Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Winter Wanderings and Hot Coffee

After a few weekends (and evenings) of DIY and hiding away from the elements  I'd promised myself that this weekend I would head for the hills and attempt to find snow. Turns out I found a little bit more than I was expecting with the walk ending up as one of my more interesting Peak District experiences. Apologies now to my companion who'd I'd flippantly invited for a walk in the snow and who I think suffered a lot more than me in the conditions.

Part of my determination to get out was that last month I was given the chance to test out a Sigg Hot & Cold flask. Sigg knew the filter worked with tea but wanted a few willing volunteers to test it with coffee - and I was one of them. Along with the 50cl flask I was also given a selection of Grizzly's Adventure blend coffees to try out with it and after a week of test runs in the comfort of my office I'd decided I really should put it to the test alfresco.

Now I should make a few provisos. I like my coffee hot and strong. Like stand your spoon up in it strong. And I'll very rarely finish a cup at work because even with my thermos mug I find the end is too cold for me. And by too cold I mean probably the normal temperature most people drink their coffee at.  Sigg says that the Hot & Cold keeps drinks hot for 12 hours and  I'm definitely going to test that.

My planned route on Sunday was the Castleton circular, starting from the Mam Tor carpark, through Winnet's Pass, along the river to Hope and then up to Loose Hill and the ridge past Hollin's Cross to the Mam Tor summit. Having cut my outdoor teeth in Edale and the Peaks I knew this area well and was fairly confident that I could manage anything the weather threw at me.  I also knew snow was forecast and thought it'd be a perfect opportunity to try out my gear bought for a forthcoming trip to Scotland. Nice walk in the snow I thought, maybe a bit of crampon action, a few snaps of me drinking coffee on the ridge with Kinder in the background and then down to the carpark in time for a Sunday roast. Well it didn't exactly turn out like that.

Most of the walk was uneventful, if a little bit muddy in the valley. I was keeping a close eye on the light after a late start and knew we couldn't hang around too much. We stopped briefly on the way up Loose Hill to chat with a lone walker who warned us that the Mam Tor summit was a bit blowly and to check we knew the route. Even at this point I wasn't particularly worried. How bad could a route regularly done with kids actually be? Well it turns out pretty damn bad.

After the slog up to Loose Hill we turned into the wind and at that point visibility dropped from poor to almost nothing. I certainly hadn't been expecting white out conditions but that's exactly what we got. It was only the fact that the path is so well sign posted, and at times sheltered by the wall ridge, that stopped me suggesting we turn around. I certainly would have gone back if I hadn't walked the route before.

With that white out went all plans of stopping for a coffee and even after the clouds blew past us I was worried enough about the light that we pressed on. We did get treated to some spectacular views of Kinder and the Hope Valley in between the sideways hail but mainly it was a head down, follow the fence line, slog.  Our summit was accompanied by winds strong enough to knock you off your feet and a frozen ground with very little purchase. Definitely not a day for the paragliders that so often use Mam Tor as a launching point!

So by the time I actually got to drink my coffee it had been sat in the flask for 7 hours and I was safely back in my car. It was still boiling hot and served as a nice warmer upper while I was trying to get the ice out of my bobble hat. Pity I then had to get back out into the elements to push my friend's car off the carpark - thanks to the lovely bloke who also came and helped!

So, the flask and coffee itself so far.

My work based testing had been done with my existing coffee. This is a fairly fine ground espresso coffee and although it made a good strong brew the fine ground did cause problems with the filter - seeping through and escaping into the main body of the flask. In the main it sank to the bottom so not an issue at work but problematic if you are lugging the flask around. In fact by the end of the Mam Tor walk there was hardly any coffee left in the filter at all. So I'd suggest getting a courser ground. I'm having no problems with the Grizzly Coffee (which arrived yesterday) and am very much enjoying the Black Bear. My only complaint is that the brew isn't as strong as I'd like so I'm going to have to experiment to see how best to achieve something more robust. 

The flask itself hasn't leaked and the filter is surprisingly easy to clean. I'm looking forward to next week when I'll be in the Scottish moutains and will have the opportunity to try out some of the other Adventure blends. I suspect my flask and I would be very popular with my friends - if it wasn't for the fact I take my coffee black and with two sugars, making it undrinkable to most people!

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Telephone Stand Repurposed

A while ago I bought a telephone stand from eBay. It was from a trader who I've  used several times before and who seem to specialise in house clearances of varying quality. It was the legs that attracted me to the piece originally and I managed to pick it up for twenty pounds (including delivery) 

It quickly became apparent that it was actually homemade but despite this I loved the mid century style of it.  I'd originally thought I'd sand it back and paint part of it, leaving some of the natural wood showing through. However it quickly became apparent that the wood wasn't of sufficient quality and that no amount of sanding would get rid of the reddish colour of the pine. So, time for a rethink. 

I removed the legs and the pad, discarding the latter. The legs got sanded back and waxed. 

After removing the upper tier I painted both parts in white furniture paint. It took three layers until the reddish stain stopped showing through. I then left it a few days for the paint to fully cure. 

The pattern was created with masking tape, well stuck down to prevent seepage. I used a chalky blue paint and originally had the grey section green before I changed my mind. It needed two coats and I let both coats thoroughly dry before peeling back the tape. 

The intention is to use it as a plant stand in what will be the front room of my new place. It will be a burst of colour in what hopefully will be a relatively calm room. 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

A Path Less Travelled

On Wednesday I was up early and determined to make the most of the relatively fine weather. After a three hour drive I arrived at the National Trust carpark below Scafell Pike determined to get myself up. I was unsure how my  knees would cope but  fairly confident that I was fit enough to manage the hike despite the short daylight hours.  My route up was not unusual but I definitely came down by a way less travelled.
Looking back down Lingmell Gill

My walk started at the top of Wastwater and headed up the well defined path through Lingmell Gill. At the first of the cairns I headed right under Lord's Rake and had a hard and steep scramble up to Mickledore. By this point the clouds had descended and visibility was just a few metres. At the top of Mickledore I have to admit I missed the path and spent some time working my way over a boulder field, keeping myself on track through the simple process of heading up hill. Eventually the summit appeared through the gloom and I took a moment to take a quick snap. 

My original intention was to return down the corridor route but the path was nigh on impossible to spot. Taking a bearing from my approach I set off in roughly the right direction hoping to come across the path. Unfortunately I went a bit astray and had an interesting descent down a vague scree covered route which had me on my arse a couple of times. I ended up at the top of Piers Gill and was treated to the sight of the waterfall that drops down into the gully. I opted to follow the path along the top of the gully and at times found myself down climbing the steeper parts. The effort was worth it though as the  clouds parted and revealed the evening light on Styhead Tarn across the valley. I couldn't help but think the route through the gully would have made for an amazing gorge walk in better weather. 

By this point I was getting concerned about the light and I quick marched down to Lingmell Beck and followed the valley floor down through Wasdale head.  I was treated to some spectacular views across the valley and I couldn't help but be a bit envious of the group heading in the opposite direction with overnight gear. Definitely an adventure for another time. 

In all I was out about 5/6 hours and can't imagine I covered more that 8 or 9 km. The good news is that my knees seemed to have survived  and I wasn't too  stiff the following day. I definitely had to take things slow but it was a lovely day only over shadowed by the visibility on the top. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Old and New

I'm on the verge of embarking on another adventure and finally moving back north to be nearer friends and family. While this is absolutely the right decision for me there is a part of me that feels a moment of regret. After spending so much time creating my home it would have been nice to spend a bit more time here before moving on. 

It's easy to forget just how I've transformed this place and so I wanted to record it while I can. So here is the old and new, before it becomes someone else's new.

My two bed roomed maisonette hadn't been lived in for a couple of years and had previously been occupied by an elderly gentleman. I doubt it had been decorated since the 70's and was probably worse than a blank canvas. There was no functioning heating system and as a result I had no hot water for the first few months I lived here. A new bathroom and gas central heating were the first job and this, along with some electrical work and plastering were the only jobs I paid professionals for. The rest I did myself, renovating furniture and the original kitchen to create something unique. 

Starting with the second bedroom, most of the furnishings in this room I already owned and as it was to double as my craft/study room I only put a day bed in rather than a double. Like the living room it has double doors leading onto a balcony so I frosted this using stencils and removable glass spray to give me a bit more privacy.

One of the new items in this room was the chair, an ebay bargain I'd recovered with John Lewis fabric before I moved in. Amazing what you can do with some new fabric!

 The other 3 chairs went with an ebay dining table I'd covered with some Orla Kiely wallpaper. I'd spent some time hunting for a folding table that would suit my style and the one I found was perfect after I'd sanded the legs and hidden the damaged formica top. While I love the classic stem print from Orla Kiely I was careful to mix it up to prevent the room becoming too much like a catalogue show room.  The same print is repeated on the stencilled and decoupaged sideboard and as a lining to the bookcases but I've also vintage fabric on the cushions and the John Lewis chair fabric.

 As you can see I found I had an original fireplace once I ripped back the plywood cover, something that was a lovely surprise on my first day in the flat. The carpets quickly followed the plywood and for much of my occupancy I had painted floors. For this purpose I used bog standard garage floor paint which did well for the period before I got carpets. In fact the carpets only went down a week before I put it on the market, far from ideal!

Other things of note in the living are my lovely lampshades, created from flat pack Ikea shades and bird on a line wall stickers, and my one pound coffee table picked up from a New Forest vintage shop that was closing down.  Only the sofa and bookcases were bought new and everything else was second hand or wombled.

Leading off the living room and I think it is this space that has been really transformed. Sadly those amazing 'tiles'  were just stick on vinyl and everything had to be ripped out. Most of the plaster came with it and the space had to be totally replastered before the boiler could go in. I did manage to keep most of the units although the ones that came out to make space for a fridge freezer and washing machine proved so stubborn a sledge hammer was needed.

The real labour of love in the kitchen is the worktops and splashback. Made from recycled scaffold boards they've been sanded, filled, varnished and waxed. I love them and so wish I could take them with me. I did these and the tiling myself and love the result. Sleek fitted kitchen it isn't but it suits me and is a great space to work in. 

Finally is my bedroom, a space that is purposely quiet and muted. No TV and no bright colours and lots of storage for not just my clothes but also outdoor kit. One of my favourite items in this room is the rag rug I made from the original curtains. It'll mean I can take a bit of the house with me when I leave and have a reminder of what I created.

After being adamant I wasn't going to take on a project my next house is indeed a project with damp proofing work needed before I even start thinking about decorating. I've a learnt a lot of skills though and am confident I can tackle most things going forward. Here's to the next challenge!

Monday, 1 May 2017

White and Yellow

I've struggled this month to get anything like a photo a day. No real excuse except for work crap and general business. Happy to be moving into May with green, but here are my white and yellow offerings. 

Friday, 31 March 2017

A Return to the Lanes

Almost exactly three years ago I visited Melbourne for the first time. I'm back now to see my six week old nephew but I'm also having a well deserved break. 

I took the time today to revisit Melbourne's famous Lanes where graffiti is legalised and transcends the tags and vandalism seen elsewhere in the world. This is street art covering whole alley ways with layer upon layer of additions overlapping and interconnecting. 

Amidst the large scale work there were some smaller gems to be found, pulling from current affairs and containing their own messages despite the lack of context. As would be expected of street artists the trend was anti establishment and anti cataplism but it's the dark humour that I find most appealing

Monday, 20 March 2017

UX Readings - Libraries and beyond

After a recent plea forrecent articles of library UX I realised I probably had a list of fairly recent ones that would be of interest to others, although with hindsight many are about space and aren't necessarily true UX.

Bear in mind that some of these are pay walled and I accessed them through our University subscriptions, so availability may depend on whether you belong to an institution with access. 

My main focus when searching for these articles was to explore something I've started calling social independent learning - a phenomenon  which we see with our own UX work at  Southampton and which it turns out is recognised elsewhere under different guises.

Planning library spaces and services for Millennials: an evidence-based approach

EunYoung Yoo-Lee, Tae Heon Lee, LaTesha Velez, (2013),"Planning library spaces and services for Millennials: an evidence-based approach", Library Management, Vol. 34 Iss 6/7 pp. 498 - 511

A Really Nice Spot”: Evaluating Place, Space, and Technology in Academic Libraries

  Michael J. Khoo, Lily Rozaklis, Catherine Hall and Diana Kusunoki, (2016)

 "A Really Nice Spot”: Evaluating Place, Space, and Technology in Academic Libraries" , College & Research Libraries, vol. 77 no. 1 51-70.

User experience (UX) in libraries: let’s get physical (and digital)

 Appleton, L., (2016). User experience (UX) in libraries: let’s get physical (and digital). Insights. 29(3), pp.224–227.

 Collecting Space Use Data to Improve the UX of Library Space 

Gullikson. Shelley, Meyer, Kristin, (2016)  "Collecting Space Use Data to Improve the UX of Library Space" Weave: Jopurnal of User Experience, vol 1 Iss 5.

Those of yopu who are interested  may also like to follow up on the recent Northern Collaboration User UX Exchange - I believe many of the slides will be made available online and it was tweeted under # Or have a have a look at this blog post from York.