Monthly Archives: August 2011

Ireland road trip

An unenthusiastic driver and a small city car might not seem ideal for embarking on a 1,500 mile road trip to explore the Emerald Isle. Perhaps we should have seen sense, booked a fly-drive or travelled around by train. But no, gripped by an unusual sense of adventure, we had soon booked car ferries and hotels that would see us cross the Republic of Ireland from coast to coast. Twice. We’d also need to cross the entire breadth of Wales and much of England just to reach the boat over of course, but the fun is in getting there – no need to get bogged down in details.

And so it was, we loaded up our modest chariot, cramming what little we could in the minuscule boot and heaping the rest across the back seats. Our new SatNav app was set for Fishguard, and given this was its first outing, we were counting on it to take us at least roughly in the right direction. On to the M4 motorway, the Satnav instructs us to follow the course of the road for the next 180 miles. Nice and easy. Easy that was, until we reached the Newport tunnel just closed by a lorry fire. We ground to a halt at first, and then began to proceed at a pace that would not see snails break a sweat. Would we even make the ferry and get to see the shore of Ireland? Happily we eventually emerged out of the contraflow system and made best speed for Fishguard port, arriving shortly before check-in closed.

Just when we felt we were getting our sea legs onboard the ferry, Rosslare emerged from the sea fog and it was time to return to the car. We were on Irish soil, and my first precarious miles of driving abroad began. It’s just as well that Ireland makes for a relatively gentle introduction to hitting the road in another country. The core principles remain the same, such as driving on the left, but it throws in some unfamiliar elements to keep you on your toes, such as speed limits in km/h and the use of many curious road signs using the American yellow diamond format.

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Make your smartphone happy for a tenner

I like to think I command an above average knowledge of Scottish phrases: Auld Reekie, dreich and many a mickle maks a muckle being among them. However, I’ve got to admit that giffgaff is a new one on me. It turns out to be an Old Scottish word meaning ‘mutual giving’, but it’s also the name of a UK mobile phone network offering some rather attractive bundles.

For the reasonably priced sum of £10 a month, giffgaff offers unlimited data, which prices it below even Three’s £15 PAYG offering. As a smartphone user, data is my top priority when it comes to network deals, yet finding data without paying through the nose has becoming increasingly difficult, as most networks have imposed strict 1GB or even 500Mb data caps over recent years.

Now these may sound like plenty of data for a mobile device to use over a month and yes, it’s fair to say that I don’t normally get near to this limit. The thing is, I’ve realised that I’ve learnt to curb my use of apps so I don’t risk breaching the limit, which has meant I’ve been avoiding media-rich content such as audio and video. I have in fact been failing to make full use of my smart phone because of data caps and it was time to put it right.

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Gastro pub discovery: the Jolly Cricketers

We’re fortunate to have some excellent gastro pubs in the area, and this week we discovered one of the best.

The Jolly Cricketers is located in the affluent village of Seer Green, near Beaconsfield and Chalfont St Giles.

It’s a good looking historic pub on the outside, but it’s on the inside that it reveals its secret – serving up some truly fabulous food, and recently voted the best gastro pub in the South East.

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Any Human Heart

William Boyd’s book Any Human Heart follows the life of writer Logan Mountstuart (LMS) through some of the most defining and turbulent years of the Twentieth Century. The book is based on the journals of LMS, an approach which allows a uniquely personal insight into the deepest feelings of the character. This works brilliantly, as it captures character’s humanity – his lust, frailty, fortune and despair, and lays it bare before us on the page. In doing so it reveals something profound about all of us, how we live our lives with the hand we’re dealt and interact with the events of our time. Indeed it’s this passage through every decade of the past century that provides the book with a second compelling strand of narrative. Through his long life, LMS encounters the bright young people of the 1920s, is forever changed by WWII and has a particularly memorable run in with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, amongst an array of others.

I’ve taken this book quiet slowly over quite a number of weeks, dipping into just a few pages each evening, and progressing LMS’s life little by little. By the conclusion of Any Human Heart I found I can scarcely recall the early years, which rather accurately reflect the memories of the man himself, looking back 70 years on from his earliest journal entries. By doing this, I felt I’ve followed LMS on his journey, albeit in microcosm, allowing me some of the same reflection of LMS’s actions over the weeks I read the book as the character applies to himself over the years of his life.

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