Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I didn't Realise I Had So Much To Write About

Its been a little while since I updated the blog, and when I flick back through recent photos I see I realised I haven't really been up to much.  Don't get me wrong, a lot has happened, but not much that's either completed nor photographed.

A lot of time has most definitely been spent working, and one thing that's for sure is that the years Gathering is going to be the best ever ... by some way!  And amidst this, the Benz battery failing and agreeing to buy a caravan I seem to have done a fair bit in the kitchen.

Last week I had the urge to make crab ravioli on ginger veg soup - my first experience into the world of homemade pasta!

It turned out great though, and I was amazed at how easy the pasta roller was to use!  I had made the soup and crab filling before Tash got home, and once she arrived we had a long sheet of pasta rolled out within a couple of minutes!

Thankfully it all turned out really well, and its something I'll be giving a go again in the future.  And Alfie adored it too!

This was followed up by making my first brew of Nettle Beer.  Its a slightly different recipe this time round, notably using less nettle tips.  One week to go till its gets bottled, and three weeks till the tasting!

And finally I put some of our old bread to good use by making Vanilla Bread Ice Cream!  I had a quick taste while I was churning and its lovely, but the real tasting will come tonight with some rhubarb crumble! I cannot wait!

Whilst warbling on about food it reminds me - we had an offer from Able & Cole recently.  As most of you know we have our fruit and veg (and often much more) delivered by Abel & Cole.  Its an organic box scheme, and they are a fantastic company who make you feel like you're dealing with your local greengrocer each week - and everything is traceable!  A small fruit and veg box is about £15, and if any of you have been tempted to give one of these organic box schemes a go NOW is the time to do it.  Why now?  Cos if you call them now, and ask for a box (just a one off is fine) and say Tash recommended you we'll get a free box and you'll get a free gift too!

There's a few other things I've spotted recently which I'm going to add to the blog too.  You remember Eddie Kidd?  He was a stunt rider back in the 80's, and with me being a child of the 80's its a name I definitely knew.  I certainly didn't know his full life story though, and this story left me at a loss for words!  A real hero!
Whilst I'm working I always have Twitter open as its a good medium to keep in touch with people who are involved with the show.  It also mean I get loads of cool stuff coming my way, like this video.  I can't seem to embed from vimeo here so just click this link instead.

And last, but most definitely not least, is the news that yesterday we had another midwife appointment.  I'm sure Tash will go into more detail in her blog but crucially we got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time.  Gavin & Stacey fans might remember when Smithy & Nessa went for the scan, and they had that 'whoa, there's a baby in there' moment of realisation - well I think hearing the heartbeat gave me/us ours yesterday!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Project Single Speed

About a month ago I decided I wanted a new bike - I do miss riding about, and my fitness and stamina are atrocious these days.  After learning of the savings that can be made through the cycle to work scheme Tash and I visited our local bike shop to check out Kona's as I had set sights on a Kona Steely.  The chap spoke highly of the bike, and it was decided that when Tash's scheme kicks back in that will be the bike I'll have.  I also spotted an old bike he had hanging up on the wall which he had converted to single speed. Clearly I don't have enough irons in the fire, and this gave me the idea to convert my old mountain bike into a stripped out single speed cruiser - after all, it won't be needed as a mountain bike anymore! 

The brief was simple - as minimal as possible, with the aim of being ridden around show fields and towing Alfie around.

I've had the bike since I was about 16, and it was last used about 3 years ago.  Since then its lived outside and been half swallowed by the undergrowth on a fair few occasions - all in all it was looking quite sorry for itself, and all moving parts had rusted solid.

First off I stripped it down.  You can see all the redundant parts in the dog bowl!  All the shifter assembly, derailer mechanicals, bar ends and rear sprockets were no longer needed!

I paid another visit to my local bike shop and came away with new cables and sheaths for the brakes, new front V-brake callipers, and ordered the rear 16 tooth single sprocket conversion kit.

The new front brake was to replace the old one which had somehow destroyed itself in the past.  It always feels good to fit new parts!

With cranksets looking expensive I hopped on ebay and ordered a single 33 tooth crankset.  This arrived soon after and I was looking forward to hitting the road!

But then came Easter, and shortly afterwards the Royal Wedding.  This apparently delayed the arrival of my single sprocket kit and I was left twiddling my thumbs for a fortnight.  Thankfully the kit arrived on Friday, and Tash collected it on her way home, along with a new chain.  Sunday presented me with an opportunity to finish things off and so after a brief visit to Halfords I had everything I needed.

Single sprocket correctly spaced, chain tensioned, new hub bearings fitted and I was ready to set up the brakes around the slightly buckled wheels.

It didn't take long though, and soon after I was ready to embark on my first shakedown ride.

With the test ride showing no suspicious knocks or noises, yesterday I saddled up Alfie's cart to see if it would haul him along OK.

Whilst cruising up West Drive I hung my phone behind me to grab an 'action' shot of him ... and to see how petrified he looked!

Its fair to say he loved it, and even though we were only out for about half an hour I think it will be the first trip of many.  And with fuel prices being so high I might be tempted to use it even more ... if my legs can take it!

And altogether its cost me something like £60 (of which half of that came from my Grand National winnings!), which is an absolute bargain considering the amount of use its now going to see.

The Perfect Day!?

As Saturday approached I realised it might just be the most perfect day for me.  It wasn't intentional, but as things panned out I ended up with a daily itinerary of morning - steam fair, afternoon - football, and evening - cinema to see TT3D!

We were up early to get to Stotfold Mill for the 10:30am opening.  The watermills annual event is always a 'must do' for us, largely so I can go see the Wall of Death!  This year we were joined by my Dad, Team Ferg and Claire and Sean with Jamie.  Everything steam powered is there for your enjoyment, from big fairground rides to small novelty engines.

We were one of the first through the gates and immediately hit the stand selling various seedlings.  I managed to walk away with 12 marigolds (not washing up gloves!), a courgette plant and an apache chilli plant for just over a fiver!  Bargain!  And straight after stumbled across the chap selling model cars.  I failed to find the corgi model of Bluebird, but Alfie came away happy!

After showing Alfie the birds of prey display we made our way towards the mill itself to show my Dad around.  The mill was restored a few years ago after being demolished by fire in the 90's, and some of the work that has gone on is simply amazing!

My annual trip to the coconut shy followed soon after.  12 balls for a pound!  Dan kicked things off by hurling balls at crockery, and then Dave and I got stuck into the totally tropical fruit!

And I came away with a lovely pair of coconuts!

With time ticking we parked up the buggies and all stepped inside the wooden cylinder that is the Wall of Death.

For anyone not familiar with the Wall of Death ... they ride around it!  Up and down, sidesaddle, no hands ... its the best entertainment you can get for £2 - fun for all the family!

We then made a line for the marquee to enjoy a bite to eat and a well deserved ale.  Time passed too quick and before we knew it was 1pm and time for Dad and I to head off to Villa.  Sounds like they all had fun in the afternoon though, and the little ones all enjoyed rides on fire engines ...

swinging chairs ...

and even mini-motos!

We arrived up at Villa Park in good time, it was just a shame we had to watch a dreary 1-1 draw against Wigan.

After a slow exit out of the car park we made it home just in time for a bite to eat, a quick dog walk, and then Tash and I ran straight out to head to Milton Keynes - leaving my Dad looking after Alfie, who at 8pm was still playing in his room some 2 hours after being put to bed!

The reason reason for our jaunt to MK was for our first 'date' since Alfie was born, and our first experience of 3D cinema!  The film in question?  The documentary about the Isle of Man TT, filmed last year when Ian Hutchison won all 5 races, and largely focusing on Guy Martin a rider who I have long been a fan of.

Tash and I spent our £30 (HOW MUCH?) and in return got a pair of tickets, pair of 3D goggles, small drink, packet of Randoms ... and of course some popcorn.

Before long it was time for us to enter the world of 21st century fashion - 3D time!

Although we look like we should have gone to Specsavers I have to say 3D cinema is bloody amazing!  Cars 2 is coming out this summer, and the trailer was the first item up and looked totally breathtaking!
Thankfully we were just as lucky with TT3D, and we thoroughly enjoyed our night out. 

But please tell me why, when the cinema is damn near empty and there is no-one else sat in our row, does some chap decide that the seat next to me is the perfect one for him to sit in??

Monday, May 09, 2011

Gravel Trap at Turn Eight!

With my trip to Ilford out of the way, and a sense of normality returning to my life I was determined to get the garden finished off.  Nettles were starting to take hold, and with Alfie and I spending more and more time outside I want the place to be safe (well, as safe as anything ever gets for me) and pleasant.

I got home late on Monday 2nd, and Tuesday was Tasha's day off.  This gave me the perfect chance to get things moving.  A trip to a few DIY centres saw me armed with a membrane to go down over the paths and a few bags of gravel to throw down on top.  The plan was to get the membrane down to keep the weeds at bay, and the gravel on top to sort out the main path and give me an idea of how much gravel I would actually need to do the whole garden.

As you can see, it all went down smoothly but it quickly became apparent the small bags of gravel would not be the way to go about things.

The massive bags you can buy are about 1 tonne in weight.  Its £175 from Focus, £60 from Wickes, but just £41 from a place I found online via ebay.  Instead of waiting till next month - which was my original plan - I jumped right in and placed an order!

I spent the next few days getting the rest of the membrane down, waiting for my Friday delivery.

Friday arrived, and by 8am so had my gravel!

I dragged the wheelbarrow into operation, and Alfie and I spent a while getting some of the gravel down on the paths.  Its fantastic having him wanting to get involved and help with everything I do.

Its hard work moving a tonne of gravel though, and he soon got tired.  We stopped for some food and he then went down for a well deserved nap.  While he recharged his batteries I got to work finishing everything off.

We are a touch short on gravel though, and so we'll need another bag next month to get it all completed.

But I'm sure you'll agree that the garden now looks like a very welcoming place!

And Yet Another Picnic!

The first weekend of May saw Rach and Ryan in England (visiting from Down Under) and we managed to catch up with them for a picnic in Hyde Park with Team Ferg.

Once again the sun had his hat on, and we all enjoyed a lovely time together... especially as Ryan brought beer that he wanted drinking!  After enjoying paninis, salad and mini sausages the girls disappeared to the cafe for a catchup (read; the girls disappeared to the bar to talk sh!t, drink wine, and moan about us men).

Dave, Ryan and I were left with Dan, Joe and Alfie.  Before long Dave and I went for a walk to take the kids over to the big wheel and other rides situated in Hyde Park.  This left Ryan chilling out on a picnic blanket enjoying the sun.

What we came back to was an entirely different scenario though!  Ryan had decided to take a seat on a park bench and keep an eye on our belongings from afar.  Maybe this is acceptable in Australia, but what Dave and I returned to see was an Antipodean laid back on a park bench, can of Fosters in hand, shouting at anyone that went within 20 yards of our kit.  I do feel sorry for those who had to endure him for the 24 hours of their flight home!

In fairness, it wasn't quite that bad, but Dave and I sure saw the funny side of it!  It was a perfect day out, and we cannot wait till Christmas when they fly back to visit once more!

A Royal Wedding

So William and Kate got hitched, the country went wild(?), and so we decided to visit next door for a swift half in the afternoon.

Highlight of the day?  Not Kates dress, not Wills cruising in the old mans Aston, and not even Pippa Middletons rear end ... it was Alfie on a big boy swing for the first time!

Big Bird ....

....small eggs!

When I visited the chicken coop the other week I was welcomed with three eggs!  This is the first time since we got our new magpie chook.  Considering she's bloody massive I must be honest in that I was expecting a little more from her.  You can guess which one was from her can't you!

She'd better up her game or she'll start to look like mighty fine pie filling!

Easter 2011

I love the four days of Eater and this year the forecast was H.O.T.  This was good news as we had plans! Good Friday = Wheels Day, Saturday = James & Michelle's wedding, Sunday = chop off the bus roof, and Monday = a family trip out to Santa Pod.

We were up and out early on Friday to head down to Aldershot for Wheels Day.  We've been heading down to this show for years, and it was lovely to have gorgeous sunshine ... just as I remember it when I first cruised down to the event with Larry when it was held at Brooklands.  Not only is it a fantastic day out, it's also the perfect opportunity to start spreading word about the Gathering.  We took a picnic, had brilliant day, and I even came away with a new (to me) land speed record book.  Suncream at the ready, the temps were up close to 30 degrees and it was a welcome relief to bump into our friends Steve and Kim and chill with them in the shade their camper provided.  They have a young daughter, Lily, which also gave Alfie the perfect chance to practice his kiss-chase technique.

We went straight from Aldershot down to Ammie and Tom's in Theale, near Reading.  We had a lovely evening there, and were treated to one of the nicest curry's I've ever had - all cooked in house to a secret recipe by them both.

We got our heads down early as we had alarms set for about 5am.  A quick shower and we were out the door on our way to Bath by 6.  When I found out James & Michelle wanted to get married at 8:30am I must be honest in that I muttered a few choice words in their direction ... but with temperatures once more pushing top twenties it now seemed like a godsend!  I was a first class idiot and left my camera in the car, and as such have no photos of their memorable day.  They got married within the Roman Baths - well, not actually IN the Roman Baths - and it was a beautiful background to a wonderful morning.  Its lovely seeing two friends doing something so special, and Alfie was extremely happy at being able to wander around a giant puddle for a few hours pointing at pigeons.  After the service came the reception - which was breakfast! - and by the time we vacated for photographs the sun was high in the sky.  We hit the road by early afternoon, and managed to be home before dinner.

With a little time before his evening routine kicked in we tried to make up for the fact he wasn't allowed to jump in the Roman Baths.  A bucket, a hose, and a rubber duck ... what more could a 18 month old want, right!?!

And, as always, he couldn't leave Harry alone.

He does seem to think that a hose can suck up water.  And then miraculously deposit water where he wants it to.  The mind control powers of this one must be strong!

But if he's still wearing his pants like this in 16 years time then I'm really gonna have to have words with him!

Monday soon rolled round, and Bill rocked up nice and early for us to chop the roof off the bus.  The full day is documented in my Retro Rides Build Thread but we had a very productive day and by 6pm (when Bill had to leave) we had the roof swinging in the breeze!

Feeling content with life I proposed a family day out to Santa Pod for Monday.  For me this was a win-win situation.  A family day out = bonus points with SheWhoMustBeObeyed and it also means we all get a day out watching fast cars.  Easter at Santa Pod is always the Easter Thunderball event.  More often than not its engulfed in damp weather, but for this year the weather held and we were greeted with another gorgeous day.

Having left Alfie's new pair of shades at Ammie's on Friday we treated Alfie to his first baseball cap to shade his poor little eyes from the burning sun.

First up we headed straight for the pits to catch up with our good friends Rob and Polly.  You can guarantee they're gonna be there as if one of them isn't racing you can be sure Rob will be sat around waiting for the first excuse to stick his head inside a stricken competitors engine bay.

On our way round we passed the awesome Evil Knievil roadshow.

It was great to natter with Rob and Polly, but after a while Alfie got restless and there's only so much mischief and meandering you can let a youngster get away with in a pit area ... and so we made our way round to the opposite side of the track to sit on the bank and see some of the action.

We took in a few races pit side as we took a slow wander round.

With the weather being so fantastic the bank was packed!

Amongst the highlights was this crazy electric powered Beetle.  It uses two forklift truck motors ... and runs 9's!

But as we all know, motorsport can be somewhat hypnotic and after a lovely picnic it wasn't long until Alfie was fighting the desire to fall asleep to the backdrop of rumbling V8's.

Whilst he slept we sat back and enjoyed the racing ... but thankfully he was back with us for the grand finale!  The Top Fuel Shootout final - 8000bhp dragster vs 8000bhp funny car.  If has hadn't been awake already, the noise of these two monsters would soon have had him back with us ... and so it was time to cover your ears!

Wanting to see the race, photograph the race, and not burst an eardrum I focused the camera on a set point.  With my left index finger in my right ear, my left ear squashed against my shoulder I got ready to fire off the camera and hopefully get a few decent shots during the 5 seconds it would take for these monsters to roar down the quarter mile.  Thankfully, I got lucky ... with flames roaring from all exhaust pipes!

The perfect way to finish off an amazing four days !!