Thursday, 30 April 2009

Weekend Break

Ah well, this entry has come a bit sooner than the last. In between the work, work, work we spent a very enjoyable weekend just gone at Centerparcs in Longleat.

It was good to renew our acquaintance with Centerparcs, since we haven't been now for a couple of years. I travelled straight from the clients on Friday, met up with Jacqueline and Alice, who'd spent the day there. Time for a brief swim (unbelievably quiet) then supper in a Tapas restaurant on site. I have to say I've always thought Centerparcs food was highly-priced and poor quality, but this particular meal was excellent, as in fact were the other meals we had during the weekend. They've obviously got their act together somewhat, they've obviously taken a decision to bring in franchises (for example there are now a Strada, a Café Rouge and a couple of Starbucks outlets) and the effect has been good. For all I know, the Tapas place may have been a franchise, though I didn't recognise the name.

Anyway, Saturday I'd booked a birdwatching walk, and I thought I may have been stretching my popularity somewhat when I had the family up and out for 8am. As it happened we all thought it was excellent, the ranger taking us around was a really nice chap, and any doubts (or hunger pangs) were firmly dispelled when I bought us all a nice cooked breakfast afterwards.

Even then, the fun wasn't over, because I'd arranged for us to go on a treasure trail that afternoon too. Very disorganised and not much good, we missed one clue completely, and I rode straight past another, so missed that one too. Annoying, at least they gave Alice a medal for taking part.

Saturday evening Jacqueline had a spa session booked, so Alice and I headed off to the dome. Again, very quiet, and therefore very pleasant. Took Alice to supper - there were queues everywhere in the dome so we ended up cycling to their "posh" restaurant. I had a pretty good calf's liver, followed by a rubbish lemon tart. Cycled on back to the villa, well and truly ready for bed.

Sunday started off beautifully, I woke early and was out with my camera by 7:30am. Some nice photos in there. Went on a lovely walk and ended up at the dome, where I get some fresh bread, fresh coffee, and was just in time to catch the first shuttle of the day back to the villa. In the meantime Jacqueline had been busy, cooking breakfast for us. So she was grateful for a decent coffee, and I had a lovely, fresh bacon baguette.

More activity Sunday morning, I'd entered us into an orienteering event. Very easy, they gave us all GPS units which had had waypoints programmed into them, plus they gave us pretty obvious clues. Despite the fact that other people did the course on bikes (we walked), still more people used mobile phones to cheat quite easily, we came quite a creditable fourth, though unfortunately no badge for Alice this time!

After a short nap (far too short!) we were back off to the dome for a swim, this was the only time in the weekend when Alice gave us jip. After a mere 90 minutes swim, we told her we had to get out, and she went straight into a strop. The thing was, we did have to get out because I'd arranged another event for us - the family quiz! I'm very good at quizzes generally, though this one took me by surprise. Very interactive, the host was pretty good and all three of us had to get up and do things to earn bonus points (I happened to give an excellent rendition of Bare Necessities, even though I say so myself.) Anyway, could you believe it, we came joint first! A miracle! By the time we'd finished we were all quizzed out, so we just split the prize between us. The prize itself was immediately useable - Centerparcs vouchers that we immediately put towards supper.

Back to the villa once again, and I was once again out with my camera, this time taking some photographs in the dark. Again, a couple of good ones.

Monday, of course, was home day. However because we'd only been there for the weekend it was pretty easy to pack everything away. Because Longleat isn't too far from us, once we packed we headed back to the dome for one last swim, followed by lunch at the Café Rouge (moules frites, yummy!). And that, as they say, was that. Back home via the supermarket.

And from that point to this, it has all been work!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

No news

Okay, I know I'm no good at blogging, so I've got to force myself...

Life has been work, work, work. Even the recent Easter break was tainted because I caught a cold just beforehand (something from which I still haven't recovered two weeks later) so I spent the four-day break mainly sitting on the sofa, coughing.

Despite my catching a cold, the weather in general has become warmer and everything in the garden is going full steam ahead. Ironically Jacqueline has been the more active of us, planting some hanging baskets and generally tackling brambles. Fortunately I put so much effort in last year cutting back the big stuff that the thing I really need to get on top of this year are the weeds.

Alice and I went to visit my mum for the weekend, unfortunately my mum is quite poorly and needs to go into hospital shortly for an operation. She's been generally healthy throughout her life (despite what she says) so I think the prospect has knocked her for six. I can't help wondering whether I will end up visiting more often, but running my own business makes this a problem as this year in particular it looks like I need every penny I can lay my hands on. Up there, we took the opportunity to visit my dad, which always depresses me. His quality of life is really shitty, his brain has long since packed up and he's just idling his time now in a home until his body follows suit. His expression can be almost "pleading" at times, it is very sad to see. We also visited my grandmother - Alice's great-grandma - who will be 96 this year. She's a lot deafer than I remember from last time, so communication was difficult. Fortunately, she does appear to have most of her brain in good working order, though she seems to spend her days sitting in a chair watching TV.

One other feature of our brief trip was Alice's first - and most probably last - visit to Goodison. They did us proud on the day, beating Wigan 4-0, Alice absolutely loved it. Of course for her, it was the first time she had been amongst 40,000 other people at an event. It is also worth noting that last weekend they turned Man Utd over in the FA Cup semi. They're getting unbelievable press following this win, but of course they haven't won the thing just yet.

On the work side, things are very dull but I'm that much closer to paying the mortgage off. In the current climate, the critical thing is to keep earning and everything else really pales into insignificance. I am keeping an eye on the job boards but it is all very quiet - I had trouble enough finding interesting roles when times were good, so even less chance at the moment.

At the office, I finally got my act together and brought a new server into commission - it has been sitting there for I think 18 months waiting for me to do something. So now the office has a domain once again. Ironically, just five minutes surfing the web was enough for me to overcome the stumbling blocks which had earlier convinced me to give up. Swings and roundabouts, though - Alice's PC decided to go bang the day after I got the domain sorted. It looks pretty terminal, plus it was five or so years old, so I've spent the last couple of days scouring eBay for something new. Its all bought now, coming in at just over £200 for a machine that is pretty top-of-the-range.

Must cut this one short as I have to be somewhere. Hopefully it won't be as long until the next entry.