Sunday 19 September 2010

Things kittens do

Innocent looking, aren't they? No trouble at all, as long as they are asleep. Both Tink (front) and Cass (back) have an unhealthy fascination with computers. They especially like to walk across the laptop (particularly if I'm using it) and if possible sit on it. 

Tink just walked across my keyboard on his way from A to B (in fact the arm of the sofa to the favoured spot next to me). As he went he managed to press a sequence of key... result, somehow Firefox was put onto full screen (and then some). 

I sat randomly pressing keys until the screen returned to normal service. One key apparently summoned the Firefox help screen. I liked the big yellow box "What do you need help with?". I was quite tempted to try inputting "My kitten has walked over the keyboard and messed up the screen layout".

Garden decoration

Some of the many frogs
I have been inspired by Esmee over at Plaid Pages and her lovely collection of garden ornaments to share a few of the many in my garden. A good few of them live on our patio - safe from the attentions of garden wildlife!

These poor fellows don't seem to have been made for the weather conditions
that they need to survive. We have two frogs and a cat from the same range
which never made it out of the living room!
These three look after the fish pond - they never fail to raise a smile - especially the jolly duck and the happy turtle.

This frog can be found relaxing, appropriately enough, next to the frog pond. There used to be a ceramic frog with a welcome sign - until a fox knocked it over and the frog broke. It has now been mended, but lives inside out of harms way!

This is a small selection representing some of my favourites... it is an ever growing collection with a couple of new items (at least!) added every summer - lucky we have a large garden!

And here are some, belonging to my nearly-mother-in-law, which I am not so fond of. I don't like gnomes - I find them freaky.

Flourishing plants

I found a photo taken a year ago of my alpine garden - it has really done well in the last twelve months!

Saturday 18 September 2010

London by night

The famous lights in Piccadilly Circus
It's kitsch if you aren't a tourist
Spotting a theme
Big Ben goes green - I'm not sure why
Westminster Abbey
After meeting a friend in a bar just off Piccadilly Circus I made my way back to Westminster to pick up the Jubilee Line. I had forgotten how vibrant and full of life London can be, even after dark.

Wildlife in odd places

I was surprised to find a burgeoning population of small flying creatures in the ladies toilet at work. Several small moths and an absolute plague of green lacewings. I persuaded the lacewings out the window - probably a better habitat than the toilets.


Autumn preparations

Blue sky
Cloudy moment
The weather the past week or so has been a bit unpredictable - we have had some heavy rain and some beautiful sunny moments - often in the space of a few hours! Of one thing there is no doubt - Autumn is here.

Spiders' webs
Still flowering
We have been out in the garden this afternoon preparing for autumn - the grass has had its last cut of the year, the shrubs are pruned and the leaves that are on the grass have been picked up ready for the real downfall to begin. 

Hops - anyone for beer?
Most of the flowering is over for the year and there is an abundance of seeds and berries. I have been trying to persuade the bird population to take advantage of the fushia berries (and so create a new generation) but so far without much success. The annual hop crop of SE7 is in full swing.

Path rediscovered
At the far end of the garden (where the compost bins live) we discovered that a small landslide had covered the path. Rich dug it out again and I created a small retaining wall either side so hopefully there will be no more path incidents!

The problem is that the foxes spend a lot of time playing in that area - they are number one suspects in the path disappearance - but I think if the path can survive until a rainfall that should bed it in nicely.

King Frog
Most of the toads seem to have gone off to hide under dark damp places or wherever they go for the winter but the King Frog and his entourage are still around - and last weekend King Frog was out enjoying the sun.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Tubes on strike

The anticipated chaos of today's tube strike has descended on the capital. I started my journey early this morning as I was pretty certain that would have to find an alternative route. The easiest thing to do would probably have been to take to the main line trains... but I figured that is what everyone else would be doing and they would be mobbed... added to which I still have to get from Charring Cross to the office which is probably not the best spot to try and pick up a bus. This leaves two alternatives; get the bus all the way (which involves three different buses door to door) or get the boat. It was a lovely sunny morning so I opted for a trip up the Thames (thanks to Rich who prodded me in the right direction!). The buses in SE7 were quite quiet. North Greenwich was quiet too - the station there is actually closed. The boat service at North Greenwich was also quiet (it is a bit of a trek from the bus station).
Greenwich from the boat
Waterloo Bridge
The Thames Clipper is a great way to travel. A little expensive - but on a sunny morning like today it was great. No overcrowding as standing isn't allowed. You can surf the web or whatever with your phone all the way and even get a cup of coffee.

There is a bit of a petrol smell if you sit out on the rear deck, but it is a small price to pay for such a relaxed commute. I sat and kept track of what was going on with the strike on Twitter and the hash-tag 'tubestrike'.

'Boris Bikes'
The only draw back of the boat is that it leaves you at Embankment which is still a bit of a trek to the office - I really wish the commuter boats would go to Westminster! I walked up Northumberland Avenue, and a lot of the 'Boris Bikes' were in their stands - journeys completed, I guess. This was confirmed later when I encountered another full bike stand with several annoyed looking cyclists unable to dock their bikes and checking the status of other local docking points on the screen - all of which were also full. I wonder if someone who has trouble balancing on two legs would manage on two wheels?!

I saw more regular cyclists than I did people on the hire bikes - but Embankment/Trafalgar Square always seems full of cyclists at that time of day.

As I made my way through Trafalgar Square I saw a number 9 (which would take me to Piccadilly and the end of my journey) which was absolutely heaving. I resigned myself to walking the rest of the way - to my delight the full bus was followed by another number 9 - totally empty. What luck!

All in all I only added about a quarter of an hour to my overall journey and felt a lot more relaxed because of it. The real challenge, of course, is getting home again when the concentration of journeys start in one place instead of across the city. That I am not looking forward to at all.

Best not to bother, really.

Monday 6 September 2010

Tube strike

Tonight's 24 hour tube strike is set to cause major disruption across the entire network, and the wider London transport system. The full impact won't become clear until the strike starts, TfL have already made contingency plans including marshalled taxi ranks, escorted cycle routes and extra boat services. If your tube service is disrupted consider some of these options especially when heading home from Central London as bus services tend to be massively over-subscribed. Best advice, check TfL's website before you travel.

As I was renewing my season ticket this morning the helpful lady at the counter reminded me that they were going on strike this evening. Hers, she informed me, was one of the jobs under threat. Regular readers will know that I'm not generally in favour of strikes - there never seem to be any winners and the general public always seem to be the losers. I do agree with the need to preserve ticket offices though. Using two crutches I find the self service machines extremely difficult to deal with - I've also never managed to get them to sell me more than one ticket at a time; I always queue for the ticket office. That said - there often seem plenty of extra staff at tube stations with several 'manning' the gates.

My journey this morning had a premature disruption when I arrived at North Greenwich to discover that the buses were using the 'emergency' stops on the road and not the bus station. The bus station itself was shrouded in blue and white "do not cross" police tape - although only a couple of officers on sentry duty were visible. It turns out that there were several stabbings last night and the police were investigating. Hope they are finished now as my journey home tonight doesn't need any more chaos than strictly necessary!

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Tube strikes (again)

The tube strikes earlier this year turned out to be a lot of fuss over nothing from where I was sitting as I didn't notice any disruption at all. The next batch looks to be much more disruptive as maintenance staff are joined by drivers, station staff, etc. 
The first strike is on 6th September (good grief, that is next week!) and you can see all the latest on the BBC website.

My Irish experience - day 1

Last Friday I was out of my bed at half past four to begin my trip to Ireland. A short cab ride through the rain-washed streets of London took me to City Airport, just as the sun was thinking about rising. By the time I landed in Dublin a few hours later the sky was blue and the sun was shining; a perfect start to my short break.

I collected my hire car (a very nice Fiat Panda) and bunny-hopped through the car park as I got the hang of the fact that the gear stick wasn't where I expected it to be and that the pedals were at a slightly different elevation. I then left the environs of Dublin and headed north-west towards Enniskillen. The road soon turned from dual carriage way to a rural main road - the sat-nav was in charge and took me through some lovely countryside. I stopped by a loch soon after crossing into Northern Ireland to switch my phone's data capabilities back on. Data roaming may be capped but I still didn't want any large bills.

The journey only took a couple of hours and I arrived in Enniskillen far too early to check into my hotel. I took a trip round the castle which had some exhibitions on local history and also housed the regimental museum of the Inniskilling Dragoons. There was a brief moment of panic outside the museum where I had to reassure myself that the currency of Northern Ireland is sterling... of course it is as it is part of the UK - but they have their own banknotes.

I did a bit more driving around waiting for check-in time and found myself on a scenic drive. I stopped at Topped Mountain which was advertising a view-point. That isn't a mountain, I thought to myself, it's a hill. So I decided to go up. I haven't seen the movie "The man who went up a hill and came down a mountain" but that seems like an apt title for my experience. Out of breath, soaking wet (a heavy shower appeared from nowhere) and not wearing the best shoes. The view was worth it though.

It was finally check-in time, but the next problem was finding the hotel. There is a time to stop listening to the sat-nav and use your eyes as I drove past the place three times before I found it:
Sat-nav: Arriving at destination on left
Nat: No, we aren't

The room was fabulous. We have a king size bed at home and this was even bigger. There was a lovely sofa, a 32-inch TV and a balcony door. After popping to the convenient Tesco for some lunch, shoe polish and more books (I'd nearly finished the one I'd brought with me) I met up with a couple of friends in the evening for dinner. We had a very Irish curry (!).

It was off to bed early to make sure we were in good form for our journey to the wedding we were all attending the next day.