Firm Footing

In the last couple of months, as written about before, I’ve replaced all four tyres on the car with new ones. The old ones weren’t even close to their wear limits, and would’ve probably done me through the winter – but the key word in there is probably.

Because I drive a lot, I want my car to be as safe as possible – particularly as we hit autumn and winter, and the numerous joyous road conditions. Ideally, I don’t want to be driving on worn tyres in snow, ice, rain and the like. It was also the first time I’ve had a full matched set of tyres on the car, which was something where I was interested in seeing the results.

I went with Michelin Cross-Climates, which supposedly cover a wide range of weather conditions from summer through to snow and ice. On current evidence, I really can’t argue with that claim. I’ve also seen other independent reviews since the purchase that have been extremely impressed (not to say amazed) by the tyres, which is kind of reassuring.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve driven an absolute shedload of miles in some of the vilest weather this year. Serious storms, gale-force sidewinds, heavy rain, and absolutely vile roads – and the tyres have been fine, and kept me solidly on-track. I’ve seen others around me losing traction and sliding (which is fairly attention-focusing when they’re sliding in front of you!) but mine has been solid, and really that’s what matters.

I’ve been happy with my choice, and with having sorted the tyres before the bad weather hit. They’ll last me the winter, and well into next year. It’s been a good decision.


Ill-Prepared

Currently, we’re in the middle of one of our mildest/warmest ‘winters’ in a very long time. November was potentially the warmest on record (the figures haven’t yet been confirmed, so far as I can see) and while December has certainly been bloody wet/windy so far, it’s definitely nowhere near cold.

Yet every day, I see people who are wrapped up in coats, scarves and hats. I’m wandering around – and warm – in shirtsleeves (although admittedly I do also carry a far amount of insulation) and they’re layered up like we’re about to enter the next Ice Age.

All of which just makes me wonder, what are these people going to do when it actually gets cold?


Sunrise

One of the few good things about the way the days are getting shorter right now is that I get to see sunrise, which is always one of my favourite times of day.

This week has had a couple of stunners – Monday was beautiful (if bloody chilly) as I was driving to my current client’s office. As I was on the road, I couldn’t stop to take a photo. But sunrise through mist and clouds, silhouetting trees on the hill-ridge, that was a thing of beauty – and one of the few times I wished I’d got either a dashcam to save the image, or a camera linked to my field of view.

Today I was in my own office as the sun came up, and it was another stunner…

Sunrise_clouds

Hell, it even made Milton Keynes look pretty…


Durham Lumiere 2015

Two years ago, I went with friends to see the Lumiere exhibition in Durham – which was ace.

This year, it was back, and so were we.

While it’s organised by the same people, and has some of the same artists, it was utterly different – and still brilliant. The weather this time was absolutely rotten – my coat still isn’t dry – but still it was great. The theme (if there really is one) was more about science and maths this time round, with the main ‘showpiece’ projection onto Durham Cathedral this time, “The World Machine” being more about the birth of modern cosmology from the 12th century until the present day.

One of the big draws this year was Mysticete, a projection of a whale on the river Wear, visible from the bridge above. Done by the same people as the Elephant last year, it was ace – and so clever, being projected onto a water-spray. (although with the heavy rain they could probably have just done the same onto the rain)  Sadly, because of that weather it got cancelled on the Sunday, but it was well worth seeing. (we were there on the Saturday)

Image (c) Durham Chronicle

Image (c) Durham Chronicle

We got to see a good portion of the exhibits – although not all, by any means – and really enjoyed it. Some of the stuff was really magic and fun, other bits were ‘just’ excellent.

As per the last one, I will definitely be going again when it’s next on.   I may also visit the one they’re doing in London in January 2016 – I hope that’s as clever and fun as the Durham ones are.


Weather and Maintenance

It’s November, so in the last few days we’ve seen the clocks go back and had some seriously thick fogs in the mornings and evenings. That means people are (or at least should be) driving with lights on and so on – and it also illustrates that plenty of them don’t have everything working.

As usual, I find it utterly gobsmacking how people can drive along – while maintaining the same speeds they’d drive at on dry roads with decent visibility – with broken headlamps, no lights at all, and no foglights.  (And, of course there’s then the ones who leave on foglights well into clear weather, or use them at night when there’s no need at all)

I lost count of the number of – usually pale/grey – cars with no lights at all, in visibility that could be measured in feet, at best. I don’t understand what goes through someone’s head, that whole “well, I can see fuck-all, but I’ll keep my lights turned off, because even though I can’t see, it’s Day Time, so I don’t need lights” kind of process.

Equally, I don’t get how people can consistently drive with a broken/non-working headlamp, and the massively-reduced visibility that gives. I know it happens, that they can just blow without warning – I’ve had it happen. But when it has happened, it gets replaced rapidly – particularly in Autumn and Winter. Even in the poorest days, you (or at least I) still make sure that the car is safe.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case with a lot of people, and it’s a mindset I just don’t get.


Warm

Today is the UK’s hottest day of the year (so far) – which is quite surprising, as it’s right at the start of Wimbledon fortnight. Usually that would signify two weeks of grey/damp/wet weather, but this week so far seems to be clear,bright and – yes – warm.

Of course, I realise that people in Australia, America, and umpteen African nations (as well as a bundle of others) are laughing their socks off at us here thinking that 30° C is anything more than ‘slightly warmer than winter’, but lordy, we do like to complain about it.

The thing is, here in the UK we’re just not used to extreme weather – or even ‘more than mediocre’, really.  30°C isn’t extreme to most places, any more than -10°C is, but to us in the UK, those are extremes. Neither end is common enough for us to have created the infrastructure to deal with it – neither air-con in every building/facility, nor heating and anti-snow/ice stuff for the cold bits. Neither hits us for more than three or four weeks a year, really – and on average it’s probably even less than that.

So yes, we’re not good at dealing with weather – and some of that is just part of Being British™, I suppose. But there is also that side to be considered, that we just don’t have the equipment (whether in buildings/facilities/institutions, or just within our own bodies) to cope with it decently.

For myself, I don’t mind it.  I used to really dislike hot/warm weather, but I’m getting better at it. Today’s been spent ‘working’ at home, and it’s meant I’ve been out in the yard for most of it, now that it’s a decent place to be. Those two weekends of doing stuff here turns out to have been pretty much perfectly timed, so it’s a pleasant environment. And there’s been enough shade in general to have let me be out in the warmth without crisping myself in direct sunlight.

That’s a win all round in my book.


Snow Day

Last night it snowed in the area I live in. I’d been in the cinema for the evening, and came out to find the car covered in snow.  Not lots – maybe a maximum of two inches all told. But it meant slower driving (well, except for BMW drivers, who were still their usual dickwhistle selves) and just generally being sensible.

Of course, at this point I know that various friends in different areas of the country/world are pissing themselves laughing (as usual) at Britain’s shitness with snow and inclement conditions.  The only excuse is that we don’t have enough dodgy weather to invest in the infrastructure to deal with it. Canada, US and Scandinavia are all used to feet of snow, and have the machinery and infrastructure to deal with it.  Here? Not so much.

Anyway, it made driving home a bit more cautious – although still not bad at all – and also made me thankful I was driving at midnight, rather than in peak hours. Even at midnight there were still plenty of idiots driving too fast for the conditions, and making things interesting.

And I’m very glad I was working from home today, rather than travelling on the M1 in either direction…