Posts Tagged With: Wales

Partial to an Eclipse

Through a glass, darkly

Through a glass, darkly

We had a partial eclipse here in Wales today. It was a clear blue sky that greeted the Snail and I as we headed to what has already become one of my favourite ways to start a day – an eclipse party breakfast. It is ironic that, in a land where the sun is not as regular a visitor as one might like, when there is a chance of a sunny spell it has to shine through the moon. C’est la vie, as they say, er, here.

Our lovely friends Linda and Graeme invited us to partake in an eclipse and then breakfast, so I bunked off work* and came home.

The camera on my tablet was confused...

The camera on my tablet was confused…

The weather was perfect as was the company. Can’t say the same for my pictures though! The one above shows that Britain wasn’t really “plunged into darkness” as some news-feeds suggested – it was just a bit darker than usual for half past nine in the morning. That picture was taken at close to the peak, but the tiny pathetic webcam on my tablet computer was still overwhelmed by the unfiltered light.

The mist waxed and waned as the temperature of the air cooled and warmed. On the way over from Chez Snail, the fog was thick enough to allow the start of the eclipse to be seen with the naked eye, which was quite incredible. It is a shame that the fog didn’t persist, in fact!

Sun Spot - a spot of sun

Sun Spot – a spot of sun

Close to the peak and the air was positively cold. The birds went to bed, unaware that in about two and a half minutes, they would be getting up again going “Wha’ just happened??”

Swirly, man

Swirly, man

Immediately after the eclipse, a little cloud started to form. It was followed an hour later by a lot of cloud. In my eyes, perfect timing!

Cat in the Eclipse Mist

Cat in the Eclipse Mist

And so to breakfast!

Post-eclipse brekky!

Post-eclipse brekky!

oOo

* Actually, time off in lieu, but it feels better somehow if you pretend you’re doing something slightly naughty.

Categories: Sustainable Stuff, Universe | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Everybody Yurts (3): Intent on Finishing

And so it came to pass that in the land of the Mabinogion and cawl, a strange building with one eye lifted to the sky, appeared on the landscape, apparently in response to the four people who were stood around it, magically chanting the mysterious incantation: “Can we stop and have a cuppa then?”

A Window on the Stars

A Window on the Stars

So, the yurt is almost complete. The canvas for the sides also has some oak leaf-shaped windows cut out of it for good measure. Once the side piece was attached to the frame, the broom handle was out again as we positioned the yurt’s “hat” – the canvas with a see-through plastic top that sits over the crown. This allows the yurt to breathe whilst keeping the inhabitants dry (not that it ever rains in Wales!). The hat is fastened with guy ropes to stop it blowing away (not that it is ever windy in Wales!).

Keeping the Yurt's Hat on

Keeping the Yurt’s Hat on

 

With all the structural bits done, it’s just a question of cleaning and bringing in the chairs. These are beautifully carved and feel as if they truly belong inside the yurt. A wood burner completes the fittings, along with its chimney and custom-made chimney holder-upper*.

Chaise Yurt

Chaise Yurt

One completed Yurt, detached, all mod-cons.

One completed Yurt, detached, all mod-cons.

Inside, all is calm…

Ready to live in

Ready to live in

 

And there it is – up until the end of autumn, so (blatant advert approaching) book early to avoid missing out (http://www.denmarkfarm.org.uk/)!

Fully clothed Yurt

Fully clothed Yurt

oOo

* That is the technical name. The common name is “chimney thingy do-dah”.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everybody Yurts (2): Yes We Can(vas)!

The story so far...

The story so far…

When I last left you, the sun had come out over Denmark Farm (http://www.denmarkfarm.org.uk/) and the yurt’s framework was up and basking in the West Wales spring. With the spell of good weather set to continue, Yurt-controller Mara choose the perfect day to clothe the naked structure.

Once again, four people (but not all the same four people as in part 1) took to the field, this time armed with a very large piece of canvas, brought up from its winter store in a wheelbarrow. There was also a piece of canvas to wrap around the walls and a very natty “hat” to fit over the crown.

Do-it-yourself Yurt Dressing Kit

Do-it-yourself Yurt Dressing Kit

And so to business… first of all, you have to fold the canvas in half, then roll it such that it forms two conjoined sausage rolls, then grapple it onto the framework opposite the door (to make it easier to fix once it is unfurled). As in part 1, the handle of a broom comes in very useful to push and pull the canvas into position.

Canvas rolling

Canvas rolling

Ready to lift into place

Ready to lift into place

So, the idea is now to lift it onto the frame, unroll it, then flip the top layer of the canvas over the frame to cover the yurt. When you put it like that, it sounds really easy and in no way back-breaking. Even with four people, it is an interesting challenge. OK, now for the heavy lifting!

The start...ready to be unrolled and flipped over

Ready to be unrolled and flipped over

Inside Man (with a broom)

Inside Man (with a broom)

With someone inside the yurt and armed with a stick, the unfolding of the canvas can begin – but it takes a bit of finagling. Eventually, we persuaded it over the frame and tweaked it so that the cut-away in the canvas was above the doors. The canvas is then tied onto the frame all the way around.

Top fitted

Like a fake snow-topped mountain

It was with aching arms (for arms read everything that is possibe to ache plus a few things that really shouldn’t but did anyway) that we were ready to fit the bottom piece of canvas and fit the stove – see the next post!

oOo

 

 

 

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Everybody Yurts

Do-it-Yurtself Kit

Do-it-Yurtself Kit

It’s always fun to volunteer to do something that a) helps a worthy cause and b) means you might learn something which could be handy later on when, if you are a writer, you find yourself needing to have a character in your latest novel do something unusual such as, for example, build themselves temporary shelter in the style of Central Asian nomads from 600 BC (Before Cottages).

I went to Denmark Farm (check out their website at http://www.denmarkfarm.org.uk/) to help erect the frame for their yurt (the canvas will be put over later, something I hope to be able to help with too). The pieces don’t look like they quite belong together – a pile of long sticks, slightly curved at one end, some trellis that appears to have come from a garden centre, and a wheel-like contraption that looks as if it is either a work of art or possibly an unskinned bodhran. The chimney (it turns out) isn’t needed until the canvas has been fitted – I was being overzealous as I helped retrieve all the bits from their winter store.

The door on which everything hinges...

The door on which everything hinges…

First off, you place the door. Well, the doors, in a very solid door frame. This will act as an anchor point for the trellis, which you don’t grow honeysuckle up (unless you really want to, I suppose) but forms the curved walls. Unlike the nomads’ version, this yurt doesn’t move year to year, so there is a nice base with handy holes already drilled.

The trellis has a black belt...

This trellis has a black belt…

Because this yurt has been put up and taken down a few times, the trellis is now curved a particular way. If you know which way round it goes, fitting it is a doddle. Fortunately, some bright person has marked the trellis accordingly, so putting it up with four people took no time at all.

The black band is the same stuff that seatbelts are made from and is used to tension the whole of the wall structure.

Carrying the crown into the yurt, the superstitious way

Carrying the crown into the yurt, the superstitious way

The superstition goes that it is bad luck to carry the crown (the wheel-like contraption) through the door, so it is (un)ceremoniously passed over the walls, ready for the slightly scary bit.

Wet but not wet enough for my 'Trellis Island' gag

Wet, but not wet enough for my ‘Trellis Island’ gag

We all retired for a cup of tea at this point, partly out of a sense of dehydration but mostly because torrential rain started to fall and when I say fall, I mean, be driven into us courtesy of a howling gale. The storm passed quickly, and with tea drunk, we returned to the slightly soggy structure.

Holding up my end of the bargain - note the blue sky. Wales. March. Blue sky. It can and does happen!

Holding up my end of the bargain – note the blue sky. Wales. March. Blue sky. It can and does happen!

Now comes the slightly scary bit, for which, ideally, four people are needed. Spaced equidistantly, three of the long, slightly bent sticks are pushed through the corresponding holes in the crown and the whole thing lifted up using a pole of some description (in this case, one of the long sticks). Once at the correct height, the three people holding the sticks tie them onto the trellis.

Dancing around an invisible Maypole

Dancing around an invisible Maypole

Then they start to fit the rest of the sticks around – at some point, the person in the middle holding the crown up becomes tired/bored/terrified that the whole thing will fall on his head and makes a run for the door. Magically (I refuse to believe physics has a part to play in this at all), everything levitates.

A thing of beauty - and essential to stop everthign crashing down on my, I mean one's, head

A thing of beauty – and essential to stop everything crashing down on my, I mean one’s, head

Ready for its canvas

Ready for its canvas

And there it is… four people and about an hour and a half and the frame is up and ready to take the canvas. Watch this space for pictures of that! (Blatant advert: Better still, book a holiday in it!)

Yurt in the Landscape

Yurt in the Landscape

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Fourth E-state

We live in a universe that is apparently ruled by one overarching force: energy.

Without energy, the universe would be much like I am first thing in the morning, when the rays of the new day (or the rains of the new day, this is Wales after all) invite me to join them – motionless and possibly snoring a little. What does the universe sound like when it snores? And are you really snoring if there is no-one there to hear it, because they have gone to sleep in the front room to escape the cacophony? Questions for another time, I think.

So, where was I? Ah, yes, the universe without energy. A cold, static affair like a Van der Graaf generator in a fridge. For humans, the most prevalent form of energy is, of course, electricity. Pretty much the whole planet is wired up, with the exception of the rain forest and parts of North Wales and this is an extraordinary thing. Until 1646, there wasn’t even a word for electricity – we have William Gilbert to thank for that. He was an English scientist who, not only realised that the core of the Earth was iron, but also invented peanut butter**, though not at the same time, at least not to begin with. Without him, we’d be saying “the bill for that nameless stuff that comes out the sockets in the walls has come and it’s huge! Now, use some of that nameless stuff that comes out the sockets in the walls to toast some bread and put some peanut butter on it, please!”

So, then I started to ponder Earth Hour, which was on 31 March this year. For an hour, we are all encouraged to turn off our nameless stuff…oh, yes electricity for an hour to save the planet or at least keep it going a little longer. If you look at http://www.earthhour.org/page/about/about-earth-hour you can learn more about what this is about. Cities across the globe go (almost) dark giving everyone an opportunity to realise how much we take electricity for granted and to bump, quite literally, into strangers.

We live in an electricity-state, an e-state if you will. There have been four of them to date, each one better than the last (maybe):

1st e-state – Come with me back to 1899. OK. Careful what you do with that flaming flaming torch! We are marching to the laboratory of Tesla to stop the advance of the “devil’s electrickery” which is threatening our sensibilities and our business as flaming torch makers (motto: “We won’t go out at night so you can”). Between Tesla and Edison, the World is on the brink of a massive change. Tesla has buried his electricity somewhere beneath our feet but we can still stop him, can’t we?

2nd e-state – Now, we are in Britain in 1978. Using a flaming torch, but this time with batteries, we are writing a letter of complaint to the electricity company about the power cuts. Already, we are dependent on the stuff. Pylons appear to stride resolutely across the countryside, although that may be the effect on an advert for the National Power company some 12 years later (why was a nationalised industry advertising? I have no idea…)

3rd e-state – Now, we are in Britain anytime in the last two years. Following high winds, we are using a laptop running on its batteries to write a letter of complaint to the electricity company about the power cuts. To see more clearly, we use Microsoft Flaming Torch V2.3 which crashes the machine. Again.

4th e-state – Today. You are your own electricity company with your own solar panels, micro-hydro and wind turbine. Sadly, it is night, in the middle of a drought and with not a breath of wind to move the blades. None of your batteries are charged and you can’t see a thing. You bitterly complain to yourself before falling into a snore-laden sleep.

Oh, for a flaming torch. Of any kind.

So, just for this second, give electricity a thought: where it comes from, where it goes and what it does in between. Nifty stuff, eh? And to think it nearly didn’t even have a name…

 

** No, he didn’t. He was too busy inventing useful words. PB was either invented by the Aztec Native Americans or Marcellus Gilmore Edson, depending on your historical point of view.

 

Categories: General silliness, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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