Home from home

Map of East Neuk of Fife
Map of part of the East Neuk of Fife. Cellardyke and Anstruther are at the bottom right, St Andrews is the big town at the top of the map. (Map from Google Maps.)

Having just returned from the GP (more on that in a moment — depending on how fast you read, I guess) and I’m just about to pack an overnight bag. We’re heading over to Cellardyke essentially just to alter the timed heating, so we’re going to take the opportunity and spend the night there.

Can you believe it, we’ve had the house just over a year now and we’ve not yet been able to spend a whole week there uninterrupted?! I need to return to Edinburgh tomorrow for a Powerpoint band rehearsal; the Powerpoint Christian youth event is on Friday night. Still, it will be nice to get away … and still be able to sleep in our own beds!

So, back to the GP visit. The other night I showed my Mum a bump on my head that’s been there for quite a while now. It’s not really bothered me until now … now that my hair is receeding and I’m now beginning to look like some kind of distant cousin of the Klingons!

I’ve always assumed that it was simply a scar from knocking myself unconscious at a Borders Scripture Union summer camp at Grantshouse in 1984 or 1985. But Mum took a look at it and said, “I think it’s a sebaceous cyst” (Don’t follow that link if you are squeamish! — there are no photographs, but the description isn’t great. :S).

“Great! Another cyst!” (I already have Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ASDPKD).)

“If it was me,” she said, “I’d just stick a needle in it!”

Don’t you just love the DIY attitude of members of the medical profession! (Mum was a Nursing Sister for many years.)

Dr Abushal didn’t think that sticking a needle into it would do any good. “It needs minor surgery,” said he. So they are going to make an appointment for me to see their minor surgery specialist, and if she thinks it needs to be done more neatly then I’ve to be referred to the plastic surgery unit at St John’s Hospital, Livingston.

In the meantime, it appears that I’m still recovering from the virus that floored me last month, and I just need to keep pacing myself, resting and doing some gentle exercise, as I have been doing.

Off to Cellardyke … I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

An unexpected day

My nephew Benjamin
My nephew Benjamin, taken on his new camera.

Today I had an unexpected visit from my sister Jenni and her son Benjamin. When I say “unexpected” I mean that I knew that they were going to be in town, and the last I heard Jane and Rebecca (my brother’s wife) were going to meet them in town and bring them to the Gyle shopping centre for lunch.

So imagine my delighted surprise when Jenni phoned at 11:00 am to say that they were nearly finished shopping, and exchanging too-small Christmas gifts — by which I mean Christmas gifts that were too small, not that Christmas itself was diminuitive this year — and did I want to meet up with them? How could I turn them down! So I gave them instructions on which bus to catch and which stop to get off and they came over to our house for lunch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent speaking with Jenni, playing Lego Star Wars with Benjamin and occasionally letting him look for photographs of tiny monkeys on Google.

He also looked for … oh! more pictures of tiny monkeys, a poster for The Lord of the Pugs and ring tones.

All that worry that people have about needing to install Net Nanny software. No need! Ten years only want to search the internet for photographs of tiny monkeys and ring tones.

And pugs, pugs and clocks. Clocks with pugs on them.

Jane and Rebecca arrived, back and shortly after my brother Eddie did and we sat around the table for a Chinese takeaway meal bowl or two of MSG. Which was lovely. By which I mean that it was lovely that we were all sitting around the table together. It’s not often that we get to do that. Very often. By which I mean … shall I just go now?

A good year so far …

My nephew Benjamin pretending to be a Sith Lord, from Star Wars
My nephew Benjamin pretending to be a Sith Lord, from Star Wars

This year has got off to a great start. I was up shortly after 08:00 this morning, and said Morning Prayer — start as I mean to go on, I reckon!

There were only four in the congregation this morning, plus myself and June our faithful server. With no organist and our usual MIDI organ remote-control operator away I had to juggle pressing buttons with leading the service, preaching, praying and singing.

“Our next carol is number 17, Infant Holy…”
[Pick up remote control and point it at the organ]
[Press Load]
[Press 6]
[Wait while disk drive whirrs]
[Press Start]
[Music plays]
# “Infant holy, infant lowly …”

It all went smoothly, and it was rather lovely when the four in the congregation came and stood around the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer, as we asked God to bless the bread and wine for communion. The holy family nativity set are still camped beneath the altar. I’d forgotten that I’m always taken by surprise at this time of year when I genuflect and catch a glimpse of the figures of Mary, Joseph, watching the infant Jesus lying in the straw. There may have been only six of us, but it was no less a celebration, and was a gentle and prayerful entry to 2006.

This afternoon I’ve been carrying out some minor alterations to my blog’s theme. I’ve tweaked the dynamic menus (above) and added an external link to my main website. I’ve added a graphic for the RSS feed and a new page explaining what RSS is, and how to subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog.

In the midst of all that tweaking my nephew phoned me a few times (maybe four?!) to tell me that he was emailing me a few photographs that he’d taken with his new Kodak EasyShare 300 camera, including this one of him above which he edited in Paint Shop Pro to make him look like a Sith Lord!

We’re off now to Jane’s folks for a family gathering. Which is good, because I’m hungry!

Presents by numbers

Building blocks
I didn’t have any photographs of number blocks only, so these will have to do.

This year Jane and I decided that our Christmas present to one another would be a new mattress for our bed. Our current one we’ve had since we got married in July 1999 and it’s pretty uncomfortable now. I’m sure that’s one reason I don’t go to bed earlier than I ought: I hate lying in bed with springs sticking into me, no matter which way I turn. So this week we’ll head over to Ikea and purchase a new, firm but comfortable kingsize mattress. We may have to buy a new duvet while we’re at it. And a couple of pillows, too, perhaps?

So that we didn’t give one another nothing on Christmas Day we gave ourselves a £20(-ish) limit and … proved just how compatible (or predictable) we are for one another. Early on Christmas morning we handed each other a pile of three presents each. Good start. Here’s what we gave one another:

Gareth to Jane Jane to Gareth
Chocolate: Lindt Lindor Terry’s Chocolate Orange™ Snowball
Media: The Magic Numbers by The Magic Numbers CD Tim Vine Live DVD
Book: Mary, Mary by James Paterson The Acoustic Guitar Bible by Eric Roche

Not bad! Chocolate, media and books. How well suited we are to one another.

I’m so looking forward to getting into Eric Roche‘s Acoustic Guitar Bible. Readers of Steve Lawson’s blog, and those with their fingers on the pulse of the UK guitar scene will know that sadly Eric died this year, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. I’m so pleased that before he did he wrote and published this book, passing on his skills, tips, tricks and advice. A beautiful book by a beautfully gifted guitarist from a beautiful woman.

The Photon Connection

Poster for The Photon Connection
Poster for The Photon Connection, the 1982/83 IEE Faraday Lecture presented by STC.

In 1982-83 Standard Telephones and Cables Plc (STC) marked the start of its centenary celebrations (1883-1983) by presenting the annual IEE Faraday Lecture.

The IEE Faraday Lecture was founded in 1924 to commemorate the life and work of Michael Faraday. As a pioneer in the field of electricity and electromagnetism, his work laid the foundation for many of today’s advances in technology.

At the time my father worked for Exacta Circuits Ltd in Selkirk, which was owned by STC. Dad was one of only eight people selected to present the lecture. Other lecturers included Sir Kenneth Corfield and David Brown (now Sir David and chairman of Motorola). It was a real priviledge for Dad to present it.

Dad presented the first lecture at the Usher Hall, here in Edinburgh on 5 October 1982. I got special permission to miss school to travel up from Selkirk to be there in the audience — mostly school pupils and students — for the matinee performance. I loved it and got to go backstage afterwards, meet the crew and I even got a few souveniers, which I still have. I later made the set in Lego — that’s just how good I rated it — which Dad photographed (using the Kodak-equivalent of a Polaroid camera) and showed it to his fellow lecturers and the backstage crew.

When Dad died there were two things that I wanted of his: a copy his signature (something so personal and unique to him) and his copy of the Faraday lecture that he presented: The Photon Connection. I got both, and I have his autograph bluetacked to my PC monitor right here.

The lecture was about light. It was about how optical communications (optical fibres) would change the way that we communicate, locally and globally. This evening I read it through again — the first time I’ve read through it for about ten years — and it struck me as incredibly far-thinking for a piece of work from 1982.

This is from the conclusion to the lecture:

Photons, not electrons, will connect us. When we master these techniques we shall have a resource limited only by our own imagination. And our imagination is already at work.

We know that we shall not just talk on the phone, but talk and see each other, too. Send pictures.

… Send data as far and as fast as we wish. Run dangerous processes from a safe distance.

We’ll shop from home if we like. Order our goods. Pay for them. Book our holiday. Or an evening out. Check our balance in the bank! Vote on vital issues. Receive our newspapers electronically. And our mail. We’ll work, perhaps, from home. We shall have as many television channels as there are human interests.

The disadvantages of distance will diminish. And those of time. We will communicate anything to anyone, anywhere. With all the speed of light.

The World Wide Web wasn’t invented until about 1989, while the Internet had been around for quite a while.

And today we have all of these things. I take some pride that in a small way my Dad was part of bringing this about, and part of spreading the news. He was certainly influential in nurturing my interest in computers, in communications, in information architecture.

If you’d like to read the lecture for yourself, you can download it in PDF format, for which you will require a PDF Reader program such as the free Adobe Reader.