Monthly Archives: January 2016

What have I got myself into …


Having done couplets for purple alpaca, the muse has moved on to green corduroy.  It’s come out as an ode written in mock heroic verse, but triplets rather than couplets.  My iambics are a bit wobbly, but I did manage to write an Alexandrine (of sorts) for the requisite final flourish.

Now I’m trying not to look at my jumper … the sofa … a pile of fleece …

Things to do when you can’t sleep: lix and lx


lix  :  Write a poem about purple alpaca

Now I come to read that title, it sounds as if I was writing a pastiche of the great and legendary purple cow poem to join the herd which already exists.  But I wasn’t.

And it didn’t work; two fairly satisfying couplets and a restless hour later, I had to fall back on the boringly traditional –

lx  :  Drink Ovaltine at three a.m.

   –     which did.

1 the purple 2 the 3am mug

Look out for the seventh wave


I love small cold winter English seaside towns.  (Click thumbnail for the gallery.)

Clouded gold


Relief:  most of them quite decent, though, being out of practice, I made a beginner mistake not wiping a base high enough, and welded one edge of a pot to the kiln shelf.

1st glaze firingI like the clouded gold of the rutile glaze.  But although the little mugs are unassuming and unshowy, they are the best – light and balanced in the hand, if I say so myself, warm and gentle on the lip, and my favourite green glaze done to a turn:

2nd green glazePhew…



At last the kiln elements have been replaced; the old ones are so brittle in places that they just crumble.

1 elementalFirst biscuit firing.  Here we go.

2 onMeantime I was glazing assorted pots.  You wouldn’t think that these dusty coatings could develop into anything colourful.

3 glazeHandling glaze at 3° C is a painful experience.  Pots sat on the gradually heating kiln gain a little adventitious warmth, which helps the icy fingers.

4 warmingOut come the biscuit-fired pots; in goes the dried glazed ware.

5 stackThe kiln reached its target temperature and didn’t fail or trip out the electrics.  A moment of truth comes tomorrow when the chamber is cool enough to open.  What will the glazes have done?



In mournful ritual the two of us put on Galaxy Quest, rollicking blissfully through all its joyous spoofs (and I am a first-generation Star Trek watcher, AD 1969 or so).  Quest could never have been in the same league with a different Dr Lazarus.  Can one imagine it minus the world weary air, the curling lip, the voice fit for Shakespeare emerging from among rubber gills?  And priceless:  Alex / Lazarus encased in blue slime.  When the credits rolled, we said goodbye, and hugged each other consolingly, sharing the sadness.

blue slime

So now I’m alone I’ll run Truly Madly,  and perhaps if I iron the sheets at the same time I won’t snivel very much.

First light


Warning to casual readers:  never look directly at the sun, especially not through any optical equipment, e.g. binoculars or telescope – permanent blindness is the likely result.  The photographs were taken through a specialist solar telescope and these features cannot be seen in any other way.

The only thing to be said for having a filthy cold is that I was at home when the heavy lid of the sky began to break into fragments – a rare event over the last rainy weeks – though the wind was gusty still, driving the fragments before it.

Sheltering myself and the viruses from this unkind environment by remaining firmly indoors, I attached the shiny new Coronado (given by the nearests and dearests) to my camera tripod – sadly, it is not compatible with the mount of the 5″.

Indoors not ideal - at least the wind couldn't blow it over

Indoors not ideal – at least the wind couldn’t blow it over

Finding the sun was surprisingly simple, aligning the tube with a convenient shadow from the window frame, and tracking up and down until a bright dot appeared the little display window on the top of the telescope body.

Clouds and glazing bars in the sun finder

Clouds and glazing bars in the sun finder

Somewhat to my surprise, I could indeed see a beautiful red image, and jiggling about to find the sweet spot revealed a whopping prominence on the sun’s limb, with smaller eruptions fringing other sections.  I could also begin to see detail on the disc, though like all optical observation this will need some training of the eye, practice to focus accurately, and experiments to fine-tune the hydrogen alpha wavelength, as the instrument is supposed to let you do this.  For now, I concentrated on trying out eyepieces, changing from the 20mm supplied via my longest eyepiece (32mm) and then 15, 12 and 9mm.

There were certain disadvantages to the observing session:  the blue bits of sky were considerably smaller than the interrupting grey segments; during the blue bits, the sun spent a surprising time behind the glazing bars of the window; the heavy solarscope threatened to take the mount over at every adjustment; the image wobbled like a jelly on the flimsy support; and violent sneezing discommoded concentrated attention.  However:  my sore nose, sore throat, sore eyes and sore lips wore a definitely smiley expression.

I have no idea how I will ever take a proper image of the sun with my new equipment; nevertheless I snapped, less as astrophotography than for souvenirs of first light.

Can see the large prominence, though not with the beautiful sharpness the eye could see

Can see the large prominence, though not with the beautiful sharpness the eye could see

Clouds broke the observing into two minute chunks :(

Clouds broke the observing into two-minute chunks 😦

Can just about see the smaller prominences in this photo. One day I might learn to focus the camera ...

Can just about see the smaller prominences in this photo. One day I might learn to focus the camera …

Furry blue yoga


Still pouring and blowing. In desperation we headed for tourism.  Torrents of rain on the roof almost prevented us hearing ourselves speak, and the sky was so heavy at 11am that even in the huge glasshouses we found we had invented a new game:  find-the-animal-sitting-six-yards-away-from-you-in-the-dark.  Thus, apologies for the photos.  I’ve had to tweak the exposures.  (Click for the gallery.)

At this point I decided on my favourite animal of the day: the loris.  Modestly sized, elegantly clad, tail-less, large-eyed, they moved slowly and cautiously but at the same time with a kind of boneless certainty, taking a firm grasp with each handhold, and moving with equal composure whether climbing upright or head first vertically downwards. Eschewing the acrobatics of monkeys, they seemed to be undertaking some sort of contemplative yoga exercise, stretching into unlikely poses and occasionally performing splits with their hind legs at about 230°, sometimes lifting mournful faces to the blue light in case you thought they were being funny.   (Click into an image for the gallery –  a primitive animation.)

How I wished my camera could cope with the blue lighting; it would have been just too mean to use flash.