Saturday, December 5, 2015

Blustry days in Bournemouth

DSC07287 (1024x681)The southern edge of Storm Desmond grazed Dorset yesterday, drawing in strong southwesterlies that raised tides and waves all along the coast.  It also stayed unseasonably warm, additionally drawing surfers and stormwatchers together along the piers.

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V4I think the waves were running about a meter, with spray and foam running higher.  Paddling into position was difficult.  But every now and again someone would catch a swell heroically, to the delight of the huddled onlookers.

‘could have been a lovely sailing day…

Friday, December 4, 2015

It’s a Bournemouth Christmas

DSC07192 (981x1024)The British distinguish Christmas Markets, which try to capture the old-world feel of Victorian or Continental celebrations, from Christmas Fairs, which simply sell seasonal crafts and foods.  Bournemouth aspires to the former, setting up a two-part festival across the center of town.

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The park linking the town center to the seashore features the Gardens of Light,  both innovative set-piece displays DSC07183 (1024x683)and a broad ice-skating rink.  The ice rink has a bit of a Dutch feel as patents push younger children around in sleds resembling wooden shoes.  Older children who haven’t got their feet under them yet are invited to dance with stabilizing penguin sculptures.

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Closer to town center, at the top of the gardens, is the market-proper.  The stalls contain a wide selection of crafts and foods, arrayed around a well-lit carousel, lively performing stage, and massive beer-garden.

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As in Maastricht, the outdoor bar feature mulled wine (with various liquor shots added to enhance it’s potency) in signature souvenir mugs.   It’s relatively expensive, £5 for the drink, £3 for a shot, £3 for the mug: almost $15 a drink all-in.

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 DSC07271 (1024x663)The stage features seasonally-clad artists strumming pop hits to a sparse crowd.  The carousel was pulling more people.

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DSC07232 (785x1024)My favorite vendor of the evening was in a Moroccan craft stall, friendly but fidgety as he rearranged the displays to optimal effect.

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Too long away

DSC07179 (1024x672)Back in Bournemouth, I’m getting back into ‘normalcy’ after three weeks of living out of a suitcase. My wash is tumbling, my to-do lists are getting sorted, and I’m mourning my chili plant (two winters in a row that they’ve succumbed). 

The latest issue of Dorset Magazine lies, unopened, on my desk; the Hungarians have begun curing meats in the garage during my absence.  Dorset house is taking on it’s winter ambience: fewer guests and older guests.  Peter, a retiree from the NHS, is a recent arrival, keeping to himself except to exchange observations about world crises while microwaving dinner.

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Andre Rieu has started his Advent Calendar, his traditional Andre Calendermix of schmaltz and glitter that I honestly do look forward to (my w.wezen sensibly prefers Fortnum’s). . Dutch friends are preparing for Dag Sinterklaas this weekend, the traditional day for giving gifts to the children (and putting the controversy of Zwarte Piet aside for the remainder of the season).

DSC07129 (1024x664) (2)I’m a bit worn through from all of the travel though.  I’ve done a bit of Christmas prep, but have mainly been trying to catch up with work and correspondence, get back onto a healthier lifestyle, and land a decent night’s (dreamless) sleep. 

Past sins need correcting: I can’t travel to the US without diving into beef dinners (especially in Chicago), but now that it’s bad for both my weight and cholesterol. 

So I compensate on returning by resuming the twice weekly fast days, exercising again, and eating more lentils and soups to stay near 12 stone.  I gave myself a hand puree set for the holiday, so am enjoying testing new recipes and making the most of autumn’s root vegetables.

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I have a lot of pictures, articles, and stories to catch up with in these pages, so will be doing the usual backfill for the next week.  ‘Take time to thumb back through earlier blog pages as the month progresses: essays and photos have are being inserted that were started on the road, but that needed quiet time to finish and publish.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Morning along the River Cam

DSC07103 (1024x683)We’re wrapping up revenue and budget forecasts, following on strong investor interest at last week’s pitch event.  I did a rough spreadsheet to show how a strong product pipeline, flat operating costs,  a modest assumptions about market share could spin millions in annual revenue within three years.  It’s a strong investment case, but only credible if we make our numbers robust and consistent, our assumptions clear and well-founded.

So I met with our financial lead in Cambridge to spend a few hours checking the data.  Then, with the evening and the next morning free, my w.wezen and I spent time wandering the cobbled streets, enjoying meals, drinks, and conversation by the punts, and walking the riverbanks and fields at sunrise.

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The river is running high, water making Grantchester marshy and submerging  sidewalks in the Fens.  But it’s a clear, mild morning for December, with time to visit the Orchard for scones and coffee. 

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Quieter this time of year, the deck chairs sit empty and flapping in the wind beneath trees dormant and brown.  There were a surprising number of apples still clinging to the branches, perhaps waiting for the first hard freeze to fall.

The walk was framed by early sunlight slanting through the trees, the sky reflected in metal-blue tones by River Cam.  Desultory ducks drifted past, barely bothering a glance.

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Except for the wind, there wasn’t a sound along the riverbanks, the village as quietly contemplative as it’s citizens.