Monthly Archives: July 2019

eye of the beholder

Day 2 London was based around a trip (or flight) on the Coca Cola London Eye. We had it booked in advance via a 3 attraction deal.

Our “departure time” was 1130am so we decided to get the earliest off-peak train in to London from Grays and walk from Tower Hill to Westminster. We had pretty much decided that we could use the Underground pretty minimally and do most of our exploring by foot.

The walk from Tower Hill took us across to the South Bank and passed a number of unexpected sites including the monument to the Great Fire of London, the Shard (close by) and The Globe Theatre.

the very classical style monument sitting smack bang in a very modern cityscape

the shard was visible from many locations along the walk and from the eye itself

the globe theatre

The South Bank was a really unexpected surprise as we hadn’t really thought about the journey but seeing places like the Globe and the Tate Gallery made it a lot more interesting. The whole area between the Globe and Westminster is a real mix of food stalls, music and entertainers. A great place to visit that we pretty much stumbled on accidentally!

Catriona and myself had been on the Eye previously (2014) but this was a brand new experience for the boys. Despite the overcast clouds we had great views of the centre of London and further afield.

the eye from below

not the first or last time we’ve felt like doing this!

looking down river halfway up

towards st james’s park and buckingham palace

proper family pose

going over the top

up river from the very top – loved this particular view

big ben covered up for repairs and houses of parliament

After lunch in a nearby Subway we headed off on foot again, across the bridge to Westminster proper, along Horse Guards Road to The Mall before heading for Buckingham Palace (unfortunately no Garden Party for us today).

very tame squirrel at the edge of st james’s park

top of the mall. victoria memorial and palace

without the culchies!

barbarians at the gates

he must have been melting in the heat

victoria memorial

As the Queen wasn’t in to greet us we decided to try Boris instead and headed for Downing Street via Trafalgar Square

trafalgar square

nelson’s column

boris was out – off having dinner with the DUP apparently!

At this stage the rain was coming on and our plan to walk everywhere was starting to show some holes* so we decided to retreat gracefully and return to Tower Hill via the Underground and head back to the apartment a little earlier than planned but with a fully packed day behind us.

*my Garmin showed a daily total of 20,005 steps that evening, equivalent to 16.7km of walking. Too much for any of us in the heat, never mind the boys.

london calling

Day 1 of our trip to London with the boys. Everything started very well with everyone up on time and away at 5.30am. Good run to Dublin and at the Carlton Hotel (where we parked) for 8am and at the airport for 9am.Bags checked and passed for free on board and the quickest, simplest trip through airport security ever meant we had loads of time to have food and browse the shops.

fine cooked breakfast to get us on our way

At the gate our flight was delayed but only by 30mins so no big deal but once we boarded we were given the news that we were looking at a further hour before departure due to thunder storms over London and a closure of the flight space. By the time we landed we were 2hrs later than scheduled but undeterred.

Playing around with rail apps resulted in cheaper fares but also frustration caused by bad design and repeated requests for the same information but we were soon in central London, on the Tube and out to Fenchurch where we got the final train to Grays and our Air BnB.

Outside Fenchurch I managed to upset a drunk* who threw beer at me meaning I was stinking of cheap beer by the time we met our host. Thankfully not much and the rain between the station and apartment washed most of it out!

*she was ranting and raving about something but all I can think of is that she heard our Irish accents and didn’t like it?

Our host was lovely and the apartment is fab. The area is a bit on the rough side but we won’t be out much. Our main excursion this evening was for Burger King and Morrisons for groceries.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing in the apartment and tomorrow the fun begins properly starting with a trip on the London Eye.

Hopefully all our mishaps and interesting characters are out of the way for the week 😊

the dream is over

Today was my last day working in Dreams after 6.5 years and almost 6 years to the day* as Branch Manager in Omagh. While I’ve been thinking of this move for approximately 1 year and actively seeking another job since January it was still bittersweet leaving today.

Robin and Damien surprised me yesterday evening**. Robin disappeared just before we closed up and reappeared with Damien and 3 beers from the bar across the street. We enjoyed a pint in the store to mark my leaving and it was a cracker leaving present.

To top it all off we had one of the best sales week and weekend for a number of months smashing me through my monthly targets and ensuring a good final pay cheque next month.

We’re heading away for a few days this week and as I don’t start my new job until next week it means I’m officially “between jobs”.

*31st July 2013 was my first day in Omagh

**I have a feeling they thought I wouldn’t come in today! πŸ˜†

back where she belongs β€οΈ

She’s home again! The vet rang this morning with a positive report and to say we could collect her today.

A few medications to take and she’s in the cone of shame (which she hates!) but we’re delighted to have her home.

She has to go back in one week for a check up but she’s in great form this evening.

something is missing

Rosie has been ill since Wednesday evening. She was very subdued going to bed that night, lethargic and very shuffly. Yesterday morning she was in very poor shape, having difficulty walking, not eating or drinking and unable to stand for long. I was convinced she was dying. I went to work in terrible form, convinced she wasn’t going to make it through the day. I was that convinced I didn’t want to take her to the vet, that she would simply be put to sleep. She was showing no signs of pain or distress so I wanted her made comfortable and be allowed to die at home. I was convinced she had either cancer or heart failure and that nothing could be done.

All through the day she was no worse nor better and yesterday evening she was showing some small signs of improvement. This morning she was still with us but showing signs of a discharge from her rear end. I contacted the vet who thought it sounded like a womb infection. This was confirmed by scan and after antibiotics and fluids she had emergency neuter surgery this afternoon.

She’s still not out of the woods, she has a lot of toxins in her system and she may yet succumb to shock from the surgery as she’s no longer a young dog. However, the vet was reasonably positive this evening and will decide in the morning if she is well enough to come home or if she needs further observation over the weekend.

Here the house feels very empty. She’s a big part of our family and constantly with us about the house. Tonight she’s missing and it’s painfully noticeable. Hopefully she has a good night and strong enough to come home tomorrow and we will be a full family again 🀞

tick tock…

My last week in Dreams before I head for pastures new on the 5th of August and it’s getting more and more difficult to stay motivated and focused. Whoever decided it was a good idea for me to work my full notice was way off the mark!

With the nonsense that British politics has degenerated too and the “Hard Brexit” rhetoric of the incoming Boris as PM it’s looking more and more sensible for me to be working back in the Republic again. The battering that sterling has taken this last fortnight and what will come over the next few months isn’t worth the stress and worry.

Second day of the week for me. Tomorrow, off Friday and then just Saturday and Sunday to get through.

new member of the family

In the recent Amazon Prime sale we decided to buy one of these:

An Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) with Alexa built in. Currently priced at Β£89.99 we managed to get it for Β£54.99. I don’t think the full price is worth it but even at the previous sale price of Β£59.99 it definitely is.

So far I’m very impressed. We have been looking to replace a very large CD/Radio in the kitchen for a while now but wanted Bluetooth connectivity and FM radio. The Echo connects to any radio station via their Internet stream and also connects to any Bluetooth enabled device and a choice of music streaming services via inbuilt Amazon Music Unlimited or Spotify (haven’t tested this out yet). Amazon Music Unlimited setup required the intervention of Customer Service to overcome a payment setup issue but once sorted it is working well.

As a Bluetooth speaker it’s also great, giving much better sound and more power than expected from a speaker of this size. If the streaming services work out as expected though I have a feeling I won’t use the phone connection as much as I expected to.

Alexa is also fun. We’ve had a play with it and I think we probably will use it as an alternative to “OK Google” but as we’re not yet a connected home her usefulness will be limited. The voice activation and control of the system is very useful and quite impressive though.

Overall, very pleased and surprisingly so. I’d give it 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 to date.

fever of the bone

Carol Jordan and Tony Hill #6 by Val McDermid.

From Goodreads:

Meet Tony Hill’s most twisted adversary – a killer with a shopping list of victims, a killer unmoved by youth and innocence, a killer driven by the most perverted desires …

When teenager Jennifer Maidment’s murdered and mutilated body is discovered, it is clear that there is a dangerous psychopath on the loose. But it’s not long before Tony and DCI Carol Jordan realise it’s just the start of a brutal and ruthless campaign targeting an apparently unconnected group of young people. Their chameleon-like killer is chatting with them online, pretending to share their interests and beliefs – and then luring them to their deaths.

But just when Tony should be at the heart of the hunt, he’s pushed to the margins by Carol’s cost-cutting boss and replaced by a dangerously inexperienced profiler. Struggling with the newly awakened ghosts of his own past and desperate for distraction in his work, Tony battles to find the answers that will give him personal and professional satisfaction in his most nerve-shattering investigation yet.

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Really enjoyed this. Previous books have focused heavily on Carol, her private and professional struggles and her relationship with Tony. This book is written much more from Tony’s point of view, taking his character in a different direction and hopefully setting up the next book to be a really different relationship for the two of them.

I also really enjoyed the development of the other characters, especially the other members of Carol’s MIT. Paula in particular got a nice focus throughout this book and I think Ambrose will feature in the rest of the series.

On top of all that it’s a cracking bad guy story with a bit of a twist from the norm.

the pagan lord

Saxon Stories #7 by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

Loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

I enjoy Uthred and I enjoy the style of the author’s writing but this book didn’t seem to add anything to the story. It was focused solely around Uthred and his band and didn’t build anything on his relationship with Edward or any other significant character. It felt very much like a filler, killing off some other characters and moving forward some of the historical background. A good read but not great. Hopefully #8 will make use of this and take the story on a new direction.

mountain bike

Determined not to waste the good weather I decided to head out on the mountain bike this afternoon. Almost put off by a flat rear tyre when I went to check on the bike but had it changed within 10mins and didn’t let it stop me.

Headed down the road and across into Monellan woods. It’s our local Coillte planted forest and although it doesn’t cover a big area it has a good mix of forest tracks and off trail paths* that give a feel of more difficult and challenging biking. There’s a decent amount of rough areas with humps and hollows, roots and rocks and some small piles of logs** for hopping over.

*the paths are a mixture of tracks created by locals walking and horse riding in through the trees over the years.

**I think these are small jumps for people training horses.

I spent about half an hour in here before heading back to the road and climbing up Gleneely. This hill hits 12% on one section and 10% on three others so it’s a sure way to get the heart rate up!

The point of the hill was to get up to Corradooey, a small wood I only discovered a couple of weeks ago. It’s only a 2km loop but more than worth it with one section pretty much completely overgrown. It’s dry now but will be a real challenge in the wet Winter. This wood seems quiet and mostly un-used by locals. I saw a rare red squirrel here last time and a deer today.

Final bit was a fast downhill most of the way home.

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