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 Up at 5 to drive the already-loaded car round to the car boot sale. Last time we did this, I froze to the extent of buying an extra coat and hat from other stalls, so this time I was in walking boots (found at the mack of the garage and miraculously, they fit!), fleece, extra fleece gilet, and had an extra coat, hat and gloves, in the car. So, of course,  it was a beautiful sunny day.
The G&M growers site has the advantage of being next to a duck pond, so there may be ducks. I wasn't expecting the groups flying over, nor the skeins of geese (mostly Canada), nor the house martins or swifts, and certainly not the magnificent views of a red kite hunting directly over the stalls. If only I'd had a camera....
I managed to walk round the complete area, all rows, and without a stick. Those supportive boots made quite a difference.

Slow start, but we ended up making £90 or so - it's being saved as "holiday money". I may have been the only person there to manage to sell all the loom bands I'd taken with me, and I managed my first ever sale as a professional crafter! I have sold a card! Having had feedback from the last time about what people wanted, I'd adjusted the range on offer, simply by using up oddments from other cards I'd made recently, and one of the last ones, put together at about 1am, was what went. "It's different," said the happy customer - yes, my cards are.

Onward to put things away, and start research for the latest card commissioned. I'll do a few that meet the criteria, giving me more spares for sale, plus running off all the ones I was asked for today and didn't have. Also, I want a proper display/storage box for them. I got it half-way designed while I was there (wandering around stalls looking at the competition), and came up with some other ideas for things I could make - things that other people might have been selling if their presentation had been better. Sorry, but showcasing your output by screwing it up at the bottom of a dirty box labelled "all items 10p" is not good marketing.

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I "should" post properly about the last week, but it isn't going to happen, is it?

Since this is Dave's three-week break, we had a week away, complete with hired wheelchair (which I used a lot less than expected).

Friday to Monday was in the Summerhill Hotel in Paignton, picking up little sister on the way, since she lives nearby and I don't see anything like enough of her. Visited Paignton Zoo, and took a trip on the local steam railway down to Dartmouth, where we did a river cruise on a paddle steamer. There are many photos, and at some point I will get round to sorting them out and putting them on Flickr.

Monday night to Thursday morning, down in Cornwall, staying in the Royal Inn. Visited the Eden Project, who lent me an electric wheelchair, but sadly no L-plates for it. Again, lots of photos. Also saw Mevagissey, initially for the model railway and then back for a longer visit the next day - back to an art gallery Dave had spotted, up and down the narrow, cobbled, sloping streets, around the harbour, and the ground floor of the museum. Yes, ground floor only - I did all that lot on crutches, but I do have limits, and their staircase was beyond them.
Bought silly things at Cornish Market World and ended with a visit to Wingz, where there were many birdies and some baby meerkats! In this case, yes, there are pictures, because they asked us to put them on their Facebook page. Here's the Flickr set, currently only containing meerkats.

Thursday, we'd decided to take two days to make the drive home, and that meant we had time to put another bit of inspiration into action. Given that I have a friend in South Devon, and a a sister in South Devon, and they live about 30 miles apart and would almost certainly get on, why not introduce them? So we did that, having lunch at the Otter Inn (good carvery, beware of their idea of a small portion, you may not be able to move afterwards), and I was right, they did get on.

Overnight in Bournemouth at the Royal Exeter (chosen from Trip Advisor a day earlier).  We'd left Exmouth far later than intended, the journey was full of traffic, and we got there well after 7 and shattered. Booked a table in the restaurant without bothering to investigate - it's bound to do something edible, and I was too tired to want to walk any further. OMG. As a last fling meal of the holiday, that was a good choice. Sorry, no menu on-line, but that was a stunningly good meal. Not cheap, but worth it.

Friday, we'd thought of a stroll down the prom, but it was raining. Plan B - drive straight home. Plan B (i) - via some car showrooms to pick up brochures. Plan C - why not spend an hour and a half sitting outside the Toyota dealership with a dead battery and a car that won't start, waiting for the Renault engineer from the dealership across the road to come and replace it? No lunch - we'd had a "light" breakfast as supplied by the Royal Exeter's chefs, and would have had no idea what to do with it.

Saturday - the reason we'd come back a day earlier than might have been expected. A hen party with a difference, and more birds than usual. I was off for the day at the local Birds of Prey Centre. A full day on my feet, though with helpful people providing a chair whenever possible. There are most definitely pictures! Here's the Flickr set I made. Very few of these birdies could reasonably be described as "cute".  One of the first things we were warned was NOT to try to stroke them unless we fancied losing fingers. The baby owl was cute - big ball of fluff, with a beak that couldn't harm us if it tried (and it tried), but the rest - no. A full-size Bald Eagle is not cute, it is an extremely dangerous predator, and when you ask it to land on your hand, you stand with your back to it, as otherwise the force of the impact may dislocate your shoulder. The Fish Eagle was the top experience for me, because it misbehaved. It was supposed to fly towards me, slow down, and land gently on my glove so as to take the chick I was holding. No. Fish Eagles pick up their prey on the move - it powered in, didn't slow down in the slightest, and grabbed the chick from my hand at full speed. Good job this was me, not the lady who was scared of pigeons, never mind eagles. So we tried again, and this time it nearly took the glove (and a finger) as well. Third time lucky, and I did end up with it on my glove.

Sunday, resting, sorting photos, and intended to post a lot of reviews on Trip Advisor, but I'm out of time. I need to be fresh for tomorrow - not only is it a working day, it's also my review at the Fracture Clinic, and I may be allowed to get rid of the Cyberleg!


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Camargue.... salt flats, herds of savage wild black bulls, flocks of pink flamingoes flying overhead, white horses galloping through the shallow water, with the sun setting in the background, right?

Well, no. What actually happened was that with the aid of a step-ladder, I was put on top of a white Camargue pony called Nimrod (see, I said he was a hunter!) and sat on top of him while he walked sedately (mostly) on a lead rein for two hours. It was morning, because it was cooler then. We did not go in the water, only next to it.

Yes, there were black bulls (and black cows, and black calves), but they were in a field, and none of them are savage in any case, not even "savauge" (it means "wild"). The man v. bull games around here involve men trying to pluck ribbons from the bull's horns, which go sideways, not pointing forwards aggressively like those in Spain.

There were flamingoes. There were also Little Egrets (I saw one in it's black form later!) and cattle egrets (smaller than Little Egrets) and what I was told was a heron, but since I was also being told how to distinguish it from an egret, was probably a Squacco Heron going by the bird book.There was a Stork in flight (no babies in evidence, so presumably on its way back from a delivery). As we passed a pond, we saw a "water rat" only a few feet away. Either French "water rats" are a lot bigger than those at home, or it was an otter.

These were the people I went with, recommended by the local TI as speaking good English due to being English. The guide I had wasn't, but her English was good. Yes, I'd recommend them.

Conclusions for next time, or for others?

Getting onto a horse is harder (for me) than it looks. I should do exercises to correct this.

They tell you that being on a horse hurts because of all the bouncing up and down. No, When walking, there is next to no bouncing up and down. What there is is a lot of rocking backwards and forward, hitting first the back of the saddle and then the pommel. Bracing with a hand against the pommel can help with this, but it's still tiring and painful.

When in this area, you are advised to wear long sleeves for protection against mosquitoes. Having something like that with you is a good idea, as otherwise you may end up scouring the few shops left open at 6pm for long-sleeved clothes, and ending up buying some scarves and doing some rapid sewing that evening, like I did. I'd wondered if I'd need three scarves, one to add sleeves, but they were wide enough that two were enough. We were sitting at one of the outside tables at a restaurant when I got the idea, left my order for food with Dave, and shot down the street to buy scarves.  By the time starters arrived, I had the back seam done. The wrists got sorted between starters and mains, and that made it enough of a usable garment that I wore it on the way home. That was enough of a test to tell me that I needed full side seams and elastic on the wrists, and I did that back at base. By midnight, I had a new jacket. You probably don't want to have to do this. Take a long-sleeved blouse with you.


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It's a lovely spring day, so we went round the car-boot (with breakfast out as a treat - bacon & egg butty with added onions, yum!)
Dave has a lot of plastic kits to build (all right, to add to the pile of kits he'll build someday, honest), and I have this.

Undead stronghold front

I'm not sure what it's meant to be. The top comes off to reveal a plastic liner, so it can be used to store things. To my mind it's obviously the stronghold for an Undead army.

On the way out, passing the pond, we saw movement - not just the ordinary ducks and ooh-cute-fluffball ducklings, but greylag geese, and goslings! I'm not sure I've seen a family like that before. They were swimming away from us, and then very determinedly climbing the bank towards all those exciting cars and people. Toddlers! What's the most dangerous thing in the vicinity? That's where we'll head, then...

Car boot goslings


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Dovedale. Low level walk along a lovely river valley. Some rough bits, some muddy bits, the usual steps designed by a bloke, and therefore far too high. Seven miles there and back, or so the NT guide tells me. Coming down Snowdon was about 4. Tired by the end, but only using one stick, not two poles, and nowhere near the "cannot stand without help" level of fatigue I reached then.

AS a bird-watching day, by the way, it was characterised by the duck food for sale in the little shop, and the number of children using it in an enthusiastic manner.

We worked out some interesting things on that walk. It looks as if when I described my recovery as "I need to learn to walk again", I was more right than I knew, and I'm still learning. One thing I hadn't done, because there's been no reason to do it, is to take a stride so long that I no longer have either foot under my centre of gravity. I had to do this to get over those stepping stones (see pics below under the cut), and balanced over a rapidly flowing river wasn't the best time to realise that I wasn't sure I could do it and was pretty scared to try. Also, the idea of going down rough ground or steps by "keep moving", rather than one step to a stable position, then another step to a stable position is another thing I haven't done for years, and again, I'm not sure I can. I can't rely on either leg to take my weight reliably, either may decide to give way under me for no apparent reason (oh, the joys of a lymph system that doesn't, and therefore muscles that don't either), so the idea of what's effectively a fall forwards where the next leg has to get forwards quick and be there to take my weight as the next one slides off the wet rock it's on - no. Not a good idea. Adding a stick that I can rely on (as long as it doesn't slip too) helps, but that means finding somewhere that'll support that...

Also, my "boots" aren't up to the job. The side-wall's too soft, and when I'm on a sideways slope, it bends and my foot ends up well outside the sole of the boot. Not enough ankle support, either, and not good enough grip on wet rock. We'd got these things back when I was having real problems with swollen feet and ankles, and couldn't get into real boots. I think I'll have to try again with my proper ones - my feet are a lot more foot-shaped these days.

Photos under the cut, and more over on Flickr in the "Dovedale" set.

Read more... )
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Well, initially identified by sound, anyway, then confirmed by sight.

Last Sunday it was Buzzards - three of them wheeling overhead and mewing at each other.

A few days back, a sound that I knew I ought to know, but was in the wrong context - I looked out the window to see Oystercatchers flying past. An even more extreme case of "WTF are they doing here???"

Today it was the unmistakable sound of a Merlin. Unmistakable? Well, not so much if you're thinking of the UK's smallest brd of prey, and the sound you can hear on the RSPB page on the subject
 This was a slightly larger and noisier flying object, though still a classic British predator, and the "Merlin" in question was made by Rolls Royce.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALe8zKWf3uA
The Shuttleworth collection is just under 3 miles from my house, and there was an air display this afternoon

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Because one swallow does not make it summer, and the one I saw sitting on a line was all on its own.

We did go round a car-boot sale, and acquired some more books (*), a new top, two "Piggin'" ornaments, and breakfast. Also realised just how stiff and achey we were after all that gardening :( After seeing some bluetits inspecting nest sites yesterday, we thought we'd provide them with more choices, so two more nestboxes went up today, one from the RSPB, one from a garden centre (nice slate roof that goes well with the slate area in the back).

Salad lunch on the patio, watching the butterflies. No, it's not summer at all, honest.

* Books included yet more Italian phrase books, and a wonderful "European" one that covers 14 languages including Dutch, Polish and various Scandanavian ones. Murhpy's Law says that this means our touring holiday will probably never get out of France.
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I'd decided last night that despite still needing to do another 6 hours work to complete the working week, today I would have some "me time" - time when I was awake and with it, but NOT working. I might even get something constructive done.

OK, so waking up coughing at 5am hadn't been part of the plan, but it fitted. Tablets, little snack because they have to be with food, big mug of comfrey tea. I'd thought I'd do some work on the army I'm planning for HOTT Avalon, and I knew it was on the table next to the "office" one, so I looked on there, and.... ah. Let me rephrase that - I looked for the table next to the office one. It's the sewing/painting table, or was. It had somehow become the "don't need this at the moment, dump it out of the way" place. Tidying occured.... OK, so I have my table back (mostly), and moving on to jasmine tea. Downstairs, with the army bits, the notes, and a pile of paper to be sorted. Shortly afterwards, the recycle bin is a lot fuller, I've found some story notes I thought I'd lost, and another cup of tea has been consumed (the "detox" one).

Dave appears. Time for "real" breakfast - muffin with egg & bacon, and, for once, cheese. Orange juice. Yum.

It seems that Dave's plans for the day involve going over to a model shop near Cambridge to pick up some paints. Model shop? I could do with some tree-making material... I could with a day out. An a meal out.

http://www.thewhitehorseinnbarton.co.uk/ is a good place to have lunch. Standard pub things, good quality, and a rather nice touch - many of the meals are available in "samll portion" size. Wide choice of ciders, too. We worked out that this was the first time we'd been out for a meal since early December, and while it wasn't anything exciting, it was good.

Model shop was less exciting than I'd hoped - Dave got his paints, and another tank kit (why???) but no tree-making bits, and the cross-stitch area was a box of mini kits. The promised shop with South African food had closed before we got there. Then it was "since we're in the area....": Morrisons at Cambourne for pies, and dropped in on the niece to catch up on her uni application news and hand over some very late Xmas presents. She sent us home saying I looked ill and shattered - she's the one with the medical training (well, some, it's early days), and she was right. The work I expected to do tonight is not going to happen.

The other thing today was good for was birds of prey. On the way there, a buzzard was swinging in the wind over a field. Later, a flash of pale brown in a ditch was a kestrel swooping down, and back up with something in its claws: closest I've seen one for a while. Then as we pulled into Toft, there was something on the road ahead of us - big, pale, didn't seem to be getting out of the way, will we have to swerve? the colour's pigeon, but it's too big.... I was half-right. The bottom half of what was in the road had, until very recently, been a pigeon. The top half was the peregrine that had just killed it, and was being slowed down in its car-avoidance by wanting to take its dinner with it.
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I know, I said I wasn't going to do this, but today has been so full of them....

The early-morning DB-tuning session (there's least users on the system from 4-6am, so that's when I work) included a breakthrough in technique that's reduced the time an update will take from over an hour (won't be doing that in prime user time, then) to just under 10 seconds.

Driving in to work, next to no traffic queues compared to normal.

Walking down the hill from the car, the third Black Squirrel I've ever seen sat on a branch and posed for me. A moment after he'd left, a cole tit showed up - haven't seen one of them for far too long, either.

Ten yards later, a weird noise overhead - a heron, being mobbed by two rooks. I have no idea why, it isn't nesting season and it was nowhere near "territory" for either of them.

A bit further down the road, a Thought hit me (to the point of stopping walking) about what the aforementioned new technique implied about where the bottleneck is on server performance, and if I'm right, how we can fix it easily.

Several useful jobs ticked off this morning, and I'm still feeling pretty bouncy at lunchtime (which considering that I've been working since 4:30 is fairly surprising).
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No, this isn't really a "vote for me" post, though that's what the link will take you to. By all means vote for my photo if you think it's good enough, but just looking through the other entries, and perhaps entering yourself, may interest some of my FL.
My pic is in the "quirky" category, BTW.

"You can view your photo on our website by clicking the link below: http://photo.wwt.org.uk/gallery/single/1291 Our People's Choice winners will be decided by visitors to our website, so forward this email to friends and family to be in with an even better chance of bagging a prize. And, by voting, they could also win a membership to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, which gives them free access to our nine wetland centres plus an assortment of other benefits. Remember that you can enter as many (different) photos to our competition as you like before the closing date of 31 October, 2010. Good luck!"
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It didn't start that way. It started with my mum calling me to see if I was all right, since I hadn't updated LJ for ages. Yes, my techophobic mum.
so here it is )
And since then, I've been in work, and loving it. May post about that later - but for now, I have a job!
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Writing on the PDA, posting when I find WIFI... It'll be a big post.
Wednesday - ferry to Caen )
Thursday - Today, we crossed the Orne. )
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Two baby moorhens
Huge feet, staggering, propel
A ball of black fluff
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A split today - Dave and I got the 8:40 train to Brocken, at which point Team Piggott were still snoring. Saw a black redstart on the way to the station - I was rather pleased that I first identified it by the way it was flying, and only used the colour as confirmation.

Steam trains are fun.... Did the usual shots out of the window on bends, admired the hill-start, gradually put more layers of clothes on as we climbed. It was just above freezing at the top, and raining on and off. View varies between 50-odd miles and "what tower?". Coffee in the station café, then round a couple of exhibitions and viewing towers, then lunch. Chose the highest restaurant (paying extra) for the view, and are currently getting a great view of the inside of a cloud. Dave saw Team Piggott arrive from the observation tower, and used his zoom lens to good effect.
Train timetables look like we'll get an hour's stop at Drei Annen Hohne on the way down.

Language-geekery interlude. Yesterday I was working through a guidebook with a dictionary, and found that "geschichte" meant "history" as in "story". Add "-enerzahler", and you have "storyteller". Putting "ge" on the front of a German word usually means it's a modifier, so what does "schichte" mean? Drop the final e, and you have "layer", "class" or "level". That "zahler" part is "numerator". So a story is a layering, and a storyteller is one who counts the layers. Yes. Considering how many levels I put in my stories (even a 300-worder has at least 2), I like that.

Back at the plot, or rather, Drei Annen Hohne. A pretty little place with a friendly station café that produced coffee, Cola Light, apple cake and "soup of the day" - tomato, and while not as much of a taste explosion as the one in the hotel, still very good. "It's got something different," says Dave. Yes - bacon.

Having been watered ourselves, we've taken pictures of our engine getting similar treatment, and boarded. We'd given up our café seats, put the coats away and headed out into the sun just in time for it to start raining.

It's a shame that all the books about the mythology of the Harz are in German. I'd like to know more about the "Hexen" or witches. I did find one little story about three rocks in a guidebook to the geology of the area. Apparently they were thrown by three giants who were competing for the affections of a lady. She pointed out that the rocks were of different sizes, so the competition was void. I'm sure I could use that in Glorantha somehow...

Station newsagents for German crochet mags for Helen (I'll take a look through, too), then back to the hotel for tea, photo upload, and copying this little lot to the USB stick for upload later.

And now it's later.... it seems the gang got an earlier train back than we did, they more or less looked at the weather, turned round and got the next train back down.

Time to plan the trip home over dinner.
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We're staying on the marketplace over the same bar as last time we were here. Small, friendly, not en-suite, and breakfast is at 8. Not between X and Y, at 8. Wifi? You have got to be kidding. Not even a sniff of another network.
Did a dawdle round the shops yesterday and met a small, elegant and beautiful penknife (among many other gorgeous knives). Stroked it while eating at the Red Hen, this having a huge and varied menu, and got reminded of the German interpretation of "small “ (there's still nearly a pound of meat on the plate, but they've removed the bone). Then a stroll round town, and back home for drinks and nibbles until the bar closed.

Kallyr is still messing around with probability as a gentle nag, though quite what she's nagging about I'm not sure. The town guided tour here is "with the night-watchman". No, I haven't been on it, though I've listened to the start. I've taken pictures of the Rothenburg town clock doing its thing, and on zooming into the clock and sundial detail, discovered that the town symbol up there involves a two-headed bird of prey. "Haggar," says Kallyr. I'm pretty sure she's wrong (further checking of signs suggests a black eagle), but I still, somehow, got a picture much sharper than this camera under those conditions should be capable of. When she plays with RL probabilities it's usually for my benefit, but it also means she's up to something.
We went down to the walls overlooking the park this morning and saw a black kite soaring over the valley. My little camera seems to have produced better pictures than Dave and Pete with their bridge cameras. Vision, and birds, again. What's she up to?

Dave and I went down to the Spital bastion, explored that (including the cannon!) then walked the walls back north to the Gallows Gate - the café we spotted for lunch already had the other three sitting outside, having walked the north part of the wall. They recommended the Leberkase mit spiegelei, and they were right. Nothing to do with liver or cheese, it's more like what Spam wants to be when it grows up. We've wandered around a few shops since, picked up some cardboard model castles and resisted swords, and are in the nice shady bier-garten of the Reichs Kuchenmeister with a Berliner Weisse and bits of tree falling on us.

More wandering, and we've found the gingerbread house we stayed in first time, and an Internet café that will charge us 1e for 20 min and takes a USB stick. We'll be back there later, after another cool drink and some yogurt icecream and a trip back to the laptop.

(and we are. Windows in German is fun....)
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Two nights at the Am Markt in Bacharach. Walked along the walls, took the car up to the castle and had drinks in the courtyard while watching what we suspect were hobbies (and trying to take pictures of them - very hard!). Boat up to St Goar and back. I got the piccies edited last night, we'll see how many I can upload in my hour of WIFI this morning. Today, Monday, we're off to Rothenburg - at least, that's the plan. Nothing booked from now on.
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England isn't quite as exciting as the holiday. I haven't said "no, it's just another Alpine Chough" for quite a while now, buzzards are in shorter supply, streams without dippers exist.

But, yesterday, I saw something running across the sheep field at Cardington. No, it wasn't a sheep, nor a stray cat. It was a fox! I haven't seen one for years, and there he was out in the open, and no-one following me down the road, so I could slow right down and take a good look. Wonderful! I'll keep looking out for further sightings.

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