Photo shoot II – Insignia

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It was an early morning – even by my standards (3.45am!) – and the plan was to take some more shots of the car and make the most of the summer, specifically to catch the Sun rising. God  and the BBC weather-team, however, had other ideas – and it was a misty start, and no sign of the Sun!

So John and I drove around looking for inspiration, and found a couple of spots, but we both felt a bit disappointed with the way the weather screwed the event.

We’ve decided that for the future, rather than plan ahead, we’ll take the decision on-the-day.

18a 

A few more photos on Facebook

Photo Shoot

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I was up with the lark this morning (what a surprise!). I picked up John W and we headed to Burton Latimer for a photo shoot featuring my new car. We wanted to make best use of the natural early-morning light. More piccys to follow, but here’s one that makes it look really eco friendly (although a bit unstable!!!)

Insignia-May2011

Later, I drove down to St Neots to meet up with Ian H. He’s up this way on business and I wanted to see his new speed camera detector gadget that he’s just installed. We ate at The Highwayman, the pub/restaurant next door, feasting on chicken-burgers under their ‘two-for-a-tenner deal and put the world to rights along the way!

I got home around 4ish.

Test Blog using Zemanta plug-in beta for WLW 2010 Beta

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For those, who blog, or maybe are thinking of starting, I’d recommend a plugin for Windows Live Writer (and many other blogging platforms) called ZEMANTA. In short, this plugin will scour the text content of your blog and suggest (via a side panel) links to various related content from around the web-o-sphere. It even provided related photographs too. And, if that’s not enough, it’ll link to your Facebook and Flickr account for relevant content too!

Here we are then. I’ve installed the beta version of the Zemanta plug-in. The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t get the ‘this version of Zemanta is not compatible…’ when loading WLW 2010 beta   so that’s a good start.  Note however, the plug-in now doesn’t load at all when I launch the previous version of Live-Writer – WLW 2009 on the same PC.

So now I’m typing text and deliberately dropping in some keywords hoping that Zemanta will pick them up and offer some links in its side-panel.

It’s certainly picking up related articles automatically – see below

Biscuit and Bon Bon - November 2007Now, an opportunity for Zemanta to try and provide related links based on stuff specific to me. Here we go then: I’m adding in the names of our two cats, Biscuit and Bon-Bon to see if Zemanta finds the photographs stored in my Flickr account. Nope! That’s weird because it HAS selected a photograph from my Flickr account of Ann and me (not sure WHY though!) – no wait, the cat pics have just appeared, so maybe it’s because of my painfully sloooooooow internet connection. (about 0.5 Mb/s).

LUMIX G2Next, I’m going to add the name of my new camera here in the body text – Panasonic Lumix G2 – Well, that sort of worked, Zemanta has picked up on the Lumix part…but not found anything relating to G2.  I wonder if there is a way of linking the two words in the search – I’m going to try the refine button in Zemanta by typing in Lumix G2. Success! – Zemanta has found loads of photos specifically for the Lumix G2 – one is shown on the left

Finally, I’m going to try out the in-text link option of Zemanta. This is where the plug-in searches through all the text in your blog and offers related links to that word from across the Web. Interestingly, whilst it found links to Flickr, Zemanta, Lumix, photographs, WLW, beta version and body text,  it didn’t find any links for Panasonic – strange!  Ohh, wait a mo’ – I came back to the blog 10 minutes later and there’s a link to Panasonic. Once again, it must be my connection speed.

So, with the above results, all in all, I’d give the plugin beta the ‘thumbs-up’ –  it does do a superb job of making the most of your posts!

Family Lunch

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Well almost!

We drove down to Roger, Jane and Oliver’s for the gathering of the clan. When I say clan – it was more of a clan-lite!, No, scrub that – clan-super-lite!

The original plan had been to get everyone together, simply because we don’t do it that often. We’d not expected my Mum to be there, so it was more likely to be Ann’s side of the family.

Unfortunately, Bev couldn’t make it, and at the last minute, nor could Mae as there had been a recent death of a relation. The net result was we had Denis, Ann Lee and me!

We picked-up Lee around 10.15 and headed south. It was a good journey down there and arrived around 12ish – a little later than planned because the local road was closed due to long-term roadworks.

After a quick gossip, lunch was served – a wide range of cold meats and quiche plus loads of salad bits. It was the perfect meal for the scorching hot weather they had down there.

No...I'm not joining you... Buggger off!!
I'm bored! Still bored...

Oliver was as energetic as ever – I managed to resist the temptation to joining him on the trampoline, but we did end up playing swing-ball, and later, battling it out with a broom versus a plastic sword (I won! Just!!!). Oliver then ran around photographing anything that moved. Luckily, that didn’t include me as I fell asleep – only to be awoken a few minutes later by Oliver, who was now bored. We settled for a game of junior Scrabble (that’s about my limit!)

After losing at JUNIOR Scrabble (!!), Denis decided to head home – and we decided to do the the same.

A great day – but knackering day!!!

We had a hassle-free journey home and dropped off Lee along the way

Whoosh! – what’s that noise? Oh, that’s your weekend disappearing Steve!!!

5ive go mad in London

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Well, maybe not quite!

View from the Jubilee Bridge I set off for London around 2ish and got into town around 3.30.

After a quick walk to the Circle Line, I was soon at the Embankment, heading across Jubilee Bridge, heading for the South Bank. It was hot muggy day and perhaps as expected, the place was very busy with people – the Tube, the streets were just packed.

On arriving at the South Bank, it was even busier – people, people and more people everywhere but there were plenty of street entertainers (mostly the same – the ‘live statue’ variety) to keep the crowds happy.

logo-chezgerard After a bit of searching (and with Angela’s help by text), I found the restaurant I’d pre-booked – the Chez Gerard – on Belvedere Road (my sat nav didn’t have this particular Chez Gerard in its database – bah!). Angela arrived slightly ahead of the rest, around 5.40 and we settled down in the restaurant for a natter accompanied by some bread,olives and a cool(ish) bottle of house-white.

Carey, Philip and Antoinette arrived within minutes of each other and after a quick initial natter, (June couldn’t make it), we started looking through the menu. It’s a French restaurant and the choice was pretty good. It didn’t take me long to make up my mind – the Gnocci for starters followed by the Burger (how very french!!!!). My starter was a little strange – more mushrooms and sauce than the title suggested, but this was more than made-up for by the burger. There’s are meaty burgers and then there was this beast – even I couldn’t have eaten two! It came with the smallest french-fries I’ve ever seen and some strange green-stuff, that I was told was lettuce 🙂 Boy, was I stuffed by the end? – I couldn’t even manage dessert (and that’s unusual for me) and I just settled for a double-espresso.

It was good to the gang, and we could have stayed and chatted for longer, but we all had homes to go to. We got the bill, paid our dues and then headed our separate ways, literally. As it 10 years of us ‘getting together’ next year, we’ve decided to do something special, around this time in 2011. We’re not quite sure what yet, but it’ll probably be a meal somewhere, possibly at lunch-time, somewhere in London. It was good to the gang, and we could have stayed and chatted for longer

I headed back across the bridge around 8.30 (still busy with people) and made for St Pancras, narrowly missing the 9pm train by a whisker. Normally, I snooze on the train, but this wasn’t to be, as the carriage had acquired a screaming sprog for the whole of the journey. Headache!!!!

I stumbled through the front-door around 10.45, still stuffed and with the sound of the sprog reverberating around my head.

Long Weekend Away – Day 3: Final day, shopping

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Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet logoFor our final day in Chester, we took a drive to Cheshire Oaks, a massive out-of-town designer shopping outlet about 15 minutes from the hotel.

It’s massive – certainly the biggest we’ve ever visited. Ann thinks it’s the largest in Europe. Literally hundreds of shops and even some more outlets at the Coliseum just down the road. We spent most of the morning at Cheshire Oaks mostly picking-up Christmas presents and then stopped for lunch at the Red House brasserie. Another great meal!

Afterwards we were all shopped-out. We said good-bye to Karen and Ralph and headed to the nearby Argos to see if we could get some under-bed storage boxes. No luck, as they only had ONE in stock – just like all of the other Argos stores we’ve tried!

We called it a day and joined the motorway about 2.45 and after a sluggish start, we made-up the time and had a straightforward run all the way home. We got in about 5.15. Lee had been house-sitting, doing the ironing and looking after the cats – perfect!!!

Now we just need to get unpacked – hopefully, we’ll be finished by…Tuesday!!!
Winking smileWinking smileWinking smile

Long Weekend Away – Day 1: Green Bough Hotel, Chester

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Green Bough Hotel

We left home around 10am and had a pretty good journey to Chester. By 12.35 we were parking in the Green Bough hotel and Ralph and Karen arrived not long after. We’re here until Sunday and aim to take in the sights, sounds and of course, the shops!

The Lounge Scones...Scones...Scones

First impressions were superb. We were given a very warm welcome and after checking-in, we settled in the lounge. We were immediately treated to free tea/coffee and fresh scones with jam and clotted cream. Yum-Yum!

As we were going into town later, we asked the hotel to hold the free champagne (part of the package) until we got back.
The Adlington RoomWe were upgraded to a junior suite – The Adlington. It’s very nice, well appointed and has everything we need.

We quickly unpacked and then took the bus into town – just a short ten-minute journey, after a short walk to the bus-stop.

The weather was a bit dull when we got there, and it looked like it was going to chuck it down with rain at any moment. Considering it was a week-day, the place was packed! We decided to walk round the town via the Wall – this gave us a great view of the surrounding area.

Rhinos everywhere Rhinos everywhere

Chester isn’t the most obvious place to find rhinoceroses (or is that rhinoceri?), but the place was full of them! Albeit highly decorated ones!

Scenes from the Wall More scenes from the Wall
Even more scenes from the Wall Even more scenes from the Wall

We walked and walked – and then walked some more. We even got a great view of the race-course that was gearing itself up for tonight’s races. Ralph and I felt the need for a beer, and the girls were up for a break too! So, we headed back to town and settled for enjoying our drinks outside, where there were a couple singing live – nice!

The Race Course More scenes

The Singers
Three Heinekens and a J20 later, it got very windy and looked like it was about to rain, so we headed back to the bus-station. Luckily, there was a bus waiting, and by 5pm, we were back in our room. We had a communal cuppa and then got ready for the gut-busting menu – not forgetting our complimentary glass of champagne. The plan was to meet at 7.30 for ‘champers’, then eat at eight. 

The evening meal certainly didn’t disappoint. The whole experience began as we were shown to the roof terrace where, as promised, the champagne flowed! Ralph’s not a big fan of the fizz these days, so he had a Speckled Hen – a nice touch by the waiting staff, who asked him whether he wanted it ‘room temperature’ of ‘chilled’. And this attention-to-detail continued throughout the evening meal where the various courses were served at a leisurely pace.

We decided to go for the a-la-carte option. The food looked beautiful – a work of art – and it tasted even better – in fact, the food was beyond excellent especially for a small hotel, and would easily have rivalled a top London restaurant. I had the veal.

Ralph stuck with his ale, whilst we three, sunk a bottle of red between us. By the time we struggled through dessert, we were all totally stuffed and couldn’t even manage coffee nor the cheese.

We collapsed in the lounge for all of five-minutes and then decided to call it a day. We staggered into bed around 10.45.

This has been an excellent day – the hotel certainly know their stuff and the food and the rooms are simply superb.

Roll-on Saturday!