Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Back to Work

hey, ho, back to work today. Thought it might be a struggle to get up but surprisingly not the case. Even had quite a productive morning.

Yesterday I didn't manage a ride, except on the turbo at home. It was very, very tempting to get out for the first time in a few weeks, but it was misty and rainy all day and I just ended up thinking "this would be dumb". So, I stayed home and instead watched a French movie while I cycled.

I was, however, the dutiful dad and took Alice and her friend Fraya up to Sandy Balls to do a bit of ice skating. Its obviously a long time since Alice went skating, and she seemed to have forgotten anything she ever knew. But Fraya was even worse! Still, they both seemed to have fun and by the end of the session Alice, at least, ventured away from the side wall. Scary to see them both dressed up to the nines in Jack Wills clobber - a right pair of budding scallies.

Interesting to see Fraya, she's obviously a bit more mature than Alice and is very much into "boys", even scoped some at the skating rink. So in many respects this could be the shape of things to come!

Yesterday evening went out for a curry - the Shere Khan at Redlynch - absolutely delicious, they always do us proud.

This morning I was greeted by both of the packages that didn't arrive in time for christmas. At least the razor, which was a christmas/birthday present from Jac, arrived in time for my birthday......which is today!

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me.....

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas Cheer

Today is my last day off over christmas, so I am double-determined to be chilled. We had snowfall a week before christmas, and since then the temperatures haven't been high enough for the snow to melt - one night just before christmas the weather station registered -6°C, although we were safely tucked up indoors so didn't notice it! But it has gotten warmer over the last day or so and culminated last night in heavy rain which has washed away all the ice.

I've been itching to get on my bike - didn't go near it when the snow/ice was on the ground - and thought that today might be the day.....except that even as I write it is really wet and misty outside. So it looks like if I do go for a ride, it'll be on the turbo trainer in the lounge.

Christmas was quiet - I took the 23rd and 24th off so was able to ease gently into it. We did a big Sainsbury's shop when it was relatively quiet, which has sorted us for the duration. The only thing we ran out of, really, was bread, although we have some part-baked stuff in the cupboard still.

Keeping up her tradition, Alice has been ill over christmas, although this year it is nothing more than a cold (although she's making the most of it). I got her some Jack Wills vouchers for christmas and it is a gauge of her illness that she was desparate to go out to Winchester on Boxing Day to spend them.

Jacqueline, bless her, has been working every day since Boxing Day, mostly seeing people with flu-like symptoms. They come and see her in the hope that she'll wave a macic wand and prescribe some antibiotics - except that most of the time she can't (there are specific criteria, apparently). So these people wait an hour to see her then leave empty-handed.

A bit fed up with couriers. My main present from Jacqueline (from Amazon) did not arrive, neither did Jacqueline's present from Alice (which I have tracked and which arrived at my client's office the day after I left there). I know there have been issues with the weather, but when I bought the item Amazon were quite happily saying that it should be with me the week before christmas - and I still chose the "expedited delivery" option. And Jacqueline's present - which came all the way from Denmark - arrived in the UK on the 16th but was not delivered until 23rd. And this to central London. Total crap. Anyway.....

I just subscribed to the satellite channel Cinemoi, so have watched a bunch of French movies over christmas. Very hit and miss as regards quality. However Sky did show Avatar over christmas, and that was really good. But it was surprising how much of what was on tv was repeats - we've seen stuff like Dad's Army and Only Fools and Horses over the last few days.

Just seen some guy cycling in front of the house, maybe I should get out later?

Ho hum, back to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Normal Service Resumed

After the last couple of days during which they ran an emergency servive due to the snow, South West Trains announced that they were resuming a normal service today.

Arrived into London 20 minutes late. Normal Service Resumed.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Dedication.....or madness??

From my mainline station, I cycle to clients' sites in central London. This is what I wore on the way to the today's clients:

  • Assos winterPlus Socks. These are the warmest socks produced by the best cycling clothing manufacturer. TWO PAIRS!
  • Shimano cycling shoes (not thermal)
  • Decathlon running tights (not thermal)
  • Campagnolo winter bibtights (very much thermal)
  • Helly Hansen woollen base layer (thermal)
  • Endura winter/thermal jacket
  • lightweight rain jacket
  • Milano winter/thermal gloves
  • Polartec Buff, for my neck and the back of my head
  • plus the obligatory safety glasses and helmet.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Power of Technology

It has happened again.

The death of Ian Tomlinson at last April's G20 protest would surely have been covered up by the police, were it not for the bravery of the person who filmed the incident and posted the footage both to the media and onto the web in general.

Now we hear that footage exists on YouTube from last week's student demo, of a guy being pulled out of his wheelchair and dragged across the road by a policeman.

It is very sad that these things happen, but it is wonderful that mobile phones have evolved to such an extent that it is easily possible for people to record such evidence at the drop of the hat, meaning that it is far harder for the police to cover up the criminal actions of individual officers (although I note that the guy whose blow killed Tomlinson was never charged).

The politicians talk about "consensual policing" but exactly how much respect do they think the public will have when they log onto the web and see what some of the thugs dressed up in uniform get up to?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Tomorrow Never Knows

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon's death.

I woke up to the news, and the world stopped. As I lived in Liverpool, people seemed particularly crushed, like losing a member of the family.

Lennon was an important figure because he held fairly open political views, and was not afraid to speak out. And because he was a Beatle, anything he said attracted publicity.

A great shame Lennon was not around to speak out about the terrible injustices that have been waged by the US and the UK in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the way he spoke out about the rape of Vietnam.

Just imagine...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Blogger Droid

must just add that these last few posts have been written and published using the Android app Blogger Droid. Marvellous!!

Back to normal

Well after the weekend's excitement (our first visit to France for two years) it was back to normal, and to London, and to the client's, and to work today.

In Rennes on Saturday I did look at getting another pair of "jeansy" type trousers (only have one pair of jeans) but I didn't look too seriously because I was damp and didn't feel like all the "trying on" nonsense. Plus, I didn't see anything sufficiently likeable.

So I made up for it with a stroll from the client's (in St James's) up to M&S at Marble Arch. This is their flagship store so I figured if I was going to find anything, this was my best chance.

Anyway, lo and behold I did see some really nice looking pants (although Jacqueline will be the final arbiter of "nice"!), cut like jeans but made of moleskin rather than denim. Lovely and soft, warm too. So I picked up a couple of pairs.

Best thing was that when I tried them on, I could quite happily get into a 34", I have not been that small for several years. This cycling mularchy really has done wonders. And although I can feel things like ribs again, I can feel a fair amount of flab too so I know I'll get leaner still over time. Excellent!

Part of my route today took me through Grosvenor Square, and I couldn't help noticing just how ugly a building the US embassy was. A real concrete monstrousity. An huge eagle sits at the top-centre (clearly the symbol for freedom, lest we should mistakenly think that this was the embassy of the world's biggest bully), and one can't help but think that if we were to replace the eagle with a hammer and sickle, the building would be at home in Brezhnev's Soviet Union. Especially on a bleak, wintry day like today. Kind of ironic, or at least I thought so.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Its now 8am Fr, 7am UK, and we dock in another two hours. Unfortunately although I was tired in my earlier post, I never did get back to sleep. In the end I got up and had a shower, and have just had a bracing walk on deck. Lovely, everything is so quiet - the restaurant is open and a couple of early birds ae tucking into a cooked breakfast - I must admit that sounds tempting, but not just yet. Apart from that, everyone else is crew.

And the reason for my insomnia? Well, I try to keep my talk about work to a minimum, for two reasons mainly. First, there's an amount of confidentiality involved - these people are clients after all so I really should behave professionally toward them. Second, and more importantly, it'd probably bore any reader to tears.

Anyway, my company performs consulting services to these people, which means we engage in contracts at an agreed rate, with fixed start and end dates, rather than it being some kind of permanent arrangement, where there's hope of a pay rise year on year.

The problem I have is this. The current contract is up at the end of the year, and the client has offered an extension. I would like nothing more than to wave goodbye at this juncture, the problem is that I have no other work lined up right now. So whilst walking away from them would give immense satisfaction, it might be something of a pyrrhic victory.

Plus I have the family to consider.


Welcome Break

Well believe it or not it is right now 4:30am, and I have woken up to the gentle rocking of a cross-channel ferry. Right now, we're somewhere in the middle of the English channel.

We took advantage of our local radio station, Wave 105, having a christmas cruise across to Saint-Malo, and I managed to get tickets including a cabin both ways, the car, and an evening meal, for around £200. So we left a very icy Portsmouth Friday night, arrived in a thawing France on Saturday morning, and spent yesterday roaming around Brittany.

First destination off the ferry was a visit to Decathlon, hopefully with a suitable breakfast stop on the way. I'd researched this beforehand, to the point of pinpointing the shop on Google Maps and putting the co-ordinates into Tomtom. Unfortunately what I didn't realise was that this was a new build, and did not appear on my two-year-old Tomtom maps.....d'oh!! Still, after dicking around for a half hour, and eventually turning satnav off, we reached our destination, an enormous shop ("the largest in the west", if we were to believe the signs) at Betton, just north of Rennes, which even had a little cafe, so we got to have café and croissants for breakfast.

This part of France had obviously had a fair old bit of snow the last few days, and our drive to Decathlon, in above-zero temperatures but often quite heavy rain, was having the effect of washing away the snow. In fact this was the pattern for the day - whilst it was good (for the most part) not to have to contend with snow, we nevertheless got soaked a couple of times.

The first of these times was to be in Rennes, our next destination after Decathlon, when the heavens literally just opened. But we were undeterred, the rain abated, and we had a great walk around this lovely city, even managing to catch the end of the Saturday market at Les Lices (we have a delicious-tasting Breton tart for after supper tonight). We also stopped for a nice lunch in a pizzeria which we first visited a couple of years ago, which not only gave us some decent food, but allowed us the opportunity to dry off.

So, a decent walk around Rennes, then out, westward, to the town of St-Méen-le-grand, which was the home town of the cycling legend Louison Bobet. For anybody not into cycling, this was the first guy to win the Tour de France three times on the trot, from 1953-5. So, a real cycling superstar of his day. And these days there is a small museum dedicated to him, which was the purpose of our visit. (Not interesting enough to tempt Alice, but Jacqueline was happy enough to tag along.) Anyway, lots of memorabilia, photographs, and a couple of his old bikes. Brilliant stuff. Despite some more rain, Jac and I also had a walk around the town centre, and I quite easily found Bobet's birthplace. I'd have liked to have visited the cemetery and paid my respects at his grave, but it was really too wet by this time.

Musée Louison Bobet, Saint-Méen-le-Grand

Onward and upward, this time back up to the lovely old town of Dinan, where for the first time we saw evidence of the recent snow. Basically the place was covered in slush, obviously thawing but somewhat more slowly than everywhere else. So we ended up having to watch where we walked, and my poor old feet got soaked. But still, Dinan is ua charming place and we found a Salon de thè, where I tried some delicious coffee and walnut cake - the orange and vanilla tea wasn't bad either!

rue de la Chaux, Dinan

Must have been around 5:30 by now, and time to head back up to the coast. I was a little concerned about the driving conditions - around Dinan in particular there was lots of snow still piled high by the side of the road, but as we neared Saint-Malo everything was clear once again. Despite another wrong turn (this time total user error), we eventually reached our final stop of the day - the Carrefour at Saint-Malo.

Now, there are certain things, such as toiletries, where I like to buy French products. This, coupled with the fact that it has been two years since our last visit, and we don't have another planned, meant that our shopping trolley contained a very strange assortment indeed! Anyway, €200 later...

Very weary now, 7:30pm and with enough energy just to get back to the ferry. Fortunately because this was more of a cruise than a ferry crossing, they'd opened boarding right up, and we were allowed to board any time between about 5 and 10 o'clock. So the upshot was we were able to drive straight on, with no queues. Even better, we went straight up to the restaurant and where I had expected to find a wait, we got a table straight away. One of the plusses about Brittany ferries is the standard of food, and last night's meal was no exception. Absolutely delicious, despite us being dead on our feet by this time. Time only to go to the bar for a quick drink before heading off to bed. The Wave 105 people had organised a "Glitz Mix" disco, but this didn't start until 11pm, so there was no way I'd last the distance (although I think Alice went along for a short while).

So there we are. Its now almost 6am (not sure whether that's UK or FR time, but either way time for another 2 or 3 hours kip before we land in Portsmouth.

Nice trip