Sunday, 27 November 2011

Back home

So, the holiday is over and we are back home. Boooooo!!!!

Friday started out very sunny, but suddenly came over very dark and threw it down with rain for a while, and then brightened up again.

We went back into Whitby town for another quick wander around (see Beryl, i was listening yesterday, and this time have spelt it right!). We both even braved the 199 steps up to the church, which gave us some excellent views across the town, but was SO windy.

Coming down the steps gives you plenty of good photo opportunities, and i took full advantage of them.

Lunch was back at Humble Pie n Mash, which i can totally recommend - they are absolutely scrummy - especially the "Homity" one.

Saturday saw us leave the apartment - sad in one way, but also quite glad to get back home in another. I was missing my radio gear, and Sally was missing her craft room, we were both missing our comfy bed, but neither of us were missing the general clutter of our house! If only we could find a way to have all of our toys but still keep things tidy!!

The journey back was very uneventful. We stopped off at Sally's parents for a few hours, and it was lovely to see them. I haven't been to see them since July, which i could hardly believe it had been so long.

While we were there, Beryl made a request of me that i do more things on my blog that she would understand - the radio ones just baffle her. So, having seen the magazine Christmas tree she had made, i made one myself this morning and here it is:-

I made it from an old issue of Amateur Photographer magazine. It won't win any awards, but it was good fun to do!

I have also set up another blog which i will dedicate to my radio exploits. The link is if you are interested.

Oh, and by the way Beryl, i worked a new country this morning - Latvia on 15m PSK31.   ;-) xxx

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Grumpy Old Duke of York

We got up early again today, and headed off to York. It seemed to take far longer than I expected to to get there. We used one of the many park and rides that serve the city, and very convenient it was too.

The thing is, we appeared to have taken a wrong turn somewhere, which could explain the long journey, and we had arrived in London!!

What on earth is he talking about you are asking yourself. Well, it was majorly busy, more like Oxford Street in London on a Saturday than York on a Thursday at the end of November!

Also, why was everyone in such a rush, so grumpy and aggressive? This surely was London. After all, everyone up north is chilled and pleasant aren't they?

Marks and Spencers was an experience. There was the old man complaining to a staff member about the lack of staff meaning that he had been forced to QUEUE FOR A COFFEE AT LUNCH TIME!

He was so incensed by this, that he was now more than happy to waste even more of his precious time complaining about it..........

Then, there was the very strange sight of staff in fluorescent jackets at the top of each of the escalators to tell customers which escalator went up and which went down......funny that, I would have thought the direction of travel of the people on them would have been a bit of a giveaway! Does this show how little sense M&S think their customers have? Slightly worrying. If some of these yellow jacketed staff had been serving coffee, that old chap would have been far happier.

There was a "Christmas" Market in the street, which was mostly selling "tat", but was causing a lot of interest among the madding crowds, and the feeling of being hemmed in by so many people was beginning to freak me out. I really don't cope with that well, and it has been quite a while since I have had that feeling.

We took a slightly different route back, and it was quicker than the journey there. Back at the flat, I dozed off on the sofa for a while, and spent a fair time snoring so I am told!

Dinner tonight was at the famous Magpie Cafe. Sally had fish and chips, and I went with the scampi. They were both absolutely superb, among the best we have ever tasted.

Dessert was lemon meringue pot for Sally and baked Alaska stollen for me. Both were again fabulous. I can see why it has the reputation it does. Thanks for the tip Clive!!

Tomorrow is our last full day, and we have yet to decide how to spend it....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Have you missed us?

Well, we vanished for a couple of days there - sorry about that!

Basically, Tuesday was a very lazy day for us, and we ended up staying in and chilling out. The weather was a bit dull and threatened rain all day without really carrying out its threat.

I slept for quite a while, and read while I was awake (so not for very long then!), and Sally got on with her crochet practice, trying again and again until she got it right. She was very pleased with her efforts, and rightly so.

On Wednesday, having set an alarm, I managed to drag myself out of bed at a sensible time, and we headed up the coast to Staithes, which is a tiny fishing village, a bit like Robin Hoods Bay, and when we got there it all looked suspiciously closed for the winter, and so, rather than walking down the steep hill, being disappointed, and then having to drag ourselves back up to the carpark again, we chickened out and drove on to Saltburn by the Sea.

From the information leaflet we had picked up, it looked as though it was a miniature version of Scarborough, which, in a way, it kind of was, but imagine a miniature version of a miniature version, and you are more along the right lines.

Once again, a lot of it was closed for the winter, but we did find a nice little coffee type shop, and got chatting to the lady serving in there, and he told us a few places to check out. We ended up having lunch in a small cafe next to the railway station, which was ok, but nothing to get excited about.

When we got back to Whitby, we had a wonder around a bit more, spent some time in the amusement arcade, and checked out a few more of the little side alleys. On the way back to the flat, we made a brief detour up to the abbey. It was closed but I was able to get some photos of it from the carpark.

Soup and a roll for dinner, which was rather yummy, I watched some of the football after Sally had watched master chef, and then to bed for another good nights sleep. The strange thing is that even though the bed seems quite comfy, we both seem to wake up a back ache! Despite how much we like the flat, we do miss our own bed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Happy birthday to me

Monday 21st November 2011 - my 44th birthday. Middle age creeps ever closer, although some would say that it has been with me since I was 8 years old!!

It was a dull and misty start to the day, and it didn't improve too much. The sun did manage to break through every so often, but not for too long. It was reasonably warm though.

To start the day, we drove south to Robin Hood's Bay, which is a very picturesque little fishing village, not unlike Clovelley in Devon. You have to park at the top of the village and walk down the very steep hill to the main part of the old village with it's narrow winding streets and tiny old fishermans cottages.

Despite the whole cuteness of the village, the fact that it is out of season now means that virtually everywhere was closed. It also seems that the vast majority of the cottages are now holiday lets. It would seem that the village is almost uninhabited outside of the summer season, and so can only have lost most of it's character. It is such a shame to see this. It is also very noticeable that Whitehall Landing where the flat is we are staying in must also be almost all holiday lets or second homes, as it is virtually deserted now the weekend is over.

I find this very frustrating and annoying that there are so many perfectly good homes empty due to the "greed" of some of those who are able to afford more that one property. I appreciate that it is a good investment plan in the current climate, but it doesn't make it right.

Anyway, back to the Bay. We had a wonder around the quaint streets and spent some time sitting watching the sea before braving the steep hill back to the car. We then made our way a bit further south, through Scarborough and on to Filey.

By the time we had got to Filey, it was just about as murky as it had been so fare during the day, so we parked in town and had a quick wonder around and found a nice bakery to buy lunch in. This we ate in the car - never let it be said that we don't know how to "live it up"!

We then drove inland to Pickering where we had stopped briefly on Saturday on our way up to Whitby. We had a proper look around the town, it was market day, although as it was now getting on in time, they were starting to pack up.

I drove us back to Whitby from there. It was the first time that I have driven this particular one of Sally's company cars (focus diesel) so it was interesting to see what I thought of it. It was a shame as it was now getting dark, as I'm never too keen on driving in the dark, but I still gave it a bit of welly to see how it performed, and was quite impressed with it.

Back at the flat it was time for a lovely pot of tea before we headed back into Whitby for my birthday meal. This was at "Humble Pie n Mash", which as you can probably guess, serves home made pies and mashed potato. I went for the chicken in cider one, and Sally chose the "Homity" pie which contained cheese, garlic, potato and spices. Both came with mash, peas and gravy.

Mine was lovely, but Sally's was spectacular! I tried a few mouthfuls of it, and I have to say that it was exquisite. I hope that we can get back there again before we go home to have some more. For pudding, I had the jam rolly polly, and Sally went for the mince pies. Both were lovely.

We then walked some of the calories off by having a wonder around the town, taking in some of the streets we had missed the last time. It is very noticeable that there are not many multiples in Whitby, and very few of the usual suspects that you tend to find everywhere. Boots, Holland & Barrett, Specsavers and Superdrug being the only obvious ones.

There are also a lot of empty shops, and some rather shabby looking ones, so one can only imagine that times are very tough around here for businesses, and that being a "seaside resort" does not guarantee you any favours.

So, another birthday bites the dust. Do I feel older? Yes. Do I feel tireder? Yes. But, this may be down to the sea air of course!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 20 November 2011


.....Why do you miss when my baby kisses me?

A good nights sleep in the pretty comfortable bed, a bit of a lie in, and a sunny morning greeted me when I finally woke up enough to drag myself out of bed.

Sally had spotted a Christmas Craft Fair being advertised at the Moors Visitor Centre at Danby, so we made our way inland to the centre.

As we made our way from the carpark, Sally heard a woman on her way back to her car say that she was "proper disappointed". Not just disappointed, but PROPER disappointed. We had a sinking feeling!

Despite Mr and Mrs Santa being on hand, the actual "craft fair" was indeed a proper, full blown disappointment. It was a great shame that Sally hadn't brought her boxes of cards with her, as they would probably been the stars of the show.

We ended up giggling about it all. It was free to get in (thankfully) and it was a lovely day, we are on holiday, so who cares?!

Leaving the (un)fair we headed down narrow twisting country lanes, up and down serious hills, and weaved our way across the moor through tiny villages until we got to Goathland where they used to film the TV series Heartbeat.

We had a wonder around the giftshops and ended up having a cream tea in a little cafe, which was very pleasant.

The weather had started to turn a bit misty, although it did vary tremedously from village to village, turn to turn.

We made our way back to Whitby, parked up and had a wonder around the town. Being Sunday afternoon, not everywhere was open, and as it was getting on in time, some shops were starting to close anyway. We only just made it to the CoOp with minutes to spare before it closed.

I was gutted to discover that the cafe "Tea n Tarts" has closed down and been replaced with a photographers studio. Sally was delighted to find the amusement arcades, and I suspect that we will visit them when we have a bit more time on our hands.

Back at the flat as it was getting dark, tea and birthday cake was followed by a period of reading and dozing. Tonight we had soup and rolls and made plans for tomorrow.

Wonderful Whitby

So, here we are at last on our "Winter" holiday in Whitby. For many many years I have wanted to come here, but have never got around to it. Finally, here I am.
The journey up was fairly uneventful. There was a closure on the M1 just north of the Derby/Nottingham junction, so we did a detour which took us just around the edge of Derby and got back on the motorway north of the closure near to Ripley at junction 28.
The rest of the journey was fine, and as we got further north, so the sun shone more.
We actually arrived at the flat over an hour before we should have been able to get into it, but took a chance, and the coast was clear, so were able to get moved in and settled.
The flat is in a new'ish development on the site of an old wharf. There are several blocks of flats (sorry, luxury apartments) and a few town house style properties on the development.
Ours is on the 3rd floor (the block goes up to 4 floors) with there being a gated carpark on the ground floor. Thankfully there is a lift, which we took full advantage of to get all our stuff up here. Even though we are only here for a week, we seem to have brought so much with us. I am equally as guilty as Sally, and it seems that as I have gotten older, my ability to travel light has diminished!!
The flat itself is beautiful. It is HUGE, spotlessly clean, nicely furnished, and well set out. We are very impressed. The view from the lounge window is across the harbour and the town, with the abbey just being visable to the very right hand edge of the vista. We doubt that one would ever get bored of this view and want to take it home with us! We have yet to see "Sammy the Seal", but there are photos here to prove that others have seen him in the harbour.
After a refreshing cup of tea, we ventured into town to the Co-Op to stock up a bit. It was dark by now, and almost time for the shops to close (it was around 5pm), so our main interest turned to finding somewhere to eat.
We decided on a chip shop/restaurant that looked clean and nicely presented. Here we both had haddock and chips with mushy peas. Now I normally don't like mushy peas, and will only have one mouthful before turning my nose up, but these were lovely and creamy and I scoffed the lot! Sally on the other hand, who usually loves them, thought they were very bland and left most of hers. The fish was stunning. Very fresh, very white and very tasty. Full marks!
While we were waiting for our order to arrive, we spotted that sign I blogged about last night in the shop opposite. Have you worked out what "Pluots" are yet? If I tell you that the shop was one that sells dried fruits and nuts, will that help????
Back at the flat we settled down for the usual Saturday evening of mediocre television with plenty of interludes for tea and cake. (Sally has made a chocolate cake for my birthday - even though its not until Monday, we started on the cake!)
While "I wish I was still a celebrity, please give me some work" was on, I downloaded a cribbage game onto the ipad. I haven't played for about 30 years, and was amazed that I could still remember most of the rules and scoring. Had a couple of games against the computer, losing the first and winning the second.
To finish the evening off, I watched some of Match of The Day, mostly to see the Wigan v Blackburn game to see Blackburn's contriversal second goal. They are right, it should have never been allowed to stand! As a Blackburn fan, half of me is glad it was allowed as it gave us a point, and the other half of me wishes it hadn't been, we'd lost and would have been another nail in the mangers coffin, because all the while he is in charge, we are going to struggle. He simply hasn't a clue what he is doing!
Time for bed. See you in the morning!!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

What on earth is "Pluots" ?

Sign just spotted in a shop window in Whitby :-
"New in stock, Pluots, special offer, 49p per 100 grams"
The question is, what is/are Pluots?
The waitress in the Royal Fisheries chip shop restaurant heard us puzzling over it and told us what is is.....but do YOU know???????
Answers below please!!!

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

More new countries...

I have spent the week or so since the big contest mostly working on the data modes - PSK31 and JT65 snagging me some nice contacts, including a few new countries:-

20m - Norway, Poland, Lithuania.
10m - Brazil, Dominican Republic, South Africa. (the last two being new countries for me)

30m - Malta. (new country)
20m - USA.
15m - Russia.
10m - USA, Russia, South Africa, Brazil.

20m - Canary Islands, Holland.

So, three new countries there for me, and i also missed out on a few that i heard but could not hear me (Japan being the most frustrating one on 10m JT65 early this morning)

I am getting the hang of the JT65 operating procedure, and even managed to have 2 QSOs at the same time - don't ask me how i did that - it shouldn't actually be possible, but never mind!

Despite not being able to have spent as much time as i would have liked on the air, i have enjoyed what i have done, and feel that it was worthwhile.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

CQ WW Contest weekend & JT65-HF

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me hobby wise - i have gotten active on a few new data modes - i can now transmit and receive on RTTY, PSK31, and after a few false starts, JT65.

I remember from years ago, that RTTY was a bit of a nightmare to get working properly, and that accurate tuning was critical, but thanks to the modern technology we have at our disposal, and the power of the recent computers, it has become a piece of cake.

All you need to do now is to feed the audio into the computer (either from the headphone socket of the radio to the audio in of the computer, or better still, via a USB box), run the appropriate software, and that's it, you are basically on the air!

It turns out that JT65 is not compatible with one of my USB boxes, but works fine on the other one, and can even be used by holding the radios microphone next to the computers speaker.....very Heath Robinson, but it works!!

So,  have now worked the following countries on PSK31:- Finland, Serbia, Slovakia, Russia, Iceland, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain. On RTTY i have contacted:- Canada, USA, Italy and Ukraine. On JT65:- Italy, Ukraine, Sardinia, USA and Canada.

Nothing particularly rare or exciting there, but a good start all the same. My first RTTY contacts were during a contest - nothing like throwing yourself in at the deep end - i had very little clue as to what i was doing, and choose to do it in a high pressure situation where all the other stations wanted to do was complete the contact and move on to the next! I survived the experience though.

I have been looking forward to this weekend for a month or so now - it is the CQWW SSB contest - which is basically the biggest ham radio competition of the year. I have had no intention of entering it myself, but it does give the best opportunity of the year to hear and work new countries.

I spent a couple of hours last night and the same this morning tuning around, and have worked 8 new countries:- The Gambia, Brazil, Albania, Turkey, Crete, Belarus, Puerto Rico and Corsica. (I can remember the time when Turkey was seriously rare, and Albania an impossibility due to the hobby being banned there - how times have changed!)

I have also heard a few countries for the first time, but have so far not been able to get my tiny signal through to them:- United Arab Emirates, Andorra, Chile, Armenia, Tajikistan, Martinique, French Guiana, Saudi Arabia, Virgin Islands, Aruba, Bonaire, St.Maarten, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Turks & Caicos Islands.

All in all a good few hours "work" and i am VERY pleased with these results. After all, in theory, my antenna really shouldn't work........ :-)

Almost midnight - contest about to end - time for bed, but first a quick update on this evening's activity.
New countries WORKED:- Montserrat, Curacao and San Marino. New countries heard but not worked:- Mozambique, Congo, Tanzania, Paraguay, Cape Verde, Peru and Georgia.

My new running totals since moving to this location are HEARD= 113 countries, WORKED = 60 countries.

Time for bed!

Best 73.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

New phone

Despite the huge worldwide clamour for the latest iphone, I have come to the opinion that while Apple's phone is a fabulous bit of kit, it is a much better gadget than it is a. communications device.
I have had my 3GS for about a year now, and have spent many many hours using it in one way or another, but have always found the touchscreen keyboard and predictive text incredibly frustrating. Yes, you can turn the predictive text off, but that is just an annoying as trying to type at anything approaching a half decent speed with any form of accuraccy is simply impossible with my fingers.
I may still make spelling mistakes on the Blackberry, but they are only down to my failings, not that of the device.
Thanks to a call from Vodafone last week, I have the latest Blackberry Bold 9900, the one they have been advertising on TV a lot recently. It has both a touch screen and the proper legendary Blackberry keyboard. So popular was this new phone that I had to go on a waiting list and only actually got mine today.
Was it worth the wait? I would have to say yes. It looks quite a bit larger than my old one (the 9700), but when you put them together it is only a few millimeters larger in both width and height, but is also both thinner and lighter than the old one. The screen is larger and so are the keys of the qwerty keyboard, which makes it a breeze to type on - I am using it to type this.
The new operating system will take a while to get used to as it is different enough for it to involve a bit of a learning curve. The touch screen is very responsive and when coupled with the keyboard, it all seems to be the ideal interface - most things can be done with either, and to me at least, this has made it very quick and intuitive to use.
So far, so good then. All I need to do now is to find how to get the basics set up how I had my old one done......ringtones, message beeps etc. That might take a while!!

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Monday, 19 September 2011

A busy Sunday that proved productive....

I had a busy day today. The buddleia had been going berserk, and the recent high winds had made the branches of it whip about so much that it had snapped my HF antenna wire.
A quick fix was made during the week, but a more permanent one was needed. So, I set to and trimmed the buddleia fairly severely, taking it down in height mainly to keep it clear of the antenna wire. This was quite a long job as I had to chop the pruned sections into small pieces to be able to get them all into the garden rubbish bin. By the time I had finished this, I was tired and aching, but that was only the first phase of the job in hand!
I then set to with a roll of wire to replace the old antenna with a new, longer one. I now have a random wire almost double the length of the old one. It still is a sloping wire, but now has a dog leg in it to get extra length. I have also re-used the old wire as an extra counterpoise, so have doubled the effective "ground".
In theory, it still shouldn't work that well, but should be better than what I had before. It can now tune up on 80m, which the old one couldn't, but 160m is still a no-no, which is hardly surprising.
To make sure it was working I had a quick tune around on 20m and worked a station in Sweden, which was quite nice as that direction was not great on it before. My 10 watts of ssb did the job with no real problem.
I then set it working on WSPR on 30m to see how it compared to the old wire. The initial results were pretty much what I expected, with France and Germany easy. Scandinavia seemed to be better than before with norway cropping up quite a lot. After a few hours I retuned to 20m and most of the rest of europe came through and also heard my 2watts.
As we got to the early evening I put it on the 17m band and was stunned with the results. The USA and canada boomed in and I even heard a station in brazil, better still, he heard me too!! Nearly 10,000km with 2 watts to a rubbish antenna! Nice one.
I also put a 2m/70cm vertical antenna up in the loft this afternoon. It was "fun" getting coax into the shack, and I would never have thought it would have been such a hassle to get the hole in the right place, but I got there in the end.
The antenna seems to work ok with the local repeaters on both bands coming through nicely, and opening up with just 5 watts being used here.
The vhf airband also was coming through loud and clear, so that was a bonus.
Finally, I got the wire antennas I tacked around the loft a few weeks ago down to the receiver. I have not yet tried them properly, but they can only be better that the short wire draped across the window.
The day was finished off with a spot of ironing (sally had already done most of it), and watching the first episode of the new series of Downton Abbey. Glad to report that it seems as good as the last series so far.
So, all in all a busy day, but one that has been fruitful. I shall try to remember that when I wake up aching in the morning!!!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Even the "boys" want to join in with the stitching....

Imagine my surprise when i came downstairs this morning to discover that Marty & Alfie had been carrying on with my cross-stitch for me!

Even with his little paws, Marty had managed to do the stitches, while Alfie was busy ticking them off on the chart for him.....what a team!!!!!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Stitching update + A "trip" to South America

Hi, hope that you are all well.

I have been using my few days off productively on the old needlework front, and thought i should show you the fruits of my labour:-

I would love to get the backstitching done to show the detail off better, but feel that it would make more sense to leave it until the whole thing is done.

The "trip" to South America was achieved last night on the ham radio - i spoke to a guy in Argentina on the 17m band! "Yes, so what?" i can hear you saying. Well, i was only using 10 watts (yes, ten watts) of SSB into an antenna that, in theory, should not work. To say that i was chuffed is an understatement.

I've also spoken to a few stations in Spain and the Canary Islands, but the bands have been fairly dead for the last couple of days apart from LOTS of QRN (that is natural interference to those non-hams reading this). I usually have a lot of QRM (man made interference) here anyway, so it has just made matters worse. I'm not sure if there has been some odd sun activity which has caused this, but i have noticed a few other hams talking about the lack of signals too, so it's not just me.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A few days off....still got something to grumble about though...

At long last i get a few days off work. My boss is now back from his holiday, we have caught up with everything that needed to be sorted, and now i have a few days break.

I would like to say that i have enjoyed the lie-in, but both yesterday and today i have been up almost as early as if i were going to work - must be a habit. I will do my best to break this particular habit i think!

Have to confess that i did fall asleep on the sofa yesterday afternoon for a little while until my phone rang and woke me up with a start. Yes, it was to do with work, but at least it wasn't anyone from the shop phoning me.

One thing that we have noticed over the last few months is just how RUDE more and more people are becoming. Just because we work in a shop does not give anyone the right to treat us as though we are a piece of dog dirt that they have trodden in.

I know that sometimes when you are shopping, the person serving you really isn't trying very hard, or is not giving you particularly good service. If this is the case, then yes, maybe you do have the right to be unhappy. BUT.....when YOU walk into a shop with a face like a slapped ar$e and a real attitude to begin with, don't be surprised if the person you inflict your custom on doesn't treat you like a member of royalty. Don't take it out on them because YOUR demands are either impossible to meet or simply out of order. They are a real person just like you. They might be having a bad day too. They might have other worries on their mind too. At least smile and be civil. That's really not asking much is it?

Some times one has to wonder about the mentality of people. For instance, a customer who is "furious" that the sweep seconds hand on their watch does not EXACTLY line up with the markers - yes, it's not right, but is it REALLY that much of a big deal? If that is the worst problem in that persons life then i envy them!

Or the person who's digital watch is 4 seconds slow but they don't know how to set it themselves, didn't buy it from us and can't remember where they put the manual, BUT, they catch a lot of buses, so it is important for it to be spot on.....
A. Would you take your Ford Focus to a Vauxhall dealer to have something put right on it?
B. It's not our fault you can't find your manual.
C. While on the subject.....RTFM !!! (Read the f****** manual)
D. Just how many buses actually turn up on time anyway?????

Or how about the person who blames us that the fine gold chain that they have worn every day for the last 20 years is now worn they blame the shoe shop that their shoes wear out too?

One word springs to mind.....................AAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

There, i have got it out of my system. For a little while anyway.

So, the next time you go into a shop, remember........
1. Smile. (it's nice and it uses less muscles than frowning)
2. Be polite. (not asking much there)
3. Try to be friendly.  (it will endeer you to the person behind the counter, and they will be more inclined to help you)
4. Be realistic in your requests.
5. Don't be an ar$e. (it simply doesn't suit you!!)

Have a good day - i plan too.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Shush! You only need to whisper......

Well hello. Where have I been? What have I been up to?

It has been a hectic few weeks. The shop has been incredibly busy, and that has taken up so much of my time and energy that I haven't been doing much else to be honest. Working 6 days a week, being crazily busy, and struggling to keep my head around everything has seen me feeling very tired. Not physically tired, but mentally exhausted.

I don't know if it is what you would expect as you get older, but my brain simply doesn't work as quickly as it used to. It's a bit like an old pc that could do with a bit more RAM and having the operating system re-installed! Mind you, if that were possible, I would much rather they installed OS-X Snow Leopard rather than Windowz. ;-)

I have been doing some more of the cross stitch, although not as much as I would have liked to. I found it very hard to give it the required concentration, and when I did pick it up found myself either making silly mistakes, or rechecking what I was about to do was right so many times that I didn't get much done.

I have now finished the sky and have started on the lighthouse. I'm pleased with the way it is coming along, I always knew it was going to be a long project, but ultimately worthwhile. By the way, the vertical orange stitching is just temporary to help me work out what goes where!

The other thing I have been doing is playing radio. I have discovered some of the new data modes being used on the ham bands.

Many years ago, several friends and I regularly sent computer programs and pictures via VHF ham radio bands. We discovered a few new techniques between us and had an awful lot of fun.

Here we are a couple of decades later, and things have progressed almost beyond belief. Some of the newer data modes leave me shaking my head and my jaw on the floor. The two in particular that have tickled my fancy are PSK31 and WSPR, which is also known as "whisper".

The thing that has particularly impressed me with these is just how little power needs to be used to transmit these modes. Low power operation is known as QRP, this being judged as being 5 watts or less. When you get into the realms of 1 watt or less, it is known as QRPp. Most ham radio sets have 100 watts of transmit power, and a lot of radio amateurs around the world use an amplifier to take their power up to 1000 watts.

To discover that there are people around the world using these new data modes with very tiny transmit power is incredible. Because WSPR and PSK31 transmit using very slow data rates and are decoded by computer software, it means that the received signals can be virtually inaudible to the human ear and they will still get through, making them ideal for low power operation.

PSK31 is a "live" mode where you type to one another, whereas WSPR is an automatic mode, and this has really gotten my interest. You set your radio to one of the designated frequencies, and leave the software running on the computer. The audio from the radio is fed into the sound card on the computer. The only other thing you need to do is make sure that the clock on the computer is SPOT on time. More than a couple of seconds out can mean the whole thing won't work.

Signals received are decoded by the computer and displayed on the screen, with the call sign, locator and transmit power being used by that station. These are then uploaded to the WhisperNet web site for everyone to see. The idea being that if you have been transmitting you can see who has heard you and their distance from you.

Signals being sent with miniscule transmit power can go a surprisingly long way. I have heard stations all over Europe using powers between 5 watts and 0.02 watts. I have even heard a station in America who was using only a few watts.

The other nice thing about this is that you can leave it to get on with it unattended, and the last couple of Sunday's have seen me letting the radio station receive the whisper signals and upload the results while i have been getting on with other things. Incredible!

The person i have mostly thank for getting me interested in WSPR is Julian Moss, G4ILO. I discovered his excellent blog while Googling a few weeks ago. It is well worth a visit if you are interested in amateur radio - G4ILO's Blog. He has a few articles all about WSPR, and this is how i first discovered it - thanks Julian!

Julian has also recently started another blog called One Foot In The Grave, this deals with his life since he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It is both heart rending and witty - i urge you to check it out. We all wish him well.

The other website that is an absolute MUST is WSPRNet, where you will find out more about Whisper, what it is, how it works, and more importantly WHY it is being used. It is kind of like taking part in a huge worldwide science project.

I'm off the the Rugby Radio Society's annual "radio show" in Princethorpe in a bit, so i will sign off for now.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 29 July 2011


I have finished the Royal Guard - i really don't know where the "couple of hours" came from that the magazine claimed it should take, but it was quite good fun to do anyway.

The eyes are not right though - they should be French knots, but i simply cannot master them at the moment - am going to have another practice at the weekend on some scrap aida - i have to be able to do some of these other stitch types if i am to progess. I also found the backstitching quite hard to do - something else that i need to practice to get perfect...

I didn't do any to the big project last night, and so far tonight i haven't picked it up either. I did get some gold plated needles yesterday, and used one to finish off the guard - they really do make it easier than plain nickel ones. Who would have guessed it?

Sally suggested that i try linking this to Make It Monday to share it with other crafters. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Last day off for a while

The bug really seems to have bitten - not only did i spend a couple of hours on the big project last night, but i also took a little one to bed with me to carry on with before i went to sleep! It is a small image of a palace guard from one of this months cross stitch magazines. It claims that it should only take a couple of hours, but either that is very optimistic or i am still very slow!

Today is my last day off work for a few weeks, as my boss goes away on holiday this weekend for three weeks. So, i had a bit of a lay-in and carried on with the guard for a while before i got up.

Once up and about, i decided to go to Hobbycraft to have a look at the needlework hoops. I ended up getting three different sizes - i was shocked at how cheap they were - usually anything to do with crafts or hobbies are so expensive, but these were only a couple of pounds each, so i was pleasantly surprised. I also got a needle threader (a HUGE thank you to whoever invented these - i love you!) and a small black plastic box to store all my bits and bobs in. Sally had asked me to look for some blending pencils for her, which i found, so it was a successful shopping trip.

Back home i tried out the hoops, and boy do they make life so much easier! I am very glad i got them, and managed to get some more done on the big project.

A brief interlude for lunch, when Stuart and i went to Baginton to the pub by the airport (can't remember what it is called) - we hadn't been there for some years, and it has changed and improved dramatically. I had my usual burger, although this one came with the option to "build your own", so i had it with bacon, brie, mushrooms and potato rostie. It was absolutely delicious! We will have to go there again. The airport was earily quiet though - i only heard one small plane the whole time we were there.

After lunch, i carried on with my needlework, and thanks to some lovely sunshine and the hoop, i got quite a lot done today. I did break off to do some ironing, which i think was a good idea as my eyes were starting to feel a bit tired.

Here is where i am with it now - the first picture is from last night (day 3), the second from this afternoon (day 4) - i might do some more to it before i go to bed......

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

At last......the secret revealed!!!!

Yes, at last i can show you my other finished cross stitch project..........
a very cute doggie bookmark.

The reason i couldn't share this with you before is that it was a surprise present for Sally's mum, Beryl, and i know that she looks at this blog quite often, and i didn't want her to see it before i gave it to her.

I posted it out to her yesterday, and she received it today, so now i can show everyone what it is.

There are a few errors on it, as you can see on the right hand side on the dark brown of the ear, where the thread got a bit tangled and doubled up for a few stitches. I think i have solved that particular issue now - it just required a slight adjustment of my technique.

Also, if i were to do this one again, i would do it all with two threads rather than the one it says in the instructions - i did the hearts and the text with two threads, and think that they look much better than the  rest of it which is done in single threads as instructed.

The whole thing looked a bit bland until the back stitching was done on the dog's face and body - it really gives it another dimension, and i am very glad that i made the effort to do it, as i wasn't convinced there was any point, but how wrong was i?!

I also stitched some brown felt onto the back of the bookmark rather than just ironing on the white stuff that came with the kit - it not only hides all the mess on the reverse of the work, but i thought it would give it a bit more durability too.

I think Beryl quite likes it, and i hope she enjoys using it - i know that she reads an awful lot, so when i saw the kit in Hobbycraft, i immediately thought of her and simply couldn't resist it!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Can you see what it is yet? (or day 2 update....)

Thanks to Sally publicising my blog, i have had new visitors and new followers, so a big "hello & welcome" to the newcomers! Thanks for taking the time to read my waffles and laugh at my pictures.

Yes, i finally made a start on the cross stitch last night, and did a couple of hours, and have done the same tonight after work, and the photo shows the progress so far.....

It may not look much, but this is better than no start at all, and was surprisingly complicated - it may all look the same, but there are two different sets of colours in there already - no, i can't see the difference much either!!

You are probably wondering why i have started at the top left of the image rather than in the centre as is the usual way. Well, the centre of the image is very complex, with small areas of lots of different colours, and i wanted to start on an "easy" section with large areas of the the same colour, just to get my confidence up.

Most of the sky areas are just half cross stitches rather than full ones, but some of the area i have done so far used 3 strands (2 of one colour blue, and 1 of a slightly different colour....or so the chart claims), and some of it uses 2 strands of the same colour.

So far, so good. I have made one small error though, but without the chart, a magnifier and far too much spare time on your hands you would never know! I guess that 27 years of experience of engraving and sometimes having to hide one's mistakes has paid off!! ;-)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Well, someone has a sense of humour (or....Aaaargghh! What have i Done?)

After a few hours of contemplation this afternoon, and a little bit of persuasion from Sally, i finally opened up my big cross stitch project packaging. I have to admit to being more than a little nervous - this wouldn't be the first time i have taken on a project only to find that i have "bitten off more than i can chew".

Upon opening the package, i found the "huge" piece of aida, a ton of threads and the charts. I was a little dismayed to find that the threads were not pre-sorted. This is where the "someone has a sense of humour" comes in.......i am colour deficient on blues! Not exactly colour blind, but i find it VERY hard to tell the difference between certain blues and purples.

Now when quite a few of the 27 different coloured threads call themselves shades of blues and purples, i knew that i had quite a job on my hands. It has taken me a while, but i have done it, and hope that i have gotten them right. With some of them it was purely down to the list telling me how many of each i should have - i couldn't have done it without that extra bit of information!

The charts gave me palpitations when i first looked at them, but having looked again, they are not really that bad - the fact that there are more colours simply means that there are more symbols - it isn't as bad as it first seems. I have scanned and printed the charts out a bit larger as well, which will make it easier to mark them off as i do it, plus i won't be marking on the original charts just in case.

I have marked the aida out into quarters using blue thread to help me with the layout and counting. I know that this isn't strictly necessary, but i felt that it would make my life easier, especially as i have done this in "5s", so counting the holes will be nice and simple.

All i need to do now is actually make a start on it! I am trying to pluck up the courage now.......

Another little project finished

Yes, another little (well, tiny would be a more accurate description!) project is finished.
This was a freebie from a cross stitch magazine - there are two more similar ones still to be done from the same issue.

I still can't show you the other one i mentioned, even though it is now 100% finished. Hopefully on Tuesday i will be able to though.......oooo, the suspense!! ;-)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A Stitch in time.....

So, it has been very quiet from me on here since our holiday - just what have i been up to?

Well, work has been keeping me busy as usual, but i have also been keeping myself busy during the evening and weekends......

Back when i was at secondary school, we used to have to do various arts and crafts once a week. We would have to spend six weeks at a time on each of them before moving onto the next one, the crafts involved being Woodwork, Metalwork, Cookery, Pottery and Needlework.

I hated pottery - i was hopeless at it and didn't like getting covered in wet clay! I liked metalwork to a degree, woodwork i enjoyed a lot, but wasn't really very good at it, and cookery was a waste of time as there was rarely a teacher to take the class. In fact, eventually my mum wrote to the school and asked them to take me out of the cookery classes. I think the school thought they were getting revenge of some kind by putting me instead back into the needlework lessons. Little did they know, this was actually my favourite of the subjects, and the one i was best at!!

When i was growing up, mum was always sewing or knitting something, so i had become accustomed to some of the things anyway, and has always been very interested in her sewing machine, so much so that i had long been making silly little things on it, like drawstring money bags for people to keep their carparking change in in their cars.

I had made a cushion during my previous six week stint in needlework, but this time around, we were taught cross stitch. I took to this like a duck to water, and made a thing with my CB radio callsign on it (Pink Floyd), some other CB radio text and motifs and a border all the way around it. I even took it home to complete it. At the end of the six weeks, the teacher took what she considered to be the best to show the headmaster - mine was one of them - she was particularly impressed with how neatly i had finished the back of it off!

Apart from sewing buttons on, minor repairs and alterations, i haven't done any needlework since i left school, but the idea has often been at the back of my mind. When Sally took up crocheting on holiday, it made me think again about having another go, and so i have......

I have so far done four little projects, have a few more to start and have bought my first big project piece, which will no doubt take me an age to do, but should be worth the effort.

Here's what i have done so far:-

The fourth one, you will have to wait a few days to see - for reasons that will become clear......

Friday, 17 June 2011

Last day

Yes, today is our last full day here. We have to be out by 10am in the morning, so that will mean an early start!

This morning started out reasonably bright, but the clouds looked threatening, so we made an early start, going into Cromer to begin with to pick up a few bits and bobs that we had seen earlier in the week.

We also investigated probably the only street we had yet to go down, and found a craft shop there that had some bargain priced balls of wool, so Sally stocked up on colours that she liked. We also found a tiny bakery that makes all it's own products on site, and bought a couple of freshly baked Chelsea buns that looked rather nice.

As we walked back to the car along the seafront, taking our last look at the pier and bidding Cromer a fond farewell, it started to gently spit with rain. Making our way along the coast road, we went through Sheringham and carried on to Cley on Marsh, which has a Norfolk Nature Trust shop and cafe overlooking the marshes and out to sea.

They also have a shop there selling binoculars and telescopes, which was my main reason for wanting to visit it. I was a bit disappointed to discover that they didn't have any Leica binoculars in stock, as I was really hoping to have a play with some, but instead had to settle for a go with a pair of Zeiss ones. The large viewing window allows you to really try them out, and I have to say, they were rather good - a significant improvement over mine.

As I handed them to Sally to try, I said "don't drop them", and I'm glad to report that she didn't. At this point, I knew the price of them, but she hadn't seen the tag just yet. She tried them, and was very impressed with them. Then when she looked at the tag, I'm not sure whether she almost dropped them in shock or held onto them as though her life depended on it! They were £1,220!!! (mind you, that was a special offer price, they should have been over £1,300!)

The very friendly and helpful chap in the shop then passed over another pair to try, this time by a company called "Meade" I think they were. These were £299, and you know what, there really wasn't that much difference in the quality of the optics, and certainly not a grands worth of difference. He then let us try some Minox ones at less than £200, but for me, these were definitely not as good.

We left him to go to the cafe to "have a talk about it", saying that we would see him later. Sally was quite happy for me to have them, but I have to confess that I really don't see the point - it's not as though I get much use out of the ones I have, (less than £50 from eBay!), and unless I do take up bird watching or suchlike, I am happy to make do with my cheapo ones. It was certainly an experience though, and it was very interesting to compare various products at such extreme prices.

We had a drink in the cafe and spent some time admiring the view. It was pretty busy in there, and I can imagine that it does get quite crowded with bird watchers when the weather is not so kind - the view from inside the warm dry cafe is almost as good as being on the marshes themselves.

The drive back to Sheringham saw a bit more drizzle, but this had stopped by the time we got to the car park. A quick wander around later, and we had picked up a few more bits that we had spotted earlier in the week, and also had spotted a few alternatives for our last dinner on the coast.

By the time we got back to the van, it was raining heavily, and this continued for quite a few hours. We made a start on packing our bags to make for a quicker get away in the morning, and I had a little doze on the sofa while Sally carried on with her crocheting.

It was still raining very heavily when we went back to Sheringham in the early evening. The roads had large puddles in them, and there were very few people out and about. We found the chip shop called "Dave's", and I nipped out of the car and got us both cod and chips. We parked up in the cliff top carpark, and ate the large and delicious portions. The rain continued to hammer against the windscreen, doing its best to spoil our view of the sea.

Driving back to the van, there was no let up in the rain, and I did wonder if someone had forgotten that we are not actually in a tent this year. It always seemed to rain on our last night when we were camping, making packing the tent away a real pain, and getting it dry once we were home almost impossible.

So, here we are now, warm and dry inside the caravan as the rain patters away against the roof, a mug of black coffee in front of me. Most of our things are packed away, and all that remains is for us to have one last sleep in the cramped bed, one last shower in the tiny cubicle, one last breakfast in the kitchenette, to cram all our bags into the car and head off home, back to our "real" life and our "real" home.

Yet again, we have proven that you don't necessarily miss all the home comforts (not that we have roughed it yet again this year), you don't need all those clothes that cram the wardrobes to bursting point, all those "things" that clutter shelves and cupboards. You don't even really need a television. Yes, we have watched some things while we have been away, but very little that I would have minded missing. Radio 4 has been our companion for most of the time, certainly while in the car and during the early evenings and in bed. Are we showing our age or just growing up? I will let you decide that one.

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Wet, wet, wet

We tried something different last night, bedroom wise. Oooo, errr, you are thinking, do I need to know this? It's ok though, I'm only talking about which room we used.

Having decided that the double bed really isn't that comfy, and not quite big enough for us (!), we tried the other room with the two single beds. This meant that we wouldn't be fighting over the duvet and bumping into one another. I have the advantage of being able to sleep anywhere, so it was no big deal to me.

I slept fine thanks very much, but Sally had a bit of a fight with her bed, managed to unmake it with all her fidgeting, and ended up going back into the double bed during the night. I was blissfully unaware of all of this until I woke up, wondered where she was and saw the devastation of her bedding.

The day started quite brightly, but did dull off as the morning progressed. Today we decided to go to Mundesley, which is little more than a village, but being right on the seafront has a couple of cafes and gift shops. The last time we came here, we discovered the Beach Cafe on our last day, and had probably the best cream tea of our holiday there. I had my fingers crossed that it not only was still there, but would come up to our expectations.

I'm glad to report that it is still there, and although it wasn't quite as good a cream tea as last time, it was still pretty darn good. The view from the windows is right out over the beach and sea. There was a lone swimmer ploughing back and forth across the view a few yards out to sea. I can only assume that he was in training for a triathlon or something.

After this pitstop, we had a wander along the beach for a while, but it was trying to rain a little, so we got back into the car and headed back to Cromer.

We found a space to park on the seafront, and made our way to the pier via the amusement arcade. Sally was less successful there today, and won me no prizes.

The pier has little on it apart from the theatre, but at the far end is the RNLI lifeboat station. This was closed to the public last time, but was open today, so we took advantage of the opportunity to look around. There is a viewing gallery above the boat, and lots of information and videos to watch. The boat is much bigger than we expected it to be, you don't get the chance to see many boats out of the water up that close, and it was quite a shock to see just how big it is.

The videos showed how they launch it and then retrieve it back up the slope afterwards, and the whole experience was really interesting. When you consider that these people are all volunteers, it is quite amazing, and one can only salute their bravery and dedication.

When we came out of the station, we discovered that it was raining quite hard. We had elected to leave our coats in the car when we arrived in Comer as it had brightened up no end. What a mistake that proved to be!

We sheltered on the pier for a while, but decided that it wasn't going to improve any, and seeing as how skin is waterproof, just went for it and walked back to the car.

It wasn't too bad, and while damp, we weren't soaked, and the rain had also washed some of the bird poo off the car, so alls well that ends well.

Back at the van, we chose to go swimming. Well, while we were still a bit wet, we might as well stay wet! There weren't many in the pool today, though there were a few parents and toddlers again. Grrr. Once they had got cold and cleared off, we had it to ourselves. Sally did 30 lengths, and I did 26, which when you consider that this pool is probably 25% longer than the one we are used to, is pretty good. My technique is definitely coming along nicely.

Once back in the van, a lovely pot of tea was followed by a dinner of fishcakes and beans. Tomorrow is our last full day here, and we have got our plans set out already, although they are somewhat dependent on the weather and what time we get up in the morning.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Some you win, some you lose

Another bright start the the day led onto another warm day, slightly less sunny and a bit more humid, but very pleasant never the less. The original plan had been to go to the Saxon cathedral a few miles north of Dereham.

I knew nothing about the cathedral, only having spotted it on the map on our way here from Suffolk, but assumed that it was a ruined one. It turns out not to be a ruin at all, and not exactly pretty either, so that the "one we lost" today.

We continued along the road into Dereham itself, struggled to find a car park , but when we did, it was free. This has always been a bit of a worry in the past, as quite often free parking is a sign of a rather rubbish town. This was not the case with Dereham though I am glad to report.

Despite being a bit run down and in need of a bit of TLC, it was actually quite an impressive little town with a very good selection of shops, both independent and multiples. We spent a couple of hours there, and it proved to be quite productive.

It is also the first time that I have ever seen public toilets where the toilet rolls were padlocked into place!

The sight of a "sharps bin" outside of the toilet block also indicates that Dereham has certain problems, which is a shame, as it really did seem like a decent town. Being inland, it doesn't have to try to cater to the seaside tourist brigade, and can concentrate on being a real town for real people, which I felt it did a superb job of.

It was also quite shocking at the house prices there. Looking in estate agents windows was quite an eye opener. A four bedroom detached house with a 50' wide by 80' long garden for just over £200k !! There were lots of other places too that fell more into our price range, and there was a flat that we could almost have bought outright! Clearly this is not as sought after a place as others in Norfolk, and probably does mean that it has plenty of problems under the surface. Shame.

A vert scenic drive along B roads and narrow country lanes brought us to Aylesham. I thought that we had been there before, but it turns out that we hadn't. Another free car park, another very pretty little village. It turned out to be their half day closing, so not all that many shops were still open, but we did find a lovely tea shop and had a late lunch. Sally had Brie and cranberry sandwiches, and I had a bowl of chilli sprinkled with cheese. They were both absolutely delicious, and the pot of tea was rather special too.

Another scenic cross country drive brought us back to the van, and we went for a swim again. It was busier than yesterday, with quite a few parents in the pool with babies. I know it is great that they are teaching them so young, and wish that I had had the same opportunity, but why oh why do they insist on taking up most of the blooming pool?! They seemed to have no thought for others in the pool, and we didn't get as much swimming down as we would have liked to, but did spend a long time in the super jacuzzi, which was warm and relaxing.

Back at the van we had sardines on toast, something that we haven't had for ages, and very tasty it was too. We are watching the Miss Marple on TV now, and it must be time for another pot of tea I think, so please excuse me ending this here, but needs must......!

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Stephen Fry was here

Another beautifully sunny morning turned into probably the best day of the whole holiday so far. Very warm, very sunny, hardly any breeze - simply smashing.

I drove us to Wells-next-the-Sea, which is where quite a lot of the tv series Kingdom was filmed. We went there on our last visit too, and were a little disappointed in the lack of shops, but this time, there actually seemed to be a few more open, and perhaps because we knew what to expect, we actually really enjoyed it this time. Sally was especially pleased when we found some bargain craft stuff in one of the shops. She is having a play with them as I type this!

We had lunch at one of the many cafes in the main street - just a roll and a drink, but the rolls were absolutely lovely. We caught the little train from the car park into town, and also on the way back. It is a very cute narrow gauge railway, and turns a 25 minute walk into a 5 minute train journey.

The last time we were there, we spent a couple of hours on the beach, but this time we didn't have time for lazing around! Next up on the grand tour was Little Walsingham. I knew very little about this village other than it has a lot of religious connections, including a famous shrine.

It turned out to have a lot of old Buildings, and abbey and sweet little cottages, tea shops and stores selling various religious trinkets. We had a cream tea in one of the teashops, and it was very tasty. While we were there, two ladies came in, and the older of them managed to trip over and fall flat on her face. She was shaken but unhurt thankfully, and once she had got herself together myself and another male customer helped her up. It all happens in Norfolk doesn't it?!

We needed to do a little bit of food shopping before getting back to the van, and made our way to Fakenham. I was sure that we had found a supermarket on the outskirts before, but we failed this time, and a drive through the town centre only showed a Tesco - we would rather go hungry than line their pockets anymore than we have to, so ended up going to Cromer instead to the CoOp.

Back at the van, we put the shopping away, gathered our swimming gear together and went to the pool for a swim. The hot tub was LOVELY! Very warm, and very relaxing. The pool itself is a bit longer than we one we are used to, and I was very pleased that I was able to swim lengths of it without a problem.

Dinner tonight was bacon, mushrooms, beans and toast, and was very yummy indeed. Maybe after all that exercise anything would have been, but this combination was very enjoyable.

I think we will sleep well tonight. Tomorrow looks as though it may well be the last good day weather wise, so I am currently thinking about our plans, trying to decide on our best bet. I have a few ideas. I will let you know what we get up to......

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Fond memories proven correct

The rain finally stopped at some point during the night, and we awoke to a clear day, mostly sunny with a bit of cloud. We decided to head off to Cromer today for a look around. It turns out that Sally can't remember much about it, but my fond memories were proven correct, most of the town was exactly as I recalled it, with a few shops having changed hands, but the majority of it being just as i picture it when I close my eyes.

There was a moment of disappointment when we discovered that our favourite Italian restaurant had changed to an English one, but we will get over it. I was surprised to find the tobacconists open - the last time we were here it was always closed, which was a bit of a shame as that as the year I broke my pipe on the first day here. This year, despite it being open, I had no use for the place! It was good to see that at least one traditional shop has managed to keep trading.

It was a shame to discover that the camera and telescope shop has found it necessary to reinvent itself and has changed to mostly selling mobile phones. It is inevitable I suppose, but it does seem such a shame the way the high street has changed beyond all recognition over the last few years.

We had fish & chips from the same one we used 3 years ago, and ate them on the seafront at the same spot we used before too. Then we went into the same amusement arcade, and Sally won some key rings just like she had before! Spooky. It seems as though Cromer likes us just as much as we like it.

It felt wonderfully familiar to be walking along the little side streets near the sea front, truly like being at home. This is definitely my favourite place. Apparently I had a silly grin on my face as I gazed upon the pier and seafront. It is a view that I can conjure up anytime I want when I close my eyes. I love it here! (just in case you hadn't worked that out yet!)

A lovely pot of tea and Norfolk shortbread when we got back to the van was much appreciated. A series of texts and phone calls from back home brought a modicum of reality back to proceedings, but I am going to do my utmost to ignore work while I am here. There is nothing I can do about it here.

The evening seemed to fly past, dinner was a soft boiled egg and soldiers - not had that for so many years! There was nothing on TV that tickled our fancy, so we watched a couple of episodes of Dexter on DVD instead.

It is midnight now, and just having gone to bed it occurred to me that I had neglected the blog today, so here I am with this update. Just hope that I can get a connection to send it!

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Sunday, 12 June 2011

Humber, Dogger, German Bight....

After a week of luxury in the most comfortable bed in the world, we came down to earth a bit last night with a bed that while not uncomfortable, is a little on the small side. Well, when you are our size and younger used to a king size bed......!

We slept well enough despite the lack of room, and awoke to a bright, sunny Sunday morning. We decided to go to Sherringham today, if only to discover if the fondness I think of the town with is deserved, or has my judgment been clouded by memories of our last visit three years ago?

As it turns out, the fondness is well justified. It is pretty much as I remembered it, most of the shops remain the same, but we were horrified to learn that it seems as though Tesco have won their long battle to get permission to open a store. It hasn't happened yet, but we gather it is signed and sealed. I just hope it is not the death of the rest of the town, as that would be a great pity.

We had a look around the town, but about a third of the shops were closed. Sunday opening has still not become the norm there despite the large number of tourists. It was busier than we ever saw it last time.

We got back to the 'van around 3pm, had a pot of tea and some biscuits, and I had a look at the photos I had taken of the steam trains at Sherringham Station. Due to the lousy Internet connection, I have not been able to upload many to Flickr just yet. Sally had bought a craft magazine about knitting and crochet, complete with a starter pack of wools and needles. She can knit, but has never learnt o crochet properly, so was hoping this would get her started. Between us we decoded the so called help sections, and she made a start.

While this was going on, it started to rain. Gently at first, but then the wind picked up, and it got progressively worse. It has now been hammering down for a few hours, and the wind has blown a few bits off the trees. It is also cold enough that I have put the central heating on again. Thank goodness we are not in a tent! It is almost as noisy as being in a tent mind you. We have had Radio 4 on the TV, and have had to turn it up couple of times. There is a program on ITV we want to watch soon, so I hope the volume will go high enough for us!!

Right, let's see if I can get enough of a signal to get this onto 'net. Goodnight, hope we sleep tight.......

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Saturday, 11 June 2011

Second week

We awoke this morning to the sound of rain. Quite heavy rain in fact. Thank goodness we didn't have a tent to take down and pack away like in the old days!

We have got most of the packing done the night before, so there wasnt too much left to do, so we were able to take our time and relax instead of rushing around. I even had time to make a little video of the cottage.

By the time we left, it had stopped raining, but the huge puddles in the roads showed just how much it had rained during the night.

As we headed north, you could see that they had had virtually no rain at all. As we had to make the journey last five hours, we took a scenic route towards Norwich, and made our way to an out of town retail park where we knew there was a branch of "The Range". It was a massive store and we managed to spend quite a lot of time there. We also had a look around another shop there and then went into Sainsburys for a spot of lunch.

Another slightly scenic across country route brought us to kelling Heath and we got here around 3:15pm. After we had booked in and found our way to the caravan, I held my breath as Sally had her first look inside a static caravan.

Thankfully, she was suitably impressed. After all, they even have double glazing and central heating now, not like when I had caravan holidays as a kid!

The van looks brand new, is pristine, comfy and nicely set out. It is in the woods a bit, and we even had a squirrel come inside to visit us at one point! He was cheeky enough to have to be chased off. He didn't seem afraid of us one bit.

Once we had unpacked the car, we went to Cromer and did some food shopping. Back at the van we had a lovely pot of tea. We also discovered that our phones now had a signal, but that the Internet on the iPad was not great and didn't work very well. Hence I am typing this on the iPhone.

We had a wonder around the site, remembering how things had been three years ago when we were here before. Some things have changed, but by and large things are just how they used to be. It is very busy though at the moment. Much much more so than when we were camping here.

I had soup for dinner, Sally made do with some bread and jam. We settled down to watch a DVD after we had eaten, only to discover that the DVD player built into the telly doesn't read home burnt discs. Seeing as most of the discs we have with us are things that we have videod off the telly, that is a bit of a bummer! We ended up watching an episode of Dexter.

Bedtime, and it was a bit chilly, so I worked out how to get the central heating on for a while to warm the place up, which it did very quickly.

Time for sleep now. Lots of options available to us tomorrow and the weather could help us decide what to do......

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Location:Kelling Heath, Norfolk

Friday, 10 June 2011

Seriously, don't feed the gulls!

Well, here we are on our last full day in Aldeburgh. That week has flown past, but also, strangely, seems to have lasted for ages. I know that doesn't make sense, but I think you know what I mean.

Yesterday was a dull drizzly day with a bit of hail thrown in for good measure. In the end, we decided to have a lazy day and stayed in. Sally crafting and watching the food channel on TV, me reading and sleeping. (well, with the Olympics only a year away I need to get as much practice in as I can, just in case they do add sleeping to the list of sports)

The lack of activity should also explain the lack of a blog entry yesterday, there really was nothing to report!

Today we have taken advantage of the washing machine here to get a load of washing done, and that is currently in the tumble dryer. We have packed the majority of our clothes already, and in the morning there will be a minimum of things to de before we have to leave by 10am. I really want to make sure there is enough time to do a video and some photos of the cottage before we leave, but don't want to do it with all our clutter still in it!!

We have walked into town and had fish and chips in the sit down part of one of the chip shops. It was very good, but still not stunning. I think we have been spoilt by Bispham to be honest.

On the way back we walked along the front, and I spotted this sign. There were quite a few of them along the front, and I can't believe that i Hadn't noticed them before. The don't want you to take your dog on the beach, but they REALLY don't want you to feed the gulls. They are serious about it. We saw a couple feeding them, and wondered if they knew just how much trouble they were inviting for themselves. They are now on the run from the beach police - expect to see their faces on the news tonight as most wanted criminals!

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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Even Santa needs a break.....

It is the end of a long day, I'm tired and don't have much literary creativity about me at the moment, so I will make this brief.

The weather was pretty kind to us today, sunshine with a few cloudy moments, warm but with a nice breeze. Without the breeze it would probably have been too hot to be honest. We did end up going to Lowestoft today, around 30 miles up the coast from where we are. Strangely for this area it was well signposted, and we had no problem finding a carpark in a sensible spot right on the seafront.

The whole aura of the town is remarkably similar to Great Yarmouth, which I suppose is not that surprising as they are so close together. The beach was pristine, beautiful clean sand, and the promenade was litter free. The public conveniences were 10p to go in, but they were so clean and graffiti free that you actually felt that this was a bargain.

We wondered along the front for a while before heading into the town centre, which was not a particularly pleasant experience, much like that of Yarmouth. The town has a lot of empty and very run down shops, as well as the usual suspects that you can find in any town centre, but there are also more than the average number of Cash Converter, Money Lending shops and such like as well as the Bright House type shops where they ask no questions as long as you come in and pay you five quid a week for goods on the never never at horrendous interest rates.

Needless to say, we didn't spend too long there before making our way back to the seafront to find lunch. While doing this we spotted a very unusual sight - a photo shoot involving a man dressed as Santa on the beach! We settled on a fish and chip establishment calling itself Aphrodite, and claiming to have a five star rating. It was superb, among the best fish and chips we have had, and it was spotlessly clean, everything was cooked to order, and I can only recommend it. Full marks to them!

On the way back we stopped off at a small craft centre at a farm, which was only small and had nothing much of interest, but at least it made a change. We also made a very quick pit stop at the CoOp for a few supplies before getting back home.

We went for a walk along the front again this evening. It was such a lovely evening and the weather forecast is not great for the next few days, so we made the most of it, and I took some photos.

Not a lot else to say about today really. It was a good day, and we enjoyed it!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Nowt so queer as folk

Well, today turned into a slightly surreal day. After a lovely sleep and lie-in, we headed out on the A12 south towards Ipswich. That wasn't our destination though. We turned off the A road towards Woodbridge and then followed the brown signs to Sutton Hoo, the ancient burial site.

The way the visitor centre is set out is excellent, and very informative, a seven minute film introduces the whole thing to you, and then the exhibits and photos tell the story of what was found and what they have surmised it to all be about.

They believe it was the burial site of the King Radmael and dates back to the mid to late 600s. The quality of some of the artefacts they unearthed is astonishing. Although I didn't used to be particularly interested in history, as I have gotten older I have found the enthusiasm and interest that I lacked at school.

While the exhibition was very good, the walk to the burial mounds themselves was a bit of a let down - it really is just a field with some lumps in it. Quite what it was that made them think there was anything unusual about those particular mounds compared to any others you see all over the country is a bit beyond me, but thank goodness they did.

During the walk back to the visitors centre the day took a surreal turn. We were stopped by two old ladies who asked if it was worth the effort of taking the walk to the field. We told them that there wasn't that much to see, and that they may well be disappointed if they did. They walked back with us towards the centre. We got chatting, and it turned out that they were both originally from Warwickshire, and one of them still lives fairly near us. The other now lives in Rendlesham (which might explain her eccentricness!)

Despite telling us not to go at their very slow pace and leave them too it, they kept talking to us, meaning that we had to go at their pace or be very rude. They were nice enough, but definitely on the eccentric side. Our only escape lay in the second hand book shop on the site. (being a national trust site - quite a few NT sites have them now)

Some escape that turned out to be! We were accosted in there by the NT valunteer who was looking after the bookshop, who was a lovely old guy, obviously quite lonely, and spent the next hour listening to his life story! This was not helped by his thick local accent and the fact that he didn't seem to need to draw breath. Some of it was very interesting - I was especially intrigued when he mentioned that he collected and repaired old fountain pens. I elected not to mention my interest in the subject as I fear we may still have been there now! (I had also made the very clever decision NOT to make any comment when one of the ladies had told us that she was a crafter and watched a lot of the create and craft channel on tv. Sally later told me that she WOULD have killed me if I had, thereby dragging her further into conversation with them!)

When we finally dragged ourself away with our legs aching from standing still for so long, I made the decision to not go to the NT cafe for something to eat and drink (because I could see our two lady friends in there!), and we instead drove the couple of miles into Woodbridge.

By now I was a little grumpy around the edges, so the lack of decent road signage was just about the final straw as far as I was concerned. If they don't actually WANT visitors, why don't they change the sign as you enter the town from "Welcome to Woodbridge" to "Look, if you're not from around here and don't know your way around, just ****off now".

I am happy to report that once we had found the car park and found our way from there to the town centre (more by luck than judgement), the town was actually rather good. It was by far the best place we have been to thus far, having a good range of shops and a decent Costa Coffee to refresh our weary bones. We spent a couple of very pleasant hours there before heading back to the cottage.

Despite the lateness of our arrival back, I managed a power nap before dinner! Tonight we had a new Quorn "BBQ style" burger in pitta bread each. Very tasty they were too, and we can recommend them. We then watched the second episode of Injustice before heading off to bed where I am writing this.

Tomorrows plans have been slightly altered, as I have realised that i misread the opening times for Orford Ness, and at the moment it is only open on Saturdays, so we can't go there tomorrow as planned. The current thinking, weather permitting, is Lowestoft. The weather forecast for Thursday and Friday is not quite as good, so we need to take advantage of whatever it throws at us tomorrow.

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