28 January 2011 (Friday) - Astro Club

A week ago I mentioned that our soon to be maturing mortgage endowment was still in er indoors TM’s maiden name. I sent the company a letter explaining what had happened (we’d got married!), and at not inconsiderable expense I sent them a duplicate of the marriage certificate. They returned that certificate on Wednesday, and then today I got a letter from them. They found it somewhat odd that I should be trying to change the name of one of the beneficiaries of the policy only a few weeks before the policy was due to pay out. And so they were writing to me to tell me that they were about to implement various identity verification procedures to ensure that Ms Gardner wasn’t being diddled.
So I phoned them to see what was going on. Before they would discuss the matter I had to answer various security checks, one of which was about the bank account from which the policy payments had been made. I told them that I thought it was rather odd that they were disputing er indoors TM ‘s married name, bearing in mind that name was on the bank account which has been making the payments for this policy for the last twenty-odd years.
There was an embarrassed cough from the other end of the phone line. They hadn’t thought about that.

Being the last Friday of the month, tonight was astro club. Following on from the success of Stargazing Live earlier in the month, tonight was a busy night. As always I arrived promptly, and helped set up. Seeing as we were having a telescope workshop we thought we’d need space for the scopes. So we put out sixty five chairs and left a space for scopes at the back of the hall. I meeted and greeted so many people, and in the end we needed to fill much of the area we’d earmarked for telescopes with more seating.
We started the evening with an introduction to what’s new in the world of astronomy. And then we had the results of the membership survey: we’d asked the membership what they liked about the club, and what we could improve. About half the membership returned their survey forms, and on the whole they are happy with what’s going on. Which is good. By now everyone had arrived and was settled down (apart from the dozen for whom there weren’t enough chairs) and I counted eighty five people in the hall.
Then we moved on to the main part of the evening – an introduction to telescopes – from what the beginner wants through to more advanced astro-photography scopes, ending up with some rather expensive kit indeed. I learned loads, and then I hawked the raffle. It always amazes me how much money the raffle and the constellation game brings in. I shout and holler at people to hand over their money, and in ten minutes we’ve covered the cost of the hall hire and heating, and made a little profit for the club too.

And then we had a telescope workshop in earnest. About a dozen scopes were set up in the hall; some working, some not so. While some club members who actually know about telescopes held impromptu tutorials, I wandered round offering to collimate telescopes. I’ve learned how to do this: to collimate a telescope one shines a laser pointer into the scope, and then one sucks air in through one’s teeth whilst shaking one’s head in the manner of a tradesman who’s about to charge you an arm and a leg for five minutes’ work.
Since the sky was completely overcast we couldn’t do the planned telescope session outside, so instead we projected the night sky from a laptop, and had a talk on the features of interest in the winter sky. And rather than clearing the chairs away, I got to supervise volunteers who put the chairs away for me. Sterling fellows!

In the last two blog entries I’ve been very scathing about the arky-ologee club. It could lean an awful lot from the astro club…

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