Tag Archives: alex

Usable Snow!

Finally some snow that is useable/usable (depending which way you face the Atlantic) … Thick enough & icy enough for a sled, and at a weekend so that I can go out with the family & enjoy said snow!

A cracking time was had – and don’t be fooled by the movie… That hill was way faster than it looks…

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Alex’s 5th Birthday Bash

There will be a few blog posts appearing over the next few weeks that are out of date order. This is because Sky Broadband failed totally, and right during a time where there were a few car shows to blog about…. so I’m going to have to catch up.

Meanwhile, and now we have Virgin Broadband (Sky can kiss my router) I am able to blog again (yup, sorry!).

What better way to start than with Alex’s 5th birthday bash bowling party.

Alex's salute - Taught by Granddad

Chris made a car cake for the 3rd year running – not saying Alex likes cars or anything… but yeah…

It was great fun – Everyone really enjoyed themselves and the kids were really well-behaved. Shame the staff lacked the competence and politeness of the kids, but that’s neither hear nor there…

Anyway, here’s a two and a bit minute video of the party. If you watch it for anything, watch it for the “Happy Birthday” song…. It was loud enough to distort the speakers and feedback pure white noise…. You had to be there… although you probably heard it if you were within 25 miles of the place….

Photo effects via iPhone 4 – Instagram, Dynamic light & Tiltshiftgen.


Hens, Alex and Millie

Alex is looking after another school pet (toy) for the weekend. The kids have to keep a diary over the weekend that they have the pet. Last time it was Buster – We kind of set the bar a bit high that time .

This time we kept things a bit homelier with ‘puppy’ Millie. Alex wanted some pictures with our girls, so how could I not oblige him?

So… here’s Alex, Puppy (his toy), Millie (the school toy) and the hens… Mel, Ginger, Crispy, Terri 2, Chicken 11 and Turbo!

 


And then there were 6

Sadly, as mentioned previously, Terri passed away, so after some discussions we decided to get three new girls.

You see, you can’t just get one ex-battery rescue hen because it would get picked on. Getting two would leave us with five…. and that’s just not a round number of hens to have, especially as there would soon be two nesting quarters. That was it then… three new ladies were needed to make the number up to six.

Once that was decided, I took a look at the current run and nest box arrangement and figured out the best way to house and separate three new birds. They would need their own space to get used to the new freedom, but they would also need to be able to see the established girls to allow them to settle in.

I contacted Hen House World, the company I purchased the original hen house and additional parts from when we first got chickens. Back then I had asked for extra panels to extend the purchased run, and they were happy to oblige with advice and some ‘rejected’ panels – I just paid shipping costs. A little DIY skill was required, but I somehow managed…

I explained what I wanted to do this time, and chancing my luck I asked once more to see if they had any old or broken returned houses that may have been returned (they are always well packed, but couriers and the post office can always find a way to break even the best wrapped things).

They went through their returns with my wish list and sure enough they had some panel parts. For a very modest shipping fee the damaged parts were sent out to me. I knew what I needed and I knew I could utilise the parts for my design.

A few additional parts were found (old packing crates, some corrugated plastic and an old hinge) and I set to work on the extension.  The most awkward part was the low garden wall that separated the old run from the new extension – but a catwalk was added and that solved that.

Next up I put a chicken wire fence in the open air run to split it into two parts. I also put a mesh halfway down the enclosed run to keep the girls apart when they were put to bed. Everything seemed fine at this stage…

We put in our request for the next lot of freed ex-battery hens to the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) – (BHWT are also on Facebook) and waited for the pick up day.

Things mostly went smoothly and soon we were introducing three new girls into the pack (Yes, I know a collection of hens is not a pack, but you watch them working together and tell me that it isn’t a more apt group name for them….) .

 

A few squabbles broke out and blood was spilled as the six girls fought to fix their places in the new pecking order – and I even had to make the wire segregating fence into a double fence because they were attacking each other through the single fence!

Over the next few days things settled down, and now the fences are down, they are all getting on with each other , albeit with a few pecks here and there. The girls are all laying and very happy in their new home….

…but what of names? Well, Alex was given the pleasure and now, joining Crispy, Chicken 11 and Mel….. we can introduce the new girls… Turbo, Terri 2 and Ginger…

NOTES ON THE VIDEOS:

The new girls arrive at their new home. Free from the Hell of the battery farm, the British Hen Welfare Trust find caring homes for thousands of commercial laying hens destined for slaughter each year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_cage gives some idea about battery farming conditions.

Our first girls (2010) were quite timid and quiet to start with, but soon settled in and have become great pets – very friendly and lots of fun. Our little lad (5yrs old) loves them – and we have all become very attached to these daft creatures.

Our new girls are a little ‘spirited’ right now, but they are fighting for rank (this is where ‘pecking order’ comes from). The thing to do is let them sort it out – stand back but keep an eye on them.

Be prepared for a little first aid – Vaseline & Gentian Violet (Purple spray – hides the blood, which just makes the others want to fight more).

http://www.bhwt.org.uk/cms/re-home-some-hens/


Ali kicks in

I’m finding that my boxing and kickboxing (Southern Martial Arts) is really helping with my fitness. I have come to live with the fact that my cardio isn’t the greatest (lung issues), but my overall fitness is improving. The weight I lost is going back on, but my waist size is staying the same… so that suggests I’m getting some muscle back… or at least getting some muscle…

The kickboxing is really helping my flexibility, balance and co-ordination, and that’s good because that’s what I am in it for. I’ll say that right now, if you asked me, that I am not going to do any competitions. I don’t need to do things that could put my health at risk and cause me to have time off of work. Family comes first, and with that I must think about income security… and anyway, much though I enjoy it all, I’ve not got the stamina to compete (not yet, at least) – I’ll leave that to the guys at SMA that have those skills – and they DO have the skills.

Anyway, I like the training, but really need to practice in-between classes, and where shadow boxing/kickboxing is all well and good, there are times when you need to put out the full force and make contact with something…. so I purchased a kick/punch bag from BLITZ SPORTS via SMA .

I filled the bottom 18″ is filled with builders sand (in a couple of bin bags to avoid any potential leakage), and then the rest is off cuts of leather and fabric which was cut down into small swatches. The leather forms the core and the leg section, then the fabric is used to fill the sides of the bag because the leather isn’t soft enough to fill the contours around the bags curves. It is designed to allow for lower leg, body hits and upper cut work. Once filled it weighed in at 80kg.

Alex likes to know what I do, so he knows I shoot and box/kickbox. He also knows that shooting people and fighting people is bad (rogue dinosaurs and evil pumpkins are fair game though), and that there is a difference between sport and bullying (he’s a bright lad!). He wanted to help me fill the bag, so I hung it up and put his step next to it so he could reach the top to put leather in…. the thing is that help didn’t last long as he wanted to try it out whilst we were still filling it!

He really enjoyed giving the bag some punches and kicks – and I hope that he’ll become interested enough to take it up. A local gym (Maximus Gym) offers a class for 5 to 14 year olds, so maybe that’s an option. I’d like him to take it up so he learns self control, how to defend himself and also the co-ordination and flexibility it offers.

He’s a gentle lad, but can put his strength down if picked on or if he gets carried away – and due to his size I don’t want him seen as the aggressor, but because he is such a caring child I don’t want him to become a victim either. I’d like him to have the skills so that he doesn’t ever get picked on – but if he does, he can deal with it cleanly. Man… he’s only 4 and a half, but you have to think ahead.

Most importantly though…. he seems to enjoy it!


Goodwood Revival 2010

Yes! It’s that time of year again!

Ever since my father died I have made the Revival the event to remember him by (mainly due to the warbird air displays, but also due to the feel of the event – like a step back in time to ‘proper’ racing cars and drivers…).

Alex loves the Revival too – after all it has lots of cars & bikes to see – both static and racing, interesting sideshows and a vintage funfair.

This years photo’s from our visit: GOODWOOD 2010

We went on the Friday as his school had teacher training, and Friday is generally quieter due to people being at work/school. Less people means you can get closer to everything – even if the big races aren’t on. The cars still go on the track and give it everything they have to qualify, so the excitement of seeing multimillion pound historic rare racing cars being raced as they were designed to do is still fully there.

C-Type holds off the Ferrari

This year we met up with friends (Phil and Martin Stenning). After buying my tickets I was offered a pair of courtesy tickets from my mother in law (timing!), but as I knew Phil was about to depart on Irish adventures, I figured it would be a great thing to give him and his Dad the tickets for a day out and to catch up with the both of them – great chaps.

The weather was superb, the racing was great (plenty of spills and thrills), the air displays were low and tightly performed, the paddock areas had a great selection of the rarest racing cars around… and this all lead to a fantastic canvas with a most wonderful ‘automobilic’ soundtrack!

Besides the cars and general auto related experience, Alex had fun on the ferris wheel…. although Chris didn’t… Good job she had a brave 4 and a half year old to hang on to…

I love my little lad! From the top of a ferris wheel (he’d never been on one until today) he spots a tiny yellow spec in the distance… “Look Daddy! An old Fiat 500!”…. Shortly followed by him picking out a few Jaguars for me!

In the weeks leading up to the Revival I had been having a brief email conversation with Chris Barrie (yes… that Chris Barrie, but he is much more than a guy with a tinfoil H stuck to his forehead). I had seen him on a motoring show on TV – Fifth Gear – he was given the chance to drive an original Jaguar D-Type racer, and that triggered me into looking for his contact details to just say how much I enjoyed the footage (some people can drive an exotic car and just kill the pleasure – but I felt the thrills from this presentation).

Anyway, we got to email chatting about Jaguars and the great event that is Goodwood and Alex’s love of cars. Chris said he has a tuned XK120 he was hoping to take down to Goodwood, so I was looking forward to that.

As it happens he couldn’t take the XK120 as it was still undergoing work… and I found this out because as I walked around Goodwood I ended up bumping into him  (pointed out by Phil!). It was a bit of a bugger that it was in the motorcycle enclosure with the loudest damned Vincent racer warming up in the background, as it made it hard to have a conversation – but Chris was a thoroughly great guy and said to keep in touch (this may have been out of politeness – but even if it was just politeness, it shows him as a polite guy!).

Photo thanks to Phil

Before you ask, NO… I did not mention Massive Speed, Brittas Empire, Red Dwarf, Tomb Raider etc…. I’m sure he gets enough of that – I’ve always liked people into engineering/history and that’s what I was interested in (even though his TV/Film stuff is actually very good). He didn’t ask me about my work, so I wasn’t about to ask him about his!

Put it this way – Loads of people have “done” TV and movies…. but not many people (a handful) had driven the 1955 D-Type Le Mans winner…. the car driven by Mike Hawthorn. That’s what interested me – and the fact Chris really likes his cars.

It’d be a pleasure to meet up with him at some point to talk cars and engineering – and to see his XK120…. ahhh…. the 120…

If you read this Chris, it was a real honour to meet a man who has driven in Mike Hawthorns D-Type (you are the second person I have met who has done this – I met Norman Dewis last year… what a guy!) – and I hope you get the XK on the road again soon!

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Spider, man!

As you may well know, spiders have never been my strong point.

Only 2 years ago I’d torch the buggers with a hairspray can and lighter, rather than go near it.

A year ago I managed to catch one in a glass and let it loose outside… It got to a point where I could catch it and let it go AS LONG as it didn’t move during the process… if it moved, the pint glass was turned rapidly upside down and the spider became bigger, flatter….deader.

I had to overcome this fear though – or else little Alex would fear spiders too… and that wouldn’t be a fair thing for me to pass on.

A year ago at my last job I encountered a weird spider outside of my office window… I observed, contacted the Natural History Museum and found out it was a very rare sight for a human to see. It was some kind of woodland night time spider. Big thing – bit like a garden spider, but in a leather jacket with a skull on the back. In fact this thing did have a skull like pattern on the back!

Anyway, this rare spider had young un’s…. One got into the office. It was tiny only 1mm across… and each day I decided to pick it up to try and out grow my fear. It got bigger (only about 1cm across) before it vanished… but it was a start for me.

Then a few weeks ago a reasonable sized house spider caught me off guard in the bathroom. The only thing I could do was scoop it up by hand… EEEP!

That was it though – Once I held it I realised the fear was on the way out. It was just a spider! It was a bit like getting into a cold swimming pool! The initial touch was chilling… but within moments it was walking over my hand and I was not too freaked!

Then a few weeks later I caught a slightly bigger one in a glass… took it outside… then tipped the glass onto my hand and let it run around a bit. Once more gaining confidence!

Then tonight…. I heard thumping on the kitchen ceiling as this brute walked across it. Too big for even me! I took a pint glass and card and caught it… took it outside… and just figured I’d do it… no time to think….

I figure I’m pretty well on my way to beating the fear! This thing was huge and had weight to it!!!

I even managed to keep it entertained whilst I called Chris on my mobile…. She answered from safe in the house… I asked her to bring my camera out and leave it on the doorstep so I could get some pictures!

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More pictures HERE


Goodwood Breakfast Sub….

Yup… the Breakfast Club was more of a breakfast submarine due to the amount of rain it saw!
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I haven’t seen such a storm in 3 years – the rain came down so hard it started going back up again, but people still turned up to see the souped up cars on show.

DSCF9740From rear engined V8 mini pick up trucks to blown Japanese racers (ricers) and HUGE American metal, the cars spanned several genres of tuning and modifying – even down to a nice replica GT40 which little Alex towered above!
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One car stood out though… for pure garish and tastelessness!

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Alex thought this PT was Poo!

I quite liked the PT Cruiser when it first came out – BUT it was one of those Marmite cars – love or hate… and even then those who liked it could easily hate it in another colour. It took a lot to have it look “just right” – and when it looked right, I liked it!

This example missed the mark though! I only hope they were trying to be ironic or comedic, because it couldn’t look worse if someone had decorated it in sea shells and glitter! Mind you, one persons trash is another persons treasure – so best of luck to them… I hope they achieved what they were aiming for…

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One thing I noticed, and I don’t proclaim to know much about the scene, was the Germanic touch that some of the the America Hot Rod people had. Iron crosses featured subtly (and less subtly in places) on some of their vehicles, as did their love of heavy “Bovver Boots”, turned up jeans, bomber jackets and buzz cut hair styles.  I have a shaven head myself, so that in itself means nothing, but with the clothes and Germanic items, it all felt a bit, well…. Nick Griffin would have felt quite at ease.

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It’s just what I picked up – I could be totally wrong, but that was my first impression. Admittedly the guy with the Skull headed Iron Eagle on his truck and an Adolf Smiley Face T-Shirt didn’t do much to alleviate this first impression, but hey – Horses for courses, and they were all very pleasant.

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One more Breakfast Club this year – Decembers Christmas Breakfast Club – and already I’m looking forward to it!

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Scary Fruit time

I have never carved a pumpkin before …

My Dad taught me that if I was going to do anything, then I should always do my best.

So… when Alex asked me to carve a Mini pumpkin I figured I’d do the best I could… Lets face it, it’s just veg, knife, picture…

I figured you might like a guide on how I went at it – You never know, it might help you!

First I tried to hand draw something Mini-like…

My awesome artistic talent shines like a lump of coal…

IMG_0572Not great….

The idea was to draw a Mini then shade out the areas I’d eventually cut from the scary veg!

IMG_0571So… onto Google and find a good Mini front view…

IMG_0574Make screen size to suit pumpkin… then trace…

IMG_0575Shade main features… cut out… remembering not to cut all the way around or the Mini will fall out!

Now… scoop out pumpkin.

When cutting the top remember to cut it like a wedge, and not straight down, or the lid will fall in!

I then pinned the template to the veg and traced the shape onto the pumpkin using a pin… like a giant dot to dot.

DSCF9622Cutting the smaller parts first whilst the pumpkin is still pretty rigid reduced potential breakage.

For fine details I just cut away the skin, but didn’t remove the flesh from under it. (like the tyre treads)

I also cut the skin around the edge where the main car was attached.

The MINI name at the top also helped hold the main car cut out in place and add to the shape.

DSCF9628Once lit you can see that the treads show up well – even though I only shaved the skin off there!

DSCF9643The end result is a very happy little Alex!

(…and a quite chuffed Dad! – Not bad for a first effort!)


Maserati leads the Italian Parade

Another Sunday, and another Goodwood Breakfast Club. This time it was the role of Maserati to lead the way – with many other Italian marques showing their well inked lines….. droooool!

Alex once more loved it! How could he not? It had Grandad and Cars…. what’s not to like for a little boy?

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FOR PHOTO’S CLICK HERE


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