Peter Knight's Web Site
Things for me, friends, family... and passers by

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november 2001
Pete's Letters:
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! 
(Follow this link for some of the letters I've received out of the blue from visitors to this site).
Letters for 2003
Jan/Febuary 2003
March 2003
April 2003
August 2003
Oct/Nov 2003
Letters for all other years

January and February 2003

Well, happy new year once again, everybody! The first 6 weeks of the year have wizzed past so quick that we are in mid February before this letter has been organised into any kind of shape. 

Dodd and me 
at Llandudno
Early in January we took the dogs to North Wales for a run on the beach at Llandudno. It was a lovely sunny day and a good time was had by all. We thought we might make a habit of it...

We went again 2 weeks later and were met by a howling gale, but we picknicked on the alleged beach at Rhyll (yes, we really did) and at Abergele Stumpy had his first drive on a beach. 


We timed a visit to Mom and George to coincide with a day when Aunty Rae and Uncle Ernie were visiting them too, and we managed to meet up with cousin Joanne who lives in Spain and likes Bakewell Tarts.

Joanne and Debbie

Rae, Ernie, George, Joanne, Debbie and Mom
We spent a lot of time in January cleaning up kitten poo... Captain Oates has pretty much got the hang of things and uses the litter tray, but poor little Kipper, the retarded runt, just lets it dribble and squirt where it will. Soon they'll be old enough to get their innoculations and then they can go and play out in the traffic as nature intended. 

There are more photographs of Kipper and Captain Oates on the Snapshots page. Not that I'm proud of these photo's or anything, but if you want Pet Portraiture at an affordable price, give me a call!

Captain Oates

One of the great things about having a web site is that all sorts of nice people write to you about it. I've had former students and long-lost friends getting in touch, and complete strangers writing to say hello. I'm putting together a new page with bits of some of these letter on it... my "mail incoming" page! Check it out. Also, while I think of it, check out this web page made by former student Matthew Alton . Anyway, I've been really surprised that so many people have been reading these letters, and really pleased to have heared from so many of you. Even today, while I was adding bits to this page, I got an e-mail from another old student asking if I would look at their MSc dissertation and wishing me luck with the cat poo! (Hi Tim). 

Just for the record, my current bedtime reading is Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder; the tape in the car is Be Not Nobody by Vanessa Carlton; the CD in the walkman is Alchemy, Dire Straits. Favoured TV shows of the minute are Becker and Seinfeld and at the pictures we've been to see Star Trek Nemesis, Jacki Chan in The Tuxedo and Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant in Two Weeks' Notice. Nothing too taxing there! My thought for the day is that we actually are the meaning of life.

Happy Birthday to all you people with birthdays in January and February.... hey, that includes me and Debbie! I think I might be 7 again this year. Debbie is still 21.

March 2003
The eagle eyed amongst you may spot that these photos (below) don't look much like March. Well, that's because they're from last August! The reason they're here now is because I thought I'd put them up last year but, well, I hadn't! This was when our friend Gen, who used to be a student at Keele with Debbie, came up to visit for a few days with her kiddies Rachael and James. I think they came with the express purpose of making me look bad at micro-scalextric (which is probably why my mind subconsciously blocked their visit from my short-term memory and made me forget to include it in the on-line letter last August!).
We had a fun time eating out, playing around and, of course, visiting Meg! The pictures are a bit dark bacause it was a bit of a sunless day and I must have had the wrong film in, but Gen, when you come again this year I will have the right film and I promise to put the pictures on this page quicker than I managed this time!

It's interesting, actually, how much does get missed out of these letters. Sorry about that, but when I sit down to write, there's usually many weeks of bits and pieces to remember and my brain doesn't seem to know what happened when. If I've missed out something that you were involved in, I'm sorry! 

March 1st is Stumpy's birthday. Happy Birthday Stumpy - 1 year old today!. There's an update on his progress, and his birthday check-up (service) on his web-page.

I have made some changes to a couple of poems on the poems page (where else would you expect them to be?). I'm not sure if it's OK to alter them when they've been "finished" but on the other hand, who knew if they really were finished. Evidently they weren't! I think I may have made them a bit less far away from what people who know anything about poetry would recognise. I still don't think any of my stuff really "works" for anyone but me, but if anyone likes them, that's fine. I like one or two of them, but a lot of them need more work! The ones I've changed bits of are "A Question" and "Peckwater Quad, January". They're both a bit more symmetrical now, which may not be a good thing, but never mind.

A really nice surprise recently was getting together for the first time in years with Lizzie Cordle, an old friend from Oxford days. We've kept in touch but not managed to actually meet up since goodness knows when. It's nice in situations like that when after just a few seconds it's as if no time at all has passed since you last met, and that's just what it was like seeing Lizzie again. We had a cup of tea and a chat and a bit to eat, and we all went and visited Meg... let's hope we can get together more regularly from now on! 


April 2003
Spring's here, and here are some flowers from the garden to prove it! The last few months have been just about as busy at work as any I can remember, but in amongst all the busy and stress  some really good things happened. It's been my busy teaching semester with  lectures and tutorials to prepare and give each week, and I've been rewriting all my lectures into powerpoint format which takes a lot of time. 
With a fat load of admin work on top of that I've found myself working 7-days a week since mid-January even without finding time for much research/writing work, so I'm taking a week of complete break now at the start of the Easter vac., and will try not to get sucked into working so solidly in future! 

On the research front I was really pleased to win a grant for £19,000 from the Leverhulme Trust. This will cover the cost of  fieldwork in Iceland this summer and will employ Debbie as a part-time post-doctoral research assistant in the lab for 12 months. I also got a new postgraduate student signed up to start in the autumn. It is appropriate timing, since I submitted the "final" paper from my last Grant project (Greenland 1999) this term, so just as one project finishes another is starting.

I've had a few more of those exciting "letters out of the blue" that my web site seems to generate. For example I had a letter from an artist in the USA who wanted to know whether I would mind if she used one of my photos as the basis for a new painting. Check out her web site at Another letter was from "Marina V.", a Russian singer currently based in L.A. She stumbled onto my site when she did a Google search for Pablo Neruda, and wrote in to say hi. Check out her web site at I really like some of the sample tracks on the site, and I've ordered the CD's... watch this space and I'll tell you what they're like! I've also pre-ordered the new Pete Atkin CD... I sent my cheque to Mr Atkin today, and I await with bated breath. The sample track on the Pete Atkin website is just excellent. I also got my tickets for the Pete Atkin / Clive James tour date here in Newcastle... if it's as good as last year's tour we're in for a treat!

One of the nicest letters I had was from Barclay Kamb. For the non-glaciologists among you, Kamb is just about the most eminent glaciologist extant. His name has been on key work in the field for more than 40 years. I wrote a "classics revisited" review of one of his papers for the journal Progress in Physical Geography, and that has just appeared in print (see my publications list for details, or read the article [.pdf] here!). Kamb was very helpful in supplying photos for me to use in the review, and when it was published I sent him a copy, of course. He wrote back last week asking whether I could send him more copies so that he could give one to each of his four children! It really made me happy to think that Barclay Kamb himself thought that what I had written about his work was worth showing to his family - I will never care what anybody else says about that paper now, if it was good enough for Barclay Kamb, that's more than good enough for me!

Current bedtime reading? Well, nothing right now: I've just run out of new books! The last couple were  "Sophie's World" and "Fermat's Last Theorem". They both kept me interested. We went to see Jane Eyre on stage at the Buxton Opera House, which was fun.

Just now I'm dividing my week's holiday between sitting around doing nothing, gardening, playing on the computer (SimCity4), walking the dogs, visiting Meg the horse, going shopping for stuff to do the gardening (new fence and hedge), watching TV and videos (Bourne Identity: so-so. Fat Greek Wedding: poor. K9-PI: so-so), going to the pictures (Shanghai Knights: so-so) going out for pub-meals, and pottering around town having cups of tea. 

By the time this goes on-line I'll be back to work, worrying about getting the rest of the contributors sorted out for my new "Glaciers" volume, writing a bunch of encyclopedia entries, sorting out departmental quality assurance isues, marking a pile of essays, and planning how to spend my £19,000 wisely on the question of mud in glaciers. If the sun keeps shining I'll also be spending some time here on this sunny bench in my front garden!

Well, what a busy month this is turning out to be. We've  had to move Meg (the horse) to a new yard because the one we were at closed down. Things turned out very well in the end, because just as we needed to move a place opened up at a yard at Keele, very close to the University, much closer to home that where we were before. Debbie was panicky for a few days over the move, but Meg is as happy as larry at the new place. I've started a new page just for Meg where we can put photos and news on things horsey! Look at Meg's Web Page!

My CD's from Marina V and from Pete Atkin arrived and I'm really pleased with both. I also like the way that both sets came straight through from the artists, more or less, not just from some High Street record shop. I'll put my thoughts about the Pete Atkin CD on my Pete Atkin and Clive James Page... The Marina V CD's were more of a mystery package, but I'm pleased to say that I really like them. One or two tracks in particular are making their way into my all-time favourites list, but as I've only been listening to them for a couple of days now, and there's about 90 minutes of music on the 2 cd's, I've not yet got my head around all of it yet. So far (in case any of you know the stuff) I like pretty much all of "Something of my own" (the newer CD - and my copy is autographed!) and "One to blame" from "Lift" (the earlier CD).  On the Pete Atkin "Winter Spring" cd I really like "Thought of you", and "Dancing Master" is growing on me. 

August 2003

Well, it really has been so long since I wrote that I'm going to struggle to remember all the things I have done, so this is just going to be a highlights show! 

Erm... well, we went to see Pete Atkin and Clive James at the New Vic in Newcastle: excellent, again. We got Broadband Internet and wireless networking for the computers so we can both be on the internet simultaneously: essential really since Debbie's horses and my work etc really see us both on the internet a LOT. 

me, photographed by Debbie, 
with our new camera!
The most recent highlight was a trip to Iceland in July. I had a couple of weeks doing some relaxed fieldwork, visiting a number of sites around the south of the country. We were camping, but it was pretty luxurious as we had hire cars for touring around! I've put a few photo's on the Iceland 2003 Snapshots page.

We've just bought a new camera - it's a digital one (a Fuji S602z if anyone's interested) which is a bit of a big step... I've been used to heavy long-lensed SLRs for the last 20 years or so, and it will be interesting to see how I adjust! The new one actually has more zoom than my 200mm Canon Eos, but is a fraction of the size. It still has that chunky SLR-like body, though, so it doesn't feel completely strange to me The big advantage of digital is that you can see instantly whether the photo worked, rather than having to wait for processing, and you can delete photos if they don't work, rather than wasting money getting your failed experiments developed and printed. We've only had the new one for a week but so far I'm really pleased and impressed with it. Debbie has taken it with her to York Races this week, so we'll have to see whether it gets her any good photo's of Kieren Fallon! Here are a couple of snaps it's given us so far: 

click to enlarge (nb: 300kb file)
Surprise surprise! We've been shooting the animals! Here are Lurch and Dodd posing politely. These were taken on one of the camera's lower resolution settings, click Dodd to see what that gives. I'll try to update our snapshots page soon with more recent pictures.

Recent reading? Well, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy continues to be the old standby, but I've also read some new stuff (!) including "Ignorance" by Milan Kundera. I bought that at the Airport to read in Iceland. Not my favorite ever thing I've read, may be, but good in parts.

Films? Hmmm... most recently Terminator 3 (great except for the ending) and Pirates of the Caribbean (well, Debbie liked it).

BIG NEWS - Once Upon A Time In The West (possibly my favorite film) is about to be released for the first time on DVD!! Equally big news - The Shootist (another of my favorites, for different reasons) has just this month been released. Very Exciting. I've got my copy of The Shootist and I've ordered OUTW.

Music? Still enjoying Marina V (took that to Iceland along with Dire Straits, Pete Atkin and the usual compilation CDs), and just got the soundtrack CD to Once Upon a Time in the West, which I've had on vinyl for years but was delighted to find now on CD... especially since I don't really have a working turntable for vinyl just now. Debbie is obsessed by Fame Academy on TV.

October 2003
Back to teaching: busy. Went to Blackpool with Debbie and the dogs! Reading the first Harry Potter book. Fixed up my old turntable so can listen to vinyl again. More to follow... watch this space!

November 2003
 There's clearly something wrong with the way I organise my life if I can't find a few minutes now and again to update my web site! I seem constantly to be running to keep up with everything at the minute (well, for the last couple of years actually) so I'm afraid these up-dates are pretty thin on the ground. I feel especially bad about not up-dating the Stumpy (Seat Arosa) pages because people keep writing to me out of the blue to talk about them (Stumpy's letters). One thing I have managed to do, though, is put together a CD with lots of Glaciers and Landscapes photos on, so I have been able to send that out to lots of people who had asked me for one. I asked people who I sent them to to give whatever they felt they could afford to charity (or to me if they wanted!) in return for the "free" CD, but as far as I know only one person actually did that, which is a bit sad. However, I know that some money has gone to Barnado's out of me putting together and sending out the CD so thanks for that. (PS - since I wrote that I had a really nice surprise when I got an Amazon gift voucher out of the blue as a thank you for one of the CDs I sent out!! Thanks very much indeed, Emanuelle!)

At work I'm busy teaching and trying to make progress with a couple of book projects. The time consuming one just now is my editing of a multi-contributor book for Blackwells, and work on the new edition of "Dissertations" is looming on the horizon. All 3 of my previous books have been taken over by Routledge, which is a step up from the previous publishers who were not doing a brilliant job. The newest book ("Essays") is now available through Amazon, which is nice! (And while checking that I see that my big Blackwells book is available for pre-ordering too!!)

Current reading? Well, I'm now onto the 4th Harry Potter book and I'm still enjoying them. (PS - December now and I'm onto number five!)

Debbie is working hard doing two jobs: she's still working at Keele library but she's also doing a part-time research job with me, funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. She's making ice in the low-temperature lab to try to work out how certain types of ice that we've found in Greenland and Iceland could have been formed. There's some info about the project here.

All 4 cats, both dogs, the bunny, both birds, both tanks of fish and the horse are all doing well. We took Dodd and Lurch to the Lake District for the day at the end of November. It's exactly a year since we got the kittens!
Brrr... this water's cold!

Christmas 2003
Christmas comes but once a year (unless you're Meg, in which case every day is Christmas) and here it is! Happy Christmas, everybody. Dodd (left) seems to be enjoying it!
         As usual it seems to have been a busy and stressful pre-Christmas for the residents of St.Elmo (that's what our house is called), and as usual we haven't managed to send out all the Christmas cards that we had grand intentions for! I think we'll have to do our Christmas preparations in August next year: November/December is just a busy time both at work and in horse-care etc!. 
We did manage to get some cards out, but were conspired against from all sides: we sent one to Norway (hi Dave!) but the post office were really mean: we got the postage wrong by a couple of pence and even though it was obviously a Christmas card and they must have known they were condemning it to a late delivery they sent it back demanding the extra postage . Christmas Spirit - not! 
We did a bit of pre-Christmas visiting to Debbie's family and to mine, and we managed to meet up with Rae and Ernie and Jo at Mom's again (left): finishing the year the way we started it! Jo was back from Spain to top up on Bakewell Tarts. Didn't get to see Teresa or any of the little (not-so-little-any-more) Holligans... which is a shame. We keep trying to hear Anna on the radio: she's broadcasting for a Birmingham radio station but we've not caught her yet.

What did I get for Christmas? All sorts of generous gifts from friends and family: thank you all. Debbie got me a laminator (for laminating things) which was just what I was hoping for. After Christmas I got myself the DVD of "Amelie" (£6.99 - Bargain!) and Debbie bought me some pages of blank sticky labels for printing up on the computer. I love stationery. 

For New Year I'll need some resolutions. I think perhaps that I shall resolve to make more time for reflection, and for finding inspiration which, after all, might be what it's all about... Unless you're a cat (see pictures below) in which case it seems all to be about finding the best place to sit at any particular moment! 

Captain Oates in one of her favorite spots! The fish don't seem to mind, even when she paws at them through the glass. Both Oates and Kipper have also developed a taste for fish food flakes!
Kipper in one of her favorite spots... in Debbie's Bonsai Yew pot! It's OK till she starts digging.
Over Christmas I've been studying my old school reports. That might sound like a bit of a sad hobby, but it's actually been really instructive. It's always useful to be reminded that you're not quite as good as you sometimes start to think you are! It's also interesting to see what has (and hasn't) changed in my academic make up in the last 25 years. I bet my teachers didn't think that their advice would still be helping me a quarter of a century later when I was a senior lecturer at a University! Or may be they did... some of them were pretty smart! I've also added a few little bits to my "life story": mainly in the Birmingham and Oxford sections.

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

(Follow this link for some of the letters I've received out of the blue from visitors to this site)

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