Wednesday 22 April 2015

Week 46: Local Cinema: The Imitation Game

English: A film projector Fumeo model 9250 hd,...

While the large cine complexes are drawing in audiences for the big screen experience, sometimes it's nice to be able to pop along to your local community hall for a different kind of cinema experience.

Not only do they have an interval (just like the old days) but you get ice-cream and hot and cold drinks for a fraction of the cost.  In fact you could probably spend as much on the ticket and refreshments as you'd spend on a bag of popcorn and a drink at the cineplexes.

Yes, the seats may not be as comfy (but they're not bad) and the sound system might not be up to the surround sound,  and better but you don't get the same intimacy.

So this week I went along to watch The Imitation Game - Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing - an excellent, moving, fact-based biopic of the man and the team behind the Enigma machine.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday 20 April 2015

Week 46: Wave ... Yellowave

Now that I've signed up for the Castle to Castle bike ride - I need to get some training in, so I've started to cycle in to Brighton once a week.  I also meet up with a friend of mine who wants to get fit and cycles in from the opposite direction for coffee and or lunch.

Yellowave Barefoot Cafe on the seafront in Brighton seemed to be a suitable meeting point at least for now.  About 6 miles from home and a relatively easy ride along the undercliff, depending on the wind direction and strength.

Good coffee, great falafels - optional beach volleyball or just sit in the sun enjoying the view.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Week 45: Castle Hill Nature Reserve

Up on the clifftop above Newhaven is the Castle Hill (Local) Nature Reserve.  Not to be confused with the Castle Hill (National) Nature Reserve a few miles away, north of Woodingdean between Brighton and Lewes.  (Must have been a lot of Castle's in the area at one time.)

This was the first time I've worked up there with the South Downs volunteers and despite living only a little further along the coast hadn't been there before at all.  The sun was shining but a cold wind kept the temperatures down.

A variety of tasks - starting with cleaning and painting the sign posts along the track up to the coastguard lookout tower.  Replacing the 'green' flag with a newer, cleaner one. Checking out the reptiles on the reserve (nowhere to be seen) and then weeding and cleaning out one of the gun emplacements.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Week 45: Badminton

Volant badminton

The racket sport not the horse trials ...

Another activity to add in to my exercise routine, a year on since treatment finished.

I haven't played badminton for ages and only ever played socially every now and then, so I wasn't sure how my shoulders would hold up given the explosive nature of the sport ... well if you're playing properly and not just having a gentle knock-about in the garden.

My local outdoor club organises a Badminton evening once a week so I dusted off my racket and went along to see if I could still hit the shuttle and have a half-decent game.  One court booked for a couple of hours for as many players as turn up.  Doubles rather than single, which means more people play and you also don't get so exhausted running around the whole court!

Didn't disgrace myself but did discover that the rules seem to have changed, as far as scoring is concerned (or perhaps I've never done it properly before), so left that to my fellow doubles players.  I'll get to grips with that on another day.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday 10 April 2015

Week 44: ISS and other satellites

English: The International Space Station is fe...

Among many of the night time objects visible from earth is one of the brightest satellites ... no not the Moon! - the International Space Station, otherwise known as the ISS.

Every now and then it's overhead pass can be seen as one of the brightest and fastest moving satellites in the night sky, even from the light polluted suburbs.  Through a telescope or good pair of binoculars you could even make out it's outline.

Tonight was a particularly high and bright pass, right overhead and luckily a clear sky so it visible even with the streetlights - passing quickly overhead from West to East.

If you want to know when the ISS is likely to be visible where you are - check out the NASA Spot The Station website or if you're in the UK, follow @VirtualAstro who tweets regularly about ISS passes, when and were to spot them and other astronomical highlights to look out for.

If you're lucky enough to live in an area with dark skies - look up on any clear, moonless night and you'll see a number of satellites passing overhead.  They're fast moving pin-pricks of light and can move east to west or north to south.  Different from planes (fly much lower) or meteors (seen as a short, fast streak).  Brightest overhead, dimming as they head towards the horizon - depending on the time of year and position of the sun.

ISS photographed by STS-134 crew member on the space shuttle Endeavour 
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Week 43-44: North Yorkshire - Easter Walking

Our Farmhouse B&B for the weekend.  Nestled in Swaledale in the Yorkshire National Park.  Up the narrow road out of Low Row and nestled in the valley.  Lovely comfy rooms and delicious home-cooked breakfast - as traditional as you like or healthier options. 

A walk around Muker, Thwaite and Keld, back along the river.

A lovely circular walk in the sunshine on Easter Sunday - from Keld up to Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England.  Not too busy for an Easter weekend.  A pint of Ewe's Juice - their local brew.

On the final day and a short walk around Kisdon to make the most of the great weather before heading back home.

Monday 30 March 2015

Week 43: Nettle Pesto

Picking a mixture of nettles - just the young tops and if you grasp firmly they don't sting ... apparently and wild garlic.

Same ingredients as last time - nuts and cheese mixed in with the nettles - lightly blanched before chopping finely.  We also sampled fresh nettle tea and pastry parcels made with nettles and cheese. 

It can basically be used like spinach and is incredibly good for you.

Ta dah!

Saturday 28 March 2015

Week 42: Brighton Veg Fest

I was lucky enough to win a ticket to this year's Brighton Veg Fest in a draw I entered at Seedy Sunday in February - there's a theme developing ...

I'm not a vegetarian and not planning to be one.  I don't eat a huge amount of meat and do care about how animals are reared, the way meat is produced and processed.

There were stalls spread around the various floors of the Brighton Centre.  Mainly food focused (vegetarian obviously) and many selling their wares and foodie treats in various shapes and sizes.  Several stalls were selling chocolate in a variety of forms and flavours from raw to dairy free (not as nice as the real thing).

In the end I came away with a couple of pots of herbs, a few samples and a new kitchen gadget - good for soups and smoothies.

Related articles

Friday 27 March 2015

Week 42: The Brighton Wheel

The Brighton Wheel
After last year's cancelled trip - another opportunity for a ride in Brighton's very own 'eye'.

Brighton seafront towards Worthing
Not quite as large as the London Eye and it goes round a lot quicker but still great views up and down the Sussex coast.

Brighton Pier from the Brighton Wheel
We had a perfect day for it.  After the @BrightonChamber meeting a large group walked the short distance to the seafront and were ushered in to the pods for a ride on the wheel.

Brighton seafront towards the Marina
Visit the Brighton Wheel

Sunday 22 March 2015

Week 41: Wild Garlic Workshop

English: Wild garlic See 844871.

Run by the lovely ladies at @PickItCookIt near Ashurst and the first of two workshops I've booked up.

Also known as Ransoms, wild garlic is one of the Spring plants that you can't miss when you come across them, due to their strong, pungent aroma.  They're found in woodland, often along stream and river banks.

After coffee and scones ... containing wild garlic ... on arrival - we head out to pick the wild garlic from the wooded area on the farm, alongside the stream.  On the way back we drop by the veg patch to pick a few leeks and then back to the outdoor workspace to put together pesto.

Pretty easy to make:  Finally chop the greenery - wild garlic and leek or onion if you prefer then mix roughly 2 parts greenery to 1 part grated hard cheese + 1 part crushed nuts - whatever you prefer, walnuts, hazel, almonds.  Add seasoning and spices to taste, mix with a good virgin olive oil or rapeseed to a paste.  Whatever combination and as rough or finely chopped as you like.

Tastes delicious on bread, with pasta or mixed in with pretty much anything.  It got added to pretty much everything I was cooking that week!

Wild garlic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday 20 March 2015

Week 41: Jeepers

I just happened to be about to walk back from checking out some work on my local patch, when I spotted this.

Driven by someone I happen to know, so I hitched a lift up the hill and got a ride in this vintage WWII American Willys jeep, complete with machine gun (not live!).

Unexpected, great fun if a little exposed - glad it was a sunny day.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Week 40: Jellied eggs!

No, not a food substance but frogspawn.

I've had frogs in my small barrel pond for years but it was only two years ago when I got my first batch of frogspawn.  Nothing last year but this year I got two batches about a week apart.

I rescued the second batch and moved it in to the house to hatch out.  There's a childish delight in seeing them grow inside their little circles of jelly and then hatch out into small black embryos that slowly turn into tadpoles.

Some hatched faster than others, some didn't hatch at all but most did - at least a few hundred did.  Separated the larger tadpoles out from the smaller ones.  Lucky I have an old plastic fish tank and a large glass bowl to house them in.

Fascinating to watch - you can see more of the frogspawn 77 day journey from 'egg to legs' on my Sussex Nature Notes blog.

Saturday 7 March 2015

Week 39: But I can't sing!

English: A Sennheiser Microphone

Well, I didn't think this would be one of the activities that would make it on to the list - but the opportunity arose so ...

Singing Neil Diamond's classic Sweet Caroline or at least the words to the song were coming out of my mouth but the sounds didn't bear much resemblance to the classic song (sorry Neil).  However, it's a good one to belt out, even if I was being (fortunately) upstaged by a far better singer.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Week 38: Testing out the new bike

Glorious day to test out the new bike with a ride up and around Telscombe Tye in the sunshine for an extended lunch break.  I'm going to have to do a few more in order to get fit enough for my Castle to Castle ride in September!

Great to just be able to jump on the bike and take a break from work - especially as the weather is getting better, although it was a lot colder than it looks.

Monday 16 February 2015

Week 37: Paddington Bear's favourite

I make marmalade every now and then, when I spot Seville oranges in the shops for the brief couple of weeks when they're available.  My organic veg delivery box had some available.

I tried a different recipe this year - Ultimate Seville orange marmalade (BBC Goodfood).  The principle is the same - oranges, sugar and water but a much quicker option is to boil the fruit whole before making the marmalade.

Sooo much easier to cut up the fruit when it's soft rather than the hours it takes normally me.  This is the fiddliest and messiest part of the whole process.  It's then a matter of putting all the ingredients together and boiling until you reach 'setting' point which is a fairly random point.  Over-boil it and you get too solid a marmalade, under-boil and it's runny.

I added ginger this year but you'd hardly notice - definitely need to add a lot more to get the lovely ginger kick.

Options: - thicker cut for a chunkier marmalade, add dark brown sugar or molasses for a darker marmalade.  It's also easy to make at any time of year with lemons and limes (very tasty) or you can even just use the sweeter, eating oranges or any citrus fruit.

Monday 9 February 2015

Week 36: New Bike!

Finally treated myself to a new bike - thanks to @PaulYatesSmith for his assistance and expertise in helping me to spend my money (wisely) on a @Specialized hybrid!

Nothing too flash and certainly not something that costs the price of a small car!

I need a new bike for the Castle to Castle bike ride I'll be doing in September for the Odyssey Charity Challenge.

I'll need some serious training to get me up and down those hills having read that the Sustrans Route 8 is the toughest long-distance ride on the National Cycle Network!

Sunday 8 February 2015

Week 35: Hedgelaying in the sunshine

Well, I bet you didn't expect to see 'hedgelaying' on the list!

We occasionally get a chance to do it as South Downs Volunteer Rangers and it's an activity I've not done for a while.

Using axes to lay a length of hedge on Saddlescombe Farm - it was very cold, hence the layers and hat.  Hard work and difficult to get right - especially when you're not used to wielding an axe.

All those lengths of hedge have to get laid by someone and it's either volunteers or a small group of skilled craftsmen who do it for a living.

More on hedges and hedgelaying on the National Hedgelaying Society website.

Friday 6 February 2015

Week 35: It's A Blast!

Curso de Instructor de Pilates
I've been going to Pilates for a few months now - in fact almost a year, having started just after I'd finished chemo.

I'd notice but not participated in the Circuit Blast class that runs straight after my Pilates class but this time decided to stay on and give it a go.

Fun, hard work and thankfully only 30 minutes!

One minute blasts of weights, exercise and aerobic bursts of activity like skipping and jumping jacks to get the heart rate going.  That certainly doesn't happen in Pilates but having already exercised the core muscles some of the sit-ups were a challenge!

Have now added this to the exercise mix.

Pilates Instructor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday 1 February 2015

Week 34: Brighton - Seedy Sunday

The melee that is Seedy Sunday at the Brighton Dome each February - where you can buy or swap seeds and enjoy a range of growing and gardening delights, talks and food.

I picked up a lot of seeds for this year's veg planting.

The knitted map of Brighton taken from an original 1792 Terrier map showing the Laines and Furlongs (strips of land). The different colours showing different ownership of the land.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Week 34: Westminister Cathedral

English: Westminster Cathedral.

I lived in London for many years before moving down to Brighton.  I used to work in Victoria Street and regularly walked passed Westminister Catholic Cathedral but never went in.

Visiting London recently to meet up with a friend - after lunch on the south bank we found ourselves walking down Victoria Street which, with many new office buildings springing up, especially near the Station, has changed quite a bit since I was last there.

The Cathedral itself is quite surprising.   Outside it's a very striking building of striped red and white stone completed at the beginning of the 1900s.

Inside it's darker and quite austere as much of it is unfinished.  Being newer than the Catholic churches in Europe which I've visited, there was none of the gold and marble I'd expected.  Instead many modern mosaics and an imposing dark  and containing world renowned mosaics.

Good to see that some things remained the same - like the Albert Pub - surrounded by tall office blocks.
The old and the new

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Week 34: Wahaca - Deep Fried Plantain

Plantain fritters with vanilla ice-cream.  Not that exotic or unusual but not something I've eaten before, so makes the list.

Mexican street food from a restaurant built out of shipping containers.  Delicious!

We went for the easy option and the Wahaca selection - a mix of street food dishes.  Highly recommended if you're passing along the South Bank, although it was very busy at lunchtime.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Week 33: RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Freshly made cup of coffee, pain aux raisin, pen, paper and binoculars all set for the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch - an annual event held on the last weekend in January and started an incredible 36 years ago.

I always stock up the feeders in the weeks running up to BGBW with a variety of foods in the hope that I'll get a good turnout on the day.  Sadly, the birds seem to know and my regulars head off elsewhere as I try to notch up as many species as possible in one hour.

I usually watch for one or two hours throughout the day and then take the 'best' hour to record.  Most birds will make an appearance first thing in the morning to fuel up for the day and then again in the afternoon an hour or two before sunset.  There are always the usual suspects who are in and out all day - mainly the robin and blue-tits.

This year was a good results for my small garden with 10 different species and one squirrel (they also like to see who else, apart from birds, is visiting the garden).  All of my regulars except for the wren and goldfinch which didn't turn up until later in the day.

This year I also took a wander over to my local park towards the end of the day.  You can record species you see in a park if you don't happen to have a garden.  Fewer species but in greater numbers - like the woodpigeon (30+), house sparrows (18+) and greenfinch (20+)  as well as several robins and blackbirds.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Week 33: RSPB Brighton Group - Urban Birder Talk

House Sparrow, a bird of urban areas which was...
House Sparrow, a bird of urban areas.
A great talk from David Lindo the @Urbanbirder at the Brighton RSPB local group meeting.

Birds are all around us and just because you live in a town or city doesn't mean you can't watch birds.  The popularity of the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch shows how many birds you can see in your own garden.

Birds see our green and brown spaces and abandoned buildings as habitat, where they can rest and refuel while on migration, feed and even nest and breed.

David has travelled around the world and in all the urban areas he's visited he manages to find surprising birds in the most unusual places.

The majority of people are totally oblivious to the wildlife right on their doorstep.

#Look Up

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday 18 January 2015

Week 32: Volunteering - Sussex Wildlife

First session of the year and out with the Lewes Sussex Wildlife Trust volunteers up on Malling Down.  Still got the tail-end of my New Year cough - better but still not completely gone.

A light drizzle when we started, so the fire was a little slow to get going but roaring away by lunchtime and we managed to burn everything that had been cut previously.

There are plenty of opportunities for volunteering with the Wildlife Trust if you like getting out and about outdoors.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Week 31: Bike ride!

First bike ride of the year and first one in a while.

Plenty of sunshine but also pretty cold and windy after the recent gales.  As I was still suffering with a cough I picked up either in Italy (probably) I took a short cycle along the undercliff and back.  Easy going one way, hard work against the wind the other.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Week 30: New Year's Eve

Like many others I'm usually tucked up in bed well before midnight or at least at home on New Year's Eve but as that doesn't really go with the spirit of #52Things and as I missed out entirely last New Year, time to make an effort.

Not exactly an 'Extravaganza' but certainly something different (and that's what #52Things is all about).  Lovely friends, great atmosphere, good music from local musicians, some 'interesting' modern poetry - not really my thing but some of it was quite amusing - and belly-dancing!

All leading up to the chimes of Big Ben and the start of 2015.