Seriously, would you want them at your wedding?
(For another slant on the Royal Wedding see here)
Seriously, would you want them at your wedding?
(For another slant on the Royal Wedding see here)
If this is their Advanced Fibreglass Technology, I wonder what the ordinary stuff is like. My wife was only pruning a small branch, and she is nowhere near as strong as Lady Beryl Streeb-Greebling who, as you may know, could break a swan’s wing with a blow of her nose.
After hinting at it a few days ago, I thought I’d better write about this before I forget. Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB), wanted to put the new Moneypoint Power Station into the hillside to make it less obtrusive (did they succeed? I think the chimneys may give it away). To do this the contractors needed to excavate a massive amount of rock. They also needed nice clean-cut sides to the excavation (it was to be like a quarry), and to get those they had to do pre-split blasting, a line of deep drillholes charged with exactly the right amount of a certain kind of explosive, designed to crack the rock suddenly rather than produce tons of gas. The explosives arrived with an impressive escort of armed Irish police (it was the early 1980s). There were about 100 holes, and the Garda stood around for about four hours until all the explosive was in the ground. The stuff that arrived wasn’t the kind of explosive I’d recommended, but after all the hassle of getting it there we had little choice but to go ahead.
We retired to a safe distance (as it used to say on fireworks), the shotfirer carrying his blasting machine and trailing a cable. Safe distance for us meant over a small hill behind the site, as far as we could go before we were stopped by a barbed wire fence. The shotfirer sounded his airhorn, wound the handle on his box and pressed the button. There was a roar and the sky filled with clods of earth, chunks of rock and pieces of turf as all the energy seemed to go skywards rather than into the ground. It shouldn’t have done that, and it looked rather like the photos you see of volcanoes erupting in Iceland, with all the smoke and debris but without the molten lava. Our estimate of how far away to stand was about right, as the largest of the rocks and clods landed some way off. What we hadn’t allowed for was the effect the explosion would have on the herd of cows grazing in the same field, around the hill but safety away from flying debris. Were they unhappy? They came around the hill the way buffalo stampede on the prairie, about fifty of them all heading our way. The barbed wire fence no longer seemed such an impediment to us. It’s amazing how quickly you can move and how high you can vault if you really try.
I learned later that while they were charging the holes with explosives they found there was going to be a lot left over. They couldn’t return it to Dublin because they would need the police escort and also the armoured van, and that had driven away. No brownie points for guessing where they put all the surplus explosive – down the holes.
I was in Starbucks with the FYO and made the mistake of saying he could have what he liked as a cake, even lifting him up so he could see. What I hadn’t noticed were things-on-sticks that resemble lollies but are actually lumps of marshmallow dipped in chocolate. I kept my word. After eating his sandwiches he set to work on the lolly thing, eating down one side the way beavers gnaw logs. Eventually I could see the whole stick. ‘Why not eat it around the other side?’ I said. ‘That way the rest of it won’t fall off.’ He nods, and off he goes, round to the other side of the table.
Serves me right for not being specific.
A great royal wedding most charming to see,
Will take place in London and fill hearts with glee;
The good folk of Britain will remember the day
When Mr Michael Middleton gives his daughter away.
Those with invitations dare not be late,
For the wedding of William to Catherine, who is ofttimes called Kate
There will be some in smart carriages, and others will hike,
And Mayor Boris from the Mansion House will come on his bike.
Number twenty Dean’s Yard is the address of the Abbey,
It will be decked out in splendour and will not look shabby;
Westminster Abbey is the place to be seen,
With the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty the Queen.
At the castle in Windsor they will polish the carriage,
That will transport the royal couple to be joined together in marriage,
Fine horses of the cavalry lead the way to hallowed ground,
Which could be gazed upon by Churchill if they turned him around.
The State occasion will be a spectacle to behold,
A great day in London when red carpets are unrolled;
Crowds will assemble for a marriage made in heaven,
On the twenty-ninth of April, two-thousand and eleven.
(Sincere apologies to William Topaz McGonagall)
I have just read that a power station site I worked on in Ireland in the early 1980s is getting an environmental retrofit. Retrofit? It only seems like yesterday that I was flying into Shannon Airport, hiring a car and driving the forty miles to Kilrush. The station was to be built on rock, and the firm I worked for was doing the ground investigations for the foundations.
Though I visited the site every few weeks, I can’t remember much about the project (except an incident involving the Irish police, explosives and cows). What I remember more than the technical stuff is the hotel I was booked into each time I went there. At least Basil Fawlty took an interest in the day-to-day running of his hotel, whereas the staff at this Kilrush place seemed to stumble along completely unsupervised. My colleague, a civil engineer, was given a bedroom with a window whose pane of glass had been cut half an inch too short. The window-width gap between the frame and the pane had been packed with tightly folded tissues, presumably not by the staff but by a previous occupant. Kilrush is close to the estuary of the River Shannon and the winds there can be awesome, straight off the North Atlantic. During the night my colleague woke when a gale got up and the tissues blew out. It wasn’t only the wind that got in. He told me next morning that he swung out of bed and placed his feet on a soaking wet rug. ‘It’s for the ventilation, Sor,’ was, in his opinion, an inadequate explanation.
The hotel was full, about twenty people. They were all eating breakfast in the dining room when a guest at one of the tables complained to the waitress about his meal. The argument that followed was straight out of Faulty, with neither party giving way. The waitress stomped off and didn’t come back. The guests waited for a good ten minutes before one of them got up and went to find out what had happened to the breakfast he’d ordered. Except he couldn’t, because the waitress had locked us all in the room and gone home.
I don’t like Leylandii hedges. I’m allergic to fir tree sap, so even if they looked attractive they wouldn’t be my hedge plant of choice. Ours came with the house. It was fifty metres long, eight feet tall and four feet thick (excuse the mixed units) and it did a very good job of separating the bottom of our garden from the A701 road. Every year it sent thug-like new growth skywards almost at random, some of it well over four feet tall. The year before last we hired a professional hit man to slice off the top and he did a super job of cutting the whole hedge down to seven feet. A few months later we had three feet of snow and -20ºC frosts and the hedge went from green to brown. Last year there was new growth and we hoped for the best, but alas, last year’s early winter finished it off and it went from very brown to very brown indeed. In fact it looks, as my father occasionally said about me, as if it has been dragged through a hedge backwards. So what to replace it with, that is the question. It has to be evergreen. Beech would do, but I suspect that because lorries pass it, at well over the 40 limit, they would soon would whip off all the crispy brown leaves that look so nice in winter. The alternative is a wooden fence – and I’m thinking of a FENCE, not B&Q panels. So, Fence Fund, rather than Hedge Fund?
My photographs of plants never seem to do them justice, especially if I use a hand-held camera and then reduce the photo to fit a small space, like here. I am a bit of a softy for rhododendrons, for me they have something special. Over the years they have had a bad press, but only because of the crazy spreading habit of one particular variety, Rh.ponticum, which has become a bit of a thug.
Many of the rhododendrons at Dawyck Botanic Garden (an hour’s drive south of Edinburgh) are in now in bloom and are well worth a visit. The rhododendron in the photo is Rh.roxieanum and is a ‘high altitude rhododendron’. If you happen to be in China it can be found at between 3,000 to 4,500 metres. Alternatively, Dawyck is only at 220m. And there’s a very good cafe, which is something you’ll probably not come across at 4,000 metres in the Himalayas.
There are also these:
Whenever I see them my mind wanders to John Wyndham, and Triffids… though they didn’t scare the toddler who decided to get in amongst them and run about, to the anguish of his guardian (granny?) who apologised profusely. To me, not to the Triffids (and why to me?).
The Triffids’ real name is Lysichiton americanum. It is also known as Yellow Skunk Cabbage (easier to pronounce, but nowhere near as posh as its latin name).
Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square has poster displays of the City’s forthcoming Science Festival. I’m sure the Festival is getting bigger and better every year, though I have to admit that for the last three or so years I have only attended the children’s events held at the Arts Centre (where kids do loads of interesting things with electronics, robots, botanists and medics, while their parents hang around in corridors and look at their watches). If you don’t have children then why not borrow some* and take them along between April 9th and 22nd. Grown-up stuff too, I see from the programme. Maybe I will treat myself.
Edinburgh is quite a city, it does these things so well. Except trams… don’t mention the trams.
(*subject to the necessary consents)