Sunday, December 11, 2011

Alfie's 2nd Birthday!

The past month has simply flown by!  One day we're at Colchester Zoo then all of a sudden its the middle of December and I'm sat on the sofa as a family of four!  So yeah, lots has happened in the past month, obviously including the birth of our daughter Esme, which gives me loads to catch up on over the next few days and weeks!

But before I get to that I must first catch up with the wonderful day we had at Colchester Zoo on November 12th to celebrate Alfie's 2nd birthday.  We were joined by my Dad, Tasha's Mum and Dad, all of his Aunties (Dawn, Ammie and Michi) as well as Bill, Linz, Tom and Team Ferg (Sal, Dave, Dan, Joe and Jess).

Colchester Zoo has changed loads since I was last there, and it was excellent to see all the new attractions.  Bill and Dawn both told tales of an amazing ant colony which we never managed to find though :o(

Amongst the new attractions were some parrots - which incidentally squawk very loudly - and some cool black and orange monkeys whose enclosure you can walk through and get real close to.

Alfie was certainly a fan!  In fact he gave it a firm 'thumbs up!'

We had a good mooch about the reptile enclosure, and Tash got to hold the MOTHER of all stick insects!

One of the reasons we had decided to visit Colchester Zoo was the fact you can feed the elephants.  I've always loved that, and with Alfie having something of an elephant obsession I figured he'd love it ... as long as their immense size didn't scare him off!

Amazingly he didn't bat an eyelid and we must have gone around three or four times giving these big ole ele's their veg!  Judging by Sal's reaction I think feeding the elephants might have made her year too!  With me taking Alfie round I wasn't able to get any photos, but I'm guessing Fred will have some as in traditional fashion he was like this most of the day.

Lunch came around fast, and we pretty much took over the on-site Pizza place.  With all the tables lined up we sat down to some of Colchester finest Italian offerings!

We had arrived early and dropped off the cake to the eatery to save me having to carry it around all morning.  I was going to make Alfie something nice and dazzling ... but then remembered he was two and so decided to go for the 'chocolate overload + all the smarties' option.

The afternoon was largely spent around aquatics creatures - or at least that's the story my photos tell!  The Sea Lions and there underwater viewing tunnel were a massive hit, and we managed to catch feeding time at the Penguins.  The kids loved them;

By about 4pm we were all shattered.  Largely from chasing Alfie around.  Dan, Joe and Jess had done the wise thing and decided to grab a nap, but not Alfie who seemed to think he was an Energiser bunny.  Still, it was his birthday after all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Alfie Batsford - 24 Pictures for 24 Months!

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Racecar Shack Build, Day Two

Weekend just gone (Oct 29/30) Bill paid FTC a visit to help me complete the first stage of the racecar shack build.

This is where we got up to last time if you don't remember.

In the few weeks since his first visit I'd sorted 8 metal roofing sheets, the 'special' nails for the sheets, as well as the hangers and wood for us to erect another joist.

Friday night was a little later than planned, and that plus an early Saturday morning F1 Quali session saw us a little slow to start.  We quickly realised we were light on wood for the noggings so decided on a swift visit to wickes ... and calculated en-route (with the use of a dusty Benz dashboard) that if we could get 360cm lengths of wood we would be able to notch them - and the joists - and get everything to interlock nicely.  This was a little too much use of the little grey cells for such an early hour, and so after loading the wood into the Benz we dived into the adjacent fast food retaurant for a flame grilled wopper!

Once we got back lunch time was fast approaching and so we got busy erecting the second joist;

and then notched our first nogging;

followed by notching of the joists;

and nogging No1 was in place by the time round two of burgers were ready (this time flame grilled on the Barbie!)

With one already done we were quickly into our rhythm;

and the remaining notching went super fast ... but it always helps when Tim from next door passes over a couple of pints!

With the woodwork complete it was time to throw the tin sheets up!

And 45 mintes later we had a full roofed front section of the shack!

Now's time to get the Fig Tree moved, and then the rest of the shelter can be erected up to the barn.  More tin sheets will go down to extend the roofing and it'll be an awesome usable waterproof space!  By the end of the day Bill and I were pretty proud of our achievements, its just a shame this photo only accomodates one - thanks though mate, I couldn't have done it without you!!

Ciao Marco!

Every once in a while something happens in life that stops you in your tracks, and makes everything else in life seem totally insignificant.

Such an occasion happened last Sunday (23rd) when Marco Simoncelli was tragically killed at Sepang.  I can't quite put my finger on why, but its something thats really hit me.  I was a massive fan of his and watched him progress through the lower classes up to MotoGP.  His tall build and crazy big hair set him a unique figure, and there was many an occasion when I referred to Alfie as 'Marco' or 'Simmo' due to his crazy hair tendancies.

When I watched him on a 250 you could tell he'd make it.  He had that something about him that seperates the great riders from the good.  And, much like his close friend Valentino Rossi, he had that Italian charm and broken English which always seems to go down well with the English crowd.  Toby Moody commented in his blog about the way Sic used to say "Ciao Tobbee" and even though I never heard him utter those words you can just imagine him saying them!

I think its the events of this year that have really made his death so untimely, and a factor to why I've found myself spending the past week rewatching interviews, searching for pictures and yesterday (Thursday) watching the Italian stream of his funeral.

My friend Barry Kidney only started watching MotoGP this year, he said he was looking for the outsider to cheer on, someone who might be able to take on the big boys.  I said Simoncelli was the man, the last race of the 2010 season had shown he wasn't to be pushed around by anyone, even if that meant upsetting the current champion Jorge Lorenzo.

With Rossi struggling to sort this years Ducati it meant most MotoGP races were quite processional - I said to many people this year that MotoGP was only worth watching till Simoncelli binned it.  He was the one to watch, the one pushing the boundaries, and the new boy taking it to the 'aliens'.  He had factory support - Honda could see how great he was going to be - but he was still on an independent bike and it was clear he would be chasing wins this year.  You could see this was going to be a learning year for Sic, a year where the exploration of the boundaries would result in a few trips to the kitty litter but you knew would also bring podiums.  That isn't a slight on his ability, I remember Stoner and Lorenzo highsiding themselves into orbit whilst they learnt exactly where the 'line' lies.

And it was great to watch, his tall 6ft+ frame like a preying mantis on the Honda whilst all around him were 5ft nothing jockeys trying to hold on to 230+bhp monsters.

Only three races in and Lorenzo was taking shots, but Marco seemed to take it all in his stride.

But then came Le Mans.  Simoncelli knew he was quick, we all felt his first podium was just around the corner.  He made a hard move coming back against Pedrosa.  Pedrosa went down and broke a collar bone.  Im still not convinced Simmo was wrong, but either way it was exactly the kind of racing us fans want to be watching!  If you haven't seen it, this is the best video i've found of the incident, but I can't seem to embed it into the blog easily.

Simoncelli got a ride through pentaly which I felt was riduculously harsh, and a large portion of the MotoGP paddock seemed to turn on him.

Three weeks later Sic had an unfortunate highside on the first lap, and his crash took out Lorenzo.  A week later Dani Pedrosa refused to shake his hand at Mugello.  

All this did was endear him me - and all his fans - even more though.  This is clearly shown in this interview at the British GP (which fell between Catalunya and Assen) - his Italian charm there for all to see!

For a few weeks we lost our 'SuperSic', his confidence clearly had taken a knock and he just wanted to get some finishes under his belt.  He looked a more mature rider than his 24 years suggested, and you sensed it was a step forward.  Then since the summer break he'd nailed consecutive fourth places before a career best 2nd (and his first podium) just two weeks ago at Phillip Island.

He was back on the up, and as he went into the Malaysian Grand Prix he must have fancied himself for victory.  Certainly none of us ever imagined what would play out last weekend.

I remember thinking mid season how happy I would be for him when he won his first race, however he was taken from us before he had the chance to pop that feather in his cap.  Without doubt I think he will always be the greatest World Champion that there never was.

Ciao Marco, you were a breath of fresh air to MotoGP!

As Matt Roberts said in his excellent blog, "Motorcycle racing brought Marco Simoncelli to his death but it also brought him to life" and when aboard his Gresini Honda he came alive like no other!