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Touristing Helsinki

♥Aug. 8th, 2017 // 02:46 pm
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We've spent the last couple of days doing the tourist thing in Helsinki: we bought a 48-hour travel and museum pass and everything!

Yesterday, the weather was very changeable. We went for a walk around the harbour, visited two cathedrals and the city museum, then decided that a boat trip around the islands sounded nicely out of the rain. While we were waiting to board, it threw down and I got soggy feet, but it cleared up (and my feet dried) while we're were motoring around looking at the view.

It was raining a bit when we got off, but we decided on another boat out to the old island fortress. As we got off that boat, it threw down again, and my feet got wet, again.... We looked at a couple of the museums on the island then headed back to the hotel, where my feet gradually de-wrinkled.

Today is much nicer: warm and sunny. We went to the zoo (also on an island) this morning (generally very nice, although I wasn't keen on the size of the tiger enclosure), then came back into town for lunch followed by the national museum (really excellent new exhibit on pre-history, and nicely balanced post-independence annotated photograph display, the older stuff in the middle was fairly uninteresting and old-fashioned) and the Design Museum (good excerpts from the collection, nice temporary display, wasn't entirely clear on the point of the vaguely future-of-design section, at least half of which I'd personally call either food science or modern art but I guess it's subjective!).

We're rather knackered now, so we're having a rest before dinner. Seen a few familiar faces here and there, and I'm sure there will be more tomorrow.

Slightly put out by the combination of wooden floors, thin towels and no hotel gym, as my back's a bit unhappy and I'd have liked to do some exercises. Can't see any programme items that look like they'll involve potentially-borrowable yoga mats, either. Bah.

I appear to look sufficiently Viking that people keep speaking to me in Finnish (including the girl who cadged a cigarette then asked me why I was here then wanted to know if I accepted Jesus). Mike gets English every time.
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Helsinki

♥Aug. 6th, 2017 // 03:57 pm
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We're now in Helsinki, at the Original Sokos Vaakuna (the one by the main city railway station), after a very painless flight over.

Next stop, walking around in the rain and getting some dinner!
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Getting ready to go....

♥Aug. 4th, 2017 // 11:21 am
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We're off to Helsinki tomorrow, via a night at Heathrow. I'm not really looking forward to it, and would much rather stay at home with my pooch, but Mike assures me I'll have fun when I'm there.

Yesterday, the power went off and on again with no problems, and the boys were surprisingly good going up there, with the digger going, and back again in the evening when it all looked different, which was a relief.

The day before, after going through the power cable, they also went through (just that house's) water pipe. As Mike said to Mr Up The Hill, at least they didn't take the phone line down as well....

Bloody rabbits have eaten (entirely) two of the French bean plants and chewed through the stem of one of the borlotti beans, which does at least explain the wilted leaves I saw yesterday. One of the tomatoes is very nearly red, though!
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Here are some things

♥Oct. 7th, 2016 // 02:54 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1180279.html]

We're back from our holiday, where we climbed belfries, went to museums, bought lots of chocolate and pate and other tasty things, and generally had a nice time (other than Monday afternoon, which was stressful and yuck). We even had pretty good weather, just a little damp at the start and a little chilly at the end. Eurotunnel was pretty horrible going, pretty chilled coming back. We were surprised, in both Bruges and Ghent, by how tricky it was to find some breakfast (we tend not to bother with hotel breakfasts, because we don't eat enough breakfast for it to be good value).

Hotels )There are lots of wind turbines in Belgium, or at least it looked that way from the motorway. Most of them were just sitting there, looking like wind turbines, but there were a few that were cunningly camouflaged so that they blended seamlessly into the surrounding countryside:


I especially like the subtle gradient effect.

When we got back, Jo was very pleased to see us, as ever, and we were very pleased to see her. While we were away, as well as the stuff that she'd told me about by text message, GB smashed into the chain that goes across his stable door and pulled the fixing out of the wall. I'm really quite gobsmacked by this, and the only thing I can think of is that she left him on his own in there and took Bugsy away to be exercised. Because, you know, that wasn't just what I told her to never do. I've complained to the agency, and said that we don't want her back. I'm still not sure if she just didn't pay attention to the instructions (about this and about the riding) or if she decided that she knew better, but I'm leaning towards the latter given that when we got back she kept making 'helpful' suggestions about things we should do differently. Anyway. No harm done, other than to GB's doorframe. Girl Who Rides For NVNDN came and rode him for me in the week, and I jumped on for ten minutes last night: he seems to be ok.

(Oh, reply to my email to the agency: terribly bland "we're very sorry to hear about that, here, have someone different". I wonder if they'll actually say anything to her?)

At the Canterbury Food Festival a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued enough by the stall for Freddie's Flowers that I signed up to give it a try. Every week, they do up boxes of flowers that will look nice together and send them out to their subscribers (I think in London they deliver them themselves, mine came via DPD), although they're very flexible about how often you have them (you can set it on a week-by-week basis up to six months in advance). The spiel is that their flowers last up to a fortnight, because they buy direct from the farm. Because we were away last week, my first box has just arrived and I'm quite impressed:

I do like having flowers in the house, and there's not much that's pickable in the garden at this time of year.
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This is not what I want when I go on holiday

♥Oct. 3rd, 2016 // 05:13 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1179478.html]

(AKA, notes for my shouty email to the pet sitter agency.)

GB's an old shite, and I warn sitters about that (usually with the words 'don't be afraid to smack him *when* he acts up): there really is no point in trying to win him over with kisses and cuddles, he's spent too long with gaggles of kids doing the same, honing his sneak attack biting skills. What he really appreciates is consistence and routine, you aren't going to get that in a couple of days.

(She's giving him 'lots of reassurance when grooming'. I have never known him be remotely concerned by who is grooming him, except for wondering if he'll be successful at nipping you when you do the ticklish spots. Either she's doing something very odd to make him nervous of her or she's misreading 'grumpy old shite' as 'timid and skittish', neither of which is reassuring. Or she's also ignored the verbal and written instruction to never take him out of sight of Bugs, which is worse.)

He's also got a bad leg, and he needs to be ridden regularly and in a specific way to keep him ticking over. It describes what to do in the notes we leave for the sitters, including the line "do not lunge him: if you can't / don't want to ride him, let us know and we'll get someone in". When the sitter came on Saturday morning, I explicitly checked that she was happy to ride and I didn't need to get someone else in to avoid her lunging him.

(As we drove away, I said to Mike "I hope she's not to heavy for him", and have now resolved to be less polite in future and ask people what they weigh.)

I asked the sitter to ride him on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I texted her yesterday evening and said "how is everything? How was GB when you rode him?". She replied and said that he was a "work in progress" and that she was "working through his arrogance", which is a bit wtf.

This morning I replied and said "you're not going to change his personality and I don't want you to. How was he when you rode him yesterday?", and she eventually fessed up that she'd tried to ride him, decided she was too heavy, and lunged him instead which "wasn't very successful" but she'd try again tomorrow. If I'm lucky, "not very successful' means 'glared at me until I flailed around enough to him enough to make him take a few steps in walk'. If I'm not, he'll have a bad leg for the next couple of weeks at best.

There may have been some ALL CAPS in my reply when I told her not to try to exercise him again, and that I'd get back to her when I'd found someone else to ride him.

Mrs Next Door was my first try: working all day today and tomorrow. Did she think her mate who used to give me side saddle lessons (and so knows GB, even though she's never ridden him) might be able to? She's flat on her back at present.

Ok, what about the girl who rides for my not very next door neighbour? She's never ridden him, but I've seen her ride and she's good.... Fingers crossed.... Girl is riding for NVNDN on Wednesday, would that do? Yes if it's all she can manage but if Tuesday was possible, here have money and petrol money and more money, ok, that's sorted, phew. NVNDN even agreed to pay her and I can drop some money up to her at weekend. Sent epic text describing exactly what she should do when sitting on him.

And that's the best part of the afternoon gone, what with waiting for text messages to zip around the place, and I'm now horribly stressed and worried. And looking at the photo she sent of Jo and thinking "that's not a happy, chilled out pooch". I've asked Mrs Next Door to poke her head into the yard when she gets home to see how things look / the boys seem. Hopefully we won't be as delayed going home as we were coming out, and I'll be back in time to ride him myself.

I've got the same sitter booked for Novacon, which I guess can stand (if I ride him the day we go then he'll have two days off), but I'm going to have to ask them to find me someone else for the bookings I want next summer. With a weight limit, this time.
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Holiday

♥Sep. 30th, 2016 // 08:28 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1179326.html]

We're going off to Belgium tomorrow ("Is it a convention?" asked Mrs Next Door. "No, we're having an actual *holiday*!") for a few days in Bruges and then a few more in Ghent. New sitter, so fingers crossed that she does ok!

Today, I went to the Kent Quilt Show, where I had a couple of small accidents to the tune of £60. Could have been worse: I wasn't buying for anything specific other than some Christmas bits!

Also, would anyone like to own up to sending me the WI's book of Home Made Wines, Syrups and Cordials from 1959? I'm not sure if the lack of a note / return address was deliberate or not, although I am currently looking in an Ilford direction! Whoever it was, thank you and I'll be having a proper look at it when we get back. (Six different recipes for metheglin! Two for hop beer: would that not just be 'beer'?)
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Harder than it needs to be

♥Apr. 12th, 2016 // 07:01 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1152129.html]

Mike and I are plotting a trip away, probably towards the end of next month or the start of the one after.

We've got lots of BA Air Miles Avios, so we thought we'd use them.

They really don't make it easy: the bit for booking hotels is on a different system from the one for booking flights. It's set up so that if you click to look at the details of a flight / hotel you can't then go back to the search screen if you want to look at a different one. You can look at flights by day but not say "I don't mind when I go but want a flight at a sensible time". You can't say "I want to go to Spain, show me all the flights to all the cities". You can book excursions on the hotel booking page but not the flight booking one....

Sigh. Much harder than it needs to be. But I suppose that if they made it easy then people would be more likely to use their points.
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Hot!

♥Jul. 24th, 2013 // 07:47 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/903939.html]

Weather: do not like. Had enough now. Actually had enough about a week ago. Really hope it stops soon, as we're, y'know, moving house next week. Eep.


I have been terribly slack about posting. The previously mentioned has something to do with that, but other factors include:
- having a slacker husband who's now only working a couple of days a week and so is Underfoot (it's fortunate that we're about to move into a new house with more rooms, really)
- going up to Ripon and York for a few days, for a family thing and a break (nice, but how come York has no restaurants? It has masses of pubs-that-do-food, but even seemed under-supplied with chain Italian places. Lovely hotel, though, with a nice restaurant)
- going to the Kent Country Show, where it was hot. We didn't actually buy anything, although we did collect several leaflets from sellers of potential house things
- making pizza, with the gels from work, on a day out / social type thing. I keep trying to quit, on the perfectly reasonably grounds that tomorrow is the last day I can possibly go into the office, but I don't seem to have managed it yet. Must make more of en effort, tomorrow
- going to two events that could reasonably well be called garden parties: one fannish, involving the talking of toot and the discussing of gossip, the other with the future near-ish-neighbours, involving lots of people asking 'and do you hunt?' (more, we suspect, as a way of making conversation with the random strangers, and a general test of views, than as an actual request that you go along)

GB continues in his usual way, added to by the fact that he doesn't much like the heat. The Baby is being a bit of a naughty bugger lately, added to by the fact that I don't like the heat either and so haven't been riding him and making him behave. He had the farrier on Monday; we weren't there, but he was apparently a little shite and broke two tie-up strings. There may be walloping in his future.

The house move is going reasonably well, we think. I've made contact with the horsey neighbour, which has in turn lead to arranging farrier, muck removal and hay; the delightfully named Igor The Builder is digging things up and laying concrete in the stableyard this week; I've spent an absolutely fortune on my credit card over the last few weeks (to the extent that I had to do a transfer mid-month to clear the balance for more spending), but bewilderingly (and pleasingly) haven't had any Security Phone Calls; and I do in fact have the spreadsheet of doom: you can't actually be surprised by this, though. It has been Entertaining arranging everything so that it gets delivered on Day Zero (which I will spend doing the last of the packing wile Mike sits in does various odd jobs around the new house).

Last week, we did actually get a delivery here: 224 boxes.

photo 1-1

As of today, the pile has gone down rather, and the bathroom (not the one we actually use much) and spare room are looking like this:

photo 2-1
photo 3

Did I mention that it's too bloody hot...?
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The rest of the holiday

♥Apr. 16th, 2013 // 06:56 pm
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I had thought that God was at a disadvantage in not having a bar, but it turned out that they were more than happy to serve drinks in the library, complete with lovely squishy sofas. I think God won.

(Oddly, though, God and the Commies use the same brand of toiletries. This probably says something deeply significant.)

Yesterday, we headed back towards town and went to see the ponies in the morning. Afterwards, we went to the Museum of Kent Life, where we fed the lambs and didn't really get value for the tickets on account of having been there recently enough to make it not really worth going into the buildings as we remembered what was in them. We thought about going to the National Fruit Collection, but in the end just wandered around the shops ("Tiddly Pom" is a great name for a cider seller) and didn't pay to go in: may be worth doing so later in the year, when we can better see which kinds we might like to plant in The Garden.

We did go for a wander in Canterbury Cathedral, though (God got us free passes), and then went out for a really fabulous dinner at Deesons, which I suspect we'll be going back to after we move. The food was lovely, and they produce lots of it on their smallholding, and the wine - Chapel Down Bacchus - was really rather fabulous; I'm not surprised that they served it at the Royal Wedding. I think I last had a bottle of Chapel Down about seven years ago, and the quality's really come on.

This morning, we were back in Bexley, where Mike had a jumping lesson: I figured that we really should take advantage of having a HOYS-winning showjumper running the place and get Mike at least the basics before we move. He was on GB, who really is a spectacular horse for learning to jump on. I got on first, both to make sure he was actually moving properly (I should probably say "spectacular horse for learning to jump on provided you can make him move"...) and because he's done very little jumping since he's been in Bexley and, in particular, since he had that problem with his leg. I needn't have worried, as he was in an 'ooh, good, jumps!' mood: I just popped him over it twice and then said "Ok, carry on".

For his first time, Mike did very well, and by the end of the hour he managed a very creditable stretch of canter with two times over the jump and no breaks.

We're back home, now, but Mike's still off work for the rest of the week: we're off to try out Jonny in the school tomorrow (after my riding lesson), and we're off to The House for a meeting with a guy who'll look at the horse-related work that the house need on Friday: fingers crossed that it won't cost too much. My real fear is that the membrane on the sand school will need replacing, as it's had a bit of interest from the local rabbit population....

(GB really needs a hair cut: his mane's starting to go all floppy. Must do that, and get his feathers off, now it's warmed up.)

This entry was originally posted at http://flick.dreamwidth.org/882701.html, where it has comment count unavailable comment(s). Add comments here or there, if you feel like it.
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The rest of the holiday

♥Apr. 16th, 2013 // 06:56 pm
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I had thought that God was at a disadvantage in not having a bar, but it turned out that they were more than happy to serve drinks in the library, complete with lovely squishy sofas. I think God won.

(Oddly, though, God and the Commies use the same brand of toiletries. This probably says something deeply significant.)

Yesterday, we headed back towards town and went to see the ponies in the morning. Afterwards, we went to the Museum of Kent Life, where we fed the lambs and didn't really get value for the tickets on account of having been there recently enough to make it not really worth going into the buildings as we remembered what was in them. We thought about going to the National Fruit Collection, but in the end just wandered around the shops ("Tiddly Pom" is a great name for a cider seller) and didn't pay to go in: may be worth doing so later in the year, when we can better see which kinds we might like to plant in The Garden.

We did go for a wander in Canterbury Cathedral, though (God got us free passes), and then went out for a really fabulous dinner at Deesons, which I suspect we'll be going back to after we move. The food was lovely, and they produce lots of it on their smallholding, and the wine - Chapel Down Bacchus - was really rather fabulous; I'm not surprised that they served it at the Royal Wedding. I think I last had a bottle of Chapel Down about seven years ago, and the quality's really come on.

This morning, we were back in Bexley, where Mike had a jumping lesson: I figured that we really should take advantage of having a HOYS-winning showjumper running the place and get Mike at least the basics before we move. He was on GB, who really is a spectacular horse for learning to jump on. I got on first, both to make sure he was actually moving properly (I should probably say "spectacular horse for learning to jump on provided you can make him move"...) and because he's done very little jumping since he's been in Bexley and, in particular, since he had that problem with his leg. I needn't have worried, as he was in an 'ooh, good, jumps!' mood: I just popped him over it twice and then said "Ok, carry on".

For his first time, Mike did very well, and by the end of the hour he managed a very creditable stretch of canter with two times over the jump and no breaks.

We're back home, now, but Mike's still off work for the rest of the week: we're off to try out Jonny in the school tomorrow (after my riding lesson), and we're off to The House for a meeting with a guy who'll look at the horse-related work that the house need on Friday: fingers crossed that it won't cost too much. My real fear is that the membrane on the sand school will need replacing, as it's had a bit of interest from the local rabbit population....

(GB really needs a hair cut: his mane's starting to go all floppy. Must do that, and get his feathers off, now it's warmed up.)
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Mini-holiday

♥Apr. 14th, 2013 // 08:33 pm
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Mike's off work for the next week (and actually off work, not just free-in-working-hours-but-otherwise-on-call), so we've taken the opportunity to get away from London for a few days, even if I couldn't make him leave his laptop behind....

Horses, driving, wandering and hotels of the commie and church variety. )
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Bits and bobs

♥Apr. 9th, 2013 // 03:58 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/898132.html]

The thought occurred that a) my sewing machine's not been serviced in at least a decade and b) I will shortly not live a short drive from a sewing machine repair shop. So I thought I'd get it de-fluffed and oiled before we move. Just called the shop, mostly to check that I could park, and he said that it would be from £50 for one of that age (I don't know exactly how old it is, having stolen it from my mother, but it's a New Home, and New Home rebranded at Janome a decade ago). I foolishly then thought "I wonder if it's worth spending the money?" and have now been drooling over the features of modern sewing machines. There's one that's got a built-in mini-overlocker, and it's only £200!!! I always wanted an overlocker, they're fabulous...

At least, I hope to only live a short drive from said shop for a little longer. The people we want to buy from did have a second viewing at the weekend, so fingers are firmly crossed. Today was frantic tidying for a viewing of our own, after I got back from the yard. The people we've had seem to be fairly equally split between those who do and do not want to knock down the wall between the kitchen and the living room; I can see both sides, but I do like being able to shut the door.

While I was at the yard, I took GB out for a plod in the woods. As I left, the girl who runs the yard was just finishing up a lesson in the school. Only slightly more than half way around the woods, she overtook me, which was a touch embarrassing. On the other hand, after she walked alongside me down the hill she said "Is it ok if I go off?" and headed on at full-tilt. For about twenty yards, at which point her horse saw an unfamiliar log and went nuts: GB gave her horse a slightly bemused look and then kept plodding, at which point it realised it wasn't actually a tiger and followed him.

We remain, however, a one-horse household. We thought we'd found a good one last week, but the vet comprehensively failed him yesterday ("There's no point charging you for a five-stage vetting.... It's £150 for a two-stage, but I barely got to stage two so call it £100"). Have now started phoning people like GB's chiropractor, and stopping to chat with people I know to say hello to on the lane, to see if they know of anything.

(There's a slight deadline on this, as a) I don't want GB to be on his own at the new house and b) I want Mike to have lots of lessons with our current instructor as he's getting used to the new horse.)

Next weekend, we're going to have a few days away from home, and maybe we'll try and find some horses to look at as well.

Last weekend, we went to see This House, where we sat in the Opposition and got swooshed around the stage a lot. It was very good, although I fear I may have missed some of the references. I did, however, know who Finchley was when she got mentioned, so she'd already been on my mind.

Eastercon seemed to go well, and we seem to have escaped the various con cruds, which was a relief. We were probably protected by the power of Mike's dongle. The auction went suspiciously well: would anyone like to own up to stuffing the Smash Tin with £20s, or will I have to live with having more money than my records suggest I should?

I'm off to the GP tomorrow, to follow up on my blood pressure. I've bought a little machine since then, and have been taking it every week or so, so I have a nice little graph showing that it's consistently on the boundary between "normal" and "go to the doctor if you feel faint", so hopefully that will put this silliness to bed. Of course, then there's the other row to have, but one thing at a time. And at least I don't have to carefully not get annoyed now. Am torn between demanding a cholesterol test to prove my point and not wanting to risk it in case it's fractionally high and they spend the rest of my life trying to put me on bloody statins.

Work continues, much to the surprise of Some People. Boss needs to make up her mind what she wants to do when I move, though, and continues to put it off as she is Too Busy And Doesn't Want To Think About It. I keep meaning to nag her, but she's frightfully stressed.

Boris!
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♥Jun. 6th, 2012 // 05:12 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/875517.html]

In Ghent, we saw what can only be described as a self-propelled bar, full of what looked like a stag party and powered by lots of cannibalised bicycles. Sadly, we were too busy boggling to take photos.

Actually, I didn't take many photos at all (Mike took more). Here are a few:
Provence Pont du Gard Mike's ice cream. As big as his head.

New improved Scrapbook mostly seems to be incredibly slow, and buggy. Sigh.

Edit: And the 'insert this image in an entry' auto html generation now crops the image to be square and doesn't link to the bloody original. Sigh. Manual links added.

Today, GB had a bath. He was remarkably good about it, considering how few times in his life it's happened before. He went very fluffy afterwards. Having had a week and a bit of no exercise followed by Pilates and riding both yesterday and today, I am knackered. Hopefully, I'll be ok tomorrow.

Fortunately, I don't have a grey horse, or I'd be worrying about the forecast rain making my dress run!
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May Books

♥Jun. 5th, 2012 // 05:25 pm
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Here )

(We are back. I feel like I have about a billion things to do, ranging from things like updating my reading list to things like hoping that the weather forecast gets no worse for tomorrow - due to planned horse bathing - and Thursday - due to show. Speaking of, in case anyone plans to come along, I'm in class 444 which is both at 1pm in Hackney and 2:20pm in Ardingly. There may be more updates before then, but I wouldn't bank on it. Mike fixed the sat nav. Belgium was incredibly, depressingly grey, and the shop had run out of the chocolates I wanted when we made a special, soggy, walk into town to get them. The dishwasher detergent that we like has either been discontinued or is not stocked by Carrefour in either France or Belgium. Note to self Mike: check this.)
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No France At All

♥Jun. 3rd, 2012 // 04:10 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/874948.html]

Luxembourg has much more topography than I thought it would.

Our hotel, the DoubleTree, looked like a Soviet tower block. Trip Advisor had remarked on this but said that the newly refurbished rooms were lovely. Ours wasn't either lovely or newly-refurbished, and had what I very much hope will turn out to be the worst mattress of the trip.

Business hotel, so bloody SwissCom. Not refurbished, so not enough power sockets to set up the airport, so offline overnight.

We had dinner in the hotel, it being late and out of town. It wasn't nearly as good as the descriptions on the menu, but it was ok and the local wine was good. There was a smoking bar! Indoors, and everything! While I was in there, after dinner, two twenty-something Chinese guys came in, ordered cognac, looked around at the few, quiet people in the bar and wistfully asked the bar man if it would get busy later. When told that this was busy for a non-week night, they drank and left.

(This agrees with the size and emptiness of the restaurant, which does make you wonder. I mean, if your hotel is, say, half refurbished, and your expected occupancy for the night is, say, less than fifty percent, doesn't it make commercial sense to put your guests in rooms that are less likely to make them resolve to never visit again?)

Sunday morning in Luxembourg was decidedly grey and wet. We read the Wikipedia page about the city and decided that it wasn't exciting enough for the weather, so off we headed to Belgium instead. Belgium was also grey and wet, surprisingly.

We stopped in Ghent, had a wander in the intermittent drizzle and some lunch, and then headed on to Bruges. At which point the (rather elderly anyway, and frankly struggling with having has a map of northern europe stuffed into her brain) Sat Nav died. This meant I had to map read, which is something to generally be avoided, but we got to the hotel eventually: the Hotel Ter Duinen, which seems nice and has parking, which is a bonus around here. Still rather grey, but I dare say we'll go for a wander in town after Mike's finished reinstalling the Sat Nav ("I seem to have set it to Finnish...") in the hopes that that will fix it.
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No More France!

♥Jun. 3rd, 2012 // 04:08 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/874637.html]

Well, maybe a little....

On Thursday evening, we managed another very good meal, in a restaurant that was otherwise deserted (although, to be fair, we were early by local standards. We'd spent the day either in or close to the hotel, lazing about and only emerging to wander around the weekly market, eat ice creams bigger than our heads (and, when I say 'our', I mean Mike has one...) and go to a creepy museum that was apparently made up of an old lady's collection of dolls that had taken over the ground floor of her house.

On Friday, after a brief stop in Orange (Roman), we headed off to Geneva, via lots of topography.

Geneva seems nice. We had a wander through the old town, caught sight of the fountain from a hill-top park and agreed that it looked incredibly badly bluescreened, wandered along the lake shore and wondered if we'd offended the fountain into turning itself off early, and finally had a lovely, if expensive, dinner in a restaurant called something like The Pig's Trotter (it was on the menu, but we didn't try it).

The hotel, La Cour des Augustins, was very nice but for two things: they provided a duvet but no sheet, so the air con was needed, and the bathroom had automatic lights, designed by a sad, lonely individual who had never even considered the possibility of one day sharing a bed with another person....

Today, we had another little wander around town and then, pausing only to get the hotel to extricate the car (we were - in a planned way - boxed into their tiny car park, but the arrival overnight of an enormous flea market on the surrounding streets made this harder, and getting the car onto the main road harder still), we headed off for lunch with [livejournal.com profile] sneerpout, where there was both good conversation and steak cooked in the way I'd actually requested that it be.

Lunch meant we didn't stop again, other than a couple of service stations, on the way to Luxembourg, so it's been a long day of driving for Mike, but we've arrived in country number three of five-in-five-nights, and that's the main thing!
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Even More France

♥May. 30th, 2012 // 03:26 pm
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Last night, I chose a very tasty place to go for dinner, so full marks to me: Mike even declared that he'd be happy to go back there, unlike the previous two nights.

Today, we went out and about to various small towns, starting with a drive through the Petit Luberon, which the sat nav was extremely unhappy about.

When your guidebook uses the phrase "a fascinating collection of corkscrews, dating from the 17th century", it's pretty much obligatory to stop. It was quite interesting, in fact. We also stopped off at Bonnieux, where we climbed all the steps in the world to get to the top of the town. At least it was down hill on the way back.

In Apt, parking is free from 12 to 2; presumably, this is so the traffic wardens can have their lunch in peace.

After lunch, we thought we'd stop at a crystallised fruit place that we'd seen advertised, but when we got there it was quarter to two, and lunch wasn't over until two. So we drove on. Fifteen minutes later, we saw signs for another crystallised fruit place: hurrah! We pulled off the road and went into the carpark. Apparently, this lot didn't get back from lunch until half past two.... Muttering, we went off to the Lavender Museum instead, getting inside just after a coach of Dutch OAPs, whose arrival had caused the introductory video to be played in Dutch: we went into the museum, instead, and looked at various subtly different kinds of stills, and then into the shop, where I bought some fairly expensive liquid soap that I hope I don't really like, at it'll be tricky to get more. The leaflet was quite interesting and informative, though.

As the lavender museum was only a couple of miles down the road from the second fruit place, and had taken about half an hour to look around, we went back there and actually managed to do some shopping. I've got some macaroons, and Mike has some candied citrus peel; he bought two boxes, so that he could take one into the office, but has since been heard muttering to himself about alternative office presents that wouldn't mean he'd have to sacrifice his peel....

After that, we headed up to Fontaine de Vaucluse, where we pounced on the first water we could find and demanded cold liquid. Refreshed, we went up to the paper mill / museum, which was about what I expected (ie, some old equipment, a few stacks of drying paper, lots of gift shop) but not as good as it could have been (eg, demonstrations or at least explanations of the paper making process). Interestingly, they sell a huge number of differently printed sheets of paper, but I only spotted one printing press that - I *think* - would have been too small to take the largest of their paper sizes, which makes me wonder if the paper that they sell is actually made there but sent away to be printed or if they buy it in entirely.

We had to park in a different car park this evening, on account of tomorrow being market day in the one we have been using. Fortunately, Mike managed to get the last space in the second preference one, so we didn't have too far to walk back to the hotel!

(I was sad to discover that none of the huge rack of diet books on sale in the motorway service station shop was a translation of 'French Women Don't Get Fat'.)
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More France

♥May. 29th, 2012 // 04:15 pm
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Thinking that I would buy myself some nice, light, pale trousers, on account of it's bloody hot, I checked my offline copy of Wikipedia for a size conversion chart. I know women's sizing is absurd and overly variable, but how is it that Wikipedia has two tables, "Women's suits and dresses" and "Women's clothing"? One of them says I'm a 44, the other a 38. Sigh.

Things that should not be possible: I am always in the sunny side of the car. Particularly when I'm wearing black trousers.

Last night was Mike's choice for dinner, so we had Vietnamese, which I enjoyed far more than Mike did. Oops. After dinner, we happened to see the hotel guy, and descended on him begging for the interwebs to be fixed. Some confusion, a glass of wine and some olives later, it turned out that he thought he'd given us the password to the proper wifi; we have it, now. Phew.

Today, we went to Arles, where there was Roman Stuff, then to the museum of the Camargue, which was (sigh) closed (though just for lunch, at least), then to Santes Maries de le Mer, for our own lunch, then to a bird reserve (I drew the line at the 4km loop, but lots and lots of herons and egrets and flamingoes, also a coot), then - pausing only to consider another go at the museum and deciding against it on account of it was a very small building - back to the hotel.

We decided not to promenade les chevaux, even though lots of them were standing around in their walking clothes waiting for someone to do just that, on account of it being bloody hot.

I'm getting quite good at doing motorway tolls. Roundabouts, though, continue to terrify me. Is a white circle with a red A the French version of an L-plate? What does it stand for?

I haven't mentioned breakfast, I think, other than to whinge about goat's cheese. We found the hotel through Mr and Mrs Smith, and one thing that their review mentioned was that the breakfasts were good. They really are. Today, we had a basket with bread, two croissants and two pain au chocolat, three different preserves, a slice each of melon and cured ham, a nasty ol' cheese, a crem brûlée each, and the option of boiled or scrambled eggs, the latter of which were tasty yesterday. Oh, with fresh orange juice and the offer of a selection of teas or coffee. It's rather impressive.
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Pony pictures!

♥Feb. 24th, 2012 // 02:17 pm
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NB: not all pictures contain ponies. )
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We're baaaack!

♥Feb. 12th, 2012 // 12:27 pm
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And it's bloody cold here, still. Brrr. Went to see [livejournal.com profile] vgrumpybastard this morning, didn't dare take him above a slow trot even with his boots on (although I am impressed that the chap who does that sort of thing has managed to keep the uncovers outdoor school as well as he has: the middle's fairly solid, but the track's pretty fine).

Holiday was good, if not perfect. Mike has pictures. Including me in a bikini.

Things we did on holiday:
- twilight / moonlight horse riding in the desert - sand dunes are really bloody steep. I wouldn't have wanted to do it if I couldn't ride! We were an experiment to see if they can do it regularly, to which the answer is probably "yes, if they pick their nights right": we were the night of the full moon, and it was fine, but they had also thought they could do the two nights after, when the moon was probably rising too late.
- sunset camel ride, also in the desert - less actual riding involved, as there was a nice man with a lead rope at all times. Interesting, but much less smooth than a horse. The whole getting on and off bit was kind of scary, too)
- evening 'party' in a desert tent, with free camel rides (which we passed on: see previous), henna painting (which we also passed on, because it kind of hangs around and I have important meetings next week) and belly dancer (which we couldn't really pass on, as she was right in front of us, jiggling away) - faintly embarrassing, tbh. We knew about it because it was after our camel ride / watching the sunset on a sand dune, and the camel guide mentioned it. For quite a while, we thought we were the only people who knew about it, but fortunately another six people came along, so we could make our escape to dinner with minimal fuss. (Actually, there were some other people there. We're fairly sure that they were senior management, possibly newly in-post, having a look to see how things were going, which meant it was a shame that they didn't bother to speak to the guests and find out....)
- trip to Dubai - really bad traffic, moderately interesting museum, very little else to do except go shopping and sit in traffic jams. We did have a walk in an astonishingly grass-covered park, and went to a moderately fun aquarium in a shopping mall. There's a really big sky scraper. Did I mention the traffic?
- visits to the spa - quite good, and I thought it was a nice touch that the rooms were all on sensors, so they went from standby into full working mode when you went in, and then cooled back down an appropriate time period later when it was time to move on.
- eating lots of food, much of it very nice and almost all of it pretty good.
- lounging around on the sun lounger (when it was in the shade) or on the sofa (when the sun was on the patio) or in the pool.
- pointing at passing gazelles, and feeding sparrow-like birdies.

Seeing camels eating out of a dumpster is bizarre. Apparently, lots of wild camels die because they eat plastic whilst doing this. There is rubbish, much of it plastic, everywhere in the open desert.

So, yes: very nice trip. I'm glad we went to Dubai, but feel no inclination at all to go back. The hotel wasn't, I think, quite as good as the Banyan Tree we went to for our honeymoon, but I think we might well go back there. There was nothing really bad about it, but there were lots of little niggly things:
- Sometimes, you went into the restaurant and got shown to a laid table, brought a basket of bread, and given menus for food and drinks. Other times, you got a knife, fork and food menu and that was it until they snatched your plate away mid-final-chew.
- At that level of hotel, and given (I checked) that smoking was permitted on the patios, I would have expected there to be an ashtray. If there wasn't, I would have expected one to arrive as soon as housekeeping cleared away the first empty water bottle with cigarette ends in it. Similarly, I was once caught out without my portable ashtray, having to go through a door without an ashtray by it (tsk, in itself). I, slightly apologetically, put the cigarette out and then carefully put the but on top of a nearby speaker mounting, where it stayed for two days before blowing off and lying on the floor for the rest of the stay.
- Only one place to get lunch, and only two places to get dinner: you'd have thought that the bar would at least do a light meal menu, so that you could have a change of scene.
- There was (we found out because we happened to go to the Activity Centre after our horse ride) a schedule of free daily activities (feeding the gazelles by the waterhole, exercising the falcons, and so on). There were also other things, like the above-mentioned party, that were happening but weren't on that list. What there wasn't was, for example, a daily newsletter popped into your letterbox to let you know of these things, so it's hardly surprising that no one knew about the party. (A couple of days later, we heard music from our patio: another party? Who knows... Could we be bothered to walk over and check? Meh....)
- Reception staff with really varied levels of English (and, given that many of them were Thai, presumably even worse levels of Arabic), which meant, at worst, that bookings were made incorrectly (our driver for the Dubai trip turned up a day early) or incompletely (apparently, our camel-ride-with-sunset-drink came with a choice of drinks. As it was, the fizz was fine, but presumably not for everyone!) and, at best, that their first response to any query was to ask for your room number and frantically read the details on-screen in an attempt to figure out what you were talking about.
- No drinking water in the spa. Eleventy. There was a bottle in your locker when you arrived, but obviously you're not going to carry it around with you!
- After the camel ride, when we were sitting on our cushions on the sand dune, drinking our fizz, the nice man who'd poured it snapped some photos of us. "Ah," we thought, "There'll be a proof sheet and outrageous price list coming our way!" But there wasn't. Nothing. No mention made of them again....

We were very amused on the night when we ordered wine that came with a cork, though. First, they had to find the corkscrew and have a whispered debate about who was going to use it, and then the chap who won (or, possibly, lost) the argument came over and went through all the motions he'd obviously had demonstrated, before taking the wine away again and going into a huddle with his colleagues. About five minutes later, we heard a triumphant 'pop', and had to resist applauding. The waiter was so excited that he started pouring for me before he realised we hadn't tasted it, but he did manage to bring us the cork on a side plate. Bless. The poor stable boy who'd been informed that he was serving our fizz after the horse riding was also rather bewildered: someone had apparently told him how to do it, but I suspect it wasn't anything he'd been called on to do before!

(This posts sounds terribly whingy, but actually it's more frustrated: if the presumed-manager had come over and spoken to his guests at the 'party', then I would have just told him. As it is, I'm pondering an email, because they're almost all such little petty things that would be easy to fix and thus make people's stays so much nicer.)

Oh, and the bed kept attacking me. It was placed in such a way that you had to walk around the foot of it quite often, and the frame was made of very dark wood that stuck out some way from the end of the snowy white duvet. I have an L-shaped cut on one calf and a matching bruise on the other....

Still, home now. Flights not too bad (Emirates). We're somewhat jetlagged but, as I have to be up for a 7am flight on Wednesday, this isn't really a bad thing.
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Weaving!

♥Jan. 16th, 2012 // 04:12 pm
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Over the last six months or so, I've been weaving green-ish-brown-ish-blu-ish squares and triangles, some with a pattern and some plain.

Over the last week or so, I've been sewing them together....

I was very vaguely following this pattern, although I went for neither triangle nor rectangle nor v-shaped, instead making an isosceles trapezium. I observe on looking at it now for the first time in ages that the pattern calls for a crocheted trim around the edge. Hmm. I've never tried crotchet, and I'm not sure if I want to start. We shall see.

Anyway: not terribly interesting pictures here )

I'm very pleased that it's finished in time for Holiday*, because I suspect it will get nippy in the desert at night and I'll want a nice little light wrap. I'm also pleased because now that that's finished I can try out the knitting loom I bought a few months ago!

(In more embarrassing news, I just had a phone call from a pimp I didn't know about a job that I have neither memory nor record of having applied for and that, when she told me about it, not only doesn't sound very interesting but also doesn't sound like the sort of thing I'd have applied for unless the advert was shockingly poorly written. I went "Mmm hmm?" a lot.)

* No, I don't think you did know about that, which is very remiss of us. World events permitting, we're off to Ras Al Khaimah for a week next month. We're going to get some sun and some warm, and we're going to ride ponies in the desert and try falconry and look at nature and stuff like that. We might even leave the resort, if we're feeling particularly dynamic: apparently, they have some good History there.
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