First new bike since 1978: with 70% off!

I got a new bike. The last time I had a new bike was when my parents bought me one in 1978. Normally I'd just pick up a second hand clunker on the cheap. But the UK Govt offer a scheme where your employer can buy a bike VAT free then hire it out to you through your gross salary until the principle is paid off then sell it to you for 'fair market value' which winds up being 5% of the original purchase price. Cool! So with the NI contributions, income tax and VAT taken off you get around 45% off the retail price.

But what happens when you buy it off a wholesaler? Heh! Another 30% off. So I got all wound up reading about the KHS XC604 and have been itching to get it for the last month. It came in the post today and we're expecting to head for the hills on Saturday to roll our wheels over rolling hills….

Here's a snapshot of the bike:

Brrm!

We'll be doing something like this again (sorry about the poor quality)….

Boys. Men. Cars. Brrrrmmm….

Freddie and I found a big box full of Scalectrix tracks, cars and accessories on the wall outside a house in Brixton last year. The dad leaning on the fence assured us it worked last time he had set it up two years ago.

So it's been sitting under the bed waiting for a rainy weekend ever since. Last month it poured down and Mary was in Ireland for the weekend. The timing was perfect to get the tracks out and get those cars smokin'… Continue reading “Boys. Men. Cars. Brrrrmmm….”

The International Caterpillar Caper

One fine day a few weeks ago Freddie's cousins in New Zealand, the Stillz Boyz Zach Jamie and Duncan, went to the Auckland Botanical Gardens. They had lots of fun seeing all the different trees, plants and flowers. But what they found especially interesting was the abundant insect life that appeared to be enjoying itself silly amongst the flora.

You can see them on the right as, despite those innocent looks, they scheme and plot all sorts of crazy insect gathering plans in the red circle. Continue reading “The International Caterpillar Caper”

It couldn’t have been wetter in the Lake District…

Over the recent Easter break Mary took the family for a drive to the Lake District and back via the Peak District for a couple of nights. Here's a map of where we wound up, and where we went whilst there – do navigate around it to get your bearings: Continue reading “It couldn’t have been wetter in the Lake District…”

Sourdough fingers

Baking bread. I've been an eager convert ever since we got our first breadmaker three years ago. But around at Mike and Elena's in December, I read their copy of Leith's Baking Bible. Yum. Three pages of detailed instructions on making one loaf of sourdough bread; the adjectives were inspiring promising thick crusts and intensely chewy insides. And there's no need to add yeast; it gets captured from the air around you.

So Mary found me a copy for christmas and Freddie and I have been busy successfully experimenting ever since. And the breadmaker that was once my pride and joy is relegated to a five minute knead every now and again.

So what does it involve, making these loaves, you ask? It takes about five-ten minutes a day to have a 1kg loaf every three days. Here's what you do: Continue reading “Sourdough fingers”

New Volvo vehicle

Volvo

Couple of months ago our Audi A4 estate got broken into; we were woken up at 1am by the cops who informed me a chap was caught attempting to extricate his swag bag from the clutches of the rear windscreen wiper.  Mr Not-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-box got a fortnight behind bars; our car was scrapped; and we got as much as we paid for the car we've had for the past eighteen months back from the insurance company.

So today Freddie and I hiked up to Edgware to get a replacement; it's a smashing old Volvo that does 50+ miles per gallon (that's 5.6 litres per 100km) with dead low mileage, an old tapedeck and a sunroof. Yay! It will be easier to move house when we need to, and we'll be able to hit the ground running in the country again…

Freddie’s Three!

Freddie turned three on the 30th of November but we didn't get around to a birthday party until last Saturday. And it's taken me this long to get the photos and videos from the four cameras together! We had a great day, loads of food and presents for the birthday boy.

Thanks to everyone for the well-wishing, cards, presents and effort for him; he really felt special. Here's a couple of photos and a video of the blowing-out-the-candles moment and bouncing-on-the-bed hijinks:

 

Mucking about in Mullingar

Last weekend was a long one, and the family scooted off to visit Mary’s cousin and comrade in overseas fun, Bridget, from way-back in Ireland. Close to Mullingar, west of Dublin. She has a large and welcoming family, with a home to match. The weather was ‘on and off’ but we were able to make the best of it, visiting my friend Kat in Dublin on the Saturday and another of Mary’s friend’s, Sharon and her three sons on Sunday in Celbridge. In and out of the hen house, chasing the kittens, swimming in the nearby hotel’s pool, visiting swans on the lake, and exploring Bridget’s husband Jimi’s current building project all totted up to a swell break for us all.

Anyhow, enough burbling, here are some snaps. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to get everyone in – they’re probably sighing with relief anyhow ;o) Fullscreen button is now bottom left….

 

Fullscreen

 

Tackling Nature: Freddie at the Museum

I took Fredde to the Natural History Museum today. He loved it, there’s loads of creepy crawleys, stuffed animals, all manner of rocks and a dark dinosaur wing. You could spend hours pootling about the place, and Freddie got hooked on loads of it. The ushers had to ask us to leave because it was closing. Anyhow, here are some great photos and a T.Rex video (don’t forget to click on the ‘full screen’ icon, bottom right):

Sevid, Vis & Split: An Oddysey in Illyria

Nona and Grandad rented an apartment in Croatia for a few months, and invited us over. It was well worth the trip, nearly three weeks in a suntrap surrounded by clear sea water; the place was seething with history to boot.

Straight to the pics, click the ‘expand’ button bottom right to see in vivid full screen technicolor…

We arrived via the cheapest flight we could muster in the most obscure hours available; thanks to Grandad for picking us up and taking us back to the apartment in Sevid. We pootled about there going for walks along the waterfront  via a tortoise family and enjoying the solitude. Mary and I spent a night in Trogir and a headed out to Vis, a remote Adriatic Island for a couple of nights and a cycle tour which was wonderful.

It didn’t rain once, and swimming in the sea was invigorating for us but too scary for Freddie. 

Lavro, our rambling Sevid landlord, doubled as the local vintner and provided us with some fine black ‘babich’ wine. Yum.

Croatians are big on meat, but cherries, artichokes, asparagus and cheese were in season so I got by just fine. 

Freddie’s favourite passtime was throwing stones in the water. Fortunately, the country had little but stones and water; he loved it. Here’s a clip of the man enjoying ‘frutti di mare’….