Monday, 11 January 2021

The King of Mercia and the frog-pool

Physical bookshelves may be described as a fixed partitioned set S = {S1,S2, ... , Sn} where the Si are the fixed physical shelves defined by their length and height.

A collection of books may likewise be described as B = {B1,B2, ... , Bm} where now the Bj are components of a partition of the books into categories; fiction, poetry, psychogeography, chess etc. This partition is poorly defined as a given book may belong to more than one category: so, does Offa and the Mercian Wars belong to biography, or geography, or history, or politics? And as for Pond Life. The whole scheme is ad hoc and pays no heed to Melvil Dewey at all. That's probably a mistake.

Anyway, the problem becomes that of finding an allocation A of the Bj to the Si in a manner that is coherent and pleasing. And so that you can actually retrieve a book that you are certain you own, but cannot find. This can be tricky and is probably a highly specialised variant of the well-known knapsack problem.

So when you have a solution, you cling on tight to it, even if Offa's Pond Life. is confusingly located. The problem is that the book set is dynamic, so properly, B = B(t): usually, the bookset grows, with occasional small contractions as you realise that you're better off not caught with certain volumes. but on the whole, B and Bj have monotonic increasing cardinality.

Then from time to time, as shelves fill, A stops being viable. When this happens, we need a new allocation A', or - more seriously - a redefintion of the Bj, or - very seriously - the aquisition of new components to S; Sn+1, Sn+2,....

This happened today.

Friday, 2 October 2020


(This is all very conceited).

Today is a notable day, as I have recorded a weight loss of 12.7006Kg in the calendar year. This, as any fule kno, is 2 stone.

This has been achieved by

  • Carefully noting my weight each morning. This teaches you quite quickly about how much day-to-day variation you can expect. (This is a tactic recommended to me years ago by Pete Jimack.
  • Noting that the so-called "lockdown" was a good excuse for doing little but drink beer and eat biscuits, and deciding not to.
  • Instead, deciding that Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays would be snack and alcohol free. This is a soft variant on the 5:2 diet but a whole lot less rigorous.
  • Doing at least 30m hard exercise each day. This is best achieved by swimming in the sea or putting a Netflix/iPlayer device about 80cm in front of your nose. The things i've learned in 9 months ...
Here is a graph: the two week-long occasions when I came off the regime and ate/drank like a nutter are quite clear
(The coloured annotations mean things to me but are dull).

it's obvious that, as with everything else under the sun, a linear model of behaviour is correct, suggesting that 1 pound/week is about the score. This means that I will disappear completely in 2024, unless Christmases and Easters intervene.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020


There is a little visited area of England called "the Lake District"; just beyond it is the north-western coastline that is even less well known, featuring setlements with names such as Workington, Sellafield, Barrow, Millom and Haverigg.

Haverigg is at the end of a road that goes nowhere except Haverigg: it is the site of a large caravan and chalet park, with many picnic facilitites

But in the mid 19th century it was, to all intents and purposes, nothing. Then, a fabulous deposit of hematite was discovered and in short order it was the largest iron ore mine in the world. This was tricky as its coastal, and a barrier was required to stop the miners drowning. Ultimately two were built, as the first failed - the barrier's cresent is very clear on the map:
No surprises that in the 1960s the mining came to a halt, leaving an odd collection of industrial bits and pieces. And the barrier.
It's a nice coastline, so no surprises that the chalet park sprung up, but it's also an RSPB reserve and actually a jolly place to visit

Co-curate have some useful stuff describing and illustrating the history.

To reach Haverigg, you need to pass through Millom, which only came into existence in the later C19 as a purely industrial (iron and coal) town. In 1883, my Great-great-grandfather Rowland Penny lived as a lodger at the Red Lion in Millom. Walking home one night, he stopped for a rest in The Ship, halfway up the hill. He died in the bar. The Ship is now a short row of cottage: "Old Ship Cottages".

Rowland had an almost contemporay Millom namesake who died in an explosion in a dynamite factory. A different bloke altogether.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

The Isle of Grain

There is a list of things I need to see - is this what people mean by a "bucket list"? The things are spread rather wide and it is serendipity as to whether I can tick a particular one off: Ashton Museum, Hen Llan Chapel at Llandysul, the Freemantle Maritime Museum, Cumbrae Island cathedral - do you get the picture? Bee Ness Jetty has been on this list for some time, so I was pleased to have a spare morning in Eynsford and go to look for it.

This is in part a note of warning. Despite having with me 3 (three) digital devices that were map-enabled, I could not locate it: a schoolboy error in not first procuring an OS map, which others are advised to do. It is concealed on a muddy coastline behind a monster power station, with no obvious footpath of approach.

No matter! The time was well spent in a modest exploration of the Isle with image and informatory highlights as:

  1. The "Isle" is defined by the Yantlet Creek, and the isolated landmass is actually the Hoo peninsula, its name betraying very Saxon origins and history. The Creek is no more but a London Stone can be found - the boundary of London administrative control has its border on the estuary here.
  2. Dickens was a Peninsula regular. It is understood that his opening of Great Expectations was informed by the "lozenge graves" at Cooling St James:
  3. Cooling is blessed with [the remains of] a castle.
    The peninsula was very vulnerable to any invader and the castle was designed to protect all local residents: thus its gatehouse inscription is not in French or Latin, but the English of the time: Knouwyth that beth and schul be That I am mad in help of the cuntre In knowing of whyche thing Thys is chartre and wytnessyng.
  4. Some stupendous 21st Century presences:
    1. Big power stations:
    2. Amazon looming:
    3. Easy views of serious boats:
  5. And in locating facts for the nonsense you now read, I discover that the RSPB reserve is blessed with a Brennan Torpedo Launcher, which time prevented me visiting.
  6. And as if that is not enough, there is an easily seen WW1 U-Boat wreck. Easily seen if you have time, and waders or a dinghy.
  7. And entirely by luck, a smashing GR roundtop:
    (which has caused a puzzle as it does not accord with my records).

So the Jetty remains on my list, and added to it have been the Torpedo Launch station, the London Stone, and UB122. Sigh. Another visit required - I'll bring a bike and a map next time.

Other pictures exist

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Terminalia 2020

In what has become traditional fashion, Terminalia was celebrated in Aberystwyth on 23rd February, feast day of the God Terminus. It was customary to walk the boundary of the town that day, visiting the boundary markers of which Terminus was the custodian, and perform a sacrifice at each. We skipped the sacrificial part of the tradition. It is likely that the more recent tradition of "Beating the bounds" derives from Terminalia.

Celebrations of earlier years have been documented (2017, 2018, 2019), and so details of note are mostly aready known. An addition this year was to note that houses on Chalybeate Street, being built on the wall alignment, are split level. Noting this by going though a small archway into some back yards, the tour members were given A Very Hard Look by a local resident, which translated as "Who the hell are you lot?".

Weather prior to the celebration was shocking, so attendance was somewhat short of the 2018 record; nevertheless 10 souls trod the course of the walls and appeased at least one Roman God.

Archeology Data Service, 2017
While physically absent, its course is easy to follow. It was disappearing over 200 years ago: on the Welsh Tour in 1775, Wyndham wrote:
Part of the old wall of the town is remaining, but all the facing stones have been taken away.

A regular modern ravelin is advanced before the gateway, which was perhaps thrown up in the time of the Protectorship.

It is certainly to be lamented that the antiquities in these and some other parts of the principality are not better preserved. How can the inhabitants be so negligent of their real interests? and why will they destroy the almost only inducement for strangers to visit this miserable coast? This rage for the destruction of Pagan remains is attributed to the zeal of the modern Methodists who abound in these parts. Perhaps this conjecture, ridiculous as it at first appears, may not be totally without foundation. For to what absurd and contemptible lengths has fanaticism been carried in all ages!

Ah, fanaticism ...

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Lion's Holt

I journeyed from Aberystwyth to Lympstone, involving 5 trains - the last leg was the branch line from Exeter Central down to Exmouth. As you will know, Central was the high level station operated by Southern, who also controlled the Exmouth branch, green livery and all. The major Exeter station was St David's, built and operated by IKB's Great Western, in sensible coffee and cream. The link between the Exeter stations was a gradient of 1:37, which I believe remains the steepest mainline stretch on the UK network.

On my lucky day, I encountered a fragment of scheduling worthy of a GCSE pupil that let me leave St David's and alight at St James Park, then 5 minutes later board another train for the journey down the estuary to Lympstone. In all my years of travelling in and around Isca Dumnoniorum I had never before either boarded or alighted at St James: what an opportunity!

Midway between Central and Polsloe Bridge Halt [for Heavitree], it was opened in 1906 as "Lion's Holt", and acquired its proper name in 1946 in recognition of the adjacent St James Park, home of the mighty Grecians. (It is believed a similar name attaches to the ground of a little known northern club). The railings on the steep access ramps are periodically repainted in the Red and White (see below).

The branch was late to open, which is ironic as IKB once had plans before 1850 to run an atmospheric broad gauge line down to Exmouth, another instance of his ambition far exceeding practical realities. The line is now often a victim of its own success as the high-flying Exeter Chiefs play just outside the Digby station. If City are at home, the trains cannot accommodate the sporting fervour, meaning they either stop at St James, or Digby. Never let it be said that the UK rail system is a total fucking shambles.

Anyway, here it is. Below, the view toward Polsloe, with red sandstone bridge and at right, a glimpse of the theatre of dreams.

Monday, 9 September 2019

What's in Ironbridge other than an iron bridge?

A trip to Ironbridge for Gillian's 60th, regrettably coinciding with the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography in Huddersfield which regular readers will know I was part of in 2018. Spookily, many of the others at the Ironbridge gathering were from Huddersfield so they were missing the Congress too.

Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale look as though they were built just last month for a new BBC period drama - nothing is out of place except the people and queues of tourist buses. The evening life is also a little anachronistic, although certainly quite fun.

I psychogeographically compensated for all this by executing my own score for a quasi-derive on Saturday morning: locating all the scarce postboxes in the postcode (categorised as "A" by LBSG).

It was successful in the respect that I saw many bits of TF10 which others didn't, and that were really very jolly. Two boxes evaded me, but here is number 1036648, with its grotty replacement in the foreground.

But in the nature of the exercise, other discoveries took precedence. The highlight was without doubt the Quaker burial ground

wherein is interred Abraham Darby, the man whose name is on the eponymous bridge. The description shows the grave locations, but all headstones (written in true Quaker style) have been moved to the rim. The result is an area that has a tranquility that makes most cemeteries look like Leeds railway station at 5pm on a weekday.

Other highlights included a marvelous telephone exchange building

and a Euro-relic.

I also rather liked a view from the bridge that omitted the bridge.

I believe the birthday party went very well but I find my memory incomplete. And so do many other people. Thanks, Naz.

Other pictures exist.