Well, dear diary, it's been a few months. I write from my new place in Bradford-on-Avon, just over the border from my home county of Somerset in Wiltshire. I think I found a good place to live. It's comfy and quiet, there's good public transport, and there's a great network of footpaths to explore among some great local nature. Following a hugely coincidental conversation with Louise outside the Bradford-on-Avon Cheese Shop, I've joined the WASC, a local adventure sports club through which I hope to do kayaking, caving, and more. I've also joined the local Community Emergency Volunteers, to help out during floods or when the weather inevitably worsens.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 rages on. As a country, we have just emerged from the second wave, and this means that more activities are possible compared to a week ago. Despite this, I've cancelled long-anticipated visits to friends, my Midwinter and Christmas plans, and generally distanced myself from people wherever possible. The recent news of a vaccine is, to say the least, welcomed by everybody. Brexit also thunders on in the background, and in the absence of any useful coverage by the British media, I strongly recommend Brexit Republic from RTÉ to hear how that's going.
Taking advantage of the lockdown, I've been studying. My friend Adam Forsythe-Cheasley was always really into maths and has for years spent one hour per day working through whatever topic interested him. I adopted the same autodidactic method and, to begin with, chose two very accessible introductory textbooks to work through, namely Visual Group Theory and Programming in Haskell. I have been promising myself that each day I would pick one and work through an hour's worth of the text and/or examples. This has proven to be a good habit; the results have been very positive. My appreciation of abstract algebra deepened and become more solid and my ability to fluently code up what I want in Haskell has improved considerably. Recent hobby coding has consisted of the code which generates this site, but I want to get back to the other Haskell projects mentioned in my old blog again soon.
Despite the need to spend time at home, I've at least seen some of the outside world. Dan has been showing me around some of the local area while we chat about our sinister and ingenious future projects and other stuff. There's really a lot to explore around here. In particular, last week we went for a long walk along the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal from Bradford-on-Avon to Bath, over aqueducts and through autumnal countryside, stopping off for a coffee and pasty at the Somersetshire Coal Canal. Yesterday, we went into Bath and had the first meal out I'd had for months at Bath Stable, a sourdough pizza with a lovely still pint of Dunkertons cider. Next time we want to try Yak Yeti Yak, a Nepalese restaurant.
I'm also getting back into amateur radio a bit more. On IRC, I joked about my broadband taking ages to be installed and my mobile phone reception being poor, and requested any calls to come via the local repeater. It turned out that a couple of friends on that channel have recently got their foundation licence. We're now sometimes to be found chatting on GB3BS, the local repeater. It's conveniently situated between all of us. Closer to here on the roof of a university accommodation block in Bath, there's also the GB3UB voice repeater and the GB3UT amateur television repeater. To get into repeaters further away, and maybe attempt some simplex calls, I've got a nice Diamond VX30N vertical antenna to go up on my roof this week or next.
People have been asking about my bees. It's been very cold lately and I've been to visit them only a few times in the last few months. In short, a while ago we had quite a serious problem with varroa. We overcame it with some oxalic acid treatments but laying rates seem to be very much down, even for the time of year. However, they have a lot of food and with any luck will rebuild the colony now that it the varroa is much more controlled. Over here in Bradford-on-Avon, my new landlords have offered me use of a tenth-of-a-hectare patch of woodland to keep some colonies. Needless to say, this was very exciting news and I'm really looking forward to the early spring when I can get going on this.