Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Summer's eve stroll

Wow, two blogs in one day - a rare event for me, but I thought I'd share with you a walk I've taken tonight in the countryside of Warwickshire between Rugby and Coventry. This was around 7Km (originally 5Km but I extended it a bit,) and set off on a main road and into a country park with lakes. This is beautifully maintained with good cinder tracks and three lovely lakes in fact with seats strategically placed around the walk donated by families of deceased people as memorials.

Skylarks twittered and hovered above my head and rabbits grazed on grass paths which led off into the countryside. Just the odd jogger and cyclist made themselves known and they passed by oblivious to my presence. Newly shorn sheep grazed in one field and horses could be found in a second and cows in a third field.
Eventually, the cinder track found the main road again and although that was a little hairy for about half a mile, there was no footpath on this 60 mph limit and the grass verge was narrow, but then that led to the quaintly named village of Bubbenhall. Quaint it is with olde worlde cottages with typical cottage gardens and Tudor fronted houses and at least two country pubs!

Hedgerows were extensive and healthy.

Passed the village sports field and onto a long country track, little used by walkers, more a route for farm machines, passing by fields of crops, no litter, no sound of traffic, just more skylarks, crows passing by and scores of bees and butterflies. As the tracked turned at right angles, a well kept farm track led me back to the main road I'd started on one hour forty minutes previously.
The mass of field side wild plants are a haven for insects and this plant was full of caterpillars which will eventually turn into red cinnabar moths.

I looked behind me and the sky was glorious as the sun started to become watery and dip in the sky.
What a great way to spend a balmy summer's evening, a shame in many ways to be on my own, but it gives me time to relax and chill.

Chat soon


On Course...

I'm just watching Japan and Paraguay about to go into penalties in the World Cup - real tension at last.

My head is a little fried at the moment after two full days on my 'Leadership Course' in the Midlands. I'm off for tea and a stroll in the local area on a circular walk for which the organisers kindly prepared a map. 5 Km should chill me out with some decent iPod music.

So far we've looked at:

Cultural audit on organisations;
Emotional Intelligence;
Adult Learning Cycle;
Action Learning Sets;
Myers Briggs Type Indicator (I'm ISTJ apparently);
Belbin Team Roles;
Leadership styles.

Lots more to come.

There are great people (19 of them) from around the UK on the course and it's very interesting hearing their experiences and I'm learning about me too. Food is good (always important) and accomodation is great.

Last night it poured down, really hard, it woke me up but when I got out this morning, it was bone dry. I understand from colleagues that their families 'up north' reported thunderstorms last night.

As I sign this off, Paraguay have shot themselves into the quarter finals for the first time in their history. Goodbye Japan.

Chat soon


Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sunny side up! Unless you're an England fan

This beautiful balmy Sunday evening finds me safely ensconced in a room at a training venue somewhere in the Midlands, near Coventry in the centre of the UK. The journey was an easy one along four motorways and then the byways of the West Midlands. I'm here for the week leaving the family at home with a list of 'things to do,' you know, water hanging baskets, feed the fish, put the bin out on such and such a day.

I managed to spend some time in the garden today before setting off after tea and have enjoyed the reported 28 degrees Celsius and sunny skies. Four new perennials were planted out in the semi shade this morning and I hope they survive the bedding in process. I've had to water the grass with the sprinkler as the first signs of grass stress were beginning to show. It looks fine, but being away, I won't see the results of the hard work making the garden looking in a reasonable state for at least another week.

I'm watching the Argentina Vs Mexico World Cup game as I type this and it's been very entertaining. Unlike the dreadful spectacle of an England side which wasted 90 minutes of my life watching uninspired, uncommitted, highly unimaginative drudgery. I won't go on, I don't need to but England were beaten by three things: a woeful, inept performance; a very good German side; and although its almost not relevant, the decision by FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter not to have goal line technology in major competitions. The fact that an England shot went over the goal line by two feet and was not spotted by the five officials doesn't mask the fact that England were, frankly, rubbish. Blatter nevertheless should be ashamed and should consider his future.

I hope you have a great week and have a chance to catch a bit of the sun.

Chat soon


Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Little Black Book

Well isn't the weather gorgeous, although there's a bit of high cloud scudding along, the temperature is warm and balmy? Good stuff and it's about time. I was doing some training in the summer of 1976 in North Yorkshire for ten weeks during the long HOT summer and can remember brown grass, a healthy tan and a relaxed atmosphere... what were you doing in 1976?

What were you doing on such and such date when this or that happened and people often say, "I remember what I was doing on the day when..." I can't remember what I did a week last Friday!

There are exceptions for me where memorable events are concerned. I can remember being at work when 9/11 happened and a woman ran into the office and told me to switch the tv on, something was happening, only for me to see the second plane hit the tower. There was something surreal and unbelievable about the whole thing, even now.

My lad came home from staying at his grandmothers the day Lady Diana's death was announced and I hadn't heard the news that morning and as I let him in the door he asked me if I'd heard the news and I thought he was having a bad joke and was about to give him a bollocking until he persuaded me to turn the tv on. I spent the whole day watching tv. I remember crying.

I don't keep a diary of the sort that you write down what you've done in your life or for appointments, because I've never needed to really, and at work I use the mighty MS Outlook and at home too for wedding anniversaries, birthdays and when to put the rubbish bins out. This blog is the nearest thing I've ever kept for a diary other than when I did my Reiki training for level one where you had to keep a diary of what you did and how you felt for 21 days after the training. I have read other people diaries (published of course - never personal ones) and Kenneth Williams was one of the most interesting - talk about a complex character - a psychologist or psychiatrist would have had a field day analysing that one.

Here's a couple of more photographs I took on hols... the first one shows (not very well - click on it to enlarge it) a wind surfer taken on a long zoom lens at the other end of the beach well off the water and he's lifted off the surface by the wind.

You know me and night shots, here's one along the beach across the dunes (no evening lovers there unfortunately) - very romantic, if not a little gritty.

I hope the week remains good for you, weather wise particularly, they reckon it may be 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit on mainland UK over the weekend - cool (or not as the case may be.)

Chat soon


Sunday, 20 June 2010

No Slacking, Work Tomorrow...

We arrived home safe and sound from our trip to Portugal, refreshed and with increased weight around the middle with the realisation that with just 15 hours to go from walking through the door, I would be back at work driving the desk - bad planning or what?

The house was in one piece and tidy and the three boys had not begun WWlll, so after a quick cut of the lawn, top up the fishponds with water and out for tea at a lovely local restaurant (my treat for still having a house and a family in one piece), I write this on my last evening of freedom for the time being.

The day began (with the picture at the top of the blog) at around 6.40 am this morning on the Algarve, sunrise over Alvor. All packed and ready to depart.

This has been one of the laziest holidays I (we) have ever had and this has been quite deliberate. The Hotel catered for all our needs without wandering off anywhere, but there's plenty that we could have done. Walking the length of the beach on a few occasions and one foray into he old part of Alvor was good enough for us. This was one of the typical streets, (left).

The beach was the main attraction for so many people simply for walking or sunbathing, but not swimming unless you're hardy because at this time of the year, it's still cold. There were a few kite surfing competitions going on and some of the heights surfers reached in the brisk breeze off the sea were mind blowing, probably thirty feet in the air I would guess. Brave people.
I mentioned this on one of my comments to a fellow blogger on an earlier post, this was one of the only places I've been to where no-one fought for sun recliners near the pool - reserving them with their towels. Although the hotel was packed, there were more recliners than people who wanted their use, so we had our pick, every morning.

The hours for meals were long, so there was never a rush to get out of bed and never a rush in the dining room when we got there. They can't make tea by the way, they give you a tea bag in it's paper envelope because their rules say they can't handle the tea bag and put it in the pot of boiling water, So you order 'tea with milk' and they bring a tea bag, cup and saucer, sugar - always sugar even when you don't use it, a jug of boiling water and a jug of milk - it's an art form.

There are a few more pics, some taken on a late evening before the light disappears totally for example and which I'll post over the next few days.

I read three books while sat by the pool, 'The Power of NOW' by Eckhart Tolle, interesting topic if you need to get out of the rat race and stop letting your mind run riot; the superb Chris Evans tells the first half of his life story in his excellent and brilliantly written autobiography, 'It's not What you Think.' This is a stunningly honest portrayal of this complex man who has made mega mistakes and engineered fabulous coups.

Finally, a little heavy but equally as enjoyable 'The Greatest Show on Earth' by Richard Dawkins, the case for evolution against creationism. Controversial, yes; thought provoking, yes; entertainingly written in a witty style and he makes it reasonably understandable for someone like me with one O'Level. You make your own mind up - mine's quite clear.

Unpacking is in progress and far be it for me to be in the way of emptying cases. 160 e-mails to scan, bills to peruse.

Chat soon

(click on any of the pictures to enlarge them, all taken on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ65)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Not a cloud in the sky since my last post and apart from a refreshing and much needed sea breeze in an afternoon, the weather is bloody hot. Mind you, that's what we paid for so no complaints. The village of Alvor on the Algarve, some ten minutes easy walk from the hotel along a road with no footpath is pleasant, hilly, narrow streeted place and not a great deal of it's own character left I suspect. Across the extensive harbour lake there is a backdrop of distant mountains, hazy and lacking in detail.

Houses are square, painted in bright pastel colours usually with a pan tiled orange roof. Streets are cobbled and footpaths badly maintained and uneven. Holiday homes outside of the immediate village centre are the order of the day and they too are non-descript and angular. What is a lovely touch however is the amount of greenery and flowering shrubs in every conceivable colour all over the place. Grape vines are a common sight on walls and bird life is plentiful and varied.

The whole place looks relatively modern and full of roadside cafes. On the day of our visit, Portugal were playing their World Cup opener and so the place was fairly quite with little traffic and loud television commentary coming from the cafes playing to nervous audiences of locals.

The place has a reputation for seafood and every restaurant and cafe advertises it. The hotel has had some pretty bland offerings, tuna and swordfish among the menu, but it's all much of a muchness being similar in texture and taste. We may try a cafe for a seafood lunch before we leave.

The village has an extensive lake-like harbour and fishing as well as leisure boats a-plenty. Although there are few boats on the high sea during the day save for the odd power boat and a two masted schooner that looks like a pirate ship on trips around the harbour, it seems most of the fishing is done after dark with lots of ships lights bobbing about throughout the night. I have taken my drawing materials and pastels, but haven't done much except practise my psychic face drawings, but I've done a pencil drawing of the coastline to the west. The sea, close to, is clean and has dozens of shades of greens and blues from the pale translucence of the shoreline to the deeper blue some ten yards from the shore where the beach drops away alarmingly from a shelf into what looks like much deeper water. I could never recreate the scene with any accuracy to capture the delight of nature.

Surprisingly, the beach is clean as a whistle. Unlike our own East Yorkshire coast with flotsam, jetsam, sea weed and shells, the beach at Alvor is just littered with shells of all kinds including large clam like shells, the kind my parents had as an ashtray fourty years ago, some five inches across. There are some rocks to the east of the beach and they are encrusted with shells from millenia ago, captured timelessly in the geological strata. Two hundred miles of Atlantic ocean before Morocco directly to the south appears to be a healthy bit of sea hence the volume of food available on the ocean floor.

South Africa are playing Uruguay and it's half time with the hosts 1 - 0 down, so as my other half is sewing her cross-stitch (is that one word or two?) I am going to settle down to watch the second half. I've missed the shock of the day with Spain going down 1 - 0 to Switzerland which has gone down well here - no surprises.

Chat soon


Sunday, 13 June 2010

Too Cold for Comfort...

The weather's turned sunny at last on the Algarve and I've found the apostrophy on this Portugese keyboard. Those who follow this blog of sorts know I'm a people watcher and my goodness, you could write a book at what you see - how the other half live! This includes a 60 (ish) year old very posh unattached Englishman who clearly prefers the company of males and makes no secret of it, if you get my drift. Now this is fine, but he has been giving me the eye too on the odd occasion my other half wanders off to the loo or to buy a cuppa.

Then there's the Portugese couple who clearly have a 'I'm the boss thing' where he always walks five yards ahead of her.

The hotel is full of Portugese people, the Irish, English and German. Everyone is so relaxed, almost horizontal and the kids are allowed to do what they like, but it's not that sort of 'bloody kids' syndrome, they are all having fun.

I'm reading a book called 'The Power of NOW' by Eckhart Tolle. It's a bit cerebral for a holiday, but its about living in the now. Complicated. Nevertheless, it's very positive and one of the things it teaches you is that when you learn to live in the now, negativity washes over you, you can't actually experience it. However there are just a couple of negative things out of what is a very positive experience across here and one is, the swimming pool is too bloody cold. No-one uses it except some hardy little kids who clearly feel no pain. Adults, like me, get in up to their nether regions in the shallow end and then bottle out and leave without getting wet above the bikini line, (I've had mine done.) There is an indoor pool which is heated but is about the size of my bath - too crowded for two.

The entertainment is okay on an evening at the hotel, a series of singers and keyboard musicians some of whom are very good. I wouldn't watch them on the tv at home, but there's something compulsive about sitting in the lounge with a white wine listening to the inane chatter of people ignoring the artists and politely clapping at the end as if it's the right thing to do.

The BBC forecast for here is good for the rest of the week and the tan is progressing nicely. Lets hope the England performance improves vastly over their dismal 1 - 1 draw against the USA. Everyone except the English were highly amused at the goalkeeping debacle which gave the USA a share of the points. An American friend
Sharla Rae made the following comment on my Facebook at the end of the game, "A tie is like kissing your sister." I think she is absolutely right.

Hope everyone is doing okay, keeping in touch with Facebook and the blog when I remember. Take care.

Chat soon


Friday, 11 June 2010

Do you object to being searched sir?

Hello from the Algarve where it`s been cloudy so far but balmy. The impressive thing is that the hotel we are staying at allows free use of the internet! The only thing I have to work out are the strange keyings for things like apostrophies and the @ sign which uses a weird combination of keys like Alt gr. The spell checker doesnt work either, well it does, but in Portugese! so forgive any mistakes.

The journey out was uneventful except I got searched before I boarded the plane. I ALWAYS get searched before I board a plane - every time. I sailed through the electronic passport gate at Faro airport designed to speed it all up, my wife however couldn`t get hers to work so she had to join the queue for passport control. 40 minutes later...

The hotel is fabulous and the weather is due to improve. The tour rep, they call them holiday advisors now, has only been in the job four weeks and she`s nervous poor love but very pleasant. The bus drive to the hotel through some VERY narrow streets in Portimao was slightly hair raising with the bus doing 30 miles per hour through streets with cars parked both sides of the street with six inches to spare on each side. Not a scratch!

Portugal is a very nice place but sadly run down in parts, no doubt due to the economic situation but the people are pleasant if not laid back which is fine.

The bird life here is interesting with sparrows a plenty - something we dont have at home, blackies, pigeons, gulls but I spotted a hoopoe (look it up on Wiki its beautiful) and some grey coloured parrots.

No trips booked yet, not sure we want to do any, just chill out, is that a bad thing?

Chat soon


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

I'd love to go out with you but...

The holiday in sunny (actually it's raining) Portugal beckons and unless there is a computer at the hotel, this will be my last blog for a few days. I know the garden needs the rain, but it hasn't stopped here for what seems days - and more to come this week! The garden is very green right now and the ferns, naturally forest plants, are loving it (not that they've confided in me you understand, but they look good).

Preparation for holidays is always interesting and there are no children with us this year, they are staying at home. As two of my three children read this blog, they will know that I hope that when I get back, they keep from me tales of falling out and any petty mindedness at the list of tasks I've set them for while we are away and that the house is tidy and clean when we get back. Sometimes the phrase we use in my business, 'You don't know what you don't know' is apt. The list is not extensive:
  • Put the bins out when needed;
  • Water the house plants (only eight);
  • Water the hanging baskets (only three);
  • Put food in the bird feeders (only two);
  • Feed the fish in the ponds (I've put food for every day into little pots... sad or what);
  • Hoover round (once will do - preferably in the hours before we come back).
We will be shopping on Wednesday trying to second guess what we can leave in the fridge & freezer for them for meals and snacks.

We're taking minimum clothes, I'm taking three books, an iPod, my camera and my drawing things. This is going to be a generally lazy holiday.

My last psychic circle last night for two weeks was very successful with some good lengthy detailed mediumship messages and one pastel drawing of a young spirit woman who had met a violent death in her early twenties possibly in West Yorkshire (UK) in the 1960s and who was found in water near a bridge with two arches (very rare occurrence for me to get that sort of contact - not pleasant - in many ways, very sad!) Thanks to Shirley Ann for her continued support in my development. I'll be doing plenty of meditation while I'm away and this will lend itself nicely to the relaxing nature of the holiday.

It's a while since I did a list, but here are a few handy excuses for getting out of that date with someone you really don't want to go out with:

*I'd love to go out with you but...
I have to worm my dog;
I want to spend more time with my blender;
I'm staying at home to work on my cottage cheese sculpture;
I'm being deported;
None of my socks match;
My plot to take over the world is gathering pace;
I have to study for my blood test;
I'm going to count the bristles in my toothbrush;
I have to check the sell by dates on my cheese selection;
I'm teaching my ferret to yodel.

Have a good week.

Chat soon

*Thanks to Geoff Tibballs

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Capture the storm

Despite sitting in the dark in my back garden until 12.45 am last night/this morning trying to capture the spectacular electrical storm with my camera (and generally failing to get any lightening at all), I was up early this morning getting on with the domestic chores whilst dodging the showers putting bird seed out and feeding the fish in the ponds. I noticed this morning that the honeysuckle is just about ready to flower and it gives a gorgeous scent after dusk. It goes well with the delightfully blue ceanothus which is just about finishing its flowering for this spring.

It did dawn on me whilst typing this that I was actually sat under a tree whilst trying to take storm pictures which is not the most intelligent thing to do.

Saturday was a day and evening out in the beautiful countryside in Derbyshire around Buxton at a niece's wedding. Lucy and Alan were married at a lovely Victorian hall in the middle of nowhere, accessible by way of a two mile single track road, up hill and down dale. There was nowhere to stop and take a photograph I'm afraid, but the scenery was just gorgeous. The wedding itself was just marvellous, a simple civil ceremony readings from family and some Buddhist friends (the groom is a practising Buddhist) followed by a wedding breakfast in a marquee and fun speeches and many surprises for the startled guests.

Indeed, the head waiter and one of the waitresses, who were present throughout the whole reception bit doing their serving etc., were not what they seemed.

After about an hour, the head waiter, in a thick Italian accent, announced that the waitress Michelle was going back to France and it was her last day and the bride and groom had allowed her to sing a song of farewell to the assembled guests.
Indeed the waitress sang the most beautiful operatic aria to bring tears to the eyes and then the head waiter rendered a stunningly sung operatic song and four or five songs later including duets, it became clear they were professional operatic singers who feature regularly in the West End. In fact the deception was rumbled when the Italian waiter announced at the end he was from Australia and the waitress was from Birmingham. Perfect.

Sat Navs are great aren't they? I usually have 'fastest route' programmed into the machine, but our way home last night in the dusk took us through leafy lanes and eventually through Sheffield city centre in order to get us back onto the motorway. I think the woman in the sat nav must have had too much of the pink champagne at the wedding.

Thanks to
Julie's Notebook blog for the sat nav one-liner puns, suitable for your five year olds.

How did the little fish find its way across the big, wide ocean?

He used his sprat-nav!

How did Dracula find his way about in the dark, dark nights of Transylvania?

With his Bat-nav of course!

And those irritating, small winged insects use?


And how does the custard-pie always get its man straight in the face?


And what did Aladdin have on his magic carpet?


How do marsupials find their way in the Australian outback?


Which leads us on to…



Civil Servants?


The Ambassador?


Spoiled child?


A fool?


Electric guitar player?


Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Chat soon


Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Misty Shores

What was supposed to be a special day for me today has had the shine wiped off it by the dreadful news from Cumbria in the UK on the shooting dead of a number of innocent people, apparently on the street. I am so appalled, I can't bring myself to discuss it. My thoughts are with those who are directly affected by this tragedy and for the community.

The sun is shining here and the breeze is warm. I went to Hornsea (East Yorkshire) last night after a days rain and walked along the beach north towards Bridlington. It was a foggy evening and so never got any drawing done as intended, mainly because it was so damp in the air, but at least got some exercise. We saw the carcass of a seal, a dead small dogfish and a strange bird which didn't seem at all intimidated by our group and posed for a photograph. The research indicates it might be a Gannet, but if you know different, let me know.

The east coast is normally a haven for birds and they appear plentiful and although there were a few common gulls around in the fog, this lonely bird was having a rest on the sand next to a breakwater.

The forecast for the weekend is fantastic and I hope you enjoy it - don't forget to slap on the cream!

No story today - why would you want to listen to one? Sorry.

Chat soon

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.