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Monthly Archives: December 2012

  • In The Bleak Midwinter

    Well, we got to the midwinter solstice without any major catastrophes. The days are going to get longer and the nights shorter, hang on in there all you SAD sufferers!

    Winter can be a beautiful time in the Lakes, you just need to get out there when it isn't raining or foggy or windy...OK just trying to be optimistic about stuff, annoying ,eh?

    Took this photo from above Pooley Bridge down the Ullswater valley.

    Hope it brightens up your day.

    Enjoy your winter break

    and let's see what 2013 has to say for itself!

  • Just Passing Through

    I get it, I get it!

    Mr Italic, the staff development officer, (a.k.a. Didactosaurus), is spending some time with old Piet in the Pooley Bridge shop.

    The theme is layers.

    That Einstein chap was a clever beggar, but since he started messing about with those thought experiments and told us that nothing is absolute or fixed, and that it's all relative, well, everything got wobbly.

    Do you know that if you could travel at the speed of light your watch would stop. And if you could fly around the universe faster than the speed of light, you'd get back before you set off?

    But you can't, so let's not worry about that.

    Yes, you can choose your friends but you can't pick your relatives, as my Granny used to say.

    We're doing layers today, aren't we?  No walrus poems then?

    No, just a little joke to start with.

    An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman walk into a pub and the barman says, "Is this some kind of a joke?"

    Get it?

    Of course I do. The joke starts in a traditional format; we are led to expect some amusing banter, probably linked into national stereotypes, but then the barman, in a surreal kind of way, steps out of the joke. As if an actor in a play were to jump off the stage and sit in the auditorium with the audience and become a spectator, not a player.

    Can't see the link with Einstein, though.

    That was more to do with the waterproof question and how external conditions turn that into a 'that depends' answer, ask the walrus, there are no absolutes any more.

    So you see that humour can work (or not) at different levels, there was a kind of joke within a joke there, like those Russian dolls : Matryoshka dolls, you see?

    You're going to try to slip from levels to layers now and hope nobody notices the clunk, aren't you?

    Clunk!? A Russian doll is a pretty good example of layers.

    If you are planning to get out into the hills, you need to think about the best combination of layers that will give you appropriate insulation from the conditions you are likely to encounter on that particular day and on that particular walk.

    OK, I think I can do this.

    In changeable conditions such as we get here in the Lakes, flexibility and adaptability are the guiding principles.

    In simple terms.. a base layer, one or more mid layers and an outer shell.

    Base layer worn next to the skin to absorb and then allow moisture (sweat) to pass through to the...

    mid layer(s) which we use to regulate temperature and also needs to allow moisture to pass through it...also referred  to as wicking...

    then a suitable outer shell, windproof, waterproof and breathable...(remember the walrus?)...which you can easily remove or put back on when the weather changes its mind.

    So there isn't one ideal combination, you have to think about what you are planning to do. It's a good idea to start your walk feeling slightly cool, even a little cold, especially if you are starting your day with a bit of a climb, you'll soon find yourself  generating warmth and you really don't want to get too clammy so early!

    Oh, and red jackets aren't warmer than blue ones.

    I think you got the basics there, Piet. We can get into a little more detail about synthetics versus natural fibres like merino wool, at a later stage of your staff development.

    So it's about keeping the moisture on the move until it gets to the fresh air and evaporates away.

    I've got a joke.

    Oh, really?

    Yes.  A skeleton walks into a pub

    asks for a pint of bitter

    and a mop.

    Get it?

    Wicked, Piet, wicked.  LOL

  • Henry, Karl and Charlie: Three Men and a Blog

    The Germans have an expression : Aller Anfang ist schwer. It means that it's difficult to begin something. I think I've got something to say, but I'm not sure how to start; actually that should do it, shouldn't it?

    When I was at school in the fifties and sixties, we were shown maps of the world with large areas coloured red: The British Empire - upon which the sun never sets!

    We were told to be proud of our heritage, we were special, Britain was (had been) the Workshop of the World .

    But the sun, not having been informed of this, did eventually set on the British empire and Johnny Foreigner, never having played cricket, crept onto the scene.

    However, this isn't meant to be a rant about imperialism and lost empires, but I am going to touch on Capitalism and Communism in a roundabout kind of way.

    Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, was one of those early capitalists who set up the production line as a means of producing goods as quickly and cheaply as possible. He made sure he paid his workers a good rate so that they would have enough disposable income to be able to buy the cars they were building. Thus he delivered supply and demand.

    Eventually, however, as demand slowed and began to stagnate (most people had bought their car), other manufacturers who had copied his means of production, started to produce improvements on their original models, creating a fresh demand and the concept of the 'latest', most up to date, state of the art model, better than anything that had gone before, better than your neighbour's, was created. Every year something new was revealed, the latest 'must have'.

    Karl Marx, considered to be the father of communism, had, in the previous century, observed the transition of the economy from a basically rural, artisan type of production to what we now consider to be  a 'normal' industrial scene. In other words instead of being involved in producing items as a complete process on a human scale, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker...Mr Wainwright, Mrs Taylor,Miss Cook etc. ...Karl Marx identified what he called the 'Alienation Effect' of mass production. Workers on a production line being involved in one stage of the production of goods, who would not even see the finished item, maybe not even know what he or she was producing.

    This alienation effect...de-humanising... turning people into living tools, parts of the machine, was addressed very well in  the movie 'Modern Times' starring Charlie Chaplin, in which he explored the sinister aspects of the alienation effect on the human mind and society in general.

    In living memory both systems have competed for survival on European soil. The capitalist west and the communist east was the backdrop for my generation and my parent's generation too. We all know which one prevailed... at least till recently.

    Fast forward to the twenty first century and the temptation must be (especially for the twenty and thirty somethings) to think that it has always been as it is now and always will be. Yet, according to some people, capitalism is in crisis and there's no viable alternative (sorry, Karl), we're all doomed!

    Well, who knows?

    Somehow I think we'll all still be around for a while yet.

    On a simple, practical level we should perhaps try to work out the difference between what we need and what we think we want.

    Go for a walk,

    take a flask and some sandwiches,

    climb to the top of a hill,

    and see how small it all looks

    from up there.

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