New science . . . and engineering

Things impact on our conversations, from the external world, only briefly, transiently, and almost incidentally — it often feels to me as if we live in an enchanted bubble, lost in time and space.

But new wonders do sometimes crop up that percolate into our sphere, things like: the Broadband 4 Allen Valleys project, which will bring ultra-fast fibre optic connections to every household that wants to avail itself of the opportunity; defibrillators springing up attached to public buildings throughout the valleys; electric bicycles, first seen five years ago as rental items in an early NP-AONB Landscape Partnership project that didn’t take off, but now increasingly taken up by individual folks themselves throughout these valleys (including even electric folding tricycles for carrying onboard motorhomes!); hybrid vehicles zooming around the rural roads; medical miracles in two of the country’s top hospitals just on our doorstep in Newcastle; drones taking photographs of breathtaking beauty that illuminate parts of the village and environs that have not been appreciated heretofore (eg an amazing shot of the Cricket Club to feature soon in the diary); LED-type lighting that cheaply enhances our lives while reducing energy consumption; the list goes on and on.

If this diary is something of a time capsule, then just a brief notice of a couple of weird and wonderful reproductive discoveries could be recorded as contemporary events of this year: the recent birth of twins a month after their sibling was delivered, from their mother’s !second uterus; the discovery of bi-modal reproduction in a skink (inevitably in Australia), laying eggs first, and then delivering a live baby skink a week or so later. Similarly on the scientific/engineering wonders front, there’s the Japanese attempt to ‘bomb’ a crater in an asteroid 3 million miles away, to return to the surface and retrieve some of the interior, and then to fly away back home with the samples! Or the Chinese effort to explore the dark side of the moon. Or the fly-by by NASA’s spacecraft of that bi-lobed rock Ultima Thule in the Kuiper belt far beyond where the dwarf planet Pluto twirls. Or the discovery of a fossil remnant of a whale with legs, the first concrete evidence of that mammal’s ancestors’ early venture into the sea to live. Amazing times.

We carry on with our lives, while the big world and its amazing discoveries whirl around us. Our young people often get bored with this quiet life, and the generational diaspora to the big cities is something we live with. They come back for family get-togethers (inevitably they must feel that ‘home’ is so tiny, quaint, primitive) and for the love of the country-side, of course, but their lives are mostly elsewhere. Sometimes they do return, bringing their families with them — Allendale must be amongst the best places in the country to raise a family, after all. You just have to be understanding about letting them go, when they grow up!

What happens to us though, when we get too old to take care of ourselves in our fellside houses that require so much upkeep you’d need a handyperson to drop in on a weekly basis just to keep the systems going. What new and amazing engineering marvels are on the horizon to keep us going? Our household saw a weird and wonderful ‘breathing’ doggy-bot arrive for Christmas, which is said to do wonders for old folks needing a cuddle, but it made me feel kind of sick, to be honest. But house-bots are not too far off — obviously lawn-mowing-bots are here already, and apparently carpet-hoover-bots are making inroads too. We must keep going until a nice butler-bot can make us our morning tea, carry it up the stairs, and help us slurp it while luxuriating under the warm duvet, as in our real dotage we gaze out wonderingly over the delectable valley — where are we now, do you suppose, dear? You might be surprised, but I think, really? Not in our lifetime, surely!

Meanwhile, I’m happy enough to enjoy the enchanted bubble, to marvel at the wonders of science and engineering going on in the outside world, but to carefully build a real wood fire of an evening, to settle back with a Radio 3 live evening concert on the broadband (maybe Rachmaninov Piano Concerto Number 2?), with real warm flames boldly flickering in a multi-media show (light, sound and heat) in real time, and to read a real thought-provoking novel in convenient real book format about, oh, let me think, maybe time travel! That’ll all suit just nicely, thanks!

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