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An Unexpected Encouter with Dung (Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship to India, part one) [Feb. 5th, 2016|04:28 pm]
muuranker
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[Current Location |Shillong, Meghalaya, India]

My trip started with the East Coast Mainline suffering from storms on 29th January.  Fortunately, all I had to do to do that day was reach King's Cross.

Following an event for Free UK Genealogy on the Saturday, I headed off to Heathrow at 5pm, arriving in Delhi the following day.  I will largely be concentrating here on the topic of my fellowship - ways of making heritage crafts sustainable - but I will just note here that my experience of my first week in India is that it is very difficult to see.  Delhi Airport was so foggy/smoggy that I could not see the runways from the terminal building.

At the airport, I met up with Bindiya my companion for the next three weeks, and we flew to Guwahati in Assam.  Which was dark by the time we arrived.  We stayed for one night in a bed-and-breakfast, where the owners were interested in my purpose in visiting India, partly because one of them is the creator/founder of Elrhino paper (http://www.elrhinopaper.com/).  So my first interview with a craft entrepreneur was totally unplanned.


Elrhino Paper is an excellent example of how a craft's value can derive from its position in a supply chain.  In this case, because the products are made from materials which would otherwise be waste: elephant and rhino poo, cotton waste from a local underwear factory, and otherwise inedible / unusable plant materials.  The economic value derives from providing employment, and from the profits which are used to conserve the elephants and rhinos.

I will be gathering together full reports on each meeting, and will put a link to them when they are up.

The following day we left for Shillong in Meghalaya (for those struggling with geography: Guwahati and Shillong are in North East India: the bit that is above/to the right of Bangladesh. Guwahati is on the Bramaputra River which flows East-West along the bottom of the Himalayas).  To the south of the Bramaputrah is the Shillong plateau).  We left at five (just getting light) and drove straight into the clouds which give Meghalaya its name ("the abode of clouds").  Of which more, later ...
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WCMT - part two - India [Jan. 28th, 2016|09:26 pm]
muuranker
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Off to London tomorrow morning, early, to avoid the Doom that I always inflict on the East Coast Mainline when I have a conference to organise on a Saturday.

After conference ... off to Heathrow, next stop Delhi, then flight to Guwahati, overnight and then a taxi up to Shillong "the Edinburgh of India".
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AKICOLJ [Nov. 7th, 2015|11:26 am]
muuranker
As all knowledge is contained on live journal....

does anyone know where I can buy replacement elastic bands for a clothes horse (airer)?
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Tristan, part 2 [Nov. 6th, 2015|09:37 pm]
muuranker
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There are 96 berths on the ships which make scheduled runs from Cape Town to Tristan: the SA Agulhas II, the Edinburgh and the Baltic Trader.

These berths are in high demand.  First, there is medivac and returning medivac.  There seem to be two births a year, so that's 4 of your 96 gone, before anyone gets ill.  Then there are government officials and workers, who come on 3, 6 or 12 month contracts. The UN nuclear monitoring person (12 months). And professionals who come for shorter visits: our boat had, for example, a Dentist, a Dental Technician, an X-ray technican, an opthalmologist, someone conducting a child protection audit, a team from the RNIB and someone to service the UN's monitors. People on Tristan go overseas to work, to study, and for holidays.  And people from the Tristan communnities in the UK and South Africa come over for holidays - all of which means that the number of berths available for tourists is very, very small.  There were four tourists on our boat: ExMemSec and myself, Marmite Andrew (to distinguish him from Child Protection Andrew) and Tomaz.

The three boats are very different. MS Edinburgh is a fishing boat.  MS Baltic Trader is a cargo boat.  SA Agulhas II is a scientific research ice-breaker.  About half the berths are on the Agulhasa, which is by far the most popular, because she has a reasonable turn-around, and helicopters.  People have gone to Tristan, and returned to Cape Town, without being able to get on shore, as the swell there is massive (no continental shelf!) and there are frequent storms, and the little Calshot Harbour is tiny, and does not offer great protection.  It was a very calm day when we arrived, but even so, some of our luggage arrived wet.  We went by helicopter.

It was my first time in a helicopter, and I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out to be quite disappointing.  I was expecting to have more sensation of flying than one gets in a small aircraft, but it was quite the reverse. The ground appeared at angles which were quite unexpected, as if felt as if we were flying along straight.

The Agulhas is owned and run by South Africa's Environment department. She makes an annual trip to Tristan, and then on to Gough Island, another island in the group but about 200 miles to the south.   She has about 150 berths: 50 are crew, 50 are for Tristan to allocate, and 50 are the team of 9 who are going down to spend a year on Gough, and those going for 3 weeks.  The nine are a leader/doctor, an electrical engineer, a diesel engineer, three metrologists and three ecologists.  Their support team of builders, and more ecologists of various kinds make up the other 40 places.

The Agulhas isn't a cruise ship: she's new (this was only her second year on the trip) and overall has the air of a quite nice student block.  There are lectures each afternoon from the scientists on board.  The food is generally good, but throws up some weird combinations.  The evening meal often has very little carbohydrate (2 roast potatoes is not unusual).  As the days go on, fresh fruit and veg get very scarce - 'choice of salad' at lunch turns into pasta salad vs egg in chilli sauce vs rice and pea salad.   There are no hot drinks (or alcohol) with meals.

We had sort-of assumed we would be sharing a double cabin, but on the way out found ourselves in a four-birth with the dentist and his wife.  This turned out, on balance, to be a good thing, as I think it involved us more in the community than we would have otherwise.  Plus they gave us some black plastic sacks which meant we could protect our luggage somewhat for the boat transfer.  On the way back, we luxuriated in a cabin the same size, but two beds rather than two pairs of bunks.
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Tristan, part 3 [Oct. 22nd, 2015|10:13 pm]
muuranker
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When you say that you are going to spend a few weeks on a tiny part of an island - maybe three miles, end to end, of the part you can walk on if you don't do near-vertical walking - people do ask 'what do you do to fill the time'?

To answer that, I need to explain the weather. The SA Agulhas is an ice-breaker. Part of her work is going down to the antarctic to do scientific research. This is a summer-only job, so other work, including the Gough relief, has to fit in round it. This means the Tristan visits happen in the Southern hemisphere version of March/April. 34 degrees south, mid-Atlantic in spring is very unpredictable. Usually it is chilly (but not freezing), with torrential rain. Something like 25/30 days rain in the month.

So everyone was counfounded by 'summer' weather which set in a day or two after we arrived. Later weather included a couple of 'normal' days, and some big storms (also normal). As many of the activities are out-of-doors, the tourism department's attempt to schedule them didn't always go to plan.

We tried to spin out what we did, so that we would fill our time, but in retrospect, this was a mistake: we should have grabbed every chance - and pushed for doing good weather stuff when there was good weather. The downside of this is we didn't get to see any of the other islands, except from Tristan itself. But ExMemSec did get to try at Queen Mary's Peak. Our guest house included a well-equipped wash house, but it seemed immoral to use the drier when there was a perfectly splendid howling gale. On the other hand, said gale required a high level of pegging skills. And sometimes there were rain-laiden squalls. So laundry was a sport: dashing out to bring it in, forraging in bushes for things blown off the line.

I worked 2.5 days a week, which was pretty much a full time job, given that I would start at, say, 9.30, walk to the internet cafe (arrive 9.45) log on, and wait for gmail lite to do its thing (read novel). Around 10.30, emails downloaded, I would go to my list of 'things I can do when I get on the internet', and go to the first url, and then start on the emails. Any email needing an internet search (and this turned out to be most of them) got added to the list of 'things I cann do when I get on the internet' - a prioritised list, I should add. At a certain point, the first web page would be loaded, an email answered, and I could start the second search. At a later point, the search list overtook the emails to be answered, which I took to be an indication that it was time to go to the Cafe da Cunha (also the museum, archives, post office and tourism department) for a coffee. After that, there was a lot of time spent opening a web page, and reading a novel.

In the other half a day, we walked pretty much everywhere we could. I started a record of the houses - previous visitors have been photographing people, but I am me. We recorded the graveyards.

Wifi was switched on for the houses at around 4pm, and more emails, novel-reading and web browsing followed.

I was mostly reading, alternately, a book by Wilkie Collins and one by Ben Aaronovitch, with a side-step to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists for a chapter or two every so often, and one or two other things - Trollope - Miss Sarah Jack, of Spanish Town and C. J. Sansom's Winter in Madrid. _Eclectic_ if nothing else! I hadn't realised that Wilkie Collins writes comprehensively about disability. I should write something about that. I was depressed by the RT Philanthropists. So little has changed. On the other hand, it was an excellent book to read on Tristan. The museum here is very good at explaining what life was like on the island in the past. RTPh provided an early 20th century UK calibration to that.
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Tristan, part 2 [Oct. 20th, 2015|08:19 pm]
muuranker
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There are 96 berths on the ships which make scheduled runs from Cape Town to Tristan: the SA Agulhas II, the Edinburgh and the Baltic Trader.

These berths are in high demand.  First, there is medivac and returning medivac.  There seem to be two births a year, so that's 4 of your 96 gone, before anyone gets ill.  Then there are government officials and workers, who come on 3, 6 or 12 month contracts. The UN nuclear monitoring person (12 months). And professionals who come for shorter visits: our boat had, for example, a Dentist, a Dental Technician, an X-ray technican, an opthalmologist, someone conducting a child protection audit, a team from the RNIB and someone to service the UN's monitors. People on Tristan go overseas to work, to study, and for holidays.  And people from the Tristan communnities in the UK and South Africa come over for holidays - all of which means that the number of berths available for tourists is very, very small.  There were four tourists on our boat: ExMemSec and myself, Marmite Andrew (to distinguish him from Child Protection Andrew) and Tomaz.

The three boats are very different. MS Edinburgh is a fishing boat.  MS Baltic Trader is a cargo boat.  SA Agulhas II is a scientific research ice-breaker.  About half the berths are on the Agulhasa, which is by far the most popular, because she has a reasonable turn-around, and helicopters.  People have gone to Tristan, and returned to Cape Town, without being able to get on shore, as the swell there is massive (no continental shelf!) and there are frequent storms, and the little Calshot Harbour is tiny, and does not offer great protection.  It was a very calm day when we arrived, but even so, some of our luggage arrived wet.  We went by helicopter.

It was my first time in a helicopter, and I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out to be quite disappointing.  I was expecting to have more sensation of flying than one gets in a small aircraft, but it was quite the reverse. The ground appeared at angles which were quite unexpected, as if felt as if we were flying along straight.

The Agulhas is owned and run by South Africa's Environment department. She makes an annual trip to Tristan, and then on to Gough Island, another island in the group but about 200 miles to the south.   She has about 150 berths: 50 are crew, 50 are for Tristan to allocate, and 50 are the team of 9 who are going down to spend a year on Gough, and those going for 3 weeks.  The nine are a leader/doctor, an electrical engineer, a diesel engineer, three metrologists and three ecologists.  Their support team of builders, and more ecologists of various kinds make up the other 40 places.

The Agulhas isn't a cruise ship: she's new (this was only her second year on the trip) and overall has the air of a quite nice student block.  There are lectures each afternoon from the scientists on board.  The food is generally good, but throws up some weird combinations.  The evening meal often has very little carbohydrate (2 roast potatoes is not unusual).  As the days go on, fresh fruit and veg get very scarce - 'choice of salad' at lunch turns into pasta salad vs egg in chilli sauce vs rice and pea salad.   There are no hot drinks (or alcohol) with meals.

We had sort-of assumed we would be sharing a double cabin, but on the way out found ourselves in a four-birth with the dentist and his wife.  This turned out, on balance, to be a good thing, as I think it involved us more in the community than we would have otherwise.  Plus they gave us some black plastic sacks which meant we could protect our luggage somewhat for the boat transfer.  On the way back, we luxuriated in a cabin the same size, but two beds rather than two pairs of bunks.
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Imagine Table Mountain ..... [Oct. 13th, 2015|09:11 pm]
muuranker
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Imagine Table Mountain. Then imagine, that Table Mountain is a circular Table Mountain, mostly descending not to the plain that Cape Town sits on, but directly into the sea. Apart from one narrow apron, itself edged with cliffs, and not particularly level as it has little volcanic cones and upheavals making the 'releatively flat' actually quite bumpy. Then put a classic pointy volcano on top. Move this half way between Cape Town and Uruguay. This is Tristan da Cunha. It has no airport (although there is a bumpy muddy field where helicopters can land once the cattle are cleared), and a harbour which is only large enough for very small vessels (ribs and the like).

On the narrow apron is Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, or 'the settlement', a small village. In addition to the c.250 Tristainians, it is home to people working there (managing the Rock Lobster factory, being the doctors and other profession staff, the Administrator [like a Governor crossed with a District Council CEO)] and up to 96 tourists.

The 'up to' 96 tourists are not all there at the same time. There are 96 berths on the ships arriving on Tristan. Most of the berths are for contract staff (we shared our cabin with the Dental team, for example), for Tristainians returning from medical treatment in Cape Town, for Tristainians returning from holiday overseas, and from ex-pat Tristainians returning to their homeland.

We were on the SA Agulhas II. This is the best boat because (a) it is a Research Vessel, wich means living conditions are like those in student accomodation - the alternatives are fishing boats, and (b) it has helicopters - which mean you are much more likely to actually get off the boat. This year, the SA Agulas II took only four tourists - ourselves, 'Marmite' Andrew (of whom more, later) and Tomaz (of whom more, later).

It can take up to 12 days to battle 'up' to Tistan to Cape Town, but the Agulhas usually gets there in six. We had mill-pond like conditions for most of our voyage, and occassionally got up to a gusting 4. We were there in 5 days (just as good going back 'down'). Then, we were scheduled for 3 weeks and 4 days on Tristan, but had 3 weeks and 2 due to circumstances (of which, etc.)

Add in some time in South Africa because at the time you need to book your flights, the exact timing of the boat are not known, and the South Atlantic can always do something *interesting* and mean you don't arrive back when expected, and you will see why a 3-week holiday on Tristan actually takes 6 weeks.

Enough for tonight ... to be continued. Although, of course, you will have worked out that we made it back with sufficient fingers to type. Which may mean that the supense of this journal is not quite what it should be.

I did spend quite a lot of time reading Wilkie Collins. So I know more about suspense than I did in August.
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(no subject) [Aug. 13th, 2015|08:08 pm]
muuranker
From wellinghall et al

1. Marmite- love or hate?
I love it.
2. Marmalade- thick cut or thin cut?
Don't really like it.
3. Porridge- made with milk or water?
Really don't like it.
4. Do you like salt, sugar or honey on your porridge?
See 3
5. Loose tea or teabags?
TeabagsRead more...Collapse )
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Felicitations! [Aug. 5th, 2015|07:56 pm]
muuranker
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Felicitations to the_marquis!
As the page (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4806/chocolate-marquise) says: this is decadent yet serious, for a dinner party, and full of richness

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I have a job .... [Jul. 10th, 2015|08:33 pm]
muuranker
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Rather to my surpise, and at great speed, I have a new job.  And (of course) I am busily creating more new jobs.  First new job is an Engagement Co-ordinator - essentially communications and events, both internal (thousands of volunteers) and external (squillions of users): http://www.freeukgenealogy.org.uk/blog/2015/07/10/recruiting-an-engagement-co-ordinator/

I am almost at the stage of posting the second new job - a Technical Project Manager.  I am feeling rather pleased that thanks to a creative commons licence from Queridian Solutions (queridian.com) I even found a relevant photo for that job.

Engagement Co-ordinator probably needs to be in the UK, TPM needs to be free to make online meetings 2pm-6pm UT/BST - but can live and work anywhere.  The rest of the team are across the globe - Thailand to British Columbia.  The sun pretty much never sets on this particular empire.

If interested in either post, please ask.  The TPM job should be up on the Free UK Genealogy blog tomorrow.

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