Wednesday 31st December 23:59
Boo-hoo! It was the last day of our short break. Although it hasn't been overly-hectic, we've still managed to see an awful lot of the beautiful county of Cornwall and there are obviously many places that we'd still love to visit.
After having a shower and packing the car up, we headed off for the Eden Project, based at Bodelva in Cornwall. I'd expressed to Tanya just how interested I was in visiting it, for both the ground-breaking architecture and the message they're giving out. It was approximately an hour's drive away and the entrance fee is on the expensive side, so much so, I deliberated in paying it. In the end, I thought that we'd travelled some distance and I was very keen to see it. Adults charges are £15/person whereas a child's is a very reasonable £5/person - nevertheless, it's an expensive day out for a family.
To access much more information about the Eden Project, please click on the logo below.
A map of the Eden Project complex.
Once inside, I was completely taken aback with just how futuristic and spellbinding it was. It totally exceeded my expectations and even though I'd seen many photographs and television coverage of the site, neither portrayed the sheer size of the attraction.
The complex is made up of several areas, the main ones being the Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes, along with a fairly new section called The Core which touches on fact-based evidence about how the population is damaging the environment and how plants power our world.
For more information about the Eden Project's 'Climate Revolution' please click on the logo below.
Before we knew it, we'd spent over three hours at the Eden Project and when that equates to £5/hr, it makes you realise just how good it is with regards to being value for money. As a matter of interest, you are asked if you would like to 'Gift Aid' your admission fee - my advice is, do so, for you end up paying less than £15 each plus it allows you free admission for a whole year - suddenly it really does become value for money.
We'd planned to go to the historic fishing port of Fowey (pronounced Foy) after the Eden Project which proved to be a straightforward drive there. We parked up at the top of the small town and began our long descent into the centre and it was well worth it - a charming place. Many of the towns and villages dotted around the coastline of Cornwall require some stamina to walk around and Fowey had to be the steepest of all the ones we visited. It's a town full of smuggling history and legend has it that Jesus visited it as a child.
Click on the logo above for more information about the beautiful town.
As with many of the places we've visited over the past few days, they fall into the 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' bracket, Fowey being no exception. Cornwall is a county that's very proud of its roots and what it has to offer and it's very apparent that 'green' issues are at the forefront of their agenda. Fowey is awaiting its grade for a 'Green Tourism' award and with the town being part of the 'Recycle for Cornwall' campaign along with being members of the 'Cornwall Sustainable Tourism Project', I'm sure they're well on their way to achieving a gold.
For further information about any of the aforementioned campaigns and memberships, please click on any of the logos below.
We left Fowey and the beautiful county of Cornwall and continued our long drive home to Hampshire, crossing Devon and Dorset along the way, finally arriving home sometime after 21:00 and then preparing ourselves to bring in 2009 watching Jools Holland's 'Hootenanny' on BBC2.
Tuesday 30th December 09:33
Set out relatively early because we'd decided to explore the neighbouring areas, rather than venture too far. We drove around the coast to Port Quin, famous for being part of the set for the BBC's 'Poldark' many many moons ago.
We then drove on to Polzeath and spent quite some time walking around the beach and taking photographs. The small village on the headland opposite Padstow was a favourite haunt of the late poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman, whose bronze statue stands at St Pancras Station in London.
From there, we then drove round to Trevone where there were some very interesting rock formations at Roundhole Point on Trevone Bay... ever the explorer of rocks and their pools, I started to clamber over the rocks and managed to get on to the point. As I was around halfway up, I noticed the tide coming in at quite a rapid rate, so decided to abandon my quest with a slight feeling of defeat - at least foolishness didn't prevail.
Trevone Bay is beautiful and I did notice a bed and breakfast with quite a stylish logo showing Roundhole Point so I thought I'd include a link to it...
It was time for lunch so we drove on to the next bay, in the hope to find somewhere that served food. We stumbled upon the Harlyn Inn at Harlyn Bay and ordered our meals. When we first walked into the bar, it didn't seem like the sort of place you choose to eat at, plus the service was very poor due to there being only one member of bar staff who seemed to be doing anything. Having said all that, the food was excellent and well worth the wait. The establishment has two bars and restaurants, 12 en-suite bedrooms, along with eight self-catering cottages where some can sleep up to six people and some allow pets as well. The complex is situated just across the road from the beautiful Harlyn Bay beach so we enjoyed a walk around it in the afternoon winter sun.
For more information, please click on the logo below.
It was a little too early to head off back to our cottage so we decided to call in at Padstow on the way back and were pleasantly surprised just how beautiful the town was. It had an abundance of shops, particularly surf-orientated ones; the main ones being Animal and Seasalt.
Please click on either logo for their corporate websites.
After walking round for quite some time, we tried to find somewhere that sold cream teas but the places were either shut or full to the brim, so we opted to buy two Cornish Pasties instead. As with many bakeries that sell Cornish Pasties, they have won awards and prizes both locally and nationally and I can fully understand why Chough Bakery has. The bakery is situated in a building known as The Chough (pronounced chuff), a grade one listed building situated on the quayside and is on the site of the original market place.
Please click on the Chough Bakery logo for more information.
It was beginning to get dark so we stopped off for a coffee at the White Hart Inn in a village called St. Teath, literally two miles away from where we were staying. To say the decor inside was a surprise is an understatement. It's a traditional whattle and daub pub and they'd attached tinfoil between every beam of wood throughout the whole pub, just for Christmas. Apparently, it takes them three weeks to do it and it looked amazing!
To find out more about the White Hart Inn, please click here.
Monday 29th December 16:09
Today's adventures were going to take us to the very south west of Cornwall, in particular, Land's End. The great thing is, you can key in any number of place names on the Sat Nav and it will guide you there, which is a blessing in disguise when you have single track roads to contend with. Okay, satellite navigation has been around for a good number of years but I'd never used it before, so it therefore gives me the right to sing its praises.
For more information about TomTom satellite navigation, please click on the logo below.
Anyway, our first destination was Marazion, home of St, Michael's Mount; a tiny, rocky island filled with both history and natural beauty. We were fortunate enough to arrive at low tide and were able to cross the historic cobbled causeway for a good look around the island. A working community of people live there and the medieval castle is occupied by the St. Aubyn family, James and Mary and their four children. This tranquil, beautiful location has played its part in many furious battles and was handed over to the National Trust in 1954.
Please click on the logo below for further information.
From there we then drove to Mousehole (pronounced Mauzul), another beautiful fishing village steeped with history. Once we'd found a cash point in The Ship Inn, located on the harbour front, we headed off to The Pilchard Press café for some lunch. The gentleman who was serving us actually hails from Manchester and moved down to Cornwall some ten years ago.
Bizarrely enough, we both ordered pasties (my third one in as many days) and to make us feel better about stuffing our faces, we had a brisk walk around the village, taking plenty of photographs as we did so.
It was quite late on in the day before we arrived at Land's End for we'd been driving for the best part of the day. At first, it wasn't what I'd expected; too Americanised with the beauty of the place not even being a consideration. It was £2 to park which was acceptable, yet there were further fees for other touristy things which seemed over the top, particularly having your photograph taken under the Land's End signpost. Apparently, the sign is owned by a photographic studio and not National Trust, which makes it an even bigger rip-off.
Click on the Land's End logo to find out more about the area.
After a long drive back to Port Isaac we stopped at The Takeaway for some plaice and chips and enjoyed them with two real ales from Cornish breweries, the first was 'Tribute' from the St. Austell Brewery followed by 'Cornish Mutiny' from the Wooden Hand Brewery, both excellent ales.
For more information about either ale, please click on the relevant logos below.
Sunday 28th December 07:45
We were up and out very early this morning for we wanted to explore Port Isaac, and with our cameras this time, in the hope that we'd capture everything we'd missed yesterday. It was a bitterly cold morning, and I mean bitterly cold!
We explored every nook and cranny we could and before we knew it, we'd spent over three hours taking photographs, so it was time to defrost with a cup of coffee in The Slipway Hotel and Restaurant.
Click on the logo below to find out more.
From there we drove into Tintagel (pronounced Tin'tadgel) where King Arthur was said to have been born. Before we headed for the famous castle, we stopped off at Pengenna Pasties café for a bite to eat and we then walked down the very steep hill to Tintagel Castle. The ruins sit on Tintagel Island, only accessible via a wooden bridge or if you have significant rock-climbing experience. In the bay below is a waterfall and Merlin's cave which sits directly under the castle. Merlin is said to have lived below the fortress of Tintagel while King Arthur grew up, to become his teacher.
For more information, please click on the English Heritage logo below.
Nearby, lies St Materiana's Church, built between 1080-1150 which sits right on top of a hill, a good distance away from any civilisation. After a hard slog back to the car, we carried on up the north coast of Cornwall to Boscastle.
Boscastle is a beautiful little village that suffered a dreadful flood on Monday 16th August 2004. It suffered an extensive flash flood caused by an exceptional amount of rain within a period of five hours that afternoon. The two rivers, Valency and Jordon, meet at the heart of the village and this proved too much to hold and damage was caused to most of the tourist attractions and shops. Luckily, no-one was killed although a hundred or more people had to be airlifted to safety. Having seen the footage on television, it's amazing to see just how quickly the village has recovered.
More about the disaster and the weather in general can be accessed by clicking the logo below.
Daylight was disappearing fast, so we took off and headed for The Mote in Port Isaac for our evening meal. We had been impressed with what we'd eaten there yesterday and the convenience of it being just down the road helped matters. By the time we arrived there, all the Christmas lights were on but we'd arrived an hour and a half before they started serving food. I now had a dilemma, Tanya was driving and The Mote served Sharp's Doom Bar - it would have been very easy to get bladdered, believe me, but I opted not to.
The time finally came around to order some food and we both chose Port Isaac Lamb with Moroccan cous-cous topped with yoghurt. The meal was exceptional, one of the best I've ever eaten.
We both went to bed content.
Saturday 27th December 13:37
Today was the start of our short break to North Cornwall and we set off in good time and had the added aid of James' Tom Tom Sat Nav to guide us, just in case our map-reading went awry. Anyway, apart from getting stuck behind a tractor for a short period of time, we had no hiccups.
Our accommodation is lovely, some would say basic, yet it has all the necessary gadgets. Once we'd finished unpacking, we headed straight for Port Isaac, passing through Port Gaverne (pronounced Gayverne), a small hamlet which sits immediately west of the historic fishing village. Port Isaac is where the hit ITV series 'Doc Martin' is filmed and it's stunningly beautiful; full of character and many alleyways, leaving the place filled with a sense of adventure.
Please click on the image above to find out more about 'Doc Martin'.
Whilst walking around the village, we saw Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen driving a 4x4 through the centre. Apparently, up until his 'Changing Rooms' fame, he was just another local and was struggling with a career in fine art before a friend of his noticed a job advertisement to be part of the BBC's hit series and suggested he applied... the rest is history! During Christmastime he visits his second home in Port Isaac to appear in the village pantomime, along with his wife.
To discover more about the interior designer, please click on the logo above.
It was quite late on by the time we'd finished exploring and our stomachs were telling us to find somewhere to eat. Luckily, Port Isaac is very compact so it wasn't long before we'd chosen 'The Mote' bar and restaurant as the place to satisfy our hunger.
For more information about The Mote, please click on the logo above.
Once we'd eaten, we just headed off back to our accommodation, chilled out and then had an early night for we were absolutely shattered.
Friday 26th December 14:28
Did next-to-nothing today and that's the way we had planned it. Tomorrow would be the start of our short break to Cornwall, our first holiday for well over a year.
One of the small gifts that I'd bought Tanya for Christmas was the second in the series of The Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian. We just love films like this, full of magical things, great sets and plenty of action. I thought this was a great film, although 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' was a hard one to beat. The great thing is, C.S. Lewis wrote seven books in the series so we should hopefully have another five brilliant films to look forward to.
In case you didn't know (I certainly didn't), the seven books are as follows: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle.
For the Prince Caspian website, please click on the movie poster above.
Thursday 25th December 21:00
Had a great and very relaxing day today, just what Christmas Days are all about. Damien, Tanya's brother came round late morning and it wasn't soon before we both discovered our real ale passion. With the Secret Santa draw at work, we all listed three things that we'd like for £5 or under. One of my preferences was a Morrisons' offer, four real ales for £5, and that's exactly what I received. Whoever had picked my name and bought my gift did very well indeed - out of the four ales, I'd only sampled one of them before. Since Damien was on foot, I shared the five bottles I had. More about that later.
With my birthday being so close to Christmas, I always feel that whoever is buying gifts for me is in an unfortunate position. Money is tight enough without having to go to further expense. With this in mind, Tanya and I decided to put a cap on how much we spent on each other and two of the small presents I was given were spot on.
The first was a box of Bassetts Jelly Babies, originally launched in 1918 as 'Peace Babies' to mark the end of World War I. Shortage of raw materials stopped production during the Second World War, but was resumed in 1953 when the sweets became known as Jelly Babies. This year they are celebrating their 90th anniversary. Incredible to think that they have been manufactured for so long.
For more information, please click on the Bassetts logo below.
The second was a box of handcrafted Elephant Dung Paper. They are in single sheets (or should that be shits?) in notepaper form - absolutely ideal for me because I'm forever making notes about all kinds of things and my desk is usually cluttered with them all.
For more information, please click on the Paperhigh logo below.
Right, back to the real ales...
First up was Batemans' 'Victory Ale', named as one of the world's 50 best beers and winner of a gold medal in the 2007 Drinks International Beer Challenge. At 6% ABV, this was a very strong pale ale. Full-flavoured and aromatic, this beer was produced to celebrate the 200th anniversary of The Battle of Trafalgar.
We then shared a bottle of 'Golden Newt', brewed by Elgood & Sons Ltd based in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. I love discovering both new ales and particularly breweries that I've never come across before. This 4.6% ABV light, hoppy beer has won several awards and is named after the colony of Great Crested Newts that reside in the brewery garden lake.
Third on the list was another ale by Batemans Brewery, a ruby beer called 'Dark Lord'. Rich and spicy in flavour, this 5.0% ABV beer was absolutely superb, really smooth and is an ideal accompaniment with cheese and red meat. The ale's name is to commemorate 'Black Tom' who fought in The Battle of Winceby, which took place in Lincolnshire during the English Civil War. This vegan-friendly ale featured in Roger Protz's '300 beers to try before you die'.
The last 'Secret Santa' ale was Hardys and Hansons' 'Olde Trip', another light beer that I have tried before. This fine premium ale takes its name from 'Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem' (AD1189) which lays claim to being England's Oldest Inn.
For more information about any of the ales listed above, please click on their relevant images.
Wednesday 24th December 11:31
It was Tanya's last day at work today which meant I had been given a job list. She actually finished some two and half hours earlier than usual and arrived home just as I was completing the list. We then took a trip into Emsworth and bought all the vegetables for tomorrow's Christmas Dinner and I have to say that it was probably the first time that I'd felt remotely Christmasy.
As a child, Christmas was a magical time and I can still remember my sister and I gazing out of her bedroom window, convinced we'd seen Father Christmas flying through the night sky on his sleigh. There was always that excitement and apprehension as to what presents you'd have in the morning.
I know that Christmas Day is ultimately all about the birth of Christ but it's a hard one to swallow when you're not religious so the way I see it is that there's just as much of a chance of there being a Father Christmas than there is about the birth of Jesus. I'm not saying that Jesus wasn't born, I just think the whole story has been fabricated to the point where it's more of a fairy tale than a record of actual events.
Anyway, I'd better not go on... just in case...
Tuesday 23rd December 19:13
Today was our my last day at work until the New Year, a heartwarming feeling regardless of how much I love my job. Just before I left, we did the Secret Santa draw and it appeared as if I had received what I wanted.
I also received a small box of After Eight mints, by far my favourite mint chocolates. The indulgent wafter-thin mint chocolates were originally launched in 1962 and are a perfect combination of 100% natural peppermint oil enrobed with a rich dark chocolate.
For more information, please click the logo below (by the way, they have recently updated their logo and I've spent considerable time redrawing it as a vector-based artwork).
Later on in the day, whilst watching television, an advert came on that had caught my eye several times before, making people aware of their carbon footprint by helping people to save money, save energy and reduce their CO2 emissions.
For more information, please click on the logo below.
Monday 22nd December 18:10
Received an email from my Mum tonight with some questions from a quiz that she was struggling with. Normally, I use Google as my source to find out the answers to most of my questions, which then leads you on to other specific sites like AnswerBank.
There were ten answers required and I've picked out two of the questions that I found rather interesting.
When did 'Etch-a-sketch' first appear under the Christmas Tree?
What are the names of Cinderella's two ugly sisters?
Anyway, with a little hunting around, I stumbled upon a great site called Pub Quiz Help. The site was originally compiled in 2001 and was WAP-based only and, according to the site's owner, was born out of the frustrartion of being crap with certain types of pub quiz questions. In 2003, it became HTML-based and is continually evolving.
For more information please click on their logo above.
Oh, you want the answers? July 12th 1960; Clorinda and Thisbe.
Sunday 21st December 16:48
Today had been officially given the title of 'slobby day' for we'd decided to do next-to-nothing. I had given my blog a fair bit of priority because I was considerably behind with it. You may think that it's the writing of my blog or perhaps what content I want to use that delays things - you'd be wrong. What happens is that I try and locate vector-based artwork of whatever I choose to write about and more often than not, I'll end up having to recreate the logo - that's what takes an immense amount of time!
Anyway, I did find time to watch the Arsenal versus Liverpool match and witness an absolutely incredible goal by Robbie Keane. The game ended a 1-1 draw with the Gunners' striker Adebayor being sent off mid-way through the clash. Although I cannot stand Arsenal, I thought the referee made two dreadful yellow card decisions which resulted in the sending off.
Saturday 20th December 15:52
Where does time go? No sooner had we greeted my parents at Southampton Central some five days ago, they were soon to be heading back up to Lancashire this afternoon.
No trip down here is complete without visiting Emsworth. Ever since I moved down here, I quickly realised just how extraordinary the place was. It literally has everything you could want from a small town, two greengrocers, a bakers, two butchers (although one is more of a fishmongers) and nine pubs (six of which I haven't been in).
Anyway, we walked around Emsworth Mill Pond and also walked around the Slipper Pond, in the hope that the cormorants would be there. Unfortunately, apart from Mallards and a token Coot, there was little to see in the way of birdlife.
After some considerable walking, Tanya came up with a fantastic suggestion of going to the Blue Bell for a quick half and some lunch. You'll have no doubt read my rave reviews of Sharps 'Doom Bar' and it seemed the perfect opportunity to introduce it to my parents... they loved it.
There were two homemade soups on the pub's menu, curried parsnip and leek and potato - I'm not a big lover of parsnip, it tastes perfumed to me, so I opted for the latter. Everyone else ordered the parsnip and, once I'd tasted it, I wished I had too, it was scrumptious!
We left the Blue Bell and headed off home to chill out for the last couple of hours and before we left for the station, I thought I'd quickly check on the scoreline between Bolton v Portsmouth. I checked on the thirteenth minute of the game and Bolton were already 2-0 up at the Reebok with goals from ex-Pompey player Matt Taylor in the first minute and Ricardo Gardner after three minutes.
We found the station at Cosham with ease and my parents didn't have long to wait until their train to Southampton arrived. The minute we left them, I started to miss them.
For more information about the South West Trains network, please click on the logo above.
As a matter of interest, Pompey's Peter Crouch made it 2-1 in the 20th minute and that's how the scoreline stayed.
Friday 19th December 20:40
It was my parents' last full day with us and we'd planned to have quite a laid-back day by staying relatively local - Havant and Langstone to be precise. Every time they've been to visit us, we have a rather large handful of places that we'd like them to see and today we'd decided to take them on the Billy Track, a footpath which was once a railway track that went from Havant to Langstone and then continued right the way to Station Road and Sinah Lane, West Town on Hayling Island. Unbeknown to us, we'd impeccably timed the half-way point with the opening of The Royal Oak... time for a thaw-out and a coffee in front of their open fire. Bliss.
From there, we then walked through Wade Court, a beautiful area of Havant with some immaculate property and then carried on to the Red Mango Café Bar which is part of Havant Arts Centre and Museum. We had a light lunch there and the sandwiches were divine, although they were slightly pricey.
For more information, please click on the logo above.
We then had a good look around Havant Museum, obviously full of local history along with some excellent exhibitions covering many different subject matters, the one on display was all about the Tudors. As the saying goes, 'You learn something new every day'... Tudors had different names for colours and some colours were significant to your class, the rich were usually associated with red, the poor a pale blue. Our favourite name for the colour green was 'gooseturd'. Classic.
Once home, the four of us celebrated Christmas early, since we wouldn't be together on the actual day. My parents had bought me two Pantone colour swatch books for they have to be one of the most essential 'tools' of my trade. There are many occasions where I'll need to state a particular colour for production and it can be very hit-and-miss as to whether I stipulate the correct one.
For more information about Pantone, please click on the logo above.
We finished off our day by having my birthday meal at Nicolino's, the Italian restaurant in Emsworth. Once again, we had an absolutely fantastic meal and the whole place was just buzzing with festive cheer. I cannot rate the place enough for quality, quantity and value for money (even though my folks paid!)
Thursday 18th December 06:52
So, another year older today - 41 to be precise.
As with last year, I received some fantastic gifts again, mainly practical ones because that's what a man of my age requires now. Some new Skechers trainers, a Sony lens cap, a wet-shaving kit with Gillette accessories and some brand new BWFC slippers were just a selection of the many gifts I received.
For more information about Skechers Footwear or Gillette, please click on the relevant logos below.
We took my parents down to Southsea today and have a leisurely stroll along the promenade and, apart from it being quite blustery at times, the rain held off until we were within close proximity of the car, by which time we were all rosy-cheeked due to the cold westerly wind. We had talked about going into Southsea shopping centre and having lunch there but because of the change in weather, we thought it best to have lunch in the Ship Inn at Langstone.
The pub was absolutely packed with it being dinnertime and so near to Christmas. After a little patience (what's that?) we finally managed to find a table and get a round of drinks in. Having already tried HSB and Butser ales from Fuller's brewery, I opted for 'Discovery', a blonde beer that was launched in 2005. With a very intriguing taste, the refreshing drink has been acclaimed from both real ale drinkers and lager drinkers alike.
For more information, please click on the image above.
Afterwards we went back home and enjoyed another night in with food, nibbles and an excellent game of Scrabble... they always are when you win! As coincidental as it might seem (more spooky if you ask me), the Scrabble game celebrated its 60th birthday on Tuesday!
For more information about Scrabble, please click on the logo above.
Wednesday 17th December 14:18
Earlier on in the week, the screen wash pump on my car had died and with there being an abundance of salt on the roads due to some early morning frosts, it didn't bode very well for an easy drive to and from work.
With it being my last day of work for a few days and my birthday tomorrow, it meant that I had a very busy schedule ahead of me before going to work. It's 'tradition' at work that whoever is celebrating their birthday, buys the cakes. I stopped off at Morrisons and bought several varieties of cakes, the majority of which ended up being McVitie's seasonal cakes.
For more information about McVitie's, please click on their logo below. As a matter of interest, I ended up drawing their logo as a vector-based artwork which can be viewed here.
From there it was a whistle-stop visit to drop my car off and have the screen wash pump replaced, along with new front wheel brake pads - don't you just love parting with even more money than you can actually afford, especially around the Christmas period? Thought not.
Of the five cars I've owned, I have never needed a screen wash pump, nor have I ever known anyone who's needed to buy one.
My parents had walked from their B&B to Rowland's Castle train station and caught the train up to Petersfield and spent the day there. My Mum had sent me a text to say they were there as I had offered to pick them up and take them back home. Once home, we had a lovely relaxing evening in just chatting, eating and drinking.
Tried a new ale tonight called 'Fiddler's Elbow', brewed by Wychwood Brewery. A very nice ale indeed, light-bodied with a slight bitterness and a citric taste. A definite thirst-quencher on a summer's evening.
For more information, please click on the original artwork for the bottle label.
Tuesday 16th December 15:40
As Christmas is literally on the horizon now, there were several things that needed to be tied up today; one of which was to let the customers at work know about our Christmas Closure times and dates. I'd been taking several shots of our fairy lights and tree and thought that some of them would make a suitable backdrop for a Christmas Card email.
Here's the finished article...
Later on in the day, Tanya and I drove to Southampton Central train station to pick up my parents. Yes, they'd arranged to come down and spend some time with us on the lead-up to Christmas and to celebrate my birthday.
For a total change, they'd chosen to do the whole journey via train, rather than drive. It's a 270-mile trip, with the majority of it being motorway but it's incredibly tiring, even if you share the driving. As well as all that, the M42, despite it only being around a 12-mile link-up between the M6 and the M40 has to be the worst stretch of motorway in the country - I used to detest it, particularly as I took the route from Bolton to Portsmouth every weekend for six months or more.
Anyway, Tanya managed to find an absolutely superb site called Cross Country where you can book very cheap rail tickets online. The only slight downside is that you're only able to book 12 weeks prior to your journey.
For more information, please click on the logo above.
We picked my parents up with ease and took them to the bed and breakfast that they were staying at in Rowland's Castle, just over two miles away from where we live. We were so pleased that they'd had a hassle-free journey down and it was great to see them both looking so well.
Monday 15th December 21:00
Ever since Thursday June 7th 1984 (yes, it's as long ago as that!), BBC One's 'Crimewatch' (originally called Crimewatch UK) has been televised on a monthly basis. It's a high-profile programme which reconstructs major unsolved crimes in the hope that the public may be able to come forward with information that could lead to someone's arrest.
The show was originally based based on the German show, 'Aktenzeichen XY … ungelöst' (which translates to 'File XY... Unsolved') with the first presenters of the BBC show being Nick Ross and Sue Cook. The pair continued to host it until Cook decided to leave in 1995, replaced by the late Jill Dando.
Sadly, and somewhat ironically, 37 year old Jill Dando was shot dead at around 11:30 on the morning of 26th April 1999, just outside of her home in Fulham, West London. Her last movements were reconstructed on Crimewatch and, up until recently, Barry George was convicted of her murder but was acquitted on the 1st August this year.
Following Dando's murder, Fiona Bruce then joined Nick Ross and the team from 1999 up until 2007 where both of them left the show, Bruce then becoming host of the Antiques Roadshow.
Ever since 2004 Rav Wilding, a professional policeman who specialises on criminals 'Caught on Camera' has been part of the show and is now joined by two completely new presenters, Kirsty Young and Matthew Amroliwala.
For more information about the show, please click on the logo above.
Sunday 14th December 10:54
Since the demise of Emsworth Food Festival, the collaboration of Emsworth Business Association, The Emsworth Food Festival and Havant Borough Council have created the ingenious idea of Emsworth Festival Markets.
I'm sure I made it quite clear about how disgruntled I was with the Food Festival changing both its name and location, yet still trying to con people into thinking it was the same event. The whole idea of the Emsworth Food Festival was to hold it in Emsworth, tagging a £6.00 entry fee onto it was sheer lunacy.
Anyway, before I rant on any further, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see that today's Traditional Christmas Market (held on South Street car park) not only captured some of the essence of the Food Festival (albeit a much smaller event and the outdoor temperature was significantly different) but it also seemed to be a resounding success.
Some of the stalls that captured our eyes are listed above - please click on the logos to find out more about each company.
The next Festival Market is scheduled for Sunday 26th April 2009, to celebrate St. George's Day.
Once home, we made the mistake of watching the Premiership clash between lowly Newcastle United who were visitors to Portsmouth's Fratton Park. Dreadful defensive errors gifted the north east side with two easy goals, the first coming from Michael Owen who cleverly chipped David James in the 51st minute. A second goal was drilled in by Obafemi Martins on 76 minutes and a stunning goal with just a minute to go was scored by Danny Guthrie.
The match ended 0-3 and although I'd say that Pompey outplayed The Magpies for most of the game, they were missing the input of Glen Johnson as provider for the strikers.
Saturday 13th December 13:07
Had a lazy morning today and went into Havant early on in the afternoon. We wanted a buy a few last-minute things as we knew next weekend would be the busiest shopping days before Christmas.
It was quite uneventful, particularly as most of what we wanted to buy wasn't available any more. Ah well, a trip to WHSMith mean that I bought what I needed.
WHSmith was one of those stores that I seemed to live in when I was a teenager, mainly because it was the place to buy chart singles and albums (we're talking vinyl here).
For more information, please click on their logo above.
Later on in the day we watched Alexandra Burke fight off strong competition from Eoghan Quigg and pop foursome, JLS to be crowned winner of X Factor 2008. There's no denying that she has an absolutely amazing voice. There's also no denying that she was streets ahead professionally either. Trouble is, I'm sick and tired of these R&B acts, they're just utterly boring. We had Leona Lewis last year, we don't need another one.
Boringly predictable outcome and although Simon Cowell talks a lot of sense most of the time, he does get right on my tits for being an arselicker.
I've said what I needed to and feel much better for it.
Friday 12th December 16:11
We did something this afternoon that we'd not done for a while... watch a film!
Since subscribing to the FilmFlex email newsletters, it means that I receive regular updates of what's new, and today I received one saying that 'Iron Man' was now available to watch. I'd wanted to see the film for quite some time, so Tanya and I sat down and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon.
What a great film, we thoroughly enjoyed it, and although there is a lot of action and violence in it, all tastefully done, none of which is gratuitous, therefore it's a movie you'd be happy to sit down and watch with your kids.
It stars Robert Downey Jnr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Gwyneth Paltrow (plays the sexy role of Stark's assistant), Terrence Howard (Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes) and Jeff Bridges (looks totally different with a bald head) and is based on the fictional superhero that first appeared in Marvel Comic's 'Tales of Suspense', first published in March 1963. The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber and artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby.
For more information about the film, please click on the movie poster above.
Thursday 11th December 17:46
I'm aware that I've talked an awful lot about real ales recently, therefore I'm going to carry on. Rather than include one almost every day, I shall try and encapsulate several in one hit so that my audience doesn't get totally bored and, more importantly, it doesn't make me look like an overweight alcoholic who has nothing else in his life.
The first real ale I'm going to talk about (and review) today is Badger Brewery's 'Fursty Ferret'. With an ABV of 4.4%, this caramel-coloured ale is very smooth and best served slightly chilled. It was first brewed at the Gribble Inn at Oving and according to local folklore, ferrets visited the back door of the pub to sample the reputed brew, and in their honour it was named Fursty Ferret.
For more details, please click on the beer label above.
Jennings 'Sneck Lifter' is the other real ale I'm going to sing praises about. As it states on the bottle, "A strong dark satisfying ale, wonderfully warming and full of complex flavours". This statement pretty much sums up the ale in a nutshell, it really is an outstanding quality ale, possibly one of the best ones I've ever tasted. I'd describe it as almost being a stout ale and at 5.1% ABV, it goes down as being strong compared to many others.
A Sneck, by the way, is a door latch and a Sneck Lifter was a man's last sixpence whereby he'd lift the latch of the pub door and buy himself a pint, in the hope that his friends might treat him to one or two more!
For more information about Jennings Brewery and Sneck Lifter, please click on the beer label above.
Wednesday 10th December 19:13
The majority of us must have a dream place to visit. I'd also say that the majority of us would choose somewhere hot and exotic where you could chill out by the side of a pool with a drink in one hand. Not me - I don't go much for excessive heat.
I look back on the places I have visited and can actually count myself lucky that I've seen more countries and cultures than most.
1985 - Umag, Yugoslavia
1987 - Blanes, Spain
1992 - Algarve, Portugal
1994 - Backpacking trip around Europe: Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Berlin, Germany; Dresden, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Venice, Italy; Lucern, Switzerland.
1996 - Ibiza, Spain
1998 - Cairns, Australia; Sydney, Australia; Perth, Australia
2000 - Luxor, Egypt
2002 - Perth, Australia; Albany, Australia
2004 - Funchal, Madeira
2007 - Krakow, Poland; Laxey, Isle of Man
Anyway, the reason I bring the subject of travelling up is because I have my dream place to visit - that place is Iceland. I've had a fascination with the island ever since I was a teenager, long before I became interested in photography. I have to say that I envy anyone who has been fortunate enough (and rich enough!) to holiday there.
I thought I'd include a few important links for anyone who does wish (and can afford) to go there...
Tuesday 9th December 11:41
On numerous occasions throughout the past year or so, I've talked about fonts. They're something I use every day as well as continually stumble upon ones I've never seen before.
Today, I want to bring a great font site to your attention.
Launched in November 2000, Identifont uses a patented expert system containing information about a huge number of typefaces, and from this, the person wanting to pinpoint a specific font will be asked a series of questions about the key features of the font.
For more information, please click on their logo above. By the way, I've had to redraw this logo as a vector-based drawing and finding what each font was within their logo proved far trickier than I imagined. I may have identified some of these incorrectly but this is what I think they are:
I : Serifa T Bold
D: Friz Quadrata Bold
e: Adobe Caslon Pro Italic
n: ITC Cushing Heavy
t: Vista Sans Book Italic
i: ITC Korinna LT Bold
f: Bodoni Classic Bold Italic
o: ITC Garamond Std Light Condensed
N: Times LT Std Bold
t: Eurostile LT Std Bold Oblique
Monday 8th December 16:39
With it being that seasonal time of year, we have our token set of Christmas lights on, so I decided to take several photographs of them, deliberately out-of-focus.
Towards the end of the week, I intend to create a featured gallery of them, but for the moment I shall show one of them to possibly whet your appetite.
On yesterday's blog about tea and coffee, I forgot to mention that filtered coffee must be accompanied with single fresh cream. There are many available, though Unilever's 'Elmlea' is the best available by far. If unopened, its lifespan exceeds all the others by a long shot and that can also be said of it if opened. Not convinced? Well, it also contains 30% less fat than other single creams. Sold.
Take a look at the Elmlea page on the Unilever website by clicking the logo below.
For all you fontaholics out there, the font is bastardisation of Cocon and I ended up photographing the lid and then redrawing it as a vector-based PDF - see here.
Sunday 7th December 13:11
Spent the majority of the day sorting things out for Christmas, one way or another. In between all of the turmoil (I exaggerate) we managed to consume various drinks (non-alcoholic of course).
Not only do I have a passion for real ale, I also love my tea and coffee. The only downside to living in Hampshire is that the water is incredibly hard, so much so, it can often be difficult to enjoy a 'nice cup of tea'.
My favourite tea has to be Yorkshire Tea, it's by far the best available and possesses a much stronger taste than most others - they also produce a blend specifically for hard water which is a bonus!
For more information about Yorkshire Tea, please click on the photo above.
Tanya and I could quite easily class ourselves as coffee connoisseurs and we do like try filtered coffee wherever we go, whether it be a pub, café or restaurant.
One that we recently bought from Morrisons was a medium roast 3 ground coffee from Taylors of Harrogate, called Colombia High Andes. Its rich flavour has hints of both lemon and blackcurrant and the Fairtrade coffee grows in the foothills of the Andes. A very nice coffee indeed.
For more information, please click on the logo above.
Unbeknown to me, whilst doing my research about both Yorkshire Tea and the coffee from Taylors of Harrogate, I found that they've both been owned by the same family since 1886, and what's more, the Taylor family also owns the world-famous 'Bettys Café Tea Rooms'.
Saturday 6th December 11:57
Last night we planned what we were going to do today. It meant that we (Tanya, Abbi and I) made trips to several different stores in several different locations and, although I usually hate days like this, it did mean that I could avoid knowing the scoreline between Bolton v Chelsea.
First stop was B&Q on the outskirts of Havant to buy what we needed (it's a closely-guarded secret at the moment) and, after the deliberation that went with it, we needed to replenish lost energy by stuffing our faces with food from the burger van located on the car park outside the store.
To visit the B&Q website, please click on the logo below.
From there we drove into Havant town centre and went to Wilkinson to buy a few other things one of which was a large back of pick 'n' mix because we were hungry again!
For more information about Wilkinsons, please click on their logo below.
Once home, I checked on the football and found that Bolton had been beaten 0-2 at home by Chelsea. I wasn't really expecting any other result, although from various match reports, it seemed that Bolton had Chelsea pinned back for the majority of the second half, along with having a valid claim of hand-ball by John Terry dismissed. You can't win 'em all!
Friday 5th December 20:31
There are many free vector-based artwork sites out there on the internet, some, like the one I've included a link to below, are exceptional. I spent hours upon hours redrawing many logos for clients and it can often add extra cost for the them, particularly if they cannot locate vector-based artwork of their own logo (believe you me, it happens... on a frequent basis!)
I stumbled upon this site today, an incredibly comprehensive collection of corporate logos - in fact it's astounding.
Please click on the logo above (ironically, I've had to recreate it!!) to visit the site.
Thursday 4th December 21:54
Tonight was do or die for Portsmouth Football Club. They had travelled to Wolfsburg, a place that Portmuthians were familiar with, pre-war. According to a BBC report on 'South Today', men and women from the army were sent there to help with the production of VW cars, particularly the Beetle.
For more information about VW, please click on the logo below.
For some reason, Channel Five opted to show just one of the UEFA Cup matches tonight which meant that Pompey fans had to find other ways of keeping a check on the score, unless they travelled to Germany to do so. I have to say though, I'm relieved that it wasn't broadcast, for David James (commonly known as Calamity James), made a huge blunder and may well be blamed for defeat. The match ended 3-2 in the home side's favour with Portsmouth having been 1-2 up after only 14 minutes. Ah well, since going through similar emotions with Bolton's UEFA Cup campaign last season, losing Big Sam as manager and then almost suffering relegation as well, I think Pompey fans should breathe a huge sigh of relief, for it could have been a replica season for them.
I did start to enjoy the night with yet another real ale, this one being Rudolph the Red Nosed White Horse beer from the White Horse Brewery in Oxfordshire. The ale is very much a fruity seasonal beer, chestnut red in colour and is 4.8% ABV.
For more information about the brewery, please click on the label above.
Wednesday 3rd December 09:49
I've seen and used SVG files before, yet never really went into great depth as to what they were, until today. SVG is an acronym for Scalable Vector Graphic and have an XML (Extensible Markup Language) specification and file format for describing two-dimensional vector graphics. I hope you've followed so far...
The files are an open standard, meaning that they are publicly available and have licensing rights associated with them. They have been under development since 1999 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the files can be searched, indexed, scripted and also compressed. The files use a fully presentational language, which means they can be edited with any text editor or with the wide range of specialist features that are available through SVG development environments. SVG allows three types of graphic objects that can be vector, raster or text-based. These graphic objects can be grouped, styled, transformed and composited into previously rendered objects.
Anyway, the reason why I'm drawing (pardon the pun) this particular file format to your attention is because with them being XML, they contain many repeated fragments of text, particularly suited to compression by most methods. Once these files have been compressed, they're usually referred to as .svgz files and the resulting file may be as small of 20% of its original size, which is just brilliant!
For more information about scalable vector graphics and the World Wide Web Consortium, please click on the SVG logo above.
Tuesday 2nd December 17:17
As mentioned on yesterday's blog, I've been working on a product brochure for one of my clients. I started the initial drawing just before the working week was out and continued drawing this on Friday night/Saturday morning. Having scoured the internet for a "fat bloke in a deck chair" and being completely unsuccessful, I asked Tanya to take a photograph of me in a "deck chair pose" and then fatten it up a bit.
All in all, the drawing has taken quite some time but I feel as if it really has been worth it, particularly as I'm sure the concept will bring a smile to their client's faces. I made the finishing touches to the drawing tonight; adding the headlines and photographs to the newspaper, drawing the palm tree and creating the seagull and crab for added authenticity.
Having completed the artwork, I decided to celebrate with my last bottle of real ale, and very pleasant it was too.
A sparkling golden ale called 'Williams Gold' brewed by Williams Bros Brewing Co based in Alloa, Scotland. It's a very refreshing ale and is brewed using a blend of seven different malts and has a distinct fruity aroma.
For more information, please click on the logo above.
Monday 1st December 15:29
At the moment, I'm working on a large project, designing a product brochure for one of my clients. It's all based around a summer theme, so I suggested doing a cartoon graphic of a typical British chap sat in a deck chair (more about that soon). Obviously the internet is the best resource for finding reference material for practically anything, so the hunt was on via Google Image Search to see what 'deck chair' threw up... one of the images was an incredibly clever graphic and although it was nothing like what I was looking for, I had to take a look at the website.
Deckchair Dreams began on a sunny spring day in 2005, when the founders looked out of the window and thought it would be a great idea to have striking designs on the seat fabric. Three years on, and they now have the help of sponsor Bloomberg and a handful of generous artists. The deckchairs eventually go on auction, raising vital funds for The Royal Parks Foundation and their special projects.
For more information about Deckchair Dreams, please click on the link above.
The Royal Parks Foundation, 'London's personal space', is a charity that encompasses London's eight Royal Parks, covering some 5,000 acres of historic parkland. With a team of dedicated plantsmen and staff within the parks, along with their very own nursery, means the parks can be enjoyed all year round. As well as being responsible for maintaining the eight parks; Bushy Park (with the Longford River), The Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, The Regent's Park (and Primrose Hill), Richmond Park and St. James's Park, they also tend a number of other spaces in London, including Brompton Cemetery, Grosvenor Square Gardens and the gardens of 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street.
For more information, please click on the logo above.
Just so you can brush up on your deck chair facts, the actual design was patented in 1886 by John Moore, a Macclesfield businessman. The first discovery of a folding chair dates back to the Ancient Egyptians with one being discovered in a tomb.
The Titanic boasted some 600 deck chairs, with only six surviving the disaster, one of which was sold for £35,000 in an auction back in 2001.