Friday, 27 February 2015

Mr Spock and the Joys of Non-Neurotypicality

Many better writers than me have already been pretty eloquent in expressing the impact Leonard Nimoy and his creation of Mr Spock had on their lives.

I'm not going to bandwagon jump, nor am I going to pretend that Spock was some kind of inspiration for my love of sci-fi, spaceships and astronomy.

I've written elsewhere of where that came from - the artist Donald Rudd  - but what was actually going through my mind on hearing of Nimoy's death was a piece by Oliver Sacks in his collection "An Anthropologist on Mars". Sacks writes of two autistic people in that anthology, the artist Stephen Wiltshire, and the animal behaviourist Temple Grandin. I think it's in the Grandin piece that Sacks talks of how autistic people often stated that their favourite character from TV was Spock, and his latter day successor Data.

Sacks, who incidentally himself has stated recently that he is not long for the world theorised that it was the portrayal of a person with very non-human emotional needs trying to make sense of a very human environment that appealed to folk with autism. I think also that the fact that the tremendous contribution these people to those around them, and the fact that their colleagues valued them and treated them warmly when they were perhaps not able to respond likewise, would also be influential in this.

Perhaps also the Aspergic love of knowledge and information too would be an attraction.

Seven of Nine, a character who would also would have had "AS Appeal" in addition to her other obvious charms, was not around when Sacks wrote the article. Certainly sat where I am upon my Tourette's spectrum, where it dances with that of Asperger's, I found all these characters fascinating, and enjoyed their relationship with the neurotypical world, although I was and still am very suspicious of how the terms "Neurotypical" and "NT" get thrown around sometimes.

There is a whiff of contempt about it, I occasionally find...albeit a rather understandle whiff.

Still these are terms that have entered common (ish) usage. And it is to Leonard Nimoy "and the character I created" that a huge amount of credit must go to for making not just autistic - or non-neurotypical - people perhaps feel more comfortable in their skins, but anyone who felt that maybe you know, "knowing stuff" was more important than having cool hair.


Thursday, 26 February 2015

More Virgin Territory Encountered

Today, the powers that be had decided to turn on the wind machine again, which in my present heavy legged condition was as welcome as a cactus in my running shoes. Plans for a long run were thus curtailed, and I decided to visit the path I ran along a couple of days ago - see here for details - only not turn off through a field as I did before.

But before that, after going under the first graffiti bridge after Balderton Lake, I found some paths that were also virgin running territory, heading up to the left off the cycle path. Upon hauling myself up a steep little slope, I found myself up on a little plateau of green space, with no company other than a very handsome male pheasant, and the entire workforce of Flowserve, which was just across the way.

I found a similar patch of land when I followed the path by the egg stall run by dogs. Newark is full of such little spaces, and I wish local communities could be encouraged to adopt them as mini nature reserves or at least keep them tidy and stop them being used as fly tips, or to grow the infamous "dog mess in a bag" trees that are so prevalent nowadays.

Over-optimism in action!

I ended up emerging in thee aforementiond Flowserve car park, and trotted home back along the 64 and around the lake, lit by a bright low sun scorching the water.

Do enjoy the pictures. They may not be amazing, but they are taken by me on the move with a mobile phone camera. My trackies would look really odd with a DSLR shoved down them, not to mention how much my running would be hampered.


Crocus graveyard

Snowdrops act as a duvet for the "at rest"

The virgin plateau

Looking back the other way

Path round the back of Flowserve

More urban green space

The area around Flowserve is sooooo picturesque

Squabbling coots on the lake

"Hi ducks, mind if I come a little closer?"

Apparently they do mind

Safe on the water

Sunlight paints the waters

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

One Must Keep Running Through the Knockbacks

Whether I'm sore through achey legs, or whether I'm sore from being rejected from a couple of communications jobs I'd applied for, the only choice is to get out there and keep running, and to keep writing.

I was actually in better form today, although I'm still very dead legged, and I managed to make a good first of running 7.7km in 43 minutes or so. I'm sad that our kingfisher seems to have moved on from the cycle path, but at least today there was a handsome great crested grebe in full breeding regalia.

Sadly, at the moment there is no companion to do "the weed dance" with, it being the time of year for such revels.

Also in view, a strong showing of lesser celandine in clumps along the path. And when I got round to Sconce Park, the kestrel that watches over Devon Pastures swooped low above before flying up into a tree.

Despite disappointments, I'm still lucky to be able to see what I see.


Lesser Celandine by London Road pond

Still reflection

Great crested grebe in the far distance

This open crocus was awarded to me for completing my run

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Painful Running through Beacon Hill Nature Reserve

My legs are absolutely dead at the moment. As soon as I start running, my legs feel like two long, sore planks that feel impossible to get moving. The cold weather isn't helping any, and I'm getting frustrated as the cold I've had has cleared up and so the fitness level isn't a problem - it's just that the legs don't want to obey my brain.

Still, poor form or not, I love being about at this time of the year, you get to see the evolution of spring happen virtually by the day. Today it was the appearance of lesser celandine in decent amounts down by London Road Lake, next up will be the first flowering daffodil, the appearance of bluebells, and then the real spring signifier, the sight of brimstone butterflies on the wing.

Today's run involved a slog through the mud of Clay Lane, and up the hill to Beacon Hill Park. I had the great pleasure of a pretty close up view of a pair of bullfinches at the beginning of the lane; for some reason, I see bullfinch here more often than anywhere else in town. Beautiful, stocky little birds.

Keeping up the theme of exploration, I found a new path to explore through a copse next to the nursery in the reserve. Soon, buzzard will make their home in the high tree tops, and soar on the first warm spring thermals, and butterflies will make their homes in the long grasses.

Back to the brimstones. I wonder what date I'll see my first one? 10p on March 16th?


Clay Lane. Mud.

To Beacon Hill. More mud.

More mud on the steep climb up to the housing estate.

The wonderful view of Baldeton and beyond to Claypole

Natural bridge, Beacon Hill Park

The path through the wood

Sun over the nursery

Snowdrop dell, Beacon Hill Park exit

Monday, 23 February 2015

I Still Find Unknown Paths to Run On

Today I made it back into my knackered running shoes and headed out running today. I thought the rest would have done me good, heaven only knows my aching body needed it.

However, as soon as I got going, my cold wrecked lungs felt they had shrunk to the size of golf balls, so plans to run to Cotham and back, or to do the Owl Road, were soon forgotten. Pity I couldn't do the same about the wind, which scythed through my jacket like the least hottest knife you could ever imagine.

I ran through the cemetery, slowly, taking in the feeding squirrels and increasingly luxuriant carpets of flowers. Balderton Lake was lit by the low sun, but you can tell the seasons are changing; there weren't large numbers of gulls on the water, and there was no sign of any interesting ducks like goosander or pochard.

I had planned to run as far as Flowserve and turn along the path, that leads to the the road, that leads to London Road. Instead, I was so taken with a "Footpath" sign I'd never notice before, I ended up running behind the little terrace of houses, and onto what was for me entirely virgin territory, a little urban path that had I followed it would have probably led to the new development behind Sainsburys. But I couldn't let it lie, and took another path, a parish one, across some fields that lead back to that road, that leads to a road that leads to Londno Road.

Only a short hop of terra incognita, but I still love finding untravelled roads. The temptation when I find a new signpost, is overwhelming.


Munching squirrel

Crocus carpet

Rubbish in the snowdrops

Balderton Lake

Halo across the fields

Corrugated fence, Flowserve

I love finding these little honesty box roadside produce stalls

Meet the shopkeeper

And the assistant

The new path

Across virgin fields

The parish owns all the paths in the worrld

Eyes Open, from Night into Day

Last night, under a decently clear sky, belonged to astronomy. It's the first time I've felt up to it in a little while with the cold I've had, and although tired after my shift, I found myself observing at 130am. It was a welcome distraction after England's feeble batting in the cricket world cup had made me want to eat all televisions.

It was very chilly, so I wasn't able to handle it for long, but in that time I managed to bag all of the great spring globular clusters. Messier 3 in Canes Venatici was picked off first, followed by Messier 13 and 92 in Hercules, and finally Messier 5 in Serpens. Seen low over a church hall rooftop, my guide star for this globular cluster is one of my favourites, the orange star Unukalhai. This is the brightest star in Serpens, and its intense colour as seen in binoculars has always attracted me.

So, onto morning, and I managed to get out early for a walk as a warm up for the run I plan for this coming afternoon. Sadly, the kingfisher is still missing from the cycle path and I do wonder if it was something like a first winter male now headed off to look for mates for the spring. The great crested grebe on London Road Pond is sporting a head so red I mistook it for a pochard at a distance, and the tufted ducks are cruising up and down looking as usual like perfectly painted models.

Blackbirds are getting sporty, and I saw no less than three robins very close to each other on Clay Lane park. The forgotten nature reserve is well dotted with snowdrops, and great tits and chaffinch were at work in the trees there.

Despite the wind, it does feel like the world is waking up. I hope it is where you are too.


Lichen on Sustrans 64

A den at Clay Lane

Spiders in the conifer hedge

Defence of a highly local realm

Looking down into the forgotten nature reserve

Snowdrop slope

Birch tree, Friary Road park

Friary park life

Squill are pushing through

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Comet Lovejoy, Moon, Mars and Glittering Venus

Cycling home from work is always a relief, tempered by the generally hostile roads and unpleasant temperament towards cyclists of some of those driving upon it. The winter months are of course the worst but compared to recent years, where I have cycled in temperatures as low as -14, or been blown off the cycle path by a blizzard, this season has been relatively comfortable.

As I'm still travelling in the dark, I'm not getting to see much in the way of life when I'm leaving or arriving work, but tonight was different. There was a beautiful smiling moon falling softly into the west, the earthlight giving a deep indigo cast to the unilluminated portion. And below that, Venus pearl bright bossing its nearby companion Lord Mars into a tragic lack of conspicuity.

I missed last night's triple conjunction when the moon was much nearer to the two planets due to poor weather, but the view tonight was just as attractive. Both Venus and Moon had a special silveriness about their reflected light tonight, and it gave me some rare beauty to enjoy on the way home.

Once I was home, there was a chance to have a quick go at spotting Comet Lovejoy. Initially, I got me "something andromedae's" mixed up and homed in on the Andromeda Galaxy - really I should know better! - but quickly I found my space legs and located the comet halfway from "the peach star" Gamma Andromedae to Cassiopeiae. It has gotten noticeably smaller as it gets further away, and now it is rather fainter than the Andromeda Galaxy. It looks rather like an elongated globular cluster, with suggestions of a tail...just!

Despite this, it is still an easy object for binoculars, and if you can't find it, well, there's plenty else to see on a dark, clear night such as this. Give it a go!


The Moon and Venus

Smiling Moon above my flat

Friday, 20 February 2015

Flashes of Garden Cheer

I love my folks' garden. Mum always complains how it isn't neat enough, often getting near to tears in the depths of her disgrace. Stepfather is torn limb from virtual limb for his capital crimes of digging up non-weeds, poor raking, or buying plants from the wrong shop.

The pond that once homed newts and toads sits reproachfully. Due attention is promised.

The truth is, however, that their little garden is a slighty untidy nature paradise. In a few weeks, it will be buzzing, fluttering (although not too many butterflies last year) and tweeting. Blackbirds nest in the pergola; great tits in the outhouse. Tree bumblebees swarm about the ceonothus, and the robin sits upon the garden bench, watching stepfather dig and waiting for goodies to be upturned by the dull blade.

Until then, making the most of what the flashes of colour out there, amid the chill, calm feeling at this time of year.


Cunning iris fools the crocus spotter, library park

Garden primrose

Fine tall snowdrops, these

These primroses have been permanently in flower for a year, it seems

Cloud trees and the bramley

Camellia has also had a flowery sort of winter