Saturday, October 12, 2013

Herfst zaterdag

DSC00601 StitchAutumn has arrived, all rain and wind gusting through the cobbled streets in Maastricht.  I can see it in the morning mist rising from the Maas, and the leaves swirling around narrow street corners.  I huddle against the chill, bending into the wind, my fingers stiffen on the handlebar when biking.  The days are shortening; the night’s chill deepens. Only the trees are lagging, their color catching up late with the weather.

DSC00571 (1200x857)DSC00597 (1200x900)

DSC00555 (1200x900)As the weather turns, the Channel crossing also turns very rough, but the drive across Belgium was only rainy, otherwise uneventful.  I arrived in time to shop, visit friends, and make a fresh pot of tomato soup.

DSC00612 (1200x900)The vacant restaurant downstairs is trying a new advertising campaign to attract renters.  The pubs around it are doing brisk business in brown beers and Jazz / Blues bands.  It’s been nice to listen to in the evenings, although nobody under 40 has really lived enough to play the blues with authenticity.

DSC00580 (1200x900)DSC00573 (900x1200)DSC00579 (1200x900)

DSC00576 (1200x900)

The cafĂ©’s are suddenly empty beneath the trees, and everyone’s bright shorts have given way to dull overcoats.  My conversations with friends have moved indoors, sparkling wines giving way to steaming mugs of milky coffee and mulled teas.

fb Oct 10 (2500x852)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Coasting from Milton to Avon

DSC00529 (1200x897)I always love to hear where you’re calling in from, our host commented as I identified myself into the conference call.  I’d pulled into a Pay and Display lot in Milford on Sea, where I could hopefully get some quiet and a decent cell signal.DSC00557 (972x1200)

And a view.  It was lovely

DSC00537 (1200x897) DSC00531 (1200x886)

The beach glowed Dutch orange in the late afternoon light,the sea a cobalt blue. Cliffs shone white beyond: my tablet identified them as the north-western tip of the Isle of Wight.


The call had some rare good news, resolving a long-standing question and opening a forward path for us.  This clearly warranted a bit recognition with food-and-a view. I put the tablet away and trusted to luck.

The coast road wound along the bluffs,one spectacular beach after another. 

DSC00536 (1200x891) DSC00532 (1200x897)

But a seaside cafe or coffee shop?  All were closed.

The wind rose: the cold deepened with the dusk.  It was looking like a Tesco wrap or salad was in the offing when I pulled into Avon Beach and found the Noisy Lobster.  It was empty at 6:30, but the(rude) waitress said it would soon fill and seated me at the back.avon beach

<sigh>  No matter.

DSC00544 (1200x891) DSC00542 (1200x883)

The food was very good (a delicate potato-leek soup and a lightly spiced seafood linguine), and the view was inspiring.

DSC00546 (1200x883) DSC00549 (1200x900)

I haven’t found the perfect spot along the coast yet, but I’m getting warmer…

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beaulieu and the New Forest

DSC00485 (1200x900)Today’s meetings ended early at Southampton Hospital: the clinical team has the protocol complete, contract draft and Ethics Board / MHRA  notification are underway, and the working group is meshing well.   There’s a choice of routes back south, zip down the motorway or meander through the New Forest.

No contest: I aim for the scenic route.

DSC00521 (881x1200)The New Forest, actually established before the United States was founded (1698), is a big wedge of moors, heathland, and ancient Oak/Redwood groves between Southampton and the Channel Coast.  Its a walking wilderness dotted with water and villages, filled with birds and animals.  It’s flatter and bleaker than the Lake District up north, cold and windswept on an October afternoon beneath a  heavy grey sky and yellow sunset light.  But it has a real presence, deep quiet in vast open spaces carpeted with heath and heather.

DSC00527 (1200x897) DSC00462 (1200x888)DSC00511 (1200x900) StitchDSC00514 (1200x882) DSC00504 (1200x888)

I need to get more time to do some walking further back in, ‘checking with local friends for some recommendations.

DSC00494 (1200x899)Beaulieu (Beugh-Lee) is a centraly located village, best known for is motoring museum and sheep’s milk ice cream. A couple of (kind of) wild donkeys were wandering the riverbanks (the more famous short ponies were dotted around the moors).

DSC00497 (1200x884) DSC00472 (1200x878)DSC00492 (1200x899) DSC00478 (1200x897)

The village is picturesque but somewhat touristy: the ice cream and chocolates are worth a stop, but otherwise it’s better to be taking walks in the natural areas than along the village streets.

It should be magnificent when the leaves really turn in another week.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Settling in (I): Home and work

DSC00446 (1200x898)

With everything in Cambridge closed out and all of the household things moved and re-distributed, I’m ready to settle into the next phase of things.  My temptation, as ever, is to get back on track towards  long-term goals, re-affirm things that matter in life, and make the most of the abundant opportunities at hand in Dorset. 

But over coffee or beers, friends have counselled that this is a time to take a break from all of that.   It would be better to relax, live differently, experience the people and places, and focus on this moment rather than past or future ones.

My home and office are on the third floor of a mansion in Poole, a block from the beach.  I think the home must be worth several million gbp: it has an electric gate, expansive woods,  DSC00449and a green belt behind it.  The living areas are huge and well-appointed, a bit more towards American styles even though the family is very British.

The family is warm and friendly, there’s active social and school life rushing through the house and I get included in coffee conversations when neighbours drop by and occasionally pick up the kids from school.   The refurnished the bedroom for me, it’s quiet and comfortable, and my office has relocated up the hall to the children’s craft room.  It’s a comfortable clutter with a bird clock that chirps the half hours, an aerie above the household bustle downstairs.

DSC00448 (1200x900)I’ve been settling in, making choices about how to live, what to have here, and how to arrange my time.  I’m trying to keep to the Dutch principles that ’work’ and ‘not-work’ times and places should be separate.  The ‘office’ is open from 9-5, and I have put all my computers, coffeemakers, and papers away in there.  Rewiring with multiplier outlets and organizing shelf space is complete, and the days have started to become productive, less empty than “Office days” felt like in Cambridge.

DSC00444 (1200x885)At the other end of the hall, I’ve got the bedroom functional, but am still figuring out the living / dining arrangements. The family gathers in the living room every evening for TV, computer work, and conversation, and its becoming a comfortable routine.  I do a bit of study or writing, flip articles back and forth with them, or join in the planning for quiz night or New Year’s Eve.  I’ve gradually expanded into the kitchen and laundry, just breakfast, lunch, and linens so far with a dedicated corner of the refrigerator and a clothes hamper.  I’m making sure to contribute back into shared milk and fruits that everyone uses: (‘not the typical life approaching 60!). 

The neighbours dropping by, the occasional trips to town to do school pickups, the store errands all have a lovely normalcy to them.   I’m listening to the mP3 player a lot less and learning about ‘sixth form’ and netball more.  I still wake a 4 am with too many running thoughts, but the wind in the trees is good balm for the spirit.

DSC00451 (1200x882)It’s a cross between family life and college life, and will work well for the next few months. My friends are right: the plans and goals can wait.

I worry a bit that it’s too detached a life: work is apart from people and meetings in Cambridge, the car and the days are my own, the family is good company but makes no demands.  There is the opportunity to slide into a lot of bad habits amidst this peaceful life.

I’ve disciplined myself to travel less, keep work in bounds, sit down for coffee and conversation, make time to get off the third floor and into the community and onto the beaches every day.  A month of just living in this moment, taking it all in and arranging a quieter life around me, seems like what I need. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Text and Tech (from the ferry)

DSC00422 (1200x900)I’m headed back to the UK to start the week – I’ll be in London for a full day of meetings and then down to Poole to settle into life down there.  I’ve been concerned about what to do now that I’ve turned the corner in life: Should I start to re-define my commitments, build into the new voids left by places and people, and progress towards life’s longer-term goals?  Or should I take a healthy break, time off to slow the pace,  experience the new places that I live, and get to know the new people in my life more fully. 

After discussion, I’m opting for the latter.  No deep questions or reflective puzzles, just a few months of exploring, relaxing, and consolidating.  And daily Dutch, more biking or sailing, and building up local connections, as several friends have recommended. ‘should be fun.

DSC00426 (1200x877)  DSC00430 (1200x870)


Text: The New York Times published an intriguing article Sunday, “Great Betrayals”, discussing the issues experienced by people who discover that their partner has been living a longstanding lie.  The people committing the offense know what they have done and why, have come to terms with their history, and, if they change and make amends, are redeemed by society.  Those who have been lied to, in contrast, are counseled to get over it, to move on, to forgive, receiving  markedly less emotional or social support.

The real damage, the author correctly notes, comes from the destruction off their own past narrative.  Since the things that they believed true are, in fact, false, they must rebuild their story from the life experiences that they can still trust.  Both elements of that process are problematic.

When I think back on past betrayals at school, at work, in my personal life, and the process of moving on, I agree that understanding and accepting the truth, while necessary, is not  enough.  Only when I can rebuild the past and reclaim my lost successes and purpose is the ‘moving on’ really complete.

DSC00423 (1200x900)  DSC00429 (1200x888)

Tech: I have a lot of .mp3 music files that I converted from CDs so that I could carry them with me when I travel or exercise. I’ve always  liked  dbPoweramp as a convertor, it keeps the audio quality high and is regularly updated to conform to new formats.

However, the music files clutter across my hard drives and music players, cursed with a tangle of names (especially after a disastrous attempt to automagically rename files using a shareware utility).  It’s pretty much rendered unusable.

Google MusicThe TWiT network recommended giving the new Google Music service a try, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  Files uploaded quickly, all but five were correctly recognized, the rest were well labeled, and the access options work well.  It’s been good about making relevant recommendations, whether to round out a collection or to find related artists. 

shazamI use it where I have WiFi (3G charges would likely kill me, as with any media streaming service).  I’ve also been exploring the music recognition utility Shazam.  When Radio One comes up with a good track, I tap the button on my Nexus and it generally finds the information in about fifteen seconds.  It filters car noises well and only stumbled on some covers of classic Cole Porter songs.

As always, I purchase the technical and media products I discuss, and am neither asked nor incented to write about them.