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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Our Green and Pleasant Land

                          


What a beautiful country we live in.  

There are so many variations to the scenery and terrain around us, it is impossible to become bored or stuck for somewhere new to visit in this green and pleasant land. With this early taste of summer that we are currently enjoying, now is the chance to get out and see some of these different places and today I was able to enjoy a stroll along the bank of a canal in the Midlands with my big sister.  

Here are a few shots to see what some of you are missing out on...........what a great day and too nice to spend time writing long blog entries........




Friday, 15 April 2011

Brace Yourself!

Long, long, long ago......... In fact so long ago, I still had hair!  I’m not sure how young I was, but I was still a kid, living at home and being brought up in an era when we had to make our own entertainment, as ‘day-time-TV’ had still to be discovered and released to roam freely amongst the British population, to pick them off one by one.  
So way, way back, at home we had a collection of thin, soft-back books that had at sometime been collected by subscription (I would imagine) and they came together and formed a complete set of encyclopedia, which were then kept at the bottom of the bookshelves in the lounge.  I enjoyed taking these out, one at a time for fear of getting them out of order, and  randomly learning some new snippet of information about the outside world.  To a boy of my age, with my thirst for information, they were also a wonderful source of knowledge, statistics and facts, useful for completing those random school projects that seemed to land on our desks far too regularly for my liking.  It was within the pages of those books that I learnt about the seahorse, Archimedes Screw and the ‘keystone’ in bridges and other arches.  


Much of that knowledge has stuck with me and has proved useful over the years.  Some has faded with time or has been pushed out of my head by newer and more current information, often still sourced via books or, more likely, the wonderful “world-wide-interweb” on my laptop.  But there is one piece of information that has eluded me for sometime now and I have been struggling to find the answer.  Those encyclopedia only contained line-drawings, no photographs as far as I can remember, and on one page were drawings of the wall braces used to prevent the walls of older buildings from buckling or bowing outwards.  You see them everywhere you go, even now, and they do (or did in those books anyway) have a special name; if I could remember which volume they were in, that might help, but I cannot..........so they are somewhere in the A-Z zone, that's all I can say for sure!  I have taken a few pictures and placed them in today's blog, so if anyone out there knows what they are called, please, please, please do tell me - it's been bugging me for years!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Up, up and away!



Way back in 1987, I found myself out in Belize keeping the Guatemalan hordes at bay (well that was what we were told we were doing).  During my time there I had the opportunity to undergo some sports-parachute training.  I had always wanted to jump out of an aircraft at great height and hurtle towards Earth at a vast rate of knots, before pulling the rip-cord and gently landing safely somewhere near a drinking establishment, where I could celebrate my survival. 




Unfortunately, the course that I attended was the last of several being run out there and when it came to the ‘jump’ day the winds were too strong for the Belizian Defence Force Islander aircraft and ‘jump’ I did not!  The training team duly packed up and returned to the UK leaving several of us with an unfulfilled feeling.




Over the years since then, I have often had a longing to complete that episode of my life and experience what it is like to fall through the air.  However, over the years I have also developed a fear of landing!  I’m not particularly scared of heights and I’m not worried by the falling bit either; it’s what happens when I make contact with the ground again........at speed.  I can stand at the edge of a precipice and look down to the ground below, but the thing that makes my stomach knot and my head spin is the thought of stepping over the edge and then the feeling of whacking into the ground below.  So I have to admit it, I am unlikely to parachute anytime soon........I have too many other things I want to do with my life.




Yesterday, whilst driving along, in the distance I could see a balloon and as I got closer I realised it was on of the ‘Virgin’ balloons with a basket full of punters below.  I stopped and took a few shots with my camera and thought that this was probably a suitable substitute for parachuting - far more relaxing, lasts longer and (with luck) the landing would be softer!




Sunday, 10 April 2011

Too many Bank Holidays on the way - you know what that means.

Well hasn’t it been a beautiful day?  Easter is still some time off and we have enjoyed a prolonged (well for the UK anyway) period of good weather and it has actually lasted over a weekend.  With Easter approaching and a Royal wedding soon to be upon us after that, it cannot last........so many Bank holidays, so close together is a formula for bad weather.......you mark my words!
As it was so lovely, guess what..........yes, water and yachts.  Isn’t Woodbridge a lovely place?  I had never been there before today and I am so pleased I have now had that experience.  I took my camera along and will let each of the pictures speak their thousand words.  If you haven’t been, please do visit.








Saturday, 9 April 2011

"Quick March"



As it turn out, breakfast wasn’t too bad.  Plenty of fresh fruit, cereals and the like, as well as the infamous British cooked breakfast.  The choice of eggs was restricted to either boiled or scrambled.........  Is it me or have we lost the art of producing really good scrambled egg?  Most hotels and cafes seem to produce a rubberized substitute and if you ask for poached (which I am particularly partial to) you get served something akin to an armour-piercing bullet!

On checking out I was pleased to note that I was not charged for the pie from the previous evening.......however,  I was charged for the pint - I’m not sure how they worked that out as it was a special deal.  Anyhow, I will  get my revenge by not going back to the Ramada Encore in Chatham (ever!!!) and I look forward to the email asking for my review - I will be giving it to them with both barrels and the gun will be loaded with armour-piercing poached eggs.




The Gillingham Boat Fair was worth a visit.  Plenty of yachts to climb aboard and view, if nothing else it helped me to realise the kind of yacht that I didn’t want.
There was a Sea Cadet band playing for most of the time I was there and I found myself almost breaking into a march several times and having flashbacks to my time on the QCS........how come that sometimes I cannot remember where I parked my car but at the sound of marching music I can feel a “present-arms” coming on????  You do not need to send in your answers........I already know what it is!



Friday, 8 April 2011

British Tradition

When it comes to complaining I am a bit of a British traditionalist.........I just don’t say much...........but sometimes you have to.  Today is drawing to a close and it finds me down in Chatham (Kent) ready for the Gillingham boat fair being held tomorrow and Sunday (there is meant to be 40 second-hand yachts on show - hence I am here) and I booked a room in the Ramada Encore hotel over the internet.  I thought I had found myself a good deal, however, the scales are starting to tip the other way.  I was welcomed by a friendly member of staff and the room was basic, but functional and clean......apart from the red lipstick stains on one of the coffee cups and a coffee ring around the inside of the other. 
After a run along the river bank and a stroll around the marina, I headed back to the hotel intent on taking advantage of the special in the restaurant: pie and a pint. After waiting over 20 minutes to get served at the bar (not because it was busy, but due to lack of staff) I went for the steak and kidney and a pint of ‘Bombardier’ and was initially impressed by the large portion of mash potato and pile of diced veg that arrived.........however.........  When I cut into the rough-puff pastry pie case, it was definitely all puff and hardly any meat (if any), kidney or gravy.  There was no way I was accepting that, so I took it straight back to the bar.  The barman (who was now present and chatting to his mate) said he was unable to do anything and I asked for the duty manager to be summoned; on arrival he said they had never had a complaint before (well you have now!) and he would refund me for my meal..........but I was not offered an alternative.  Somehow I feel like I am the one at fault - why is that??



So forgive this entry being a short one, but I am off out to find some food and hopefully tomorrow morning’s breakfast will be better - I’ll let you know and also tell you about the boat fair.  I hope you (those of you in Britain that is) have all enjoyed today's sun.

Monday, 4 April 2011

A Scorcher and Ice Cream.




After extensive internet research last night I headed down to Walton-on-the-
Naze today, to look over the some yachts.  Until yesterday I didn’t even know there was a marina at Walton -  but there it was at the stated postcode and here are a few pictures to prove it.  I was impressed by the way the yachts on offer for sale were lined up with signs in front of them, listing their details, but less impressed by the fact that the broker was closed on a Sunday.  

Anyway, there were a few possibilities down there, making a return trip in the future worthwhile.  One of those possibilities was a yacht called ‘Scorcher’, complete with red trim, sail covers and cockpit-canopy.  Now Scorcher doesn’t actually tick all the boxes in my list of requirements of a live-aboard, but she does match my car........what else can a man ask for?  I jest; she is lovely and is probably worth a return visit when the broker is open, along with a couple of other yachts I saw down there.



After my window shopping I took a stroll along the sea front of Walton and was surprised to see so many beach-huts!  Not just in a single row like you see in places such as Brighton - in Walton there are terraces of them! 

Along with the beach-huts there is everything you would expect to  find at a seaside resort; a pier, ice cream, a fun fair and fish and chips.  It must be an amazing place in summer when it is full of families enjoying the English seaside at its best - but today, even though it was gloriously sunny, it was surprisingly quiet.........  

...........and I think that is the way I prefer it.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Yacht Wanted.

I must be slipping?  It is the 1st of April today and I didn’t notice one April’s Fool spoof!  Is this a sign that I am losing my edge and life is going on around me unnoticed, or a sign of change in society where jokes and wind-ups are best left unaired for fear of upsetting someone?  Whatever the answer is, I’m off to the Ferrari garage tomorrow, evidently they are giving away free cars - I heard about it on the radio this morning.......
But it’s not a car that I am after, as you know - it’s a yacht.  Something that will get me around the world (slow-time), something comfortable enough to be my home, sturdy in all weather conditions and something that will not require too much preparation and keep me from starting the adventure.
For those of you that don’t know, all over the country (mainly on the coast you will not be surprised to hear) there are brokers who want to sell you a yacht and they are very keen to offer advice and send you the details of the yachts that they currently have on their books.  In addition to this, there are many websites where you can put in your requirements and search for your dream yacht - in all corners of the world.  And there are plenty of yachts available.  In fact, choosing the right one is the difficult bit and I have now looked at quite a selection;  Westerlys, Moodys, Barbicans and Beneteaus to name just a few.  I am working on the philosophy that I will know the right yacht when I see her.........  I have had some come close to ticking all the right boxes, but I still have plenty of time to find ‘the’ one.
I’ll let you know when I find her.