strange_complex: (Anas Penelope)
The news has been full of travel woes of all sorts today, but I was particularly struck by this picture, which has been featuring on various BBC News reports today:

That's the jack-knifed lorry I drove past on the right (southbound) carriage-way there, while the car in the middle lane on the northbound carriage-way could literally be mine. It's too dark and blurry to tell, of course, and the odds of it actually being mine in reality are low - but I think I was in that lane at that point, and it looks plausibly like the rear view of a red Honda Jazz.

Anyway, it's a striking memento of a situation I hope never to experience again. Feel free to imagine me sitting inside that car, saying words like "Jesus Effing Christ on a bike!" a lot as I took in the scene to my right.

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What fun!

Friday, 26 December 2014 23:52
strange_complex: (Claudia Cardinale car)
What fun it is when you're driving along the motorway, and you can't tell whether or not you are properly in a lane because you can't see the white lines under all the snow!

What fun to discover that when you try to correct your position, the car starts skidding!

And to realise that all of the other drivers around you have no more control over their cars than you do!

And to gradually see the illuminated signs which are telling you that there are hazardous driving conditions and that a temporary speed limit of 40mph is in force disappearing behind a coating of snow!

And when what would normally be a 2h15m journey takes closer to 4 hours because even 40mph is in fact way too fast in weather like that, so that you have to do most of it at more like 20-30 miles an hour.

And seeing at least 15 vehicles at the side of the road with their hazard flashers on during that time, only one of which was being attended to by a repair van, and three of which were in actively dangerous positions.

And driving past an articulated lorry which had jack-knifed across all four lanes of the opposite carriage-way, complete with a van and a car smashed into the side of it.

What fun!

I'm glad to say I am safely back home in Leeds now, but that was easily the worst drive I have ever done. I very definitely wouldn't have set off if I'd had the faintest idea it would get that bad, but Birmingham was merely slushy, with the snow that had fallen earlier in the evening actively melting; and weather reports had told me the same was true in Leeds, which was perfectly accurate. It was just everything in between that was the problem - and by the time I discovered that, it was way too late...

Update: obviously I couldn't take a picture, as I was driving, but this person did:

They were clearly heading in the opposite direction to me, and didn't know yet about the jack-knifed lorry causing the jam. Just horrible, all round.

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strange_complex: (Me Yes to Fairer Votes)
This morning I got up bright and early, and headed off to spend the day campaigning for fairer votes in Skipton. I wasn't even sure I'd be able to get there when I set off, but as I got into town I realised that the snow was starting to melt at last, and my train left perfectly on time without the slightest problem. There was still plenty of snow lying in places where it hadn't been disturbed, though, leaving this statue of John Harrison (a local clock-maker) looking like he had a pair of festive angel wings:

In Skipton itself, I joined our campaign stall in the town hall, where there was a craft fair going on. It was much quieter than the organisers had expected, presumably because of the weather, but we talked to plenty of people - including Santa!

It was quite a different sort of event from the bonfire we went to at the start of November - that was mainly about shouting slogans and dishing out leaflets to students as they passed, but today we had more time to talk in detail about the referendum to people who were milling around at their leisure, most of whom were in their fifties or older. About two thirds of the people we spoke to still had no idea that there is a referendum on the horizon, or what it is about - but on the whole most of them were interested and enthusiastic once we explained what it involves. We got a few who just went "Oh, politics - I'm not interested in that", and one or two who said they preferred the current system, or didn't think the change would make any difference. But I'd say that in total about 80% of the people we spoke to were positively inclined towards AV by the time we'd finished with them.

Not all will actually take that positivity as far as bothering to turn out for the referendum, of course, but it seems quite encouraging to me. It also fits with the findings of a YouGov poll which concluded that people are more likely to prefer AV over FPTP if they understand how AV works. We've just got to keep on getting out there and making sure that they do.

Finally, here's a list of a few AV links which I've seen or shared on Facebook and Twitter recently, but haven't posted here yet:
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strange_complex: (Tacitus on Brit weather)
Oh dear. This is not the best way to start a morning's serious research:

I did go to bed last night feeling really quite nervous about how windy it was - though my concerns centred mainly around the enormous trees on the road outside, which I am often scared will fall over in the night and crush me in my bed. Happily, as it turns out no lives or limbs have been lost, but there clearly is now going to be tedium involving insurance companies and fence constructors. :-(

I've started the ball rolling this morning by calling the people who manage the adjoining property in an attempt to find out who is actually responsible for that fence: them or me.It's never been clear - you can't work it out by looking at which side the posts are on because they're in the middle, and I've been told conflicting things by different people who live up and down the road, too. The lady on the phone didn't know and said she would ask the owners, but of course when someone phones you up and says, "A fence has blown over: do you think it's yours or your neighbours?", any normal human being would obviously reply, "Oh, well I always thought it was theirs", wouldn't they? So I think I can guess what their answer is going to be.

Damn, damn and triple-damn.

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strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
Three years ago, I had just moved into my current house, and jointly celebrated that event and my 31st birthday with a 1920s and '30s-themed housewarming party. Lots of my friends and colleagues came along, as did some of the cheekier neighbourhood cats, and a marvellous time indeed was had.

This year, I decided it was time for a similar celebration to mark my 34th birthday (which is actually on Monday this year), but this time based around a barbecue and without the period theme. 'Cos dressing up is fun, but you can't do the same thing every time. A man turned up from Sainsbury's with eight boxes full of STUFF at 10 o'clock on Saturday morning, and I sprang into action - chopping vegetables, marinading meat, threading things onto skewers and (most importantly) mixing cocktails!

The weather looked decidedly shady for most of the day, but thankfully around 3pm rays of sunshine started to appear, and by the time my first few guests arrived the skies were blue and almost cloudless. My colleague's children ran around the garden while we got the barbecues going (two of them, because they were only diddy ones), and began grilling the first few burgers. And after that everything became a bit of a blur as people arrived, and handed me presents and cards, and I whirled around the place making sure everyone had drinks and introducing people to each other and so forth. But it was a very nice blur! I just have a kind of vague general impression of being surrounded by lovely people all being witty and sociable and exciting and beautiful all around me, and lots of hugs and laughter and (though I say it myself) delicious food and so forth.

Around 9ish it began drizzling a little, but that was OK really, as most people had finished with the barbecues by then, so we just carried on the party inside. An interesting spontaneous gender division occurred, as most of the ladies present ended up in the kitchen discussing various types of relationships, while most of the gentlemen were in the dining room discussing joke websites. But hey - both rooms seemed to be having an awesomely good time, so that is fine. Then around 11ish most of the further-flung guests decided it was about time they started their journeys home, so the scene shifted again to a more intimate gathering of myself, [ profile] ant_girl, [ profile] ms_siobhan and [ profile] planet_andy, chilling out in the lounge discussing serial killers for another hour or so.

And now this morning, here I am browsing through last night's photos, eating delicious Belgian chocolates which somebody gave me and generally basking in the afterglow of a most excellent evening. Many thanks to everyone who came, and especially those who helped keep an eye on the barbecue, which I could not really have managed on my own alongside meeting and greeting everyone and generally being the charming hostess. I'm slightly delicate today, and unlikely to move terribly far from the sofa, but it was definitely all worth it. Give me another three years, and I might be ready to do it again... ;-)

Photos follow under the cut )

Oh, and if anyone wants the recipe for the marsala peaches we had, and on which I got several compliments, Delia is your lady. I shall be enjoying the few which were left over with my lunch today. :-)

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Lesbian bingo

Sunday, 20 July 2008 21:12
strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
I went on a lovely excursion today with [ profile] glitzfrau to Hebden Bridge: allegedly, the lesbian hub of Britain.

Glitz knitting on the train )

I'd been there the previous Friday for Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, but had only got to see it relatively briefly and in partial day-light, so when [ profile] glitzfrau expressed a desire for a Sunday excursion, it seemed like a great opportunity to go back for a proper look. It's ever so picturesque )

The weather, alas, was rather English, which curtailed our photo opportunities, and also put paid to some half-conceived plans to go for a walk along the river. However, so were the people )

In fact, the need to take shelter from regular showers of rain, coupled with the ready availability of charity shops, antique shops and festival stalls, meant that the day ended up developing largely into a very rewarding shopping trip. [ profile] glitzfrau got two very pretty tops and some nice bread (which I'm sure she will post about shortly), while I got a nice lilac blouse, a very classic-looking battered denim jacket and the purple flared trousers of my dreams! Seriously, they are the trousers my sixteen-year-old self would have died for - except that back then, they would have fallen off my hips. Now, however, they fit perfectly. Yes, there may be some advantages to growing into a slightly more womanly figure, after all...

Oh, and I got one other thing too. *embarrassed shuffle* A thing I knew about, but had actually consciously planned not to buy, lest it shatter my fannish illusions. As Glitzy will testify, though, it was Not My Fault - it just fell on me in an antiques shop. For £4. So now I have a copy of Who On Earth Is Tom Baker?. Oops!?


Thursday, 14 June 2007 10:44
strange_complex: (Darth blogging)
1. Ah, I love summer rain. Which is good, as according to pretty much every weather report I've seen, it's going to carry on for the rest of our lives. Including to my cousin's wedding, which is happening in Folkestone not-this-Saturday-but-next. I bought a very lovely, if rather revealing dress - and to think I was worried about getting sunburnt! I might have to look for a matching umbrella.

2. Tomorrow morning, a man is bringing me a shiny new laptop! Hooray! I chose a mid-range one, on the basis that it's not intended to be my main computer, so it would be silly to go crazy with it. But it should still be rather exciting.

3. I have been trying to book opera tickets, but the Leeds Grand Theatre online booking service isn't working for me, and when I phone their so-called box office, all I get is an answerphone. Still, on the plus side, the guy they got to record their messages has a voice just like Christopher Lee. Yummy....

4. Update - and in fact just now while I was typing, they phoned me back, and the booking is all sorted now. Yay! #I'm going to see Michael Maniaci, I'm going to see Michael Maniaci!# Will mail people who are coming with details of the tickets shortly.

strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
You know, academia is pretty hard work sometimes. But out of term time, it does have distinct advantages. Such as that you can look out of your window, observe that the current weather conditions are unfit for a dog, and say, "Stuff it, I'm staying home today!"

Pile of essays I've been avoiding - your time has come!

Chez Handel

Saturday, 29 July 2006 19:32
strange_complex: (Handel)
On Wednesday, I visited the Handel House Museum with [ profile] redkitty23, who had not seen it before, and specifically the current Castrati exhibition, which neither of us had seen before.

I think the best bit was the three large portraits of Farinelli, Senesino and Guadagni, all lined up in rich, colourful and self-assured glory in Handel's rehearsal room. But I also enjoyed the general sense which the exhibition conveyed of the extraordinary range of castrati singers Handel had worked with, as well as being in a place where lots of people were getting to listen to Alessandro Moreschi singing for the first time (on a CD in the main exhibition room). [ profile] redkitty23 was underwhelmed: "He sounds drunk," she said. But at least she had the chance to listen to him and forge a reaction. Meanwhile, those who were more taken by him had the opportunity to buy the OPAL CD of his surviving recordings and Nicholas Clapton's book in the gift shop.

There was a worst bit, too, though: the very tedious woman on duty in Handel's bedroom, who just could not shut up and let us take in the atmosphere of the house in peace. I mean, I get that she knew lots of stuff about Handel and wanted to share it with us. But I already knew practically everything she said anyway, and she just didn't pick up on hints such as giving very short answers and not making any eye contact which were supposed to convey to her that I just wanted her to leave me alone and let me experience the sense of Handel's presence in my own way. Interestingly, when I began mentioning this on the phone to my Mum, who had visited the exhibition in the spring, she immediately said, "Oh, I know exactly the woman you mean: she really was irritating, wasn't she?" It made me realise that my experience probably wasn't unique, and think that perhaps I should write an email to the people who run the house, just politely pointing out that although some visitors might welcome a very chatty and enthusiastic guide, others prefer to be left to themselves. I'm sure that woman wouldn't want to think that she is actually having a negative impact on some people's experience of the house, and a polite word or two about how to tell the difference between people who want to talk and people who just want to look might help to prevent that in future.

Wednesday was also one of the hottest days of the week, which perhaps wasn't the most sensible time to go down to a big, dusty, busy city. In fact, we went shopping in the afternoon around Oxford Circus, and I wasn't at all surprised to hear on the news that the following day many of the shops we had visited had had to close due to power-cuts caused by too high a demand on air-conditioning systems. Still, we managed, and although we didn't really buy anything in the end, we had a very nice lunch (mmm, grilled halloumi!) and some much-needed iced coffees before getting on the train.

That was probably the last visit I'll make to London before I go off up to Leeds: but definitely a good one.


Wednesday, 1 March 2006 16:16
strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
Wow, it is seriously snowing here in Oxenmaford! The air is thick with it, it's settling (certainly on the grass), and we're buried underneath a blanket of surly grey clouds which promise that this will continue for some time.

I know one young man who'll be most chuffed.

strange_complex: (Purple and black phone)
Ah! It's snowing! :-)

strange_complex: (Snape writing)
Oxford lay buried in a deep, off-white fog all day today. But I didn't mind at all. The only time I had to go out of the house was to walk to and from seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with [ profile] redkitty23, both of us wrapped in gloves, scarves, warm coats, long black skirts and, in my case, my new sexy boots. Especially on the way back, when it was dark and wintry and we walked across my bridge deep in conversation about the film, the fog only served to make the journey feel like a real-life extension of the Hogwarts experience. Perhaps a cut scene featuring two particularly attractive young teachers, set on the rickety wooden walkway which crosses the steep valley behind the school.

Since this magical experience constituted the first time I'd worn my boots out of the house, and they do feel just like the sorts of boots a female teacher at the school might wear, they shall forever after be known as my Hogwarts Boots.

What about the film itself? Spoilers ahoy! )
strange_complex: (Default)
When I first moved to Belfast, I was told that the weather was extremely changeable here, and that people often spoke of experiencing 'four seasons in one day'.

Today, I walked into town in the early afternoon in order to do a bit of shopping. As I left my house, I sighed with pleasure at the feel of the sun's warmth on my skin, and looked up into a blue sky punctuated by fluffy white clouds. I walked town-wards for a couple of minutes, and then felt a heavy drop of rain on my eyebrow... quickly followed by a succession of several more. Hoiking my umbrella out of my bag, I looked up to see that the sky had turned a uniform iron gray, and I was surprised to hear a rumble of thunder. Being British, I carried out walking through the downpour, gamely pointing my umbrella into the biting wind which had by now arisen. A mere minute more, and a new development occurred: suddenly, the plummeting rain turned to hail. Hail, in fact, which fell more heavily and more thickly than I believe I've ever seen hail do before. Fearing for the health of my umbrella, I renounced my Britishness after all and took shelter in a bus-stop, joining a young couple in T-shirts, who were shivering and gaping in awe at the natural spectacle we were witnessing. After two minutes of mutual wowing, the hail ceased as quickly as it had begun, and I set off on my way once more, crunching and sliding a little over the layer of fallen hailstones as I did so. By the time I was approaching the town centre, five minutes later, it was warm again, and dark sections of pavement were literally steaming as the sun hit them and the melted remains of the hailstones condensed off into the atmosphere.

Next time, I think I will get the bus.

My shopping in town was fairly boring, but on the way back home I dropped into 'Rusty Zip', a retro clothing store on Botanic Avenue. There, I bought a beautiful halterneck party dress in a shiny fabric which is black in some lights and a rich, dark purple in others. I also bought a large puffy skirt, much like the bottom half of a ball-gown, in a bright purple satiny fabric. It is floor-length, and apparently designed with one simple aim in mind - to be as HYUGE as possible. I do believe that if I filled it with hot air, I could hang a basket from it and fly across the Atlantic. And I love it!

However, it has a flaw, which is that some kind of liquid has obviously been spilt over it in the past, in quite significant quantities. It's left water-marks in several places, so I need to find a suitable way of cleaning it to get these out. However, it has no washing instructions on it - in fact, I think it may be hand-made. So I'm uncertain as to whether I can hand-wash it, or whether it might need taking to the dry-cleaners. I'm also doubtful about whether they would be able to do anything about water-marks anyway, so I'm hoping I can hand-wash it.

Under the cut which follows is a scan of a section of the skirt, complete with one of the worst stains. The stripey effect in the picture is just a peculiarity of my scanner: in real life, the fabric is a smooth, shiny texture, with consistent colouring. It has a slightly crinkly feel when you rub it between your fingers, and I would guess has quite a lot of nylon in it. Underneath is a layer of white netting and a lining of thin white material which I am almost certain is nylon.

My instinct is that I probably can hand-wash this... but if anyone who knows a thing or two about fabrics would care to take a look at the scan and comment, I would be very grateful for any advice.

Stained patch under here )
strange_complex: (Default)
This evening, [ profile] kaz_pixie, [ profile] diffrentcolours and I were all supposed to go swimming in Kidlington when the two of them had finished work. The plan was declared a failure. But I did get very wet...

Around 4pm, I was happily drawing plans of Roman cities for the-book-of-my-thesis, listening to a Book Club discussion of Terry Pratchett's Mort on Radio 4, and feeling all cosy at being inside while a downpour was happening outside. Around this point, [ profile] kaz_pixie texted me to ask whether I still wanted to go out for swimming, given the weather. 'Have umbrella, will travel', I replied, adding, 'I expect it'll have eased off by the time we go anyway.'

Far from it, however: when I left the house at 20 past 5, lightning was sparking all around, and the closeness with which claps of thunder followed suggested that the storm was pretty much right overhead. The road just in front of my house was 4 inches deep in water (something I've never witnessed before), and Becket Street was totally flooded from side to side. The latter floods if someone spits in it, but even so I've never seen it quite so awash before. I was glad I was wearing platform boots, but water still found its way inside them all the same.

I found Kaz sheltering at the front of the Blackwell's building on Hythe Bridge St., gathered her under my umbrella, and we splashed towards the bus-stop on George St. On the way, we had to negotiate a small lake which had formed on the pavement at the end of Hythe Bridge St., the water from which was then cascading, Niagara-style, into the car-park below. And once there, we witnessed the unusual phenomenon of two drain covers pushed up out of their holes by the force of water surging up from the flooded drains beneath them, and swirling off to join the rivers in the gutters.

Finally, we got a bus, having squelched over to the bus-stops by Sainsburys after 20 minutes of waiting on George St. We set off, but ten minutes later had still only just reached the far end of St. Giles. At this point, [ profile] diffrentcolours, on another bus ahead of us, texted Kaz to say that apparently Summertown was completely underwater: hence the utter traffic standstill.

I finally decided that the gods did not wish me to swim today, bid goodbye to Kaz and got off the bus to go home.

By this time, the rain itself has eased to a steady drizzle, and the drains had started doing their allotted task of draining the streets again, but it was obvious from the mud and debris all over the pavements where the flood waters had been. On the Eagle and Child side of St. Giles, it had clearly been right up to the door of the pub: an impression which was confirmed for me by a woman coming out of the pub and saying to her husband, 'I can't believe we saw it right up to here' (indicating the step at the door).

I used the opportunity of being in town with unexpected time on my hands to go home via the smaller Sainsbury's, and then tramped home to wring out my socks and the bottoms of my jeans. Whether poor old [ profile] kaz_pixie and [ profile] diffrentcolours have even got home at the time of writing (7:45) is uncertain...

Ah well, we will swim some other time. Just perhaps not when the weather is so self-evidently against us!


strange_complex: (Default)

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