30 May 2011


Calm before 3 days of racing

The Germans are on time

A few tweaks before the off

Control collecting - by XC60 - great fun

Terrain for day 2

I do like Herefordshire

Bob gets the name of our President wrong

2m ARDF Champion

Tight squeeze in Ludlow - hopefully the order car will have gone by the time we get back from the restaurant

Doing my tour guide bit for Dick and Jenni

What's this?  Harlequins are organising an urban race?

Looks like it

Yup - for sure

Back at "The Ego"

Here is the Urban-O map

And here are me and Basil - certificate and prize for the Fox-oring

22 May 2011

Halfpenny at War

Out for a spin in Black SAABath I came across:

Not often you meet a one of these in rural Staffordshire

uhhhh - even more unexpected

That's more like it

A WS18 - my uncle carried one of these around for much of the war and for a bit of a fast-stroll up a beach in June 6th 1944 - this one still works complete with headphones and choice of hand held or throat-mike.  It weighs about 30lb - but there is also the generator that your buddy has to lug around for you.

Made In West Bromwich (like some of my family)

21 May 2011

SSSI @ 27 Kingfisher

I have been colonised by smooth newts - this one is playing-dead just outside my backdoor; it was hiding under a log pile.  Looks like my plan to re-engineer garden water features will have to wait until I can provide a temporary pool for the newts

Out the front salsify planted ten years ago has successfully self-seeded and colonised my neighbours garage...

Front strip is looking very green - the plants are all self selected - those that have survived and re-seeded are looked after - no effort put into the weak or unhappy...

So its lemon balm (nice for tea), salsify (nice for salads and soups), hops (nice for beer), ladies bedstraw (nice for pillows), land cress (spicy in salads), sweet woodruff (nice in milk puddings), sweet cicely (nice with rhubarb) and assorted tulips, fritillaries, alliums, meadow cranesbill, iris, crocus, strawberries, mallow, poppy, oak, birch, salad burnett, crocosimia and some other flowers I cannot identify.  The olive tree was destroyed by next doors builders.

18 May 2011

The Queen is in Dublin and I am in the Restaurant

I nipped in to the restaurant at the beginning of my run this evening - it was set up with two huge tables and just one tiny one in the corner with just room for one chair - which I reserved and they were happy to reserve for me - I know this place and I know that it meets my first three rules of eating out (see below) and I know that as a single guest I will get served quickly (those at the big tables won't notice 5 minutes delay).

Rule 1: Never eat in a restaurant that revolves or floats
Rule 2: Never eat in a restaurant that is more than 10 metres above the ground (include in this "you need to take a cable car to reach it" and any restaurant with a particularly nice setting, view or overlook)
Rule 3: Never eat in your hotel dining room (I know this to my cost)

So it is Bon Soir to the waiter and Dobry wieczór to the waitress.  Also a good sign - the big table is occupied by ex-pat French - discussing the menu with the head waiter...

This is remoulade of Dover Sole - on the menu because the sole sold so well they did not have enough left for "mains" this evening

'Alibut with celeriac puree

Creme Brulee (sublime), A Whiskey and my favourite travel book - where you will find the three rules

So it was €70 on the plastic and Dobranoc and handshakes all round and see you in two weeks....

...and my oh so cool overseas colleagues, who ignoring my advice, thought they could swan in to a Malahide restaurant on a sunny evening without booking and at 21:30 ended up eating tired plastic packed BLT sandwiches from the Eurospar minimarket next door

13 May 2011

Friday 13th and we certainly know we have arrived

Another dash from Coolock to the airport - no queues at check in, no queues at boarding pass check, no queues at security and certainly no waiting to get into the business class lounge (thanks Barry).

Spectacular views over Ireland - but thunder clouds in the distance.  More of the same as we approached BHX - and heavy rain.  I suspect that the pilot, aware of the risk of wind shear, came in fast - we floated for half the runway before slamming down hard and then full speed brakes and thrust reversal (it was rather wet out and we passed all the taxi-ways but the last).

This elicited a dry announcement from the purser...

"Well we certainly know that we have arrived in Birmingham, where the time is..."

Once again BHX sent a bus for us - 150m transfer to the terminal took 15 minutes as we had to wait for the very last passenger to disembark and then there is only one small door into the terminal.

12 May 2011

Things are getting a bit tense...

I knew there were still 'historical issues' between the UK and Ireland - but it is a shock to realise just how close to the surface they are - as the Queen's visit gets closer some of 'English' are having trouble knowing just how to handle some of the statements and attitudes.  Dignified and quiet embarrassment perhaps - I know the English have a lot to answer for but continual references to and reworking of old injustices is not very grown up.

Folks tell me that they worry about violence - or rather the amazing levels the Garda will go to head off any unpleasantness - which would make traveling into Dublin not worth the hassle.  And of course, next comes O'bama...

Lenticular clouds over the Clwydian Hills - downwind from the Carneddau

The grand side of the Grand
We never had this in Chester
Amazingly this recipe suggests that Chester cake is "...is a good way of using up stale cake." - cake recycling - that is a new one on me - I have never known cake to go stale in any place where I have been living

07 May 2011

At last a really really nice 'call centre experience'

I first heard about National Counties from Uncle Robert. Founded as the Fourth Post Office Mutual Society in 1896, it was renamed as National Counties in 1972 and its membership no longer limited to Post Office staff.
They have remained mutual, only have one branch, they only do personal savings and residential mortgages.  Their ISA rates have been consistently competitive.  They have never been bailed out by the government.

Most things you need to do can be done through the website or post but on both occasions when I have had cause to call I have got through directly to a real person (in less than two rings) and that person is based in the UK and we understand each other first time.  No "press #5 to speak to an agent, #6 if you have lost the will to live", no music on hold, no "I will have to check with my supervisor", no dodgy low bandwidth connection to a crowded Bangalore sweatshop.


06 May 2011

Adventures in cooling tunnels (aka another trip to Dublin)

Mostly this week I have been crawling around in chocolate cooling tunnels trying to work out where all the cold air is going but on Tuesday I waved out of the window in the general direction of royalty...

 This was Tuesday after "the wedding", the arrow marks where Wills and Kate should be, providing Flt Lt Wales reported for duty as, err..., reported.

 Once more in the Grand Hotel, Malahide - which is no longer really that grand in the intended meaning of the word - it is rather big and has a good gym and pool and there are excellent runs along the beach and around Malahide Castle Demesne.
Not too happy with the hotel itself, I have been spoiled during my time in Poland,  but it is the "list" hotel for Kraft/Cadbury and going somewhere else would require a separate taxi ride just for me.

After issues on my two previous visits to the hotel restaurant and with room service being given an hour and a half and still then being 45 minutes late I am not eating there again.  On Tuesday we disagreed over exactly what the strange smell arising from Potatoes Gratinee was down to (I can't write it here for fear of legal action) so off again to the Seabank Bistro - this time for John Dory and to confuse the manager's girlfriend with my rather dodgy Polish pronunciation.

John Dory with a rather excellent parsnip mush and bits of red pepper

With a starter, glass of wine and Crème Brûlée + Whiskey - €62 in total - so Thursday's meal was "Chicken and Tikka" sandwiches (€3) from EuroSpar (manager from Gdansk) followed by a cup of tea made in my hotel room.

I spot the pattern here - its dead (except for Sir Tim) heroes of communication - but why Tara?   Was there a famous Mr Tara dabbler in electromagnetics? Was Tara Hill the site of an early radio station?  Google does not give answers except the "Tri-State Amateur Radio Association"

01 May 2011

Danby Lodge and Clarke's Pool Meadow

Speaking with a friend after a very tough "Short Brown" at Danby Lodge in the Forest of Dean I was recommended to visit Clarke's Pool Meadow...

50,000* Green Winged Orchids (*allegedly) also lots more rare plants - most of which I remember/recognise but few can I name.

Well worth the trip