27 February 2008

So, what's next?

So far this year we’ve had heavy rain and flooding, we’ve had a couple of snow days, we’ve had two weeks of freezing temperatures and we’ve had a day or two of gales. There have even been days when the sun came out and it really did feel as though spring had arrived, it was that warm.

After such a mixed start to the year you’d think that nature would have just about run out of things to throw at us but oh no, Mother Nature played her ace card in the early hours of this morning... an earthquake! Not just any old earthquake either, it was the strongest to hit the UK for almost 25 years measuring 5.2 on the Richter Scale.

I can’t help but wonder just what may be next... a hurricane; a tornado; an ice storm or blizzard perhaps? How about a tidal wave on the River Derwent? Or a Tsunami on Alvaston Lake? Another three or four days of dry weather will do for me, so that I don’t get wet on my bike!

25 February 2008

Ravens stage takeover bid!

Just a very quick "extra" posting...

Today, a pair of Ravens tried to move in on the Derby Cathedral Peregrines! Yes, that’s right... Ravens in the centre of Derby!

I wasn’t fortunate enough to witness this but, having read the Peregrine blog, it sounds like they were pretty serious in their attempt to set up home on the tower.

Full details, complete with "eye witness accounts", at... Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project - 2008

24 February 2008

This week...

Derby has finally come out of its mini ice age; the temperatures are now back above freezing, even at night. The downside to this is that warmer, wetter weather has now set in. For over two weeks I have been able to use the bike to get to and from work each day but it looks like I’ll have to keep more of an eye on the weather forecast now. It does mean I may get to drive the new car for a change though!

A somewhat stressful few days at work took its toll on my diet this week. Since Christmas I had been managing to lose a little weight each week, nothing too much but I hadn't put any on. This week a bit too much comfort eating saw me put on 4lbs!

Looking back, I think 4lbs is quite a reasonable price to pay for the amount of rubbish I ate! The latter part of the week was the worst... four Muffins in the space of about as many hours on Thursday; a sausage, bacon, egg, cheese and hash brown sandwich on Friday and then another very large sausage and bacon sandwich yesterday morning! Add to that one or two cans of beer and the odd whisky during the week, plus half a bottle of red wine last night, and the calories soon add up!

What should have been a nice easy morning at work yesterday turned into a real headache when I discovered a problem with the fish tank in the showroom. Whilst undertaking a routine water change and filter clean I found that one of the water pumps was not working. This meant that not only was the filter system not working correctly but also, more worryingly, the warm water was not being circulated fast enough. Some of the larger fish were getting rather stressed by the cool water and didn’t look too healthy at all for a while.

Thankfully, after sending another member of staff out for a new pump, and then spending a couple of hours extra at work myself, I managed to get the new pump in place and the whole system up and running again. I quick visit to work this morning saw all the fish looking happy with everything again. I’m not sure who was the most relieved to have everything back to normal, the fish or me! Due to the money the company has invested in the tank, it may well be me!

Please, someone, pass me a beer!

17 February 2008

Same old, same old...

Another very quiet week this week, but the weekend has been a little busier...

The weather has continued pretty much as it was last weekend - very clear, bright days with temperatures then falling below freezing each night. This has meant that I have been able to use the bike to get to work every day - something I haven't managed since the middle of last year. With luck, and a few more clear days, I should be able to start and use the longer, riverside route home in the evenings soon as the early evening light improves.

Thursday was, of course, Valentine's Day. I had arranged for a dozen red roses to be delivered to Lynda's work for her - I didn't think that they'd fair too well if I brought them home in my rucksack on the bike!

On Saturday, we had a trip into Derby. After a bit of shopping, and me getting a haircut, we retired to the Standing Order for lunch! After a very nice rump steak each, a bottle of wine, two coffees and also two muffins we headed for home! It was the first time I'd been in the Standing Order and I must say I can think of a lot worse ways to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon! Luckily, we left the car at home and travelled on the bus... as Lynda said "It's not good is it, this drinking at lunchtime!"

This morning I was successful in talking Lynda into coming out on her bike with me. I wasn't all that convinced she would come out as the weather wasn't exactly warm! Overnight the temperature had dropped to minus 7c and as we set off at 10:00AM it was still minus 2c! Being as Lynda hadn't used her bike in a long, long time I chose a nice easy route, with nothing that could be called a "hill".

A frosted tree in Elvaston Castle Park.

We rode through Alvaston to Elvaston Castle, out to the river at Borrowash and then back towards Derby. We stopped off at Alvaston Lake to have a quick check on the birds there but, due to most of the lake being covered with ice, there wasn't too much to see.

Lynda riding through the grounds of Elvaston Castle.

Riding past Alvaston Park lake.

From there we headed on to Pride Park for a refreshment stop. The newly opened Starbucks could well prove to be a regular stop off in future!

Coffee break!

After our coffee break, we retraced our tracks back to Alvaston Lake before joining the cycle path back home.

Lynda, happy to be heading home!

10 February 2008

Very little to report tonight...

The weather has turned on its head again since last weekend. From Tuesday afternoon onwards there has been a distinct feeling of Spring in the air! The birds have started to sing much more - we have a Blackbird and a Robin that are even singing in the middle of the night! - the sun has been out for long periods of time and is starting to have a lot more warmth to it, trees and bushes are starting to bud. On Wednesday and Thursday evening I even saw a couple of bats flying around as I cycled home!

Yesterday afternoon the new car was given its second wash - the novelty obviously hasn't worn off just yet! If the weather stays as it is I may well go for three washes in three weeks next weekend! A trip over to Nottingham in the evening gave the car its first out of town run and also gave me the chance to play with the trip computer. Its surprising just how carefully you can drive when trying - successfully - to get an average of over 45 MPG! I'm not so sure I'll be keeping an eye on the MPG reading on a motorway trip to Scotland though!

This morning started rather early for a Sunday. I was up, dressed and eating breakfast by 7:00AM. By 7:40AM I was on my bike and heading off into the now rising sun on a two hour, 26 mile, cycle ride around South Derbyshire. The first few miles were a little tricky due to the overnight frost leaving some of the roads and paths icy and also because I was riding straight into a very bright, and very low sunrise!

Sunrise over the Trent & Mersey Canal near Swarkestone.

My route took me out to Swarkestone, then Kings Newton, on to Melbourne, along side Staunton Harold Reservoir and then into Ticknall. From there I rode through Calke Park, which looked beautiful covered in a heavy frost, over to Breedon on the Hill and finally joined the Cloud Trail at Worthington in Leicestershire. From there it was a quick 10 mile sprint back home!

Route of the ride - plotted on Google Earth!

Wildlife highlights along the route included 8 Hares chasing each other around a frost covered field, 3 Jays, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Green Woodpecker, a male Yellowhammer, numerous Fieldfare and Redwing, and dozens of Blackbirds, Robins and Song Thrush singing their hearts out. It may well have been cold (minus 2c when I set off) but it was one of the best mornings I've spent locally in a long time.

02 February 2008

Out with the old; in with the new...

Yesterday lunchtime, Lynda picked up our new car - a shiny black Fiesta Zetec - and said goodbye to our old red Zetec.

Unfortunately, yesterday afternoon also saw the return of Winter, luckily it was only a "one day special" - or at least it has been so far! At just after 3:00PM the skies over Derby suddenly started to darken, the wind picked up and the next thing I knew we had near blizzard conditions for almost half an hour, not the best of weather to take delivery of a "new" car. Still, the snow didn't last too long and by the time Lynda and I left work all trace of the afternoon's snow had gone again.

By the time we arrived home and had then driven into Derby and back for the Battlefield Band gig, the car was no longer quite so shiny! It had turned a horrible grey sort of colour due to all the salt that had been put down on the roads. So, this morning we treated our new little baby to a new sponge and leather and it's first bath. This is the first black car we've had and I can see that keeping it clean is going to be a bit of a challenge!

It cost me a few layers of skin from one of my knuckles but I also fitted mud flaps to the front and back of the car this afternoon so maybe, just maybe, they will help to keep the road dirt away from all that black paint. Black privacy glass isn't the easiest to clean either! Luckily, the blood from my knuckle washed off the alloy wheel, tyre and rear bumper okay! I'm getting to old to work on my own cars now!

Clean again; mud flaps fitted; all traces of blood removed!

Battlefield Band

The Battlefield Band gig last night was a real treat. The band played for just over two hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. The music they played ranged from slow, traditional folk to fast, upbeat tracks more in keeping with bands such as the Peatbog Faeries or Shooglenifty.

Highlight of the night for me had to be watching, and hearing, the Highland Pipes being played by Mike Katz - the man is simply amazing! The speed at which Mike's fingers were working was mesmerizing - without doubt the finest piper I've seen play so far.

My favourite track was The Road Of Tears, a song about the displacement of people over the centuries. The Highland Clearances, the famine in Ireland, the move away from their sacred tribal lands that was forced on the Native Americans, all are covered in The Road Of Tears.

The next time the Battlefield Band are in the area, I'll be there!