Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mark Webber Bought Me A Fishing Rod

Here's where I tell a tale of how I bumped into the Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber in my local tackle shop and after tipping him how to catch monster bass he thanked me by buying me the Daiwa Kenzaki fishing rod I'd been after for over a year!  But that would be fabrication, lies, tall stories and white elephants.

I did however get my rod, and Mark Webber did indeed play a large part in the process.  The story is a very short, simple and sweet one though.  I like to have a bet on the F1 and saw the bookies offering me 25/1 on Mark Webber to win the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend.  With the Red Bull looking fast, Webber typically driving better than Vettel this season, and him having won previously these seemed ridiculously long odds.  So I stuck £3 on him.  And he went and stuck his Red Bull on Pole Position!  With Monaco being notoriously hard to overtake I was over the moon and although the last ten laps had me right on the edge of my seat as the wet weather closed in he drove an awesome race and netted me £78.

And yesterday my new toy arrived!  I spent ages researching rods and looking for something that was not only up to everything I might throw at it, but also nice and compact.  The Kenzaki is available as a 2 piece, but I chose the 3 piece as it means I'll have a rod that fits in a suitcase!  Cannot wait to get out on the boat now, the rod is simply gorgeous and feels so nice in the hand ... just need to feel it with a fish on the end now!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If The Mad Hatter Threw A Wedding

A few weeks back (May 12) Dawn and Dale brought about an occasion which very rarely happens - my good self wearing a suit!  They had chosen a gorgeous summer spring day at Marygreen Manor in Brentwood to finally tie the knot and open up their relationships to all the benefits(?) the current government choose to bestow upon married people.  Everything from the invites to the dinner table had a Alice in Wonderland theme to it and it made for a unique, beautiful and relaxed day.

The buildup had been frantic.  And that was just for us at FTC.  I was honored to have been asked to provide the 'cake' in the form of choc chip shortbread biscuits and various flavoured macarons.  There will be a blog about this in the very near future, but lets just say come the start of the week I was still yet to learn how to bake a macaron!  I figured that if the Mad Hatter did macarons then nothing would taste as they would look and so that is the path I went down.  I just wish I'd had Heston's mobile number!

We did a day trip down to Brentwood and were very pleased to see that upon our arrival most of the biscuits had arrived in a condition very close to that they left Arlesey.  All that was left for us to do was unpack, change (cos you can't trust Alfie or I to travel in 'smart' clothes!), sink a G&T, and get ready for proceedings to begin.

Dawn looked stunning, Dale was terribly dapper, and with Alfie and young Imogen (Dale's niece) leading them I can't think of anything more perfect to get people in the gushy wedding spirit.

They had a lovely service, albeit slightly interrupted by a young boy who was unsure if he wanted to share his limelight ... he had a captive audience after all!

With fingers now wearing new bands it was time for photos.  Tash set up an amazing spread for the 'tea party' whilst the snappers were at it and I think it looked better than either of us ever imagined it would do!

We were in a lovely little room which had a real intimate and welcoming feel to it.  Before each course it was time for a speech with Dale, Dad and Simon (Dale's best man) all taking their turn.  My Dad's speech was really good, and I'm sure Dawn was very relieved.  There was loads he could have brought up but somehow slipped through the net ... Bec & Pen anyone!?!?  It was sometime during the speeches (or more than likely the pass the parcel interlude!) that Alfie acquired a whistle ... that whistles a quack.  Need I say anymore?  He still has it in the Benz and creases with laughter each time he hears 'quaaaaaaaaaack' resonate off my windscreen.  These stoppages between courses gave people the opportunity to enjoy a bit of croquet, sadly minus flamingos, and generally chat and drink in the sunshine outside - a sure sign of a wedding going well!

After food came drinks and biscuits aka the Mad Hatters Tea Party that Tash has so wonderfully laid out.  Thankfully I am led to believe went down well although oddly enough I didn't really fancy one!

And finally the day was rounded off with a lovely reception all kicked off with a first dance.  I was dead impressed with their choice of song, I know it off the film Juno which I suspect is where Dawn first heard it.  My dearest wife excelled herself here and managed to get it all captured on the Powershot!

It wasn't long before the events of the day had caught up with Alfie and we chose to hit the road.  It was a beautiful day and here's some of my other shots.  All 100+ of my photos can be seen here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Esme's 6 Month Birthday/The Batsford Family Holiday 2012

With such a fantastic forecast for the week I had made comment that I wanted to go to the beach ... and that day ended up being today!  We only decided in the morning, and Tash had to be out at some mothering convention this morning so it was only going to be a flying visit ... but a chance to give Esme her first paddle in seawater - on her 6 month birthday(?) - was too good an opportunity to miss.

And so it was that by 1pm we were in McDonalds.  Yes, you did read that correctly.  But time was short and road snacks/lunch was essential!

The chosen destination was Walton-On-The-Naze, a place I always used to holiday when I was a child and even with me living about as far inland as you can get in this country its still one of the closest places by the sea to me!

With many childhood memories I was really looking forward to take our kids there, and I had long wanted us to have a day away that could end in fish and chips by the sea.  Although sure the beaches would still be lovely I was sure the place wouldn't be as I remembered it ... now some 20 years ago in the distant past!

Some things just never change though!  I'm not even convinced the poor old pier's had a lick 'o' paint in all those years!

We arrived around 3pm, and having had a good nap (oh yes, the boy actually took a nap!) it was clear Alfie and Esme were super excited!

And, with the tide high (something I was keen to note as I'd brought a rod with me) we took a walk along the front and gave Alfie a chance to go mad on his bike.   The tide was right up against the sea wall but as we rounded a corner a different part of the beach opened up presenting us an opportunity to get down on the sand.  With only a handful of people about we were down on our beach towel before a Germans key could even rattle in the hotel room door!

And so Esme had a paddle and Alfie had a play.  With so much space I'm not sure he quite knew what to do with himself!  Having got his toes wet he went wild in the sea, and as you can imagine soon had his clothes removed before the inevitable 'toddler lack of talent/balance' reared its beastly head.

Having enjoyed a few hours on the beach our tummies were begin to rumble, but instead of Gruffalo crumble our favourite food is Fish and Chips!  And so took a walk back to the car with a quick detour to have a look at the pier which was also much as it had been 20 years ago ... although not much opens until June.  As Tash spotted though, it has a very sweet script above its entrance.

We found a place close to the seafront and enjoyed dinner looking out across the waves.  To top it all it was probably the best Haddock and Chips I'd ever had!  Pictures of this part of our day are non existent, we were both too busy trying to make sure we got some food inside us before the kids devoured everything.  Esme might have only recently started weaning but she'd stolen scampi from Tash's polystyrene tray and soon as the wrapper was opened!

And so with full bellies we departed the sunny seaside town of Walton-on-the-Naze.  As Tash is still job hunting its hard to justify spending money, but the time we all have together is worth a fortune to us and today was simply magical ... a definite justifiable expense, which is a good job as this day trip will probably end up with the tag 'Family Holiday 2012'.

We took over 70 photo's during the day, if you wish to see the rest they are here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Totally Addicted to Bass

I have loads of blog updates to work through as we have been mega busy recently - reorganising kids bedrooms, attempting to cage chickens, visiting friends, baking four thousand macarons and even a wedding has made everything a little crazy recently!

Because of this though, it was nice to chat to Bill last week and him casually drop into the conversation that the forecast for Saturday looked ideal for a fish (which basically means no wind) and did I fancy it?  After our recent crazy schedule, DID I EVER!

And so we made our way down to Maldon for the weekend and had a perfect time relaxing and catching up with friends with a fishing session in the middle.

Not only was the weather and wind predictions perfect for a fish, so was the tides!  We were up at 6am, had time to visit the tackle shop in Brightlingsea for some bait, and out on Reel Grumpy fishing before 10am ... and with high tide not until midday confidence was high.

The plan was to visit Bill's 'secret spot' for some bass action until slack water and then chug a bit deeper to try a few other spots and see what else we might find.  We had a bit of a wager going, with £3 on offer for the first fish of each species caught, £3 for the biggest of each species, and £5 for the most fish caught during the day.

Photos from the day are few and far between, but that's an indication of what a good days fishing we had.  The 'secret spot' produced well and it didn't take long for Bill to get into a dinner sized bass.  The action continued as high tide approached, just sadly for me most of it falling to Bill's rods.  That was until out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of my rod bounce and the sound of Bill squealing had me striking before I could enquire how serious a take it was.  Turned out it was a pretty fierce take, and feeling the fish dive as it got close to the boat gave me a good idea that this could be a nice sized fish.  A few seconds later the fish surfaced and I think we were both pretty shocked and excited to see the size of it roll on the water top.  With the fish safely netted and aboard it was time to break out the scales and the camera!  The scales tipped round to 3lb3oz - a personal best for me, and the biggest that Reel Grumpy has had aboard! 


The day continued well with Bill kicking my ass on the gambling front as he caught first and biggest Whiting and even a cheeky Eel!  I couldn't care less though, catching dinner absolutely made my day!

And so that night the beers were well and truly on me and it was my Bass on the barbie to feed everyone, just a good job it wasn't too much bigger or we'd need a bigger barbie!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

April 2012 at FTC

I've actually been fairly on top of things this month, and there isn't the usual mass dump of photos and videos needed to catch up with things.

So here goes, just a few photos and videos to illustrate what we've been up to.  More a visual representation of the daily madness at FTC.

I haven't managed to get in loads of cycling this month.  Largely due to me losing my waterproof jacket at the Start of Summer Specials ride I did, and this April then being - as Michael McIntyre would say - the wettest since records began!

As a result the skies have, at best, looked like this!

But in the middle of the month we did all manage to get over to Chicksands.  I spent a few hours hitting the XC trails whilst Tash, Alfie and Esme went for a lovely walk.  Even though this was before the weather really turned, we still got caught in an enormous hail storm! 

Incidentally, you can see the quality of the photo isn't that great?  The Canon Powershot A1200 had got a little worse over recent weeks until last weekend I decided to return it to Currys.  I think it had bounced once too often!  They happily replaced it for me and so I'm pleased to say the point and click photos which now seem to make up the bulk of the images on this blog are back to a quality I'm happy with.

Other than that, Esme has continued to pile on the pounds and now with full head/hand control is loving her Bumbo!

Following on from this, Esme has even taken her first steps to eating real hooman food!

And she's now graduated from being sat on the table like a Christmas centre piece to having the joys of being seated next to Alfie in the Me Too.

And finally, April was the month Alfie really showed an interest in speech.  Amongst a few alternatives, he mostly likes discussing underpants and beer.