Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Bar that Gemma Built

There has been many a post of the things I have built on my blog, but anyone who knows Gemma and I is well aware that Gemma is the true craftsperson in this relationship. So, here I present a short story of the bar Gemma built, and the small role I got drilling a hole!
Gemma seemed confused when I told her the hole was filling with water.

It was a strange situation that Gemma find herself in. Too many bain-maries, a sink bowl, a beer tap, and a driptray with nowhere to put them. So, like any logical Brit would do she built an outdoor kitchen in order to fully appreciate British sunshine (ref needed).
Gemma turns this into a bar! And she manufactured some sunshine!
Her bar design had all the modern necessities - bain-maries for keeping soup warm or for fondue, a sink connected to a hand pumped faucet for water, a fridge/freezer, and a beer tap. We then of course added the luxury of a gas cooker in the form of a BBQ.
 Gemma designed the kitchen part, I designed the bar part.
The design was quite simple and deviates her prowess as a kitchen designer. We started by building the frame out of wood.
Our (I mean Gemma's)  frames
The frame was developed using boxed sections, with each box housing a different kitchen component.
This section houses the sink (left frame) and the bain-maries. Behind you can see the sections for the fridge and the kegging equipment.
The frame was then sheathed in plywood that had been cut/drilled to fit each component.

The plywood benchtop with the BBQ and bain-maries shown. 
Finally, the entire unit was painted to add a small form of weather proofing, we plucnked some bright lime green tiles on the counter surfaces, and slipped in the BBQ.
Any guesses on how long will these items stand the outdoors?
The inaugural use of the Grand Design was such a momentous occasion that Mum and Dad travelled all the way from Aus just to attend the feast!

Dad, Gemma, and I with a mountain of food.
Gemma's parents joined us too and a merry time was had by all (except I burnt the sausages).
 Gemmas parents and Ilona join Gemma, Dad, and I.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Loughborough in Snow

The first snows of the winter came early this year. Gemma and I went for a frolic down to the Swan Pond.
 Our backyard under snow.
 Our front flower patch.
Much to my surprise the ducks and swans were still in the pond. Pop culture has tught me that birds flew south for the winter; I guess this does not refer to water fowl.

 Swans were as intrigued as we were
There was a pretty big difference in quality between Gemma and mine's phone camera. I'll let you pick which was which.
 The canal by the north fields.
Traffic lights lightly dusted
I took a photo of the swan pond from the bridge not realising that mum had taken the exact same photo 18 months ago.
Swan Pond under snow
This time wearing its spring best
One Happy Gatty after a frolic in the snow (and a self induced snow flurry).
I'm sooooo excited!!!

A short interlude to the Cornwall Challenge

So, a new day dawned and here I was in Tintagel after two gruelling days of cycling. My eyes cracked open and I my ears ears were greeted with the howling Cornish winds. Despite the early morning my intellect kicked into gear and I immediately realised I was faced with two mutually exclusive prospects:

1. Battle the hills and wind in an early morning epic duel of man and mechanical machine Vs the elements as I succeed strived to maintain my strict structure and schedule.
2. Yawn, rollover, sleep. If I wait it out the hills and wind will be someone else's problem (also known as fuck the future self philosophy; popularised by the great philosopher Seinfeld and renamed by the even greater Joel Hallinan).
I will not tell you which I chose, but instead, I will let you, our intrepid reader, deduce for yourself the decision I took based on the clues below!

Baiky stares out over the Celtic Sea
Camelot Castle Hotel - at this stage I think they're just milking it.
Crazy paint job
The ruins of the castle Tintagel controversly claims could be Camelot
King Arthur sculpture
Merlin's Cave
The old post office, sadly no longer functioning in its post duties
A performance based on the young Merlin
The Cornish Coast
A view of Tintagel from the cliffs

Sunday, November 19, 2017

My Cornwall Challenge: Part 2

The day dawned bright and sunny, and before all the other campers had stirred u had packed my tent, loaded my bike and was slowly making my way back up the steep hill out of cloud farm. Today's destination was Tintagel, a seaside town that claimed to be the location of Camelot.
Malmshead - lovely in the morning.
My journey started by finding by I heading southwest out of Exmoor National Park stopping briefly to admire the calmness of the quaint hamlet Malmshead and the views from Kinsford Hill. I shortly found myself in Barnstaple, known as one of the oldest Borough's in the UK.
The museum in Barnstaple
Here I picked up the National Cycle Route 3 onec again and followed a super bike path called the South West Coast Path to Bideford before taking the Great Torrington Train Line (now a bike path too!) towards Little Torrington.
The Beam aqueduct
The Train Line is a really well used route, and their were tonnes of tourists out cycling and walking and heaps of cycling cafes. I stopped off at one I thought mum would approve for a quick bite to eat and top up my water. The train line itself had long stretches of dirt path that was actually not too pleasant for a loaded up bike, particularly as it was predominatly up hill.
This one is for you mum!
At around Little Torrington I cut more west aiming for Holsworthy, by now I was mostly surrounded by farmland. At one point between Berry Cross and Shebbear on a tiny narrow road I couldn't help but laugh as I witnessed a trio of cars stuck behind five or six slowly moving cows that were taking up the road. My laughter caught in my throat, however, as I realised that the about 4 tonne of bovine was being herded by the vehicles towards itty bitty me and I had nowehere to hide.
Look out: cats and dogs? not too sure what his sign meant, but Baiky had to get involved!
Then the cows caught site of me, on my lonesome, pedalling implacably towards them and in the pure poo inducing terror that only a Gatt on a bike can inspire, the six cows abruptly stopped did a U-bolt, and charged back towards the (apparently) less menacing cars. The cows squeezed around the cars and continued to flee from me, emptying their bowels as they ran. Finally they found what I hop was their field and ducked off the road. I cycled on.
The bulls in Spain would be ashamed of this.
By this stage I had been cycling uphill for what seemed like 40 miles. I ran out of water at one stage and had to ask a some friendly locals to top me up just around Holsworthy. I soldiered on thorugh to Titson and braced myself for the final 15 mile slog uphill. Once again the final 5 miles or so were a lovely downhill where I could cruise to my destination, and always at the back of mind the niggling thought -"how the hell am I going to get back out of here again?"
Well, I found camelot. Not too sure what all these historians are arguing about. It looks like a castle and its in Tintagel. Case closed.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My Cornwall Challenge: Part 1

About a year ago (I'm a bit out of date I know) I decided on my second cycle tour: to head down to Land's End, the western most point of mainland England. As my tour coincided with the Bristol Balloon Fiesta my plan was to leave from Bristol, and as Land's End isn't too far from Bristol I further decided to follow the south coast of England to Bournemouth after Land's End. So with half a plan in mind, I set off on my adventure.
There wasn't much in Weston-Super-Mare, but there were donkeys. I think a donkey or two would have helped me on my journey.
 As with my previous tour, I was keen to follow the coastline for as much of my journey as possible. and so my first leg was southeast from Bristol to Weston-Super-Mare following festival way and route 33 on the cycle network. 
Our last sighting of the balloons on Festival Way.
Somewhere around Nailsea I lost track of the cycle route and ended up on a the A370, which was fine until it crossed the M5; a big enough and busy enough roundabout that I decided to back track and find an alternative road. 
Admittedly, this show in Weston-Super-Mare got me excited.
I picked up route 33 again in Weston-Super-Mare only to find that it literally followed the coast with the cycle path leading to the sandy beach. Not surprisingly my bike did not cope to well with the terrain and it makes me wonder of the local council have ever ridden bicycles before.
I tried, oh, how I tried.
It was a lovely ride to Burnham-on-Sea and then I followed River Parnell to Bridgwater and an uneventful ride on the A39 through the Quontock Hills to Watchet and Blue Anchor. Baiky enjoyed the view from Blue anchor so much he decided to stay behind and I set off up and over one of the steepest hills I have cycled on. 
A happy little English flag in Blue Anchor
It was, of course, once I was down the other side that I realise Baiky had stayed on the beach, and so I tackled the hill again found Baiky, and then this time, walked my bike back up. My poor legs were not able to make the third journey to the peak. Sadly, this was the final, the steepest, nor the longest incline I would meet on my journey.
 This is where Baiky left me. Fortunately, this is also where I found him.
A39 snaked its way into Exmoor National Park and it was here that I had my first real taste of the terrain to come as I battled my way up Porlock Hill. The veiws of north to the Exmoor Heritage coastline and Bristol Channel were to die for, but unfortutaly so was my climb up Porlock Hill. 
Slogging up Porlock Hill.
I was relieved when I finally reached the top and could coast down to my first campsite screaming down hills on tiny roads into the stunning Cloud Farm at Doone Valley. The while way down, this nagging thought kept digging its way back in my consciouness: "tomorrow I was going to have to fight my way back out again..."
Baiky and I get our first look at the Emoor Heritage Coast, in the far distance is Minehead.
Anyone who has a chance to read this and is looking for somewhere to stay, I cannot speak highly enough of Cloud farm. It was a lovely campsite complete with a gurgling brook. I had one of those moments in which I met a couple of families that had driven past me struggling up Porlock Hill and seemed a little confused what I was doing at the campsite. I think it cofuses them more as I extract all my camping equipment from what look to be tiny bags and set up camp. I was in bed early though, a new I had a long day ahead of the next day.
 The farmlands of Exmoor National Park.
Overall, this leg was not particularly exciting until I had snuck into Exmoor. It was about 80 miles and took me most of the day. However, it was the last 30 miles from Bridgwater that I finally got a taste of what was come. The deep greens of British moor and farmlands, ocean views, and rolling hills.
Bristol Channel from the top of Porlock Hill.
The entire day was sunny too, which means it did not prepare me for the fickleness of the British east coast, but more on that next time as I continue on my journey east on to one of the supposed locations of Camelot!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Gemma's Birthday in Dublin

Earlier on this year, in February, on a date that coincided with Gemma's Birthday, Gemma and I went to Dublin for the weekend. Dublin is an excellent place to visit in February, for while the weather isn't great, it does provide an excellebt excuse to enter a pub when it starts raining. Plus, they make a good Guiness.

Even the Predator can't turn up a good guiness! This is the second predator statue I have seen, and now I wonder how many pther capital cities in the world have hidden Predator stautes.
It was an interesting trip as we had both been to Dublin before, so it was more about finding the nearest donut store to visiting the sites.
That said, no trip to Dublin is complete with a photo of the Spire (and Gemma makes me put selfies into my blog)
It was a bit if a whirlwind of pubs, so recalling when we went to each place is a bit tough, but I do remember the key bits! On Gemma's birthday I played coy about what I had planned, after getting her good and liquored up I walked her to a nice restaurant, just before we entered I told her the secret pass phrase and then took her downstairs away from the restuarant, surretitiosuly pressed a hidden button and watched as the the bookcase in front of us slid aside to let us into a hidden speakeasy. What's it called? Well never you mind. How did I find out about it? Never should you know. Where is it located? Some things a meant to be a secret. So romantic I would date myself.

The people in the background indicate it is perhaps not the best kept secret in town.
The following day we caught a train to DĂșn Laoghaire to catch a comedy show and a bit of weather. Three aspects of this day trip were memorable:
  1. The comedy show was pretty good, but the supporting act was terrible. Interestingly, the supporting comedian was the younger brother of the actual act.
  2. We found a cider called Orchard Thieves (or, Teheeves, as they say it in Ireland).
  3. The wind, the rain, the waves!!! I tried to walk along the pier, but staying on one's feet required was nigh on impossible. I got as far as I dared, but there always was the real concern of getting washed away by the waves, or blown over by the wind. Never have a seen its like before, but I gather this is not uncommon in coastal areas of the UK as each winter there are stories of people getting washed off rocks and piers.
Not quite Hurrican Irma, but still pretty hairy.
We returned back to Dublin wet and somewhat tipsy.

Gemma acting tipsy.
On our final evening we saw a play called The Pillowman. I found it fascinting as it was about stories, and each of the stories in the play was as well written and constructed as the play itself.

I think the barista was as surprised as I was when I asked about the riddle.
Other than that we strolled through parks, visited museums, checked out the castle, and looked at street art. I was also able to bring my 22 years of education in excellent use by answering a riddle and winning a free cup of coffee. It was Gemma's birthday trip, so I gave it to her and everyone felt like a winner.
Especially Baiky