Holiday in Pembrokeshire

Back to work tomorrow after a great few days holiday. If you’re even in Pembrokeshire, I recommend St David’s, and Porth Clais. Between Thursday and Saturday the weather way very fine and we enjoyed long walks with the dog along the stunning Pembrokeshire coast.

Severn Bridge Bishops Palace at St David's Pigsfoot Lane Climbers Cliffs

Early Sunday morning, however, it turned not only very wet but also very very windy. Not a great combination when you’re sleeping under canvas, and we kept waking up slightly intimidated by the way our tent was being thrown around. Ray got out the camera to capture the moment (note the dog laying between our sleeping bags, 38 seconds in).

And about 20 minutes later, despite conducting emergency running repairs to the pegs and guy ropes holding us down, our tent had totally collapsed, with us inside it.

We had a lovely stay though, despite the final night. In fact, clambering out of an inside-out, soaking wet tent is a happy moment one that will stay with me for a very long time.

Say hello to my little friend

My wife and I bought a (nearly) new car recently.

New car New car New car New car New car New car

It’s a Citroen C1. Citroen says it’ll do 51-72 mpg, which is about 500 miles on one 35 litre (£30) tank. So far, this seems pretty accurate.

It’s cheap to tax, too (£35 this year, which will go down even further next year to just £20).

Its little 3 cylinder, 1 litre engine is quieter and more civilised than I expected. For driving around town, and short journeys to the station, it’s perfect, and even short motorway trips are OK.

Clarkson says

In many ways, it’s the spiritual successor to the old 2CV, that poisonous upturned bathtub favoured by the sort of hippie who’s currently handcuffed to the tow hook of your Land Cruiser.

Rachel owned one of those upturned bathtubs when we first started going out together, and they’ve always had happy memories for both of us.

I like the C1. I like it a lot.

Amsterdam. Birthdays.

Ray and I were both 30 this week, so we spent a long weekend in Amsterdam with to celebrate our birthdays.

Urinal Our apartment why is the new because Bridges Canals Amsterdam

Amsterdam doesn’t deserve its seedy reputation. It’s a bit of a cliche to talk about going to Amsterdam for the museums and culture, but no more of a cliche than the assumption that the whole city is full of drugs and prostitution. In truth, the red light district is confined to a fairly small and densely packed area, which has the side effect of making the rest of the city feel even more clean and family-friendly than I would have guessed.

We visited

  • Anne Frank’s house (harrowing)

  • Rembrandt’s house (interesting)
  • Van Gogh Museum (disappointing)
  • Hermitage Museum (brilliant)

and much more.

In stark contrast to LA (which you’ll remember I didn’t like very much) Amsterdam is a cultured and relaxing place to stay; no extravagant displays of opulence or vast downtrodden underclass. Houses may be expensive, but people get around on tatty old bicycles and drink beer and read books in cafes. It feels comfortable and friendly.

We really enjoyed our four days there, and I would definitely go back again.

Amsterdam Rembrandt's House Rembrandt Nightwatch statue Nearly autumn Canal Amsterdam Schiphol airport

Wedding Weekend

I went to Oxford this weekend to celebrate Megan and Ben’s wedding.

Keble College panorama

The wedding (complete with double violin concerto) was held in the chapel of Worcester college. The reception (complete with bouncy castle) was held in Mansfield college. I stayed in Keble college (shown above). All three colleges are stunning.

If you’ve never been to Oxford it’s eminently worthy of a visit. Utterly soaked in history, it lives up to the foreign tourist’s idea of what England should look like beautifully. Eating breakfast in the dining hall at Keble this morning, Ray and I were reminded of Harry Potter. Philip Pullman is from Oxford, and it clearly influences his work too.

Congratulations and best wishes to Megan and Ben. A lovely time was had by all.

Family Fun

Just back from a very relaxing family holiday in the Algarve. 7 days of exploring, sunbathing, swimming and reading. I couldn’t feel more relaxed.

The villa and pool, autostitched

We stayed in a lovely villa between Silves and Algoz (about an hour from Faro airport). Six of us stayed in the villa, which was large, clean, well equipped, had a (cheerful and friendly) cleaner who visits twice a week. We were very sorry to say goodbye. Indoors, and in the shaded outdoor dining area, it was cool and shady. A very good thing, since temperatures outside ranged from 25 to 39 °C during the week. Hot hot hot. Coming back to England was a bit of shock.

Sunset at Ferragudo Carvoeiro The pool Beach Sunset at Ferragudo Fig

Christmas 2007

Back from a lovely few days seeing friends and staying with our families in Dorset.

Gingerbread House Open Fire The Milldown Socks Open Fire

I’m at home now, and won’t be back to work until Monday 7th January.

Iceland day 1

My brother Sam and I are in Iceland for a week. We flew in this afternoon from London Heathrow to Iceland Keflavik, which 40 minutes outside Rekjavik.  Importantly, it’s also only 15 minutes from the Blue Lagoon – an amazing geothermally outdoor pool full of blue-green algae and strange squishy mud. The departure of the transfer bus was kept waiting by group of kids delayed in the airport, but we soon forgave them when they turned out to be a choir. A choir which sang beautifully on the bus (and even, briefly, in the lagoon).

I don’t think I’ve yet found a better way to relax and de-stress after a flight then soaking for a couple of hours in hot, eggy, milky blue water. There’s a waterfall, grotto-like steam room, and a sauna (which we ignored). Dotted around the edge of the lagoon itself are containers from which you can scoop mayonnaise-like mud. Rubbing white mud onto your face is nice, but the biting wind means you really want to keep your face dry.

Post lagoon, San introduced me to the best hot dog in the world ever, complete with the local treat of crunchy onion bits. Here’s a tip: go to the blue lagoon and on the way out, have a hot dog.

Iceland skies Blue! Blue Lagoon Blue Lagoon

The hotel is basic, and a 20 minute walk into town, but comfortable. Comparing tour prices with car rental was amusing: 7000 ISK (£70?) per person for one 8 hour trip around three or four of the major tourist attraction (Gullfoss, Geysir, etc). Renting a car, however, is only 4995 ISK for 24 hours. That’s tomorrow sorted then.

Walk into 101. The wind is cold, and initially my nose and ears are stinging, so I remember the technique of wrapping a scarf around your head. With that, a hat and a hood, I’m pretty cosy, with the exception of my thighs. And so, we walk into the hippest town centre between London and New York – Reykjavik 101. Hot chocolate at a cafe, then find the 10pm showing of Sigur Ros ‘Heima’ film at a nearby cinema. Wow. Back at around 1am, tired and happy.

More photos are being added to this set as I can upload them.

Iceland Airwaves 2007

I’m getting rather excited about Iceland Airwaves (find it on Upcoming.org and Last.fm). I fly to Reykjavik with my brother, Sam, on Monday 15th October, and we won’t return until the following Monday. Seven whole nights of Icelandic bliss.

Blue lagoon

Blue Lagoon by Tomosaurus on Flickr

The festival itself runs between Wednesday 17th and Sunday 21st October, and takes over nine different venues in Reykjavik, as well as a ‘hangover party’ in the Blue Lagooon (above) plus more events running in eleven ‘off-venue’ locations including clubs, record stores and coffee shops.

The list of artists playing at the festival is eclectic to say the least, and the schedule is impressive. Just some of the bands I’m looking forward to seeing:

I missed last year, but my brother’s enthusiasm for the event meant I had to join him this time around. To give a flavour of it, after the event proper finished, Erlend Øye (of Kings of Convenience) fame played an acoustic set in a church in the middle of nowhere for an audience of three or four people. Fortunately, one of them captured and shared the moment…

Although Sigur Rós (my long-time favourite Icelandic band) are not scheduled to play this year, Sam and I are hoping to take in quite a bit of the local Sigur magic. Having missed tickets for it in London, I’m looking forward to seeing the film ‘Heima‘ which is playing in Reykjavik that week. Plus, Riceboy Sleeps (formed of Jónsi Birgisson from Sigur Rós and Alex Somers from Parachutes) are exhibiting a new video at the Turpentine Gallery in Reykjavík as part of the Sequences Art Festival.

I just need to pack some warm clothes, a notebook, prepare the iPod and get some spare batteries for the camera.

Update:
John Lennon´s Memorial Peace Beacon is in Reykjavik.

It´s turned on on his birthday (October 9th) and off again on the day he was killed (December 8th).

The Harvester Connection

Some would say that going to school with Pete Docherty and Duncan-from-Blue should be enough of a claim to fame for anyone, but get this…

“Have you ever been to a Harvester before?”

 

The guy in the right wearing glasses in this Harvester advert? (1:20 into this collection of old British TV ads) That’s my second cousin, e.g. my Dad’s cousin, Stephen. I’m sure there was another version of the advert in which he held up a pair of onion rings as glasses, but I can’t find the video evidence for this anywhere.

I have vague memories from childhood that Stephen appeared in a commercial for Bounty (the coconut chocolate bar, not the absorbent kitchen roll), and I seem to remember tales of him having to stay in bed on the days he couldn’t afford to eat. Whether Stephen himself ever told me such horror stories or my parents supplied them I am not sure. In either case, I assume they were designed to dissuade me from pursuing a career as an actor.

I know Stephen was also in the TV adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia as the King Giant in The Silver Chair episode, and in ‘The House of Elliott’ (remember that, British types?) as Fox. His profile in IMDb helpfully tells me that he also appeared in single episodes The Bill and Allo Allo and that I should now watch All Quiet on the Western Front and Rough Cut to see if I can spot him.

Migraine

Urgh. Had the worst migraine of my life (and the first for 10 years) last night. Rachel, who was not feeling at her best herself, kindly drove out to get me some medication.

I’m feeling better today, though still fragile.

[cc-licensed image from blackgraphite on flickr]

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