Moving On

Well, that’s it, I’ve left the company flat, and am now nice and settled in my new room.  It’s located in a much leafier part of town, and it’s much quieter than previously (which was adjacent to a train line).  Out of my window I can see a large patch of grass and the bus stop (and the corner shop/mini supermarket that’s next door which is super handy if I can’t be bothered/forget to go to the main one).  When I moved in yesterday (around 15:00) there was some random bloke asleep on the pavement outside the front.  I’m not sure if he’s still there, haven’t checked yet.

It’s a glorious day, and I’m sitting at my desk reading.  The desk belongs to my parents, but they kindly loaned it to me as it was just gathering dust/spiders’ nests in the garage at home – cleaning it up was a rather entertaining exercise I can tell you.

So what’s up this week?  Well, work obviously.  It’s still super busy and there’s a lot to learn still (of course), but I am still enjoying it.  I’ll also be getting a new computer (hopefully) this week, which is definitely needed (my current one is very old, slow and has a major problem with its fans resulting in it shutting down due to dangerously high cpu temperatures quite a lot).  I’m buying the parts separately, and building it myself as a: It’s cheaper, b: You know exactly what you’re getting, and c: I’m super geeky and it’ll be a lot of fun.  I might even do a special post about building it because I’m that cool :P!

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The Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show

So, I’ve just come back from a very enjoyable Bank Holiday with my family at home on the other side of Surrey (I know, I go to such exotic places nowadays).  In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to the agricultural show that is held every August bank holiday in one of the adjacent villages to my own, so I thought it might be fun to write a bit about it.

Traditionally my family goes every year, but due to my being in Chile last summer, I had to miss it, so this year I fully intended to go.  It’s a fun day out, with all the typical events one might expect from a country show, including a vegetable contest, gun dog displays, an on site farrier, etc.  

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Personally my favourite would be the vegetable and flower displays, as they are always very inventive and spectacular. One rather fun spectacle was a sheep (called Amy) wandering around with her owner. Apparently she’s been on various television programmes and is something of a star.  

Amy the sheep

Amy the sheep

There was also an owl show, because who doesn’t love an owl?!

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Anyway, the day usually starts with an amble round the whole show to see what’s on offer, followed by a picnic (with smoked salmon sandwiches naturally)!  After lunch, we all split up to go and see the stalls we’re particularly keen on.  

This was a good stall!

This was a good stall!

This year we were very lucky with the weather, which is unusual for a Bank Holiday.

Apologies if this isn’t the most scintillating post to date!  I’m still having internet troubles in the company flat, so I’m writing this just before I go to work (as it seems to work* in the mornings, but not in the evenings for some reason), so I’m not really on top writing form right now alas! *By “work” I mean “connects at almost dial-up speeds rather than not at all”…

Edit (30/8/14):  Updated with photos!

Special Edition: How To Make The Perfect Cup Of Tea

In amongst this plethora of posts about expat life in Chile, I thought it would make a change to inject a touch of the familiar back into the blog.  What better way to do this than talk about tea.  I must put a disclaimer in at this point, and say that it probably won’t make you a perfect cup of tea, not least because the term is a subjective one anyway.  So really, this post is about how I make tea (assuming that I have the time, energy, and inclination to do it properly, which I’m afraid is usually not the case – I know, I’m the worst Englishman ever, don’t judge me).  With that in mind, the most accurate title for this entry would be “How I Should Make A Cup Of Tea If I Want To Do It Properly”, but I’m sure you’ll all agree, that it’s not quite as catchy as the title I opted for (not that it is that catchy anyway).

Anyway, pointless and irrelevant preamble aside, let’s get on with it.  In true Blue Peter style, I am of course drinking “one I made earlier” as I write this.

For this exercise, you will need the following items:

1. Tea leaves (not bags, and it has to come from Camellia sinensis).  Herbal “tea” isn’t tea (an analogy would be saying your glass of wine was a type of beer). “Ooo, I love this delicious wine beer” sounds rather silly doesn’t it?  Anyway, all flippancy aside, you get my point.

2. A kettle.  Electric is easiest, but if you have a metal one, and want to boil it over a wooden fire, then that’s equally fine. 

You at the back!  Yes, you! Don’t you dare even think about using a microwave!

3. A teapot

4. A mug (or a cup and saucer, I don’t really care, but it depends on number 8 – see below)

5. A tea cosy (optional)

6. A jug of cold milk/bowl of white sugar (granulated or lumps) – brown sugar is for coffee (also optional)

7. A supply of water (not optional, but it being free of contaminants is highly recommended)

8. Biscuits (optional, but your best bet would be rich teas, digestives, hob nobsor ginger nuts).  If you go for biscuits, the cup and saucer arrangement is better, as the saucer can hold your biscuit as well as the cup of tea.

9. A tea strainer (to catch all the leaves, unless you like eating them/plan to “tell someone’s fortune” – although we know that’s a load of old cobbler’s – and yes, that apostrophe is deliberate, I checked)

Right, shopping list out of the way, what do you do with all this stuff?

Method:

1. Empty the kettle, and add new water.  Then boil the water.

2. Put boiling water into the teapot.  The teapot has to have no tea in it at this stage.

3. Boil kettle for a second time.

4. Empty hot water from the teapot, and add tea leaves to it.  The number of teaspoons of tea leaves you need to add is one per person, and one “for the pot”.  (i.e. n+1 spoons where n = number of people for you Mathmos out there).

5. Add boiling water to pot, and leave to brew (length of time varies according to how strong you want your tea, but don’t leave it too long, as you don’t want it to stew).

6. Putting the strainer over your cup, pour the tea in.

7. Add milk/sugar to taste.  I know I’m provoking a huge row of monumental proportions here, but it’s definitely better to add milk afterwards (as then you can control how milky your tea is.  If you add it before, and you put too much in, then you’re stuck).

8. Put tea cosy over pot (if applicable).

9. Enjoy your nice cup of tea.

I can’t advise on biscuit dunking techniques I’m afraid, as I’m rather lacking in those skills.

Anyway, that’s my guide on how to make nice tea :).

A Pretty Quiet Day

First of all, the Prince of Cambridge now has a name. Woo!  He’s now Prince George, which means (assuming that Prince Charles takes George as his regnal name – as being known as King Charles III would probably lead to comparisons between the first two Kings Charles, who were rather controversial to say the least), that he’ll boost the number of Kings George up to eight (putting it as joint most popular, along with Edward and Henry).  However, one could argue that Edward is the most popular, as there were three Kings Edward prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (after which the numbers start, as does modern English history).  In chronological order, these Kings were: Edward the Elder (reigned 899-924); Saint Edward the Martyr (reigned 975-978); and Saint Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042-1066). In a way it would have been cool for him to have been named after one of the ancient Kings of England, although I somehow doubt that we’ll have another King Æðalstan (the first King who unified the whole of England in 927, after trashing the Vikings up in the North – reigned 924-927 (Wessex), and 927-939 (England)). (See previous Special Edition entitled “Old Letters (or the Four “Billy No Mates” of the Alphabet)” for information on those old letters if you’re unsure). Anyway, that Saxon history lesson out of the way, what have I been up to?  Well, yesterday I visited the sulphide plant, where the vast majority of the mined copper ore gets sent (in diggers carrying 300 tonnes each).  They dump it in a pile, and it gets crushed and processed to make a sort of powder/paste of 30% copper (which gets sent by road to a smelter elsewhere).  There was a huge amount of heavy machinery (such as a 15 metre high giant rock crushing machine), and it was very interesting.  The afternoon was quite quiet, but one of my colleagues popped in and asked if I was scared of snakes.  I replied that I wasn’t, so he duly dumped a small lizard into my hand (who had been caught outside, and was now named María).  It was very small, and pretty sweet, and after taking some photos, we released it back outside. Apparently their natural predators around here are tarantulas which is rather sad (but luckily, the tarantulas aren’t really about during the winter). 

María the lizard

María the lizard

Today is pretty quiet, and I’m on my own in the office this afternoon, as everyone else is at a first aid course.

Special Edition: Chalk, Snow, and Roman Numismatics (or How Geology Can Shape a People)

It’s the weekend, so why not have a new Special Edition?  (I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually write this today, I wrote it several days ago, as I’m revising practical papers this weekend).  Anyway, the title of this post is of three things that seem pretty unrelated at first, so why a special edition about them?  Well, one day, while procrastinating, I noticed something interesting, a correlation between them.  Also, it’s a little taste of home, which is nice to remember in the midst of all these dastardly exams.

First of all, we need a geological map of Britain.  The area with the box is what we’re looking at today.  Look at the arrow.  You see there is a horseshoe shape of greens and blues in that region?  Good!  Make sure you remember that shape:

The Geology of Southern England: British Geological Survey/Natural Environment Research Council

The Geology of Southern England: British Geological Survey/Natural Environment Research Council

Right, now that we’ve got the geological basis of the post laid down, I’d better get on with the snow (appalling pun intended)! (I know it’s hard to imagine snow in June, with its (occasional) warm sunny days, but give it a go).  Earlier this year, there was a lot of snow across our verdant isle, and a satellite picture was taken by those chaps over at NASA:

Satallite photo of Great Britain: NASA

Satellite photo of Great Britain: NASA

What do we see?  That same horseshoe shape.  Why is it there?  It’s fairly straightforward.  There was a large fold present originally, but now the centre part has eroded away.  As a result, there are now two series of hills that meet in the west (the North Downs – known to me as “home”, and the South Downs).  Snow settles more easily on higher ground, because it’s colder, so it stays on these hills for longer.

Now, let’s move onto where the Romans come into this. “What have they got to do with this geology?” I hear you ask.  Well, let’s have a look.  The Romans were a busy bunch, first invading properly in 43, and not withdrawing until around 410 or so.  As a result, there is a lot of Roman archæology knocking about.  A while ago, I came across a map of where Roman coins had been found over the past 20 years or so, and noticed an interesting pattern.  Yes readers, that horseshoe is back once more (highlighted below).

Locations where Roman coins were found between 1997 and 2010: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Locations where Roman coins were found between 1997 and 2010: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Not being a Roman expert, I can’t really make any solid argument as to why more coins may have been found here relative to the centre of the area.  Maybe my sister (if she’s reading this) could elaborate, as Classics is her thing.  Perhaps the Romans preferred the hills for their strategic value?  Either way, it’s an interesting example of how geology can shape a civilisation.