Monday, August 31, 2009

Last day of summer

How can this be the last day of summer? I'm not ready for winter yet. Or autumn for that matter. I need another 30 hot, sunny days before I can enjoy the cold and drizzle and falling leaves.

You Are a Summer Person

You are energetic, outgoing, and active.

You love to be out and about... hanging out with friends or getting things done.

Summer is the perfect time for you to be as hyper as you want to be.

In fact, during the rest of the year you feel half-asleep!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Channel hopping

At precisely 9:10 AM on 25 August 1919, an Airco DH4A single-engine biplane owned by Aircraft Travel & Transport (a predecessor of British Airways) left Hounslow Heath, a few miles east of Heathrow Airport, bound for Le Bourget Airport, Paris. It was the beginning of the world's first regular daily scheduled international commercial passenger, goods and mail service by air.

Piloted by Lieutenant EH "Bill" Lawford and carrying just one passenger - London Evening Standard journalist George Stevenson - plus a cargo of newspapers, several brace of grouse and "a considerable number of jars of Devonshire cream", this pioneering flight took two hours and 40 minutes, covering the journey non-stop at almost 100 miles an hour.

The DH1A was powered by a single Rolls-Royce Eagle engine. For the crossing of the English Channel, the aircraft climbed to an altitude of 5,000ft, which was considered a safe height for a single-engined aircraft that had been in military service.

These days, a BA Airbus will travel from Heathrow to Paris Charles de Gaulle in just 70 minutes, whereas the Eurostar train service via the Channel Tunnel takes 2 hours and 20 minutes (that's 20 minutes less than the 1919 flight).

It's amazing to think what a difference 90 years have made to the way we travel.

This post was based on an article of the same title in the August 09 issue of High Life, BA's inflight magazine.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's Pimms o'clock

I don't know if it's true, but today feels like it's the sunniest, warmest day of the summer. Just as we thought autumn was round the corner, too!

Well, I've been good all day, but it's now time for me to pour myself a Pimm's and go out to the garden to enjoy the rest of the sunshine.

For those of you not in the know, Pimm's is a gin-based alcoholic drink which is served with "English-style" lemonade, mint and various fruits such as apples, oranges, lemons, strawberries and cucumber.

It spells s-u-m-m-e-r. It's delish. I want some now.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Books everywhere

A couple of years ago I started cataloguing my books on LibraryThing, a web application for storing and sharing personal book lists. Despite my noble intentions, sorting through hundreds of books takes time, and I soon gave up.

Since then, the book situation in the house has improved somewhat, not so much because I stopped buying as many books as I used to, but mainly because I discovered that some of my book selves are wide enough to take two rows of books. The upside of this arrangement is that now there are no piles of books on the sitting room floor, or the kitchen table. The downside is that it's becoming harder to remember what books I've got, as I can no longer see them at a glance.

Feeling that I was dangerously close to losing the battle of the paperbacks (some would say I'd already lost it) (I know who you are) I went back to LibraryThing and and have spent the last two days building up my online library. I have so far catalogued about 90% of my books and this is that it looks like:

At this moment, there are (at least) 528 books in the house.

111 of these are travel books and language books (text books, phrasebooks, dictionaries etc.).

38 books are cookery or baking books. Pretty impressive considering I rarely cook.

My reading list numbers 130 books. This means that 35% of the non-reference books in the house are unread.

We need a bigger house.

Or a bookcase that takes over a whole wall. Something like this should do the trick.

Failing that, I need to start giving away any books I don't want/need to keep. So far, I have relegated 4 (four) books to the charity shop pile.

I have some way to go...

Subscribing to LibraryThing is free for up to 200 books. For those of us who can't say no to the printed word, a yearly subscription costs USD 10 (£6) or you can buy a lifetime subscription from USD 25 (£15).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thai food festival

Last Sunday we went to a Thai Food Festival held in Greenwich Park. The weather didn't look too promising to start with, but we had glorious sunshine all afternoon, which is a rare treat in London, even in summertime. No wonder the festival was so busy, even though there was an entrance fee.

The main attraction of the festival was the large number of stalls selling yummy Thai food, most of which was cooked on the premises. There was barbequed meat, aromatic curries, noodles, Pad Thai, fruit and snacks.

This man convinced me to try some Thai sausage. It was delicious, although not quite as nice as German bratwurst.

There were several stalls selling anything from Hello Kitty merchandise... leather shoes and wooden photo frames.

We also saw a puppet theatre performance. It was a traditional story, but can't remember what it was.

Look at how the puppeteers move in sync with the puppet.

Several stalls displayed awesome Thai fruit carvings. Who would have thought watermelons and marrows could look so interesting?

We even got to watch a carver in action. He was turning a plain-looking melon into an amazing flower with a very very sharp knife.

OK this isn't very Thai, but I couldn't not show you a traditional ice-cream van. There were several dotted around the festival grounds and judging by the queues, business must have been really good that day.

If you'd like to see more pictures from the festival, I have posted a selection on Flickr.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

London in the sunshine

I'm getting a bit fed up with the dull weather we've been having over the last few weeks, so I thought I'd cheer myself up by looking at the photos I took earlier this summer, when the weather was a lot more agreeable. These are some I took at St James's Park in the centre of London at the end of May.

As there's no seaside in London, whenever the sun shines, people rush to one of the parks for picnics and sunbathing. St James's Park is right in the centre of the city, so it tends to attract a lot of tourists, as well as locals. You can rent a deck chair or just lie on the grass.

There's a lake in the middle of the park and lots of different birds in and out of the water.

You can feed the ducks, but it's more fun feeding the squirrels. They are used to humans and will come and take peanuts from your hands.

I know they're just rats with tails, but they're so cute!

This type of squirrel is a grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) which is really a native of North America. Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) are the native type in Europe. In 1870, a small number of grey squirrels were brought over to Cheshire and were subsequently released across the UK. They started to spread over the years, and as the grey squirrel spread, the red squirrel retreated. Today, red squirrels are only found on the Isle of Wight, in Scotland and North England. I've never seen a red squirrel in London...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Saturday, August 01, 2009

How British am I?

I thought I'd take a test to find out...

You Are 65% British

Congrats, mate. You're are probably British.

(If not, definitely Australian. Or Kiwi. Or Canadian.)

You enjoy most aspects of mainstream British culture, without being stereotypical about it.

You also have a typical British temperament. You wouldn't dream of being impolite.