Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Christmas 2012

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Well it has crept up quite quickly once more and as usual Kirst and I started really early this year; 3rd November… but we still have so much to do.
One blessing is I managed to wrap all Kirst’s presents yesterday which are sitting under the tree looking rather pathetic; wrapping is not my forte!

Hopefully have everything sorted by Saturday and actually have a few days rest which Kirst and I are overdue!

Paris 2012

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Every year Kirst and I like to treat ourselves to a weekend away for Christmas. Past few years we decided London was our best bet but this year we fancied something a little different. After naming several City’s; Cardiff, New York, Edinburgh, London, Paris… you know all the big ones! We thought as we haven’t been to France this year it would be nice to go to Paris.
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Most popular photos on Flickr

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Thought I’d use this new plugin to show off my most popular photos on flickr

12 months ago already!

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

матраци12 months ago today I had a 6th sense; called my grandad asking him if ‘he were scared’, ‘not really’ he replied in a brave tone. Wishing him ‘all the best’ and saying ‘I will see you the other side’; which was peculiar of me to say such a thing. I think to this day I had subconsciously realised ‘the other side’ would not have been of the operation but of my own death in years to come :'(
Those were the last words we shared and bless him he thought I was Porl Joynes, so never knew how concerned I was! Been a hard 12 months trying to get over it but writing this has finally drawn my first true tear and lump in my throat :'( …Maybe speaking out like this is what I have been longing for.

Good night all, treasure every moment; you never do really know when you are going to lose the best things in life.

Smiling Men on Dune

Reflections

Friday, January 1st, 2010

It’s that time of the year again that I reflect on the past 12 months and plan the next.
My past year has been very much a blur, partially through the amount I have managed to cram into it and partially because I’d rather forget about it.
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Too much thinking!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I sit here wondering what it takes to get out of the rat race the majority of us seem to live in. There is so much of the world yet to be conquered, engineering to be admired and seeing some of it this weekend has made me wonder exactly what it is I need to do to achieve this. I feel this is a burning ambition inside me… Or is this normal of a human? I don’t know; all I do know is I refuse to let this slip for the rest of my life, I don’t want to look back and say I wish I had done that, not any more. Seeing so much from these great heights at tremendous speeds slips my mind into a trance.
I am missing a vital piece of my jigsaw to life, I know what I am, what I want, what I have; but that piece that puts ambitions and goals into reality is missing. I don’t see where or what I am going to be in 10, 20, 40 years time. Before long they will come and I need to do something now otherwise I will never be satisfied… or are we never satisfied anyway? How many times do we think the grass is greener when it really isn’t!
We all seem to be destined to buy a house, settle down, have kids, retire then live if we are still fit to do so.
Well by the time I will be able to retire there is a likely chance I won’t be fit to live, so is it really that important to get into the rat race of buying houses having kids? Although I love my creature comforts I am unsure if I am a settler. I know I need to settle with a female, but settle somewhere seems too laborious for the rest of my life, I couldn’t do it.
I admire what Christine has to say with regards to this matter and it stimulates the mind, but to a dangerous level maybe beyond my ability. She seems gifted in the sense that she appears to be able to say I am going to do that and manages it; does she work her socks off for it – maybe; just maybe that is where I lack stimulation; but that doesn’t seem possible – my ambitions are worthy of stimulation… So someone help me!

Over so soon

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

We awoke normal time of around 9am and showered up before packing our bags. Around 10.30 we were all done and ready to leave. We were going into the city for one last breakfast but realised there were some form of parades going on in the city which meant many areas were closed off to traffic; so decided we would gt something a little later.
After writing an essay on the feedback forms we left the hotel and set off to the Airport; which we found a little difficult as the main road through had been closed so took what seemed like a long ring road around the city but saw very little signs of airport.
After 30 minutes of great driving by dad we spotted signs for the A94 which was the main motorway between Athens Airport and City centre, which was apparently confirmed by the toll being the same 2Euros 90 it cost us on the way in!!!

The streets seemed very deserted so we assumed it was a national holiday or those parades had some national importance, as we were going to visit the Ikea and Factory Outlet just before the airport but were too closed.
We filled up with fuel and went to the airport a little earlier than planned aiming to go around a few shops and grab a bite to eat before flying in a few hours.
We found a hot food self service canteen where we had some double decker style pizza and salad costing around 45Euros for the four of us. One thing we had learnt this break is that Greece despite its looks is by no means cheap wherever you go! We watched planes taking over whilst eating our luke warm pizza and salad that had tentacles and arms in; it turned out to have a mixture of sea creatures amongst the leaves which didn’t go down too well!

After going back and forth from shop to shop we sat down for another drink where Jodie half tempted a local cold coffee; until she realised the 4 inches of white froth above the coffee was in fact cream!
Desperate for the loo (which happened to be my first time this holiday) I set off looking for a toilet… What a nightmare; a disabled only toilet and a single sit down toilet seemed a little inadequate for a major international airport; or maybe it was just my eagerness that made it seem that way! Finally finding one not in use I felt relieved and set off shopping for the last time before boarding the plane at around 4.30pm.
We set off at sunset which over a murky Greece was most picturesque, it took a long time to go down and it was the most burnt orange look, glistening on lakes and ocean below. Saw little of the mountains before going completely dark.
Food started to be served immediately and comprised of a weird sandwich again and other various sweet compliments.
Well that is me done for now, we are not far off landing at Amsterdam where I can now see a few scattered lit up areas and not much else.
Seems to be a little cloudy but can still see the ground so the landing should be an easy one. We have about an hours stop at Amsterdam and then the last little stretch to sunny side Birmingham.
Landed safely at Amsterdam (obviously), went through the airport’s fast check out as we were just passing through again, this time we seemed to have a little more time so decided to go shopping. Jodie being Jodie couldn’t take the thought of us being late for our flight so the shopping was short lived. Nearly bought some miniature clogs for work, but no disrespect to them, at 4Euros each I decided against the idea. Why has the world become so expensive over night?!?!?
Once more we thought it would be a good idea to grab a snack, this time I decided to try a Baguette Flambee which was a hot baguette with onions, ham and two cheeses… It was nice to have something hot as the Greeks are not ‘hot’ food eaters.
It wasn’t long before we were boarding the final flight and to pass time as usual Jodie and I had a thick conversation with little outcome… If the world is 12 hours ahead towards the east, and 12 hours behind to the west of GMT, what happens when west meets east?
To top this boredom off we thought it would be a good idea to bring the number 23 to topic, our seat row was 23, my lucky number but Jodie’s unlucky – then to find out my seat was loose, the window curtain was bent and Jodie’s tray pin wouldn’t turn it was like a Final Destination moment. Which then led to the point of conversation about why it is sad to watch ‘How it is made’? I like it because I admire how things are made and it’s good to know how, where as I came to the conclusion Jodie is quite sadistic; she like Crash Investigation, Seconds from Disaster and Murder Mysteries – but somehow enjoys watching them because she admires how things are made too! All this because Jodie was called a Pratt by dad for not liking How it’s Made! – Not sure how he came to that conclusion but I’m not going to argue as it has been a good sense of humour to the break.
Just flow over the Norfolk coast sipping water and eating Chocolate and Vanilla biscuits. It’s a little weird I will be landing in Birmingham 10 minutes before I took off in Amsterdam, but that is the joy of travelling east to west!
Not got a lot else to say really other than it has been a great experience, but not one I would be willing to carry out again any time soon. Greece has been ticked off in terms of mainland / Athens.
I have now become a fan of both Florence and the Machine and Kasabian’s new albums thanks to my personal in flight entertainment whilst writing this.
It is now 21.06 GMT, flying over Norfolk and I have to be up in 9 hours for work – DOH!

Venturing out of the city

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Experiencing a bit of the roads over last few days we decided to get back onto the streets and go further a field and see what was beyond Athens city. We headed towards the coast, not really knowing where we were going we drove for around an hour and stumbled upon a little café selling cheese pies which we had to try for breakfast. Sitting on a quiet-ish road side eating our breakie and drinks we asked a waitress of where the nearest beach was, amongst her great pointing attempt at English we realised we weren’t far away at all.
About 10 minutes drive we found a little harbour where cafes, hotels and fishing boats were. We stopped here for a little walk where we saw a crisp clear ocean with much sea life, several Apache style helicopters circling from the local army base, loads of dogs just strewn across car parks and beautiful hills appearing out of the sea we took a few photos before heading back to the car.
Following the coast seeing/smelling fuel refineries and amazing ways of life we found our first super market; My Market. Where we bought once more some food to try and a few presents.
We headed back to the hotel and got prepared for a night out in the city. We went in on the tram system for ease. The square was buzzing with life, people going in and out of very expensive chocolate and designer stores. After walking around for a while a Greek man noticed us looking a little confused; we could see little restaurants and pointed at a little pizza place that didn’t look very appealing. He opted to point us in the right direction by walking us to a lovely restaurant he recommended. A couple of streets across we were in an area we were familiar too as we had taken a few photos on foot earlier and passed through on the train. Yet again greeted by an old Greek man very proud to shake hands and be nice… as they do! We sat down and were being recommended our starters, mains and wine but decided to be a little decisive which didn’t seem to go down too well. We decided to have his recommended salad and cheeses but all had a different main, chicken & pasta, Mousaka, Chicken with potatoes and Pork steak which disappointingly turned out to be a normal pork chop!
Determined not to be fleeced we were still shocked at the 102euros it cost us; not realising they had charged us for the various little nibbled they plonked on our table! We were given a little glass of murky Ouzo which wasn’t as strong as Sambuca even though still at 40%; it tasted a little weird and I couldn’t stomach it!
We paid up and went for a little walk, trying to find somewhere we could have a little taste of their sweets for the first time. Finding very little open we came across one shop just closing and ran in for a few nibbles.
After spending a while in the square taking night shots we decided to call it a night and head back home on the tram; trying our ticket in the ticket validation machines we realised it was 1Euro return and it had stamped us for the journey back; making it an even bigger bargain considering the taxi the night before cost us 20Euros for no more than a 2mile/5 minute drop off.

Athens City Rush

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Started the day with the most gorgeous power shower which freshened me up and it looked like the day was going to be a good one, it was wet but clearing up outside.
We went up to the top floor to have a look over the city where all we could see were masses of white houses for as far as the eye could see. Next block over was the tram line so we headed off to the city centre on that, at only 1Euro each return it was at last a bargain!
The tram pulled in at Syntagma Square, opposite the parliament buildings. A stall sold what looked like pretzels and various other Greek bakery produce so we opted to have this for our breakfast.
Aiming for the Acropolis we were unsure of where to turn amid the mass rush and luckily noticed a little touristy train which went around various streets of Athens allowing us to stop off and soak up the local culture. Our first stop was at a little market and small shops outside an ancient library in ruins. Here there were few beggars who made you feel guilty of their despair but knew getting your wallet out would have been a brave mistake.
We headed off into the square where there were streets of shops, stalls and food kiosks. After walking around for a while we stumbled upon a Greek kebab shop where yet again an old man lured us in. He too recommended us a typical dish on salads, various meets and sauces which we felt a little anxious about wondering if we were going to be fleeced again. The man assured us by stating we should only order enough for 3 people as this would have been sufficient. The food came along shortly comprising of chicken, lamb, spicy sausage, chips, red onion and tomato. It was a very nice taster of local food.
We continued to shop amongst the rain which started to thicken as the afternoon progressed. We headed back to the train hoping to get a glimpse of the Acropolis after getting a few presents and personal memoirs.
At this point it was lashing down and we all felt a little disappointed that we were not prepared for the occasion with clothing etc. So we headed back to the start point.
All a little thirsty we found a little café where Greek coffees, beer and ‘Coke Cola’ were bought!
Suddenly the rain had passed so we set off on foot to the Acropolis. Going through very windy, tight Greek alleys we ascended the mountain that the Acropolis was on, but still no real sign of how to get there. After trying a few routes and speaking to several locals who were more than delighted to point us in the right direction we were at the gates of the Acropolis. The walk through the gardens was amazing, reading the history and seeing the effort involved in creating the marble work was astonishing. We came across an Amphitheatre on the edge of the hill which was near on fully preserved.
We took the last climb to the top of the Acropolis where we were taken by surprise of the sights surrounding us, apart from the beauty of the Acropolis itself, every bit of flat land, hillside for as far as the eye could see was covered by 4-5 story buildings. It was a mass white sheet. The Acropolis looked amazing amid the sunset where I managed to hopefully get a few nice shots. It started to get a little overcast and cool so we decided to make our way back. Due to mom suffering with her feet we found a taxi to take us back to the hotel.
The evening thereafter was a little bit wasted as we were all a little tired but unsure of where or what to do as moms feet were not going to be able to cope with much more walking for the day. We sat in our room drinking Ouzo, red wine and eating various produces we had picked up throughout the day.

A quick flight to Athens

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Awaking too early as my phone had not correctly updated itself I decided to try to get the extra hour before I really had to be up. Waking this time at 2.45am by dad knocking on my door I felt quite awake and ready for the break.
Last minute checks and we were off, I decided to drive and actually got all the way to Birmingham without feeling tired; it was a holiday record!

Going through numerous checks including the near on complete strip down; where I had to get my laptop out of the bag, chain off, belt off, everything out of my pockets, coat off etc etc we sat in the lounge for only about 10 minutes before getting onto our KLM flight to Amsterdam. Set off in sun rise heading over Norwich way with little turbulence and a weird breakfast; 45 minutes later we were landing, 15 minutes later the plane had actually parked. Seems weird that it takes 15 minutes for a plane to get around an airport, 45 minutes to get from Redditch to Birmingham via car yet only 45 minutes to get from Birmingham to Amsterdam via a plane; amazing!
Amsterdam seemed a very rich fertile place with large estuaries all of which was very flat, that was about as much we saw as we had to go straight to our next boarding area.
Jodie had bought a bottle of water at the last airport as part of package little realising it would be taken off our hands soon as we tried to board our next plane. The deal wasn’t so much of a deal after all and didn’t we know about it… Jodie wasn’t impressed we could get scissors, a laptop and mobile phones through but not a bottle of water; whatever happed to our 5 basic needs!
Before long it was time to fly again, this time a 3.5 hour flight to Athens. The flight went smoothly with sandwiches, a chocolate brownie and various drinks. Flying over the Alps it was most picturesque, still with lots of snow on the peaks even though it is end of summer.
Landed at a very wet Athens airport at around 2.30pm local time, which including losing 2 hours through time difference.
Soon found our car in the car park which was a Seat Leon, looking relatively new yt somewhat battered!
We precariously joined the motorway and set towards Athens central where we were greeted with mayhem! Never seen anything like it, cars everywhere but in a lane, bikes going through red lights, horns sounding left right and centre for no apparent reason. Taking a few wrong turns was a big mistake, taking a three right turns you would assume would get you right back on track but that was not the case, it was near on impossible to find the route again. Eventually after asking 2 people who sent us in different directions we found the hotel, or so we thought… Turned out to be the Convention centre, but we knew we couldn’t be far away at all; or so we hoped after it taking some 4 hours to get where we are. We booked in and realised an extra charge was required for parking the car at 19Euros per night. The car park had a Hummer, Maserati 4.2l, Porsche 911 GT; but thankfully several other low key cars like ours too.
The hotel was 5 stars alright, with Concierge, large open areas, glass lifts, marble walk ways and that typical business vibe.
We got our room keys and settled in before going out for a meal, not knowing where to hell to go the concierge got us a taxi to a local Greek restaurant which was family run. Down a back street we were greeted with rain and a typical old Greek man. The food was nice and well priced, or so we thought; our first mistake was asking him to provide us with his recommended house wine, not realising until they has 2 bottled down them it was 25euros a bottle totalling our menu at 120Euros! We had a mixture of salads, lamb special, Mousaka and Bolognaise.
We headed back to the hotel and went to bed after arranging tomorrow.