Sunday, 30 December 2007

End of the year...

So, that's 2007 nearly over with. Strange to think that a year's gone by, really. Christmas went okay at the parents, although with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece are now in Australia for 15 months, it was a bit strained when it came time to leave. Still, now that the parents are now hooked up with a webcam, it should make things easier. Thank goodness for the internet! Now I'm just going to make of the final couple of days off before going back to work....

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The end of November

Palac Kultury i Nauki
Originally uploaded by Fearless Fred
November's been fairly busy at work, hence not much time for blogging. Most of it's been in the office, but I did go over to Poland for a couple of days near the beginning of the month. It was a case of fly to Krakow for a meeting, then drive to Katowice that evening. I had to do a presentation at a seminar/conference the next day, then off to the train station to catch a train up to Warsaw that evening, and do the whole thing again the following day, then catch the last flight back, so I got home about 12:30am!

For some reason, the local office booked us in to the Marriott (expensive) in Warsaw. The sales guy I was with decided he wanted to go to a specific restaurant that night, but couldn't remember exactly where it was, so we spent maybe half an hour walking around, trying to find this place. I was lucky enough to have a room looking towards the Palac Kultury i Nauki (Palace of Culture) as you can see by the photo.

It was a shame that I didn't get to see Krakow. It's supposed to be a really nice place to visit. I'm planning on going there next year for my holiday, and I've already found what looks like a really good hotel that's close to the centre. With a bit of luck, they won't have started booking up for next summer yet....

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Heathrow Terminal 5

A few weeks ago, I volunteered to take part in the trials of the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Well, today was the day. It was the twelth of some 70-odd trials that they're planning to make sure the systems all work. Why did I volunterr? Well, I fly a fair mount for my job, so it's quite probable thet I'll be going through there in the near future as a "customer", so a chance to get a walk through is nice. Also, I think it's a good idea to get the systems fully tested by "normal" people (me? normal?!?). Plus, I was interested to see what it was like without hordes of people around :)

So,what was the day like? Well, it ws interesting and fun... We all got to play at being passengers trying to check in, go through the transit system to the satellite gates, be a transfer passenger trying to find a connecting flight, and finally an arriving passenger trying to find our way out. Now, the terminal still has a fair bit of work to go, and there's still quite a few bugs in the system. For instance, a few people from our group got lost and went the wrong way when trying to find their connecting flight. Also, a number of signs should really be moved to make then easier to see or more useful. I hope they get these issues sorted out, otherwise people will complain. Generally, though, I think the departures is really nice. There's lots of glass, meaning you get natural light. This is a big improvement from the other terminals. Also, the fact that there's no specific check-in desks for partcular flights means the concourse should be a lot easier to navigate. I'm actually looking forward to using this terminal next year.:)

Still, time for dinner. It was a fun way of spending a day off. I may see if I can get on another trial day closer to the day. The only bad thing? They wouldn't allow us to take photos!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

A Good Weekend

On the Beach
Originally uploaded by Fearless Fred
It's now Sunday afternoon, and it's been a great weekend. Okay, so England didn't win the final last night, but they can still hold their heads up high for having come so close....

So what was good about the w/e? Well, I got to meet up with my fellow Froggers from the Radio 4 PM blog in Bournemouth. It was strange at first to meet up with people who you only know through a blog, but after a few minutes, it was as if we'd know each other years. I've posted a few of the photos up on Flicker so far, and I'm sure Fifi and the others will add theirs soon.

Then, this morning, I tried missing out on the cream application for my psoriasis after I showered at the gym. Now, a few months ago, this would've led to problems withing 10 minutes or so. Not any more! I've noticed recenty it's been looking better. Now, it really does seem to be getting significantly better. For someone who's had this condition for 10 years or so, that's a BIG thing.

Now, I'm just relaxing for the rest of the day, and I've got a short week too!

Pass the Cabernet Sauvignon, someone!

Monday, 8 October 2007

Paris, Rugby, and Cooking

So, I used the Eurostar to go across to Paris last week for work. It felt weird not having to fly for once, but for the extra 40 minutes or so that it added to the journey time, it actually felt more relaxing. I've suggested that we use it more often, particularly after it moves from Waterloo to St Pancras...

What a weekend for the Rugby World Cup! I'm still on a buzz after the England - Australia result, and as for France/NZ, and Argentina/Scotland, it's really shaping up to be a great competition! :) Strange to think that England were written off a month ago. I had my doubts we would even make the quarter-finals, and now we're in the Semis, and with a real chance to get to the final! Can my nerves take it?!?

Finally, can anyone answer why cooking can be so relaxing and fun? It amazes me that people find it so hard to cook even the simplest meal. My current favourite recipes: Chicken with lemon, paprika, & soy sauce; Sunday Roast, braised Steak au Poivre, and my own take on Spaghetti Bolognase. My mouth's watering just thinking of them all!

Monday, 24 September 2007

A day in London

Houses Of Parliament
Originally uploaded by Fearless Fred
I had to go down to London today for a meeting with a new potential customer. When I left home, it was raining, so I had no hopes for the day. But, after the meeting, I had a chance to wander back to the tube station, and it turned out to be a really nice day after all! It's not often I sight-see around London, so it was nice to get a few shots of landmarks (as you can see on my Flikr page). I think I may have to play the tourist again some time (as long as it's a nice day!)

Saturday, 15 September 2007

A sleepy saturday in September

Okay, so first off, apologies for not posting sooner, but there wasn't really much to say! As with most summers, work was fairly quiet as the rest of Europe went on holiday. Plus, half our office was out too, it being school holidays, so there wasn't much happening.

As for now, I'm in the middle of a blitz-clean of the house.Not for any specific reason, mind you, except it needs it. It's amazing how quickly it all accumulates. At least it'll mean I can relax tomorrow:)

I'm still going to the gym. It's been over a year since I re-started, and I'm actually getting into it! So far, it's averaging out to between 3 and 4 times a week that I go. I tend to do the early morning sessions as it's emptier then. It alo means that I tend to see a regular bunch of faces there. That sort of helps with the "psoriasis" sort of thing. If people see me regularly, they tend to ignore it. Plus, I can't really do a meaningful lunchtime session with the time it takes to get there, work out, have a shower, smear on all the cream I have to apply after a shower, then get back to work all in an hour! It's a nice bunch of staff down there, though. Always making you feel welcome:)

Anyway, time for me to get cracking on the main bedroom. I want to get the whole of upstairs done before I finish....

Saturday, 14 July 2007


Tallinn Town Hall
Originally uploaded by Fearless Fred
Well, I'm back after four nights in Tallinn. It's a lovely city, and everything is so close together. It seems a lot more "touristy" than the other Baltic states, but I guess that's because of the proximity of Helsinki, making it more accessible... Unfortunately the weather wasn't great the first couple of days. Still in a way it made the trip out to the Open Air Museum more "authentic". That's a place where they show all the sorts of villages, homesteads, etc... that were used in Tallinn right up to the late 19th century. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Tallinn. Being so far North also means that in the summer it's light 'til about 10:30pm. This means the Town Hall Square is always busy and lively. I guess it's the reverse in winter!

Had to fly from Stanstead this time, as the only other direct flights would've landed about midnight, and that's a little too late for me! Second time flying with Easyjet, and I have to say that I'm still rather impressed with them. They were efficient, did what they said, and no trouble with check-in, on-board, or booking. Not bad at all! *little rant* Why is it that Easyjet passengers don't listen to the gate announcements? As soon as the plane appears, everyone crowds round the gate. The gate staff are more than clear that it'll be boarding by groups, but as soon as they announce the first group (Speedy Boarding, the Elderly, & those with children under 10) everyone suddenly surges forward, blocking the gate. It's happened both times I've flown with them. I can't blame the staff, as it's not their fault. It's the idiocy of the passengers *little rant over*

Friday, 6 July 2007

Okay, following up from the recent trip to St Petersburg, I have to say that I loathe having connecting flights. To save the company money, I couldn't take the direct flights either to or from St P. Instead I flew out via Warsaw, and back via Vienna. Why is it that airlines reckon that a gap of 40 minutes between connecting flights is enough? Apart from maybe the first few flights of the day, every flight ends up with delays, either due to hold-ups on the ground, passengers dawdling in the shops instead of going to the gate when called, etc, or they have to stack over the airport waiting for a landing slot...

On the way back on Wednesday, our flight out of St Petersburg was delayed by about an hour. I had a connecting flight leaving Vienna 40 minutes after the first flight was scheduled to land. Great(!). The first flight managed to cut some time in flight, but we still landed 5 minutes before the Vienna London flight was due to leave, and the cabin crew advised us that the wouldn't make our connections. So, off I traipse to the transfer desk to see what alternatives I had, only to be told there that I could still get on the flight. Oh joy! So now I have to go downstairs again, through passport control, then run to the other end of the terminal to the gate. Of course I had to go through the metal detectors again, but I made it; only to find that this flight had been delayed too! I needn't have run after all. Argh!!!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

St Petersburg, July...

This trip to Rusia has made me realise a few things:

1) With all the security issues in the UK at the moment, I now see what it is about "us Brits" that others sometimes comment on. We're not so worried about something happening, more we are "a bit miffed" that it means we have to queue for longer to go somewhere. I think this is wonderful! It hows that we're not bullied into submission be it by governments, terrorists, officious jobs-worth, etc. we just bear it. :)

2) Last time I came to Russia, it was to Mosow. I can't describe why, but I never felt "safe" while I was there, and I can't see myself going there for a holiday (the last trip was work related). This trip to St Petersburg, however, has been great. The people have all been welcoming, and as you can see from the photos, there's plenty to see. I think I will have to change my attitude towards coming here for myself... (it's still bl**dy difficult to get visa, though!)

3) New rule to self: Unless absolutely necessary, don't fly somewhere that needs connecting flights! This must be only the fourth time I've done it over the years, and it just gets worse and worse.

4) It is just weird to still have evening "dusk light" at 11pm!

Friday, 22 June 2007

Sunset in New Hampshire

Sunset in New Hampshire
Originally uploaded by Fearless Fred
Well, I'm coming to the end of a week in the US for work. It's been fun to meet up with all the folks over here again, but I'll be really glad to get back home on Saturday. It'll also be nice to have an hour or two to myself! This photo was taken yesterday evening at Browns' Lobster Shack, NH...

Friday, 11 May 2007


Here's a few trivial things about me...

Favourite Theme tune to a TV show or Movie: The original Mission Impossible theme :-)
Favourite author: Difficult, but I'd have to go with Terry Pratchett
Least favourite food: Shellfish and rice pudding. Not together, you understand (actually that thought's made it even worse!)...
A fact people don't know about me; I like to wake up early
Dislikes: I dislike extremist viewpoints of any colour/creed/religious or political belief. While people are intolerant of others, there will always be strife, conflict, and suffering...
If I went on Desert Island Discs, the ten songs/recordings I would take are:
  1. One, by U2
  2. Life Is Sweet (live version), by Maria McKee
  3. Overture to The Magic Flute; Mozart
  4. Home, by Leona Naess
  5. Rock & Roll, by Led Zepellin
  6. Sugar Mice, by Marillion (With Steve Hogarth singing, rather than Fish...)
  7. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, by U2
  8. Who Are You, by The Who
  9. Boom Boom, by John Lee Hooker
  10. The Ying Tong Song, by The Goons
The place, other than home, where I feel most at peace; Ireland
One thing I'm passionate about: Music
One thing I think we have too much of: TV made for the lowest common denominator (I'm thinking reality TV and shows that rely on people calling/texting telephone numbers to vote on)

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Gig Heaven

Well, last night was the Maria McKee gig I've been looking forward to for weeks. And what a gig it was! First off was the venue. Bush Hall is somewhere I hadn't heard of 18 months ago. It seems to be the best kept secret location for small gigs in London. About 10 minute's walk from the Shepherds Bush Empire, it's a small, unprepossessing little hall. In fact, if you didn't know it was there, you'd walk straigh past without noticing it. Inside, it's got a capacity of about 350 at a guess. It means that if there's no seating (like last night) if you're at the back, you're still probably only going to be about 25 to 30 feet from the stage. The staff are all friendly as well. If you look at sme of the names who have played there, you would've thought it would be better known...

As for the gig itself, it was awesome! Maria came on stage at 9pm, and stunned us all by launching straight into Life Is Sweet. Now, this is usually her final number, so you can imagine the shock! It's still such a perfect song ten years after it was written. I swear it ranks alongside One by U2 as one of those songs that have the ability to transfix and transport you away. I couldn't believe that she chose it as her opener. After that, she joked "It's all downhill from here!". Typical Maria :-) All the way through the gig, she was joking with the audience, teasing her husband Jim (who was back on bass guitar duties), regaling us with the fact that Tom, the drummer, got held up in customs as he hadn't got his work visa yet, or that Amy on backing vocals was in fact the nanny of her Irish Godchildren. She has such a natural way with the audience. On top of that, she's blessed with such an amazing voice and range. She can make songs soar into air, then slip effortlessly into a growl to bring power to a real rocker of a song. Even when she's done backing vocals for other people (such as Texas and U2) her voice shines out. When it comes to her own material, then the power and emotion comes through even more. It's really a voice that has to be heard live to get the full effect. Even though her albums are great, hearing her sing live is ten times better.

As for the songs, I think she chose to go easy on us by not doing too many from the new album, partly because the album only came out yesterday, so we didn't have much chance to learn them! Of the ones she did play, it sounds like her new album is a scorcher, again exploring musical styles that you wouldn't normally expect, and finding fertile ground for her songwriting. In the end the songs came from almost all the last 20+ years that she's been in the business. It went back all the way to old Lone Justice tracks such as Shelter, Wheels, Dixie Storms, through to her early solo songs; Breathe, Am I The Only One (Who Ever Felt This Way), Has He Got A Friend For Me?, up to the Life Is Sweet era, (Absolutely Barking Stars, Life Is Sweet), and High Dive (High Dive). There was even A Good Heart, the song she wrote that became a big hit for Feargal Sharkey. I'm looking forward to hearing the version that she's recorded for her new album (once my copy finally arrives from Amazon!). As for finishing with You Are The Light, that was a special touch, particularly for those of us who were at her gig last year at Bush Hall. At that gig, her guitar went out of tune, and she had to fill in while Susan (who was doing backing vocals at the time) went backstage to tune it. So, she launched into an accapella version of the old Lone Justice classic You Are The Light. It got a great reception then, and an even better one last night. All in all, a wonderful night:-) It's almost criminal that she isn't as well known as other singer-songwriters who came after.

If anyone out there who likes good music can do far far worse than buy Maria's new album, Late December It's music at it's most pure...

Friday, 20 April 2007

A few days off at last

Well, I've finally taken a few days off work. I'm usually guilty of not using up all my holidays 'til the end of the year, so it makes a change to take time off this early in the year. The real reason is, of course, that I'm going to see Maria McKee at Bush Hall in London on Monday night, so I thought I'd take a few days off, rather than rush straight back in to work. I'm really looking forward tothe gig. If anyone out there is in London on Monday night, and they're at a loose end, trust me, Bush Hall will be the place to be! It's a little over a year since I saw her play there on her acoustic tour. It's going to be a really good night, I'm sure. Plus, I've now got the hotel for my holiday arranged, so I'm in an even better mood:-) Time to open a bottle of vino, methinks:)

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Bourton On The Hill

Bourton On The Hill
Originally uploaded by Fearless Fred.
Okay, here's a photo taken from the top of the church in the village my parents live in... Hopefully this'll post to Bloggr okay!

Ha ha!! It worked! As you can imagine, a nice sunny Friday afternoon, where the temperature means wearing T-Shirts is the right choice, is just the right time to take a photo across the village :-)

Eye of the beholder...

This is a post I've been debating in my mind for a few weeks now. Those who know me know that I suffer from psoriasis. It's a skin condition that I've had now for something like 10 years. For a lot of people (at least here in the UK), it's something they've only heard of through a TV show called The Singing Detective. While my case is nowhere near as severe as what's shown there, it is something that affects how others see me, and so it affects how I see myself. I won't go into depth about what it is or what causes it. Partly that's because there's a lot of resources that give details about it out on the 'net. Partly it's because it's not relevant to this post....

Instead, this post is to give a point of view of a sufferer of psoriasis. For the most part, it's something I don't think about on a normal day. It just means I have to spend 15 minutes on top of what most people have in the morning treating the areas where I get the psoriasis. Those are the good days. Then, there's the bad days. For example, there are the days where I have to get up early (4:30am ish) because I'm flying somewhere for work. On days like that, the psoriasis starts to get dry and itchy after about 10 hours (particularly after being on a plane where they de-humidify the air) so I'm trying to hide the scratch reflex and red, dry areas from customers. Even worse are the times where I'm going out on a date. I dread that moment where I meet the woman, and I can see in her eyes that moment, not of revulsion,, more of pity. You can almost see the wall being built behind the eyes, blocking you off from a potential relationship, purely because of how you look.

I know this looks like a straight-on whine, and to a certain extent it's true. But then, psoriasis is something that creates this reservation in the sufferer and in the eyes of others, separating those who suffer from it from the rest of society. It's based on the old adage that the first impression counts, and sufferers unfortunately can only ever make a poor impression, given the visual impact that psoriasis makes. Am I angry about that? Yes, at times. Do I feel it's unfair, most definitely. Still, I've found that true friends, (those who understand and accept you for who you are and what you look like) are more common that I would've thought. That makes things so much better...

As an aside, we had such lovely April weather here in the south of the UK over Easter. I'll try to post a link to the photos I took of my parent's village, once I work out how to do that!

Friday, 30 March 2007

End of the week

Ah, the end of a week, and a chance to finally sit back and relax. A week of highs, lows, mediums, etc (as normal really). For the first time in about a month, I've been in the office all week, which is good, but I've had a tonne of paperwork to catch up on (bad). I narowlly avoided getting sent on a stupid visit this afternoon to France. As always, it's all rush, rush last minute stuff that could've been cleared up weeks or even months ago. Luckily it got re-scheduled as a phone call instead :)

The really good bit is that I've managed to book part of a holiday at last. Those who know me know I've been exploring Eastern Europe in years past. Well, I'm off to Estonia (Tallinn) to be precise! I know it's still 3 months or so away, but I'm already looking forward to it. Look out for blogs from there if I can find an internet cafe!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Starting out

Well, here I am. I thought it was time I started blogging. Who knows, I may even add more if something happens!