On Wednesday afternoon my hubby and I went on an outing with our local Ileostomy Association to the Met Office in Exeter. The Met Office, responsible primarily for weather forecasting, has moved several times, and moved to Exeter a few years ago, where it is most likely to remain. The building is very modern, and striking in appearance.
The tour started with a session in the lecture theatre, where we were shown a Powerpoint presentation giving the history of the organisation.
After the presentation, we were split into four groups and taken round by different guides. We had to be aware that people were still at work, and to keep the noise down, and make room for people moving to and fro.
Our guide described how previously, the Met Office was housed in typical government buildings with corridors and rooms isolated from each other, but this new building was constructed with a view to freer communication between different departments, with plenty of open space with tables and chairs to sit and chat and discuss matters across different disciplines.
Not only is the layout conducive to good communication, but the building has a light, spacious feel to it and we were told it was a very pleasant environment in which to work. Scattered around were various commissioned works of art by contemporary artists in many media and these added to the generally very aesthetically pleasing surroundings.
A huge amount of research goes on, analysing data coming in from around the world and via satellite and radar telemetry. Most of the staff have several university degrees in many disciplines - there are physicists, mathematicians, statisticians, engineers - you name it. The coffee shop is a key element because our guide said that you can ask people by phone, email, text, etc., to meet with you to discuss something and they won't come, but offer to buy them coffee, and they come like a shot! There is a restaurant, and vending machines throughout the building as they run shifts 24 hours a day. Everywhere there are recycling bins - it's all pretty environmentally conscious! They even have a gym to maintain good health among the staff. They have a large library and this is open to the public - in the library is a display of historical instruments, and I was fascinated to see an Admiral Fitzroy barometer - my parents used to have one so it was very familiar to me.
We were shown some very interesting items such as a model of the aircraft they use for measuring different things in the upper atmosphere, a model satellite, and some very interesting free-floating buoys which can be programmed to rise and fall to different depths in various oceanic currents, all the time monitoring pressure, temperature, salinity, speed etc. There is a label on the side stating it is the property of the Met Office and "Do Not Retrieve!" These oceanic currents are part of the engine that drives the global climate. A great deal of research is being done on climate change, collating data from around the world, and looking at ice cores, atmospheric dust etc. They were at the forefront of the decision to stop all flights after the volcano erupted in Iceland a few years ago, measuring the levels of dust in the atmosphere. They monitor droughts and floods and try to predict when these things might happen, and try to help communities in the Third World which are particularly vulnerable to these events.
He explained about the duplication of a lot of the equipment in case of failure, and details of how much electrical power is required to run the supercomputer, and how it is water cooled - I wish I could remember all the facts and figures! The water heated during this cooling process is used to heat the building, and any excess is used to generate electricity to be ploughed back into their system. They have their own power plant and back-up generators, and several hundred solar panels, and they don't waste any energy.
Someone said to me recently that since the Met Office moved down here, the local forecast seems to have got less accurate lol! She said she felt like phoning them up and saying, "Just look out of the window!!" I don't actually think they do too badly these days - it's a lot more accurate than it used to be, and our guide showed us some charts while we were still in the conference room, showing how the accuracy of the predictions several years ago for one or two days ahead, is now what can be expected for 5 or 6 days ahead. The supercomputer is making over 1,000 trillion calculations every second.
I asked our guide about the average age of the employees, because they all seemed to be very young. He said that the average age had dropped from about 35 to early- to mid-twenties. Being a government department the pay isn't that brilliant, and young graduates are happy to put up with this for the benefit of gaining experience, using their expertise, getting papers published, having something good on their CV etc. Being mostly single, they manage fine on their salaries, but once they start to settle down and get married and have families, they tend to move to better paid pastures new. He says there is quite a gap between these young employees and the ones like himself who have been long-term employees for 30+ years and this is proving to be quite a problem. They need the experience but people are not staying more than a few years.
The final stop was at the library, and then we all met up again in the lobby before coming home. The whole visit took about 2 hours. It was all very interesting, and I hadn't realised just how much they do and how important the work is - it's not just so that we can decide whether to take an umbrella to work that day, or whether to hang the washing out or not!!
After all the recent activity, yesterday I was extremely tired so didn’t push myself at all, but got up late, and spent most of the day resting on the recliner. Even if I feel I am wasting time and being lazy when I get a day like this (which is not true – after 9 years of M.E. I should learn not to be so hard on myself!!) it is well worth it, because the next day I really feel the benefit of it. Today I am feeling a lot better, and able to tackle the laundry and various other tasks.
Yesterday was the first day since I took up my guitar again at the end of February, that I did not do any practising. Being so tired, I gave myself a day off! I played and sang again this morning, though, and am pleased to say that I am making progress and my fingers are definitely not as sore as they were. I noticed this morning that the calluses are forming very well, and no longer look like deep white blisters, but have turned brown!
They are getting sufficiently hard that hammer-ons are now becoming more audible! My fingers are still sore, and the percussive impact on my computer keyboard still hurts, but this will pass as the calluses develop further. The only way is to keep at it!
During the tour of the Met Office I thought I was beginning to develop a cold, which I really dreaded. With my M.E. a cold usually degenerates into a more severe viral infection causing me to feel flu-y and feverish, and I often get a throat infection and end up coughing for weeks – definitely something to be avoided! I squirted some Vick’s First Defence up my nose and as the evening wore on I didn’t think it had done any good. I went to bed with some hot lemon and honey and slept well, and in the morning there was no trace of it – so I’m not sure if any of my remedies worked, or whether the whole thing was a false alarm! Anyway, I am fine, and was able to go to KnitterNatter (our church craft group) in the evening, feeling better after resting all day.
The wound where my port was removed on Tuesday is healing well. I have not had to take paracetamol apart from on that first day, but it is still tender to the touch. I miss having it though, because I used to fiddle with it, and it feels very strange not to have a hard bump on my upper right chest any longer. After a few days the skin adhesive should slough away and the wound become less puckered and red. Yesterday they phoned me from the hospital to check that everything was OK, and I as able to report that it was fine and there were no problems.