Breathe

Posted on 15th February 2012

Cold Air

I am just air
A breeze of coldness
Hold me if you dare
I have travelled far, I am breathless

This a poem written by Ethne, aged 7.

Considering she had no help with the words, it's quite a profound first poem. She wrote it on her MagnaDoodle, so Nicole managed to preserve the effort before it got erased :)

Well done Ethne.

File Under: ethne / family / people / poetry
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Close (To The Edit)

Posted on 8th March 2011

On Saturday March 5th 2011, a neighbour of ours, Kate Angel, took part in a sponsored head shave for Cancer Research UK. Her friend Angie was diagnosed with breast cancer last September and with Angie living in Blackpool, Kate felt she needed to do something to help her. Shaving her head to raise money and awareness seemed to be a positive and inspiring way to do it.

Cora Flowers, a professional hairdresser and neighbour, offered to shave Kate's head, and David Le Marchand, "another Dad", worked on the posters and flyers for the event. Having a video camera, Nicole offered my services to record the whole event as "The man across the road".

Having recorded the event, I then spent Saturday and Sunday having fun editing the video. The full edit came to 30 minutes, but I also managed to make a shorter edit at just over 12 minutes for YouTube, featuring the main highlights.

So far the online donations and the money raised on the day has raised nearly £1,500 (and is expected to be more with all the promotion of the videos). If you would like to donate an amount, please visit Kate's JustGiving page, and donate as little or as much as you can to a very worthy cause.

To see the event itself, watch the YouTube video.

File Under: family / health / life / people / rubery
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Senses Working Overtime

Posted on 9th July 2009

I haven't written here for a while. and I haven't written that much in my other blogs either. I should have, as I keep having ideas for posts that I figure I should get around to writing up, For various reasons my time has been taken up with other things. I've been very busy with some of my Perl projects, specifically CPAN testers and YAPC Conference Surveys, and relating to the latter, I've recently attended YAPC::NA 2009, have been a judge for the Send-A-Newbie programme and am currently judging the bids, along with the rest of the YEF Venue Committee, for YAPC::Europe 2010 from Keiv.pm and Pisa.pm. On top of that I've also been trying to spend more time with my family.

For the past year or so I've been working 15-20 a week on extra curricular Perl projects. Although I've enjoyed doing the work and I'm really proud of what I've managed to achieve, I do need to take time out for my family. I'm very grateful for the support Nicole has given me, and the fact that Dan and Ethne don't seem to mind me getting up before them at the weekend and waiting to have their breakfast, while I just do this next fix :) But they deserve some of my time now. That's not to say I'm disappearing or anything, just that the balance is slightly shifting in their favour.

Since leaving MessageLabs, I now have a job that is a bus ride away in the centre of Birmingham, which now gives me the freedom to work on the bus for at least an hour a day. It's actually quite amazing how much I can get done, when I have to focus on getting something done with only 30 minites between stops. I've missed travelling to work on the bus, as driving up and down the M5 every work day for the past 6 years has felt more and more of a drain. I used to read a lot, but that all stopped once I started driving to work. I'm now planning to start working through my unread bookshelf again :)

The new job is a bit different, as although they are not a web shop, my role is very much focused on web development. As a consequence I'm really enjoying it. They have a series of sites that have been developed over the years, without any real thought to standards and best practices. As a consequence, they now have me to help clean up their code and processes. I hasten to add that I'm not some kind of saviour, as the guys have been working to improve what they have for some time, but I think they do see me as a bit of welcome relief. It's also been nice to be able to bring a lot of the knowledge I've drawn on for the past 10 years or so, and be able to give their sites a fresh lease of life.

In future posts expect a quick run down of my experiences in Pittsburgh for YAPC|10, some thoughts about YAPC::Europe 2009 in Lisbon and several photos from the various gigs I've been to over the past year. Yes I still have lots of photos to sort though. Soon, I promise :)

File Under: family / perl / yapc
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That's Not My Name

Posted on 23rd December 2008

Since Dan was born I've always called him DanDan. Just recently he asked Nicole, "Why does Daddy still call me DanDan?" Apparently now that he's all done grown up, he's not too happy with being called DanDan any more. So for from now it'll be Dan or Daniel :)

File Under: dandan / family
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Into The Lungs Of Hell

Posted on 22nd December 2008

The past month or so has mostly been filled with illness of one sort or another. I'm currently still suffering with a lingering dose of catarrh, which is annoying the hell out of me, as the mucus keeps sliding down my windpipe and then I'm coughing it all up again. Nasty. A couple of weeks ago I was wiped out by the virus that seems to be spreading like wildfire across the UK. Most people seem to have come down with something in the past month at least.

Hopefully I'll be able to get rid of this catarrh before Christmas. It's been really annoying of late as my Dad has been in hospital to have his kidney removed, and either the kids, Nicole or myself have been too ill to risk visiting him while he's recouperating. Thankfully he got the all clear at the end of last week, so he just needs to take it easy and recover from the surgery and he should be back on his feet again soon. The kids have sent pictures and cards to help him get well, but it isn't quite the same as being able to see him in person.

All being well, we should make it over after Christmas.

File Under: family
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High Speed Dirt

Posted on 11th May 2008

Callowbrook Swifts had their last match today. Despite going ahead at 2-0 early in the match, they were drawing 3-3 at half time. But the heat took its toll and Hampton managed to score another 2 in the second half for a final score of 3-5. It could so easily have gone in Callowbrook's favour, as in one instance Dan led a great run down the left wing, crossing to Joel, who hit a lovely shot at goal, but hit the post and was caught by the goalkeeper. With several other attempts on goal, and a few corners, it wasn't a lack of trying on Callowbrook's part. It was a shame for Ross, as he did make several great saves, but Hampton got themselves into good positions and made it difficult for him to cover all angles.

There's a break for the summer now, although training still continues. There are also two new players starting with the team ready for the next season, so it'll be interesting to see how the team dynamics work with the new additions. Callowbrook, as they are at the moment, have come on leaps and bounds in the last 6 months, and they're still getting better. The previous two matches they won 4-2 and 4-0, so they've proved they can do it. 11 goals in the last 3 matches, not bad in anyone's book. I'm looking forward to the next season anyway :)

File Under: callowbrook / dandan / family / football
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Down In The Park

Posted on 6th April 2008

Ethne & DanDan

Ethne & DanDan

After waking up to snow, we took the kids round to the park to throw snowballs and build snowmen.

Snowball fight!

Snowball fight!

Up on the hill it looked like a few people were even venturing down the slope on sledges. Seeing as it's a steep hill, they obviously felt quite brave. Some kite flyers were also having a good day up there too.

Meanwhile, DanDan made a snow angel and four snowmen, while Nicole and Ethne made another. Ethne made us laugh by adding a bum to her snowman, although it looked more like a pronounced tail. Should have added long ears and called it a snow bunny :)

File Under: dandan / ethne / family / rubery / weather
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Lament

Posted on 22nd February 2008

On 24th January, Sheila Stevens (nee Dymock), lost her long battle against cancer. Sheila was my mum's elder sister, and when I was younger we would often travel over to see her, my uncle Wally and my cousins Roy and Sue, when visiting my Gran and my uncle Ivor. Thankfully she passed away peacefully in her sleep, with her family around her. Unfortunately I hadn't seen my aunt in quite some time, and even longer for my cousins. We've stayed in touch through my mum mostly, and we always get to see photos of the grandchilden, and likewise we've sent pictures of DanDan and Ethne. Sue commented how our Christmas cards always stood out, as Nicole always makes the cards and puts DanDan and Ethne on the front. It adds that personal touch. Aside from Wally, Roy and Sue, I also got to meet Roy's wife, Andrea, and son, Sebastian, as well as Sue's son, Joshua, for the first time. It was also the first time in just over 29 years that I met my uncle Peter and about 18 years since I met my cousin Nigel. It was also the first time in a long while I'd seen my cousin James too, as I think I've seen his kids more than him in the last few years :)

My Mum & Aunty Sheila, 1983

My Mum & Aunty Sheila, 1983

It really is a shame that we don't get to meet unless there is a dramatic family event. Andrea did suggest organising a family get together every year, which personally I would love, as Nicole, DanDan and Ethne have only met my cousin David, uncle Ivor and aunty Gaye. We now have quite a big family on my mum's side and it was staggering to realise that there are now I think 10 great grandchildren and 9 grandchildren descended from Nanny and Grandad Dymock. Not staggering in terms of numbers, but the fact that us grandchildren have grown old enough to have kids, and even grandchildren of own. Although as far as I known none of us are grandparents yet, as only Heather, Sue and Jane have kids who are teenagers, and the rest of us all started late, or have yet to start.

The funeral itself went well and the day, although a little chilly, was bright. The sun was just starting to set, looking very picturesque, when we came out to pay our respects by the flower tributes. It was strange driving over to the house for the wake, as I didn't remember any of the route until we pulled into the road, and even then I couldn't remember which house it was. It wasn't that it had changed that much, it was just so strange to see it all as a grown up. I commented to Roy that I always looked up to him when I was a kid and now I'm taller than him. Walking into the house brought back a lot of memories. Sheila's voice greeting us and offering to make us a cup of tea. The cats. And all the family get togethers we had there. I also remember Wally telling Roy off when he started playing his Derek And Clive records to me :)

A few people commented how much my mum looks like Sheila, although she never used to. It's only as she's got older that you can see more of the similarities. It was also very odd seeing Roy and Sue, as even though I know how old they are, I still see them pretty much as they were 20 years ago. Perhaps that's just me wishfully thinking I still look like I'm in my early 20s too ;) Sheila's passing has certainly made me think a little more about my own family. I think we get into the habit of thinking your family are just always going to be there. But it always feels such a shock when they're not. There was a lot of laughter and reminiscing at the wake and although there were definitely touches of sadness, it wasn't there for long. I think Sheila would liked that. I would certainly like to remember my aunt as the way she was when I was a youngster, and I'd rather not dwell on the pain she must have gone through in more recent times.

Floss & Eddy in the 1940s

Floss & Eddy in the 1940s

Just before Christmas, I attended another funeral, for Florence Ess or "Floss" as we all knew her. She was originally engaged to marry my Nana's brother Eddy, but before they could arrange anything, the war came and took him off to the front line. He died before he could return and marry Floss. My Nana (Christine) and Floss had remained good friends, as they were before, right up until Floss died. Floss was 99 and my Nana is 97. Like my aunty Sheila, I hadn't seen Floss in quite sometime, but she always sent birthday cards to us all, including DanDan and Ethne, and we always made sure we sent her one too. I did hope to arrange to call in last year, but we never got to make a trip up to Manchester last year. We had talked about going this year, but alas now she won't get to see DanDan and Ethne in person.

Jacky, 1968

Jacky, 1968

The service at the Macclesfield crematorium was quite an emotional one for my family, as my sister Jacqueline was cremated here in 1968, when I was just 2, and it was the first time I had been back there since. I took some time to walk around the grounds afterwards and I couldn't help but reflect on what might have been. She would have been 40 last year. My younger sister, Lisa, my mum and dad and my Nana attended the church service for Floss, and it was quite warming to see so many people come to pay their respects. The only relative left in the family, was her husband's niece, who was there, everybody else were friends. I hope I have as many friends attend my own funeral when the time comes.

As I was walking around the crematorium gardens, it did cross my mind that this was also where Ian Curtis, singer with Joy Divison, had been cremated. Three people who had all touched my life in different ways were all here in some shape or form. It might sound morbid, but I think I like it to be my final resting place too.

Farewell Sheila, and Floss. Thank you for being a part of my life.

File Under: family
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Surreal Madrid

Posted on 6th February 2008

DanDan looks to intercept

DanDan looks to intercept

DanDan is now a fully fledged member of the Callowbrook Swifts Juniors Football Club, playing in the 7s age group. He played his third match, his second full match, at the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed himself. He's getting really good these days, and although there are still plenty of improvements and confidence needed to get the best out of him, it's been really consuming to watch him and his team mates play. I don't think I've shouted so much at a football match in years! The whole team are great to watch and they have some stars in the making too.

They played against Hampton Sports on Sunday and put up a good fight. Zak and Jack held the defence well, to the point Zak unanimously earned himself man of the match, and the remainder of the team certainly got in the way, just not really making the most of their potential. One of Hampton's goals was very lucky to go in, as their man just happened to be on the far wing, as a throw-in on the other side got kicked further over, and then when he shot for goal, Zack, Jack and Ross just couldn't quite reach the ball to kick it away. For a Callowbrook corner, DanDan was standing too far back from the far post, and had he been level, the ball would have dropped at his feet with an open goal. Joel made several attempts at getting the ball in the goal, but was tackled down every time. In the end they lost 2-0, but it could so easily have been a 1-1 draw. The team are getting better, now they just need to get the goals.

It took a while to notice, but amusingly there was a Kane, a Jack and two Dan's on each team. Unsurprisingly, calling out to Dan caused some confusion, especially among the Hampton players. With our DanDan having problems with his ears, he never seemed to notice. As such one of the Callowbrook mums suggested we randomly shout Kane, Jack or Dan to put Hampton off ;)

At some point this year I really ought to revamp DanDan's website and start adding all the football matches and photos from the last few years on there. I've given the coach photos of DanDan's first two matches, so hopefully they use them when they update the Callowbrook Swifts site. In the mean time, some of the action shots from the last two matches from the first half of the season:

File Under: callowbrook / dandan / family / football
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Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll

Posted on 14th January 2008

I got hold of Lost Cities last week, and this weekend DanDan and I played a game of it. We would have played more, but he has still yet to finish his homework :)

It's a fairly simple game and as a consequence pretty quick to set up and play. Although the box specifies a minimum age of 10, I would have said those younger can grasp the gameplay without too much difficult. DanDan certain understood the concept of playing and taking the cards, and building up the expeditions from investment cards to numbered cards. He hadn't spotted that he quickly ran out of time building the expeditions beyond the 20 points needed, as he spent time trying to build up all 5 expeditions. I did the same to begin with, but in subsequent rounds concentrated on 3 at maximum. It made a big difference. DanDan said he really enhjoyed the game, and Nicole liked it simply because it meant he had to do maths to play the game.

For reference, should anyone need them, an English rules translation is available online. It's a shame that The Games Cabinet no longer runs, as that was a great source of reference for the English language versions of the rules. I note there are links to other language versions (mostly Portuguese) on Boardgame Geek, as well as some other interesting resources, but they seem to forget that some of us buy the German versions of the games as they can be cheaper.

File Under: dandan / family / games
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Boat On The River

Posted on 10th January 2008

It seems that Nicole and I have a bit of talent on our hands. These two pictures were painted yesterday by Ethne at her playgroup. Apparently she's painted an even better one, which is currently hanging up in the room they use.

Considering she will only be 3 in a month's time, yet can manage to paint a recogniseable snail and a boat on the sea (complete with sun), is quite staggering, or maybe that's just my parental pride coming out. Either way, Nicole's artistic talents have obviously come out strong in Ethne, as she's always loved drawing and painting ... especially on herself!

Seeing as I don't have a cubicle at work in which to hang my kids pictures, adding them to my website will have to be the next best thing :)

File Under: ethne / family
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The Hanging Garden

Posted on 7th January 2008

Yesterday I finally opened up the game Alhambra, which I brought back from Vienna. After a bit of searching for the games rules (the box contained the German language rules), I discovered that the manufacturers website has kindly translated the rules into several different languages with a PDF download for each. After downloading the English language version, DanDan and set about laying out the game peices and started playing. Unfortunately it wasn't until about half way through the game, that I read the slight variation for a 2 player game. The game took a little longer to play with the two of us playing the full rules, but it did help us to understand the game. Next time playing the two-player rule changes will not only make for a quicker game, but also might make it a bit more interesting in terms of the points. As it was DanDan wiped the floor with me, as I couldn't get the right money to begin with to buy what I wanted.

The game won Game of the Year in 2003 and I can see why. It's a fairly straight forward game and involves buying and building materials to make a palace, but is a very engaging game. For DanDan it's good for his maths as he has to calculate how much he can spend and what money he needs to buy the materials he needs to construct his palace. Considering he's only 7 and the age suggestion on the box is 8, I think he did rather well for a first attempt. He seemed to like it too, and it made for a nice change from Hunters And Gatherers. I think Alhambra will be getting played a lot this year :)

File Under: family / games
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New Year's Day

Posted on 1st January 2008

You could be forgiven for thinking I'd abandoned my diary over the past few months. With being so busy I just haven't had the time to sit down and write my thoughts out. I've had loads of things I've wanted to say, and many possible posts get formulated on the drive to or from work. But then I get distracted.

This year I plan to sort out quite a bit of stuff, both offline and online. My todo list needs to reduce somewhat. Ethne needs her own room, I need to clear through the backlog of photos and I also need to update the ARK site I've been promising to do for the last couple of years.

Here's hoping I get at least some of it done. Happy 2008 wherever you are.

File Under: family
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Top Of The World

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Six: So that was it, our holiday in Torquay. We headed home, and Nicole once again took photos as we crossed the bridge over the River Avon. It's quite amazing the difference a week made. As Phil from Malvern LUG had mentioned that we ought to call in on the way home for a cup of tea, I decided to take him up on the offer. However, Nicole wanted to the opportunity to see part of The Malvern Hills. We weren't planning to walk up the whole way, but the path up zig-zagged in such a way as to be quite easy to leisurely stroll up. Even DanDan and Ethne walked virtually all the way there themselves. I only carried Ethne the last few feet on my shoulders.

It really is a lovely view up there and I think we'll be going back to climb The Worcestershire Beacon, the highest point of The Malverns. But today we managed to make it to the top of Sugarloaf Hill, and that was just about enough. It took a while to get up the energy to walk down, but it was quite pleasant just watching the world pass by, even if the wind was a bit too much for me.

Once we got back to the car, we finally headed off round the corner to visit Phil. we spent a couple of hours chatting and finally the kids were getting a little too restless and we left Phil to walk Pepsi (their dog), and made the final leg back home. A great holiday, and I think we all enjoyed the break. Definitely thinking of going back again.

File Under: family / holiday / malvern / photography / walks
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Caught Somewhere In Time

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Five: The holiday was coming to an end, but there was still far too much to see. We opted for Kents Caverns and Bygones Victorian Museum.

Kents Caverns was actually Nicole's favourite sight of the whole holiday. There is so much history there it really is quite staggering. Dave, our guide, was brilliant. A great sense of humour and a good rapport with his audience made for an excellent tour. At the end of the tour I asked him if he was studying archeology, but it seems not, he's a Sociology student :) The Caverns themselves are huge and very impressive. It was a shame that my camera work wasn't up to much as there were points when I failed to capture some of the awesomeness of the rock formations and patterns. The light in the caverns is all artificial, and at one point in the tour, the lights are switched off to show how dark it really is. It's probably the first time I've ever been in complete pitch darkness and you really can't see anything in front of your face, even a few millimetres away.

After coming out we discovered that due to the weather, the Caverns had become quite popular today. It seems we had arrived at just about the right time. They also have a kids discovery area, which both DanDan and Ethne enjoy being archelogists and uncovering fossils. They they got to draw on the chalk boards.

After lunch we headed back to Babbacombe and to the Bygones Victorian Museum. We had passed the museum earlier in the week and it looked like it was worth a visit. It's quite amazing just how much they have crammed into the building. They even have a small full size engine, which you get to walk onto the footplate. Although it is very much centred on the Victorian era, it does also feature a small section on the World War I. DanDan was a bit too unnerved by it, but Ethne didn't bat an eyelid. It is probably the only part of the museum that is potentially frightening for kids, as it is quite dark. It's quite amazing just how much memorabillia they have managed to accummulate or recreate about the era. However, I think DanDan and I would have to agree the traditional cream soda was the defining moment of the visit :)

File Under: caverns / devon / family / holiday / museum / photography / torquay
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Another Journey By Train

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Four: Like my Dad, or more likely because of my Dad, I've liked steam trains from a young age. My grandparents had the Gwili Railway at the bottom of the garden from 198?, and as I was growing up from about the age of 8 I had watched them clear the old track, lay new ones and construct the station and line from Bronwydd Arms. I also got to ride on it while they were making it too. Since then, riding on steam trains has always been fun. In Torquay we had a choice. The Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway or The South Devon Railway (running steam trains from Totnes to Buckfastleigh). We opted for the latter.

I had mistakenly thought that there was a train connection between Paignton and Totnes and thought getting a train from Torquay would be a good idea. The train station was only a few minutes walk from the hotel, but after buying the tickets and looking at the map on the wall, I suddenly realised my mistake. In order to get to Totnes we had to go back up the line to Newton Abbot and then down again to Totnes. Had I realised this I would have driven there in about 20 minutes. As it was it took 2 hours with all the waiting and connections and delays. It was frustrating as I felt we had lost half a day, but as Nicole pointed out, the kids enjoyed it and Ethne did keep us entertained with her dancing and singing on the platform.

We just made it to the train for The South Devon Railway, otherwise we would have had to wait around 45 minutes for the next one. Although there were other things we could have done at the Totnes station, most of the things to see were at the Buckfastleigh station. The journey was lovely and once again the kids really enjoyed watching the scenery fly by. A brief stop at Staverton station was a good photo opportunity too.

Once we finally reach Buckfastleigh, we had a wander around part of the museum there. We then took an old double-decker red london bus to Buckfast Abbey. It's been a while since I was here last, and it's actually smaller than I remembered. Thankfully the sun was just right and I was really please with some of the pictures I got to take. We had a wander around the Abbey itself and the gardens, and had a lot of fun trying to pose DanDan and Ethne. It didn't always work, but it was great fun trying :)

We took the bus back again, this time through Buckfastleigh village, where we could eaisly reached out of the bus and touched the walls of the buildings. The last steam train for the day was just about to arrive, so while they took the time to change ends, we wander further around the site and got to look in the repair sheds. Unfortunately the minature railway wasn't working as I would have liked to have taken the kids on that. It was probably just as well as by the time we got back to the platform, the train was just about to leave. After reaching Totnes station we walked back to the mainline station. It was then that I'd noticed that there were sigs for the castle. We hadn't eaten and it was getting towards tea time, so it seemed a good idea to find a cafe somewhere. I managed to persuade Nicole that walking up the hill to the castle would be a good idea. Unfortunately when we got to the entrance, although we had an hour left to wander around, it was perhaps a little too expensive for just an hour, especially for 4 of us. We decided that it would be better to plan to come another time and take more time wandering around. In fact we'd missed a few things at each end of The South Devon Railway, so a return trip is definitely on the cards.

The return trip on the mainline was less eventful, but it was nice to just relax and let someone else take me where we were going :)

File Under: abbey / buckfast / devon / family / holiday / photography / torquay / totnes / trains
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The Beach

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Three: Our first proper day on the beach. Oddicombe Beach and Babbacombe are on the far side of Torquay, so we had to drive there. However, in the write up for the hotel, it mentioned we were only 5 minutes from the beach. Each time we had passed Abbey Sands Beach in the car, the tide had been in and it hadn't looked like it was very big. However, in the morning we took a stroll down, passing the Torre Abbey, and watched the tide slowly drift out. A portion of the beach was already uncovered and we set up camp. As the day wore on more and more of the beach revealed itself and it really was a good beach. Apparently the sand on this beach is considered to be the best in Torquay for making sand castles. We all spent time digging holes, burying each other, buidling sand castles and generally have a lovely time. It was such a good day we complete forgot to take photos after the first few in the morning!

Nicole and I did make one mistake though. We covered the kids in sun lotion and sun block to protect them from the sun, but complete forgot to do the same for ourselves. I managed to burn my feet, my knees and my forehead didn't look too great. Thankfully it wasn't too bad and after a trip to a local supermarket we did rubbed in some of the after-sun lotion to soothe the itchiness.

As we were on holiday we had decided to eat out somewhere nice. Being a fan of curries I manage to persuade everyone that the ? was a great idea. And indeed it was. The kids shared a korma and both Nicole and I were absolutely stuffed after ours. Although DanDan had been complaining earlier about his neck and he didn't eat too much. We got a bit worried and got him some medicine to help relieve some of the pain. The night before DanDan had fallen out of bed and woken up in a very confused state, so we weren't sure whether he hurt himself as he fell out. It wasn't until the following day that Nicole suddenly realised why he was complaining of his neck. The TV in the room was mounted quite high and he'd been straining his neck trying to watch it! After a good night's sleep he seemed to be much better.

File Under: beach / devon / family / holiday / photography / torquay
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Back In The Village

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Two: The following day we headed to Babbacombe and in particular The Model Village. I've always liked model villages, but Nicole has mostly tolerated them. We took the kids to see the one at Bekonscot last year (I'll have to get around to putting those pictures online too), and they seemed to enjoy it. Babbacombe seems to be bigger than Bekonscot, but that may just have been perception. There certainly seems to be a lot more going on, not just for the model village, but also the "behind the scenes" workshop, the model film sets, the model circus, trainset and the 4D cinema experience. Many of the models are moving models, from lorrys, trams and trains to fire breathing dragons, the Loch Ness monster and a wind farm. The 4D cinema had a 15 minute film showing, which in addition to the 3D presentation also had the physical experience of things like the chair shaking or fine water droplets sprayed at you. I thought it was well worth the £1 entrance fee, but DanDan was quite scared. He held my hand in a vice like grip on several occasions. I tried to make light of it for him, but he kept taking the 3D glasses off so he couldn't see the images so close to him.

After lunch we headed round the corner towards the local beach. To get there we had to ride on the Cliff Railway. Both DanDan and Ethne loved it, as they both got to sit at the front and watch the other carriage come up and pass us as we went down. Once off we got to spend our first day on the beach. Oddicombe Beach has more shale than sand, so it wasn't exactly sand castle material, but we did try. Ethne experience her first paddle in the sea and kept wanting to go back for more. It was a hard job persuading them to come out and dry off at the end of the afternoon. We managed it by tempting them with ice cream ;) In fact it was delicious ice cream, and I'm not really one for buying a cone. I prefer iced lollies. But the choices on offer were just too tempting.

We walked back to the Cliff Railway and rode back up to the top. There is a nice little cafe at the top, and being shattered we decided to have tea there. I'm glad we did as by the time we got back to the hotel, all I wanted to do was flake out. The weather reports promised much better weather for the rest of the week, so tomorrow was looking good.

File Under: beach / devon / family / holiday / model / photography / torquay / trains
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Heart Of Glass

Posted on 26th August 2007

A couple of weeks ago, the family and I went on holiday down to Torquay. It was a great holiday and we got to see and do lots of things while we were there. I took lots of photos too. Over the next few posts I plan to unveil a few galleries of pictures highlighting some of things to see and do in and around Torquay and Devon. In fact there is so much we missed out, we thinking about planning ahead and going again next year :)

On the way down, we drove over a stretch of The River Avon that is notorious for flooding. However, I've never seen it this bad. I'd spent the previous week working from home due to the results of the floods across Gloucestershire, but this was the first time I'd got to see any of it first hand. Nicole took photos as we crossed the bridge and I was staggered to see what ressembled a lake in place of fields and the normal course of the river. One the way back she took some more after the flooding had subsided. Quite a difference.

Due to all the stop/starting of the traffic, it took us 5 hours to get from Birmingham to Torquay, although that did include a half hour break. As such we checked in and headed for a local restaurant for food. The weather wasn't great and with the tide being in, the sea looked decidedly unsuitable for a holiday. Hoping that the weather would pick up, we decided to visit some of the sights first.

Day One: The following morning we sorted through the flyers for the various places to visit and picked on two that were further north of the town. The weather was overcast, but didn't look like it would rain too much, if at all.

Our first sight was The House Of Marbles. It's partly a Marble museum and partly a glassworks. Both are free and you can just wander around at your leisure and watch glass blowing, see some amazing marble-runs or play outside with the kids. The big marble-run in the shop was fascinating, and I could easily have watched it for hours. DanDan and Ethne enjoyed playing in the garden with the building blocks and skittles. By lunchtime the sun had come out and it was quickly turning into a very pleasant day. We had lunch and headed a little further north.

Our afternoon trip was to The Original Miniature Pony Centre. If you have kids and are not too far away, this is well worth the trip. You can go inside the enclosures and see the sheep, goats and ponys up close. It's great for kids and Ethne seemed to love it, especially during her interesting conversations with the sheep! Ethne also got to ride around the paddock, while DanDan headed off to the adventure playground. As we walked around, both DanDan and Ethne took a shine to some of the Shetland ponys. Come the end of the day, Ethne even got to feed them too.

It was a long day and we were all tired by the evening, but it had been a great start to the holiday. And even the sun looked like it was going to stay.

File Under: devon / family / floods / gloucester / holiday / photography / torquay
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Summer Holiday

Posted on 6th August 2007

Ethne

Ethne

For the last week the family and I have been taking a well deserved break down on the South coast in Torquay, Devon. As the weather around Birmingham and Gloucestershire has been extremely wet this past month, we weren't sure whether the holiday would be a wash out too.

Thankfully, we caught two overcast days while travelling down and our first day there, but then we got 3 days of sun. Thursday rained in the morning, but then the sun broke through again. We only spend a day and a half on the beach as the rest of the time we spent seeing lots of sights, and there are plenty of things to see in and around Torquay. In fact there are so many we're now thinking about going again next yearso we can see the rest :)

I took several thousand photos, and a few videos, which I'll be trimming down considerably. But I thought it would be good to post a few entries that highlight some of the sights we got to see. After all if you're ever planning a trip to somewhere, it's always worth seeing what other people thought of the places.

We all had a good time and the highlights were many. However the most entertaining thing was watching Ethne pulling her "smelling face" whenever she bent to smell flowers.

File Under: devon / ethne / family / weather
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What I Go To School For

Posted on 6th July 2007

Following my adventures in Houston last week, Nicole mentioned to DanDan's teacher that I could show the class my photos. They have recently been doing a class project about space and specifically the Apollo 11 moon landing.

So today I went in to do a short 15 minute presentation. Nicole thought 5-10 minutes would be enough, but I think the kids would have happily talked for an hour :)

I picked out a few photos and talked about the rockets, capsules, moon landings, mission control, the mockups, the international space station, the space shuttle and the Saturn V rocket. As I knew they'd already done the class project, I prompted them for answers, which they really relished. I got asked whether there was an Apollo 24, how did the spacemen go to toilet, how did they have a shower, how the rocket got into space, how they got back to Earth among many many others. They also enjoyed telling me about all the things they'd learnt too. They knew the astronauts had to be strapped in when they went to sleep, and that they ate lots of dried food. Not sure if they quite understood that it was freeze-dried and rehydrated, plus they also got a bit confused with the idea of a monkey and a dog landing on the moon, but it was great to see they has such a fascination of the subject, including the girls too.

Mrs Clarke, their teacher, seemed to enjoy the presentation too and confessed that she even remembers watching the moon landing on television. I was only 4 :)

File Under: dandan / family / school / space
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The Carnival Is Over

Posted on 16th June 2007

The Rubery Festival was supposed to be today. The fun fair is there, but the festival had to be cancelled due to the weather. Parts of St Chad's Park are flooded and much of the rest is a muddy mess. We took DanDan and Ethne round to see whether there was anything that they could ride on at the fun fair, which thankfully there was and they did seem to enjoy themselves. However, they did manage to extract a small fortune from us!

It's a shame the festival was cancelled as the event last year got nearly the whole village turning out. While we saw several neighbours walking round today, it wasn't exactly packed. Nicole was really looking forward to the singing competition, but it turns out that that is being postponed until July or August. It's the kids who have worked towards the festival for the past weeks and months, who won't be able to join the parade or do their performances in the "main arena", that I feel sorry for. Hopefully the weather will be a little better next year.

However, the signposts marking off where the festival arena was supposed to start from the fair, did cause a bit of confusion. Is the council really selling off half of St Chad's Park? Advertising is one thing, courting controvesy is just irritating.

File Under: family / funfair / rubery
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I Go Swimming

Posted on 9th April 2007

We took DanDan and Ethne swimming on Saturday to Cocks Moor Woods Leisure Centre near Kings Heath. Unlike a traditional swimming pool, they have a wave machine and huge slide for older kids to slide down into a small deep pool.

It was a shame I couldn't film them as the pair of them were hilarious. DanDan wouldn't let go, despite Nicole teaching him how to doggy paddle. I also took him to the deep end so he couldn't touch the bottom, and got him to swim all the way back to the shallow end. Even though he kept saying "I can't do it" all the way, he still made it. I think was quite proud of himself afterwards.

Ethne on the other hand couldn't let go quick enough. She took great delight in telling everyone afterwards, "I floated, Ethne floated" :) I think she's going to be quite a natural swimmer.

File Under: dandan / ethne / family
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