Monday, 29 November 2010

Catching Up

It’s been a little while since my last posting. Apologies for my absence, but sometimes real-life takes precedence over the blogosphere :) So, what’s been happening in the interim?

Well, I guess the big news was the announcement of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton and the subsequent fixing of the date for the Royal Wedding. It’s been a while since there has been an occasion of this size in this country, certainly not since the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and probably not since Charles and Diana’s wedding back in 1981. Back then there were street parties across the country and a real mood of national celebration. I suspect that it won’t be quite like that this time round. Questions have already been asked about how much the taxpayer should be paying out for the wedding at a time when drastic cuts are being made to public spending, taxes are on the rise and people are fearful for their jobs. But the reality is that hundreds of thousands of people are going to want to be in London to see some of the wedding and it will obviously be a huge security operation for the police that is going to cost millions of pounds. At a time of such austerity in can sometimes be a positive thing to have an event such as this to celebrate and get people’s minds away from the daily drudgery. Whatever the rights and wrongs, I can only wish the couple every happiness in their life together.

We have also been doing some celebrating of our own over the last week. Of course, last Thursday was Thanksgiving. This year we had a quiet, though very delicious, celebration here in the Yellow House. Last year, you may remember, we flew over to Georgia to enjoy the holiday with Dori’s family. Well, plane tickets sadly aren’t getting any cheaper and so we stayed on this side of the Atlantic this time round – although thanks to Skype we were able to experience a little of the festivities over in America :)

The celebratory mood continued yesterday as we attended the christening of my nephew’s baby girl. The weather here for the last week has gotten progressively colder and icier with many areas experiencing heavy snow, so the thought of spending an afternoon in a cold and draughty church – even for such a happy occasion – was a little daunting. However, as it turned out, the church was quite small, not at all draughty and even had some very welcome heating! The service was lovely and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Ironically, after the fears of getting too cold in the church, when we all decamped to the venue for the celebration meal afterwards, we found that the heating there was not turned on and it was frrrrrrreezing!!! Everybody was sat there, still in their coats and scarves for the entire time. It is always good though to have a story to relate to an event like that though – makes it even more memorable. :-)

The forecast looks like some of that snow I mentioned may be heading our way tonight. Hopefully it won’t be too heavy, although if it is we may be able to get some even better photos than we managed at the start of the year when the country was paralyzed for a couple of weeks! Here are a couple that we took at the time as we walked around on the first day of heavy snow.

Finally, can I wish the team bidding to bring the World Cup to England in 2018 every success over the next few days. FIFA will be announcing on Thursday the host countries of both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and England have thrown their hat into the ring for the 2018 competition. Football politics may scupper their chances apparently, but you never know. Everyone assumed that the 2012 Olympics would be in Paris and look what happened there! Good luck to everyone involved!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Remember, Remember

As I mentioned a couple of weeks or so back, we are now in holiday season and they are starting to come thick and fast. After Halloween at the end of October, we celebrated Bonfire Night aka Guy Fawkes Night on Friday. Although not strictly a holiday anymore, it is a day of celebration and one of the landmark days in the calendar.

The day commemorates the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in which a group of men attempted to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on November 5th. The man tasked with setting the explosives was Guy Fawkes, and it was during the night before the State Opening that he was discovered in a cellar beneath the parliament building with over 30 barrels of gunpowder. He was arrested and later executed (in horrific fashion) along with the majority of his fellow conspirators.

Since that time, November 5th has been marked as a day of national celebration. At one time it was, apparently, a public holiday but that has long since been abandoned. Nowadays, it is marked by the lighting of bonfires on top of which are placed “Guys” (effigies) and by firework displays. As kids we were also all taught the following little rhyme...

Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot

There were many firework displays around here over the weekend, both official and unofficial. Whilst they always used to take place on the day itself, most modern public displays tend to be held on the nearest weekend to November 5th. Dori and I were out visiting on Saturday night and saw and heard many fireworks as we travelled to and from our destination. It is one of those nights of the year that I very much look forward to.

Whilst talking of remembering, I would also like to mention that Norman Pritchard passed away recently. Whilst none of you are likely to have heard of him, and indeed few in his home town knew of him either, his legacy has garnered world-wide attention, for he was partially responsible for the design and implementation of Swindon’s notorious “Magic Roundabout”. This junction at the intersection of 5 roads was very revolutionary when first built and still strikes fear into the heart of many a driver today. It consists of a central roundabout with 5 mini-roundabouts around the outside. The beauty of it (if you are experienced at negotiating it) is that you may take several different routes through the road junction to reach your desired exit. Dori has previously posted a video over at her Yellow House blog to show what it is like, and here is another one to give you an idea of this wonderful creation!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Sunday, as well as being Halloween, also marked the end of British Summer Time (BST) for this year as the clocks were turned back an hour in the wee hours of the morning. We are now back on good ol’ Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) for the duration of the winter.

This, of course, means lighter mornings (for a few weeks at least) but darker evenings. With the days getting ever shorter as we near the winter solstice, the hours of sunlight that we have are getting less and less. It is already darker at 5:00 pm now than it was at 10:00 pm at the height of summer! It is for this reason that a “Lighter, Later” campaign has been gaining some following over recent years. Their idea is for Britain to adopt Central European Time (CET), meaning that our clocks would be advanced to an hour ahead of GMT during the winter, and an hour ahead of BST during the summer. Their argument is that this will move an hour of sunlight from the mornings to the evenings, when more people are up and about to enjoy it.

Is this a good idea? It will certainly alleviate some of the darkness in the evenings, which can make the winter days seem so short and miserable, and it is said that it will also save on electricity as the lights won’t be turned on until an hour later. That is all good. But, the mornings will be terribly dark when a lot of people are getting up and going out in the mornings, or when children are walking to school. Whatever we do with the clocks, we will still only have the same amount of daylight as before. And it is not as though the mornings are light at a ridiculously early time of the day anyway. I, for one, am still dragging myself out of bed whilst it is dark outside now – that would only be exacerbated if this new system is adopted. But then, I like the lighter evenings too.

So, I am a little undecided on this one. There is going to be a parliamentary debate on the subject next month but it is unlikely that anything will be changed very quickly. No doubt the campaign will continue, and new times may well lie ahead at some point. If only they could make the daylight last longer, then that would definitely get my vote!!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin