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Our Prince is a bit of a natural at this...

Forgot I had this journal!

Clearly I'm pretty useless with these journal things, it's almost been a year since I've last posted anything. And my, do things change. So the long and short of my life thus far:

1) Moved from Salisbury to Tunbridge Wells.
2) Which is a bit of an improvement, but only just. The boss is an idiot, but I've made new friends from suffering colleagues.
3) Diploma is almost finished, I passed the big scary exam, now have just a couple of re-sits to do.
4) Still have no life outside of work, I've taken up kettlebells as a form of exercise and have lost a stone, but am in danger of putting it all back on thanks to the gym closing down for refurbishment. Must be better at self discipline (fat chance there then).
5) On the other hand, outside of work I've been doing lots of National Trust and English Heritage visits. Would volunteer except that my job's hours are such an arse.
6) Last year had a couple of fabulous visits to France. Avignon and Chateauneuf-du-Pape last April, Chateau Pitray in Bordeaux last May, and then Carcassonne in September. All very memorable, highlight being the low level flight in a small aircraft over Bordeaux, even if it was nausea inducing at times!
7) Won a kindle from work, so that's a bonus, though it is filling up with lots of cheap fiction and old classics. Rediscovered Dickens and Conan Doyle though, so it's not all junk food.
8) Have discovered the Ashmolean in Oxford. Took mum there for her birthday this year, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that it is well thought out, light and airy, and full of gems that will take more than two visits to take all of it in. Oxford is a lovely city too and is a doddle to get to from mum's. The park and ride scheme is also a nice surprise being both cheap and efficient.
9) Have been getting to know my grandfather better, and had a lovely time taking him to see his sadly infirm brother in Suffolk last August. I've always enjoyed visiting my great aunt and uncle who are both very talented artists, and now that I'm older, I can relate to them more and discuss various art and artists. Found a mutual regard for Japanese artists such as Hokusai.
10) Most importantly, I've met my dad for the first time in twenty-four years - I haven't seen him since his divorce from my mum was declared nisi when I was eight. Was nice and bizarre all at the same time. He is a nice person and it is regrettable that we are effectively strangers with little to go on. I must get back in touch with him having not had more than an email at Christmas, but again time is not a friend!

With any luck 2012 will be a better year career wise than last year - I'm fed up with retail and the stupidly unsociable hours. Otherwise little else is planned apart from going back to Suffolk with my grandfather, watching the Olympics in August (so looking forward to that sport fest) and I've a ticket to see my favourite singer Cecilia Bartoli at the Barbican in November. I've become a member of the Barbican as I find it's relatively easy to get to, I like their programming, and the seating is comfier than most concert halls that I've been to. Last year I went to see Mitsuko Uchida and Colin Davies with the LSO, and both times they were superb, Uchida's rendition of Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto was just sublime, and easily the best I've heard. I love watching her too, she is clearly at one with the music and she has an amazing rapport with Davies and the LSO that's just wonderful to observe. Will have to get tickets to see them again later this year - they really are that good.

If any one does read this, I'm more likely to be found at my deviantart page: http://aberlioness.deviantart.com/ I've lots of photos posted there and the odd painting/sketch too. I'm not bad, honest!

An open letter to Merkins and other aliens

After reading countless fan fics that involve the world of Harry Potter, please be aware of the following:
The British are not usually tanned. The amount of fics that describe Potter characters as having some sort of tan is incredibly unrealistic, as my critique of a fiction states:

"wan, usually tanned face".

This really, really, annoys me. Look. Us Brits are NOT tanned. We don't see enough sun* in the UK to be remotely tanned unless we've spent two weeks on a Mediterranean island!** Pale is the absolute norm for a Briton, if any other colour is in our complexions, then "rosy" is the best adjective. Besides, Hogwarts is based in Scotland, which for heavens sake is hardly known for its clement weather!

On the other hand (in the face of criticism, I do apologise, but after reading countless descriptions of British characters being unusually tanned it does get rather wearying after a while); this is a super fic that has excellent characterisations, very good pace and a believable plot. The criticism is not only pointed to yourself but to others who are under the erroneous impression of the British skin tone.

* We might get a week in June that's over 25oC. Then it gets relentlessly overcast.*** Wimbledon (for example) is guaranteed to be delayed by rain, and that's held over late June into July.
**Actually most Britons come back home looking like boiled lobsters. We on the whole, do not tan well.
***We get to the autumn and say to ourselves, "we did get a summer, didn't we?"

There ends my rant over the Californication of British characters. Don't get me started on self insertions and unlikely foods and music that characters may imbibe.

All that lovely wine

I have finally got to drink those lovely wines that were won back in 2008. Two weeks last Sunday I went down to my old boss in Dorchester at his home outside of Bridport to partake of these iconic wines and some top-notch food too.

The wines were all very good, the '82 Cos Estornel and the '90 Yquem were showing the best, though the 1942 Barsac was also excellent despite its age - it had enough acidity to allow it to age as well as it has. The Leoville Las Cases still felt a bit young despite being from the 1986 vintage - I've had other wines from this vintage that have aged far more markedly.

In addition to the prize wines, I brought along a bottle of vintage Laurent Perrier ('99), and a bottle of Corton Charlemagne ('04) that I had bought from an old colleague for £20. It would usually be sold for £60 (Corton's are rarely sold for anything less), so I got a good buy there! Simon had a bottle of Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle which is a top cuvee made of three different vintages of L-P, and so it was interesting to drink it side-by-side with the straight vintage wine. He also opened up a fabulous Meursault 1er Cru, that was rich and complex as a good Burgundy ought to be. Jim bought along a super Graves (now known as Pessac-Leognan) from Domaine Chevalier, and it was a superb bottle of wine - I dare say I liked it as much (if not better) than the La Mission from the same vintage that I had a couple of years ago (though to be fair it's had the extra aging that the La Mission clearly needed).

The food too was excellent, we ate pheasant goujons with the Champagne and the Burgundies, followed by a starter of salmon mousse and king prawns. This was followed by the hallowed red wines and roast fillet of longhorn beef. Yum. Dessert was a rhubarb and custard tart and of course the Sauternes and the Barsac.

A great night, and if the photo uploaders on both here and facebook weren't playing such silly buggers, then there's be photos to show too.


Three months? God I'm a lazy poster..

And quite a bit happens in three months too.

To update the car situation, I had decided to hang on to it until I had 12 months ownership, and then take advantage of the scrappage system. Then a week before I was due to hand it in, some little scrote has actually managed to get the clio started and has made off with it. Police were called and we went a-searching, but nothing has been solved - usually cars like mine get taken out for a spin and then abandoned. I'm wondering whether some idiot of a neighbour has decided to get it hauled away without notifying their actions - I had stuck a notice up at the entrance to the block of flats where I live, and it was strange to note that it had been taken down a couple of days later (leaving other notices intact) - guilty conscience someone? All-in-all it's been really frustrating as some git has robbed me of two grand, which means that the car that I am going to buy is going to be more expensive than originally calculated.

Work's been okay, it's been a quieter than usual though, and that's just a tad boring! Sam's gone back to Winchester (a retrograde step for him really) and we've a new trainee in for me to train. She's a nice girl who's at Stirling Uni and has taken a year out to get some experience (and no doubt extra pocket money!) of being in retail - that being part of her degree course. I met her previously last October during a trip to Jerez, so we're not complete strangers!

I've also bit the bullet and on Saturday I have finally bought an iPod as MP3 of choice - the 16GB Nano (in green). I've already filled it up to the extent that I now have all of half a gig space left. I've more cds and MP3 downloads than I'd realised. But damned if I'm buying another one so soon!

My car is a right bloody nightmare.

Right from the first week that I have had my Renault Clio, it has been nothing but trouble. First the starter motor played up, and though I've had it replaced, the sonoid still plays merry hob. I've learned to whack the starter motor with a hammer and then get a jump start, it will then be fine for at least a month. Yeah, it's a bit of a palaver.

Then I find that the tracking is off and was wearing down the tyres dangerously. I replaced the tyres, and was about to get the tracking sorted out by the garage next door to work when I had a bit of a catastrophe whilst visiting relatives in Somerset. Some dickwad decided that it would be a fine old joke to drill a hole in my fuel tank, which meant that I lost a quarter of a tank. I got an RAC man out who did a sterling job in patching it up, using a cunning method involving a screw and sealant. It got me home and so I've just left the little bugger outside my flat until I get time to do something about it (i.e. get rid of it). I haven't done anything because work is nuts during December - I get one day off a week and work eleven hour days. It's not exactly conducive to getting things done.

Then to cap it all off, I come home tonight thinking that it might be a good idea to get the boots out of my car as it's beginning to snow. To my horror I found that my passenger door was open, and when I opened it, I found that the steering column has been ripped to shit as it's pretty clear that someone has tried to hotwire it. Oddly enough though, my stereo was intact, and nothing appears to have been nicked. Kids trying to joy ride? Your guess is as good as mine. Mind you I'm laughing to a certain extent because I know that the starter motor has been playing its usual fun and games (time for the hammer again), so the kids (if that's who it is) aren't going to get very far in it. Though with this snow, it'd be a wonder as to where they would go?


Gorillas in the mist

Watching this film reminds me of an anectode of my uncle Phil. Phil is a jeweller who works for a particularly swanky firm in Picadilly, London (Armour and Winston, a firm posh enough to feature during the BBC's coverage of Royal Ascot). Phil is a unprepossessing Welshman with a talent for finding all sorts of objects that lie on the ground. My family before my grandmother died always went to my grandparents for Sunday lunch, and then we would all go out into the countryside to walk the calories off. Phil has this unbelievable ability to spot a potential find. He can wander off the footpath all of a sudden and then appear with a flint in his hand. This flint he would crack open and lo and behold there would be some sort of fossil - usually a trilobite. He's also found pieces of archaeology as well as paeleontology, from Roman coins to memorably a neolithic granite axe head found in the flower bed of a pub in the Chilterns - an area known for its chalk and flint - there's no granite in our hills. The axe head had come all the way from Cornwall which is a good two hundred miles away from Buckinghamshire, which suggests a trade network extending across southern England during this time.

Back to the film in question - one of Phil's finds was a flint tool that was rather unusual. It was clearly worked by a man's hand, but didn't have a clear purpose - it was neither obviously one tool or another. It just so happened one day that Phil had taken this piece to work with him in hope that he might get it looked at by an expert at one of the major mueseums in London during his lunch hour. However, he was luckier than that and had a prominent anthropologist walk into the shop to buy a piece for a family member. Phil of course took the opportunity to ask this man to take a look at this curious piece to see what he made of it. The man was most impressed and told Phil to take it to the British Mueseum to get it placed among its finds.

So Phil did take it to the BM, and met up with a specialist who wasn't all that impressed.

"So what have we here?", asked the specialist.
"A neolithic tool" answered Phil.
"Oh?" said the specialist, "and what do you suppose it to be?"
"A tool to practice different methods of knapping", said my uncle.
"Oh yeah?", sneered the expert, "and why do you suppose that to be?"
"I had it verified..."
"By whom?, the town 'expert'?"
"No, by an anthropologist".
"Dr Richard Leakey".

Needless to say that the tool in question is in the keeping of the BM and apparently is significant due to its rarity and importance. Not a bad find for an amateur paeleontologist.

Medieval buildings are lethal...

...especially when you forget that you're taller than the average medieval person was.

Yes, I hit my head on a medieval building.

Yes, I had been drinking, but not so much to be that impaired. I could blame my aunt who parked alongside said building when dropping us off, but I won't, because she couldn't have known that I'd hit my head on a low hanging roof when standing up straight after exiting the car. I'm just glad that I did have a drink or two beforehand, because it didn't half numb the pain!

The Yarn Market, Dunster, Somerset - the medieval building in question.

The damage. Medieval market place 1 Rebecca 0.

Work's going to be interesting tomorrow, I know that "what happened to you?" Is going to be asked ad infinitem. I hate working in public sometimes!

It's that time of year again..

Three weeks of the toughest sporting event in the world is about to kick off tomorrow, and I'm really looking forward to this year's tour as the General Classification (aka le maillot jeune) is very open and has the added interest of the returning Lance Armstrong. The question is whether he'll be the main focus for Astana, his team, or whether they really are going to be supporting Alberto Contador this year. I think it will boil down as to who time trials the best in the first week, and then who copes with the mountain stages the best in the second - the mountain stages this year is especially tough as they'll be going through both the Alps and the Pyrenees. Other names to look out for: Carlos Sastre who won it last year, the Schleck brothers (especially the lovely Frank); Dennis Menchov who won the Giro d'Italia this year; and Cadel Evans who has twice finished second over the past two years.

The other interest for me this year is the growing reputation of Mark Cavendish, a 24 year old Manx man who has been taking the sprints by storm over the past year. Last year he won four stages in the Tour, a feat that only Tommy Simpson in the 1960s has been able to do as a rider from GB, and has also won four stages during this year's Giro, and has also won the prestigious Milano-San Remo Classic too this year. Cavendish is the favourite to win the Green jersey, despite the late entry of Tom Boonen, who is bloody lucky to be in the Tour at all considering his penchant for recreational drugs. So the question is with Cavendish is thus: will he see off the likes of Boonen over the three weeks? Will he survive the mountains and get to Paris for the first time - I believe he would have done so last year had he not pulled out in favour of what was in the end a fruitless journey to Beijing. Will he be the first British rider since Robert Millar who won the King of the Mountains in 1987 to win one of the Tour's coveted jerseys? If not this year, he will definitely win it in the near future - forget Chris Hoy, Mark Cavendish is the best cyclist in the UK.

Oh my, it's going to be a cracker this year :D

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