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Suzhou Again

March 25th, 2016

I’m back in China again for work this week visiting a factory in Suzhou. After a slightly crazy Friday where I landed at 8:30am after an 11 hour flight and then did a whole day of work, I had the whole weekend off to go exploring. I’d done a little bit of sightseeing in Suzhou last November, but only had two half days so didn’t get to see much.

Saturday morning I overslept a bit and then went exploring. My colleague stayed at the hotel and worked. Weird. Anyway, first off I went to 盘门景区 “Panmen Scenic Area”. Not really sure how to translate 盘门: “plate gate”? The gate bit I suppose is referring to the area being the old gate in the city wall pictured below.


Fans of city walls should check back in a few posts time. The main attraction of the sprawling area is the tall pagoda and picturesque landscaped lake.


I got quite excited about going up the pagoda. But sadly you can only go up to the fifth floor and outside only up to the third. Never mind, the view is still pretty good:


Afterwards I wandered back into town and stumbled upon what is to date my favourite Suzhou attraction: 网师园 “Net Master’s Garden”. It’s a bit like the “Humble Administrator’s Garden” I visited last year but smaller, quieter, and more charming.


It’s not actually a garden as such, rather a large house with a number of little open spaces and this large lake in the centre. In some of the little buildings are small shops selling local artwork. There’s also a quaint tea house where I wasted an hour or so drinking this tea in a glass with jasmine flowers floating in that all the old people here are mad keen for. Pretty good start to my “work” trip, so I headed back to the hotel to plan my Sunday adventure…

High Wycombe to Henley

March 13th, 2016

This week I made a return to familiar territory and went for a walk through the Chilterns from West Wycombe village to Henley. My public transport options are a bit different now so hopefully my routes will be more varied than when I lived in Maidenhead. That’s a positive way of saying I have to take buses everywhere now.

The afternoon today was so beautiful. Definitely the best weekend day to be outside so far this year. Here’s a pretty old barn and very tall tree near Fawley.


Can you spot the black sheep?! I discovered today there is something strangely soothing about sitting and listening to a herd of sheep munching grass. I should produce one of those new age relaxation tapes. Would make a fortune.



March 6th, 2016

It’s the weekend again and time to go canalling. This week I decided to put my Birmingham ambitions on hold and walk the other way into London.

The section from Uxbridge to Hanwell was a bit dull, but there were some interesting boats to look at. I took a detour to explore Southall which inexplicably has nowhere you can get a cup of tea.


The most interesting spot on the route is at Hanwell where the canal drops down a steep flight of locks. At the top is the Three Bridges: a three-level crossing of railway, canal, and road designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In fact, it was his last project before his death. It’s always a bit of a novelty to see water flowing above other things. By the side of the locks is Hanwell Asylum which has a lovely brick façade and looks exactly how you imagine a stereotypical creepy Victorian mental asylum should.


Eventually the Grand Union canal flows into the Thames at Brentford. At some point I lost the path in a canal-side industrial wasteland and decided to call it a day. It had merged with the Thames Path at that point so technically I’d done it already. (Back in 2010, doof.me.uk fans.)

In Brentford I ate what must be one of the most unhealthy muffin products ever created: it had two kinds of meat, egg, cheese, “jam”, and was all fried. Definitely undid any positive effect the exercise might have had.

Grand Union Canal

February 28th, 2016

It occurred to me recently that as I live on the Grand Union canal I ought to go exploring along it. One way leads to London, which is interesting enough, but the other leads to Birmingham, a place which I have only ever been to once before, and then only to the train station. It’s only 140 miles away. Sounds like a project. Part the first: Uxbridge to Hemel Hempstead.

This is a gloomy looking abandoned industrial building near Rickmansworth. I’ve no idea why there is a huge monkey hanging from it.


I took a detour into Watford for lunch even though it’s not technically on the canal. The “North” officially begins at a place called the Watford Gap which for a long time I thought was located just north of Watford itself. It’s not: it’s much closer to Coventry. Perhaps I’ll encounter it later on the canal! Anyway, without that claim to fame Watford doesn’t seem very interesting. I guess it is one of the most northerly areas of London, which is somewhat noteworthy. The town centre was a bit bland and post-war, although there was a nice market area with a Japanese cafe.


This is a lock just south of Hemel Hempstead. There are a lot of locks on the canal: 166 in total. A bit later on I passed the offices of Imagination Technologies where I tried unsuccessfully to get a job once.

I’d visited Hemel Hempstead once before but in true doof.me.uk style I blundered into town after dark without any time to explore. I don’t think I missed much, the shopping precinct was very generic but crossing the Swindon-esque pentagram of mini roundabouts to get there provided a bit of entertainment.

Next stop Leighton Buzzard and Milton Keynes!


February 19th, 2016

Last weekend was wet and muddy but I managed to go on a short walk from Chesham to High Wycombe. I wanted to get to Henley but progress was slow and boggy so I’ll leave that for another day.

In High Wycombe I saw this interesting abandoned mill or factory building. I wanted to explore a bit more but the area felt a tad unsafe.


Sneaking Sign

February 11th, 2016

While I was in Norway I noticed something very alarming. They have two kinds of pedestrian crossing sign!


The left-hand one looks like a normal crossing sign with the gentleman going about his business in the regular manner. But the one on the right is a sinister crossing. That guy is a) wearing a hat – suspicious – and b) he is sneaking. This sign is also curiously absent from the Wikipedia list of Norwegian road signs. What is he doing? What is the purpose of this crossing??


February 11th, 2016

I was back in Olso again last week and snuck out on my lunch break to explore the former airport at Fornebu.


Now that the airport is decommissioned the area is a trendy office park for start ups as well as some of Norway’s large state-owned companies.


It’s unusually warm this winter in Norway. While I was there the temperature hovered around freezing and some of the snow even started melting.



January 28th, 2016

Last Saturday was the most gorgeous winter day so far this year so obviously I wasn’t going to spend it indoors. Instead I embarked on an epic quest to reach the far away city of Dunstable in the county of Bedfordshire. One of my most exotic destinations yet!


This was early morning leaving Chesham on the start of my adventure. From there I walked slightly in the wrong direction before joining up with the Ridgeway and doing the last little bit of that, so I can at last say I’ve walked the whole thing.


Ivinghoe Beacon in the mid afternoon was wonderful, if a little cold. North of here it’s all flat until… er… the Peak District perhaps? My geography gets a bit hazy around the middle of England. Although this could be a good excuse for further exploring.

I wanted to snoop around the edge of Whipsnade zoo and see some animals but as it was getting a bit late I decided to take a “short cut” down the side of busy road and managed to tear my down jacket while dodging some cars. Oops. Not my best idea. And by the time I got to Dunstable downs it was dark anyway.

Dunstable itself didn’t seem particularly interesting and I made a beeline for the bus station. The bus travelled along an exciting new innovation… the BUSWAY! To where does the busway lead? Luton. Which, I think, deserves its own adventure on another day.

Youtube Comments

January 21st, 2016

This is the most succinct summary of every Youtube discussion ever:


Found Photos

January 17th, 2016

I booted up one of my old PCs over Christmas and found some photos taken on my old Sony Ericsson camera phone. They were all from around 2005 or 2006 when I was living in Winchester. Phone camera technology has moved on a lot in the last ten years: this one had VGA resolution and seemingly no EXIF (although I may have accidentally clobbered that later).

This is the legendary Horse Monument from the first time I visited it with Pete. (I went back there more recently.)

Horse Monument

Some of the photos have an unintended Instagram-esque quality due to the lameness of the phone. Like this one from when I was walking home along the river Itchen on a misty morning.


This is St Cross Hospital on the edge of Winchester.


And this one is a seagull on Eastbourne pier.


Finally, this one I rather like but I’m not sure where it was taken. It’s possibly Portsmouth or near Portchester castle.