After a day ambling around Brussels we took an evening train across the border to Germany, our journey ending in Cologne. Wow, just wow.
The shared feeling we got when leaving the train station at Cologne was one of ‘….and relax’. I’m not sure whether it is the comfort of German efficiency, the slightly less chaotic sense to the station, the cold bight to the air, the beautiful Cathedral that hits you as soon as you walk out from the train station, or indeed the fact that we were inching ever further close to our end destination of Sweden, but something felt different to (and for me calmer than) Brussels.
Of course it could simply be a trick of the mind, in that now we were at a second destination, and one with snow, my brain no longer thought at a residual level that this was some sort of work trip with all the fun and games of British trains and missed deadlines.
In stark contrast to my experience in Brussels (which I fully acknowledge maybe a conclusion drawn too hastily), there was something that felt just right about Cologne. I know that I’ll return and I suspect that you could spend a decent period living or working there and still not get easily bored. There was some sort of character to it, a visceral one at that. This was only heightened when peeking out the window after a night’s sleep there had been about a foot of snow. We only had 24 hours in Cologne before one of the planned highlights of the whole trip (the sleeper train north) and so we decided to focus on the christmas festivities. We didn’t set foot inside the Cathedral or any of the museums or cultural activities, instead we ambled around the Christmas markets, soaking up the atmosphere, sampling the Glühwein and generally mooching.
We stumbled across a carol performance at the Cathedral Market by a choir called Art&Weise. Since coming back from holiday I’ve found their facebook page and website where you can get more info and listen to some samples, but I have something else to share with you – an audioboo of their performance of Halleluja. It was tingly good, in a snow covered temporary christmas market, on day two of a much needed holiday – spine tingly good.
I hope you enjoy it, the audioboo comes complete with the hustle and bustle of the sounds of people shopping, drinking and joining in. If you get the chance I’d recommend a visit next year, but for now you can listen to ‘Weinachtsmarkt Köln – Hallelujah’ on Audioboo by clicking that link. Enjoy.
Earlier this week I wrote a short post about the benefits of a baby monitor in supporting life with my Dad who is terminally ill. It allows him to be in bed but still remain connected to my Mum, myself or anyone else who is at home looking out for him. There were a few downsides that I’ve discovered since – notably the constant requests for cups of tea that make you jump as they emanate into the atmosphere; some interference with the wifi when I was trying to use Skype; and it also has the risk of fuelling my own paranoia. Any of my mates who have had me babysit (especially when they are uber little) know that I doubt the tech, and if I dont hear anything for a while I end up going and watching their precious bundle of newbornness to see if their chests are rising – this week I ended up doing the same with Dad; stood in his doorway staring at his chest. I guess the reality is that this is nothing to do with technology, it is to do with the fragility of life and my own need to watch over it.
Anyhow I digress….the other downside of the baby monitor is that it is one-way, it helps us connect to Dad but it doesn’t keep him connected with us, but this does:
Take a bow the wifi enabled photo frame. This thing is amazing, it allows my folks to get photos of their grandchildren, granddogs and of course grandcat; their kids, scenery, cake, whatever. We just take a photo, email it to an email address and hey presto it arrives, usually immediately although sometimes it takes an hour or two. This device is amazing, it has been a brilliant connection for my folks to keep in touch with the everyday existence that goes on, especially when yours isn’t so normal. The last few weeks it has come into its own, Dad has been home from the hospice a week and has barely made it out of bed, but this little gem allows the outside world to come to him. It gives Dad something to look forward to (the symbol on the front lets him know there are new photos waiting), the photos arrive and loop constantly, you can sort by sender or most recent and when all else fails it’s a great, ever changing talking point.
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of being on holiday in Beitostølen in Norway. I’ll do a post holiday reflection blog another time, but suspect it’ll be broadly similar to last year’s – which you can read here if you’re interested.
In this post I wanted to share some sage advice that I was generously given by the man in the photos. On Tuesday of my holiday, feeling somewhat bruised (physically and psychologically having tried my skis on for the first time the day before), I decided to go for a walk after lunch – following the cross country route I wanted to ski the next day. This had two advantages, firstly I could see where I was going so I knew what to expect the next day, and secondly if I followed the tracks I couldn’t get lost.
I was on my way down to have a nose at the hut in the first picture when I saw a sight I’ve never seen before, a man skiing with a sausage dog under his arm. I smiled, took a couple of photos and marvelled to myself at his ability to ski and carry a dog. Seriously impressive stuff. The man and his dogs made their way off down the track and I went to have a nose around the hut, before making my way in the general direction of Beitostølen Stadium.
About an hour later I came across the same man, and his dogs, on their way back from their ski (it really is a novel way to walk a dog). This time we stopped to have a chat, he asked if I was pleased with my photos, I explained I was, we commented on what a beautiful day it was and I admired his skiing ability – sharing with him that I’d been incredibly impressed to see him skiing and carrying his dog. He explained that the doggy was getting on, and too slow, to walk the whole lot – I laughed and made a joke about my poor skiing ability and how I hoped one day to be able to ski and carry a dog, or perhaps more helpfully carry a camera without fear of damaging it. He looked me right in the eye and simply said, ‘Don’t worry, it takes time’.
I’m not sure whether he meant learning and perfecting skiing ability takes time, or whether he meant stopping to take photos takes time. Either way it became a mantra for me throughout the rest of the week as I struggled to give myself permission to make mistakes, to need to take time to improve my ability to stand upright, and harder still to bring myself to a dignified stop.
I thought I’d share it with you guys, I think it’s a great lesson for life, especially if you’re getting impatient with the lack of progress in a situation, as a wise man on skis carrying a dog once said ‘It takes time’.
Over on flickr there is a group for Your Best Shot 2011 and it got me thinking about which my best shot would be. I guess there are loads of criteria for deciding, whether it’s best composition/light/fancy camera terms, whether it’s about the people or subjects in it, the memory or occasion it reminds you of, I’m not really sure so I had a look through my Highlights set where I add my fave pics and came up with the following shortlist:
So, which (if any) do you like? Or are there other photos in my stream that you think are better? Would really love to hear your thoughts.
Growing up in the Westcountry my geographical knowledge is probably at best described as ropey! I never really felt like I had to learn where anything was (with the exception of the Kingdoms of Devonshire and Cornwall) because everything was ‘up north’. Well last weekend I ventured to the proper North East and spent the weekend exploring the delights of the Cairngorms, the Balmoral Estate, the Highlands and Stonehaven which has to be one of the jewels of Aberdeenshire.It was a great weekend, there was a tiny flurry of snow, proper cold wind, winter sun and bright blue skies. I thought I’d share a few of my fave pics:
Sheep in the snow at Mar Lodge
Loch Muick with the mist coming in
Midday sun at St Cyrus Beach
Stonehaven War Memorial
This weekend I headed to River Cafe Canteen at Axminster. I’ve been a couple of times now and keep coming back – so something must be good. I thought I’d blog this time, mostly because I’ve got some piccies of the food that I thought you might enjoy.
First up the actual canteen space. I love it, the perfect mix between a proper nasty old school canteen, and a fabulous nice cafe; blackboards, bunting, wooden tables, can’t go wrong.
Next up starters, we had one Pork and Bacon Terrine:
Cornish Blue and Roast Butternut Squash:
River Cafe Ham and Shredded Red Cabbage:
and one Crab on Toast:
In a party of six, we had four people tempted by the Sausage, Lentils and Salsa Verde:
Mussels cooked with Bacon and Cider:
Cottage Pie with Greens:
with a side order of Chips:
and Chocolate Mousse with Brandy Cream:
All of this was accompanied by a couple drinks and coffee and a trip to buy some coronary clogging delicious cheese and bread on the way home. So, what’s the verdict, well I’ve been to the canteen three times and will definitely be back again. That said I thought they were understaffed in the canteen, which meant that service wasn’t as attentive as it could be. For example, I really don’t mind standing in a queue, but when I get to the front of it I’d like to be acknowledged and told how long I will be waiting for a table. Again, there was gorgeous looking bread up near the counter, we weren’t offered any (maybe we should have asked) but if our waitress had a little more time I can’t help but think she’d have offered some or explained whether bread was or wasn’t included. So, the food was fantastic, the atmosphere was great, the wait was bearable (and well worth it), the service was good but it felt like they could have done with another pair of hands on the canteen floor.
That said, I’d definitely recommend a trip if you’ve not already been – you can judge for yourself then.
Snapped this at the weekend and enjoyed it so much thought I’d share it on here.
I particularly like the dash to add suspense between please and do.