Monday, 30 September 2013

"Special Delivery" - Bridget Kelly

With Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness" being my second-favorite song at the moment, which is my favorite? That would be Bridget Kelly's "Special Delivery":


I love Kelly's voice and I love the music video. I found out about Kelly when Jenny Francis, the host of the Late Show on Heart radio, played the song on her first-ever episode of the programme.

Kelly does not yet have an album out, which was a relief for me; I couldn't find an album by her on Amazon.co.uk, leading me to think that her album hadn't been released here in the United Kingdom. As "Special Delivery" is being played here, I am sure that her album, when it is released, will be available. Kelly's album is to be called Something Different.

Also, I turned my radio on just before I began writing this post. Which song started playing, and from its beginning rather than halfway through? "Special Delivery" by Bridget Kelly! I love coincidences like that.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The old receipt

Earlier today, I was looking through my old wallet, which my grandfather gave me many years ago. The wallet was empty, with the exception of a receipt hidden in one of the folds. When I checked the receipt, it was from the only time I ever bought something from Wal-Mart.

What did I buy? It was a supersoaker. Its price? About $30 (£18), and was among the most expensive items I had ever bought until the past few years. When did I buy it? On June 10th, 2000...over 13 years ago.

I had no idea that I still had that receipt! It's outlasted the supersoaker, which was either thrown away or donated a few years ago. Neither the wallet nor the receipt takes up much space in my bedroom, as they're both inside a tin full of miscellaneous items. My finding of the receipt can be considered one of those little surprises that just makes you smile.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The phone call

I was delighted to read that President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had a telephone conversation with each other. This phone call is significant because it is the first such discussion between an American president and an Iranian president since the revolution in Iran in 1979.

Back in June, I wrote about how pleased I am that the people of Iran elected Mr. Rouhani, a moderate. I expressed hope that Mr. Rouhani would carry out on his campaign promises, specifically improving Iran's international relations — with the West in particular; since his inauguration he has pursued that goal.

Both presidents seem to have enjoyed their conversation and have considered it productive. I am glad, because I feel that there has been too much talk for the past few years of striking Iran's nuclear programme and I strongly oppose new wars — there is too much conflict already, especially in the Middle East. While I don't support Iran (or any other nation, for that matter) having nuclear weapons, I also don't support any sort of military action against them. Anything that helps to prevent a war, such as this phone call, is beneficial to everyone.

I cannot see why anyone would object to something that would greatly reduce the chances of a new war while improving relations with Iran. Unless they have a deep hatred of Mr. Obama that they will oppose anything he does no matter what and/or are a warmonger, there is no reason to hold a negative opinion of the conversation between the two presidents. We should be glad that they both desire the dispute to have a friendly and mutually acceptable end.

Mr. Rouhani has stated that he'd like the nuclear dispute to be resolved within the next six months. While I think that's a little too optimistic (although I hope I'm wrong and everything is settled in that time), at least he and the West are speaking in much friendlier tones than before the recent Iranian presidential election and are moving towards a peaceful outcome. In that situation, everyone wins.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Phone bumpers

Back in June, I wrote that I had swapped my phone's gel case for a silicone one. Before I continue, I will note that I should have specified a "silicone bumper" rather than a "silicone case" in that post but I think the meaning was still clear. Anyway, here is a picture of my two phone bumpers together:

As you can see, the gel bumper is smooth and glossy but it's prone to fingerprint smears and scratches. If you can obtain a tyre-tread silicone bumper for your phone, I highly recommend that you purchase it. They have a fairly secure grip when held, are not vulnerable to sweaty hands and, since they're thicker than gel bumpers, they provide greater protection for your phone in the event you accidentally drop it.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

"Summertime Sadness" - Lana Del Rey

One of my favorite songs at the moment is "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey:


When I first heard the song on the radio, it was the remix by C├ędric Gervais. This remix has significantly contributed to the success "Summertime Sadness", but I prefer the original version of the single; the original grew on me after a few listens. To be fair, I wouldn't have listened to the original if I hadn't heard the remix.

I wasn't really sure about Lana Del Rey until recently. I first heard her singles "Video Games" and "Born to Die" over a year ago, and I neither liked nor disliked them. Since the start of the year, my opinion of her singing had been in a state of change; the arrival of "Summertime Sadness" to British radio was the final push I needed to start fully enjoying her music. I intend to get her second studio album, Born to Die, which contains the aforementioned tracks.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The fly

My mother spotted this large fly outside a window:

The fly creeped her out, as it was huge compared to regular house flies; however, what fascinated me and my brother about the fly was its behaviour. While we were unsure exactly what it was doing, it appeared to be cleaning itself, as it was scraping its forward and back legs over its body as though it were removing bits of detritus. It seemed uninterested in anything else and only flew away when it finished.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Snow globe with a hat

Remember my year-round snow globe? Also remember my mug and my frog...both with a hat? It's my snow globe...with a hat!

It's the hat I obtained at the Jubilee street party last year. I was looking at the hat earlier and then I decided to look at my blog posts where I featured the hat on another inanimate object. I know it's immature and silly, but my other posts in the same category as this one attracted laughs; I also had no idea what to write for today and thought that this would do.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The hot air balloons (2)

Remember my post from two months ago about two hot air balloons? Late yesterday afternoon, two more balloons flew over our neighbourhood:

I took at least one of these two shots with my camera and my brother might have taken the other; he asked to take a few pictures with my camera and I'm not sure if one of these is his. Regardless, they're good pictures and I'm glad the hot air balloons made another appearance.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Barbecue flames

It's ironic that in yesterday's post I wrote about the end of the summer, as today's weather was beautiful and sunny, and Dad did a barbecue (his first in over a month). He and I photographed some of the flames when the barbecue was heating up; here are three of my pictures:

My main camera had some trouble photographing the fast-moving flames. These three are among the best of my barbecue fire pictures.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Summer ends

Well, the summer has officially ended and fall has begun. I hadn't actually thought about the change in season until someone mentioned it earlier: The recent weather has been consistent with what we would usually have in the fall (cloudy weather, some rain); that the season has now changed seems more like a mere formality!

Today is also International Day of Peace, which celebrates and encourages world peace. If you have made amends with someone today or at least attempted to, then you have contributed, at least in a small way, to furthering the goal of world peace.

I hope everyone had a pleasant summer. Happy fall/autumn and International Day of Peace!

Friday, 20 September 2013

The hockey ball

Here is another part of my sports-related belongings:

It's my (used to be mine and my brother's but came into my full possession) hockey ball. For a short spell during our last year in California, my brother and I went through a phase of wanting to become hockey players; however, we were interested in the financial aspect of hockey rather than the enjoyment of the game. One evening when on the way back from work, Dad dropped in at a sports shop to buy two hockey sticks and this ball, which allowed me and my brother to play street hockey against each other.

While my brother and I ended our hockey phase shortly afterwards, we continued to play street hockey, even playing it for our first couple of years in Oregon. In the end, we donated our hockey sticks but I kept the ball.

My hockey ball is kept in the same place as my baseball. I think Dad bought the hockey ball around the same time that I found the baseball. The hockey ball is scratched and scuffed but is otherwise in good condition; there is no structural reason why it couldn't be used in a game again.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

"She Will Be Loved (Mashup)" - Maroon 5 and Pink

I had intended to post a picture in today's post but Picasa seems to be playing up and isn't uploading any images. Fortunately, I have a music post to fill in for it; a few days ago, I found this mashup:


It consists of the vocals from Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved" and the melody from Pink's "Try"; Matt Ryan was the creator of the mashup. I love this mashup! Maroon 5 and Pink are two of my favorite artists and "She Will Be Loved" and "Try" are both excellent songs (the former was the first Maroon 5 song I ever heard). I am impressed at how well the two fit.

With any luck, Picasa will behave itself tomorrow and let me upload images again! I didn't want to write a music post today.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Short Stories: The Crash

This writing is based on a dream I had last night; I liked the dream so much that I felt as though it deserved a story similar to it. I found converting this dream into writing to be quite difficult: This piece started out great but it became harder the more I wrote and I don't think it's brilliant; that being said, please do let me know what your opinions are. Additional notes are included at the bottom.

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It was the early evening. Four friends — Ajith, Aly, Attin and Jenna — were travelling on motorway, heading back home after spending a long day out celebrating Ajith and Jenna's wedding anniversary. They had chosen a unique way of enjoying the occasion: Helping the happy couple pick out a new car to buy; the day had been a success and they were now driving in a beautiful and pristine hybrid vehicle.

"Ah, nice and smooth," remarked Ajith, who was the driver. "This is, without a doubt, the best car I've driven to date."

"Well, considering the only other car you've driven had pedals, that's not saying much!" joked Aly.

"Ha ha!"

Ajith's laugh was short; despite his initiation of the discussion, Ajith preferred his passengers to be quiet, as the silence helped him concentrate on the road. Until his offhand comment, nobody had said anything since he pulled onto the mostly-empty motorway; still, the occasional laugh while driving helped him relax.

"Thank you, Aly, Attin, for spending the day with us and advising us on a good car," said Jenna sometime later, while watching a truck slowly pass them. "Ajith and I really appreciate it."

"Hey, you're welcome," Attin replied, watching the truck that had passed them suddenly pull into their lane. "I'm glad we could help while enjoying your day."

"It was our pleasure," said Aly, 

"I hope we can do something like this again," said Ajith, now breaking his own "quiet" rule while keeping his eyes on the truck ahead, which was decelerating. "I had a thoroughly great..."

The truck came to an abrupt stop; Ajith slammed on the brakes but his and Jenna's new car hit the back of the truck, albeit at a slower speed than if Ajith hadn't been paying any attention. There was some moderate crumpling on both vehicles but neither was totalled; the other driver separated them when he pulled his truck forward slightly.

"Is everyone all right?" Ajith asked calmly.

The other three answered in agreement, although they were all clearly shaken. Ajith was about to get out of the car to walk over to the truck when the other driver had already come to him.

"H-hello," the other driver said nervously. He was menacing in appearance: he was tall and muscular, with various skulls and gory images tattooed all over his arms. His quavering voice, however, did not match his frightening impression.

"Is...is anyone hurt?" he asked. "This is all my fault; I was distracted."

"No one's hurt," Ajith assured as he got out of the car.

"My fault...all my fault, I'm sorry..."

"No one's hurt," Ajith repeated. "Everyone is okay, and by the looks of things..." He glanced at the damaged on both vehicles. "...Our cars are okay; we should be able to get off the motorway without needing to be towed. Let's swap insurance details and move on." The traffic was avoiding the accident but Ajith had no desire to be on the motorway for long; however, he had to spend ten minutes consoling the other driver before they both traded notes and returned to their respective vehicles.

"What happened?" Jenna asked when Ajith returned to the car.

"I calmed him down, we traded details," Ajith replied. "He erred, he owned up, he'll say the accident was his fault. Fortunately, we have the same insurance provider and use the same dealership. This isn't how I expected this anniversary to end, nor did I expect the car to get damaged so soon, but that's life. Now, let's get off this motorway before we hold up any more traffic."

With that, Ajith restarted the car and turned off the motorway at the next exit. He resolved to book an appointment for repairs immediately the next morning. Despite what had happened, Ajith's mood had not been dampened one iota: He had enjoyed the day, as he attempted to say just prior to the crash. Nothing could spoil celebrating his and his wife's anniversary, with two fine friends joining in. Not even a car crash.

-------------

In the dream, the other driver was extremely hostile rather than reasonable and apologetic; in addition, I barely saw his appearance, so his description here is not a part of my dream. Also in the dream, the "Ajith" character and the other driver did swap insurance details and I woke up soon after. "Ajith" was a reasonable person in the dream and I wanted to keep his personality consistent. I'm not happy with how Ajith's passengers were almost forgotten about, though; I thought about removing them and focusing on Ajith only but I felt that doing so would weaken the plot enormously.

Inventing an ending was hard; the dream itself ended abruptly and the ending here is somewhat anti-climactic. I doubt that many traffic accidents are resolved in such a peaceful manner — especially on a motorway — but this was the only ending that I felt satisfied with. Still, this is a piece of creative writing and by analysing what I've written I know I can improve for next time!

No people in the dream were hurt.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Vado

When looking at the mess on my computer desk I picked up this item:

It's my Creative Vado, a pocket digital camcorder. My grandfather gave it to me not long after my family and I had moved back from the United States. I was excited when I received it because it was my both my first new camera in several years and my first video camera. In my excitement, I did annoy certain family members for a brief spell when I constantly filmed various events, both exciting and unimportant, alike!

Sadly, I hardly use the Vado now. I rarely take videos and when I do I use my phone, as I'm usually carrying that device rather than the Vado. Still, I think the Vado is worth keeping because the videos that my phone takes occupy a huge amount of storage space; the Vado's resolution is only 640x480 but its videos are decent in quality, even if they are small. If I ever needed to take a long video but didn't want it to be several hundred megabytes (or even a few gigabytes) in size, I would use the Vado.

My last two major uses of the Vado were: Late last year when I went to visit my East of England relatives, as I used it to film their cats and the bus trips to Norwich, and earlier this year during the heavy snow. In addition, I brought it with me when Becca and I went to see Carrie Underwood at the Royal Albert Hall and it is also one of the three pieces of electronic equipment that I passed to my uncle during my mud jump at Chatsworth House in 2012.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Talk to the toddler

Time for another phone rant, or rather, the behaviour of some people who use them.

If there is one aspect I like about the town I'm currently living in, it's seeing all the parents and their very young children. It's great that people consider it to be a family-friendly area and are comfortable walking around with their kids. Some walk their youngsters and others use baby transport.

What do I hate seeing? A parent pushing their baby/toddler's pram/stroller with one hand and holding a phone with the other. On most occasions, the parent is looking straight ahead while talking into the phone but on others they are texting; when they text, they are looking down and aren't observing their surroundings. Some parents have their child walk and yes, those parents have one hand on the child and the other on a phone. In all three circumstances, they are not paying their child any attention. This is not something that is specific any gender, either; I have seen both men and women alike opt to use their phone when out with their kid(s)

This angers me immensely. If someone has a child, they should be bonding with it whenever possible; going out on a walk is an excellent time to help bond and to educate. Merely talking to the child helps in that process. I consider it shameful for someone to be messing around on a phone — something that can be done anytime — when they could be interacting with their offspring. Children, especially the very young, need human input, not adults who appear to talk to or play with an inanimate object. It doesn't matter what you talk about; the company and the attention is what count.

It's bad enough when people neglect their friends because they spend all day fiddling around with their phones, but neglecting their kids as well? Honestly, why are some people — when not at school, working or sleeping — always obsessing over a gadget, to the expense of other people and even themselves? Don't get me wrong, I like my phone and use it on a daily basis, but I don't use while interacting with people in person and I certainly wouldn't prioritise it over a child.

A potential response to my rant here would be that how other people choose to raise their kids is none of my business, and I can respect that. That being said, when people bring a child into this world, it is their responsibility to ensure its well-being; simple human interaction contributes enormously to a child's development. Parents should not squander their time with their offspring; both them and their child(ren) will regret it if they do.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Potentially bad timing

Three days ago, I wrote a short post about Robin Thicke's 2007 hit, "Lost Without U". Two days later, I wrote about him and Miley Cyrus at the VMAs. It occurred to me that it might have been bad timing to have written a mostly positive piece about Thicke one day and then two days later be moderately critical of him. Why the praise on one day and the criticism so soon after?

I had wanted to write about "Lost Without U" before the VMA incident because I felt that the song had been forgotten thanks to the success of "Blurred Lines". After the VMAs, I realized that I had been provided with an opening to highlight that the track came from a time when Thicke was known for a decent song rather than bizarre stunts and controversy. It was a spur of the moment decision to later write about the VMAs performance and I didn't think much about the post for the song until afterwards.

I suspect that I've written this more for my own benefit than anyone else's, but if there were any apparent timing oddities then I hope I've clarified them!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Miley Cyrus follow-up

Three months ago, I wrote about what I consider to be the unfair treatment of Miley Cyrus in the media. As I think we're all well aware by now, Cyrus engaged in a racy and sexually implicit musical performance with Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Naturally, it has drawn widespread criticism, with most of it being directed at Cyrus rather than Thicke. Has the performance forced me to eat any of my words from that June post?

The answer is...no. I said back then "...Cyrus has never been arrested and therefore has a clean criminal record; she is not constantly entering and leaving rehab, she has not been involved in any violent altercations, has not engaged in frequent 'Twitter wars' with other celebrities...". This has not changed. I also wrote that many of the comments about Cyrus are misogynistic in nature; since the performance, these comments have become nastier. I should note the double-standard that's present: Cyrus has so far received the lion's share of the hatred yet there were two people in that performance; I've read scant criticism about Thicke by comparison. It's there, but it's uncommon.

As I also said in that post, parents should be the ones to parent their children, not Miley Cyrus and not Robin Thicke. If any parent thinks that Cyrus' performance at the award show will have adverse affect on their child/children, then they should sit down and talk about it. Merely moaning and using sexist slurs against Cyrus is unproductive.

To conclude, Cyrus is an adult: She is free is make her own choices; provided she is not breaking the law or encouraging law-breaking, then as far as I'm concerned, she is entitled to do whatever she likes. The same mostly applies to Thicke, although, unlike Cyrus, he does have a family and should be mindful of that. I think what the two did at the VMAs was stupid, but if they wanted a reaction then that's certainly what they've received. My thoughts from three months ago have not changed.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Wet September

What a change in the weather! August was an excellent month for sunny weather and the first few days of September were hotter still. In fact, all of September was looking as though it was going to be bright and warm month.

For the past few days, however, that hasn't been the case. It's been raining and we've even had temperatures cold enough to warrant wearing extra layers of clothing or turning on the heat; it's even been raining while I've been writing this post. At present, this September has felt more like October; that being said, we're just under halfway through the month: there's plenty of time for it to change again.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

"Lost Without U" - Robin Thicke

Back in the year 2007, long before anyone had ever heard of "Blurred Lines", this song was a hit:


It's "Lost Without U" by Robin Thicke; it was his biggest hit until this year's "Blurred Lines". Out of his two largest singles to date, I prefer "Lost Without U": it's a much gentler and romantic song, and doesn't come with all the controversy that "Blurred Lines" has.

I'm still unsure what to really think about "Blurred Lines", although I am glad for Thicke that he isn't a one-hit wonder. Regardless, "Lost Without U" is a perfectly enjoyable song. Prior to the success of his current hit, I would occasionally think about "Lost Without U", remember how much I liked the song and wonder if I would ever hear Thicke on the radio again.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

An insult to their memories

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. All across the Internet, there is an abundance of memorial articles, tweets and status updates to commemorate all the victims and to remind the world that the atrocity should not be repeated in any form. The intent behind the each of these online remembrances is purely honorable.

In addition to 9/11/01, in several discussion forums I've observed some people mention two other notable September 11ths: the 1973 Chilean coup and the 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi. It would be natural to assume that the people highlighting these two other events are expressing their commemorations for the dead. Unfortunately, from what I've observed today, that isn't always the case.

Whenever I've seen somebody mention the Chilean coup on a 9/11 thread, they have not commented with the intention of educating others or paying any sort of respect to the dead. Instead, they use the coup as a passive-aggressive form of anti-Americanism and/or to trivialise 9/11 and its victims, or to claim that the attacks on 9/11 were justified because of incidents like the coup. They have no interest in the memories of anyone who died in the coup and only use them as an excuse to troll. Similarly, with Benghazi, most of the people talking about it in the various 9/11 memorial threads are not commemorating the four people who died in the attack: They are using the deaths as a crutch to spread conspiracy theories or to fuel whatever hatred that has consumed them. The victims are disrespected and otherwise forgotten.

I'm not overly familiar with what transpired in the Chilean coup and I certainly don't know everything about Benghazi, either (although I reject the "trutherism" regarding the latter"). I do know, however, that the use of any tragedy to dismiss another or to spread hatred is reprehensible and an insult to all the people who suffered and died. When you trivialise one tragedy, you trivialise them all.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Nottingham 2013 concluded

Well, that concludes my posts about my two-week trip to Nottingham last month. I hope you enjoyed reading my pieces and seeing their pictures as much as I enjoyed creating them. I also hope that you haven't felt overwhelmed with the sheer volume of them this year!

As you have most likely gleaned from all those posts, I had an incredible time during my visit: I had the chance to see some new places and re-visit some old ones. I met some new people while having fun with people I've known for years, and I brought back with me plenty of pictures and memories to share. My relatives were as happy as I was that I was up there for two weeks; I have no complaints whatsoever about the visit (not that I would have them, anyway!).

Ah, well; tomorrow, it's back to my regular posts! Thanks again, my friends, family and fellow bloggers.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The sludge

The last image in my Alyn Waters Country Park post contained an orange stream. I also wrote about another image, one that was taken by my brother, that looked as though it were a picture of sludge:

According to my grandfather, yellow ochre — a hydrated iron salt — in the ground, along with contaminants washed out from the nearby landfill, created this mess and caused the stream to turn orange.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

South Yorkshire images

On the 30th of August, my grandfather took me and my brother to South Yorkshire. He wanted to take us to some more places that are important in our family's history; however, the only pictures I'll be sharing are the ones I took at Rother Valley Country Park. The park isn't quite as significant to the family as the other places we went to that day but it was somewhere that my grandfather used to visit with his children.

Some boaters out on the lake. The water sports that take place at Rother Valley Country Park are similar to those at Holme Pierrepont in Nottinghamshire, such as water skiing and boating. Unlike Holme Pierrepont, which is one long rectangle, the country park has a proper lake containing plenty of room for people to move around.

A shot to show off both a curve on the lake and the most beautiful part of the afternoon.

A water skier; there are ski cables and some jumps in one part of the lake. Not all of the lake is open to boating and skiing.

I was lucky to make this capture of a skier falling into the water! I'm not sure if it's the same person from the previous image.

As with most parks here in the United Kingdom, the Canada geese were present. This trio was after food but stomped off after they realised we didn't have any.

The bare patch on the hill in the distance reminded my grandfather of the ski slopes in Lake Tahoe.

The South Yorkshire trip was the last journey any of us made during the Nottingham visit; the next long drive in a car was my brother's and my return home.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Wales, Part II: Caergwrle

The second part of my two-part post about my grandfather's, my brother's and my visit to Wales covers the Welsh village of Caergwrle (pronunciation: kai-girly). Caergwrle is significant to the family because my grandparents lived there many years ago.

Up a mountain adjacent to the village lie the ruins of Caergwrle Castle. The castle was the last castle built in Wales prior to England conquering the country in 1283. A fire destroyed the castle that same year.

When I took this picture, I was standing in a similar position to when I took the took the previous image: I just turned around. This view looks towards the north and to more of Wales. The tower in the distance is the Padeswood Cement Works; England is off to the right.

A closer view of two of the three remaining walls at the site. The third wall was behind me. It is strange for me to think that I was no older than five years old the last time I was up here, before we moved to the United States.

Another shot of two of the three walls, with me standing on the wall in the background of the previous image to obtain a picture from this angle. I only climbed a little way up the wall on the left and did not even attempt to climb the one on the right.

Another picture taken from the castle wall; this looks south into Wales.

The path back down (and up, as there is only one direct route either way) to the village. My grandfather was somewhat dismayed at being slower to walk up the mountain than he used to be, but he was overjoyed the next day when he wasn't at all stiff or sore from all the walking we'd done in Wales!

The three of us had a wonderful time in Wales. Although my brother and I barely remember the place from all those years ago, our recent visit brought back plenty of memories for our grandfather. When we next travel to Wales, we intend to explore some sites that we either missed or briefly visited on this day. I look forward to it.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Wales, Part I: Alyn Waters Country Park

On the 29th of August, my grandfather, brother and I visited North Wales. While we went to several places, I'll only be covering the two major locations that we visited: Alyn Waters Country Park and the village of Caergwrle. I'll also be splitting the two places into separate posts.

This is the River Alyn, which is a notable river in North Wales and a tributary of the River Dee; the Dee itself forms part of the England-Wales border.

Another shot of the River Alyn, taken from a little further downriver.

One of the bridges within the park. This particular bridge is deceptive, depending on which direction you approach it: from our angle, it initially looked as though it were a short ramp leading on to the next area (most of the bridge was behind a corner and obscured by trees).

This is a sycamore leaf with blackspot. Unlike the blackspot that can be found on some roses, sycamore blackspot isn't usually harmful if the tree is otherwise healthy and strong; however, this smaller sycamore might be at risk.

A reddish-orange stream that flows into the Alyn. The park is located near to an old refuse site, and some of the irons in the ground were likely washed out by the rain and leaked into the stream. I think my brother took a picture of what looked like orange sludge; I'll ask him.

I took these pictures with my phone and the weather was cloudy, hence the lower quality:

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Lincoln Cathedral images

On the 27th of August, I accompanied my relatives from the East of England to the city of Lincoln. My uncle invited me and I'm delighted that he made the offer: Lincoln is one of the finest places I've been to in the United Kingdom.

Why, exactly, am I so pleased about Lincoln? Well, besides being a beautiful city, it's easy for drivers and pedestrians alike: my uncle appeared to have no trouble whatsoever navigating the place and he confirmed this when I asked him after we had returned to Nottingham that evening. In regards to walkers, there are several pedestrianised roads and the footpaths are spacious; it wasn't difficult to walk to the city centre from wherever we were parked.

Which brings me onto my next point: Parking. The abundance of parking spaces in Lincoln stunned me; they are located all over the city and are free as long as you stay within the time limit. Most of the spaces we encountered provided free parking for an hour, although others only gave half an hour and some as long as two. It made a pleasant change from a driver having to search for a (likely crowded) parking garage.

I'm happy for my cousin, too. Her accommodation's location, combined with all the access for pedestrians, gives her less than a ten-minute walk to her university and the shops. She also has somewhat of a waterfront view and her building appears to be in a relatively decent part of the city. I think she was satisfied with it.

Obviously, I'm not going to post pictures of my cousin's accommodation; instead, here are some pictures of Lincoln Cathedral:

This is Lincoln Cathedral from a distance. My cousin doesn't have to walk far to get this view, as the cathedral is the most prominent building in the Lincoln skyline.

I took this picture when we were walking up to the cathedral. These two towers used to hold a spire each, but they were removed in 1807 over safety concerns.

The cathedral was undergoing some maintenance, which pleased me: The building is several centuries old and without this work it would deteriorate. My uncle remarked about the pollution damage on the other side of the cathedral.

This is the cathedral's central tower. It also once held a spire, which brought the cathedral to the height of 525 feet; however, the spire was destroyed in the mid-16th century.

A picture taken at the west front of the cathedral, where some additional maintenance was ongoing.

I love this image. I know that I shouldn't aim a camera towards the Sun but in this case it was acceptable: the cathedral's tower was obscuring the Sun enough for me to make this capture.

This is the last picture that I took of the cathedral and in Lincoln itself. I thought our visit was excellent and I'm glad that we had a quick lunch so that we had more time to explore and enjoy the place; the weather was perfect...too good to waste sitting indoors. To reiterate, I am happy for my cousin and I think she'll have a wonderful time living in this beautiful city during her years attending university.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Bloggers Blog Party - August 2013

I'm taking a slight rest from writing about my Nottingham visit to continue with the Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party. These are my pictures from August:

Friday, 2nd August: I received some new t-shirts early on in the month; my clothes usually last a long time but I needed some new t-shirts. After wearing the new t-shirts for slightly over a month (well, not every day...they have to be cleaned!), I am satisfied with them.

Thursday, 7th August: On this morning, my brother and I saw this large UPS truck; we rarely, if ever, see these and it was a small surprise to see one in our neighbourhood. Here in the United Kingdom, it's not uncommon to see the standard brown UPS trucks.

Friday, 16th August: I spent this day packing items to take with me for my now-concluded two-week visit to Nottingham. This is a box of toothpaste, which I kept in a bag.

Wednesday, 21st August: This is the pair of new shoes that my aunt bought for me. My aunt noticed the state of my current pair and insisted that she buy me some new shoes. It is difficult to find a decent pair of shoes for me because my foot size is larger than what most shoe outlets carry; fortunately, we found this pair on our third store! As with the aforementioned t-shirts, I am satisfied with these shoes; they are comfortable, just as my aunt said that would be.

Monday, 26th August: My grandmother made apple and blackberry pies on this day; when we ate the pies, they were served with vanilla ice cream. Here are the pies next to some potatoes.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Matlock 2013 pictures

On the 23rd of August, my aunt, uncle, a cousin and I visited Matlock Bath in Derbyshire. Matlock Bath/the Heights of Abraham was the second of two places that I had requested we visit during my first week in Nottingham, with the first being Chiquito, a Mexican restaurant.

When we arrived in Matlock Bath (well, after managing to find a parking space), we went to When the Clock Strikes 3 for lunch. When the Clock Strikes 3 classifies itself as a "Traditional English Tea Shop", serving foods such as sandwiches, cakes, rarebit and "English breakfast". I chose the "English breakfast" because it's not a meal that I had eaten until then.

The easiest and most common way to reach the Heights of Abraham is to ride the cable cars up; however, according to one of the attendants at the cable car ticket stand, it is possible to walk up to the Heights, although it is more difficult than it used to be.

My uncle did not accompany me, my aunt and cousin up to the Heights; he opted to explore Matlock Bath, because, as he said, he's already been up to the Heights over five times before.

A view towards the town of Matlock. The Heights of Abraham and its access points are located in Matlock Bath, the village to Matlock's south, but the whole vicinity is collectively and colloquially known as "Matlock".
This is the Victoria Prospect Tower, which was completed in 1844. It has had two purposes in its time: the tower provided work for the local unemployed while it was under construction and after completion has served to supplement the already-excellent views atop the Heights of Abraham.

To reach the top of the Victoria Prospect Tower, one must climb a narrow-stepped spiral staircase. The priority is for people coming down, as my aunt, cousin and I had to return to the bottom at least twice when we were ascending to allow everyone at the top to return to the bottom.

A view of the Matlock/Matlock Bath countryside from the top of Victoria Prospect Tower.

Before heading back to the ground, I ensured I took at least one picture of the tower's wall while looking down from its top. I was about 40 feet above the ground, as stated in the next photo.

The information sign for the Victoria Prospect Tower. I am still surprised that the tower is only 40ft high...when you're climbing those narrow stairs and reach the top it feels as though it is much higher!

This is a view looking down towards Matlock Bath, taken from near to the gift shop. It's the last picture I took on this trip to the Heights of Abraham.

My uncle re-joined us after we had exited the Heights of Abraham. He was enjoying an ice cream and said that there are a few other places to check out in Matlock Bath besides the Heights of Abraham; should we visit again, I looking forward to seeing them.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Chatsworth House 2013 pictures

On the 22nd of August, my uncle, cousin, one of my cousins friends and I visited Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. My uncle, cousin and I have now been to the House for three years in a row; we went there this year at my cousin's request. We did not embark on a major trek as we did last year, and this time my uncle and I went inside the House.

While I have an abundance of pictures from this visit to Chatsworth House, a large amount of them are of me and/or my group (and therefore ineligible to be posted here under my rules). Despite this, I've included a decent selection of scenes from the day:

 
This is a sculpture for an art exhibition at Chatsworth House, Beyond Limits. I think this sculpture is a piece called ''Standing Woman'', by Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, although I'm not completely certain. None of us read the plaque or sign by the sculpture's feet; at that point in the day, we didn't know that it was part of an exhibition.

In my coverage of my first trip to Chatsworth House, I wrote about the maze. This is a picture taken from the centre of the maze; there was a tree located at the centre on my previous two visits but it has since been removed. I do not know why.

This hedge is the outer wall of the maze. All four of us reached the centre but my uncle made it there first and already exited it by the time my cousin, friend and I had arrived.


This is another sculpture for Beyond Limits, titled Spiral of the Galaxy; it is by Marc Quinn.

This is the sign for the aforementioned sculpture. After we paid little attention to the plaques and signs of the other pieces, I ensured I photographed this one.

This is the rock from where I attempted my infamous mud jump last year. My uncle gave a spectacular retelling of the incident to us for the benefit of my cousin's friend; his retell was hilarious and deeply impressed us. If you ever want to hear the story of the time I jumped into the mud at Chatsworth House, hear it from my uncle!

An obligatory shot of Chatsworth House itself, just to show that we were there. The weather was sunny for most of the day but the clouds partially obscured the sunshine towards the end of our visit.

This trip might have been my third year at Chatsworth House in a row, but I was pleased by my cousin's request and both the House and its grounds never become boring. I will always recommend to people who want to come to the United Kingdom to go to Chatsworth House; you won't be disappointed.