Saturday, May 30, 2015

Along the coast, across the moors

I started the day as House-Dad, helping Greek-mom with her pronunciation and our resident cardiologist fix a flat tire.  Both have had a lot of success in the past week: Laura passed her PhD defense and is officially a Doctor-Doctor-Fellow in Bournemouth, while the whole Greek clan has found new jobs in Poole.  There were a few bumps in that, though.
In order to work in a pub, they had to pass a health and safety test with perfect scores.  The on-line course was dense and technical, how to handle money and underage drinkers, which fire extinguishers and cleaning solvents to use for various jobs, how to move boxes and wash dishes properly.  It seems unreasonable to expect someone just learning English to understand and absorb that amount off material in one go, and I ended up helping with an evening's tutorial.  In the end, everyone understood and passed.
Then Greek-mom, very sweet, came to me to ask for help pronouncing harassment, racism, prejudice.  I sighed: what happened?  Co-workers making remarks about Greek immigrants; others brushing her inappropriately during work.  She argued that she needed the money; I argued that she needed to establish boundaries.  In the end, the manager helped.

By midday, I was ready for some moments of Zen and took a long loop around the coast through Milford-on-Sea to watch the sailboats entering the Solant against the Isle of Wight, and up into the New Forest to go for a walk past Hatchet Pond into the moors near Brockenhurst.

It was a lovely day, sunny and warm, and helped to quiet all of the weeks' (and the houses') worries.
'Better to be the day's House-Dad, resourceful and reliable, than the proverbial Expat at the End of the Bar, the one nobody remembers when or how they arrived.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A wee bit 'o techy trouble

The problems first appeared last night, Windows Live Writer (WLW)  returning an error when I tried to push a new essay up onto Blogger. It looked like an authentication issue: I checked passwords, then had a beer and waited for Google to sort itself out.  An hour went by with no change.

A quick search turned up a number of frustrated WLW users complaining in Blogger's Help Forum.  Unhelpfully, we were informed that Google had changed it's user validation process and that Microsoft had chosen not to update it's software.  Microsoft, in turn, saw no reason to update a legacy product that had not been updated in years.

As the evening wore on, it became apparent that none of the Windows blogging clients had updated when told to, from BlogJet to BlogDesk, so nobody was able to post to Blogger.  Microsoft's Word and Outlook interfaces were also broken.

Suggested work-arounds included migrating the blog to WordPress, but the importer likewise had not been updated, so all formatting was lost if I migrated using the Export Content To File / Import Content From File suggested by other users.

I took up the challenge and found that if I mailed a copy of the WLW post to Blogger, then copied Google's HTML back to WLW, tweaked the format, and pasted the HTML back into Blogger, I could get a post published with pictures and formats.  It takes a bit of hacking at the code to smooth it out – if you are noticing small formatting glitches, that is why.

Google is now promising to work with Microsoft on a fix, we apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Some days the Internet is sooo brittle…

Monday, May 25, 2015

Up the River Stour, Christchurch

Christchurch lies at the confluence of the Rivers Stour and Avon, just east of Bournemouth along the Dorset coast.   With a secure harbour and easy inland access up the river, the town (originally known as Twynham) has always been an important trading, smuggling, and defense point.
I usually see the town only on side view as I zip past on the A338 to Ringwood.  Occasionally, if meandering towards the New Forest parks, I'll stop at Mudeford Quay, straddling the entrance to Christchurch Harbour, for crab sandwiches or stormwatching,
I'm overdue for a good exploration of the town, so took advantage of the Bank holiday and a walking map in Dorset Magazine to spend time walking.  The areas along the rivers and harbour are nicer than the town itself, which seems crowded and common with the flea market dominating the main road.
A good walk begins at the Priory: the most visible landmark, an 11th-14th century monastery established where the rivers flow into the tidal estuary at Place Mill.  The church is one of the larger ones built in England, and (with help) I followed the architectural changes where the nave was extended an additional story, and the addition of the Lady Chapel.
Outside, there is a nice walk along parks bordering the River Stour.  It's mostly high-end homes and boats along the north side, boardwalks through the southern marshlands are accessible via the Wick Ferry.

It became a walk/sit, walk/eat, walk/read, walk/coffee sort of 'casual morning, relaxed and warm.  I fiddled with improving the light and composition in my photos, 'took some notes for the upcoming week.

On second visit, I'm most likely to explore further upriver, renting one of the kayaks and getting either further into the tidal marshes or up past the main bridge, where homes and sailboats give way to woodlands and wildflowers.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rambling along Warbarrow Bay

Rounding the crumbled cottages of Tyneham Gwyle, I found several families stopped along the trail, taking pictures.  I expected it was either framed by the ruins or the rhododendrons, but the star was Flower's Barrow ridge, a spectacular chalk cliff luminous against the blue waters of Worbarrow Bay.
Lining up to take my turn at capturing the scene, I found that it became even better as I descended toward the crescent stone beaches below.
The path down to the water leads from the corner of the carpark opposite Tyneham's entrance: I found it by walking the barb-wire perimeter that keeps visitors off of the tank artillery range.  From there, the path winds down a deep gulley among ruined cottages until the Bay comes into view.

The Bay itself is an enormous crescent bordered by the sheer white cliffs of Flower's Barrow, collapsing into the sea above Cow Corner.  The colors range from dark greensward on the headlands over red mineral and earthen strata towards the eastern end, white chalk filling the western arc.  Dr, Ian West has a well illustrated and very detailed web page describing the geology of the Bay which makes absorbing sense of it all.
The path splits approaching the Bay, one part leading up to a promontory, Worbarrow Tout (=lookout), while the other forks down to the water's edge.  The beach is large-scale gravel, warm and crunchy, with absolutely transparent glass-like water.  Various shells dot the shore: I started collecting up the unfamiliar cuttlefish blades. 
Finally, though, I just sat along the rocks and took it all in: there were only a few people about and no sound at all.
The South West Coast Path grazes the beach, rising steeply in both directions east and west.  I would love to spend a week doing the full ramble one day, but contented myself with a brief exploration to establish the general direction and to see how equipped people were. 
I’m definitely going to need the ‘sticks when the time come