28 February 2007

It got me!

Today I started with what could well be MAN FLU! Friends, look out, I may soon be in great need of sympathy! This could turn out to be life threatening! I even sneezed earlier!

Everything else has been pretty quiet so far this week, nothing out of the ordinary going wrong at work, nothing out of the ordinary happening at home.

We are starting to look at more gigs that we would like to attend and the next one looks like being a band called The Silver Dogs. This is a band that we have not seen before, playing at a venue we have never visited before, but I am keen to catch up with them and especially their violin player Mark “The Mad Fiddler” Knight! Mark used to play with the Bluehorses a few years ago and it has been way too long since we met up with him!

Lynda and I are also looking at trips to Cumbria and Scotland later in the year but they both depend on finding places to stay and also things fitting into place with gigs / The Whitehaven International Maritime Festival / Highland Games / work and money!

So, that’s about it for the week so far.

26 February 2007

Was it you?

If you checked this Blog at 7:30PM, UK time, today and use NTL then you were my 2500th visitor!

Thank you!

25 February 2007

After The Rain...

It’s the end of another weekend and it’s been a good one!

On Friday evening, we went to see Last Night’s Fun play at the Derby Assembly Rooms and it was a great night of music and laughter! This band has to be seen playing live to fully appreciate just how entertaining they are.

Right from the word go it was a display of musical brilliance, coupled with a never-ending supply of humour. It they cut out all the interaction between themselves, and also the audience, they may well fit in another three or four songs but that is not what Last Night’s Fun are about, they are out and out entertainment and that is what we got on Friday!

The newest band member, Ciaran Boyle, is going to prove to be a great asset to the band; his bodhran playing is just awesome! I’ve seen a fair few people play bodhran over the years but this guy is something else; the range of sound that he can produce is just unbelievable. I suppose we should have expected something a bit special after watching him tune up before the gig. He took twice as long as the rest of the band making sure everything was just perfect - it shows! Roll on the next Last Night’s Fun gig we can attend.

On Saturday, I was in work in the morning. Nothing special, just another day at the office… things went to plan, others didn’t, and it rained on the way home. Well, more like it poured down! The short trip home in the car meant that the weather wasn’t too much of a problem, if you happened to be the one in the car! Lynda was that one; she had been into Derby shopping! I was the fool on the mountain bike that looked like a drowned rat!

Saturday evening was much better - we were at our second gig of the year and of the weekend. This time it was The Flowerpot in Derby to see Karnataka. After the big change in line up, since the last time I saw this band, I was a little unsure as to what they would sound like. I needn't have worried, they were amazing.

The set they played lasted for the best part of two hours and was made up of around 18 tracks. State of Grace kicked things off, quickly followed by After The Rain (quite fitting after the weather on Saturday!). A little later in the set came the stunning Delicate Flame of Desire, one of my favourite Karnataka tracks.

After a short interval, we were treated to more classic numbers… Time Stands Still; Dreamer; I Should Have Known and, the eagerly awaited, The Storm. This may well have been the first night of the new tour but it didn’t show at all - the band played superbly. Now, I just need to work out how I can catch up with them again later in the tour.

Today, I was hoping to be out birding in the county for the first time this year - it didn’t happen! The weather report was for heavy rain all day, so I stayed in bed. In the end, it was dry all morning so I could have gone out after all - sorry Paul, we’ll try again for next weekend!

21 February 2007

Random bits of nothing…

I’m starting to think that spring is slowly creeping in; I rode in to work on the bike this morning without having to use my lights, the birds were singing their heads off all along my route and this evening the song was even louder as the Blackbirds claimed their roosting territory. The lights on the bike were on this evening but only as an extra safety feature, I didn’t really need them as it was still quite light.

On Friday, we will be at our first gig of the year - Last Night’s Fun at the Derby Assembly Rooms. Then, just like busses arriving one after another, we should be at our second gig of the year on Saturday. I say should because I haven’t had time to purchase tickets for this one yet! So, if we can get in, we will be seeing Karnataka at The Flowerpot, Derby, on Saturday evening. After that, there is a few weeks break before the next gig that will be Thee na Shee, at The Flowerpot, on St. Patrick’s Night, March 17.

I received an events diary from the British Heart Foundation earlier in the week that lists many of the forthcoming fund raising events. Apart from the High Peak Trail walk in November, that I have taken part in for the past couple of years, another event has grabbed my attention - a bike ride in the Derbyshire Peak District, in April.

Participants can choose two distances, either 30 miles or 57 miles. Right now, I am feeling as though I may just fancy a go at the 57 miles! The only reservation I have is that my old timer of a bike may not be quite up to the terrain! I have requested more information on the route and location of this ride so I should be in a position to make a decision soon. Yes, I WILL be chasing sponsorship!

One final little bit of news; I have been made aware of a new Blog site today, the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project. In 2006 a pair of Peregrine nested on the cathedral tower and for this year a Blog site has been created to follow the fortunes of the birds. The site is still in the early stages of development but over the coming weeks there may well be web-cam coverage available. Add the link to your favourites and follow the story as it unfolds.

20 February 2007

Yesterday was Lynda’s birthday, I’d have loved to have been able to take the day off work so that we could have spent the day out and about somewhere but staff levels at work dictated otherwise - the boss booked time off before I could! Strange how he only told me he was going to be off work after I asked for the day off!

We did go out for a meal last night though, we went over to The Boar's Head at Sudbury again. I’m starting to rather like the place after these first two visits. The food has been superb on both occasions and the service excellent.

We started the evening with drinks in the lounge before moving through to the restaurant to eat. Lynda had melon and oranges in Cointreau to start, followed by venison with mushrooms and onion in a Port and wild berry sauce. I chose roast tomato and basil soup, again followed by the venison.

For the sweets, Lynda had crystallised pineapple with a ginger and chilli dressing - it sounded like a strange combination to me, but Lynda said that it was very nice! - whilst I chose lattice pancakes with mixed summer berries and ice cream.

We finished with coffees, served back in the lounge area, and then, before we left, we spent a while chatting with the owner about my family history! It certainly is a small world - he knew more about many of my relations than I did!

18 February 2007

The past two days...

Yesterday, Lynda and I joined up with the Derby RSPB Local Group for a birding trip to Pennington Flash and Martin Mere, both in Lancashire. This was the first proper birding that we had done since the trip to Far Ings back on December 9th and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day.

As we left Derby, the weather was dry but it was very overcast and dull but at least it was not raining, I hate birding in the rain! As we travelled north, the skies slowly started to clear and, by the time we reached Pennington, the sun started to come out. By 10:30AM we had blue skies and very little in the way of cloud - much more to my liking.

Blue skies over Pennington.

Birds seen at Pennington included Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, Goldeneye, Goosander, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a single Skylark in rather early song flight, Willow Tit, a couple of Jay and some superb male Bullfinch. The light during the morning was perfect for birding and allowed me to get some of the better photos I’ve taken through my birding ‘scope.

Male Bullfinch at the feeding station - taken through my 'scope.

By 12:30PM, it was time for us to move on to Martin Mere. This was the part of the day that I was really looking forward to - Martin Mere in winter is one of my favourite reserves in the country. It has superb facilities, a large number of hides spread around the reserve that give great views of the mere and surrounding countryside and it also has the added attraction of a large captive collection of waterfowl to look around. Add to that the huge numbers of swans, geese and ducks that are attracted to the reserve and you can easily spend a whole day there.

On arrival at Martin Mere, the first stop was at the visitor centre to purchase a couple of bags of corn. Then it was out into the captive area in search of Nene. When visiting a Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust reserve we ALWAYS have to feed the Nene. These geese have to be some of the friendliest, and nicest looking, geese in the world. They're also one of the most endangered!

Nene or Hawaiian Geese.

From the Nene, we moved on to the wild part of the reserve and the birding proper. The numerous hides gave us very good views of the 1400+ Whooper Swan as well as the thousands of Pink-footed Geese that also over winter in the area. We also saw birds that included Barnacle Geese, Wigeon, Pintail, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing - in their thousands, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit. Smaller birds included Stonechat, Tree Sparrow and a single male Brambling - bird of the day for me.

Some of the many wild swans on the mere.

Once again, the light was near to perfect here and that, coupled with the closeness of many of the birds, let me play around with the camera and ‘scope again. My favourite shot being of a group of Lapwing roosting in the sunset. So, all in all a great day's birding. Hopefully that will now kick start my local patch watching and I’ll be back out with the binoculars again next weekend.

Lapwing as the sun set over Martin Mere.

More photos from the birding trip HERE!

Today, I had a bit of a lie in, uploaded some photos onto Shutterfly and then did a little bit of gardening. After that, I made sure that all the bird feeders were topped up and then checked my bike over ready for work tomorrow. There is no way that I’m getting caught up in the nightmare traffic on Pride Park again unless I really have to!

Monday to Friday

As you may guess from the lack of updates on here this week, it has been a quiet few days. It went something like…

Monday - Work was a pain as we had no internet access for much of the day! No internet means no contact with our parts supplier and no way of requesting parts returns etc! Lynda and I were at the gym in the evening.

Tuesday - I was on the internet at home at 6:45AM doing all the things that I couldn’t do at work on Monday! When I got into work, the internet was fine! I could have stayed in bed a little longer! Rode to work and back on the mountain bike.

Wednesday - Valentines Day! A dozen red roses for Lynda and then we had pizza and a rather nice bottle of red wine in the evening.

Thursday - Derby came to a halt from late afternoon onwards. Seven weeks of road works started on the A52 heading out of town and all the surrounding roads, including Pride Park, were gridlocked! I walked to the gym after work - around ¾ of a mile - and I arrived at the same time as Lynda who had driven less than half a mile to get there. Some of the people at work took almost an hour to drive the mile or so off Pride Park!

Friday - It was damp and drizzly in the morning so I didn’t bother with the bike - big mistake! By 3:00PM, all the roads on Pride Park were at a standstill again. By 5:30PM, it was gridlock. Lynda left work at the same time that I did and drove home; I chose to walk the 2 or 3 miles and arrived just five minutes after she did!

I'll update you on the weekend a little later!

11 February 2007

So, the snow came - around two or three inches of it here I guess. It arrived just as the forecast had predicted, smack in the middle of the morning rush hour on Thursday! The drive into work was okay for us; all the main roads had been well gritted so it was just a case of taking it easy on the side roads.

The drive down to my meeting on Thursday was pretty routine too - the dual carriageways were clear of snow and, even though it was snowing quite heavily, visibility was not too bad. I even arrived a good 15 or 20 minutes early. Best to make a good impression.

The meeting itself went off without any real drama, now it’s just a case of waiting to see if we notice any improvement in service from the supplier. The birding was quite good from the meeting too - I had good views of a Common Snipe as it flew past the window, numerous Redwing and Fieldfare were feeding across the road from the building and a Common Buzzard was perched in a tree in direct line of sight from where I was sat!

On Thursday, around 30 of us from work went to Frankie & Benny’s for the evening - the boss was paying as a treat to us all for winning the UK Dealer of the Year Award. We started off by having six of their big Sampler Platters between us - there were chicken strips, BBQ wings, loaded potato skins, deep fried onion rings and garlic bread etc on those - and it would have been quite easy to have eaten too much as a starter! After that, everyone chose his or her own main course. I didn’t even have to open the menu; it just had to be Meatballs on Penne Pasta for me! I love ‘em!

Last night was yet more food - we went out with our good friends Mark and Sheila for a Cantonese buffet at the Jasmine Garden. The choice of dishes were as good as ever and we all made numerous trips back to restock our plates. The chicken and sweet corn soup was particularly good as was the sweet and sour chicken, the roast pork and the sesame toast! In fact, it was ALL good stuff!

Today, I have been back up at the farm helping my dad put up the final 12 nest boxes that he had. Most were small Blue Tit type boxes but there were also one or two larger ones, another two owl boxes and a single Woodpecker box. Hopefully they will all have residents in them this spring.

06 February 2007

The Colts won the Super Bowl, so the weekend ended on a high for me! The final score of 29-17 made the win look a little easier than it was. The whole game was played in the pouring rain and this resulted in one or two more errors than could normally be expected but it did make for an exciting game.

The new week did not start quite so well though. Getting to bed at almost 3:30AM took its toll on me as the day went on and by early evening, I was beat! I don’t think going to the gym after work helped either! By the time it came to riding into work this morning - in temperatures below freezing - I was back to normal again, must have been all the coffee I drank on Monday that was starting to kick-in.

We’ll be back at the gym again tomorrow, if the weather doesn’t stop us. Well, it is a different excuse to normal. The weather forecast is for between 4 and 5 inches of snow over the next 24/48 hours. Whether we actually get ANY snow remains to be seen! For once, I’d be rather pleased if we didn’t get any - I have to drive to a meeting on Thursday morning, just when the forecasters say we will get the heaviest falls!

Finally, and most importantly, congratulations to Paul and Ali on the arrival of Bethany Grace today. Hello to you, Bethany!

04 February 2007

It's all going good...

So far, so good! The weekend is panning out exactly as planned!

Derby County won yet again yesterday, a 1-0 victory over Southampton. Derby are now 6 points clear at the top of the table, although they have played two games more than fourth place Birmingham City, who are on 54 points.

England took Scotland apart in the 6 Nations Rugby yesterday afternoon, winning 42-20. Star of the game had to be the returning Johnny Wilkinson. In his first England game since 2003 - when he scored that last gasp drop goal to win the World Cup - Wilkinson scored 27 of England’s 42 points. He even managed a rather contentious “flying try” that many think should not have been awarded!

Today, Lynda and I met up with my mum and dad for lunch. We went over to The Boar’s Head Hotel at Sudbury. This was the first time Lynda and I had been there but it is a regular haunt of my parents - they have been going there for Christmas Day dinner for a few years now. I think we will be going back! The food was gorgeous - especially my Venison and Partridge Casserole! Oh, and there can’t be too many restaurants in Derbyshire that had six rather nice Corvette Stingrays in the car park today!

So, that just leaves tonight. After I post this, I will be shutting the PC down for a while and going in search of TV food. Tonight, it’s the American Football Super Bowl! Kick off is at 11:25PM UK time so it looks like it will be a very late night for me, or should that be an early morning? One way or an other I can’t see me doing too much at work tomorrow! The coffee machine may well be in for a hard time in the morning - “I’ll have a 76 please - Cappuccino with no extra sugar!

One last little thing. Would anyone care to sponsor me to £10’000? The novelty of the new TV and DVD is starting to wear a little thin and I’ve found a new “toy” that I’d like please! And it's road legal!

03 February 2007

Firstly, I have to say sorry to Sheila! On Tuesday’s Blog post I said that we would be at the gym on Wednesday evening - we weren’t! Sorry! We had planned on going, and even had our gym kits in the car, but I didn’t feel too good during Wednesday afternoon so I chose to give the gym a miss! We SHOULD be there on Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week with luck - best to check first though!

On Thursday evening, we collected the new video/DVD recorder. Disconnecting the old video and separate DVD player only took a couple of minutes and the new unit went straight into its “auto set-up” programme as soon as I turned on the power. “Great” I thought, “this is a piece of cake”.

Only problem was I couldn’t get any picture on the TV at all! After about another 10 minutes of trying the tuning on the TV again and checking all the connections and leads I found I was one Scart short of a signal - I had not connected one of the leads. In fact, it was still at the far end of the room with the old DVD player! Everything is working a treat now though.

Shortly after we got in from the gym last night, we received a phone call from Paul, a friend of ours, to tell us that Saturn was visible just below the moon if we fancied a look. So, it was out with the birding ‘scope, on with a sweatshirt and out into the back garden. Yep, he was right; sure enough, there was Saturn, complete with its rings! Okay, through a birding ‘scope it wasn’t the best view but it was still worth a look, especially as the sky was so clear. The moon looked much more impressive to me though!

Taken through my birding 'scope.

As Lynda needed the car this morning, to go into Derby for an eye test, I went to work on the mountain bike again even though it was still -2°C at 8:00AM. Apart from having to watch out for the odd icy patch along the riverside path it was one of the nicest rides I have had for a while. The sun was coming up in a clear blue sky, the birds were singing and there was a light mist over the water. It was one of those mornings when I could have just kept on riding - or at least just sat and watched the river and the birds pass by.

The River Derwent this morning - taken with phone camera.