Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Forest of Dean, Part Two

On Saturday night, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at The Ugly Duckling. I had a version of Eggs Benedict and then a delicious chicken and pine nut pasta. Hubby had all 10oz of his Herefordshire Rump Steak. Yum. We were by far the youngest people in the restaurant and at one point I looked around to note that Neil was the only man in the restaurant, besides the waiter, who was not balding.

For anyone in England over this holiday weekend, you already know that Sunday equalled rain. We managed to keep ourselves entertained by exploring all sorts of little nooks and crannies of the forest: villages like Lydbrook and market towns like Ross-on-Wye, without really getting out of the car.

Our brilliant idea for evening entertainment was to drive to the nearest city, Gloucester, and catch Pirates of the Caribbean 3 in a cinema. We had a hard time finding the cinema, and despite getting there an hour and a half before the movie started, all the evening performances had sold out. Doh. We tried driving around Gloucester to find a place to eat, but discovered that Gloucester was… as they say in Jolly Old England… pants. (Feel free to contradict me if you know different, but I'd say Gloucester was a pit.)

We ended up hightailing it away from the concrete jungle back to the green forest and stumbled upon this, where we ate our pub dinner and warmed our cold, wet toes. Lovely.

Monday worked out just right for us, weather-wise and traffic-wise. We snuck in one last wood before we had to head home: Puzzle Wood. Rocky paths lead you up, down, over and through rocks, crevices, eerie trees and huge mushrooms. It's an old iron mine and has become a labyrinth of pathways and bridges, now set up as a maze for children and child-minded adults to run around in. Apparently, JRR Tolkien spent a lot of time here; I can see why.

They also had some friendly shaggy cows.

The birds! I hinted in my last post about the birds. There was a wire just outside our bedroom window, and I tried on at least four separate occasions to catch these brightly coloured and elusive birds as they perched on it, eyeing up the bird feeders below. Trouble is… my camera has no zoom and so you can barely see the birds to identify them. Sorry. Here is the best I could get.

One last thing before I sadly leave behind my forest adventures: a quirk about the Forest of Dean. The sheep. Lots of countrified places in the great United Kingdom have sheep, but none quite so… liberated… as those in the Forest of Dean. Here, they are suicidal, lounging in the middle of the road (60MPH speed limit) and wandering across around a bend. I think we did pass one that had been hit. Stupid sheep!

Still, I hope someday I'll get to see those sheep again.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Forest of Dean, Part One

Our first two days in the Forest of Dean have been fantastic. On Thursday evening, we arrived at our bed and breakfast after about four hours in the car and were greeted by a beautiful, welcoming garden. We are staying at Viney Hill Guest House, and it's delightful. We have the top room, facing front and this is our view. The amount and variety of birds in the garden below is incredible, but more about that later…

Our first dinner was uninspiring, but our Friday morning breakfast was perfect. Our B&B has a breakfast room with a large bay window, overlooking fields and a paddock. With the sun shining through and whatever you could want for cooked breakfast coming readily, it's a good way to start the day.

We know the weather is going to be temperamental this weekend, so we decided to get most of our outdoors exploring done first. Friday was our bike rental day. We spent about four hours biking around trails in the forest.

I had laid out a clear plan as to where I wanted to bike, but the map that the rental place gave us was so clear and encouraging, that we decided to do as they suggested, with only a few detours.

We found a pub with a pond outside, and sat and ate our burger\Ploughman's while watching a family of three ducks splash around. Here's the duckling… just adorable!

For those of you who don't know, hubby and I are currently voluntarily without a television, but we're both Neighbours addicts. So, we made special provisions in the schedule to come back to the room and watch the episode. It's been ages since I've seen it, and didn't even know what some of the new characters looked like. Much to hubby's annoyance, I wasn't so impressed with some of the new "ladies" on the program.

For our evening meal we went to a truly inspiring hotel/restaurant called The Florence. It's a quaint white building set just next to the river, on the border with Wales. The view from the dining room is incredible and the food was wonderful. If anyone comes out this way, you cannot miss the chance to dine at this place. (I think if we come back, I'm going to beg to stay there!) Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, but the website has a good one.

Today, we went around the Sculpture Trail – one of the things I was most excited about seeing. We went wandering around the forest and every so often came upon some odd/wonderful art exhibit nestled among the trees. Neil carried our big umbrella, which meant that the rain stayed away.

We found a fun little café in the town of Newnham and, though it was chilly, we sat outside in their enclosed garden and ate toasted baguettes. After that, it was on to a fantastic garden, Westbury Court Garden, in Westbury-on-Severn.

Tonight we're off to a fun-looking restaurant called The Ugly Duckling. We're both hungry, and can't wait!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ode to my computer

I have recently purchased a new computer, after much agonizing over a mega-portable laptop that I couldn't afford. I really wanted this one (Vaio TX):

I almost settled for this one (Gateway NX):

But luckily, I stumbled onto my new precious baby in a computer shop.

My new computer, the Samsung Q1, is a conversation piece. People on the train regularly strike up conversation with me about it, and we're talking about Britons! They ask if I can access the internet, write directly onto the screen and disconnect the keyboard. To all, I can happily answer: yes.

The Samsung Q1 is a "tablet PC" which is a cross between a PDA and a laptop. The fully functioning computer weighs a buoyant 779g and measures 227 x 140 x 27mm (WxHxD) (For my US readers: 8.94 x 5.51 x 1.06 in and 1.72 lbs.) It has an accessory pack with a USB keyboard and FiloFax style holder that approximately doubles the weight.

But you don't need the keyboard. The whole screen is a touch screen, and there is a handwriting recognition feature (I scrawl, it changes my scribbles into standard text) and a voice recognition feature (which actually works!)

I've got everything I need all in a mega-mega portable package. I can take everywhere, whack it open on the train and finish up that just-about-to-be-late storyline. I can even use it on the Tube. My biggest brag: I got it on eBay for two thirds the retail cost – with the keyboard and USB data transfer cable. Love it!

For a more erudite and comprehensive review see TrustedReviews.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Happy Birthday Grandma

My grandma turns 85 tomorrow. She's pretty amazing.

She is more qualified to use a computer than I am, having completed various certificates in various Microsoft applications like Word, Excel and Access… I can't even use Access!

Whether she's playing WordZap, watching her great grandson on YouTube, or cataloguing her recipes, she is truly a grandma of the Noughties.

She is so hip, that she's even reading my blog.

Happy Birthday, Cybergranny. I love you!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Tuesday night adventure

Yesterday, on the train home from work, my hubby called my cell phone. This is an unusual occurrence in itself. Our home phones are a little bit past it, so it is hard to hear what's going on, especially on a noisy train. He just managed to say that he wanted to meet me at the station and ask what time I'd get there.

As we hung up, I began to wonder what was going on. Why did he want to meet me at the station? He'd done this once before when he'd forgotten his keys, but he was calling from the house. That couldn't be it. Was he taking me out for a surprise dinner? Unlikely, as we've got lots of yummy food in the house, and he's got to study. It was all a little odd.

When I got to the station, he was waiting just outside the ticket barriers and he didn't look happy. I asked what's happening and he says, "I think our car's been stolen."

Oh. Crap.

He wanted to go to the police station which isn't far from the train station, and file a report in person. On the way to the station, he filled me in.

He remembers vaguely where we left the car last night when we came home from Aikido, and I did too. It was parked on the left side, a little way up the street from our flat. It's always a question as to whether we'll find a space on our street that late, especially now that they are tearing a road that intersects our for water mains replacement. And now that space is empty. Car = gone.

The whole walk to the police station, we are incredulous. It's not a fancy car, worth money or good for a joy ride. There wasn't anything in it to steal. The alarm was on, and it has an immobilizer. Why would someone bother?

When we get to the station, the man behind the bullet proof glass was, I must say, a tiny bit dismissive to start off with. Are we sure it was stolen? We should check if it's been towed. Hubby assertively asked for the number to call the impound, and I think the cop took pity on us. He took our details and started to make some phone calls.

As we waited, I learned that my hubby has never been in a police station or a jail, nor has he ever been in a police car. On the other hand, I have, but for very benevolent reasons.

Finally, he motioned us over. Our car had been "relocated."


What the $%^& does that mean?

Our car had been relocated to a street away, and we should check on the car for notification as to why this was done.

On the walk to the car, there was a lot of grumbling.

When we finally found the car, we found a ticket under the wiper. A ticket!?! A ticket that claimed we had parked in a restricted bay.

Now, my hubby is a very conscientious driver and parker. We're not the sort to try to get away with anything. It's all very above board. So, there was a lot more grumbling, and we decided to investigate. We won't let these parking attendants push us around! Power to the people!

We stomped down our road to the parking spot, and found that there was a no parking sign on a pole one parking spot away from our spot, saying in tiny font that the parking spot in front of the house we parked in front of was restricted for a week's time for skip loading. Please note… there was no skip there. Otherwise, we wouldn't have parked there.


Just right now, I went to go and take a picture of the sign and the non-existent skip, but the sign has been removed already. Which is very annoying. However, it will be more annoying for this poor guy with the black car:

He's parked in the same place we were removed from, has a ticket on his windshield for £50, and won't even have the sign (one parking spot away) to refer to when he gets back.

Please note the pole where the sign once was is clearly in front of another parking spot, not the restricted one where the black car is.

Curses on parking attendant quotas.