Peter Knight's Web Site
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november 2001 Pete's Letters (2002):
Open letters to friends and family

Why these letters are here:
I used to think the "one-letter-serves-all" approach was a bit impersonal, but over the years it's become pretty clear that I'm not very good at keeping up a regular correspondence even with the people who's addresses I haven't lost. May be this will be better than nothing! If you read this, send me a note by way of reply!
Index of letters for 2002: New Year 2002
February 2002
March 2002
April/May 2002
August 2002
September 2002
Nov/Dec 2002

New Year 2002
Happy New Year, everybody! Last year we saw 2001 arrive with a fanfare of road accidents and bodywork repairs, and 2002 is coming in the same way. Two different people within a week or so drove into Debbie's little blue van, leaving it smashed in on both sides! We've had a short quiet Christmas break, ready for an even-busier-than-usual spring looming ahead. Debbie is doing some tutorial teaching at Keele this year, I'm coming into my busy semester, and we still haven't trained the animals to look after themselves! The animals were amused at having Richard's Rat as a Christmas Guest. No deaths or maiming, but some comical introductions. Cats, and Lurcher, are scared of Rat. Rat has no fear. Dog thinks Rat is excellent fluffy toy.
I had a trip to San Francisco just before Christmas to give a conference paper with my Greenland partner, Carrie. Stayed downtown on the 27th floor. If I leaned out of the window and peered around the edge of the building I got a view of Alcatraz and the Bay! Spent a couple of days exploring the city. Nice sea lions, but not convinced by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Discovered a great Bar on 4th Street... oh, and of course forwarded the cause of science at the conference. 
"The City by the Bay" December 13th 2001

For Christmas Debbie got me DVDs of The Searchers and The Outlaw Josey Wales...  there actually is no DVD yet published of Once Upon A Time in the West, or a few other must-haves, but I'll be making up a wish list for my Birthday! Debbie also got me 2 new Marquez novels: I have started with "Of Love and Other Demons".

I have managed to find a few moments for painting, and have picked up work on something I started a while back: it's a sort of abstract landscape with a chessboard World War 1 theme. Pawns in the trenches, Bishop taking a look over the top at the (chess-board) landscape. Still very much in undercoat sketch development! Debbie wants me to do her a drawing of Kieren Fallon!
January 20th 2002

February 2002
Because I was getting so busy at the end of last year and had so many things on my plate, I started this year with a list of "Big Jobs" and set up an on-line calendar to help me organise them. I know it sounds like pencil sharpening, but in fact it has helped me to keep the jobs under control, and it gives a nice sense of satisfaction as you work through the list ticking off the jobs as they are done! 

Debbie took this photo of 
me in myEcuador hat!
In January I ticked off the first 5 on the list: (1) I finished work on a big paper for Journal of Glaciology, sent it in, and have had it accepted for publication (check out details here); (2) I wrote a book review for the journal Progress in Physical Geography, and sent that in (details here); (3) I wrote a 6000-word report on "Skills in Geography" commissioned by publishers Nelson Thornes as part of a programme that might get me another book-writing contract; (4) I drafted the introductory chapters of my new book on Essay Writing, and sent them off to my co-author Tony Parsons for him to work on; and (5) I put together a presentation to the department all about our forthcoming Quality Audit, for which I have the job of preparing all the documentation! 

Here's Debbie with Meg
(click to enlarge)

As well as that, of course, I've been doing the routine work: preparing and delivering lectures for my 3rd-year "Glaciers" course, marking a bunch of dissertations and exam papers from the Christmas exam period; serving on a small University sub-committee charged with considering proposed revisions to the structure of our first-year courses; joining in research group seminars and meetings of the Learning and Teaching Committee; acting as teaching mentor to a new member of staff (thanks for all the cakes and trifle, Rich!); acting as supervisor to a PhD student (thanks for all the doughnuts, Adam!); serving as Course Tutor for the Physical Geography programme (revising prospectus entries, handling student queries, etc).... ok, you're bored of this list, I'll stop!

Recent minor highlights  include: being approached by a BBC producer for advice and information concerning possible field locations for filming their "major new series" Walking with Cavemen, and being invited to write three entries for the International Association of Geomorphologists' new Encyclopaedia of Geomorphology

Recent major highlight : Debbie being approached by the wife of the Champion Jockey Kieren Fallon, who wanted to say how wonderful she thought Debbie's web site was!

Current Bee-in-Bonnet: Ethical research funding. Is it right to accept research funding from an organisation that has received a very bad press on Human Rights, Environmental Issues, etc. and let them to use your name in their public relations propaganda literature? Some folks in my department are doing that, and it makes me wonder how I would react if I were put in the same situation. I'm surprised that the University doesn't think that having its name associated with sponsors like that will damage its own reputation. Anyway,  Teach us to care and not to care, Teach us to sit still.

By the way, I've added a new "story" to the stories page. It's the start of a sort of travel book I begun a couple of years ago and then forgot about! Some sections seem to have been copied into the "Life History" page, but a lot of it is "previously unseen". Check it out, and let me know what you think


March 2002
Well, we went ahead and bought a new car to "replace" the Corrado. We picked her up on March 1st. She's called "Rosa" ("Stumpy" to her friends), and she has her own page HERE

6/03/02: booked tickets to go with Debbie to see Pete Atkin and Clive James on 20th March in Telford. Also hoping to see them at Buxton on 14th. Watch this space! 

A funny thing happened today. While updating this site I looked at my story "Creatures of the sea-floor". There's a line in it that goes: "Sunlight dapples the grass beneath the trees like a monkey consuming bananas". I'd always intended that to mean just that the sunlight dapples the grass thoughtlessly, does it just because that's what sunlight does, just because of physics, not because of beauty, in the same way that monkeys eat bananas just because that's what monkeys do, not because they have some deeper intent. I didn't mean that sun's dappling achievements we similar to any dappling achievements of our monkey. However, today for the first time I realised that a monkey eating bananas actually would dapple the grass beneath his tree... with discarded banana skins. That wasn't the analogy I intended, but it's actually pretty good! Ha!

By the way, a  German web site all about War Letters contacted me to ask whether they could link to my page about Uncle Reg's war letters! Their site is here.


April/May 2002
Well, it's pretty much May now, and I seem to have been too busy doing stuff to write about it lately. I did manage to get to some of the Pete Atkin and Clive James shows. I went with Richard to the show in Buxton, and with Debbie to the shows in Telford and Milton Keynes. Check out my Pete Atkin page for details!

I spent a lot of the Easter vacation doing bits and pieces in the garden: some new steps, a new fence, and some other bits and pieces. I also managed to get back to work on the new "essays" book for Nelson Thornes. It's going to be a busy summer with that and the other projects I have to move on with. I also got back to my research project in the Lake District. This was put on hold last year because of the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis, but I went up with Richard (the famous supercooling expert Dr. Richard Waller) last week to re-reconnoiter the site and think about a long-term plan of action.

Here are a few photos 
from our "day out"...

1. PGK dozes in the spring sunshine, while...

2. DrWaller examines an exciting section of glacial diamict which may or may not provide the first evidence of subglacial supercooling in the Lake District...

3. Surely international recognition and immense wealth now beckon for both of us, although this attempt by Richard to match my prowess in the hat department clearly went sadly awry.

PS: Stumpy's page is now a top-hit on Google! Search for Seat Arosa and my page is very near the top of the listed sites, beaten only by the official German and Spanish SEAT sites!

August 2002
Long time no letter! It's been a busy few months at home and at work and as usual I've forgotten most of the exciting things I wanted to tell you. One  big development has been Meg's move to a new Livery Yard. It's further away than the previous one but has been set up by Debbie's friend Karina, who we've known since Debbie first started riding. They had a little dressage evening in July, and Debbie won the "Champion" rosette! There are some photos here
Another event was having the house re-wired. It was a real upheaval for one week but at least we are now wired to modern safety standards, which we certainly weren't previously! A  lucky by-product was the sudden availability of lots of old 1930's switches and fusebox bits that I can use on my model railway! The model railway has also taken some huge steps forward. Those of you that know me (and my mechanical incompetence) will realise what great strides I must have been taking when I reveal that I now actually own a soldering iron!

At work I've just started my semester of sabattical leave, which means I have no teaching until next February! That gives me the flexibility to get on with some of the research-related jobs that are hard to complete when you can't string two days together without interruptions from other duties. People seem to think it's a six-month holiday, but we'll just see how much I manage to get done in that time. Key tasks are: to finish the "Essays" text book; to work on a new edition of the "Dissertations" text book; to write a major research paper based on fieldwork I did in Greenland; to put together a group of contributors for my big new research book on Glaciers and Global Change; to write applications for grants to start some new field and laboratory research projects; to write some entries for a new Encyclopaedia to which I have been invited to contribute; to complete a research project about student learning that was funded by Keele last year and is not yet written up... OK this list is getting dull, but you get the general idea - I have a few things to keep me busy. If you're interested you can check out my research pages. At the moment I'm spending a lot of time on the Essays book. You can read about it here if you can download word.doc documents.

I've been internationally mobile again over the last few months with expeditions to Northwich, Shrewsbury and Birmingham, and I'm off to Buxton tomorrow. Well, it's international if you think of Stoke as a nation unto itself! Debbie has been truly intercontinental, with trips to the races in Newmarket and Beverly. May be as a result of all my travelling Stumpy the car has broken down and has to go in for repairs :(

One of my neices (that still sounds scary), Anna, graduated from Birmingham University in July. Congratulations Anna. Why not come and do a PhD at Keele? And news from "Oxford Today" magazine (Trinity 2002): "Andrew Dilnot, currently Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has been elected Principal of St Hugh's college from the beginning of Michaelmas term." Jeepers! Congratulations Andrew.

My current fad? Micro-scalextric! It's intended for 7-year olds, but if you take the magnets out of the cars and run the current through a model-railway transformer to reduce the power it's just like real scalextric only smaller. I never got the hang of full-size scalextric but this mini-version is excellent with real simulated power-oversteer and tail-out slide effects. The little magnets that I took out of the cars are the most powerful magnets I have ever seen. With the magnets in, the cars WILL NOT leave the track even if you pick the track up and shake it! Without them it becomes a sport of skill and finesse. I sense a micro-scalextric championship coming up for the Enjoyment of Glaciers Group!

Speaking of scalextric, our friend Gen came to visit with little James and Rachael... they are much better at scalextric than me but I will practice and beat them next time! I'm cheating here by writing it in a year later, but I forgot to mention Gen's visit first time I wrote this page... sorry! My brain is turning to pudding. There are a couple more photos next March (!)

Current reading? I've just bought "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coehlo. It was recommended to me a while ago, but I have only just got it. Also off the shelf is "Love in a time of cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

September 2002
A busy start to the month: in the last two weeks I've been involved with three new papers submitted to Quaternary Research (with Adam) to Boreas (with Richard, Carrie and Zoe) and to Polar Research (just me). Wish us luck, and let's hope they are accepted for publication! What else am I up to at work? I got my articles written for the Encyclopaedia, I'm getting very carried away with a completely new research project that could turn into something very interesting, and I've finally got the low-temperature laboratory back in working order so I can work in it again. Richard and Adam are both off in Greenland, so I should have some peace and quiet at work (only kidding, guys) but I will miss the coffee-mornings! Trouble is, the finishing-off stages of the essays book are taking a lot of time, too. I'm keeping a kind of diary of sabattical activities HERE.

I'm into summer-running mode, in the office by 7 most mornings, but finding time in the middle of each day to spend time with Debbie going to see Meg or wandering around town. Debbie keeps going off to the races, and although she had a run of winners last month we are not looking at early retirement! We went to Haydock for an afternoon together, but didn't get rich.

Happy Birthday to Robin in London and to Don in Philadelphia - long time no see on both counts. One day it would be nice to have a week-long house party inviting all the old friends I never get to see any more. It would be interesting for all of you to meet each other, too! Robin, Don and Richard... I wonder what you would make of each other! We should arrange a trip to Greenland, that's certainly a good way to get to know people. I quite wished I was going myself when we took Richard to the airport.

 An old friend from long ago re-introduced themselves this month thanks to finding this website. Donald, the chap playing snooker in my snapshots from Aberdeen, got in touch "after all these years". I was really pleased. I hate it when I lose touch with people, although it is early always my own fault. (On which note, I still have that Kundera and Proust.)

Yoshiko Endo
Debbie and I went to a lunchtime masterclass and evening concert given by pianist Yoshiko Endo. I was interested to see her, as I'd spent ages making publicity material about her for the Penkhull Festival (I do their web site and the display boards they put in Newcastle town library). She was excellent... I should go out and buy a CD as a souvenir! Unusually for me I actually bought a CD this week without thinking about it for months as I usually would. Don't know what got into me. It's "Be Not Nobody" by some woman whose name I can never remember. Vanessa Carlton, may be? I listened to it for the first time (in fact the first 3 or 4 times) on my way home from Aberystwyth...  Aberystwyth? 

I went to Aberystwyth for the day. No, not just a sea-side day out. I had been invited by the University of Aberystwyth to examine a PhD candidate. I spent 3 long days studying her enourmous 90,000 word thesis (thanks, Becky!) and then troddled off to Aber to give her a viva. All in all it was a nice day out, but I'm not sure the candidate was too chuffed when the viva turned out to last nearly 7 hours! With the drive being not much short of 3 hours each way, it made for a long day for me, too!. 

Our fridge, our washing machine and our TV all packed up in the space of a few weeks! Priorities being as they are we replaced the TV instantly, the fridge after a week or so, and the washing machine may be at some point in the future if somebody gives us one! New TV is cheap but very cheerful, and bigger than the old one. Now we can see teletext (which had died years ago on the old one) and see the edges of the broadcast pictures (old one didn't fit pictures properly on screen!). So when any of you are on TV, from now on we will be able to see you properly! New fridge is very exciting: it has a little light in it so you can see what you are taking out. As our fridge lives in a deep hole at the end of a long windowless corridor this is a big improvement. New fridge does not have fungus or slime like the old one, but we are confident that these will come with time. When they do, I shall have a cheese and cold-fish buffet for some of my colleagues.

Oh, and since no one patted me on the back or gave me a pay rise I'll blow my own stinking trumpet: you remember I had to put together the department's documentation for a Quality Audit (February letter, above)? Well, the auditors wrote their report and my own interpretation of it is that I did a very good job, thank you very much. I am ready for my close up now, Mr. DeMille.

Here's a picture of Meg waiting for her pat on the back. She's settled in fine at the new yard.

Debbie and Meg

November 2002 
Here's another example of why it's good to have a web site. Somebody from Oxford University Press (Canada) e-mailed out of the blue to ask if I could supply them with a copy of a photo they had discovered on this site.  They want to use this photo of Debbie with the icebergs in a new text book for students of French as a foreign language. I don't quite know why, but they're willing to pay! 
Congratulations to my friend Robin, who has been promoted to Professor at Imperial College! I'm suitably impressed. Here's the official serious picture lifted off the IC website, and one from one of our trips to Greenland. "Let's have powdered soup with pasta, for a change."

Debbie meets Kieren!
Click the picture to enlarge.
Major excitement this month was meeting Kieren Fallon, the jockey that Debbie runs a web-site about. Kieren's wife Julie Fallon got in touch with Debbie after seeing the site, and set up a meeting. We troddled off to Doncaster to meet them both at the ceremony where Kieren picked up his "Champion Jockey 2002" trophy. It was pretty exciting. There will be more about this on Debbie's site. Thanks very much to Julie and Kieren: we really appreciated you taking the time to meet us - especially after Kieren had such a hard day starving at Doncaster!
Here's another one of Debbie: posing with the dog so we could finish off the film and get the photo's of Kieren into the shop as quickly as possible! Click on it if you want to see it bigger.
A bit of fun this month was setting up a web camera for the site! Thanks to Adam and for the inspiration and the technology! Check out whether I'm in my office, and if so what I'm doing, on my WebCam page. It operates when my PC at work is switched on (ie on days when I am in the office!) and uploads a fresh image every 10 seconds or so. If you phone me at work and I don't answer you can look and see whether I'm just ignoring you!

It's turning into a month full of little excitements. We've just got two more: two tiny little kittens! Debbie found one of them bumbling across a main road with traffic whizzing past it. Debbie stopped, picked it up and took it in to the nearest house, which was a big old farm being used as a livery yard. The owners said "do you want the sister as well?" so when I got home from work Debbie was there with two 5-week old kittens. 

Captain Oates in the 
foreground, with Kipper
curled up behind. 
We will be keeping an eye on 
Oates when the blizzards come!
They are only just old enough to be away from their mother, but she had abandoned them, and the two other kittens from the litter were already dead, so we've really rescued these. The little runty one that Debbie found in the road would probably have been dead within 5 minutes if Debbie hadn't stopped to pick it up. We thought about calling it "Splat", because it nearly was, but we decided that it was such a lucky little kipper that we'd call her "Kipper". It also fits because she keeps dozing off in mid activity. She's a dozy little Kipper. The other one is a real explorer, so we've called her "Captain Oates". We had them checked out by the vet, and apart from sorting out a bit of an eye infection in Kipper, they're both fine. Kipper weighs in at a tiny twelve-and-a-half ounces! Oates was too lively to sit in the kitchen scales, but is probably more like 15-18: she's quite a bit bigger than Kipper even though they are the same age.

Here are a couple more photos of Oates. more to come!

December.....Happy Christmas everybody!

coming soon... January:

... That's all for now, thanks for tuning in, please drop me a line!

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