Monday, 28 January 2013

10 Jobs

I've been thinking about my job and how I'm in need of a change. The job I've got now is the longest job I've ever had and I'm definitely getting itchy feet. This started me thinking about my skills which led to me thinking about all the different jobs I've had.

So many kids at school say they know what they want to do when they leave and that's the only thing they're going to do for the rest of their lives and therefore they most certainly don't need to learn whatever it is I'm trying to teach them as it's not relevant to them and they'll never need it. It's so frustrating trying to convince them that they probably won't do the same thing all their lives and also quite sad that their aspirations are so low they think they'll be happy doing the same thing day in, day out for the rest of their working lives.

When I was 15 I knew I wanted to have a varied life and do different things, but not even in the wildest depths of my imagination could I have thought up even half the things I ended up doing.

Here are 10 relatively normal jobs I've had:

  1. School teacher
  2. English as a foreign language teacher
  3. Manager
  4. Waitress
  5. Cook
  6. Au pair
  7. Barmaid
  8. Call centre phone person
  9. Receptionist
  10. GCSE examiner

And here are 10 slightly more unusual jobs I've had:

  1. Selling burgers and chips from a shed on a market
  2. Milking cows
  3. Making wheels in a wheel factory
  4. Picking kumquats
  5. Cleaning chicken sheds
  6. Debt collector
  7. Market research, going door-to-door with a large bag stuffed with special pad samples trying to interest women in talking about their bladder control problems
  8. Sandwich technician
  9. Having my face painted in order to be an extra in a Persil Automatic advert
  10. Cookie baker

Sunday, 27 January 2013


Imagine if as part of the war on terror the Americans decided to pollute water supplies in Afghanistan with a biological agent that messed with people's DNA. Imagine if this went wrong and resulted in dead people coming back to life as zombies who feed on other people. It no longer takes polluted water to infect one, now all you need is a zombie bite and bingo! five minutes later you too are a zombie.

Amongst the undead is Osama Bin Laden.

This is the concept for the film 'Ozombie'.

I hadn't heard of this film until I spotted the DVD in the supermarket. It sounded pretty stupid but one of the things I like to do is assess how Islam and the Middle East (and the 'stans) is portrayed in Western media and culture.

I watched it last night. Here's a brief synopsis of what happens (I won't give away the ending).

As the zombies multiply, the West, keen to keep the zombification of Afghanistan quiet, withdraw most of their troops, but leave a few crack units behind on zombie blasting duty. It seems that when zombies are shot in the head or have their head chopped off they become really dead. One of these units is tasked with finding a militia base where there is a suspected zombie breeding programme (prisoners are fed to the zombies, thus becoming zombies themselves) in operation. It is also suspected that this is where the undead Bin Laden is being kept.

Enter an American brother and sister duo who both hinder and help one of the special forces units. The brother, Derek Miller, was a firefighter in New York and was the only survivor of his unit on September 11th. He's on a personal mission to find Bin Laden and ensure he is really dead. He's manic, likes big guns and is determined to see his mission through. His sister, Dusty, has come to look for him and persuade him to go home. She had obviously been in a hurry to get started on her brother saving mission and hadn't had time to research the terrain. If she had, she might have worn something more suitable than high-heeled, over the knee boots and bulky fingerless mittens that must surely make it difficult to hold a gun let alone pull the trigger on one.

Scene after scene involves fighting between the unit and the zombies or local militia units and the zombies. It's all very bloody and surprise, surprise, there's very little storyline. It did make me jump several times though, so I should give it credit for that. 

As for the impression it gives of Islam and Afghanistan? Well as there's little more than blood and gore, it could be anywhere in the world and if it had been set in Russia, Vietnam, the Balkans, Nazi Germany or any other 'us and them' location, I doubt anyone would have noticed.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The First Cut

A magical forest of greens and autumnal colours slowly swayed; in the distance a black nebula, suspended in space, dwarfed the folk wandering below.

I was at Manchester Art Gallery for The First Cut exhibition. I'd heard good things about it, but even so, I was still completely blown away by the ideas, skill and paper transformations on show. On the stairs leading up to the gallery was a patchwork quilt made from squares of maps. It was only when up close I could see that it wasn't actually made from patterned material. Through the door the forest of giant leaves could be seen. Large branches were suspended from ceiling, each with huge leaves, covered with woven strips of paper, attached. Walking amongst them created a slight draft and they all gently swayed.

Some of the works were huge, such as the floor to ceiling length nebula cut from black paper. Others were tiny such as a tree cut from, and sitting inside, a Burger King bag. Each of the works was delicately formed with painstaking detail.

Many of the works had philosophical and political ideas behing them, such as the world map in which each country had been created from its own bank notes. The detail was so exact even the tiniest specks of islands had been symbolised by their own currency. (The UK was represented by a £5 note).

A whole section was devoted to works made from books. Pages had been gouged and the paper from them made into train tracks, flowers, people. A man, suspended from above looked as though he was swimming through the air. Closer inspection revealed him to be a stack of books with the bindings intact along his spine, but the pages carved and sculpted to create his form.

A motorbike made from paper, a gun made from US dollars, a dress made from maps: all life-size. A garden made from books of wild flowers. Hundreds of the books were arranged on the floor with flowers carefully cut from their pages and stood on end, arranged to form a beautiful symmetrical garden with, for some reason, frogs jumping around in the middle.

Scattered throughout the rest of the art gallery were other works such as a swarm of butterflies pinned to a wall around the Victorian paintings, pinned in the way Victorian naturalists would have done with their specimens. Each butterly was made from a map and had been cut with tiny detail. In one corner, a pile of 12,000 individually and delicately feathers cut from maps.

Description, and even photographs, can't do this exhibition justice. I bought the book, but more as an aide memoire and for the information about the artists and their works, than as a pictorial representation of the works. I didn't take any photographs myself as my camera batteries died but here's a link to someone who did. And his pictures are much better than any I could have taken myself anyway. Below is a video of the artists talking about their work.

Jake Bugg and ideas for film-making in Amsterdam

This could be my favourite music video ever. It's basically just a walk round Amsterdam, a city I love and feel I know quite well. I don't take many photos when I'm there as I feel I've taken them all before. However, when I go back at Easter I was thinking of experimenting with my video camera and trying to capture some of the spirit of the city on film. I'm going to be studying this music video pretty closely for tips.

PS The music's pretty good too.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

2012 Twelve Final Review

At the end of the year when I look back on my 2012 Twelve list I can't exactly say it was a roaring success. 

However, when I look back on the year as a whole I feel I did achieve rather a lot: I ticked a few of the major challenges off my 60 before 60 list (Womad, St Kilda, Northern Lights) as well as either achieving or making headway towards a few of the others. 

I've also finally got my house pretty much finished which gives me headspace as well as time and money to think about other things. I've started planning my business and getting my book collection better organised. I've also had a few great holidays and explored a lot more of this fascinating and beautiful country of ours. Add to this some achievements at work that enable me to feel I've done what I've set out to do there and I really feel that the past 12 months have really been a strong building block towards the future I want to have.  

  1. Floating in a floatation tank (I'm hoping to do this in London during the February half term) completed
  2. Reading at least 10 books from the BBC Big Read list (if I read 10 a year, I'll have the whole 200 knocked off in the next 12-13 years!) - only one I got round to reading was Swallows and Amazons
  3. Taking at least one photo every day of the year (this will improve my photography skills, be a photo-diary of 'year in my life', and help me to learn to use my new camera) - more days than not I completely forgot about this
  4. Coming up with a fitness plan and sticking to it (the start of my training for Kilimanjaro, though I may not actually climb it for several years yet) - been really bad at this and have probably ended the year with the lowest fitness level I've ever had!
  5. Leading at least 4 of my own walks (good practice for my walking group leader's qualification) - very little walking done compared to how much I used to do. At least I've got involved with the Duke of Edinburgh Award which is a step in the right direction
  6. Buying another house (need to get my finances in order first) - this seems to have morphed into a 'starting my own business' task instead.
  7. Learning to use at least 3 new pieces of technology or computer programmes (not counting my new camera) - I could claim to have completed this if I use the term 'learning to use' very loosely. I had a lesson on using a new whiteboard software package but haven't yet made much use of it. I've kind of got to grips with using my Kindle and netbook/tablet, though I still don't think I use them to anywhere near their full potential
  8. Doing a writing course (depends on the length of the course whether I'd complete it in the year or not) - as with going to the gym, I keep making plans to knuckle down and do this, and this something gets in the way. 
  9. Getting at least one piece of writing published (paid or unpaid, as long as someone else makes the decision to publish it and it's not self-published) - completed
  10. Making a start on sorting out my photos (putting the prints that are currently still stuffed in packets into albums and getting all my photos scanned into the computer - no way will this be completed in a year, but I'll feel good even if I get started on it) - I've started and been concentraring on a book database instead
  11. Buying a car/van that I can sleep in (and doing any necessary conversions/adaptations) - I've got the van but conversions have been on hold whilst I did work on my house, but I'm now ready to start thinking about my van again
  12. Getting into cycling (even if it's just short cycle rides along decent paths) - Ive been trying to get into the mindset - buying panniers, reading cycling blogs and so on, but haven't actually done any cycling

Thames Path - Shepperton to Staines

Looking back in my Thames Path guidebook I can see that it's over 11 years since I arrived in Shepperton on the Kingston to Shepperton leg of my Thames Path walk. I left London almost 11 years ago and so this was one of the last walks I did before I left. Since then, on brief visits back, I've filled in a few of the gaps I had on the London stretch of the walk but I've done nothing further up river. Part of the reason for this is feasibility. Once out of London public transport connections get a lot more tricky. Also I can't do the walks as part of a day out in London as they're too far away, so I have to have the time to factor in an extra day just for this.

Over New Year I had just such an opportunity. I stayed with friends in Kent for New Year and had a day in London using their house as a base. The following day I was due to leave, but rather than driving straight home I decided to spend the night with another friend who lives in Buckinghamshire. The logistics of getting from one friend's house to another (basically a drive round the M25) meant I could have a day walking the next section of the Thames Path without having to go much out of my way.

The length of the walk I could do was determined by rush hour traffic, bus timetables and early dusk. I didn't leave Kent until 9.30am as to leave any earlier would only have meant me sitting frustratingly in traffic and probably not arriving any earlier in Shepperton despite my earlier start. I'd planned to walk to Staines as from here there is an hourly bus back to Shepperton where I could pick up my car. However, rather than driving straight to Shepperton I detoured to Runnymede to see if it would be possible to leave my car in the National Trust car park there, catch a bus to Shepperton (possibly via Staines) and then do a slightly longer walk by walking to Runnymede instead of having to finish in Staines.

However, as I drove along what seemed to be a main road to get to the NT car park I didn't spot any bus stops or any buses. When I arrived at the car park a sign informed that the gates would be locked at 5pm. I really needed to finish my walk by 4pm as after that it would be too dark, but I like to have a safety net of extra time if need be (and I did have a head-torch) and so the 5pm gate-locking worried me. Reluctantly I realised I'd have to stick to my original walk of only about 6 miles.

Old Shepperton
I drove to Shepperton and found the car park I'd earlier googled. It wasn't too far from the river and the old part of Shepperton and only cost £1.50 for the day. Booted up I left the car park and had my first look at the village and a wander round the outside of the church (it was locked so I couldn't get inside). This old part of the village is quite quaint with a few pub/restaurants. According to the Domesday Book Shepperton originally belonged to Westminster Abbey and has had a church for many centuries. The original church was destroyed by flooding in 1605-6. The present church is its replacment and was built in 1613. The rectory behind the church was often visited by Dutch theologian Desiderius Erasmus who was a friend of the rector.

It's not possible to walk along the river from here, so I backtracked along the road for a few minutes and then back down to the river by the ferry pier.

The ferry takes passengers and cyclists across the river on a regular basis throughout the day. Usually. When I'd arrived in Shepperton 11 years ago and needed to get across the river it was the end of the day and the ferry had stopped running, so I'd needed to detour over a bridge. This time the ferry wasn't running because of flooding. The heavy rains meant the river was in full spate and the little jetty leading out to the ferry was well under water. Fortunately, for this leg of the walk I was on the right side of the river and so it didn't matter.

For most of the walk I was wandering along a path with the river on one side and very large houses with equally large gardens on the other. As the trains into London only take 48mins from Shepperton this is well within the wealthy commuter belt. The first point of interest I came to was Shepperton Lock. There were no boats in sight and so I continued walking.

Pharaoh's Island
Pharoah's Island soon appeared on my left. It was named after the Battle of the Nile when it was given to Lord Nelson. It is a relatively large island for the Thames, with 23 houses built along the water's edge; apparently they all have Egyptian themed names such as 'Sphinx' or 'Thebes'. There is no ferry or bridge and so access is only by personal boat or dinghy. Two years ago a dinghy capsized here, costing two people their lives. Today the high water was lapping at the edges of the residences and they didn't seem quite as desirable as they probably do in summer.

Pharaoh's Island

Flooded path
The path became very flooded and I waded through glad I'd re-proofed my boots before Christmas. The locals had decided the flooded path was not enough of a challenge and had arranged the ropes tying their boats across the path at various heights meaning I had to work out whether to go over or under whilst still picking the shallowest part of the path and walking on tip-toe to keep the water from flooding over the tops of my boots. 

This challenge surpassed, the path then became a track through a meadow which was very flooded and I had to pick my way through the driest bits detouring away from the river a little. 

Which bit's the path?

The path's this way

As I reached Chertsey Bridge the signposts for the Thames Path directed me to walk underneath it. This was impossible as the water was lapping high up the sides of the bridge. I walked up onto the bridge and looked down at the river, taking some photos of the benches that would normally be quite pleasant to sit on alongside the river. Today, only the tops of the back of the benches could be seen. Similarly, only the very tops of the litter bins could be seen. I took the opportunity to cross the bridge and follow the road 100m or so towards Chertsey to a garage where I bought a sandwich for lunch.

Spot the benches and the bin

Water park
Back on the path I walked towards Laleham. Laleham is home to the Lucan family; as in the family of the missing Lord (this site has the story and conspiracy theories). The road ran alongside the path and as it was quiet I found it much easier to walk along the road as the path was a quagmire of slippery mud and water. I stopped in the park at Laleham to have lunch at a sole non-waterlogged picnic table. I took photos of the swing park which had become a  water park and was amused by the frog shaped bin whose open mouth seemed to express surprise at suddenly finding himself in a pond. 

Penton Hook Lock (island on the left)
At Penton Hook Lock I was able to walk over the lock and briefly explore a couple of little islands. The river loops so much here that it actually takes half a mile to travel 20 yards. The lock opened in 1815 thus saving boats tedious journey time and in the process creating the islands out of the land inside the loop.

From Penton Hook I could feel I was getting closer to Staines as the path became busier and busier with people out strolling, pushing prams, walking dogs, jogging, cycling and so on.

Staines itself is a modern, built-up town with ugly shopping malls full of chain shops and teenagers hanging around in groups smoking. After a quick walk around I headed for the bus station and the bus back to Shepperton. 

Welcome to Staines

The bus dropped me near the train station which is in the modern part of Shepperton and I followed the busy main road back down towards the old town and my van. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

South of Sanity

14 souls were left to winter-over on Britain's largest Antarctic Base.
Nearly six months into their winter, all contact was lost. When a party was sent in to investigate, no one was found alive ...

Cut off from the outside world, the small community gradually become fractured and antagonistic. From out of this dark crucible of malcontent, a killer emerges. In the isolated and disparate group, members are picked off one by one, paranoia ensues and no one is safe.

So reads the blurb on the back of this DVD.

The film is entirely set in Antarctica and was written, filmed and produced by a group of over-wintering scientists and support staff at a British base. During the long winter months no-one can get in or out and the base staff are at a minimum. Some of the staff decided to take the concept of making their own entertainment a step further than usual and created an entire feature film.

The resulting horror is predictable and at times the acting is a little wooden. If this was a Hollywood blockbuster I wouldn't rate it. However, bearing in mind it's an amateur film, filmed in limiting circumstances (can't just nip out to the shop to buy another bottle of ketchup when you run out of blood), I think it's bloody brilliant. Very bloody in fact; the killings get more macabre and by the end I could understand why it is certificate 18.

I also liked the film because I got to see the inside of one of the Antarctic bases. Spending time in Antarctica is one of the things I would really love to do, but may be one of the challenges on my list that I end up doing half-heartedly (a quick visit rather than living there for a while). If I was younger and commitment free I'd be applying for jobs and focusing on making sure I got one. But my current circumstances prevent me from being able to do this and I don't see it changing in the forseeable future. A film like this, that shows me glimpses of life on a base, keeps the dream ticking over. As far as I know, there aren't a lot of murders in Antarctica and there are no records of there ever having been a serial killer, so I think I'd be safe on that score.

Here's a link to the trailer on youtube.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Wild Food Cafe

Over the New Year holidays I had a day in London. I was staying with friends in Kent for a few days and caught the train in on the 2nd. I had a long list of things I wanted to do, but when I researched them I found many places were still closed for the holidays and so that limited my choices somewhat.

One of the decisions I had to make was where to have lunch. I like trying out new places, but also have a lot of old favourites that I like to have the chance to get back to. The first few places I checked out were closed, so I decided to go to an old haunt, The World Food Cafe in Neal's Yard. This was run by a couple who have travelled the world taking amazing photographs and researching recipes. They have published a couple of beautiful cookbooks combining photos and recipes and also displayed some of their photos on the walls of the cafe. The food was always great and the menu consisted of a range of dishes from around the world.

Yes, I'm talking past tense. The World Food Cafe is no longer and has been replaced by The Wild Food Cafe. It looks the same, except the photos are gone. The concept of the new establishment is to serve food that hasn't been heated to anything above 39 degrees. Most of the food on the menu is served raw although the grains they serve with some meals have been cooked properly before being cooled down. They refer to their way of preparing and serving food as 'sunfood'.

I'd heard of this way of eating before, but can't say it has ever really appealed. However, I'm always up for a new experience and so was happy to give it a go.

I ordered a burger made from mushrooms and I think some kind of sprouts or seeds. It was served with salad, home-made ketchup, mustard and sweet potato wedges (these had been cooked and cooled). Instead of bread it was on a cracker made from seeds and things, all dehydrated and squished together. The cracker was really tasty. The burger was ok but I won't list it amongst my favourites; if anything it was overpowered by the mustard and this spoilt the taste a bit.

I finished lunch with a coffee (hot and normal) and a piece of chocolate with high cocoa solids and made without cooking or heating.

So what's my opinion overall? I quite liked it, but not enough to make it a 'haunt'. It was interesting to try a different type of food and the staff were really friendly and happy to answer questions and explain the products. If I didn't have so many other places that I like to go to in London, then I probably would go back, but as I have alternatives, I probably won't.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Driving on the wrong side of the road

Many years ago I did a road trip through France, Spain and Portugal with a campervan. I loved the freedom of being able to go wherever we wanted and the ease of being able to stop and sleep whenever and wherever took our fancy. In recent years I've had similar experiences in the UK, first with my car and tent, and now with my van. I really want to be able to expand my trips to the continent but I have no experience of driving on 'that' side of the road and the thought of doing it for the first time on my own, without a second pair of eyes, is a little bit scary. I'm not so worried about going straight; it's going round corners that'll get me unstuck. I know from cycling experience how easy it is to nonchalantly turn a corner and automatically turn on to the British side of the road. And as for roundabouts ... well, the less said about them the better. It took me long enough to learn how to do them here without having to do them back to front.

But sometimes opportunities just present themselves. I've said before that having a list makes ideas more concrete and although it doesn't necessarily mean opportunities appear that wouldn't have done without the list (that would be weird and new-agey) it does make the opportunities more noticeable and make me more likely to jump at them. Also it means other people may be aware of what I want to do and they may notice opportunities on my behalf.

Just before New Year I was contacted by a former colleague who said she needed someone with a van to drive her and a load of stuff down to her new caravan in France. At first I though 'no' because she was asking about the Easter holidays and I already have plans. But the idea had been planted and my mind kept involuntarily mulling it over. Although it didn't seem too feasible I decided it would be worth looking into to see if I could fit a road trip to the South of France into my plans for my annual visit to Germany.

Too late. She'd already found someone else with a trailer to do the job for her. But she did mention the February half term and would I fancy a trip then? She would be driving herself and so I could tag along, have a few days there and then fly home whilst she remains there a bit longer. This would mean she'd have company for the journey down and the first part of her stay there. I told her I was interested and she's just got back to me with flight prices (very reasonable) and asked if I'd mind sharing the driving. So if I go I'll get to have my first driving experiences on the wrong side of the road! (Does she really know what she's letting herself in for???)

This is much better than Easter too, as I'd been looking for something to do at half term and so far none of the ideas I'd had were working out. So if things go according to plan, it looks like I'll soon be getting another challenge ticked off my list.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Ice Station

By Matthew Reilly

I picked this up in a charity shop just before Christmas. I hadn't heard of Matthew Reilly before but it sounded like a good fast-paced thriller - the sort of story I could easily lose myself in when I needed a bit of respite from all the chaos around me during my house renovations. The fact that it is set in Antarctica also had something to do with its attraction.

Within a couple of pages I was hooked and managed to read all 704 pages in the space of a few days. The story starts when a remote (even for Antarctica) research station puts out a distress call - the residents think they have found an alien spacecraft buried in the ice sheet and the group of scientists they sent into a cavern to investigate failed to return.

A group of American marines are sent to investigate but find the threat of death by alien to be the least of their worries. They come under attack by commandos from other countries eager to claim the extra-terrestrial prize for themselves, by killer whales, nuclear enhanced seals, and rogue elements from their own side. The action is a non-stop roller-coaster of thrills and spills and as long as you suspend any sense of incredulity it's a great ride.

This book is just begging to be turned into an extreme Hollywood action thriller and was actually optioned by Paramount. The screenplay was written but then they let the option expire; maybe because they realised the difficulty and cost it would entail to do the story justice? The special effects and stunts required would make the Die Hard and James Bond films seem sedate by comparison. I really hope someone takes the plunge though as this would be a film I'd really like to see.

This book is by no means high literature but as far as easy, captivating reads go, it's one of the best books I've read in a while.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Flight Simulation

One of the presents I got my brother for Christmas was an 'experience' in a fighter plane simulator. I liked the sound of it so I booked myself a go too. The day after Boxing Day we drove to an industrial estate in Stalybridge where the Top Gun Flight Simulator is situated. In the small office and reception space on the first floor of an scruffy looking warehouse we were sat down and shown our flight route on a map. The instructor also explained what can be seen on each of the three computer screens that are set up in the reception area. One is basically the radar, another one shows the terrain the plane is flying over as seen from various watch towers. As the plane flies into the distance it becomes a dot on the screen, when it flies closer it can be seen filling the screen. The third screen is the view of what the pilot can see through the windscreen. 

After a briefing on where we would be flying, it was time to get changed into RAF flying suits. John decided to fly first and I sat with a coffee and watched him on the screens. The instructor's wife explained what was going on and told me a bit about their business. Ian, the instructor, had previously flown Cessnas but hadn't done any flying for a while when someone bought him the Microsoft flight simulator. Pretty soon he became bored of just flying with a keyboard and wanted more of the real thing. That led to him buying a 1970's Czech fighter plane and setting up a flight simulation business. They've been going for less than 2 years and so far it's been successful. They've recently moved into their new premises from their original location in Ashton.

After half an hour John's flight was over and I went down to the simulator on the ground floor to take photos of him in the cockpit all kitted out in the helmet and oxygen mask.

Then it was my turn. I squoze into the front seat and put the helmet and mask on. It felt quite heavy and made it difficult to turn my head. Once I was strapped into the seat I could barely move my body - I had just about enough arm movement to work the levers at the side of me and the controls in front of me. My legs only just stretched to the peddles.

Ian sat behind and gave me instructions over the intercom built into the helmet. Although it all seemed very complicated and a lot to remember, I don't think it's any more difficult than in a car. I remember when I was learning to drive, it seemed like I'd never remember to watch the speedometer and roadsigns, and turn the steering wheel, change gears, use the brakes and clutch appropriately and NOT run anyone over or crash, but with time it became second nature and now I don't even have to think about it. What did seem much more difficult however, was keeping the damn thing straight! I'm sure it was never this difficult in a car. The slightest movement sent me veering on to the grass verge at the side of the runway, or when I was in the air, would tilt the plane alarmingly on to its side.

Upside down flying

For my flight we took off from a base near Prince William's gaff in Anglesey, flew across the Menai Strait towards Snowdonia, followed a few gorges and then the river to Conwy. Out at sea I flew along the coast learning to do rolls and loops before heading back along the Menai Strait and flying under the bridge. I did a flyby past the tower, a few more rolls and loops and then came into land and got parked up.

It took a lot of concentration and was really difficult - I could feel the instructor over-riding me with his dual controls a lot of the time. I'm actually more apprehensive now about the real flying lesson I have booked, but at the same I enjoyed the simulator and so I'm sure I'll enjoy the real thing too.

Would I recommend this or do it again? Yes and no. Yes, I'd recommend it as a fun way of spending an hour or so and it's a good first introduction to flying, but no I probably wouldn't do it again as it is one of those things to really be tried once. If I want to make a hobby out of flying then it's better to save my money and do the real thing as the simulator would probably get monotonous after a while.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

It's been a while ...

Ok, so I've been neglecting my blog. I got so busy in my real life over the last couple of months that I've not really had time for my cyber life. I've been working on my house trying to get it finished and the way that I want it so my head is clear to concentrate on other things. My house has been a ten year project. When I bought it a decade ago it was a wreck, but I saw the potential and fell in love with it straight away. It's not ideal - it's small and not in a lovely country village or in the centre of a big bustling city, but it's what I could afford at the time and has suited my purposes well, and hopefully will continue to do so. I've enjoyed putting my own stamp on it, but it has been hard work and has taken a lot of my time, energy and money. But now it's done and I feel like I can fully concentrate on other things.

As well as my house finally being finished, several other things have conveniently fallen into place and I'm starting the year feeling really ready to move on with the next phase of my life. Sounds dramatic doesn't it? I don't mean it to be. When I look back on my life everything seems to happen in decade long phases for me (give or take a few years). I had a gap decade when I did lots of travelling, then a decade in which I seemed to spend most of my time studying. Now I've had a decade (a real one this time) in which I've created my home and developed my teaching career.

My next phase is to work on my own business. I've been thinking about this for years and so it's always been part of my long-term plans and many of the other things I've done have been building towards this. This is the year in which I'm finally going to take the plunge and really do something about those plans. It's a bit scary, but exciting as well.

As for my blog - well, I should be able to keep more up-to-date with it now and I have a backlog of posts to get typed up and online, so that'll keep me busy for a while.