Does it get any better than this? – Count your curses!

(Written off-line on 3rd July 2010 and added after the event.)

Hint. Only do this if you are feeling pretty confident already!

Today is the first, or maybe the second (depending count) day of my holiday this year. Some things have gone well. Some things have gone less well. It’s 11 o’clock in the evening, and I thought I would review the day. Being in a slightly perverse frame of mind, I thought I would look at the things that are not as I would wish them to be:
1) The lock on the tail-gate of my newly purchased car is not working as it should. This gave me an unpleasant surprise when I found it would not remain closed, never mind lock!
2) We arrived too early at the holiday cottage we had booked.
3) When we eventually got in: we found that the cottage does not have a microwave in the kitchen.
4) … in some places the beams are so low that my head brushes them (and I’m not over average height).
5) The batteries in both my hearing aids decide to give out when I was out this evening.
6) The vilage has only three pubs!
There, I’ve got that off my chest. It’s a reasonably short list…

Let’s address them one my one…
1) This is a nuisance, but within a few minutes of realising that there was a problem, I had identified a temporary work-around. A few minutes later, my host had shown me how to make the lock work for the duration of my holiday. The problem can be fixed when I get back to base and I talk with the people who supplied me with the car. (and it isn’t a problem they would have known about anyway.)
2) … so we went and had a look at Cardigan, which is a wonderful town. My wife did some “essentials” shopping and I found two interesting places to eat while she was doing that.
3) … so we’ll (maybe even I’ll) have to re-learn how to cook!
4) … and it oozes character. My wife thinks it is marvelous, and so do I!
5) … and I’ve just changed them …
6) … and there isn’t a dud among them. In fact, it was a quiet night (odd for a Saturday) so I was able to talk with some of the locals. The beer is good too.

Now on the positive side:
*) The village (Cilgerran) has several things which I find really pleasant: It has a castle (pictures, more pictures), and I took a walk down by the river, and then I persuaded the family to come down there as well.
*) The cottage is growing on me already. I shall spend a little time working out how it has developed over the years. Definitely 100 years old, the question is how much more?
*) The garden is great…
*) …and there are bats! Great!
*) …and the pubs are really, REALLY good (if you want a quiet drink).
*) …and there are Ordnance survey maps of the area in the cottage
So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow!

Q: Does it get any better than this? A: It could, but not much.

Hope you are well. Having great time in Wales. Love, OB!

The Batchelor, the Chinaman and the Solicitor…

There are a lot of jokes which start out “An Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman were…” (you can substitute other nations if you wish). This evening I set out to walk down to the town and watch the second half of the Brazil versus Chile match in the pub. Even before the half-time whistle blew, it seemed fairly clear that Brazil were in control, so I set off a little before half-time itself.

Walking along the road, I noticed that the front door of the house of one of my neighbours was open. I hadn’t seen him for a while (not since before Christmas, I think), so I called in. Anyway, a glass of whiskey, a bit of conversation, and an re-introduction to his one-eyed cat and her kittens later, I was on my way. (He’s the batchelor, by the way)

It’s a fair walk down to the town, so the second half and started by the time I got to the pub. The place wasn’t busy, so I bought my pint, pulled up a stool and started to watch the match. A little later a new fella came in. Obviously “not from round here”, but equally obviously well known. He was given a packet of crisps, without him asking and he too sat down to watch the match. I’m not sure, but I think he has something to do with the Chinese Restaraunt a couple of doors along. (…the Chinaman…)

Once the game was finished, with the expected win for Brazil, the Chinaman left, I finished my pint and so did I. It seemed a bit early to finish the evening, so I decide to have one more in the wine bar on the way home. The place was empty except for the barman, a man I’ll choose to describe as “The Solicitor” and me. The Solicitor was finishing his evening mean before going home.

There’s no “story” to this. No punch line. But it is rather nice to see people who catch your eye in the evening. I wonder if they noticed me? Possibly not, but then it doesn’t matter all that much either way.

Does it get better than this?

Well, maybe not. I’m sure I have been much more excited, but right now I feel very peaceful.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve completed a pretty substantial change in my life. I think most people would describe moving ones home from one country to another “substantial change”! I feel much less unsettled than I expected. The weather since I arrived has been unexpectedly settled and hot… and then this evening it rained briefly. The air smells fresh and green with that “after the rain” smell.

The sun has set. I’m sure I saw a bat flit across my field of vision a few moments ago. It’s often hard to me sure with bats. They have a peculiar ephemeral property. There are clouds in the sky and from time to time the (full) moon is revealed, and then hidden.

The past seems to have faded, and be fading further. Right now I’m going back to reading my book (News from Tartary), a great travel book, by an interesting man, also describing an intersting woman.

New week, new country, new life…

Between Friday and Saturday I moved from one country to another. Immigration takes time you know! By some standards it wasn’t such a large move, from England to Ireland, but for me it is a big thing. There is no “going back” any more, because there isn’t really anywhere to go back to. The feeling is unsettling, but also exciting.

I’m very fond of the book The man who planted trees, and here is an article which suggests that the idea improves lives in the real world as well.
BBC: How fruit trees in India save girls’ lives

Magic and magicians

Arthur C. Clarke is quoted as saying: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic“. Some people think I’m a magician; I make things they don’t understand work. I was reminded of this just after Christmas when I watched a toddler trying to make sense of a simple radio controlled car. He understood the “forwards” and “backwards” bit, but getting it to turn left and right was beyond him. Of course, once it disappeared from sight under a chair, then it became even more confusing! He seemed impressed when I could direct it to do what I wanted, but in the end he didn’t get as much from the toy as we would have hoped.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking. Thus far, I’ve spent a lot of my working time specifying, designing and fixing computer systems. Often I concluded that the people who were my customers didn’t really understand what they were asking for, and certainly didn’t understand the characteristics or limitations of the computers on which “the thingy” was going to work. More recently I have found myself simply explaining how to use very common applications (Word processors, spreadsheets, that sort of thing). A problem when you’re cast as “magician” is: how do you explain that something is difficult, or impossible, or that there is a better way of doing something? After all, “magic is magic”! Surely as a magician all I should have to do is tell them the right incantation and everything should work, even if they are pushing a spreadsheet to do more than it should (the use of spreadsheets as “trackers” and replacements for small, or even large, databases seems to be a situation where this happens quite a lot). An odd by-product of this, is that it can put the ignorant, or the outright charlatan at an advantage – all they have to do is say “yes” and then avoid actually explaining how to do it! Hmm, must think about his a little more.