Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Autumn on the Way?

Well, the weather has certainly turned over the last 24 hours. I came out of the house this morning to driving rain, and on the journey to the station saw lots of leaves being blown about. Perhaps we're finally at the start of the cold season. In contrast to this, the weather beforehand had been wonderful. We enjoyed an excellent day out in Poole Harbour and on Brownsea Island two weekends ago, all of us dressed very much for summer. Brownsea was lovely - a really good place to go for the day to just tramp around. We saw a couple of elusive red squirrels - I was struck by how much smaller they are than the greys - which were sufficiently quick on their toes that the only in-focus photograph I got was of one running away pretty sharpish! There was even an overly-friendly pheasant who insisted on following us, presumably in the hope of a share of the picnic! Very different from the pheasants closer to home, whose main goal in life is to avoid humans, and more specifically lead pellets! But the overriding memory of Brownsea will just be the sheer tranquility next to the sea, shimmering in the sunlight.

"No photographs!"

Then last weekend, equally fine weather but this time spent among the crowds at Portsmouth. The goal was to visit the Spinnaker Tower, which I have to say was expensive, disappointing and probably best seen from a distance. From the expense perspective, it cost something over £20 for the three of us. Our photos were taken at the start of the visit, to be processed in time to offer us a souvenir at the end of the visit (for the princely sum of £8 - we declined!) only to find, when we got to the viewing platforms, everywhere glassed in and in the full glare of the sun. Even the topmost platform, the so-called Crow's Nest, was open air only by virtue of a small skylight exposed to the elements - but still enclosed in walls of glass. So, between fingermarks and reflections, all in all lugging my camera around was a complete waste of time. Well, almost - I did get a couple of good images of the tower, once we'd descended.

We hadn't realised it, but the site of the Spinnaker was slap-bang in the middle of Gunwharf Quays shopping centre. Whilst, as shopping centres go, the harbourside location is very pleasant on a fine day, this fact meant one overriding thing - queues. In fact, it took a full 90 minutes to get to the place, a journey I would ordinarily expect to complete in 45, and the queues coming out were even worse. But still, as I say, overall quite a pleasant experience, complete with boutiques such as Molton Brown, L'Occitane and Kipling to keep Jacqueline happy (though as it happened it was me who bought things). We must go back there, but perhaps when it is quieter.

What else? Well, I finally took the plunge and upgraded my laptop. Dell Outlet really is good for that kind of thing. You're a bit constrained by choice, because these machines are returns and cancellations, but the prices are excellent and they come complete with standard warranties etc. As it happened I got one of the most powerful machines, but which was a bit short on memory and on disk space. All for under £500. An extra £85 for another memory chip and a massive 320GB hard disk (not from Dell, I hasten to add, they're very uncompetitive for this stuff), and I have a top-of-the-range computer. I have decided that this machine is to be admin-only (documents, accounts, email etc.) since I know from experience how cluttered things can become once you start putting "tekky" stuff on there - the tools I use for my day-to-day consulting work. And, this is my first proper experience of Vista. It looked quite different to previous Windows products from a distance, but close-up-and-personal it becomes familiar very quickly. But then (imo) Windows' weakness has never been look and feel (on the contrary, that's its greatest strength), but things like security, stability and general "enterprise" features. So, we'll see how that goes.

Not a great deal else going on. The turmoil in the markets still (thankfully) appears to be quite some distance away, and if anything the trouble Bush is having getting his aid package through congress is giving everything a farcical gloss. Under the slick veneer, there really does appear to be little substance, and this is borne out by this rescue package, which is vague indeed. Who can really blame congress for requiring "due diligence" when it comes to dishing out that much money? The sad thing is that neither of the presidential hopefuls seems particularly tuned in either. Still, I hear today that as EU president, Sarkozy is putting together a summit of the main European players, to work out how best to weather the oncoming storm.

Troubled times...

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