is almost sprung.

It was really warm and sunny yesterday.

The garden was full of butterflies - fritillaries of all sizes. A pair of long-tailed tits was looking for a suitable nesting site (still feeling a little guilty at the removal of the leylandii from the front garden), reminding me that if the trees are to be pruned, it should be in the next week or so.

The weather was so warm that a load of bed linen dried and aired in a couple of hours in the garden, coming in only as the sun dipped behind the neighbour's roof. It will soon be setting later in the day - clocks spring forward an hour on the 30th of this month. I've never understood what is actually 'saved' by doing this.

spike thumbs up

You know you have really good friends when

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.

Breakout area

I was able to attend some of the presentations but missed others.

Building costumes

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.

Raffle prizes

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.
  • Current Mood
    grateful grateful
Absolutely fascinating reading Spike

Missed me?

You needn't.

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.

Blogger Blog syndication

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.
knitting sketch

Didn't we have a lovely time

the day we went to Bangor Tenby.

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'


Cooking with lavender

When MWNN 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
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.

If 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 is happening today. You can track 103 and 104 on the day using the competitor tracking.
cruising log


Laon Cathedral

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.

© whimsicalwonderlust

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.

© whimsicalwonderlust

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.
cruising log

The best kept secret in St Quentin

is an area between the railway and canal, right beside the town centre.

Parc d'Isle

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.

cruising log


One of the places I've wanted to visit for quite a long time, is Camelot Pierrefonds. 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  restoration.

Image from http://www.skyscrapercity.com

Inside, Viollet-le-Duc produced more a work of invention than
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.

cruising log

France 2012

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.

Prémontré Abbaye

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.