Thursday, 27 November 2014

Advent Reflections 1: What are we here for?

This post is the first in a series of weekly posts during Advent inspired by "Holy Boy", a Christmas oratorio which we're performing in Acomb on 21st December.

Reading the newspaper this week, a short opinion piece by Tim Lott caught my eye. The writer was trying to answer his 8-year-old daughter's question "What's the point?"

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Renewable Heat for Community Buildings

Acomb - the story so far
What do you do when your boiler is very old and you know that the next time the gas man comes to fix it, it might not recover? Most people would replace it with a more efficient new gas boiler, but the issue is: given that fuel prices are on a steady upward curve with the expectation that this will only get worse over the next 20-30 years, why lock yourself in to an old technology and high bills?
For Acomb Methodist Church, the answer is obvious: power the new boiler with renewable heat. Work is still in the early stages of getting prices, but I thought it would help to summarise the story so far.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Wildlife on Holiday - Los Angeles

To what extent do geology, wildlife and climate help create culture and a sense of place? Over the last few weeks I've had the chance to explore this question in four cities with very different climates: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver.
In LA, the climate is hot and dry, with the city built within a bowl of mountains between the ocean on one side and desert on the other. Some places like Arizona and Texas embrace the desert as part of who they are, creating gardens of succulents like the Tequila cactus (which I'm told produces a sweet drinkable sap) and hardy arbuto trees with amazing bark which eventually strips off entirely and locust trees. These plants are in evidence on the hillsides next to the freeways, but hardly visible in the city at all. Instead, Los Angeles seems to be a city of dreams: green grass, palm trees and eucalyptus sustained only by sprinkler systems.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Making a difference in Manchester

A group of London engineers recently made a video of "Engineering Happiness" featuring engineers dancing to the song "Happy" at locations around the capital where civil engineers have changed lives, from the Thames Barrier and sewage works to the Olympic Park and the new Crossrail tunnels.
Here's my own story of engineering pride: I saw a tram today at Manchester Airport.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Books, books everywhere...

While in Welsh borders this summer, Hay-on-Wye seemed like the ideal day trip for a girl whose dream as a child was to have a library on the scale of the one in Beauty and the Beast (who wouldn't love a man, or even a beast, who loved books that much?) So in a town full of new and secondhand books, how easy is it to find a book worth reading?