Monday, 17 October 2011

More Shard

It's still growing skyward.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Autumn Break - Day 3 (Part 2)

Day spent shopping (new shoes and t-shirts) and at Sagrada Familia.

Wow, what an amazing place, so many styles and colours!

Just eaten dinner and off to find a cocktail bar.

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Autumn Break - Day 3

Up late today but that's ok as we needed the sleep.

Breakfast in the cafe next door to the hotel, with 2 cups of their excellent coffee.

Wifi is patchy in the room but strong elsewhere so I was able to update the accounts using Hamish's android pad.

We are now off to shop and explore!

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Autumn Break - Day 2 (Part 3)

Ah beer.

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Autumn Break - Day 2 (Part 2)

Safely in Barcelona and waiting to check in to hotel. Blimey it's hot.

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Autumn Break - Day 2

My new alarm clock worked a treat and woke me up at 3:30 ready for the taxi at 4:30.

Everything was on time and, after having to leave my electrical items, most of my clothes and my dignity in the scanner tray whilst I was frisked, I am now sitting on the plane waiting to take off.

The plane is orange as its Easyjet, unfortunately.

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Monday, 26 September 2011

Autumn Break - Day 1 (Part 2)

Back from  town OK and Hamish has completed the packing.

Bought a new alarm clock/ipod dock with DAB whilst in town as my bedside table was getting a bit cluttered.  Seems odd to have space back again.

Just cooking dinner (well warming up a big pasta ready meal), drinking a large gin and tonic and hoping I can get to sleep tonight ready for tomorrows early start.

Autumn Break - Day 1

Day one of my 10 day autumn break and I'm in Croydon town centre about to get some euros ready for tomorrow's trip to Barcelona. Unfortunately, due to the exchange rate it's nearly euros of pounds - oh well.

I'm still very stressed following an intense time at work over the past few weeks but I am hoping this will wear off soon.

Hamish is packing and I'm going to get at early night tonight as we are off at a stupid time in the morning.

There's quite a few people about today which seems to show that unemployment is up again and, this being Croydon, lots of very young mothers with prams.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Idiots

I was an hour late for work this morning. Why? Because some idiots stole the electric cable running to the signals at London Bridge Station.

How irresponsible can you be. This is the cable that controls the signals that STOP TRAINS CRASHING INTO EACH OTHER.

As a result all trains were delayed (and, at 17:00 still are I believe) and it has cost Network Rail thousands of pounds to put right.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 5 September 2011

Lion Roars

I upgraded my Mac to OSx Lion the day it came out and boy did I have problems. A couple of weeks ago, Apple released a bug fix and now all is well. In fact all is awesome.

The problem is the details of the bug fix listed a few obscure issues that were fixed so how come everything that was wrong is now sorted. Why can't Apple be honest and admit there were loads of problems and list them rather than sneaking the fixes 'under the wire'?


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Busy Busy Busy

Work has a load of new systems in place which are keeping me busy at the moment.

Good weekend with Matt but that has faded away now I am back to the office - today shot by and I still haven't got everything done.

Hamish had a good weekend in Amsterdam but it was good to have him back.




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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

New Method Of Input

I've added a keyboard to my iPad (a Kingston Bluetooth Keycase to be precise) which is enabling me to be a lot more creative. So, once again, I am having a go at keeping this blog up to date.

Looking back at my last post I was not in a very good place. I have ditched the therapy and the tablets and am trying to make it on my own. Work is stressful but I am doing ok so far (mostly).

Hamish is making me a cup of tea at the moment and we are half way through a trashy sci-fi film (Surrogates) at the moment - not really Hamish's sort of film but I get to choose on a week night.

We have just booked a few days away in Barcelona and I am looking forward to that. I have also booked 10 days off work as I need a long break.

So, I will try to keep this up to date - can't promise anything though :-)


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Sunday, 3 July 2011

Last Week Was Shit

Last week was not a good week and I don't really want to blog about it - suffice to say that it was not one of the best.

I decided on some retail therapy and so I am now the proud owner of a new MacBook Pro 15" and my old MacBook is now on eBay.  Wow this is a fast computer - the most powerful I have ever owned and at last I can play WOW in full resolution without the computer melting!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Stop Fucking With My Mind

The events of Wednesday's therapy session have really fucked with my mind.  I find it unbelievable that a service that is supposed to provide support can just cast people aside.  I have spoken to MIND and they are willing to help but I really shouldn't have to do this.

Also I spent the day waiting for confirmation of whether Matt had got a new job or not but they didn't call him - looks like they are making the candidates wait until Monday.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Unbelievable

Had my session yesterday and was told that although I need at least 2 years support they are cutting it off after one - I.e. In 8 weeks time.

To say I am angry is an understatement.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A Clear Inbox

Almost got my work inbox down to zero yesterday which is an amazing feat - a clear inbox = a clear mind.

Suffering quite badly from the side effects of my tablets at the moment and still feeling low.  I need to take them but the side effects are very debilitating.

Spoke to Matt who is looking forward to his second interview with my boss on Thursday - I hope he gets the job as it will be good for him and good for us.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Start Of Daily Updates

I'm going to try an experiment to see if I can post daily for the next year. So here goes.....

It was may 41st Birthday today and I had the day off work as usual. However I am in the middle of a low period in my depression so today was not good.

It was nice to see all the messages on Facebook but I still felt low and disconnected.

I'm back at work tomorrow so hopefully keeping busy will help.

Watched TV during the day including Doctor Who and the Seeds Of Doom on DVD which was good. This evening was a bit lost as feeling low just made me feel that I was wasting time and that I should have been doing something.


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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Quick Update

Sorry it's been quiet again, but I am in the middle of my annual appraisal run at work (32 members of staff = 32 x 2 hour meetings).

So, not surprisingly, I'm a bit shattered at the moment!

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Shard In The Sunshine

It's a glorious day and the Shard is really coming along.

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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Tech For Non-Tech

I support all the gadgets in our home, including the various computers.  I tinker - I admit it, but I always strive to ensure that all the tech we have is up to date and operating as efficiently as possible.

This morning Hamish saw me updating the software on Netty and gave me the third degree about what I was doing.  I can't always easily explain to him what the software is doing but I try to tell him that I know what and, more importantly, why I am doing what I'm doing.

This ultimately puts me on the defensive and causes friction.  However if I didn't maintain our tech and let entropy take it's course I would then be criticised when the various systems we have grind to a halt.

I can't really win this one.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Back - By Popular Demand

Well, I never really went away.  I didn't really think anyone actually read this blog but a few of you have asked me when I will update again and, as it's been 4 months since my last missivek I thought I would say something.

This year has already been a challenge.  I'm still not well (no change there) but I've started my psycho-dynamic therapy which is quite tough but rewarding.  Work is going very well but very stressful.  I've just started annual review season and am at the start of 31 reviews and this is on top of the usual day to day stuff.

Four weeks ago Hamish and I had a phone call from Roxana at midnight on a Monday evening to say that Hamish's dad, John, had had a fall in his care home and was now in hospital unconscious and not expected to come round.  We jumped into the car and drove down to Salisbury to begin a 12 hour vigil at his bedside.  He had suffered a massive bleed to the brain and was in a coma.  We were told at lunchtime on the Tuesday that there was no chance of recovery and, at 5 o'clock that afternoon, he was dead.

John was not a nice man, in fact he was a psychological bully, but it was still strange to think that he had gone. The next few days were filled with organising the funeral.  As a family there were mixed feelings - relief that he was gone but also a degree of guilt that we were relieved.  We did what we always do and found humour in the situation and closed ranks.  I am so lucky to be a part of a truly remarkable family.

The funeral was two weeks later - a full Catholic Requiem Mass followed by a burial at London Road cemetery.  As could have been predicted, things did not exactly go to plan and due to a miscalculation in numbers coupled with the fact that Ian's estranged son, Aaron, arrived I had to jump out of the funeral car at the last minute to make space and subsequently missed the burial.  John was awkward to the last however when the coffin got stuck going down the hole.  Luckily the funeral directors managed to get him down without resorting to giving him a good shoeing so all was OK.  We ended the day in true Walker style by all getting completely legless.

So now things are starting to return to normal and I will try to keep this blog up to date.  I've said that before!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Christmas Shopping - Aaargh

'Tis the season to be jolly - bollocks is it. We went into Croydon to do some Christmas shopping today and it was full of idiotic, slow moving, halfwits.

Everywhere we went was overcrowded with people who seem to think that they are the only ones in the store and that it's ok to stop in the middle of an isle and have conversations with their partners.

Then, after queuing in House Of Fraser for a checkout - the till crashed and I had to wait 15 minutes while it revolted and then checked to see if my purchases had been credited to my card (they hadn't).

I usually like the lead up to Christmas and enjoy the shopping bit but maybe I'm getting to old for this!

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The North Wind Blows And In A Trice, What Was Water Now Is Ice

Blimey it was cold this week. It started snowing on Tuesday and didn't stop until Thursday.

As usual, the entire country ground to a halt and I was unable to get into work all week - luckily I was able to work from home.

My psychodynamic therapy session was cancelled on Wednesday but too late to stop me worrying about it.

A load of Christmas presents bought on Amazon are waiting for me at work so I will have to take a load of carrier bags with me on Monday.

Last night, the temperature went from -5 to +4 so, at last, the snow is starting to melt so we should be back to normal next week.

We are off into town in a bit to buy dinner as the Waitrose delivery couldn't get through last night.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Overdue Catchup

Let me start by saying that I realise that it's been some time since I last posted an update, even though I keep saying that I will update more often.

I've not been too well over the past few weeks and have found things a little overwhelming. I'm feeling a little better now so I thought it was time that I caught up.

We had a great time in France and will definitely be going back next year. I feel like we made some good friends and, even though we were only away for a few days, I felt very relaxed.

Getting back to work and normal life however was quite hard. I haven't had a proper rest for some time as I have always been doing things.

Last weekend I went up to see Matt and, whilst it was great fun to see him, he also has a few things going on so the evening was a little tense at times. He looks like he has solved his problems now however which is a great weight off my mind.

Yesterday I started the Christmas shopping so I feel like I have achieved something (in fact I am just about to go and ice the Christmas cake).

I've also made an effort to make time to play and digitise more vinyl records as that gives me a huge amount of pleasure.

I have also started my course of psychodynamic therapy. I have only had 4 sessions so far but I am not convinced this is going to help. Every time I try to tell Pazis, my therapist, how I am feeling she tells me that whatever it is is pushing buttons from my past. Er thanks, but I could of told her that. She also keeps saying that what I am telling her is making her sad - not really what I want to hear. I'm not going to give up on the therapy but I really hope it develops a bit more than this soon.

Anyway, that brings me up to date - I've got a few weeks left before Christmas and I want to try and make the most of them.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Hinge And Bracket Weekend - Day One

Friday 12th November 2010 - 10:30

I'm writing this sitting in my seat on the training to Poitiers waiting to depart from Montparnasse station. It's 10:30 local time and I have been up since 3am.

We are off to spend the weekend in the guesthouse run by George Logan, the Hinge half of Hinge and Bracket. And this will be the fourth Hinge and Bracket weekend that George and his partner Louie have run this year.

As I said, we woke up at at 3am and left home around a quarter to 4 to drive to Ebbsfleet to catch the EuroStar to Paris. Then, following a very bumpy Metro ride from Gare du Nord to Montparnasse where we have just had (for us) lunch. There is now an hour and a half train ride south to Poitiers where we are due to be met by a friend of George's who will be driving us further south to the guesthouse.

14:30

We were met by Paul at the station who drove us to Bel Ombrage. The journey was very pleasant and I was surprised how much the countryside was like that in Wiltshire.

George met us when we arrived and we had a very welcome cup of tea and met our fellow guests; Ann, Heather, Jane and Terry.

3:00 (Saturday Morning)

We had a very much needed sleep after our cup of tea and at 7pm sat down to a wonderful dinner cooked by George and Louie. We then spent meany hours reminiscing with George who told us some wonderful stories about the act and about Patrick (Dame Hilda). Much wine was consumed and we were all a little 'tired and emotional' by the time we hit the sack 24 hours after we left home!

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Monday, 8 November 2010

Back Soon

Sorry about the lack of updates, had really bad cold last week. I will post a catchup tomorrow.

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Thursday, 28 October 2010

So Tired

It's been a stressful couple of weeks and I'm feeling so very tired.

Work has been busy and Hamish has been away in Salisbury helping to clear out his fathers house. This was the house we were going to buy a couple of years ago but, well, that never happened. Anyway it's gone now so at least we can forget about it and move on.

Matt came down for the weekend last week and we had a good time watching crap films and drinking too much.

I'm sitting on the sofa in the study at the moment listening to Beethoven on the record player - very civilised.

I haven't done any work on the tech website and I really want to get a move on with it but I'm just so tired. There's also a video that I've been meaning to edit for ages and a box full of old photos that won't scan themselves.

I need to get back into the swing again.

It's Hamish's birthday this weekend and Roxana and Ian are staying so I won't be able to get any of the things done this weekend so I will need to try and get started next week.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Ironwork Climbing

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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Feeling Tired

It's been a bit of a full on week this week and I am feeling so tired this morning.

Hamish got back from Berlin OK and tomorrow we are taking Roxana back to Salisbury and then it's back to work again on Monday.

We are going for a pint tonight then back home for a Chile and then we are going to watch "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs".

As I've been so busy this week I haven't had a chance to work on my website so I will pick up with that again next week.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Back Home Again

Made it back home with Roxana and have spent the afternoon doing housework and making bread, I'm such a domestic goddess.

Having only had 4 hours sleep last night has taken it's toll and I'm absolutely shattered now.

Now that everything is sorted out my week off is back on track and I'm going to catch up with a few things that I want to do such as digitising a few records, playing on the playstation and reading.

Hamish is back from Berlin tomorrow night so Roxana and I will go and pick him up from Gatwick.


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Week Not Going To Plan

Well the best laid plans of mice and men as they say. There's been a bit of a family crisis (nothing that can't be fixed) and so I am currently in Salisbury and will be bringing my sister-in-law back home with me for a few days R and R.

Hamish is still in Berlin and is having a good time judging by his blog posts. He has Netty with him and he is using it to keep his blog updated and to also upload videos to YouTube where he can edit them on their servers before making them live. This is a great service which means that you don't need a powerful computer to be able to polish up any video you shoot and want to publish.

When I get back home I want to spend a little time updating the Home Tech For All website as I have a head full of ideas and articles that I want to publish. I am mindful that if I don't get some content online soon, people who stumble across the site won't come back as they will think that it is just one of the many thousands of dead sites on the web.

I'm writing this at 01.48 in the morning as, although I am tired, I don't seem to be able to get to sleep. I hate nights like this.

Surfing around the iTunes store on the iPad I have come across itunes U which is a repository of hundreds of free videos from university lectures. I have just downloaded the first of a collection of an introduction to biology from MIT which is fascinating. Once again this proves that the web isn't all porn and celebrity gossip, if you look around there is so much you can learn.


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Monday, 11 October 2010

Bugger That's Another Week Without A Post

Actually, I have an excuse this time as I have even working on my other project.

You may recall a while back I said that I was doing something else on the web? Well, that something is a technology website that I have been thinking about creating for a while now.  It is still in the very early stages but I am working in the background creating the content for it. I won't go into too much detail here but head over to www.hometechforall.com and have a look for yourself.

I am on annual leave this week and, as Hamish has taken himself off to Berlin for a few days, I have the place to myself so I am catching up on a bit of relaxation.

I feel a bit of a hypocrite as I type this as, despite what I have said in the past, I am actually typing this on an iPad. I'm quite surprised actually as it is not at all like I had envisaged it - an overgrown iPod Touch. The apps have been rewritten from the ground up and have a much more 'grown up' feel about them. It's still not a 'proper' computer but it is much closer that I thought it would be. Also, in landscape mode, the onscreen keyboard is quite remarkable and I seem to be able to type as quickly as I can on a real keyboard. People have complained that there is no tactile feedback when typing. This is true but it doesn't seem to affect me and your fingers do make a pleasing thud as they hit the screen.

I'll let you know how I get on with it over the next few weeks.

Netty isn't consigned to the bin however as I will still be using her to take my work notes.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Another Week Has Gone By

Oh dear, I'm not doing very well at making sure I update more than once a week.

To be honest, I haven't been feeling too well over the past week.  I started out with a nasty cold but just got more and more exhausted as the week went on and, when I had finished work in the evenings, I was just too knackered to do anything.

I've been reading the book 'iCon - Steve Jobs' which is a well written autobiography of the Great Applemeister himself.  Blimey, if you thought he was arrogant now, it's nothing as to how he was in the 80's!

As I've been a bit out of it for the last few days, not much else has been happening.  My diet went out of the Window for a couple of weeks and I am starting to feel that I have put a bit of weight on so I am now back to the plan.  When I'm feeling low I find it very hard to stick to anything as I feel that it is just another thing to feel down about.  As I am now starting to feel better again, I can get back into the right mindset.

I bought an unlocked MIFI today as I am not using anywhere near the limit of my O2 Mobile Broadband with Netty so now I can also connect my iphone to it and not worry about hitting my data cap.  Also, if I ever do get an iPad (and yes I am starting to see the benefit of one) then I can go for the cheaper WIFI only version and use the MIFI with that too.

Very shit journey into work today as not only was there a tube strike but there were overrunning engineering works just outside East Croydon too so no trains and no tubes.  And it was raining.  I love Mondays.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Weeks Update

Oh dear, this weekly update is getting a bit of a habit - I need to update a bit more often.

Well, we moved Geoff to University last Sunday.  He has a good, en-suite room in halls and has already made friends so he is going to be fine.  Roxana has found it tough but she will get over it I'm sure.

I've been playing BioShock 2 all week on the PS3, interspersed with sessions of Sports Champions with the Playstation Move great fun.

Work's been busy again this week but, once again, I've got loads done so I feel satisfied with the week.

We are heading down to Salisbury again tomorrow to spend some more time with Roxana and I'm hoping we can have a rest while we are there as we all need it.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

50 Floors and Counting.

The Shard has now hit the 50th floor so only another 25 to go. The height will then remain stable for another year until the glass radiator fins are added to top off the structure.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Friday, 17 September 2010

Another Week Draws To A Close

It's been an odd week this week.  I wasn't very well for the first three days but am feeling much better now.

We went to my parents at the weekend and that resulted in another marathon clean up of Dad's PC.  I have asked him, again, not to install crap on his laptop.  If he does it again I may have to remove his administrator status and only let him install things when I log on remotely as an administrator.

His Kindle arrived on Saturday and I was very impressed by how quickly he picked it up and bought a few books for it.  I really think he will get a lot of benefit out of it.  For his Birthday, Hamish and I bought him a leather case with an integral light in it and he called last night to say that it had arrived.

I went to the Doctor's on Tuesday and we found out that I have at least another 6 months to wait for my treatment which made him angry and me quite despondent.  I know what's going to happen, I am going to get to the top of the list and then we are going to move.

I found out this week that Peter and Chris got married.  I am very disappointed in them.  When I became ill last year they didn't contact me or come over and check I was OK.  They have not been in touch since and now they get married without telling us (I found out from a mutual friend).  Once again I have made fair weather friends.  Well at least I know now.

The Playstation Move comes out today so I will be popping into town during my lunch break to pick one up.

My reading carry's on apace.  I have finished "Song Of Thunder" which was a story of a scientist who developed a quantum computer that had the ability to hack into any computer in the world and was stolen by terrorists who used it to launch America's nuclear missiles against themselves.  It was a good story let down by poor writing.

I am now reading 'Fragment' a story of a remote island that has been cut off from the rest of the world since pre-historic times and the fauna and flora have evolved completely separately from the rest of the work into very aggressive and bizarre forms.  The US government along with NASA are now trying to evaluate the life forms and are coming to the conclusion that if any of them escape the island it could have dire consequences for the rest of the planet.

I bought 'Bioshock 2' for the PS3 yesterday (second hand from CEX) and I am already addicted to it.

What else is happening?  Oh yes, the Pope arrived in the UK yesterday.  This Pope really gives me the creeps.  His anti-gay, anti-contraceptive views are nothing short of dangerous.  His eyes look really evil and I keep expecting him to give a Nazi salute and goose-step off the stage.  I wish he would hurry up and bugger off back to the vatican where he can abuse some alter boys like the rest of his priests.

We are going to Salisbury tomorrow and will be helping Geoff move to University on Sunday.  This is the start of the next phase in his life and Hamish and I are very proud of him.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

3 Metres a Day

Wow!

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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Happy Birthday Dad

This week has been much better than the last few. I've got loads done at work and also sorted out a few things at home too.

I said a while back that I had switched back to using my Mac full time so on Wednesday I reinstalled Parallels and moved my bootcamp volume.
God that was a painful process.
In the end I gave up and trashed the bootcamp partition and set up a new virtual PC. Luckily, all my data was backed up on SugarSync but it still took 24 hours to restore. Still, it's all working now and my shared folder are mapped to the right place.

I went up to Matt's after work last night and we went to Luton to see "The Last Exorcist". Good film but let down by a really rubbish ending.

Hamish is on his way to pick me up and then we are going on to my parents as it was my Dad's 79th birthday yesterday.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Shard Continues To Rise

The Shard now has a thinner core rising out of the main one like a telescope. The iron and glass work will soon be visible over the buildings in the foreground.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Busy Week So Far

It's been a busy old week so far - the Bank Holiday on Monday has messed up my spacial awareness and I keep thinking that today is yesterday, if you know what I mean.

Boxee has released a new version which now works on our Mac Mini and so it is goodbye Plex, welcome home Boxee.

I have just finished an amazing novel, Utopia by Lincoln Child.  It is the story of a group of terrorists who hold a futuristic theme park to ransom.  I love Lincoln Child's books.  The only problem is that a few of them aren't yet available on the Kindle in the UK so I have fired of an email to the publisher to ask why.

Apple made some big announcements yesterday including a new version of iTunes with a social networking element called Ping (a dig at Bing perhaps?).  The software was supposed to be available yesterday but by the time I went to bed it still wasn't available to download.  They have also updated iOS 4 to version 4.1 which is supposed to fix the proximity sensor issue so hopefully I won't be pressing any virtual buttons with my ear any more.

I haven't updated my Vlog since last week as I can't think of anything to say. I need to structure a plan so that I can update at least twice a week with something meaningful.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Salisbury

We've spent the weekend in Salisbury where we had to move the stuff we had stored at Hamish's parents house as they have now sold it.
This started the conversation again about our move down there and Hamish has said that we will actually do something about it now.
I've not been feeling at all well this weekend and actually spent most of today in bed. Maybe doing something about moving may make me feel better?

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Not The Greatest Of Weeks

Sorry I haven't posted since Monday but I've not been feeling too well this week.

As you know, I suffer from depression, and, whilst I have not been as ill as I have been in the past, this week I have been feeling fairly low.

Work has been OK and, to be honest, it has given me a purpose which helps.  The evenings had been bad though as I have been feeling restless and a bit lost.

One of the problems I am still getting is the very vivd dreams I get each night.  They're not particularly disturbing or scary, but they are hyper real and so it can take me a few minutes after I wake up for them to dissipate and even then bit of them can pop back into my head later in the day.

There is one particular theme that keeps coming back though.  I dream that I am back at school and that it's the last week before I leave for good.  I always feel unprepared and that I am going into my exams knowing that I haven't studied or even attended any of the classes.  This is odd as it has no basis in reality.  I left school 24 years ago and, at the time, had none of these feelings.

I've been awake for the past hour and I can still feel the state of panic from last night's dream.  It's all very odd.

Anyway, it's the bank holiday weekend now and, as soon as Hamish is up and about, we are heading down to Salisbury.  We haven't been down for a few weeks so it will be good to see Roxana again.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Wet And Windy

I had another tortuous journey back across London yesterday afternoon thanks to the City Thames Link line being closed in Central London. This was compounded by the fact that half the underground was also closed for engineering works putting all the tourists plus their luggage onto my train.
I caught up with my reading after dinner and actually got to bed at a reasonable time for a change.
This morning it's wet and cold but actually I prefer it like this as I feel more comfortable when I get to work. It's also the last couple of weeks when I can almost guarantee a seat on the train as soon the kids go back school and their parents all head back to work en masse.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Weekend At Matt's

I'm at my best mate Matt's this weekend and it is really good to see him as we haven't met up for a while.

Bit of a nightmare journey to get here as the Thames Link isn't running across London at the weekend at the moment so I had to get the train to Victoria, then the Tube and then fight to get on the Thames Link at St Pancras.  So, what should have taken an hour took just over two.

Anyway we sat outside a pub for a couple of hours and had a catch up and have just had a wonderful meal of Sea Bass and salad.  And now....we're of to the pub to get hammered!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Plodding On

It's been another week of ups and downs so far. My physical symptoms of the weekend and early part of the week have, for the most part, subsided. However my mood has been subdued again.

Work wise, I've been quite busy but, once again, I'm disturbed by vivid dreams.

My little Internet projects have kept me busy and I have my books but I can't get over the sensation of feeling somehow 'lost'.

I hope it will pass but, right now, it's bugging me.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Uncomfortable

I haven't been feeling too well over the past few days and, without going into too much detail, I have been constipated.

I feel like an over inflated balloon.  I called NHS direct last night and they said that my headache (which I have also had since Saturday) is probably as a result of my 'problem' and told me to take a laxative and if that didn't work to go and see my doctor.

Well the good news this morning is that the laxative has worked (and how) so hopefully I will get back to normal soon.

I had an email yesterday from a software company offering to pay me to write a review of their product on this blog.  I will be honest and say that in future, if I get approached I will do so (making the post obvious that I am getting paid) and that any reviews I write will be unbiased and honest.  The reason I didn't take them up on their offer (and I did check out the company and it is genuine) is that the software they wanted me to review was PC software and, for the most part, I use a Mac so I wouldn't be able to test the software properly first.

It was nice to be asked though.

The request also got me thinking about who reads this blog.  Whilst I only have two followers, the stats show that it is being read all over the world, which is quite exciting.  So, if you are reading this - hello - and I am honored that you are following my life and I hope that descriptions of my bowel movements don't put you off!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sherlock

We've just watched the third, and final, episode of the wonderful Sherlock on BBC HD.

This has been a brilliant albeit short series and has brought the Sherlock Holmes legend right up to date.  The only thing that I found distracting was how much it was like Dr. Who, which is hardly surprising when you consider that it was produced by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatis, both heavily involved in the sci-fi series.  Sherlock's mannerisms, especially his speech patterns, were very similar to those of the 11th Doctor.

I believe that a second series has been commissioned and I really hope that this is true.

We had a very productive afternoon (well Hamish has as he did most of the work) and have now cleaned the lounge from top to bottom and reorganized the tech under the TV including pruning out a number of cables and transformers from long forgotten pieces of equipment.

We may go into town tomorrow to get some new cushions but that depends on how we feel and if it is still raining.

I've also been a bit influential  today as I have been emailing Evernote's support team with an issue I had regarding the tagging of notes in the PC version of their software.  Rather than fob me off with reinstalling the software or not understanding my problem, they went away and were able to replicate the problem and are now working on a software revision.  Cool!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Avatar and Blip TV

Last night we finally got around to watching Avatar (I know - an age after the rest of the world).  For some reason I just hadn't fancied it.  Maybe it was the massive amount of hype it got or the fact that we didn't go and see it in 3D (in fact I haven't yet been to see a 3D film at the cinema).

Well, what can I say but WOW.   I thought it would just be an effects driven piece of glitter but yes, while it was nearly all effects, it did have an engaging and very allegorical story.  The acting was superb and some of the sequences were very powerful indeed.

I've heard that this may be the first part of a trilogy and I'm not too sure I would want this as I doubt whether a follow film could be as engaging as the first and I would hate the memory of Avatar to be tarnished by weaker subsequent films.

Today I launched Ramblings Of An Ordinary Guy on Blip TV (http://RamblingsOfAnOrdinaryGuy.blip.tv/) so take a look.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Quick Update

Nothing much to report at the moment as just plodding along this week.

The Mac Mini is all configured and working and is still lovely.  I realised last night that I never reported back to say that the RAM upgrade in Netty had been a success and has worked fine since I replaced the SIMM so it looked like I really did have dodgy RAM but kudos to Mr Memory for sorting it out.

Had a call from Dad last night to say that he had just ordered a Kindle (no prompting from me) he really is becoming a tech head!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Mac Mini (Almost) Set Up

The Mac Mini arrived today and we have it hooked up to the telly via the amp and all is good.

We now need to rearrange the equipment under the TV and put it on a shelf.  This will enable us to remove some unwanted cables and make things a bit tidier.

Setting up the Mac was so much easier than setting up the PC we used to have, however, it was not without it's annoyances.   Firstly there is a known bug with Boxee and our version of the Mac in that it won't play video, only audio.  This is apparently due to a change that Apple recently made in a software update.  So, Boxee has gone and has been replaced by Plex which does much the same thing (actually it's slightly better as it has more feeds (or Apps as Plex calls them)).  However, Plex doesn't work with Flash 10.1 so I am now installing Flash 10.0 but unfortunately Adobe's archive site is sooooo sloooow.  I think I am beginning to side with Steve Jobs.

The iTunes library came across without any problems and I can now run BBC iPlayer's HD content with out 3 out of every 4 frames dropping, which is cool.

The best thing about the Mac Mini however is that it is so quiet.  The PC's fan could be heard over the TV which was annoying.  Also, it passes through the amp without issue - the PC wouldn't which meant that we had to change the TV input to use it.

So, all in all a productive evening and I will be happy when we have got it on the shelf and tidy.

Not So Good Today

I haven't been feeling too good over the weekend and this morning I was still feeling ill so didn't go into work.  By about 17:30 I was feeling better so logged onto the work servers and caught up so at least when I go in tomorrow I won't have to start from scratch.

What else has been going on?  Well, I've nearly finished "Deamon" which is an excellent book.  The sequel isn't out on the Kindle yet so I have a few more novels in my wish list.  There is an author called Lincoln Child who wrote a book called "Deep Storm" that I read last year and rather enjoyed and so I think I will read his "Terminal Freeze" next.

I've also started following Dan Brown (no, not that one) on Revision3.com.  He is a 19 year old from Nebraska who has been vlogging for a while and has a huge following on YouTube (his monica is Pogobat).  He has recently started a project called Dan 3.0 where he has given his life over to his viewers for a year and is videoing himself doing tasks that they suggest.

As I've not been feeling too good I haven't done any more work on my secret web project and so I'm no closer to being able to tell you what it is but I will soon.

The diet is still going well however I've been unable to purchase anything from boots.com as they are having technical issues with their checkout system and I am now in serious danger of running out of Tony Ferguson products.  I may have to go to a Boots store and stock up which is sooo last century.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Oops Again!

Really sorry but I've been sidetracked reading agin this week.  Well, actually, I have a number of projects on the go.

Firstly the reading.  I finished "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" which is an excellent book.  In fact, I've just watched the film (the original Swedish version, not the one dubbed into English).  It was a fairly faithful rendition of the novel however there were a few set pieces that were in the wrong place, which jarred a bit.  I will be going on to read the other two books in the trilogy soon but I am reading other novels first.

Today I had a bit of light reading and read one of the new Doctor Who novels - "Nuclear Time".  Not bad, and the author had captured the 11th Doctor's mannerisms quite well.  I'm now about to start the techno-thriller "Deamon"by Daniel Suarez which is about a network of Botnets running out of control.  This book has a sequel - "Freedom (TM)" which I may get onto if the first book is good enough.

Other things I have been working on this week include a website that I have been meaning to create for some time now.  I won't go into details yet as I want to flesh it out before I announce it but I have registered the domain name and written a few of the pages.  When it is about half populated I will let you know what it's called.

Last week we finally had enough of the HP PC that wheezes under our TV and struggles (unsuccessfully) to pump out HD programmes and movies.  So, we have ordered one of the new Mac-Minis and I have collated all the content that I will need to put on the Mac when it arrives.  Looking at the specs and the reviews on the web, it will more than cope with being a dedicated HD media computer and it comes with a built in HDMI port to connect it to the TV.

As part of this preparation I've discovered Boxee (www.boxee.tv) which is a great application that aggregates a huge amount of video and audio content from the Web (and on your local drives) and presents them in a clean, remote control friendly way.

Tomorrow I am going to go through all the external drives I've collected (and the old internal drives from my computers that have since gone to the great recycler in the sky) and catalogue them and assign various storage tasks to them.

Anyway - back to my reading and I promise to update a bit more frequently from today!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Fat Boy Slim(er)

Another milestone in my quest to be thiner today as I've just passed the 2 stone lost mark.  I've got used to the diet now and don't find it so hard.  There have been a couple of occasions where I have been hungry and really craved food but I think they were just psychological as they coincided with my depression.

Here's to the next 3 stone!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Oops - Sorry I've Been A Bit Sidetracked

Just realised that I haven't update my blog for a couple of days but I have been absorbed in my reading!

So far this week I've read 'Solar' by Ian McEwan, 'The Messiah Secret' by James Becker and I'm now about a third of the way through 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' by Stieg Larsson.

'Solar' follows the life of a Nobel Laureate who, after a series of unfortunate incidents, develops a new form of energy based on photosynthesis.  The story is more about him and his personal life than the scientific breakthrough, and is a very good read.  I won't spoil anything but I was a little disappointed in the ending which could lead to a sequel.

'The Messiah Secret' is the third in a series of "looking for religious artefacts"novels that follow a detective and his archeologist ex-wife who get into all sorts of scrapes in their quests to track down a particular item that usually has world changing consequences.  The books are a bit formulaic in a Dan Brown sort of way but they are an amusing diversion.

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is currently a New York Times best seller that has recently been made into a film and is the first book in a trilogy.  It's quite a good read although as it's set in Sweden, some of the characters names and the principal locations are a little unpronounceable.  The book was written in Swedish and has been translated into English very well.  I will follow this up with the other two books but will intersperse them with other novels.

I've also got a rather fascinating book on Executions that I am dipping in and out of and I have Peter Mandelson's autobiography 'The Third Man' to start but I am putting that off for a bit!

Monday, 26 July 2010

All Kindled Up

Both my Kindle and it's case were waiting for me at work this morning and very nice they are too.

The Kindle got a lot of attention and I have put it through it's paces this evening and read the best part of my first novel on it!  It's larger to hold than my Sony but pages look superb on it and it can show around 2.5 times as much text at once as the Sony could, which means less page turns and a more engrossing and book like read.

I have a reference book (Website Design) which has a lot of tables and pictures and they display perfectly and in the right places.

The wireless side of things (a 3G connection that Amazon calls 'Whispernet') works flawlessly and browsing the book store is intuitive and fast.  All the free books plus a couple I had purchased downloaded as soon as I switched it on and setting up 'collections' (folders of book genre) was also very easy.

I had read some complaints on the web that the keyboard was too small to use.  Yes, it is small but it works when you need it to and most of the time you don't need it.  Amazon said that they want the Kindle to disappear when you are reading and the charcoal bezel seems to help on that score.

I have already sold my Sony (well it has been bid for on eBay) and I have had a number of questions about it so it will be interesting how high the final price is.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Most Photos Now Online

An update from yesterdays entry, most of my photos are now in one place and are online at the nice and friendly url of
http://picasaweb.google.com/106180352537550948443?authkey=Gv1sRgCLTQj5OwvLnodg

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Digital Audit

We're at home again this weekend which is nice.

I've been sorting some of my digital life out this morning, I really need to audit all of our photo's and get them in some sort of order.  I have been using iPhoto but I have to admit that it my least favourite of all the Mac applications that I use.  I don't like the way it automatically sorts 'events' which I think is far too confusing.

So, I have switched to Picasa and am now slowly porting over all the various albums of pictures we have.  Once I have done this I can delete all the duplicates.

My Kindle is on it's way and is currently sitting at an airport in Philadelphia waiting for a plane.  Amazon has been amazing, sending me welcome emails and sorting out my Kindle account so it is ready to go as soon as I get my hands on it.  They really seem to have put a lot of thought into the service and, so far, it has been brilliant.  Once again another reason to abandon Waterstones.

I went out last night with a few of my engineers from work (a couple of them are about to leave the company) and I ended up having a couple of drinks which is a big no no on my diet.  I weighed myself this morning and have still lost weight so I don't think it has done any harm.  I probably won't have an alcoholic drink for a few weeks now until I meet up with my best mate.

We are off to the cinema this evening to see Inception so I will let you know what I think of it.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Eeee It's A (New) Reader

I am a big fan of reading and therefore I'm a big fan of books.  I like novels (usually pseudo scientific ones), text books, manuals and factual books.

Well I say books.  A couple of years ago I moved my reading into the digital age and bought one of the first eReaders that came onto the UK market - The Sony PRS 505.  It's been a great little reader and I've read almost a hundred books on it so far.  I would have read more but for two factors;  1) The books in the UK are expensive and 2) the selection of books available to download from Waterstones or WH Smith never really lived up to the marketing hype.  They had promised 50,000 books at launch with all new books being available in eReader format as they came out.  This never happened.  In fact there are still less than 30,000 titles available and searching for the one you want is tedious (a complaint that many, many people have made).  Many of the books I have wanted to buy just haven't been available and all Watersone's website will do is show you a copy of the printed book instead.

When I purchased the Sony, I really wanted a Kindle but, at the time, Amazon would not sell one outside of the US and even if you did manage to import one, you wouldn't be able to buy any books for it as the Kindle works by downloading the books, free, over the air.

All that has just changed.  Not only is the Kindle now available in the UK (albeit from Amazon's USA site) but Amazon has just made the entire library of over 400,000 books available to UK purchasers, with the same free, over the air downloading.  In fact, you can download your purchased books for free in over 100 countries - no monthly fee, no contract and no data charges.

Another bonus is that as the books are priced in US dollars, the exchange rate now makes the purchase of eBooks very attractive.  Best sellers are $9.99 which works out at around £7.00 as opposed to Waterstones who charge around £13.00 a book.  No wonder Amazon's shares have just gone through the roof.

I don't know if this is a good thing or not but in June sales of eBooks for the Kindle out did sales of printed books for the first time ever.

So, I have just listed my Sony on eBay (there are a number there already, all with loads of bids) and, with the money I get from that, some birthday money and a bit of my savings I have just ordered the Kindle DX which is that 9 inch screen version.  Unlike my sony, this will easily display text books with pictures, charts and tables and will also show PDF files full size.

Amazon also do something else that Waterstones don't do and that is to keep a copy of everything you have purchased on their website.  So, if you run out of space (unlikely) or lose your Kindle, you simply tell the site to beam your entire library back to you.  You can archive books to make room and still get at them (with all their bookmarks and annotations (yes the Kindle has a keyboard so you can make notes, use the built in dictionary or even surf Wikipedia for free)).  The Kindle even does text to speech so you can have your books read to you!

I haven't lost the books I already own on the Sony as I have found a free bit of software that converts them to Kindle format (a bit dodgy as it strips the DRM lock from them (don't get me started on what I think of DRM)).

Waterstones and Sony could have done the same as Amazon but they just didn't seem bothered.  I even wrote to Waterstones to complain about the lack of content and abysmal searching but never got a reply.

Oh well, their loss.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Technology Can Be So Frustrating Sometimes

I've developed a problem with email on my iPhone and it's a problem that others are having but, as yet, there seems to be no solution.

By default, the iPhone uses IMAP email to connect to my Yahoo email account. This means that a) my email is always in sync with the mail server and b) when I move an email to a folder, it is moved on the server too. However, yesterday Mail got stuck in a loop where it thinks that there is new mail and keeps trying to download it. Apparently, this is caused when the Mail client on the iPhone doesn't get an end of session flag from the IMAP server. This means that the iPhone will keep on trying to download the ghost email and this constant activity drains the battery quickly as the phone is working flat out to go nowhere.

There are a couple of solutions to this. The first is to change from IMAP to POP mail. Whilst this works fine, mail is no longer in sync with the server and so, when you log onto webmail, all the mail you have moved or deleted is still sitting in your inbox. Worse, any mail that you sent from the Mail client on the iPhone isn't in your sent folder on the server which makes searching for an email you know you have sent a messy affair.

The other solution, and the one I have chosen, is to use a different mail client. I have downloaded Yahoo's own iPhone App which, apart from giving you full access to the mail on the server along with all the folder syncing and real time updates, is also a news aggregator and social networking client.

There are however 2 problems. Firstly, emails are not pushed to the app, you have to open it and get it to check for email - this isn't a problem for me. What is a problem is that the new version of Yahoo email (which is really nicely designed and quite fun to use) doesn't seem to work. It will work OK for the first couple of times and then it just shows a blank screen. I think this is because the app hasn't been written to take advantage of iOS 4 and I have fired off an email to Yahoo to see what they think.

Still, at least I've got mail and I can keep my online account nicely in sync.

Talking of iPhones, I met my best mate's wife at St Pancras station yesterday evening and gave her my old iPhone 3G to pass to he husband. It felt like giving a child up for adoption as I have loved, cared for and cherished that phone for the past 18 months.

You see, my best mate doesn't have a very good track record with mobile phones - his current phone went for a full cycle in the washing machine. So, I am half expecting this one to end up in the toaster or under the back wheel of his car.

Oh well!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Hot And Sticky

Nightmare journey home tonight.

The Jubilee Line had severe delays which meant that when the train finally did arrive (after 20 mins) it was packed full of sweaty passengers.

The journey to London Bridge was horrible and it was a real relief when the doors opened.

Then there was a problem getting to East Croydon so I had to change at Norwood Junction and wait 15 mins for a train to take me the rest of the way.  This was also unpleasant as there were thousands of flying ants everywhere.

Hey ho - and I'll do it all again tomorrow!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Back Home

The others eventually made it up and soon everyone was awake.
Chris cooked a wonderful brunch of local bacon, duck eggs and white and black pudding - all of which I couldn't eat but it did look great.
The picture is of Hamish, Roxana, Chris and Jane tucking in under the temporary gazebo in the garden.
After brunch, Roxana and I set off for Marks and Spencer, getting only slightly lost before we returned to Chris and Jane's to say our goodbyes before heading back home.
We gave Roxana a lift to Waterloo Station, getting caught in some rather unexpected heavy traffic in Central London and then Hamish and I headed home.

The Morning After The Night Before

Just got up and I'm not sure how long the BBQ went on for last night but it was still going strong when I went to bed.

No alcohol means that I am as sharp as a pin this morning however everyone else, well those who I have encountered so far, are either still drunk or nursing very sore heads!

I'm sitting alone in the garden as I write this with a cup of coffee and a fag and, for the first time in a few days, I feel quite calm and relaxed.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Saturday, 17 July 2010

BBQ

I'm at a BBQ in Cambridge at the moment. Ate a burger (no bun) and some chicken and also some rather fine tofu sausages. I've eaten a bit more than I intended but I doubt if will make much difference.

I'm avoiding the alcohol completely so right now I'm watching everyone get pissed around me. Oh well.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Friday, 16 July 2010

Damn Back

I don't know what I've done but since yesterday I have been in agony with my back again.

I noticed it first on the bus yesterday morning when I suddenly felt it go and all of yesterday it was really painful.  I can't walk properly (looks like I have pooed myself) and getting up from a chair is really hard.

This morning it's just as bad and is really starting to get on my nerves.

It's happened before and I know that it will suddenly get better on it's own but right now it's very annoying.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Quick Shard Update

It's up to the 39th floor now. The base is taking shape over at London Bridge and the lower floors have their glass in place.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Making Music

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be able to play the piano. I can read music, a little, and can knock out a half decent tune on the recorder but have never learned to play a keyboard instrument.

We have a very good digital keyboard but it has never been played in anger.

So I have been thinking about it for a while and it dawned on me that I have a Mac and there are loads of CBT packages available, all I need is a USB midi keyboard and I can get the computer to teach me.

So, yesterday a 61 key M-Audio Keystation keyboard arrived and, hooked up to GarageBand on the Mac, it sounds great. I am spending the next couple of evenings having fun (it's so easy to knock up a multi track recording) until my piano tutorial software arrives and then I am going to have a serious go at learning to play.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

3:33AM

Why do I keep waking up at exactly 3:33am?  It's happened at least 4 times over the last couple of weeks.

It seems I'm not alone either.  I have been doing a bit of research on the web and it seems like a very common phenomena.

Basically I wake up (naturally, not with a start), look at the clock by my bed and it's exactly 3:33.  There is no noise that has woken me and I don't feel spooked but it's beginning to bug me.

It could just be down to synchronicity but why is it happening to so many people?   Of course there are all sorts of crackpot answers on the web, mostly involving some kind of message from Guardian Angels but there does seem to be a bit of a phenomena here.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Westfield

On Saturday we went to Westfield, the recently opened mega-mall in West London.

It's very impressive and approaching the size of the huge malls that I have visited in Florida.

As usual, it mainly consists of clothes shops but also has a fair number of other outlets. I was disappointed, however, with the bookshop, Foyles, which looked wonderful but actually had a very limited supply of books.

At the end of the day though, as beautiful and vibrant as it was, it had many of the same shops as any major town centre and has probably killed off trade in the surrounding areas.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Feelin' Hot Hot Hot

The temperature hit 31C in London yesterday and in a journey from my office to a customer that I was visiting I drank 1.5 litres of water and was still thirsty.

It's a marked contrast to the weather in Northumbria where, in the early hours of this morning, and in terrible wet and cold weather conditions, the 7 day man hunt for gunman Raoul Moat ended when he took his own life.

The police presence in the small village where he had been hiding was unprecedented, perhaps, I think, as a result of the incident in Cumbria a few weeks ago where another gunman killed 12 people during a bloody rampage across the county.

In last night's incident, it seems odd that Mr. Moat was found less than a 100 yards from where police were gathered and almost slap bang in the centre of the village.

Now the investigations have started; should his threats in prison have been taken more seriously, was he being helped by members of the public and, most importantly, why did it take 7 days to apprehend him.

We will probably never know all the answers but, tragic though the outcome is, at least no-one else was harmed.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

There's Always One Damn Screw.....

.....or in this case two of the bloody things.



Upgrading the hard drive in a PS3 is a user achievable event and, being Sony, they have made it easy to do. Firstly you pop off the plastic face plate covering the hard drive which is then visible sitting in it's caddy. However, to remove the caddy you have to remove a little blue screw. Without undoing this screw, the hard drive is locked into the system. My little blue screw was superglued into place, apparently, and it was also made of the softest metal on the planet meaning that any effort exerted risked damaging the head causing the drive to be embedded in the PS3 for ever. After much sweating and the removal of all the skin on my fingers I finally got the bugger out (it's not going back in again).



Then the next challenge. The drive is held in the caddy by four more screws. Again made out of silver Plastercine. Three of them came out fine but the fourth refused to budge. My fingers bleeding and the air blue I finally got it free. That one's not going back in either.



Anyway, with two screws left over my PS3 now has a 500GB hard drive and it has formatted itself and restore the backup I made earlier. At least the software part of the process worked OK.

Blip

I don't know why but yesterday I had a blip in my depression.  I felt really low, a feeling I haven't had for some months now.  I'm OK today but yesterday just felt wrong.  I was tired and irritable and nothing I did felt right.

I know that depression goes in cycles and that you can still have bad days just the same as everyone else.  I just need to listen to my brain and act if it happens again and stays for more than a day.

The good thing is that I managed to stay on my diet as in the past I have resorted to comfort eating.  I did feel more hungry than usual and did get cravings but I was strong enough not to give in to them this time.

It's been a busy day so far at work and, in an odd way, that's helped as I haven't had time to sit and brood.

The new hard drive for my PS3 has arrived today and I am looking forwards to fitting that tonight.  If all goes well I will go from 60GB to 500GB.  I recently signed up for Playstation Plus and with that I get loads of free games and demos which automatically install in the small hours of the morning.  Now I won't have to worry about fill the drive up.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Old Friends

We've just got back from the weekend at my parents and I'm absolutely knackerd.  It's a long old drive up there (for me anyway) and there was quite a bit of traffic on the road both going and coming back.

After lunch on Saturday I said I would have a look at my Dad's laptop which he said was running 'a bit slow'.  Now, I have to say that I'm very proud of my Dad.  He had asked me to help him buy a computer for years and I was a bit worried as he sometimes has difficulty working the TV.  But he's had it for a year now and, on the whole, he is doing very well with it.

I say "on the whole" as he does have an annoying habit in that he buys PC magazines with cover DVDs crammed full of free and trial software.  And he installs it all.  So, looking at his 'bit slow' laptop I discovered 3 anti-virus programs and two firewalls running and, somehow, he had added a second monitor so most of what he should have been seeing was actually hovering in virtual space about a foot to the right of his actual screen.  There is still a problem with it in that (after I removed a phantom second video controller that had mysteriously appeared) when you save things to the desktop they vanish.  Still at least it is useable now and I also set him up with an email account.  So Dad, if you are reading this, drop me a mail to tell me!

In the evening we went to the Bell and Bear pub and met up with Colin.  It's always great to see him and I don't get to spend time with him often enough.  I was on Diet Coke all night due to the diet so I sat and watched Hamish and Colin get slowly pissed which was amusing.  While we were there Paul Bliss, an old friend that I haven't seen from school 24 years ago, turned up.  To be honest I didn't recognise him until Colin pointed him out.  It was really great to see him and I hope next time we are up we can spend a bit more time with him.

This morning we had a drive out to locate one of the only Waitrose's in the West Midlands (they do a good trade in Aldi and Lidl up there) and then had a rather splendid lunch.

After lunch we had a wander round the garden and Dad showed us the shed he is all but rebuilding.  The garden was looking wonderful, as always, and most of the plants there have been grown from seed by my Dad which is fantastic.

I'm off to bed now as I am so tired so I will leave you with a couple of photo's of some of the plants in Dad's garden.......



Friday, 2 July 2010

2 Gb Again And Fingers Crossed

Netty's replacement 2Gb memory module arrived last night (and kudos to Mr. Memory for sorting this out). I installed it yesterday evening and have been using it all day and so far so good.

Another weekend away looms as we are back in Birmingham to spend the weekend at my parents.

The big news of the day is that I have lost my first stone and I'm still enjoying the diet. I know it will slow down now but as long as it keeps going in the right direction I'll be happy.

It's bedlam on the train as I write this as a party of 7 year old school children have just got on and their teachers have absolutely zero control over them. If the girl sitting next to me kicks me one more time I may have to thump her. Hard.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Back To Mac

For the last couple of months I have been using my Mac as a PC - sacrilege I know.  I had repartitioned my hard drive using Boot Camp with the larger share going to the PC and I also set the system to automatically boot into the PC side.

This was so I could get used to using Windows 7 which, in my opinion, is the best version of Windows Microsoft have ever produced.  It is still more resource hungry than Snow Leopard though and now it's time to go back (OSX being better than any Microsoft product).

So, my experiment is now over and I have repartitioned my system to give the lions share of my hard drive back to the Mac and I am now back to using Snow Leopard full time.

It took a bit of technical jiggery-pokery to do the repartitioning and involved me using the Mac application Winclone to shrink the NTFS Boot Camp partition and then copying it as a disk image to an external hard disk.  I was then able to run Boot camp once to remove the NTFS partition and then again to create a new smaller partition.  I then had to run Winclone for a second time to copy the imaged NTFS partition back into the new space and then expand it to fill the new Boot Camp partition.

The only thing that has been a pain has been re-syncing my iPhone with iTunes as you are only allowed to sync with one user account.  I have kept my media files on the Boot Camp drive so I had to import them into a new library in iTunes for the Mac.  Unfortunately, part of re-pairing my iPhone to what it thinks is a new computer involves it automatically deleting the music from the phone and then re copying the "new" library to it.  This will take a while as I use the option to convert music files from the original 256kbs MP3 files to 128kbs AAC ones.  However, once this is done it will be OK.

I know all this sounds a bit of a faff but, if I'm honest, I enjoy doing things like this.  I actually miss being a technical engineer and this sort of thing helps keep my hand in.  I still think that Apple could make it a bit easier though.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

That Will Teach Me To Be Smug

The nice air conditioned train I was sitting on last night broke down before it left the station and I had to transfer to a non-air conditioned older one.

I still got a seat which, in hindsight, was unfortunate as I fell asleep in it and woke up 2 stops late resulting in a 30 minute walk home from Waddon. Up Hill.

Oh well.

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Monday, 28 June 2010

People Are Starting To Get Fractious

It's topping 30C in London and I'm at London Bridge. Most of the trains are late and the platform signs are up the spout.

As always happens when it's hot, peoples nerves are getting frayed and so far I have witnessed two altercations.

I'm OK now as my train is here, I have a seat and it's air conditioned. So now I am watching that madness through the window.

Whilst I was standing on the platform I heard someone say, "There is a weather warning in place, apparently there is a shower of shit coming in from South Africa. "

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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Like An Alcoholic Running A Pub

We were due to go to my parents this weekend however my Mother-In-Law had been admitted to hospital again and so we had to divert down to Salisbury instead.

I drove down in my newly repaired Mini and the journey was fairly uneventful apart from Hamish slamming the glove box door on my finger as I was adjusting the volume on the radio.

Evelyn had actually been discharged from hospital when we got here.  This was unexpected as we had been told that she would be staying in for the weekend.  In fact, the way Salisbury District Hospital (normally an excellent hospital) handled her discharge abominably, leaving her alone in a discharge lounge for 6 hours and also leaving a bloodied needle in her arm.  The experience was so bad that we are writing a letter of complaint to them.

We went over to her flat to see her and it was great to see how well she was looking.

We also went into Salisbury for a walk around town and I bought a Bumper for my iPhone 4.  I'm still not experiencing the network issues but the Bumper will help to protect it if I drop it.

It was almost unbearably hot and it was a relief to get back to Roxana's to sit in the garden with a large glass of iced water.

This morning was a bit of a challenge as I cooked a full English breakfast for the family and whilst they ate I had my shake.  I was quite pleased to find that I didn't miss the breakfast at all.  Yesterday I bought the Tony Ferguson fibre supplement which helps to add body to the shakes.  Unfortunately, looking in the jar it comes in puts you in mind of someones cremated grandfather!

We are heading back into Salisbury this lunchtime and then are going round to my Father-In-Law's to have words again as he is not behaving himself.  Families - don't you love them.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Just Hold It In A Different Way

Apparently owners of the new iPhone are having problems with signal drop out when they hold their phones to make a call. The belief is that touching the lower left hand side of the phone attenuates the signal and it fades out.

I've seen the videos on YouTube and I've read the comments in the bolgosphere but I can honestly say that my phone doesn't do it. Whether there is a faulty batch out there (the are definitely some faulty units that have yellow stripes on the screen) or if it's something to do with the people themselves I don't know. There are people who cause interference when they walk past portable tellies and our wifi does drop out whenever Hamish is in the room.

I'm just counting myself lucky as, usually, if something is going to be dodgy it's me that buys it. I once owned the only Honda in the world that regularly broke down. "This just never happens", said the AA man as he picked up my exhaust that was now lying in the road.

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Thursday, 24 June 2010

I Got One!

Well I went with my heart in the end and got the upgrade to the iPhone 4. Thanks to those nice people at the Carphone Warehouse who put one aside for me I was able to collect it after work this evening.

There were still people coming into the store to see if they had stock so I felt very privileged (read smug) to be walking out with the last one in the shop (read south of England).

So I am now typing this on a nice shiny new iPhone and it's lovely. The only fly in the ointment is that I am waiting for O2 to activate the micro sim in it and this can take upwards of 24 hours. I can still use wifi though so all is not lost.

My diet is still going well and I managed to lose 4lbs in Paris so I must be doing something right.

Also my car has come back from hospital with a shiny new bumper and they even managed to clean the crap off the roof which was a bonus.

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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Home Safe And Sound

We got back home safe and sound at around 16.30 although the train from Watford to Croydon took almost as long as the train from Birmingham to Watford. I've had a wonderful time but it it's always good to get back.

I've sorted out all the stuff for work in the morning and cooked and eaten dinner.

Time for bed now I think!

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Birmingham and Cirque de Soleil

After our visit to the Catacombs we went back to the hotel to collect our cases and then caught our bus to Charles de Gaulle airport for our flight to Birmingham.


Our flight was from Terminal 1 which is a bizarre flying saucer like structure that probably looked very futuristic when it was built in the 60s but now looks horribly out of time. The interior of the ‘saucer’ is criss-crossed with long moving walkways that undulate up and down over each other.

The flight itself to Birmingham was uneventful and we caught the train from the Airport into the city centre.

Wow! I haven’t lived and worked in Birmingham for 16 years and God has it changed. There are new skyscrapers and entire new districts everywhere. It is like seeing a CGI enhanced ‘Birmingham of the Future’.

We were staying in the Ramada hotel in the new (well new to me) Mailbox district and the hotel was very comfortable and modern with amazing views over the new developments. After a quick coffee and shower we set off for the National Indoor Arena for our evening with Cirque de Soleil.

The walk from the hotel to the NIA was very pleasant, along the canals and past all the new waterside cafes and bars.

When we got to the arena we found that out tickets had been upgraded and we now had excellent seats with great views of the performance area. The NIA is massive and the seats soon filled up before the performance started.

The show itself was absolutely stunning with jaw dropping feats of human acrobatics with a healthy smattering of comedy and audience participation. I have to admit that during one of the trapeze sequences my heart was in my mouth as the performers contorted themselves into impossible positions whilst soaring tens of feet over the audience.

After the show, we picked up some food and headed back to the hotel.

This morning, after we checked out and had a light breakfast, we set off to have a look around the Bullring Shopping Centre. I could recognise bits of it but the vast majority was gleaming and new. It was so good to see the city re-born and I hope that the recent downturn in the economy doesn’t stop further development.

As I type this, we are on the train heading home and, sadly, my birthday weekend is coming to a close.

Thank you, Hamish, for organising everything and making what was a depressing birthday (in terms of my age) into a fantastic and memorable experience.

Tuesday 22nd June Part 1 - Paris Catacombs

Our last day in Paris included something that I have wanted to do for a long time and that is take a tour of the Catacombs.

Like many major cities, Paris used to have a large number of cemeteries located within the various inner-city 'villiages'.  Around the middle of the 19th Century, these cemeteries were long since full and, in some cases, were literally overflowing.  Poor people were often buried in unmarked graves and also not very deep.  In fact, during heavy storms, it was not uncommon for bodies to be washed back up to the surface.

To solve the problem a number of large cemeteries were built at various locations outside the main city centre.  The problem, however, was what to do with the hundreds of thousands of bodies that were buried in the original, inner-city cemeteries so that the land could be cleared and used for new building projects.

Paris had a rather unique solution to this problem.  Most of the grand buildings are built from a particular type of stone and this stone was quarried from deep under the city itself.  Years of quarrying had led to miles of tunnels below the new sewer system (and also below the Metro lines that would be built later).

It was decided to move the corpses from these old cemeteries and deposit them in these tunnels.  As most of the corpses had been in the cemeteries for many years, they had decayed to skeletons. 

It is not unusual to reuse parts of cemeteries for new burials and the existing bones are usually moved, intact, to another part of the cemetery.  The tomb that they are placed in is know as an Ossuary.  However, the decision to move so many corpses was unprecedented.

It would have been impossible to identify each corpse once moved to the new location so it was decided that the bodies themselves would be anonymous but that all the bones from a particular cemetery would be located together and marked with the name of the cemetery and the date moved.

These Catacombs as they have become known stretch over a huge portion of Paris and only a small part have been mapped.  This has now become a tourist attraction and, as it was located close to our hotel, it was an attraction that I could not resist visiting.

We got there around 11am and I was quite surprised to discover that a large queue was waiting to go in.  This is not a major attraction and I didn't think there would be that many people there.  Although the tour of the Catacombs is taken at your own pace, to preserve the solemnity of the place only 200 people are allowed in at any one time.

After a wait of around 40 minutes, we found ourselves at the front of the queue and, after paying the entrance fee, we were on our own to start our exploration.  We stated by descending a long, winding, stone staircase that continued downwards for around 4 minutes.  You could hear the distant rumbling of the Metro but we were soon well below that.

At the foot of the staircase you lead your way through a little over 500 metres of winding tunnels cut into the solid rock.  The tunnels continue to slope downwards, ever deeper under the city.  After a few minutes it is impossible to picture where you are in relation to the streets above.

After around 10 minutes of fairly brisk walking (with Hamish going 'woooo' in a spooky voice every few minutes) we arrived at a rather unexpected cavern where the quarry men had carved little cityscapes out of the rock.  Everywhere there were gated tunnels leading off in different directions and at one point there was a gated stone staircase that descended even deeper into the dark.

A couple more minutes of walking and we came across another cavern with a doorway, the lintel of which read (in French), "Silence - You are now entering the temple of the Dead".

And they they were.  Thousands of bones.  The leg and arm bones had been laid end on to form the walls and every few inches, embedded in this wall, were skulls.  Behind the wall of bones were more skulls and bones, not placed but heaped around 5 feet high.  Occasionally there were crosses made of arm bones set into the walls.  This went on as far as the eye could see.  We walked on for at least 20 minutes and the skulls and bones continued in an unbroken line forming the walls of the tunnels.  Every so often was a marker, like an over sized tombstone, with the name of a cemetery and the date the bones were deposited here.

It became hard, as I got acclimatised to what I was seeing, to remember that each skull was a person who had lived, laughed and loved.  It was a very humbling and moving experience.

Eventually, we came to the end of the tunnels and another stone spiral staircase, this time leading up (although curiously not as long as the one we had originally descended) and we found ourselves back in the blazing sunshine of the living, bustling, vibrant city.  We were some way from where we had gone in and it took is a few minutes to work out where we were.

I implore anyone reading this who is planning a trip to Paris to make a visit to the Catacombs - I guarantee that you will love life that little bit more if you do.

Champs Elysées And An Unexpected Night Out

On Monday we spent the day window shopping on the Champs Elysées.  We caught the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe and slowly worked our down towards the Palais de L'Elysée.

It needs to be said that there a huge number of pointless shops, including many of the big names in fashion with displays of overpriced tat but they must be successful otherwise they wouldn't be there.

One of the highlights was finding out that the Virgin Megastore is still alive and well and is still in it's prime spot.  In fact, C&A is still going as well and I saw quite a few of them all over Paris.

After lunch we went down Embassy Row where we were a little disappointed to note that the American Embassy had a bigger flag than us and theirs was fluttering majestically in the breeze whilst our threadbare effort hung limply on it's pole.

We ended the day at Madeleine which is much more spectacular inside than out.

After going back to the hotel to freshen up we went out for dinner and ended up at a bar called 'Vini Lounge' (we had actually had a couple of drinks there the night before).  Tonight, however, they had a DJ  with speakers setup in the street (much to the disgust of the residential neighbours) and we sat at the bar working our way through their cocktail menu.  The cocktails were served by an incredibly cute and amazingly talented barman (whose name (and alas phone number) I neglected to get!). €65 later plus a couple of free drinks we staggered back to the Hotel where the room span merrily until we got to sleep. 

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Quick Update

Sorry for the lack of updates, I got a bit well pissed last night so didn't get a chance to write anything!

We are back in the UK now and at a hotel in Birmingham about to set off to see Cirque de Soleil.  Had a fascinating trip to the catacombs under Paris this morning and I will write all about that later.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

iPhone Dilema

I'm having a bit of a dilema regarding the new iPhone. Apple seem to have cocked up resulting in a shortage of phones for the launch date on Thursday. My provider, O2, have said that any iPhones they have will be reserved for exisiting customers which is great, but it doesn't gaurentee that I will get one.

I think I will phone the O2 shop on Friday and see if they have any in stock but I think that I will be disappointed. I have been looking again at the HTC Desire but I'm not sure I want to move away from the iPhone just yet.

Steve Jobs is getting on my nerves with his refusal to let the iPhone run Flash (something that the Desire will do) but the build quality of the new iPhone is amazing. Of course, there is actually nothing wrong with my current iPhone (I'm writing this on it now) so I could just hang on for a month until the stock situation has sorted itself out. That's what my brain is telling me to do (and it would save me £20 early contract termination fee) but my heart is saying get the new iPhone now. Maybe this time I will go with my brain. Or maybe not. Like I say, it's a dilema but it's a nice one to have.

Playing with the iPad this morning in the Apple store at the Louvre did nothing to change my opinion of it. Yes it was gorgeous, yes it was so intuitive to use but it's just so impractical. Typing on the iPhone is a natural experience as you are holding the phone in your two hands and typing with your thumbs. You can't do that with the iPad and you need to crook it in your lap or lie it flat on a table, which doesn't make for a natural or comfortable situation. A prime example, I think, of style over substance.

Birthday Weekend - Part 7 (Sunday)

We made it over to the Louvre this morning to see what I missed the last time I was here, the Egyptian collection.

Getting into the Louvre itself was actually quite daunting as they have built a huge shopping centre between the Metro station and it. We came out of the station slap bang into a beautiful but vast mall with no visible way out. After a couple of false starts we made our way outside and then back in again to the Louvre entrance itself.

We made a brief pilgrimage to the Apple store to play with the iPads and then found our way to the wing of the museum that held the Egyptian gallery.

Wow the Louvre is massive. You could easily spend your entire holiday there and still not see everything. The last time we came (and did the Mona Lisa) the Egyptian section was being renovated so I wanted to make this special trip today.  It didn't dissapoint and we spent a very pleasent hour looking at the exhibits.

As I write this, we are sitting at a cafe near Opera watching the world go by. Just what the doctor ordered.

Birthday Weekend - Part 6 (Saturday Afternoon and Evening)

Sorry for the slight delay in updating but by the time I got in last night, coupled with the amount of alcohol I drank – sleep was all that I could manage.


Yesterday morning we headed off for Montparnasse cemetery. On the way there we came across a wonderful market that was selling all types of food imaginable. Everything looked so fresh and tempting. I bought a couple of strips of baby tomatoes on the vine which were the sweetest I have ever tasted. It seems that most people buy their food from these markets rather than going to the supermarket. It was possible to buy all the ingredients for a main meal there. I wish we did something similar in the UK. But for us, the market seems to be where you buy cheap clothes and three lighters for a pound.

Montparnasse cemetery is amazing, with large, above ground, vaults and monuments. I have always been interested with the human obsession with death and the marking of burial sites. The French cemeteries, like those in the UK, have borrowed heavily from the Victorian ideals and symbolism. There are broken columns (symbolising a life cut short), covered urns (symbolising life force smothered) and mourning statues.

One thing that stood out, however, were the number of ‘modern art’ memorials celebrating a particular trait of those buried beneath. Like its sister cemetery at Père- Lachaise there are a few famous people buried at Montparnasse including Jean-Paul Sartre, André Citroën and Camille Saint-Sains.

After spending a good hour and a half in the cemetery we headed back toward the hotel stopping off for lunch on the way. This was the first time I have had to sit and watch Hamish eat (he had the most amazing looking quiche). This was very hard to do but at least I had my delicious, nutritious cardboard bar to look forward to.

After an hours kip in the hotel we got changed and headed out to the restaurant for my Birthday meal. It was a 30 minute walk, made slightly longer by a freak rain shower. In fact we are actually 20 minutes late resulting in a phone call from the restaurant asking where we were!

The ‘Le Petit Prince de Paris’ is a gay friendly restaurant on a little, out of the way street near Boulevard Saint-Michel. We went there a couple of years ago with Roxana and Geoff and it was great to see that it hadn’t changed at all. It gets very busy in there – hence their call to us to see if we were still coming.

I had a wonderful meal (goats cheese terrine followed by suckling pig followed by little pots of chocolate mousse). We were getting ready to pay and leave when ‘Happy Birthday To You’ in French, of course, blasted over the speakers accompanied by a small coffee ice-cream with a sparkler in it!

We had a slow walk back to the hotel stopping off for a beer on the way. And, as I said at the start of this entry, by the time we got back to the hotel, all I wanted to do was sleep!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Birthday Weekend - Part 5 (Saturday Morning)

Very good nights sleep last night and we have been out for coffee and croissants (well Hamish had croissants, I had already had my morning shake (that's my diet drink)).

We were on a bit if a mission this morning.  When Hamish got his camera bag out of the suitcase last night, the clip that holds the shoulder strap broke off.  We have been to a number of bag shops trying to find a spare strap but I don't think we will find anything. 

Our hotel is opposite a large, underground, shopping centre so when we get back from looking around Montparnasse cemetery we are going on a bit of a shopping expedition.

The weather is cooler today and it has been raining in the night but it is a perfect day for walking around.  I will be taking loads of arty photos in the cemetery with our decent camera but I won't be able to post them on here as we don't have a way of transferring them to the netbook.  I will take a few with my iPhone and put them up though.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Birthday Weekend - Part 4 (Friday Evening)

Ah Gay Paris, the music, the culture, the food, the all pervasive smell of wee.

We went for a wander around in the streets leading off from our hotel. We knew we wouldn't get lost as we are staying almost at the foot of Montparnasse Tower, a gigantic and somewhat ugly office block that is the tallest building in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. It has a restaurant and viewing gallery at the top but I don’t think we will partake.

We set off down the Rue de Rennes where we encountered some incredibly fit firemen on a fundraising drive. Hamish bough a €3 raffle ticket which was worth the money just to spend 30 seconds in the young lad’s presence!

We then paid a rather large sum for 2 coffees but to be fair, we were tourists and we were sitting at the pavement tables so it was worth the money just to watch Paris drive and walk by.

After a quick stop at a tabac we set off in earnest to look for somewhere to eat. We always go off the main streets when looking for restaurants as you always pay a premium in a main street one. So we had a nice amble through the backstreets heading in the general direction of our hotel.

We ended up a wonderful little crêperie (Crêperie de Pont-Aven) where I had omelette and salad and Hamish had a savoury crêpe followed by a rather decedent sweet one consisting of pears, chocolate sauce, crème and ice cream. We had a little entertainment when a French lady on a bike, not looking where she was going, cycled, rather forcibly, into the rear of a taxi – always good for a laugh.

After dinner we popped into a small art gallery that was holding a cheese and wine event, showing off (what I assume) was some local artists work. Not the most accomplished artist as I could have done some of the paintings myself and at least two could have been done by my best mate’s four year old. Each to their own, I suppose.

Now we are back at the hotel and are going to get an early night so that we can be up and out early tomorrow to make the most of the day.