Saturday, September 23, 2006

Catch up

About time! At last, Nick's employment at the BBC has proved materially advantageous. On Thursday he was given free tickets for a performance of a classic 1029 silent film 'New Babylon', with the BBC symphony Orchestra playing the score by Shostakovich.

It was quite amazing to have the orchestra playing in perfect synchronicity with the pictures, and the music itself was fantastic. However I have to admit I found the story a bit difficult to follow. The programme states:

Set in the heart of Bohemian Paris in 1873, this politically-inspired melodrama unfolds in a series of bizarre tableaux, entirely characteristic of Soviet avant-garde cinema of the 1920s. Shostakovich's first full length score for a silent motion picture, New Babylon is wildly satirical and the score is often extremely funny even on its own.

That's all well and good, but I know nothing about Franco-Prussian politics of 1873. Or Bohemian Paris for that matter. Silent movies can be hard enough to follow at the best of times and I knew I wasn't going to cope after about 3 minutes. You see, if I concentrated on listening to the orchestra, which was stunning, then I lost the plot of the film. If I concentrated on working out what the hell was going on with all the depressed looking soldiers, men in tops hats and can-can girls, then I felt I missed out on the music. I never have been good at multi tasking.

Despite those misgivings I thoroughly enjoyed the event and it scored highly on the Entertainment-Economy scale. (mainly because it was free) Points were deducted due to the uncomfortable seats at the Glasgow City Halls. Very beautiful building though.

Our cultural coffers are overflowing at the moment as that was the second concert in a week. Last Sunday we went to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh to hear the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with the Nation Youth Choir of Scotland. This was particularly enjoyable for me as they were performing one of my favourite choral works, Bernstein's Chichester psalms.

In preparation for our diving holiday today we made an expensive trip to the dive shop in Edinburgh. For our last dive holiday in the warm waters of the Maldives, we bought 3mm 'shorty' wetsuits. Today we were hoping to buy 3mm 'long johns', sort of neoprene dungarese that could go under our existing shorties to make them warmer for the Red Sea.

Naturally the shop didn't have anything suitable and we ended up buying a 5mm full wetsuit each. We tried on every suit they had in our sizes, and waddya know? the expensive ones were the ones that fitted! I was desperately trying to convince myself that the £99 suit fitted but the legs were 4 inches too long, I was being choked to death and the only place for my boobs to go was under my armpits. Not a good look.

Nick was having similar problems. His legs are quite short and shoulders quite broad in proportion to the rest of his body, so he had to try on lots of suits until he found one that fitted properly. Oh, and guess what, it was the same as mine.

Excellent. A sub aquatic his-and-hers nightmare. No-one will take the piss I'm sure.

We are now the proud owners of 3 wetsuits each. Not bad considering I have only ever done 30 dives in the whole of my life. We have super thick 7mm long johns with 7mm jackets which we used in South africa where the water was 9 degrees. Toastie warm but it's quite hard to move in 14mm of neoprene. Mine is lovely because I had it made to measure, even so, imageconsciouss girls should steer clear.

Then we have our thin 3mm short ones for warm tropical seas. These are the type of suits it is possible to look good in because they are tight enough to hold in your stomach flab, but not so thick to add too many inches in waist circumference.

Now we have our new 5mm suits we are kitted out for just about any occasion. Other dive related purchases were a suunto gekko, and dive torch. The Gekko is a dive computer which dramatically increases the safety of scuba diving. (Mum, I know you'll be glad to hear that.) I had an old one I bought second hand, but it broke and since diving with a computer I couldn't be without one now.

The main danger with Scuba Diving, apart from drowning or being eaten, is the bends. When you breathe compressed air during a dive your body absorbs more nitrogen than normal. The deeper you go the more nitrogen you absorb into your blood stream and tissues. When you ascend it gradually dissipates out again. You have to come up slowly to allow the nitrogen time to get out of your body. If you come up too fast then bubbles of excess nitrogen start forming in your body, starting at your joints. This is really painful and can kill you.

You always have to calculate before a dive how deep you will be going, and for how long in order to determine how much nitrogen you will absorb, and how long it will take to leave your body. If you do more than one dive in a day you have to take this residual nitrogen into account on the second dive and dive shallower.

There are tables and calculations to allow you to work all this out, but a computer is more accurate because it measures what you actually do, rather than what you planned to do while sitting in the boat.

It measures your depth, your dive time, tells you if you are ascending too quickly, and warns you if you need decompression safety stops. After the dive it keeps on measuring your residual nitrogen and takes this into account on all subsequent dives. We dive using nitrox, and enriched air mixture which decreases the chance of getting the bends but increases the chance of oxygen poisoning. Luckily the computer measures all that for you too.

My final bit of news is that I have been invited to display my quilt in an exhibition of local patchwork. For some reason this really made my day and my delight far exceeds the prestige of the event. It's just nice to be asked.


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