Friday, November 17, 2006

Changes everywhere

Been rather busy recently. We've been making a number of long overdue changes around the house.

Our main bedroom has been completely revamped. New bed (modern metal frame, and a king size rather than the minuscule standard that passes as a double bed); new furniture (light and airy); and a new wooden floor. We originally planned on just replacing the carpet, but never found a colour we liked and became drawn to a wood (laminate, we're not that rich) floor. It all goes together nicely!

I don't include DIY as one of my strengths. Sure, I can wield a brush and roller, but anything beyond that is quite a challenge. But I managed to replace the light fittings (and that's something that was much more involved than it has any right to be), and moved an electrical socket so the fitted furniture would actually fit. The electrics don't bother me - it's knocking holes in the house to gain access that causes all the trouble.

Of course, once we had a wooden floor one of the girls decided she wanted a wooden floor too, and of course they both had to have dimmer switches for their lights once we had one!

The spare room needs a revamp. It's currently got the old futon we had in Toronto. We've been looking for a replacement sofa bed for a while, and are going to see one tomorrow. It appears that we only have a fairly restricted choice. As in we've only found the one that will fit - and it's been tricky finding somewhere that has one in stock to go and look at. It should make watching the second TV rather more comfortable, and should provide us with a proper guest bed (the old futon simply wasn't anything you would expect a guest to use, so we've used it ourselves, and I really don't want to have to do that again).

As the girls' bedrooms have been decorated fairly recently, and we've just had someone in to paint the upper hall and landing, that just leaves the bathroom. Melanie has realized that you can get regular sized spa baths, so it looks like some fairly major work is on the cards there....

Monday, August 28, 2006

Water water everywhere

Where it's not supposed to be. One of the girls was having a shower upstairs, and I could hear something dripping while cooking in the kitchen. Went into the hallway and water was pouring through the ceiling. Over the fusebox. Everywhere.


Just got the car back, and fixing that cost me a fortune. Looks like more expensive repairs are in the pipeline.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Summer Holidays

Just had a couple of weeks away.

The first week was spent up at Griffon Forest, near York. We've been there twice before, and love it. It was really pleasant to be in a cool lodge (the weather in England was unusually warm). We packed a lot in: Flamingo Land, swimming, relaxing in the hot tub, visiting Lotherton Hall, going to Scarborough and Bridlington.

The first time we went to the coast was very unusual. We had hired some bikes in Dalby Forest earlier in the day. It was right and sunny, and as we neared the coast it looked very strange - a brown band in the sky ahead of us. Then we went into dense fog and the temperature dropped about ten degrees.

On the way home we stopped off at Magna. In addition to the pavilions (OK, but suffered a little - as many of these attractions do - by some of the hands-on exhibits being broken) much fun was had outside in the playground.

The second holiday saw us heading off to a beautiful cottage in the Dordogne. Another repeat visit - we were there the same week last year. We also went back and had a good day climbing through the trees at L'Appel de la Foret.

The holiday itself was great, but the journey was "Interesting". Having driven down and gone across on EuroTunnel, we were about an hour and a half south of Calais when something in the car went. Lots of vibration, sounded pretty sick, felt bad. We pulled over and couldn't see anything, but attempting to start off again resulted in the car shaking and it obviously wasn't happy. We were stuck in a pretty dangerous position at the side of the motorway, and knew there was a service area (just a picnic area, really) just along the road, so we managed to limp to that. Calling the recovery company, they tell us that they can't do anything - we have to contact the police to get towed off the motorway before anything else can be done. Having been towed to a local garage, there are lots of phone calls - eventually we get someone at the recovery company who can speak French.

It takes a while, but it was too late to get a hire car and, while the garage had a car themselves, they wanted a large cash deposit (more than we had). We were put up in a local hotel for the night (OK, but not quite the Chateau we had booked as the overnight stop), and were back at the garage next morning. The recovery company still couldn't get a car from the major hire companies, and it was looking like we would have to stay there till Monday or Tuesday. But we eventually negotiated with the garage that the recovery company would guarantee some of the deposit, and soon after got on our way.

The car we got was actually very nice - a new Renault Clio. I've always thought of this as a small car, but it didn't feel like it, and even managed to take most of our luggage. I was impressed, and the Clio is definitely a car I would look at when the time comes to replace mine.

Coming back, we had to set off very early to get the hire car back to the garage before it closed. Clearly the recovery operation was up to full speed by then: the rental had all been paid for, a taxi was waiting to take us to the compound where our car was waiting, it was put on the back of a truck and taken up to Calais. We had to take the car onto the train and off by ourselves - the recovery vehicles can't go that far. And driving through the ticket barriers and up to the car park felt OK, but the car rapidly sickened from then on. Sounded like I was dragging tin cans along as we got on the train, and it wasn't happy. I managed to stagger off the train, and only needed to go about half a mile to get to the services to meet the next recovery truck, but it seized up completely on the slip road into the services.

It's now home, and we're looking at a replacement gearbox and clutch. More expense!

While the trip was reasonably smooth in the end, and we did get there and back without too much of an interruption to the holiday, the recovery company could have done better. I'm not sure we ever talked to the same person more than once in a dozen or more calls. The initial response was sluggish and uncertain - just at the time when you need good service, they didn't seem to be on top of it. This was the same sort of problem I saw when I had an accident - they sorted the claim and repair out very well, but seemed incapable of doing a good job of making sure I was alright and able to get home in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

Friday, May 05, 2006

21 Again

The title ought to give a hint. It's also true in another sense - another 21 years have passed since the first 21.

I'm older, for sure. Wiser? Not so sure.

The weather turned nice and warm. (So hay fever assaults me - I've not grown out of it yet.) We had a nice lunch out, and generally relaxed.

Having taken the day off work, and it being necessary anyway, I dropped the car off for a service. Shame it didn't work when I got it back :-(

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Netherhall Concert

Last night we went to see Amanda take part in the Netherhall Spring Concert at West Road Concert Hall.

There were about 15 mini-performances, from the full band and orchestra, choirs, small groups, and solos.

The choice of pieces was good, and the quality of performance was excellent.

Of course, West Road is an awesome venue, which helps a lot. The only disappointment was that so few parents turned up - the audience was pretty small, which was a shame.

Friday, March 17, 2006


No, not the start of the new F1 season!

The Baldock Bypass is now open. This makes a considerable difference to my commute to and from work - saving me about 15 minutes in the morning and about half that in the evening. Great stuff!

It's still too long, really. And there aren't any other improvements in travel times I can look forward to.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Weekend Away

For the first time in twelve years Melanie and I just had a weekend away, with no kids in sight!

Both girls went to an orchestra weekend at Grafham Water Centre, so we booked a break at Folly Farm Cottage, in the small village of Ilmington in the Cotswolds.

The place was ideal for a romantic break - a small self catering apartment with a 4-poster bed, whirlpool bath, delightfully decorated, very nice and helpful people too. We ordered a cooked breakfast for Sunday and that was delicious.

We spent Saturday having a little drive round the area, visiting a couple of antiques places, Moreton in the Marsh, Broadway, and Chipping Camden. Coming past Broadway Tower there was quite a lot of snow around - some quite deep drifts in places. The weather was good - clear and sunny - but a little chilly!

Saturday evening we booked a table at the Howard Arms in Ilmington. We walked down - remembering to take a torch to see the way.

Not everything went quite according to the original script. After arranging all this we ended up going to a function at Chilford Hall Vineyard on the Friday evening, so our carefully laid travel plans got slightly derailed. The original plan was to set out, leave the children, and carry on. Instead we came back to Cambridge, had the meal, and set out much later than planned - so we didn't arrive until nearly 1 in the morning. Fortunately our hosts at Folly Farm were very understanding and made arrangements to leave a key.

Then, on Saturday evening, having had a drink at the bar, started on the bottle of wine, and just had our starters arrive at the table, the phone went - with a message to say that Amanda had been unwell and would it be better if we went to collect her and take her home? Needless to say this wasn't particularly practical, but fortunately Amanda was fine, so we were able to stay on. It did put rather a dampener on what was looking to be a very fine meal, though.

Today we had a walk round Stratford and a warming bowl of soup before heading back to collect the kids and bring them home.

Overall, a nice weekend. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 12 years for the next opportunity.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Make your own website

So I don't post items here as often as I do in my main blog, which is something I'm going to have to work on.

Anyway, Hannah's been asking about creating her own website, so had a look around today. She came home with piczo in mind (although she actually told us pixo, which isn't quite the same thing).

But piczo's terms and conditions impose a strict minimum age of 13, so that one's out. And after looking at a couple of pages they host, the intrusive advertising and popups really got on my nerves. Can't recommend that one.

So I had a little look around, and Hannah signed up for MatMice. This one is aimed squarely at children, and first impressions are good. The signup was a little klunky (most usernames are already taken - it would have been nice to get suggestions rather than have to take 20 guesses). The page creator is pretty simplistic for my taste (not quite as slick as most of the ajax powered utilities I use these days) but it works. Advertising, yes, but in the fairly tasteful google style. How this will work out in the longer term I don't know, but if your kids are looking for somewhere to make their own web page then MatMice is definitely worth a try!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


On Saturday I took Hannah to see March of the Penguins.

I think she enjoyed it - she's mad keen on penguins - and I found it interesting. We had seen adverts for the DVD while on holiday in France last summer, and I was tempted to get the DVD even though the commentary was presumably in French.


In the new year, full of good intentions, we always have a good clearout of old junk. Some of this is to make room for new stuff just received as a gift; some of it is because new gifts replace old stuff; some is just getting rid of stuff we don't want.

That's the good bit. Then we spoil it by heading off down to IKEA to buy a whole load of new things to fill up the house. The end result is a house that's just as full of clutter, just a bit better organized. And the organization will decay over the year, and in early 2007 we'll repeat the cycle again.

We also found out that the accident I had must have damaged the satellite navigation system in the car too. It works for a bit, and then freaks out. Proceeding round the North Circular, we were suddenly instructed to d a U-turn. Coming up the M11, all of a sudden we were told to turn right at the roundabout.

However, while in London we did have a good late lunch at Garfunkel's.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

District ADM

Went to the Cambridge District Annual District Meeting yesterday.

Ringing beforehand was generally good; a few hiccups due to Great Shelford being an anticlockwise ring. Usually once you're into changes and settled down, everything goes smoothly, but it was interesting how even good touches faltered as they came back into rounds.

The meeting saw a couple of elections of personal note. Amanda was elected a member, and yours truly got voted onto the district committee. I have no official responsibilities - I'm not an officer or anything so important - but there are a couple of extra committee members to give a wider spread of representation. I'm hoping to contribute more to the district - one first target might be to actually ring at all the towers, which is something I've failed to do despite being resident here for almost a decade and a half.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sluggish traffic

Traffic on the way to work in the morning seems to be getting worse.

I'm not at all sure why. It could be seasonal (the operation or not of schools seems to make a disproportionate difference). It could be partly the weather (rain makes an obvious difference). Or - and this is my fear - it's a systematic trend.

Whatever, it's a pain.