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
(Follow this link for some of the letters I've received out of the blue from visitors to this site) 
Previous years: 
2001 . 2002 . 2003 . 2004
This year: 2005
New year

New Year 2005

Happy New Year! This is my fifth new-year web letter, and I see a pattern emerging. Once again we spent Christmas recovering from a stressed-out end-of-year. Again somebody drove into Debbie's van and we await insurance repairs. Again I am determined to do something about the insane workload that I  manage to bring upon myself each year!
Winter in Meg's field
Debbie and Dodd snoozing The end of 2004 got a bit out of control at work. For various reasons a lot of my year's teaching was crammed into the last three months, on top of an adult-education evening class,  all my usual reponsibilities, and then, on top of what would have been a difficult workload anyway, I had several big research and writing projects with pressing deadlines. The result was a whole semester of 60-hour weeks with no real week-ends, getting up early in the morning leaving Debbie with only Dodd for company. 
The Leverhulme-funded lab-project that Debbie was employed to help me with finished mid-year, and we have taken results from that project to two conferences and put a short paper into an edited volume. However, we have not yet had time to write up formal research papers... that will be job number one for 2005.  From the webcam
Me, hard at work (see webcam)

I had a Christmas deadline for putting together the hundred-or-so contributions to my big edited volume for Blackwell ("Glacier Science and Environmental Change"), and during the autumn I have been chasing up, compiling, checking and editing those. I sent everything to the publisher just before Christmas, but job number two for the new year will be dealing with the publisher's queries on that, and taking the book through into production. I also had a  Christmas deadline for all the materials (text and figures) for another book project ("Glaciers and Glaciated Landscapes" for the Geographical Association), and just managed to hit that, too. Again, though, a new year job will be dealing with publisher's queries and taking that one into production. The third book that had taken up some time earlier in the year ("How to do your dissertation..." 2nd edition) was published just before Christmas, but with a 2005 official publication date, so all being well I will have three different books published in 2005! I think my postgraduate students will be glad when those book projects are all out of the way... I fear the postgrads might have felt neglected!

Debbie's van came in for more stick, as is becoming traditional at Christmas, and once again it was not Debbie's fault. A bus drove into it while it was parked! It still drives OK so we are using it as normal until the repairs can get done. It still does good service driving the dogs around and getting Debbie to and from Meg's livery yard.  Debbie Driving
Debbie at the helm!

Kipper and Lurch
Kipper and Lurch chatting after breakfast
Lurch (the Lurcher) has got to the stage where she can't really go for walks, but still thinks she wants to... we drive her to her walk spot, lift her in and out of the van and make sure she doesn't over-exert herself. We also have to make sure she doesn't try going up or down stairs in the house by herself! Dodd (the Dog) is equally old, but won't believe it. He still chases squirrels, just more slowly than he used to and with a little help from his athritis medicine! 

All the kittens and cats have established their pecking orders and settled down happily together. More than just accepting each other the various generations of incomers positively enjoy eachother's company. The little old blind cat, Bronson, seems to have been given a new lease of life by the kittens. The littlest kitten, Kipper (Kipper the very thick), who Debbie rescued from the highway, turns out to be epileptic, and has little fits where she foams at the mouth, but it doesn't seem to bother her. Probably a good job she's thick. Kipper's favourite places to sleep are on top of Lurch or on top of the birds' cage. No, it doesn't really impress the birds, but Lurch doesn't seem to mind.

Windy Ridge, Keele The first week of the Christmas break was just an attempt to wind down, recover, and deliberately do as little as possible (difficult, of course, with all the animals!). Took some winter photo's, watched some TV...
The second week (between Christmas and New Year) was an attempt to recover some sense of order into domestic affairs. Incoming mail (bills, tax-letters, vet reminders, mortgage statements, etc) have just been allowed to build up in an unsorted pile in the hall for 3 months. Routine activities like picking clothes off the bedroom floor, fishing mouldy food out of the bottom of the fridge, putting oil in the cars and updating this web site have pretty much been entirely on hold since summer. There is a certain amount of restoration to be done. More, in fact, than can be done over a couple of weeks of Christmas.  Washing the Car

Especially when there are Christmas presents to have fun with!

Music Score
My latest masterpiece
Debbie bought me a brilliant new toy for Christmas. It's a music composition programme that basically puts manuscript paper on your screen and lets you mouse the notes to wherever you wish, then plays what you've composed! You can arrange multi-part pieces, print out completed scores, etc. I feel a symphony coming on (before breakfast!). It's a good job I didn't get this before Christmas or I would never have completed those books for the deadlines!
Debbie got some "Little Miss Trouble" satin pajamas for New Year... but guess which Little Miss Trouble likes them best? "Hmmmm..." says Kipper, "comfy!" 
Silk Cat
Downs Banks Christmas-New Year also got us out into the countryside for some fresh air. Here we are at Downs Banks. Here I am modelling for next season's autumn catalogue and Debbie is auditioning for next Star Trek movie.

Must get out more!

Downs Banks
Millenium Stone (toposcope)


May 2005
Merve and me.
May already! So what's been keeping me from writing anything on this page for so long? 

Well, I've been bringing things a little under control at work, for a start. There was a lot of work getting the big edited volume for Blackwells finally into its production stages: that's now at copy-editing and is temporarily out of my hands, which gives me a breather. Debbie and I have also had a paper about her Leverhulme-funded labwork provisionally accepted for publication in the Journal of Glaciology, which is good news. With people at work I've also been putting together some big changes to the Physical Geography course... there will be more to do on that over the summer!

New Book Published
The other book I've been working on, "Glaciers and Glacial Landscapes" for the Geographical Association, has been going through production and that is now published! There is more about that book on my publications page. The 2nd edition of "How to do your dissertation..." came out at the start of the year so with luck I might have three books published in 2005! There are still a couple of other book projects in the pipeline, but it is nice to have emerged from that periodof extreme pressure when I was working on the finishing stages of three books simultaneously. I'll try to avoid getting into that situation again!

My new book!

Almeria - where they shot 
the spaghetti westerns
Field Course in Spain
In April I spent a week in Spain helping out with the Physical Geography Field Course in Almeria. There were 65 students to keep an eye on, but it was nice to get a bit of a change of scene and some sunshine,  and nice to have the chance to drive around the Spanish countryside a bit. A lot of the time I was in convoy with the student-filled coaches, but I had a few nice trips away from the group, too.
Kipper and Lurch
Old Lurch still seems very happy in herself but she's getting harder to look after and is enjoying more time with her friends around the house rather than running around outside quite so much. Kipper thinks Lurch is just great, and the little cat spends every moment she can curled up as close as possible to the big dog!

Kipper and Lurch
Current reading? Just before I went to Spain Debbie bought me the "The Book of my Enemy" - a collection of poems by Clive James, and that was my reading for the week. Liked it a lot. At the moment I have Edith Sitwell in my head. Hadn't really come across her much before, but am struck by "Still falls the rain".  Current music? I have just taken delivery of the new MarinaV CD - Simple Magic, so that's my to-and-from-work listening at the moment. Like it.
Our front Garden!
Subheadings and gardening
I thought maybe subheadings would help... so I'll start using them! Spring is springing so its time to get back into the garden. I don't mean just for sitting around, either! There are lawns to be mowed, weeds to be encouraged (if they are pretty) or thinned out (if they smother the pretty stuff), and birds to be fed (and I don't mean to the cats!). Colin and Margaret next door were throwing out their rotting old bird table so we "claimed" it and found it a nice retirement spot in our front garden... here it is!
I got an all expenses paid trip to the Roman City of Bath this month, with two nights in a posh hotel! I was asked to serve as an "external auditor" in an academic review of Geography at Bath Spa University College. It was a really good trip... even if I did struggle with navigation a bit driving around Bath. I really don't know how those Romans must have coped with all that traffic. Thanks to Simon and all at Bath Spa for a worthwhile and enjoyable trip.

Debbie's nice new necklace.

June 2005
Gnome's new face
Gnome's new face!
Gnome's new clothes

Well, summer's here. I've taken a few days holiday to catch up with some of those traditional summer tasks and passtimes... such as repainting the garden gnome. It's about 10 years since he was last painted, and most of the paint had peeled away, so I stripped him down to bare white pot (or whatever it is that he is made of) and started from scratch. 

me painting gnome
A relaxing summer Sunday

Trying out Acrylic
It was a very relaxing way to spend a summer's day, sitting in the garden painting Gnome with my brand new acrylic paintset... I'd bought a set of acrylics just a few days before to give it a try by comparison with oil, but I hadn't predicted that Gnoming would be the paints' first outing. It was fun trying out techniques I'd just read about for painting in acrylic: quite different from the oil that I'm used to. It's almost like an oil-watercolour cross but emphasising layers and glazes rather than the blending. I have always tried (but failed) to use laying effectively in my oils, and it's been an ambition to master that skill. With acrylic I find layering comes much more naturally, presumably because the paint is dry as soon as I'm ready. With oil, I'm always ready before the paint, so blending is the only way to go and I tend to overwork the paint. Acrylic gives me the choice without the wait (in fact it encourages layering over blending as the drying time is so quick I'd have to make a real effort to slow it down (or speed my painting up) to blend colours on the board before they set. I'll try acrylic on a picture, as well as a Gnome, before I reach any conclusions, though! 

I think this could be a great new hobby: painting Gnomes. I could set up a business. I wonder if there is much call for custom Gnome-painting around here.

Garden Photos
Snapped this nice close-up of one of the critters that live in our Garden. Not well up on Frogs/Toads... which is this? I call him Frog. He has a friend (also called Frog) who lives with him in a small tub of water in my nascent garden railway border. They seem to have formed an expeditionary outpost from the larger pond in the front garden. Click the photo to see the larger version. I'll put a few more of this type on my "Photo's" pages.
The Garden Railway
The Garden 00-guage railway (toy train set) has been put together now and makes a nice addition to our pocket handkerchief back garden... photos will follow soon! 

Formby day out!
Debbie and I had a day out to Formby. We had a flask of coffee on the blasted sands and then went to see the famous red squirrels in the woods nearby.

Formby Cyrill, the squirrel


Jack and Emily
Jack and Emily came to stay, and we spent a lot of time watching trains (real ones) go up and down the west coast main line, as well as playing chess, doing wordsearches, going to cafes and parks, going to tropical garden world, etc etc!
Colwyn Bay!
We saw summer out with a few trips to the seaside: including Llandudno, Colwyn Bay and Southport. We know how to live it up.

At work I've been busy with the big Blackwells Glaciers book, a new book proposal to OUP, a paper that has been accepted for Journal of Glaciology, a presentation for the International Glaciological Society conference in September, 2 papers about old work in Greenland, preparations for next year's teaching, showing prospective students around the department, being part of the University "Appeals Committee", etc....  I've also been busy playing with my toy train set, doing some gardening, having lots of trips out to local coffee shops / craft centres, etc, a nice day out at East Midlands Airport (!), looking after lots of cats dogs and horses, enjoying the sunshine, sheltering from the showers, ..


Sad news from over the summer is that Lurch the Lurcher went to doggie heaven.



Debbie finally got to visit her ancestral homeland and took a trip to Rome! She has also made contact with her long-lost Italian relatives, which is very exciting!

Debbie at the Colosseum

A Debbie's-eye view over the centre of Rome
Back to work
The end of September sees us back to busy times at work... a new lot of students, lectures, and Debbie in the Library. Roll on Christmas! This year I am a bit better organised in advance of teaching and am managing to do some "other stuff" as well as work. The n-guage model railways are coming on well, and I'm also doing some "for fun" writing.

November 2005
In between work and our usual time-consuming hobbies (the animals, the racing for Debbie, the model railways and computer games for me!) we've made time to do a few different things this month. We went to the theatre to see the Northern Broadsides production of Sheridan's "The School for Scandal" in the round at the New Vic, Newcastle. Very Good!. We also went (amazingly for the first time after all these years living in the area) to Mow Cop Castle and the Old Man of Mow. Fantastic views over the surrounding countryside on a spectacularly clear crisp day! Another first was a visit to a model railway exhibition! We went to Alsager to see the Alsager Railway Association exhibition in the Civic Hall. Very crowded, and fascinating both for the model railways and the social scene!

Christmas 2005
Well, Christmas again... Happy Christmas everyone! As usual, my Christmas card and letter writing has been lamentable, sorry. Christmas always seems to creep up at a very difficult time of year. Debbie and I have been spending a relaxed few days over Christmas doing just domestic things as much as possible, trying to relax a bit after our usual busy autumn. I'm deliberately ignoring for a couple of days all the work that I should be worrying about! 

It's a Happy Christmas for us in that the family members who have been receiving radio and chemo therapy during the autumn are doing well, so here's hoping that 2006 sees full and complete recoveries all round.

Captain Oates celebrates Christmas
In case I don't write again before 2006, Happy New Year! 

Here's a nice end-of-year photo that I took in Keele over Christmas.

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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