Thursday, 31 January 2008

Funny llama video

Am really using this to test out my skills at uploading video clips although any excuse to include something amusing about llamas!

I should explain that in Spanish the verb llamar means to call and the translation for la llama que llama is 'it calls him that calls' or 'the llama that calls' so it is a bit of a Spanish joke! It was actually an ad for a South American telecom company.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Don't take photos into the sun

Well, they say that you shouldn't point your camera directly into the sun but sometimes it is the best view. This was the scene this afternoon as I drove to Brighton. I am looking out over the downs towards the Belle Tout lighthouse. It turned out to be a lovely bright blue day with the sun just about to set. The pictures don't do it justice!

Monday, 28 January 2008

Sunday ride

Last weekend for a few hours the sun came out and everywhere began to look a lot brighter. The evenings have been getting a little lighter and very slowly, it feels like spring might be around the corner. Ian decided that he wanted to do some work in the house but I felt the need to get outside and decided to go out for a ride on the bike. (It could also have been because the last time Ian and I did a ride from his house it was just before Christmas and there was a thick fog everywhere. I tried to convince him that it would soon clear, but an hour into the ride there was no sign of it lifting! In fact, it became freezing fog and by the time we made it home we were both so cold we could barely speak! We saw nothing and our bikes, clothes and faces were covered in a thick sticky coating of salt! Yuk!) Anyway, I didn't let the previous experience put me off and set out on my own. My ride took me over the M25 and along the Rivers Darent and Cray. You wouldn't expect to find a great deal of wildlife and history so close to such a built up area, but in places it is actually quite pretty and hidden among the old council estates are some interesting buildings and places. I stopped off in Farmingham, as it always looks so pretty and out of place as it is only about 100 metres from the A20. This is the view from the bridge looking over the river.

According to Wikepedia
"Farningham is believed to be home to Neolithic history - flint and other tools have been discovered and can be found in the Dartford Museum. The Romans occupied the general area after their invasion in the first century and, along with large evidence of habitation down the road in Lullingstone, there is also evidence of Roman habitation in Farningham. Three farmhouses and three villas have been unearthed. Charles Dickens was a visitor during his time for the trout fishing that the Darent provided."

If you look closely at this picture you will see that Charles Dickens would not have much luck today! The Darent is a tributary of the Thames and is also known as Dartford Creek, which doesn't sound so good! There are lots of old mills along the river, a sign of it past uses. Again, according to Wikepedia

"A mill has been on this site since Domesday. In the fifteenth century the mill was in the possession of the Roper family, Sir Anthony Roper being charged with "pulling down and allowing the watermill to decay and become uninhabited" in 1636. He was ordered to rebuild the mill within two years. The present building built by the Colyers dates to c.1780. The mill was a corn mill; the converted building survives. A curious feature is that the door on the north side of the east face is painted on, to look symmetrical with the real door. The mill was latterly worked by a turbine which drove a saw mill in its final years of operation. The mill last worked for trade in 1900"

I think watermills are great; such a good source of natural energy. It would be wonderful to think that one day these mills would be rebuilt and used again.

Anyway, I had a nice morning riding my bike and finding out all about the local history.

for more details!

Happy Birthday to Lovely's Blot

The first entry in Lovely's Blot was written on the 29th Jan 2007 so in a few hours the blot will be a year old!

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthdsy dear lovely
Happy birthday to me....

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Merde deux!

Well the exam truly was merde! Perhaps it was because I haven't done an exam for a while and have lost the touch or perhaps it was because I haven't really done enough homework, maybe my brain has decayed with age or maybe the test was just hard; but after 10 minutes of staring at the paper I realised that I knew very little, nearly had a panic attack and then managed to calm myself enough to do the second part of the test, which was a little easier. After restoring my self esteem I was able to face the first part again and managed to attempt a few guesses at a few questions, but whether that is enough for 40% or not, I am not sure! I then had to go straight to the oral exam, which I did find a little better, but then I did more work for that! Oh well..

Tuesday, 22 January 2008


I have my first French exam tomorrow and needless to say I have not really done enough work (too busy blogging!). Today I went to a conference in London and took my French book on the train with me in an attempt to do some last minute swotting. I was reading a rather dull paragraph about where people were going to go on holiday (a ploy to get the reader to practice the future tense) when a voice next to me said 'if you need any help, let me know, I am a French teacher'. The speaker turned out to be a Belgian man around my age. I told him that I had my exam tomorrow and we talked a bit about learning and teaching French and the importance of being able to communicate! As I got off the train he told me that in French rather than saying 'Bonne Chance' or good luck before an exam you say 'merde'(Shit). So he wished me merde and off I went!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

New Year, New Format

Am experimenting with a new template for my blog as this one seems a little easier on the eye! May change back later. Check out 'what time of day are you' below! I got the link from a friend's blog and did it for myself and was quite surprised at how close to home it was!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Flood warning

The wet weather continues and the fields and rivers around here are beginning to flood. Fortunately, being at the top of the hill has some benefits but I was talking to student today who moved into a new house in October and is just beginning to realise some of its short-comings! The cottages at the end of her garden are called Brook Cottages and she said that she thought she should have got a clue from that, although most of the time the 'brook' is just an overgrown ditch. It is now a lively stream and has flooded half of her garden, with water creeping up towards her house rapidly, creating a waterfall effect as comes over the fence. She decided she should get some sandbags and contacted the local council. They told her that they didn't have them and she would have to go to the environment agency. She phoned the environment agency and they said that yes they had them but they issued them to council and she would have to collect them from there. When she explained that the council had directed her to them they told her that she would have to go to the local garden centre and buy some sand and put it in bags herself! She said that they were really nice and empathetic on the phone and we agreed that they must have all been on some training that tells people how to deal with people in a crisis (but fails to mention that as well as being nice you actually have to do something!)

It reminded me of the time I bought a kitchen from IKEA and half of it didn't turn up. I phoned and got a very nice person the other end who said how awful it must be and yes how dreadful it was but when it actually came to sorting out the problem could do absolutely nothing! I was telling my friend who lives in Sweden and she laughed as she had received the same treatment there, so we agreed that it was an international conspiracy!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Bloody rain (and wind)!

It's raining again! It feels like it has been raining non-stop for weeks. A slight exaggeration maybe as there have been a few nice days but on the whole it has pi**ed it down consistently! To make it worse my house is at the top of the hill and the back wall faces south west; directly into the worst of the weather. The storms come straight off the sea and seem to aim straight for my back door! It has also been really windy; at night it blows down the chimney and shakes the walls either side of the chimney breast and during the day it drives the rain against the windows and means that you get soaked just walking a few yards. I have been waiting for a clear day so that I can wash the bikes but so far we have not had one and the forecast for the rest of the week is more rain!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Riding a bike makes you live longer

Blue-leader, otherwise known as Jon (or Captain Mannering to me as there are many similarities) remarked to me the other day that I had been riding with the Weald and Downlander's bike group for 10 years now. I must admit I hadn't thought it was that long but its funny how time goes quickly when you are enjoying yourself. We are an odd group of mountain bikers! Our average age at the moment is probably in the mid to late 40s and ranges from the youngest regular riders who must be around 30 to several riders the wrong side of 60. We have all learnt that increasing age brings its own problems when it comes to riding up and down mountains (it hurts, you are slower, you loose the urge to throw yourself down the steepest and rockiest of slopes, it takes longer to heal, it hurts..) but there are also some advantages. One of them is that people in cafes and pubs are so shocked to see us arriving dripping in mud that they treat us with sympathy and the second is that many of the group can afford the most expensive and latest design mountain bikes and enjoy showing them off to envious twenty somethings at the top of the South Downs (its even better if we have managed to ride all the way up without getting off!). My illness and the life events of last year have meant that I have not been such a regular attended at the fortnightly rides and one of my hopes for 2008 is that I will be better. With that in mind, I an and I made our way to the meeting point on the 30th December for a gentle ride around the Groombridge area. As it turned out the only people there were Blue-Leader and 'Vic-the-elder' who were just about to set out for a gentle hour or two ride. Ian had hurt his back, I wasn't very fit and Vic-the-elder has many things to contend with that slow him down so we ended up doing a fairly flat ride along the old railway line, stopping in a friendly cafe for bacon butties (the Polish waiters and kitchen staff thought we were hilarious) and then riding back. The company was good, the conversation amusing and I realised what I had been missing! Last Sunday the ride was local for us and a few more people turned up! It involved some long slow (for me) uphill climbs to get to the top of the downs and some nice easy off road riding. In the morning the weather was lovely and again the company was good. We stopped for lunch in a pub and I must admit on the way back to the car I regretted the facts that I hadn't done much exercise lately, that I had eaten too much over Christmas and mostly that I had had sausage and chips for lunch! Oh well, back to the gym!

I feel I must add something on Vic the elder here. I have posted a picture of him at the top of this blog. He is probably our oldest regular rider and really is a bit of an inspiration. He has struggled for most of his life with severe asthma and has very poor lung capacity. In addition the cold and the exertion seem to trigger an asthma attack. A couple of years ago he fell out the loft and broke several bones. We thought that would end his biking career but no, he fought back and still joins us on rides. On the flat he is faster than me and he throws himself happily down hills where I get off and walk!

Smug-bastard cyclist

As I have said before I love bikes.. the sort that you pedal that is, not the ones with engines! I love all types; I have an old touring bike that I can't bring myself to get rid of. It sits on rollers in my attic for days when I feel compelled to ride a bike but can't get out the house! I have a steel framed mountain bike (the subject of an earlier blog, that was lovingly resprayed and returned to its retro state with the original steel forks..I still love riding it probably more than any other bike!) I have a full-suspension mountain-bike that I bought second hand from a friend and I have a lovely Bianci road bike that Ian built up for me. I also have a Brompton folding bike that I used to commute to work on when I worked in London. Now I did this 10 years ago for a good 5 years; before low emission zones, cycle routes and before the congestion charge. I felt like an urban warrior shouting at inconsiderate drivers and trying to stay upright and alive. Cycling was 'fringe' and owning a Brompton was even more weird! I was definitely considered eccentric at the very least and mostly thought of as quite mad! Now I could get more for my Brompton second hand that I paid for it new, it would be stolen instantly if I took my eyes off it for a second and there are more cyclists in Central London at times than fact there is even 'cycling congestion'in some places. Cycling to work is mainstream government policy and most companies pay an allowance to those who use their bicycles for business travel. God, how things change! I can remember having an argument with a particularly obnoxious woman from personnel (now called human resources!) who told me that I certainly couldn't claim for using my bike as it involved no cost to me!

See.. I was a trend setter not a weirdo!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

A typical Christmas break

Well, the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over for another year! Mostly it is a bit of a relief as what it really means is 10 days of driving here, there and everywhere, picking up various relatives and dropping them off at others, trying to make sure you remember your presents and give them to the right people and trying not too spend too much money! We drove my mother (and her knees) over to Ian's sister on Christmas day and then in the evening we drove her and Ian's mother back to London, where we spent Boxing day. I then drove my mother back to her house the following day and then drove back to Ian's! The day after that we both went down to Eastbourne and then on Sunday we drove up to Tunbridge Wells to do a bike ride and then back to London. On New Years Eve we drove over to my brothers where we met up with him, his family and my sister and then we went out (and I got very drunk!). Yesterday my brother drove up to pick up my mum and brought her back for dinner and in the evening my sister drove her back and we both drove back to Ian's house! (I was still hung over!)

Our carbon footprint for the period was considerable!