Friday, 21 September 2018

Ever read a headline with a question?


This article from auntie Beeb does just have such a headline "Why is IVF so popular in Denmark" and then goes on to discuss all the effects of a *need* for and changes to regulation of IVF without once mentioning the reason.

Danish men make the least viable sperm of all nation groupings in the world.

I remember going to a conference at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen in 1998, where this was discussed by Dr Anna-Maria Andersson and Prof Niels Skakkabaek. They had a large collection of historical samples (I forget the exact details - it's >20 years ago) where various reproductive regulatory hormone levels could be demonstrated to be at reducing levels over time within given age groups of men. There was work going on to find causality, but I don't recall conclusions being available at the time, though environmental oestrogens were one suggestion. It's a slightly scary problem, and one the Danes seem to have dealt with in their own way.

This listing of papers by Prof Skakkabaek is interesting.

But regardless, social agenda much? BBC, you are increasingly disappointing.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

And when the time comes.

It's good to go home. YYV is very keen on it's gay symbology, full of shiny marble floors and loud announcements. Interesting selection of food too. One thing that IS impressive are the water stations for refilling empty bottles.

Our gate was due to open 5min ago, but hasn't. C'est la vie.

Friday, 14 September 2018

It's good to be here

In the corner of a field in the middle of Alberta. And to see the owner of the bird and sprog blog plus missus shortly too.


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Technology is a drag backwards

Multiple meanings aside, I'm transferring images from an SD card onto my (10 year old) MacBook using a USB 2 adapter. A couple of gigabytes took 8 minutes instead of around 30 seconds as it would on the Dell (4 years old).

Patience isn't just a virtue, so much as a necessity. At least I have nothing else pressing.

Friday, 31 August 2018


Is the bloke who just sat next to me. 😣

Monday, 27 August 2018

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Looks like the new phone was actually the upgrade for Chris that I hoped.

Not only does it work well, but from first charge on Friday afternoon it went until Wednesday evening before recharging appreciably quicker than the Lumia, despite the battery being 4000mAh vs 2500mAh.

The one fly in the ointment has been that because it's running Android 8, that comes with more options & customisations, I've needed to turn off a lot more device tracking and data scraping stuff. So Google maps really REALLY wants you to photograph & rate locations nearby, tracking you all the while you're there. And they want you to do it so badly they'll keep sending requests that you do it until out of irritation you search through & find the off switches.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Happy birthday darling.

Hard to believe 29 has come round so soon. I wonder whether you would have children yet, or have chosen a career? I'm sure we'd have been proud of you regardless.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A little lunchtime reading on the BBC

And I came across this article on the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Scan down to the bit below the picture of Dubcek near the bottom. While the downplaying of the Soviet invasion's negative points nicely illustrates the section heading about historical amnesia, the comment that "When the Soviets invaded, there was no napalm. There was no Agent Orange. Czech women were not forced to become prostitutes for Soviet troops," he went on, taking a swipe at America's war in Vietnam. is very telling.

How is it that when a 'Christian' nation becomes involved, situations are often worse than before. This behaviour is certainly not unique to the United States either, historically speaking, although the impression I have is that the relatively atheistic Europeans have done less of this in the last 50 years.

While we're on short grumbly posts

Driver of the lilac Nissan Pixo in front of me this morning - your vaping habit is..... not pleasant.

I would not have expected the sickly fumes to fill my car when we were driving at 55mph with a 30 yard gap between us. I can't imagine how noxious that vapour must be in your lungs.

Good morning world.

It's funny how one forgets things.

I keep saying how I'd like to go for a run, but just don't feel like it, so encouraged by my wife on Sunday afternoon I did actually run a little. All was well that evening and yesterday at work, but last night legs, joints etc were all grumpy and sleep was scarce. This is quite normal, but it's easy to forget it.

Owning a cat is like having a baby.

You have to keep clearing up faeces and vomit, and it cries piteously when nothing is wrong and it doesn't need any more food. At least it can be locked it the kitchen at night and it will tidy itself away at around 18-20ish years old.

Friday, 17 August 2018

I’ve just started reading my first ever Braille horror story.

I think that something scary is about to happen…

I can just feel it...

Friday afternoon.

The replacement for Chris's Lumia phone arrived today - a Xiaomi Redmi* Note 5. Now we have the fun of setting up, trying to move WhatsApp and other data, photos etc. Guess I know how my evening is going to be spent. OneDrive may get used for some stuff, though I'm not sure how to get text messages across yet.


OK, so the phone is now set up & working. It's snappy, the screen is really good plus as a bonus it's running Android 8 and may possibly get 9 at some stage. In the hand it's nicely rounded, yet also surprisingly thin, which is something that the included jelly case doesn't spoil.

First thing was a major GUI update plus security patch, taking security to June this year same as my phone. There was some brief fun & games setting up Outlook, since just a few days before Chris has been forced to change passwords on outlook and, uncharacteristically, had failed to record or memorise the new PW, so we did a quick reset before her email etc account could be set up. Then we did fingerprints to unlock, which took a few goes, but works very effectively.

Further detailed set up took some time, since the OS gives many options for each application in different places, although it's great to be able to control permissions for individual apps, and I also tried to delete a fair bit of the cruft (first victim was facebook - wonder if it's left tracking malware** behind?). Getting contacts across was difficult at first despite instructing Outlook (the email, calendar and contacts manager on the previous phone) and google drive (from the earlier still Android) backup to sync with contacts. Eventually I was offered the option to import a vcard from each, rather than it happening automatically, and then went through the business of merging duplicated contacts (about 40 in all) before the address book was finally over and intact. 

Whatsapp went in & recognised her old account without trouble, and I installed a bunch of tools likely to be useful including HERE with off-line mapping for navigation without internet access, Open camera (phenominal image stabilisation using the phone gyro to stabilise video) plus various other bits & pieces.

Overall it seems a nice tool. I wish they had made something of this spec with a 5" or smaller bezelless format when I bought my phone a few months back - it feels quite laggy by comparison.

*I just noticed the spill chucker changed Redmi to Redmond. Amusing when it's Redmond that is being replaced.

** Yes - it's called Whatsapp.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Pertinent to my earlier post about google tracking your location

Is this article from El Reg.

Also as a matter of interest. I noticed that after I visited the site, without making any changes to settings, the blogger app stopped working on my phone, requiring me to enter my password, which was rejected as 'pattern unrecognised' each time. The phone had clearly remembered my google account settings (I could access gmail) and the only fix was to delete and re-install blogger.

I suspect this is probably a legitimate concern, both from a personal and governmental standpoint.

If you can't drive in the rain

then don't go out in your car.

Grey Toyota Aygo Go! model - I won't put the registration number - driving between 38mph and 51mph on the B4260 (speed limit 65mph). The really frustrating part was that they were continuously accelerating and decelerating, so driving was a case of on and off the accelerator, up and down the gears. In the 50 limit for the last couple of miles into Kidlington it was down to 31-41mph, and mostly high 30s.

It was raining, but only lightly, and since they were the car in front (stupid Toyota advert strapline proving to be true for all the wrong reasons) there was no issue with spray for them, so it really couldn't have been THAT difficult. Unfortunately there was an SUV, another car and then a lorry between the Aygo and my car, and there was never a long enough stretch of clear road to safely overtake what had become quite a strung-out series of vehicles.

Am I imagining this?

Well, when I first caught up with this group there were only 2 cars behind me, but after 5 or 6 miles the stream of headlights behind went back as far as the road allowed me to see, which was a good 1/4 mile and possibly more.


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

It looks like privacy concerns may be the least of Australia's worries.

It seems they are capable of electing interesting people to parliament. I'll just park this without further comment.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Which Bible Will You Choose? We've Got 'Just The One For You' In Eden's Big Bible Sale

I've been thinking a lot about the bible recently: it's authenticity, origins, reasons for being like it is and infallibility as 'the word of God'. While that particular discussion is probably one I'm unlikely to have outside my own head, there was something about the title of this email, posted above, that made me consider how disposable the bible is in modern Christianity. "Don't like that bit of theology? Well here's another translation that puts a different spin on the words".

I was also thinking about some of Paul's writings, how they came to us and why they were written, about whether he'd be as dogmatic about things now as he was then. It also occurred to me that, once I started analysing in a less God-focussed, more intellectual fashion then all sorts of things like women in leadership seem much more reasonable - essentially the further I am from God, the more sense they make.

I've made a big jump over the last decade, from being essentially fundamentalist but wanting to know the truth to viewing things with a far less faith-driven eye and being much more questioning. Is this good? Some would say so, but it's far from ideal, having neither the assurance of knowledge, nor the reassurance of faith.

Do you care whether your activity is tracked by google?

Peering out from under my tinfoil hat for a moment, I'm not *entirely* sure I do, not least is because the aggregated data from millions of android phone users like me is actually useful to those users as well as advertisers.

Ever wondered how google knows where traffic jams are located, or why sometimes routes get changed on the fly?

But at the same time I hate giving my personal data away, which is why I went through my Xiaomi phone when I first got it, turning off and disabling apps & tracking, access to contacts etc. When Chris's Redmi Note 5 arrives (her Lumia 650 is becoming unreliable and the battery only lasts a day or so) in the next few days we'll need to do the same for that.

If you want to check to see whether you've been bleeding data without knowingly allowing it then wander over here. iOS users - this may apply to you too, if you have ever used any services from Google. I was pleasantly surprised to find all my tracking settings switched off, probably thanks to being scrupulous with the Xiaomi, with the exception of youtube content which is useful occasionally (they suggest good videos far less often than one might expect, although there's recently been a run on Marina Sirtis comicon appearances that had me chuckling - she's a real Lundun gel wiv a right norf an sarf).

I almost wish my phone had a sandbox mode, for openly sharing stuff that doesn't matter like location when using maps, and a private mode that locks away contacts etc so that applications which demand access are unable to filch the stuff they have no business sharing (why does an audio recording app require access to contacts?)

And while we're mentioning phones, my Xiaomi 4X did a recent OS update at the end of last week that made it go all slow for a few days. It was getting to the point where I was going to see if there wasn't some way to step it back when suddenly it became all snappy again. Weird. I miss the better wireless performance of the Lumia 640, but I don't miss the apps that didn't work, laggy performance and short screen-on time. I suspect a large part of the excellent standby battery life of the Lumia was simply because the aerial system was very good, and the phone used much less power hunting for a weak and difficult signal. Other manufacturers might learn a lot from the Lumia people.

Australia is not going to be a good place to live

if you value personal privacy. As someone said in the comments "welcome to China".

Monday, 13 August 2018

Where do you go to my lovely?

Isn't quite a correct title, but it does please me a little.

Thinking about the Bill Hybels thing, where do you go when you've fallen in a way that you can't hide and is pretty much guaranteed to bite your bum?

Or possibly worse, where do you go when you have serious doubts, as I do now, yet you are stuck in a leadership position (which I'm not, thankfully) upon which your career and income depends? Do you do the 'honest' thing and step down or do you keep going, hope faith comes back and try not to open your mouth in 'unfortunate' honesty to those around you.

A question I have for those who I've seen in their blogs appear to talk about how good it is to be in a place of doubt & and uncertainty while yet remaining Christians, possibly even leaders - how did you do it? If you can't bring more than someone else's words of assurance, should you even try to lead others?

Some of this comes from yesterday's church meeting where Gospel Bell played. It was a 'nice' CoE church with a warm and inclusive welcome. The vicar borrow bits from CoE and celtic traditions, plus wore a hat that fitted with English folk traditions of nature (and probably a bit of paganism) and it all felt very....... I dunno, meaningless I suppose. A construct designed to provide a mix of entertainment and some religious input, some affirmation, but hollow. I made it back to the meeting of the Banbury church we're part of for the last 15min where there was some fairly intense prayer & worship, and that felt odd too, although it did at least feel like there was something solid about it.

It may be because I'm not leading Chris into good spiritual places either, but I don't think the present format of church we are involved in builds us up. Or perhaps it's just me, although I suspect that's not all of the issue.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Here I am, sat in church

It feels a lot like when we were in Israel last year, with religions that weren't mine going on around me. As it is, I'm here to play with Gospel Bell at a fringe event run by the local church at the Fairport Cropredy festival. Being a 'wise virgin' I'm here early so as not to rush or scramble for a non-existant parking space.

The church interior is quite attractive, but this definitely feels like a 'not my church' type of place, and I think I can smell incense too

Thursday, 9 August 2018

I'm a little sad to hear Bill Hybels has had to step down

It seems there's been some long-running sexual misconduct going on that eventually came out.

Little surprises me these days about people failing, although it's disappointing when they've been getting away with it for a long time, assuming the BBC is reporting accurately (which may not at all be the case - it's not exactly a paragon of virtue, impartiality and truthfulness any more). We're all human, but it can be hard to not be all too human.

Monday, 6 August 2018

This had a certain salty appeal.

Not least because it's a little personally pointed.


Although AFAIK I don't have Alzeheimers, but both of us forget stuff these days. And I do find this kind of humour amusing.

I should probably also point out that the slightly eclectic, rambling words and pictures below were an attempt for me to re-live my childhood memories, visiting the Zoologiocal Society of London gardens at Regents part via canal boat. It was warm (30+ celsius) we got a bit tired and my blogging was less careful and descripive than it might have been.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

We all have our foibles and weaknesses

But sometimes one finds something new. Like the chap opposite with a ' superdry' label dangling from his sunglasses. Said chap seems to move his head to make the label swing around.

Chris wondered if it were to counter a problem with flies, like the corks on a jolly swagman's hat.

No pictures, because.

Won't you take me back home (Slade)

On the bus again.

In transit.

Brownings pool.

Waiting for the bus.

In transit

Off to relive a memory

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Another year older

I'm grateful the debt isn't mounting, however. Nice to have the wider family around for lunch.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Must. Stay. Awake.

Spent 30min watching a tutorial on calculating root mean square values in excel, then applying it to some data. Followed that with another tutorial on calculating EC50 vales from sigmoidal curves, at which point I almost fell asleep.

We know how to have a high old time here. 😋

Sunday, 29 July 2018

What do you want to do for your birthday?

It's a question I was asked as a child, and when I was small I always had the same answer "visit the London zoo".

As a family we were poor as church mice, but somehow my parents always found the money to manage the trip, plus on a couple of occasions in included travelling on a boat, right into the zoo itself. Having just enjoyed a little remembering back to childhood, it was natural to spend 30sec in google, and lo & behold, it's still possible.

We never did this for my son, and at this point in time I sorely regret it (we were dirt-poor too at that stage) although he might never have actually been interested*, but no matter. Perhaps I'll get to take the grandkids sometime.

*Retrospective regret is a useless fantasy. I frequently beat myself up with it, when the reality is that a) we did the best we could at the time and b) Cadbury world was of greater interest then. I hope he has good memories of those trips, like I do of the trips my mother took me on.

Yesterday my most looked at post was from December

A few years ago *

Back then I was helping lead a church. How different today, when it's really not something I want to do any more.

I still care for people, still want to see truth and righteousness at work, but there's no way I could lead in the way I used to because I have more questions than answers and am sure things aren't like I thought they were. TBH I don't know how you can lead people if you have doubts yourself - it seems dishonest to me. So I'll serve where I can and try to cope with the tension while hoping I'm not just another hypocrite.

* it was this post.

Friday, 27 July 2018

The great photographic session draws close to a finish

Photo finish?

Currently exporting all the images from Lightroom to a USB stick, ready for hand over tomorrow night. There is some good stuff in there and nothing 'bad', but I still hope they go down well.

*export finished!*

Buy me and stop one.

Just seen on Amazon deals: Durex 'surprise me' variety condoms.

My first thought was "She's pregnant - how's that for a surprise?"

Just. Don't. Go. There.

Remove ads in 'real life'?

Another Friday, another Dabbsy article on El Reg.

For years I've heard the objection to the wearing of branded clothes, about people becoming walking advertisements, but it's never bothered me. I see no cache in branding (no woman ever approached me in the street and asked to have my babies because I wore Adidas trainers or Levi Strauss jeans) though I know for some it can make a difference *for them*. I think I've removed brand names a couple of times, but usually because they were a) embarrassingly naff, but even more b) simply large and ugly.

No, the big objection to online ads is that it simply fills the space one withes to view with garbage and consumes available bandwidth and processor cycles.  I like the idea of paying some kind of small subscription in order to view pages ad-free (I'm going to block those ads anyway, so you get NO revenue otherwise) but it's hard to envision how such a system might be managed? Could it be like royalties for music? Probably not a great idea, since the rich b*st*rds who already run the music streaming systems will cream off most of the money instead of giving it to the people actually making it. I know they guys who started the Brave browser were looking at something, but that's gone quiet recently.

There has to be a better system than the non-system presently operated, but it would need to work across borders and legislatures, and it's hard to see how that might pan out, especially given the moronic rush for everything to be free in terms of cash transfer, but expensive in terms of energy, efficiency and giving away of data.

Perhaps the (in)famous GDPR will help?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Living abroad II* (with retail therapy)

Britain is becoming crowded.

Look, I grew up in London, granted in a relatively spacious street, but just around the corner from '2up-2downs' with a front door that opened directly onto the street. It was fairly crowded, but we knew that 15min drive up the road was countryside, fields, woods, open spaces and very few people. It may have been this way for the last century or so, but it *feels* like this place is disappearing under concrete faster and faster, with the gaps between villages and towns getting ever smaller.

So Brexit.**

No, it won't fix it.

Last night we semi-jokingly talked about retiring somewhere else, as in another country (Brexit may kibosh that, although I am still an Austrian citizen, therefore European) and we talked around where we might go. Italy, where we've just stayed, isn't exactly crowded but I doubt it's terribly affordable on a longer term basis. Then I suggested going all 'Marigold Hotel', and Chris wondered how she would manage to do the shopping.

All our married lives, we've shopped in a supermarket, and India, very sensibly for their local traders, has effectively banned supermarkets as we know them.

But there was a time when supermarkets like that didn't exist. When we were children.

I have distinct memories of being taken around Caters in Croydon by my mother (memories from the pushchair - so probably 1964ish) but I have many more memories of the local (as in South Norwood) fishmongers with live eels and crabs, butchers with fake grass and porcelain statues of bullocks, bakers, grocers, hardware etc shops. Yes, there was a small Tesco in the town, even then, but it wouldn't even qualify as a mini-market now, with just a single set of shelves of good running the length of the small store and an aisle that looped around it from the front door to the rear & then up the other side to the tills. There was a shop that sold working cloths and teddy-boy gear (Wolfs) in Portland road, several sweet shops (the nearest was Foucaulds - pronounced foldcards by us higgerant locals) and a toyshop (one of 3 in the town) called Noteus (which local pronunciation mangled into notice's).

I mention this lot because Bicester has no toy shops and 1 chocolatier (a Thorntons franchise) which might possibly be classed a sweet shop. It's not that I'm being nostalgic for those businesses that have closed since we moved here in 1990, but as a nation we probably have no idea how to 'go to the shops' any more.

And then, once shopping was done you would have to carry your goods home, often long distances, instead of loading it into the back of the car. I bet if this was the only way to shop, our houses would have a LOT less junk in them.

I wonder how difficult it would be to move to Jaipur?

*This has nothing to do with previous post, apart from the title.

**that's another post.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

I seem to be living abroad

While I can remember long periods of sunny, dry weather here in the UK, most of those memories are childhood ones and therefore slightly suspect. Yesterday was another day of 29-30 degrees, blue skies, beating sun.

Because of the heat, Chris didn't want to do aerobics in the village hall, so I cancelled running & we walked for a couple of hours in the evening after dinner. The fields round here really are 'white for harvest' in a way that we've not seen before, and the wheat and barley or definitely not golden this year. Even more curious, although many of the fields looked really dry & the ears a little shrivelled, in fact they were still somewhat tender and had not finished groing.

The farmers are hard at the harvesting in some parts, clouds of dust rising like smoke in the air. I hope harvest is good this year, and not blighted by drought.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Living life on the edge

well, maybe near it, anyway.

There's a game that it's difficult not to play with cars, where one tries to get the maximum mileage from a tank full of fuel (the other option, minimum mileage, is neither wallet, nor license friendly). Apparently I had 4 miles remaining, although just before getting to the petrol station it estimated only 1 mile, however it's the other figure of 510 miles on a single tankful that I'm pleased about.

And this reminds me of the first time we filled the car in Italy. The 'self service' petrol station wouldn't, so the attendant wandered over and we got a mutual understanding of 'full'. And he took it as a personal challenge. He rocked the car several times, went slowly with the filling speed, all to get a full 60 euros into the Fiesta. I've never seen anyone so determined to squeeze every last drop from a sale.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Final thoughts.

Cleaning the house & subsequent journey back was relatively uneventful, flights were OK and pretty much on time, and our car was delivered by the parking people in exactly 15 minutes after making the call to say we were ready.

Italian drivers have 2 speeds: too slow and too fast, plus no inhibitions about overtaking multiple cars on short straights with blind bends coming up.

The Ford Fiesta we had as a hire car was really great on the tight, twisty and even unmade roads where we stayed, with supple suspension that absorbed small potholes yet remained flat with little body roll on tight corners. It was completely ideal for this driving and so pleasant to drive that I wondered whether it might be a good consideration as a next car. However driving back to the airport on the motorway was a completely different experience - what worked well between 30kph and 90kph became a slightly white-knuckle experience around the speed limit of 130kph, with the car feeling like a frightened cat trying to walk on ice and spreading it’s legs wide to cling on tight around motorway curves. While my mini would have been much harsher on the bumpy roads, I really appreciated the assured and safe driving experience on the 2 hours back from the airport.

Food was good value to eat out, but not in the supermarkets. It was a relief to get back to a diet not based on wheat products (i.e. pasta or pizza). Since returning I’ve eaten 3 Indian-style meals, 2 Chinese style, plus fish & chips (home cooked) and are due for more Indian-style food tonight. Such is the traditional British diet. ;-)

I'm gradually cranking my way through the photos. Including Chris's there were >2200, first cull dropped that to 800, second cull to about 300. Some are challenging to process because of the considerable mistiness present at times, while others are completely simple with just a few tweaks to levels. Overall pleased with some of the landscapes so far, but the next set to do are the interiors.


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

2 days for the price of one.

Yesterday was really busy, so I didn't get time to post, again.


So we went to Podesa on Monday.

It’s a nice seaside town, let down a little by the railway line that runs directly behind the beach and separates the town, but that’s also a good thing, because it inhibits the place being developed into one of those obscene tourist cities with colossal hotels and destruction of all that’s natural for hectares around the beachfront.

Parking was free.


The beach isn’t overly impressive either, with a mix of smaller stones and some sand that becomes mud a little further out in the water. Large rocks have been set up as a barrier parallel to the beach, providing a safe bathing area, but with the result that the water changes less frequently & so the mud makes it a little murky. This isn’t the med with crystal-clear waters and interesting fish, but it wasn’t cold either, and was quite acceptable for a quick cooling dip.

Our time at the beach started with some tension, because Chris’s burns needed shade, meaning we had to hire a parasol & loungers to stay out of the sun. When we’ve done this in Turkey it was simply a case of buying food & drink at the café that owned the kit and it was yours to use. So we wandered down to the beach, chose a free set and simply popped up a brolly, sat on the loungers and waited for someone to turn up & ask what we’d like to drink.

After about 25min we realised it wasn’t going to happen, although there was a chap walking around putting up umbrellas and collecting money from people. In the UK we would simply call him over and ask what the deal was, but here that was impossible. In the end we worked out that he was operating from a café of the same name as on the kit we were sat on, so we wandered over and asked how much (12 euros for the day) paid and then finally relaxed.

And we idled the day away on the beach.

Before we left home I’d planned to download some kindle books to the Xiaomi phone while we were away if I needed reading material, but of course that didn’t work, and neither did the Kindle app on the Lumia. Of course there were other reading apps available too, so it was the work of moments to grab a couple, choose the first that worked (which was actually the second downloaded) and then download a book or 2 onto that.

Screen time from 65% to shutdown on the Lumia is about 3 hours. :-p

A brief divertimento – the Xiaomi has been sat here on flight mode since the day after we arrived. Even though I spent several hours reading stuff, it went from around 50% to 23% between Wednesday night and Sunday night. Also FWIW I installed a couple of translator apps on it a few weeks back and noticed it lost nearly a day of battery life afterwards. I’m impressed with the battery life once again, and quite appreciate why people want to root & flash their phones with an OS that lets you control whether applications can ‘phone home’ when not in use.

We swam a little, had lunch, read several hours, had another swim, sunbathed a bit, changed & had dinner, finally buying ice creams (Cornetto – meh) and sat by the sea as light levels dropped and the sky changed colour. Sounds pretty idyllic.

And around 50min later we were back here again.

One of our conversations stemmed from the pleasure of just being by a large body of water, with a warm clean-smelling breeze gently blowing around us, having eaten pleasant food and enjoying each others company. In contrast to the start of this part of the blog series, we love mountain holidays, we love beach holidays. When we got to the beach today, what I REALLY wanted to do was to find a river at the bottom of a gorge that ran over rocks and between wooded banks in little waterfalls. It took a while to refocus on the good things in front of me and enjoy them for what they were.

So to the ‘what if’ game, we’d now like a house between the mountains and the beach*, please. If that’s not being greedy.

*Technically we already have that, since it’s a couple of hours drive to the Derbyshire peak district, and a couple of hours drive to the coast from where we live, but that really is NOT what I mean.


And so we come to the final day.

An ascent into hell.

Well, strictly speaking, a walk up the Gola del Infernaccio, which is actually a beautiful riverside walk up through a steep gully between 2 mountains. The tourist people like to play up the overtones of necromancy & bad magic in their information. but there’s nothing to suggest that unless the Roman Catholic stuff part-way up is misunderstood. At the top is a hermitage built by a priest in the 1970s, but we didn’t get that far because it’s around 14 kilometers and 4 hours each way, requiring good hiking boots, food and drink and a level of fitness and determination that go beyond a normal holiday walk.

The terrain is fabulous, but seriously challenging, with steep ascents on loose stones and the odd stream to cross.

Winifred the Windows navigator took us (via some ‘interesting’ unmade roads) to within a kilometer of the trail start. We were lucky to get there before 9.30am and found a shady space in the small car park. From there we walked down the gravel trail.

At the start of the canyon the trail passes under an overhanging rock that pours water on the walkers below unless they hug the rockface closely – for those who know it, think of the weeping wall in the Rockies, but undercut with the road passing beneath. When we got to the bottom and crossed the bridge to the start of the trail we were a little damp and starting to get cold. Across from where the trail entered the small flat area at the start was a tunnel with very cold air pouring out of it and chilling the surroundings. Chris ended up feeling so cold that she walked the 1K back up to the car to get her cardigan and back again, only to take it off within minutes of starting up the proper trail.

So we ascended, we viewed, we took many many pictures and walked for a couple of hours before feeling it was time to turn around. I’d say that this and the fields of flowers at Castelluccio were probably the highlights of the trip for us, and if you’re ever in the area are ‘must see’ places. We are fairly well travelled (and grateful for it) and there are few things that wow us, but both these did.

And back we went, in around 90minutes to the car. Less pictures were taken, and we met many others going in the opposite direction. In places descending was quite a bit harder than going up, struggling to find secure footholds on the loose stones of the steepest sections. On the way back we photographed some tiny blue butterflies drinking at a watering hole and noted how the birdsong was unusually present in another section. The car park was now full, with cars parked some way up the road too: busy for a Tuesday morning.

By this time we were quite hungry, so off in search of lunch.

Driving down the mountainside we saw the very smart old town of Montefortino in the distance, but when we got there it was the Marie Celeste thing all over again – we even smelled cooking, but the only restaurant we found was being rebuilt. Amandola, that we previously visited, was only 4km away so off we went there.

Bella Napoli.

Well that may be true, but it’s also the name of a pasta and pizza restaurant just inside the town. As we parked up the scent of food and woodsmoke reached our nostrils, and taking courage in one hand – phrase book in the other – we entered.

And needn’t have feared. They were friendly, had a tiny bit of English and some bi-lingual menus, though we did end up with 2 cokes instead of 1, and the lass serving though us ‘odd’ to only order from the pasta dishes and not from the usual mains or pizzas*, though she didn’t say anything. Italy is a little formal when it comes to eating out, and one is expected to go through starter, first course, second course, dessert. The experience was pleasant enough that we will probably eat there for our final meal out tonight.

So then it was back to the house for a post-prandial nap, put a wash on to ease pressure of time tomorrow, sit around reading and photographing the butterflies that were so hard at work on the lavender. There was a swallowtail there, for the first time that we’ve noticed.

So back to Bella Napoli for dinner. It was pleasant, though I can’t help get the feeling that we couldn’t order food quite right, and that Italians would order in a way that was ‘better’. But  they were helpful, friendly, one of the waitresses spoke English, though we tried to use Italian where possible. It was a nice meal, and I ended up leaving about 1/4 of the 1litre of wine because we had to drive home.

So now Chris is adding stuff to the visitors book and I’m finishing this off, having scanned back through the pictures of butterflies etc from earlier today. I hope they look good on a proper screen instead of the back of the camera.

*Pizzas here have been mixed. running from edible through to nice but not ‘Wow!’. It may be that, like the risotto, a little foreign input was required to get the very best from an otherwise sound idea that needed further development.