I came across Robin Lovelock through Geocaching – his place in the history of the hobby is secure for reasons I won’t go into here, but he popped up on the radio and TV news this last week talking about his bid to send an unmanned boat across the Atlantic. University and company groups are also trying and failing, but in classic style he is putting forward a one man bid against the big boys with a £450 boat. With the TV companies watching he launched the boat from Hampshire, the next stop being the Bahamas. Unfortunately it made landfall somewhat sooner than expected…
An unmanned boat has crashed into rocks off the Isle of Wight hours after it was launched in a bid to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Retired Nato scientist Robin Lovelock’s 5ft (1.5m) boat Snoopy Sloop set sail from the Hampshire coast on Tuesday. But its tracking system placed it […]
Yesterday we headed down to the opening day of your new store in Festival Place, Basingstoke. First off I have to say that after many years having to either head into London or drive a long way to find an Apple Store it is great having two within a short drive, with you having opened a store in the Oracle, Reading just last month. We did avoid the craziness in the morning but we had a great time none the less.
I went along with my two year old daughter, who has been using Apple products for pretty well all of her life. It didn’t take long for her to get the hang of the touchscreen interface on my iPhone, iPod and iPad, indeed now she expects most devices to have such a screen and gets frustrated when they don’t. This brings me to a first suggestion, your children’s area. Whilst it is nice having a low level table, and child sized seating, the devices there are all Mac’s. Although children do quite easily pick up the concept of a mouse and pointer, my daughter is much happier with the direct interaction of a touch screen – as you have said on a number of occasions recently, we’re living in a post PC world now.
As a result we went to look at the iPad’s which do have children’s software installed, but are all on tables at a very child unfriendly height. In the end my daughter asked for a chair, and one of your excellent staff kindly obliged with a stool from the Genius Bar.
As you can see from the picture that put her on just the right height to play some games on the iPad.
Games weren’t the only thing we tried. My daughter wanted to talk to Mummy, so we thought we’d try out another of the features of the iPad – Facetime.
We have used your video calling application quite frequently at home – calling between Apple products it seems to pretty consistently produce a better quality video connection than the most obvious competitor Skype, indeed in one situation recently Facetime made a connection easily when Skype couldn’t get through at all. However as I’m sure you’re aware Facetime only works over wi-fi.
No problem of course as your stores have free wi-fi. Looking at the strength display it had a full strength signal, however it fairly obviously was not a good internet connection, the demonstration iPad struggled to produce a reasonable picture with a decidedly low quality result. It would certainly be worthwhile investing in some faster wi-fi connections for the store to enable a good demonstration of this feature.
Anyway, one last idea which comes from my daughter – she would like you to provide beds at the Apple Store so she doesn’t have to go home. The store kept her occupied and entertained for all of a wet afternoon, and she didn’t want to leave! I did eventually manage to get her out and heading home, but I am sure we will be back.
You know those moments when someone thinks they’re telling you about some really great secret, but you, and a load of other people already know? Various of us at St James had that experience this morning listening to Rev Richard’s sermon.
On his day off, he and Penny his wife had headed off to the Bramshill Plantation, a large area of Forestry Commission land just over the border into Hampshire on the other side of Eversley. They went walking off into the forest, Rev Richard armed with a map and compass, and managed to get them thoroughly lost.
Luckily for them, they met someone else walking through the forest, and asked him if he knew where they were, he pulled out a handheld GPS unit – something Rev Richard hadn’t seen – and read off the co-ordinates. They then got talking about precisely why this man was wandering around the forest, and he said he was a Geocacher, and that he’d just done one of the caches that are hidden in the plantation.
At this point in telling the story, Rev Richard asked whether anybody knew about Geocaching, and I guess was slightly surprised at the people who knew. The reason of course that a lot of people around the Church know becomes clear when you watch our Geocaching video in which our segment is filmed around St James. Various people know about the game having seen us on the programme when it was originally shown, and various others, generally those involved with grounds maintenance know about the game having inadvertently found the cache – indeed the cache has moved twice following occasions when the regular maintenance rendered the previous location unsuitable. The interesting thing is that despite having been here several years, nobody had actually told Rev Richard about the cache. Not surprising really as it’s not usually the kind of thing that comes up in conversation…
Anyway, Rev Richard carried on, telling how the Geocacher had taken him back to the cache he had just found, and the story was used as an analogy – searching for treasure with the Christian search for ‘treasure’.
After the service I told Richard quite how close he’s been to a geocache (our Queens Oak cache mentioned in the film) for the past few years, indeed the fact he’s walked past it every day. I also mentioned myself and Beth’s involvement, including us being one of the seven founder teams behind the Geocaching Association of Great Britain, and have since sent him the link to the video. I’ve also taken the opportunity to upload some of the older Geocaching snapshots I have on iPhoto – these ones are from back in 2003, including some shots of the preserved planes a Lasham Aerodrome which figure as clues in a cache, and another church with a cache close by, the almost totally unaltered St Swithun’s Nately Scures, which gives you an idea of what St James must once have looked like before the subsequent generations started knocking through bigger windows and adding bits.
So I guess the question is, has Rev Richard now got the Geocaching bug?
In pre-publicity the show, Beyond the Sea, had been subtitled ‘Cruising with the Tappers’ – but the theme had broadened somewhat giving pretty much of a world cruise, taking in places including London, Paris, Russia and Cuba to name a few.
After a break last year, the Chosen Few Big Band were back, and certainly earned their keep playing for every other number. It certainly seems to be more flexible in terms of routines to have a live band, as they can include short reprises to cover clearing the stage – something that is difficult to do with pre-recorded tracks, quite apart from the experience for the participants of working with live music. There were also a good number of contributions from Tappers regular Steve Pert, who took plenty of advantage of having the big band around to do some of the standards. Alongside Steve there was a new face for the shows in the form of Trisha Bassett an Ascot based singer. One of the dancers, Francesca McMahon also showed how far she has come since she sang for the first time in one of the earlier shows, performing a version of Midnight at the Oasis.
Being the fifteenth year of the Tappers show, the Friday night performance was graced with the presence of the Mayor of Basingstoke, and there was a chance to reminisce over some of the past shows, and even a return to the amazing basketball routine from last year (and again nobody dropped the ball this time around either). What is a testament to the people in the company was when towards the end the members came forward grouped by how long they had been part of the company – although there was a good crowd of newbies, the majority have been dancing with the company for ten to fifteen years.
Certainly it was as entertaining as ever, mixing good music, cute moments with the real little ones, and even the odd quirky moments – the two penguins in the decidedly tropical Under the Sea I guess must have been on holiday!
We’re just back from the performance of A Child of Our Time by Tippett, and Vaughan WilliamsSerenade to Music. Myself together with several others from St James, and a number of men from the Wokingham Choral Society, were there to bolster the tenor and bass lines of the chorus, which since the chorus was made up of students from Ranelagh and Holt schools, Holt being a girls school, was a little lacking in numbers of boys singing as against the girls. We also had four soloists (although Serenade to Music was apparently written for sixteen) and the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra. The performance came off pretty well considering the difficulty of the Tippett – as one of the men from the Wokingham Choral Society said â€œWe didn’t quite come off the railsâ€?, and although we came pretty close at times, the choir was able to pull it back on track. Of course, talking to Beth and Becky, who were sat in the audience, they didn’t notice at all the points we went wrong, and thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
All in all it was a bit of a busy day. We went straight to Basingstoke from Church, where we had the usual jam packed Mothering Sunday service. At 2pm we started the final rehearsal – the first time the choir had sung with the orchestra – and went through with that until 5pm. Then we had a couple of hours off before we started the performance at 7pm.
The choir were seated in a balcony above the stage, which gave us a good view of proceedings, especially where I was sat in the front row of the tenor and bass section, right in the middle. During the break I snapped off a picture of the view from my spot in the choir. Seating wise the arrangements were as I described in the rehearsal earlier in the week. Richard, the other visiting bass and I managed a lot better to hold our line against the visiting tenors on the other side, and the young Casanova on the other side actually seemed to click into focusing with being sat in the Anvil – as I mentioned before he seems to be pretty talented when he was concentrating! Amusingly, in the break this time he was flirting with a couple of the Holt alto’s – even serenading them singing over a mobile phone, spurning the Ranelagh soprano’s he was flirting with on Tuesday. Actually, I shouldn’t make too many jokes about it, as my first girlfriend was in a choir with me many years ago, and I don’t know what stories may come out if I persist!
It was a little cramped in the choir stalls, but significantly less so than the chairs in the Ranelagh school hall. However, I did come pretty close to knocking my copy down onto the heads of the percussionists below at one or two points standing up and sitting down. It was also a bit of an eye opener seeing backstage at the Anvil too, and certainly gives me a much greater appreciation of the amazing performances that the Basingstoke Tappers put on every year – it was bad enough with all of us, and we didn’t have any costume changes or large bits of scenery. Incidentally, they’ve just released the tickets for the next Basingstoke Tappers production, which after a break last year, again includes the Chosen Few Big Band. I have to say that the previous times they have appeared, Beth and myself have been some of the last sat in the auditorium – whilst various of the audience seem to make a run for the car park once the dancers are off, the band has for their previous appearances played on for a bit, and it is really fantastic with the acoustic in the Anvil to hear a live big band in full swing. (Excuse the pun there…) Anyway, there are more details of the upcoming Basingstoke Tappers show on their website.
Apparently, the reason for the choice of the Tippett was because it was a long standing ambition of Stephen Scotchmer the conductor, and head of music at Ranelagh, to perform it. I have to say that although it was certainly dramatic, it’s not really my cup of tea to listen to if I had a choice. However, it certainly helps though to hear it complete – during rehearsal you don’t really get the whole picture without the parts sung by the soloists. It also helps to read the background notes about the piece to properly understand it. Alongside that, I often find that I really enjoy live performances of a great variety of music, even if it’s not something I’d go out an buy on CD, or listen to on the radio. There is always a definite buzz in hearing live music of any style – and the full orchestral versions of the spirituals are fantastic. The Vaughan Williams which has each vocal line splitting into three parts (so twelve part harmony) is something that needs a big choir to do, and sounds fantastic with the orchestra.
Anyway, despite the complications of the work, singing at the Anvil was certainly a memorable experience, and something I’d want to do again. Hopefully we’ll get an invite to have another go in two years time!
Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in Southern England.