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Archive for April, 2009

Frensham Common


This morning I had to take Tom’s spaniel to The Happy Dog Grooming Parlour, in Farnham, for a haircut. It takes about 40 minutes to get over there so it’s not worth driving back home as it only takes about 1.5 hours to get him clipped.

So rather than hang around the grooming parlour I drove up to Frensham Common for a walk, and to take some photos. Frensham is a very nice area with a ‘Little Pond’, a ‘Great Pond’ and lots of common. I stopped off at the Great Pond which has a couple of nice sandy beaches where people can safely swim, I think the deepest part of the swimming area is about 1.4 meters.

It was a beautiful day today, quite warm for this time of year, so it was really nice to just wonder around for an hour just taking photos. Just by the beaches there are some great read beds, just gently moving in the wind.

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The sun was just shinning through the trees when I was there and lighting up the catkins, I’m not sure what sort they are but they could well be a ‘Goat Willow’ which is also known as a ‘Pussy Willow’.

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Considering the size of the lake I was rather surprised at the lack of water fowl, the whole while that I was there I only saw some Coot, nothing else, which was quite disappointing really.

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I’m guessing that at some point there has been a heath fire, as there were a number of burnt logs around. There were also plenty of notices telling people not to light BBQ’s or fires. There was a flyer advertising an open day at Hazlemere fire station in a few weeks time which will include some topics on heathland fires.

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Even though there wasn’t much in the way of water fowl there was nevertheless an abundance of birds twittering away, after all it is the mating season. The following lonely little Chaffinch was chirping away trying to attract a mate but after a few minutes gave up and flew away.

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Some yards distant this little tit (I think it’s a Great Tit) was singing for a mate but again none came. A few minutes later I did, however, see a pair mating in mid air unfortunately by the time I pointed the camera at them the had disappeared into the bushes.

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The heathland is so colourful at the moment as the Gorse is now in full flower but I didn’t notice too many bees hovering around. I’m not sure if that is just because it isn’t quite warm enough yet or whether it is to do with the more ominous problem that is affecting the bee population.

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On my way back to the car I managed to just capture this shot of a fast disappearing Jay.

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The full set of photos are available on Flickr. There were a number of helicopters flying around as well which I have put on my other blog.

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Proud Parents


The photo says it all, proud mum standing next to handsome son in uniform.

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After more than 2 years of waiting for a training place to become available with the Hampshire Constabulary, Tom eventually started on Tuesday and last night was his attestation ceremony. Along with 15 other students, of varying ages and from all walks of life, he took his oath and was awarded his warrant card.

It really is wonderful to see that after all these years, in only 3 days, he has already learnt to use an iron and has discovered that fantastic new invention, shoe polish! I shouldn’t poke fun as since leaving university he has been doing a wonderful job teaching people, especially children, to sail. It’s just that we are probably more used to seeing him in his rather less ironed sports wear.

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Good luck son we know that you will make a great Bobby!

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My Electrical New Saab


It was with great excitement that on March 24th I drove my old Saab Vector convertible over to Reading Saab to pick up my brand new shinny, sparkly Saab Vector convertible. This one is a 1.9TiD which supposedly will do into the fifties per gallon, though I have yet to confirm this.

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I must admit that as I walked passed the car on my way into the showroom it looked absolutely fabulous. I did notice, however, that the disc brakes where a little on the rusty side though.

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I mentioned this to Simon, the very nice salesman that I deal with, and he assured me that was quite normal as the vehicles are stored outside for some considerable time prior to being shipped, not altogether surprising in the current economic climate. I’m still not convinced that when you buy a quality new car that you expect to see rust anywhere.

On April 5th we drove down to Winchester to see our daughter Kate doing affiliated dressage and on the way back to her ‘yard’ I suddenly noticed that all the instruments were showing zero, nothing on the information display either. I sopped the car, restarted and everything was fine again but within a few more minutes the same thing happened again.

When we arrived at the yard had to reverse into a parking space and as normal the parking sensors came to life, unfortunately they didn’t stop. I put the car into park, still the beep of the sensor. I switched the ignition off, still the beep of the sensor. I locked the car, still the beep of the sensor. I unlocked the car, still the beep of the sensor. I started the car, still the beep of the sensor.

Not too sure quite how I managed to get it to stop beeping, I think I started and stopped the car a couple of times. You can imagine how I was starting to feel with only some 400 miles on the clock! We left the yard to go back to Kates’ house in Eastleigh, probably 5 or 7 miles and guess what, yep about halfway the electric’s died again.

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When we got to Kate’s I checked the fuses, I’m not very mechanical I know where the fuel goes and that’s about it. I pushed all the fuses down just to make sure they were all engaged. We drove home and there were no more electrical failures, only it appeared that the parking sensors were no longer working!

Monday morning I phoned Reading Saab and explained the issue, I was very nice about it, after all even a new car can get a little teething problem. I was told to call Saab Assist (the AA) and have them recover the vehicle as the garage didn’t have anyone available to pick the car up. So the AA came and eventually took the car to the garage. Reading Saab said the problem was with the rear sensor controller and they would fit a new one, so Wednesday lunch time the car was brought back. Everything was now working again, though I wasn’t too happy to see some dirty marks on the door and drivers seat, thought I must ring them up sometime.

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The cover from the computer outlet was hanging off as well but that isn’t too unusual I’ve had that before. Over the weekend we used the car a couple of times, not a great deal.

Yesterday afternoon I needed to go into the office to collect my mail, so out I go to the car, hop in and start the engine. Most of it worked, well all of it except the start the engine bit. Nothing, apart from a bit of clicking but then even that disappeared. You can imagine that I was not very pleased, so I phoned Reading Saab who said it sounded like a battery problem, not bad considering I have done 581 miles. They sent the AA who looked at the problem and said there was a 1amp drain on the battery. They started the car the drain went away and there was no sign of a problem.

Well this morning I went to start the car and guess what, yes you’re right the car wouldn’t start. Well I called Ian at Reading Saab and very nicely explained that I was just a little bit unhappy, I think I might have mentioned ‘…not fit for purpose…’!

Anyway they have brought me a temporary vehicle and taken mine back to the garage. They will soon have had my car more than I have. I will update the blog as I have more news on the situation.

I certainly do not have any faith in this particular vehicle, and wonder whether this one may actually have been standing around for much too long before it was sold!

UPDATE: 13:30 Wednesday

Just had a call from Ian at Reading Saab, very apologetic, they’ve found the problem, apparently it’s a dead cell in the battery and should have been diagnosed by the AA man yesterday.Ian has told his MD that I am not a happy bunny and is going to check the car out personally before getting it back to me tomorrow. I remain to be convinced.

UPDATE: 22:00 Thursday

Well this afternoon the car was returned to me. The new battery now has a Saab label as opposed to a GM one. I am happy to say that the dirty marks on the drivers side have also now been removed. I have noticed a couple of scratchy type marks on the rear of the wing, probably due to someone working on the battery, I’ll try a bit of T-Cut which hopefully will get rid of them.

We took the car down to Netley this evening as it was Toms (our son) attestation ceremony, no problems so far thank goodness.

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I spend most of my time working from home which does have some wonderful advantages. One of those advantages is that instead of having a window that overlooks a car park, I have a window that overlooks the courtyard.

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Well as you can see it is also not the most inspiring view in the world but at least there is no washing out on the line! Still, this time of year the courtyard does become a hive of activity due to the Blue Tits. At the top right of the photo you can just make out a nesting box. Tom originally made this when he was in the Cubs, which would have been 18 to 20 years ago.

Every year since the box as been used by the Blue Tits to nest and rear a family. For weeks now they have been inspecting the box, looking in, looking round and then flying off again. More or less the same process every year.

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I’ve often tried to capture their comings and goings, normally by standing near the corner of the house, needless to say they know when you’re there and just don’t come out to play.

Well this year I was determined to get some shots, so for the past couple of weeks or so I have been getting the camera out and just leaving it on the desk ready to shoot. Unfortunately the shots would have to be through the glass of the window, not the best practice in the world. They know you know, I mean they know when the camera is out. They arrive at the box, I pick up the camera and they look at me and then fly off!

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It took me the best part of a week to actually be able to capture a few shots of the Tits nesting. They are not particularly fantastic photos as the were all taken through the glass and it be honest the glass is not exactly what you would call pristine.

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It was a worthwhile few minutes that rendered some interesting photos, even if they are not technically perfect, they did capture the moment.

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I was watching them earlier today and they are still tooing and frowing, but now they are actually taking fresh nesting material into the box, so I guess that we will soon hear the chirping of another brood of Blue Tits.

If you want to see the full sequence click here.

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Well, Sunday saw us getting up just that little bit earlier (even though Saturday had been a late night) so that we could drive down to Winchester to see our daughter Kate competing in a couple of affiliated dressage classes. She was riding Carolyns’ horse Jenna. It’s fair to say that Jenna is not the normal build for a dressage horse as she is a rather large Cob, not a breed necessarily associated with dressage!

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Unfortunately we missed the first class but where in plenty of time to see her perform in the second class. After some time in the the warmup ring with some of the other competitors it was time to compete in the next class. This second class was in fact dressage to music, and a qualifying round to move on to regionals.

This video is just a short extract from the start of Kate’s round.

Thankfully Jenna did yet another absolutely wonderful performance and was placed first in her class. Which gave her a first and a third place, well done Jenna and Kate.

As always if you want to see all the images click here.

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I had been hearing about the various rehearsals that Steph has been doing for the show for ages now. Then last Wednesday after the final combined rehearsal she arrived home with my ticket thanks to Dor for arranging that. So at last I would be able to see what all the fuss had been about.

Well, Saturday duly arrived, and around two thirty Steph & Ro set off for the final technical rehearsal and the show in the evening. I was left with a map and instructions on how to get to TASIS (The American School in England), which is where the show was taking place, “… and don’t forget the camera…”. as if I would!

I left early so that I would have plenty of time to ‘stake out the joint’, you know the sort of thing, find a good location to hide and take photos from. I’m always conscious when I do a show that the firing of the shutter may disturb the people around me, so I always warn anyone that sits next to me that there may be a little bit of noise. As it turns out I wasn’t the only one that would be taking photos during the performance, Graham had been asked by one of the Royal Harmonics (his flat mate) to come along and take some stills, while Beth (Pete Powells’ wife) was taking a video. Anyway I positioned myself on the first row of the balcony for the first half of the show, sort of over to the left. For the second half I stayed in the balcony but went and sat on some stairs in the middle just under the control box. Needn’t have bothered with the ticket after all then!

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Unusually for a barbershop/acappella show this was not going to be just a concert but a show of West End proportions, OK maybe not quite that grand, but never the less a show. So instead of one group coming on and then going off and the next ones coming on, for the most part all the performers would be on stage throughout.

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Let me try and set the scene for you, it’s the reception and bar of the Royal Windsor Hotel, the receptionist introduces us to the hotel pianist and tells us about some of the guests that will be staying in the hotel. There’s the bridal party, the grandparents who have come to see their grandchild, a ‘hen’ party, and I almost forgot a BARBERSHOP chorus! I think that was about it, unfortunately when I concentrate on taking a picture I don’t always hear what’s going on (or maybe it’s just an age and memory thing).

Unfortunately shortly after the start of the show the lady taking the part of the hotel receptionist was taken ill and collapsed over the reception desk. She was quickly surrounded by some of the ladies from Signature and the show continued as if nothing had happened, a fantastic achievement considering that she was the lynchpin of the overall show, I don’t think many people noticed.

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While Signature opened the show the Royal Harmonics took their places on the risers behind them with an air of professionalism often only found in major stage productions, they’ll be going on tour next!

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No sooner had the girls moved to the side that the Royal Harmonics started up.

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Next we saw the grand parents meeting their new grandchild ably assisted by one of the quartets from the Royal Harmonics (come on keep up with the story).

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Looks like the groom has now turned up as well.

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And so the baton passes onto Signature again, this time to serenade one very lonely looking chap (can’t quite remember who he was in the scheme of thinks).

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We move onto the combined voices of both the choruses for some superb harmonies.

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Then Enigma stepped up to perform the latest addition to their repertoire, ‘Sway Medley’, which is a combination of a number of popular dance songs.

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I’ve got to include a black & white shot of the bride and groom, not sure if this was a dry run for Leigh or not!

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As the interval drew to a close we were once again serenaded by the wonderful sound of the piano and what can only be described a great pianist. This certainly helped to keep the ‘hotel’ ambiance going.

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The show continued with the Royal Harmonics and a change of costume (so I guess you hadn’t all gone to the bar).

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It wasn’t long before Enigma were back on to do their version of the Ronan Keatings’ When You Say Nothing At All.

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As Signature also managed to get changed during the interval I’m guessing they didn’t get to the bar either!

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The finale once more saw both choruses performing together, and what a performance it was!

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That just about left one thing, the BAR!

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Well done one and all it was a great show. If you want to see all the images of the night just click here.

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Last Sunday our son Tom ran the Reading half marathon and considering his lack of training he didn’t do a bad job. Late last year he and Di, his girlfriend, decided that they would do the half marathon.

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I think that they probably managed a half dozen or so short runs before Christmas, but since then things changed slightly. What with one thing and another nothing much happened during January, but not to worry there was plenty of time for training as the race wasn’t till the end of March. So during February half term (Di is a teacher) off they went to France for a weeks break, well break is probably the operative word here! On the last day of an otherwise quiet week they drove off to the mountains for a bit of skiing and boarding. Unfortunately Di fell and broke her leg on the first run. Anything to get those hunky French mountain rescue teams out and get a sled ride down the mountain!

So that put paid to any ideas of training for the next few weeks. On Monday March 22nd we asked if he was still doing the race, guess we knew the answer would be yes. We kind of laughed. On the 23rd he took himself off for a short run, well actually he did about 11.5 miles, so that was it the training had started and stopped.

On the 29th he and Di were picked up at 7am by James and Gemma to go off to the Madejski Stadium in Reading for the 10am start. We on the other hand caught the train into Reading at 9.50, should have been the 9:25 but the doors closed as we touched the platform. From the station it was just a question of catching one of the 34 free shuttle buses to the stadium, unfortunately they were all stuck in the traffic jams that were caused as a result of some 15,000 people running a half marathon. You might have thought they would have worked this one out a little better as it is an annual event!

As it turns out we managed to get to the stadium in plenty of time, the only problem now was to be able to identify son amongst the thousands of other runners. After about an hour with the camera stuck to one eye I was having great difficulty focusing on anything when ever I moved the camera down and opened both eyes.

We saw lots of very serious runners coming in with some very respectable times

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and then there were those who were out to have fun and raise lots of money on the way

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I even thought I saw Tom coming in but it turned out to be my old eyes playing up, it didn’t help that we had no idea what he was wearing as we hadn’t seen him leave, I realised it couldn’t be him when I saw the race time was still only 1 hour 11 minutes

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Not too sure where these guys were off to, maybe it was just tea break

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Then others who where obviously out for a bit of training for something or other

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There was Mick n Phil the marathon lads, keep pushing Mick you’re doing well

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And then at last I saw him, should have known he would be wearing his bright yellow top and leggins

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His time? A respectable 2 hours 11 minutes, I know the clock says 20 minuets but it takes a while to get through the start which is why all the runners have ankle strap timers on! Well done Tom we knew you would do it, even if you didn’t train for it!

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Tom was running to collect money for Thames Hospicecare which is the hospice where Granny T spent her last few weeks.

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