It’s been a while – the times they are a changing

What a start to the year. My daughter delivered us a second grandchild in early February. Since our abortive attempt to sell the house back in the summer (post-BREXIT poll), we have had a lot of work done on the house. We’ve decided to take a break for a couple of months to get our second wind, then start round 2.

The winter weather hasn’t been particularly condusive to going out for rides (I learnt my lesson last year when I came off on black ice – very painful). Now the weather is improving, I have been able to get out and test my new toys for this year, a helmet cam and mic – essential with the quality/attitude of road users here in the UK. I had a very enjoyable outing to a biker cafe in Hampshire, called Loomies – here’s a short video for anyone that’s interested – Ride down to Loomies

Nothing really to report on the Coeliac front. The availability of products (at a price) in the mainstream supermarkets continues and since legislation in the UK Parliament, eating out is a lot easier. I do wish that restaurants wouldn’t drop a 3 inch thick ring-binder in front of me for ME to check what I can eat. The more forward thinking restaurants either flag options on their menu, or even better have a completely separate menu – YAY.

Hope you’re having a good start to the year. Thanks for reading

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Being a Coeliac – whats it like where you are?

Where do I start? I was diagnosed as a Coeliac late in life(2013 to be precise at the age of 57). At the time, it was a bit overwhelming for me and my family. The first time shopping was a nightmare as all the labels had to be read! I am pleased to say that since 2013, the situation with regard to the availability of Gluten Free products has improved greatly(in large part due to the efforts of Coeliac UK ) . Eating Gluten Free at home is easy now and I am pleased to say the occurrences of ‘being glutened’ are thankfully few and far between.

Eating out is where the challenge lies. The UK government DID bring out legislation to help (and it has), but the response of restuarants big and small is pretty much across the spectrum. Restauarant staff Coeliac awareness is much better. What lets many eatries down is how they deal with Coeliacs.

The more enlightened ones(Bella Italia, Pizza Express, Handmade Burger Company, to name but a few) have updated their menus to clearly indicate which options are available to Coeliacs, some have even gained certification from Coeliac UK. Others seem to consider this too much effort and their response is to drop a huge folder of information on my lap and leave it to me to decipher what I can eat, based on their use of icons etc. Not good enough. When I go out to eat, I want to be able to pick something Gluten Free without making a drama of it.Too often I take the easy option as I cant be bothered to take the time to read through all their matierial. I do have a good idea whats ‘Safe’ after 3 years (although can still be caught out).

Hotels are much the same. I stayed at one recently that looked very promising. Gluten Free cereal, bread for toast, but oh dear, ask for Gluten Free sausages  with a cooked breakfast?

I have had some very positive side effects from being Gluten Free. I feel the best I have every felt health-wise. Asthma that has plagued me since birth has gone completely.  I have started experimenting with drinking normal beer to see what happens . Nothing untoward so far. Easy steps.

So, in the UK, its getting easier all the time. If we can just crack eating out… How is it where YOU are? I’d be very interested to hear. Thanks for reading.

 

An unexpected visitor

During our recent weekend in Bournemouth, UK, we had an early morning walk through the park in the centre of Bournemouth. Its a favourite place with families for picnics. There used to be a tethered balloon ride, but while the mooring base was still there, there was no evidence of the balloon – maybe it’s in storage for the winter.

As we walked along we noticed the park has a lot of grey squirrels and they are very tame. Have a look at this fellow…

The park is an unexpected find right in the centre of Bournemouth.. worth a look if you visit.

We were very lucky with the weather – we were there 4 days and had bright sunshine every day. Although it was cool(well it was late October), the crowds were out.

The seascapes were fabulous…

All in all a great weekend, thanks for reading.

 

Well into Year 2 PI

No not the mathematical PI, the PI here means Post-IBM (sorry!). I parted company with IBM UK on January 6th 2015. Its been an interesting 20 months. When I left, I was still very focused on continuing to work. I did a small amount of work as an independent, but actually came to the conclusion i enjoyed NOT working more. So I guess I have moved from semi-retired to COMPLETELY retired.

One of the non-technology options I did a lot of research on was setting up a Gluten Free shop in my local town. I spent a lot of time researching what the major supermarkets offer to see where a niche could be. As it turns out, the supermarkets have broadened their ranges greatly, leaving little space for a small independent shop. Add to that the initial set up costs and it rapidly became non-viable.

I did (earlier this year) pass my motorbike tests and gained my licence. I subsequently  bought a new bike and have been having a lot of fun – earlier in the year I made a ‘road-trip’ to visit a friend on the Dingle Peninsula in SouthWest Ireland, which was fabulous and documented in an earlier post.

I became a grandparent last year and early next year will become a grandparent x 2!  Its a strange feeling.

BREXIT seems to have scuppered our plans to downsize, so we have parked the idea for now and are upgrading our existing house. I did vote to stay, but have to say that given the way the EU seems to be going, I think BREXIT may be the right choice. Nuff said.

So, Summer is definitely over, at least in my part of the UK. Christmas is 3 months away. Where has the year gone? Thanks for reading this short update.

Dingle, Southwest Ireland, July 2016

I have a friend who moved out to Dingle to look after his parents who have now sadly died. I had promised to go over and visit him. When I retired from IBM last year, one of my bucket list items was to get a motorbike licence, which I achieved in February 2016. I decided to take the bike over on the ferry to have my first overseas biking experience.

I decided to go from Fishguard to Rosslare(using Stena Line) as the closest (and easiest) route. So my route was pretty much straight down the M4 and keep going to Fishguard, a distance of about 230 miles. My sailing was at 2:30am, so left around 8pm and had a steady drive. The journey to Fishguard was mostly ok (I did have a 45 minute detour as the westbound M4 was closed near Newport), but thankfully I arrived in plenty of time. Their was a spectacular thunderstorm just as I arrived in Fishguard.

I paid for Stena Plus, which is a bit like an airline executive lounge. It was a pleasant discovery that they had some Ilumi Gluten Free options. They did a good job of securing my bike and I was pretty much the first off the ferry in Rosslare. We arrived at 6:30 to a thich sea fog over the port. I had to keep stopping to clear my visor and glasses! Once I was a little way away from the port the fog cleared.

At my first break, the cloud cleared and I had my first good view of the Irish Countyside

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I refuelled (both machine and body) and headed pretty much West through some lovely villages and towns. The fact that I could switch the GPS and the Bike Dash to Km made things much easier. The countryside was breathtaking in places, just beautiful in others.

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I arrived at my friends house (about 6Km from  Dingle) around 12:30pm, having travelled 322 Km .  Here’s the view from his front garden…

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The hills on the other side of Dingle Bay in the distance are part of the ‘Ring of Kerry’. Very close to my friends house is a bridge reputed to be the oldest bridge in Ireland…Garfinny Bridge(although their seem to be several such claims in different parts of the country).

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Their were a number of things on my things to do list during my visit. Travel a section of the Wild Atlantic Way . Visit the Conor Pass as well as some of the small towns and villages in the area. For the first few days the Conor pass was cloud bound (its 410m high), but late one afternoon, the cloud cleared so we hightailed it to the summit. Here’s the view looking toward Dingle (middle of the picture).

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Here’s the view looking the other way, toward Mount Brandon/CastleGregory..

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Absolutely stunning… We also had a drive around Slea Head, a small section of the Wild Atlantic Way. Again the weather was kind and the views were stunning…looking toward the Ring of Kerry across Dingle Bay..

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We stopped at a small cafe at Coumeenole in the sunshine and had a great view of the Blasket Islands.

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We went out with the local hill walking group and did a short (4 hour!) walk along the Dingle Way up to Coumeenole, starting from the Stonehouse carpark. Beautiful scenery, an elevated position meant a different viewpoint…A nice elevated view of Slea Head and the Blasket Islands

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This was the view as we returned to the start…

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We also had a trip down to Inch for a walk along the beach. The sand is very soft, very flat and very white…the sky reflecting off the water caught my eye..

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And looking back toward Dingle

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As you can hopefully see, Dingle and the South West of Ireland is fabulous. Dingle is a pretty,  small town which does get inundated with tourists.. their are lots of bars, most with live music most evenings.As a destination for my first trip it was a great success. The bike performed well, no major problems and the weather in general was kind (well apart from the trip home from Fishguard, where I had torrential rain and high winds pretty much all the way home). I will be going back to explore more the Wild Atlantic Way… Thanks for reading.

 

A quick update

I’m about to head off on my first solo motorbike ‘adventure’ since passing my test back in February of this year. I have a good friend who has been living over near Dingle in the far southwest of Ireland,  a beautiful part of the country (i’m told – looking forward to finding out). 

It’s going to take a while, with 3 distinct stage’s,  home – fishguard, fishguard to rosslare and finally rosslare to dingle. About 14 hours of travelling,  of which 4 will be on the ferry crossing (fishguard to rosslare). 

The crossing is at 2:30 am on Wednesday morning, which means leaving home around 8pm, it’s going to be fun.

I’ll post pictures and an update when I get back a week Wednesday.  Thanks for reading. 

A long ovedue update on Life, The Universe and Everything!

No not 42 (as per The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams). Hard to believe that my last post was in April – I have NO idea where the time has gone. Their have been lots of changes in the Armitage-verse over the last 3 months, with more on the horizon.

We had a lovely couple of weeks of early summer sunshine in Nerja on the Costa Del Sol in mid-may. We were JUST ahead of the season, so everything was still being painted, made ready for the new season and the numbers of tourists were low. The weather I am happy to say was fabulous. Here’s a coastal view taken from the Balcon de Europe…

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As you can see, the beach at Torre Del Mar was heaving (not)…

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Anyway, we had a great couple of weeks. Nerja is about 55Km east of Malaga. Now sadly a dim and distant memory.

We had decided that once we got back from our holiday, we would put Armitage Towers up for sale. We have a large house and now their is mostly just the 2 of us rattling around in it, so we decided to downsize and use some of the proceeds for some travel.  We’ve been living in our current house for 14 years and in the area for 34 years, so definitely time for a change. At the time of  writing, we have found a couple of possibles, but are waiting to sell ours. I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, my only comment about BREXIT.  It has been interesting to see how the promises made by the LEAVE campaign have unravelled and been shown to be less than 100% truthful. However, I do believe in democracy and will accept the vote. Its been very revealing to see how people that didn’t get the result they wanted want to change the rules until they get the result they want. I personally think that we have a very interesting 2 or 3 years ahead of us. Oh and of course, the least said about the England Football team and Euro2016 the better. Come on Wales!

Thanks for reading.