Monday, 31 October 2005

Normality

So yesterday was essentially back to normality. Terrible night's sleep Saturday, despite the extra hour (clocks went back) - Jacqueline kept on kicking me for no apparent reason. Finally slept well towards morning, and woke up to find I was in the bed alone. Jacqueline was on the sofa - apparently she too had a bad night, kept on kicking me to try to stop me snoring! Well, I know who I believe...

Out early to pick up Maisie, who was looking well and who seemed happy to be home, then out once again to pick up some shopping. Home by midday and spent quite a lazy day thereafter. Jacqueline headed up to the library at the hospital, leaving me and Alice. Alice spent most of the afternoon painting, which meant peace and quiet for me. Did a little tidying and sorted some of the holiday stuff (nothing too strenuous) and watched some football on Sky.

Back to the client's this morning. I went in later than I'd expected because when the alarm went off at a quarter to six, it seemed far too early for any decent people to be out of bed!

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Follys and Fireworks

Again to allow Jacqueline some study time, Alice and I did some father-daughter bonding Friday. Her choice of expedition was to Folly Farm, about a half hour's drive on the other side of Haverfordwest.

We arrived in time for a magic show which, although she was disappointed she wasn't picked as a helper, she seemed to enjoy. Very old jokes. Aside from this, the place had an indoor funfair, which had a very "sixties" mood - not sure whether this was deliberate or not! We resricted the number of rides, though, since they all charged additionally, on top of the fee we paid to get in. We played on the swing boats together, then Alice had a go on one of those roundabouts from which swings are suspended.

Despite the poor (blustery) weather, I didn't want to spend all our time in this fair (tho Alice would have been more than happy to do this), so we headed off to the Jolly Barn, which had pens containing young farmyard animals - a couple of litters of pigs, a cow, and some hens, sheep and goats. We were just in time for one of the "events" there, and consequently Alice got to milk a goat!

Onward and upward, to the "zoo" part of the farm. Reindeer and ostriches, meer kats and tapir, great fun. And a bit of exercise to boot. Just enough time for a bite to eat and a brief revisit to the indoor fair, for a last ride on the merry-go-round, then off home.

Arrived back at the cottage at around six and, since this was our last night, I suggested we head on down to the local pub, the Lobster Pot in Marloes. Again, good hot food (and lots of it), although I was surprised at how quiet the pub was.

Saturday, up early, and out of the cottage for just after 10 o'clock (including final visit to Post Office to say goodbye), and had a largely uneventful drive home. From where we were staying it was about fifty miles to the start of the M4, and it seemed to be in this fifty miles that we experienced all our delays.Once onto the motorway, everything was fine and we arrived home at around 4 o'clock.

Fun and games Saturday evening, when we went out to the annual firework display at Godshill. For starters, we misread the signs - we thought it started at 6pm when in fact it started at 7pm. So we killed an hour in the pub at Sandy Balls. However, we finally got to the display. Upon entry I realised that I had very little cash, and in fact once I'd paid for us to get in I had just a couple of pounds in my pocket. The upshot of all this was, of course, a disappointed Alice, since she couldn't have a go on any of the rides.

Still, the display when it started was excellent. They set it all to music (mostly Ride of Valkyries I seem to recall), so it was very much a "son et luminere" experience. Unfortunately that's when our troubles started. Just before the end, Alice announced that she needed a wee, so I took her. Upon our return, no Jacqueline. Also, the display had finished by this time, so hundreds of people were heading for the exits. Suffice to say that we then spent the next twenty minutes searching for her, until we finally gave up and headed back to the car. Jacqueline was there waiting, and I just blew my top. We had planned to go to the pizza place at Sandy Balls, but since we were some of the last people to leave the firework display the restaurant was not surprisingly full. Ended up settling for a chinese takeaway on the way home, none of us particularly speaking to each other for the rest of the night.

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Castles and Castles

Back to medieval times today, we headed over to a place called Carew Castle, where we'd booked Alice onto a costume tour. A great idea since it meant that Alice had fun doing the activities (writing using quills, playing with dough and brass rubbing) while we got to look around the castle. All this happened quite early by our holiday standards, so by the time the event had finished we were ready for lunch.

Off to Pembroke, a charming little town completely dominated by the castle. Had a superb lunch at a pub called the Kings Arms - gammon. Enormous portions, though, it was like being back in America. Trouble is, you end up eating it all...

A walk around Pembroke, then headed back. Skipped Pembroke Dock (seeing a dock didn't appeal!) but headed back via Milford Haven. Strange, because the properties on the way in looked lovely, but this just belied the total ugliness of the town itself. The plan was to stop for a coffee, but apart from the fact that Alice was naughty once again, we simply couldn't find one that was open. So, homeward bound...

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Soaked

Wednesday the forecast wasn't good, so we planned a quiet day. After the obligatory trip to the Post Office (Alice got to see the lady's kitten this morning!), we set off to walk to nearby Musselwick Sands just before lunch. This promised to be a quiet, secluded beach, since the only access was via footpaths across fields.

However it was not to be - shortly after leaving the road and heading across a field full of sheep, the heavens opened. The wind was sufficiently high that all three of us had our backs completely drenched. I had on a pair of jeans which didn't stand a chance! (Fortunately on my top half I had my old, trusty Barbour jacket, which kept me, and everything in the pockets, bone dry. Upon realising that there was very little chance of finding cover, and seeing that the remaining path down to the beach was essentially a mudbath, we had a family conference and decided to abort the outing. So, retracing our steps, we headed back to the cottage, and of course the south-westerly wind which was blowing toward the sea then drenched our fronts! I couldn't have been any wetter if I'd just got into the bath. Anyway, after an uncomfortable trudge back to the cottage (Jacqueline was so wet she just burst out into fits of laughter), we arrived back at the cottage, stripped out of our wet clothes and got both the central heating and the woodburner going. Must have ended up looking like a Swedish sauna!

So, suffice to say a quiet afternoon, although Alice and I did venture out at tea-time to see Wallace and Grommit in the cinema in Haverfordwest, a quaint little place nestled amongst terrace houses, still with traditional "stalls" and "circle" sections. Excellent film, too, Alice enjoyed it immensely. Jacqueline, meanwhile, had the place to herself for a while to catch up on some much-needed studying.

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

Holidays

Once again, haven't written for ages. Ironic really, since lots has been happening.

I always like to be on the ball, but was completely taken aback when the clients offered a new contract - for some reason I thought the current contract expired at the end of the year, but not so - it expires at the end of October. So, all of a sudden there was a mad rush to decide whether I wanted to stick with them etc. Of course, setting up a new contract in such a short time was improbable, to say the least, and as it has happened there is nothing firm on the table except for the offer with the current client.

Can't remember if I mentioned but a couple of months ago the clients announced that they wanted all direct contracts to start going through agencies. Not particularly a problem from my perspective, obviously subject to Ts and Cs remaining the same as they are currently. Unfortunately however at first glance there is some way to go. The IR35-aspect of the proposed contract is questionnable, although there are other consultants there (doing the same kind of thing but going through a different agency and hence having a different contract) where the role has "passed" the IR35 tests. As things stand, therefore, there is still lots of negotiation with the client's lawyer - they're obviously not switched on to this at all. So everything is still up in the air - there will be an extension, probably under the old Ts and Cs, for a short duration, before they swap things over.

Having said all this, nothing is signed yet and the current contract ends this week.

Anyway, on to more current news. This week is half term, and I was sufficiently convinced that the contract ended at the end of the year that I booked for us to come on holiday. So, I'm writing this from westest Wales! We've taken a cottage in the tiny village of Marloes, about 10 miles west of Haverfordwest. Obviously it being Ocoiber, the weather is, er......variable, but we're in a newly-refurbished stone cottage which has roaring central heating to keep us snug.

We arrived on Saturday, just in time to watch sunset at the nearby Marloes Sands. The fact that there was a sunset gives an indication of the weather. This continued on into Sunday, where we basically toured the area. Little Haven (possibly worth staying here if we come back to the area), then on to Broad Haven (glorious beach - Alice made friends with a ferret!), and further north to Nolton Haven. Little Haven and Nolton Haven were beautiful little coves - probably no more than fifty yards across - surrounded by rocky cliffs - indeed we're right by the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path here. Unfortunately at Nolton Haven dead seal had been washed up, and this seemed to really affect Alice, who has obsessed about it since.

Further northward, up through Newgale, Solva and on to St Davids for lunch. Very picturesque, St Davids is particularly charming. Found a restaurant for lunch but to my dismay roast lamb was not on the menu! So I settled for beef instead. After lunch, on up the coast (most of our driving being done on unclassified roads) for the beach at Abereiddy. Lots of dark sand, great for Alice, plus stunning rock formations (mostly slate).
I should say that all of these beaches were pretty much empty except for families of die-hard surfers clad in wet suits, and at Broad Haven many people walking dogs (we must have got there at dog-walking time!).
Onward, up to Fishguard, which was somewhat nondescript, then southward along the main road to Haverfordwest and back then to Marloes. The weather had closed in and we settled in for a stormy night. Both bedrooms ar in the roof, so when it rains or blows, we know about it. Still, I set the woodburner going and soon we were snug. (probably worth adding that we've all got slight colds at present).

Monday wasn't brilliant weather, so we headed into Haverfordwest. The plan was to go to the cinema until I realised that it was closed Mondays! Again, quite a nondescript town really, but had a sufficient supply of supermarkets to keep us going! Drove down to Dale, the next - and last - village on the road. Dale isn't actually on the sea, but at the mouth of a river, so that much calmer. Good view across Milford Sound to what looked like an oil refinery (Moonbase Alpha as Jacqueline says). I thought I'd read that they'd all closed down but this one seemed very much lit up!

Tuesday, we set off to a place called Picton Castle, which was in my atlas as a National Trust place. Unfortunately not only was it not NT, but the house actually closed on 30th September. So, faced with walking around the gardens only, we decided to head on to St Davids in time for lunch once again. This time a proper look around, including a visit to the cathedral. Back along the coast to Solva - went to a wonderful little gallery where the artist seemed to specialise in stunning blue seascapes. Obviously a very slow pace of life - reminded me of Totnes. Also, the gallery had several kittens running around the place, which Alice loved. Back home, essentially taking the reverse route to the route we took on Sunday, and back quite early.
We drove through Marloes to Martin's Haven, and despite the fact that it was extremely blowy took some excellent photographs when walking on the headland (very exposed!). The weather is quite stormy at the moment and many ships had laid to in St Bride's Bay. To top it all, we walked down to Martin's Haven itself and saw a (live) seal on the beach. Beautiful, good for Alice to hopefully drive the picture of the dead seal out of her mind.

Yesterday evening we went out in the evening to a bistro in Little Haven, which despite it being the end of October was doing a roaring trade (food was ok but nothing special).

I should add that Alice was terrible yesterday, her behaviour really can be uncontrollable at times, and she spend much of the day either crying/whining or shouting because she wasn't getting her own way. We both ended the day completely stressed out, and I really feel like going home right now.

Today the weather is grey but not wet, so we're going to walk down to Musslewick Sands. If Alice is good (yeah, right...) I'll take her into Haverfordwest this afternoon to see Wallace and Grommit.