Lara Ruffle Coles

lara.rufflecol.es

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Android, Java and strollCharlton

The husband and I visited America for five weeks in September 2015, and before our trip I began studying Java, and started working through programming tutorials using IntelliJ IDEA.

On our return I moved onto app development for the Android platform and started learning the ins and outs of the application Android Studio.

My goal was to develop a suitably polished app that I could publish on the Google Play Store before applying for developer internship positions in central London. I have now done this (ta da!), and the app is called strollCharlton.

The idea of a local area guide for Charlton (where we now live) came from a three year old plan to do a London wide tourist guide app that wasn’t just full of marketing guff, but that actually contained useful and interesting information.

We got as far as deciding on a name related to walking that hadn’t been overly used, and I started writing a bit of content for some places in Greenwich (where we lived then), but that was it… cut to three years later and I did it at last. Hooray for me!

The app itself combines a number of my pre-Android interests – I’ve been writing blogs, essays, work instructions and client facing emails for many years, and I’ve always had an eye for design (plus a GCSE in Graphics and an A2-Level in Design Studies – those things are always integral to life!), so it was quite fun to develop, and it has obvious potential for repurposing to another location.

strollCharlton is free to download and I would appreciate any feedback and/or reviews.

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Thanks to my husband’s mini programming library, plus the power of Google, I have a good number of ‘go to’ Java and Android resources. See below for my recommendations.

And for an excellent summation of how Java is applied when developing Android apps, the two part Java Basics for Android Development blog, by Ben Jakuben at Treehouse, is worth a thorough read.

Android Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide, B Phillips, C Stewart, B Hardy and K Marsicano
Big Java, Cay S Horstmann
Beginning Programming with Java For Dummies, Barry Burd
The Pragmatic Programmer, Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

Big Nerd Ranch
Java Code Geeks
JavaTechig
Oracle Java Documentation
Stack Overflow
Treehouse
Tutorials Point
Vogella

*cough cough* … Don’t forget to download strollCharlton

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Parkgate on the Wirral

In April I went up to Liverpool to see friends, and as well sampling the delights of Mowgli, and taking a ferry cross the Mersey, we also visited Parkgate on the Wirral.

It was a gloriously sunny day and we crossed the river for a beautiful and scenic drive south towards this small village on the west side of the peninsula, facing Wales and the River Dee.

Parkgate’s importance in the area grew and shrank from the gradual silting of the Dee over time. It grew when a new port was needed further downstream from Chester, and then shrank as the continued silting of the river eventually moved shipping away from the Dee to the Mersey.

Towards the end of the 18th century the village was also popular as a bathing destination, but the silting of the river became so severe that marshland covered the riverbed next to the town. Nowadays, only seasonal high tides bring the river to Parkgate.

A thirty minute drive from Liverpool, Parkgate is now a commuter village full of beautiful houses and fantastic views across to Wales. The prices aren’t bad if you are a Londoner but even this might be a bit much for anyone!

After a drink or two at The Boat House we meandered down to the village itself for a super duper ice cream from Nicholls ice cream parlour. Then it was general silliness and photos. 😀



Definitely worth a visit if you are in the Chester or Liverpool area. 🙂

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The Secret Princess of Severndroog Castle at Greenwich and Docklands Festival

As well as 451, I also volunteered for The Secret Princess of Severndroog at the beginning of July – another show that was part of the Greenwich and Docklands Festival.

The show is for small children (and big hearted adults), and the volunteers were tasked with escorting the four groups of children through the woods around Severndroog Castle, just off Shooters Hill.

Fairies Bramble, Dandelion, Bluebell and Ivy led the groups and told the assembled audience about all the magical creatures in the woods who had been trapped by the evil wizard, and how to battle him to free the princess. 🙂

In the photo below, Dandelion and Bramble tell the children about the wishing tree, and invite them to write a message to the princess to cheer her up.

Each group then takes a slightly different route round the castle to meet different forest creatures – on my second shift I was lucky enough to go on the alternate route where we meet the princess’ mother. Here the children are meeting the vain and selfish prince and have to encourage him to not rescue the princess.

Next stop is a grumpy but good magician who was turned in a frog by the evil wizard. He has managed to turn himself partly back but still “ribbits” a lot! He helps the children with a spell and a defence word to scare the wizard away.

This forest creature swung her way down to the group on a harness and then taught us all two defence techniques to fight the wizard. If my memory is correct, we learnt a laughing pointing heckle, and a bum wiggling mooning motion!

Here in the rose garden we met a dancer and a singer both trapped in the wood, but the singer can’t speak anymore and can only communicate with her accordion. We learnt a line from a song to frighten the wizard.

After meeting the four forest dwellers, the group circles back to the castle itself to meet up with the other groups, and all the woodland creatures to rescue the princess. We meet the evil wizard as shown below, and recite our defence word and actions to scare him away. We succeed and everyone is released from the wood! Hurrah!

But we then have to persuade the princess to leave the castle as she is scared of leaving after so many years of being trapped. She is a bit of a whiny thing but we eventually succeed with our cheerful song (I didn’t manage to get any photos of the princess as Instagram doesn’t work so well from a distance of 63 feet).

The princess then comes down to thank us and we all sing our song again to finish the show.

Thank you to Look Left Look Right for a lovely show!

P.S. You can get married at the castle 🙂

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Ankle Deep in Creekside Mud

On the 21st of June I finally got muddy in Deptford Creek with the Creekside Education Trust. The trust regularly runs walks for the general public, and for schools in the local area.

Each walk is organised for low tide as at high tide you would be swimming! You are armed with waders and a trusty stick to keep you upright, and after a briefing in the beautiful surrounds of the flower garden, you are then led down to the creek.

It is a bit smelly, but the pure joy of tramping about in mud soon wafts the aroma of the creek away.



The trust’s base of operations is situated next to the London Bridge to Greenwich Railway Viaduct between Greenwich and Deptford, and the access path to the creek leads you to exact spot where the railway line crosses Deptford Creek.

The bridge itself was modified in 1954 to include a lifting mechanism that allowed boats with tall masts to pass up the creek. The mechanism is now defunct but luckily for us it is safe from removal, and can still be viewed at close proximity from the Ha’Penny Hatch footbridge.

We headed upstream away from the mouth of the Thames, towards the first DLR bridge over the creek. This bit of the DLR crosses the creek three times between Deptford Bridge and Greenwich.

View upstream towards The Art in Perpetuity Trust and Creekside Artists.

Third DLR bridge over the creek with a view towards the boats permanently moored and lived on in the creek.

My beautiful waders protecting me from the sludge and mud.

A little further upstream we cross the creek at a small weir, and we were carefully aided by the volunteers on the slippy bit!

Now renovated flats, the S. P. & C. Mumford Grain Silo was built in 1897 by architect Sir Aston Webb.



A dead crab shell found by our guide, a brief discussion on the creek’s biodiversity followed, plus a bad joke from me…

Guide: How do you check if a crab is male or female?
Me: Check if it has a willy

Cue many laughs and childish giggles. 😀

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Just after the dead crab, we reached the weir at the top of the creek, the weir pushes the water underground as it crosses the A2. Once it resurfaces on the other side it is known as River Ravensbourne, and at Lewisham it joins with another tributary – the River Quaggy.

We then made our way back to the start of the walk to catch some river creatures. You grind the river dirt under your feet to move it about, then see what appears in your net.

View towards the trust’s wild flower garden.

We also walked under the rail bridge and headed towards Trinity Laban‘s dance centre.

View south towards Deptford and Lewisham.

Thank you for an excellent Sunday in the bright sunshine!

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Formed in 1999, the trust’s mission is to “work with the local and wider community to sustain and promote the regeneration of Deptford Creek through education, conservation and the forging of partnerships. The trust also aims to act as a voice for nature conservation and biodiversity in the area.”

The centre itself mainly runs on a volunteer basis and more help is always welcomed, if you would like to get involved with this wonderful organisation please click here.

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451 at Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

Now over for 2015, this year’s Greenwich and Docklands International Festival featured a fully immersive interactive piece called 451.

Based on the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the Periplum created performance was performed in Bethnal Green Gardens on Saturday the 27th of June.

451 focuses a number of citizens who are rebelling against the state sponsored destruction of literature, and on the fireman Montag, a initially loyal citizen who is employed to burn books.

Citizens are hunted, captured, electrocuted, shot at and burned alive in their quest for the right to read. Montag begins to question the status quo and we follow him as he tries to break free from his regimented existence.

2b

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I applied to be a volunteer at this year’s festival, and when my role allocation came through I was on the list as a performance assistant for 451. I wasn’t really sure what I was letting myself in for but I was excited to be part of a performance that wasn’t singing related.

The ten strong team met on the Friday before the performance for a five hour rehearsal with the actors and performers. We blocked through the whole show a number of times before a dress rehearsal at 10pm. We did the same on Saturday prior to the show.

The performance assistants had a two-fold role, we needed to protect the audience from the fast moving segways that ran through the audience, but also had to play balaclava wearing fireman who blew whistles repeatedly and had to encourage the audience to burn books!

We also silently and slightly creepily gave out pages of banned booked to the audience as they arrived as part of the pre-show. Trying to stay stern faced whilst lots of polite English people said “thank you very much” was a fun experience.

It was quite a lot to learn over the two rehearsal periods, but the joint effort of ten seemed to pull everyone in the right direction at the right time. A nerve-wracking experience, but definitely one where it kept the group on our toes – ideal for a evening performance with frame throwers and bombs exploding all around!

The actual performance was quite intense and it was over far quicker than I expected. It was very exhilarating and it was really fun to work together on something so dramatic with a group of strangers I had only met the day before. I would definitely do it again, and thank you very much to Periplum for making us feel so welcome and fully part of the team.

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As usual I dragged the husband to the show, here are a few of his scary and enchanting videos of the evening:


A fiddle solo starts the main show


On the hunt for rebellious citizens


Don’t forget to tweet and betray your fellow humans!

A stunningly beautiful end: not an overthrow of the government, but a statement on keeping burnt books alive with oral tradition – a role reversal from the time before the printing press.

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Horsie, Horsie Don’t You Stop

I’ve been meaning to document the horses that clip clop up my road for a few months now.

I finally managed to dash from kitchen to spare room with a phone and hit record just in time to see the tail end (ha!) of The King’s Troop doing their exercises.


Every time I’ve seen them it has been at least fifty horses clopping two by two up the hill, an amazing sight, an amazing sound – plus some poo.

The King’s Troop moved to Woolwich in 2012 after the lease on the original St John’s Wood Barracks wasn’t renewed. Not a bad thing for a part of south-east London that spends most of its time defending itself from accusations of being a bit shit and poor.

Personally, I feel there are some absolutely lovely spots in Woolwich – I did get married there after all, and a casual meander across Woolwich Common towards the barracks is a beautiful way to explore SE7 and SE18.

On another note, who remembers Horsie, Horsie Don’t You Stop? My Dad used sang it to me while he bounced me on his knee, and we used to change the last line to “Homebase bound” as we lived near the Catford Homebase at the times. Happy days eh! 😀


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2014 Photography

At last you say! At last!

I’ve been waiting for these photos for aaaaaaages!

[fsg_gallery id=”18″]

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Up On The Roof

“When this old world starts getting me down” I can climb up to my roof. 🙂

It is an amazing sight, so much more amazing than these photos show… but at least it will give you a flavour, and you can listen to The Drifters at the same time.





















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The Huffington Post

I’ve been accepted as a Huffington Post blogger, oooooooh! This is a free gig and there are about 11,000 contributors on the site, so it isn’t exactly The Guardian front page, but it is a start so yay!

My first post isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, but it is the kind of writing I want to get published, and I want to explore a different writing style from this delightful blog.

So, have a read and give me some feedback if you like. 🙂

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The Rochester Mass Project

This Easter weekend I took part in The Rochester Mass Project as part of the Southbank Centre’s Chorus 2015 festival. The event was organised by the excellent Voicelab and anyone on their mailing list had an invite to the workshops and performance a month or so before.

I had done very little research about the piece beforehand, so it was a bit of an exciting revelation to find out that not only were we performing with The James Taylor Quartet – who are quite famous within the acid funk jazz world, but that we were also premiering the piece with the band and Rochester Cathedral Choir. Awesome.

Rehearsals were for two days from 11am to 6pm, and we ended up learning five of the six pieces we had been given. The rehearsals were a little tough, and you would be in a bit of trouble if you couldn’t read music or weren’t an amazing aural learner. Lots and lots of accidentals and fast vocal rhythms, possibly easier to play than sing! 😀

We were led through the movements by the lovely Laka D, a musician whose communication skills were perfectly suited to the piece in question and to the singers in the room. It was a really great experience to be taught by her, and as my background is more classically based, it was a plus to be developing my aural skills whilst having the safety of the score.

After a day’s break we were back at 11am on Monday for two run throughs with the band and the Cathedral choir before the performance in the afternoon. We were also meeting their conductor Scott Farrell for the first time, so it was another day of figuring everything out.

But once all was together, we were able to get a real feel for the piece, and the rhythm section really helped with the timing of each vocal phrase and for the 7/8 section of the Sanctus.





The actual performance itself was a little nerve wracking, an audience were paying to see us perform after only a couple of days rehearsal… but, it was great! It was super fun and it was wonderful to perform with a full band and to feel the thud thud thud of the bass drum.

There were nine 1st Sopranos including me and we didn’t do too much wrong! It was an exhilarating performance – with encores, spontaneous clapping (not very classical!) and woops and cheers and stuff. Wonderful.

The Cathedral choir was also excellent, amazing high voices for young singers, and it was a great help to have them there as they had been rehearsing the piece for longer. As for the band themselves, just very cool, amazing sounds, and it would have been even better from the front.

Can I do it again please?

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