28 April 2006

It's been a busy week one way or another! Work was a lot easier than I had expected on Monday with no major problems waiting for my return! It wasn't until Tuesday that I started to uncover some of the things that had been "left for me"!

The gym has been a no no this week, just not enough time! Next week will see a return to the workouts.

This weekend we are away again for a few days. We are going to Sussex with the Derby RSPB Group. Each year the group have a long weekend away birdwatching and this year we are based in Chichester. The hotel sounds OK, it has its own leisure club, swimming pool and, of course, a bar! That will do for the evenings I'm sure.

All we need now is for the weather to stay dry and we should be in for a good time. Talking of the weather... I should have been off racing last Sunday with Gary but yet again, it was rained off. Looks like it could be a short season for us at this rate.

Highlight of the week so far? The new Albannach CD arrived! I only ordered it at around 11:00PM on Monday and it came in the post Wednesday, can't fault that for service! I can't fault the CD either, it's great!

24 April 2006

The holiday week.

Well, we all made it back in one piece. Most of our little party managed to pick up the odd bruise, or lose a little bit of skin at some point whilst charging around at Center Parcs but on the whole no real damage was done! Either we are all getting better at avoiding the walls on the rapids or we're just getting older and more careful - I'm not sure which.

So, Lynda and I arrived at Sherwood Forest dead on 10:00AM on Monday and met up with Mark, Sheila and their boys, Adam, Charlie and Ben, before heading off to the swimming dome for the rest of the morning and the early part of the afternoon. With three youngsters in the group it was always going to be fun around the pool and water rides - this wasn't meant as a quiet break! Within minutes of finding a corner of the subtropical dome to call our own we were in the water. A quick swim and then it was down the outdoor rapids for the first time - I picked up two bruises and a scraped elbow, my only damage of the week! The rest of the time was spent either in the main pool, on one of the water slides or sitting getting our breath back!

The main pool.

At around 3:30PM we headed off to find our villa for the week. Lynda and I have been to Sherwood Center Parcs many times and have never had a problem finding our way around. This time was different - for me. I picked up the car from the car park and headed off to meet up with everyone else. No problem, I knew just where I was going. On the first lap of the one way system there was no sign of, or to, villa 247! On the second lap I missed it again, third time around and I saw Lynda and Sheila walking towards where I thought the villa should be - follow them! By this time Mark had found 247, parked his car, and started unloading. I'll know this bit of the village for next time.

Villa 247.

Monday night's meal out was at Huckleberry's, the American themed diner. We sure ate our fill in there I can tell you! Burgers, with all the extras, were the main choice for us followed by large amounts of ice-cream, oh, and a few rounds of drinks too - start the week as we meant to go on!

Tuesday saw us back in the pool area again for most of the afternoon, after Adam had spent the morning climbing around in the tree tops on the Adventure Challenge Course. Having seen the height of some of the rope ladders, swings and walkways, rather him than me!

Our evening was then spent in Luciano's the Italian restaurant. For me, this was possibly the best meal of the week. I started with bruschetta bread, covered with mushrooms, then had meatballs with a gorgeous tomato sauce, on penne pasta. For a sweet I chose the Tiramisu. Add to that little lot a very nice red wine and I was rather pleased with the whole evening!

When we are at Center Parcs I like to have just one day when I do very little, spend time just relaxing and generally winding down, Wednesday was that day. After having breakfast everyone went out for a walk around the village and also stopped at the Country Club for a light lunch. I stayed in the villa listening to music and reading a magazine. Later in the afternoon Mark and I spent 3 hours in the Aqua Sana spa.

The spa was one of the most relaxing places I've ever been! There was a choice of steam rooms, a dry sauna, a spa pool, reflexology footbaths, a Japanese Salt Bath - my favourite - as well as "Multi Sensory Showers"! The showers were great, just so long as you chose a warm setting and NOT one of the ice cold ones! I did use the ice flakes to rub over my skin after the sauna though. The one room I would have liked to spend more time in was the meditation room. Here it was almost totally dark with just the smallest amount of light being reflected onto the roof from a small pool of water. The air was full of the scent of lemon, and gentle music played in the background - I had to leave this room before I fell asleep!

On Wednesday evening Lynda and I chose to eat in the Indian restaurant. This was the only night that we ate alone as no one else in our little party liked Indian food. It was also the night that provided the meal to equal the food in the Italian. We shared Chicken dumplings to start with, followed by Chicken Korma, mushrooms in rice and also Peshwari Naan Bread. Not the most challenging of Indian meals but it was superb and, for once, we didn't eat so much that it made us feel as though our stomachs would burst!

We started Thursday with full cooked breakfasts in Chez Pierre, another of the things we always do at least once each time we are at Center Parcs. The diet goes out of the window when we're on holiday! After that it was back to the dome for more fun in the water. It's suprising just how quick the time goes once you get in there, we spent the best part of the day either in the pool, on the water slides or just sat around watching the world go by.

The water jet in the main pool.

Late in the afternoon Mark and Charlie went off to have a go at target archery. Lynda and I watched them for a while before it started to rain, so we set off back to the villa, me for a beer, Lynda to start and get ready for going out in the evening. As this was the last night of the holiday we all ate together, again in Huckleberry's. First stop though was the bar, Lynda needed to have at least one Pina Colada before the end of the week! Me and Mark, we settled for a beer, much better in my opinion.

After about half of her drink the alcohol started to take effect with Lynda! One silly record played in the children's disco and the "big kids" started playing up!


Time we headed off in search of food! Again, we ate huge amounts, steaks, burgers, ice cream and more beers. If we ate like this all the time then we'd all need to live at the gym. All too soon it was time to head back to the villa and the comfort of being able to sit and let our food settle a little before bed - helped down by another beer or two of course!

Us? Drunk? No!

Friday, our last day. We got the cars all packed by around 9:00AM and went for breakfast in Chez Pierre again, before going back into the swimming dome one last time. Another five or six hours flew by in no time; more goes down the rapids, more swimming, another ride down the water slide in the overgrown inner tube, with Lynda screaming again!

Then came the bad part of the week, time to head for home. After a quick detour into the sweet shop, we always have to take home a pick n' mix bag, we said our goodbyes to everyone and started our short journey home.

Oh, a couple of great quotes from the week.....

Ben, on seeing the rather artistically placed red sauce on his mums sweet in the Italian resaurant... "Mum, I think the chef's stabbed someone!" then, after running his finger through the sauce and tasting it.. " Yeah, it's blood!" he then went back to the picture he was colouring! Classic stuff!

And Lynda, after her first ride on the water raft ride... "My knees are shaking!!!"

Here's to our next holiday together!

16 April 2006

The last post! Well, for about a week. In a little over 12 hours, we will be at Center Parcs.

The past couple of days have been nice and steady - Saturday morning at work was very relaxed, for a change, and all I did was make sure that everything that I could do to make things run as smoothly as possible next week was done. The rest is out of my hands!

Yesterday evening Lynda and I went out for a meal at The Old Plough, in Weston on Trent, with some of her family. It was the first time we had been in there since it changed owners - it is now a much better place to eat!

I can't remember what everyone else ate but I had Onion Bhajis as a starter, followed by Chicken Jalfrezi. Both were very nice. Although I was pretty well full after the first two courses, I still found room for a waffle with ice cream and strawberry sauce!

If all that food wasn't enough, today Lynda cooked our first Christmas lunch of the year. At Easter we always have turkey and all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding - very good it was too!

Now, it's time for a whisky.


14 April 2006

Count down...

Well, that's another day done with. Only Saturday morning left to do at work and then I'm off for a whole week!

If you work at Center Parcs, and are reading this... get me a beer ready! We're on our way! Hey, if nobody reads this it doesn't matter, we already have the beer ready to take with us!

By Monday afternoon, we will all be in the heat of the subtropical dome at Sherwood Forest, enjoying the pool, the rapids, the wave machine and the new water flume ride.

In the evenings, you will find us in one of the bars or restaurants, or in our villa. Wherever you find us, it will be with food and drink close at hand!

Are we there yet?

13 April 2006

Only 13 more hours at work and then I'm on holiday! Saturday lunchtime cannot come around soon enough; this has been another of those weeks I would rather forget. Work has been a total pain - or should I say - we have again made work a total pain! Talk about creating our own problems, if there has been some way of making the job more difficult then we have found it over the past few days. As for what I'll come back to after a week away, I hate to think!

On a more pleasant note, bird flu has dropped out of the news again. I think it may have something to do with no other birds being found with the virus, that and the fact that the people responsible for running the tests couldn't even get the identification of the dead bird correct! The "Mute Swan" that had died in the Scottish harbour now turns out to be a Whooper Swan that could well have died out at sea or even in another country before being washed up on the coast here. So, its fingers crossed and let's hope that we have escaped H5N1 again - for now!

Is it Monday yet? If so then I should be at Center Parcs!

09 April 2006

Am I now fit again?

I did the "tread and shed" class again at the gym on Friday - 45 minute workout on a treadmill - and came through it without any problems with my knees. This is the first time in more than two years that I've been able to do that. I covered the first 5km in 25.33 min and managed 8km in 44.11 min. Not exactly marathon pace but good for me.

Starting the morning under blue skies!

Yesterday I put my legs through their paces again walking in the Peak District. I didn't cover a huge distance, around six miles, but the going was rather tough at times as was the weather. When I left home at 6:15AM it had the look of being a fine morning, after driving for only a short while I started seeing cars coming towards Derby with snow on them! By the time I arrived at Ladybower Reservoir the surrounding moorland was covered in snow, not very good for birdwatching!

It's a tough place to live.

The weather put paid to any chance of finding my target birds for the day, Ring Ouzel and Goshawk, so I set about enjoying the moorland views and the fact that I was out in the open and away from work. In a strange kind of way I actually enjoyed the numerous hail and snow storms that appeared out of nowhere during the morning. Bird highlights included Peregrine Falcon, Red Grouse, Curlew, Siskin and Grey Wagtail.

The Derwent Reservoir.

This morning I gave myself the luxury of an extra hour in bed, well it is Sunday, and didn't get up until 7:00AM. As the weather forecast was for heavy rain by midday I chose to stay local for my morning's birding. Twenty minutes after getting out of bed I was at Aston On Trent gravel pits.

The whole morning was a total contrast to yesterday. The sun was out, the sky was mostly blue and the birds showed well. Okay, so the views didn't compare to the snow covered moors but it was the birds I was here for today! In just under four hours I found a total of 45 species including three new year birds - Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and White Wagtail. Later I'll update my Derbyshire Year List but the new birds today should take me to 104 species for the County and 110 for the year in the UK.

Oh, the rain. It was just under an hour late! I managed to get home, mow the lawns and clear everything away just before the rain started at 12:50PM!

06 April 2006

H5N1 - Bird flu. Looks like that will be the "in phrase" with the media for a while now!

It has been confirmed today that the Mute Swan picked up dead in Scotland a few days ago did indeed die from the H5N1 strain of bird flu. Tests are also being carried out on a number of other dead swans to see if they too died because of the virus.

I guess only time will tell just how this will be dealt with; we can only hope that the authorities do a better job of managing this than they did the Foot and Mouth outbreak of a few years ago!

The Defra website
gives some useful information on what to do if you come across any dead birds, and also lists their helpline phone number.

As for the rest of my news, well, it's been a week from Hell! I'll be glad when 5:30PM arrives tomorrow and I can forget about work for two days - who knows, if my six numbers come up on the Lottery on Saturday I'll have done my last day's work! I wish!

Apart from trying to watch as much of the US Masters Golf on TV as I can this weekend, the only other thing I have planned is a trip into the Derbyshire Peak District in search of Ring Ouzel and Crossbill. If the weather isn't too bad I may check out a few local sites to see what migrant birds are around.

04 April 2006


Yet another cracking gig last night at the "new look" Robin. Bluehorses played a blinder of a set to one of the biggest crowds I've seen at this venue.

The journey down took us less than an hour, in pouring rain and strong winds, and we arrived in plenty of time for a drink in the bar before the "gig room" opened. Once inside, the alterations that have been made at The Robin soon became apparent - the whole place has a much better atmosphere, more room and just "felt better"! This venue has been a favourite of mine for a couple of years and the work that has been carried out makes it more so now.

Even though this was a Sunday night gig, it was very well supported by the regular "Travelling Circhorse" of fans! It was great meeting up with the likes of Steve, Jonathan, Graham, Mike, Andy, Hev, Dawn and Anna again after the winter break.

As for the music played... Bigger Gun, Black Is The Colour and Night Visit all stood out, but again it was the awesome Skyclad that gets my vote as best on the night!

Roll on the next Bluehorses gig! But not another Sunday night - please! I've been no use at all today at work!

02 April 2006

Early start - late finish!

It's still only 1:00PM on a Sunday and I've already been up for over 6½ hours! What's more, I can't see me being in bed much before 2:00AM as it's the Bluehorses gig in Bilston tonight! I'm going to be full of the joys of spring tomorrow, I don't think!

This morning I've been out birding again for a few hours. Before the rain made me head for home, at around 11:30AM, I managed to add another 3 new species onto my Derbyshire Year List - Common Tern, Little Ringed Plover and Ringed Plover. This takes my Derbyshire count for the year to 101. The next couple of weeks should see another 10 or 15 species added to that list when all the summer migrants arrive in the county.

Black-headed Gulls & Tufted Duck at Ambaston.

As for the rest of today... I think it's a pretty safe bet that I'll be asleep in front of the TV at some point this afternoon, after that it will be a steady drive down to Bilston, a beer or two, then the Bluehorses gig!

Tomorrow... I will rest (at work!)