travel Weekend

Rhossili National Trust

Rhossili National Trust

rhossili national trust

travel Weekend

Rhossili beach clean

rhossili beach clean

Faded sign at the sand dunes behind Rhossili points to beach clean. The beach was magnificent and largely cleaned by the elements. It’s the sand dunes that probably needed the occasional litter pick.

travel Weekend

The Kings Head Llangennith

Kings Head Llangennith

Brought to you by VW Campervan holidays. The Kings Head Llangennith, on the Gower peninsula.

fun stuff travel Weekend

Selfie by firelight at Hillend

selfie by firelight

Taken whilst sat around the fireplace the other night. Today the heavens opened and we set off for home a day early.

trefor davies by campfire light


fun stuff travel Weekend

Tref is on holiday #5

Camping 2012

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Tref is on holiday #4

Skegvegas 2013

fun stuff travel Weekend

tref is on holiday #3

August 2013

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Tref is on holiday #2

August 2013

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Tref is on holiday #1

Mallorca 2014

Beautiful sunshine

travel Weekend

Ice cream on Llandudno pier

Llandudno pier – all life is there dead on a wet Sunday night in July

It wasn’t a particularly good ice cream but it was an appropriate use of my time and money. When on holiday it is important to indulge in relaxing holiday pastimes such as strolling on piers and licking ice creams.

This one had “raspberry blood” on it. Clearly marketing lingo pitched at customers of four foot height or less. I went for the raspberry blood. I opted out of the flake.

We enjoyed the sunshine whilst we could. The next day the weather returned to type and it chucked it down. That’s Wales for you.

Llandudno pier has all the usual seaside attractions for what it’s worth. Hook a duck, darts, slides, slot machines. The prizes were of course all total crap. We returned to the pier in the rain on the Sunday evening and even caught a glimpse of an entertainer twanging his electric guitar, banging out some old favourites (I imagine – wasn’t allowed to step inside for a beer).

See Facebook album here taken on the fine Saturday afternoon. Photo of Llandudno pier on a wet Sunday evening in July below.

llandudno pier

Back to the subject of ice creams I am quite fussy about this foodstuff. It all stems from growing up in the Isle of Man where they had the fantastic Manx Ices. Used to buy wafers from an ice cream van. They don’t do them any more. Nowadays I think the company has morphed into Davisons but the product is equally good despite the lack of a wafer.

This post btw is another in the summer series along the lines of “where did I go on holiday”. Expect many more and if you would like to post your own then just get in touch. Delay not. I’m in and out of the office until the end of the first week in September.

fun stuff travel Weekend

Chllan-did-noh and the hot wax treatment

hot wax treatment – has to be experienced

writing desk at Dunoon Hotel in LlandudnoSat in the period luxury of the lounge of the Dunoon Hotel in Llandudno. That’s Chllan-did-noh, not landudnoe. The Dunoon Hotel it all its finery is however not the subject of this post. This afternoon I had my first experience of the hot wax treatment.

This was at a Turkish barbers in Chllan-did-noh. I am here for some quality time with my wife, 81 year old mother in law and my wife’s sister Sarah. Such a Chllan-did-noh excursion to  is not something to be taken lightly. It involves the amassing of a giant container full of brownie points but they have to be paid for.

On this occasion payment was of the following kind:

  • cafe ba hot wax treatmentStroll to cafe for coffee. In this case it was somewhere called Cafe Ba. I wondered about the name and was intending to ask, when I realised it was actually Cafe Bar but the r had fallen off. Chllan-did-noh has probably seen better days although it was heaving yesterday in the sun.

From the Coffee Ba we saw a couple of casualties from the broken scooter in llandudno rainScooter gathering we had seen yesterday. I missed the first photo opportunity but ran out to catch the second.

  • Stroll from coffee shop to shopping arcade. En route I bought a Ddraig Goch. I’ve already said there will be more mentions of flags in due course. Rushing to catch up with the ladies I used the last of my mobile phone battery to pinpoint their location. Auntie Sarah wanted the loo so they disappeared from the precinct for a short diversion.

I spent the time chatting to the bloke at the Sky stand. Busman’s holiday. He told me what the best pub was in Chllan-did-noh. I’ll be heading there later for a pre prandial pint, or whatever they call it in Chllan-did-noh.

  • Lunch at non-descript cafe in shopping precinct. I had a ploughman’s lunch, fwiw. Something to keep me going between the full blown breakfast this morning and the 5 course meal dished up at the hotel in the evening.
  • Stroll round M&S ladies wear department.

At this point I sat down next to some bloke in the same predicament as me and had a bit of a chat about the game of golf he was planning for later this pm. His wife eventually came to fetch him and i contented myself with making a start on the new translation of The Mabinogion (Google it) newly purchased from Waterstones en route from the non-descript cafe.

I didn’t get very far. The ladies returned and we began a gentle meander back in the general direction of the hotel, stopping to gaze in at every shop window and 70% off reduced sale bargain we came across, which was in pretty much every shop.

hot wax treatmentIt came to a point where a further sit down was called for and I managed to slip the leash and head for the  Red One Turkish Barber Shop for a trim and a shave. Seemed reasonable.

Skipping gaily, if somewhat damply into the shop I conveyed my requirements to Adnan the barber. He pointed out that for just a little bit more I could get the full works. The works included hot wax treatment on my nostrils, burning off any hair around the ears, a wax trim of my eyebrows, head and neck massage, a cut throat shave with all the towels and steam treatment and of course a number 3 back and sides with a bit off the top.

The whole process must have taken a good hour.  I’ve reached the tender age of 53 and never before had a Turkish barber. It will not be the last time. The guy was not only professional hair artiste but had  pro conversation skills. He found out that  I was a director of an internet exchange. I always have to think with hat to put on when asked what I do for a living because I have a few.

Back at the hotel I was given 5 mins to turn around before heading back out again to the amusements on the pier. As we approached they looked closed for the day – a wet Sunday afternoon in Chllan-did-noh does not see the crowds rushing onto the pier. Rushing back to Liverpool and Brum more like.

So there we have it. Chllan-did-noh and the hot wax treatment. Not too painful and it certainly clears out the nostril hair.

I’d recommend Adnan at Red One Turkish Barber in Chllan-did-noh any day of the week and they are open every one of them. Something for the weekend sir? Hot wax treatment:) End result below:

hot wax treatment

travel Weekend

Chuffed to bits

Retiring University of Lincoln PR lecturer Jane Crofts writes the first of this season’s guest posts that talk mainly about their holidays. If you knew Jane she is far from retiring btw:)

I am a witch!Retirement is now imminent, today being the last actual day of work and the last day on the books is looming large at the end of the summer.

Many of the wise people I know have said to me ‘you are far too young to retire’ but that is delightfully not true, you are never too young to retire! It is a lifestyle choice made by my husband and I (spoken suitably regally if you please). We have never been rich, but we have never had to worry about paying our bills and putting food in the table. We have always been, and plan to continue to be, modestly comfortable. Most importantly, to us, we are planning to be stress free; as far as my natural inclination will allow.

So, for our summer hols; the last one before each day is a holiday, we decided to try a ‘trip’ much favoured by the retired. We both love trains, himself the mechanics of the beasts, myself travelling without driving or flying. We both wanted to visit the West Coast of Scotland and see the fabulous views for ourselves so we booked ourselves onto a West Highland Tour.

We left Lincoln by train heading up to Glasgow, first class of course, to meet up with our party. The joy of the East Coast mainline allows easy internet access and charging points for the electronic paraphernalia that follows us around these days – allowing us to check our journey’s progress, weather predictions and other such obsessions of the Brits on holiday!

We got to Glasgow early to give time to hop on a city tour bus, a great way to look round an unfamiliar place. Fascinating stuff; great buildings, wonderful regeneration projects but for us ‘Lincolnites’  frighteningly busy!

The next morning the party assembled to head to the station for the journey up the West Highland Line to Morar (our base for the next few days). We expected the party to be an interesting mix of people beyond their first flush of youth but it is fair to say we brought the average age down quite considerably! But it was not a problem at all; every group, whatever their age has bores, moaners, entertainers and educators; by far the best informed, most mischievous member of the party was the eldest at 91 years, definitely, young.

The difference in connectivity on this journey from the day before was immediately apparent as the signal dropped down to weak or nothing regularly and as our poor, exhausted smartphones struggled the batteries drained but there were no charging points to be had. The hotel in Morar offered the opportunity to charge up the umbilical cords but the signal there was not any better so we were forced to go cold turkey!

The next three days we travelled by rail and coach enjoying some of the most spectacular scenery the UK can offer. Lochs, Viaducts, Steam Trains, Monuments, Sea, Silver Sands, Mountains and Hills. – stunning, absolutely stunning. The stamina required on the hottest July day in years to sit on a Victorian Steam Train and chug along is considerable, we all made it several pounds lighter I suspect! The line followed much of the route seen in the Harry Potter films, across the Glenfinnan Viaduct and past the island where ‘Dumbledore is buried’.  The coach tour took us to visit Spean Bridge where we were able to contemplate the sacrifices made by our commandos at the monument to their honour and enjoy spectacular views of the snow-capped Ben Nevis, it might have been hot at our level but up there was a different story.

not mount fujiSkye was a bit of disappointment as it was one of the days that played to its reputation as the misty isle; but it did afford and amazing view of a hill doing an impersonation of Mount Fuji. But not a Cuillin in sight.

What fascinated me about our group was the different attitudes to ‘smartphone world’. It was no different from any other random group of people, regardless of age folks loved being connected or hated it. Most had their paper maps out to follow the various routes but many had their smartphones at the ready when a signal was available. The 91 year old spent a fair bit of time talking apps with my hubby.

Travel tech was a challenge on the holiday as I have already observed. In these remote parts internet connections were slow and phone signals generally non-existent; 4G – more like minus 4G! We had taken the decision not to post our travels to Facebook and the like because our house was sitting empty. So I tried a break from the incessant communication that normally fills my day; OK, I confess I did use Messenger to chat to the odd student when I could get a connection, especially as final results were announced on that very hot day!

We travelled with Rail Discoveries, not sure if we will do so again for another few years but it has certainly given me a taste for investigating Inter Rail and the like so I can head further afield without getting on a plane.  And of course, we will have the time to take a leisurely pace from now on without any pressure to be always connected.

travel Weekend

The dress code is Cape Cod Beer

school’s out for summer

Feel as if I should be throwing off my school blazer, flinging my tie over the settee leaving it all for mum to sort out and running out into the back garden to mess about in the paddling pool. It’s the last day of term for the last Davies of school age.

We have ahead of us the long summer vacation, six weeks or so and many of you out there will be getting ready to hook up the caravan, load the tent in the trailer or packing your suitcase for a slightly posher and more exotic holiday in the sun. Hopefully the queues at the airport will be kind to you and the traffic en route to the beaches surprisingly absent.

I’m not on holiday, yet, though the dress code in the office has relaxed further to a pair of rugby shorts, deck shoes and a Cape Cod Beer tshirt. If you’re young enough or old enough not to be taking kids on holiday you will already have had your summer break and have to suffer the excitement of the rest of us as we look forward to ours.

I like to take my summer holiday towards the end of the period as it really does give me something to look forward to. This year we are off surfing at Hillend campsite,  Rhossili beach in the Gower followed by the Flashback festival in Clumber Park and then the Isle of Man. I’ve pushed the boat out and bought valet parking at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

One of the great things about Rhossili beach in Llangennith is its total absence of mobile phone coverage. It’s a proper holiday characterised by variants of bacon and eggs for breakfast every morning, robust sandwiches with crusty baguettes for lunch and a bbq every evening washed down with copious quantities of red wine.

The Clumber Park Flashback Festival involves a camper van, or in our case the Jeep with all the back seats down and a double blow up mattress, a posh picnic and a bop to some of the sounds of the 70’s including Sister Sledge, Boney M, Oddyssey and Hot Chocolate, the latter sadly without their recently deceased lead singer.

We are on the lookout for a camper van as well btw. I feel it is a slow learning process until we decide on what’s right for us but with 3 out of 4 children now out of school the time has come for us to prepare for the day where we will have the freedom to just drop everything and travel.

In the meantime, before our holidays proper begin we have a joyful short break 😉  with the mother in law in Llandudno followed by a night out on the town in da smoke with a crowd of like minded folk hell bent on letting their hair down and having a good time. We also have Jesus Christ Superstar on at Lincoln Cathedral this Thursday evening. Supposed to be a great show with around 200 members of cast!

So there ya go. I may well also fit in a day out at Skegvegas but that in one shortish blog is what I have to look forward to this summer. Although I’ll probably slip in the odd techie post I’m going to major on vacation stuff. If you want to chip in with your own guest post jest lemme know. Have a few already in the pipeline.

School’s out for summer, yay!

fun stuff travel Weekend

Holiday season on advanced notice and offer to contribute guest posts

It’s gonna be a fun fun place to be this summer 🙂

Holiday season (if you have kids) is rapidly approaching and it gets pretty dead from a business perspective. So I’m offering slots to people who might fancy writing guest posts on about where they have been/are going/are on their holidays.

Feels like the right thing to do. Photos from a beach somewhere (keep em clean – this is a family show), views from atop peaks climbed at great personal risk, blurry photos of drunken nights in tavernas (Greek holidays are being discounted) etc etc etc

If you want to include tech used whilst on holiday that is good. Description of airline upgrades. Anything you like really. It can also be something written during the boring periods in the office whilst the rest of the world is on holiday – someone has to man the phones in case that one customer not on holiday wants to call.

If anyone is interested btw I’m off surfing to the Gower, then the Flashback Festival and thence on to the Isle of Man for a seafood diet.

PS not going for another month mind you.

Business media travel

Another glorious summer day

It’s another glorious summer day in the shire but I am up early and off South to the oven that is London. I have a good day ahead with the first Tech Marketing lunch and the Political Intelligence birthday party. 7.30 am train down and 9.30pm t5ain home. Urgh. A long day.

Should be enjoyable though. There will be a gentle stroll from Kings Cross station to Kettners in SoHo, the lunch venue. It is an enforced gentle stroll as the tube workers are once more on strike. It’s a democratic right.

I’ll walk off the lunch with another gentle stroll of around an hour or so to the City for the party. All this exercise…

I employ an element of poetic license in the title of this post as the nearer I get to London the cloudier it gets. This is probably good. A gentle stroll can be onerous in the glare of the midsummer sun, high up above the lowering skyscrapers of the capital. I have not brought a hat.

En route to town it is noticeable that as we race through the countryside the fields, last week totally verdant, are now turning gold. The harvest will soon begin. The larders soon to be stocked up again for another winter ahead. We should feel good about this:)

I am wearing shorts and a Lonap tshirt and have a pair of stout walking shoes to assist my passage through the streets of town. There is a change of clothes in my knapsack (thought I’d use that word instead of “my Osprey day bag” – more in keeping with the flowery nature of this post).

I quite like the odd day out in London and the 7.30 am from Lincoln central gets you off to a good start with a full English breakfast as soon as you leave Lincoln. I’ve usually finished it by the time the train gets to Newark half an hour later – it’s a slow branch line.

The featured image of this post is today’s breakfast. Have a good day and if you are coming to the lunch I look forward to seeing you.

Business travel

Eurotunnel – the fibre analogy or maybe not

My daughter was meant to catch a Eurostar home from Paris tonight. She is now in a melee of people at Gare Du Nord trying to rebook her ticket for tomorrow. To call it a queue would not be right she tells me via Facebook.

She will miss her connecting train from Kings Cross to Lincoln and probably have to buy a new ticket.

This is all because some workers (workers?) have gone on strike in Calais. The ferries are blockaded, the tunnel is closed.

Lorries are backing up the M20 which is now closed. All flights out of Paris are fully booked and she may struggle to get on tomorrow as I doubt there is sufficient capacity in the system to take two days worth of passengers in one day.

Imagine if the Eurotunnel was a length of fibre connecting the UK with France and the rest of the continent and that broke. We would probably not notice because there’d be another fibre somewhere with tons of capacity that could take all the traffic. Not so with the human transport system.

Hannah is trying to rebook online whilst she stands in the crowd. Everyone is trying to do the same thing. In fact as I write they are saying that you can only rebook online. I’ve filled out a request for her using the booking details she provided. It is now a manual process. She can only wait.

Funny how there is a knock on effect when something like this happens. Not really.

Now I’ve been trying to sort out changing her virgintrainseastcoast ticket from kings x. She took a pic of the confirmation number and messaged it to me. Trouble is I can’t understand her handwriting and spent 5 mins getting nowhere with the train company. Now Hannah must be in the Metro – I can’t get hold of her for confirmation of the booking ref. I’ll have to wait until she gets back online!

If I get an update I’ll obviously let you all know. I’m getting this off my chest here to some extent 🙂

21.57 update: she’s now booked on a train tomorrow lunchtime and will be home by 17.13. Got lucky because the Eurostars are now fully booked until Friday.

End User travel Weekend

Easter shutdown at

Easter break

Easter is a coming and the Davies’ are off to Paris for a few days. I’m not taking a laptop. Just a notebook and pencil (yup) so no blog posts. Just eating and drinking and, well that’s it really. Probably a few sights if we happen to be passing.

I’ll be taking in my two favourite spots in Paris. Harry’s New York Bar is one I came across whilst at University. I hitch-hiked to Greece, via Paris and saw it advertised in the International Herald Tribune. It’s a brilliant American sports bar. Bit out of place you might think in Paris but it just seems to fit. The cocktails are fantastic and if you can stay the pace they have some great jazz. It features in the book “MASH Goes to Paris” fwiw.

The second spot is Au Bon Coin. This is a restaurant I found during the Paris International SIP Conference days. Going back a bit now but I still have fond memories of nights out there. V cheap as well. It was a haunt of some of the early pioneers of SIP.

It’ll be a 7.20 am train First Class to Kings Cross and then Eurostar over to Gare Du Nord. We have an apartment in Montmartre for the weekend. airbnb.

If I feel like it I’ll post some pics but otherwise the whole world is stopping anyway and I will substantially be offline.

Have a great Easter break wherever you are and whatever your beliefs. See you in a new tax year.

Engineer fun stuff travel

Rosetta project uses components manufactured in Lincoln UK

Rosetta spacecraft parts manufactured in Lincoln

Just had a quick phone call from my mate Terry that almost gave me a mild orgasm. Years ago we worked at a company called Marconi Electronic Devices (MEDL) in Lincoln. I ran the radiation hard components product line and Terry was the chief designer. Terry reminded me of the Rosetta spacecraft parts manufactured in Lincoln.

We used a technology called Silicon on Sapphire (SOS). This was manufactured just like a normal silicon chip/semiconductor except that the substrate was Sapphire, an insulation material. SOS was extremely resistant to the effects of the radiation that satellites encounter in space and was therefore in great demand for many projects.

They were halcyon days. I’d get trips to glamorous locations all over the world working on exciting projects. These projects still come back to roost from time to time as they are all long term missions – Space is a very big place.

The last one to surface was the Cassini mission which landed a probe on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. We made the spacecraft processor for the Titan lander. It was a 3 MIP 32 bit processor called the MA31750 – used the old Mil Std 1750A software instruction set.

Although the company is now long gone and wasn’t really a great employer the people were terrific. I still have some SOS wafers containing 31750 die at home. If I remember I’ll take some photos. They’re in the attic somewhere.

We also made memory chips (64KB) and other peripherals – the idea being that you could design the whole processor board using our parts.

It opened doors all over the world. I met astronaut Buzz Aldrin and even went along to Moscow by invitation of the VP of the Russian Space Agency to give a talk – in front of Russia’s top space scientist. Also did a talk at CERN for scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project which has been in the news of late.

Now we have Rosetta. It’s hugely funky to be able to say I was part of that project. I have loads of stories from that time but I feel as if you’ve indulged me enough.

If I can dig out more on the Rosetta electronics I’ll share it.

Purely coincidentally Terry and I went to see the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum on Tuesday morning after the Albert Hall Pylons Gig. Cool stuff 🙂

broadband End User food and drink fun stuff internet media travel

What I Did On My Summer Holiday (Digital Issue)

Recounting a (digital) summer holiday, well spent.

I didn’t intend to take a break from writing during this year’s La Famille Kessel summer holiday in Normandy. No, I had plans to regale stalwart readers with missives on the nature of my vacation from the digital perspective, intending to carry the content flag for anyone out there hungering for fresh pixelated meat during these dog days of August. Of course, I also planned to put sugar in the Latte Cannelle that just arrived to the left of KoryChrome here at Paris’s RROLL. Not salt.

Offering up the Yiddish proverb my departed mother used to wield easily and quite often, “Man plans and God laughs.”

Failures aside (gee, that was easy), in an attempt to backwards-engineer satisfaction of the aforementioned hunger I will recount five (5) areas of computer-based fun I indulged in around the edges of my mostly unearned R&R over the past four weeks.

<OK. Everybody take a breath. Here we go.>

  1. As an R.E.M. fan(atic) dating back to the 1983’s “Murmur” I was thrilled to learn in May that the band was finally making good on their long-held promise/threat to issue a rarities collection. And in typical R.E.M. style the boys over-delivered, kicking out not one collection but two — Complete Rarities: I.R.S. 1982-1987 (50 tracks) and Complete Rarities: Warner Bros. 1988-2011 (131 tracks). 181 tracks, the equivalent of 18 albums of “new” material. Of course, the fact that I already had 98% of the tracks didn’t make this treasure trove any less interesting, oh no! These two digital “boxsets” represented an UPGRADE opportunity supreme, as well as hours and hours of artwork foraging and data tagging and reconciliation amusement. Just my kind of BIG data.
  2. It seems that every summer for going on who-knows-how-many years I have on some late night or other sat down at my computer determined to finally get a definitive handle on media information delivery. Or, in other words, figuring out how to configure RSS feeds in a way that not only brought links across from my favorite resources in a great many areas, but that did so in a way that allowed me to spend more time benefitting from the deluge than managing it. I hesitate to whether I succeeded this time, but with RSS Notifier in place and tweaked pretty darn well I can say that my hopes are high. If next summer I find myself NOT re-attacking this project, at that time I will know that “Paid” has finally been put to this bill.
  3. The new site that you hold in your hands, dear reader, has been praised far and wide, end to end, and in between the cracks (yes, I am the reason the store is out of clichés until next Tuesday). And on the surface it rocks far and wide, end to end…well, etc. Behind the scenes, though, quite a bit of work remains to be done to really get the thing humming. One major effort taking place is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) enhancement/reconciliation for legacy posts going back six-plus years, an ongoing task that represented pretty much all of the work I did on the site during August, between opening my throat for copious food and drink intake, forming a marvelous first-impression of Guernsey (the result of a brilliant 4-day holiday-within-a-holiday excursion), and doing whatever-the-heck-else constituted a holiday well taken. Regular visitors to the site will likely not notice any changes to their experience, save perhaps for greater crowds milling about the more popular attractions therein.
  4. 38+ rolls of film. In the four weeks stretching from 27-July to 24-August I shot over 38 rolls of film. “Holy Shutterbug, Batman!”, you are no doubt thinking, because presented like that the feat sure sounds impressive. And expensive. Leyna the Leica is quite the digital camera, though, so please temper your awe accordingly. Still, I do shoot in RAW and that necessitates that I “develop” the photos into .jpg files, adjusting various photo attributes as necessary (exposure, contrast, shadows, highlights, white and black clipping, saturation, sharpening, noise reduction, and perspective correction, to name far too many), so if you want to let your awe (awe for RAW?) run rampant then by all means please do.
  5. The “La Famille Kessel” cookbook project continued during summer holiday 2014, with 10 recipes added, the appendage of notes and photos to existing content, and even some scant thought paid to eventual production. The collection, an ongoing concern, is an amorphous beast of a thing that will bring together pass-down family and friend recipes and a wealth of those found in key cookbook/magazine/whatever over the years. Promises to be quite the tasty thing when version 1.0 is finally completed…sometime in 2022 or thereabouts, coinciding with the kicking of The Boy out of his broadband-enabled nest.

So in summing up my digital meanderings for summer 2014, it is apparent that it was all about data and databases (about as surprising as water flowing out of the spigot when the tap is turned on). And naturally, we at are curious to know what you did to wile away the long days and short nights of summer — nobody will laugh — and thus invite your prolific Comments input. C’mon…have at it!


fun stuff travel Weekend

British summer holiday weather – the gathering storm

Location 1 of our 4 centre summer vacation allows me to study at first hand the British summer holiday weather in action.

Bromborough, Wirral, Saturday 9th August, 2014.  I’m lying in bed listening to the first passenger jets of the day coming in to land at Speke John Lennon International airport. It is still early and I am biding my time until it is time for me’n kids 3 & 4 to head off for the cricket at Old Trafford. We bought the tickets on the spur of the moment just prior to setting off across the Pennines from Lincoln.

Yesterday was a classic day for British summer holiday weather. It had been quite hot overnight but a slight breeze had picked up by morning. By lunchtime it was ice cream conditions again and we set off for the attractions of New Brighton.

My first visit to New Brighton was 34 years ago on an eventful day trip to Liverpool on the Isle of Man ferry with my mates. The boat ride over had been quite rough and I suffered a bad bought of seasickness. Then we were delayed mid river Mersey for two hours whilst the outgoing ferry returned to its mooring following a bomb scare. Eventually arriving at the dockside I had to give all my cash to my sister Ann who was setting off for sixth form at Atlantic College in South Wales and had left her money behind.

An afternoon in the amusement arcades and pubs of New Brighton in which I drank soft drinks whilst the boys hit the pop was rounded off with a steak and chips in a restaurant at Pier Head before boarding the ferry for the return trip. I just about recovered once I got the food in me at Pier Head and spent the ferry crossing home in the bar. My pals however started to suffer from the effects of the beer and ice cream and they spent the crossing home lying down feeling sorry for themselves.

Back to the modern era and the four of us hit New Brighton again. Slots, crazy golf and ice creams although no beer. It was a hot and unusually competitive round of crazy golf which went to the last hole before the winner (Kid 4)  was decided. Always a sign of a good game of golf when it goes down to the last hole. Walking back along the prom licking our ice creams we turned around and could see the rain approaching. The remnants of Hurricane Bertha just missed us.

We made it back the the car and set the compass for Bromborough. Switching on BBC Radio 4 Test Match Special it was clear that Bertha had emptied her load on Old Trafford and rain stopped play for the day. Today the sun is back and we are looking forward to a great day’s cricket in Manchester.

The featured photo is of the British summer holiday weather in action – storm clouds gathering before the beach at New Brighton.

fun stuff travel Weekend is on holiday is on holiday.

Sometimes you just have to kick back and relax. This August is on holiday.

That isn’t to say nothing is happening. Lots going on in the background. Under the hood (bonnet). We have an active programme planned for the Autumn – check out the events calendar.

In the meantime I may stick up some holiday snaps. First off is this picture of the new sign for the Morning Star beer garden. Seems a sensible place to hang out when you are on holiday and the sun is shining. A nice cold pint of San Miguel served by Daniel the Spanish barman. Shut your eyes and you can imagine you are on the terrace of a bar in Mallorca, looking out on the Mediterranean blue.

The sound of the seagulls, smells of barbecue sizzling outside the bar. Squeeze some lemon juice over the lamb, a sprinkling of salt over the fries, a tomato and basil salad with a drizzling of olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar that drips like syrup from the neck of the bottle. Finally some fresh bread to mop up the juices.

You get the drift. It’s important to have some downtime. If anyone wants to do some guest posts telling us about their own holidays feel free to drop me a line. I’ll be online wherever I go. Pics are the order of the day. No mountains please1. Make it interesting. Wine labels, menus, colourful market scenes, palm trees silhouetted against pearly white sands and azure seas, interesting local characters, unusual birds never seen at home, yachts under full sail racing down the wind, the sea spray rising up over the bow. etc is on holiday. Relax…

1 I have lots of photos of mountains taken whilst on school trips. Seemed like the right thing to do at the time:)

fun stuff travel Weekend

Alex Murphy’s Life in India: The Children of Malipalpur

The unquestioned gospel is that children are the future, and the future of life in India is bright indeed!

My route from home to rugby at 5.45am on a weekend morning takes me up the truck laden Sohna Road onto the massive NH8 inter-State highway. I follow this towards Delhi for about 12km, then at New Delhi Airport — my unofficial Delhi residence — I turn East through Mahipalpur towards the ground at Vasant Kunj.

Yesterday it was raining, lightly, and the roads were still pretty wet due to the weeks Monsoon downpours. The road at Malipalpur is a type of duel carriageway, but the inside lane is littered with debris and people so it can’t really be used. The area is pretty dower in appearance, although it does have a rather splendid Royal Enfield showroom with over 100 of these fine machines on display. Once you’ve left the NH8, for about a mile the road passes tightly pack rows of shops selling everything you can imagine. The area is not a slum area, well at first it’s not, but as you travel further East, huge slums are present on both sides of the road.

Yesterday morning, Saturday, the children of Malipalpur and some from the slum areas were waiting by the roadside for school buses, or the girls, in excess of 200 I would say were heading West on foot towards their schools. I guess I saw upwards of 500 children in that mile, and you know, they all looked immaculate. Standing roadside at just after 6AM on a Saturday, perfectly pressed shorts, shirts and the white on the girls collars sitting over their sky blue dresses was dazzlingly white. They looked perfect. I thought back to how I used to trek the mile to school every morning with half a school uniform looking like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. Indeed most of my school mates looked pretty much the same, many with uniform modifications which declared them as individuals in some way. These were children predominantly middle or upper working class from brick built homes with water, electricity, gardens and regularly emptied dustbins. We looked like a bunch of scarecrows.

So here we had children with nothing, many without running water, electricity, mains sewage and certainly no rubbish collection or gardens, making a supreme effort to go to school looking like they wanted and desperately needed the education on offer. They knew they were the lucky ones, many never get the chance to receive any formal education.

One of the things that really makes you realise how wonderful life in India is, is the incredible thirst for knowledge everyone has. They all want to know more so they stand a better chance of success. Last year whilst visiting the Taj I met a young lad, about six or seven who was trying to sell me a globe with snow in it. He spoke perfect English and attempted to negotiate a price. During the sale his attention was drawn to a German party, he broke off his sale to me and without drawing breath, began to negotiate in German. When he came back to me I asked him about his language skills and had he picked them up at school. No, was the answer. The nine languages he was able to negotiate in he had picked up from tourists as he had been selling keepsakes at the Taj since he was two.

I know it’s a different world, and you cut the cloth to suit the economy, whichever economic environment you are brought up in. But what India has really heightened my awareness of is just how much of a waster I was at school. Having everything served up on a plate made me value it much less. Lots of attendance because I had to, not because I wanted to. How many people I wonder back home would change their perspective on Education and how important it is if they came out and witnessed the absolute passion here for education.

I wish I had my camera yesterday morning to snap a few of the tartans, the reds, the blues, the greens, the socks, shorts, tunics, everything, because I’m sure if I shared them you would all at least have some belief that the 250 million children of schooling age will be able to afford change to help India out of its poverty. The government claim that literacy levels in India are around 70% but I think this is optimistic. However, with the right will — and trust me the will is here — over the next 10 years this Country should make massive inroads to easing its domestic problems.

I love India.

travel Weekend


rowing boats


pedaloes on the river in chester

river patrol

Boats on the river in Chester

What do you do on a balmy July evening in Chester? You take a walk down by the river  to check out the boats that’s what you do. There’s a party going on on the bandstand with some cool jazz. Diners are sat outside at Hickory’s Smokehouse to the sound of Rhythm and Blues. The contrasting music styles seem to complement each other.

We have had our meal. Ribs smothered in bbq sauce. Couple of beers. There is no rush. We stroll along the river bank. The kids are being unusually amenable to being photographed. Eventually we grab a cab to go back to our hotel. The guy on the phone says 15 minutes. It comes in 5. We are on a roll.

Back at the hotel the kids hit the hay and I have a brandy before doing the same. The hotel bar is fairly empty. It is still early. I need my beauty sleep.

travel Weekend

Menfolk stood outside M&S Outlet Store

Men stood outside M&S outlet store waiting for their women

Was shopping with Kid2 in Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village on the Wirral. She is going to be working for Hilton in Spain for 6 months and needs some suitable attire for the job. On occasions like this the M&S outlet store is the place to be and there we went. We got all the things she needed plus some stuff she didn’t need (party dresses!) for about £66. And I got a pair of  orangey brown shorts for £7.

This free advert for the M&S outlet store does however come with a health warning. Even though it has a menswear section the shop is no place to go if you are a bloke. It is full of women and their daughters clogging up the aisles. Some women have husbands in tow. The man has to stand there obediently whilst his wife holds up shirts, jumpers, jackets etc against him to see it it is a suitable fit, colour design. Poor bugger.

Kid2 decided she needed to try something on. I could stand the waiting no longer and went outside in search of a decent mobile signal. I wasn’t the only one. Outside M&S is where the real men go. The men who can no longer take jumpers, dressing gowns, slippers or polo shirts.

Outside the shop I found I wasn’t the only guy who couldn’t take it. I took a few steps back and surreptitiously froze some pixels on my phone. There was no conversation amongst the blokes. We stood their in silent isolation. As well as me there was an older guy and someone who was probably still in his twenties. The younger guy kept peering in to see where she was and eventually succumbed to going back inside in the vain hope that she could be chivvied up.

Not a chance son. This isn’t just M&S we are talking about. It is the M&S Outlet Store. Bargains galore. My dear old Mam, who lives in Peel in the Isle of Man, can sometimes take three hours to get in and out of M&S in Douglas. Once in she keeps bumping in to people she knows and “goes for a coffee”. Fortunately the outlet Store doesn’t have a cafe. Would be a complete waste of time anyway. A woman knows that the window of opportunity at the Outlet Village is probably limited and she needs to stay focussed on the task in hand.

Ordinarily the right thing to do would have been to find a pub to go and sit in. On this occasion I was needed at “the kill” to hand over my credit card. Also I was going to have to drive back to Lincoln later that day so beer wasn’t on the agenda.

It has to be said that I did very well myself not to spend any more than the £7 on the pair of shorts. I stood for a while in the Church’s shoe shop. I was half tempted but  I rarely have occasion to wear posh work shoes nowadays.

That’s all folks. M&S outlet store – hours of fun and a huge choice of socks.

End User travel

East Midlands Airport arrivals board and immigration fast track

East Midlands airport arrivals board and a fast track limo service

Sat in the services near East Midlands Airport waiting for kid2, my little girl now not so little to come back from a 3 week stint in Barcelona. It isn’t worth forking out to park at the airport. They sting you for a quid to just drop off and pick up with a 10 minute limit. Goodness only knows what an hour or two would be.

Kid2’s flight is scheduled to arrive at 17.10 but I can tell from the East Midlands Airport arrivals board that it actually going to be early (screenshot = featured pic).

Landing is in theory only 5 mins away and I feel myself looking up into the skies to see if I can see her plane. I can’t but that is because I’m sat inside using the free wifi.

Just waiting for the text to tell me she has picked up her case and is moseying towards the pick up spot. In my experience it is worth arranging for an exec limo (for in her mind such is my role) to pick you up from the airport.

A few years ago I flew to Istanbul for the HP CIO Summit. V useful get together of like minded ISP folk. I travelled out with a HP sales guy. He was sat further back in the plane and when we arrived I got off before him.

Waiting for me was a bloke with my name on a bit of cardboard. He escorted me on to a golf buggy and whisked me past about a thousand people queuing up in the heat to get through immigration. Flying through the priority line I picked up my bag from the carousel and stepped into a limo that whisked me to the Sheraton.

Around 30 minutes after landing I was just stepping into the shower when the phone rang. It was the HP sales guy. He had just cleared immigration and was waiting for me. Embarrassing. HP had paid for me to go through fast track but not him. That’s life Jim. Next time I go I’ll book the same service even if I have to pay myself. Well worth the 50 Euros.

PS took 30 mins for Kid2’s bag to arrive on the carousel. No fast track there!

fun stuff travel Weekend

Lost in translation – google translate funny error

Google translate funny error shows it doesn’t always get it right

Was browsing TripAdvisor with a view to going to Majorca on holiday. I’ve always associated Majorca with pile em high sell it cheap holidays I would be unlikely to take. However I’m told that the North and East sides are v nice so I’m checking it out.

TripAdvisor is the number 1 destination for this sort of thing and there indeed I did go. Clicking on the description of one attraction I realised I could do with the help of Google Translate. That’s when I came across this google translate funny error. The photos herein just show that Google Translate doesn’t always get it right. At least I assume that’s the case.I doubt it meant to say “the children not easily rectum curves” although I didn’t try interpreting the Italian original myself.

One imagines that there re millions of examples of this sort of thing. Innit. For those thinking where’s he looking at then I’m thinking Port de Pollenca. If anyone’s been let me know how it was for you. We have a very rare 10 day window in August and it has been a good 7 years since we had an overseas holiday.

In looking for a destination our problem is that none of us are lie on the beach types.Also we don’t want it too hot and don’t want to have to go long haul, at least for this trip. The med is a good bet but there isn’t anywhere in the med that isn’t hot at this time of year. Ah well.

We will probably spend the cash and get back to find that the UK has basked in the best sunshine in living memory with Skegness having record crowds. No chance. Couple of posts of interest: Skegness in winter and then 6 months later.screenshot of tripadvisor in italian pre google translate funny error

google translate funny error screenshot

travel Weekend

Alex Murphy’s Life in India: Driver’s Licenses and Cremations

Making the connection between getting a driver’s license, MI6 ’00’ status, and averting explosions at open-air cremations.

Earlier this week I passed another milestone in my Indian adventure when I was issued an India driving license, and now I feel a bit like James Bond, with a license to kill.

Daft as that may see,it actually isn’t far from the truth. The driving test involved driving 100 yards in a straight line, reversing ten feet, and that’s it. No Highway Code, no test about the practicalities of driving, no question about what you do at traffic lights, no discussions about giving way at junctions, moving to the right to turn right, etc. etc.

It’s no surprise that chaos reins when no one is given clear instruction on how to drive, it’s a suck-it-and-see state of affairs. What you should really find worrying, though, is that with my 100-meter license I’m entitled to drive in UK as a visitor for up to 12 months.  How scary is that?

I went to a cremation on Friday. In India the tradition is that the cremation should take place on the same day of death, before sunset. There are exclusions, of course — for instance, if the circumstances of the death are suspicious — in which case the period between life in India and cremation can be extended. This cremation I attended was for the wife of a work colleague who died after a prolonged illness.

On arriving at the cremation ground you first work your way through many bodies, laid out in a number of altars, waiting for blessings and then cremation. It’s an open cremation, with the body placed on a pyre and doused in oil, after which the priest alights the pyre. There were about six pyres burning at the same time. Whilst I was stood watching the cremation, a family turned up with another body to cremate. You don’t need a death certificate to cremate a body, and indeed where a death certificate is issued, only 30% carry cause of death.

So I’m watching this family prepare this body for cremation and suddenly there’s a stir. A mortician is called for and without any screen or cover he opens the chest and pulls out a pacemaker! Apparently in hospital all metal is removed, however when a family just turn up things can be missed, and if certain things are left in place they can explode dramatically and throw off bits of body in all directions!

Back to the main cremation, there was a problem with the fire and many of the mourners started to argue about who and how the fire had been constructed. We left to return to the office, picking our way through more bodies waiting to be moved into the cremation ground for burning. Unlike the UK, following cremation the ashes are cast into running water, with no grave stone set or urn filled. The memory is retained in a picture hung on a wall at home with the years of birth and death. It is all absolutely final. No grave to visit and to place flowers on, no lasting place of peace where you can sit in the grass and chat to your mum when times are tough.


travel Weekend

James May Meccano Bike

James May Meccano bike in the back of a van in Skegness – surreal!

The Meccano bike as constructed by James May was of particular interest to me. I grew up on the Isle of Man and May rode his Meccano Bike around the TT Course.

We sat as a family watching the TV programme. We always do when there is a prog about the Isle of Man. Early on James May was stood over the road from the house of an old school chum of mine Paul Shimmin, near the bottom of Bray Hill. You could see Paul’s motorbike in his front drive.

Almost every kid in our class had a bike, except for me. I thought it was far too dangerous. In the IoM you can start driving at 16 and in the sixth form we would shoot off along the TT course on Fridays for lunch in the Creg Ny Baa pub. There was no such thing as asking for ID in those days.

Anyway there i was walking along the prom in Skegness, past the Embassy Theatre and there was this white van with the back doors open. I glanced inside and knock me down with a thirty pound sledge hammer if inside the van wasn’t James May’s meccano bike.

It was one of those surreal moments. Totally unexpected. Of course apart from taking a couple of pics what is there to do? I exchanged a couple of words with the guys loading it into the van. The meccano bike had been on display at the theatre and was now being taken back to the Beaulieu Motor Museum.

I was in Skegness to watch The Pylons. They are a terrific band  made up of five teenage kids and were playing the first of four Festivals this summer. Check out and “like” their Facebook page here. On Sunday it was the SO Festival with the BBC. The five kids in this band all play multiple instruments and show amazing promise. Buy their first EP “The Sun” available at all major online music platforms.

I’ll leave you with  few more sights from Skegness on Sunday.

broadband travel Weekend

Cygnets seen during today’s walk to work

Cygnets at Lincoln’s Brayford Pool

My walk to work always bring new sights. You see a lot more at my gentle strolling pace than when you are stuck in a car waiting at traffic lights, queuing at junctions and generally polluting the atmosphere.

This morning I came across this swan and her three cygnets. I can’t imagine the cygnets are more than a couple of weeks old although I’m no expert on this subject. The photograph was taken from behind railings only a few feet away. The swan remained calm but I’d like to bet that if I’d tried to get closer  to the cygnets she would have let me know it didn’t make a lot of sense. I assume it was a she but I’m not sure how you tell the difference.

At lunchtime on my way to the gym I spotted some blokes with a white van laying some fibre. I wanted to take a photo but felt this would have been a little conspicuous. Odd even (hey 🙂 ). Apparently we have a new building on campus that is being lit.

Around 5ish I set off for home. Didn’t notice if the cygnets were still there.  I have a very steep hill to walk up, called Steep Hill funnily enough. We are simple folk in Lincoln. Like to tell it like it is. Walking up Steep Hill is a challenge at the best of times but when you’ve been to the gym it is especially hard going. Must be doing me good, I’d imagine.

This is broadband week on So far this week we have had 12 posts, including this one which is nothing to do with broadband unless you count the fibre laying. It’s been noticeable that whilst on a typical day we get 15% return visits this week it’s been more like 20% per day. That’s more of our “regulars” coming back for the broadband themed week. As time goes by (You must remember this…) we will be having more themed weeks, now that we have the new site theme and hopefully will build up the visitor numbers.

There is still a fair bit to do before the site is finished. We are currently working on improving the sharing buttons – the plug in being used is a bit hit and miss with the shares. The comments system is also not as seamless as I would like. The previous design used the built in comment facility. This has been moved to Disqus on the basis that it is one of the leading systems in the game. However I’m not too impressed with it. Disqus adds more steps to the commenting process and whilst some of this week’s posts have attracted a reasonable level of comment I’d like to bet that some of you have abandoned the process due to the number of clicks you have had to make.

Anyway, more anon. Got a football match to watch. Ciao bebe.

travel Weekend

Union of South Africa at Newark Northgate

Union of South Africa A4 Pacific steam engine seen at Newark Northgate train station

Was heading to London for a meeting with Telehouse in Docklands and had to change trains at Newark Northgate. The jackpot came up. These in the siding stood the Union of South Africa steam train in tandem with the  LNER class K4 Great Marquess. Magnificent.

The train had apparently stopped to take on water. Amazing how people know about these things because there were a number of trainspotting enthusiasts on the platform. When I arrived it had apparently already been there an hour having pulled in to take on water – there was a tender in attendance a little further on down the track. They obviously don’t have the trackside water towers any more.

It’s amazing how people find out these things. The enthusiasts were still clicking away after the hour. Presumably had big memory cards in their cameras. There was also a bloke in a suit taking photos with his iPad. Presumably was an actual rail traveller like me (though unlike me not dressed in tshirt and shorts).

Always bemused when I see fold taking pictures with iPads. Usually Chinese tourists outside the British Museum. Not the most convenient form factor.

For those of you who don’t know the Union of South Africa was the last steam engine to leave Kings Cross Station on a scheduled commercial passenger run. The A4 Pacifics, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley were the fastest steam engines ever built and include the world steam speed record holder the Mallard.

I don’t mind admitting I like steam trains and have a layout, now rarely used, in the attic which includes a Hornby 00 gauge model of the Union of South Africa, a train that I have also had the privilege to ride on on a day excursion to Scarborough (fair play).

Note the overhead electric cables in the photos – seem somehow out of place.

The great marquess LNER class K4

Union of South Africa

Diesel & steam

British railways logo