Do the test

by Nick  

My old mucker James sent me this a few weeks back, and it freaked me out then. I've been resent it by someone else, so figure it's time to share...


(Original here)

PS. Busy few weeks - hope to post newsy things in the next couple of days...

Did something sting you?

by Nick  

Indexed is a rather witty blog. Liked this one from yesterday.

She's written a book too.

I am a shape

by Nick  

I'm ambivalent about Mister Maker on CBeebies. He's overacting so relentlessly.

However, I love this segment. Watch it once and tell me it doesn't get inside your head...


Destination Bruges

by Nick  

Gosh, it's been a busy week at work, and I find myself a bit surprised that it's gone so quickly. It means it's been over a week since we got back from holiday, so it's starting to seem a little belated to blog about it. But it'd be rude not to, so here's a little bit about our trip to Bruges.

I'd planned it in the first week of January. I was looking online, and saw some good deals on Eurostar for citybreaks to Bruges, a city we'd long fancied visiting. Then I saw that you can now book through tickets from many local rail stations in the UK, including Leamington Spa. Slightly irritatingly, you can currently have either through-ticketing or train+hotel deals, so I had to find a hotel separately, but it was still pretty good value through Expedia. For a total of about £360 we could get all three of us from Leamington to Bruges and back, with 3 nights of beer and chocolate in between, and no hanging around airports.

We stayed at the Hotel Azalea, which was about a minute's walk from one of the main shopping streets, and about five minutes from the Markt - the square at the heart of the city. It took us about 20 minutes to walk from the train station to the hotel on the first evening we arrived. We learnt three key things about Bruges on that walk: firstly, it's an incredibly compact place; secondly, they have a lot of cobbles; and thirdly, the restaurants are generous (vegetables aside). Ros had a huge plate of steak and frites, whilst I had a rack of about 15 spare ribs plus jacket potato, both washed down with local beer. The plates were so big we had enough to feed Jess, and still have leftovers. Phew!

The weather on arrival had been very similar to what we'd left in the UK - cold, but bright and sunny. Unfortunately, we awoke the next morning to a fairly heavy mist, which didn't really lift until the last day. I hadn't realised until I got there that Bruges (or Brugge, as the Flemish call it) was only about 6 miles from the coast - a place called Zeebrugge, which suddenly makes a lot of sense as a name. So, the weather stayed rather 'maritime': cold, damp, but at least not raining. The city is very pretty, and takes only about 25 minutes to walk from one side of the central district to the other. We'd bought an MP3 audio guide, but we had also brought our own source of sound, so didn't really get to make best use of that. Still, chocolate shops and cafes abounded, so it wasn't too much of a hardship to make enough stops to warm up. My back was still fairly sore, so I mostly pushed Jess's buggy around, zimmer-frame styley.

Aside from chocolate and coffee (which, to tell the truth, we abstained from more than my prose might imply) we visited a diamond museum (we were surprised to learn that Bruges was usurped by Antwerp and Amsterdam in the late middle ages), a former convent hospital, the main art gallery and, yes, a chocolate museum. The cobbles make it fairly pedestrian friendly, as the traffic can't go too fast, so Jess was able to do quite a lot of running around. They have horse-drawn carriages (Vienna fiaker style), which Jess was quite excited by too, although she kept on shouting out "Donkey!" at all of them.

Look Daddy, chocolate! Horsing around

The evenings were quite good for us too. We effectively kept Jess on UK time, so she had her nap at about 10.30am local time and was raring to go for a big meal at lunchtime, and was ready to go to sleep quite early in the evening. After she dropped off, we could creep downstairs to the hotel bar, which was just at the bottom of the stairs, where we could have a quiet drink of Leffe, Hoegaarden, or one of the many local brews, chat with the friendly staff, and finish off with a nice cold Genever before bed. Breakfasts were a generous buffet, which set us up for the bracing conditions outside!

Play misty for me Big hug

All told, we had a nice time, with plenty of walking, and I think it helped my back quite a bit. On about day 3, I found that I could carry Jess on my shoulders, provided Ros put her on and off, and that actually helped more, as I think it kept me aligned.

Donkeys! Hooray, it's a square!

On the day of the return trip, the sun came out (naturally), and after a stroll back to the station...

Canal plus Reflective

...we managed to get a fast train back to Brussels (having been stuck on a busy commuter plodder on the way there). We had a couple of hours to kill, so we went and grabbed a pizza, and I took Ros to see the Grand Place, and Manneken Pis. Jess had a run around in the square to warm up, before we headed back to the Midi station to get the Eurostar back to Blighty.

What a grand place

In passing, I should mention that HS1 was a joy to pass along, the tunnel was as swift as ever, and St Pancras very beautifully restored. A shame they couldn't fix the lift to the underground station in time for our return though...

Since then, my back has continued to improve. Today, I've managed to be not shuffling, which is quite a strange change. Jess did some gardening with Ros, and has added "waterin' can" to her vocal repertoire (which followed "beer" and "cupcake" last week). Plus ça change.

Mary, Mary... Quite contrary


by Nick  

Jessica was doing some drawing today. She grabbed a bit of paper, and made a few lines with her pencil. Then she picked up the paper, brought it over to me and said "Wabbit!"

As usual, I said "Ooh, what a lovely drawing!" :) Then, I looked at it... and blinked!


Precocious little monkey.

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