Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 - Good riddance

2011 has been a turbulent year for the world. Economic crises all over the place, revolutions all over the Arab world - marriages, births and divorces for celebrities - natural disasters.

The year started grey and dismal and rather snow covered - rather the same as 2010 ended. The Japanese Tsunami and revolutionary actions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya made headlines around the world.

The world worried about a double-dip recession (technicalities!) as one Euro-Zone country after another fell into crisis. 

There wasn't much to celebrate, other than, if you were so inclined the Royal Wedding. Although in our family my Gran turned 90 and my Great-Aunt 100 (I hope I've got those genes!).

Personally it wasn't a good year. Two major MS relapses which required the intervention of steroids. The introduction of the wheelchair to my life. In September the loss of adored Tinker who left a big Kitten shaped hole in our hearts - although his brother Casper does his best to fill that hole as well as his own Kitten-cat space (and Casper is much adored!). November we remembered the loss of my beloved Papa, one year on.

Notwithstanding the Olympics and other annoying events I'm hoping 2012 (that's Twenty-Twelve!) will be a better year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Games, books and Kindle

This year an unreasonable amount of my favourite game franchises brought out new releases. In fact, all my favourites except for Fable (which given the disappointment of Fable 3 against Fable 2 is possibly not a bad thing!).

First up, the ever popular and firm favourite - another instalment of the Lego Xbox franchise. Having thoroughly enjoyed my last dose (Pirates of the Caribbean) it was time for the end of the Harry Potter set with years 5-7. Slightly confusing as I'd been recently playing the non-Lego version Xbox game. 

The great thing about this is that nothing has changed since the last release. Hogwarts is still the same - everything is where you left it. The regular games can rarely boast that! 


Liking the movies helps, but you don't need to with the Lego games. Running around and beating up bits of Lego (and little Lego baddies) in return for rewards - what's not to like?!


Next up, the Elder Scrolls. I've yet to meet  iterations I through III but The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion is right up there in my all time favourite games list.

When I discovered Skyrim was available it was too close to Christmas to do anything other than hope that it would be under the tree. The Better-half knows me too well and didn't let me down. Just as addictive as Oblivion... hours will pass with Skyrim.



Finally... Assassin's Creed Revelations. I've not started yet as I'm still stuck at the end of Brotherhood. This may not stop me though - I finished Assassin's Creed II but never the original.

Looking forward to seeing Ezio again, but not so happy to have the surly Altair back.

More wall climbing, sword fights, leaps of faith and viewpoints synchronised to come!



You can pretty much predict the games I'll play on Xbox; they come in two varieties. Lego games (not too fussy what the theme is) - the PEGI rating of less than 12 means that I'll be able to manage them with ease. The other is role playing games. They need to be set in a vast universe... an overall story with quests is a must, but the ability to choose where you go, what you do and when you do it is a must. The game lasts so much longer that way!

As a Kindle owner I thought my book reading days were over... but of course, at the moment, you can't put Kindle books on your Amazon wish-list. And, some series, having started in paper, have to continue in the traditional format. So, this year; I received a surprising amount of books for Christmas.

The plus side of books - as well as looking great on the shelves - is that you can take them in the bath!


Technobabble

Christmas - a time for holiday cheer and families and rubbish TV. Also, for me, a time for technology. There isn't a year goes by when somebody doesn't buy me something technological or I don't buy something for myself.

I have more technology in my life than you can swing a stick at. Some years ago the Better-half and I realised that sharing a computer just wasn't feasible... so I got my laptop. As soon as my phone contract was up I got a smart phone (my much loved, and sometimes maligned iPhone).

Over the last decade I've had a succession of digital cameras. From a webcam upwards... I think the early ones took photos less than 1 megapixel; we're now up with 12 or 14. I have a compact camera, a DSLR, a very temperamental video camera and the camera on my iPhone (oh, and the webcam built into the laptop).

But, you can never have enough technology. This year my brother got me the 'Catcorder'. It's an HD pocket video recorder... perfect for recording those Kitten-cat moments. It's also water-proof and shock-proof. It means I can kick the temperamental video camera to the kerb (or more likely sell it on eBay). It also takes photos.



To make digital life easier I'd been wanting (for some time) the Eye-fi card. Once set up this card communicates from your digital device over the wireless network to your computer and a number of nominated websites (in my case Flickr). Once you've got and Eye-fi card and associated account you can also use it on your iPhone (yes, there's an App for that). This means that you can send the pictures from your phone to your computer too. 


For the camera this means that I don't have to keep taking the memory card in and out (and sometimes forgetting to put it back into the camera) and from my phone without having to email them to myself or find the the cable.

Technology rules!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas

Christmas is a lot about tradition. Tradition, however, that changes as you go through life.

When I was a kid Christmas started in church. There were the four advent candles lit every Sunday until Christmas; but more exciting the Christingle service. 

A Christingle is an orange (which represents the world) with a candle in the top (which represents Jesus as the light of the world). A red ribbon is tied around the orange (representing the blood of Jesus) and then cocktail sticks are stuck into the ribbon (holding it in place!) on these are stuck dried fruits representing the bounty of the earth and the four seasons. All the kids would bring their Christingles to church and then at the appointed moment in the service bring them forward where they would all be lit with light from the advent candle. The fun was making them - oh, the smell of orange!

I grew up in a village. Quite a village-y sort of village - we had a village square with a short lane that lead to the church. On Christmas Eve there would be carols in the square (with a local silver band) sung by lamplight/candlelight/torchlight. After this we'd go home and carry out other Christmas traditions - putting out the whisky and mince pie for Santa, not forgetting a bucket of water and carrots for the reindeer! It was then off to bed for a few hours to get up again for midnight mass. After midnight mass it was back to bed - not for very long of course, up at the crack of dawn for family presents. At this point my parents would start lunch preparations for the large amount of relatives who would later be at our house. I'd be off to church (again) for Christmas day service. It wasn't that I was an unusually religious youngster - I was a chorister and attendance at festive services was pretty much compulsory!

Christmas at our house was always quite a party. My family, whilst not unusually large, are very close - so there was always a minimum of a dozen people present, often more. Lots of food, flaming Christmas pudding (made by my Gran), present distribution (silly gifts in a crepe covered chimney distributed by me or my brother dressed as Santa - a red dressing gown and a cardigan as a beard!), silly games, the Queen's speech.

Now the Better-half and I have our own Christmas traditions. Every year we must buy new decorations to add to our growing collection. Christmas day starts with scrambled egg at the crack of dawn (sometimes before, more usually after, presents). Soccer AM's Christmas Special and Soccer Saturday's Christmas Special are required watching. As two people don't need a whole turkey Christmas dinner doesn't take hours to make (although it still manages hours of washing up!). There are games to be played (and lost by me), crackers to be pulled, and quite a lot of naps to be fitted in.

Christmas is a time of family, fun and laughter - and a lot of sparkly lights!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

What was lost

Things go missing around me all the time. The problem is that there are so many places things can just get put down. My glasses - I have three pairs but can never find any (except when they are on my nose). My keys, my wallet, my gloves... always somewhere else.

Then there is the category of things that vanish completely, never to be found again (or so it would seem).

On top of the bookcase in the hall sit some rubber ducks who are too fancy for the bathroom. Amongst these were two tiny little ones. Suddenly one has gone missing (Kitten-cat is under suspicion). So I pulled the bookcase away from the wall.

I didn't find the duck but I did find; a wooden fish (so long missing I hadn't realised), a silver cat (which I thought was somewhere else), a glass bottle stopper (which I knew was down there, one of two, the other smashed), and, best of all, my toad pendant which I though must have been lost on the underground.
 In the spirit of finding things I knew that I good few things had fallen off the desk (definitely Kitten-cat this time). The stapler was what I was looking for, the Cancer Research bobble, the hair tie and the tube of Lanacane were just bonuses!
Every year one of the Christmas decorations gets left behind after everything else has been put away. Rather than unpacking all the boxes again the decoration in question will sit somewhere random for 11 months waiting. The problem is we usually forget about it; then there is the panic when we realise that it is missing. This year it was the flying sheep - a gift from my Mum years ago. Eventually found in the bedroom on a snowglobe shelf.




Days like yesterday give me hope for the many other missing bits and pieces, and faith they will eventually be found.

A street divided

Chancery Lane runs norht/south from High Holborn to Fleet Street.

Chancery Lane is a street divided as it would appear to fall under the jurisdiction of three London Boroughs. The East side of the street sits in the City of London; the west side of the street is divided between the Borough of Camden in the North and the City of Westminster in the South.

Must make refuse collection a nightmare!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

可以您活在有趣的时期

There is an alleged Chinese Curse "May you live in interesting times". According to Wikipedia no conclusive evidence of the origin of this phrase has ever been found... however it just about sums up December in the construction industry.

I think it can best be summed up by Donald Rumsfeld "There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.".
 
Current jobs have deadlines that are coming up before the break - everybody wants stuff finished before the holiday or first in the queue in the New Year. It is a fact that there are a few 'on the shelf' jobs which will resurrect themselves briefly before the break (just because they can) and cause resource chaos (two staff are off on break early). If every other year that I can remember since starting work is any indicator there will also be completely random exercises that appear from nowhere just to really throw the cat among the pigeons.

Add to the mix the variety of Christmas obligations that work throws up when project teams have parties, and the office party and so forth... season lightly with people getting colds and going off sick.

Interesting times... it certainly will be.


Friday, 25 November 2011

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Another London day

Horseguards and The Mall are decked out in their flag-flying finery. Google News confirmed to me that there is a three day state visit from the Turkish head-of-state. I think the Turkish flag gave that away!

Uploaded by nat_mach on November 25, 2011
© All rights reserved

I was out and about today, and on my way back I saw some classy pigeons - no chocolate muffins dropped on the pavement for these guys - it's table service only!

Uploaded by nat_mach on No

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A year has gone by...

...since my lovely Dad passed away. Today we went to the lovely churchyard (in the middle of beautiful countryside) to visit him and put some new flowers down (just in time for winter frosts!).

Afterwards we drove to a nearby pub in Chiddingstone (a tiny Kentish village near to where my Mum grew up) which does suitably 'gastro' food - which my father would have approved of... if there was one thing my Dad enjoyed it was a good meal!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Little London Moments


This pigeon has an unexpected treat for lunch. Not only half a chocolate muffin - but he has it all to himself!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bonfire Night

Ok. So actually that was yesterday. I missed quite a lot of the local noise due to the fact that I had a nap between 6 and 9. I'm also far to lazy to make my way all the way to Blackheath for the municipal fireworks...

Not that, if you live in South East London, you'd be sure when Bonfire Night was... they started on Friday and they're still going on tonight. 

What annoys me every year is the fact that I'm pretty certain that most people have no idea what they are 'celebrating' on Bonfire Night.

In 1605 on the night of 4th November Guy Fawkes was discovered in an undercroft guarding barrels of gunpowder. The plot that was uncovered was to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and more to the point the King (James I). Fawkes and his 12 co-conspirators wanted to rid England of the Protestant James I and replace him with a Catholic monarch.

On the 5th November the citizens of London were encouraged to light bonfires to celebrate the deliverance of the King. In January 1606 an Act of Parliament 'Observance of 5th November Act 1605' was passed and not repealed until 1859.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion with people thinking that there is a revolutionary or anarchic undertone to Bonfire Night; probably due to the movie (and comic book series) V for Vendetta where the protagonist is an anarchist wearing a Guy Fawkes mask working to bring down the government. The Guy Fawkes part might be accurate but the celebration part is upside down in this case.

I'm not a huge fan of Bonfire Night. I didn't like fireworks as a small child (although I've grown out of that!) - I think generally the night puts a strain on the Fire Brigade, upsets pets (and small children), and (honestly) is a terrible waste of money.

I support municipal displays... at least then they'd only happen on one night - well, apart from all the religious festivals and New Year!

Friday, 4 November 2011

London Poppy Day

Yesterday was London Poppy Day. I only found this out because I had the unfortunate necessity of having to take myself to a meeting and back on the Underground.

At Green Park and at Holborn (and many others besides, I'm sure) there were soldiers with trays of poppies collecting for the Royal British Legion.

"London Poppy Day, wear your Poppy with Pride".



As a child I used to go out with my Grandmother where she lived collecting for the Poppy Appeal. I remember back then you used to get one or two poppies a tray with leaves on - now they all have the leaves. 

When I got back to Green Park I met these two extremely well dressed soldiers who kindly let me take their photos for the article.

As I pointed out, I was a bit late with the whole London Poppy Day bit. "Don't worry," one of them told me, "we'll be here all week".

Green Park is well situated near to Horseguards and the Household Cavalry barracks to get a good lot of soldiers (I counted four on my way back from the meeting).


The new lift at Green Park
In other news, the lifts have finally opened at Green Park. This station is now accessible from platform to street level. Here's my list of reasons why that isn't true (I was on my crutches yesterday not in my wheelchair). I was headed to the Piccadilly line. The lift from the ticket hall takes you to the intermediate level. From there it is a lengthy walk to another lift down to the platform, where you step up onto the train. I was exhausted by the time I got onto the train. If I'd been in a wheel chair I'd have had to clamber out to get the chair up the few inches onto the train.

TfL and accessibility are two words that don't go together.

Halloween 2011

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Halloween 2011, a set on Flickr.
Monday night saw Halloween roll around again.

We don't go to costume parties, we don't get any kids trick or treating, we don't decorate the house... apart from pumpkins.

Two pumpkins this year - one small and one large. The flesh isn't good for much but I do save the pips and roast them to eat later.

It really is just about carving pumpkins. This year there was the traditional jack'o'lantern and a more ambitious attempt of a a cat watching a bat.

They were lit every night until the smaller one started to rot and the candles ran out.