Bellerophon symbol, variation 7 jonath.co.uk
Saturday 2nd June 2007

Dampierre-sur-Loire, arrival
There's no pictures for today . . . we stayed over in this Travelodge affair over in Portsmouth the previous night. After the ferry crossing (where I think my tiredness led me to order something bizarre called 'Raw Salmon Carpaccio with Dill' - very tasty actually) and a remarkably painless journey from Caen to Saumur, we had a tiny amount of confusion over the directions for the house itself, but got there barely five minutes later than the arranged time of 16:00. Pretty good, I thought. But yeah . . . we didn't really sleep at all last night (the room was too hot, I suspect) so after unpacking our stuff, we headed for the nearest supermarket, stocked up on stuff, had some dinner and put A****** to bed. And that was about it . . .

Sunday 3rd June 2007

Poppies and vineyards
img_2039.jpgimg_2038.jpgimg_2036.jpgimg_2040.jpgimg_2041.jpgimg_2043.jpgimg_2046.jpg So, after about 12 hours sleep, we had a proper French breakfast (at least, in our minds - croissants, jam, coffee, strange cereals) and went for a little walk around the surrounding area. I wonder if I said at any point that this is our two week holiday in France? I dunno. There we are anyway. That picture of the dead vines, yeah, I took that because I thought they looked like piles of bones, human bones . . . or maybe the bones from the limbs of any large-ish mammal. I dunno.
img_2064.jpgimg_2062.jpgimg_2060.jpgimg_2058.jpgimg_2054.jpgimg_2051.jpg This looks like more of the same. Note the sunshine. I don't think the sunshine lasted all that long. We had storms on Monday/Tuesday (I'm not sure) and then it was kind of cloudy/sunny but always warm.
img_2072.jpgimg_2066.jpgimg_2068.jpgimg_2076.jpgimg_2081.jpg So that chimney-like thing (fifth picture from left here) was kinda weird. As we walked past it, I was thinking, "That sounds like a plane or helicopter or something," but then realised it was coming from the chimney - a kind of low, rumbling noise. I went to check it out and warm air was coming from the chimney and far, far down, at the bottom I think I could see light, but then as soon as I thought this, it had disappeared. I then saw a flash of light, like a camera flash, and nothing after that. A metal ladder was attached to the inside of the chimney, but I thought better of it. Just as I was about to leave, I'm sure I heard the distant strains (barely audible) of Mama Cass singing, "the loneliest kind of lonely," but maybe not . . . perhaps it was Elton John, god save us.
img_2092.jpgimg_2090.jpgimg_2089.jpgimg_2087.jpgimg_2086.jpg Erm . . . I think A****** was doing something amusing immediately after dinner. Perhaps covering his eyes and thinking that he had disappeared, as he could no longer see anything. Whatever it was, it seemed to amuse A****** greatly.

Monday 4th June 2007

img_2100.jpgimg_2098.jpgimg_2097.jpgimg_2096.jpg So today we drove to Saumur itself and had a bit of a wander around. We would have visited (i.e. paid for a visitor's ticket) the château there, only it was closed (it being Monday, of course) and even if it had been open, it had limited access due to renovations currently taking place, so we contented ourselves with a stroll around the grounds.
img_2103.jpgimg_2104.jpgimg_2107.jpgimg_2108.jpgimg_2112.jpgimg_2113.jpg M****** made a daisy chain and gave it to A******; it didn't last long in A******'s hands.

Tuesday 5th June 2007

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Today was a treat for A****** - a trip to the zoo (the one at Doué-La-Fontaine). I can't be bothered to explain each individual photograph; it should be obvious what's going on.

Thursday 7th June 2007

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Sunday 10th June 2007

img_2296.jpg I've put this picture on its own as the formatting kept messing up. I'm trying to remember what happened today. Hmmmm. Not sure.
img_2300.jpgimg_2299.jpgimg_2298.jpgimg_2297.jpg Looks like we've gone for a walk.
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Monday 11th June 2007

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Today we did pop over to Azay-le-Rideau. We first had lunch at this place Salamander's (probably) and then checked out the castle thing. It was okay. Then we did go over to this tractor (and other vehicles) museum pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was a pretty fascinating place, I thought, but time was rather against us. Three hours was recommended to take it all in, but that would have meant not getting back until 8pm or something. Besides, with most of the museum underneath a steel roof, it was quite hot and stuffy. But yeah . . . some odd displays as well (see pictures). On the way back, we passed this gorgeous looking castle, but never actually got a chance to visit it. Ah well.

Tuesday 12th June 2007

img_2435.jpgimg_2436.jpgimg_2437.jpgimg_2441.jpgimg_2443.jpgimg_2449.jpg Tonight my parents baby sat A****** whilst M****** and I went to Saumur for a meal. The good was generally good, except I made the mistake of ordering 'grilled herring' for my main course. When the thing arrived, it was just a whole herring that had been grilled - bones, guts, head and everything. I didn't like it. I find one's enjoyment of food is inversely proportionate to the amount of fiddling around you have to do with said food before it can safely be consumed. Oh, and my dessert was supposed to be cheese, but it also had a leaf of iceberg lettuce with a dollop of vanilla ice cream deposited onto it. Very odd. M****** enjoyed her food, though. Back home for Pictionary and more wine.

Wednesday 13th June 2007

img_2450.jpgimg_2457.jpgimg_2459.jpgimg_2460.jpgimg_2461.jpgimg_2465.jpg I think today we're at some, strange Troglodyte cave thingy. This was situated somewhere near Doué-la-Fontaine, but I can't recall exactly where.
img_2483.jpgimg_2482.jpgimg_2468.jpgimg_2466.jpg It was all a bit weird here. We were the only visitors there and the guy gave us an A4 sized map, explained how the route worked and then shut the massive wooden door through which we had entered, thereby blocking out most of the daylight. The caves were lit, but not amazingly well. A****** kind of freaked a bit and didn't want to be put down and hardly made a sound throughout the, er, time we were in the caves. Photography was a bit of a waste of time (but that didn't stop me trying) on account of the combination of low light and airborne dust that wasn't really moving anywhere (no air current). img_2487.jpgimg_2488.jpg The last two pictures (to the left) show this 1000 piece jig-saw that we had been working on throughout the holiday and a picture of part of the kitchen (and the top of M******'s head). I never really do jig-saws, but kind of got into this one during the evenings. My dad helped out, getting quite a lot of the annoying black pieces in.


Thursday 14th June 2007

img_2489.jpgimg_2490.jpg Sadly, today was our last day at our holiday home. The plan was to head for Caen, and stay at this 'Premiere Classe' hotel (a mere 32 Euros per night). We got there largely okay. I knew we were meant to come off the Caen ring road at junction 16, but it got a bit scary when (lots of traffic everywhere) a sign appeared pointing to junctions 15, 16a, 16b and 17. A few roundabouts later and we were filling up with fuel at a nearby petrol station. It was at this point (trying to move from pump to cashier) that the car wouldn't start. Hmmmm. A few more scary attempts at starting the engine and we were away, but that wasn't good. We found the hotel fairly easily and got our stuff sorted. We slept better that night, probably on account of the wine and pastis consumed beforehand. That other picture was of the suspiciously named (and coloured) 'Quick Palace', kind of diagonally opposite from us.

Friday 15th June 2007

It was probably at around this time (perhaps a bit earlier - I'm not sure) when I pulled into a service station and M****** took over the driving. It had been a hellish journey from Portsmouth. We had set off at about 3pm (I think?!) but it had all gone horrible wrong once on the Newbury bypass (A34). Some accident had effectively closed the road from Newbury through to where it joined the M4 so, after waiting in an almost stationary line of traffic for . . . god knows how long . . . we pulled off at the first available exit and, using a road atlas that simply didn't have enough detail (we really needed the B roads, see) attempted to weave around to the M4. We passed through Hungerford and were like, "Why have I heard of this place? Must check it out when we get home," and now of course we know. When at last we got onto the M40, M6 (Toll Road) and then M6, the light began to fade and the heavens opened. The windscreen wiper on the drivers side was just kind of smearing the water about and I only felt safe (on account of the rain) travelling at about 55mph. Of course, everyone was overtaking me (lorries and all), thereby further reducing visibility with all the spray and I'm short-sighted. So yeah . . . it was all a bit scary. When I almost entered an exit slip road without intending to (as I simply could not see where the road was going), I thought it was time to take a break from driving. Hmmmmm. Not good. We got back the following day, about half an hour after midnight.

Sunday 17th June 2007

Just a quick note to explain the lack of activity here over the last two (three?) weeks - M******, A****** and I have been on holiday, somewhere in the Loire valley, France. We got back in the early hours of Saturday, after a hellish journey back. I'll upload the photos once all the bags are unpacked and what-not.

Saturday 23rd June 2007

Dawn chorus
So, at about 04:02 this morning (or thereabouts), a largely empty (save a few toiletries, chargers and bits and pieces) suitcase, propped precariously outside our bedroom (and no doubt made ever more precarious by the addition of a hair drier) on top of a travel cot decided, finally, enough was enough and crashed (presumably) noisily to the bare, floorboarded, hall way. Joy, joy, joy. I used to think I was a light sleeper and maybe I still am. I don't know. Maybe I heard the noise, but maybe I just can't remember. What I do recall is M****** screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming, as if she had just fallen abruptly out of a nightmare. My body came out of a deep, deep sleep and, responding to the situation as best it could, decided some adrenalin was called for. I scrabbled around in bed, thrashing around at M******, at duvets, at pillows, trying desperately to find a light switch, any switch, something to make sense of what on earth was going on. M******, whilst trying to fight me off, was trying to say something about burglary and people (or a person) having broken into the house (probably thinking I was that person). I doubt anything M****** said was really helping the situation as people breaking into my home is a common theme of my own nightmares, but hey . . . I eventually found the light switch but the abrupt awakening meant my body was barely working and my hands, feet, legs, arms and (especially) jaw felt loose and hard to control. I opened our bedroom door and there was the suitcase on the floor, mystery solved. I wandered around the rest of the house, checking that no forced entry had occurred, but . . . no . . . there was nothing. I watered the plant on the window sill at the top of the stair case and returned to bed. The adrenalin meant neither of us could fall back immediately to sleep.

Monday 25th June 2007

War against the spam bots
Today I've added another layer of prevention against the spam bots. Occasionally these things will leave strange comments on my web-site, comments that appear to be adverts for various pharmaceuticals. The comments page now features a randomly generated image containing numbers and letters. In order to enter a comment, one must now enter those numbers/letters into the field provided. That should sort 'em out.

Friday 29th June 2007

I don't really think there's much to say right now. The web-site's had a huge number of hits today, the most it's ever had. God knows why. Erm . . . yeah. I'm trying to get some maths work done. Assignments (yeah, plural) due in four weeks or something. Hmmmm, not good.

Saturday 30th June 2007

Me, A****** and the beard
img_2502.jpgimg_2513.jpgimg_2524.jpgimg_2530.jpgimg_2555.jpgimg_2560.jpg Over on Facebook somewhere, I mentioned the beard to Lucy, and so pictures were requested. But I didn't just wanna take pictures of myself - that seems a bit vain - so I added in A****** as well. I couldn't decide which one I preferred so here's a few. Incidentally, that potty in the last picture (i.e. far right) is unused. M****** bought it so that A****** would get used to the idea of 'having it around'.