Tuesday, 7 February 2012


I knew a woman once whose talent lay
in splitting apples in a special way.
Inserting thumbs between the stalk and flesh,
she’d twist her hands and, making fun of physics and the mesh of atoms that composed the whole, 
the apple would perform a joke and with a crack, would lose control.
And split. 
From front to back.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Latterly, physics.

A Boy. Mull.

When an object moves sideways, horizontal or parallel to the source of gravity, at a constant velocity, the effect of gravity on the object is independent of the object's lateral movement.

So, whilst engaged in a pre decided battle of maths with my nemesis in the main body of the school, cold winter afternoons were spent in far more enjoyable and understandable ways.

Physics was taught in post war Prefab buildings known as the 'Huts'. Concrete and steel bunkers set in wasted playground space, just low enough to be scaled in rubber soled shoes. Just narrow enough to prevent the concealment of a prone schoolboy hiding on the asbestos roof, from the police.

In retrospect, it is tempting to think that the Art, Physics and Music that were taught in the huts were more liberal and humorous sessions due to their physical distance from the great toad squat bulk of the main school. Less likely than internal classrooms to receive visits from the rector or prefects bearing bad news and/or summonses. More close knit and comfortable due to our sense of isolated camaraderie.

On initial inspection these were cold and forbidding places, The Huts. For years, I assumed that the enthusiasm of the teachers who inhabited them was due to their adventurous spirit. I now realise, it was due to the meanness of spirit demonstrated by senior staff that demanded young, newly qualified and enthusiastic teachers start their careers in isolation. Away from central heating and out of earshot as their classes fell into chaos. They seldom did. 
I like to think that the imposition of discomfort backfired on the seniors. As many of them languished in tedium in over heated, musty oak panelled classrooms, we and our near contemporaries in teaching robes were kept sharp and playing together outside. Altogether healthier learning environments.

My weekly boarding home. Kilbowie Hostel.

Keen eyed readers may have already discerned the foundation of my physics lessons was couched in the fascination afforded by Lily Cowan's bust, its movement and the lack of it. It was the sideways movement that fascinated me.

In primary school, my voracious reading had revealed basic facts about the physical universe. Lily's provision of Victorian and Edwardian reading books gave a fabulously diverse view of the world and our influence on our small lunar system. Distances were expressed in Rods Chains and Perches. Weights in Pecks, Bushels and Grains. Friction was demonstrated by the burning wooden axles of Greek slave driven carts tumbling downhill from battles purposely lost and Gravity by Newton sitting waiting under an apple tree. The significance of mass and attraction interested me. I had read of the Galileo falling weight experiment and was not impressed by Newton really. Galileo had gone to the trouble of climbing the Tower of Pisa and dropping weighted spheres. Newton merely sat and waited for the truth to appear from nature. Or so I was told by the editors of these Readers.

Dropping the balls. Pisa.

A Buoy. Mull
For me, Gravity was already something wonderful and mysterious. (enhanced by the bending of a rubber sheet by cricket balls as shown on Open University programmes by doctor this or that, looking for all the world like a member of ZZ Top). I had a sense of it's purveying all our space and spaces. Bending time and light. I understood the nature of Red Shift and the Doppler effect, absorbing these from stories by Clarke and and Asimov, watching the sky and sea become one peach glow as the sun set over our loch, emptying the world of its horizon and unifying all my simple theories.

The day our teacher showed that gravity exerted more effect on dropped mass than lateral travel I realised the germ of my lifelong affection for the little things that make a difference. In Lily's sweep across the classroom floor, no movement north to south could be discerned but expansive sways to left and right bore simple witness to these forces and their effect on momentum. The appearance and disappearance of her pearl and heather brooch beneath her cardigan, a measure of the speed and moment of her carriage.Lily was a walking accellerometer. A Pilotless coastal freighter. Plying the same course, day in day out and teaching all the time. Whether she knew it or not.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The silence of the hens..

After many helpful suggestions from all over the world (Twitter) we called These Lovely People and arranged to collect two near ready Pullets.
We opted for heavy, dimwitted birds and were offered Bovans Goldlines. Assured of plentiful egg production and the runway takeoff qualities of an overladen and under fuelled Sopwith Camel piloted by an inexperienced drunk, we felt confident that this was the breed for us.

Bundling them into a Cat Transit box proved hilarious, feathers and beaks all over the place at first but they soon settled in to the kind of comfort one could expect from a Japanese Pod Hotel. But without the accompanying anxiety about the language barriers and privacy.

We provided the very bare essentials and, reassured by the supplier's advice that they would benefit from a fortnight's confinement we left them to get on with sorting their accommodation out between them.

Hen a and Hen b


The added benefit to having such similar birds, is that the temptation to name them is reduced.  So much harder to eat your friends...  let alone take what falls out of their bottoms and boil for six minutes..

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


Away from the metaphysical and esoteric for a while. This is by way of an illustrated construction manual for the Hen House we bought recently.

The kit comes with a double sided instruction sheet that has patently been printed with the aid of a John Bull Printing set and a potato.

I surveyed the twin box delivery with dread and finding only this tiny plan, my heart sank. I am hoping that future purchasers may find this Diary of the Building of the Wentworth Chicken Coop a useful reassurance as they figure out which way is up.

As stated, the coop comes in two boxes. The larger of these contains the roof section. It is useful to know this as careless opening results in the gravel loosened from the felt roof in transit pouring from the pack and embedding itself in your new carpet.

Hoover. You goon.

The original instructions. Not for you, if you've lost your glasses..

The nest box roof. Also covered in tiny stones. and an aluminium mirror. Or Manure tray. Whichever..

Whoops. Vacuum.

That looks about as substantial as my resolve..

 Having removed all the pieces and spent time deciding that the printed picture is actually back to front, take the lot outside.

The back panel is mostly mesh and has a ventilation section (obscured in this picture). It is easily screwed to the side panel using the screws and helpfully pre-drilled holes provided. Yes. They do locate properly. No, it won't fall apart if you leave it like this and fetch the next panels.

Screw the Nesting box door section to the back frame. It will have to be supported while you collect the front panel. It is easily identified. There are two brackets that serve as a guide for the box door opening key. That's it there. Looking like a sardine can opener.

The front panel comprises a pre fitted door for the collection of eggs as well as a large access door in the centre. Again, the whole fits well together. I had to drill holes in some timber sections. They had been missed by the robots obviously.

The nesting box is built separately and screwed to the main body. There were one or two anxious moments as I realised that the curved separator was designed to slot precisely into place. All continues to locate as it should however.

Nesting box in place.

Note the aluminium chicken poop tray. It sits over a wooden section and slides out easily.

This is the first of a trio of testing fiddly bits. Not designed for people with large hands who have misplaced their glasses.
I experimented with the placement of the roof support and settled on left mounting. Only because I am right handed. It's up to you. The holes will need to be drilled for the micro screws they supply...
Try to remember to put a newspaper underneath while you do this. Or don't do it in long grass. Like me.

Roof on. This is the topping out ceremony.

Et Voila

A similar trial by bracket awaits you as the roof section goes on. I found that balancing the heavy plywood and roofing felt section on my head as I worked to be the best way.

Or, you could ask someone to help. I however, am a man and therefore keen to avoid that sort of thing. 

All in all, a success. The hen house sits straight and level. It is a decent enough weight and feels more substantial than at first sight. It is an easy lift for two when re-siting is needed.

Now to the purchase or theft of Chickens. More to come....