Wednesday, 13 December 2006

The Big Three-Oh

Oh what a birthday! But let's start from beginning. We decided to have a houseparty and prepare all the food ourselves. So we registered with Sainsbury's online and made a big shopping list to be delivered, with at least half being booze. Everything was going well, until the Thursday before the party, when Sainsbury's notified me that they would not deliver the goods on Friday, without any explanation, except that my account was now cancelled.
My parents and my sister arrived on Friday and so we all went to Sainsbury's shop where we took two trolleys and filled them up with the four-page shopping list and took a cab back. Then we started preparing and more and more friends from Germany started arriving, of course none of them at the same time.

The last one to arrive was Alex at 11 o'clock at night.
The next day, we sent all of the guests out to explore London while the rest of us kept preparing for the party.
It was fantastic, we had salmon tortilla rolls, delicious lamb koftas, spicy Japanese crackers topped with crab meat, bacon and cranberry croissants, vegetable mini wraps, and much, much more.
It was time for the party, and lots of people showed up. Marco was mixing drinks in the kitchen, my dad was trying to translate German jokes into English, and I made some flambayed mulled wine and tried to talk to as many people as possible. Then it was close to midnight. I was locked up in the kitchen while my birthday cake was lit. Then I was brought into the room and it was overwhelming.
Kate made an entire computer out of cake!!! It had a flat panel screen, ergonomic keyboard, and a mouse out of home made marzipan. The cables were liquorice. Wow!!!

We opened a few bottles of very nice champagne, cut the cake. Then we all went into the living room, where I opened up my presents.
I got wooden games, nice rum from Germany, clothes, many cards, a 30 year old whisky which was distilled in 1976, but Kate wouldn't stop with the whisky, no, I got a little card with a picture of a bunch of skydivers on it. It was not a tandem jump, no, it was a voucher for the first level of the Accelerated Freefall course. But that will have to wait until the weather is better.

The party kept going for a few more hours. I ended up being a bit drunk and playing a bit more guitar and I don't quite remember how well I sang.

The next morning the guests slowly got up, they where scattered all over the house.
We had some breakfast and played some games and then they all had to go back to Germany.

It was a fantastic 30th birthday.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Kate's Birthday Trip to Budapest

It was Kate's 28th birthday on October 4th.

We decided to celebrate by going to Budapest for the weekend. Oh, what a treat... Just me and three wonderful ladies, Kate, Sophie and Kym. I was so excited, I forgot my pyjamas!

We walked all over Buda and Pest, exploring both towns. We first went to a hill in Buda visiting a church built into a cave.

We went up to the top of the hill and decided to visit a war memorial, which was very poignant. In the evening we discovered a little local pub which served food. We had a good meal and of course we had to try the Unicum - a local herbal liquor, which I thought tasted good, despite what the others thought.

The next day, we did more sight-seeing, visited the catacombs with fake cavemen paintings on the wall, but nevertheless was very interesting.

They even had a fountain of wine.

Afterwards we went to see the Fisherman's Bastion and Buda Castle.

In the evening we had a lovely fancy dinner, with musicians playing, while we enjoyed yet another fine meal.
On our last day, we went to the thermal baths in Pest, where we spent a few hours trying out every pool and just relaxing before we took the plane back home.

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Off to Germany

Friends of mine, Birger and Josi got married on the 19th August, so we decided to take a little trip to Germany.

It was a very nice wedding, especially the games. In Germany it is customary to have games throughout the wedding day. For example the couple has to cut a log of wood with a two-man saw to prove they can work as a team. There is also the custom of stealing the bride. The uncle and cousin of the bride dressed up as Mafia bosses, came into the party, tied up the groom and kidnapped the bride. Half an hour later, the groom was released and had to find his bride, who was taken to numerous bars around the village. On and on it goes ... what a fun night.

Just to prove that my hair still hasn't gotten better...

After the wedding we went to my old university town, Rostock, where we stopped at Marco's place, an old friend of mine from uni. We did some sight-seeing and went to see the Baltic Sea in Warnemuende. In the evening I met up with some more friends from uni to catch up on old times.

On the next day we went to my parents' place in Feldberg. It is a gorgeous area surrounded by lakes and lots of green.

We spent most of our time lounging and kayaking. Then we went back towards Hamburg, where our plane would leave the next day. On our way, we visited Luebek, a beautiful little Hanseatic town in North Germany, where they make the best marzipan in the world. We met up with my sister and then went on to go water-skiing not too far away from Luebek. Our muscles were hurting terribly afterwards. We are, after all, sad city dwellers ...

The next morning we had breakfast with Trulli and she saw us off to catch the plane.

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

The Isle of Wight

Kate and I decided to do a cycling trip for our summer vacation, so the first thing was: get a bike!

And that's the bike, a wonderful construction from a bicycle design from the turn of the century - not the recent one, the one before!

So we took off, and took the train to Portsmouth and the ferry from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde, where we had our first little B&B.

On the first day we rode to Bembridge and visited an old windmill, passing picturesque little churches on the way.

We got all the way to Sandown and went to the pikey games arcades that evening on the pier. The next day we took a little ride, just to find out a little later that I had punctured my rear tyre. Of course, the puncture repair kit was at the B&B, so we had to push the bike back. After hours of trying to fix the tyre and realising that it had multiple holes, we finally managed to fix it, but ran out of patches. We managed to find a bike shop, in the middle of the island on a farm, and just to be safe we bought another couple of tyres and a new patching kit.

On the next day we walked down the coast to Shanklin. The walk was gorgeous, and we visited Shanklin Chine, a garden built into the cliff side.

On the following day we cycled to Godshill, visited a miniature village, and had a delicious cream tea in a cafe with a beautiful garden.

And too much clotted cream makes your beard curl:

We then went further inland through beautiful fields and gorgeous weather to a little farm cottage in the middle of nowhere.

Our next destination was Blackgang Chine, a cliff side theme park. After that we cycled down to the coast and saw St Catherine's lighthouse.

On we went to Freshwater, where we finished the day with a sunset dinner right next to the sea. The next day we went on a boat out to see "The Needles", an outcrop of rock on the coast.

We also saw the rocket testing grounds that used to be there. In the evening, we wandered around looking for dinner, and found this little hotel that offered three course dinner, and we went in not knowing what to expect. We were seated in a bar adjacent to a gorgeous garden, where we were told to either turn off our mobile phones or leave them with reception, to avoid disturbing the dining experience. We had yummy appetisers while we looked at the menu and then followed the best meal of the holiday!

Onwards to Yarmouth, and we slept in the old Post Office, converted into a B&B, then on to Cowes, where they have a yearly regatta. That was our last day, and then we cycled back to Ryde to get the ferry, finally having a couple of pints at a pub where they allowed dogs, but not children! Then it was back to the mainland and back to work ;0(

Friday, 28 July 2006

Just a quick update

Denise, our housemate from Australia, always used to cut my hair. Now she has gone back home and this is what happens when you lose your favourite hairdresser...

Sunday, 9 July 2006

The Birthday Present

Due to some very late planning and complete disorganisation on my part, Ed Sykes and I decided to make a T-shirt for our friend Jarkko Lapinlampi.
We had a picture of him in his martial arts outfit that we wanted to put on a shirt. To do a proper job, we decided to do proper silk screen printing, which neither of us had ever done before. We found an art shop in Covent Garden for the supplies. Ed bought T-shirts and I printed out the silhouette of the picture on to transparencies. It was getting close to 6pm on Friday night. I left the office for the art shop, leaving the directions at work. Nevertheless, with the help of some local people we got to the shop with a comfortable ten minutes to spare before it closed. We grabbed the supplies and went home, where I waited for Ed to arrive with the T-shirts.
In the next 8 hours, armed with only pizza and beer to assist us, we completed this fine piece of art.

It was a great night, and it confirms that you need the pressure of an imminent deadline to complete any creative task.

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Off to Geneva

I had the opportunity to give a presentation at the EuroPython conference at the Cern Institute. So Kate and I decided to spend the weekend before the conference visiting Geneva.

On Saturday we walked all over town visiting old churches and buildings, and had a lovely lunch in an open restaurant under a huge tree.

On the second day we explored Lake Geneva. We walked along the shore, the weather was gorgeous, eagles flying over our heads, or at least some bird of prey. In the evening we had a lovely dinner at a little restaurant by the water. We sat outside and suddenly a bunch of teenagers came and stole money from the table next to us. The waiter and I chased them down the street. Although we didn't get the money back, the waiter gave us a free bottle of wine.

The next day we took a boat trip on a paddle steamer to a little French town further up the lake. It was beautiful little town, which had a flower festival on, but it was crowded with people. We spent the entire afternoon there and got more sunburned, took the steamer back, drinking refreshing white wine.

Kate left early Monday, and I went on to my conference. I hardly knew anyone there, but it was fun, especially being able to give a presentation.

Thursday, 29 June 2006

A Weekend in Milan

Kate had a Job to do in Milan, so I decided to leave early on Friday and meet her there.
It was hot, very hot. Fortunately our room had airconditioning.
On Friday we just went out and found a nice little Italian restaurant, where we sat outside and enjoyed some refreshing whine and yummy food.

On Saturday we did some sight seeing.

Then we put on our nice outfits went for a very nice dinner and then to the Opera.
Funnily it was an opera in German, but I still had to read the surtitles.

We went back to London on Sunday. All in all a very nice weekend.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

My folks' first time in London

My sister and I gave our parent a trip to London for their birthdays last year in November. In May they have finaly made it over here.
My sister and her boyfriend came along...

We, went to the London Eye, walked along the river and stoped for a few pints in Shakespear's pub the Anchor.
In the evening we went to Barbican for a synphoney orchestra, which was very enjoyable thigh everyone was quite worn out from walking around so much.

The next day it was proper London weather. A bit sunny and then raining and a bit sunny and again some rain.
We decided to go to Greenwich onthe boat, which ened up being a good choice as we had good weather all the way there and once we go to the market in Greenwich it started to rain.
We ended up in some old pub on the other side of the river between Canary Warf and Greenwih. It was a great day.

On the next day we just went around town, looking at variuos places and ended up taking a black cab home, I just wanted my parents to take one as they rarely take a cab and I just love them.

Kate and I and the rest helped too to make a proper roast diner.
We ate and ate and drank and talked and drank some more ... a lovely evening.

On the last day it rained again and we walked around hide park an green park till we had to go home for them to pick up their stuff and fly back home.

All in all and inspite of the not so great weather it was a lovely weekend and everyone enjoyed it.

a trip to scotland

For the first May weekend wed decided to go to Scotland to visit Erech, my friend who I helped out restoring the cottage just a year ago.
Erech picked usd up from Aberdeen airport and he took us to the cottage near Dufftown in his oh-I-love-it-so-much-vegetable-oil-powered-VW-bus.

The weather was so beatifull that we had breakfast out in the sunshine the next morning

and went for a ride to Loch Nes to find that old monster.

The scenery was lovely. We drove around the whole lake. We stopped a number of times to check out waterfalls, lakes, and cannels.

Had some scones and beer and just enjoyed the lovely day being silly.

We even saw Nessi!

The next day was just as beautiful. Breakfast in the sun and off to the Glenlivet distillery.

After that we went off do explore the countryside a bit,

which ment driving up tiny roads and laying in the grass looking up into the sky.

It was sunday so we decided to make a proper sunday roast ... lamb in honey and sider with roasted vegetables and mash ... delicious.
We finished it up with whine, cask-strength wisky and some music...

On our last day, Erech took us on the "longer route" along the coast to the airport.

It was a great trip and I am looking forward to the next time being up at Croftglass Cottage ;)

overdue post

It seems I am keeping up my bad habbits, not posting anything for ages.
So, this time I will have to cover a little easter trip to the new forest, a weekend in scotland and a visit from my folks and sister here in London.

The easter weekend was beautiful. Kate and I went to the New Forest for the weekend. We booked a lovely room in a family run B&B. It was quite charming and the breakfasts were great.

We explored the country on foot, visited a museum and a stately home one day,

the next day we went to an old restored water mil that was runing and from the flour the miller's wife made wounderful scones with clotted cream and jam and a nice cup of tea ... we had a proper cream tea by the river in the sun, fantastic. The last day we took a walk through the heath covered hills.

Of course things don't always go as planed. Being chanlenged by a rope hanging from a tree branch over a little stream I could not help myself but to except that challenge. All went fine, I swung accross and was standing on the other side of the stream

Kate said that she'd like a better picture, so I turned around and swung back across...

... just to find out that there was something wrong. My feet touched the other side, slipped off and there I was standing in the knee deep water.

Oh, what fun it was being out in the country, walking around in the heath. Horses that roam freely in the New Forest cross your way every so often and it all just seems so peaceful.

Just after the trip to the New Forest I went to the Accu 2006 conference in Oxford, where I gave a presentation on my jsolait project. I met a lot of interesting people(geeks), had great converstations, way too much too drink and too little sleep ;).