Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Salute to Chocolate

Terry’s, Cadbury, Suchard, Lindt and Rowntree
Devout disciples of the mysterious chocolate god
Expensive? Yes – all the best in life is never free
Chocolate: heavenly luxury from a really ugly pod

Even Hershey from that far off, once colonial shore

Tastes, to me, like a thousand things in one
Sweet, smooth, meltingly soft, all at once, never a bore
A thousand times better than a cup of tea with scone

Fry’s, Mars, another two. How many know the secret?
Do they alone know the black art of the chocolatier?
Are there others yet untasted? Let me in, don’t keep it
I’m going to get some now. I love chocolate, I’m sure its clear

Sunday, 2 October 2011

My Tropical Toilet

A pink phalaenopsis hybrid
Much as I love English country gardens and the range of plants that can be grown in Britain I miss tropical gardens. I had a garden on the roof of my house in Bangkok, and grew a huge variety of orchids, palms and other tropical flowering shrubs and foliage plants.

Of all the plants I grew orchids were my favourites, and I had a fairly big collection. These were given to my father-in-law when I left Thailand. They now decorate his garden in Kanchanaburi in Western Thailand. I am going to Thailand for three weeks in December so will visit his garden then. Meanwhile here in the UK I have taken steps to add a touch of tropicality to our house here.

I have purchased or been given about twelve varieties of orchid, mostly phalaenopsis hybrids. After a little experimentation I have found that the bathroom is the best place for them. Most have re-flowered or continued to bloom since acquisition.

I will feature one variety of orchid at a time as they come into peak flowering condition. Meanwhile, here is one bathroom windowsill of phalaenopsis hybrids and a close up shot of one of the pink flowers.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Modern Youth Hostel

The family are just returned from a wonderful weekend in Wales. We had intended to ascend Mount Snowdon, but we were thwarted by the weather. We eventually only got to just below the summit ridge. Every cloud has a silver lining though and we received a full refund of our train fare.

Our accommodation was the converted coaching inn at Bryn Gwynant. It is set in 40 or so  acres of woodland and informal gardens with stunning views out over Llyn Gwynant.

The last time I stayed in a youth hostel was probably in 1998 or 1999. Things have changed
for the better in the intervening years. It was much more like a hotel than the austere, rather boarding school - like, hostels that I remember.

We had a family room that would have slept 5 people comfortably and en-suite bathroom. Gone is the cook-it-yourself breakfast complete with individually labelled milk and cheese in a communal fridge. For a very reasonable charge you can have a buffet breakfast and a chef cooked plate of full English, or in this case Welsh, breakfast.

The view from the dining room was wonderful, I don't know of any Travelodges or Premier Inns with a dining room panoramic view to come close.

We have decided to return to Bryn Gwynant and explore North Wales in more detail.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The UK's prettiest power station?

The UK's prettiest power station? 
I would never equate pretty with power stations. To be reminded of their ugliness I need drive only a few miles south to see Drax coal-fired power station in South Yorkshire; a truly monstrous blot on the landscape. Necessary!, I hear you shout. Yes, of course, but let's have more of the type I saw in Wales this weekend.

Nestling on the valley floor under the shadow of Gallt y Wenallt, at 619m a foothill of its loftier neighbour Snowdon (1058m), is this delightful looking, slate built power station.

Hydro electricity has always struck me as eminently clean and suited to this country. Here, in Wales, we can see that it does not have to be intrusive at all. Surely not many people would object to something like this in their own back yard? I don't know how many of these would be needed to replace the power currently generated by Drax, but the price is worthwhile in my opinion.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Wales this weekend

Off to Wales this weekend. I intend to ascend Snowdon on Saturday; 5 am start from York. On Sunday we'll spend a pleasant time walking in the valley near our accommodation. That accommodation is an old coaching inn converted to a youth hostel; first time I've stayed in a youth hostel since the mid-nineties. Pics and a review of the youth hostel coming soon.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Latest rant - standard of English again I'm afraid.

While living in Bangkok this sort of letter was very popular with the ex-pat community. It seems I've now turned into Victor Meldrum in England too. Below is a letter published in the 'The Press' , York's answer to the Bangkok Post.

Further to the letter from Mrs A Chelton of Wednesday 6th April I write to further bemoan the falling standards of English in the UK.

I worked for 12 years or so in South East Asia, returning to England about two years ago. I have been wondering where the ability to use reported speech has gone in the intervening years. When I left people used: said, replied, asked, commented, etc. On my return It seems the whole country uses a single, all-purpose word – like. I overheard on the bus to town last week the following by way of illustration.

“I seen her do it and I'm like “Get out of here” and she's like “I know, it's good int it?”

When I left, the acceptable way to order a drink was: Can I have … ? We now appear to be extras from Friends and ask: Can I get … ?

It's not a dictionary I need, more a phrasebook. I don't know whether to blame teachers or television but I do know I don't like the new English my ears are assaulted with each day.

More to come, I have noticed several large potholes at the end of our street...

Monday, 28 February 2011

Books for Sale - New, but second-hand - why?

I live in York which is a two-university town blessed with a variety of enticing second-hand book shops. In the past I lived near Alnwick in Northumberland, the location of the largest second-hand book shop in the UK. I love books and find it difficult to let them go; some of my books have been in my possession since childhood. Others are newer acquisitions but are ‘antiquarian’ the oldest is a book of seafaring charts dated 1685. Yet others are what are termed ‘fine editions’; leather or parchment bound. Undoubtedly, the look, feel and smell of a book adds to its appeal. Therefore, although I have also begun to read Kindle editions and have an extensive audio book section on itunes, there is no substitute, in my opinion, for a well presented physical book.

Inevitably, over time books begin to gain a used ‘patina’. Further use leads to deterioration if paperback or perhaps if printed on acidic paper. This is to be avoided, in my view, for as long as possible. These aging signs are apparent in my favourite book, sadly now out of print. The book in question is entitled - ‘Somewhere down the crazy river: journeys in search of giant fish’ by Paul Boote and Jeremy Wade. My copy is now nearly 20 years old and beginning to look faded and dog-eared. I desperately want a better looking copy. I have approached one of the authors – he has a pristine hardback edition but wants more than 40 pounds for it.

With this in mind, I am at a loss to understand the growing number of publishers who are producing ‘ready aged’ books. You may have seen the sort of thing – brand new books that look like they have been to Kathmandu and back in a backpacker’s kit. I have avoided these books so far, maybe I'm missing out on good reads, but the fad seems pointless to me. Far better, surely, to have the volume age naturally in your possession, remembering each and every fold and coffee stain, not some purchased ‘street-cred’; like a pair of pre-ripped denims. I never bought a pair of them either!

Does anyone else feel this is a stupid fashion?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

My wife is now a web entrepreneur

My wife has beaten me to it and set up an e-commerce website. She is offering Thai lessons: face to face, on SKYPE or through moodle. She has been teaching fun, holiday Thai based courses for a little while, but felt she could widen the scope and tap some business needs. I offered lessons in basic survival Thai to the marketing manager of the English language school I work at, who is going to Thailand soon on business and she is the first customer since the website went live.
If youd like a peek here is the URL:

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Boring, but exactly what I want to say

Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog. My number of visits crashed through 10 thousand in early December which astounded me, thanks to everyone who clicked on through. This is the first post of 2011, I have made a resolution to post at least once a week during this year.
So what will I talk about this year?
Well, here are a few things which I'm into at the moment, polymer banknotes, rocks and minerals, hillwalking (Scotland and England), European mini-breaks, cold water fishkeeping, gardening. A not- exhaustive list but some of the things I'll be touching upon. Old favorites like cycling and food will of course feature.
Here's to a prosperous New Year and keep dropping by.