Sunday, November 26, 2006

London Lights - 26 November 2006

Casino Royale window at HarrodsChristmas in London is a special time to look at the lights and shop windows. The ‘big name’ retailers certainly put a lot of work and planning into their window displays. Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and so on provide a fantastic free show for the passers-by and since we ended up adding to the takings in two of those The TVR paraderetailers, I guess their efforts must be worthwhile as a return on investment.

One never seems to be able to find about some ‘happenings’ beforehand and often we just come across things as they happen. So it was today, a parade of TVR sports cars through Piccadilly Circus. Oxford StHundreds of owners converged on London and ultimately presented a petition to Downing St, protesting against the proposed closure of the TVR UK production facility.

The crowds wait for a glimpse of a star

The newly cleaned Nelson's Column

Other London freebies are premieres, if you can find out about them beforehand. Today Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams, Elijah Wood and others were in Leicester Square for the premiere of Happy Feet. Unfortunately the ‘great shot’ of Nicole was blurred – my paparazzo days are over!

And always available are the free shots of the great sites that make London such a special destination.

Trafalgar Square

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Our faithful Fujifilm F10 falters - 25 November 2006

Horsenden HillObservant readers of this blog will have noticed that since 28th August (45 days after the warranty expired) there has been a small dark blob top centre of the photos. It was especially noticeable against blue sky. Lately a much larger splodge appeared in the lower left quadrant, most noticeably between the spires of Southwell Minster. Again, it showed up worst against a blue sky.

Horsenden HillI sent off samples to Fuji and they informed me that the standard repair cost was £119 but they would generously trade-in the faulty one for £40 off a replacement. Originally the F10 cost us £221 and since we have shot about 11000 frames with it that works out at around 2p per shutter click.

Horsenden HillMuch web browsing later we decided to stick with Fuji because the xD cards fit very few other cameras and we especially liked the low light abilities of the F10. The natural successor seemed to be the F30 and as this was one of the models offered by Fuji on the trade-up deal we took the plunge. Bang goes another £160.

Horsenden HillThe whole process was handled in a most efficient manner: I sent my first email to Fuji on Sunday afternoon and the replacement camera was delivered to my office on Thursday.

Grand Union CanalAlthough Saturday’s weather was indifferent we felt we had better venture outside to try it out. Initial reaction: we are quite impressed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Autumn walks - 17 & 18 November 2006

Tibury Fort WatergateThe weather synchronized perfectly with the weekend.

Saturday dawned frosty and sunny so we set off due east, for the coast. After a lengthy spell of chaos, enduring jammed roads on the Defenses overlooking the marshesNorth Circular; we eventually made our way past a closed-off flyover, and continued our journey to Tilbury. The Fort there was once an important guard post on the Thames River route into London with a grand gateway that was simply there to impress people passing by on the Thames. Nowdays, from the river, most of the gate would be obscured by the Thames flood defences.

Waterfront Amusement ParkFurther down the Thames estuary, is the town of Southend-on-sea. It is a typical British seaside town, (this means amusement arcades, amusement parks, masses of Pier Trainfish and chip shops, and general tat, not sand castles on the beach) but its claim to fame is the longest pier in the world. This needs to stretch past the shallow water at low tide into the Thames channel. The pier is 1.5 miles long, and a railway provides an easy way to reach the end. We choose to ride out, and walk back -very pleasant on such a beautiful afternoon.

Southend-on-sea pier
Hainault ForestSunday was also fine and frosty: a perfect day to do a walk though Hainault Forest and enjoy the autumn colours. We finished the Hainault Forestday with a drive through nearby Enfield forest. The trees there were absolutely stunning, a bright gold against the blue sky. Hainault Forest

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Robin Hood et al - 11 & 12 November 2006

Armistice weekend marked the end of the Grainger touring year for 2006.

The Little Castle at BolsoverWe set off for Nottingham hoping for some lovely autumn foliage, stopping first at Bolsover Castle. This was basically built as a party venue by Sir Charles Cavendish,in the 17th century. His 'Little Castle' has survived with it's original lavish wall and ceiling paintings. His son, the first Duke of Newcastle built the Terrace Range, now a ruin, and the Riding School, which is still in excellent condition.

Sherwood Forest's Major OakWe then did a five-mile walk through Sherwood Forest. Some of the trees had turned a lovely golden colour. The Major Oak, said to have been a hiding place for Robin Hood, was still a stubborn green. After our walk through Robin's wood, we felt obliged to watch the very poor BBC TV production of Robin Hood that evening.

Southwell MinsterOn Sunday we did a circular drive starting at the town of Southwell with it's inspiring Minister. Poignantly, we happened to be there for the two-minute’s silence of Remembrance Sunday, in a place that has provided solace and comfort for thousands of bereaved and suffering folk during it's 1000-year history.

The Duke's Drive

From there we drove through an area known as the Dukeries, as these were estates owned by four dukes in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Chapel at Clumber ParkWe visited Clumber Park, the estate of the 2nd to 7th Dukes of Newcastle. The Duke’s Drive is a 3-mile double avenue of lime trees, the longest lime tree avenue in Europe, - looking beautiful in their autumn colours. The house was demolished in 1937 and all that remains is the park, the Chapel, the kitchen garden and some estate buildings.

Our tour finished at the lovely town of Newark-on-Trent. Newark-on-Trent Castle ruinsThis town has it all: a picturesque Castle ruin on a river; interesting historical buildings many of Do you have to go outside to turn around?which face the large market square; a beautiful church; and possibly the narrowest building in Britain. Links to Robin Hood can even be found here, as the Castle is where King John died.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Framlingham CastleWinter has arrived late, but with glorious sunshine and frosty mornings.

We started Saturday, the 4th, with a visit to Framlingham Castle. Although a “ruin” it still looks imposing on the outside. But apart from some more modern additions, is just a shell inside. English Heritage has developed an enjoyable high-level wall walk, which gives great views of the surrounding countryside.

Scallop scupltureAfter the castle we did a walk around the town of Framlingham, an attractive country town.

A drive to the coast brought us to the equally attractive town of Aldeburgh. From here we did a circular walk to another picturesque seaside town called Thorpeness. The House in the CloudsIts icon would have to beThorpeness ‘The House In The Clouds' built originally as a water tower. The walk back to Aldeburgh was along the beach past a fascinating scuptlure based on the scallop.

We then had a look round Ipswich, which has some fine old buildings. One of these is Christchurch Mansion, Ipswichwhich is a beautiful old Tudor mansion. The entire mansion is open, and furnished in period style, both upstairs and in the extensive servants quarters and utility rooms. They also have a collection of Constable and Gainsborough paintings as both of these artists lived and worked locally.

HadleighOn Sunday we wended our way south from our overnight accommodation at Stowmarket, passing through Hadleigh and Nayland with their attractive buildings and enjoyed a walk at Tiptree on our way to Maldon, The Hythe at Maldonan attractive port on an estuary with numerous sailing barges tied up at the wharf.

All Saints ChurchBeing the closest Sunday to All Saints, it was fitting that the Tiptree walk turned for home at the All Saints Church, a small church miles away from any houses and now surrounded on four sides by a golf course.