Archive for August, 2005

Broadsword calling Danny Boy

I watched Where Eagles Dare last night. Interesting eh? I’d been playing with lots of PEAR stuff last night (notably the DB package), but the battery on my laptop finally died and I couldn’t be arsed to get off the sofa so thanks to the magic of sky plus I watched this film recorded from a few days ago.

On a different note, it seems the fantasy football stuff has taken off once again, so if you’re looking for the daily telegraph fantasy football password then you probably want to head over to my brother’s site. Don’t know why I’m getting loads of traffic for that stuff though - I don’t even like football!

Since being back from France I’ve been drinking rather a lot of Ricard (pastis) . It’s rather pleasant to have a nice cold glass when I get in from work, while I think about what exciting feast I’m going to rustle up for dinner. While over in France just about everyone I met said something along the lines of “Ah hello, you’re just in time for an aperitif! Would you like a Ricard?” With this level of consumption it was inevitable that I would get a taste for the drink…

The only downside to this is that it tends to make my evenings rather unproductive. Ah well, I’m getting more sleep these days :-)

I’m pleased to say that my local supermarket stocks it too, much to the surprise of a couple of French folk I know over here. They say they’ve looked for it before but could never find it. Not looking hard enough I say. These French just lack a real work ethic me thinks…

Canon EOS 5D

So they’ve finally done it: the Canon EOS 5D is announced! On paper this looks like a fantastic camera - the most important thing for me being it has a full frame sensor. This was the thing I was holding out for for ages, but I finally gave in to the urge for a digital camera when I got my EOS 20D. The 20D is also a great camera, but having a full frame DSLR has two advantages:

  1. Your lenses behave as they should without the multiplier effect/crop effect of smaller APS-sized sensors - a real advantage if you like wide angle photography like me, and
  2. You have a larger sized view-finder. I really hate the fact that I can never tell if an image on my 20D is in focus, because the viewfinder image is so small!

Before I got my EOS 20D I used a film-based Canon EOS 5. This was (and still is) a lovely camera, and I was fairly reluctant to stop using it. However, the advantages of digital finally won me over, and I got my current camera.

So will I be getting an EOS 5D when it is out? Well, I’m very tempted, I have to say! However, I think that unless my photography improves a great deal, or unless I start making some money from the hoby, then I can’t really justify the expense just at the moment. Of course if I win the lottery then it will be a different story….

Word of the Day - MediaWiki Extension

I’ve written my first MediaWiki extension - it’s for displaying the Dictionary.com Word of the Day on your Wiki.

I may have been a bit naughty because this extension prefers it if you use PEAR. You don’t have to though - you can just download the two pear packages (XML_RSS and Cache_Lite - two packages that are great!) and dump them somewhere on your include path.

I’ve written this as I’ve just started getting into this Wiki stuff. I’ve set one up at work, and so far I seem to be getting a lot of enthusiasm from my colleagues about it. Time will tell what happens!

Anyway, why not take a look at my WikiMedia Word of the Day extension! Any feedback will be appreciated :)

France 2005 - Part II - The Tourist Bit

I did a lot of driving over the last two weeks. For the interest of everyone, here is a rough break down of my route. Each full stop represents at least one night’s sleep:

Surrey to Bristol. Bristol to Launceston. Launceston to Plymouth. (Ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff.) Roscoff to La Chatre-sur-le-Loir (via Rennes and Le Mans). La Chatre-sur-le-Loir to Nogent-le-Rotrou. Nogent-le-Rotrou to La Chatre-sur-le-Loir.

[Then we had the wedding]

La Chatre-sur-le-Loir to Nogent-le-Rotrou to La Rochelle (via Tours and Poitiers). La Rochelle to Nogent-le-Rotrou (via Marais Poitevin). Nogent-le-Rotrou to La Chatre-sur-le-Loir. La Chatre-sur-le-Loir to St. Malo, Ferry from St. Malo to Portsmouth, and Portsmouth to Surrey and home!

So a lot of driving backwards and forwards. So what about the tourist bits?

La Rochelle

I spent two nights in La Rochelle with a couple of friends. The first night was spent in a little studio apartment called Bar de l’Hôtel de Ville. As far as I’m concerned this was a posh title for student-grade accommodation. In fact it was worse than anywhere I lived as a student (and if you knew me back then you’ll know that this takes some beating!). I generally slept badly on this trip, and the night spent in this hole was probably the worst of the lot!

I rose nice and early the following day and booked us all into another hotel down on the old harbour front called Hôtel Saint Jean d’Acre. I would say this was comparable to a travel lodge, though it cost a bit more. Unfortunately my plan for sleep failed and I had a pretty rough night’s sleep once again. However the potential was certainly there this time.

While in La Rochelle we ate and drank in pleasant quantities, went on a couple of boat trips, and walked around part of the town. Our activities were nothing to write home about, but we had a good (and fairly amusing) time none the less.

Nogent-le-Rotrou

We drove back to Nogent-le-Rotrou via the Marais Poitevin (Venise Verte or Green Venice). Tip: if you go here don’t follow the signs to the bird centre. Not unless you really like birds.

I’m sure this part of France is lovely – it surely sounds good from the tourist book write-ups! I have a feeling we didn’t see the best of it though, and two hours probably isn’t enough time anyway. The idea of punting around a French Venice rather appealed to us. Regrettably we only found some tree and weed-chocked streams. Not what I had expected. I think this is somewhere you need to spend more time though in to get the most from it – and it’s definitely somewhere I want to head back to.

After the drive back to Nogent and my first great nights sleep, I spent the day with one of my friends meeting family, eating, and then looking around one the local castles: Château Saint-Jean. I’m sorry to say we had eaten and drunk too much at lunch before hand though, so after a quick look around we ended up sleeping on the grass. It was a nice end to a good day though.

So that was really all the tourist stuff I did. Not a lot really. I think I made up for this though by meeting lots of great French people. They are a funny bunch the French: They don’t usually treat tourists especially well, but if you’re a friend of the family then they can be an extremely pleasant, generous and welcoming bunch. Everywhere we went we were given drinks and asked if we would stay for lunch or dinner. This is the way you really get a feel for a foreign society, and this was the part of the trip I enjoyed the most (apart from two very dear friends getting married, of course…).

OK, so what about the photos? They’re on their way – please bear with me!

France 2005 – Part I - The Wedding

So as you should know by now, I’m back from my holiday. It wasn’t really a proper holiday – the first half was mainly spent in preparation for my friend’s wedding in and around a place called La Chatre-sur-le-Loir, South of Le Mans. After that I had a few days in La Rochelle, and I spent a couple of days in Nogent-le-Rotrou visiting a friend.

The Wedding

For us Brits, the wedding was a different sort of affair. The actual ceremony was a civil event held in the town hall of La Chatre-sur-le-Loir at 4.00 PM. I’ve never been to a British wedding in a registry office so I can’t really draw any comparisons with this one. However, for an allegedly romantic nation the civil bit was quite funny. They went on at lengths about the various legal aspects of marriage (and divorce) and so on, but it was a touching and emotional ceremony none the less.

After that everyone drove to a gîte in Chahaignes for the reception. Even the drive was quite different to the British norm with everyone hooting their horns, and with a car at the rear with a broom attached intended to sweep everyone up.

When we arrived at the gîte it was time to start on the wine. Several hours later we started on the first course of the meal, which lasted for about four or five hours (finishing after 1.00 AM I think…)! The French approach to wedding breakfasts is quite nice: you have several courses which are interspersed by various forms of entertainment and speeches. It’s all quite informal, and basically if you want to do something like sing a song, make a speech or perform a little act then you can go ahead and do it.

Although I’d been warned about this, I didn’t think it would take quite so long! By the time it was my turn to make the best man’s speech everyone was a little bit tiddly. The (rather short) French speech seemed to go down OK, but most of the English bit was lost. Not the end of the world I guess, but it would have been nice to have said everything I had planned on saying (and to have had it heard…)

After that there was some waltzing (my effort with the bridesmaid wouldn’t have won any prizes) and then it was on with the drinking. I’m told that it’s usual to go to bed at about 5.00 AM at most French weddings, so I was rather pleased with my effort to remain standing until 6.00 AM. (Having said that, there was at least one other thing I would rather have been doing at that time of night.)

It wasn’t over there though. Oh no! At least half of the guests stayed for an extra day of celebrations. The groom’s family knocked of a smashing cooked breakfast the following morning, and we then all started on the beer again. There was then an England versus France football game (sorry, we got our butts whipped), and then more drinking and eating.

Well that’s about it on the wedding front I think. As you can tell it was a long couple of days and everyone had a great time. I was glad when it was all over though – I really wanted a good night’s sleep!

And So I’m Back

Well, that was an interesting holiday! For the last two weeks I’ve been in France, South of Le Mans, for the wedding of a very good friend of mine. I’ll probably write more about it in due course, but just thought I’d check in and say bonjour to you.

It’s been a really unusual (though quite pleasant) experience. One of my best friends got married to a rather beautiful French girl, and as best man I went out a week before the wedding to try and help out with stuff. After that I stayed out for a further five or six days to have a little holiday. During that time I’ve been totally sucked into the French way of life. Most of the time was spent meeting with friends and family of the bride (and bridesmaid), and it seems that all we did was drink aperitifs, drink wine and eat nice food. Not a bad life - I could certainly get used to it!

The French were all extremely nice, generous and welcoming, and I really did enjoy meeting everyone. Perhaps next time we meet my French will have improved somewhat… Anyway, the pictures from the wedding and my holiday will go up on my flickr account soon, but in the meantime I’d just like to wish the bride and groom all the very best for their future together, and I look forward to us all growing old together :-)

P.S. I get loads of spam and my spam filter is rather crap. If you’ve sent me an email in the last two weeks please bear with me - it will take some time for me to go through it all and reply.

P.P.S I’ll be getting BritBlog up and fully operational soon. More about that in another post.