I had a phone call last night asking me to play in a golf match, as two people had dropped out. From this you will deduce that I’m not the best golfer in the world. It’ll take me another week or two to measure up to Tiger Woods. Still, I was pleased to accept, as the weather promised to be good and it was an away match at a course which was unfamiliar to me.
The problem was, I didn’t know the route. But we recently invested in a new sat-nav, so this was the ideal opportunity to try it out. Yes, I know. All of you have been using sat-navs for years and are thoroughly blase about them, but I’m not. This was a new experience for me.
I should explain. We have had two previous sat-navs, neither of which were completely satisfactory. The earliest one – OK, it was probably a prototype – gave new instructions the moment you’d completed the last instruction, even though the next move might be anything up to eleven miles away. So you’d hear, ‘Turn left’, with no indication whatsoever of when you were to turn left. We had some fun with that one, as you can imagine. The next sat-nav was a lot better, but only recognised about half the country’s postcodes, very few of which were in Norfolk. And if you had the temerity to change route half way, the sat-nav went into an unnecessary sulk, refusing to function again.
Not good, and hence my trepidation when I set off today. However, clearly sat-navs have moved in the last few years, for this one was perfect. A lovely, calm lady gave me explicit instructions in plenty of time in a beautifully modulated voice, didn’t get rattled by the traffic (or my driving) and deposited me exactly at my destination just as required.
The match was great, and we won (even greater!) It was a friendly so we all had a good time.
Unfortunately, as I started the journey home heaving the car over exaggerated speed bumps in the golf club access road, the sat-nav fell off the dashboard, utterly scrambling the display. Needless to say, I didn’t know how to get the display back, but bless her! The dear lady within continued with her clear instructions just as though nothing had happened. The display never recovered, but she got me home with no trouble at all.
That’s it – I’m a convert. I shall never worry again about getting to my destination, but rely entirely on the sat-nav.
The advantage of having your youngest daughter home for the Easter holidays is that she drags you out to all sorts of unexpected and novel experiences.
The latest is geo-caching. For the uninitiated, this is a sort of glorified and occasionally sophisticated, treasure hunt. The aim is to find hidden caches, using map co-ordinates and clues. When you find the cache, you fill in a logbook and maybe exchange a small treasure – a coin, or a badge or some other tiny token. If your knees are already buckling at the thought of co-ordinates and maps, don’t despair. It isn’t as difficult as it sounds, thanks to the delights of smart phones which do most of the work for you.
From the geo-caching webpage, you decide which caches are near you and which you would like to visit. This is a world-wide movement so there are geo-caches everywhere, and this area of Norfolk is no exception. There are literally hundreds within a few miles.
We started on Tuesday. Downloaded the information into the smart phone and set off. The first cache, near Hemblington Church, took us several minutes to find, but the next cache, near Panxworth (ruined) Church was very easy.
Encouraged and cock-a-hoop, we ventured forth again yesterday morning, this time to Blofield. There’s a group of geo-caches in the vicinity named after Dad’s Army characters, so we thought we’d hunt for them. This is where it all started to go horribly wrong. We couldn’t find the first two, and the wind was so bitterly cold we gave up and went home for coffee. But not to be outdone, we had another attempt in the afternoon, this time different caches within a few hundred yards of home. Should be easy, right? Wrong!
One was a ‘puzzle’ cache, where you had to work out quite a challenging puzzle to find the cache. We managed the puzzle – at least, I think we did, but who knows? – but couldn’t find the cache, so we moved on to the next one which should have been easier. It wasn’t. On the other hand, had we known our north from our south we might have had more success. Again the weather was bitterly cold, and for some reason, home with a mug of hot tea was more inviting than scrabbling about in the undergrowth searching for a micro-cache.
I’m afraid the sum total of our joint success so far is two miserable caches, but never fear! We’re merely waiting for warmer weather before setting off again, fired with renewed enthusiasm. Watch this space, for as you know, where your treasure is, there is your heart also. Or something like that.
The first of January 2013, and a gorgeous day, crisp, bright and sunny. Blue sky and sunshine. Could this be God’s metaphor for 2013? I’d like to think so, as an unblemished year free from sorrow, anxiety and worry would be terrific. Unlikely, but terrific!
We decided to start the new year as we mean to go on, with a walk.
Note the sinister shadow following on behind…
…but a little further on…
..and the ubiquitous shadow is less apparent. Perhaps another metaphor signifying better health in 2013. Let’s hope so.
And finally, just to show how beautiful it is here in Norfolk even in winter…
Wherever you are, whatever the weather and whatever your circumstances, a very happy and healthy 2013 for you.
Just back from a great couple of days staying with our daughter in Belgium, where we went to visit mainly her, of course, but also the Christmas Markets.
She took us to the Christmas Market in Brussels on Tuesday, which was quite an experience as neither Ian nor I have been to one of these events before. Masses of stalls selling a huge variety of products loosely – or otherwise – related to Christmas, gluhwein (hot mulled wine to us Brits) flowing freely,
hot roasted chestnuts, pancakes, and all sorts of goodies including Welsh cheese! I fancied my chances on the ice rink, but was dissuaded as we had no insurance. I learned later that the E111 (which we did have) would have been quite sufficient for any broken bones. Naturally we also found time to visit a chocolate factory, and that evening Becki took me to a chocolate cafe, which produced all varieties of chocolate drinks to die for. Well, you have to if you’re in Belgium, don’t you?
The Christmas Market opened in Leuven (where Becki lives) the following evening. Throbbing with people, especially young people, and vibrant with energy and colour. Smaller than the Brussels market, but much larger than I expected. I loved Father Christmas’s rooms – a number of log cabins, each one set out as a different room in Santa’s house, kitchen, bathroom, lounge, bedroom, and of course, the workshop.
Leuven, which is a small city similar to Norwich in character, goes to town with its Christmas lights. Mostly small, white fairy lights and immensely effective, adorning the trees and streets. There are two wonderful, large deer in lights just outside the railway station, and further along in the city square outside the cathedral is a large stable, complete with the Holy Family and live sheep.
All this adds to the party atmosphere, which was enhanced by the entirely unexpected and superb firework display just as we were leaving the market.
It was very cold in Belgium, but equally cold here in the UK when we came back today via Eurostar. We loved it all, and I’m definitely booking again for next year.
I’m delighted to announce that my latest foray into the world of writing is now available from Amazon in both Kindle format and paperback -Poisoned By Yew. This is a collection of short stories written over the years, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek and ideal for that holiday moment or for picking up on the plane or train.
Now that those wonderful Olympics are over for a couple of weeks (until the paralympics arrives in full flow), my thoughts turn to other types of competition, namely writing competitions. I’ve unearthed a few free-to-enter competitions for you, which leaves you with no excuses for failing to put pen to paper. Go on, give it a try. You’ve nothing to lose.
Healthy Living magazine is looking for bedtime stories to encourage sleep – so no monsters under the bed, then. Your story needs to be between 1500 and 3000 words in length, any genre except children’s stories and erotica. Click here for details. Competition closes on 31st October, so you’ve [plenty of time to get thinking and writing.
If you can write a complete, interesting and exciting story in six words, then this competition is for you. Closes on 30th September, and first prize is an astonishing £100 or a stay in the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan.
This next one is for fresh, original stories on any subject, up to 2000 words. Closes on August 25th, but you still have time. Prize is mainly publication and promotion of your work. Click here for details.
And finally, this competition is for stories of no more than 1200 words, and you have to use one of the organisers openign dialogues. You get to choose from three possibilities. This one closes on 30th August. Click here for details.
Needless to say, all your entries must be original. Why not get writing? It could be fun.