Monday, 30 July 2012

Just for Fun 4: Top Ten “Nerdy” things (I did) in the UK.

Again this is just based on the places I went and the things I did when I was there. Working out the order for this proved to be a bit problematic. Do I put things higher if I enjoyed them more or higher if they are nerdier? I decided to give the each item a nerd rank and an enjoyment rank and list them according to combined score.

1. Llandaff - Doctor Who Locations and Geocache. Nerd Rank 1, Enjoyment Rank 2. I made an effort to visit Llandaff Cathedral Green to have a look at filming locations for the Doctor Who Episode “The Eleventh Hour”. Due to road works and traffic I had to make two attempts to get there and while I was happy, the rest of the family was a bit ambivalent. Having gotten my photos I was ready to leave and was greeted with a response of “is that it?” Nearby I also logged a Geocahe. I don’t cache any more and this was the only one I did in the UK. I needed to find one as I was dropping off some Travel Bugs. The cache I dropped them in was in a nearby park where a bit of an earlier Doctor Who episode was filmed.

2. Cardiff Bay – Torchwood and Doctor Who Location. Nerd Rank 2, Enjoyment Rank 3. Not only is Cardiff Bay a great example of why Cardiff made the first list but also home to some great Doctor Who and Torchwood filming locations. Best of all was this “monument” (pictured below) to a torchwood martyr.

3. Harry Potter Studio Tour - Nerd Rank 6, Enjoyment Rank 1. This is a great spot not only for Harry Potter fans but film making fans in general. We got lucky, as I first found out about the studio tour opening after we had already planned most of our trip but it worked out we would be nearby in the first two weeks of the tour being operational. I then spent 3 hours online the day tickets went live and to make sure I got the day I wanted. That was about 6 months in advance. On the Day we visited we overhead that they were sold out for the next six months. The tour itself starts with video presentations, then a guided tour of the great hall. After that you are led into the main section where you can explore a lot of sets before moving onto the back lot with things like the Knight Bus, Privet Drive and Godric’s Hollow. The last section is dedicated to the Art Department, the giant Hogwarts Exterior model and Diagon Alley.

4. Caerphilly Castle - Doctor Who and Merlin Location. Nerd Rank 3, Enjoyment Rank 4. This site only makes the nerd list due to the Doctor Who connection, most notably the The Rebel Flesh. On the day we were there part of the Castle was set up for filming of Merlin.

5. Hay-on-Wye – Books. Nerd Rank 4, Enjoyment Rank 5. This is the third post to mention Hay-on-wye so no need to say more.

6. Alnwick Castle - Harry Potter Location. Nerd Rank 7, Enjoyment Rank 6. On a regular day this would be a nice castle to visit but it really comes into its own on Harry Potter days. The kids enjoyed broom stick training in the same spot Harry did in the first Harry Potter movie. There was also a fantastic talk presented by “Hagrid”.

7. Platform 9¾ - Nerd Rank 5, Enjoyment Rank 8. Not much more than a quick photo opportunity but fun for the kids.

8. March Museum – Family History (mine anyway). Nerd Rank 10, Enjoyment Rank 7. In just a bit over an hour I managed to add some names to the family tree as well as learn something about the area they came from.

9. Lego Land - Nerd Rank 8, Enjoyment Rank 9. The nerd factor here comes largely from the Star Wars displays. Lego Hoth, Lego Endor and Lego Tatooine being the highlights.
10. Hamleys Toys – Harry Potter and Doctor Who Merchandise, Lego, Toys. Nerd Rank 9, Enjoyment Rank 10. Lots of general toys but some special sections dedicated to all the Nerdy topics above from Potter to Doc Who to Star Wars.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Just for Fun 3 - Another UK Memory

After leaving Hay-on-Wye we headed back into England, a short way down the road we came to a river crossing and toll house. I remember at the time scrounging for the right change because it was such a small amount compared to the few pound coins I has gotten out as we passed the sign saying "Toll Bridge Ahead". A bloke came over just as we dropped our 80p in the box and as the boom gate floated up he waved and said thank you.

I remarked that he must own the bridge and after doing some searching today it seems I may have been right.

The Whitney-on-Wye bridge was built in 1797 by an Act of Parliament that also exempts the toll income from tax...Grahame Penny and Maggie Taylor bought the bridge after selling their training business...The firm who sold the bridge estimated that the owner can expect to make £2,000-a-week from the 80p of the new owners, said: "Our plans are to modernise the toll cottage, improve the visitor facilities and upgrade systems."
click here for more

Seems like a nice life £2000 a week tax free, a place by the river and just a short drive to a town with close to 30 bookshops.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Just for Fun 2: Ten Most “Meh” Places in the UK

Like the last Just for Fun list this is what the name says - just for fun, i.e this is to entertain myself. Any usefulness other people find in this is coincidental and unintended.

Now to be fair there was not really anywhere I did not like in the UK and a bad day on holidays is still better than any day…

But even a great trip has its “Meh!” and as an avid believer in “Meh” where “Meh” is due I give you my ten most Meh places of the UK.

1. Glasgow – I did not hate Glasgow, I did not hate any of the spots I visited in the UK it is just there was too much Meh here. My GPS worked all over the UK, that is until I tried to get to the Glasgow Hilton. I could see the Glasgow Hilton, I could drive past the Glasgow Hilton but I could not get to the Glasgow Hilton, at least not easily. After finally checking in I was keen to get myself some Irn Bru so I headed out to find a shop. Now on foot to avoid the issues I was having on road, I walked in circles before finally finding a shop. I know I’m not really being fair to Glasgow here because this was only a small slice of the town but I was happy to say Meh and head for the hills (literally).

2. Newcastle – we had to go to Newcastle being from the antipodal namesake. We liked the Angel of the North and nearby Alnwick and maybe if we had had more time we might have found more to like there but it was very much a case of “yep. Been there, now what’s next?”

3. Lake District – “Lovely, nice, right back in the car.”

4. Carlisle – “Look kids another castle, right back in the car.”

5. The M4 between Exit 19 and 20 – no need to say more.

6. The Forth Valley Royal Hospital – to be fair they did a great job and were a lot better than some Australian Hospitals I’ve been to with a sick family member it’s just that going to a hospital on your Holidays deserves a “Meh!”

7. The little village, whose name I can’t remember but which had a sign giving directions to toilets that did not exist when the kids really needed to go and then had toilets in another spot that were closed and then was a long way from any other place where there were toilets or even a spot to hide behind a tree. Yeah I can’t remember your name but that doesn’t matter because you should change it to “Meh, we don’t have any toilets” (Edit: it was called Strathyre)

8. Peterborough – the hotel was nice which was excellent as that was the only reason we went to Peterborough. This was more a case of being conveniently located close to someplace else I wanted to go so we stopped for the night then moved on. Nothing to see here, or maybe there was but we will never know as I had somewhere else to go.

9. Bristol – We went shopping, I got some jeans.

10. Brisbane Airport – after over 20 hours in the air flying home getting diverted 40 minutes out of Sydney because of fog was not fun, sitting on the tarmac in Brisbane for 2 hours was less fun.

Looking at this list I can still find bright spots associated with all of the above so we didn’t do to badly.

Talking to Satan

I talk to God as much as I talk to Satan 'cause I want to hear both sides
Does that make me cynical
There are no miracles
And this is no miraculous life

Taken superficially I imagine a lot of Christians would be very uncomfortable with this song. I however have always kind of liked it. I could never really lock down why I liked it but I think I'm starting to see why...

When the see-saw snaps and splinters your hand don't come crying to me
I'll only see your good side
And believe it's a miracle
A miracle

While listening to the song the other day I asked myself "how do I frame the idea of talking to Satan within my world view? The answer is as a metaphor for those times in our life when we 'walk the line'. I find my example for this in Matthew 4.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’"

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Although I have no idea what the composers had in mind when they wrote this song this is how it sits with me. As a song about particular times in our lives when we all find ourself Talking to Satan, hearing both sides and waiting for the see-saw to snap. As a Christianish person Jesus in this verse is my example for success. Should I fail he is my hope to be told, just like in the song, "I'll only see your good side. And believe it's a miracle"

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Just For Fun 1: Top Ten Places I’d Like To Live In the UK.

I was in the UK back in March and April for a holiday and really enjoyed the trip. Of course there is a lot of UK on the TV at the moment due to some sort of sporting event happening there next week and so as I have been seeing bits and pieces of places I visited it has been reminding me of my trip.

This morning a saw a few seconds of a TV show filmed on the west coast of Scotland just north of one of the places I visited. The presenter of this show said it was one of his favourite parts of Britain and the best place to live.

On my drive to work I thought about that. I will never live in the UK, although I’d love to visit again, so this list really is just for fun. Note: This is my list of places I would like to live if I was there long term and is only based on the places I visited.

1. Stirling – I much preferred Stirling to its bigger sister Edinburgh. Even a minor medical emergency and trip the Forth Valley Royal Hospital did not spoil my brief stay in this fantastic town. While I spent most of my time exploring the tourist stuff I really liked the more everyday places and could easily see myself living there for a year or two.

2. West coast of Scotland – I almost put this as number one but it is just a bit too remote, which is ironic because that’s a big part of its appeal. I loved Oban, Connel and Mull Island. If I was in anyway gifted at growing stuff I could see a small croft by the loch as a great option but more likely I’d live in town and become a rambler.

3. York – The Stirling of England*. Although only there for the day I thought it looked very liveable and think I could happily settle there. A place where I would leave the car at home and walk as much as possible.

4. Cardiff – I was really impressed with what they have built in this city over the last twenty plus years, they just seem to be getting things right. Cardiff has everything you might want and is not so big you can’t enjoy it.

5. Bath – I think I’d be happy living here for the first 2-3 month and then I’d be over it otherwise I would have put it higher on this list, still a lovely place.

6. Winchester – A nice town and a nice part of the country.

7. Edinburgh – I really can’t say why this is not higher on the list, I had a great time there and would be happy to live there but I think I would just rather live in Stirling and go to Edinburgh every other weekend.

8. Hay-on-WyeBooks, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books, books. It’s also a really nice place, even if it is a bit out of the way. Not everyone would pick a place to live based on the abundance of books but to those people I say “books”.

9. London – I loved London, but living there? Yeah, I would for a while but not long. The reason I put this so low is much the same reason Sydney would not even make the list if I was doing this for Australian places. I was born in a big city, I don’t mind visiting big cities but I will never live in one. Having said that I’d take London over Sydney any day. Sydney thinks it’s enough to just be big, London knows it’s not the size that counts it’s what you do with it.

10. Just about any village we drove through. Living someplace small in Australia often means living a long way from some place else. Seriously, I use to dive 500 km to visit family and drive through 4 towns along the way. In the UK you dive 10 miles and you pass though twice that many. Nowhere really feels like it’s that far from the action and there are a lot of really nice quite places that I’d be more than happy to call home.

* by "The Stirling of England" I just mean while this is number three for me in the UK it is number one in England.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Echoes of Silence

Echoes of silence,
beyond the moment.

Spirit wills,
And inside dwells.

Love's true bane,
Dwindles slowly.

The Son's father,
Sending after.

Pursuing ever,
Ever outwards.

Distinct and present,

- B. Wheatley

I wrote the above poem earlier this year as a reflection on the Ten Conference hosted by Small Boat Big Sea in Sydney. It reflects thoughts I picked up from all the talks given on the day but especially by Dan, Mike, Jon and Tim. I had sort of forgotten this poem but found it today when cleaning out te notes on my iPad. I think I like it more now having gotten some distance from its creation.