Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Stop Making Sense

As the Talking Heads soundtrack plays in my head as I read my way through David Byrne's excellent Bicycle Diaries, I am inspired to listen to some of his solo material that I've probably not played for several years. The first challenge was that much of it is on vinyl, and some has unfortunately been lost, so I've embarked on a rediscovery fest and downloaded a much extended version of the first solo album I heard, Knee Plays. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard this - in a second hand record shop in the market in Swansea. I don't remember the name of the shop and I have no idea if the shop is still there (I hope so) but as a student it provided me with some great music that the normal chain stores of the day simply didn't stock.

I also seem to have some holes in my David Byrne back catalogue where releases came out which completely passed me by. Having been a massive fan of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, I was aware of his recent collaboration with Brian Eno but was somewhat nervous in that I didn't believe it could ever better their first one. I finally took the plunge yesterday and downloaded Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Very pleased to say that my fears were not realised, and although it's nothing at all like Bush of Ghosts, it is still nevertheless a fantastic album ... and it also made me realise that I had in fact already heard some of these tracks when I saw him play live in Oxford a few years ago ... think I'll have to put that one down to old age.

So what next? Probably time to reacquaint myself with Songs From the Catherine Wheel.


Monday, 26 December 2011

Ooh, look what Santa brought me

Well, I'm going to give this particular blog one more chance and see if I can keep the postings a bit more frequent that every 6 months. I have loads of things I'd like to share here, but work and my other blogs seem to take up most of my time. So, I'll start my pre-New Year's resolution with a short post about one of my Christmas Presents, Bicycle Dairies by David Byrne. Being a cyclist and a huge Talking Heads fan, my wife quite rightly felt she'd scored two points in one go here. I've only read the America chapter so far, where we are entertained with short diary entries of bike rides through lesser known parts of well known US cities. The images of their abandonment, dereliction and rebirth come flooding in to my mind as I read each new entry. Also, in my mind I have subconsciously mixed a Talking Heads soundtrack to accompany my reading. Every time the book says "river", "highway", or "restaurants and bars" I find myself reading the words as they are sung in one of the songs.

The descriptions in the book also bring back some childhood memories of growing up on the very outskirts of London and are inspiring me to pay another return visit to some of these places to see what has become of them. Watch this space for a blog post on that subject in (hopefully) the not too distant future.


Friday, 5 August 2011

An evening in Greenwich

Well, once again it's been a while since I've written anything in this blog. Work has been busy, and I've been out and about quite a bit, so unfortunately this one has fallen a bit by the wayside. Fortunately though I have had the opportunity to find some 'space'. I've managed a couple of really great bike rides recently, bought some great new CDs, and been on a couple more London walkabouts.

Firstly then, I'll talk about my recent excursion to Greenwich. I was dithering about whether to go after work as the day was particularly hot and sticky, and some of the tubes weren't running, but I persevered nevertheless and am very glad I did. It's been a while since I went there so, once I'd left the Underground and joined the Docklands Light Railway, the journey was pleasurable. On arriving at Greenwich I went immediately to Music and Video Exchange where I picked up a handful of great CDs. I had hoped that it would have cooled down a bit after this, but as I walked up the hill towards the Observatory this proved not to be the case. Still, the views were worth it.

View over Docklands from Greenwich Observatory

View over Docklands from Greenwich Observatory

Book-wise, I've not really been reading very much apart from dipping in and out of Hippie by Barry Miles, and continuing to work my way through Seasons They Change whenever I can find the time and energy.

On the music front I've been listening to a lot of acid folk, inspired by the books mentioned above. My current favourite of that particular genre is Heron - Upon Reflection.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Berkshire Poppies

In addition to being the name of a great track by Traffic, Berkshire Poppies seemed to fit the title of today's post quite well, as the photos below will show. As I hadn't managed to get out at all during the week, I forced myself to do two mountain bike rides this weekend. Yesterday's took me up to Ashmansworth, down then up again into Faccombe, and looping back home via West Woodhay. A pleasant 17 miles despite the greyness and slight rain, and the bonus was coming across this beautiful roadside scene.

Berkshire Poppies

The weather for today's ride however was much better. After having watched The Truth About Widlife last week, it was pleasing to come across a farm which was making use of the financial incentives to devote parts of its farmland to wildlife. The photo below was taken near Hoe Benham and shows the scale of this farm's efforts, but what it doesn't show is the actual wildlife - it was however teeming with butterflies, bees and birds, so seems like the scheme is working.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Tumbling roses

The very dry spell we had in April meant that the flowering of some of my roses this year was a bit delayed. However the downpours of the past few weeks have now re-addressed the balance, and if anything, the tumbling border roses are even more impressive than in previous years ... so much so that I think perhaps they may be tumbling a bit too much.

The vegetable patch is coming along nicely, but as usual everything seems to be ready at the same time.

Apart from gardening, other recent activities have been focused on regaining my cycling fitness after a back problem earlier in the year, and optimising my others blogs and web pages.


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Father's Day - a trip to Swanage

I had a wonderful Father's Day this year, which involved a day trip to Swanage with the family. For those readers from outside the UK, Swanage is a seaside town on the Dorset coast. It's just that bit further and requires just a little more effort to get to than the larger places like Bournemouth, Weymouth and Poole, and as such always seems less busy. We arrived so early that there were even some free car parking spaces left. The weather on arrival wasn't great, overcast but at least not raining. Having left so early we had not had time for breakfast at home so, allowing just a few minutes for the kids to say hello to the sea, we found a cafe and tucked into some rather excellent breakfast rolls and coffee.

Swanage beach - overcast and deserted

Swanage beach, sunny but still deserted

Fortunately as the day went on, the weather became better and better, and lunch on the hoof, we climbed up the hill overlooking Swanage and around the coastal path to Durlston Lighthouse.

Durlston Lighthouse

The walk around the cliffs and back must have taken a couple of hours. We were in no hurry and had plenty of time to watch the sea and the birds. On returning to the town we had sufficiently built up our appetites again, and of course had to have the obligatory fish and chip supper before heading home. To avoid repeating our inbound journey, we took the ferry across from Studland Bay on the way home.

Waiting for the ferry from Studland to Sandbanks


Saturday, 11 June 2011

More London mews

Following on from the blog post that I did earlier in the week which featured one of London's fantastic mews, Kynance Mews, it's now time to document a bit of my return journey from the restaurant. Turning off the Fulham Road and heading back north, I came across Redbridge Mews, which looked even more enticing that the earlier ones I'd seen. What struck me most about these was the elaborate entrance. As I walked through it to the corner I expected it to perhaps finish in a short cul-de-sac, but on turning the corner was taken aback to see how far the mews stretched on.

Entrance to Redcliffe Mews

I wonder what's round the corner ...

Wow !!

and wow again !!

I did stop by at yet another mews on the way back, Cranley Mews, but by this time it was getting dark and my pictures do not do it justice so I'll have to return another day.


Friday, 10 June 2011

London is not infinite but ...

I guess London is no different than any other big city in that, although huge, it's not infinite, but to me it may as well be. Every time I go for a walk at lunchtime or, after work if I'm staying over, I can almost always find somewhere I've never been before. Leaving my office tonight, my destination was the Fulham Road where I'd planned to go for dinner. This evening's walk took me across Hyde Park, along a path I'd never used before, past the Albert Memorial and Albert Hall, and into Kensington and Chelsea. I have walked around the pretty little streets here before but this evening I found some gorgeous mews I'd never seen before ... Kynance Mews.

I'm not a big celebrity fan but I did wonder if anyone interesting, as opposed to 'famous', either lived here now or had done in the past.

I eventually arrived at the Fulham Road after meandering through a series of side streets. On arriving at the restaurant I realised that, not only had I forgotten my glasses but I had also forgotten my book. So as not to appear all sad and alone in the restaurant (although I confess to liking that sometimes) I decided to spend the time before my meal arrived by listing my top 10 meal locations. In a bizarre 'Mr and Mrs' like scenario I even emailed them to my wife back home in the sticks to see (i) if she remembered them, and (ii) what her top 10 were.

Here's a link to some pictures and musings from the return journey, during which I found some even more impressive mews of London


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

An evening stroll

Just about managed an evening stroll tonight before Springwatch. Lots of wildlife around but the majority was out of sight or moving too fast to identify. We did see a couple of deer though, grazing in the evening sun. No deer in this shot however, this is instead one of the magnificent footpaths we are fortunate enough to have within walking distance of our house.

Other wildlife news from my study window was that today saw the return of the greenfinches to the bird feeders in the front garden. Inspired by a neighbour who has managed to attract goldfinches I swapped over the nyger seed from the back garden to the front garden, but no luck yet. The greenfinches and sparrows both seem to be very messy eaters, and for each seed they eat seem to drop ten on the ground, which unfortunately encourages the pigeons. I'm sure the neighbours think I'm a bit strange when I rush outside and shout at them.


Monday, 6 June 2011

It's Been a Good Year for the Roses

Whilst the rain on Sunday made me a bit miserable, it did wonders for the garden ...

Single clematis flower

A good year for the roses

Geranium flowers

First courgette flower of the year - hopefully lots more to come

We did also manage to get out to a local garden show where we bought loads more plants but because of the weather these are still in pots by the back door. These include lupins which although a favourite, we've never had much luck with so far. Fingers crossed this time.


Friday, 3 June 2011

A great day for gardening

Once again I find that I have neglected this particular blog for way too long, so I hope to make up for it today with a few shots from the garden. I'd like to say it was because I have actually been gardening but alas I've been suffering a bit with a bad back, so much so that today I went to a Chiropractor for the first time ever. Bizarrely I feel taller after just one session and the root cause of my lower back pain seems to start much higher up in my neck where I am very tight. After some light prodding, cracking and massage I do feel better. I may even try and get the grow bags planted this weekend as the tomatoes and courgettes are beginning to get a bit leggy.

Poppies and Geraniums

Potatoes continue to do well

Broad Beans in full swing

Artichokes getting squeezed out and deprived of light

Apart from enjoying the garden, my musical tastes have once again been inspired by a book. This time it's Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk, where I have been introduced to bands and artists such as The Holy Modal Rounders, Bonnie Dobson and Pat Kilroy, to name but a few.


Literary entertainment this week has been provided by Crash by J.G.Ballard


Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Working at home today I managed to find a few moments in amongst the countless emails, phone calls and spreadsheets to have a cuppa in the garden amongst the birds, the bees and the flowers. Loved these poppies.

Back to the grind stone now.

Monday, 23 May 2011

52 Weekends by the Sea - Hastings

After a year of having a book called 52 Weekends by the Sea, we finally managed to get away to one of the recommended destinations ... Hastings, in Sussex. Ok, so we have been to several other places mentioned in the book but not since I bought it with the intention of using it on a regular basis. Seems the kids' social lives are becoming more and more active, and the chances to escape more and more rare.

Hastings old town was beautiful, with quaint, tumbledown, half-timbered houses, shops, pubs and restaurants. Our appetites were increased by all the walking and the great aromas coming from the different restaurants we passed, and with all the options we managed to eat out at every mealtime for the short time we were there - the culinary highlight for me was probably the local fishcakes, although the following morning's breakfast was also pretty spectacular. The weather was perfect and at the climb to the top of the East Cliff we were rewarded with spectacular views over the old town and the sea. The only problem was that the time went far too quickly.

On both the journey to and from Hastings we managed to stop off at a National Trust property with just about time to grab a cup of coffee and a cake before quickly walking round the gardens before getting back in the car. Hastings is one of those places that for us involves a diagonal journey across England, which never seem to be straightforward. The cake was a just reward for an early start but I did feel a bit cheated that my wife's portion was at least twice the size of mine !!

So just 51 more weekend breaks to arrange then we'll have completed the book and can move on to something else ;-)


Thursday, 12 May 2011

Theme Thursday: Escape

I know I only featured this magazine advertisement on my vintage magazine blog last week, so apologies for the repitition but it does fit this week's Theme Thursday, 'escape' perfectly.

Back cover of vintage Air Mail magazine, c.1963
As usual, lots of vintage magazines and vintage postcards can be found on my web site

Friday, 6 May 2011

Escaping in West Berkshire

Despite a long 2 week holiday, and only having been a 4 day week this week, I am still of course craving space. Wednesday evening saw me explore a part of London that I'd not paid much attention to before, Bloomsbury. The reason that I'd not spent much time there is most probably that there were no damp, second hand record shops to ferret around in. Anyway, I put this right on Wednesday and will be back for more as it seems like there's plenty to explore.

Both Thursday and Friday evening I managed a mountain bike ride. Thursday was a modest 10-miler with family friends involving a pub meal and a couple of pints. Friday was a more ambitious solo one of 23 miles where I'm continuing to discover new bridleways and sideroads in West Berkshire. Some of the scenery on this one is becoming one of my favourite rides.

The only 'downer' was getting a slow puncture toward the end of the ride, and also my favourite cycling top slipping off from around my waist and getting caught in the gears and brakes. It was so stuck I had to remove the back wheel to retrieve it, only to discover that it now has a bit hole in it - fortunately my arm was not in it at the time. Weather is set to break here tomight so unlikely to be doing another ride tomorrow, which is good news for my backside, and perhaps will give me time to finish the latest book I'm reading, Richard by Ben Myers, a novel about Richie Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers.

Theme Thursday: Puzzle

For this week's Theme Thursday, 'puzzle', not even my music collection could come to my rescue this week. Bizarrely however I do have a few stray pieces of a jigsaw on the windowsill in my study. I've always wondered why they were there - now I know why.

Check out my other blogs ...

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Bank holiday bike rides in Berkshire and Hampshire

Searching for space this week has taken me on some amazing bike rides, neatly coinciding with a pub lunch and a pint of best bitter. The first significant ride of the week was a 31 miler to Whitchurch and back, which involved a stop for coffee and cake in Whitchurch itself, and a pub lunch at the George in St. Marybourne, Hampshire. Most of the ride was on quiet side roads, or off-road on bridleways where, thanks to the recent dry weather, the cycling was easy (very different story when the ground is wet and sticky in the winter).

The second significant ride, a couple of days later, was a 20 miler in the opposite direction through Marsh Benham, Hoe Benham and cross-country towards Stockross, near Newbury, Berkshire, where another pint (Mr Chubbs) and pub lunch was eagerly consumed.

I've been fortunate enough to have been off work since 15th April. Going back on Tuesday 3rd is going to be a HUGE shock, but fortunately it's only a 4 day week, and only a few more weeks to wait until the next bank holiday.

Monday, 25 April 2011

All aboard - steam train at Winchcombe station

Once again it's been far too long since I updated this blog. However, with the splendid weather we've been having for the past few weeks I've been trying to spend as much time outdoors as possible. The vegetable patch is looking good, and I've also managed a few 30 mile+ bike rides now, which apart from the saddle sore, are finally becoming a bit easier. Over the bank holiday weekend I took my bike when we went visiting relatives and came across this fantastic sight at Winchcombe station in Gloucestershire, part of the restored Gloucestershire Warwickshire railway. Unfortunately the family's small blue camera appears to be (hopefully temporarily) missing in action, so all I've been able to use is my mobile phone, where the picture quality is a bit poor.

Further along the ride I came across an inviting cream tea offer at Beckford, but unfortunately it was too early in the day :-(

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A pleasant evening bike ride

It's not often that I feel compelled to post twice in a day on this blog, but after my hard day battling the demons of finance processes, I managed to escape on a bike ride. Whilst I didn't have my camera with me again, I did have my phone which takes pictures ... sort of. These are not the best quality snaps in the world but they do convey the sense of space and wonderful weather we are enjoying at the moment. My bike ride was only 13 miles along a mix of road and off-road, but some sticky mud patches to negotiate along with some hills which I'm sure get steeper every time I go up them.

I might try and fit in a longer ride over the weekend but apparently the garage needs cleaning out !!

46 to Farringdon Street

What marvellous weather we are having in the UK at the moment. Yesterday was so warm that I decided to take a trip up to Hampstead Heath after work before I headed back home to the sticks. The 46 dropped me just before Hampstead underground station, but instead of walking on an up on to the Heath, I decided to take a left instead, which took me down past Hampstead Parish Church. Immediately to hustle and bustle of the noisy street disappeared and really I could have been anywhere. Immediately before the church I took another left hand turn which took me down a track called Frognal, which eventually turned into a road, flanked either side by wonderful houses. And the great houses continued pretty much until I arrived at West Hampstead, where the pubs, cafes and bistros were all swarming with people sitting outside enjoying the early Spring weather.

My only regret was forgetting my camera. I did try and find some commons licensed pictures of Hampstead on Flickr but was not very successful, so I'll have to make do with a picture of and a link to this great book about Hampstead (left hand side for UK readers, right hand side for US readers).

From West Hampstead I walked down through Brondesbury, Kilburn to Queens Park, where I discovered a "new road", Lonsdale Road. It's the home to architects, bistros, dance studios, etc., and was a complete surprise to stumble across this and it almost looked out of place. I eventually ended up back at Paddington, somewhat tired but feeling richly rewarded for my evening's endeavours.

More London spaces next week, when hopefully I'll have remembered to take my camera.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

414 to Putney Bridge

Unfortunately this blog has been a bit neglected recently. It's been financial year end which has caused all sorts of madness at work, we've had a big family wedding, I've been out in the vegetable patch, and I've also been trying to fit in as many bikes rides as possible in the mild weather. I did manage to find some Space the week before last when, during my lunch break, I managed to escape to Hyde Park. I always find it incredible that this park is in the middle of London ... given this particular shot it could be anywhere.

Hyde Park, London, March 2011

As far as finding new spaces is concerned, I embarked on another of my bizarre pat times, random bus hopping. This week it was the 414 to Putney Bridge, as the recorded announcement rather annoyingly reminded me every 2 minutes. Sat in the front seat of the top deck of a London double-decker, this was an interesting bus journey passing Harrod's, the Victoria and Albert museum, and several other places I'd need to look up on the A-Z to remember. The bus stopped just before Putney Bridge, where I got off (sorry, that should be alighted or disembarked) and strolled across Putney Bridge. I had intended to take some photos but unfortunately I only had my blackberry and it was a bit hazy. I've made a note to revisit later in the year, armed with camera.

Music wise I am still tracking down CDs mentioned in Rob Young's excellent Electric Eden, and on the current playlist are Mr Fox and Bridget St John.

Here's a link to a few of my current favourite books and CDs

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Viaducts of England #1 - Hurstbourne, Hampshire

Possibly a bit optimistic of me to start a series here as I have no idea when or where I'll see the next viaduct, but this one I came across today whilst out cycling seemed deserved of a blog post. This particular viaduct is between Hurstbourne Priors and St. Mary Bourne, Hampshire, and is still in operation as part of the London Waterloo to Exeter line, although the railway station at Hurstbourne is now a scrap metal dealers.

Viaduct near Hurstbourne Priors, Hampshire, March 2011

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Peacock Butterfly

While it seems like everyone in the UK is tweeting the Springwatch team asking when this year's series will start, here's a bit of nature from my own garden ... well actually from the wood pile. Pretty sure it's a Peacock Butterfly.

Peacock Butterfly

Saturday, 26 February 2011

A Week in the Peaks

We have just returned from a great week in the Peak District. Having been as far as Nottingham many times before, we somehow had never seemed to make it as far as the Peaks. We rented a lovely cottage in the village of Baslow which we used as our base for the week. Although the weather was grim at the beginning of the week, including some snow, we still managed to get out on some great walks. The highlight of the week however was the Thursday when the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the sun shone. Having attempted to do the Tissington Trail earlier in the week only to find it was snowing, we made the most of the break in the weather.

The Tissington Trail is a purpose made cycle track and footpath on what used to be the Buxton to Ashbourne railway line. What surprised me however was that it has been open for recreational purposes since the early 1970's. We cycled up hill, climbing something like 700 metres over the 13.5 miles from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay where we stopped for lunch. The track does continue a bit further from there, and also joins the High Peak Trail, but we'll have to leave that for another day.

Road bridge crossing the Tissington Trail

Road bridge crossing the Tissington Trail

Tissington Trail, just north of Tissington station

Tissington Trail, Hartington signal box

Back home now it's back to business as usual. We've just about unpacked everything and I even managed a short 10 mile bike ride today, albeit in the rain. This is part of my attempt to be able to get into a suit that I need to wear to a family wedding at the end of March. I fear however that my wife and one of the kids is at this very moment at the village market buying cakes.

And probably the most exciting news since being home is that I finally attracted a Goldfinch to my bird feeder. I did try and get a photo but managed to scare it off in the process.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A heron in Hyde Park

The mixed weather this week has meant that getting out and about and finding some space has been more of a challenge. So far this week I've only managed one brief escape which was to Hyde Park during my lunch break. The weather was awful but I was rewarded with this magnificent Heron.

Heron, Hyde Park

I'm sorry to report that the new bird feeders in the front garden do not seem to have attracted any birds whatsoever, but the established one in the back garden is still going strong and I saw my first starling for ages - I remember as a kid we always had loads in the garden but it's been a while since I've seen one.

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