Sunday, 28 September 2008

You can't beat London on a good day

In London, the weather is sometimes so bad the tacky adverts plastered all over the tube tunnels featuring beaches and deck chairs almost convince me to join the mass of British people that flock to the Costa Del Sol and Ibiza. Recently, there have been a number of those moments as the days are getting shorter and the wool coat is becoming more of a must to take everywhere. As it happens, though, we have had awful mid-week weather and then glorious weekends recently. This is fabulous, not only because of Tane's Sunday football at Kensington Gardens and my training for the Royal Parks Half Marathon in two weeks. When I am not struggling around Hyde Park and dodging tourists along Embankment, and Tane is not experiencing playing football with random angry Albanians, the last few weekends have been great for seeing the best the London has to offer on a nice day.

These are some of the highlights, proving that you can't beat London on a good day.

Doing a Thames Cruise to Greenwich

A day in the stunning Kew Gardens, considered on of the best botanical garden in the world.
Walking around the Thames near Richmond ParkApparently, the weather over the next week will having me thinking Costa Del Sol related thoughts again. Oh well, I can't complain really - we've just had two days that felt like summer again. Yay!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Top 100 Books

There are countless lists floating around the internet listing what the best 100 books ever written are. I usually dislike the lists for one of two reasons: the first being that the lists are decided by pretentious idiots who assume that anything that the hoi-palois read can’t have any literary merit, completely ignoring the fact that many of the works they consider literature were effectively The DaVinci Code of their time. The second kind of “top 100” lists that I am not a huge fan of are the ones that are voted by the general public and are effectively little more than a list of a few classics and loads of books that the voters have probably read in the last 12 months. These lists are still interesting and contain some great books, but are far too short sighted to be considered the “top” 100 books ever.

This list, though, I like. It’s from the Telegraph, and has a really good mix of newer books and classics. It also recognises that while some books might not be great, they have had so much popular appeal (and in the cases of The DaVinci Code and Bridget Jones’s Diary have spawned entire genres) they can’t really be ignored. I also like that the Harry Potter books are counted together.

Click here for the list.

I have read 50 of the books on the list. I don’t always agree with their placement on the list (I loved Wuthering Heights but found Jane Eyre self indulgent and boring so do not understand the latter being place 3), and some of the books on the list I thought were boring and/or overrated. These were good books in my opinion, but not top 100 material: in particular Lord of the Rings (don’t shoot me! I have read the first one and have no desire to continue as reading it felt like wading through mud), Brideshead Revisited (in the preface the author himself apologised for it!), The Little Prince, Five People you Meet in Heaven and Emma. Those aside, though, some of the best books I have ever read are also on the list. In particular: Pride and Prejudice, The Color Purple, the Harry Potter books, Catch 22, Life of Pi, The Secret Garden, Gone with the Wind, The Great Gatsby, Lolita, Watership Down, A Fine Balance and Of Mice and Men to name a few.

How many have you read? Do you like the list? Do you want to shoot me for confessing that I do not love LOTR?(I think Tane does. Incidentally, do any of you love LOTR and read it for the first time over the age of 16? Just curious ... )

Saturday, 20 September 2008


Yesterday it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yarrrr. If ye be an unbelieving scurvy landlubber, walk the plank to this here webite as proof (click here). To celebrate this fine day and for some yo ho ho and a bottle of rum we had a party to celebrate, and it be excellent. Yarrrrr. In fact, shiver me timbers and avast this fine day in 2009 so I can have an excuse to carry a (plastic) cutlass and say "yarrr" repeatably again.
P.S. Why are pirates called pirates? Because they arrrrrrrrrrrrrr. (sorry)

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Boo and Yay in the Lake District

Last weekend we travelled up to the Lake District with two fellow New Zealanders and two token Englishmen to enjoy the great outdoors. It was an excellent weekend, but one of "boos" and "yays".

It rained so hard on the first day that the lakes were even forming in the middle of the road! The weather was so bad, the trail run we had gone to do was cancelled "for the safety of the participants". Boo!

We realised that we could go to a pencil museum and Hadrian's Wall instead. Yay!

We drove for a few hours to get to a fort along the wall only to find out that the Wall was also closed due to the weather. Boo!

The man at the front desk took pity on us and said that if we were crazy enough to wade through a stream in gale force winds for some Roman ruins we could go for it. Yay!

James wasn't wearing the right shoes. Boo!

Richard could carry him. Yay!

And we weren’t blown off the wall. Yay again!

We went out for dinner wet, cold and wearing trail running clothes so felt a little under dressed next to the girls in the pub dressed as Playboy bunnies. Boo!

Good times were to be had in Kendal anyway with the excellent local knowledge provided by Tane's bro Tim. Yay!

When we decided to climb the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike, the sheep were conspiring to prevent us from getting there and sleeping on the road in an attempt to stop us from making it to the base. Boo!

But it was awesome scenery when we arrived. Yay!

It wasn't an easy climb. Boo!

But we made it to the top after a couple of hours of scrambling up rock. Yay!
And there was a pub at the bottom after making it down. As well as a giant tree. Yay again!

On the way home we ran out of petrol and got stranded on the motorway for an hour. Boo!

But we managed to get a number of massive trucks to beep at us while waiting. Yay!

Ye Olde Stratford-Upon-Avon

On the way back from our trip to the Lakes District, we realised that it was a short detour to Shakespeare's old stomping ground, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Given that we had Tane Mc Englishlitgeek and Sarah from Taranaki's Stratford-Upon-Patea in the car there was no question that we wouldn't stop for a look around. Look! This random plaque mentions the Taranaki Stratford!

There are lots of theories floating around about Shakespeare. First, there are those that think that William Shakespeare wrote a whole lot of plays. Simple. There is also a school of thought that think that he was a giant fake and that Shakespeare the actor was a convenient cover for either a group of writers, Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe. Regardless of whether or not Shakespeare wrote the plays, we still got to visit the house where he was born back in 1564. Old school. Stratford-Upon-Avon was a very nice town with ye olde Tudor buildings aplenty. It also had tacky Shakespeare references and tourist shops aplenty, but guess that was to be expected.