Dear Diary... August 2005

Wednesday 31st August - Thunder in Falmouth

Today I got rain, and it wasn't looking too clear in the clouds when I left Penzance on the number 7 bus to Falmouth. The bus journey was without problems, but I could see the clouds getting lower and the mist getting even more misty, so much so that visibility was down to around 100 yards or so at some point. It made walking through the town centre of Falmouth fun and games as I decided to dodge the rain in between walking down the cobbled streets and towards the harbour area. Lightning struck the place and I was glad I was inside at that point, let me tell you.

By lunchtime the weather had cleared up and so it was off on a walk up a bit of a hill (understatement) to Pendennis Point, where the rather nice Pendennis Castle is. Well worth it, as the place has a lot of history with defending Cornwall from invaders, used a lot in both World Wars and you can actually see the defence points they built with the access tunnels to them. The castle keep in the centre was spectactular too, really well preserved and the church bit at the bottom was that good that on the same day it was being used for someone's wedding. I bet that cost a fair bit to hire as well somehow.

Tuesday 30th August - Land's (End) ahoy!

Time for a challenge methinks, so it was off to find a place in Penzance to hire a bicycle, and take the National Cycle Route 3 to Land's End. Now, straight down the A30 it's around ten miles, but by this route, you go round the sea and through country lanes and stay mostly off the road, so it ends up being fourteen miles. A nice little soujourn, I thought to myself, even if I knew there were hills along the way.

I sped along the seafront in Penzance and headed two miles west to Newlyn, a nice little village that has its roots in fishing. All you could smell was the fisheries with lots of fresh crab and many other types of seafood being readied for shipments across the country. Up a slight hill and you follow the coastal road that takes you another two miles or so into Mousehole. I knew entering the village would be tricky and I had to be careful to ensure that I was clear to pass, as you had to cycle on the road here, but getting out of Mousehole I saw a huge hill, 20% gradient. Half way up I had to admit defeat, get off the bike and walk up the remaining section, because it was really warm and I wanted to try and save myself. Got to the top, and wound going down lots of bits of hill which would have been difficult going upwards, and towards Lamorna Cove where you turn right and then end up on the B3315 for a mile or two.

It was getting a fair bit more flatter now as I turned right down a country lane for the village of St Bunyan. Just before the village I was passed by the 300 open top bus (my other possible means of transport there) and I re-passed it as it stopped in the village. I wondered if I could beat it, I thought. And with that I cycled slightly downhill before taking another right onto a country lane. This however did a great job of placing me right onto the A30 just before the Sennen Cove turn off. I headed down and for a second wondered if I was going right into the cove, that would have been impossible to get out of really, but the route turned left and sensibly took you along the top of the cliffs and then on to a path which would end up right at the entrance to Lands' End. I freely admit I was completely knackered by the time I got there but it was worth it for the views along the countryside I'd seen.

Land's End, however, was a bit of a letdown. Personally it's gone overboard catering for tourists and as such many of the so-called "attractions" you had to pay for, the food and drink prices were a rip off, and where the famous sign is, you now have to pay to get your picture taken by the sign, even then you can't have it there and then either. Not to be deterred, I took some pics of the sign from outside the excluded area (thank heavens for optical zoom eh?) and saw the First and Last shop and some other nice cliffside areas. I grabbed a mineral water about an hour or so later and headed back down the A30 the ten miles or so to Penzance. I couldn't believe that in the heat I'd done 24 miles, felt quite proud of myself considering it was almost a year since I'd ridden a bike.

Treated myself to a Chinese that night: went to Sunny City. I can recommend it highly as they do a buffet menu for £12. Rather than it be an all you can eat job a la Buffet City, you pick a meal you want, it gets cooked fresh for you, you munch it and then when done, you order another. Worked out well as it saved wastage and also meant you could pick anything off the menu one at a time. I ended up with these Thai Prawns in chilli sauce, then some crispy won ton, mushroom fried rice, and finally some prawns in breadcrumbs with sweet and sour sauce, all very nicely cooked and complimented perfectly with a nice cold Tsing Tsao beer. Shame they had no Tribute, mind you..

Monday 29th August - Surf Central (aka Newquay)

Up early today for a nice little train journey, two hours or so, changing at Par station and waiting for the little train down the single track line that takes you into Newquay. The place is absolutely surf central: lots of the shops are mainly designed for surfers, the town is really geared up for the nightlife also, which is why a work colleague of mine suggested it was getting more like Blackpool by the day, and the beaches actually pretty nice. One walk up and down hills towards Fistral Beach just showed me how popular it actually was with the surf community, you couldn't move for boards and people. To the right of the beach was a walk up a point at the top of a hill, did that and the views were rather good, plus much less busy to boot. Walked back down the coastal front and on the way down to the harbour side of the town, I actually stumbled upon an old white house, which was used by fishermen so that when fish were sighted, the alarm was sounded and so everyone could go and get their catch. Nice to see that sort of thing preserved, to be honest.

After a good lunch of nachos with a now customary (already) pint of Tribute, it was back along to the sea front to capture more of the scenery, cliffs and views, and headed into some of the amusement arcades. To my horror, the only pinball machine in the whole of Newquay wasn't working (boo!) so I put a pound into one of those grabbing machines to see if I had any skill. Well, who would have thought I'd have come out with a large size Homer Simpson? I wasn't complaining, that's for sure. Made my day, that did. Was also pleased to see in a way that the town still is trying to be a bit diverse: found this great place that sold all sorts of t-shirts with animals on, even crocodiles and stuff like that. Bit new agey, sort of what my Mum would like, but there you are.

Sunday 28th August - As I Was Going To St Ives, Who Was That Man With Seven Wives?

Decided it'd be nice to go scenic today and head for a bit of seaside, but also with a bit of beauty, and so I got myself an all day bus ticket for First buses, and headed off to St Ives from Penzance bus station. It's really odd when you get to St Ives, there's basically a turning point called the Malakoff and that's where you get the bus from. I walked into the town, some nice olde worlde places nestling in with local shops, and walking down the front was pretty nice too. Lots of scenic views of the rugged coastline, the St Ives branch line trains pulling in, and the beaches were all pretty busy, not surprising as it was a lovely day. I took a good walk around the shops and round the harbour, and found a nice spot to munch some sandwiches and a cold drink. I was still hungry though, so I thought a proper Cornish pastie would be the way to go.

I got one and then sat on a bench near the harbour. This proved to be a bad mistake. No sooner had I munched my first bite then a seagull came flying over me from nowhere, grabbed the end of the pastie with its beak with so much force that I had to let go, and then carried it to the water's edge, where he was joined by around 20 other gulls fighting over the food, really viciously. You know in Finding Nemo where the gulls all go "Mine! Mine! Mine!"? Well, imagine that and you're pretty much there really. I got another one afterwards, but didn't make the same mistake and kept to the shop side of the harbour. A wise move, methinks.

Later in the day I had enough time, so once I got back into Penzance I took the bus out to the picturesque little village of Mousehole. Lots of places here relating to cats and mice, and the harbour was very lovely. Not just that though: here was an example why some of the buses were little single deckers: the streets here were narrow, and really you had to wonder how accurate a driver you had to be to get through the village to the harbour. I did manage also to pick my brother up a little cat moneybox (he likes his cats) so that wasn't too bad. Had some chips from the takeaway near my apartment to go with this very nice Quorn fillet with mushroom topping. Set me off nicely for the evening as I headed down the harbour and ended up in the Dolphin Tavern. Had a very nice drink in there - the first of a few pints during the week of Tribute Ale. If you're down there, check it out.

Saturday 27th August - The Pirates of Penzance and Arriva Trains Wales

Well, off on holiday I am going, at last! I booked my apartment in Penzance some time ago, and I've always wanted to go to Cornwall, the scenery is supposedly wonderful, the weather good, and I must admit considering how many times I've heard my mum say just how great it is, part of me wanted to find out for myself, explore the far South West area and really have a break on the UK mainland again. Partly inspired by Coast on BBC2, I wanted to see how it really was and have a lovely time myself down there.

Getting there should have been a piece of cake: simply get on the 0928 Arriva Trains Wales service, arrive in Penzance at 1725. However, an appalling lack of customer care on Arriva's part was to follow. We headed down towards the Severn Tunnel, and passing through Pontypool the train stopped for about five minutes for some reason, then an unclear tannoy announcement. Not good. We limped into Newport rather than turn left for the Severn Tunnel, we all got off, the train supposedly fixed and back off again, roughly around 45 minutes behind schedule. This I didn't mind, but what everyone did mind was when the train decided to stop at Severn Tunnel Junction station, everyone was asked to get off with no explanation given, and then when everyone got off, the staff sent the train back to Newport with just them on it, and no one around to tell us what was going on. Considering there were people in wheelchairs and some blind people on that train, I found this utterly appalling and will of course be making a complaint, big time.

Anyway, the local station guard was much much more helpful: not only did he stop any trains heading to Bristol so we could get there, but also got hold of his controller at Bristol and asked that any tickets be valid for any services down to Penzance - which was very much appreciated. So whoever was the employee at Severn Tunnel Junction station that day, a big thank you. Now if only everyone showed the same good quality of customer service, eh? Got to Bristol Temple Meads and had to peg it across the station to platform 8 for the Virgin trains service down to Penzance. I managed to get a seat right at the very end of the train and even got a space for my case, thankfully. The train did its best to be on time, even if by this time I was two hours behind schedule, which is pretty much what it stayed. But this meant Virgin was on time at least, and got into Penzance for 1925, which could have been a lot worse.

Thankfully, the apartment was absolutely gorgeous, oak beams everywhere, a good sized kitchen, a telly with a Freeview box (bonus), a nice bathroom with good shower, and a nice big 5 foot bed in the very top mistral gallery. The standard was very high, lovely and clean, then I looked out of the window. What a nice view, I could see the sea and over the bay to St. Michael's Mount. I chilled out for a while and then popped out to Tesco to get some essentials in (thank heavens for 24 hour opening) so I could at least have breakfast and so on in the morning, a much better idea. And a cup of tea, of course.

Monday 22nd August - Happy Happy Joy Joy

Plenty to be happy about today: it's the final week in work before I have a well earned week off (hooray), I've completed a few of the images I've needed to do at work (hooray), and City won at the weekend as well (even more hooray)! I was really pleased with the performance of the lads and to come back from 1-0 down away from home shows a lot of character to say the least, I just hope that this is a stepping stone on the way to more good away performances - we're at Sunderland tomorrow. Still, that does mean ten games unbeaten in the Premiership now and that is very not bad. So much so that if we don't lose tomorrow, it would be City's best unbeaten run since 1977. With the media saying that sort of thing it's just set up for a fall, so it'll be interesting to see what happens for sure.

I also managed to pick up a CD at Vinyl Exchange the other day that I was after - I just went in there on the Thursday and thought to myself what I hadn't got, and went searching the B section. And there it was, Barenaked Ladies' first album on CD, "Gordon" for a mere fiver. I just had to purchase it, been looking for it for a while and didn't want to pay that much for it, but nonetheless it proved to be a worthwhile purchase. I'd heard the singles off it and stuff, but the album tracks are always something to consider if an album is actually good. And with stuff like "Grade 9" it keeps the quirky spirit going very nicely indeed. I guess it's an album I've been wanting for a bit, so nice to actually track it down. Shame that they're still pricing the REM CD/DVD-A double disc reissues at a bit of an expensive price: or I'd have them, there's always the fact that have them for a mere £10-49 each at the moment. New Adventures In Hi-Fi (my second favourite REM album) is a very very possible contender for purchase methinks!

Monday 15th August - Gutted Isn't The Word!

Well, watching the cricket certainly proved one thing today: I would have had no nails left if there were any there to bite! It was certainly a dramatic end to a dramatic match, and all through those final four overs where England needed just the one wicket to win the game, I kept thinking "come on, just this once.." and you could tell everyone was on tenterhooks just hoping and really getting behind the lads. To be fair, on a pitch that wasn't giving much away, all the England bowlers tried so hard, and full credit to Australian captain Ricky Ponting for an innings which held the team together in a really difficult situation. It just goes to show that sometimes when the chips are down the best people are the ones who can keep their head the most. All makes for a very interesting Fourth Test a week on Thursday anyway.

And as if that wasn't enough, looks like I've got to do a bit of repetitive work again at work - turns out that one of the applications we've put on stops our anti-virus program from working and updating properly, and out of the two I know which one I'd rather have. Unfortunately the way the bad application installs it leaves traces of its own updater program everywhere in the meantime, which basically is rubbish. Pathetic isn't it that a big name software company can't even do that properly. Mind you, that company's office suite isn't much better either so there you go..

Saturday 13th August - Football Is Back - Well, Almost..

Start of the Premiership season today. And while it meant Manchester City carried on their unbeaten Premiership run to nine games, a home draw against West Brom wasn't exactly what the fans and I really wanted. It was frustrating and in truth their new goalkeeper Chris Kirkland had an absolutely brilliant game. Quite why he's not featuring in the England squad these days is a mystery that only some Swedish bloke who seems to want to pick his friends at certain clubs all the time no matter how badly they're playing can answer, really. It felt frustrating too because the creativity that we used to have from Shaun Wright-Phillips isn't there, of course, and that it was more of a warm up game for the rest to come rather than be a full blooded fixture, apart from the brawl that followed one incident. Someone should have sent Danny Mills to the same lifestyle coach that Joey Barton's going to at the moment..

Wednesday 10th August - Love Thy Neighbour..

Not quite, but today's been interesting since I've been home. First off I met the new next door neighbour. The previous owners had moved out last week (and they were very nice) and I'd seen a car parked by the house on occasion but wondered who it was. Anyway, I had a knock on the door from the NTL cable people as they were going to install the service next door and were just asking if I used the old cable box at the front, as they wanted to use the wires to route along to next door. I had no problem, and was chatting away happily. The new neighbour came out, said hello and she was a little apologetic for some noise I'd heard the other day (only a bit of cabinet fitting, nothing drastic to be honest. Seems a nice person anyway and it's always good to know who they are - I always like the community feel of where I live.

Also saw the old lady who lives on the street directly behind mine - she was looking for her cat. It's one of two cats that always seems to hang around near my place, a lovely ginger and black cat. I'd called her Ickle, cos, well, the cat is an ickle cat, but found out that she'd never had a name but that the lady had called her Tishtish sometimes, which seemed to work. Must remember that one next time I see the cat, see if I get a response. I did spot the other cat that tends to hang around though, clearly marking the territory. Might have to alert next door about them cos she seems to have a large dog, seemed quite a pleasant dog though and not one of those pets that aim to bite and kill at every opportunity.

Work's going fine, got the Windows XP SP2 build for our main dropin suite nailed, everything works fine, and it's just a case of registering all the workstations and making sure that they all play ball - which they seem to. Even better was the fact that I've been working solidly and got a lot done - so just have to see how it all pans out in the near future. Just want as much as I can do before I have a break really.

Sunday 7th August - Two runs, we beat you by two runs..

Words cannot begin to describe the drama of watching the Second Test match on both the Saturday and Sunday. I'd been keeping up with the scores thanks to the BBC News ball by ball update and watching the highlights of the first two days, and us slogging out over four hundred was rather good. I got home on Friday to see the last few Australian wickets tumbling, especially the two in two balls from Andrew Flintoff, which set things up nicely. Mind you, fair play to the Aussies though: both Shane Warne and Brett Lee pulled them back and with England 31-4 in the second innings it didn't look too good, even more so at 131-9, but the last wicket partneship between Flintoff and Jones was so vital, not least as Flintoff was hitting out of the ground for fun. What was nice to see was that Warne himself after bowling Flintoff out was the first to go and say "well played, mate" realising the superb job that he'd done.

Mind you, it looked a bit ominous at 47 without loss until Flintoff took two wickets in one over, I went mental, and so did the whole crowd. More wickets tumbled, we took the half hour and in the final over Harmison made the vital breakthrough to leave it at 175-8, meaning 107 runs or two wickets to win. And Sunday morning will live with me for a very long time. The tension, the battling from both sides, the passion, and the determination gave it the classic status, even though by the end a lot of us dare not look at what went on. Warne did fantastic to be fair, and his knock was a catalyst for the other batsmen. As it was the look on his face when he trod on his own wicket said it all - gutted. Mind you, it was still close and as the total edged ever nearer it was make or break for sure. One slip up and Australia won, so Harmison bowls, it gets an edge off the glove and goes flying. Had Geraint Jones missed, game over. But he didn't - took a superb catch and it was a two run win. Wow! The second closest finish ever in Tests, and the closest in the Ashes ever. Nice to come on top though, but we know on Thursday at Old Trafford it's going to be darned hard work..

Friday 5th August - I've finally succumbed..

So how? Well, for many years I've refused at point blank range to get a mobile phone. Why? It was just something I never really needed: I've got the house phone, I've got an answer machine on it, and if people want me that badly they could have left a message there. I guess when I'm out people do get occasionally frustrated not being able to track me down, but it makes you wonder also how people would actually live if there weren't any in the first place. No language learning difficulties because everyone uses the text spelling language that's so wrong, for example.

However, the family had basically said to me that really I should get one, and during the last difficult month or so they found it a pain to track me down (busy bunny as ever) so I decided it was time. I knew the network I wanted to be on (O2 cos most of my family are), I knew I wanted pay as you go, cos I'd hardly be making any calls outward, and I knew I wanted a phone that supported Bluetooth (for easy PC data transfer) and originally a Sony Ericsson K750i was top of the list. Saw the price and almost fainted, and thought about the K700i, but it's in silver, and still a bit pricey.

Did a bit more shopping around and located a Sony Ericsson T630 that supposedly O2 and Carphone Warehouse had, as well as The Link. Did any of them in Manchester have one? Nope. I really didn't want another phone cos I liked the look of it and also what features it had, so I popped off to the Trafford Centre on Thursday evening and located a few mobile phone places. The O2 one needs more staff: I didn't get seen to for over twenty minutes and so decided: "sod it, I'll go elsewhere to buy it". Next stop: The Link. They claimed to have one, at a mere £59-99 (bargain) and on O2 PAYG as well. So off I ask the assistant, and a bit of searching later he finds me one - the last in the shop, in fact! And it works pretty well. I got myself a Belkin Bluetooth adapter from Argos, and a bit of configuring later it detects the phone and data transfer works perfectly. So I snagged lots of free MIDI ringtones off the web, transferred them to the phone, and bingo! In fact I can assign different tones to every person, so that's nice. Just a shame you can't change the alert when you receive a text from someone from the bog standard ones that you have: I'd really have liked the Blackadder theme as the text tone. Ah well. Stll, it's nice enough, and it's in black which is what I want!

Tuesday 2nd August - Battling Onward

The darned cold won't finally shift, I just still feel a little bunged up in the nose and with the weather getting warmer, it's just making me feel a bit down. Ah well, work's been ploughing onward as our new PCs arrived for one of the main suites, and so I'm working on getting everything up to scratch on that one for testing and putting all the new software on. Not a bad specification all round, although it would have been nice for them to have Firewire as well as USB2 everywhere, plus of course more memory, although 512MB should be enough for most people. Quite why there's two network cards in there though is a complete mystery..

Anyway, have you been watching Coast on BBC2? Fantastic series it's turning out to be as you go around the coast of the UK and unearth many historical tales, lots of wildlife and all that sort of thing. It's completely fascinating as it reveals many things that you might not know about the coast, and added to that there's also plenty of useful features about the places that they visit along the way. As Sunday's programme was mainly on the North Wales coastal areas that I spent many a childhood holiday at of course it had more meaning for me - no doubt the North West coast featured on Friday will be more of the same, for sure. Just wish the Beeb would have the sense to release the music composed by Alan Parker specially for the show on CD: that would be rather nice to listen to when I'm off on holiday, actually.