Safe-place syndrome

What is it about safe places? Why is it that, whenever I\’ve managed to be tidy and organised and put something away in a safe place so I can find it later, I immediately forget all about it. And then I can\’t find it.
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This is one of the reasons why I fear tidying up. No, honestly, it is. Really. When it\’s all out in a higgledy-piggledy mess, cluttering up available surfaces and forming avalanches onto the floor… That\’s fine. I can find things. Yes, it means I need a thorough understanding of the archaeological principles of stratification (top – recent, bottom – a while ago, avalanches -often reversed). Yes, it means that wherever I live, a sediment of papers and books builds up until I\’ve forgotten what colour the carpet is. Some people (my parents in law for instance) would say I\’m a lazy slob which is harsh though fair. But…
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I was at school long enough ago that we all had locker desks – you know, the ones like a box where the top of the desk lifts so you can store things inside? You can see them in living history museums now. And people were always telling me to tidy my desk. I could never understand why because they seemed to think that tidying my desk would somehow solve my disorganisation and total unwillingness to do any homework.
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So I\’d tidy it and instantly be much more disorganised and less likely to do any homework because I couldn\’t find any books at all in the neat piles in my desk.
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I wish I could say that several decades of living has cured this but it hasn\’t. So after getting up at horrible o\’clock (5 a.m. leddies and gennelmen) to sort out my paperwork for my course, I spent forty minutes looking for the most vital bits of paper. And where were they? In a safe place, of course.
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See what I mean?

Bee sociable

Beekeepers are very social creatures. They also seem able to negotiate with the Cornish weather-gods. So the Roseland beekeeping group\’s barbecue yesterday evening was absolutely lovely – outstandingly well-organised, fantastic food, lots of fascinating conversation about varroa-control methods and requeening… Well, OK, I find it fascinating.
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Being a shambolic creature myself, I\’m always amazed and impressed by good organisation. I gaze in admiration as you do when some ordinary person bounces across a mat doing somersaults in the air. Everything worked. There were marquees in case it rained – though in fact it didn\’t. There were tables and chairs. Everybody brought a plate of food that had clearly not only been beautifully cooked, but often lovingly home-grown as well.
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And the setting (once I found it) was idyllic, in a little green valley near St Austell. The only slight downside was that there was so much delicious food that I had to have seconds of everything, thus branding myself quite clearly the greediest person there.

Techno-dren

So the MP3 player recorded but the voice quality was terrible. So I rushed round Truro looking for audio cassettes for the old recorders in the college. No dice. The world stopped making them last autumn and nobody had any at all. So I bought a dictaphone. No dice. That didn\’t work either.
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One of the other trainees very kindly lent me a Sony Walkman which I used to do the recording, but I\’m now worried I\’ve somehow done it wrong – one voice (mine) is loud, the other is too soft. I\’m hoping my audio software will sort it out but it means I\’ve effectively got to cancel Sunday to do battle.
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I\’m very proud that in all this kerfuffle I didn\’t scream, cry, swear or punch any pieces of equipment. And at least Curry\’s gave me my money back for the things that didn\’t work properly.
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One of the reasons why I find technical stuff so stressful is that it\’s ALWAYS a struggle to get anything to work for me. I don\’t know why, it just is.
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Clearly I am a dren.

Techno battle

I hate anything technical that\’s called \”intuitive\”. That means they can\’t be bothered to write instructions and you\’re supposed to guess but if you\’re older than 25, you will have no clue as to where to start or what to guess.
***
Yes, I have bought another piece of kit – my very first MP3 player, mainly because I need the voice recorder for my TESOL course. The sound quality isn\’t very good so I may have to use an old-fashioned cassette tape recorder anyway. But it took me an hour and a half of struggle to fail completely in my mission to find out how to record. Yes, I went on the manufacturers\’ website. No, as usual, it was no good at all. No, it didn\’t have downloadable instructions. No, the FAQs (all five of them) were no help.
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This is because these bits of kit are designed by children who cannot even imagine a human being could exist who didn\’t already know which button to press. As a result they see no reason to explain it.
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Luckily Bryn, my daughter\’s boyfriend, is not only a techno-hero but a saint who talked me through it even though he was in the middle of a party and so I found out how to record.
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You press the Start button. Yeah, well, how was I to know?

Fashion? Wot\’s that?

OK. Nobody is ever going to call me fashionable. But when I first lost a lot of weight, I had a great time buying normal clothes – there were some lovely colours in the shops, purples and pinks mainly, and some short skirts which in retrospect I probably shouldn\’t have bought, but hey… I was having fun.
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This year… Well this year I haven\’t bought anything apart from a fuschia t-shirt on sale and some jeans from a charity shop. And it\’s not just down to finance. I could buy more if I wanted (though I\’d have to cut down on books a bit), I just don\’t want. I think all the clothes on sale at the moment are absolutely hideous and not only would they not suit me, they don\’t really suit anyone, even the really beautiful girls strutting around in their heels and french-polished nails.
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The shops are full of SALE signs so I think a lot of the beautiful girls agree with me. And it\’s the fashion world\’s own fault.
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I\’ve been working it out and I think this is what they do. They have a five year cycle in colours. Jewel colours, Primaries, Pastels, Sour and Busy. This year, it\’s Busy (flowers and bad LSD trips) and they\’re using up some Sour lots from last year. They also have a six year cycle for silhouette shapes and trouser lengths which is cunningly offset from the colour-wheel. That way they make sure no clothes you buy one year will match or go with anything you bought the year before or the year following, so the idea is that you have to go and buy more.
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Or alternatively, you just won\’t buy anything. And this is how it\’s all blown up in their faces. Serve them right.

And the Rain it Raineth Every Day.

Here in drought-ravaged Britain… All right, Cornwall. Yes, it\’s cold and rainy again. Not hammering down, just dank grey clouds and a persistent mizzle that makes you feel the sky has caught a nasty cold.
***
My mother had a theory that the only reason why the British went out and got themselves an Empire, was to get away from the ghastly weather. It was no coincidence, she said, that the Brits tended to try and hang on to the really hot bits like South Africa, India and Australia.
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So anyway, here in drought-hit Cornwall, we are bang in the path of the Gulf Stream and get the rain first; everybody else has secondhand rain. Despite this we spend enormous sums for water rates (I pay nearly £70 per month for a very ordinary three bedroom house) and the minute there\’s a gap in the clouds for more than a week, everybody instantly runs round announcing that global warming is a Fact and there has to be a hosepipe ban.
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At which point the evil Cornish weather-gods cackle evilly and chuck down the wet stuff.

Bee Happy!

My bees were inspected yesterday by David Packham, one of the local official Bee Inspectors. He checks hives regularly for signs of disease and is the kind of expert who can explain what he knows.
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So there we were: the Cornish rain gods were havin\’ a laff, opening up the clouds for a bit of sun and then chucking down the rain; sun, rain, sun, rain! Wind. Rain! Sun! It was truly bonkers weather.
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First he checked the hive belonging to the lovely lady who allows me to share her little apiary space, at the end of a garden stuffed with beautiful flowers. As she thought might have happened, they\’d swarmed and there were two sealed Queen cells, which look just like peanut shells stuck to the bottom of the comb. Lots of bees wandering around, no eggs. There was a virgin queen there, making a high-pitched piping sound too high for me to hear. That\’s so that her younger sisters will pipe back at her from their cells so she can go and sting them to death before they hatch and fight her. In the course of his inspection, despite the two umbrellas being held up by suited spacemen, I think it rained three times.
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Then he looked at the first of my two hives – the one that wanted to swarm and which we did an artificial swarm from. I\’ve been worrying pointlessly about this one because the last time we looked, there were no eggs, no brood, no sealed brood. The only thing that reassured me was that the bees seemed quite happy: they make an anxious unhappy sound if they don\’t have a queen.
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Tantara! They did have a Queen! There were eggs (very hard to see as they\’re about the size of white commas at the bottom of the broodcells), there were pearly white brood and there was sealed brood as well. She must have been in there last Friday and we just didn\’t see her.
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Luckily one of the other Roseland group beekeepers spotted young Madame on the comb. David took his gloves off, picked her up gently and marked her with the Tippex I\’d brought along just in case. It was so deft and quick – I was amazed.
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I put feeders full of syrup on both hives because the ghastly wet weather (here in drought-ravaged Britain) means there are hardly any flowers around for them to forage.
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And off we went in convoy to see the next hives. Before we left I did my Yess! There\’s a Queen! Dance which I think might have frightened the other beekeepers a bit. But if the bees can dance, why can\’t I?

Come on, New Scientist!

It\’s my comic. I\’ve been subscribing to it since I was doing A level Biology and Mrs Cruikshank insisted I had to read it and also read Dawkins\’ \”The Selfish Gene\” (bless you, Mrs Cruikshank, and I\’m sorry my course-work was so awful.)
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For a long while they would run a feature pretty much every month, the title of which could boil down to \”Spotty nerds discover answer to Life, Universe and everything and it isn\’t 42 but they\’re definitely right this time.\” This was always good for a laugh because it flatly contradicted the previous and following months\’ feature about identical spotty (or beardy) nerds who were equally sure of themselves.
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Every so often NS still runs wonderful exciting features and think pieces but recently it\’s got itself embroiled in the Atheists vs. Religion nonsense and to be honest, it\’s gone off the boil. Feedback and the Last Word have also gone dull and quite repetitive.
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I know it\’s difficult to explain the dizzying heights of physics or molecular biology to amateur nerds like me, but that\’s why it\’s worth doing. Maybe the Higgs boson is behaving like a boojum and softly and silently vanishing away, but that\’s no reason to sulk. Buck up, chaps.

Bee careful

Now I\’m worrying about my bees because the weather keeps being warm and sunny and then pouring with freezing rain and then back to warm and sunny inside fifteen minutes. My bees are yellow-stripy Italians not black British bees, so they no wanna fly when itsa wet. British bees (naturally) fly through the rain, cos they\’re tough, mean, hard bees but they\’re quite rare now because they were badly hit by varroa (the sneaky UnBritish parasites!).
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I can\’t go check them and feed them syrup because I\’m still not allowed to drive. I\’ll be watching them beeing inspected on Saturday and I\’m really hoping that the hive we took the swarm from will have a mated laying Queen. They seemed all right and not too unhappy when we looked at them last Friday, but I still worry.
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Oy. Those bees.

Blast and damn you, moon

I rushed out of the house this evening after logging onto Google and seeing the google doodle of the full lunar eclipse. I\’ve seen a lunar eclipse a couple of times and it\’s eery how the moon turns to blood. Must have been terrifying in the days when everyone thought the Moon was a maiden-goddess.
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Naturally, I was followed by an excited dog, all ready to do some traditional howling at the moon. I looked up and…
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No dice. This is Cornwall in the summer. There\’s far too much cloud to see anything at all. Holly the dog trotted back inside again. What was all the excitement? Doesn\’t Packlady know that the spare-rib bones are on the counter not outside?