Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blogging for a decade

In January 2015, this blog will have been going for 10 years. That must deserve some kind of mention? I started the blog fairly innocuously with a few posts about things I'd seen on the net. It just carried on from there really, with me feeling the need to write and it being a vehicle. I have made a very small number of what I would loosely consider "friends" along the way but they have not endured, well one friend sadly passed away a year ago.
I've written a few times about blogging just in case anyone reading this who doesn't blog is wondering about starting. I think it is a good thing for people to blog or vlog. I don't have the patience to vlog, so would rather just continue to blog, but I do subscribe to some vlogs and enjoy their immediate impact and appeal. I don't know if anyone reads this regularly aside from myself. If you do, perhaps you might want to leave a comment about the blog and anything you'd like to read more or less about?

New Year's Eve

In a few hours time it will midnight and as it's the 31st December today this means that the midnight hour will see the transition of 2014 into 2015. I wonder what 2015 will bring us? The year just ending has been an eventful one. I expect that 2015 will see no let up in the pace of change. I feel as though I should write some kind of "year in review" post. I don't know though, it might just remind me of some of the things I'd rather forget about the year.
This New Year's Eve will be a quiet one for us. We haven't been invited anywhere and we haven't invited anyone else round. So it might come to pass that this year we don't even stay up until midnight. I don't know for definite but it could turn out that way.
The weather outside is cold but dry. It's below freezing but there is no snow on the ground. The nights still seem to get dark. I haven't even bothered to get dressed outside of my pyjamas and dressing gown today.
A couple of days ago I went for my first run. As a result, I have noticed that my back has started to stiffen. I still feel some stiffness so I have decided not to run today and rest for another day. I will try and go for a run tomorrow if my back has recovered some more. It's better today than it was yesterday.
I wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year!!

Jus-Rol Apple Danish Pastries

We bought some new products from Asda earlier in the week, they were Jus-Rol Danish pastries and Cinnamon Swirls. Today, this morning, I decided to give the apple Danish pastries a go. They were surprisingly easy to make and tasted delicious. I was slightly disappointed that the box didn't include a ready made method of icing the pastries but it was easy enough to make my own and pipe it across them when they came out of the oven. As you can see, the results look good and they were definitely tasty and eaten up by my family. We'll almost certainly buy these again.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Running shoes bargain

Well, I have told myself that 2015 is the year to start new healthier habits and one of those is to start running. I'm not yet sure when I'll fit my running in but I want to run three times a week. I hope it will help my mental and physical health. So I have a podcast that I can listen to called From couch to 5K, which is from the NHS Choices website, there are lots of running events around the local area and I might sign up to a 5K in Milton Keynes in March if I'm able to keep going. I was slightly worried about the cost of running shoes because my Nike training shoes aren't going to be any good - they give me blisters as you've seen via these pages in the past (see post on Race for Life event). However, I looked in on a local sports seconds shop and found a pair of Karrimor D30 Elie shoes. Whilst I was in the shop I tried on a few pairs of running shoes but these ones were the most comfortable and best fit for me as far as I could tell. So I bought them, they were £25 instead of their usual street price of £69. I'm always interested in a bargain and without being sure that running is for me, it's the right price point to give running a go.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas drinking

I had a few glasses of wine on Saturday, with friends, but apart from that I've stayed off the alcohol. On Christmas Day I expect I will have a few drinks to dull the senses and allow me to settle into a relaxed state of mind. I guess most of the alcohol shall be consumed after cooking the Christmas meal, we will have a house full of guests, with a couple of them staying overnight. I won't be able to drink too much however, as I'll be driving up to Birmingham the next day.
Drinking at Christmas is great up to a point. There is also a down side to it. Accident and Emergency departments know this only too well. My daughter is 14 and I have wondered whether or not I should introduce her to alcohol, so that she tastes it and experiences it in the safety of our home. However, I decided not too, she's still very young and although I'm worried about her trying alcohol I trust her not too. She also dislikes anything fizzy, which is quite a good thing. Not many days left until the big day, it's Christmas Eve tomorrow.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


I've had the film Elysium on DVD for a few weeks to watch. But now that I have broken up for Christmas I finally found time to watch it this morning. I enjoyed it.
It is the story of a future Earth full of a lower class who are diseased and exploited. The upper classes have moved off Earth and live on an enormous wheel-like space station that has its own atmosphere. The story centres on an ex-con on parole who is an exploited worker in a robot factory but has always wanted to get to Elysium. Entry to Elysium is computer controlled and it also has a stern chief of security played by Jodie Foster. The chief of security and manager of a robotics factory plot a coup. Things don't go too well for the ex-con factory worker and he ends up having an accident at work that seems him hit with a lethal dose of radiation. He visits the crime boss to seek a pass to get to Elysium but finds he has to agree to doing a final job before he gets his shuttle ride. This is the part of the film where he gets an exo-skeleton grafted on to his body by the dirtiest medics going. He gets more than he bargained for because the target he chooses is boss of the factory where he had his accident and the man who the chief of security on Elysium wanted to form a coup with. I won't spoil the story anymore but I did enjoy the film.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Outdoor reindeer lights

Walking through the Milton Keynes shopping centre on Saturday evening, my son and I came across the concrete cows in the centre of an outdoor circle. the cows have been joined by some reindeer, these ones are not real (very like the cows) but they actually light up (unlike the cows). So, without further ado here are the electric reindeer as I have christened them - or rather, here is one of them.

Christmas tree

Last year I posted a photograph of our Christmas tree. Last year we used coloured lights. My wife didn't like the coloured lights too much, she found them a bit garish. This year, she bought two ropes of white lights from Costco, they flash in lots of different ways but she likes them steady on. So this year's tree is more in keeping with how she wanted it. So here it is, our tree with the white lights.

Milton Keynes cinema

Here are a couple of photos I took yesterday of the two cinemas in Milton Keynes. I think The Point was the first multiplex cinema in the UK, it opened in 1985. The architecture and shape is quite dramatic. It is no longer a cinema.
Xscape is a huge building on the landscape and is reminiscent of a large aircraft hanger. There are lots of restaurants and entertainments in the building. Lots of rock climbing and other sports related shops.
The Point in Milton Keynes, the UK's first multiplex cinema in 1985

Xscape in Milton Keynes


I just made this word up but I thought I'd share a few photos I took this week with my new smartphone, the Motorola Moto E. The camera is a fixed focus 5 megapixel camera. I have used the editing software on the phone itself, which isn't too bad actually and can give you some creative options. The photos below were taken on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th December.

Birmingham Central Library with moon

Birmingham early morning, moon over Central Library

Early morning in Milton Keynes Central

December sunrise from the train

The Hobbit: battle of the five armies

Yesterday my son and I caught the train over to Milton Keynes to go to the Cineworld cinema and watch this film. I had seen the second film at the cinema with my son locally. I can't remember whether I went to the cinema to see the first film in the trilogy but as I don't remember, I probably didn't.
My expectations were probably higher for the final film than they were for the second. I felt the second film disappointed me. The latest and final film in the trilogy doesn't disappoint though. I was expecting a flashback to the ending of the second film but no, it was straight in to pick up from where the second film ended and I'm glad that it was the case. I didn't feel that the film was to long, unlike the second. I was glad that there was only a casual few moments for the Stephen Fry character, I didn't really like that character. The battle scenes were good and it was a treat to hear the voice of Billy Connolly as Thorin's cousin. I felt it was a great film, up to the same standard as the first film and probably helps to redeem the series as whole to worthy of watchable repeat viewings, much like the Lord of the Rings films. The ending was lovely but I won't spoil it. The hand drawn illustrations of the characters as the credits rolled were excellent and I thought they were very good, I would like to know who the artist was. The music was, as ever, excellent and atmospheric too. I loved how when Bilbo handled his ring that the familiar lilt and theme from the Lord of the Rings played, with subtle differences. The CGI effects were very good too, believable and not over-used. A great return to form.

Dark Matter, Redshift Press

Last weekend, I went down to my local comic shop because the proprietor Mark was hosting a book signing for a friend who has published a comic book. It is an anthology of nine stories, illustrated by seven different artists. Each of the stories are relatively dark and have the claim that there are no happy endings. It's true. The stories are interesting and complete in their own right. There is no relationship between the different stories. I enjoyed the book and enjoyed seeing the different artworks. I spoke to the writer and a few of the artists. They were a really nice bunch of people.

Christmas feeling?

Every year I hear people complaining about the shops getting their Christmas stock on the shelves earlier and earlier. This year, I personally didn't notice that. Infact, for me anyway, the build up to Christmas feels very late. I went into the loft and retrieved all of the decorations and our two trees on the last weekend of November. Usually, my wife has bought chocolate coins or a Lego advent calendar that we can use to populate our two big wooden calendars. But this year, maybe a sign our kids are growing up, we didn't put the calendars out until the last half of the first week in December - very tardy. We put our Christmas tree up last weekend. It's nice having a tree up in the house, we haven't got the second tree up in the dining room yet though. It all points to the fact that we just don't feel like it's Christmas yet. Maybe the feeling will come when we break up from work on Friday? We have friends coming round to dinner, so I hope that is the moment when it all starts to feel real.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


It's eventually got me. I've survived for so long without a cold this year but now I've succumbed to one. The night before last I was sweating in bed really heavily. Last night wasn't too bad but I had to sit up slightly in bed to help with breathing. I really want just to return to my bed but unfortunately I have to work. At least I don't have to travel today. I suppose the other thing is that at least I have caught it now and it's before Christmas, so hopefully by the holidays I will be free of it.