09 January 2009

Festive wanderings


Nordic warriors, frantic festivities and a few peaceful days by the seaside fighting off polar bears. Its fair to say that the last few weeks have seen it all.

Maria and I spent our sixth Christmas as our first Christmas apart. Maria spent the day with Elaine, Andrew and Munch the one year old destroyer of presents, whilst I discovered that my idea of 'Festive chicken with all the trimmings' and Middle East airline Etihad's idea 'Festive chicken with all the trimmings' diverged significantly. Nonetheless, they gave me a small chocolate to mark the occasion. I was moderately whelmed by their generosity.

I have finally discovered what it takes for me to fall asleep on an plane. Needless to say, being Christmas, I enjoyed a few festive glasses of wine on the flight to Abu Dhabi. This halfway point was where I ran out of steam previously, but I discovered a magical place called the 'Ghazal Lounge'. For 100 thingies (about £18) I got 5 hours worth of buffet food, open bar and a shower and wifi. After skyping Maria to have our prearranged Christmas chat, I was in the mood to get my 100 thingies worth, and the lovely girl behind the bar just kept filling my glass with whiskey as I chatted with an interesting Swedish sheet metal worker. I am usually quite nervy going through security in airports, but by the time I left the lounge I was relaxed almost to the point of being horizontal. Luckily the security guys in Middle-Eastern airports are a bit more laid back than their British counterparts. I actually fell asleep while the plane was taxiing, slept right through take off, and only awoke when the hostess asked me what breakfast I wanted. Since the plane was practically empty, I then settled down across a row of 4 seats and had some more kip. After a couple of hours I woke again, this time with a hangover. Hangovers and turbulence don't play well together, however I managed to nab a 1.5L bottle of water and used it down half a packet of ibuprofen. The breakfast of champions!

Maria drove down to Heathrow to pick me up, and rather than going home, we drove to Broadstairs in Kent to visit Tad. I'm a big fan of ring roads. I can't imagine what it must have been like around London before the M25 was built. What I am not a fan of is the increasing tendency around here to build enormous factory outlets at the junctions of the motorways. The result of this tendency is that if you try to drive from one side of London to the other on boxing day, what you actually spend your time doing is parking. Then moving a few yards and parking again. We ended up getting to Tad's place and enjoyed a brief evening of tasty conversation and erudite supper. Brief, because I couldn't keep my eyes open after about 7pm, despite my 3 hours sleep in the last 30. Of course by 2am I was wide awake, but enough whining from me.

We did drive back to Hull the next day for a teary reunion with Domino. After I removed his claws from my lap the tears dried up and we were friends again. After only two sleeps we were off again.

The 29th saw us on our way north for Hogmanay. We joined Annabel (who is marrying Maria's brother, Shaun, in August and is a resident of Edinburgh) and her neighbors Roy and Geoff on the Mound to watch the torchlight procession. This was the official opening of the Hogmanay, and is definitely worth a look next time you find yourself in Edinburgh on the 29th of December. Plenty of people in the crowd had torches (of the pitchforks and witch burning variety) and in advance of the procession, someone came along to help everyone light their torches. Leading the procession was a troop of pseudo-vikings from Shetland and Orkney, complete with swords and shields and flaming wooden torches, resplendent in their armor. They raised a great racket and and were a fearsome sight indeed. Trailing the vikings were pipers and drummers providing a fitting soundtrack. We joined the procession with the rest of the torch wielding crowd and followed it down the mound. A quick right turn onto Prince's Street and it wasn't long before the procession bottlenecked at the bottom of Carlton Hill. After quite a bit of shuffling and friendly use of elbows, we made our way to the top of Carlton Hill, where we waited for a while for everyone else to make it up the hill. It was properly cold waiting up on the hill, but I'm guessing that many of you aren't surprised that standing on the highest point in Edinburgh in late December is a wee bit chilly.

Set up on the hill was a bonfire consisting of a lion rampant at the top of a wicker tower. The vikings did what vikings do, and it wasn't long before the whole thing was ablaze. I can say without any reservation that it was the best ceremonial burning of a heraldic device by a troop of pseudo-vikings I've ever seen. Once the lion had been sufficiently cleansed by fire, we were treated to a marvelous display of fireworks. Its a shame that the breeze blew the smoke directly into the crowd, but it was spectacular nonetheless.

After we climbed down the hill we dropped in on Paula's clan (a close friend from Australia), all of whom had descended on Edinburgh for Christmas and New Year. After a quick beer and a chat, we retired to Annabel's for dinner and discussed the temperature: -4C. A bit chilly indeed.

The next day we met up with Paula and her squeeze Geoff et. al. at a cafe we know in Edinburgh that does flat white coffees. Having caffeinated sufficiently, we moved on to Mary King's Close, to try and get tickets for a tour of this historic street, sealed off when the council chambers were built. The tours were all sold out that day, so tickets were organized for New Year's Day instead and we headed to what must be my new favorite shop in the world. The shop front was about 10 foot wide and in the window was not very much of what was an entire pig. The shop was called 'oink' and all you could buy was a roast pork roll. And how good was it? It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that it was the best dedicated roast swine emporium I visited all year!

We washed down our pork with a few cleansing ales from the pub across the road, an excellent establishment with a number of guest ales on tap. Maria and I departed for dinner with Annabel and Paula's gang moved back to the flat white cafe for dinner. We joined them for desert and had a few glasses of wine to cleanse our pallets. To be honest, I ended up cleansed enough to require help with the stairs.

On New Years Eve, I went in search of a suitably tartan waistcoat to wear, but discovered that these aren't items which can be bought off the rack. I was told that having selected the correct tartan (of the many hundreds of registered tartans) it would be made for me. Not really an option, so I selected a suitable bow tie. Maria and I cut dashing figures of sartorial elegance, even I do say so myself.

Annabel put on a wonderful risotto dinner for us and a few of her friends, and then we had a cocktail reception where Roy and Geoff and all of Paula's mob turned up for a drink and some nibbles before we headed off to the Hoog. A squadron of taxis duly arrived and we barreled off to the assembly rooms.

The Hoog was a big party including a Ceilidh. A Ceilidh is scottish country dancing where all of the moves are called out and includes reels and so forth and quite a lot of bumping into each other. I tended to find that I worked out exactly how the dance went just as it finished, but no matter. It was all a great deal of fun, and we danced and recovered and danced some more, pretty much continually for about 5 hours. The only major break was for us all to rush out and watch the fireworks at midnight. The fireworks from the castle were duly spectacular. I must admit that I was expecting some spontaneous outbreaks of Auld Lang Syne (it being Rabbie Burns and all) but perhaps a street party was not the place for that.

On New Year's Day we emerged fairly late for brunch with Annabel and Co. before joining Paula's clan for a tour of Mary King's Close. The Close is much the same as it was in the 17th century and the displays do a fine job of evoking a sense of how difficult life must have been for many of the inhabitants of Edinburgh in years gone by.

We had a farewell dinner with Paula's mob, as her parents and grandmother were off to Egypt the next day, and the rest of the clan spreading to all parts of the world. Paula's parents had bought 'prizes' for all of the people of the tour and gave them out during the dinner. Having seen the dinner suit I wore to the Hoog, they decided that it could have been improved with the addition of a pair of Royal Stuart tartan trousers, which I duly wore for the remainder of the evening. Maria received a quite tasteful present of a decorative plate. Why does she get the tasteful presents? Actually on second thoughts, don't answer that one...

Paula's parents were terribly generous to us during our stay in Edinburgh and we are more grateful than we can reasonably express in a blog.



30 November 2008

The game they play in heaven...


There are times when I wish I was back in Oz. Not that I would complain (that would mean I was going native). But the opportunity to see the Wallabies play Wales at the Millennium stadium is one of those affirming times that make me glad I made the trek.

Maria happened to be spending the week at a course in Bradford upon Avon, which isn't terribly far from Bristol. We had thought about going to see the game between the Wallabies and Les Bleus in Paris, but we couldn't get Maria back to Bradford upon Avon in time. Thus we decided upon Cardiff and the clash between our men in gold, and the reining 6 Nations gland slam champions in Red.

I made the ultimate sacrifice, taking the day off work on Friday to catch the train from Hull to Bristol via Leeds. I looked the true Yorkshire-man, with my packed lunch and my thermos. Truth be known, my culinary preparedness had less to do with the tightness of my jeans (I just can't seem to get my wallet out) and more to do with the quality of the food and coffee on British trains. It was nevertheless a long 5 1/2 hour journey, made even longer by the group of 2 dozen 6th formers (year 11 and 12) which (and I mean which, not whom) got on at Manchester.

I can't really relate the relative merits of the Midlands scenery, as the whole of the country was blanketed in a thick fog which didn't abate throughout the day. I was happy to arrive at Bristol Parkway and happy also to be guided by Maria's suggestion of a movie and dinner. Maria had no voice, having been visited by the dreaded lurgy, and rather than enjoy my cultivated wit (or at least the half I had chosen to bring with me) she felt she would rather immerse herself in the gritty realism of a Ridley Scott film. Maria enjoyed the film and I enjoyed a hot dog. Enough said.

After the film we trundled into a British version of an American version of an Italian restaurant. The fact that the vegetarian half of our pizza was better than the meat feast half (no reaction from the staff) sums up what a strange experience that was. The bruschetta was good though.

We stayed at a services hotel that night and the next morning headed into Cardiff early. We had to pick our tickets up from the ground between 9 and 12, and the game didn't start until 2:30. We parked at a park and ride (with the attendants attempting to direct us back out of the car park), and hopped on a bus into the centre of Cardiff. Unlike most rugby grounds, Millennium Stadium is pretty much right in the centre of Cardiff. Once you have been to a game there this starts to make sense. Rugby is really at the centre of what it is to be Welsh. Where other cities may have parliament buildings or great financial houses at their heart, Welshman know what is really important in life, and they have stuck rugby right near the middle of their capital city. I like that.

It was really very cold in Cardiff, so we decided to stock up on some merchandise. We had no decent head wear, and Maria's scarf looked awfully flimsy, and we suspected that people might be in two minds as to who we were supporting, so we decided to get an Aussie flag as well. I think the effect was sufficiently supportive, and yet subtle.

We still had some time to wait for the game, and we hadn't had any breakfast yet, so we headed into a typical Welsh free house called the "Walkabout". I have never seen so many blonde Australian girls in such short skirts serving so much lager. It was one of those cold shower moments. You guys know what I'm talking about.

After a pint and some food we pottered around Cardiff for a while (yes alright, Maria took me into a department store so she could try on a dress. I'm not proud). We bought some hot pastry product, as is traditional on a day of rugby, I managed to find a mobile Guiness bar (the Welsh really know how to put on a party) and then we headed in to find our seats. I went and grabbed a couple of pints of brains to get me through the game. The Welsh team are actually sponsored by a beer company called Brains. The bitter is quite drinkable, although it was so cold in the stadium that my second pint was almost undrinkably cold by the time I got to it. Maybe I am going native...

Some rugby innovations are good. Like mobile Guiness bars. Sometimes it is tradition that makes rugby what it is, and Wales has tradition in spades as well. For instance, the first Welshman to leave the tunnel before the game is... a goat! With the Goat Major of course. The goat (Taffy) is mascot of the Royal Regiment of Wales. The Goat Major is a corporal. No, I don't really understand either. You can't fault the Welsh sense of the theatrical though.

Bit different from the ol' Ballymore, no?

The anthems before the game were great. We gave Advance Australia Fair our mightiest voice, but it was overwhelmed by the other 74,000 people at the ground subsequently singing Land of My Fathers. That is a sound I shall never forget.

The game was very intense, with the Australian captain knocked silly after only 2 minutes and having to leave the field. I think that some refereeing decisions could have been better, and losing Mortlock at the start didn't help, but overall the game was there to be won by the Wallabies and they kept kicking possession away.

I guess that the two most memorable reactions from the game were these: Firstly, when the Australian flyhalf kicked a field goal. and there was a shocked silence from the Aussie crowd. Then one guy about 3 rows behind us yelled 'what are you doing! We're Australians! We don't kick field goals! We're not bloody English you know! Who do you think your are, Johnny bloody Wilkinson!'. Australians have to be the only spectators in the world to disapprove of scoring points if its not done with the ball in hand.

The other reaction was after the game, as I was having a chat with a Welshman over a warm urinal. He consoled me with the wisdom that 'as long as its a good game of rugby, it doesn't matter who the winner is at the end. Unless you are playing the English of course. That's a different matter.' So we do have something in common with the Welsh after all. And it was a good game at that.

I can't describe the emotional ebb and flow of a game of international rugby shared with 75,000 of the most ardent rugby fans in the world. You'll just have to try it for yourself. Careful though - it could be addictive. We are already planning how to see rugby at Murrayfield, Twickenham, Lansdowne Road (when it reopens in 2010) and the Stade de France.


23 November 2008

Winter has come to Hull


We don't get much weather to speak of in Hull really, but we woke to some this morning...

Typically, it was on the day Maria had to drive half way across the country that the met office decided to send us some fluffy white stuff.


20 October 2008

Scottish Sojourn - 17th to 19th October


Autumn is probably the loveliest time to be in northern Britain. And the loveliest part of northern Britain in autumn could quite possibly be the Speyside region in Scotland. Over the weekend we had the good fortune to judge for ourselves.

Unfortunately I remembered to leave the camera at home, so you will have to make do with my largely inadequate descriptions to conjure up an image of the charm and tranquility of this part of the world.

I made an early dash from work on Friday and, after pausing briefly at home to arrange matters to Domino's liking and picking up some supplies from the fridge, I picked Maria up with a full hour and a half to get to the train station at York. What could possibly go wrong? Suffice it to say that we made the platform, disheveled and cranky, with at least 30 seconds to spare.

I won't go into the details of the train pricing in the UK. Frankly, you probably wouldn't believe it if I told you. But we found that for our journey from York to Edinburgh on this occasion it was actually cheaper to book first class. I didn't need much encouragement to do so, and we travelled to Edinburgh in style, passing the two and a quarter hours sipping our complimentary tea and coffee (mine was particularly nice about my hair), and munching our way through the supplies I had judiciously snarffled from the fridge earlier.

We arrived in Edinburgh in high spirits and met up with Shaun outside Haymarket station. The next part of the journey was not quite as luxurious. Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be stuffed into a two door VW Polo with three other sturdily built people and luggage for four for a weekend away. By strange coincidence, that's exactly what it was like for the drive from Edinburgh to Annabel's parent's house in Kinross, north of Edinburgh. Fortunately this was a mere 30 mile drive including a view of the Forth rail bridge from the road bridge.

In Kinross we were assailed by three dogs and Annabel, all of whom piled into Annabel's mother's estate with Annabel's friend Lindsay, while Shaun, Maria and I retreated to Annabel's car for the 100 mile journey to Tontearie. This journey, interrupted only briefly for a stop at a chippy, passed in what was classed as "fair conditions" (this being Scotland, "fair" meant driving rain with occasional deer hazards). However it was dry and brisk when we arrived late in the evening.

We settled in to our weekend retreat with drink and a good sit down in front of the wood burning stove. It occurs to me that the rise of television and the general deployment of central heating may have had a causal relationship. When wood burning fires became less common, I imagine that people found they needed something to occupy their vision on winter evenings. Regardless, it never ceases to amaze me how alluring is the presence of a wood fire, a treat for all the senses. Except for taste obviously. But then taste and smell are supposed to be approximately the same thing aren't they? I seem to have digressed...

We awoke, first thing the following afternoon, to our first real view of the countryside in which we found ourselves. The house in which we stayed was once a farmer's cottage and is nestled within a working cattle farm within the Speyside region, south of Inverness. The narrow, winding roads thereabouts take you through forests of gentle aspect and are furnished with road signs reminding you that its likely that you will be killed hitting one of the deer which roam in seeming abundance. The various shades of green, gold, red and brown foliage, whipped up by the bracing winds, swirl around, making you feel like you are in an advertisement for an expensive German car. And when you stop to look over the loch nearby, you have to look around to make sure you don't end up in anyone's post card photograph, so tranquil and perfect is the cold, clear lake under the cold clear sky. The cottage has recently been extended with a conservatory, offering uninterrupted views of the green pastures and beyond to the forested hills, seemingly clad in gold and mountains, grey and rocky above the winter snow line.

Into this impossibly blessed landscape we were propelled by the motive force of three excitable canines. Over the fertile hills and through the fields we tramped, making our own path and finding creative ways of overcoming barbed wire. The right to roam is one of Britain's more charming affectations, and it gives you a real sense that farmers are really just caretakers, looking after the landscape and passing it on to the next generation. Well it gives me that sense. I don't think I'll go looking for scottish cattle farmers to try out my idea.

The only other adventure to be had that fine Saturday was a trip into the nearby town. Whilst the womenfolk browsed the offerings at the deli and butchers, Shaun and I browsed the camping/adventure shops. It makes one feel very hardy and adventuresome looking through their range of thermals and waterproofs and boots and such. Trying out the walking poles made me feel particularly active. And having got that out of our systems, and with the womenfolk laden down with cheeses and various other food stuffs, we returned to the cottage for some serious indulgence.

Conservative MP Michael Gove wrote in the Times over the weekend that "the three things you can't economise on are wine, chocolate and socks". He was nearly right. I think I have economized enough on socks over the years that there must be a secret fortune owed to me somewhere around the place. And frankly I can take or leave chocolate (he says over the howls of dissent from the sweeter smelling slightly more than half of the population). He was dead on about wine of course. But how could he have so flagrantly forgotten cheese! To refer to your average supermarket cheddar as cheese in the same breath as a fine, matured or smoked Wendsleydale or a caramelized onion cheddar from Arran, is to seriously mislead and may lead to unexpected haughtiness in your vicinity (at least from this quarter).

So we tucked into some lovely grub that evening, including some wonderful cheese, some delightful venison (not the result of careless driving I might add) all washed down with a couple of perfectly serviceable bottles of big 14 reds. Many of you have probably heard me say that I simply cannot fall asleep sitting up unless I am driving. Well, a few good glasses of red after a bracing walk, a nice meal and a log fire complete with a warm dog on my feet seems to provide the stimulus. I'm not sure how I could arrange that for my long haul flights, although as the only carrier who probably wouldn't notice me setting fire to the seat in front of me, QANTAS could be an option at the moment.

The following day was filled with the sweet sorrow of our parting, first from the cottage, and then from Shaun, Annabel and Lindsay. As we boarded our train from Edinburgh back to York (via Carlisle of all places due to engineering works) we felt so refreshed from our weekend that we decided to buy the weekend, first class upgrade and go home in the style in which we would like to become accustomed.

As a side note, I would like to add that, to my surprise, the service in first class was, if anything, even more surly than in cattle class. I will never understand why British people can't be nice when they sell you a sandwich. Oh well.

If you have managed to make it to the end of my rambling account, well done - 10 out of 10 and a koala stamp, as Philip Adams would say. Until I have something interesting to write about, take care.


10 October 2008

6 months later... - 10 October 2008


Many things have happened in the past 6 months. The writing of the blog has not been one of them. We shall redress this imbalance henceforth...

Since so much time has passed since our last exciting installment, we shall update you with a monthly summary.

May included Maria's Herculean (or should that be Marathonian?) effort, completing the Beverley 10k in a personal best time! I even put my pint of Guinness down for long enough to cheer her over the line...

Also in May, we travelled to Catterick Barracks to enjoy Shaun and Annabel's company at the May ball for Shaun's regiment. The food, drink and merriment were all fine and abundant, and we shall enjoy recalling the occasion over tall drams long after my teeth have found better living arrangements.

Also in May (a busy month, surpassed only by some of those which follow) we went to London to help Cath, our neighbor and friend, celebrate the coming of her 4th decade. Half of Cath's family are dutch, so we found ourselves in a dutch pub in the West End until we were ejected and did the only decent thing; falling into a Chinese restaurant. A great night was had by all those who can't remember any different.

June included our first ever camping trip together. It involved a tent and everything! I even have a photo to prove it! We camped in Ripon near Fountains Abbey.

For my birthday, a group of malcontents including the aforementioned Cath, my professor Chris, my (now ex) neighbor from downstairs and [also ex] colleague, Antonio, Maria and I went for a ripping hot vindaloo at Ray's place at the end of the street. I only have half a tongue left, buth ith wath worth ith.

Toward the end of June we decamped to Frankfurt for the nuptials of our friends Gitte and Stefan. The polterabend very nearly killed us. I never want to see another shot of jagermeister again. After a touching ceremony (of which I didn't understand a word) we enjoyed a wonderful evening of revelry including speeches which were usefully translated from German by Gitte's mother, Kirsten. Unfortunately they were translated into Danish, so I have no idea what was said in the speeches either. A great time was had by all.

July saw the social event of the season with Maria's 400 and 20 12th birthday, celebrated with a murder mystery party held under a marquee in our back yard. Shaun and Annabel came down, and the theme of the evening, 'Death by Chocolate' was very popular amongst the members of the fairer sex.

July also saw us meandering across the country to Manchester one fine Friday evening to see the singing budgie strutting her stuff on stage. Yes, we went to a Kylie concert, and she didn't disappoint. What did surprise me was how many members of the crowd weren't gay men. Course this was Manchester I guess...

Toward the end of July we were joined by another intrepid traveller in the form of Cam, fresh from the States and just primed for some action, Hull style.

In August we drove up to Edinburgh for Shaun's moving to Germany party, which ended up being an impromptu engagement party. Shaun had proposed to Annabel in an impossibly romantic way whilst in the Maldives, so there was much to celebrate, and a good crowd in the mood for celebrating.

The end of August also meant the end of Maria's period of employ at the North East Lincolnshire council.

September gave us the opportunity for some well earned rest, so Maria cycled from Whitby to Scarborough( though some diabolical weather), then caught the train to Thirsk, where I picked her up and we traveled to the Lakes district. We had organized to stay in some quite rustic accommodation in the Lakes, known as 'camping barns'. We discovered that the level of luxury offered in these barns started at walls and a roof. At the other end of the scale, a working kitchen and proper wood stove were included, which felt like heaven after a few days on the bike. We climbed some spectacular passes and experienced the countryside in a way which you just can't do in a car. And I never want to do it again. No sport that leaves you with such a smarting behind can be in any way healthy in my books.

After we got back from the Lakes, I dropped one itinerant off and collected another one, leaving Cam to find his way to the continent, and finding a Dave in need of a lift to the Beaulieu Auto jumble.

With Maria busy in the first week of her new job, I spent a happy week with Dave, showing him the delights of the Yorkshire Moors and Dales and indulging in not a few pints of Yorkshire's finest ales. Truly, Yorkshire is God's own country, and anyway who says otherwise is a soft southerner! Seen from the opulent luxury of a mini, you wouldn't want to be anywhere else. We ended our visit from Dave with a day at the Goodwood Revival, ogling some lovely cars and WW2 planes and having a generally fine time under the unseasonably warm September sun. But before getting to Goodwood, we paused for a day in Oxford to catch up with a visiting professor and gentlemen, and Maria's former supervisor, John. Oxford struck me as an unsettling place, pretty in parts, but not satisfying in the way that Cambridge was. Can't quite put my finger on why...

After dropping Dave off with some friends in Sussex we returned to Hull and the relative routine that should see us through to Christmas. The end of September occasioned the first birthday party of Sarah (aka Munch), the offspring of our friends Elaine and Andrew so we dutifully presented ourselves in Driffield and endured a splendid lunch of finger foods and lager.

October has also been a busy month so far. I have just started my PhD (only 5 years to go!). The weather turned quite cold and then got a bit warmer again, but its definitely getting darker. We're getting up in the dark at the moment at 6:30 and with daylight saving ending in a few weeks, we will start finishing work in the dark too.

The Hull fair has opened, and I believe that we are going along next week with Cath to sample its many and varied delights. Next weekend sees us venturing once more to Scotland for a break with Shaun and Annabel, and we are very much looking forward to that (though I can hear my liver weeping pitifully as I type).

So that's it from me. As much as I can squeeze 6 months (just about) into a few short paragraphs, that is your lot. But with a PhD thesis to write, I'm sure you shall be hearing from me more often, as nothing breeds procrastination like a hundred thousand words of self indulgent drivel!

That's the end of this somewhat disappointing bottle of South African shiraz, so till next time, take care, and complaints about my grammar can be kept to yourself.


27 April 2008

Fun in Farndale - 26th April 2008


The daffodils are out, and the best place in the UK to see them is Farndale in the North Yorkshire Moors. So off we went for a bit of horticultural ogling.

Each year thousands of people from all over the UK trek to the tiny little village of Low Mill for a glimpse of natural splendor which lasts no more than six weeks. The roads you drive down to approach Farndale are of the single lane, rock walls and hedges on either side variety, making the journey quite slow, but very picturesque. The other main impediment to rapid travel is the great profusion of pheasants currently out and about in the moors. We chased one down the road beeping our horn, as he simply wouldn't leave the bitumen! One of the park rangers told us that, as they are deliberately bred and released for the season, not all of them end up working out how the fly. The male ones are actually quite pretty and colourful, whilst the females are a dull brown.

The daffodils themselves didn't disappoint. Despite being the end of the season, with evidence of a certain amount of wilting, we got an unusually warm (20C) and sunny day which more than made up for it.

Of course, spring doesn't just mean flowers. The lambs were out frolicking and doing their best to look preposterously cute. I took the opportunity to shoot a few of them.

With my camera of course!

We took the 'scenic route' home, passing through many tiny farming villages. This is real James Herriot country and without a doubt the best part of England we have visited. We are looking forward to spending much more of our time in this area, which is not much more than an hour's drive from Hull.


22 April 2008

Mini Maladies - 22nd April 2008


Those who have ever owned a BMC orphaned car, know that they can make life a little interesting sometimes. I had such a typical experience this afternoon...

I decided to take a trip up to Malton this afternoon to pick up the cricket team's new kit (the old kit having been destroyed in the floods last summer). Malton is about a 30 mile drive north of Hull. The road to Malton is one of those North Yorkshire 'B' roads - the sort that Jeremy Clarkson tends to use when he needs to test drive the latest Aston Martin. So to be perfectly honest, my right boot was stuck firmly to the floor all the way there and half of the way back.

About half way back I noticed that the mini was cutting out at high revs and full throttle. I thought to myself, 'well it is probably time I had a look at the plugs and replaced the leads.' The problem got worse however, until I had no power at all and had to pull over to the side of the road. I had a good fiddle with the various leads and connectors under the bonnet, and when I tried again, the car started and was revving normally. 'Job's a gooden, time to offsky then' I thought.

Then I realized that the carpet was on fire. Apparently the floor had become rather warm. So I whipped the seats and various bits of carpet out of the car, stomped on the smoking bits, and waited for the car to cool down before continuing my journey. I must admit that this wasn't a problem I was ever likely to encounter in the mini at home, as it never had carpet in it in the five years I drove it. I can only deduce one of two things; either european safety regulations state that a car must detect if a driver is enjoying a casual interpretation of speed limits and must proceed to set itself on fire in order to protect the driver, or the numpty that restored the car last forgot about the heat shield. Still, all in a days work for a mini driver!