Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Am I the World's Greatest Husband?

....I think the answer is a resounding yes!!

Yesterday was bank holiday Monday. Victoria and I had finally recovered from our extremely long Saturday night drinking session (Alice was at Victoria's mum's so don't worry!!) and we were wondering what to do.

We finally decided that it was time we bought some new sofa's and so off to DFS we went, guided of course by TimTim. ;-)

We needed new ones anyway but Alice had recently re-decorated our existing sofa's with a biro which forced us to take the plunge and head off to our nearest bank holiday double discount warehouse or whatever crap they call their continuous sales.

As Alice is not the cleanest of people I wanted a couple of cheap sofa's to see us through her messy phase with a view to buying more expensive ones in a couple of years. However, when you get there and see all the nice sofa's for exactly twice what you wanted to pay you sort of convince yourself that more money means longer lasting etc and so take the plunge anyway. We ended up buying a 2 seater and a 3 seater 'Dalton'. Not cheap but very nice indeed. We can't wait until the 9 weeks delivery time is up.

Beware of the tricky salesmen at DFS if you ever go. They tell you that all their products are treated and that they will not stain or mark for 5 years and then candidly add the cost of this treatment to the total cost you pay, an increase of £140!!! Being very quick off the mark and 'street-wise' I immediatly pulled him up about this. He appologised and came out with some crap about being busy and not making himself clear. Yeah, right. I did actually have the coating in the end (Alice again) but not before I had made sure he knew I had not been conned into it.

Anyway, new sofa's are the first reason I am a great husband.

Secondly, as it is our fourth wedding anniversary in October (four years already!!!!) I have purchased Evita tickets for the 14th October at the Adelphi theatre in London. We will be travelling by train, first class of course, watching the show in the afternoon (tickets in the stalls of course) and then going out for a slap up binge at a posh restaurant before falling into our beds at a posh hotel on the Strand. We have not yet chosen a restaurant so any suggestions would be good!!

This is the second reason I am the world's greatest husband.

Thirdly, I have acquired two tickets to see the greatest rock and roll hero ever to grace this planet, Bruce Springsteen, at the Sheffield Arena. Front standing seats of course. The third reason I am such a great husband is because I am giving the second ticket to Victoria. She will get to see the worlds greatest live performer!!!

Sorry girls, I'm taken!!!!!

I am sure you will all agree, I am truely the worlds greatest husband. :-)

Monday, August 28, 2006

New Gadgets - T-Mobile Vario and TomTom One SatNav

I love gadgets. Especially when they are new and they belong to me. :-)

I have not bought any new ones for a while but this week I have had a bumper crop as two have made their way into my posession.

Firstly I signed up for a new mobile phone. I have been with Orange for years but these days they just can't seem to compete on tarrifs with companies like T-Mobile. They also annoyed me by offering to upgrade my phone for £99 or I could cancel my contract and have the same phone with the same tarrif for free.

I wanted another Smartphone as my SPV C550 has been excellent over the past 12 months. I especially love the Windows integration and how easy it is to sync it with Outlook both at work and at home. It is even convenient to charge as you can use a mini usb cable plugged into a PC.

Phil had recently acquired a T-Mobile Vario. This is a proper PDA smartphone. It has all the advantages of my old iPaq but it is smaller and also a phone. It has wireless, a reasonable speed processor and it runs the latest version of Windows Mobile. Phil also got a contract giving him unlimited data and £60 worth of calls/texts per month. It sounded good to me so I took the plunge.

I've had the phone for a week now and I am really pleased with it. I took it out of the box, put the battery in and switched it on. Within about 10 minutes I had synced it with Outlook, configured messenger and retrieved mails from my Exchange server at home. I can actually use Messenger and browse the web without worrying about data charges thanks to the great tarrif and typing emails or text messages is really easy thanks to the pull out keyboard. In fact when you pull the keyboard out the screen changed from portrait view to landscape, which makes web browsing even easier.

I have been on a client visit this week darn sarf to Londinium and this really gave the phone a test. I was sending/receiving email, making calls, using messenger etc all at the same time. It was brilliant. I can't recommend this phone enough.

As I said above, I was on a client visit this week down in London. When Phil bought his Vario he got a CoPilot SatNav system with it and as he was not using it this weekend he lent it to me.

I installed the software on my phone, put the bluetooth GPS receiver on the dashboard and off I went. It was great!! It took all the pain out of finding your hotel, finding the clients offices etc. I needed my own SatNav!!!

I was thinking of having the same one as Phil but then I thought that Victoria would never use it if I did as, firstly, it was on my phone which I always have with me, and secondly, there were some issues with the software not always finding the SD-Card or the GPS receiver. If this happened to Victoria she would class it as 'Rubbish' and never use it again.

After a little research I decided to buy the TomTom One. It gets rave reciews and now I have it I can see why.

I would never normally do this but I actually bought my TomTom from PC World. They have a special offer on at the moment which means it is cheaper than anywhere else. It also meant that I could have it now. :-)

The TomTom One is supposed to be really easy to use and I have to say they have done a great job on the interface. I took it out of the box, turned it on , entered my home address and within about a minute I was telling it where I wanted to go. The screen is excellent, the volume of the spoken instructions is perfect and Victoria can use it without having to channel her inner geek.

I went for a quick spin round the block to test it out, deliberatly making mistakes, and the route was recalculated perfectly in just a few seconds.

This is another gadget I can highly recommend. It is cheap (for a SatNav system), easy to use and it performs really well.

If you need SatNav, get a TomTom One.

It also has the advantage of having a male voice called 'Tim' which means that Victoria will now be calling Tim 'TimTim' from now on. :-)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Restaurant Review - Moran's

Last Friday (18th August) Victoria and I went to Moran's on Abbeydale Road. What's this I hear you say? Christian frequenting a restaurant that is not The Supper Club? Well, sort of. Moran's was The Supper Club which is now owned by someone else, Bryan Moran, who used to be at Aitch's in Bakewell. I've never been to Aitch's but apparently it was very good.

As The Supper Club was my favourite restaurant I was initially rather upset when I heard it had changed hands and was apprehensive before we went. I need not have worried.

As we went in we were greeted by friendly staff and asked if we would like a drink at the bar before we went to our table. We decided this was a good idea and we ordered two Gin and Tonics.

We sat at the bar perusing the menu and we had real difficulty in deciding what to order as it all looked so good. In the end I started with the Scallops with a sweet chilli sauce and rocket, followed by the steak. Victoria started with the Tempora Squid and Monkfish and followed with the Guinea Fowl.

My Scallops was delicious, as was Victoria's Tempora. The dish comprised of 3 scallops and 3 roe arranged in a circle along the outside of the plate with the rocket in the middle, all sat on the sweet chilli sauce. Delicious. The Tempora was a little pile of battered fish bits with a sauce to dip them in. Also delicious.

The main courses were also excellent. I like my steak cooked 'Blue', which for the uninitiated out there means a good vet could probably still save the cow. It was fantastic. The meat was so tender that it just fell apart and it was cooked to perfection, ie, not very much. It was accompanied by a selection of roast carrots, beetroot, onions etc. Victoria's Guinea Fowl was also excellent. It had the texture of chicken but with 5 times the flavour. It was wonderful.

We also had some chips. They came with the steak but Victoria had them as a side order. They were amazing. The best chips we have ever tasted. If you ever go the Moran's you must try them!!

For drinks I had a bottle of house red. At £13.95 it was expensive for what it was but reasonable for restaurant prices and it went down very well. I also finished up with a laphroaig just to put a cap on the night. :-)

We really enjoyed our meal. The food was incredible and the staff were extremely friendly and attentive. It all makes us want to go back again.

The bill came to just over £90 so we gave £100 to include a tip. It was well worth every penny.

I may have loved The Supper Club but Moran's has managed to improve on it. I can't recommend it highly enough. My brother and sister-in-law went the night after us and both had a similar experience so we know it was not a fluke. Just go and you will see what I mean.

The Supper Club is dead. Long Live Moran's!!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Restaurant Review - Rowleys in Baslow

We went for lunch at Rowleys in Baslow on Thursday. Victoria and I plus various family members.

Rowleys used to be a pub but is now fitted out like a modern restaurant. It's all very nice and clean looking and provides a pleasent atmosphere to eat in.

The lunch menu is filled with various English and Italian-ish dishes and there is quite a large choice. Many of the items on the menu are available in large or small portions so you can have them as a starter or a main course.

For starter I had a Chicken Caesar Salad and for a main course I had the pie of the day, which happened to be Steak. Both were excellent. The salad had fresh anchovies in it which was nice.

Victoria had the Harrington Stilton & Pea Risotto, which we realised was actually Cheesy Peas!! Excellent. It too was delicious.

My mum had the Basil Linguine, toasted pine nuts, wilted rocket which I would order if I went again as it was absolutly fantastic.

All in all an excellent meal. The prices are not too bad but I would love to see what the Fish and Chips looks like for £12. The fish had better be the last of something to warrant the price.

If you fancy going out into Derbyshire for lunch, give Rowleys a try. You won't be disappointed.

The menu is here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Butterfly House - 16th August 2006

Yet another day trip, this time to the Tropical Butterfly House at Anston.

Victoria, Alice and I were accompanied by Victoria's mum, Sheila, and Alice's cousin, Joseph.

The Butterfly House is somewhat mis-named. Although there is a tropical butterfly house this is only a small part of what is on display.

The first thing you see is a big aviary filed with parrots. Next to this is a cage with a couple of very cute and very tiny monkeys. Following on from this you see a pen with a selection of ducks and rabbits. All this is before you have actually paid to get in.

Once you have paid you can go into the main part of the farm. You can stroke the goats, cows, rabbits etc and you can feed the tiny monkey things fruit using tweezers. You then move on to the pregnant goats, cows and pigs, all of which are very tame and come up to you to say hello and be stroked.

There is also a bird of prey centre with about 6 different birds in it, and in the afternoon you can watch the handlers flying the birds. You can also hold the birds yourself a bit later if you wish.

Then you move on to the tropical butterfly house itself. This is a big greenhouse really. When you walk in though it is so hot and humid that anyone who wears glasses will find them instantly steamed up!! Luckily my camera was OK.

Once you are able to see again you will see butterfly's flapping around all over the place, iguanas climbing around the ceiling, little birds running around by your feet, and parrots sitting on a cage waiting for you to feel them. It is a really great place to be, if not a little hot!!

Moving on there are crocodiles, snakes, cockroaches, tarantulas and beetles. My favourite though was a branch that runs all the way over the path that was full of leaf cutter ants. There was dustbin lid full of leaves on the other side of a fence and what I suppose is the nest on the other side of the path, linked by a tree branch with the ants carrying leaves across. You could pick them up if you really wanted.

Once again Alice really enjoyed herself and didn't want to leave. We actually all had a really nice day and this is another attraction I can't recommend highly enough.

Pictures are here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mablethorpe - 15th August 2006

So Victoria and I had decided to take Alice to the coast for the day. We looked at a map and essentially drew a line from Sheffield directly east until we hit the coast. We discovered that the nearest coastal town to Sheffield was Mablethorpe, so this was where we decided to go.

I wanted to walk along the beach and Victoria wanted to eat seaside chips and we were sure that Mablethorpe would fullfill these desires, no matter how bad it was.

We set off at about 9am and arrived at out destination at about 11:30. Things did not look good as we drove through the town centre. The whole place was full of amusement arcades, rock shops and invalid vehicle shops. Not a good sign. The townsfolk also looked like they were straight from chav hell.

We were not to be discouraged however as we did have somewhere to go that could not possibly be too bad, the local seal sanctuary.

The seal sanctuary was about 1.5 miles away from central Mablethorpe. We parked and were informed that the £2 parking fee was to be refunded if we were going into the sanctuary and that we could park there all day. Excellent.

The seal sanctuary was great. It had not only seals but lots of different types of birds, goats, horses and wild cats etc. Alice was in her element and was happily pointing out what type of animal we were looking at, although she does insist that anything in the water is a fish or a duck.

After the sanctuary we decided to go on a chip hunt. We set off walking down the road to Mablethorpe centre. After while we found a path that allowed us to walk with a sea view which was nice and this eventually took us to the 'happening' part of Mablethorpe.

Oh My God!!!!

I have always imagined that all British seaside resorts are tacky but this took the biscuit. I have never seen so many chav's in one place, nor have I ever seen so many cheap gold chains or ugly kids called Keeley or Cameron.

The whole place stank of chips and there was a fairground that over looked the beach. The beach in front of this hell-hole was packed with equally chavy people. Help, we thought.

We required seaside chips and so we purchased some from 'Mr Chips' chippy. They were to say the least, a disappointment.

After this lovely lunch we decided to walk back to the car on the beach. Just to the left of chav hell there was a sea break reaching out to sea so we walked over it and on to.........a mostly empty beach.

The chavs seem to like being crammed into chav hell in front of a smelly funfair in an area stinking of chips. The seem blind to the beach only a few feet away.

The beach we were walking on was lovely. It was clean, you could smell the sea, there was the odd person flying a kite but that was about it. It is strange to think that feet away was chav hell but we were in heaven!!

Alice loved the beach. She was having a great time splashing though the water and making footprints. We all had a really nice walk.

I can't believe that Alice walked all the way back to the car. 1.5 miles!!! She is only little and although she has long legs for ther age they are still only small. What a little trooper!!!

After we got back to the car we left for home having had a really nice day.

In summary, Mablethorpe is a horrible shithole and is everything bad you have ever read about British coastal resorts, but the beach is absolutly gorgeous as long as you are not directly in front of the main resort. I'm not saying I recommend it as a holiday destination but if you want to visit the coast for the day I would recommend it. Just avoid the town centre!!!

Pictures are available here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Graves Park Rare Breeds Centre

Today, for our latest day-trip, Victoria and I took Alice along to Graves Park Rare Breeds Centre.
We also took Alice's Granny, my mum. :-)

The farm we visited has lots of different poultry, goats, deer, rabbits, guinea pigs, proper pigs, donkeys, pony's, cows etc. They are all apparently 'rare breeds'. With many of these animals it is not hard to work out why they are rare breeds. It is because they look stupid.

Take for example the rabbit in the picture above. I refuse to believe that this very cute yet pathetic excuse for a creature could ever survive for one minute in the wild and it is probably so inbred that it has forgotten how to reproduce!

Still, we all had a really nice time and I am sure the people there do good work. Alice was once again overjoyed to see lots of cuddly animals but she seemed not to like goats, even though they were very friendly.

Pictures are available here.

Another fine day out that is to be recommended, especially if you have children with you.

Our next day trip is tomorrow. We are going to the seaside. We looked at a map and saw that if we head straight East, the shortest route to the coast we hit.......Mablethorpe. So that is where we are headed. Such a glamourous life we lead. :-)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Chester Zoo - 9th August 2006

As I am having 2 weeks off work Victoria and I are filling my time with lots of lovely day trips with Alice. The first of these was last wednesday and was a visit to Chester Zoo.

Victoria and I had already been to Chester Zoo about 5 years ago but we thought that a second trip was needed as half of it was closed due to foot and mouth. We also have Alice who we thought was now at an age where she could appreciate such things.

We set off at about 08:30 and arrived at the Zoo at about 10:45. There was a queue to get in but it only took about 10 minutes of waiting to get to the front. Once inside we released Alice. Out of the buggy she came and on went the reins. We were convinced she would be tired after about 20 minutes of walking but she lasted for most of the day. It was actually her that was dragging us around a lot of the time!!

I don't think I have ever seen Alice so excited. The first time she saw an elephant she was screaming with delight and jumping up and down. She really enjoyed it. Of course all birds were 'Ducks' and anything else in the water (such as Sealions) were 'Fish' to her.

For lunch we had a 'mystery meat' hotdog and chips which seemed to fit the day and I think that we managed to see pretty much everything.

The only slight downer on the day was seeing animals like tigers and elephants in captivity. The sealions, penguins and most of the other animals did not seem to care where they were but the elephants and tigers really did seem out of place. I feel they should really be running around Kenya rather than a pen or killing their own food instead of having it given to them. Still, many of the breeds they have at Chester are endangered or extinct in the wild and the animals are part of a breeding plan to re-introduce them, so it's not too bad really.

Anyway, we were all really tired at the end of this excellent day. Alice slept most of the way home and we all slept soundly that night.

I can't recommend a trip to Chester Zoo highly enough. The animals seem well cared for and there are plenty of keepers giving talks on the animals all through the day.

I know that zoo's are not particularly politically correct but I think that a lot of the work they do is very good and worthwhile, and that many of the animals would not be here today without them.

I took LOADS of pictures. Thanks goes to Chris who kindly loaned me his Nikon 80-200mm zoom lens. This fantastic lens was used to take 99% of the pictures and allowed me to get really close the animals. It is also rather heavy but that is a small price to pay for using such a fine piece of photographic equipment.

One added advantage was that Victoria thought I looked like paperazzi carrying my camera and she said I was embarrasing. Excellent!!!

Anyway, pics here, Chester Zoo here. Well worth a visit.

Next stop, Graves Park Rare Breeds Centre. :-)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Well Done Jenson!!!

Jenson Button finally got his first F1 win when he stormed to victory in Hungary.

The whole race was fantastic and Victoria and I were on the edge of our seats while watching it, especially for the last 10 laps.

Let's hope there are many more. :-)

The whole story is here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I'm Never Drinking Again....Again!

Last Saturday, the 29th July, Rob and Lucy (Alice's Godparents) invited Alice, Victoria and I to a BBQ at their house. There would be old friends there and Rob and Lucy are always such good company we jumped at the chance.

We arrived at about 15:10 and Rob immediately provided me with a nice cold beer. Alice wandered around and drew pictures while we chatted and had a generally very pleasant time. The company was good, the beer was good and the food was good.

At about 19:00 Alice was getting a little tired and so Victoria decided to take her home. Being such a good wife she had no objection to me staying on and having a few more beers. After all, there were quite few people from school there and it is always good to catch up.

While we were at Rob and Lucy's house everything was fine. More beer was drunk along with a little white wine, a little red wine and a little more beer. Things were going well. I was tipsy but nothing too bad. Then we ran out of beer and Rob suggested we go to the pub. Everyone agreed.

The Castle is a nice pub. A sort of suburban local that is always welcoming.

Tonight they had a Karaoke night.

Rob refers to the Karaoke nights in the Castle as 'Dirty Karaoke' as it is an evening of tarty women trying to sing Whitney Houston or Celine Dion. His description was a good one. It was dirty indeed.

I have to explain that by the time we got to the pub it was about 21:30 (I think) and Rob and I had been drinking since 15:00. We were several sheets to the wind.

Anyway, We stayed in the pub until about midnight (I think) and drank much more beer. This means I had been drinking for 9 hours. I was bladdered.

I'm sure there are some people reading this and thinking "I do that every week! You are a pathetic drinker who should be barred from all the pubs in this fair land". I would reply with 'I bet you are not 36 years old with a child who does not drink as much these days and therefore has lost much of his tolerance to alcohol, and when he does drink it's mostly wine rather than beer'.

I have to say that I had a really great time, and all respect goes to everyone else there that went down to town after the pub when I went home. Rob did however tell me on Monday that he has no recollection of going to town though. :-)

The next day was.....Hell on earth. I don't drink much these days and I have not been pissed on beer for quite a while. My head hurt, I felt sick (and apparently was after I eventually got home) I was dizzy, my whole body was numb. I could not even watch all of the German Grand Prix without lapsing in and out of consciousness.

I am writing this on Tuesday. I still feel a little bit poorly. I have only just looked at the pictures I took on the night and even the ones of Alice when I was sober are not good. The ones in the pub are terrible and I applogise to the subjects for my bad photography.

Anyway, the result of this excellent yet costly night are that I am NEVER drinking again. I know I've said it before but this time I mean it. Beer is not good for me.

Hold on, what's this email? Laithwaites are having a sale.............

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