Tuesday, May 28, 2013

North Bedfordshire

Last week my job share partner and myself spent a day walking through the North Bedfordshire countryside in the name of research - we are trying to put together a guided walk themed around some of the criminal cases we have catalogued. The walk gave us a chance to explore a new-to-us and rather lovely area, which often reminded us of the Cotswolds. It was also rather longer than we anticipated as we wandered through various villages trying to identify particular sites. We estimated we walked about 12 or 13 miles in total.

Here are a few highlights, mostly from later in the day when the weather brightened up ...

Thatched country cottages

Church on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. In the middle ages this village was the centre of a small barony.

We fortified ourselves for the second (and longest) stage of our walk with a pub lunch here

View from a country park

Village green

Village lock-up. This was a highlight for us as we have various records concerning the lock-up and its prisoners. It wasn't a prison as such, just a holding cell for the local police before offenders were taken to the gaol in Bedford, and also a place where they could put drunks to sober up!

An old court house (now just a house!)

Another village church

In the 19th century this bridge was often the subject of complaints that it wasn't being kept in good repair.

Unusual brickwork on the side of Tudor house

This cottage was once a pub. I loved the little statuettes near the door.

Monday, May 27, 2013

This Week: 27th May 2013

The weather ... lovely May weather both yesterday and today, with sunshine and blue skies with some puffy white clouds. When the sun goes behind the cloud the wind is a little chilly, but for a holiday weekend I'll settle happily for this! Tomorrow's forecast is for cooler temperatures and rain, but at least today gave us a chance to get outdoors.

I am wearing ... black jeans, cream t-shirt with black floral pattern, black cardigan, black and white spotty socks. Very monochrome!

I am reading ... The Reluctant Yogi: a Quirky Guide to the Practice That Can Change Your Life by Carla Mackay.

I am creating ... still knitting socks. I'm not feeling very crafty at the moment. I always tend to find that I am a seasonal knitter and do very little in the summer.

I am listening ... Vivaldi streaming on Spotify, but it keeps blipping out on me.

I am watching ... not much!

I am enjoying ... feeling better. I caught a cold from Marie and Rose last week and after a long tiring couple of days on Wednesday and Thursday it turned into a chest infection. The combination of chest infection and asthma isn't a happy one. Fortunately I was able to get a doctor's appointment quickly on Friday and thanks to a combination of steroids and antibiotics was able to move and speak without getting breathless by Saturday evening. Yesterday I still felt pretty limp, but today has been much better. Hopefully I'll be almost back to normal by tomorrow.

From the learning rooms ... half term break this week. Rose has a long half term and doesn't go back to school until Wednesday next week. Helen and Marie both go back to public exams. Helen has her two A level exams on Monday and Tuesday, then she is done with school! Marie has biology, chemistry and maths GCSE papers over the first couple of weeks after half term. She takes core science and maths this year, then the rest of her GCSEs next year. (GCSEs and A levels are national exams which are essential for access to universities, further education courses and many careers, taken at 16 and 18 respectively)

On the menu ...
Monday: picnic lunch (salad); mackerel fillets / fish fingers, mushrooms, courgettes, sweetcorn, potato rosti
Tuesday: chicken and chips, green beans
Wednesday: lamb steaks, sweet potato, mushrooms
Thursday: [eating out]
Friday: savoury bean pot
Saturday: ??
Sunday: roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Monday: went on a family trip to a nearby city lake (all of us except Helen, who was working and in any case mostly does her own thing these days). We took a picnic lunch, then Rose enjoyed the play area and went for a walk with Marie while Tevye and I sat on the grass and relaxed. Although I'm feeling better I don't have the energy for much walking yet.
Tuesday: Repainting the kitchen
Wednesday: More repainting the kitchen
Thursday: I am going on a trip to London to visit two large archives (arranged as part of my course), and Tevye has a business meeting in London. The timings work out so that we can travel in together. He will get back earlier than me though, in time to take Marie and Rose to optician's appointments. Rose is hoping she may not need her glasses any more; Marie, who doesn't currently have any, suspects she is going to need them as she says she is struggling to see the board at school. In the evening Tevye and I are going to dinner with friends from band.
Friday: Tevye needs to go into work, so I shall probably take Rose (and maybe Marie?) out somewhere
Saturday: Nothing on the calendar yet.
Sunday: Taking Marie and A-next-door to another car boot sale for some more fund raising.

A picture from last week ... our annual visitors to our front garden are back. Every year they turn up, wander around the grass in front of the houses at our end of the road for a week or two, then disappear again until next year.

Monday, May 20, 2013

This Week: 20th May

The weather ... At times last week felt more like February than May, sometimes wet, sometimes cold and grey. Yesterday was sunny and quite warm, but there is more rain forecast for today.

I am wearing ... navy chinos, butterfly print t shirt, navy cardigan

I am reading ... about records management. Dull.

I am creating ... still the same pair of socks.

I am listening ... to Danzon No.2 by Arturo Marquez and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.

I watched ... Minority Report at the weekend. It was set as a task for my course as a jumping off point for thinking about various records management issues.

I am not enjoying ... Level 147 of Candy Crush. Think I may be stuck for ever. Serves me right for getting hooked on a time-sucking game.

From the learning rooms ... this will be Helen's last week of school. Ever. Yikes!

On the menu ... this week the plan is that I have no plan!

On the calendar ...
Tuesday: Helen has an interview for a photography and video production apprenticeship
Thursday: Fund raising quiz night at work. Should be fun.
Sunday: Another car boot sale for Marie and her friend. I think my brother may be taking them this time.

A picture from last week ... a horse and cart spotted on our walk on Thursday. More playing with Instagram filters!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Medieval Week.

Two things I have been doing this week:

(1) Medieval stuff
(2) Playing with picture apps

On Thursday Tevye and I went for a walk in a village a few miles away where there is a castle site. I didn't even know it was there until a few months ago and had never been. Not much is known about the castle, except that it existed in the twelfth century and was probably a simple wooden keep and palisade that was never replaced with stone. The remaining earthworks show it was a classic motte and bailey castle. A small one!

The picture below was done with an iphone collage app called Moldiv, which I stumbled across when looking for something else. I mixed up shots of the castle with the surrounding countryside.

This picture is a collage of three panoramic views taken from the top of the motte. The white stone thing in the bottom picture is an Ordnance Survey triangulation point.

Today I was looking after an archive display in an adjacent town which had a weekend event focusing on its medieval history. This town was founded by King Henry I at the beginning of the 12th century and was the site of an important priory for the next 400 years. After the priory was dissolved in 1540 most of the buildings were destroyed, but the nave remained as the parish church. Imagine how imposing the original church must have been when it was complete.

There were a lot of middle ages re-enactors there, with booths demonstrating different aspects of medieval life and a recreation of a minor skirmish which took place in the town during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century. I particularly liked the minstrel, who had an intriguing collection of early instruments. I now want a bowed psaltery. Or a lyre. Or both. As you can see from this picture I have also been playing with Instagram filters.

This panoramic view shows part of the encampment, with soldiers mustering ready or battle.

More Instagram filters on these pictures, trying to compensate for slightly fuzzy cropped distance shots. This Yorkist soldier was taking a breather between bouts of fighting.

And here the battle was raging.

I have also been working on some of these at work, so all in all a very medieval week.

Monday, May 13, 2013

This Week: 13 May 2013

The weather ... Brrr! Changeable and definitely not feeling as though summer is round the corner.

I am wearing ... pyjamas.

I am reading ... blogs and Facebook and not much else.

I am creating ... socks

I am listening ... to Shostakovitch Jazz Suites

I am watching ... Harry Potter movies with Marie.

I am enjoying ... my electric blanket. So glad I didn't switch the winter duvet for a lightweight summer one when it was warm last week.

From the learning rooms ... I looked at the records management module I will be studying for the next three months tonight. The first section is horribly intense. It's not a subject that interests me, but it has to be done.

On the menu ...
Monday: salmon, sweet potato, sauteed leeks and cabbage
Tuesday: chicken and chips with sweetcorn and peas
Wednesday: pasta with either bolognese sauce or chicken
Thursday: out for lunch with Tevye as we are both taking the day off work
Friday: savoury bean pot
Saturday: wait and see!
Sunday: roast beef, roast potatoes and veggies

On the calendar ...
Tuesday: orthodontist appointment for Marie
Wednesday: band AGM and practice
Thursday: a day off from work as I have to work on Sunday (unusual); Fiddle Fiesta for Rose
Saturday: playing at a village fete with the band
Sunday: looking after a display at a medieval history festival in a nearby town

A picture from last week ... Marie and A-next-door at Sunday's car boot sale, raising money to fund another trip to Bulgaria.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Working Full Time

It is almost a done deal (as in 99% certain, just waiting for paperwork) that from the beginning of June I will be working full time as an archivist instead of switching back to part time in July. A colleague is leaving and I was offered a permanent increase in hours which I decided to accept.

So, how have I got to this? And how is working full time panning out? When I started down this path I had no intention of working full time. I wasn't even actively looking for a part time job. When I first decided to train as an archivist I felt that doors were opening providentially, and that has been my experience throughout the three years since. At no point have I actively looked for a job, or for an increase in hours. First an unusual, incredibly interesting, and manageable part time job came up which gave me a toe in the door of the archive profession. Then the part time archivist post fell into my lap, and my part time job grew into a temporary full time one which was too good an opportunity to turn down. This time, within minutes of my colleague resigning I was asked if I would like to stay on full time. Just a couple of weeks before, as the end of my original temporary contract got closer, I had realised that - contrary to expectation - I was enjoying working full time and that the benefits were outweighing the disadvantages, and Tevye and I had discussed the possibility of my looking for a second part time archivist job for one or two days a week to run alongside the current one. Really, saying yes to the full time post was a no brainer. Providence again.

Given that I hadn't planned to work full time, I have been very pleasantly surprised at how well it has worked out. I found the jump to daily part time work much harder to adjust to than the increase in hours. Having to get out of the house at an early hour every morning was the toughest part to acclimatise to, followed by the daily commute. Having got used to those aspects of working, staying at the office for longer hours didn't make much difference from my point of view, and I haven't found working full time significantly more tiring than working part time. When I increased my hours I switched from taking the train to driving to work, as I needed to be more flexible and it saved time, cutting probably half an hour off my daily commute. I have also now started car sharing with a colleague who leaves nearby, after we realised we were working very similar hours. We have a flexitime system, and some people choose to get in early and leave early, others prefer to work later - we both fall into the early bird category and were often virtually tailing each other down the road. Sharing means less petrol, less driving and company, all of which ease the commute.

I am very lucky in that I have a lot of practical help from both Tevye and the older girls. Tevye has picked up a lot of the domestic slack, which he is able to do as he works from home a couple of days a week and has very flexible working patterns. Helen and Marie get Rose ready for school three days a week and drop her at the school early birds club, and Marie collects her from after school club when necessary. My flexible working hours and understanding managers mean that I can juggle work fairly easily to fit round family needs and I can occasionally work from home. A generous holiday allowance (26 days plus public holidays) and "flexi days" when I can take time off in lieu of extra hours worked mean I can be at home for large chunks of the school holidays. There are some very hectic days but mostly we have a very manageable routine. The downsides really do seem to be outweighed by the positives - a fascinating, varied job that I love and a regular salary to supplement Tevye's which is less predictable because he is self employed.

Friday, May 10, 2013

7 Quick Takes: 10 May 2013

1. I have the most fascinating and varied job imaginable! A quick summary of my working day: researching a 19th century murder; tracking down a grant of land from 1334 and checking the text for the context of a particular Latin phrase; providing someone with a copy of the 19th century trust deed for his church; giving a talk with my job share partner about our cataloguing project; cataloguing documents about thefts of potatoes, a smock and a coat; and helping to identify a specific 15th century manor court roll sewn into a bundle with a pile of others.

2. My office is by the side of a river. Since the weather has improved over the past couple of weeks the river has come to life - pairs of swans, ducks, a heron, and a lot of rowers (hard working eights, not pleasure boats!).

3. A couple of friends have posted links on Facebook to this French project to build a castle using only thirteenth century tools and techniques. More about it on the BBC website here. I would love to see this, but can't see any prospect of getting to Burgundy in the near future.

4. I have come to the conclusion that part of the reason we have too much stuff is that we have lived in this house too long. If we had needed to move it would have forced us to have a proper clear out. As it is we have spent twenty years accumulating clutter without ever confronting it. Unfortunately I have a conclusion, but no solution.

5. Marie is going through a healthy lifestyle stage, and is trying to both eat well and exercise regularly. She has inspired me to want to get back to exercising and I have managed to do some yoga (DVD, not a class) over the last couple of weeks. I haven't managed to get into any sort of routine though, and I suspect I won't until I finish my course.

6. I'm writing this while watching a BBC documentary about the recreation of the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice. Fascinating stuff!

7. Candy Crush. I should probably never have started playing because it is a time sucker. Now I have got stuck on Level 147 which is driving me nuts. Grrr!

Monday, May 06, 2013

This Week: 6 May 2013

(Oops! Where did the last month go?)

The weather ... a beautiful May day, mostly warm and sunny, with a little cloud. The first Monday of May is a bank (public) holiday here and our town holds a May Fayre which is a big fundraiser for local groups and charities. The brass band plays for an hour in the morning, and we always seem either to get cooked or drenched. Last year was a wet one. Overheating a bit this morning was a pleasant change.

I am wearing ... navy skinny jeans, pink and navy leaf pattern tunic top, bare feet.

I am reading ... dipping a toe into a book about interesting aspects of physics. It is one of those short snippets type books and isn't really holding my attention.

I am creating ... soft socks for a very old friend who is very ill and has just had major surgery.

I am listening ... Rose is watching something on the iPad, otherwise everything is quiet.

I am watching ... not much. TV seems to be in the doldrums. I did get talked into watching Big Bang Theory recently and have been catching up on earlier series. Geek humour.

I am enjoying ... the long weekend. The next few months is going to be busy so I'm enjoying the break while I can.

From the learning rooms ... Rose is hugely excited that she gets to take part in a Fiddle Fiesta (string orchestra for small people) in a couple of weeks. I'm not sure which is the most exciting aspect - that she will be spending the afternoon at Helen and Marie's school, or that she gets to take a packed tea. I think the music part is a distant third in terms of anticipation!

On the menu ...
Monday: BBQ in the garden (yay! the weather forecast that this would be the best day of the long weekend was right!). We had burgers, chicken, sausages, mushrooms and salad, washed down with watermelon
Tuesday: Chicken stir fry
Wednesday: Salmon baked with leeks and mushrooms
Thursday: Pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs
Friday: Courgette, bean and tomato casserole
Saturday: I'm finding planning food in advance for Saturday doesn't work as I never know who is going to be where when. We usually just keep it simple - soup, sandwiches, baked potatoes, eggs, that sort of thing.
Sunday: Roast beef and veggies

On the calendar ...
Monday: No work or school, except for Helen who is at work this evening. Played with the band in the morning.
Tuesday: Ballet lesson for Rose. Tevye has a meeting in London.
Wednesday: Band practice.
Thursday: Giving a talk on 19th century crime in the county to a group interested in local heritage in the morning (my work includes sometimes giving talks or attending events).
Friday: Another talk, this time given jointly with my job-share partner about the project we have been working on, to a smaller audience at the archive.
Saturday: Band concert in the evening.
Sunday: May be taking Marie and her friend to a car boot sale to raise funds for another trip to Bulgaria.

A picture from last week ... Rose enjoying herself at a woodland playground yesterday.