Saturday, April 22, 2017

Biggles Flies Again

Biggles? More like Giggles! as I took control of a real aeroplane courtesy of last year’s birthday pressy from  Ian and Mags – a 45 minute flight over the skies of Northamptonshire!

Ian & Ann, Ralph and Karen and my Ann were there to witness my performance as just after 11am, I ‘took the stick’ after some calm but expert tuition from my Instructor, Phil.

First impressions? Wow and more wow! I was warned that the take-off would be quite quick and the rate of ascent very steep – and Phil wasn’t wrong, as we were in the air, looking at the beautiful countryside of Northamptonshire within seconds rather than minutes.

Maybe more surprisingly, once we’d levelled-out, it actually felt very calm and tranquil high above the airfield as we slowly headed off towards Kettering and then onwards to Pitsford Reservoir.

That’ll be Kettering ahead (apparently!)

I learned that rather grabbing the stick like my life depended on it, it was better to gently tweak it using just my finger and thumb – and it certainly worked, as the plane ascended, descended and banked with very little action from me in a rather graceful way. In fact, it all felt very unhurried, precise and just simply glorious taking in the whole of Northamptonshire - in less than an hour! For me, the most memorable part was when Phil demonstrated how the plane behaved if the engine stalled – BY TURNING OFF THE (SINGLE) PROPELLOR! My initial reaction was ‘Oh Dear’, as I could now see the single prop in all its detail, and it’s fair to say, l briefly, I had a ‘moment’. I shouldn’t have been worried though, as the laws of physics prevailed, and rather than a fateful plummet to earth, the plane continued on its trajectory - and for about 90 seconds we became a GLIDER! (and a perfectly manoeuvrable one at that! - Amazing!!!) 

And then, in what seemed like an instant, my 45 minutes was up, and we headed back to base. Phil took the controls for landing (I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be expected to try and land the plane on my first lesson!) and we soon were shaking hands and saying our goodbyes.

Captain Biggles Giggles

Fantastic! It had been an experience of a lifetime and I enjoyed every second of it – even the ‘glider moment’. Safe to say, I haven’t found a second career as a test-pilot – but if any of you get a chance to do this for yourself, I’d thoroughly recommend it! It’s like nothing else
Smile Smile Smile Smile Smile

We then headed back to ours where Ann had laid on a salad lunch followed by her Sunken (deliberately) Chocolate SoufflĂ© with a Prune and Armagnac sauce. Ralph showed off the videos he’d taken of my inaugural flight and then we watched a bit of snooker on the TV before Ian and Ann said their goodbyes.

With the dishwasher on overtime, we four dug out the garden seat cushions from the garage and soaked-up a few rays before it came over a very grey. We finished the evening, watching my first 4K UHD movie: Sicarioan ultra tense political thriller set in Mexico – all washed down with a few G and Ts!

four star



This was a good movie, with some especially ultra-tense moments in it – I don’t think I’ll ever look at queuing at the Dartford Tunnel in the same way again!

Ralph and Karen are staying over and heading home after breakfast tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tablet Coaching: Play Movies and TV

Auto cross-posted from my Wordpress Blog:

Completing our series of lessons covering Google’s ‘Play Store’ App, today, we looked at ‘Movies and TV’. We then began a series of ‘learner-led’ sessions recapping on previously-discussed areas, but where Learners still had questions.

Filed under: Delivery, Salvation Army, Skills Development, Volunteer

Laptop Coaching: Google Maps

Auto cross-posted from my Wordpress Blog:

Today, we looked at the many features of Google Maps and how to use it for route-planning – not only by car!

Filed under: Delivery, Salvation Army, Skills Development, Volunteer

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Doctor Who – Series 10, Episode 1: ‘The Pilot’

Like many Whovians, the start of a new Who series is always something to look forward to – but this time round, more than ever! It’s Peter Capaldi’s final series; there’s a new Companion (didn’t they used to call them ‘Assistants’?) in the shape of ‘Bill’ (newcomer Pearl Mackie) and finally, there has been some big teasers a week-or-so before the series began. This included giving away some interesting clues regarding how this series will pan out with John Simm announcing that he’s returning as The Master.

The previous series - Series 9 - for me, became really irritating with its impenetrable storylines and plots so thick, the series should have been re-titled: ‘In the Thick of It’.

So, it was with quite a bit of trepidation that I watched last night’s premiere. I also took the decision to watch the recording on my own, just in case it was back to the series 9 format where many episodes left me with more questions posed by others here that I couldn't answer!

Things didn’t start well for me, where, in one of the opening scenes, we heard the Doctor banging out a tune on his electric guitar (surely one of daftest character developments for the character?!) However, as the story progressed, this first episode started to feel very different – more like a pilot for a new series (hey, wait a minute!) – I even understood the storyline too! For newcomers, it carefully wove in plenty of references to Who-lore (the 1st Doctor’s grandchild, Susan; the meaning of TARDIS; and of course, the whole concept of time-travel). In fact, the whole episode felt more like a typical-Torchwood story (no bad thing in my book!) than more4 recent Who.

Locating the Doctor at the fictitious University St Luke’s in Bristol, as a Lecturer seemed a perfect way to position the lead character and PC has certainly matured into the role – more William Hartnell than Jon Pertwee perhaps. There had been quite a lot of Press about Bill Potts, the new companion, and from the excerpts  I’d seen, she sounded and looked very irritating! (must be my age!!). However, by the time I’d seen the whole episode, her character seemed to dovetail perfectly with the Doctor and it’ll be interesting to see how this develops.

And by the end, it all felt very satisfying and I’m sure, any first-time viewers will have also been caught-up in the whole timey-wimey thing. Well done BBC for restoring my faith in this series – I think I’m a fan again!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lent Boy 2017: How Did I Do?

WARNING! Please read responsibly. This Blog contains large amounts of smugness!
So, that’s my ‘Lent event’ over for 2017. What began in 2010 as a small challenge, has now grown into a much bigger test of will-power!

Some of you have asked how I got on, so here’s a short summary. Thanks to all my friends and family – and especially Ann - who helped me out during the period with modified menus and words of encouragement.

I began the challenge on the first day of Lent this year - 1st March - and finished at midnight on Thursday, 13th April (yesterday). Technically, I know, for some, that’s not the complete period of Lent, but it works for me! I also didn’t take Sundays off, and many have commented that Lent allows this but where’s the fun in that?
This year, there were 46 items to try and steer clear of – nothing special about the list except they are all my favourites! For 2017, I added ‘Coffee’, ‘Gin & Tonic’, ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Stilton Cheese’. In truth, after this many years doing it, I’m slowly running out of things to add!!

Lent List 2017

I lost a bit of weight too! I was 13st 12.5lbs (88.2 kilos) when I started, and I was down to 13st 2.25lbs (84.2 kilos) a few weeks ago – but back up to 13st 4.75lbs by the end. Porker!

So, all-in-all, I’ve lost a bit of weight, but it’s the ‘will-power’ thing that’s the real test. As in previous years, the toughest time was at the beginning, where I certainly had more-than-one attack of the ‘munchies’ around the lunchtime period. Things got better as the days went on though! The smug-o-meter was on the rise!!!

Out of everything on the list, I think I missed Curry and Chocolate the most!

As has been the ‘tradition’ since I stated doing this, I always try and add a few items each year to make things a bit more challenging for next period of Lent, and that’ll be no different for 2018 it’ll total 48. I’m adding two more - Salad Cream and Semi-skimmed milk (the latter isn’t exactly ‘a favourite’, but it’ll still mean an extra challenge for breakfast cereals and my tea!)

2018’s List of Banned Items
Lent List 2018

Now, where’s that very large bar of chocolate?!?!

Previous Lent Lists…


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Caesar and Salad

A puntastic mix!

We set off for Gill and Chris’ today and then onto Stratford-upon-Avon to see the matinee performance of - you guessed it – Julius Salad Caesar.

In spite of it being the day before Good Friday (where we were expecting a lot of traffic) we had a good journey there and soon found a parking space near the Theatre. The weather wasn’t brilliant, but at least it was dry and I was able to grab a few shots of the area before we headed for lunch!


Gill had booked us all a table in the Rooftop restaurant at the RSC – and it didn’t disappoint! Good service and a scrummy menu set us all up nicely for the blood-bath that was to follow!


I’ll be the first to admit that although I like plays by Shakespeare, I wouldn’t say I loved them, but this production certainly changed my mind. Maybe the immersive feel of the stage layout helped, together with the fab acoustics, but I was hanging on their every word. Such powerful acting delivered with buckets of passion made this a must-see!!
Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up

Wow! Just ‘Wow!’, what an experience! Although It was a long production - over two-and-a-half hours - it didn’t feel like it and it’s certainly going to be a production I’ll remember for many years. It was impossible to single-out any particular performance, as they were ALL superb, but (for me), Caesar (Andrew Woodall), Mark Antony (James Corrigan) and Cassius (Martin Hutson) and Brutus (Alex Waldmann) were simply mesmerising!

When we left just before 4.15, it was still dry outside, but a bit overcast and so we headed for a local eatery for a cuppa and something sweet before preparing ourselves for the bank-holiday drive back to Gill and Chris’s. Obviously, we must be a bit out of touch with holiday traffic conditions these days, because we hardly hit any congestion at all going back, and after saying our goodbyes, we were soon on our way home.

What a fantastic day – and for me, this production of Caesar was simply outstanding!!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tablet Coaching: Play Store (continued)

Auto cross-posted from my Wordpress Blog:

Today, we looked in detail at the Music and Books section of the Google Play Store.

Filed under: Delivery, Salvation Army, Skills Development, Volunteer

Laptop Coaching: The Perfect Password?

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Today, we discussed the importance of creating effective passwords. We looked at a technique for creating complex, yet memorable (and difficult to crack) combinations.

Filed under: Delivery, Salvation Army, Skills Development, Volunteer