Tuesday 18 July 2023

NASA, Cocoa Beach and points north

Last Wednesday, this happened:

We dusted off the passports and headed to Miami, to stay with our friend “The Lost American”.  Thursday was a recovery day and then, on Friday, we headed off on a road trip through the South.  

First stop was Cocoa Beach, where we stayed at a hotel that was originally owned by seven of the Mercury astronauts.

Saturday, started with watching the sun rise over Cocoa Beach, ended with watching a rocket launch from the same spot, and was mainly spent at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre.  It can be summed up in one word: WOW!!!

NASA was a long day but worth every penny of the $75 admission fee.  Seriously, I have a gazillion photos but nothing can sum up the awe you experience when you’re face to face with a space shuttle or walking beside a Saturn V rocket or standing in the viewing gallery of Mission Control, watching footage of the team going through the checklist before an Apollo mission blasted off, using the consoles that are directly in front of you. 

We got lucky with the rocket launch.  Weather had delayed SpaceX from launching earlier in the week, so it got rescheduled for 2350 on Saturday night.  Standing on Cocoa Beach in the dark, looking towards Cape Canaveral, we had to hope that it wouldn’t get delayed again.  Suddenly, there was a bright light to our left:

All was silent until the rocket flew overhead, trailing its launch sound, like a cloak behind it:


- Pam

Sunday 12 February 2023

It was such an unusual cold

I spent most of this week in our Glastonbury office.  This was my first visit since the first week of December 2019, back in pre-Pandemic times.  Ironically, it had many echos of the first:  on both occasions, i met up with the same colleagues, but, this time, I was travelling alone, whereas on the previous trip, I’d brought “The Stray Australian” with me, a colleague from Sydney.  We stayed in the same hotel, as did the Regional Finance Business Partner, who I had dinner with on both Tuesday evenings.  Last time,  on the Wednesday afternoon, I developed a tickle in my throat so wandered over to the nearest supermarket after dinner, to buy some whisky to kill the cough.  This time, ditto.  Last time, I drove back to London on the Thursday afternoon, feeling more and more ill, dropped the Stray Australian back at the office, then went home to bed.  This time, I drove home on Friday, my tonsils making their presence felt..

Last time, by the Saturday, I had a sore throat.  It didn’t help that that was the day of my choir’s carol concert but I soldiered through, my voice cracking on some of the high notes.  I also soldiered through at work. I had a lot to learn from the Stray Australian before he went home on the Thursday, so couldn’t stay home.  Then while I was feeling like death warmed up on the Monday, I got asked to take on a role in our Huntingdon office: someone had resigned, timing it with holidays to give less than 2 weeks’ notice.  (Seriously, I was sitting in the office contemplating asking to go home to bed, when I got called into a meeting room.) 

Symptoms appeared in stages.   I developed a drippy, runny nose; watery, like a dripping tap.  The scratchy, swollen throat went on and on.  My larynx was on fire for days.   A week later, I could have drawn the cartilages within it, it was that sore.  Christmas came and went, and we spent the week of New Year in Normandy.  I was cooking dinner on the Tuesday (New Year’s Eve) when I realised that everything was tasteless.  On the Thursday, I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling crackles in my chest.  A couple of slow, deep breaths and they went, not to return. That was the last symptom, to appear.   It took a couple of weeks for my sense of taste to return - now I have to salt everything, (where I never did before) - and it took months for my vocal cords to recover.  

 I am 100% certain, now that it was Covid.  We know now that the first official variant ulcerated the vocal cords of those who were intubated, hence the damage to my own vocal cords, and all the other symptoms tally.  I know who I caught it from: a colleague in a meeting on the Friday before I went to Glastonbury.   It swept through her office and through ours, before Christmas 2019.  When Covid began getting publicity, we sat there ticking off the symptoms.   Of course, there was no testing then, so it can’t be proved now..  (By the time I did have antibody testing, I’d been vaccinated twice, and tested positive once, via a PCR test in October 2020.)

This time around, well, yesterday’s lateral flow test was negative for Covid.  The tickly cough has declined a lot and my nose is snotty, not dripping water.  I think we’re safe to say that it isn’t Covid this time, but I doubt I’ll be at rehearsal tomorrow evening.  I’ll take another test on Tuesday, before I go to the office.

 My name is Pam and I had Covid before it was famous.

Sunday 1 January 2023

Today is the start of the rest of our lives

Happy New Year!

All over the world, people woke up this morning full of resolutions and good intentions.  Within a few weeks, they’ll feel let down and discouraged.  All the hoped for miracles/changes of behaviour will have vanished.  Why do we imbue January 1st with so much importance?  Given that our time on earth is finite, every morning offers the same promise: 24 hours in which to make a difference.

I reckon it’s just a point in time to focus the mind.  So what will I endeavour to do this year, to change or make a difference?  Here are my resolutions.  It’s 2023 so I am aiming to complete 23 Challenges:-

  1. Read 23 books.
  2. Use up at least 23 balls of yarn by knitting or crocheting them into items.
  3. Use 23 new-to-me recipes and make dishes that I’ve never attempted before.
  4. Go to the cinema at least 6 times.  (I get "free" tickets via my bank.  Might as well use them.)
  5. Go to the theatre 4 times.
  6. Restart my running and run in an organised 5k race.
  7.  Continue with my 15 minutes a day Duolingo.  (I'm currently on day 943.  Started in 2020.)
  8. 23 sessions of weight training.
  9. Socialise 23 times.  This doesn't include the weekly pub quiz, RPG sessions, etc, that are already in my calendar.
  10. Blog at least 23 times.
  11. Spend an hour per week for 23 weeks, writing that book.  
  12. Do 23 singing lessons/practice sessions resulting therefrom.  (My voice and breathing haven't recovered from Covid in December 2019.  Yes, I had it before it was famous.)
  13. Make 23 phone calls to family and friends, just to catch up and chat.
  14. Replace Lucky Car.  I have no choice.  At the end of August, the border of London’s ULEZ - ultra low emission zone - will be extended to include all of the outer-London suburbs.  He’s diesel, 13 years old and does not comply.
  15. Go on a “proper” holiday, overseas.  We haven’t had one since the start of the Pandemic.  Destination TBA.
  16. Continue doing the Fashion on the Ration Challenge on MSE.
  17. Not buy any yarn in 2023.  This excludes the one skein that was ordered before Christmas, but won’t be delivered until next week.
  18. Finish and sew up all my knitting and crochet WIPs or frog them.   I think there are 8 in the queue, including a couple of cardigans that just need buttons sewn on.  (This excludes the jumper and two pairs of socks currently on the needles.)
  19. Dust off my sewing machine and sew a suit.
  20. Complete at least one embroidery.  
  21. Have 23 gardening sessions, where I do more than look at the weeds and lament.
  22. For 23 weeks, spend at least an hour tidying up.  I am not one of your naturally tidy people, I want to change that. (I can put a pen on an empty table and, 10 seconds later, it’ll look like a bomb has hit it.)
  23. TBA
Yes, that’s right.  I haven’t got a 23rd challenge yet.  I’ll come up with something….

Got it!  Number 23 is to reduce my Podcast queue from 639 to under 200!  God knows how it got to be so high.

- Pip

In which PipneyJane goes pattern shopping

In John Lewis, I fell victim to some pale grey yarn:  Manos Del Uruguay Fino, in the colourway “Silver Teaset”.   It’s 4-ply, 70% Merino wool, 30% silk, in a 100g (450m) hank.  Three hanks purchased, which will be enough for a jumper.  Not cheap (£70.50 in total) but I’ve saved money all year for a blow out like this.  6 coupons spent.

My reason for being there was to browse the pattern books for a suit pattern, so that I can make a suit from the wool fabric I picked up at that charity fabric sale in ?July. OMG was I disappointed!  The last time I did a serious browse for patterns was a decade ago.  Do you remember back then, when there were several different pattern books laid out on the counter, one for each pattern company?  Well, now, there is one book.  I always knew that Vogue and Butterick patterns were owned by the same publisher, apparently they also own Simplicity and McCalls.  No New Look pattern book.  No Burda, just that one pattern book to look through.

I flipped through it in growing disappointment.  Virtually no suit patterns - I can recall only one (didn’t appeal) - no capsule wardrobes, and only one picture per pattern to display the garments.  (How the hell am I going to know what the top of that dress looks like, if you only display it with the jacket on?).   Seriously, there was NOTHING suitable for the office and nothing I would want to make.  Did I miss the memo saying that nobody has to dress professionally for work anymore?

John Lewis Oxford Street also had virtually no fabric.  (No suiting.  What a surprise?)  Last time I was in there was pre-Pandemic.  The Haberdashery Department is only 1/3 of the size it was then, and about a tenth of the size it was in the 1990’s, when I worked around the corner.   The lady who rang up my yarn sale told me that “nobody makes a summer dress anymore”.

It looks like I’m going to have to find the bag of paper patterns I purchased in the 1990’s.  Hopefully, there will be a suitable suit pattern in there that I haven’t cut out - since I’m a totally different size now - which I can use/adapt to my current style.  There may be a possibility that I’ll find something at the Knit & Stitch Show at Ally Pally next month, but unlikely.  (I had my arm twisted by a friend to go to the show; the same friend who was too sick to come along yesterday.)

Anyway, the above yarn purchase brings my total spend to 69 coupons, leaving 7 for the rest of the year.  

Wish me luck.

- Pip