Retrospective 2013

It has been a busy and sombre year for me. From February to September I was studying hard for the Open University module, “TU100 – My Digital Life“, and in October we were on overtime at work. Things were particularly difficult in July when my mum became seriously ill and, sadly, she died peacefully in hospital. Mary and I had little time to do things together (no holiday this year), but we managed to fit in our usual trips to local places and once in a while a little further afield.

Here are a few words and lots of photos from the occasions we did manage to enjoy.

January

In an effort to clear the Christmas cobwebs from our heads we went on the New Year’s Day welly walk at the Yorkshire Arboretum. It was a bright, but cold day, as you can see from the fractured ice on the ground. The photos are some of the first I took with my new iPhone.

February

For Rachel’s 40th birthday Mary’s side of the family went out for a chinese meal. This is what we look like when we’re having fun …

The Open University module I’d signed up for at the end of 2012 started on 2nd February. “TU100 – My Digital Life” promised a journey through the history of information technology and on to the next 25 years, examining both the technology and its implications for society. I’d flicked through the printed course material, installed the course-specific software and checked that the intelligent sensor board (based on an Arduino processor) was working. Now I had to get my brain in gear and get down to some serious work. Scary!

March

While I got stuck into my studies Mary went to Florence with her sister and daughter. She got some really good pictures. Here are a few particularly nice ones.

We took the opportunity to see an Eco Home just a few streets away from us in York. It’s an ordinary 1930s semi that the Joseph Rowntree Trust upgraded to SuperHome status by insulating the floor, walls and roof, fitting triple glazing and installing a ventilation and heat recovery system. It cost £80,000 pounds to do all that. To be fair it was partly an academic exercise to see what was possible and some of the cost went in sensors to monitor the house and rework when the original ideas turned out to be less effective than hoped. I guess the moral of the story is, yes, pretty much any house can be made energy efficient, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap.

April

This month deliberately left blank. 😉

May

Dunnington is a large village just a few miles from York and this year we went to see it’s scarecrow festival. Here are some photos of the scarecrows. And a stone cat on a gate post.

A couple of days after Mary’s birthday we celebrated the Golden Age of Crime at the mediaeval Bedern Hall. The amateur dramatics group, Ars Ludendi, presented their production of six short stories from crime writers of the ’30s and ’40s: G. K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Gladys Mitchell, Baroness Orczy, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L. Sayers. An excellent three-course supper was served in the interval and at the end of the evening we felt we had been thoroughly entertained.

We picked another lovely day to visit the Himalayan Gardens at Grewelthorpe, near Ripon. This year there was a new pavilion under construction and a lodge in the trees. Words can’t do it justice. Here are a few photos. There are lots more over on my flickr site.

June

Nothing but OU entries in my diary for June and no photos in the electronic albums. Must have been another blank month.

July

There was a particularly high standard at the Huntington scarecrow festival this year and far too many to see them all.

Early in July Dad called to say that Mum had been taken into hospital again. Tests showed she had an infection that the doctors thought would be treatable. She was up and down for about two weeks but in the end she couldn’t fight off the bug and she died on 23rd.

One roasting hot day Mary and I drove up to Middlesbrough to visit our friends Hugo and Joan. They put on a barbecue for us and we sat in the garden eating, drinking and chatting all afternoon. I can think of no better way to enjoy a sunny day.

The weekend after Mum died we took a stress-relieving stroll around the Yorkshire Arboretum but it seemed a peculiarly sombre place. These pictures show a poppy,  Mary sitting on a tree stump and the steps down to the Rootery.

August

On the first weekend in August Mary, Rachel and Alex went down to Watford to see the Harry Potter set. They all seemed to have enjoyed it, but I think Mary was the most impressed.

Mum’s funeral was held on 7th August at the Milton Keynes Crownhill Crematorium. It was, of course, a sad occasion, but the weather was sunny and warm, the crematorium building and grounds were very pleasant and the funeral directors provided a first class service. I think we all felt it was a fitting send-off.

Mary, Rachel and Alex went to Cornwall for a few days in the middle of August. They got to Lands End just as a John O’Groats to Lands End charity bike ride was celebrating the successful conclusion of their trip. Here are some pictures showing Land’s End, the Eden Project and Charlestown.

The maize was high at the York Maze this year. They had all the usual attractions, too: crazy golf, a wildflower meadow, optical illusions, pig racing, alligators in the ponds (no, not real ones) and lots more for the kids.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend the daughter of my cousin, Greg, competed in the Gibraltar Triathlon. Not only that, she won the senior female category as you can see in this article from the Gibraltar Chronicle (look for ‘Coady, Louise’).

September

I submitted the last assignment for my Open University course a few days before the deadline of 12 September. Over the previous eight months I’d broadened my knowledge of information technology and brushed up my study skills. I learnt about ubiquitous computing (everywhere, everyware, everywear), produced a video clip, considered whether social media is a good thing and dipped my toe into virtual worlds. (There’s a character in Second Life somewhere that’s me.) I’d played with sensors for light, temperature and movement, written a few simple programs, collaborated with other students via bulletin boards and email, attended online tutorials and searched both academic databases and the Web as a whole. Finally, after five Tutor-Marked Assignments, seven Computer-Marked Assignments and the End of Module Assignment itself the work was done and I could reclaim that 16 hours a week of my free time. It was great, but it was hard work, too.

We met up with Mary’s friend Jane and her husband at this year’s Wild About Wood event. There were some lumberjacks from Wales as wells as the usual crafts, folk music, birds of prey, horse logging and coracle paddling. And I met the woodland fairy, too.

Making the most of a fine sunny day we drove over to Harewood House and took a stroll round the Gardens. It felt like summer (and the butterflies seemed to agree), but the blackberries were ripening and the pumpkins were big and plump. What’s up with the weather these days?

Then, at the end of September, we spent a couple of days in London visiting the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum, Madame Tussauds and Kew Gardens.

The Pompeii exhibition was impressive, giving a vivid picture of what it was like in Pompeii and Herculaneum before, during and after the eruption of Vesuvius. No photos were allowed in the exhibition, but I did get a couple of nice shots in the atrium of the British Museum taken with the iPhone. The phone didn’t do as good a job in Madame Tussauds but you’ll recognise a few famous faces here …

I’m sure I don’t need to describe Kew Gardens to you. I’ll just show a few photos of the tree-top walkway, the Sackler bridge, the aquaria under the tropical house, an enormous tea table set with cups, saucers, plates and decorative pots, and (of course) the trees and flowers.

October

Having made the most of our free time in September it was back to the grindstone for me, working overtime throughout October for a demonstration of a new piece of welding equipment to our customers. Fortunately, we just managed to get everything working in time and the demonstration went rather well.

At the end of the month my TU100 results came out and I was delighted to see I’d got a distinction. All those hours studying had been well worthwhile. 🙂

November

We visited my dad on his birthday and we all went to Bletchley Park. None of us had been before and we were not sure quite what to expect.

It was a cold, bright November day and we arrived just in time to catch a guided tour around the mansion, it’s outbuildings and the huts famous for the British war-time code breaking activities. Among other things we learned that you would be recruited to work at Bletchley Park if you could do the Telegraph crossword in 12 minutes, irrespective of your status or qualifications. (We comprehensively failed that test.)

After the guided tour we had some lunch in the café in Hut 4 and then started to wander round some of the other huts. There was an amazing collection of Winston Churchill memorabilia in one building (now relocated) and lots of information about incidents in the war connected with Bletchley Park. There was far too much to see in one day. We did, however, see the reconstructed Bombe that was used to crack the Enigma code – an operation that is believed to have shortened the war by at least two years.

The iPhone photos show the lake (morning and evening) and the mansion.

December

York’s Festival of Angels was held again in the middle of December. The ice sculptures were melting quite quickly in the mild weather. They’re really difficult to photograph, partly because they are almost transparent and reflective, and partly because of the crowds. Still, here are a few pictures showing the ice bar (pour Bailey’s in at the top, catch it ice-cold in a glass at the bottom), ice sculptures, a big pan of curry to take away, carol singers, a latin music brass band and our bus driver on the Park & Ride going home.

I have to believe in Santa Claus now!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

About stoneyfish

Humanist and retired software engineer with a love of music.
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