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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Saturday, 30 April 2005

Street furniture?

bus detector?As I was on the coach to work this morning (the last ever one to go down Crawley Green Road, unless enough pressure can be brought to bear to persuade Arriva to reconsider) I finally got the chance to photograph a piece of street furniture that has been puzzling me for a good while (click the picture to the right for bigger - as with most you'll find in this blog).

My initial supposition is that it's some kind of device to detect the proximity of high vehicles (such as buses) or some kind of infra-red beam detector. There isn't a matching one on the other side of the road, though. Perhaps someone who knows London better than I would be able to shed some light....

It's been a muggy, warm day today - perfect to be gently wandering round a perfectly air-conditioned office, sorting some delightfully tricky problems out. As it happens, our office has little metal grilles in the ceiling, but I don't think they do anything; the windows have been wide open all day and I recquisitioned a fan on a stick (I think the official name is 'pedestal') to point at my desk. The work hasn't been too bad, at least when I had been distracted from the tedium of software testing by some little engineering problems; it's nice to get my hands dirty on occasion!

Two random photos from Woodside...
baby kid
Ahh.. baby goat!
comedy llama
Comedy llama!

I'm hoping to go for a drink with my old pal Alec at the new-look Wyvern pub round the corner when I get home; the great news is that it's non-smoking, so I won't come home reeking. The developers have done a lot of really good work - it, and the fact that they're serving food now, certainly appears to have paid off, as the car park has been quite full when we've been past.

It'll be an early start tomorrow (the first attempt to catch the elusive weekend coach)... I'm sure I'll cope, though.

Posted by james at 8:49 PM

Thursday, 28 April 2005

animals, lectures and coaches

Just a brief(ish) catch-up on the week's activites - the days go so quickly!

On Saturday the daytime was taken up with a Jude rehearsal, with a break in the afternoon for family time. We went through a few more songs - unfortunately, I've not had time to upload them yet, since the evening was spent doing last-minute preparation for the next day's internet broadcast.

In fact, Sunday was a fun evening, and although we faced the usual technical problems (resulting in a swathe of my show being lost for ever, and the rest of it being rather overprocessed) I think it went jolly well. In the next few days there'll be links to the audio available on the website.

A marmoset at WoodsideIt was a bit damp on Monday but it didn't stop us from getting out and about. In fact, we had intended to buy a season ticket to the Woodside animal farm, so that's what we did. In my nearly-eleven years of living in Luton I'd never been there, so it was lovely that Beth and the children could show me around. Many of the attractions were closed due to the weather, but we still managed to see the animals, ranging from pigs and llamas to pink flamingos and marmots (which were unfortunately asleep) and spend some time in the indoor play area.

I've been working over the last few days, which has meant being able to relax on the coach, either listening to the results of Sunday's Image FM or Radio 4. It's this time of year that the Reith Lectures are held, and I've found them to be a good listen, on a Wednesday evening.

There was some slightly less enjoyable news waiting for me on the coach this morning, though - for reasons best known to themselves, Arriva have seen fit to completely change the routes of their coaches, so I have to walk about four times as far to catch it into London. Nobody really understands the logic of the decision - even the drivers are confused - but all I can do, I suppose, is make the best of it and add my name to the list who have already written letters to the company asking for an explanation for this short-notice and significant change.

Y'know, I might even be moved to write a missive to the local paper...

Tomorrow's a day off - we'll probably try to fit housework, shopping and some family time in - and then I'm back to work over the weekend; there are a few things I'm working on at the moment, so I'll definitely be kept busy.

Wow.. that's my life in eight paragraphs! I'm looking forward to spending time with the children (it's amazing how much they change in just three days) as both of them are being very well-behaved and entertaining.

Link of the day:

Posted by james at 9:18 PM

Sunday, 24 April 2005

music, musing and mazing

It's been a fine weekend so far, both with the weather, which has been practically perfect, save for a little rain yesterday afternoon (which dampened the concrete to leave that wonderful smell, so even that was welcome!) and for the activities we've enjoyed.

Yesterday I popped up to the church in Bushmead - the nice(!) part of Luton, where we used to live - to have a practice with Jude - in spite of catching one of my fingers in the bathroom door (I was having a horribly absent-minded morning!)

The members of the band are really understanding - I tend to pop home at lunchtime, and return at about five, so I can spend some time with the children during the day. We worked through three songs in total - once I've dubbed them off minidisc, they'll end up on the website, and had plenty of laughs and coffee.

Hoo Hill MazeI've been keen to visit a maze for quite a few years - considering the last one I went to was at Hampton Court about 22 years ago (!), I've waited a while! Anyway, Beth recently discovered, in a local guidebook, that there was actually one just up the road towards Bedford - called Hoo Hill Maze. We visited it this afternoon, taking a picnic, and, despite Beth having an allergy to leylandii, we all had a great time.

As well as the maze, there's a wonderful play area, with little wooden summer houses for the children and paths to run around. We'll definitely go back there - drop us an email (blog@mus-ic.co.uk) if you'd like to come along, too! Interestingly, the chap who owns the maze home-educated his children - there's a lot of us about!

There are hedge mazes all over the country - www.maze-world.com/BritainHedge.htm has a collection (although it's a little disorganised!)

Perhaps over the next twenty-two years, I'll have worked my way down the list a little!

Posted by james at 4:21 PM

Thursday, 21 April 2005

Li'le bi' o' politics, theyarr..

Some protestersI was gently ambling back to the office after a delightful walk across Regents Park earlier, when I noticed that there were protesters at the front of Broadcasting House.

At first, I thought they were BECTU members, protesting about the jobcuts, but it turned out to be unite against fascism, protesting about the BNP Party Election Broadcast that was broadcast on the BBC this evening.

It was good to know that the BBC considered it a matter of conscience if people worked on the broadcast (see here for an article) but in the event, it was something of an unfocussed, single issue rant that could have been titled "Adopt a mad tramp, and then watch a bloke shout incoherently for a bit."

In fact, I don't think any of the Party Election Broadcasts have been much cop. I'm enjoying all the spoofs (spooves?), though..

Posted by james at 6:24 PM


On my last day off before - oh the strain - three days of work, we took advantage of a sunny afternoon to go to the park. There are quite a few to choose from in Luton, but we opted for Wardown Park, which has recently had a complete refurbishment of the children's play area. As well as the ever-reliable Wicksteed equipment, they had some new kit from Sutcliffe; most unusual was an activity just inside the gate, where you wind a handle six times, and when you hear a sound, you shout into it, and it 'talks back' with a silly voice (either sped up, slowed down or backwards). I have, of course, tried to Google it, but I've clearly been typing the wrong words in!

Christopher - pretending to be asleep Christopher really enjoyed running around with the other children (he's a very sociable young man, and he had two little girls running after him for much of the time - even when he was tired and pretending to sleep on a bench!) and Ella loved to zip excitedly from one item to another.

Beth's taking the children to Woodside today, to meet up with another home educating family. It's a shame I can't enjoy the warm day with them, but hopefully there'll be another opportunity; I still have a number of contacts to make for home-ed groups around Luton - it certainly makes us feel much less isolated.

Links of the day:

  • maps.google.co.uk : Yet another string to Google's bow - this time an interactive map of the UK.
  • : a web-based version of the classic game "Lemmings" (it needs quite a powerful PC to work, though)
  • www.unit.org.uk : The Official website of U.N.I.T. - the bunch of army men who appear in Doctor Who (mainly the third regeneration, but there are a couple of episodes this series about it). A personal favourite is in the publications section, which advertises a document (or possibly pamphlet)
    UTE-18 - "But what has happened to Luton?" Coping with common press enquiries
    (thanks, Pete!)

Posted by james at 8:53 AM

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

weekend away..

Well, we're back... the children having spent a long weekend at their maternal grandparents', while Beth and I enjoyed the peace of a resort in the depths of East Anglia. for our seventh wedding anniversary.

The time went so quickly - we didn't rush around too much, visiting Bury St Edmunds, a very pretty city (? It's got a cathedral...) - I think I'd like to live there - and Lowestoft (a typical seaside town in so many ways) and generally hanging around the holiday place, swimming, playing 'pitch and putt' and watching TV.

Wind TurbineI might be considered a little geekish (not the first time, I'm sure!), but one of the highlights of the holiday was getting close-up to a real-life wind turbine, just by the sea wall in Lowestoft.

There's also a wind farm up in Great Yarmouth, but when we drove up there, it was getting dark, so we couldn't see it very clearly. Next time, perhaps... (there's a BBC report about the wind farm's construction here) (Windows Media video).

It was a lovely holiday, with plenty of food (I'm sure I've put on a few pounds!), leisurely walks and relaxation - it's difficult to get back to the grind now...

Links of the day:

Posted by james at 9:18 AM

Friday, 15 April 2005


Just a quicky - we're off in a mo for a weekend away!

www.imaginationcubed.com/Imagine : fun for young and old - if you (unlike me) have any artistic ability!

Have a good weekend...

Posted by james at 9:46 AM

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

long weekends and "free" ipods

I'm really rather tired, and I was only working one day this week (that doesn't bode well for the rather busy working hours I've got stacked up at the end of the month). Still, it's now the beginning of a week off work, and I'm starting to unwind and relax a little.

The children had fun on the terrace yesterday afternoon - their first venture out there to play this year (can you believe it?) - with the dressing up box providing inspiration for a hat and shoe shop, and some rather strange choices of costume. It's great to be able to see the children growing up; Christopher can now work out the spelling for basic words, and Ella wanders around the house with clear messages for us all (when she's not shouting about getting "no" for an answer!)

Today, though, was a workday, and I was invited (the people originally intended to attend weren't on shift) to a "Focus Group" to discuss the results of a survey. To be honest, I'm not one for chuntering on for hours about stuff that'll probably never bear results, but for once I was almost glad I was there, as the team meeting (which I missed as a result) was an even more turgid, miserable affair. Many useful books and articles have been written about meetings, and clearly none of them were read by whoever was looking after this one!

I'm almost embarassed to admit that, at 8.30 this morning, I was nearly sucked into the free iPod plughole - a simple, attractive new implementation of the traditional pyramid scheme; commit to a free trial, convince five friends to do the same, and get a shiny new iPod for your trouble. This has resulted in emails pinging around the place asking for clicks and commitments, and it was one of these that I checked out and quickly realised the error of my ways. I don't think I'm greedy enough to manipulate my friends and relatives to such an end.

Bit of a maudlin entry - especially since I've got a few days off coming, and a trip to the Suffolk coast with Beth for our anniversary!

Links of the day

Posted by james at 9:59 PM

Sunday, 10 April 2005

Birthdays and horseys

It's Sunday again? How did that happen? Well, OK, so much of the week has been spent sitting at my desk (or travelling between it and home); there's been a funeral, a wedding, an election announcement and a horserace, but I've not really had much involvement in any of them!

As is traditional, I'd better get the weather out of the way! There's been a bit of everything this week - during my days off, we've narrowly avoided being caught in hailstorms and heavy showers, and there was even a brief snow flurry making its way south-east. This evening, though, as I left work, I didn't even need my fleece on, as it was a 'proper' spring evening, with the last dregs of sun making the aeroplanes glow really rather eerily in the darkening sky.

Yup.. I think spring is my favourite season. Same amount of drizzle as autumn, but more flowers. And possibly a bit more potential for poetry.

How could I have let Thursday go without a mention? In fact, Ella has been a little spoiled with birthday celebrations - we had the party on Sunday, she opened presents at her great-grandparents on Wednesday and, of course, it was her birthday proper on the seventh.

Thank you for the presents - she's been dashing around trying to play with all of the toys, wear the clothes and read the books. (Which gives her a break from shouting at us - it must be terrible to be two!) I'll have to upload a few photos - and, if I can get her to sit down for more than a millisecond, take a proper "I'm two!" photograph for albums and mantelpieces... my challenge for the next couple of days!

In fact, I have two days off coming up, followed by a day of work, then practically a week away from the office; Beth and I are having a short weekend break for our seventh wedding anniversary, up at Great Yarmouth, where we spent our honeymoon, and we'll try and have some family outings on the other days (if the weather sorts itself out!)

Hmm. not so much a 'blog' as a journal this time... more webby bits next time!

Links of the week(!):

  • www.getjar.com : Free java software for phones that can do that sort of thing. There are some rather jolly games here...
  • tagtag.com/site/javalist.php3 : Another free java software site. You'll never be bored again (if you're easily amused, like me)
  • www.pagesjaunes.fr/pj.cgi?lang=en : The French Yellow Pages... enter an adddress in a major city and it'll not just show you where it is on a map - it'll display a photograph of the building! (Apparently the Spanish version is equally impressive, although I've not been able to test it for, er, linguistic reasons!

P.S. While I remember - on the 24th April we're doing another Image FM night; more details to follow on the website in the next couple of days. We might even be tempted to use AACPlus.
P.P.S. Oh - that "April" "Fool" "Prank" I mentioned in the previous entry turned out to be a trick that was played on the poor woman whose name was on the letter, by some of her so-called friends. Apparently, everyone on the street received one, and she took calls all morning about it. A joke? I guess. Amusing? The jury's out.

Posted by james at 9:39 PM

Sunday, 3 April 2005

April foolishness

Although I enjoy work, the days between seem to go so quickly! It doesn't, for example, seem like any time since Friday morning, when we collected the post and opened a rather disturbing letter.

It's impossible to phrase this without sounding like the Daily Mail, but the letter - supposedly from the secretary of the Residents Association - outlined plans by the council to provide a site for gypsies and travellers directly across the road from our house. I don't have a problem with space being found for the Romany population - it's all part of the broad cultural heritage we share, but there are better ways of finding out!

Of course, at the back of our minds, we both considered that it might have been an April Fools joke (or even a piece of political propaganda?) and our suspicions were confirmed when I called the person whose name was on the letter, and she knew nothing about it. (I really hope I didn't cause any unnecessary trauma to her, too!)

Chris and Ella in the gardenEnough about pranks of dubious taste - yesterday was a wonderfully sunny day, and we gathered at Beth's Grandparents for a party to celebrate Ella's birthday in advance (being pretty-much the only day none of us are working in the next week or so).

Hopefully this is the start of the season where the children can stretch their legs without having to don coats, jumpers and gloves (and I'm not complaining about it being too hot, yet!)

In the evenings, I've mainly been chatting with pals, tidying up the studio (Christopher and I have been building a "treasure box" out of MDF, which involves creating quite a lot of sawdust) and trying to transfer videos from cameraphone to Windows Media (something of a challenge, especially when trying to dub audio from minidisc because the sound quality isn't so good) so no links today, I'm afraid!

Right.. better get on with the day!

Posted by james at 9:07 AM

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