Sunday, 23 December 2007

Moon and Mars Converge

I am subscribed to a mailing list, run by, that reminds me of interesting space related events. Today's mail highlighted the fact that the Moon and Mars would almost converge this evening.

Fortunately it has been a clear night and so, armed with my camera and a tripod, I went out to have a look. I took quite a few nice photos of the moon, but the best of the photos also shows Mars quite clearly.

Christmas Cake

Unfortunately the last few days have been a little stressful. Colds and broken cars do not make for an easy weekend, especially not just before Christmas.

Anyway to de-stress this morning I iced the Christmas cake.

No idea what it will taste like (although from past experience very nice!) but at least for half an hour I wasn't worrying about anything else.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Bomberman == Sore Thumb

My thumb is still tender!

As you may have gathered from previous posts I own a Wii games console and had friends and family staying at the weekend. The combination of the two is quite a lot of game playing. Now you might think that with a new console it would be the newest most uptodate games that would get the most play. You would however be wrong. We must have spent at least six hours playing Bomberman '93 and hence my thumb is still sore from using the D-pad (apparently this is short for directional controller, who knew) on the controller.

Although the game is now 14 years old it is still highly addictive and when played with three or four people gets highly competitive. If you've never played it before then I suggest you go find one of the many freeware versions available (this one seems a relatively good version) and have a go, or better yet if you already have a Wii download it for 600 points from the Wii Shop Channel, you won't regret it, although your thumb might never forgive you!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Strange Geography

My confusion about why Notingham Castle and Shrewsburry Abbey both look the same got me thinking about the weird geography seen in other television programmes and films. Strangely I can stay with the theme of Robin Hood for this post, as the geography in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is exceedingly strange.

Now I know that during the 12th century people were more accustomed to long walks to get places than we are today but even so the distances covered in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves are just silly. Lets start with Robin's journey home at the beginning of the film. We see three scenes of his journey to Loxley after having escaped prison. Firstly he jumps out of a boat onto a fairly recognisable beach. Next he battles Guy of Gisbourne around a solitary sycamore tree, and then finally he arrives at his fathers derelict castle.

As they set off from the beach Robin mentions that they will be eating with his father by nightfall, so obviously the journey to Loxley can't be very far. Wrong. If you wanted to drive from the beach to the sycamore tree and on to the castle seen in the film, then Google Maps suggests that it will take you about 13 hours to drive the approximately 734 miles! The first scene is obviously the Seven Sisters at Dover on the South East coast of England. The scene with the tree is Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, and the castle is actually Old Wardour Castle in Wiltshire. Even if you didn't want to go via Hadrian's Wall it is still approximately 154 miles from the beech to the castle -- not a walk you are going to manage in a single day, no matter how fit you may be!

The silly geography doesn't stop with just that first 734 mile afternoon stroll. There are many more examples in the film.

For instance, the ford where Robin fights Little John is at Aysgarth Falls in North Yorkshire and about 250 miles from Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire where they eventually build their tree top village, although they seem to get there quite quickly after the fight.

All I can think is that as the film was aimed at an international market the director went for nice scenery rather than trying to keep things believable for those of us who know anything about the layout of England.

My Rating: 5 Stars Even with it's strange sense of geography Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is still worth watching for the nice English scenery and Alan Rickman's fantastic portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham, although Kevin Costner's attempt at an English accent leaves a lot to be desired.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Tastes Like Chicken

The phrase "taste likes chicken" has become so overused that it is now more of a cliché than a useful phrase. Having said that we actually had cause to use it yesterday.

For the last three years, just before Christmas, I've cooked a nice meal for a bunch of friends and family, given that I won't see many of them over the Christmas holiday. As most people will have turkey on Christmas day I avoid cooking that, and so try to find something out of the ordinary or different to cook. The first year I roasted a goose, last year I did a mustard and maple glazed roast gammon, and this year I did roast Capon.

Now roast capon tastes almost exactly like roast chicken. Mind you I'm not overly surprised as a capon is actually a chicken. A capon is a castrated rooster, basically a large slightly fatty chicken.

Although it tasted like chicken it was really nice and if I wanted a very large chicken for a meal in future I wouldn't hesitate to buy capon again. If you want to taste roast capon I'd suggest looking at Manor Farm Game from where I bought mine. As the name implies they also sell a lot of other game meat and the website is well worth a look.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Cadfael and Robin Hood

I'm confused. I thought Cadfael helped hunt out murderers in Shrewsbury during the first half of the 12th century, while Robin Hood robbed from the rich to give to the poor around Nottingham in the second half of the 12th century.

If ITV and the BBC are to be believed, however, it would seem that Shrewsbury Abbey and Nottingham Castle are actual the same building!

In reality of course it just happens that both TV series were filmed on location in Hungary. Apparently it is one of the few places where you can pretend it is still 12th century England.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Early Memories

Scriptor Senex (my soon to be father-in-law) just blogged about his earliest memory of an event of national or international importance and it got me thinking about what I could remember.

My earliest memory of a national event was the raising of the wreck of the Mary Rose on October 11 1982, when I was just over three years old.

Honestly I don't remember too much, other than getting up early and sitting watching the television with my Dad. If you want to know more than I can remember, I'd suggest this informative (if rather technical) description.

Friday, 7 December 2007

One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing

Apparently someone has stolen a dinosaur from Dinosaur World in Florida. Actually someone has stolen a small lightweight model dinosaur but clearly that doesn't make for such a good headline.

The news story did, however, remind me of the delightfully silly British film One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing. I haven't seen the film in years so I can't really provide a useful plot synopsis so for more details I'd suggest Wikipedia. It is definitely not the best film, but it's worth watching for the scene in which a large dinosaur is driven around London on the back of a lorry by a group of British nannies!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Year of the Flood

It's no secret that it has been very wet in Sheffield this year. Whilst almost every day this summer seems to have been wet, the worst day was definitely Monday the 25th of June. By the end of the working day it had been raining heavy and constantly for the best part of 24 hours.

It was clear that there was standing water on the roads but when I set off home the traffic was still moving quite freely. By the time I got to the bus stop though it was clear there were problems. After waiting about 15 minutes at the bus stop and seeing the traffic come to an entire halt I decided to walk the approximately 9 miles home. The closer I got to home the worse the flooding got. I tried to take some photos although unfortunately the camera on my phone is pretty poor. For those of you who know Sheffield though, you should be able to see just how much water there was at Hillsborough Corner, Middlewood Tavern and Oughtibridge.

This post was motivated by a newsletter from out local MP that arrived through the letterbox the other day. The road I walked along (the A6102) has been closed at the Middlewood Tavern ever since the flooding due to damage to the road. Obviously I knew the road was damaged but I didn't know how badly until I saw the following picture in the newsletter

What is really worrying is that the footpath is entirely missing. Worse still I hadn't just walked along that piece of path but I actually stopped and took a photo (the middle one of the three above) looking in the opposite direction to this photo.

I don't know exactly when during the evening the road and path collapsed 60 foot into the river but I am really glad it wasn't when I was stood on it. It was bad enough having to wade through water that was in places almost waist deep, I'd have hated to have slid 60 foot down the hillside into the river.

Unfortunately the damage is so bad that repairs will cost millions of pounds and require serious construction work to make sure the hillside is secure enough that it won't simply collapse again next time it rains. All this means that repairs haven't even started yet. In fact the repairs are not even due to start until well into next year. Having one of the main roads north out of Sheffield closed is causing no end of problems, although I'm sure that if/when it snows the problems are going to get a lot worse as the road being used for a diversion is usually closed after just two snowflakes!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Programme Costs

While I don't get to do it very often I do enjoy going to concerts or the theatre. The one thing that always annoys me though is the price of the programme.

With most shows a programme helps, even if only to give you a little background on the production or performers. In my experience you currently will get little if any change from £10 for a theatre programme, and can often end up spending a lot more. While I can understand that the nice glossy programmes may be expensive to print I refuse to believe that they cost anywhere near as much to produce as they sell for. So I was pleasantly surprised last Friday night when I went to buy a programme and was only charged £1.50.

Whilst I can appreciate classical music I very rarely choose to listen to it, however, when one of my work colleagues made the suggestion that we should all go to listen to the English Chamber Orchestra I agreed. So Friday night saw 20 of us at Sheffield City Hall listening to the ECO play Mendelssohn's String Symphony No. 9 in C, 'Swiss', Bartók's Divertimento, and Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, with Sarah Chang as the violin soloist on The Four Seasons.

How do I know what was being played? The very informative programme told me. For each of the three pieces of music it had at least two pages of text detailing the background of both the composer and piece, and suggestions of good recordings in case you wanted to repeat the experience in your own home. In addition there was also interesting information on the orchestra, director, and soloist and all for only £1.50!

I think a good many productions should take a hint from the ECO and produce interesting programmes that don't cost almost as much as the ticket price!