Big Ben Bongs its last

An advantage to knowing someone that works at Parliament is that you can get some behind the scenes tours that are not usually available to the public. Today, I got to visit the House of Lords archives and conservation studios.

Today’s visit coincided with the last(-ish) chimes from Big Ben, the bell being taken out of action to protect the hearing of the workers repairing the Elizabeth Tower. At 12pm everybody was outside with their cameras pointing up.

I was no different.

Running

I’ve always enjoyed a good run, but somehow got out of the habit between the ages of 14 and 25ish. Then got back into it in a not very serious way. Now I try to run 2 to 3 times per week – usually in my work lunch hour (and a bit).

I’ve been running distances up to 20km in 2h without serious problem – apart from needing a few days of doing not much moving at all afterwards.This would put me on course for a 4h marathon time (assuming linear scaling and a bit of effort to get a little faster).

I didn’t get a place in the ballot for this year’s London marathon, but I did manage to get a place in the Cancer Research London 10km Winter Run. I ran that yesterday, without 5000 others. It was a loop down the Embankment from Whitehall to the Tower of London, back along to St Paul’s, another loop to touch the start of Watling St then back past the front of St Paul’s before dropping down onto the embankment again and finishing at Whitehall again.

It was cold, but good fun. I knocked around 6 minutes off my previous best time for the 10km, coming in at 50.52

Might aim for the Royal Parks half-marathon now…

A delayed update

A coupe of weekends ago I visited the Mayfield Lavender open weekend with Meagen, I meant to write about it at the time, but didn’t get around to it. No problem, Diamond Geezer also visited and wrote up the visit in more detail than I’d get around to here.

In the fields
In the fields

While there we helped collect Rosemary Beetles from the lavender plants, we got somewhere around 100 beetles in a glass jar.

 

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Rosemary Beetles (Chrysolina americana)

I also spotted a pair of Soldier beetles mating , and really wished I’d taken along a decent camera. It’s hard to do macro photography with a phone camera.

Common Red Soldier Beetle - Rhagonycha fulva maiting
Common Red Soldier Beetle – Rhagonycha fulva maiting

Monumental science

It’s not commonly known that the Monument in London was constructed not only to commemorate the great fire, but also as a scientific laboratory. Two of the great scientists of the day, Hooke and Newton performed experiments in basic physics and materials science.
Yesterday evening, some physicists, myself included from Queen Mary University visited with the intention of performing the first experiment at the monument in several hundred years.

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We were successful!
The real science will start once we’ve made the equipment modifications needed for easier operation in the basement lab of the monument.
More to follow as it happens.

Amsterdam.

The flight from Southend Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol is surprisingly quick. Barely have you got comfortable in the seat with your book open, and easyjet have given up trying to sell you bacon rolls, and you’re about to land again.

We stayed in an Airbnb place in the Emmastraat area of Amsterdam, a 4th floor single room flat alongside a canal and a couple of very nice bars, the city centre being a 20 min tram ride, or a 45 min stroll though Vondlepark, away.

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The Rijksmuseum was still closed when we visited, and the Van Gogh Museum had relocated the paintings to the Hermitage instead. There is a 2-4h queue for tickets at the Hermitage in the day time, but you can buy tickets at the at the Van Gogh Museum with next to no queue and walk right in to the exhibition at the Hermitage. It’s well worth the 15 euros or so for entry.
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The flower market is a bit subdued at the moment because of the cold. Blubs and seeds are available to buy, but there were very few fresh flowers.

The public library is excellent, really really excellent. It has a very nice restaurant on the top floor too. Good freshly cooked food and wonderful cakes. They can make a half-decent cup of Tea too.
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Also worth seeing at the botanic gardens, a well welcome warm stop on a cold snowy day and the Van Loon canal house museum – the coach house in the garden makes for a very impressive shed.

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Three days wasn’t enough time to really see as much as we wanted, will definitely go back when the weather improves and the other museums are open again.