This Journal is Friends' Locked.Cruising Logs are public, as are the 365 Quote for the Day posts of 2009If you're looking for the fanfic, it's over on hesadevilspike. Icons are on gen_icons For all other comments, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the relevant entry. Thank you.
they go to humongous lengths to get wi-fi up and running for skype sessions at a hotel where the internet connection is down and will remain down for the foreseeable future.WriterConUK's organising team pulled out all the stops when the members discovered that there was no internet connection at the hotel. The team persuaded the duty manager that it was essential to set up a skype connection for me as I was unable to attend. The Event in person. Duty Manager, Mike went out into Coventry and bought a dongle to set up a mifi on the team's laptop.Connection was dicey at first as there were problems with the sound quality. Eventually that was sorted and I was able to say 'hi' to old friends in the newly refurbished Breakout Area.
I was able to attend some of the presentations but missed others.
One of the few sessions I was able to follow really well was 'Building Costumes.I wish I had been there for the practical sessions on designing a character,and for the When Art meets fic.Not to mention all the other wonderful presentations I missed because of one thing or another.I realised, just before the start of The Event, on Friday evening, that I had Raffle prizes to add to the impressive pile on display. Mine couldn't travel alone, so were added virtually.
I was even able to take part in the AGM during which the all-important question of 'do we carry on in the face of falling numbers?' was discussed.The answer is of course we do - small is beautiful and our quirky British event is like no other convention.The Goodie-Bag Queen, Bogwitch, delivered my personalised Goodie-Bag on her way home on Sunday afternoon. I handed over two of the three items for the raffle which she will deliver. The third, The DVD of The Hobbit, will be posted as soon as I receive the winner's (everyone's a winner at The Event) details.My Goodie-Bag and contents.Raffle Prizes - bottle of Prosecco, Hobbit Cinema poster, Mug.Personalised contents - Event Programme, Discworld bottle opener, name-badge and lanyard, writerConUk pen, notebook, selection of sweets and chocolates, fun-sized maracas, bubble-wand.The Goodie-Bag itself is re-useable this year - a canvas bag with WriterconUK graphics.It was so wonderful to be included at this year's Event and I am really grateful for the team efforts to make it happen in such difficult circumstances.
I'm posting daily to my new(er) Blogger Blog
If anyone is interested in keeping in touch, add the Slow Lane
to your FList.
But, before you do, hop on over to WriterConUK
for the latest update on this year's Event.
Now, if I could add my FLIst to my Blogger reading list, I'd feel a lot happier.
I have been neglectful of my LJ.
However, I have been posting daily to my new(er) Blogger Blog
If anyone is interested in keeping in touch, add the Slow Lane to your FList.
Now, if I could add my FLIst to my Blogger reading list, I'd feel a lot happier.
the day we went to
Event IronmanWales was exciting (if somewhat wet and tiring on the leg).
The countdown to the Pro finishers.
The 'Voice' of Ironman, bringing the athletes home.
N0rm, captured on lap 3 of the run by MWNN.
N0rm was too fast for me, coming round the bend beneath the town gate like Stormin Norman.
Whoosh ..... missed him again on the Red Carpet.
At the finishing line.
and he's home in excellent time.
TOTKat and N0rm at IronmanWales awards ceremony.
|TOTKat acknowledging her 'honourable mention'|
and I visited Hitchin Lavender
, I asked if the farm's lavender was suitable for cooking. The assistant said it was but to use it sparingly, especially the dried version. I said I'd like to try using the lavender from my garden and was told that it would be ideal as it was best to use just picked lavender.
I searched for recipes online and came up with a fairly simple one for lavender shortbread. I'm keen to try it out and 'test' it on MWNN
when he returns from cat-sitting duties at The Daughter's (104) house.
- 150g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 100g butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 2 tsp culinary dried lavender flowers
MethodIf my baking is OK, I plan to take some lavender shortbread to Wales, for a friend, when I visit following cheering on 103 and 104 in Ironman UK Wales. Ironman UK, Bolton
Preheat oven to 160degC. Slightly crush 1tsp lavender flowers in a pestle and mortar to release the natural oils. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl with the caster sugar, butter and crushed lavender, and rub in using fingertips to make a crumbly mixture which can then be kneaded together to make a dough. Roll out to 1cm thick and cut into individual rounds. Sprinkle with the remaining lavender flowers, pressing them down gently until they stick, then bake for 10-15 mins until the shortbread is just starting to brown. Leave for 10 mins before removing from baking tray, and sprinkle with caster sugar.
is happening today. You can track 103 and 104 on the day using the competitor tracking.
Our away-day trip to Laon was overdue. Laon
is the medieval capital of France. Charlemagne was born there. It boasts the oldest Cathedral in the country. The views from the ramparts (if you can find a place to park) are spectacular.
We arrived after a leisurely lunch on the way down at the Auberge de Vendeul. We climbed up to the Cathedral from the first car park which is just outside the entrance gate of the old town. After the visit to the Cathedral, we shopped in the town where MWNN
discovered a shop selling tea and some wonderful freshly-ground coffee.
At tea time, we picnicked in the car park overlooking the view of the countryside far below.
It's a fascinating town (city?) with a long history.
is an area between the railway and canal, right beside the town centre.
The Parc d'Isle is big (47.52 hectares). It contains lakes, marshes, orientation course, a farm, and other environmentaly-friendly areas. Entrance is free.
Despite the blustery, wet weather, we managed an hour's walk along the main footpath (through the topiary) before the rain swept in again.
This is a wonderful resource, right on our doorstep (gunwales) and something we mean to make more use of during our visits to the boat.
One of the places I've wanted to visit for quite a long time, is
. The BBC series 'Merlin'
uses the castle as one of its locations. It's not far from St Quentin, on the road between Compiegne and Soissons.
|Taken with mobile phone|
The town is a little like Portmeirion
in Wales, in that it is totally geared up for tourists. There is a variety of places to eat, from the lakeside gardens to the Auberge aux Bles D'or in which we had a fairly disasterous meal (that's a story that makes Basil Fawlty look positively super-efficient by comparison).The castle dominates the town. It was a pity that the weather prevented us exploring the park around the castle.
|Taken on the climb up to the entrance|
The tour of the Castle was a long one. It's impressive, given that it was built on the ruins of a much earlier castle at the request of Napoleon III, but disappointing in that its interior is used as a display space for art and sculpture from other regions of France and other epocs.
|One of the many restored staircases|
There is evidence of much restoration, both inside and out. Climbing the many flights of stone steps and loking down from the drawbridge 'control room' reminded us that such castles were fortresses, built to repel would-be invaders.
Several restored interiors give some idea of the scale of the 'state' rooms. The grand hall, with its double fireplace has all the grandeur expected of an Emperor's 'holiday estate' in the Forest of Compiegne. The circular seating is one of the few remaining pieces of furniture from Viollet-le-Duc's
Inside, Viollet-le-Duc produced more a work of invention than
|Image from http://www.skyscrapercity.com|
restoration. He imagined how the castle ought to
have been, rather than basing his work on the strict history of the
building. On the other hand, with the exterior he showed an excellent
knowledge of the military architecture of the 14th century
There was one glimpse of part of the Merlin set left in place for the film crew's next visit (just a few days after we were there). These town cottages are merely 'front elevations'
Pierrefonds may be worth a second visit when the weather is good enough to picnic in the park.
Although we didn't get a cruise this year, we did
take time out from working on the boat to explore the area around St Quentin.
|Aerial view giving some idea of the scale of the site|
One of our first 'away days' was spent at Prémontré as MWNN wanted to see Prémontré Abbey, the mother house of the Premonstratensian Order. I forgot to take my camera so have raided the web for these images.
Of the old abbey as it was from the 12th to the 16th centuries hardly
anything remains, but three large buildings of the 17th and 18th
centuries are still standing, part of one of which is used as a church,
dedicated to Saint Norbert. Since 1867, the main buildings have been used as a psychiatric hospital. There are no 'inmates' any more , just staff of the Centre Hospitalier de Prémontré. We were unable to see inside any of the buildings as it was Sunday and no one (apart from one 'patient' with attached medical attendant) was there.It was easy to get some idea of the scale of the Abbey as it was in the 12th century, as the approach is around the outer wall. The remains are the size of a village set amid the vast acres belonging to the Commune of Prémontré.
Remembering Mum who died one year ago at the Winter Solstice.“How we remember, what we remember and why we remember form the most personal map of our individuality.”
The abiding memories from my childhood include Mum teaching me to read before I started school. Throughout my schooldays, she was there, encouraging, helping me revise for exams and attending Parents' Evenings, Summer Fetes, and Speech Day events. She taught me the value of working hard and saving for things I wanted as well as spending wisely without incurring debts.
It gave me great satisfaction to find a marble statue for the garden that will remind me of all this. The statue is called 'Rosemary
' (in the manufacturer's catalogue) but her real
identity is that of the goddess Minerva (Athena) holding a book.
As patron goddess of learning, Minerva, frequently features in statuary at educational establishments. To me, she is a reminder of the wisdom traditionally passed from mother to daughter and the very special place my
mother held throughout my formative years.
The statue is not very tall (85cm) and will be placed beside the Rosemary bush on the newly-restored patio where Mum loved to sit in the sun when she came down for a visit. MWNN
has given me Christmas money to spend on herbs and plants for the raised beds. I think some heathers would be nice, as the large raised bed is filled with Fenland soil, rather than the chalky stuff in the rest of the garden. "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember." Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 4.
Some of you may know that I published a book in 2002. One thousand copies were printed and I thought we'd never sell them all. Everyone on the publishing team was relieved when we broke even with 400 orders pre-launch.
Afterwards, numbers of copies dwindled slowly over the next six years. Contacts through the website
steadilly increased until we were down to less than 20 copies in 2010.
I began to think seriously about an e-version when requests from the US and Europe increased reducing the numbers of copies available to single figures. The cost of postage sometimes matched that of the book.
|Kindle version cover
Last week, I publlished a Kindle Version
for Amazon. It's available in the US
, and Germany
at the moment. It came as a great shock and disappointment to learn that e-books attract VAT in the UK.
I was also a little disappointed at the Kindle's conversion program which rendered the Contents, index, and footnotes inoperable but, given that there are so few copies left (6) this is the one way of 'owning' a copy of the original 2002 text and (apart from the front cover) images.With a lot of trial and error, ( a steep learning curve) I managed to revise the first conversion attempt and now Contents' page and footnote links work and the pages look correctly formatted. Picture zoom and text to speech are aso enabled and I adjusted the pricing to absorb the VAT.
The Kindle edition should be available for download in the following countries:
United Kingdom (including Guernsey, Jersey, and Isle of Man)
Please sign the e-petition
against VAT on ebooks. You need to verify your registration once you've signed up to the petition for it to take effect.
when it works. But when it doesn't, it's a right royal pain.
I spent most of Monday trying to get my PC to talk to my ancient (2003 series 2) iPod (battery totally dead and won't hold a charge) without the official sync/charge usb cable. I'm fairly sure the cable is on the boat. I did manage to get the two communicating just long enough for iTunes to wipe everything from the iPod before telling me it couldn't sync as there was no device on the USB port. I ordered a new 'classic'(silver) and resigned myself to keeping the old iPod as a wall ornament.
No sooner had I paid my dosh to Apple when the ancient i-pod suddenly re-appeared in iTunes and a full sync happened, I can keep it plugged permanently into my Altec Lancing speakers and use the new one as my travelling companion.
One problem solved and another one worsened.
Since returning from France, my two-year-old Dell laptop (which remained in the UK) started behaving strangely - frequent 'freezes', refusal to shut down, and no access to 'Task Manager'. After a whole day of getting nowhere with cache clearing, disc check, full virus scan, and abortive attempts at de-fragging on Monday, I contacted the help chat at Microsoft early on Tuesday morning.
To cut a long story short, I was taken through the prescribed diagnosis route (with an hour's break for lunch at 2pm) when what I wanted was someone to answer my questions about why I couldn't access task manager. On returning from lunch, I found that the malware scan (provided by Microsoft support) had found about 10 viruses that my earlier scans had failed to find. Having removed them from the laptop, it booted up correctly and seems to be working OK. Had it not done so, we would have moved on to letting Microsoft have access to the laptop so that the 'expert' could fix it remotely.
I later checked online for the most common cause of task manager failure - yup virus.
By six o'clock, I was so knackered and stressed that I almost decided not to go to singing group. And then I remembered how relaxing singing is - and went - and it was
- very (relaxing).ETA
13:01 Laptop problem was not solved. Have now lost access to support technician and am running a hardware test on the Vostro as per Dell techical support instructions. Aaaaaaargh - need another singing session and
advice as to which OS to buy should everything fail to solve the problems.
I took it to the boat and read the following (during breakfast and at night) over nine weeks.Trollope
Domestic Manners of the Americans (Fanny)
The Belton Estate (Anthony)
An Eye for an Eye (Anthony)
The Man who kept his Money in a Box (Anthony)
Ralph the Heir (Anthony)
Harry Heathjcote of Gangoil (Anthony)
Miss Mackenzie (Anthony)
The Vicar of Bullhampton (Anthony) Gaskell
Half a Lifetime Ago
A Dark Night's Work
Wives and Daughters
The Poor Clare
The Half Brothers
The Moorland CottageM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon
Lady Audley's Secret Bronte
The Tennant of Wildfell Hall (Anne)
There is no way that 17 books would have been carried in my suitcase, nor is there room for that many on the bookshelf on the boat - not to mention they were all free from various web archives.
I also had several 'Friday Play' podcasts from the BBC which I was able to listen to through headphones. I have to admit, I listened to only 2 as we were so busy.
We've just returned from taking Ron for a walk before the rain hit. It is really important that we try to keep his activity levels similar to those he had when we were in France. Before we went away, he was somewhat overweight. After nine weeks of a lot of exercise, he has lost 2kg and is looking really good.
|Port 'estate', looking north(ish)|
We spent most of those nine weeks in port. The Port de Plaisance is 2 hectares of security-fenced grounds - plenty of space for strenous ball-chasing or general off-lead mooching.
I availed of the facilities to add the 'down-stay' to Ron's repertoire. He's reluctant to play that game with his precious (Billy Ball) so I used a stick or pine cone. Once in the down-stay, I walked away, increasing the distance at each session.
Then I'd turn and give the command 'fetch'. He soon got the hang of it. Unfortunately, it seems to have been place-defined as we had to train him all over again when trying it out at the local 'rec'.
He's also sulking a bit because his 'home estate
' is tiny in comparison to his watery one. Which might explain why he's refusing to take part in eradication the mice which colonised the house during our absence.
Nine weeks of working on the boat - I hoped for a rest when we got home. So far, we've disinfected the utility room and kitchen. Evidence (poop) is also in the front room, the staircase, and my bedroom/study
|The new Berlingo outside Le Chauderon|
We wasted almost a whole day in a fruitless search for a canal bridge full of graffiti that MWNN
wanted to photograph. We differ in our recollection of where the bridge was and there are some bridges that are inaccessable by road.
However, the day was not totally wasted. On our third circuit around Menessis, we found ourselves on the way to Jussy. It being almost 1pm, we stopped for lunch at 'Le Chauderon'. We'd discovered this great little workman's restaurant during our week in Gite no2. On the first visit, MWNN
discovered leek pie; this time, he admitted to liking rabbit stew. The tiramasu which he chose for dessert was 'delicious'. My 'fruit rouge' tart was the best I'd had since I was a child.
|Ron on the Port 'estate'.|
We ate at an outside table and Monsieur le Chef came out and made the mistake of going up close and staring at Ron in his travel crate in the back of the Berlingo. Who would have thought that the dog in the photo (right) could turn into a ravening wolf at such provocation? I took him out of the crate so that he could greet Monsieur in his usual cheerful manner (especially when I explained to Ron that this Monsieur was the chef who had cooked the rabbit of which he had been given a fair share.)
There was a full moon a few days ago. On the final clear(ish) night, I decided to have a go at taking photos from my cabin, using the night and timer seettings on the camera as I'd left the tripod at home.
Some pics came out rather well. This one is probably the best and may make it into next year's calendar in some form or other.
|St Quentin Leisure Centre|
We completed two test runs, one yesterday past the new Leisure Centre (swimming, bowls, ice rink and restaurants) that is behind the Port alongside a new 'promenade' as far as the town bridge to the north of the town, the other on Friday down as far as the first lock south of St Quentin.
There were a couple of leaks to which we had to attend and a new galley sink hot water tap connection to fit. All seems to be well now and, good weather permitting, we'll head out for a a couple of weeks' cruise on Bank Holiday Monday.
Speaking of weather, it's been the most wonderful five weeks so far - warm to hot during the day and cool at night. Keep everything crossed that it continues for the next couple of weeks.
During the first couple of weeks at St Quentin, Ron found that my suitcase made a rather wonderful bed. He claimed it the first night at Gite No 1 and continued to use it at Gite No 2.
It's impossible for him to use it aboard the boat because his bed is the 'top bunk' on the cover over the hip-bath. He's complained bitterly on a couple of cold nights as his boat bed isn't as easy for him to use as an igloo beneath his travelling fleece.
Today is a Bank Holiday, because May day fell on a Sunday. It's also the 93rd anniversary of my Mum's birth - May 2nd, 1918. I've missed her a lot during the last month. When we're in France, I used to send her a postcard at every Halte Nautique and phone her when there was a kiosk available. She loved following our progress on the map and was interested in the towns and villages we visited, especially those in well-know wine regions as she knew there would be local wine heading her way on our return to the UK. Our boat is featured prominently on the cover of the Cruising Club brochure and, when I saw it, my first thought was 'I must send a copy to Mum'.
|Mum (left) with her sister C1958|
We're still in Port, thanks to a glitch with the fridge and the loo.
I'm cooking a cassoulet for this evening's dinner and will serve champagne in honour of Mum's birthday. She and her sister, Anne, loved a drop of wine and Mum's tastes became rather sophisticated once we'd discovered the wine regions and the village co-operatives of the South of France.
and Alain, the President of the Cruising Club of Haut Picardie, threw a surprise 'dessert party'.
I thought I would offer to serve Pimms in honour of England's National Day but withdrew rapidly when I saw the number of bottle of Charles de Fere 'blanc de blanks' the President had supplied.
The 'desserts' were fruit tartes - lots of fruit tartes - huge party-sized apple, cherry, strawberry, raspberry and mirabel tartes as well as individual ones. There was enough for two helpings each and third helpings for the hollow-legged guests.
Four of the boat crews were British, the rest were French. It was a delighful evening, out in the shade of the cherry trees, the tartes and champagne set out on benches and the picnic blanket (which Elodie claimed just as Ron began his mad play-bowing and lunatic dashing hihther and thither). Ron and his lady-friend, Elodie, were very well behaved and were given tidbits as reward for their constraint. The champagne was still flowing when I left at 9.45pm to give Ron his dinner.
The President again toasted the beginning of the season with well and good camaraderie to all.
The following day was Easter Sunday and, thanks to my new slow cooker, I was able to cooker Easter Lamb, the gravy from which was used as the base for beef in beer on Monday.
Our neighbours, Bob and Anna, were returning to UK early on Tuesday so they were our dinner guests. Anna provided a trifle for dessert and Bob had chilled a rather nice bottle of Cremant de Loire.
The day was quite warm but there was a strong wind blowing so, instead of setting up under the trees, I served dinner in the front cabin.
We're still in port but almost ready to set off. We'll wait until the wind dies down and then give the engine a couple of hours test-run before committing to a few weeks' cruise.