Monday, 30 July 2012

Stonehenge


My visiting Australian friends invited me to visit Stonehenge with them, and I jumped at the opportunity to play being a tourist for the afternoon. I have passed by the stones many times on my travels, but I have never actually stopped and done the walking tour around it. It was absolutely stunning and every angle gave you a slightly different view and perspective.


The weather was all over the place with bright sunshine, threatening skies and heavy showers around and about, which made for some great sky backdrops.


The heel stone stands to the north east of the stone, and you wouldn't believe it front the photo below, but it is actually 256 feet from the centre of the stones. The heel stone marks the rising of the sun at midsummer as seen from the centre of the stones.


The main inhabitants of the monument seem to be blackbirds these days, and they have complete access to the stones, which alas is no longer case for us humans!


I think I prefer to remain a little bit in the dark about the story of Stonehenge and keep the myths and legends alive. I like to think that I was treading on the same land that Merlin once stood on.


For a place standing in a vast expanse of the English countryside, the whole place just was so atmospheric and it was lovely to be drawn it to that if only for a short while.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Summertime in Paris

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Paris a city I had only ever spent half a day in before... What an amazing city and of course home to magnificent Eiffel Tower. I think I certainly fell in love with Paris over the weekend even though I barely scratched the surface. It is just the most wonderful place and so easy to get to from the UK.


The weekend had a decidedly Australian flavour to it as the main purpose of my trip was to be reunited with my Australian friends Andrew, Kellie, Zac and Maddie over in Europe on tour. I got the Eurostar from St. Pancras arriving in Paris around tea time. First port of call was the Arc de Triomphe, which is just stunning and unbelievably huge!


After eating a meal in the Champs-Elysées we got on a double decker tour bus and as the sun was setting the view was pretty amazing.


At the other end of the Champs-Elysées is the Les Invalides in Paris where the body of Napoleon was exhumed 19 years after his death in 1840. What I loved about Paris was the wide roadways and the sense of space right in the heart of the city.


We spent ages at the Eiffel Tower, although fortunately my fear of heights wasn't put to the test this time. The scariest moment was being attacked by Kellie and Maddie! The early evening was gorgeous as it was lovely and warm and the transformation form day into night watching the Eiffel Tower come into light was absolutely stunning.


Day 2 was the finale of the Tour de France finishing in Paris and with Andrew being a very keen cycling fan I was sucked into it with a decidedly Australian feel to the day. Andrew had paid to ride the circular race course along the Champs-Elysées in the morning before the actual race arrived in the afternoon. A dream come true and he was like a big excited kid! We met the other riders for breakfast (which us none riders shouldn't really have been to) at the Hôtel Fouquet's Barrière. Oh my God! if I ever win the lottery or find a Mrs Darvell that is somewhere I have to stay at!


One of the biggest draws for the ride was former Australian cyclist Robbie McEwan, triple winner of the Tour de France's green jersey sprinters' classification, and at his peak he was considered one of the fastest sprinters in the world.


The cycling team also consisted of Australian television presenter and present of Collingwood Football Club Eddie McGuire and injured Collingwood player Luke Ball.


The events of the day including Andrew's cycling and the actual Tour de France itself are captured on film.

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We had amazing grandstand seats just 150 metres from the finish line. Fortunately in the baking hot sun the trees provided some shelter. The only bugger was no alcoholic refreshments in out little enclosure so Andrew was pretty tenacious in going out and finding a supply to keep us lubricated throughout the afternoon.

 
I took the opportunity to get a photo in my Knowl Hilll Cricket Club training top to add to the club's photo collection.


The race was won by a Brit much to the delight of my Aussie friends...NOT! :) Bradley Wiggins being the first ever Brit to win the event in the 99 year history of the event. I must admit not having ever really seen the event even of TV before I was really sucked into the atmosphere, the setting and the whole occasion.


I hadn't realsied how difficult it would be to photograph the cyclists. Not knowing who was who didn't help, but just the sheer speed they went at made it difficult to get decent shots.




They lay on big screens too so even though you get just a brief glimpse of the racers on each circuit it is easy to follow events on the big screen. Once the cyclists entered Paris they did 8 laps of the 7km circuit and the sprint leg was also won by a Brit, the amazing Mark Cavendish.


Alas I had to depart after the race to get my train home, but I was treated to a close up view of the Les Invalides as I walked to the Metro station.


I can only express my huge gratitude to Andrew, Kellie, Zac and Maddie for making it a wonderful 24 hours in Paris for me, a weekend that will live long in the memory. These people remind me not so much in words, but more by the way they live their lives just how life should be led, seizing opportunities, grabbing hold of it and getting as much out of every single day as possible. Their warmth, openness and friendship is 2nd to none. It helps me to refocus on what I want from life and gives me renewed hope and confidence that I will find everything that I am looking for.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

All is Calm Again


Well after suffering from a hangover for days on end it was nice to finally feel human again tonight, and what better way to end a very nice evening in Windsor with my lovely friend The Blonde than to stop and capture the gorgeous sunset on my way back to Reading. I stopped off on the duel carriageway by the Eton College playing fields and looked out west across the M4 at Slough. What a fantastic view it was for everyone on the roads tonight. Sometimes I can get frustrated and feel disillusioned with the way things are heading in my life, but sometimes it can simply take such a scene as this to remind me that the world is a pretty special place and I am very lucky to have a wonderful family and brilliant friends. I can't make everything I want to happen in my life happen straight away so I just need to concentrate on being positive and making myself as open as possible for all good things to come my way.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Wedding Bells


Three generations of the family were in attendance at friend of the family's wedding on Saturday. At the beautiful St. Nicholas Church in Hurst not even the awful wet weather could put a dampener on things.


As is normally the case these my niece Anna was the  star of the show, but followed close by mum who wonderfully pushed aside her battle against cancer to have a wonderful day meeting up with many old friends.


A nice moment towards the end of the afternoon was Anna collecting "jewellery"  whilst her mum watched over her with a glass of wine!


As is always the case I tend to struggle in the aftermath of these occasions. I tend to over do the drinking and feel quite down as that is the effect alcohol seems to have on me these days, and as much as I enjoy weddings, I do find it a bit difficult as it's something I have missed out on to date, and still hope one day I meet someone special and can experience it for myself. Hey ho onwards and upwards and probably just need a good kick up the bum!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fringe Benefits


Ever since a hosepipe ban was put in place at Easter in the UK, we have had pretty much constant rain for months now. I think we are all pretty fed up with it and would like some hot summer sunshine especially with the Olympics just around the corner. However one of the fringe benefits of this awful weather is that we are being blessed with some pretty spectacular skyscapes when gaps in the rain clouds allow the sun to try and burst through. Just a few minutes from home I had to pull the car over and get the camera out to capture one such scene, and I even had the pleasure of what appears to be a Red Kite flying into shot. It just goes to show that a skyscape scene can be captured literally anywhere as another panned out shot of the same view shows.


Monday, 9 July 2012

Changes and a New Look


For some years now I have kept my hair short and not had the confidence to wear my glasses out socially. Occasionally however there comes a point when a change is required and a need to shake things up. I think am at that point, and whilst lots of things have been happening this year in some ways I feel like I have been treading water for a very long time. I need to place a greater emphasis on positivity especially at the moment, and I have to concede that it tends to come and go with me so I want to try and grab it and hold onto it! So the plan is to keep the hair a bit longer without letting the curls come back to take full hold and to try and work my way through the glasses battle and be able to wear them out socially a lot more. Of course from such small seeds seeds of change bigger things may potentially happen too, but this will do for starters! :)