Thursday, October 14, 2010

North York Moors

Spent a marvellous weekend in the North York Moors. We drove up to Pickering, which was to be our base, and checked into a nice B&B before heading out on to the moors.

Over the top we passed the imposing Hole of Horcum, one of several huge natural ampitheatres in the area. Legend has it that it was creaed by a giant scooping the earth up, before throwing it to create a nearby hill.

Hole of Horcum

We dropped in to Robin Hood's Bay, one of our candidates for the Yorkshire Tea advert which so captured my imagination early on:

Unfortunately we'd left it quite late to reach the bay, so the scene was darkening, windy, cold and wet:

Bleak but pretty - Robin Hood's Bay

Not perturbed, we headed off for a walk in the remaining light.

Marching along the rainy clifftops

I can imagine the scene being fantastic during a storm, as the sea walls are high flat concrete and so would encourage waves to crash over them on to the small village itself. We made do with creeping down a slipway towards the advancing waves before screaming like schoolgirls and retreating when the bigger waves washed up towards our feet.

Soon it was dark, as we arrived at the Boggle Hole, where there is a youth hostel, in a fantastic spot.

We headed inland from here, unfortunately (I now realise having checked the map) on the wrong side of the Mill Beck stream, passing several signs saying private, no entry, trespassers will be shot. This would not be a good start to our weekend. Boggle is the local word for hobgoblin and it felt like he was at play!

The hostel

The rain started coming down too as if to punish our trespass, but we made it back to town eventually and found a suitable establishment to warm up, the cosy Laurel Inn. We dried our clothes by the fire, and I enjoyed a good pint.

Across to Whitby, the plan was to eat at the famous Magpie Cafe, the home of fish and chips! Not that either of us were particularly in the mood for that local staple, but it offers plenty of alternatives.

The Magpie Cafe on a better day

Anyway, the queue ran out down the steps and along the road, and in such a bitterly cold wind too! We tried several other recommended places, including Greens and Ditto, all booked up, presumably because of Valentine's Day the following day. And so we ended up at the Pakistani Shafiq restaurant, overlooking Whitby harbour. We were hesitant until we opened the door and warm air and a delicious curry smell hit us. Sold, and indeed the food was very good.

The following day we spent in Pickering itself, and wrapped up with dinner at the White Swan Inn, which is almost 500 years old.

It was nice, but slightly over-rated perhaps. Every other restaurant in town was dead though, so at least we had some company as we enjoyed dinner, with scallops and duck.

In the morning it was a pretty drive across the Wolds into Hull and work, and far preferable to going the long way round on motorways.

For more information about the area, please click here: The moors will have to be revisited, particularly in summer when the heather flowers, which is supposed to be very pretty.

Monday, October 11, 2010

So long Sargent..

Sargent and the Sea was an exhibition at the RA which ended a couple of weeks ago. It had been on for some time and despite the appeal of the the stormy banner I ended up having to whizz along after work to catch it just before it closed.

Sargent is famous for society paintings such as "Madame X" but this exhibition is, as the name implies, all about his paintings of the sea and coast in particular around northern France. I wasn't sure what to expect, but was hoping for a print that might be suitable for Preston Parade.

On the Sands

Sargent was American but thanks to an adventurous mother was born and spent much of his youth in Europe. In his early 20s, he was classically trained at the  Ă‰cole des Beaux-Arts, going on to exhibit at the Paris Salon then Royal Academy. He met such greats as Degas, Rodin, Monet, and Whistler, and developed a style which was French but with influences including Turner, Gainsborough, the English watercolourists, and Whistler.

He painted the coast from his holidays to Normandy and Brittany, plus further afield including Capri and Whitby! Here in England, he painted fishing boats. The question is, did he have fish and chips at the Magpie?!:

Fishing boats in Whitby

Sargent went on to develop his skills in watercolour, which took over from oils by the time of the scenes in Venice in the last room.

Boats II

I found it interesting that he had customised his style to suit the French and American academies, in particular the two different versions of the Oyster gatherers.

Oyster Gatherers of Cancale

Neapolitan children bathing

Wharf Scene, 1879

The real masterpiece for me is the painting of the violent Atlantic which Sargent experienced and captured on a crossing back from the US:

Atlantic Storm

I came away slightly disappointed. Critics were mixed in their feedback - The Guardian said “It is hard to believe the painter ever stepped outside...”  , but overall I enjoyed the show. What was missing, given the title, was more paintings of the sea itself. I didn't find the supporting notebook sketches particularly interesting, and there were too many. More of the Atlantic Storm!

I'm running the London Marathon 2011!

Apologies, dear readers, it's been a while. Lots of updates to come, I've been rather busy. And will continue to be so, now I've been accepted for the London Marathon 2011, woohoo! I've never run a marathon before, and doubt I'll run any more after this one, but I am really happy to be ticking off one of my lifetime ambitions. It will hurt, I will suffer, but I will come through and hopefully in a respectable time (my definition of respectable, not yours!). is my sponsorship page, please do visit and pass it on to others. What charity? I've chosen the Royal British Legion. The following is the text from the sponsorship page explaining why:

Dear all,

Running a marathon has always been a once-in-a-lifetime ambition of mine, and of course, where better than in my home town of London? I understood the odds to be around 1 in 5 if entering without a charity place, so imagine my bemused reaction when on applying for my first time, I received a place immediately!

I wasn't sure which charity to choose, my initial though was the Dogs Trust in honour of Lucy and Poppy, but the Royal British Legion has always been close to my heart, honouring and supporting those who have given so much to us, including my own grandparents, Kathleen and Cliff, and Daphne and Tom.

The Royal British Legion safeguards the welfare, interests and memory of those who are serving or who have served in the Armed Forces. We are one of the UK’s largest membership organisations and recognised as custodians of Remembrance. We also run the annual Poppy Appeal.

Right, time for some training! I'm not going to pretend this will be easy. Then again, how hard can it be, it's not like I'm wearing a diver's suit or a gorilla costume!

Wish me luck, and thank-you for all your support. If you'd like to find out more about my training routine I'm sure I'll be blogging about it at

Kind regards,


Monday, March 08, 2010

Ukrainian Sandwiches in Hull

Lena's Deli in Hull is a real find. In a city surprisingly bereft of decent non-chain eateries, Lena's serves up wholesome Ukrainian-style nosh with a deli twist.

Today I had a toasted ciabatta with russian sausage (basically a light-pink garlickly salami thinly-sliced), cream cheese, pickled cucumber and tomato. Delicious! One of those sandwiches where you think it's going to be a struggle to finish, but oh no, no issue at all!

They had home-made fishcakes behind the counter which would be great I suspect with their curious salads, which include buckwheat, spicy carrot, vitamin and others. We tried the salad last time, was marvellous.

And cakes too. Today they had slices of Sharlotka, a Russian apple cake. Plus some very moreish-looking muffins.

Where is it? Across the road from the BBC building at the western end of Queen's Gardens. Stop by from 9am - 3pm Monday to Saturday - there's nowhere to sit inside but that's what the park's for - at least after it warms up somewhat!

Monday, February 22, 2010

FaxExtension Outlook Plugin Bug No More!

I don’t often mention techie things on here, for a start that’s Ali Butt’s job, and secondly it’s of limited interest to my wider readership (What readership? - Ed). However, this has been irritating me for so long that I simply have to share!

Every time I have started Outlook since, well, some time last year, on creating a new message I get the following error:

For the benefit of Google and mankind I will write that out in plaintext:

The Add-in "FaxExtension" (C:\Windows\SysWOW64\fxsext32.dll) cannot be loaded and has been disabled by Outlook. Please contact the Add-in manufacturer for an update. If no update is available, please uninstall the Add-in.

I’d tried all the usual tricks, including deleting extend.dat, which in fact worked for me in the past. I can only assume it didn’t work this time because of this being a 64-bit version of software, hence designed slightly differently?

Anyway cut to the answer, and props to a “Brian Durfy” for the tip off, which is to go into the Trust Centre in Tools, then into Add Ins, and here’s the clever bit…

At the bottom, in the drop down box which probably says “Com Add-ins”, change this to “Exchange Client Extensions” then click Go... In here you will find the evil add in with check-box to disable.

Voila! Life can go on and you will contemplate Dignitas no longer.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Moctezuma - The Last Great Aztec Leader

Visited Moctezuma, the exhibition at the British Museum about the last great Aztec leader. I have to confess that Blockbuster exhibitions at the BM vary in subject interest for me, but one cannot judge the quality without attending - Hadrian for instance was an interesting subject but a rather poor exhibition. Aztec history is of mild interest to me, but I went along anyway and was glad I did so.

Moctezuma came to power in the early 1500s, leading a civilisation that was centred on Tenochtitlan, situated bang in the middle of modern-day Mexico City. The broad-ranging exhibition covers the background to his rule, the Aztec beliefs and way of life, the campaigns that Moctezuma successfully led, expanding their empire and bringing in valuable materials and human sacrificial victims.

I have the privilege of having visited the fantastic Anthropological Museum in Mexico City, whence much of the exhibition material came from, but of course the curation standard at the BM is excellent and so is an interesting alternative take, supported and concluding with the latest findings, including active digs going on just off the main square in Mexico City which Adrian and I visited all those years ago!

I did find myself turning off at some of the names, particularly of the gods, but thoroughly enjoyed the paintings of the Spanish invasion when Cortes first marched inland with troops in 1519, subjugating Moctezuma and painting a picture of a weak ruler voluntarily surrendering his throne, when the latest research suggests this was all spin by the invading colonialists.

Moctezuma is at the British Museum until the 24th January. Advanced booking is required for the last couple of weeks.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Snowy Britain

Apparently tonight it will fall to -20C in parts of Britain, including in the South! I came across this fantastic image below on the BBC website, taken by Nasa's Terra satellite on 7 January. Click here for a larger image.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

National Rail Down

Well not the whole network, just the website. I've always hated the National Rail website, it is a shining beacon of how incompetent web design can really make the user experience appalling. It got so bad a couple of years ago that I switched to Deutsche Bahn's site, which is still pretty good and has all the UK train times. Then the UK site improved slightly, and also had a very lightweight wap portal added in, so I've put up with it for a while. Now though it's been ruined again with stupid javascript, horribly-designed graphics and unfriendly processes in some sort of revamp.

So anyway I'm on the lookout for another site.

Anyway, this prompted me to read The Register's article on the site being down, to the comments, and I came across a new and fantastic looking timetable and fare site:

Simple, lightweight, and it has a simple logic behind it so you can get straight to the info you want. For example, if you want trains from Hull to London, you just tap in and up pops a simple page with the times and platform details if available. Want a simple timetable download? There's the pdf link. Good, eh? Append /fares to the end and you get prices too!

So no more nonsense for me!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

43 Things - Follow Your Dreams

Happy New Year everyone! I thought I'd share a site I've been trying to find for a while, having come across it years ago:

This allows you to set up a profile and record your life ambitions - the 43 being a random number of things they suggest you track. You can use it for resolutions or for longer-term things.

I recommend you use it - list things out, see what other people are doing and be inspired, then start ticking them off. For me this means everything from writing a novel and sailing around the world to attending more plays and attending Glastonbury Festival every year.