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4 January, 2010

Frozen out

I've noticed a few news reports this morning about shortages of road salt in certain areas of the UK, so I have sympathy with the need for local councils to prioritise and restrict their use of grit.  However, though Lancashire County Council is responsible for 6,961 km of highway and prioritises 2,418 km, its policy for deicing pavements and cycle tracks seems a little extreme.

22 May, 2009

False economy

There's no free car parking on the University campus.  Staff can buy permits, as can some students, and visitors can pay & display or obtain vouchers pre-purchased by the departments they're visiting, but in short, bringing a car to campus almost always incurs a fee.  And rightfully so.

13 August, 2008

Last look...

View from my office window, County South, Lancaster University, UK. ©NRT

When I moved into this temporary office last year, I was concerned about the surrounding relatively tall buildings blocking sight of the surrounding countryside, but the grassed quad hasn't felt oppressive, as the large weeping willow has been a pleasant feature and a break in the southern side introduces plenty of light.  I've seen a lot of this sky!

Yet another reason to regret having to move back into my refurbished, open-plan permanent office, in a noisier part of the campus, in a couple of weeks....

Click the image for an enlargement.

28 May, 2008

Ear of the beholder

Attending an exhibition at the University's Peter Scott Gallery, I was rather annoyed to hear the sound of a circular saw coming from the adjacent music rooms, not least because it didn't seem to be doing anything – I couldn't hear the blade engaging with anything.

12 December, 2007

Porcine preclusion

Why does cheap meat (especially catering bacon and sausages) smell so disgustingly sickly-sweet?  I have to open the windows whenever J. has brought a bacon bun into the office for his breakfast, and it's deeply unpleasant to pass County Diner (Cartmel Coffee Bar, as was) each morning.

2 November, 2007

What would happen if...?

The Guardian reports the "most bizarre tests ever conducted in the name of scientific inquiry" *.

21 October, 2007

I can REALLY see my house from here

Moorlands, Lancaster, UK.It's not news that Microsoft's equivalent of Google Maps features oblique aerial photography of certain areas in addition to the standard top-down vertical images.  However, I hadn't realised that Lancaster is included in the coverage.

Blackpool is one of the examples used to advertise the facility, but I discovered that the coverage continues up the Fylde coast as far as my home town (and no further, nor further inland).  It may or may not be coincidental that the University has fairly close links to Microsoft.

3 October, 2007

Cheeky buggers!

Grr!  The University's student newspaper has nicked one of the Ministry's photos to illustrate an article about the city.

30 September, 2007

Handicapping themselves?

As is entirely proper, prospective UK university students are under no obligation to declare disabilities at any stage of the application and pre-registration process.  I fully support that in principle, but in practice it's problematic.

24 August, 2007

Worst of both worlds

Earlier in the month, I mentioned that my area of Lancaster is about to receive wheelie bins and recycling boxes; two of the former (for non-recyclable domestic waste and garden refuse respectively) and three of the latter (two for glass, paper, card and cans, one for plastic bottles).

26 July, 2007

Bailrigg Evolved

Just heard that the University is about to begin 'the Halo Project'.  Excellent!  Especially when the students are away, the multi-level maze of passageways and wooded parkland on campus would be ideal for a live-action version of the (depressing) combat game.

19 July, 2007


Well, that's it for another year.  The latest crop of Bowland College's students have graduated.  Well done, and all the best.

1 July, 2007

In the news

It's interesting to note that a certain S.Gregson¹ wrote to the Lancaster Guardian in order to introduce himself to the electorate of Kendal as their prospective MP with policies including reallocation of church funding into education, 'abstainance from interference in the internal affairs of other nations' and clearer separation of church and state by removing Bishops from the House of Lords.  It's even more interesting that he said all this in 1837.

26 June, 2007

Don't cut the corner

If one has, say, a old sofa one wishes to dispose of, Lancaster City Council offers two alternatives*.

13 June, 2007


A while ago, the University offered free (I think) sleeveless dayglo waistcoats to personnel who commute by bicycle.  I didn't get one myself, partly because I already have a sleeved high-visibility jacket and partly because I was unwilling to wear the logo of a cycle activists' group.

17 May, 2007

What's the problem? No, really: what IS the problem?

Apparently, there's a proposal to erect a mobile phone mast in Golgotha, on the eastern edge of Lancaster.  I've been trying to discover a little more about it, both in terms of factual information and pro/anti arguments.  I've been struggling.

14 May, 2007

Good view, but damp

One of the items at a College management meeting earlier today was to distribute copies of the new smoke-free workplace regulations as they apply to College residences.

3 May, 2007

Just a bit of fun

One effect of the early fine weather is that students have started to use disposable barbecues before College authorities have had an opportunity to post signs prohibiting them.

13 April, 2007

Bicycling monarchy

Arriving at work today, I was told by a cleaner that I won't be able to park my bike in its normal place on Monday, as "Her Royal Highness" is visiting.

5 April, 2007

Wild about Lancaster

Sometimes I really appreciate not living in a major city.  There was a kestrel over my street earlier today, and I've just seen my first bat of the year, flying over my own yard.

23 February, 2007

Worth seeing

Sorry to be pedantic, but when I read a press release about a new police support officer who can be "... seen around the Campus with a yellow reflective coat riding his pannier fitted mountain bike", I wonder whether PCSO Owen is cold when his coat rides around without him.

5 February, 2007

Close to home

Well.  That was poignant.

I've just returned from the cinema, having seen Nick Broomfield's 'Ghosts'.  It's the story of Chinese illegal immigrants coming to the UK and struggling to subsist whilst paying-off their debts to people-smugglers and support their families in China.  I'm not spoiling the plot by revealing that it culminates in their deaths – that's the whole point.

24 January, 2007

Libraries at sunset

I've already established that I had my camera with me today, which was fortunate, as this was a clear evening in the one week of the year that my normal leaving time almost exactly coincides with sunset.

5 October, 2006

Student focused

One thing I will say for the new(-ish) commercialised Freshers' Fairs is that the marketers know their targets.

9 September, 2006

Hidden heritage

This is the 2006 Heritage Open Days weekend, an annual event during which various buildings of architectural/cultural significance, not normally accessible to the public, are open for visitors.  Most towns across the UK have one or two; the Lancaster district had 17 this year, of which I visited five today with F. and my camera.

5 September, 2006

Listen to Lancaster

I'm not entirely sure why, but the Guardian has published a podcast (.mp3) tour of my home town*, amongst other areas of North West England.
It's, well, kind of cheesy, and factually incorrect on a few points, but worth 14 mins of one's time, if only to hear the local accent.

18 August, 2006

Screening out

Lancaster currently has two cinemas: a dedicated arts cinema in a theatre and a two-screen mainstream cinema.  According to a leaked redundancy letter to staff, the latter is to close next week.
No, really; it might actually happen this time.

7 August, 2006


I want to be a builder.

What other job allows one to state intently at a blank wall, mutter something about it looking "about right", then hit it with one's full strength and a sledgehammer?

21 July, 2006

Creeping corporatisation

The University's Academic Registrar retires in September, 38 years after arriving.  She's being replaced by a 'Director of Governance and Planning'.
I don't know how I feel about that.  Does the title matter?

17 June, 2006

Uh oh...

On the way to Sainsbury's just now, I passed a police cordon – lots of blue & white tape and officers directing pedestrians to the opposite pavement (US: sidewalk).  I also saw my first forensics team, in white hooded overalls, working in a secluded pedestrian underpass.

17 June, 2006

Opportunistic rubbish

There's a fountain in Lancaster's Market Square, which happens to be sponsored by Nuclear Electric.  It also happens to be leaking at present, apparently (I thought they were supposed to... whatever).

5 May, 2006

All or nothing

There's a poster on the wall in the foyer of Uni. House (central admin) – not something merely pinned to a noticeboard but framed, like a certificate or official statement. My line of sight must have passed over it dozens, probably hundreds of times, but I've never really registered that it's advertising Anglican services at Lancaster Priory.

27 April, 2006

Lose 'em

Yesterday, Ian rightly mentioned that the inside (i.e. nearest the kerb) two feet of a road is the most likely to hold debris or have pot holes. Cars and larger vehicles push stones, etc. out of the main carriageway, but bicycles don't have the weight or tyre width to do the same.  It's a fundamental flaw of on-road cycle lanes; most debris collects in the area reserved for the very sector of traffic most vulnerable to it.

21 April, 2006


There's a notice in the Uni. House porters' lodge saying:

This office will be unmanned from 3pm.
I think 'unmanned' is the correct adjective, but I can't help reading it as a verb....

7 April, 2006

The pungent Dr. Merriman

One of the University's senior History lecturers, Marcus Merriman, died last week aged nearly 66, a matter of months before he was due to retire.  I didn't have reason to encounter him often, indeed I'm not sure whether we ever spoke in person, but I certainly recognised him whenever he was in earshot, as a founding member of the institution and a true character.

3 April, 2006

Dream job

I think it must be work experience week at the local secondary schools, as there's a slightly overawed-looking teenager wearing a shirt and tie in the Uni. House post room today.

No offence to the Uni. porters, who do an excellent job, but I tend to associate the role with older men (I think they are all male), especially retired police officers.  Is university portering really a career to which 14-15-year-olds aspire?

26 March, 2006

Reet grand

Effete southern national newspapers might offer CDs and DVDs as promotional freebies, but the Lancaster Guardian has its priorities straight:

FREE pint of beer for EVERY reader!

14 March, 2006

Who cares?

Each year, a group of local inactivists erect and occupy a yurt in Alex Square (i.e. the middle of campus), to celebrate One World Week (I thought they disapproved of globalisation... whatever).

12 March, 2006

Snow? In March?

It never snows in central Lancaster.  Well, it never sticks, anyway – I think it's something to do with inshore winds.
So it was a bit of a surprise to wake to several inches of snow in my yard and in the street, and more arriving in one of the more intense blizzards I've ever seen in (lowland) Britain.

10 March, 2006

You can't say that!

In researching text to accompany a few photos, I discovered that a prominent local landmark, the disused Royal Albert Hospital, opened in 1870 as the 'Royal Albert Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles of the Northern Counties'.
Things change, eh?  By modern standards that's a rather... startling name.

3 March, 2006

Snowy photos

As I said, I didn't have my own (6Mpx) camera with me today, but when another blizzard began, I decided to borrow the office camera.  Photos of happy students in the snow might be useful for the prospectus or other publications, so I rationalised it as being not only for my own benefit!
Unfortunately, the 2Mpx compact is both restrictively basic and rather difficult to use well, and few parameters (such as exposure or white balance) could be manually configured, so the results aren't great.

2 March, 2006

Nay! Nay, I say!

The City Council is undergoing consultation about whether to repeal a 1978 byelaw which bans cycling on Morecambe promenade.  I'd heard that the byelaw had already been amended years ago, so was slightly startled to hear I've been acting illegally.

24 February, 2006

Northern values

I suppose it's normal for planners to adopt systematic names for new housing developments.  A cluster of streets in my childhood home village were named after motor racing circuits: Monza, Daytona, etc.  Here in Lancaster, many streets in Bowerham seem to be named after dukes; in Abraham Heights, it's US presidents.
Each time I cycle through Primrose, I'm impressed that the cross-streets are named after fine, aspirational standards:

15 February, 2006


I'm attending an all-day Section Heads' meeting tomorrow, to discuss strategy, five year plans (v. stalinist...), etc.

13 February, 2006

What are they expecting?

Cycling to work this morning, I saw a 'Your Speed Is...' active sign being installed on a lamppost on Barton Road.  I don't know how it'll work (radar?), nor whether it has been located well (~50 m after a school and a childrens' crossing point).

1 February, 2006

Well done, Nigel!

The current lead item on the 'ticker' on the BBC News home page is that my local fish & chip shop is the best in the UK!

And I was cursing them for the shop being closed last night, as they were away in London....

30 January, 2006

Phone home

There's an odd little booth near the middle of campus; no larger than 3m x 2m, in recent years it's been a baked potato kiosk, then one selling ice creams, and now it's a mobile phone repair shop.  It's too small for both a shop sign and a window display, so it just has a series of slogan boards at the foot of the window, swapped every fortnight or so.  The current one caught my attention.

4 January, 2006


A nice round number, though 'unlucky for some'.  It's also the number of sp*m e-mails received by my work account overnight.  Not over the week I was away, but overnight.

23 December, 2005

Homonym corner

Heh.  A medical practice in Morecambe has taken out an ad in the local paper thanking their patients for their patience during renovation of the building.  Patients with patience?  Well, it amused me....

The ad on the facing page is a bit worrying, though: koi carp promoted as 'ideal seasonal presents'.  I thought the advertising of pets as presents was discouraged nowadays, and an expensive ornamental fish isn't exactly cuddly, anyway.
Not to mention "Bonzai's now available."  Is he?

12 December, 2005

At least it's quick

The University's 'Tech Support' division has made a change to its user services: consumables such as blank CD-Rs and DVD-Rs will no longer be available from the reception desk, but from a vending machine nearby.  It'll also dispense cables, batteries, USB pen drives and even mp3 players.

16 November, 2005

Journalism (or genetics) today

Main headline of the local student newspaper:

From small chestnuts come mighty oaks
I despair (again).

15 November, 2005

S'mine! All mine!

The University seems to be hosting a 'cycling roadshow' (an exhibition of aggregates and pink tarmac, perhaps?) today, in a tent marked 'Lancashire: The Cyclist's County'.

Strangely, the cyclist in question isn't named.

13 October, 2005

Insert clever title here

This morning, I noticed a tiny sign indicating that there's a Police Office on campus – it seems that's a legal requirement.  However, we remain one letter away from it being occupied: there hasn't been an Officer there within living memory.

Having asked around, I've discovered that one of the College Principals wants to install soundproofing and make the office available as a piano practice facility whilst the Police aren't using it.  I suppose a soundproofed room would be handy for interrogations, too....

13 October, 2005

Missed opportunity

The University's 'Travel Plan Co-ordinator' circulated an e-mail this morning promoting a potential scheme whereby, as I initially understood it, staff could buy bikes at a rate subsidised by the University and Inland Revenue (ie. the employer and tax authority).  That'd be a great idea, and an encouragement to those considering cycle commuting.  I began drafting a reply saying that I'm not currently looking to replace my bike, but that I'd like to express my support for the concept, and might use it at a later date.

However, before sending that, I happened to read another response, from someone who'd already studied the small print at the scheme's website.

27 September, 2005

Damn joyriders...

From the Lancaster Citizen:

Two chickens were stolen from a shed in Lancaster's Ashton Road.  The chickens were later recovered by police.

22 September, 2005

Valued service

I can't claim credit (or blame) for spotting the following slightly odd juxtaposition in the University's internal e-mail newsletter:

THE VICE CHANCELLOR WOULD LIKE TO PAY TRIBUTE TO THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS OF STAFF who have completed 40 years' service with the University....

9 September, 2005

Is that a...?

Thumbnail map of Lancaster and Morecambe. ©NRTDoes anyone else think this thumbnail of a map of the Lancaster area looks like something from an anatomy textbook?

It's a size issue – really. On the full-size map (not 1:1 scale!), the peninsula looks more like a geographical feature and less like an, er, appendage.

I suppose this illustrates just how exciting Morecambe isn't.

21 August, 2005

Colonial Amusements

Amusement arcade, Lancaster. ©NRT 2005
What; like contriving wars to separate indigenous people from their natural resources?  And buying them off with shiny toys like a new telecommunications system, run by (and for) corporations in the 'mother country'?

Surely that could never happen.

Click the image for more.

12 August, 2005

Relying on thin ice

One of the advantages of ISS (tech support) at the University is that everyone has a pet project, an area of expertise perhaps only tangentially related to his/her job description.  I'd like to say it's deliberate and encouraged by managers, but it's more just a default reaction to everyday requirements.

Unfortunately, these extracurricular specialisms soon become core to peoples' de facto roles within the system, and when one person is off work, everything falls apart – there's no formal support for, say, troubleshooting Java, only one man's personal interest, and if he's unavailable, enquirers are out of luck.

10 August, 2005

Blown away

Derelict dairy, Lancaster. ©NRTNow this I have to see.

Click the image for an enlargement.

18 July, 2005

On aggregate, leave it alone

The short section of cycle track linking Collingham Drive and Bailrigg Lane, Lancaster was resurfaced a couple of weeks ago.  The grass verge had been encroaching onto the tarmac, so that needed cutting back, but otherwise I was surprised that the Council considered there was a need to do more.  I've always thought the surface was very good (not that I'm a tarmac connoisseur) – no potholes, puddles or even trivial irregularities.

14 July, 2005

Parochial? Here?

Lancaster's free weekly newspaper, The Citizen, reports the London bombings as "London bomb anguish spoils mum's birthday" – the only angle even mentioned is a local woman's concern about her London-based son, who wasn't even in the city that day.

8 July, 2005

Mother of all colleges

Look; Pendle College and Grizedale College are adjacent to one another on the Lancaster University campus, and have a similar sort of status in the University history.  Is it really so surprising that they became merged in my world view, and that I've just informed a senior member of one that he helps run Grendel College?

28 June, 2005

Congratulations! Take a seat

It always amuses me when senior academics are promoted to full professorships with the announcement that '[Name] has been awarded a Personal Chair', as if he/she has previously had to stand or share.

27 June, 2005

Fortress Bailrigg (again)

We're locked-down again.  All but one access route to University House (central admin) is locked, and that one side door is blocked, no, hidden by two bouncers in Uni. Security uniforms.  Apparently, several people are cycling to the G8 Summit in Edinburgh, and passing Lancaster today; there's a presumption that they may call in on the way, as an ongoing response to the University's prosecution of other protesters.
A 6'1" bearded man with a ponytail, wearing sunglasses, shorts, a 'Firefox' T-shirt and dayglo cycle jacket was obviously stopped attempting to get into the building.  Unfortunately, that was me; the duty porter had to vouch for me.

23 June, 2005

Maybe in the next edition

The University prospectus includes a feedback form, which a surprising (to me, anyway) number of people do return.
One submission received this morning informed us that we provide insufficient details about (not 'for', 'about') amputees.


12 June, 2005

Lancaster station by night

Lancaster railway station looked quite attractive this evening, a few minutes after closing and hence deserted, but before the lights had been switched off.  Even at 23:20 there was plenty of light in the sky, to, allowing me to take a couple of photographs.

6 May, 2005

It Says Here

So, Lancaster's Tory again, after eight years under Labour.  I think it has to be considered that way – this was always a Conservative stronghold until the extraordinary 1997 election ousted the 'Thatcher-in-all-but-name' government, and with the backlash against the Blair government and an outgoing MP who, frankly, was an ineffectual representative of his constituency, it's no great surprise that the area has reverted to its more usual party allegiance.

28 April, 2005

Ambushing wildlife

Sometimes I really like cycling to work.  This morning I passed seven squirrels, four rabbits and a startled stoat - startled because, as with all the others, it didn't hear the bike until I was 3-4 metres away (not that I was trying - I'd probably have been more obtrusive if furtive).

You don't get that in a city as large as Manchester, nor even in rural areas if travelling by car.

24 April, 2005

Cranial damage?

The website of the University swimming pool has a safety notice:

Diving must only take place along the sides of the pool.
Perhaps I'm missing something, but from where else would one dive?
Actually, that's not 'from', but 'along', which doesn't sound too safe.

21 April, 2005

Didn't ask you that

The University website has a feedback form, inviting comments about the site itself.  It clearly states that it's not for general enquiries, and that prospectuses cannot be requested via that route, but it's a truism that if a form – any form – is provided, it'll be used for whatever purpose the user chooses, irrespective of the provider's intentions.

19 April, 2005

Not literally, you fool

I've just attended a meeting at which it was reported that one of the accommodation blocks is experiencing thefts of food.
Hardly novel for a university or any situation involving communal living.  The odd part was the suggestion – quite serious – that chicken fillets (the edible kind) are frequently being stolen for use as the inedible kind (ie. bra inserts).


18 April, 2005

Should have thought of that before

Last September, the University hosted the Corporate Venturing Conference, attended by BAe Systems, DuPont and other companies with significant presences in the region.  Predictably, certain activists protested outside the building, and six broke into the venue itself.

Several months later, the protesters have now deployed the 'wide-eyed innocence' act, on being charged with Aggravated Trespass ("trespass with intent to intimidate, obstruct or disrupt").  They invaded a meeting on private property (those standing outside were on private property too - campus isn't a public space), and expected the University to like it?  Yeah, right.

1 April, 2005

Flowering sycamore

Sycamore blossomThe main campus of Lancaster University has a perimeter road and one which bisects the ring via an underpass beneath (yes, really) Alexandra Square.  My office overlooks the western side of the underpass, so my third-floor window is actually level with the canopy of a mature sycamore tree.
Consequently, at this time of year, I get to see something a little uncommon, close-up: sycamore blossom.  Click on the image for a clearer view.
And no, this isn't a tiresome 'April Fool' joke.

28 March, 2005

Just park it

Petitions: why?

A couple of hundred years ago, they might have been an appropriate means by which a populace could convey public opinion to their slightly remote lords & masters, but nowadays, with saturation media coverage of even local issues and public policy influenced by polls and focus groups, I don't see the point.  I've always thought them an anachronism, but a specific example has arisen.

21 March, 2005

Big School's out

I knew that school holidays reduce the volume of rush-hour traffic through there being no 'school run', but I hadn't really appreciated that University vacations have a similar effect.  Today is the first working day of the vacation*, and traffic was particularly light this evening.  It could have been a coincidence, I suppose, but there were less cars parked on campus, too.

The issue of undergrads bringing cars to University at all is something for a different posting...

10 March, 2005

Says it all

A certain prestigious faculty has always regarded itself as a little different to the rest of the University, promoting itself as an autonomous School rather more than as part of the overall institution.  Now it's literally turned its back on the rest of us.

The core of campus is organised along a single north-south (semi-)covered walkway, the 'Spine'.  Each College and academic department has its main entrance off the Spine - except one, whose new reception opens onto the perimeter road instead.

Be like that, then.

21 February, 2005

Revise that ritual

In 1964, Princess Alexandra became Chancellor (titular head) of Lancaster University.  Forty years later, at the end of 2004, she retired, so Sir Chris Bonington is to be installed* as the University's second Chancellor next month.  Exactly as in 1964, there will be a service at Lancaster Priory, a procession across town, and a ceremony in Ashton Hall (in the Town Hall).  I understand there'll be a drinks reception on campus afterwards.  For those who don't know, campus is three miles (5 km) from the city centre.

14 February, 2005

What does history smell like?

I ought to know, as according to Push Online, Lancaster has:

"... tourist-fuls of history oozing down its winding little streets."

6 January, 2005

Wrong transport

Just outside the city, there's a disused water treatment works, quite an impressive early 20th century building which was renovated a couple of years ago.  It has potential as office space or as a car showroom, but as it's remained vacant for longer and longer, there's been growing pressure to integrate it into the local transport network.  Sandwiched between the A6 main road and West Coast railway line, it's in a good location to act as a railway station for South Lancaster and, in particular, the University.
However, my altered route to work took me past it this morning, and at least half the building has been occupied by a Porsche dealership.  That's a setback.

20 December, 2004

Pretty lights!

201204-03. © NRT 2004Like any British city, the main streets of Lancaster have decorative lights for the christmas period.
There's a bizarre dive-bombing holly-and-lightbulb biplane in St. Nicholas' Arcade, but the more elegant lights in the trees of Dalton Square are my favourites, so I cycled down the hill to take a photo (click to enlarge).

27 November, 2004

Wasted energy

Several districts of Lancaster have a kerbside collection of recyclable waste - a green plastic box is filled with metal and  glass by residents, and is emptied by the council every fortnight.
Well, done, Lancaster City Council!

Unfortunately, there's a limited market for the recycling of plastic bottles (allegedly) and cardboard, so it's uneconomical for them to be included in the collection scheme.  Fair enough; it's still possible for residents to take such materials to the recycling centre themselves.  Cars are welcome, as are bicycles, though cyclists can only carry a limited quantity of waste.  It often makes more sense to carry larger bags to the site on foot.

18 November, 2004

No cigar

In wet weather, the cycle path between Bailrigg Lane and the University floods.  A puddle about 2m (6½') long and 3-5cm (1-2") deep forms across the full width of the path, and a little further on, another puddle some 6m (20') long submerged the entire path and adjacent grass to a depth of 10cm (4").  It's not a problem for cyclists, except when the smaller one, on a sharp corner, freezes in winter, but it's awkward for pedestrians.  I noticed that Estates workers dug up the verge a few weeks ago, presumably to install drainage.

11 November, 2004

Parking my thoughts

Even as someone who doesn't own a car, I'm aware that neighbours in my street complain about an inability to find parking spaces outside their own homes, so my first impression was favourable when I opened a letter from the Council this morning, which proposes a residents' parking scheme.  The city centre is a ten-minute walk from my house, so I presume commuters like to use my street for free rather than pay for car parks.  That's not so good for residents.

23 September, 2004

Autumnal Lancaster

The route to and from work was fairly photogenic today.

23 September, 2004

Round the Pole to Lancaster

It seems the manager of the University bookshop has suddenly turned proactive: he's secured Michael Palin for a book signing on 13 October.  So far as I know, this is the shop's first signing session.  This has to be a bit of a coup for the campus branch of Waterstones, since I'm not aware of any previous signings, either here or at the 'senior' branch in town.  Well done!

19 September, 2004

Lakeland mist

Lakeland mistWe're experiencing slightly odd weather at present.  Autumn is certainly approaching, and under heavy cloud it's been appreciably dark by 19:30 each night this week, yet the leaves are only just starting to change colour, and as the image shows the fields are still very green.
Similarly, the last few days have been very windy in Lancaster and the nights have been cooler, yet I saw a distinctly summery morning mist over South Cumbria today, suggesting still, relatively warm air there.

17 September, 2004

Bigger Bowland

Bowland Hall, Lancaster UniversityI knew that by the time campus reorganisation finishes, the accommodation blocks previously known as Graduate Hall will be incorporated into the Bowland College estate; indeed, the name has already been changed to Bowland Hall.  However, I was a little surprised to hear that we (Bowland College) are taking part-ownership immediately; students move into some of the 'houses' next week.

11 September, 2004

Lancaster towers

Before processing the photos mentioned in the previous posting, I went into town, and took a couple more!

9 September, 2004

Have a random photograph

Lancaster Castle at duskI don't have a particular reason to show this picture, the by-product of an experiment into the new camera's capabilities in low light.  The photograph was taken at 19:53 i.e. after sunset and appreciably dark even under a clear sky.  The thumbnail image is taken from the raw image; click on it to enlarge a brightened version.

25 August, 2004

Lancaster's evening deluge

At about 17:40 this evening, the sky was clear and I had my 'office' (back bedroom) curtains drawn to minimise direct sunlight on my PC's monitor.  At 17:40:30 (approximately; you get the idea), rainfall was drowning out my music.
I've probably witnessed heavier rain in Lancaster, but never of this intensity sustained for so long.  Large raindrops were bouncing 30-50 cm back up from the road and roofs until those surfaces became totally submerged by laminar flow.  Gutters couldn't cope, neither those on houses, causing water to fall in sheets from some roofs, nor kerbside gutters, so within 3-4 minutes the entire road was under a couple of inches of water.  My road is relatively flat, orientated across the top of the hill; I could only guess what the downhill roads and those near the bottom were like, so I got ready for a quick bike ride as soon as it stopped.

21 August, 2004

Cycle ride: Lancaster-Galgate-Trough of Bowland-Jubilee Tower-Lancaster

Last night, my mother rang to tell me that Galgate, the village just south of Lancaster where I lived 1994-96, was on the TV news: the River Conder had breached its flood barriers after sustained (though not especially heavy, to my knowledge) rainfall.  This morning I took my new camera for its first outing, to Galgate.

20 August, 2004

Unexpected flood

Burrow Beck, Hala, Lancaster, UK, 20 August, 2004When I went to bed last night, the sky outside was orange; sodium streetlights reflected off low clouds and drizzle.  This morning, the rain was sufficient to wet the road, but little more, so this view at Hala Square was surprising: the tiny Burrow Beck was so full as to be just about overflowing its banks.  There must have been heavy rain in the night, but this is still a good illustration of the effect of relatively brief rainfall on already saturated ground.

20 August, 2004

Dinosaur gone

It's lucky I took a photograph of the Brock Street dinosaur when I did.  I noticed earlier this week that it was missing, and the Lancaster Guardian has explained that it won't be returned to the city centre.

The Massospondylus (a species named by Richard Owen himself) was meant to stand at Owen's birthplace for a couple of months, but last weekend it was found face down in the flower bed with badly damaged front legs, as if somebody had sat on its back.

It's been moved to the nursery (that's plants, not children!) at the council's White Lund depot, near the landfill site.  Wonderful.

8 August, 2004


birch dinosaurLancaster has a new piece of public art, though considering that it's made of birch twigs, not a permanent one.  Good thing I took a photo while it's still fairly new.

The sculpture, at the corner of Brock Street and Thurnham Street, Lancaster, UK commemorates the birthplace, two hundred years and a fortnight ago, of Sir Richard Owen, founder of the Natural History Museum, London and inventor of the word 'dinosaur'.


6 August, 2004

All change!

This is going to be meaningless to those unfamiliar with Lancaster University, but I know a couple of alumni read the blog and might be interested in imminent changes on-campus.
With the relocation of two Colleges to the South West building site, and other relocations dodging demolition work on the main campus, we're about to implement several new and changed names.  I've known them for a while, but it should be okay to mention them now, as they were officially revealed to staff and (technically) students today.
You may need to take notes; I know I'm struggling to understand some changes, and I played a (very minor) role in determining them!

1 August, 2004

Love town

According to statistics reported by the BBC, I work in "the best place to look for love in England and Wales".  Analysis of the 2001 Census shows that 93% of adults in the 'Lancaster University' electoral ward are single.
It's a University.  All first-year and some third-year students live on campus, the staff don't.  Not so startling a statistic, then.

31 July, 2004

White Cross

Jonnie is big on birthdays.  Largely by failing to decide on one definitive event to mark the event, he manages to extend celebrations for up to a week.  This year it was dinner on Wednesday, drinks at a pub last night, and we're going camping later today.  Very cunning....

31 July, 2004

Monopoly broken up

Furness QuadUntil earlier this month, the pale area in the accompanying photo (click to enlarge it) of Furness College quad was occupied by a 'Monopoly' board, which was a landmark for several generations of students.  Unfortunately, it hasn't been maintained and was undeniably scruffy, so has been removed.
I have no idea whether the College was consulted; if this had been Bowland, I'm sure we would have mobilised the JCR to repaint it.

The College is about to undergo major modifications, with several accommodation blocks to be demolished and replaced (photos will follow), so if the board did have to go, this was an appropriate time to clean up the quad.  Presumably the pale paving slabs will have evenly weathered to match their older neighbours before the end of the project.

12 July, 2004

What about us?

This is Graduation week at the University.  An expected total of 4464 students are expected to graduate, graduands of both the University itself and of associated institutions whose degrees are validated by the University. Over the full week, there will be 17 Degree Congregations in the Great Hall.  The Chancellor, HRH Princess Alexandra, will preside at the afternoon ceremonies Mon-Thursday for the final time, as Sir Chris Bonington takes over the role soon.
In addition to those receiving their first degrees (Bachelors-level degrees; higher degrees are awarded separately in December), Honorary Degrees are to be awarded to Dr Ahdaf Soueif, Sir Ian McKellen, Dr David Starkey and Professor Tim Berners-Lee (the last will be awarded in absentia as a HM beats a HRH - he's receiving a knighthood this week).

6 July, 2004

That's pretty

Red sky at night...
To get a bit technical, high winds in France and Southern England have stirred up atmospheric particulates, so this evening Lancaster saw an unseasonably colourful sunset behind the Southern Fells of the Lake District.

This thumbnail image could be anything - click on it for a larger, more comprehensible version.

28 June, 2004

Abortive silhouettography

Lancaster Castle and Priory silhouetted.  Copyright NRT, 2004
To the naked eye, this seemed to be a fairly clear evening, if not sufficiently so for long-distance photography, so I took a few of the Lancaster skyline instead.  However, I think I left it too late to catch the light (~22:40); only one image is worth publishing, and I'm not even sure about that.

Click the image to enlarge, though that magnifies the grain too....

And no, there's no such word as 'silhouettography'.

27 June, 2004

Cycle ride: Lancaster-Over Kellet-Tewitfield-Lancaster

This week's cycle ride was a little longer than usual; I'd anticipated two hours for the destination and route I'd chosen, but it took a full three hours (to within 15 seconds, according to my bike computer), of which I was stationary for only 28 minutes.  It was slightly disappointing that I 'only' covered 28 miles (47 km) in that time, but well over half was off-road, so I travelled slowly.

I had a vague plan to cycle to Over Kellet, a small village in the less-visited area immediately north of Lancaster, between the coast and the Lune valley.  I've probably passed through the village no more than twice in a decade.  Looking at the map, it seemed appropriate to return along the canal towpath, in which case it made sense go a little further north, to the point in Capernwray where the road adjoins the canal.

25 June, 2004

Pigeons, meet the cat

In the University's weekly bulletin sent by e-mail to all staff today, there's a notification that a revised car parking scheme will be introduced in the new academic year (i.e. in October).  This acknowledges that there has been severe overcrowding of limited car parking spaces on campus this year, with some drivers parking on grass verges and unsafe corners, and tennis courts having to be commandeered as overspill parking during open days.  It also takes into account the fact that ongoing building work will not only further impinge on existing space but also increase the campus population without significantly increasing parking provision.

18 June, 2004

East Lancaster Road

I happened to have the digital camera with me yesterday, so took a slightly different route home from work, following the eastern margin of the city between the edge of the built-up area and the motorway.  I even took a few photos.

18 June, 2004

Under siege

We're locked in!  All but one door to University House has been locked, and that remaining door is manned by a uniformed security officer checking IDs.

Posters all over campus this week have been promoting the 'Day of Rage', a day of student protests about college relocations, the closure of our highest-rated department, and the perception that the University's senior management have no interest in meaningful consultation.  University House (central admin) would be a prime target for as-yet-undeclared stunts, so access has been cut off.  Staff and visitors are being asked to identify themselves and their destinations before being allowed in.  For once it'd be convenient if I'd dressed more formally.

4 June, 2004

View from the hill

The back of Balmoral Road, from East Road, Lancaster, UK, 02/06/04East Road is about the steepest part of my usual route home from the city centre; having crossed the traffic lights by the cathedral, there's little more to do than get into a low gear and pedal away, watching the scenery pass rather slowly.  Hence I see this view very frequently, and have time to consider it, but I still can't decide how I feel about it.

The regularity of the repeated shapes is quite striking, particularly when the sun is low and the brightly-lit end walls contrast against the dark roofs, and there's something endearing about the dozens of little chimney pots, yet there's also something crushingly mundane about the near-identical houses: little boxes for little people, all the same.

Click the image to enlarge.

Did anyone notice the oh-so-clever Fish reference in the title?  Oh well...

2 June, 2004

Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Conder Green-Lancaster

I cycled home the long way today; heading south from the University (home is north!), to Galgate then along Conder Green Lane to, surprisingly, Conder Green.  From there, I followed the disused railway line, now a cycle path, along the river north back into the city.  The last part was the main reason for the alternative route, as I wanted to take a couple of photographs of the semi-derelict linoleum mill buildings, for a CD cover, but I took a few photos of the rest of the trip, too.

29 May, 2004

I can see my house from here

In addition to the usual maps, now offers aerial photographs.  I'm not sure what practical purpose they serve, and image resolution is poor (deliberately - they sell high-res images, but don't give 'em away!), but just for interest, I've compared my home area of Lancaster, NW England, UK to the village where I grew up, Northop Hall (Pentre Môch), NE Wales, UK.  I found it interesting, anyway, though it mightn't mean much to those unfamiliar with the places.

23 May, 2004

Cycle ride: Lancaster-Heysham-Hest Bank-Halton-Lancaster

In February, I cycled to Sunderland (Lancs.!), with the vague intention of returning via Heysham.  The trip to the former took longer than expected, so I abandoned the latter for a later date.  Due to other commitments and plans, that didn't happen until today.

21 May, 2004


Ashton Memorial
Another clear, sunny morning, so I cycled to work via the park, and took a few photographs.  I think I prefer the thumbnail of this one, as the lighting seems even more dramatic.

18 May, 2004

Pretty pictures

Good weather, a digital camera, a cycle ride to work.  Do I need a reason to take photographs?  There's no particular theme to these images, they're just photogenic views I happened to pass.

2 May, 2004

River and Moor (Lane)

Since I was by the river today to shop at Sainsburys, I took a few photos, and a few more on my way home.  Nothing special; just typical views of Lancaster.

1 May, 2004

Court closes drugs flat

Lancaster's free local newspaper, The Citizen (no website) reports that a ground floor flat in Morecambe was raided by drugs squad officers last week.  The police found more than 500 used needles and other evidence of heroin use, so Lancaster magistrates used relatively new anti-social behaviour legislation to impose a closure order, and the building must be vacated for three months.

I'd better clarify that I have negligible knowledge of the issues involved, and I have no more information about this specific case than is provided in the short article.  Perhaps there's something else that I'm missing, but from the available evidence I'm not sure the magistrates took the right action.

27 March, 2004

Walkers' paradise

I don't work for the local tourist board, but can't resist reporting that Trail magazine (no website) has ranked Lancaster at number six in its top ten best places in the UK for walkers to live, based on criteria such as house prices, incomes, proximity to hills, good pubs, outdoor gear shops, sun and traffic.  Lake District towns take the very highest positions, as might be expected; Coniston is no.1.

18 March, 2004

Big screen

I'm just back from the cinema, having seen 'Cold Mountain'.  I haven't written a review of that (yet) [update: it's here], but wanted to comment on the experience itself.

The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, UK.
The Dukes is Lancaster's arts cinema, and the best I've known.  The screen is advertised as the largest north of Manchester.  Realistically, that probably means west of the Pennines and south of the Scottish border - Newcastle, Edinburgh or Glasgow might have something larger.  Maybe not, as the trend is for multiplexes with multiple (no, really?) smaller screens rather than one huge one, as at The Dukes.  The auditorium is that of a theatre, and the screen fills the stage; whenever the main stage is in use for plays (I'd guess that's 6-8 weeks spread throughout the year) the screen has to be removed.
The atmosphere is good; professional but not 'slick', and very much that of a theatre rather than a cinema.  Three minutes before the film begins, an announcement invites people in the foyer to go through to their seats.
Thankfully, typical cinema soft drinks, popcorn, ice cream or sweets are not offered for sale, but drinks from the foyer bar are welcome in the cinema itself, in plastic, er, glasses.  There's never a problem of litter being left afterwards - the audience are trusted to behave reasonably, and that respect is returned.

7 March, 2004

Cycle ride: Lancaster-Cockerham-Glasson Dock-Lancaster

I was expecting to say that today's bike ride was shorter than usual, but 17.84 miles (29.73 km) is a little above average.  I can say it took less time than usual, at 1½ hours (80 mins moving), as I'd planned a specific destination and route in advance, and didn't amble.

29 February, 2004

Private zoo

This isn't 'new' news, but it's only just reached court: a 55-year-old woman appeared at Lancaster Magistrates Court this week, charged with 69 counts of animal abuse.  Several months ago (before I started this blog, or I would have mentioned it at the time), the RSPCA raided her home, removing - from a standard-sized house - a total of:

26 February, 2004

Another sunset

Sunset from Lancaster, UK. ©NRT
A spectacular sunset, seen as I was leaving work.  Click on the image for an an enlargement.

24 February, 2004

Out of office

I'm working from home today and tomorrow.  The trades union representing lecturers and computer-related technical staff, the Association of University Teachers (AUT), is striking over long-term pay deals, and campus will be picketed.  The AUT is only one of several unions on campus, so all other staff are expected to attend work as normal, and I'd have no qualms about crossing a picket line, but my boss kindly gave me the option of working from home instead (she is doing so too).

21 February, 2004

Cycling again: Lancaster-Morecambe-Hest Bank-Halton-Lancaster

This has been the third consecutive weekend with good weather, so I went for my third consecutive weekend bike ride, taking the digital camera.  Again, I only had a rough idea of where I was going: Hest Bank, where the Chinese cocklers died three weeks ago.

18 February, 2004

Dusk photos

Just a pretty sunset, of no great significance.

Okay, here's something: this was the first evening this year on which I've been able to cycle home without lights at the normal 'home time'.

The photos are here; click on them to enlarge.

15 February, 2004

Cycling again: Lancaster-Sunderland-Lancaster

Another cycle ride today, this time exploring the north/west bank of the River Lune downstream of Lancaster, somewhere I'd never been before in over a decade of being a Lancaster resident.  I've been to Morecambe a few times, and to White Lund Industrial Estate midway between Lancaster and Morecambe, but the rest of the 'peninsula' was entirely unfamiliar, partly because it's not on the way to anywhere, and partly because the land around White Lund is unattractive - sight lines are dominated by industrial units, and for some reason any remaining land is used to graze horses; since the local water table is at (or above) the ground surface, grazed land is invariably a dispiriting mass of mud.  Combined with wind-blown litter and smell from the adjacent Salt Ayre landfill site, the result is very off-putting.

6 February, 2004

Tides kill 19

Maybe somewhere like New York it's common to hear a helicopter pass over one's house then hear that same helicopter a minute later on a live national news report, but here in Lancaster it hadn't happened to me before today.

4 February, 2004

Lots of weather

Last week we were threatened by severe winter weather (a threat which didn't materialise in Lancaster, but that's not the point).  This week it's flooding, due to rainfall.

3 February, 2004

New Chancellor for the University

So, the new Chancellor of Lancaster University is to be Sir Chris Bonington CBE, taking over the role from HRH Princess Alexandra who has been the Chancellor for the full 40 years since the University was founded.

31 January, 2004

Mmm... smell that benzene

According to Homecheck, the air in my neighbourhood contains:

NO2 Levels :  15 - 20 ppb (Moderate) 
NOx Levels :  24 - 32 ppb (Moderate) 
SO2 Levels :  4 - 6 ppb (Moderate) 
Benzene Levels :  0.50 - 0.75 ppb (Moderate to good) 
Butadiene Levels :  0.1 - 0.2 ppb (Moderate to good) 
CO Levels :  0.2 - 0.4 ppm (Moderate to good) 
PM10 Levels :  17.5 - 20 µgm-3 (Moderate) 
Lead Levels :  20 - 40 ngm-3 (Moderate) 
Ozone Summer Mean :  20 - 24 ppb (Moderate) 
Ozone Daily Mean :  20 - 30 days where ozone >= 50ppb (Moderate)

Pretty good.

28 January, 2004

False alarm?

Alex Square, Lancaster University - as snowy as it gets. Copyright NRT, 2004
After the anticipation I mentioned last night, it was probably inevitable that nothing would happen.  An hour or so after I posted that entry, the sky cleared, and remained so until at least midnight.  This morning, the ground was clear and there wasn't much of a wind.  I thought last night's rain had frozen onto cars and the road, but no, it was liquid, so the cycle ride to work was entirely routine.  I wasn't even cold.

Later this morning it was cold out, with a cutting wind, but there was still no snow until 13:00, when the real Arctic stuff started to fall - tiny, dry flakes totally unlike the typical large, damp clumps we usually see.  The clumps tend to melt on contact with the ground, so it requires a sustained fall for surfaces to acquire a noticable covering.  In contrast, the view out of my window was white-over within five minutes of the snow's onset today.

26 January, 2004

Psychedelic dawning

Lancaster University playing fields, 26/01/04. Copyright NRT, 2004
The sun had risen only a few minutes earlier, illuminating the sky which in turn illuminated the ground, but direct sunlight had yet to reach the fields.  Presumably combining the colours of the grass and sky, the heavy frost was a startling shade of turquoise for a short period; contrasted against the still-dark hedges and trees, it seemed to glow (click to enlarge the image).

8 January, 2004


A couple of months ago, when water started pouring through my office light fitting from a punctured water main upstairs, the occupants of a nearby office were somewhat amused.  Imagine the level of my sympathy when the same thing happened to them this morning....

Someone in the Estates Office is going to have to face tough questions.  Evidently there are undocumented mains buried in the concrete between the floors, which might be forgivable in an old, heavily-modified building, but not one built only forty years ago.

5 January, 2004

Census summary

From the UK's National Statistics website, and hence 2001 census, I see that my electoral ward, John O'Gaunt, has a population of 7,100, from a total of 133,914 resident in Lancaster.  On Census Day 2001 (29 April), the UK population was 58,789,194, of which 49,138,831 were in England.  That means my ward contains 0.012% of the UK population ;)

22 December, 2003

First snow

Snow on the Lakes, from Lancaster. © NRT, 2003I went to work via the park this morning, as I happened to have a digital camera with me and the weather was pretty good.  Today is the shortest day of the year and technically the first of winter.  It's appropriate, then, to see the first snow of the season, not actually in Lancaster (though it is forecast for tomorrow) but at least in sight, on the horizon.

19 December, 2003

Who nicked Bowland Tower?

Alexandra Sq., Lancaster Uni. Copyright NRT, 2003
Today was extraordinarily foggy here in Lancaster.  We occasionally see foggy mornings or evenings (or rather, don't, because of the fog...), but it's rare for it to last all day.  Cycling to work, I met light mist as I entered the Uni. grounds, though town itself had been clear.  Unusually, the mist thickened during the morning, despite the sky directly above being cloudless.  By 13:00 it was as dense as I remember seeing on campus, so I pointed a digital camera out of the window (click to enlarge the image).
The density varied all afternoon; campus must have been at the very top of the fog bank.  I really wish I'd thought to go up the Tower, as the view from the top must have been wonderful at times, projecting above the cloud.

7 December, 2003

Chilly Sunday

This afternoon was rather cold but clear and sunny, so I went for a short bike ride, taking a camera.  A few images are here.
I was particularly pleased with the first - the park has a small lake (large pond?), surrounded on all sides by trees and rock (the park is a relandscaped quarry) so in winter gets little direct sunlight and is pleasantly shadowed.  As I was passing, a single sunbeam had found its way through the trees, catching only the water from the fountain, which became the apparent light source for the whole area.

9 November, 2003

Ooh! Ah!

Bonfire Night was last night. Or rather, it was 5 Nov. (Wednesday), but Lancaster City Council always saves its big firework display until the nearest Saturday evening.

27 October, 2003

Sunset (so what?)

Not exactly profound, but just in case anyone has the vaguest interest in what Lancaster looks like at dusk, here's yesterday's sunset.

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