Richard Thompson's Website

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Chronicle for 2019

Here's a summary of my rather pedestrian life in 2019.

Although I wrote a similar document for 2018 few people saw it because I had difficulty with email. My settings were, as they say, sub-optimal so that large bulk mailings didn't work. I did put the document on my website, so keen folk will have found it there, but many of you will have missed it.

I think I've now sorted out my email, and I plan to send this message a few days before Christmas so there'll be time to correct any problems.

It sometimes takes a while to get my brain into operation. When I settled down to write this chronicle my mind was initially blank, but once a thought surfaced and inspired a few lines of reminiscence, other thoughts followed.

There's rather less to say this year than in previous years where there have been exciting tales about renovation of the house, but I think I owe people a message of some sort just to confirm that I'm still alive. I've reached a degree of antiquity where that can no longer be taken for granted. If I don't hear from someone for a long time I start to wonder if they are still alive, yet it seems indelicate to ask bluntly if they are, so I struggle to think of subject matter for a message - news items that might amuse them, or requests for information that they might be able to supply. If you haven't been in touch for a while and receive a message about not very much, treat it as a request for proof of your continued existence.

Incidentally, anyone interested in my activities and ontological status could look at my blog, to which I contribute several times each month. Parts of this chronicle have been copied from the blog. There's a link to the blog at the end of every email, but here's another one: MY BLOG

The year began rather sadly, with the deaths of Clifford Dunkley and of my cousin Douglas. I had known Cliff since we met in 1949 as first formers at the City Boys' school in Leicester. I wrote an obituary for the Old Boys' newsletter and can send copies to anyone who'd like to read it.

I had in a sense know Douglas for more than all his life. I was a little more than four years old when he was born, and remember being told that Auntie Frances was soon to have a baby and so must be treated gently. I remember holding her hand and saying I'd look after her.

For the last few years these chronicles have described exciting building works supervised by my invaluable Jon. Indeed the house had become an engaging hobby. However great works seem now to be complete, though there's still a list of minor jobs to be done when we can find someone to do them. This year the main thing has been replacing the pond with a smaller and more restrained aquatic contrivance. ('Water feature' has become a cliche, so I struggled to find an alternative.) Water is now projected onto a bed of stones which are bordered by a variety of plants, and beneath which is a reservoir. Birds sometimes come and drink from it, fairly safe now that the surviving cat is too ancient to catch them, though she sometimes seems to hanker after the chase. There are pictures on my web site.

I still grow vegetables not available commercially because they aren't on the 'official list' though I don't have a lot of space after I started growing flowers in two containers originally intended for lettuce. However I did manage to grow four varieties of tomato this year. Having collected seeds I'll grow some of them again next year.

Pictures of the remodelled garden are shown at the garden

I still co-ordinate the activities of the Leicester U3A's Science and Technology Group. In March I gave a talk on Mathematical Origami. Quite a few geometrical constructions can be performed by paper folding. There has recently been a lot of interest in producing shapes by a series of folds followed by just one straight line cut. Any shape at all can be produced in that way, provided that its boundary is a set of straight line segments. We therefore all folded and snipped our way to various shapes culminating in a cut out swan, which needs some rather cunning folding described on a helpful web site.

In June the group visited the National Gas Museum in Leicester. The Museum was awarded the title 'National' when the closure of the only other gas museum left it without a rival.

There was a remarkable collection of gas powered devices. Most people would expect to see gas lights, gas fires and gas cookers of which there were many, but there was much else as well.

There were gas refrigerators, one of which still had the label explaining how it works - roughly speaking applying a gas flame to a solution of ammonia in water drives off ammonia, starting a circulation of ammonia through various tubes and chambers.

There were also gas powered irons, gas hair curlers, a gas waffle iron, and a device that looked like a cooker with an eye level grill, except that behind what looked like an oven door was a refrigerator.

Quite sinister in appearance was the gas hair dryer. It looked like a black helmet on a tall stand. I gathered that the brave individual whose hair was to be dried placed his or her head in the helmet, where there was also some sort of miniature gas fire.

A gas powered bath had gas jets heating the water from below. I gather people were warned not to sit in the bath while the gas was on. I visualise someone falling asleep and awaking to find themselves cooked from the waist down!

Most exciting for me was the gas powered radio made in 1938, though I gather that did not sell well, so I guess there has never been a gas television set, or a gas computer!

I try to keep up with developments in Mathematics and Science. My struggles with quantum theory have reached a stage where I think I know in general terms how the mathematics works, and what the quantum phenomena are, but can't see the connection between them. Why do eigenvalues represent observables? I suspect the point is that there's no connection that can be seen. The Mathematics has just been created to model the phenomena.