Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Lockdown 2

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

October started with Duncan’s birthday. It was a pretty quiet affair at home with Christine’s parents visiting and a film in the evening. Friday night has become film night more generally now (after a trial of Sky Cinema we signed up for a discounted subscription). Trying to select a film is always a bit of a trial, particularly balancing Emma’s desire for action against age-appropriate content for Duncan! I’m usually the one who ends up making a final decision to try and satisfy everyone’s needs.

Swimming lessons continued, as did long walks and cycle rides at the weekend. In addition to Tuesday Night Runs (now with beer inside but with face masks and table service), I managed a couple of runs with the IBM gang. We went to another SCJS training with Duncan, this time in the New Forest. We were back in the Forest a couple of weeks later for an event I planned at Anderwood. I managed to put one control in the wrong place – the perils of doing all of my planning in one visit to the area the week before the event – but otherwise everything went well!

Still with vacation to burn, I had half term off. Much of it was taken up redecorating Emma’s room: out with the little girl pink, in with the teenage grey (there was much debate about quite how dark a grey she could have!). Duncan and I amused ourselves soldering and assembling the MERG DCC command station and handset kits for his railway. Two pairs of hands definitely made the job easier, not to mention Duncan’s eyesight when it came to the surface-mounted components in the handset. Remarkably, it all worked once assembled but the train and track now need a bit of an upgrade to get a reliable signal.

Lockdown returned for four weeks in November which brought the more sociable activities to an end (at least face-to-face). You were still allowed to exercise with one other person, so Tuesday Night Runs involved Ian and I running around Chandler’s Ford, and I could still go out cycling with Alasdair. Through an article in CompassSport, we had discovered the Turf app (think Pokémon GO but without the cute characters) which, even four months later, is still getting us out the door.

Duncan bought himself a small drone which we then promptly had to retrieve from the garden two doors down the road! He also bought himself a penknife which has, so far, only caused the loss of blood on one occasion! The month ended with Christine’s birthday. Come December, Christine was also allowed to tell the world that she had succeeded in her promotion to Professor. At least she now needn’t worry about being called upon to help in an emergency!

Emma’s inflatable boot had not helped her ankle but we were then left waiting for the hospital to start operating on children again. We were eventually given a date at the start of December (still over a month before the NHS would have even started to look at her ankle). Christine would go with her so both had to traipse up to Basingstoke for a Covid test three days beforehand, and then the whole family had to isolate until the day itself. Having been on the front of the list, Emma was awake again by mid-morning and home early afternoon. All seemed to go well and, rather than a plaster cast, she got to use the inflatable boot again. By Christmas, she was walking around normally again although is still a bit wary of cycling.

Things opened up again for the next few weeks. Orienteering resumed with events at Bramshaw and Farley Mount. We even managed the annual Run the Pubs, albeit that the meal afterwards had to be in the pub garden as we were not all from the same household. I managed to give blood (having been turned away with a sore throat on the previous occasion). We also had a big online launch event for the Software Delivery Management product I’m working on, for which everyone in the company received a set of glassware in the post so we could drink a toast. (You had to provide your own drink though!)

The dreaded R-number was on the rise again in the run-up to Christmas and there was much debate about what we might be able to do. At best, it was possible that we might be able to meet family for a few hours outside but, by the 19th, Hertfordshire (where my family is based) was put in the topmost tier, ruling even that out. By Boxing Day, we joined them in Tier 4 and we were to enter another national lockdown in the New Year. The Christmas period was therefore spent at home, enjoying the frosty conditions outside, and doing yet more decorating!

New Year’s Eve was made a bit special as we cashed in the money that CloudBees was contributing to a festive meal and had a nice takeaway. Emma was then determined to stay up until midnight and we thought we should probably keep her company! As the year came to an end, I’m sure everyone had the same wish: that 2021 should be a better one.

Paris and Parc Astérix

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Our main holiday for the summer was to be camping in the French Alps but we had to get there first! We decided to take the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre (very convenient for us and highly recommended for avoiding the tedium of a day wasted sat on a ferry) and then stage our journey down through France.

First stop after leaving the ferry was Paris. I didn’t fancy driving into the city centre so we parked out at La Défense (it was a Sunday) and took the metro in which seemed to work well. The aim was largely for the children to see the sights and we achieved that even if, with the temperature in the high 30s, we spent much of the time seeking out the shade.

Our overnight accommodation was conveniently placed just 10 minutes from our next day’s entertainment: Parc Astérix. After going in search of food supplies in the morning, we were still late to the party and joined long queues waiting to park. We were slightly put out by having to pay an extra €12 for the parking but there wasn’t much choice at this point. It’s still a LOT cheaper than Disneyland. That wasn’t our main reason for choosing it though: given an Astérix book, Duncan is lost to the world for hours as he reads and re-reads it.

We started with a wooden rollercoaster which turned out to be a good move as the rattling ride was enough to tame Emma’s desire to hit some of the more adventurous attractions. As you’d expect, absolutely everything has an Astérix theme although, as you’d also expect, sometimes it was a bit tenuous. It was very hot again and we were glad that, even when we did have to queue half an hour for a ride, there was generally a fair amount of shade to be found.

There was also a reasonable amount to do beyond just the rides. The dolphin and sea lion show was both entertaining and educational and “Main basse sur la Joconde” was quite a theatrical spectacle that had the children in stitches. Having failed to buy food to take in, we ate both lunch and dinner in the park and, to be honest, the prices were not unreasonable. We didn’t quite stay until the park closed but it wasn’t far off. In total we spent over ten hours there and there was plenty that we didn’t see and do.

The next day we set off south again, stopping at the walled town of Semur-en-Auxois largely because it’s about half-way down the country. We took a walk around the town and Emma was visibly wilting in the heat. Our hotel had big thick walls which meant the room was cool on arrival but sadly, without air conditioning, it didn’t take long for the four of us to warm it up! The children were therefore happy to get in to the car the following morning to complete the journey down to the Alps.


Climbing and Cones

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Emma ClimbingEmma’s had a prolonged birthday this past week. Last weekend was her party with Emma and seven friends from school heading to the climbing wall at St Mary’s Leisure Centre in Southampton. (The traffic getting in to Southampton was a nightmare. We’re not sure whether it was the presence of the world’s largest cruise liner or Peter Andre that was pulling in the crowds!) After the initial briefing Emma scampered up to the top of the wall without too much difficultly. If we’d placed bets on which of the other girls would be slightly more reluctant then we’d have made a healthy profit! The instructor was very good though, encouraging them on but not pushing them if it was clear they just wanted to come back down. Everyone enjoyed the last part spent in the bouldering room.

Emma's Birthday CakeThe shape of the cake was a clue to the second destination for the party: Sprinkles Gelato. Unfortunately we weren’t treated to the same glorious weather we’d had the previous weekend when we’d walked the route but there wasn’t too much complaining about the rain. We had a table booked and eventually managed to get everyone to decide what they wanted to eat. Having seen the size of a two-scoop cone the previous week, we limited them all to a single scoop and toppings  which made it quite a cheap visit! They shop was also very good in helping us navigate the various allergies of one of Emma’s friends so the EpiPen wasn’t needed.

Emma and CakeEmma’s birthday itself came round later in the week. Her school lets pupils wear non-uniform on their birthday which meant Emma could try out one of her new dresses. It’s a nice way to make them feel that extra bit special. One of Emma’s other presents from us will take slightly longer to get any use from us. The crystal growing set suggests using a well ventilated basement room for the experiments! The biggest smile on Emma’s face though was when she came back from gymnastics that evening having passed her badge 2.

Two Days with Uncle Bob

Friday, May 13th, 2016

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the past two days in the presence of Robert C. Martin a.k.a. Uncle Bob for his Clean Code workshop at Skills Matter in London. I arrived at the very last-minute having decided to try out a Santander Cycle for the first time, only to discover that the promised docking station next to Code Node has disappeared under road works.

The workshop got off to a slow start as we spent over an hour going round the room indicating how long we’d been programming and what languages we’d used. This seemed to be just so that we could observe that, as well as a fair smattering of those in the first 5-10 years, there were many of us beyond our first flush of youth! That, and so that Bob could provide a potted history of various programming languages. This was a general theme for the course with Bob prefixing each module with an interlude on some aspect or other of astro or nuclear physics!

As a consequence of the above, if attendees were expecting to learn all of the content of the Clean Code book during the workshop then they’d leave disappointed. (Although a copy of the book was included in the exorbitant course fee.) What you did get was a good understanding of the values that underlie the practices covered by the book, the opportunity to watch the master at work refactoring and plenty of opportunity to ask questions first-hand.

I shan’t attempt to repeat the material but there were two main a-ha moments for me. The first was that, as a result of not doing test-first development, we’ve ended up with unit tests focused on each individual method. This has made them extremely fragile to refactoring which, in turn, means that either the tests quickly fall by the wayside or that refactoring just doesn’t happen. And that leads to the second learning point: to refactor mercilessly, extracting functions until every function does just one thing. I had fallen in to the trap of seeing the myriad of small methods as adding to the complexity. Bob’s argument is that, well-named, the methods allow you to quickly gained an understanding of what the code is doing at every level of abstraction. Based on the one exercise that we did during the workshop, I’d say that pairing is immensely helpful in determining what makes a good name. Anyway, lots to share back with my colleagues!

As an aside: I can heartily recommend the Hawksmoor Seven Dials if you are a fan of steak (although it has to be said that the corporate expense limit would have just about covered the meat on my plate!).

Visiting the Cornish Cousins

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Canoe, Loe BeachSea Otter ChristineIt’s half term this week and things got off to a flying start with a trip to see the Cornish cousins. Our arrival was timed perfectly weather-wise. Having stopped in Exeter on Friday night we arrived around lunchtime on Saturday, just as the skies began to clear and the afternoon was spent paddling around on the river in the sunshine. We could just about squeeze the eight of us in to Ian and Sarah’s open canoe and a friend’s kayak. We didn’t get very far but everyone enjoyed themselves. The kids particularly liked picking rubbish out of the water! Christine also made the most of having squeezed herself in to a wetsuit and went for a dip in the water afterwards. She struggled a bit with keeping her feet underwater though!

Sunday was packed with more activities. We started out with a scoot round the boating lake at Helston, taking in the playground and skate park. We then relocated just down the road to the National Trust’s Penrose Estate where it was apple day. There wasn’t a huge amount laid on but the children thoroughly enjoyed mashing up the apples and then pressing the juice out of them.


Emma bodyboardingDuncan sat in the surfNext stop we the beach at Hayle. Having stopped at the surf shop on the way Emma and Duncan were suitably kitted out in wetsuits and had a whale of a time bodyboarding and just generally messing about in the surf. My back was starting to play up again at this point so I settled for just enjoying the autumnal sunshine.

Lost Gardens of HeliganMonday was our last day and sadly the weather was set to take a turn for the worse. We managed to spend most of the morning at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, taking in their Halloween trail, craft activities and story telling, before the rain really set in and we were glad to de-camp to the cafe for lunch. Then it was all too soon time to wave goodbye to the cousins and wend our way back home to Hampshire.

BBQ Washout

Friday, July 24th, 2015

SOC Bake-offSOC was meant to have a BBQ tonight and, to be fair, we did have a BBQ. Truth be told though only one person attempted to cook their food on the BBQ with everyone else seeking the warmth, shelter and food of the IBM clubhouse. Sadly the rain also meant there weren’t many takers for H’s Hidden in Plain Sight photo-O. Luckily my local knowledge meant that, with a bit of a cerebral workout, we could work out most of the controls with a beer in hand! Christine had also organised a bake-off, with Rob’s chocolate coated 3D-map taking first prize.

SeaCity Museum

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

We had been entirely inept in our holiday planning this summer and consequently the appointed time arrived and we had a) not had Emma’s passport back four weeks after sending it off for renewal (how much trouble can a five year old have got in to?!) and b) not booked anything in this country either. So our staycation started with a trip on the train to the new(ish) SeaCity Museum in Southampton.

It costs an arm and a leg to get in (if your not a Southampton resident) and we were grateful that the girl at the desk ignored Emma’s last birthday. Emma was primed with the obligatory museum trail which, combined with an assortment of flaps to open and close, kept her and Duncan amused in the Titanic gallery whilst the adults actually tried to read a paragraph or too. There were a few hi-tech hands-on exhibits which were well done although they tended not to support many hands so there was some queuing involved. It must be chaos if they have a school party in!

We then moved on to the “Gateway to the World” exhibition which was also well done. I certainly learnt a few things about the area even if the children didn’t (e.g. that there was a motorway spur road planned that would have obliterated much of the Portswood Road area). The last exhibition was “Titanic the legend” which wasn’t much to write home about but did give Emma a chance to do some colouring and make a paper hat (having given up on the trail).

By now it was lunchtime so we thought we’d sample the café rather than trek in to town. This proved to be a bit of a mistake. The food was reasonable but the service was pretty dire. The staff were well meaning but they seemed generally incompetent. After about 20 minutes of waiting for my quiche I went to enquire about it at which point it became clear that my order hadn’t made it from the till to the kitchen! During the intervening time we saw food go back uncooked, cutlery not provided and order numbers reused (or perhaps they were table numbers but we were given ours before we’d selected a table)…

We ended our trip out with a quick look around the adjoining art gallery (free) but Duncan was getting tired by now having been made to walk everywhere so it wasn’t long before we were on the train back home. All-in-all, a reasonable day out but not one we’ll be looking to repeat in a hurry. I’d have included more photos but for some reason photography wasn’t permitted in most parts of the museum (another black mark).

Half term holiday

Monday, February 20th, 2012

1001We’ve quickly settled in to the school routine when it comes to organising our holidays around term time. For February half term, Emma and I enjoyed a day together whilst Christine worked and Duncan went to nursery as usual then, the next day, we packed our bags and set off to visit Christine’s brother and family at their new house in Cornwall. We stopped off in a Travelodge in Ilminster on the way down. I wouldn’t recommend it as it’s looking pretty tired. We also made the mistake of attempting to go out for dinner in the town on what was, of course, Valentine’s night. We traipsed around with the children in tow being turned away from one pub after another. Eventually we did ended up at the Marston’s pub which did us proud.

We had an enjoyable time with my Uncle in Devon the following day, visiting the miniature zoo in Shaldon amongst other things, before completing our journey down to Cornwall. The next day we headed back west to re-visit the Eden Project. It must have been five years ago when we last went as we met my parents there and told them that Christine was pregnant with Emma. The children enjoyed themselves greatly, particularly the chocolate theme! The next day was spent in and around Falmouth with the relatives. We even managed some sunshine down on the beach. I’m afraid we can’t recommend the Gylly Beach cafe as the wait was prohibitive. The ice creams afterwards went down well though.

Sadly the nice weather was not to last and our journey home was spent under a rain cloud. We did, at least, have a day to gather our thoughts again before getting back to the school/work routine.