Really cold

The weather station in my garden recorded a low temperature of -6.6deg last night – that is really cold! The Calverton weather page says that’s the lowest in seven years – although last year ran it close.

So cold that in the middle of the night there were strange noises that woke us up. We think they were the conservatory shrinking in the cold. The frost on the roof didn’t melt at all during the day (which is possibly an indication of how much our new conservatory is not actually a suntrap at all). Bedroom thermometer said the bedroom got down to 15 degrees, which given that it’s been remarkably constant at 19deg is quite a drop.

But not as cold as in my parents’ town in Herefordshire – their garden thermometer recorded a night-time low of -8.5.

The last week has shown cold, but sunny days, and the solar panel performance has been impressive. Until very recently I have worried a bit that solar won’t do enough over the summer. But these last few days, even though outside hasn’t got much over 10 degrees, the panel has consistently got above 30 degrees, which makes a good difference to the base temperature of our cylinder before the gas boiler kicks in in the evenings.

Observation shows that it takes the gas boiler a good two hours to heat the hot water cylinder enough over 60 degrees for me to have my planet-killing luxurious long hot shower in the morning. So I know that for the panel to completely replace the gas heating, the panel needs to get up to 80 degrees for at least two hours. That’s looking distinctly more possible over the summer if we can get over 30 degrees on sunny, cold wintry days.

Exciting new internet thingy

Sandy - your free personal email assistantFor the last few days I have been playing with a new productivity tool that excites me almost as much as Wildfire used to. Sandy is a sort of PA who you can talk to via email and Twitter in almost-human language. She takes notes, makes appointments, builds to-do lists and keeps track of your diary. She sends a note every day (irritatingly formatted in Comic Sans) and special reminders for individual things if you ask her to. Because you can talk to her by twitter, you can send her a message whenever you need to by text. The thing looks like it works quite well. You can even use it to work with other people. It’s not finished, and the developer team are still adding features. I think what I like best is the idea of having Samantha from Bewitched helping me remember what I’m supposed to be doing.

LGBT history month

A link on the City Council’s intranet site reminds me that it is LGBT History Month, and points out some useful information about what’s happening in Nottingham.

The Rainbow Flag will be flying from the Council House from tomorrow until the 18th Feb (must remember to bring camera in with me to committee).

There are exhibitions – one in Waterstones from 12 – 17 Feb and one in the Angel Row library from 18 – 29 Feb.

But much more interestingly, there was a link to a website I previously hadn’t found, which says that a Nottingham LGBT history group has been awarded over £40,000 to do some research and create an archive about gay history here in the city.  To that end, there are some fascinating pages on their site for every decade since 1967. Lots of interesting information about historical venues in the city, the wider campaign for gay rights, and some nasty spats with the City and County Councils.  The link to the pages is from the “themes” page.

Cheery news from my optician

Today I had my two-year optician check-up, and my eyes are still getting a little worse every year. Today’s optician was chattier than many and explained a bit more what was going on. After a lifetime of “better one or two” I do have some clue what the various bits of the test are for, but much is still a mystery. I also did an eye project back when I still did science, and my kindly local ophthalmologist took me through eye anatomy.

Today’s interesting info is that short-sightedness is caused by a stretched eyeball. There are ramifications for those of us who are very short-sighted – because the eyeball is already a little deformed, it’s less distance to travel for a detached retina. I was warned that if I ever have bright flashing lights before my eyes, or a curtain effect screening off portions of vision, I should make a visit to eye-casualty or an optician a priority. And apparently short-sighted people shouldn’t bunjee-jump.

Two weeks and many hundreds of pounds later, I will have two nice new pairs of glasses. The lovely new pair I got two years ago were not as long-lived as they need to be. The combination of thin wire frames and thick lenses meant the frames broke three times in two years and had to be posted off to a warehouse for resoldering.

And my prescription? Deteriorating very slowly – half a dioptre change in two years in both eyes taking me now to -8.5 and -8.75. Last time was the first time I had been over 8, a change I noticed because it took much longer to have frames made, and many internet specs shops no longer cater for that strength prescription. This time I noticed the difference because the optician added up the score and told me I only just failed to qualify for a free eye test next time. And apparently if my sight worsens further, the NHS will start to contribute towards the costs of specs. A whole £12 towards a £300 pair of specs. Mustn’t grumble.

Today’s dilemma

Last September at Lib Dem Autumn conference, we were advised to book ahead for Spring conference in Liverpool. The conference, the first weekend in March, clashes with a home game, so most of the hotel rooms were booked up long in advance. There was a handy booking service at Brighton to get us into rooms in Liverpool, and they really bigged up a hotel called the Britannia Adelphi. They showed us lovely looking pictures of a luxury hotel with swanky rooms, a health club, nice restaurants, right next to the railway station. “Recently refurbished” they say.

On-the-ball friends have in the last few days noticed there are some truly disastrous reviews on the internet. Tripadvisor is particular damning, over hundreds of reviews: filthy rooms, dirty curtains, “animals in the toilets”, stains, grease, stag-nights, terrible customer service and indifferent staff. Other websites sort of confirm the pattern. Asking around on Facebook and Thingbox has not found a positive view of the place.

Checking my email from the booking service, if I don’t cancel my reservation before Thursday I’m liable for the cost of the first of two nights – over a 100 quid.

So, do I believe the internet or do I believe the travel advisor? Do I take the risk of an unsanitory room or risk not being able to find another hotel?

*Edit*thanks for the comments, here and on Facebook.  We bottled it today and booked the Radisson instead.