Well, that's me sorted for a few days
Well, that's me sorted for a few days
Sometimes you get a feeling right at the start that a job's going to go tits-up...
It all started with the letter from M1 Gas Alliance. Dated 03/12/2009, it told of the impending gas supply interruption due to the improvement of the gas main on the estate. "We plan to start work between 07/12/2009 and 11/12/2009", it said. Maybe it would have been better to deliver said letter a tad earlier than 10/12/2009 then.
Since then road-crew have dug holes all around the Close and have festooned the place with miles of plastic fencing. They've worked fast and with due consideration for the residents. No problem there.
Yesterday (Tuesday) was the day when they would shove their little yellow pipe through the old steelie that stretches from the road, under the garden, under the footings and into our meter. We were told at 08:30 that this would happen and that someone would have to be in to allow access, and sure enough the little yellow pipe did make it into the house... at about 16:30. So that's only eight hours of me sat around doing sweet Fanny Adams.
That phase ended with the capping of the incoming pipe, the complete removal of the meter and the assurance that a qualified gas fitter would arrive within the hour to reconnect the meter and the supply, to test the system and to restart our appliances. Now that sounded like a good plan. As the ground crew departed for the pub, two fitters arrived and worked their way around the Close.
17:30 arrived sans fitter. I went outside for a quick scan and noted that one fitter was three houses away. I figured that he was busy so I didn't trouble him.
18:30 arrived sans fitter. I went outside for another quick scan and noted that he was one house away. We would be next.
19:30 arrived sans fitter. I went outside for a yet another quick scan and noted that he and his mate were nowhere to be seen. They must be having trouble somewhere, I assumed. They were still about, though, as their van was still parked next to our house.
20:30 arrived sans fitter. I went outside for a yet another quick scan only to be told by a neighbour that the fitters had both finished and gone off in a different van... just after 18:30.
CUE THE RANT/RAGE/ANGST/EXPLETIVES
20:50 was when I had calmed down enough to restrict the language to no worse than a string of fecks liberally peppered with ba5tards and a few tw@ts. During this slack period I phoned the number printed in two places on the letter. 01162 574540. Imagine my glee when I found that I'd just phoned Direct Line Insurance. Undeterred, I dialled again and got the same message.
CUE THE RANT/RAGE/ANGST/EXPLETIVES AGAIN
I found out later that when they'd shut their office yesterday, the last one out had set the phone to redirect to the wrong number. Doh!
21:00 was when I called the emergency number. The kind folk there gave me a sensible number for National Grid, so I dialled that and told them of the situation. They arranged for a fitter to attend within the next four hours.
22:00ish and the fitter arrived. He fitted the meter and eventually turned on the gas supply. All of the appliances worked fine so I thanked him and let him go. We put the fire and the central heating on to warm the house, and sat back, relieved that it was all fixed.
23:00ish - that's when I started to smell gas. The meter cupboard stank of it.
CUE THE RANT/RAGE/ANGST/EXPLETIVES YET AGAIN
I called National Grid again and they promised me a fitter within the hour, as this time the situation was classed as an emergency. He turned up at 23:45, it was the same bloke that had fitted the meter. At first he couldn't detect the leak, but we could both smell it. After repiping and then remounting the meter he found the leak, some way along the downstream pipework, in his opinion caused during the initial removal of the meter and hence the responsibility of the road-crew. He had no choice but to turn off the supply, cap the meter and place a warning on it which effectively says "If you use this you'll all burn in hell".
So now it's 01:45 (Wednesday) and we've no gas/heating/hot water. Again.
At 08:00 this morning the road-crew will be back to disconnect our spur from the old main and to connect it to the new one.
I really don't fancy the chances of the first one of them to knock on my door.
Sorry, this is a bit late...
Sunday evening was forecast to be cloudy. I wasn't planning to get out to the obsy but seeing as the sky was almost clear late on I took a chance and got set up to observe the Moon and possibly get some webcam footage.
The seeing wasn't brilliant but there was plenty of detail to be seen. After an hour or so of crater-hopping with the 3.5mm Hyperion eyepiece I changed the setup and got stuck in with the webcam, getting some reasonable data during the small hours. Registax-processed results as follows:
Clavius (136 miles dia.)
On the right, working downwards: Abulfeda (38 miles dia.), Almanon, Geber, Azophi/Abenezra/Abenezra C
Tycho (52 miles dia.)
Vallis Alpes (79 miles long, 7 miles wide at maximum)
Just in case you don't know your way around up there, here's some help:
Before you ask, no, I didn't take this pic.
The weather here on Thursday evening was a bit odd - periods of thick fog alternating with cold clear spells. I got the scope set up early and while waiting for the longer clear bits I used the odd short bits of good visibility to get good focus and tracking. Oh, and to fight the battle against condensation on the kit.
Some time after midnight the fog lifted and everything was clear and still, not a breath of wind and the seeing was brilliant. All of the condensation froze within minutes. Undeterred by the layer of ice on the kit, I had a good look at Mars before nabbing some webcam footage of it. Visually, I'd never seen it so good - the polar cap was really bright and the planet was almost motionless, unlike the previous Mars session when the thing was moving around like a demented Morris Dancer. I spent a good hour or so just studying the surface detail, something I've never been able to do before. Here's some of that webcam footage after selecting a 256x256px region of interest around the planet:
Soon it was time to move on. I changed the eyepiece setup and this caused some melting of the ice on the kit. Figuring that it would be best to let the temperature settle down a bit I nipped in for a cuppa and then sat outside for twenty minutes watching a fair few meteors blazing across from East to West - they were mostly Geminids but there were a few others up there. I did contemplate setting up the D50 with the 35mm prime in order to get some images, but the camera was by now well-frozen and I wasn't going to risk trashing the mechanics inside the lens.
When all was settled I slewed the scope around to Saturn, which had risen to a reasonable height above the horizon. It looked a bit dimmer than I've seen it before but I could still see the rings, not far past being edge-on. A couple of dim moons were visible but not much else. I grabbed a fair few avis with the webcam but they didn't look much good.
After another half-hour of visual, watching Saturn and some more meteors, the fog returned. This time it was thick, freezing, and obviously here to stay. I ended the session and closed the obsy roof. The next hour was spent mopping up meltwater from the kit and from the underside of the roof. I returned to the house at 06:00 vowing to get a cheap dehumidifier in the post-Christmas sales.
Anyway, I did some preliminary processing of the Mars data and sent the pics to a learned friend. He's confident that he's identified the surface features correctly, and pointed out the tiny clouds in the vicinity of Olympus Mons. He also reckons that the colours are fine, but I'm not so sure:
Again, you'll have to wait for me to find time to process the Saturn data.
I'll finish with a reminder - don't forget that Geminid meteor shower.
See, I told you so.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Had a great day out on Wednesday.
In the afternoon I introduced Ella to the Guild of Students and to the campus of The University of Birmingham, including a good look around the Great Hall in the Aston Webb Building:
In the evening we attended The Shell University Lecture in the Earth Sciences Department. The speaker was Dr Tina van de Flierdt (lecturer in Isotope Geochemistry at the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London) and the topic was "Reconstructing the History of the Antarctic Ice Sheet: Clues from the past for the future". If you have an interest in such things, the lecture can be experienced online here.
I met a few staff that were there during my undergrad days, and Ella studied the specimens* on display in The Lapworth Museum of Geology. My thanks go to the Curator, Jon Clatworthy, for the guided tour of the recently refurbished and modernised Petrology Lab, and for the pre- and post-lecture refreshments.
Afterwards, we went for another walk around the campus:
* undergrad lads as well as old fossils