Monday, 21 September 2015

The smiles of the little children

Decorations linked to the design of the
conference website and booklet
I am part way through a conference and it is tiring. I was tired before I came as I had deadlines to meet and harvesting still to do. I love meeting people but I also find the conferences overwhelming in some ways. Of course there is the presentation, which I don't actually find too bad, but I do find the preparation time consuming, so that is annoying. The overwhelming feelings comes from the point that conferences are full of people and we are supposed to network. I can do it, but really by nature I am a contemplator and an introvert so I find that kind of interaction exhausting after a while. I prefer small groups to interact with. Fortunately this conference is quite a friendly affair and I am on home territory so to speak, as it is my department that is holding the conference. I can tell I am tired though because so far I have managed to leave my bag, rucksack and coat lying around on different occasions. Fortunately I have realised quickly enough and found them.
Sofie has started to tolerate our little one more and even
coming into the caravan again, obviously sensing the need
to make peace as the colder weather draws near

Soft autumn light on the field
I was chatting to a colleague (that term does amuse me, but what else do you call someone you interact with in terms of work, even if it is not paid work?) about the format of conferences and I said that whilst presentations are useful for distilling the work into an easy to communicate form, I don't really find them very helpful from the point of view of finding out about other people's work. I would much rather sit down with a cup of tea and a piece of cake and chat about what people are doing. I would like to do that in two ways, firstly with people doing similar research and then again within a mixed group for a different kind of synergy. I think it is the networking that is the most important part and I wonder how that can be facilitated most usefully. (I wonder at this point if I have lapsed into academic-speak)
The maples are turning an incredible red

Aspens turning yellow
Anyway through the tiredness, the actions of young children have made me smile. They also remind me of why I am doing what I am doing. I want to be able to contribute to a better world, where each person is valued for who they are and for the contribution they too can make to it. The first incident was seeing a small child sat on the pavement on a warm autumn morning. Leaves strewn about her and her mother crouching down. The mother was helping the child to interact with the leaves and she had drawn leaves on the pavement with chalk. The child too had added her drawings. It was a sweet scene of mother and child appreciating the season around them. I wonder if it is normal for parents to do that, as I have seen a lady with two young girls high stepping through the grass to avoid getting too wet, to observe the bark of a tree and a man bending down on the pavement with a young boy and I assume a microscope to observe something. Adults and children absorbed in their natural surroundings. Very encouraging after listening to many presentations on the value of green spaces or even blue spaces for mental health.

Looks like the flies are getting in a last minute boost before
the weather turns
Another child belongs to one of the students at our university and she has occasionally started babbling along in the presentations, before being swiftly removed by her mother - an amusing interruption in what can become a heavy session of presentations. She has such a sweet little face and she is half way between being interested in people and being shy. Her little face lights up with half a smile before sort of half running to hide behind her mother. I love the way you can interact with little ones just with facial expressions, language does not always matter.

A windy day
After those heartwarming scenes the sight of the plight of the refugees, almost seems like a rude interruption. But where would you go if you were fleeing not just one but two awful regimes? If the unthinkable happened what would you hope for from others? There are no easy answers of course, there is even a sense of damned if you do and damned if you don't. Syria has had a drought for the last five years and so the resources of the people are depleted and that is only the start of the issue, added to that there is the dictatorship that is too remote from its people and an ideological, hatred filled group and it is a recipe for mass movement. People sometimes say what about the neighbouring countries? Well some are taking many refugees and they do not have the resources that the West has. If the climate change scientists are right then it is not a case of one lot of migration, there will be many. So we have to think about how we manage that in the future and not waiting for disaster to happen and then squabbling over the response. These are real people with real hopes and dreams that have been shattered by war, poverty and human traffickers.

Our excellent little mouser, or our barn is over run with
little critters
So apart from conferences and contemplating both the good and the bad in the world what else has happened this week? Well you may have guessed by now that Ian is home alone with the alpacas whilst I have travelled up to Estonia again. Yet again I have left Ian to celebrate his birthday on his own (at least next year, the conference is set for a week earlier). I did bake him a beetroot and chocolate cake before I left, in fact I baked two of them. I have also met up with an older chap again who knew my Aunty Betty, who was a hill-farmer in The Lakes many years ago. It was fun talking about The Lakes and vegetation in the area and in the Baltics, because he is a plant ecologist. I read a comment on Bill's blog (he regularly comments here) that says the average American only knows ten plants, this chap reckons he knows 95% in Western Europe and I can believe it. I am not sure I will ever get that good, but I would like to know most of the plants on our land. Many in the rural areas know a lot of plants, but not just what they are called but what you can do with them. One of the young women at university has hand-written journals of useful herbs from her grandmother - such precious records!

Interesting clouds
Ian didn't get off to a good start after I left to come up here. I set off earlier than originally planned because I attended a meeting on Scientific Good Practice organised by the Estonian Science Council, as they want to set up a code of ethics for Estonian researchers, so that wasn't good. It was also raining and Agnese accidentally spat in his face, he left things at home to eat and read and his radio hadn't charged up. Fortunately the sun came out and things got better. So hopefully the week ahead will be better for him.


  1. Of course it will, as it ends with me ;)

    1. I'm sure you will look after him well too :)

  2. A mixed bag! Some much needed reflections (for your readers!)

    1. A mixed bag just about sums up my life I think Ju. You will have to let me know what where your reflections lead you, I would be interested to hear


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