We headed off to

Sky candy
Kites waiting to fly

We headed off to the Dunstable Kite Festival today, on probably the hottest day of the year so far and had a really good afternoon out. Lots of people were around and about, and there were lots of different kites on display. Take a look at our photos.

We went for wander

We went for a wander down Tottenham Court Road yesterday to look for new gadgets to replace my stolen ones. We didn’t buy anything, and to be honest I was a bit dissappointed with what was on offer.

After the trouble I had in the first place choosing which mp3 player to buy (read the blog) I’ve decided to try and find a good, small, digital radio. Whilst this may sound like an odd choice, my reasoning is that in around a months time I wont be spending as much of my travelling time underground (assuming the move to Brighton goes ahead) and so will get radio reception for the majority of the time. I was looking at the RDS models (so that I wouldn’t need to re-tune on my journey) but they are quite large, so I’ll probably go for a small, standard digital radio insead with a good supply of pre-sets.

We also took a look at new PDAs, and they are really uninspiring. All of the Palm OS ones are still the same old thing, nothing much seems to change from one release to the next. The Visor Edge is a nice looking machine, and I also had a play with a Sony Clie – I’ll be interested in looking at the colour one when it is released over here – but other than that, nothing of interest.

Probably the most inspiring things we saw were some prototype Japanese phones that a shop was using to get opinions. They were really small, light and yet had a large screen diplay. Oh and they were colour. They should be on sale over here in about a years time.

had my bag stolen

I had my bag stolen from the Hogshead pub in Cowcross street, near Farringdon station in London yesterday. It’s a really nasty experience and I lost everything, cash, cards, tube pass, keys, phone, visor, mp3 player, headphones, eyemodule. The most annoying thing is that the pub has CCTV, and it has a camera which was pointing directly at where I was, but they don’t bother to put tapes in and record the pictures. They just had the picture of the bar visible so they could see how busy they were. The police weren’t very impressed when they found that out. They recommend not bothering to drink there again, as there are many other pubs to choose from.

So, I guess in the short term I’ll be fishing the old PalmPilot Professional out of the loft again to make my journeys to work less boring, at least with an electronic gadget I can catch up on the news, read emails etc. I’ve got a bit used to the 8MB of storage I get on the visor so shrinking back to 1MB might be a bit tricky. But, I guess I’m in the market for a new PDA, not sure which to go for so I’m planning to do some research and find out which are the best to be had now.

Parakarting/Kite buggying

Jane, Jono and a Buggy
How it's supposed to be done

We’d been toying with the idea of trying out kite buggying for a while, and wondered if we could find a course anywhere in the UK. After a bit of internet research I found Paraventure an “air powered activity” company based in Wales. I found out a bit more about it, and then we booked ourselves and Jono onto the one day Parakarting course.

The course was held in the Pembrey Country Park which has one of the longest and cleanest beaches in Britain (it reminded Jono of New Zealand), and our instructions were to meet Steve and Nick (our instructors) near the cafe at 10.30am on Sunday. There were 5 of us in our group, and we drove in convoy to Car Park 2, the car park with the best beach access. Our first task was to find a helmet to fit, and then to choose, and help adjust the buggies themselves. Once we all had a buggy which was sized about right, we packed our stuff onto our buggies and headed off along the beach to gate B (the start of the buggy zone). We set up a base camp, and Steve started to tell us all about power kiting. The first kite he unpacked had tangled cables (apparently Nick’s fault for not packing it away properly) and so we unpacked a second one and all had a go launching it and bringing it back down again before Steve kitted us all out with our own kites. I started off with a 1.9 metre sq Advance Janus, as Steve wasn’t sure how strong I’d be, Rich got a 3.1 metre sq kite, and Jono got an Advance Tethis. We all played with out kites for a while, and were given harnesses to ease our arms a bit, and then after more instruction Steve swapped me onto a 3.1 metre sq Advance Janus. I got on okay with this, and got a bit more pull out of it (which was great fun).

I had a bit of familiarisation time with this new kite, and then Jono, Richard and I got instruction from Nick on how to ride a buggy. We listened, and then tried one at a time with Nick keeping a careful eye on us.

We all thoroughly enjoyed it, and had great fun. Richard and I both got pulled out of our buggies a few times – I fell out mostly when I suddenly realised I was going a lot faster than I really wanted to be, and panicked… We all took a break, a chance to rest our arms, and Richard and I swapped kites. I didn’t get on very well with that kite, it wasn’t as forgiving as the Janus, and was a bit of a handful for me. I tried to buggy with it, but it has a much smaller window for flying, and so every time I tried to turn a corner I either came to a halt or fell out. Not the kite for me. Richard on the other hand, seemed to adjust well to the Janus and so it’s a possibility that a 3.1 metre sq Janus might be finding it’s way into our posession (I notice that the only UK retailers are Paraventure themselves).

Fortunately for me, Richard came back in with the Janus, and so I got to have another play in the buggy (I was feeling a bit fed up with myself – I’m not good at failing at something when I’d done alright not that long before). I did alright this time, and had some quite good runs up and down the beach and even controlled my speed a bit better before deciding that my arms really hurt and I needed to stop. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring the kite down this time as my arms were just too sore and so Richard came to my rescue.

We all packed our stuff up, and headed back to the car park dragging our buggies behind us, discussing what a fantastic day we’d had. And it’s true, it really was great, but today, oh boy do my muscles hurt. Oh, and my face… I have had to endure people staring at my lobster red face, with very well defined sunglasses marks on it (this wasn’t sunburn, this was windburn…). Don’t forget to check out the photos.

If you want to learn to power kite or parakart, then check out Paraventure as they were really helpful and knowledgable and were worth the £65 that the course cost us.

Me Jono and Jane

Me, Jono and Jane needed to be near Pembrey on Sunday (Jane will tell you why). The few places we tried were busy, and we ended up spending Saturday night at Hotel Miramar in Llanelli. I just want to say that this area of Wales needs much more competition in the hotel market.

1. The only accommodation they could offer was an apartment: “Adjacent to the Hotel Miramar we have three apartments decorated and furnished to a high standard with all facilities”. These may have been high standards circa 1972, they may have been acceptable as student accommodation, but in truth it was depressing. I can’t even say “it had character”. I think it was all the stains that did it for me. It’s sort of sad, but I would have much rather stayed at a motorway motel or similar. It would have been about the same price: £75 for the three of us.

2. On the plus side, the staff were helpful. The bathroom was on it’s way towards small pool before they fixed the leak, and we were in danger of freezing before the heating was fixed (yeah, it’s July, but it was cold). But they fixed them. That’s good. Or am I lowering my standards?

3. Breakfast wasn’t bad. But who’s idea was it to put cheap instant coffee in a coffee pot? It’s not clever, it’s not fancy, it doesn’t taste good. Note to self: always go for tea; it’s hard to get tea really wrong. One strange thing we saw during breakfast: someone, probably hotel staff, went into the apartments through the backdoor — leaving the door open — and out through the front door, leaving that unlocked. Nothing bad happened, but it’s just disconcerting to watch.

4. “The Hotel Miramar is adjacent to Llanelli Railway Station.” Yeah, this is the big mistake. Anything around a station is not going to be good. We drove around a bit, and we hope we missed the best parts of Llanelli, because if we didn’t it’s a depressing place. We didn’t feel like going out at all, other than to the off license which was literally next door.

A positive note: we had dinner at the Pemberton Arms in Burry Town and that was good pub food with a happy young bloke serving us. We tried to eat at the Poacher’s Rest in Ferryside, but they didn’t really want to feed us, and the manager greeted us with a knife in his hand.

In summary, avoid the area, or pay lots in a plush hotel.

We saw Jurassic Park

We saw Jurassic Park III on Friday. Yeah, the dinosaurs look a bit better, but don’t bother. No story, or what story there is you’ve seen before. Bah.

By chance we were very bored on Saturday (more about that later) and caught the original Jurassic Park on TV and the contrast was striking: that film is just so much better than JP3.

This tickled me yesterday

This tickled me: yesterday I had to pop to the shops, and on the high street there were a few volunteers from some animal welfare group rattling collection tins, looking for donations. I walked past one who asked if I’d spare some time to help with animal welfare, and at that precise moment a dog let out an almighty yelp as a woman in a wheelchair ran over it’s paw. The guy with the tin didn’t even go and look at the dog. Pah.

Well after having been

Well, after having been back from our trip to New Zealand for 6 months, we finally got around to capturing the video we took onto the PC. This means that as well as having 10 Gigabytes of avi files to edit, we’ve also got some new photos to add to this site. So, we’ve now got a re-designed New Zealand section on this site, complete with loads of photos.

Newbury Kite Festival

Musical thingy

Yesterday we went up a near-by hill in search of a breeze to fly our new kite. We didn’t find a strong enough wind, but we did find good views of the London Eye and the Millennium Dome.

We decided to head off and find the Newbury Kite Festival at
Thatcham, figuring these guys would probably have picked a location for a festival where there’s likely to be a good wind. Actually, the wind wasn’t that great for us beginners, but we did get our kite off the ground.

The first picture, above, shows some formation flying. We saw quite a bit of this… all set to music, of course.

The second picture is of one of the music structures placed around the festival. It’s a statue with strings, and the strings sound as the wind passed through them. Cool.

We also saw huge parafoil kite (tied down to a car), stacks, kite buggies, kites fighting, and … that’s all I can remember.