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Archive for the category “Travel”


Over the last month, the car has had a complete set of new tyres (admittedly, bought two at a time) as it was definitely That Time Of Year when it’s a good plan., with the onset of winter with added rain, snow and ice. It’s been at least a year since the front ones were changed, and longer since I did the rears, and while they’re still well within the legal limits, I know they were nowhere near as good as they could/should be.

The front ones got changed a couple of weeks back – something I was really pleased about while I was driving last weekend. At that point, the road conditions were vile – heavy rain, standing water, and one particular section of motorway surface that could best be described as interesting – and the car stayed solid on the road, which is something that some others certainly weren’t.

I avoided using eTyres this time – partly because I’m not convinced of their services etc., but also because they didn’t stock the tyres I’d decided I wanted to try out.

Having looked around, I opted this time for Michelin Cross-Climate tyres, which seem to be a good option for going across the full range of road/weather conditions I’m likely to hit in the coming months. I’ve also never had a full set of the same tyres on a car, so it seems like it should be interesting.

The rears got changed today, and the change has been significant, even in the short time I’ve driven on them today. I’m pretty sure it’s not just a psychosomatic thing, the whole vehicle felt more rooted to the road, more stable.

We’ll see how things go. This morning was also the first serious frost of the year – I was driving through snow on the M1 yesterday –  and I’m pretty sure we’ll have a few more days like it in the coming weeks. I’ve got the best part of a thousand miles to cover over the next couple of weekends (not including the usual weekly travel) so by the end of that, I’ll know a lot more about how the car feels with the new setup.

Taste of London – Winter

Earlier this year, I went to the London Taste festival in Regent’s Park, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

When that finished they started also talking about a Winter festival, I got a ticket for it ages back, and went up to it today.

The Winter one was at Tobacco Dock (same place as Meatopia, earlier in the year) but on a larger scale than Meatopia. I’d never realised that Meatopia uses less than half the space available in the Dock, which meant that on occasion it was a bit disorienting, to be in places I thought I knew, but turned out to be on the other side of the building. Most confusing.

Taste is interesting – it’s less focused than the other ones I go to, there’s more varieties of food to try, and it’s driven a lot more by restaurants showing off what they do. For that, it’s really good – nice to have variety, and ranges of food from curried stuff through to meringues, as well as a big range of street-food type stuff, tacos, sliders, burgers and the like. It’ss a lot smaller than Summer Taste (which is fine) and a lot of fun. I got to have a fine range of foods, and had a great day.


Durham Lumiere 2015

Two years ago, I went with friends to see the Lumiere exhibition in Durham – which was ace.

This year, it was back, and so were we.

While it’s organised by the same people, and has some of the same artists, it was utterly different – and still brilliant. The weather this time was absolutely rotten – my coat still isn’t dry – but still it was great. The theme (if there really is one) was more about science and maths this time round, with the main ‘showpiece’ projection onto Durham Cathedral this time, “The World Machine” being more about the birth of modern cosmology from the 12th century until the present day.

One of the big draws this year was Mysticete, a projection of a whale on the river Wear, visible from the bridge above. Done by the same people as the Elephant last year, it was ace – and so clever, being projected onto a water-spray. (although with the heavy rain they could probably have just done the same onto the rain)  Sadly, because of that weather it got cancelled on the Sunday, but it was well worth seeing. (we were there on the Saturday)

Image (c) Durham Chronicle

Image (c) Durham Chronicle

We got to see a good portion of the exhibits – although not all, by any means – and really enjoyed it. Some of the stuff was really magic and fun, other bits were ‘just’ excellent.

As per the last one, I will definitely be going again when it’s next on.   I may also visit the one they’re doing in London in January 2016 – I hope that’s as clever and fun as the Durham ones are.

2015/16 – Getting Out More

As things stabilise more here, I’m looking at what I want to do in 2016 – and in particular towards taking some breaks. This year has ripped past, and I’m renownedly shit at taking holidays at the best of times.

So part of the plan will be to do some weekends away, as well as a couple of longer breaks.  I’m looking at places/destinations at the moment, so that I can book them before the end of this year. That way I can have them as immovable events when it comes to going to a new contract in 2016.

I’ve already booked up a couple of weekends away, and it’s all looking pretty promising. And continuing on from last year’s side-project about being more comfortable with eating on my own, there’s more places booked and going to be booked on that score too. Details of those will follow as and when through the year though…

2015-16 – What’s coming up next?

Following on from yesterday’s “what happened in the last year” post, now we get to the fun stuff, the “What’s going to happen in the coming year?” post.

Although, to be honest, some of those goals aren’t going to change much.  I currently see 2015/16 as a year that’s more about consolidation, of building from the foundations of 2014/15.

So, the outline goals are going to be

  • Continue rebuilding finances.
  • Continue with health/exercise/weight-loss stuff
  • Write more
  • Develop more things based around my own business
  • Get out more

There will be some significant changes during 2016 that I already know about and/or expect – as well as a number of things unexpected and un-planned-for.

Among the expected changes, I know that I’ll definitely be looking for at least one new contract sometime in that year. As yet I don’t know exactly when, but I can live with that – when it happens, it’ll be fine.

Also, the final financial stage of my bankruptcy will come to an end early in the year, and I’ll have paid off the three-year repayment plan. (That’s happening later than the three-year anniversary of the actual declaration, because it takes time to organise and sort out in the first place) I plan to keep making that payment, but into my own savings account, which will (obviously) help build things up.

Finally, I may end up moving by the end of the year. Or I may not. I don’t know for sure. Actually, that most likely won’t be in this time-span, as my 12-month tenancy agreement renewal starts today. I may know that I will be moving (as I’d have to give a month’s notice to end the tenancy etc. etc.) but the odds are that I won’t have actually moved. If I decide to do so.

I’ll write in more detail about those outline goals over the next few days, and see what they bring.

For now, I’m just happy to have some ideas about what’s going to come next.

2014-15 Summing Up

This time last year, I made a list of things I wanted to do in the coming year.

So how have I done? Actually, not badly at all.  (The initial goals are in bold, with the results in colour afterwards)

  • Weigh LessKind of. It’s fair to say, this has had its ups and downs. Over the course of the year, I put back on some of the weight I’d lost, and then lost it again. With more regular attendance at the gym, I’ve also changed shape, lost a noticeable amount of fat, but replaced it with a similar weight of muscle, so I’ve maintained roughly the same weight throughout the last six months, despite looking (and feeling) fitter and lighter. It’s annoying, but successful in a way.
  • Write MoreLess successful. I’ve completed a couple of pieces, and got ideas for others. So I guess I’ve written more – and been doing more here – but still, it’s not quite what I’d hoped/planned for.
  • IAM TestKinda. I’ve booked it in, but it’s not happened yet. I’ll write more about that when it does.
  • Ideas for my own businessSuccessful. In the last six months I’ve changed to doing the contract through my own limited company, and dealing with my own accounts and payroll etc. – which is definitely a good step in the right direction. I’ve also got more/better ideas and goals for the coming year, and what the plans will be.
  • Build The FinancesSuccessful. It’s not been perfect. There have been unexpected expenses like the car’s turbo needing replacement, and a few other things along the way. There’s also been that nasty habit of getting out and having a life – some of which hasn’t been super-cheap.
    But all told, I’m coming out of the year in a far better position than I went into it. Not as well as I could have come out of it, but there we go – my choice, my decision, and it’s still a good position to be in.

So all told, it’s been a pretty good year. Most of the plans have borne fruit, or are at least showing growth and promise for the coming year.  Frankly, I can live with that as a set of results.


Trying To Be Sensible

The last couple of months here have been pretty busy, with very little time spent at home. In fact, I haven’t spent a full weekend at home since the end of August.  November and December aren’t currently looking much different on that score.

So, in the name of sanity, I’ve made a couple of other decisions.

I was supposed to be going to a conference next week in Manchester – for something that’s not super-relevant *right now* but will be for some plans/ideas over the next six to twelve months.

However, it would take me away for three days, and to be honest, that doesn’t appeal all that much right now. I’d rather have the chance of some downtime somewhere along the line.

So I’ve sacked it off, cancelled everything around it, and will instead ‘just’ do my normal work instead. Which seems like a good plan.

I’m not good at the whole ‘cancelling stuff’ thing, but I do know it sometimes needs to happen, and this is one of those times.

I think the most telling thing was that having made the decision, my only real reaction has been “good, that makes sense”…

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