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U3A Visit to the Royal Institute

U3A visit to the Royal Institute.

 

Three of us from Whittlesey U3A visited the R. I. in London Jeff Moreland his wife Jackie and myself. We travelled from Whittlesey to Peterborough by bus, (unfortunately too early in the morning to use our bus passes). We then walked from the bus to train station and after a wait onto a train to London, Kings Cross.

Whilst on the train we discussed the complexity of ordering train tickets online and the difficulties of navigating the pricing structures. We all agreed that a Nationalised rail service might well be a return to sanity.

On arrival at Kings Cross we tried the House of Illustration, my idea,  in Granary Square. It was about a ten minute walk, probably not so long when you know the way, we weren’t impressed with the current exhibitions, just two of the three galleries were open.

We then made our way back to Kings Cross to try the underground to Green Park, again the ticketing proved a bit of a head ache until Jeff and Jackie found they could use their contactless debit cards to pay at the barriers. Before they had been made aware of this they were quoted £25 one way. In a rare moment of forward planning I had bought myself an Oyster Card on the same day I bought my train ticket. Jeff had sorted out the line we needed and we were quickly at Green Park. We walked to Albermarle Street, found the RI and had a quick “recce”. The cafe was a bit crowded but after a quick look round we found a pub for a sandwich and a cuppa. The Ritz was close by but we decided against mixing with the riff raff, it can attract.

The Faraday Museum in the basement of the Royal Institute is very interesting and well worth a visit there is a lift down to the cafe which is also in the basement.

The lecture hall in the RI is very cosy and although the Christmas lectures on television give an insight into its’ intimacy, they also give an impression of more space than then really is, particularly in the demonstration area.

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The Lecture Theatre at the RI

Following an introduction by Pam Jones, (Chairman of The Third Age Trust) the lectures started.

The lectures were varied and interesting the programme started with Alison Fairbrass  with her lecture; New technology for monitoring London’s wildlife.

Alison’s area of interest centred on the movement of bats, monitoring them acoustically using specialist sound recording devices and software. She mentioned the problems of collecting large amounts of data, then being able to analyse the information and understand the results. There was a lively question and answer session at the end.

The lecture was very interesting but as the theatre was warm and stuffy I nearly dozed off at one point. During the tea break following the second lecture, we discussed what it would have been like attending lectures at the RI in an earlier time. In years gone by, nearly everyone smoked, probably mainly pipes at that, with the theatre lit only with candles and oil lamps, it would have made the warm and stuffy we experienced seem like a breath of fresh air.

The second lecture was given by Chiara Ambrosio with the title; What does art have to do with science?

The lecturer had a strangely strong Italian accent for someone who claimed to be born and raised in Oxford, it did cross my mind that Ms. Ambrosio was actually Italian and this could possibly be a ruse to ensure she is able to remain in the UK after Brexit. The lecture explored the historic relationship between art and science. How art was used to represent scientific thought and how often artistic interpretation had taken precedent over accuracy. In the question and answer session literature was touched on as being part of the arts, science fiction was mentioned, I have heard it described elsewhere as science prediction, rather than science fiction.

After tea and biscuits we had the last lecture, I noticed that there were empty seats after the break that had previously been occupied. It would be interesting to find out why.

This lecture was delivered by Chris Darby, the subject Cryptography. Mr. Darby explained the nature of encryption, how it was used to protect information or data and how it could be circumvented. As with all the lecture subjects that afternoon, they were just the briefest of glimpses into subjects of great interest and depth. This particular subject probably touched more of us directly, more immediately then any of the others, our data and privacy are now at greater risk from theft and misuse than ever before.

There was a closing speech from Pam Jones and we extricated ourselves from the rather snug seating.  Walked back to Green park station and made our way back on the now more crowded and cosy underground to Kings Cross.

We decided to eat at Kings Cross as we had a long wait for the train,  Jeff managed to locate a pie and pasty outlet, a noted area of interest for him. After demolishing the pasties Jeff and I had a walk round outside, leaving Jackie to guard the bags.

We had  a look at St. Pancras station, the view inside is stunning, the sheer size of the arched canopy is awe inspiring.

St Pancras Station

St. Pancras Station

Dominating the platform just through the entrance is a huge bronze statue of a soldier embracing his wife or girlfriend in an act of farewell. It is a beautiful work of art, easily accessible and not requiring any interpretation, it captures perfectly for me at least  the sadness and poignancy of the moment of parting.

St Pancras Statue

 The statue at St Pancras

We returned to Kings Cross and rejoined Jackie. I had a little bit of a look round the station and saw an item of real interest Platform 9¾.

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Platform 9¾

There was quite a queue at Platform 9¾ I didn’t actually see anyone make it through the wall though.

We caught the 7.10 train back to Peterborough, the announcement board left a lot to be desired the platform number was only posted a few minutes before the train was due to depart, leading to a rush for the train which left swiftly how the really disabled would have coped is anyone’s guess. This just reinforced our collective view of the shambolic state of our railways, (steps off soap box). We arrived back at Peterborough and were chauffeured back to Whittlesey by my daughter Naomi. All in all a great day out with excellent company.

 

 

Bespoke Memorial obelisk

We have started to make a few memorial and celebration products. We have just made this decorative iron memorial obelisk to go over the buried cremation ashes of a deceased golfer.

 

 It is a variation of our Memorial obelisk, itself a variation on our Traditional obelisk it has been galvanised and then powdercoated.

The importance of History

I have been looking round locally with the intention of taking evening classes to gain a history A level. There doesn’t seem to be any available, anywhere, no one seems to be running them. Has history gone out of fashion, is there a lack of interest or is it just a lack of funds?

I know history seems a bit of an odd choice of subject for someone who works with his hands but I work with history all the time. The anvils I use are probably over a hundred years old, one that I own personally is well over a hundred years old, (it has a beautiful ring to it when struck with a hammer) some of my tools belonged to my grandfather, he died in 1978 aged 84 and most of his tools were old then.

History for me is not just about wars, dates of battles and the names of monarchs, it is about how things, were why they were, why things are now and how they might be in the future because of how things are now and were before. It strikes me that we cannot plan for the future if we haven’t learned the lessons from the past, if we neglect the past, are we failing to plan for the future?

The man who chairs the Federal Reserve Bank in America, Ben Bernanke studied the Great Depression, its causes and effects. This knowledge of this particular piece of history has helped shape the policies he has followed in trying to prevent a repitition

of another Great Depression, although it will be some time yet before we know whether he and others have been successful. Without knowledge of the history of this calamity there would be a greater difficulty in planning to deal with our current problems.

Those of us who make anything, design things or work in business are building on the foundations that history have given us, anyone worth their salt, involved in any form of activity looks at what has been tried before, what has failed, what has succeeded and why, this is building on history.

Given all this it surprises me that the teaching of history is not regarded as important, it is to me as senseless as not teaching maths, because everyone has calculators or computers.

Neil Kinnock once said of Margeret Thatcher, “she knows the price of everything and the value of nothing “.

However Oscar Wilde said it before him.

Wind powered drainage in the fens

 

 I have lived and worked near, in and around the fens all my life. The battle to reclaim the land from the waters has had a fascination for me ever since I have known about it. In reality to describe it as a battle is to diminish what has really been a war, at times the waters have taken back with ease, that which was won with much hard physical work.

The most honest evaluation is probably that which has been taken is held; mammoth and innovative engineering maintain the status quo.

I have in my lounge a reproduction of a 1645 map of Huntingdonshire, with the Isle of Ely and part of Cambridgeshire. A good portion of Huntingdonshire and the Isle of Ely are shown as under water with a few towns and villages as islands within the waters, I have another map of about a similar age titled Inumdatum which gives an indication of the extent of the waters.

The drainage of the fens has been achieved over many centuries the long straight waterways (drains), dug mainly by hand. A truly spectacular sight to me is to drive along a road with the river above me on one side above the height of the van and ten twenty feet or more below me on the other side are the fields with crops growing in them.

Hundred Foot Bank, Sutton, Cambs The B1381 road to Earith runs below the New Bedford River level.© Copyright Rodney Burton

 

The photograph shows in an instant the monumental achievement in reclamation of land from the water the land below the road has to be drained by emptying it into a river or drain above it rather than below it. When you realise a cubic metre of water weighs a tonne the colossal scale of the feat becomes more apparent. Every drop of water in that and many drains and rivers in the fens that has been run off from the fields, has to be physically lifted considerable heights to keep the ground dry and usable.

To start with wind was used to power pumps and giant scoop wheels to lift the water then steam, diesel and now electric pumps do the work. With the appearance of wind turbines in the fens, ultimately they are now to a degree being drained again by wind power.

Communications and Media

I have been thinking about the change in communications, (does it hurt? well a bit), the papers well certainly the Sundays are less about news and as much about froth, the colour supplements out weigh the paper itself . Weekly free papers we receive have moved considerably away from news content and are substantialy advertising vehicles.

Are we consuming our news nearly entirely away from the print media, both locally and nationally, has the print media given up on objective balanced reporting? Can this also be said for specialist magazines although my local newsagents shelves seem as full of all kinds of different specialist publications as ever, sales seem to be declining. We have discussed here, on the forum, advertising response from gardening magazines and the concensus seems to be pretty much in the don’t bother camp. How do we think, we will in the future, consume our news and follow our interests, will it be on the internet, through networking sites both social and interest based (such as the GardenNetwork), television, will there be a revival in the printed media or will there be something new perhaps blending elements of all three coherently together. I have discussed this with my daughters who  feel that a magazine is a simpler media to navigate than pages on the intenet, I find this also but assumed it may have been an age thing not so apparently, my daughters are in their twenties. 

The greatest advantage I enjoy on the internet is interactivity, I can respond to articles, seek feedback and often get sound useful advice very quickly, this is something that television doesn’t yet in my experience allow or for that matter does the print media. Do those of you who buy gardening magaazines buy less of them, feel that they are less  useful than they once were or have they improved and suit your interests better.

Wondering how the weather is going to affect sales this spring

I have managed a company manufacturing iron garden structures  (arches, arbours,gazebos,loveseats,obelisks,pergolas,etc.) for close on twenty four years and despite our products being semi permanent structures our sales are dependant to a great degree on the weather. A wet spell and a late cold spring delays fhe start of the season, although this year a promotion with Harkness roses has helped move things forward. Prolonged wet and cold weather in England also depresses sales, not just for us directly but also for our garden centre customers and other people we supply.

Paradoxically a really long period of hot sunny weather over several weeks with little rain has the same effect, only a really wet weekend interupting the hot weather helps. It seems people give the seaside a miss and go to the garden centre or look on the internet instead.

Ideally I would have liked a sunny Easter, a nice varied weather pattern in the coming weeks with decent amounts of weekend sunshine and a bit of rain then hopefully two sunny bank holiday weekends in May.

What weather suits other people for their gardens, gardening or garden business? I would be interested in their perspective.

Harkness Roses voucher offer extended on the seriousgardener.co.uk website

We have extended the Free Harkness Roses £5 gift voucher offer.

Would you like a free £5 Harkness roses gift voucher?

If you order an arch, arbour, bower, gazebo, loveseat, obelisk, pergola or tunnel for your garden from us before the 30/4/10 you will recieve a free Harkness Roses gift voucher to help you buy something great to grow up one of our products. If you are gardening in the Uk and grow roses take a look.

Click the link for details Harkness