Wednesday, 19 November 2008

What have I been doing?

Wah.... can't believe it's around July since I last blogged.... sorry (hangs head in abject remorse).

So, what's happened to my life then? Ummmm.... moved, got older, got wiser!

The bliss of our marriage is as special as ever. So happy!

Photographed a few weddings, attended our first wedding fair (as exhibitors), went to France, moved house, did Battle with BT (don’t know who won though?)..... loads of things in fact. 

So, where to start? How about our trip to France? That was interesting.....

It was a spur of the moment thing - we needed a break, especially as we had Maisie with us for the school holidays and she enjoys our trips away. We wanted to go to Normandy but because of the school holidays accommodation and Channel crossings were at a premium. Marianne found some places but I hit an odd "button" on the browser to the page she'd sent me.  A chance to use my favourite, English word ~ 'serendipity'.

By accident I'd found a delightful early 19th century Normandy mill! The information said it was in an isolated location... this proved to be a masterful understatement.  More later! So we signed up and paid up..... the next day we received confirmation of our bookings - or at least, the bits that were available. It seems we couldn't get on the Ferries from Portsmouth to any of the Normandy ports. The company we'd  chosen were brilliant. They suggested changing to Dover and staying in stopover hotels from Calais. It actually worked cheaper than the supplements for the Brittany Ferry crossings... a very favourable result as it gave us a chance to drive leisurely both sides of the Channel.

Come the glorious day of travel. Leave Cambridgeshire at a sensible time to arrive in Dover at 12:00 for a 13:30 crossing - this is how a holiday should start. Indeed, we did arrive at 11:45.... super!

We go through all the various controls, emigration, security, ticket office. In  fact, at the ticket office I was greeted with, "Hello, Mr. Razmabaz, good journey?"  The smiley side of Technology. "Please drive to Lane 183."

Thinking about it, the security check was somewhat strange - at least I thought it was. "Did you pack your bags yourself?" "Are you carrying anything for somebody else?" Nothing unusual these days, especially if you're travelling abroad. But, at a Ferry Terminal the next question challenged my intellect. "Do I have anything sharp? Like a knife or something?" I immediately thought of the campers and caravans surrounding us. Do they all use plastic cutlery? Am I going to run amok on a Monster car ferry with a sharp implement? Most odd!

Anyway, I digress. On to lane 183 where we stop and decide we have time for a coffee and such. An announcement summons us to our vehicle. So, we proceed excitedly to our car. The car in front starts off. I start the engine... but ... it only spins over, it didn't start. We'd just done 180 miles or so without a hitch and now the car  
doesn't want to leave England's green and pleasant land!

Many people come to offer assistance, for which we were extremely grateful but nothing was going to cause the engine to spin continuously without electricity and the starter motor. One guy even suggested that the vehicle had immobilised itself (no argument there - it had!) and that the system may need re-arming. So I go through a logical (to me) procedure which should've reset the alarm system. No happy result! Time ticks by....  
we were to miss our ferry. P & O were helpful. We have some jump leads and we'll put you on the next crossing. Very kind of them but the battery wasn't the problem.

Time to invoke the Landrover Assistance scheme. 'We'll get you going where ever you are'..... we'll see.

Phone is answered promptly and courteously. "Ok, no problem. We'll get you on your holiday. Whereabouts are you exactly?"

Now, exactly is a thing I could do.... we have Sat Nav! "Hang on a moment, I'll get you the exact co-ordinates". (Remember "where ever you are means a great deal in Landrover off-road terms and they mean it - seriously). 

"Are you sure of those co-ordinates?" Quick check. "Yep, why?" "Well Mr. Razmabaz, that puts you in the sea according to our map!" I guess Lane 183 extends over the sea onto the Ferry ramp.... so I have to explain in more detail.

"We'll get our Engineer to call you". "Ok, I'll check with P & O what we can do. Thank you".

Speaking to P & O they suggest that the Landrover engineer will need a passport to get onto Lane 183. So, when I get the next call I explain the need for some serious photo identity. "No problem. I've been there before. You're not the first to break down after customs etc." I wasn't going to argue, after all he'd done it all before!

During the same call he managed to diagnose the problem and was certain it was the fuel pump that had failed. This quite an experience for Marianne as I was instructed to perform some tests, most of which didn't help get the engine started. "Thump the  car floor from underneath just in front of the off-side rear wheel" I did and the  
car started..... result. Just the need the pump and have it fitted. Marianne's face was a picture.

"Don't worry. I'll get one and be with you in a couple of hours".

I moved the car away from lane 183 to a more convenient position where we can fix it safely. We wait. We get thirsty. We need the 'facilities'.

As we returned to the car Marianne said, "That doesn't half look like the back of a Hairy Biker". Hmmmm. Too much sun and in a state of distress - we both dismissed it.  We wait some more. I get bored so start to explore with the camera. 

"Do you know what Marianne? That is a Hairy Biker". It's quite a favourite TV series of ours. Hairy Bikers

More waiting..... "Hello, Mr. Razmabaz?" "Yes?". "I can't get into the docks. Can you get out?" "More than likely but, how do I get back in?"

A long story cut short (honestly) we have to go through, in the opposite direction, all the security things we'd done hours before. "That was a short holiday Mr. Razmabaz". "Don't even think about saying anything else", I muttered to myself.

The Engineer apologised about not being able to enter the docks, but it was fortunate that the well aimed blow to the car floor motivated the fuel pump to perform enough to get us out of the docks. I think we'd still be there now if it didn't.

After a successful repair we went through all the security checks and ticket procedure. 

"Can you go to Lane 208 please?"

"Yes, I can", I'd grown to really dislike Lane 183!

Monday, 21 July 2008

More of the English....

This country has so many traditions it is difficult to keep up with them all. This one is wrapped in so much history and goes back so far it's a job to know where it's roots really lie.

The Green Man. Definitely connected with ancient fertility celebrations but also has connections to forms of Thanksgiving. Whatever the actual case it must be said lots of people enjoyed themselves at the Festival in Pilton, Barnstaple this weekend. Marianne mentioned I would post a photo blog of the events, so .....

Here are just a few..... I'll post some more when I get a bit more time. Including some of Ali and her family.

This menacing 'man' carried a horn at the front of the procession, blowing it as the occasion warranted it. He seemed to perform 'warding off' dance as the proceedings got under way.

This 'man' was actuually walking around on stilts (as you can see in a further shot). You can't see the stilts and I can't imagine he was that tall :^). This is probably my favourite shot of the whole drama - he shows so much passion!

Don't know what these two heads are but they are about 1 metre across (3 feet approx.)

On the left is the tall, stilted 'man' and on the right you can see the 'warding off' dance.

One of the 'legs' of the caterpillar shown below.....

The caterpillar......

The face of the caterpillar!

Monday, 14 July 2008

The British.....

.... there is nothing quite like us Britons! Name the quaint, the unusual or the ridiculous - they're all tied up in that which is called the British Way of Life.

We have football matches which involve whole Villages or Towns kicking a pig's bladder from a pub at one end of the town to the other end (uppers and downers). There is a most famous version which is found at Ashbourn in Derbyshire. Well dressing is another tradition. Dyke vaulting (admittedly it originates in Holland)..... you name it, we have it.

Now in it's 38th year we have, near us at Witcham, a Pea Shooter Championship. Not just any old Championship you understand, but The World Championship.

I took some time out this weekend to visit it - I couldn't spend too long there, unfortunately, as I was 'on-call' and shouldn't be too long away from phone etc,. So, I never managed to get to see the Final.

Do people take this seriously? You bet! One guy had laser guided, telescopic sights set up on his. See the pictures below. There was an element of fun. Next year more time shall be spent here!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Walls have ears......

.... and they were made with hands!

I was in Ely last evening, meeting some photography friends; Marianne was meeting her knitty friends, I came across this wall. Quite honestly, it fascinated me - completely.

I started to think of phrases such as 'walls have ears' and got to thinking "this wall could tell a story or two". I've no idea really how old it is but I reckon around 150 years. That's a long time for overheard stories. Then my mind ran riot - as is its wont!

A bricklayer put this up, somebody mixed the mortar, somebody shaped the bricks, baked them, loaded them, transported them. That's a only a few people really but, they are all lives; people with their own stories to tell, their families. More people. All of whom we shall probably never know. I became transfixed within my own thoughts. I really had to make a conscious effort to stop meditating on these somewhat inconsequential things. How can somebody's life be inconsequential?

The human mind. Did I ever mention my thoughts about bicycle wheel spokes? How many are there in the world? Each wheel has around 36 of them........ shhhhh! ... It's imperative I stop!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Over the Isle of Wight

A few good nights' sleep and the dreamer is back to normal - whatever that may be. Evidence of normality having evaded any rational observer! Anyway, I digress.

If you've read Marianne's blog, it would not have escaped your notice we've been away again.... Jersey, in the Channel Islands. I had to work which was ok, but it was a little frustrating not being able to enjoy and photograph all the wonderful things there. We've decided we have to go back - and soon! I will have to take some more serious camera kit too. We decided to limit ourselves to 'medium' type digital cameras.... but I did feel constrained at times. Good job I was working!

Coming back home, we overflew the Isle of Wight. I suppose that's not unusual returning to a south coast airport like Gatwick. This Island is special to me, having spent the first 38 years of my life there!

I've been in aircraft with a camera many times in the hope of getting a reasonable aerial shot, but I've never been totally happy with the results. This time I was really lucky. All the gremlins that have fated previous attempts were thwarted by a lucky set of variables. Good light, good seat, reasonable visibility......

The South West coast of the Isle of Wight from around 12,000 feet..... I have others too :-)

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Dreams - Make of them what you will......

Wow..... what a night!

Excuse the amount of words..... I couldn't get any shots of my mind!

Don't think there was anything wrong with me. I've been quite content of late - without too many emotional traumas. Nothing that would affect my sleep. But, did I have a dream and a half last night!

I used to live on the Isle of Wight and the I of W ferries played a big part in my life for 38 years. So - please picture this scene as I relate as much as I can remember of it.....

My late, departed father was driving us to catch a ferry. Nothing odd there, except it was raining heavily to the point of severe floods with cars crashing off the roads and into ditches. And dear old Pop was.... reading a magazine whilst he was driving! The weather cleared up as we approached the ferry terminal but we were now having a race with a coach which was carrying cricketers to the Mainland. It was something to do with Shanklin Cricket Club, which Dad seemed to have a thing against in real life. I think he thought they themselves had the impression they were a 'cut above the rest'!

Nothing too odd so far!

Now it starts to get weird! There were kids everywhere on the ferry (not all mine or related to me) and there was nowhere for my family to sit all together. Now, that included Marianne's children as well. Strange? Yep! Marianne had never met my father, he having died in 2001. Now it gets deeper. A man who had alighted from the cricket coach occupied a seat (or two, the memory is a bit vague) and I argued that if he could move (as he was alone at it wouldn't matter where he sat) all our children could be together.

"What's in it for me?", he asked. "Could you get me some chips?" He'd heard me say I would get 3 portions of chips, one with tomato ketchup along with a Steak & Kidney pie! Why it was only 3 portons when there were 11 of us I can't fathom. I said he had a bit of a nerve. "Well, if you want the seat, I'll have some chips.... and I want mine with Marmite!" "Hmmm, I'll see what I can do".

Meanwhile, my mother had been to visit the ladies room, to powder her nose. When she returned to us she said, "That's the guy who made me buy this Baby Burco boiler!"

"What did you buy a water boiler for, you don't need one. Not on this car ferry". "That's what I told him", she replied.

So, in glorious technicolor, in my most imaginative brain (still sound asleep) there are eleven of us scattered around. My mother clasping onto this, newly acquired, Baby Burco. There were all of them saying they were hungry. But you only asked for three chips and a Steak & Kidney pie I mused to myself! An idiot demanding chips and Marmite in return for a seat, my mother still grappling with her boiler whilst trying to sit down ..... absolute, total chaos.

All the time the ferry is getting closer to Portsmouth so the time was running out to purchase all these items and get settled in our seats.

Now, in all the history I know of Isle of Wight ferries none are, or have been, amphibious. But this one decided it would be quicker if it hauled itself out of the water and drove us all to a fish and chip shop! So now there is this huge car ferry driving around the streets of Southsea! All the passengers are saying, "This is a lot quicker than sailing on the water. Why don't they drive the ferry like this all the time?"

We passed all sorts of things. Some quite normal, some less so. Neighbours fighting each other over barbecues is one thing I distinctly remember! Every other house had a police car outside of it. All the men were wearing vests - a few were wearing knotted handkerchiefs on their heads! Curious.....

Then the car ferry stops outside Martins the Newsagents. "You can get your chips here", shouts the Captain over the tannoy. Fine. At long last I can get us fed!

When it came to my turn all I could get was one, very small portion of chips and the pie. "Can you make sure the chips have got Marmite with them please?" "We've only got Marmite tablets" was the reply. "Fine, that'll do" and I promptly put the pill in my shirt pocket.

"How much do I owe you?"..... "£49.50p". "How much?" I shouted. "You heard me, £49.50p". "But steak and Kidney pies are only 38p in Tescos. I refuse to pay that much"

Now, all of this lasted in "Dreamland" around an hour, by which time all the other ferry passengers were showing their impatience. I still refused to pay that amount. They told me I had received the chips, which I do recall giving to the man along with his Marmite tablet. I actually requested they call the police and have me arrested. They seem to comply with this.

As the Police arrived all the employees of the Newsagents left .... in a rush. All of them were in exotic cars. Bentleys, Ferraris etc,.

"No wonder you can afford to drive around in those if you charge £49.50 for chips, pie and a Marmite tablet!" I shouted after them.

Don't know what happened after that..... I woke up!

There were other bits to all this, equally as strange! Somebody could have a field day with my mind. Marianne was in hysterics when I related all this to her this morning. "Your sleeping mind is more confused than when it's awake." Not too sure I know what she meant by that.

Anyway, make of this what you will. I'm frightened to fall asleep now! Dread to think what might happen at an airport.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

No Yellow Lines.......

..... loads of history, Nature in it's finest, coastlines a -plenty, fine food..... Need I go on? If you've ever been to the Channels Islands and visited Guernsey then you know it has it all! And some.

I had to work there for a few days after a short break from our honeymoon. So, two honeymoons in four weeks! Ok, we weren't together all the time each day - Marianne had to entertain herself for a few hours each day. The sun shone, so it wasn't that difficult. I did feel sorry for her though. Too many aircraft flights with a possible ear infection left her feeling quite poorly at times and in a fair bit of pain. Not only that, the Hotel Beauty-Parlour was too well booked. She never got the full pampering a wonderful lady should receive. Anyway, she doesn't need any more to make her look as beautiful as she is!

St. Peter Port on a Sunday morning..... the only shops open were those that had licenses to receive the cruise ships when they arrive. Could we learn something from this? Life was so calm and peaceful. I'd forgotten what 'trade free' Sundays were like!

Pembroke Bay..... so many beautiful flowers. I love the idea that the hedgerows are left to run wild, they have to go to seed before they are cut back to preserve the wild flowers. Everybody is responsible for their own hedgerows. Makes for a very pretty place this time of year.

Fort Marchant (I think). A defensive fort dating back to the middle 1800's. Those prison cells looked pretty bleak and desperate and that was with the sun out.

A couple of birds I was fascinated by.... as usual. Bit windy on the cliff tops but these birds loved it!

A very pensive Marianne, totally engrossed in her new Swallowtail shawl. It helped take her mind off that mischievous, painful ear.... :^(

How can you fail to be unmoved with such beautiful coastline such as this. All that remains to do is return and not have to work! Anybody have some decent lottery numbers...... any gains over £100,000 and we'll share 5% .... LoL

Monday, 5 May 2008

We're Back!

Wow...... so many lovely things! So many lovely places! Such a lovely time.

First of all.... thanks to all of you who have supported Marianne and myself. We have each other and we hold each other dear but, we've needed all of you - you have been a tower of strength to us both. You came from both near and far..... Spain, Northern Ireland, Holland .... even Cambridgeshire!

Marianne is busy putting together a blog post of the wedding part so, I won't bore you with all of that - not that any of it was boring, just didn't want you to read about it twice!

Our Honeymoon started with taking Mavis (Marianne's mum) back to Gatwick Airport and making sure she wasn't stowed away in our luggage on our way to Venice and Tuscany! She still hasn't forgiven us! So we had a day to catch our breath before a VERY early flight the next morning. We stayed in a Hotel and spent the day at the nearby Bluebell Railway. Nostalgia and Romance in a cloud of steam .... so much ..... US.

The other side of us is the fact that nothing ever seems to go just right first time. You'd think that booking into a hotel so you can leave our car safely for a fortnight's break would be straight forward. Not us! We got into the room and I laid back on the bed. I said to Marianne, "I can smell coffee". A long story short. Somebody had spilled coffee onto the bed spread. We made a complaint, and the staff said they would get it changed. Fine. We needed a bite to eat so we entertained ourselves for an hour or so in the bar/restaurant. Bear in mind we booked this hotel so we could make an easy, very early start in the morning (4:00am) so we needed to get to bed early!

Well, after 1.5 hours nothing had happened to the bed. Another minor, irritated complaint. This time I said to save time, give us another room. They only had one spare - the Honeymoon Suite at about three times the price! They let us stay there for free! .....Too many bubbles in the Jacuzzi......!

That, (along with British Airways) eventually brought us to Venice. (Photo by Marianne)

More to follow.......

Sunday, 30 March 2008

It's flat around here....

..... but at least you do get a lot of sky for your money! I often wondered why Constable considered he had to perfect skies in his landscape work, now I know why. You have no hills and what you place on the canvas above the horizon has to be perfect - no room for error!

It's hard to believe that last Sunday saw snow which would not look out of place on a Christmas card. Now the clocks have changed, so has the weather. They cannot be connected that closely surely? I even managed to cut the grass - I couldn't even see it last Sunday!

Armed with a big dose of sunshine and warmth we took to the country. (Mainly in an attempt to recover from a lovely dinner party to which our friends invited us). So very welcome as we're both wrapped up in the W..... word! Suit measuring yesterday - it's all coming together. Even the males are getting involved. Although I have to say, I'm not too sure my Best Man is entirely happy adorning himself with a pink cummerbund and dickie bow tie!

Anyway, in view of my love of landscapes I gave the camera a bit of an outing. These two are just a couple of shots taken about 10 miles from where we live. As I said at the beginning..... you do get a lot of sky for you money!

Only a few days more --- the W...... word day is definitely fast approaching ~ sigh!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Crazy Weather!

Can you believe this? You wonder during the Winter whether there'll be a White Christmas - Bing Crosby style - and you need to break out the shorts and sun cream. Then, along comes Easter and you're looking for a snow shovel. I mean, what's happening? It is a bit bizarre to say the least.

This was the view outside our front door at 8:45am. I would've been more adventurous but I was still in my dressing gown! And it was/is freezing. I suppose it has to be to make this white stuff! Just looked at our outside thermometer - it's +0.1° C - could thaw soon then!

Which is probably just as well. We're supposed to be eating out today. We're sampling the delights of our Wedding chef! The plans go on a pace..... tomorrow's another meal out - our Wedding photographer this time and we haven't seen him for ages! They're a lovely family but I don't think Lynn has ever forgiven me for introducing him to the wonderful world of Nikon. I love it when a plan comes together. Hang on! There's a flaw. All this food! We'll not be putting on weight will we?

Ah well. Marianne! Have you seen the snow shoes?

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Bazza has a Creative Day.

Another day in the Kitchen..... and what fun!

Marianne managed to get hold of some new cookery books...... all based on stand mixers. Couldn't be a better combination for an aspiring chef, gadget freak and a hyperactive twerp. Especially as I was supposed to be tidying the garden. Unfortunately for the Garden - fortunately for the Gardener - nature intervened by way of heavy rain. The most I could do was take some rubbsh to the local tip.

So, armed with all this enthusiasm and time, I took to the kitchen. Cheese sabl├ęs - basically a light, cheddar biscuit. What to have with it? Simple. Tomato soup - home made style! Only ever had soup like it once and I'm so proud I made something as good as that was. Ok, I could've opened a tin of Heinz. 5 seconds but no fun! But the taste - Hmmmmm!

Got a bit carried away with the cream - not helped by not having the camera to hand before it started to diffuse!

Then I thought I'd try a dessert. Key Lime pie! Love it..... Marianne makes a pretty mean Lemon meringue, but I fancied the piquancy of a lime. Now, you really must understand this..... I REALLY am NOT at all adventurous (or brave) when it comes to food. Lime was a big step. Funny thing is. The more I cook the braver I am with ingredients. As long as I can see what goes in and how it 'fits' into the recipe I notice I try things more. Humans! Can anyone understand the inner psyche?

I have to admit - Marianne's Lemon Meringue still holds the top spot... I need to improve my pastry skills :-(

So, now to clean up. We've cleaned the dishes - now we must wash them!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Marshmallow fights back!

This week we are honoured with a visit from Marianne's friend, Andrea. She comes from Southampton and is bringing Laurie with her for a few days. So, we have lots of company.

Andrea, you may remember from one of Marie's previous blogs fell in love with my marshmallow. Well, not mine, but the James Martin recipe. Me being me decided I'd make her some for her visit. For some reason it turned out better than ever before. Let me explain.

I followed everything to the letter and all went well. The last bit - getting it of of the tray after it has set in the fridge has always been a bit of a lottery. I've tried various ways of oiling, dusting the tray but it always seem to stick.

This time I'd resigned myself that it was going to stick. I put Icing Sugar and cornflour down on the work surface so I could prepare for the cutting and the final touches. Put some on top of the mallow, loosened it round the edges. Inverted and ....... kerflofffffff! Like a mini supernova in the kitchen..... dust everywhere! It just fell out of the tray. My clothes..... hmmm! A complete horizontal white line waist high.... and white shoes. (They weren't before) I did look rather silly - nothing new there then. No pictures I'm afraid, sorry!

There are rather nice though..... naughty! Another triumph in the kitchen but a lot of cleaning. There just has to be a more efficient way of producing a Masterpiece.

Been at work this week so a bit short of a decent photograph so I thought I'd share one from the archives.

Rainbeau-lune taken in 2006 at Northampton balloon festival.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The start of Aviation....

Mostly today I've been busy helping Mavis get a few things sorted before we return home tomorrow. But I did promise myself to get some decent little bird shots. Unfortunately, I only managed to get the experimental stuff done. I needed to sort which lenses to use (which I managed) and then concentrate on more compositional stuff. A good plan indeed, except there must have been something on Bird TV cos they all disappeared!

Anyway, I did manage a few.....

A Goldfinch keeping an eye me
Pretty little Great Tit
Goldfinch in elegant mood
Inquisitive Blue Tit
Goldfinch again
Mrs. Chaffinch
Mr. Chaffinch
Mr. Chaffinch again!

Sadly no Greenfinches or Bullfinches but I have seen them here before. As for the Pheasant.... who knows?