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)….

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…”

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):

Weekend in Warnham, West Sussex

It being mid-August, we decided to take a weekend in the country before the summer ends. It was off to West Sussex this time to stay in a cosy B&B in a 550-year old medieval house called Glebe End in a little village called Warnham. It’s a totally gorgeous house and the price is good so we’d recommend it to Londoners as it is only around 90 mins drive away.

Liz Cox, the landlady, was a bit of a character – old style plum-in-mouth accent and very charming along with her two sheepdogs Betsy & D.J. She cooked a fine breakfast to boot.

The village itself and the surrounding countryside is stunning. One of the highlights was walking into the Greets, one of the two village pubs, and finding an ancient low-ceilinged bar with no seats. Instead there were loops hanging from the ceiling so you could grab one if you felt a bit unsteady or if you just fancied a prop – exactly the same style as you find on London Underground.

After dropping our bags on Saturday and pootling about Horsham we headed off down to Worthing which is on the coast, but unfortunately only Freddie was very impressed with it. He enjoyed the time spent on the windy stony beach with Adam while I read a book in the car.

We decided we liked the West Sussex countryside much better and spent the next day in woodland where we walked and picked blackberries and took pictures of the mushrooms we came across. We also found some hungry carp in a lake beside a fancy manor and Freddie enjoyed feeding them some bread (the fish, not the manor owners) which caused them to get into a bit of a frenzy.

Here’s the photos, none of me, typical ;o)

 

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’….

A Nature and DIY Weekend

 
This Saturday we skipped off to Pett’s Wood again. It’s so peaceful out there, barely a soul for miles and the rustle of the squirrels and balmy wind in the autumn leaves, the sound of birdsong, and random mushrooms sprouting off the leafy paths are all so relaxing for a brain, child, relationship and body constantly on the go during the week.
 
It’s only a 25 minute trip on the train from Brixton Station, then a 10 minute walk to the forest. We did take a detour through the charity shops where we found a Matchbox motorbike for 15p – Freddie’s not lost sight of it since.
 
We also found this cool tree with eight trunks and a raised bit in the middle. Freddie and Mary stood in it, and with the sun shining through the canopy captured this halo of light and family-ness:
 
 
Saturday night Craig stopped by for dinner then Freddie and I toddled off to Brockwell Park this morning while Mary practiced her yoga. Freddie’s pal Leon (they both get childminded by Patricia) and his German parents Phillip and Stella were there. Really nice to meet them after all this time.
 
Last month we bought a dishwasher. Plumbing constraints forced our workbench elsewhere, so a few weeks ago we picked up a 2.5m x 60cm worktop and finally got around to installing it this afternoon/evening. And here it is in all it’s glory:

Farmer Freddie: gettin’ down with the animals

We’ve happened on a few farms recently, what with all the sheep in Snowdonia, there was also the Dean’s City Farm at Morden Park, the Vauxhall CIty Farm at the Lambeth Country Show. So here’s a slideshow of Freddie’s animal exploits…

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Best rain in Europe: our Snowdonian oddyssey

Last week we stayed in one of the Gogarth Hall Farms cottages in Wales for a week. It was gorgeous, built in the  mid-1700s, and steeped in a remote valley with (shock!) no cellphone access. When I was booking the spot I asked if it had wireless. The proprietor said ‘Ohh, ye’ve cawght me on de ‘op dere, oi don’t believe oi have a radio in dat dere cottage now…’. Fat chance! It did have a stately furnishings and an old fire which we busily set to blazing most of the time.

The countryside in the area was really stunning, majestic peaks, high lakes, sandy beaches with a little brighton feel to them, and loads of charming inns. Here’s where we were staying – zoom out to see where we were…

 

We had a packed agenda, spending a day on the old Talyllyn narrow gauge steam train, a day at the Centre for Alternative Technology, I spent a day mountain biking with my buddy Craig who came over on the Friday, another day walking along the riverside, the soggy Wednesday at the Machynlleth market and another at the Aberdovey beach. On the Saturday we stopped at Sharon Pope’s in the Cotswolds where Freddie was most taken with their new puppy Mia and the five horses in the stables. So! Here, using the latest in WordPress technology, is a slideshow of our happy, if soggy, trip:

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 There are a bunch of videos too, but I haven’t even got them off the camera let alone uploaded them to Freddie’s blog!