Seasonal area

December 2010

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There was some discussion in the run-up to this picture as to whether we wanted a cold snowy December image or a merely cold December image; the weather kindly ended the argument by snowing heavily all over the country, after which the "merely cold" image of frost on the fields below Liskeard, Cornwall, seemed to be a bit inadequate.

Instead we have Big Pit (Cavus Major), Blaenavon, on the penultimate day of 2009. The snow had thoughtfully arrived a couple of days after everyone lost their White Christmas bets, so the photography team headed up to Blaenavon to see how interesting it was looking. It was very interesting. Blaenavon - home to the highest standard-gauge railway station in England and Wales - was under a foot of snow in places. Most of the area around the town was cold, white and dead. However, the tape player in the cab of one of the old industrial steam locomotives outside Big Pit was still playing, stirring the air with the sound of clinking shovels and the occasional whistle.

Big Pit is the only one of the coal mines in South Wales where it is possible for the visitor to descend into the original workings - and it is something of an experience. Cameras are unfortunately banned (for fear of sparking off the "fire damp" and blowing up the mine - if you want to photograph a colliery go to the Forest of Dean, where they'll just worry that the place will flood while you're setting up your shot) so we can't show you the interior. Besides, on this occasion the Pit was closed, it being late December and all.

What we will be doing next year is somewhat unclear - normally the Planning Department draws up in advance some suggested images from the back catalogue and helps with the whole ideas thing. Occasionally it dumps useless bits of political advertising on us too. Unfortunately it is in some considerable turmoil at the moment, having found itself under review (from the Sleeping Department of all people) for its failure to save its railway schemes from a cyclepath. The Department has already lost its Head, who has in turn lost his head (the Head's head is currently looking decorative in the reception of the Order of the Bed HQ in place of an avocado tree which has been taken away by the Engineering Department for an assessment of the work required to re-pot it - an assessment which is going quite badly without the Planning Department to give directions and draw up timelines). There will now be several months of considerable wrangling as to the best way forwards. While the Order does not make a habit of doing anything, when it does want to do something it expects that it will be done with single-minded determination, hence the Head losing his head.

During the resulting short interim period, the role of Head of the Planning Department is being filled by Mr B. Bear, who is understood to be drawing up schemes for the control of the Forest of Dean boar population by re-introducing a small group of bears. Complaints are arising about a conflict of interest, though Mr Bear is being very persuasive in his arguments that teddy bears and brown bears are not exceptionally interested in each other's welfare.


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