Outta Space

It seems incredible that its over 50 years since there were manned space flights to the Moon. The first man on the moon was Neil Armstrong in 1969, and humankind’s final moonwalk was back with the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

At the moment Artemis is flying out to the Moon, around and back to check out all the systems and procedures in preparation for the next manned space flight to the Moon. Artemis is NASA’s programme towards a manned space flight to Mars. While the moon is about 240,000 miles away from us, Mars is about 240 million miles away. So a significant challenge. NASA intends to send manned flights to the moon to create a Lunar Gateway, a crewed space station orbiting the moon (think of the ISS but in moon orbit), as well as lunar base, a permanent scientific outpost on the moon surface. Talk about sci-fi coming true!

Once the current Artemis mission has splashed down in mid-December, it will be followed by a manned mission to the moon with Artemis 2, with Artemis 3 being a planned lunar landing, which will add a woman’s name to only 12 moonwalkers in history, and in preparation for crewed missions to Mars in mid-2030’s.

“That’s one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.”
– Neil Armstrong

Sounds equally fascinating and exciting and daunting. While I dream it would be super to be an Astronaut, the reality of being in the equivalent of an uncomfortable tin can in a hostile environment means I probably wouldn’t take that choice, but I certainly admire those pioneers who do, and those that support then. Remarkable!


Battersea Power Station

The iconic skyline of Battersea Power Station is still visible in London, but since the power station was shutdown in 1983, it’s become a dreary empty industrial wasteland.

Battersea Power Station, redeveloped

Now, in October 2022, after 8 years of redevelopment, and a similar billion figure cost, the space has been re-opened and transformed into that well-rehearsed concept of retail, living and work, including Apple’s new HQ. This is actually Phase 2 of the overall development plan for the Grade II listed building which includes the enhanced facilities of Zone 1 Northern tube line extension, and a new pedestrian and cycle route providing access to the amenities of Circus West from the eastern side of the power station. Circus West was the first phase development which itself included these tropes including a private cinema, library, gym, spa and swimming pool.

Battersea Power Station, the turbines have stopped spinning and been replaced with greenery

Phase 2 see the opening of the actual revamped Battersea Power Station building. The iconic four chimneys are still there, but have been replaced with concrete replicas, with the addition of a glass lift (Lift 109) to the top of one of the chimneys to provide a 360-degree view over London. The art deco Control Room A, has now been restored as a events space, and the more brutalist style Control Room B will open as a bar. Other original features remain and there will be a heritage trail around the building. Living history has continued as the developers have used the adjacent river thames to take the excavated site materials away by barges, where they will be recycled and reused.

Control Room/Turbine Room B

While this massive site, 42 acres (over 8 million sq ft) continues be to developed, it is really nice to see this iconic landmark remain on the south bank.

Winds of Change

While wave power has yet to proof its potential the same can’t be said of wind power. It seems only a decade ago people were discussing it like some still about climate change, advocates and detractors.

Wind Turbine

With some financial support and encouraging conditions, wind power has become proven and advances in the technology means more powerful and credible arrays. Yes it can keep the lights on at last! And No it won’t work when there is no wind, but we can actually store stuff and have other sources as well. Just like we do with Oil and Gas (and look at how great that is going).

Wind Turbines out at Sea

So the huge site and turbines at Hornsea II have now become fully operational, the largest offshore wind farm just 55 miles of the Yorkshire coast. Hats off to them, while the Dogger Bank wind farm has the potential to be even larger, and placed further North in the fearsome North Sea. Great technology.

Waves of Change

While we have had the concept of the tidal barrier in Cardiff, this new wave energy convertor looks more feasible as a way to produce clean electricity.

WLM getting wet and windy

The technology is based upon Wave Line Magnet (WLM), and the flexible assembly is part of the attraction as well as the potential to generate power along the entire length of the converter.

WLM in Action

The convertor also has the potential to desalinate the water on board. An interesting concept and be super to see some real-life testing and results.

The Phoenix that is Notre Dame

After the devasting fire that destroyed the magnificent Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in 2019, there has been speculation on what will be rebuilt and when.

Notre Dame

Now looking at re-opening in 2024, this distinctive iconic building will once again be open to the public. While this will me more a facsimile, being a restoration of what was, the outside of the historic attraction is being re-imagined.

Design Space outside Notre Dame

The landscape architect Bas Smets has been given the task to create the new vision for the wide open space surrounding Notre Dame. The square in the front of the cathedral is imagined as an open space surrounded by greenery that highlights the eastern façade of Notre Dame. The surrounding trees will provide shade for seating areas and there is an innovative wall of water that will help keep summer temperatures down.

The area “behind” the cathedral, currently divided by hedges and fences, will become one large public space, with gardens to the south where the existing trees will be integrated into a large riverside park 400 meters long. The existing underground parking space, located under the current main square, is proposed to be transformed into an interior promenade. This will house the Notre Dame reception areas of over 3000 square meters and offer access to the archaeological crypt and an opening onto the river Seine that flows alongside. But there will be a wait – these developments take place after the re-opening with a schedule for the compete transformation by 2027.

Edinburgh Jaunt II

We used an Airbnb to find a place to stay in Edinburgh, which worked really well, it was centrally located next to “The Meadows” a really nice park, and provided parking which was a real bonus. From our Northumberland Jaunt, we followed google maps into the city and despite an unnerving tight turn into a busy cobbled street, had a great journey straight off the A1 road and via the green splendour of Holyrood Park straight into the Summerhall area we were staying at.

We of course spent the day sightseeing, and headed up to the Castle with views over the Arthur’s Seat, the high point in Holyrood Park with extensive views over the City and the River Forth and the Sea.

From Edinburgh Castle looking out towards Arthur’s Seat

Stopping for coffee at the busy Saint Giles, we had an explore of the many sights and headed down to Princes Street Gardens, passed the Scott Monument, passed the buskers outside the busy Waverley train station, and headed up to Carlton Hill which opened up to give extensive views of the river Forth and the iconic forth railway bridge.

From Carlton Hill we headed down to the new parliament building at Holyrood, and then headed up into the green space of Hoyrood Park and the trek up to Arthur’s Seat. Well worth getting up there for the views, and once we had our fill of the 365 degree views, got off the wind-swept hill-top and dropped back down to have an easy walk back.

There is lots to see and do in Edinburgh so its likely we will have to visit again.

Northumberland Jaunt

From the South it’s a long way to drive up to Northumberland, and you have to choose, do you go inland and head up to Kielder Forest and view Hadrian’s Wall, or do you head up the A1 and head for the coast?
We headed up the A1 and passed by the “Angel of the North” statue, far larger than you might expect and most imposing, well worth a quick detour. Incidentally what the heck is Gormley doing becoming a German Citizen? Let’s hope he buggers up their shoreline as well with his interminable steel statues!

Alnwick – Always good to find a bookshop

We stopped off at Alnwick, to view the Castle – If you have kids this is a must-stop place as some of the Harry Potter films has been filmed here! We had a walk around, looking for a good coffee shop and bookshop, both of which we found.

We tried an Airbnb which was a great experience, and got as close to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) as we could without getting our feet wet. I had heard about the causeway that means you can only travel to Lindisfarne dependent upon tides, but I had imagined it as a minor 100 metre roadway built above the inlet that flooded. Instead its dead flat and a ribbon of road that scoots straight out to sandbanks and then dog-legs around to sweep out to the high point that is Lindisfarne.

We also headed down to Bamburgh Castle, an imposing castle that strides over the beach and overlooks Lindisfarne and the Faroe Islands. It’s a super spot of endless gleaming sands and big blue skies. The wind brought sunshine, showers and then sunshine again as we spent the day there.

Our final day we headed up to Berwick-Upon-Tweed, well North, but still not yet in Scotland, though in the past it has been claimed by both

Desert Bloom

Algae carbon-capture in Morocco

So growing algae in the desert. Your thoughts, where does that take place?

So why would you want to grow algae in the desert? Well, the clever people at Brilliant Planet, have developed the technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, using algae growing on water pulled from the sea off the Morocco coast.

This should offer one way (among others) to help reduce global warming. This technology also offers the potential to develop the concept in similar areas, equally helping each of the local economies this is developed at.  

Rothamsted, Harpenden, UK

Brilliant Planet have an R&D facility at Rothamsted Enterprises in Harpenden, UK, and this is one of those innovate ideas that may help us all cope with global warming. Of course the real breakthrough would be an activity that not only captures carbon dioxide, but where the actual end product/service is of productive benefit. In this case, can we re-use the water employed or use the algae, again cost effectively and efficiently. If we can develop that technology that would be even better. But for now, good to know that clever people, technology and investment is heading towards things that help people and the planet, with concepts that almost sound like science fiction!

All the World’s a….Globe!

I haven’t really thought about globes since I had a tiny plastic model, a typical children’s globe in my childhood. But a recent TV programme introduced to me the world of hand-made globes, which I never even really knew existed. Both have the same effect on me as any cartographic medium, inducing wonder-lust both physical and mental.

A standard plastic globe

Spinning the globe on its axis helped me think of the solar system, of the sun and the moon, of the nature of landscapes and seascapes, of the sheer enormity of our Earth. And of course those bumps and ripples where you couldn’t really make out what the text was, or whether it was sea or land on your small globe, led you to atlases and paper maps, to explore in more detail the globe’s nebulous outlines.

And, of course, there was always an area of the globe, that, whether it was stated or not, was really the land of “here be monsters” similar to the Mappa Mundi. As a child you think the world is fixed and immutable. So its is to be recognised as an adult that political and geographic boundaries can vary, and even the naming of things can impact the perception, be that a country or a place.


Then there are the options, do you want a standard globe, an illuminated one, an inflatable one, one made of wood, metal, plastic? A floor-standing one? Then if you are going for hand-made there are even more options!

Of course with my child’s globe the two axis meant there were always a bit of hidden space, so actually the super design of this Bellamy globe really attracts.

Bellamy rotation Globe

Laura Knight retrospective

It was a revelation to visit the “Laura Knight – A Panoramic View” exhibition at MK gallery recently. I had expected to recognise her well-known heroic (or heroine) paintings set during the war, but it was truly awesome to see just what range Laura Knight had covered in her career, and what changes her perspective gave on matters.

A Balloon Site By Laura Knight

The recognised works of working women taking on the “men’s jobs” during the war are large and inspiring. Part illustrative, they are really detailed, and so evocative, it literally feels as though the artist has just stepped away for a moment and placed their still wet brush to the side.

Ruby Loftus by Laura Knight

Other works were here, those of circus life and ballet, her summer and sea photos with nudes, of her time travelling, and of travellers, as well as her sketches covering the Nuremberg trial after the war.

Chelsea Embankment by Laura Knight

I was particularly taking with large work adapting an impressionistic-style in her Lamorna Birch and Daughters painting, which is so vibrant you can almost hear the water and branches gently moving and swaying.

Lamorna Birch by Laura Knight