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Cholsey to Newbury

September 24th, 2016

Here’s a variant on a couple of walks I’ve done previously: a 24 mile jaunt from Cholsey near Didcot to Newbury along a bit of the Ridgeway and through the North Wessex Downs.

I’d really recommend it actually: scenery on the downs is lovely and the detour at the end avoided a boring trudge down the side of the road that blighted a previous adventure in these parts.

Here’s some happy looking pigs going out for a morning forage.


And this is Donnington castle near Newbury. I didn’t get to spend long there as I was in a massive hurry to catch a train.


Xcowsay 1.4

September 8th, 2016

Once upon a time I used this this blog to publish softwares of questionable utility, and if my analytics stats are anything to go by, I should have stuck to that. So today I’m proud to announce the release of… xcowsay 1.4!

This is just a rolling up of various minor tweaks over the past few years:

  • Fixed various usages of deprecated Gtk features
  • Allow values with quotes to be set in the config file
  • Fixed a crash when the -r option was used without a value
  • Added a --release option to close the window on mouse button release

Download it here or wait for it to appear in your distribution. Report any problems via the GitHub issue tracker.

Summertime Oslo

September 4th, 2016

I was over in Oslo for two days the week before last. Because everyone in the office there slacks off about 4pm I had some time in the evening to explore. That, and the sun never sets. 😯


So I wandered around the area by the harbour and castle. I go to Oslo quite often but it’s been nearly seven years since I last went to this part of the city. The light was really lovely: I don’t know if this has to do with being so far north.

Some Pictures of Planes

August 31st, 2016

I went to the Eastbourne Airshow a few weekends ago with my mum. It’s a bit of a tradition: we’ve been to almost every one for the last 15 years or so. Here are some planes we saw!





Weird plane

Weird plane

Stunt plane

Stunt plane


August 27th, 2016

A few weeks ago I went to stay with a friend who lives in St Neots. Now, St Neots itself does not have a whole lot of attractions except a nature reserve and a pleasant market town centre, but it is close to Cambridge so I went there for the day on Sunday.


I can’t remember the last time I went to Cambridge. Certainly not since I started this blog and perhaps not since I was a small child. Had some fun wandering around taking photos of the old buildings.


I met up with another semi-local friend and went punting. Whilst fun and excellent upper body exercise, I don’t think it’s the career for me. At least I didn’t fall in or lose the pole.



August 23rd, 2016

Due to an unexpected hiccup at the factory I had to extend my trip by a week and so had a weekend to do some sightseeing. Now, this being my fourth visit to Suzhou I’ve done most of the attractions of the city and surrounding area, and plus there was a typhoon threatening to ruin my fun. So I decided to go for a more outlandish adventure and after work on Friday I hopped on the high speed train to Beijing.

I’ve written before about China’s awesome high speed train network but where else could I pay just £50 to travel 1100km in a mere five hours. It probably beats flying: with all the faff of getting to/from the airport, delays, etc. Plus the views are a lot better from the train.

I got to Beijing really late but I was staying near the station so that wasn’t a problem. Even that late it was over 30 degrees outside. Summer, it turns out, is not the high season for tourism.


Saturday I went for the obvious top tourist attractions: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. At first I thought it would be fun to go see Chairman Mao – is mausoleum is in the centre of the photo above – but I didn’t want to queue for hours in the 35 degree heat with no shade.

Before I went I was worried about by the air pollution horror stories I’d heard and considered buying one of those fancy 3M face masks. But even though it looks quite hazy in the photos the air quality seemed better than Shanghai. Apparently it’s worse in the winter.


The Forbidden Palace is soo big. By the time I’d done the central palaces, the six western palaces, and the six eastern palaces, I’d seen enough palaces. There was probably more to see but I was exhausted from the heat and it all got a bit samey after a while. Had dinner with a former colleague who lives there now.


On Sunday I was really tempted to try going to the Great Wall. But it apparently takes over an hour and a half from the city and it was going to be crazy busy on a sunny Sunday. So instead I went to the Temple of Heaven which was quite interesting to wander around with an educational audio guide. Like the Forbidden Palace though, it was uncomfortably hot and almost totally lacking in shade. 😕

Communism Theme Day

August 14th, 2016

I seem to be visiting China every few months at the moment. Which good for accumulating air miles but since I always go to the same area finding new things to do at the weekend is becoming harder. So on the Sunday after my arrival in Shanghai, slightly jet-lagged, I went to a museum seldom visited by foreigners: the Memorial of the Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

In the exhibit you learn all about the evils of the colonial powers and the heroic deeds of the revolutionaries throwing off the shackles of bourgeois oppression. There’s also lots of spots where you can have your photo taken with revolutionary leaders. Actually, the exhibit is surprisingly educational, and has information boards in English.


This is a diorama of the aforementioned First National Congress, which took place in the building which now houses the museum.

Afterwards I went to the Shanghai Propaganda Art Museum. Now I’m a bit of a fan of the communist propaganda poster, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The museum is quite small and hidden in the basement of residential tower block which is difficult to find, but still definitely worth a visit. Not allowed to take photos though.

Tintin and the Mysterious Snowman

August 8th, 2016

I found this little probably-not-genuine Tintin book on a stall in Jixi Longchuan a few months ago. The original story is obviously “Tintin in Tibet” but the Chinese title – which I read as 柛校的“雪人” – was initially a bit of a mystery. 雪人 literally “snow-man” is clear enough, but what is 柛校? The only unhelpful thing my dictionary has to say about 柛 is its unicode code point. Inside, it turns out the actual title is 神秘的“雪人” or “mysterious snowman” and I’d been confused by the font. And there was me thinking I’d found an interesting investigative blog post topic. 🙁


Tintin’s name in Chinese is 丁丁 “ding-ding” which incidentally also seems to be Tinky Winky’s Chinese name as well.

The dialogue is an incey bit beyond my reading level at the moment, but it’s somewhat understandable. Better than my failed attempt to read Doraemon anyway.



July 31st, 2016

A hot and sunny summer day meant it was definitely time to go adventuring in the Chilterns. So last Saturday I set of a not particularly adventurous adventure from Henley to Wallingford and back again.

This is a lush meadow heading out of Henley. So many flowers and bugs!


I’ve visited Wallingford a couple of times in the past. It’s a pleasant market town just over the Thames south of Oxford. It’s most interesting features are the bridge, ruined castle, and this, the town hall. A local pub was having a “lure party”. I guess this is to do with Pokemon Go and not fishing.


It was so hot that I completely ran out of water on the return trip to Henley. Luckily I managed to find a stranger to fill up my bottle. The dryness and the ripening crops do make the fields a nice yellow colour though.


Nick the Art Collector

July 24th, 2016

I’ve been decorating my home recently! These two oil paintings I bought on canvases from some student art market. The framer was a bit snooty about the quality, and actually I paid more to get them framed than the paintings cost originally, but they liven up the walls and I’m no art critic…


This one is a painting on rice paper I bought when I was in China back in April. Again I got it framed separately back in the UK. The lady in the shop didn’t speak English and my Chinese isn’t great, but I gathered it’s a painting of Suzhou in autumn by a local man who is old, famous, and blind. Hanging in my hallway now: looks really good.