Tuesday, 30 November 2010


You may have seen the headline news over the past couple of days (and especially this morning) that snow has reached England. Last night here we had a dusting of icing sugar, but at least today it resembles what we'd get in the North East - even if only in the first 20 mins of snowfall. Our house in Aberdeen was incredibly well insulated so ironically we're slightly colder here! Consequently we're making good use of the tartan blanket we were given by Fred and Lisa (at my old work) as a leaving present. It also makes the house feel a little more Scottish, which is good :)

I decided to be a big feartie today and walk to work instead of taking the bike. For all my praise of Loughborough's cycle paths, unfortunately they don't get gritted and cycling alongside a load of cars with drivers not used to snow didn't appeal. This did give me the chance to take some pictures though, so for the doubters out there, here is some evidence of the snow in Loughborough this morning...

The view to the south of the university, just round the corner from my building...

The start of a half-mile long queue heading the other way in to town. Surely if the snow makes it harder to stop, everyone should get where they're going faster?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

top 10 things I am looking forward to after the birth...

First, for those that want to see, a picture of my bump...

Sandy was concerned people wouldn't know which bit was the bump so here is helpfully pointing towards the bit of me with the bump!!

However the real point of this post is for me to give you my top 10 things I am looking forward to after the birth of our baby!!

1. Meeting the baby and getting to know it
2. Caffeine! More specifically, diet coke but also tea and coffee in general!
3. Sleeping in any old position I like, most of all on my back :-)
4. Walks in the park with the baby
5. Eating proper meals again, getting to stop the grazing all day habit I have had to develop
6. Taking a deep breath without it being inhibited by the baby being where my diaphragm used to be!
7. Cuddles with the baby, I am very excited for cuddles!
8. Throwing away the many bottles of gaviscon I have had to start leaving in strategic places for myself
9. Fitting into spaces that I used to fit in and no longer do (I have a scratch on my bump from where I thought I could fit between a box and a door - I couldn't!)
10. Settling into a new baby routine!

Friday, 26 November 2010


Picture the scene. I'm sitting on a bus full of students, we've just passed through Loughborough College on the way to the university. The roads are quite busy and there's a bit of a jam as we leave the college, going round a tight corner. At this point, a bus coming in the opposite direction slows down and stops, much to the frustration of the long line of drivers waiting behind it. The window rolls down and its driver leans out, and a blast of cool (I won't say cold, we don't even have snow here yet) air indicates that our driver's window is down too. Our driver leans out and yells "poatato". The other driver smiles, windows roll back up and buses proceed on their way.

I can't believe it took this many blog posts to have a "randomness" tag.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

We're getting there

The house is getting slowly but surely more ready for the arrival of the little one, in the last few days I have been concentrating on the baby's room through an irrational fear that the baby would need to live in a Shore Porter's box! Thought we would share some photos with you

If all else fails the baby can sleep in this beautiful moses basket (which was gifted to us by the Gregorys) for the first wee while, it is already set up in our bedroom ready for the baby to arrive!

We thought though, that it would probably be best to get a cot for the baby, this was very kindly bought for us by Edna and Alasdair (Sandy's Mum and Dad, for those who don't know). Sandy was very excited to build it (I think more to do with the building something than it necessarily being because it was a cot). You can see him busy at work here!)

You'll notice Sandy is very proud of his workmanship!

Here it is in all its glory!

And once Jay got to put some "things" in it! All this bedding is from Karen and we are very grateful for it, much of it can't be used when the baby is newborn but I really couldn't bare to leave the cot empty!!

There will be more photos of the room soon, but it is still a bit of a box dumping ground so it is hard to photograph anything other than boxes!!

In other news, we will be back in Aberdeen in less than 4 weeks, looking forward to catching up with as many folks as possible!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Baby things!

Let's start with a picture of the "baby's room".

Because the baby wasn't coming imminently we started with all the other rooms, they are not necessarily quite finished, but they are quite livable in, as you can see, poor wee baby doesn't have anywhere to go right now!! In the midst of trying to get on top it however, I have made a list (because that is what I do) of all the things we have.

Now, I am going to share with you all some "holes" in our inventory, things we still need. I want you to know though that this is not me asking for stuff, it is definitely not me telling people to buy stuff. I know though, that there are certain people out there who will want to buy the baby some things and I thought I would try and guide them towards the things we need. So the general rule is, if you weren't going to buy anything then read on but don't go and buy anything, if you were going to buy something we would appreciate (but don't demand) if it was something off the list. If you have already bought something, we will love it, don't take it back under any circumstances!!

The baby already has lots of toys, certainly enough to occupy a newborn, it has baby gyms and things to hold although it does not have too many soft toy type things, if you want to get something like that, I'm sure it will become well snuggled in time!

We have all the baby paraphernalia we could imagine needing, however we do still need a couple of dummies (just in case!) a couple of bottles (I want to breastfeed but I might express some so Sandy can help with those night feeds, if you want to get these can you get in touch, I have a strong preference for a particular type/brand that I have on good authority and have seen in practice are good for babies that are both breast and bottle fed)

The main thing our baby needs is (are?) clothes, we have only a few things that are newborn/0-3 months at the moment. I'll a list a few things that are high on my priority list but all of you are able to use common sense!!

at least 1 more 0-6 month winter grade (2.5 tog) "grobag" (link only provided for those who might not know what I am talking about!)
Socks! Baby currently only has 3 pairs!
A few more 0-3 month vests would be good, although we have a fair few 3-6 month ones!
Also, a few "normal" clothes - like jeans/trousers/jumpers etc, I know they pretty much only sleep for the first long while but I like to think the baby won't need to only wear pyjamas to get it through that phase!
Some mittens (poor wee thing is being born in winter after all!)

The last couple of things are really things that I (Jay) would like so they are being listed separately, I will happily receive these as Christmas presents as I don't see them as essential for baby at all!!

a Hooter Hider
an device for expressing, I have one (thanks Joe and Trina) but it has an American plug on it and I have heard mixed reports on it's ability to work, I'd love to have one I know is working from the word go! (A hand pumper is fine!)

So please refer back to the beginning of this post, I am not expecting anyone to buy us anything, but if you would, then these are the things we most need!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

gluten free dairy free baking

Sandy and I went to see his sister, Heather, last weekend. While we were there she told me about a cook book that might be good for me, despite all my weird food "issues", that did cakes and stuff like that. She showed me the book and I flicked through the pages with a great deal of skepticism; people recommend such books to me or Sandy every so often and more often than not, they are not great, either needing too many specialist ingredients or going over the top with foods to avoid or being dairy (but not gluten free) or vice versa. This book is different though, I flicked through and looked at a few recipes at random, and almost every one was suitable just as it was, or with minimal "fussing". I was so excited that the very next day I went to my local branch of Waterstones and bought myself one. The book is called Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood and it takes a different look at cake recipes. Instead of using lots of butter or flour, the recipes all use vegetables as their base (for this reason, I recommend to anyone who buys it to actually read the introduction, the author does an amazing job of explaining her philosophy and how to change things if you don't have a particular recipe! Coincidently, most of the recipes are low fat (because they use the vegetables instead of butter for moisture) and many are low sugar (because they use the natural sweetness of the vegetables).

Last week I made a chocolate and pistachio cake, it used courgette as it's base and was absolutely delicious. This week I thought I would make myself some chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes - yum! I thought, as mundane as it seems, I would blog about it, so here are some pictures and thoughts. I'm not going to post the recipe in case Harry Eastwood comes and shouts at me for publishing her recipes but there is still plenty to be said. At various points I got so carried away with cooking I forgot I wanted to blog, so sorry if there are holes in the photo story!

The recipe in question, one great thing about this book are there are loads of pictures which help you get a grasp for the end product.

My cupcake tray doesn't see much use, here it is patiently waiting for me to actually cook something!!

whisking the sugar and eggs (the one "standard" cake ingredient still used in this book, not sure if you happen to be vegan how easy that is to deal with...)

Butternut squash was the base of this recipe

All the ingredients mixed up and ready to go, including the pulverised peanuts

Peanut butter frosting - yum!

Straight out the oven...

The finished article, having been cooled and iced.

Sandy and I can vouch for these also being delicious, this cookbook is already a firm favourite!!

Friday, 19 November 2010


So, for the fourth time in my life I'm working for a person named Jon (okay, the spelling's different this time, but that doesn't spoil it). Not that this is somethings to worry about, they've all been very nice people... I've now been at Loughborough University for nearly three weeks and have started settling in pretty well now. I've even got a permanent desk! Just waiting for the computers I'm going to be using to arrive now - until then I'm on a temporary but perfectly good laptop. I'm slowly getting back into the habit of reading academic papers; this took longer than I thought but it's coming along nicely now. It's quite nice to be able to spot interesting things and know I'm going to have the time (probably) to read about them properly instead of a quick skim at best. There's no experiments running yet, though we're pretty close - I've implemented an algorithm and a few test problems, and there's a screenshot of it running below - each one of those dots is part of the population that's evolving, and the blue ones are the best ones.

One of the cool things about being in an engineering department is that there are lots of cool machines to look at - I got a little tour and they have loads of stuff. There's a cube-shaped machine about 10m in size that can make 3D models of buildings (they likened it to a 3D inkjet printer). There's a laser lab, and a sun-machine which puts out extreme light levels for testing solar panels. There's a room completely filled with a model valley that has water jets for simulating flood plains. Plus there's this collection of water pumps outside - I saw these on the day of my interview.

Yesterday Jay drove down to have lunch with me at the university (that's something we didn't really get the chance to to in Aberdeen). She brought the large box of research stuff from my old desk at RGU that's been gathering dust for the past couple of years. It's been quite odd going through my old notes and waking up some of those ideas again. There's also a few things which cheered me up greatly - my executive toys for restful moments of distraction and a bunch of memory items like the poster advertising the seminar I gave at Stirling Uni. There's been a lot of digging up old memories as part of the move and it's a shame the rest of the experience is so expensive and stressful because that bit is quite nice!

Finally, here's some pictures of the University. Well, actually some pictures of the Civil & building Engineering Dept, as that's where I am. There's also a picture of my desk before I did much personalising of it (it's getting untidy at an exponential rate...)

Thursday, 18 November 2010


Given Jay's last post I felt like making this Wordful Thursday, with a few words and no pictures! But as with the monkeys that went into space and came back super-intelligent, we won't be doing that...

The past few days have been fairly mundane. It's a little strange being in an every-day routine again, being as it is in a completely different place. The past month has been all-go, up until the move there was just a wall at the end of the month, then the past couple of weeks have been unpacking and settling down. Finally the weekly routine is almost back, albeit a little more laid-back for both of us.

I'm now cycling to work again as I've been doing for the past five years - instead of walking / bussing as I did for the first week or so. I don't know if it's because of all the students or what but one of the really good things about Loughborough is that it's very cycle-friendly. Driver still seem oblivious to cyclists, but instead of Aberdeen's vague hint at cycle paths which are entirely optional, double up as parking spaces and stop without warning just where you need them, there are fully dedicated paths and crossings where I can go. This is brilliant!

Jay's been doing a good job of making the house feel like our own while I've been out during the day times, and last night I ventured loft-wise (not on the bicycle) to hide away all our empty boxes. It almost looks like we have somewhere to put the baby now when it comes.

It's also strange to hear about NESYFC's goings on from outside. I've spent so long carrying all the find details of the ministry in my head and it's a little hard to adjust to not doing that any more. That doesn't mean I can't pray for it though and I gather God's still doing great things through this team of wonderful hard-working people. Go them.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wordless Wednesday

There is a tradition amongst many bloggers who I follow to post only pictures on a Wednesday, for this week I thought I would follow suit and show you some photos from around Loughborough.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Open Heaven

*Disclaimer - we have decided to write this post "jointly" and so Jay in particular doesn't promise to keep her pronouns right all the time. Hopefully everything will flow alright!!*

Anyone who knows either of us even a little bit will almost certainly know we are Christians and that one of our priorities on moving was to find a Church family to be part of. Back home we had many happy years as part of Oldmachar and we knew just how important Church is. We have been supported through many highs and lows and almost all of our best friends are people we know only because of Church or Youth For Christ.

Partly through Jay's DNA connections and partly through Mr Google, we had come across the website for Open Heaven. We liked what we saw, and although we experienced it in slightly different ways, we both felt drawn to this congregation, it felt like God was calling us there for something or for some reason. We had spoken a lot about what we would want a Church to be like, what would be the signs that it was a congregation we wanted to be part of and although we had come up with very few concrete answers it seemed from before we even arrived here in Loughborough that Open Heaven seemed a likely candidate for being where we ended up.

Last week was the first time we attended an OH service and it certainly wasn't what we were used to. Open Heaven has two "expressions" - one (OH1) is aimed at students and the 18-30 age group and is held in the afternoon in the student union of Loughborough University (which is where Sandy works, in case you hadn't put that altogether!). The other service (OH2) was set up a few years later, they noticed that all their students were growing up and having children and that a service more designed for families might be on the cards. Last week when we attended there was a joined service of the two expressions (they do this once each term), we both found it very odd going to Church in the afternoon but both enjoyed the freedom of the worship and the space that was given to all who needed it (children and students alike). There was an area for those who were creative but not very musical to draw out their worship for God and a big area where people could dance or sing or bang on a drum!! Afterwards (coincidently) there were fireworks and hot dogs (for their current DNA trainees to raise money) so it was great to be able to meet lots of new people that way too, the fireworks were great too!

We felt like we needed to see what a more "normal" OH2 service looked like before we could make a decision but we felt very included, people spoke to us lots, many people even took a risk and worked out we were new!! We began to get a sense of how much the people from Open Heaven cared about each other and how they were deeply invested in each other's lives but thought we would leave it another week to see what God stirred in us and what the next service looked like.

So today we went to a straight up OH2 service, someone we met last week gave us a lift which was nice as it was in a different place (a primary school) and so we were less likely to get lost this way!! We turned up to be told by one of the Church leaders that this wouldn't be a normal service either! We have since decided this is because there is no such thing and is one of the things that appeals to us about such a congregation. Today we re-enacted the passover meal looking at what all the different bits mean, taking part by eating the various foods and drinks and thinking about the way they ultimately pointed to Jesus. It was certainly a novel way to work through Exodus 12 and the children seemed to have lots of fun and even as an adult there were things for us to notice and take heed of.

We broke for tea and coffee before the end of the service (which does mean it was onto a winner with particularly Sandy) to deal with the now restless children before praying for a couple in the church who are moving to France to church plant there.

On top of all that, OH seems very mission focused, both in terms of the team going to France and also in terms of how they see the local community. They are currently fund-raising to buy a building with another local church and see that as a place the whole community (not just the Open Heaven community) can connect with each other and have their needs met in really practical ways. When we get excited about church it tends to be because time has been spent listening to God's call and then going after that regardless of what human barriers stand in the way, when we hear Open Heaven talk about mission this is the impression we get and as such, we are excited.

This has all been a very long-winded way of saying, that we have decided to stay at Open Heaven. If we are completely honest their services are not quite what we would want, perhaps a little too child focused (maybe our opinion on this will change in the not-too-distant future) but we already feel cared about by the people there and we love the way Church seems to go on through the week, it isn't just a Sunday thing. We see the potential for lots of friends there and having moved to a completely strange place, that is important to us. So, that is that decision made, we are sticking at Open Heaven, for at least the foreseeable future and probably for all our time here in Loughborough!

Sandy and Jay

Saturday, 13 November 2010

photos of the house

There will be more to follow, but I thought people might like to start seeing some pictures of the house, so here goes

Here is our dining room

And the kitchen

This will eventually be the baby's room (it is currently full of boxes!)

These are the stairs upstairs (obviously) they come out of the kitchen and we are told by the removal men this is the smallest door they have ever had to contend with!!

This is our bedroom before we put anything in it

This is the removal van as it parked to unload all our stuff, it was there for about 3 hours in total, on yellow lines the whole while: how do they get away with it?

During the unpacking we found this lovely note hidden under the flaps on one of the boxes Sandy's Mum packed for us :-)

these last two are of the living room now it has our furniture in it

The house is still a bit of a work in progress, although it is "getting there" - the next plan is to get our bedroom sorted before tackling the baby's room - we figure in many ways it is less vital as the baby will be in with us for the first wee while anyway, but it would be nice to think it was even a room we could walk into!!

Friday, 12 November 2010

My wonderful day in London

Yesterday I went to London for the day and I had a truly wonderful time, I thought some people would like it if I shared about it (I promise in time I will have a baby and posts will become about that and not about the more boring parents of said baby!!)

The reason for the trip to London will become apparent later in the post but I decided while I was there to try and catch up with some friends from DNA so the first thing I did when I arrived at St Pancras (which Sandy will be pleased to know I agree is an incredibly pretty railway station) was to transfer to Victoria so I could get a train to Bromley South. This is the train station I used when I went to all my DNA 2 day block training sessions last year so I was having many happy memories but the purpose of this trip was to meet Pip who I met through DNA last year and happens to also be having a baby around the same time I am. It was bizarre to go and explore bits of Bromley that weren't the railway station or the Church centre we used last year but I had a lovely baked potato (more DNA memories) for lunch and then we wandered round the shops for a bit, looking at lovely clothes for small people and comparing bumps and aches and pains!! Pip I love you! I loved meeting up with you - till the next time!!

I went back into central London and made my way round to Hammersmith for the main reason for my trip. A magazine called Pregnancy and Birth are doing a feature over several months where they do a photo shoot and interview with a pregnant lady and then follow them up about 6 weeks after the birth to see how everything went. I found out about it through someone I follow on twitter and thought it would be fun to go and get my hair and make-up done and have someone style me up for the day - and it was!! It is likely to be much later next year before the magazine do my feature (maybe as late as August) but I will keep you all informed as to when it is coming out so you can all see how beautiful I am!!

After the photo shoot it turned out that the photographer lived just a few minutes away from the next friend I had on my list! I was the alst person they were shooting for the day so they gave me a lift. It meant I didn't need to change tube 3 times to get to Laura's house which was much appreciated although central London's traffic at 6pm is quite terrifying to even be driven through, I can't imagine I will ever be brave enough to actually drive it myself!!

That said, I made it to Laura's a little late but in one piece and she fed me a wodnerful tea of fish, rice and veg, all very Jay-friendly and all very yummy!! As we ate we chatted about life the universe and everything and it made me very happy to catch up with such a good friend. DNA meant that although I have only known these people a year we know each other very well indeed (Laura and I were in the same small group) and having been that close for a year you can't just stop being close when it all ends. One of the things I am very grateful about this move for, is (and I say it again) catching up with friends like this is realistic now in a way it just wasn't before!

I got the train home last night and having done all that I was exhausted when my train pulled into Loughborough at almost midnight and today I am still very tired indeed, but it was totally worth it for the pampering and the time with good friends.

Today, Sandy and I are both going to London!! We are driving to North London to see Heather, Sandy's sister and all the family, will be fun although I might try and plan these things better in the future, London is close but it is not next door!!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

My research

Now I'm back in the zone of academia* at least few people have asked me what my research is about, and my usual response leaves them looking confused to the extent that "something to do with computers" is the back up of choice. Part of this is because of the beauty of researching, it's always changing and based on what you learn one day you might end up going in a different direction the next. So it's quite often the case that I'm not even that sure what I'm doing! Anyhow, I'll try giving a brief summary of what I'm interested in and hopefully it won't go too far over your head. 

In short, I develop computer programs that learn and solve real-world problems. Now for the slightly longer version...

I talk a fair bit about algorithms. I always thought these should be environmental in some way what with their similar naming to a man who was elected (well, kind of) US President a decade or so ago. In simple terms these are just templates for computer programs - the sets of instructions that tell a computer what to do.

The broad field I work in is computational intelligence - this includes algorithms which use randomness and learning techniques which are often derived from nature. A couple of the more well-known are artificial neural networks (based on how brains work) and fuzzy systems.

My specific area is evolutionary computation including genetic algorithms; algorithms which develop solutions to problems in much the same way as Darwin proposed that living beings evolve to suit their environment. (there's a good debate on how that fits in with my faith which I might elaborate on at some point) The idea is that you start by generating a "population" of random solutions to some problem. You then pick the good ones (natural selection/survival of the fittest) and mix them up in some way (breeding, with occasional random mutations). You then repeat and gradually the members of the population get closer to the best solution for the problem.

The great thing is that the technique is applicable to lots of different real-world problems. The first problem I looked at was cancer chemotherapy scheduling - finding a set of drug levels and treatment times that kills the cancer without harming the patient. Since then I've looked at a lot of different problems, from dry stuff like generating timetables to when best to treat mushrooms for insect attacks! I've also spent a lot of my time looking at how you can improve the operation of these algorithms, in particular using probabilities, but that more or less constitutes my PhD thesis so there's not room for that here.

The project I'm working on right now uses evolution to generate sets of building designs which balance the tradeoffs between energy use, costs, and comfort for the people in them. That's how I can be a computer scientist in a Civil & Building Engineering department.

All in all there are probably only a few thousand people around the world doing research in this area, and by the time you get very specific about the things I'm interested in it comes down to hundreds if not tens of others. So it's pretty exciting to think I'm doing work nobody has ever done before, contributing to the worldwide body of knowledge

I hope that explains well enough what I do, if you'd like to know more I'm happy to answer questions though it might be hard to stop me talking once I've started - I also have some pretty pictures to look at if you'd prefer them :)

* Zone of Academia: this is somewhere between the District of Non-Determinism and the Zone of Transquility, down the road from the Precinct of Procrastination.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Positive Changes

We are back to the ramblings of Jay for today, read on to see what she is thinking about....

It strikes me that for the last week or so whenever I have been thinking about the differences between my life in Aberdeen and my new, or rather developing, life here in Loughborough, it has been really easy for me to focus on the good things about Aberdeen and the bad things about Loughborough. I have, therefore, decided to put together a top 10 list of positive things to come out of moving down here and thought I might as well share them with the wider blogsphere!!

So here goes (in no particular order):

1. We are within walking distance of almost anything we could want to be, we are certainly very close to lots of things. I really dislike driving so this is very good for me in particular!!

2. We have a huge bathroom with a lovely bath which is great for relaxing in after a hard day of emptying boxes (or reading research papers for that matter!)

3. We have new options available to us in terms of childbirth, as well as the hospital or home options back home we also have the option of "birthing centres" which mean that as long as baby and Mum keep doing well there are far less chances of anything medical going on but still with the support of midwives round about us and the water birth that I am really wanting is a very serious option now rather than the dream it was before!!

4. There are loads of new people to meet! I love people and I love making friends, so even though I miss all my old ones lots and plan to visit as often as possible, there is so much scope for meeting new people and ministering to new people I would never have met otherwise.

5. One of the churches here has a house where 12 people, including children, are living in deliberate community with each other; I find this hugely exciting and the honour of being able to potentially get up close and personal to this way of living is not lost on me

6. Sandy and I are getting to spend way more time together since moving, neither of us are leading the hectic busy schedules we were before and this is great from the point of view of seeing each other (and so far it hasn't caused any major arguments).

7. Connected to point 6 but separate is that Sandy's new job is flexible enough in it's working (both in terms of hours and being able to work from home occasionally) that rather than be nervous about how I would be able to look after the baby I am really excited for our family to extend in this environment :-)

8. Things (and by this I mean almost anything) are much more accessible here, I am going to London on Thursday and all this means is a couple of hours on the train and it will cost about £20-£30 even booked last minute rather than the plane or ridiculous train or bus journey before. While I am there I will be able to catch up with friends who I wouldn't have expected to see for a very long time if we had stayed in Aberdeen. We have cities all around us, it is hard to think of much we need that isn't close at hand.

9. The market! Loughborough has a market two times a week every week, I'll be able to buy fresh fruit and veg and all sorts of other things, this makes me very happy indeed, in my mind I have lovely walks with the baby planned (when the time comes!)

10. This one comes last but by no means least, this is one of the things I am most excited about. Sandy and I have been completely thrown if not catapulted outside of our comfort zone and now that we are here we find God! We are relying on Him with renewed strength and vigour and are trusting Him for everything. We know that God is faithful and we know He has never forgotten us, but it is very good indeed to have a practical reminder!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Getting started

So apparently I've been granted access to post here too. Having occasional glittering insights into the oddness of things I say, this doesn't bode particularly well for sane reading but we'll give it a bash anyway and see what happens. I'm also conscious that this is dangerously close to social networking; I've had my jabs but am thoroughly prepared to feel dizzy soon.

I guess the main thing that's worth writing about is the motivation for moving to Loughborough in the first place: my new job. The first couple of days were a little slow getting going but already it's been so fun getting back into the academic world. I remain grateful for the previous job I had - indeed I got quite a lot out of it - but I'd begun to realise I was missing this research malarkey a lot. I have a mound of papers on my (albeit temporary) desk which I'm enjoying delving into, I don't know how many would agree with my rating of that on the fun scale but there it is. This morning I tried implementing in code some stuff I'd been reading about, and hopefully in the next week or two I'll be getting some experiments on the go. (it's a sad part of the business that computer scientists don't wear lab coats that I've noticed - more on that another time I guess) I started out by speccing up the kit we'll be running things on and sending away for someone to buy it all; lots of new toys on their way soon! One of the best bits has been all the flexibility that comes with the job, and tomorrow morning I'm working from home for a bit while I do some reading.

Now a miniature roundup of the weekend. Saturday mostly involved unpacking related stuff but in the evening we went to see Gill and Jon, two of the few people we know of in these parts. Quite a fun night all round, with obligatory fireworks and bonfire. For Sunday, I'm sure Jay will be most pleased that I'm including a reference to bra shopping. From my point of view anything like this is highly entertaining as it involves sitting in the waiting room with a bunch of other guys who all look about the same - somewhere between uncomfortable and forcibly casual. It's also amazing how interesting one's shoes get! The only other highlight of our trip to Nottingham yesterday morning was the loss of our parking ticket. It's one of those stupid things that really annoys you, to the extent that rather than just paying the extra ten pounds to get your car back, you go on an hour long hunt for the ticket in the slim hope of finding it. (needless to say we didn't) At least we had some amusement near the end of it though. On pressing the "press for assistance" button at the car park, we actually got put on hold! We then had to stand next to the machine for ten minutes listening to the loud voice telling us how important we were. They might as well have a big light marked "IDIOT" flashing away for everyone walking past to see how clever we were (or rather me, I lost the ticket).

We also went to church yesterday afternoon. This was a bit wierd as it was once of the first places I really felt like we had moved on being really conscious that we weren't at Oldmachar any more and this might be the new place. We're still trying to work out where God wants us for the next couple of years so more on this from at least one of us later. If you'd like to see what kind of place we went to their website is here: www.openheaven.org

Finally, I'm also going to come over all British and moan about the weather. Those sunglasses I packed for travelling to England have only been used once - and that was in the Scottish part of the journey here! What's the deal with that?

Friday, 5 November 2010

It's the little things...

Sandy and I are beginning to settle into our new house, we are (very) slowly making our way through the boxes and perhaps there is a small amount of light at the end of the boxy tunnel!!

This morning as I had my shower and washed my hair I realised that sometimes it can be the little things that remind you how much you miss home. The water here is not super hard like it might be in some parts of England but it is nowhere near as soft as the water back home and as I struggled to get all the shampoo out my hair I thought to myself how much I miss Aberdeen.

For Sandy I suspect the biggest (little) thing is that we don't have a driveway, we are having to park on the street. Almost everything is within walking distance so it isn't a major issue but the parking round here isn't great so we can't guarantee we'll be able to get the car next to the house (which has double yellow lines outside it anyway!).

We were prepared for the fact we would miss my friends and that settling into a new Church would be potentially difficult. We were prepared for the house being different and that Sandy would be doing a completely different job and I wouldn't be doing one at all, but I don't think we had prepared ourselves for those little things, and certainly for me, those are the things that are making me realise how hard this transition is.

On the plus side, as I had my shower I was reminded of how great the bath is here, it is big and deep and fills easily (unlike my old house) so baths become a reasonable option again!! Excellent!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

We have arrived!

Sorry it has taken so long to get to this, I know lots of you have been asking how we are getting on but the absence of "proper" internet access and the presence of a LOT of boxes are making it hard. I will at least try and answer the most commonly asked questions here, I am appreciating all your texts, calls and emails but figure it is easier just to write it once and direct anyone here!!

So, the Brownlees have landed in Loughborough, I am finally able to spell it but only if I write it down, I am nowhere near able to spell it out loud yet! We got here on Sunday night about 8.30pm after a relatively uneventful drive, apart from some slow traffic kind of near Manchester it was all plain sailing.

On Monday we had a day to just "veg" out and explore the area so we worked out how to get Sandy to work, we had a quick look at what shops were available and went to the supermarket for a few bits and bobs, oh and we registered with a GP. I know you are all now thinking we live a very exciting life, but we were limited in our choice of activities by lack of possessions and energy!!

Loughborough is very pretty, especially along at the university there is lots of green and it doesn't feel too much like we are in a town at all. The road we are living on is a busy one, so we are having to get used to the road noise (whoever thought that we would end up somewhere mroe busy than our North Anderson Drive address!!) but all in all it is a lovely area and we are starting to work our way around it and discover what is what.

Yesterday was all go, Sandy had his first day at work. It seemed to go okay, although there wasn't much work to be done because he had to get through all the red tape that Human Resources (or Human Remains as Sandy likes to joke) demanded, he couldn't even log onto any computer till later in the day due to a combination of having no log in details and not being able to get his desk yet as the person who assigns them wasn't available (or something like that!!). The department seems good and the people he are working for seem lovely, the paternity leave issue has already been sorted (int hat he can have some) and everyone seems quite relaxed about working hours and even working from home, so long as the work gets done, it seems like a perfect environment to be having a baby in :-) Today Sandy is having a meeting with his new professor and someone else who is working on the project, so he should have a better idea of the project after that, although he is very excited that there seems to be some scope in the budget for going to conferences (one of Sandy's favourite bits of working in acedemia.)

Yesterday wasn't only busy for Sandy though, I had to oversee the delivery of all our boxes and furniture. It only took a couple of hours to get it all in the house but I can tell it is going to take days to sort it all out! So far only a couple of things have been found broken and they weren't important in the slightest, although in a slight piece of irony I broke the glass on a picture trying to hang it on the wall!!

Today I am concentrating on the bedroom (yesterday was all about the kitchen, those who know me even a little bti will know that this was by far the most important room!) and I was sorting out the stuff that came from our bedside tables back home. I thought if I shared the cotnents of mine and Sandy's it would give an interesting and humourous insight into the differences between us.

My one has:
A spare pair of PJs
A hot water bottle
Some body lotion
Strech mark oil (thanks Maria!)
A clock
A cross stich I am working through
some books on self harm/eating disorders/depression/abuse (I should point out these are for providing guidance to others, I get asked to quite often!!)
A couple of reports from healthcare organisations on the above topics
A copy of "Sophie's Choice" (which I will one day finish and give back to Liz)

Anyway, Sandy's contains:
Two Mechano sets
Some playdough (for making stop motion videos)
A magnifying glass designed for looking at bugs
A spare alarm clock
A Boy's brigade mug
Some electronics catalogues!

I am going to sign off for today, I have more boxes to unload and washing to do! Bu thanks for reading. We hope we will have "proper" internet by next Tuesday, I will upload some pictures and the likes for you all then