes later, as I was in the School and the cloud passed overhead, the heavens opened, and we had a torrential downpour.

This evening there were more good cloud formations, and I snapped this one as I went out for my evening Church Council meeting.

And on the table tonight ...

Since last night's menu was appreciated, tonight we have pasta and meatballs in tomato and herb sauce, topped with grated cheese. The meatballs came from IKEA so they were the genuine Swedish article! The sauce was made from tinned chopped tomatoes and a small tin of tomato puree, a large pinch of Herbs de Provence, and a dash of Cahors.

And of course I had to pour myself a glass as well.

Followed (after a pause) by a helping of Crema di Marscapone ice-cream.


And on the Menu tonight ...

At the close of a beautiful summer's day, there's chicken goujons marinaded in lemon juice and home grown mint, lightly fried with chopped green pepper, and finished with a creme fraiche sauce, served with boiled new potatoes and mint, and sliced carrots. Washed down with a glass (or two) of the black wine of Aquitaine, a 2004 Cahors. Followed by Hertfordshire strawberries and cream, and a double black espresso coffee, with cream yet again. Just as well my cholesterol level is normal!


This afternoon I attempted to drive down into Bungay, a distance of 3 miles from The Rectory to the outskirts. Taking my usual route, I noticed that there were speed advisory signs indicating road re-surfacing, and the lack of road markings, but nothing to say that the road was impassable.

Two and a half miles further down, and the road was completely blocked with lorries carrying out the aforesaid resurfacing. I slowed to a halt in front of them and attempted to speak to the workman who approached the car. He informed me that the road was blocked and that I would have to turn around. As I tried to inform him of the lack of any signs saying this he interrupted me and said there was a sign at the junction. I again tried to tell him there was no sign, but was once more interrupted by him saying that he had been there himself and put the the sign out. I asked him to let me finish what I was trying to tell him, and then informed him that the only sign about possible "delays" on the road was a hundred or so yards back, and at a small crossroads. I then said that this was inadequate since both roads at that junction were dead-ends and led only to farms. The sign had to be placed at the T-juntion two and a half miles back, to prevent cars and lorries from driving all the way along before finding that the way was blocked. I suggested that a "Road Closed" sign would be more apt, but he blankly said that they were "not allowed to close roads," a statement I frankly find rather strange since the Highways Department continually close roads all over the County for repairs.

No "Roadworks" sign visible anywhere at the junction. The sign with its back to the camera says "No Road Markings", which is also incorrect, as the markings are still on the road.

I drove home and telephoned Suffolk County Council and left my comments for the Highways department, complete with OS Grid reference of the T-junction. By the amount of traffic I passed on my secondary route just now as I came back from Bungay, and the lorries now going past my home, I suspect that the sign has been moved. I shall walk up the road later and check.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Another lethal device

Many years ago I had dealings with another temperamental Ascot water heater. This one was in the rear kitchen of a small Independant Off-licence where I used to work in Brighton. The kitchen was a small narrow space, often containing numerous boxes of wine, as well as packaging, advertising boards, ullage and the like. It had a small sink at the near end, right by the door. The hot water was provided by one of those dreaded Ascots, and this one was more temperamental than most. When it was turned on, the gas would hiss alarmingly for a few seconds before ignition took place, and the longer the gas hissed, the greater the bang when it finally caught.

One morning, when I was working with A, he went out the back to wash his hands after taking the empties down to the cellar and sorting them, as I was out in the shop. I heard him turn on the Ascot and I waited for the bang. There was a long pause, and then a cry of "Oh Bugger!" followed by an almighty explosion and a clattering of metal. Trying not to laugh too much, I edged my way towards the door. A was standing there. looking slightly shell-shocked. The ignition had been so long delayed that when it happened there had been a large amount of gas in the flame chamber, and the resulting explosion had blasted the metal lid off the unit and sent it flying across the kitchen. Needless to say, for some weeks after, whenever we needed to use that water heater, we would turn it on and beat a hasty retreat either back into the shop, or to the other end of the kitchen and the toilet.

Thinking about it, explosions were not uncommon in that shop. One day, when A and I were again working, we had just re-stocked the shelves that held the litre bottles of fizzy soft drinks, mostly made by the R. Whites ("I'm a secret lemonade drinker") Company. We were both behind the shop counter when there were a couple of loud bangs and lots of breaking glass. Two bottles of lemonade had exploded and sent shards of glass and a couple of litres of sticky sugary liquid over the shelves and surrounding area. It took us a long time to clear up, and we eyed those bottles with suspicion every time we had to bring more out into the shop. It could have been very nasty.

But not as nasty as when the owner and three of us who worked there were enjoying a Chinese take-away in the back of the shop after we had closed for the night. Suddenly there was a sound of running water, and we looked up to see a drunken man peeing through the letter box in the shop door onto the mat below. The owner, M, was not someone to be tangled with when she got angry, and she flew out of the shop, chasing him up the road and calling him all sorts of names, finally catching him at the bus-stop, throwing his own take-away into the road, and calling him a "dirty b*****d!".

I rather enjoyed my 11 years working in Munnerys Wine Stores.

This was the card I was given when I left in 1982 to start my theological training, signed inside by all the "staff" and lots of regular customers - even by the lads who went on to become "Peter & the Test-Tube Babies" who used to come in to buy Merrydown cider!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Controlled explosions

In answer to the query on the previous post, this is the best image I could find of an Ascot water heater with a swivel pipe. However, the one in my flat was somewhat less modern than this, and would rattle dramatically when it was fired up. If I turned the water pipe to the right it filled either the washing-up bowl or the shallow china sink. If I turned it to the left, and remembered to lift the worktop, it filled the bath. On wash-days, I had to angle it just right to fill the single-tub washing machine that I stood next to the bath. That was when washing clothes was a morning's work - fill the single tub, let it heat up, then put in the first load and switch on. Turn off after 5 minutes, disentangle the clothes, turn it on again. Then the sopping wet clothes had to be lifted out with tongs and flung into the bath which I had filled with cold water, for a rinse. Then I had a small spin dryer that I had to be careful with, for if I knocked the bowl under its drainage spout I could flood the kitchen floor! Oh, the deep joy when I upgraded to a twin tub with its own built-in spinner! Mind you, I still had to rinse out the tubs and remove the fluff from the filters! And if the clothes weren't loaded evenly in the spinner, the machine would thunder wildly across the floor!

Mine wasn't gold like this one, but the layout is the same, even to the rubber ring that was put into the top of the spinner to stop the clothes from getting entangled in the machinery.

The tumble dryer that completed my utility collection only died a couple of years ago.

It's all so easy now.

A busy week

The last week has been somewhat hectic, the main event being helping a young lad who has been a resident house guest for the last seven and a half years move out to his own flat in Norwich. This has entailed numerous drives to and from the city, cars packed with boxes and cases and bags and furniture and cds and dvds and clothes and bike and toolkit and bedding and towels and ....

He has been gone a week now, and it has taken me three days to get his old room to the state where it can once again be used as a spare room. He still has a wardrobe and a chest of drawers full of clothing, and a stack of boxes and bags "in store" here, and I don't mind that.

The flat he has moved into is really very nice. Close to his work, in a quiet road, and within minutes of the city centre, he has the whole of Norwich at his feet. I'm quite envious of the world that has opened up for him after all the years spent out here in the countryside where life is much more slow and relaxed. This has not been a good environment for someone who should be spreading his wings and learning from and with his peers.

It has made me reflect on my first flat in Brighton. I was teaching at the time, and still living at home, when my father announced to me over the tea table, "I've found you a flat. We'll go and look at it this evening." It was just down the road and owned by my Godfather, and within a couple of weeks I was in. On the top floor of a terraced house, it consisted of a sitting room, kitchen/bathroom, bedroom, and a separate toilet. Being at the top, the stairwell was virtually "private", and I used it as an extension to my living space as the flat was really in two parts, with two doors off the landing, one to the the sitting room and kitchen, and the other to the bedroom and toilet.

The only heating was a small gas fire in the front room, and in the kitchen the bath was under the lift-up worktop. Hot water came from an Ascot with a swivel pipe, and there was a small gas stove and a gas fridge - a good old "Thermocold" which ran really well. If I was cold whilst taking a bath, I would reach behind me and turn on the gas stove, which warmed the room quite well. There was a sink in the bedroom, but only with cold water. Single-glazed, there was often ice on the windows in winter, but during the summer I could get a cool breeze blowing through the flat from front to back. It also had great views, over rough hillside behind, and over the playing field of Brighton College in front.

What really annoys me is that I don't have a single photograph of the inside of the place. I still occasionally dream about it - I think that the first home of your own digs itself deep into your subconcious, so that you never forget it. In some ways the flat in Norwich reminds me of that Brighton home where I began to become my own person, and my envy of it has something to do with the loss of that freshness and excitement of unknown horizons.

In this photo, lifted from the net, my flat was the top floor of the building on the extreme right - No.5. What you can see is the kitchen window, but it was the same layout as the one in the middle which is No.7. With the flat roof of the bay windows beneath my own sitting room window, I used to sit astride the window-sill, one leg still inside to stop me falling out, and enjoy the sunshine and air. No worries about UV rays then. It was a much simpler life - though it didn't really seem so at the time.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

A hot summer's afternoon

It was hot in Sussex yesterday, and the afternoon bbq a great success, with mountains of food - salads, sausages, kebabs, pork steaks, banoffee pie, pavlova, cheese - a veritable feast for the 7 of us. Liquid libations were also flowing. Entertainment was provided by several games of "Jenga", and we broke up in the early evening after a good time. It would have been better if my hay fever had not swept in so that I was sneezing violently at various intervals throughout, but the forecast had warned us that the grass seed pollen levels would be high, and they weren't wrong.

A straightforward drive back to Suffolk today - still hot but cloudy, and I made good time, with no delays on the M25 or the Dartford crossing.

P.S. No - that's not my chest!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Prayer to St Martha

When I did my long-distance walk through France in the early '90's (1990's, not 1890's!) I began to follow the medieval practice of asking the intercession of St Martha for a good Inn for the night. Leaving aside the whole theological debate about saints as intermediaries, it seemed that the prayer was always answered, and I was led to numerous pleasant hostelries for the night.

I have just driven down to the south-coast for a meeting tomorrow with friends with whom I used to work in a small off-licence in Brighton through the 70's. I had missed lunch, and so I was looking for a place to eat on the journey down. Having crossed the Thames on the Dartford bridge, I headed down through Tunbridge Wells, and fleetingly wondered about stopping at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet on the exit from the town, but instead decided to drive past that emporium of grease and uttered my prayer to St. Martha for a good Inn where I might find a repast that would satisfy.

Just north of Lewes the sign for the Old Ship caught my eye, and its board advertising food until 9.30 p.m. I swung into its car park, and a short while later was enjoying roast lamb and veg, followed by home-made banoffee pie and cream. Washed down with a glass of apple and blueberry, it was a welcome break in the journey, and very definitely a "good Inn".

If you ever pass that way, I recommend it.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Three good Fridays

A fortnight ago, Friday was the day friends arrived to spend the weekend, and we played croquet and numerous hands of Canasta.

Last Friday was the day I met the Dalai Lama, and I now have copies of the offical photographs. This is a poor quality image lifted from the photographer's website. The print and enlargement I bought are much better.

Today, I attended a Confirmation service at St. Felix School in Southwold, to see a young lad who lives in one of the villages of this Benefice have hands laid on him by the Bishop of Dunwich. It was really enjoyable service, and the school choir was brilliant. They sang with real confidence and expression, and it was a joy to hear.

And even though the weather today has been atrociously wet, and there are patches of flooding on the local roads, today and the last two Fridays have been "high days". In the fine evening sunlight yesterday, as I got back into my car after the Evening office at one of the nearby villages, the light revealed why this part of Suffolk is so beautiful.