5th – 6th September, 2011

Off for a stroll...!

On the fifth I took advantage of the lovely surroundings I am privileged to live in and went for a walk with Mum around the place. There are some gorgeous houses around the place with wonky roofs and misshapen brick walls covered in moss but they are so charming and pleasurable to see. I did some digital painting but it was no good, really not getting the knack of it but I will keep progressing with it. The Pass Plus has been organised – I do find it remarkable that people can learn to drive and then not actually insure themselves for 5-10 years, then happily do so and drive around the road normally. Surely that’s the height of danger? I don’t feel at all comfortable and I only passed nine months ago! Even then I didn’t feel too good about it and hopefully these lessons will give some much-needed confidence.

On the sixth Mum and I visited the historical town of Thame. It’s got some lovely independent shops and I managed to purchase one or two lovely gifts for friends – you could spend hours meandering around and going into each idyllic corner of the many shops. One sweet shop we pottered into, we later found out, was actually No 8 Cornmarket. This is the site of the first Post Office in Thame where the very first Penny Black stamp was ever issued and delivered to a Mr George Wakeman.

The family indulged in the Great British Bake Off in the evening and now I’m off to bed!


2nd – 4th September, 2011

The past few days have been plagued by illness. Not sure exactly what caused it, we think it was gone off milk. At any rate it has not been a pleasant few days. However on the third I did manage to get to IKEA with my girlfriend (even if I was sat down for most of it) to pick up university supplies which was important and worth doing. And then today I ‘ran’ my half marathon! The time was awful, truly awful, as you can imagine (I don’t like excuse scapegoating, but I really do know I can do much better since my practice was thirty minutes faster and I generally do better in a group). Tomorrow I plan to sort my Pass Plus out and perhaps do some backing since I am slowly getting my strength back!

31st August – 1st September

The last few days have merged somewhat due to illness. My brother and his girlfriend came back on the 31st and we went out to pizza express. It was very tasty except I decided to experiment for the pudding – I had a coffee with rum in it and it was disgusting. Words cannot describe the displeasure I had from drinking it. The reason I mention this is not to complain and harm Pizza Express’ reputation (far from it, I think they’re great) but because I was quite starkly ill as the day progressed on the first of September. I don’t know if it was due to the coffee but it certainly felt like it since any flashback to it made me feel worse! I spent most of the day in and out of bed until it got worse in the evening and I’ve been there ever since. Here’s hoping for an improvement soon!

Summer Holiday (19-30/8/11)

Back after a wonderful trip to Italy. I have written a ‘travel journal’ but it is very detailed and probably a bit long for a single post, so I may make a separate blog if this short synopsis tickles your interests!

We had a relatively stress free trip to Naples and arrived mid-evening. We plonked our bags in the hotel we were staying in for one night and headed out into the Neopolitan night to, rightly, visit our first gelaterie. The array of flavours before my eyes was tantalising but I chose to relive my youth and try Kinder Bueno ice cream, I wasn’t disappointed.

We then headed to a restaurant we’d been recommended by the concierge – it was a delightful, small place – exactly how you’d imagine an old Italian pizzeria. On the menu was no less than 15 varieties of the normally considered plane ‘Margarita’, including one entitled ‘Margarita DOC’. DOC, Denominazione di origine controllata (‘Controlled designation of origin’), I was told by my father, is an abbreviation used on some wines and formaggi to infer that the food or drink in question reaches a certain level of quality. Naturally this sounds appealing but is surely expensive? Not so here, the pizzas were four euros each and this special one was seven – less than you pay for a Pizza Express meal here! It ended up, for me, being the best pizza of the entire holiday.

It must be said I didn’t think Naples was the prettiest area of Italy. Part of its scruffiness was charming but I think seeing copious amounts of prostitutes at the train station when you arrive is a bit off putting for anyone. We caught the train from Naples to Sorrento, and went through all thirty-six stops, including Pompei Scavi and Ercolano Scavi – the ruins (scavi) of Pompeii and Herculaneum famously covered for hundreds of years by ash and lava respectively.

It was then a short bus ride to the villa in Sant’Agata. It was a truly beautiful spot with a balcony overlooking the bay of Naples and Vesuvius – especially exquisite at night. We spent some days simply relaxing in the villa playing chess or a variety of pool games my brother invented and it was wonderful to simply relax and enjoy each other’s company.  However, it would be catastrophic to not make the most of our surroundings, and we went to the local area often. We visited a picturesque seaside town called Positano and rented a boat out into the lovely turquoise blue sea, saw Pompeii and Herculanium, the beach and went swimming in the Mediterranean and had a vast number of incredibly pleasant meals out! Truly spoiled, but it was an excellent occasion.

We then split as a family somewhat and headed to Rome. I had been there before but I was still taken aback by how beautiful it is. The cobbled streets and vibrant colours of the buildings are spectacular. London’s grotty side streets are put to shame by the wonderful pockets of undiscovered streets linking landmarks with exquisitely carved stone facades. It was a pleasure to be in the city. We saw the traditional sites; the Colloseum, Pantheon, Typewriter and Trevi fountain as one would expect. My casual writing does them no justice, though. What was new was a visit to the Vatican Museums which was truly mind blowing. Never have I seen so much art, so detailed and rich in meaning in such vast, vast quantity. It seemed every painting, small or large, had a huge story to tell and would have taken years to do, yet there were thousands. It was all topped off, of course, by the Sistine Chapel and Michael Angelo’s creation of man. We also went into St. Peter’s Basilica which also served to take my breath away, the sheer scale is mind-boggling.

We had a relatively sane trip back and I am now trying to work through the two thousand odd photos on my camera!

17th – 18th August, 2011

On the seventeenth I baked my batch of scones and met with my girlfriend and another friend and travelled to (fortunately my friend can drive) the highest hill of the region and had our picnic! Unfortunately the view and experience was somewhat tainted by the incessant talks on mobile phones, trying to sort out the house. After a lot of palava we’ve managed to arrange it! At last a house is sorted, and not a moment too late.

After the serious business of a Mario Kart tournament I went to my girlfriends house and we went on a really lovely walk. On the way back we were blessed with seeing the sun set, and it was magnificent. Fortuitously I had my camera and managed to capture it, though my poor photography skills do it no justice.

Upon awaking we sat, with many thousands of other teenagers, repeatedly trying to log in to UCAS Track which was engaged in its perennial lag due to the high traffic. Ultimately it was great news, with my girlfriend getting the place she wanted! So smiles all round. We then headed back to mine for a relaxing evening and now am a bit rushed trying to sort and pack everything for the impending holiday! Should be great and I will correspond with the blog when I get back (intend to create a travel diary whilst away)

Until then!

15th – 16th August, 2011

Happily Eating Away

On the 15th I donned my dark green Wellington boots and grabbed my new guide, the Collins Complete Guide to British Garden Wildlife, and went on a usual route. Whilst the route was usual, the time taken was not, since I was drawn in by so many flowers that I nearly always walk straight by and to my delight I was able to identify some of them using the book – it scratches a satisfying itch that is hard to pen down but the process of finding the plant, looking it up in the book and taking a photograph was incredibly amiable and a lovely way to spend a day and breathe a fresh lease of life into a walk done repeatedly without any new finds.

After that I was somewhat bogged down by house organising. My friends saw a terrific house but there was a slight issue with another person having to live there, more on that later. Tickets for a debate on the existence of God arrived, arguing for the motion is William Lane Craig, someone I tremendously admire and arguable one of Christendom’s finest apologists.  He’s American but doing a UK tour and I thought that too good to miss.

On the 16th I was at the labs for what may be the last time, I’m really glad I warmed to it form an initial worry and lack of interest, it was a terrific time and I truly enjoyed it. After that it was more house viewings. We have found one we all like in the bohemian borough of Camden so we may decide to put in an offer there.

By the time all this furore was dealt with it was rather late and I didn’t end up getting home until deep evening, but it was enough time for the family to sit down to the first episode of the second series of The Great British Bake-Off, one of my most enjoyed television programs of 2010! Hopefully this season will prove (ho-ho) as enjoyable as the last.

Tomorrow I’m off for a picnic and am getting up bright and early to bake (topically) some of Paul Hollywood’s scones, can’t wait!

13th – 14th August, 2011

I boarded an early train on the thirteenth, expecting to depart and go to a house viewing that was arranged. I was disappointed on the train, however, on seeing some particularly rowdy individuals, drinking at around nine thirty in the morning and, from what I could gather, heading to the first premiership match of the season, singing chants excessively loudly as to disrupt others on the train. Not only this, but the chants included explicit and excessive expletives on a train which young children were on.

No sooner had I stepped off the train but my phone rang; my friend informed me that the estate agents had just phoned her to let her know that they did not have the keys to the property we were meant to see, which was a damn nuisance since the reason I’d come down to London was to see the house which we are now somewhat desperate to get. At any rate, we decided not to make a rainy day of it and met up for some food and films at my friend’s house which great – it’s about time I knew the story of Robin Hood, even if it was the Disney version.

Off camping!

Between those times I went to Colindale to visit the GO Outdoors shop to pick up my brand-spanking new tent. GO Outdoors do a scheme whereby if you find a product they sell cheaper on any website or other competitive shop, they will sell the product to you at 10% off the competitor’s price. Having planned to go to GO Outdoors on the twelfth, I did a bit of internet researching and did indeed see another website selling it cheaper – four pence cheaper, to be precise! I mentioned this to them at the checkout and, sure enough, I ended up saving 10% for the difference of 4p! Thank you kindly, GO Outdoors. On a serious note I do recommend them; they do sell things at a very good price and have knowledgeable, helpful and friendly staff.

In the evening I met with my girlfriend to watch the last Harry Potter film – I was impressed with it, definitely. Having not seen part 1 and not being a die-hard fan I was still able to follow along and appreciate the excitement it offered. A cleverly written ending, I think.

On the fourteenth I was round my girlfriend’s house and we spent the morning pitching my tent and another 3-man that she already had. After that success we did some baking  – simple cake cases but with marmalade inside with chocolate ganache on top – they were tasty indeed. My girlfriend’s father is somewhat of an artist and he gave us a short tutorial – he is planning to put some online and so this was a bit of a practice but it was great to learn a bit from a true artist.

Now I am home and have made some shortbread and  just been informed I am not going to the labs tomorrow so have a full, luxurious day to spend in whatever I choose – I intend not to waste it.

Speak to you soon!