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The Lake District (Part 2)

One of the things I really enjoy on short weekend breaks in the UK is a full English breakfast, especially if it comes with fried bread and a sliver of blackpudding. The Oak Bank Hotel doesn't disappoint in this respect.

We had already decided to visit Muncaster Castle which is about an hours drive from Grasmere. After being chased at high speed by a camper van a la Duel we eventually arrived at the castle just after midday.

£24 later and we were walking along the path through the gardens towards the castle. Our tickets entitled us to take the audio tour of the Gordon-Duff-Pennington's home. We learned about the long history of the building and those who had dwelt there including the mischievous and murderous Tom Skelton who was also known as Tom Fool (hence the origins of the term Tom Foolery).

After a quick cumberland sausage for lunch we wandered around the owl sanctuary (couldn't believe how enormous eagle owls are) then made our way along the path to the maze which I must admit I was really looking forward to. What a let down! I was expecting something like Hampton Court or Leeds Castle... instead it was some tacky kids effort. Crap.

After giving up on the maze we headed back to the car and took the same roller-coaster route back to Grasmere.

This evening we dined on another excellent meal... although the pork belly was not as good as the pork belly at Reubens in Cape Town.

To be continued...

Dove Cottage

The Lake District (Part 1)

It was exactly five years ago that we last came to The Lake District. This time after consulting Tripadvisor we picked the Oak Bank Hotel in Grasmere. Our journey by car went without a hitch and it was about 1:30 when we eventually arrived.

After a short rest and a quick cuppa we headed off on foot to explore the local area. It didn't take us long to find Dove Cottage which was home to William Wordsworth for about nine years at the very beginning of the 19th century. We bought two tickets for a tour of the house and the adjacent museum. The tour was short but informative (I never realised Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived there too).

Afterwards we stopped off for some refreshments and had a quick browse in a couple of shops before heading back to the hotel for a rest and getting ready for dinner.

We had booked our table for 7:30 and whilst waiting for our dinner to be prepared we waited in the lounge with our drinks. Dinner was impressive and of course as is customary on all our trips away... I stuffed myself!

To be continued...

C J Sansom, Matthew Shardlake, Dissolution and Dark Fire

Last year sometime we were shopping at Westfield in West London, N wanted to pop into a few clothes shops and I decided to have a browse in Foyles bookshop. That's where I noticed on the new releases shelf copies of Heartstone by C J Sansom. I picked it up and had a quick read of the blurb and seeing it was the fifth novel in a series put it back again. Fastforward to Christmas and N gave me the first two books as a present. Dissolution and Dark Fire... and do you know what? They are absolutely bloody brilliant!!

The stories follow the investigations of Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer who finds himself involuntarily working for Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's righthand man.

Dissolution, the first novel, introduces us to Shardlake and Tudor England during the time of the Reformation. Our hero is ordered to investigate the murder of one of Cromwell's commissioners who was in the process of closing down the monastery in Scarnsea on the south coast. There are a wealth of suspects (most of them are monks) and Shardlake is working to a tight schedule especially as they are snowed in. More murders follow and is Shardlake himself under threat?

Dark Fire, the second novel, introduces us to a new major character. Jack Barak, a resourceful agent of Cromwell's who teams up with Shardlake to discover who has stolen the secret of Greek Fire which Cromwell wants to demonstrate to the King as it could be a major weapon to be used against the French and the Spanish. At the same time Shardlake is also investigating another mystery. Why is the niece of a friend of his not spilling the beans on the murder of her cousin? Both plots are interwoven and again it is a race against time as our heroes must solve both cases in a week or innocent people will suffer.

These are the best two books I have read in ages. I love the characters and the pacing of the stories are spot on. The concise descriptions of the locations are terrific... especially in Dark Fire which is entirely set in London. Absolutely first class and I am most certainly going to read the other books.

Rating: 10/10 (for both of them)


Okay it isn't or wasn't too hard to find out the identity of CTB thanks to Twitter and the Internet... but why did the d*ckhead in question try to threaten everyone who had published it. If the story is untrue then surely it would be better to issue a statement denying everything... and if it is true then just admit it and say it is a matter between him and his wife. No one would give a sh*t. But all this prat has done is draw maximum attention to himself and made himself a laughing stock! Personally I think Twitter should tell him to go f*ck himself.

The Fighter

Blimey... Christian Bale was barely recognisable in this film having lost so much weight (see photo above) but his performance was superb as Dicky Eklund, boxing trainer and brother to Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg). The film follows Micky as he tries to follow in his brother's footsteps into the big time... where as Dicky steadily falls apart in a downward spiral of drug taking and finally ends up in jail. Again like The King's Speech the acting is terrific... but this time the story holds up and keeps you guessing as to its outcome. Brilliant.

Rating: 8.5/10

Bloke eats 25,000 Big Macs

Just read this on the Daily Mail website. A retired American prison guard has broken his own record for scoffing 25,000 Big Macs. Not all in one go... but over the course of 39 years. Even so - that is 1.75 burgers a day - EVERYDAY. Bloody idiot.

Rant over.

Dodgy Monkeys

What the hell is all that about? "Jammy, jammy, jammmmyyyy", "Toffee, toffee, tofffffeeeeee". Talk about giving you the creeps. I know lets make an advert for a new flavour of a biscuit that has been around for years... and we'll advertise it by using a pair of evil looking and sounding monkeys who creep up on you in your local Morrison's and are about to jump down on you from the shelves. Are they bloody mad?

Rant over.

A bunch of...

The English language boasts a huge number of collective nouns (is that the correct term?)... a flock of sheep, a herd of cows, a pride of lions, a shoal of fish, a murder of crows... etc... So why the f*ck do the yanks always say... a bunch of whatever? You watch any American TV programme and I'll bet you at some point somebody will say... a bunch of (insert noun). "Hey, guys... take a bunch of lions stick 'em with a bunch of sheep and etc..." Retards.

Rant over.

The King's Speech

I finally ended up watching the The King's Speech on our return flight from Cape Town. When it was released at the cinema and subsequently won a shedload of Oscars I still didn't have a compulsion to see it... but when you are trapped on an airliner for several hours it seemed like a good idea to finally give it a go. I actually thought it was very good... but it was far more about the acting than anything else. The storyline is pretty simple and links in with events such as the abdication of Edward VIII and the start of WWII... the film is actually far more about the characters and the performance by Colin Firth as George VI was incredible. Likewise Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carton supported magnificently. A film well worth watching to see a masterclass in acting!

Rating: 10/10 for acting (6/10 for story)

Waiting at the barbers

At least I can make a rant whilst waiting to get my hair cut... just been thinking how the Tories must be laughing their heads at how the Libdems and particularly Nick Clegg have taken all the wrath from the public and been savaged at the polls. Why? As part of the coalition government how come they seem to be taking 100% of the blame for the cuts and tuition fees? True they are fools for letting the Conservatives get away with it... but shouldn't the public be slamming Cameron. After all the tw*t is the PM.

Rant over.

"Yes" to the Alternative Vote

And my reasons for voting that way in today's referendum... just to p*ss off Cameron and his cronies. Of course he is blissfully unaware of me or my motivations but it makes me feel better... a bit!

Rant over.


Loved it, loved it, loved it!

We went to see Thor last Saturday and I must say I was very impressed. Chris Hemsworth is THOR! What I particularly liked is that the film is played straight. The acting is great. The action is terrific. The soundtrack is marvelous. All the supporting actors perform well... especially the bloke who portrays Loki. Asgard looks stunning and the first portion of the film where Thor and the Warriors 3 head off to Jotunheim via the Bifrost to make battle with the frost giants is superb. I loved the hammer-play!

Kenneth Branagh has put together a thoroughly entertaining superhero blockbuster and although it sounds sad... I am really looking forward to the forthcoming Captain America and subsequent Avengers films.

Rating: 8.5/10

Cape Town VI - Part 5

Easter Sunday arrived... our last day... and N had booked lunch at Suikerbossie which was where we were married four years ago. The lunch itself was a buffet, much like the lunch we had at our wedding and of course with buffets I find I just totally pig out. Soup for starters, a plate of salad to follow, then a roast dinner main course and finally finishing off with an assortment of desserts. Yum. Unfortunately the weather wasn't that great so we were denied the panoramic views across the ocean.

As we were working to a tight schedule we had to leave promptly and head back home to pick up our luggage and make the short journey to the airport.

We joined the shorter queue for passengers that have checked in online only to find the longer queue for the passengers who hadn't checked in online went quicker. Once we were sorted we headed up to Mug & Bean to re-join the family. These times are always sad and it seemed in no time that we had said our farewells and passed through security ready to board the plane to Dubai.

I watched two films on the flight home. The first was The Kings Speech and the second was The Fighter (reviews to follow). The journey was completely uneventful and of course I ended up with the obligatory numb arse! The numb arse was not abated when we had to make the tedious bus journey from Heathrow to WGC. After approximately 24 hours of travel we were finally home.