The day starts well with a software fix from our supplier. This means I spend the morning creating some more content ready to upload to my works server soon after lunchtime. All goes well until it comes to uploading the software and the system reports it will take an hour and five minutes. Not too bad until sixty-five minutes pass and the system still says it will take an extra 50 minutes! The software does not get finally uploaded until well past 4:30, leaving my colleagues little time to prepare the finished product for a client. However, swift work means all is complete by 5:30.
I have got hold of a copy of J.M. Dunn’s Reflections on a Railway Career: LNWR to BR. It was published in 1966 and I’ve managed to get hold of a decent old second-hand copy from the internet. The reason I’ve got the book is 2 chapters on the time he spent at Tredegar Shed at the end of the LNWR period and the start of the successor LMS company (mid 1920s). Further chapters deal with his time in neighbouring South Wales valleys. It is, however, an extraordinary story, starting in 1913 and finishing over 50 years later.
The incredible thing is that leaving school with no qualifications Dunn was taken on into a worthwhile career by simply writing to a railway company. Now, I know that such a thing is still possible today (not necessarily on the railways) – I’ve seen it happen! But in a world where so many people now have degrees, while the number of openings for people to have long careers in living-wage jobs has shrunk, this must be a relative rarity today.
A frustrating day. Firstly network problems dog my time working from home. Then the software I am using to build content crashes and locks me completely out of the system. My colleagues sends a sharp email to the supplier about licence instability but there is nothing to be done until a fix is applied.
I turn my attention to the model railway. I can at last start on laying the track. I try positioning the first point but I cannot get it to fit properly. In the process I break one of my soldered connections. Then I realise that I am working with the wrong section of track!
I then position the controller and work out where the point levers will go. This will be a very tight fit! But that is one of the interesting aspects of the project – using ingenuity to fit in all the components.
Along with the CD of the Goldberg Variations, Harmonia Mundi provide a DVD of Andreas Staier discussing the work. This provides a fascinating insight into the structure and nature of the piece. Staier points out that the variations are grouped into threes with the middle variation of each group being of a virtuosic nature.
The sheer length and imagination on the Variations was unknown in the Baroque period for a solo keyboard work. Staier also discusses speculation about the origin of the work (technically Book 4 of a set of keyboard exercises!) which considers that Bach wrote it as a way of sticking two fingers to his employers – look what I can play, but you can’t!
More online Christmas shopping, this time something for Lesley. I actually find something within a few minutes of looking. Normally it takes me weeks to find something I think may be suitable!
I have also spotted a new Bert Jansch CD Just a Simple Soul. This is a retrospective collection which contains some interesting material. I don’t listen to much folk music but I have a few Jansch tracks and appreciate his soulful, highly lyrical songwriting and mellow vocals. It will certainly be a change from my Bach listening which will be good for me.
In the evening I upload a large file to the servers where I work. It takes a couple of hours to complete and a sober reminder of how slow is our broadband speed. A drag on working from home.
For some reason I am feeling a little drained today. Nowhere near the level of the acute fatigue which has fortunately abated but enough to slow me a little.
I start reading Harris’s The Fear Index. The start is also unusual, more akin to a Len Deighton novel than the thoughtful slow build-up of Harris’s historical works.
Halloween, but fortunately we are not disturbed. Now only the celebration of violent religious extremism on November 5th to negotiate! Typical that in Britain we celebrate awful events rather than occasions which advanced our liberty as in France or the USA. One might also think that our historical narrative is distorted by the establishment. Who would think such a thing!
I am in a real Bach mode at the moment so have bought Andreas Staier playing the Goldberg Variations on the same harpsichord as the one used on the keyboard concertos. At the same time I spot that Rachel Podger and the Brecon Quartet have recorded The Art of Fugue. I have a few versions of this work but not one played solely on strings. So this goes on the to-get list as well.
Quite some time ago I learned to distinguish between what is good and what I like in music. So, for example, I happily agree that Mozart was a genius despite being completely turned off by his music! It also works on a higher level. In general I find Country and Western music almost unlistenable to while acknowledging the undoubted talent of artists such as Glen Campbell. My approach means that I can roam right across musical genres finding things of interest, though often coming back to Bach, Morton Feldman and John Coltrane!
I have decided to go with a rather different Robert Harris novel The Fear Index. Normally he writes about historical characters and subjects, but this is a modern-day thriller involving high-tech market manipulation. Knowing the way Harris works, it will be meticulously researched.
We travel home and the journey is much better than the one a few days ago in the reverse direction. Just a few minor delays and the whole journey, including a break took little more than four and a half hours. The only problem was Brandi the Cat deciding to miaow for about the first hundred miles! Normally she just does it for the first 20 to 30 until we get to the motorway but on this occasion she decided to inform us of her displeasure for much longer. Fortunately she gives it a rest after our service station stop!
We long ago decided that making Brandi travel in her basket for hours on end was a bit cruel. So we bought her a harness which attaches to a short lead and which, in turn, plugs into the seat belt anchor point. This gives her the ability to move about the back seat a little without interfering with the driver and being restrained in the event of an accident. Her normal position is to lie in the middle of the car between with one paw wedged between the centre console and a seat so she can hang on!
We are all glad to be home, including Brandi who does her usual inspection of the house following a period of absence! But while we were away the weather was unseasonably cool so the house is going to take a little while warming up again.
A lazy final full day in the north east. Despite not doing very much at all over the past few days I am feeling a little jaded and looking forward to returning home tomorrow. I guess the first time away from home post-operation has been a bit stressful despite the fact that it has all gone very well.
The only real task of the day was helping Lesley send out an email to all Rugby Green Party members. This is to advertise the AGM which was originally scheduled for August – 2 days after my operation. This is not an onerous task as it is pretty much the same notification that was sent out in August.
I am reading Leslie Shore’s book on the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company called, surprise, surprise, The Tredegar Company! It is interesting to see that the dilemma regarding the economic viability of producing steel (as opposed to iron) in Britain was an issue as far back as 1869!
Apparently the problem revolved around access to cheap low-phosphorus metal ores. In many cases they had to be imported so if you were going to build a steelworks, it had better be on the coast. In the end a steel plant was built at Tredegar in 1881-2 as the iron market dried up. Nothing new under the sun and running counter to the simple narrative of the industrial revolution presented to us.
The temperature has fallen and here in the north east a light snowfall occurred in the early morning. The sun still has some strength and the snow has mainly gone by late morning. Even up here on the Co Durham-Northumberland border October snow is uncommon.
We visit Tanfield Railway but they are holding a Halloween event. Nevertheless I get time in the wonderful old engine shed and to see one of their 1943 industrial Austerity saddle tanks in action.
In early August we visited Tanfield and I promised myself that I would return just as soon as I was able after the operation. It was a little target for my recovery and I have achieved just that.
I discover that Andreas Staier has also recorded the Goldberg variations on the lovely harpsichord with the 16 inch strings.
I finish Munich by Robert Harris. It wasn’t my absolute favourite of his but I still enjoyed it immensely. I can’t quite put my finger on why I found it less absorbing than his other work. For some reason the main protagonists were less believable than in his other novels. He made the background events of the September 1938 Munich Conference fascinating but the actual plot line became perfunctory.
A good night’s sleep and I wake feeling refreshed and relaxed. I guess it had something to do with the long tedious journey yesterday but It’ll probably take a few days to get over it completely. As there is little planned for the next few days there is no problem.
A lazy morning before we take my mother-in-law out to do some shopping. I tag along for something to do, despite my dislike for soulless Tesco Supermarkets. The identikit stores mean there is little to identify just where you are.
I start Christmas shopping, a little later this year than in previous years, for obvious reasons. But with the internet it is possible to catch up quickly! I have some ideas, but normally I like to get something personal and unusual for my relatives. In the end I often have to ask if there is anything they really want – I’m not THAT imaginative.
I order the J.S. Bach keyboard concertos. These are the ones I mentioned in an earlier blog played by Andreas Staier on a wonderful Harpsichord, accompanied by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. Whatever music I am listening to, there is always some room for Bach. But at the moment it is pretty much all I am listening to. The CD is something to look forward to when we get back to Rugby.
A busy morning preparing for a few days away at my mother-in-law’s. The first time I have been away overnight since the operation. This requires a level of planning and forethought I’ve not needed before, especially as we will be away for a few days. As we are traveling to Consett in Co Durham I also need to plan for a journey of over four and a half hours. Much of the journey is on the A1(M)/M1 and you can never be certain of whether the traffic will be a problem or not. We have found detours around problems end up saving you little time as everyone else is following similar instructions!
We set off and it is a very long and very tedious journey. With crashes, roadworks and crashes in roadworks(!) the journey eventually takes 6 hours. Sitting for so long in one position has become uncomfortable on my recently repaired abdominal muscles. My only relief is getting out at the Services and having a stroll around.
After all this I am very tired on arrival. When I get this tired I get irritable so I stay quiet and avoid conversation as much as possible until I can get to bed. If only people would leave me alone in exchange………
A walk to Railway Street and almost the whole of Main Street. It took me 11 minutes, slowly increasing the pace as I go. But enough of this…
I also head out to the local Co-op to buy some Emery Boards intended for nail care. This is one of the few times you’ll find me looking in the health and beauty section! The reason is that I could not find my emery cloth to try and clean up my soldering iron tip. I read somewhere of somebody who had used nail emery boards to good effect.
In the end I get distracted by work and domestic stuff and don’t get around to using the emery boards. One side of the board has a coarse surface and the other side a fine so I get a choice. I try them on my nails and they are very good!
I am aware that I have not even started thinking about Christmas yet. I normally start looking out for unusual gifts early and take my time. I have, however, had other things to think about this autumn! But I have some ideas and I can get going now.
Work is going well, though doing more than 2 hours is tiring and I need to rest afterwards. Stamina and building energy reserves will be the long tail of recovery.