'Winter Story' by Mirosław Drożdżowski

'Winter Story' by Mirosław Drożdżowski

A first take at home of this lovely piece by Mirosław Drożdżowski.
Guitar is a Yulong Guo Chamber Concert.

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First Utility comes back from the justly dead

I seem to have picked up a fight with one of the largest multinational corporations? Yikes.

A couple of weeks ago I started receiving envelopes from Shell Energy. I thought that, since I don't have an account with them, it must be junk mail so didn't even open them. One day I did open one and found that they were charging me £7700 and pounds and pence for unpaid gas supply. I wrote them a not very polite email demanding clarification. There was no response. Then I wrote about this on Twitter and, miracle, there was a response.

Ok, the story, as it transpired: twelve years ago when I bought (half of) this flat, there was this company, First Utility, provider of gas, electricity and astronomic estimated bills. I complained a lot, lost a lot of my hair and some of my sanity in the process and in the end they said they would open a second customer account and delete the original one. It also had turned out that the gas meter number they had didn't correspond to the meter inside my flat. Ok, so I moved on and moved to the Co-Op and later to Octopus for electr. and gas. No complaints about those two.

It would seem that FU never closed the first account. They were eventually bought by Shell so rebranded as Shell Energy. And one day they seem to have found that account, according to which I have never paid gas, it would seem. Of course I have been paying (by direct debit, at that) to Octopus and hopefully can easily prove that. But you never know and it becomes a big source of stress -another one, in the middle of these already difficult and troubling times. Of course I don't believe I owe them a penny and, on the contrary, in a fair world I should get compensation from them for the levels of stress induced but, alas, it my not be a fair world. They have booked something called a BURS test for my gas meter. It should prove my point but, one more time, who knows what they might come up with. The last instalment of a saga of astronomic incompetence and rapacity by FU that I thought long dead.

Life was too quiet In these happy untroubled times, clearly, and the universe had decided I needed a little more excitement. I beg to differ. I'm on Dreamwidth at -do follow me there if you can.

from the roof tops

One of the many irritating things about this shared-ownership thing was (is!) the fact that it classifies me automatically as riff-raff, in terms of rights as an owner and as a tenant. I wasn't allowed to use the main entrance to the building (it was built with two, one for the 'private owners' or their tenants, on Fortess Road, another much smaller and more basic looking one for the shared ownership leaseholders and the housing association tenants, at the back). I wasn't allowed to use the roof terrace. These things have slowly changed and now I have use of both. The underlying problems with having a flat on shared ownership haven't gone away (already received a service charge bill where I'm going to be paying something like £260/month for not a lot at all) but at least I get to go to the terrace roof and take pictures of the breathtaking sunset cityscape of London from up there.

Some of those pictures in my Instagram. at I'm on Dreamwidth at -do follow me there if you can.
Book of G-Quan, Soldier of Darkness, B5

[ Books ] 'Fireheart Tiger' by Aliette de Bodard

Fireheart TigerFireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A short but sweet read. I read that in two sittings. Not perhaps the sort of fantasy that I would be engrossed in, it did make me live in the fantasy Viet-Nam world it is set for the little while it lasted and left me wanting to hear more, which is a good thing. Would I read it again? For sure. It wouldn't take long, in any case.

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Martes de Carnaval....

Pancakes? I’ve never done it. Martes de Carnaval, Shrove Tuesday, has different resonances for me. In Venezuela, in Caracas in particular and, most of all, in the working class neighbourhood in West Caracas where I grew up, it was a savage day where people would roam around throwing water bombs at you -water, that is, if you were lucky. They also would throw -at each other but also at you, or any passer-by- paint, eggs, soap water. There were always stories on the papers about brawls originating from this and stories like that of the soldier or cadet who was walking with his girlfriend on his way to Naval school or something like that and got ... bathed and in the fight that resulted somebody got killed Somebody told me this still is a thing in some parts of Spain, which we inherited that wholesome custom from (I have to find out whether this is true and where, to make sure I never go there). To see the street battles between roaming gangs of young men in loincloths all covered in paint, egg, flour etc was a rather scary thing. And my dad, who in spite of his strong Italian accent had become far more Venezuelan than I ever was or could ever be, one time emptied a big laundry polythene bag full of water on me while I was sitting down reading. I don’t remember enjoying that much, funnily enough. I don’t miss Martes de Carnaval. It wasn’t Rio, it wasn’t Venice; in Caracas it was more like Mordor. My sister tells me that that hm, tradition has fallen out of use, which makes me glad.

One of these years I'll have to have a go at making pancakes. It is a silly and kind of very minor tradition but I'm all for it, having seen other possibilities. I'm on Dreamwidth at -do follow me there if you can.

Through the wall of sleep and beyond the cosmic microwave background...

For a long while I have had some difficulty falling asleep. Maybe a consequence of the passing years, I don't know. Also have had a mild case of tinnitus, with a background of white or pink noise in my head that is more noticeable when I'm trying to fall asleep. So I have resorted to various things to try to counteract those things. At first and for a long while, an app playing surf (as in waves crashing on the shore, not as in early '60s rock'n roll!) noises would work, masking the white noise in my head and allowing me to sleep. Eventually, though, you get used to it and its efficacy diminishes. So, in the last couple of years, I've been listening to podcasts -in the case of YouTube podcasts, sound only with the screen off when it allowed such things (it now doesn't, as well as interrupt what you're listening to with adverts at twice the volume of the podcast). These worked well for a while... listening to (mostly PBS) podcasts on astrophysics and quantum mechanics and on palaeontology, with the volume low so I couldn't get too engrossed in what they were actually saying. Problem is, these things become very interesting after a while and, in the case of the physics and cosmology podcasts, give you the illusion that you are actually understanding what you're hearing. Which I do... as long as it is in prose, not having the mathematical tools to really understand the substrate of what I'm hearing being said. So, I can probably explain to you the Schródinger equation -in prose- whilst not really having an idea what I'm talking about and not being able to decipher the mathematics in it.

The podcasts I've been (half) listening to:

PBS Space Time  Cosmology, quantum physics, astronomy, space exploration and whether Roger Penrose may be a Jedi ninja.
PBS Eons. on what we know of the history of life in this planet
It's Ok to be Smart  wherever curiosity seems to lead Dr Joe Hanson
Fermilab Sub-Atomic Stories
Sean Carroll's Mindscape  where he interviews people on fields far beyond physics.
also occasionally various podcasts by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili 

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Still here, stars burn

Not a lot to relate. Not many adventures. Guitar lessons continue on Zoom and, for the two schools I teach at, on Google Meet. I still have fewer pupils than \normal' but, not having a social life in these times, I'm also spending much less so I'm 'nearly' ok, managing to get my head above the water and gasp and take in air once in a while.

I'm still putting pictures of sunsets on Instagram and putting short videos of local concerts done when such things were possible on my other Instagram. Tried a little bit of crowdfunding or sponsorship on Ko-Fi but that didn't work very well, maybe I should have gone the whole hog and started a Patreon page. But I'm not  desperate for money at this point. The worry is the medium future. At this age, I have no idea how long I can keep working as I do but it cannot be counted in decades. Last I looked I couldn't get a pension either as there appeared to be quite a few years in which there hadn't been paid the contributions in full. Must look into that but having to deal with all that sort of thing makes me lose my will to live.

Still going to Bibliogoth; the last couple of books have been interesting. The next one is 'Cold Comfort Farm' by Stella Gibbons and.. alas, I'm finding it a little difficult. It is very much not my sort of thing, which normally isn't a problem, one of the reasons for going to a book club is indeed to get some exposure to diverse literature in genres and styles out of one's comfort (sori) zone. And there isn't anything really wrong with the book but I find it stodgy and difficult to take in. rather than funny as I think it is supposed to be.

And that, and local walks in the neighbourhood but seldom to Hampstead Heath as it gets so busy even in lock-down, is pretty much it. Apart from perhaps watching The Expanse (which still is very good even though I've read the books) and Star Trek Discovery -which is.. it has its good moments and it is refreshing to see a TV show in which some of the main characters are LGBQT/non binary, but now and again bits of the plot make me want to scream. Listening to podcasts on palaeontology and cosmology in the middle of the night when I cannot sleep. Going for my one coffee out of doors at the stand by Kentish Town station. Having pretty much given up on learning to make bread properly, etc. but making beer out of a kit that a friend gave me for Christmas (the beer, a stout called 'dark matter' -cue more cosmological jokes- was amazing).

And so we go in a world with suddenly narrowed horizons, from lockdown to semi-aperture that makes the next lockdown inevitable and so we go, feeling our way in the dark and trying to move forward with our lives. I'm on Dreamwidth at -do follow me there if you can.
Book of G-Quan, Soldier of Darkness, B5

[ Books ] The Silence of the Girls - Pat Barker

The Silence of the GirlsThe Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Somewhat complicated. I loved the book, the characters are believable. The story... we all know the story. Or rather, we all think we know the story. This is told by a former princess who is now a slave. Or at least the first half of the book it is, then longer and longer episodes in the third person appear. This jarred a little bit for a while, although I got used to the style and could see the reason for it. Also the role of Greek mythology, which at first appears as such and as the book progresses becomes more 'real'. Finally, this is called the 'Silence of the Girls' but it is for the most part the story of one woman but centred around men -and most of what she has to say is about those men. Understandably, perhaps, given her situation, but it did strike me that most of the women in this story were for the most part still silent. Only Polyxena, about to die, seems to have a voice even as she is gagged and muzzled. Another thing that bothered me a bit although again it can be explained in the context is the sort of Stockholm's syndrome that she develops. It was, nonetheless, a very compelling read, very well written.

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Book of G-Quan, Soldier of Darkness, B5

[ Books ] 'The End of Everything' by Katie Mack

The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)The End of Everything by Katie Mack

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What's the worst that could happen? Funny how exhilarating it can be to read about the end of the world. Or possible ends of the world. Katie Mack turns this -which surely starts as long rows of numbers and calculations based on observations that lead to more numbers and calculations- into a very compelling read. I loved it.

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