Sunday, November 25, 2007

A rather damp time in France

Well, it's taken me ages to update our blog with this post from the summer, but in August we headed to Brittany in France with my parents and brother.

When we arranged the holiday earlier in the year I had imaged warm summer's days spent on the beach and frolicking in the sea, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

We took the Speed Ferries catamaran from Dover to Boulogne-sur-Mer and drove straight to out Gite situated on the outskirts of Dinan, a beautiful walled town not far from Saint Malo.

It rained or was overcast pretty much consistently from arrival until the Thursday, so we had to make the most of our holiday time as best we could.

On our return trip we visited the Ch√Ęteau at Fougeres before staying in Rouen for one night.

Highlights for me were the walled city of Saint Malo, Dinan, Rouen and a lovely raclette meal one evening in Dinan port.

See more of our holiday pictures by clicking here.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Weekend in Switzerland & France

On Thursday we had an early start, leaving home at 5am to head for Heathrow to catch a flight to Geneva. Arriving at around 11am, we picked up our hire car and headed down town to Lake Geneva where we took a boat trip around the lake before enjoying an ice cream in the park. We then headed across the border to France where our hotel was located just outside Annemasse.

On Friday we visited Annecy, a beautiful and genteel town beside a lake, about an hour south of Geneva. Here we wandered through the market set along the cobbled streets of the old town before eating lunch at a creperie. We then headed down to the lake where we hired a 'speed' boat for an hour. Toby & Joshua both enjoyed driving the boat, with Joshua thinking it was great to go round and round in circles - but for a 3 year old he did a pretty good job.

On Saturday we made an early start and arrived at Chamonix just after 9 in the morning. We took the Montenvers train up towards the Mer de Glace, a glacier running down the valley. We walked the mile or so descent down to the valley and then Graham descended the 284 steps down to the glacier to enter the ice grotto - a tunnel dug into the glacier itself.
Fortunately there was a cable car to take us back up to the train station ready to catch the train back into Chamonix.

It was then onto the Aiguille du Midi cable car, which was actually two cable cars taking you first to about 7,000 feet, then a second continuing the journey up to 12,000 feet where a cafe and viewing platform were to be found. The last part of the cable car run was near vertical and with about 50 people in each car it made you think how strong the cable holding us up must have been.

On the way up we descended through one layer of cloud and out into the blue sky again, with the viewing platform and Mont-Blanc itself constantly moving in and out of the clouds. At 12,000+ feet the lack of oxygen was noticeable when climbing up stairs or undertaking any other physical exertion.

On Sunday, it was back to Geneva for our noon flight home. All in all, a thoroughly interesting and varied weekend.

See the rest of our pictures here for Geneva, Annecy & Chamonix.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tree hugging is not for wimps!

It was greeted with some degree of personal trepidation when our team leader mentioned a few weeks back that at our next team meeting we would be embarking on a team building exercise that involved a high-wire forest challenge.

Despite choosing to pursue gliding as a hobby, I don't really have much of a head for heights - certainly when not firmly attached to something solid like a building or aircraft. I'm never that happy balanced at the top of a ladder.

And so it was, following the business part of our meeting, we headed to GoApe - a high wire experience situated in a Forest near Bracknell. We were harnessed up and received our basic training before being set loose on the course of four groups of aerial challenges, each one getting progressively further from Terra Firma.

Fortunately for me, there was always an easier route to choose to bypass the very difficult sections, but even the easier options involved a minimum of hanging from a wire and pulling yourself between two trees 20 feet apart.

Each section ended in a zip wire, with one stepping off the final platform into the air to slide not very gracefully into a pile of wood chippings which acted as a break.

The egging on of my colleagues prevented me from bailing out part way through and I completed the course exhilarated, if a little exhausted. Several of the sections were pretty scary but once you've started one it's as hard to return as it is to push forward.

You can see some more pictures of our experience here.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gliding, Rain & Bronze Badge

From April through to September Wednesday evening is gliding evening as I join up with a group of fellow pilots to launch ourselves into the skies.

Unfortunately June has been somewhat of a disappointing month, with either rain, high winds, or rain and high winds providing less than optimum conditions.

Last night we managed to get 29 flights (between us) in between the showers - and got very wet feet.

To see more pictures click here.

I also recently completed my Bronze Badge qualification - the first gliding competency level. This involved a number of flying exercises, a flying test, and a written exam covering 8 subjects including air law, navigation, human factors, meteorology, airmanship, use of the radio and aerodynamics.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

My first visit to Switzerland

This week I stepped foot in Switzerland for the first time, have been asked to attend a cross -European meeting at our Geneva offices.

The two days we were the there the weather was a mixture of clouds and light rain interspersed with bright and sunny weather, with temperatures in the mid 20's centigrade.

Geneva is an extremely picturesque and compact city, perched on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman in French).

I was fortunate enough to have a few hours to enjoy the lake between the end of my meeting and catching my flight home.

You can see more pictures of my visit by clicking here.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pictures of new home now online

I've now upload some pictures of our new house in Basingstoke. Click here to view.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Our voyage to a land far far away

On Saturday we took to the high seas on an epic voyage of exploration, or to put it another way, we went on a day drip to the Isle of Wight!

Once we had landed on 'foreign' shores, we headed to the Needles Battery overlooking the Needles lighthouse and rock where we enjoyed our picnic lunch.

We then saw a glass making demonstration before Toby & Joshua made traditional ornaments using coloured sand from the cliffs.

On our way back to the ferry at Cowes we stopped a Yarmouth for a brief walk around before setting sail for our home land.

See the pictures here.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Gasp - can breath again....

What a nightmare!

It's taken four weeks to get a broadband connection up and running at our new house, but at last we're back on line and can function again. Here's a picture of our new house, by the way.

So, on Monday we will have been in our new home for four weeks. We've just about got everything sorted now. Curtains or blinds on all the windows except for one, and only one piece of Ikea furniture left to be put together - I've lost count of how many bits we have put together over the last four weeks.

Last week we were at Spring Harvest, a fantastic Christian conference that takes place every year. This was it's 29th year. It takes over two Butlins sites, Skegness and Minehead, for the weeks before and after the Easter weekend. We were at Minehead where the weather was generally sunny and fairly warm.

One of the big social justice themes this year was around stopping people trafficking, which tied in with the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. For more on this see the Stop The Traffik website.

Well, that's enough for now.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

8 days to go...

Welcome to a world of boxes as we count down to our house move on the 5th March.

As you can see our garage is full with packed boxes, ready to be loaded on the van.

We'll let you know how it went after the event!


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rain, Daleks and Castles in Cardiff

We've just spent the weekend in Cardiff, Wales.

The main reason for going to Cardiff was to visit the Dr Who Exhibition as Toby is a huge fan of the show. You can see our pictures of the exhibition here.

We spent a small amount of time looking around Cardiff Bay, unfortunately being somewhat beaten by the constant rain that lashed the city most of Saturday and Sunday morning. There's a huge amount of regeneration taking place around the bay, with the new Welsh Assembly building (the Senedd) and the Wales Millennium Centre. You can see our pictures of Cardiff Bay here.

We had a game of 10-pin bowling at the Red Dragon Centre on Sunday morning followed by lunch at Ikea, before visiting the very picturesque (if it hadn't been for the scaffolding and restoration work) Castell Coch (Red Castle in English). You can see our pictures of Castle Coch here.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

The ambulance

This morning I went shopping with Mummy, Daddy & Joshua to spend my birthday money. I bought two Transformers.

Mummy had to go into the supermarket, so I went with her whilst Joshua and Daddy were getting some food. Whilst in there I banged my head on a pay phone that was on the wall and cut my head. There was quite a lot of blood and the lady who looked after the shop called an ambulance.

The people in the shop were very nice, and when the ambulance arrived the paramedic took me on board to look at my head. Once it was cleaned they found the cut was quite small and I was able to go home.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Trip to US

I spent last week in the US on a business trip.

I flew out to New York on Sunday, meeting some of my US colleagues in IT on the Monday at their office in Valhalla, near White Plains (about 45 mins north of NY City).

On the Tuesday I joined other colleagues from Mexico, the US and Latin America for the day at another office in Somers. In the evening we caught a flight to Dallas where we stayed north of the city at a place called Plano. The hotel is pictured here.

We continued through to Friday lunchtime before heading to catch the one daily BA flight back to the UK. Unfortunately heavy rain rolled in and we sat in the aircraft for over an hour at the end on the runway waiting for our turn to take-off.

Never the less, it was a great experience, and I think I ate more steak in 5 days that I would do in a whole year back home. Then again, it's pretty hard not to when every restaurant in Dallas is a steak house!


Friday, January 05, 2007

Still here, still waiting

Oh dear, it's been a long time since I posted an entry to our blog.

Things are slowly moving forward with our house move, which we hope to complete in February.

Christmas and New Year now seem a long time ago, but we all had a great time, and as usual came back with a load more toys for the boys.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Greetings

Just a short post to wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.

We've been busy packing over the last few weeks in the hope we will be able to move home in the late January or early February.

Graham, Debbie, Toby & Joshua

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Santa arrives by helicopter

Today we went to the garden centre near to where we live to see Santa Claus arrive by helicopter. You can see some more pictures of Santa, Joshua and myself by clicking here.


Friday, November 24, 2006

What a week!!

Well, what a week this has been.

After suffering from the remnants of my cold over the weekend, Monday got off to a really bad start when, without being fully with it, I half filled up my diesel car with petrol. This was followed by two hours sat at the petrol station waiting for a tow truck, followed by a rather hefty bill to get the petrol removed......

Tuesday went better with a business meeting in Leicester - so more time spent driving than 'working', and on Wednesday I spent much of the day in London.

Tuesday also got interesting because after several weeks without any houses coming up for sale that we liked, the very first house we had looked at (long before we had a buyer) suddenly came back on the market.

Friday morning saw us revisiting the above house, and we both instantly knew this was the house we wanted.

We have an offer accepted, so hopefully next week we will start to get a picture of when things might happen.

Watch this space.....


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Northwood Steam Up

I've added some pictures to our flickr from the steam up day at Debbie's mums house on Nov 11th.

Various people associated with Fairfield bought their model trains along and ran them on the track in the garden.

Joshua love the trains, and will no doubt expect to see them every time he goes to visit Nanny.

See all the pictures here.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Christmas is coming...

Hey everyone, look at my new hat. I wore it all the way to school when we picked up Toby this afternoon. I look just like my friend Santa Claus.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Delirious? concert

I went to see Delirious at the Reading Hexagon on Wednesday. The concert was excellent, sold out, and had a fantastic atmosphere......


Gliding pictures added to Flickr

I've added a few gliding pictures to our Flickr album. View them by clicking here.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Moving on

After 13 weeks on the market, we accepted an offer on our house at the weekend. The search is on to find a new home....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Toby and the helmet

This is me when I went away with Mum & Dad at the weekend. We learnt a lot about Anglo-Saxons. This is me wearing an Anglo-Saxon helmet.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Joshua and the puddle

I had a great time sploshing in puddles when I went away with mummy, daddy and Toby.


East Anglian Weekend

We spent the weekend in East Anglia - mostly in the rain :-)

On Saturday we visited Walton-on-the-Naze, a small seaside town where I had helped run a children's holiday club as a student in late 1980's. After 20 years there wasn't that much I recognised, but the pier and the Naze Tower hadn't changed much.

Here's a picture of us sitting at the end of the pier.

We spent Saturday night in Harwich, a busy container port on the Thames estuary.

On Sunday morning we travelled to Flatford Mill. This is where John Constable (1776 - 1837) painted a number of his famous landscape pictures - his parents living in the village.

The picture in the left shows where 'The Hay Wain' picture was painted. The hay wain has gone, of course, but the cottage shown in his painting is still there.

Most of the trees there today were not there when he painted his pictures, but it is easy to recognise many of the places he made famous.

On Sunday afternoon we visited Sutton Hoo, the site of an Anglo Saxon cemetery where a 7th century ship was burried. The site contains a number of burial mounds which were excavated from tthe 1930's onwards. The most famous one contained the remains of what is believed to be King Raedwald of East Anglia.

Also found at the site is the helmet, shown reconstructed here.

From Sutton Hoo we moved onto Mildenhall where we spent our final night.

On Monday we visited the recreated Anglo-Saxon village at West Stow Country Park. A number of people were dressed up as Anglo-Saxons, cooking, weaving and working metal just as would have taken place in Anglo-Saxon times.

See more pictures of our weekend here.


Friday, October 20, 2006

A blog is born

So here we are, the first entry in the Essex Family blog. Hopefully we'll find the time to keep stuff up to date and let you know what we've been up to.

Tomorrow we're off to Suffolk for the weekend, so this may well be the subject of our next entry.