Monthly Archives: August 2019

black notice

Kay Scarpetta Series #10 by Patricia Cornwell.

From Goodreads:

An intriguing Dr Kay Scarpetta novel which will take Kay an ocean’s breadth away from home. The case begins when a cargo ship arriving at Richmond, Virginia’s Deep Water Terminal from Belgium is discovered to be transporting a locked, sealed container holding the decomposed remains of a stowaway. The post mortem performed by the Chief Medical Examiner, Kay Scarpetta, initially reveals neither a cause of death nor an identification. But the victim’s personal effects and an odd tattoo take Scarpetta on a hunt for information that leads to Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, where she receives critical instructions: go to the Paris morgue to receive secret evidence and then return to Virginia to carry out a mission. It is a mission that could ruin her career. In a story which crosses international borders, BLACK NOTICE puts Dr Kay Scarpetta directly in harm’s way and places her and those she holds dear at mortal risk.

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I really like the character of Kay Scarpetta and many of the associated characters such as Lucy and Marino. I also really like the style of Patricia Cornwell’s writing.

The story this time is just OK. The plot behind it is solid but it skips around an awful lot and doesn’t really get deep into the potential of the new characters – police officer Bray or the new rookie Anderson in particular. I also found the handling of her relationship with Tally pretty bizarre.

Add that there is very little further development of the main characters and I can’t help but wonder what the point of this instalment is? I guess that’s to be expected after 10 books based on the same character.

My favourite thing about this series is that the main character is female and so is the author. I don’t read many female centric books so this is interesting for more than just the story.

If I gave half stars this would definitely be 3.5 but I don’t so I’ve given it the benefit of the doubt and gone for 4.

stormwarden

Stormwarden (The Cycle of Fire #1) by Janny Wurts.

From Goodreads

The first novel in the The Circle of Fire trilogy. As a new plot threatens mankind’s survival, three children stand at the crux. All possess extraordinary talents, but each of them is flawed. In need of all their help is the Stormwarden, last Vaere-trained sorcerer, condemned now and trapped in a desperate quandry.

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

This is the second book that I’ve read by Janny Wurts that she has written on her own. I’ve been determined to like her as an author as she co-authored one of my favourite all time series of books with Raymond E. FeistThe Empire Trilogy.

The previous book was To Ride Hell’s Chasm and although this is a very different story, the two of them are based around sorcery and a conflict between demons and humanity.

I’m not sure if it was me that found this book hard to get into or if it’s the style of her writing but I found it hard work. The characters of Taen, Emien and Jaric have all the potential of many classic fantasy characters as do supporting characters Tathagres and Telemark but bringing the elements together felt formulaic and forced. The whole mind training of Taen and the concept of the Vaere felt wrong. This blending of fantasy and science fiction has worked really well for other authors (Anne McCaffrey in particular) but not for me this time.

I think I’ll read at least one more book in the series as it has potential and it may just have been the wrong time for me to read this book.

post-work spin

Almost two weeks in the new job and finally got around to being organised enough to get out for a spin after work. There won’t be many evenings of daylight left now so I wanted to make the most of it while I still can, having wasted the whole Summer.

Everything was done according to plan: route decided and clothes sorted Thursday night, bike prepped and lubed, bottle filled and on the bike this morning and food prepared to eat while travelling home from work. All set for a quick turnaround when I got home.

Then the weather intervened. Massive rain showers shortly after 7 and it looked like the plans were off 😑 The rain radar was giving a glimmer of hope and despite concerns I managed to get away at 8pm with my rear mudguard fitted, a good bit behind schedule but on the road.

I decided to stick to the original planned route of 40km despite concerns about the failing light. But decent lights and a hi viz harness and gillet gave me confidence.

The first 12km follows the road from Liscooley to Raphoe. I’ve never cycled this before but now drive it every day to work. For a back road it has a decent surface and has a few little short, sharp climbs, especially as you approach Raphoe. This was the enjoyable part of the route.

Once into Raphoe I turned and headed on familiar roads to Convoy and Ballybofey taking in the 5km drag from Convoy to Kilross (Broadpath).

With the change in direction I also picked up the wind. It was blustery and reasonably strong but I figured I’d get the benefit heading towards home from Ballybofey. It definitely slowed me down on the Broadpath segment. My time this evening was almost 3.5min slower than my best time from 2016.

Returning home from Ballybofey I still seemed to have the wind against me which was frustrating as I felt I was also chasing the setting sun. Once I came over the top of Kilross and all the way back to Killygordon the road was significantly busier and the darkening evening made me nervous. I didn’t really enjoy this bit of the ride and it took a lot of the enjoyment from the evening. However, 40km I wouldn’t have done in the house and I’m happy I went out.

click the image to view the route on strava

super sunday

After a very busy and successful first week in my new job and twice having to withdraw plans midweek to cycle due to either tiredness, bad weather or both I was determined to get out cycling this morning.

My initial plan was to lie in until 8.30 and be on the road between 9 and 9.30. When I woke it was raining hard and with the forecast I decided to go back to bed and eventually got on the road for 10.

With the earlier rain I decided to go for my waterproof socks which then required my slightly roomier winter shoes. Probably too warm but at least I’d be dry.

dry feet all the way home

I’d decided on the 50km route and being optimistic I decided to head into Clady and tackle the climb up over The Glebe. This is a two stage climb that is 2.3km long, averages 4.3% and is classed as a Category 4 climb on the current Strava segment.

My record on this segment is 6:49 putting me in 31st position on the leaderboard. Today’s effort was 9:13 which would be equivalent to 115th. It sounds like a big difference but I’m happy I made it to the top today without stopping and in 2016 I was in much better condition. It’s also not my slowest time and not far off my average.

The current Strava segment shows it as one climb but it’s really two with a short flatter bit in between allowing for a slight recovery.

approaching the first climb
the second part ahead

The hard work of the climb is more than made up for by a nice, fast 3km descent to Victoria Bridge. This was much easier and I was only 11sec off my PB πŸ˜†

The rest of the run was into Strabane via Victoria Bridge and back home via Clady, Castlefinn and Killygordon.

the mourne river at victoria bridge

I wanted 50km so went up the road towards Ballybofey a few kilometres to get the distance. Met a couple of guys from the club that I hadn’t met before. One of them had a puncture and I was able to lend a hand by supplying a CO2 cannister and pump.

On the way back home I also had a chance to see the local annual Vintage rally setting up.

vintage tractors
vintage cars
vintage bikes and a 🚜 shaped bouncy castle πŸ˜†
click the image above to go to strava

In the afternoon the boys were at Robert Emmets Summer Camp and we went down for the BBQ and the round up including photos with two of the Donegal team and the Anglo-Celt Cup.

summer camp group photo

Afterwards we called to visit Mum and Dad who were away last week. As they’re in the middle of renovations and staying with Mum and Dad we also saw Rachel and her family.

Home for dinner, bike cleaned and oiled and a relaxing evening at home. Fully recharged for another week at work.

every day is a school day

Some things we learned from our trip to London:

  • London is noisy. There’s a constant background hum, even at night. It was Owen that first mentioned it but it was only when we got home that I realised how much.
  • When you ask people for advice (Simon and the Oyster Card! ) then you should pay heed and follow that advice
  • Following on from the above, if you need to clarify your previously received advice ask someone for help.
  • The Underground is a really good way to get around and there are specific apps to help you plan journeys as well as the overland trains. However, don’t forget about Google Maps. It covers trains and buses as well as pedestrian journeys.
  • The Oyster Card is the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to pay for the Underground.
  • There are very few convenience type shops in the centre of London. Bring snacks and drinks with you as they are expensive in the attractions. Boots is an alternative as the bigger ones do sandwich meal deals.
  • Kids (ie. our boys) get hungry and very hungry way before adults do.
  • Book attractions online in advance of your trip and look for multi buy options as the more you book the more value you get.
  • Allow time for queues. All 3 attractions we did had a 30min queue to get in.
  • Saturday mornings are mega busy at attractions and best avoided.
  • There are lots of very helpful people to assist you at the Underground (Blue Hi-Viz vests) and along the streets, mainly at attractions (Pink T-shirts and/or Hi-Viz vests).
  • Despite the rumours not everyone will step over you if you were dying. There are many lovely people that will help a stranger.
  • There are quite a few homeless people around but they tend to keep themselves to themselves except when begging on the Underground – or throwing beer at me πŸ™ˆ
  • It’s worth getting off the Underground and wandering around by foot. However, the distances do mount up quite easily as the main sights are quite spread out – London is BIG.
  • London is expensive to get around but food and drink are reasonably good value if you take time to look around.
  • It’s a great place to visit – plan ahead and get the most from your trip.

I feel like Baz Lurhmann after writing that!

f.n.g.

Today was my first day in my new job (yesterday was a Bank Holiday and we were closed). I am now the Sales Manager for Hegarty’s Home Interiors in Buncrana.

After 6.5 years in one job it was a bit of a culture shock going from being the guy that knows the business inside out and that others call when they need help to being the guy that knows basically f**k all and tortures everyone with questions!

However, they are a very friendly team, expectations are reasonable for retraining and I made two very good sales today ending as one of the top sales people.

The store was really busy today. According to the guys it was busier than normal (probably because we were closed yesterday) but this busyness is a really nice change from Dreams where the hardest thing was filling the quiet times.

I have a feeling I’m going to be very happy in my new job.

two for two

This week I’m feeling a renewed motivation to ride my bike again. I’m not sure what it is but I think it’s a combination of changing jobs, the warm glow of our week away, an increased feeling of fitness from walking so much each day we were away and an increased optimism for the future.

I was on the road bike yesterday and this morning I went out for 2 hours on the MTB.

Slightly over 32km taking in most of the trails I know around home. Off the forest tracks it was slippy and slidey following the thunderstorms last night testing my bike handling skills.

great to see kids still building these

there definitely is a trail beyond that gate

it wasn’t as grey as that sky suggests

I got soaked about 15min from home just as I went into Corradoey but it couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Further plans for this week too 😊

sunday stretch

Driving back from Dublin last night my tired brain decided that it would be feasible to get home about 1am and get back up at 8am to do the local charity cycle with the club. Needless to say this didn’t happen!

I did decide though that my legs needed a good stretch having spent 5 days pounding the concrete pavements of London so I reassembled my sparkling clean* road bike and headed out.

sunny blue Donegal skies

I chose one of my easier ~1hr/25km routes around the Finn Valley. It was warm and sunny and very humid. There was a strong breeze from the South which should have meant a sidewind rather than a headwind but I misunderstood the direction and ended up with quite a strong headwind all the way back from Ballybofey.

click here to view on Garmin Connect

I was trying for a nice easy spin but lack of fitness and the wind left me with a much higher average heart rate than planned.

My latest cycling has been on the MTB so it was a nice change to be out on the road for the first time since 25th June!

*sparkly clean after a deep clean and a new chain last week before heading to London.

all good things come to an end

When we booked our flights we chose a later flight for Saturday to allow us to have an extra day to explore. However, we didn’t have a plan for how to spend this last day.

On our last trip to England (August 2014) we made a day trip from Catriona’s brother’s in Bracknell to London mainly to visit the Natural History Museum. The boys enjoyed it and as Conor couldn’t remember it much (he was 6 then) he asked to go back today.

Today was not a good day to visit the museum! We should have realised that a Saturday in the middle of the school holidays would be busy but it was jammed! The galleries were packed, really uncomfortably so, very warm and stuffy, incredibly noisy and generally an unpleasant place to be.

We had a look around at a few things but after an hour decide to give up. Thankfully we had such a good week that this experience didn’t spoil our trip as we were already taking home some great memories.

dippy has been replaced by hope

I was really disappointed by the dinosaur display. It was fantastic in 2014 but much reduced now. Too many display boards and many fewer dinosaur displays.

One full gallery was given over to this huge Moon sculpture. It was impressive but I couldn’t help wondering if the room could have been put to a more interesting use? On the plus side it was air conditioned βœ…

was there a moon version of atlas?

We consoled ourselves with a trip to McDonald’s for lunch using the vouchers we saved from yesterday before catching the tube and overland trains to London Luton Airport and our flight home.

We were a few hours early so we had time to relax in the bar and listen to the Highland Radio commentary of Donegal unfortunately getting beaten by Mayo 😭

relaxing at the airport bar

last photo in england

After the dodgy start to our trip it was a relief to take off on time, arrive 10min early, get away efficiently from the hotel parking and get back home to our comfortable beds before 1am.

A great trip with great memories. Very different to our trip to Majorca last year but one we will all remember.

banged up abroad

Friday was definitely our best day in London. Our 3rd pre-booked activity was London Dungeons. This is totally in darkness and photography was forbidden so I’ve no photos to show. It’s a mixture of live actors, props, noises, spooky music and two rides covering the dungeons in Henry VIII’s time, the torturer, Guy Fawkes, Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett, The Black Plague, The Great Fire, a mock court and jailhouse and a ride to simulate a hanging. Really well done and scared the bejeebus out of Conor. Definitely wouldn’t advise it for u10s but we all had a ball, even Conor!

Afterwards it was food time. We had vouchers for McDonald’s so headed for the nearest one in Leicester Square. As we got nearer we spotted a Pizza Hut. It’s our favourite place to eat and very rare we get an opportunity to visit one so we ditched McD’s for the “all you can eat” buffet.

Outside we took in the atmosphere of Leicester Square which has to be the coolest place in London. I could have sat there all day listening to the music and watching the world go by.

leicester square

Next stop was Catriona’s choice – Harrods. We decided to walk this time and really glad we did as the route took us by the M&M store, The Apollo Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, The Wellington Monument, Hyde Park Corner and Kensington with all it’s very fancy car dealerships and stores.

this place was mental

entrance to chinatown

even the side streets are decorated and colourful

apollo theatre

eros

picadilly screens

wellington monument

hyde park corner

Harrods was crazy, even more than the M&M store but for very different reasons! It was equally as busy but only about half of the people there were spending any money, probably about 10% spending serious money. The wealth on display from this 10% and the disregard for cost was eye opening.

even the escalator area was extravagant

While Catriona and the boys looked around the sweet hall for something small to take home I went looking for the beds department just to see what the other half buy. It was amazing although I was seriously unimpressed by the sales guy I could overhear showing a customer around. If he works on commission it didn’t show! I considered leaving my CV πŸ˜†

that’s correct, a kingsize mattress costs almost Β£17k and the display is over Β£31k!

After Harrods it was back on the tube and back to the apartment. All the way home I couldn’t help but wonder what all those mega wealthy people were doing right now.