Monday, 29 November 2010

Lightning strikes, alien abduction and lashings and lashings of estuarine mud

Star Ascidian Botryllus schlosseri on seaweed,
Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall

Oops, my little blog - I’ve been neglecting you!

Now, what to write? Hmm (scratches chin wistfully)…

OK, well it seems appropriate to begin by focussing on the weather. It’s cold. It’s very cold. It’s very, very cold. There is snow. However, whilst the bulk of Cornwall woke up to a blanket of the stuff, our village is only just receiving its first flurry of the day. Mind you, we had our fair share of weird weather over the weekend.

Friday, whilst travelling home from an evening event at a village school in the wilds of West Penwith, we were faced first with heavily-falling snow and then with slippery, unlit roadways. Once home, whilst there was evidence of some snowfall, the breathtaking bitterness of the cold air was more noteworthy, and getting indoors and under the duvet was a matter of utmost priority.
All was well for a couple of hours but it soon became clear that I was in for a dose of the chills, and sure enough, my knees and fingers had turned purple. So, a late-night hot shower it was for me, then. After hastily stripping off, I jumped under the shower, and with teeth a-chattering and knees a-knocking, I waited for the shivering to subside. Meanwhile, the outside world was being pounded by giant h ail stones, and everything was rapidly turning white. After about ten minutes, I was finally beginning to once more feel vaguely human but was not yet ready to extricate from the warm, comforting water. Then, it happened. The lights went out and I was plunged into darkness. Seconds later, out of nowhere, the cottage and my ear-drums shook to the sound of an almighty clap of thunder, and I found myself standing under a freezing cold shower, not able to see a thing and laughing hysterically at my own misfortune!
After realising that the lights (or hot water) weren’t going to return to their former status, I had no choice but to fumble for the shower’s off-switch, clamber out of the bath and grope for a towel, before joining my Lovely OH in his blind quest for candles, matches and a torch. A quick peek out of the window revealed several other candle-lit, confused faces all doing much the same but we remained none the wiser, and could only presume that the brief storm was in some way responsible for our lack of electricity. In fact, I later found out that the church tower was struck by lightning, and that the sound was heard for miles around, which is all rather exciting!
Soon afterwards, the street light soon came back on, providing some welcome illumination; however, all that would work indoors were our plugged-in lights, which emitted only a strange, dim, orange glow - no other power seemed to be getting anywhere, although a plugged-in laptop insisted on bleeping away as it fluctuated rapidly between battery and mains power. So, after turning everything off, we took ourselves off to bed, in the hope that things would look brighter in the morning.

Then, a couple of hours later it happened. My Lovely OH was awoken by a loud, unstoppable buzzing coming from the fusebox, which went on for about half an hour and didn’t stop even when the mains switch was turned off. After donning some clothes and boots, a foray into the outside world proved fruitless (although the buzzing could still be heard outside of the house, and it was at this point that alien abduction was anticipated). After initially stopping, the buzzing resumed a few hours later, and soon after, normal electricity supply was reassuringly restored. Other than some unresolved former issues, all now appears well, and there are no obvious signs of alien interference…

So, that’s the weather dealt with, other than once more emphasising that it’s rather cold here (but probably not as cold as most other parts of the country)!
Life in Weirdo La-La Land has been pretty much as normal with nothing exceptional to write home about, or rather, nothing that I really feel like writing home about. Rather annoyingly, I missed the deadline for my DLA (Disabled Living Allowance) appeal; however, I’m trying not to dwell on this, especially as given the state of the UK’s economy combined with intended benefit reforms, my chances of actually ever being granted it are very, very slim.
On a more positive note, I had my DSA (Disabled Student’s Allowance) assessment a couple of weeks ago, and as well as the usual stuff, I had the opportunity to have a special 'colour test', which compares your ability to read comfortably based first on different coloured filters, then via assessment of personal preferences to saturation and the like, after which the results are analysed and a suggestion is made for the ideal lens colour to help appease the dodgy neurons which are overacting to light/colour/contrast and causing all manner of problems from sensitivity (pain) to tiredness/fatigue. To cut a long story short, I'm going to be getting a brand new pair of glasses, complete with groovy turquoise lenses - hoorah!

Meanwhile, I’m finding my ‘other’ life as a PhD researcher most enjoyable. In addition to my own research, I’ve been assisting with undergraduate zoology field trips, which I must say have been very tough-going: mainly involving rummaging in rockpools on the beach, and delving (with gloved hands) into estuarine mud! Mind you, I do also have a big box of marking currently awaiting my attention. 

And on that note - time to skedaddle…

Sea Slater(?) being preyed upon by a Stalked Jellyfish (Stauromedusae),
plus some amphipoda carrying/protecting their young,
Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall

Chameleon Prawns Hippolyte varians,
Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall

Short-spined Sea Scorpion Myoxocephalus scorpius,
Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall

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