Thursday 18 December 2014

Hele's School, (more than) 40 years on

A shocking picture of a painting of S L Medlar (but honestly, it's not in an easy position to photograph):

Sam Medlar was Head of Hele's Boys Grammar School, Exeter through the 60s until 1973; he probably disliked being called Sam but all the boys did it. At that time the grammar system was still the default and he presided over a school named after Elize Hele, an illustrious Tudor Exonian who left money in his will for the school's establishment. It was explained to me once that Hele's executors were so corrupt that it was not in fact founded until 1850. Of course, in the town Hele's was overshadowed by Exeter School - “Public”, with all that word doesn't imply.

Sam's tenure coincided with well documented British social change. He was, almost literally, “old school”, and I think he struggled with the sight of boys with immensely flared trousers (nowadays rightly regarded as laughable) and hair of sometimes extraordinary length, school rules notwithstanding. I had a couple of minor run-ins with him but nothing serious: corporal punishment was on the books as the ultimate sanction but I have no memory of it ever being deployed. His difficulty with boys who were plainly intelligent (no conceit intended), but who enthusiastically adopted the fashion of shabby and disorderly dressing was obvious. I think this was the only fashion in which I ever took any interest and I have still to move on from it.

Sam's revenge came at one's exit interview: after suitable small-talk and probably sincere wishes for the future, some but not all boys were invited to join the Old Heleans and left his sanctum clutching an application form – not me. Time has passed and you can now join online, which I have done.

The buildings I recall are long since demolished and the name of the school has lapsed (at least partly under pressure from the OH). Odd bits of memorabilia are on display in the replacement school, St Peters. 40+ years ago, I had an unthinking teenage disrespect for the war memorial and portraits of Heads past, but the passage of time is a curious thing. Of course, the school song was “Forty years on”.

Exeter School continues in uninterrupted business.

Monday 20 October 2014

Fork Stoan and Bernt Arse

A weekend with the Enkelkindern. Very hard to travel around Kent without seeing it through Riddley Walker's eyes, but I tried.


  1. Banksy's latest, entertainingly augmented only recently.
  2. A sad loss.
  3. A surprise visit by David Byrne.
  4. Another one for my collection! Neglected, but fine.

A small number of other pictures may be seen.

Friday 26 September 2014

Hello, is that Mrs Jones?

Misdirected mail is commonplace, and usually presents no problem. Envelopes addressed to "Prof. April McMahon" are redirected in a trice, and parcels addressed to "Dafydd Raw-Rees", postmarked Todmorden, likewise present no obstacle.

But today arrives an envelope addressed to "Mr and Mrs Jones".

FFS. I've just counted and there are over 2500 "Joneses" in the Aberystwyth phone book, and it's a slim volume.

This is going to take ages.

Monday 8 September 2014

Charlies to manage Kate Bush nuptials

I have asked Kate Bush to marry me, and await her decision. She is a lady who takes care over these things and, while she didn't scream "YES" in immediate hysterical glee, she certainly didn't say "no" either.

So keep your diaries cleared: a date in mid November seems most probable, just after Claire's.

The Wedding List will be managed by Charlies of Aberystwyth (with branches throughout Wales, and one in Shrewsbury).

Monday 1 September 2014

SECOND UPDATE - Photovoltaic cells: free money

I wrote with conceit both one and two years ago about our PV cells. It is now three years since their installation and the pictures they generate have stabilised.

The three year average daily generation and usage now look like this (click to enlarge)

(recall that "usage" is not a clearly defined quantity).

The best fit sine waves to generation and usage, plotted on the graphs, are (click to enlarge):

The waves are (again) reassuringly homed on the spring equinox. The average daily generation in 2011-12 was 9.8KWh, in 2012-13 was 11.3KWh, and in 2012-14 10.5KWh.

Well, the upfront money-in-pocket from the FIT is now well over £5/day. What we save from using free rather than costed power, and pushing surplus into the grid, is as ever secondary and difficult to pinpoint, but is certainly another positive quantity. We're not regretting this purchase.

There seems little point in perpetuating this project as I am now confident of the results. This will leave space on the fridge when I no longer stick the daily recording sheet there. Suggestions?

Tuesday 19 August 2014

The Aberystwyth Bridge Congress: 15-17 August

When I told Ben I was Secretary to the Aberystwyth Bridge Congress, he formed a mental image of a happy group of Civil Engineers on their summer seaside holidays, discussing load bearing and suspension mechanisms. Maybe next year.

Things to know if you are organising a Bridge Congress:

  • The iniquitous PFI scam means that in order to book space in Ysgol Penweddig (yes, a Welsh medium school), you have to talk to a lady called Laura based in Mansfield. I've had to stay twice in Mansfield and I don't recommend it.
  • Otherwise intelligent people find the clearest of forms simply impossible to complete.
  • Otherwise punctual people find the word deadline simply impossible to understand.
  • 450 packs of cards with attendant boards and packing cases weigh a lot.
  • Bridge trophies are very ugly, although I thought Ciocia Magda's augmentation of the Aber silverware was a masterpiece (mistresspiece?).
  • Suitably courteous letters to the local newspaper can extract sponsorship monies.
  • Machines that will randomly [sic] deal umpteen hands of cards are devious torture instruments beyond Dante's imagination.
  • An understanding of the WBF continuous VP scale will help.
  • The WBU precept is 12.5%.
  • Pinning the regalia on the WBU President is a bit like pinning the tail on the donkey, but it's perhaps best not to tell him that.
  • The services of a mild-mannered Wizard are essential.
  • The Swiss Teams algorithm is a joy to watch in action.
Anyway, in the 1860s there were plans to build a viaduct from Ynyslas to Penhelyg, shortening the journey north from Aber by an hour or more. This crossing has been fictionally actualised in the celebrated works of Malcolm Pryce, but I am thinking the 2015 Aberystwyth Bridge Congress could do the job for real. It'd be more straightforward than this year's.

(There are some indifferent photographs to be seen).

Sunday 25 May 2014

Bea's Graduation

Kevin recently declared he was no longer a student and that we should all help him celebrate, so we duly reported to the Glen. At that gathering we were informed of Bea Stoykova's mock graduation ceremony, at which I was kindly invited to officiate.

It went swimmingly well at her flat on the evening of May 24th; all the better as it was a complete surprise to her. She was awarded a certificate and was garbed in a suitable home-made Aberystwyth gown.

Never one to miss the opportunity to give a speech, I pillaged the web for some graduation speeches from other places, and assembled some pure plagiarism. It was an eye-opener to read some of the utter bollocks that gets spoken on these occasions, even at sensible places. You can read this cannibalised garbage here - it was very well received.

Many congratulations Bea!


  1. Do not miss the outstanding anthem to the Glengower, composed by Pagan Wanderer Lu.
  2. Kevin is runner-up in the World Outdoor Cribbage Competition.
  3. The last time I went to the graduation of someone called Bea, it was all very different.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Safle Bws: Hannah's perfomance

Hannahs come in varying degrees of substance and reality: some are little more than names on hoodies while others, for example, make food and have sisters.

Meanwhile, the bus stops of Ceredigion are a well known source of endless fascination.

So it was a very happy day when a thoroughly echt Hannah nominated my personal bus stop as a venue for her performance.

There is a video of the full show: 6 minutes.

For further information:

  1. A bus stop data base.
  2. Bus stops as a data generator.
  3. A thrilling local development.

Friday 28 March 2014

Every silver lining has a cloud

I was approximately 100% certain that I would not get any Kate Bush tickets, but amazingly in the end, the Boyle/Hanlon alliance triumphed though the girl's diligence.

This was irritating as I had scribed a "sour grapes" posting and had it all ready to go. Wondering what to do with it, Bea said I should Bin it, write an adoring one in awe of your bloody amazing daughter.

So we can agree that she is bloody amazing. Maybe she was already, and this just confirms matters.

So what follows is no longer apposite. The small green blob should be in the other ellipse, and I no longer need to know if anyone has a spare.

Kate Bush tickets for sale

In this diagram, the true scale size of the blue ellipse is microscopic.

Does anyone know where I can find some Kate Bush tickets for sale?

Saturday 1 February 2014

No elephants in Newtown

On a visit to Newtown (Powys), there were no elephants to be seen, even though a nondescript branch of Burtons was in clear evidence.
On the other hand, there is a lot to be learned about Robert Owen - philanthropist, early developer of model villages (New Lanark) and arguable founder of the Co-operative Movement, presumably never having had the creative ideas later pursued by Revd. Paul Flowers. The Owen museum was opened specially for me and told a good story, while his carefully tended grave flanked the ruins of St Mary's church.

At left:It is the one great and universal interest of the human race to be cordially united and to aid each other to the full extent of their capacities, and at right To the memory of Robert Owen founder of the Co-operative movement this monument was erected by the Co-operative Union acting on behalf of the Co-operators of the United Kingdom 1902.

He had a good next-door neighbour in the shape of Thomas Powell, a prominent Chartist

- quite a hotbed of this kind of thing, Newtown.

With 30 minutes to spare, Newtown yielded up some other gems: the branch of W H Smith seemed to be locked in the 1950s

You can also get your Morris or Wolseley motor fixed, and see a very fine VR 2084/3:
So never mind about the absence of elephants, eh?

Sunday 26 January 2014

π's in Powys

A year or more ago the Get on with Science project [GOWS] in Wales initiated a project in Ysgol Bro Ddyfi in Machynlleth, aimed at connecting the IT [sic] department with its principal feeder primaries: Ysgol Gynradd Machynlleth, Ysgol Gynradd Glantwymyn, Ysgol Llanbrynmair, Ysgol Dyffryn Dulas. Part of this funded a small number of Raspberry Pi's which permitted the primaries to start, e.g., teaching Scratch. (A jolly good blogpost on GOWS in Mach can be read).

Toward the end of the GOWS funding, Computing at School secured support to provide more Pi's to each of its active Hubs; the nascent mid-Wales Hub used this allocation to further the GOWS intitiative.

Things can move slowly in Wales , not least because some of the primary (and high) schools are exceptionally small by national standards - Bro Ddyfi consistently has fewer than 350 pupils. It is easy to imagine the consequence for specialist staffing and (non-)duplication of skills.

Tomi Rowlands, the highly energetic computing teacher, periodically brings the primaries together in Mach to stimulate ideas - January 24th saw one such day. A lot was done in a short time, including a demo of a HD touch screen display, things with Lego, and App Inventor, and some time with the potential of the Pi's. This was a great session as it was led by Robert Buchan Terry, a year 12 pupil who has been a Pi maniac since before they were released.

Robert spent some time getting the primary teachers (whose aggregate computing credentials were rather low!) up close and personal with some Python code, motivated by the really rather fine Squirrel game. They learned how the most rudimentary knowledge allowed them to adjust game parameters to change its appearance and behaviour - as a motivator to do and learn more this is splendid.

We from CAS learned two things of great benefit: at least one of the primaries was starting up an IT club which, even though the school is probably up a 5 mile unmade muddy road behind several wonky farm gates, we will aim to attend some time soon, and also that Cyngor Sir Ceredigion (Ceredigion County Council) have looked very favourably on GOWS and hope to mount something locally that is similar. This Council appointed its very first IT coordinator just 12 months ago, so this may be a terrific gap to step into.

(Footnote: All the schools are Welsh medium. The workshop was something of a mystery to some of us at times, but words like "Pi" seem to translate reasonably obviously).

Sunday 5 January 2014

Seeing and hearing the Maidenhead bridges: Turner is not commemorated in drain covers.

If we can agree that a "good echo" needs about a quarter second (or more) to elapse between utterance are re-hearing, then we need to know that sound will travel a little over 281 feet in that time. Ergo, an obstacle 140 feet distant will produce, by reflection, a "good echo".

The "Sounding Arch" of Brunel's Maidenhead railway bridge

has a span of 128 feet, so we needn't be surprised that the echo is pretty good - hence its name. The bridge has an interesting history that is easy to find elsewhere, but is perhaps primarily famous for its depiction in Turner's impressionist picture Rain, Steam and Speed:

> Turner depicted the line when it was still broad gauge (obviously).

(Local spies report that a nearby bridge engineered contemporaneously has an equally good echo, but this cannot be so as its span is very much less).

Proximal to this fine bridge is an equally fine GvR wall box; and a drain cover that probably wasn't due to IKB.

Returning to Maidenhead, there was a grand view of the Bath Road vehicle bridge and a now unusual PO bicycle, outside a sub-PO.

It's possible the bicycle has moved but the bridges are probably still there.