National Flash Fiction Day 2013 (by )

Sadly I am not performing this year and nor do I appear to have gotten anything into story collections so a bit of a let down on last year (boo hiss) but my friend Dan Holloway is performing in Bristol tonight and I have decided to do another day giver way of my Dooms Day Collection like I did in December. Just for today June 22nd!

So just click on the book below and you get a PDF 🙂 It's a collection of flash fiction, short stories, a novelette and poems with the theme of worlds ending or changing - enjoy p.s. it is not for kids this one - too scary in places!

The Doomsday Collection

Mummy? Bath on your own? Hahahahaha (by )

So I made the mistake of trying to have a bath whilst the kids were awake.

Baby Bath

Mary who up until two baths ago was screaming the house down at the mear mention of the word, took all her cloths off and neatly removed her nappy and attempted to hoist herself over the side. We don't put bubble bath in her ones due to her exma but it looks like she loves them. She had the normal screaming fit but this time when she was taken out of the bath!

Jean wanted to get in as well :/ and spent ages stealing my bubbles and making excuses as to why she needed to be in the bathroom.

And then the kitten! Who once the baby was safely in bed came climbed onto me in the bath! She also spent a while by the taps fishing for my feet :/

In the Woods (by )

A Gate!

We went into the woods with cubs to talk about climate change and so that they could get muddy in the stream 🙂

I found the sunshine mummy!

Mary adored the adventure running around trying to get over gates and finding dappled sunshine on the forest floor - of course she also tried to go into someones house when we came upon it!

Moss covered wooden tree pig?

This is not a brilliant pic but - I found a moss pig! It was on what is known as The Winni the Pooh tree and I just really think this bit looks like a pig (piglet?).

Jean in the mud :/

And of course the muddiest of all the children was Jean who had decided to go out in crocks and pale yellow trousers instead of wellies and water proofs like she was supposed to!

I only just managed the walk but it was completely without stick and did involve chasing a certain toddler for about an hour!

Roof repairs (by )

For some time, I have been spending much of my free time trying to make my workshop more habitable.

Back in April last year, I started putting up shelves and putting things away; when we moved in, I had been able to set the furniture up and put things away on them, but without shelves up, much remained in boxes on the floor.

I've since made another shelf and installed that, meaning that everything is finally put away to my satisfaction, but most of my effort has been going into fixing the leaking, draughty, and ivy-penetrated roof. This has involved two parallel jobs: sealing the eaves - now all done, and air vents installed for controlled air flow to avoid condensation - and repairing the leaking roof itself.

I started the latter by building a wall-mounted ladder, to make it practical to actually get up on the roof to work on it. This was four days of work (1 2 3 4). With that in place, I've been able to nip up onto the roof and - more importantly - get down again easily. This is no mean feat, as I'm not at all happy about heights; and the plastic sheet that had been stapled to the roof by the previous folks in an attempt to fix the leaks was quite slippery when wet. Being on a slippery surface sloping down to a drop of several meters suddenly made me remember a series of recurring childhood nightmares I had about having to escape terrible peril by climbing up steep, slippery, slopes, which wasn't much fun...

The intolerably wet weather of last summer (and this one is starting off little better) had caused lots of damage in the workshop. Water came in through the roof by the pint; I tried to position buckets underneath the places where it dripped, but on several occasions these overflowed and I had to move furniture to mop up the huge resulting puddles. Where water had splashed its way onto tools and furniture and supplies, there was rusting and water stains, that I have done my best to clear up; and the high humidity in the building from all the pools of standing water led to fungus problems.

Clearly, something had to be done. The problem was that most flat roofing processes seemed to require a period of dry weather to execute them, and generally required that the wooden deck underneath the roof surface was dry to begin with. With gaps in the rain being unpredictable and short, this didn't seem to be an option for my roof, so I used the ladder to keep performing temporary repairs to the plastic sheet (with little success), and nailing it back down whenever the wind caught it and tore it up at one end or the other.

However, I recently found out about a roof repair material by the name of Acrypol+, which advertises as a feature that it can be applied to damp surfaces; it's able to adhere and cure in a wet environment, being a thick oily liquid when applied. Basically, it's a form of thick acrylic paint, with fine fibres mixed into it that provide structural integrity to the coating once it has dried. It's not recommended to apply it to wood, but my roof is still covered by the (cracked, single layer of) felt underneath the plastic sheeting, so it would be fine to pull the plastic sheet off and apply Acrypol+ to the felt. In effect, the felt would just become the backing for a new sheet of waterproof material covering my roof.

One end of the plastic sheet was easily pulled up, so I applied the first can of Acrypol+:

One can of Acrypol+ applied

You can see the exposed felt towards the bottom; it's in pretty poor shape, and has many small tears and holes in it. Also, the rate at which bits fall out of the trees is quite something.

From a little further away (and in more typical weather), you can see that in comparison to the rest of the roof:

The roof after one tin applied

I couldn't get all that junk (particularly the large yellow bag, which is full of trimmings from the trees above) down single-handedly, so I had to wait for a friend to come and visit. Andy is a confident rock climber so is much less worried about heights than I am, so was able to be a lot bolder! Together, we made short work of removing all the weights and junk on the roof, and removing the plastic sheeting.

Underneath, I could finally see that various routes by which water had been getting into the workshop. There were a few places where the gaps between the boards comprising the roof coincided with tears in the felt; water made its way under the plastic sheet through rips in it, or through the join where the two halves of the plastic sheet met in the middle (which was not sealed at all, just slightly overlapped and stapled down), and then run along to these places and dripped through. We nailed spare bits of felt over all the major tears, then set about painting the entire roof with Acrypol+. Before long it was done, shining brilliantly in the sun:

The roof, all covered in Acrypol+

There's still a gap at the far right (look near to where the TV antenna is mounted); the edge of the roof has a sizeable gap between it and the upright board that forms the rim around the roof (which is called a "soffit board" if you want to get technical). I couldn't get the Acrypol+ to bridge across this yawning chasm, so I waited several days to let it cure enough to walk on, then went and squirted a load of roof-repair sealant along the gap.

When I get a chance, I'll paint Acrypol+ across that sealant (it's not a perfect seal, as I found when it rained a few days later, and some water still oozed down through that route). I will also paint more along the seams between the overlapping sheets of felt and around the felt patches we added, as they are the most likely points of failure; thermal expansion or other movements on the roof may cause the sheets to try and pull apart, so they could do with reinforcement.

Acrypol+ is sold as a repair system for leaking flat roofs, rather than as a coating for new ones; that, and the fact that it's a lot cheaper than a whole new roof, tells me that this is to be considered a temporary repair rather than a whole new roof. But if it works for a few years, it will give me time to save up for a proper re-surfacing with something like Sealoflex 10, and will hopefully mean that the wooden deck beneath is nice and dry!

With that out of the way, there's a few more things I want to do to the workshop itself - but they can wait; with the water kept out, there's fun projects to work on. First of all will be resurrecting my furnace, and getting some aluminium melting again!

Mars Curiosity and *the* Space Book for Kids (by )

I spent last week working at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival and as part of it I got to go and see a few of the talks which was brilliant. The first one I selected was Mars Curiosity as I spotted it had my old personal tutor Sanjeev Gupta in it. I also got a ticket for Jeany even though at 7 I thought she might be a bit young but she would never have forgiven me if I had gone to see such a talk with out her!

Jean in her Question everything tee

Sanjeev taught one of my favourite subjects at uni Earth Surface Processes so I was very excited to see how Mars research was going especially after seeing the prototype with Jeany earlier in the week. He looked basically the same but has grey hair! He still moves around far too much for a decent photo but that is what energises his talks (of course he didn't recognise me when I said hello - boo hiss but it has been ten years).

Sanjeev Gupta talking Martian landscapes at the Cheltenham Science Festival

The other talker was Lewis Dartnell who was very engaging and handled the childrens' questions brilliantly at the end including the sad, 'When is it coming home?' Jean has been going on about forever vacations on Mars ever since!

Lewis Dartnell talking Mars rovers at the Cheltenham Science Festival

Jean did get a bit confused about the fact the robot is ingesting Mars and yet needed batteries! I explained in whispers that it was eating the rock to see what it was made off and not as food. I was impressed she knew what ingesting ment to be honest. They went through the grissly details of man missions and radiation sickness and stuff Jean is still determined to go to Mars if she can or failing that she asked me if she could build a robot to go and then worked out that the 2030 mission would be a good one for her (she'll be 24).

After the talk I had to head over for a meeting but took Jean to Alaric and Mum and Dad to get the book she wanted signed. My meeting ended really quickly and just as well as I received a phone call from Al saying they couldn't find the book! I asked and was told it had sold out but then I saw a copy on the signing table and ended up talking to a lady who turned out to be the authors wife! It was the last copy!

Jean getting her book signed by Lewis Dartnell

Jean went and got it signed and I felt an ache of sadness for my impact lithologies and endolithic organisms and a moment of doubt about science communication instead of trying to go back but I missed that boat a long time ago. Jean was instantly obsessed by the book and Alaric and Lewis had a conversation involving lots of hands about space ship design. We had to drag the still reading Jean away from the table so that he could go home!

Alaric and Lewis Dartnell excitedly talking spaceship design at the Cheltenham Science Festival

Jean has had her noise in the book ever since, it is a good childrens' book, informative, fun and easy to read but also it is gamified - the kids get to choose where they go on a stella holiday - Jean has always loved books like You Choose so this is right up her street. The illustrations are lovely and colourful, some simple and some intricate giving it a wide appeal to kids as it has different levels you can appreciate it on. It is one of the best I have seen recently and Jean took it into show and tell at school this week along with her cave man stickers and her t-shirt saying Question Everything. She proudly showed the other kids that it was signed with her name in as well 🙂

Jeany was very excited that they had mentioned Liecester as we had spent the previous week going around the space centre there etc... with my friend Becca 🙂 (still need to process the photos and blog about all of that!)

Here is me and Jeany in our festival t-shirts - I'm hiding it at the end as it isn't that flattering of me! hee hee!

Mummy and Jean at the Cheltenham Science Festival in our t-shirts

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