Sunday, 10 January 2010

Snowy Pictures from East to West

Not often we see Britain looking like this, is it? From Nasa's Terra satellite on Thursday.

I've just got back to Wales from London. She is an Astronomer had a meeting on Wednesday, about our website and an upcoming conference in April - of which, I hope, there will be a lot more news soon! The meeting took place at the RAS, a truly lovely building with even lovelier receptionists who find milk and biscuits and take great care of visitors. It was the first time I wasn't hurrying through to a lecture, so I got a good look around. There's a little room on the ground floor just being the reception, where there's a big complicated coffee machine, a million leaflets, comfy chairs, and cushions whose stripes distinctly resemble Jupiter. More intriguingly, there are two little brass instruments with a plaque which explains that they were donated and their purpose isn't 100% clear, but they may have been used in navigation. Upstairs is the conference room, whose walls are books upon books upon books! Helen and I both arrived very early, not being sure what the trains would be up to, she in the most amazing welly boots. The ground was already alternately white and slippery, but the skies opened once more while the meeting progressed. This was the courtyard afterwards:

That evening I also chanced to walk past University College London, whose courtyard also looked pretty cool - in both senses of the word!

(Taken from my phone, whose lens I believe was rather wet. The snowflakes were actually coming down then, but sadly it didn't pick them up. If only I hadn't lost my digital camera the summer before last.)

The day after this, Thursday, I spent on the train between London and west Wales. And had far too much fun snapping more pictures out of the window. The quality, especially of the foreground and where there are reflections on the window, is not great - but I was pleasantly surprised by some of them. Windows reflected, tracks covered . . .

Near Reading, if I remember right:

Didcot Power Station:

As much as engineering works on railway lines are a pain in the neck, I had to feel sorry for this brave guy:

Getting near Bristol now . . .

. . . where I did my best to zoom in on one of the bridges over the Severn.

I wish our train could have gone over a bridge. Not only are bridges and the view below them beautiful, but a freight train broke down in the tunnel ahead of us and kept us sitting around for an hour. The nice train people offered us all complimentary coffee, but not cappuccino.

Near Ferryside, south Wales, is a beautiful estuary - one day I must get off the train there and take some more pictures. Sometimes the tide is in, when it's as if the train floats along the edge of the sea; other times it's out and there is this vast expanse of flatness and windy space. By now, sadly, the light was dimming and very few photographs showed anything - but I hope that even the fuzziness that follows can capture something of that finger-numbing wet openness, so silent yet so full of life:

And to be fair, I also found the sunset rather mesmerizing:

Snowy fields on the other side of the estuary, with the last camera-friendly light:

I was held up by a total of two and a half hours that day - none of the delays, incidentally, were a result of the snow at all. I walked part of the way home - steep hills, stuck cars and slippery roads didn't make picking me up from the station any easy task. Happily, it was an exceptionally clear night and Orion was just rising in front of me. My feet crunched deliciously through the snow, deepest and best for walking right in the middle of our quiet, unlit single-lane road home. Even the Milky Way was faintly visible, more a ghostly-speckled presence than a glittering reality, yet just as gorgeous - running across the sky in exactly the direction I was walking. I'm so glad I hang about with astronomers most of the time. What if I had just huddled beneath my woolly hat, resented the cold and darkness, and forgotten to look up to the Universe?


John Gompers said...

There's some pretty cool photos sweetheart :-)

weezerd said...

A sweet, melancholy tale accompanied by some wonderful views of a world in waiting....

Sakib said...

Enchantingly magical tale, the snow did make everything look so pretty! It was a great end to the day seeing Orion and even the Milky Way in the night sky. I cannot see a single star thanks to the wonderful light pollution found nearly everywhere! The photos are really cool, the second one looks like a watercolour painting!