Flight #2

Another glorious day and ideal flying weather meant only one thing; Rio was in for an early morning walk again and it was also drone time (I really need to stop calling it a drone, it’s technically a quad-copter!).

We set off towards the river and found an ideal spot for launching the aircraft; a quiet car park right next to a field. After carrying out the pre-flight checks I soon had it in the air; the distinctive red propeller guards I’d bought yesterday helping me to see which round the copter was facing.

I did some fly-by’s of the adjacent lake and some shots of Rio and me walking before the battery warning message showed it was time to bring it back down. The twenty minutes flight time really does go quickly when your having fun.

I’m trying to keep the videos fairly short so they don’t bore the pants of the viewers!

Phantom 3 Standard Quad-copter (or drone if you prefer)

Well, after losing my first drone last weekend (Matt’s father’s day present to me had a mind of its own and flew into a lake on its first flight) I decided to upgrade to DJI Phantom 3 Standard and give flying another go.

After watching lots of YouTube videos and practicing on the DJI app, Rio and I got up early this morning and headed for the Northants countryside to test out my new toy.

Within minutes I had the quad-copter flying and filming some of the surrounding landscape; controlling the drone was simple and easy to get some great shots.

Unfortunately the battery didn’t last long and my fun ended prematurely but I had gotten the bug and was eager to get it recharged and get out flying again. Unfortunately the weather for the rest of the day was not so good, with high winds and showers so no more flying but I did manage to cobble together this video…

Fingers crossed for some good weather in the morning!

First iPhone App – What’s My Weather?

Wow, my last post was in November, where has the time gone?

weather-appFor most of the winter my evenings have been spent learning how to code, and in particular how to build iPhone apps using Xcode and the newish programming language Swift. I purchased a number of online training courses through Udemy and have been diligently working through the lessons. I will admit that it has been a struggle; my brain finds it hard to retain the information nowadays, but my understanding of the coding has improved and am able to follow many of the lessons.

One of the courses, iOS 9 and Swift 2: From Beginner to Paid Professional, teaches through a bootcamp style and whilst it is geared for people who want to make programming a career, it also is effective for people who just want to try to learn to code and create apps for fun (which is why I am learning!).

Anyhow, one of the techniques it covers is extracting JSON data from the internet and presenting it in an app. The example app is a basic weather app and the course encourages students to hone their newly learned skills and build on the basic version to create a more functional version.

And so I did.

And I managed to build an app and release it in the Apple app store.

So those of you who have an Apple device can download What’s My Weather for free.

I have a few ideas for different apps which I would like to charge a fee to download but need to do some more lessons and lots more coding before I have confidence to release them.

PS I’ve just supported the developer of some of the online courses through a Kickstarter campaign. Worth checking out if you are interested in learning how to code.

Our days in Jersey

wet st helier

A little damp looking out of the window at breakfast on our first day in Jersey

graham with cider

Gluten-free cider of course 🙂

After breakfast we decided to go and explore St Helier, a ten minute walk from the hotel. Fortunately the taxi driver had given us general directions to find the town centre and we were soon browsing the shops, doing some reconnaissance for Abby before finding a cafe on the promenade for a mid-morning coffee. I texted my sister to let her know we’d arrived and said we’d meet her at lunchtime, then did some more wandering before grabbing a drink at one of the pubs near the high street. Whilst we sat outside, we watched someone being interviewed outside the council offices nearby (and watched it again on the local news channel later that evening).

We met up with Lesley for some lunch before heading back to the hotel for a rest, then  ventured out for an Italian meal at La Cantina, which we had spotted served gluten-free pasta. I naively telephoned to book a table before we set off but needn’t have bothered as it was very quiet, being a mid-week evening. The meal was excellent. We took a slow stroll back to the hotel for an early night.

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Gorey Harbour

tiffin in tiffin

It would have been rude to drink the tea before the champagne

The next morning we picked up Lesley’s car and went exploring the island, including visiting Gorey and the Jersey Pearl showroom before stopping at St Brelade’s Bay for some lunch. I dropped Tina off at the hotel (she’d not slept well during the night) and I took Lesley’s car back and picked up some wine for the later in the day (we were spending the evening at her house, with Jason, Iona, Isla and a takeaway). We met Lesley after work, picked up the girls from school and then drove back to Lesley’s house in St Peter’s. The island is so small, it only takes 30 minutes to get to most places from St Helier. Lesley’s girls were pleased to see us and I was soon helping make a car out of a cardboard box (isn’t that what uncle’s are supposed to do?). After enjoying a lovely curry, some cider and wine we eventually headed back to the hotel, via a taxi and both slept much better after an exhausting day.

We managed to get a good walk in the next morning before the rain set in for the day so returned back to the hotel before getting a lift by Lesley to Tiffin for afternoon tea (and a glass of champagne). When we went to pay we had a nice surprise as Lesley had rung them whilst we were there and paid for the meal. Thanks sis!

We visited Pizza Express in St Helier for our evening meal before retiring back to our hotel, fully stuffed from all the food we’d eaten throughout the day.

tinas ring

Last minute purchase for a special lady

Check out at the hotel was at 10am so following breakfast we packed up our cases and left them at reception before wandering into town for the final time. Again the rain started to fall so we dodged the showers by visiting any of the shops to try to keep dry. We had about an hour left to kill so started to look in the windows of the jewellery shops, of which Jersey is quite famous for.

During our stay Tina had mentioned about getting an eternity ring and spotted one she like in a shop window, so in we went. Thirty minutes later she was leaving the same shop wearing her new, diamond encrusted white gold ring, with my wallet significantly lighter!

And then it was time to leave Jersey, with getting home far less hassle than getting there.

I’ll be heading back there in a couple of weeks when I’ll be helping Abby to relocate.  I’ll be travelling by sea this time so they’ll be no problems with fog, I just hope the Channel is relatively flat as I’m not a great sailor!

Journeying to Jersey

Back in September we decided to gamble on booking flights and a hotel to Jersey to coincide with Abby’s relocation to the Channel Island following her managing to secure a job there. Unfortunately her start date was delayed by paperwork which meant we had travel there Abbyless. Oh well, we would just have to have a holiday instead.

We had managed to pick up reasonably priced EasyJet flights from Gatwick and decided to let the train take the strain, rather than have to suffer the hassle of driving around the M25, especially as we would be returning during Friday rush hour. Having never used a ‘no frills’ airline before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but was impressed by the online booking process, the dedicated app and of course the price.

The downside to using a budget airline is that you need to avoid taking hold baggage as it bumps the price considerably, but that wasn’t an issue for us as we were only going to be away for five nights. As the flights got closer we were able to check-in online using the iPhone app, which presents the boarding passes in an electronic form, something I’ve never used before and a little scary as you don’t have physical paperwork to fall back on. Similarly I’d booked the train tickets online and the accommodation using my favourite hotel booking app (Booking.com). Don’t you just love the 21st century.

Finally the day of travel arrived, and after dropping Rio at the kennels, we set off towards Bedford Station for our two hour train ride to Gatwick. We did have a little apprehension about the flight as the weather wasn’t looking good, with thick fog affecting large parts of the South of England causing flight cancellations, but as we were not actually flying until mid-afternoon there was plenty of time for it to burn off.

The train left on time and soon we were heading South, with visibility still poor but brightening up. As we got closer to London I checked the app and all was looking good until suddenly a message flashed up on the screen. I stared in disbelief as the words ‘flight cancelled‘ blinked at me. The app gave me two button options ‘Re-book‘ or ‘Refund‘ but by this time we were reaching London and I’d lost all mobile signal. I made a snap decision and suggested we leave the train at St Pancras and consider our options.

tina enjoying her wineAfter some thinking, some failed attempts to get through to EasyJet we decided to try to re-book our flight to later in the day. With return train tickets already paid for, a hotel in Jersey booked for the week and the car park paid for for five days, we were really committed to being away for the week. But unfortunately there were no flights available on the day due to the impact of the weather. We re-booked for the early morning flight the next day.

Next problem was where to stay. I got straight on to Booking and found a Premier Inn close to the airport and we re-boarded the Gatwick train, not before trying to get through to EasyJet just to see if there was any chance of getting a flight later in the evening. We couldn’t get through!

On arrival at Gatwick we made our way to our unplanned hotel accommodation and soon found the bar for a well-deserved glass of wine, followed by a nice meal and an early night in order to be fresh for our five o clock alarm call.

Fortunately the rearranged flight suffered no hold-ups and we were checking into our hotel in Jersey, even managing to make breakfast, which went down really well. I checked my mails and noticed a mail from EasyJet apologising for the cancellation of the flight and asking for feedback. That was something I would definitely be giving but not until later in the day when I had time to think of a suitable response.

More of the actual holiday break soon…

More Photos

I keep posting photos on Instagram and Facebook forgetting that I have my blog to add them too.

Here are a few of my recent efforts…

owl

Eagle owl being shown at a steam rally we visited recently. The light levels were low as they were in a tent and I didn’t think it was appropriate to get my tripod out 🙂

dog and ducks

Another shot from the steam rally where there was a sheep dog demo. It was really tough to get the ducks and dogs in shot and focus and in the end I had to crop to remove the background crowd.

berries

I love macro photography (a proper macro lens and ring flash is on my wish list). DSLR’s struggle with reds but these berries have come out quite well.

Passion Flower

I love the look of the passion flower but they are buggers to photograph. This was probably the best as I used a narrow aperture (f20) to try to keep everything in focus.

spider

Probably the best macro shot of the session, this spider kept moving so it was a struggle to keep it’s body and legs sharp. I love the fact that you can see the hairs on its legs and the two white spots on its abdomen (which I assume is some sort of sign to ward off predators)

Empty Nest Syndrome

Well is it really four months since I last blogged, how remiss of me,  must admit I’ve completely lost interest in adding updates!

Since the last blog, there’s not much been going on; I got an Apple Watch, which is pretty cool. I changed roles within Virgin Media and am now based in Birmingham (not loving the longer drive every day though) and we’ve holidayed in Turkey (really loved Kalkan).

But otherwise it’s been pretty normal; lots of hassles with dad’s care (not the carers, just the financial side of things with the council) and Rio being his normal self, needing attention all of the time.

Big news on the family front though. Abby, having finally split with her husband earlier in the year, has landed a nursing job in Jersey. We’re a bit sad that we won’t get to see her so often, but we’re really pleased for her and at least we’ll have an extra excuse to go and visit the island more often (my sister already lives there so we can kill two birds with one stone so to speak!).

And the other piece of family news is that this weekend saw Matt move out to live with his fiancee Chloe, to a house in Kettering. They’ve moved into a lovely two bedroom place, which will be a perfect starter home for them both.

So that means that our nest is empty once more 🙁

Just as I was typing this out Tina remarked that this will be the first time in 25 years that we’ll be living on our own again. How time flies!

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Nearly there…

I thought I’d better update my blog as to the progress of the bathroom I started a couple of months ago as I am close to completion, with only a bit of painting and some fittings to put up. You may recall that the DIY hasn’t been straight forward; with a number of incidents setting me back, including putting my foot through the ceiling below and cutting through an electrical ring main, but since then things have been going fairly smoothly.

IMG_1585Well, when I say fairly smoothly, I must mention the ‘cowboy’ company who let us down with the tiling by failing to turn up twice despite promising to have someone on site to start the work. Flytte appeared to be extremely professional leading up to the agreed start day sending two separate people around to quote and technical assess the job. But when it came down to it they let us down, with no apology or contact afterwards. Very shoddy.

So it was left to me to take on the tiling; I didn’t particularly want to but with the refit dragging on we really wanted to get the bathroom back in service. I took my time and finally completed it during the week, reasonably pleased with the finish.

And so to this weekend and I finally got around to fitting the glass shower screen, the new toilet and sink, as well as the laminate flooring. I did have a bit of a panic this morning when I unwrapped the glass panels to find a support bar missing, doh! A few frantic phone calls to the Bath Store and they confirmed that the part should have been included and will send it to me next week. Fortunately I was still able to fit the panel and do the silicone sealing around the tray so the day wasn’t completely wasted.

I must admit I have thoroughly enjoyed doing the bathroom; it’s given me the appetite for DIY again and Tina subsequently has drafted a list of jobs that need tackling over the coming months. I have also benefited from a few new ‘tools’ which has helped me carry out the bathroom fitting and made the job so much easier. They include…

  • a circular saw
  • a reciprocating saw
  • a jig saw
  • a manual tile cutter
  • a water-cooled tile cutter
  • a set of diamond drills
  • a cordless drill

Whilst the bathroom has been a petty expensive project, I think by doing it myself I must have saved a couple of thousand quid even if I include the additional tools I ordered.

Back to the tiling and there was a personal benefit of the company letting us down; they were going to charge £600 for the work which now has enabled me to order a certain watch which is about to be launched next week 🙂

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The Big 30

weddingToday Tina and I have reached the milestone of being married for thirty years!

Normally we don’t do anniversary cards or prezzies, but this year (as its a special one) I surprised Tina with a card I had ordered with photo of a moment during our holiday in Australia. I also gave her a silver necklace with a pearl on the end; pearl being the gift for thirty years of course!

Today we have a double celebration too, with the family getting together later, as it’s also my dad’s 74th birthday  (Happy Birthday dad!). This is particularly poignant as, after his accident forty years ago, doctors only gave him a life expectancy of 65!

We think he’ll outlive us all though 🙂

IMG_1448Anyhow, back to the anniversary, I had a quick look at the statistics of marriages and surprisingly 42% of all marriages end in divorce but by the time you reach thirty years the chance of divorce by the next anniversary is below 1%.

Looks like that option is unlikely then!

Over recent months Tina and I have been discussing how we’ve managed to stick together for so long and we both have come to the same conclusion that our marriage is based on the T word…Tolerance

And of course love xx